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August 17, 2007

Why so many Friedman Units?

-- by John Emerson

The Friedman unit is a running joke at Atrios and elsewhere. Every few months Tom Friedman proclaims that things in Iraq will have to get better in a few months, or..... something. When the months have passed, he says it again:

Things in Iraq will have to get better in a few months, or..... something
Friedman has been producing overlapping Friedman units for three or four years so far, and there's no end in sight. He's not the only one cranking out the FU's, either: almost everyone is adamant that things will have to get better in a few months, or......something.

This is "jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but never jam today". This is like a little kid saying "in a minute, Mom" over and over again. Why are these people making fools of themselves?

My guess is that they keep retreating because they don't want to face the fact that no one in the government cares what they think. They supported the Iraq War under the impression that their opinions were regarded as valuable and that they were part of the team, but by now they've all found out that Bush is going to do whatever he wants for the remainder of his term -- with no regard for legality, public opinion, Congress, the courts, or the Thomas Friedmans of the world. (Bush's snarky comment about the Iraq Study group -- "They can return to their day jobs" -- should have told them this months ago). By now Friedman knows that if he ever calls in his chips and says "No more Friedman units; get out of Iraq" he will find that he is completely irrelevant to the American political process. Pundit Friedman will no longer have any reason to exist.

It gets worse: Congress's feeble responses to the administration's provocations may be motivated by the same fear. Gonzalez's testimony was made up entirely of lies and evasions, and the administration has made no secret of its contempt for the whole idea of oversight, but so far Congress has hardly responded. Shortly after Gonzalez's lying testimony, Bush bullied Congress into rushing the passage of a FICA revision which will put even more power into Gonzalez's hands, and this very effective "fuck you" from Bush nullified any effect that the hearings might have had. Congress is now back to zero and could very well stay there, and Bush is still firmly in the driver's seat.

All of the institutions of the Roman Republic continued into the Roman Empire as empty forms, and Congress and the free press seem to be on the verge of definitively making that transition. (Chomsky, Nader, et. al. have been talking about this for decades, of course.) We have sixteen months of the unitary presidency still to go, and all the evidence is that Bush will continue to use his unprecedented new powers as aggressively as he can. The media and both parties in Congress are heavily infiltrated with Bush loyalists and enablers, and effective resistance from that direction seems unlikely. The 2006 election seemed as though it might be a turning point, but at this point it seems that nothing much happened. Perhaps the 2008 election will be more meaningful, but in times like these a year is a long time. No one has any idea what kind of world we'll be seeing in January 2009.

Posted by John Emerson at August 17, 2007 4:41 PM

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Comments

Good summary of a dismal situation. I am still reeling from the latest FISA law, and am beginning to think we shall never get "jam today" on any issue, ever again. But that is despair talking.

Somehow as individuals we must find ways to continue living even in the face of societal dissolution. Whether we choose to leave the country, or retreat into studies, or work, or entertainment, there is still no excuse for us to give up thinking and creating if we can manage it. I keep remembering Andrei Sakharov and his wife during the final years of the Soviet Union, when he was put into a mental hospital and force-fed after he started a hunger strike. People like Sakharov never stopped trying to live decent lives, despite being trapped in a destructive system.

Whether those Russians felt courageous within themselves I don't know, but as to their persistence there can be no doubt. Right now we need to channel some of the determination they managed to create for themselves. Though I don't like it, I know we have to keep trying.

Posted by: Ralph [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2007 1:48 PM

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