Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No, I'm not surprised by...

... the sudden "rally around the President" tone in the rather pathetic attempts to get Dem skeptics to sign on to a very bad health "reform" bill.

Ah, well, the Dems were destined to shoot themselves in the foot. That's their nature.

We wanted a brand-new shiny 60 mpg hybrid, and we got a smoking, wheezing 1961 Nash Rambler with bad ball joints and rusted rocker panels and a busted exhaust.

And it's gonna cost us more than that spiffy new hybrid, because the salesmen were all in cahoots with each other.

I don't see much to be happy about, and I have a lot of company. And, sorry, but I don't buy a lot of the rhetoric coming out of Congress at the moment, especially the "OMG, if we don't do it now, we won't do anything on health care for another forty years" argument. They could, if they wanted, admit that they've created a monster, pitch it in the wastebasket, and start over with the best possible plan tomorrow.

But, that would also mean that young Mr. Obama would have to admit to himself that the Repugs don't want to play nice and don't want to be his friends, and Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi would have to do their jobs and kick out the lobbyists and get their troops in line.

As it is, persistent reminders of the elections coming up are supposed to rally the troops and cut the internecine warfare, which--at this stage of the game--is pretty much pointless. The Dems fucked themselves the moment they embarked on this corrupted process, the moment they started letting the Repugs and the for-profit system own them, the moment that Obama started making back-room deals with the very people who created the health care crisis in this country. The public understands this, even if Rahm Emanuel doesn't, and the public will make the Dems pay for it, even if the alternative is worse. This is, after all, a nation of people who have consistently voted against their own best interests time and time again, often out of ignorance and prejudice, but just as frequently out of hot-headed revenge.

When polls were saying, two years ago, that a nominal 65% of the country was in favor of a single-payer system, the Dems could have said to themselves, "hey, we might get more votes than we can buy with corporate advertising dollars if we give the people what they want!" They didn't. Through their leadership, they said, "sorry, citizens, no single-payer for you. It's off the table." Then, there was the "robust public option," which was quickly watered down to the weak public option, and then, thanks to the collusion between the White House and the for-profits, there was no public option at all, but, the individual mandate language remained. At each one of these steps, the Repugs gained power. At each one of these steps, public polling indicated that fewer and fewer people were in favor of the reform plan as written.

And the worse the plan got, the more that was revealed of Obama's dirty dealings, the more that progressives tried to hold firm against a very bad bill, the more that the Dem leadership engaged in "rally around the President" cheerleading, the more that this has come to be seen as a do-or-die moment for Obama's presidency.

As if getting this piece of ripe shit passed and signed is a real accomplishment.... Nevertheless, we'll be able to count on much flag-waving and back-slapping and press releases describing the passage as "historic," when the only thing historic about it will be the money made off of it by people with entirely too much money already.

Enjoy that Rambler, y'hear, America? And, no, we don't warrant that it will get you to the polls in November....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Well, why not be more than just a little bit peeved...

... at this horseshit from the White House?

This is just more of the same, is it not?

Now, just to refresh one's memory, there's this from Scott Armstrong, on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the National Security Archive, which I paraphrase as follows: the greatest amount of effort the Executive Branch expends on national security issues is keeping the American people and the press from knowing what it's doing, the next largest effort is in keeping Congress from knowing, the next largest effort is in keeping other agencies from knowing what it is doing, the next largest effort is in keeping our allies from knowing what it is doing, and the least amount of effort is devoted to keeping our adversaries from knowing what it is doing.

C'mon--if Scott Armstrong is right (and I think he is), it means that the ultimate goal of any President is to keep the American people completely in the fuckin' dark about what's being done on behalf of the elite in this country.

There's something totally upside-down about that.

And yet, Obama is preaching that he's fostered openness in government?

That's fraudulent. That's just the worst kind of spin.

At the same time that Obama is touting his openness initiatives, he's allowing his DoJ to use the state secrets privilege to prevent the advancement of all manner of cases before federal courts that could embarrass the government, and has resisted all efforts which might, in some ways, limit his power as the Executive.

Beyond that, the largest proportion of government agencies bound by his directive haven't done a damned thing to improve the situation.

Obama, additionally, has not made any effort to promote a whistleblower protection act for national security employees.

It's pretty much all window-dressing and bullshit unless there's a determined effort to undo the unnecessary secrecy that has enveloped the country since the end of WWII.

Like the battered and cheated-upon wife, the public is the last to know of its government's indiscretions. It's about time that it stopped, but, Obama, captured as he has been by his advisors, is unable to do it.

By definition, if one does not open government to criticism where it deserves same, one does not have an open government. We, the public, are being punked, over and over again, and we take it because we believe the horseshit we're fed, about "terrorism," about "sources and methods," about the need for the President to have "executive privilege" to obtain "frank advice."

It's all lies. It's all about keeping us as uninformed and as stupid as is humanly possible, and, honestly, I don't know how to fix it. I think it's beyond fixing. Yeah, Obama's right. He's got a gift.

But, it isn't for any semblance of the truth.

We've been living with lies for the last sixty years, ever since the creation of the national security state, and we should not have any expectation that the situation will improve any time soon. When we elect a supposed Constitutional scholar who thinks it's okay to assassinate U.S. citizens on speculation, well, we're all just plain fucked is what we are....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ah, Kremlinology....

Back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, everyone wanted to know (even those in the Soviet Union) what was up inside the Kremlin, despite the opaque nature of Moscow's doings.

Over time, people would try to divine what they believed to be the truth from who stood next to Brezhnev as he reviewed the May Day parade, which attaché attended the U.S. embassy's latest soiree, how many days in a row the General Secretary hid out in his dacha during a particular August.

It was a little like reading tea leaves, and about as accurate, even though there were times when there seemed to be a sense of urgency about such prognostications, particularly in those frenetic days and weeks and months after Brezhnev's death, when the Soviet Union seemed to change leaders faster than most people changed their shoes--Brezhnev followed by Andropov, Andropov by Chernenko, Chernenko by Gorbachev, all in the space of a very few years.

No such divinations were perceived as necessary in the United States, mostly because its political establishment and its press were firmly entrenched in the myth that the U.S. was an open society and its political dealings were for all to see, despite the fact that anyone and everyone who'd ever had a conversation with the President could invoke Executive privilege to remain silent, even under oath, about any matter discussed, even if it was what to have for lunch.

Over the decades, though, the press increasingly has come to engage in the White House version of Kremlinology, wherein White House sources dispense little pellets of innuendo or PR spin to reporters who, in turn, guarantee those sources anonymity. The latest of these bits of intrigue is Rahm Emanuel's apparent preening on the Washington stage, in which anonymity of sources figures prominently.

Of course, it's the first reaction and wholly appropriate to place the blame on those reporters who trade anonymity for access, in order to stay in the good graces of the ruling elite, but, that strikes me as little different than what Pravda did back in the day, and the White House's actions are certainly no different than the way the Politburo behaved. Any time a White House source will not go on the record, a good reporter should assume he or she is being spun for political effect, usually to benefit the individual or, as frequently, the occupant of the Oval Office, and yet, the practice continues with dreary regularity, even though the good reporter also should know that the ultimate beneficiary is not the public record, and, as well, the good reporter should know that he or she is being used to promote an interest that is entirely suspect and that the occupants of the White House cannot accomplish such ends without the complicity of the reporter.

Still, it goes on and on and on, and serves little purpose but to create some churn in the news cycle. How is this any different from Kremlinology, and what does this process say about the United States as an open society?

Friday, March 05, 2010

I've been watching...

... tonight, the 1967 film version of Joyce's Ulysses, which could be nothing more than flawed, given the impossibility of compressing the many hundreds of pages of Joyce's dense and intricately layered text into two hours of film.

But, still, I remember going to a viewing of the film while in graduate school, decades ago, and at its conclusion, encountering a bitter, unhappy Irishman who happened to teach the criticism course in which I was enrolled, and who, as we all were leaving, remarked, "it's like a bad home movie of one's home town."

I suspect that the Irish academic, many years ago, found Bloom's existence a bit too close to his own life, and had to reject it out of hand in self-defense. The film is hardly a bad home movie of Dublin, whatever else it might not be.