Thursday, September 6, 2012


The dial on the cognitive dissonance meter just went haywire and exploded into the stratosphere. Hordes of otherwise intelligent people have suddenly decided to take political conventions seriously. A religion of the absurd has been born. Its dogma is that Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. We're all better off than we were four years ago, because the Party Leader has decreed it. Yippee.

A reader commenting on Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column today, which grades President Obama's first term, distilled the zeitgeist nicely: "I am very proud of our President. I will add my voice in agreement to the thousands who shouted 'Yes' at the convention when asked if they are better off today than they were on January 19, 2009. Only those who are brain-dead, memory disabled, or decided to hate the President before he even took the oath of office would answer no to that question."

I get that we are supposed to parse that "better off" meme and define it as the individual miserable parts not counting as much as the glorious sum --  but how do you suppose this new campaign talking point feels to those who've lost their homes, their health insurance, their health, their jobs?  Why more people aren't expressing how insulted they feel is beyond me. I guess I must be really behind the times, not getting with the new make-believe program of happy days are here again.

And Bill Clinton is getting rave reviews for his speech, mainly because he is better at explaining things than Barack Obama, and he is not totally addicted to a teleprompter. He actually praised the failed "Grand Bargain" of trillions of dollars of cuts balanced by a few paltry increases in revenue,  called for a reanimation of the Catfood Commission of austerity, bragged about his heartless Welfare to Work program, and insisted there is such a thing as "structural" unemployment (lots of good jobs, too few qualified people.) And the crowd roared. But I guess the cult of centrism is better than total annihilation by Romney and Ryan. Your choice is between a slow death by a thousand cuts and a quick rub-out.

And while you're picking your poison, or just being a spoilsport by refusing to choose between the two evilisms, let me just share a heartwarming email I received yesterday from Michelle Obama. She got rave reviews for feeling our pain, but suggests that we need to suffer a little more for The Cause. Instead of helping a friend in need or otherwise indulging ourselves, we should send more cash her way.
Karen --
I know your life is full -- with work, or school, or family -- and yet you still find the time to help out when you can.
You may have a tight budget, but you give what you can afford.
A woman recently told the campaign her family skipped a pizza dinner at their favorite place so that they could make a difference in this election.
That is the commitment that drives this campaign..
If you can support Barack with a donation today, please know it makes a huge difference. If we win, it will be because of what you did at moments like this.

And if they lose, I guess it will be all my selfish fault for not forcing my kid to give up pizza night for Lent Obama.

But back to death. Obama has finally been confronted about his "Kill List" by a renegade local reporter. The president dissembles in his usual glib newspeak fashion, simultaneously refusing to confirm that he kills people and bragging that he kills people. Watch the clip here

Need further antidotes to the political propaganda? Glenn Greenwald, Michael Wolff, Matt Stoller, and  Glen Ford are just what the doctor ordered.

Meanwhile, please feel free to vent with all the contrarianism you can muster.


Patricia said...

I kind of felt bi-polar last night. Watching Bill Clinton explain the horrendous economy Obama inherited, that Bill Clinton started by unraveling the Glass-Steagle Act. The fun really began during Elizabeth Warrens speech when she defended Obama, the whole time I thought, if she was head of the Consumer Protection Bureau she created, she wouldn't be running for the senate now. It was just mind boggling. I just couldn't finish Clinton's speech, just thinking about how he gutted welfare. I felt like I was hallucinating. Since my hours have been cut I have no health insurance so I couldn't go to the doctor for some head meds. I think I need to stop watching the DNC. Great Post, I feel validated. Thanks for the therapy.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

The style of the political conventions, both Republican and Democratic ones celebratorially scripted to the nth degree and seemingly oblivious the fundamental contradictions between the nation's needs and how their politicians have actually behaved on a daily basis throughout their terms, is nauseating. We haven't quite reached the level of Soviet-style political meetings, where the first person to stop applauding would find themselves arrested the next day and sent to the gulag*, but many other parallels are obvious.

*From Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" vol. 1, p. 69-70, Harper Perennial edition:

“A district Party conference was underway in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. […]”

So as not to violate copyright by including too much, I’ll direct the reader who doesn’t have a copy to begin at the above sentences on page 69, available at:

page 70:
“… independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District party committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter... . Then, after 11 minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: ‘Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!’”

Valerie said...

Thank God I can come to a place where sanity reins. It is so surreal to see reality when others are all going along with a fake-reality. It is a sick scenario when Bill Clinton and Obama are valorised for doing right by the middle and working classes in this country and supporting the poor.

And funny how often I think of Soviet Russia, Stalin and what writers like Solzhenitsyn revealed about life there. From the huge corporate farms that have replaced that small family farms to how Washington is run to the surveillance state - so similar to what Americans used to despise about the USSR.

It is incredibly disappointing for Elizabeth Warren to support Obama, the guy who betrayed her. It must be galling to have to work within such a corrupt system in order to be elected in order to try to pass some good laws to change things. It is a really good indication that the system as it is now is completely irreparable. Those who say we must work within the system that exists – change it from within – are completely wrong. We need to break with it completely if we are to have any chance at all.

Bill Clinton - the vessel through which all our problems with the banking mess and the selling out of the middle class and the environment with Free (for the multi-national corporations) Trade – is certainly the greatest hypocrite of all. That he should be given a prime spot at the convention shows how low we have sunk – how corrupted and cynical the Democratic Party has become. In my opinion, a ringing endorsement from Clinton about what a great job Obama has done is a reason NOT to vote for Barry.

The comments have been beyond excellent lately. Always great to read the wisdom of the regulars but also nice to have some new voices chime in.

Pearl said...

My email to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairperson of the Democratic National Committee:

Dear Debbie:
I am a Jewish long standing registered Democrat with voting rights in Florida. Not all Jews agree with your unquestioned support of Israel and the push for a closer relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Many Jewish voters, especially the younger generations, are questioning the poor leadership and military decisions of Israel in recent years. The country is now divided due to Netanyahu's rigid leadership, ignoring the agreements made regarding settler's rights, expansion plans and pushing for war against Iran. Your support for Jerusalem as the official capital in Israel flies against public and world opinion since the city is supposed to be open to all religions and nationalities and Israel continues to ignore the rights of many non Jews living in the city, as well as continuing the oppression of the Palestinian people. This is why most embassies, including the U.S. are centered in Tel Aviv. Your opinions do not represent all Jewish voters and as a spokesperson for President Obama, should not exclude those of us who have valid criticisms of the current questionable policies in Israel. Some of your comments at the Convention, supposedly representing President Obama's policies are stronger than many of his statements and criticisms I have heard regarding U.S.- Israeli relations.


Unknown1 said...

People support Obama because they want to belong to a group, and they don’t like the other group. (and if you are poor or (fill in the blank), the other group doesn’t want you). It’s lunch time in high school, and no one want to sit alone, ‘cause that is for losers...

As I watched Joe Biden tonight, I’m reminded of one more reason to sit home on election day. Why did Obama keep Biden on the ticket? Biden can’t be an heir apparent. I’m not really a fan of Hillary, but she would be an improvement over Biden.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive! - JB

Either way, the middle class is dead too.

James F Traynor said...

VEEEEEEEEEEEEENT! Nah, still too much left - but thanks anyway Karen.

Pearl said...

I was expecting some comments from Karen's readers now that the Convention hoopla is over as to their summing up what we have witnessed but the comparative silence is interesting. Reactions to Obama's speech from his own party representatives indicate disappointment with it (or him) especially after the pumped up ones from those closest to him. I have a strange feeling that all is not right and that there is a distinct possibility that Obama may
have been unsure about running again. He seems worn out by what he is
facing, especially with continuing financial reports of concern that
respected pundits are being surprisingly open about.
Under these circumstances, he should have been persuaded to step down and
put someone else in place and I have the feeling that this is what may have
happened behind the scenes.

Comments such as he is not the same man that ran in 2008 and others in
similar vein, raise red flags and perhaps Obama knows that he is not up to dealing with the possible catastrophe our country is facing. In a way I feel sorry for him, but more worried about the rest of us who are facing an essentially leaderless party or worse if Romney gets in. The articles and comments in the media seem to be hinting along these lines which makes me very uneasy.

It also explains the unusually exuberant speeches trying to prove Obama's ability to get the job done, but mostly from a personal point of view emphasizing his sterling qualities as a family man and reliable friend.
His record, cherry picked and exaggerated as Clinton used to
emphasize his speech, is not sufficient to sway many voters his way which is making the party advisers very nervous.

Reactions and comments in the media from the faithful Obama supporters seem to reflect a hanging on attitude coupled with desperation. Not a happy time all around especially with a leader no longer sure of himself. Would be interesting to know what is going on behind the oval office curtains.

Denis Neville said...

Fred’s comment on the RNC and DNC conventions and Soviet-style political meetings reminded me of Leni Riefenstahl and Susan Sontag's seminal essay on the enduring power of fascist aesthetics in contemporary culture.

“Riefenstahl’s commissioned Nazi films celebrate the rebirth of the body and of community, mediated through the worship of an irresistible leader. With Riefenstahl’s work, the trick is to filter out the noxious political ideology of her films, leaving only their “aesthetic” merits. Riefenstahl’s films are still effective because, among other reasons, their longings are still felt, because their content is a romantic ideal to which many continue to be attached, and which is expressed in such diverse modes of cultural dissidence and propaganda for new forms of community.”

“The rehabilitation of proscribed figures in liberal societies does not happen with the sweeping bureaucratic finality of the Soviet Encyclopedia, in which each new edition brings forward a dozen hitherto unmentionable figures and lowers an equal or greater number through the trap door of nonexistence. Our rehabilitations are softer, more insidious. It is not that Riefenstahl’s Nazi past has suddenly become acceptable. It is simply that, with the turn of the cultural wheel, it no longer matters.”

“Fascist aesthetics … flow from (and justify) a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, and extravagant effort; they exalt two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude. The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication of things and grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets.”

James F Traynor said...

My wife has become unhinged. She stares at the tv and yells, "Liars, fascists!"
"But they're Democrats," say I.
"Who cares" she says, "they're all fascists."

Valerie said...

As always - great observations, Pearl. And I think Unknown 1 has a really good point about people being persuaded to support the "home team." I have several Democratic friends who are very angry with me about my choice not to support Obama - to the point of giving me the "silent treatment." It takes integrity and courage to stand up for what is right - but sometimes it can be a lonely road to walk. Thank God for this blog and for the handful of like-minded souls who post comments here. It makes me feel less isolated.

Pearl said...


I am glad I wrote about my gut reactions because it may support others who have many questions along these lines and we can all feel less isolated sharing our concerns. If I see Obama as weakened and vulnerable this time around, it means the Repugs like sharks will pick up on it and continue to obstruct and destruct stronger than ever. Many supporters have asked Obama to get more aggressive and begin to fight back which is what is needed but
which will not be forthcoming anymore than the previous 4 years.

As for the "shunning" by your friends, this is a primitive reaction as Unknown1 brought up and which you mentioned. How else has Israel been able to carry out its increasingly self serving plans except by calling anyone who criticized their policies as anti semitic, traitors, etc. to keep them in line. Fortunately, this is not working well anymore and the criticism from its own people in Israel and abroad is increasing especially concerning the oppression of the Palestinian people. History is full of similar sagas we are all living through from which nothing seems to have been learned by
leaders and lawmakers who have gotten into their power positions by stepping
on the rest of us. The time is much overdue for great change.

And to further cheer us up, reports now indicate great alarm by scientists
and environmentalists about the dangerous accelerated melting of the polar ice caps greatly beyond anything they have predicted. Is anyone listening?

Patricia said...

I too, cannot stomach voting for Obama again. Thank you Pearl for your thoughts and this blog really helps. I have not been shunned by my friends, most of my friends won't be voting. But I have had some really interesting reactions from other bloggers. I think one of the most amazing things about the average voter is that they have no idea what is REALLY going on, they only get information from TV and do not question anything. Which makes things pretty hopeless.