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Life Arts

Interregnum (again)

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This is a reminder. Wrote this four years ago, Nov 2008, after Obama was elected but Bush was still president for two months and a few weeks. Now, 2012, it feels very much like then.Some things have changed, bur remarkably many have not.

Hiatus, Pause, Break. Interregnum? My dictionary says: ORIGIN late 16th cent. (denoting temporary rule between reigns or during suspension of normal government): from Latin, from inter- "between' + regnum "reign.'

We are not really between reigns, of course, even though it feels like it -- the two and a half months between the election of a president and when he actually takes the reins of his reign. The Bush administration is still the only government. But we are in a sort of empty period between what we hope will be two very different styles of governing..

What is most visible today is the old (meaning current) government throwing billions, trillions, of dollars at the financial system. Our tax money. A last reminder that to these rulers the financial system is more important than people. Isn't that an upside down idea? Illusionary concepts like finances must be rescued, but we, humans, must fend for ourselves. And yet we and our children and grandchildren will have to pay for this rescue mission, designed by people we, supposedly, voted for to make important decisions for us.

Voting has become a sort of entry to the sacred halls of democracy. And, at least here, it also has come to be such a knotted bureaucracy that conducting an honest election has become difficult, expensive, complicated. At the same time, obviously, "certain elements" have learned a hundred ways to have the final count favor their favorite.

Never before have we had a campaign that lasted almost two years. But, finally, we voted and then we wept and wondered; now we wait. Leaving the old (meaning present) president to do what he wants for the next two months and more -- and if past experience is any measure, what he wants is rarely what is good for us. But, rules are rules. even after we learned, the last eight years, that rules can be ignored if you have enough chutzpah. We also learned that lies, if repeated repeatedly become maybe-truths, sort of truths, where-there-is-smoke-there-must-be-fire truths. That whole secretive slippery show of sleight of word that remade the world we knew to a new now broken world.

In the past I voted more often than not for a third party until I learned that it was always a loss for the Democrats. Both parties seemed to contain widely divergent views within the party many of them overlapping between parties. Until the Republicans ruled at all levels of government. Systematically, many "social" programs were discontinued altogether or crippled. Now I know what Republicans are against. They are against abortion and family planning (which so obviusly is the best way to prevent abortions). They are against gay marriage -- as if there were not more important issues to be against. They used to also be against large government, but these last years our government has grown as a cancer, and managed to create national debts that have become incomprehensible. Then, I also learned that Republicans believe that it is not government's role to make life easier for citizens, but it is important to rescue bankers who gambled and lost. For eight years we learned that money must trickle up, not down -- and it did not just trickle, it gushed up. Republicans strongly support weapons and wars. Two undeclared, illegal, and immensely expensive wars.Rumors have it there are other kinds of conservatives as well, but where?

What the Democratic party is for and against we may learn in the next few years.  I suspect we shall still be a corpocracy. I expect us to be more green, but, with 5% of the world's population will we still use 25% of the resources of the world? Maybe only 20%, to be positive. Keeping our fingers crossed that global warming, the planet, can wait that long.

I'm more and more intrigued by what seems to be an unquestioned fact for a long time: Americans obviously accept that capitalism is the only possible way to be. Capitalism means government's role is to protect the interests of owners over the interests of workers. Every man and woman for him/herself. Evident in what is called the Bailout. Unimaginable amounts of dollars given to banks and other financial institutions to assure their survival. Nobody denies that "the financial system" dug its own grave. But, we are told, it is essential to keep that system alive and well. The system is more important than the millions of foreclosure that will leave millions of families without a home.

I would have liked to know what would have happened if banks that made stupid gambles and lost, would have had to go bankrupt. What would happen if that huge insurance company that insured gambling financial institutions had been forced to go bankrupt? I would imagine that other banks would have jumped into the void. And, yes, people who had invested their billions in those financial institutions that made such exorbitant profits would now lose money. They might have lost lots of money. But I seriously doubt that any rich investors would be left with nothing, as many of us live with quite happily. Yes, it would stir things up -- but look what is going on now. A stock market that goes up by a thousand points, then down 5% the next day. I bet some people make billions by buying low and selling high. And we have always known that the richer you are the less taxes you pay because you can afford smart lawyers. The last eight years that has been made much easier, even without a smart lawyer the people who earn (?) a million a year pay the same tax as someone who earns one fifth of that. But investors are not the only people who gladly invested in all these pie in the sky schemes, there were also pension funds, cities, states, that invested in questionable, but, for a while, enormously profitable, money schemes. Bad investing that now hurts that favorite of reporters, "innocent citizens" who never had even pennies to invest.

Are we innocent in a democracy? We voted for the people who deregulated the financial system -- at least a majority of us must have -- or, at least, we did not make an uproar when elections were manipulated. Or, the Republicans were too smart, and willing to be sort of marginally dishonest and we the people did not object, or object strongly enough.

Or, and that is the most likely, we the people were blissfully asleep, lulled comatose by moving pictures 24/7..

The financial meltdown, as it is now referred to, is an interesting background for this period with a few months left for the last two months of a president whose reign is marked by two wars that are promised to last forever, by a significant redistribution of wealth (redistributed up to the richest of the rich), and now by the global collapse of a financial system that under his non-oversight looks more and more like the collapse of a house of cards.

The new president who promised to change things is waiting in the wings, choosing the people who will help change things -- but the people he is choosing are the same tribe who began the process of deregulation, who forced through various "free market" measures, who globalized the economies of the world, which is what makes our financial collapse the global financial collapse it is becoming. Is that the change we were promised?

But what do I know? I am ignorant of politics and economics. All I know about economics is that it seems an even less rational science than the social sciences. I've read perhaps fifty or more economists explaining what was going on, what caused this crisis: subprime mortgages, a bursting bubble, loss of faith, liquidity (a favorite word -- whatever it means). No two agree. And I cannot get out of my head reading an article a few years ago that explained in some detail the global financial system that was then growing. An elaborate and immensely intricate hoax, playing with numbers on computers with money that could now and then be translated into cash, great heaps of money. Many elements of the system had imaginary, illusionary aspects: values declared by a company owned by the corporation marketing what needed to be evaluated; making money with borrowed money; insured with other borrowed money, which then allowed one to borrow more money on the strength of being insured. I remember that the author, a famous economist, wrote that the total of that kind of fancy money in circulation was a double digit trillion dollars, more than three times the combined gross national product (GNP) of all countries on the planet. I did not save the article, so cannot reference it. To me it seemed clear that those trillions had an imaginary "value," not much different from Monopoly money.

What do we do in this interregnum that is not really an interregnum? Hope that the old (meaning sitting) president will not spend trillions for the wrong things, although it already looks as if that is exactly what he is doing. He could also undo all the laws and rules that had been put in place to protect people and the environment. But we are told he won't do that. After all, he never promised change. He does what he did for eight years. Again we are told to go shopping. Wish they would give us some of that monopoly money to go shopping with.

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robert wolff lives on the Big Island, called Hawai'i
his website is wildwolff.com

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Thank you for sharing your perspective, robert.&nb... by Jim-el Moore on Thursday, Nov 8, 2012 at 5:29:16 PM
Stand by some reasonable initiatives and do what w... by BFalcon on Friday, Nov 9, 2012 at 11:20:05 PM
He's trying to get the bill that the senate passed... by Lynne Kringler on Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 at 5:44:15 PM
Excellent suggestions, Lynne.  And, while we'... by Sheila Samples on Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 at 6:48:33 PM
Some things have changed, yes, but for the worse n... by Sister Begonia on Friday, Nov 9, 2012 at 11:51:47 PM
 Now you have revealed yourself, you are eith... by Lynne Kringler on Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 at 6:11:46 PM
Must admit I really don't understand politics in t... by robert wolff on Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 at 11:26:24 AM
My understanding is that the English/American trad... by BFalcon on Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 at 8:12:55 PM