You can pick any aspect of the "U.S." socio-economic system. The economy, the mass information media, the entertainment industry, the military, religious institutions, the cultural obsession with electronic gadgets, and, most glaringly, the political system.
Any of these aspects of our system could be looked at as farcical. The one most obvious in the news these days, though, is the national security apparatus, particularly as evidenced by the revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA). It seems every week a new outrage is being made known. The scope of the NSA's spying is seemingly boundless - collecting data on ALL domestic phone conversations, listening in on foreign leaders' conversations, spending tons of money for highly questionable results, and for lying about it all.
The most recent silliness was the thinly disguised propaganda effort that was broadcast on CBS's 60 Minutes Sunday night. A "reporter" with ties to the national security apparatus narrated a segment that made the case for the NSA, describing its work as benign, limited, and dedicated to getting the "bad guys."
The staging was most obvious when the "reporter," John Miller, interviewed the director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander. The interview itself was pretty pro-forma, softball questions, bureaucratic answers. The farcical part was that the general felt the need to wear his dress blues to the interview. Dress blues are the most formal versions of military uniforms, normally worn for special occasions like state dinners, academy graduations, various formal receptions, funerals of high-status military and political figures, etc. NOT 60 Minutes.
General Ray Odierno appeared on the Charlie Rose TV show, and he also wore dress blues. He talked about getting the "bad guys" too. He was reminiscing about the invasion and occupation of "Iraq," the source, along with the invasion and occupation of "Afghanistan," of his chest full of medals. Nine rows of them in the picture above.
Odierno spoke glowingly of the capture of Saddam Hussain, and how the war against "Iraq" was against the "bad guys." Some time early in these recent wars the term "bad guys" became easy shorthand for anyone deemed worthy of killing. If we killed people, they were bad guys. That's as deep as it gets. Two "American" generals appear on nationwide television in their dress blue fancy uniforms to talk about getting the bad guys. Pardon me if I'm not impressed.
I did a study back in 2008, comparing the current crop of generals with greats from World War II. The difference is stark and disturbing. One thing that stands out immediately is that the generals who won World War II didn't feel the need to exalt themselves with medals running to the tops of their coats. Dwight Eisenhower appears wearing just three ribbons. He of course also looked the part, someone you could imagine commanding international forces in a major invasion like D-Day. There are no pictures of him wearing dress blues. He never mentioned getting the bad guys.
How far we have fallen. We have a president who claims to be the most open and transparent, but who has had more whistleblowers prosecuted than all previous presidents combined. He authorizes the drone attacks on innocent civilians routinely. He defends his out of control spying as necessary for national security (read: getting the bad guys).
Most ridiculous of the president is that he is now saying that income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. I predict that in the three years he has left in office that he will propose NOTHING to deal with this very serious problem.
And, of course, if income inequality is the defining challenge of our time, where does global climate change rank? I don't know, but don't be surprised if you see the president wearing a set of dress blues.
Here's a song about dress blues.
Here's a New York Times editorial on Obama's inequality speech.
Sad for the president and his national security minions, a Federal judge has ruled the NSA domestic spying program "significantly likely to be unconstitutional," a new designation.He also said the spying program is "almost Orwellian."
Here's a good definition of Orwellian.
In one of the great surprises known to modern man, General Alexander was found to have knowingly lied to Congress about how effective NSA spying has been. Here's a better rendition of the story. A lied-to congressman has this analysis.
Our president would prefer you didn't know about this. It is a perfect example of why we need open government.
Here's an interesting study of the practice of awarding fake medals in the military.
The Beatles had some fancy uniforms. They were more convincing. Sometimes an entire town can get all decked-out.