Posts filed under Bush Administration

The Neo-Conservative That Is One

Here's a young-looking photo of

David Brooks (2004): neo-conservative creepy spendthrift fascist

Hey, man, remember 10 years ago, back when David Brooks wrote a column in which he disavowed neo-conservative as a political label, insisted that there was no coherent group of neo-conservatives, insisted that the people labeled neocons had no real influence on the Bush administration and agreed about basically nothing other than foreign policy, and then went on to ridicule everyone who wrote about neocon influence on the Republican Party and to mock them in the most abusive terms, as full-mooner, probably anti-Semitic, conspiracy theorists?

In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for “conservative” and neo is short for “Jewish”) travel in widely different circles and don’t actually have much contact with one another. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle’s insidious power over administration policy, but I’ve been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he’s shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.

It’s true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace. But correlation does not mean causation. All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions independently. Besides, if he wanted to follow the neocon line, Bush wouldn’t know where to turn because while the neocons agree on Saddam, they disagree vituperatively on just about everything else. (If you ever read a sentence that starts with Neocons believe, there is a 99.44 percent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue.)

— David Brooks (2004), The Era of Distortion
New York Times (January 6, 2004).

Boy howdy, that was a time.

Here's an older looking photo of

David Brooks (2013): creepy spendthrift fascist neo-conservative

The conservatism that Kristol was referring to is neoconservatism. Neocons came in for a lot of criticism during the Iraq war, but neoconservatism was primarily a domestic policy movement. Conservatism was at its peak when the neocons were dominant and nearly every problem with the Republican Party today could be cured by a neocon revival. . . .

— David Brooks (2013), The Neocon Revival
New York Times (August 1, 2013)

So, in light of a New York Times correction ten years in the making, I will no longer be calling David Brooks a creepy spendthrift fascist. It’s back to neo-conservative, which is of course a much more succinct way of saying the same thing.

In case you were wondering, the domestic policy movement Brooks is so eager to revive, incidentally, is the use of an expansive welfare state for Right-wing social engineering. Or here’s the creepy spendthrift fascist neo-conservative Brooks (2013), in his own words The crucial issue for the health of the nation, in this view, is not the size of government; it is the character of the people. Neocons opposed government programs that undermined personal responsibility and community cohesion, but they supported those programs that reinforced them or which had no effect. Neocons put values at the center of their governing philosophy, but their social policy was neither morally laissez-faire like the libertarians nor explicitly religious like some social conservatives. Neocons mostly sought policies that would encourage self-discipline. In almost every area of public concern, we are seeking to induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants for public assistance, would-be lawbreakers, or voters and public officials, James Q. Wilson wrote.

You may have noticed that back in 2004, those were exactly the kinds of sentences that David Brooks predicted to have a 99.44% chance of being entirely untrue; since at the time he insisted that the only thing the people labeled neocons agreed on at all was an aggressive National Greatness foreign policy. But now in 2013 he simply shoves the whole thing to one side within a single sentence, and insists that the main thing they really had in common was their aggressively paternal-statist commitments in domestic policy. I don’t know; I guess maybe something must have happened in the interim so that it is now more politic to talk up neoconservative ideas on domestic policy rather than neoconservative ideas on foreign policy?

Just spitballing here.

Also.

This is why I spy on people.

For those who have been following some discussions elsewhere, this one goes out to dukemeiser. Because Axe Cop is the world’s greatest defender of the Bush-Obama doctrine of surveillance and Homeland Security:

Ask Axe Cop #31: Q: Dear Axe Cop, I think my girlfriend might be a villain. How can I tell? A: Has she been acting kind of strange? ... Acting like she wants to punch you? ... This is why I spy on people. Axe Cop: "Yep, she's a BAD GUY.&quot. ... [AXE COP crashes through the window with his axe out, yelling:] "STOP!" [GIRLFRIEND screams as the axe is swung over her head.] [CHOP!] Boyfriend: "You... CHOPPED my girlfriend's HEAD OFF!" ... Axe Cop: "She was on my list of ALL THE BAD GUYS." ... Axe Cop: "I just SAVED YOUR LIFE."

What I like about the comic is that it really does seem to be a pretty accurate representation of how War on Terror-hawks think the world ought to work. Why shouldn’t it? To hell with courts and civil liberties and all those other chickenshit liberal axe-blocks. Since the government has a list of ALL THE BAD GUYS, wouldn’t you want them to chop their heads off?

And I’ve got to say, the kind of police-state and assassin-state policies that they insist on as simple common sense really do sound like something that you get when some bright policy wonk comes up with some legal verbiage and precedents to trick out an idea which, at its core, is something that he got from the ideas and fantasies of his 5 year old little brother.

Left flank

I saw this on SNL (yeah, I know) a couple weeks ago while I was visiting my folks in Alabama.

This is a truly awful impression, but if you can get around that, I think that the sketch is one of the few things SNL has done in a long time that’s both genuinely funny and politically insightful.

Thanks to a mention by Matt Welch, here’s Chris Hedges, in truthdig last month, writing Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad:

The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.

The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.

— Chris Hedges, truthdig (2009-09-14): Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad

And here’s Robert Scheer on the Changeling’s first year of rule:

A president has only so much capital to expend, both in tax dollars and public tolerance, and Barack Obama is dangerously overdrawn. He has tried to have it all on three fronts, and his administration is in serious danger of going bankrupt. . . . Yes, Obama was presented with a series of crises not of his making but for which he is now being held accountable. He is not a “socialist” who grew the federal budget to astronomical proportions. That is the legacy of George W. Bush, who raised the military budget to its highest level since World War II despite the end of the Cold War and the lack of a formidable military opponent— a legacy of debt compounded by Bush’s decision to first ignore the banking meltdown and then to engage in a welfare-for-Wall-Street bailout. And it was Bush who gave the pharmaceutical companies the gift of a very expensive government subsidy for seniors’ drugs.

But what is nerve-racking about Obama is that even though he campaigned against Bush’s follies he has now embraced them. He hasn’t yet managed to significantly reduce the U.S. obligation in Iraq and has committed to making a potentially costlier error by ratcheting up America’s “nation-building” role in Afghanistan.

Just as he was burdened with the Afghanistan situation, Obama was saddled with a banking crisis he didn’t cause, and the worst that can be said of his attempted solutions to the financial mess is that they were inherited from Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. But Obama, who raised questions before his election about the propriety of a plan that would rescue the banks but ignore the plight of ordinary folks, has adopted that very approach as president. He elevated Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, the two Democrats most closely aligned with Paulson’s policy, to top positions in his government.

. . . Without a government program as a check on medical costs, Obama will end up with a variant of the Massachusetts program, one that forces consumers to sign up with private insurers and costs 33 percent more than the national average. He will have furthered the Bush legacy of cultivating an ever more expensive big government without improving how the people are served.

— Robert Scheer, truthdig (2009-09-15): Obama’s Presidency Isn’t Too Big to Fail

Here’s Jesse Walker, in an article from a couple weeks ago for reason.com, Obama Is No Radical: But maybe we’d be better off if he were.

Thus far, the president’s domestic agenda has been many things, but radical it isn’t. Radicals make sudden turns. Obama sometimes slams his foot on the accelerator—just look at projected spending for the next few years—but he hardly ever tries to change direction. Radicals tear down centers of power. When Obama is faced with a crumbling institution, his first instinct is to prop it up.

That was most obviously true with the bailouts, a series of corporate preservation programs that began before he took office and have only increased since then. Candidate Obama voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the 2008 bailout for failing financial institutions, and he personally intervened to urge skeptical liberals to support it. After Congress refused to authorize a bailout of the car companies, Obama followed George W. Bush in ignoring the plain language of the law and funneling funds to them anyway. Like Bush before him, Obama took advantage of such moments to adjust the institutional relationship between these nominally private businesses and the state: firing the head of General Motors, urging the company to consolidate brands, pushing for new controls on Wall Street pay. But the institutions themselves were preserved, in some cases enriched. The radical thing to do would have been to let them collapse.

And no, I’m not using “radical” as a euphemism for “free-market libertarian.” A radical Obama still might have extended assistance to the people displaced by the corporate failures, perhaps even setting up a generous guaranteed income scheme. He might have broken up the big banks. He might have done all sorts of things, some wiser than others. But he would not have strengthened the corporate-state partnerships bequeathed to him by Bush.

. . . Now we have health care reform. Here you might actually expect the president to veer in a new direction and let a powerful institution die. After all, it’s been only six years since he described himself as “a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care plan,” and if he were serious about that it would mean the end of the private health insurance industry. . . .

First, it’s increasingly unlikely that a public option will be a part of the bill that emerges, in which case we’ll be left with an enormous boondoggle for the industry: a law requiring every American to buy health insurance or else face legal sanctions. . . . Second, and more important, a system with more government-provided insurance, even one with only government-provided insurance, would still accept the institutional premises of the present medical system. Consider the typical American health care transaction. On one side of the exchange you’ll have one of an artificially limited number of providers, many of them concentrated in those enormous, faceless institutions called hospitals. On the other side, making the purchase, is not a patient but one of those enormous, faceless institutions called insurers. The insurers, some of which are actual arms of the government and some of which merely owe their customers to the government’s tax incentives and shape their coverage to fit the government’s mandates, are expected to pay all or a share of even routine medical expenses. The result is higher costs, less competition, less transparency, and, in general, a system where the consumer gets about as much autonomy and respect as the stethoscope. Radical reform would restore power to the patient. Instead, the issue on the table is whether the behemoths we answer to will be purely public or public-private partnerships.

So I can’t agree with Horowitz, Hannity, or Andy Williams. The president could pal around with militiamen, hook a money hose from the Treasury to ACORN HQ, and sleep each night with a Zapatista plush doll, but as long as his chief concern is preserving and protecting the country’s largest corporate enterprises, the biggest beneficiaries of his reign will be at the core of the American establishment.

— Jesse Walker, reason (2009-09-30): Obama Is No Radical: But maybe we’d be better off if he were.

If you want a recipe for real disgust with the prevailing political establishment, and a real opening for radical critique, one of the things that has to happen is that dissidents need to begin to see that even the longed-for best-case scenario can’t possibly deliver what they want, because what they were promised just won’t fit through the political channels that they had put their hope in. An obvious tool like George W. Bush inspires a lot of fear and loathing; but he also inspires a lot of faith in the myth that if only someone who wasn’t such an obvious tool were in power, these problems would all get sorted out right quick. But when you have a ballyhooed reformer holding the reins of power, over-promising and under-delivering — and when it becomes increasingly clear that politics as usual will keep on keeping on — that’s often when you begin to see a real chance for a crack-up. If the organizers and the dissidents know what to make of the situation, knows how to connect with that kind of disappointment and anger, and can offer a real alternative to the failure of within-the-system political reforms. (Which is part of the reason why I take out-Lefting the Left, and introducing people-powered, direct-action alternatives to electoral politics, to be really essential for left-libertarians right now.)

Perhaps it’s appropriate that we’re watching this go down as we pass through the 20th anniversary of Fall 1989. I can only HopeTM that we might yet see Barack Obama end up playing the Gorbachev of American imperial politics.

Over My Shoulder #45: How Empire comes home in sado-statism and police brutality. From Fred Woodworth, “Evil Empire Notes,” in The Match! # 107 (Summer, 2009)

Here’s the new rules:

  1. At the top of the post, make a list of the books you’ve read all or part of, in print, over the course of the past week, at least as far as you can remember them. (These should be books that you’ve actually read as a part of your normal life, and not just something that you picked up to read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Pick one of those books from the list, and pick out a quote of one or more paragraphs, to post underneath the list.

  3. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, which should be more a matter of context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than they are a matter of discussing the material.

  4. Quoting a passage absolutely does not entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the books:

  • Sonia Johnson (1989). Wildfire: Igniting the She/Volution. (Albuquerque: Wildfire Books. I picked it up some time ago through BookMooch.)
  • Richard Gombin (1975), The Origins of Modern Leftism. Translated from the French by Michael K. Perl. (Baltimore: Penguin. Picked up this very week for 49¢ from the Shaman Drum used books sale rack!)
  • Fred Woodworth, The Match! Issue No. 107 (Summer, 2009). (Tucson: Fred Woodworth. PO Box 3012, Tucson, Arizona 85702. I picked my copy up last week from May Day Books in Minneapolis.)

And here’s the quote. This is taken from Fred Woodworth’s Evil Empire Notes, Issue No. 107 of The Match! (Summer 2009; also, incidentally, the 40th anniversary issue of The Match!). This was airplane reading, taken in somewhere in the sky between Minneapolis and Las Vegas.

GIVEN all the millions of horrifying stories in the naked country, now and then it’s good to pluck out one to hear an authentic voice rather than a statistic. Amnesty International printed up this one, by Donald Boyd of Chicago:

I have been a victim of racial profiling since I was 17 years old. Once when I was walking to the cleaners, I stopped to talk with some young men…. When I walked away, the police just automatically accused me of purchasing drugs. Two officers jumped out of a car and kept asking What did they sell you? I repeatedly replied no one sold me anything. … They cuffed me and drove me to a police substation.

… The next morning they loaded 45 people into a van made for 32. The men were almost all black and Latino. When we arrived at the jail, sheriff’s deputies, dressed in riot gear, met us. They shouted obscenities and threats. The deputies assaulted several people, including me, for supposedly not complying with their every word.

At each step in the process—arrest, detention and bond hearing—we were lined up, and numbers were scribbled on our arms with black marking pens…. In court, you appear before a judge, but via a television screen. You don’t get to speak, and the judge never even looks you in the face…. They treat our communities with disdain and contempt. I had to hire a lawyer and spend thousands of dollars to get the charges dismissed….


AS Law becomes increasingly complex, with hundreds of thousands and even millions of laws stacked on top of each other, almost no one can confront officialdom in any way without a lawyer. But what happens when your lawyer takes your money and does no work, don’t file basic motions or writs, and essentially shafts you? Not much. Bar associations have a cap of compensatory payments they sometimes make to incompetent or dishonest lawyers’ clients, but the amouts are often based on century-old, or even older, stated maximums. And it’s next to impossible to go after such a lawyer legally, because to do so you need… another lawyer.


. . .

EIGHT COPS raided a home in Minneapolis in ‘08. They shot up the place, accidentally not killing anyone. Well, it was the wrong house (there is no right house for something like this). This is completely comparable to a surgeon amputating the wrong leg, but if the doctor who did this to you then got a commendation from the medical association, wouldn’t you feel absolutely floored? So did the family whose home was raided and shot up. All eight cops received medals.

Undoubtedly this sounds like hyperbole or mere rhetoric, but the simple fact is that there is no conceivable way anyone can interpret this but as an official statement of Good Work, Men to stupid, negligent, incompetent thugs for terrorizing and injuring innocent people.


NOT SURPRISINGLY, when humanitarian spirit is dead in officialdom it’s not partly alive; it really is extinct and defunct. Also in Minnesota, a poor wild bear somehow got a plstic jar or bucket stuck on its head. Official solution: shoot the bear. No sympathy for an unfortunate creature; no imaginative or bold remedy. Just kill.


AS REPORTED by the Washington Post, prison guards at Prince George’s County Jail in Maryland are apt to be the kind of guys the average person expects to hear of as BEHIND bars. An investigation by the paper found guards who’ve been charged with assault, theft, beating and threatening their wives with death, having sex with prisoners, robbery at gunpoint, and other crimes.

Among the nine officers was Mark R. Bradley, whose then-wife asked for a protective order in 1998, claiming he had threatened, taunted, punched and slapped her… When she reached for the phone, Bradley who had been on the force for almost four years, yanked it away… His wife recalled him saying: Call the police… Make me lose my job. I’ll kill you. Almost a decade later, he was still on the payroll at the jail, despite three protective orders issued against him in the late 1990s. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to assaulting another woman, whose rib was broken. The woman, who had been pregnant with his child, told police that after a beating days earlier, she had a miscarriage. A judge put Bradley on probation and ordered him to take an anger management class.


AIRPORT FASCISM is being extended to railroads. Amtrak, the railroad passenger company, has brought in a SWAT-style phalanx of agents in full combat gear to sweep through train stations, randomly screening and searching passengers. The randomly chosen passengers will have to place their bags on a platform and be swabbed with chemicals that are claimed to react to traces of explosives. You can also be ratted out by dogs.


ONE OF THE factors that propelled the United States as far along into the police state that it now is, was the Vietnam War. There’s plenty of evidence that soldiers in ALL wars become brutalized, but something extraordinary seems to have taken place in Vietnam. Whatever it was, American men who went there (and survived) tended to come back in a vicious state of mind. Ordinary people were their enemy. They made up stories (essentially none has ever been verified) of people spitting on them when they arrived at stateside airports; and they formed cliques of us-versus-them. Looking for work, a high proportion of them went into law enforcement, and there they reinforced and amplified the already-existing us versus them mentality, ratcheting the propensity toward police brutality to amazing heights.

Now the same thing is happening with Iraq. Our guess is that the psychological corruption happens when soldiers fight amid a culture and a language that has few points of contact with the west and with Indo-European languages. It is one thing to fight, say, Germans or Italians, whose general culture is largely familiar (same religions, for instance) and whose languages have a large percentage of words that are the same or nearly enough so to be comprehensible even to the monolingual standard American youth. But in Vietnam—and now in Iraq—these military people are surrounded by words and behaviors utterly alien to them. Our own idle theory, therefore, is that this operate on their minds in such a way that the enemy becomes completely dehumanized. This creates the us-versus-them, and when they return to the USA, they still have it.

Then they go into law enforcement.

Already we are beginning to read about cases in which police—now Iraq war veterans—are opening fire on people merely running away from them. And already, too, the convoluted excuses are starting to evolve: Re-experiencing a war zone is one of several classic signs of combat stress reaction, says the Department of Veterans Affairs. If persistent and untreated, the Department goes on, this can result in post traumatic stress disorder.

Whatever verbal gimmickery you haul out to gloss over the facts, the truth is that these men (generally they are men) have been ruined, corrupted fatally and irretrievably, by being sent out to murder masses of people for no good reason in a country where they ought never to have gone. Mostly it’s their own fault, too, since ultimately it was their own volition that was compliant in their going there.

The bottom line is that Bush’s freudian effort to surpass his father’s Panama coup by similarly taking Saddam Hussein, unresisted by the press and the American people at the outset, is now going to result in thirty or forty more years of ever-worsening police violence against the public here. With this on top of everything else—the overpopulation, insanely burgeoning law-pollution, disastrous shift to digital culture, etc.—America is rapidly turning into an unliveable hell. Then add global warming.


IMMIGRATION PRISONS, where you’re sent for not having adequate proof of being a so-called citizen, are the new concentration camps of the Evil Empire. There are now a whole class of persons of various ethnicities who are afraid to travel outside of the towns or cities where they live, because of the possibility of being stopped by some profiling trick excused as a broken taillight, and then being sent sprawling into a cell at an immigration prison.

A recent well-publicized case in some of the larger newspapers (and excluded from the local dailies) concerned one Hiu Lui Ng, who’d come to the US from Hong Kong. Making the mistake of going to immigraiton headquarters in New York City to get a green card (legal authorization to live and work in this country), he was grabbed and put behind bars. There he developed cancer, was in severe pain, laughed at by the medical matrons, and eventually died from the rampaging and untreated disease.

. . . They denied him a wheelchair and refused pleas for an independent medical evaluation. Instead, … guards at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, dragged him from his bed on July 30, craried him in shackles to a car, bruising his arms and legs, and drove him two hours to a federal lock-up in Hartford, where an immigration officer pressured him to withdraw all pending appeals of his case. (New York Times.)

One out of hundreds of thousands.

— Fred Woodworth, Evil Empire Notes, in The Match! Issue No. 107 (Summer, 2009). 19–21.

See also:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? (#5)

Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

— President Barack Hussein Obama (29 January 2009): Inaugural Address

The problem with that is that every day that United States government soldiers spend on beginning to leave, instead of actually leaving — every day that is spent on that responsibly instead of that leaving — every day that is spent in the forging of peace in Afghanistan, rather than in the practicing of it, by withdrawing all United States government soldiers immediately and completely — is another day when Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis and Americans will all be killed by this Peace President’s war and his policies of gradualism. Another day when yet more people will be killed in the name of prolonging the final end of a Bush Administration war policy now universally acknowledged as a catastrophic failure and a stupid mistake.

On Friday, April 10, two months and 12 days after President Barack Obama promised American soldiers would begin to responsibly leave Iraq, a suicide bomber drove a truck bomb into an Iraqi government police compound in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Besides the bomber himself, the bombing also killed two Iraqi government police, one soldier in the Iraqi government’s army, and five soldiers in the United States government’s army. About 65 others — including dozens of civilians living in the nearby neighborhood — were wounded by flying shrapnel.

Every death and every wound is blood on Barack Obama’s hands. Every one of these people who were maimed or killed, were maimed or killed because of Barack Obama’s standing orders and for the sake of his war policy. Because Obama wants to wash his hands of the United States government’s war on Iraq, every day that he delays getting out, completely — delays getting out in the name of exit strategies and central fronts and responsibility — which is to say, delays ending this war because he is still convinced that, with the right sort of gradualist policy, he can somehow try to win a war that should never have been fought — is another person who is maimed or killed so that Barack Obama, after being elected as a peace candidate, can adopt and prolong the colossal, catastrophic mistakes of a disastrous failure of a predecessor, so that he won’t come off as being soft on national defense.

Mr. Obama, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

See also: