Thursday, 17 June 2010

The schadenfreude of the postmodern president

"Politician's logic: We must do something. 
This is something.  Therefore, we must do it."
            - from Yes Minister! by Antony Jay & Jonathan

Obama told the American nation last night that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will change politics as much as 9/11 changed foreign affairs.

There is one respect in which that is right.  It has permanently burst the bubble of President Hope-And-Change, the man who boasted that just by his nomination, the oceans would lower and the world would begin to heal. Now, in the words of Tim Minchin (writing at TIA Daily), “he can't even prevent them from carrying the spill of a single oil rig.”

Obama, meet schadenfreude.
The bubble is bursting for him not because he has disappointed real expectations but because he dealt in unreality all along, and his followers are betrayed because the unreal is the unreal and never had any value….
    “Obama…promised a world where the government can control everything. Like [Kevin] Rudd since the failure of [Australian] cap-and-trade, he will not even be able to control his own followers when the truth of his impotence over the Gulf oil spill stands fully revealed.”
Every president has a defining moment.  Washington’s moment was his stepping down after two terms “to head back to the plough,” setting a precedent that every subsequent president (but one) then followed. Lincoln’s moment was signing the Emancipation Proclamation into law, giving  meaning to six years of carnage. And Jimmy Carter’s, of course, was his endless hand-wringing over the Tehran hostages.

The defining moment of Obama’s presidency, the moment when his balloon really began deflating, may well turn out be his tantrum over the oil spill—yelling “Plug the damn hole” as if his anger by itself could create metaphysical change. That was the moment at which the post-modern president confronted the reality that his whole charade was designed to conceal, especially to his supporters and even to himself: that reality doesn’t respond to threats.  That was the inconvenient truth his post-modern presidency hadn’t bargained for, and it deserves to be his epitaph, and that of the Postmodern Left, of which both Kevin Rudd and Obama are (or were) standard-bearers. It’s important to understand why an oil spill is so uniquely damaging to the aura of the Postmodern Left:

Barack Obama and Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd both belong to a new class of leftist leaders: postmodern ones [explains Tim Michin]. This distinguishes them from either the Old Left or the New Left. The Old Left (led by men like Franklin Roosevelt) were class-warfare-focused but claimed to believe in economic progress: they said they wanted a modern world with the government in control of the means of production. The New Left (the hippies and their contemporary descendants, the Greens) witnessed the failure of that socialist/fascist ideal in every country it was tried and, in bitterness, threw economic progress overboard to adopt a policy of living at the mercy of nature.
    “Unsurprisingly, the New Left failed to attract wide support. Its contempt for human survival was too apparent. Thus the postmodern left was born. The Postmodern Left combines a thirst for an ever-growing centralized government power with cunning levels of disguise to appear to be all things to all men. Hostility to science is wrapped in the language of science (global warming theory). The shackling of capitalism is dressed up as saving it (the stimulus packages). Hostility to US predominance is dressed up as a desire for a new world order in which US strength is ‘restraint.’ In fact, under all its disguises, the postmodern left believes in nothing but power for itself and the weakening of the institutions of the West.”
Power.  The Postmodern Left promised power could do all things.  If you ask, “Why is it the president’s job to deal with the oil spill?” then the answer has to be that his own all-encompassing power-lust made it so. His will to power makes his micro-managing of the crisis necessary. But the nature of the crisis reveals his impotency.

You see, power over men is not the same thing as power over nature. What the oil spill and its still unfolding aftermath reveals is that the power the postmodern left seeks for its own sake is well able to issue threats and to throw tantrums, but utterly impotent to effect reality. Threats, however powerfully delivered, just don’t work against a gushing oil well.
The spectacle of watching an actual physical fact of reality playing out before this kind of mindset is both humorous and tragic [explains Doug Reich at the Rational Capitalist]. After all, there is no option in the leftist playbook for dealing with a fact of reality. Can Obama pass a law forbidding the oil to leak? The oil can't be put in prison. Can he expropriate BP's cash or imprison the BP executives? BP needs money to pay for the clean up and he needs the technical know how of the company. Can he convene a panel of experts and central planning apparatchicks? He has appointed an oil cleanup czar which Matthews and Olbermann rightly excoriate as ‘a lot of blue-ribbon talk’ accusing Obama of being a mere ‘Vatican observer’ and threatening to ‘barf’ if he mentions the Nobel prize credentials of his Secretary of Energy again. In other words, they recognize this is all talk and no action.
    "Yet, the oil continues to spill.”
And threats are all they have as a remedy.

So ends the aura of the post-modern president.  Not with a bang, but with a gusher.


  1. The treats and posturing are a prelude to 'nationalizing' BP's US assets.

  2. I absolutely love this post. Spot on.

  3. The Emperor has no clothes and every day he is looking for fabric to come from his erstwhile supporters to wrap himself in to look like the Emperor he once was made out to be.

    His supporters have none, for he gave them no reason to have any. They expected him to produce them from the walks on water they imputed him capable of making.

    As the midterms get closer, he will get more desperate.

    The only downside is that the Republicans remain hopelessly lost, divided and incapable of offering a cogent alternative because they are still poisoned by evangelical theocratic tribalism.

  4. "..because they are still poisoned by evangelical theocratic tribalism."

    No, they're poisoned by a love of big, intrusive government and an incompetent RNC.
    I suspect your loathing of religion is getting in the way of your analytical skills. Scott. Just as viewing things through the prism of religious belief can often have the same effect.

  5. The "“voluntary” deal between BP and the Obama administration was nothing less than a continuation of President Barack Obama’s ongoing assault on the rule of law. Capitalism only succeeds if it is a profit and LOSS system. Well-managed firms should have every right to keep their profits, but mismanaged firms must be allowed to suffer losses."
    More from Morning Bell: An Offer BP Couldn’t Refuse.

  6. Sally quoted...
    but mismanaged firms must be allowed to suffer losses

    Sally, the way I see it, there was no mismanagement there from BP. It was one of those accidents that happens in everyday life. Today's generation tended to explode into hissyfits about anything & everything(small & big) compared to our parents and grandparents generations.

    BP couldn't foresee what was coming or perhaps they had already included in their manual such disaster possibilities (in computable permutations of all likelihood events to anticipate), but in reality, one can only give higher weights to scenarios/events with high probabilities of being happening. I am not aware of any wealthy person on earth or corporation that weighs all possible disaster scenarios equally. They rank them from high to low (as a sane person would do) and priorities go to higher weights. This why I asked PC on the other thread if he ever suggested to his clients to design their house for full proof of earthquake with magnitudes of 15+ on the Richter scale.

    Did, in fact BP violate anyone's property rights? If yes, then which areas/properties ? AFAIK, the ocean is unowned unless I am wrong here and perhaps some objectivists here may be able to clarify that point.

  7. it seems that the rig was owned by Transocean Ltd., and operated by its employees.

    Another device that BP did have and which is widely used, called the blowout preventer, which automatically shuts the well in case of accidents, failed as well, and it has not been established why.

    BP also has a more reliable (and more costly) system, employing robotic submarines, with which to shut down the valves.

    Rigs which rely on the acoustic switches (Brazilian and Norwegian companies, and a state owned French company, if I'm not mistaken) don't necessarily have the subs.

  8. Sums it up nicely:)


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