Friday, December 26, 2008

Obama's "Frightening" Nominations

First, a recap of recent market gains in fear futures... 71

Reflecting, not on the passing government, but on ourselves and our own part in the dismal events of the Bush years, we arrive at some unavoidable conclusions. As citizens we had become so softened by years of prosperous security before his terms that we were vulnerable to manipulation by most of his shallow, fabricated new fears.

We were officially frightened by Osama bin Laden after 911, and his imaginary accomplice, Sadam Hussein shortly after that. We were not frightened by Indian and Pakistani H-bomb tests. Perhaps that fright was reserved for later, that is, for some inevitable future moment when it could be exploited with greater results.

We were frightened by North Korea’s H-bomb test. It enjoyed the serendipity of being at just the right moment, maybe a moment when our fear was subsiding to levels no longer blindly supporting some scheme made politically possible only by our manipulation.

We responded well to Iran’s understandable ambition to arm itself. At any time that fear faltered, we increased our not so subtle threats, making some fiery response a virtual certainty, a reaffirmed asset for domestic consumption here and, of course, a good investment of hate.

We weren’t particularly frightened by Katrina, a deadly but largely unusable source of fear due to its lack of a “bomb-able” adversary. The Russians presented a reliable threat, but they apparently frightened our government in return. They were somewhat less usable, perhaps because they could actually “bite back.”

The point? We, unaccustomed to being threatened after such a long hegemony -- real or imagined, were gradually groomed to be frightened on demand. The neo-cons accurately and successfully managed to convince us that leadership required a threat. In the more rational examination of such leadership, that is, when it was examined without the convenient hysteria of the latest calamity, its appearance might become dangerously lack luster.

The "new frighteners."

Now, these weary “old frighteners” are on their way out of town. Troubling "new frighteners” have arrived with the ambition of taking over the franchise. These "new frighteners” are not neo-cons at all. This new batch is from the other end of the spectrum. We seem to be entering into a period of being frightened by the left.

What are the threats being employed? After all, the left has demonstrated an irritable kind of allergic avoidance to the use of foreign machinations to frighten us. The newest, post election tool is, instead, an interesting innuendo indicting the “progressive purity” of Obama's nominations for places of power in the new government.

There was the momentary mention of the “testing” of the new President, but that was no more than a sickening remnant of the old scheme of threats, one based on the same tired ideology of being hopelessly terrified by foreign adversaries, that is, a tiresome repeat of the one used before. These more contemporary “frighteners” are intent on revealing threats to us about cabinet appointments and the possibilities that our accomplishments in the last election would be undercut with a result of reverting the government back to the numbing failure of its predecessor. They seem to have developed an appetite for questioning the new President’s character even after supporting him only a few weeks or months ago.

The threat they endeavor to manufacture now is one of deception and conspiracy. They imply that the changes we sought have not turned out to be changes at all. These folks would like to take up the mantle of being the "new threateners" with their endless assertion that we, as voters, have been deceived. Again.

Clearly, they consider any fear and fright of this sort that they can incite in us to be a valuable asset to prop up their languishing authority as critics and pundits. They believe that these unexamined doubts they might cause will become very useful foundations for later tirades and tantrums which might have, otherwise, been too obviously shallow to provide the impact they crave. Their future dream is to say, credibly, of course, “I told you so.” “I was the one who cried out the early warning, so believe me now!”

If you’re waiting for the next form of being scared, you may be disappointed. You may have to learn a new trick. The world as previously presented as one of endless, hopeless, despair is going to become one of challenges and opportunities. Instead of groveling and trying to simply survive, we will be required to stand up with our eyes forward. Rather than cowering in a sterile ideological wasteland, lamenting on how things should have been, we will now be required to begin all our thoughts with where things are and where we intend to go.

Domestically, Senatorial bigots and military throwbacks have invested heavily in sponsoring our hatred and fear of each other. Their practiced incompetence was the real conspiracy as they trotted out fabricated alternatives with every choice equally depressing and unpalatable. Their old paradigm of no choices other than dominating or surviving the world is becoming the new, brighter question of successfully living in it.

These aging knee jerkers are now exposed much like the new thought-limiting left. Neither group has earned the right to express their foolish purity. Neither group has ever been willing to pay the honest wage of embracing leadership. The wage? To follow, of course. To trust a little. To think of the country beyond one’s immediate personal ambitions.

These "new frighteners” from the left would like for us to faint before the “hodge podge” of conflicting influences in the new government. They would prefer that we were, well, more hopelessly stoic given the rather raw abilities of these nominations by Obama. These "new frighteners” would prefer that we be pessimists about whether or not he can lead with all these conflicting influences. “Who will be in charge?” they wonder.

I predict that none of us will wonder about this for long.

We have elected a leader with, I suspect, a lethal, pragmatic competence coupled with more idealism that most of us think we can afford right now. Of course we are a bit uncomfortable with what we’ve done, but we can certainly claim that we were at our bravest and our best when we did it, inebriated with new hope.

By the way, that hope isn’t all in him. The important part of that hope is in us.

Leadership, after the wasteland we’ve endured, may seem to be measured by astounding solutions to intractable problems. It isn’t. It’s much more like paint, permanently changing the hue of everything it touches.

Get used to it.

No more being directed by fear. The leader we’ve found won’t amount to much without Americans to follow him.

For a very unusual point of view, sample this link:

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Presidential Pardon Party -- Happy Holidays!

The last act of the strange dark drama in the White House?

Don't count on it.

Think of it as a office gift exchange. 74

Two almost identical young men stood waiting outside the Oval Office in a line with several dozen more, every one an almost perfect copy. All aspiring young attorneys from K Street or elsewhere, they seemed to have arrived from a call to central casting. The hair cut of each one was conservative, identically short and stylish. The well scrubbed, boyish faces all emphasized the overpriced, tailored suits and the multi-hundred dollar silk ties. The practiced mood of subdued reverence was one obviously mastered for missions such as this one.

“Are they doing this in alphabetical order?” the younger of the two asked, turning to face the man next to his position in the line.

His slightly older friend whispered an answer. “Sort of alphabetical, I guess. They started at about 10 AM with Jeb, Harriet Meiers and a list of secret pardons from Cheney. A big bound book of Wall Street names took an hour after that -- we’ll never know who was in there. They did Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham early this morning, than a bunch of rapid fire ‘B’s’ -- you know, Bolton, Blackwater, Blackwell, and Brownie, et cetera. Giuliani and Rumsfeld came as twin drag queens.”

“Michael Scanlon and Tom DeLay’s attorney were here early yesterday. But, after those two, they did Bob Ney and Ralph Reed. An attorney even got the gay guy, Gannon, pardoned. His lawyer didn’t have much of a cash bundle, so I figure they must have had a little dirt of some kind. I guess the male prostitution business isn’t so lucrative anymore.” he continued.

The door opened momentarily to discharge a small group of the previous supplicants. The line inched forward as another small group of the young attorneys entered. The younger of the two quietly peeked through the crack for a glimpse at what was awaiting him when his turn arrived.

The scene was a surreal theater.

All the normal furniture of the Oval Office had been removed, replaced with garish things suggesting screen props from an 1950’s version of Alice in Wonderland. The place was filled with potted ferns and roses. Geese, goats and gerbils seemed to be rushing around in the open area, each contributing its voice to the clamor. Providing background music, a quartet costumed as Cheshire Cats with banjos and harps struggled along with a faint timbre of what might have been some cheerful Transylvanian folk dance had it been produced with more suitable instruments.

A single drummer, dressed as the traditional hooded figure of “Death,” beat out a melancholy, yet consolidating rhythm on a solitary snare held by a suspiciously decorated leather strap around his neck and shoulder. His drumming seemed to inspire the animals, at least the geese, to attempt to synchronize their squawking with the beat.

The President was seated at one end of the room on an elaborate sort of medieval chair. He was dressed in a theatrical lime green tuxedo with tails. Obviously inebriated, even though still early morning, he slumped with the detachment of a depressed imperial indifference to the events in the room. He wore a great, green top hat, probably made of foam rubber, adorned with rhinestones and peacock feathers in a long flowing plume.

A troop of immense, bare chested wrestlers had just completed their performance. Staffers were hurriedly ushering them out the far door. A dance team of young women dressed as Vestal Virgins waited impatiently for a signal to begin the next entertainment act. Some had already begun to throw rose petals onto floor at the center of the room.

Several young men from the same waiting line were in the Oval Office moving respectfully around what seemed to be a Bush administration version of the “stations of the cross.”

Wide eyed, the young lobbyist attorney again turned to his more experienced acquaintance, puzzled. “What in God’s name is going on in there?”

His friend answered calmly. “Relax. If you’d been here last time, you would understand everything. I spoke to a guy from the Chief of Staff’s office yesterday. It seems that the Bush wanted to avoid the Berlin Bunker atmosphere for the pardoning ceremony. The President choreographed this whole thing himself.”

Again, the first young lawyer stumbled. “But what does all this mean?”

His acquaintance answered. “In 2004 the motive was the Crusades. This year, it’s the Mad Hatter. Didn’t your boss tell you anything about this?”

The younger man responded, glancing down at the huge suitcase of 1,000 Euro notes handcuffed to his wrist, “All he told me was to make sure that the currency counting machine was stopped after the batch before me before I put all these Euros in it. He said it might not look like it, but that the exact amount of cash was important. He said it was something like a contribution to the Presidential Library Fund or something.”

His friend offered, “Well, it’s good that you’ve got that part straight. What happens in the room is simple enough. You go directly to the Attorney General -- he’s the one dressed in the Supreme Court robes. He will give you a parking ticket with your boss’s name on it.”

“After that, you take the ticket to the tall guy over by the windows. He’s playing the role of the Great Confessor. He’s the one dressed up as a medieval abbot. He’ll ask you if your client wants to voluntarily confess to the charges on the ticket. He means your boss, of course. You raise your hand and say ‘Yes, Great Confessor. My client confesses that he is truly guilty as charged.’ At that point, all the judicial stuff is done.”

“Then put all your Euro’s in the currency counter in front of Paulson.”

He could see Secretary of the Treasury sitting on a great wooden throne, elevated above the remainder of the room. Costumed as an extravagant courtier, he was heavily made up with bizarre cosmetics. Flamboyant lipstick had enlarged the outline of his mouth to reach from ear to ear suggesting a threatening psychopathy. Every detail of the man’s appearance was darkly grotesque.

“Let his little elf there in front of the throne run all the cash through the counting machine. When it’s done, he will whisper the amount in Paulson’s ear. Paulson is the one made up as the Exchequer for the Queen of Hearts. They’ll throw your boss’s, uh, donation in that big pot, and the ‘Exchequer’ will nod at the President.”

Astonished, the first young lawyer asked, “And then?”

His friend answered, “And then the Mad Hatter will wave his hand and the bunch from the Justice Department will issue your boss’s blanket pardon. You want to slowly and reverently back away -- withdraw ceremoniously toward this same door. Bowing subserviently wouldn’t hurt.”

The newer man asked, “What’s the parking ticket’s part in all of this?”

His more experienced associate responded, “That’s important. Blanket pardons can’t be issued without an admission of guilt. Now, we both know that the exact details of the, uh, ‘guilt’ involved here could hardly bear the light of day, so confessing to the parking ticket is a way to cover everything. Think of it as a symbolic act of contrition. Once you confess in your boss’s behalf, the pardon becomes legal. Of course, it centers on the confession to the parking violation, but, once that’s in the bag, the blanket pardon covers everything else. Slick, huh?”

The young man whispered back, “This is nuts. Does anyone on the, I mean, on the outside have any idea what’s going on here?”

His friend answered, also in a low voice, “No, of course not. You’d better believe it’s better that way. This has been going on a for a couple of days now, but the news black out is holding. Murdoch and the rest of the media CEO’s are scheduled for later today.”

He continued, “I plan to record as much as possible on this belt buckle I got through the security screen. I’ll blackmail my boss if his pardon goes through. I’m sure he’s already budgeted enough to pay me off. After all, he is a K Street lobbyist, right?”

“Wow. I work for an investment banker. They’re a little meaner than K Street guys. You know, a little more violent and pragmatic.” He paused for a moment, clearly deep in thought, then continued. “Gosh. All these people getting pardons. They’ve been running everything for eight years.” He mused pensively. “If they’re all gone, you know, pardoned and everything and gone on back to their regular lives, who’s going to run the government?”

This post proves that pardons can be fun! If you'd like to try it yourself -- with just a few actual facts -- link away!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Some Part of the First Amendment

I received a nice email from one of the regular visitors to this blog site. She asked me about the little numbers by the titles of the Short Current Essays. For example, the most recent post, "Pretending It's Just More Politics" has the number "70" at the end of its sub-herald. She compared that "70" to the Blog Archive count of "57," and inquired about the missing posts.

She was, indeed, quite correct about the little "70." I put those numbers on things in my giant blog file (on this end, you know, in the computer) to keep track of everything.

Her question was, also, well founded. There are a number of posts in that file which haven't reached Short Current Essays, yet.

Yeah, Obama won the election.

Yeah, the scoundrels are getting run out of town.

However, there is still the minor problem of a 1st Amendment that isn't yet restored to its full potency. There are still a number of American citizens in prisons without benefit of due process, charges, lawyers, trials or habeas corpus. Yuck. There are probably American citizens in similar straits behind bars in Georgebuckistan waiting for extraordinary rendition.

Maybe when things are a little better those other thirteen posts can emerge. Until then, I suspect I've been as free with this speech as I dare.

Did you figure I was stupid?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pretending It’s Just More Politics

Cut the drama already! It's just another election.
Right? So, chill. Everything will be back to the way it was in no time.70

Here, in America, we love our politics. We take great pains to say we don't, but we do. These athletic contests we hold periodically allow those of us with an appetite for any channel of respect and superiority to proffer up “the right answer according to me,” along with every manner of dramatic persuasion. It seems that we have an unending ambition to have been the ones with insight or perception remarkable enough to either prognosticate our future dilemmas or offer up spectacular solutions which testify to all who watch of our remarkable savvy or, perhaps, even our startling genetic, intellectual prowess.

We also have an indulgent taste for predicting exaggerated dire adversaries and other threats.

We comfortably perceive our politics as an indulgence directed at “better” or “worse” answers. After all, in the past even our worst decisions have been survivable. So far in our entire national history we’ve sought out every answer by dissecting the more acceptable alternative topics not included in the “burning question of the day.” To date we’ve never paid too great a price for our foolishness or naiveté. We’ve never been successfully invaded, conquered, attacked or damaged -- nationally -- so gravely that we could not endure and recover.

Having never been laid that low, our pretense about politics continually provided the narcotic implication that we dealt with every challenge from a position of strength, that is, strength sufficiently great that we would inevitably emerge to correct our errors. Living in that unlikely fantasy, we encountered no events so troubling that we couldn’t disregard them in favor of debating nuances of our national reality as if they were the substance of everything.

Some of our population saw the contest between the extremely old and the frighteningly new in the last election in just this superficial manner. All the banter seemed quite comfortably moribund, couched in no more than another set of traditionally indulgent details to be chewed as fat by fish wives whose entire universe extended only to the last tents in the market square. We moan and reassure ourselves about our skeptical superiority, romantically akin to desperately swimming to the nearest lifeboat -- or any accessible flotsam -- after a sudden and disastrous capsize, then, once again, devolving into endless arguments of inane ideology before scrambling on board.

The United States is not smoothly dipping through another period of “corrections” for some trivial miscalculation, anticipating a few weeks or months of being denied a few normally available prerogatives. Our descent is suspiciously steeper than that, and deeper. We are apparently dumbfounded at the full scope of the damage now that it is revealed in a more rational light.

We have been, perhaps, mortally injured. We may not survive the damage we’ve suffered. The stakes are that severe.

It seems that not a single tool of our national sustenance remains in tact after the last outrageous subversion. We face the possibility that neither our military, our economy, our Constitution nor our spirit has survived in a form strong enough to hold us together while we frantically rebuild what we have left. The final looting of the treasury might be the bright spot. It suggests that the thieves believe the currency will have value again someday.

Of course there’s still the currency exchange.

Obama might be a solution to this national hemorrhage, or he might be just a hopeful triage or, at least, a soothing first aid placebo able only to comfort us for our final denouement. His election may have harnessed a horse which can pull us through this Bush crisis or maybe offer only a lessor promise, that is, a delay and a respite until its final, inevitable outcome.

A few matters are becoming more clear. Yes, we were stunned at the $700 billion cash affair. Those of us who paid just a little more attention to the news now know that the total is actually approaching $8 trillion and that the credit swaps and other doodad parasites imposed on our economy amount to more than $500 trillion.

By the way, that last figure is more money than there is in the world.

We are led to believe that we dare not simply stop, but that we still need to pay it back. Otherwise, those folks who managed to take it will return and scare us even more.

We are led to believe that it was something ugly that “just happened,” that is, “just happened” like a sudden rain storm or a flood. We are led to believe that those who profited so much cannot really be expected to repay the larceny extracted during their schemes. We are led to believe that the same thing would have happened no matter who was in charge of the country. We are even led to believe that the whole business actually has very little to do with us, that it is a problem inhabited by pain and recovery only for the stratospheric elite.

There is a storm coming.

Remember the endless discussion during the most violent period of the Iraq invasion? "Gosh, is it a civil war or not?" The new version addresses whether or not it is a recession, or, even a depression, as if anyone walking on the earth here could still wonder. We may need a new, even more depressing term to describe what awaits us.

The current job loss figure is around 15,000 per day. The value of trillions of dollars worth of retirement investments is around 40% of what it was a year ago. The individual tax burden of Washington’s most recent largess amounts to around $140,000 for every taxpayer. The ninnies of the far right still explode with fractured indignity at the prospect of talking to the enemies they’ve made for us.

Just another election?

Just another correction?

Imagine holding the 23rd century history book which accounts the story of the world. Perhaps, mid way through there is a chapter describing the period of the democracies, two or three centuries around the second millennium. Place the story of the events of the last eight years toward the end of that chapter.

Now, for the “politics as usual” crowd of cynics, try to ignore it. Convince us that it amounts to no more than a wild, silly exaggeration. Just another election.

So, how are the levees? It's Pearl Harbor Day.

Fill in the holes. Exactly what could this turn into? This is an account of a similar situation as it developed in Argentina (you know, that country in South America where the ruling class were crooks):