Sunday, January 20, 2008

Memorandum on 1/20/09: Paranoid Premediations

Memorandum on 1/20/09: Paranoid Premediations

1. You’ve probably seen them by now—buttons, t-shirts, bumper-stickers. “1/20/09: The End of an Error.” The date refers to the inauguration of the next President of the United States. The error, of course, is the presidency of George W. Bush, an error which the nation first committed on 1/20/01, and which was repeated on 1/21/05. But “error” refers as well (perhaps more tragically and certainly more particularly) to the multitude of errors that have marked the Bush era: the failure to heed the warnings that preceded 9/11; the establishment of the U.S. Patriot Act; the obsession with Iraq as locus of Islamic terror; the creation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp; the mistaken intelligence about yellowcake from Nigeria; the doctrine of preemptive warfare; the invasion of Iraq; the absurdly premature declaration of “mission accomplished”; the mishandling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; the mistaken intelligence estimates about Iranian nuclear arms production. And the list goes on. But what if this error doesn’t end?

2. “1/20/09: The End of an Error.” These buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers are expressions of what I have elsewhere called “premediation,” the mediation of future events before they happen. These hopeful premediations of the departure of Bush from the presidency proclaim that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We will soon be able to correct this horrendous mistake. The end is near. And if Americans truly come to their senses, the next President will be a Democrat, someone who will commence in earnest to rectify the numerous errors of the past eight years. But no matter who is elected, the Bush-Cheney administration will be over.

3. “1/20/09: The End of an Error.” But what if the buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers prove themselves to be in error? What if the widgets you can download to your desktop, the widgets which count down the days, hours, and minutes until the inauguration of America’s 44th president, are wrong? Not that they are counting incorrectly but that they are incorrectly counting on the fact that there will be, as there has always been, a peaceful transition of power in the executive branch—that the inauguration will occur on schedule? What if Bush and Cheney refuse to leave?

4. I have been posing this arguably paranoid question to friends, family, colleagues, and students for the past couple of months, ever since I began to notice “1/20/09” messages on a semi-regular basis. The initial response is almost invariably a laugh, as you, too, might have laughed at the end of the previous paragraph. Laughter, which Freud characterizes as the release of unconscious psychic energy produced by the incommensurate meanings present in a joke. But to take my question as a joke would be to mistake my intention, to make an error in judgment. I am deadly serious about this question, or any number of related questions, such as this one: If Bush and Cheney were to declare that they were not going to relinquish the presidency, who would stop them? How would they be able to be stopped?

5. After laughter, the most usual reaction to my question is to invoke the Constitution. How could they refuse to leave? Doesn’t the 20th Amendment stipulate the 20th of January as the day that power is transferred from one president to the next? Well, let’s say it does. But this administration has spent the past seven years pushing the limits of the Constitution, revising it for their own purposes, expanding the role of the executive branch, increasing its power in ways not limited by what others think or have thought that the Constitution says. And given this single-minded arrogation of power to the executive branch, why should we believe that on January 20, 2009, Bush and Cheney will simply relinquish all of their executive power just because the Constitution of the United States says they should?

6. Thus, my response to the invocation of the Constitution is another question: Who would enforce the 20th Amendment?

7. Could the Congress force Bush/Cheney to leave office? Congress has already gone along with the administration’s war resolutions on Iraq and Iran. Congress has already passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006, which allows the President to declare a state of emergency in the event of another terrorist act or natural disaster or any form of civil unrest. Congress has already indicated its willingness to follow happily the counsel of General David Petraeus on the conduct of the war in Iraq. The Senate has nearly unanimously condemned MoveOn.org’s criticism of General Petraeus (or by extension any sitting general) as an anti-American and unpatriotic act. Why should we expect the Congress to change its spots now?

8. But if Congress failed to act, what about the Supreme Court? If Bush were to declare a state of emergency after the presidential election, and after the electoral college vote, the President-elect could challenge the state of emergency in court. But would Justice Kennedy vote against it for a 5-4 decision? Would the Court that put Bush in office in 2000 remove him in 2009? And what if it did? What if the Court ruled that Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama was the rightful president? Who would enforce the Court’s ruling?

9. Would the Capitol police or the U.S. military follow such a ruling and forcefully remove Bush/Cheney from office? Would the sitting generals refuse to follow the orders of the commander-in-chief? And what if they did? The Emergency Powers Act authorizes the President to mobilize state-based National Guard units in the event of a state of emergency. Could we see National Guard units fighting against the Army? And what of Blackwater and other private militias, whose founders are loyal to the Bush/Cheney political axis? Even if the military or the national guard did choose to oppose the sitting President, Bush/Cheney might well be able to commandeer a well-funded, well-trained private militia in their defense.

10. But if the military failed to oppose this coup, what about the news media? Wouldn’t the media object? Perhaps. But what if the media were shut down, as we saw happen recently with the states of emergency in Pakistan and Georgia? In the US such a maneuver might not be necessary, indeed it might be a mistake. Instead the media could be used by Bush/Cheney as an ally, just as they served as allies in pre-mediating the run-up to the Iraq War and in perpetuating the fear of another terrorist attack. Indeed, the media have in some sense already served to premediate a state of emergency in the US through its coverage of the states of emergency in Pakistan and Georgia. The media have featured stories about the suspension of elections, and of courts, and of media themselves, and then showed how the daily lives of Pakistanis and Georgians, indeed how our own daily lives have gone on just the same.

11. But if the corporate news media don’t object, how about the blogosphere? Sure, the bloggers would blog, and there would be countless responses and track-backs and comments, as well as coverage on global televisual news and in the local, national, and international press. But would this do anything but produce more blogging, more trackbacks, more media coverage? How could this force Bush/Cheney from office?

12. Well, what about the people themselves then? Couldn’t social networking software mobilize people to demonstrate, to riot, to take back the White House? Perhaps they could try. But remember the massively orchestrated worldwide demonstrations against the US invasion of Iraq on the fifteenth of February, 2003, and their failure to have any significant effect on US policy. As long as everything else goes on as it has, as long as businesses are open and schools go on and health care is practiced, as long as Bush/Cheney mobilize the media to reassure the American public that such an unprecedented action is necessary to protect our national security from the threat of terror or destruction, would sufficient numbers of people really resist? As long as the media itself continued, as long as the internet worked and cable and satellite TV continued to broadcast, and people could text and call friends on their mobile phones, would there really be a need to resist?

13. “1/20/09: The End of an Error.” Most likely it will be. But today we have, I fear, arrived at a point in the history of our nation where it is now possible, as it has never been before, to imagine a President who would refuse to admit that error, a President who would refuse to leave. How can we make sure that the bumper-stickers are right? How can we make sure that Bush and Cheney choose to follow the 20th Amendment and leave office voluntarily? Perhaps we can’t. But perhaps what we can do is to premediate their departure in every way possible, and to alert our fellow citizens, here and across the globe, to the paranoid possibilities I have outlined above. What you can do is to circulate this memorandum as widely as you can. Perhaps through these paranoid premediations of 1/20/09 we can succeed in launching our own preemptive attack—on what could be the greatest threat to democracy in the history of the United States of America.

7 comments:

Scriblerus said...

I've been afraid of this for over a year now. There have been many other people expecting an attack on Iran or a "false flag" event to come prior to the election... It seems literally impossible that this regime would give itself over to another, which is another way of saying that it seems like this regime is already completely undemocratic, and seems likely to continue to be so, even in the face of a popular election...

mistersquid said...

For my part, I feel your anxiety (one I partially share) is a fantasy that serves the function of a dream. That is, we imagine and grow paranoid over the possibility that the Bush-Cheney administration refuse to leave office in the same way they refused to "leave" office on 21 January 2005.

That is, the election two months or so prior, the predisposition of the judiciary, the irregularities of the voting process, and so on all conspired to bring about Bush-Cheney 2, a "failure" (error) that repeats the trauma of the electoral process of 2000. It is this reality we partially seek to master and so find ourselves repeating it (or ready to repeat it) on 20 January 2009.

The correspondence between reality and fantasy is irrelevant. The paranoid fantasy of a refusal to relinquish executive power by the present administration is a seductive fantasy, indeed, because it would allow its sufferers to confront (again) the (this time) unambiguously wrongful maintenance of power. Whereas in 2000 and 2004, the transference and subsequent maintenance of control over the executive wasn't wrong enough to inspire civil strife, in 2009 it would be.

In one way, premediation of 1-20-2009 is the wish for remediation of 1-20-2001.

Even so, yes, premediating the events of 1-20-2009 is serious and urgent business.

Roshen said...

Accountability time is approaching, and it won’t be a pleasant affair for any of us. - Scott Horton (Mukasey buddy) @ Harper's

cpr said...

1. The error, of course, is the presidency of George W. Bush, an error which the nation first committed on 1/20/01, and which was repeated on 1/21/05… NONE OF THESE WERE “ERRORS.” But what if this error doesn’t end? IT WON’T END ON THIS DATE, GUARANTEED.

2. And if Americans truly come to their senses, the next President will be a Democrat, someone who will commence in earnest to rectify the numerous errors of the past eight years. But no matter who is elected, the Bush-Cheney administration will be over. IF AMERICANS TRULY CAME TO THEIR SENSES THEY’D SEE THERE’S NO MEANINGFUL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO WINGS OF THE GLOBAL CORPORATE LIBERTARIAN PARTY—THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS. IF THEY TRULY COME TO THEIR SENSES THEY’LL SEE THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM’S AN EXTRA-CONSTITUTIONAL SHAM. IT’S ONE OF THE WAYS THE POLITICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY POWERFUL CONTROL “THE MASSES.” NO MATTER WHO IS SELECTED PRESIDENT, THIS REGIME WILL CONTINUE.

3. Not that they are counting incorrectly but that they are incorrectly counting on the fact that there will be, as there has always been, a peaceful transition of power in the executive branch—that the inauguration will occur on schedule? What if Bush and Cheney refuse to leave? FIRST, THERE’S NEVER BEEN AN ACTUAL TRANSITION OF “POWER” WITHIN THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, ONLY FURTHER CONSOLIDATIONS OF SYSTEMIC, EXTRA-CONSTITUTIONAL POWER BY PRIVATE INTERESTS. SECOND, BUSH AND CHENEY CAN’T WAIT TO LEAVE. THEY’RE BOTH EXHAUSTED. THEY’RE CONTENT IN KNOWING THE DEMOCRATS WON’T REALLY TOUCH THEM. STICKS AND STONES…IT’S ALL PART OF THE SPECTACLE. AMERICANS WILL BE MESMERIZED BY IT AND MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY.

4. If Bush and Cheney were to declare that they were not going to relinquish the presidency, who would stop them? How would they be able to be stopped? THIS IS ALMOST LAUGHABLE. MY GOD, DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF POWER? READ ARENDT, ESPECIALLY HER NYRB ESSAY ON VIETNAM. THEY’D BE STOPPED BY THOSE WITH THE ACTUAL POWER, NOT THOSE WHO SIGN THE PAYCHECKS BUT THOSE WHO ACTUALLY PAY THEM. FOLLOW THE MONEY.

5. And given this single-minded arrogation of power to the executive branch, why should we believe that on January 20, 2009, Bush and Cheney will simply relinquish all of their executive power just because the Constitution of the United States says they should? THE CONSTITUTION IS IRRELEVENT TO THOSE WITH REAL POWER. THE PRIVATIZATION OF POWER FOLLOWS THE CORPORATE MODEL. BUSH-CHENEY, AS “CEOS,” ARE RULED BY A “BOARD OF DIRECTORS.” IT IS THIS BOARD THAT GOVERNS THE FLOW OF “MONEY” THAT FEEDS THE BEAST OF THE “MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX” AND AMERICAN MILITARISM IN GENERAL. THIS CULTURE ITSELF IS WHAT WOULD STOP A CEO FROM TRYING TO HANG ON. NO ONE WANTS THE SHOW TO STOP, FOR THE SPECTACLE OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM TO END. THE TROUBLE WITH AMERICA IS MUCH DEEPER THAN BUSH-CHENEY, THE REPUBLICANS & DEMOCRATS. IT IS CULTURAL, IT IS THE SICKNESS OF A SOCIETY TRAPPED IN A CYCLE OF DELUSIONAL CONSUMPTION THAT WOULD EAT/CONSUME BUSH-CHENEY WITH PLEASURE IF THEY OVERSTEPPED THEIR ROLES IN THIS SYSTEM. MEANWHILE, THE EXPANSION OF CORPORATE POWER THAT OCCURRED DURING THEIR RUN IN OFFICE WOULD CONTINUE UNSCATHED. AFTER ALL, THERE’S LOTS OF 401Ks TO PROTECT. RIGHT?

6. Who would enforce the 20th Amendment? THE EXTREME RIGHT WING THAT ACTUALLY CREATED IT. THEY WOULD HAVE NO MORE FDR RIDING ROUGHSHOD OVER THEIR PRIMAL PLEASURES. LIMIT THEM TO TWO TERMS THEN BUY THE SYSTEM OUTRIGHT. IT TOOK A LONG TIME. BUT THAT GAME’S OVER. HAS BEEN FOR 40 YEARS.

7. Why should we expect the Congress to change its spots now? BECAUSE THAT WILL BE PART OF THE “TWO PARTY” SPECTACLE THAT PROVES TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THEY TRULY BELONG TO AN EXCEPTIONAL NATION, AND THE RICH WILL KEEP THEIR STUFF AND THE POOR WILL KEEP THEIRS, AND THE “CLIMATE” WILL CONTINUE GETTING WORSE. WE’RE DYING PEOPLE. IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP.

8. Would the Court that put Bush in office in 2000 remove him in 2009? And what if it did? What if the Court ruled that Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama was the rightful president? Who would enforce the Court’s ruling? IT WOULD BE ENFORCED WITH MUCH POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE, WITH THE OFFENDING EXECUTIVES, PERHAPS, EVEN BEING SENT TO JAIL FOR A COUPLE YEARS. NO PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY. THAT’LL SHOW’EM. THE STOCK MARKET WILL SOAR. GEE IT’S HOT OUT!

9. Even if the military or the national guard did choose to oppose the sitting President, Bush/Cheney might well be able to commandeer a well-funded, well-trained private militia in their defense. AND WOW, WHAT A FIGHT IT WILL BE! BETTER THAN UFC OR THE OCTAGON! THEY’RE USING ACTUAL WEAPONS! YIPPEE! THEY’RE SHOOTING AT REPORTERS! THE GOOD GUYS WIN. THANK GOD. WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK AFTER THIS MESSAGE. CHA-CHING$

10. Wouldn’t the media object? IT IS THEIR PROFESSIONAL DUTY TO BE FAIR AND BALANCED, CREATE CONFLICT WHERE NONE EXISTED, REPORT ON IT THEN DIG DEEPER, BEDAZZLE THEIR NICHE AUDIENCES, SELL ADVERTISING TO THEMSELVES, ESSENTIALLY MAINTAIN THEIR OWN FAME AND FORTUNE.

11. how about the blogosphere? CORPORATIONS ARE TRYING TO EVOLVE—EUPHAMISM FOR COLONIZE—THE INTERNET INTO A COMPENDIUM OF PRINT-TV-RADIO, A NEW INDUSTRY TO GENERATE WEALTH. THE “BLOGOSPHERE” YOU TALK ABOUT IS MINUTE. THE MASSES WILL NOT MISS CURSOR, TPM, DV, COUNTERPUNCH, SMIRKING CHIMP, ETC. THEY COULD BE SHUT DOWN WITHOUT A WHIMPER RIGHT NOW. THE PLAN IS TO KILL THEM BY ATTRITION. WE’LL SEE WHICH IS ACTUALLY NECESSARY.

12. As long as the media itself continued, as long as the internet worked and cable and satellite TV continued to broadcast, and people could text and call friends on their mobile phones, would there really be a need to resist? THIS IS YOUR BEST QUESTION AND GETS TO THE POINT. ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS IS THE SHOW, AND WHAT ACTUALLY MATTERS IS WHAT THE SHOW ABSENTS. THINK ABOUT THAT ONE.

13. “1/20/09: The End of an Error.” Most likely it will be…Perhaps through these paranoid premediations of 1/20/09 we can succeed in launching our own preemptive attack—on what could be the greatest threat to democracy in the history of the United States of America. AS I’VE SAID, THAT GAME ENDED IN 1968. YOU’RE FAILING TO SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES, MY FRIEND. IT’S TIME TO AWAKE FROM THE AMERICAN DREAM. WHEN WE DO, WE’LL SEE IT’S BEEN A WET ONE AND, PERHAPS, CLEAN OURSELVES APPROPRIATELY. BUT WHO REALLY KNOWS? I CERTAINTLY DON’T. CHEERS.

Ragman said...

Thanks, CPR, for your helpful perspective. Of course, I understand "Bush/Cheney" to be shorthand for a network of interests that, I agree, is also and equally involved with Democratic politicians as well. That having been said, there are real differences that would result from a change in "power" and that would have real effects. Would these effects change the fact that virtually all wealth is controlled by a very few individuals and corporations? No. But to grant those monied interests transcendental status is a theological move that I am reluctant to make. There are changes, even improvements, that can occur even if the over-all structure of the distribution of capital remains the same.

cpr said...

Ragman, I don’t believe I’m granting “monied interests transcendental status,” and my “move” is definitely not “theological.” If anything compares to explaining God’s ways to “man,” it’s the reverence with which political-economic machinists and operators “worship” corporate “capitalism” and the Constitution and the “American way of life,” where God appears—at least functionally—as money.

I might agree with you, however, if you said I was granting “monied interests” definitive power in the American psyche. I perceive mainstream American thinking (as displayed in traditional mass media) to be the biggest problem. I think most “Americans,” that is consumers of America, have a cult-like frame of mind regarding the American “way of life.” You perhaps sensed this between the lines, and that’s what I believe you’re responding to, but that still doesn’t make it religious in any way. Though I’m not an atheist, I do believe morality and religion are two very different things.

I would also point out that I believe the “change” you envision isn’t anywhere near what’s necessary to deal with the crises our species is facing (the central crisis is one of perception, which of course involves epistemology and ontology). What’s going to happen is going to happen is happening regardless of what we human beings do about it. We passed the point of no return years ago. The only way out, it seems to me, is to somehow transform ourselves psychologically from our Thanatos-dominated reality to an Eros-harmonized actuality, but that’s a whole essay or book unto itself.

For our purpose here, the issue is whether we can deal with climate change, overpopulation, military technology, peak oil, environmental collapse, etc., in a humane way; or if in fact we’re stuck with our primate mold, meaning our historical (i.e.: cultural and genetic) inertia is unstoppable and there’s nothing we can do to avoid outright extinction or conforming with the planet’s ecology rather than having dominion over it. Whatever happens will be a natural necessity. Since action is a necessity and a given, the human aspect of moral action is mindfulness.

The mind is the key to our species survival and well-being, not science, not politics, not God…So the question for me is whether or not the human mind can evolve quickly enough to survive what’s coming our way as a species? I would suggest we’re doomed unless we awake from this Life snuffing dream. A good place to start, if you’re interested in where I’m coming from, might be Gore Vidal’s The Decline and Fall of the American Empire, and Society of the Spectacle by Guy DeBord. Also, these free online documentaries are excellent if you’re interested:

CENTURY OF SELF, EPISODE 1: HAPPINESS MACHINES
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=140

CENTURY OF SELF, EPISODE 2: THE ENGINEERING OF CONSENT
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=141

CENTURY OF SELF, EPISODE 3: THERE IS A POLICEMAN INSIDE ALL OUR HEADS: HE MUST BE DESTROYED
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=142

CENTURY OF SELF, EPISODE 4: EIGHT PEOPLE SIPPING WINE IN KETTERING
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=143

THE TRAP: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR DREAM OF FREEDOM? EPISODE 1: F**K YOU BUDDY
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=152

EPISODE 2: THE LONELY ROBOT
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=153

EPISODE 3: WE WILL FORCE YOU TO BE FREE
http://www.freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=154

Finally, I’d like to thank-you for keeping an open mind. I think we’ll be comrades in the future, if we aren’t already. You’re a good person, Ragman. If there were more like you, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Cheers.

imdougandirule said...

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." - Thomas Jefferson

Something funny I saw recently:

"I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to our President! Thank you George W. Bush."

My response to that:

And I, too, wanted to take a moment to say a two word sentence to Bush where the second word is also, "you."

I love this blog!