Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is "Overseas Contingency Operations" a case of doublespeak?


One possible (though not certain) sign that President Obama may be on the right track is the way that he’s attracting fire from dingbats on all sides, and not just the far-right.  One case in point that I feel compelled to comment on, off-schedule, was a load of tomfoolery offered on the Huffington Post by Ira Chernus, professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  

In “Requiem for the War on Terror,” Chernus first  rightfully critiques some of the duplicity and malignity that were rife during the Bush Administration, whose bellicose terminology trumped-up an exaggerated state of emergency as an excuse for irrationality, theft and horrific national management.

Only then, Chernus takes Obama to task for replacing  the "war on terror" (WoT) with an admittedly clumsy phrase -- “Overseas Contingency Operations.”    Granted, it is an  infelicitous choice, but Chernus sees this as just verbal legerdemain, replacing one excuse for imperialism with another.   Alas, here  he gets it all completely wrong.

But lets briefly revisit where Chernus was on-target.  Bush’s “War on Terror”  (WOT) was, indeed, a farcical Orwellian distraction, aimed at helping to rationalize imperialism, oligarchy and outright fraud.  But the worst crime inherent in the WOT is something so ironic -- and so offset from the standard political axis -- that it goes almost unremarked.  For you see, the "war on terror" was perpetrated by men who styled themselves as realpolitik pragmatists, but who were in fact totally idealistic and ideologically-driven fools.    If these fellows were imperialists, they were profoundly incompetent ones, who completely mangled all the goals that they cynically proclaimed.

The proof is right in front of us, in real world outcomes from the last two decades.  Pax Americana was at its very peak when they entered office.  Under Bill Clinton, we achieved the triple play sought by all previous top-nations, to be respected, liked and feared, in all of the best ways.   After the stunningly efficient Balkans Operation delivered Europe its first peace in 4,000 years, our alliances were firm, popularity high (even among most muslims), military readiness scored at maximum, science, economy and finances were all at peak health.  Above all, our twin reputations for both moral international behavior and rare-but-ferociously effective use of force meant that only suicidally determined maniacs would choose to challenge  the unipolar American Peace.

Sadly, such maniacs existed and made their enmity known.  Their extreme good luck coincided with a perfect storm of ill-fortune and bad moves on our part.  But the subsequent, rapid toppling of the Taliban only maintained and fostered the impression of invincibility that the skilled men and women of our security services spent decades building...

...only to see it all frittered away by the top political leadership casts.  By the very same neocons who uttered the language of force with their every breath.  There is the stunning irony!  American pre-eminence, the purported neocon goal, was virtually destroyed by the neocons.  Our alliances, military readiness, science, economic and social health were all savaged, as fully and effectively as if it had been done on deliberate purpose.

HowDemocratsRepublicansWageWarCan no one stare, agape, as I do, at the bizarre juxtaposition.  The liberals who claim to despise imperialism, are good at managing a (light-handed and generally beneficent) empire, while the imperialists prove calamitously bad at it?  If this causes cognitive dissonance, get over it.  There are literally dozens of other strange chords... like the fact that Democrats always guard our borders better, or that small businesses and stocks and budgets all do better under those supposed “free spenders.”  Live with it.

The crux.  There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about Barack Obama wanting to reverse the worst damage done to our world stature by the Bushite neocon gang.  That reversal can and must include restoring alliances, our science, our economic health... and yes, the military readiness and respect for American power that gave the world its longest and best peace since Roman times.

Reflex liberals like Ira Chernus need to grow up. Just because the neocons stood for addle-pated, moronic, schoolyard imperialism, that does NOT mean abandoning Pax Americana is the logical response. (Recall that the American Peace was the brainchild of Democrats Truman, Marshall and Acheson.  After WWII, the GOP leaders wanted either isolationism or a spasm confrontation with Communism. This gentle imperium was a Democratic construct.)

Furthermore, just because the "war on terror" was trumped-up does not mean we aren't in a memic struggle of cultures!  One that confronts us with determined foes who wish to see us toppled, threatening our fragile Enlightenment with destruction and pain, unless we are willing to defend it.  Hopefully with skill and competence and courage and goodwill, as we did so effectively in the Balkans.  Indeed, that is the ONLY way it can be done, nowadays.

Just listen to the men and women of the US Officer Corps.  Obama is (tentatively) their dream come true.  It is time for democrats to get over the Vietnam war, at long last, and embrace the skilled people who were the worst victims of the Bush era.  Doing so (for one thing) would further isolate the neocons, politically.  It is also the right thing to do.

Wars-Emergency-PolicyAlas, Chernus ignores all this, showing that he is a left-wing version of the same kind of doofus we had to suffer under on the right. For example, by failing utterly to distinguish between wars of emergency and wars of national policy.    And here is where we see the point behind Obama’s use of  the contorted term “Overseas Contingency Operations.”

George Bush couched all his overseas adventures in terms of an "emergency" for many reasons, above all so he could bypass contracting rules and award lavish deals to friends, thus helping them to steal billions.  But that hysterical word  "emergency" also covered many other sins, e.g. budget deceits and torture. It was also an excuse for calling up and abusing the reserves and national guard.

Obama is firmly ending that betrayal.  His "Overseas Contingency Operations" terminology clearly and rightfully reclassifies our engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq as the other kind of war... wars of national policy, in which our armed forces will be used judiciously, carefully, efficiently to pursue rational goals, without using the crutch of a false "emergency" to excuse waste and fraud and concealment of pain. Above all, lacking the frantic justification of the “E-word,” operations that deal with international contingencies must be performed with careful attention to whether each step actually serves the long-term interests of both nation and civilization.  In other words, they have to be much more than worth the cost.

Should we EVER have wars of national policy?  The reflex of the left would be to shout "never!" Same with libertarians.  Americans are uncomfortable with outright imperial enforcement of policy goals by use of force. We don't like to view ourselves as being like Romans, nor should we!

 But until Pax Americana has a reasonable alternative, we should keep to George Marshall's plan, which worked pretty well, so far. Till some kind of wise law envelopes the planet, we have to be willing, at times, to police a dangerous and unruly world.  As the Balkans mission showed, it can be done sagaciously and well, triggering vast international acceptance and goodwill.  The crux is whether the Pax is being led by wise and good pragmatists, not vile and corrupt idealogues.

62 comments:

David Brin said...

sorry... couldn't spare time to read your comments, last time... Yosemite is beautiful though...

idiotgrrl said...

Bravo!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin, well presented and informative as always (though it only contains two external links, is that a record low for you?). However, keep it up, and we'll have to break your shins.
} : = 8 )


WS, I can see your point(s), and you certainly have valid arguments (in fact, I suspect that my understanding of events is largely congruent with yours, save for a lack of solid confirmation of several key points on my end, and I tend to waver back and forth, or hesitate in committing to a position because of it). As I've said before, I would love to hear more of what you have to say, especially anything that can be referenced (to give myself some confirmation on points, and so that I have something to help support my arguments when presenting this to others).


On the whole nature of conspiracy theories, it is human nature to conspire. It is human nature to cheat. It is human nature to favor friends and family, even unduly so. It is human nature to want more. These are all survival traits that were bred into the human psyche over millions of years of evolution. Combine these with great amounts of wealth and power, at it becomes very, very easy to succumb to natural tendencies. To conspire with a few people to manipulate events and outcomes into your favor, and the favor of your friends and family, your 'pack', 'herd', 'troop', 'circle', 'club', or whatever name for it you prefer. To cheat, and take whatever advantage you can regardless of the expense to others or the long term sustainability, etc.

It should be no surprise to anyone, who recognizes these basic, fundamental flaws in a 'civilized' human being (in the wild, they are survival traits, but in civilization, they are destructive tendencies), that people with great amounts of wealth and power, especially people raised in or thoroughly indoctrinated with a sense of entitlement and superiority, or (worst of all) a mindset of "what's good for me is good." It is a fundamentally logical conclusion that human beings in those positions would conspire, to expand their wealth, power, influence, and personal agendas. Couple that tendency, and the tendency of power (especially unregulated power) to corrupt, with the sheer quantity of wealth (which equals power) available to a relatively small but still significantly large range of people (the U.S. and global aristocracy), and it should surprise no one that there are people behind the scenes, pulling all sorts of strings. Everyone should expect that kind of conspiratorial cronism, and be naturally suspicious of anyone with large amounts of wealth and power, ESPECIALLY when those people have a tendency towards secrecy, and promote radical and/or fanatical ideologies.

To deny the existence of conspiracies by the aristocratic and political elite is to deny some of the most fundamental and widely-recognized flaws in civilized human beings.

Andy said...

After the stunningly efficient Balkans Operation delivered Europe its first peace in 4,000 yearsDavid,

Are you really suggesting that there had been no peace in Europe in the 4000 years before June 1999? Is that how Europe looks from your side of the pond?

Andy Johnson

Chris D. said...

@ Andy: I noticed that, also. I guess if you include the Carribean islands and Central America, you could argue that North America has not known peace since Columbus landed--maybe since the first aboriginals arrived millenia ago!

Otherwise, I think Brin's remarks are well considered. I'd say his opinions align well with a left-leaning foreign policy thinker along the lines of Michael Mandelbaum, who was somewhat influential with the Clinton administration. I also recommend reading Chollet and Goldgeier's incomparable "America Between the Wars" for added left-leaning perspective on the Bush years and Obama's return to Clintonian foreign policy.

However, as a post-Boomer American liberal who is not a pacifist by any means, I still see Clinton-Obama hawkishness as a lingering form of overcompensation for Vietnam rather than an indication of their "being over it."

Andy said...

David,

My above comment notwithstanding, I thought this was an interesting article.

Andy

I-Luv-Taxes said...

Happy Tax Time big government fans!

Pasting a little something appropriate from "DownsizeDC"...

If not for the threat of government violence -- of arrest, incarceration, and the loss of all your property -- how would you choose to spend your money. Would you rather . . .

- Give money to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or Habitat for Humanity?

- Contribute to government foreign aid projects, or Doctors Without Borders?

- Rely on the FDA for safe food and drugs, or the Underwriter's Laboratory?

- Deliver your mail through the post office, or Fed Ex and UPS?

- Contribute money directly to research clinics, or filter it through the National Institutes of Health?

- Receive treatment in a V.A. Hospital, or a private one?

- Give 15% of your income to Social Security, or use that money to buy annuities from a diverse portfolio of insurance companies?

- Continue paying taxes to a ponzi-scheme Medicare program that must eventually cut benefits and ration your health care, or pile-up those funds in a tax-free, interest bearing Health Savings Account?

- Contribute money to local charities to change and improve the lives of the poor, or to a food stamp program that merely maintains people in their poverty?

Cookie said...

Excellent post as usual.

But my real reason for posting is to ask if you can please do something about the eye-straining white-on-blue format? The comment section is beautifully clear but the original posts give me headaches.
Thanks.

Cliff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cliff said...

Just listen to the men and women of the US Officer Corps. Obama is (tentatively) their dream come true.Really.

http://billandbobsadventure.blogspot.com/2009/04/from-lizette-alvarez-to-homeland.html

Now this is just one bit of evidence, but it's one bit of evidence more than you've provided for your assertion.

And don't get me wrong, I'll be glad if you are right. I am just incredibly skeptical.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@I-Luv-Taxes:

Let's be honest, here. While you do have a couple good points (medicare and other things could do with reform/refinement, and like all things should regularly be looked at for improvements, but I'm not informed enough to comment beyond that), but your whole premise has one critical, fundamental flaw, that undermines the whole thing. The flaw can be demonstrated by asking one, single question. Let's be honest, now, how many of us would spend the money we put into taxes, or even just the tax money that goes into public service projects, etc., on donating directly to those services, instead of on our selves? Or, in short (something I have so much trouble doing), how many of us would keep our tax money instead of giving it to charity?

The simple answer is, not very many, and many of us who would, wouldn't spend as much. It's not hard at all to say, "Well, I can't afford it," or "I forgot to budget for that," or "I'm not spending my hard-earned money on some bum who can't get a job and pay his/her own way."

I suppose that you could require a mandatory donation to charity each year, but, then, how would that be any different than the taxes we already have?

Rocky said...

Too funny: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/26/16540/0928

Cliff said...

And I've started to develop a dim view of American imperialism in general. I think it's too easily bent to the will of corporations and oligarchs.

If we can restore accountability and transparency to the government, then maybe I will trust the US to leverage its influence for the good of the world.

Cliff said...

I-Luv-Taxes: I am fine with using the FDA, the NIH, the Post Office, food stamps, and Social Security (honestly, how can you not have seen the stock market recently).

I can't receive treatment at a VA hospital because I'm not a veteran. But I don't see why private hospitals are better.

I also have no problem with government foreign aid projects, so long as I can be assured they're being used efficiently. It's a small part of our budget anyway.

And I seriously doubt Habitat For Humanity can in any way replace the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But how about the defense budget? Any thoughts on cutting that back, if you hate taxes so much?

Ilithi Dragon said...

And don't forget NASA! Under-funded and under-appreciated as it is, there's a LOT of basic, every-day services that we couldn't do without it. How about our roads? Your tax dollars at work there. PennDoT jokes aside (or whatever StateDoT jokes apply), would you rather they all be toll roads, or just not maintained at all?

And I suppose we could all send our children to private schools, and hey, if we all did that, maybe they would drop the price enough for all of us to actually be able to afford it! (though, homeschooling actually is an option that I recommend, provided the home environment and parent-child relationship is stable enough for it.)

Or the police and fire departments? Does anyone remember the days when the fire department would let a house burn if the owners hadn't bought fire protection from them (or they didn't think they could pay afterward)? How well do you think the police would work if they only stopped a mugging, or investigated a murder, or stopped a bank robbery if the victim paid them to (or the victim's friends/family)? You'd be sure to still get your speeding tickets, anyway.


I have no problem with taxes. They're confusing, frustrating, a huge hassle, and an all around pain to deal with, but so is loading the dishwasher, paying rent, the electric bill, working at my job, etc. But all that stuff still needs done. Much as I don't like to, I still need to load the dishwasher, otherwise I won't have any clean dishes. I still need to pay rent, and my utilities bills, otherwise everything will be shut off and I'll be kicked out. You try telling your landlord and utility companies that you want to use their services without having to pay for them, or pay someone else of your choosing. The response will be pretty much the same one you'll get from the IRS.

Taxes are an unpleasant but necessary responsibility. We enjoy the protection, security and infrastructure of a large, extensive, often very involved government, but it doesn't come free. It is our responsibility to fund our government, because nobody else is going to do it for us, since, unfortunately, our culture and economy have not yet evolved to the point where money is no longer needed. They're annoying, frustrating, a big hassle, and generally a pain in the arse, yes, but like many unpleasant things, they still need to be done. Just because you don't like a responsibility doesn't make it any less of a responsibility, and not liking it doesn't mean you don't or shouldn't have to do it.

William_Shatner said...

Behind the scenes, the scuttlebutt is that they have appointments tied to not "embarrassing" certain nations with the documents. This amazing excuse is being used to justify tying the effort to PREVENT Obama from releasing the Bush Torture Memos, in order for him to make appointments to the Justice Department. You get that? The only thing relating the two is EXTORTION.

Then of course, the Republicans go on to say the countries that would be embarrassed by releasing such documents; "Pakistan, Morocco, Jordan, .. etc.," Most of the nations, probably could care less about their reputations because they are either already bad, or they don't worry about votes. But the really comical thing here is; that the Republicans are outing the nations in danger of being embarrassed, to avoid embarrassing them. Does anyone need to read; "Morocco helped our renditions efforts by crushing gonads" in stark detail? "We cannot release the torture memos because Morocco will be embarrassed *BREATHE* We cannot send Alberto Gonzales to prison, because nobody has come forth with compelling evidence of his complicity with a torture program."

These people read 1984 and used it as a script. It would be the height of comedy, if it weren't working to prevent our nation from seeking justice.

But this seems to back up a little of my "Democrats are being blackmailed" theory.

I predict outrage in the near future about "the Unilateral President Obama's RECESS APPOINTMENTS," from our friends on the Right. Because really, he needs to follow the process and be bipartisan when he's had almost no appointments in 3 months.

However, it doesn't mean that Obama might not comply. He might be going more towards large, changes in underlying principles, before going after the actual justice issue at hand here. Attaching a request for imperial powers and sending this to the Supreme court, will force the court to either rule to give Obama all the power he might need to make Unilateral decisions, or to remove the privileges and thus defeat Bush's presumed executive privilege to piss all over our Constitution and important treaties.

Really, Obama doesn't want this stuff to go to trial until AFTER he gets decent people in the Judicial system. Any BushCo flunky left embedded is going to rule against him anyway.

So the system has to be fixed, first.

The NeoCons are flailing around right now, trying to preserve their quickly dying movement and stay out of prison at the same time. Obama is actually playing chess here, and setting up his pieces so that they cover each other, pushing NeoCons into a corner where they only need to make a few mistakes, and they undermine their own players.

... that is, of course, if what I think is going on is actually going on. It's at least 50% hope.

And I REALLY hope that Obama, doesn't think that helping the banks is going to help our economy. It's more of the "tread softly around the mad crazy guy with the C4 jacket" kind of support. If it isn't, then Obama is still pretty naive about Economics, which would be in line with the Chicago school of thought that bread such morons as Ayn Rand and the oh-so-useful-for-robber-barons Allan Greenspan. I REALLY hope that he figured out long ago, that you have to play the game with these people, in order to be in a position of power to fight against them.

tacitus2 said...

I think 15 April is the one day of the year when any and all grumbling about taxes should be given a free pass!

Not sure I have ever met anyone so "out there" that they did not acknowlege a need to pay taxes. Reasonable expenditures for the military, functioning police and fire departments, road maint. all are givens.

And there are quite a few organs of government that seem to be functioning fairly well. CDC, my state DNR, the FAA seems to keep the airplanes in the air, the Post office is seeing a declining role but still turns up relibly and cheerfully.

Beyond that we should certainly ask if we are getting our dollar's worth from all kinds of folks. The educational system, the CIA, the SEC, the folks who run Medicare (I am assuming, as are most folks a few years from retirement, that there will be chump change left in 10-20 years).

No matter your ideological bent, there are hard questions being unasked regards where that money is going.

But having "seen the elephant" as it were, I can say we certainly are getting a good "product" compared to life in many parts of the world. Even if we may be paying too much.

Tacitus2

William_Shatner said...

Thanks for your kind words Ms. Dragon....
I also don't have enough facts to conclusively say much. The problem is, that people who are up to no good, are annoyingly unrevealing of their activities. They just don't like posting the facts. If we wait for perfect proof, we can never respond. You have to lower your threshold a bit. The thing is, if you know someone is a liar and a crook, it's pretty safe to assume that when they are standing over the body with a smoking gun in their hands, that that person with the history of rubbing people out may be to blame. A good trial might solve the case -- but when Karl Rove is ignoring Congressional Subpoenas, you might as well make an assumption.


>> A great chart to view how the Government spends our money; http://digg.com/d1olBb

See that? Lots of this is going to military and prisons. I'd love to cut government waste, if by waste we meant things that go boom rather than things that help the commons. If you look at the green and red numbers, they show green, where things help people with money and power or who want to blow things up. They seem to generally be red (reducing) on things that manage the land, help the poor, educate people. We've done it the conservative way, and that's why we are now circling the drain.

And that brings up the topic of Tea-Bagger Protests.

Why is Koch group, an Oil company out of New Jersey, funding the Kato Institute. For that matter, why is another big funder the Moonies?

And in a related investment, the Koch's are also backing Tom DeLay's astroturf efforts to organize the Tea-Bagging protests. Watching the myriad organizations sprout up, to focus some healthy outrage is as educational as it is entertaining. Did you know, you could get information from Fox News, on where to register?

Suggested new slogan;
"Fox News, Creating the News we like to Report on."

More fun "Fox Facts:"
Rupert Murdoch owns News Corp. No need to look up his birth certificate. He isn't from the USA, but he controls a good portion of our media.
The #2 owner of News Corp is a Saudi Prince.
Wouldn't this be interesting to the paranoid Americans who worry that all people from a wahabist persuasion are after them? What interest does the Saudi Prince, obviously meet from the programming on Fox?

Another organizer, of course, is Phil Graham, who helped "The Duke" get indian tribes to bid on their services to stop other indian tribes from getting gambling casinos. Phil would help out organizing outraged religious groups, to up the price of the consulting. See a pattern here?

This is a lot like Richard Melon Scaithe's "investments" into a conservative magazine that funded witnesses against Bill Clinton in Arkansas.

>> Someone might have put "organic" on the Tea Bags, but all the ingredients are artificial.

I'm just pointing out a few dots here. Draw your own "theories."

>>If you don't pay attention to history, then you to would be protesting taxes based upon the Boston Tea Party, which was to protest tax reductions to a large monopoly. Are the Tea Bagger's going to protest tax breaks to the WalMart Kids now? Dirty Hippy Fascists!

William_Shatner said...

Llithi,

Yea taxes suck.

It isn't absolutely necessary that they be as painful to deal with as they are. It's too much of a game, to organize and find categories so that you can save money.

The middle class is overtaxed -- I agree. The wealthy are under taxed. We can't have a Democracy if this situation continues. It isn't about "fairness" -- that's a pretty arbitrary measure. It's about "what works." Low taxes on the wealthy, allowed them to increase their wealth 500% over the last 8 years, while the Middle Class lost wealth.

That's more money left to lobby Congress. And we DON'T really have a Democracy while corporations and wealthy people can LOBBY with money to help people get elected.

And, for that matter, we can't have representation WITHOUT taxation. Every country (like the oil rich) where the people are NOT taxed, is more or less a despotism. It could be pretty nice, like in Kuwait, where you can freeload just for being fortunate enough being born there -- but you have no say in anything.

If the government doesn't depend upon the people for a tax base -- it doesn't have to listen to them.

But, it's a big caveat that as the Middle Class has lost money, we have lost influence. We just get taxed in more obscure ways.

David Brin said...

Andy demanded: "Are you really suggesting that there had been no peace in Europe in the 4000 years before June 1999? Is that how Europe looks from your side of the pond?"

Fine Andy... name any ten year stretch across 4,000 years during which all of the nations and peoples in Europe were simultaneously at peace and living under lawfully-representative governments of their choosing. Name one. You should be able to, since you imply my assertion is absurd.

In fact, you cannot. It has happened once. The fall of the Iron Curtain brought it close. The Balkans War cleaned up the last messes.

Still, you are most welcome here. (Oh, and I've lived in Paris & London for extended stretches. No parochialist here! ;-)

Cookie, I keep mulling changing my blog situation completely. I'd love to learn an easy method to base my blog on my web site. But I must put all such matters aside for now. Suffice it to say that white-on-blue symbolizes "contrary..."

Ilithi is right. Taxes are how we deliberate as a tribe to force ourselves to do in common things that our normal daily selfish impulses would refuse. I consider myself a libertarian of sorts. But the tax-fixation of most libertarians today - a time when a far worse enemy is crushing freedom - is simply stupid.

Ilithi Dragon said...

WS: First, it's MR. Dragon, and it starts with an I (i, eye). That's a common mistake, though - many, many fonts make little or no distinction between the upper case I and the lower case L, and they seem to be especially popular online. } : = 8 /

Second, you are very welcome. } : = 8 )I usually enjoy reading your posts (when I have time to read them in their entirety), though it did take me a while to get my mind around some of what you present. And yes, the tendency of people doing bad things to cover them up is rather annoying. Maybe I'll write them a letter expressing my frustration...

Seriously, though, I can definitely understand the lack of available information. I am still interested in hearing your theories, and your opinions on reliable (and unreliable) sources of information, etc. If nothing else, it will be an interesting read, though from what I've seen, your logic and reasoning tends to be sound, and it should at least give me a direction to head in for more information.

William_Shatner said...

I-Luv-Taxes said...I think someone with more familiarity and a bit more thought could make a much more compelling rebuttal to this comments, but here goes;

Would you rather;
Give money to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or Habitat for Humanity?
You mean Jimmy Carter's group? Just imagine what he could have done if he could have made that a government service organization.



- Contribute to government foreign aid projects, or Doctors Without Borders?I have a friend who works at Doctors Without Borders. He is a Democrat. WE both were considering moving out of this country if McCain won the election. What we need, is Doctors Without Borders, to start delivering health care in the for-profit emergency rooms of America's hospitals.

Can you breathe the air and get fish out of a river? Thank the government -- because it forced business to not kill those off and it started when Jimmy Carter was in office.

- Rely on the FDA for safe food and drugs, or the Underwriter's Laboratory? Wow. Republicans really proved government doesn't work -- after they put their lobbyists in charge. The FDA used to do a great job, when they had more money, more inspectors, and followed their own laws. UL is very expensive for companies and slow. Notice how we have so many external and inefficient power supplies for all our devices? That's because, using a low power trickle-charge to slowly power a battery, is preferable, than having to go to UL for every new electronic device for testing. UL does a great job -- but the have LOTS of oversight and stringent rules by government. As soon as the electronics companies figure out that they can make more money lobbying congress to corrupt UL, and put up with a few more fires, well then, that organization will fail as well.



- Deliver your mail through the post office, or Fed Ex and UPS?Does Fed-Ex deliver things for $.50 anywhere in the country? We have an infrastructure that supports all the rural, low profit people out there. If you want to get rid of all government influence on business, then good luck getting light and water further out than the suburbs.



Our postal service has to subsidize all the junk mail from private industry. Once again, parasitic business using lobbyists. If FedEx had to deliver junk mail for $.14, they'd go under in a few months. FedEx overall, is better organized than UPS. Just making it government run doesn't mean it runs better or worse. It just means it changes slower and doesn't need marketing executives.

- Contribute money directly to research clinics, or filter it through the National Institutes of Health? Better example would be Universities. A lot of private corporations mooch off of their great progress. Private Research Clinics don't have to publish their findings. So, good luck getting any cures or "cheap" drugs out of that.



- Receive treatment in a V.A. Hospital, or a private one?
Both have been ruined. If I went for anything extensive in a private hospital, I'd be broke in a week -- probably doing more damage to my future than merely losing a leg. At the VA hospital, I might not get good care, but I could survive the bill.



- Give 15% of your income to Social Security, or use that money to buy annuities from a diverse portfolio of insurance companies? Most people lost 50% of their IRAs and 401k plans. A loss is more important than a gain. NOT losing 50%, would be like gaining 100% on the upside. SS is a money redistribution system. The accounts it has are to shore up the Baby Boomer retirements with the assistance of incoming tax revenues and it will zero out when Baby Boomers are done retiring. So the two are not really equivalent, because much of the SS tax goes to current retirees. During the last Republican Great Depression, the current workers money was used to make sure the elderly and indigent didn't starve and could retire with dignity. Every country that privatized their retirements, now has people begging to get back in the Government system. Did you know that? They've done this scam before an the people lost their shirts.

I'm in financial services, and the whole concept of having to be lucky and smart enough to make it to the end of your years with enough money to survive is repellant to me. It shouldn't be a game. Most investments are not venture capital anymore but profit taking -- which is a long talk to explain. Suffice to say, I'd rather just pay a portion out, and have a guaranteed decent support when I retire, rather than hoping to make 15% year over year, and hoping not to lose it all. Very, very few people make 15% year over year -- it isn't supportable that EVERYBODY wins. For everybody getting that great return -- 9 others are not. This country is brainwashed into easy money mentality. The country and the society CANNOT GROW at a rate of 15%.

Then of course, you have to factor out the built-in inflation, which robs us all of wealth.

- Continue paying taxes to a ponzi-scheme Medicare program that must eventually cut benefits and ration your health care, or pile-up those funds in a tax-free, interest bearing Health Savings Account? Neither. And a health savings account is a cynical joke that only helps people without health problems. WE already pay for Socialized Medicine with our tax dollars, and the money we pay out of pocket, is 110% profit for health insurers. The hospitals steel our Medicare dollars putting Band-Aids on in emergency rooms, and the Health Insurers inflate the costs, and pay less than the face amount, and charge back the doctor in high insurance fees. To operate this for-profit ponzi scheme (an incorrect application of the idea, but consistent with yours), 34% of our health care costs are in administrative fees -- all a result of having insurance companies in the mix.
So, 52% of all the money paid INTO healthcare is Medicare(yes paid for by taxpayers), 50% of all money paid OUT ends up at the insurance company. 34% of the COST is administrative. That leaves about 35% of the money paid in, actually going to some treatment or doctor. Again, the people subsidize the profits of private companies and have no control over the benefits. It's the worst of both worlds. WE should be charging insurance companies for Medicare. Let them and the for-profit Hospitals fight it out. Then maybe the poor and indigent could see a doctor before it became an emergency -- who knows?



- Contribute money to local charities to change and improve the lives of the poor, or to a food stamp program that merely maintains people in their poverty?
Or starve the people, who don't get food, and are not deserving of a charity, which isn't forced to do anything? This is pretty arbitrary. Charities are a pretty BAD way to solve any problem. But they sure do feel good. It's pretty insulting to a Veteran, who got his leg blown off, to go to some charity to get a bicycle or food for his kids. Why should he have to beg, and we have to "hope" that the charity takes care of that? What happens if someday, Veterans are no longer a big draw for a Charity, and they just decide to start getting toys for kids in Botswana?

Charities can do a few nice things. They aren't terribly efficient. They spend most of their money and energy fundraising. We have no control. A good cache cow for Conservative religious groups who can spend the money on lobbying, mercenaries in latin America, or buying gold mines in the Congo. I'm specifically referring to the 700 Club -- I bet you didn't hear about that. I guess we need to send donations to some group to become a watchdog on charities or something.

>> It isn't all "either, or" -- the problem is government can be good or bad based upon our involvement, and you are comparing 30 years of corruption, to a few well run private organizations that are the exception and not the rule. Most fire departments, for instance, do a great job, and are not saddled with parasitic businesses and lobbyists from private industry bent on turning it into a source of profits. AS we have in the Prison Industry, Health Care, Defense, Transportation, etc. Government does some things well; anything that you want to be cheap and ubiquitous, things that are beneficial but would not allow much profits. So, our government should be providing internet access for everyone, and allow ISPs to provide premium services. It should be making hospitals "non profit" and regulating them so that they don't become profit centers. Most countries -- doctors work for themselves, but the healthcare is through the government and it works better than the system we have, where Doctors work for health insurance agencies, and the coverage and hospital are profits first.

There is bad business and bad government -- we don't want either. Use the one that works the best for the type of service. If society needs something -- then it should be government. If it doesn't, then you can get iPods and boob jobs from private organizations. If you are retired and want to bake cookies -- then it should be a charity, which I would say, other than a few endowments and the Habitat for Humanity, are mostly useless.

>> All these things are failing, because CORRUPT government has foisted the Bill onto the taxpayer, and given the profits and controls to corporations. I'd rather not allow Republicans in the government anymore, which would VASTLY improve the quality of government programs. You can cherry pick a few charities that work. But United Way operates at more than 80% overhead while Social Security operates with a less than 3% overhead. Charities, for the most part, can't organize enough or pay for their activities efficiently, to solve real problems--they are constantly fundraising if not based on a huge endowment. Rather than hoping on the largess of a few Bill Gates, I'd rather a Democratic process that wasn't being sabotaged to fail, take over.


All those "government" institutions, have done a great job (or at least a lot better) under Democrats.

FedEx, doesn't deliver anything for 50 pennies. And it isn't going to deliver EVERYWHERE unless the price is right.

David Brin said...

WS - I just had my mac examined at the Apple Store... they do such stuff FOR FREE! I am hoping that switching to a different powered USB hub may solve the Kernel Panic. Will see...

What "font utility"? How I long to get rid of 3/4 of them....

William_Shatner said...

Mr. DragonMy apologies, I thought I was reading some derivation of "Lilith." Yes, the I and l have been ruined in san serif fonts.

It's all I can hope for that someone is at least entertained -- which is WHY is do most of my speculating. Boredom with people who never wonder or wander from the lines set before them could likely kill me.

I am not making a dissertation. I want it to be a launching pad. It would be really great to have people add to, or subtract from the assertions.

Some of these "conspiracy" sites, could be Psy-ops to actually discredit the conspiracies. Because, people who conspire, spend a lot of energy in twisted thought. If you say; "It's preposterous that Alex Jones would be a CIA operative!" I say to you; "Then how could someone not being paid to think of such things, like myself, have thought it up?"

There is nothing more ruinous, of a fact-finding mission, than to have its leader do a poor jobs of findings. It's like hiring someone to take a fall in a fight. You can't really be sure if the champion is based upon merit.

>> I feel for Mr. Brin. He has a reputation to maintain. I think he needs to blog here under another name, and throw out his wildest, unsupported theories -- I'm sure they would be pretty interesting.

Why have most of the great advances in science, echoed ideas in science fiction? Because writers aren't hampered by peer review (Editors are quite enough), and there is a suspension of disbelief.

So, what if?

What if, what I am supposing is true - what would that mean? When it does a better job of explaining reality, than what we are told. It's at least worthy of investigation. If it is false, it should quickly collapse.

William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...
WS - I just had my mac examined at the Apple Store... they do such stuff FOR FREE! I am hoping that switching to a different powered USB hub may solve the Kernel Panic. Will see...

What "font utility"? How I long to get rid of 3/4 of them....
>> I thought it might be the USB hub. Those devices are handled at a low level, and a malfunctioning one can of course, cause kernel panics. Fonts are the other common culprit (followed by bad RAM).

First, to GET RID of fonts, go to /Library/Fonts and then just drag them out. Save them in another folder. You also have a Fonts folder in your user folder. At the finder, press Shift+Command+G (for go to folder) and type in "~/Library/Fonts" and you go right there.

Or, you can use "Font Book.app" from your applications folder. Duplicate fonts will have a bullet next to them, and you can disable a dupe. Those fonts can be re-activated later.

http://www.ninisworld.com/thecorner/tutorials/osxfonts.html

It's good to know which fonts the system MUST have, and get rid of that other nonsense.
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1642
So, if you want to prune away the junk, that's the SAFE list.


>> another great optimization is "monolingual" which doesn't trim fonts, but removes all those languages from applications you don't use. I saved 50% of my app size to fit things on my laptop. Adobe products though seem to get messed up with this slimming.

Snow Leopard OS should do a lot more for slimming pretty soon, however.

Ilithi Dragon said...

No worries, WS, people often get tripped up over my name, even when I'm literally saying it out loud to them. If it keeps giving you trouble, you can just call me Bob.
} : = 8 )

I'd be glad to add what contributions I can to your theory(ies); I'm much further behind and less informed on most things in this than you, so it probably won't be much, but I'll chip in with my thoughts, at least.



On a related note, I happened to flip on NPR on my way home from work this afternoon, instead of listening to my iPod, and managed to catch a great interview with Simon Johnson, the former IMF chief economist who wrote the Atlantic article "The Quiet Coup" that someone posted in the last comments section, I think. It's quite interesting, if you've got the time to listen:

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=4&islist=true&id=13&d=04-15-2009

I-Luv-Taxes said...

Dragon, Shattner -
What? No, no, I LUV TAXES! Didn't you read my posting name?

Where did my post say anything to indicate that I don't? Go Big Government! Tax Tax Tax!

Perhaps you are both the types that secretly read "choice B" (anti-government) as seeming so obviously better, that you thought I must be advocating those? Selfish Dragon! Greedy Shattner!

Don't you know that before the federal government started taxing us properly, every poor person died of starvation with no one to help them? Old people - well, the only old people were RICH old people, because once you couldn't work, you didn't eat! Read your history! Especially the history of the United States - no one ever joined or gave to voluntary organizations to help anyone in the United States - especially not the rich. And we were all ignorant and illiterate until the government kindly required us to all go to school and learn history. That's where I learned my history, like how FDR saved the country from the Great Depression, the way Obama is going to! Didn't you learn your history?

Shame on you, secretly selfish and greedy Dragon and Shattner!

Choice A! Tax and Spend! Big Big Big Government all the way!

William_Shatner said...

I-Luv-Taxes said...I expected more, somehow.

Did I mention MORE taxes at any point that I wanted to pay? Well, yes, we should have more taxes -- on people with more money than me. I'm not into abuse, after all.

How about a pay for what you want scheme? You get your taxes, and you can choose to spend 35% on education, 50% on defense, and another 50% on more education.

The IRS can even normalize the percentages, for the people who really, really need the "more education."

If nobody puts money down for "war on drugs" we have to surrender, make sense?

By the way, your response was clever and charming. Touche!
I'm guessing that even you don't believe me, eh?

>> Dang, I'm procrastinating. I've got to edit some video tonight for tomorrow, and I'm tired.

However, the invite to the party I am giving this weekend, got more and more outrageous the later it got. OK, I'm still procrastinating.

>> Mr. Dragon, don't TRY to be clever. There are some really smart people here, and to me, it's kind of interesting to track down obscure references, but I most enjoy, someone with a pithy comment that hits it out of the park.

I just heard a good quote the other day;
"Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day.
Give a man religion, and he will die praying for a fish."

Ouch!

William_Shatner said...

Back on topic:
"Overseas Contingency Operations"
>> not Doublespeak. It actually sounds like what it is. It harkens to a attitude of; "let's figure a way out of this mess."

"Contingency" means that things did not go as planned and this is Plan B. It also makes it harder to justify a big budget.

"Overseas" doesn't talk about alien, or foreign or "other." It is the driest and least resentful language I could think of.

"Plan." NOT WAR. This is about thinking first. This is strategy and diplomacy.

The fact that it isn't sexy, isn't James Bond at all -- is VERY GOOD. It's not a teenager with a drink in one hand and a fast car in the other. Boring is good. Not here to attract people to this mess.

>> This language is as anti-Bush as you can get. It limits the role, and reduces the animosity.

I really, really like it. The more it bores me, the more I like it. I don't want sexy war, or "get the bad guys war" I want "No War."

This was done by someone who really is a good student of language, and understands its power. Again, this is a sign that "somebody gets it."

It almost makes up for Obama's speech where he tells us that helping banks will make ten times more credit available. No, giving people a job prospect will make credit available -- but it was nice that he helped the average Joe understand fractional reserve banking, almost.

>>Personally, I would have gone for something a little more spiritual; "transcending failed policy initiative." My phrase is better, actually, but that's because I'm a subversive who wants to twist the knife on neocons a little.

Tony Fisk said...

@i luv taxes

we-e-ell. you *did* frame your question as a series of black and white, either-or assertions.

(Would you prefer 'death or taxes'?)

And you *did* prime the pitch by referring the 'violent' way big government might respond if you didn't cough up.

Still, it was a nice gotcha! I hope WS and Ilithi can see the amusing side of it! (at least WS seems to. Ilithi has yet to respond)

Speaking of 'Ilithi' and how it looks, it does seem to be a standard mantra that web pages should use sans serif fonts. People who say that don't really grok what serifs are for: which is to provide snags for the visual cortex to latch on to and identify. For that reason, serif fonts are much easier to read when small. Sans serifs do look cleaner, though, especially in larger sizes. Reserve them for headings.

(I once, and only briefly, worked for a company that used 'comic sans serif' for its official documents!)

pronsane: an advocate for madness

I-Luv-Taxes said...

Tony:

??? Well, yes, of course it's black and white choices. Anyone supporting column B is a traitor to column A! Column B choices undermine the effectiveness of and citizen gratitude for column A programs! If people are still supporting column B, we need to raise taxes until they stop, so we can give more money to column A!

And I don't see why the righteously forceful response of Our Big Pal (that's my pet name for government - like it?) to tax cheaters would imply a bias toward column B. If anything it should make people prouder than ever to choose column A! Force is what government is all about!

[BTW - I just noticed that the final item in my original list inadvertently put one column A item into column B. Deepest apologies to the permanent welfare state! And to any Our Big Pal Buddies who might have been confused into accidentally choosing local charity after checking column A all the rest of the way down.]

TwinBeam said...

There's a much older, much broader and more descriptive term than "War on Terror" or "Overseas Contingency Operations" or "Pax Americana".

"Foreign Entanglements"

The acronyms actually communicate better than the names themselves:

- War on Terror - "Wot???" - drunkenly staggering around the world, belligerently looking for trouble, inciting anger and retributive attacks.

- Pax Americana - "Pa" - wanting the world's love but trying to lay down the law, 'Dad' gets nothing but scorn and resentment for his efforts.

- Overseas Contingency Operations - "OCO" - "Oh, see 0 [zero]" - the name obfuscates its own meaning, probably intentionally.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On taxes: I think I'm missing something... Maybe I've just spent too much time debating on forums where many of the people arguing against me resort to sarcastic ridicule and attempts at satire instead of presenting evidence and logical arguments. *shrug* It's just been my experience that most people showing such extreme and flamboyant enthusiasm as I-Luv-Taxes tend to be mocking it instead of actually supporting it.

Unless I'm completely missing whatever it is I'm missing, which has happened before... (I have been known to stand on the tracks and fail to notice freight trains barreling my way on occasion...)


On the banks: From what I understand, the major U.S. banks are probably totally insolvent, with something like over 3 and a half trillion dollars in debts on their books, with only about half of it publicly recognized, and that even with only that half, plus the wallstreet bail-out, they're still below or around the zero mark. Again, from what I understand, without the bailouts, the major banks would have failed, and we would be facing a complete economic collapse - a cliff to make the last Great Depression look like a pothole.

Further, from what I understand, bailing out the banks isn't the only option truly available to us, nor is it the best option we have, but there is a difference between the full range of options available to us, and which ones we can actually take. Some of the better options to get out of this mess, like temporarily nationalizing the banks and then splitting them up and restructuring them afterward, would never fly here in the U.S. Such blatant 'socialism' is anathema here in the States, and the pundits, politicians, talking heads, etc. of the so-called 'right wing' would have a field day.

Other options are limited by the very nature of the cause of this mess - this wasn't just people being stupid or making honest, if foolhardy and negligent mistakes. Whether or not there is agreement on the extent of the 'conspiracy', there is no doubt that there has been massive amounts of cronism and deliberate, malicious manipulation of the markets, and government, for the gain of a select few, at the expense of everyone else, with little regard for the cost and ultimate long-term consequences to others. Suffering the consequences for those actions is the last thing the people who brought us here want to do, and they are going to drag their feet whenever and wherever they can, unless it looks like a good deal for them.

If I understand this mess correctly, there is still another 1-2 trillion dollars in bad assets on the banks' books, which could still bring everything crashing down around our ears, but Obama, and the government in general, is rather limited in the options it can actually take to resolve the situation. The political mindset of the American populace limits some of the options available to the Obama administration, and the very people who got us into this mess control a lot of wealth, power, and influence, and add further limits to the options we can take, taking some options off the table, and making others very tricky and difficult.

Ultimately, though, to avoid facing economic collapse, we have to either nationalize the banks (which isn't an option here), or support their debts to keep the system afloat. The question now is how do we support them, and what kind of penance we require from them for it.

Ultimately, I think the big banks need to be broken up, and legislation passed that limits the size of big corporations, to prevent the creation of corporations that are too big to fail. Legislation to restrict the 'circle-jerk' cronism of CEO buddies appointing themselves to each others' board of directors, creating conflicts of interest, etc., would be a good idea as well, in my opinion, but that might not happen any time soon.

Stefan Jones said...

"I Luv Taxes" is an ideological crank with a big bag of cut-and-paste Grievance Points.

David Brin said...

I regret calling Professor Chernus -- by generalized association -- a "doofus. The hurried informality of blogs does forgive such florid language -- a bit. Still...

Cliff said...

A blow for transparency and accountability:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/secret-interrogation-memos-to-be-released/

Cliff said...

NYT reports that soot from primitive stoves is a major factor in global warming - which is nice because it's comparatively easy to fix:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/science/earth/16degrees.html?_r=1&hp

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