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The Opening of a Conservative Mind
July 26, 2010 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Bruce Bartlett, senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House, speaks out against Republicans - The monumental hypocrisy of the Republican Party is something amazing to behold. And their dimwitted accomplices in the tea-party movement are not much better. They know that Republicans, far more than Democrats, are responsible for our fiscal mess, but they won't say so. And they adamantly refuse to put on the table any meaningful programme that would actually reduce spending. Judging by polls, most of them seem to think that all we have to do is cut foreign aid, which represents well less than 1% of the budget.

Martin Wolf, éminence grise of the Financial Times, also fulminates:
Republicans have no interest in doing anything sensible ... To understand modern Republican thinking on fiscal policy, we need to go back to perhaps the most politically brilliant (albeit economically unconvincing) idea in the history of fiscal policy: "supply-side economics". Supply-side economics liberated conservatives from any need to insist on fiscal rectitude and balanced budgets.
BONUS
-The election in one graph
-Can American Conservatism Ever Be Reformed?
-Towards Economic Humility
-How To Balance The Budget
-High-debt History
-Some Thoughts on the Bush Tax "Cuts" Expiration

More BB on (lack of) stimulus - Thus it appears that there is virtually nothing that can be done to stimulate the economy. For various reasons—political, institutional and substantive—there is no prospect of either fiscal or monetary stimulus. [1,2,3]

A Toxic Toolkit - Why is the Fed unwilling to do more to help the economy?

Trickle Down Meanness - There is more at stake here than our economy. We must, as a nation, decide whether we want to continue on the path we have been on since roughly 1980. Do we want to continue to reward disproportionately a small fraction of the population that (based on recent performance) seems better at misallocating financial, physical, and human capital through speculative endeavors? Do we want to continue the trickle down of meanness? Shall we live in a society in which trust and fellow feeling are lost, replaced by mindless (not rational, not productive) winner-take-all competition that favors one group disproportionately? If the answers to these questions are all "yes," then the social fabric may already be torn beyond repair and I fear we are about to learn firsthand how empires crumble.

A titanic struggle to decide whether the jobless should get money for longer - There are two main reasons why Republicans oppose extending benefits: because the country cannot afford it, and because benefits, they believe, have given the unemployed an incentive to stay out of work. Neither reason is well founded.

Is Another Economics Possible? - Textbook economics also largely ignores worker-owned businesses and consumer cooperatives, although these are geographically widespread in the United States. Recent research suggests that many workers would like to play a larger role in the management of their companies and that "shared capitalism" works remarkably well ... One could say, therefore, that another economics is now under way. Still, it seems fragmentary and incomplete and not yet adequate to the task of institutional design. We still don’t know how best to organize cooperative efforts or how to mobilize the capital necessary to support them on a large scale.
posted by kliuless (156 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite

 
The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire. And I haven't noticed the Democrats proposing to do anything about that.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:33 AM on July 26, 2010 [48 favorites]


GOP Happy To Rely On 'Party Of No' Reputation For Midterm Elections.
posted by ericb at 11:37 AM on July 26, 2010


The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire. And I haven't noticed the Democrats proposing to do anything about that.

and if you read the Martin Wolf missive you could conclude that the fastest way to bring the downfall of that empire is to support the Republican party.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:38 AM on July 26, 2010


"Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg's tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences "undecided," "none of the above," or "tea party," these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate -- most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class's prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans -- a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents -- lack a vehicle in electoral politics."

From "America's Ruling Class - And the Perils of Revolution" by Angelo M. Codevilla in the American Spectator.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:44 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Poll is missing:

Which Party Would You Rather Have a Beer With?
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:45 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire. And I haven't noticed the Democrats proposing to do anything about that.

Of course not, the contractors are the lifeblood of lots of congressional districts and states. They're not THAT stupid.
posted by new brand day at 11:47 AM on July 26, 2010


Which Party Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

That's a trick question. It's not a party if there's no beer.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:47 AM on July 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


('cause that's who I'm votin' for, you betcha)
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:47 AM on July 26, 2010


Actually Joe Beese, the expense of the USA's global military empire is a significant, but not top three cause of the American financial mess. The top three causes would be declining government revenue (due to tax cuts and the recession), growing entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), and a combination of an ignorant electorate and a political class that are unable/unwilling to make difficult decisions. In a nutshell, Americans don't want to be taxed at a level to pay for the government that they want.

While American military spending is massive and far larger than any other countries spending, converting America to a 100% passive, hippy lovefest country still wouldn't solve the financial issues that America faces, though it would help.

If you request it, I would be happy to source this.
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 11:49 AM on July 26, 2010 [33 favorites]


What I'd like to know is who the Teabaggers would take honest criticism from. Don't make me reanimate Reagan again.
posted by Aquaman at 11:50 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which Party Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

The American Beer Party, naturally.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there anyway not to turn any thread into an opportunity to bash Democrats and accuse them of being even worse than Republicans around here? I mean, apparently, even a thread about an article in which a prominent former Republican policy adviser explicitly argues that Republicans and their policies are far, far more damaging and worse for the country than those championed by Democrats, MeFi still manages to shift the focus from a critique of the insanity that currently passes for Republican political thought in this country into yet another oh-so-inspiring Democrat-bashing opportunity no more than five comments out of the gate.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2010 [21 favorites]


Which Party Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

Republican Party: Lots of big-screen teevees, strippers, fast food, fireworks, but the beer is Coors Lite.

Democratic Party: Argyle sweaters, hushed conversations about fleeting references to strawberries in Proust, all the food is taupe, but the beer is sixteen microbrews including Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


Barlett, Frum, Sullivan(usually), Brooks

We need more of these folks (grownups) on the Right. The two party system doesn't work when the opposition party fails to offer even the pretense of an alternate governing philosophy.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2010


a critique of the insanity that currently passes for Republican political thought in this country

Ftfy
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2010


Danny Westneat from The Seattle Times had a great take on this kind of thinking -- The Self-Made Myth Divides Us.

Nowhere is the myth as confused with reality as in rock-ribbed Eastern Washington. The place depends utterly on the government and communal resources for its existence, from the New Deal irrigation system still being paid for by taxpayers elsewhere, to farming subsidies and crop price supports. Yet in their own minds, they are mavericks living off the land.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2010 [43 favorites]


"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." - John Kenneth Galbraith
posted by windbox at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2010 [69 favorites]


In a nutshell, Americans don't want to be taxed at a level to pay for the government that they want.

QFT
posted by blue_beetle at 11:57 AM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire.

As a massive, cumbersome, counterproductive expenditure that employs a lot of people in uniform, rakes in huge profits to corrupt contractors, and stokes suspicion of America abroad, there is no doubt that the imperial overreach of the military industrial complex greatly contributes to America's long-term fiscal unsoundness, but I'm not sure it qualifies as the single greatest cause of our "fiscal mess." That mess, defined as it is/was by both the speculative bubble of Wall Street, and the continued implosion of the middle class, has allowed the irresponsible gambling of megabanks like Citigroup, and financial octopi like Godlman Sachs and AIG, to continue to flourish. Let us not forget the "financial services complex," in other words.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Republicans won't admit their own mistakes? I'm shocked SHOCKED I tell you. You'd think they...they might be human beings or something.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2010


saulgoodman, I consider myself an equal opportunity political cynic. I am the disenfranchised; there is no one representing my political views in Washington or the mainstream media.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually Joe Beese, the expense of the USA's global military empire is a significant, but not top three cause of the American financial mess. The top three causes would be declining government revenue (due to tax cuts and the recession), growing entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, etc.)

except that unless you feel ok with letting the tumors eat grandma alive while she begs in the street (i.e. kill medicare and social security) the "defense" portion of the budget is the single largest discretionary item.

and the fact remains that the U.S. spends an awful lot to "defend" itself against... Canada? Mexico? the Cold War ended yet that only slightly reduced U.S. military expenditures. We should have seen the defense budget cut in half, at least, by now.... and that's a huge chunk of change.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:01 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the link to that article, Cool Papa Bell. I loved this quote in particular:

"We've got to get rid of this 'protecting the weak,' " Didier said. "If we keep the weak alive all the time, it eats up the strong."

If the supporters of these people didn't make up nearly a third of the electorate, I could laugh this stuff off. But their numbers are large enough that both parties seem to be compelled to either a.) cater to these idiots (GOP) or b.) allow the media that does cater to these idiots to drive the news cycle (Dems).
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:06 PM on July 26, 2010


Is there anyway not to turn any thread into an opportunity to bash Democrats and accuse them of being even worse than Republicans around here? I mean, apparently, even a thread about an article in which a prominent former Republican policy adviser explicitly argues that Republicans and their policies are far, far more damaging and worse for the country than those championed by Democrats...

But Bartlett thinks that because the modern Democratic party looks much more like the party of Nelson Rockefeller than Franklin Roosevelt. I want a Democratic party that someone like Bartlett thinks is *more* damaging and worse for the country than the Republicans.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:07 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


the fact remains that the U.S. spends an awful lot to "defend" itself against... Canada? Mexico? the Cold War ended yet that only slightly reduced U.S. military expenditures. We should have seen the defense budget cut in half, at least, by now....

Except the PNAC got their "cataclysmic event," their "new Pearl Harbor" on 9/11, allowing them to seamlessly replace "communism" with "terrorism" as the new catch-all bugaboo, and thus stoke two new--and still ongoing!--wars. Funny how that worked, is it not?
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:09 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


... converting America to a 100% passive, hippy lovefest country still wouldn't solve the financial issues that America faces, though it would help. If you request it, I would be happy to source this.

By any chance, have you time-traveled here from 1968?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:10 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, you want rational politics. Sorry, but that's in another building entirely.

"The election in one graph" turns into win/loss for the parties based on turnout. The Dems turnout fluctuates and they lose when it drops and win when it rises. The Repos turnout is usually pretty steady and doesn't change much.

Shorter: boring Democrats lose.

My personal index of how campaigns are doing is the ratio of pretty young wimmin. Losing campaigns approach zero. Actually, it makes sense because the regulars are all pretty old and most of the guys look like potatoes with mange. So if there are cute young people around it's because something is interesting.
posted by warbaby at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reality simply doesn't comport with the "theory" that easing taxes on the "job creators" works in any way at all. Anybody who can support trickle-down with a straight face is either a greedy, criminal fuck or an spectacular idiot. This is not my opinion - the evidence is everywhere.

If I had to point to one thing that put us where we are today, it would be this: The supply-siders (read: greedy fucks), with the support and assistance of sympathetic legislators (read:sycophants and future business-partners of the greedy fucks), absolutely nuked our manufacturing base. They sold out our future for a quick buck. Compared to the forgone annuity that our economy received, and would receive, from a healthy manufacturing sector, military expenditures and (especially) entitlements are a drop in the bucket.

I am very scared that this is not going to be fixable. The people with the power don't have the balls to do anything to change the situation, and the people who do don't have any power. And way too many Americans can distinguish between the two, anyway.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:16 PM on July 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


The US military budget has not been spent in significant majority to defend it against threats against its sovereignty in over thirty years. That is a fucking delusion perpetrated by oligarch PR departments to ensure yellow ribbons, parades and crying when dead "war" fighters come home.

The US military budget is spent to ensure the US has a ready supply of natural resources.

Do not forget this.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2010 [21 favorites]


SeanOfTheHillPeople: "the expense of the USA's global military empire is a significant, but not top three cause of the American financial mess. The top three causes would be declining government revenue (due to tax cuts and the recession), growing entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), and a combination of an ignorant electorate and a political class that are unable/unwilling to make difficult decisions"
  1. "Tax cuts and the recession" are currently forms of entitlement spending.
  2. The military budget could pay for Medicare and Medicaid entirely.
  3. Lumping the citizenry and the electeds into one political unit? Not sure that's the best way to tackle difficult decisions. It's like saying Grandma and Tony Hayward conspired to kill a ton of sea birds.
posted by rhizome at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


The problem with U.S. politics, and frankly it's deeper than politics, in many ways it's the key problem with the United States generally, is that our wants, from government and in terms of the society we want to live in, greatly exceed what many people are willing to pay for.

Social Security is, in my assessment, probably the biggest issue that we'll have to make some very tough decisions on. Social Security as it was originally envisioned, with a huge endowment-like trust fund, probably would have worked okay, but Washington couldn't resist the temptation to raid that particular piggy bank, and turned it into what would be, if it were run by anyone but the government, a Ponzi scheme. Today's benefits are paid not by interest, but by current contributions that are passed through -- yet a rather surprising (to me) number of people don't realize this, and think about it as essentially a government-run, mandatory savings bank. Such systems work, and can even create the impression of positive real returns, as long as you are constantly adding more people on the input side, but they fall apart rather spectacularly when the growth stops. And taking infinite growth as a premise for a critical social institution does not seem to be a very bright idea.

SS is the most glaring because its failure mode is the most obvious, but there are a host of political and economic institutions which have been premised on the idea of more growth. I think you can construct an argument that the entire American outlook on the future, of increasingly higher standards of living, of progress generally, is premised on growth. And at least some aspects of growth (probably population growth, if we don't do something really stupid like pay people to churn out babies; probably not productivity or total output) will peak in the lifetimes of the current generation.

Hardening our political and social institutions to deal with the coming changes, ensuring that we can at least maintain our current standards of living in an increasingly globalized and cutthroat competitive environment, would logically be the prime focus of government, but it seems to be the elephant in the room that nobody running for office wants to talk about in any sort of detail.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


can't distinguish...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2010


Is there anyway not to turn any thread into an opportunity to bash Republicans and accuse them of being even worse than Democrats around here?

Funny how it works just as well that way too. Welcome to discussion. Someone might say something you don't like. Spend less time complaining about it and more time convincing those people that they're incorrect. If they refuse to listen to your convincing arguments, either get new ones or ignore those people. "Waa, you're not saying what I want you to say!" rarely, if ever, works.
posted by Etrigan at 12:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


yet another oh-so-inspiring Democrat-bashing opportunity

While I take your point about turning a Republican-criticism FPP into a Democrat-criticism thread, I've gotta say...it's pretty much a wash, on your ultimate point. It's not as if, when MetaFilter discusses Republicans, suddenly the conversation gets all enlightened and reasonable.

posted by cribcage at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire. And I haven't noticed the Democrats proposing to do anything about that.

Imagine if there were vertical lines marking congressional and presidential control.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Every week we hear about how bad the Republican party is from people who used to be prominent Republicans.

I mean, I'm sympathetic and all, but what do those of us who are not Republicans do with this information? The current party recognizes neither objective facts nor sane decisionmaking as worth their consideration. Bartlett's not telling us much of anything new.
posted by emjaybee at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire. And I haven't noticed the Democrats proposing to do anything about that.

That's not entirely true. Obama, with the backing of Secretary Gates canned the absurd F-22 program, as well as a few other irrelevant and obscenely-expensive technology projects.

Although I'd much rather that we disentangle ourselves from the two wars we're currently fighting, Obama does seem to be the first president in recent memory to have said "No" to a military spending request. It's a start....
posted by schmod at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus explains a lot of it.
posted by crapmatic at 12:28 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


The US military budget is spent to ensure the US has a ready supply of natural resources.

Do not forget this.


This is true, and it's not the only reason for the perpetual war state. I can't take politicians or pundits seriously unless they admit the blunt truths behind their ideologies and abandon the political rhetoric for dummies. If someone wants to advocate the obscene "defense" budget and American Empire, then at least be honest that it's out of a desire to perpetuate the dominance of American ideological hegemony and monopolize natural resources as much as possible. Then maybe we can have a discussion. Politicians take Machiavelli seriously, they do not have the same regard for the unwashed masses.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: "I mean, I'm sympathetic and all, but what do those of us who are not Republicans do with this information"

I find it helpful to discard the partisan filter and see it as just another visible personality with some degree of credibility and, most importantly, nothing to lose. I get sick of these lapdogs popping their heads above ground once in awhile (and always a different one), stirring up shit that nobody is going to do anything about. Nobody is going to do anything about it because you have to have nothing to lose in order to say anything about it. So the point gets made and lies there ineffectual due to its untouchable status.
posted by rhizome at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd much rather that we disentangle ourselves from the two wars we're currently fighting

The U.S. is in Iraq to stay. And war with Iran seems more certain every day.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with U.S. politics, and frankly it's deeper than politics, in many ways it's the key problem with the United States generally, is that our wants, from government and in terms of the society we want to live in, greatly exceed what many people are willing to pay for.

Let's not mince words—people want something for nothing.

The real fireworks will begin when the Baby Boomers vote to tax their children rather than face cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:35 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am going to risk expressing a political opinion, even though the last time I did it the whole thread had to be deleted. Nation building is expensive. It was easy to overthrow both Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; niehter could stand up to the American military. Trying to rebuild both of those countries into stable democracies is proving to be an endless morass, which perhaps can never succeed. I understand perfectly well why the strategy of nation building was chosen. It worked really well with Germany and Japan after WW II, and there is no greater military success than to convert an enemy into an ally. It is ideal. But in the current global circumstances, it does not seem to be feasible. So, what to do? I honestly think that the US has to give up nation building and come up with new strategies. The US is doing things the hard way, and it can't afford to do that anymore. This is the policy that I would promulgate if it were within my power to do so: the US will allow any country to run its own internal affairs in any way that it likes, whether democratic or autocratic, theocratic, communist, anarchistic, or whatever. Every country is sovereign. If the US is subjected to another terrorist attack, the US can reasonably expect and demand the cooperation of other countries in tracking down the people responsible and delivering them up for justice. If a nation refuses to do this then they can be regarded as at the very least co-conspirators if not being actually at war with the US, and the response should be to do them harm. One good terrorist attack deserves another. It is much easier and cheaper to harm another nation than to rebuild it. We could call it the tit for tat law. This is simple to the point of childishness, but the world is full of stupid people. If al Qaeda was in any sense an intelligent organization they would have known better than to attack the US. But they are living in their own dream world. So we should deal with them in a way that they will understand. You harm us, we'll harm you. That is all. No nation building. Build your own nation if you so desire.

I also have lots of ideas about entitlement spending and the greedy public that always wants more government services and less taxes to pay for them, but I think my military rant is enough for one comment (or for one lifetime, some of you will be thinking).
posted by grizzled at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, I'm sympathetic and all, but what do those of us who are not Republicans do with this information?

Agreed, as thorough a post as it is I don't understand how this isn't in GYOB territory.
posted by The Straightener at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell - great article, thanks for linking it. It's similar to something that Warren Buffett has been saying for years:

"...I mean, I've been ungodly blessed, you know, I just happened to be born at the right time in the right place. I tell people if I'd been born a few thousand years ago I would have been some animal's lunch, because I can't run very fast or jump very high. Or if I'd been born in Bangladesh or some place things would have been different for me. So what I've acquired has been, to an enormous degree, the product of a society that's a huge capitalist society, and I was born into it at the right time, and I get these disproportionate material rewards in respect to my contribution."
posted by triggerfinger at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Welcome to discussion.

It's not like I have anything against "Republicans suck, amirite?" posts. But if you make a statement like "Republicans are more responsible than Democrats for Bad Thing X", you have to be prepared for a counterargument.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Obama does seem to be the first president in recent memory to have said "No" to a military spending request.

One of the first things Donald Rumsfeld did after taking the reins at the Pentagon was to kill the Crusader self-propelled artillery program. Military projects die on the vine all the time. Claiming Obama is the first one ever only betrays one's ignorance.
posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here is what continues to boggle my mind -- we are only a year and a half away from the most reckless economic 8 year span I can remember, combining huge expansion in government spending and huge cuts in tax revenue. This budget-breaking approach was the opposite of progressive, because income inequality in America, on the rise since the 1970s, took off after Bush's election and the implementation of Republican policy and budget measures.

It is hard to overstate how much rising income inequality undermines American democracy. We really need to be a country of opportunity, where everyone has a chance to get a good education and a path to prosperity. Disparate incomes are connected to racial barriers, educational differences, gender pay differences, and presence or lack of more than one adult wage earner.

In this environment, speaking as a former Republican of moderate ilk, I an simply amazed that a lot of liberals seem to have decided they'd just as soon let the (most conservative and extreme) Rs take power again. For example, check this recent news story about Pelosi and Obama essentially having to implore the Netroots Nation convention attendees to maintain their support of the Democratic agenda.
posted by bearwife at 12:39 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


the real fireworks began when the baby boomers (if you can think of them in monolithic terms) decided they'd rather pay themselves more rather than pay their kids living wages.
posted by boo_radley at 12:39 PM on July 26, 2010 [16 favorites]


Which Party Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

The Dems, of course. But I always have to sober-up the next day with Republicans.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:43 PM on July 26, 2010


Domestically, the future of the U.S. financial picture in both the short and long term is one of chronic budget deficits and compounding debt. The federal deficit for the 2009 fiscal year was about $1.42 trillion or one tenth of U.S. economic production in that year ... These unfunded liabilities are a reflection of an aging U.S. Baby-Boom population increasing the number of those receiving social program benefits, primarily Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, versus the underlying working population that pays to support these programs ...

Joint Operating Environment, 2010 (United States Joint Forces Command)

If you keep reading, you'll see that the DoD does recognize that the military budget will be cut (A more immediate implication of these twin deficits will likely mean far fewer dollars available to spend on defense. In 1962 defense spending accounted for some 49% of total government expenditures, but by 2008 had dropped to 20% of total government spending.20 Following current trend lines, by 2028 the defense budget will likely consume between 2.6 percent and 3.1 percent of GDP – significantly lower than the 1990s average of 3.8%).

I don't think there are easy answers, especially since it's a demographic problem: The Baby Boom.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:45 PM on July 26, 2010


boo_radley, I've had to actually stop thinking about the boomers lately because it's all been making me so angry.

I've been reading about the decline of many of the institutions set up by the ww2 generation alongside the catastrophic economic choices made by my parent's elected government and it's all got me raging so hard that I have to stop and play video games or I'll end up yelling at my mom on the phone.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


They know that Republicans, far more than Democrats, are responsible for our fiscal mess, but they won't say so.

That's because they know that what you say is more important than what you do. At least if you're an immoral sack of shit who only cares about winning. Which 90% of Republicans running for office appear to be.
posted by callmejay at 12:50 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Spend less time complaining about it and more time convincing those people that they're incorrect.

I'd say, the main article in the FPP does that job for me pretty well, if anyone bothers to read it. It just struck me as funny how the first few commenters to start bashing Democrats obviously hadn't even bothered to read the article, because if they had, they would have realized that there are much deeper systemic problems facing our economy than just America's recent streak of military adventurism (though I won't claim that hasn't contributed, especially the unfunded military projects that began under Bush during an era of unfunded tax cuts).

There's been a lot written recently about how state governments across the US, too, find themselves in increasingly unsustainable positions fiscally speaking, and that's not due to any military spending at the federal level (which in many cases, actually benefits state revenues, particularly on the contractor side). It's due to one fact, and one fact alone: we demand more and more in government services, while simultaneously demanding lower and lower tax burdens at every level of government.

America has quite simply become a nation of people convinced we're entitled to get whatever we want, the instant we want it, without having to make any personal sacrifices in the exchange. And that attitude extends to the political sphere as well.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:53 PM on July 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


I don't think there are easy answers, especially since it's a demographic problem: The Baby Boom.

There are easy answers. Raise taxes to sane levels and allow the millions of people who want nothing more than to become citizens and work their asses off for the American dream to do so. As a last resort, raise the retirement age a year or two. Problem solved.

Unfortunately, Republicans hate taxes and they hate Mexicans and other would-be immigrants. That's why we have a problem in the first place.
posted by callmejay at 12:55 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


A lot of these American whiners are all "Whaaa! I want food!" and "Whaaa I haven't worked in a year," and "Whaaaa these medical bills are bankrupting me, I kind of wish that heart attack had killed me!"
posted by Mister_A at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


rhizome: I get sick of these lapdogs popping their heads above ground once in awhile (and always a different one), stirring up shit that nobody is going to do anything about. Nobody is going to do anything about it because you have to have nothing to lose

David Frum would be the most significant exception I can see to your theory. He lost a job (and the income that goes along with it) by criticizing Republicans for not engaging in Health Care Reform. Ditto W.F. Buckley, Jr. for endorsing Obama.

There is certainly no shortage of the type of people you describe, but I wouldn't say that only people with nothing to lose are speaking up.
posted by dry white toast at 1:00 PM on July 26, 2010


Every week we hear about how bad the Republican party is from people who used to be prominent Republicans.

I like to think of it as tossing out impurities. The Republican party is slowly getting distilled down to pure 200 proof crazy,

And the thing about 200 proof is that it can be fun to watch the effects of it from a distance, but strike a match and it'll burn the whole place down.
posted by quin at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Neel Kashkari, TARP Guru, Supports Cutting Entitlements, Citing 'Me-First' Attitude Of Beneficiaries
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:07 PM on July 26, 2010


Which Party Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

My mind was marginally blown when big news was made of a poll showing that more Americans would rather have a beer with GW Bush than Gore or Kerry.

George W. Bush is a recovering alcoholic. He quit drinking in the mid-eighties or so because it was ruining his life. A majority of American people said they wanted to have a beer with a guy who not only doesn't even drink, he also thinks alcohol caused great harm to his own life.

Other related polls:

1. Who would you rather dodge bullets with in a gunfight?
A. Robert Gibbs
B. James Brady

2. Who would you rather have had unprotected sex with?
A. Marvin Gaye
B. Freddie Mercury

3. Who would you rather have gone for a walk with?
A. Harry S. Truman
B. Franklin D. Roosevelt
posted by flarbuse at 1:07 PM on July 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


It's due to one fact, and one fact alone: we demand more and more in government services, while simultaneously demanding lower and lower tax burdens at every level of government.

What, exactly, are the more and more government services that we are demanding? A better health care system because unchecked private health care has priced a huge chunk of us out the game? Extended unemployment benefits because private business fires workers before fixing their own inequities, and won't hire people back, even now when a lot of them on sitting on a lot of cash, because government's position right now is too "murky" for them? Demanding that other areas be examined before Social Security becomes the fatted calf? Help with student loans because private colleges have raised their rates way faster than inflation? Wondering why the miltary and the penal system don't have to beg for additional funds?

I don't know what you're looking at, but I think most people are fighting more to tread water than get ahead.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:08 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


3. Who would you rather have gone for a walk with?
A. Harry S. Truman
B. Franklin D. Roosevelt


This is a trick question, right?
posted by hippybear at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is a trick question, right?

Little known fact, Truman skipped everywhere.
posted by quin at 1:32 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


A lot of these American whiners are all "Whaaa! I want food!" and "Whaaa I haven't worked in a year," and "Whaaaa these medical bills are bankrupting me, I kind of wish that heart attack had killed me!"

Yeah, and meanwhile, the richest Americans like Health Care CEO Rick Scott, one of the leading contenders for the Republican governorship in Florida, and billionaire real-estate speculator and Florida Democratic congressional candidate Jeff Greene, who was a registered Republican before discovering his core convictions as a Democrat less than two years ago--are stealthily positioning themselves, IMO, for a redux of the Bush tax cuts and to guarantee that any attempts to improve industry regulation and bring about effective health care reform are killed in the crib.

Meanwhile, using an historically unprecedented number of threats of filibuster (and unfortunately, changing the rules to eliminate the filibuster isn't nearly as easy as the claims some ersatz "progressive" Dem basher's like to throw around, the effort itself most likely being subject to the threat of filibuster), it now takes months longer than it should just to get unemployment benefits extended, when what used to be a bipartisan process becomes an opportunity for Republicans to keep those whiny Americans you describe waiting for months to get any relief (cite: "Even after filibuster is broken, Senate Republicans delay unemployment bill").


What, exactly, are the more and more government services that we are demanding? A better health care system because unchecked private health care has priced a huge chunk of us out the game?

Oh dear god--have you ever seen state governmental budgets? What don't we expect the government to pay for? Road construction and maintenance, streetlamps, digging utility connections, wastewater treatment, stormwater management, public transportation, licensing this and that, overseeing this and that industry, securing the borders, inspecting more and more imports with fewer and fewer personnel, building new parks and funding libraries, keeping financial aid programs at pace with population growth, infrastructure maintenance, water management, and the list of all the mundane and generally under-appreciated but vital public services that get more expensive every year and don't just pay for themselves goes on and on and on. It's a well-documented fact that demand for government services has been increasing all across the country even as government budgets shrink.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:33 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


3. Who would you rather have gone for a walk with?
A. Harry S. Truman
B. Franklin D. Roosevelt


FDR, because he would give me a ride.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't know what you're looking at, but I think most people are fighting more to tread water than get ahead.

Yeah, I agree. That's why I belly-ache so much about income inequality and how the wealthy are exploiting the system that it's been described as "tiresome" in other threads. But where we are now is a direct result of decades of Republican policy going back all the way to Reagan, and it's going to take a long time to turn that around. It will take even longer still, if we hand the reigns back now to the same crew of ass hats, who are still regurgitating the same tired arguments even now.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:39 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Republican rhetoric is like an 80's soundtrack that's been re-packaged with the same old crap "hits" over and over again.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:43 PM on July 26, 2010


Grouping the entire Republican party together like this is silly. The tens of millions of people who vote Republican encompass everyone from the anti-intellectual belligerently patriotic imperialist, the single-issue pro-life voter, the libertarian, etc.

There are anti-intellectuals, bigots, single-issue voters, brilliant scholars, and villainous scum on all sides. Statements like "The monumental hypocrisy of the Republican Party is something amazing to behold." are pretty pointless.
posted by resiny at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2010


More of what you can expect if Republicans do sweep the midterms:

Senate Judiciary GOP wants hearing on alleged DOJ bias against White People
posted by saulgoodman at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2010


Grouping the entire Republican party together like this is silly. The tens of millions of people who vote Republican encompass everyone

You will see lockstep voting in Congress, though. Remember 2000-08? And it is the united front of the Rs since the 2008 elections which has forced a supermajority vote in the Senate for every measure, even routine things like extending unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile the Ds remain in disarray, as does their base. Again, beats me why. The stakes could not be higher.
posted by bearwife at 1:58 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I an simply amazed that a lot of liberals seem to have decided they'd just as soon let the (most conservative and extreme) Rs take power again. For example, check this recent news story about Pelosi and Obama essentially having to implore the Netroots Nation convention attendees to maintain their support of the Democratic agenda.

Which part of the Democratic agenda are you amazed that liberals are not supporting? The "triple ground forces in Afghanistan" part? Or the "we reserve the right to assassinate American citizens" part?
posted by Joe Beese at 2:02 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suspect most Americans dislike and distrust the Republican Party. They also dislike and distrust the Democratic Party. In the absence of any alternatives, they turn that dislike and distrust toward government in general, and since the Repubs sell themselves as the party of small and limited government, they vote for them.
posted by rocket88 at 2:06 PM on July 26, 2010


Let's not mince words—people want something for nothing....
posted by one more dead town's last parade

Well, maybe we should start play playin' our geetars on the MTV.
posted by symbioid at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2010


The "triple ground forces in Afghanistan" part? Or the "we reserve the right to assassinate American citizens" part?

How about the establish a deadline to begin a phased withdrawal 18 months later part? (Never mind the media's let's call a fairly routine capture by any means necessary including lethal force order an assassination order to make it sound more sinister part?) Or the leave Iraq completely by 2011, with 50,000 troops scheduled to leave and only about 50,000 troops remaining as early as next month despite non-stop political pressure from Republicans (and weirdly, seemingly NPR, too) to delay the withdrawal part? Or the attach a repeal of don't ask don't tell to a supplemental military spending bill part? Etc.

I suspect most Americans dislike and distrust the Republican Party. They also dislike and distrust the Democratic Party. In the absence of any alternatives, they turn that dislike and distrust toward government in general, and since the Repubs sell themselves as the party of small and limited government, they vote for them.

So does Thomas Frank (in fact, he thinks it's a deliberate electoral strategy dating back to Reagan), which is why he always writes about it. (Or as Frank quotes P.J. O'Rourke: "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it.")
posted by saulgoodman at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which part of the Democratic agenda are you amazed that liberals are not supporting?

The progressive parts, including health care reform and financial regulatory reform -- as well as the desire to get meaningful environmental reforms in place.

Also, Joe Beese, how happy are you with R positions on overseas war launching and pursuing, extraordinary renditions, torturing, indefinite detentions of U.S. citizens, etc. etc.?
posted by bearwife at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2010


"For example, check this recent news story about Pelosi and Obama essentially having to implore the Netroots Nation convention attendees to maintain their support of the Democratic agenda." -- bearwife

Well, there's a couple issues:

1) It would behoove Pelosi and Obama to support the Democratic agenda (and by support I mean actually PUSH for it *glares at passive Obama* -- Pelosi is a bit better). So on the one hand they say "we need you to help us fight" on the other, when we do push we're whiners and why are you criticizing us?

2) Some of the "netroots" are leftists, but aren't Democrats. If you want people on the left to support the Democratic party you should start taking actual left-wing stands.
posted by symbioid at 2:35 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have hung out in my country for any number of years, enough to get a bit discouraged of late. While I know that the Republicans over and over in recent times have nearly always been unified against spending and changing things that would benefit people in need of help and assistance, our friends on the left, or in the middle, are not always to be counted upon either.

I think the problem, as I see it, can best be seen in the article today by Paul Krugman. He notes that clearly climate control is needed, and despite science and good people trying to change things, in just about every instance, when one looks behind various movements and groups opposed to climate control change, one finds the strong imprint ot the energy lobby, whose conern to make money outweighs the public good and our future.

And then, in addtion to the lobbies, there is the military establishment--not just the warrior mentality but the huge industrial lconnection that makes zillions from keeping us fully armed and at war. As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out years ago, in the US, we have socialism for the large corporations--funded, subsidized, and able to get huge tax breaks, and capitalism for the middle and lower classes, playing catch as catch can with their lives.

As for the GOP, their approach is rather simple: pretend to be on the high road by declaring you support something BUT only if something else is done first. Be for changing immigration but not till our borders are secure. Be for helping out the unemployed but only when the budget is in better shape, etc etc.

The public will vote in the next election NOT against the Dems because the GOP has consistently been against change but because , well, the job market is bad and the economy has not fully improved so let us change the party in power and then perhaps the GOP can correct things...in sum, vote against sense that says the GOP has shown it has no specific programs to make things better other than muttering the platitudes that the deficit is unwieldly and the Dems are soft on war.
posted by Postroad at 2:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


If a nation refuses to do this then they can be regarded as at the very least co-conspirators if not being actually at war with the US, and the response should be to do them harm.

I doubt this would be as effective as you think it would be. Take, just for instance, Pakistan. There are certainly elements of the Pakistani government that are friendly to Al Qaeda, or friendly to people who are friendly to Al Qaeda (the Taliban). It would be comfortably within the U.S. military's capabilities to obliterate the infrastructure of any or all of Pakistan's cities, tomorrow (although something might have to be done about their nuclear arsenal first).

But supposing we did decide to do something like that, perhaps reminiscent of the Vietnam-era Arclight missions, it's not clear that it would actually do much to disrupt Al Qaeda. Pounding the infrastructure into rubble and decapitating the current government might, in fact, do quite the opposite, and lead to a power grab by people who are even less friendly to the U.S. than the current leadership (which is probably as friendly as a government there can be without getting literally decapitated themselves).

Similarly, it's a tossup whether attacking Iran would lead to a takeover by more pro-Western elements, or if it would lead to a retrenchment that would roll back even the limited liberalization that has occurred over the past few decades since the Revolution, and just further destabilize and radicalize the whole region. Iran as it currently exists is far from the worst thing that could be there, and there are a lot of things the U.S. could do that would make the situation worse, from a purely self-interested perspective (e.g. oil flows from the Gulf, on which we are rather dependent), rather than better. At some point this calculus might, I suppose, change, although I have seen little evidence for it; the rational case for war with Iran seems rather thin. (That said, it's not as though rationality always carries the day; there was never a rational argument for invading Iraq -- the total value of the oil always exceeded the estimates for the total cost of the war+occupation. Unless, of course, you view it as a transfer from the taxpayers to someone else.)

The reason that "nuke them until they glow and then shoot them in the dark" has not been seriously pursued as a matter of strategy is not because of an overabundance of bleeding hearts in the DoD; it's because it's not a very good strategy. Bluntly, terrorism is not an existential threat to the U.S., however much it may resonate in the public consciousness; destabilization of the world order, nuclear war, or $10/gal gas would be. Thus there are a host of 'cures' which are within the military's capabilities that are far worse than the 'disease.'

As with most complex problems, there are a lot of answers to geopolitical dilemmas that are simple, easy, and wrong.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:47 PM on July 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


*glares at passive Obama* -- Pelosi is a bit better

I would argue that Reid and Pelosi are the proverbial anchor chains wrapped around Obama's neck, not the other way 'round.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:51 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you want people on the left to support the Democratic party you should start taking actual left-wing stands.

Look, I'm not left wing, nor am I a Democrat. I am actually a true Independent, and still would classify myself as a moderate.

But here's the thing. If Rs take the majority, they will be very hard right, and they will vote as a bloc. The Rs are great at party discipline. I remember this well from being an R, and everyone has gotten a good look at R voting unity for many, many years now.

So, the choice isn't between left wing and merely moderate to progressive. The choice is moderate to progressive versus hard right.

I am quite certain that as long as the left keeps saying they'd like to see a lot of Democrats go in November,and acting that way, they will get their wish. Thing is, it won't be left wing folks taking those D seats.
posted by bearwife at 3:00 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ugh. I am full of typos today.

[...] the total value of the oil alwaysnever exceeded the estimates for the total cost of the war+occupation

Although it's worth clarifying that I think what was under analysis was the change in value to purchasers in the U.S., i.e. that there was no way that the war was going to result in cheaper oil, enough to justify the cost of the invasion. (I remember reading this somewhere, maybe in the WSJ or Globe, sometime in 02 or 03.) This is actually a pretty obvious statement in retrospect since oil prices went up, not down, in the intervening years, and thus the U.S. taxpayer not only paid for the war, but didn't see cheaper gas either. Arguably quite the opposite.

Some different people end up getting the profits, perhaps, but the assumption was that it's basically a wash so far as the U.S. consumer is concerned. (Admittedly this may have been begging the question.)

The bottom line is that Saddam would have been more than happy to sell us Iraq's oil at market price if we had let him, and that doing so would have not only spared us the cost of a war but would have resulted in cheaper oil as well, perhaps prolonging the petroleum-fueled Pax Americana a few years longer than it will probably last the way things actually went down.

I'll have to see if I can find that article some day. It was in retrospect quite prescient.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:07 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Essentially, democracy, at least as it's practiced in the USA, doesn't work.

This failure to work is built into the system.

At some point, something really bad will happen and the system of government will have to change.

This really bad thing will either happen from the outside or be a sign of the system breaking down and will not be anything fully controlled by anyone within the system.

Sort of like with all systems.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The choice is moderate to progressive versus hard right.

I hate to keep pointing this out in each thread, but if that's the way we play the game then we lose. If we score +2 for each Democratic administration and -10 for each Republican one, it doesn't take a game theorist to see that we're soon in the hole.

It's worth losing a round of the game to try to establish a party that can really score the big Progressive wins - wins that actually roll back some of the horrors of the last 30 years or so. We cannot go on this way.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:30 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


In a nutshell, Americans don't want to be taxed at a level to pay for the government that they want.

I do, and I bet you'd be surprised at how many other Americans do, too.
posted by luvcraft at 3:50 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


It is much easier and cheaper to harm another nation than to rebuild it. We could call it the tit for tat law. This is simple to the point of childishness, but the world is full of stupid people. If al Qaeda was in any sense an intelligent organization they would have known better than to attack the US. But they are living in their own dream world. So we should deal with them in a way that they will understand. You harm us, we'll harm you. That is all. No nation building. Build your own nation if you so desire.

You've taken your eye off the ball. Breaking other countries creates terrorist attacks. Tit for Tat just makes this enemy stronger and more numerous. The enemy is not countries or areas, (even though it is sometimes geographically concentrated), it is disaffected individuals, seeking to lash out, who find each other and work with each other.

Breaking countries replaces people's prosperity with poverty and hardship. It changes people's futures from ones filled with opportunity to ones of hopelessness and powerlessness to affect (and effect) your destiny. And it gives people a target for the resulting hatred.

Terrorism thrives in broken countries. Terrorism has no need of building nations. Building nations is what defeats it. Israel special ops pretty much proved that even terrorists willing to die for their cause, loose interest in their cause when they've got a hawt girlfriend to love and a nice home and a kid to raise and look out for, and the rewards of security in life, the opportunities of prosperity. Building a better life is what kills terrorism. Hurting people is what creates it.

There is also the problem of when is it just? After 911, the USA demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban basically said "Can you give us some evidence he was involved? We're not sure he's your man, and we're not sure you'd give him a fair trial if we handed him over". That's not an entirely unreasonable stance to take. The USA refused to provide evidence, and issued an ultimatum, which it then followed up on. (In belated defense of US action, there was some reason to distrust the taliban would hand over Bin Laden if evidence was provided)
But either way, your tit-for-tat doctrine already seems to be in effect.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, Joe Beese, how happy are you with R positions on overseas war launching and pursuing, extraordinary renditions, torturing, indefinite detentions of U.S. citizens, etc. etc.?

You speak of "R positions" on these matters as if they are meaningfully different than "D positions". They are not.

Obama pursues overseas wars. He tortures. And he doesn't just indefinitely confine American citizens - he murders them.

But only when he absolutely has to, I'm sure. And with a great heaviness on his peace-loving heart.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


After 911, the USA demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban basically said "Can you give us some evidence he was involved? We're not sure he's your man, and we're not sure you'd give him a fair trial if we handed him over". That's not an entirely unreasonable stance to take. The USA refused to provide evidence, and issued an ultimatum

And I might add that there is no decent evidence that he was involved, even to this day. What there is instead is highly dubious audio and video footage provided by the US military and purporting to be of/from OBL--that, and a lot of anecdotal evidence that the man himself is most likely dead. Oh, and a whole lot of evidence that the Bush administration knew the attacks were going to occur.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 4:02 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's worth losing a round of the game to try to establish a party that can really score the big Progressive wins

Yeah, I heard that argument in the 2000 elections, and look how things turned out.

The problem with this strategy is that Republicans are absolutely ruthless in exploiting the prerogatives of incumbency. Remember the voting rights cases screwed up because of the GOP attorneys scandal? Remember the redistricting shenanigans pulled by Tom DeLay? These were all designed to create "lock-in" effects that lead to self-perpetuating Republican rule for decades on end. Just because it didn't work the first time, that doesn't mean that the Republicans won't get it right on the second try. You may think it's OK to let the Republicans have another bite at the apple, but this is based on an excessively optimistic belief that the political system will homeostatically balance itself again after too much Republicanism.
posted by jonp72 at 4:04 PM on July 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


The perfect is the enemy counter-productive ally of the good Joe Beese.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


there was no way that the war was going to result in cheaper oil, enough to justify the cost of the invasion. (I remember reading this somewhere, maybe in the WSJ or Globe, sometime in 02 or 03.) This is actually a pretty obvious statement in retrospect since oil prices went up, not down, in the intervening years, and thus the U.S. taxpayer not only paid for the war, but didn't see cheaper gas either. Arguably quite the opposite.

As I understand it, the war for oil arguement was not about cheaper oil today, it was that Cheney and the like are intensely aware that oil production is on the verge of being unable to keep pace with global demand, and strategically, the worst position to be in when the screws start to tighten is at the mercy of international markets.
This is part of Cheney's hardpolitik - that American might is utterly dependent on oil, and to save America As We Know It, it is worth almost any price to ensure that sufficient oil reserves be under American (or American corporate) control.

Well, that and the Right People making shitloads of money when the prices go up :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would argue that Reid and Pelosi are the proverbial anchor chains wrapped around Obama's neck, not the other way 'round.

Politically, from the standpoint of Republican talking points? Absolutely.

Legislatively, from the standpoint of corralling their cat-herd members into securing multiple progressive legislative victories? Absolutely not.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:08 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The single greatest cause of our fiscal mess is the cost of maintaining our global military empire. And I haven't noticed the Democrats proposing to do anything about that.

Actually, the third link in this post shows that the cost of the Bush tax cuts adds much more to the deficit than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by jonp72 at 4:11 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Things will be so much better when the Republicans control the government again and we can feel better because their guys are being hell monsters instead of our guys being heck monsters.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: "Social Security is, in my assessment, probably the biggest issue that we'll have to make some very tough decisions on. Social Security as it was originally envisioned, with a huge endowment-like trust fund, probably would have worked okay, but Washington couldn't resist the temptation to raid that particular piggy bank, and turned it into what would be, if it were run by anyone but the government, a Ponzi scheme. Today's benefits are paid not by interest, but by current contributions that are passed through -- yet a rather surprising (to me) number of people don't realize this, and think about it as essentially a government-run, mandatory savings bank."

I don't think this is totally wrong. If it was a government-run, mandatory savings bank, what would it do with the money? Invest it in 'safe' investments, like government bonds. Which is, to my understanding, exactly what it's doing. The problem is not so much with Social Security but with the government's balance sheet outside of SS, and the fact that various administrations, in order to make the budget more palatable, have taken to pretending that the money from SS is simple revenue and not something that will have to be paid back.
posted by alexei at 4:47 PM on July 26, 2010


Since the American people threw out Bush I in part for realising the predicament, going back on his word and raising taxes the Republicans changed and when they controlled both the Whitehouse and Congress they were financially irresponsible.

It is, however, worth putting US debt in context globally.

The list of countries by public debt ranks the US at 47th place. Well behind countries with a larger government including France, Germany, the UK and Canada.

These countries all have a similar problem.

There is one large rich country that has low debt - Australia, where the centre-right party, The Liberal Party, decided to reduce debt. The current centre-Left party in control of Australia has resumed increasing the deficit even while the economy is growing at 3%.

The problem of debt is a problem with democracy. Every incumbent party can try to raise their popularity with debt which their successors will have to pay.

An answer could be a balanced budget law but not one as strict as that imposed by US states. If, say, growth were predicted to be above 1% then the government would be bound to balance the budget. Some exceptions could perhaps be created, but creating such a law might actually help politicians as it would remove the ability to slowly increase the debt.

It would force trade-offs to be made and governments to be financially sustainable.
posted by sien at 5:15 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It worked really well with Germany and Japan after WW II

Nation building is always so much easier when there is a functioning infrastructure. In Iraq we destroyed it. In Afghanistan, there never was one.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:19 PM on July 26, 2010


SURELY THI
+++ATH
NO CARRIER

posted by Rat Spatula at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is totally wrong. If it was a government-run, mandatory savings bank, what would it do with the money? Invest it in 'safe' investments, like government bonds. Which is, to my understanding, exactly what it's doing.

No, it's not. The "securities" that the SSA "holds" for the OASI and DI trust funds (there are actually two, although generally people refer to them together) are non-marketable 'virtual' securities. They're not true bonds in any sense. The SSA doesn't have to go down and purchase them at auction like anyone else does, and most importantly they're not counted as US government debt.

That last part is by far the most troubling. The SSA isn't getting real Treasury Notes; it's getting something much more nebulous. It's theoretically backed by the same "full faith and credit," but because they're not the same sort of instruments, they're not treated the same way by the Treasury, they don't count against the national debt or other government obligations... it's all very hand-wavey.

It's as though you're out soliciting for loans for some purpose, and you have a ledger. People come up and lend you money, and you carefully note down how much you owe them, how much they're going to get paid back, the interest rate, etc. And then I come up and hand you some money, and you just stick it in your pocket without writing anything down. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I'd be a little suspicious about ever seeing that money again, or that I was going to be treated the same way as the other people, who have their debts noted down where everyone can see them. But that's exactly what happens to SSA debt. It's not carried on the government's books like everything else.

If we're going to have a program like Social Security — and at this point it's sort of a fait accompli, for better or worse — we should at least treat it as well as we treat the People's Bank of China.

If I could propose a single change to Social Security it would be that: the SSA has to invest the Trust Fund(s) by purchasing Treasury bills and notes at open auction, at prevailing interest rates, and that the bills or notes thus sold have to be treated in exactly the same way that a bill or note held by any other entity would be treated in terms of its accounting.

The net effect of this would be to make it clear, in governmental debt calculations, exactly how big the SSA's liabilities are, which would probably have some positive effects on tax policy. It would also almost certainly increase prevailing interest rates, as it should, because it's a living shitton of government borrowing. (It would probably increase it in two ways; first, because there would be so much additional demand from the SSA as a market participant, also I suspect there would be a greater default risk — which ought to be built-in today since the situation wouldn't really be changing, it would just be more obvious.) In order to keep interest rates under control, the government would have to alter fiscal or monetary policy accordingly, which would probably include curtailing other borrowing activities. That's probably a good thing.

The depressing thing about SSA is that it's almost a responsibly run program. I suspect the actual accounting inside SSA is pretty good. Where the ball gets dropped is purely on the Treasury side, and it's entirely intentional. It doesn't have to be broken, and it wouldn't take that much to fix it, or at least put it on the right course. It's just that doing so would require standing in front of the public and holding up some really big numbers written in red ink, and no politician seems to be particularly interested in doing that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:31 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


when the Baby Boomers vote to tax their children

Puh-leeze. The Greatest Generation already did that in the '80s, with the Reagan tax cuts. Then we all did it again, with the Bush tax cuts. That's all a budget deficit is, pushing today's costs onto a later generation. Time for people to wake up and realize that somebody has to pay taxes, or the country fails.

Greece got into its current mess because they weren't collecting taxes. At least they had a sensible set of tax rates on the books. We seem to think we can get everything we want for free.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:44 PM on July 26, 2010


it's all very hand-wavey.

But isn't the "Trust Fund" itself all hand-wavey? I mean, how does the government owe the government money? Your example of the guy taking loans is taking it from himself, isn't he? The social security obligations are just that, obligations. Until changed by law, they remain financial obligations of the exact same government, don't they? Collecting "interest" doesn't change the situation one iota, does it?
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:45 PM on July 26, 2010


Nation building is always so much easier when there is a functioning infrastructure.

Functioning infrastructure? Germany and Japan 1945?

Back of the class for you.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:47 PM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


You speak of "R positions" on these matters as if they are meaningfully different than "D positions". They are not.

This is only true for people who can't tell the difference between their ideal policy and anything else.

It's also sometimes a warning sign of impending decline of the cognitive ability to use nuance, and you should really get that checked out, particularly if you find that you've been having trouble recognizing incremental gains as well.
posted by namespan at 5:49 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Republicans are political geniuses. Period.

By pandering to the lowest common denominator, who out number the rest of us, they easily stack the deck in their favor. They're greedy and immoral. Things that may be beneath others.

It's like a morality play. The good guy always comes in last. Unless...he or she is a great leader with a vision of the future that captures the imagination of EVERY citizen.

The culture of the greedy super-wealthy will be a tough nut to crack, but they can be convinced that they will still have huge profit margins.
posted by snsranch at 5:50 PM on July 26, 2010


Functioning infrastructure.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:55 PM on July 26, 2010


By pandering to the lowest common denominator, who out number the rest of us, they easily stack the deck in their favor.

Yeah. I hate that McCain and Palin won in 2008. It should've been Obama.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Odd Couple: Frank And Paul Target Military Spending
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on July 26, 2010


Yeah. I hate that McCain and Palin won in 2008. It should've been Obama.

Do you think it at all reasonable that it was even in the vicinity of close? That McCain/Palin had any kind of chance, were even credible contenders?

Stacking the deck might only take you so far, but it'll take you pretty fucking far.
posted by kafziel at 7:57 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Puh-leeze. The Greatest Generation already did that in the '80s, with the Reagan tax cuts.

And those tax cuts were never really rolled back, resulting in Baby Boomers being able to spend basically their entire working lives so far (the last three decades) without paying in their share. You can't say that about Depression kids.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:59 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's worth losing a round of the game to try to establish a party that can really score the big Progressive wins - wins that actually roll back some of the horrors of the last 30 years or so.

Don't you actually mean:

"It's worth losing a round of the game to try to establish a party that can really score the big Conservative wins - wins that actually roll back some of the horrors of the last 80 years or so."

The strategy has worked pretty damn well for the Republicans. 1980-1992, 2000-2008, and coming up, 2012-2020. Every time we let them get into power they keep rolling back the progressive gains of the last century, in a desire to return the nation to the 19th century. And when the Republicans take Congress this fall, they'll spend their time creating impeachment motions and making sure no law passes and there will be budget deadlock for the next two years.

And yet the cynical Left in America is happy with this prospect, because they always prefer it when the Conservatives are in power. That way they can retreat into daydreams of how much better things would be if only, if only, they were in charge. As far as the left is concerned, the more abstract their policy ideals are, and the further they are from being compromised by real politics, the better.

Really, the Left and the Right are similar in that they both think American government does ot work. The Right though has people to vote for that agree with that idea.
posted by happyroach at 9:07 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are several thoughtful replies to my political analysis of the situation (all disagreeing with me) and I am not going to reply to every point - I could, but my time is limited. The claim that terrorism is not an existential threat to the US (stated by Kadin2048) suggests that the best response to terrorism is to ignore it - who cares if they destroy a few buildings or airplanes, right? We have lots more. The problem with this approach is that if terrorists or anybody else are allowed to attack the US with impunity, that will encourage further attacks. The destruction of the World Trade Center obviously did not destroy the US, or even New York City, but that doesn't mean that continued attacks would not eventually do so. The US must be prepared to defend itself when it is attacked, otherwise it just becomes a ripe fruit waiting for anyone to pick. The question then is, how can the US defend itself? The current strategy is not working very well - the cost of the current wars is so high that it presents a greater threat to the US than the terrorism which it is supposed to prevent.

It is true that a more destructive response would be disruptive and could, as you say, lead to higher gas prices. We need to stop using so much gas anyway. For the US to allow itself to be perpetually held hostage by oil exporting nations is a terrible national policy, and that problem has been recognized (but not solved) by every President since Nixon (who called for energy independence by the year 1980).

I am not really looking for an apocalyptic war between the US and the Islamic world, anymore than I thought that the best solution for the Cold War was for the US and the USSR to just slug it out until one or both sides were utterly destroyed. However, the fear of mutual annihilation was very salutory for US-Soviet relations. We had to at least be able to make the threat, and we had to be prepared to carry it out if necessary. I think that the US needs to adopt a less altruistic and more threatening stance toward those who are currently trying to destroy it. The idea that if you attack the US, the result is that new schools and hospitals are going to be built in your country, is not acting as a great deterrant. The US has ruthless enemies and it must be prepared to be equally or even more ruthless. If not, the US will fail. It is simply not big enough, wealthy enough, or powerful enough to remake the whole world in its own image.
posted by grizzled at 5:34 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I always really like it when a former Republican breaks with the party and starts expressing their own opinion.

People should be encouraged to think for themselves and do what they believe to be right, rather than punished with finger-wagging and "I told you so".

I guess I'm just very fond of the idea of a loyal opposition.
posted by lucien_reeve at 6:10 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Department of Complete 180 Degree Intellectual Reversals - "Niall Ferguson, New York Times, December 12, 2003 -- President Both: Bush Can Have Both Guns and Butter, At Least for Now"

Do Deficits Matter? Not to US Bond Buyers - "US two-year notes are selling with the lowest interest rates — ever"

Which party's agenda was this supposed to be, again? - "RAMESH PONNURU has a post up at the Washington Post advancing a potential agenda for Republican candidates this year. Ross Douthat likes it. So does Reihan Salam. Here's the problem I see: I suspect its planks could largely be embraced by most of the Democrats in Congress without too much trouble."

A property-owning democracy - "John Rawls offered a general set of principles of justice that were formally neutral across specific institutions. However, he also believed that the institutions of a "property-owning democracy" are most likely to satisfy the two principles of justice."

"Happiness economics" in reverse: Does happiness affect productivity? - "Happiness economics typically looks at how macro-level variables such as economic growth affect happiness. This column turns such thinking on its head and asks whether a rise in happiness might change behaviour at the micro-level, looking specifically at productivity. Experiments suggest that happiness raises productivity by increase workers' effort. Economists may need to take the emotional state of economic agents seriously."

Who has gained from the inequality boom? - "It's striking that, on the CBO figures, the tax system is almost exactly proportional: that is, it has no net redistributive effect at all. The top 1 per cent have a somewhat smaller share of post-tax income than of (measured) pre-tax income, but that almost certainly reflects their capacity to hide income from the tax system."

22 Statistics That Prove The Middle Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn't tell us that the "global economy" would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

The reality is that no matter how smart, how strong, how educated or how hard working American workers are, they just cannot compete with people who are desperate to put in 10 to 12 hour days at less than a dollar an hour on the other side of the world. After all, what corporation in their right mind is going to pay an American worker ten times more (plus benefits) to do the same job? The world is fundamentally changing. Wealth and power are rapidly becoming concentrated at the top and the big global corporations are making massive amounts of money. Meanwhile, the American middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence as U.S. workers are slowly being merged into the new "global" labor pool.
Is America Facing an Increase in Structural Unemployment, and If So, What Should be Done About It?

Uncertainty about Regulation and Taxes is *Not* the Problem

Die young, live fast - "Evolutionary psychologist Daniel Nettle claims that a lot of the social problems associated with socioeconomic deprivation are actually evolutionarily adaptive strategies for maximising opportunities when faced with uncertain prospects."

A Deeper Kind of Joblessness
Reviving the ghost of the great John Maynard Keynes, economists from Paul Krugman, to Brad DeLong, to Martin Wolf, to Bruce Bartlett, are chalking up a jobless recovery to a lack of aggregate demand. I'd like to advance a suggestion: it's not just the quantity of demand that's problematic — it's also the quality of demand.

So let's talk about jobs — how they're created, and, conversely, how they vanish ... Every time I buy something from your local big-box retailer, it's not that, as protectionists and "patriots" often claim, that I'm destroying an American job. In fact, it's worse: I just might be helping stamp out the idea that there should be jobs as we know them.
Consider: the bulk of that stuff is made, when we cut through the triumphant rhetoric of globalization, by people who are "sub(sub-sub)-contractors," enjoying few, if any, of the benefits we associate with "jobs" — security, tenure, benefits, labor standards, etc. And, of course, when those privileges are gained, production is simply moved to countries, regions, and cities where they haven't been.

Low quality demand, then, means that we buy cheap, but the price is invisibly steep: it ignites a global race to the bottom, what a complexity economist might call a dynamic equilibrium of negative consumption externalities, consumption that results not just in joblessness but a loss in the quality of jobs. The quality of a job is sparked by higher quality demand; or, valuing more than just the dollar price of a thing, but also its human and social impact. When we have low-quality demand, we have low-quality jobs. When we value McDonalds, the result is McJobs.

[...]

Contrast it, then, with what you might call high-quality demand. Every so often, I take my own step, in a little experiment I started about a year ago: I buy specific items in my own little budget from a (preferably local) artisan — made with love, care, and respect — but which cost 20-30% more.

Now, my friends, folks, and colleagues seeing only the cost differential, think I'm going a little nuts. Here's what they don't see: that I'm deliberately attempting to see if I can also factor in a different set of benefits: the benefit I enjoy from helping support something and someone I actually care about, the benefits of having a trusted, ongoing relationship with them, instead of merely mutely, anonymously consuming mass-made "product."

Now, maybe I'm just a soft-hearted fool. But my little experiment is changing how, what, and where I buy — and what kinds of benefits I enjoy. In short, my preferences are changing radically: I do enjoy the stuff above, and often, I enjoy it more than the generic, disconnected, alienating stuff I used to "consume." I'm learning to value not just the financial cost of stuff, but, more deeply, its often-invisible, yet still very real, human and social benefits. I suspect that if we are to create tomorrow's jobs, it will require a sea change in preferences.

Note, here, a key nuance. Shifting jobs to lower-wage countries is a tremendous boon to the impoverished. But it would be an even bigger boon if it weren't a double whammy: if, sneakily, we didn't also denude jobs of quality as they were shifted overseas; if the wage differential itself was enough, instead of exploiting a lack of governance and legislation as well; if that which makes a job more than just mere work didn't get, ever so conveniently, lost in translation.

Were that not to have happened already, people around the globe might have had more to spend, and more time to invest in spending it, with less risk — and so perhaps the global economy's problem of aggregate quantity of demand might currently be less severe. As Ford presciently saw a century ago: "well-managed business pays high wages and sells at low prices. Its workmen have the leisure to enjoy life and the wherewithal with which to finance that enjoyment."

Yet, even that depends on a more fundamental cause: higher quality demand. Because to generate higher wages, more leisure, better standards, work that affords space for passion, care, and respect — to offer that to, well one another — we might just have to learn to value the human, natural, and social more, first.
The Real Tea Party Begins Here - "Find out the REAL cause of the Boston Tea Party (it wasn't tea taxes) & learn how a public state bank could remove our debt, permanently. There IS enough money to meet our needs, it is just held by monopoly powers who falsely claim the country is broke. Understand the lie, then do something about it. Support state banks." [video]
posted by kliuless at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


Functioning infrastructure? Germany and Japan 1945?

Compared to Iraq and Afghanistan?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:36 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have a link to the page I saw recently, probably via an economics blog...

It showed the downward trend of every economic measure since, oh jeez, would you look at that... 1982 or so... Right when Reagonomics became the dominant economic paradigm.

I'd love to find it and bookmark it, but I can't seem to find it anymore. Kliuless, with all your links, perhaps you've seen it/saved it? *crossesfingers*
posted by symbioid at 9:38 AM on July 27, 2010


I think that the US needs to adopt a less altruistic and more threatening stance toward those who are currently trying to destroy it. The idea that if you attack the US, the result is that new schools and hospitals are going to be built in your country, is not acting as a great deterrent. The US has ruthless enemies and it must be prepared to be equally or even more ruthless.

Well, the U.S. isn't really fighting a country as a whole, is it? So lashing out against a population that is completely uninvolved in attacking the United States would make no sense at all, and would actually be hugely counterproductive. What should we be trying to deter the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan (for instance) from? Living? The entire point of this military adventure is supposed to be to turn the population of the nation against the small subset of individuals that live inside its borders who are involved in some sort of terrorist/ extremist group.

So the U.S. finds itself in the ironic position of trying to deploy armed forces to prevent violence.
posted by _cave at 9:41 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The idea that if you attack the US, the result is that new schools and hospitals are going to be built in your country, is not acting as a great deterrant.

Who is getting this idea? We're building schools in Iraq. Iraq has never attacked the USA. The terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I ahve been advised (on another site) that terrorism is the ultimate weapon. It can come from anywhere, any person might turn out to be a terrorist. There is no defense. You never know whom to retaliate against. This is similar to your statement, _cave, that lashing out against a population that is completely uninvolved in attacking the United States would make no sense at all. But then, acts of senseless destruction are committed all the time, and lots of people believe that they serve some purpose. Why did terrorists destroy the World Trade Center, killing people who had never attacked or harmed those terrorists in any way? It's actually worse than that. If Osama bin Laden planned the attack (which has been challenged earlier in this discussion, but which nonetheless appears to be the case) he was an ally of the US, which had given him tremendous assistance in defeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Then he turns around and bites the hand that fed him. Or the terrorists from Saudi Arabia or Egypt - the US has been good to those countries. The US defends them and gives them foreign aid.

So, we can consider outselves to be helpless in the face of terrorism, or we can adopt the ultimate weapon for ourselves and also be terrorists. Crazy, yes, but we live in a crazy world. Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them. We are not speaking to people in their own language.
posted by grizzled at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2010


grizzled, this is turning into a derail that I'd be delighted to talk about elsewhere but am not sure is appropriate for this thread (I suck at Metafilter conversational rules sometimes)?
posted by _cave at 11:36 AM on July 27, 2010


(Meta)
posted by _cave at 11:43 AM on July 27, 2010


Why did terrorists destroy the World Trade Center, killing people who had never attacked or harmed those terrorists in any way? It's actually worse than that. If Osama bin Laden planned the attack

The entire problem here is one of incorrectly framing the issue. The destruction of the World Trade Center was not an attack-- it was a criminal act. Bin Ladin (or whomever) was not acting on behalf of any government or international body, but rather on his own, for his own purposes-- this constitutes a criminal act. It is not an act of war, but of lawbreaking. Thus, we are not helpless in the face of terrorism, because terrorism poses no threat to our nation, any more than shoplifting or armed robbery or serial killers. Terrorists are not going to invade America, annex our land, or impose inhumane laws in occupied territory. It isn't a war. Thus, efforts to 'win' are useless, because there is no entity to win over, no other to conquer, no force to stop. Like any other crime, we attempt to prevent it, and when that fails, we bring to justice the criminals involved.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:50 AM on July 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


So, we can consider outselves to be helpless in the face of terrorism, or we can adopt the ultimate weapon for ourselves and also be terrorists.

If you become a terrorist, you become my enemy.

The USA has signed the Geneva convention. The Geneva convention is the law of this land.
If a democratic majority repeals that law so that the USA can become a rogue nation, then the USA will crumble, because it can't prosper in this interdependent world without good international relations. The economy no-longer works that way (actually, it never did).
posted by -harlequin- at 12:46 PM on July 27, 2010


Lots of issues are being raised, and as _cave points out, they are somewhat off-topic. But they are connected by a logical thread, nonetheless. Republicans vs. Democrats, who is responsible for the economic problems of the US, is military spending the problem, and if it is, how does the US deal with the problem of national defense? Is there a better way to deal with terrorism? It seemsto be a logical sequence.

I have difficulty in classifying acts of terrorisn as criminal acts rather than acts of war. The jihadis, the holy warriors of Islam, are very clear in stating their intention to wage war against the decadent non-Islamic Western world. Jihad is preached daily in mosques and terrorist training camps. Terrorist attacks occur every day in many countries. There are vast insurgencies, there is military and financial backing ftrom Iran. Districts in Afghanistan are overrun br religious fanatics. This beyond the realm of crime. The police cannot arrest so many well-armed criminals. Even NATO is having trouble with it. This is a hell of a crime wave.

There is a lot to say on this issue but I have some other matters I have to attend to at the moment. I will post more later.
posted by grizzled at 1:02 PM on July 27, 2010


-harlequin- does not want the US to commit acts of terrorism, or to violate the Geneva convention, or to become a rogue nation. It would certainly be better if the US never had to do those things. I just do not know what other recourse the US has. If terrorism is the ultimate weapon capable of defeating all others, and the US is too virtuous to use it, then logically the US must be defeated. Certainly the enemies of the US care nothing for the Geneva convention or any other conventions of international behavior; remember the seizure of the US embassy in Iran? One of the militants who seized the embassy, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, is now President of Iran. So while the incident was decades in the past, it remains very relevant. Iran respects no international conventions, and neither do the terrorists whom they support. So the US must fight at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, the US will not gain the respect of the Muslim world by fighting fair or by observing the Geneva convention. To terrorists, generosity or even simple decency is a sign of weakness, whereas cruelty is a sign of strength. When the US tries to rebuild nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it is showing signs of weakness, as far as terrorists are concerned. And weakness invites attack. You may remember when Chairman Mao called the US a paper tiger. He knew that the US has great military strength, but also knew that the US would only use that strength to a very limited degree. To the terrorists, the US is a paper tiger. They can always attack the US because the US will never be as vicious or as ruthless as the terrorists who are attacking it. The US has moral scruples. So, what does that get the US? The US is currently fighting two really expensive wars that it cannot afford and, it seems, cannot win. So, the US can simply declare victory and withdraw its forces. But what happens the next time the US is attacked? What can the US do? We don't want any more expensive unwinnable wars. Nor do we want to be helpless in the face of terrorism. Logically the alternative is to change tactics. If the US were to show the same lack of concern about human life that terrorists do, then the US would finally get some respect and stop being a paper tiger.
posted by grizzled at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2010


How will terrorism defeat the US? What are the circumstances of this defeat?

Also, why do you think you know what terrorists respect?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:10 PM on July 27, 2010


"A CIA report has determined with "relative certainty" that Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was not involved in the taking of U.S. hostages 26 years ago, three government officials told CNN ... Another U.S. official said the tone of the report is that there is no evidence to date that the new Iranian president was among those who held U.S. diplomats hostage.[9]"
It's always fun to take media myths and lies that support a regime of propaganda and use them in arguments, even when evidence refutes them...
posted by symbioid at 2:56 PM on July 27, 2010


The problem with U.S. politics, and frankly it's deeper than politics, in many ways it's the key problem with the United States generally,

Is that we have an under-, and unfairly, funded education system, which leads to ill-informed citizens, which leads to ill-informed voters (e.g. voting against their economic interests when they whole-heartedly believe they are voting for them, etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum).

PACs, lobbyists, the byzantine "rules" of political donations, corporations are now, for all intents and purposes, "people": all of these are huge problems with the American political system, but proper education about civics, politics, and critical thinking could trump most of those problems in a generation or less. This is a huge part of why education in this country has been defunded and defunded until teachers are spending their own money to acquire 35 copies of assigned books for the 35 students they have in each class. If your constituents don't know shit, they'll believe any old shit you tell them. It's not a conspiracy; it's smart politics.
posted by tzikeh at 2:58 PM on July 27, 2010


f terrorism is the ultimate weapon capable of defeating all others, and the US is too virtuous to use it, then logically the US must be defeated.

Terrorism is the ultimate weapon of the powerless and the disaffected and the weak, it is not capable of defeating all others, not even close, it is merely capable of elevating two-bit nothing players to the lower rungs of the big boys games. That is a very impressive achievement, so it is indeed the ultimate weapon in that sense, but it's hardly an ultimate weapon in your "oh no! what can we do?!" empire-buster sense. It's far to weak.

Look at Israel and Palestine. Your playbook has been in use for decades. It hasn't achieved any kind of victory over anything for anyone. Fighting fire with fire just perpetuates the mess. Look at the IRA and Britain. Terrorism can allow ruthless players to punch above their weight in many respects for a short time, but it's nothing like the ultimate weapon that a nation should be fearful of.

So it doesn't follow at all that the US must be defeated, because it's just not true that terrorism defeats everything. Historically, terrorism is weak.

And if the USA were to become a terrorist nation, then why would you or I care what ugly fate happens to such an evil and despicable nation? It's own citizens will be happy to burn such an abomination to the ground, and build something decent in its place.

Many hold that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:14 PM on July 27, 2010


And yet the cynical Left in America is happy with this prospect, because they always prefer it when the Conservatives are in power.

Reminds me of how the Communists stabbed the Anarchists in the back in Spain, then ended up with 35 years of Franco.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:22 PM on July 27, 2010


If terrorism is the ultimate weapon capable of defeating all others, and the US is too virtuous to use it, then logically the US must be defeated.

Your first if is a mighty big one, and your argument falls apart if it is not granted.

Your second if is counterfactual. The US has been perfectly content to use terrorism. What do you think the term "shock and awe" refers to? What do you call breaking into houses and searching them in the middle of the night? What do you call shooting farmers plowing their fields from helicopters? What do you think the destruction of Fallujah was?

Since the truth value of both of your premises is questionable, your conclusion is equally questionable, and it's inverse, which is what you are really arguing, that the US must engage in terrorism in order to "win," is equally questionable.

The US has been kidnapping people, assassinating people, torturing people, massacring people, and what has it gained us? Are Iraq and Afghanistan pacified? Is Bin Laden captured? Has Pakistan ceased to backstab our efforts? We're doing what you think is necessary, and the results are failure. Does that mean we should keep doing it?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:27 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute...

A majority of American people said they wanted to have a beer with a guy [Bush] who not only doesn't even drink, he also thinks alcohol caused great harm to his own life.

Maybe the people who want to have a beer with him have ulterior motives?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 PM on July 27, 2010


Why do France, Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada, and Germany have so much more public debt than us? I like to think of them as more fiscally responsible. Thankfully, the other more social democratic nations of Europe, which I tend to glorify (Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, etc) rank below us.
posted by whatgorilla at 10:41 PM on July 27, 2010


Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them. We are not speaking to people in their own language.

What is all this talk about "if" the U. S. were a terrorist nation? grizzled, you yourself talk about how OSB used to be an ally of the U. S.; in the Soviet war in Afghanistan we armed and trained the mujahideen - to commit acts of terrorism! That training included things like how to construct car bombs to use against the Soviets. We do use terrorism and it frequently blows up in our faces, pardon the pun.
posted by XMLicious at 11:45 PM on July 27, 2010


Also - as far as cultures understanding the use of terrorism, it was pretty much Irish-Americans who invented what we conceive of as terrorism today. See the Dynamite War.

In the same time period see the American Annexation of the Philippines, in which U. S. military tactics - frequently against Muslims - included exterminating entire towns down to the women and children and wrapping the corpses of Muslims in pig skins to religiously defile them. All of which ignited a hundred years of violent Muslim insurgency against the American-sponsored government in the Philippines. And guess what - one descendant of those Filipino groups, Abu Sayyaf, is now a major international ally and supporter of Al Qaeda. Yay U. S. government terrorism!
posted by XMLicious at 12:16 AM on July 28, 2010


Bruce Bartlett is one of my internet friends.

We "met" after interacting through comments online... we both were friends of the same journalist. Apparently he liked some of what I had to say, because I got a friend request from him. He seemed interesting, so I added him and started regularly commenting on what he had to say, more often than not providing facts that helped to defend a lot of his general points against rather irate Republicans and Libertarians.

It's great to see that his career has really taken off since he released his latest book, and almost shocking, in retrospect, that as recently as last year, he used to write for the National Review. His privs have since been revoked from Bill Kristol & Co., but it certainly hasn't hurt his career or credibility any as a result.

As much as I like how rational a source of info on economics he is, sometimes he amuses/surprises me by chiming in about trashy cultural news that you wouldn't expect from him. For instance, there was this one time when he reposted some mainstream news story that mentioned furries... a cultural phenomena that he knew absolutely nothing about before the article in question.

All I can say is that I never saw myself as one day being online "friends" of a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House, much less answering, in detail, some of his questions regarding furry culture... including yiffing and SPH.

Whatta country!
posted by markkraft at 1:41 AM on July 28, 2010


These are complex political issues, and I have somewhat over-simplified things to make my point, in order to avoid having to write an entire book in order to to deal with the full complexity of the situation. It is perfectly true that the US has in many cases already resorted to terrorist-type tactics. I completely deplore the US actions in the Philippine War, which war was completely unnecessary and was an unjustifiable exercise in colonialism. And of course, the initial phase of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought with ruthless military force, not by building hospitals. However, the US is currently involved in nation-building exercises in which it has become mired, not moving forward and unable to extricate itself. The US is becoming a victim of its own good intentions. At some point, as soon as possible, the US has to say to Iraq and Afghanistan you are on your own now, we have done all we can, and good luck to you. And if there are renewed attacks against the US, the response should be one designed to deter such attacks in a way that the US can afford. It would be terrific if the US could solve all the problems in the world and make everybody happy, so that nobody could ever feel anything other than love and gratitude toward the US, but this is utterly beyond the capability of the US, it would have to be something like a thousand times wealthier than it actually is to afford such altruism. So I suggest a more practical approach.

I am also asked, how do I know what terrorists respect? I have read enough about them, seen enough reporting of what they do and what they say, to have a reasonably good idea of what motivates them and of how they think and what they respect.

If I am mistaken in connecting Ahmedinejad personally to the seizure of the US embassy, I apologize for my error, but it really doesn't change the point I am making. It is still true, beyond question, that the nation of Iran has never repudiated or apologized for that hostage taking, and has gone to the extreme of converting the former US embassy into a monument to the glorious victory of Iran over the Satanic US. The hostage taking, in violation of every international norm or behavior, is still celebrated in Iran as a great victory, whether Ahmedinejad was personally involved or not. The point remains, Iran does not respect international agreements. At some point the US may have to take similar liberties.

When the UN security council voted to take action against Iraq for its continued non-compliance with a long series of security council resolutions, but failed to specify what that action would be, leaving it up to the US and Britain to act without international support, the system failed. International agreements have done the US very little good. In the end, the US will probably be on its own.

I have also been asked what terrorism can actually do to the US, bringing us back to my earlier point, that we could just as easily say so what if they destroyed the World Trade Center, we have lots of other buildings. Well, you really don't know how much damage terrorists will ultimately do. Given the chance to act with impunity, I would expect that it would be really a lot. I would rather discourage them. Your mileage may vary.
posted by grizzled at 6:29 AM on July 28, 2010


The World Trade Center is not the US. How can terrorism defeat a nation, which is a concept, and not a physical structure? Wouldn't the only way to destroy a concept be to cause the holders of that concept to repudiate their ideals, their appeals to lawfulness and human freedoms?

Wouldn't encouraging the US to resort to terroristic methods do far, far more to destroy America than blowing up a building?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:24 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not just saying that the above-mentioned incidents of U.S. terrorism were bad, though. The point is that they caused blowback. Just like the existence of a theocratic Iran is itself the result of acting selfishly as a nation rather than fairly - something which we have not apologized for, if you're waiting for Iran to apologize for the hostage taking. It's a bit more than "good intentions" that have mired us - we do not by any means try to "solve all the problems in the world and make everybody happy". I almost can't believe you're saying that with a straight face at the same time you're proposing that America officially enter into state terrorism. This is about refraining from completely fucking over other countries on a whim or kicking them in the face until they do what we want.

I do not think that the result of the U.S. government engaging in terrorism would simply be discouragement of some other terrorists. As far as what those other terrorists would ultimately do to the U.S. if they could - do you think they might want to kill as many people as we've killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who we don't officially even bother to count? The ones who became terrorists as a result of our actions in those countries surely want that. There will be many more people who want that if we start openly or directly engaging in terrorism ourselves and stop even pretending to be acting justly.

International agreements do a hell of alot more good for the U.S. than they do for most other countries. Take Afghanistan, for example: it was a member of the U.N.; what does it say in the U.N. Charter? "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..." Complaining that international cooperation is useless because we only get to invade countries to solve our problems sometimes and we aren't allowed to engage in state terrorism is pretty ridiculous and childish and selfish.

How about we don't murder innocent people to intimidate terrorists just because it would be wrong to do that, without even getting into any consideration of international agreements, huh? That might be a good place to start. Doesn't it seem just a little bit like we're reaping what we sow?
posted by XMLicious at 7:26 AM on July 28, 2010


Of course, we are reaping what we sow, and that is exactly the argument that terrorists use when they attack the US. Why would they want to destroy the World Trade Center? Well, the US has destroyed lots of buildings in lots of countries, and it has used military force whenever it felt that it was convenient to do so, so let's show the US that they too can be attacked and harmed at will. This has happened throughout human history. Everyone is trying to intimidate everyone else to get their way. Constant displays of force are used to keep people or nations in line. If you can kill enough people you will be feared, and if you are feared, you will be obeyed. I could just say that the whole human race is crazy, and to hell with it. But I would hope for something better.

The US has made many terrible errors in its history. I think that it is making fewer terrible errors now, under the Obama administration, but it is still making errors. However, compared to theocratic Iran or psychotic North Korea, the US is a very enlightened country. The US has made enormous contributions to progress in the world, which on the whole outweigh its terrible errors.

The US has been accused of being at war with Islam, and that is a terrible misconception. The US is a country that supports freedom of religion, a concept that doesn't even exist in Islamic countries. To most Muslims, freedom of religion means only one thing, the freedom to be Muslim, since Islam is the only true religion. They have trouble conceiving that the US, a predominantly Christian nation, fully respects the right of Muslims to practice their own religion. Tolerance is an alien concept to the Muslim world. So the US gets attacked for being intolerant of Islam even though it isn't intolerant (or perhaps I should say, even though it wasn't intolerant; being constantly under attack by radical Muslims is moving the US in the direction of less tolerance of Islam).

US support for Israel has been miscontrued as hostility toward Islam. Most Muslims (and many non-Muslims as well) cannot even conceive that there may be some legitimate reason why Israel should be allowed to exist, or that Jews have human rights, just like everyone else. The US gets attacked not for being an evil nation, but for standing in the way of Muslim supremacy - despite the fact that it is actually true that the US has sometimes done evil things. I can assure you that al Qaeda is not getting revenge for the bombing of Cambodian villages during the Vietnam War, or for the abuses committed by the US during the Philippine War that took place over a century ago. They don't even know about those things, which are irrelevant to current political issues. We might say that Christianity is an evil religion because of the Inquisition, but the Inquisition ended centuries ago and there are no more Inquisitors. There are plenty of reasons to criticise Christianity, but they have to do with what is going on now, such as the tremendous number of sexual abuse cases that have come to light. The US should similarly be judged on the basis of what it is doing now, not on the basis of what it did a century ago in the Philippines.

The various people who reply to my argument are all taking a very elevated moral position, that the US should adhere to high moral standards regardless of any provocation or attack to which it may be subjected. This is very good, in principle. I admire people with high moral principles. In practice, what exactly is the US supposed to do? Ignore terrorist attacks? Send a stiff letter of protest to the appropriate embassy? Send over increased amounts of foreign aid to nations that are trying to destroy the US? The current policy seems to be leading in the direction of the destruction of the US if only through bankruptcy, if not through military defeat. If the US is destroyed it will no longer be capable of adherence to the high moral principles that you espouse. I do not really expect civilization as we know it to survive this century. This is the century when it all falls apart (although possibly not within my own lifetime). My protests and warnings and advice will have no effect. Many years ago I made a very serious effort to bring peace to the middle east, but I was ignored. I was just not important enough for anyone to pay attention to me, which is still the case. So why do I post these comments? I suppose it is a futile gesture.

IF Barack Obama fails to bring the current wars to a successful conclusion of some kind, the American public will not judge him kindly. The next American President is likely to be Sarah Palin. And what do you think her foreign policy will be?
posted by grizzled at 8:04 AM on July 28, 2010


How can terrorism defeat a nation, which is a concept, and not a physical structure? Wouldn't the only way to destroy a concept be to cause the holders of that concept to repudiate their ideals, their appeals to lawfulness and human freedoms?

You should read the USA PATRIOT Act sometime. I think they came a long way toward succeeding, according to your standard.
posted by hippybear at 9:30 AM on July 28, 2010


If you really see no connection between the devastating and abusive ten-year-long war in the Philippines, which created and radicalized numerous Muslim insurgent groups, then placing and supporting a government in Manila fighting those groups for a century including a dictator like Marcos along the way - if you see no connection between that and Abu Sayyaf existing today and being a major supporter of Al Qaeda I think you're being willfully obtuse. Judging America is completely incidental, these are just the facts of the matter.

Likewise it has little to do with people specifically remembering and wanting revenge for the things we've done; an up-and-coming mullah in the Iranian government today doesn't remember and mourn for the Mossadegh government and they even found all the arms we sold the Shah quite useful; the thing is that the theocratic Islamic government exists and is radicalized - instead of what would probably have been another Turkey - because of stupid selfish things we've done with complete disregard for anything but our own interests. It's not some general ambient "the natural state of man is violence and war" principle - you can directly connect the dots between things like the CIA training the mujahideen to build car bombs and demonstrating that they're effective against the Soviets, and thousands of people dying in the last decade from IEDs built by Al Qaeda and other groups populated with ex-mujahideen. No matter how much you want to forget or excuse the past, and swear to the world that we've turned over a new leaf, the past is still going to be there. Yeah a big chunk of Islam is still a medieval religion in lots of ways - but that's all the more reason to quit poking the wasps' nests all over the world.

Not engaging in state terrorism - not murdering innocent people to apply pressure on your opponent - or not starting wars that kill hundreds of thousands of people because their dictator whom we supplied with cash and arms and anthrax stopped cooperating - is not some lofty superlative high bar of morality. But it's not even so much about morality, it's about not constantly doing stuff in our foreign policy that will injure and really piss off lots of people while counting on getting away with it.

We often think we're being Machiavellian when instead we're being oafish and blundering and short-sighted. And yeah Sarah Palin would continue that and learn absolutely nothing from history, dismissing it as out of bounds or irrelevant or something of that sort as you are doing. Just because we forgive ourselves does not mean that anyone else is going to think that way, certainly not in countries where tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people die because of our foreknowing choices and our willingness - right or wrong - to sacrifice them for our cause, and we have to deal with the way they see us not just the way we want to see ourselves.

(But Sarah Palin would probably be gung-ho about becoming a terrorist state - while calling it something else of course, as any politician would - so I'm a bit confused as to why you asked the question about her. And I'm pretty skeptical she would become President, anyways. Here in New Hampshire a Congressional candidate was just endorsed by her and the candidate's poll numbers tanked immediately.)

I'm sorry that your opinions and advice are not taken as seriously as you want them to be but if your ideas are things like "Let's be terrorists!" or "We must respond with unlimited and unrestrained force - what could possibly go wrong?" I cannot say I'm surprised. Are you listening to yourself? First you proposed that we should become terrorists, then you talked about how everyone needs to intimidate and kill enough people to be feared and obeyed, then you talked about how enlightened we are. You agree that we reap what we sow and then say that we should sow terrorism and the only reason not to is high-falutin' morals.

On preview: hippybear, I think that's exactly what shakespeherian was saying.
posted by XMLicious at 9:57 AM on July 28, 2010


Actually terrorism and violence were not my first choice. I devised and published a completely non-violent solution to the ongoing middle east conflict, decades ago, which was duly ignored. Had it been implemented, I believe that 9/11 and the whole war on terror would have been avoided. Now we are in more violent times. I have new strategies.

If people today are still angry about the policies dating back to the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, I'm sorry, if you really want to you can find reasons in history to be angry at absolutely anyone and everyone. The US did behave very badly in the Philippines BUT it also brought an end to Spanish colonialism in the Philippines and elsewhere, which was very helpful. The US does not do everything wrong, but it receives no credit for what it does right.

You are confused about why I asked about Sarah Palin. I am just pointing out that the US may already be moving in the direction of more violent and less compassionate reactions to international terrorism.

As far as my supposed advice to sow terrorism, we don't need to sow terrorism, we already have it in abundance, and it is not going away. If it were within my power (which of course it is not) to go back in time and alter the actions of the US or of world history in general, then naturally I would prefer a much different and much more benign, less meddlesome US, one which freely allowed the Philippines to become an independent nation after the explusion of the Spanish colonists, and so forth. There are endless errors which have been made, and I have already commented on that. Now we have to deal with the consequences of those errors, in such a way that the US does not go bankrupt and is able to defend itself and deter future attacks. That is what I am so laboriously getting at. And you still have offered no better alternatives. If you actually have any, I will be interested to read them.
posted by grizzled at 10:25 AM on July 28, 2010


You should read the USA PATRIOT Act sometime. I think they came a long way toward succeeding, according to your standard.

That was my point.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2010


Now we have to deal with the consequences of those errors, in such a way that the US does not go bankrupt and is able to defend itself and deter future attacks. That is what I am so laboriously getting at. And you still have offered no better alternatives. If you actually have any, I will be interested to read them.

Did you miss the part where I said that we need to stop thinking of terrorist actions as warmaking and remember that they are the actions of individual criminals? Not launching giant wars because 19 assholes decided to be murderers would be a good first step towards not going bankrupt. It would also do a lot to stop creating new reasons for assholes to become anti-American murderers.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:41 AM on July 28, 2010


the best response to terrorism is to ignore it

um, no one is suggesting this... the question is how best to prosecute and discourage terrorism; war, counterinsurgency, criminal investigations* (maybe w/RICO-like acts), political settlement/diplomatic resolution/foreign aid or some combination thereof.

one of the tactics of terror organisations is to invite disproportionate response (hence asymmetric warfare) -- bringing the full military might of US/NATO to bear in what amounts to an exercise in nation building/occupation strikes me as impractical, unwise and playing into terrorist hands. altho i can understand the appeal of powell-doctrine shows of overwhelming force, w/out complete commitment (domestically and internationally) the mission risks being compromised, as powell cautioned -- the worst of every world and a waste of blood and treasure.

we should be continually asking ourselves and reappraising why do we fight, but like you said, YMMV.

Does anyone have a link to the page I saw recently, probably via an economics blog... It showed the downward trend of every economic measure since, oh jeez, would you look at that... 1982 or so... Right when Reagonomics became the dominant economic paradigm.

i vaguely recall something similar, but all i could come up with was this (ref'd here). also searching thru ev's income distribution tag i found this, this and this, while this i think provides a study in contrast. krugman and others (elizabeth warren comes to mind) have also laid the blame at the door of the reagan/thatcher conservative revolution and the dismantling of new-deal era labour protections, viz. Two Decades of Greed -- The (Great) Unraveling, but i keep coming back to "the inevitable consequence of the twin revolutions of globalization and technological change" in locating the proximate cause of our current institutional dilemmas, as sort of a techno-cultural determinist myself :P

cheers!

---
*cf. hobson & schumpeter (wrt sun-tzu) "Hobson thought, there would be no point at all to world war—an arms race and an empire were perfectly functional ways to keep the system running for the benefit of the rich, and there would be no point to actually using the weapons ... Joseph Schumpeter was more optimistic. He believed that he was seeing the last gasp of militarism, empire, and arms races. He saw imperialism as the last gasp of military status aristocracy... Sir whatsit and Lord whoever and Colonel whichway essentially functioned as the equivalent of today's professional athletes in making people proud of their team: imperialism as spectator sport."
posted by kliuless at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did address the proposal that terrorists should be regarded as criminals rather than as the agents of a hostile power that is at war with the US. There are far too many terrorists, who are (at least in some cases) too well coordinated and too well backed by governments such as that of Iran or by international organizations such as al Qaeda, to regard them as merely criminals who might be arrested by the police. It would be nice if the matter could be handled so simply. This is sort of like saying that the Cold War would have been resolved much more easily by just sending in the police to arrest Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao. It's not that simple. As for the other solutions of political settlement/diplomatic resolution/foreign aid or some combination thereof, that would also be nice. Terrorists attack the US without making any demands and without offering to negotiate, even after many years of war. With whom do we negotiate? To whom do you send your diplomats? There is no al Qaeda embassy. Terrorists do not appear to be prepared to make any compromises or reach any agreements about anything, they just want to get their way in everything and kill anybody who gets in their way. It is difficult to negotiate with such people. But I am not opposed to trying that, I just am doubtful that it will succeed. Diplomacy is always a good solution if it is possible. It is better to talk to people and reach agreements than it is to fight to the death. On that you and I can agree. I am just not sure that the terrorists will agree.
posted by grizzled at 11:36 AM on July 28, 2010


There are far too many terrorists, who are (at least in some cases) too well coordinated and too well backed by governments such as that of Iran or by international organizations such as al Qaeda, to regard them as merely criminals who might be arrested by the police.

How do you propose we deal with mafia or other organized crime? Should we send paramilitary troops to Sicily, or assassinate the Pope?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:53 AM on July 28, 2010


"However, the US is currently involved in nation-building exercises in which it has become mired, not moving forward and unable to extricate itself."

I find it a kind of a naive hysteria, even as we're pulling troops out of Iraq, and only a few months into a time-limited increase of troops in Afghanistan, to hear the whole, tired "mired, with no exit strategy" argument. Frankly, that shouldn't fly after the President's speech of Dec. 1, when he announced the change of strategy. He specifically said when *all* troops would be removed from Iraq, as well as when we would start to withdraw troops from Afghanistan... which, despite unfounded speculation and skepticism, the Obama administration recently reconfirmed.

Hell, the full troop increase in Afghanistan isn't even coming online until late August, with many troops only now arriving in country, but after years of failed strategy in Afghanistan, the new strategy isn't even being given a chance to accomplish its goals.


"Just like the existence of a theocratic Iran is itself the result of acting selfishly as a nation rather than fairly - something which we have not apologized for..."

Actually, we kinda did during the Clinton administration.
posted by markkraft at 12:04 PM on July 28, 2010


If people today are still angry about the policies dating back to the administration of Theodore Roosevelt...

So you ignored the bit where I said "it has little to do with people specifically remembering and wanting revenge for the things we've done."

The US does not do everything wrong, but it receives no credit for what it does right.

If it was relevant to the discussion there are lots of things I'd give the U.S. credit for; but it's not. Whether or not we should be given credit for some positive impact on the Philippines, that doesn't change the fact that the numerous Muslim extremist groups sprang from our less laudable actions there. And it's the kind of thing we need to avoid doing again by starting some sort of terrorist campaign. We would be passing off a burden to future generations as surely as not paying down the national debt - not to mention that we'd be handing them an America we'd made into an openly terrorist state.

We've already seen the consequences of abandoning even remotely responsible-looking behavior when Russia, the Cold War opponent we spent so many trillions of dollars supposedly defeating, invaded Georgia and all we could do is politely ask them not to - because we'd been doing the exact same thing ourselves. You would have us lose any possible international standing for opposing terrorism carried out by other states.

As far as my supposed advice to sow terrorism, we don't need to sow terrorism, we already have it in abundance...

Terrorism against us is obviously not terrorism we have sowed; for us to enact terrorism ourselves is what would be sowing terrorism. You are deliberately misconstruing my statement. You have directly stated that we should carry out terrorist acts, there is no "supposed" about it. To quote you, "One good terrorist attack deserves another" and we should have the "same lack of concern about human life that terrorists do". Sow, reap.

You say you regret these past errors, as you call them, of the U.S. but I don't see why you would. Your attitude makes it seem to me that if you'd been there at any of those events you would have easily found a rationalization to justify the acts I'm talking about.

And you still have offered no better alternatives.

The better alternative is to not begin carrying out terrorism against others. I have demonstrated that doing that sort of thing, and in general screwing over other people and countries for our own benefit, has come back threefold against us again and again and again. However many Americans might die from terrorism if we maintain our current course many more will die if we set out to make as many bitter enemies as possible the way you're proposing. Just about any approach is better than yours. (Except maybe starting more wars.)

If you're going to refuse to look at examples from our own history look at the Chechens in Russia or the Uighurs in China. You better believe that Russia and China don't have any scruples or hold anything back in trying to stamp out those groups but they don't get anywhere.

If the U.S. is becoming more violent you seem to be intent on helping it along.

markkraft - cool, I did not know that.
posted by XMLicious at 12:16 PM on July 28, 2010


Very funny, shakespeherian. The government of Sicily does not support the Mafia, nor does the Pope (whom I dislike, but not to the point that I would want him to be assassinated). Even so, it was necessary to pass special legislation, the RICO law, to deal with the Mafia. In theory even a mundane criminal cartel could (and has, in some countries) become powerful enough to create a national emergency which might require a military rather than a police response - see Mexico or Columbia, for example.

markkraft urges me to give Obama's plans time to work, and I am certainly willing to do that. I hope that they do work. And if they do, then all my complaints will be proved unnecessary. But unfortunately, I don't like the way things seem to be going. I am not giving up yet. Go, Obama!
posted by grizzled at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2010


XMLicious, I considered from the beginning that it was a horrendous error for Yeltzin to refuse to recognize the democratic vote of the people of Chechnya to secede from Russia, and the consequences have consistently been disastrous. Secession is not terrorism! These are entirely different cases. The World Trade Center did not secede from the US, it was destroyed. The same analysis applies to the Uighurs in China.

I would much prefer to live in a less violent world - ideally, a world in which all international disputes, grievances, or conflicts would be peacefully resolved by diplomatic means. If we had a way to obtain such a world, I would be entirely in favor. Meanwhile we have a very violent, chaotic world to live in, and I fear that victory will go to the most ruthless rather than to the most reasonable. However, as markkraft suggests, we can see if Obama's current policies will succeed, before we find it necessary to adopt new ones (not that I am in a position to affect US policy in any event, I am just making comments).
posted by grizzled at 12:36 PM on July 28, 2010


The government of Sicily does not support the Mafia, nor does the Pope

You said that terrorism cannot be dealt with via law enforcement because there are too many terrorists who are too well-organized and in some cases deal with international bodies. You also suggested that the US should engage in terrorist attacks that have the 'same lack of concern about human life that terrorists' have. Do you understand that terrorism is carried out against uninvolved civilians?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:49 PM on July 28, 2010


If the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 had the same attitude toward terrorism that the government of Italy presently has about organized crime, then the 9/11 incident would most appropriately have been treated as a crime rather than an act of war. But that was not the case (although some here will deny it).

I am not sure why you are even asking me if I understand that terrorism is carried out against uninvolved civilians. Obviously. That is key to the strategy of terrorists. Anyone can be attacked so everyone has reason to be afraid. Modern warfare also has a tendency to kill people who have no direct involvement. There was once a model of warfare in which two opposed armies marched out in good order to a chosen battlefield, far away from any civilian population, and they fought it out until one side was defeated and surrendered, thus resolving whatever dispute they had been fighting about, with no civilian casualties. Very neat. Things started to go really wrong around the time of WW II, and now we live in a world in which everyone is at risk, regardless of whether they are involved or not involved. That is unfortunate. Really, a much better strategy of conflict resolution would be to have just two fighters, each side choosing a champion, who fight it out in an arena to the amusement of the spectators, and whoever wins get their way in whatever the international dispute may be (in the case of Muslim terrorists, perhaps the demand is the evacuation of all Jews from Israel and all US troops from Saudi Arabia or even from all Muslim nations, which is something that could be done, although it would be expensive). I am in favor! Let's do it! However there does not really seem to be anyway to organize such a contest or to ensure that the outcome would be respected. Terrorists are not exactly known for respecting rules or for playing fair. That's the problem.

Wars are not usually won by being scrupulous, they are more likely to be won by being ruthless. War is an ugly business. Chess is a much nicer form of competition. Very few chess players get killed in the process of a chess competition. Hardly any. Too bad the human race has depended upon war, rather than chess, as a means of conflict resolution.
posted by grizzled at 1:11 PM on July 28, 2010


grizzled, you seem sort of completely unwilling to engage with any points anyone is making, and I don't really have any interest in furthering this conversation.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:17 PM on July 28, 2010


There was once a model of warfare in which two opposed armies marched out in good order to a chosen battlefield, far away from any civilian population, and they fought it out until one side was defeated and surrendered, thus resolving whatever dispute they had been fighting about, with no civilian casualties.

This is incredibly naive. There was never a model of warfare like that, in the history of civilization. Armies met wherever they thought they had an advantage, and civilians ran or were killed, just like today. Read the social history of any war.

For example, there was a formal element to the European wars of the middle ages, but that was there to protect the noble classes. The commoners were simply slaughtered as opportunity arose, and their farms and homes were pillaged to support the armies.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:57 PM on July 28, 2010


I considered from the beginning that it was a horrendous error for Yeltzin to refuse to recognize the democratic vote of the people of Chechnya to secede from Russia, and the consequences have consistently been disastrous. Secession is not terrorism! These are entirely different cases. The World Trade Center did not secede from the US, it was destroyed. The same analysis applies to the Uighurs in China.

That does not even make any sense. The World Trade Center would not be the equivalent of Chechnya, seceding - it would be the equivalent of one of the things that Chechens have blown up in Moscow.

It doesn't matter whether you label it "secession freedom fighting" or "terrorism", they're the same kinds of networks and activities and asymmetrical opponents. Even in China where they execute people on a whim and do anything they please, buses still get bombed and military officers still get hacked to pieces by the dozen - and that's fighting an enemy within their own borders. We wouldn't be able to project the same kind of force overseas, especially once we started wantonly and intentionally killing civilians and got no more local intelligence because their governments consequently refused to cooperate with us.

Your premise is false; the terrorist acts you envision are not the "ultimate weapon capable of defeating all others". If you think that the U.S. is somehow special and we would be able to succeed where others did not then you'd be repeating the exact same mistake we made by invading Afghanistan. But worse yet, we can retreat from Afghanistan, but we would not be able to retreat from the course you propose once we embarked on it.

Well I have to go now but thank you for a good debate.
posted by XMLicious at 2:53 PM on July 28, 2010


Everyone else has concluded that this has become (or always was) a pointless discussion, and I agree. So, we have an agreement at last!
posted by grizzled at 6:02 AM on July 29, 2010


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