Lost in America: At Home in Taos

By: Bill Whaley
9 October, 2011

Note: The following quote is an  excerpt from “Panic of the Plutocrats” re: fears of “occupy Wall Street,” By PAUL KRUGMAN, Published: October 9, 2011 in The New York Times. “So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.”

President Obama and John Painter

A long time ago, I remember watching newsreels at the local movie theatre, showing stark images of skeletal human beings emerging from German concentration camps. Later, the newsreels documented the Nuremberg Trials. I remember being imbued with the idea that one should never obey an immoral or unconstitutional order. This principle of American life then was further reinforced when I attended boot camp at Fort Knox under the aegis of the U.S. Army. Our sergeants said Americans don’t torture or engage in assassination. We were required to study the Geneva Conventions.

Last week (Sept. 30), NYT columnist Joe Nocera wrote a piece about “The Nuremberg Scripts,” describing a U.S. Army reporter assigned to cover the trial of Nazi officials. Nocera notes “G.I.’s have one stock question,” reads Burson’s very first script. “Why can’t we just take them out and shoot ’em? We know they’re guilty.”

“Again and again, Burson’s scripts try to answer that question. Because “the guilt of the German leaders should be carefully documented.” Because “we of the four nations are devoted to law and order.” Because “our system is not lynch law. We will dispense punishment as the evidence demands.” Led by the Americans, the Allies were insistent that the Nazi defendants be treated fairly; Burson’s pride in that ethos shines through on every page. This postwar idealism was one of the Greatest Generation’s finest qualities. Today’s cynical, divided country sorely misses it.

“By the time the first trial ended, Burson was back in America, starting his long career in public relations. On Oct. 1, 1946 — exactly 65 years ago — the justices overseeing the trial rendered their verdict. Eleven of the defendants were sentenced to be hung. (Göring evaded this sentence by committing suicide.) Most of the others were given prison sentences, including Rudolf Hess, whose life sentence ended with his death in 1987 at the age of 93. Most remarkable of all, though, three of the defendants were found not guilty.

“The victors had proved their point.”

In today’s New York Times headlines, “Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen” (Charlie Savage, October 8, 2011), there’s a story justifying the recent assassination of a U.S. citizen by drone, signed off on by lawyers of the legal counsel office at the Obama administration. First we had the Bush-era torture memos, now we have the Obama-era assassination memos.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court itself has replaced the traditional religious and evolutionary biological categories by deciding in favor of “Corporate Conception.” A joint-stock company is considered a person. (They are allowed to merge and marry but not go to jail.) The courts have thereby accelerated the privileges of private contractors, which today drive war and electoral politicos–paying for cops’ nightsticks used against the 99%–by turning humanism upside down.

In Taos itself, the pols tend to imitate the conventional wisdom of Washington and Wall St. less in terms of violence but much in terms of power and money. The media has documented the way the KCE Coop hijacked the ratepayer revenue on behalf of extravagant side ventures and trustee travel. (The Coop still has trouble keeping the lights on when it snows. Tree limbs? Coop Right-of-Way? Hmmm.) Now the Town of Taos has announced its intention of joining the fiscal follies at the Coop’s Command Center—a symbol of piracy.

Among this week’s news stories we were treated to an alleged tale about the local schools of the “he said, she said’ variety, which excerpts ignore the practical fiscal problems (not to mention failing student achievement) underscored by previous and unfinished audits. According to the state, the current TMS auditors are incapable of completing an audit due to “unknown unknowns.” In reality but not in the media, the union, board members, and public have been sucker-punched by fat cats at CRAB Hall.

Today, unlike years past, the County knows how much money it has—not enough—due to wild construction costs and property purchases. An adverb, J.R. Logan’s “reluctantly,” has become the latest description, call it justification of commission action: “County reluctantly OKs $1.9M land buy” (J.R. Logan, Taos News, Oct. 6). Apparently the County is spending an estimated $300,000 or so per acre for land it doesn’t need. (TMS just bought adjacent property for 1/3rd less.) The county will “reluctantly” raise your taxes to pay for the “reluctant” purchase, however “reluctantly.”

The practice of involving compliant attorneys in political shenanigans is expensive and time-consuming, whether your name is Pres. Bush, Pres. Obama, Mayor Cordova, or Luis Reyes. But El Prado Water and Sanitation District has discovered a novel and low-tech solution to complex legal and technical red tape.  In J.R. Logan’s fine story, “El Prado Water denies alleged corruption” (Taos News, Oct. 6), we learn that “The district also acknowledges that board member John Painter and former district manager Joy Garcia altered an official project report using Wite-Out to change payments amounts related to the job.” (My bold.)

The curmudgeonly Painter, we are told fulminates against mandated paperwork and admits that “the district will sometimes `push the envelope’ of what’s allowable to get a job finished and avoid what he considers wasteful administrative time and costs.” (Coincidentally, the story involves board members and their families as alleged recipients of the tiny water company’s largess.)

Hey, President Obama, this isn’t the America I grew up in but thanks to John Painter and “Wite-Out” it’s the Taos that I love—however “reluctantly.”