Monday, July 7, 2014

A teapot, a tempest, and a trope (2012)

A few days ago a tempest in a teapot was brewing, with Salon.com publishing Matt Stoller's rather circumspect shrug of an essauThe Progressive Case Against Obama, and New York Magazine blasting us with the bombast that Obama was already great. In the wake of these, some very silly things were said, and the outline of the crushing stupidity of the Obama movement, as well as the futility of any opposition to it became obvious.

But a real tempest came, and with it, a brushing away of the diversions of web based discourse, and after the tree falls, fires, and outages, there was that quaint quiet that was known far more before cellphones and wireless internet. It answered most of the important questions raised, for whoever chose to look at it.

In the short term, Sandy swept Willard Mitt Romney out to sea, and into the davey jones' locker of history. His own words convicted him, and while he tried to deny it, an amateurish photo-op made it clear that he was not even capable of that most basic function of the Presidency – presiding. It also ended the great caterwalling of Obama's supporters. With Obama clearly in charge, passing the test that Bush failed with Katrina, their own inner demons went back to sleep. Obama had once again proven that he has a gift for walking into a crisis and stabilizing people's perceptions of it. This is no small thing: Albert Gore, John Kerry, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were unmasked as pretenders by precisely this. Each was in the grand game.

For the 140 character set, this is enough. They don't care about out running history, just in out running their peer competitors. Romney is a loser, and is going to lose.

However, many politicians have seemed men of towering stature in their moment, and then become more feeble as time goes by. The obvious examples include both Presidents Bush – who both topped 90% approval - Richard Milhouse Nixon, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Calvin Coolidge, William McKinley. Men who shrunk rapidly when seen in perspective.

And this is why Stoller's piece received some stupid and vitrolic replies, and a stupid piece of over-reach. He didn't really make the Progressive Case against Obama, so much as making the case against the consciences of the people who make Obama's success part of their greatness. Matt left aside Afghanistan: a complete shambles, and the failures of civil liberties – expansion of crackdowns against marijuana, expansions of surveillance, extensions of unconstitutional grants of intellectual property, he left aside a hard and fact based evisceration of the apartheid and discriminatory aspects of the ACA as written, and particularly the ACA as Roberts etched on stone. Were Republicans to pass an act that created a two tier system of access to, for example, education, they would have been up in arms. Barack Obama is, objectively speaking, to the right of George Romney, WMR's father, who fought for the FHA against his boss, President Richard Nixon.



Farewell to Kings (2003)

Clarke's testimony is the next spike into the railroad, the one that leads Bush from Olympus to oblivion. He is being paid attention to not because what he says is new, but because it is not. Not because we did not know that the current executive is an image craving group of political hacks who are easily lead astray by their obsessions over drugs and Saddam - but because it is obvious that they are from the results. But like a court room drama, it isn't over until there is the money shot of a confession.

And confess he has.

What is deeper is the revulsion within the middle of the country. In the wake of 911 they rallied behind the President, and would accept no criticism of him. Now, their jobs at risk their economic progress slowed to a crawl, they are seeking the tools for rebellion, and wish to God a farewell to Kings.
Because that is what Bush became in those bitter weeks of the fall of 2001, a King, royal demanding his peasants be loyal. The king waved his hand and created a new aristocracy, tax exempt in their lands. The king waved his hand and declared war without end. The king declared he would make the economy revive -so long has his people were elevated to do it.


And now that all of this has not done what was promised, he sits uneasily on his thrown - dependent on the vague outlook on jobs and capturing Al Qaeda scalps to rise in the polls.

But let us review. In the summer of 2001, the nation was feeling the cold grip of recession tighten. Rather than doing the correct thing - namely stimulate consumer spending and cushion the blow to capital formation - the executive slammed through a tax package that was both unwelcome and unwise. It was a time when there was trepediation, a people who had not thought about what comes next in a while, thought about what would come next. To those watching, it was obvious - the Clinton economy had covered over a multitude of weaknesses, and something would have to break.

There were, at the time, dark rumors that the Ghost War was about to turn far less ephemeral, that "something big" was going to happen. But these were just that, so it seemed, rumors. There was grumbling about the new executive order from the most unlikely places - from within the intelligence community. There were odd stories of odd events. But, it was all far out in the land where there not only are tin foil hats, but whole boutiques devoted to them. Or was it? People not prone to conspiracy theories were saying, in hushed tones "these new people are not on the ball".

By the time 911 struck there was buzz and chatter that went far beyond dark rumors, but it was put aside, there was a threat to meet: NATO, for the first time was called to act upon "an attack against one, is an attack against all."
However, almost instantly - with anthrax still catching glints of sun in the Senate building - it was clear that the executive was trying to turn the corner on Iraq - to make this war the attempt to finish the war unfinished before.
And replete with the Purple, a newly minted King new that, given merely time and the unquestioned loyality of public, poltiicians and the press, he would have his war.

- - -

But why did he need it? Why did his father fail to topple Saddam? Clinton, it can be said, was hamstrung, and would not have been allowed such a success, even if he had desired it with all of his prodigious appetite.
Because he was not allowed to. In the 1990's the oil producing nations were in dangerous shape - even without Iraq's production fully on line, the long policy of squeezing consumer demand had nearly beaten them. OPEC was in disarray, because they had little to fight the economic wars with. OPECs weapon not raising the price directly - but pumping more or less oil to make it so that more or less expensive oil is needed to fill the last barrel of demand. The price of that last barrel, is the price of all the others. As oil gets harder to pump out, it gets more expensive, and there is less of it - the farther up that curve, the higher the price. By the early 1990's the were far away from that point - there was an oil glut, and they had bills to pay.

They demanded that Iraq stay offline, with its large reserves of cheap, low sulfur, oil. That was the price of their aid, and their aid was required.
But they got a very sweat deal - a booming US market to put their money into, stronger demand and stable prices. Clinton's economic team managed the rip tides of oil demand and asset formation with great zeal and skill. And for years the nation prospered.

- - -

Thus came Bush, knowing that to go back to the Reagan economy where treasury notes rather than entrepreneurial stocks, he would have to have Iraq's oil on line. There was, of course, a price, that price was that the federal reserve would have to keep interest rates far below their sustainable value for a long time. In order to remind Americans of that price, in the summer of 2002, money oozed out of American banking stocks causing a summer tumbline in share prices. A saudi prince warned "we expect better return on our investment". A petulant Treasury Secretary promised them better times ahead, and they put their money back into the market.

This, however, forced the next round of tax cuts - so that our rich could compete with their rich. The vicious cycle - every time the monetary blackmail to the middle east is paid, it must then be paid again to our own elites, causing the next round of blackmail to be set up - since we need the money to borrow to pay for the tax cuts we can't afford. To say it in simpler terms: the consumer pays for oil, which buys stock. Then, American rich people demand that they be allowed to keep up with the oilarchs, which means tax cuts. The money to pay for these comes from overseas, which puts America more and more into the debt of the very people who jerked the chain in the first place.
But what does this have to do with 911?

The obvious - who funds terrorism? Not Iraq, but Saudi Arabia. Why do they do this? To hold their own restive populations in check. It is the rent they pay to hold onto the sand under which sits the oil, which the West demands.
Each cycle through oil - to assets - to tax cuts - to debt - makes the house of Saud, and others like it, more, not less, attractive to a take over.
Thus the whole policy feeds the very beast which, on 911, struck with a force that few expected, though all should have.

This requires no conspiracies - each player is merely responding to immediate pressures - each player is sending signals of threat and bluster - and following through when they can. The US, insovlent and bankrupt, has miltiary might - the Saudi's, weak and corrupt - have liquid money - the result, a chess game where each slashes at the other - but not too much, since the money is worth nothing without the US to sell to, and the military machine is dead in the water without the oil.

- - -

As the bizarre nature of the obsession with Iraq became clear, one by one people from the inside began coming out. There were whistle blowers from the FBI - this was defused, the public did not want to accept that the White House, or one of its direct minions, had to have stopped the investigation into pre-911 activities.  General Wesley Clark spoke out, recounting how the new National Security team did not listen on terrorism, and instead seemed intent on invasions and making wars that were not needed. Sandy Berger recounted how his warnings on terrorism did not find interested ears.

Then Secretary O'Neill prepared the way by recounting an executive branch that put the image on television before all else.

But Clarke, it has been a busy year for this homophonymous pair - is different, because he was inside. He is the deep throat of the affair - the person whose credibility cannot easily be turned aside. He comes too late in the cycle - and with a congress too controlled by men too loyal to the President - to make an effect in this Congress.

But his words rumble, because the sharpest dagger, is the one from the king's own armory.