Monday, September 21, 2009

End Times

Although the seeds were sewn in the Reagan era, and nurtured with care during the time of Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey, I think this year -- 2009 -- will be marked by historians (assuming their writings will be found in the rubble by some future sentient beings) as the one in which it became clear that The United States of America was no longer governable. That its form of constitutional government, and, in the largest sense, its democracy, showed itself to have become irreparably dysfunctional. That the gossamer of good will which for over two centuries managed to hold together the elements of this fragile society is gone forever.

It takes more than we have. Had. Too needy, too unable to face reality, too frightened of our own shadows, and of the shadow of death, we are, it's clear, a pathetic species. Capable of so much, individuals having created transcendentally beautiful art, invented amazing things, taken flight, peeled back layer upon layer of ignorance, collectively we are inexplicably easily manipulated, distracted, lied to, compelled to act against our own interest, to fall upon one another in hatred.

These things have always been part of us. It's a given that politics are messy, dirty, and dishonest. But we've never been tested as we are now. "The Greatest Generation" (the very name being a media construct and an example of our banality [which is not to denigrate people of my parents' time, but simply to point out it was a talking head selling books that came up with it, and the other talking heads, in fealty to their exalted image of themselves, who took it up]) didn't have to think too hard: their war was conventional in thought and carry-out; their economic calamity clear and undeniable. Like a mother grabbing her child out of the path of an oncoming car, the actions were reflexive, the need absolutely clear.*

It's no longer so. Our wars are built on sand, our enemies are like vapor. (One enemy IS vapor!) It's in the future, more than the present, that the dangers lie; the answers aren't obvious, and are likely painful. Which is exactly the problem. Since Ronald Reagan and his voodoo economics, we've fed on the idea that we can have it all, now, with no sacrifice. And the cynics have figured it out. People want easy; they want certain; they need their hates to keep them warm. Politicians, and the corporations that give them succor, put it all together. They figured out how to deceive enough people into looking the other way, for short-term profit and in the name only of greed. Perhaps no one has said it more clearly and unapologetically than the recently departed so-called father of neoconservativism, Irving Kristol:

"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."

(Not mentioned by Bill's dad, but entirely implicit, are the truths meant for the uneducated and frightened. He did say "children," though, which is the assumption behind the way the right treats the populace. The accurate assumption.)

So here we are: 2009, when it all gelled, then gummed to a halt. At the risk of sounding like a crazy liberal, it turns out the ranters against corporate America (like Ralph Nader, who should be strung up for his egotistical turns at presidential politics) have been right all along. Willingly, happily, energetically, we've become tools. How effortless it's been to get people to rage against their own interest! We've been treated as if we're too dumb to notice.

There's a good reason for that: we are. In numbers, at least, to make the difference.

In whose interest is it to convince people we need private health insurance, with their deadly rescissions, their rising fees, their enormous profits? In whose interest is it to convince people that regulating banks is fascism, as they, once again, leverage our future for quick profit? In whose pocket are our politicians: those who chip in a few bucks, or those who contribute hundreds of thousands, who spend tens of millions on lobbying? It should be so obvious that people would stop dead (literally, in a while) in their tracks before being whipped up into self-destructive frenzies. But they don't.

Why are crazy people like Glenn Beck, stupid people like Sean Hannity, damaged people like Bill O'Reilly, nasty people like Rush Limbaugh on the airwaves? Because they sell soap. Because the ideal of honest debate and thoughtful disagreement is no longer important. Soap is. Only soap.

As I said in my previous post, it was amazing to me to hear, pretty much verbatim, Beckisms parroted back to me with no understanding at all. As if the truth were self-evident. Unaccountable czars!! Completely unaware of the origin of the term with Reagan, the equal number under W, the fact that many were, in fact, confirmed by the Senate, that all of them have actual titles. To say it's dispiriting is to understate by a factor of 1.21 gigawatts.

There's much on the table about which to be concerned. Real debate, based on facts and with solutions in mind, is what's needed. Where we need giants in Congress, we have hyperpartisan midgets. Where we need an involved electorate, willing to learn and listen and think, we have sign-waving dittoheads, full of fire and bereft of fact. Where we need media to do their indispensable job, we have corporatized monoliths owned by ideologues who are entirely uninterested in real reporting.

"We want our country back," shriek the Beckians. Me, too. The difference is I want the one that had high-minded politicians and thoughtful and educated citizens, willing to give a little for the common good. They, it seems, want easy answers, leaders who didn't challenge them, and the certainty that they're right about everything. Funny thing, though: if they get theirs back -- and it looks more and more like they will -- they'll lose everything. Were I to get mine -- and it's clear it's gone forever, by design, by the very ones who think they're saving it -- there'd be a sliver of a chance.

[Perfect: as if ordained by god himself, literally as I was finishing the above, I received an email from a friend. "If you forward nothing else...." it said. Following line after line of high dudgeon and patriotic indignation, it screamed "Now President Obama has directed the United States Postal Service to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a new commemorative 42 Cent First Class Holiday Postage Stamp..

REMEMBER to adamantly & vocally BOYCOTT this stamp, when you are purchasing your stamps at the post office...."

It goes on, in the same vein, pulsing with Foxobeckian certainty. My response to my friend included this. I hope he noted the date, and who was president then. He will, I know. But the ones that sent it to him? It is to laugh. Weep. Sigh. Despond. Most literally, I see no hope for us at all. These are the people on whom the future turns and who, I'm certain, think they're absolutely in the right. They have no capacity whatsoever to see how they've been duped, over and over. Played, by the likes of Beck, Limbaugh, and the whole ugly lot, like a two-penny tin whistle. They've been taught not to think, and they never will.]
*Well, sure, there were cries against joining the war in Europe; and, of course, The New Deal had its detractors. And every era has its bogeymen. But the crazy has never been mainlined as it is now, nor has it found such grateful veins, even as the host dies.


  1. Geez, Sid, I'm bummed out about Patrick Swayze too,,but c'mon...Keep that Chin Up!!!!
    And Psstttt.........
    Newts been out of Congress 11 years now, and Reagans deader than Bob Marley...
    Funny how things are only ungovernable when Y'all are in power... "W" did stuff, Medicare Part "D", Gulf War part "2", cut taxes..With bipartisan support for the most part, see Clintion, Hilary...
    And give me a break, did you send YOUR tax cut back??? Actions speak louder than words, ask Mary Jo Kopechne...
    OK, if I've got you to take that gun barrell outta your mouth (I know you've got one, Gun, I mean) things aren't so bad, I don't even listen to Glenn Beck, didn't even know who he was till you Commies started talkin about him 24-7...
    And he IS a nut job, the worlds not ending till 2/02/20...don't ask me how I know..


  2. Oh yeah,
    The Iraq War Resolution passed 77-23 in the Senate, and what does Jesse Helms have in common with Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Diane Feinstien, Tom Harkin, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and Chucky Schumer??? They all voted "Yay!!"...
    And I'm not sure, but I think My blogs the only one keeping track of Iraq/Afghanistan deaths since 1-20-09... actually I get the info from another blog, but its even more obscure than mine...
    Its gonna hit "300" this week... Maybe the Mullato in Chief will make another bowling joke. Its been awhile...
    and DON'T kill yourself, its a mortal sin.


  3. Let's see, Frank. I said 2009 was the year it became obvious that the system failed, and you point to things BEFORE 2009 as if it were a counter argument. And to prior instances of the opposition party voting with the president, which, in 2009, has stopped happening.

    I'm guessing you weren't on your high school debate team. Right?

  4. Big "No" on the Debate team, I did stuff with Real World Applications... Football, Baseball, Chemistry Club.
    Were YOU on the Rainbow, I mean Debate Team??? Hope not for your sake, no offense, but your not the most pursuasive guy out there..
    I remember those guys, agonizing on how to convincingly argue a point they abhorred with any bone in their immature bodys...Thats gotta be good for the character...maybe Hitler DID have the right idea???
    Football taught me that even that straight-arrow-alter-boy- will kick you in the kidneys when the Refs not lookin...
    Oh yeah, its "296" , little more than 1 death/day, but he's askin for 40,000 more troops...


  5. Dr S.. I'm sorry this is off track, but I just want to thank Leigh again..with all my heart for sharing the Kaddish with me.

    Not sure if she'll see my thank you if I put it with original post. She doesn't have an open blog for me to go to.

    It was so perfect. I ended up winging my eulogy and so I didn't use it at the end as planned... but I did use it..and it was so perfect.

    Leigh..I also thanked you in my post.

    I will come back asap to answer Eugene and catch up on your posts.

    I have to think when I am in here... and haven't been in the political mode for awhile with everything going on.

    Nice to have you back Dr S and it sounds like you had a wonderful vacation with a good friend. :)

    I know Frank... too sappy and too wordy. ;)

  6. For a good explanation of Obama's Afghan "strategy", watch this.

  7. anonymous: not only is your comment off point, CK is the most dug-in of the remaining discredited neocons, and, as the coiner of the term "Bush derangement syndrome," he's the most ardently deranged on Obama.

    It's true, of course, that Afghanistan is a hopelessly miserable choice among nothing but bad choices. No country has ever successfully occupied it. One can only wonder what choices would be available had Bush not abandoned it for eight years.

    Note CK's opening gambit: he says that since Obama is reviewing strategy, that makes it his strategy, ignoring the fact that he had to pick up a hand that had already been dealt, played half-way, and badly.

    You can be sure that whatever decision Obama makes will be decried loudly by either the left or the right. But by any measure you can make, it's unwinnable and never has been, historically. It's not a country in any meaningful sense. It's a region of many tribes with no interest in being governed. Moreover, no matter we do there, it will in no way reduce the ability of terrorists to plan and carry out attacks. They have endless places from which to do so.

    For insights into Afghanistan strategy, there are a hundred people, left and right, I'd consider more reasonable, knowledgeable, and thoughtful than CK. The list of his wrong pronouncements is long, indeed.

  8. I saw Afghanistan in the comments, so, sorry. I take it you don't like Krauthammer, but the president's comments stand on their own--CK is just the messenger. Obama said it's his strategy in March, now he says there is none.

    I also recall him saying that he would listen to his generals. Is he now, do you think?

  9. Of course he's listening. It's not their job to decide policy. Nor does listening mean accepting their recommendations.

    And yes once he decides it will be his policy. I don't envy the job. It's an impossible situation, handed to him by a poorly informed predecessor who, evidently, made his decisions based on scripture.

  10. Well, not to be a stickler, but here's an opinion not offered by Mr. K--but maybe the WaPo isn't your favorite, either.

    "st March 27 that President Obama outlined in a major speech what he called "a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan" that, he added, "marks the conclusion of a careful policy review." "

    Sounds like he already decided. Sounds like it's been the pres's policy since then.

    He doesn't have to take his generals' recommendations--he can rely on his own experience I suppose, though his military credentials seem a bit thin. But it sounds like he's stopped listening--if he hasn't met with them but once in three weeks. It is a war--his war now, fought with his strategy. Seems like he could do better. I know you think it's Bush's fault, but now it's Obama's fault. Isn't it?

  11. So you're saying that, once reviewed, no further review is allowed?

    Yes, it's his war. He's president. But that's like saying it's your forest fire if you're the one trying to put it out when I'm the one who set it.

    But the question is, what's the right thing to do? I sure as hell don't know, but I believe there's no military solution. The generals can recommend what to do from the military point of view. It's their job. It's the president's to look at a much bigger picture. And, unlike his highly inexperience predecessor, he's clearly able to aggregate factual information and thoughtful advice and make decisions based on the best thereof. I'll take that to Gog and Magog any day.

  12. Quoth the article:

    Mr. Obama said, "a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance . . . and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people -- especially women and girls."

    "To succeed, we and our friends and allies must reverse the Taliban's gains, and promote a more capable and accountable Afghan government," Mr. Obama concluded. As Gen. McChrystal's report makes very clear, keeping faith with that goal will require more troops, more resources and years of patience. Yet to break with it would both dishonor and endanger this country. As the president put it, "the world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos."

    If the pres is reviewing to better the military's mission, great idea. But he seems to be reviewing to improve his own political chances, which is tragic. People are dying, and Obama seems to be voting "present" again.

    Is he the new LBJ? Shouldn't he either win his war or go home? It seems he's been contemplating his poll number for the last month...and preparing for Letterman.

  13. Good for you for your mind reading ability. I'd have said he's reviewing the situation in light of reality. His political fortunes will take a hit no matter what he decides, such is the nature of the problem.

    Yes, he should "win" "his" war or go home. Neither choice is good. But they're the ones he was left with, as Bush kicked the can down the road.

    I think he was wrong when he said what you quote. In the sense, at least, that there's no way to achieve what he laid out. He's coming to realize it, and is faced with an enormous "now what?" It's lose/lose.

  14. IN the meantime, he's doing neither. He's voting "present"...again. While people die.

    He could have everyone out in 48 hours. He could send more troops in 48 hours. Apparently, though, in the past three weeks, with this report on his desk, he's done nothing.


  15. So in your view, instituting a plan, seeing how it works, reassessing (after witnessing a fraudulent election), gathering new data, listening to advice, formulating a way forward is "voting present." You prefer, I guess, the "fire, aim, ready" approach of G. Bush, which led to the death of tens of thousands. Fine. At least we understand you.

    You, sir, are refractory to input. Feel free to comment at will. Don't expect further response.

    In your free time, you might enjoy reading this.

  16. Seaspray, I've been offline for a while . . . blew out another joint, this time a shoulder, and it's aggravated considerably by ergonomic issues relating to 20 years as a systems analyst/computer geek. I've had to ration my "recreation" time online in favor of actually working!

    I'm so very glad that I was able to help with your mother's memorial service. Lessons in dealing with grief are hard-won, and it's a real blessing to me that my experiences could comfort you in a small way.

  17. Great rambling rant! Thanks.

    Rupert Murdoch is our days' William R. Hearst. Perhaps he'll have his own war, too, like Hearst had his Spanish-American War...but it may be a civil war.

    "The Greatest Generation" was a great generation, but not the greatest. They also had the Blacklist and McCarthy, Jim Crow, and other sins, just like us all.
    They fought when attacked, and they fought well.
    Although the soldiers have always given their all, it doesn't seem we've had a general who wasn't brain dead since the Inchon invasion. Ditto politicians involved in military affairs.

    Beck is the trash our mothers told us not to hang with. Everyone knows there are 2 eids - not just one - in the Islamic calendar: eid al fitr for breaking fast after Ramadan and eid al adha after the Hajj season.
    Boycott a stamp!? Which Eid are we boycotting? Glenn was never one for the details.


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