Monday, November 23, 2009

MeanMesa Surrenders to the Rich

A heartfelt speech of sincere apology MeanMesa would like to make to Mr. Billy Joe Billionaire for all the bad stuff we done.

To set the stage, Billy Joe Billionaire's jest relaxin' with a mint julep on the veranda of his ranch house. MeanMesa approaches, barefoot and still dressed in coveralls from a hard day's work, head hung low and eyes fixed on the ground.

Billy Joe speaks, "Come on up he'ah onto the porch, boy. I heared yew got somethin' t' say t' me."

At first hesitating, the farm hand (MeanMesa) slowly climbs the steps to the veranda and breathlessly begins to speak, holding his worn straw hat in his hands respectfully.

"Gosh, Mr. Billionaire, I jest don't know where to start. Whatever you may be thinkin' right now, I wanted to come up here and tell you how sorry we all was about things and to promise ya that we'll try t' do better in the future. You know, try t'stay in our place a little better so's we don't upset you so much.

Geewhiz, after you let us elect Obama, I reckon we all jest started thinkin' crazy. We kind 'a got swept away with the moment, and thet crazy thinkin' jest seemed to keep on goin'. Now that I kin look back at it, we started acting pretty damned uppity right about then. I want you t' know that acting like thet ain't really what we wanted to do t 'all. We was just excited, and we kind 'a lost our grip on whut we was doin'.

But once we got started, all excited and everything, stuff like thet health care thing just got out'a control. We sort'a got too big fer our britches. Damn! If any of us done had our heads screwed on right, we would have knowed better than to try somethin' stupid lahk thet. I don't know what got into us.

We were running around like little kids, electing majorities in your Congress and Senate -- thinking, somehow, that we could jest plow right on ahead and do any democratic thing whut come to mind. It really was jest the excitement and everything thet made us act like thet, you know, foolish and stubborn -- disrespectful.

We wasn't thinkin' about you t'all. We was jest roarin' forward with whut we wanted, ev'ybody else be damned. Most of us never even thought about how hurt you and your insurance company friends might git 'cuz of whut we was doin'.

We know thet we deserve to be punished. We can only plead for you to be as kind as ya' can. We unnerstand now why you and yer friends took all thet money out the economy. Actually, it was fer our own good, even though we didn't think so at the time. It sort of shocked us into realizin' how unreasonable we was behavin'.

Hell, some of us done thought after we ponied up all that bail out money that y'all might just relax a little and let us have some of the stuff we was want'n, but now we realize that we were jest bein' selfish. Now we know thet the bailout money was already yours anyways -- even before we gave it to you.

We also knew that you guys had already paid a darned pretty penny to set yourselves up with the Senate. I cain't imagine, now that I'm back to my right mind, why we was thinkin' we could jest elect a majority and railroad right over you to get what we wanted like health care or a climate bill or some oth'a crazy thing.

Thank God thet y'all was set up to handle stuff like this. Y'all know, make it right! I guess that once the possibility that some of our tax money might be directed somewheres else b'sides on over to y'all come up, we sort'a done went crazy. It was like sipping corn whiskey or something. We got all liquored up faster than we expected, and off we went, trying to change all sorts of stuff that we didn't have no business bothering with at all.

Once you and your helpers started spewing out the lies and stuff, we started to realize how important it was for us to do the right thing and keep everything jest like it was. Them lies didn't really bother us all thet much, but once we thought about why you was doing thet, it dawned on us that you was really gettin' upset. Later on, I figured out that you and your rich buddies were really having hurt feelin's.

We are so, so sorry. We should'a been more grateful instead of jest bitchin' so much.

So far as trying to make things right, I don't think we can unelect the President now once we already voted him in, but that don't mean thet we cain't start over without pushin' back on our crazy plan to make all these changes. No sirree! We could for sure do thet alright!

We already have a plan to get on the phone'n call all yer Congressmen and Senators and tell 'em that we didn't mean it. We can tell 'em that it would be lots better if they just dumped the health care bill before any of you guys got hurt and we'd still be pleased -- no, honored -- to vote all of 'em in again. I think maybe thet might work.

Maybe we could talk them into passing a law thet made it illegal to change anythin' about the set up we have right now. If y'all gave 'em orders to do the same thing, I bet they would. Then, at least your money part would be set straight again. Then y'all could plan that the cash would start flowing in to you the way it is s'posed to.

That'd make yew feel better wouldn't it? Gettin' your money to start flowing just like it always done in the old days, right?

Yew could have yer Senators raise our taxes to pay back all the hard earned dollars we made yew spend to throw the vote. Even add in some extra! We could add a little extra taxes on top of thet to make up fer how bad we tried to treat you. Now that we're in our right minds again, none of us thinks it was fair fer yeu to have t' spend all thet money jest on account of our pig headedness. We cain't figure that you're goin' to believe how bad we feel if we leave without fixin' somethin' like that.

In fact, wh'ah don't y'all jest order up a nice big tax break to freshen up yer money bins? We kin go right along with ya' on somethin' like thet. Y'all deserve a nice present for taking'such good care of us and all. In fact, maybe we could get yer Senators to make a nice tax break for the hill billies and bigots yew had t' hire fer yer tea bag thangs. Thet might sweeten 'em up a little, too. I have to admit, we was purty hard on 'em while the fur was flyin'."

So, however yew decide t' punish us will be jest fine. We know we deserves more than just what ya' done to the economy. After all, if yew jest let this slip on by, we'll never learn.

Yup. Spare the rod, spoil the child."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol for 2009

The Uninvited Ghosts of Christmas Come To Call.

No need to change the sheets in the guest room, you'll be moving outside.

For a complete public domain text, including an audio, of Charles Dickens,

A Christmas Carol

November of 2008 found the grotesque wreckage of the autocracy lurching awkwardly to an unseemly ending. It had, apparently, eaten itself -- along with much of the treasure of the rest of the country. The landscape was scarred by the plunder which had raged forward, unabated under the cover of the W.

Between the election and the inauguration, three months would pass amid the collapsed economy, the missing trillions, the wounded 401K accounts, the wars staggering, unmanaged across the Middle East and the horrid, violent rumblings of terrified, desperate dictatorships in North Korea and Iran.

Admittedly, MeanMesa's idea of a good time for that moment had to do with guillotines and proletariat mobs rushing along Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street. Happily, cooler minds prevailed. Happily, cooler minds had been elected and were in charge.

Between November of 2008 and January of 2009 a single question floated about everywhere in the country. We all either knew for certain or suspected mightily that the democracy was in grave peril. Would the Junior Bush and his crime family leave office peacefully? Was there a sufficient remnant of the nation remaining in tact after the looting to spur a momentary reluctance to engage in even greater, even more ambitious, more unbelievably outrageous dreams of power for the unelected incumbent W?

With strange childhood fears still haunting the autocrat, he blinked. The nation and the democracy prevailed, perhaps even in the face of unlikely odds.

However, since the first flicker of actual daylight warmed the wounded and the dead, three unsettling faces have come to visit our table in 2009. We can say what they are right here. We can consider this entire collection of incomplete or artificial mindsets a grisly parody of Dickens' Ghosts of Christmas.

2009 -- the Ghost of Christmas Past

The gravity of those dark moments when this young country teetered on the edge of a permanent descent into oligarchy have passed too quickly. We could be discussing the descent into the purgatorial limbo of a trashed economy, but, looking back, MeanMesa sees the crisis as one with far greater breadth.

The Ghost of Christmas Past carries with it the memory -- or the dream -- or the nightmare -- of the state of the nation before the destruction began. With such a pleasant, calming wraith entreating the survivors with comforting visions of times long ago lost, the gravity of the looting and other destruction slips into a sleepy numbness. Why, in no time we deserve to be right back where we were before!

We dream that our houses will regain their value. We dream that Wall Street will be conveniently distracted by new rushes of money flowing into its bottomless coffers. We dream that our armies will win simple, understandable victories, extracting undefined success from unmanaged catastrophes. We dream that, around the world, the unsuccessfully frightened will once again quake at the mighty countenance of our unquestioned power, shelving their fetal H-Bombs and returning to a quiet subservience.

The Ghost of Christmas Past will tempt us with every delight from petticoats to V-8 Buicks, all shrouded in a pleasing narcotic sauce.

Unfortunately, that vision is not credible, and it shouldn't be. Yet, a large minority of American citizens continue to frame the entire scope of possibilities in the fleeting promises of this Ghost of Christmas Past. This "slippage from reality" is tenderly fostered by those wishing only to prevent Obama from "righting the ship."

Reckless and desperate, these voices of the Ghost of Christmas Past seem, when considered perhaps too generously, to be obsessed with completing the destruction of the country. From ex-Vice Presidents to mindless "dirty shirt preachers" to drawling Southerners in the Congress to inflammatory right wing talk show hosts, they care nothing about "righting the ship" and everything about yet one more, cheap manipulation of every hill billy and bigot who will still listen to them.

All these have a maxim, and that maxim is the chorus behind the Ghost of Christmas Past's every word and thought. The maxim?

"Nothing is real."

Everything is politics. Everything is immediate advantage -- regardless of the cost of neglecting the horrible, impending rush of national collapse. They have become infatuated with remaining the "top dogs" in the "I told you so" crowd, that is, narcotized -- infatuated with an impossible dream of a non-existent Christmas Past even when the cold ocean water pours into the sinking ship, chilling their ankles.

We can see even progressives joining the lament. There are progressives who have begun to drink the Kool-Aid of the Ghost of Christmas Past. For example, Ed Schultz, an AM radio host MeanMesa respects greatly, now voices criticism of the President for not solving the problems which face us. However, these laments of his fall on ears still seeking choices we do not have. The President is doing everything possible to increase the number of choices we have with his administration's policies, and the fact is that the choices Ed Schultz insists upon are simply not choices we actually enjoy.

One more time. The whimsical, immaterial possibilities in the song of the Ghost of Christmas Past are defined by debating choices we do not have at the present moment. Logic tells us that we can either lament the narcotic dream choices we no longer enjoy or begin in earnest to replace them with possibilities which actually exist.

Some of this criticism is "validated" by our memory of something FDR said when confronted by those wishing to remove racism from the country. "Make me do it!" What FDR was actually telling these progressives of his day was that the choice of removing racism was not a choice he had. His response to them was, "Get busy! Put this choice on the table! If you do that, I will make the choice!"

Perhaps Mr. Schultz finds himself -- and the President -- in a similar position as the civil rights proponents and FDR. The deep bite of Mr. Schultz's criticism may actually be vindicated when considered this way. Perhaps, he is only acting "to make Obama do it." MeanMesa is watching both Schultz (and, there are many others...) and the President, hoping that this is the case.

2009 -- The Ghost of Christmas Present

A new President, armed with a formidable pragmatism, finds himself embattled as he tries to sustain what is, very likely, still a sinking ship. To his right, he is standing off the crumbling pillars of an imaginary position of prosperity and strength. To his left, he is trying to frantically re-educate the American public to a minimal state where it might rationally understand its desperate circumstances and become committed to introducing violently necessary, uncomfortable new choices.

On his inauguration day, Obama could not help but see the storm advancing on the nation. As a admirable optimist and idealist, he saw that the country, in some form, really could survive the threats now facing it. However, as he reviewed "his troops," he saw a disturbing confusion, a defect so serious that, if left uncorrected, might permanently destroy the last, fleeting chance for restoring what was left to some kind of viable form which could continue to exist in the future.

It was another case of Primary and Secondary Models. The Primary Model encompassed the entire material scope of the wreckage -- the economy staggering forward denuded of its life blood, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fumbling along in mindless carelessness, health care's potentially bankrupting gravity, the savagery of the brokers and bankers as they continued to extract far more than they deserved, the petulance of Iran and North Korea, and the list went on. The Primary Model comprised the tangible responses to all of this.

The Secondary Model was just as dismal. Setting aside all the tangible threats of the Primary Model, the Secondary Model dealt entirely with the national psychology. After all, it would be the citizens of the United States who would ultimately decide to dedicate themselves to the solutions of all these problems.

However, Obama found himself with great numbers of citizens unwilling to risk anything, unwilling to sacrifice anything. Citizens unwilling to take their turn at bailing water from the sinking ship.

Retreating to the very optimism and ideals which had made him so popular, Obama now faced the reality of the Secondary Model. All these overly selfish citizens, he insisted, were not really crazy or greedy. Once they were given a reasonable chance to understand the nature of the threats we faced, Obama remained hopeful that a new strength could be nurtured, based on a new national rationality.

However, no matter how pressing the immediacy of the threats of the Primary Model, the crippling disadvantage of the Secondary Model would have to be addressed first. A new national psychology would be required before material steps to survive the threats of the Primary Model would become possible. The citizens must be brought into a new state of awareness where their concern and willingness to participate could emerge to face the "meat grinder."

How could the scales of decades of carefully groomed blindness be removed from the faces of those who would, by stark necessity, be required to march in his army?

Obama, had he indulged the role as the Ghost of Christmas Present, might have simply launched out in one revealing diatribe after another, exposing those who perpetually placed personal gain above any national consideration. There might have been massive indictments arising from the Department of Justice, rounding up the scoundrels en mass to face their day in court.

However, the President found the country unable to reasonably "consume" such a terrific correction. The citizens who encountered this Ghost of Christmas Present still gazed through disruptive lenses, still saw all of the possible choices as the artificial ones which had been so meticulously inserted into their understanding of everything.

It is one thing to inspire a soldier to return fire in anger or self-preservation when he is on the battle ground. It is another to inspire him to face that risky uncertainty when he cannot understand or accept that he is on a battle ground. The nation Obama inherited was convinced that there was no battle ground, that bleeding would be unnecessary and that the perpetrators of this disaster were, actually, only slightly misguided in their avarice and ambition.

His first steps as he worked on the Secondary Model was to reveal the enemy. A public who remained convinced that there was no "battle ground" and no "enemy" needed to be shown the dismal reality of the situation, and, even though the President faced literal Visigoths at the Gates, he would have to delay the defense of the state until he could credibly convince the citizens that those Vandals were anything more threatening than mere innocent tourists.

Out came Obama's spot lights. The citizens needed to see for themselves the unchecked greed and corruption which had insinuated itself into the congress. The health care debate accomplished that education "in spades." The citizens needed to see for themselves the unthinkable avarice of the brokers and bankers who would take their tax dollars, pause for a moment, then catapult themselves into yet another crippling binge of greed and arrogance. The citizens needed to see for themselves the endless, nauseating temptations offered by the military to mindlessly increase war, always promising some undefined success if the military adventures were just resourced a little more.

Obama's spot lights did not reveal just a few, isolated cases where tax payers had been carefully cast as pigeons, but rather, an epidemic horde of such miscreants who had, it seemed, permanently attached themselves to the necks of the citizenry like vampire bats.

The Ghost of Christmas Present sang the calming song that everything was alright, everything was as it should be. Vast numbers of citizens remained hypnotized under that convenient and comfortable thrall. Yet, Obama bravely faced the necessity that all these sleeping citizens must awake and participate in their own survival. The spell must be broken.

The President has had some significant success at this undertaking, this illumination he must perform before he can actually face the real problems. Many of the uncommitted among us have, if not actually becoming committed, at least begun to be very suspicious about the implied "reality" of that narcotic song of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Obama patiently continues his relentless revelation of the perfidy we face at the hands of these obsessively greedy types, their cynical purchase of the representatives we have always previously trusted and relied upon, and the grave danger they now present to the survival of the nation.

2009 -- The Ghost of Christmas To Come

There are clearly two dreams for the future. One will be a soothing return to the hypnotic avoidance of "everything real" sponsored by the dream that America will, somehow, return to the state of high addiction we were convinced that we enjoyed before. The other will be a rational, clear headed appraisal of what possibilities we actually have, given the wounds which have effectively crippled us during our "period of distraction."

There are, actually, real possibilities for our future, but they are not ones which will simply arrive untended or by gleeful serendipity, the automatic and entitled result of our national "exceptionalism." As Americans we will be required to design these future dreams and commit ourselves to sacrifice and work for their accomplishment.

If the lessons of President Obama and the Ghost of Christmas Present have adequately educated us about the reality of our present moment, we will have the understanding to accomplish this design for the future. Should we, as citizens, remain intoxicated with a dreamy past which never actually existed, employing that "house of shadows" as the foundation of our hope for the future, our possibilities for a future "in reality" -- that is, a future punctuated with "real" goals, "real" work and "real" accomplishments -- fades dramatically.

The ugly fact is that we can, actually, continue along the path we have taken toward our own destruction. There remains still more wealth in the nation which can be thoughtlessly consumed for still a few more months or years until we find ourselves entirely, completely, inescapably and irretrievably bankrupt. We can "privatize" our sidewalks when everything else has been sold, sell the titles to them to the Chinese and throw one last "history bending binge" of a frenzied consumption party, but, after that, we will have to turn off the lights and stagger into the forest, naked.

On the other hand, we can cease "humming along" with the song of the Ghost of Christmas To Come, roll up our sleeves, recapture our hope, defeat those who would enslave us in our own inebriation of mindless consumption and unexamined greed and fear, and design a future for ourselves. We can forever dispatch the drunken fantasy that we will return to an imaginary past because we are entitled to it. We can learn all the moving parts about where, exactly, we are as we begin our reconstruction.

We can base our new definition of our future on choices we actually have.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

For more points of view about America's economic future, Ben Stein in the NY Times

and Trevor Shipp on FinancialNut, a fairly good background article:

Is Hyperinflation Looming in America’s Economic Future?

MeanMesa encourages visitors to "Google around!" We all need to be "up to speed" on this matter because it is happening RIGHT NOW!

and for MeanMesa, eating its own -- Obama's Recovery: Partners or Predators

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Jack and a Joker: Obama Calls

President Obama Considers the Future of the Bush War in Afghanistan

MeanMesa has never been much of a country western music fan (a childhood in 1940's Kansas permanently cured me of that possibility ...), but when we look at the President's agonizing decision concerning what to do next with the failed war in Afghanistan, certain lyrics seem to flood into even this geriatric, Depeche Mode saturated mind.

Johnny Cash: The Gambler (lyrics -- the music isn't bad either ...)

Written by Don Schlitz.
( Writers Night Music.)
From "Gone Girl", 1978, CBS.

About 20 years ago, on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with The Gambler; We were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin' through the window at the darkness.
Til' boredom overtook us and he commenced to speak.

He said: "Son, I've made a life out of readin' people's faces,
"And knowin' what their cards were, by the way they held their eyes.
"And if you don't mind my sayin', I would say you're out of aces;
"And for one taste of your whiskey, I will give you some advice."

So I handed him my bottle, and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette; then he bummed a light.
The night got deathly quiet and his face lost all expression.
He said: "If you're gonna play the game, boy, you better learn to play it right."

"'Cos ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survival,
"Is knowin' what to throw away and knowin' what to keep.
"And ev'ry hand's a winner, just like ev'ry hand's a loser.
"And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

"You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em.
"Know when to walk away; know when to run.
"You don't ever count your money while you're sittin' at the table.
"There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin' is done."

"You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em.
"Know when to walk away; know when to run.
"You don't ever count your money while you're sittin' at the table.
"There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin' is done."

And when he finished speakin', he turned back t'ward the window.
Put out his cigarette; faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

"You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em.
"Know when to walk away; know when to run.
"You don't ever count your money while you're sittin' at the table.
"There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin' is done."

"You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em.
"Know when to walk away; know when to run.
"You don't ever count your money while you're sittin' at the table.
"There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin' is done."

"You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em.
"Know when to walk away; know when to run.
"You don't ever count your money while you're sittin' at the table.
"There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin' is done."

(Listen to Johnny Cash sing The Gambler: )

The United States has a rather checkered history of "putting up" with unsavory characters we have encountered as "sponsored autocrats" during our global military adventures. For example, during the Viet Nam War no outrage executed by the current dictator of that unfortunate country was grievous enough to elicit so much as a momentary hesitation in our war making appetites. When the Diem brothers were captured, dressed as nuns, trying to flee Saigon after their rather brutal -- and greedy -- autocratic habits emerged into the light, our local military commanders simply waited until the next morning's dawn for the next dictator to take over the wreckage of what was left of the country. Was there a lull of "uncertainty" in the conduct of our war there? Not so much as a single minute.

Dictators everywhere knew that our national, public memory was short. If the United States military was in their country, defending it from the Red Devils, those dictators knew that we would be too busy in our infatuation with combat to be particularly troubled by anything they might do, that is, "do" to their people and usually even "do" to us. The U.S. Homeland was inundated with carefully groomed, unexamined, unquestioned media management which constantly propped up a standing justification of absolutely anything necessary to stop the Russians from taking over the world.

Questions of patriotism were not allowed. There could be precisely one foreign policy, and that single policy would dictate every international presence of the U.S. Period.

For MeanMesa visitors who were not alive to experience the period, the best lit stage was filled with H-Bombs. That terrifying geopolitical script unfolded primarily in Washington D.C. and Moscow. However, in every dusty corner of the world beyond the nuclear capitals, Soviet Bloc influences and NATO American influences met in conflict. It wasn't always soldiers, either. Every possible tactic of threat, bribery, deception and subterfuge was played out in the single minded obsession of the time. Ideology was everything.

Naturally, we found ourselves "embracing" some rather stinky governments. No matter in which dirty little corner of the world one might find himself, there were usually some equally "stinky" players right across the border -- folks like Angolans, Cubans, East German intelligence and frequently the old KGB/OGPU creepies. It seemed there was never a shortage of Cold War creepies. Never.

As such matters unfolded, the media necessity of "rehabilitating" the dictator also became a fairly common outcome. Credulous Americans demonstrated a remarkable tolerance for alliances of necessity with nasty dictatorships to start with, but the State Department and the media would occasionally have to gang up to "reframe" the most difficult cases.

A few -- easily understood -- American ideals would be trotted out as "conditions" of our continuing support or bribery. Massive news headlines would be generated for a day or two. Distant "promises" of better behavior would be extracted, then the news machine would be silenced (more likely distracted by the next crisis somewhere else) and conditions would return to "normal" in that lavish, foreign Presidential Palace. By the way, "normal" fairly often meant that more arms and legs were, once again, being routinely ripped off by our "friendly ally" there.

After all, that Palace was going to pay the electric bill in either dollars or rubles next month anyway. If it turned out to be dollars, we were winning.

The duty of "real Americans" in those days was to simply "forget" the extracted promises as quickly as possible and return to more of the famous "H-Bomb" nights. Keeping up with ideology was task enough. Keeping up with actual foreign policy was taxing, suspicious and socially, too intellectual for the martini soaked bar be que pit discussions of the day.

Our opinions were carefully lubricated. The current inhabitant of that Presidential Palace was often characterized to us as a steadfast supplicant of every Western dream. He was the very "salt" of every idea we had been taught to hold dear and close to our hearts. The courageous people of wherever it was were painted as peace loving, democracy dreaming, freedom fighters no less committed to "all that was good in the world" than the brave men at Valley Forge themselves. (The stage ws being set for Viet Nam, founded on public relations experiences suffered in Korea.)

Our job as media consumers was to quickly forget. Whatever difficulties we might have had with the practices of that old dictator were assuaged back to a state of mind numbing comfort, a state of acceptance and forgetfulness. The war was everything. Details about what was actually happening in wherever it was meant nothing.

Now, to Obama and Afghanistan.

The war mongers such as McCain and the Witch of Alaska have found a new mantra -- or at least they have resurrected an old, weary Bush mantra -- about "listening to the Generals on the ground." The chorus has been joined, of course, by drug addled gas bags, ridiculous junior Congressmen and every other half-wit with a microphone. "We have to add 40,000 more U.S. troops to the fray! Bush W's incompetence must be exonerated at any cost!"

By the way, we are supposed to forget that the W fired all the "Generals on the Ground" who dared disagree with him as he plunged headlong into one half-baked military disaster after another.

However, there is a geopolitical "fly in the ointment." Obama is clearly not satisfied with a paper mache' version of corruption fighting, war lord taming and heroin poppy replacement. He actually expects the dictator (Ooops! Mr. Hamid Karzai was a carefully chosen Chevron Oil executive picked out by the W himself to usher in a new decade of "democracy" in Afghanistan.) of that unfortunate country to make some improvements there.

However, Karzai is playing from an entirely different script. He was promised a nice quiet, profitable, lingering autocracy by the W -- one which might be able to have actual elections or, maybe not. Making a few empty "promises" to the new guy in Washington was presented as a painless matter, certainly nothing to lose sleep worrying about. The initial plan was to "promise anything" and then wait for the American tax payers to forget it and expect a war infatuated President to conveniently ignore it.

There are unquestionably many reasons for the President's delay in his decision, but this doesn't mean that we should overlook one of the brightest and most promising among them. Obama is not a "war drenched" pragmatist who sees the military combat as an exciting appliance having no consequences beyond being another domestic political advantage. He is a formidable idealist who seems quite comfortable demanding that someone like Karzai do the very best he can. Should that materialize, it would be a new component of the W war in Afghanistan.

The Cheney called it "dithering." The war junkies, both inside and outside the military, said the delay was endangering the troops. Neo-cons are circling above the decision room in the White House like vultures. Because these unlikely mouths are the ones our wholly owned media trots out for our consumption day after day -- whether we are actually interested or not -- it might seem that the "going concern" required some reckless increase in troop commitment.

MeanMesa doesn't see it this way. Obama has made a heady mix of Commander in Chief, conscience and idealism so new to Washington that these moribund pundits have no scheme to effectively attack it. Karzai will learn Obama's lesson. So will the Generals. War is real. It is expensive and tragic. The Presidential visits to Ft. Hood, Dover and Arlington reveal a new, sincere appreciation of the consequences of his decisions. Yes, veterans and military families can take heart from the gestures, but people like Karzai and the Generals also have to watch.

Apparently, that old Cold War program ain't happenin'!

This new Problem President insists that a continued American presence in Afghanistan will require actual domestic progress. Yes, the reason we are there is to somehow extract ourselves from the W's War on Terror, but Obama is not willing to entirely divorce that mission from his ambitions to improve the lot of the Afghan people and to honorably fulfill his elected duty here. Such a divorce would have been de rigeur during the old Cold War days, but now things are different.

In fact, things are becoming quite different! Obama, unlike the war oriented Presidents before him, is not hypnotized with this mythical conflict. He has no appetite to be a "Wartime President." The country he represents is broke, in debt. Its military is taxed to the breaking point after a decade of combat securing the Iraqi Hydrocarbon Treaty for, wait for it, wait for it, Chevron and its friends. Worst of all, for the McCain-Limbaugh crowd, Obama is simply not another "bullet jock!" He will not be egged into anything remotely similar to the W's lurching, rambling, global "Church of Death."

In any event, MeanMesa isn't at all that sure the W's flight suit would fit him -- with or without the cod piece!

"You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em.
"Know when to walk away; know when to run.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

For a updated account of what's being said about increasing the troop levels in Afghanistan, Christian Science Monitor:

Obama Afghanistan troop surge decision may come soon

and, in Times On Line:

US ambassador warns against Afghanistan troop surge

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Get Caught Between the Fairy Tales

A MeanMesa look at the tragedy at Fort Hood

As the news of the gun fire was arriving, inevitable, unavoidable questions arrived with it. Perhaps first in the minds of Americans the issue of terrorism lurched forward to take its place in its usual, unannounced immediacy. After all, five Brits were gunned down by an Afghan policeman with a heavy machine gun only two days ago. Was this the ominous first step of yet another style of terrorist tactic? The “turning” of those previously trusted into murderous terrorists?

We all know, now, that the strategies of an insurgent force against a modern European army will constantly seek out weaknesses available to be exploited. For example, home made IED's would not have amounted to nearly such a problem in WWII Europe as they do in the unmanageably large, wind swept, deserted desert nights of Afghanistan. Given the rather illegitimate, yet still effective, religious zeal our media has so craftily insinuated into our Taliban adversary, our view of both the practice and the players of this insurgency's activities is already dangerously pathetic so far as any possible objective analysis is involved.

As media consumers, we are stranded with the unpleasant prospects of trying to make sense of the news based on what is becoming clearly little more than a national movie script. It is both embarrassing and dangerous.

Literally moments after our first news, the professional pundits had landed to feed on the event like voracious deer flies at an unguarded picnic ham. The event perplexed our normal, continuous expectations of simply more of the mundane variety which falls within our comfort levels – difficult traffic, a troublesome office mate or a neighbor's barking dog. It was confounding. All manner of details of the incident seemed paradoxical, puzzling – threatening. Had thirteen American soldiers been killed in the war zone, we would have consumed such news with the same distant detachment we daily attribute to tens or hundreds of local dead after a terrorist car bomb in Mosul or Peshawar. We don't feel that kind of death at all. There might have been a short lived empathy for fellow Americans meeting the same mortal fate, but as that passed in minutes, our days would have resumed, unperturbed.

But with American blood and death in Texas, we immediately became context-challenged. Worse, once trapped by our fearful realization of the unusual nature of this inconvenient disturbance, we immediately reverted to an age old, quite healthy, human habit – we wanted to “make some sense” out of it, and we wanted to accomplish that pretty damned quickly. In fact, we found ourselves so anxious to satisfy this “itch” of ours, we even became willing to devote a little “conceptual” sweat to the undertaking.

We desperately needed to place the events of the day into a familiar context, some comforting frame of reference which might provide anchors and landmarks, you know, explanations which didn't require any taxing construction of alien paradigms necessary as foundations for our consideration of it, but still credible and comprehensible enough to restore our numbing complacency. After all, weren't the medicine commercials intended to be the most disquieting parts of our commercial media's news products? Now, this.

This MeanMesa post concerns the “familiar” context we anxiously selected as we pursued this understanding.

Where did we turn for this context we needed so much to restore our “conceptual” comfort in our understanding of the outrage?

As human beings, we might have dared to indulge ourselves in a deflecting consideration of the killer and the dead from an organic human viewpoint. We might have thought, however fleetingly, about being the man with the gun. Granted, trying to “make sense” of the news we had received from that point of reference might have been quite disconcerting, but, considering the “big picture,” such an approach might have provided some very illuminating conclusions no matter how troubling they might have been.

It was, after all, another of our homo sapiens species there, pulling the trigger over and over, replacing twenty round clips one after another to sustain his murderous obsession. Taking this approach would have cast us – as news consumers intent on framing the event – in a somewhat uncomfortable role of empathy. What would have had to necessarily been present in our own thoughts to explain his actions had they been our own?

As members of a peaceful society (at least, largely peaceful in the domestic frame …) we might have taken up a social view of the killer's place. Such a model would have included the security of our – almost – universal commitment to the social contract, the violent capacity of law enforcement to promote that traditionally defined environment and the place in which miscreants and other “social contract breachers” would place themselves when they violated it.

That line of perspective would have yielded a “plan” and a “justification” to restore order. As social creatures, we find it essential to see things in this way. The peace and justice our system imposes on our streets and homes is a valued one. When the spell is broken by repeated acts of premeditated first degree murder, we, as social creatures, are compelled to reintroduce security, calm and the durability of social institutions – usually, in that order. We place a great weight on the idea of “reaffirming social norms.” In fact, socially, we might say that we are defined by that impulse.

However, the homo sapiens empathy and the social order restoration approaches were no where to be found in the flood of inflammatory news. Those possible sources of explanatory context were discarded at once in favor of a seemingly unlikely alternative. Yes, there is unquestionably a great conflict. Yes, on both sides of a structure of smoke there are players such as our murderer. Yes, behind each single trigger flicking murderer there are myriad legions of slightly more peaceful types who quietly believe exactly as the killer does only more acceptably, less actively.

However, the stage was set for the context we all -- nationally -- seemed to choose first. The corresponding, tortured explanation will, sort of, well, follow.

For our comforting frame of reference we plunged back through history. The problem with this murderer, concluded this way, arose thirty or forty centuries ago in the deserts of the Middle East. That will be the context at play until something better is found -- not likely.

The personal nature of the trigger puller turns to a comfortable, impersonal shade when he and his treachery can be placed in the context of Biblical ills. If terrorism is convicted in our indictment, the adversary will be forced to define himself by the same ancient context. After all, for years we have faced "enemies" redefined as "evil" and treated as "criminals."


That ancient context is absolute. It blankets all sorts of possibly constructive analysis with an arcane ideology well costumed as religion, written by tribal herdsmen worried about their young migrating to Babylon for a weekend away from the drudgery of the sheep. There can be no angst with the ancient tribesmen. They historically promoted whatever program they thought necessary for their survival.

You know, talking trees, receding oceans and angels dispatching first born Pharaohs -- all stories arguably necessary for the conditions of the moment. In fact, probably stories which could have provided some advantageous context for the questions of the nomadic illiterate during that ancient day. After such a journey through history, these stories have held less and less relevance since then except as they are perpetually made material by vast populations of minds untroubled by their fantastic origins -- minds quite modern in their habits of unexamined acceptance of such mythological stuff.

This complaint is not one sided, either. Our opponents, if they are actually opponents, are plagued with a similar addiction to their own fairy tales. As an ultimate irony, both stories began "on the same page," formalizing the start of their separation with an ancient named Benjamin. After that, convenient hybrids rose by serial sequence, each one -- on either side of the two fables -- reconstructing itself to maximize passing instants of manipulation and consequence.

Now, we can read of the bloodbaths around Jerusalem when dates only had three digits. We can peer through the haze of these reconfigured ancient myths of an Armageddon to a modern Persian calling for a Biblical destruction of a modern state. Nationally, we have insinuated ourselves into the frothy mess. Our autocrat spoke to the Arabs of his god's message and Crusades. Sexually challenged modern herdsmen lament our sinful ways while cleaning their rifles. A man in Texas suffering under all this artificial enmity unloads his automatic pistol on those who trusted him for reasons extracted from this synthetic conflict.

What are we doing?

Whether the mindless chanting of boys in a Pakistani madras or the imposed evangelism of the officers at our Air Force Academy, we seem uninterested in moving so much as a single inch from the fairy tales toward some more rational position which might promise an end to the madness. If it were a single "church of death," we could rise up against it, but two such churches -- for each, the threat of one defends the avarice of the other.

The conflict is useless. It doesn't matter whether the most recent participant is a teenager burying a 175mm Howitzer shell on a back road in Afghanistan or another teenager listening to his Colonel explain just how he might serve Jesus with his sparkling F-16 fighter bomber. There is no possible spiritual relief. If there ever were any, it was happily discarded by an ancient Pontiff or an ambitious Caliph hundreds of years in our past, you know, at some new, necessary hybridization of one of the religions or the other or both when "immediate" meant something like 861 AD.

Will we allow patriotism and love of nation to be any position other than more of the same insanity? The "battle" between the fairy tales is a gaseous deception -- both for us and for them! In fact, both contestants are drenched in traditions of battle. Its edifice for us is a grisly three trillion dollar monolith covered in the blood of thousands of our neighbors' sons. For them, their monument is covered with the blood of hundreds of thousands or millions.

Fairy tales?

The mind of the pistol man was the war zone of the fairy tales. The death and tragedy of his testimony present us with a message, unavoidable and compelling. It is either a herald of more discouragement or a startling challenge of hope. The ancient fairy tales from the desert -- along with all the chaos and destruction -- must be abandoned or, at least, disarmed and relegated to a harmless dust bin somewhere with nothing more dangerous than a parking lot and a cheap microphone (and no tax exempt status ...).

From those old books, either Bible or Koran, "It is childhood's end."

It must be so -- now.