Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ogling Obama, Defending Dubya

It's pretty hard to escape a feeling of pervasive optimism today. We have witnessed perhaps the first-ever presidential inaugural address to contain the phrase "data and statistics". We heard Obama add "nonbelievers" to the usual Christian-Jew-Muslim litany trotted out in deference to the diversity of the melting pot. We heard the most powerful noncorporate person on the planet speak of harnessing the sun and the wind, heard him describe "curiosity" as one of the traditional values that makes the US great. The Unites States welcomed, in a sense, its very first science-fiction president.

Providing some kind of counterpoint to all this sunlight and joy will be a difficult and thankless job, but I shall do my best.

I could go for the downright petty— dude, you delivered that glorious, extended, soaring speech without missing a beat but you flubbed the bloody oath of office? But no. Unlike his predecessor, Obama is no dyslexic doofus: he was probably thinking, as those words were being read out, that maybe they could stand an edit, a nip and tuck, that they could be improved. Maybe he stumbled over those words because he was too busy rewriting them in his head.

I could go after the hypocrisy of the celebration itself: given a trillion-dollar deficit, does the US really need two dozen official inaugural balls? Where are those who were so vocal when the auto execs flew to their bailout hearings in private jets? At least they weren't spending taxpayer dollars (at least, not yet). How many such flights could have been funded with the money that went into "The Hope Youth Ball" and "A Celebration of Change"?

But again, no: Judas Iscariot raised pretty much the same point when Mary of Magdala blew her wad on perfume for Jesus' feet, and the Christ's rejoinder was succinct and to the point: fuck the poor. They will always be with you. Dote on me instead, because I won't be. If that response was good enough for Jesus, I'm guessing it's got the event planners covered as well.

Besides, as I may have mentioned, this is a day for optimism. So I choose to celebrate the administration to come with a fond look at the administration just passed. I would raise a toast to the Cheney/Bush era: perhaps the most successful U.S. presidency evar.

This may strike some as an odd position to take. After all, the Cheney/Bush years saw the world's most powerful nation descend from surplus into trillion-dollar deficit; saw the prosecution of two unnecessary and (so far) unsuccessful wars; saw the evisceration of civil rights at home and US reputation abroad, the gutting of environmental protection, the relentless remorseless grinding of science beneath the heel of political expediency, and— finally, inevitably— the meltdown of a global economy based, even at the best of times, on consensual hallucination. And yet, criticizing that administration for these things is akin to deriding me as a shitty writer because my novels don't appeal to fundamentalist Christians. You don't impugn the archer for missing the bullseye when he was aiming for a deer; success must be judged against the intended goal.

It's always been pretty clear that Cheney et al never gave a flying fuck about international stature, environmental health, or the welfare of the middle class. Bush's role was never to govern. He was a diversion and a catspaw, the inbred idiot nephew placed on the throne by those safely hidden in undisclosed locations. His job was to dance and caper and keep us from noticing the guys out back, loading up the truck. So if you really want to measure the success of his presidency, this is what you ask: how did Halliburton do during the past eight years? How did Blackwater fare? What about the oil industry, did their fortunes plummet since Bush assumed the position?

We are talking, my friends, about an administration that accomplished exactly what it set out to do, leaving behind a cost that will be borne entirely by others. One has little choice but to stand back and marvel at the sheer scale of this accomplishment. The dearly-departed administration is the very epitome of Darwinian Nature: ruthless, self-interested, and with no foresight whatsoever.

Here's to you, Dick. The degree to which you'll not be missed speaks volumes of your own success.

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Blogger Jena said...

What CNN said later was that it wasn't Obama who flubbed his lines, but the doofus reading them out to him. Obama was correcting him.

January 20, 2009 4:55 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Apparently, Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the oath of office. Obama was trying say it as written and as he just had heard it miss-spoken. It is possible that that is a hard thing to do on-the-fly and before many millions of citizens of the US and of other countries.

January 20, 2009 5:01 PM  
Blogger carnifex said...

I don't know what confluence of chemicals cause feelings of optimism, but I'm pretty sure my capacity to generate more than a trivial amount died a long time ago. If you really need to hammer down the mood, meditate on this-

January 20, 2009 6:52 PM  
Blogger SpeakerToManagers said...

You want optimism, eh? How about this: Bush left office without pardoning all his minions, not even Scooter Libby. So with any luck, we have some nice, juicy prosecutions to look forward to. Maybe we'll even get to make sure that Karl goes no more a'roving.

January 20, 2009 7:37 PM  
Anonymous MaryL said...

I'm not worried about the expense. The balls and such were paid for by donors (that's some $40 million) and another $115 million or so is going for security, because apparently the entire city of Toronto showed up in DC today. People got their bigass party and a gazillion dollars got dumped into the local economy at a time when people are afraid to spend money. I feel stimulated just watching it.

January 20, 2009 9:10 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

These are good points. And I hope no one's assuming that my grumbling here is at all serious: I had a big honking grin plastered across my face during the whole thing. I'm as thoroughly infected by the Obama Hope meme as anyone.

On the other hand, I do have a reputation as a curmudgeon to maintain.

January 20, 2009 9:21 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

Yeah too bad ol' Dick and Dubya will be bored to tears without illegal POW's to torture and immigrants to murder out at sea.

What kills me about the whole thing is that the fundamentalist right LOVED the dotard at the wheel and threw a fit because now that Obama's at the con things 'will get really bad.'

Aye, it's enough to make me wanna start a drive through sterilization clinic. Also Bush was so keen on immigration that he missed an obvious solution to genetic pollution here in the states. Instead of restricting who comes IN to the country, lets start kicking out all the rednecks and jack off pentecostals. Oh wait, then the Right would be in serious trouble.

January 21, 2009 12:36 AM  
Blogger Dagon said...

Oh oh oh the "remarkable 20%" of murrcans attains psychedelic qualities when watched from the outside. I stand as slackjawed as having watched a monty python sketch transpire before me, in real life, incuding a crude clipped special effect G-d making a comment from the sky.

We have entered the realm of cognitive dissonance that necessitates immediate hospitalization and heavy medication - not to curtail freedoms, or as a partisant measure (we have other partisan orders mechanics the US) - but to makesure someone doesn't hurt himself.

Alas the "remarkable 20%" is so far removed from any real consequences of their grotesqe nature they can go on for years talking about leprechauns.

January 21, 2009 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't even mention his No Kids Left Behind program. What genius thought up the idea to reduce funding for schools with poor test scores?

Stem cell research
Weapons of mass destruction
Water-boarding isn't torture
The link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida
Deregulating the financial industry
Your either with us or your against us.

Your right, I think we completely misunderestimated this man.

January 21, 2009 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hljóðlegur said...

America's leader is now handsomer than Canada's.

In other Wattsian-like news on the topics of: HP working out the math for a memory resistor. Moore's Law by better efficiency instead of miniaturization. Building a brain, see


Can anyone critique the actual article? There is a link to the PDF at the bottom. Is this crackpot?

January 21, 2009 2:24 PM  
Blogger Alyx said...

Peter, you make me larf and larf.

January 21, 2009 3:09 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

This post has been removed by the author.

January 22, 2009 2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was hoping Obama would mention something about space program funding but I guess space exploration is not in his immediate agenda with all the global energy concerns. BTW,here's a link I found on research into Cognitive Computing for those interested:

-David P

January 22, 2009 3:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, this truther shit just makes you sound like an idiot.

Grow up and stop alienating part of you fanbase.


January 22, 2009 10:01 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Not sure what you mean by "truther", Pat— unless you were trying to say "truthiness", which might have almost been clever if you'd got the word right—but I have to ask: is there some specific claim you're objecting to, or were you just sputtering in general outrage that anyone could take a dim view of the Cheney/Bush presidency?

Given the lack of specifics, I can only assume the latter. And I gotta say, it astonishes me that anyone who'd take that position would belong to my fan base to begin with. Certainly there can't be very many of those, and in all honesty I'd be better off without them anyway.

Still, If you don't feel welcome here, you could always try the Smithsonian. I understand they're setting up a neocon display right next to the passenger pigeons.

January 23, 2009 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

carnifex said ...." meditate on this-

Kewl! By late night drunks, for late night drunks! Stoners love it, too!

It's like CheezWhiz - hey, dude, I don't even bother with the skillet, just foam that batter-liscious goodness right onto the tongue.

And I love the catchy jingle: Make a better batter faster: Batter Blaster!

Patton Oswald is going to have fun with this one, I predict.

January 23, 2009 12:05 PM  
Blogger Brian Prince said...

"Dude, this truther shit just makes you sound like an idiot.

Grow up and stop alienating part of you fanbase.


I don't think you know what truther means, because nothing Peter wrote had anything to do with 9/11 conspiracy theories.

January 23, 2009 3:10 PM  

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