Friday, April 17, 2009

Life Among the Ruins – Some Random Thoughts

This economic crisis -- meltdown/crash/whatever you want to call it – is one of those things that doesn't haunt my dreams (thank goodness!), but every morning when I wake up one of my first thoughts is, oh yeah... “that”. It's like having some chronic ailment – you can forget about it for a while, but it's always there, always part of the baseline, and the prospects for things improving any time soon – or ever! -- are remote at best. And the truth is that, aside from taking a hit on some mutual funds, I haven't been directly impacted; it's not as if my quality of life, or standard of living, or life style, is a whole lot different now than it would be if the Dow were still at 14,000 and the government hadn't nationalized huge chunks of the business and financial sector. Now, this is not to say that things are “OK”, because it's perfectly possible that the worst is still to come – and I would nominate hyperinflation as the most likely candidate. Once we get to that stage, it's all over. And as I've said before, the government cannot possibly pay for all of these bailout and “stimulus” schemes with cash on hand, because there _is_ no cash on hand – the government is broke, and has been for decades, with very few “in the black” years (budget-wise, at least) as exceptions. The best – and easiest to understand – single measure of government indebtedness is, not surprisingly, the national debt. That's a “right now” snapshot, but even it doesn't take into account all the unfunded obligations and entitlements that were already in place before the economic crisis – and it certainly doesn't take into account all the new debt that is about to accumulate in the process of dealing with the crisis. Now, some will argue – as many have – that the national debt is no big deal, for the simple (and simplistic) reason that “we owe it to ourselves”. This may have been the case, in a sense, when most of the debt was held domestically, i.e. by American citizens, banks, corporations, etc. But it's no longer the case, and that amplifies the risk factors tremendously, because it means that the holders of the debt – China, for example – can use their holdings as a kind of blackmail in order to influence other economic decisions as well as foreign policy. Think about some guy – a candy store owner, say -- in “Little Italy” in the old days who has a pile of gambling debts he owes to some guy named Rocco. All of a sudden Rocco shows up and starts telling the guy what he should and shouldn't sell in his store... what hours he should be open... and where he should or shouldn't go on vacation, or to church... or who he should allow his daughter to go out with. You think the guy's going to argue? The minute he opens his mouth, Rocco's going to call in those notes, and the guy's going to wind up not only broke, but maybe without the store... maybe without a few teeth... maybe without his life. This is precisely the situation China has us in right now, and my guess is they're just waiting for something big enough to be worth exerting their leverage on. Will it be Taiwan? Iran? Israel, even? It's anybody's guess. In any case, we've turned our decision-making power over to them in order to maintain our life style (which includes our political, diplomatic, and military “life style” as well, needless to say). Who ever heard of an empire being maintained on borrowed money? I sure never did. Typically, throughout history, when an empire-building nation runs out of its own resources, or out of the resources of its colonies or subject states, that's the end of their empire. And frankly, we don't even do “empire” right. The British, for instance, always managed to profit from their overseas holdings, whereas for us they are nearly always liabilities. This, I submit, is because the British Empire was unabashedly economic in nature, and unprincipled, whereas ours is “propositional”, i.e. it's at least partially based on Utopian idealism and a zeal to “spread democracy” at all costs to the ignorant, backward, and unenlightened of the earth – whether they want it or not. Thus, an ideal which has been nearly impossible to realize in our own country is seen as fit to export – and to people who have none of our philosophical, moral, ethical, ethnic, and – yes – racial history, background, or orientation. It is a rare people that can even be made interested in democracy, to say nothing of make it work; we tend to forget this as we go about spreading our supposedly universal gospel. But yet we persist, in the most radical environmentalist fashion – you force people to go through the motions, and – shazam! -- the next thing you know, they'll become believers. The fact that, historically, they typically wind up hating our guts doesn't seem to deter our foreign policy zealots one iota.

But why am I even talking about idealism, when our foreign policy over the years has also been characterized by hidden agendas – mostly economic, but also military? We typically only “help” countries that have something we want – natural resources, a place to set up military bases, and so on. You show me a country with no natural resources that is off the beaten path and I'll show you a place that isn't getting more than a token piece of foreign aid, and where we really aren't all that zealous about converting them to democracy. But this observation has to be tempered with the fact that, in the post-Soviet era, our level of military/defense/“preparedness” spending has not gone down one iota. Admittedly, there was some risk that it would during our “vacation from history” -- the 10-odd year period between the Soviet breakup and 9-11 -- but – thank goodness! -- 9-11 did away with all that, and we are now spending as much on defending ourselves against a bunch of goatherds as we were spending defending against the entire Soviet Union, and China, and North Korea, and North Vietnam. I'm not sure what to even call this – maybe “dumbing defense down”? It makes me wonder what would happen if the Soviet Union should magically come back to life – would our defense budget go up by a factor of 10? 100? 1000? Or is there just some unwritten rule on the books that we will spend X amount on defense no matter what? That would seem to be the most likely answer. I say again, every government program is a jobs program, and that includes what we quaintly refer to as “defense”. So it really doesn't matter if the “enemy” is big or small... real or imaginary... past, present, or possibly future... we're going to spend the same amount regardless, and we're going to spend it on whatever creates the most jobs for the right people, and whatever makes the right people rich. Actual readiness and technological superiority have nothing to do with it, except for the occasional coincidence. And as I've said before, the "War on Terror" is basically a hoax -- it's not being fought as a war, and "terror" is just our term for unconventional warfare, i.e. the kind poor people use against rich countries.

I also continue to be highly amused by the cascade of broken promises – or implied promises – that the Obama administration produces on a daily basis. Think about all he was supposed to do... you know, those things that the people who voted for him expected him to do: Get tough with business. Get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Reduce the defense budget. Miraculously set the economy straight. Punish all wrongdoers from the Bush administration, the military, the CIA, etc. Eliminate discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, “hate”, Rush Limbaugh, Bibles and guns, ad infinitum. The beauty of it is that he has not accomplished a single one of these things, and is not going to, because, frankly, he had no intention of doing so... or if he did, no one else on his team did; they all knew better. They knew that the Regime – for which they all work – thrives on things staying the same, or maybe getting worse, but certainly not on things getting better. And every once in a while someone in the administration spills the beans (“not realizing they were speaking into a live microphone” or some such lame-assed excuse) and admits that all of the current crises rolled into one are nothing but a golden opportunity to firmly and finally establish socialism as the unrivaled system by which this country is governed. And think about the ironies involved! The Democrats/New Dealers/socialists have dreamed of this day for... well, at least since 1933, and now, at long last, that day has arrived. You see, they have always considered the New Deal a job only half done. The “emergency measures” instituted by FDR – which he never considered “emergency” but rather permanent, but it would have been bad politics to admit this at the time – are still all with us. The regulatory apparatus that has made a painted whore of “capitalism” is still with us. The raising up of generations of Americans who believe that the government is their only hope in times of need... that is still with us, with a vengeance. But for some reason -- which escapes me, quite frankly – the New Deal did leave American business more or less intact and more or less autonomous, albeit highly regulated... it left in place various counter-cultural anachronisms like “parochial schools” and independent -- although, again, highly regulated – newspapers, magazines, journals, radio (and later TV) stopped short of nationalizing health care (but that's about to be remedied by Obama & Co.)... it left in place the banking and insurance industries, and the auto makers, and Wall Street, all of which have now been reduced to mendicant status... and it maintained various illusory fetishes that continue to mesmerize the body politic, like the flag, the “right to vote”, “free speech”, “private property”, and so on. Those fetishes are likely to remain more or less intact, for the simple reason that they long ago ceased to be any threat to the Regime. And the Constitution and Declaration of Independence will be maintained in their tomb in Washington, for the edification (or mystification) of school children.

But what is the irony of which I speak? It is simply that the groundwork for the tectonic shift in the American system was laid not by the usual suspects, but by Republicans... and by those claiming to be “conservatives”! This is why the golden opportunity glimmers so blindingly. What the Obama administration is doing right now wasn't even their idea! It was something the Republicans started, and they are simply continuing it because.... well, it's too late to turn back now, and if they don't things could get even worse, yadda yadda. So they have all the opportunity in the world to implement socialism, while at the same time remaining totally blameless! And this is the Republican gift that will just keep on giving... for years and decades to come. (But will the Democrats thank them? Not bloody likely. They'd much rather use them as scapegoats.) This instance of absolutely perfect timing, which I've pointed out before, could only have been the result of a conscious decision on someone's part; the idea of it being a coincidence requires more faith than I'll ever have.

There is another thing which I find quite remarkable, and that is that there is already considerable agreement, among people of varying convictions and levels of involvement, as to what caused the economic meltdown. The man on the street can tell you how it started, and provide a basic outline of the sequence of events. This is in marked contrast to the debate, which continues to this day, as to what caused the Great Depression, which was launched 80 years ago. In the present case, anyone who has been paying attention is able to name names, cite organizations, government actions, and other factors that contributed to our present troubles. Of course, this high level of agreement hasn't resulted in even a single perpetrator – from business or government – being arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned... but it does serve as an unusual instance of clarity, perhaps mainly because – as I said before – the Regime no longer has anything to hide.

There are, however, some lingering questions as to some of the details. If you adopt my “Regime” model, the whole caper is the result of a master plan of some sort, with the financial sector taking the lead and politicians being intimidated, blackmailed, or bribed into following, and providing facilitation through legislation and regulation. And I still think that's the most likely scenario. But there is an alternative, that is at least intriguing, and that has been proposed by a number of commentators... and this is that the entire business was one gigantic sting operation. Here is how it is supposed to have worked. Committed collectivists in positions of power in the government decided that it was high time to finish the job that the New Deal started, and bring all major American businesses and the financial sector (securities, insurance, banking, etc.) under the wing of government. But how to do so when times were good – when the business world seemed to be “performing” for the American people? The answer was, fix things so they can no longer perform... so that they fail spectacularly, and thus provide not only a justification, but an urgent need, for nationalization. And how to do this? Sucker, or intimidate, them into doing things that no sane person would do – like letting out billions in subprime mortgages, based on the delusion that the housing market will go up forever. And at the same time, allow the creation of countless species of exotic “derivatives” markets that are completely unregulated, but which are dealing in huge amounts of cash, and which are, likewise, bound to fail eventually, at which point we have an excuse to hang a government millstone around their necks. This all got hatched... and, sure enough, the titans of the financial industry took the bait, preferring short-term gains to long-term fiscal sanity and responsibility (AKA “take the money and run”). The resulting failures were a surprise to no one other than the people who failed and their victims, er, “investors” and customers. Remember the celebrations that followed the “sting” in the movie of the same name? I imagine the same thing was going on in the halls of Congress and the regulatory agencies when the whole thing started crashing down. (Barney Frank as Paul Newman? Is that really the best we can do?) Now the nationalization and collectivization could be implemented, at warp speed and totally above board, and no one could possibly object... and thus we have “the rest of the story”, right up to the present day.

The main problem with this “sting” scenario is that it assumes that Congress, and its staff, and the professional regulators working along Constitution Avenue, are smarter than anyone on Wall Street – a highly unlikely thing, I'm sure you'll agree. The assumption of greed and instant gratification on the part of business executives isn't tough to accept – but that applies to either scenario. The idea that the situation is being exploited, as manna from heaven, by people with collectivist tendencies, is easy to accept because they're admitting it in public. The main question is one of who, or what, drove whom – either the financial sector pulled a fast one on the government (easy to accept) or the government pulled a fast one on the financial sector (not so easy to accept). A third possibility, of course, is that they were co-conspirators... equal partners in a way. And in the long run, it might as well have been that way, since the Regime is getting what it wants in any case. But it's still of interest to try and ferret out some of the causal connections, and especially the pecking order behind it all. No sane person will argue that business has ever been a slave to government – but many will argue the reverse. The situation ebbs and flows, of course – at some points government seems to favor business, at other times it seems to favor “labor”. But when you see the way “labor” has been co-opted and betrayed of late, you have to admit that their day in the sun is long gone. The only players left standing are business and government, and the debate as to who controls whom is about to be rendered completely moot, since the two are in the process of converging into a single entity – which was, of course, the idea all along, but the time was not ripe, up until recently, to fully implement it. Thus, we have a new – but really not so new – model of the “relationship” between business and government. I call it “fascism lite” -- no brown shirts, no goose-stepping, no concentration camps or gulag – at least not yet – but every bit as fascistic in the financial, economic, “industrial policy” sense that anything Mussolini ever came up with – or that FDR wanted to.

And yet, as I said, you return to the present day and life seems to be lurching along in a more or less normal fashion. There are no jet fighters flying overhead, the way there were after 9-11... no black helicopters hovering on the horizon... no armored personnel carriers patrolling the suburbs... no marauding bands running amok in the countryside... no blood in the streets... no looting (at least in the “inner cities” -- Congress is a different matter)... no fires burning out of control. If you're a street person, or chronically unemployed (or unemployable), or a “tax receiver”, you haven't noticed a thing. If you're rich, your portfolio may have developed a case of Montezuma's Revenge, but your day-to-day life style hasn't been altered, and is unlikely to be. Only if you're middle class do you see the flood waters perceptibly rising... and even that is a more-or-less gradual, i.e. non-catastrophic, process if you remain employed. How many of these “tea party” protesters are in any sort of personal pain? I think their main ailment is indignation... but what is that indignation based on? It's based on the premise that “things shouldn't be this way”, which is, in turn, based on an idea, or ideal, of what “America” means, i.e. the “America” they grew up in – or think they grew up in. According to this world view, there has been a sudden, virtually overnight, revolution – albeit “within the form” -- and their once-orderly world has been taken over by the equivalent of Somali pirates, except in this case they are clothed in custom-tailored suits and have homes “in the Hamptons” and townhouses in Georgetown. But really, folks, things like this don't happen overnight. The process has been building up for decades now, but it's been subliminal... under radar... disguised in a million different ways. Only very recently was the decision made to go for the full-court press – to throw off the disguise and cash in, consolidate, and set in concrete that which was being put in place for years. Business is not all of a sudden, overnight, making a grotesque marriage with government... our foreign policy has not suddenly turned from idealistic and charitable to cynical... our political leaders have not gone from having real power to being pathetic tools simply as a result of recent events. And frankly, much of what is going on now in the way of “bailouts” and “economic stimulus plans” and so forth has been going on for decades, but in a subliminal way and under assumed names. What is defense contracting, for example, but a massive, ongoing “bailout” of defense industries? Oh, but – you'll say – at least before we got something for our money; all we're getting now is companies that don't go bankrupt, and executives that don't have to worry about their personal cash flow. But that would be assuming that defense industries actually produce something, or provide services, that are of benefit... that enhance the quality of life of the average citizen. But they clearly do not, unless you happen to be working for them... and as to “quality of life”, if you're living overseas and happen to find yourself in our crosshairs, your quality of life is going to suffer some major setbacks. So we see that what is called “defense” is at once a luxury and a parasitic, non-productive sector of the economy. Other sectors may be woefully corrupt or inefficient, but at least they are arguably engaged in providing goods and services that might be of interest to the typical person... but the same cannot be said of “defense”. It is a burden, plain and simple, to the extent that it's about things other than genuine defense... and I would say that is overwhelmingly the case, and has been, historically, ever since the War of 1812. But at least up through World War I we were a bit more honest about it, and called it the “Department of War”. But politics intervened, and, after all, we Americans are not a “war-like people”, unlike those nasty Europeans or Arabs or whoever else you might want to accuse. But it's funny how, for a non-warlike people, we have been involved in some war or other, continuously, for nearly 100 years now, and at present have military bases and activities in nearly every country on earth.

So as I said before, the primary losers in the current economic “transformation” -- if you will – are the good old American middle class, and a few of them – very few – have regained consciousness long enough to get indignant and even (as in the “tea parties”) mount protests. But as we all know from recent history, protests all by themselves avail nothing – you have to set fires and break things to get any real results, and this is a skill set, and an inclination, that the middle class simply does not possess. So the middle class has no “street power”... and it's voting power is illusory, since no matter who they vote for they're voting for The Regime. They might be able to wield some economic power if they could ever be made to work together – on things like boycotts, for example, or making greater use of barter. But even those measures are considered too radical, too distasteful. The one “hook” the Regime uses on the middle class, and the most effective one, is simple fear – fear of making a scene, of standing out, of being different, of being impolite, of violating someone's idea of etiquette. Think of the brilliant propaganda and social-control concept called the “hate crime” -- that term which will ever divide the ignorant, bigoted, out-of-control anarchist from the “nice” people. “Nice” people don't want to come anywhere near things like “hate”. Why, they won't even toy with things like “lack of consideration for others”! The fear of offending is the primary motivator of the middle class – which is why they're obsessed with “body odor” and won't discuss politics or religion at the dinner table (as if there's even anything left of “the dinner table” any longer – what with soccer, ballet, cable TV, the Internet, cell phones, and iPod).

Well, but – you might say – doesn't the middle class still set a moral example? Aren't they the solid, salt-of-the-earth Americans that we still rely on to keep the American dream alive, etc.? On the moral front, I offer two words: divorce, and abortion. Divorce has become so “old hat”, and expected, and non-scandalous, that it's no wonder so many people – even “nice” middle-class people – are opting for the “non-structured, uncommitted domestic unit” these days. No licenses, no STD tests, no ceremonies, no paperwork – just live with whomever you want, however you want, for however long you want. This used to be – and I swear this is true, because I remember it – something that only the marginal classes... the bohemians... the decadent... “artists, actors, and jazz musicians” would do. In a small town it was as good as a death sentence. “Don't play with those kids! Their parents aren't even married!” Or -- “She's divorced, you know.” (dark hints of promiscuity, heroin addiction, and staying up past midnight) When's the last time anyone “gave scandal” to anyone about anything – at least in the traditional sense? Nowadays everyone is totally “cool” with the “lifestyle choices” of everyone else – unless they run afoul of political correctness, of course – the new Puritanism. Someone once said that your “conscience” = your grandmother looking down at you from somewhere up near the ceiling; nowadays the best we can do is conjure up a picture of Hillary Clinton scowling at you with her “class warfare face” (while her husband chases a diner waitress around the parking lot). This is “morality” in the America of today... and the middle class is its greatest, and most reliable, consumer and practitioner.

And when it comes to abortion, the “abortion rights” people learned their lesson well from the likes of the Nazi propagandists. We tend to forget that Planned Parenthood is the present-day manifestation of the eugenics movement, which both inspired, and was inspired by, Nazi theories and policies having to do with the “master race”, and cleansing the human gene pool of “mongrel” influences like blacks, Jews, Slavs, homosexuals, gypsies, and so on. (I'm not sure if Rush Limbaugh is thinking of this when he uses the term “feminazis”, but it's certainly possible.) All that is required is that the group, or type, that the regime wants to exterminate – or facilitate, or enable, the extermination of – be re-defined as non-human. This process, AKA “thinging”, is – amazingly enough – primarily a semantic one. It involves subtle ploys like not referring to them as people, or humans (the unborn child is a “product of conception” -- never a “baby”)... by not using words like “he” or “she”, but only “it”... by assigning numbers to replace names (concentration camps and Social Security)... by discouraging, banning, or removing all marks of individuality (military uniforms and haircuts... the “power suit”... etc.). That's on the “removal” side. On the “attribution” side there is invariably a cascade of propaganda terms – the unborn child is “unwanted”... it's a “choice”... it's a “parasite”... it “contributes to the population problem” and to “global warming”, and to “pollution”, and to “crime”, etc. Why if you give birth to that child, you're practically committing a felony! The first time that kid throws a brick through a window we're going to haul you in as a “co-conspirator”! So wouldn't you rather just spend an hour in that nice, cozy abortion clinic with all those nice, non-judgmental “providers”? I sure would. The point is that the middle class has, by and large, completely bought into all of this propaganda and all of these semantic ploys. And we wonder, out loud, on a daily basis, how “a civilized nation like Germany could have ever given rise to Adolf Hitler”. Well, folks, it's the exact same process – and it all begins with words, which engender ideas, which engender actions (or the lack thereof). You don't even need academics – colleges and universities – although those can help. All you need is semantic trendsetters, AKA “the media”, and you've got it made. What continues to amaze is that popular propaganda has the ability to trump, and override, the moral and ethical principles that people were brought up on... or were they? It's one thing to have absolute, creed-based morality, and the occasional rebels who fight against it; this has been the picture from time immemorial. What the 20th Century brought us was a truly new thing – sometimes referred to as “the banality of evil”. This was not the stereotypical “villain” grooming his pencil-thin mustache while tying the helpless blond virgin to the railroad tracks; this was simply a lack of anything but the most superficial “morality” -- more like a habit or inertia -- among the supposed “body and soul” of civilization, namely the middle class. It was a lack of serious conviction about anything – accompanied by a lack of reflection, questioning, or skepticism – typical, it is always alleged, of the bourgeoisie. It was what gave rise to authoritarianism, collectivist-style, on both the “left” and the “right”... and what gave rise (and continues to do so, to this day) to impulsive, hysterical adulation of charismatic leaders who will save us from our (materialistic and “selfish”) sins. (Sound familiar? It ought to.)

So while it is true that the middle class is, in a sense, the heart and soul of any nation that considers itself “modern”, or even remotely “democratic”, that status is tied directly to a connection with, and commitment to, both morality and tradition. Without those, this “heart and soul” becomes corrupted, goes astray, and is no longer to be relied on – hence the meaninglessness of “the vote”. The Regime corrupts the middle class, then subtly removes them from power because they are corrupt. Very convenient! So what I refer to as the “two-class system” is actually something more, in a sense – it's a two-class system that includes a third group, namely a “delusional middle class” that thinks they still have some power and influence, but are serfs and slaves in all respects. Can a modern nation survive with only a delusional middle class, or does it have to have a real one? Time will tell. This is, once again, a new thing.

Now let's talk about Obama for a minute. As I said before, all of his promises of “change” have been shown to be no more than a will-o-the-wisp... but the only people who are at all upset about this are those of the far left (talk about a “delusional” group of people!). Conservatives of every stripe knew exactly what to expect from Obama and his gaggle of cynics... and they have not been disappointed. Garden-variety liberals just wanted to be put in charge again, so they're happy. Paleoconservatives are in good shape too – at least philosophically – because they no longer have to spend all their time trying to explain why they don't support George Bush, and why he isn't one of them. So in that sense, the Obama era is an opportunity for conservatism – the real kind, that is – to further define, refine, and purify itself... to seek out, and reaffirm, its philosophical roots... to formulate a coherent set of principles for application to these times, rather than just a bunch of talking points or sound bites. The “Neocons”, of course – who, by rights, should be hanging their heads in shame and going into self-imposed exile – are not budging an inch, and are still, in fact, very much entrenched in Washington. It's going to take more than a few catastrophes to jar that group loose. But the lefties – well, it's always great fun to see them get exploited then disillusioned, once again, by the people who are really in charge. If the Republicans make “useful idiots” out of the pro-life people every four years, the Democrats do just as well by the left wing. I'm not talking here about the cynical liberals of the Clinton mold, who believe in nothing but their own power and glory – I'm talking about that remnant of the left that still believes in “ideas” -- you know, things like “the brotherhood of man” and all that. (Pardon me while I barf.) These are the ones whose mythic history includes things like the "persecution" of Hollywood types by Joe McCarthy, or of Alger Hiss by Richard Nixon... protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago... pouring blood on draft board files... even getting photographed with a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, a la Jane Fonda. They were stupid, ignorant, wrong (about most things), and total dupes, but dammit, they did believe in something, at least. But the Democratic Party systematically shoved them aside, separated them out, denied them a platform, and made them feel like the proverbial turds in the punchbowl... as it continues to do to this day.

But wait! -- you'll say – isn't Obama one of these? Aren't his friends all erstwhile Pentagon bombers – the leftist of the left, the radicalest of the radical? Well... that would be like saying, of a 90-year-old former Rockette, “she's got great legs”. The term “sold out” is the palest possible description of what these people have done since the glory days of the 1960s. Obama is every bit as much of a creature, and slave, of the Regime as Bush was – but he is even more pathetic, because he claims to be something more, and, at one time, he may actually have been something more. But the Regime treats politicians like the “pod people” -- it kidnaps them, and “briefs” them, and they come back out into the daylight looking more or less the same, but acting and talking differently. Obama used the term “change” more often than a clerk at the 7-11, but we can already see that no such thing was ever intended. Did he ever have real principles (even if poorly formed and mistaken)? It's quite possible. His friend the Rev. Wright seems to have a few – which is why we haven't heard much from him of late. (And for that matter, where have Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton been lately, hmmmm?) So the bottom line to all this is that a “leftist” who actually acquires power is (1) no longer a leftist; and (2) has no real power anyway, the same way that a “conservative” who acquires power winds up with neither his principles nor his mistress – I mean power. (Sorry, I was thinking of Bill Clinton.)

I've said, often enough, that no one who depends on the voters for his position has any real power – and we can see the truth in this, as clearly as ever, in Obama's case. He is no longer his own man, and he is certainly not a man of the “left” in any meaningful sense. He is, rather, a creature of the Regime – just another talking head/suit/face/scapegoat. They'll use him up and throw him away the way they did so many of his predecessors... and he'll spend the rest of his life, like Jimmy Carter, wondering what went wrong. (At least Carter is capable of asking that question, unlike Bush, who always thought things were just groovy and continues to think so.) And it's not as though the success or failure of any one politician, or government program, or policy, or even war, is a direct reflection of the success or failure of the Regime. In a sense, and almost by definition, the Regime never fails. This doesn't mean that it's perfect, or that all of its plans come off without a hitch. (Look at all the holes in the official 9-11 story, for example.) It is, after all, composed of humans of some sort, and not space aliens (as far as we know). But overall, and over time, it gets its way, and all the “visible leaders” are is its tools – it couldn't care less about their personal goals, their hopes and dreams, or their successes or failures. Think of it as a sort of Mafia writ large – as long as you're a good and faithful servant, you're going to be accorded many privileges. But when it's time for you to go, you've got to go – period. No plea bargaining; maybe, at the most (in politics, I mean – not in the Mafia), a sinecure of some sort, just to put a good face on things, but no more than that. And the fascinating question always is, do any of these clowns ever wind up consciously feeling used, duped, or exploited? Do they wake up in the middle of the night feeling like the fools that they are? If they do, they'll never admit it. Instead, they trudge on, laboring away at their “legacy” and imagining that they actually “made a difference”. Well, they chose that line of work, so I don't feel sorry for them.

But I don't want to leave the topic of “Obama” without admitting something. While not falling for any of his flyblown rhetoric or empty promises, I have to admit that he is, in fact, charismatic, coherent, well-spoken (and not just “for his race” but for anybody), attractive, and – yes – dignified. I can watch him make a speech without wincing, and without feeling embarrassed for this country... which is more than I could ever have said about George W. Bush, who always came off as a kind of feisty, bantam-rooster drunk with a chip on his shoulder and a huge, hollow, echoing space where his brain should have been. Plus, Bush talked like a shitkicker, and call me bigoted, but I just can't, to this day, get used to politicians who talk like those degenerate primates in “Deliverance”. Now, I'm not saying they all have to talk like Claiborne Pell either – but something in between would be nice. The Midwestern accent falls lightly on the ears, for example – not the Minnesota kind (that is forever ensconced in the American consciousness as “the way Sarah Palin talks”), but whatever they speak in Nebraska, say. Or the gentle, lilting “Old South” accents of the Virginia Tidewater. Or the honest-farmer inflections of northern New England. Or even the bland, deracinated tones of the West Coast. Almost anything, in fact, but the likes of LBJ, Carter, and “W”. But hey, that's just me talking – and I'm sounding more like a Pittsburgher every day. I understand there are many extremely intelligent people from the South, who have retained – with pride, even! -- their native accents. And who doesn't love William Faulkner? So I'll say a “mea culpa” on this one and move on.

So yes, I wake up each morning and reflect on how much has changed... and on how much hasn't. And how the middle class – the primary victims of all this – are to be pitied on the one hand, but on the other hand they really did have it coming. And how the rich and powerful are just doing what they have always done – but this time in broad daylight, because it's too much work to keep hiding it, and besides, it no longer matters. And how our politicians and “leaders” are servants of the “special interests”, but, in fact, they always have been, to some degree. And how our domestic policies are aimed at one thing and one thing only – more collectivization, greater control, and, ultimately, the total suppression of the individual in all respects. And how our foreign policy is still a hodgepodge of Wilsonian idealism, empire-building, war industry enrichment, job creation, religious zealotry, and corruption. And how, in order to keep up appearances – in order to keep “believing” -- in something, in anything! -- we continue to “fetishize” things like “the vote”, “free speech” and the Constitution (not to mention disaster areas like Congress and the Supreme Court). And that our version of “democracy” is that every four years we elect a king (or queen, possibly). And that in place of religious belief and moral convictions we are now sacrificing ourselves – and our children – on the altars of materialism and collectivism, and worshiping the figurehead of the moment. And that, in sum, none of this came about overnight, or in a year, or a decade, or as the result of any “crisis” -- it has been gradual, subversive, and – up until recently – subliminal. It's only coming to the surface now because, as I said, the Regime has nothing to lose. Blatant tyranny is not a means to power, it is the _result_ of power. Tyrannies arise, nearly always, through gradualism, and only when firmly established to they show their true colors. The power that they have is not power that they took by force; it is power that was freely given to them, by the people or their representatives. But once that power is in place, can the people, or their representatives, take it back? Well, no. At that point, the only thing that can dislodge it is another power – and, historically, this usually has to come from outside, i.e. it has to be foreign, alien. It has to come through conquest. And we see that this conquest does not have to be of the traditional military sort – it can just as readily be economic, or even political. Right now, for example, there is a showdown brewing between two of our “conquerors” -- the political one (Israel) and the economic one (China). They have not yet come to blows over the carcass of the American economy and its military arm... but the day may come, and sooner than we expect. Right now China has a “surrogate” of sorts in the form of Iran, and it also has a heavy investment in the U.S. economy, which is, in turn, being bled white by our overseas “commitments”, first and foremost being the one to preserve Israel “at all costs” (which drives everything else we are doing in the Near East and South Asia, in case there's any doubt). Sooner or later those competing interests are going to come to blows. And as they say, “you heard it here first” -- I'm not aware of anyone else who has come up with this idea, but I'm convinced that there's something to it. As usual, time will tell.


Anonymous said...

I also continue to be highly amused by the cascade of broken promises – or implied promises – that the Obama administration produces on a daily basis. Think about all he was supposed to do... you know, those things that the people who voted for him expected him to do: Get tough with business. Get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Reduce the defense budget. Miraculously set the economy straight. Punish all wrongdoers from the Bush administration, the military, the CIA, etc. Eliminate discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, “hate”, Rush Limbaugh, Bibles and guns, ad infinitum. The beauty of it is that he has not accomplished a single one of these things, and is not going to, because, frankly, he had no intention of doing so... or if he did, no one else on his team did; they all knew better.

Are you a fucking moron or what? Barack Obama has been in office for FIVE MONTHS! Five months! Were you really that stupid to believe that he could accomplish so much in five months? Grow up for Pete's sake!

Did he break some campaign promises? Probably. Have other politicians broken campaign promises? YES. It's what they do. They're fucking politicians. If you're stupid enough to believe that they will keep every promise ever made to the public, then you're a bigger fool than anyone could imagine.

Dave Witter said...

Oh now wait. _I_ never believed he could accomplish all those things in 5 months -- but apparently _he_ did. Or wanted everyone else to think he did. My position is that he never intended to -- or if he did he's the only one in the administration who did. Mainly I'm amused because his lefty supporters keep getting upset. Maybe _they're_ the morons and fools you're referring to.

And hey, thanks for tuning in.