Next thing you know, pay phones will be back. From the antiquated presses of the New York Times we learn that:
After years of seemingly unstoppable growth, e-book sales have started to slip, while paper has improbably bounced back. Digital book sales fell nearly 10 percent in 2015 from the previous year. Paperback sales grew by a healthy 16 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers, which tracks sales from more than 1,200 publishers.
Those who came of age with digital technology seem, surprisingly, to prefer paper to pixels. Young readers are less drawn to e-books. Only 13 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds primarily read e-books these days, compared with nearly 30 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds, according to a recent survey of 4,992 book buyers conducted by the Codex Group, a publishing consultancy.
This is from Linh Dinh’s Postcards from the End of [the] America[n Empire]. His is the most provocative, original, intelligent and informed voice that I have so far come across on the internet. Take a look.
To begin to see what ails us, let’s start at the top. Tom Paine equated kings with wars, and although we have no king as such, our executive office has usurped the power to unleash war to itself, irrespective of Congress or popular opinions, so that each President has become a de facto king as long as he occupies the White House. With no check or balance, he can have anyone killed, imprisoned or tortured, and even destroy an entire nation. Or take our current President’s nonchalance towards his kill list, as in “I’m a very good killer” and joking about drone strikes, and compare it to the agony Washington went through as he contemplated executing a Brit soldier, Charles Asgill, in retaliation against an American prisoner of war who had been hanged by the English. Asking Congress to decide Asgill’s fate, Washington wrote that “It is a great national concern, upon which an individual ought not to decide.” Echoing Washington’s anguish, Paine called this possible revenge murder “a sentence so extraordinary, an execution so repugnant to every human sensation.” In the end, Asgill was spared. Released, Asgill charged that he had been treated barbarically during his captivity, but this is only an indictment against his local jailers, not anyone higher up. An Abu Ghraib it was not. Think also of how American diplomacy and civility has declined since, for Washington’s behavior is a far cry from Hilary Clinton’s chirpy “We came, we saw, he died!” when speaking about Muammar Gaddafi, a foreign leader who had been sodomized with a knife, killed then displayed in a supermarket freezer by the American-supported thugs. And no, such breezy barbarity is not at all common, since no one but the US routinely violates foreign countries, persons or corpses.
…Well, not so new actually. Nearly as old as me, actually. Consider our “Defense” Department, enthusiastically funded by the taxpayers of a country last invaded in 1812. Since World War II we have become death merchants to the world, nor is there any sign of this ever changing. Not one major presidential candidate or political party since V-J Day has ever dared to propose that we exchange guns for butter — or for bridges, or schools, or highways, or health or…
And so the beat goes on:
The United States is rescinding a decades-old ban on sales of lethal military equipment to Vietnam, President Obama announced at a news conference in Hanoi on Monday, ending what the New York Times called “one of the last legal vestiges of the Vietnam War.”
“The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations,” Obama said. “It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving toward normalization with Vietnam.”
So, to sum up: the sale of weapons is a sign of normalization. Appropriate, in that that is what is normal in America’s foreign relations in the 21st century. Not whether a nation is an ally or adversary per se, but whether they are a customer for our defense industry. For example, Saudi Arabia. Sure, they fund Sunni terrorism globally and played a role in the horrible events of 9/11, but they are also one of America’s most prolific buyers of weapons, and so are courted.
…because you never bothered to read Economic and Cultural Correlates of Road-traffic Accident Fatality Rates. Nor will you now, but at least you can skim the abstract from which this comes:
Countries with higher road-traffic accident fatality rates were characterized by higher power distance and uncertainty avoidance as well as embeddedness and emphasis on social hierarchy. Countries with lower road-traffic accident fatality rates were more individualistic, egalitarian, and emphasized autonomy of individuals. Conscientiousness (from NEO-PI-R) and IQ correlated negatively with road-traffic accident fatalities.
This is from Thinking Highways (whose site seems to be hacked) via Naked Capitalism. Once again, the invisible hand of the market turns out to be in your pocket.
Beginning with the contracting stage, the evidence suggests toll operating public private partnerships are transportation shell companies for international financiers and contractors who blueprint future bankruptcies. Because Uncle Sam generally guarantees the bonds – by far the largest chunk of “private” money – if and when the private toll road or tunnel partner goes bankrupt, taxpayers are forced to pay off the bonds while absorbing all loans the state and federal governments gave the private shell company and any accumulated depreciation. Yet the shell company’s parent firms get to keep years of actual toll income, on top of millions in design-build cost overruns….
Of course, no executive comes forward and says, “We’re planning to go bankrupt,” but an analysis of the data is shocking. There do not appear to be any American private toll firms still in operation under the same management 15 years after construction closed. The original toll firms seem consistently to have gone bankrupt or “zeroed their assets” and walked away, leaving taxpayers a highway now needing repair and having to pay off the bonds and absorb the loans and the depreciation.
The list of bankrupt firms is staggering, from Virginia’s Pocahontas Parkway to Presidio Parkway in San Francisco to Canada’s “Sea to Sky Highway” to Orange County’s Riverside Freeway to Detroit’s Windsor Tunnel to Brisbane, Australia’s Airport Link to South Carolina’s Connector 2000 to San Diego’s South Bay Expressway to Austin’s Cintra SH 130 to a couple dozen other toll facilities.
We cannot find any American private toll companies, furthermore, meeting their pre-construction traffic projections. Even those shell companies not in bankruptcy court usually produce half the income they projected to bondholders and federal and state officials prior to construction.
We are in the end times for sure, as we learn from the New York Times:
Years ago, the only ones getting perfectly prettified were brides. But now, grooms are going for a brotox boost. They are making appointments with dermatologists and plastic surgeons to reduce fat, restore volume to their face, lose inches in their waist, remove wrinkles and hair, and erase those 11s — no one wants to look angry in their photos.
It’s true that Donald Trump is the most disliked presidential candidate in public polling history. And you probably already know who the second-most disliked candidate; she’s very likely to be the Democratic nominee.
It’s funny, and telling with respect to the party, that her campaign was arguing early on that she’s the most electable person in the Democratic primaries, but long ago dropped that line. They have, after all, seen the data.
…today’s horror show was precisely foreseen. Frightening stuff from Sally J. Goerner at Evonomics.com. Dr. Goerner holds out some hope if you follow the link to her whole article, as you should.
…But the pundits are all missing the point: the Trump-Sanders phenomenon signals an American oligarchy on the brink of a civilization-threatening collapse.
The tragedy is that, despite what you hear on TV or read in the paper or online, this collapse was completely predictable. Scientifically speaking, oligarchies always collapse because they are designed to extract wealth from the lower levels of society, concentrate it at the top, and block adaptation by concentrating oligarchic power as well. Though it may take some time, extraction eventually eviscerates the productive levels of society, and the system becomes increasingly brittle. Internal pressures and the sense of betrayal grow as desperation and despair multiply everywhere except at the top, but effective reform seems impossible because the system seems thoroughly rigged. In the final stages, a raft of upstart leaders emerge, some honest and some fascistic, all seeking to channel pent-up frustration towards their chosen ends. If we are lucky, the public will mobilize behind honest leaders and effective reforms. If we are unlucky, either the establishment will continue to “respond ineffectively” until our economy collapses, or a fascist will take over and create conditions too horrific to contemplate…
Rigged systems erode the health of the larger society, and signs of crisis proliferate. Developed by British archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew in 1979, the following “Signs of Failing Times” have played out across time in 26 distinct societies ranging from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the collapse of the Soviet Union:
1. Elite power and well-being increase and is manifested in displays of wealth;
2. Elites become heavily focused on maintaining a monopoly on power inside the society; Laws become more advantageous to elites, and penalties for the larger public become more Draconian;
3. The middle class evaporates;
4. The “misery index” mushrooms, witnessed by increasing rates of homicide, suicide, illness, homelessness, and drug/alcohol abuse;
5. Ecological disasters increase as short-term focus pushes ravenous exploitation of resources;
6. There’s a resurgence of conservatism and fundamentalist religion as once golden theories are brought back to counter decay, but these are usually in a corrupted form that accelerates decline.
The crisis reaches a breaking point, and seemingly small events trigger popular frustration into a transformative change. If the society enacts effective reforms, it enters a new stage of development. If it fails to enact reforms, crisis leads to regression and possibly collapse.
Ed at Gin and Tacos, explaining the inexplicable:
The final group is where things get ugly. Converse labeled them NIC: No Issue Content. These people have a party they identify with but cannot explain what it stands for. They have opinion, but opinions with “no shred of policy significance whatever.” They like individual candidates based on their personal attributes and they have no substantive understanding of any policy issue, so the ideas they appear to support can appear quite random and perplexing to the observer in aggregate.
Re-read that last sentence. Does that sound familiar?
The most incredible thing about the Trump campaign from an academic / political science perspective is that we have the rare opportunity to observe a major party campaign with no ideological content whatsoever. There is no coherence to anything about Trump, policy-wise, and this reflects his supporters’ similar lack of meaningful ideology. On what rare occasions that he does put forth an actual idea it 1) makes no sense and 2) bears no identifiable relationship to any other idea he mentioned before or since. It is the definition of random. His appeal, in the eyes of his supporters, is that he is Tough or Bold or some personal characteristic that one could only get from watching and listening to Trump if one does not understand what anything in the realm of ideas in American politics actually means. Moreover, one must explicitly not care what any of it means.
…she made the fingers too long.
On account of it’s the party of the young, which I am at heart. Just take a look at our platform:
We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs — expansion of social security —broadened coverage in unemployment insurance — improved housing — and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people…
Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle income families … Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes…
“Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country — they are America”… The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is our firm and permanent policy … We will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex…
We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system…
We favor self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia…
We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women…
The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups …
As the Party of the Young and in glowing appreciation of his dynamic leadership and inspiration, we respectfully dedicate this Platform of the Party of the Future to our distinguished President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and to the Youth of America.
This from Professor Wolff at The Philosopher’s Stone:
The time has come to ask, What is to be done? I am going to argue that each of us must do whatever possible to ensure that Hillary Clinton wins the election, and also whatever possible to transform Bernie’s campaign into a genuine movement.Don’t talk to me either. I’m even older than the professor. Instead, go to the full posting from which this excerpt comes. It says everything I would have written on the subject, only better. I too voted for Bernie on Tuesday, and I too gave money to his campaign. Only a whole lot less. I’m not a rich professor.
I ask a favor of each of you: spare me the impassioned and accusatory list of reasons why Clinton is horrible. I know them all, and agree with them all. What is more, I am older than almost everyone who reads this blog, in many cases fifty or sixty years older. If Clinton is elected, and if her Wall Street soulmates will refrain from again crashing the American economy, she is likely to be re-elected, which means that I will be ninety-one when she leaves office. Don’t talk to me about despair!
Two of the excerpts below are fakes from the Thomas Friedman Op/Ed Generator and one is an authentic Friedman. Can you identify which is which? The winner gets a cheap black turtleneck sweater from a Bangladeshi sweatshop. Second prize is a vial of mustache clippings. Here we go:
Yesterday’s news from Cambodia is earth-flattening, and it raises questions about whether there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. What’s important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the citizens themselves. The media seems too caught up in spinning the facts to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the myths for the lie.Here’s number two:
Imagine if industrial giants sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our transportation crisis.And here’s number three:
You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa.Which one is the real deal?
Son Ted didn’t attend Trump’s Hartford rally, but here’s his takeaway from son Mike’s takeaway from the event in the previous post :
The problem is, fine, Bernie is flawed; but compared to what?
Hillary is extremely similar to two well-known historical presidential candidates: Hoover and Bush Sr. The similarities are eerie. All three have résumés that made Beltway insiders and no-mind pundits assume, and tout, that the candidate was among the best-qualified and best-prepared candidates in the country’s history. All three have some degree of personal magnetism that has enabled them each to generate incredibly devoted and quite large coteries of personal friends who are nearly maniacal about helping the candidate get to the White House. All of these core groups of friends are also defensive and thin-skinned to the point of paranoia.
And very relatedly, the candidates are all similar in terms of decades within the bubble in terms of personal finance. They all also have a distasteful fascination with personal wealth, though Hillary’s graspingness is orders of magnitude more unattractive. They also all three suffer from a truly surprising level of utter failure to appreciate the challenges and opportunities of the moment the country is in as they approach the White House.
Hillary will for instance do everything she can to get a Geithner or a Summers in as Treasury secretary, and will also launch whatever land war she has the first opportunity to. Both her domestic and foreign policy inclinations will result in historic disasters, and my fear is that based on Hillary’s personal lack of skill, the Democratic party will be tarred with failures at home and abroad that are really creations of the pivotal George W. Bush Administration.
Like Hoover and George Herbert Walker Bush, Hillary has “one-termer” written all over her.…Read on
While you were in church yesterday my son Mike was feeling the Bern. Here are his takeaways:
Bernie came to town yesterday, a day after Hillary worked a few events. I dropped off Georgia and a few of her friends and watched from a distance. It was fascinating.
— It was a pretty white crowd, particularly for New Haven. Not nearly as diverse as the normal free events we have at the Green. But totally filled the Green, so certainly over 8,000 folks.
— He’s a cult figure to many of his fans — even though he’s basically lost the race, the folks around me were saying things like “we are in a revolution, and Bernie will save us...” It will be crushing to these folks when they realize that their revolution can’t even win the Dem. primary.
— He is a pretty poor speaker. No change in tone, the same hand gestures over and over, doesn’t respond to the crowd vibe at all.
— But clearly his anger and grumpiness are really doing it for his supporters. He’s really benefited from a double standard here, I think. I tried to imagine if Hillary employed the same angry grandpa style — didn’t pay particular attention to how she looked, etc. — and realized that she’d most likely be pilloried/ridiculed for it. But the audience clearly loved it.
— His message in some ways is the flip side of Trump’s. No hope agenda. Asking nothing of the audience. Just hammering on all the problems and saying that the entire government, GOP and Dem alike, have completely failed. And the answer is to let him handle it and the rich and corporations will pay for it. No mention of anyone working together to solve problems. Most of all, he came across as someone who is absolutely convinced that he’s right, and doesn’t have time for anyone who disagrees with him.
— And while he didn’t say it directly, he had very little good to say about Obama. No mention that anything positive happened over the last 8 years. The clear implication was that Obama’s vision is not much better than the Republicans'.
— Harshly attacked income disparity in New Haven, and no mention of Mayor Harp, our popular black woman progressive mayor or the fact that New Haven itself is actually a very union friendly town (maybe sometimes too union friendly). Of course, Harp is supporting Clinton.
Obviously a red meat event for the faithful, but I found myself wondering what comes next for him. This didn’t seem like a guy who’d be at all interested in helping the larger Democratic effort if/when he loses. And his rigidity and the fact that he’s proud that he’s never changed his core beliefs for his entire life is what the audience found very appealing, so I’m not sure whether he will be able to figure out a way to encourage at least some of his supporters to support Hillary, or even wants to try.
If I were a Clinton person trying to figure out what to do with Bernie at the convention, I’d be very worried. I certainly wouldn’t want him to deliver his stump speech as is in a prominent spot. Before I was feeling like Sanders had performed a really important function by forcing Hillary to be a better candidate. I still think this is true, but now I’m pretty worried that he might undo some of this positive effect and end up hurting Dem prospects in the general.
From Fox News:
“It’s my first time ever recovering a monkey from a prostitute,” Detective Rick Lowe told FOX12.
Going through old files just now, I came across one called “Jokes.” Why did I keep them? Did I think they might come in handy some day? When, though? Oh, what the hell, why not? Here’s a couple:
Eva Peron mocked by hecklers at some public event, they calling out, “Prostitute, prostitute.” An elderly man on the platform comforts her: “Don’t let them bother you, my dear. I retired from the army seventeen years ago, and people still call me general.”
Mickey Spillane, at Mystery Writers of America Edgar banquet, April of 1995, being honored as a grand master, says after he wrote, I, the Jury, people kept coming up to him and saying, “How could Mike Hammer possibly have shot that beautiful naked blonde in the navel with a forty-five?” “Simple,” I’d say. “He missed.”
From The Onion:
In the case of the Baltimore shooting, however, the bureau took the unusual step of deeming part of that case a “bad shoot” in agents’ parlance. But the group did not fault the two agents who killed Mr. Harrison. Instead, it chastised only the agent who shot the tire, recommending that the agent be suspended for a day without pay, according to documents obtained by The Times in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.Only it isn’t, sadly, from The Onion at all. It’s from The New York Times.
The review group’s reasoning was that the bureau’s policy on using lethal force forbids firing a gun to disable a vehicle, and it concluded that this had been the agent’s motive in shooting the tire. But the same policy permits firing a gun to protect people from danger, and the panel decided that the two agents who shot Mr. Harrison were trying to keep him from driving into bystanders.
From The Associated Press:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Prosecutors at Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s upcoming criminal trial cannot show jurors a segment of a pipeline that exploded in a San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood or discuss how many people were killed and homes were destroyed, a federal judge ruled…I was about to snark something along the lines of “Would it surprise you to learn that Judge Henderson is a George W. Bush appointee” when I figured I’d better check. Might have been Ronzo who saddled us with this winner.
Viewing the pipe could create an emotional response in jurors, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson said Monday…Henderson also barred prosecutors from saying how many people died [ed. note: 8] and how many homes were destroyed [ed. note: 38] in the 2010 San Bruno blast as well introducing images of the explosion site. He said that information could unfairly prejudice jurors.
Turned out it was my old boss, Jimmy Carter. Oh, well…
“For some reason, many think of me as lucky. When I walk down the street, people come up and start touching me. At first, I wanted to hide. I’ve gotten used to it over time. Recently, while I walked down Fifth Avenue with a group of visiting international bankers, at least 10 people came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, ‘Thank you.’ The bankers had these looks of dismay on their faces as strangers rubbed my overcoat like a rabbit’s foot.”
Using an air dryer might feel more sanitary than paper towels, because you don’t have to actually touch anything. But apparently that couldn’t be further from the truth…
A recent study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology has compared how viruses disperse from the hands of users of three different drying methods — paper towels, standard “warm air” dryers, and so-called “jet dryers” like the Dyson model.
The lower-power warm air dryers spread contaminants further than paper towels, but the jet dryers were by far the worst culprits. They spread up to 190 times more of a noninfectious test virus used in the study than the other methods. The material was dispersed up to three meters away — nearly 10 feet—and a closer look at the study by Ars Technica found that about 70% of the dispersed material was at the height of a small child’s face.
And according to the CDC, effective handwashing takes about 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Anything short of that — say, just a quick rinse — will leave things like norovirus and influenza virus on your hands. And viruses are hardy little things — the new study found virus in the air even 15 minutes after someone used a jet dryer, at levels 100 times higher than after a paper towel was used.
So what does Donald Trump think of you? Take the Trump quiz and see, and be sure to scroll down to see what fate awaits you under a Trump presidency. I’m a white heterosexual male, born in the United States, and I only scored a measly 649, which in Trumpspeak makes me a “very bad person, sad!” On the other hand, I would get a free subscription to Trump Magazine and stand an 80% change of becoming ambassador to Mexico, which consists of demanding money to build the wall, so I’ve got that going for me.
(Hat tip P.M. Carpenter)
…I won’t. From the New York Times:
This week, Mr. Trump has sought to soften his image — or, in his words, “I will be so presidential you won’t believe it.”
Not sure I’m totally convinced, but I pass this along in the interest of keeping an open mind. Did Hillary do the right thing in Libya no matter what critics like me have argued? Take a look at this from Vox.com.
Of course, Libya, as anyone can see, is a mess, and Americans are reasonably asking if the intervention was a mistake. But just because it’s reasonable doesn’t make it right.
Most criticisms of the intervention, even with the benefit of hindsight, fall short. It is certainly true that the intervention didn’t produce something resembling a stable democracy. This, however, was never the goal. The goal was to protect civilians and prevent a massacre.
Critics erroneously compare Libya today to any number of false ideals, but this is not the correct way to evaluate the success or failure of the intervention. To do that, we should compare Libya today to what Libya would have looked like if we hadn’t intervened. By that standard, the Libya intervention was successful: The country is better off today than it would have been had the international community allowed dictator Muammar Qaddafi to continue his rampage across the country.
Critics further assert that the intervention caused, created, or somehow led to civil war. In fact, the civil war had already started before the intervention began. As for today’s chaos, violence, and general instability, these are more plausibly tied not to the original intervention but to the international community’s failures after intervention.
From The Unz Review:
There’s Bombay Pizza, “Home Of The Curry Pizza,” but that’s no place to chill. In such a bedroom “community,” you’re lost if you’re not plugged in to school or work. There is nothing and no one to resocialize you, so for a young man, this means that Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft and YouJizz will be your best companions. Since Jay already had a nervous breakdown, his dad doesn’t want to push him. “What should I do? What will he do when I die?”Do read the whole essay from which this comes. It goes a good ways toward explaining, among other things, Bernie Sanders’ appeal. I hadn’t heard of its author, Linh Dinh, or read anything by him. I intend to change that.
A third of Americans under 35 now live with their parents, and half of them spend half of their incomes servicing debts. You’re not likely to get married if you’re living with mom and dad, that’s for sure, but soon enough, we will see three generations under one roof again, out of economic necessity. We will also see more couples with their kids all in one room. Poor people worldwide already live this way, and we are poor…
Fifty-five years ago today the sainted John F. Kennedy almost blew up the world. It was on this day in 1961, that he launched his unconstitutional, unnecessary, stupid, incompetent, and insane invasion of Cuba.
I wasn’t totally surprised by this top-secret CIA invasion, and Castro might have had an inkling too. This is from I.F. Stone’s Weekly of January 16, 1961:
Near Guatemala’s Pacific Coast, 35 miles from the Mexican border, lies a new solidly paved, closely guarded airstrip … Could it be the base for a cooperative U.S.-Guatemalan-Cuban exile airborne military operation against Fidel Castro? Los Angeles Mirror Aviation Editor Don Dwiggins heard about the strip and broke a story reporting it had been built with U.S. funds in a mysterious ‘crash’ program .… On the subject of U.S. participation, no official in Washington had a word to say.”
—Time Magazine, Jan. 6.
“Each week a plane leaves Miami International Airport with 50 to 60 young Cubans bound from local staging areas for one of three secret training camps … As a part of the same operation, veteran fighter pilots, recruited from among defectors from Castro’s own air force and from Latin American countries, are training at what was once a dilapidated airstrip in Guatemala.”
—New York Daily News, Jan. 9.
U.S. Helps to Train Anti-Castro Forces
At Secret Guatemalan Air-Ground Base
President Kennedy’s finest hour is generally considered to be his role in subsequently cleaning up his own bloody mess, the Cuban missile crisis. Fortunately for mankind, Premier Khrushchev chose to withdraw his missiles to avoid nuclear war. The choice cost him his job, but saved the world.
It has taken our nation more than half a century to end — or at least begin to end — the folly of the Cuban policy that Kennedy left us. At that rate it we won’t be able to shake ourselves loose of Bush’s unconstitutional, unnecessary, stupid, incompetent, and insane invasion of Iraq until 2051.
From The Guardian:
Maureen Dowd referred to Trump’s suggestion this week that women who have abortions should be punished – a comment he swiftly retracted – when she wrote: “Given his draconian comment, sending women back to back alleys, I had to ask: When he was a swinging bachelor in Manhattan, was he ever involved with anyone who had an abortion?
‘Such an interesting question,’ he said. ‘So what’s your next question?’
Bertrand Russell on cowardice, from Unpopular Essays, published in 1950:
Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity towards those who are not regarded as members of the herd. So it was in the French Revolution, when dread of foreign armies produced the reign of terror. The Soviet government would have been less fierce if it had met with less hostility in its first years. Fear generates impulses of cruelty, and therefore promotes such superstitious beliefs as seem to justify cruelty. Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear. And for this reason poltroons are more prone to cruelty than brave men, and are also more prone to superstition. When I say this, I am thinking of men who are brave in all respects, not only in facing death. Many a man will have the courage to die gallantly, but will not have the courage to say, or even to think, that the cause for which he is asked to die is an unworthy one. Obloquy is, to most men, more painful than death; that is one reason why, in times of collective excitement, so few men venture to dissent from the prevailing opinion…
But it is to be feared that the dreadful alchemy of the atomic bomb will destroy all forms of life equally, and that the Earth will remain forever a dead clod senselessly twirling around a futile sun. I do not know the immediate precipitating cause of this interesting occurrence. Perhaps it will be a dispute about Persian oil, perhaps a disagreement as to Chinese trade, perhaps a quarrel between Jews and Mohommedans for the control of Palestine. Any patriotic person can see that these issues are of such importance as to make the extermination of mankind preferable to cowardly conciliation.
Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?
The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died. It has been replaced by an administration plan to build a new generation of U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities to last the nation well into the second half of the twenty-first century. This plan, which has received almost no attention by the mass media, includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs, and production plants. The estimated cost? $1,000,000,000,000.00—or, for those readers unfamiliar with such lofty figures, $1 trillion.
Critics charge that the expenditure of this staggering sum will either bankrupt the country or, at the least, require massive cutbacks in funding for other federal government programs. “We’re . . . wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” admitted Brian McKeon, an undersecretary of defense. And we’re “probably thanking our stars we won’t be here to have to have to answer the question,” he added with a chuckle.
This nuclear “modernization” plan violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament. The plan is also moving forward despite the fact that the U.S. government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world. Although climate change might end up accomplishing much the same thing, a nuclear war does have the advantage of terminating life on earth more rapidly.