Saturday, May 23, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

The Rigorous Intuition blog may be done, but the discussion fora live on and a rather interesting thread has formed therein, claiming that Obama is as bad or worse than the Cheney regime. The premise seems to be that at least you knew what you were getting with the latter, that they were as gleeful and unrepentant as you could ask for out of a group of sociopaths. The devil you know and all.

There's a nugget of truth to all that, insofar as Obama has been explicitly empowered and encouraged by his constituency in specific and the electorate in general, and has yet to do any of the things he said he would do. This makes him a politician after all, and perhaps the grandiose claims of Hope and/or Change were a tad overstated, as those things tend to be.

Worse yet, Obama is additionally encumbered by the debilitating condition of being a member of the Democratic Party, a collection of some of the most spineless, undisciplined people to clutter the halls of government since Caligula's day. Notice how quickly the crowing over a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority subsided; a 75-seat majority of these assholes would find a way to fuck up a shit sandwich. Obama plans to close Gitmo; they simply refuse to fund it. All this stem-cell research, still no cure for fuckface-itis.

Indeed, as has been pointed out, the 60-seat majority is as likely as not to turn out to be an albatross for them, for now they have no excuses when Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln or whatever cracker DINO strays off the rez to placate this or that group of inbred morons and/or pillars of the "business community". This is a game for them, and while it may or may not be for Obama himself, in addition to making the usual "reach across the aisle" feints, he has to deal with the competing parochial interests among the senators of his own party, each of whom would step on their own grandmother en route to a soapbox.

All that said, as much as I agree with the pox-on-both-houses crowd, I still feel that where Obama may end up being distinguished as Clintonesque in the end, an enormously gifted politician who promised great things and squandered them on small people, the alternative would have been truly catastrophic, and the past was simply unacceptable. That's going to be the refrain of the Dem dead-enders for the duration, at least through 2012, however that turns out. And that's not a good place to be, especially considering the real opportunities Obama has (had) for breaking free of the usual constraints. Instead he has already surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs flunkies, and contrary to the "socialism" goons, the government doesn't run the banks, it's the other way around. Telling ourselves that at least a card-carrying oaf like Sarah Palin isn't a heartbeat away from the White House is cold comfort, true as it is. It's already getting old.

Some perspective, though: At a recent used book sale at the local parish hall, I picked up a copy of Jonathan Phillips' The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, for a freakin' quarter. Pristine shape, too; in fact, I seriously doubt that the book has ever been opened for longer than a few minutes.

And that's a pity, because it's a fascinating read, and there are plenty of parallels, as you might imagine, between Innocent III's ill-fated excursion into the Levant and Fredo II's attempt eight hundred years later. Not the least of which is the recent "revelation" that Rumsfeld and one of his Jesus-freak generals had made a practice of putting a cover sheet on Pentagon briefings that consisted of a stock photo captioned with some hortatory bible verse. Is that analogous to, say, one of Innocent's laudatory bulls insisting on the liberation of the Holy Land, even as the Venetian doge subverted the crusade for his own means, or to some jihadist's uttering of militant suras, either in a weekly propaganda tape or during the act of separating an infidel's head from his body?

In the midst of all the Cheney chatter (and really, media assholes, if none of you gutless cocksuckers are going to challenge him on his manifest lies and failures, then you're just being his butt-boys), it behooves us to examine this phenomenon more closely. People like Rumsfeld and Cheney invoke religious principles only under duress, and only with the most self-serving of motives. So the only sensible reason Rumsfeld would initiate this weird, atavistic internal agitprop device is that either Fredo demanded it, or Rumsfeld and Cheney thought it was necessary to keep Fredo's head and heart (such as they are) involved in their machinations. As coup d'états go, it's pretty mild, but the hubris and naïveté, knowing that public knowledge would simply confirm every jihad propagandist's assumptions, oddly maintain the power to startle, just when we thought nothing more about these vile people could surprise us.

People sniped here and there about Bush the twelve-stepper, but more and more it appears that that only scratched the surface, and maybe Oliver Stone got it right, that Fredo swapped out his alcoholism and his daddy issues for just another demon. This demon wears the trappings of faith, but demands to be constantly fed and put before even the man's own damned common sense and ability to experience the world for what it is, rather than what his damaged psyche thinks it should be from misreading a much-abused collection of Neolithic legends. It's neither mean nor untrue to postulate that Bush himself and the world at large would have been better off had he just kept drinking, rather than allowing those impulse-control issues to be transmogrified by his brain into the delusion that he was divinely anointed to lawn-dart the country into arguably its weakest condition, internally and externally, since Reconstruction.

Phillips' book is a reminder of whence the "my god can beat up your god" idiots crawled out long ago, that many of them believe their own rhetoric only for the most cynical of reasons. But they're serious about it all the same, and when push comes to shove, they're happy to massacre people of the same faith if they don't get with the program, and all of these ceremonies and rituals are really just about the maintenance of pure raw power and its applications.

Obama has a ways to go to get to that point; I cannot see him needing his advisers to slap anodyne bible verses on policy documents to make the medicine go down for him. He has to stop taking orders from Wall Street grifters, and he has to start pimp-slapping some of his straying party animalsvegetables. And yeah, he suffers from the usual Democrat disorder of needing to prove that he can bomb brown people from afar just as bloodlessly as his elephantine partners in rhyme. But he also needs the citizens who find that shit unacceptable to step up and fucking well say so, because otherwise, there's no real reason for him not to continue on in this direction. And the real danger is that when the pendulum swings back, it could be toward someone who makes Palin look rational and intelligent.


cavjam said...

When Georgie came out with his post-9/11 "Time for a New Crusade" tour, I thought (before yelling at the TeeVee), "Man, these guys is ignerrant." Then, an embarrassingly long time later, I remembered the GOP template for governance - the Imperial Shogunate - and realized it was merely the story line best suited to dolly Emperor Georgie aboard the enthusiasm train to Baghdad. Even farts as cynical as I forget sometimes how the world works.

So, too, with this presidency. Despite having tyrannical powers on a few brightly lit avenues which don't directly affect the bottom line, the Exec is dependent on the Legislative. Even were the Nelsons and Landrieus to be sucked to the heaving Bosom of The Omega by a fortuitous tornado and replaced with faithful copies of Eugene Debs, there are always waiting in the wings untapped Fausts with eager pen in hand. When the Big Money Status Quo Machine wholly owns one party as a subsidiary, it doesn't take much to buy off the requisite number of the oppo party. The BMSQM may have to play a tad more defense during an Obama presidency, but the big issues are not in doubt - no single-payer assault on the weasel health insurance cartel, no receivership for bankrupt Big Banking, no pinstripes in jumpsuits, no meaningful cap and trade, not even a modest reprise of the Nurnberg trials for the defense industry's hot shot salespersons. And Obama seems a not unwilling abettor in these non-acts. He knows who runs the country (When Obama declares the exec boards of Goldman, BofA, Citi, Chase, et al. enemy combatants to be held in preventive detention, I'll be the first to beat my breast in a sincere mea culpa). We all forget sometimes how the world works.

And, no, we'll never see corporate media even mildly confront the Corporate Shogun. It would mess with the story line. It just might remind people that a free press is more than a means of selling advertising. At least in theory.

BTW, I'm sure you get tired of this, but: Great post.

Heywood J. said...

BTW, I'm sure you get tired of this, but: Great post.Thanks, and no, I never get tired of it.

(When Obama declares the exec boards of Goldman, BofA, Citi, Chase, et al. enemy combatants to be held in preventive detention, I'll be the first to beat my breast in a sincere mea culpa).Likewise but, for all the implicit "he's just giving them their last best chance before he steps in and really fixes things" excuses from a couple months ago, it seems to be a lot of "second verse, same as the first". His best chance for actually fixing the problem and disempowering the phantom financial class would have been to take about 1% of what he's put in their pockets, and simply spread it around to American households, $10-20K per. Guaran-fuckin'-teed most people would have used it to pay down debt and buy a couple toys, thereby alleviating some debt (the biggest problem) and boosting the economy (the next biggest problem). Instead the casino banks have used it to cover their reserve losses, the "third wave" of foreclosures (the post-subprime class who have simply been out of work too long to keep up) is hitting, and lending and jobs are frozen.

Obama promised that he would start talking to Americans as if they were adults, and he has already failed in that regard. An adult conversation would begin with the premise that the argument over whether the economy is in a "recession" or "depression" are largely irrelevant. It is a correction more than anything else. Gravity works, and now our unborn grandchildren are covering the tertiary margin calls of a bunch of thieves and scheming morons.

I hate to play the race card, but it actually makes sense here that people of an idealistic bent are even more so right now, even when their lyin' eyes tells 'em it's Clintonism all over again. Which was "good", in that it was an island of relative sanity in a generation-long sea of Reagan and two Bushes, but still perpetuated the financial class' big scheme of redistributing debt with credit, while wages stagnated for thirty-some years. They forced the middle class to mortgage their futures and stole the proceeds.

I had bigger hopes for Obama, but I have a sinking feeling we're going to spend the summer bitching about higher gas prices and fucking abortion laws. It's a mass case of Stockholm syndrome, I guess.

cavjam said...

It is a correction more than anything else.But, but, but..., corrections is painful. Plus, they imply error. We can't have that. Let's re-inflate sumpin' else.

It's like a goddam game of musical chairs. The music stops. Cut someone out. Then start it up again.

You're right. It's a correction, a correction of insane lengths of leverage entirely dependent on delusion becoming reality. At least in the equities' bubble, margin rates never got lower than 40%. And people didn't live in their portfolios.

I hate to play the race card, but it actually makes sense here that people of an idealistic bent are even more so right now, even when their lyin' eyes tells 'em it's Clintonism all over again.a) I think I like this application of the race card bit. (I can imagine the Radical Chic crowd oozing contentment at having Our First Black Prez with a feel for common folk (though I do like to point out he's just as White))
b) Some of my melanin-enhanced friends are convinced Obama's being set up to take the fall for the egregious sins of those preceding him. (It'll be white cats in the White House ever after)
c) There's no more devious a word in its meaning than "neo-liberalism."

I had bigger hopes for Obama, ...."Hope springs eternal in the human breast;"

- then again, the breast ain't the seat of rationality. Even after Summers and Geithner were anointed Magi, I clung to the hope this was just some clever ploy beyond my immediate and meager understanding.

Every few years I re-read Jeffers' "Shine, Perishing Republic" and remember that when I first read it I thought he was bitterly cynical. I need to remind myself: The capacity for hope is an asset of some beauty, as is gold. When your ship sinks, it's best to let go the gold and start swimming. I think it's time for another re-read.

Montag said...

i get the feeling that "the citizens who find that [bombing brown people from afar] shit unacceptable," are the true believers in this scenario. dear leader's silky reassuring persona: the cover sheets. hollow agitprop to keep their hearts and minds in the game.