December 26, 2007

On the other Hand, Never Make Big Decisions on Monday

I need to mention this guy Dmitry Orlov, a Russian emigre who's been making a splash in those cultish circles where things like "systemic collapse" and "peak oil" are routinely discussed, those folks, in other words, who conceive of a paradigm shift in the status of American society which comes about by forces beyond our political control. Which are visited upon us, in other words. Born, achieve, thrust upon: as with greatness, other quantum shifts can arrive by any of three routes. The Soviet Union was a bad idea from the jump, then crystallized its badness through the Stalinist Cult of Personality, then had perestroika and glasnost thrust upon it because it was utterly rotted out. Among this pessimistic crew we can also number James Kunstler of the Clusterfuck blog and books, and then, of course, that most scholarly of the doomsday-sayers, my old Berkeley prof Chalmers Johnson.

Orlov on the American presidential "horse race": "It is certainly more fun to watch two Capitalist parties go at each other than just having the one Communist party to vote for. The things they fight over in public are generally symbolic little tokens of social policy, chosen for ease of public posturing. The Communist party offered just one bitter pill. The two Capitalist parties offer a choice of two placebos. The latest innovation is the photo finish election, where each party buys 50% of the vote, and the result is pulled out of statistical noise, like a rabbit out of a hat. The American way of dealing with dissent and with protest is certainly more advanced: why imprison dissidents when you can just let them shout into the wind to their heart's content?"

That should be reassuring to "dissident" bloggers everywhere. Why, indeed, should the executive branch pay any attention to the rantings and ravings of the general populace? By a substantial majority, for example, the American people want the Iraq occupation to end. They so voted in November, 2006. Two months later the war escalated. A Democratic majority in the House had the Constitutional option of refusing to allow a floor vote for war appropriations. This is clear, unambiguous, Constitutionally-prescribed reality. Over one year later, the occupation is in full swing. It has been funded through at least June, 2008. In June it will be "politically" impossible to upset the delicate calculations which produce Orlov's "photo finish" through something as jarring as political courage, i.e., denying Bush his war funding. To come out on the right side of the statistical noise this time, the Democrats merely have to appear as the lesser aspect of the repugnant spectacle known as national electoral politics. They may or may not achieve this. If Hillary Clinton is nominated, we may wind up with a Baptist preacher as President of the United States. Jerzy Kosinksi, who wrote "Being There," could never have dreamed this one up.

I appreciate Orlov's sunny analysis of what he views as a certain American economic collapse. The only question, for him, is when. All of the elements necessary for such a paradigm shift are there, according to Dmitry. Bankruptcy (hard to argue when you're in hock $9 trillion); inflation (artfully concealed by leaving the two main things people need, food and fuel, out of the official calculations); huge foreign debts and trade imbalances (largest in world history, and growing at the rate of $1.3 billion per day); highly unstable dependence on foreign energy sources (20 million bbl of oil per day, of which 14 million must be imported, mostly from countries which hate our guts); a massively inflated military-industrial complex (according to Chalmers, if you add up everything that goes into defense and "security" [all the redundant intelligence services], it comes to about $1 trillion); healthcare as a profit center rather than a social service; a steeply declining quality of public education; and, of course, a representative government which concerns itself with Dmitry's "symbolic little tokens" of gay marriage, flag burning, abortion and other crucial issues which determine whether Americans can keep food on the table and their automobiles running.

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