The Founders, the Funders, PoHo, and the Miers debacle
During the Harriet Miers debacle, I had a moment of cognitive dissidence. The Winger pundits--with an alacrity worthy of the most disciplined Stalinist front organization--had ceased chanting "up or down vote," and viciously turned on Miers. When they did, Bush pulled the nomination. At the time, most of us snarked on the metronomic efficiency with which the Republicans changed the party line (e.g., Atrios). Nothing against the good people in the Department of Schadenfreude, but not a lot of the heavy lifting gets done there, eh?
What I thought was, Who elected these guys? I mean, nobody elected the pundits. Nobody elected Kristol, or Norquist, Bennett, or Bauer, or Dobson, or Limbaugh, or any of the Sabbath Day Gasbags. So why was it that when they cracked the whip, Bush cringed, dropped Miers, and slunk back to his kennel, whimpering? [Actually, I didn't think "Who elected these guys," I started framing a post where the headline would be "Hey George, who's your Daddy?" But that would be snark, and here at Corrente we don't do snark, as part of our ongoing effort to bring the tone of American political discourse to a new level.]
So, Who elected these guys? The answer: Nobody. So, what would a power structure like that implied in the Miers debacle mean for what's happened to government and our Constitution? And for us? And what is to be done? The chart below--note well the subliminal message of the color scheme--is a first cut at building a model that answers that question.
Here's how it worked in the Miers debacle:
The visible part: The pundits (Level 3, blue) told "our" "elected" representatives (Level 4, grey) to change the line and drop the Miers nomination, which they did. Now, follow the money. Level 3 gets its money from front organizations at Level 2 (red)--lots of organizations with "Family" in their name, or "Values," or "Christian." And Level 2 is funded by Level 1 (yellow).
Now the less visible part: Level 1 is the Scaifes, the Coors, the Kochs of this world: A gated community of a dozen or so Winger billionaires: The funders that fund the fronts. These are the guys that, through their proxies, are running the country. [As a programmer commented to me once: "Every programming problem requires a level of indirection to solve."]
Now the less visible backchannel: The Funders fund the Level 2 front organizations and thus, the Level 3 pundits through one set of (money laundering) channels, and fund the Level 4 (Republican and DINO) elected representatives through another set of (money laundering) channels.
So, if the pundits sneeze today, the elected representations know they'll catch cold in the next election cycle. Hence the alacrity with which the party line changes, and the speed with which our "brilliant" Preznit deep-sixed Miers.
So, here we are. Where are we going?
Generally, in comments, I counsel that "being forced to eat half a shit sandwich is better than being forced to eat a whole shit sandwich." And Schumer's "small group" (see sidebar at right) definitely wants to make us eat the whole shit sandwich.
But what if we don't want to eat a shit sandwich at all?
Well, it may be too late for us. As Doctor Sardonicus has pointed out, it's going to take two generations to take our country back--just as it took the Funders two generations to steal it and start wrecking by destroying the Constitution.
So, we need to start writing a multigenerational playbook of our own--thinking beyond 2006, or 2008. Let's start by using the target diagram above for an analytical framework, fitting emergent conspiracies (Shystee) and the PoHo into that framework as we go. Know your enemy!
(1) The diagram is simple, but it represents a dynamic, complex system that in action is not predictable. But that's what makes life interesting!
(2) Each level has its own degrees of freedom. For example, individual actors at each layer may take actions, seemingly small, that affect all the other layers; for example, Sgt. Joseph Darby. Or Patrick Fitzgerald.
(3) Each level has internal conflicts. Even a DINO may take action that impacts the Funders, given sufficient local incsentive. (This shows the genius of the separation of powers. Likewise, not all Beltway Dems are Washington Generals. (Though all Republicans, as the ruling party, are complicit in torture.)
(4) PoHo ("political horror") is like pornography--"Oh my God! Look at that!"--but the outsized and gaudy spectacle is important, because it happens when conflicts within and between layers occur. The Miers debacle is definitely PoHo, but it also gave us a brief glimpse inside the real power structure that's running the country.
That said, let's look at the levels.
(4) Elected Representatives. This is the level of "half a shit sandwich." Electoral politics--pace anarchists and Chomsky-ites--is very important; it has a huge--and these days mostly unnoticed--life and death effect on every day life. This is the level at which Universal Health Insurance--which is a life or death matter for many--happens, or not. This is the level that determines whether Grandma eats Alpo or retires in some kind of dignity.
However, if our country really functioned as a democracy these days... Well, Al Gore would certainly have been President in 2000. And John Kerry might have been President in 2004. (We'll never know because Kerry and his Washington General consultants didn't have the balls to duke it out after Ohio 2004, even after having solicited the money to do so.) Anyhow, Level 4 where the reality-based community must fight the creationists on the school boards--though fighting the developers on the zoning board is probably just as important.
(3) Pundits/Consultants/Press. These are the opinion shapers,the symbol makers, the hate object constructors who organize and commodify our discourse--the shouting heads of the VRWC. (For some of the players at this level, see the topic Fascist meme transmitters.) This level has been well analyzed by Mark Crispin Miller (thanks Leah) who writes of the press:
It is because the U.S. press has largely shirked its all-important constitutional duty that we strong believers in American democracy now feel like exiles in this country. Major public crimes and glaring improprities take place out in the light of day--a presidential race subverted, the investigations into 9/11 stonewalled by the White House, preemptive war promoted with transparent lies or bald delusions--annd yet the U.S. press has mainly gone about its business, hemming and harrumphing as if such corruption were quite normal. ... Many good reporters are still out there, but they seem to have a hard time getting space above the fold, or much time before the camera, with the sort of story that every good American would want to know and needs to know.
Level 3 is the level where BlogPAC is rising fast--Kos, Atrios, Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum--but with the objective of achieving their own autonomy and affecting Level 4 (and not, by implication, Leve 1. See below.) For example, it's all good that Josh Marshall writes this today:
What a sorry, sorry, unfortunate president -- caught in his lies, his half-truths, his reckless disregard ... caught with, well ... caught with time. Time has finally caught up to him. And now he doesn't have the popularity to beat back all the people trying to call him to account. He could; but now he can't. So he's caught. And his best play is to accuse his critics of rewriting history, of playing fast and loose with the truth -- a sad, pathetic man. The judgement of history hangs over this guy like a sharp, heavy knife. His desperation betrays him. He knows it too.
God knows I'd rather have Marshall shaping my discourse than Bob Novak or Rush Limbaugh, but still... The alternative?
Well, one of my epithet for Bush, "Inerrant Boy," never has caught on, and that's a shame, not just because it plays on faith-based claims for the "inerrancy" of the Bible (and hence Bush's complete inability to admit a mistake), but because, if we were playing charades, it would be the "sounds like" for "errand boy." And Bush, as our analysis of the Miers debacle shows, is just an "errand boy" for Level 0.
It's all good that Marshall, Atrios, Kos, even Kevin Drum are working to bring Bush and the outlaw Bush regime to justice, but that leaves the winger billionaires who are running the country secure in their gated communities, doesn't it?
Needless to say, BlogPac is a club that for some reason--Mr. P-Niss? Our willingness to say "fuck"? Our proudly amateur status?--we have not been invited to join. Which is fine by me; I'm with Groucho on this; and I'm quite content with my cot in the tiny room under the stairs in the Mighty Corrente Building.
(2) Front organizations. This level is a bit simpler than the previous two. Level 2 layer pays the players in Level (3). The Federalist Society lives here, along the the American Enterprise Institute, the Club for Growth, and a ton of other organizations with brass nameplates on K Street. This level is simple because in essence its institutions are throwaway constructs to give the billionaires at Level (1) a way to launder their money with plausible deniability; they have very little institutional autonomy. For example, even relatively young universities like Harvard have existed for centuries, and people will consider taking action on their behalf for other than instrumental reasons. (This is why its such an outrageous perversion of language to call the resident propagandists at Winger think tanks "scholars.") Nobody's ever going to write of the dreaming spires of K street.
(1) The Funders. The guys who are funding it all. And why? Because they hope to own the country, destroy its institutions, destroy the Constitution, and remake it, and us ... How, exactly? Answers differ, except insofar as it all means nothing good for us. Here we're in the realm of theocracy and "Christian Reconstruction"--the world of the SIC that I don't have time to write about today (and besides, I just ate).
So I'll just throw out some dots to connect. Not that I'm worried, or anything.
(a) It's curious that Colorado Springs is at once the capital of the "Christian Right," and also the home of the heavily "Christian"-ized Air Force academy, which controls one leg of the country's nuclear tripod.
(b) It's curious that the country's military bases are increasingly only in Red states.
(c) It's curious that the cities and ports of the Blue states have been left unprotected against nuclear attack, even after 9/11.
(d) It's curious that another "hitchhiker" on 9/11 besides the Iraq war was a developing capability to train for, organize, execute, and plausibly deny torture and concentration camps.
And dots (a)-(d), supra, are the "big picture"-type issues you'd expect a ruling class--since that's what Level 0 is, after all--to have weighed in on, don't you think? To have shared their views about? At cocktail parties round the Beltway, or wherever the private planes are gathered together? And if you connect those dots, the picture isn't pretty.
I'm not sure what to do about any of this. It does seem clear to me that becoming better pundits and taking over parts of Levels 3 and 2 is necessary but not sufficient--and will leave the next generation even worse off if Level 1 persists as it is currently structure.
But it does seem to me that the extreme concentration of corporate power and wealth is what enables the billionaires at Level 0 to live in their gated communities and fund their attack on us and the Constitution.
So I can think of two worthy lines of attack to target Level 0, both of which will take two generations to play out, and are of a distinctly non-warlike, leaderless character.
One: At the corporate level, start denying that corporations are legal persons. That'sour Dred Scott decision. Sure, that's a page from the right's playbook, but sometimes extremes meet. Winning this one would put an end to all that nonsense about corporate campaign contributions being a form of free speech, for starters.
Two--this is inchoate, I need to work it out in more posts--corporations make their money because of desires we have that they satisfy with their commodities.
Speculating freely here, but it would be irresponsible not to speculate:
Corporations have seeded our bodies with desiring machines whose tropisms can be satisfied only with corporate products. [Corporate baby food and a bottle on the input end; corporate "Huggies" and "Luvs" at that the output end. What does it matter that our children's immune systems are compromised from birth and they walk around in their own crap if the "bottom line" is at stake?]
To regain our politics from corporate control, we must regain our bodies from corporate control. (That is what a real "pro-life" politics would look like, and note that the policy outcome is identical with "pro-choice"). That's why food is important--why eating a real (tasty, round) tomato is a political act, just like eating a corporate (square, cardboard) tomato is. That's why DIY music and art is important. And so on.
Acts that free our bodies from infestations of corporate desiring machines are good. These acts, though individually tiny, collectively weaken the corporate bottom line, and hence the power of Level 0 over us. [Note the connection to the AA serenity prayer. "The things I can change" are never things that others do; only things that I do. Note also that, for whatever reason, BlogPac isn't exactly covering any of this, or anything like it.]
So that's a small start for our two-generation playbook. Let's take our country back from the Funders, and return it to what the Founders, under the Constitution, intended. Aux Duck Pits, citoyens!
NOTE This whole mishagosss also explains why we have a recipes section. I notice that Kevin Drum has picked on the importance of food. He just can't say why it's important.