Monday, September 30, 2013

The outsider's view

Slate has a good feature today, where they report on events inside the United States as we report on events in all those mysterious “foreign” countries that Americans can’t find on a map. I would argue that if this were happening anywhere else in the world rather than THE UNITED STATES, the supposed “leader of the free-world,” this would be reported exactly like what it is – a complete and total breakdown of functional governance in what has essentially become a benighted banana republic. 
The current rebellion has been led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a young fundamentalist lawmaker from the restive Texas region, known in the past as a hotbed of separatist activity. Activity in the legislature ground to a halt last week for a full day as Cruz insisted on performing a time-honored American demonstration of stamina and self-denial, which involved speaking for 21 hours, quoting liberally from science fiction films and children’s books. The gesture drew wide media attention, though its political purpose was unclear to outsiders. 
With hours remaining until the government of the world’s richest nation runs out of money, attention now focuses on longtime opposition leader John Boehner, under pressure from both the regime and the radical elements of his own movement, who may be the only political figure with the standing needed to end the standoff. 
While the country’s most recent elections were generally considered to be free and fair (despite threats against international observers), the current crisis has raised questions in the international community about the regime’s ability to govern this complex nation of 300 million people, not to mention its vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. 
Americans themselves are starting to ask difficult questions as well. As this correspondent’s cab driver put it, while driving down the poorly maintained roads that lead from the airport, “Do these guys have any idea what they’re doing to the country?”
If It Happened There...the Government Shutdown (Slate) Actually, this is why I get my news primarily from British sources. It's always best to look at your country from the standpoint of  an outsider.

This has been done before by others; this was from earlier this year:
BOSTON, Mass. — Human rights activists say revelations that the US regime has expanded its domestic surveillance program to private phone carriers is more evidence of the North American country’s pivot toward authoritarianism. 
The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported this week that a wing of the country’s feared intelligence and security apparatus ordered major telecommunications companies to hand over data on phone calls made by private citizens. 
“The US leadership in Washington continues to erode basic human rights,” said one activist, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing that speaking out publicly could endanger his organization. “If the US government is unwilling to change course, it’s time the international community considered economic sanctions.” 
Over the last decade, the United States has passed a series of emergency laws that give security forces sweeping powers to combat “terrorism.” But foreign observers say the authorities abuse those laws, using them instead to monitor ordinary Americans. 
While the so-called Patriot Act passed in 2001 is perhaps the most dramatic legislation to date curbing freedoms here, numerous lesser-known laws have expanded monitoring of news outlets, email, social media platforms and even opposition groups — like the Occupy and Tea Party movements — that are critical of the regime. 
US leader Barack Obama, a former liberal community organizer and the country's first black president who attracted a wave of support from young voters, rose to power in 2008 promising reform. He was greeted in the United States — a country of about 300 million people — with optimism. But he has since disappointed those supporters, ruling with a sometimes iron fist and continuing, if not expanding, the policies of the country’s former ruler, George W. Bush.
Inside the United States (GlobalPost)

With millions of jobless, tent cities springing up, mass shootings on a regular basis, millions without health care winding up in emergency rooms, municipal bankruptcies like Detroit, a wealth gap greater than parts of Africa, a quarter of the world's prisoners, failing schools, the nation's students collectively a trillion dollars in debt, pathetically slow Internet speeds, decrepit infrastructure, and now this, one wonders at what point we can officially declare the United States to be a failed state.

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