Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Janet Albrechtsen, George W. Bush, neo cons, croakers and the lessons of history

(Above: Oliver Cromwell, the cavalier roundhead directly responsible for the Carter administration's many errors and follies).

Maybe I'm missing something but I'm beginning to think Janet Albrechtsen, our very own Dame Slap, is starting to get desperate as the neo-conservative movement bunkers down or organizes tea parties to mourn the lost revolution.

Now the world is ruled by spin meisters, charlatans, rabble rousers, socialists and worse.(Dangerous twist in dark arts of spin). 

Instead of noble warriors like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and John Howard. What to do? Well how about reviving the culture wars? After all, Christians confronted with a dilemma always invoke Satan, and surely Kevin Rudd, as boring a Christian as we've seen in some time, has to be the anti-Christ, slouching like some rough beast towards the neo con bunkers.

Leading the way, the Prime Minister has fired off a number of rambling rockets in his new culture war against capitalism. The aim is to create a political narrative about wicked opponents of sensible regulation. A narrative created not by logic but by sheer repetition. Say something often enough and it will become the truth. At least, it might unless vigorously resisted each time. Hence the need to keep pointing out the deception.

Ah yes Dame Slap, here we are once again, trapped in your magic faraway tree school once again. Bore us with your repetitive pointing out of deception.

Four legs good, two legs baaad. No, sorry, that's not it, you see we have to go way back to the Peninsular War to understand just how long this trend towards ratbag revolutionary socialist anarchy - with a Christian tinge - has been going on.

When the political games of blaming neo-liberals subside and the history of the global financial crisis is finally written, many chapters will be devoted to bad regulation. As Claudio Veliz pointed out in last month’s Quadrant magazine, the Duke of Wellington fashioned the term croaker to describe the utopian elites in British society who supported the French revolutionaries over the British army during the 1808-14 Peninsular War.

Veliz then traces a more modern contingent of croakers, those with a “despondent, defeatist, grumbling, moaning, rumour-mongering enmity” that means facts are never allowed to displace a stubborn ideology.

Well that's got so much to do with everything. I can see it all now. Croakers! And we're not just talking frogs. Or fish. Or doctors who make you croak. We're talking chardonnay sipping, latte swallowing inner western elites (when not worrying about cardigan wearing bureaucrats). Let them croak on the crumbs of the cakes that fall from the ABC's tea trollies.

Personally I blame Socrates - talk about moaning and whinging and then deciding suicide was somehow noble. Lordy, he was the Philip Nitschke of his day. And let's not forget Oliver Cromwell and his puritanical ways and his utopian desire to lop off the heads of royalty. Why,  if he'd had his way, we wouldn't have had the talking tampon as our future king. As it is, these days when I sight a roundhead I can hardly restrain my desire to blame them for everything wrong with the world. Call me a laughing cavalier if you like, but at least Charles the Second, one of the original Charlies, knew how to merriely monarch a mistress.

But enough of history. History is meaningless unless you know how to spin it properly, and the proper Dame Slap spin is that the grand financial crisis is totally and completely the fault of the Democrats. 

And there are plenty of GFC croakers. They are the ones who blame the GFC on a fictional neo-liberal lack of regulation in the US without admitting that a huge edifice of bad regulation dating back to the Carter administration and bolstered under Bill Clinton - with the noble aim of providing mortgages to the poor - would eventually form an integral part of the subprime fiasco that triggered the wider global recession.

Huge, I tells ya! Integral!

By golly, that Jimmy Carter's got a lot to answer for, and it's no good going back to that damned Iowan Republican president Herbert Hoover to blame him for all the problems in the Carter era. No that was the fault of (choose only one of three): Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge or Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Ding, F D Roosevelt is the correct answer. That socialist is responsible for everything, including world war two and prolonging the great depression endlessly, right up to the present day. Anyone got that wrong, put on the dunce hat, and retire to the corner, repeating over and over again "everything wrong in the world today can be explained by a deep reference to a long lost croaker past".

Now who's the only innocent in all this chit chat about evil croaker history? Why none other than George W. Bush and his team. Sure, they controlled both houses, and held the presidency and stacked the supreme court, but the point is they were powerless against the Democrat conspiracy.

In detail sorely lacking from the present debate, Veliz traces the history of the Democratic Party that, through laws, erected a “palatial skyscraper of preferential finance and privileged regulation” that would end up sheltering “almost half of all mortgages in the US, of which more than $1trillion was made up of subprime toxic assets and other unacceptably risky loans”. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 mandated banks to meet the financial needs of lower-income neighbourhoods. The creation by Democratic administrations of taxpayer-guaranteed institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase and bundle up these and other mortgages fuelled the astronomical growth in securities and mortgages.

And despite repeated calls from George W. Bush for Congress to better regulate these housing behemoths, little was done until it was too late.

Democrats such as senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts baulked at better regulation. As Veliz concludes, the subsequent attempts by leading Democrats to blame the subprime collapse and the recession that followed on Bush “deserves justly to be described as disingenuous croaking of truly majestic proportion”.

Repeated calls, I tells ya. And all those bills he desperately wanted to sign into law regulating everything in sight. Thwarted by those evil Democrats in charge of everything.

Well indeedy, and what can we make of disingenuous croaking of truly majestic proportion to excuse Bush and his Republican team of any hand in what befell the world as they chanted greed is good (as Janet still does to this day), cut taxes for the rich, tried to deregulate anything that moved, embarked on foreign follies, pissed money down the pockets of Blackwater, put the USA into hock up to its eyeballs with China, and otherwise thought nothing would rain on their grand economic parade.

The croakers in Australia who try to blame the financial crisis on neo-liberals and who want you to believe that criticism of bad regulation is akin to a belief in no regulation are equally disingenuous. And theirs is a dangerous political game if it gives them a free political kick to repeat the mistakes of the past. As the passionate free-marketeers at The Wall Street Journal editorialised last week, “Even capitalism’s staunchest supporters recognise that it cannot function unless government plays its proper part. If all the players, including regulators and bankers, can accept their rightful share of the blame and responsibility, we can begin to prevent future failures.”

Oh that's so sweet, almost touching, in its pious sentiments. Suddenly we all believe in regulation, and now we all believe in sharing the blame and the responsibility ... except for George W Bush, neo cons and Janet Albrechtsen, who after all, were just not awake to the cunning deceptions of the Carter administration, and how its duplicity would ripple down through the years to produce the current catastrophe. 

Now that's an important detail lacking from the current debate, but you see, the Democrats never play fair, and refuse to accept that it's all the fault of poor people and their greedy desire to get a roof over their heads, when I've always found a few cardboard boxes in a subway entrance more than sufficient for my needs.

Whatever you do, don't blame the banks or the greedy rich just seeking to make an honest million or billion or two.

Yes, thank the lord it had nothing to do with clever banks flinging money at the nearest set of suckers (greedy, naughty suckers) and then packaging all the suckers up in fancy financial derivatives that made junk bonds look like a kindergarten invention.

But you know what, I think I've got it. Janet is just practising what she preaches.

Budget week is an opportune time to understand a few golden rules of political spin. Last week a wise correspondent quoted one PR gem on The Australian’s letters page: “First simplify - then exaggerate.” Modern political masters would add a few more pointers: “If simple exaggeration doesn’t work, then lie. If you are going to lie, make it a big one. And then keep repeating it.” Remember these tenets in the weeks ahead.

Yes, and remember them when you read Janet Albrechtsen, and her croaking about croakers from the days of Napoleon and other tripe.

But wait, there's more:

The modus operandi is familiar. Present a false picture of your opponents’ arguments so you can paint them, dishonestly, as extremists. Then knock over the non-existent straw man.

Like going back to Jimmy Carter to explain the current financial crisis!! You extremist croaker you.

Excellent lesson Dame Slap, but can we all go home now. My head hurts and the bell ringer seems to be running late.

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
'Cause they found new toys
Well we can't salute ya
Can't find a flag
If that don't suit ya
That's a drag

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can't even think of a word that rhymes

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely

(Below: the death of Socrates by David. Proof, if any proof is needed when confronted by such obvious historical fact, that the man was the original croaker and quite possibly an incipient Democrat).

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