Thursday, December 09, 2010

Petty Men

With the Senate's refusal to repeal the anti-homosexual "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule covering the U.S. armed forces I think it's about time to seriously consider whether it's time to stick a fork in the Obama Presidency.

You may remember that I never bought the whole "change" rhetoric. Obama was and is a product of the same politics that has brought us to this, the most egregious imbalance in wealth since the Great Depression, the accelerating erosion of whatever remained of the perilous cease-fire between Wealth and the rest of the nation that held from 1932 to about 1966 but has now failed, is failing, and shows no vital signs whatsoever.

Adding this to the ridiculous "compromise" on the Bush tax giveaway, in which Obama's people gave away 200 billion in tax breaks for the two-yacht family in return for 25 billion in unemployment benefits (and set the stage for making the iniquitous Bush budget-breaking scheme permanent) and I think it has become obvious that, far from representing any sort of "change", the former junior Senator from Illinois is virtually captive to the oligarchy that has reestablished its firm control over the legislative and executive process within the Beltway.

But Christ Jesus! How simple was this? To end the nonsensical prejudice against honest men and women who simply want to risk their lives in their nation's service, consider the contrast between Obama's pusillanimous actions and the hard graft of Truman sixty-two years earlier.

The U.S. in 1948 was a violently, openly racist nation. Most states had de jure segregation, all had some form of de facto discrimination against blacks and other minorities. The white majority largely hated and feared their fellow black Americans where they didn't simply hold them in contempt. As recently at 1946 six black men had been lynched by white mobs. The laws forbidding blacks and whites to marry would remain in place for another twenty years. My father can remember going to Dodger games in the Fifties where white men would throw shoe polish tins at Jackie Robinson and scream "Shine!" and "Nigger!" until their voices broke.

And yet Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in July of 1948.

Truman knew perfectly well that the racist bastards in his Congress would have prevented any legal attempt to end segregation, because they already had. And the people he had to fear were in his own party, the Dixiecrats, remnants of the Klan Era of Counterreconstruction. But he understood that prejudice and bias are despicable in person, anathema in governing. So he went ahead and ended the wrong.

Obama, by contrast, would have the support of a majority of the nation, and of the armed forces themselves. He would be acting in accordance with the will of the People. An executive order ending the official prohibition against homosexuals serving openly would be far easier to enact, far easier to enforce, than Truman's was. A black man cannot be anything but black; he cannot simple stand there and be anything else. You cannot tell from an arm's length away which gender the man or woman beside you finds desirable. And his enemies are the damn Republicans, who no longer even pretend to be anything but the Party of God, Guns, Tax Breaks, and Hatin' Us Some Ragheads; intellectually bankrupt, still fellating the shrivelled corpse of Ronald Reagan in hopes of one last magic moment, the Party of Tom DeLay, Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh - bloated, complacent, sneering, toadying, fiscally insane and socially medieval. The Congressional Repubs are hated by more people in the U.S. than hate crab lice, tax audits, cold floors, and raw beets combined.

And yet, here we are. Still clinging to this ridiculous and childish official prejudice, like a grade schooler who finds kissing yuckky. With a Chief Executive who appears to have Johnson & Johnson cotton balls; 100% sterile. Who is utterly in thrall to the banksters and wealthy and influential.

And yet...what else have we?

The GOP is worse. Awfully, moronically, terrifyingly, appallingly worse. If Obama is a house servant to the Malefactors of Great Wealth, the GOP is the leather slave, complete with ball gag and ballet boots. Those Republicans who aren't complete idiots are either lying - they know the truth of their economic policies but are unwilling to clue the rubes - or self-deluding fools who believe that they can sup with the oligarchs and not end up an oligarchy.

The United States has always been a place where some men are more equal than others. But the failure of Obama to even pretend to hold to any sort of liberal principles shows that we have failed to retain what equality we gained after the plutocrats last screwed the pooch back in 1929. The pendulum has swung back, and I see no one, nothing, in the American political scene that shows any promise of reclaiming any measure of that power for the working and lower middle classes.

So while Obama's failure is despicable in its reflection on the man himself, it is also a judgment on us. We have given up on the promise of the United States. We have become little better than a Russia or a Zimbabwe, run by and for the oligarchs for their own benefit; we are content with the crumbs that fall from their tables. As has our President, we have chosen the easy lies of borrowed wealth over the hard truths of fiscal responsibility, the conservative falsehoods of conventional prejudice and frivolous entertainment over the hard work of integration and sacrificing for the public weal, the slothful ease of vicarious democracy over the chastening vigor of active republicanism, and now little remains but to find ourselves dishonorable graves.


Ael said...

Ok, so what are you going to do about it?

Start a third party? Create a "coffee" party inside the democratic party?

You are good at polemics, start agitating for something, not just against.

Surely, there must be like minded people out there. Look at the tea party, plenty of desperate people around.

In the middle of a rout, if you can grab some people and throw them into a formation, however ragged, your chances of survival goes way up.

FDChief said...

Where to start, Ael?

I am a cynical old sergeant. Who would follow me to a whorehouse if I was buying? I don't have a printing press, or a TV station. How am I going to be Oregon's Huey Long?

And to work into a position of power within an existing party I would have had to start twenty years ago. I have nothing to offer a politician or a party. I have no interest in bamboozling the public. I don't want to tell people the lies they want to hear to get elected. I don't want to hobnob with the rich for contributions.

I had hoped that the Obamaites might be able to at least divert the course a bit. This week, to me, shows me that they have nothing. And if they don't, who does?

So even if I could find some people who agree with me they'd be the same sort of Portlanders I could we find a way to outfight the Kochs and the Waltons and Goldman Sachs at their own game of influence and lobbying? What could we offer the governing classes?

It's driving me batshit; I can see the disaster, and yet I can't find anyone who looks likely to both want, and be able, to avert it.

Ael said...

First of all, cynical old sergeants are pure gold to political groups. They know how to give understandable orders, organize stuff and remember to keep people fed. You have read a few histories, how many rabble rousers could even *find* their way to a whorehouse?

Second, you have a web page and know how to write stuff quickly and keep it understandable. We are now into platinum territory. Really. You are a hot property in the political sphere.

Finally, I agree that the existing two major parties are merely different sides of the same coin. Trying to work up to a position of power would be hard - but it would also be stupid. By the time you got there, you would be just like them.

No, what you need to do is find and grow a constituency! The modern political game is finely balanced. It isn't by accident that we have had so many very close elections. The system tunes itself that way.

With a constituency, you will have something that the pol's covet even more than money, votes! If you can affect even a couple percent of votes, that is "margin of victory" territory.

So, look around and find a bus pointed in the right general direction. Chances are it has a couple flat tires and most of the passengers are completely lost. Then start behaving like a NCO, bark a few orders and make sure basic stuff doesn't get forgotten. People will be grateful and want you to do it some more.

Just remember that NCO's don't do stuff, they make sure stuff gets done.

Use the internet, makes a great tannoy.

Once you have an effective entity, the powers that be will start courting your organization. Be ready for that with a clear set of requirements.

Learn how the Tea Party organized themselves from nothing to a force to be feared.

FDChief said...

Hmm. All points well taken.

One thing we have out here is something called the "Pacific Green Party". They're a sort of pale-charteuse offshoot of the sort of Greens you find in Germany. But their heartsARE in the right place; they're fiercely anticorporate, for one thing.

I think I'll give them a call.

Thanks, Ael, for the buckup. I was marching on my chinstrap, but you've given me something to think about.

Pluto said...

I wish I could agree with AEL but I can't. I wish I could remain silent but I can't. So here goes:

We here in Minnesota are a few steps ahead of you in third parties. We've even had an Independence Party governor and (sigh) much of the future of the Tea Party rests in Michelle Bachmann, you have no idea how much it pains me to admit this.

The fact of the matter is that third parties CAN'T work in America unless they are like the Tea Party; millions of crazed believers and a few oligarchs who are using the believers to achieve their own goals.

The Independence Party in Minnesota is composed of disaffected Republicans and Democrats who can no longer stand the course the two major parties are following and are proposing their own solutions. These people are ex-governors, experienced legislators, smart policy wonks, and most of all, concerned residents of the state.

Other than the one fluke election when the Dem's and Reps' underestimated them, they've been fighting just to stay alive for the entire life of the party. The problem is that the Dem's and the Rep's (who really ARE two sides of the same coin and serve many of the same interests) each out-spend the IP by about 20-1 and simply drown out the IP with sheer nonsensical volume.

Even when you point out that their numbers don't add up or their policies are short-sighted and simplistic and the media supports you; the parties just bury you in advertising (most of it false) and keep moving as if you had never spoken at all. Very frustrating.

As you've probably guessed, I'm an IP man and will be until the party dies. I give what time and money I can but what we really need is for a few of the really heavy political doners to change sides. But that's not going to happen. Because the Rep's and the Dem's are good at serving the desires of the doners (even if they don't serve the desires of the voters) and much of what the IP stands for is against the perceived interests of these doners.

The national scene is very similar. The heavy hitters get what they want (the status quo) and the other 99.9% of the population get the scraps. This is why Obama and Bush act the same, they are marching to the orders of the same masters.

Can this change? Of course! But it is going to take a crisis of epic proportions. An unforeseen event at least three times larger than 9/11 (which precipitated much of what we find despicable about the current situation) and some inspired leadership from an unexpected source. And the further we march down the road to becoming a giant Tex-Mex version of Central America the harder it will be to fix the situation.

You'd better hope the US pulls out of its power-dive, AEL. You just THOUGHT we were self-centered, annoying neighbors before...

basilbeast said...

Our system is set up for 2-party, win-it-all elections.

And 3rd parties either are as shitty as their bigger brethren, like this "no labels" group in the news or the tea bagger movement.

No, here's the problem and it will always be the problem until it isn't the problem:

From mid-June until the Fourth of July, according to a Globe analysis of his campaign finance reports, the Massachusetts senator took in $140,000 from banks and investment firms and their executives, including companies based in the state, such as MassMutual and State Street Corp. That is 400 percent more than the $28,000 received on average by all Republican senators during the same three weeks.

As the money poured in, Brown and his Senate staff were working both publicly and behind the scenes to scuttle $19 billion in fees on the financial industry that would have paid for part of the regulatory overhaul, and to weaken a provision intended to curb certain types of investment activities by banks and insurance companies.

Both efforts were successful and were adopted as part of the final bill, which was signed by President Obama on July 21.

Instead of the new bank fee, costs of the overhaul will be paid using leftover funds from the 2008 taxpayer-financed bank bailout. And instead of being prohibited from investing their own reserves in stocks and other securities, financial institutions will be allowed to wager up to 3 percent of their own money in hedge funds and other investments, thanks to Brown’s efforts.

Wall Street contributed lavishly to Democrats and Republicans alike for most of the year as it sought to influence deliberations on the sweeping overhaul legislation. But the timing of Brown’s increase in contributions from those sources stands out.

Industry sources contributed just $12,000 during that time to Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who was an architect of the legislation. That is less than one-tenth the amount Brown got.

You ought to put this up over at milpub.