Bloomberg Businessweek’s rendition of the toll taken on the President dealing with the stress of the next four years. King Romney was the alternative cover:
…the road ahead for President Obama as he faces the fiscal cliff and crucial decisions for the future of the economy, business, and defense,” writes Businessweek. “The opposition remains considerable, and no matter how successful he is, the hardest job in the world will take its toll.
…and the fate of the human species (you wouldn’t expect Bloomberg Businessweek to mention this, would you?):
Train wrecks, even one that appears to be happening in slow motion, usually are ‘shocking’. Great speech by Chomsky, especially the climate change segment:
…maybe humans are somehow trying to fulfill a prediction of great American biologist who died recently, Ernst Mayr. He argued years ago that intelligence seems to be a lethal mutation. He—and he had some pretty good evidence. There’s a notion of biological success, which is how many of you are there around. You know, that’s biological success. And he pointed out that if you look at the tens of billions of species in human—in world history, the ones that are very successful are the ones that mutate very quickly, like bacteria, or the ones that have a fixed ecological niche, like beetles. They seem to make out fine. But as you move up the scale of what we call intelligence, success declines steadily. When you get up to mammals, it’s very low. There are very few of them around. I mean, there’s a lot of cows; it’s only because we domesticate them. When you get to humans, it’s the same. ‘Til very recently, much too recent a time to show up in any evolutionary accounting, humans were very scattered. There were plenty of other hominids, but they disappeared, probably because humans exterminated them, but nobody knows for sure. Anyhow, maybe we’re trying to show that humans just fit into the general pattern. We can exterminate ourselves, too, the rest of the world with us, and we’re hell bent on it right now…
…organisms that do quite well are those that mutate very quickly, like bacteria, or those that are stuck in a fixed ecological niche, like beetles. They do fine. And they may survive the environmental crisis. But as you go up the scale of what we call intelligence, they are less and less successful. By the time you get to mammals, there are very few of them as compared with, say, insects. By the time you get to humans, the origin of humans may be 100,000 years ago, there is a very small group. We are kind of misled now because there are a lot of humans around, but that’s a matter of a few thousand years, which is meaningless from an evolutionary point of view. His argument was, you’re just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won’t find it here for very long either because it’s just a lethal mutation. He also added, a little bit ominously, that the average life span of a species, of the billions that have existed, is about 100,000 years, which is roughly the length of time that modern humans have existed.
With the environmental crisis, we’re now in a situation where we can decide whether Mayr was right or not. If nothing significant is done about it, and pretty quickly, then he will have been correct: human intelligence is indeed a lethal mutation. Maybe some humans will survive, but it will be scattered and nothing like a decent existence, and we’ll take a lot of the rest of the living world along with us.
So is anything going to be done about it? The prospects are not very auspicious. As you know, there was an international conference on this last December. A total disaster. Nothing came out of it. The emerging economies, China, India, and others, argued that it’s unfair for them to bear the burden of a couple hundred years of environmental destruction by the currently rich and developed societies. That’s a credible argument. But it’s one of these cases where you can win the battle and lose the war. The argument isn’t going to be very helpful to them if, in fact, the environmental crisis advances and a viable society goes with it…
By all accounts, we appear to be racing toward our own expiration date.
…So, with the most recent BLS data, 20% of the popular vote would be less than 48 million people. Of course, let’s be frank. Neither political party wants every American to vote. Voter suppression in both parties is as American as apple pie. The Republicans don’t want all of those people they have thrown under the bus to come to the polls. And, the Democrats don’t want all of those voters showing up that they endlessly lie to with empty promises. If one person-one vote democracy was really an intent under a system controlled by political parties, money couldn’t buy a politician, we would have a national voting day where everyone had the day off, we would have a system that truly educates people on issues rather than one of demagogy and lies, we would provide free public transportation to those unable to get to the polls themselves and numerous other incentives for people to vote. The smaller the turnout, the more the status quo benefits in a system of looting, pillaging, exploitation and corruption. Or so their perception goes… – link
One thing is certain – both corporate puppets support the system that is killing you:
An important point was brought up by Alex Smith of EcoShock Radio about the numbers in this post. The list of top campaign contributors by Opensecrets does not include the dark world of Super PACs and other tax-exempt groups which can shield the identity of their donors – a billion spent on the presidential race. See the comments section of this post for further details.
Danny Schechter, journalist, author (Plunder: The Crime of Our Time), television producer and an independent filmmaker, has a new essay today describing the takeover of our political process by big money and the subsequent formation of what can only be called the ‘presidential electoral complex,’ an industry unto itself. This industry consists of armies of consultants and experts well-versed in perception management, public relations, advertising and marketing, and even psychological warfare. The facts don’t matter any more, only the public’s perception of it. And so politics is more about controlling the sentiment of the masses than anything else. Thus like the military industrial complex controlling foreign policy and America’s militarism, we can say that the Presidential Electoral Complex has also perverted the nation’s ability to hold true democratic elections which represent the will of the people. The tail is wagging the dog in both instances:
…one of Jimmy Carters’s advisers, Pat Cadell, …said in 1979 that just because you have been elected doesn’t mean you stop campaigning, He wrote in his “Initial Working Paper on Political Strategy,” “it is my thesis governing with public approval requires a continuing political campaign.”
Journalist Sidney Blumental, before he joined the Clinton White House, wrote The Permanent Campaign in 1980, revealing that political parties were dead and had been replaced by political consultants and other campaign professionals. (Disclosure: I helped get the book published by Beacon Press.)
In other words, politics had changed fundamentally: the old-style bosses were out and a new style media-driven system was in. Politics had also become a business with a whole retinue of advertising specialists, market researchers and pollsters.
Today, political journalist Joe Hagen labels this new army of experts for hire a “presidential electoral complex” – almost on the same scale as the military industrial complex. Their advice does not come cheap, with the tail today wagging the dog.
Any serious candidate hires his team and then has to raise millions to pay for it. When politics spawned a profession, the big money that’s transformed politics no longer went just to candidates but to the industry around them.
They also developed a stake in the fostering polarization and continuing crisis so that their counsel will be solicited more often. Increasingly political campaigns were run like military commands with centralized top-down direction, defensive and offensive strategies and tactics as well as psychological warfare. The campaign gurus are well schooled in the techniques of perception management.
This industry is bi-partisan with hired guns always shopping for the best deal irrespective of party. One-time dirty trickster Roger Stone who worked first for Richard Nixon ended up advising everyone from Al Sharpton to Donald Trump, to Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Some of these advisers step over the legal line like GOP operative Alan Raymond but few get caught. The New York Times reported In New Hampshire’s hotly contested 2002 Senate race, Democratic get-out-the-vote phone banks were jammed with incoming calls on Election Day. The Republican, John Sununu, won re-election by under 20,000 votes, and Allen Raymond, a Republican Party operative, went to jail for his role in the jamming.
Raymond has now written a book about his experiences, How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. In it, he paints a picture of the corruption of modern politics that should leave no doubt about the creativity and cynicism of operatives like Raymond or the need for tough new election-reform legislation.
Wikipedia had two other examples of the focus on permanent campaigns:
“A famous example that illustrates just how strongly this mind-set has come to influence politics was during the Clinton Administration when pollster Dick Morris asked voters to help decide where Bill Clinton would go on vacation.
“In the words of columnist Joe Klein, ‘The pressure to “win” the daily news cycle – to control the news – has overwhelmed the more reflective, statesmanlike aspects of the office.’ (After getting caught in a sex scandal, Morris was fired by Clinton and later resurfaced as a pundit at Fox News.)
Many of the press secretaries and campaign managers work hard to contain mistakes. The bookshelves are filled with advice about how to do that. This is from an email promoting interviews with a campaign expert turned author:
“Every word and action on the campaign trail from a televised debate to a town meeting, to an innocent question from a voter to a pointed question from the media … all of these daily events call for immediate, strategic communication.
“Any blunder should be a wake-up call: communication has power. But as with any form of power, it needs to be harnessed effectively or it can all too often backfire.
“This year’s primaries were riddled with missteps and over-reaching. As the focus shifts from primaries to the general elections, Romney will have to walk the line between connecting to the audience and pandering. On the other hand, President Obama will be less under scrutiny for potential gaffes, but more for his inattention to issues that are brewing, followed by a dramatic game-changing address.
“‘However, this can all change in a split-second, as proven by the undeniable power of word choice,’ comments Helio Fred Garcia, President of the crisis management firm Logos Consulting Group and the Executive Director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership.”
Garcia, who teaches now at NYU, discusses strategies that might be useful in a new book on the Power of Communication, or is it manipulation:
“– Leaders are judged on the fulfillment of expectations. Leaders must resist saying what merely sounds good in the moment and creating a say-do gap.
“– The only reason for communication is to change something – to influence the way audiences think and feel. Before you communicate, know what it is you want to change.
“– Facts do not speak for themselves. If we speak only facts, the audience will either not pay attention to those facts or will provide their own context to make sense of the facts, which could trigger a negative frame.
“– Communication is a continuation of business by other means. You need to engage your audience to enhance your position, thereby improving your competitive advantage.
“–Leaders must conquer the first mover advantage – a maneuver that prevents critics and adversaries from framing the situation. This has become increasingly more important in today’s world of social media.”
This same techniques are also used to sell war, as Mother Jones reported: “As long as the United States appears to be on the move against foreign adversaries, the question of whether any action is actually taken becomes of secondary interest. As Blumenthal suggested two decades ago, results and concrete proposals are less important than perception and image.”
Even as Blumenthal was partial to Hillary Clinton, who hired him for her unsuccessful primary campaign in 2008, The Economist noted that his description of a permanent campaign soon became President Obama’s prescription:
“Mr. Obama is currently deploying the formidable resources he built up during his campaign — including contact details for 10m donors, supporters and volunteers — to sell his policies. David Plouffe, the man who managed Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, has sent millions of e-mails to encourage them to support the White House’s agenda.
“One of them contains as good a definition of the permanent campaign as any: ‘In the next few weeks we’ll be asking you to do some of the same things we asked of you during the campaign — talking directly to people in your communities about the president’s ideas for long-term prosperity.’ “Another, which includes a video of the president, asks supporters to put pressure on their congressman to pass Mr. Obama’s budget, by calling his or her office and reciting a little pro-Obama speech.”
The Republicans have learned these lessons too and now have more money than Democrats to invest in them. Politics is now a growing industry with money and politics more joined at the hip than ever and an interest in keeping the big money flowing into its bank account.”
Operating in concert with the Presidential Electoral Complex are the Army of Lobbyists representing the monied interests of corporations and the financial elite. Republican political operative and financial consultant Mallory Factor appeared on CurrentTV in April, saying no one party has access to the big donors and that Democrats and Republicans both rely on money. This video was available on YouTube, but has since been taken off. You can still see it here.
A couple weeks ago, Jennifer Granholm from CurrentTV aired an editorial video in which she says that “the super rich are monopolizing our democracy and effectively ruining the founding fathers’ vision of how the United States should operate, sending us back to an era that is more like a one-king rule than a real democracy.” She names Romney as the willing supplicant of the monied interests. She says the Democrats have been forced to play the same game, but I think she doesn’t go far enough: both parties are equally corrupt in my eyes. Anyone who still puts one iota of faith in our perverse, money-driven political system is just plain stupid.