Monday, October 27, 2008

Phyrric Elections

As it now stands, Barack Obama will be the next president. It also appears likely that the Democrats will be given effective majorities in both Houses of Congress. As a result, a president Obama should be able to govern as effectively as the prime minister of Fenwick. However, it has taken near two years of non-stop campaigning coupled with economic collapse to produce such a result. Americans might justifiably exclaim, “Another such election and we are undone!”

If politics is the art of the practicable, we are certainly not going about it in anything resembling a practical way. As Aristotle would say, political elections are about political choices. The idea, in a democracy, is to vote for those candidates who best represent the choices each of us favors. Contrary to ballyhoo, voters should not be presented with a baffling array of legislative“specifics” but rather with a list of general policy choices -- as distinct from bromides which are something else altogether. Thus, by any rational measure, a general election should not require more than four months of filtering and selection.

Instead we have been subjected to two years of exhausting, mind-consuming ego driven electoral warfare that has wasted time, talent and treasure. Worse still it has left the electorate psychologically depleted and disgusted. It is not possible to argue generalities for two years. As a result, simply to fill the void, generalities turn into “niche marketing” slogans and the campaigning degenerates into and endless droning over personality, tactics and scandals. It was hardly surprising that toward the end of the current cycle, the debates ended up being packaged and presented with about as much sobriety as a World Wrestling Federation match. On the occasion of Obama’s inauguration we will no doubt be feted on a lot of hortatory about going forward to meet the Challenges of Change and blah, blah, blah. In truth, the election’s wash will leave us with a cynical sense of good riddance.

The root cause of this sorry state of affairs is that the U.S. Government was designed not to work. This may come as a surprise to those who have been weaned on the usual civics propaganda, but the fact is that Madison and his fellow framers did not want the government to work. They truly believed that government was a necessary evil and that the best government was the one that governed least.

The difficulties that confronted the Framers were vexing to say the least. The Articles of Confederation had provided for very effective government. The problem was that there were too many of them. Each State had full sovereign power to do whatever it wanted; and whatever it wanted was usually what some oligarchical cabal or mobocracy wanted. It is comical to go back and read how the vaingloriously the kingfish in these small state ponds styled themselves. But precisely because these state governments were fully potent and sovereign, they were easy prey for the more sovereign and even more potent nations of Europe. The emergent dis-united states were headed for the tin pot destiny of the later South American republics.

It is not generally taught or known that a major impetus for the reform of the Articles was the decision of the Spanish Crown to close the Mississippi to Anglo American shipping. Spain’s foreign minister, the Conde de Aranda, rightly foresaw the threat from the emerging English colonies and the consequent need to strangle the monster in its crib. From Madison’s perspective, the task was to put together a “more perfect Union” that would present a solid phalanx against the European powers, keep the States in check and, yet, not run the risk of consolidated tyranny. Ever since the ill-fated Andrus Plan a century before, the English-Americans had always distrusted “efficient, central” government.

Madison’s Marvel was the perfect paradigm of disfunctionality. This was not a mere question of the so-called “checks and balances” -- a principle of divided government understood since Roman times. The division of government into Montesquieu’s “three branches” was only the starting point. Take for example, the original non-party system for electing what was in fact a duumvirate: The candidate with most votes became president and his strongest opponent (the runner up) became Vice President and (this was really cute) President of the Senate. It was much like giving one man a handful of bullets and his mortal enemy the gun.

The Senate itself was rendered impervious to short-term change by providing for staggered six year terms. The Senate was even further removed from anything like popular consensus by being indirectly elected by the State Legislatures. As a result the Senate was so perfectly deadlocked between rival state interests that it took a Civil War to bust up the logjam.

As if these embarrassments were not enough, government was rendered even more impossible by providing for a dual legislature with the requirement that any law or appropriation be approved by both houses. All in all, this was clearly a system engineered to deadlock and designed to be impervious to the ever feared “popular will”.

Two major amendments allowed this government some modicum of functionality. The first was the provision for a single presidential ticket coupled with Jefferson’s party system. That change (more or less) got the country through its first century but was not enough to cope with the complexities of a mass industrial society. For that, Franklin Roosevelt, established the Agency System -- in fact a shadow government -- efficient, but unelected.

The essential pre-requisite of the Agency System was to disempower Congress. Prior to FDR’s “overhaul,” Congress was constitutionally responsible for virtually all acts of government over and beyond mere execution and implementation of its decisions. But no congress could possibly keep up with all the day to day work handled by FDR’s agencies and ultimately the Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution so as to allow Congress to delegate its authority to theses agencies so long as it maintained some vague and amorphous “oversight”.

The ultimate historical result has been to remove government in both its effective day to day operations and in its formal policy decision-making from anything resembling responsiveness to popular will. Concomitantly, day to day governance has been removed from the Congress and concentrated in what the Romans called the Imperial Household -- a bureaucracy of greeklings and courtiers forming around a “unitary executive” and beholden to or bribeable by corporate or foreign interests.

Both the Party System and the Agency System are here to stay. But without entirely restructuring the Union, what can and must be done is to move government toward a ministerial-parliamentary system.

This could be accomplished in a variety of different ways. But bearing in mind that, even at present, the president is not directly elected, perhaps the simplest way of accomplishing the change would be to require the president to be elected by a majority of the House of Representatives in tandem with a requirement that ordinary elections for all members of both Houses be held once every four years.

Such a system would allow a direct line of authority to flow from the electorate through a coordinated executive/legislature to the implementing agencies. It would allow the People to retain actual and effective control over the general direction of government. The contra-mantra we have all heard ad nauseam is that such a parliamentary system would “lack stability” and be subject to “the emotion of the mob.” But to say as much is to confuse “stability” with the current system of bureaucratic stasis coupled with electoral hysteria

To say as much is also to confuse the principle of a popular oligarchy (which is what Madison provided for) with a rabble rousing cabal (which is what we have had). The Framers' fear of an efficient centralized power being abused by a passionate demos has been realized in the inverse. In the end, it is simply intolerable that an Administration which had lost virtually all popular credibility and support by its fifth year could still exert its strangling mortmain on government mortgaging our future for generations to come.

After two years of exhausting and debased ego-driven hoopla, we might finally get an effective change of government. But the damage confronting Barack Obama is four to six years the worse; and, by now, no one could think that even several months of additional damage was small beans. How much better off we would have been had both Congress and the Executive been directly tied to what the public wanted years ago. It’s time for a change and that includes a change in the way we elect our government.

©WCG, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New York Times Fires Falsehoods at Russia

All the Crap That's Fit to Print
does it again. Today's dispenser? One Tom Skanker who, reporting on Russian military exercises, sputters out the following

"In a grim finale, commanders launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles, the type that can carry multiple nuclear warheads. It was a clear signal of the drastic endgame the Kremlin might consider should its conventional forces not hold. One of the missiles flew more than 7,100 miles, allowing Russian officials to claim they had set a distance record.

"If these images of Russian power projection appeared drawn from the dark decades of Dr. Strangelove, the response from Washington was anything but."
Ah yes... Washington the Supremely Patient and Forgiving being tried once again by those dark Strangelovian Russkies. Once again, the Times pierces through its own thin veneer of liberality to reveal that it is just a pompous shill for economic and military imperialism.

If anyone has been Strangelovian it has been the Neocon Thug Staat, previously known as the U.S.A. Has Skanker read his co-worker, Billy Kristol's magnun opus, Rebuilding Americas' Defenses (P.N.A.C., Sept, 2000)? Surely he has and therefore surely he is engaging in grotesque misinformation on behalf of a fellow worshipper of The Devouring Saturn.

For Skanker's benefit and anyone else who hasn't got a whiff of Kristol's wet dream, the Bush Administration's neocon "project" is nothing other than ongoing, relentless, global American power projection -- in Iraq (to the tune of trillions) and against Russia, for starters. After outlining the New American Security Mission of sustaining "multiple full theatre wars" and ongoing "lesser included" so-called "constabulary operations" in "zones of democratic peace" (such as Iraq and Afghanistan) the Neocon blue print reaches its ultimate thug-climax with a call to


Not only does the Neocon Manifesto call for” the creation of a new military service – U.S. Space Forces – with the mission of space control” The PNAC’s goal of “space control” is to prevent anyone else from having access to outer space and to use outer space for the placement military weapons that can strike anywhere on earth from the push of a button in some bunker in Wyoming. [Barf some more here on the PNAC Wet Dream of US Dominance]

Who the fuck is Strangelove around here? Hardly the Russians. But stay misinformed. Read all the crap that's fit to print.

©WCG, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

No Tears for Bully

Just when you thought the U.S. couldn’t cover itself in more odium along comes defense secretary Gates to announce that the United States would not be adverse to sitting down and chatting it up with the Taliban. “At the end of the day, that's how most wars end," Gates said. DUH

At the beginning of the day that’s how most wars are avoided .

But no....the besmirching occupant of the Offal Office, had to go “Smoke ‘em out” and “Bring ‘em On” and rally up the Yeeehaw Boys who were getting so little regular sex that they had to stomp round the flag, hardness in hand vowing to kick ass and never nego-she-ate with turrurists ... especially them rag head types.

So where is the First FlyBoy now? He sure as hell ain’t strutting his codpiece on the flight deck. No... he’s hunched over a podium telling a revolted and contemptuous world that the “fundamentals” of an economy he and his cronies bankrupted are “sound”. No... he blathers platitudes to a General Assembly so openly laughing at him that the ever servient US press had to shield the public from the disgrace

The New American Century did not even last a miserable eight years. Bush’s Kick Ass strutting, Cheney’s scowling unilateralism, Scumsfeld’s smirking preemption have been replaced with Shylock Tears for “please can you lend us a bail out?”and beggaring whines “..for some troops, please, to help out in Afghanistan...” Hectoring Condi’s World Lecture Tour has been replaced by articles entitled “A New Multi-Polar World” and “The End of Liberal Imperialism” and most cuttingly by Putin’s remark that the U.S. was in no position to lecture anyone.

Where is smirking Billy Kristol now to tell us why the world despises and hates the U.S. Come out of the New York Times editorial rest room Billy and tell us what happened to your Kick Ass Bully Boy wet dream.

Now, it is possible that in the incestuous intrigue that constitutes Beltway politics, Gates was "signalling" that he supports Obama (who favors talking) over McCain (who favors crash-bombing). But that doesn't remove the vicious irony. The United States which eight years ago ran up the red pennant of no quarter now wants to chit-a-chat, tin cup in hand.

It would be laughable had not so many innocent people been killed, maimed and made to suffer by the repulsive slime that have indelibly stained the corridors of government with their infected and putrid "ideology". It would be laughable had not Iraq and Afghanistan been shock and awed back to the stone age; had not an entire city been “shaked and baked” (yeehaw yuk yuk) with phosphorous bombs; had not old men, boys of 15 been and innocent shepherds and farmers been kidnapped, beaten, (“pulpified”), drugged and thrown into isolation cells for years where they slowly went crazy and tried to kill themselves while morally degenerate “Injustices” spewed judicial vomit over the finer technicalities of The Great Writ.... for seven goddam years. It would be laughable had the United States not been turned into a frank and open police state, that respects NO law, international or domestic, that spies on its citizens as “potential” enemies, breaks into houses without warrants, that arrests people without cause and whose ThugKops stomp about with the same body armor and kill-toys as their fellow KombatKops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be funny had not this cancerous administration done everything within its metastasizing power to eat up the environment, kill species and drive whales insane.

It would be funny, if any of these things could be undone. But they cannot be. That is not the way history works. That is not the way Nature works.

These diseased aliens from a lower dimension together with the cowardly, venal, whoring degenerates in Congress and the Judiciary have destroyed everything: the environment, civilization, language, law, comity and cooperation and now the economy. They have done so just as we said they would, and they have done so while the U.S. demos as a whole sat around, guzzled chips and gas, scratched their anuses, and pondered the next re-fi. It’s known -- as Palin reminds us -- as Murkan Exceptionalism. Hey Da Rulez don Apply to Us! We’re the Shining Bacon on the Hill.

I wish I could feel sorry for my country; but I don’t.

©WCG, 2008