Monthly Archives: July 2014

Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball

July 6, 2010

Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse
By Joe Bageant

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
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As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo’s hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It’s the world’s cheap labor guys like you — the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts — who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We’ve got predator drones.

After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces — forever.

We’ve had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn’t been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.

Continue reading Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball

Economic Lynching

by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

race_econ_inequality
(Photo: flickr / cc / mSeattle)

On October 26, 1934 Claude Neal, a black man accused of murdering a young white woman in Jackson County, Florida, was dragged from his jail cell to be lynched. The event was rushed into the afternoon newspapers. When an unruly crowd of several thousand people gathered for the spectacle, the six men in the lynching party got nervous and decided to drive Neal to a secluded spot in the woods. There they tortured him in ways that seem impossible for a human being to imagine.

America can rightfully feel better about itself now, having gone beyond such detestable acts of savagery against fellow human beings. But the assault on people deemed inferior continues in another way. Instead of a single shocking act of physical brutality, it is a less visible means of drawn-out terror that destroys dignity and livelihood and slowly breaks down the body. So insidious is this modern form of economic subjugation that many whites barely seem to notice people of color being dragged to the bottom of one of the most unequal societies in the history of the world.

1. Wealth Theft

For every $100 of median wealth owned by white households in 1984, black households owned $9. In 2011 they were down to $7.

Hispanic workers, who in 1979 made 81 cents for every dollar made by white workers, are now down to 69 cents (Fig C-2, Median). After the recession they lost two-thirds of their household wealth because of plummeting home prices and foreclosures.

Unfathomable wealth has been created since the recession, about $25 trillion, a full third of the total wealth in our country today. The overwhelmingly white richest 10% took almost all of it. Those of us who should be subject to a wealth tax or a financial transaction tax continue to benefit from a stock market that offers almost nothing to hard-working, low-income minorities.

2. Job Hypocrisy

The conservative solution for poverty is “get a job.” But stunningly, over half of the black college graduates of recent years were underemployed in 2013, working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree. Along with their sub-living-wage jobs, they have an average of almost $30,000 in student loan debt.

Continue reading Economic Lynching

Speech on the Fourth of July, 1872

By Mark Twain, What So Proudly We Hail

Introduction

Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens; 1835–1910), author and humorist, largely took an ironic view of the world around him, rarely missing an opportunity to poke fun at ceremony, solemnity, and moral self-satisfaction. Our sacred holidays were not immune to his wit. Here, for example, from Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, is Twain’s entry for July 4th: “Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than in all the other days of the year put together. This proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fourth of July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so.” In this satirical jab at Fourth of July orations, Twain prepares his own Independence Day address, for a gathering of Americans in London, July 4, 1872.

Mark-Twain-photo-by-Mathew-Brady-1871-358x426What, if anything, can be said for this mocking speech and its content? Do we as Americans have a tendency for self-congratulation that deserves to be exposed and corrected, or even ridiculed? If so, is this the best way and the right occasion for pointing out the nation’s faults? Should we regret that Twain arranges it so that he was “not able” to give the speech? Does that count as appropriate self-censorship? Whose Fourth of July speech do you prefer, Twain’s or Daniel Webster’s (see above)? Why? Is there a role for self-mocking humor in our national calendar and in cultivating civic self-awareness and attachment? If so, what is it, and how can it best be accomplished?

Mr. Chairman and Ladies and Gentlemen,—

I thank you for the compliment which has just been tendered me, and to show my appreciation of it I will not afflict you with many words. It is pleasant to celebrate in this peaceful way, upon this old mother soil, the anniversary of an experiment which was born of war with this same land so long ago, and wrought out to a successful issue by the devotion of our ancestors. It has taken nearly a hundred years to bring the English and Americans into kindly and mutually appreciative relations, but I believe it has been accomplished at last. It was a great step when the two last misunderstandings were settled by arbitration instead of cannon. It is another great step when England adopts our sewing-machines without claiming the invention—as usual. It was another when they imported one of our sleeping-cars the other day. And it warmed my heart more than, I can tell, yesterday, when I witnessed the spectacle of an Englishman, ordering an American sherry cobbler of his own free will and accord—and not only that but with a great brain and a level head reminding the barkeeper not to forget the strawberries. With a common origin, a common language, a common literature, a common religion, and—common drinks, what is longer needful to the cementing of the two nations together in a permanent bond of brotherhood?

This is an age of progress, and ours is a progressive land. A great and glorious land, too—a land which has developed a Washington, a Franklin, a Wm. M. Tweed, a Longfellow, a Motley, a Jay Gould, a Samuel C. Pomeroy, a recent Congress which has never had its equal (in some respects), and a United States Army which conquered sixty Indians in eight months by tiring them out which is much better than uncivilized slaughter, God knows. We have a criminal jury system which is superior to any in the world; and its efficiency is only marred by the difficulty of finding twelve men every day who don’t know anything and can’t read. And I may observe that we have an insanity plea that would have saved Cain. I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.

Continue reading Speech on the Fourth of July, 1872

Digitizing Camelot

Reprinted courtesy of: American Libraries Magazine and ilovelibraries.com

By: Tim Inklebarger

The anger, frustration, and worry that the situation could turn out very badly were evident in the president’s voice.

k1It was September 1962 and pro-segregation forces were readying for a violent clash with US troops over a court order entitling James Meredith, an African-American student, to enroll at the all-white University of Mississippi. Days before riots erupted that left two dead and hundreds wounded, President John F. Kennedy spoke on a recorded phone call with Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, at times almost pleading with him to maintain law and order.

“You just don’t understand the situation down here,” Barnett snaps at Kennedy.

Kennedy cuts him off, his voice terse and unwavering. “Well, the only thing is I got my responsibility,” he says, referring to the court order.

Barnett implores Kennedy to postpone enrolling Meredith and to tell the public that “under the [potentially violent] circumstances at this time, it just wouldn’t be fair to [Meredith] or others, uh, to try to register him.”

“Well, then at what time would it be fair?” Kennedy retorts.

The “Integrating Ole Miss” audio recordings and hundreds of others are available online through the vast digital archive at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. The library has been building the “Access to a Legacy” digital archive since 2006 and made it public in January 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. Through its website the library provides access to 150 terabytes of information, including approximately 593,500 paper documents, 22,642 photographs, 1,436 sound recordings, and 121 moving images, according to James Roth, library deputy director. It is the most extensive digitization effort in the presidential library system, and the archive is growing every year.

The website gives visitors an insider’s view of the Kennedy White House, allowing them to listen to tape-recorded phone calls and closed-door meetings, read handwritten notes by the president in the margins of official documents, and view never-before-seen pictures of Kennedy and his staff. Visitors can pore over unabridged folders of information and tour interactive exhibits that highlight documents, television newscasts, presidential speeches, and other information associated with the JFK administration.

Continue reading Digitizing Camelot

Concentrated Wealth or Democracy, but Not Both

By Joel Kotkin, April 11, 2014

urlIn many uncomfortable ways, American politics now resemble those that arose late in the Roman Republic. As wealth and land ownership concentrated in few hands, a state built on the discipline of soldiers who tended their own farms became ever more dominated by fractious oligarchs. As property consolidated into huge slave-owning estates, more citizens became landless and ever more dependent on the patronage of the rich generals and landowners who increasingly seized control of politics.

In much the same way, as the wealth has concentrated in America, so, too, has the power exercised by those with money. The wealthy have always played an outsized role in our politics, but today, emboldened by Supreme Court rulings easing controls on contributions, oligarchs are dominating the electoral map in ways that have not been seen at least since the abuses of the Nixon years.

Perhaps the most notable, or infamous, example is the Koch brothers, David and Charles, billionaire industrialists whose role in conservative politics has made them the ultimate “bogeymen” for crusading liberal journalists concerned with the growing power of the ultrarich on our political system. Campaigning against the Kochs has become standard issue for Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Continue reading Concentrated Wealth or Democracy, but Not Both

FDR FIRESIDE CHAT #6: ON MOVING FORWARD TO GREATER FREEDOM AND GREATER SECURITY

Delivered Sunday, September 30, 1934 

imagesThree months have passed since I talked with you shortly after the adjournment of the Congress. Tonight I continue that report, though, because of the shortness of time, I must defer a number of subjects to a later date.

Recently the most notable public questions that have concerned us all have had to do with industry and labor and with respect to these, certain developments have taken place which I consider of importance. I am happy to report that after years of uncertainty, culminating in the collapse of the spring of 1933, we are bringing order out of the old chaos with a greater certainty of the employment of labor at a reasonable wage and of more business at a fair profit. These governmental and industrial developments hold promise of new achievements for the nation.

Men may differ as to the particular form of governmental activity with respect to industry and business, but nearly all are agreed that private enterprise in times such as these cannot be left without assistance and without reasonable safeguards lest it destroy not only itself but also our processes of civilization. The underlying necessity for such activity is indeed as strong now as it was years ago when Elihu Root said the following very significant words:

“Instead of the give and take of free individual contract, the tremendous power of organization has combined great aggregations of capital in enormous industrial establishments working through vast agencies of commerce and employing great masses of men in movements of production and transportation and trade, so great in the mass that each individual concerned in them is quite helpless by himself. The relations between the employer and the employed, between the owners of aggregated capital and the units of organized labor, between the small producer, the small trader, the consumer, and the great transporting and manufacturing and distributing agencies, all present new questions for the solution of which the old reliance upon the free action of individual wills appear quite inadequate. And in many directions, the intervention of that organized control which we call government seems necessary to produce the same result of justice and right conduct which obtained through the attrition of individuals before the new conditions arose.”

Continue reading FDR FIRESIDE CHAT #6: ON MOVING FORWARD TO GREATER FREEDOM AND GREATER SECURITY

Nobody

Nobody has the answers.
Nobody is listening to you.
Nobody is looking out for your interests.
Nobody will lower your taxes.
Nobody will fix the education system.
Nobody knows what he is doing in Washington.
Nobody will make us energy independent.
Nobody will cut government waste.
Nobody will clean up the environment.
Nobody will protect us against terrorist threats.
Nobody will tell the truth.
Nobody will avoid conflicts of interest.
Nobody will restore ethical behavior to the White House.
Nobody will get us out of Afghanistan.
Nobody understands farm subsidies.
Nobody will spend your tax dollars wisely.
Nobody feels your pain.
Nobody wants to give peace a chance.
Nobody predicted the Iraq War would be a disaster.
Nobody expected the levees to fail.
Nobody warned that the housing bubble would collapse.
Nobody will reform Wall Street.
Nobody will stand up for what’s right.
Nobody will be your voice.
Nobody will tell you what the others won’t.
Nobody has a handle on this.

Nobody, but you, that is.

Never forget, a small group of people can change the world.

No one else ever has.

 

Micah Sifry is co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum. He tweets @mlsif.

Godzilla has risen: The insurance industry under the ACA

By Emily Dalton, M.D., Physicians for a National Health Program , Thursday, July 3, 2014

When inquired if Godzilla was “good or bad,” producer Shogo Tomiyama likened it to a Shinto “God of Destruction” which lacks moral agency and cannot be held to human standards of good and evil. “He totally destroys everything and then there is a rebirth; something new and fresh can begin,” he said.

Despite all the hopes many of us had for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the current system of medical insurance is a dysfunctional nightmare. I should know, because I am in the unique position of experiencing it from three perspectives simultaneously: that of a patient who uses an insurance plan, that of a small business owner who purchases insurance for a group of employees, and that of a physician who contracts with and gets paid by insurance companies.

As a patient, I am tricked by the expensive insurance plan I bought. Even though the card says “HSA 2000,” the deductible for my family is actually $4,000. After that the insurance only pays for 70 percent of covered charges when initially we were told 80 percent.

When I call my insurance company to address problems, I must make sure that I have several hours of free time, so that I can stay on hold long enough to get through to the low level representative who has little power to do anything. The disclaimer “Description of covered benefits is not a guarantee of payment” makes me fearful and insecure. I am at the mercy of large, for-profit corporation that is beholden to shareholders and run by greedy CEOs who do not care about me.

Continue reading Godzilla has risen: The insurance industry under the ACA

Change of Pace Tonight: How to get that perfect shave

Latest trends and products to avoid those nicks and cuts

From Today
By Corey Greenberg
Contributor
Weekend Today
updated 1/30/2005 12:34:21 PM ET

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 7.11.45 PMEver since prehistoric man first scraped a seashell across his cheek so prehistoric woman would let him dance cheek-to-cheek, shaving has been a part of the male experience. But even with today’s high-tech razors, lots of men still get nicks, cuts, and razor burn. Today’s Tech Editor Corey Greenberg is here with the latest trend in male grooming that promises a better shave by going back to the old school.

Q: What is the perfect shave and why do most guys get it so wrong?

A: The perfect shave is what all men strive for every morning when they bring their razor up their chin – an effortless shave that’s baby smooth, and without any of the usual skin irritation, redness, and that burning sensation most guys seem to feel is par for the course when it comes to shaving.

Why do so many guys find this so hard to achieve? Because proper shaving has become a lost art. Shaving is one of those glorious male traditions that used to be passed down from father to son, but somewhere along the line, when shaving became more about cheap, disposable razors than a nice, precision-made metal tool in your hand, it became a brainless routine to rush through in the morning without even thinking about it. A dull disposable razor dragged across a layer of foam or gel on your cheeks is a step backward from the past, not an improvement. Now that men of all ages are paying more attention to their appearance, it’s no wonder that the hottest trend right now in male grooming is a return to the traditional wet shave – and millions of men have been shocked to discover that the “old fashioned” method of shaving they thought went out with the Hula Hoop is actually the best quality shave you can get.

Q: What is “wetshaving” and how is it different from the way most men – and women – shave today?

A: Wetshaving is just what the term implies – keeping your face (or for women, their legs) wet with plenty of hot water before, and during, the entire shave. In fact, you should always shave after a hot shower, not before (if you need to shave without taking a shower, washing your face with hot water for a few minutes will suffice). With a layer of hot water between your skin and the lather, the blade skims the surface instead of dragging on it, which is the main cause of irritation, redness, and “shave bumps”.

Continue reading Change of Pace Tonight: How to get that perfect shave

The Mystery Donor’s Tale: A Sister, A Brother And A New Library

Reprinted courtesy of: nhpr.org (New Hampshire News) and ilovelibraries.org on January 17, 2014

By: Chris Jensen

For 100 years the library in Bethlehem occupied three small rooms in Town Hall. But over the weekend that changed with opening of a new library on Main Street. It was the conclusion of a tale involving a mystery donor, a brother who moved far away and a sister who stayed in the North Country.

At the tale’s center were two people.

One was Muriel Brown, who for more than three decades was the town’s beloved librarian.

The other was her brother, Arthur Jobin, known to the family as “Bud.”

Both grew up in Bethlehem.

They had a particularly strong relationship, the source of which wasn’t clear even to family members.

“I just think my mother had a special spot for him,” said Melody Nute, Muriel Brown’s daughter.

During World War II, Jobin joined the Army Air Force and was a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber.

He was shot down over Austria in 1944 and taken prisoner.

Muriel wrote letter after letter on special “Prisoner of War Post” stationary sent to Stalag Luft III camp.

She wrote about work, the weather, the family and her joy at getting his letters.

1.17 f2-4After the war Jobin went to college, moved to California and went to work for United Airlines as a liaison with the FAA.

He didn’t retire until he was 81.

And, all that time he saved his money, said Nute.

Continue reading The Mystery Donor’s Tale: A Sister, A Brother And A New Library