Monday, April 11, 2011


I checked the comments on the "Columbus" post the other day and realized with some chagrin that I had not posted since the third of this month; more than a week, and that's bad blogging, even for me.

The thing is...I'm frankly bloody discouraged - to the point of real despondence - by the failure of my liberal compatriots to be willing to go bareknuckle against the Teatard Insurgency that comprises the current GOP and force the government to shut down rather than to accept one more cut in the Death of One Thousand Cuts that the Remoras of Oligarchy are working on the U.S. I grew up in.

I just haven't had the heart to blog about that because the result would be a furiously incendiary angry rant, and one that I can't even promise to make entertaining because the object of my fury wouldn't be the caricature-able morons of the Right (from whom I no longer expect even coherence, much less actual governance) but the "centerist" Democrats, the Obamites and Clintonistas, that are all that's left to represent "me" in U.S. politics. There's nothing funny about that crew, and even their cravenness is a calculating, bloodless sort that defies open mockery; it would be like trying to get all wisecracky and snarky on an Arthur Andersen audit.

There's just nothing to work with there except sick bile and rage.

And I don't know about anyone else, but as one who has been to one of those wedding receptions where the family curmudgeon gets bombed on shitkeg beer and explodes on everyone to the cousins of the third degree who have insulted, ignored, belittled, or whatever his alcohol-battered brain interprets as disrespected him over the past forty years...well, it's not pretty, it's not enlightening, and it's not really entertaining except in a debutante-falling-down-the-staircase sort of way.

And right now I don't really have the heart to blog about anything else. I feel like I'm watching a bunch of overprivleged frat boys beat the nation I loved, the nation I grew up in and helped make me a man, down to the size of some shitty little Second World kleptocracy whilst half of the pundits applaud and the other half tut-tut in helpless kerflustery.

This whole standing-by-while-the-world-ends-not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-tea-party feeling seems like it will result in a blog post. But I'm just not big enough to write it right now.

It's like we're driving off a fucking cliff with one bunch of fucking idiots slamming Natty Lights and stomping on the gas pedal while the other bunch makes little hamster noises and flutters their fingers over the steering wheel, and I'm supposed to find a blog post in me to somehow change that. I feel like I'm watching some beloved friend suck the shotgun while desperately trying to explain why this might not be such a good idea.

Here's a good example of the kind of thing I'm despairing, from the New York Times:
"Passengers fainted when a 5-foot hole opened in the roof of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 flying from Phoenix to Sacramento last week. The most frightening moment may have been when, as one passenger said, “You could look out and see blue sky.” It was an unusual episode in an industry with a strong safety record. But that record might be hard to sustain: on the very day that Southwest’s Flight 812 was diverted to Yuma, Ariz., for an emergency landing, the House of Representatives passed a bill likely to make it more difficult to detect and prevent midair ruptures, metal fatigue and other serious flight risks. The bill would cut $4 billion from the Federal Aviation Administration’s $37 billion budget...(an) agency (which) has been short-staffed for years. A $4 billion cut will necessarily reduce the work force further."
What the fuck can you do with a story like that? Where's the bloggage there?

What sane fucking country would do things like that? Cut back on airliner inspections - what could go wrong? Who could figure that one out? And what the hell can I, a middle-aged geologist in Portland, Oregon, without political connections or the cash to buy them, do the fuck about that if the so-called smart people who run the country can't?

Except fucking swear at the fucking screen and wonder what the hell happened to the fucking country that used to defeat Nazis and cure diseases and now seems to be about nothing but sucking up to rich people and fiscal frottage for big commerce?

So I beg your indulgence for another day or so of silence. I will be back, I promise.

But in what condition, even now I cannot tell.


EGrise said...

First let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed the post on Columbus. It's weird to realize that while Europe was committing mass suicide on a monsterous scale, we were busy chasing hooligans.

As for this post, I feel similarly. Anger to depression and back again. When they turn to the debt ceiling in a few weeks I may have to take up drinking again.

I really don't know what else to say, except that there are many of us who sympathize. Please keep blogging, in whatever condition!

seydlitz89 said...

Agree, which is why I don't pity the Libyans . . . prefer what they have to what we got . . .

FDChief said...

seydlitz: I was thinking about part of your addendum to your last MilPub piece as I wrote this.

How much more frightening, and yet, more liberating to have an open cause to fight for, a genuine tyrant to oppose and risk one's life, fortune, and Sacred Honor.

Instead we have this sort of creeping gray fog of economic misery for the many and brilliant success for the few, punctuated by bursts of batshit craziness. You can't make Paul Ryan into Gaddafi...and yet, what can you do about a man who proposes to hand your grandma a "voucher" that will, at best, enable her to bankrupt herself before getting tossed from the home to die in some SRO bed whilst seriously proposing to completely eliminate ALL taxes on interest and capital gains and reduce the top marginal rate to 25%?

Who wants to reduce all social spending across the board and yet won't touch the Defense budget?

I mean, I'm willing to accept that there's an arguable debate of whether we're spending too much or not...but not that the question of WHAT we're spending "too much" on is a settled issue!

What I do pity the Libyans for, tho, is that their political and economic capital base is much, much lower than ours. We can hold off true political disaster for a long time, even with the Teatards driving us towards the cliff. We have a long way to go before we're Honduras, much less Somalia.

Not so Libya; they're more fragile than we are, and thus at a much higher risk of collapse into failed statedom. But OTOH they don't have the experience of a sound First World polity to rue...

EGrise: Thank you, and I'm sorry to hear about the drinking. I, too, dread the next Sedan for the Dems.

And, at the risk of waxing sentimental, I would argue that there was a former time when policies that included geopolitical introspection and restrictive tariffs reduced our political problems to banditry and our economic problems to fighting between Capital and Labor over the nation's increasing prosperity. Those policies have changed, and so have the problems. Not sure that the changes have been entirely, or even largely, for the better...

Ael said...

Stiglitz talks about income disparity as a fundamental cause of much that you complain about.

Canada is in the middle of an election campaign and I realize how lucky we are to have a socialist-lite party (NDP). They don't (and never did) have a hope of getting into power, but their mere presence transforms the entire political landscape.

FDChief said...

Ael: Betcherass. I'm starting to think that we're going where we're going in large part because 1) the GOP has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the rentier classes and 2) the financial reality of present U.S. politics requires the Democrats to choose spinelessness and accomodation with those same classes.

The GOP is always able to spin the "U.S. is a center-right country" bullshit because of that. But my experience is that if you subtract the oligarchy, the religious nuts, and the Teatards (who are simply too stupid to recognize how they're being played) most of the rest of the country - probably about 50-60 percent - is either out-and-out left OR populist and anti-most-of-the-things that the GOP's oligarch masters stand for.

They may hate them some homos and some hippies, but they ALSO hate tax breaks for the rich, corporatism, inherited wealth, and the rule of the well-born and the plutocracy, the very things that the GOP claims characterize the "center-right". Whilst they might not love them some liberals and atheists, they'd prefer to be left alone rather than have the GOP Christianists ram their sectarian rules down their throats.

But there's no counterweight to the wingnuts, there's nobody pulling the Obama Vichites to the Left. So we continue to slide further and further Rightward.

What a fuckstory.

Pluto said...

If you can stand to do it, take a look at my comments on the Civil War post on the Milpub.

I think it explains why the Tea Party, the Republicans, and the Democrats are behaving the way they are.

Unfortunately, the best way I can think of to overcome Plutocracy is to have an absolutely horrifying Depression. One that is so big and so bad that not even the US government can save the wealthy from themselves. Equally unfortunately, I think that is the only logical outcome of the current set of politics.

Hang on tight, turbulence ahead!

FDChief said...

Pluto: I agree that we have become a corporatist state, the plutocracy you mention.

I disagree that a real Depression will produce the same result it did in 1932, tho.

The political climate of '32 (and the three decades that preceded it) were SO different than today's. We had an actual "opposition" to the plutocracy, and a really bizarre congeries it was, too, with muckraking journos combining with aristocratic liberals and Communists and Anarchists marching alongside "solid" union men and "goo-goos"; "good government" liberals from the idealistic middle class.

The opposition today is just pathetic. There's no anger, there's no fire, there's no hatred for the malefactors of great wealth. Consequently we end up with the Obamas, the mushy middlists that fear to call the plutocrats and oligarchs what they are.

"I welcome their hate." said FDR about the plutocrats, the canny, vicious old patrician. Can you imagine ANY left-wing pol saying that today...or any newspaper or TV news talking head taking him seriously and treating that statement seriously?

Nope. I think we're in for a long, slow slide into an ugly sort of Second World corporatist kleptocracy. I don't know where we'll end up when we get there, or what might come afterwards, but I'm fairly confident that there will be no new New Deal Era.

Pluto said...

Agree that the times are different.

Agree that there essentially is no real political opposition (although that was true during the Gilded Age too).

Disagree that it won't come to the same end. The wealthy during the Gilded Age saw the same phenomenon and saw that they personally profitted from it. They even sought to cause a couple of recessions when it benefitted them personally. They also caused recessions as an unforeseen result of their actions.

The same dynamic will occur again today because a modern economy becomes increasingly unstable when there are fewer and fewer people with the disposable income to buy goods. Taken to its ultimate extreme, the economy suffers a recession every time Mrs. Vanderbilt decides to wait until next year to buy her purse because she's the only person who can afford the purse.

I think we are in the middle (which started in 2000 with the tech crash) of a series of small bubble crashes that will get progressively worse.

At a guess, the next crash could occur when the Fed finally raises interest rates. The banks are so badly leveraged (again) that ANY rate increase could drive them into the red (again) and the government would have to bail them out (again).

The bankers will NOT learn their lessons this time because they've already learned that they get the profits and the government gets the losses (and they control the government, rather than own it because they ownership would imply responibility, which any smart banker avoids these days).

One of the benefits from the perspective of Goldman Sachs is that the field of potential competitors will shrink (if GS gets lucky, they will be allowed to buy the other bank's assets while the US government absorbs its losses, this is what happened the last time). There is NO downside from the banker's perspective, other than getting grilled every few years by Congress (which doesn't DARE ask the hard questions).

Eventually even the US government won't be able to bail out the banks but the current crop of bankers (who will be the wealthiest and most influential people in the world by that time) will have safely retired and be untouchable.

As a side note, this whole line of reasoning might explain the Donald Trump presidency bid and why he's in second place for the Republican nomination. Anybody feel like watching him pick his VP in an "Apprentice"-style reality TV show? I bet a few million Americans could easily be persuaded to watch!

FDChief said...

"Agree that there essentially is no real political opposition (although that was true during the Gilded Age too)"

No, no, no.

The late 19th and early 20th Century saw the biggest groundswell of "populist" rage possibly in human history, or at least since the peasant revolts of the 14th and 15th Centuries.

You had Marxists, Socialists, Anarchists, you had unions - real, fighting unions - you had muckraking journalists, crusaders like Riis, reforming pols like the Roosevelts. In particular, after 1917 you had the frightening example of the Soviet Union to scare the Trans-Luxe crowd into giving up some of their lucre to avoid the rope and the lamppost.

There's NOTHING like that today. There's nothing like that NOW! Look at the situation - we all pretty much know that the deficit hole we're in is the result of the mortgage bubble collapse; a bubble that the banksters inflated with the help of Greenspan and his GOP cronies. Even places like Iceland realized that the sensible, "market" solution was to let the fuckers and their brain-dead investors take a bath, and use the government to cushion the fall for the people hurt when those firms went belly-up.

So where's the outrage here? Where's the furor? Where's even the pressure on the Obamites to hold the line on transferring the wealth upwards?

Ain't happening, man; ain't gonna happen. The country is already far gone down the road to mastery and serfdom. I think it's about a 50-50 chance that a REAL Depression-style crash would result in a second Revolution...or a terrified retreat into open oligarchy, with the cowed and cowering citizenry tumbling over themselves to become wage-slaves in return for the largesse of the nobles.

Pluto said...

Oh boy, that "appropriately squashed" sound you are hearing is me realizing the extent of my error. The only thing I can say is that a lot of the groups you've mentioned were viewed as anarchists and terrorists (before the phrase was invented). But, as you've quite correctly pointed out, there was still a lot of noise being generated in that era that eventually led to the populist uprising you mentioned.

"Even places like Iceland realized that the sensible, "market" solution was to let the fuckers and their brain-dead investors take a bath, and use the government to cushion the fall for the people hurt when those firms went belly-up."

Um, Iceland was the ONLY place, to the best of my knowledge where that occurred. Furthermore, most of the investors were Dutch or British and the investors persuaded their national governments to cover their losses. No lessons learned here except that jerking your government around can be profitable.

Furthermore, you may not believe this, but Iceland seriously considered repaying the Dutch and British governments but just recently decided against it.

I have to agree with your final paragraph. Another few "recessions" (depressions don't happen in the US anymore, we're special) could easily dump us into an open oligarchy. About the only advantage I can find for the sheep (er, middle class) is that they've already been shorn and are essentially useless to the wolves.

Lisa said...

I second Pluto's comment -- I agree fully with your last paragraph. It's frightening to think even some of the brightest who surround us are downright idiots :(

Ael said...

Lisa: Alas, they are not idiots.
They simply have different priorities from you. They also do not believe in long term anything.

This means that they must aim to maximize today's payoff.

Individually, I would expect each one of them (privately) to agree with you that it is stupid, but that it is the way the game is played. If they don't follow the rules, they will be pulled down and crushed, so why not go along with the flow and get rich at the same time!