Spinning Our Wheels

I have been expressing my frustration in comments about the way the federal government seems to be doing little or nothing useful in the way of increasing our homeland security. At the same time, our president is demanding more leeway to ignore the protections guaranteed by the Constitution. I found a very good statement of what is happening from Glenden Brown in his post Problem Solving (again!).

. . . many people seem to believe that doing something is the same as solving problems. The thinking seems to be “If I’m taking action, I must be solving the problem.” Such thinking misleads people into frantic activity when confronted by a challenge, activity that as often as not accomplishes nothing other than keeping them busy.

That is a perfect explanation of how our legislative bodies work. When they identify an issue they rush to do something in an effort to ensure that they are not accused of laziness or neglect. With that kind of mentality it’s no wonder that government would be known for overreacting anytime they chose to do something about an issue.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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23 Responses to Spinning Our Wheels

  1. Jason Black says:

    I’m afraid this quote doesn’t take things far enough to reflect the reality of our Congress. I feel that more often than not, our legislatures’ reactions are worse than ineffective – they cause more problems than they solve, if they solve any at all.

  2. David says:

    I try to be generous in my assessment of our public servants.

    That being said, I have to agree with you that their short-sighted hyperactivity often leads to actions that cause more problems than they solve – which is very easy to do in the abundant cases where the actions solve nothing. If you read Glendon’s full post that I linked to you’ll see that he captures that.

  3. The role of oversight of our legislative branch is ultimately what brought the tyranny of the Nixon administration to an end. Unfortunately, men such as Howard Baker and Bill Cohen, Republicans, seem absent from this drama.

    The authoritarian wing of the Republican party as taken over, and our Republic is in peril because of Republican duplicity, and Democratic pacificy. The only patriots left, are those who have been vilified and marginalized by those in power.

    BTW, I hope things are well with you. My baby recently turned 13 months.

    Best regards.

  4. David says:

    The worst part about true patriots being marginalized is that they get lumped in with others who have been marginalized, like white supremacists for example, who really should be on the margins. Being so grouped it is easy for reasonable people in the mainstream to be persuaded to ignore the marginalized patriots.

    Things are good over here, thanks for asking. I hope you’re still having fun as you get yet another mobile little person to chase around.

  5. Reach Upward says:

    A friend assures me that there is a political party called the Gridlock Party; although, I can’t find any official website. He tells me that the party believes that life is better for citizens when politicians are gridlocked and can accomplish nothing.

  6. David says:

    I’d love to hear more of their platform.

  7. Carl says:

    Obi Wan seems to like using inflammatory words such as “tyranny” when these words may be, umm, a little much and then mischaracterizing the problems in Washington as “Republican” and “Democrat”. If I read his argument right, Republicans are putting the US in danger and Democrats are letting them do it.

    First, I’d like to know exactly how, as a Republican, I’m putting the US in peril.

    Second, Democrats are also duplicitous, cf. “I did not have sex with that woman.”

    Third, I’m pretty sure that if pressed, Obi Wan might be willing to agree that the Republicans were too passive in their response to Katrina.

    It’s always easy to state that one party does these bad things and the other party does these other bad things. I think it’s more accurate to say that the problems in Washington exist regardless of party. But I suppose as it’s more fun to argue than to solve anything, I’m guessing that the blame game will continue until the world ends.

  8. Carl says:

    David, something seems to be wrong with your edit comment feature. I tried to edit my comment and it said that the save failed.

  9. David says:

    I’m not one to try defending someone else, but there seem to be some obvious disconnects between what Obi wan said and how you are reading it.

    You, as an individual Republican may not hold much blame (if any) for putting the US in peril, but the Republican party, as the party in power has done plenty to undermine our nation. Democrats, on the other hand offer a very different flavor of peril. As for Katrina, I don’t think you’d have to press too hard to get Obi wan to agree about that.

    From my own perspective, you should reserve judgment on my Liberali commenter until you have read a variety of his comments. he may be reliably to the left of your position, but he makes thought provoking arguments and he is not a mindless party hack, which is why I like having his comments here.

    On the edit comment feature, you might have hit a computer glitch or something because I have had no problems with it. I’ll keep an eye on it though.

  10. Carl says:

    I need to clarify my position. I’m a heckler, I don’t belong to any particular party. This position means that I don’t have to have the answers, I just get to point out the flaws in other people’s arguments. I’m trying to inject humor into an otherwise political discussion.

  11. David says:

    Fair enough, although I prefer not to play the part of heckler myself.

  12. Carl says:

    The reason I choose to be a heckler is because I don’t see that any amount of discussion will be of any import. The world goes on without you and me and the big questions of the day are not decided by the people.

    As you may recall, I referred to the country as divided in the same way a mirror is divided when it is dropped, there’s no repair possible and so I’m just sad that it’s broken. I think I know what Mormon meant when he said, “and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard…”

    I’ve decided that all I can do is to get as large a slice of the economic pie that I can and cultivate the talents that I need or want. I’ll take care of me and mine but our society as a whole is beyond repair.

    Only Zion can stand indefinitely and Zion can only exist when the people have prepared their hearts. It’s impossible to legislate Zion so all the political discussion that doesn’t revolve around preaching the gospel is ultimately fruitless.

  13. David says:

    “Heckler” is not the same as “idle witness” – also there is a difference between us and Mormon. What Mormon said was “I did even as the Lord had commanded me; and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world . . .” Mormon did not simply choose to stand as an idle witness, he did as the Lord commanded him. We, on the other hand, have been commanded to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause.” If you don’t feel that this is a good cause (or not a good cause for you) that’s fine but I don’t think you can compare it to what Mormon did.

  14. Carl says:

    All of this discussion dovetails perfectly with your post. “If I’m taking action, I must be solving the problem…” We keep blogging and blogging, but we accomplish nothing because we’re not a part of the decision-making machine.
    I know that Mormon was commanded to be an idle witness and a record-keeper, but as to politics, I’d like to know exactly how the millions of virtually anonymous bloggers think they’re making a difference when they’re just a brick in the wall.
    My point is that all the political discussion that goes on is useless and so I get anxiously engaged in taking care of my family which is a cause where I can make a difference. What’s really ironic is that if everybody took my position, we wouldn’t have or need political discussion because a) there would be nobody discussing anything, and b) there would be no political problems to discuss.
    You didn’t reach the question of legislating Zion. With the millions of discordant voices in this country, Zion is an impossibility and therefore, the nation is unsustainable (I can show you an entire line of Constitutional law that supports the view that the nation is based on untenable grounds). How do you propose that that problem be solved?

  15. David says:

    Of course you imply that blogging is the same as taking action – which it isn’t. Blogging is just talking. Talking has a place, but it is not to be confused with action.

    The only difference that my blogging might be making is if something I say helps identify a problem that has not been identified, or a solution that has not been noticed previously, or if I am able to influence anyone positively to take action, to get involved, or to better understand the problems we face so that the action they would have taken anyway are better informed.

    On the question of legislating Zion – I agree that it cannot be done. As you said “Zion can only exist when the people have prepared their hearts.” What you seem to ignore is that it is possible to make improvements even without Zion – our efforts are not an all-or-nothing proposition. If, as you say, the millions of discordant voices is one of the barriers to Zion then my efforts to persuade others to unify their support behind those things that promote liberty is a step towards the preparation for Zion. Compared to your position that there would be no political problems if there were no political discussion, I think that what I am doing – as little as it may be – is much more helpful in preparing for Zion. (Of course that is because what I am doing on my blog is in addition to being anxiously engaged in taking care of my family as you are.)

    Just take a look at any society where there was no political discussion: Germany after Hitler gained power, Cuba for the last 50 years under Castro, China under Chairman Mao, North Korea under Kim Jong-il (to name a few examples of political silence) – I’m confident that I would prefer millions of discordant voices to the silence that surrounds a despot.

  16. Carl says:

    You have drastically mischaracterized my idea for a lack of political discussion. I never even hinted that the silence should be enforced. I suggested that if everybody quit talking and buckled down to their families, nearly all of our problems would be fixed such the need for political discussion would be obviated.

    Elder Maxwell said, “By the way, do not expect the world’s solutions to the world’s problems to be very effective. Such solutions often resemble what C. S. Lewis wrote about those who go dashing back and forth with fire extinguishers in times of flood (see The Screwtape Letters [1959], 117–18). Only the gospel is constantly relevant, and the substitute things won’t work.” April 2004 General Conference. This is why I don’t feel that blogging accomplishes anything. Going to church accomplishes more than blogging.

    In the same style your last paragraph, terrorists use blogs too.

  17. David says:

    No matter how little blogging accomplishes, going to church and blogging accomplishes more than just going to church. The problem with your argument is that you are isolating blogging as if it is not connected to the rest of life and then suggesting that other things are more effective. That would be a valid argument if blogging were replacing any of those things rather than augmenting all the things that you are favoring.

    If blogs really accomplish nothing then your point that terrorists use blogs is pointless.

    If blogging really were useless then why has Elder Ballard specifically encouraged members (twice) to participate in blogging to raise the profile of the church (unless you would argue that blogging is useful in religion but not politics).

    I certainly don’t expect the world’s solutions to be effective on the world’s problems, but just like there are good, better and best things to do with our time, there are also poor, worse, and worst solutions being proposed in response to the world’s problems. Do you think we should just bury our heads in the sand and hope they only choose the poor solutions?

  18. Carl Miller says:

    You got my message that political blogging is almost pointless, especially on a national scale. As I said before, nobody in politics is listening to us. I think we should try and influence the areas we can influence. I haven’t been following Utah Valley issues so I haven’t really understand your posts on those topics, but I think it’s commendable that you’re coming up with something that COULD affect your locality.

    What’s the quote, something like “Give me strength to change what I can, the humility to accept the things I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    I agree with Elder Ballard that we should blog about the Church to raise the Church’s profile. I have really enjoyed your posts about your family, and I especially enjoyed your comment about having to adjust your diet to accommodate food storage.

  19. David says:

    You got the quote about right.

    Your assertion that “nobody in politics is listening to us” really depends on who you label as “in politics.” Anybody who votes is in politics and if blogging can help more of them be aware of the difference between simple action and actual solutions then that can affect how they vote and who gets into office.

    On the idea that it is especially useless on the national scale – you have to understand that ideas in national politics start at the local level and they have to trickle up. Anyone who expects blogging (or anything else) to have a national impact in a short period of time is fooling themselves. I understand that things take time. Even on my posts on national issues my goal is to influence local opinion and local voting so that the message moves slowly up the system. (I also do more than post on my blog to accomplish those goals.)

  20. Carl Miller says:

    I agree with everything you just said. I’m glad you do more than simply write to influence politics.

    I guess I don’t like to wait for my ideas to “trickle up”. Maybe that’s the impatient man’s prayer, “Grant me patience (influence) …NOW!” I’ve actually tried writing to my senator, but for all the response I’ve gotten, it might as well have been a letter addressed to Santa. I don’t think he was worried about losing my vote.

    So here’s an honest question, do you really think Utah will ever influence national politics? Seems to me that it gets written off as “Mormon” just like Mitt.

  21. Carl Miller says:

    Sorry, that question should be taken without regard to population.

  22. David says:

    I’m not sure that “Utah” will ever have significant influence, but it’s possible that delegates and leaders from Utah could make their influence felt in the national parties so that ideas from Utah help to shape the national conversation.

    By the way, I’ve written to my representative enough times now and asked specific enough questions that I actually got a response that was not a form letter about a week ago. (It took over a month to get the response but it was obviously a direct response to my letter.)

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