A reflection on American "Democracy"

James Cayne, through his management techniques, was one of the people who has caused the current financial crisis, and bears some responsibility for hundreds of thousands of people losing their homes.

G. Richard Wagoner, Jr. is a master of the art of the mass layoff; tens of thousands of auto workers are without jobs thanks to him.

David J. Lesar has done as much as anyone to see to it that Americans are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; not to mention the countless Iraqis and Afghans. How many hundreds of thousands of people are in mourning thanks to his work?

Lee Raymond also did as much as anyone to bring about the invasion of Iraq, using his economic clout for political influence.

Rupert Murdoch has probably done more than any other single individual to create and sustain this war, and is largely responsible for permitting G.W. Bush to steal the 2000 election, and to encourage the anti-democratic Patriot Act, and domestic wiretapping.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that each of these people has only one vote on election day?

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0 thoughts on “A reflection on American "Democracy"”

  1. ooh, neat. I hadn’t thought of it like that….

    …that’s…kind of reassuring. :)

  2. This is something to scare you.

    Rupert’s mother is still alive and active!

    If genetics have something to say about longetivity then you guys are in for a long treat.

    PS. I’ve got a Wi-Fi Detector shirt – xmas present.

  3. At the risk of sounding contrarian …

    I think people taking less than 0-prime, nothing down mortgages (more than mortgage companies offering them) have something to do with the crisis.

    I think bin-Laden has something to do with the war in Afghanistan and Hussein had something to do with the war in Iraq.

    I think people voting for Buchanan when they meant to vote for Gore had something to do with the 2000 election.

    People who actively do something not in their best interest, like smoke and gamble, insist they are victims. Respectfully, I take a different view.

  4. The election was not stolen in 2000. Base lie. Three different media groups (all liberal) went to Florida and got legal permission to do the recount. Each came to the same conclusion. To their great dipleasure and astonishment Bush won. If anyone was trying to steal Florida, it was Gore’s lawyers who were actively getting Military mail in ballots disqualified. Very unpatriotic, if you ask me.

  5. Not a base lie. Who “won” depends on the recount method. A full recount of every county in the state showed Gore winning. Partial recounts showed Bush winning. That’s putting aside the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters by brother Jeb’s state government, and the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County. That’s also putting aside the issue of the right-leaning Supreme Court stepping in to halt the recount effort. Stolen seems a pretty accurate description. And, really, give up the “liberal media” meme. Virtually all of the US’s major media is pro-capital establishmentarian. There’s really nothing liberal about it.

    Getting back to our host’s original post, I wanted to respond, but just couldn’t match the snark of that final line. Kudos.

  6. The three recounts tried three different ways to prove a steal. They fail. The so called disenfranizement of minority voters is offset by the military ballots thrown out. The right leaning supreme court was well offset by the very left leaning Florida supreme court. The butterfly ballot was designed by a liberal democrat board of election in the main county in dispute, who tried to bend their own rules regarding hanging chads et al.

  7. Over here in Australia, Murdoch (controlling about 60% of the press, frighteningly (yet they still talk about a “liberal media”)) has consistently tried to crush the Greens, pretty much the only actually left-wing party in Parliament, at one point getting his cronies in a popular tabloid to claim that they were going to legalise drugs when that was obviously inaccurate- http://www.presscouncil.org.au/pcsite/adj/1270.html. And, of course, referring to them as “extremists’ when twenty years ago they’d be called mildly progressive liberals.

    Hey, at least Bush can’t spend BILLIONS of taxpayer-funded money on partisan propaganda, like the former prime minister of Australia, John Howard (who might be more evil than Bush- witness his Pacific Solution (wikipedia it)).

    The media has gotten to the point where something like the AWB scandal- where a government agency sold $300 million dollars worth of wheat to Saddam Hussein just before we went to war with him, most likely at the behest of the PM- barely rates a mention next to Hollywood gossip, petrol prices (gee, wonder why those are up) and EVIL MUSLIM-LOVING LATTE-SIPPING LEFTISTS WHO WANT TO EAT YOUR CHILDREN.

  8. Counting only Fox TV News in the US, and not even bothering with all his newspapers, websites, radio programs, and and other outlets for insane vitriol, Rupert Murdoch has closer to 2,000,000 votes than 1. It’s hard to imagine any regular viewer of Fox News not voting along with him.

    See State of the News Media for viewer figures for US cable news.

    I am actually a little reassured to see that Fox only has 2M viewers or so. On the other hand, I am dismayed that still puts it at #1.

  9. psmouse, try to get some new information sources that are not tainted with right-wing love. Under most recount strategies, Gore won. This information was muffled. No rational person can deny that more people in Florida went to the polls that day in 2000 intending to vote for Gore than for Bush. (I expect you to deny this.)

    The butterfly ballot was designed by Theresa Lepore. Most ‘liberal’ democrats don’t change their party registration after the election, and haven’t worked for Adnan Kashoggi. It’s foolish to conflate ‘democrat’ and ‘liberal democrat’, particularly in the South.

  10. Miramon @ 11: I would say that the majority of Fox News viewers would vote Republican anyway. Their minds aren’t changed by Fox News; they’re drawn to like minds.

  11. psmouse and Miramon: I think I can settle this. Yes, it has been shown that the 2000 election was stolen, but the proof never made it onto Fox news, therefore it doesn’t count.

  12. I liked the ironic conceit in MacLeod’s The Execution Channel, which said that the election in Florida was really decided by a petition by the communist party to get on the ballot. If the petition was accepted then Bush would win, because the communists would have taken just enough otherwise democrat votes, but if rejected Gore would win….

  13. Miramon@11 That’s #1 for cable news programs, the broadcast networks have substantially higher viewer counts, with NBC on top at 8.52 million. Not that the broadcast networks are all that great at news any more, but 22.8 million people are being somewhat less misguided by NBC, ABC, and CBS than the 2 million people who watch FOX.

  14. I think Fox is pretty objective in their approach.

    Fox showed this last night:

    If that doesn’t scare the living crap out of you, let me give some perspective:

    Although close, I think Bush won the 2000 election fairly.

  15. I know that the New York Times and MSNBC don’t want to admit it, but the facts are the facts. Why the massive effort to disenfranize the military overseas votes?

  16. I’m going to have to vote democrat this year I imagine, simply because I feel I can’t risk sacrificing my vote to a fringe or independent group when every vote for the democrat ticket this year is a vote against the farce that is the republican ticket. Only one of those two parties are going to win. I know that. I don’t like that. But I know that.

    It’s sad that I feel required to vote for one party simply to keep another out of office.

    Politics make me feel hopless these days. I reckon McCain/Palin are going to win this election and I reckon it will be on the backs of the religious right and a society that doesn’t realise or doesn’t care that this election has been predicated on media manipulation of the personalities of the individuals running rather than any real sense of being, policies, or substance.

    I mean… honestly… what the fuck is wrong with America these days? I just don’t understand people anymore. At all.

  17. Our family has full time national guard soldiers who were serving before “Desert Storm”. Two of them serve in the Air Guard intelligence service. They won’t tell us much, but we know to trust their opinions. Believe me when I say that UBL and Iran are begging for us to vote for Obama.

  18. psmouse@ #20:

    Having served myself in the Regular Air Force Intelligence field (in support of the Defense Intelligence Agency) I can state with some credibility that your assertion is merely alarmist bullshit.

  19. GWW @ 19: “what the fuck is wrong with America these days?”

    Everyone is aware that Something Has To Be Done. But very few see that the problem is systemic and fundamental. The problem isn’t how to fix capitalism, the problem IS capitalism. This very fact leaves people confused and groping for answers with a desperation that increases as the situation worsens.

  20. SKZB @23,

    False consciousness is a bitch. Like the people of Krikkit once had no concept of “up,” we have no concept of life without capitalism. Literally, capitalism is like air — perhaps low oxygen-content air laced with carcinogens, but it is something we are indoctrinated by even more fully than in “romantic love.” It is the background noise of our intellectual lives.

    When I once taught radical theory, I used the example of domestic violence victims to illustrate the concept of false consciousness. ‘X loves me, but X hurts me, but I can’t leave X because I love X and X loves me.’ Until one rejects the concept that ‘X loves me” on a broad social scale, capitalism is here to stay.

  21. SKZB: “This very fact leaves people confused and groping for answers with a desperation that increases as the situation worsens.”

    That’s really quite well put there. Do you really think that the whole problem is just captialism though? That if we weren’t a capitalistic society that we’d really be that different?

    I wish I could imagine the world you imagine just to see what you see.

    I can’t see how we could possibly move away from being a capitalist country now. I can’t even see any reasonable alternatives for us right now.

    This is the animal we’ve evolved into. Not enough people are smart enough or have the desire enough to change any further, so here we sit.

    Perhaps a global pandemic. I reckon nature needs to press the reset button. Because unless something terribly tragic happens that wipes out most of us… I can’t see us changing now.

    It’s funny… I’ve always considered capitalism a natural evolution of a large progressive country. That at some point in growth it was really the only viable option to progress further. Somewhere along the way though something went wrong and these days I ask myself “What is beyond it”? What can work for a country like America at this point? That perhaps I was always just naive.

    I’ve always considered myself mostly a humanist, and on some level I fear that it isn’t the econimics or government that’s the problem. It’s just us. And that makes me really sad.

  22. “I’ve always considered capitalism a natural evolution of a large progressive country. That at some point in growth it was really the only viable option to progress further”

    I think that is exactly the point. You’re quite right. Until the productive forces advance even more, at which time the very things that permitted growth begin to strangle it; at that point, it is time to begin to produce for use, rather than for exchange.

    “It’s just us” you say. What does that mean, exactly? Just being us has given us space travel; vaccines against polio; wheat that can thrive in extreme heat, extreme cold, and shallow soil; the Moonlight Sonata; the plays of Shakespeare; and the beginnings of an understanding of our own society.

    This isn’t the first time in history that the development of productive forces has made old methods of distribution obsolete; that’s why revolutions were invented. And there has never yet been a revolution that didn’t come as a surprise to those who failed to look past the apparent present consciousness of the masses.

    Be of good cheer; all may yet be very well.

  23. The only force that tried to create a non-capitalist system that worked for a time was the very early church. The meetings were organized by women who served food for all who came, regardless of class. Commuities of hermits dwelt and prayed together, regardless or sex or class. This lasted for a little over two centuries. Quite a long time, if you think about it. But as it grew it was inevitable that the Roman government would co-opt it and organize it. The Russian revolution made one major mistake. It should have created a new church heirachy and given itself the sanctity of church support. Then again “When politics and religion ride in the same cart, there is no room for a driver.” So who knows where that would have gone.
    btw: I will be voting Libertarian this time.

  24. “The only force that tried to create a non-capitalist system that worked for a time was the very early church.”

    Since capitalism has only existed since the 16th century, are you then taking a more extreme position than the fundamentalists and saying the world was created 500 years ago?

  25. The Roman Republic practiced something that we would recognize as “capitalism”. Their trading system was spread as they expanded.

  26. No, they practiced something we would recognize as an economy based on slavery. Unless you are going to try to convince me that free labor is somehow beside the point of capitalism.

  27. I’m going to have to agree with skzb here. Capitalism did not exist in the Roman Empire or any time until the invention of the stock market and the modern corporation (which was admittedly based on earlier medieval corporate forms, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a better organized Roman empire wouldn’t have have evolved capitalism quite quickly, but I seem to recall that the early Emperors stomped on the equite class (who might have become capitalists) and almost taxed them out of existence. But if the tribunal system had survived uncorrupted it would have enabled the plebeians to be more or less free capitalist laborers under some imaginary Roman capitalist system.

    Merely having trade and a money economy does not equal capitalism, otherwise all systems since the invention of money would be capitalist, including all supposedly communist societies.

    Just to begin with you need some kind of bourse for exchanging tokens that represent units of capital, and specie does not have that function; stock certificates and the equivalent do that. I’m guessing the Dutch may have been the first to run capitalism in a pervasive and institutional fashion, not sure at all if that’s true. There were no doubt earlier examples that weren’t institutionalized, but I suppose the normal capitalist system must have started in the 17th century after some combination of Louis-XIV’s nationalism and the Orange state’s commercialism began the transformation of Europe into something resembling the modern arrangement.

    Anyhow, there have been lots of non-capitalist systems that lasted a long time, but they were all prior to “modern times” so they don’t really count. I don’t think any state has seriously tried communism yet, except perhaps in little sporadic pulses that were quickly extinguished either by foreign foes (Paris commune) or by corruption and tyranny of the leadership (USSR, China, et al.) that then maintained tyrannical pretenses of communism. Somehow the dictatorship OF the proletariate became confused with a dictatorship OVER the proletariat. Just goes to show how unfortunately stupid democracy really is.

    I don’t actually think communism is a practical system as it seems to me to require more enlightened self interest than most people seem to be capable of, and also requires the so-called interim state to be miraculously free of corruption, but it does at least have the distinction of being the only modern alternative that anyone has seriously suggested.

  28. I think the expression “false consciousness” is best applied to the manikin portion of the Mechanical Turk. Elsewhere, it’s mere cant. I don’t expect to convince anyone who likes to use the expression of that, of course.

  29. >The problem isn’t how to fix capitalism, the problem IS capitalism.

    Hmm, I thought you said you were avoiding reaching for the easy, snappy, catchy answers.

    Capitalism is the most contemporary and logical form for a society made up of members that, in the end, look out for themselves. That’s not to say we don’t look out for others, but if you don’t take care of yourself then you can’t take care of others. Where the “enough is enough” line is drawn depends on the individual.

    Calling capitalism a problem seems to infer that people should care more about others than themselves: it’s not an individual survival trait and therefore lessens the species’ survival. As my college PoliSci prof described in his doctoral thesis, as the average per capita income reaches level [x] (x depends on inflation, so the magic level raises slightly each year) governments tend to move towards some form of modified capitalism. Why?

    Well, because it makes sense. If you work, you want to get the fruits of your labor. If you want more fruit, you work more. If you don’t want more fruit, you work less. Those of you who have less fruit in general are disadvantaged in fruit-power for those who have more. It’s not to say everyone can work harder and have as much fruit; of course there is chance in the mix. Capitalism in theory provides an equality of opportunity, not an equality of outcome. That’s where the USSR failed. People who aren’t rewarded with more fruit quit working harder.

    I don’t have a cell phone, and self-absorption and commercialism does bother me in many cases. But if our species were made up of individuals who quit working when they had “enough” fruit, we would likely either be extinct or still tapping on rocks in caves.

    After all, who really needs fire? The problem isn’t how to fix fire, the problem IS fire.



    P.S. Huge fan. Have ALL your books; Every. One. Enjoyed: Every. One. :)

  30. I have an eccentric uncle who lives up in the mountains of Kentucky. I first met him in the early 80s and I always thought he was a bit strange. These days I don’t think he’s all that strange.

    He’s an inventor and patent holder on a bunch tech, he writes papers on physics and society and everything in between. Some of which have been printed. Some of which he mails me for me to enjoy.

    He farms all his own meat, all his own vegetables, he lives almost totally self sufficiently. Solar power for most things. Geo-thermal for others.

    He’s been doing this for 20 years or more.

    I dunno… but seems like that’s kinda like what some of the folks here are talking about. Where you work not to progress the economy or something, but simply to create what you need on a day to day basis.

    And the older I get and more and more disenfranchised I become with things… the more appealing that lifestyle becomes to me.

    I’m starting to believe that the next step in evolution of society might be downsizing rather than upsizing things.

    Right now it’s all about bread and circuses. And I’m tired of it.

  31. Rick, I did not say, or at least did not mean to say, anything like, “capitalism is inherently, in all places, at all times, evil.” I was speaking of capitalism at a particular stage of human history, with productive forces at a certain level. There was, without doubt, a time when capitalism was progressive.

    If you are claiming that this particular economic arrangement (goods produced for exchange, social production but individual ownership, profit-based decision-making, &c &c) is the pinnacle of human economic development, then, uh, let’s just say we disagree.

  32. Just wait ’til we’ve Dysoned the sun and eaten the Oort cloud. Scarcity 2.0!

  33. @ skzb et al…

    I’m just curious; since you hate capitalism, democracy and freedom…
    And I think you have enough money to travel, Mr. Brust…
    Why don’t you leave this country, since it obviously causes you so much disgust, angst, and ire? Why would you want to live the rest of your life so miserable and unhappy? I guarantee you could get into Cuba! Maybe write for a proletariat newspaper? With all the Socialist countries and Communist countries in the world waiting to get a-hold of talent like you, why would you waste your time in trying to turn this Country into a socialist state and not just go elsewhere to live out your remaining years in bliss and peace in a country like Albania?

  34. @38
    When did you come up with the notion that ‘Steve et al’ hate democracy and freedom? In fact some of us ‘et al’ like capitalism (me, for instance). Please put some effort in your analysis.

    If you disagree with aspects of what is said here, I challenge you can have an objective discussion instead of a long winded empty calorie “go jump” statement?

    Should one hold their breath?

  35. To 38

    People who disagree with how the nation is run don’t leave for the same reason that Jefferson, Washington and Franklin chose not to leave, and people who suggest that non-conformists leave do so for the same reason that all dictators demand there should be no dissent. If your philosophy is so weak it can’t survive criticism, then it doesn’t deserve to survive at all.

    As for have oodles of money for travel, I believe you’ll find most conventions pay the way for guests of honor.

  36. To 40

    I don’t consider criticism of the state to be non-conforming. Other than that you sound like another blow-hole stealing philosophical quotes/ideas you just learned in high school.

    I do however, consider actively trying to change the state of the state treacherous. Therefore; you’d best be about disarming us first.
    That ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.
    So it seems to me pointless in trying to change a democracy into a (let’s face it…) communistic regime. To hell with your socialism, that’s now code word for: “let’s not scare’ em at first… then we’ll implement our ‘Misery-for-All’ doctrine!”

    Oh, and I think our ForeFather’s philosophy is standing up rather well… notice the change of leaderships in the European theatre?

    I was suggesting he leave, so he can have a bit of happiness, since that obviously is impossible for him to do here. See, I only care about his well being…

    What’s more, I understand Mr.Brust’s reason for Socialism. I mean it must be really hard for him to digest the likes of a Dan Brown, Grisham, or even Danielle Steele… actually making millions of dollars for every gawd-awful book he/she writes and Mr.Brust doing so-so. I assume with an ego like Mr.Brusts’ (I’m always reminded of an earlier post of his where he talks about playing music with some really really really really smart people!!! Himself included! lol) it is hard to swallow being forced to compete for a living,
    we should all be astounded by his genius!!! Better we should redistribute the wealth of Mr.Brown’s overwhelming success in order to balance Mr.Brust’s lack thereof…
    That way he doesn’t have to actually compete on the open market and can simply write, write, write… all day, because it’s what he loves to do and government should never hinder this, but encourage it… even to the extent of extortion! And that’s the point, eliminate competition or control it.
    But why should we then redistribute Stephen King’s wealth? I mean, I’m all for taking bad writer’s money away(…lol), but what happens to S.King’s money? Damn good writer. Deserves it. What then?
    Purrtty sad.

  37. @41

    I do however, consider actively trying to change the state of the state treacherous.

    Which brings us back to those the right wing claims to idolize but in fact despises, the nation’s founders. How is it a Good Thing to overthrow one government, but treachery to want to change, without violence and using existing electoral procedures, another government?

    So it seems to me pointless in trying to change a democracy into a (let’s face it…) communistic regime. To hell with your socialism…

    “My”? I consider socialism of any flavor to be without worth, although unlike knee jerk reactionaries I’ve read the original writings, including some recommended by our host here, and am able to examine the actions of real world governments and see how the principles of socialism have been employed and how they’ve been affected by other political philosophies. Some aspects of socialism are good, but overall I don’t approve of it. So I guess rather than trying to insult me, you’ll have to defend your stated position, which seems to be that the US has such a weak government that anyone who thinks there’s room for improvement should be deported.

    Oh, and I think our ForeFather’s philosophy is standing up rather well… notice the change of leaderships in the European theatre? Center-Right…

    Your point in unclear. Do you approve of the rise in jingoistic violence and nationalism that seems to be trying to establish itself not just in the US and Europe, but pretty much everywhere?

    What’s more, I understand Mr.Brust’s reason for Socialism…

    If you want to insult a gentleman, have the courage to do so under your own name and to him directly. I’m only concerned with the infantile reactions you people have to criticism of the government.

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