In Defense of Being a Political Cynic

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

WilliamdriverflagI’m an easy mark for those who want to approach me emotionally. My own life, with the normal tragedies of living seven decades has let me be attuned to others pain and to view that pain with an empathy born of my own suffering. Working out my own problems via years of therapy in my twenties and thirties, allowed me to finally let myself cry at the early death of my parent’s years before. I had put a “bottleneck” on tears since a teenager, choking sad emotions by constricting my throat and being in intellectual denial of the mourning I felt at their loss. This is not to say that I had no emotional outlets in my years prior to therapy, but they were limited to events far outside the ken of my life. Thus I could identify with wronged characters in movies and could cry at the death of Marin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In my personal life though, I acted out the role ascribed to me in my High School Yearbook “Mike thinks that life is just a snap of his fingers”. Therapy changed that and allowed me to let myself be aware of and be guided by my emotions.

Emotionally, I am as patriotic an American as you might find. I love this country and I love the fact that I’m a citizen of it. My tears well up at the playing of our National Anthem. The Constitution is a sacred document to me and the aspirations of our “Founding Fathers” seem noble and just. In sports I often find myself moved to tears when athletes or teams overcome adversity and triumph. My family knows this emotional side of me since I cry at movies like “The Little Mermaid”.  In personal relationships I am also ruled by emotion. People who treat me with kindness are not only repaid in kind, but I find myself rooting for their happiness and sad at their sadness. It is therefore quite easy to become someone I consider to be a friend and difficult for me to note imperfections in the friendships I’ve made. However, that is on an emotional level and as all humans, I am far more than just my emotions.  Intellect and experience play important roles in shaping who we are. On a personal level I have experienced betrayal by “friends” and lovers. In my career I’ve experienced betrayal by those I thought of as friends and co-workers. However, I think those “let downs” are merely a normal part of the human experience. We humans learn and grow from our social interactions, allowing them to inform our interactions with each other.

We humans co-exist though in a larger context than mere personal interactions and that is a society known as “country”. Through the norms and mores of that society we find that our emotions are stimulated by the commonality of our existence as part of a whole. We rely on that society to protect us from predators and from those from other society’s that would do us harm. We unite emotionally in times of crisis and we feel warmth and comfort from being part of the whole. The most emotionally jarring event of the past five decades was the attack on 9/11 that galvanized this country almost as one entity. We commemorated the twelfth anniversary of this overwhelmingly sad event this past week. I need not describe the effect of this event on all of us, since I know that we all have sharp personal memories of that day and the days of anger, fear and confusion that followed. The reactions politically that followed 9/11 has personally scarred those who lived through it and have done great harm to our country. People from all sides of the political spectrum feel betrayed by the events that followed 9/11. Some feel betrayed because the majority of the country no longer supports the military interventions that ensued. Others feel betrayed because there is clear evidence that our government “lied” us into a costly war against a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. We have become then a nation of cynics when it comes to our government and I will explore why this can be either good or bad for the future of our country.When President Obama spoke this week about intervention in Syria: (transcript below)  I felt myself sneering as the cleverly written propaganda came forth from his lips with the sound of great sincerity. Could he really believe this crap I thought? Is it just foistering of political propaganda used for him to save face in light of the overwhelming evidence that the people of this country don’t support his “targeted air strike” as a panacea for the use of gas in the Syrian Civil War? Does it really matter? As he explained that we Americans are war weary from more than a decade of fighting wars. These wars in the end were colossal failures and more importantly seem to have been fought for no real reason save for the enrichment of the Corporate Military Industrial Complex (CMIC) and most specifically the multinational oil industry. The President, even if obliquely, acknowledged the futility of this century’s military interventions and the cost borne by this nation’s troops and people:

“I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington

— especially me — to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home: putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class.”

To me there most glaring inconsistency in the President’s speech was that while making the case for intervention to stop the use of Sarin Gas, promising that no U.S. Troops would be used on the ground, describing Assad’s government as implacable, our President nevertheless contended that one “targeted air strike” would somehow make things better. The entire proposition seems nonsensical to me and I therefore distrust its sincerity, or as a fallback, the sanity of those who would pursue it.

As Professor Turley described in a blog this week 75% of the deaths in Afghanistan occurred after Obama became President: . This was of course the man who the country elected in 2008 to end the two wars. While it appears that the Iraq War has ended since most American Forces have been removed, we note that in August the Iraqi government began to plead for additional U.S. help since there has been an upsurge in violence and civilian strife. . So perhaps the President’s claim is premature. As of January 31, 2012. 4,487 US Soldiers were Killed in Iraq and 32,223 were Seriously Wounded. This does not encompass the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s who died in that war.

The rationale for the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he had been somehow involved in the 9/11 attack. Both of those premises have proven to be untrue. We have spent about a Trillion Dollars on Iraq as shown by the following which gives a breakdown of the human/financial costs of that war. Is it any wonder then that the majority of the country distrusts our government and is suspicious of any suggestion that there is yet another country where we MUST intervene? Our attack on Afghanistan was not only premised on the belief that the 9/11 attack was executed by Al Qaeda leaders within the country, but was also meant to destroy the power of the Afghani allies the Taliban. We see though that the Taliban still has great power in Afghanistan and that our “greatest 9/11 enemy” Osama Bin Laden was living in Pakistan all along. The truth is that the U.S. originally armed Al Qaeda and the Taliban to fight against the USSR in the 1980’s, as that “great power” was driven from the country, as have been all Afghanistan’s invaders from time immemorial. Both these wars have been unnecessary debacles executed by the manipulation of American emotions stemming from 9/11.

How much a debacle those wars were was highlighted by two actions (admissions) by George W. Bush who bears the responsibility for them and consequently for the horrors that ensued. The first was his skit at The National Press Club where he pretended to look for “weapons of mass destruction” in a mocking manner. He was mocking those of us who believed the lies of his administration that caused us to attack Iraq. The second action was when he was asked if the U.S. knew where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. His response was that Osama Bin Laden was no longer important to him. If this was so then why the hell did we attack Afghanistan under the pretense that we were seeking revenge against Osama Bin Laden? Despite the beliefs of those who would rule us the entire country is not at all stupid and in the light of Bush’s actions should we wonder why people are so turned off to government and so cynical about it?

The germ of this piece has been gestating for years in my mind, but it came to the foreground this week in a reprise article from Russ Baker’s investigative website. The article was from 2011 and investigated the probable involvement of powers within Saudi Arabia in funding and supporting the 9/11 attack.  The background it supplies and the premise of Saudi involvement seems credible to me and fits in with the close ties of George W. Bush and his family to the powers that be in Saudi Arabia. Our current concern with Syria mirrors the Saudi’s constant efforts to attain hegemony in the Muslim world, where they are competing with Iran. Entwined in this is of course Oil, which has been for more than a Century the greatest motivating factor in international relations.

What all of this endless warfare has done has been to unite the majority of the American people, myself included, in a cynical view of our government and its entire doings. How can we trust government if it lies us into wars and wastes trillions of dollars? This cynicism leaks over into all areas of government endeavor. It unites those on both the left and the right of the political spectrum and it could lead to the ultimate destruction of our Constitution and even our country as we know it. Yet how can we argue against this cynicism? The truth is that in the experience of my lifetime government can’t be trusted. With this concept I find myself in unison with the “Tea Party” and simultaneously with “Progressives” in distrusting just about everything government does. Most of the many guest blogs I’ve written here through the years reveal this cynicism in one form or the other. Just type “Mike Spindell” into the search function above and you will see blog after blog expressing my cynicism and distrust of what is occurring in this country that I dearly love. While I am united with many on both the Right and the Left in distrusting the government and politics in general, my analysis of the problem of government is not as uniform.

The corruption of our political system and the failure of government to do its job is not the result in the inherent flaw of any government as the Libertarians and Tea Party suspect. Government doesn’t work because it is corrupted by those seeking power and wealth. Our Constitution is ignored by those who would manipulate the rest of us for their own personal gains. The “Isms” we are presented with as solutions to the vastness of human misery are merely the tools to distract us from the real “game of thrones” being played with us as pawns. My cynicism is well-deserved, as is yours the reader because our shared experiences have proven it to be correct.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” As Cassius laments in “Julius Caesar” this is the state of humans and humanity. It is the constant struggle for dominance engaged in by a few that disrupts and distracts government from its role as the manifestation of the ideals of our society. Whenever those who would see a different world try to change it, they must recognize that it is human flaws, rather than political systems, that distract the care and protection of the populace. Humanity, born of mutual cooperation in our pre-history, still also bears within it the residue of our predatory past. Therefore, even as we of good will who would seek to turn this world into the Utopia that is within humanity’s powers; we must use the cynicism of our intellect to distrust those who would offer simplistic solutions appealing to our emotions to get us to do their bidding. I remain a political cynic and often despair at the doings of the world around me. Yet I will not and the collective we should not, let ourselves give into that despair. In that direction lays the darkness of all the horrors of human history. We must fight on to remake ourselves and humanity into caring and compassionate beings, interacting with each other in harmony. Yet to continue that fight we must recognize the propaganda and mythology that leads us astray. We must view all calls for action through a cynical, skeptical eye, while maintaining our idealistic hope for a better future. It is a hard task, yet for those of us who were not to the manor born it is essential, or else we will continue to be pawns in the hands of the powerful that would destroy us and those we love without conscience or constraint.

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger.

149 thoughts on “In Defense of Being a Political Cynic

  1. Laserhaas,

    Poor vision… That’s all… Nothing intentional…. Unless it’s my sister…. And spell her name with a K instead of a C……

    Then again… I could blame it on the new IO7…. But, it’s me… Sorry….

  2. Mike: is that it overloads human powers of analysis and thus like statistics can be skewed.

    I’m not so sure about that. A desktop computer can compute payroll for a million workers without breaking a sweat. That would certainly overwhelm any human, but the “analysis” of computing payroll (even unusual payrolls with all sorts of legal issues, garnishments, hazard pay, etc) is well within the analytical ability of a single human. It is just repeated a million times.

    The same thing applies to metadata: computing the degrees of separation between two people based on a network graph of their phone connections, using bayesian analysis, is pretty straightforward; and doing that for a few hundred million citizens is also pretty straightforward. Add in the websites they visited, the tweets they sent and read, the emails they sent, and the problem does not get much more difficult really; we process a few trillion connections instead of a few billion, but we just throw more hardware at the problem; a thousand desktop computers instead of one. And the NSA can literally afford about ten million processors if it needs that.

    For example, that whole idea of using phone call metadata to figure out both a “closeness” metric and hierarchy is easily understandable by one statistician, and probably occurred in the first place to just one statistician, and can be easily implemented by just one statistician / programmer. That particular algorithm is the type of thing one finds pretty obvious in retrospect, and processing a few trillion records is not much of an obstacle.

  3. laserhaas: But it MUST be a sole authority commanding.

    No, it does not have to be. The vast majority of corporations are run by a board of directors; and in the vast majority of boards, the Chairman of the Board does not have absolute power, quite often he has one vote like everybody else, and sometimes a tie-breaking vote if there is a tie.

    Most large corporations run just fine, the CEO, the President, everybody is subordinate to the Board, and the Board is not a sole individual, but a committee.

    You just do not know what you are talking about; tens of thousands of very large and very profitable corporations around the world have no singular person in charge; the CEO and other Chief level officers all serve at the pleasure of a committee to whom they are subordinate: The Board of Directors.

  4. Mike: Many with authoritarian personalities long for a strong leaders and too many others long to be strong leaders.

    Those desires could still be realized, just not at the top without supervision. One can still be a strong leader of the Department of Energy, but answer to Congress, just like a CEO answers to his Board of Directors (and they theoretically answer to the Stockholders (which in my view should be quite a bit more of an explicit and real subordination)).

    The point is to diffuse the power, to the point that it becomes unlikely for one person to gain imperial power, as our Presidency has. When great power is wielded, I think it should always be by the vote of rather large committees. For example, we have about 856 federal judges in this country; I would compose the Supreme Court from the most senior 5% of those, to the nearest odd number (43 of them), as a 50/50 split with their existing duties. If somebody retires or dies, some senior judge somewhere becomes the newest Supreme Court judge.

  5. Mr. Tony C.;

    Before you go on “board” being so condescending, it might be prudent for you to do some que’ing of the party you attempt to demean. For your remark that;

    “you don’t know what your talking about”

    is as presumptive of facts not in evidence as your erroneous contention that “most Corporations = a Committee”.

    America’s citizenry voted Obama into the WH;
    that surely doesn’t mean Americans are running the country.

    Boards chose the Captain, CEO what have you – who is the “sole” decision maker. If the “board” (and/or committee) becomes dissatisfied with the “sole” decision maker – they have the power to replace him/her – with another decision maker.

    Yours truly has handled over 1000 entities and over many billions in assets – and I would most certainly qualify as an expert witness on such subjects.

    What you should do is take your vehicle, place the wheel in the middle of the car – between you and your spouse;

    and see how well it works – having 2 hands trying to make the decision!

  6. Yes RICO is a good tool when the government wants to use it…. Discretionary when anyone else try….

    I agree with you about the boards and CEOs to wit….. Tyco…. The cable company out of Tennessee and the ilk…. Though they were publicly traded… It was the personal piggy bank of the founders…… If I recall menswear house just fired it founder…. The details are not public yet….

  7. laserhaas: I still do not think you know what you are talking about. Boards are not required to give the CEO full control, and I have been on Boards that did not. The CEO serves at the pleasure of the Board, and the Board is as in charge as it wishes to be: Period. If they wish to restrict or limit the range of decisions the CEO can make, they can.

    For example, the Board can remove the authority of the CEO to acquire a company, or sell the company. The Board can remove the authority of the CEO to issue stock or bonds or establish any new line of credit, the Board can prevent the CEO from even opening another factory, or another line of business; I have seen Boards require their approval for the development of new products.

    Unlike voters, Boards can retain as much power over the company as they choose to do. We cannot elect a President but demand that any non-defensive military action be approved by majority national vote; but a Board can do the equivalent of that.

    Your statement was categorical, that there “MUST” be a single decision maker, and that is simply false. Driving a car and running a country are not equivalent tasks. We have emergency responders, both military and civilian, to deal with the immediate consequences of something like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. But like those, there is plenty of time for a Board (or Congress) to meet and decide what to do in response, and our retaliation in both those circumstances was far from instantaneous. There is no need, in a government, for a Chief Executive to be embodied in one person. Ever.

  8. When the msm makes a case by innuendo against a party (Tyco) – you can most assuredly presume there’s more than meets the eye going on.

    IMO Tyco and Okun 1031 Tax Group were railroaded for veiled agenda in the same manner as Senator Ted Stevens, attorney Dicky Scruggs, Governor Siegelman and Sonny Bono.

    As for issues of RICO, I;ve been studying the 1970 “CIVIL” RICO Act arduously, for a couple of months now (after a retired justice pointed me in the direction). His Honor’s exact words “One of the most abused statutes by counsels is 1962(c); and one of the least utilized, but most beneficial to U.S. citizenry is the “Prosecutorial Gap” proviso of 1962(c) that permits a citizen to become a “PAID” (via treble damages) “Private Attorney General”.

    Then His Honor suggested I study the PAGA for California and citizen’s arrest powers of California first; before I research Civil RICO.

    Difference is, the California Private Attorney General Act puts one in the stead of the State as Prosecutor and PAGA grants no liberty to be compensated as a victim. Whereas Congress provides Federal Civil RICO for “Private Attorney Generals” to be motivated to utilize 1962(c) with the super incentive of treble damages.

    That is why counsels try to “stretch” the facts (most often under reaches of logic via Mail/Wire Fraud “predicate act” claims); and they get spanked under Rule 11. (Sometimes counsels get spanked under Rule 11 sanctions for failure {in the courts mind} to do proper due diligent research of the facts).

    In our cases (The Learning Co, FAO Schwartz, Kay Bee, Stage Stores and eToys – etc.,) the evidence is so overwhelming, profuse and undeniable, Mitt lied on his Federal Election Campaign Finance Office of Government Ethics 278 Form – to “retroactively” dodge February 1999 to August 2001.

    When the scheme (belief) that all the records were destoryed that would be contrary of the Perjury – failed; that is when Romney’s team claimed he was “retroactively” retired from August 2001 back to February 1999.

    Though I will lay the foundation of who Pitten’s is by that item, I’m not sure if I’ll include it as one of the “Count’s”.

    Be that as it may, a Private Attorney General under 1962(c) needs only two (2) Felony violations (“predicate acts” as per Section 1961) – for the successful prosecution of Civil RICO.

    My adversaries so ardently “believed” Mitt was going to become that they’ve already confessed to 36 “;predicate act” violations; and I’ve got them on 300 total counts.

    Most importantly, though the requisite of evidence weight in Civil RICO need only meet the “preponderance” standard. My proof is far beyond “clear and convincing” as we have capitulations already part of the public docket record (Evidence Hearing March 1, 2005 – Depositions February 9, 2005 and written Confessions {“Responses” to allegations} of January 25, 2005).

    Finally, I’ve no concern over the most stringent of requisites (Fed.R.Civ.P 9 (b)) – as the mandate to articulate fraud by specificity & particularity is readily apparent from the Time/Date stamp of acts of fraud, obstruction, bribery, Scheme to Fix Fees, Grand Larceny, Perjury etc – are chiefly found in the public docket records of the FAO Schwartz, Kay Bee and eToys case docket).

    By the way – the 3rd Circuit has also affirmed Congress coin of phrase of this particular “association in fact” perfectly apropos (Per Precedent of In re Arkansas) – Romney’s RICO Gang is a “Bankruptcy Ring”.

    What I’ve got to do is stop going to the bullies (tyrants) who are beating me up without remorse and change venue. Fortunately for me, the DE Bankruptcy Court and Clerk violated Federal Procedure when the Court unlawfully withheld my Motion against Romney & Gang from the public docket record. The Clerk acknowledges it was received on October 24, 2012; but inexplicably (intolerably) withheld it from posting until November 6, 2012 (to make sure the media did not get wind of the NEWS).

    Then the judge went further off the deep end and forbade any further attempts of justice by me; with an order that the Clerk is to refuse my filings.

    So it is NY, Wash D.C. or California.

    Wonder which one would get more News attention?

  9. J.H.;

    Absolutely apropos of the virus of cognitive dissonance of our times; and a full demonstration of the lack of common sense incestuous & systemic.

    Thanks for the video link.

  10. laserhass: And anybody with half a brain can read a typical corporate charter and know you are wrong, as well. The Board — a committee — has final authority and delegates that authority as it sees fit. If anybody has ever read enough financial news to see a Board fire a CEO — They know the Board had final authority and the CEO was a subordinate. Lie to us and yourself all you want, it won’t change the reality of the legal documents.

  11. It only takes 1/2 a brain to live the experiences you pretend to understand and less than 1/2 of one to up the ante on how condescending one can be without proper foundation apropos.

    Until you can debate like a gentlemen, our discussion is ended.

  12. laserhaas: Until you can debate like a gentlemen, our discussion is ended.

    Well I can keep up my end of that bargain, so that sounds like a wonderful plan.

    • Excellent Laserhaas …. Next scoop you get about an iop let me know… That’s a hell of a deal…. The 99% should be forced to give back to the disadvantaged 1%….. Harry Hardwanker would be a good name….

  13. For the interested: Stephen Ferris Study on shared leadership.

    Stephen Ferris is a finance professor and Rogers Chair of Money, Credit and Banking at the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business.

    Ferris has studied the efficacy of the co-CEO model and argues that it is a highly effective way of running a business. “Co-CEOs are ideal in many situations, especially when the executives provide oversight of each other’s actions and have complementary skill sets,” he explains. “It’s actually a very successful model.” Ferris researched 111 shared-governance examples.

    In the article, the final example (inappropriately titled “Too Many Cooks”) details an actually very successful company with five co-CEOs, which basically follows the model I suggested: The five co-CEOs head up five departments in the company, with some overlap: New Business Marketing. IT, Finance, HR, and Business Development. So the Department heads are basically the steering committee. The company has grown 600% in less than four years.

    Aspen Insurance has assets of $9.3 billion and 670 employees in eight countries; it is run by co-CEOs.

    Blackberry (originally RIM) was founded and brought to success, nearly $20B in sales, over ten years by co-CEOs Lazaridis and Balsillie.

  14. Apart from sending sales letters, you have the right equipment to produce the
    mail pieces for the marketing package, it is folloeed up with a phone call or with further mailings.

    And when you get the biggest list that you can focus even on a smaller group of individuals who live in certain postal areas and so forth.

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