Thursday, July 22, 2010

All Systems Goo 2

A whole two months ago, I wrote:

If things haven't been exactly lively here of late, it's been because greater events, while not exactly slowing, have fallen into a predictable groove. In Washington, the president will propose, or support, something, the right will be completely outraged, the left partially disappointed, the press happy to slant coverage towards the mass of objections, and then the thing will pass.

Considering past as prologue: Kagan? Good morning, judge. Financial reform? Done. Climate and Immigration? Just you wait.


I bring this up to make two points. One being how little real news passes through our lives each loud and maddening day, and, Two, how fucking successful the administration of B. H. Obama has been, is, and is going to be.

Thing is: I don't quibble with results. Every single outcome mentioned above, along with the health care act and financial stimulus, were carried to completion in the face of relentless political opposition, often rock-headed institutional inertia from the president's own party, and ambivalent--in fact sometimes hostile and ill-informed--press coverage. The widespread notion among "thinkers" left and right that this remarkable success spells a shellacking for Dems this fall at the polls is as nonsensical as nearly every other glass gem the media's been hawking since Vince Foster killed himself.

(For the record, I'm keeping my three-month-old prediction for Democratic losses squarely on the low side of the under. Both houses stay blue--and even a few red patriots going down in unexpected flames.)

But more about the hilarious GOP collapse next time. I wanted this post to review what might be considered White House failures in regards to where the country stands.

Certainly if the Prez could have a do-over it would be the stimulus. As is all-too clear, that $700 bil., as predicted by several smart people, was not enough to do the trick. $1.3 tril. was the better number for Mr. Krugman, but no one wanted to fight for such a scary figure, and now steep unemployment, a situation which cannot surprise anyone who's been paying attention, is the goat at the birthday party.

This trimming of sails is characteristic of every gain the president's made. While I understand the need, and mainly applaud the results, the process encourages exhaustion and disappointment among the most dedicated. Sometimes a sense of command daring is needed, especially if the leaders have proven to be smart and good, and prone to good luck.

Now, honestly, health care reform was too important to court more risk than was already built-in. The stimulus was a triage situation, needed to be done with dispatch. The framing of an inclusive and tolerant military is moving about as fast as it can. I do believe more should have been gained from financial reform, but attempting so would have only torn open a congressional vipers' nest in an election year. Can't win'em all.

I am, for now, giving a pass on our military projects overseas, shitvats of vast proportions and antique features; and taking the Aug. '11 troop withdrawal deadline more seriously than most observers.

For me the administrations biggest failures are ones of omission. That Guantanamo prison remains open is a national disgrace (the whole base, now of zero strategic importance, should be reduced, detoxed, and given to the Cubans once the Castros are history); that some fair, and forgiving, accounting for war crimes has not been made is a rotting canker on the military and nation's soul that will not go away. And there's been zero action on transportation issues which recognizes the, yes, very real Peak Oil situation. (Man, the NSA reports on the Saudi reserves have to be eye-opening.)

From the start, my greatest cabinet-level disappointment was the appointment of Tom Vilsack as Agriculture secretary, guaranteeing policy support for a Big Ag. monoculture food chain which has killed rural life, enriched corporations, and greased the skids for America's population slide into obesity. An organic vegetable garden at the White House is swell (and Mrs. Obama is a ray of constant sunshine for me) but, wow, do we need more.

My advice is, Mr. President, once the elections are past, take your pick at one of the above, and start making some outlandish demands, see what unexpected things can be done. That Sec. Vilsack has just proven himself to be an utter jackass at Agriculture's helm, may be a hint where to begin.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

All Systems Goo

I don't think I need to persuade most of you that we live in an era of widespread system failure. You can see it writ on the obese bodies of our fellow citizens, in the brackish Gulf of Mexico, where Pluto has intruded on the realm of Neptune; in California's finances, in the collapse of the GOP, in the paucity of economic improvement, in the. . . well, why go on?

Eighteen months past the regime of that squalid little man, and we are now on the killing floor, as Howlin' Wolf might have put it. The only way out is forward, and a lot of us, the ones looking back, the ones who slip on the grease of their own asinine understandings of what's happening, the one's who think that everything would be just fine if only the right people are in charge, won't get there.

There are two points-of-view which roughly prevail in our current political arena. Flashiest is the idea that "the people" can somehow "rise up" and "take back" the "country" from "them", those embodied so artfully by that thug-in-chief. Hard knowing exactly how many nitwits really believe this, though I'll chance a guess at a solid 20% of the electorate, inflated to 30% by publicity and thoughtfully crafted polls.

The opposite notion, in my view just as mistaken, is the idea that, in the face of hard times, the mistaken and inept can somehow prevail. Granted, apathy is as pernicious as stupidity (and as much a result of our failed educational system), and well-intentioned Democrats (those of similar stripe having been mainly driven from the GOP) do not have a easy row to hoe from here to election day. But their way, if not free of obstacles, is clear in view, and I might spend some time describing it next time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Checking In

Remember me? I hope everyone has been enjoying their summer (as much as possible anyway.) I just wanted to say that I have not forgotten you, my beloved 14 readers; it's just that I have not had a whole lot new to add to the national debate. Lately however I've been forming some thoughts and might start knocking some out, little by little, over the next few days. In the meantime, stay cool.