Tuesday, April 20, 2010

There's Been a Change

Since the passage of what's still called the Healthcare (even though it is really Health Insurance) Reform, Obama's status among the Powers That Be has risen dramatically. Oh, the groundlings are still fussing the way they do, but as far as those who acknowledge and wield Power, Obama is now confirmed as The Good Emperor he was put in place to be.

He has done The Impossible.

This actually confers upon him something close to god-like status.

No one thought he could really do it, let alone his many cranky critics on the right and the left.

And yet as it has happened, the Government over which he presides is falling further and further into the void as far as the public is concerned, with a recent Pew poll showing as many as 80% distrusting Government as an institution.

Yes. Well.

That's what happens when the Government as an Institution has become such a wretched mess, partly by design, partly through neglect, and partly as a consequence of simple inertia. We've had thirty years, an entire generation, of deliberate political design to hamstring, cripple and eventually destroy the Government as an Institution intended to serve the People. And when it comes to poor people, the destructive design has been going on much longer. The very proposition of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" produced a reactionary response, and an immediate and long-lasting effort to thwart and destroy it commenced.

But in other ways the institutional systems of Government have been critically neglected for most of the past 30 years, and their neglect has led them to neglect their core functions and duties. This is how, in part, the economy has been allowed to go through repeated bubbles and crashes. The mechanics of regulation have simply been neglected -- to the point that they don't function any more. The Bubble and Bust economy is the result. "Nothing can be done about it." Of course "something" can be done, "something" could have been done about it all along, but it wasn't due to the culture of neglect that pervaded the institutions of Government that might have intervened.

So it has been in many spheres, from finance and banking through infrastructure, to education and -- indeed -- health care. Neglect, greed, kleptocracy, incompetence, all have run rampant.

In Government, once a policy course is set, it runs by inertia, continuing blindly regardless of its purpose or utility. Thus neglect provides its own inertial direction forward. Right onto the rocks, if such there be.

That, too, can be part of design.

Obama came into the frayed and deteriorated Government "from out of nowhere" and set about making The Change.

It's not the Change many people seem to have expected from him, in that he has preserved nearly all the attributes of the Bushevik Imperial and Expansionist State -- which so many of us objected to and still do. But then, he was fairly clear that he would do this when in office, and institutional inertia would tend to preserve it in any case. Say what you will about the Imperial State the Busheviks put in place, it was and is a functioning as opposed to a fractured and faltering Governmental direction. It was/is "something."

He also made clear he was a Corporatist, dyed in the wool, and would, so far as he could, promote Corporate interest. So let it be written, so let it be done.

But Corporate interest in the aggregate is not necessarily what many of us think it is. The Healthcare, for example, is a specifically Corporate Interest -- and institutional interest -- measure designed to clarify and begin to stabilize a sector that has long been wildly out of control, thanks to neglect. (A neglect that I would say was deliberate after Clinton's HCR measure went down in flames.) Whether it will work or not, I don't know, but that's the obvious intent.

That's a huge Change. And it is fully in the interests of the corporations and institutions which will be most affected, so much so that some of them are actually implementing portions of the reform early. This is what they wanted.

Militarily, there are at least signs that the direction is changing, but the inertia of the military institutions and the purposes and causes of Empire set for them won't allow much Change in the short term. They are still in a cruel-killer mode that likely will not be altered until and unless Imperial objectives change significantly.

And what exactly is the purpose and objective of the Empire? I've asked this question numerous times over the last ten or fifteen years, and if there is an answer at all, it is typically based on economics, resource acquisition, and furthering some sort of amorphous Greater Good. For Us. Not them.

But from the way the Empire is being imposed, it seems the purpose of it, ultimately, is nothing more, really, than Power. To Be and to Command. Resistance is not only Futile, it is Stupid. Submit. Now. And never rise again.

This seems to be the overriding doctrine and policy of the Empire -- domestically and abroad, though the imposition of it abroad is far more brutal and cruel.

It is a re-ordering of the nation and the world -- as big a Change as could be imagined -- ultimately for the purpose of re-ordering. For its own sake, in other words.

I've often said that Obama's reign is the Neo-Liberal phase of the two-phase system under which we are ruled, whereas the Bush-Cheney grotesquerie was the Neo-Conservative phase. There is no genuine two-party system, no genuine democracy at the national level, and no genuine representation by our electeds, either. The Constitution is essentially a relic of a bygone Republic that never really worked all that well anyway, and the future, which seemed so chaotic and impossible when the Busheviks were in charge, is now coming into focus.

Change we can believe in? We haven't seen that yet, and the Pew poll shows that the People don't believe it yet.

But if some clever dick ever figures out that something most certainly can be done about the appalling unemployment levels, the uncertainty levels, and the atrocious burdens of household debt -- all of which the Experts claim are long-term, structural, and that "nothing can be done about them" -- the Change will crystalize. A more or less permanent direction (and strange, almost Chinese, stability) will be achieved.

Those who are making the most fuss right now seem farther and farther out of step with the course of events. The fuss itself is devolving into entertainment. That's perhaps where it needs to be, and where it will need to stay. Which is not to say that the Changes we are subject to are what we want or what we need.

It is more a case that the Future has been taken out of our hands.

Bow down. Rejoice.


  1. Bill Maher said Friday night that if we were in the 70s, Obama would be a Republican. He's absolutely correct.

    Which makes it all the more appalling that the Tea Baggers think he's the second coming of, well, Ché.

    How did we get to this point? How did America ever move so far to the right that it now sees a Republican in Dem clothes as a commie?

    (Of course, Dem clothes aint what they used to be. They're really Republican clothes now as well. And the Republicans are basically Birchers.)

    I'm reading a collection of Dissent article from 1954 to 2004, and it's amazing to think about where this country once was. Grouped by decade, I just finished the 70s, and the country just managed to dump its three decades old "liberal consensus". That was roughly 37 years ago, give or take a year. In the 50s, C. Wright Mills actually wrote in those pages that he thought it impossible for conservatism to ever really gain any traction in America, because its platform was simply too irrational. And in the 70s, Theodore Draper ponders the Vietnam War and it's eerily reminiscent of the Iraq War in so many ways. Kissinger thought we needed to stay indefinitely to avoid leaving in dishonor. That honor was more important than the millions of Vietnamese who died, and the 58,000 Americans who died. As Hemingway said about an earlier war: "Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names or rivers, the numbers of regiments and dates."

    It's also amazing that the same thing happened to the people who got the Vietnam War so wrong. They gained more power afterwards. The hawks got access via Carter, then Reagan, and Bush. The neocons who got the Iraq debacle so wrong have won primo positions throughout our media, and, as you mention, Obama has basically continued Bush empire policies.

    Failure is a virtue. Being correct about things gets you fired. Or worse.

    I grew up a Left-liberal, but a ton of soul searching in the last decade or so has made it crystal clear to me that liberalism isn't cutting it. It really didn't cut it when we had an actual liberal consensus. We needed more even then, and got complacent. Now that we're in a conservative/Scrooge/Social Darwinism/I got mine, go F yourself era . . . it's even clearer that we need something far more radical now.

    Democratic Socialism is a must. But we can't even get a liberal in office.

    Despair is not a very effective political strategy, but that's what I'm feeling right now. I don't believe in History/Spirit (a la Hegel), I have no faith in Progress, I don't believe in Yahweh, or any god or goddess, so what is a poor boy to do but play for a Rock N Roll band?

  2. Well...

    I added music to the site, in part to try to keep those spirits up, but it's probably just a temporary flaw, and I'll get over it.

    I mean it always seems to get back around to Michael Stipe losing his religion again, doesn't it? Vox Populi? Well, for a certain segment, yes.

    We are not in a progressive phase by any means. "Progress" essentially stopped with the advent of the Thatcherite/Reaganite/Randians, and at least since Bush II, we've been in a reversionary phase. There is no Future as I've put it in the past.

    They've robbed us of it.

    Deliberately and with much malice aforethought.

    The consequences of such reversion were all really well understood even as early as Reagan's 1966 victory in California. It was known. It was understood what would happen, and it's happening, by golly, pretty much as was predicted.

    Massive economic dislocations, spectacular increases in poverty and homelessness, unending, brutal wars abroad, widening economic differential between the rapacious looters and the masses, deteriorating infrastructure, restricted educational opportunity, enhanced "freedom" for plunderers, not so much for anyone else.

    That's the desired outcome for The Powers That Be.

    Obama fits right in. The conflation of his rather unfortunate Republicanism with anything even remotely "radical" is hilarious. And he seems to be surprisingly good at using the cognitive dissonance to his advantage. Those who insist he's this Big Old Maoist/Stalinist/Hitler look more and more like utter fools. There is nothing overtly radical about him or his program, but given his full integration into the establishment power structure (don't forget, his grandmother -- who raised him -- was a banker) and its own radical agenda...

    It's... clever. And in a certain sense, it's working.

  3. Ché,

    You have a talent for putting things well in a short amount of time.

    I lack that talent, which is a problem, as I'm trying to get a novel published.


    Strangely enough, a novelist, unlike a poet, doesn't have to compress within the work itself. But in order to sell his or her novel to publishers, it's required.

    I think you could and should go for the long form yourself. It's the season for it. A good book on politics, from the point of view of the disillusioned left, sounds made to order.

    BTW, I'm guessing you're already aware of this mag, but I've learned a lot from its pages, and recently purchased Monopoly Capital, by two of its founders, Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy.

    If you're not familiar with it, I think you'd enjoy it.