Of late, the US government has been acting especially dysfunctional to the point most experts are thoroughly stupefied by the unhealthy dynamic. Unfortunately, the irrational, damaging behavior of the US government cannot be fully comprehended in terms of traditional political science models, thus solutions to our government crisis cannot be derived. If the behavior of government is analyzed as a whole, however, it might be modeled as a dysfunctional person or as a dysfunctional group of persons.
Although human beings, or human beings as groups, exhibit a myriad of dysfunctions, the most harmful aspect of individual unhealthy, destructive is the tendency of these people, or groups of people, to enable dysfunctional behaviors in others and foster dysfunctional, often degenerative environments. My father is an extremely dysfunctional person. Part of his dysfunctional nature centers on his apathetic pursuit of his own interests, which makes his plethora of technical skills nearly worthless to him, his compulsive need to pursue affection from outside interests, i.e. friends, acquaintances, etc., by forgoing his own needs in favor of their interests, and his oppressively domineering nature. For his children, his dysfunction created an environment where healthy behaviors, such as studying, exercise, and scheduled activities, were aggressively discouraged while unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating, indefinite procrastination, and social disengagement, were expected, unless they inconvenienced him. Coupled with an ongoing effort to actively prevent others from compensating for his dysfunctional nature and his negligence, my father’s impulse is avoid doing what he should be doing when he is faced with a task, especially when it is a challenge. His efforts to procrastinate always begin with “debating” what to do, which essentially consists of him avoiding the issue at hand by watching TV and, perhaps, mulling over a series of cyclical rationales for the first thought that popped into his head. The debating process is then followed by a series of booby traps, i.e. do whatever it takes to ensure the task becomes an irresolvable crisis; this usually includes losing or breaking the tools/materials needed to do the job as well as an all out effort to accomplish nonessential tasks he should have undertaken long ago. Thanks to his ability to thoroughly contort reality to the point his rationales and fabrications are more real than reality, his highly manipulate nature ensures others will almost assuredly never try or be able to correct his self-destructive behaviors.
Like my father, the US government is essentially creating more problems and greater costs by avoiding the things it should be doing with an ongoing series of pathological manipulations and avoidance tactics. In truth, the one thing that would have helped my father was good old fashion peer pressure. Because he so aggressively pursues the approval of nonfamily members, my father’s most destructive behaviors could have been mitigated by constructive, positive peer pressure. Unfortunately, his dysfunction makes him highly exploitable and our current socioeconomic dynamic, which is very prevalent in my economical depressed area, tends to foster exploitation; consequently, he encountered mostly negative peer pressure throughout his life, which cultivated his most self-destructive behaviors, thus he failed to pursue his own/family’s interests . In a similar fashion, special interests, especially corporate interests, mass media outlets, and the voting population have tended to enable our government’s most dysfunctional behaviors; therefore, the US government has been encouraged to neglect the interests of the American People over the last two or three generations.
In the current battle over the Sequester, our officials and political analysts have encouraged our government’s dysfunctional behavior by offering them an easy out. That is, the Sequester was put in place to create a relatively minor crisis, so our politicians could solve our underlying budgetary issues before an irresolvable crisis hit in the future, i.e. the federal government goes bankrupt. Instead, politicians publicly focused on who was to blame for the Sequester and what would happen if the Sequester went into effect. By obsessing over this story, the news outlets and viewing public gave our elected officials the out they are always seeking. When our elected officials should have been discussing and resolving the political conflicts that exist across a variety of related policy areas, including tax policy, tax philosophy, spending philosophy, social welfare spending, military spending, etc, they were too preoccupied with trying to avoid the political consequences of the Sequester. With the Sequester soon going into effect, the American People are likely to see another classic kick-the-can-down-the-road solution, which will do little to solve the actual problem of the budget.
Unfortunately, the underlying issues surrounding the Sequester and the US Federal Budget cannot be fully discussed in a single post. In order to resolve the many underlying issues fueling the ongoing budgetary crisis alone, the American People need to be part of an open, honest discussion on what needs to be done and what choices must be made. It is the responsibility of our Legislators to lead this discussion, not have a half-assed one behind closed doors as they publicly moan over the consequences of their own policies. (They are even trying to claim they didn’t understand what the Sequester was. They knew; they just didn’t do what they should have done to stop it.) President Obama’s campaign style effort to encourage voters to force their representatives to act is a start to what is needed, but we need an actual public forum on a myriad of public policies and philosophies.
My siblings and I have had to learn how to compensate for the dysfunctional nature of our father; however, we have come to learn that we can only compensate so much. Just as a dysfunctional person’s destructive behavior can only be effectively mitigated with community support and engagement, the dysfunctional nature of our government can only be mitigated by greater community support and engagement for the pursuit of the American People’s interests. With Round Two of the Sequester crisis soon to be underway and a whole host of other critical issues left unresolved, it is my hope the American People and our elected officials might start to have the truly difficult conversations we need to have, instead of avoiding them by quibbling over seemingly important, yet relatively trivial, arguments. It would also be nice if professional news outlets and professional journalists would help by doing their job and covering the broader story surrounding the Sequester. The Sequester will pass with relatively minor, albeit extremely painful and destructive, consequences, but the underlying issues behind the budgetary crisis will still need to be resolved. Eventually, the US government will be forced to pursue it interests, or deal with a thoroughly catastrophic collapse of the National Budget and US government that will have ripple effects throughout the world for generations to come.
Our public officials and unofficial community leaders should contemplate the following:
The more times you choose to the take the path of least resistance, the farther downhill you go.
If you wish to defeat the devil, you must untwist the anger, despair, and pain of Satan the demon to discover the beauty of Lucifer the angel.
The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI comes as the Catholic Church continues to struggle with a global child sex abuse scandal along with a multitude of other issues in a rapidly changing world where social institutes of the old world are fighting to redefine themselves . Unfortunately, one of the world’s most influential religions will not be able to repair its marred imagine until it can purify its soul. The scandal came into existence, because the clergy decided to act politically to cover up the actions of priests that could have damaged the Church’s image. It is the perversion of the religious institution with political thinking that resulted in the cover up of these heinous crimes and a thorough violation of the Catholic teachings. This is not the first time the Catholic Church has been corrupted by an unholy blending of doctrines as the Dark Ages came into existence, because the Church consolidated its religious authority with the power of governance and all other forms of social influence. During World War II, efforts to resolve the differences between the objective, scientific mode of thinking, Catholicism, socialism, Nihilism, existentialism, and other philosophies lead to a convoluted world vision where people no longer concerned themselves with the consequences of their actions. By rationalizing and legitimizing German superiority, the Nazis used the Frankenstein philosophy of the time to dehumanize the Jews and other non-Arian races, i.e. no moral or human consequences. (This lack of social responsibility then migrated to the United States by the late 1950’s and we are still struggling to overcome its ill-effects.) Moreover, the Catholic Church must find a means of transcending the political culture it has embraced, so it can overcome its demons and act as a righteous institute; otherwise, the world will be haunted by its politically motivated sins for decades and centuries to come.
Growing discontent among the American populous could reach a tipping point in the wake of the Mandiant report detailing the hacking activities of the Chinese military/government. If the Chinese government, the International Community, and US policymakers wish to spark a new age of improved economic relations instead of a worldwide trade war, they must understand and constructively respond to the grievances of the American and Chinese Peoples.
Imagine the disappointment, resentment, and hurt-driven anger a young man in the following situation might feel: a pretty, albeit crazy, girl with a bad reputation decides to, essentially, stalk him when he fails to give her the proper attention she feels she deserves. She follows him around for months telling him she’s not like that and convincing him she’s the perfect girl for him. (Say he ignores her flirtatious advances because he’s too focused on his school as it is his only means of improving his lot in life while he has no money or car, so he really can’t pursue the relationship she expects.) When he finally falls in love with her, which she claims she understands his plight, he quickly discovers she’s been telling her friends that he creeps her out, among other things, and she’s only nice to him because she knows he’s in love with her. To boot, she’s on her second boyfriend since she started her game. They’ve become friends, and still loves her, so he tries to confront her to, at least, learn the truth, but she doesn’t wants to deal with negative feelings and continues to lead him on. Eventually, she does something, which turns out to be quite innocent, but he reacts very angrily and she uses the incident to attack him further and call attention to herself as a victim; disavowing him, calling him a freak, and accusing him of stalking her in an ironic twist of events.
When US policymakers began pushing “free trade” policies, there was great resistance to the very notion of creating a globalized economy. Increased competition between American workers and workers in underdeveloped countries assuredly meant fewer jobs in the US while cheaper goods certainly did not make up for significantly lower wages, weaker regulations, and a smaller tax base. After some success with free trade agreements, economists, business interests, and others lined up to push greater expansion of the policy, including the effort to make Communist China a preferred trading partner. As Americans continue to watch their fears of an economically weaker United States, where the vast majority of wealth goes to the top few, come true, Americans increasingly resent China, i.e. the nation with the largest number of low wage workers and greatest ability to distort the global market in its favor. Having clear proof the Chinese government is actually stealing from American businesses to further undermine the US economy while China buys massive amounts of American debt with money earned from a trade deficit that was supposedly going to be a massive surplus only fuels the fire. (At the same time, Chinese workers are likely feeling overly exploited as the source of cheap labor while they have an even great lack of leverage in global economy than Americans now have.) Consequently, the Chinese government needs to stop denying its bad behavior and start working with the US government to rebalance trade policies, so the American and Chinese Peoples can truly maximize the benefits of quasi-free trade policies. Failing to do so is sure to, eventually, force democratic action in America against free trade, i.e. a massive, messy trade war, while ongoing economic injustices against the Chinese People will foment democratic upheavals within China. In other words, this looming crisis needs to be turned into an opportunity.
Read the report:
Raising the federal minimum wage to nine dollars an hour may help temporarily alleviate the financial burdens felt by the growing poor class; however, doing so will not solve poverty. In fact, it will drive inflation while squeezing employers to the point they are far less likely to offer experienced and exemplary workers higher wages. Instead of addressing the growing wealth gap between the very rich and everyone else, simply raising the minimum wage will stifle the ability of the working class to pursue middle class wages.
Globalization means American workers must compete against workers in countries where a “living wage” translates into a much, much smaller sum. This is often coupled with lower overhead thanks to lower regulatory standards and tax burdens. By raising the minimum wage for all workers, employers, who are competing in the global market, must lower the maximum wage for everyone as well. This leads to wage stagnation. Wage and income stagnation are, in fact, the real issues driving American workers into poverty. The only way government can deal with this conundrum is by seeking policies that give Americans greater leverage at the negotiating table, which also must be reopened, so our capitalist system can cope with the need to provide workers with growing wages while addressing the wealth distribution problem.
Government must first empower American workers by reasserting our economic sovereignty. This requires, in part, major changes to our tariff and tax system. “Free Trade” means taxing American goods and not taxing already cheaper foreign goods. “Free Trade” can offer American consumers benefits, but the costs to Americans workers need to be better understood, thus our “Free Trade” agreements need renegotiated to maximize the benefit for our foreign partners and ourselves. In terms of taxation, any distortions created by taxing capital gains, for example, at lower rates than earned income, royalties for innovations, dividends, etc. need to be addressed; otherwise, wealth will continue to be valued higher than labor and innovation, thereby offering the wealthy far more, far greater opportunities to expand their assets . Meanwhile, our government must start properly regulating our economy by minimizing the cost of regulation and beginning to regulate issues that have gone unaddressed. These include labor and environmental issues where standards for working conditions and wages have been violated, such as low wage independent contractors.
Quite frankly, there are a whole host of economic issues that need to be addressed before increasing poverty in the US and the rest of the world can be stemmed. Raising the federal minimum wage and bolstering the social safety net will not solve the problem of poverty; doing so can only alleviate it. That said, ignoring economic disparity and hoping the economy will eventually serve the needs of the poor and/or the majority of the population is foolish as the current rules of our economy drive the widening wealth gap and poverty.
Since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and the inception of the “War on Terror,” the US government has struggled to balance the need to respond to the threat of globalized terrorism and the need to restrain the oppressive hand of government. The use of unmanned aerial drones for “targeted killings” of al-Qa’ida operatives, including US citizens, serves as a prime example of both the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations’ failures to answer fundamental questions on how to achieve this balance. The Obama Administration Department of Justice “White Paper” on the lawfulness of killing US citizens serving outside of the US as senior, operational al-Qa’ida officials, which was leaked to NBC News, attempts to offer justification and guidance for such targeted strikes, yet provides little more than a meandering rational of legal technicalities that better serves the abuse of power.
The aforementioned memo, which reads like an ill-conceived and poorly written undergraduate paper despite its significance, affords Americans a glimpse into the thought processes that our trusted officials are using to circumvent legal and Constitutional restrictions designed to protect the lives and freedoms of all US citizens. The document, in fact, fails to support essential arguments, such as the proclamation that Judicial, as well as Congressional, oversight, Due Process, and other rights of citizenship do not apply when dealing with threats to national security, while legitimizing the unchecked use of police/military force whenever the Executive Branch singlehandedly deems it necessary. The document even attempts to extend the historic tendency of the Executive Branch to undertake the responsibility of foreign affairs, which the Supreme Court recognizes though the Constitution does not afford the President sole discretion over foreign matters, to include “targeted killings” of Americans. To be blunt, the lives and rights of American citizens are never simply foreign policy issues; therefore, the Executive Branch has no innate privilege to act without oversight, transparency, or limits. Instead of respecting the Constitution and the protections it affords US citizens, the document indulges the natural impulse of national security and military officials to ignore restraint in the pursuit of national security interests.
The memo offers three seemingly reasonable conditions for authorizing lethal force against a US citizen acting outside of the US as a senior, operational official of al-Qa’ida and/or its associates:
1. “… an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States…”
2. “… capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible…”
3. “… the operation would be conducted in such a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles….” (The four principles include necessity, distinction, proportionality, and humanity.)
It is reasonable to conclude the second and third criteria serve as necessary and proper safeguards for protecting US citizens. That said, what constitutes as an “infeasible” capture under the second criterion needs to be clarified as the requirements set forth in the memo also seek to limit US casualties; this includes US military personnel. Because capture of an enemy combatant in a war zone is likely to present a serious threat to military personnel, the requirement can easily be dismissed as a formality when proper oversight is lacking and a capture mission is deemed hazardous/unnecessary.
Meanwhile, the third criterion hints at fundamental faults in how the US is attempting to address the threat of globalized terrorism. In the past, terrorism has been treated more as a violent criminal element; whereas, the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations have primarily treated them as military threats. Because globalized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qa’ida, are stateless organizations, which do not maintain governing authority nor seek such responsibilities, the threat of terrorism cannot be properly addressed militarily or criminally. More importantly, this means the threat of terrorism must be addressed by a coalition of willing governments that can coordinate policing and military efforts to disrupt terrorist operations. This requires diplomacy, explicit actions by international organization like the UN, and revisions to existing treaties. Quite frankly, a “legal” framework originating from the Executive Branch of the US government, which unilaterally justifies military action against groups like al-Qa’ida on foreign soil, only weakly legitimizes such actions for outsiders at best. In other words, the Obama Administration can academically legitimize unauthorized attacks within the territories of foreign bodies, as it does with this document, but such justifications for unilateral actions undermines international cooperation and ongoing efforts to stop global terrorism as well as other threats.
Furthermore, the first criterion for authorizing lethal force against US citizens on foreign soil would be acceptable, except for the fact that the DOJ document thoroughly dismisses the Constitutional requirement for Congressional and/or Judicial oversight before it redefines the meaning of “imminent threat” to include any potential threat to US interests. The memo justifies the need to redefine the meaning of imminent threat in order to “incorporate considerations of the relevant window of opportunity, the possibility of reducing collateral damage to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks on Americans.” Because the “imminent threat” condition, originally offered by the Supreme Court, currently serves as a standard to guide the actions of law enforcement when snap judgments are required, these considerations are already part of the “imminent threat” concept; therefore, it does not need to be redefined.
The authors of the “White Paper” make the claim: the condition of an imminent threat “… does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” They also proclaim ”… the United States must take into account that certain members of al-Qa’ida (including any potential target of lethal force) are continually plotting attacks against the United States; that al-Qa’ida would engage in such attacks regularly to the extent it were able to do so; that the U.S. government may not be aware of all al-Qa’ida plots as they are developing and thus cannot be confident that none is about to occur; and that, in light of these predicates, the nation may have a limited window of opportunity within which to strike in a manner that both has a high likelihood of success and reduces the probability of American causalities.” In making these poorly supported assertions, they fabricate a basis for declaring all al-Qa’ida activities to be “imminent threats.”
The “White Paper” presents an argument that the US is involved in a perpetual armed conflict with al-Qa’ida that has no geographically defined borders and involves an ongoing “imminent threat” as the terrorist network is constantly plotting against America. Consequently, any given senior al-Qa’ida official represents an imminent threat by the rationale presented. Because the “battlefield” is so fluid and the potential consequences are so serious, which the document subtly extends justification for lethal action to include threats to all things declared US interests, the Executive Branch cannot be burdened by oversight and Due Process, i.e. the Constitution. Any US citizen on foreign soil suspected, or simply considered, by the Executive Branch to be a terrorist threat is, thus, subject to lethal targeting without Due Process or other legal protections, unless the current Administration deems it feasible to capture the “suspect.” Plainly, this argument would never pass an honest Supreme Court challenge while Americans cannot possibly accept such an open-ended, unilateral use of Executive power.
The threat of global terrorism may be great and require a highly dynamic response, but most of al-Qa’ida’s activities involve day-to-day militant activities and do not automatically present “imminent threats” to the homeland or territories of the United States. Consequently, most of al-Qa’ida’s activities do not need to be addressed in such a timely fashion that the Executive Branch can justify its failure to seek oversight and some form of Due Process. In other words, unless an actual imminent threat to the United States exists or US forces are attacked by an American citizen while undertaking military operations against al-Qa’ida operatives, either a panel of judges or legislators needs to review the use of lethal force against some transparent, established standards when a known US citizen is the target of a planned overseas military strike.
Meanwhile, the Constitution demands oversight by the Legislative and Judicial Branches, including scenarios where an actual imminent threat has been addressed. Failing to do so, undermines the US Constitution and the very reasons US citizens have protections against the actions of our government. Oversight and Due Process afford citizens protection against government corruption, but they also provide our national security professionals the ability to protect our Nation from threats without undermining our democratic freedoms and human rights. Thoroughly neglecting the oversight and Due Process requirements of the Constitution means the Executive Branch is overstepping its boundaries.
It is when government most needs to violate the freedoms and rights of its citizens that we need them the most. This means national security does not automatically trump the rights of a citizen as the “White Paper” asserts, especially the right to life, even when those citizens are senior officials in a terrorist organization plotting abroad to attack our Nation. The life of an American may be taken in the interest of national security, but some form of Due Process is required to ensure the irreversible act is proper and necessary. The failure to balance the legal protections afforded to all US citizens with the need to address national security threats, as well as the shaky rationale for violating treaties and the sovereignty of other nations, by the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations is a serious problem. In fact, the manner in which the Obama Administration attempts to justify its past and present actions with the “White Paper” is far more dangerous than simply acting without legal justification as it is establishing a precedent for the Executive Branch to act independent of Congress and the Judiciary when the situation serves the interests of the President or subordinate officials.
Moreover, the DOJ “White Paper” offers readers some very troubling insights into how our national security officials are justifying their actions against US Citizens. The argument presented in the memo needs to be restructured to provide clearer guidance on what constitutes an actual imminent threats in regard to globalized terrorism while building an actual legal framework for using lethal force against US citizens when necessary due to an ongoing threat. Such a framework must require actual oversight, some form of Due Process, and transparent standards; otherwise, these “targeted killings” are simply unlawful assassinations by another name. Instead of using weakly supported, damaging rationales for acting against US citizens engaged in plotting terrorist activities, the Obama Administration and future Presidencies need to work with Congress to develop laws, oversight bodies, standards, and guidelines that meet the demands of the US Constitution. Similarly, more efforts need to be made to strengthen our relationships with our allies, so the international community can properly address the threat of global terrorism in a more cooperative fashion.
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