Virtual Democracy Emerging As We Tweet

Think Congress is dysfunctional? That’s old news.

Consider replacing traditional representative government with a revolutionary new system.

Listen: Radio talk shows had a bright idea.

Two words: “Audience participation.”  Invite listeners to call in.  You can be on live radio! —  But only a select few get through the jammed switchboard.

Next, invite listeners to send an email.  — Bingo! Everybody gets through! — The host reads four or five emails in the time it takes to chat with one caller.

English: Tweeting bird, derived from the initi...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward to cable TV news:

“We want to know what you think. Send us a Tweet about  [insert burning issue of the day]. We might read your Tweet on the air.”

Next step, Reality: 

Vote “Yes” or “No” by dialing a number on your cell phone.  Continue reading

Democracy At A Crossroads

Photo by John Hayden

Photo by John Hayden

“If democracy deadlocks here, we raise doubts about democracy everywhere.”

Sen. John Kerry made that sobering comment during his farewell address to the U.S. Senate this week. He’s leaving the Senate to become the new U.S. secretary of state, America’s ambassador to the world.

I don’t know about the whole wide world, but I think we have good reason to be concerned about the state of democracy here in America.   Continue reading

Republicans Self-Destruct; Speaker Boehner Is Finished; Or Maybe Not

The Republican Party has exacted a pound of flesh from the people of New York and New Jersey.

It’s more than a slap in the face. It’s a kick in the teeth.   Continue reading

U.S. Congress Implodes; President Escapes To Hawaii

What a bizarre spectacle of irresponsible brinkmanship! The ultimate House and Senate votes may have narrowly averted immediate fiscal crisis and tax increases, but they do not restore one iota of confidence in the legislative branch of American government.

President Barack Obama, after failing to exert the leadership the American people hoped for, immediately boarded Air Force One to resume a Hawaiian vacation with his family. What can he be thinking?

To put the cherry on top of the whipped cream,   Continue reading

John Roberts’ “Can-Do” Doctrine Scandalizes Conservatives

“I will find a way or make one.” — Admiral Robert E. Peary, American explorer

“As between two possible interpretations of a statute, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, our plain duty is to adopt that which will save the act.”  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

By all accounts, Chief Justice John Roberts believes that the Supreme Court of the U.S. should try to find a way to uphold  a law enacted by Congress, rather than declare it unconstitutional. In other words, declare a Congressional act unconstitutional only if it really is unconstitutional.

Continue reading

Connect The Chaos: Acedia, American Debt Crisis, Failure of Democracy

America is not in the grip of mass hysteria. It’s more like mass acedia.

Americans are jamming the Congressional switchboards with telephone calls, as political and economic chaos draws near, but what’s the message? We have no consensus for constructive action. And surprisingly, we lack even a widely shared impulse to avoid self-destructive behavior. What we see and hear is more like a combination of teen-aged indifference and childish impatience: “Do something. Do Anything. Just stop bothering me.”

Democratic processes are failing, and we have no King Solomon, no leader with the sure wisdom to know the right thing to do in the present circumstance.   Continue reading

American Debt Crisis: The Black Swan Is Circling Washington

Another update on the Debt Crisis of 2011.

An ominous Black Swan is circling Washington, D.C., like a vulture, watching and waiting as the wise men and women of Congress argue over whether to resolve the Debt Crisis of 2011. Or not.

This is the most dangerous situation in Washington since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. I was in Washington on the weekend of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I remember it well. We didn’t know how close we came to the brink, until it was all over.

This Debt Crisis is surreal. The Cuban Missile Crisis was loaded with live ammunition. The Debt Crisis is loaded with stocks and bonds and hundred-dollar bills. No one knows what will happen if we pile up a lot of stocks and bonds and bills, and set off an uncontrollable chain reaction of unpaid debt. Never been done before. But we are about to go there.

There are three major schools of thought regarding the resolution of this debt crisis. You have your big fix, valued at around $4 trillions, and your little fix, $1.5 trillions to $2 trillions, give or take. (Or is it billions? I can never remember.)

And defying all logic, there is the “no fix” option, supported by the gentlemen and gentleladies from the Tea Party. (What kind of tea are they smoking at that party? Can I get some?)

Translation: Some folks want to fix the debt crisis for the long-term, so Congress can get on to other business.  Some folks will settle for a short-term solution. And some want to commit economic suicide on Aug. 2, rather than risk the chance of possibly serious complications down the road.

Hoo-boy! You think the rich and powerful are anxious about a little economic uncertainty? How are they going to respond to total economic chaos?

Remember the Black Swan? It’s a highly improbable disaster, resulting in unpredictable consequences of a catastrophic nature.  Have a nice weekend.

— John Hayden

American Debt Crisis: Children Playing With Dynamite

The words and events of the past few days give me the gut feeling that too many of America’s current political and business leaders are not mature adults, not capable of being serious or working responsibly.

Too many members of Congress seem to think the U.S. government is all a big game, and the winners are the ones who get the most political contributions, and the ones re-elected the most times. They don’t act as if they understand that the government and the economy of the United States are matters of real importance. Instead, they act as if they’re in a reality show on a fictional island, where there are no serious consequences, and the only goal is forming alliances, talking with bravado, and gaining fame.

Too many politicians appear childish, not mature, focusing only on themselves, like a two-year-old would, and on the interest groups that pull their strings. They don’t appear to have developed the capacity to care about the needs of  others, and by others I mean the millions of real people scratching every day to earn a living, support their families, cope with illnesses.

Too many politicians seem always to put themselves and their special interests first; the needs of the larger community are of no interest to them. The needs of others be damned, the needs of the nation be damned. It’s all a game. It’s all about me and my little circle of friends.

And They Call Themselves ‘Patriots’

The western front of the United States Capitol...

Image via Wikipedia

No. 4 in a series on the Debt Crisis of 2011.

Here’s an American paradox, or maybe it’s a morality story. You work to pay your bills. I work to pay my bills, thereby maintaining the fiction that I’m solvent and creditworthy.

While you and I are working to pay our bills, right-wing zealots are conspiring to prevent the government of the United States of America from paying its bills. They even pretend that it would be right and good for the U.S. to ignore its debts.

The premeditated intent of these patriot-politicians is to subvert Congress and sabotage the U.S. Treasury, force financial default, and destroy America’s credit rating. With malice aforethought, they plan to run the U.S. government straight into bankruptcy and shut it down.

By bankrupting the Treasury, these people — the Tea Party, the Libertarians, the Anarchists, the tax protestors — hope to smash and destroy the government, and kill its hated programs and taxes. Then they will wave the American flag and celebrate.

Isn’t it sedition and treason to destroy from within the government of your own country?

Believers in this Tea Party and Libertarian conspiracy call themselves “Patriots.”  But aren’t they really traitors and turncoats?

— John Hayden

Government Shutdown Feels Like Beginning Of The End For America

Human beings have created many empires in recorded history. Every one of them, from the Roman Empire, to the Ottoman Empire, to the British Empire, on which the sun never set — every great empire has failed.

And here we have the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on the brink of shutting down the government of the United States of America — ON PURPOSE!  If there were any logic, any sense in the world, closing the U.S. government would be treason.

Last time politicians shut down the government, in 1995, it was able to reopen in a few days with no more serious consequence than closing a few national parks.

However, there is no guarantee for the future.  The law of unintended consequences is in effect. We live in the 21st century, the century of the “Black Swan.” Major events, or chains of events, that are unpredictable and highly improbable can happen. You can learn more about the “Black Swan” here.

Politicians who would shut the U.S. government — on purpose! — are tempting fate. Our ancestors fought a Revolutionary War to establish this government. We fought a Civil War to hold the Union together. American soldiers died in foreign wars. And now modern politicians are willing risk throwing it all away over a budgetary dispute? Whatever the unintended consequences, Republicans and Democrats will share the dishonor equally.

We live in perilous times. The U.S. is embroiled in three foreign wars. We recently survived the worst worldwide financial crisis since the Great Depression, but many countries continue to struggle with economic and debt problems of dangerous proportions. Portugal is begging for a bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Portugal is the third European nation to require financial rescue. Japan, after two lost decades of economic stagnation, has been driven to its knees by an epic earthquake. Its nuclear power plants spew radiation, poisoning Japan’s food and water.

Enemies wish to destroy us. We’re threatened by terrorists from abroad, and by homegrown terrorists. War might be unleashed at any time, in Yemen, or the Ivory Coast, or an attack from North Korea or Iran. India and Pakistan are always on the verge of war. So are the Israelis and Palestinians.

What’s my point? Events like a government shutdown can spin out of control. One unexpected consequence cascades into others, until the entire edifice trembles. Who could have predicted that a World Trade Center building might collapse? Both towers disappeared into rubble before lunch on a single day.

On top of all the dangers in the world, U.S. politicians are going to shut down the U.S. Government? For a few days? If politicians cannot agree to keep the government open this week, will they agree to reopen it next week? What if two weeks go by? Three? The longer the crisis continues, the more difficult it will be to end. Be afraid of the “Black Swan.”

Some remnant remains after an empire fails. Rome exists as a city to this day. The British islands remain a functioning nation, with shrunken power. The Mayan civilization left ruins. Descendants of the Mayan people live today throughout Central America.

North America will remain, and millions of people will live in the historical United States. Modern civilization will continue, probably. Beyond that, there are no guarantees for the U.S. as a nation. A federal shutdown  for more than a few weeks would force the states to fend for themselves. A shutdown could lead to default on the sovereign debt, or weakening of U.S. armed forces.

Once started, a process of devolution and decay may accelerate out of control, and who has power to stop the chaos?

— John Hayden