Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Whole Heep of Obama

President Obama has been getting plenty of heat in the past couple of days for that leaked memo that confirms once and for all that yes Virginia, he really does have the chutzpah to actually kill people at whim. Calls for his impeachment or maybe a trip to The Hague have even started popping up on liberal internet sites.

Obama is experiencing a rare, for him, moment of back-against-the-walldom. In the past 24 hours he has resorted to two defense strategies. First, he humbly announced that he is inviting a select group of senators for a privileged peek inside the workings of his own head, that they may become privy to the arcane musings of a homicidal philosopher king. And just this morning, he invoked his own exalted humility at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

There is no transcript yet available of his remarks before the motley crew of unregistered foreign lobbyists, CEOs and slimy politicians all hiding behind the protective cloak of religion in order to advance their questionable agendas. But his overarching theme in the face of his exposure as a cruel psychopathic dictator was humility. He uttered the word so many times I expected him to sprout a carrot-top and start speaking in Cockney, just like that other famous predacious 'umblebragger -- Uriah Heep from David Copperfield.

“‘Umble we are, ‘umble we have been, ‘umble we shall ever be,” became "We must keep humility. That is the core of our leadership" and "My hope is that humility carries us over every day" at the breakfast. He then humbly and obliquely compared himself  to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Their magic Bibles have touched him with prideful humility. Obama, too, reads scripture every single day. Actually, just "snippets" of scripture that are personally selected and emailed to him by his own personal in-house spiritual White House adviser, who apparently just up and quit, according to Barry himself.

If Pride Goeth Before a Fall was among the snippets, he did not say. And anyway, the umbleness does not extend to his own immediate clan. He just couldn't let the standard line of "gosh oh golly, how your lovely girls have grown"  by the M.C. go by with just a simple nod of thanks. He opened his own remarks with "It is true that my daughters are gorgeous."

Then he went on to humble-mumble a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo, such as: "All Americans, whether religious or secular, have a deep abiding faith in this nation" yet at the same time, we persist in seeing our lives "through a glass darkly." Tell it, Son of Cheney!

I was half-expecting him to repeat the infamous remark to the Jonas Brothers made at the 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner to this latest confab of corporate zealots : "Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you, ‘predator drones.’ You will never see it coming."

I bet he was thinking it, though. Actually, I don't want to know what he thinks, when what he does is scary enough all by itself. The  thought of a visit to the inside of that man's head sends a shiver right down my spine.

Keeping It 'Umble


Jay - Ottawa said...

I of II

A handful of terrorists hurt us badly on 9/11. An army of terrorists threaten us today. How did that come about?

Unless the Charles A. Beard-like conspiracy theorists are correct –– i.e., the CIA knew what was coming, the damage to the Pentagon was too strange, the towers were pre-seeded with explosives, etc., etc. –– the 9/11 attack was most probably a big surprise to officialdom, much like Pearl Harbor, to which it is often compared.

Isoroku Yamamoto, the reluctant Japanese admiral who planned the Pearl Harbor attack, feared the American reaction. He may, or may not, have said something like, “All we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.” Historians generally agree he knew and argued Japan could not sustain a war against the United States with its far superior population and resources. Nevertheless, he did what he was told.

No question about it, irrespective of whoever knew whatever, the 9/11 terrorists shook us up. But what of the US reaction? How did Washington address the challenge? Should the US have examined “with humility” the causes and motivations behind the attack and have reconsidered its own long-standing brutish imperial ways around the world? Fat chance.

Should the agents behind the terrorists have been tracked down and dealt with in the traditional manner of dealing with terrorists, that is, through cooperative intelligence and unrelenting pursuit by police? Maybe. Instead, Bush/Cheney turned the issue over to the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon, which were directed to stop at nothing. Stop at nothing they certainly did.

That was still not enough. A mammoth security apparatus was invented overnight. A decade later it continues to swell in size and reach. Bankrupting mountains of money are involved. Were the costs kept in proportion by wise leaders? Debatable. And what of the lives sacrificed or wrecked in reaction to the 3,000 who died on 9/11? Was the American response in proportion to the initial wound? Debatable. Are we better off now than we were on the day after 9/11 in the terms of blood, money, security and integrity? Debatable.

Jay - Ottawa said...

II of II

The human body can kill itself through its exaggerated inflammatory response. An invading microbe or virus attacks an organ, say the meninges, resulting in a classic case of meningitis. The invading organism does not directly destroy the brain; it’s the body’s overreaction to the invader (swelling) that eventually kills the patient.

You see where I’m going with this. Our war against terror is eradicating us more than it’s eradicating terrorists. Maybe, that’s what al-Qaida always had in mind: not revenge for decades of imperial brutishness, but the triggering of an over-reaction by a powerful, prideful nation. Whatever al-Qaida’s motive(s), the US fell into a trap of its own making.

Drones are latest form of our flailing about, powerfully but wildly, since 9/11. As a result, more blood, money, security and integrity go down the drain.

Read the White Paper leaked to the press a couple of days ago. What have we done to ourselves? Now, with the latest attempt by the Administration to ‘get in front’ of this scandal, we’ll dutifully have to read lots more than 16 pages of a leaked White Paper, thus steeping ourselves even deeper in the banalities of dishonest lawyers.

Drone strikes and the threat of drones strikes amount to a Sword of Damocles over everybody’s head, tyrant or serf, at home or abroad. Obama’s lawyers say it’s OK for him to drop the sword on anybody, anytime, anywhere they happen to be, because the battlefield in the War on Terror is the globe itself. Everyone in the world now sits under the Sword of Damocles and can be disposed of upon the mere accusation of one man goaded forward by his immediate circle. Obama’s lawyers say that’s the way it’s got to be. Get used to the new normal. Impeachment naifs and the International Criminal Court of The Hague can go **** themselves.

In going after a few nihilistic zealots, did the US exceeded them in evil, invite more havoc, and cripple itself? And what of Obama’s role in all this? Don’t blame him. He is a true democrat: he accurately reflects the mind and will of his people.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

My apologies to Club Sardonicky for taking a leave of absence from commenting, but too many things — some important, others not — drained away more of my free time than anticipated. Still, I've occasionally attended to read Karen's posts and the comments, and as usual, everyone has been in fine form. Thanks also to Elizabeth Adams for her recent guest post here, and to Jay - Ottawa for his comment at my blog back in December. (I already thanked Dennis Neville at the time for his comments). @Jay: you should expand the turkey metaphor (perhaps supplemented with other modernized "Animal Farm" examples as appropriate) into a full-length post.

One of the less-important and smaller time drainers was a bit of time I spent trying to diagnose and rehabilitate an old computer. Though this particular computer was only about seven years old, it was relatively low-end even in its prime, and on the basis of its current economic worth — or the non-economic value of my time it didn't pay to fix it.

But my reason for bringing this up isn't about informing Sardonickyans about the finer points of the balance between computer economics vs. a desire to avoid sending things to the landfill.

Looking into that old machine, with its old PCI bus and IDE hard drive, reminded me of the contrast between, on the one hand, the vast progress that has occurred in computers (and biological knowledge) during recent decades, versus the stagnation — or, all too often, deterioration — that has occurred in our society with regard to not only living standards for the bulk of the populace, but more importantly, in the very goals and values, hopes and expectations, that many people hold for this society. Forget about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words about someday ARRIVING at the Promised Land. Nowadays, even just the hopes of the people for some PROGRESS toward socio-economic justice have largely vanished, replaced sometimes by defeatism, sometimes by apathy, sometimes by wholesale embrace of the tripe — and destructive ideologies — served up by mass media and politicians.

As has been the case throughout history, a fundamental principle of power and privilege is operational: If the people expect nothing, ask for nothing, demand nothing with regard to societal progress — they'll get nothing. Serious demands for progressive transformative change need to begin NOW.

Denis Neville said...

Jay said…“Obama accurately reflects the mind and will of his people”

As per Onion headline: “American Citizens Split On DOJ Memo Authorizing Government To Kill Them,” anywhere at any time without due process.,31207/

Like Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, once said, ““Any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity has nothing to fear whatsoever.”

Saw some of today's Brennan hearing, solemn senators defending him, "trust him - he'll only use it against the bad people.”

Which reminds me of this quote: “Solemnity is the shield of idiots.” - Baron de Montesquieu

Montesquieu, in his essay on the rise and collapse of liberty in Rome, wrote about the disintegration of the Roman justice system:

“No tyranny is more cruel than that which is practiced in the shadow of the law and with the trappings of justice: that is, one would drown the unfortunate by the very plank by which he would hope to be saved.

“Moreover, no tyrant ever lacks the instruments necessary to his tyranny. Tiberius always found the judge who was prepared to sentence any person of whom he had the slightest suspicion. In the time of the republic the senate, which did not as a body pass judgment on specific transactions, nevertheless, through a delegation of the people, took cognizance of crimes that were imputed to allies. In a like manner, Tiberius referred to this body the adjudication of all crimes which he considered an act of offense against his person. The senate then fell into a state of utter degradation such as can scarce be described; the senators themselves led the processional into their own enslavement. Under the patronage of Sejanus, the best known among them competed to be informers for the emperor.” – Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu

Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine writes, “The American Founding Fathers were influenced by the lessons they drew from a study of antiquity and particularly helped in this process by Montesquieu and his essay of the rise and collapse of liberty in Rome.” Horton laments, “There is something particularly pernicious about a situation in which the outer trappings of justice exist, but the substance has been replaced with a craven homage to the power of the executive.”

“The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded.” - Baron de Montesquieu

Pearl said...

Reading all the fine responses about the many, many problems that exist in our country, I went back to reading about how the Declaration of Independence and the two Constitutions (l776 and l790) came about. The Founding Fathers were an intelligent bunch but no matter how smart, no one could foresee what massive changes have occurred in the United States and the world in these last 200 years.

Technological change involving the ability to communicate with the entire world at an instant, inventions that changed the way things were made and used, industrialization, mass immigrant arrivals, the use of cars, airplanes, sophisticated financial methodology, cultural changes, racial problems, ad infinitum. Once the basis of a Constitution was set in practice, there was a great need for further discussion and change by knowledgeable people in charge of the government. This has not happened and as a result, the power and money interests highjacked the plans for the future. Capitalism was the catalyst for a power game since it could not exist without misusing the mass of working men and women for their own purposes.

Now we are reaping the dangerous results of allowing the magic word "FREEDOM" and faux DEMOCRACY to dominate the thinking of the power interests and most people don't realize that one person's idea of freedom maybe another's doom.

I know this is all a simplification of a huge complicated impregnable mass, but it cannot continue indefinitely.
The major problem, mentioned in one comment, is that the people are accepting the status quo and without knowledge, education and directed aggression, irreversible damage is being done.

The only thing we can do is what we are doing. Arming ourselves with information, exposing the rot in the basement and speaking up and out as forcefully as possible. I mentioned several times before that this is beginning to happen as more and more criticism, for example, is being mounted against the Obama administration by non Republicans. The problem will become, what direction are we heading toward when too many Americans begin to see the handwriting on the wall? There are wise men and women in our midst who have to be encouraged to organize pressure groups for some kind of change and support them. I get many great petitions on my computer from various groups which I sign and are presented to our lawmakers which hopefully will make some kind of a dent.

And we cannot allow the overwhelming problems facing us daily to distract us from the central core of reality. I often start reading the news with apprehension, and then someone writes an article which makes utter sense and I feel that these are voices that will continue and become louder. But I know there will be a terrible struggle ahead that none of us may ever see so we must contribute what we can and trust it will be eventually be heard.

I see my 3 granddaughters starting out on their life's journeys (l7 to 23years old) and have that need to protect and preserve their futures even when they don't yet realize what I am doing for them. But they will one day.

I can blame you dear readers of Karen's columns for bringing up so many interesting challenges that make me want to speak out. You are an inspiration. I know many others feel this way about Karen when she continues to get top ratings in the N.Y.Times for her outspoken comments which are educating many minds.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Once a year we pretend to have fate in a headlock and shout “Make a wish!” before the candles are blown out. Giggles all around. No matter how hard you’ve squeezed your eyes shut and wished for more than your presents, the lottery doesn’t slip a million into your bank account. Wishes are issued in endless supply at birth; we resort to them less and less as we mature.

There is wishing. And there is hope. Often confused. Disney commodified wishing with Snow White. Politicians have been marketing faux hope since Nimrod. Hope, the real thing, aims higher but remains tethered to reason.

Hope is different. Strictly for adults. Burns a lot of energy so must be rationed; otherwise, it degrades into wishing. Don’t waste your hope.

According to an old Miriam-Webster there is an extra ingredient distinguishing hope from wishfulness. In addition to a desire of some good, hope is accompanied with an expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.

Do we really have an expectation that Obama will do a 180 after five solid years of betrayal and deceit? Followed with 180s by the Congress, the Pentagon, Wall Street?

Ah, but the people, you say. The people will force a 180 upon the elites. Look: more commentary, more shocking revelations, more protests.

I so wish it were so. Convince me, that I may hope again, as I did in 2008.

The only Americans who might be counted as against current policy are among those who recently abstained or voted Third Party. All the rest voted for the status quo at one speed or another, not change.

Don’t double count the protests. Dissenters remain a small choir singing before a mirror. Our crabby song is drowned out by the contented hum coming from the rest of America. The great majority have their nose to a grindstone just to survive, or are preoccupied by the many distractions our culture provides, or are sufficiently content with things just the way they are.

Our favorite bumper sticker is wrong: it’s not 99% to 1%. Sentiment is more in the neighborhood of 60-40 or 70-30 in favor of current policy most of the time.

Polls of the people always determine policy, sometimes. Polls do not set policy in our democracy? Well, that’s OK too. The people, no matter which way they lean, don’t count anyway.

When great numbers pay attention and stand up, when Congress rebels, when bureaucrats refuse to stamp fraud with approval, when soldiers stack their arms without orders, when Wall Street is broken up and carted off to jail, when cops join the protesters, when the drones are grounded, remind me to fire up hope again. In the meantime, friends, I’m not quitting doing what I can, even though we may have passed the tipping point. I’m just not hoping.

Anonymous said...

What scares me about this right the president has taken on is that some half-witted cowboy along the lines of GWB would have the same right, and the likes of a Cheney or a Rove would be whispering suggested killings in his ear.

Pearl said...

I am wondering how to reply to your response regarding wishing and hope
and the current reality of what is happening in the United States. Since
you give your name and address as being in Ottawa, you must be a Canadian or at least living in Ottawa (where one of my granddaughters attends Carleton University) and knowledgeable about Canadian political history.

Two years ago, the leader of the New Democratic Party of which I am a member, lost a valiant, courageous man, namely Jack Layton, who fought and won a historic second place showing in the 3 party system here. His vision of the future started decades before he came into the limelight and he tackled
issues that people were even afraid to talk about. He reminded me of Martin Luther King who saw the realities of his present but visualized what could
and should be done and spoke out until a bullet silenced him temporarily. I truly believe that a time will come when his dreams will come to the fore once more and that Obama's tenure and reputation will fade away as reality hits closer and closer. Look at the leaders we remember through history and
the ones who faded from view. Even the Republicans have avoided extolling
the virtues of George Bush of recent memory.

We have to think and work outside of the box and know clearly in our minds
what might possibly be accomplished and get beyond and outside of the
current madness. I am surprised myself that I feel this way regardless of a lifetime of fighting the system and personally experiencing the worst aspects of the right wing loonies. Why? because I am constantly being inspired by the courageous among us who have the guts to confront and educate and who deserve to be honored. We may feel that what we do is insignificant but it isn't and all of us communicate with friends, family, acquaintances, and political sharers who are looking for guidance and intelligent input. We all have abilities and talents to guide and help others and should use them to the best of our ability.

I sometimes wonder why I am still alive at such an advanced age regardless of a serious health history, many losses and continuing ongoing problems of friends and family members. But somehow there must be a reason why I have
embraced the internet and seem to be guided by the visions and dreams of
loved ones whose voices are now silenced. And no, it is not religion, (I am an atheist) but something about what I truly believe we have been given to accomplish in our lives.

I have written this because I feel very sad when people I care about are so deeply hurt and scarred by events beyond their control, and hopefully not to seem to be preaching to the choir or being critical. As Howard Winn said, we have to be proud to be able to live a meaningful life in the midst of chaos which for me becomes easier knowing people like all of Karen's loyal readers who are not afraid to speak their personal truths. I truly believe that more
people are getting the right messages than we might believe possible - just
read many of the Krugman commenters and many other responses to decent
articles. And keep in touch with your concerns which I and others share with you. Our mettle is being tested.

"Some men see things as they are and say 'Why'? I dream things that never were and say 'Why Not"?"
Robert Kennedy

Jay - Ottawa said...


I admired the three men you celebrate. The world is better because of them, but now they’re gone. No one like them to carry on, thus their legacy is as vulnerable as they were. Wreckers are on the scene now to tear their legacy, and that of their heroes, to shreds.

Sad that we have none to replace them in North America. The voices of a few great souls from other parts of the world are not heard where we stand. Barack Obama, Steven Harper, David Cameron, and Angela Merkle dominate the stage in the West. They are hard-bitten austerians, defenders of money in the hands of the few. These leaders were all put in place by majorities in democracies. You read what Karen has parsed today from Obama’s radio talk and discover you’re inside the chapter of a book by Orwell or Huxley.

Jack Layton’s replacement in the National Democratic Party (NDP) is a Clinton-like compromiser who will never lean as left as Layton did. The NDP gained more seats in the last election, but the gains came mainly from Québec, where a different impulse holds favor, one which may not be so helpful on the federal level.

No matter how well the NDP did against the Liberals in the last election, it and the other parties in opposition are now, in sum, weaker in number than before the election. Before the election Harper, the conservative, was prime minister by virtue of having a plurality in Parliament. Canadians then gave him the majority he sought; now he has the votes to do what he pleases without having to negotiate with any of the other parties. Nobody can tag him out. He’s unstoppable in advancing austerity, militarism, the moneyed class and the great threat of the oil sands of Alberta.

In the US today, who replaces the Bobby Kennedy who revolted against Lyndon Johnson? Not even a Eugene McCarthy around in 2012. Where is there a shadow of a great soul like Martin Luther King, Jr. to lend religion a little respectability?

After taking a hard look at the universe, you say you’re an atheist. After assessing the constellation of world leaders and “the people,” most of whom have turned cold, I have become a political atheist. I await no political saviors, no political justice, no political caring, no political miracles and no political revolt from below. In the ascendancy are swindlers and the injustice, poverty and global damage they encourage. As for “the people,” the majority act like zombies who have lost all appreciation for society’s needs and the commons.

But I’m grateful for people like you who continue to shine their light on what’s left that’s good – although I’m beginning to think the only good thing left to us in politics is truth, sad truth, like Karen’s dissection of Obama’s radio talk. Pearl, thou art a pearl of great price, a treasure for us all. We share the same vision. May your hope win out over my despair.

Pearl said...

Jay: Thank you for your kind words which I reciprocate. Remember, there is an election in a few years in Canada and I feel Harper will have outlived his uselessness. Also, although I do not support the Liberal party, I believe Justin Trudeau is a more intelligent and openminded guy than some previous leaders. Many things can happen by then and I hope to be around to see it - good or bad.

One of the things that keeps me hoping for better things to come in the future, is that I see at the oddest times, unexpected changes in people I know over time, surprising medical advances, new doors opening after old ones close, and many personal happenings in my life that have validated my best instincts. Some of my efforts along these lines, politically, and family and friend wise have changed for the better and being outspoken and knowledgeable has often improved the scenery. That can be translated in terms of using methods that open people's minds in small ways, to influence it in larger areas. And time and maturity in others is an amazing opportunity to be on hand to witness change that you can corroborate and relate to.
I am amazed to find that the challenges of old age as well as younger years, are often compensated by things you never expected to witness and keeps life, despite the physical and emotional aches and pains, ever interesting and challenging.

And we learn to appreciate more and more the things that we have that have not disappeared in human terms. I think there is a real hunger out there for the truth and I feel we are moving in a chaotic time when many things are reaching the surface and not being easily silenced anymore.

I am encouraged to speak my mind and heart because of the openness of all of the Sardonicky people regardless of differences which are not that deep. Also, I feel while I can still think and type I want to speak up. No one knows what tomorrow brings for any of us.

We will see if Krugman takes kindly to my suggestion that he enlarge his horizons in his latest column and how others feel. I can hardly wait for Karen's response tonight. Something to look forward to.