Monday, December 27, 2010

Understanding American Gov't and Politics

The following quotations are drawn from a book entitled "Deadly Paradigms," from which I have quoted before. I am now re-reading this monograph by D. Michael Shafer and have found that much of what he says regarding the American doctrine of counterinsurgency can be used to understand domestic policy in the United States as well - and on domestic policy so conceived, both Democrats and Republicans are, basically, in agreement. Here is one passage to illustrate my argument:

"What's good for governments, advocates argued, is more, and more centralized power." [Of course I could stop here because this argument seems basic to both liberals and conservatives today, even if they would disagree about where the government's centralized power is to be applied and/or about where this centralized power ought to be lodged, either in corporations or in the national government. But it is worthwhile to quote further.] "This is the key to both the assimilation of people newly mobilized [read: "alienated"] by modernization [read: "globalization"] and the innovation of policy necessary for political modernization [read:"modifying the Constitution"] and the destruction of the periphery [read: "destruction of rural, small town US"]. Thus, argued Neil Smelser, if 'undifferentiated [traditional] structures... constitute the primary social barriers to modernization... invariably a certain amount of political pressure must be applied to loosen these ties.' This action requires a stronger state, and it 'creates conditions demanding a larger, more formal type of political administration. Thus, another argument in favor of the importance of strong government during rapid and uneven modernization is based on the necessity to accommodate the growing cultural, economic, and social heterogeneity and to control the political repercussions of the constantly shifting distribution of power accompanying extensive social reorganization.' More government would be better government, because more is better and because it would be more modern government which is also better." [p. 63]]

If one understands "modernization" as an ongoing project, not a static or completed project - as we in the US generally do at least as regards this nation - then what is said here regarding the allegedly "developing" world is applicable to the US and would seem to make sense of a lot of domestic policies in the US. Power, either governmental or corporate and probably both, needs to be brought to bear on the people in order to overcome their attachment to those "undifferentiated structures" [don't you just love the bullshit language used to hide what is actually at stake here?] - that is, "traditional" structures, which in their naivete the people think important to the quality of their lives. For example, it is a ruse of those in power to argue that what is being called "educational reform" is simply a response to a "failure" on students' parts to meet certain "standards," apparently "standards" that were once met but now are not being met. Of course, these "standards" never existed in the past nor was anyone then interested in such "standards." People are today because the real motivation for "educational reform" - and why it has been embraced by both Bush II/Shrub and Obama/Barry, e.g., - is to overcome whatever resistance there might be to having an educational system that seeks to do anything other than prepare the young to be faithful, loyal, serious, involved, committed, and energetic EMPLOYEES or WORKERS. The college where I work has a motto, Learn, Achieve, Contribute, which just about sums this up. That education was once thought to have something to do with CITIZENSHIP, e.g., must be repressed or suppressed because if the young get that idea into their heads, there is no telling what might be the results. Can you imagine the havoc if the young got the idea that the government and the corporations were suppose to serve the people and not vice versa? Now there's a possibility that scares the hell out of both liberals and conservatives!

Friday, December 24, 2010

How We Think About Government and Politics

The following is taken from a book entitled, "Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of US Counterinsurgency Policy." I have changed a few words and left out some to illustrate how we think about government and politics not limited to the role these thoughts play in other nations. It is, I think, quite enlightening.

The basic assumptions are that "domestic political violence can necessarily have only bad consequences for...development; the lower the level of domestic violence, the better necessarily the prospects for [development]; and therefore nations and governments [including ours at home] need to be automatically 'shielded' against violence...if they are to proceed with effective development." Note should be taken that this thinking, this kind of political science, is applied to all "nations and governments," not just foreign ones.

And this continues: "The perceived necessity of order became the necessary priority of...programs which came to be defined as 'developmental.'....'There must be an adequate measure of internal order, internal stability, if a nation is going to progress in an orderly fashion in the social, economic, and political arenas. The alternative is disruption, disorder, violence, and frustration of the aspirations of the people'....Officials defined the maintenance of order as the first priority, for 'if a government is to govern, it must be able to enforce its edicts....Compliance with the law or stability must prevail.'"

Again, note should be taken that this thinking, this "political science" is applicable to all governments and all nations. "Order" and "stability" are primary, are essential, even or especially at the expense of disruption and illegal behavior. If you have ever wondered about what, for example, is called "educational reform," you should think about it in light of these passages. "No Child Left Behind" or "The Race to the Top," the programs of Shrub and Obama, are essentially compatible with an agenda of securing order and stability, even of "pacifying" the people in ways that make, according to this political science, development and progress possible and even inevitable. However some questions arise and some implications are visible, as follows:

"...the assertion that the law must prevail begs the questions of whose legality is being enforced and its legitimacy. That these questions are rarely asked reflects the strength of the standard explanations...."

Moreover, note the implications for our view of governments, all governments: "strengthening democratic institutions" is confounded with "political stability" as "interchangeable." "Since instability arises from below...governments [read from "the people"], then even illiberal acts...are justifiable. Thus, despite a preference for representative government, the 1969 report of the Presidential Mission...asserted...that 'the question is less one of democracy or a lack of it than it is simply of orderly ways of getting along.' In fact, to manage...discontents, an authoritarian regime may be required or even recommended...." [pp. 85-86]

Political "Analysis" - Sort Of

New York Times, Dec. 23, 2010:

"Supporters credited Mr. Obama’s tenacity even as some complained that he too rarely showed the trait in earlier dealings with Congress. Instead, they say, he often deferred on legislative strategy to the Democratic leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will no longer command a majority in the coming House, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who will have a much smaller majority in January — and to his since-departed White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a former congressman.

"Often cited is Mr. Obama’s failure to act earlier in seeking an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts except those on high incomes; delaying action until after the midterms gave Republicans more leverage to force a compromise that also extends the high-end tax brackets for two years."

Now this is what passes, I guess, for "political analysis" by the nation's "newspaper of record." What explains Obama's "successes" in the past week with the lame duck Congress is his "tenacity." Wow, now that explains an awful lot. All of a sudden, after the Republicans managed to hold together unanimously on almost every issue, the party regulars could not prevent some Republicans from "bolting" and voting for the likes of the New Start treaty and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Is this all the Times and other have? Some see what is going on, even Charles Krauthammer for example. Why is it that when doing what passes for political analysis, the "analysts" persist in providing "explanations" that don't explain anything? What are they hiding? Could it be the corrupt political system in which the two parties collude so the regulars in each one can preserve their power and perks?

Now, here is my hunch for 2012: No one in the Democratic Party will challenge Obama. The Republicans will put up a candidate who will be most unlikely to win and then they, the Republicans, will not support this candidate, especially if it happens to be someone like Sarah Palin or another "insurgent" type. No one [read Bloomberg] will run as a "third party candidate" and Obama will win, while a number of the recently elected Republican "insurgents" will be defeated....with the blessings of the Republican regulars. Why? Because this is the outcome that will preserve the stability of the current situation. And, of course, this in turn will mean that those in charge now will continue to be in charge. And then the next time that the public's anger erupts, the "analysts" will seek explanations for this in psychology, sociology, history, geography, sexuality.....that is, in anything but the political fact that the public is being screwed over for the sake of systemic stability.

And here is Charles Krauthammer's take in part. He is a lot closer than the Times but leaves us wondering where Obama's new found power came from after the electoral drubbing the Democrats got in November. Isn't it amazing what a little "tenacity" can do?

"The conservative gloaters were simply fooled again by the flapping and squawking that liberals ritually engage in before folding at Obama’s feet. House liberals did it with Obamacare; they did it with the tax deal. Their boisterous protests are reminiscent of the floor demonstrations we used to see at party conventions when the losing candidate’s partisans would dance and shout in the aisles for a while before settling down to eventually nominate the other guy by acclamation.

"And Obama pulled this off at his lowest political ebb. After the shambles of the election and with no bargaining power — the Republicans could have gotten everything they wanted on the Bush tax cuts retroactively in January without fear of an Obama veto — he walks away with what even Paul Ryan admits was $313 billion in superfluous spending.

"Including a $6 billion subsidy for ethanol. Why, just a few weeks ago, Al Gore, the Earth King, finally confessed that ethanol subsidies were a mistake. There is not a single economic or environmental rationale left for this boondoggle that has induced American farmers to dedicate an amazing 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop — for burning! And the Republicans have just revived it.

"Even as they were near-unanimously voting for this monstrosity, Republicans began righteously protesting $8.3 billion of earmarks in Harry Reid’s omnibus spending bill. They seem not to understand how ridiculous this looks after having agreed to a Stimulus II that even by their own generous reckoning has 38 times as much spending as all these earmarks combined."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama Is "Wounded"!

As reported in the New York Times today [December 22, 2010], "Senate Set To Give Obama a Victory On Arms Control." Apparently, a "Bipartisan Vote Clears the Final Hurdle for a Nuclear Treaty With Russia." And this is happening despite the fact that Obama has "emerged politically wounded from last month's midterm elections...." Of course, this follows on the "politically wounded Obama" getting a tax deal done, getting Don't Ask Don't Tell overturned, and getting the Republicans to agree to continue funding the government for a "little while longer." Wow, is Obama ever wounded!! And as reported in the Times, "eleven support the treaty...,despite a concerted effort by Republican leaders to sink the agreement."

Of course, this makes perfect sense, no? After months and even years of holding the Republicans together, the Republican leadership could not do it on this issue. Seems a bit strange, does it not? Of course, the Times provides no explanation or even speculation as to why this is happening, other than to refer to a split between "former cold warrior" types in the Republican Party and other, more newly arrived and empowered Republicans. This provides, of course, no explanation at all. And can you imagine how those Republicans just recently elected feel now? "Gee, guys," the Republican leadership is saying to those people. "It's really good to have you in Congress. Of course, as the lame duck session indicated, you are not in charge here. We are. And we mean to stay in charge even it means helping re-elect Obama."

See, that's one thing about our political parties and the "regulars" in them: They are more concerned with maintaining their own power than they are with winning elections. So, from this perspective, "insurgents," especially when elected in large numbers, must be "disciplined." The Democrats "disciplined" the "Blue Dog" Democrats in the last election and now the Republican regulars are "disciplining" the newly elected members, especially those who want to, genuinely want to change how Washington "works." Because if they, the new comers were actually successful in doing so, the regulars in the Republican Party would lose their power and status. And, of course, that is the last thing they want.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some Interesting Commentary from C. Krauthammer


This is for those who think that Obama is a left wing liberal or socialist or that the Republican Party is actually interested in changing the situation in D.C. and the nation. This is by a decidedly conservative columnist who has, apparently, seen through the bullshit that passes for politics these days. Genuine conservatives? Genuine liberals? Not on your life......

"After all, these are the same Republicans who spent 2010 running on limited government and reducing the debt. And this budget-busting occurs less than a week after the president’s deficit commission had supposedly signaled a new national consensus of austerity and frugality.
"Obama is no fool. While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection chances, he gets them to make a mockery of their newfound, second-chance, post-Bush, tea-party, this-time-we’re-serious persona of debt-averse fiscal responsibility."

The one thing that Krauthammer does not seem to see is that Obama is "disciplining" the left wing of the Democratic Party with his tax deal as well as getting the Republicans to help him get re-elected by taking the "Republican way" with regard to his stimulus II.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Deal

The Deal, the deal.....Yes, it is a deal but it sure isn't the New Deal. For the people, it isn't even a very good deal. But, in fact, it is a deal that illustrates about as well as any single political event can how our political system works or, rather, how that system is worked by the two parties to maintain their power even at the expense of "the people."

There is a lot of talk and print about how some Democrats are angry with Obama for "the deal," but what is not mentioned is that is the point or one point of "the deal." It is to discipline the Democratic Party, subjugating it to the current "leadership." See, first, in the elections the Blue Dog Democrats go down to defeat in large numbers, to much larger defeats than other Democrats. Why? Because the Blue Dogs were Democrats who wanted to get serious about the deficit, even at the expense of the power of the current "leadership." This is just unacceptable for the current "leadership." So, let the Blue Dog Democrats go down to defeat. Also, Obama is looking toward 2012 and his re-election and pinning his hopes on seeming to be "pragmatic" and an economic recovery more robust than we have now. Throw a few crumbs to the middle class, and the non-sacrifices made by the very wealthy will be forgotten, the plutocracy will prevail. Or so Obama hopes.

Even more interesting though is the Republican angle on "the deal." First, it puts to rest the assertion by Mitch McConnell that his and his party's most important task is denying Obama re-election in 2012. You cannot do that very well or easily when you are compromising with that "socialist" in the White House. By making this "deal," the Republicans have left Obama off the hook, so to speak, because they have let him be what he pretends to be, a "pragmatic" politician who wants what is best for the American people even at the price of significant compromise. Second, "the deal" puts the screws to the Tea Partiers. After all, the Tea Partiers generally speaking are most exercised by the deficit and this "deal" does nothing but increase that, while compromising with "the socialist" in the White House. This is the Republican version of disciplining the Republican Party by letting the Tea Partiers know who is boss. Earlier, this was made clear when that Tea Party person from Minnesota, whose name I have repressed [Michelle something or other], was denied a "leadership" position in the House of Representatives. And my bet is that the committee chairpersons will all be among the party regulars, even if that means voting to suspend some party rules regarding eligibility for these chairs.

So, without ever planning it, the two parties have colluded once again to keep their power in the hands of "party regulars" while putting the screws to the middle and lower classes and doing virtually nothing to deal with some of our problems. And if you wondered why the tax issue was put off until after the last elections, now you know the reason: It was done in the name of party discipline for both parties. A politics of collusion that serves the few at the expense of the many....Such is the state of the "republic" today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Obama the "Fence Sitter"

This is a link to an article in today's NY Times entitled "Debt-Busting Issue May Force Obama Off Fence." According to this analysis, Obama has been sitting on the fence, that is, trying to placate both independent voters and his "base" or the "liberals." However, according to this analysis, Obama is soon to be forced off the fence because he will have to make a choice to with regard to the Bush tax cuts and with regard to spending on items like Medicaid and Social Security. A couple of things in response:

(1) Notice that according to the headline the issue is the "debt-busting issue." So, if this is how the issue is described then it would appear that Obama - or anyone else - has few choices and among those choices will be some compromise on both taxes and spending. Despite all the "noise" coming out of Washington these days, it is already clear that Obama will "fold" regarding the Bush tax cuts and their application to the very, very wealthy. They will be preserved and Obama will present this as only "realistic" or "pragmatic." And regarding spending, the die is already cast in that Obama has frozen federal wages for two years, saying that these workers are "patriots" and so will understand and accept the need for sacrifice. Apparently, these workers are to sacrifice but not the very, very wealthy. Guess which way the wind is blowing?

(2) The article is written in a way that one gets the impression that Obama really didn't want to sit on the fence but had to given the "lay of the land." Ah, but consider an alternative: Obama sat of the fence, knowing that by doing so he would end up in the position he is in today and "having" to make the "choices" he is now making. This would be because those choices are not all that distasteful to Obama. In fact, he rather likes those choices and by making them he is trying to guarantee his re-election in 2012. This may or may not work but it means that Obama is putting his self-interest ahead of the public interest or interpreting the public interest in light of his self-interest. Why is it that this alternative and logic, when it describes what can only be described as a common political phenomenon, is overlooked?