This is just a brief note to direct your attention to a couple of worthwhile pieces. Although they break no new ground in terms of factual information, they have the virtue of being extremely well-written and insightful.
Krugman on the midterms.
Paul Krugman, frightened of the prospect of a GOP takeover of the Senate, went far too far in his praise of Obama. But liberalism's favorite economist makes up for that lapse with his latest
But Republican policy proposals deserve more critical scrutiny, not less, now that the party has more ability to impose its agenda.
So now is a good time to remember just how wrong the new rulers of Congress have been about, well, everything.
Everything, yes...but, in particular, they were wrong about austerity.
According to conservative dogma, which denounces any regulation of the sacred pursuit of profit, the financial crisis of 2008 — brought on by runaway financial institutions — shouldn’t have been possible. But Republicans chose not to rethink their views even slightly. They invented an imaginary history in which the government was somehow responsible for the irresponsibility of private lenders, while fighting any and all policies that might limit the damage. In 2009, when an ailing economy desperately needed aid, John Boehner, soon to become the speaker of the House, declared: “It’s time for government to tighten their belts.”
So here we are, with years of experience to examine, and the lessons of that experience couldn’t be clearer. Predictions that deficit spending would lead to soaring interest rates, that easy money would lead to runaway inflation and debase the dollar, have been wrong again and again. Governments that did what Mr. Boehner urged, slashing spending in the face of depressed economies, have presided over Depression-level economic slumps. And the attempts of Republican governors to prove that cutting taxes on the wealthy is a magic growth elixir have failed with flying colors.
And yet a provably wrong analysis has triumphed. Why? Because Obama's half-measures achieved such tepid results, and because a well-funded propaganda campaign convinced much of the populace that Obama's half-measures were Socialism Incarnate. Plus...
But the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. From Day 1 of the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell and his colleagues have done everything they could to undermine effective policy, in particular blocking every effort to do the obvious thing — boost infrastructure spending — in a time of low interest rates and high unemployment.
This was, it turned out, bad for America but good for Republicans. Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.
Jim Sleeper, a writer previously unknown to me, has written a powerhouse rant
(published by Salon) that lists the sins of our corporatized culture and explains the recent Republican victory. I like the way this guy polishes his phrases, although he has to learn when to take an ax to an overlong sentence:
...our body politic is so drained of candor and trust that we’ve let a court conflate the free speech of flesh-and-blood citizens with the disembodied wealth of anonymous shareholders, and we’ve let lawmakers, bought or intimidated, render us helpless against torrents of marketed fear and titillation that are dissolving a distinctively American democratic ethos the literary historian Daniel Aaron characterized as “ethical and pragmatic, disciplined and free.”
Many over-stressed, over-stimulated Americans have adapted to living with variants of force and fraud that erupt in road rage; lethal stampedes by shoppers on sale days; elaborate (and intensively marketed) security precautions against armed home invasion; gladiatorialization in sports; nihilism in entertainment that fetishizes violence without context and sex without attachment; micro-aggressions in daily relations; commercial groping and goosing of private lives and public spaces in the marketing of ordinary consumer goods; and a huge prison industry to deter or punish broken, violent men, most of them non-white, only to find schools in even the “safest,” whitest neighborhoods imprisoned by fear of white gunmen who are often students themselves.
Stressed by this republican derangement, millions are spending billions on palliatives, medications, addictions and even surveillance designed to protect them from themselves. All those vials, syringes, security systems and shootings reflect the insinuation of what Edward Gibbon called “a slow and secret poison into the vitals of the empire …” until Roman citizens, having surrendered their republic to authoritarians in pursuit of security, “no longer possessed that public courage which is nourished by the love of independence, the sense of national honour, the presence of danger, and the habit of command. They received laws and governors from the will of their sovereign, and trusted for their defense to a mercenary army.”
I want to read more from this Sleeper fellow. I especially like this bit...
If there’s a silver lining in Snowden’s having to spend all his energies fighting the state, it’s that his battle spares him the perverse compromises made by libertarian and free-market conservatives who can’t reconcile their sincere commitment to republican ordered liberty with their knee-jerk obeisance to unregulated market riptides that are dissolving republican virtue and sovereignty before their eyes.
Sleeper has identified a problem -- a paradox. I support Snowden, but I don't support Snowden's libertarian ideology.
In today's society, the only Spookworld whistleblowers we're likely to get will be turncoats motivated by libertarian ideals, a la Snowden. There will be no more spooks who embrace the left, a la Agee and Stockwell. That kind of thinking has been squeezed out of our culture.
But people like Snowden have to realize that Total Unfettered Corporate Control will only make the problem worse. Power corrupts. Elections -- and the threat of insurrection -- are the only things that have ever kept power in check. The Ayn Rand Wet Dream Anti-State, the land of unleashed corporate power, will not
respect privacy or make our lives easier.
Even now, today, Google plays ball with the NSA. Get rid of elected legislatures, put Google and Amazon in charge of All Things -- and what will happen? A Google-ized society will institute the kind of draconian security measures that will make the present NSA seem as innocent as a Boy Scout jamboree. If you think that our right to free speech is in trouble now
I admit that my own stance is a difficult sell, for what I propose is also paradoxical. Unlike the Randroids, I believe in the need for government. And yet I agree that this government has done horrendous things, and seems to be getting worse every month.
The key word is democracy
. Libertarians don't like that word. The more honest libertarians freely admit that their version of the beatific vision has no place for democracy. The syllogism is inarguable: Libertarians don't like government. Democracy is a form of government. Therefore, libertarians don't like democracy.
I see things differently. I like
In the end, the outrageous nature of our current surveillance state is not the result of democracy but of democracy's subversion. If we cleaned up our system of elections, we could elect people to clean up the NSA.
As infuriating as our present government can be, it must always be remembered that government is the only environment in which democracy can live. No, I'm not saying that our present government is a perfect democracy -- in fact, there are days when I fear that it stopped being a democracy some time ago. What I'm saying is this: Democracy can exist nowhere else but in government.
So you have to ask yourself one simple question: Do you favor the idea of democracy? Let's have no hemming or hawing: Yes or no.
If your answer is "yes," then you cannot embrace the anti-government rhetoric which motivated Snowden, and which so many young people foolishly see as the only alternative to our present mess. The problem is not government per se
, and the problem is not government's size. The problem is who runs