Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

Obama’s troubles are ours now. We collectively identified Obama’s peculiarly militant brand of passive aggressiveness beginning in March 2009. Recall our frustration watching the Rightist initial fabrication of the Tea Party then go unchallenged. Or behold Obama’s White House spokesman joke in Summer 2010 they might even lose the House.

Seeing This Car Wreck In 2007

We could do little but share why the re-constituted Movement would quickly mutate into a demonstrably feral brand of anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic emotive rejections. In the face of Obama and Democratic inaction, we argued ‘the fever’ would not quickly subside. Did we not — at the time in 2008-09 –declare Obama’s chief task to be seen doing one thing surpassingly well? To rebut Rightist narrative and restore faith in empirical government?

Even before his 2008 victory, Obama’s congenital “Goldilocks Syndrome” of compromise in the face of extremes was obvious. Didn’t we predict with scary accuracy how it would work?

Here’s our take from 2007 for new Readers. NPR’s “Spilled Bong Water” show assessed the Obama Campaign and his presidency like a seer.

NPR Spilled Bong Water on 2007 Obama Campaign

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This Isn’t Over Yet, Batman

71 people shot at the Aurora, Colorado midnight show of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Almost instantly, right wing defensive posturing over gun control hijacked a tragedy for squalid politics.

A single reporter on Good Morning America said the shooter belonged to the Tea Party (and quickly corrected). That lone report by a not very credible reporter was all the victim bandwagon needed. The Fox crew energetically speculated without reporting that it all might be related to OWS. Most of the cable teams we glimpsed, especially CNN, appeared almost but not quite celebratory. It is because they have a new cash cow narrative for ratings? Or it’s a temporary reprieve from the bleak and small presidential race? Unknown.
Batman, Aurora massacre, Rush Limbaugh

It’ll be a long time coming before we get reliable information about the shooter and his avowed motives. Pundits laugh at waiting and scramble to tell us what it all means. Most of those writers are clueless about pop culture, movies and genres but are oddly obsessed by them. Much like El Rushbo:

This evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there’s now a discussion out there as to whether or not this is purposeful and whether or not it will influence voters. It’s gonna have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is gonna be huge. A lot of people are gonna see the movie, and it’s a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd, and they’re gonna hear Bane in the movie and they’re gonna associate Bain. The thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie, ‘Oh, yeah, I know who that is.’ There are some people who think it’ll work. Others think you’re really underestimating the American people to think that will work.

“You may think it’s ridiculous, I’m just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up. The kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to. These are the kind of people that they are attempting to appeal to.

This tragedy reminds one of other incidents and losses. We’d like to close by remembering the sacrifice of Officer Johns. You may recall he gave his life to defend Holocaust Museum visitors. And there are others. Does this incident prompt memories for you?

A Consumer Society Seeks Expiation Of Guilt (Memorial Day Edition)

Expiation: The act of making satisfaction or atonement for any crime or fault; the extinguishing of guilt by suffering or penalty.

(emphasis added)

We celebrate today’s holiday in solemn recognition of the outsized burden we all collectively impose on our professional military, reservists and families. We also believe today’s ostensibly fulsome ‘honoring’ those who served is a transient, narcissistic gesture to alleviate abstract guilt.

The point of the definition, of course, is that the paeans across the Twitterverse, blogs and TeeVee involve no real suffering or penalty (besides stultification). Sincere and heartfelt efforts still unsatisfying because to honor requires deeper understanding beyond responding to retinal impressions.

(Have no fear, Dear Reader, we’re not going to join in the Franzen fracas that to use Facebook is to never know love. The old French New Wave cinema would have known how to deal with that anyway).

Thanks, Charlie Moskos. You’re Missed.

Why a critique instead of treacly obeisance to Memorial Day iconography? Because we remember Charlie Moskos.

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Better Them Than Us — David Brooks Lands In London Town

Poor Old Blighty. Once again a Yank (really Canadian born) “is over-hyped, overpaid and over here.” David Brooks is the darling of what passes for the British political smart set; his new book is so hot that both David Cameron and Ed Miliband are meeting him this week. Steve Hilton, Cameron’s top strategist, has invited him to hold a seminar at No 10 on Friday.

Other Brits across the political and social firmament are tripping over themselves to apply Brooksian thought to everything from clogged drains to dry skin. At last, America has revenge for the Arctic Monkeys.

Why the adulation? Like Gertrude Himmelfarb, wife of Irving Kristol and mother of Willie, Brooks’ book seeks to reinterpret the Enlightenment so as to turn it inside out as it were. Rather than a period of ascending rationality, both Himmelfarb and Brooks focus on certain British thinkers of the era who urged the supremacy of the irrational, emotive essence of mankind. Brooks approvingly quotes Hume “Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.”

“When we invaded Iraq we were blind to the social problems that would be involved. We didn’t realise they didn’t trust us.” Hold on – didn’t he write a New York Times column urging invasion? “I did. I was so blind about it. In that column I wondered what Michael Oakeshott [the British conservative political philosopher] would have said. He would have said: this society is very complicated and you should be circumspect in thinking about what you can achieve, and that invading to install democracy without trust is doomed. And then I wrote: ‘Having said that, I think we should invade.'”

Brooks apparently thinks the problem with Iraq was that America was insufficiently irrational with ‘street smarts’ and too rational. And his message to the UK is add some irrationality and street smarts to the government along with vague communal spirits. Don’t the Brits realize they can get all this penetrating insight for free weekly on PBS? In mercifully short 10 minute doses, too.

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Nuclear Crisis In Japan – Slo Mo Crisis Of Tangible Things

Perhaps it’s the linguistic barriers; parachuting anchors into Japan probably don’t even have Japanese tourist phrasebooks. But it’s amazing how absent Japanese people, officials or volunteers are from newscasts. A speech from the Japanese Prime Minister announcing the Fukushima reactors are at a crisis point didn’t merit coverage. By contrast, earlier ramblings of a tribal dictator fighting over empty sand? Wall to wall saturation.

Perhaps we’re overly critical of American news media (primarily broadcast). Yet our impression is of Americans talking primarily to Americans standing in debris fields without Japanese faces, voices or perspectives. American broadcasters in Egypt found translators and interviewed protestors, covered Mubarak addresses, etc. Yet the greatest natural disaster in modern times happens to be in a Japan without many Japanese on camera. So far.

There are vague references to homeless. And people without food, water, medicine, heat. Little coverage on what’s actually being done, what needs to be done. The difference with coverage in Haiti is stark. Perhaps because the Japanese social contract removes ‘good tv’ images of conflict, riots, or looting.

Instead, American networks latch onto more easily covered tangible things such as exploding nuclear reactors. Broadcast producers appear to book anyone with ‘nuclear’ in their job title, from disarmament types to nuclear power (pro or con) lobbyists. It’s a two-fer if the commentator is a physicist. Unsurprisingly the commentary about the Dai Ichi plants presents more chyron alarm than clarity – exchanges of ignorance.

A corollary to the American fixation on tangible Japanese buildings is obsession on what it means for us. Should California prepare for nuclear fallout? Could California plants at Diablo Canyon survive a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami? How will Californians buy a Prius going forward? What happens to Americans’ 401ks? And perhaps most salient to Americans, how will the crisis affect their plans to buy an iPad 2?

We don’t dismiss a nuclear crisis verging close to a true meltdown. That desperate situation, however, will unfold over considerable time. Should matters continue to deteriorate the damage and clean up will be a challenge for years. Meanwhile tsunami survivors, homeless, without shelter, food, water or medicine either get needed help or succumb. Which prompts the question, ‘If catastrophe victims get help and American tv doesn’t cover them, were they ever in danger?’

Great Moments In Western Civ

What’s not to love? Especially when you see how I party. It was epic. The run I was on made Sinatra, Flynn, Jagger, Richards just look like droopy-eyed armless children.

I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.

I got tiger blood, man. My brain….fires in a way that is — I don’t know, maybe not from this particular terrestrial realm.

Charlie Sheen (Feb. 27, 2011)

I like it. My wife hates it. Does that surprise anyone?

James Carville’s commercial for Miracle Whip (Feb. 2011)

Everybody on the outside kept claiming I was a sociopath. I asked her [his therapist], ‘Am I a sociopath?’

Bernie Madoff (Feb. 2011)

Because America Deserves President Trump

Not just because everything would be ‘classy, world class, the best.’ We expect that from our presidents. And get over the hair. Nixon? Carter? Reagan?

America deserves Trump because they are both two of a kind: highly leveraged while pretending to be solvent and wealthy. Trump knows how to negotiate with creditors when in default. When you owe a bank $75,000 you’re in trouble. When it’s $2.2 billion, they’re screwed. The coming bankruptcy will be history’s largest. Who better than the Donald?

Plus, with Trump America can welcome Roger Stone back into the limelight. A former dirty trickster for Nixon he was later one of the founding members of Black, Manafort & Stone (Atwater didn’t want to become a lobbyist). He has lingered in the shadows since.

Imagine Trump selling off toxic collateralized debt on QVC: ‘These historic collectors items are the best, only these instruments are fit to bear my name. And you know I insist on everything being the finest in the world. Order now and Ivanka will also add a special edition of ‘Trump Cologne’, the classiest cologne. Call now before we sell out of these premium, unique investments and a piece of American history.’

We could go on, but surely you see the inevitability?

Arianna’s $100 Million Serfs

What do the unpaid contributors and their commenting audience get from the AOL deal? Apparently permission to keep on doing what they do, still unpaid. As true serfs, they will thank the Manor Born for that permission. Better to get some publicity — they think — than toil in some ‘not part of the conversation’ twilight.

All of us probably know someone or perhaps some have posted items/comments on that site. What we’ve found talking to acquaintances is a weird passive resentment being used mixed with pride that their item is posted. Like a sweating serf beaming after receiving a nod from the carriage as it enters the gates.

Hats off to Arianna for using all those people so ruthlessly and profiting off them so blatantly. With a few minor exceptions, the people we know who post items there deserve that unseemly existential resignation. Some deserve more. We can’t wait to see how the circus will set up shop under AOL. So many serfs wanting to be found.

American Journalism’s Blind Spot – Egypt As Case Study

American journalism’s coverage of Egyptian events is flawed in many ways. Two salient mistakes are: (a) the simplistic and incorrect assumption that Facebook and Twitter are proximate causes to the uprising; and more seriously, (b) ongoing and inappropriate focus on Mubarak individually. Everyday it’s the same — the dictator is the regime/government/ruling elite. For flavor, ‘sophisticated’ analysis separates out the Army as an independent actor — meanwhile assuming that some unified, monolithic, single minded entity called ‘the Army’ even exists. You’d think we’d collectively learned something since 1989. Apparently not.

American journalism is surprised by recent events despite its inevitability. Why? Besides Mubarak, over the decades tens of thousands enriched themselves at the Egyptian people’s expense. This entire strata is under threat by Mubarak’s removal. Obama’s push on Mubarak poses a potential fight or flight instinct for the entire apparat and threatens their ill-gotten wealth. It’s utterly wrong for cable talking heads to toss out seemingly broad words like ‘the government needs to be stopped from causing violence.’ The ‘government’ proper is only one constituency of entrenched interests under threat. And ‘the Army’ another among many if clearly primus inter pares.

It’s all fine for the new Prime Minister to declare the planned chaos, violence and crackdown ‘a catastrophe.’ Better still when the new government freezes the assets of the former Interior Minister and other minions and revokes their passports. Not all would agree. Some Israelis likely were quietly pleased with the riposte.

Haven’t you noticed how Americans still think about decapitation as an individual’s fate? Meanwhile the entrenched apparat is scrambling to transfer, hide or otherwise preserve its wealth. Mubarak agreed to a transfer of power in September reluctantly. That was ok. His health was failing. His ruling apparat-approved successor wouldn’t rock the boat. Plus, September granted a breathing period. Not only to for another throw of the dice. It’s enough time for wealth transfer. The Internet was not just restored for media manipulation.

Is more time for Mubarak ‘right’ or ‘moral’? If you’re reading this, then you, like the Stiftung, would answer no. But the harder question is whether some time is ‘necessary’. Mubarak gone now without more could trigger essentially a ‘stand or die’ threat to strata far beyond Mubarak’s immediate entourage. Mubarak’s replacement by his appointed VP might be enough to forestall that reaction. We support the Administration’s ‘now means yesterday’. A shame American journalism doesn’t understand this situation transcends the fate of one man.

Naturally, Mubarak’s pride, ego and vanity are involved. We don’t doubt he’s being encouraged by peers in the region. And factions within the ruling strata are doubtless splintered. Meanwhile, a corned opponent is the most dangerous — doubly so when that opponent is more than one man or institution, etc. By that light, with an entire ruling strata at risk, recent events follow an inexorable logic.