About Obama’s coronation – wisdom from Fred

When I need wisdom — real thinking, the sort stiffled by crowds — I go to the website of Fred Reed:  Fred on Everything.  Feeling oppressed by the talk about the inauguration (I have no TV, but the networks’ broadcast radiation affects us all), I turn to him for insight about the meaning of it all.

Here is an excerpt from “Wintering – An Incoherent Interlude with the Elite“, 22 January 2009:

Tom’s {Bar] was bleak, though. Instead of NASCAR or the NFL playoffs, all the televisions had some guy being enthroned as president of the US. It was awful. I can stand singing commercials for toilet paper. I once watched a half hour of Oprah and recovered, though with psychic scars. But twelve hours of embarrassing imperial pomp, chattered about by boringly dressed dullardesses with the intelligence of catfish? A freaking coronation with everything except inbred hemophiliac nobles?

In a sane world, a president would sign in online. User ID, password, bingo, he’s president, spare me the media circus. Why involve the rest of us? When I get a new job, I don’t need a $150-million parade that blocks the streets everywhere. It’s a sign of a defective character.

In fact we could probably do a president in software, and save the upkeep on that funny-looking double-wide on Pennsylvania Avenue. Server space is cheap these days. Little processing power would be needed to simulate the average president. An abacus would probably do it.

… On the lobotomy box the babble-blondes kept nattering on like concussed parrots about how wonderful it was that we had a black president. Oh God, I thought, spare me. I mean, so what? So he’s black. Lots of guys are black. It’s a pretty common thing, really. He isn’t a freak, an unexplained natural phenomenon, just some guy who probably couldn’t find a better job so he took what he could get. I mean, if we had elected, say, a giant fronded barnacle from a geothermal vent, then, sure, I’d want to hear about it. For at least five minutes. Or maybe if we chose a hitherto-unknown tube worm. Though I grant we came pretty close last time. What’s the big deal about a black guy?

I figured a black president couldn’t possibly be worse than the white ones. This O’Bama guy hadn’t done anything terrible yet. Good as any, better’n some.

That really says it all, IMO.

Other good colums by Fred

  1. A Sordid But Instructive Interval At Soldier of Fortune Magazine“, Playboy, March 1984
  2. Playing At Adventure – Thoughts On The Spreading Mismatch“, 28 February 2006 — The mismatch between men and women, between men and the modern world.
  3. A True Son of Tzu, Guderian Was the Mother“, Fred Reed, 23 January 2007 — All you need to know about the Department of Defense.
  4. Theater of the Absurd, by the Absurd, for…“, 16 February 2007 — About “securty theater.”
  5. Air Power: Zooming and Booming for the Sheer Hell of It“, 16 November 2008 — “everything you need to know about air power.” 


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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts on the FM site about America:

  1. Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008
  2. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  3. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  4. A philosphical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
  5. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  6. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  7. The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
  8. Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture, 5 November 2008
  9. The corruption of a nation is usually hidden, but sometimes becomes visible, 21 November 2008
  10. The war for America’s soul, 23 December 2008 — Our changing attitudes to “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  11. This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008

26 thoughts on “About Obama’s coronation – wisdom from Fred”

  1. Maybe you could give the good Fred some technical support in the way of an RSS feed. I’ve enjoyed his meanderings for at least the last decade, but he keeps falling off the radar.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Not likely, as I have only a vague idea what an RSS feed is. If this site has one, thank WordPress.

  2. I really did hope that the new President would have cancelled much of the pomp. A press conference, where he said something like: “Fellow citizens, in economic times like these, with millions losing their jobs, banks failing, markets falling, I must set the correct tone for the challenges ahead of my administration. There will be no ceremony, there will be no parade, and there will be no limousine ball. Instead, I’ve instructed my cabinet to work through the evening reviewing the options for we can take for a stimulus that will be meaningful and transparent in it’s implementation. It is my plan to reveal a policy position tomorrow morning, with direct and decisive actions that will begin Friday.”

    Instead, we got a horrible showing on an executive order, some stuff on gitmo, and what’s about to be a spectacular crash on wall street, which will wipe out another 4 trillion in wealth, and stimulate even further job cuts.

  3. Perhaps a variation of Churchill’s May 13, 1940 speech might have been better.

    “I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering. “

    And, as we know, the great British people, along with all the members of the Commonwealth, the Indians, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the South Africans and so many others (apologies to those not on the list) rose to that challenge for 6 long, bloody and hard years.

    You know, people respond to the truth, given half a chance they will accept the hardship and roll up their sleeves. Roosevelt did the same with his famous “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” speech.

    But it is not going to happen as long as our ‘elites’ pretend they can fix everything quickly and go back to the same old Business As Usual (BAU). This is the end of the old 1980-2008 ways. Yep, Thatcher and Reagan were wrong, so was Friedman and all the mouthpieces for ‘neo-liberal’ economics, which were mostly just mouthpieces for the big corporates.

    Warning Digression Alert:

    Hey, true story, I knew one of them at a very big Australian bank. And we had a few discussions in private about the whole ponzi mess going down in 2007 (the collapse of the US was the key issue). Despite that in March 2007 he actually did an INTERNAL briefing to senior staff (this was not an external PR marketing one as he was paid to do) about that Australians “did not have enough debt” .. which at 150% GDP was an amazing comment. I personally think my scathing comments to that did contribute just a little to my later firing from them. At that time I was arguing, with hard numbers to back me up, about building up our deposit base as fast as we could (note they didn’t and have had some big write downs … with more to follow).

    Oh well, more proof of my first law (of ten): “never underestimate human stupidity”.

  4. Unfortunately, the pomp is part of our British heritage and a primate absurdity for which there is way too great an appetite. It is utterly unsurprising though, that the media (including the ‘news’ or infotainment industry), whose business model is to deliver attention to advertising, are doing their best to hype it up with sentiment in all directions. Ranting about that is like complaining about crows eating corn. It is their nature.

    It was also written in this space many times by our host that this nation has the capacity to deal with its current problems, and that hope and optimism are necessities. Obama agrees with this and knows that a minimum necessary amount of positive emotional energy, however created, is required for dealing with the mess we are in. That is mere pragmatism, no more and no less, but still is somewhat insightful.

    It was written here several times by yours truly that the thing to look for from Obama, during the transition and inauguration, was a call to sacrifice and seriousness, a grownup and realistic and even somewhat somber approach, rather than soaring rhetoric and baseless emotionalism. He has delivered that so far. It is also true that that has led to some criticism of him not being lofty and hearty enough, as it would have had he done so, which would have led to accusations of lacking seriousness of purpose. Similarly, while there is some concrete value despite what Fred said in this concrete reversal of what has been a cancer on this nation since his founding, it was inevitable that some people would say he made too much of it, others too little, and that those who could profit by ratcheting up the feeling-plane would overemphasize or underemphasize whatever would serve their economic interests and emotional biases. The mainstream media, having fallen asleep at several switches and been bamboozled and manipulated in spades by the previous ‘administration,’ could hardly be expected to focus on the stark reversals of policy that were declared and are taking place, since those reversals are an indictment of their pursuing profit and audience above accuracy and the public interest. This is especially so when there are cute children, expensive dresses, and other shiny objects to keep the populace enthralled with in between commercials.

    Nonetheless, one Shakespearean history play has ended, ignominiously, and another begun. The hope is that the next one will be a comedy rather than a tragedy. Therefore, let us all be fools and tell the truth;-). That’s an essential element and all we can do. Certainly those who advocate a conservative, defensive foreign policy based on our interests and for example the clear and useful directions in Washington’s Farewell Address are in the right as well as on the right, and encouraged strongly by this former hippie, currently progressive liberal centrist and Obama supporter, to speak up, make their case, and pull their weight in terms of actually improving things, rather than mocking superficialities from the sideline. There is hard work ahead and we need everyone.

  5. “A freaking coronation with everything except inbred hemophiliac nobles?”

    Speaking of which, aren’t there some spare Habsburgs or Bourbons running around whom we could install as constitutional monarchs? ( Romanovs would be too closely linked with Russia…)

    Reviving knighthoods also would be a good idea. The Templars are the obvious choice. This would be good for many reasons – not the least that, in lieu of knighting someone, we nowadays crown them “Poet Laureate” or “Librarian of Congress,” following which we must suffer through pious interview with them on the Lehrer News Hour.

  6. And Greg, that has stunned me and I envy your capability to express it so well.

    “There is hard work ahead and we need everyone”.

    This should be for all of us our catchcry for the future. I’ll add:

    There is nobody but us … all of us together on our Spaceship Earth, ” all alone in the dark”. If you are hurt I bleed. If you starve I cannot eat. If you suffer I cannot sleep. If you are scared I will stand by you. When you are happy I laugh. When you are content I sleep well.

    You are my friend, I am blessed.

    And, for others, come to my home for shelter, for this is a safe place for those who care .. and not a place for those who hate.

  7. You are a {Snip — No personal attacks allowed on this site, however childish. The Comment policy is stated at the end of every post, and in more detail here (appears near the top of the right-side menu bar).

  8. I’ve never read this Fred Reed guy, but frankly the portion which Fabius posted does not make me want to read more of his stuff (unusual for this blog, which often highlights intriguing analysis by people I’ve never heard of). To be blunt, he sounds callow and stuck-up. We should have an AI president? Elected barnacles? You’re killing me, Reed.

    I wonder if Reed has noticed that this is the way the US has always inaugurated presidents in the modern age. If he finds it distasteful, he can just ignore the television or go home instead of bellyaching about it. I’m not a huge fan of pomp myself, but I understand that a lot of people wanted to see Obama inaugurated. That’s why millions travelled to Washington and many more turned on the tube, or watched the streaming video at work. Does this really surprise him?

    I have sympathy for people who feel out of step, alienated from their social structure. But I believe that such people should understand their own feelings, and understand the feelings of the mass of people, as an adult would. Such bellyaching about the feelings of the mass strikes me as too adolescent for an analyst.

  9. I also thought the overwrought coverage was distasteful. It shouldn’t be a surprise, however, in that the “mainstream media’s” business model requires 24-hour “news” coverage. Hate to say, but there isn’t enough news to justify 24-hour coverage. So “infotainment” becomes the order of the day.

    Of course, Obama being the first black president is a historic thing. I would have been happy with live news coverage of the swearing in and inaugural address … however that doesn’t meet the bar of “infotainment” and we get a bunch of extra dreck to go along with the important stuff.

    Lastly, as our commenter “End the hate” has shown us, anything less than 48 hours of live news coverage and a commentary on every irrelevant nit-noid detail would have branded the networks as “racists.” That’s some real class right there.

  10. Hard to follow or disagree with the elevated comments of OS and Greg, however. . .

    Skepticism is always in order in politics. Have not we the citizens already “sacrificed” (been screwed, that is) by those at the top? Should we “roll up our sleeves” while Rubin and Paulson are wheeling away mountains of cash from the Treasury?

    A Shakespearean history play is just exactly how the rulers want us to see it: the weak king Henry IV being replaced by the strong king Henry V, whose opening act is the defeat of France.

  11. Ever since Mr. Obama became the favorite to win the election, financial markets have been falling, discounting his policies’ impact on future markets. The exorbitant forced euphoria orbiting the coronation of our new King was not an expression of the masses or the social structure. It was a massive celebration of the looting of the treasury to come, financed largely by those who are to be the beneficiaries of the unprecedented theft.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Absurd. The US Dow Jones Industrial Index peaked in October 2007 (when Obama was far back in the pack of candidates). Also, markets are declining as the world falls into the worst recession since WWII. Neither of these have much or anything to do with Obama.

  12. “Fabius Maximus replies: Absurd” (#11, above)

    Exactly! Obama has done everything possible to re-assure the financial side, by staying strictly within the reservation with his economic appointments and advisors. The “market” (in the global sense) simply realizes none of it makes any difference now.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Great point. It will be interesting to see Obama’s first (1st of many) “save the banks” plan. Will this be more free money (aka our money), for their profit and enjoyment — like the many Bush Administration programs? Or will US citizens get something in exchange, liike meaningful ownership (hopefullly to be sold off later)?

  13. Media coverage is shoddy and tacky. But Presidents are elected after a very long-drawn out process that involves many levels of society, high and low. Furthermore, all groups of people, whether families, tribes of 100 in the jungle, armies, businesses or large nations need leadership which always exists in one form or another, enlightened or dysfunctional. It is a societal natural law, if you will.

    In this context, the transfer of power is an important collective event. Almost 2 million people did not assemble live (i.e. they were NOT watching or reading the media) without feeling some sort of need to be there and witness history unfolding. The old pre and post Confucian ‘rites’ were largely involved with managing ‘Dzong Chi’ or ‘social energy’ in English and indeed our old feudal and royal forms, whilst often falling into decadence or stupidity, were nevertheless based on necessary management of such cultural/societal forces.

    Furthermore, the only way a President can rule well is by acting as intermediate between the masses/people and the elites. Royalty is the most refined system in this regard, but vulnerable and no longer in fashion. This power exchange is something that occurs during important moments or shifts in national dynamics, which is why the need for having some sort of ceremony – however crassly done these days – is fundamentally accurate. There is something about taking an oath, for which reason marriage ceremonies exist. There is something important about death, for which reason funeral ceremonies. The purpose of such forms is to channel societal energy which exists all the time whether we like it or not.

    The true test of a culture’s ‘civilisation’ is the sophistication – and genuineness – of how well they manage such energy. Indeed, it is around this energetic patterning that our forms of speech, address, progress and corruption develop and again in both enlightened and dysfunctional ways.

    Like it or not, the Inauguration was an extremely important energetic moment, if not a perfectly choreographed event.

  14. So this Fred fella don’t think Democracy and Pomp go together, eh? How about village women greeting the President in white with bands on their heads proclaiming them virgins whose innocence was saved by Gen. Geo. Washington, President of these here United States?

    It’s called semiotics … mostly bullshit, I grant you, but astoundingly powerful stuff. People mostly believe what other people say, cause there’s little profit in not trusting anyone is telling the truth at when they give you a name to call them by. Just hard to do a day’s work if you don’t.

    The POTUS has tremendous hard power at his command, but the vast bulk of his work is done by convincing people (here and abroad) to go along with whatever he has in mind. That is “soft power,” or plain old “influence” in old speak.

    Why do it? Because many are inspired by it, and some are awed–and in the crucible betwixt the two consensus, more or less, is formed. And that, my friend, is power.

    Publius is tops, ok?

  15. If Bill Lind is the Einstein of the 4GW crew, then Fred Reed may be the Richard Feynman, what with his penchant for strip clubs in Bangkok and dive bars in Mexico. Anybody with the brains, background, and writing skills of Fred, along with his wheelbarrow of Purple Hearts, is worthy of inspection. As a self-described curmudgeon, I think he would be insulted if anybody agreed with him all of the time.

    FM, thanks to you for bringing him up on your site!

    As for Obama, the large and fancy transition is what is needed. That, along with a simple and clear speech advocating policies of intelligence and law, not to mention humanity. Hopefully there will be truth behind those words. Like Fred, I am an ex-Pat, and believe that this kinda transition is exactly what is needed for the rest of the world, who are indeed important to America, a concept which seems difficult for some Americans to fully grasp.

    Old Skeptic, your last post was beautiful. I am trying to figure a way to use it (steal it!). Is it a quote?

    For other writers as interesting as Lind, Reed, Pat Lang, and of course FM, try the Cockburn brothers at CounterPunch, and and the German “b” at Moon of Alabama. They are always worth the read, and seem to agree with the 4GW stuff.

    Stephen Hicks

  16. To the commenter who slammed Fred Reed…I hadn’t heard of the guy before, but he’s great. Thanks to FM for turning me on this writer. He’s sort of the P.J. O’Rourke sans neocon delusions. I definitely plan on buying Reed’s book.

  17. OldSkeptic, that was a paramount effort at taking the ball and running with it. You are utterly right… there is no Other, we are one human race and all in it together. Even the worst Nazi or terrorist among us is a sick fellow human being, operatively equivalent to an animal with rabies, and the need to put them to sleep or isolate them is a sad duty. Our military deserves our respect for taking on this unpleasant task out of a sense of duty, but none of us should be happy about it or glorify it. Evil, like darkness, does not exist, it is the absence of something illuminating. If we survive, in the long run we will find a way to stop it occurring in the first place, or at least, that is my prayer, one I assume you would share.

  18. Praising but disagreeing, again, with Old Skeptic and GPanfile, I have to say this is a political site, not an “emerging consciousness” one. Recognition of our common humanity, the value of compassion, and our place in the universal energy field, are high personal achievements, but fairly irrelevant to the matter of political change. For that, we have to descend into the dirty realm of power in society, identify our oppressors (those who prevent us from being full human beings), and take the power back for our own ends.

  19. “we have to descend into the dirty realm of power in society, identify our oppressors (those who prevent us from being full human beings), and take the power back for our own ends.”

    Generally my take as well.

  20. @Fabius Maximus: “Not likely, as I have only a vague idea what an RSS feed is. If this site has one, thank WordPress.”

    RSS is the subscription mechanism trapped in the orange square with the white dot and two arcs, at the starboard end of your URL bar (in FireFox)

    Maybe the answer is a gentle browbeating in the direction of WordPress. Or Blogger or any of the newer methods that are used to avoid having your blog get better circulation than, say, the The Philokalia (Gk. φιλοκαλία “love of the beautiful/good”): a collection of texts by masters of the Eastern Orthodox, hesychast tradition, writing from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries on the disciplines of Christian prayer and a life dedicated to God.

  21. Athiest, Fred is a must read (and many thanks to FM for putting me on to him, for that I’ll even forgive him his climate ‘skepticism’). A hard act to put something pertinetent across and make it interesting and amusing. The first time I got onto him (through FM) I spent a couple of very happy hours chortling away, his ‘airpower’ one is a classic. Read … and enjoy.

    Stephen: go for it. It is a compilation of great sayings from various things I have read or from some songs. Forgot all the references but they (and others) have always stuck in my mind. Wish I could say I invented them, but it would be a lie (damn it, my chance for fame and a fat book/recording contract gone).

    The “Spaceship Earth” along with “all alone in the night*”, is a metaphore I use often to explain to people that what I do affacts you and, of course, vice versa.

    *That one I remember: Babylon 5.

  22. OldSpektic:

    I read the “Survival Schools” post as well, and got frustrated. It’s frustrating to me because its like Reed has his finger on something real. He honestly describes his own dissatisfied allergy to security, and many people’s incomprehension of his attitude. But in order to describe it, he latches onto a deluded paradigm, inventing an “anti-male war” carried on by “hairy-chested feminists”. In reality, it seems to me, the tension he feels with society has its root in soil other than feminism. It is a simple consequence of the fact that most people, in America and elsewhere, are sheepish, and while they may appreciate his adventurousness, they also crave the security he has contempt for. And I think it’s always been that way.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Fred is often over-the-top, a trait of “gonzo jouranlists.” Part of their charm. Logical diagnostic analysis is not part of his toolkit.

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