Wednesday, December 28, 2005

how democracies fail

It turns out the story about the student at UMass being visited by federal agents because he requested Mao’s Little Red Book via interlibrary loan is a hoax.I am no sure what is worse: idiot kid couldn’t come up with a better “my dog ate my homework” excuse or that we all believed it.

The saddest part of the latter is that the story itself so believable. The anachronism of the supposed threat from Mao touched absurdity and coming as it did at a time when illegal and criminal wiretapping by the Bush administration was made public as were better sussed stories about the FBI monitoring Quaker meetings, NYC cops becoming near agent provocateurs at bicycle rallies and the probably Rove ordered leak that mosques have been surreptitiously monitored for radiation, there was a certain peculiar likeliness that the story of federal agents armed as they are with the ability to monitor libraries via the PATRIOT act were doing just that.

I fell for it. And that makes me sad. Sad, but I do not feel gullible. The sad part is that is what happens when governments abuse the trust that we have delegated to them. I am not so naïve as to doubt that the government at many times has abused the trust. God knows Bush/Cheney has made a fetish of abusing the people’s trust. Abuse of trust led to the right-wing ascendancy in the this country.

When the Reaganauts made hay with the punch line “I am from the government and I am here to help,” they laid the ground work. Rather than make government work they decided that government cannot work so therefore there was no reason to make it accountable. Accountability, note, is different from blame. Blame is closing the barn door after the horses ran away. Accountability makes sure that when the hired help says the barn door is closed, you know that damned door is closed.

Accountability is hard work. The No Child Left Behind Act shows how hard it is. It doesn’t help of course that it is really blame clothed as accountability. But for NLCB to be effective it would need appropriate funding, appropriate standards, appropriate goals. The NCLB is a cynical ploy for the public school system to fail. It was devised after all by the same people who came up with the “I’m here to help” punch line. NCLB is designed to fail thereby opening up the need for public funding of private schools.

Accountability is also hard because you need a systemic desire for accountability. With the corrupt National Republican party in control of both houses of Congress , the executive and the courts, it is a pretty sure bet that accountability is not high on their list of priorities. That would cut them off from the federal teat. It would call their actions over the last decade into account. It would end up with the impeachment of the Bush/Cheney maladminstration.

So we will see stories like the dope at UMass who came up with his hoax and we will find ourselves believing them and we will find ourselves missing (or worse accepting) the true misdeeds that are destroying the fabric of our democracy.

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