September 07, 2012

Now Entering the Binary Zone of the Campaign

There's no sign post up ahead to tell you that, either.  As noted yesterday, the election will now revert to standard amygdala-driven impulses.  Liberal critics of Obama, those chronic malcontents ( rang?), must now shut up with their endless cavils, their pet complaints, and get with the program.  There is an election to win here.  Forget the Bill of Rights, forget Obama's abandonment of millions of American homeowners who were underwater on their mortgages...

Well, on that point, it appears that even the reliably liberal New York Times is not willing to cut the O Man any slack, going into excruciating detail in an editorial piece about how the President was willing, with the banker-friendly encouragement of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, at all stages of the game to assist Wall Street banks with their solvency (and bonus) problems, but offered only the pathetic "HAMP" program to help out the millions of Americans whose mortgages exceeded the value of their homes.  There was so much more the President could have done to alleviate this problem, but it was opposed by Wall Street because the resulting "impairment of collateral" in the form of reduced or "crammed-down" mortgages would have negatively affected the balance sheets of the big banks.  And we can't have that; their profitability (and bonuses) depend on their continuing ability to mark-to-fantasy all of the worthless junk they carry as assets, such as all those fraudulently marketed mortgage-backed securities.  In haec verba from the Times article by Binyamin Applebaum:

“Mr. Obama sponsored cramdown legislation as a senator, endorsed it as a presidential candidate and called on Congress to pass it in the Arizona speech.
But he also repeatedly pressed the pause button. When proponents sought to add a cramdown to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act in September 2008, Mr. Obama, who had flown back to Washington from the campaign trail, persuaded them to postpone the “partisan” effort as an example to Republicans, who said the measure would violate existing contracts.
In February 2009, after Mr. Obama became president, the White House asked Democrats not to attach the measure to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, fearing it would cost votes. In March, a watered-down version finally passed the House, but the mortgage industry rallied opposition to block it in the Senate.”

This is, of course, absolutely vintage Obama.  It may recall virtually exact behavior regarding the "immunity for telecom companies" regarding illegal wiretapping, or, more tellingly, Obama's refusal simply to let the "Bush tax cuts" lapse at the end of  2010, when the Democrats controlled the Senate, the House and the White House, and the Bush tax cuts, that fabled marginal rate on all the "millionaires" was going to sundown under its own provisions.  And Obama sold it out to buy another year of unemployment insurance instead, reenacting the mess of pottage deal from another era.

Refusing to help millions of homeowners by using real money, instead of lavishing it all on the "fat cats" he pretends to despise, resulted in millions of Americans forced into the street through foreclosure.

But what about Mr. Obama's soaring rhetoric last night, his populist call-to-arms?  What about, you know....all of that?  Well - it was a good speech.  He's good at doing that.

Yet as I's time to put all of that grousing away.  It's crunch time.  If it's not Obama, it will be that carpetbagger Mitt Romney, the robber baron in funny underwear.  The O Man at least mouths the right attitudes about certain things.  Gay marriage, for example.  And he was willing to admit that global warming is not a "hoax."  It's true that Mr. Obama did not throw much American weight behind the recent Rio Conference (or, actually, even attend), but at least he says climate change is real, whereas the Carpetbagger makes clunky jokes about it.

Thus, um, so what you should do is...hmm, where was I?  I guess that's about it.  I know our President is in a tight spot because the millions of individual donors who rallied to his cause in 2008 seem mysteriously to have disappeared, and we're in the somewhat anomalous situation where the incumbent is in danger of being seriously outspent in this campaign.  I just can't imagine why the President's liberal base has eroded over the last four years.  Whatever.  In America, as in driving a car, voting should be a defensive act.  You don't vote for what you want; you vote to try to avoid what you most fear.  If that isn't Exceptional, please tell me something that is.

September 06, 2012

Who let the Big Dog out?

One must simply give it up for Bill Clinton; he is, indeed, The Natural, as Joe Klein in his anonymously penned book called him.  I don't know exactly how he does it - pure brilliance, I guess. He is a credit to Southern white trash everywhere. I speak from experience. While other speakers appear often stiff and scripted, the Big Dog seems to wing it, speaking off the cuff, stringing together long sequences of grammatically perfect clauses far, far beyond the ability of any other speaker in American politics, including the incumbent President.  It has always amazed me.  At press conferences while President,  he could trip off accurate statistics on EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) for a variety of fuel sources, deal with atmospheric science, then switch to pure political calculation. 

Of course, this is why the Republicans hated him.  Indeed, the moment of psychotic break for the Republican Party can be traced to Clinton's presidency.  I've long suspected that a few of the more prominent Republican "floor leaders" in the impeachment madness (particularly one from South Carolina) were motivated by man-crush jealousy over the smart Jewish girl who temporarily stole Bill Clinton's heart.  Just a guess. 

The Big Dog is a little faded now, hobbled by heart problems, thinned out by a strict dietary regime. He was President between the ages of 44 and 52, and I was an American subject of his Presidency during my stretch from 42 to 50.  In other words, a golden age for both of us.  He was the Boomer's Boomer.  Narcissistic, self-involved, complicated, materialistic, deceptive, thoroughly modern.  He introduced, and perfected, the art of cynical triangulation, of selling out basic American values (such as the easygoing repeal of Glass-Steagall which really started all of the Wall Street debacle); welfare "reform;" and the use of military adventurism as a means of distracting the public from domestic troubles (in his case, "domestic" can be taken quite literally).

His endorsement of Obama will not mean much, of course.  It was all just a feel-good moment for us and, of course, for the Big Dog himself.  Bill, genius that he is, knows that much of the Constitutional fabric of the American Republic lies in absolute tatters, battered by a series of unconstitutional choices made by the last two presidents in particular and the dominant role of money in determining politics.  An indication of Clinton's brilliance is that he can give a rousing speech in praise of the O Man and never get near any of these touchy subjects. It's all good.  And with his acute political sense, Clinton knows that all voting decisions in the television and video age are made by a flash connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, with no complex cerebration in between.  Just:  Obama, good; Romney, bad.  That's it, a general feeling about which way to vote.

The Big Dog was there to help that feeling along.  Nobody does it better.

September 05, 2012

Charlotte's Web, or the Riddle of the Major Parties

One must not engage in "false equivalence" between the conventions of the two major parties; I have been preemptively warned off such a course by the growling arbiter of all things ethical, Paul Krugman of the New York Times.  The Democrats are good people, the Republicans are evil.

Yet how can one call the party of the White Christians evil?  It seems like a contradiction in terms.  I think what works better (and this gets us past made-for-controversy Manichean dualities such as those indulged in by Krugman) is to look at it this way: the Democrats are the party of Human Perfectibility; the Republicans are the party of Humans After the Fall.  Democrats, in their official outlook, tend to see humans as inchoate saints who just need the support and help of society to become fully realized.  This is an Enlightenment ideal.  On the other hand, the GOP sees the "help and support of society" as the main problem; it tends to produce a nation of dependent, lazy, handout-chasing slackers.

In reality, neuroscience and anthropology (basic biology, for that matter) would not support either of these views of Homo sapiens (although it might be closer to the Republican view).  Human beings are animals which, in very recent times historically speaking, have organized themselves into complex civilizations with interdependent functions.  What we are learning now is that this is not actually a "human" way to live at all.  It's just that the human life span is so short in terms of the epochal transformations of civilization that we have no individual frame of reference by which to judge whether this manner of living is "normal."  There are all kinds of signs that it is not, such as population overshoot, destruction of the natural habitat (i.e., Earth), global warming, oil shortages, alienation of the populace from one another, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and gross worldwide obesity in all the "modern" civilizations. 

Thus producing the "Age of Anxiety" as the chief characteristic of modern life in an advanced culture. The Democrats and Republicans do not deal with such issues in their platforms or in their speeches.  That is because these two political behemoths are fully vested in the continuation of a top-down, bureaucratic Big Government as the solution to everything, continuing an approach based on the "organic society" in which the very basic things (food and energy) are produced by a tiny sliver of the overall population, while the rest of humanity engages in some "specialty" that earns money through which to participate in the "consumer economy."  As I say, we've gotten so used to this that we can't see that human beings have any alternatives, and none is ever offered from the dais of either the Donkeys or Elephants.

Thus, the two major parties simply engage in fables, literally "fabulous" tales of rags to riches that recount one period of historic dominance (post-World War II to about 1973, when the first oil shock hit) which happens to coincide with the cultural memory of most of the old pols still running the machinery of the Big Two.  This is an instance of the Parallax of Nostalgia (trademark forever pending).  The speeches of Ann Romney, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Julian Castro and Michelle Obama all fit into this matrix.  I have no doubt that Barack will not disappoint.  I get the sense that the speechwriters are all using some proprietary software called SpeechMaker 2.0 which tells them exactly where to put the tearful pause when talking about the sacrifices of Mom, just before mentioning that the speaker was the first in the family to go to college, just before casually dropping that the college in question was Harvard.  It all seems like some strange hybrid between Dancing With The Stars and a Chautauqua Revival tent.  The production values are all from Reality TV, and the "scoring" by the panel (Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, et al.) are all based on the quality of the "performance."

Granted, the speeches need to be performances to get anybody to watch these things; but the curmudgeonly question that remains for me is, what does any of this have to do with anything? How does it address any of those urgent questions listed up above?  And one other thing: if we're really honest, hasn't the fantasy of the "American Dream" had as much to do with producing that string of nightmares as any other cultural force in history?  What the GOP and the Dems want is more of the same, only on steroids, as the U.S.A. throws open its doors of opportunity to the world at large and becomes the Cesspool of Last Resort.