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Old 04-20-2005, 04:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Politics - Reality Soap Opera Entertainment

I made a post about this in the Ann Coulter thread, and it went completely unnoticed. I'll quote myself in my own thread so I can get a little discussion on this going.

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Originally Posted by Halx
I read some of this shit... I immediately got one single impression. This is not about politics. This is not about being right or impressing your will upon others. This is about stirring up a soap opera that people will pay attention to. This is professional wrestling with opinions instead of headlocks. This is about the next audacious thing that will come out of someone's mouth. This is about creating celebrities somewhere other than Hollywood.

And if you're fool enough to buy into any of it, you're probably not realizing that while you hate Survivor and The Real World, you're getting the exact same entertainment from Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN.

*sits back and waits for people to realize they're arguing like teens addicted to Dawson's Creek.*
All I can say is that watching the drama that goes on in Washington DC is like watching the WWE in between the fights. "Oh my god, can you believe what so and so just said? That offended like half of the pygmy sea squirrel population. Lawsuit time."

It's become less and less about what the government is doing and more what everyone who doesn't matter for shit is saying. The networks play it up because people can't get enough. Then, you end up with multipage discussion about Ann Coulter's audacity like it fucking matters. The TIME article has some insightful wording to go on: "enrages the left and delights the right." That's another way of saying "...and in this corner..."

It's also the networks and publishers pointing off in the distance behind you and screaming, "Look! A flying car!" Just to hold your attention for a moment longer.
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Old 04-20-2005, 04:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yep, it is a combination of a sporting event and a soap opera. Once they choose which side they're on they spend all their time ferreting out things embarassing or derogatory to the other side. However I think we are to blame as much as the media and polititians are. We love our reality TV shows.

Maybe they should stop screwing around and just go all the way with a Jerry Springer style political debate.

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Old 04-20-2005, 04:30 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You make a good point about the level of interaction with the political media - it is still the media. Yet something is inherently more important about it because it isn't just about some imaginary teenagers in a small New England town; ultimately, it has to do with the people who make and enforce the rules that we all live by.

These people (the ones in charge) essentially have the power to take away our basic rights as human beings. And it would obviously be naive to think that even what the term "basic rights" encompasses is something that most folks would agree on. In the end, even the most peripheral people who produce political media have an effect, no matter how small.

In my mind, this idea of politics as reality entertainment would be more fitting in the Mass Media Mind Control thread.
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Old 04-20-2005, 04:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yes Halx, but the scary part is that they're playing with taxpayer money and the shaping of this country for future generations. In other words, the stakes make WWE look small in scale and importance.

Is it a soap-opera?Yes
Will this change? We can all work towards change and better discussion.

The point is that apathy is far worse than being addicted to it like the reality show it is.
I think the problem is not with politics, as they have always been this way. I think the problem is the polarization of society on every level. News networks need a good fight, and nothing is better than two people or two groups that talk past each other.

At various times in our countries history, we have moved political mountains so to speak and forged compromise that moved society forward. At other times, we have all talked till we are blue in the face.
But the reality is that compromise is a lost art. There are signs that it has to do with the generation now being elected, and the way they where raised. I leave that for science and history books ( Though to reference what I'm speaking of, consult the famous qoute about the baby boomers "The ME generation". )

What worries me is the slow breaking of civil discourse. I like to think that when I make a statment in error, or am interpreted incorrectly, I apologize. It's a simple act, but it can mean so much. Words like "I'm sorry" and "I was wrong" rarely appear in the polotics forum here, and that is indicative of how rare they are becoming in social politics overall.

As for the media, there is no such thing as unbias, only more stratightforward, and it's hard not to laugh typing that. Ratings are king (Well okay, not on CSpan), and drawing ones news source as fox, cnn, et allis buying into said ratings game.
Now actually listening to what someone who's politics you don't like and hearing what they have to say, then responding to them not about your own agenda, but first addressing their concerns, then explaining your agenda, then trying to mutualy find middle ground; this has always been the hallmark of when politics that actually had effect worked. This is a rarity, but it was John Locke's dream when he drafted his essays. Civil discourse deciding the future.

For better or for worse, this requires often arguing, impasses, and the like, all of which do lead to a moving forward of social law and the agedas of this country. It just happens on a scale that is outside the 4 year election timeframe.

We are by far not the first generation to discuss that politics are nothing but arguing and drama. but perhaps the question we should ask is "If it's so messed up, how did it still successfully produce the country in which I live today?" (And presumably value living in)
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Old 04-20-2005, 04:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think this sort of off-hand dismissal of the media is both incorrect and, when widespread, dangerous. The media has many specific failings. Yes, one particular failing is the media's willingness to give time to loudmouth morons like Moore and Coulter. But there are far more important flaws in the media that we should be focusing on. There are very serious journalistic questions, such as how the media should treat anonymous sources from now on. There is a massive debate raging over this; in recent years, many Bush administration officials ask for anonymity even when speaking to an audience of reporters, and many journalists (Judith Miller, most prominently) have been defending their right to protect sources who fed them bad information for strictly political purposes. (If you want to know more about this, go to slate.com and search for "anonymice.")

Or we can discuss the abomination that is all cable TV news. Or the fear that the mainstream media showed after 9/11, when it wouldn't ever criticize the Bush administration. Or we could discuss the media's habit of simply acting as mouthpiece for members on each of two sides of an argument, and failing to question either side's information. Or we could discuss talk radio, which is worse than cable TV news. Or we could discuss the role of blogs. Or we could discuss the Bush administration's punitive actions taken on White House reporters who are "too critical." Or we could discuss the way that the mainstream media, in its laziness, accepts the spin provided by the Republicans or Democrats, whichever make their case first.

The point is, there are lots of sub-topics and specific issues we can discuss. Throwing up our hands in disgust, declaring the whole situation an unintelligable, incorrigable mess simply allows the problems to fester. Let's be part of the solution; this wholesale disdain for the media is part of the problem.
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Old 04-20-2005, 05:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think the consideration of the mainstream media is a mistake, myself. If you would like an example of what the media does to a once-pure brass tacks medium, look at the music industry. To say that the popularization and mass distribution improved the quality of the music that is being produced today would get many educated people to consider your sanity. The media is now doing that same exact thing with politics. The quality of political discussion is disintegrating as a result of the mass distribution of the concept of political power. Now, much like the music industry, any hack can get their time in the spotlight and their due consideration, simply by saying the right thing at the right time to the right people, no matter how incompetent they are.

Ann Coulter is like the Spice Girls. No depth, just fluff to arouse the public. Michael Moore is like Blink 182. Catchy shit that holds it's ground in the public's eye despite the fact that it's horribly contrived.

We've got a few one-hit wonders popping up every day. Tom Delay, Father Pavone, etc...

Now, you must realize that these people don't make a single bit of difference. They are, much like today's singers and bands, talking heads for much larger entities. Big companies and organizations pay them to say what they say. Sometimes they realize they can make money themselves by saying something just to perk people up. It doesn't matter though, you're still getting caught up in the soap opera.

I'm an advocate of stopping the problem at it's source. The source for the issues in politics is lobbying. I know, it's impossible. However, I'd rather keep my eye on the target than get caught up in all this song and dance.
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Old 04-20-2005, 06:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Halx, I'd like to reform lobbying rules. I'd like to stop Republican abuse of power, petty shit, that includes denying the Democrats a room in which to caucus and be lobbied. But lobbying is the very lifeblood of democracy - we can't assume each senator and congressperson is going to go out and get all their info on every issue themselves. Groups have to take it to them, and make their case. This isn't to say lobbying doesn't need massive reform - I'm fully sick of the entirely rightwing K Street, for example - but you can't eliminate lobbying.

Oh, and Tom DeLay is not someone who "[doesn't] make a single bit of difference." Dude runs the House of Representatives.
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Old 04-20-2005, 06:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halx
I'm an advocate of stopping the problem at it's source. The source for the issues in politics is lobbying. I know, it's impossible. However, I'd rather keep my eye on the target than get caught up in all this song and dance.

Okay, fair enough.
So what would you do? How would you stop the efforts of lobbyists from influencing and pandering to politicians?
I can see the point you are making, but acknowledgeing the problem is step 1 out of many.
Part of my perception of this problem is that quite a few have noted it's negative influence on political discourse, but no one seems to see the "light at the end of the tunnel" so to speak.

What will happen when lobbyists are gone?
Should they be removed, regulated more, etc?
Given that they do serve a utilitarian purpose, as guy44 has pointed out, what shall replace them in bringing information to the representative? This question is pertanant because few indiviguals take the time to actually contact their rep on the mistaken impression that "I can't make a difference.".

I truly beleive that civil discourse happens in our political history when an issue arises that causes the public to inform themselves before reacting. At most other times the "public" will sink back into self-chosen apathy to indulge only in the matters of their personal life, rarely pondering the long term picture that is bigger than them.

Given this willfull ignorance by many, would it not be equally valid to say that an active populus that has educated itsef to what needs to get done for now and the future, and has familiarized themselves with the possabilities, is the balance to lobbyists that is currently lacking?
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Old 04-20-2005, 06:53 PM   #9 (permalink)
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we can't assume each senator and congressperson is going to go out and get all their info on every issue themselves.
I've gotta pounce on this.

You're totally right. That's because we don't elect leaders, we elect businessmen. We don't elect people who want to help the world, we elect people who know how to make money.

I guess you could say that lobbying is the lifeblood of captialism, but to state that the lifeblood of democracy is wealth (which is the inverse assumption of your statement) is a gross misjudgement. The lifeblood of democracy is people. People come in many varieties, and many of them don't have money to lobby for the things that matter to them.

So the source is twofold, however I feel that if the monetary compensation was not as relevant in the world of politics, the field would open up to those which it was meant for - the born leaders.

We see it everywhere... things are filled with richness, until money gets involved. Then the clowns rush in to grab at their share. That's capitalism. But some things shouldn't be for sale.
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Old 04-20-2005, 06:58 PM   #10 (permalink)
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arch13, I suppose you can derive my response to your post as well in my above statements. The key is simply to sift out the lobbyists, then go through a fallout characterized by the exposure of unqualified candidates losing their footing due to lack of any real leadership quality. Through this shift, real leaders will emerge.
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Old 04-20-2005, 07:09 PM   #11 (permalink)
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IMHO, The only way it will change is when us voters get so fed up that we stop electing the professional polititians. For instance in the case of healthcare we must begin to understand that the lobbying of doctors, insurance companies, and trial lawyers is only for their benefit at the expense of ours. I don't see things changing for the better as long as we continue to reward the incumbants with our votes.
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Old 04-20-2005, 07:50 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I gotta say, I think these sort of ad hominem attacks - lobbyists buy and sell politicians, professional politicians can't possibly understand what reality is like, etc. - aren't productive and the proposed solutions to these problems are far-fetched at best. Any good democracy needs professional politicians. These people understand the rules, have experience in political activities, can handle and execute efficiently their duties.

Furthermore, it is a very bad idea to disallow lobbying. A properly functioning democracy allows all points of view, even those of insurance companies and trial lawyers, to be heard. As annoying as it is that lobbyists with the most money get the most say, imagine if there were no lobbying allowed. Only those with money, power, and influence - those who can afford think tanks to produce reports advocating for certain policies, who know politicians personally, who can get their side of an argument to the politicans - will be able to convey their beliefs. Regular folk, represented by AARP and the Sierra Club and the ACLU and the Farmer's Bureau, will be shut out. Furthermore, there are simply too many issues with too many details for politicians, even great natural leaders, to tackle. Lobbyists provide an essential service in giving information on a nearly infinite amount of topics to politicians, even if that info is biased.

I'm not saying we don't need lobbying reform - badly - and that we should prevent political donations from speaking louder than constitutuent needs. But we need professional politicians, and we need lobbyists. One way or another, those politicians have to do their jobs, and in order to do it best they will need to find a way to get information on each issue. If we don't have open lobbying that gives everyone a chance, than politicians will look to those who have the money/power to get their point of view to Washington.
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Old 04-20-2005, 09:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Points of views are allowed. That's what REAL leaders are for... that's what REAL leaders are good at managing. Lobbyists are not points of view. They are sources of personal income for the 'professional' politicians.

Once again, we're focusing on the democracy aspect, not the captialism aspect.

The key is to let the peoples' voice be heard, no matter how much money have have or do not have. As we saw with this last election, domineered by the media, only two parties were given a chance. That's money speaking. Not the people.

While there may be a need for lobbyists with our current structure, once again I must remind you that if REAL LEADERS were in the place of these 'professionals' the issues would not need to come to their attention in an envelope containing a 5-7 figure check. Do you know what the qualities of a leader are? I'm talking about a DIFFERENT kind of politician. It's a very idealist view, but there are people out there who are exactly as I am envisioning.

I was hoping for a bit more forward thinking from people. New ideas should inspire you, at the very least, to think of new ones yourself, instead of dismissing them as far-fetched.

Let me give you an example. You're a member of my site. Every day you browse the boards, you do so without being assaulted by popup ads, banners, or any other bullshit that would cause you to think I sold out. That's not for the lack of offers I've receieved though. However, because of my desire to create a place where people can not only discuss topics such as these openly, but do so free of such ad placement that diminishes the browsing experience, I've made this a better place on the internet for you.

Leaders are out there with the will to appease the people. They will learn for themselves what all the points of views are and they will take the correct actions to fulfill them.

It works.
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Old 04-20-2005, 10:24 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Well you are correct that there are few real leaders, and that the current system is designed around capitalism.
But I'm going to point to my own last post:

Quote:
I truly beleive that civil discourse happens in our political history when an issue arises that causes the public to inform themselves before reacting. At most other times the "public" will sink back into self-chosen apathy to indulge only in the matters of their personal life, rarely pondering the long term picture that is bigger than them.

Given this willfull ignorance by many, would it not be equally valid to say that an active populus that has educated itsef to what needs to get done for now and the future, and has familiarized themselves with the possabilities, is the balance to lobbyists that is currently lacking?
See, only half the problem is what your describing. the other half of the equation is a population that is involved in the country's leadership You can have leaders capable of leading, but you still need a population willing to be lead, and get up of their butts.
Your speaking about lobbyists and the possabilities of true representative leadership without taking into account that our current structure is designed around the apathy of the voter. It didn't start out that way. It got that way because people didn't want to have to expend effort in shaping their country.

The best leader possible still has to get the population to understand that without their active involvement, we slowley begine to fall apart. And it's then that things like lobbyists swoop down from the wings of the stage to whisper into the ears of representatives. Lobbyists are just a symptom of how disconnected people have become towards the idea that they are the government, and that they actually have to get up and participate in running the country.
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Old 04-20-2005, 10:29 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Halx, I think it is clear that I think your boards are great; just as you said, there are no ads, no popups, no annoying flash offers for iPods. But I just don't think wishcasting for a "real leader" is going to change things. Our two-party system, run by professional politicians who are informed by lobbyists is not a bad one. Is it really, really far from good? Yes. But I think it is counterproductive to sit and moan about the absence of quality leadership.

You are right, of course, about the figure on the back of a check talking. We can discuss all sorts of methods of fixing this: federally funded campaigns, serious FEC investigations into illegalities, locking up Tom DeLay (sorry, couldn't help myself), and so on. But the basic system isn't at fault, it's the implementation. If nobody could donate to candidates, who ran on a fixed budget, then any money to change hands would be a clear bribe.

As for the two parties, thing, well, that has to do with the nature of our system, and not the media. We've had two parties in this country for well over 100 years - our media isn't to blame. Blame single member districts.

Let's let the people's voice be heard. Federally fund elections. Don't let donations control politicians. But the system itself can't just be wished away and, if done correctly, isn't even all that bad.

Somehow, I'm reminded of this post by Kos (of DailyKos fame), although I don't share his, uh, strong anger:

Quote:
Last week I spent three days at a conference of various leaders of the budding VLWC, and it was, well, interesting. As happens at any such gathering, the networking was the greatest benefit. Met lots of good people. The sessions were too touchy-feely for me. I'm not a liberal who likes to talk about "feelings".

At one session, one participant told me "we can achieve world peace if we just visualize it". What the fuck? I jumped down the guy's throat -- "When people were shooting it out in my front lawn in El Salvador, they didn't give a flying fuck about what you were visualizing. Neither do the warlords in Somalia, or in Darfur, or the insurgents in Iraq, or terrorists all over the world."

Man, talk about idiots reinforcing the worst stereotypes about our side. Jeez. Fantasizing about eliminating the Defense Department isn't being part of the Reality Based Community. If that's the sort of thing you like to do, and are offended by my bluntness, then deal with it. Being a part of the reality based community means we must operate in -- you guessed it -- reality.
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Old 04-20-2005, 10:48 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I think the consideration of the mainstream media is a mistake, myself. If you would like an example of what the media does to a once-pure brass tacks medium, look at the music industry. To say that the popularization and mass distribution improved the quality of the music that is being produced today would get many educated people to consider your sanity. The media is now doing that same exact thing with politics. The quality of political discussion is disintegrating as a result of the mass distribution of the concept of political power. Now, much like the music industry, any hack can get their time in the spotlight and their due consideration, simply by saying the right thing at the right time to the right people, no matter how incompetent they are.

Ann Coulter is like the Spice Girls. No depth, just fluff to arouse the public. Michael Moore is like Blink 182. Catchy shit that holds it's ground in the public's eye despite the fact that it's horribly contrived.

We've got a few one-hit wonders popping up every day. Tom Delay, Father Pavone, etc...

Now, you must realize that these people don't make a single bit of difference. They are, much like today's singers and bands, talking heads for much larger entities. Big companies and organizations pay them to say what they say. Sometimes they realize they can make money themselves by saying something just to perk people up. It doesn't matter though, you're still getting caught up in the soap opera.

I'm an advocate of stopping the problem at it's source. The source for the issues in politics is lobbying. I know, it's impossible. However, I'd rather keep my eye on the target than get caught up in all this song and dance.

This is actually one of the large failings of democracy-it places too large a burden on the populace. I agree that the majority of the political pundits are nothing more than "pop" acts, but those are also the most effective at getting a message across. I think when there was less competition, news organizations (at least television) could afford to be more interested in finding truth and working as the arm of the people without as much of an agenda. But if you look at newspapers, you will find much the same tactics and biases that are now being decried in television. IIRC, the Spanish-American war was largely orchestrated by William Hurst through the effective use of newspaper propaganda. So these issues aren't new, but I think are somewhat new to televison.

I also personally belive in the end justifying the means, so I generally support such noise if it accomplishes what I believe to be right, regardless of how it reaches that point or even the motives of others who have the same goal. That's how these people do make a difference-they drive forward an agenda. Do they create an environment where people can make the best informed decisions possible? No, they don't. But that's not their goal. And honestly, if they attempted that they would lose what influence they have (compare the Coulter thread and the CSPAN thread lengths for proof of this).

I really think your music analogy is very apt, only most people who do hold strong views aren't in the place of the music lover (who wants artistic expression and quality in music) but more in the place of executives who seek the most broadly-appealing, LCD, profitable music. Only in this case profit is measured by votes/public support for a particular agenda.

Quote:
Originally Posted by guy44
Halx, I'd like to reform lobbying rules. I'd like to stop Republican abuse of power, petty shit, that includes denying the Democrats a room in which to caucus and be lobbied. But lobbying is the very lifeblood of democracy - we can't assume each senator and congressperson is going to go out and get all their info on every issue themselves. Groups have to take it to them, and make their case. This isn't to say lobbying doesn't need massive reform - I'm fully sick of the entirely rightwing K Street, for example - but you can't eliminate lobbying.

Oh, and Tom DeLay is not someone who "[doesn't] make a single bit of difference." Dude runs the House of Representatives.
I just wonder, do you seriously believe that Repub's are the only people who are petty and make use of lobbyist? What about the previous Democratic abuse of power when they controlled the houses, or when Clinton was renting out the White House? Or what about the teachers lobby, labor union PAC's, trial lawyers, etc.? Being blind to your own party's faults makes you come off like a partisan shill who lacks the ability to form their own opinions without first getting the party stamp of approval. And this isn't specifically directed at you, but there is alot of people who always rush to get in digs at the opposite party, while ignoring the same faults in their own (and often when their party does the exact same thing). And it's especially blatant when it's not even necessary for the comment to refer to one party or the other.

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Old 04-20-2005, 11:09 PM   #17 (permalink)
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alansmithee, you are totally right about both parties abusing their powers. The Democrats were swept out of the House in '94 in large part because they were mad corrupt. But right now, Tom DeLay and the Republicans have all the power and have really truly mastered the art of corruption. But one day, the Dems will be in charge again, and subsequently become corrupt. It's a cycle.

Trust me - I understand that it is both sides. Hell, Dan Rostenkowski was my congressman.
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Old 04-21-2005, 01:16 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Any good democracy needs professional politicians. These people understand the rules, have experience in political activities, can handle and execute efficiently their duties.
That seems to make sense but for some reason it just ain't working. Two areas that concern me lately are healthcare and taxes.

With all the smart groups (doctors, lawyers, and insurance companies) lobbying, why is the system so screwed up? I believe it is because a good healthcare system is not in their best interests and those groups wish to maintain the status quo because they are making out financially just fine as it stands.

The same goes for the tax system. Lawyers, accountants, financial advisors are making out just fine with a complicated tax system. Sinplifying it will just cost them money. It doesn't help that a majority of our representatives are lawyers themselves. Not that all lawyers are bad, but the more complicated things are, the more we need them.
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Old 04-21-2005, 01:29 PM   #19 (permalink)
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flstf, I'm not saying that the system works great or that all politicians are highly qualified officials expertly exercising their duties. I'm just saying I'd rather have a professional politician than some green, inexperienced fellow with undefined "leadership qualities" running the country.

We have a pretty decent system of progressively professionalized elected bodies that does a great job of sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's sort of like the baseball minor league system; you start with school boards, then city councils, then county boards, then state legislatures, then state consitutional positions (governor, treasurer, etc.), then Congress and the Presidency.

I want noobs to figure out how to be a politician in city councils and county boards before being elected to Congress.
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Old 04-21-2005, 01:38 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Ok, we're getting somewhere. Now we have the mention of the populace being in control. While I have repeatedly stated that the people need to be represented, I never said that they should be more involved. I want to say one more thing about good leaders. They start shit. They decide what is best for everyone and use the expertise of intelligent people.

Now, since my solution to our problem is to get real leaders into office, we can't rely on people to elect them if they don't run. To allow them room to run, though, you have to force out the 'professionals' - how? By removing everything from the job that makes it "professional." You know what I'm talking about. Money.

Now we're back to the lobbyists. It's simple. Money attracts businessmen like ants to a picnic. Move the picnic elsewhere.
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Old 04-21-2005, 02:18 PM   #21 (permalink)
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The definition of a professional politician is a politician whose sole income is from his job as an elected official. If we want to eliminate campaign funding from lobbyists (and all sorts of, um, under the table funding, too), I'm all for that.

I don't think we'd see all together different people running for office, but I do think that politicians would cease being utterly beholden to whatever special interest owns them on that particular day.
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Old 04-21-2005, 09:19 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Well like I said, as soon as the opinions stop being fed to them, their lack of competence will shine through. From there, new people will step forward. They will be inspired, not by the money, but by the mistakes of the last guy.
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Old 04-22-2005, 06:43 AM   #23 (permalink)
 
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i am not sure what to make of the pining for a "real leader" in the above. what are you wishing for? you know the cliche about being careful what you wish for, yes?

what exactly would be the problem with the direct empowerment of the people exactly? obviously, such an empowerment would require that the existing system of information management be smashed--but i dont see the problem with that either. such an empowerment would also require the development of something like protocols for rational debate--which obviously do not play into the field of possibilities that currently masquerades as democracy in america. rational debate would require relatively undistorted information and political positions built out from information rather than based on arbitrary committments that most resemble the kind of leap of faith that kierkegaard was so fond of outlining. rational debate would be necessary because collective decisions would amount to the exercize of power, without a safety net.


while i was wondering about the above, i saw this:

Quote:
This is actually one of the large failings of democracy-it places too large a burden on the populace
and that it got no criticism subsequently.
rather, folk seemed to agree with it.
so it does not seem unreasonable to combine the two features of the thread: the desire for a "real leader" and a kind of contempt for democracy, routed through a contempt for the people disguised as a kind of concern--democracy would require too much effort, it would cut into leisure time, making it more difficult to focus on things like playstation or grilling things in the back yard--it would require actual engagement with problems, which would mean that we would maybe be inclined to devote less time to the lint that comprises most of the american mode of consumer culture--and who needs that when the index of political freedom in america is measured by the amount of consumer goods one can accumulate?

if you combine these elements, what looks like is emerging through this thread is a desire for a kind of dictatorship, one centered on a charismatic Leader, a decisive fellow who Thinks about Important Matters so that you and i dont have to, who would enable us to devote the necessary degrees and types of attention to playstation and grilling in the back yard and measuring the extent of political freedom by counting Important Commodiites that we have been able to pile up around our residences.

how exactly does a liberatarian position devolve into a desire for dictatorship?
why does it seem so easy?
could the problem be with libertarian politics themselves?
are libertarian positions always this amenable to wishing for a charismatic dictator?
i am asking seriously--i mostly run into self-described liberatrians on net message boards--they only think most seem to have in common is a perverse confusion of ayn rand with a philosopher--but here we are.
i wonder about the limitations of this kind of politics and whether this trend in the thread is symptmatic of them--or just a curious feature of this particular thread.
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Old 04-22-2005, 08:38 AM   #24 (permalink)
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roachboy, you took that in a completely different direction, I think. I don't really know what to say in response. All I can say is that it doesn't have to come down to a dictatorship.

I personally took that quote to be a sort of rhetoric. I agree with it, on a symbolic basis, because I feel like I know people (the population) and I know the depths of stupidity they are capable of reaching as a whole. This does not mean that I advocate the removal of the electoral process to acquire our government. It's a simple process of changing the options that people have to choose.

If you are a landlord and you want to attract high class residents, you fix your building up and raise the price. If you are responsible for your country and you want to attract dedicated people who are in it for the prospect of creatig a better country, not making money for themselves, then you switch the focus of the job from collecting money and opinions from organizations to a more hand-on-the-pulse situation.

Different conditions attract different possibilities, but the people will still be able to choose who they want. They'll just be chosing from more dedicated and skilled people.
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Old 04-22-2005, 09:12 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roachboy
what looks like is emerging through this thread is a desire for a kind of dictatorship, one centered on a charismatic Leader, a decisive fellow who Thinks about Important Matters so that you and i dont have to, who would enable us to devote the necessary degrees and types of attention to playstation and grilling in the back yard and measuring the extent of political freedom by counting Important Commodiites that we have been able to pile up around our residences.
Not a dictator, or just one person but all of our elected officials. People we elect to represent the best interests of the citizens who are too busy working for a living (not just playing games or grilling out) and do not have the time or resources to understand all the minutia of government. They should be there to represent us since we cannot be.

I know that we as voters are to blame for letting the two major parties evolve into a group of professionals who know that catering to special interest groups is the way to get elected rather than doing what is right for the masses. The reason that healthcare is so messed up and taxes are so complicated is not because we want them that way but because the groups making their money from the current system do. And these groups are the financial fuel behind the polititians next re-election campaign.

I guess until we stop voting for them the current polititians will continue doing what is best to further their careers at the expense of our well being. How are things to change for the better if we keep on electing them?
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Old 04-22-2005, 09:52 AM   #26 (permalink)
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That was put quite excellently flstf
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Old 04-22-2005, 10:03 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roachboy
while i was wondering about the above, i saw this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by alansmithee
This is actually one of the large failings of democracy-it places too large a burden on the populace

and that it got no criticism subsequently.
rather, folk seemed to agree with it.
I was mulling over what I wanted to say about this, but since roachboy broke the ice, I might as well just say what I'm thinking at the moment and wait for the replies to roll in.

Placing a large burden on the populace is not a failing of democracy. Not taking responsibility for ourselves as members of a democracy is a failing of the populace. Whether it feels this way or not, doing something other than helping to run the government for a living is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. It is not a free ticket to stay uninformed and pretend that politics and the government do not exist.

Lobbyists are just people who take this responsibility to an (almost sick) extreme. Getting rid of the lobby is not going to make people watch more c-span, think for themselves, or fail to get bored with politicians who actually exhibit responsible leadership qualities. Leaders who actually do their work with the public good in mind often lack the ability (and the time) to grab the attention of voters. Given that, I can't see how killing the lobby is going to make people vote for that kind of leader. The loudest dog at the pound gets the most attention.
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Old 04-22-2005, 10:27 AM   #28 (permalink)
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I don't think killing the lobby is the necessary first step (beyond that I even question it practically - all contributions, time and money, are lobbying efforts, is there a magical line drawn in the sand?).

Rather, the first step is to eliminate the popularity contest that we call political campaigning. That is what the lobbyist money is used for, anyway. As it is the only method of obtaining power. If you want to run things, you must campaign better than your opponent. The two quickest ways to do that are to get more money and use negative ads.

Massively controlled and regulated campaigns could provide a more concise message from those seeking office - eliminating what is the primary factor in potential voter ignorance and apathy: confusion. With the effectively chaotic system of campaigning that we presently allow, the end result is determined by whomever can achieve the highest degree of lowest common denominator traction in a he said/she said argument of deniable non-statements.

It is no wonder the government is incompetent.
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Old 04-22-2005, 10:40 AM   #29 (permalink)
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roachboy, you took that in a completely different direction, I think. I don't really know what to say in response. All I can say is that it doesn't have to come down to a dictatorship...............

..........If you are a landlord and you want to attract high class residents, you fix your building up and raise the price. If you are responsible for your country and you want to attract dedicated people who are in it for the prospect of creatig a better country, not making money for themselves, then you switch the focus of the job from collecting money and opinions from organizations to a more hand-on-the-pulse situation.

Different conditions attract different possibilities, but the people will still be able to choose who they want. They'll just be chosing from more dedicated and skilled people.
The currrent system produces winning candidates who are either financed by business interests or issue driven organizations, in exchange for the politician's support of legislation intended to benefit the contributors, usually at the expense of the larger public interest, or.......................

self financed. These candidates overcome the financial bar to entry into national legislative or executive branch politics by
risking their own capital to gain office. I assume that the money component of campaigning, and the "attack dog" strategy that has achieved startling successful results, of late, will not soon go away. Realistically, we are left to observe the rare candidate who achieves office without selling out to special interests, and does not seem motivated to pursue a political agenda tied to the business interests that generated his personal fortune.

I see such a man, (or hope I do....) today, in the senate. I assume, Halx, that the reform that you are seeking would yield leaders with agendas that work for the broadest interests of the public. Since politics, when distilled, is the art of redistributing wealth and power, one group or interest's gain almost always comes at the expense of another group's holdings. The problem today is the exclusion of the interest of the greater public at the hands of well financed special interests.

The "citizen senator" who has attracted my attention has done the following:

1.)Financed his own senate campaign with $60 million to run successfully for his seat in the most costly media market in the U.S., from his self made fortune estimated at $400 million.

2.)Although his personal fortune was achieved via his career in financial services, i.e. the management of the wealth of other high net worth individuals, as a former co-chairman, of what was, ten years ago, the largest privately held Wall St. investment banking firm, he supports a political agenda today that seems the opposite of that of the financial services sector:
a.)<a href="http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/nation/11094822.htm">"Unfortunately, this bill fails to provide a fair and balanced approach to bankruptcy reform - it favors
creditors, </a>such as credit card companies and banks, over the needs of individuals,"

b.)<a href="http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020304&c=3&s=greider20020221">Oh, I think there's a whole issue on corporate governance. I'm a big believer that pension reform and accounting reform and corporate governance are places where we should go to look for changes that at least </a>in my view are fundamentally revealed by Enron, certainly Waste Management, Global Crossing, the corporate restatements. Because I think on pension issues, we haven't really put together a structure with sensible form on defined contribution plans [401ks]. The lock- down period which the President makes a big deal out of is a tiny piece of what the real problem is. Flexibility is a real issue. Rules of locking people up till they're 50 years old, when they've been there 10 or 15 years, is crazy--people can't adjust their portfolios. So those are the kind of things that should be done. We need other responsible fiduciary elements. Diversification is the most important. You also need liabilities for people who do have lock-down. There is a whole series of questions that are important now. I think what you're talking about with respect to whether there's a proper investment plan--I don't think they're irrelevant issues but I think they're a little bit below these other issues. I think we need real reform with regard to analysts at investment banks. What's the case? That 17 investment firms were still recommending an Enron buy on December 2?

Q: Including Goldman Sachs, I think.

I'm sure my former colleagues at Goldman are not happy with this. It's an uncomfortable situation when analysts are seemingly so conflicted by the relationships or positions. But Goldman Sachs at this stage, in the last five years, has not had much of any relationship with Enron so the analysts was operating on whatever basis. We ended up having difficulty with how people did business with each other. But I think that the idea that analysts could ever be given a percentage of the profits on the investment banking transactions that are company covered is mind-boggling actually to those of us who didn't follow that practice. Now, when I say that, we don't want to get into holier-than-thou, because analysts that covered companies and have great relationships with those companies tend to see business flow to particular firms, even though it was informal and not direct.

c.)<a href="http://corzine.senate.gov/priorities/usanetworksocsec.pdf">Dear President Bush:

Without delay or ambiguity, I urge you to repudiate the tactics employed by USA Next and to restore civility and honor to the on-going Social Security dialogue................</a>

......Mr. President, Social Security is a time-honored and time-tested safety net for millions for American families. Talks of altering this safety net should only follow respectable, honorable dialogue between all interested parties – particularly, the American people. Deploying mercenaries to smear opponents of your plan is beneath the dignity of the American people and not an honorable tactic during this American conversation.

Just this week, USA Next used my state’s largest newspaper to launch a broadside against the AARP, charging the organization with “lying to the public” on the issue of Social Security. Worse yet is USA Next’s incendiary advertisement which implies that the AARP’s agenda includes denouncing American servicemen and women and supporting gay marriage. The motive for USA Next’s irresponsible use of such hot button issues is not difficult to decipher – if you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger – no matter how dishonest and off base those attacks become.

Mr. President, I need not remind you that the AARP's support of your prescription drug plan was crucial to its passage. While I disagreed with your plan and the AARP's decision to endorse it, you found the AARP to be an honorable organization and welcomed their support. While our views on Social Security differ, I hope you will join me in standing with the AARP and denouncing USA Next's incendiary tactics.

d.)<a href="http://www.courierpostonline.com/news/southjersey/m041505j.htm">(the senator) said the Republican president's proposal to create individual accounts, through which younger workers could invest a portion of their Social Security taxes, would cause financial burdens for future senior citizens and state governments.</a>

He noted that New Jersey faces a $4 billion budget deficit.

"I think we're left with a really Hobson's choice of cutting their standard of living or raising taxes to provide for seniors who would be falling back into poverty," said (the senator), who is running for governor.

Bush wants to create "personal retirement accounts" and to promote that concept, the administration's "60 Stops in 60 Days" tour will bring Cheney to Burlington County College.

"What do we mean by personal retirement account?" Cheney said at a stop last month. "Well, we mean an account that has real assets in it, an account that would be similar to the thrift savings plans that . . . are available now for members of Congress and federal employees."

People born after 1950 would be allowed to invest 4 percent of their earnings in "conservatively designed funds, broad-based, based on mixes of stocks and bonds or U.S. Treasury securities," he said.

(The senator) cited a report by a liberal policy group that said diverting money from Social Security to personal accounts would increase by 120,000 the number of New Jersey seniors living in poverty and put pressure on the state budget to help them.
****************************************************

I am encouraged by the indications that this senator bought his senate seat with money that he gained in an industry that he now seems to be working against the interests of, for the benefit of the people who he represents in Washington. Is this not the result that you are wishing for, or a positive start in that direction ?
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Old 04-22-2005, 11:30 AM   #30 (permalink)
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I don't think killing the lobby is the necessary first step (beyond that I even question it practically - all contributions, time and money, are lobbying efforts, is there a magical line drawn in the sand?).

Rather, the first step is to eliminate the popularity contest that we call political campaigning. That is what the lobbyist money is used for, anyway. As it is the only method of obtaining power. If you want to run things, you must campaign better than your opponent. The two quickest ways to do that are to get more money and use negative ads.

Massively controlled and regulated campaigns could provide a more concise message from those seeking office - eliminating what is the primary factor in potential voter ignorance and apathy: confusion. With the effectively chaotic system of campaigning that we presently allow, the end result is determined by whomever can achieve the highest degree of lowest common denominator traction in a he said/she said argument of deniable non-statements.

It is no wonder the government is incompetent.

Manx, you are totally right. This is what I was trying to say earlier, but it never came out quite right. Politicians care, first and foremost, about getting elected. Special interests and lobbyists have influence because they contribute the money necessary to run a campaign. Federally finance a campaign, go after illegal lobbyist "contributions" a la the average Tom DeLay weekend party, and you've fixed probably the single biggest problem in American politics today.
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Old 04-22-2005, 01:20 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Again, a popularity contest requires both candidates and voters. If you want to make it into an election about issues, then getting rid of campaign advertisements is not going to do the job. Elections are never going to become more than popularity contests unless our society learns to value being politically informed more widely. You could take away all the campaign ads in the world, but the fool who says "I voted for Edwards because is has a nice look to him" is still going to be a fool and vote for stupid reasons. Even discussing ways to limit what gets said about candidates in the media seems to me like a more realistic way to deal with this, despite the obvious First Amendment issues.

I just don't think any amount of taking away financial incentives for politicians to behave like businessmen is going to make them stop behaving that way, especially when the incentive to gain the support of as many voters as possible is a permanent part of democracy. In the end, their greatest reason to be dirty scumbags is still going to be there - and they will employ whatever advertising tactics are allowed to get the votes. This is still a Mass Media Mind Control issue to me.

Don't get me wrong, I think that there are some valuable, nuanced ideas coming out of this discussion here. But maybe it needs to take a new direction. Nothing I've read here yet has done anything to change my mind about this topic or about this topic being moot in the Politics Forum. And I came to this thread sort of hoping that would happen. Any new ideas?
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Old 04-22-2005, 01:37 PM   #32 (permalink)
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host, that is what I'm talking about.
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Old 04-22-2005, 01:57 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Again, a popularity contest requires both candidates and voters.
It only requires the voters in the sense that a popularity contest is the entirety of their method of interaction. Provide a non-popularity contest method of interaction and you will find voters partake in a non-popularity contest.
Quote:
If you want to make it into an election about issues, then getting rid of campaign advertisements is not going to do the job.
I don't consider "massively controlled and regulated" campaigns to be the equivalent of "getting rid of campaign advertisements".

There are two things that should happen:

1- Zero campaigning. The only method of communication from candidates to populace will be written responses to questions, of equal lengths. Potentially radio debates, real debates.

2- Single-term presidencies. Maybe they can be a 6 year term. This is primarily to eliminate the ability of a sitting President from using the Presidency as a campaign stop.

That, or similar, is what I consider massively controlled and regulated campaigns. By virtue, lobbyists will effectively disappear and voters will not be presented with candidate-driven talking points, chaotic one-upmanship and a derth of substance. When each candidate is essentially understood as a series of specific responses to specific issues, the popularity contest domination of our current campaigns goes away - whether any specific voter wants it to or not. Sure, you'll still have the media attempting to create their own popularity contest - but the candidates themselves can no longer feed into it. All the while the Official campaign is readily available by anyone. It would result in a paradigm shift.
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Old 04-22-2005, 07:07 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Okay, Manx. I had a similar idea in my head when I was trying to envision what everybody was talking about. The point I was trying to make was that disallowing the politicians from participating in the campaigning would not make the majority of people start thinking critically about the issues if they weren't already. To me, that mentality amounts to a popularity contest no matter what the politicians are actually doing. I'm also very confident in (a) the lobbyists' ability to sneak campaigning into the regular media, and (b) their dedication to politicians who will act in their best interests even without all that campaign money directly exchanging hands. I am far less confident (in fact, I am the opposite of confident) that the many people who do not take elections seriously enough to begin with will start to be very diligent about reading those campaign-free written responses you propose and listening to the radio debates. I guess I don't have much faith in the adaptability of the majority of people, or rather that I have a lot of faith in human stupidity.

Anyway, that system you propose sounds like something that would be entirely worthwhile, though I am obviously skeptical about it resulting in a paradigm shift. When I think of paradigm shifts, I see a snowball of after-effects in the same vein of the catalyst event. This system only says 'efficiency' to me, and no sweeping after-effects come to mind. Do you really think the lobby wouldn't just get a lot sneakier?
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Old 04-22-2005, 07:24 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Supple Cow, I don't know if taking the obvious financial incentives away from polititians will change anything either, but perhaps voting them out of office would be a good start.

Manx, single term presidents might be a good idea, we should probably include congress as well. You have some good ideas but I think it will be up to us voters to shake things up as well as or instead of some of the reforms you mention.
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Old 04-23-2005, 10:49 AM   #36 (permalink)
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I was mulling over what I wanted to say about this, but since roachboy broke the ice, I might as well just say what I'm thinking at the moment and wait for the replies to roll in.

Placing a large burden on the populace is not a failing of democracy. Not taking responsibility for ourselves as members of a democracy is a failing of the populace. Whether it feels this way or not, doing something other than helping to run the government for a living is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. It is not a free ticket to stay uninformed and pretend that politics and the government do not exist.
But you can't eliminate the people, you can modify the government. Ancient Greece was (to my knowledge) the only true democracy. And the burden helped ensure that the city-states failed. That is why we have a republic-so that people can not have to sholder the entire burden of government. But as things have expanded to a less and less local focus for politics and a more state-then-federal level, the people have not been able to keep up. Because to accurately evaluate your reps, you also have to know about the issues. And people don't have the time/inclination/ability to evaluate many issues to make informed opinions, and then check to see where their reps stand on issues, and then see where their reps vote on those issues. Honestly, expecting people to be informed for the most part is like expecting them to have a second full time job.
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Old 04-23-2005, 11:42 AM   #37 (permalink)
 
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so in the end, what keeps cropping up here is that democracy is too much a hassle...like bernard shaw said, socialism would be nice if it didnt eat up so much in the way of evenings and weekends. reversing this, what the same argument would say is that leisure is more important that anything apporaching actual democratic processes. so for example....the ability to lay about in a chaise lounge, drinking mai tais and dreaming that you are james bond, is more important than exercizing anything approaching control over the situations that shape your life.

[[for the record, i have no problem whatsoever with the laying about in a chiase lounge drinking mai tais and imagining i am james bond part----it is like going to a cool amusement park---what i dont understand is the conception that this type of----o what shall we call it---leisure structured by a rum line--so straight leisure, level leisure---is somehow antithetical to a democracy.]]

on the other hand, i can perhaps imagine where this kind of thing comes from if i take off from the---at best mangled----understanding of athenian democracy in the post above. if you dont know anything about athenian democracy but insist that it is the model for thinking about democracy, if you dont know anything about the history of athens, if you dont seem to know anything about basic methodological problems with thinking about history (ever hear of the teleological fallacy? want a textbook example? read your post again, alansmithee) i guess you could arrive at this kind of conception of democracy and its implications for vital leisure time.

perhaps all this functions together in trying to imagine people having and exercizing real power somehow wedged on top of the present american socio-cultural order. if you stay trapped in this sorry frame of reference, of course democracy would not easily fit here because the socio-cultural system operates to the exclusion of it.
except as a nice word that makes people feel better by saying it, a kind of discursive prozac you can pop when the reality of your situation gets too depressing and the urge to actually think about why shit is as it is gets too strong to fight any other way.

i dont get it. democracy in any serious form would require massive changes in how the present order operates at every level.

but before i get too carried away, i feel my chaise lounge beckoning. i'll make myself another mai tai and turn up the volume on the sound system, which gives me access to secret agent net radio. i am sure that if i drink enough maitais the arguments in favor of the total disempowerment of people that keep coming up in this thread---- which i think was going in a quite different at its outset----will make sense.
or maybe it wont matter.
either way, i get to be james bond for a while.
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Old 04-23-2005, 11:43 AM   #38 (permalink)
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But you can't eliminate the people, you can modify the government.
I don't disagree. As I have expressed since this post you quoted me on, I was more pointing out that even modifying the government in the specific ways mentioned would not result in what I'd call a paradigm shift.
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Anyway, that system you propose sounds like something that would be entirely worthwhile, though I am obviously skeptical about it resulting in a paradigm shift. When I think of paradigm shifts, I see a snowball of after-effects in the same vein of the catalyst event. This system only says 'efficiency' to me, and no sweeping after-effects come to mind.
Quote:
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Ancient Greece was (to my knowledge) the only true democracy. And the burden helped ensure that the city-states failed. That is why we have a republic-so that people can not have to sholder the entire burden of government. But as things have expanded to a less and less local focus for politics and a more state-then-federal level, the people have not been able to keep up. Because to accurately evaluate your reps, you also have to know about the issues.
Of course we don't have a true democracy. I don't have any major objections to this as a positive assertion (outside what roachboy has just said).
Quote:
Originally Posted by alansmithee
And people don't have the time/inclination/ability to evaluate many issues to make informed opinions, and then check to see where their reps stand on issues, and then see where their reps vote on those issues. Honestly, expecting people to be informed for the most part is like expecting them to have a second full time job.
Here's where we get into trouble. This, to me, is a good argument for veering toward a far more authoritarian government than a republic is. I don't think our government should get any more authoritarian and so this is not an idea I like to encourage or propagate.
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Last edited by Supple Cow; 04-23-2005 at 11:46 AM.. Reason: roachboy, you kill me with your speed
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Old 04-23-2005, 12:00 PM   #39 (permalink)
Please touch this.
 
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I still remain confused as to how people are warping this into a dig on democracy.
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Old 04-23-2005, 12:23 PM   #40 (permalink)
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A couple of thoughts (now I really regret staying out of this thread for so long!):

1) Lobbyists may serve some sort of purpose, and it is true that it is probably not possible for any Senator to know all there is to know about a particular issue. It does not follow, however, that lobbyists are an appropriate place for politicians to be getting their facts. That is why Senators and Representatives have legislative correspondants. These are aides whose job is to become educated on an issue in its entirety, distill the facts and salient points and then brief their boss who makes the final decision.

2) To alansmithee and roachboy - I believe that full democracy IS a burden on the citizenry. That's because I absolutely expect that my President, Senators, Representatives, Mayor, Governor, etc. to have a better and more full grasp of an issue than I do. That is their job - it is why I vote them into office. Thaqt is why they have staffs that include people like the legislative correspondants I mentioned above. However, I am also going to do my best to know enough about the issues to tell whether or not my politicians are holding up their end of the bargain and vote them out if they are not. Thus, my misgivings about a full democracy do not mean that I want a dictatorship. They mean that I want a representative democracy, which fortunately is what I have. This is good because it means we don't have to start by changing the entire system, only by remembering how it works best.
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