My Instant Reaction to Today’s News

I had to share with you my instant reaction to the stunning news that Osama bin Laden has been killed. In no way am I trying to taint this day with politics; what follows is my assessment on its impact on our politics as a historian, and not as a liberal Democrat.

1. Very few people will profess that President Obama is not an American citizen after today. The percentage of those who believe that particular myth will fall.

2. President Obama’s popularity will skyrocket for a short period, and probably settle back down in the low 60s. If unemployment continues to fall, he will probably stay there through the election.

3. The Republican Party is finished for the short term. It may well split. They have spent the last 3 years calling Obama every vile name in the book, and virtually no one is going to want to hear that now, at least in the short term. They have boxed themselves in by using such extremist language about the President that they cannot now climb back down from it in order to soak up some goodwill.

4. Palin, Gingrich, Trump, and Bachmann are all finished.

5. Some prominent names floated for the Republican Presidential Nomination will drop out of the race (or never enter it), because under most circumstances none of those currently mention can now defeat Obama, unless something terrible happens before the election.

6. Fox “News” will try to carry on the fight, but fewer people will be in the mood for its viciousness.

7. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget is dead. Obama will now have tremendous leverage in putting together a less insane budget.

8. President Obama’s life is now in real mortal danger. The powers that be now realize they cannot, under most circumstances, defeat him in 2012 at the ballot box. I am certain we will see at least one attempt.

9. The mood of the nation will start to improve. While this does not change certain economic facts (the debt, etc.), a change in mood could have a tremendous impact on the nation. We really needed a win, and we just got one. People will start to feel better, at least in the short term. Again, that doesn’t change some things, but we just suffered through a bitter, humiliating decade and this will go a long way to lifting the nation’s spirits and hopefully return some rationality to our political debates.

10. Obama will lead the Democrats to a smashing victory in 2012. The Democratic Party will continually remind everyone that Obama is the one who killed him, and not Bush. The Republicans will be unable to attack him with the same amount of rage and vitriol, and therefore will not be able to use fear and hatred to attract votes as they have done since 2001.

11. The calls to speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan will grow.

12. The calls to cut defense spending will grow, as will the movement to tax the rich instead of cut services. Obama will come out strong in favor of the latter, if not the former.

13. The fact that Obama is now a hero will energize the left in this country after a long sleep. Democrats now have their Ronald Reagan.

14. Much of press will now move even more into the Obama camp; this means that many will be less willing to tolerate the irrational attacks on the President (and most of the attacks are irrational) because the viewing public won’t be in the mood to hear it.

15. The Republican Party may well now nominate former Governor Tim Pawlenty because he has not been out there saying terrible things about Obama, but is a conservative. I can’t think of anyone else that fits that bill (but I well may).

16. Conspiracy theories will pop up that this is a fraud, but few people will buy into it. These will be the “death certificate-ers.” If it is a fraud, why release the news at 11:00 on a Sunday night a year and a half before the election? Why not release it next October?

17. The Republicans have spent an entire decade waving this bloody flag, and President Obama just took it away from them. He promised to make bin Laden’s capture a top priority, and he fulfilled that promise. Suddenly a lot of other things he supports are going to make sense to more people.

18. Some or all of these predictions depend upon the notion that there will be no major terrorist attack between now and the 2012 elections, or some other national emergency or tragedy for which President Obama would have to take a share of the blame.

19. There will always be people who don’t like, and always be people who continue their irrational and rather obsessive hatred for him. But I think that the percentage of those people will fall. Thus everyone who built there reputation on hating Obama will suffer, because fewer people will be in the mood to hate him with such passion. No matter what, he will always be “the guy who got bin Laden.”

20. Americans love to back a winner. This has been proven many times over. Obama is now a winner, and a certain percentage of the population will shift to his side, even if they don’t fully understand why. People like to back winners because it makes them feel like they themselves are winners. (Think about how passionate people can be about their sports teams. Why are the Yankees popular? Because they win. It certainly isn’t because they a bunch of good people. But they win and so people like them.)

In 1981, 2 months after taking office, President Ronald Reagan’s popular support had begun to fall. The recession didn’t seem to be getting better. Reagan had proposed a rather radical budget that slashed social spending and taxes, and the Democrats who controlled Congress were not interested. Then, in March, a young man obsessed with Jodi Foster named John Hinkley tried to assassinate Reagan.

As the oldest person ever elected, it didn’t seem likely that he’d survive. But he did. And he was back on the job fairly quickly. His popularity skyrocketed, and the Democrats in Congress caved in and voted for his irrational budget. Reaganomics was born out of the assassination attempt as much as the minds of willfully ignorant economists.

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of the US military, on the promise of the President, is ten times more important (potentially) than the attempt on Reagan’s life. Why? Because bin Laden gave us a black eye, if you take my meaning. Not only did he murder our fellow Americans, he showed us to be vulnerable. This scared the American people very deeply, and we have held bitter resentment and rage against him ever since then, for both reasons. We can let that anger and rage and bitterness go now that he’s dead. Releasing that tension is incredibly significant to our road ahead. We can move on from 9/11 now, because the architect has been punished, finally, at long last, after years of disappointment and disaster. We will feel better because the person who hurt and humiliated us has now paid with his life.

An historic day, one of potentially deep and long-lasting significance.

My Response to Baby Boomer Whining

My aunt sent around a “it’s not fair to criticize the Baby Boomers” email. Here’s my (somewhat incomplete response to that nonsense; the email is quoted below my remarks):

Hello all,
(Please note what follows is my interpretation as a historian of 20th Century US politics, and it is NOT directed at anyone on this mailing list as I have no wish to insult any friend or family member. Aunt Lois’ email, however, made me react in a certain way.)

With all due respect to all my friends and family on this mailing list, I must tell you that as a historian I assert that the “baby boomer” generation is (present company excepted of course) the worst generation ever vomited up by any society. BBs have destroyed everything they have touched and left the nation in ruin.

The BBs started taking power around 1980, and look at the result. Between 1789-1980, the US took on ~$1 trillion in debt. By 2011, under three decades of BB rule, we have $12 trillion in debt. BBs consistently voted to cut taxes and preserve services — a complete contradiction which should have been obvious to most people (unless you are a dedicated viewer of Fox “News,” where up is down and black is white).

By voting for tax cuts that made no sense, BBs stole money from my generation and the one after mine, the current college students, and left us with nothing but fiscal chaos. I remind you that in the 1950s — the decade which most Americans associate with prosperity, thanks to the labor unions which created the middle class — the top tax rate was 90%. 90%. Now it’s in the range of 32% and the middle and lower classes pay more in taxes as a percentage of their income than the wealthiest 1%. That’s BB math. Yes, it make less sense than a monkey with Alzheimer’s. And yet people are marching to demand tax cuts for that wealthiest 1% under the Tea Party banner. Welcome to Never-Never Land, the final product of BB delusion.

How the “conservatives” tricked an entire generation into voting AGAINST its own interests is beyond me. It makes no sense. Voting to cut taxes on the wealthiest in our society has destroyed much of our economy. How is this not obvious? Maybe fluoridated water made all the BBs mentally deficient, because I can’t think of another reason why anyone would fall for such a scam perpetrated by the wealthy oligarchs who rule us. The only reason we have a middle class is due to the victories of the labor movement in the 1930s and 40s, and now the BBs rail against union “greed.” What? What??? CEOs now earn approximately 400 times the average worker; in the 1950s it was in the neighborhood of 45 times. And the unions are “greedy”? How does that make sense? I do not suggest that some unions have had problems, but as far as I know no union has driven the American economy to the brink of collapse because of their financial shenanigans like the CEOs of Goldman Sachs or Bear Stearns.

Another point: Ronald Reagan was not god. He did some good things and he did some horrible things — have you read about life in Nicaragua during the Contra period? Or the other nations in Central America with US-backed Death Squads?

One thing to remember about good ol’ RR is that he raised taxes when the situation demanded it. It’s stunning how much people have forgotten, or chosen to forget, because of what is said on FOX “News,” a station that makes Pravda look like the New York Times.

FOX “News” is actually the best example of the BB generation: they lie all the time about everything and have tried to turn greed into a virtue. That about sums up the BB generation from the viewpoint of those who came after.

We — the generations after the BBs— have every right to criticize what the BB generation has done. It proved to be a selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, short-sighted, greedy generation that cared for nothing but itself — and getting a 40″ television. The BBs were handed everything and they demanded more and more and more like a rapacious child. Like a plague of locusts the BBs swept over the country and ate up everything they could. We probably would have fared better if the country collapsed in 1980 rather than come under BB rule.

The two BB presidents were Clinton and Bush Jr. One was a sex offender (but a good president in some ways) and the other was an idiot who drove this nation right off the cliff by falling into the trap set by Al Qaeda and who couldn’t negotiate his was out of a paper bag with no bottom. Both were draft dodgers (as were Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) and Bush et al played Soldier Boy by invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and thus caused the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, all because of intelligence they knew was a lie and which the Germans insisted was a lie (google “Curveball”).

And Dick Cheney is just evil. I imagine he eats the hearts of unicorns for breakfast and washes it down with the tears of orphans.

I remind you that is primarily the BB generation which has brought Sarah Palin to the forefront … a woman so ignorant that she couldn’t be elected dog catcher in any other civilized nation. Yet we are stuck with her because the BBs are too distracted to see through her act.

This nation now lies in ruins after 30 years of rule by the Baby Boomers. So yes, we criticize the BBs but only when they deserve it — which is always about everything.
~ Shawn

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Safety nor Liberty.”
– Benjamin Franklin

On Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 10:58 AM, wrote:

Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary. We know we take responsibility for all we have done and do not blame others.

HOWEVER, upon reflection, we would like to point out that it was NOT the senior citizens who took:

The melody out of music,
The pride out of appearance,
The courtesy out of driving,
The romance out of love,
The commitment out of marriage,
The responsibility out of parenthood,
The togetherness out of the family,
The learning out of education,
The service out of patriotism,
The Golden Rule from rulers,
The nativity scene out of cities,
The civility out of behavior,
The refinement out of language,
The dedication out of employment,
The prudence out of spending,
The ambition out of achievement or
God out of government and school.

And we certainly are NOT the ones who eliminated patience and tolerance
from personal relationships and interactions with others!!

And, we do understand the meaning of patriotism,
and remember those who have fought and died for our country.

Does anyone under the age of 50 know the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner?

What about the last verse of My Country ’tis of Thee?

“Our father’s God to thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s Holy light.
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.”

Just look at the Seniors with tears in their eyes and pride in their hearts as they stand
at attention with their hand over their hearts!

YES, I’M A SENIOR CITIZEN!

I’m the life of the party…… even if it lasts until 8 p.m.

I’m very good at opening childproof caps…. with a hammer.

I’m awake many hours before my body allows me to get up.

I’m smiling all the time because I can’t hear a thing you’re saying.

I’m sure everything I can’t find is in a safe secure place, somewhere.

I’m wrinkled, saggy, lumpy, and that’s just my left leg.

I’m beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

I’m a walking storeroom of facts….. I’ve just lost the key to the storeroom door.

Yes, I’m a SENIOR CITIZEN and I think I am having the time of my life!

Now if I could only remember who sent this to me, I wouldn’t send it back to them,
but I would send it to many more too!
Spread the laughter
Share the cheer
Let’s be happy
While we’re here.

Go Green – Recycle CONGRESS!!

4 Ways The U.S. Might Collapse

See the whole article at Salon.com:

How America will collapse (by 2025)

Four scenarios that could spell the end of the United States as we know it — in the very near future
BY ALFRED MCCOY

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America’s downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington’s global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.

Exactly

This is a wonderful article from Alter.net, which expresses exactly how I’ve been feeling. This is the first page of several, so be sure to read the whole article.

America: Why R Your Peeps So Dum?
U.S. culture is going down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.
December 9, 2010

JoeBageant.com / By Joe Bageant

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us — those elites who run the institutions — very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.

Directly or indirectly, they understand that the real function of American social institutions is to justify, rationalize and hide the true purpose of cultural behavior from the lumpenproletariat, and to shape that behavior to the benefit of the institution’s members. “Hey, they’re a lump. Whaddya expect us to do?”

Doubting readers may consider America’s health institutions, the insurance corporations, hospital chains, physicians’ lobbies. Between them they have established a perfectly legal right to clip you and me for thousands of dollars at their own discretion. That we so rabidly defend their right to gouge us, given all the information available in the digital age, mystifies the world.

Two hundred years ago no one would have thought sheer volume of available facts in the digital information age would produce informed Americans. Founders of the republic, steeped in the Enlightenment as they were, and believers in an informed citizenry being vital to freedom and democracy, would be delirious with joy at the prospect. Imagine Jefferson and Franklin high on Google.

The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of cherry picking the blogs and TV channels to reinforce their particular branded choice cultural ignorance, consumer, scientific or political, but especially political. Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman’s right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That’s why they are called dumb.

But throw in sixty years of television’s mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news. The inescapable conclusion of half of heartland America is that her mama must certainly be presidential material, even if Bristol cannot dance. It ain’t a pretty picture out there in Chattanooga and Keokuk.

The other half, the liberal half, concludes that Bristol’s bad dancing is part of her spawn-of-the-Devil mama’s plan to take over the country, and make millions in the process, not to mention make Tina Fey and Jon Stewart richer than they already are. That’s a tall order for a squirrel brained woman who recently asked a black president to “refudiate” the NAACP (though I kinda like refudiate, myself). Cultural stupidity accounts for virtually every aspect of Sarah Palin, both as a person and a political icon. Which, come to think of it, may be a pretty good reason not to “misunderstimate” her. After all, we’re still talking about her in both political camps. And the woman OWNS the Huffington Post, fer Christsake. Not to mention a franchise on cultural ignorance.

Read this article. Read this article. Read this article!

Please, **read this article right away.** As a historian, I completely agree with the analysis.

Unfortunately.

I recently told my brother that we are 5 years away from civil war or dictatorship or worse. I was right.

Ah, the 1970s

The decade where one could purchase, through a magazine, a hard-carved straw made from African ivory to snort coke.

Wise Words

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov