The last note was about Thomas Friedman, pundit writer of fame, with his New York Times column and endless TV show performances as important guest guy, and an interview with President Barack Obama. I wrapped that one up as I watched the word count rack up in the word processor program and figured somebody would be puzzled that I was complaining about both Friedman and Obama and not really sufficiently explaining why, exactly, I had any issues with either of them.
That’s a big subject.
It’s not that alone that’s a problem here. It’s that if you spell it out, how many people are impervious to it?
For a long time now, I’ve been watching something that I regard as really weird, something that’s more than weird, it’s seriously pathologically destructive. That’s no joke. You can find loads of example demonstrations of it, if you pay attention. I’ve seen it anywhere from listening to bloviation on Fox News, soaked up by willing victims, to people on a personal level, closer to home.
The odd phenomenon I’m talking about is this ongoing, and evidently growing, thing of people regarding Ronald Reagan as president and not really considering factual reality, but instead replacing it with a kind of two-dimensional mythology, some warped pseudo-reality that’s reinforced, and grows, by some kind of mass consensus among the people who buy into it, believing it, expanding it all over time, because they just really want to believe it.
Quite a while ago, not long before the 2012 election, I posted a short note here spelling out very simply a basic set of facts that help demonstrate this stuff. The note, some actual numbers, listed actual data about annual US federal government budget deficits, comparing the years of President Ronald Reagan’s first term with the years so far, at the time, of President Barack Obama’s first term. It’s really pretty clear and straightforward, although even that comes with a twist that makes it harder to get through to some people, that is, having to remind them that the budget and any deficit in the first year of a new president’s term in office comes from the President and Congress from late in the previous year before they took office.
You can look at the numbers, hard data from the government’s own historical records, showing how the comparable first term years saw the annual deficits increasing under Reagan, and decreasing under Obama, completely contradicting the popular narratives declaring President Reagan as a great hero of fiscally conservative financially responsible government, and President Obama as the wild out of control Big Gummint Spender bankrupting government. It’s a similar disconnect between reality and some narratives that have taken hold, despite all factual reality, regarding taxes and the two presidents. Added to this is the hard fact that by the time Reagan’s two terms ended, the accumulated debt of the federal government ended up being roughly triple what it was when Reagan took office.
Pointing people to concrete facts about this is unlikely to have any effect at all on what some people think, because it contradicts what they like to think. I remember one offhand comment somebody made, maybe a couple years ago, saying (if I remember the words right) “Reagan brought America together, and made us feel good about ourselves again”. There’s no doubt they meant this sincerely, and that’s a troubling thing, a good example of manifestation of a big problem. I look back at the Reagan years, and the time since, including watching the Reagan mythology I’m now talking about, and have had the growing sense of the unfortunate reality being that the Reagan presidency era was the time when a large portion of the American citizenry took leave of reality, and did it voluntarily, willingly, happily. I don’t think it was mere random coincidence that Reagan became a politician, first a state governor and then President of the United States, after retiring from a career as a mediocre actor. In short, the way I see it, his entire career was spent as a mediocre two-dimensional actor, a showbiz functionary.
How could this possibly go well?
The answer is that it cannot, and it has not.
A big part of the problem is that having a realistic and rational grasp of many things, now, is a real society wide problem, including any serious assessment of anything involving the current president. That runs into all kinds of insanity, with different situations of confused nonsense depending on whether you’re looking at people filing themselves away as “Obama critics” or “Obama supporters”, with neither tribe dealing totally with reality. In either case, it seems to be much more about trying to find, or just concoct, notions that fit with what they want to think.
It strikes me as a little bizarre to watch the ongoing mythology of the Reagan cult. It’s not any less bizarre where I sit to see something that’s somehow vaguely similar with Obama, even while he’s serving as president, with the extra weird twist of having different warped alternate reality themes between people who have been pumping out the bizarre caricatures of cartoon villain Obama, and the people pumping out the PR image of Obama as their hero. That’s a bit simplistic, but, then, all that is usually pretty simplistic.
When Obama began his run as president, obviously the big item at hand was what people were calling a financial crisis, an epic train wreck of malfunction, that had gotten going slowly over 2007 and 2008 (as people were then just talking about a “mortgage crisis”), and eventually the big epic trainwreck in autumn 2008. The combination of the lunacy of the idea of “securitized mortgages” or “mortgage-backed securities”, making real estate mortgage loans into a kind of trading commodity, combined with the complex madness of the stuff people labeled financial derivatives, combined into an epic clusterfuck. Personally, I’m still suffering the damages from all that, and I had no involvement in any of that insanity. That’s the situation for loads of people.
What has happened to sort that out? Nothing, really. Now, all sorts of noise has been spewed out about the whole mess over the past six years or so and counting, much of it saying otherwise. In one of the State of the Union addresses in the last two or maybe three years (I forgot which one), Obama made some declaration about how, according to him, “the debris of the financial crisis has been cleared away”, followed by some vacuous noise about “recovery”, and how the economy of the United States was supposedly looking so much better and getting better all the time. In reality, the only thing that could even be remotely regarded as “clearing debris” has been an ongoing program of the Federal Reserve of buying up piles and piles of worthless financial paperwork representing the tangled swindles and phantasms of pretend wealth of the assorted financial derivatives.
In reality, not only has the “debris” and malfunction and general insanity not gone away, it’s arguably much worse, given that, for one thing, the people responsible for that tangle of financial phantasms have had the stuff taken off their hands to make their accounting look better by sleight of hand, allowing them to go on to the next batch of lunacy and swindles and illusions.
There has been the dog and pony show of political posing about “financial reform” (complete with Republicans playing their theatrical posing acting as if the whole farce is some sort of communist plot)
There’s the Senate bill, there’s the House bill, and you probably haven’t heard a word from anybody in the news about either of them. They’re gathering dust and cobwebs, completely ignored.
H.R.129 – 113th Congress (2013-2014) – To repeal certain provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and revive the separation between commercial banking and the securities business, in the manner provided in the Banking Act of 1933, the so-called “Glass-Steagall Act”, and for other purposes.
This is a basic, simple, very serious question, for anybody reading; have you heard or read anything in the “news” about either of these? I’ll bet that even among people who like to think of themselves as being on top of the news and what’s happening in public affairs, politics, and government have heard little of these, maybe nothing at all. On the other hand, there’s almost no point even asking the same question about the Dodd-Frank bill that officially became law, even though what that Act of Congress has actually done, what is accomplished by it, might be a murkier subject, and the story of that farce is further muddled by the apparent problem of it revolving around another complicated facet. That is, that apparently much of it revolves around vague authorizations about leaving any actual specifics to “regulations” that are to be created, with any of these regulations (not actually written into the law) being hung up in going-nowhere limbo, in political squabbling. It seems pretty evident that it’s just wound up in playing a perpetual game of the Team R versus Team D sports games, set up so that Team D can shout “elect us, and we can overcome that Team R obstruction and finally have ‘real financial reform’!” (that does little to nothing, in reality) and Team R can use it in their game to shout “elect us, so we can defeat this socialist Liberal Democrat attack on free enterprise, success, wealth, and prosperity!” (which is raw fucking nonsense).
A big part of the “financial crisis” was a major trigger of what got the “mortgage crisis” going, that blew up the whole circus of securitized mortgages or mortgage-backed securities, that unraveled the whole realm of contrived phantasms of financial derivatives. The summer of 2008 saw a spike of crude oil price to almost $150/barrel, which causes problems in virtually everything (that is, everything that involves anybody having to pay for any oil product).
That caused problems that included people trying to pay mortgage loans while right on the edge, operating in the belief that real estate prices would go up and up perpetually, so they could either sell out and make a profit, even if they got into financial trouble, or use a property as an equity cash generator. Loads of people were able to get into trouble because the whole crazy idea of securitized mortgages got people making a business of making mortgage loans to anybody with a pulse, with the idea that it didn’t matter to the financier if these were ever paid back, because they could use a “business model” of turning right around and selling off the note to entities who would stick them into mortgage bundles and sell them like securities. That, of course, also led into the “new financial products” and “financial innovations” and “financial engineering” lunacy of derivatives. Oil prices spiked, people were suddenly struggling, mortgage payments missed, and POOF! The whole thing unraveled.
Talking about all this has a problem of raising a set on gnarly interconnected and interwoven problems, things I’ve written about before, many times, at length. The overall issue here and now is that, in examining Obama’s time as president so far, he has failed, spectacularly, at really addressing any of it, in any substantial way that deals with actual reality.
I’ve written about this before, so bear with me when I repeat that a huge obstacle is the ongoing problem that addressing the reality of oil runs into a load of confusion and misinformation (a polite way of describing outright lying and more subtle deception). Part of this is the basic problem of people not understanding what the term “peak oil” refers to, or, much worse, thinking that they understand it, and having the completely wrong notion that it means “the oil is almost all gone” and will “run out” any time, according to what they are led to think of as some sort of fringe nutcase doomsday prophecy nonsense. Having that planted in their heads is usually followed by some fictional or at least severely confused nonsense.
The results of all that are that people are not getting their heads around the problem of diminishing returns in new oil discoveries and rates of extraction (i.e., “production”), and that we are there now (and have been for some time), it isn’t some coming future singular event.
Obama has been ignoring all this, instead repeating misleading and delusional memes about “energy independence”, partially based on the widely spread (and repeated) notion that “new technologies” and “innovation” have brought about a miracle new energy boom in “tight oil” deposits (the main example being in the Bakken formation), frequently called by the misnomer of “shale oil” (because it’s found in shale formations), which is actually something much different. [The actual proper terminology is that “shale oil” is used to describe a kind of synthetic oil produced from kerogen, a much different thing that petroleum crude.]
Not only is the president not doing anything at all to get a broad understanding and consensus among the American citizenry about where we really are regarding petroleum (and natural gas, too), and where we’re heading, if anything, he has been, and still is, grossly misleading people, leading most (maybe nearly all) of the nation into severely deluded ideas of where we are and how the future will go. As a side note to all this, just one facet of the program of official delusion was another item from a State of the Union address sometime in the last couple of years, repeating the baseless meme of “100 year supply of natural gas” inside the US, supposedly thanks again to the miracle of fracking in shale formations, even though people who actually speak with authority of actual knowledge, and speak honestly and candidly, suggest that here in the United States, we’re going to be into deep problems with natural gas supplies in maybe a decade or less.
It’s a huge topic to address all the ways that Barack Obama has turned out to be not all he was supposed to be, even without getting into all the ways that the Republican party, Fox News, talk radio, and pundit cabal has warped reality with their own fake image version of Obama obfuscating everything.
By the time the 2012 election rolled around, it was already apparent that Obama was worse than just being a dud. Then, it was just a case of it being an even worse possibility, that we could end up with President Willard Romney (still a horrific thought), a dedicated plutocrat with a normal operating mode of nonstop lying.
When did I finally realize that Obama was beyond redemption? That would be thanks, directly and indirectly, to Edward Snowden. Directly, because Snowden having the amazing bravery to let us all know the truth let us know that our own government has been, and still is, spying on us all, everybody, Americans and everybody else in the world they can, under Obama. Indirectly, by revealing this, and not only revealing Obama lying to us about it, but then putting things in perspective, to watch how Obama has handled it after Snowden’s revelations.
How did the man who promised to have “transparency”, clear, accountable, government, deal with this? First, by declaring Snowden not to be a patriot, a brave American risking all to let us know about our own government’s egregious misconduct, thanking him, but declaring him a fugitive from the United States government, condemning him outright, without trial, as having committed treason, undermining the “national security” of the United States, even though there is no evidence of any of Snowden’s revelations affecting the task of protecting and defending the United States of America from attack, and, if anything, what he did helped protect us, the citizens of the United States. Who knew that our only real “threat” was from our own government subverted by people who think it right to turn the United States into a police state and military empire.
But it got worse, as Obama then had the god-awful audacity to stand in front of TV cameras and the American people and God and everybody, and rattle out astonishing bullshit telling us that his failure, his mea culpa, was, according to him, in failing to do a good enough job of explaining things to folks, to make folks more comfortable with living under a total-surveillance police state.
That is what he says is the problem?
The dropped-jaw horror lasted a while. It never really went away, actually, only the stunned astonishment part of it. The horror show continues.
For that matter, the theatrical posing is worn threadbare, addressing the folks, telling folks about stuff, to let the folks know that, darn it, he’s just plain folks like us, folks!
Now, of course, we have such a clusterfuck on the international level that it’s almost impossible to keep up, as Obama panders to the neocon lunatics (or you could argue that he simply is genuinely one of them).
The situations regarding Syria and Ukraine, even narrowing things down to just those two places, are such a knot of lying and sheer lunacy that I think those will have to be left for later. Each of those is a tangled mess, and that’s a massive understatement, for the sake of brevity here. Writing those words, I look at them and think about how ridiculous it is to toss off a summary of the astounding pile of twisted lunacy and confusion surrounding all that, like recalling Hurricane Sandy and saying it was a bit of harsh weather.
As I just said, even getting a rough overview of the situation and latest madness in either of those two subjects is almost too much, certainly something that requires another note, and maybe the simplest point to make about all that for now is just the fact that these things are happening at the same time, have been a hellish circus of insanity for some time, and are just part of what seems like an endless parade of worldwide meddling lunacy from Washington, and now, it’s Obama in the circus ring, somehow managing to be like a continuation of the Bush/Cheney reign, but even worse.
How is this even possible?
What’s worse, how are people still not getting this?
But, then, that last question more or less is a clue to the first one.