The Lying Machine

I just caught the last half of a speech NYTime’s reporter David Halberstram gave at the Kennedy Center a few months ago. It was an excellent history about the military men in Vietnam who were not allowed to tell the truth. Halberstram called it the “lying machine” and it came into existance because domestic politics wouldn’t permit the truth to be told. That’s just what I thought when I was twenty year old and it sounds very familiar today.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the speech was his explanation of how the Red Scare got its legs. He said it  began when the unpopular Truman beat Dewey in 1949 because Dewey had run a civilized campaign. After their the long suffering since the blow out of 1932 Republicans were desperate for some red meat. The 1949 fall of China, the Alger Hiss trials and Stalin’s capture of our Atom Bomb technology were the sparks and they served Republicans very well. As a result both political parties had to out hawk each other to avoid getting trounced. That meant calling the various post-colonial revolutions in the third world a paart of a monolithic communist threat.

Maybe I shouldn’t take monolithic Islam quite so seriously. Most people don’t really like cutting off heads even if they really don’t want you to station your soldiers in their country.

Well Hello there!

Hello to all you new readers. I’ve been checking my blog’s statistics and more of you are stopping by. I’ve been hoping to reach a 1,000 “pageviews” a day and I came close yesterday. There were 937. As I understand it the stat is the number of pages on the blog that someone has looked at. I’ve probably got 70 or so pages by now but I suspect most folks are just checking out the main page. Of course, for all I know its just ten people returning every twenty minutes to check on updates but surely people have better things to do with their time.

The statistics for my original website are holding steady too. Snowbizz had over 1,200 pageviews yesterday. Not a record but so far I’m averaging over 1,000 a day for the month.

Its just a beautiful day outside. I’ll keep my windows open but that’s as close as I’ll get to enjoying the weather. I’ve got a ton of stuff to read through for the Boyd story. Pretty soon I’ll have to start organizing all the papers related to it that are scattered throughout my office.

I don’t know how many posts I’ll have today. Nothing has caught my attention in the news but that could change. Even if the news doesn’t offer anything of interest I suspect I’ll find some other interesting “tidbit” to add to the Boyd Scandal. Stay tuned.

I could almost see becoming a historian

Other than my mile swim I devoted my entire day to reading though old books and newspaper clippings. Seeing them all together through the lens of Don Boyd is almost enough to turn me into a cynic.

I read through a little of Governor Elmer L. Anderson’s autobiography. Elmer was a venerable old Republican and by today’s standards a liberal. He wrote about his smearing by Hubert Humphrey in the phony I35 scandal. It cost him relection to the Governor’s office by about 90 votes in 1966. He saw HHH as a weak man who was too intent on becoming President for his own good. It reminded me of a short column I ran accross a few years ago that quoted Fannie Lou Hamer to the same affect.

Rereading an old Minnesota political history by G. Theodore Mitau, who took Humphrey’s place at Macalester College, I rediscovered a scandal that was first bubbling over when I first moved to Minnesota. Because it threatened my father’s pension plan and involved the Minnesota State Insurance Commissioner I remember it well. My Dad used to investigate insurance companies for the Kansas State Insurance Commissioner and he ended up with a very low opinion of Minnesota’s insurance regulation. Jack Abramoff doesn’t have anything on yesterday’s DFL.

One branch of Government is more equal than the others

to paraphrase Orwell. And to understand just how the President understands his presidential prerogatives read this excerpt of this article:

“The President could of course veto a bill he doesn’t like and publicly argue his objections to it. He would then run the risk that Congress would override his veto. Instead, Bush has chosen a method that is largely hidden and is difficult to challenge. As of this writing, Bush has never vetoed a bill (though he has threatened to do so in the case of a spending bill now pending in Congress). Some of the bills Bush has decided to sign and then ignore or subvert were passed over his objections; others were the result of compromises between Congress and the White House. Arlen Specter, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told me, “Under the Constitution if the president doesn’t like a bill he vetoes it. You don’t cherry-pick the legislation.”


 

Bush has cited two grounds for flouting the will of Congress, or of unilaterally expanding presidential powers. One is the claim of the “inherent” power of the commander in chief.

Second is a heretofore obscure doctrine called the unitary executive, which gives the president power over Congress and the courts. The concept of a unitary executive holds that the executive branch can overrule the courts and Congress on the basis of the president’s own interpretations of the Constitution, in effect overturning Marbury v. Madison (1803), which established the principle of judicial review, and the constitutional concept of checks and balances.

The term “unitary government” has two different meanings: one simply refers to the president’s control of the executive branch, including the supposedly independent regulatory agencies such as the SEC and the FDA. The other, much broader concept, which is used by Bush, gives the executive power superior to that of Congress and the courts. Previous presidents have asserted the right not to carry out parts of a bill, arguing that it impinged on their constitutional authority; but they were specific both in their objections and in the ways they proposed to execute the law. Clinton, for example, objected to provisions in a bill establishing a semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, which set out the reasons for removing the director. Clinton objected that that impinged on his presidential prerogatives. Bush asserts broad powers without being specific in his objections or saying how he plans to implement the law. His interpretations of the law, as in his “signing statement” on the McCain amendment, often construe the bill to mean something different from —and at times almost the opposite of—what everyone knows it means.”

How convenient to have a war

One of the first things that troubled me about the Bush administration happened well before 9/11. An executive order was issued to label public records from both the Clinton and the previous Bush administration “top secret” to keep them hidden for many decades to come. Among other things, some of these records could shed light on the first George Bush’s knowledge of the Irangate scandal.

Today’s story is nothing new to those paying attention but it demostrates how convenient the War on Terror has been for an administration intent on hiding its actions from the public. It reminds me of the distopian future in George Orwell’s novel 1984 which conjured up an authoritiarian government at constant war. The war justified bugging every phone and placing television cameras in every room of its citizen’s houses to ferret out any dangerous disloyalty.

Not every bug was being listened to in the novel but this security loophole could soon be remedied by computers. All we need to keep the state’s business secret and ours public is the justification a war provides. Since no other nation presents much of a militarily threat to us these days its convenient that we have terrorists out there to menace us.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."