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Outliving the US: the comments - Input Junkie
April 28th, 2009
01:58 pm


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Outliving the US: the comments
The other day, I asked whether people expected to outlive the US, and got some very interesting replies.

The most noticeable similarity was that no one expected anything good to come of an end to the US, which probably supports the idea that the US is very stable.

tahkhleet posted a substantial core dump about politics and the state of the culture. I'm feeling rather swamped. This is unfair. Overloading people is *my* job.

Still, I'm going to pick out some bits. However, I recommend reading the whole thing.

Is Obama genuinely that awful? I'm disappointed that he isn't prosecuting those responsible for torture (and NPR did a bit about how he used the word torture before he was elected, but has dropped it since then). Is he letting *everything* important slide?

I'd have thought he's at least smart enough to take a lesson from what Katrina did to Bush's reputation.

Two "do my homework" questions:

Are his foreign policy advisors really all hawks?

How did he handle things when he was a community organizer? Did he get useful work done?
Slightly different angle about the financial elite: One of my friends believes that credentialism is part of the problem. The most likely way to get one of those very well-paid jobs is to be totally focused on the exhausting work of getting the right degrees. Aside from tahkhleet's point that only someone who's got bad values will be willing to do the work, getting the credentials means being totally focused on incentives rather than paying attention to the larger system.

Back to my pov: Having a system which makes room for competence is a very subtle problem. If people are totally shielded from consequences, whoever is good at social climbing will get the rewards, and the quality of work goes to hell. If there is too much effort to make sure the right thing is done, people game the measurement system, and the work goes to heck.

Genocide: I've been wondering for a while whether I'll see a nation commit auto-genocide (over 75% of population killed). It just seems as though people go nuts that way occasionally, and people are much more dependent on infrastructure than they used to be. Still, I don't know that the elites are dreaming of wiping a lot of the rest of us out, though worries about overpopulation can be read that way.

For purposes of this discussion, it isn't necessary that the elites would actually benefit from genocide, just whether enough of them strongly believe they would.

(38 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:April 28th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
I don't think Obama is all that bad, but there is a lot of pent up hostility from the damage the previous administration did to the country. There are a lot of people who are tired of being screwed over by the government, no matter which of the two parties is in control. Both sides seem to do less and less with more and more of our money.

My politics are generally somewhere in the middle. The vocal "liberals" who try to classify me as a Christian Fundamentalist because I disagree with some of the things the current administration wants to do really irritate me.

I'm sure the fact that I have a copy of the Constitution on my phone is enough for some people to brand me as a wingnut. The fact that I am a strong believer in the right to own firearms really offends the liberals. The fact that I defend the 1st Amendment right of some nutjob to say what he believes really ticks of folks on both ends of the spectrum.

Will the country split up? I don't know, but I would like to see a lot more local governance and a lot less Federal governance.
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Date:April 28th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
I completely agree.

I saw tahkhleet's criticisms of Obama and wasn't remotely impressed. What I see is yet another person expecting the US to miraculously transform within days of Shrub leaving office. It takes times to repair 8 years of that sort of damage. Obama isn't shaping up to be the wondrous far-left reformer that many of us would like to see, but he's not just far better than Shrub, he's also clearly better than Bill Clinton, both in terms of being more effective (I actually expect him to manage to get his healthcare reforms through) and in terms of being less cowardly in the fact of Republican opposition. That said, he's a US president, and so we shouldn't expect better of him than we have of most of the better presidents of the 20th century. In any case, because he isn't a wondrous far-left reformer who can instantly transform the US, there is no shortage of people who think he's Shrub II, which I thing is exceptionally foolish.
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Date:April 28th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
Are his foreign policy advisors really all hawks?

No. They're technically from the "realist" school, which is opposed to change in general. So they'll pull out from Iraq to the extent that nothing bad will happen that they can be blamed for (cf Germany, Japan, Korea), escalate in Afghanistan to prevent disaster (cf Viet Nam), talk about preventing Iran and North Korea from getting (more?) nukes but not take direct action (cf USSR, China). Hawks would be threatening blockades of Iran and air strikes on Somali pirate havens.
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Date:April 28th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
Genocide: I've been wondering for a while whether I'll see a nation commit auto-genocide (over 75% of population killed).

It happened in the 19th century. Google on Paraguay and the War of the Triple Alliance. (Nutshell: Paraguay tried to conquer the whole of South America by attacking Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay simultaneously. This Did Not End Well.)
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Date:April 28th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
Not the usual Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot model, more like suicide by comprehensively misjudging what your neighbors will put up with.
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Date:April 28th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
Have now skimmed the original comments page.

The issue is extremely complex and messy (what I surprise that I say that). Most folks also don't appreciate the level of structural damage done during the last 8 years to the underlying structures of government -- from the purge of experienced federal workers to the destruction of agency morale to the failure to upgrade needed equipment to, above all else, the legitimacy of the decisionmaking process.

That's not something fixed in a hundred days. Frankly, we won't really have a good sense on how this is going to work out for another year or so when the Administration is actually up to functioning strength in terms of appointments and implementation of critical legislative goals.

But no, I do not believe that Obama is "genuinely awful." He is a man trying to negotiate tough decisions in difficult times, aware that being President is not the same as being king and that he therefore needs to make political judgments. Some of these will, IMO, be wrong -- including on very important moral matters. But that I disagree with him does not make him awful.
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Date:April 29th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)

Ah, you're missing the point

If he were accomplishing _any_ sane agenda, I could say "well, he's doing something. It's not what I want done, but he's the President". He's not. He's keeping the country on Bush like autopilot on the military, on economics and on health care. You can say "it's too soon to tell how effective he'll be". That's not my beef. My beef is his strategy from the get go is _cracked_. He promised excellence and technocratic government. He is not delivering even from his limited ability to personally contribute to that.
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Date:April 29th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
What osewalrus said.

Obama is quite a distance from my ideal Presidential candidate, but my ideal candidate would probably get no more than 40% of the popular vote, and if by some fluke he or she were elected, Congress would be routinely blocking his/her proposals by veto-proof majorities. Compared with the actual Democratic politicians that have had a snowball's chance of becoming President from Carter onward, Obama is the messiah.

I'm disappointed by how he's dealt with the financial crisis so far, but Wall Street has methodically corrupted the power structures of both parties, so I can't say I'm surprised he hasn't found better lieutenants to manage that end of things.
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Date:April 29th, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)
Thanks. I gave up responding to Outlier Girl after the second round. Long ago, back when Usenet ruled the Earth, I learned that the magic "delete" key meant I could decide whether to waste my time or not.
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Date:April 29th, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC)
Obama provides the second stage of the ratchet effect in increasing presidential power; or if you prefer a different metaphor, he's the good cop to Bush's bad cop. He's scaled back on rhetoric and to a lesser extent on details, but has not made any significant reduction to how much power the president holds. He hasn't revoked the claim to be entitled to hold prisoners indefinitely without charges. He's given the torturers a free pass. He's outdone Bush on deficit spending. He isn't touching the harassment of airline passengers or other gratuitous "security" measures, as far as I can tell.

People will be grateful because we've gained back a little of what we lost to Bush, and forget what things were like in the 20th century; after a while, those of us who want to restore that degree of sanity will be called "reactionaries."
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Date:April 29th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Sorry about being late with moderation-- it isn't usually something I need to do, and I wanted some time to think.

osewalrus, if you find yourself apologizing in advance for something you're about to do, this is probably a sign it isn't a great idea. This rule may well apply to anyone who isn't a compulsive apologizer.

I was distracted by your mention of friendship. You're my friend. takhkleet is something who's said some interesting things and some plausible things in my lj.

One of the questions I mull in the background is how to use anger productively-- insults get people's attention, but unfortunately they're apt to put the attention on the insult rather than any other message.

This applies both to tahkhleet's insults to Obama and osewalrus's insults to tahkhleet.

I was expecting much less of Obama than a lot of people-- I was hoping for a president who wouldn't initiate new disasters. Anything else is gravy.

I'm not going address every point about Obama, just a couple of easy ones. Obama can't decree payments to Americans in financial trouble (as tahkhleet implied on the first pass). He could push for them.

It's pretty clear that Obama prefers systems solutions. Reining in the credit card companies means that fewer people will be pushed over the edge.

I have no idea whether this approach has something to do with his experiences as a poor person and/or as a community organizer.

Allowing stem cell research isn't just cosmetic, but it is long haul. I'm sure it will take more than four years for new life-saving therapies to show up. And a lot of the promise of stem cells is for chronic diseases-- very debilitating but only somewhat deadly (diabetes) or afaik not deadly with proper care (Parkinson's).

I can't figure out if giving money to banks that don't lend it makes any difference. To anything. One thing I've learned from the crisis is that I know a lot less about the economy than I thought.

On the other hand, I'm concerned that if any of the banks start lending, they'll all start lending the bailout money simultaneously, leading to serious inflation.

If I pressure the government, it's going to be about torture. At least I understand the issue.

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Date:April 29th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)

Helping the destitute

Re: claim that I said Obama could do something he plainly couldn't, re: Money for the homeless. Quoting above:

Second, Obama can't just "order this" by fiat. But he IS the architect of the budget he _can_ propose legislation...and if he couldn't sell this to the country when you have several million people who are homeless or fast heading for that situation, he is a total amateur.

I thought it was a given that I meant "he should pass an immediate assistance bill in the House and Senate". It wasn't, so I made the above clarification. No one seems to have recognized this.

In Canada, the main reason it took so long to get welfare was because McKenzie King, the main Prime Minister in that period (and who had a solid lock on power from 1935-1948) was scared of the banks. The people had no issues with voting for the measure. In fact, war veterans from WW I had organized a huge protest in 1935 (thousands started marching toward Ottawa, they were stopping Manitoba). That was an important reason why King was elected with a large majority: people were sympathetic to the veterans' claims that their sacrifices in the Great War entitled them to some help from the government during hardship beond their control. The previous gov't had attacked the people who took part in this protest while negotiating with the leaders.

1930's and 40's Canada was not afaik noticeably less conservative than current America. Barak Obama has unprecedented personal popularity (80%) and even his policies have strong support (51%). So I cannot understand why if there is a need, and he's a community organizer who knows the pernicious effects of poverty first hand, why he hasn't done this. He has the political capital. The experience of other nations proves that welfare per se is not an irresponsible or financially destructive measure. Especially welfare during an economic catastrophe.

If he's the goodhearted man you claim, why has he not acted? There are no substantial barriers in his way. Politics is the "art of the possible". I do not see why relief for the people in tent cities is such an implausible and scorn-worthy proposition. Why should this not be the easiest measure in the world to pass right now?

For the cost of 1/15 of all the money he futilely gave to the banks,he could address this problem immediately. It would have a strong stimulus effect since it would all end up getting spent. In BC, 84,000 people with disabilities receive government assistance equal to between 2/3 and 4/5 of the amount I suggested for the homeless folk. The cost of this is roughly 2% of the provincial budget. This covers 2% of the population. In America, 2% of YOUR population would be 60 million. This is not a "Santa dropping money off the back of his sleigh" scenario. It is nothing like that.

Or am I simply grossly misreading Americans and the consensus is that the people who are living in tent cities deserve that fate and deserve no assistance? Even reactionary Canadians in the 30's and 40's didn't feel that way, so if I am in error, it is a reasonable one.

(Canadians used to be so conservative that we:
(a) Interned our Japanese during the war, too
(b) treated Francophones as second class citizens in their own province (don't ask about outside of it!) because they were Catholic and weren't descended from British stock
(c) had SERIOUS protests about forming our own navy because as a patriotic British Imperial Dominion, we should be giving Britain money to expand its navy to protect us
(d) felt that the British monarch was our ruler and anyone who didn't like this or didn't want to support Britain was a bad Canadian)

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Date:April 29th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC)

Insults and non equivalency

I don't think that having my words distorted, ignored and mocked without reference to their content is equivalent to me insulting Obama for a logical, clearly defined and reasoned list of causes. I still apologize for insulting him. But many of my friends are going to be in those tent cities soon and I'm very very angry about this. I'm very angry he's ensured the economy is going to go straight to hell. You cannot borrow anymore, on a federal budget level. This is an absolute catastrophe. The effects this will have on the American population are going to be at least as bad as what happened to people in Argentina. Youtube the Argentinian crisis. That fate is approaching in America (and Canada, a bit later, so this is personal...80% of Canada's exports are to US so when your economy collapses so does ours) because Obama was too cozy with the bankers. So when I erred in insulting him, I had HUGE provocation. What have I done to earn such absolute derision from your friends?
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Date:April 29th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)

Just erase the part that says "Republicans."

I'm sure it's not limited to either party -- but I have heard *much* more of this from the left than the right. I suspect osewalrus has too.


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Date:April 29th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Just erase the part that says "Republicans."

I've just seen another similar attack, also from the left. I suppose it isn't surprising-- people tend to get angrier at those who almost agree with them than at those who are just plain completely wrong.

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