Aug 06, 2009
Do the initials C.O.G mean
anything to you? That acronym stands for Continuity of Government. We
heard about it back in 2001 when Dick Cheney was taken to that undisclosed
location just in case the White House went up in smoke again like
it did in 1812 (Reference from the must see new Britfilm, "In The
Loop"). The government's main commitment in times of disaster
is preserving itself. (God forbid that people find out that the
country could go on without the government in its present humongous configuration!)
But who would have thunk that
C.O.G would morph into C.O.A., (Continuity of Administration) with the Obamatons building rather than destroying the agendas they
Every day brings news of the
latest Presidential two-step: one step forward, one and a half steps
back. Despite the loonies who denounce him as a Socialist (of the Kenyan
variety, no less) the man at the top is about system maintenance more
than system change. In policy after policy, he seems to feint left before
George Bush must be beside
himself yukking it up as he smokes his doobies down in Texas, laughing
at how the WHO were once again proven wrong. (He is now being quoted
as calling his dog Barney the "son I never had.")
Yup, many of us seem to have
been fooled again. You betcha.
The only people who are not
disillusioned are those who had no illusions to begin with. Isn't
it obvious that power may seem to reside in the White House but it is
effectively constrained by the real power centers -- a cautious Bureaucracy,
an overblown Military, avaricious Big Industries and the fraud factories
on Wall Street?
That's where the clout is.
That's where most of the political donations came from. He ignores
these complexes at his peril, although, alas, he already
seems to share many of their assumptions and worldviews.
Iftekhar A. Khan, a scribe
in Pakistan writes about this reality:
"Many who thought Obama would
change US policies in Iraq and Afghanistan have been disappointed. Obama
and Brown don't formulate policies; reps of powerful interest groups
do. How could Robert Gates, who outlasted Bush regime, take a U-turn
on the AfPak strategy he himself devised? He has been at the center
stage of conceiving and planning the brutal military offensive Panther's
Claw in Helmand -- Southern Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke on the AfPak
scene is another face for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld."
When I was coming of political
age, I was influenced by the work of C. Wright Mills who wrote about
the Power Elite as a permanent government of special interests and institutions.
Building on that, a former President of SDS, Carl Oglesby, came up with
a theorybook that discussed the war within and between those elites.
Oglesby saw the conflict
in regional terms with the new wealth of the Oil Aristocracy -- who
he called the Cowboys based in the Southern tier, battling the
old wealth of Wall Street, powercrats he called The Yankees.
Herb Calhoun describes his
argument, set against the background of the assassinations of the 60's
as growing out of these elite conflicts:
"What all of these events
had in common was that they were links in a chain designed to replace
one set of power elite (members of the old moneyed "peace promoting"
Eastern Yankee Establishment) with another (the nouveau riche and newly
arrived, "progress through war" Western Cowboys). Thus it
is argued here that the events connecting Dallas, Memphis, Watergate
and the demise of the Hughes empire, are but threads in a common fabric,
growing and evolving directly out of the systematic corruption of American
politics and out of contemporary political realities.
"Altogether it is thus a
seductive and believable theory that says as much about American political
realities as it does about the events of Dallas, LA, Memphis and NY
themselves. What Oglesby tries to do, and succeeds at it brilliantly,
is expose the almost organic level of corruption in the structure of
the political process..."
Well that corruption has not
gone away as we watch the health insurance industry buy Democrats and
Republicans alike, as we watch the news machine turn into the fear machine
while the bankers turn the bailout billions into bonuses to enrich their
already rich coffers. A study by NY State Attorney General Cuomo
found that big banks took more out in compensation than they took in.
If you call this looting, you won't be wrong.
Calhoun calls it this way:
"... there is no free lunch
even in a democracy. As in any other political system, in a democracy
too the choice is between terror and tyranny, between Democracy and
Fascism. These two poles of political existence cannot be finessed through
laziness, exhaustion, or choosing to live in denial. Like all other
political systems, democracy also exists on that tenuous sliver of ground
that lies between these two poles; there are no angles left to be played.
Those who somehow believe that benign tyranny 'by their own favorite
corrupt power elite' is the answer to terror, have failed to notice
Oglesbys crowning point about the JFK assassination: that terror and
tyranny are but opposite sides of the same corrupt coin: that tyranny
is terror, just by another name, and by other more elaborate means."
So where does this leave us?
Unfortunately, it's back
to where I came in, as a young activist who went "part of the way
with LBJ" to agonize as he escalated the Vietnam war, as a prisoner
of the cold war anti-commie consensus.
Today, war on terror thinking
is the new conventional wisdom even though we know that Iraq and Afghanistan
are disasters. So why doesn't he see it? The White House is just like
Wall Street in that respect: when you are inside the bubble, you don't
know it's there. You believe your own hype.
Military commanders are always
promising victory if only they get more troops and bigger budgets. That's
the game they play again and again. And even Stephen Colbert buys into
the "surge turned it all around" myth.
Politicians also have to watch
out for the long knives -- from the bankers who want to scuttle financial
reforms; the Arms manufacturers who don't like to see profitable weapons
systems like the F22 scuttled; the Health insurers orchestrating the
hysteria against all reform; the General Electrics of the world who
just paid $50 million to settle an accounting fraud case.
The media remains tethered
to more heat than light even as the crazed commandos of the revanchist
right won't let any facts get in the way of their suicide mission.
(I would like to see Beck's birth certificate; was he born or cloned?)
Like millions, I was impressed
with Obama and hoped against hope and history that he was THE ONE, that
he would be different. While it's too early to totally dismiss him
out of hand after just six months in office, there is an all too familiar
stench to what we are seeing. COA, not just COG!
The sad truth is, given what
he has to deal with, and hard as it is to swallow, perhaps he can't
be all that different. His only "army" seems to be on Facebook and
The right is of course self
destructive in banging that drum of polarization, while what's
left of the left refuses to recognize that what we are dealing with,
and have to deal with, is a "System thing," not just a case of another
tarnished pol who said one thing and is doing another.
Could he have been elected
if he hadn't played the game? Could any of the other Dems won? I doubt
it. Is a half a loaf, make that a quarter of loaf, better than
no loaf at all? You tell me. It's not as if the progressive
movement was doing so great back in the Bush daze.
Nevertheless, continuity doesn't
make it for me. We need change.
Oh yea, Happy Birthday Mr.
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