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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/14/20

Have We Hit Bottom Yet?

Message Meredith Ramsay
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hitting the gutter?
hitting the gutter?
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Part 2 in a series

We must not continue to delude ourselves that our country enjoyed a vibrant democracy until it was blindsided by the election of Donald J. Trump and the emergence of Covid-19. Once the pandemic peters out and the Great Serpent slithers away, we will not return to the status quo ante, as many people would like for us to. In fact, where we are now is the natural outcome of where we have been. An honest appraisal will show that our democracy had already transmogrified into a lawless military-industrial-surveillance state long before our present travails.

It is hard to pinpoint when the downward slide started, but I'll begin with the inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2001.That's when implementation of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) began. Most readers will be familiar with PNAC, but even for them, a prophetic 2003 article by Bette Stockbauer On Rebuilding America's Defenses is required reading. It's a page-turner shocking enough to make Donald Trump look demure.

The 9/11 tragedy occurred within months of Bush taking office, soon to be followed by a declaration of "War on Terror." President Bush and his neoconservative were less than truthful about what a War on Terror meant. Only after reading the PNAC documents did we come to understand that it meant a permanent state of total war for world domination, starting with Afghanistan, then Iraq, Iran, North Korea, etc. ad nauseum, until the world lay at our feet. How wise FDR was when he said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." I would argue that Congress dealt the final blow to American democracy when the Patriot Act was signed into law only weeks after 9/11, at the time when we felt most afraid.

Democrats rejoiced in 2008, when a liberal Constitutional scholar was elected on promises to end the Iraq war, ban lobbyists and PACs from the White House, end the CIA torture program, close the secret prison in Guantanamo Bay, restore Habeus Corpus, curtail the influence of money in politics, and provide universal healthcare. But when the housing bubble burst in 2008, and bank failures began to accelerate, rejoicing subsided.

Then shortly before Bush's 2nd term ended, Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke submitted a $700 billion bank bailout package to Congress, stipulating that there was to be no oversight of how the funds were disbursed. That alone should have raised a red flag. Taibbi reports in Secrets and Lies of the Bailout, that when the bankers met opposition, they told Congress that "$5.5 trillion in wealth would disappear by 2 p.m. that day and that the world economy would collapse within 24 hours" unless they acted immediately. With the inclusion of a provision that would enable the Fed to facilitate mortgage modifications in an effort to stem foreclosures, Congress passed the TARP Program

To progressives, some of the Obama's cabinet appointments had gave pause. His selection of Larry Summers for his Economic Advisor and Timothy Geithner for Treasury Secretary seemed like he was putting the hound dogs in charge of the pork chops. Indeed, it wasn't long before Geithner and Summers picked up where Bernanke and Paulson had left off, pushing Congress and the President to continue authorizing bank bailouts and investments in automotive, credit, housing, and insurance industries, until another depression was averted. Taibbi later observed that the Bush/Obama program had created what he called "a permanent bailout state."

Many Americans were taken aback in January 2009 when Obama told the New York Times that he was not disposed to support a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like lying the country into war, domestic eavesdropping, or inhumane treatment of terrorism suspects. He would rather look forward than backward, he said. Perhaps he was concerned that "looking backward" might open the door to an inquiry into his own record of wanton drone killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Oh, then there was the unconstitutional assassination of American citizens suspected of terrorist affiliations.

To Blacks and the poor, this confirmed that while people like them were being thrown into prison or shot to death for alleged misdemeanors, rich white people, even those accused of crimes against humanity were going scot-free.

It is now 2020, and a tyrant as mad as Caligula sits in the White House tweeting and role-modeling disregard for public health authorities and the welfare of the American people, as COVID 19 continues to spread exponentially. The rest of the world cannot fathom why Americans have allowed this incubus to remain in office this long. Like the corrupt bankers, CIA torturers, and past presidents, Donald Trump still has not paid any price for his numerous crimes. With another market crash looming, fraudulent bank practices continue unimpeded. Massive transfers of wealth are again underway, as detailed in Taibbi's Trickle-Up Bailout article.

I must pause here to wonder if the U.S. has become a failed state. The question isn't far-fetched. The Democratic National Committee famously rigged the primary elections in 2016 and again in 2020 with no legal consequence. Many of those elected to represent us in Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, were long ago bought and paid for by large corporations or else bullied into submission by lobbyists and corporation-funded colleagues. With Congress voting to reauthorize the Patriot Act in 2020, we now know that the lies, the torture, the illegal wars, the abrogation of our civil rights, the violation of human rights, and the domestic surveillance state have all become normalized.

Who, then, can we trust? As children, we were taught that policemen were there to protect us. But minorities know that that is not always the case. On May 25, the world watched in horror as videos showed a handcuffed black man, George Floyd, lying in a city street in broad daylight, while Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police is seen pressing his knee hard into Floyd's neck. Three other officers are seen standing by kibitzing while Floyd begs for his life. Witnesses can be heard shouting and pleading with the officers to stop. But Chauvin continued digging his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes until this innocent man lay dead in the street.

The world now bears witness to the deep-seated racist depravity that liberal white Americans have tolerated in their midst since the country's founding. Solemn vigils and massive protests have followed, spreading from city to American city and across the globe. Allied governments and International institutions have already begun distancing themselves from our exceptional nation. Yet unbelievably, even as the protests continue the world over, police killings of unarmed black man. How can this be?

Wayne Madsen reports that the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) is a far right-wing Trojan Horse that "disguises itself as a benevolent society for fund-raising purposes." He states that the IUPA has extensively infiltrated various law enforcement agencies, the National Order of Police, and the armed services for the purpose of "perpetuating police violence and murder of people of color and resisting all attempts at police reform, including criminal prosecution of police officers who commit wanton acts of murder and other forms of physical violence." People are clamoring for police reform and defunding.

Americans tend to put their trust the corporate news media while comparing the U.S. favorably to those countries that lack a free press. It is true that one often finds excellent and important articles in the Washington Post, the New York Times and other newspapers. However, the Post and the Times have consistently endorsed every illegal war of aggression that I can remember, and they are not above publishing slanted and misleading articles, while refusing to publish anything that could negatively impact their corporate interests.

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Meredith Ramsay is a political science professor, now retired from UMassBoston, where she also served as Associate Dean of the Liberal Arts Faculty. She is a writer, musician, gardener, and amateur photographer. Her latest book is Community, (more...)

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