« Stark vs Conyers: Prolegomena | Main | Hundred-day wonders »

Tortoise maintains lead, Achilles close second

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday April 28, 2009 01:36 PM

Curious how the Democrats are always approaching the capacity to govern -- and the concomitant responsibility for what government does and doesn't do -- but never quite getting there. Zeno would feel vindicated.

Now that the loathesome Arlen Specter has joined the "progressive" party -- and I'm sure he'll feel right at home there -- the elusive filibuster-proof majority is still half as far away, even if the preposterous Al Franken succeeds in boarding the clown-car of the Senate Democratic caucus. Here's Specter, serving notice that he will be one of those convenient Liebermannish aisle-crossers who will save the Democrats from having to serve their poor much-traduced constituencies:

Specter switching parties, Dems will gain filibuster proof Senate

The Washington Post reports, “Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.”

“Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota,” Chris Cillizza writes for the paper’s online The Fix column.

“My change in party affiliation does not mean I will be a party line voter for the Democrats than I have been for the Republicans,” Specter noted in a press release. “Unlike Senator Jeffords switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatically 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on employee free choice card check will not change.”

An apparatus fearfully and wonderfully made. In 2010 we will be hearing how vitally, world-historically important it is to give the Democrats a super-hyper-filibuster-proof majority. Owen will probably remember where the phrase "a cupful of excuses" comes from. Trust the Democrats to serve you one, every time.

Whatever happened, I wonder, to people's pattern-recognition skills? Why and how can anybody still repose any hope in these shabby con artists?

Comments (11)

Peter Ward:

I remember watching a documentary a while ago (probably on PBS) that featured an interview with a woman who had survived the Gulag. She was living somewhere in Siberia, in the East, and said she believed that Stalin must have been ignorant of what was happening, that surely he would never tolerate slave-labor camps.

I guess a major part of left strategy has to be focused on the destruction of this kind of irrational hope. Well, at least the significant reduction of it. Probably totally loss of superstitious comfort would result in political impotence in most.

Michael Hureaux:

I think what we're looking at is the outcome of where the separation of personal agency from choice in everyday production takes people. The society driven by overpaid specialists and experts has reached its peak as a form of cultural advance.

If we can't have any real say in what we make or do, if, as the president says, we need to "move on" rather than have an accounting for a war crime in the middle east, if we are too busy to have any accounting for the actions of the state or those who have bought the state, it is a waste of time to expect people to recognize a pattern. We don't pay enough attention to the pattern to be able to intervene effectively. We're too busy trying to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Worse yet, most of us spend our lives chasing a surplus goods and services we may not actually need.

This, more than any other reason, is why Marx is right. If, at a time when there are higher forms of technology and wealth than at any previous time in history, and this is all the control over political economy we have in what is allegedly the most advanced society in the planet, then the system is a failure, because critical thought and creativity aren't expanding as the market junkies say they will, people are losing the capacity to think independently. I see more evidence of this all the time in the numbers of young learners who come to into my classroom who can't seperate hype or advertising content from the valid input they are getting. Hence Obamania.

Yeah, it's a mess alright.


pie cards flap back:

"Specter was once a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act and a vocal public supporter of labor law reform. Earlier this year, Specter switched positions and opposed the bill. Today, he announced he is switching political parties but maintaining his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.

Lets be clear, Sen. Specter’s decision to join the Democratic Party is welcome news, but what really matters is whose side you are on. Help us keep ads on the air letting Pennsylvanians know that while Specter may have become a Democrat, what really matters is whether he sides with Big Business or America's workers. "

fight fiercely aflorks



" I see more evidence
of this all the time
in the numbers of young learners
who come into my classroom
and can't seperate hype
or advertising content
from the valid input they are getting
Hence Obamania. "


Speaking of hype--this piece, by the distinguished British journalist John Pilger, is a shrewd analysis of how the "brand" Obama was marketed, and how starkly the reality contrasts with the advertised image.

Obama’s 100 Days: The Mad Men Did Well
by John Pilger / April 29th, 2009

The BBC’s American television soap Mad Men offers a rare glimpse of the power of corporate advertising. The promotion of smoking half a century ago by the “smart” people of Madison Avenue, who knew the truth, led to countless deaths. Advertising and its twin, public relations, became a way of deceiving dreamt up by those who had read Freud and applied mass psychology to anything from cigarettes to politics. Just as Marlboro Man was virility itself, so politicians could be branded, packaged and sold.

It is more than 100 days since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The “Obama brand” has been named Advertising Age’s “marketer of the year for 2008,” easily beating Apple computers. David Fenton of MoveOn.org describes Obama’s election campaign as “an institutionalized mass-level automated technological community organizing that has never existed before and is a very, very powerful force.” Deploying the internet and a slogan plagiarized from the Latino union organizer César Chávez — “Sí, se puede!” or “Yes, we can” — the mass-level automated technological community marketed its brand to victory in a country desperate to be rid of George W Bush.

No one knew what the new brand actually stood for. So accomplished was the advertising (a record $75 million was spent on television commercials alone) that many Americans actually believed Obama shared their opposition to Bush’s wars. In fact, he had repeatedly backed Bush’s warmongering and its congressional funding. Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King’s legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous “Change you can believe in,” it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. “We will be the most powerful,” he often declared.

Perhaps the Obama brand’s most effective advertising was supplied free of charge by those journalists who, as courtiers of a rapacious system, promote shining knights. They depoliticized him, spinning his platitudinous speeches as “adroit literary creations, rich, like those Doric columns, with allusion . . .” (Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian). The San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote: “Many spiritually advanced people I know. . . identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who . . . can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet.”

In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush’s gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not “persons”, and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of “defense”, Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.

All over the world, America’s violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up. During the recent massacre in Gaza, reports Seymour Hersh, “the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of ‘smart bombs’ and other hi-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel” and being used to slaughter mostly women and children. In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office.

In Afghanistan, the US “strategy” of killing Pashtun tribespeople (the “Taliban”) has been extended by Obama to give the Pentagon time to build a series of permanent bases right across the devastated country where, says Secretary Gates, the US military will remain indefinitely. Obama’s policy, one unchanged since the Cold War, is to intimidate Russia and China, now an imperial rival. He is proceeding with Bush’s provocation of placing missiles on Russia’s western border, justifying it as a counter to Iran, which he accuses, absurdly, of posing “a real threat” to Europe and the US. On 5 April in Prague, he made a speech reported as “anti-nuclear”. It was nothing of the kind. Under the Pentagon’s Reliable Replacement Warhead program, the US is building new “tactical” nuclear weapons designed to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war.

Perhaps the biggest lie — the equivalent of smoking is good for you — is Obama’s announcement that the US is leaving Iraq, the country it has reduced to a river of blood. According to unabashed US army planners, as many as 70,000 troops will remain “for the next 15 to 20 years.” On 25 April, his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, alluded to this. It is not surprising that the polls are showing that a growing number of Americans believe they have been suckered — especially as the nation’s economy has been entrusted to the same fraudsters who destroyed it. Lawrence Summers, Obama’s principal economic adviser, is throwing $3 trillion at the same banks that paid him more than $8 million last year, including $135,000 for one speech. Change you can believe in.

Much of the American establishment loathed Bush and Cheney for exposing, and threatening, the onward march of America’s “grand design,” as Henry Kissinger, war criminal and now Obama adviser, calls it. In advertising terms, Bush was a “brand collapse” whereas Obama, with his toothpaste advertisement smile and righteous clichés, is a godsend. At a stroke, he has seen off serious domestic dissent to war, and he brings tears to the eyes, from Washington to Whitehall. He is the BBC’s man, and CNN’s man, and Murdoch’s man, and Wall Street’s man, and the CIA’s man. The Madmen did well.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time (Bantam/Random House, 2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.


thanks for posting that great article by John Pilger, Van Mungo!


Yeah, thanks for posting the Pilger piece, VM. Did you see IPS' first hundred days report card? The cravenness of the Beltway left-liberals makes even my jaw drop. I'll never trust anything I read by John Feffer again.

I did not see the report card you're referring to. Would you mind posting a link to it? Thanks.


Whoops, wrong link.

Try this instead:

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Tuesday April 28, 2009 01:36 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Stark vs Conyers: Prolegomena.

The next post in this blog is Hundred-day wonders.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31