Monday, 5 November 2012

The Septic Tank

It's the week of the US Presidential election, and a perfect time to cover some political topics. The American political system is one of the great tragic comedies of the era. Countless blogs around election season complain about the lamentable state of the superpower's politics, but for wildly differing reasons. I find myself becoming increasingly apathetic to the entire affair. Professional wrestling and reality TV seem to offer more intellectual substance than the horse-race between Obama and Romney. The rest of the world sees the Presidential Freak Show in the same manner that Americans see shows like "Jersey Shore" or "Jerry Springer," a grotesque spectacle of human bilge rats to gawk at. American politics has become a septic tank, where the biggest turds float to the top. You need only look at the Democratic and Republican frontrunners. 

The 'debates' (a term I use loosely) between Obama and Romney have the questions agreed upon and the answers given in the form of a campaign speech. Pepsi and Coke have more differences than Robamney.  The only real policy debates occur between candidates the system is rigged against on a non-mainstream Russian network in the USA. The elections, though, do offer a great look at supervillainy in action, to a degree that Blofeld would envy.

Guns, abortion, environment, education, gay rights, and other 'swing issues' are used to keep an increasingly irate public divided. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have been coopted by the status quo or purposefully ignored. The Demicans and Republicrats run a two headed system, rigged to benefit them, as well as the defense contractors, oil companies, mega-banks, and other corporations that rely on corporate welfare and no-bid contracts from the government. If this is the best government money can buy, I can easily imagine wanting a refund.

Now, where did it go wrong? You could go back decades, perhaps Nixon going off the gold standard (amongst other things), perhaps Reagan doubling the government deficit (turning the USA from the world's largest creditor nation to world's largest debtor nation), perhaps Clinton repealing Glass Steagall (allowing banks to become casinos), perhaps Bush Jr and Cheney launching the War on Terror (accelerating the trends towards an imperial police state).

Obama came to power promising change, and unlike his predecessor, was able to string together coherent sentences and had a professional veneer. He was, however, a professional lawyer and machine politician, as much a part of the system as Dick Cheney. His campaign promises about 'change' and 'hope' sounded convincing and he certainly had the power to repeal and end many of the excesses and abuses of the War on Terror. The PATRIOT Act, Gitmo, Iraq, the drone wars, and many of the other things could've been ended by a President with a majority in Congress and increasingly imperial powers.

Instead of stopping them, he expanded them and added his own. Obama's declaration to close Gitmo had little to do with freeing those who where indefinitely detained there and more about transferring them to the US mainland, the so called "Gitmo North." Obama eagerly expanded the drone strikes, including into countries where Al-Qaeda had less than a token presence.

If anything, drone warfare and due process-free assassination will be Obama's legacy. He used them against a US citizen and his 16 year old son (as well as countless bystanders who were re-labeled as 'militants' after death and even against medics and firefighters who'd arrive to help victims after a drone strike). And that's just the few targets we know of due to journalism and leaks. Anyone could be added to Obama's 'disposition matrix' without their knowledge, without evidence, without charges, and without ever knowing you're on a list to be disposed of. The fact these matrices are generated partially automatically could become fully automated in time, essentially removing even the need for conventional death squads and assassins. Drone technology is getting cheaper, more lethal, more precise, and can be controlled by a smaller number at the top. The perfect weapon for a single emperor or ruler.

There's also Obama's eagerness to rush questionable legislation through. Need I bring up the charming National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law on New Years and allowing the military to indefinitely detain ANYONE (even US citizens on US soil) on suspicion alone? Or how about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a "free trade" agreement that reduces national sovereignty to the whim of corporate lawyers. Or perhaps his rush to war in Libya without consulting Congress and eagerness to arm questionable militants (including a previously listed terrorist group, MeK in Iran)? It's not like the USA arming questionable militant movements has ever backfired, right? The cherry on top of the mess is Obama's whistleblower prosecutions, aimed at cowing dissent in the ranks. Let's not forget some other incidents, such as using taxpayer money to arm Mexican drug cartels in a botched "Fast and Furious" operation, giving away public land for fracking (amounting to a taxpayer funded subsidy for oil and gas firms), love for Citizens United (allowing corporations to donate infinite amounts of cash to any politician), or failure to prosecute criminal bankers like John Corzine (who 'misplaced' a billion or so dollars worth of investors' money).

I'm sure many of these incidents are merely symptoms of a larger systemic crisis. There is no political solution for much of these problems, especially at the Federal level. The fact Romney is eager to assume most of these powers is telling the 'alternative' is little better. Romney shifts his positions to whatever is most likely to get him elected. As a vulture capitalist, seeking out and devouring other people's assets is his trade. The Presidency means access to even more resources to hoover up.

Getting back to Obama, I actually believe he fulfilled his campaign slogans, just not in the way most people think. He brought 'change' to a centuries old tradition of Anglo-American common law. He brought 'hope' to all those who desire to use the government to execute anyone they want, anywhere, anytime. Eventually, the precedents Obama sets could easily be used to bring dictatorship to the US, or at least drop the facade of representative government once and for all. I find it rather tragic that many Democrats, "progressives," and so-called "liberals" perform elaborate mental gymnastics to justify his actions. These "Obamapologists" are rather sad to listen to, as their justifications often smack of wishful thinking. Politicians (such as Obama and Romney) lack substance so their followers project what they want to see in them. The problem with repeatedly electing those soulless husks is eventually, that's all your political system is reduced to.

The empty spectacle is increasingly irrelevant to many, even in the USA. In the East Coast, many without power or warmth dread the coming of another storm. Across the country, the economic lag continues. Whoever "wins" the election will probably continue to pretend the status quo is fine, but the reality on the street will become increasingly distant. Obama and his ilk will continue to thrive in their own isolated enclaves of unreality. Still, you have to give the man some credit. He's established himself as a supervillain in his own right, using nothing but a silver tongue and honeyed words. I'm certain whoever comes next will also be.

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