Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Sorrows of Empire, Pt. 2...

People who know me in real life know that I was never an Obama fan. I couldn't see what the fuss was about, frankly. I didn't like the "awesome God" talk, the strange mutability of his policy positions from the beginning to the end of the primaries –- which went beyond the normal and expected political calculations, in my estimation. I didn't like his neo-liberal Chicago School advisors. I didn't like the nearly substance-free campaign, the emphasis on marketing and branding, that big "O" that looked like a groovier Pepsi logo. But this wasn't something I could discuss with a lot of people usually on my side of the political fence and on a lot of online venues where I'd generally find allies. Conversations about Obama seemed to turn unpleasant almost instantly; if you weren't onboard there was something wrong with you.

(just to be clear, I have no patience with the "OMG Obama is a Muslim Socialist!!!" rhetoric, particularly when available evidence points to nearly opposite conclusions)

I wasn't silent but I was not vocal enough; I don't like confrontation that turns ugly and personal, and I felt like nothing I could say made a difference anyway. Bringing it into this blog felt particularly pointless. I now see that although I was willing to challenge people in person (and on other blogs), I was reluctant to take too public a stand, as small a number as my "public" may be. It was a form of cowardice on my part, and one that I regret.

I'm a good liberal as both RL and online acquaintances most likely know. I voted Democratic in the presidential election because the alternative was unacceptable -- I was not going to hand the car keys back over to the Party that had driven the country into the ditch for the last eight years. I wasn't happy about my choices, but I figured at the very least we would have a somewhat more rational foreign policy and a significantly better environmental one.

Basically, I voted for the polar bears.

I need to get to work and I don't have the time or energy to write a long post enumerating all the reasons I'm pissed off disappointed with the Obama Administration, and anyway, I'm not great at writing those kinds of pieces. I tend to sublimate my political anger into my fiction -- raw, bloody grist for the mill.

So, to keep it short, here's the list: the financial bailout, i.e., "the socialization of risk and the privatization of profit," which is to say, "everything for the people who caused the problems in the first place, nothing for the working and middle class", the incredible hypocrisy on DOMA, DADT, the "health care reform" that started with a fatal compromise and ends, I'm guessing, with huge giveaways to the insurance industry and little, if any, improvement in care...

And this, which is the worst of all: the continuation of the Bush Administration's extra-legal tactics in the "war on terror" and the continued shredding of the Constitution and the rule of law. Glenn Greenwald, linked above, has the essential summary of how the Obama administration is considering an executive order to allow prolonged detention without charges. For me, the money graph is this one:
There has now emerged a very clear -- and very disturbing -- pattern whereby Obama is willing to use legal mechanisms and recognize the authority of other branches only if he's assured that he'll get the outcome he wants. If he can't get what he wants from those processes, he'll just assert Bush-like unilateral powers to bypass those processes and do what he wants anyway. In other words, what distinguishes Obama from the first-term Bush is that Obama is willing to indulge the charade that Congress, the courts and the rule of law have some role to play in political outcomes as long as they give him the power he wants. But where those processes impede Obama's will, he'll just bypass them and assert the unilateral power to do what he wants anyway...
One of Greenwald's commentators cites Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire, the basic premise of which is that the American economy has become an increasingly militarized, hollow shell, our republic, an empire supported by arms, where a series of bases substitute for colonies. Everything the Bush administration did, both at home and abroad, supports Johnson's view; the Bush administration was wholly given over to the military-industrial complex; and the extent to which Obama is willing to continue the abuses of his predecessor provides further evidence of the essential truth of what Johnson proposes.

When then-Senator Obama, the presidential frontrunner, voted for the FISA bill he had earlier promised to filibuster, the writing on the wall was writ large enough for anyone to see.

Empires do not willingly transform themselves back into republics. And holders of power do not willingly give up power.

(Shorter Obama: "We had to shred the Constitution in order to save it.")

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paging Doctor Kush?!

Okay. I think marijuana should be legal, period, and I fully support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. But what's going on in Venice is just...weird.

There are so many medical marijuana "clinics" within walking distance of my house, it's crazy. Six, at least. Some look more or less like doctor's offices...low-key, discreet. And then there are places down on the boardwalk called "Doctor Kush Clinic" and "Kush Sunset Co-operative" staffed with hip-hop dudes in oversized lettermen's jackets emblazoned with fluorescent green cannabis leaves, and girls in bikinis who urge you to "Come upstairs and get high legally!"

I mean, come on. Our pot policies are seriously whack. Legalize it already.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We interrupt this commercial with tonight's program...

I call my house "Shack by the Sea." It's a bungalow built around 1912, and though it has its charms, they are best described as "bohemian." Perhaps "rustic." Anyway, the walls are thin and the lots are small here, so sometimes I have more insight into my neighbor's activities than I would like to.

Currently my next door neighbor is a guy - maybe two - I haven't quite figured that out yet - youngish, in film/TV. A certain cable channel that I won't name, but let's just say, when I came home and there was a film production going on next door that featured a pretty girl in a French maid outfit, I wasn't entirely surprised (no, it's not the Playboy Channel - nothing that interesting).

This afternoon, they seemed to be having a business meeting of sorts out in their front yard. Two or three guys talking about marketing strategies. Viral marketing. Web 2.0. Social networking sites. Branding. I heard it all, any time I went into my bedroom to fold clothes and change the sheets.

Would that I had a flame-thrower.

You know, I just. Don't. Care. I don't care about this stuff. I don't care about business, spread sheets, the profit motive, guys in suits, advertising, marketing strategies, not any of it. I don't care. I recognize that you need to market your work, I get that. But what I don't get is how we've come to a place where the marketing and the brand have superseded the content and the idea.

Our last two Presidents were elected because of branding and clever marketing, and their performance in office demonstrates the almost total disconnect between the brands being marketed and the policies that were supposed to be associated with those brands.

There's so much that's terribly wrong with this, with a business and political culture where clever marketing is used as a subterfuge, to disguise the "product" we're being sold, where the image overrides the substance.

Meanwhile, my beloved California is about to experience the shock doctrine, the endgame of years of a dysfunctional state government kicking the can down the road instead of making the structural changes that desperately need to be made in order to have a rational budget that delivers needed goods and services and raises the funds necessary to do so. It's profoundly disturbing. Maybe it's going to take everything falling apart before we can put it back together, but in the meantime, poor and disabled people will literally die if the proposed budget cuts go through. I don't have the energy to complete the rest of this equation, the "meanwhile we give millions/billions of tax cuts to corporations/federal bailouts to wealthy bankers" - you know, it's a cliche, all the more depressing because it's true.

I don't know what the answers are, don't know how it is we can reorganize our economy to provide decent jobs for more people, what it means to be productive in an age where the last thing we need to do is to keep buying more cheap plastic crap just to keep everyone working, here and around the world. There have to be better ways to organize ourselves, better ways to live. I'm not talking about some utopian fantasy here, just a society where work has value, lives have meaning, and where people earn enough money to live decently.

Okay, /rant. I have work to do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bad Blogger, no donut...June 2009 edition!

I've been busy with some, er, work...I will report on at least some of said "work" soon...

In the meantime, is this love, or another passing fancy?