Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or part of the growing percentage of Americans who decline to identify themselves with either mainstream political party, it is important to remember that neither party could possibly be responsible for every one of our problems. And while Americans’ faith in the competence and honesty of their government representatives declines every year, blaming all the nation’s problems on the current Republican administration would be obtuse, myopic and stupid.
And yet that’s exactly what columnist George Ochenski did in The Missoulian this November 30th. In a piece titled, The damage done; a lesson for Republicans, Ochenski seems to insist that America’s environmental troubles stem from the Trump administration’s tearing up the environmental regulations, and that Biden will arrive on the scene like Captain Planet to save the world. One gets the feeling from this piece that the Berkeley Pitt itself was the doing of the Trump administration, and that Biden will transform Trump’s toxic tailings ponds into fine champagne. But if the Planeteers filling Biden’s cabinet are any indication, his administration won’t be fighting for the planet as much as for more corporate bailouts, unprecedented cuts to social security, and fresh new military interventions around the world.
Generally I’m skeptical of any argument that assumes a false binary. And there may be no greater example of dabbling in the delusion of duality than the act of waving pom-poms for either of America’s mainstream political polarities. The agendas of the banks and the military never shift regardless of who is in office because the role of the American president today is not to wield power, but to distract away from it.
Few real-life problems are simple and cut and dry, and yet even educated people often crave a simple solution. Similarly, educated people can often fall victim to the false-binary fairy tale and use it to justify grievous logical fallacies. In this case, the error involves assuming that all things Republican are automatically anti-environment.
Ochenski articulates his lessons for Republicans thusly:
“Make no mistake, it was battle royal to pass and enact, among a host of other foundational environmental laws, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and create the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the implementations of the regulations and use Superfund to address the worst of the nation’s environmental disasters.”
As George’s column indiscriminately waves a condescending finger at all Republicans, I couldn’t help but wonder whether he is aware of the fact that the regulatory agencies and reformations he mentions, such as Clean Air and Clean Water, were all put into place by one Richard Nixon – a Republican. Even the EPA itself was a creation of the Nixon administration.
And even though old George seems to think the only thing standing between us and a clean environment is Donald Trump, I remind Mr. Ochenski that it was W’s administration that nullified the Clean Water Act in 2005 – not Trump. It was called the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and included massive giveaways for some of the dirtiest industries on the planet. And a segment of that legislation has come to be known as the Halliburton Loophole because it provided Halliburton carte blanche to frack from sea to shining sea, thus nullifying whatever environmental gains were ostensibly made during said “battle royal”.
Vice President Cheney was Halliburton’s C.E.O. right up until the day he took office, and he arranged many lucrative contracts for his former company throughout his tenure on Capitol Hill, just like all the biggest companies in America do. Most politicians in D.C. cannot hear the pleas of the common people through the impenetrable cacophony thundering out of corporate America’s armies of lobbyists. Hence that Princeton study concluded scientifically and unequivocally in 2014 that America constitutes a textbook Oligarchy. Not a Republic, and certainly not a Democracy. Oligarchy.
Nevertheless, Ochenski further insults our intelligence by claiming that Biden is coming to rescue the environment from those evil Republicans:
“…no matter what a runaway Republican governor and legislature try to do in the way of environmental degradation, if they go too far, the Biden administration is certain to step in.”
Certain to step in? What makes old George so certain of that?
Biden was in the White House when the largest marine oil spill in history began to unfold à la Deepwater Horizon, and Obama’s DOJ netted zero prosecutions of those responsible. They could have gone after BP but they didn’t. Nor did they pursue litigation with Halliburton, the company responsible for deliberately fortifying the rigs with concrete mixtures that were known to be faulty. Did that “go too far”?
Remember when the Obama-Biden administration looked on while the oil industry assaulted water protectors with mercenaries at DAPL? Didn’t that go too far?
When Exxon’s Silvertip Pipeline leaked into the Yellowstone River in July of 2011, America was halfway into it’s third year of the Obama-Biden administration. Yet officials on the scene of the catastrophe told farmers who were directly affected by the spill that oil is organic so it was safe for livestock to eat, that oil is essentially a fertilizer, and that the grass would come back greener than ever. Was that too far?
Acting as though either mainstream political party has any agency apart from the agendas of their donors demonstrates intellectual laziness in the extreme.
If we really want to do something about the catastrophic damage done to the environment by the human species, we’d better do something about the illegal wars and military adventurism our imperial armadas wage on a daily basis around the world. There is no single facet of the American Empire that is more pollutionary than our military. And yet, there is no way for us to vote against military adventurism, is there? And in one of the most chilling draconian displays of military dominance imaginable, Obama-Biden prosecuted whistle blowers who revealed the horrifying extent of the war crimes perpetrated this empire, by inappropriately and repeatedly employing the Espionage Act to imprison them as de facto traitors. The Obama-Biden White House tortured Chelsea Manning and imprisoned John Kiriakou merely for revealing America’s crimes.
But somehow liberals weren’t able to perceive the countless crimes committed by the Obama administration because so many of them drifted off to sleep shortly after the 2008 election. The billion-dollar cult of personality hypnotized mainstream America into believing the second coming had finally arrived. Obama’s Wall Street cabinet went completely ignored by the mainstream media, who dismissed such revelations as “conspiracy theory”. We know today from Emails published by Wikileaks that Obama’s entire cabinet was chosen for him by Citigroup. And Biden’s cabinet is shaping up to be the exact same scenario all over again. Biden has already chosen a war profiteer who helped craft the Afghanistan surge to run the Pentagon under his administration.
The sad truth is that just about all of our presidential candidates are imperialists, including Bernie Sanders. If you need evidence of Bernie’s duplicity, simply take a look at his abysmal voting record on foreign policy, and compare that to the substance of his speeches. The sadder truth is that Obama-Biden took us from 2 wars to 7 (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan). And perhaps the saddest truth of all is that Obama’s Secretary of State actually laughed about the assassination of the democratically-elected leader of a sovereign nation in 2011, bragging that, “We Came, we saw, he died. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Conversely, I’m not aware of any new invasions perpetrated by the Trump administration during the past four years. On the contrary, Trump has actually reduced troop levels. Full withdrawal is not on the table for any administration, however, because forces far more powerful than the President want the imperialism to continue. Therefore it’s also important to remember that while it may be true that the Trump administration hasn’t started any new wars, it’s equally true that it has dramatically escalated the drone bombings.
Lee Camp explains just how dramatically:
“The Pentagon’s numbers show that during George W. Bush’s eight years he averaged 24 bombs dropped per day, which is 8,750 per year. Over the course of Obama’s time in office, his military dropped 34 bombs per day, 12,500 per year. And in Trump’s first year in office, he averaged 121 bombs dropped per day, for an annual total of 44,096.”
Again, it’s important to reiterate that yours truly is neither a Republican nor a Trump supporter. But you don’t have to be partisan to acknowledge what an absurd cartoon it is to paint either side of America’s political duopoly as hero or savior. That myth prevents well-meaning people from forming third parties, investigating high crimes, prosecuting criminals, or taking direct responsibility for our communities. Instead, we disempower ourselves by outsourcing the management of our communities to out-of-touch bureaucrats.
Why does it seem to escape so many voters that there may not be any “good guys” on Capitol Hill? Human morality is largely based on circumstance, and unless you’ve been tempted or threatened by the major players before, it’s truly difficult to understand just how corrupt America’s political system really is. They say that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but the truth of political life in America today is that positions of power have a strong tendency of attracting the corruptible. And in a system that prioritizes profit over everything else, sociopaths naturally rise to the top of our institutions and pervert the trajectory of our nation for their own interests. Hence the War on Drugs and the War of Terror march onward regardless of who is in office.
The problem with voting for the lesser of two evils is that both sides can set it up that way. Many of us are left wondering why evil is even on the ballot. That self-defeating paradigm has led many voters to the epiphany of the less effective evil. Hawish Hillary’s supporters didn’t seem to notice her bellicose words of warmongering that sent a shudder up the spine of America’s war fatigued troopers. Possibly the most damaging legacy of Pachydermic outrages in the Senate and White House is they afford the Democratic party the luxury of stonewalling an authentically progressive agenda in perpetuity by continuously decrying the boogeyman of Republican demagoguery. The same game will continue forever and ever, so long as a majority of us remain entranced by the spell. We cannot solve this problem with the same level of thinking that created it. We cannot vote our way out of this corporate nightmare.
Politicians are not going to save us, our economy, or the environment, and declaring any of them heroes only brands you as a propagandist at best, or a dunce at worst. It is possible that Ochenski has surrendered to the neurotoxic symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome. How else could he so flatly conclude that everything in the United States was going so perfectly for the environment during those eight years of Obama’s Neoliberal policies? After all, Obama’s EPA colluded with Monsanto in the age-old practice of rebranding toxic weapons as safe products. Owners got rich while workers got cancer, and mainstream America pretended it wasn’t happening.
As long as politicians can be bribed or intimidated into acting the way that big business wants them to act, the common people cannot trust them to be the harbingers of justice that newspaper columnists would otherwise have us believe they are. I don’t require the illegitimate “authority” of some criminal organization to give me permission to live my life however I see fit, and that includes both corrupt government agencies as well as the corporate forces who have seized control of them. And I sure as hell don’t care what sort of solutions these forces offer to counter the effects of their pillaging. They should be prosecuted and incarcerated.
You’d have to be bat-shit crazy to look for sound guidance or honest leadership from any of these mafia families, be they the Bush mafia, the Clinton mafia or the Trump mafia. Only criminals and sociopaths make it to the top of this imperialist ladder because it prioritizes profit and parasitism over the common good and common sense. Goldman Sachs and Raytheon fund both sides of the political aisle every four years, and always come out on top. Oligarchs win every time because the house always wins. Left and Right mean nothing in the twenty-first century. It’s just there to divide us and get us arguing with each other. It prevents the lower classes from realizing what Martin and Malcolm both knew to be true in their time; America’s great war is ultimately a class war.
Instead of fighting with each other we should focus on the people who profit from the status quo. Unfortunately they have a strong propaganda machine to make sure that never happens. And George Ochenski appears to have distinguished himself as another corporate deceiver, paid by the machine to divide the people along false ideological lines.
Like Stephen Colbert, Ochenski used to articulate truth. Prior to his employment with Lee Enterprises, he used to exercise skepticism of the powerful regardless of political persuasion. And he was once known for a nuanced perspective that didn’t paint either side of the political divide as a monolith. But like Colbert, he also seems to have sold his soul merely to remain employed.