Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Unanswerable Question

Obama has endorsed Iran’s proposal to export uranium for third-party enrichment and said that "We support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power,”. So I have to correct myself here where in an earlier post I wrote that Obama didn’t support any Iran nuclear program. Still, Obama is putting the onus on Iran to prove they are only using the enrichment plants for peaceful use. And how does Iran accomplish this? That’s the rub for there is very little Iran can say or do to prove such a thing. I’m reminded of how a question can be asked in such a way that there is no good way of answering it. For example if we use that old saw “Is it true you stopped beating your wife?” there is no good way of answering that question that damns you even before you answer for if you never beat your wife you cannot say it is true or not without inadvertently admitting you beat your wife. If you say it is not true then you are still beating her and if you say it is true than you are saying you had beaten her in the past. In a similar manner this is the conundrum faced by Iran in the face of U.S. belligerence. Actually it seems to me that the onus is on Obama to prove that Iran is making nuclear weapons but of course with the imbalance of power it isn’t about to go down that way.

Something to keep in mind is that politicians are good at jerking the public around. All the noise regarding Iran is taking attention off of more immediate disasters like the one in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan and the fact that any hope of health care reform happening just got flushed down the toilet as if there was ever a chance in hell that there was going to be any meaningful reform. That is not to say there will be no military action against Iran but this recent blowup certainly has taken center stage from what must be far more pressing issues for Obama.

Obama remains somewhat of an enigma for me. On one hand he isn’t as hawkish as Hillary Clinton of the steely glare. He has kept his promise to escalate Afghanistan but that is about it as far as I can tell and it is not the promise that I would have chosen as one I would like to see kept. Is Obama just an overly authoritarian creature who is completely indoctrinated in American Exceptionalism or is he a very smooth con artist? I believe he is mainly the latter with a little of the former mixed in. In the end it matters little what he is for it is his actions that matter and that is how he should be judged.

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At October 02, 2009 10:09 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

I guess an unanswerable question results in an uncommentable-upon post--

[the sound, faintly heard, of barely audible gritting of teeth by invisible grammar wraiths/]

No, no, no. I'm kidding, and I think you know this. All the same, I well understand what you mean about the enigma of Obama. I suspect he thinks he's trying to do good, but has summarily written off so many things(like single payer) as un-doable because the money people won't let him, that he doesn't see that these a priori adjustments to "the world as it is" are part of the problem with why he's not so likely to do good.

This sounds a little like the argument that Pacifican Bob likes to periodically offer in comments about the hands of any given president being tied by the Pentagon and numerous shadowy players, and as you know like you I'm not inclined to accept the idea that the president is powerless beyond forwarding the agenda of the oligarchy.

"Don't hate the player, hate the game"?

It's a bumper sticker truism of our times, and people use it as an excuse to not vote for whom they would most like in primaries when they "know" that "they" wouldn't pass muster in the general election.

Interestingly(well, interesting to me...heh.), I had been working on a vaguely similarly themed post in my noggin which I was going to call "My Obama problem", In which I meant to try to reconcile

1.the popular democratic view of Obama(Mister Awesome Guy/Shining Knight/Moses, leading the democrats out of the Bushy desert)

2.the popular right wing view of Obama(the Obamanable Commie-Socialist, etc)

3.And, well, our view.*(Yet another servant of Wall Street and the US imperium, etc)

*I qualify that, because I don't really assume that Chris Floyd, Silber, Pacifican Bob, Mimi and you and me,etc actually share exactly the same view, but for the third component I wanted to talk about a general consensus of the "third view", and how to explain it to people who are only familiar to the first two, but for the third component I wanted to talk about a general consensus of the "third view", and how to explain it to people who are only familiar to the first two, or at least better understand the disconnect.

At October 03, 2009 8:25 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Jonathan,
Your comments are well taken. Oh there is no doubt there is quite a bit of truth to what Bob of Pacifica says. Clearly the money thrown at health care reform by the insurance, hospitals and what-have-you are a powerful incentive. Sure, not everyone agrees exactly regarding Obama but I don’t discount people on a single point such as that. For example I would be stupid not to read Juan Cole’s excellent coverage of the Middle East because I didn’t agree with him on Obama. And you know how I feel about it, basically yes Obama is under tremendous pressure from various agencies still I feel Obama has choices, choices that could cost him politically or even his life but to excuse Obama would be like excusing Bush and Cheney for their actions. But this is a fine point and in either case whether you consider him a free agent or a total automaton he represents the corporate world not us which I would hope we could all agree upon.

I think the third view is a good one to discuss because it includes the most important point to make whatever version of reality we make our own is that these invasions and occupations are wrong on moral grounds, on grounds of common sense, on grounds of self preservation even. That’s the most important message to me. In the end that’s the only reason I bother to write about this, that, and I’m sick to death of reading about how the U.S. is slaughtering these dirt-poor penniless third world people. It matters not to me who ends it as long as it does end.

At October 04, 2009 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two thoughts here Rob --

1) I don't think you need to reverse your criticism of Obama, because what a man does and what a man says, they're two different things, and all Obama's done is say something different than what you talked about/criticized. If you judge his actions, and/or those of his Admin (over which he has charge), your criticism remains intact.

2) As to Obama's independence vs lapdog status, let's examine it from the perspective of Joe Sixpack, and from the Fed Govt/Obama's Constitutional authority perspective.

From Joe 6Pack's view, what Obama does isn't helping any. Now, Joe may not see this because he's partisan, naive, ill-informed, whatever. But the truth is what you said in your response comment to Jonathan -- Obama's an agent of corporate interests, not an agent of the poor-out-of-sight, lower and middle classes.

From the Constitutional perspective, the President's office wields massive power these days, courtesy of a lot of that "unitary executive" crap heavily worked on by Rumsfeld, Cheney & Co, and courtesy of a rubber-stamp Congress and a sycophantic SCOTUS. The problem lays in how Obama uses this power. His uses of the power have been to serve corporate interests. His speeches have been yet another thing -- his speeches have pretty much continued his election mantra of hope and change and it is his speeches that keeps him behind the Wizard of Oz curtain of facade for a whole lot of Americans who continue supporting him despite his actions which are damaging people both immediately (i.e. spending $$$ the country doesn't have; refusing to restore civil rights) and long-term (solidifying a lot of the Bush/Cheney agenda and a lot more of the corporatocracy that was begun in earnest under Clinton/Gore).

There's no real legitimate reason to give Obama any deference, or "credit due" here. He is our enemy, policy wise and power wise. It can't be stated any truer, blunter, plainer than that.

At October 04, 2009 3:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Thanks for the great comment and of course I agree with you about Obama and his actions. I didn’t intend my correction as a defense of Obama though I can see how it could look like that. It is just that I try to be accurate and Obama made the statement that Iran has a right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program so it was more a matter of my own conceit than wanting to take heat off Obama. Sanctions always lead to war and Obama is doing everything he can to get sanctions put in place against Iran so just because he spoke of Iran’s right to pursue peaceful nuclear programs doesn’t change my mind that I believe Obama is setting the stage for yet another war.

Yes there is no doubt that Obama wields much power some of which can be traced back to Woodrow Wilson who believed that the constitution was outdated and therefore subject to being ignored. It was Wilson who started us down the path toward the parliamentary style of government that now exists. And each successive president has added to that power culminating in Bush’s power grabs giving extraordinary powers to the executive office. And this is what Obama has inherited and certainly has no intention of giving up.

Looking at the power structure what I see is a closed circle made up of the military industrial complex (where I include the intelligence agencies like the CIA), the presidency, lobbyists, the justice department, and last but not least Congress who could all be represented as points along this great circle of greed and if you think about it you could pick any of these points and say “well here is the root cause of all this.” So we could all take our pick of any point along this circle as our choice and the circle will always lead right back to where you picked your point be it the CIA, the president, etc. because it is a circle. So which ever point you pick in a way you are always correct. The big question is of course how do you break the circle.

At October 05, 2009 12:51 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Mimi, Charles, Rob, Bob, et al:

I meant to reference this 2006 Harper's article about Obama which was recommended to me by Jay Taber. I read it just recently, and from my fall 2009 it looks like sometimes Ken Silverstein pulls his punches a bit to avoid alienating his reader, but it generally strikes me as a pretty apt take. (As I recall Hillary never criticized BHO on the campaign trail for voting against a 30 per cent cap on credit card interest rates, but I'm guessing that was because she was against such a cap herself.)

It's a longish article, about 6,000 words, but worthwhile. The very last sentence is priceless.

At October 05, 2009 3:53 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A great find Jonathan. The last sentence was indeed priceless. It’s interesting how Obama refers to himself as a progressive. Well I suppose compared to Mao Obama is progressive but then so is Rush Limbaugh. It was fascinating to read about Obama discussing health reform and the insurance companies that block it. It’s kind of like there were two Obamas, one Obama said all the right things a good progressive would say then there is the Obama who got in the White House.

At October 06, 2009 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, Jonathan -- the last sentence is priceless!

Many of us saw the Corporate Behemoth known as the Obama Campaign for what it was. Despite Gore Vidal's recent statements to the contrary in a recent interview, Hillary Clinton's campaign was likewise -- husband Bill built a strong corporate donor/rich donor following during his POTUS campaign days and admin days, and that's how Hillary first got her NY Senate seat.

The truth is that the Democrats are not the voice of the common man, and really never have been. What they have been is a slightly-more-populist voice than the Republicans, but in the end, they have always served corporate masters. Have done since the start of the 1900s, will likely continue to do so.

Can we mount a real effective 3d party? Possibly. It would require some serious efforts from the ground up, efforts that most Americans are very unwilling to make unless/until they feel so desperately squeezed by the current reality that they begin to see that "their team" is as pathetically fraudulent as the "other team" that's hated so well.

There are disaffected Republicans these days, who would be useful for a 3d party creation. If the efforts are directed at agreement on problems affecting the majority of Americans, a 3d party can be created to some effect. With enough of a groundswell, there will be some philanthropic rich people who will get behind such candidates. It has happened in the past here, on occasion, and has happened in other countries as well.

One of the driving forces behind the kleptocratic corporate behavior in America now is their sense of this momentum I'm discussing. They are trying to grab as much money-power as they can, to fend off the creation of a populist, non-Donkey/non-Elephant political force.

They're not going to be able to keep this up. We can all see the effects on our fiscal system. It's collapsing rapidly.

Now is the time to drop partisan pissing and welcome your disaffected Republican neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance -- as a fellow American suffering under an oppressive kleptocratic fascist state. The only route out of this mess lays in navigating the thicket of days-gone-by partisan puerile pugilism, by dropping the gloves and shaking hands, congratulating each other on past battle efforts, and uniting under a common cloud of problems.

It won't be done by taking a Daily Kos / Huffington Post / firedoglake / Hullabaloo stance of hating "rethugs" and blaming everything on "repugnicans."


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