Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The jig is up

IOZ is right, of course when he sez:
There are the DailyKoskyites of the world, party loyalists for whom membership constitutes identity. Insofar as there's any policy left in politics, they remain largely unaffected. Party failures are invariably chalked up to apostasy. They are always in the middle of a gaudy excommunication--the Lieb, Steny Hoyer, the "blue dogs", and so on. The idea that the True Church might be flawed, though, that's the worst heresy of all. These people are interesting as targets for water balloons.

On the other hand, there are folks like Glenn Greenwald or the troupe at Unfogged who in some manner see that the jig is up, but who steadfastly refuse (I don't believe it's mere failure) to grasp the obvious conclusion: that the behavior of the Democratic Party isn't explained by fecklessness, fear, weakness, political calculation, supineness, or insufficiently brassy balls. They aren't an opposition party failing to oppose, but a colluding body hiding behind a tissue of opposition in order to maintain the façade of divided government.

On matters related to the smooth operation of the National Security State, we are governed by an imperial consensus that's both broad and deep. What differences exist are procedural. To say that the Democrats failed to "stop the FISA bill" is to assume that the Democrats wanted to do it. To say that the Democrats fail to effectively combat the "theory of the Unitary Executive" is to assume that the Democrats oppose the Executive state. Both lousy assumptions.

When a person or an organization consistently and explicitly acts against its own stated interests and its own claimed ideological committments, you can be sure that those interests and committments are bullshit, that another game is afoot.
From time to time I've tried to assert something along very similar lines - there may be a nickel's worth of difference between the two anointed parties, but that difference is merely a matter of packaging rather than of substance. Their members are entrenched in what can easily be called a failed state (or at bare minimum a failing state) - one in which its governing officials are so corrupt that the needs and wishes of their constituents don't even register. Something I wrote back about two years ago bears repeating:
You know your nation is a "failing state" when among other things the government simply through negligence and/or incompetence cannot act to help out its people in an emergency. I recall the lone physician who was there at the Convention Center in NOLA during the immediate days after Katrina had decimated the area commenting that 8-29 may very well have marked the day the nation started to fall apart. I would that the nation had been falling apart considerably before that day last year - it was only the footage from the devastated areas that made the rot visible for the first time. The ability of first responders to effectively handle a situation like the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast last hurricane season had been effectively hamstrung by severe budget cuts. That's been par for the course this decade so far. Poverty, which has, during my lifetime, increasingly plagued what is arguably the richest nation on earth was no stranger to the Big Easy - and the poorest of NOLA's residents tended to live in those areas most vulnerable to flooding. The decisions made by our federal government to neglect the state of the levees and to continue to neglect the coastal wetlands (which once upon a time served as a buffer between NOLA and hurricane-driven storm surges) were bound to affect these folks disproportionately. If one looks at the Lower Ninth Ward, as well as other coastal towns in Mississippi as well as coastal towns affected by Rita, one finds homes, businesses, and lives still in shambles. The government that promised to help has done little more aside from funneling some coin to their pals at Halliburton et al. And this year's hurricane season is only just warming up, y'all.

I'm willing to accept that there were many who were genuinely shocked and dismayed by the initial scenes of devastation, and by the devastation that still has yet to be repaired. Several news anchors and pundits were unprepared for scenes that seemed more fitting for a third world nation. And yet, as friends of mine who had spent time in the area (outside of the tourist traps) had told me, it had been pretty much third-world for quite a while in NOLA. In fact there have been folks (myself included) who have noted for at least a decade that substantial swaths of this nation have fallen into such severe neglect as to merit third-world status. So I was not shocked by what we were getting on the news stations at the tail end of August & the beginning of September. Rather, I was simply pissed off - at a government that has so thoroughly neglected its responsibilities that a large number of lives were lost (and we're talking a largely preventable loss, had the levee system been kept up adequately, had the wetlands been preserved, had equipment and potential first responders been in adequate supply rather than wasted on that atrocity of a war in Iraq); pissed off at the CEO carpetbaggers bound to profit off of the misery; pissed off at a corporate media that I knew would go largely back to sleep once the ever important stories about Jessica Simpson's impending divorce or the Olsen twins' eating habits hit the fan.

I'm not sure if there is a Huey Long out there in the woodwork, or plan on pinning my hopes on such an individual showing up. I'd rather get the word out instead. In the meantime, we can be rest assured that today's GOP doesn't give a rat's ass about most of us (at least those of us who don't count in the corporate and government's eyes as "substantial"), and that like the 1920s the Democrat party is all but useless. What I do know is that we cannot afford another moment of the status quo. This would be a damned good year to throw the bums out from both parties, a damned good year to take our country back - a damned good year, indeed, to begin the long road to fashioning something of a working democracy, and something that would hold far more legitimacy among the large proportion of currently disenfranchised citizens as well as abroad.
Whatever optimism may have been betrayed by that last paragraph has since been squelched. I doubt there was a country to "take back" ever. I stumbled upon something a dear (and sadly, departed) friend wrote four years ago that sums it up:
The United States is a failed state, with no legitimate government, it is run by a corporate designer version of Somalia-style warlords, whose purpose has nothing to do with the well-being of its citizens, and everything to do with stuffing a handful of already bulging profits with the sweat and blood of its own people, and the people of those countries it decides to seize, with multi-national sweat and blood, and the innocence of multi-national children.

There is no nation on earth whose people do not fear being invaded and overrun by US funded hordes of torturers and sexual predators, there is no mother who does not tremble at the thought that it could be her own child there in the "interrogation facility," providing a little R & R for America's brave gunmen.

America is feared and despised like the still-breathing corpse of the brute who raped your sister, you cannot feel pity, you can feel nothing but disgust and loathing, and the stench of his putrefication-in-life is a fetid promise that soon he will be no more.

A failed state, with no credible claim to sovereignty or nationhood, it is nothing more than a cadre of war profiteers who rule over a mass of serfs, who will live or die according to the grace and favor of the cadre.

Whether its figurehead is tall or short, literate and urbane or a neurological wreck living with challenges developmental and emotional does not matter to the next child to die, or wish he would, so that the ruling lords of Halliburton, or Heinz, or an optimist merger of Heinz-Halliburton can have more money than most American serfs can even conceive of.

As the glitterati and the politerati clink glasses and hobnob and pose for photos, those for whom a front porch is an impossible dream are neither deceived nor interested.

To those who crouch, weeping over the bodies of loved ones, in the ruined rubble of their humble homes, it does not make a bit of difference how war crimes are phrased or framed, what "face" is painted on them.

Those who scream, who still can make sounds, from the depths of the prisons and interrogation facilities, the cages and holes and undisclosed locations that dot the globe do not appreciate the nuanced quality of their torment, or the merits of an even-handed discussion of child rape.

America lies dying, and the neighbors gather, murmuring outside the death chamber, they do not enter,not out of respect, but revulsion, and while the family squabbles over the good china, someone slips in, and very quietly pulls the plug.
To become a President for such a failed state, what must be done? I'll paraphrase and adapt for my purposes six easy steps Subcomandante Marcos wrote back in 1994:
1. Carefully place a technocratic functionary, a repentant opposer, a businessman for a front, a Union Cowboy, a property holder, a builder, an alchemist in computational arts, a "brilliant" intellectual, a television, a radio, and two official parties. Set this mixture aside in a jar and label it: "Modernity."

2. Take a farm worker, a dissatisfied housewife, an unemployed person, an industrial worker, a teacher without a school, an applicant for housing and services, a displaced person from the Lower Ninth Ward, a touch of honest press, a student, a homosexual, a member of the opposition to the regime. Divide these up as much as possible. Set them aside in a jar and label them: "Anti-American".

3. Take a Native American. Separate the crafts and take a picture of her. Put her crafts and the photo in a jar and set it aside, labeling it: "Tradition".

4. Put the Native American in another jar, set it aside and label it: "Dispensable".

5. Open up a store and erect a huge neon sign that says: "America For Sale - End of the Decade Liquidation!"

6. Smile for the camera. Make sure the makeup covers the bags and dark circles under the eyes caused by the nightmare the process has caused.

Note: Always have on hand a policeman, a soldier, a mercenary, and an airplane ticket out of the country. These items may be necessary at any time.
You can read Marcos' original version here. Hopefully I did justice to his palabras in the present context (i.e., that of a decaying empire that has largely turned its government into a shell administered by contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors, as the neoliberal birds come home to roost). In our own failed or failing state, the elected positions are little more than executive-level and middle management positions in the service of a relative handful of corporate conglomerates. These incumbent and would-be managerial staff members are quite pleased with the status quo. Yes, there may be minor quibbles about who gets the corner office with the view of the beautiful scenery as opposed to the view of the wreckage and starvation. The latter occupants can simply keep their curtains drawn and pretend that the walls of their particular Green Zone will hold indefinitely. For those of us outside of the Green Zones, these elections are largely meaningless; that of course is the dirty little secret that we of the great unwashed masses are not supposed to know. Enjoy the spectacle if you must, assuming you have the luxury of watching the spectacle to begin with; just don't expect the spectacle to lead to any sort of real change come next January.

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