MR. FIX-IT

In August of 2011, MSNBC personality Dylan Ratigan became a viral video star courtesy of a clip of him going on a loud, angry rant about the subservience of our elected officials to the financial sector. He makes some good points about the problems at hand, but I felt like his performance got silly in a hurry once his (taken aback) co-hosts asked him to propose a solution. His response began with "The President needs to give a speech…" and the first time I saw this, I was laughing too hard to notice that it went downhill from there. The twin assumptions that A) the president is not "bought" in the same sense as the Congress he lambastes and B) that a presidential speech could accomplish anything in contemporary politics except to give the talking heads a topic for a few days are both naive and ridiculous.

Last week I spent a decent amount of time prepping my "Last Lecture" – and incidentally, thanks for all the suggestions. I considered going the "This is what's wrong with politics and this is how you can fix it" route. The more I struggled to address the second half of that equation, the more Ratigan's lame response made sense. It was jarring to realize that for all the time spent pointing out what's wrong with the political process, economic system, and society as a whole, I have next to nothing to offer as a solution. I don't even know where we could plausibly start fixing this mess. Maybe Ratigan realized the same thing and that's why he was so angry. Maybe being forced to admit that we don't have any answers makes us feel like the designated mourners for a society that kills another piece of itself every day.

Sure, we all recognize things that could improve the political process; getting money out of elections is a popular suggestion (albeit one with some fairly obvious constitutional hurdles), for example. Would that really fix anything, though? If we draw the necessary distinction between incremental improvement and legitimate reform, it quickly becomes clear that there is no viable "solution." Our society has broken down since 1970 in ways that we spend our days cataloging: income inequality has exploded, public education has collapsed, the health care system is broken, Congress is barely functional, lobbyists are more powerful than elected officials, the media is a horrorshow offering everything from a milquetoast Beltway consensus echo chamber to Der Stürmer style propaganda and outright misinformation, unemployment is up and wages are down, job security and retirement are terms discussed only in history classes, and the military is both a budgetary and foreign policy behemoth draining away what treasure remains from the empire. And that list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Our problems are not insoluble, but they certainly are overwhelming. Clearly the world needs individuals with more vision and long term problem solving skills than either Dylan Ratigan or me. Or maybe our guess is as good as any other when facing an interwoven set of problems so big, complex, and deeply rooted that nothing short of detonating the building and starting over from scratch appears to have potential as a solution.

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51 Responses to “MR. FIX-IT”

  1. blahedo Says:

    This is a specific area where the democratic process is weak, unfortunately; I do understand and basically agree with Churchill's line ("…except for the alternatives") but it's hard to deal with when you're staring the weak spot right in the face. What is needed, somehow, is a single charismatic leader, or a small cadre of them, to convince large swaths of people of the need for the changes, and to push them through. There have been a handful of such leaders, to a greater or lesser extent, throughout US history.

    The problem, of course, being that there is NO WAY to actually guarantee that such a charismatic leader will "stay good", or for that matter that they'll be good in the first place, and there are some very specific and very scary examples of people who rose to power democratically and used their charismatic leadership to push their respective states into autocracy and oppression.

    So, basically, the only solution that I can see is one that I can't really in good conscience recommend or advocate for. (Although, come to think of it, this might be exactly what a lot of Obama supporters were hoping for in 2008.)

  2. eau Says:

    The kicker is it'll only get worse. Remember how fucked we all thought everything was during Clinton's presidency? Ah, the good ol' days.

    Maybe just put a line under everything pre-turn-of-the-century and leave those old, intractable issues alone. It's not like the Left is making any progress on "Jesus vs Evil Slutty Women And Their Evil Slutty Lady Bits" or "The NRA vs Any Shred Of Intelligence Or Decency" or "The Planet We Live On vs Corporate Profits". Concentrate on fixing the messes that the Bush presidency exploded into catastrophes, and those new problems that the Bush presidency created holus-bolus.

    Yep, that's the best I've got. Sorry.

  3. cromartie Says:

    getting money out of elections is a popular suggestion

    Because it would work.

    Publicly finance elections. Fixed campaign time frames.

    Devote a fixed amount of gratis airtime to political ads.

    That solves about 40% of the problem. It significantly weakens the influence of donors on candidates and significantly reduces the amount of time House candidates spend on the campaign trail.

    The problem is, from my perspective and I'd love to hear from someone who could cogently argue otherwise, it's unconstitutional. Campaign donations are a form of free speech, and legal constraints that attempt to limit or exclude them unreasonably are unconstitutional.

    Another issue is one of allowing public employees to ping pong back and forth between the public and private sector. When people who run the industry are later responsible for "regulating" the industry the end result is always bad. How you solve that, I don't know.

    Someone needs to jumpstart the fight to improve the image of public service. The view that government is bad is nearly all pervasive at this point and we need a President, really, an entire party apparatus, that can coordinate a campaign to combat this. The President does this in spots but overall he's too tepid on it for my taste.

  4. HoosierPoli Says:

    I say we just let the South secede. They clearly still want it. Give everyone a year to move to their chosen side of the Mason Dixon line and call it quits.

  5. A.B.A.B.D. Says:

    I think the biggest problem with all of the issues that Ed mentions is that, for the financial elites who are (dys)functionally running the country, they are not problems at all. Contemporary America is, in fact, their wet dream come to life—a narcissistic orgy of selfishness and greed that is encouraged, supported, and protected by the legal structure and enforcement arms of the state, with no limits in sight. Also, given the current interpretation of the Constitution, there is no legal means to combat any of these social pathologies. And any resistance or attempts to change the status quo will be meet with a more or less violent response from the state's armed representatives, though their task is made much easier by the fact that an absurdly large percentage of the subjected population accepts the propaganda of the elites as their own moral guidepost.

    I'm hopeful that someone out there can refute me point by point on this—-believe me, I'd love to be wrong about all of it—-but at this point in time I don't see a way in which any of this will change peacefully, and I'm certainly not hopeful that a better society would come into being through violence.

  6. Middle Seaman Says:

    I couldn't disagree more. Of course, the media is FUBR. The Democrats became Republican, headed by an inept president, and not worth restoring. I doubt we can take money back from the 1% although it's tempting.

    We can start by having a president who doesn't believe in wars. All we need is about 20% of the military we have now. Our educational system is way better than people give it credit for. It fails mainly in poor districts and in districts where football is education. Most middle class suburbs have decent to excellent schools. In the DC area, where I live, both Maryland and Northern Virginia have great school systems.

    Banks are easily reformable. Most of the large banks are insolvent already; take them over. Raise taxes. Outlaw gambling with customers' money; there too many examples of financial losses bank inflicted on investors.

    Universal health care is cheaper and better than the blackmailing we use now.

    The real interesting question is whether these reforms are likely to happen. That is quite clear: not likely. We have to dig into the hole much deeper to cause OWS to be a real movement and not only a symbolic gesture.

  7. Patrick Says:

    The solution is acceptance. Empires die. More often than not, they die the way that ours is dying; winning so thoroughly that there are no common goals around which citizens can cohere.

    IMO this is not a problem. Taking the long view, it seems that each empire has been better than the last one. We can only hope that this trend continues.

  8. Natalie Says:

    "getting money out of elections is a popular suggestion (albeit one with some fairly obvious constitutional hurdles), for example."

    Ed, this is the issue. Our society is broken, not because there are things about it that aren't functioning optimally. It's broken because every plausible way to fix it has "some hurdles" which usually means using the broken political system to try and make the fixes. Constitutional hurdles would be difficult, but not impossible if, say, Congress was functioning in the way it was intended, but it's not.

    The only solution that I can see is to get enough people angry enough to remind their representatives that they're beholden to us, and not the lobbyists, corporations, their presidential ambitions, etc. Then we use the system to fix the system before they all slide back into being shills for their capitalist masters again. It's a tight window. Get on that.

  9. barry Says:

    I blame Aaron Sorkin for this weird faith in the power of speeches.

  10. c u n d gulag Says:

    There's a reason that no new democracies model themselves on our system of democratic republican representation, with an Executive branch, a Judicial branch, and a Bicameral Legislative branch, with the same set of rules and laws as we have – BECAUSE THEY CAN SEE IT DOESN'T F*CKING WORK!!!
    At least, not anymore…

    Other democratic nations follow a parliamentary form of government. But in that system, a minority party either shoots or sh*ts and wins a majority, or gets off the pot.

    Here, determined Republican minorities grind Congress, a Democratic President, and the nation, to a halt.
    And when they have the majority, they go completely crazy, and do whatever they feel they want – and the Democrats don't do much of anything to stop them anymore, even though they're the ones who have to clean up the mess later, when the people come back to their senses and put them back in power.
    And then, while they're cleaning, instead of helping, the R's stand around bitching that Democrats aren't cleaning the mess up fast enough, and 'Oh, if you'd only put us back in power, you'll see some great cleaning – PRONTO!"
    And the idjit's in this moronic nation, forgetting (or being propagandized into it) who got them in this mess in the first place, vote them back in.

    We either redo our system into a parliamentary one, or we're a goner.
    But that ain't gonna happen.

    What may happen is that some sharp minds, and violent ones, may get together, say "F*ck the vote," and start making dull guillotine's.
    Then they'll grab them some 1%ers and their Whoreporatist politicians, and start hacking away slowly at their necks in public – "Nope, that one didn't do it, Earl, he's still twitching, crying, and screaming – lift 'er back up and give it another go! But SLOWLY…"

    Maybe DC and Corporate America will understand THAT message.

    I agree with whoever above said, 'let the South secede and form their own nation' – Alabamastan.
    And while they sit around, diddling and/or shooting one another, waiting to be "Raptured," the rest of us can go on with our lives.

    But no coming back to the rest of the Union – this time it's for keeps!

    Oh, and if you start another Civil War before that happens, after we beat you, AGAIN!, we'll do what Sherman should have done almost 150 years ago – hang every one of you murderous f*cking traitors, and your f*cking families, and salt the f*cking earth, so no one can ever live there again!

  11. Seth Says:

    My mother was the quintessential Long Island Jewish Armchair Suburban Liberal Mother for most of her life. When she was in her late 70s, she suddenly became a radical revolutionary, and the last discussion we had about it sounded much like the end of this post. Her final proclamation about it, before I made her change the subject because she was getting too amped up (even for me, which is hard)–and this is the only time I ever heard her use the f-word:

    "Sometimes I think the only way to fix this is to rip the whole fucking thing up and start over again."

    That was in about 2008. Guess she was more prescient than I realized.

  12. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    One reform that I think would make a marginal but still useful impact would be to abolish the filibuster in the senate (although the rational choice Congress scholars would say that they can do that already if it suited the majority). I'm not quite a rational choice acolyte, so I still think it would be helpful. It doesn't require huge changes in public opinion or violate the constitution, and it would reduce the gumminess of the lawmaking process.

    The other one I'd like to see is to limit the post-political career options for politicians. That one may indeed have constitutional hurdles as well, but I really hate seeing ex-Congressman serving on corporate boards or working as lobbyists. Burns my ass. I don't mind the campaign contributions nearly as much as the revolving door stuff.

    I generally agree with Ed, though. American politics is driven largely by public opinion and the rules set out in the Constitution. The way those two factors shake out together in American politics is such that the system has an overwhelming bias 1. against change of any kind and 2. against the belief that government can effectively solve problems. And since neither of those factors appears to malleable in the current media/political/social/cultural climate, we get a government that simply doesn't work anymore. We are simply not equal to the problems that beset us.

    It also makes American politics really boring to study, btw. It's basically using the best data and statistics you can muster to examine how the deck chairs get rearranged on the titanic.

    I was hopeful that Obama was charismatic enough to be able to marshal enough public support to get something passed. I was right…for about the first month of the Presidency. I no longer think the charismatic leadership thing is a realistic possibility, given the current polarization in media and ideology.

    Let's all get drunk and screw!

  13. Misterben Says:

    I agree with everybody else: getting money out of politics is our only hope. I think maybe we could compromise with the (crazy) people who think money=free speech: only individuals can donate. No non-human, non-individual entities should be allowed to donate. Annual maximum donation per person per candidate: $1000. Annual maximum donation per person in total: $10,000. Supplement that with public funding and require the networks to donate airtime for (very basic) ads. We would need a system that determined when a candidate became eligible for public funding and advertising time – perhaps the candidate would have to produce a list of signatures of constituents supporting their candidacy, amounting to a significant percentage of the electorate. Easy enough to do in the Internet age.

    Unless and until we get money out of politics, the rest of it is basically unresolvable.

  14. Keifus Says:

    A hundred-odd years ago, there was a very angry labor movement, a full-on alternative press, and celebrity authors coming out in favor of socialism or against imperialism, in the face of theft, inequality, and dispiriting squalor that's by most measures a whole lot worse than ours today. What we really need is advocacy. When I look at, say, the bullshit health care debate, and the laments of the possible, that's what's really what's missing. (The argument for single payer is supported with 30 years of solid data. How hard could advocacy really be?)

    Obviously it's not quite the same. There was actually labor in the States back then, and they weren't really looking at resource collapse in the way we are, which is what really gets me in Watch It Die mode. I don't know if Matt Taibbi, Rachel Maddow, and the network of lefty blogs really gets as much traction as the socialist press did. The odd Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, or even Liz Warren are clearly not enough to stand up to the machine. And a lot of heads got busted along the way in the old days. You'd be a far better man to compare and contrast the times than me, needless to say.

    It's often struck me that as a country we were damned lucky to get a window of relative decency in the mid-20th century, especially given our long history of marginalizing people and stealing from them. Our revolutionary sentiment here came a hair short of actual revolution, and our sentiment for aggressive war didn't come with quite as massive a butcher's bill as it did for the rest of the best.

  15. Middle Seaman Says:

    Seth, I am a fucking Jewish leftist radical from birth to Medicare.

    A short added note: belief in the ability to fix our mess, even if unrealistic, helps you survive the current atrocities.

  16. tybee Says:

    "I say we just let the South secede. They clearly still want it. Give everyone a year to move to their chosen side of the Mason Dixon line and call it quits."

    aw, don't be like that. there's well educated, progressive, liberal folks down here.

    and both of us HATE shoveling snow.

  17. Xynzee Says:

    @Middle: While what you're saying is mostly correct about the educational systems. The problem is that those places tend to propagate that priveledged class mentality. We can't just blame the trailer trash for the situ. It's the people who actually are "educated", that keep the Randian dream alive as well. I went to one of those "good suburban schools" in Portland, OR. I associate with people in Sydney who went to the "good schools" in Sydney. That Randian disease of, I think it was John last week who summed it up so well as, "I got mine, so F—You!" has caught on here too. It serves their purposes rather well in the shortterm.

    The best solution really appears to be give them what they all want. Turn the U.S. into that Libertarian Fantasyland of Somalia. The sooner, the better. Anyone who wants to leave will have to prove that they have never believed in the Randian ideal. If you can't, too bad. Because of the toxic and pervasive nature of their beliefs, there will be no refugees allowed out by those who can't prove they're anti-Randian credentials. However, Randians can be deported to the Libertarian Fantasy States of Somalia. Be careful of what you wish for.

  18. John Says:

    As long as the current nation stands, it will never be fixed.

    You see, this nation still operates largely off of a document that was written well over 200 years ago. A document that laid out a system of government that, while brilliant and done with the best of intentions, had one fatal flaw:

    It depended, utterly, on an educated and involved citizenry.

    200 years later, the nation to which that document is applied does not satisfy that key requirement. The general citizenry is neither educated nor involved in the political process. No, picking a party and voting along its line does not count as being "involved". Some of the founders warned us about Factions, 200 years ago, and we did not listen. We allowed parties to form, the one thing that they feared would undermine their new form of government.

    Government is about solving problems. Politics is about advancing one's personal status (be it wealth or power/influence). We do not have a United States Government any more, what we have is the United States Political System. Members of party X staunchly vote to oppose party Y at every possible turn, not because they personally believe or do not believe in the correctness of party Y's solutions, but because their political strategy forbids them from ever admitting that party Y might have a point. The modern United States Political System is not about compromising to achieve relative consensus on an issue, and finding a solution that is acceptable to all or most involved; it is about gathering power until you have enough to ram your particular solution through, all other viewpoints be damned.

    The original plan was for the United States to be based around a system of, "I think we can solve this problem this way, and you think we can solve it that way, so let's see what we have in common and work out an acceptable joint solution." What we have now is, "I think we can solve this problem this way, and fuck you if you think otherwise. Either do it my way or don't do anything at all!"

    The system is fundamentally broken. Rotten, right down to the core. Damaged beyond all hope of repair. There is no fixing this. The only answer is to start over again.

  19. oiojes Says:

    Beginning with Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) and right up to the Citizens United decision, SCOTUS has upheld the idea that money=speech. They have upheld the right of Big Pharma to propagandize to doctors (Sorrel vs IMH Health.) Heck, Jane Akre found out that right of corporate free speech was upheld even when lying.

    I don't like sounding a sour note but I do not think there is any hope of change.

  20. zombie rotten mcdonald Says:

    2 words:

    Zombie Apocalypse.

  21. Xynzee Says:

    An obvious change would be term limits for the House and Senate. We limit the President, why not Comgress? Also a mandatory retirement age for the SC. But definitely, stop the revolving door/consultation/lobbyist shtick.

    But that one happens every where. A sitting member of Aus parliament was former Premier of NSW. After selling off major assets to an investment bank, he retired and worked for it as a "special consultant", prior to being called "to serve" at the federal level last month. God help us if he becomes PM.

  22. Da Moose Says:

    I do think that there are crucial cracks in the social foundation but I challenge folks to look at things in a slightly different way. If you turned off your TV, cell phone, internet access and simply attempted to live and obtain information by reading books, talking to people, observing the natural environment in your area, what exactly would you discern had gone wrong in the past 25 years. Here’s what I’ve been able to determine for myself. I am in my late 30s to provide some temporal context.

    **Where I live, in DC, the most obvious thing is the Metro (subway) system. It is completely broken as compared to how it used to function in the 80s. Nearly every day now there is at least one system outage that forces a cascading failure throughout much if not all of the system. Judging from the completely laissez faire attitude of the average Metro employee, the folks running the system appear to have just basically given up.

    **When I drive my car to any destination further than a mile from my house, the amount and increase of traffic since the 80s is astounding. I only go out if I can consolidate errands based upon geographic area. I don’t do this because of the increase in fuel costs. I do it to lessen aggravation.

    **I’ve received three speeding tickets in the past three months from automated detection arrays installed along residential streets. I was not going that much faster than the posted speed limit. But, the roads I drive on continue to fall into disrepair. Where’s the money going?

    **Large swaths of public land in neighborhoods throughout DC are being covered by invasive vine species, mostly from Asia. Whole groves of trees are being killed along the Potomac. This was not an issue in the 80s.

    **Dealing with health insurance these days is a nightmare. Trying to understand my dental, vision and body policies over a landline phone connection and what doctors are available to me is basically impossible. If I didn’t know how to use the internet to obtain this type of information, I’d be totally at the mercy of my local ER.

    **I’ve not iced a lot of younger people have their heads buried in personal advanced communicators (smartphones). I’ve also noticed, when I’ve interacted with many younger people, how unable they are to articulate much of anything. Is this connected to their smartphone usage?

    **When I go to the airport, it seems like at any given time I am on the verge of being arrested by my government just for having the temerity to board a plane. In addition to this, it seems like people are a lot more unfriendly (unhappy) these days.

    Conclusion: My government is interested in taxing and harassing me with little interest in returning anything of use to me for the aggravation. People are increasingly intolerant of others and unable to communicate their thoughts to others which only increases people’s intolerance and degree of unhappiness. Our environment is definitely becoming unstable due to human influence. Our supporting bureaucracies, both commercial and public, are basically broken. Our transportation systems are either broken or on the verge of collapse.

    Solution: Complete sub-system collapse which leads to catastrophic master system failure which leads to people getting to know each other again which leads to a new society with new priorities.

  23. Da Moose Says:

    One more thing:

    So, what I don't see are Arabs running around tyring to kill me. In fact, I don't see anyone trying to kill me ever. What I do see is a domestic system collapse that is a lot more threatening to my life and to the people whom I care about.

  24. Redleg Says:

    Because the problems we face are so complex and challenging, our politicians need to make a real attempt to collaborate to solve the problems. Instead, we have one party trying to develop solutions that help most of the people and the other party proposing solutions that only help the top income minority with the dubious reason that helping the rich will help everybody else.

    I don't have a lot of hope for our future so long as conservatives try to force their ways and liberals are too afraid to stand up to them.

  25. Heidi B. Says:

    Thanks for the thought-provoking rant. Your laundry list of ills is somewhat exaggerated, in my opinion. Public schools aren't broken; some are outstanding, thanks (to some extent) to federal laws enforcing nationwide standards. Also, unemployment is down, and the economy is slowly recovering from the kick in the ass it's gotten as a result of deregulation. There are solutions: a more progressive tax system, the stimulus package that wasn't big enough last time, health care reform; but my favorite is to have congress elected every four years. The system now forces them to be chasing money constantly, and that's no way to run a legislature!

  26. butler Says:

    It is true that beginning to think about this in depth can lead one down a path of despair. But I for one do not believe the situation is hopeless. In fact, the fable of The Emperor's New Clothes most definitely applies.

    Quite simply, IMHO our hope lies in we citizens of this country getting off our fat asses and taking the situation in hand. I don't consider this impossible, but it seems we as a society need to hit bottom first and, amazingly, it seems we haven't gotten there yet. Rest assured though, that the forces that have brought us to this pass will not rest until they make things worse. And worse, ad infinitum.

    Anyway, taking things in hand means doing much more than hanging around online moaning – that sort of apathy is very much the root of the problem.

    I believe our only hope is to begin by reestablishing respect for the electorate in our country. While we have vested our power in various institutions and individuals, ultimately we are a vast majority and can reclaim that power via our right of refusal to play this game anymore. We can do this any time we as a group decide to. For starters we need to demonstrate who is really in charge with a national general strike. The institutions and individuals we have put in place to run this country need to have the living shit scared out of them.

    To do:

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue securing our voting process…

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue reform of the media – freedom of the press should not include the freedom to lie. This could be accomplished by simply conditioning licensing/bandwidth on whether media organizations consistently disregard the truth… leaving libelous assholes like Rush Limbaugh their freedom of speech but no pulpit.

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue the impeachment of this SCOTUS, and any subsequent SCOTUS that refuses to rescind the Citizens United ruling and/or consistently rules against the interest of the electorate and, well, the law…

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue the reinstatement and enforcement of Glass–Steagall…

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue the criminalization of lobbying as the corruption it is…

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue a massive expansion of non-fossil-fuel energy development…

    - campaign against and vote out any congressperson who does not actively pursue the replacement of PPACA with Single Payer healthcare…

  27. negative 1 Says:

    If you are looking for radical, here is a proposition:
    Abolish the stock market and equity held outside of the workers of a company.
    That means:
    Stock would only be shared among the employees of the company. Financing for companies would be through debt (bonds). Most importantly, the workers would then get to vote on the salary of the executives (bye bye $2MM plus compensation) and the finance sector would really reign in (bonds are predictable, although there is still work for setting the risk appropriately for startups). Plus, do you really think the workers would vote to close their own plant and move it overseas?
    Can you do that through the SEC? Absolutely, and it would almost be a full scale riot. But you wanted radical, so there's radical. I think it's a goal worth working toward, though even I would caution against overnight implementation.

  28. JohnR Says:

    I rather agree with Ed, but of course, that doesn't preclude us from trying in our own small way to at least slow the descent into savagery. Sure, it would be nice to go back to the British "muddling through somehow" model that is still after many centuries chugging along on the edge of disaster but never quite falling off. I don't see that happening, though; too many people are getting rich off our present system. We got a good 150 years out of the "perfectly designed" system the FFs hammered together, but in the end, money and human laziness won out. It's hard to do anything that depends so heavily on informed participation with a population of easily-antagonized tribals like ours. The US as a Grand Experiment is pretty much done, and will probably break up at some point this century. It's already looking quite strikingly like the 1840s in some ways.
    Anyway, @blahedo, that sounds like a good idea, the charismatic leader; of course, we've seen loads of charismatic leaders throughout human history, who convince great masses of people to follow their ideas. Probably my favorite is Thulsa Doom (as played by the Great Voice himself). You have to be a real optimist to suppose that a Charismatic Leader (TM) has a better-than even chance of Leading Us Into A Better Future. Usually, they lead us into a hellish maelstrom of death and despair. Still, no harm in giving it a shot, eh? God knows there's too many of us on this planet at the moment, and we could use a good herd-thinning.

    "What is needed, somehow, is a single charismatic leader, or a small cadre of them, to convince large swaths of people of the need for the changes, and to push them through."

  29. Steve Says:

    Lawrence Lessig has been talking about this for a while. His plan is basically: All solutions require the government to listen to you, so nothing else can be solved unless we get them to listen to citizens and not corporations. http://rootstrikers.org/ is all about his plan to remove (or greatly lessen) the impact of corporate money in elections.

  30. c u n d gulag Says:

    @butler,
    The problem with our electorate lies in the lying MSM.

    And yes, I know I harp on this all of the time – that the problems are a mis/under/un-informed citizenry. And that’s aided and abetted by a cowardly, compliant, and sometimes even completely complicit MSM – like in this case:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/74718.htmlt

    Did you know that the Romney this country can’t get enough of is Ann Romney? According to the totally complicit idjits at Politico, she’s a veritable rock star.
    That right – A ROCK STAR!
    And no, it’s NOT an “April Fools” joke!

    The problem isn’t just a new form of profit-based government, with lobbying groups giving guaranteed jobs for complicit politicians when they leave, or are forced from, office.
    The other problem is a bottom-line, profit-based corporate MSM who’ll do anything, ANYTHING, to insure a close horse-race in November – all the better to stuff their pockets with even more money than usual because of CU money. We’re talking BILLIONS of additional dollars.

    And finally, the corporate “coup’s” about done.
    There are only a few more “i’s” to dot, and “t’s” to cross – and we will soon be a nation in the complete thrall of corporations (read: Fascism).

    The only thing we can hope for, is that the rest of the world learns from our mistakes, and demands an independent MSM – and not propaganda outfits like FOX News, the WaPo, WSJ, and Politico. That airwaves are there to inform the public, not to propagandize to them. And that, on them, hate speech isn’t free speech. It can cost you a nation.

    oh, btw – if Ann Romney’s a rock star, I’m the Prima Ballerina at the NY City Ballet Company.
    Watch me as I show you my plie…
    Oh-oh!
    *CRASH*

  31. Chicagojon Says:

    I'm staunchly against the South seceding unlike my colleagues above. I am, however, whole-heatedly in favor of Texas seceding which accomplishes much of the same things.

    Without Texas the Federal landscape shifts to the Left, the modern conservative party is dead and will have to adjust accordingly, our international level of education will go up dramatically, we'll lose a large source of our military grunts and Texas will be able to stand on it's own (though they won't like it — it would be a very painful transition), & we gain a new Mexico for industrialized labor at our Southern border.

  32. Mo Says:

    Does this mean I have to go buy a gun and ammo?

  33. Coises Says:

    Many similar thoughts are appearing over here:
    http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/37050
    where Fabius Maximus asks, “Should we be reasonable when arousing America?”

    I’ve never been convinced of the centrality of campaign finance reform. What I see is the lack of a functional feedback loop in which citizens evaluate how well politicians do their jobs and reward them accordingly. A supplier of goods or services in a reasonably open/free market cannot achieve lasting success without efficiently and effectively serving customers. There is nothing remotely like this operating in the realm of politics (at least vis-a-vis ordinary citizens). We don’t really have any way to judge how well our elected representatives are serving us… only how well they campaign (advertise).

    The democratic process isn’t broken because money buys elections—money buys elections because the democratic process is broken.

  34. bb in GA Says:

    @many here

    Your great greats half stepped it.

    They should have killed us all (White males and male children) and resettled the South with correct thinking northerners. Some single men might have found wives among the willing single women and widows.

    But they weren't willing to do that and they really didn't give a rat's ass about the newly freed Black folks either.

    On top of that, they developed a large case of the Red Ass and imposed an economic colonial status on the South to further punish the Region for causing the Great Unpleasantness. Boy, that was smart.

    And whatever stupidity, mean spiritedness, and butt hurt that was naturally here – well ya got what cha got!

    Wanna cut us loose? OK Wanna finish the job? Expect some resistance, but like the man said….Y'all prolly can do it AGAIN, but it will cost you a country this time.

    //bb

  35. mothra Says:

    The problem is, from my perspective and I'd love to hear from someone who could cogently argue otherwise, it's unconstitutional. Campaign donations are a form of free speech, and legal constraints that attempt to limit or exclude them unreasonably are unconstitutional.

    All's we need is a constitutional amendment banning money from campaigns. It's been floated just this last session, if I am not mistaken. We need to be begging for that from our elected reps. Of course, thems thats got the moneys ain't gonna want to give up their easy access to influence…

    I am with Chicago Jon. I say we take a Skil saw and carve off Texas. Shove it off into the gulf and wave bye-bye.

  36. Bernard Says:

    too many rednecks sucking on the Fed gov. to secede now. the Rednecks like sticking to the working Americans to leave, though that is a good idea. the Hatred from the Rednecks for Universal health care or any kind of "society" that doesn't let them be the Master just isn't going to float. and besides there are lots of rednecks in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the rest of the Rust Belt. who'd a thunk bad ideas from the South would travel North.

    No, the Hate and intolerance is too much fun for poor ignorant Southerners to revel in, and much too powerful for the Elites to let things settle. Too much money to get from teh working people.

    this American experiment is cooked. it will have to come crashing down. as long as there are Republicans who believe in Party First, like the Soviet Communists, forget any chance of Society being an option. the Ayn Randian "i've got mine, go fuck yourself" has had 40 years of Reagan's lies to be creatively changed. Even supposed educated Conservatives, with a college education, won't change their ways. Willful ignorance. Good leaders will be shot as we have seen.

    the truth is too harsh for the Right and the Zombie Americans. and the Right will never admit or accept they have been wrong all along, which they have as we are now beginning to see as their wonderful "Trickle Down" shows.

    just too much water under the bridge. and as BB says, payback is much more fun. hoping the system crashes as quickly as possible is our only hope. and with the cost of health care, eating, driving and renting exceeding the few paychecks we earn, well. the quicker the better. at the rate we are going, along with our endless wars, well it'll be sooner rather than later when this comse crashing.

    to think the Southerners said, Forget, Hell NO?, well know you know why they ain't going to give an inch. much less admit they are wrong. carry the Cross holding the American Flag. John Wayne all the way!

    Amazing to behold, terrible to live in

  37. Pat Says:

    @eau: Remember how fucked we all thought everything was during Clinton's presidency? Ah, the good ol' days.

    When I was still young and the Bush administration was just getting going, I always thought it remarkable how many aging lefties used curiously similar language when saying that they never thought they'd say it, but Bush made them miss Nixon. I sort of assumed it would be another generation before along came someone so bad I missed Bush, but, oop! there's Sarah Palin. But at least it'll be a generation before someone makes me miss her—whoop! Michelle Bachmann! Donald Trump! and omigod that jackass is actually saying we should criminalize condoms, and apparently 60 million Americans think he should be given the launch codes. I'm not particularly superstitious, but I definitely now believe the universe is fucking with me, and I no longer dare utter out loud the things that at least I think I'll never have to deal with again.

    Anyway, Ed, I look forward to reading or hearing the lecture you eventually give, but "this is what's wrong and here's how to fix it" is a tone that takes me somewhat by surprise. I honestly expected something more like, "This is what's wrong. As for how to fix it, well, if anyone ever promised you that every problem has a solution, that everything that is wrong can be made right, that person was not authorized to speak on behalf of the universe."

  38. bb in GA Says:

    @Bernard

    "Good leaders will be shot as we have seen."

    Who were you referring to?….or as you more educated northern types might say "To whom were you referring?"

    Well in the Presidential Assassination Category (I'll take that one for 200 points Alex.)

    Lincoln – Republican – shot dead
    Garfield – Republican – shot dead
    McKinley – Republican – shot dead
    FDR – Democrat – shot at? Chicago Mayor Cermak shot dead right next to him
    Truman – Democrat – PR terrorists showed up at the wrong place to shoot him
    Kennedy – Democrat – shot dead
    Ford – Republican – attempts to shoot him twice – two fails
    Reagan – Republican – shot and seriously wounded

    Bonus points please Alex…

    Bush 41 – Republican – plot revealed to assassinate – fail
    Robert Kennedy – Democrat candidate – shot dead
    Martin Luther King, Jr – Republican – famous civil rights demigod – shot dead

    Looks like the Rs have more to fear than the Ds at least at the Presidential level.

    //bb

  39. RosiesDad Says:

    @ Da Moose: You pretty much nailed it. I'm 15 or so years older than you but notice much of the same. (And a couple of years ago, I got one of those automated tickets in Rockville. Really pissed me off. I'd eat the speeding ticket if there was a cop who thought I was driving fast enough to justify pulling me over to write me up. But the machines don't give a shit and how do you fight it? Especially when you live 150 miles away in another state? Meh.)

    That said, I am a professional who owns his own business, I'm good at what I do and I live and work in a fairly affluent area so I've been relatively insulated from much of the economic pain the country is experiencing. If I kept my mind only on my work, I might be able to go through life without a care in the world.

    Except I have 3 teenage kids and it bugs the crap out of me that they are inheriting a world of much more limited possibility than the one I grew up in.

    You didn't do much to cheer me up. But you expressed it well.

  40. Celynne Says:

    @Ed

    It seems pretty clear to me from most of the responses here that many agree with you that starting over from scratch is probably the only solution. So let's suppose you could.

    and @All

    Let's pretend that you could sweep away the current political system without generating a civil war and precipitating economic colapse, what would you replace it with?

    Who me?
    Well since we're pretending, and at the risk of exposing my politically utopian petticoats: coalition government based on proportional representation. IMO, very naively simplistic, of course, polarizing party politics funded by corporate dollars seems to be the root of the problem. Which inherantly means that not enough people are invited to the party.

    This is just a little thought experiment, I'm under no more delusions than any of the rest of you that anything can actually be done, short of having Ed run for President and all of the rest of you elected to Congress.

    oh wait, can I change my answer?

  41. Celynne Says:

    *collapse* *inherently*
    sheesh, you guys are going to mandate spelling and grammar be taught in public schools, right?

  42. Tim H. Says:

    Part of the answer might be to require media to offer time at cost to politicians, say for the 90 days prior to an election as a condition for their license. Possibly the congress-critters we've got would vote differently if they didn't have to spend so much time wearing the knee-pads.

  43. c u n d gulag Says:

    BB,
    On what f'in planet was Martin Luther King Jr. a Republican?

  44. j Says:

    Heard this on NPR today, thought you might like it:

    "The free market solves all problems.
    Global warming is not solved by the free market.
    Therefore, global warming is not a problem."

  45. RosiesDad Says:

    @c u n d gulag: I thought the same thing when I read it. There is an explanation but to call Dr. King a Republican is somewhat specious.

    (I also wouldn't generally choose politifact as the arbiter of what's true but the explanation given here seems thorough and reasonable.)

    http://www.politifact.com/tennessee/statements/2012/jan/23/charlotte-bergmann/another-republican-claims-martin-luther-king-jr-wa/

  46. c u n d gulag Says:

    RosiesDad,
    Yes, MLK was a Republican, because they always fought for labor, and the downtrodden.

    They claim him because for one brief shining moment, the Repub

  47. c u n d gulag Says:

    OY!
    My laptop's problems are killing me!

    As I was saying:
    They claim MLK Jr. because for one brief shining moment, the Republican Party took the right side of and issue in the 20th Century, and stood for something besides lower taxes, unbridled greed, money, isolationism during World Wars, and Big Business.

    And while it's true that it was the Southern Democrats who were the staunch segregationists, the Northern and Western ones weren't.

    And it was the Northern and Western D's who joined with R's across the nation, to vote for, and pass, the Civil Rights Acts of '64 and '65.
    But it was also a Southern Democrat, who, as President, was the one pushing for the legislation, and then signed it.

    The Republicans claiming MLK Jr. as one of their own, would be like Major League Baseball claiming Michael Jordan as one of their own.
    Sure, Jordan played on their fields for a little while, like the R's did on King's, but it's not arguable which sport he had a greater affinity for, and appreciation, of.*

    *And yes, I know, at the time he switched sports, Jordan claimed he liked Baseball more. But maybe he had to say that – for cover – since there's plenty of evidence that the NBA was going to suspend him for gambling.
    Instead, he took a couple of years playing in the minor leagues, and then returned to the NBA pretty much unscathed.

  48. c u n d gulag Says:

    Oh, and thanks for the article, RosiesDad!

  49. bb in GA Says:

    Y'all – I was teasing just a bit – lighten up….

    I think MLK was TECHNICALLY a Republican, but that meant nothing and I'm not claiming anything about that.

    Lots of Black folks used to be Rs pre 1960s primarily because of "Father Abraham"

    But the point stands at the Pres level – if you an R you are historically more in danger than a D.

    //bb

  50. c u n d gulag Says:

    Tried to sneak one in there at the last minute, eh?

  51. bb in GA Says:

    No sneaking, it was tail twist…

    //bb