…by this from Public Citizen? Because I am deeply versed in economics? Hardly. I never took so much as an introductory course in economics.
No, I was suspicious of NAFTA when Clinton first trotted it out twenty years ago not because I had a deep understanding of the free trade issue but because I was old enough by then, although only sixty, to have already learned the difference between shit and chocolate ice cream.
Cut out those pesky tariffs, Clinton told us, so we can move those unionized auto assembly jobs from Michigan to Mexico and everybody benefits. Mexican wages are bound to go up and if American workers wind up taking a little hit on wages their cars will become cheaper.
See? Easy. In our pursuit of the greatest good for the greatest number there is no need, for instance, to include in NAFTA a requirement to lower American tariffs in lockstep with the predictable increase in Mexican assembly line wages. The invisible hand of the market will take care of that. It wouldn’t (and didn’t), of course, the invisible hand being invisible due to its nonexistence.
Absent any such requirements, it was plain that Clinton wasn’t selling us chocolate ice cream. And sure enough:
On the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s 20th anniversary, a new Public Citizen report shows that not only did promises made by proponents not materialize, but many results are exact ly the opposite. Such outcomes include a staggering $181 billion U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada, one million net U.S. jobs lost because of NAFTA, a doubling of immigration from Mexico, larger agricultural trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and more than $360 million paid to corporations after “investor-state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies.
The study tracks the promises made by U.S. corporations like Chrysler and Caterpillar to create specific numbers of American jobs if NAFTA was approved, and reveals government data showing that instead, they fired U.S. workers and moved operations to Mexico. The data also show how post-NAFTA trade and investment trends have contributed to middle-class pay cuts, which in turn contributed to growing income inequality; how since NAFTA, U.S. trade deficit growth with Mexico and Canada has been 45 percent higher than with countries not party to a U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and how U.S. manufacturing and services exports to Canada and Mexico have grown at less than half the pre-NAFTA rate.
“NAFTA’s actual outcomes prove how damaging this type of agreement is for most people, that it should be renegotiated and why we cannot have any more such deals that include job-offshoring incentives, requirements we import food that doesn’t meet our safety standards or new rights for firms to get taxpayer compensation before foreign tribunals over laws they don’t like,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Given NAFTA’s record of damage, it is equal parts disgusting and infuriating that now President Barack Obama has joined the corporate Pinocchios who lied about NAFTA in recycling similar claims to try to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is NAFTA-on-steroids…”
Let Carl Strock tell you what it’s all about:
I am all in favor of fairness, but I do think it’s a dangerous business to tout reason on so public a stage as a license plate, which can be seen by innocent children whose minds are not yet fully developed…
Here’s the Attorney General, in theory the boss of an FBI which has never once found any of its own agents guilty in the deaths of the hundreds of people they have shot to death over the years, vowing to get to the bottom of the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:
In Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday that the episode “deserves a fulsome review.” He added, “Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Here’s the dictionary definition of fulsome:
Complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree: they are almost embarrassingly fulsome in their appreciation.
The number of violent crimes in the country is down substantially, the lowest rate in 40 years, while the number of Americans being jailed for nonviolent crimes, such as driving with a suspended license, are skyrocketing…
As with most things, if you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. When you dig down far enough, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, you quickly find that those who profit from Americans being arrested are none other than the police who arrest them, the courts which try them, the prisons which incarcerate them, and the corporations, which manufacture the weapons and equipment used by police, build and run the prisons, and profit from the cheap prison labor…
Second, there’s the profit-incentive for states to lock up large numbers of Americans in private prisons. Just as police departments have quotas for how many tickets are issued and arrests made per month — a number tied directly to revenue — states now have quotas to meet for how many Americans go to jail. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by corporations such as Corrections Corp of America and the GEO Group, ostensibly as a way to save money, increasing numbers of states have contracted to keep their prisons at 90% to 100% capacity. This profit-driven form of mass punishment has, in turn, given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep the money flowing and their privately run prisons full. No wonder the United States has the largest prison population in the world…
What some Americans may not have realized, however, is that America’s economy has come to depend in large part on prison labor. “Prison labor reportedly produces 100 percent of military helmets, shirts, pants, tents, bags, canteens, and a variety of other equipment. Prison labor makes circuit boards for IBM, Texas Instruments, and Dell. Many McDonald's uniforms are sewn by inmates. Other corporations — Microsoft, Victoria's Secret, Boeing, Motorola, Compaq, Revlon, and Kmart — also benefit from prison labor.” The resulting prison labor industries, which rely on cheap, almost free labor, are doing as much to put the average American out of work as the outsourcing of jobs to China and India.
Peter sends this further evidence of our civilization’s collapse:
Unlike most other grass paint, we refuse to use inferior man-made and non-earth friendly pigments that result in a transparent blue/green color which makes grass appear un-natural. LawnLift™ uses only “All Natural” true color pigments that have garnered us the best color in the industry! From small pet urine spots to entire dormant or dead lawns LawnLift™ has you covered….
In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s an interesting chart from the International Comparison Project at the World Bank via Matt Yglesias at Vox. Representing GDP on the vertical scale and population size on the horizontal allows for a grasp on information that is less abstract and more intuitive.
Click to view full-size image
One can take many lessons from such a graph, of course. I imagine there are capitalists looking at more detailed versions as a map of “national markets”, i.e. populations, to exploit next. But it also puts in perspective that China soon becoming the largest economy doesn’t mean its standard of living (as measured by GDP per capita) has even risen to the world average. Largest is a measure of breadth as well as height.
From Sam Smith. What think?
Places like Harvard and Oxford — and their after-school programs such as the Washington think tanks — teach the few how to control the many and it is impossible to do this without various forms of abuse ranging from sophism to corporate control systems to napalm. It is no accident that a large number of advocates of this war — in government and the media — are the products of elite educations where they were taught both the inevitability of their hegemony and the tools with which to enforce it.
It will be some time before places such as Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations are seen for what they are: the White Citizens Councils of state violence. Still, in a little gift of history, one of their lesser offspring, George W. Bush, may speed things up a bit as he brags and blithers about, gleefully brutalizes, perversely exaggerates, and cynically promotes cruel and authoritarian ideas his brighter colleagues have worked so hard to wrap in the costume of decency and democracy. He is the Council on Foreign Relations out of the closet, the carefully contrived paradigm run amuck, the great man of history turned dangerous fool, real politik turned into absurdist caricature. For that at least, we should thank him: he has shown us the true nature of a great lie.
So now that John Brennan has admitted that he lied about CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee as the committee prepared its report on Bush-era torture, his denials and denunciations of his accusers at the time are in retrospect even more clearly self-serving and dishonest. But Obama won’t fire him because he’s afraid of the consequences. Brennan knows where the bodies were buried, which drones killed them, and when Obama ordered those drone strikes.
Whatever happens with the [torture] report itself and despite the recent CIA apology, don’t expect the Senate to bring perjury charges against former CIA leaders for any lies to Congress. (It didn’t do so, after all, in the earlier case of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.) And don’t expect prosecutions of significant figures from a Justice Department that, in the Obama years, refused to prosecute even those in the CIA responsible for the deaths of prisoners.
The fact is that, for the Fourth Branch, this remains the age of impunity. Hidden in a veil of secrecy, bolstered by secret law and secret courts, surrounded by its chosen corporations and politicians, its power to define policy and act as it sees fit in the name of American safety is visibly on the rise. No matter what setbacks it experiences along the way, its urge to expand and control seems, at the moment, beyond staunching. In the context of the Senate’s torture report, the question at hand remains: Who rules Washington?
I just can’t get over Obama’s statement the other day: “We tortured some folks.”
We tortured some folks. Is that okay? Does anything about that strike you as wrong? Do you find that phrase as jarring as I do? I’m not the slightest bit surprised we’ve tortured people. I’d be surprised if we didn’t. And I’m glad Obama used the word torture and didn’t hide behind some bullshit euphemism like “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But there is still something grotesque about that sentence and none of the articles I’ve read mention it. In fact, a lot of the commentary makes the same mistake. What am I talking about? Let me show you by way of a brief illustration:
“Say, Harlan, what er y’all doin’ down there?”
“Hey, Hollis, not much. We’re just down here torturin’ some folks.”
“Good deal. You been torturin’ a lot of folks lately?”
“Got a new shipment just last week. Around here we call that job security.”
“You must be doing somethin’ right.”
“We’re doing a lot of things right, and we’re torturin’ some folks.”
“Good deal. Say, Loretta wanted me to invite you over tonight for some pie, but I don’t want to bother you if you’re too busy torturin’ folks and all.”
“Shoot, Hollis, you know I can always take a break from torturin’ folks for some of Loretta’s rhubarb pie!”
See what I mean? Using “torture” and “folks” in the same sentence isn’t just bad style. It’s a slimy way of soft-pedaling bad behavior. Folks don’t really hurt folks. There are just folks doin’ the stuff folks do, and if they occasionally make mistakes and accidentally harm folks, well, most folks don’t mind. Least ways not around here in America, where folks know how to forgive and forget.
It’s even worse when you consider that Obama’s whole statement is aimed at letting the torturers off the hook. How? They were just folks!
“It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” Obama said. “A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots. But having said all that we did some things that were wrong,” he said. “And that’s what that report reflects.”
It’s important that folks don’t put on airs and become sanctimonious about the good folks at the CIA, who are just workin’ hard to keep us folks back home safe. You get the idea. And don’t for a second think this effect is incidental. People torture people. Folks are jes folks, tryin’ their hardest in this gosh durn crazy world. People have faces that register pain. Folks are just, well, folks, an abstract mass of sunny beings in a fundamentally benign universe. You’re a folk. I’m a folk. The vicious little sadist pouring water down the nose of a naked man strapped upside down in a gurney, well, he’s a folk, too. And when he gets home from the wars folks are gonna honor his service.
This harmless politician’s word is, in fact, a nasty little euphemism that absolves the guilty and coaxes us into forgetting the victims.…Read on
Someday there will be a hardcore band called the “Telegenic Dead” and the world will have Benjamin Netanyahu to thank for it. Apart from that, the world won’t have anything else to thank that SOB for. His epitaph should read, “I was a bigger dick than Cheney.”
I would have thought the term “telegenic dead” referred to people like Pat Sajack and Ted Koppel, or Cokie Roberts and Peggy Noonan, but I guess not. It turns out that in this, as in so much else, I was (untelegenically) dead wrong. The term refers to a class of people, many of them children, who just willed themselves to be dead so Hamas could use them as propaganda. Imagine the deviousness of that! And there are so many of them too, around 1400 and counting, although to these unpracticed eyes they don’t appear too telegenic. But who am I to say? I’ll freely concede that Netanyahu is better at judging the relative pulchritude of mutilated dead bodies than I am.
But I can sympathize with the problem. Americans have had some trouble with telegenically dead Arabs too. We discovered that the only effective solution was not to show them on TV at all. It works like a charm. No doubt the Yemenis are propping up a few telegenic dead right now, foolishly thinking we’ll see them here in America and be shamed into no longer killing them. How little they know, those poor naive people. If they weren’t all terrorists who hate America it would almost be cute.
You might occasionally get some pain in the ass reporter who still wants to dig deep, tell the truth and all that other outdated horseshit. But we put him in combat fatigues and let him play soldier by embedding him with troops. That usually shuts them right up. It’s like giving chocolate milk and Play-Doh to a five year old. They just love it!…Read on
As a people we are vicious, vengeful, ignorant, callous and most of all cowardly. What else could account for the Dickensian criminal “justice” system we permit to exist? Excerpted from We Meant Well:
…Debtors’ prisons in the U.S. were declared unconstitutional, but states have re-implemented them anyway. A person locked up can’t earn money to pay the debt. And most significantly, it ends up costing many jurisdictions more money to punish someone for not paying than they would have “spent” just forgetting the debt. So why do states do this? To be fair, many states do not, and some that do often try and work out some sort of payment plan first. OK, good enough.
Now this may all be for the best. On the streets, nobody is overly concerned about providing food, medical care and shelter to poor people; outside they’re lazy, don’t want to work, nip at the public tit and all. Why, it would be socialism to help them after all. However, inside the prison system they all get food, medical and dental care, all tucked in a warm bed. Our society is apparently more ready to care for a criminal than for a citizen down on his luck.
The reality in America is that far too many people go to jail as punishment for not paying the fees and court costs incurred finding them already guilty of something else. One is left with a tough conclusion: we are more and more a crude, course society on path towards some sort of feudalism, where the rich (if ever brought to court at all) pay their money and walk out, while poor people are punished for no valid reason. We as a society want to set examples, clear the streets of our lowers, punish those who aren’t able to pay the government for giving them their day in court. That’s who we are now. And you better pay your bills…
So a neuroscientist walks into an airport with an AR-15 and orders a cup of coffee. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, which, the location being Arizona, is not entirely false. Given that a full two days had passed since the last TSA agent was fatally shot on duty, everyone was pretty relaxed about the scene, presumably a fairly normal one at the Phoenix airport when a guy comes to pick up his wife. Unfortunately somebody, probably from California on her way to New York or maybe Massachusetts, felt the need to show off in front of her kid and make a scene, and the poor guy ended up getting arrested. Apparently the woman felt threatened when the barrel of his gun pointed at her and her daughter. Jeez, lady, give him a break, you can’t control your barrel every single moment of the day!
Josh Marshall at TPM wonders if they thought this through. I imagine they did, and I even think a scenario along these lines might have come up for discussion, with the balance of the argument in favor of the solution to guns being more guns rather than fewer. After all, suppose an actual wacko with a gun showed up in Phoenix and, say, threatened a TSA agent — wouldn’t you want a well-armed neuroscientist nearby to assist in the proceedings? Who better, after all?
You do have to wonder, though, about the ability of said Dr. Steinmetz to produce anything like reasonable science given his relatively loose hold on consensus reality. It’ll be interesting to see how the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center handles his employment status. The medical center confirmed his employment but otherwise refused comment beyond saying that they take it seriously and have referred it to HR.
It will also be interesting to see how the legal proceedings go. Since you can’t base Second Amendment rights on whether some tourist feels threatened, my bet is that the good doctor will suffer no legal repercussions.
The excerpt below is from a review by Bill Curry of Ralph Nader’s new book, Unstoppable, which sounds like something we should all read. Curry is a former Clinton White House advisor who ran twice for governor of Connecticut against John Rowland. Both times the voters in their wisdom chose Rowland — a sleaze bag who wound up in prison for corruption and is currently a minor-league Rush Limbaugh who sells his political endorsements on station WTIC.
Between 1996 and 2000 the Wall Street Democrats who by then ruled the party’s upper roosts scored their first big legislative wins. Until then their impact was most visible in the quietude of Congress, which had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. It was the longest such stretch since the 19th century, but no one seemed to notice.
In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.
The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.
From The Third Degree, published in 1969 by Arno Press. The period referenced is the 1920s:
Policemen in Boston must pay their own fines and judgments when convicted or sued for lawlessness. There is a benefit fund for policemen’s widows and orphans and for policemen injured in the performance of their duties. but there is no protective fund maintained out of dues and contributions which can be used for judgments or fines…The policeman’s money liability is said to create a frame of mind that stands in the way of false arrest or the use of club or fist.
This simple measure from the past (along with today’s smartphones) would take all the fun out of police brutality.
…from that mean old Congress:
WASHINGTON — Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history…
Mr. Tenet, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has arranged a number of conference calls with former C.I.A. officials to discuss the impending report. After private conversations with Mr. Brennan, he and two other former C.I.A. directors — Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — drafted a letter to Mr. Brennan asking that, as a matter of fairness, they be allowed to see the report before it was made public. Describing the letter, one former C.I.A. officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the former directors “think that those people who were heavily involved in the operations have a right to see what’s being said about them.”
Who would have thought that Texas voters were capable of electing a man like Craig Watkins? Maybe someday he’ll rise as high as the absurd Rick Perry 0r the creepy Ted Cruz. And maybe someday pigs will fly.
Wait a minute. Pigs actually do fly in, at least in Texas politics. Haven’t we just established that?
From the Houston Chronicle:
The National Registry of Exonerations said it’s the first U.S. case it knows of in which an innocent defendant was identified as a result of a systematic screening and DNA testing of past convictions by a prosecutor’s office, rather than being initiated by a defendant or the defendant’s representatives.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins sought the exoneration after DNA testing identified another man as the culprit in the rape of a 16-year-old girl at a motel where both men lived.
Watkins has an ongoing project of reviewing untested rape kits, even without defendants initiating the request. Should the appeals court decide in Phillips’ favor, it would be the 34th exoneration by Watkins’ Conviction Integrity Unit. On Friday, almost a dozen other men who had been exonerated were in the audience to greet him.
Spotty blogging because I’m involved just now in moving 42 years of detritus into a smaller house. So forget about Kiev and Rick Perry’s pseudo-intellectual glasses, and on to a recipe from a book called A Taste of Murder, subtitled “Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers” —
The hero of my Tom Bethany series lives alone in an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He mainly eats stew, which he makes on Sundays and freezes. I used to do the same thing when I lived alone in a Cambridge apartment. My favorite and therefore his:
Dump three pounds of lamb, bones and all, into a pot with a teaspoon of peppercorns and nine cups of water. Neck bones are best, but shank or breast will do. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer. Don’t bother to strain the scum unless you’re the kind of person who won’t eat a piece of candy after it’s fallen on the floor. In fact if you’re that kind of person, forget this whole recipe. And get a life.
Once the meat has simmered for one and a half hours, fish it out and set it aside in a bowl to cool. Skim the fat from the broth or don’t. Whatever. Whack up two carrots and three onions. Scrape the carrots first if you feel like it, but the fact is we’re about to sterilize them anyway. Better peel the onions, though, because the papery stuff gets stuck in your teeth. Toss it all in the pot, add a cup of uncooked barley, and start simmering again. Keep going until the onions have pretty much disappeared, the carrots are soft, and the barley is too. Now pick the meat off the bones and toss it back in, minus the fat.
Chop up one of those 10- or 12-ounce boxes of mushrooms, using the same cleaning method you applied or didn't apply to the carrots, bearing in mind that mushrooms grow in horse manure. Dump in the mushrooms, along with as much thyme, cumin, and chopped garlic as you want. Cook just long enough for the mushrooms to soften up, then add a half-stick of butter and a cup of cream. Once the butter melts, you’re done. It may look a little soupy, but it will thicken up as it cools.
For immediate eating, rip a hole in one corner of a bag of frozen peas and pour a handful of them into your bowl. Close up the bag with a twist tie and put it back in the freezer. Now ladle lots of stew on top of the peas, stir, and eat. Trust me on this business with the peas. Just do it the way I say.
Once the remaining stew has cooled, portion it out for freezing into those beautifully designed and incredibly expensive refrigerator containers from Williams-Sonoma or into old yogurt cups. Up to you, but Tom Bethany uses the pint-sized containers that Stoneyfield yogurt comes in. They hold up under repeated microwaving.
This recipe has no salt, because both Tom and I are health and fitness fanatics who regard our bodies as temples. The rest of you may salt to taste.
Excerpted from Undernews:
The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.
This was not a special-needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.
We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance...
Why am I not surprised? But, once again, saddened at the nation of sniveling, fearful cowards that we have become. Zero-sum thinking is not the prudent, responsible attitude toward the normal risks of childhood; it is pathological. It is paranoid. Carried far enough it leads to Cheney land.
Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker assesses “The New R & B”—
On “Two Weeks,” the album’s first single, [FKA Twigs] extends the theme of song as prelude, not payoff: “You say you want me, I say you’ll live without it. Unless you’re the only one that instigates, got your mouth, open your heart.” It’s an intriguing and fertile template: she places all the romantic and sexual action offstage, thereby returning to a premodern era of nondisclosure in pop lyrics. Yet it feels entirely postmodern. The sounds of the album span such a wide range that it’s hard to know what to call any of it. Some passages sound like string quartets played backwards, some like eggs dropped from a great height. The main effect is of non-resolution. FKA Twigs dresses like a high-fashion model from antiquity, but her songs promise the very contemporary pleasures of texture and emotional immediacy.
I’m creating a formula that can be used to make predictions in American politics. So far, it goes something like this: You take the status quo, add the dullest or most uninspiring possibility, and that is the most likely future outcome. In other terms, SQ + MUP = LFO (where MUP is Most Uninspiring Possibility and LFO is Likely Future Outcome).
When we apply this simple formula to reality, we can easily envision the following scenario: Chief of Staff Lanny Davis and Secretary of the Treasury Rahm Emmanuel convince President Hillary to nominate Elizabeth Warren to the Supreme Court. That way, the court maintains its current balance and a liberal critic is effectively gagged. Wall Street is happy and progressives are out. See how easy that is?
Wisdom from Ronald Reagan’s Peggy Noonan, in the immigrant Rudolph Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal:
There is every sign [Obama] let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be “comprehensive,” meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.
The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?
Judging by the above excerpt, Peggy, precisely as cold as you.
Beth Miller at Mondoweiss, on Israel’s invasion of its occupied territory, Palestine. There was a time when the nascent Israel was an exciting experiment in democracy and community, but that was another country and besides, the wench is dead. For the rest of the essay, go here.
I am writing this to my fellow American Jews. Well, to some of them. For a specific type of American Jew, actually. To those whose parents or grandparents were socialists and started unions before marching with Dr. King in Alabama. To those who despised George W. Bush and marched against the invasion of Iraq. To those who knocked on doors for causes they believed in while telling their children “be the change you want to see in the world”. To those who read poems at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs about “first they came for the…and I did not speak out because I was not a…” To those who instilled in me the unshakeable conviction that we must always stand on the side of the oppressed, even when no one else will…
The other night, the grumpy old man I’m destined to become made his first appearance in my life. Somebody was watching the nightly news, and the hairdo on screen was affecting that grave tone they reserve for Very Serious Matters, like announcing celebrity deaths. In this case, though, it was nothing so earth shattering. He was just talking about the latest round of fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But suddenly something in me snapped. A surge of bile rose out of my guts, and the voices of all the grouchy old farts from every American Legion Hall in the country spoke as one from my larynx: “Fuck ’em all,” it said. “Both sides can kill each other off for all I care.”
A few minutes later the anchorman, whose name I’ve tragically forgotten, dropped his Edward R. Murrow reporting from London during the Blitz persona and became, as if by magic, a fountain of sunshine and levity as he spoke about LeBron James returning to Cleveland. But it was already too late. The damage was done. The scowling reactionary at the bottom of my soul roamed free all evening long. I spent the whole night yelling at the dog and fighting the mysterious urge to buy all of Jesse Ventura’s books.
(Just kidding. I never yell at the dog.)
(I only yell at the cat.)…Read on
In 1972 Gore Vidal wrote:
Political corruption has been with us since the first congress sat at Philadelphia, and there is nothing to be done about it as long as we are what we are. In fact, as election costs mount the corruption will tend to become institutionalized by the small group of legislators and bankers, generals and industrialists, who own and govern the United States, Inc. But it does not take great prescience to realize that that they are playing a losing game. As the polity becomes more and more conscious of the moral nullity at the center of American life, there will develop not the revolutionary situation dreamed of in certain radical circles but rather, a deep contempt for the nation and its institutions, an apathy bound to be exploited by clever human engineers. In the name of saving the environment and restoring virtue, they will continue the dismantling of an unloved and unhonored republic.
Thank God we dodged that bullet, huh?
Some upstanding citizens on the right have created a cute new way to stick it to the EPA, Obama, and all those liberal fairies who drive Priuses. It’s called coal rolling, and it pushes the frontiers of stupidity towards whole new horizons. In fact, it pushes them towards the event horizon, which is the point where objects get sucked into black holes and no light can ever escape.
Guys, for just about five hundred dollars you can trick out your diesel truck so that it burns more fuel, spews more pollution, and shows the world that you’re opposed to big government tyranny. It also helps beat back the pain of acute penis envy and repressed homosexual urges. What have you got to lose? Step up and make a statement!
This what my home looks like after the 4th of July. The people who did this were not trailer trash or ignorant lumpenproles. They were, for the most part, well-off white suburbanites from the Bay Area. The have good jobs, nice homes, nice cars. They also have all the latest gadgets, so in addition to being comfortable they are fashionable as well. These are the people we mean when we say “middle class” or higher. Many of them work in the Silicon Valley. They are educated, cutting edge, culturally and economically hip modern Americans.When given half a chance they immediately become Visigoths:
Is it just me, or do you think that at bottom we really just don’t give a shit anymore?
This quote from Carl Jung is apropos of nothing in particular, but it’s a bit of a mantra right now so I thought I’d pass it around.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
I just took a little road trip through northern California and Oregon. The countryside is beautiful, but when you lower your gaze to the things of man you feel naught but desolation and despair. What a ghastly slum we’ve created. We slaughtered an entire race of people and deforested large tracts of land to put up Chevron stations and McDonald’s. If there is a hell we’re surely going to roast in it.
This is nothing new, of course. We turned the county into a standardized corporate purgatory years ago; a parking lot with identical glowing signs in every town. But the cancer, I’m afraid, has spread to the liver and the brain. It’s terminal now. Every place has the same Taco Bell, the same AM/PM, the same Burger King, the same Denny’s, the same Shell. And when you venture into these nothing places, you see the exact same sloven and degraded specimens of humanity behind the registers or milling around out front — tattooed crankster types wandering shirtless through the parking lots; obese rednecks with too tight cut-offs pushing baby strollers into the Carl’s Jr., and scraggly homeless people with dirty backpacks and beat up bicycles traveling in a daze from nowhere to nowhere. The permanent American underclass flourishing in its natural element.
If I was a foreign tourist I would tell people back home that America is a scummy, poor, boring and mildly frightening country. Stay away.
The downtown areas still maintain their individual character, but these seem like so many quaint little museums where you go to get a small taste of what life was like before Corporate America Inc. stamped its iron template down upon our heads. And even there you see the same motley dregs who dwell along the interstate. They are everywhere, the seedy new normal, the white trash remains of consumer culture gone bad. Unfortunately when this, our redneck Third Estate, gets the urge to rebel it will do so under the banner of some right wing monstrosity. But even that’s unlikely. These people are completely out of the loop. They are as cut-off, clueless and tuned-out as the proles in 1984.…Read on
I’m getting a little tired of all this World Cup B.S. Team USA is competing so now everyone is a soccer fan. Uh-huh. It’s getting so bad I expect to hear a couple affluent white suburbanites refer to it as futbol, at which point I’ll seriously question my commitment to non-violence.
Last week I heard David Gregory and a panel of smug Romans chirping about it on Meet the Press. Conspicuous among them was famed pundit, sociologist and moral philosopher David Brooks. He conspicuously failed to mention all the poor Brazilians who were booted out of their homes and whose neighborhoods were destroyed so that the world’s one-percent can watch soccer games at a level of comfort they’re accustomed to. No doubt our illustrious pundits discussed this dicey moral conundrum on the back nine at the Chevy Chase Country Club later that afternoon.
But who cares about that? Certainly not Americans. About one half of the electorate would shrug their shoulders and say it was their own damn fault for being poor in the first place. The other half, the ‘liberal’ half, would concede the point, but then sheepishly add that those who were impoverished “through no fault of their own” kinda sorta maybe deserve a little help.
I’m getting that queasy feeling that overcomes me when the vast corporate combine that shapes our culture is attempting to get me to care about something I don’t care about or believe something that isn’t true. It’s a form of peer pressure, but the cool kids are giant media corporations and the school yard is the entire country. It tried to convince me that Princess Diana was a saint who could walk on water and cure lepers when she quite obviously wasn’t and couldn’t. It told me Steve Jobs was the biggest, bestest, most awesomest creative genius in the universe, a man more visionary than Christ, Jefferson, Henry Ford and the guy who thought of putting plus and minus sign on batteries, when to my mind he was just another successful business asshole. His company uses sweatshop labor and his contribution to humanity — the iPhone — is a glorified toy gadget that enables adults to act like rude and distracted teenagers. It has made it socially acceptable for full grown human beings to say things like “check out this cool new app” and to think that ring tones are an interesting thing to talk about. It has helped create a culture where nobody sees anything wrong with this.
It’s the same cultural force that bullies me to automatically root for team USA every four years in the Olympics. Well, why should I? Our athletes have the most money, the best facilities, the wealthiest sponsors and the most coddling of any athletes in the world. Rooting for them is like rooting for a bank or an insurance company. It’s like rooting for the spoiled girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The fact that so many of them are unsympathetic whiners just makes it all the more unseemly. Fuck that. I’ll cheer for the poor Nigerian kid over commercialized hipster twits like Apollo Ohno any day.
Now the same process is under way with soccer. I guess our corporate masters have decreed that we need yet another sports spectacle. We need one more gaudy venue where we can be swamped with with Budweiser and Subway commercials. We need one more group of clay-footed multimillionaire heroes to gawk at on talk shows and reality TeeVee — tattoos, goatees and ten pound diamond earrings a plus! One more tribal competition to rekindle our dying national pride. One more source of cheap, superficial nationalism to artificially pump us up on our shameful slide to the bottom.