Question time on the FM website – chapter 8

Ask any question about geopolitics, broadly defined. We’ll attempt to answer it in the comments.   Links to other episodes appear below.

Like Jeopardy, your comments must be in the form of a question!

Questions received so far:

  1. The topics you raise about the Constitution (e.g., about the fourth and fifth amendments) and the law in general have been discussed with diligence by people much more knowledgeable and qualified than you.   Why do you write these things?
  2. Why do you defend Iran from the US government’s accusations in the recent terror plot?  Whether the Iranians are the perps in this drama is not that big a comparative deal. The big deal is what they are obviously planning for the near future. We are not dealing with a rational state.
  3. Could a Scandinavian prison work in America? That is, could it be humane and lower recidivism?
  4. How do you feel about the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) idea being floated in the foreign policy blogosphere?
  5. Which seems more effective, punishing the guilty, or helping the victim?
  6. Are you sure we are not entering an economic collapse?
  7. Why can’t a plumber become a Senator, even for just one term and then return to his shop?

Earlier episodes were big successes. My thanks to all who participated!

27 thoughts on “Question time on the FM website – chapter 8

  1. The topics you raise on the Constitution (e.g., about the fourth and fifth amendments) and the law in general have been discussed with diligence by people much more knowledgeable and qualified than you. Why do you write these things?

    1. That is an important question, one frequently asked but seldom so clearly. There are two answers to this.

      First, I agree about the importance of listening to experts. Most posts on the FM website, including those about our Constitution and politics, consist to a large extent of quotes from experts. Almost all posts on the FM website include a “For more information” section at the end. These contain links to a wide range of data and expert analysis.

      Second, I believe that all citizens have an obligation to speak out about these issues — not only attorneys or professors. Does anyone disagree?

  2. Why do you defend Iran from the US government’s accusations in the recent terror plot? Whether the Iranians are the perps in this drama is not that big a comparative deal. The big deal is what they are obviously planning for the near future. We are not dealing with a rational state.

    1. (1) Love of truth and having an accurate understanding of the world are among the prime requirements for a free people, if they are to govern themselves.

      (2) I know of nearly zero evidence that Iran has acted irrationally. Like in any large nation, some leaders of Iran (and the US) have said outrageous things. But Iran’s foreign policy has been consistent and rational during the past generation.

      In fact, future historians seem more likely to consider post-9/11 US foreign policy as irrational. Building an empire that’s all cost and risk, no profit. Plus our belief, loudly and often stated by our leaders, that we are God’s chosen people. For a gentle but clear-eyed look at that see Andrew J. Bacevich’s LAT op-ed: “America: With God on our side“, 16 October 2011 — “Presidential candidates feel no shame in asserting divine purpose in U.S. policies and actions. In this ubiquitous view of American exceptionalism, the nation is not bound by rules to which others must submit.”

  3. I think our prison system in every state I have looked at and at the federal level is very badly operated. I think the prisoners are mistreated and that the whole idea of “the punishment should fit the crime” may not be in anyone’s best interest.

    Seeing videos on the net and elsewhere of certain Scandinavian prisons systems make me think they have got a the better idea. Not just on humanity terms, but also in recidivism rates. Apparently, their recidivism rates can be as lows as 10-30% whereas here in the states we have rates as high as 70%.

    That said, I do acknowledge we live in a far different society with different factors playing into why are system is the way it is.

    My question to you is: could a Scandinavian prison work in America? That is, could it be humane and lower recidivism?

    Side question: what do you think will happen to Brevik after he has served his 21 years? Will the Norwegians remain humane?

    1. I would rather look to Canada than the Scandinavian nations. Some of the best new ideas for a modern prison system which punished but also reduces reoffending comes out of Canada (IMHO).

      While the length of the Scandinavian sentences are shorter and, it appears, greater effort is made to reintegrate prisoners into society again. Scandinavian prison systems are also very inspired by the Pennsylvian system of Isolation imprisonment. with all the negativ side effects.

      Isolation is not use to the same extent as in the USA, but for example in Denmark it is possible isolatad an individual under investigation (not charged) up to one year. Permission from a judge is required every four weeks.

  4. How do you feel about the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) idea being floated in the foreign policy blogosphere? What do you think of it’s impression on the average citizen?

    1. It is a noble idea. But as so often the case, it becomes a cloak for our venial motives. We intervene where our commercial and geopolitical interests lie, rendering the R2P idea an exercise in hypocrisy.

      We overthrow hostile regimes in oil-rich nations such as Iraq and Libya (and hope to in Iran), mineral-rich nations like Chile, and geopolitically central nations like Afghanistan.

      We support oppressive governments allied to us, such as Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen.

      We ignore civil wars that kill millions (Congo, Sudan, Indonesia) if it does not profit us to intervene.

      Who do we think we are kidding? Only ourselves. R2P becomes an invisibility cloak for the mad. Everyone else can see our motives; it hides them only from us.

    1. That is the logical fallacy known as the false choice. They are not alternatives between which we most choose.

      It’s the emergency room of the damned, in which the doctor says would you like me to stop the bleeding OR give you drugs (stop the pain and kill the germs)?

    2. Karpman drama triangle — From Wikipedia:

      The drama triangle is a psychological and social model of human interaction in transactional analysis (TA) first described by Stephen Karpman, in his 1968 article “Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis”. The Drama Triangle model is used in psychology and psychotherapy.

      1. The person who is treated as, or accepts the role of, a victim
      2. The person who pressures, coerces or persecutes the victim, and
      3. The rescuer, who intervenes out of an ostensible wish to help the situation or the underdog.

      …A drama triangle “Rescuer” plays the role more because they are driven to be a rescuer than because the victim needs their involvement…

  5. Are you sure we are not entering an economic collapse? Everywhere it seems municipalities are cutting back services and laying people off.

    1. I am not speaking on fact, just a collection of perceptions and “ear to the ground” understanding. The economic instability is so complex there are pundits and protesters on a dozen silver bullet topics. Because this is the discourse, I actually feel good. Our free society is acting out. Americans are coming out of their selfish oblivion, and sooner than rather than later. Things have not gotten nearly apocalyptic yet. Protesters on Wall Street (I have spent the night there already this month) are eating well and have $300K+ in the bank. The problem here is simply a need for swinging the pendulum back toward the left economically. Not all the way left, hopefully, as we do not want that either. Economics in America is cyclical, but not without a linear progression. The globalization of markets, advent of the consumer society and the elevation of corporate power in the courts and Congress are part of a natural progression. The correction or optimization of overall benefit to Americans is needed and should work itself out eventually. Will it be smooth? Painless? Without injustice? Come on folks, this is America!

    2. Recessions and depressions are normal features of free-market economic cycles. Neither are economic collapses, as the term is usually used. This shows a aspect of modern American society, in which normal ups and downs become overly dramaticized. The tech boom is super-duper awesome! AIDs will kill us all! Pollution will exterminate all life on Earth! We entering an economic collapse!

      Perhaps this results from our wealth (relative to the ROW and world history). Rich people hysterical about their minor ailments.

    3. But maybe its related to peak oil. After all there was a huge price spike in 2008 the same year the finincial crisis started.

    4. While the oil price rise from 1998 – 2008 certainly played a role in causing the global recession (as oil prices have repeated done since 1973), they have not initiated a “collapse.” Even the FAR larger post-1973 oil price rise did not cause a collapse. Nations with competent governments (eg, Japan) managed that period quite well.

      And the same is true today. While you worry about an economic collapse, world GDP will rise 4 – 5% this year, a very good year. Mostly from the developing nations, most of whom have more competent governments than in the major developed nations.

    1. “Why can’t a plumber become a Senator, even for just one term and then return to his shop?”

      For the exact same reason a senator cannot become a plumber for few years then return to Congress. It requires training and experience to become a plumber. It is crazy to imagine that is not true for a legislator of a large nation.

      One reason America is so poorly governed is that, in our arrogance and ignorance, we do not see this. So we send to Washington grossly unqualified people to govern us. Look at the Republican debates. How many of those people have the experience to become President? We treat it as an internship, a four year on-the-job training opportunity — and wonder at the poor results.

    2. The qualifications to win the Presidency are quite strict: male, 6 feet or taller, full head of slightly greying hair, no beard or mustache, own a large collection of blue suits and red ties, not obese, graduation from an Ivy League School, profess to believe in God and have the inability to imagine why foreigners are upset with the US. Requiring experience or sense would narrow the field to the point that in some elections no one could run.

    3. So we say only persons with the prerequisite training and experience should be elected to the legislature or presidency. Does that mean that once a nation reaches a “large size”, a class system must be emplaced for the nation to be successful? No longer are our representatives elected from among our peers, but only from among those who have been educated and groomed for the job since their youth? If you trained to be a plumber (or doctor, or engineer) it is wrong for you to consider yourself worthy to represent your constituents. Only those who are trained politicians should be considered. Does that mean that the American democratic experiment was doomed from the start?

    4. (1) Those things are true to the same extent they are true of plumbers — and have been true of government for most of US history. People have low level experience in politics or another relevant field, then move up. Experience in local and State government — as Mayor, State legislator, or US Congressman. Then Senator or Governor. Then President. Or some other relevant chain of experience. Such as Eisenhower: Army officer, Commander of a multi-national alliance, Chief of Staff, University President — then US President.

      “Does that mean that once a nation reaches a “large size”, a class system must be emplaced for the nation to be successful?”

      No, and nothing I said implied such a daft thing. That’s a strawman attack.

      “it is wrong for you to consider yourself worthy to represent your constituents.”

      I don’t know what you mean by “worthy”. This might be the “life as a morality play” kind of thinking that has become so commonplace in America — and might wreck America if not reversed. Running a government requires a set of technical skills and knowledge — which are necessary but not sufficient for success.

    5. I appreciate the discussion on my post, as I admire greatly the writing here at this site. I am a newcomer here, but I have spent countless hours reading blogs all over the sphere in the last 3 years.

      My handle is Drake West and I do not believe a plumber should set down his toolbox and collect petition names to run for US senate, it was a metaphorical statement, which did get a good rebuttal from FM. The comment was more about a politician coming from just about any profession, taking a journey into public service, complete with the intellectual character arc and then returning home instead of selling principle and soul to stay in office till death do we part.

      I think it was mentioned by FM in other posts that the Founding Fathers may have been hoping such a congress, local, state or federal, would survive into the future, our present. Does not seem to have.

      It is important to understand that this is not true for the E X E C U T I V E branch – just see the word there, not for the commoner. President is a job for a very unique individual, and I must say that post has always been held by a very unique individual. Congress is different, legislation is much more of a democratic process than the executive oversight in the White House. America needs more professions represented in Congress, currently over 50% lawyers!!

      I am privy to many a politician’s rise to power from our own Vice President Biden down to a good friend of mine who just landslid into a State Assembly seat. What do these people have in common? Their viability as candidates is judged by political party strategists and handlers. A citizen of this country will have a damned hard time getting any traction in any election with Dem or GOP party acceptance (read: no chance in major seats). Regardless of money either, unless you are one Michael Bloomberg.

      Thanks for the consideration.

    6. You raise two important questions, two distinct issues.

      (1) Qualifications of representatives

      Whatever the Founders’ thoughts about qualifications, our nation barely resembles theirs. The Founder’s House of Representatives had one member for each 30 thousand people, governing a far smaller government in a simplier society. There are now almost 700 thousand people per representative.

      It’s nuts that people demand a high level of qualifications for their plumber or doctor, but not for the members of Congress. People complain that the government does not work well, but elect people that guarantee this result. It’s the way we run the nation, so we must accept the poor results.

      (2) “A citizen of this country will have a damned hard time getting any traction in any election with Dem or GOP party acceptance ”

      Yes, elites prefer to run the Republic. It will take a great deal of work to reclaim the Republic. That’s life, just as Founders said it would be. They gave us the machinery; it’s up to us to make it work.

    7. I do not agree that the size of each representatives district is as big a factor in the drastic change of candidate’s required qualifications. It seems that campaigns are still the same on the outside – be a viable candidate in terms of presentation, getting alignment with party platform and hold dear important local issues to your constituents. If you have these items covered, better than your competition, and get your message out, you can win. I don’t see how have 20 times more people to contact changes who is qualified at all. In 2011, reaching 700,000 may COST more, but thanks to technology, the channels are easily available.

      I will not debate if television ads, canned and professionally produced are any better or worse than in 1794 when people could barely read a newspaper but still vote on issues.

      When a candidate is sitting in their strategy sessions, contemplating what they will do in office, in 2011 vs. 1794, what is the difference? How can you say that the general intelligence, education, passion, heart and commitment is different? How can you know?

      The example contrary to the idea that if a greater gene pool/20X population somehow does not breed better representatives, check out any high school football or basketball team from a school with 400 kids vs. 2000. The bigger school will be better 19 years out of 20. We should have a BETTER government with more people to choose from.

      I admit that great candidates do not rise out of every district in the nation for other reasons – malleability by party leaders anyone?

      I just think that larger population pools to find a candidate is inherently natural and should be advantageous.

    8. (1). By qualifications, I meant the skills necessary to run for office. Not the qualifications necessary to win the campaign.

      (2). “I do not agree that the size of each representatives district is as big a factor in the drastic change of candidate’s required qualifications”

      The nation is vastly larger than at the Founding. The government is a larger entity within thus larger nation, sigh a range of functions perhaps unimaginable to the founders.

      Things are more complex now. In 1776 a barber could be a good doctor; not so today. In 1776 an educated if unschooled barber could Be a good Congressman; not so today (without relevant prior experience). Note that then an now an alternative method is electing puppets to high office, who need only follow the instructions of their political bosses. It’s a division of function.

      (3) “How can you say that the general intelligence, education, passion, heart and commitment is different”

      This is — again — a bizarre straw an attack. Please reply to quotes; don’t make up stuff and give rebuttals.

      (4). “We should have a BETTER government with more people to choose from.”

      Only if we are choosing candidates on the basis of relevant skills, training, and experience. Which we obviously do not. Surveys show that the average voter spends on average five minutes choosing which candidate to vote for (median average).

      Choose your football team at random from the student body, suit them up and put them on the field. It will be nothing compared to the team that school fielded fifty years ago, despite modern children’s greater height and (even more so) weight. The children of today may be larger, but are in worse physical condition. Choosing the team from relatively weak and untrained boys almost guarantees defeat. After a year or so of intense training they might be ready.

      (5). “I admit that great candidates do not rise out of every district in the nation for other reasons”

      (a) Our elections have become long, intense, degrading spectacles. The higher the office, the worse. Great candidates have lives they will not throw away.

      (b). The is a large body of evidence suggesting that we tend to vote down great men. IMO today Lincoln could not get elected Mayor of a city, let alone President. We require that our Presidents pander to our lowest passions and prejudices. Lies are necessary; truth is an anathema. Such as American exceptionalism.

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