[personal profile] drscott
Morning reading. I have tended to avoid political commentary since most people aren't ready to hear anything that doesn't agree with their morally superior, Daily Show-viewing, bien pensant groupthink, but we're reaching an interesting juncture here, with the Syrian situation possibly being the last straw that loosens the grip of the Democrat-Republican machine on federal power.

In this situation, we have a president who while a Senator railed against executive use of military force unless the US or its interests was directly threatened. The hypocrisy of his plan to use force in Syria was so obvious he crumbled and asked for Congressional authorization (which would have been a good idea if it had happened *before* he moved forces into place and stated his intentions.) His loose talk about moral red lines - as if he leads the world government - makes backing up his words a matter of US credibility. Or is it?

Stepping way way back, we see a state that got itself and its population in the habit of thinking of themselves as responsible for the entire world when we had half the world's economy and other powers were reduced by war, so that only the US could stand up to an expansionist Soviet Union. The Soviets are gone, replaced by a still-dangerous but much less threatening Russia, the Chinese have gone capitalist and cooperate in the world economy. Uncle Sam is like Wile E Coyote, legs pumping the air before realizing the long drop below. This reduction in our relative power is nothing to panic over - by helping to build a multilateral world and bringing billions of people out of poverty through free trade and our security umbrella, the US did a great good for the world. But there's no need for large numbers of obsolete ground troops to be stationed in now-wealthy places like Germany, Korea, and Japan that can afford to defend themselves. They have been free-riding on our failure to recognize how the world has changed.

But this mentally lazy habit of thinking of ourselves as world governors has to stop. The major parties are owned by vested interests, unions, defense contractors, porkbarrel spending on bases and welfare; no reform of the major sectors of healthcare, education, prisons, or defense is possible until the current power structures are reduced by younger reps and public understanding of the corruption that binds us.

The money has all been spent. Not only the obvious debt of the federal and state governments, but the pension and health obligations are so large that there is no way the smaller cohorts of young people coming can bear the costs without major restructuring. Everything must be examined, and the "programs to solve problems" approach of the last 50 years which has resulted in millions of state and federal employees shuffling papers back and forth in duplicative programs that have proven to do little for the supposed beneficiaries have to be streamlined and reduced (examples: Head Start, inner-city failing schools, defense systems boondoggles, overlapping welfare programs, militarized police and SWAT teams for every agency, huge prison populations, the ever-increasing costs of the war on drugsā€¦)

We as citizens need to stop thinking our local representative is just great while those other guys in Congress suck. Collectively they suck, and looking for independent thought that shows some signs of being grounded in the real world of business and real defense against real threats will require lifting up people who know more than how to fundraise using the Internet. The Syrian situation exposes who the true weasels and dinosaurs are, and moving them out of their careers in "public service" (which, strangely, leaves them wealthy when they move on to private lobbying) can't happen fast enough.

http://reason.com/blog/2013/09/04/john-kerrys-morally-linguistically-and-h

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/09/05/saving-obama-from-himself/

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/09/05/the-american-people-tell-washington-a-few-things/

http://www.althouse.blogspot.com/2013/09/wheres-bruce-springsteen-he-helped.html

http://reason.com/blog/2013/09/05/rolling-stone-on-jerry-brown-best-govern

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/us/drug-agents-use-vast-phone-trove-eclipsing-nsas.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Date: 2013-09-05 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] billeyler.livejournal.com
I won't disagree with you on this, although I did get a bit squinchy-faced, thinking that YOU think 'the rest of us in the world other than Curtis' as '[delusionally] morally superior.' (I'm sure that isn't your intention though!)

Date: 2013-09-05 07:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dr-scott.livejournal.com
I'm talking about the segment of the population that rises out of academia, never had a job in small business or requiring accounting, and thinks if only the right Progressives were in charge and those evil Red State people were removed, a new dawn of happiness and perfection would ensue. It's the team approach: my team good, those other people bad.

Date: 2013-09-05 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrdreamjeans.livejournal.com
I believe you've coined a phrase worthy of adoption ... "The corruption that binds us ". I no longer know what to believe or how anything to do with government will get better ...

Date: 2013-09-05 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pklexton.livejournal.com
most people aren't ready to hear anything that doesn't agree with their morally superior, Daily Show-viewing, bien pensant groupthink

Speaking as someone who likes the Daily Show, ouch. Anyway, I don't think it's just the Daily Show-viewing crowd that's trapped in its own thought bubble. Fox watchers certainly come to mind as well.

It's a little ironic that the very Congress-people you excoriate toward the end of your piece are the one's who appear on track to put a stop to this.

Most people don't know very much about foreign policy. My take: This episode will probably dent Obama's legacy somewhat, but unfortunately, I doubt this will do much damage to the overall Democrat-Republican grip on power.

Obama was caught in a no win situation. You have McCain, the Israel lobby, the theocons of the right and probably much of Eisenhower's old military-industrial complex ready to label him the biggest pansy ever for not standing up to Assad. And you have the liberal base, the libertarian right, most of the public and probably his own conscience pulling him in the opposite direction. It hasn't been pretty to watch.
Edited Date: 2013-09-05 10:52 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-09-06 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dr-scott.livejournal.com
I like the Daily Show. What I don't like is people who don't follow current affairs very closely and receive all their attitudes and knowledge from a comedy entertainment. And of course you're right that Fox (especially commentators) plies the same trade of "get outraged or feel superior about the selective reporting of the worst of the [red model]|[blue model]." But I don't really have to address the fundies and rednecks because none of them read me!

One can point out that this may be the first failure of Saudi money and influence-peddling in DC - buying pols is one thing, but when fracking and other new sources takes away dependence on Saudi oil, there are far fewer interest groups clamoring for action to protect them, and the popular dislike of foreign adventures is more apparent. Note that the politician too scared to approve the XL pipeline would lay waste to his reputation by proposing new Middle Eastern adventurism.
Edited Date: 2013-09-06 07:18 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-09-10 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pklexton.livejournal.com
This has indeed been a rare moment when the monied establishment (most of which to me seems lined up on the pro war side) generally seems to not be getting its way. Maybe there is hope for common sense after all.

Actually maybe I'm wrong. Wall Street seems to jump every time tensions are ratcheted down. Perhaps it is against the war after all. That would explain a lot.

Showing my conspiracy stripes, sorry.
Edited Date: 2013-09-10 07:39 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-09-12 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dr-scott.livejournal.com
Investors on the whole dislike war, waste, disruption, high oil prices, and risks posed by a Syrian foray. The defense establishment also thinks it's a bad idea. Defense contractors, OTOH, might be expected to support it, especially with some of the trial balloons that have been floated to restore defense funds that were sequestered.

It will be no loss if McCain, Graham, Boxer, and Feinstein were turfed out. Much tired old thinking from tired old people.

The way needs to be cleared for young people to succeed and live the full lives and careers they could build if only the old power structures and regulators would get out of the way.

Date: 2013-09-06 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abqdan.livejournal.com
I wouldn't necessarily disagree - certainly to the extent that the two-party system doesn't serve us well, and that it is largely sustained by an ill-informed electorate and powerful pressure groups on all sides. That said - a couple of other thoughts:

You and I enjoy a position of privilege in that we have the disposable income, and therefore the time, to read widely on various subjects. That allows us to be self educated on these issues. That is very much not true of the majority in this country - and I believe that is by design. Corporations have accumulated a strangle-hold on traditional media and on the education system as a whole. Using their political hacks, they can reduce the effectiveness of K-12 education - noteable recent examples being the changes pushed through in Texas to remove 'critical thinking' as an educational goal. This is not a new phenomenon. During the industrial revolution, factory owners determined literacy rates and benefited by controlling the local economy to the detriment of the local population. We're just seeing that system on a larger scale here. A majority of Americans have limited free time and few reliable sources to turn to for independent news; they are fed the information that is considered appropriate for them through restricted channels. Certainly some of this is their own fault; but the fact is the marketing of consumerism and entertainment is intended to keep the poor poor and quiet.

Given that scenario, it's difficult to see how we move away from the strangle-hold the two party system has on government. There are some examples in Congress of independent thinkers, but there certainly isn't a majority in either party that will support radical reforms - there are no turkeys lining up to vote for Thanksgiving.

It could be that the US has to decline a lot further, as the UK did in the 1970s, and as the USSR did in the 80s, before we'll see any meaningful shift in political power or economic direction. It would be a small but significant victory if popular pressure prevents our intervention in Syria, but I don't think the defense lobby will permit that.

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