Saturday, September 3, 2011

Taking Stock This Labor Day Weekend

Guest Post by Jay -- Ottawa

What can I say?  Obama’s long list of betrayals and our repeated howls – yes, both his stuff and our stuff, two halves forming one absurdity -- are getting tiresome.  
Here we go again with this week’s reversal of EPA standards on air quality, the latest item to be appended to the “Obama Scandals List” (see Blog Roll to your right).  And the Administration’s rationale for such perfidy?  Clean air kills jobs.  Yeah, right.  
Obama negotiates another raw deal for the people in time for Labor Day.  Piecemeal give-backs by Labor in return for Management concessions: such is the way in labor-management negotiations today.  In order to get more jobs from corporate world we have to “give back” our lungs to the corporate world.  Akin to belt-tightening, so Karen calls it – what else -- bronchiole-tightening.

The human psyche can absorb just so much Beckettian tragicomedy before everything seems unrelentingly absurd.  Words and civic action to restore reason end in futility.  We lately discover all the levers available to us are connected to nothing.  Unless you choose to go down the road of barking madness or culpable ignorance, the only reasonable attitude in face of Obama’s Act I is cynicism.  I can’t wait to vote for him again in 2012 for Act II as the lesser of two evils.  That’s what the stronger souls who are still operating on the plains of reason and pragmatism are advising us to do week after week, despite betrayal after betrayal.  Four more years for the Man Who Turned Himself (and the country) Inside Out!  We’ll find out in January 2013 which word comes after cynicism.
At first – that is, shortly after January 20, 2009 – we were merely confused.  Was Obama up to something clever?  A deep game?  Some kind of political jujitsu?  Why on earth was he choosing a hawk for Secretary of State?  Why Wall Street enablers like Summers and Geithner to help Main Street back on its feet?  Why a senator in the pay of the private health insurance industry to lead a reform away from the profiteering of private health insurance?  Why Obama’s expansion of war while basking in the glow of the Nobel Peace Prize?  Why the stretch-out of Guantanamo and the shrinkage of the Fourth Amendment?
 Obama Doctrine?  It boils down to surveillance and assassination by drones, complemented by routine violations of sovereignty by crack teams with the right stuff.  Some of those drones cruise day and night over the Homeland itself.  More I cannot say because it’s so secret. 
Most of us who tune in to this blog are no longer confused.  As a few analysts have insisted, Obama is not incompetent.  He has not been duped, “turned” or cowed.  The 2008 Democratic champion for reform was always a man from the enemy camp.  In 2008 the military-industrial-financial-security complex maneuvered a Trojan Horse into view with the help of its media complex, and we fell for it.  To do what Obama has done repeatedly tells us he lacks integrity and decency at his core.  We now realize we’ve been had.  Obama is most comfortable ingratiating himself before moneymen.  As long as they have his back he can ignore the polls.
It’s come to this: Most of the people in power today ignore “we the people,” whether we vote for them or vote against them, whether we tune in or tune away, whether we petition, campaign and demonstrate en masse or remain docile and stay home.  What social contract? 
We are in for a long season of pain.  For a few years we were like the patient who refuses to accept the diagnosis from the insistent doctor.  Why can’t we do or not do the political equivalents of smoking, devouring sugar and fat and never exercising and yet not get away with it?  The national myth tells us it’s impossible for America to stroke out like other empires.  There was only one Dark Age in history, right?  Some of us, like the Tea Party faithful, have turned to quacks.  Chris Hedges on the other end of opinion advises us to hide away in small self-sufficient communities of like-minded people well apart from the corporate-dependent, corporate-supporting majorities unwilling to give up the insupportable life style that’s killing us and the planet itself.  Take an Amish or Mennonite or Shaker friend to lunch to learn more.
 Finally, after a season of denial, we are – quite supinely, considering the viciousness of the assault against us in the class war -- reaching the point of accepting decline, deprivation and pain as constants, the new normals, companions on the long grey road ahead.  If an American fruit vendor, Tunisia style, were to immolate himself before the gates of the White House or on the steps of the Capitol or the Court, nothing would happen.  Hundreds of tragedies unfold every day in this country.  This year almost as many soldiers have died by suicide as were killed by the enemy.  Thousands of Americans who once lived in houses are gravitating south better to endure their new life under the stars.  We tolerate these trends because we ourselves have not been bankrupted – yet -- by unemployment, the theft of retirement savings in Wall Street accounts, a tricky mortgage or the hospital bill of a spouse.  Solidarity is a strictly Polish thing; individualism is the American thing. 
As for the “American Exception,” that turned out to be nothing more than a blip in history, the short years from around 1945 to 1980.  Is it too late to salute those years of middle class advancement on this Labor Day?  Anyway, it’s over.  Hang up your dignity.  We are being herded back to the old imperatives.  Oligarchy, the default mode of political organization since the beginning of time, is once again back in place just about everywhere.   
Yes, yes: Frailty, thy name is Obama.   
But, to be fair: Frailty, thy name is the electorate, whole and entire. 
Happy Labor Day.



James F Traynor said...

Damn it! Wake up! I don't want to fight either, but it's been thrust upon us.
Voting for Obama is voting for the Democratic Party's tactics ever since the Clintons. And, right now, the Democratic Party is our only hope and it's impossibly corrupt. Supporting Obama is supporting the Democratic Party's modus operandi, supporting its corruption. Faced it, civil war, of whatever kind, is coming. The Republicans know that, we don't. If you're afraid of struggle, get the hell out of the way.

Jay - Ottawa said...

@ James

Irony is a tough form, open to broad misunderstanding when practiced by an amateur like me. I believe the expert practitioners use irony as a prod to get others worked up, not to put them to sleep; and that was my intent.

At the same time, I didn't mean to put a fright in the horses. It must always be understood that half of what I write is the opposite of what I really intend; the other half, the part that is not ironic, I do believe, at least half of the time. Examples:

Irony: I can’t wait to vote for him again in 2012 for Act II as the lesser of two evils.

Not Irony: Frailty, thy name is The Electorate.

Denis Neville said...

Taking Stock This Labor Day Weekend…

Mike Lofgren, recently retired Republican Congressional staffer, writes in Truthout’s Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, “Undermining Americans' belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy.”

“Both parties are rotten - how could they not be, given the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise upwards of a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate loot…But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP…”

“legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself…”

“There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that ‘they are all crooks,’ and that ‘government is no good’…This ill-informed public cynicism…further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government…”

“This constant drizzle of ‘there the two parties go again!’ stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends…why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by…Rush Limbaugh or Fox News…”

“What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing.”

“I left because I was appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans, like Gadarene swine, to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country's future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them…”

As James Fallows, The Atlantic, points out, “It's important to understand that the point here is not the mindlessly "balanced" outlook of "Oh, I'm sure there's a lot of blame to go around on all sides. One side is weak, the other is crazy, it all evens out." It's far worse than that. The major parts of our political establishment are both showing operational pathologies that each makes the other's failings worse, rather than somehow buffering each other toward a harmonious best-of-both-worlds compromise result.”

@ Jay “I can’t wait to vote for him [Obama] again in 2012 for Act II as the lesser of two evils.”

"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." -John Quincy Adams

Something to ponder this Labor Day weekend.

Anne Lavoie said...

Take heart, all! There is one national voice speaking truth loudly and clearly, saying the following:

“There is a name for this. It’s called corporate crony capitalism. It’s not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts . . . and influence peddling and corporate welfare.”

Crony capitalism represents “the collusion of big government and big business and big finance, to the detriment of all the rest.”

"Republican candidates who raise mammoth amounts of cash should be asked what their donors expect in return for their investments.”

"return power to the people".

Ok, so it is Sarah Palin. Nevertheless, it is the TRUTH, and she has the national media's attention (for awhile), and the people in the heartland are listening to the message. That is way more than Obama is giving us. Who woulda thunk it?

Anonymous said...

There are Republican voices for true change and Liberty. Both Gary Johnson & Ron Paul are against the wars and violations of our liberties. Register Republican and get one of these guys nominated and you will see a new Obama.

Anonymous said...

@Annie, I'm pretty sure you are not intending to support Sarah Palin and the nonsense she says in a speech. I found the parts about "corporate cronysim" uninteresting and unbelieveable. Just stringing some words together to get a crowd excited. However, I did sit up and take notice when she suggested ALL corporate taxes be eliminated. Bachmann was asked about that on this morning's shows, and she says she'd consider it. I'm hoping there will be some little discussion of this newest idea during the debate on Wednesday. It's a race to the bottom, people!

And I'm not sure what Anonymous is hoping for, but Ron Paul is as crazy and dangerous as the rest of them. I won't comment on Gary Johnson - I don't know anything about him except that he wants to legalize pot. That is is waaaay down on my list of concerns.


dean said...


Ron Paul favors elimination of agencies that protect your liberties; right to have clean air, water, etc. By far his worst, in my view, would be the elimination of The National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This alone should exclude him from any consideration or votes.

Anonymous said...

What a relief to see thinking Americans who oppose the pipeline of heavy crude from Canada actually do something besides whimper. I give the Tea Party points for doing what "aware" liberals should have been doing. Rolling over and playing dead is a funny trick when dogs do it. It's not so neat when supposedly intelligent and earnest people who have everything to lose do it.

Jay - Ottawa said...

I had some fun today trying those Palin quotes on progressive ears.

But to be serious, this thought: The only lasting difference between former Mayor and Governor Sarah Palin and former nothing Barack Obama is that after she quit she left office, while he stayed in office after he quit.

William said...

@ Jay

Thanks for another fine performance as guest host of The Karen Garcia Show.

Meanwhile, presidential perfidiousness continues unabated with nary a peep from our downtrodden populace. Honestly, how much more do we have to take before we can't take it anymore?

Valerie said...

Absolutely loved the Trojan Horse analogy, Jay! I have already passed it on.

And thanks for the Sarah Palin quotes, Anne. It is pretty sad when these truths are even obvious to her. I don't doubt she had a lot of other trash mixed in with these jewels of truth in her speech but it is great to have them handy when sparring with my Republican/Tea Party relatives. I maintain, we middle class Lefties have a lot more in common with the Tea Partiers - not the screaming ninny variety but the ones who have given up on government being the answer - than we do with most of our corrupted, corporate Democratic representatives in Congress and the White House.

As for Ron Paul, his anti-war agenda is appealing and I would be tempted to give him my vote if I could be assured he would go after the military spending as his first order of business if elected to office. But what if he goes after social programs first and doesn't get around to military spending until after he has decimated our entire social support network?

Considering that Progressives are so desperate for a challenger to Obama that they are even looking at Ron Paul, I remain amazed there isn't a true Progressive willing to challenge O’Betrayer in the Primary. I want to know WHAT is going on behind the scenes with the DNC? I have visions of the old unions where anyone who challenged their agenda was roughed up. Have other interested candidates been told to back off or else risk the wrath of the DNC?

Fred Drumlevitch said...


Great piece of writing.

But you've employed some of the exact same imagery that I was using --- betrayal, Dark Ages, oligarchy, and the Arab spring --- on a piece I was working on!!!


Perhaps it was inevitable. The absurdity of contemporary "governance" --- and it's impossible to use that term without irony --- immediately suggests to any reasonable person certain concepts and metaphors.

However, there will still be differences. My piece is focused on a particular, novel solution (or at least one that seems novel to me, given my ignorance), while your post made me want to reach for a stiff drink.

My piece is done, but I've been letting it marinate, and waiting for the upcoming 9-11 anniversary pontifications to finish, before I post it on my site.

Again, you've authored a great commentary, Jay. I look forward to more guest posts from you here at Sardonicky.

Suzan said...

Found you on Krugman.

I'm so sorry I haven't blogrolled you before, sister!

Let's get organized.


Karen Garcia said...

Likewise! Happy to reciprocate re the blogroll.

Neil Gillespie said...

Jay - Ottawa, your point is well taken, "If an American fruit vendor, Tunisia style, were to immolate himself before the gates of the White House or on the steps of the Capitol or the Court, nothing would happen."

In June of this year Thomas Ball reached his breaking point with the legal system and family court, walked up to the main door of the Keene County, New Hampshire courthouse, doused himself with gasoline, and lit himself ablaze. Hardly anyone seems to have noticed.

Ron Paul favors elimination of the US Military Empire and wars currently bankrupting America. Ron Paul favors ending crony capitalism, the fed, and Too Big To Fail. If SOMEONE does not address these issues, the rest doesn’t matter, the country will fail. When the ship is sinking, don’t pass up a lifeboat because it is polluting the air with a stinky outboard motor.

With all the New York Times readers to this blog, I’m surprised no one has mentioned the August 25th piece by Cornel West, "Dr. King Weeps From His Grave". West, a former Obama supporter, now supports Senator Bernard Sanders. Here are some selected passages:

"...[T]he age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable..."

"King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens."

"In concrete terms, this means support for progressive politicians like Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor; extensive community and media organizing; civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle."

How many Americans are ready to put on cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle?

mac gordon said...

Excellent post, Jay.

Today I went to recycle, and noticed a woman collecting 'deposite' bottles from the 'bins'. When she saw me, she explained that she didn't usually do something like this. But, she'd just lost her job because of the flooding.(I live in Vermont.) She had four children, no partner, and no hope of getting immediate help.

Then she started to cry. I gave her all the money I had. $40. She hugged me and said. 'It makes me feel so much better that someone believes me, and someone cares'.

When I got back into my car, I choked up, thinking what a despicable nation we've become.

Perhaps next year we'll see an 'American Spring!'

"Cat" will do said...

I'll just pass along Ms. Palin's remark made last week as she cautioned tea partyers to be skeptical of all candidates, no matter their color or party, not just Big O. To wit:

"This is why we must remember the challenge is not simply to replace Obama in 2012. The real change is who and what we will replace him with," Palin said at a Tea Party rally in a rural area south of Des Moines. "Folks, you know it's not enough to change the uniform."

Excuse me? Is it too much to assume a subtle racial meaning there? Or is she really at heart just another american white collar aspirant suffering from "last place aversion"? The folks I call the Me-Firsters. And I'll wager this phenom is the answer to why the dems can't get a progressive message across. And I recently saw The Debt, which has a timely message for us all.


Suesjoy said...

I believe that greed, on a corporate AND individual level is at heart here, honestly.

The answer for many is homesteading, and I think this is a trend that will continue to grow.

I also believe that communities must come together and share the fruit of their land with those who have none.

I had this idea...I want to approach "green/organic companies" and to start a Trust Fund to help buy land/areas in communities so that people in need can work on community gardens...especially abandoned businesses and factories. There must be a great deal of unused space in the US.

(I am an ex-pat, living in Taiwan, but I will never stop loving/worrying about the US!).

It is obvious that the government could give a rat's ass about "we the people." Obama has crystallized this realization.
It's time for us all to be self-sufficient, and help those who will struggle hard to become self-sufficient.

I have faith and hope in America, but none at all in our government.

Anonymous said...

Karen, I really enjoyed reading your comment on Paul Krugman's essay today in the NYTimes.

I especially liked: "The unemployment crisis is a direct result of the government’s failure to protect citizens from unfettered capitalism."

The idea that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens--even from economic disaster such as what we're experiencing today--is a perspective that I would like to see our elected government representatives share.


Valerie said...


I must confess that I don't think the uniform comment was necessarily racist. It could have been but I wouldn't have taken it that way. I think Palin just meant the labels Democratic and Republican are just superficial window dressing when in reality both parties are basically the same Corporate party. Personally, I am glad to hear she is off the Obama is the evil socialist rhetoric and is saying the whole system is corrupted. Tea Partiers listen to her and it is good that this message (the corporate uniparty) gets some kind of a forum. I often feel that the progressives and conservatives are getting two completely different sets of information.

I was touched by your comment. You are so right, the ME FIRST mentality that Cat referred to seems to be so much more acceptable than it was twenty years ago. We are a despicable nation to just throw people away without a backward glance. Bless you for your generosity (although I know you didn't tell us this story to get our applause). The sad thing is there are many people who would have passed her by or treated her like a social pariah or ignored her or at best given her a dollar. While we wait for our government to do the right thing, all we can do is help the people who cross our paths and express small acts of kindness. I agree with Chris Hedges, it is important that we find people with our same social values and spend time with them. Otherwise, the country and the world would seem very despicable.

We have at least two generations of people who have had it so good, that they feel no civic duty to take part in their democracy. Apathy and the ME FIRST mentality are pervasive and it is really hard to shake people out of that selfish place. Then there are those who are cynical or even worse, hopeless. I don’t know what we can do to build up a movement that evokes hope that things can and will change. I think the biggest gripe I have against Obama was he stole our hope. People were so full of optimism that we were going to turn our country around and undo so much of the harm done by Bush et. al. and deregulation. With Obama’s blatant betrayal came a death of hope. Now people who might have gotten involved feel that there is nothing they can do to change the country – that the corruption runs so deep and that those entities doing the corruption are too powerful. They are afraid to have thier hearts broken again by another charlatan like Obama.

I would like to put in a plug for the New Progressive Alliance. They are looking for volunteers so anyone serious about changing the political landscape of our country should check them out. I applaud this organisation and the people involved for not giving up hope - for believing it is not to late and for having high standards.

By the way, I have decided to write in Bernie Sanders if Obama or the other Republicans are my only choice. By the way, I just heard Russ Feingold is going to campaign for Obama. If this is true, the guy just lost my respect.

"Cat" will do said...

@ Valerie

Obama the Betrayer? I think not. There are ample sources on the web (Obama's speeches from day one) to refresh the memories of those who heard only what they wanted to hear from Obama during the campaign. Some of us were listening more carefully, experience having taught us that a newbie dem who came outta nowhere to "galvanize" the 04 convention was a setup from the Goldman boys running the show under Clinton. People who voted for Obama were hearing what they wanted to hear. He was always a DLCer , never a progressive, and didn't pretend to be one. Until those who voted for him admit this, we are doomed to more of the same non choice. To this day I can't believe people ever trusted Obama to really change anything. The election of 08 was Emotional Americans at their most SEntimental. In total denial and praying "save us, save us!" White liberal and every other kind of imaginable guilt run amok. We are The Nation in Denial. Even the bloggers, we blather on, and figure we've done our bit. America got what it deserved with Obama.

"Cat" will do said...

@ Denis Neville

Wow, Denis! Thank you sooo much for that link to the article by the recently retired Repub on the Hill. That is the most concise clear explanation of how this government's gone off the rails I've found anywhere. A million thanks for posting the link. thank you thank you thank you.

Cat @

William said...

So we heard "only what we wanted to hear" from candidate Obama? He was "never a progressive, and didn't pretend to be one" either? Do me a favor. Stop patting yourself on the back for just a moment and take a little time to actually WATCH Obama in action on the campaign trail.

For your convenience, I utilized the "ample sources of the web" to "refresh" your "memories" of those days. Here's a link to a documentary film over at If you're pressed for time, all you need to do is watch a 6 minute segment from 00:7:45 to 00:13:45.

Valerie said...


O'Betrayer has completely turned on the people who worked to get him elected. He didn't campaign that he was in the pocket of the banks or that he would hang the unions out to dry. He didn’t say he would not pursue a public option and instead give a big boon to Big Pharma and Big Health. He betrayed the Democratic base which has always stood for the Middle Class/ Working Class, the environment, public education and those who are vulnerable in our country. It is not unreasonable to have assumed that Obama, being a Democrat, would at least make a show of supporting those values; that he would throw the Progressives a few bones.

Please be so kind as to point me to some speeches or writing by Obama that indicated he was going to throw his lot in with the Republican Corporate agenda.

I think many of us who voted for Obama and had great hope for his presidency have voter’s remorse. I don’t think we will ever vote again for someone who doesn’t have a history of fighting for progressive values. The problem is we aren’t given very many choices. Do I think Hillary would have been a better choice? Not really. Do I have regrets for not supporting Ralph Nader sooner? Sure I do. But the corporate takeover of our government wasn’t as apparent in 2000 as it is now. So you saw through Obama before many of us did – well good for you! Aren't you smarter than the rest of us gullible, do-gooders.