The Way Things Work

Two excellent articles from the New Yorker provide informative glimpses into the tipped scale of our political system.

In “The Empty Chamber,” author George Packer explains how the U.S. Senate has become constitutionally incapable of taking necessary action. Obstruction has become the new status quo, with the body’s storied history of deliberation used to rationalize paralysis.

(James Fallows reached a similar conclusion in his largely optimistic “How America Can Rise Again” in The Atlantic:” That is the American tragedy of the early 21st century: a vital and self-renewing culture that attracts the world’s talent, and a governing system that increasingly looks like a joke.”)

The other bit of essential reading is “Covert Operations,” which has Jane Mayer lay out the network of think tanks and advocacy groups organized by billionaire Koch brothers to advance their conservation agenda. Tea Parties, the Cato Institute, non-profit organizations designed to boost or exempt their for-profit activities–they’re all under the Koch umbrella. It’s a thorough, and distressing, portrait of influence.