Consider: "Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."
- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)
- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"
"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
I was at first stunned and then elated by the images of a defeated, disoriented and disheveled Saddam Hussein submitting to an inspection for lice and having a flashlight shined into his mouth. The picture painted far more than 1,000 words.Yeah, yeah.
But as someone who opposed this war, the capture of Hussein does not distract from the basic issues that need to be examined.
The problem with this war is that President Bush and his staff told a series of deliberate lies and/or gross misrepresentations in order to convince the American people to support military action in Iraq.
If you listen to President Bush today, you'd think that the American people were primarily thinking about poor Iraqis. He's making the case that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" wasn't just a clever name for a war; it was actually the primary mission. The capture of Hussein is proof that it was worthwhile.Fine.
But even though Americans are generous, I doubt most citizens would have supported a plan to spend $150 billion and hundreds of American lives if the primary goal was to rescue the Iraqi people.
A year and a half ago, President Bush doubted it, too. That's why he didn't ask us to take this on as a humanitarian effort. Instead, he told us that we had to act because we were in immediate danger.
The other day I found myself reading a leftist rag that made outrageous claims about America. It said that we are becoming a society in which the poor tend to stay poor, no matter how hard they work; in which sons are much more likely to inherit the socioeconomic status of their father than they were a generation ago.Is this man serious? Can't anyone grow up to be president? George Bush did. Well, maybe he's not a good example. Some say he started out a bit ahead, so to speak.
The name of the leftist rag? Business Week, which published an article titled "Waking Up From the American Dream." The article summarizes recent research showing that social mobility in the United States (which was never as high as legend had it) has declined considerably over the past few decades. If you put that research together with other research that shows a drastic increase in income and wealth inequality, you reach an uncomfortable conclusion: America looks more and more like a class-ridden society.
And guess what? Our political leaders are doing everything they can to fortify class inequality, while denouncing anyone who complains - or even points out what is happening - as a practitioner of "class warfare."
According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez - confirmed by data from the Congressional Budget Office - between 1973 and 2000 the average real income of the bottom 90 percent of American taxpayers actually fell by 7 percent. Meanwhile, the income of the top 1 percent rose by 148 percent, the income of the top 0.1 percent rose by 343 percent and the income of the top 0.01 percent rose 599 percent. (Those numbers exclude capital gains, so they're not an artifact of the stock-market bubble.)Well, yes, the rich get richer, but perhaps this has always been so.
As a general rule, once they've reached their 30s, people don't move up and down the income ladder very much. Conservatives often cite studies like a 1992 report by Glenn Hubbard, a Treasury official under the elder Bush who later became chief economic adviser to the younger Bush, that purport to show large numbers of Americans moving from low-wage to high-wage jobs during their working lives. But what these studies measure, as the economist Kevin Murphy put it, is mainly "the guy who works in the college bookstore and has a real job by his early 30s." Serious studies that exclude this sort of pseudo-mobility show that inequality in average incomes over long periods isn't much smaller than inequality in annual incomes.Well drat! If you can't trust the conservatives on economic facts, who can you trust?
Business Week attributes this to the "Wal-Martization" of the economy, the proliferation of dead-end, low-wage jobs and the disappearance of jobs that provide entry to the middle class. That's surely part of the explanation. But public policy plays a role - and will, if present trends continue, play an even bigger role in the future.Ah, yes it does.
Put it this way: Suppose that you actually liked a caste society, and you were seeking ways to use your control of the government to further entrench the advantages of the haves against the have-nots. What would you do?
One thing you would definitely do is get rid of the estate tax, so that large fortunes can be passed on to the next generation. More broadly, you would seek to reduce tax rates both on corporate profits and on unearned income such as dividends and capital gains, so that those with large accumulated or inherited wealth could more easily accumulate even more. You'd also try to create tax shelters mainly useful for the rich. And more broadly still, you'd try to reduce tax rates on people with high incomes, shifting the burden to the payroll tax and other revenue sources that bear most heavily on people with lower incomes.
Meanwhile, on the spending side, you'd cut back on healthcare for the poor, on the quality of public education and on state aid for higher education. This would make it more difficult for people with low incomes to climb out of their difficulties and acquire the education essential to upward mobility in the modern economy.
And just to close off as many routes to upward mobility as possible, you'd do everything possible to break the power of unions, and you'd privatize government functions so that well-paid civil servants could be replaced with poorly paid private employees.
It all sounds sort of familiar, doesn't it?
SAN FRANCISCO -- At least five convicted felons secured management positions at a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, according to critics demanding more stringent background checks for people responsible for voting machine software.Amazing.
Voter advocate Bev Harris alleged Tuesday that managers of a subsidiary of Diebold Inc., one of the country's largest voting equipment vendors, included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records.
The programmer, Jeffrey Dean, wrote and maintained proprietary code used to count hundreds of thousands of votes as senior vice president of Global Election Systems. Diebold purchased GES in January 2002.
According to a public court document released before GES hired him, Dean served time in a Washington state correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that "involved a high degree of sophistication and planning."
What the hell is wrong with this country!?!? Screw Saddam. Screw Michael Jackson and screw every other stinking story the press thinks we should give a flying shit about. There should be no other story more important!!! None! Period. Nothing cuts to the core of our democracy, any democracy, like voting. Voting is democracy! Why did we fight the British for independence? Why did we fight the Nazis? The communists? What the hell have we been shedding blood over if not to defend the right of a free people to choose their own Representative government!?!?Too much coffee? Maybe not.
Hello 60 minutes? Hello 20/20? Hello Nightline? Hello anyone??? Sure we can all call Barbra Boxer's office and we can all call our local rep's office and we can all call our state senator but maybe it's time we start a full court press on the press! Have we fallen so far into one party rule that one party control of our voting apparatus just doesn't matter??
Here's a plan. Go here and print out any of the stories. Take a big black marker and hand write WHY IS THIS NOT BEING COVERED?? over it and mail it to every paper in your city. Start sending in letters to editors. Start sending letters to your favorite candidates campaign. Hey DNC: want a talking point? How about PRESERVE DEMOCRACY NOW! If this story can't be taken seriously then nothing else matters! Game over. Pack it up.
If this isn't corrected by the '04 elections then our wildest dreams will be little more than our worst nightmares.
God this story just pisses me off.
... We are living in times when the public rhetoric is medieval. Politicians and pundits invoke the words good and evil casually, as if the age of reason never happened. They speak proudly of killing, bullet-ridden corpses are triumphantly paraded. And like in Lord of the Rings, we define evil by demographics. The bloodline, the colour of skin, the ethnic background or nationality makes someone immediately suspect.Cool.
Can one judge a film with the morals of politics? Is Lord of the Rings seen differently in the United States than it is in Europe where the majority of people were against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? A fable is "a narration intended to enforce a useful truth." When I look at the Lord of the Rings as the fable its author, J.R.R. Tolkien, intended it to be, I see a world clearly divided into races and regions of leader and followers, I see Calvinist pre-determinism and I see the vindication and veneration of empire unfolding in frame after frame. And I feel the quick burn of shame that I always feel when realising that as a child I was taken in by a "useful truth" that now seems odious.
I can't lay the sole blame for the Lord of the Rings' atavistic classicism, racism and xenophobia with either auteur or author. It was Peter Jackson, the director, who chose his alabaster cast and decided that the camera would lovingly caress their sky-bold eyes. But Tolkien had lived through the horror of the "great war", and he imagined a world where the qualities of leadership were in the blood and where social and moral hierarchy was clearly identifiable through race and appearance. As the spectre of a second world war loomed, it was a soothing reordering of the world with a clear delineation of good and evil. ...
... in times of war, the definition of culture is loaded with meaning: it is a way of setting your world apart from the enemy's. To be worth dying for, it must be weighty and distinct. In these times are we so consumed by war that all art takes sides, or does art cease to become art once it is political? Theodor Adorno wrote that the genius of art lies in its ability to reveal what ideology conceals.Oh. That.
The world Tolkien lived in frightened him, and despite his protestations, he transferred his fears and experiences to his secondary world. Middle Earth reflected the deathly struggles he'd seen but he made it much simpler to distinguish good from evil. Elves, humans, hobbits and wizards were good for the most part. Orcs, trolls, and Sauron, the evil genius and lord of Mordor were smelly, ugly, and bad and none could shake their destiny. What was bred in the bone came out in the flesh. ... Tolkien's fusty belief in hierarchy was probably common in 1930s Oxford, but Peter Jackson's energetic interpretation of it in the 2000s is regressive.Regressive? Okay.