Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Next Civil War

Roger Kralmajales and the folks over at Gila Courier got into quite the kerfuffel this week at a thread regarding the tea party protests being organized around the country. Not surprisingly, Roger had quite the fight on his hands attempting to articulate that services like education and health care don't naturally flow out of the free market in ways that serve society. About as effectively as anything I have seen, the thread illuminates the concept of filters and lenses. A deeper cut shows that these are constructed with distinctions.

The thread shows an exchange between two sides that are both bright and educated, assuming that's the case for GC, and yet they see different planets. Distinctions create the reality we perceive, generating the cerebral space in which the mind operates, the water for the fish. Both sides have the frustrating experience that the other for reasons unknown is blind to what should be easily seen. Quite often in the blogosphere we read, "When will you take your blinders off?!"

At the recent thread, Framer attempted to educate me that his tea party efforts are protesting what is little different from the local “cloth.” This refers to the obscene squandering of precious local funds on corrupt (DTP) and inept (TREO) agencies to maintain a facade. Framer and the GC klan, I surmise, extend the same corruption and incompetence to encompass virtually the entire government. From this perspective, Obama must truly occur as a nightmare, since he oversees the government takeover of our financial institutions, auto companies, and quite possibly the health insurance system of the nation.

The flaw in such reasoning, entirely clear to Roger and myself, is that Obama (and the system in general) is not just pursuing an agenda in accordance with a philosophy. The system is reacting to dysfunction. We didn't take over General Motors because we felt like it. THIS IS CRITICAL. We didn't take over AIG out of desire. We took them over because the alternative was having them fail. THEY BROKE. Roger can say better than me if we should have let them collapse.

Without drowning in the details of derivatives, swaps, Hummers, and drug price gouging, greed and incompetence sank our banks, car companies, and is in the process of grinding our health care system to a halt. The worst presidency in history has inflicted incomprehensible damage to this nation, and on my view screen it is jaw dropping flabbergasting to hear people like Framer and the GC guys talk about Obama as the one drowning their children in debt. The ones who had the party were Bush and Cheney, AIG and Halliburton, GM and Pfizer, Cigna and Merrill Lynch, Enron and Bernie Madoff. They're the ones who threw caution to the wind, bought the hookers, gutted the system, had the orgy, and threw the country off a cliff. Obama showed up in time to be handed the bill, and as we start to address paying the tab, he's the one causing the debt?

Deregulation FAILED. Let the corporate swine play, and those at the top steal everything, destroy their own organizations, and throw the employees in the street. If we cannot trust them, then what? Shifting paradigms produce extraordinary confusion. Ironically Obama has the most challenging presidency since Abraham Lincoln, and we drift towards a Civil War of ideas. The ideas of the past have become obsolete, and the country is slipping. Ultimately solutions will prevail, and no amount of denial can reduce the numbers on the tab left for us by the previous administration's greed and incompetence. One way or another, we'll have to pay for electing Bush. The tea party crowd can bitch all day about the cost, but now that limited governance leads with certainty to corporate orgies and unbridled malfeasance, the only chance they have of living in the system they crave is to find a planet that works the way they think this one does.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Is this crap, or what? Not worth the read.

7/18/2009 9:53 AM  
Blogger Eli Blake said...

Hey, anonymous:

Keep in mind that since the Reagan revolution in 1980 that began an era of deregulation, unrestricted free trade, tax cuts and the whole 'greed is good' mentality (a time when even Democrats like Bill Clinton often sounded like Republicans, debating who could deconstruct government and deregulate faster,) we've had the S&L crisis of the late 1980's, the Michael Milken junk bond scandal, Enron, the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme and the present Great Recession, all caused by lack of sufficient oversight. The regulations were lax, there were not enough regulators and the regulators that there were often were allowed to get too cozy (financially and othewise) with those they were supposed to oversee.

In contrast, the three decades following WWII, an era when the dominant paradigm was that Government could solve anything and that markets had to be regulated, brought us prosperity way beyond what previous generations had experienced. Recessions were short lived and mild. Government did big things on a grand scale and succeeded at them, including the Manhattan Project, the eradication of smallpox in the world and malaria in the U.S., Social Security, the construction of the Interstate Highway system and the Apollo mission. Yes, there were certainly upheavals during that time such as the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement in Vietnam, but those were social upheavals and through all of that the economy remained overall pretty darn good.

I am hopeful that now that we've seen the failure of conservatism the paradigm is again changing.

7/18/2009 12:42 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Great post, x4mr, in particular the notion of a "civil war of ideas" which I think does capture what is going on quite effectively.

The old school just doesn't get that deregulation has completely failed and is no longer remotely tenable. As Eli listed, and that's just scratching the surface, the evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable.

Obviously government needs to be made better, and probably all can agree that more effective government is part of what must happen. By contrast, corporations have proven themselves irresponsible. I agree with x4mr that the country will never look at corporations, in particular large financial institutions, the same way again. Solutions that get us out of this mess require new paradigms and new perspectives. This is always difficult.

Anon's comment is great! It perfectly illustrates one of the main points of the story. Anon can read the words, but he lacks the distinctions to see the concepts that the words are expressing. Right, Anon, for you this place is not worth the read.

7/18/2009 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Eli's post is spot on. The three decades that followed WWII represented the most extraordinary progress probably ever experienced by a nation in such a time span. We went from a relatively modest position in the world to a super power.

Then we hit the eighties and started draining and dismantling all that we had built up. Clinton started to effect progress, even getting to where we had a surplus.

Then Rehnquist anointed shit head.

7/18/2009 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, I live in NYC. This post correctly points to a bifurcation occurring between the conservatives and the rest of the country, and while conservatism is clearly on the decline, they still have enough support (and are useful to powerful interests) to keep the country split on how to address the mounting problems. I do wonder how violent they will get as the country painfully slips away from them out of necessity. I will be shocked if someone doesn't try to shoot Obama.

In a historical shift of huge proportions, a certain honey moon for the USA is over. The ever expanding frontier we had for much of our history and the growth into virtually free space (and resources) allowed for a limited government to provide a minimal infrastructure while citizens gorged themselves on the spoils at their feet. As free land slowed we had industrialization, and when it got ugly, government rose to the occasion and passed anti-trust legislation as well as child labor law, and the labor movement made great strides.

We had an expansion fueled economy, and as already noted, we made huge progress after WWII. As the ability to expand and grow slowed, we had to get smarter, and we did with the landmark Higher Education Act of 1965 as part of Johnson's Great Society. The massive education of the American workforce produced a lot of the prosperity that followed. Then we hit the eighties and got a White House that thought government was bad, education unnecessary, and that we could return to plundering wide open spaces, except they weren't so wide anymore.

We have been slipping ever since, although yes, Clinton did effect some repairs and remarkably got us to a surplus which Bush and Cheney promptly gave to friends and war profiteers.

The turn of the 19/20th century required legislation to rein in monopolies and other nastiness. Now we have other beasts to slay. I assert that the first big step essential to the new paradigm is transparency, both in governance and industry. Obviously corporate behavior has to be strictly monitored and highly regulated before they can inflict serious damage. Government behavior also needs to be visible and open, the opposite of the previous atrocity. Lobbying should be abolished entirely.

I also agree with Anon. This blog is a waste of time for third graders.

7/18/2009 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Useful idiots, all.

7/19/2009 9:36 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Anonymous 7/18 9:53 AM and 7/19 9:36 AM (one and the same), why don't you fuck off? You're a troll, and you're probably a waste of DNA.

X4mr won't delete trolls until they get really bad, but he probably should.

7/19/2009 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Frank Rich, coming from a different angle (race relations) has a good piece in today's Times. Describing the Neanderthals at the Sotomayor hearings:

Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent.

Run, Sarah, Run!! Palin/Plumber 2012!!

7/19/2009 11:20 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

I actually printed that thread at Gila Courier and read it, but I fail to see where it is "bright and educated."

I don't see where anyone effectively argued with Kral except to make some point about the Tucson Tea Party being a movement unto itself, untainted by associations of other Tea Parties. At least that is what I think they were saying.

The rest is fairly predictable, looking for a way to blame Obama and the Democrats for all of the government spending they inherited. The public debt was over 11 trillion in January, 2009. And, of course, everything the Democrats do in the wake of the Wall Street crash and escalating unemployment is going to be all wrong.

I noticed lots of ad hominem attacks on Kral and close to zero for effective counter arguments.

What I really find interesting, however, is when people talk about "movements" as though what they are doing is comparable to the greatest of populist movements in history.

So, what did the civil rights movement have?
1. A razor sharp focus
2. Visionary leaders
3. People willing to die for the next generation

I cannot overstate the importance of #4.

7/19/2009 12:38 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Those two Anons, Liza, probably are the same person and a troll, and not a very good one. At least Diana put a little more effort into her attempts to cause a ruckus. Regarding "bright and educated" note that I added "assuming that's the case for GC." I was being generous because it makes it easier to get the main point of the post, which is that no matter how articulate Kral's argument, they can't see it.

Regarding ongoing developments, if you pay attention to the news, you can really feel the discourse shifting as a result of the Obama administration. Conversations are growing about social inequality including statistics like the fact that on average for every dollar owned by whites, Latinos only have nine cents, and African Americans only have seven cents. With Eggplant in the WH, such realities were never discussed. Even faced with tight budgets, 13 states have passed legislation granting health care for children (CHIP). Sentiment endorsing same sex marriage continues to grow in both states and churches. The consensus that SOMETHING must be done about health care is almost universal. We are at least TALKING about going green and climate change. The progress will take years, and we will hears the howls of the conservatives every inch of the way.

NYC's comment is terrific and I could not agree more. While much hard work was involved, the USA had an economic joy ride expanding west ward, and all of that space kept population densities very low. It's no accident that conservatism is strongest in rural areas. Successfully supporting oneself on lots of land provides for different political sentiments than having to interact with thousands of people in a melting pot metropolis that requires massive infrastructure and other services really only suited for governance (fire department, police, schools, etc.). As more and more people are compressed into the same space, the amount of organization required will increase. Government is how a society organizes.

7/19/2009 1:27 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

I agree. The Bush Administration was in denial of 21st century realities, and we are paying a huge price for their last tango in Paris.

It is always interesting to me how these so called conservatives think they are self made and could do well without government. No matter where you are in this country you rely heavily on government services whether you like to believe so or not. I can certainly agree that just about every government out there could stand some scrutiny for how badly they waste money, but I cannot see where they could be replaced by the theoretical "free market."

People do care about social justice, as you say, and corporations benefit from what is provided by governments - infrastructure, fire, police, schools, as you say, AND the ability to flush a toilet and know that the sewage will be treated.

No one out there has made it without government help. Absolutely no one.

7/19/2009 2:22 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Conservatives are notorious for ignoring the many benefits they receive from the government they're so intent on condemning, as Liza has noted on several occasions in addition to the above. They guzzle the safe water from the sink, dial 911 for immediate help, expect safe food in the stores, drugs that are what they're supposed to be, safe roads, but government is an enemy to be destroyed.

I do have a refinement regarding the discussion of corporations. I think what x4mr says about companies applies in proportion to company size. The mom and pop shops are not going to ruin the country. If they can, I would need to be shown how.

So how many big companies are there? I checked it out, and the latest I could find is 2004 (US Census). USA Companies with Number of Employees:


I would recommend, x4mr, that instead of just classifying all "corporations" as evil and malignant, you sharpen your language with the understanding that only 8643 private employer organizations have over 1000 employees. Granted, they employ 50.6M of the 115M people listed as employees in the US workforce.

While the 8404 companies with 500-999 people can commit plenty of mischief, I doubt they can ruin the country. I guess all I'm saying is that appropriate regulation is not a one size fits all conversation.

7/19/2009 6:36 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

This is a blog. Operating with the rigor of academic discourse would choke my ability to post. I carefully choose my semantics and have some confidence that when readers encounter "corporation" they don't think about the local laundromat. They get that I mean AIG, GM, Enron, and the like.

I highly recommend The Corporation which masterfully distinguishes the pathology, which size exacerbates, but I don't think the size has to reach 1000. I will grant you that the self-employed and micro-businesses are unlikely to warrant significant regulatory resources.

For other readers, I want to note that your list (appropriately) excludes non-profit employment (government, universities, K-12, police, etc.)

I get what you're saying and will keep it in mind.

7/19/2009 8:09 PM  
Anonymous NYC said...

What the fat cats and rich loving Bush administration did not realize is that the transfer of wealth from regular America to the richest 1% of the nation would produce the backlash we are now seeing.

As a result of the Bush's windfall giveaway to billionaires at great expense to working Americans, the rich are now the "new tobacco."

The scorpions, having stung and stung until they are limp, now find themselves on top of a very pissed off frog.

7/19/2009 9:56 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Yeah, NYC, that Republican "trickle down" theory doesn't seem to work. I guess we were all supposed to find employment serving billionaires and multi-national corporations that pay no taxes.

And, somehow, miraculously, the work of governments would get done without taxes. Oh, wait, we don't need governments.

7/20/2009 8:12 AM  

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