Crackpot realism, Obama section Archives

July 18, 2008

When I hear the word 'empowerment'...

Here's a bit of burble from a fresh-faced young Obamaphile, Sara Haile-Miriam, in the do-it-yourself section of the Huffington Post:

I don't agree with Senator Obama's vote on the FISA Bill, and yet, I'm thankful. A year ago I wouldn't have understood the ramifications and so his ability to draw me into the process, empowering me to have an opinion, is something to be celebrated. I think it's extraordinary that thousands of others felt empowered enough to confront him on it, on his website no less.

Americans are starting to see the power of organizing on behalf of causes that we believe in. We've been empowered by his words, and that power has enabled us to insist on better.

Still, the debacle over the Fisa controversy frustrated me.... [But] before we stalk off yard signs in hand and insist upon keeping our donations and our time hostage, remember that.... [h]e will be a President who will enlist the American people into a mission to change our country for the better. He will be a President who compels us to ask more of our leadership....

Refining a policy is now seen as blasphemy, even if the intention of the original policy was to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Evidently, consulting the Generals on the ground isn't seen as careful, it's seen as backtracking.

Lucus a non lucendo, as another man said: all the incantatory references to "power" clearly exhibit the utter powerlessness which Sara here has not only accepted but embraced.

She had to be "empowered" to have an opinion? And this divine afflatus was bestowed, somehow, by a senator from Illinois? Others have been "empowered" to post squeaks of protest on the Great Man's web site. Oh man, the Tennis Court Oath was nothing to this mighty popular upsurge. We now have the "power" to "insist on better" -- though where the power will come from to enforce our insistence does not clearly appear.

Obama appears to have fulfilled Isaiah's messianic promise:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.
Sara, who once was lost in insensate incognition, has had her eyes opened and her tongue unstopped, and now she's found -- in "the process". Hosanna!

Actually, she's right about this "process" thing. This is the reason why I loathe the Democratic Party. I'm sure Sara is a fine, good-hearted, well-meaning person. But Obama, like some sort of moral ju-jitsu master, has used her own strengths of character to lever her into the "process" -- where she rapidly descends to arguing for a "careful" withdrawal from Iraq. What does Sara think will be happening during this extended period of "carefulness"? We will be very carefully and judiciously killing more people, that's what. Don't kill hard -- kill smart.

He will be a President who compels us to ask more of our leadership....
Here again, Sara has said something that's very true, in a couple of senses she probably didn't intend. We will certainly end up wanting a great deal more from our "leadership"(*) than we will get.

And the only thing we'll be able to do about it is "ask". Please, Sir, may I have some more?


(*) Sara means our rulers, of course, when she says "leaders". But this euphemism per contrariam is universal.

November 13, 2008

Fanship undertow

Small-boat sailors know that they should always stay well clear of large vessels. There's a very dangerous suction that a container ship, or a tanker, creates, as its enormous hull shoves through the water -- a suction that can draw a small craft right up against the behemoth's hull, with predictably unpleasant consequences.

There is a similar phenomenon in politics. It's one of the reasons I disapprove of voting -- much less working -- for Democrats. The well-meaning pwog, in his or her little coracle or catboat, ventures out into the harbor. He falls into the suction of a mighty steel-hulled commercial ship, like the SS Obama. He is drawn closer, and closer. He collides with its cold, unyielding adamantine sides. His fragile craft is smashed, and he is pulled under, and drowned -- drowned intellectually, and politically. Things that would have had him baying at the moon, if Bush had done them, he now finds excuses for -- when a Democrat does them.

I call it Fanship Undertow.

I've seen it time and time again. There's a lot of it going around just now. An occasional correspondent of mine -- let's call her Sadie -- recently wrote:

Rahm's an interesting choice- I know that there's some concern about him being a partisan figure but he's (in my view) not facilitating a partisan role. His main objective is to keep the ship in order and his experience in the Clinton administration would indicate that he knows how to navigate the waters (so to speak). Even more importantly he's ultimately pushing Obama's agenda....
Classic. This young woman would have been quite ready to agree that Rahm Emanuel was the Abomination of Desolation -- until Obama picked him.

But she has given her heart to Obama. And a heart once given is not easily taken back. So the Fanship Undertow has gripped her. Her good, well-meaning heart has been drawn under. Will she survive? I hope so. How long can she hold her breath?

Two things strike me about her ingenious, hopeful email:

1) She has become a Crackpot Realist. All of a sudden this youthful insurgent has come to value order -- experience -- knowing how to "navigate the waters."

2) She is still delirious with giddy, utterly unfounded hope. Rahm will "push Obama's agenda." From what we know about Rahm -- and we know a lot -- does he seem like the sort of guy who would push anybody's agenda but his own?

November 14, 2008

The ratchet effect

I happened to run into my old friend Annie today -- Annie, the old Lefty I've written about before, who can't get away from the Democratic Party even though she knows better. I couldn't resist teasing Annie about the number of raddled old Clintonites with whom Mr Hope And Change is surrounding himself. (Annie loathed Bill Clinton -- loathed him so much that she actually voted for Nader in 2000, though she has since repented, in sackcloth and ashes, for her sin.)

"Hey Annie. Looks like what's old is new again. Clinton's third term!"

She looked at me sourly. But she's game. "After eight years of Bush," she observed, "Clinton doesn't seem so bad."

Now there, if you like, is as beautiful an illustration of the ratchet effect as you could hope to find. The two parties' well-practiced collusive pas de deux has got her giving thanks now for things she despised eight years ago -- things that she correctly saw as deeply reactionary and detestable.

So it goes. By conceding the legitimacy of Reagan and Bush I's revanche, Clinton prepared the ground for a further revanche under Bush II, who took the ball and ran with it it so far that he makes Clintonism in retrospect -- well, in blurry, amnesiac retrospect, anyway -- look comparatively benign.

This phenomenon is at the heart of the American two-party system. The only thing that ever interrupts or arrests it -- much less reverses it -- is those blessed outbreaks of near-insurrection: the Populist upsurge, the Thirties, the Sixties.

Man, are we ever overdue for another one.

May 17, 2009

Happy Merit Campers

Photo credit to Agitprop

When I was a pre-pubescent schoolboy, I thought it would be so cool to be Mr. Spock. He stalked gracefully through the neurotic meltdowns of life on the Enterprise and gave people crippling nerve spasms in their necks. This was important to me. I attended a school where the headmaster wore a codpiece, a strap-on on his forehead and nothing else. The faculty encouraged studious behavior through forced cannibalism. Every semester around midterms, the headmaster would scream "cull the herd, cull the herd!" over the PA system. Then he'd run through the halls, whinnying, goosing people with the strap-on, as we students cast nervous glances at the caldrons tended by our home room teachers and lined up to sharpen our #2 pencils. It would have been nice to get through this with Spock's splendid indifference. It would have been even better to give the headmaster a crippling nerve spasm. This might have spared my earliest friends the ghastly fate that attends poor test performance and spared the contingently meritorious the sad task of eating them. I had to settle for disgrace and expulsion.

When time permits, I worry about the people who did make it through, I really do. As far as I know, the majority of them became "cultural creatives". That is, they became marketers, marketing consultants, people who sell patented marketing techniques to consultants and people who leverage marketing into consultancies. The trauma of their schooling has scarred them so badly that they force themselves to forget it. Regrettably, they also recreate the same dynamic in their workplaces. For comfort, they seek refuge in a dream, as I did, of salvation through Spockhood. Hence their enthusiasm for Obama.

Can they be helped? In a word, no. Corporate infantilization has destroyed all hope for change. Owen has argued in favor of rustication as a means of unlearning the corporate "virtues", but there are no salubrious rural areas left. They've been flooded by yuppie NeoAgrarians in search of public servant farmers. The landscapes are dotted with their fair trade yurts and enormous banks of recycling porta-potties block the few remaining migratory paths of the dwindling wildlife. It's time for them to stop sharpening their #2 pencils and come to terms with their fate. The caldrons are ready and their wingnut classmates are hungry.

August 19, 2009

Death Panels

There's a lot of confusion about the so-called "death panels". Their proper name is the Citizens' Select Panels for End of Life Consultation. It's similar to a jury. Your end of life consultation will be administered by your peers, in coordination with the Department of Motor Vehicles and your insurance provider, if you have one. If you don't, the DMV will stand in for you.

I sat on a panel today. As a budgetary measure, for cost savings, they're combined with random traffic stops. The police recruit a jury from the cars as they wait to get through the checkpoint. Potential cost-saving consultees are selected at random, often from the same car as the jurists. This is a community-building measure and gives all parties a sense of solidarity, a sense of shared responsibility. The DMV and the insurance providers do a quick cost benefit analysis, which is forwarded to Peter Orszag's office, processed with a spread sheet application and checked for accurate metrics. It's very quick. The results are given to the jury. The consultation itself is outsourced to Xe, Inc, formerly Blackwater. They're trying to clean up their reputation and this private/public partnership is their best opportunity. The vehicles of the consultees are towed away and exchanged for fuel efficient police vehicles; Mercury Mariner hybrid SUVs are very popular.

The policeman who recruited me explained that the consumer-driven, little pun there, reforms are not as popular as he expected, but as the unemployment rate creeps up the compensation for the jurists, who get a $25 per diem and a $5 decider's dividend, will make a big difference. I suppose it will. Yes, I suppose it will.

August 21, 2009

The Thanksralphers Are Back

Via Smithee, the Revenge of the Nader-Baiters.

Here is a person who has been rolled in ways that are criminal and unforgivable, who is being rolled right now, who finds solace in the memory of condescending to kids who don't care to be rolled. It looks, for all the world, exactly like the "wisdom" of the smart high school kids who mistake an accommodation with vindictive, whimsically delusional authority for maturity. A few steps up the food chain, this freak show version of a modus vivendi is called crackpot realism; Peter Orszag and Samantha Power territory.

Maybe there's some comfort in being a more articulate snack than the poor saps who cry 'keep your government hands off my Medicare!'.

September 21, 2009

The Good Emperor

are we to believe a fork in the road still exists in the whitehouse over the afpak picnic ??

the discussion in the White House is now focused on whether, after eight years of war, the United States should vastly expand counterinsurgency efforts along the lines he has proposed -- which involve an intensive program to improve security and governance in key population centers -- or whether it should begin shifting its approach away from such initiatives and simply target leaders of terrorist groups who try to return to Afghanistan

a mattress jack moment ???



we all know the good emperor choice...

come to the lite side obs baby ..

September 28, 2009

Reschooling Society

The imperial poindexter wants kids to spend more time in school. According to the president, this will help make them euphemism buzzword talking point in the global competitive feeding frenzy.

Successful Democrats can't or won't differentiate between schooling and education. Schooling is designed to achieve a certain social outcome. The schools in the United States are very good at producing this. There's nothing wrong with them, as far as that goes. The desired outcome isn't guaranteed, but in neoliberal utopia a child is placed on a series of hamster wheels and twenty some odd years later the child is producing, guarding or finding ways to leverage intellectual property under the benevolent gaze of acculturated sociopaths. Those that go off the deep end wind up in think tanks, where they can find work producing demands that the school system be made worse or demanding that the system provide more opportunities for child grinding, e.g. AEI and Brookings, respectively. Outside utopia, schooling serves as punitive day care. This, too, produces the desired outcome. It's not guaranteed, etc. etc, but there's no better way to stock prisons and McJob corrals. In short, the schooling is functioning about as well as one could hope. Increasing the time on the hamster wheels isn't going to make the halcyon days of the Clinton regime come back. What it will do is burn out more kids at a faster rate.

An education, by contrast, makes social outcome difficult to extensively control and predict. Much of it is labor intensive and emotionally demanding. The procrustean metrics favored by overachieving sycophants and authoritarian paranoiacs can't be applied. They're antithetical to an actual education. If the application of the metrics is cranking out insufficient replacement personnel for the sycophancy and paranoia industries, well that's just too bad. We'll struggle on without them. We'll also have to look for ways to live that don't include producing, guarding or finding ways to leverage intellectual property under the benevolent gaze of acculturated sociopaths. Is this so awful?

It's hard to see this hamster wheel enhancement proposal as anything but a rearguard action to protect hamster wheels that have done their job all too well.

October 12, 2009

Inside The Hive Mind of the Political Class

Some foreign policy analysts say the Nobel prize may complicate his [Obama's] efforts to wind down the war in Iraq, his deliberations on whether to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, and other international issues.

Shrieking Head Central, via Distant Ocean

There are times when something like that offers a dollop of solace. The sincerity and seriousness with which such deranged sentiments are delivered puts paid to any doubts that a bugfuck nuts system will produce anything but a political class that thinks entirely in crackpot, cretinous absurdities. One needn't feel obliged to play discursive, meliorist whack-a-mole with them or their partisans. If they were ever capable of being anything but crackpots, that capacity is long gone.

This doesn't negate the agency of the actors or absolve them. And the solace, ultimately, isn't that much comfort. What this does contribute is a perfectly valid, ad hominem dismissal of their rhetoric: they're full of shit, and will always be full of shit, because of who they are.

November 1, 2009

Laugh away, chumps

The Democrats are getting a big kick out of George W. Bush, motivational speaker. It is amusing, in a sufficiently narrow context. He remains a tongue-tied cretin, and the laughs are literally cheap. $19! Torment the whole office for one low, easy payment! He was at the wheel when the national SUV hit the abutment, now he's motivating the business dudes?! Ha, ha, ha! Hoo! Tee hee... etc. etc.

Meanwhile, Mr. Complete Sentences has engorged the banksters with endless free liquidity and parked their toxic assets where they can't be unwound. He's paying them and subsidizing them and encouraging them to make the national consequences of "too big to fail" permanent. In a remarkably short period of time, he's done more to hurt the country than George W. Bush, the chuckle-head chimp, the smirking idiot that progressives managed to lose to, twice. I have no doubt he'll pull much more than $19 admission fees when his turn comes, and I have no doubt this booby prize will be taken to prove something.

November 4, 2009

Merit Vomit

The White House says that Republican wins in two governors' races were not referendums on the president.

Well, they would say that, now wouldn't they? I doubt they expect to be taken seriously, but who knows for sure. This pantomime of theirs has its own logic and the mummers are all solipsists. One could peel the onion of their psyches forever.

I can make a case that it was indeed a referendum, and score a few wholesome tendentious points along the way, but it seems far more likely that the Democrats are paying the price, an expected and even welcome price, for demobilizing and demoralizing their base. The Great Liberal Bus is teetering on top of a pile of the people pushed under it. From the very start, the Democrats have fought their activists harder than they've fought the Republicans. They've had them arrested! They threaten defunding and priggishly abandon allies at the first whiff of scandal. This is not the kind of thing that drives liberal, meliorist activists into the arms of the Republicans, but it's hardly inspiring. All they have left, at this point, are the unhinged creepy people Smithee keeps an eye on.

Lest I be mistaken for a concern troll, I have no advice for them — other than drop dead, of course. They're actually doing just fine, by their standards, and following a business model that works perfectly. That's the problem. Over the next few years, they'll go back into feckless "opposition" and wait for the Republicans to so thoroughly fuck the goat that all they have left are their own unhinged creepy people. If you've ever wondered why our national discourse is so spiteful, neurotic, dishonest and infantile, now you know. That's what works best on unhinged creepy people. They're an invaluable resource, for kleptocrats.

There's a point I want to make that is hard to overstate. The Democrats will take a win, if they can get one without changing their model, and will take a loss too, if that's in the cards, also without changing their model. It's a no-win situation for meliorists. If they align with them, they're going to be suckered into a corporate "worse the better" strategy every time. It's amoral collegiality, and it works. The only electoral beneficiary is the Republican Party. The rest of the victory, needless to say, stays with their sponsors.

July 1, 2010

A civilian expeditionary force for Iraq and Afghanistan

Raw Story a has a piece on it, with some entertaining comments.

Democrats have for years been extolling the virtues of poorly compensated compulsory service. It's the feel good version of the Republicans' strength through miserable obedience program. The Democrats offer goo-goo satisfaction and oneupmanship sanctimony as a teaser. The Republicans offer hostile goo and a sense of moral victimhood.

The parties are intensely and cynically interested in extracting surplus value through appeals to frustrated compassion. And of course the appeals are targeted at youngsters, who face the prospect of decades of soul-killing drudgery in occupations directly opposed to anything even hinting at compassion. Of the two, the Republicans are a tiny bit more straightforward: miserable obedience, performed properly, offers a little power somewhere down the line. They even have a perverse meritocracy and ethical system. The Democrats' model relies on the Republicans' regular implosions.

Faced with a series of crises, created by what passes for ideology amongst the elite, the Democrats put out a feeler for the market-readiness of old wine in hope'n'change bottles. They want shabbily compensated, compulsory labor as a means of delaying a reckoning for imperial botchery. The sensible thing would be to abandon the misbegotten project. There's no fix for it. Managerial royalism in any cause has nothing to offer, no matter how much enthusiastic "human capital" is poured into propping up stooge regimes and pasting smiley faces on cruel exploitation. It's a cynical ploy and won't change a thing. They may however manage to put a number of ingenuous humanitarians in harm's way.

I used to wonder how they could live with themselves. But the answer is right there. They live quite nicely. Although they occasionally feel sorry for themselves.

August 27, 2010

Predictive Policing

Human behavior is not irreducibly complex. I can, with little effort, give an accurate prediction of criminal conduct right down to the crimes and individuals who commit them. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Or, more to the point, like the mass murder of defenseless subsistence farmers.

I can also predict, with the same degree of accuracy, that the use of statistics-driven predictive policing to control less spectacular crimes will be used as a means of harassment, entrapment, false imprisonment and mass criminalization driven by moral panic. The great social philosopher, Richard J. Daley, observed that "[the] police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder." Feed that into your program for change.

When it comes to reduction of less spectacular crimes, money is better spent on facilitating compliance than on enforcement. Policy is better directed at increasing economic security than on reducing it. Etc. It's hardly rocket science and the methods for doing so are well known.

November 15, 2010

Rhinestone POTUS update

LA Times reports on a post-election White House liberal bigfoot powwow:

"Three days after the midterm elections, senior Obama aides suggested to a gathering of liberal groups at the White House that they might need to scale back their expectations. In the wake of the big Republican win, there would be no new major legislative pushes from President Obama in 2011... The mood, according to some participants at the meeting, was dour. Although the White House advisors said job creation would be a central goal, they did not lay out a concrete plan for putting more people to work. There was an undercurrent of, 'Hey, folks. We're going to have to play some defense'".
Perfection... no?

And this from legenary deep think Dembot Joe Trippi:

"When a president with those kinds of majorities loses the majority in the House, that weakens him in a way where he's going to have to compromise or get less done."
Amazing. The poor battered soul of great merit! Now he has to start compromisin' his load of compromisin', on the road to no horizon.

January 12, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance Today

Matt Stoller does a superb job of defining consumer liberalism, the views of its adherents and the calamitous meltdown of what achingly meager sense they had.

...she does not understand the thesis, but instinctively rejects it as conspiratorial nonetheless. Her response as to what she believes in suggests not a coherent system, but simply a menu of concepts she finds pleasing. She lists off a set of concepts, like a consumer at a shopping market, picking and choosing what she wants. Oh, I’ll have the human rights, the egalitarianism, some social justice, and a side of, oh that looks good, “pragmatic skepticism of all forms of power, private as well as governmental.” Oh, and democracy, that too. Yummy. Having such an attitude requires ignoring the historical links between the oil industry, war-making, and the New Deal. It requires believing that infrastructure like highways and airports were built because good liberals were in charge, instead of the very obvious point that this stuff made the oil industry a lot of money while spreading prosperity to the middle class.

Stoller, and the Naked Capitalism writers, come very close to my conception of liberalism, which has had its proponents of humane consideration and real reformist endeavor. Now is not the time to get into my objections to that program. Digby, Drum, Alterman, the liberal hawks and the crackpot realists, the Nader-baiters and the Obamaphiles in general are in no way distinguishable from wingnuts. They're brand identity consumers on a shopping spree. Stoller has them dead to rights. And they don't like it all.

Just as a footnote, for my own selfish amusement, this is pretty fucking sweet. The old Reds here will be dead and buried before anything good comes along, but it could happen! It really could and that's heartening.

About Crackpot realism, Obama section

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Crackpot realism, Obama section category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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