Thursday, September 23, 2010

"The Simulacran Republic" (Reaching The Bottom) & What's Down There (Don't Eat the Seafood!)

One word of warning before I start this day's calm, soothing (heh heh) words to the wise:

Despite repeated assurances from federal officials and President Obama, independent scientists and public health experts have serious concerns about the long-term safety of Gulf seafood consumption.

As if anyone needed to say this. Anymore. We are on the edge. Don't push us. (Do you feel enough of a fool yet?)

Meanwhile, America’s thirty year March to the Sea goes on unabated. It is the most astonishing thing, if you think about it. Of course ‘thinking’ and ‘America’ are increasingly becoming words that can no longer be smashed into the same sentence anymore, even with the use of advanced new weaponry the Pentagon is producing. But indulge me for the moment. What has happened to this country is that the United States – which was holding a pretty goddam good winning hand, thank you very much, by the middle of the twentieth century – started following (what were inaccurately labeled) conservative politicians and policies in the 1980s, and things got a lot worse. Then we followed even more regressive idiots this last decade, and things got a whole lot worse yet.

So what are we up to now, in reaction to these twin debacles of precambrian policymaking? Following even crazier still über-extremist right-wing monster freakazoid criminals dressed up as ordinary angry citizens, of course. Natch, babe. In for a penny, in for a pound. In for a pound, in for a planet.

I have a difficult time finding anyone more eloquent than this working man (although the scholar's essay at the bottom of this entry is another fine candidate). But you know him already.

Don't miss a word of this (and I wouldn't run it all except that it's really something my faithful readers wouldn't want to miss, and Joe's prose is not that bountiful (or easily found) anymore - except at his site). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Joe Bageant, "The Simulacran Republic"

Thursday, September 16, 2010 "A while back it was announced that a Japanese inventor had successfully created an invisibility cloak using a material made of thousands of tiny beads called "retro-reflectum." I found this so amazing that I told six friends, three men and three women, about it over the next two days. Not a one of them found it even interesting, much less amazing. Two of the men subsequently showed mild interest when I pointed out that it could be used to mask tanks and soldiers in combat, and one speculated on its terrorist implications. Our techno hyper-reality has so gutted and rewired the brains of Americans that ordinary intelligent people are not even capable of amazement at such a thing as invisibility! To me, this is an indication of a near-total death of the individual mind and imagination caused by our over-technologized, effects glutted sensory environment. The pure miracle of invisibility is uninteresting unless it can be linked to, say the rumbling terror of an armored tank - made perhaps even more attention-grabbing by squashing the bloody guts out of an Iraq under its tracks? It’s the sensory effect that matters, the simulacrum, not the reality. It’s the kind of thing about America that drives me to thoughts of emigration daily. Americans, rich or poor, now live in a culture entirely perceived through, simulacra-media images and illusions. We live inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation that has not existed for quite some time now, especially in America's heartland. Our national reality is held together by a pale, carbon imprint of the original. The well-off with their upscale consumer aesthetic, live inside gated Disneyesque communities with gleaming uninhabited front porches representing some bucolic notion of the Great American home and family. The working class, true to its sports culture aesthetic, is a spectator to politics ... politics which are so entirely imagistic as to be holograms of a process, not a process. Social realism is a television commercial for America, a simulacran republic of eagles, church spires, brave young soldiers and heroic firefighters and "freedom of choice" within the hologram. America's citizens have been reduced to Balkanized consumer units by the corporate state's culture producing machinery. We no longer have a country - just the hollow shell of one, a global corporation masquerading electronically and digitally as a nation called the United States.

The corporation now animates us from within our very selves through management of the need hierarchy in goods and information. Sure there is flesh within the machine, but its animating force is a viral concept, a meme run amok. Free market capitalism. We got to move them refrigerators, got to sell them color teevees. Meanwhile the culture generating industry spins our mythology like cotton candy. We all need it to survive, Hollywood myths, imperial myths, melting pot myths, the saluting dick male myths. They keep the machine running. And when the machine is running correctly, it smoothes its own way by terrifying uncooperative people into submission in prisons and torture rooms, where we do not have to look at the corpses on ice and the naked hooded bodies handcuffed to the bars. We are innocent as long as we keep our eyes taped shut. And only with our eyes shut can we keep seeing the hologram.

And with duct tape over our mouths, we can recite its slogans with one hand over our heart with the other one resting on the trigger. The average American spends about one third of his or her waking life watching television. The neurological implications of this are so profound that they cannot even be comprehended in words, much less described by them. Television creates our reality, regulates our national perceptions and our interior hallucinations of who we Americans are (the best and only important tribe on the planet.) It schedules our cultural illusions of choice, displays pre-selected candidates in our elections, or types of consumer goods. It regulates holiday marketing opportunities and the national neurological seasons, which are now governed by the electrons of the illusion. We live within a media-generated belief system that functions as the operating instructions for society.

Anything outside of its parameters represents fear and psychological freefall to the faceless legions of within it. Our civilization, our culture, in as much as it can be said to exist in any cohesive way, is based upon two things, television and petroleum. Whether you are a custodian or the President, your world depends upon an unbroken supply of both. So it is small wonder that we all watch a televised global war for oil. As in all produced illusions, everyone we see is an actor. There are the television actors portraying what passes for reality, and real people performing for television. Non-actors in Congress perform in front of the cameras, grappling over the feeding tube on Terri Schiavo; real actors portray non-actors in "reality shows." Michael Jackson showed up for court in pajamas and Jeff Weise shows up for class with a gun. The demand for "newsmakers" is relentless as the empire’s corporate cultural machinery weaves the warp of consumer illusions that make up our notion of individualism, and the weft of democratic mythology that constitutes our political system. This is by no means a free country and given the intense luminosity of the hologram, we cannot even see freedom from here, and probably would not recognize it if we could.

Moreover though, we cannot tear our eyes away from the great flickering glow of the hologram. As my late friend Timothy Leary put it, "An enormous industry, similar to the national projects of pyramid-building in Egypt, cathedral-building in medieval Europe, and prison-camp building in Stalinist Russia has emerged in America - the production of political martyrs, fallen heroes and concept outlaws. ... The essence of 'news' is, of course, the modern version of Roman coliseum shows and gladiator combats." And like clockwork, there is the nightly ritual bloodletting through televised wars and domestic murders, with detective Lenny Briscoe finding the corpses at seven, eight and eleven PM weekdays. The hologram that is our cathedral of consciousness and our national mind is an ever-darkening one. The average American, if he even thinks about the mind, thinks of it in the obsolete "mind-contained-in-the-brain" way. A few intellectuals and a handful of old dopers like me understand that reality is consensus based and is an interconnected network consisting of many minds operating along a theme. And the theme seems to be pathological. America suffers from a psychosis, a psychosis being nothing more than an insistence upon staying in an untenable state of consciousness, despite the normal modeling of those around you. This is not out of meanness, but rather an indifference so profound as to be a sickness. The hologram IS the psychosis made manifest. Psychotics love to play ominous games with those around them, just as America does with the world today. It always comes down to the one thing we never study in school, the one thing we cannot learn about in this country without a great deal of personal extracurricular effort - consciousness. As we have known at least since the Sixties, the core issue of our existence is consciousness, which our corporate state is compelled to control at all times. That’s why drugs are illegal; that’s why we have hundreds of television channels; and that’s why you will never find anything much resembling the truth in U.S. newspapers and magazines. But there are still those of us who remember our consciousness experiments in the Sixties. Remember what it is like to peer into other realities, not to mention observe the inherent folly and frequent horror of our own war-profit-driven, animal murdering, death-and-sex-without-love obsessed culture. There are those of us who know that when a thrush cries out from the branch it echoes throughout the galaxy. All things are connected and ownership of things is meaningless. The purpose of life is to know this. Lao-tsu knew it, just like Einstein knew it. But you and I are not allowed to. It would shatter our revered hologram, the one that threatens to shatter the world. To even begin to dissolve this dangerous hologram we would have to examine the biggest lie of all - that technology is neutral and that people determine its ultimate effects. What divine horseshit! Consider what even the best use of nuclear energy leaves in its wake over the long haul an uninhabitable planet. No matter who is in charge we end up with millions of tons of waste with a half-life in the tens of thousands of years. But the hologram we revere asks us to judge the technology at its heart in strictly personal terms - cars, vacuum cleaners, and digital amusements. Pay no mind to the toxic rivers and a sky turning red. Science and technology are our religion and all philosophical decisions are made in the corporate world whose function is to sell commodities. Easily the most terrifying aspect of the industrial/media/political hologram is that we are trapped. There is no way out of a technological industrial machine where you need at least a car, a phone, etc. to function, to participate at all. Thanks to the hologram, American culture, as such, is nearly over. It is not sustainable. It is not reformable. Not only are TV and all digital media unreformable, but they are sure to accelerate our demise more rapidly because of the technological capitalist paradigm of growth at all cost. We cannot eliminate the generators of the hologram, television and electronic media. They are the glue of the hologram, the mediators of our human experience. We will all die without them, now that they have replaced all other previous forms of knowledge, the ancient forms, and have colonized our inner lives like a virus. The natural world is not only boring but does not even exist, as we sit mesmerized, while the hologram sells our very feelings back to us. Are we adequate? How are we supposed to act? Did you phone someone you love today? What and whom are we to fear? You are rendered numb by a hypnotic medium, react to your own feelings which have been stolen and doled back out to you, and pay money to do so. Brilliant! The commodification of human consciousness is probably the most astounding, if ghoulish, accomplishment of American Capitalist culture. Meanwhile, there is the omniscient "one voice that speaks out to the many," the disembodied military/corporate voice, that all but guarantees an authoritarian political scenario. Unlike the humans who constitute their living innards, the corporations animating the hologram are themselves deathless. The citizens cannot harm them. Under U.S. law corporations have all the rights and protections of individuals, and they cannot be regulated because corporations are "fictional persons" and have the same right to free speech as persons. Of course, given that the media are corporations, their speech is a helluva lot more impactful and significant than any one person’s. "But," as the brilliant author of In the Absence of the Sacred, Gerry Mander puts it: "They have none of the commensurate responsibilities. Communities cannot control them because they can always move to other communities. They do not have corporeality; they can't be executed. You can imprison certain people within a corporation if they engage in criminal acts. The corporation itself, however, lives beyond the people in it." The light of the hologram plays on material reality and remakes it in its own image, destroying all connection with the natural world. Malls and suburbs and hyper-real surfaces and speed - meaningless but dazzling technology. The earth gets a makeover in the image of Disneyland and becomes inhabited by humans who are commodified versions of themselves. It is difficult for people to grasp that we are in an age of corporate dominion just as we were once in an age of domination by royal families, kings and warlords. Somehow it is hard to equate our tribute rendered to the credit card companies, the insurance companies, the IRS, the power cartels, the mortgage banks, with the kind of bondage it is. Yet we must do these things to be allowed to live in society. The only other choice is to sleep under a bridge. And these days, whether due to an on-setting depression or creeping wisdom, I often contemplate just that. I really do. Of course I understand that even under a bridge one cannot escape the hologram’s blue flicker issuing from a hundred million encroaching suburban windows. But like I said, there are still a few of us old bastards out here who remember. And we can still hear the cry of the thrush echoing, still out there shattering galaxies. Freedom is possible."

And then there's our MAN standing on the ramparts trying to keep back the flood (Hell, he's already over the edge!). Listen to his final sermon (I never thought I'd see this well-educated, relatively soft-spoken prof catch fire and call out the damnation on the responsible parties in this public a way and in quite this degree). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Just when you thought you’d reached the ground floor in the well of American self-destruction, you find out once again that that pit is absolutely bottomless.

Now that primary season is almost over, the far-right tea party movement has scored impressive victories over the far-right establishment in a slew of Republican primaries. I’ve always said that the regressive movement would end up eating its young, and now it is.

The new batch of Republican monsters includes a candidate – now the official Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Delaware, mind you – who has staked out a tough position against – no, I’m not kidding here – masturbation. Christine O’Donnell once averred that “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust.” And why the hell not? Surely the reason that our country has so rapidly fallen into decline is that god is punishing America because so many of us are jerking off all the time.

You know who you are. Oh, and did you hear that she was once a witch? That she believes that scientists have bred mice-men with human brains? That she has no job? And that – despite running on a platform of cleaning up Washington’s fiscal disaster – she has a train wreck for a record of her personal finances? I’m not kidding. Remember way back when – like, you know, yesterday – when you would have accused me of bad comedy writing for making such things up? Guess what? None of these are.

America, this is you, 2010. Kinda makes you pine for the good ol’ days of the thirteenth century, doesn’t it? Here in New York the nominee is a bazillionaire who sends out racist and pornographic email to people. Hah-hah. Love that kind of real working man’s humor, don’t you? After being rejected by the Republican party initially, Carl Paladino hired Richard Nixon’s political hit man to run his campaign, injected millions of his own money to fund it, and trounced the hapless establishment candidate, Rick Lazio, who just couldn’t get extreme enough to win, whore himself as he might, and as he readily did. The Christian Science Monitor notes that, “Paladino, who espouses family values, has a daughter with a former employee who is not his wife”. It is also noted of this great and incendiary paragon of small government that, “As a landlord, he made a lot of money renting space to the state in Albany and using state tax incentives for his real estate empire”. Similarly, Paladino has compared labor unions to pigs, and, according to the Huffington Post, “said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in ‘personal hygiene’”.

Did I mention that his father was employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression? Perhaps if Franklin Roosevelt had incarcerated père Paladino and instructed him in better hygiene – instead of wasting taxpayer money to create a monstrously big government in remote Washington, DC that continually oppressed the people with stupid wasteful programs that like, oh, you know, kept starving Americans alive – we in New York wouldn’t be stuck with the fruit of his loins assaulting our senses today. Whatever. I mean, what’s the point of having Republicans if it’s not gonna be all about hypocrisy and twisted sexual obsession, anyhow?

. . . . It is the stuff of fiction, really – almost unimaginable to remotely sentient beings operating in the real world. Something that requires a master novelist to do it proper justice. But Orwell’s long dead, so even that possibility is off the table. Not everybody quite gets how perilous is the moment, however. Democratic pundits who are rejoicing over the tea party primary victories, thinking that they are good for theDemocratic Party, are stupid slugs who ought to have the living shit kicked out of them, just for brainlessly taking up space on the planet. First of all, who could possibly care in the slightest about the fate of the Democratic Party? Am I really supposed to be so filled with motivating joy about the prospects of electing slightly less regressive agents of the American oligarchy to Congress that I will run down to party headquarters and start phone banking for my local Democrat? Are we really supposed get electrified and rally around our president and the inspirational likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, simply because they are marginally less obnoxious than the alternative? Golly, I just don’t think so. But more importantly, Democrats are the very reason for the tea party, this latest episode of American idiocy. Had the party done something with the grand historic opportunity handed to them two years ago, none of this would be happening. Had they not booted so badly a rare alignment of the stars that gave them crises allowing real, serious solutions, along with a despised opposition allowing the final crushing of the conservative disease for a generation or more, we wouldn’t be sitting here today laughing at serious candidates for the United States Senate who have staked out firm positions on the societal perils of onanism.

If Barack Obama had channeled Harry Truman instead of Neville Chamberlain, this show would have been over a long time ago. But the president instead decided to make nice with vicious thugs, even though he never needed to, and even though they were publicly excoriating him in the ugliest and most deceitful terms, just as he was negotiating with them. And negotiating. And negotiating some more. The Fool Down The Hill spent a year cutting deals with Republicans in Congress on his health care debacle, giving in to them at every turn, and stiff-arming the progressives who had made him president, only to achieve exactly what anyone who has been remotely conscious since Joe McCarthy’s day knew would be the outcome: no Republican votes for a bill they themselves had helped water down to near insignificance. Add to that Republican obstruction on every other issue, the almost complete absence of GOP votes on anythingeven legislation they had previously sponsored – the Democrats favored, along with the right’s continuous assault on every real or (mostly) imagined personal characteristic of the president, and now you see a huge part of the explanation for the tragicomedy that is American politics at this moment.

What’s worse, Obama’s stupidity is a gift that will keep on giving for a long time. By means of his actions in the White House so far, he has nearly guaranteed that he cannot recover in the coming years, no matter what. He has done one of the few things that more or less assures his presidency of being finished. The right will never let up on him, even if he were to adopt their agenda wholesale. And let’s be clear about this – he more or less already has. If you lay out the positions of the Obama administration on everything from civil liberties to gay rights to economic policy to national ‘defense’ and more, there’s hardly a damn shred of difference between his positions and George W. Bush’s. It’s a ludicrous lie to call this milquetoast regressive in a Democratic suit a liberal, let alone a socialist. And we’ve only just begun with Bad Barry, folks. After he gets his ass royally kicked in November, Obama will lurch even further to the right. But that will engender even greater scorn from the sickos living over there under their slime-infested rocks, as well as endless congressional investigations of bogus administration scandals, likely including an impeachment. Or did you miss the 1990s entirely, Barack?

But that’s only the start of it. Because Obama was too dumb to recognize that everything hinged on reviving the economy (did you miss the last century, too, Bro?), and because he was too cowardly to move boldly on anything whatsoever that he did, he has also lost ordinary, centrist, independent voters who think both parties are generally worthless but will vote for anyone who can actually produce solutions. It’s possible that you can bring those people back, but it ain’t likely. The first rule of politics is that people vote their pocketbooks. Thus, any prayer at winning again would require an economic recovery. But that isn’t gonna happen, in part because Half O’Bama half-assed the stimulus bill, partly because he was seeking bipartisan support which – wait for it now – never came, despite the compromises which reduced the size of the stimulus and turned one-third of it into ineffective tax cuts that the one-tune-jukebox Neanderthals demanded. It’s also not gonna happen because this downturn is less a one-off event than it is the culmination (we grimly hope – it could get worse yet) of a thirty year grand national downsizing project, and because it is less an economic recession than it is a wholesale and permanent restructuring. No economist I’ve heard of sees any shred of economic recovery anywhere on the horizon throughout all of 2011, and neither do I. In fact, there are good reasons to think it gets worse from here. And that means Obama and his party are toast, not just in this election cycle, but the next one as well.

Having thus irrevocably alienated aliens on the right in addition to the just-gimme-some-results voters in the middle, Obama is producing some of the same effect on progressives as well. It was a very bad idea to speak in bold, Lincolnesque strokes as a candidate if you intended to govern like a small town city manager, and a feeble one at that. Lots of young folks, especially, who flocked to the banner of hope and change are now feeling burned, and well they should. For many others – including the dude I see in my bathroom mirror every morning – this is more like the last straw, the final frontier. Having spent decades holding our noses and voting for Democrats just because the Republicans were so goddam destructive, many of us are now done, possibly forever. Not only is it unimaginable to me that I would vote for Obama in 2012 – no matter who is his Republican opponent – I refuse, with rare possible exception, to vote for any Democrat ever again, until the party can at least get back in the ballpark of progressive politics.

And so it is Obama and his co-conspirators in Congress have lost the right and the center, and at least the enthusiasm if not the votes of the left. But, more importantly, they have done so in ways that are mostly permanent, ways that mostly preclude any possible recovery of these voters’ support. This is precisely the reason that Democratic pundits and functionaries are even more self-destructively stupid now than they have been for thirty years, rejoicing in tea party primary victories, thinking that those represent good news for their party.

Consider the appropriately-named Bob Shrum as one example, he whose great wisdom has produced an astonishing zero-for-eight record as a top presidential campaign staffer over the decades (in a hissy fit after nine days on board, he actually quit the Jimmy Carter campaign, the only successful one he was ever involved with). Looking ahead to the presidential prospects of 2012 given the surge of the tea party, he surveys the Republican field, noting that, “The GOP’s 1964 tragedy of Goldwater, who was at least a serious figure, could be repeated in the farce of Palin.

... Newt Gingrich is positioning himself as Palin with a brain. Gingrich has now become a font of smears and off-the-rail ideas – from privatizing Social Security to the transparently racist charge that Obama channels the Kenyan anti-colonialism of the father he barely knew. With his pandering to both prejudice and extremism, Gingrich could be the 2012 nominee. He would be unelectable. ... So would Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who’s proposed scrapping the progressive income tax, the sinister idea championed by that great socialist Republican Theodore Roosevelt. ... In desperation, Republican strategists are thinking of Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who would also compete with an appeal to the birthers, the resentful, and the backlash base. But Barbour was a legendary D.C. lobbyist for the most powerful vested interests, from tobacco to oil. Perhaps he could run on the slogan: ‘Remove the Middleman.’ For Republicans, payback could come as early as November, with Democrats keeping the Senate – maybe even the House. But 2012, I believe, will provide the ultimate irony: The people who most revile President Obama – and the Republican leaders who enlisted them only to see their party hijacked by them – may assure an Obama re-election.”

To say that this analysis displays astonishing naivete would be an unfair and unkind cut on simpletons the world over. This is pure lunacy, and it shows both the self-interested narrowness and the analytical imbecility of Democratic strategists (to abuse a term) and pundits. Maybe these folks haven’t noticed lately, but in American politics “pandering to both prejudice and extremism” is not exactly a losing strategy. Maybe these people (and there’s a lot more of them than just Shrum) aren’t paying real close attention, but most American voters don’t even have a clue who Teddy Roosevelt was or what he did. And they don’t exactly shrink from the idea of slashing taxes just because some dude had a different approach a hundred years ago. Or was it a thousand?

Most importantly, Shrum’s assumption of rationality amongst voters leads him to conclude that the nomination of Palin in 2012 would result in the “ironic” “farce” of her Goldwater-like crushing defeat at the polls. It is no surprise this guy keeps booting presidential campaigns. The twin wonders are why anyone continues to hire him, and why anyone publishes his analysis of politics. For all I know, he could be a world-class expert at philately or the intricacies nineteenth century cricket, but, meanwhile, opinion journal publishers might want to take note of the increasingly inconvenient fact that the guy clearly knows nothing about politics.

Here’s the deal, Bob (et al.), and feel free to take notes: This is not 1964. The country is not flush. The middle class is not robust, thriving and expanding. The incumbent party is not riding a wave of peace and prosperity, nor is it benefitting from public sympathy for the young, handsome, witty and beloved leader just recently tragically cut down in his prime. Okay? Which means that, unlike Lyndon Johnson and crew, Democrats are not gonna get a lot of votes from people happy with the magic of our moment, and therefore especially uninterested in a taking a gamble on a self-described extremist like Barry Goldwater. Indeed, precisely the opposite logic applies here, which will produce precisely the opposite outcome. Democrats should be familiar with this – it’s exactly the reverse of what transpired not even two years ago: Very unhappy voters in 2012 will choose the candidate of the party not in the White House, because those voters will desperately crave change. You remember “change”, don’t you, Bob? Thus, the real race will be for the Republican nomination – decided exclusively by Republican primary voters, who are merely certifiably insane on a good day – not the general election, which will be a sure thing for the GOP. And thus the next president of the United States will be Sarah Palin.

It would be nice if that were the bad part. But, sadly, as ugly as that prospect is, it’s only the warm-up act for the real fun. Republicans – tea party variant or not (and, ideologically, there ain’t much difference between the two) – have absolutely zero solutions for the crises the country faces (not to mention the irony of them being responsible for creating those crises, of course). Their only plan for economic recovery is more tax cuts for the rich. That will do nothing for the economy, of course, other than plunging the country deeper into debt and exacerbating already dramatic disparities in the country’s distribution of wealth. Their plan for health care is to repeal Obama’s. Their plan for global warming is to pretend it doesn’t exist and support fossil fuel related industries such that the problem gets worse. Their foreign policy is war. Their plan for Middle East peace is to support Israel no matter what it does, thus guaranteeing no peace agreement. Their plan for the financial crisis is to slash any restrictions that might meaningfully control the behavior of Wall Street predators. And so on. They have no solutions, and can only succeed in making the bad situation they created worse.

And now here is where it starts to get really scary. Imagine us in 2014, the same distance into a Republican government (on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue) that we are today into a Democratic one. Except that there are two big differences. The first is that the public has had four more years – four years! – of decline, demoralization and economic terrorism under their belts by this time, with no solutions remotely in sight. What is their likely disposition? They will be turning on Republicans and showing their canines in a way that makes 2010 look like a friendly game of Scrabble by comparison.

The second difference will be in the nature of those inhabiting a government which at that point will be firmly backed up against the wall. About the only positive thing I can say regarding Democrats is that they have some limitations on what they are willing to do out of self-interest. Not much, but some. Not so the animals of the GOP, least of all the tea party sociopathic freaks. These people are not going to go down lightly. These people will be faced with a choice between humiliation and destruction on the one hand, and generating a diversionary, and probably jingoistic feel-good, catastrophe on the other. They would not be the first failing government in history to choose the annihilation of others in order to sustain a bit longer the unsustainable. They would not even be the first to take out tens of millions in such a quest. Scary only begins to describe where this is all going.

People often scoff at me when I tell them that I think Sarah Palin is likely to be the next American president.

Or they think I wax a bit apocalyptic when I start talking about outcomes that smell all too much like Germany in the 1930s. So let me review the bidding in summary form to explain why we should be very afraid. Jump in anywhere you see a chink in the chain of logic.

The first question is, Will Barack Obama preside over economic recovery substantial and early enough to be reelected in 2012? Perhaps, of course. But not likely as things look now. Second, will voters conform with nearly universal past practice and choose to go with the alternative to the status quo under conditions of economic (and other) duress? Highly likely. Third, will they be willing to elect somebody whose ideas are extreme and who quite recently was widely portrayed in the media as a dummy and a clown, if that is their only realistic alternative to the failed sitting president and his party?

I dunno – can you say “Ronald Reagan in 1980”? Fourth, given the composition of Republican primary voters who are already choosing candidates so extreme that even Karl Rove is describing them as “nutty”, and given what we saw from these people in 2008, who is most likely to be the 2012 GOP nominee, and therefore shoe-in winner of the general election in November of that year? You know her name. Fifth, will a Republican program of tax cuts for the rich, reduced standard of living for everyone else, increased economic insecurity, more war, environmental wreckage, a Wall Street bacchanal and unfettered corporate pillage give Americans in 2013 and 2014 the solutions they were looking for when they desperately voted out the incumbent in 2012?

Of course not. And, finally, and most grimly of all, Would a Sarah Palin administration or its equivalent stand by and watch itself go down in flames of complete destruction – sorta like what Barack Obama is now doing – when it had at its disposal a way to instead change the channel of public dissatisfaction? I think we all know the answer to that one too. Each of these questions has more than one possible answer, and I am far from claiming any outcome as inevitable. However, I will say that I think the sequence of events I’ve outlined above – not just individually, but the more daunting probability of all these things happening – is more likely than not.

I have a hard time seeing this country recover in two years time. I have a hard time seeing Obama winning reelection. I not only cannot imagine a non-radical GOP nominee in 2012, I can’t even name one such person in the party considering a presidential bid. I know for sure that their ‘solutions’ don’t work – indeed, I, like you, am living the consequences of those very policies as we speak. And, finally, I also know that the people who did Iraq and debt hemorrhaging tax cuts and Katrina and torture and the rest are capable of anything. Anything. And these weren’t even the tea partiers, who are even sicker than the Bushes and Roves out there.

People like Bob Shrum or perhaps Barack Obama and the strategists around him would merely be insane to applaud tea party successes this year, if all that was at stake was their own worthless careers. (And it is, of course, a measure of their utter failure as politicians that the best thing they have going in this election cycle is the hope that their opponents will choose lunatics as candidates.) Yes, yes, Bob and Barack and Rahm and David and David, this may be good news six weeks from now for a Democratic Party that is so pathetic it depends on the GOP to implode in order to only get partially devastated in the coming election. But even that won’t stop scads of tea baggers from winning seats in the United States Congress this year. And – far more importantly – it won’t stop the rise of this movement that is so disastrous for the country going forward.

Far, far more is at stake here than one failed president’s second term, or the careers of a bunch of party hacks and media retreads. The truth is, we stand now on the edge of a precipice. And it is a very long way down to the bottom.

Joining many already resident there.

Don't laugh. You're there too.

Suzan _______________


kenny's sideshow said...

Joe is one of my writing heroes. Even if you disagree with some of his points, it's always with a smile.

Suzan said...

And I never disagree with the King.

I can't afford to.

(tee hee)

But Joe's the BEST!