Obama’s circular firing squad

I normally avoid talking politics here, but it’s hard to stay quiet while partisans on the left help with the demolition project that partisans on the right started the moment Barack Obama arrived in the White House.

One example: Hillary Told You So in The Daily Beast. Here’s how it begins:

At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisiswhen someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”

“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.

At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents. “I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly.

A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’” she said.

Another is Obama in the Valley, by Charles Blow in the New York Times. Concludes he,

The country needs the president to rise to this crisis in word, spirit and deed. We need him to reach out of his nature and into the nation’s need. We are on the precipice. There’s growing concern that we may slip into a second, more painful recession. There is little optimism that the housing crisis will loosen its grip on the economy anytime soon. The unspeakable truth is that we may well be on the leading edge of a prolonged period of national stagnation, if not decline.

A robotic Sustainer-in-Chief with an eerie inhumanity will not satisfy. At this moment, we need less valley and more mountaintop.

Oh please.

He’s not Moses, and that’s not his job. He’s the President. He presides. He doesn’t rule. We gave him an awful job, and he’s doing it with dignity, sobriety, intelligence, and a variety of other personal and administrative virtues that were absent or compromised in the prior two administrations.

On November 8, 2008, The Onion ran Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job. It was prophesy:

In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation’s broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis. As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it.

A goof with truth.

It doesn’t matter if there’s a right-wing conspiracy (which there is). The right wing doesn’t need a conspiracy while it remains what it became in the age of Fox News and talk radio: an uncompromising partisan bloc devoted utterly to defeating its political opponents, as a Prime Directive. The GOP is hardly unified in all its positions, but as a partisan bloc all its guns have been aimed since 2008 at President Obama, and they haven’t stopped firing. Meanwhile folks on the left have convened a circular firing squad, with their Main Man in the middle.

If Hillary had won, she’d be there now too, because she’d be disappointing the left just as much as Obama is. She’d have to, because she’d be President, and not just a candidate.

The Republicans have also hated Hillary far longer than they’ve hated Obama, and for all the same reasons: she’s a tax & spend Liberal who prefers Big Hands-on Government to the smaller Hands-off kind (that lives as an ideal in the collective Republican mind, even though we’ve haven’t had it in anybody’s living memory, or maybe ever). It wouldn’t matter if she was “tougher.” Her opposition would be just as uncooperative, hostile and determined to drive her from office. Absolute unity and intransigence on Core Principles is the GOP’s chemo for the body politic: it will kill off the cancer of leftism before it kills the country.

So the Republicans are succeeding, with help from Democratic outlets like Daily Beast and HuffPo, whose constituencies are tiny fractions of populations that Murdoch outlets and their amen corners on talk radio preach to every day.

Not saying folks on the left should shut up about Obama; just that they should look at the hand he was dealt in the first place, plus what the guy is up against and what his job is. Pleasing his core on the left isn’t Job One, or even Job Ten. Running a country that risks devolving into misery and chaos is Job One.

Personally, I don’t think anybody can do it, because our system is rigged against it. (And, for what it’s worth, I’m a registered Independent whose usual inclination is to vote for None of the Above.)

Anyway, if you want to help the country, go after Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman. Because that’s who you’ll get in 2012 if Obama loses.




  1. Jeff Davis’s avatar

    Actually the only way Obama gets another term is if Perry, Bachman – or Palin become the GOP nominee. And that could well happen since the right seems determined to go so far right as to tip the boat over.

    Obama was handed a bad deal to be certain. It was as though Bush/Cheney wrapped a beautiful red sports car around a tree and then tossed the keys to Obama.

    But he wanted the job and now he’s go it. He has flip flopped on every major issue he campaigned for (Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan). He has sown the wind and now he’s reaping the whirlwind. The only part that infuriates me are the partisans on both sides who somehow believe that one side is any better than the other when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Politicians have all gotten very good at campaigning and getting elected, they seem to enjoy the campaign trail; but none of them have the first clue about how to govern and the results of their utter fecklessness is evident in our crumbling empire, poor economy and diminished standing with the rest of the world.

    I give us one chance in five of surviving the next quarter century as a nation.

  2. James Robertson’s avatar

    I don’t know, doc – you seem to think that conservative partisans – in pursuit of what they perceive as the right policy levers – are somehow evil. There are left wing partisans doing the same thing – and I think they are mistaken, not evil. It would be nice if people extended that courtesy across the divide.

  3. PXLated’s avatar

    No Doc, his job is not to please the core but with us independents (who by the way will decide the election), he needs to grow some balls and fight some fire with fire. He needs to quit taking the black eyes and start giving some.

    And, the democrats in general need a good sloganeer – The republicans have a great “Simple Slogans for Simple Minds” approach to propaganda. The democrats need one to. The average person is too busy with family and life to delve deeply into issues as some of us do, they need it delivered clearly, simply, directly, with a killer instinct that stops the opposition cold dead in their tracks.

  4. Rex Hammock’s avatar

    And I normally avoid commenting on political posts…but you’ve nailed it.

    I’m not even a Democrat (nor, a Republican, for that matter), but I don’t understand why the Democrats’ rank and file seem so intent on doing whatever they can to help Obama lose.

    At a time when the poll-leading Republican hopefuls are helping make George W. Bush seem brilliant by comparison, many Democrats seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by making real, the famous quip of Will Rogers, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.”

  5. Warren’s avatar

    Well put, Doc. We should definitely be focusing our lens more sharply on the increasingly sans-rational Republican candidates.

    @James: yeah. I long to see Obama ‘fight’ more, too. But I can’t help but think he knows what he’s doing.

    A four year project/presidency, spent fighting hard, (and leaning heavily forward) in a rigged system, would have less overall impact than an 8 year presidency, consisting of careful compromise (the first 4) and more balls-out fighting (the next 4). This doesn’t seem like an unlikely game-plan to me (he’s a smart guy surrounded by smart people). They (the administration) have also proven their ability to plan and be strategic (from Osama to HealthCare reform). But maybe I have too much faith. I certainly do still have hope.

  6. Scott’s avatar

    You said:
    “He’s not Moses, and that’s not his job. He’s the President. He presides. He doesn’t rule.”

    I submit this:

  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    James, the only place the word “conservative” appears in this post, so far, is in your comment. I don’t think conservative partisans are evil. I think the best are drowned out by the worst.

    For what it’s worth, I have strong libertarian and conservative sympathies, especially where the economy is involved. I was raised a Republican, in a mostly Democratic town — but also at a time when the distinctions were not so sharp. Nor the rhetoric. I’m pro-business and want to see less government involvement in the economy in general. (Though I fit no mold. I think government is a friend and not an enemy, that health care and public transport require government help, and that there should be a sane symbiotic balance of capacities involved.)

    But I don’t see the current Republican party, or the Tea Party, representing conservative views or policies. Too much characterization, name-calling and obstructionism, plus an odd collection of causes. Opposing abortion, fighting immigration, protecting monopolies, assuming that Wall Street is “the marketplace” that matters most, returning to the gold standard, denying science, teaching creationism, and insisting the U.S. is a “Christian” nation have together buried the conservatism of Goldwater, Buckley and even of Reagan.

    David Frum and Andrew Sullivan make sense to me as conservatives, in part because they do extend courtesies. No Republican front-runners do. Not that I’ve heard, anyway.

  8. Doc Searls’s avatar

    PXLated, I agree that the Democrats need better sloganeering. “Change” did it last time around. “Hope” too. Those don’t look so good now.

    As for Obama growing balls, I think he has them, but they just haven’t worked.

    What he needs next time, if he gets one, is to be less of a Chicago machine politician and more of an independent all around. Too many of his appointments and decisions have been pro-big-business (especially toward the phone/cable companies and Hollywood, not to mention Wall Street), without the economic effects he’d hoped for.

  9. Kelly’s avatar

    Nice ending “advice”! Its all about who you need to “go after”…

    The last time the Presidency was declared impossible was during the Carter administration. Another naive idealist, but less inept that our current President.

    I think the US Economy (and the rest of the world which is so dependent on it) will roar back to life as soon as we have leadership that thinks that is a good thing.

  10. James Robertson’s avatar

    David Frum? Seriously? He’s a wind vane, not a steady belief guy. And Sullivan? He of the Trig Palin fantasies? He’s not sane from any political perspective. You might try reading “Reason” to get a better feel for what the core of the tea party movement is on about. Or, for that matter, Matt Taibbi, although he’s hardly objective about it.

  11. Mike Warot’s avatar

    This is a diversion…. the big issue isn’t found here… it’s deeper… it’s the money.

    A US dollar is a silver coin containing 371.25 grains (0.7734375 troy ounces) of pure silver. You don’t see them in circulation any more, in fact most people don’t even recognize them. They are used to Johnson sandwiches, and don’t know the difference.

    The Federal Reserve Notes we all think of as dollars are, in effect, signed liars loan mortgages for that amount of silver. The fact that everyone knows it will never be paid off doesn’t seem to matter. We all know the government has no way to pay the notes off, and in fact refuses to do so, by law.

    There is NOTHING preventing the fall of the federal reserve note to its natural value (as kindling), other than inertia… which is massive, but not infinite. Look at the markets for commodities, and you can see that despite the best efforts to keep the purchasing power of the “dollar” inflated, it’s still about to pop.

    It is far more important to learn about real money, verses paper debt, than to spend time and energy worrying about the puppets in DC, or the lobbyists who are their handlers for the powers that be.

    Follow the money… not the debt.

  12. Doc Searls’s avatar

    James, I actually subscribed to Reason, for years. (Let it lapse, though, hate to say. Maybe I’ll renew.) And I’ve always liked Virginia Postrel’s “dynamism” thing. And I like Matt Taibbi writing. Closest thing we have to Hunter S. Thompson these days, though mlles short of the original. His piece here on the Tea Party is a good read, for what it’s worth. As for Frum and Sullivan, each to their own. (Sully does have Trig up his ass, though, and should get that problem fixed.)

  13. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Mike, it’s more than inertia maintaining the dollar. It’s trust and faith.

    Of course that may fail, in which case we’re f’d for real.

    FWIW, all the gold and silver ever mined in the world comes to $11.4 trillion. (You can look that up in the book I’m writing when it comes out next Spring. In a chapter I’m writing at this very moment.)

    If we wish to have money always mean precious metal, there’s a limit to how big our economies can get.

    Are you saying this is a good thing?

  14. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Maybe you’re right, Kelly.

    FWIW, Obama does look like another Jimmy Carter. Not sure he’s “more inept,” though.

    Do you think any of the Republican candidates has what it takes to be another Reagan?

  15. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Ok, let’s assume…

    All above ground gold and silver – 11.4 Trillion at current market prices

    Use 10% reserve requirements, and put it all behind the US dollar (for this example), which multiplies the money into 114 trillion of debt (notes)

    Now we have 114 Trillion of “notes” to play with, all backed by metal… as long as there is any kind of inking of stability at work, and no world wide bank rush, this should always hold.

    The current “velocity” of money is about 2… which means we can support a 228 Trillion dollar GDP without lots of tricks. (Except of course taking everyone’s gold and silver…. in exchange for “notes”)

    The current World GDP is 74 Trillion, which easily fits within what the Gold and Silver could back.

    A commodity money system is out there, it never went away completely… ask the population of India about Gold… they know how to deal with it, it’s still embedded in their culture. We still have vestiges of that knowledge as well…

    It’s not impractical, nor unlikely that at some point we’ll swing the pendulum back from a debt based economy to one based on savings and assets.

    It’s all a question of how long, and how much pain in the transition.

  16. James Robertson’s avatar

    Fiat money is no panacea either – witness the serial bubble blowing (and popping) that the Fed has engaged in for 20 years now. I don’t know that moving to gold (or something else physical) is the right answer – but it looks to me like what we are doing now is demonstrably not working either.

  17. Mike Warot’s avatar

    The zero interest rate policy is a sneaky way to steal from savers (by inflating away the value of their savings), while lending it out to insiders who can then charge real interest rates for it

    Discouraging savings is a sure way to kill an economy in the long run.

  18. Paul Bouzide’s avatar

    Doc, it’s the first time I gotta say that I liked your comments more than the post itself. Chicago machine pol indeed. And the characterization of today’s Republican party? Appropriately blistering!

  19. Republican J’s avatar

    Sorry Doc,

    While I generally follow your thoughtful blog, this one went off the rails early with classic Leftist “regurgitation” of what the rest are saying with little basis. It’s disappointing, since I usually expect more thought from you. I personally disagree with many liberal concepts, but I acknowledge them, and even understand them, despite my views:

    “It doesn’t matter if there’s a right-wing conspiracy (which there is). “, well it’s an agenda, not a conspiracy. but I guess that means there is a left-wing conspiracy as well. Its’ unfortunate but when intelligent people paint pictures like this, it makes an inaccurate black and white picture out of something with much more grays and blues. And this one, is a sad example of typical democrat propaganda…”… an uncompromising partisan bloc ” How come Republicans are the only ones that have to compromise, and when they don’t, they are pigeonholed into “unreasonable and uncompromising”? remember this:”We won the election, we’re writing the law”? Yeah, that was Pelosi. Lets not forget, that for 4.5 years, democrats had FULL control of the House AND Senate, 2 of which they also had the presidency, during which they used it as carte blanch to rubber stamp partisan “conspiracy” erm, agendas, which lead to 10% unemployment. Where was “compromise” then? Finally, the President needs to do more than “Preside”, he needs to Lead.

    Looking forward to you getting back to you technical writing, where you use data to further your arguments..

  20. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Repbulican 3, I sat on this post for a while before putting it up, and maybe I shouldn’t have. As I said, I usually avoid politics, especially since I’m not the partisan type. FWIW, I think the handbaskets the world is going to hell in are in our DNA and our cultures, and no politician or policies can do much to change that. Nor will The Market. I do have some hope for people communicating with people their own ways, which is why I blog.

    Back to the post: this one was for my many friends on the left, not for ones on the right. I think the lefties are making mistakes, so I said so.

    As for Obama as a leader, he’s not proving out. As someone said above, he looks a lot like Carter at this stage. But the Republicans don’t have a Reagan this time, and the country hasn’t had a great leader since Reagan in any case, and the best one before that was Roosevelt. I don’t think great leaders come along very often. But that’s a judgement call on my part. (And my judgement for awhile was that Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be the ascendant Republican. Now he’s vanished, with good reason.)

    As for the “uncompromising” and “conspiracy” stuff, I’ll let your comment stand and not get into an argument about it, because it’ll go long and I don’t have time for that right now.

    Most political arguments are about competing narratives, and frankly I don’t like any I hear on the left or the right — and I don’t look forward to what I’m likely to hear as 2012 gears up.

    FWIW, Perry and Bachman scare the crap out of me. I tend to think Romney wouldn’t be a bad president because he wasn’t a bad governor. And people who know him (and that I know) like him a lot. Same goes for Huntsman. (Though an all-Mormon ticket seems unlikely.)

    As for Obama, my jury of one is still out.

  21. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Regarding “FWIW, I think the handbaskets the world is going to hell in are in our DNA and our cultures, and no politician or policies can do much to change that.”

    Actually, I don’t think that’s true, in the sense that it’s not inevitable. But there are complicated game-theory reasons why it’s very difficult. Here you’ve written a classic post about one common situation – it’s often radicals vs. moderates, but things have gotten so extreme now it’s almost sane vs. appeasers (sorry, just being descriptive). That is, if the former group doesn’t make noise, the latter group can gain status by selling-out the former to the opposition. The current version of this is called “hippie-punching”. Too much infighting, however, and everyone loses. But the solution isn’t obvious, and I don’t have it.

  22. Ernest’s avatar

    Why don’t all you liberals on the left just move to Greece, Italy or Ireland if that’s what you believe in. I’m tired of all the people who do not pay taxes complaining about everything under the sun. Grow up, get a job and stop being wimps.

  23. Terry Heaton’s avatar

    Doc, I think this is a very thoughtful and well-written post, and you’re spot on. The most intransigent voices come from talk radio, most of whom admit that they have more material to work with when a tax-and-spend liberal is in the White House than when their own party is represented there. I’m sick of this bloc, but I’m also fed up with the flip side and don’t think I’m alone. The role of the press is key to whatever solution we find, and I agree with Chris Lasch that the lack of argument in the press has given the extremes a field day. In his brilliant “The Lost Art of Political Argument,” he wrote that the decline in participation in the political process in this country tracks with the rise in the professionalization of the press. Only the people can fix this mess.

  24. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Seth. Very well put, and I agree with you.

    I just looked up “hippie-punching” and there’s Krugman at the top of a long list of posts. The second post, from The Lonely Conservative, unpacks it a bit. Interesting.

    As you know, I’m an upbeat guy and a born optimist. But I see nothing in politics today that doesn’t depress me.

  25. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Terry.

    I agree that only the people can fix this mess, mostly because every profession involved seems incapable of it. But I don’t think the people know how. There’s no manual for keeping a civilization from collapsing.

    Not that I think that’s what’s happening. Not all the time, anyway.

    This summer I spent a month in Rome, Venice and Florence, much of it reading and thinking about what happened to end the golden ages of Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Milanese, Siennan, Venitian and other empires whose legacies have survived, even if their governments did not. I found myself thinking that America has made enough marks on the world perhaps even to define an age. But that age, like all of those that came before, will end. The one chance in five that Jeff Davis wagered in the first comment above sounds about right to me.

    The bigger question is whether our species can survive its own rapaciousness. When even “conservatives” are hell-bent on extracting every ounce of irreplaceable resource from the Earth, and deny the obvious observations of entire scientific disciplines (rationalized by religion, of all things), I gotta wonder.

  26. Patrick’s avatar

    There was a conspiracy. It was hatched by some small government activists with access to funding back in the Clinton years when they realized they could never get government smaller through policy. So they decided to bankrupt the government so it would have to shrink. They bankrolled ‘New American Century” types, and tried to buy every potential candidate. They inspired the Bush tax cuts and led the propaganda about leading resource wars. Their agenda doesn’t care who is in office, as long as the perception is that the government- any jurisdiction is included- is financially upside down so that the shrink it argument plays.
    This was the inside the Beltway gossip mid Bush years among the career government service workers I met while doing work for NOAA last decade. It seemed extreme speculation at the time, except everything that has unfolded fits it now.
    Now prediction to reality doesn’t always validate the prediction, but it does support the idea that this is about money- because making the government broke shifts wealth in a way that tax cuts, and productivity can’t.
    Until we reform campaigns, and campaign finance to reduce if not eliminate money’s significance in them, we will keep getting leaders owned by the rich, left or right.
    As one employer I had back in the 80’s told me ” it doesn’t matter who is the pilot as long as I own the plane”.

  27. Patrick’s avatar

    Doc- The survival of the species is one of the many lies of environmentalism, just like we aren’t really ‘saving the planet’. The planet is obviously a self regulating mechanism that has way more time to clean up after even its most awful mistakes. Even total nuclear war would leave life forms that would emerge and thrive.
    The scientists I interviewed on the species question suggested that the worst cases short of the asteroid strike,and a lavalike combover for the surface, suggests that catastrophic die backs of humanity would still leave between a half and a billion people, some of whom might remember how to keep the cellular services up in regions, access the GPS system, and for sure gunpowder and electricity.
    It is the ‘modern western civilization’ mode that is under threat, and far more from collapse of the water and food systems- where we are really partnered with natural systems, than economic or political chaos. And those natural systems will not stop just because we disrupt, poison or attempt to ‘engineer’ them.
    Permaculture development, along with traditional food production and consumption systems, are likely to give rise to defensible sustainable patterns. We could of course embrace those now, and shortcut a lot of suffering, but that would require changing while we could still enjoy the ‘fiddling’ of MWC. While the music plays, why not dance? More drinks all around! Hey did you see that wedding? Let’s replay her old sex tape! Or hey let’s argue about that belief system called debt! Then we can think of ourselves as serious adults.

  28. Terry Heaton’s avatar

    Some of the commenters here gripe about things related to cause-and-effect in terms of what’s wrong with “us.” The problem with that is that it keeps us from looking for solutions. We erroneously think that by identifying causes, we can then find answers. This is the illusion of the modernist mind, for not all problems are cause-and-effect. The current state of our culture is a problem of behavior, and, as Steven Covey so brilliantly noted, “You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into.” Bad behavior isn’t limited to institutions either; it’s systemic in the culture and can’t be resolved by edict. Our republic MUST be undergirded by the internal governor of each of its citizens. We’ve lost that, so our behavior is mostly self-driven. That is a victim of our own intelligence and the modernist mind. Kevin Kelly told me once that we’ll educate ourselves out of selfishness, and maybe he’s right. The people, thankfully now connected, can solve this, but it begins with recognizing that we’re the problem, not some political party, ideology or “them.”

  29. francine hardaway’s avatar

    Doc, I am just like you. An independent, with both libertarian and social bleeding heart tendencies. I am disappointed in Obama, but I don’t believe we have a better alternative right now, especially if you consider that he has done a really good foreign policy job, and it’s getting to be more of a global world. I can’t imagine Bachmann, Perry, or any ideologue on the world stage– a stage of pragmatists.

    I studied diplomacy at COlumbia in the 60s, and I was stunned at how much it is like threading a series of needles with increasingly smaller holes.

    As for our financial system and domestic crises, whoever let the big banks off when we bailed them out should have been shot, and it’s both the left and the right saying that.

    Left and right have no meaning anymore.

    +1 Terry Heaton

  30. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Patrick, Terry and Francine. +1 to your comments. I’d say more but have no time right now, and think maybe I should put fresh remarks another post.

  31. quixote’s avatar

    (Francine, do you remember the nattering against Hillary and two other women whose names I forget after the US finally started helping the Libyan revolution? But now that it’s turning into a success so far, it’s Obama’s achievement? Is it a good idea to help the ubiquitous push to flush women down the memory hole?)

    However, back to the main topic, which is the importance of preventing a Perry. He’s a lunatic, and, what’s worse, a corporate lackey lunatic. But there’s one good thing about him: people know what he is. He could do only “x” amount of damage, because many people would oppose it.

    Obama, on the other hand, might be better or worse than the Republicans. It doesn’t matter. He’s also highly pro-corporate. Whether it’s mortgages, health insurance, oil spills, bailouts, debt ceilings, whatever, he always seems to figure out a way to make sure the money keeps flowing uphill.

    But people have a hard time believing he’s actually doing that. The commonest refrain is a variant on “If only the Tsar knew.” They don’t see what he is. So they don’t fight it. So even if Obama is, say, a hundred times less bad than the Republican choice, the result is much worse.

    Without any real pushback, that 1% of “x” damage is multiplied by millions. Out in the real world, the damage he does is 1000x, even though he himself may not be a lunatic.

    The problem with Obama is that he’s given a pass because we’re desperate to believe there’s someone well-meaning at the top. We wouldn’t have that problem with a Perry. We’d remember which end was up.

    And there is nothing more important than that when you’re trying to get out of a morass.

  32. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I think ‘corporate’ is too broad and not helpful. (What does “pro-corporate” mean? I have a small corporation. Does that make me corporate?) Can you be pro-business (which I am) and not be “pro-corporate” as you mean it? I hope so.

    I think the problem with Obama, as it was with Bill Clinton, is that he’s not a business guy, but a Man of the Left who believes that the best solutions to everything are Policy. He doesn’t really get business, so he brings on advisors who do. So far they have turned out to be the wrong ones.

    I think that’s a separate matter from his stands in favor of phone carriers and Hollywood copyright maximalists. There he clearly is siding with campaign supporters and cronies from Chicago. IMHO. This is what I meant about him still being a Chicago machine pol.

    Anyway, I don’t think he’s getting a pass from anybody.

    As for Perry, I hope you’re right. The dude scares me.

  33. Brett Glass’s avatar

    It is true that some people are going after Obama for things which are not his fault, but this does not make him a good president. In fact, his administration is hopelessly corrupt, pandering to large campaign contributors like Google.

    Obama hired a Google lobbyist right into the White House despite its pledges not to hire lobbyists. He then pushed for needless regulation of the Internet at the same time that it claimed that unnecessary regulations should be scuttled. Why? Because Google wanted the regulations.

    He also sold out to Wall Street…. The list goes on.

    It’s a shame that the Republicans do not seem to be able to field anyone but crazies and religious fanatics.

  34. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Terry, Doc – note, the game-theory way of analyzing the problem says it’s FALSE to have hope in “The people, thankfully now connected, can solve …”, or “people communicating with people their own ways”. In fact, it could be argued that it’s worse, since there’s more opportunity for con-games and manipulation – that’s one of my critiques of Web 2.0 utopianism.

    If you want a simple example of the game-theory problem, the more vocal you are about political dysfunction, the more likely you are to be marginalized and lose the status of [whatever you want to call it – the social standing that gets you invited to conferences, Fellowships, etc]. Exceptions exist, but that doesn’t change probabilities.

    This of course leads to web-evangelists trying to find some way to market discontent to corporations – but that’s a well-known sideshow. I’m talking about the specific problem of political change. That is, in advocating significant political change (rather than being a seller of futile dreams), society in general may benefit, but you, personally, will suffer.

    I haven’t solved this problem, and I’ve suffered from it, so all I can do is point it out starkly.

  35. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Seth. Good points. Doesn’t feed the old optimism, but … good to know.

    Does game theory then say that democracy basically doesn’t work? (There’s no simple answer, I’m sure. Just wondering.)

    Maybe there are no levers. Or, if you think you have one, you don’t.

    (Being unusually cynical here.)

    Again, I have almost zero hope for Political Change, which is why I normally don’t screw with it. (This post is an exception to that, and I wasn’t looking for change; just to say some stuff to my friends on the left.)

    I also don’t have much hope for the species, because I think we are a pestilence on the planet. But then, life is full of messy things and no species lasts forever. Two million years is about average. And Major Events, beyond our experience, if not our imaginings, punctuate the geological record.

    But I’d like to see us fuck up less. Maybe even asking for that is too much.

    Somehow, though, I hope the work I’m doing in one small area might have some positive effect. Then, it might not.

  36. Dave Täht’s avatar

    re your: “FWIW, Perry and Bachman scare the crap out of me. I tend to think Romney wouldn’t be a bad president because he wasn’t a bad governor. And people who know him (and that I know) like him a lot. Same goes for Huntsman. (Though an all-Mormon ticket seems unlikely.)

    As for Obama, my jury of one is still out.”

    Can’t help but mention this, trying to be balanced, here:


    hear the cheers at the anti-war message!

    I think that George Bush was the best president that Texas ever had. For the other 49 states… not so much. The success of Texas has come at the expense – and interests of – the rest of the country.

  37. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Doc, I’m not an optimist. I try to be a realist. Anyway, large amounts of political theory and practice are devoted to reconciling the game-theory problems of “democracy”. I’m just using a particular framework to describe well-known issues. The Framers of the US Constitution were very concerned with e.g. not having mob rule, checks and balances, etc. The simplistic Internet-evangelist marketing storyline – of briefly, democracy is good government, people talking is good, so more people talking must therefore via technological determinism create better government – is complete nonsense. How many times has someone pointed out the “power law” dominance of attention of a tiny number of sources, and it’s a short step from that to political influence (e.g. demagoguery).

    “Democracy”, as a description itself, isn’t very meaningful. A detailed political system is what’s meaningful. No such system is completely stable, and the US system has notably weak “public-interest” protections. What bothers me in my little corner is the push to destroy even those existing shreds, and web-evangelism is one of the justifications used.

    Regarding levers, I think almost everyone has none, certainly individually. A few high-status people have a little (but remember, using the lever means likely losing that high status). Coalitions are one theoretical path, but that brings us back to the original post, it’s rife with complicated practical problems. We may be basically at the mercy of a factional battle going on between a few thousand or so super-rich.

  38. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Seth. Well put, as usual.

    Lately I’ve been thinking about doing what we can to save or grow those “public interest” graces. But the tide of hate for government, which I thought swung to its limit in the Gingrich Years, hasn’t swung back. If anything the pendulum has gone right through the wall.

    So, I dunno.

    Being in a factional battle between the super-rich is, if I’m not mistaken, roughly a format for failure at the historic termini of many great empires and civilizations. I see no reason why ours should be different. Having a lot of smart, caring people saying hopefully helpful things doesn’t seem to be doing it. Nor is electing a fantasy, which is what we did with Obama. (And with every president, to be fair.)

    🙁 , etc.

  39. Amir Shawn’s avatar

    I have been having a hard time understanding the republican mentality. They are always talking about small government and less spending yet it seems every time they are in office they take us to war, run up our deficit, then lose office when there’s no money left. What I really don’t understand is how quickly their constituents forget what a horrible mess they created. I feel that it comes down to oppression, the republicans hold a lot of wealth, and they want to protect it at any cost. Also a lot of that wealth comes from military related companies. It’s a form of embezzlement, there is always opportunities to start wars, and it seems when the republicans are in office somehow the media goes along with them, beating the drums for war. I am starting to feel like the only reason for the wars is so they can suck trillions of dollars away from us, and at the same time destroy another countries military knowing after it’s all over they are going to have to rebuild their military buying our equipment. It’s a win win situation for them, but at the same time Americans are losing lives, whoever we are fighting is losing lives, and America becomes less safe because every person we kill breeds two more people that are ready to kill us. This again is good for the military businesses, it’s called job security. But it’s costing us our security, and our government has quickly lost all our wealth and now we are at the mercy of these companies because they have all the wealth. Since the republicans lost things have changed dramatically in my eyes, Obama has managed to get us out of Iraq, he was able to track down Bin laden, and continued destroying Al Qaeda with much greater success than the Bush’s. I think this is true because he doesn’t want the war to drag on, he’s not in it for the money, he’s in it because he inherited this problem. If the republicans were in office I can almost guarantee we’d have boots on the ground in Libya, and it would be a much more horrible mess now. We’d be beating the drum to go into Syria, and we would be lucky if our economy hadn’t collapsed already. Obama has quietly assisted the revolutions, letting it be a revolution for the people by the people, and so far three dictators have fallen and the perception of America has improved drastically. I just hope that we can reelect Obama, and not have to worry so much about what is going to happen next. During the bush years it was really scary seeing what we were doing, and how they were manipulating us into believing it was the right thing to do. Whether it be sending our manufacturing jobs overseas, spending money we didn’t have, starting a war in Iraq that had no merit. We are going to be recovering from the bush mess for decades, and now we have Obama having to once again clean up the mess that was left behind. And all anyone can do is attack him from left and right, I think he has been the most dignified professional leader I have seen since I have lived, but he doesn’t get any of the credit he deserves. In the history books he will, but as of right now I feel like he has been getting majorly screwed. I don’t agree with everything he does, but I do believe he is a good person, and I don’t feel afraid of him, or what decisions he is going to make for our country. He’s cool headed, he thinks before he speaks, he doesn’t believe he can transform the world through force. Those are all great qualities for a leader, I just hope that we don’t slide back and end up being led by another war monger or religious zealot. Sorry for the super long post, I just needed to get that off my chest. Thanks Doc for your great blog!

  40. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Amir.

    For understanding what seems hard to understand about Republicans (and Democrats), I recommend George Lakoff’s Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. He’s a friend, as well as a great cognitive scientist. Check it out.

  41. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    > roughly a format for failure at the historic termini of many great empires and civilizations.

    Indeed. FYI –

    “Special Report: Breakaway Wealth
    An ongoing Washington Post series about how the rich are pulling away from the rest of America ”


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