Since it’s now apparently normal and OK for the president to have the power to execute American citizens with no judicial due process, congressional, or judicial oversight, why not a secret police force? If we’ve already established that it’s OK to execute citizens over seas, why not here inside the country? (The whitehouse has already acknowledged killing Americans overseas, but they won’t let on if they’re planning on using drones inside the country.) Why does it matter if the president uses a drone or a man with a gun? They both achieve the same effect. The executive branch, through Bush and now Obama, has already asserted it’s right to perform warrant-less wiretaps, searches and seizures, indefinite detention, and suspend habeus corpus. You just need to be labeled an enemy combatant or terrorist to lose all your rights. With the new ability to extrajudicial execute Americans, it would make a lot more sense for the president to form a special terror-fighting task force that combines all these powers. They would be able to spy on all Americans freely, arrest terrorists and dissidents, and imprison/execute offenders. Operating as an independent task-force answerable to only the executive branch would enable them to move quickly and decisively when protecting the state. We could call it something snazzy like the Security Task-force And Safety Initiative.
“The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” –Frank Zappa
Happy 4th of July. Everywhere you look in America today there is something or someone espousing the attitude of “AMERICA!!!FUCK YEAH!!!!” It’s freedom this or liberty that. Yet despite all this spirited celebration, not a single brain cell is occupied with contemplating what freedoms and liberties we have. If you ask someone, they’ll probably give some answer that sounds like it could be spoken from a character out of the Idiocracy movie. “What freedoms are you celebrating today?” “Well, ah….our freedom to be free!”
You have no freedom. You have only the illusion of freedom.
You might point to the bill of rights as a clear example of the freedoms you have, but then you would be incredibly naive. Rights by their nature are absolutes. If they are not absolutes then they are not rights, their enforcement is subject to the whims of the ruling power; an illusion. The ruling power will maintain that illusion as long as it is convenient for them to do so. In cases where it is no longer convenient, they will dispense with the theater and the true nature of your “rights” are relieved.
Over the past century the US government has shown that no right is absolute. Freedom of speech, press, and assembly? That will be tolerated as long as it is the correct speech, press, and assembly. Look at the brutal crackdowns on protesters, “free speech zones” miles away from the subject of the protest, the police violence .Freedom from unwarranted search and seizures? Nonexistent. Everything you do on facebook, every phone call and text message you send is recorded by the government. You are suspect by default. Every citizen is a potential enemy of the state.
The right to due process, a speedy trial and protection from cruel and unusual punishment? Ask Bradley Manning about that. Or ask Anwar al-Awlaki, an American tried, sentenced, and executed with no due process, no trial, and no appeal. Or ask his dead 16yr old son who was executed two weeks later in the same manner. Ask anyone on the US government’s “kill list.” Ask the owners of Megaupload or any one of the other websites arbitrarily, illegally, and capriciously shut down by the government.
“But at least we’re not some third world country suffering starvation, civil war, and lawlessness!”
No. Making that argument is surrender. You are setting the bar so low that it might as well be on the ground, and yet you seem elated that you’re able to step over it. No amount of sarcasm can express my disdain for this argument. The funny thing is that you can’t even step over it, it’s more like you trip over it. Corruption, lawlessness, and starvation exist here in the US. The difference is that our aliments are better hidden. People are expecting to see starving Africans, or warlords, or guards taking bribes. Yet in America our starving people look like everyone else, or a homeless veteran under a bridge. Our warlords wear suits and drive nice cars. Our corrupt officials take bribes from corporations and sit in congress. There remains only one absolute right in the US.
Your right to remain silent.
I say a final note on cynicism because the last handful of posts I’ve made over the past few months have been me letting go of the edge and beginning the free-fall into cynicism with acceptance. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer and so I’m going to try* and limit the outrage posts. It really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make a difference if I link to some new fresh outrage. Yeah, I could raise awareness about some issue, say pregnant women being sent to prisons for miscarriages, but it doesn’t matter. I’m mostly preaching to the choir and the whole thing is just a big circle jerk.
I’m not here to list any more reasons for cynicism, I have plenty of posts about those. What I’m here to say this time is in response to a sentiment I seem to encounter a lot in response to my cynicism.
A week or two ago I was at dinner with a bunch of friends and I mentioned how I had finally accepted my cynicism; that I had no hope for the future of this country, and how I wanted to get out while I still could.
One of my friends agreed with me, though another said that while they fully understood my reasons for feeling this way, that they “had nothing to gain from that philosophy.”
This struck me in a strange way. I felt like my friend was admitting to knowingly deluding himself simply because he did not want to face the alternative. Several other people who I’ve talk to about this have voiced similar sentiments.
What I found really perplexing was that my friend who told me this was a fellow atheist. “I have to believe there is a God because the alternative is too terrible to imagine” is something we atheists hear a lot. Now replace “God” with “bright future for America.” It’s just as ridiculous.
When the evidence predominately points in one direction and yet you refuse to accept it, you’re deluding yourself.
Interestingly enough, just as existence without a god is not as terrible as theists imagine, existence with cynicism also is not as horrible as deluded optimists imagine.
Just because you’re cynical doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. It doesn’t mean you can’t be hopeful for some things. It just means you’re more realistic about how the world works.
The cynic can never be disappointed, only pleasantly surprised.
Since I embraced cynicism I’ve often felt like people dismiss me out of hand as being a “the sky is falling!” loon. They point to the people on street corners with signs warning that the end is near and ask me how I am any different.
I understand where they’re coming from. A while back I would have said the same thing. Things have always been changing, we’ve always pushed the envelope further and further. Who’s to say we’re finally near the breaking point?
To a certain degree they’re right. The world is not going to end, society is not going to collapse, the end is not near. That’s never been what I’ve been saying. I’m saying things are getting worse.
“But things have always been getting worse!”
That’s a very myopic view. In my hopeful, naive, firebrand liberal days I always believed in the “steady march of progress!” There is no such thing. Things sometimes get better, things sometimes get worse.
From the middle ages to the 19th century things got bad for western women. Slowly over the last century things have been getting better. Now it looks like the trend is reversing again, at least in the US. Things in Germany were going well at the turn of the 20th century and then took a turn for the worst. Afterwards things slowly got better.
I guess my cynicism is just a realization and acceptance of this cycle of human existence.
All I know is that our situation with regards to the economy, environment, education, civil liberties, etc are all getting markedly worse in this country. We’re facing another trough in this human cycle. Sure you can be upset about it, but it’s perfectly natural, like seasons. The US is going to have to face the consequences of its decisions sooner than later.
I just don’t want to be around for the winter that precedes the spring. By all indications it’s going to be a harsh one.
A little while back my friend greengeekgirl wrote a post expressing her anger and bewilderment as to why all these horrible things keep happening in American politics. I sympathize completely with every sentiment echoed in that post, but my rage is more of one of silent acceptance. I lost my faith in humanity a few months ago, but I lost faith in American politics long before that.
From the standpoint of everyday Americans (those not making $250,000 + a year), things are bad and they’re only going to get worse. You see, the problem is with the very institutions themselves. American style representative democracy does not work.
Ideally the masses would elect individuals to go and represent their interests in government, but nothing in this world is ever ideal. In reality, we create a political caste system. Only the rich can afford to run for political office. In the 2008 election, $2.4 BILLION dollars were spent by the two parties. In the 2010 mid-term elections it was close to $4 billion. People go into government to represent themselves and to get rich. It’s just the way things are. Once they network and form contacts, they leave office to become lobbyists or company executives. Government officials don’t even try to hide it anymore! Perfect example: Meredith Attwell Baker. She was the head of the FCC that regulates telecom companies. She approved a massive merger between two huge companies and then quickly resigned to become the Vice President of the new super company she just approved.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is how the world works. It’s not pretty, it’s not right, but it is reality.
The biggest underlying flaw with the American political system is that it is a one party system. Democrats and republicans are two sides of the exact same coin. They’re both controlled by special interest groups, and both are filled with the elite political caste of the rich. Our one party system is a totalitarian “democracy”.
What do we get to vote on? We get to choose between shit and shit to go to Washington and get rich. We don’t get to vote on important issues like the war, or the bailouts, or healthcare. 70% of the American populace wanted a public option for healthcare. Did we get to vote on that? Fuck no! Big insurance made damn sure we didn’t get to vote more competition into the market. Joe Rogan has a great* bit on all of this. *(Up until the last minute of the video where he goes off the deep end)
If the time between the 1960 and now taught us anything, it’s that change can’t come from the inside the system. It just can’t. What happened to all the idealists of the 1960’s that were going to change the world by going to college, getting degrees, and entering into government to make the world a better place? They all got swallowed alive. The system is too big, too powerful to be altered from within. If you don’t play ball with the blood suckers, then you get black listed and stonewalled. Think “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”, minus the happy ending.
The other day I was watching an a video by The Amazing Atheist on idealists when he said something that blew me away: Skip to 1min 40secs. (The rest of the video is good too, but what I’m trying to get at starts there)
My entire life I always viewed progress as this slow, grinding advance in one direction up a hill. Whenever the conservatives one some legislative victory for their draconian social agenda, I took comfort that the only thing constant was change, and that progress would surely over come them in time. But that’s not how reality works. Change, just like evolution, is not a straight line, a ladder to climb. Sometimes things go backwards. We very well could be entering into a period where that change starts taking us backwards.
But a big part of greengeekgirl’s post was asking “What can we do about it?” Well the short answer is nothing. Unless Americans fight for a parliamentary system, or at least something different than the one party system we have now, nothing will change. Since we know that the people won’t actually act unless they run out of bread and circuses, we can rule that out. My solution? Leave.
You can’t fight it, it won’t get any better. Get out while you still can. For the rest of you, however, I leave you with this song by Alabama 3:
As much as these red blooded “Americans” like to beat their chest and scream of patriotism, the GOP leadership doesn’t give a shit about America. Actually, let me define my terms because according to them, they ARE America. By “America” I mean the 300 Million people living within the 50 states that make up the nation’s territory. To GOP leaders, “America” is themselves and the companies that own them. Think that’s an outlandish statement? Here’s the proof they don’t give a rat’s ass about the people that make up this country:
Currently America is in an extemely bad position. Unemployment is nearly at 10%, the education system is collapsing, prisons are overcrowded, our immigration system isn’t adequate, we’re fighting two wars, possibly a third and fourth in Korea and Iran, and we’re trillions of dollars in debt. These are just some of the massive problems facing congress. However, when the republicans took control of the House of Representatives was their top priority fixing any of these problems? NO.Instead top Republican Mitch McConnell came out and said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
That’s right. “America can go fuck itself, we want political points.” You see, you’re naive if you think the game is about running the country in a way that best improves the lives of those who populate that country. No, that’s just the nice little lie, the scraps they toss from the table to appease us while they go about business as usual. “Yes, yes, daddy loves you, now go and be a good child and play outside.” As long as the politicians and the companies that own them get what they want and can retire to the Caribbean, that’s all that matters.
Obama, like a moron, spent the first two years of his presidency trying to compromise with people who viewed him as the anti-Christ. Now that the democrats no longer have the majority needed to pass any legislation that the voters asked for, the republicans have come out and publicly stated what has been their policy all along. No compromise. Right after the election another top republican, Mike Pence, echoed McConnell’s sentiment: “This election wasn’t so much about getting things done as it was about getting things undone.”
Earlier this week Obama had his first meeting with the republican leadership since they took power in the House. The meeting was called to find where they could compromise. This was actually the second time the meeting was called since the elections. The first time it was cancelled because the republican leadership told Obama to go to hell. They got together this time to say a lot of pretty things, but with the underlying message of “go fuck yourself.” To make sure the blind, deaf, and dumb Obama got the message, the very next day the republicans sent a letter promising to filibuster EVERYTHING unless they got the tax cuts for their rich owners.
The absurdity of this “we’re going to deny everything no matter what it is just to stop the next 2 years from happening” view is starting to have it’s consequences. Up for debate now is the New Start Treaty, a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia that would cut the number of nuclear weapons we both have. We already have enough nukes to sterilize the planet five times over, so cutting back has no downsides… except that Obama likes it. That’s right, for this sole reason the republicans are going to vote down the bill. Nevermind that it’s a win win situation, nevermind that it would help stabilize the planet; Obama wants it and that means no.
There is one republican who is fighting the madness: Dick Lugar. Dick’s served five terms in the senate and is an ardent conservative. With his track reccord, no one can question his conservative credentials. However, times are changing. Earlier this week Lugar came out and said that if the republican party has slipped so far to the right that they are going to veto this treaty, then they are “beyond redemption.”
Do you know how the other conservatives responded? They told him he was a dead man. They threatened him with a primary next election cycle. They’re going to replace him with someone who will tow the crazy line. They have gleefully vaulted off the cliff face into insanity and they don’t care if they take the country down with them.
The United States’ debt is over 14 trillion dollars and the government is operating at a 1.171 trillion dollar deficit. The conservatives just took control of the US House of representatives, which initiates all tax legislation, and they are demanding that the national debt be brought under control. What is their solution? They don’t have one. Economics 101: In order to lower the size of your debt, you need to either cut back on spending, or raise taxes. The conservatives refuse to do either. Instead they think giving a tax break to the richest people in the country will magically lower the deficit.
When it comes to cutting government spending, there is one area that is off limits; it is the sacred cow for conservatives: the military. They will cut anything else, usually education, but suggesting that the military be cut is akin to burning a bible wrapped in a flag.
Do you know how much the US spends on defense in 2010? $1.03 Trillion We spend more on war than any other part of our budget. We spend more on war than any other country on the planet. We spend more on war than the next 10+ runners up COMBINED. Despite this jaw-dropping expenditure, cutting it is off limits because it gives conservatives a massive hard-on. Nothing gets them more turned on than the idea of steamrolling darker skinned non-christian foreigners in the desert. In America, a nation drunk on war and the military industrial complex, suggesting the military be cut is unpatriotic.
We don’t need military bases all over the world. We don’t need to spend 1.03 trillion dollars on keeping the largest military force in the world. What conservatives fail to understand is that the world has changed since Reagan. The United States military, in it’s current form, initially grew to fight the Nazis and the Japanese. After WWII the next threat was the Soviet Empire. The weapons and tactics evolved, but the military was still designed to fight WWIII with the Russians. Newsflash: The USSR fell, it’s not a military threat anymore.
Now that the Soviets are gone we have this massive sledge hammer of a military, and nobody that can match us. There is no need to keep it this massive. Who are we fighting? Radical Islam. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t drive around in armored convoys, they don’t have military bases, they don’t wear uniforms. They’re a bunch of guerrilla fighters with sandals and AK-47’s. Our gigantic military was built to fight pitch battles against similarly equipped armies, we’ve struggled to adapt to the more delicate job of building nations.
“What about China?” Good question. Here is another thing conservatives don’t understand has changed. Back in the old days wars were fought with armies and a nation’s greatness was measured in how many miles of land it owned. That is no longer how wars are going to be waged, and China gets that. China has no interest in getting involved with us militarily. It would be a lose-lose scenario, and it’s not good for business. That’s the key word there: business. China understands that future wars will be economic ones, and right now they’re winning. They’re winning big. Meanwhile we spend a trillion dollars fighting yesterday’s war, concerned only about where we can erect more phallic statues to our ego.
The threat of our nuclear arsenal and a small, nimble, technologically superior military that can strike at will is all we need to keep our interests safe. We can compete with the Chinese if we cut the military, end them from being our creditors, and then invest the money back into education. We can do it, but we won’t. Conservatives will only realize the trillions spent on defense are worthless when Asia crushes us economically, our education system collapses, and our prison systems are unable to handle the influx of new inmates. (Even then when they do realize their mistake, they won’t admit it. They’ll just blame it on gays, feminists, and not having enough god in the government)
As much as I really don’t want to write anything, I feel I must at least say something after the democrats just suffered the second worst defeat in their history.
The democrats don’t know how to run an election and they don’t know how to govern if by some fluke they do win. This became painfully evident after they won big time in 2008; riding on a wave of disillusionment and the public’s desperate (fool’s) hope that things might actually change. Like timid children afraid to go into the pool, they hesitated. Not trusting themselves, or the mandate the people gave them, they refused to go it alone, to stick their necks out and actually do something. Instead they compromised. Compromise, compromise, compromise. That was the strategy: compromise with the party of NO! (Which gives you runny, watered down versions of NO!)
The democrats got the shit kicked out of them by the republicans. Want to take a wild guess as to the democrats’ brilliant new strategy for winning back seats? Yep, you guessed it! COMPROMISE! (And if you honestly did think they had a new strategy, you’re delusional. Any scrap of tattered hope you have left should have been destroyed by these past 2 years) Harry Reid and Obama were quick to come out with their tales between their legs and grovel at the republican’s feet. It makes me want to vomit.
The infuriating thing is that attacking the republicans is SO EASY!
Unfortunately the majority of the American public doesn’t remember just how disastrous republican rule was because the democrats are to fucking spineless to run good attack ads. They sit there, twiddling their thumbs, all whilst letting the republicans frame the debate, define the terms, and them lead them to the slaughterhouse.
Obama got hammered on the economy. He let the republicans hammer him. He should have been out there, everyday, saying “Republicans left me a 1.2 trillion dollar deficit, republicans left me a 1.2 trillion dollar deficit, republicans left me a 1.2 trillion dollar deficit” until we heard it in our sleep. If someone is beating you to a pulp, you don’t stop them by saying “let’s compromise!”
The majority of the people in this country are democrats. If everyone voted in every election, the democrats would always win. However, the democrats haven’t given us anything to vote FOR. (And don’t say that gave us healthcare and financial reform. The healthcare companies practically wrote that legislation and now they have millions of new customers that have to give them money by law; same goes for the bullshit financial reform.) I firmly believe that this election was not a vote for the republicans, but a vote against the democrats. I think this is evident by the large numbers of liberals staying home. (Myself included) People don’t want appeasement, they want action.
The republicans might be the minority, but they’re a very well organized minority. I think it has something to do with their ideology and way of looking at the world. Conservatives tend to value order and cohesiveness more than liberals. (Hence why conservatives tend to be homogeneous and the liberals are heterogeneous) Republicans are better at falling in line and taking orders from the top, where as liberals are so diverse and independent, the often suffer from lack of focus. This tightly organized military mentality of conservatives allows them to organize effectively to win elections. Unfortunately I think the party of diversity, freedom, equality, and independence will always suffer from a lack of focus.
There is a silver lining here. Hopefully the majority of appeasement democrats got eliminated during the elections. Hopefully the remaining few will disobey the president and Harry Reid and fight. (I know I’m just kidding myself and that’s not what’s going to happen) In reality they will become even more timid and scared. Obama will rush to appease them, like he is doing currently, having just come out saying he would give in on tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans.
The democratic party in it’s current form needs to die. Hopefully this election was the first step in it’s death and rebirth as a new party. History shows that you can’t defeat a foe through appeasement. They only become emboldened and demand more. Come primary season it’s time to vote out the appeasers and vote in people who will actual start to beat the shit out of the republicans.
The Amazing Atheist also touched on this: