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irony  n. 1 expression in which the intended meaning of the words is the direct opposite of their usual sense.
~ Webster’s New World Dictionary

Memo to some of my Canadian readers: Please read the above and then go back and reread Newsletter #61.

Second memo to some of my Canadian readers: I thought I was doing you guys up there a favor by discouraging my fellow Americans from fleeing across the border. Have you seen what happens when hordes of Americans come riding into town? Trust me — it isn’t pretty.

Now where was I …

If I’m not mistaken, I left off last time with a discussion of the ‘benefits,’ so to speak, of a Kerry presidency. And one of those benefits would surely be that a Kerry administration would have a freer hand to expand the ‘War on Terror.’ In fact, Kerry’s campaign promises will provide him with something of a mandate to expand the war. He has, after all, pledged to add tens of thousands of additional troops to the already ridiculously bloated U.S. military machine. He has also warmly embraced the notion of preemptive warfare. Better yet, he has proposed doubling the already obscenely high intelligence budget.

And where do you suppose all that unaccountable taxpayer money will go? My guess is that it will go towards doing all the things that the intelligence services do so well, most of which have very little to do with intelligence gathering. In other words, we can look forward to the establishment of more torture/interrogation centers like those in operation at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the launching of more coup attempts aimed at unseating duly elected governments in countries like Haiti and Venezuela, and the sponsoring of more false-flag terrorist attacks in places like the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

As is becoming increasingly obvious, we cannot properly wage and expand the ‘War on Terror’ unless we institute a military draft. And John Kerry seems better equipped to market the idea than George Bush, since combat veterans, in general, make better salesmen than AWOL National Guardsmen. Also, this draft is going to be marketed, in a nicely Orwellian sort of way, as a ‘progressive’ response to the rise of U.S. militarism — although it seems rather obvious that it will fall just a little short of its billing as a, uhmm, ‘democratic’ system of conscription.

In addition to the increasingly unpopular (but absolutely necessary, according to our fearless leaders) ‘War on Terror,’ and the impending military draft that is sure to make the ‘War on Terror’ even more unpopular, there are other problems looming for whoever is installed as America’s next figurehead. Looming largest of all is the economic meltdown lurking in the shadows of the entirely manufactured ‘recovery.’ As a few honest voices have pointed out, the U.S. economy is being kept afloat with massive amounts of deficit spending – both by the government and by the American people. But as F. William Engdahl has noted, that “unsustainable effort is likely to come to an end sometime in 2005, just after the elections, regardless of who is President.” (

Also on the horizon is the yet-to-be-unveiled plan to raise taxes on the working people of this country, which will be necessary in order to continue paying for corporate welfare, tax breaks for the wealthy, wars of conquest, and rampant criminality on Wall Street. And who better to implement those tax increases than John Kerry, who will undoubtedly package them as a rollback of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy (even though the burden will actually fall elsewhere)?

All things considered, it seems like it might be a good time to pass the baton to a ‘Democratic’ administration. Otherwise, who are all the Limbaugh clones going to blame for the economic meltdown, the tax increases, the institution of a military draft, and the continually deteriorating conditions in Iraq? A Kerry administration would certainly provide a handy scapegoat. In fact, if you listen closely, you can probably already hear the braying from Fox News about how Kerry managed to derail Bush’s economic ‘recovery’ and plunge us into a depression by, among other things, ‘reversing’ Bush’s tax cuts — even though he won’t have actually reversed the tax cuts, and even though there was no economic recovery to derail.

If the Repugnacans retain control of the White House, on the other hand, as well as retaining control of the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and most of the state houses, then the scapegoating options are rather limited — because even the most ardent Clinton haters are going to tire of the “blame everything on Bubba” line eventually.

Speaking of Clinton, does anyone remember his less accomplished sibling, Roger Clinton? How about Billy Carter, whose primary claim to fame was introducing the world to Billy Beer? Those fine men were part of a distinguished tradition of Democratic presidential administrations providing comedy relief through the embarrassing antics of a black sheep brother (if we were to go further back over the years, we could point to other examples, like Teddy Kennedy). I point this out because I just happened to read where John Edwards has an electrician brother, Wesley Blake Edwards, who is wanted on a ten-year-old warrant that was issued when he failed to appear in court to answer to charges of driving under the influence, careless driving, and driving without insurance. Wesley was apparently convicted multiple times for drunk driving before losing his driving privileges in 1990. It appears then that the Kerry/Edwards team has already cast the part of the black sheep brother.

But will Kerry prevail? Is that the scenario that is destined to play out? Kerry seems to be the logical choice, for a variety of reasons. But that is only if – and this is a very big “if” – the old rules still apply, and it is not clear that that is the case. If the old rules no longer apply – which is to say, if it is felt that there is no longer a need for the appearance of at least a semblance of democracy – then it is quite likely that the Bush team will retain power. It is possible that a relatively uneventful election could result in a Bush ‘victory’ — but for the sake of credibility, that outcome would require the appearance of a substantial shift in public opinion in the next few months. And short of a staged terr’ist attack, what could rally the people to Bush’s side?

The capture of Public Enemy #1, Osama bin Laden, has been frequently cited as a possible ‘October Surprise.’ And that could do the trick, I suppose, but it might be a difficult stunt to pull off, since it seems likely that the world’s top terr’ist mastermind has changed his name by now to Osama bin Buried (which would explain why not a single legitimate Osama bin Laden videotape has surfaced in several years).

Of course, the Bush team would likely have no reservations about trotting out a patently fake Osama, but if we assume that bin Laden will not be produced, then what other good fortune might come Bush’s way? It’s hard to see how anything looming on the Iraqi horizon could be spun as a PR victory for Team Bush, and it doesn’t appear that there are any great victories for Bush to win on the home front. So Bush’s prospects begin to look rather bleak — until we take into account that there is more than one way to turn the tide of public opinion. The way the Bushes of the world traditionally do it is not by boosting their own appeal, but by slinging mountains of shit at their opponents. When you’re a Bush, you see, the best you can realistically hope for is that the other guy will look like even more of an asshole than you.

So the question then becomes: what might the Rove team have on John Kerry? The answer to that question may lie in recent events in the state of Illinois. Some of you may have followed the cheesy little scandal there that forced U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan out of the race, after it was revealed that he had pressured his pseudo-celebrity wife to perform at sex clubs. The Ryan scandal was tawdry and sleazy and entirely insignificant, in most respects. It did though set a very important precedent: divorce records are now fair game as political ammunition. And if someone is in pursuit of some really choice dirt to throw at an opponent, then there are a lot worse places to look than in that opponent’s divorce records. As more than a few readers are no doubt aware, people will throw everything imaginable on the table at divorce proceedings, some of which might even be true.

For anyone looking to run a negative political campaign, divorce records are a veritable gold mine. And guess who just happens to have some unexamined divorce records? Perhaps tellingly, John Kerry was asked about those records in the midst of the Ryan scandal. He quickly asserted that they would not be made available for public viewing, and the media and the political opposition moved on … for now, at least. But is that really the end of the story? Has not a precedent been set? And wasn’t that precedent set by forcing a Republican candidate out of office, presumably due to dirty tricks pulled by the Democrats? Doesn’t that now give the Republicans, who clearly have the competitive edge when it comes to running negative campaigns, a green light to go after Kerry’s divorce records?

Time will tell if that proves to be his downfall. For now, I’m leaning towards the Kerry victory. And I base that prognostication in part on the ‘Nader Factor,’ which is basically the observation that Nader’s campaign was, by design, dead on arrival. And unlike the last time around, Nader will actually be treated as a third-party candidate this year, which means that he will only receive media coverage when he does something to alienate the 5 or 6 people who know that he is on the ballot — like accepting direct support from the Republican Party and cementing his image as a spoiler.

As I said at the beginning of the last newsletter, the fog of lies and confusion is so thick that it is impossible to see what lies ahead. But a lot of people seem to favor the sensational scenarios, so let’s look at one possible outcome of this election that has gone unmentioned in all the talk of how this spectacle will play out. Suppose that this presidential election ends in much the same way as the last one, except with the roles reversed. Imagine, in other words, that George Bush captures the popular vote (through fraud, no doubt), but that John Kerry takes the electoral vote and is proclaimed the winner. And suppose that the media is selectively spiked with stories suggesting that there were irregularities in the vote, and that those irregularities favored John Kerry – thus further tainting his victory.

When that same basic scenario played out in reverse four years ago, all voices in the media and in the Democratic Party called for calm in the face of a massive assault on democratic rights. But does anyone think for a second that with the tables turned, the Tom DeLays and the Dennis Hasterts of the Republican Party would do likewise? And does anyone think that the Rush Limbaughs and the Sean Hannitys of the media world would stop short of overtly inciting violence?

We have already reenacted the Reichstag fire, the passage of the Enabling Laws, and the establishment of the Gestapo, so why not an American Kristallnacht? Is it not conceivable that enough right-wing extremists, egged on by numerous voices on radio and television, and led by right-wing terrorist (an accurate use of the term, for a change) cells already lying in wait, could be riled up that the stage would be set for a declaration of some form of martial law? Of course, that declaration would probably be a delayed response, and initial efforts to control the right-wing violence would probably be half-hearted at best.

After an indeterminate amount of time, it could be declared that the problem had grown too large for domestic police agencies to handle, and the military would be called in. That action would be cheered, of course, by ‘Democrats,’ ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives,’ and even by some real dissidents, although many of them would have already fallen victim to mob violence. During the initial phases of the transition to martial law, the military’s function would likely be to assist the right-wing mobs, while pretending to be working to bring the problem under control. Eventually, the mobs would be taken down as well (Night of the Long Knives, anyone?), and America would be effectively locked down.

Sound ridiculous? Not any more so than what anyone else is pitching these days. And even if that scenario doesn’t play out, it is a certainty that a Kerry administration will not only retain all the police-state measures passed under the Bush administration, but will adopt some new ones as well. In fact, the script has already been provided by the “Warren Committee Report on the September 11 Attacks,” on sale now at a bookstore near you.

So which do you prefer? More war, more attacks on democratic rights, further erosion of living standards, and more brazen rip-offs of the American people, all brought to you by the Bush administration; or more war, more attacks on democratic rights, further erosion of living standards, and more brazen rip-offs of the American people under an administration with a slightly friendlier face?

* * * * * * * * * *

Several months ago, an acquaintance sought to reassure me that “things” – and we all know what kind of ‘things’ she was talking about – “are never really as bad as you think they are.””You’re probably too young to remember,” she said, “but in the 1960s and 1970s, we had Nixon to contend with, and we thought for sure that the world was coming to an end.” I probably do not need to mention here that, to the hippies and flower-children of the 1960s, Richard Nixon was the devil incarnate, or something close to it. “But we got him out of there,” she explained to me, “and things got better.”

That would have been a somewhat more reassuring pep talk if things had actually gotten better. But they didn’t. Things actually got worse. And things continue to get worse still. What many people seem unable to grasp is that this ship-of-state only sails in one direction. Like any ship, it will occasionally tack slightly to the ‘left’ or to the ‘right,’ to catch the prevailing winds, and the speed will change from time to time, but it ultimately always heads in the same direction.

The same person who shared with me her bad memories of the Nixon years – and who still, to this day, despises Nixon – is an enthusiastic supporter of Bill Clinton. And she is certainly not alone. There are millions of self-described American ‘liberals’ who still recoil at the memory of Richard Milhouse Nixon, and who look upon William Jefferson Clinton with varying levels of admiration. And they do this despite the fact that, if looked at objectively, Nixon wasn’t any further to the right (and probably wasn’t any more corrupt) than Clinton.

It is a remarkable fact that the parameters of political ‘debate’ have been pushed so far to the right in this country that a man who just thirty years ago was regarded by many as the embodiment of right-wing extremism could now quite easily pass as a ‘liberal’ — could in fact run for president today as a Democrat and be positioned well to the left of John Kerry. Equally remarkable is that the process of pushing political thought to the right has been so insidious that it is all but imperceptible to most people, and so they see no irony in holding in contempt a man whose politics they now largely embrace. They see no irony because they fail to understand the extent, and the power, of information control. When all, or very nearly all, of the information that one receives is carefully controlled (and controlled over a considerable period of time), one is deprived of the most important freedom of all: freedom of thought.

Without that, everything else is just an illusion.