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MARCH 2, 2012 8:52AM

Are We Too Dumb for Democracy?

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It's official. Scientists have declared that the American people may be "too dumb to pick the right person to lead us."  

I admit that I had had my suspicions for a while, but this exhaustive study confirms it. We're simply not informed enough to pick wisely among our candidates. Then again, that brings up another point: People aren't too dumb for democracy, they're too ignorant for it. 

It's not our fault, really. It's a delicate blend of being too busy to pay attention to anything and totally immersing ourselves in a multimedia entertainment frenzy when we're not busy.  

Consequently, most forms of "news" to which we are exposed don't just under-inform, they misinform. We've just become more demanding for relieving entertainment than thought-provoking truths.  

Newstainment has been covered before, I know. But it's had one strange effect:

It has almost made democracy obsolete.  

Due to the cartoonish representations of issues, the chasm between political beliefs is so wide that we've been forced into two distinct camps. It's imperative to vote this coming November, because it's a lump-sum war.




See, I might only agree with two Democratic values, but I have no other choice. It's one or the other. And any variation in ideology is quickly locked into the right rails by the omnipresence of homogenized information via mass media.

In fact, partisanship has reached such awe-inspiring depths(or should I say widths, to keep up with my 'chasm' analogy?) that we could hold the election tomorrow and, well, how different would the results be from November? As the chasm between the two parties continues to widen, representatives are increasingly unable to even see each other, let alone reach out to make a compromise.

I would like to argue that any country where the voting can be carefully plotted and harvested through gerrymandering, where members of Congress are literally above the law, and the voters themselves are pre-programmed by media to cast a certain ballot, really isn't much of a functioning democracy at all.

We can't even talk about real political issues without an ideological opponent getting upset.

The 'liberal' media owned by sprawling corporations led by communists like Rupert Murdoch, or Steven Burke (who heads MSNBC because he heads hippie bastions NBC and Comcast), have nurtured the Republican Victim Complex. What this means is that, in person, you can actually lose a friend – or a relative - if you bring politics up.

Case in point: During the healthcare reform debate, my grandmother complained about what a mess it was and how Obama was ruining the country.

“What are the Republican ideas?” I asked mildly. “Have they offered any alternative cost-control solutions to make up for the fact that Medicare is the biggest problem we have with our deficit that doesn't involve privatizing the whole system?”

“Stop it,” she said, her eyes darting left and right. “Stop it.”

Bad example? I was at a party a few weeks ago with a guy around my age who professed to be a member of the Tea Party. Anytime politics came up, everyone else in the room (all liberal, as I've hyperbolically asserted before) had to tiptoe around this gentleman's views, because he was so vehement for his hatred of the “corrupt” Obama administration.

He said that he would vote for anyone but Obama, an attitude that I'm guessing is fairly prevalent among most Republicans, since most are all suffering from some chronic condition that, tragically, causes them to blame Obama for stepping into office during a recession.

And “corrupt?” If a completely ignorant loan is your worst “scandal” as president, you've done pretty well for yourself.

But when those points were made, this gentleman explained that they were irrelevant and launched into a full-scale dissertation about why Obama was a socialist.

When he denounced liberals for lingering on Bush, I pointed out that this was because Bush was the worst president in history. He became grumpy and resentful, thoroughly victimized, so we had to drink beer together, instead.

The shivering sensitivity around political topics has had the effect of watering down everyday debates to a soupy mix of talking points, handshakes, and obvious facts, with the occasional insight sometimes bubbling to the surface, only to sink back down beneath the lukewarm small talk slop we call political dialogue.




During a time when everyone should be interested in politics – and it's easier than ever to foster that interest – there's a fear to bring it up, because so many people almost immediately erupt into some kind of foot-stamping frenzy about it.

Help, There's Capitalism in My Democracy!

I don't even want to bother talking about Super PACs. These things are like recipe books for a corporation's ideal candidate. Every ingredient is a donation from a special interest. You put that glob of values into the electoral oven and, some months later, see what indigestible mystery meat you've cooked up.

But let's think about mass media, which has actually closed down avenues of thought instead of opening them up. Instead of thoughtful discussions on local networks, we have the slop I talked about, but on a national scale. Corporate executives keep pundits on a tight regimen and the idea you could lose viewers has trumped any kind of interesting debate.

I know what you're thinking. You've seen a few pundits say some interesting things. About what? The hot topic of the day. They add their voice to a hurricane of mass-thought as it tears through homes across the country. With so much accessible information piling at their feet, Americans don't bother digging, they just look at the stuff on the top.

Capitalism and globalism killed the journalist star. Now, a mainstream “liberal” outlet is The Huffington Post, which actually punches you in the face with reactionary headlines, before diving into an SEO orgy that is useless for anything but online ad revenue.

Journalism has become “This happened.” The “Why” part has dropped off, because there's no time to explain before the next story comes through.

Meanwhile, previously respectable publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are raggedly exhaling similar headlines to drive web traffic, while clinging to their credibility like someone with a towel whose clothes got stolen. But I've got news – the internet stole those clothes and exchanged them for a clown outfit.

Half of the articles are just dignified press releases, anyway. I saw the title “Why French Parents Are Superior” in the WSJ a few weeks ago and my first thought was: “What book is this person selling?”

Why the Death of Journalism Means Democracy is Obsolete

Journalism is free speech. Our free speech, like our elections, are now corporately sponsored. Corporations care about profit. 

As a bonus, the internet becomes less and less anonymous, ideas become less and less radical.  

When I say that the result is everyday political smalltalk slop, that slop is actually propaganda. We have the most insidious form of propaganda in the world. We watch commercials for products before watching people who tell us what to think.

The purpose of journalism used to be to make a person think, and expose people to new points of view. Now, we can just find the exact channel that already represents our biases. 

Consequently, we're heavily streamlined into the two viable political categories and squabble about meaningless issues, thinking that the squawking matters. We actually watch people argue about propaganda points.

The two parties have come to symbolize either big government or big business, when both are bad and both need to be fixed.

I'm even scared to criticize Obama, just because he's an angel compared to what's on the so-called “right.”

Our democratic government is like a college grad's first apartment. There's crap everywhere, no one picks anything up, and there's a slow-motion decay of apathy, carelessness, and confusion.

American democracy is a computer that still runs but has all sorts of bugs of corruption and pop-up ads for capitalism, and a terribly outdated processor that relies on two antiquated parties to make things go smoothly. And, just like that computer, it's obsolete.

Somehow, we need to upgrade - and I think the first step is to change the conversation from slop to dignified political dialogue.

If we can all talk rationally and calmly about the state of our country, someday, just maybe, we won't be too dumb for democracy. And then it won't be obsolete. 

 Got some time to kill?  
     of two dopes  talk about democracy being obsolete 
     my short story about democracy 

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You're right, but isn't it all a predictable outcome of the glorification of "Diversity"?. It's like picking your friends: if you pick some whose basic values and ways of doing things are too antithetical to your own, it may become more of a high maintenance " acquaintence", where you just have to not talk about some things.
great question. i'd have gone someplace else, however, in answering. I'd talk about "culture" and the role culture plays and the changing attitudes on this level as more of the population is educated, and believe it or not, I'd talk about religion as religious beliefs change and/or are forced to do so as science presents us with an ever growing understanding of phenomena that heretofore only religion "understood."

Politics is the mere surface of the "social order," and needs to be seen as such or we are the snake biting its own tail--only going in circles.

Change and progress by definition are by increments and based upon individual contributions, not anything spawned by the mass. i.e. first came Galileo, Einstein, Freud, Luther, Homer, then came the few who understood them and the inevitable reaction, and so on in a cycle that really defines us as humans.

Keep your eye on your friend and his life. A closed mind doesn't exist in a vacuum any more than an open mind, but in my observation eventually leads down a very dark path where happiness is hard to find.

Look at a book called THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS by Eric Neumann. I think it's the very best on the subject, and another book just came on world population growth that delves into the same tantalizing question you ask.

Rated, befriended, and commented upon. That is to say I appreciate your contribution.
Wow, you and I are blogging about the same things today, from different angles. (http://open.salon.com/blog/prairiefire52)

I'm glad your post reached its conclusion with "I think the first step is to change the conversation from slop to dignified political dialogue." It's not going to be easy, but as a wise marriage counselor told me during the depths of my miserable first marriage: "In every relationship, there's got to be at least one adult, and in this situation, it looks like it's going to have to be you."

Democratic self-government has always had its ups and downs. Democracy has been down before and gotten back up; looks like we're going to have to build it again.
As long as voting is a simple birth right, we can expect those with no real solutions to pander and lie about false ones. Too bad a narrow-minded ignorant vote counts the same as an all-sides-considered thoughtful one.

But I think a step forward is NPR's latest position that truth trumps false balance.
you make it sound pretty hopeless. theres an old quote by churchill. "democracy is about the worst possible of all systems, except for all the rest"... yes there is mounting psychological evidence that people have a lot of bias and ignorance & cant transcend it. however, there is also some fascinating research into "the wisdom of crowds" which indeed does exist. how do we reconcile these two polarities? it seems to me that maybe a better system can be invented based on science. so instead of thinly veiled nihilism, I say, lets get crackin.
I'll make allowances for the fact that you're only 24. When I was 24 I was just getting my Master's in Political Philosophy and believed that my logic was impeccable and that I was the repository of all the answers. I'm 60 now and realize that I don't know squat.
I do wholeheartedly agree with you on one thing though:
"Our democratic government is like a college grad's first apartment. There's crap everywhere, no one picks anything up, and there's a slow-motion decay of apathy, carelessness, and confusion."
Personally I always vote for whoever has the catchiest bumper-sticker slogan. Like "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns". I mean if a candidate can't get that right, how in hell can he or she figure out the optimum mix of stimulus, budget cuts and interest rates?
What vzn (and Churchill) said.
No, Americans are not too stupid. But the amount of propaganda out there IS mind boggling. Cable news, talk radio are primarily to blame. Most Americans do see through BS, but the right-wing is even trying to rewrite the textbooks to fit their ideology. Scary stuff.
Don't ever fall for the Ralph Nader BS that both parties are the same. That's what nearly brought down the entire global economy ... thanks a lot you geniuses.

As to comments on Diversity, interesting to note that while scared, ignorant, cowardly, credulous and imbecilic complete morons, most of whom, at least in this great country, happen to descend from Europe's unwashed masses, have a knee-jerk (brainwashed and racist hate-filled) reaction to the word immediately, cutting edge software teams around the world absolutely insist on diverse development teams as they are BY FAR the most effective and innovative.

Which explains the huge boom in the tech business throughout Red State America .... haw-haw-haw. Christian home schooling will surely solve this quickly!

Lucky come Hawaii where diversity is, truly, in our blood.

Auwe (Alas)
I've written a few things on this topic too, because the continuing dumbness of my fellow countrymen makes me feel like tearing my hair out. I just read that a fourth of the voters in my state, Tennessee, still think Obama is a Muslim.
Smart ass 24-year old. Very clever. But your elders are creating the New Wurld Disorder that will open up many new career opportunities for smart alecks like you...humping heavy backpacks and grunting in the Forever Wars that are about to be unleashed by Republikan, military-industrial, right wing Israeli lobbies and pressure groups that are bending Obama into a pretzel to 'man up' on Iran. Laugh it up kid. I see a gigantic bulls-eye painted on your generation's forehead...wink
Why is the American public, on whole, stupid? It is simply because they are taught what to think, not how to think. They are inundated with fluff to worry their poor little heads about, such as who will Kim marry next? Or what Angelina wore to the Oscars. Few people know what is going on in Greece or Syria but they can describe in detail their favorite starts rehab from drugs (again).
The average news program can boast twenty commercials and fifty meaningless spots like how a person missed their flight and were treated rudely by airline agents. How can we be considered other than dumb? So I expect that we should let others select our president. What is that called? No one knows, they don't teach government or civics in schools.
If I suggested you pick up a rake and shovel and grade a road out in the middle of the desert to one day build up a better world would you do it? Probably not. Because of this, you ride on the backs of grunt labor predecessors who built up the cozy community you reside in today. This is the true problem...the infrastructure lasts too damn long. If it crumbled every ten years, people wouldn't be whining about the finer points of a developed existence, they'd be back grading the roads again.
Hi all - first of all, thanks for reading!

@Ben Sen - I'd agree with the idea that culture is a pervasive element in society, but at this point, I think media manufactures culture & attitudes. It's an interesting point that individual contributions are what fuel progress.

While that may once have been the case, I don't think it is now - the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring have wholly depended on the mass media I've villified, but in those cases, people have upended the channels for their own use and very few symbolic leaders. Meanwhile, of course, mainstream media continues to dither and divide.

@Karen McKim - Wow, just read your post. Love the deep dive into the rhetoric of politics today, and totally agree. If people who believe in different political solutions can't even talk without reaching some insult-laden stalemate, we're in serious trouble.

@vzn - I don't personally have a nihilistic view toward democracy. I think it's pretty dysfunctional, sure, but, as you pointed out, we don't exactly have alternatives. The problem is that it just seems to be getting worse - and less democratic - with every passing year. There may come a time (circa 2009, after Citizens United) where we look back and say, ah, that's when we used to have democracy, instead of an plutocracy.

@ohausurfer - Totally agree -- we still need to vote. Like I said, it's a lump-sum value war at this point.

@Aristoxenus - I wouldn't really consider this post "whining about the finer points of a developed existence." I think that the fact we can barely talk about politics without frothing at the mouth - and the people representing our interest are unable to do so as well - is actually a pretty valid point.

This has been a slow-mounting problem, over time, and we see it coming to a head right now, in the 2012 presidential race, when we have Super PACs and the final Republican moderates (i.e. Olympia Snowe) leaving for less radical shores.

The infrastructure of democracy is not the same as the infrastructure built up by "grunt labor predecessors" (which I think will be my band's new name, haha) and I think we can and should focus on fixing that democratic infrastructure. This is literally something we can do every day, whenever we talk about politics: stop caricaturing opponents of our beliefs.
You've got it reversed. Media only reflects. You didn't understand what I was saying and don't know what culture is yet, but I have faith someday you will.
As with Walter, I latched onto that description ("Our democratic government is like a college grad's first apartment...") as something that really spoke to the condition we are in.

However ignorant, stupid, brainwashed by voluminous amounts of skillfully crafted media, far more influential than the smidgin of education we provide to develop critical thought may be, the question remains: Why isn't there a basic test for knowledge and critical thought we apply before we allow someone to vote? (Of course the answer to that is easy - you'd have to get past the voters who can't pass it to get it passed.)

You don't mention Bryan Caplan's book The Myth of The Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies however it may add to the development of your thesis. That being said, I will hold my nose and vote again, but the majority of all my efforts will go into much smaller systems designed to improve people's lives.

As I said to a friend last night, "If you come upon a hideous traffic jam that you see just keeps getting worse as people pull across intersections repeatedly, only to get stuck in them, acheiving no progress for themselves, but in fact blocking others from making it and it begins to look like they are doing it out of spite, do you persist forward, or look for an alternative route?" Count me as one who believes that in order to improve things, it's not changing this system, it's developing a different alternative which will succeed and supplant it. As much energy as I want to put into this system, is what may stave off it's complete entropic default, so soon that there are no viable alternatives in place.
You complain about the media. Then when someone goes undercover and brings forth the trash that some ACORN, NPR and other were doing what did you do? You tried to kill the messenger and claim what he uncovered didn't matter because you disapproved of the way he gathered the data.

So why should someone do it? You screamed for O'Keffe's head on a platter and the trash that was published by people, mainly on liberal blogs like this one, about the passing of Breitbart makes me wonder why anyone would seek out the truth. You want the news to report what is going on. I guess, that is, if it reports what you want it to be or it fits you preconceived notion of what the truth should be.
@Ben Sen -- I'm going to have to respectfully disagree that media reflects culture. I think many advertising companies, for generations now, have relied on media to create culture. It's become fairly common knowledge that the mannerisms of people are influenced by what they see on television.

@Samisiam Love the phrase "hold your nose" while voting, thanks for your insight!

@Catnlion - Thank you for highlighting exactly the kinds of rhetoric that I'm talking about, both through your post (i.e. "liberal blogs such as this one" and linking my blog to the word "trash"), and by citing a lot of the convictions that bother me on the other side of the aisle.

Bringing up James O'Keefe is an interesting example. I think people protested the fact that he targeted institutions that are established to help the people most in need (i.e. Planned Parenthood & ACORN), rather than use his considerable skills to, say, film corporate corruption. With Planned Parenthood & ACORN, O'Keefe used individual samples of low-level employees to try and destroy the entire organization.

With NPR, he revealed that, gasp, the senior vice president of fundraising has political beliefs.

And analysis showed that some O'Keefe videos were completely edited to project a certain image... which I think is why people were a little hesitant to adopt them whole-heartedly unless, yes, they already agreed. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-03-17-video17_ST_N.htm)

Politically motivated and edited pieces of news are just more of the same propaganda, aren't they?

I find it interesting that the similar videos produced by The Center for American Progress, which often reveal corrupt corporate practices, have never, ever gotten the same amount of air time & exposure. Ever.

So the Victim Pendulum swings both ways.
"...he targeted institutions that are established to help the people most in need ..."

Help people, like pimps who are trying to figure out how to prostitute underage girls who were brought illegally to this country. Is that who they were established to help? Did he make those people say those things and offer the advice they were given? No they opened their mouth and got caught.

"...used individual samples of low-level employees to try and destroy the entire organization"

If he came into your office and filmed one jerk doing something wrong I might agree with you. One jerk in one location doesn't make a story. The fact that he traveled all over and found people in several offices that were willing to do it makes the story. Remember, you boss is responsible for your actions even if he didn't know you were doing them.

Again, you placed the blame on him. You said nothing of the people who are in the groups who were willing to let underage girls be pimped out. All you did is attack him because he chose a "target" that you don't agree with. If you want the same thing done to large corporations go do it. If you can find damning stuff I'm sure that you can get somebody to run with the story. I'm sure the Huffpo or Salon would love to run your stuff. Their ratings would skyrocket.
Case in point: During the healthcare reform debate, my grandmother complained about what a mess it was and how Obama was ruining the country.

“What are the Republican ideas?” I asked mildly. “Have they offered any alternative cost-control solutions to make up for the fact that Medicare is the biggest problem we have with our deficit that doesn't involve privatizing the whole system?”

“Stop it,” she said, her eyes darting left and right. “Stop it.”

Did you tell Grandma that President Obama's solution was to take $500,000,000 out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare? Did you

tell her that Medicare has become the "Insurance of NO" to so many therapies, more so than the private insurers? Did you tell her that Sarah Palin was not too far wrong with her "death panels?" Does grannie really think as she gets on further into her 80's and, God willing, her 90's, she will still be able to get that hip replacement or will her doctor say, "sorry, grannie, but the cost/benefit ratio at your age versus say a 40 year old, says no for your new hip." And it is what it is going to be....

Paul Ryan had some ideas on Medicare that were shot down the day he first presented his bill. Not even a discussion,not even looking at his ideas as a blueprint that could be better engineered, an effort made to try to cut costs..but no...the liberal media and liberals scared the hell out of grannie and other kids her age with advertisements showing a nice little old lady in a wheelchair being pushed off a cliff by the Ryan and the Republican Party. Funny ad...but a lie, and propaganda against any thoughtful plans being presented.

When you tell Grandma what the democrat plan is for Medicare, what Obama's plan is for Medicare, could you tell all of us...we are just dying to know. "No pun intended."

I do agree 100% with you on term-limits and the impact gerrymandering on our democracy. The mid-term 2010 is a perfect case to analyze this point.

The Obama/Pelosi/Reid troika sacrificed dozens of Member of the House to fulfill a fifty year dream...big government healthcare.

If there was any question that the radical left wing of the old Democrat Party was in charge, 2010 proved the case.

But, who were the losers? The primary sponsors, the criminals in the bunch of liberals pushing this legislation kept their jobs because of the gerrymandering of their districts. These are people who have lifetime jobs on the public dime, and all they can get contributed to their "private" pension fund.

It was the moderate guys and gals, in swing districts that saw their political careers destroyed.

Term limits...the end of gerrymandering will never happen until the people rise up at the State level and amend the Constitution.

We may be closer than anyone thinks.
Mencken seems appropriate to this discussion:

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

"Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."

"My guess is that well over eighty per cent of the human race goes through life without ever having a single original thought. That is to say, they never think anything that has not been thought before, and by thousands."

"A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable. The pressure of ideas would simply drive it frantic. The normal human society is very little troubled by them. Whenever a new one appears the average man displays signs of dismay and resentment. The only way he can take in such a new idea is by translating it crudely into terms of more familiar ideas. That translation is one of the chief functions of politicians, not to mention journalists. They devote themselves largely to debasing the ideas launched by their betters. This debasement is intellectually reprehensible, but probably necessary to carry on the business of the world."

"We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

As to that last, I thot George W Bush was more than sufficiently moronic, but alas, the Republican base deems he was not, thus their embrace this time around of so many utterly moronic candidates.
@Joe Zollo - Thanks for your input - I think we can agree that there's a handsome amount of corruption on both sides of the aisle. As to the healthcare debate, that issue - and some of the controversial statements you make - has been hammered into the ground repeatedly (i.e. Medicare cuts & death panels, a rumor started by Betsy McCaughey, not Palin). Here are some great sources about most of the claims you've made, both non-partisan:


I think, of course, that we've all turned our heads to the real issue: 10,000 baby boomers are becoming eligible for Medicare every day. Demand is going to completely outstrip supply very soon. To control cost & still provide care to senior citizens, people are going to have to make sacrifices.

It's true that Ryan's bill didn't get much traction. I was actually interested in what he had to say. To be honest, I'm not very enamored of Obama's bill - you're right, it was a liberal dream that turned into something of a nightmare, and the exact wrong thing to focus on as the country was hemorrhaging jobs.

The single-payer healthcare system was destroyed, too. A good compromise leaves no one in the country happy, apparently.
@Catnlion - I'm not "blaming" O'Keefe for trying to report on corruption, I'm saying that I'm a little wary of embracing any of the material because, as I said, the videos have been proven to be very carefully edited in parts.

For example: did you know James O'Keefe didn't wear a pimp costume during his ACORN operation? Yet, through the magic of editing, we were under the impression he did.

Did you know, too, that Planned Parenthood had reported that there may be a multi-state prostitution ring before they knew O'Keefe was working as an undercover reporter?

That said, I agree that there were some questionable conversations recorded, however flexed and edited they may be. Planned Parenthood did, too, and fired quite a few volunteers.

Have you seen the unedited videos of the ACORN investigation?

Even Andrew Breitbart admitted that the ACORN video duped him. In fact, O'Keefe often posed as "a law school student and an aspiring politician trying to rescue his prostitute girlfriend from her abusive pimp."
Specifically, it is a wholly unholy absolute that corporatUSt$' democracy
--which sustains United States' militarUSt$ political system, corporatist capitalUSt$ democracy, zionUSt$ ambitions of righteoUS omnipotence- democrUSy
is more fit as a creature of prey than are
the overwhelming majority of 'we' -- in the context of "Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? "-- are that portion of humanity preyed upon by US wherein 'we' are every being or thing on Earth not deemed by zionUSt$ to be aligned with the interUSt$ of the empire of US.

Generally, as no empire can sustain interminable injustice, an empire built on justUS inevitably dissolves into mankind's sordid history either relatively peacefully as did evolve societies comprising the Soviet Union, or horribly, as the empire of USrael aggressively manifests itself.
Specifically, it is a wholly unholy absolute that corporatUSt$' democracy
--which sustains United States' militarUSt$ political system, corporatist capitalUSt$ democracy, zionUSt$ ambitions of righteoUS omnipotence- democrUSy
is more fit as a creature of prey than are
the overwhelming majority of 'we' -- in the context of "Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? "-- are that portion of humanity preyed upon by US wherein 'we' are every being or thing on Earth not deemed by zionUSt$ to be aligned with the interUSt$ of the empire of US.

Generally, as no empire can sustain interminable injustice, an empire built on justUS inevitably dissolves into mankind's sordid history either relatively peacefully as did evolve societies comprising the Soviet Union, or horribly, as the empire of USrael aggressively manifests itself.
i apologize for the repost
@Baltimore Aureole - You bring up an interesting part about the empty rhetoric used to manipulate people, but I'd hardly say that's exclusive to one party. I do agree that voters went through something of a "hope & change" withdrawal after Obama was elected, when we were presented with a pragmatic centrist rather than a millionaire-taxing, environment-defending champion, as advertised.

Those are the dangers of the way candidates have to market themselves today, unfortunately. All style, no substance, blah blah.

As for blaming the recession on Obama, and the fact he stepped into office while things were just hitting their worst points, I'm not sure you can pin literally every economic woe on his policies, as people have done. This was a build-up bust of nearly two decades.

Of course, many seem to believe that every bad economic development is Obama's fault, but refuse to give him credit for any economic growth. Even though Republicans are the ones clamoring to cut public jobs as fast as possible, and corporations are either out-sourcing labor or destroying industries (music, books) at a phenomenal rate.

As to Obama's chances at reelection, I suggest you take a look at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/president_obama_vs_republican_candidates.html , which presents a great composite of polling numbers in real-time.
Sorry, but in an article bemoaning lack of facts in politics, you don't have your facts right regarding Medicare being the biggest deficit problem. Your chart shows all Medicare costs rising but only a part of those costs come from general tax revenues where we have the deficit; the majority of Medicare funding comes from the payroll tax and beneficiary premiums.

Current Medicare funding from general tax revenues is $205 billion a year or 16% of incoming general revenues. That is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to increase from 2010 to 2020 by $240 billion a year. However, general tax fund revenues also are projected to increase in that time period by $1,991 billion a year, so as a percentage of incoming general tax revenues Medicare costs actually go down from 16 to 14%.

And even those costs can be cut without destroying the program. We spend about 75% more on health care per person than other developed countries with good health care services, with no clearly superior health benefits from that extra expense. About 30 % of that 75% difference is from more private insurance use and resultant overheads in the U.S. This still leaves a substantial 45% percentage reduction achievable from health care delivery costs. An Independent Payment Advisory Board was set up in the recent Health Care Reform Act to ferret out where these cost reductions can be made without sacrificing health care quality and availability. Such cost cuts would contribute to deficit reduction. Impediments to the functioning of the Board by Republicans (do they want Medicare to fail?) need to be overcome so it can do its work. No major changes in program scope /benefits are logically warranted until it does.
@ drbob - Thanks for reading, that's some interesting stuff about Medicare. I'm by no means advocating for its destruction. I think, as you point out, there do need to be changes to the system, but they're definitely workable, given enough bipartisan support.

I guess I've always thought that Medicare is going to be a problem is mostly due to demographics, and fairly intimidating cost estimates like this:

Circa 2020, it's estimated that Americans will pay $1 trillion each year for the program, with about 2.9% of salary going to Medicare, contributions that "cover less than half of the program's cost."

I think you're right - it's viable, given enough change to the current system - but I just wanted to point out why I thought it was a systemic budget problem, at least for now.
March 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm
I think that your paradigm is, truly, a traditional ink blot test for what one feels as matching the trait, tendency, phobia or compulsive pre-occupation. The sense of our election system must be one of being informed — not making a series of knee jerk reactions that rely on spin, prejudice and free floating anxiety. Sure, it is flawed. And actually, we need to become more informed, really understand how this works. The mystery of the Insurance industry controls by our government would appear to be something entirely else in another country: we were led to believe that the world would end if there would be a government-backed master plan. People were led to think that they would lose something that they had; conversely, others thought that they would receive more for less — or nothing. They were each misled by an incestuous contgress who wanted nothing more than to feed at the trough of insurance companies, lobbyists with huge money to buy them. Who wins? Not the people. We have the wrong people in a system that has mutated beyond its original design. And we let it happen.
The only way to change the game, is to take interested parties out of the process. If we do not become more informed, do our home work, then we can not realize a democratic system that is
viable, delivering the needs for the majority, whoever this turns out to be. As it stands, we have a system that only sustains itself for and by the insiders. It makes no sense.
What if we each drove home after working a long, hard day to find that we were locked out of our own homes. If this is not the best analogy, please find one that works for you. It will not change until the people demand new value and better equipped leaders to bring solutions and are not indulged drama queens that we vote in for the wrong reasons.
Time to look in the mirror.
I find the headline of both this article and the linked Daily Mail article suspicious.

Summing up Nagel's findings as "People are too dumb for democracy" (or "ignorant" or whatever) is misleading, since his findings also show that democracy is, at least, better than authoritarianism at screening the worst would-be leaders.

It suggests a contempt for people in general (you say "we", but I doubt you actually think that you, yourself, are too dumb for democracy; and even if you did, that would simply mean compounding misanthropy with self-hatred), and consequently a susceptibility to authoritarianism.
@Graham Clark - Thanks for reading! I don't really see this post as the sum of its headline, which I made clear when I disagreed with with the idea that people are too dumb for democracy in the second paragraph.

My point here is that it's ignorance that is killing democracy, via mass media & disinformation, and I think that I'm a victim to this system, just like everybody else.

It's very hard to get an honest take on news when every topic is transient, sensational, and surface-thin, especially when that style of news has made people immediately begin foaming at the mouth during a conversation about politics, pitting people against each other in a demented, us vs. us battle to "save the country."
You are right. The death of journalism in this country has resulted in the dumbing down of the American people. Its why I follow 60+ news sources on twitter incl. BBC, AJE, DW, PBS & NPR & tweets interesting articles.
@ bluecy

Thanks for replying!

As far as my concern goes, saying people are "too dumb for democracy" or "too ignorant for democracy" comes to the same thing.

Saying people are more ignorant than they could or should be is one thing. That's certainly true. Saying they are "too x for democracy" is another.
@ bluecy

Thanks for replying!

As far as my concern goes, saying people are "too dumb for democracy" or "too ignorant for democracy" comes to the same thing.

Saying people are more ignorant than they could or should be is one thing. That's certainly true. Saying they are "too x for democracy" is another.
@Graham Clark - Ah, I see what you mean. I kind of think of ignorance as a temporary state, rather than a permanent condition, which is why I take ignorance & stupidity to be different.

@Broken Wing - I assume you're being sarcastic. I think the fact that we have access to so much information is problematic. It's hard to mobilize, think about, or feel for one cause, when there are 60+ others represented by 140 character soundbytes.

Information overload via mass media exploits a primal human urge to know issues that we think are pertinent to us - and now anything can be made pertinent with the omnipresence of photos & information & false urgency.
I couldn't agree more with your general assessment. I think the ignorance issue is complicated; we have raised a generation without teaching them how to THINK. Part of the problem starts with our education system--in which we are taught how to beat tests instead of forming opinions--but it's only a piece. If you haven't read The Political Brain by Drew Westen, I would strongly recommend it. It's a little gimmicky in the sense that he is almost writing as a Democratic campaign advisor, but he provides some interesting insight into why people develop such rigidly formed political opinions.

Without delving too deeply into that discussion, I did want to comment on one other point. You make the point that: "See, I might only agree with two Democratic values, but I have no other choice. It's one or the other."

And I agree. This is a problem caused at least partially by a polarizing media environment, but also by the structure of our democracy -- we only get two choices, and its winner-take-all. A proportional and/or parliamentary system would not resolve all of these flaws, but would allow smaller parties to emerge that can act as key "coalition cogs" by lending enough support to a major party to guarantee them a majority in exchange for concessions on specific issues they wish to see represented.

But, what do you think about the possibility for "internet activism" to provide a similar pivot? Admittedly, as long as people are more interested in LOLcats than politics, Twitter and company will remain quite useless in terms of promoting political engagement. But I've been intrigued by a few recent developments, with the SOPA/PIPA backlash and the Komen/planned parenthood decision being the most prominent. In both of these situations, people were able to express their political views on an issue-specific rather than party-specific basis. We weren't locked into one binary, quadrennial decision; we had the opportunity to let the government know how we (or at least a few million of us) felt about one specific issue. I think that, as people recognize their growing opportunities for influence, it may (emphasis: MAY) help to produce a less polarized discourse. But only if, as you astutely observe, people are willing to use these tools in a more rational fashion.

Ultimately though, I'm looking for any excuse to be hopeful here. What a country we live in...
@Stephen Weil - I think there IS hope, and I think it has to be from online sources. At least here, in the safe, dark corners of the internet, you can find slightly less conventional thought patterns.

I actually am tempted blame major news networks for much of the ignorance. People who watch television don't interact, they just watch and absorb through a single lens of context.

And I'm not even sure our generation is the worst-affected: the average ages for FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC are at historic highs - 65, 63, 59.

We're growing up in one of the most volatile political atmospheres imaginable, and a twentysomething's first instinct to find information is to go to the internet. What do we find there? Glimmering, multi-faceted viewpoints, scattered like hidden gems in the Comments section, or a million different perspectives with one Google Search. We may not agree with what we read there, but at least we SEE the opposing viewpoints.

Just take a look at the recent LRA explosion. Mass media networks have been talking about this issue for months at least, but YouTube abruptly hurtled it to the forefront of dialogue.

Social media makes it much easier to be an activist, and I think a lot of people are just realizing that. Consequently, politicians are trying to sidestep that arena for as long as possible. But it's going to catch up to them.

As it stands, I think unedited YouTube clips are some of our finest sources of journalism today, but there's still a massive content/action gap.