Sunday, January 08, 2012

Dance of the Marionettes


It's election season in the US, which means that I have the unwelcome task of wading through well-intentioned though off-topic comments devoted to things political: who might be the next president, and whether or not it matters who the next president is (it doesn't). And rather than bear it quietly, I thought I'd say something about it.

Electioneering in the US is steadily expanding to fill more and more time and space even as it provides worse and worse results with each election cycle. The Congress is made of some of the least popular people on earth, who are manifestly incapable of achieving anything useful. They do seem quite ready and willing to pass laws that erode human rights and enhance the powers of the police state, but this is because they are paranoid. Perhaps their one point of consensus is that sooner or later their constituents will want to open fire on them.

Still, the elections provide a spectacle, the media are conditioned to lavish attention on the candidates, and the people, being weak-willed, are once again beguiled into thinking that it matters who gets elected. A few years of Obama impersonating Bush should have taught them that it doesn't matter who the Prisoner of the White House is. Likewise, watching the sad spectacle of Congress trying to raise the debt limit or to reign in runaway deficit spending should have taught them that this institution is no longer functional. (The US is about to bump up against the debt limit again; does anyone even care?) All of this should have been enough to make it clear to just about everyone that wondering what might be different if, say, Ron Paul got elected president, is like wondering what might be different if the moon were made of a different kind of cheese—your favorite kind, of course.

Leaving aside the meaningless question of who the next Figurehead in Chief might be, let's look briefly at what is perhaps the most corrupt institution the US has: the US Senate. Everyone knows that senate seats are for sale: as soon as a senator gets elected, he starts fund-raising, to finance his reelection campaign. Since each state, whether huge or puny, gets two seats, these are variously priced: the two seats for a large, populous state, like California or Texas, are very expensive, while the two seats for the puny State of Potatoho or some such, with its zero million inhabitants, are more reasonably priced. Since the senators themselves decide nothing and are simply mouthpieces to the moneyed interests which buy their seats, and since this is a very divided country, they are unable to achieve compromise, making the Senate completely useless as a deliberative body.

Let's face it: the senators are just marionettes controlled by giant bags of money. Their seats are definitely for sale, all of them, all the time. But then an odd thing happened about a month ago: the ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for allegedly attempting to sell the senate seat that was vacated when Obama was elected president. It seems like a stiff penalty for something that is a routine, daily occurrence, does it not? It is especially odd since other miscreants who actually caused serious damage, like former senator Jon Corzine, who looted investors' accounts to cover his gambling debts in the futures market, are still at large. What set Blagojevich apart is that he violated a taboo. Just like any normal criminal syndicate, the US Senate has rules by which the members preserve their positions and keep each other in check. As with a criminal syndicate, these rules have nothing to do with serving the public interest. One of these rules is that it is not allowed to sell a senate seat if it is unoccupied. Essentially, senators get to sell senate seats, governors don't. It is a tribal taboo: “Of course we can have sex with our underage daughters—we all do it—but not when they are menstruating! We are all good decent God-fearing Troglodytes!” Rod Blagojevich is the exception that proves the rule: senate seats are for sale.

It stands to reason, then, that the way to influence this political system, in its current advanced state of degeneracy, is not through the political process, which is just a pro forma activity that determines nothing. Armed with the understanding that it doesn't matter who gets elected, we should ignore the elections altogether. To get the government to respond, it is far more effective to organize around issues, pool resources, and hire lobbyists.

As for the rest of us, who do not have the means to hire lobbyists, there are still a few things we can do: we can starve the system by withholding resources from it, and we can bleed the system by extracting payments from it. If we are clever, we can also find ways to frustrate the system by artificially generating complexity. The system has been gamed to our disadvantage. We are not going to win by playing along. But we all win whenever we refuse to play the game.

If you simply can't resist the temptation to play the game, don't play it to win. Play it strictly for the entertainment value. Ignore the front-runners and focus on all the amusing types that have zero probability of being elected. Encourage them, give them airtime and attention. And if anybody wonders why their candidacy matters, use the opportunity to explain to them why none of these political marionettes matter at all.

32 comments:

Robert424 said...

I think this is an important video for us to watch. Particularly, since I fear that it will vanish from the web. Please set the time aside to see it. Alternately, save the video. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7zotYU21qcU

michigan native said...

So very true. We should not derail blogs like Where did the money go? when we know it's been sucked up by a military industrial complex and they own the political system and the media, the courts, and on and on.

I guess its like tyring to see a ray of hope in the dark abyss. Getting rid of the IRS, closing down the military industrial complex. There is no political solution to peak oil and the ensuing deindustrialization.Like all the people that seemed to hang up x-mas lights and decorations this year, I guess it's another form all denial, wishing this would all just go away if only we elected a new president or the economy would recover if we all waste precious energy stringing up x-mas lights and decorations. Santa Clause isn't real afterall...

Malogato said...

Good post and I agree to a point but it does matter which marionettes are in power. Thousands dead in Iraq and the threat or promise of war with Iran is a cost to be assigned to one team of marionettes. If its only a variation on a theme, or a matter of degree, as an economist you must know there is a difference in both quantity and quality.

DeVaul said...

Hilarious article, Dmitry!

I too wish it would all just go away, but it seems every four years there is some kind of "savior" on the horizon. This year it is Ron Paul -- The Great White Hope.

I wish I could install him in the Oval Office myself just so I can stand back and watch the last remnant of wishful thinkers in this country fall to their knees in utter disbelief as he mimics Obama, who mimicked Bush, who mimicked Clinton, who mimicked Bush, who mimicked Clinton, who... wait a minute! I'm lost now.

Anyway, it would be an interesting psychological study to see what happens when there is not even one wishful thinker left standing in a country. What would happen?

Anything?

(Personally, I believe all presidential hopefuls should be forced to compete against each other in Wipeout for the right to hold office, but then that's just my opinion. Others may differ.)

Robert424 said...

A thoroughly insightful presentation (is is only three minutes long) by George Carlin, elucidates our current situation. You can see it on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q

doryman said...

Starve them out. No pay for political aspirants.

JCamasto said...

The insults are flying now - Malogato called Orlov an economist! How Revolting!

jwhands4u said...

Remember Pat Paulson? http://www.paulsen.com/pat/
His son is now running.

jwhands4u said...

Check out Monty-Pythons Twit Olympics. This how to choose a "real" political winner!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRBkgshj8Cw

Larkin said...

I enjoyed the above piece by Kollapsnik and I certainly agree with his assessment.

In tuning in and out, because I can tolerate only so much, I came the conclusion that the media is playing a much larger role than just reporting. They are actually orchestrating the entire event.

This is speculation on my part but I do not think that the Republicans want to take the executive this time around. It is too close to when the shit might hit the fan. My guess is that they would prefer to take the White House after rather than just before. This would allow them to blame the Democrats for everything. This also tells us they know something the general population doesn't know or suspect.

Consequently the Republican party along with the Media are spending this cycle experimenting with archetypes in an effort to see what will fly next time around.

Perhaps the only thing that can break this dead lock between Coke and Pepsi is the rise of a third on the right and fourth party challenge on the left. This might actually level the playing field. However, being a disillusioned idealist, I know full well that at the eleventh hour the moneyed interests would line up with the supposed winner nullifying the whole exercise.

At the first year anniversary of Obama's presidency, I made a declaration not to cast a ballot in any further elections.

Martin said...

@Larkin:

I think you're right - the repubs don't really want it, nor did they last time around, otherwise why run a senile old man and a dimwit from Alaska no-one ever heard of?

No, their only function is to eternally stir things up and make life hell for the rest of us.

Jeff said...

No prediction post for 2012? I always enjoy them.

Jerry McManus said...

Our prolific Mr. Orlov was given prominent mention by an economic columnist in the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times:

Our American Promise is at a crossroads

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2017111547_pacificpdreams08.html

WHAT IS THIS thing that has us by the throat?

[...]

"The Long Emergency" comes from urbanist James Howard Kunstler and was the title of his prescient 2005 book, which warned not only of the dangers of unsustainable sprawl building and globalization but of the convergence of higher energy costs and climate change. Writer Dmitry Orlov calls it "the Permanent Crisis."

Robert424 said...

Dimitri, Chomski,Kunstler etc. have predictions here: http://www.energybulletin.net/media/2012-01-06/heinberg-kunstler-foss-orlov-chomsky-public-affair

flipjack said...

Love this post! My favorite excerpt is the line that all congress can agree about is eroding our rights and creating a police state. I was just thinking this the other day when I saw the daily show episode about the new law permitting indefinite detention of US citizens without trial. In your book, you have a great line about how politicians draw all their ideas from a short reading list, the dystopian totalitarian novels like 1984. Orwell couldn't have done any better than to have congress pass a bill that overtly curtailed the liberties and rights guaranteed by the constitution, the upholding of which is practically the definition of patriotism...and call it the patriot act. Now these scumballs are as gridlocked as they've been in my life, but we have broad bipartisan support for legislation expanding government thuggery in the form of indefinite detentions. The writ of habeus corpus? Due process? These are US citizens! This is basic constitutional law. And this at a time when boisterous proclamations about the constitution are quite fashionable. Where's the outrage?

flipjack said...

"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it, "all men are created equal except negroes." When the Know-nothings get control, it will read, "all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty--to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, letter to Joshua F. Speed, Aug. 24, 1855

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Very ironic that following a clear post by Mr Orlov addressing the charade of Dem vs Repub, we get a fleet of comments hewing close to the Democrat Partisan line.

It's like they can't understand what the main essay says!

Or like they just can't believe it, even if they understand the drift of the essay's message.

Which explains why we keep spiraling downward into the sewer, I guess.

Do you partisans really gain that much existential feeling of superiority for hating on Evil Rethuglicans and lying on behalf of Noble Democrats? Is it really that fragile, your outlook? And how did you choose the Noble Democrats over the Evil Rethuglicans when each is clearly as criminal as the other?

I'd offer this choice: you're awakened one night by someone who's broken into your house, and he stands over you in your bed, surrounded by 5 armed thugs. The six of them give you a choice: death by strangulation, or death by asphyxiation caused by poisoning. Your choice, but you die while losing breath either way.

Is there really a "lesser evil" there?

Robert424 said...

“...As for the rest of us, who do not have the means to hire lobbyists, there are still a few things we can do: we can starve the system by withholding resources from it, and we can bleed the system by extracting payments from it. If we are clever, we can also find ways to frustrate the system by artificially generating complexity. The system has been gamed to our disadvantage. We are not going to win by playing along. But we all win whenever we refuse to play the game....”

I think that there is a better alternative to this, Dimitri. There is a movement. It's the Occupy Movement. It certainly is immature and going through severe growing pains, but right now it is the only movement we have.

A brief look at US history shows that most progressive legislation passed as a result of active movements. The eight hour day, the child labor laws, the withdrawal from Vietnam, Civil rights legislation, Social Security etc. were passed because the 99% made their voices heard in the street and the factory. not in the voting booth.

I do not think that this is a time for cynicism, irony, or sarcasms. For goodness sake! We at last have a movement. Let us not ignore it, just because it is not perfect at this stage of its development.

William said...

"I do not think that this is a time for cynicism, irony, or sarcasms [sic]..."

I beg you not to listen to that, Dmitry.

escapefromwisconsin said...

To get the government to respond, it is far more effective to organize around issues, pool resources, and hire lobbyists.

The Onion was way ahead of you on this one, Dmitry:

American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests In Congress

flipjack, that's a great quote!

Waiting for Gorbachev

kollapsnik said...

No need to beg, William. People who keep saying that the Capitalist party is better or worse than the Capitalist party are not worth listening to. x≠x is false for all values of x, even imaginary ones.

jpwhite said...

It doesn't matter because it's pretty much already decided; Obama vs. Romney with Ron Paul running as an independent. Perot 1992 redux. Four more years.

I think you've forgotten something. I agree that they are all equally worthless, even the esteemed Dr. Paul, who, for all his relatively sane talk on foreign affairs, is just another Republican Ayatollah. There is a live issue in this election that matters, though, and that is whether not the U.S. gives into Israel's paranoid megalomania (and it's own neocon loony bin) and starts a war with Iran.

Given that Iran is closely allied with Russia and China, such a war would probably be bad for your complexion, not to mention your chromosomes. Obama, bless his little totalitarian heart, does not appear to want a war with Iran (unless, of course, he concludes that it is his only chance for reelection, which it isn't).

The Republicans, on the other hand, have virtually guaranteed a war, and for once I believe the campaign promise. They are, each and every one, wholly owned by AIPAC, and religious nuts to boot. Something for Americans to think about while they continue on their long slog to serfdom.

flipjack said...

Dmitry,

On second reading, I think this post gets a bit opaque towards the end. Can you comment in greater detail, or perhaps even do a whole new post, on the last two paragraphs of this post?

Notmy Realname said...

I used to get enthused over the campaigns & elections in the US, then JFK was assassinated & I turned 13 eight days later. Not that I was starstruck by Kennedy, but it was a "stop the world" kind of moment when you thought about things differently than in your BAU mode, even at 13. Shortly thereafter & rapidly approaching draft age, my opinion of the US power structure and its political facade rapidly started to sour. My badge of honor is to have never voted in a US election (it's like not keeping the kitchen clean...it encourages cockroaches) & consider anybody who continues to do so hopelessly naive at best.

Robert424 said...

I think it unfortunate that you confess to a poloitical mindset you developed at the tender age of 13. I don't think we are as helpless or naïve as you point out.

Electoral politics (i.e. The two party system) end up keeping the 1% in power. They in turn control an electoral system that administers, the three branches of government through their media, lobbyists, courts, police and eventually armed thugs.

Remember that it is the two party system that has brought about:
Life expectancy of black man in Harlem is lower than Bangladesh,
46 million on food stamps,
15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children are below poverty level,
2.3 million in prison. China has 1.6 million,
700,00 are homeless in US, Deaths from Medical Errors In Hospitals at 195,000 per Year USA.
A brief look at US history shows that most progressive legislation passed as a result of active movements, independent of EITHER party.. The Eight hour day, the Child labor laws, the withdrawal from Vietnam, Civil rights legislation, Social Security, Gay rights etc. were passed because the 99% made their voices heard in the street and the factory. not in the voting booth.

I would hope that today, all of our efforts would be directed to building and strengthening the Occupy Movement, and avoid the deadly trap of the two party system, by doing more than just refusing to vote.

michigan native said...

One cluborlov honorary member gives some credence to elected officials. I just managed to have enough money leftover after my crushing bills to buy The Long Emergency, The End Of Growth, and Confronting Collapse. I started reading the Long Emergency, my wife started reading Confronting Collapse. She said this guy sounds just like you (michael ruppert) and says he dedicated the book to Jimmy Carter. He tried to warn us in the late 70s about diversifying from foreign energy and consuming less. Had we taken heed, we may have had a 40 year head start on the impending energy crisis, we could have taken a great deal of misery out of the rather painful transition that will occur in the US. That is not what people wanted to hear, the truth. You burn your ass, you sit on the blisters.

Now the new truth is it's too late, the candidates know things are bad, Newt wishes to blame the counter culture (when in fact, if their ideals had prevailed, this disaster might have been mitigated). The industrial sized neocon mentality of endless growth have done such a wonderful job. The other clown Santorum was recently quoted as stating it's OK to use force to get people to behave in what HE calls a "moral fashion". Killing millions of people to protect a US petro dollar that is doomed to fail anyways is, of course, never mentioned by these would be purveyors of "morality".

The others want to resort tom warfare and/or the imposition of fascism. In a moment of comic relief, Michelle Bachman stated that she would have all the embassies in Iran shut down (snicker snicker...there have been no embassies in Iran since 1980,you twerp, when a popular uprising ousted that brutal oligarch and puppet of US oil interests, the Shah and a rather pissed off Iranian populace took over the embassies)

Ron Paul is another form of denial. Great ideals, too little too late. No mention of peak oil or preparing for what matters most. Peak oil and the inevitable deindustrialization. Mass migrations, civil unrest, chaos, suffering, and I suspect millions of lost lives. None of the candidates are so much as willing to speak about this, let alone acknowledge it or enetrtain the idea, yet it is the single biggest issue that mankind faces.

The "cornucopians" in denial and the sheeple and buffoons who get all worked up about it, like rats about to drown on a sinking ship, they will feel foolish when the lights and the heat go out and the food disapears off their tables when they look back and contemplate the relatively petty issues that occupied them as they sink beneath the water line with no life jacket or life boat to save them. All that time wasted that could have been trying to prepare. Don't waste your time on politics. Sooner or later most will realize that having minimal or no government at all is in their best interests. Nobody for president in 2012.

Robert424 said...

I think the Michigan Native makes a lot of sense. However, I cannot agree with his conclusion: “Don't waste your time on politics. Sooner or later most will realize that having minimal or no government at all is in their best interests. Nobody for president in 2012.”[sic]. To appreciate the development of social movements, take a look at: http://www.indybay.org/olduploads/movement_action_plan.pdf and also at:http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/lakeylivrev.html
It would be a pity to let a movement go to waste.I would hope that today, all of our efforts would be directed to building and strengthening the Occupy Movement, and avoid the deadly trap of the two party system, by doing more than just refusing to vote.

Notmy Realname said...

The Occupy "movement" (whatever the hell that means), -tho' I sympathize greatly with some of its motivations, is like a mushroom growing on the rotting trunk of the American body politic, and isn't of any more significance than who gets elected next.

@Robert: reread the post, you missed the point entirely.

parkslopegigilo said...

I read in the free daily A.M. NY paper from a few days ago that the Food Bank of NYC reports that 24% of college graduates face food insecurity. That popped out at me from a nest of unpleasant facts including about how 35% of my neighbors are worried about food. When I read this, next to an article about how the price of rent in NYC is going up, yes fucking up, and I try to think of the elections I get a splitting headache trying to bridge the gap between those two realities.

Nothing good will come of this election, only perhaps a slower poison, a crime somewhat less gruesome, and once that carnival, that howling idiocy of hype and hoopla fades out it will be back to the slow, stewing, counting down till something snaps.

Then I turn the page to a letter from the United Federation of Teachers declaring that 66K teachers have left or retired from NYC schools under Emperor Doomburg and few care to replace them. Another social good rotting away, more children denied their birthright,more disposable labor for McDonalds...the elections? Nah, no thanks, I'm not into sports.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Robert424's posts read as if they were written by someone who looks with 20/20 vision through crisp, clean air and under bright light at what obviously is an orangutan, and declares it to be a hammerhead shark.

If only we reframe the discussion and focus on the "correct" irrelevant yet observable background points, the orangutan will become a hammerhead shark!

If only.

Yulek said...

The only thing I would hope from electing Ron Paul, that he would be a kind of american version of Gorbatchev, and close down american empire with a whimper (not a bang, I live to close to three big enough cities, that are likely to go with a bang, mushrooming bang).

Luckily, I am only an observer from EU, so there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. And I don't have to bother myself with american elections, just like i don't bother myself with local elections, all the guys I would vote for have had some strange "suicides" anyway.

Greg Vaughan said...

Dmitry--

I'm intrigued that you write off US politics as if it weren't even worth following, while it seems from your post on the Russian election fraud that you do indeed think Russian politics are worth following. Am I perceiving correctly? If so, what gives? Are the two that different?

Greg