Why should I say it when Glenn Greenwald already has:
A Washington Post article about the incident actually equated the two figures, beginning with the headline: “Jorge Ramos is a conflict junkie, just like his latest target: Donald Trump…” That Ramos was acting more as an “activist” than a “journalist” was a commonly expressed criticism among media elites this morning.
Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession. A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.
Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.
The parties have come a long, strange way from Booker T. Washington and Vito Marcantonio to Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. This from Thaddeus Russell’s A Renegade History of the United States:
Guglielmo's analysis of voting patterns in Chicago during the 1920s shows that “many Italians willingly voted alongside African-Americans throughout these years.” Furthermore, “some Italians never seemed overly concerned about belonging to the same party [Republican] as African Americans, even when the Democrats furiously fought to paint that party as ‘Negro’ through and through. Indeed, Italian-language newspapers openly advertised the point that Italians and African-Americans held similar party affiliations, and on one occasion, L’Italia held up African-Americans as a model for Italian political organization and behavior.”
When the national political parties were demographically realigned in the 1930s, both Italian Americans and African Americans moved overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party and remained solid voting blocks for the Democrats for the next 30 years. Indeed, one of the greatest champions of black civil rights during the 1930s and 1940s was Vito Marcantonio, the left-wing New York Congressman whose East Harlem district contained large numbers of both Italians and African Americans. Marcantonio sponsored several civil rights bills, led the congressional fight against the discriminatory poll tax in southern states, and worked to make lynching a federal crime.
Over at The Guardian, the actual newspaper of record, economics editor Larry Elliott doesn’t think things are looking good. I mean, when your opening sentence is "And so it begins", you’re establishing a certain mood, and he ends the next paragraph with "This could get ugly". So you get that he’s not optimistic about the near future, economically speaking at least.
Generally, he reports, there’s a trigger event such as a huge spike in oil prices or a well-known bank having to admit it was in difficulties that indicates systemic weakness widely recognized but never voiced; and in this case the Chinese economy and the government’s somewhat inept handling of it are the elephant in the room. A year (and $300 billion USD) spent propping up the yuan/renminbi has ended with implicit admission of failure, resulting in speculators finding their accounts lighter and governments and corporations having to adjust trade and foreign exchange policies and rates to the ripple effects of the world’s second largest economy suffering such a huge turnaround.
In the past the US could often be counted on to take up the slack in consumption, but our consumption is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a miniscule portion of our population.
The economic story of the US since the Great Recession ended has been of QE [quantitative easing] fuelling a six-year bull market in shares at a time when economic growth has been weak and productivity growth even weaker. There has been no trickle-down effect, and no attempt to redress the main structural problem of the past three decades: the severing of the link between productivity and wages. The top 10% of US households took 116% of the income gains when the US economy was recovering between 2009 and 2012. The other 90% of US citizens saw their living standards fall. Inequality has widened.
Around the world, power is becoming more and more concentrated. And not even in some manner at least intended for the public welfare, but rather in the hands of the most opportunistic and ruthless, the greediest and most power-hungry, among us. In the past this was a recipe for localized conflict, but that no longer exists. Since nearly anyone seriously bent on terrorism can find some sort of hugely destructive weapon, local conflict quickly spreads.
All power corrupts, Acton wrote to his friend. Concentrated power, I assert, produces concentrated corruption, and the combination is a toxic brew. We don’t need more Presidents indebted from the moment they’re elected to these private and thus unaccountable seats of concentrated, corrupt power. I see only one Presidential candidate who avoids that mold from which both parties’ candidates and elected officials have long been cut.
Let’s start with Jewish opinion in America. When Steven Cohen, a professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, conducted a poll of American Jews, including those who, like myself, are not religious, he found that an astounding 63% approved of the nuclear deal, a figure impressively higher right now than American opinion on the subject generally. In other words, with the single exception of J Street, all the major Jewish organizations that are lobbying against the deal and claiming to represent American Jews and Jewish opinion don’t. As Cohen and Todd Gitlin wrote recently in the Washington Post, “Plainly, the idea that American Jews speak as a monolithic bloc needs very early retirement. So does the canard that their commitment to Israel or the views of its prime minister overwhelms their support for Obama and the Iran deal. So does the idea that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads, or represents, the world’s Jews.”
So call that a bit of a surprise on “Jewish opinion.” But what about Israel, where support among key figures for deep-sixing the nuclear deal is self-evident? Again, just one small problem: almost any major Israeli figure with a military or intelligence background who is retired or out of government and can speak freely on the matter seems to have come out in favor of the agreement. (The same can be said, by the way, for similar figures in this country, as well as Gary Samore, a former Obama administration White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and until recently head of United Against Nuclear Iran, a Sheldon Adelson-funded group whose job is to knee-cap such an agreement. He stepped down from that post recently to support the nuclear deal.) In Israel, a list as long as your arm of retired intelligence chiefs, generals and admirals, officials of all sorts, even nuclear scientists, have publicly stepped forward to support the agreement, written an open letter to Netanyahu on the subject, and otherwise spoken out, including one ex-head of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, appointed to his position by none other than Netanyahu.
I went and saw Bernie Sanders the other night at the University of Nevada, Reno. I estimated the crowd at around 3,000, but the Reno Gazette-Journal reports 4,500 people were there. That’s not bad for this seedy, soul-dead, Republican dominated hell-hole. If it wasn’t for gambling, prostitution and dive bars, the place would be a complete loss, worse than Modesto even (and seeing as how Nevada’s public school system routinely ranks dead last in the nation, the future doesn’t look bright. Abandon all hope, ye who enter Nevada).
I have a neuralgic loathing of crowds, particularly American crowds in summer apparel. On those unfortunate occasions when I’m surrounded by a herd of Americans at play, consuming, waving flags, listening to classic rock, cheering in unison, I look to the sky in search of that liberating meteor that is going to be here someday … someday …
Let’s face it, whenever large groups of Americans get together they either start a war or form a lynch mob (or trample someone to death on route to the stuffed animal aisle or the electronics department).
This crowd was okay, though. The news reports emphasize how young it was, which I guess is true, but I was struck by the number of middle- aged and older people there as well. Many of the of them were the same fading old lefties you see manning the phones at PBS pledge drives, but not all. The crowd was diverse and civil, and no Free Mumia morons or other attention seeking professional “activists” showed up to discredit the event and turn it into a pointless left-wing circle jerk. All in all, it was a healthy gathering where serious but hopeful Americans booed the oligarchy we live under and cheered for a better way.
Before the speech, a group of cartoonishly voluptuous women in short skirts and tank-tops unfurled a banner that said “Hookers 4 Hillary!” They dressed like waitresses at Hooters, and the fellow next to me thought it was a joke; not I. Those were the real thing. A trained eye can always spot an alcoholic or a hooker a mile a way. You just have to know what to look for. Sure enough, they were employees of the nearby Moonlight Bunny Ranch who actively support Hillary Clinton. That’s a steady source of funding that your average Bernie supporter might have a tough time matching.
(Incidentally, I’m barely visible in the picture. I’m in the extreme lower right-hand corner wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses, standing in front of the guy in the pink tie-dye).
This is the issue which ought to lie at the heart of the upcoming presidential race but won’t. That Obama set out to follow the same disastrous “free trade” policies as Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton is beyond my comprehension. If Hillary lacks the guts to cut free from her husband and her corporate backers on TPP, the rest of us will be well and truly fornicated.
When Ronald Reagan came into office, as the result of 190 years of Hamilton’s plan, the United States was the world’s largest importer of raw materials; the world’s largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods; and the world’s largest creditor.
After 34 years of Reaganomics, we’ve completely flipped this upside down. We’ve become the world’s largest exporter of raw materials, the world’s largest importer of finished goods, and the world’s largest debtor. We now export raw materials to China, and buy from them manufactured goods. And we borrow from them to do it. Our trade debt right now stands at over $11 trillion, and it’s the principal reason why one-seventh of all assets in the United States are foreign-owned.
Can it be possible that Lindsey Graham actually believes his own drivel? Can we even conceive of a lack of self-knowledge so profound? No? Well that’s because we’re not Lindsey Graham. The only hands across the aisle the wee fellow would consider shaking would be the ones with white flags in them. From USAToday:
“What’s wrong with Washington is that we don’t do enough together,” Graham said. “And the people that are frustrated are more ideological — frustrated that they can’t have everything they want. How do you fix immigration without a Democrat and a Republican working together? How do you save Medicaid and Social Security without a bipartisan plan?”
From the Alternet:
“It brings up a very important issue and that is, do those black lives matter?” Carson told one of Fox News’ indistinguishable stooges. “The number one cause of death for black people is abortion. I wonder if maybe some people might at some point become concerned about that and ask why is that happening and what can be done to alleviate that situation. I think that’s really the important question.”Back when Carson was doing brain surgery, he should have grabbed one for himself.
It is always discouraging to be reminded, again and again and again, that there is sure enough nothing new under the sun. But let’s do it anyway. Here’s a passage from Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics. I had forgotten that the GOP’s Southern strategy dated back not to Nixon’s 1968 campaign but to Barry Goldwater’s four years earlier. So — discredit where discredit’s due:
Goldwater's departure from the Republican pattern was compounded by his position on civil rights. One of the oldest, though hardly the most efficacious, of the traditions of many conservatives in the north — and even to a degree in the South as well — has been a certain persistent sympathy with the Negro and a disposition to help them in moderate ways to relieve his distress. This tradition goes back to the Federalist party; it was continued by the Whig gentry; it infused the early Republican Party.
By adopting “the Southern strategy,” the Goldwater men abandoned this inheritance. They committed themselves not merely to a drive for a core of Southern states in the electoral college but to a strategic counterpart in the north which required the search for racist votes. They thought they saw a good mass issue in the white backlash, which they could indirectly exploit by talking of violence in the streets, crime, juvenile delinquency, and the dangers faced by our mothers and daughters.
Eisenhower, like Goldwater, had been unmoved by noble visions of progress toward racial justice, but he at least gave lip service to the ideal and thought it important to enforce the laws himself and to speak out for public compliance. But Goldwater arrived at the position, far from conservative in its implications, that the decisions [ed. note: Brown v. Board of Education] of the Supreme Court are “not necessarily” the law of the land. Of course, the decisions of the court have always had political content and they have often been highly controversial; there is no reason why they should suddenly be regarded with whispered reverence. But it is only in our time, and only in the pseudo-conservative movement, that men have become to hint that disobedience to the court is not merely legitimate but is the essence of conservatism.
It is not the authority and legitimacy of the court alone that the pseudo-conservative right calls into question. When it argues that we are governed largely by means of near-hypnotic manipulation (brainwashing), wholesale corruption, and betrayal, it is indulging in something more significant than the fantasies of indignant patriots: it is questioning the legitimacy of the political order in itself. The two-party system, as it has developed in the United States, hangs on the common recognition of loyal opposition: each side accepts the ultimate good intentions of the other. The opponent’s judgment may be held to be consistently execrable, but the legitimacy of his intent is not — that is, in popular terms, his Americanism is not questioned. One of the unspoken assumptions of presidential campaigns is that the leaders of both parties are patriots who, however serious their mistakes, must be accorded the right to govern. But an essential point in the pseudo-conservative worldview is that our recent presidents, being men of wholly evil intent, have conspired against the public good. This does more than discredit them: it calls into question the validity of the political system that keeps putting such men into office.
The idea that a nuclear Iran would pose an “existential” threat to Israel is of course grotesque and could only be taken seriously by someone as feckless, self-centered and delusional as my former (thank God) senator, Joe Lieberman.
So let Yale Law School professor Paul W. Kahn tell you what’s actually going on here. Excerpts:
Suppose [Netanyahu] is right that Iran can comply while still developing its nuclear knowhow, which would allow it to develop a bomb quickly at the end of the agreement. Yet without an agreement, Iran may be only months away from the construction of a bomb should it choose to go that route. How is 15 years not better than 15 months?
Similarly how is it not better to have a right to inspect — even after 24 days — than no right to inspect at all?…
Things only begin to make sense when we realize that Netanyahu doesn’t care about the bomb. He knows the two essential facts about the nuclear age. First, the knowledge of how to make a bomb cannot be eliminated. The technical knowledge that Iran now has cannot be negotiated away. This means that Iran will always be a potential nuclear state. With or without a deal, Iran can always decide to become a nuclear state. The only issue is how long it will take to get there. No matter what, the answer will always be “not very long.”
Second, nuclear states are locked in reciprocal relationships of deterrence. Treaties don’t keep states from using nuclear weapons, the threat of devastating retaliation does. For this reason, nuclear weapons have been useless as offensive weapons for seven decades. Nuclear states have preferred defeat in a conventional war over raising the possibility of a retaliatory, nuclear exchange. Netanyahu does not care about an Iranian bomb because Israel already has the bomb. The same thing that prevents Iran from using biological or chemical weapons will keep Iran from using a nuclear bomb…
Money and politics are what this dispute is about, not nuclear bombs. This is what Netanyahu will not say, for to focus on Israel’s real enemies is also to raise the issue of what more Israel could do to end the dispute with the Palestinians, which is at the heart of all of this.
How many times do I have to say this? Loosen up, people. Have you ever tickled a cute little toddler? Been on a high school football team? What are you, some kind of sex fiend?
From Flagler Live:
More broadly speaking, however, is an issue that plagues both children and adults at summer camps alike: for fear of litigation, local interpretation of a state code very strictly forbids adults touching children, in any manner.From the New York Times:
Even to apply sunscreen to a burning child.
The players, both 17 at the time of the episode, had been charged with aggravated sexual contact and aggravated assault, among other crimes, and were tried as juveniles by a judge behind closed doors in Middlesex County family court.
Seven Sayreville players, from 15 to 17 years old, were accused last fall of attacking members of the freshman football team in a ritual that involved jumping and beating the younger players, groping their genitals or penetrating them from behind with a finger poked through pants. The scandal stunned the suburban town of 44,000 just southwest of New York City.
Guess which state this school is in:
East Anchorage High, a school of 2,200 students, serves Mountain View. The principal, Sam Spinella, began his career in education in a New Jersey classroom where most students were white. At East, 80 percent of the student body is nonwhite, he said. After English, the most common languages spoken are Spanish, Hmong, Samoan, Tagalog, Somali and Yup’ik.
Sometimes students will isolate themselves, he said, hanging out only with people like them who speak their language. But no one group ranks higher in terms of achievement or involvement at East. Classes and sports, like soccer, create inspiring cultural mixing grounds. The students don’t know any different, but there are moments, like some mornings when he walks into the common area, that he is still moved by it.
“I look out there,” he said, “and I see the world.”
Well, well, Black Lives Matter just crashed another Bernie Sanders event and forced him off the stage.
I wonder, why don’t they do this to Jeb Bush or Scott Walker? Why don’t they accost Hillary Clinton? Why do they only attack the the most progressive candidate in the election? Why do they only attack their most natural political ally?
Can anyone explain this to me?
Who benefits most from undermining Bernie in a primary campaign? We all know the answer to that.
The Denver Post reported that 56-year-old Mark Iannicelli set up a small booth with a sign reading “Juror Info” outside the Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver last week. The Denver District Attorney’s Office charged Iannicelli with seven counts of jury tampering after members of the jury pool were found to be in possession of fliers describing jury nullification.
Jury nullification allows juries to acquit a defendant who they may believe is guilty if they also believe that the law is unjust. The practice has been used by juries in the United States since the 1800s to nullify anti-free speech laws and laws punishing northerners for helping runaway slaves. It has most recently been used in drug cases when juries have viewed laws as discriminatory.
…and take a minute to, you know, think.
WESTPORT — A local woman was arrested after police said she left her infant alone in her car. Milan Kunajukr, 30, was charged with risk of injury to children. She was released after posting $1,000 bond…
Shortly after 7 p.m., police said they were called to the parking lot of Whole Foods, 399 Post Road West, on a report of an infant left unattended in a vehicle. Upon arrival the officers found the vehicle unlocked and running with the infant inside, police said.
The weather at the time of the incident was approximately 84 degrees, however the interior of the vehicle was cool as the air conditioning was on, police said. According to witness statements the infant was alone for approximately seven minutes. Kunajukr exited the store and returned to her vehicle a short time after police arrived.
For a list what our rabble of presidential candidates ought to be talking about, but aren’t and won’t be, take a look at “Where Candidates Fear to Tread,” by James Howard Kunstler.
The excerpt below is from a 1961 book by the late John Schaar called Escape from Authority. Professor Schaar was an army buddy of mine at Ft. Bragg in the mid-1950s, before our rulers figured out that it would be easier to go to war if they didn’t draft Ph.Ds (or even college freshmen). James Carville once described the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as “two big cities with Alabama in between.” Jack Schaar was from the Alabama part, where you went to work on the farm when you got through with high school. He had heard, though, that you could go to college in California for free, so he stuck out his thumb and headed west.
That was before our rulers figured out that ambitious poor white trash could be kept in their place with crippling loans if you just did away with that free tuition thing. Risk-free loans, of course, backed by the suckers themselves in their role as tax payers. Loans that could never be discharged in bankruptcy the way they could if the suckers had only been corporation-people instead of just people-people.
Anyway, Jack was lucky enough to be able work his way through to a doctorate and become a hugely-admired professor of political science at Berkeley and U.C. Santa Cruz. And here he is, or was in 1961. It wasn’t yet clear that limitless consumption was just the first step in the taming of the proles. Properly managed, it would turn them into obedient debt slaves, voting for massa.
Under present conditions, co-management and workers’ participation would most probably mean only an acceleration of the present powerful tendencies toward materialism and what Fromm calls alienated consumption, for the workers have no conception of any moral or aesthetic order beyond the present one. What has to be recognized is that the workers have been all “corrupted,” tamed. And they have been tamed to the harness of meaningless work not by the stick of hunger but by the carrot of limitless consumption, by the vision of utopia offered by the ad-men and sold on the installment plan.
Only if this is kept in mind can one explain the astonishing fact that organized business and organized labor have combined to make productivity, profit, and “full” employment — that is, work in its inescapable modern meaninglessness — the dominant and almost the sole aim and function of the communities’ internal political life. The principal feature of our political life is the use of truly prodigious means for paltry ends. After all, the expenditure of a very small proportion (the Goodmans estimate 1/7) of our available resources of labor, time, money, and materials would provide all Americans with a very solid “subsistence.” The remainder goes for luxury and emulative consumption goods — as though we had already thought through to a solution the profound moral and political question of the relation between standard of living and quality of life.
From The Rude Pundit:
It’s long been apparent that the United States is now a death cult built around the worship of guns. The dead in each shooting, whether it’s gang-related in Los Angeles, accidental in Virginia, or mass shooting after mass shooting, are treated as a necessity in order for us to stay safe. How is Sandy Hook any different than the Aztecs stabbing a child to keep the city from destruction? How did that work out for them?
…If we continue to do nothing, we are all mentally ill and we are all extremists. We are just another bunch of Mayans, watching the high priest politicians cut out the hearts of the children in Newtown, the churchgoers in Charleston, the women in Lafayette, all to appease the malicious gods of the NRA, holding the gore aloft so all may see it, hoping that our sacrifices are deemed worthy, not realizing that the gods are illusions and that we’re just killing our way into oblivion.
I have, in the past, observed that Hillary Clinton is the smartest, most knowledgeable, most deeply experienced Republican currently running for the Presidency. I think she needs to announce her candidacy for the Republican nomination. She can explain that she has been deeply distressed by the partisan feuding between the Congress and the President that has brought the normal political processes to a standstill, and that she hopes, by offering herself as a Unity candidate on both party tickets, finally to bring the nation together again. Since she has already satisfied whatever legal requirements there are for formal candidacy for the presidency, she would be good to go for the Republican nomination immediately.
In light of her sky-high name recognition and the general ignorance and stupidity of the Republican base, she would almost certainly garner enough votes in the polling to qualify for the Republican debates. What is more, her policies are, or were at one time, mainstream Republican. Her domestic policies are a trifle to the right of those of Eisenhower and Nixon, and she is easily as Hawkish in foreign policy as Dole or Romney. Her dual candidacy would be a gift of great value to the bloviating Television commentariat, which is running out of faux astonishment and comic one-liners about Trump.
I clicked through Josh Marshall’s comment and read the article by Asher Schechter at Ha’aretz, which is both brilliant and troubling. As Josh recounts, Schechter’s premise is what seems on the surface to be a complete political defeat for Netanyahu; the decades he’s spent decrying the Iranian threat have failed to prevent an agreement that has Security Council backing after negotiations led by the US. He gave up the pretense of neutrality or at least even-handedness in dealing with the two major American political parties, siding openly with Republicans and creating splits in Democratic ranks, in his fight to stop a deal, yet a deal appears on the verge of happening despite all he can do.
In the process he has personally alienated the chief executive of Israel’s one reliable ally, which is however a temporary issue. Possibly more permanently (or at least longer term), he’s turned what has been essentially reflexive support in the Congress for whatever actions Israel’s government takes, accompanied if necessary by loud protestations on our part that we do not condone that which our support enables, into a partisan issue that splits both US parties in unfamiliar ways.
[h/t Mick Tomlinson]
Schechter’s focus is on the gap between an apparent defeat and what he sees as an actual victory. He refers not merely to the simple fact that Netanyahu has managed once again to hold onto power at whatever cost to his own and his country’s international reputations. By far the greater triumph is the conversion of much of the Israeli body politic, and thus of its politicians, into believers in what Schechter calls “Bibiism — Netanyahu’s worldview, his stubborn rejectionism”. Practically the entire political spectrum in Israel, excepting only the Arab MKs, condemned the deal with Iran, many before they’d seen the final agreement, and most in the same terms Bibi has long relied on. The public, at least the voting public, has not switched from left- to right-wing parties so much as the entire spectrum has moved rightward, closer to Bibi’s views. Which means his hold on power remains strong.
Lest we fall into the trap of thinking that Netanyahu’s actions are directed toward achieving an ideological end, Schechter reminds us that:
Throughout his career, Netanyahu has never been an ideologue. Whether it was voting for Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza despite being vehemently against it, or altering his economic views to fit his political needs, Netanyahu has always preferred political survival above all else.
Binyamin Netanyahu is obviously an enormously talented politician and an even more egregiously cynical one. He and his inaccurately titled ambassador to the US have put together an appropriately cynical strategy for stoking fears in Israel while fomenting discord here, banking on the strength of the pro-Likud lobby here to minimize any possibility of real US action reifying policy disagreements. This strategy has kept Bibi in power and brought the political establishment of the entire spectrum into his camp.
Israelis were quick to denounce the deal, thereby affirming the impression that they would have rejected any deal, regardless of the terms.
So for those who, once again, are quick to eulogize Netanyahu — don’t. In the one true fight that matters to him — his own political survival — he won. He may look beaten, but these are only the flesh wounds of a man who made a big bet — not necessarily on his chances of thwarting the Iran deal, but on his ability to get the Israeli public, and through it the Israeli political system, on his side.
So far, it has worked beautifully. According to a poll published by Israeli newspaper Maariv this weekend, almost half of Israelis (47%) would support a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. Netanyahu’s biggest rivals inadvertently channel him even when attacking him, thereby proving he was right all along, essentially postponing any possibility that he might be replaced.
This lack of discussion, of opposition, of dissent, is Netanyahu’s true victory. In Netanyahu’s Israel, there is only one way to react to a deal that the rest of the West greeted with at least some measure of cautious optimism: fear and paranoia. And when it comes to fear and paranoia, Netanyahu is equal to none.
Burning bridges with your country’s single major reliable ally to advance your personal political career, which you long ago conflated with the physical survival of the country you live in: this is an act of such breathtaking cynicism that it would be quite at home in Gibbon’s recounting of the dramas surrounding the Imperial succession that fascinated and occasionally wreaked havoc in Rome.
I am a fat, white, middle-aged man sitting on the couch. I’m wearing a baseball cap and watching sports. I pay attention to commercials. I’m not politically active, but I vote out of a vague sense of duty. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat and do not vote along party lines. I proudly say that I vote for the “best person.”
I’ve never left the United States because, as I always tell people, “there’s plenty to see right here.” I do not read for pleasure. I’m not clear on the difference between a Honduran and a Salvadoran or a Mexican. For that matter, I’m not one hundred percent on the difference between the Chinese and the Japanese. But it doesn’t matter, because such issues never, ever come up in my day-to-day life. Such knowledge is totally irrelevant to my work, and nobody in my social circle knows or cares about such things. They are as alien to our concerns as astrophysics or ballet.
I’m a moderate, but my views, such as they are, tend to lean center right. For example, I believe the United States needs to be tough on crime, tough on terrorism, and tough on illegal aliens. I think we need to stand up to Putin, Iran, and other enemies of democracy. I don’t like welfare handouts, but I’m okay with a social safety net because I’m basically a decent and generous person.
In my heart of hearts, I believe blacks are less intelligent than whites, and this is why they are continually behind everyone else, but I never admit this unless I’m with friends who I know feel the same way.
(On the other hand, I secretly fear that Asians are smarter than whites, maybe a LOT smarter. This is troublesome to me, but I dismiss it with the thought that they’re robotic and lack individuality. I console myself with the knowledge that intelligence isn’t everything.)
I am, in short, the big fat white American normal. I used to be called “the vital center” in American politics. I am the demographic that candidates try to win after they’ve secured their party’s nomination.
Lately. just lately, I’ve begun to sense something wrong with this country. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can feel in my bones that something way deep down is askew. It no longer feels like the country I grew up in. What is it?
So for the first time in my life I am paying closer attention to politics. I am listening with an open mind to candidates from both right and left that I normally wouldn’t give the time of day. This weekend I decided to give leftists like Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley a look, and what did I see?
I saw everything Rush Limbaugh says about the left. I saw every cliché about left wing activists all rolled up and bunched into a single, cringe-worthy episode that proves they are totally unfit to be taken seriously as a political force in America. I saw a screeching activist undermining her natural political allies for the sake of getting attention. I saw a spoiled child ruining it for everyone because nobody was giving her pet cause enough attention. Just as the views of people like Bernie Sanders were beginning to gain a little traction among people like me, I saw a fool, an arrant fool, deliberately cutting them off at the knees.
Meanwhile, Trump stuck to his guns. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but he has guts and he doesn’t back down. He talks straight. And funny as it sounds, he might be just the kind of person this country needs …
“It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the Dreamwork and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations ... It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.”
…as in “Trump is the id of the Republican Party.”
From The Washington Post:
A team of researchers at Georgia Southern University found an alarming rise in the lack of self awareness among children and teenagers in the United States. Specifically, way more overweight adolescents are oblivious today to the fact that they ought to lose weight than were in decades past—and it's a big problem…
Adolescents, for instance, are 29 percent less likely to correctly perceive themselves as being overweight than they were almost twenty years ago, according to the study's findings. And the drop-off is the most pronounced among younger children—overweight 12-year-olds are almost 40 percent less likely to understand that they are overweight today.
I just came across this dispatch from Laos in 1969, the height of our Southeast Asian War Games. Thousands of Americans were stationed in the capital, Vientiane, many with their families. It is an open letter, here slightly abridged, to parents of students at the American School of Vientiane:At the Student Council meeting January 29th, the idea of buying a cobra, the school mascot, was brought up. After discussing it, the Council decided to look into it deeper then ask the student body what they thought. A questionnaire was sent to the students February 13th. Two-thirds of the student body want a live cobra. The Student Council would like the opinion of the parents before purchasing a cobra.
The cobra we are interested in is a King Cobra which sells for $50.00. The cobra is expensive because of its rarity, and because it is imported.
In case someone is ever bitten, we will have medication on hand at all times. However, a student won’t get bitten because of the safety factors we will take. The cage will have three cement sides and one side of safety-glass so people will be able to see the cobra. Inside the cage there will be a cement mound with a door on it which can be opened and closed from the outside. The plans and construction will be approved by OICC or another qualifying Mission agency.
We thought we could ask help from GSO or USAID Maintenance to put up the fence. It was decided to hire a man to feed the cobra and clean the cage. Because only the keeper will be allowed near the cobra, no students will get hurt. We asked the zoo keeper about pulling the cobra’s fangs and he told us if we did the cobra couldn’t eat. He said that if we were to milk the cobra so that it would be harmless, it would have to be done every week. So, the cobra will remain in his natural state.
Do you have any objections to buying the King Cobra so that ASV can have their mascot? If so, please state your reasons. Please put your reply in the box marked at the ACA or send it through distribution to the American School of Vientiane before Saturday, March 30th.
Student Council President
From Sam Smith at Undernews:
In 1988, Jesse Jackson ran a remarkable campaign for president that was based in no small part on bringing together forces that the elite prefer to see at each others’ throats. As he had put it earlier, “When we change the race problem into a class fight between the haves and the have-nots, then we are going to have a new ball game.”From Wikipedia:
At the conclusion of the Democratic primary season, Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests; seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska’s caucuses and Texas’s local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.
Back to Sam Smith at Undernews:
One need have no illusions about Sanders being the ultimate choice to recognize the difference he has already made in our country and how much more he can continue to make before we have to choose, say, between Bill Clinton’s wife and George Bush’s brother. We have a whole year in which to make things really different and better. It’s Bernie time. Enjoy it.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee are not funny. They are not fluffy celebrities that we can laugh at in between bites of Cheetos and jalapeno poppers. They are symptoms of deep political dysfunction that reflective people should be disturbed about. How is it that our political culture has degenerated to a point where these kinds of clowns and charlatans can be taken seriously as presidential candidates? This is not a joke. This is not a laughing matter. This is something that should give all serious people pause.
Has it occurred to anybody that one of these dangerous incompetents might actually stumble into the White House?
This is not a television show. This is not a popularity contest. We are not judging contestants on American Idol. These people are angling for a job that gives them power to use nuclear weapons. We must insist as a culture that it be treated more seriously. One of these rich, celebrity dolts might wind up with the most powerful job in the world. One of these frivolous celebrities might be in charge of negotiating with foreign countries.
We are playing with fire. We laugh at these buffoons, but do you realize how close they are to edging their way into power? Our “serious” candidates, our Bushes and Clintons, are plutocrats with absolutely no clue about life as it is actually lived in America. Their way of thinking is stale and out-of-touch. They offer nothing but the same cliches that have been dumped down our throats like castor oil for the last thirty years. They are dull, unimaginative, and totally unable to grasp the magnitude of the problems that are confronting us. A blunt, outspoken Donald Trump type can easily pose as a “truth teller” and kick them over like so much moldy wood. Sooner or later it’s going to happen.
We are laughing at the show like it is just a joke, like it is just another episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. We are going to laugh ourselves right into a catastrophe.
…and pay attention, because glancing through one of my old pocket notebooks last night I came across this entry from the Carter years. It is in somebody else’s handwriting, whose and why I forget. The only explanation is this footnote, dating the verses 20 years before Paul Newman sang a slightly different version of the song in “Cool Hand Luke”:
*(As sung by the Glover Family of Columbia, Mo. on station WWVA’s “Hour of Reckoning” show — 5:35 a.m., July 12, 1957.)
OH, I don’t care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Settin’ on the dashboard of my car.
You can buy him, pink and pleasant,
Glows in the dark, he’s phosphorescent,
Take him with you when you travel far.
You can buy a sweet madonna,
Dressed in rhinestones, standin’ on a
Pedestal of abalone shell—
Drivin’ 90 I’m not wary,
Long as I got Magnetic Mary
Guaranteein’ I won’t go to Hell.
… the “Invisible Hand” actually did. From Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker of October 19, 2010:
Smith believes, in a way that few neoclassical economists seem to accept, that there is a “natural” price for goods — for goods — a price that takes in the cost of making them and a profits for the makers — and a “market” price, and that these two are not always the same. The market is susceptible to pressures from the masters and dealers to keep prices unnaturally high. Smith does not think that “government is the problem”; he thinks that the producers’ compact against the consumers is the problem, and that the producers, because they are concentrated and rich, are usually able to make the government take their side. It is the proper function of the state to prevent the dealers from ganging up on the customers. “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production, and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.” For Smith, the market moves towards monopoly; it is the job of the philosopher to define, and of the sovereign state to restore, fair play.
Sam Smith at Undernews offers some depressing but persuasive advice. Read the full version here.
I wouldn’t lend my car to Hillary Clinton and I regard the Democratic Party as betraying not only the American people but its very own heritage from the New Deal and Great Society. But even with this burden, absent some revolutionary change between now and then, I shall go the polls and cast my national vote based not on anger and disgust but on a bitter assessment of which party will do the least damage to the least number of Americans and which will provide the most favorable environment for those seeking real change. Then I will save my personal virtue for those Greens running in my state and town.
The outcome of the referendum in Greece seems to me an event for which the word remarkable is inadequate, but earth-shattering is too strong. Perhaps it will do simply to call it a turning point in modern history. Not one equal to the demise of the Soviet Union, true, but like that event the implications of the referendum are likely to be many, varied, and unpredictable, unrolling over a period of years or even decades. This is one of those times people look back on and say, Yes, that was the moment when the wave started to take shape. At such moments I feel a bit like an observer of the Big Bang, seeing in real time the making of distinctions, often by the barest of margins, that will determine the shape and behavior of the universe.
One major remaining question is what, precisely, Greek voters meant by their overwhelming No vote. In part this is because the ballot was framed, as you’ve no doubt read, in technical jargon and referred to an agreement whose offer had lapsed before the referendum took place. But this was not entirely an effort to obscure on the part of the Syriza government in Greece, who tied their own political success to that of the No side and thus had clear incentive to thumb the scales. Blame must be shared, perhaps even in a manner analogous to progressive taxation, by those who stood to profit from failure of negotiations with the current government in Greece, whether by forcing Syriza out of power to demonstrate that democratically elected governments must bow to the overarching authority of the troika or by valuing the assets of the wealthy over the lives of those impoverished by the accumulation of that very wealth. Issuing an ultimatum that includes the opponents’ red-line items is equivalent to walking out, but even less acceptable (much less admirable) when the issuers hold the power to cut off food and medicine to the other side’s backers. To do so in such circumstances seems a calculated ploy to force the opponents to walk out in protest and disgust, at which point the ultimatum-givers can give self-righteous statements at press conferences and decry the profligacy of those Southerners. That those opponents had the gall to subject the actual terms of the ultimatum to a national referendum was even a greater irritation, once again bringing the pesky problem of democracy into the discussion.
So the Greeks couldn’t really know exactly what Yes and No meant. In the end, Syriza’s view that the troika would have to renegotiate after a No vote gave Greece a stronger hand probably seemed more hopeful, or at least less permanently bleak, than the prospect of returning to the EU fold when that very embrace has caused the devastation of the Greek economy, with some commentators calling it equal to or worse than the Great Depression here in the US considering proportions of unemployed workers and so on. But there was support from specialists in the field as well, with Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, Nobel laureates both, recommending No votes with very cogent arguments.