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Why Did Nero Fiddle?

by Antifa Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 07:21:15 AM EST

DailyKos and Markos and them rowdy Kossacks are all about Democratic Party activism. Real projects, real politicians, real campaigns, real elections -- and oh yes, the unbridled flow of intellectual and emotional and spiritual underpinnings that ignite and drive all those real doings.

Of course, "real lefties" see the entire Democratic Party as simply one half of the single party state that America is. Both political parties are owned by, and serve, the same economic masters.

Even if the Democrats win every office they desire during this political season, the victory will represent nothing more than the handing of the ball to the other team for their fair turn at it.

The game will still be played inside the marked white lines. The game will still take place inside the stadium. The voters will still be spectators forced to choose between two teams only, while the team owners, the team players, the team sponsors, and the stadium owners make obscene amounts of money by providing spectacular croissants and circuses in those two terrific tastes -- Dem and GOP. You pick one, or the other.

It reminds me of my mother's favorite way of announcing dinner -- "You have two choices this evening, children. You can eat this, or you can go hungry."

If You Aren't Rich, Who The Hell Are You?

With all due respect to the passionate and hard working activists at and represented by DailyKos, the fact remains that political power in America is a direct expression of economic power.

Even netroots campaigns come down to money. Every Kossack will concede that after all the essays and diaries and comments are posted and perused, the netroots difference comes down to putting some money into somebody's campaign coffers, some money that did not come from a corporation or a wealthy patron of politics.

Economic power in America has steadily shifted since the early 1980's toward the energy, banking, pharmaceutical and defense industries. Beginning with Reagan, the Administrations of both Democrats and the GOP have worked to keep America's wealthy as wealthy as the Saudis and other foreign oil suppliers so that wealthy Americans could and would invest in American corporations and assets rather than just letting all of America's companies and properties be bought up by foreign oil barons on the open and free market.

Had a few foreign cartels been allowed to dominate our economic landscape, they would naturally have dominated our political landscape, and that has been deemed unacceptable up to now.

This has meant class warfare for the rich, and upon the middle class, and this has meant skewing the tax and regulatory systems wholesale, always in the direction of corporate monopolies, privatization of public properties and utilities, deregulation, and reduced taxes on invested capital.

All Our Eggs In Their Basket

This has meant putting all of America's eggs in one basket -- Big, Big Business, especially the energy and defense industries. We are the world's largest arms supplier. Our military prowess is so far beyond what our next ten nation state competitors can put out that it is ludicrous. Yet we spend on and on because it's no longer about whatever weapon is being built, it's about the profits created by building that weapon, in quantity, and then wasting or using it so it needs replacing. These wonder weapons don't even have to work anymore. The game is to just go build some stuff -- the Pentagon or Congress pay for it, plus ten percent for your trouble.

Pay to Play

Consider the perfect devotion of both political parties over the decades to this Iron Triangle -- the Congressional Military Industrial complex, a rigged game where a dollar in political donations gets you a ten dollar 'earmarked' contract to manufacture some stuff in China or the Honduras and then sell it to Halliburton for its latest war of convenience. For a two dollar donation, you get your taxes reduced, and for three dollars you can get the EPA, SEC and IRS off your case, rather permanently.

It works the same for both parties. That's why both parties are funded by largely the same clientele. It's just business. The business of politics.

Real lefties perceive that even when the Democratic Party hits full victory mode, no serious plans are afoot to change this basic economic arrangement. Feingold or Kucinich would probably change it, but they are in that unelectable five percent who don't fiddle the facts.

Political Suicide Not Likely

For the Democrats to change this basic arrangement would require going straight to the American people and saying, "Thanks for your vote. It's good to be back. Now, we all need to voluntarily reduce our living standards by about 30% in order to avoid national bankruptcy in the coming decade. We need most of our suburban population to give up their private cars and start taking buses and trains to work, or move closer to their jobs. We have unilaterally cut the Pentagon budget by 50% today, and will put those hundreds of billions into getting our national infrastructure on a green basis, our schools back on top, and our national debt under control. More than anything else, friends, we need to make science and mathematics our national pastime instead of baseball and football. Are you with us?"

(cue the crickets . . . )

Well, they'd not be in office more than a few weeks after that, would they? Ach du lieber -- how the tar and feathers would fly!

For too many Americans, you can take away their SUV when you can pry it from their cold, dead fingers.

Not In America

And yet our most sober and wise futurists and thinkers say that this downsized, relocalized America is precisely the nation that will emerge from the restrictions forced by Peak Oil and $150 per barrel crude that is coming.

It will happen. Right here.

We can either make the necessary changes with our eyes open, or we can wake up to these changes one distant day, after all the brutish unpleasantness of trying to avoid it gets a lot of Americans hurt and killed, both Over There and here at home.

Real lefties have left the stadium. We see grownups playing a game while reality waits. Oh, we will reliably vote D on Election Day, out of necessity. After all, Mother's two choices were not really choices, were they?

But please do not presume we see a Democratic sweep of all three branches of government as Judgement Day and Kingdom Come all rolled into one. If such a Democratic Party sweep happens, it will represent nothing more than the first national opportunity in half a century to address the actual problems of our tottering nation instead of the imagined problems of the political gridiron, with its two teams already purchased, and everyone playing for pay.

Real lefties know that on Judgement Day, when Kingdom Comes, and a Democratic sweep is complete, and the Dems stand in serried ranks across all three branches of government -- guaran' ball bearin' cher the Dems will blow the opportunity. They will play the game inside the stadium, and inside the lines. They will move the ball within the economic boundaries allowed for play until such time as it is the other team's turn again.

Because that is the business of politics. Politics truly is the art of theater. It is all a performance, all of the time. The politicians are there to fiddle for their audience, and to fiddle their audience.

Why All The Fiddling?

Why did Nero fiddle while Rome burned to the ground? Because he was crazy? No. Because he was a politician performing. Because to not fiddle would be to confess and address harsh reality -- that the city outside the stadium is on fire. To confess and address reality leads beyond two, or ten, or twenty political parties. It leads you beyond the marked lines, and out beyond the stadium.

And then whose side are you on? Whose empire? And then where do you stand?

After a farewell to arms, do you stand on the side of humanity? On the side of all species including our own? On the side of the planet, as it tumbles through a vacuum headed who knows where?

After the game leaves you, what work do you do? Where do you go? What do you call that journey where you don't know a destination, you just know you're not staying?

If your politics introduces you only to empire, then rosin up your bow and ho' down. Do the people proud. Do 'em but good. You will never lack for an audience or for assistants.

If your politics introduces you to humanity, congratulations -- you have outperformed Nero and all the fiddlers stalking the halls of power today.

You may find yourself out here with the real lefties.

She says Nero got that fiddle from the Devil himself . . .

Frames exist within larger frames. Draw a larger frame around your opponent's frame; he will appear wrong or insufficient. This is how wizards play.
by Antifa (antifa@bellsouth.net) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 07:22:26 AM EST
I found this on Daily Howler yesterday

[We'd] guess that the press corps' problem with Dems is, in large part, a matter of class. Human beings have always been tribal, and our modern, tribal national politics is largely a tribalism of class. [It's] fairly clear that tribal connections have long defined our two major parties, and have done so more and more since the time of the GOP "Southern Strategy."

Increasingly, the GOP is the tribe of the upper-class, older American order - and the Democrats are the tribe of everyone else. Everyone who doesn't fit in the old order has found their way to the Dem coalition. The Dems are the party of The Other - of the "lower-class;" of racial minorities; of gays; of uppity women. The Republicans are the party of the traditional upper-class ideal - and of all those who will swear allegiance to that orders' values. This does not mean that Dems are always right - or that Reps are always wrong -- about issues involving class and race. It does mean that the parties represent two different tribes - and that many people align themselves based on tribal impulses.

To which tribe do our millionaire pundits belong? Please. In some ways, Tim Russert defines this group's class membership; he flies to a multimillion-dollar home on Nantucket to write a book about living in Buffalo. (This doesn't mean that he's not a nice person.) Consciously or otherwise, we'd guess that modern scribes "see" themselves as what they are -- as part of a fatuous millionaire class. Clinton never belonged to that class; Gore was more or less a class traitor.

Modern reporters worship at the alter of fame and financial success. For them, reporting has become "fun," "entertainment" and "sport" - even if, as in Carlson's presentation to Imus, they happen to know someone who needs major help from a government program. But in many cases, these people have stopped caring about - or identifying with - the people who still form the Dem coalition. The press corps adores upper-class blacks; Rice and Powell are their greatest untouchables. But to all appearances, they no longer identify with major figures, like Clinton and Gore, who have tended to stick with The Others.

We humans have always stuck with Our Own -- and have been inclined to look down on The Other. In The Iliad, at the moment of truth, Nestor tells the roiling troops about the important of tribal loyalty -- of loyalty to the hearth, to the clan:

    Lost to the clan,
    lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
    who lusts for the horror of war with his own people...

To the extent that Major Dems like Clinton and Gore speak for "the people, not the powerful" - to the extent that they "feel the pain" of working people - they have declared themselves "lost to the clan." The modern upper-class tribal consensus is embarrassed by--and uninterested in--the problems of people who may need Medicare, or Medicaid, or Social Security. Ruling classes have always tended to look down on the needs of the great unwashed. And, by virtue of their vast salaries, opinion leaders in the modern press corps are now part of a high ruling class. That doesn't make them bad people - though some of them may be. But human nature remains unchanged -- and their salaries are vast.

I would only refine this theory by observing that the progressives do not really form a "good" tribe - they are actually defined by weak tribal instincts. The success of Bush can be perhaps explained by the insecurity that "tribe-inclined" people felt in the modern world, among all the progressive, more individualistic and less tribal "aliens".

by das monde on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 07:45:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US is actually not that far away from Europe int erm of laws needed to be pass. It simple takes a simple law to pass congress to return US back to the European model..one single law:

Free advertisement in TV for candidates free minimum air time..

You do not even need to pass a comprehensive public financing of campaigns...although that would make it better.

You do that and the whole political game changes in less than four years. And with a comprehensive public financing campaign plus a center-left TV network and US is back to an european model in two years.

The question is whether the netroots can convince the democratic party to do it...I doubt it

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 01:33:02 PM EST
Of course, "real lefties" see the entire Democratic Party as simply one half of the single party state that America is. Both political parties are owned by, and serve, the same economic masters.

I'm glad you're planning on voting Dem, I really hope you did in 2000, cause as it turned out, the folks who thought like you and voted for Nader were voting for torture, war in Iraq, tax cuts for the rich, Sammy 'stripsearch' Alito, etc.    Just like the 'real lefties' in France who voted in Chirac and the lovely spectacle of Le Pen in the second round a few years ago.

And yet our most sober and wise futurists and thinkers say that this downsized, relocalized America is precisely the nation that will emerge from the restrictions forced by Peak Oil and $150 per barrel crude that is coming.

Neither sober nor wise. I agree that better public transport and the shifting of public policy to encourage urban development while discouraging the exurban variety would be good for the country. But there's nothing about $150 a barrel that makes that necessary. Buying a Civic instead of an SUV and you'll end up paying the same amount for gas with $150 a barrel as you did with $60.

Nor do I see why the 'real left' would suggest reducing the standard of living of the average American by 'thirty percent'. Or for that matter how they'd do it.  Raising taxes sharply on the wealthy and moderately on the upper middle class - no effect on the average American. Creating a payroll tax to pay for single payer health care - if you've already got insurance its a wash, if you work and you don't, it seems like a good trade off, if you're unemployed you just win out.

Consider the perfect devotion of both political parties over the decades to this Iron Triangle -- the Congressional Military Industrial complex

Cutting the defense budget by fifty percent - been there, done that, it's called the nineties. Courtesy of those 'real lefties' George Bush and Bill Clinton. Guess the Iron Triangle is a bit more recent than you think.

by MarekNYC on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 03:45:35 PM EST
$500 or more will be needed to have any meaningful impact on our behavior (as you rightly point out with your "Civic" example).

Fully agree with you (Marek) on the rest.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 05:19:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...the Iron Triangle is a bit more recent than you think

Let's just say that this particular Iron Triangle got bent and battered for a while. It is still standard for programs (regulatory or otherwise) that are established by Congress, controlled by a bureaucracy, and important to an  industry will end up in effect controlled by that industry. This Iron Triangle pattern is what makes a mockery of so many attempts to use the power of government to control the power of corporations.

The closest thing to a cure for this disease, as I see it, would be to cut out the bureaucracy (as much as possible) by making control operate via laws that are somehow constrained to be relatively simple and general. (That is to say, genuine law rather than mere legislation.) Rule of law is less corruptible than rule of bureaucrat or rule of Congressional committee.

This is a bit off topic, however, because the military is inherently part of the executive branch, and its interaction with business cannot remotely be reduced to law.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Wed Jun 28th, 2006 at 11:57:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Economic power in America has steadily shifted since the early 1980's toward the energy, banking, pharmaceutical and defense industries.

Probably because of (1) demand for oil rising faster than the supply of oil, (2) enormous investment opportunities in emerging markets like China and India that has raised the value of degrees in the fields tied to banking, (3) ageing populations needing (and wanting) treatments for various ailments, and (4) Reagan's odd obsession with outspending a Gorbachev-led Soviet Union that was no longer interested in an arms race.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jun 27th, 2006 at 04:19:02 PM EST

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