After I posted that last entry, I had some second thoughts. About last March or so former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter announced that a U.S. strike on Iran was already in the works and would happen in June. Ritter is usually pretty cagey and doesn’t go too far out on a limb, so it was easy to believe him. Obviously it didn’t happen, and that was giving me some second thoughts about crying wolf. But soon after I had those thoughts, up pops a whole ‘nother link, probably more credible to most skeptics, from the English language version of the German news magazine Der Spiegel.
Reddhedd at FireDogLake has a long post about King George and the rule of law today. It’s an eloquent, if inherently naive, defense of the U.S. system of government and law against the blatant disregard shown by the Bushistas, and the so far nearly complete abdication of duty by the other two branches of government, etc. I sometimes wish I could believe in the system the way the gals at FireDogLake (all former prosecuting attorneys) do. Then again, I don’t.
I think we’re in a fuzzy moment in history, and the notion that Cheney/Rumsfield would nuke Iran to further discombobulate the rest of the world, to make the ultimate macho gesture (because ‘gesture’ is how they imagine it, not mass murder of historic proportions), seems scarily easy to imagine to me. These people are palpably insane. The people around them are implicated and engaged in variations on the same theme of utter madness, all in the service of absolute power and wealth. They seem to have no sense of history at all, and very little sense of the ‘real world’ as it has developed over the past 200 years. The depth of their criminal venality is incomprehensible but nevertheless unmistakable. If we haven’t learned from the past five years that there’s basically nothing these madmen won’t do, we’re deluding ourselves.
Behind this I finished Philip Fradkin’s great account of the 1906 earthquake and fire. The book concludes with a reconsideration of the graft trials that followed the quake by a year or so, and dragged on until the early 1910s. Seems like such a long ago and probably irrelevant time, but actually the behavior the local oligarchy offers an eerily premonitory display of the behavior writ large by the Bushists. James Phelan and Rudolf Spreckels took the lead in grabbing political and financial control over the city in the wake of the devastation. The elected government, which had just been returned to office by an overwhelming electoral victory in 1905, was the Union Labor Party regime of Eugene Schmitz with his ‘fixer’ Abraham Ruef. The ULP won against the combined Republican-Democratic parties, plus the full weight of the entire oligarchic establishment AND nearly all the daily press. Obviously the “good people” of San Francisco were none too happy with the course of events, and only too happy to undo the popular will during the chaos of the post-disaster.
Historically, we’ve received the story about the graft prosecution and trials as being a necessary corrective to an avaricious and utterly corrupt local government. Fradkin puts it in context and shows how little evidence was finally brought to trial, and only one guy, Abe Ruef was successfully prosecuted and convicted–and that anti-Semitism played an important role in that outcome.
There are many revelatory aspects to Fradkin’s new account of this period, but the one that I found most remarkable was that the prosecutors investigating the sitting municipal government were privately employed by the same men (Phelan, Spreckels, etc.) who had grabbed control over the reconstruction monies pouring into the city, who were the same men who had been politically defeated by the same government. So public prosecutors and investigators paid by private monies, with the wind of a vitriolic press behind them (paid for by the same men again), brought charges to grand juries and indicted the mayor and the entire board of supervisors, and in so doing, gained total control over the city government.
The same James Phelan and his “progressive” allies were intensely racist against Chinese and Japanese immigrants; a racist hysteria swept the city post-quake that tried to permanently remove the Chinese population from Chinatown to Hunters’ Point (unsuccessfully) and fueled widespread violence and attacks against all Asians found on the streets (including world-renowned Japanese seismologists!). Phelan was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1920. His platform was openly anti-Japanese (“Save Our State from Oriental Aggression” proclaimed his campaign ad in 1920). Now his name is attached to the street in front of City College’s main campus! Aren’t we proud of our city fathers?!?
Anyway, it’s easy to decry the cabal running the U.S. government as an aberration, but if we look at history, disasters, public fears and mass media, it seems that we’re living through a chapter that is entirely in keeping with the ‘normal’ trajectory of U.S. (anti)civilization… Not likely to be altered by any wishful thinking by ahistorical liberals, nor upended by any of the usual kinds of political processes we tend to believe in (in spite of all evidence). Most likely it’ll come from the sensible reactions of peoples and states around the world who come together to put an end to the madness of King George–perhaps before it’s too late, but probably long after too many catastrophes to list have been set in motion… I even find myself wondering about a Denzel Washington-style coup, like that Hollywood movie I’m forgetting the title of where he and Annette Bening are trying to foil a terrorist attack in Manhattan and the twists and turns of the plot lead finally through several double-crosses to the martial law declaration of a gone-crazy general… until the day is saved by the hardworking NYPD dectective who busts the general for violating constitutional norms… hah! It’s only Hollywood!