The Fear Years, Slowly….

The Fear Years: That miserable epoch from the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, about September 1, 2005. In those four years a not-really-elected President started a disastrous war of choice, enacted tax cuts and economic policy that would destroy the economy, and oversaw any number of medium bore policy scandals that fester on as flesh wounds to this day. To oppose any of these ideas, to oppose the Man himself, was said to oppose the Country itself, or to be “with the terrorists” as the “President” Himself put it.

Fear was a condition, a means and an end. The condition of Fear — stoked by the immaculate timing of the the M&M-hued terror “alerts” — created a need to believe in and never critisize the Leader as he found a means to “fight” terror by invading Iraq, the result of which was a seemingly endless conflict that required countless treasure to assure success, or else the terrorists would win in the end.

While this mania waned it did not truly end until Katrina proved that the Bush Regime was too incompetent to even respond to a predicted natural disaster. An electorate that consisted of largely the same people that “elected” Bush twice installed a Democratic Congress in 2006 (over Bush’s declaration that to do so would mean that the terrorists would win) and elected Obama — who seemed, on the surface, to be the antithesis of Bush — in 2008.

It was as if the 2006 repudiation and the 2008 arrival of a “redeemer” would reverse the Fear Years. But that isn’t so. The disasters of the Fear Years still linger over the country. The recent Rachel Maddow documentary on the venal build up to the war in Iraq, and the sinister conflation of Saddam with al Qaeda, is jarring because in its simple factual way it forces the viewer to confront the the mendacity of the time.

Far more effective than the Maddow piece is the last two episodes of the Showtime series “Oliver Stone’s: Untold History of the United States.” “Untold” is the greatest voice-over history documentary ever made. That is not to say that I agree with all of its points. The hero of “Untold” is Henry Wallace, FDRs penultimate vice-president who was removed from the ticket in favor of Harry Truman by Democratic Party bosses at the 1944 Democratic Convention. Stone is convinced that Wallace’s humanism as President after FDR’s death would have crafted a different and better Post-WWII world than Truman’s militarism. Such “what if” speculation is fun, but meaningless. The same militant forces that prevailed upon Truman would have been there with Wallace too. Had he opposed them, perhaps they would have aligned themselves completely with the Republicans and we may have been treated to Reactionary Movement conservatives in power in the 50s and 60s instead of the 80s, 90s and 00s. Or maybe not, who knows and who can know? “Untold” also focuses most of its attention on Foreign Policy. It praises JFK for usurping his generals after the Cuban Missile Crisis and lambasts LBJ for escalating the Vietnam War, but doesn’t mention that it took LBJs legislative genius to pass JFKs program, and then some.

That said, what makes “Untold” so effective is Stone’s artistic genius for images. “Untold” consists of mostly 2 to 7 second visual clips, overspersed with Stone’s narration and emotive, cinematic music. Where there are not visuals, Stone isn’t afraid to offer representation in the form of movies, or even have actors mimic real figures while reading quotes that were unrecorded. The result is a psycahdelic stream-of-visual-consciousness that moves history out of the frontal cortex (where the Maddow documentary presided) into the older, visceral regions of the brain.

It is the willingness to mix emotions and argument that make “Untold” the most effective readily available analysis of Bush II and the Fear Years. In one brilliant sequence, “Untold” flashes through images of the great Coup D’etat of the 2000 election. The GOP putsch in Florida, Jeb Bush, Kathryn Harris, the Supreme Court, Bush’s rainy inaugural. The music is a stringy, blues version of the national anthem played at a pace so slow that it becomes an elegy. “It started with the 2000 election itself,” Stone intones. “The most scandalous in U.S. history. Wounding, perhaps fatally, the notion of democracy in this country…. Behooving the shenanigans of a banana republic the US Supreme Court intervened to stop a recount of the votes…”

It’s there, in all its stupidity and agony. Condoleeza Rice’s “nobody could’ve predicted…”. Bush’s “either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” (“Imagine any citizen in any country of the world being told by a man like this, ‘you’re either with us or against us.'”). The Patriot Act. Wire Tapping. Gitmo. Torture. “WMDs”. “The smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud”. Conflating Iraq with al qaeda. (“The descent into unreality was dizzying.”) The parade of ex-generals selling the war on TV while being employed by defense contractors.

“Untold” hits the mark, but it doesn’t linger quite long enough before moving on to harsh Obama for maintaining a similar military complex to Bush, even as he wound down the Bush Wars. Whether the recognition is intellectual or emotional, as an American you own the Fear Years. Even if you opposed the war. Unlike distant genocides like the settlement of the West or abstract ignoble actions abroad, Iraq War II was sanctioned by the populace. IT happened here. “Untold” and Maddow’s documentary make the case, but ten years on the ephemeral zietgiest of the polity is still largely in denial.

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Will the Newt and Sanatorium Make the Spirit of the Mittens Strong?

The Bull Trout is an adfluvial apex predator native to Pacific Northwestern rivers and lakes.  Bull Trout are fairly “average” looking fish, but they are every bit the champions of their domain as wolves or lions are to theirs. Biologists have described them as the “Tyrannosaurus Rex of the river.” They can and will eat anything smaller than them. Even little birds. Their favorite snack is juvenile Chinook salmon. Of all the daft details of endangered species politics, managing for endangered salmonids and Bull Trout is, for self-evident reasons, one the weirdest. In a largely unspoiled ecosystem (in this case the  salmonids were slaughtered in fisheries to near extinction by the turn of 20th century and bull trout were purposefully retononed by federal and state fisheries agencies in the 1920s – 1960s in order to make way for more desirable exotic species, but I digress), however, there is a symbiosis between the two species. By eating many subyearling and yearling Chinook — presumably, mostly the less fit ones — as they rear in riparian environments the Bull Trout reduce spatial and food competition at every other stage in the lifecycle for the remaining, more fit Chinook. In addition, Bull Trout attacks teach the juvenile Chinook how to evade predators, which is likely a very useful skill for when they enter the ocean as little fish in a gigantic pond. In this case the obligatory American-Indian saying is sage: “The Bull Trout makes the spirit of the salmon strong.” (This advantage for wild salmonids is undermined by state, federal and, yes, tribal fisheries agencies who inundate rivers with genetically inferior hatchery salmon in order to maintain a fishery with an “acceptable” harvest impact on wild fish — generally about 25% of the wild adult fish; the ones that have proven by their survival to have the most fit genes, but I digress.)

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama’s “Bull Trout”: A full grown top predator that had long thrived in a brutish Darwinian political environment where Obama, a temporal fry by comparison, had just emerged from his redd. The Conventional Wisdom holds that by forcing Obama to compete for space (states), food (voters), and to evade or contend with a kitchen sink of attacks (Hillary pressed the full Nixonian resentment card against Obama — long the Conservatrons’ best tactic), Hillary assured that the Spirit of the Obama was Strong. Having overwintered in the Primary Reservoir to survive Salvelinus confluentus Clintonessus Obama was indeed a “Jumbo Smolt” when he finally smoltified and outmigrated to the General Election Ocean in the summer. Once there, Obama outmaneuvered the Humboldt Squids (a voracious predator whose unusual presence off of Oregon and Washington may have largely wiped out the Sacremento River salmon run in 2008) and non-charismatic megafauna of his Conservatron competition and was able to return to the great “spawning ground of ideas” of Washington DC as a powerful November Hog. A few of the conceptual eggs the Obama fertilized have hatched. The full Affordable Care Act is scheduled to emerge in 2014, although the Conservatrons will try their hardest to scour or dessicate it while it’s incubating in the meantime.

Although Mittens has spent time rearing in the Primaries and Massachusetts habitats, he has not proven fit enough to outmigrate to the General Election Ocean. Resident Conservatron Suckers, (invasive) Crappies and Redband trout do not appear to like him or trust him. This has provided openings for other competitors to challenge him. The hope in Conservatron Land was that, after South Carolina, the Newt would be Mittens’ “Bull Trout” as Hillary was Barack’s back in 2008. The Newt is an experienced, tactical hack. The Newt’s hypocrisy is so paramount that he doesn’t even hide it. The Newt’s brand of confrontational hatefulness, pomposity, gimpy pseudo-intellectualism and Racism Lite rhymes with the Conservatron zietgiest. The Newt kinda’ looks like a Bull Trout, too.

Indeed, Mittens’ vertebrae appeared to calcify in response to the Newt. He was coached into being an aggressor in debates. He usurped a taster of the Newt’s trademark Nasty™. Mittens won Florida. Mittens won Nevada. It appeared that a swift Mittens was finally ready to strap the dog to the roof of the family car, undergo smoltification and outmigrate to the General Election Ocean. Then Mittens was felled by Sanatorium — Sanatorium! The Frothy Human Punchline! — in Colorado, Minnesota and Missourah.

The Conservatron illiteratti hasn’t whispered about Sanatorium being a potential “Bull Trout”. While co-opting a bit of the Newt’s Nasty™ was a necessary adaptation, having to out-wacko Sanatorium on social issues will force Mittens onto the opposite side of anyone that has ever been sexually active (or hopes to be) once the Conservatron elders finally truck Mittens to the estuary and he flip-flops into the General Election Ocean. After all, we’ve all befallen from several eons of fornicators, and despite the presence of lamprey-like Creepers such as Sanatorium most of us would prefer to enjoy fornicating safely, just as we evolved to do.

So why is it that the Newt and Sanatorium are not making the spirit — or at least the poll numbers versus “King Salmon” Obama — of the Mittens strong? It’s simple. Unlike Hillary, the Newt and Sanatorium are not noble “Bull Trout”. They are invasive, venal Smallmouth Bass. Smallmouth Bass are native to Southern warm water ponds, but have been introduced by bucket biologists and, of course, state fishery agencies to Northwestern reservoirs. They evolved to ambush spiny-backed, large resident fishes. Smooth-backed juvenile salmonids don’t have a chance against them, no matter how fit they are. Because Smallmouth Bass are fetishized by sun stroked license-purchasing yahoos they are managed by state fishery agencies as a sport fish (catch and release only), rather than a nuisance species to be eliminated (bounty fishery). While their periodicity with salmonids is temperature dependent and the extent to which they overlap is not entirely known as that would require state fishery agencies to monitor the impact of their management decisions, they certainly compete for food and space with native fish. When exotics are “flushed” out of a well-managed reservoir, salmonids immediately grow to be larger and more plentiful.

The Republican Party is a poorly managed reservoir full of invasive bass, crappies, channel catfish, legacy pollution and other Things that Should Not be There that Fuck with Everything that Should. Much as these invasive fish are managed by a state agency that profits from selling licenses to catch them and yet has a mandate to preserve the native species that these exotics destroy, so is the Conservatron bubble overseen by a media that treats the nonsense (evolution schmevolution, global warming is a hoax, austerity is expansionary) that emerges from its effluent as one side of an argument even as they claim to be crusaders for truth. As a result this years’ slate of Conservatron candidates has included jokers like Donald Trump, Herman Cain and Michelle Bauchmann and has been laughably weak (especially compared to the august Democratic field of 2008) because they have evolved to survive in a toxic cess pool with other sheltered meanies rather than developing the talents to outmigrate to the General Election Ocean.

Starting in 2004 Democrats are 9 and 0 in Presidential election debates. I am counting Obama’s 2010 impromptu confrontation with the Conservatrons in this tally. It is the most striking example. Obama was ambushed by the Conservatrons, he had no allies in the room, Conservatron Mike Pence (who looks like he was carved out of a pencil eraser) was the moderator. Even in the most hostile of circumstances Obama obliterated his opposition because ideas and skills that are developed by the non-native species in the Conservatron cess pool bubble are no match for those honed to compete for the votes of everyone else. Faced with someone that would actually challenge the basis of their concepts, rather than treat them as a “he said/she said,” the Conservatrons folded one after another in the face of Obama’s rebuttals and Fox News cut away rather than watch Obama continue to dunk on the Conservatrons in garbage time.

The Consrevatrons don’t breed Presidents. They concoct invasive predators with an unnatural advantage over their prey, designed to grow large and just healthy enough to absorb the toxics in their crumby habitat, until they become too poisonous to tolerate and only the ignorant would want to keep them. On the occasions when one of these creatures slimes or steals its way into the “spawning ground of ideas” in Washington DC, as Generalissimo Bush did through his putsch in Florida in 2000, the results are horrendous: asleep at the wheel for a disastrous terrorist attack, an unnecessary nine year war, fiscal mismanagement, torture, hundreds of thousands of needless dead people and countless maimed American troops, and the Great Economic Collapse.

The longer Mittens spends in the Conservatron cess pool the more inbred he will become. For the Spirit of the Mittens can Never be Strong because his stock has no soul.

The Egypt Credit Countdown

Que the Conservatrons saying that Egypt’s peaceful, internal revolution that resulted in regime change was a direct result of Generalissimo Bush’s invasion of Iraq in T minus five… four… three… two… one….

This is one of those times when it is gratifying to have a real President and not a nepotistic dunce like Dubya’. I’m not entirely sure how, but one just senses that Generalissimo Bush would have blown this somehow. It’s tempting to say that Obama’s outreach to the Arab world, as exemplified by his speech in Cairo early in his presidency, provided some of the spark for this and the regime change in Tunisia. More likely, those revolts  and the crushed uprising in Iran, are more the result of a demographic wave of young people that are aware of the freedoms that most people have simply demanding them for themselves and their countrymen. I cannot pretend to be any manner of expert on these matters. Today anyway, the joyous scene in Egypt gladdens even the most cynical heart. And it was all done without a single American military boot on the ground or drop of blood in the sand.

Relevance and Liberal Disenchantment

The icy analysis of the Tax deal is that it be a worthy gain of stimulus even with its fetid Bush Tax Cut for the Rich after birth. Sausage making process. Hold nose. Compromise. Be satisfied knowing that UI has been extended for some and that worthy things have been accomplished. Onto the next battle.

Legislative process. Been there. Done that.

So why the liberal disenchantment?

I think it all goes back to the vital leadership quality of relevance. Relevant leadership is, obviously, leadership that addresses pertinent concerns or issues. At first glance it appears that what any president or major public figure is doing is relevant — that’s why there are a gaggle of media filter-feeding barnacles there to report on it and beam it into your living room. But an audience does not relevance make. Consider pre-historic relevance archetypes. If a group of early hunter/gatherers needs to navigate a fearsome jungle to get food, then the person that claims to know the way through will be highly relevant. If an early agricultural village’s water supply has dried up from drought, and someone decrees that they know of a new water supply, the person with that knowledge becomes politically important quickly. Imagine how relevant someone with the demonstrated ability to immediately cap a rupture oil well 10,000 feet below the ocean would have been during the Gulf Oil Spill disaster in the summer of 2010!

Obama burst onto the scene through a mastery of relevance. Regardless of how obtuse his “hope” rhetoric was, it was the perfect antidote to the venality and mendacity of the Bush era — especially when juxtaposed with Hillary’s early “inevitability” strategy. The confounding undercutting of the Obama presidency has been the his loss of relevance. The too small Stimulus was passed without adequately describing how it addressed the economic crisis. Health Care Reform was formulated without anyone being sure what Obama was for, other than the resolution of the legislative process. Worst of all, the infuriating Bankster bonuses were allocated with nary a peep from the President. Time and again, Obama has played Prime Minister or else been mute on the pressing issues of the day.

Now, in the wake of the Conservatron resurgence of 2010; so called austerity is purportedly relevant to the electorate. Regardless that, intellectually, what is needed is more stimulus; the fact that there must be shared sacrifice to balance the budget for the greater good makes an intuitive sense because sacrifice is what just about every American has done since the Great Economic Collapse. Obama justified an anti-stimulative freeze in federal pay by saying that, this was the sort of broad sacrifice that was necessary given the debt situation. His Cat Food Commission has just finished describing the sort of baubles that must be given up to balance the budget.

And into the maw of the great sacrifice beast is extracted… an unnecessary bon bon for the Wealthiest! Freezing federal pay ($5 billion savings) is necessary sacrifice, not extending ultra-stimulative unemployment ($5 billion per month) is necessary sacrifice, raising the retirement age is necessary sacrifice; but the Wealthiest need not have their tax cuts sacrificed. Just as the Banksters that caused the Great Economic Collapse need not have their shenanigans seriously investigated, need not have their bailout money monitored, need not have their compensation reconsidered, need not be cajoled into actually loaning any of the money they are sitting on to worthy customers, and need not have anyone less familiar than Larry Summers or Tim Geihtner populate high economic places.

At the end of the day Obama is asking everyone to sacrifice instead of the wealthiest. Given the reality of the Conservatrons, he got the best deal that he could. Given the reality of the inability to hold the architects of the Great Economic Collapse accountable or demand any ballyhooed sacrifice for the wealthiest, it’s infuriating. And irrelevant.

The Long Winter of Our Discontent

I like President Obama more than any other political figure in my lifetime. I like the President for the same reason the Conservatrons hate him: he seems like one of “us”. He’s the only major political figure  to hail from the “us” that I recognize myself to be a part of.

Objectively, Obama’s first two years have been a sterling success. The economy was saved from Depression, two Supreme Court justices were confirmed, the auto bailout saved thousands of jobs and three huge companies, fundamental health insurance reform and financial reform were passed, and the ball was generally moved forward on issues from womens’ equity, to green energy, to nuclear disarmament. Unnoticed by most, Obama has also done a tremendous amount of healing beneath the skin by inserting earnest and sophisticated citizens into Cabinet and under-Cabinet positions that were once the province of Bush junta “Brownies”. The Education Department is utilizing venture capital style experimentation through the Race to the Top contest. Steven Chu is the best Secretary of Energy in the Department’s history having oriented it towards resolving cutting edge technological problems while personally participating in small ventures like orchestrating the ultimate capping of BP’s gushing oil well in the star crossed Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s first two years are also a self-evident failure. If you could time travel back to Inauguration Day 2009 and tell an Obama supporter the result of the 2010 midterms, the supporter at first would not believe you and then conclude that the two intervening years were a disaster.

There are two obvious horseshoe-and-hand-grenades failures from Obama’s first two years. The first was the Stimulus that was too small, but advertised as being just as right as the Third Bear’s bowl of porridge was for Goldilocks. Paul Krugman, who has only been correct about almost everything since the daisy brained days of W’s 2000 presidential campaign, has written extensively about this on his blog. The second would be the bonus imbroglio with AIG and other bailed out Bankster Rats’ Nests. Yes these bonuses are just a goofy form of delayed compensation, and maybe there is little legally that the government could have done about them. But gut feelings are not always wrong. The sense that the same corrupt Master of the Universe nimrods that caused the Great Economic Collapse only to be bailed out by the serfs were then somehow deemed to important to risk losing, and were thus rewarded for their destructive errors was logically infuriating. My participation in this blog flatlined after Obama was ineffectual in contending with the bonuses either substantively or through oration. Of course I argued, donated a few dollars and voted early in 2010, but my enthusiasm was deflated.

It’s not clear how Obama could have given voice to this populist fury or exactly how Obama should have played the Stimulus. Maybe he chose one of the best possible courses in each case – perhaps alternative actions would have turned out worse. Regardless, the 2010 elections are proof positive that what he did do failed. It’s even possible that he wasn’t the right man for the job. Obama’s Hope message resonated in the early rounds of the Democratic Primary because it was the antidote to the low morals and manipulations of the Bush regime and the agony of the Fear Years. Clinton seemed to “connect” better on the economy after the Ohio primary (whatever that means), but her foolish vote in favor of Generalissimo Bush’s Iraq War II cost her the Democratic nomination and, with it, the Presidency. Would HRC have succeeded in these two make-or-break areas where Obama didn’t? Who knows, but the “spiritual thirst” of America was far more meat’n’potatoes in the fall of 2008 then it was in the summer of 2007 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina finally obliterating Generalissimo Bush’s string of fooling all of the people (or at least a preponderance of them) all of the time and the agony of deceit began to permeate workaday life.

Maybes, wouldas, couldas, and who the hell knows? Oh well. Whatever. The tragedy is that we are where we are and it is hard to see how Obama’s failures leave America any real way to get out of the Great Economic Collapse. There was a fluffy tech bubble in the 1990s, but computers, the Internet and cellphones were also tangible improvements that created wealth and new businesses. The Web 2.0 Facebooks and YouTubes of the 00’s also added real economic development to the empty calories of the housing bubble. Today, corporations are sitting on heaps of dollars like hens atop an egg, but what is it that they should spend it on? Who is going to buy the products that corporations create with their ample capital in sufficient quantities to generate self-sustaining wealth and jobs?

Obama’s able Cabinet and their underlings can still heal beneath the skin, the Fed can give the Market more quantitative easing hand jobs, and Obama can surely make his mortgage program more effective. Still, the huge Stimulus spending that must be done on infrastructure, the smart grid, and a bevy of other initiatives; the Stimulus spending that objectively would end the Great Economic Collapse will not get done. America is settling in for a long long winter of meager growth, diminished expectations, and near-feudal wealth concentration, meanwhile the Conservatrons and the junior varsity fascists in the Tea Party will use the resulting disorder to pit dispossessed groups against each other while distracting them with fake issues (Ground Zero Masque!) and phony scandals (Obama’s a Muslim!). Obama and Progressives will be playing defense, stopping the barbarians at the gate and keeping them from smothering the infant recovery in its oxygen tent.

I Hope We Can….

As Long as We Are Talking Identity Politcs with the New Justice

How about a Native American? Given the unique and unusual relationship that American Indians have with the Federal government as citizens of various derivations of quasi-separate nations, a Native could provide a valuable perspective to the SCOTUS’ ruminations.

I have no idea if there is an able Native justice out there, but since there will be an element of “just because” to this selection then you might as well go with a Local.

Also, I welcome the inevitable Conservatron hyperventilating and projectile vomit of fnords over whoever Obama selects. Please let them fool themselves into believing that a proxy fight over whatever wedge issues no one cares about anymore is their way out of the wilderness. This is just proof positive that there is no need to take them seriously for now.

America Fail!

If our country cannot stop AIG from giving bonuses to their employees after receiving an astronomical bailout, and if America cannot claw back those bonuses once they have been given, and, if indeed our Government is either unable or unwilling to reprimand these demon piglets in any way then our system doesn’t work.

If the *fnord* populist *fnord* impulse to stay on hold on the phone until you can speak to an actual hominid and shriek “I want my fucking money back!” or to throw rocks at the AIG building, or to drag one of their executives out of his platinum tower and mug him and send him to the Bowery with a broken femur and missing teeth make more self-evident sense the empty huffing and puffing from Congress and Team Obama, then President Obama is more in danger of having his salutary Presidency swallowed by a Jacobian spirit than our institutional polity realizes.

Nationalize them! Liquidate them! Fire the venal nitwits and advertise their jobs for 150K a year and healthy benefits and no bonuses!

It’s time to act! It’s the cerebral thing to do.