A VORTEX OF SHIT, PART II

(Check in with Part I here)

So does Scott County really have to be as bad as it is? Realistically, yes. Its fate is sealed. Here's why.

There is no reason to stay in Scott County, Indiana. There's nothing to do there, no economic opportunities. It's ugly. The weather sucks. It has a lot of crime. Its only real asset – low cost of living – is a direct function of its status as a void in the universe and therefore not worth much. So like any half-rational person, you leave. You find the nearest big city or make the big move out to New York or whatever. You leave just like everybody leaves.

Well, not everybody. The people who are capable of leaving – young, not tied down, not incarcerated or on probation, not dirt poor – leave. So who's left behind? Old people who refuse to leave. Young people counting down the minutes until they can leave. People who can't pay their bills let alone the cost of moving. People with life-obliterating problems (with drugs, with booze, with gambling). People who have no skills or education that might be salable elsewhere. People who are barely adults and have four kids. People who don't have a parole officer. People who don't think that (insert name of essentially city anywhere) is better than Scott County. People who can't get their shit together even if they have the means. People who either had their asses kicked by life or are losers, basically.

So who ends up in charge? Who makes the decisions that make the Scott Counties of the world so spectacularly and consistently backward? Well. The idiots elect a handful of other idiots, who hire their idiot relatives to perform important jobs very badly. The Chief of Police in Scott County is behaving like some kind of reactionary, pitiably stupid backcountry hick because he is a reactionary, pitiably stupid backcountry hick. We know that with certainty because if he were any good at his job or had marketable skills he would move 25 miles away to work in the safe, fancy suburbs of Louisville, KY and do the same job only easier and at double the salary. And that's the reason communities like these are in a death spiral – anyone good enough to do the job(s) of running the place well is good enough to get a better job in a better place at a better salary. If a few capable people do stick around, they'll find it impossible to accomplish anything against the tendencies of the elderly, the ignorant, and the ignorant elderly.

How do we fix it? We don't. Communities need people with a mix of skills in order to prosper, and short of handing out Ferraris and a blowjob to anyone who agrees to move there it is not going to get a mix. It is going to get people for whom getting through one day is a struggle and therefore unwilling to focus on anything other than their own lives. It is going to get knuckleheads and miserable old people. It's going to get a lot of people caught up in the justice system or on meth. And they're going to be on the school board, in the police force, teaching in the schools, and raising their inevitably terrible children.

They will try to fix the local economy with ideas that were stale 20 years ago. They'll take ineffective, counterproductive, and punitive approaches to dealing with social problems like drugs, poverty, and crime. They'll teach their kids that the Earth is 6,000 years old and girls all want to be raped and The Messicans are comin' to take their part-time job at Casey's General Store. The courts, justice system, and law enforcement will be corrupt, petty, and inept. And that's just the way everything will be, and everyone will be used to it, and everyone will accept it as their lot in life and that will be that.

The only hope is that a higher level of government – particularly the state legislature – is run by less incompetent people who can enforce some half-decent choices on rural and failing urban areas. Good thing Scott County has Mike Pence and the Indiana Legislature handling the really important things in the State Capitol.

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67 Responses to “A VORTEX OF SHIT, PART II”

  1. Scotius Says:

    "I have been thinking about this a great deal lately, and I have an idea that doesn't invoke religion, the Culture Wars, or the Republican Party's messy divorce from reality."

    Mike Pence and the Indiana State Legislature was your idea? To be perfectly honest, I can't think of anything that can help places like Scott County myself which is why I had hoped you could come up with something better.

  2. HoosierPoli Says:

    Casey's General Store – Now that's a deep cut that could only come from a person who had to drive through Martinsville, Indiana on a regular basis.

  3. Lit3Bolt Says:

    Man, this makes the Army sound good.

  4. Chucky Says:

    Not until that "higher level of government" is the federal government, it won't.

    Really, the amount of local suck in this country that is not only trivially solved by unilateral federal takeover, but is only solvable by unilateral federal takeover, is staggering. Our schools that don't dare touch modern science with a 10-foot pole for fear of getting defunded by Boss Hogg. Our 108137 local LE agencies that kill blacks with impunity. The open and actively treasonous neoconfederatism of at least a half-dozen state governments. Et cetera.

    The 10th Amendment won't allow it, they say? Fuck the 10th Amendment. Our flaming wreck of a constitutional system is the very heart of this problem, and either we kill it or it will kill us.

    (Just kidding, we know damn well it's going to kill us)

  5. HoosierPoli Says:

    I don't think that's such a good idea, Chucky. When the Republicans force Massachussetts to teach creationism in schools, we'll be wishing we had kept federalism around.

  6. Major Kong Says:

    The way you've described it, I don't think there are enough Ferraris and blowjobs in the world to get me to move to Scott County.

  7. Anubis Bard Says:

    I was talking with an old man in southern West Virginia a couple of weeks ago. He said how when he was young he'd hoped things would change once the older folks died off. But the younger folks just became the older folks and nothing ever improved. His diagnosis? "Them with drive leaves."

  8. Freecookies Says:

    Except nobody in the federal government wants to govern places like Scott County either. So a lot of horse trading would go on in the background and you'd eventually get the same sort of people running the county as you have now, except they'd draw their paycheck from the feds instead.

    No opportunity, no jobs. Without that, you really can't think about improving anything else!

    Why do you think they're all trying to get high? They may be dumb and mean, but they also know everything he said about Scott County too. And they know it's true. They know they're too dumb and mean and poor to make it anywhere else. The knowledge must burn in the backs of their minds. Nobody wants to know they're a loser. So they try to avoid that knowledge wherever they can.

    I guess the state and the feds will show up just enough to get this outbreak to die down and then they'll leave. After all, if it weren't for the AIDS outbreak, none of us would be caring about what goes on in places like Scott County to begin with.

    So let them do their jobs and we can all go back to not caring.

    Or maybe one day, you'll hear about the Black Plague in a Scott County but it'll have happened so many times before that it won't even make mainstream news anymore. You'll have to read it in some technical journal like Infectious Diseases Daily or something.

  9. Freecookies Says:

    The other thing to keep in mind – if opium were legal, they wouldn't be shooting up anything, they'd be smoking opium laced cigarettes or drinking opium tea.

    Yes, they'd still be addicts, going to hell, but they'd be functional addicts (much like functional alcoholics) and they wouldn't be spreading diseases. I guess saving people from going to hell matters more than what happens in this realm though. Bet they'd still smell though and listen to country music. I bet some of you would be for them all getting high if it stopped them from buying country music albums and taking showers.

    http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2015/04/27/hiv-riddled-town-addiction-lifestyle/26482399/

    Watch the 2nd video. "I do it to escape my reality. My reality isn't very pleasant."

  10. Freecookies Says:

    One last post and I'll bid you adieu.

    Here's my modest proposal for fixing Scott County. Declare it a Special Economic Zone – where all recreational drugs are for sale legally.

    If you can't fix them, at least give them the sweet escape from reality that they need.

    And maybe a few of them can make a new living selling drugs to the rest of the state.

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    I bet there are box stores like WalMart nearby, and fast-food joints, too.

    Towns like his used to do ok when there were local jobs.
    You know, a barber shop or two.
    Small diners and restaurants.
    A men's and women's clothing stores.
    A children's store, with a toy shop.
    A small grocery.
    A small meat/fish store.
    Etc…
    All locally owned.

    Then the box stores and fast food joints moved in.
    And, by buying in bulk and paying at (or below) minimum wage, they could offer lower prices, and drove all the local businesses out.

    We have done that in many counties across the US.
    We have done this to ourselves.
    People don't want to pay higher taxes, and they want low prices on everything.

    As that great comic character, Pogo, once said:
    "We have met the enemy and he is us."

  12. raylanshat Says:

    Most of this article could be used to describe certain areas in every major inner-city in America. Yuh know… minus the coal-rolling hick and country music parts.

    Hell, even some small river towns in central Illinois would qualify, except they do indeed come with the coal-rolling hicks and country music parts – no extra charge.

  13. cat Says:

    Most of this article describes 'evolution'. Only nobody wants to admit 1000 years ago all these people just died and the human race was better for it because the diseases and failed humans didn't contaminant the rest of us.

    You can fix the problem, i.e. mass relocation, re-education camps, and turn it all back into farmland. Alternatively, You let the problem fix it self by quarantining them so nobody gets in or out.

    This current 'modern' way of caring until we've helped enough we can lie to our selves that we've done enough is going to be the end of us all.

  14. fuzzbuzz215 Says:

    ^ I really don't want to refer to eugenics and the Nazis but….

  15. Major Kong Says:

    When they opened the outdoor shopping mall in Columbus OH a few years back, a friend of mine made the following observation:

    "We're boarding up small towns all across the country so we had to build a fake one here".

  16. cat Says:

    @fuzzbuzz215
    Good, since you'd be completely wrong. Letting "communities fail that can't sustain themselves" vs "forced breading and sterilization" are pretty far apart.

    I presented two solutions to the problem of failed communities. One is compassionate and the other isn't, but by lets talk about the one without compassionate and pretend its immoral since this is the internet and we are strangers.

  17. DocAmazing Says:

    I did a temp medical job in a community like you describe. The higher-functioning members of the community tried to induce me to move there, so that their kids would have a doctor; the majority were openly hostile to me, as an outsider and a city person. Obviously, I didn't take the job; I can't imagine anyone else taking it, given the reception I had.

    I feel for these people's children; the adults make their own decisions at this point.

  18. Mo Says:

    These places – rural and urban alike – are festering cancers on the rest of society. So even if we lack compassion, we nonetheless do have to think up a way to make life tolerable for losers.

    Things we've already tried:
    Bread and circuses.
    Religion.

    I kinda like Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps idea, myself. The mere act of recruitment in these places would get people away from them and out of the hamster wheel of misery. "Join the Corps! Go to Wyoming to work on the wind farms! Restore the prairie for the buffalo ranches! Clean-up the Butte mine superfund site!"

    Adventure! Excitement! A FEMA trailer and a living wage!

    I use this example because it did in fact work for my worthless brother-in-law, thanks to the Katrina clean-up.

    Somehow it has to be made easy for the less advantaged to leave their misery and quit being festering sores that poison everyone else. When you're at the bottom, someone has to throw you a ladder, you can't climb out by yourself.

    Altruism is a survival tactic. Ever wonder why it makes you feel good? [even if, for many people, "good" means "smug and superior"]

  19. Mo Says:

    Oh yeah, and fuck you, Cat, for using ignorance and mis-understanding of biology and evolution to rationalize your fear and contempt of people with problems and unwillingness to spend one damn dime or 5 minutes of effort to help them out.

    Self-righteous dicks like you were the apparatchiks in Mao's Great Famine and Cultural Revolution.

    Did you ever read Hanna Arendt?

  20. Tim H. Says:

    Mo, it is high time to bring back the WPA and CCC, the re-depression has gone on long enough.

  21. coin operated Says:

    As a graduate of the Job Corps system, and later having a g/f who scraped by college thanks to Americorps, let me whole-heartedly endorse the CCC and WPA ideas. Back in the early 80's, the timber industry went to shit, mills closed all over the area, and small towns across the Pacific NW were in much the same situation as Scott County is seeing now. I went in a scruffy teen with no diploma or skills and came out with a marketable skill and the ability to earn a damn wage. The Federal Government has made back in taxes 100X over what they invested in me back then.

  22. mojrim Says:

    I'm with you about the CCC reboot for other reasons, Mo, but let's be clear on the historical record vis Cat. These communities are unsalvageable, not because of the residents, but because there is no longer any economic reason to live there. The jobs left first, not the energetic and smart and so forth. The ones that remain do so because they could not function outside and there is pretty much nothing that can fix them after, say, age 30. If we got them until age seven, as the Jesuits suggest, it would be another matter…

    Pouring resources into these places just (a) wastes resources and (b) keeps the problem going forward; it's like teaching a pig to sing. We all know this to be true, but as a society we don't like to face harsh truths, so we keep sending domestic foreign aid to these places to make ourselves feel better. Altruism is a survival tactic *sometimes* just as are ruthlessness and selfishness; the trick is figuring out which situation you're in. The famine and the cultural revolution achieved the party's goals, whether or not you agree with those is another matter.

  23. TAGinMO Says:

    When Ed said he had "an idea" at the end of Part I the other day, I interpreted it as "an idea for a solution to this problem" instead of "an idea about why this problem exists."

    Looking back and reading a bit more carefully, I see that I was mistaken. And I think his theory about why the Scott Countys of the world are the way they are is a sound one. Still, today's installment was a bit of a letdown–even if the fact that my expectations were inflated was pretty much all my fault.

  24. anotherbozo Says:

    Thank you, Ed. The case you make is insightful, incisive, incontrovertible and totally sound. I hope you feel better for having spelled all this out. Fiat lux, etc.

    Now please pass the strychnine.

  25. argleblargle Says:

    Do we *need* places like Scott Country? I mean honestly, would the country suffer in any way if everyone living there (barring perhaps a few farmers to work the land) moved somewhere else? It seems like we have a lot of small towns like that just by historical accident, leftover from the days when 80%+ of the population worked in agriculture. But nowadays it's more like 2%… the modern economy is based around services, which means interacting with other humans, not living out in the countryside. We don't need to maintain the charade of 19th century small town farming life. Just move to the city.

  26. Mo Says:

    mojrim – did I say anything about salvaging these wrecks of communities?

    Allow me to re-state the point I was trying to make:

    We need to provide an escape hatch, a reason for people to get out of these places and out of the cycle of misery they're stuck in.

    Then we can bulldoze the ghost towns.

    To get the hell outta Dodge you need money

    [As to Mao's famine and Cultural Revolution "achieving the party's goals," even the CCP leaders today concede that Mao's policies to have been huge mistakes that retarded China's economic growth for two decades. ]

  27. Timurid Says:

    So we're progressing from arguing that "Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc… and their people… are fundamentally broken and we shouldn't invest anything more in trying to fix them" (and the corollary of "Those People can't govern themselves and really need the firm hand of a Saddam or Assad") to making much the same arguments about large parts of this country and large numbers of our countrymen…

    Jesus Christ.

  28. raylanshat Says:

    @Timurid

    +1

    Talk about moral decay…

  29. greatlaurel Says:

    Ed, this is one of your most disappointing rants. Part 1 was intresting. Part 2 demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about why rural America is failing in very rapid fashion. The rural economies were strong up until 1968. The GOP policies inflicted on rural America since Nixon have created an economic depression that dwarfs the devastation of the Great Depression of the 1930's, but no one pays any attention because it is just a bunch of "stupid farmers". Holding farmers and rural people in contempt is just another subcategory of the divide and conquer strategy of political control. It started with the deliberate depression of commodity prices to combat the inflation created by the Vietnam War. When Reagan was elected, policies were put in place to destroy small farms and consolidate production to the benefit of large corporations. It is much cheaper for the big corps to sell and buy commodities to a few huge farms than lots of little outfits. This created a cascade of devastation in small communities of bankrupted small businesses from restaurants to parts dealers to the local grain elevators.

    You will also find that a lot of the folks that are dealing with poverty in these areas came from families who migrated from even poorer areas for better benefits and housing starting in the 1960's. Indiana and Ohio had industrial bases that provided for higher benefits for people desperate to escape the horrid conditions of the plantation South. A number of people have made a tremendous amount of money providing federally subsidized housing to people who cannot afford to escape to a better location. Unfortunately, they and their children became entrapped in the nightmare unleashed on this country by Reagan and his grifter cronies. Furthermore, they brought with them some of the same prejudices and fears that were used in the South to divide and conquer the lower classes from uniting to help themselves.

    Then add in the Bush years of bringing in millions of undocumented workers to break the strength of unions in the meat packing and food manufacturing industries and the massive tax breaks for offshoring jobs to further degrade unions and you have a tsunami of economic destruction

    But if it makes you feel better, keep on blaming the victims of this very well planned and executed economic and political coup d'etat. Sneer at these folks all you want, but the powers that unleashed this devastation are not satiated and are coming for the rest of us soon enough.

  30. JustRuss Says:

    And of course the Scott Counties of our nation are over-represented in Congress, especially the Senate, so all of us get to enjoy the fruits of their disfunction. Awesome.

  31. ZeroInMyOnes Says:

    Places like Scott County are probably necessary for gerrymandering.

  32. cat Says:

    @Mo
    Another person who lacks reading skills and then projects onto me their own thoughts.

    FDR's programs were relocation/re-education camps. Like you said, it was come live in a FEMA trailer for a few years and send money back to your family so they can eat. Does that solve the systemic problem of places like Scott county? Nope. Scott county is failing in large part due to the hollowing out of the America due to off shoring and the bourgeois not giving a crap about the American working class leading to economic strife.

    Not sure how turning it back to farmland is any different then bulldozing ghost towns after everyone left to join the new and improved CCC, this time with minorities and women(we promise).

    Let me be clear:
    The way I would personally solve the problem is by gutting the defense budget, sorry all you bourgeois working for the MIC, and fixing our water, power, transportation, schools(teachers and buildings and access).

    The Scott County's of the US are victims of the Robber Baron, not themselves and they need treatment before whats happening to Scott County spreads to the rest of the US.

  33. Mo Says:

    JustRuss – ironic, ain't it, that they vote Republican. Talk about licking the shit off the boots that kicked you.

    I had to quit re-reading Daniel Kahneman the other day because the aura of doom was making me feel faint.

  34. Mo Says:

    cat, you hoisted your own ass up the flagpole with this one:

    Only nobody wants to admit 1000 years ago all these people just died and the human race was better for it because the diseases and failed humans didn't contaminant the rest of us.

    That's pretty vile, right outta the gate.

  35. mojrim Says:

    Timurid: Regarding Afghanistan, et. al. the argument is not that they are "unfixable" but rather that *we* are fundamentally incapable of "fixing" it to our satisfaction. My experience with these places indicates that most of the residents don't consider them broken to begin with. Our obsession with "fixing" them is just another incarnation of patronizing colonialism.

    Mo: The problem is that the escape hatch is irrelevant after a certain age. We can infer from a couple of experiments (one controlled, one natural) that cash infusions are useful in the long term in inverse proportion to the age of the people involved. Start giving a poor family another $6000 per year and the 4 y/o will have much better outcomes, the 12 y/o somewhat better, and the 18 y/o barely noticeable improvement. Giving a 30 y/o parent in Bumblefuck County *may* allow his kinds to leave, but he's stuck.

    Then the question is: what are they leaving for? Labor participation is low and dropping yet unemployment is stuck above 5%. Worse, the jobs that are being created are sub-living wage service jobs. We can raise the federal minimum, but the essential nature of de-industrialization combined with exponentially growing automation makes that a Sisyphean task over the long term. We came into the great recession 15 million jobs shy of projections and lost another 8 mil. Those are never coming back and any plan that fails to account for that fact will be a failure.

    The only viable, long-term answer is to put these places on a basic income provision, give them free birth control, and let it sort itself. Then we can turn our time and money to managing the next 6 million jobs we're going to lose to driverless cars.

  36. raylanshat Says:

    @Mojrim

    The chaos over there harbors people that chop off heads, mutilate women, and send gays to the firing squad. They're the radical conservatives incarnate that every honest liberal lives to despise. They are abhorrent. If trying to install a stable political system in which radical Islamic terror fucktards can't function is considered "patronizing colonialism", then consider me wildly in favor.

    Sorry, i should have included a trigger warning prior to that rant…

  37. fasteddie Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_town

    "A ghost town is an abandoned village, town or city, usually one which contains substantial visible remains. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters. The term can sometimes refer to cities, towns, and neighborhoods which are still populated, but significantly less so than in years past; for example those affected by high levels of unemployment and dereliction"

    As more and more of the economy is done by machines and less by humans, there will only be a handful of farmers running the hughe machines. The rest of rural america will empty out.

  38. Robert Says:

    I feel selfish for saying this, but I am very grateful to my great-great-grandfather for not stopping until he got to the Pacific Ocean. Living in Oakland CA sounds like Flosten Paradise compared to Scott County.

    No ideas about how to fix the mess there. The idea of a place that only has people living there because they are unable to leave is bad enough, but that they sincerely don't believe that anyplace else would be better is worse. The idea suggested above – letting poverty and disease have their Malthusian way with them – is, perhaps, worst of all. John Galt would be pleased.

  39. jon Says:

    There are few ways to kill the blight. First, if people want a return to Main Street, USA, they'll have to accept the zoning laws that made the good-old days possible: cramped and crowded. Force that chicken franchise to put two apartments above their shop, put the manager's home above the Taco Bell, and make the Ace Hardware be the landlord to three families that live on the property. Think urban renewal? Then you're thinking density. Sesame Street. Walkable neighborhoods. Hanging out on the stoop. Little stores here and there mixed with residences and such. The suburban model is a failure in places where a job can't get enough money to afford a car. And these proud rural areas are the new failing suburbs. The suburbs are the new home of poverty, and the suburbs must die. Commutes are part of the problem, and it's because we've designed living and working to be separated by as many miles as it takes to reach affordability. We need more housing near the jobs, and that's a zoning issue. Yes, that doesn't solve all problems (like a certain Texas town that puts chemical plants a bit too close to residents,) but for service-grade commercial properties? Why can't a county board say you can have your medical plaza, but you have to put in twelve affordable housing units, too? Because they don't demand it, that's why. Otherwise they can keep it a farm. People still eat and cows like grass, last I heard.

  40. Timurid Says:

    The problem is that if all of Scott County packed up and moved to Chicago tomorrow, there wouldn't be jobs for the vast majority of them…

    We like to think of blue states and big cities as "safe spaces," but they're becoming increasingly hostile to all but the most talented/ambitious/luckiest/best connected few… and the competition for places and jobs there is only going to get fiercer as options continue to dwindle elsewhere.

    I have very little in common with the denizens of Scott County. I'm politically liberal, gay and only half white. I have a PhD, not a GED. But I can damn well sympathize with them, because like them I am teetering on the verge of obsolescence. I'm currently working as an instructor on a yearly contract at a second tier state university in the South. The city I live in is not nearly as unpleasant as Scott County, but from a liberal/progressive perspective there's a lot not to like about the politics, culture, etc. I'm living and working here because (at least by the ever more exacting standards of the academic job market) I'm too stupid and lazy to get a job in a "nicer" place. I could pull up stakes tomorrow and move to some Blue Paradise, but there would be little I could do there other than starve. So, yes, there are large parts of the South and Midwest that are deeply unpleasant and unrewarding places to live, but for mere mortals, living there may still be the lesser evil. And based upon this thread (and many more like it in various fora across the Net), the growing consensus among those who are managing to hold on to a degree of security and comfort is "Well, we can't outrun the bear, so we'd better make sure he stays well fed…"

    /Rant over
    //I need to start my own blog

  41. Brian M Says:

    If trying to install a stable political system in which radical Islamic terror fucktards can't function is considered "patronizing colonialism", then consider me wildly in favor.

    So how well has this worked out?

    Arrogant neocolonialism.

    Heck, that's like saying we need to have the Danes or Dutch paratroop into Scott County and rescue them from themselves. How well do you think that would work? Then why do you think it would work better in a cultural environment that is completely alien to the colonizing do gooders? You sound like an 1890 Brit explaining why the Indians have to starve because they need to be taught to follow The Market (PBIN). I would also note that it is not the Gay-killing Mooslim hoards that are responsible for the economic and technological system that will collapse the ecosystem.

    And let's get personal. How many tours of duty did you serve in Afghanistan? Did you send your children to die over there to teach the wogs "civillization"? No kids>? Why then, you ARE NOT BREEDING ENOUGH to support the superior white civillization.

    Arghhhh. I bet you support the Saudi starvation and bombing campaign we are providing air support for. Gotta teach them tribal savages via slaughter and bombing campaigns, don't we?

  42. Timurid Says:

    The school of thought about Afghanistan and other places I referred to is distinct from the anti-Imperialist argument that interference in the affairs of other countries/cultures is inherently wrong. What I'm talking about is "They Had Their Chance" thinking. Many of the same people who were cheering on the invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now bitter and disdainful towards the people they wanted to "save" and now argue in favor of disengagement. As in "We sacrificed greatly in blood and treasure attempting to achieve objectives that would have been attainable if it were not for the meanness and stupidity of the natives. So now it's time to move on. They Had Their Chance."

    Increasingly many "progressives" in this country are now throwing up their hands in frustration and turning away from the concerns of the poor and working classes… "We've had a New Deal and a Civil Rights Movement and a War On Poverty. If those people are still suffering, it's their fault. They Had Their Chance."

  43. democommie Says:

    Afghanistan, Iraq and other places like them ARE unfixable if your idea of "fix" is to make them into some Potemkin Village of western democracy. Sorry, that's a fact. Afghanistan for reasons of geography, geopolitics, religious strife and good ol' fashioned feudalism is basically incapable of doing what's done in some other countries. I don't blame them for being who they are but I would love to stop hearing about how we can "fix" their problems.

  44. Brian Says:

    So, I am not sure how to articulate this without incurring the wrath of the righteous, but I think there is something other than just complete self-delusion and poverty that keeps people in these places. Because even the most depressed, lonely, and down-and-out places have good people.

    There are people who are trying to make it better.

    There are people who have an emotional attachment to the place because it is and has always been their home.

    You may think that the notion of 'home' is antiquated and solely the realm of the ignorant, but I think that people moved back to New Orleans after Katrina is a good indication of how strong this feeling is.

    I think once we 'give up' on these places, we have kind of lost the point of civilization. If we simply 'let em die' or whatever, how is that any different than the libertarian notion of "My privilege of growing up some place better in a better environment entitles me to more than those idiots in that backwater?"

  45. Skepticalist Says:

    I'm very happy to live in my overtaxed, over regulated socialist medical experiment of New York State.

  46. Earl Says:

    @greatlaurel:

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me twenty-five to fifty fucking years running (Nixon resigned in 1974; Reagan left office in 1989), you're a sub-moronic fucking hick and we all need to point and laugh.

    @Brian:

    What are you supposed to do besides give up when the majority of people there either live in shit because they like it or have a crab mentality? They're not passive victims, but actively supporting their own exploitation (and screwing over me and mine along the way). But at least they have some gay coffee-sipping liberals to feel superior to, while we took a bath in the last election and pay more tax so they (and their idiot children) can have health care.

  47. Tim H. Says:

    The rot may go back to JFK, the campaign he ran ensured that enormous money would be a requirement for the foreseeable future. And catering to the special needs of the money. BTW, two words for those advocating Darwinian solutions; genetic bottlenecking.

  48. mojrim Says:

    Timurid: That's a fair point, but at this stage I'll take whatever allies I can get, under whatever ideological pretext, to GTFO. While I don't consider it inherently wrong to meddle, it has proven to almost always be a disaster for all concerned. If it requires western liberals thinking arabs to be unregenerate savages to make them stop trying to bomb them into civilization, so be it.

    Raylanshat: And that, above, is my whole f**king point. It is of no account what you (or me, or my mother) think of Afghan culture, it only matters what they think. No amount of "provincial reconstruction" or "education assistance" or "security agreements" makes half an iota of difference if the recipients don't agree with you on the problem.

  49. mojrim Says:

    PS: Raylanshat: It's only chaos when we show up and start messing with things. Otherwise it's generally orderly.

  50. Arslan Says:

    People, people! Can't you see the solution to this is obvious and has been for some time? We need to increase education to increase individual human capital and mental capital in the new post-capitalist, post-equality e-economy. Through education, these young people will be able to innovate and leverage their synergies and enter STEM fields where they will be able to prolong their innovation as they work as non-unionized temporary contractors at streamlined, more efficient wages. We can effect this innovative change by doing whatever is necessary to bring more innovative entrepreneurs to the region, because as we all know, if your solution to economic underwealth is anything but doing whatever it takes to draw millionaires and billionaires in to solve your problem while getting even more rich at the same time, this means that you are a filthy Communist who doesn't understand that we're living in a post-labor society and by the way, did you know Stalin killed 50, no 60 million people?

    Think. Innovate. Leverage.

  51. Major Kong Says:

    50 to 60 million is a rather high estimate for Stalin.

    Depending on if you classify the deaths from famine as intentional or just the result of crappy agricultural policies – it's probably a "mere" 10 million.

    Now if you want to get into the really big numbers – Chairman Mao's your guy.

  52. H.M.S. Blankenship Says:

    Just wanted to register a like for Brian's comment, above. Also, too, in response to Timurid: surely 'let the Sunnis & Shi'a work this out amongst themselves' is not the same thing as 'bomb them all & let Llah sort it out'

  53. weakonomics Says:

    Ok now my keyboard is hot and sticky (let me explain, perverts) because that "you are not breeding enough" comment had freshly poured coffee Charizarding from my nose.

    Anyhow, Im just not convinced that us leaving will end the jihad against the West. (Although I do agree our involvement has certainly fueled the movement to its current fury.) Albeit, I certainly am not on board with the, 'Bomb the bastards, let Allah sort it out' mantra, either.

    However, if we simply leave the region and they leave us (meaning western civilization) alone, then I am all for the, 'Let them fight each other and Allah sort them out' mantra.

    Still, part of me thinks knowingly allowing human rights atrocities to occur is somewhat morally disturbing, yet part of me says, what difference at this point does it make?

  54. Skepticalist Says:

    Ever since John McCain's "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" clip a couple years ago, I have serious doubts about anything Congress comes up with trying to deal with this area of the world.

  55. Brian M Says:

    weakanomics:

    Good points all, except I think this is very, very theoretical. When is the last time Western interests have ever "left them alone"? 150 years ago? 200 years ago? 1000 years ago?

    As the whole point of American military intervention is evangelism for the only Troo Religion (Capitalism and The Market (PBIN)), leaving them "alone" would be akin to accepting our own "damnation" for a fundie Christian.

    Ain't gonna happen. Especially as the other element, protecting the Settler Apartheid State in the Levant, also has religious grounds.

    But I don't want to hear pious protestations that we need to somehow someway transform their societies, no matter how many cities we destroy. 911 was awful. American destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan transcends by orders of magnitude this crime.

    Just saying that the response to terrorism shouldn't be destroying entire nations and millions of people.

  56. Brian M Says:

    I also find it amazing that anyone could conflate The New Deal and The War on Poverty as ANYTHING akin to the Iraqi, Afghani, Libyan, Yemeni….on and on and on…a litany of invasions in the name of civillizing the wogs!!!

    My jaw hurts because my mouth is gaping so badly. :(

    "Liberal" exhaustion with "those people" is a problem I will agree. That is a good point, especially as these programs are trivial when compared to the impacts of programs and the deliberate (and inherent in neooliberal economics) transformations encouraged in the United States and outlined by greatlaurel so clearly. I want to give kudos to greatlaurel for pointing out critical factors involved here. The Owners decided around 1970 or so (the Powell Memorandum) to utterly screw the rest of us.

  57. Barry Says:

    raylanshat Says:

    "The chaos over there harbors people that chop off heads, mutilate women, and send gays to the firing squad. They're the radical conservatives incarnate that every honest liberal lives to despise. They are abhorrent. If trying to install a stable political system in which radical Islamic terror fucktards can't function is considered "patronizing colonialism", then consider me wildly in favor."

    The Bush II administration was not trying to improve things; they were trying to settle a personal grudge, and loot the USA through a war while looting a Middle Eastern country or two.

    They ended up f*cking a bad situation up and making it worse, and the attitude of the GOP Base was to support f*cking it up.

  58. Robert Says:

    Afghanistan has experience in furriners coming in and trying to remake them. I have no idea what they'd be like without that history – it's like imagining Africa without the slave trade, or the Americas without smallpox. If the Ottomans had stayed neutral in WWI, it would have been much harder for the Europeans to seize Mesopotamia and the Levant. I'd love to see how Ataturk would have dealt with ibn-Saud and the Husseinis of the Hejaz without British arms backing them up.

    But none of that actually happened. If your people's history is deformed by imperialist meddling, any future you can imagine will be similarly affected. From '53 to '79, when Iranians heard Westernization they thought SAVAK and dictatorship – now we're puzzled by their distrust. Cambodia was apparently a perfectly fine place to live before the U.S. started bombing them to hell – and when the Vietnamese tried to oust the Khmer Rouge, the U.S. backed the Khmer Rouge.

    Why don't they realize that we're the Good Guys?

  59. Timurid Says:

    Of course domestic policy initiatives like the New Deal and foreign wars like Iraq are completely different undertakings… some vastly more necessary and productive than others. But in some ways those distinctions are being blurred because increasingly American elites are thinking of other Americans not as fellow citizens but as foreigners… as an members of an alien and inferior culture that need to be rescued, chastised or both. If they're trying to "fix" Iraq or Detroit, the thought process is the same:

    1. Engage in some vast, difficult and risky project

    2. Become frustrated when the project fails or when success is not sustained

    3. Blame the powerless for what went wrong, instead of acknowledging the mistakes (or outright malice) of the powerful

    This thread has gone way off track, but TL;DR" American elites are increasingly treating domestic policy as foreign policy, because Those People are not Us. And that is scary as hell…

  60. Kaleberg Says:

    There isn't all that much you can do for Scott County if there is no economic basis for it. The number of people needed in farming, mining and manufacturing has been falling for over 100 years now. Even if we stopped importing manufactured goods, we still wouldn't have as many factory jobs as we did in the 1950s. Even the organic farming locavore movement isn't going to undo the trend started by Cyrus McCormick and his harvester.

    The only good thing is that any people who have skills and ambition are getting out, and most of them are going to settle elsewhere. The horrible thing is that rural life has been like this for thousands of years with isolated people barely scraping by, and anyone with any ambition getting out and that includes slaves who were more than glad to escape when an opportunity came up. Roman authors were always going on about the yokels and the wretchedness of rural life once one got away from the big cities.

  61. mojrim Says:

    Robert – Thank you for that piece of bloody, awful truth. I had observed that wherever we went in Afghanistan the violence followed, and left when we did also.

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  63. Skepticalist Says:

    Maybe there's room for another corporate run prison or some shadowy federal detention center. A new UFO sighting? Even better.

    It's about all that's left in too many areas where people have nothing to do but wait for the rapture.

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