Ragnarök – the world tree, Yggdrasil uprooted, the road to Hel opened, the Bifrost bridge destroyed and Asgard forever rent asunder from us, Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent bound around the world – writhes free, Fenris breaks his mighty chains and Garm, the Helhound is loosed at last. Heimdall sounds his horn as the Aesir assemble – Odin, Thor, Tyr and Freyr come forth, the lesser gods fill in their ranks and the heroes from Valhalla at last fulfill their ancient oaths to fight the hordes of frost giants: Jotunn from Muspelhiem and Niflheim – the cities of Fire and Ice that mark the ends of the Ginnungagap – the Void. The Aesir know it is the Last Battle and they know that they, too, will die. It is the end of the world, it is end of the gods, it is the end of all things...
Whew! If you want a real end-'o-times apocalypse scenario - don't waste time with the Greeks or the Romans, don't even bother with Yaweh or Revelations – go due North, the Norsemen have that story all sewn up.
Why talk about this now? Well, we've seen the financial folks running around these past few weeks saying 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling' till they're hoarse. The international markets are jittery and the usual suspects (Russia and China) are twisting the knife as much as they can. The election is only two or three weeks away and it looks like it may be very, very close – again. You'd think that by this time the US electorate would be able to tell a con man when they see one...
So what else is new? Well, as they say, there's good news and there's bad news and then there's the really ugly stuff:
The Good News
Even the Vikings weren't completely despondent about the future, Ragnarok notwithstanding – there was a 'morning after'. After the last battle, when all the elder gods are dead and the earth has sunk beneath the waves, it rises again, green and beautiful, self-stocked with amber waves of grain. Vioarr and Vali, Odin's sons, appear (somehow), as do Mooi and Magni, the sons of Thor as well as Baldr and Hoor – all the younger gods are suddenly present to order the Sun and Moon upon their ways and bring order to the universe. The general sense of good feeling is increased when it seems that none of the Jotunn has survived to make mischief, not even one of Loki's sons. Worse luck in my opinion, it looks to be rather boring in the Norse 'brave new world'. Oh, and there are some brand new humans, Lif and Lifhrasir, available to repopulate the earth.
All of the above is in aid of saying that, despite our fears, our anger and our rage. Things will likely muddle along for quite some time – certainly for our lifetimes and probably for our childrens' as well. A colossus like the United States doesn't fold like a cheap suit, it takes time to let the air out. Even spectacularly bad mangement like W's (and likely Gumby's as well) can only do so much damage.
“Don't Panic!” as THGTTG*used to admonish. We'll survive. Even if we, as a nation, elect another grinning idiot. BushCheneyPaulson represent a class of predatory ferals, they see only their own needs and desires and have no conception that they represent another or owe anything to someone other than themselves. BHO belongs to this group by deed as well as by avocation.
Nonetheless, his impact will be limited by factors already in play (see below) not to speak of his total lack of vision, jellyfish leadership potential and an interest level approaching that of a sponge. Vapid suitracks may con their way into power but their elemental stupidity prevents them from doing nearly as much damage as they could wish.
The Bad News
The bad news on the political front is that BHO could win – more incompetence at the helm, possibly a fascist coup, definitely democracy in serious jeopardy.
On the international front we have the usual crew of tinpot dictators: Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Putin as well as the military/fascist juntas in Burma, China and elsewhere. The end result of seven years of misrule by BushCo is that we have lost the respect of the world and what's more, we have lost our claim to the moral high ground so the jackals think they are in the ascendent.
The bad news on the financial front is truly staggering – you think $700 Billion is a lot for the mortgage banker bailout (actually the true cost of this is more like $1.5 Trillion)? Here's the part of the iceberg below the surface: the companies that insure those mortgage notes, like AIG, are on the hook for $62Trillion if this all goes south.
The big bad news is that, in this world, economics and politics are joined at the hip.
Ok, let's take these in order:
BHO could win – let's not forget that this is the country that elected Richard Nixon – twice; elected Ronald Reagan – twice; and George W. Bush – twice. With this extensive track record of electing grinning idiots, why wouldn't we elect Barack Obama?
So, what does that mean for real Democrats (I don't count Obamabots as Democrats)? In the best case scenario it means that we've lost the party and will have to form another – I've been advocating this for some time now.
In the worst case it may mean we have to form a resistance movement, if as I suspect, Obama will move to take the country in the direction of an authoritarian dicatatorship. If you think I've gone 'Area 51' on you, I refer you to the current power grab inherent in the so-called 'bailout bill' that just went through Congress: Paulson wanted no oversight, no questions and no redress, just total control of more money than anyone has ever had in the history of the world. See also, the Patriot Acts I & II, see The March to Iraq, subset: WMD, sub-subset, ref.: mushroom cloud. Yes, these are all Republican perfidies but listen to any of Elmer Gantry's BHO's speeches, see 'The Triumph of the Swill' production at Invesco Field, note adoring crowds, also note US flags in the trash.
No, I don't think he'll try to dissolve Congress or use the First Brigade Combat Team of the Third Division under NorthCom – now stationed in the territorial US for use in quelling 'domestic disturbances' - to stage a military coup d'etat (not enough troops yet to stage a successful operation on a country the size of the US). He won't have to, the pitifull compliance of the Congress to GWB's every whim has set the standard for the stature of future congressional representatives: on bended knee.
Oh, and by the way, I think we've already seen the 'October Surprise'. I know it's supposed to be the one that the Republicans use to swing the election their way but let's look at the facts on the ground:
GWB and his cronies hate, and have always hated, John McCain and everything he stands for i.e., reform.
Why would they back a candidate who promises reform and transparency?
Cheney and company believe in a closed-door informational system, viciously attack anyone who has the termerity to question them in any way, believe in unlimited autocratic power for the executive and have no qualms about using propaganda, misdirection and outright lies in defense of their actual, hidden, agenda.
...remind you of anyone? Of course it does.
Add to this the fact that the big transnational money donors who usually back Republican conservatives surreptitiously moved to back a particular Democratic candidate starting early in 2007, guess who?
Notice also the peculiar silence from BushCo on all fronts... this is usually the case when things are going your way – no complaints.
If you look at it with your critical thinking cap on the puzzle pieces fall into order:
Our several wars are simmering along quite nicely:
Iraq is in wind-down status; we've paid off enough of the Sunni tribal leaders to avert them from starting a civil war and...
Our proxy war with Iran is taking up the slack: the Imams are keeping al-Sadr on a short leash in return for us muzzling the Israelis. I notice that there's been a virtually complete lack of activity on either side of the latest 'Intifada' for more than a year now, interesting isn't it? Even such activity as there was, got absolutely zero attention in the press – other fish to fry, perhaps?
We continue to run our brushfire wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (guess who wants to ramp up the Afghan conflict?)
Essentially, the United States foreign policy agenda has already been set for the next four years, no matter who is in the Oval Office next year.
On the economic front the power of choice has, similarly, been taken away from the next president.
The current 'financial meltdown' is a completely fabricated crisis and it is a financial crisis, not an economic crisis. This doesn't mean it can't have real world consequences but it does mean that this crisis was set up and triggered for a particular purpose and at a selected time. This meltdown could easily have been triggered last year with the collapse of BearStearns but that would have had minimal political impact – too far away from the election for people to remember. But – create a crisis in late September when your chosen candidate is sinking in the polls (remember that BHO was looking like a loser at that point) and, voila! you revitalize the Democratic candidate's campaign – the threat of domestic economic disaster being both a traditional Democratic election issue and revving up the anti-imcumbent party resentment to boot.
Look at the firestorm of panic promulgated by Hank Paulson and the US Treasury – Cheney's financial storm troopers - the constant push to take drastic action, instantly, with neither reflection nor examination and without regard to efficacy or consequences.
Look at what is achieved by these concerted actions: an enormous injection of cash into companies selected to survive (selected by Paulson, no less) with the promise of as much more cash as they want, whenever they have another hissy fit.
Look in the dark corner of this mess, look right where they don't want you to: what is being done to correct the problem? What is being done to make those bad loans whole? What is being done to turn the ARMs into reasonable fixed rate mortgages that the home 'owners' could actually afford to pay?
Oh, an actual fix has been suggested by, among others, one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Based on the old HOLC idea that FDR used to begin rebuilding the US economy in the '30s. Go out and take in all that bad paper, guarantee it, make the payments affordable, turn it into good paper. This restores confidence to the financial markets because, mirable dictu, the loans are actually good loans now.
Yes, this has some cost but it's far less than the $700 billion extortion we've just experienced, not to speak of the next round coming to your neighborhood soon (just need to get that pesky election out of the way).
Want to really jump start the financial markets? Go back over the last two years and make those 2 million foreclosed loans good as well, put those people back in their homes and paying their mortgages again.
Yes, of course it's more complicated than just that, but that's where you start.
You'd think this idea would spread like wildfire after all it's already been shown to work, but instead we get: [crickets]
This is because the whole point of the exercise has been to continue the economic policies of BushCheneyPaulson into the foreseeable future – and it's been wildly successful. The next president, whoever he is, will be absolutely hamstrung on economic policy. By the nature and extent of the financial choices that BushCheneyPaulson have made in the last year the course of economics for the next four years has been completely determined. The next president will be unable to get out from under the consequences of these decisions, he will have no choice but to follow the BushCheney economic plan as it plays out.
The Really Ugly Stuff
The really ugly stuff begins to make itself felt when you start extending your view.
In general I think we have “misunderestimated” GWB+Co. Looked at in the light of what's good for the United States, they've been a catastrophe, easily the worst administration in our entire history, right enough... but looked at by their own lights they've not only accomplished everything they set out to do but they've actually managed to extend their administration's policies over the next four, possibly eight, years (if Gumby is elected).
Add to that their other subversive activites: suborning the Justice Department by stocking, and topping, the department with incompetent, ideological political hacks, they've managed to destroy the credibility of the 'brand'. No one for the next 20 years is going to look at the US Justice Department with anything other than thinly-veiled contempt. This isn't good for us but it is good for people who despise democracy.
The discrediting of government agencies. BushCo, over the last 7⅝ years, has made a fetish of demoting, degrading and dismissing crowds of public servants and replacing them with incompetent, ideological political hacks (No, Johnny, it's not just the Justice Dept, anymore). This is all part of the neocon political agenda which says that government is always bad, always wrong and always intruding on your property, er, privacy.
Note FEMA – revitalized under the demon Clinton and made into a useful government agency for helping citizens when natural disaster strikes. The gutting of FEMA began on day one of the GWB's reign, with results for all the world to see. This kind of sabotage has been going on wholesale throughout the entire civil service... and through the federal judiciary as well. Competent judges are harrassed and hounded by well-funded, outside 'interest groups' to be replaced with cadres of ideologically correct know-nothings.
Oddly enough one of the great shibboleths of the foaming-at-the-mouth right wingnuts was the inclusion of emergency powers granted to FEMA in the event of, well, an emergency. These folks fairly blew the tops of their heads off ranting about posse comitatus and the rights of the individual under the Constitution, they sat with 'locked and loaded' street sweepers waiting for the black helicopters and FEAM assault teams to break down their doors.
Fast forward a few years: Patriot Acts I & II, the sequential gutting of FISA, 'Gitmo' and where are those stalwarts now? Apparently, the danger has passed... but wait: early this year in an utterly unnoticed action, FEMA powers to usurp Consitutional rights were transferred out from FEMA to... the White House. So now vast powers to suspend the Bill of Rights, commandeer transportation systems, declare martial law and control and censor all communications media are fully under the control of the Executive branch. No oversight by the Legislative branch, no resourse to the Judicial branch.
Next we have the dismantling of the Posse Comitatus Act:
Major Craig T. Trebilcock of the JAG wrote in October 2000:
"The Posse Comitatus Act has traditionally been viewed as a major barrier to the use of U.S. military forces in planning for homeland defense. In fact, many in uniform believe that the act precludes the use of U.S. military assets in domestic security operations in any but the most extraordinary situations. As is often the case, reality bears little resemblance to the myth for homeland defense planners. Through a gradual erosion of the act’s prohibitions over the past 20 years, posse comitatus today is more of a procedural formality than an actual impediment to the use of U.S. military forces in homeland defense."
This is pre-911, folks.
After, it gets even worse:
"Public Law 109-364, or the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a "public emergency" and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to "suppress public disorder."
A revision of the bill was enacted in 2008 purporting to somehwat limit the Executive's powers but GWB's signing statement averred that he had no intention of respecting those limitations.
Look, I could go on for pages about this stuff, in fact there's probably a book in here somewhere (like the proverbial pony). The point is: we're looking at a new future and it extends way past the horizon. I've written elsewhere about this but things have really changed, it's no longer just about you and me and the folks on the block, it's no longer about Demmican or Republicrat, it's no longer even about America vs the world.
Like it or not, we are all citizens of the planet now and the new conflict will be on that global stage, it will also be an enveloping conflict: the Jihadis are a global phenomenon, so are the transnational corporations. Neither of these groups has any love whatsoever for democracy, truth, human rights or the rights of individuals.
The ecological balance of the planet is a global phenomenon, pollution transcends all boundaries, melamine in your milk gets from China to your baby formula faster than you can say “This tastes funny.” So does Avian flu...
At the same time that all this is going on, we are on the brink of profound change rooted in our understanding of technology. It will soon be possible to make the kinds of changes we'll need to make to move us out of the mess we've made of things. But these changes will need to be coordinated and accessible on a global scale, that means we'll have to cooperate on that kind of scale, which means we'll have to change the way we interoperate – on a global scale.
Everyone has a stake in this, so all the stakeholders need to be recognized. In like wise, everyone has an ox to gore and that needs to be recognized as well.
How we handle this will define life on Earth for the next hundred years, at least.
A last word here to talk about my writing 'style'. Anyone who's read my articles has noticed that I use a lot of historical and mythological references. I do this for several reasons: the historical references are obvious, Santayana was right: “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” My observation is that very few of us study history at all – we always seem to be repeating our mistakes. It may be futile but I keep thinking that I must include the historical references so that the curious can follow up and get a better underpinning for their own critical thinking.
As to the mythological themes I sometimes use, I think that the pantheons of gods and demigods (both past and present) provide us with the opportunity to objectify our aspirations, our capabilities... and our fears. Jung (among others) understood this well, though I won't go so far as to call upon the 'collective unconscious' for any insight.
And... they're fun. By using them I can try to give readers, and myself, a little laugh now and then.
*”The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”by Douglas Adams