Sunday, September 05, 2004
This is a sticky post written the day we first appeared on the internet: Welcome to article43.com - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America. It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.
In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE. Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.
Everything here can be viewed anonymously. Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.
There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff. The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here. Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance. Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers. Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.
If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.
Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author. If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity. Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY.
Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.
Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.
Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.
This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.
Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.
...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files
No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy
Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein
He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin
If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin
We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein
Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley
The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.
Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous subsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.
The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.
Monday, December 09, 2013
Third World U.S.A. Part 7 - Service Jobs
Polarized labor market leaving more employees in service jobs
Study: U.S. job market is putting more workers in positions with limited upside and leverage.
By Peter Dizikes
December, 9, 2013
The widening chasm in the U.S. job market has brought many workers a long-term shift to low-skill service jobs, according to a study co-authored by an MIT economist.
The research, presented in a paper by MIT economist David Autor, along with economist David Dorn, helps add nuance to the nations job picture. While a widening gap between highly trained and less-trained members of the U.S. workforce has previously been noted, the current study shows in more detail how this transformation is happening in stores, restaurants, nursing homes, and other places staffed by service workers.
Specifically, workers in many types of middle-rank positions - such as skilled production-line workers and people in clerical or administrative jobs - have had to migrate into jobs as food-service workers, home health-care aides, child-care employees, and security guards, among other things.
“This polarization that we see is being driven by the movement of people out of middle-skill jobs and into services,” says Autor, a professor of economics at MIT. “The growth in service employment isn’t that large overall, but when you look at people with a noncollege education, it’s a very sharp increase, and its very concentrated in places that were initially specialized in the more middle-skill activities.”
Indeed, the portion of all U.S. labor hours logged by service workers grew by 30 percent between 1980 and 2005. That growth has not been enough to accommodate all the displaced workers from other industries, but it clearly is where some job-seekers have wound up: For instance, people working as machine operators and assemblers constituted 9.9 percent of U.S. labor hours in 1980, compared to 4.6 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, service occupations comprised 9.9 percent of labor hours in 1980, and are 12.9 percent today.
Not an improvement in job quality
The transition to service-sector jobs presents mostly bad news - along with a bit of good news - for people making the shift. The bad news, in part, is that service-sector positions, beyond the inherent difficulties of some of the jobs, tend to come with less leverage and more insecurity for employees.
“This is not an overall improvement in job quality,” Autor observes. “The problem with many of these jobs is they require fairly generic skill sets, which means workers have limited negotiating power and are fairly interchangeable. These are not, in general, attractive jobs.”
That said, the good news is that service-sector jobs have seen surprising growth in wages since 1980: an average of 6.4 percent per decade, adjusted for inflation. That has happened despite the increased supply of workers available for service-sector jobs, which should, in theory, depress those wages.
Thus the paper also teases out an issue of interest to economic researchers, concerning the reasons for this wage increase. Autor and Dorn suggest that increased productivity has lowered the prices of some goods, allowing people to pay more for some services, such as home health care.
Additionally, after examining 700 “commuting zones” around metropolitan areas in the United States, the study also finds that the change to service-sector jobs has happened both in traditional industrial areas, such as Chicago and Detroit, and in areas with a high proportion of office jobs, such as New York and San Francisco. In both cases, technological advances have automated a significant number of existing jobs.
“This is a case where technology, at present, is playing a larger role in eliminating middle-skill activities than it is in eliminating low-skill activities,"” Autor explains.
More standards to help service-sector workers?
The paper, The Growth of Low Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market,Ӕ was published in the American Economic Review. Dorn, an economist at the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid, is currently a visiting professor at Harvard University.
The paper has been well received by other scholars. ”The problems caused by the stagnation or even decline of the incomes of the middle class is one of the defining issues of the moment,” says Alan Manning, a professor at the London School of Economics, who has read the study. This paper provides the most complete account to date of the causes of this polarization in the U.S. labor market, fingering technological change and consumer preferences as the root cause. Next stop: What can we do about it?
In Autors view, studies of this kind have clear implications for policymakers: The findings, he says, can ғalertpeople to the changing opportunity set faced by contemporary workers. I think that is relevant to education policy and labor standards.
For instance, he suggests, recognizing that an increasing number of workers are in the service sector might lead some policymakers to endorse regulations about hours and working standards that would help these parts of the American workforce.
“It seems like people in these jobs are treated almost gratuitously badly,” Autor says. “If you work in retail, its possible you won’t even know your hours until the beginning of the week. Having uncertainty about your schedule from week to week, [when] you need to get your kids off to school, makes life that much tougher.” These jobs offer flexibility, but mostly to the employer.
“The United States,” he adds, “is unusual in offering almost no standards in this type of work.” And while such standards would impose some costs on employers, Autor suggests that those trade-offs could be part of a larger debate about employment today.
The findings also feed into a larger project Autor is pursuing, about the extent to which wealth and achievement are linked from generation to generation.
“Changes in labor demand have very serious social ramifications, not just in terms of work and employment, but for household structure and the transmission of disadvantage versus the transmission of achievement,” Autor says.
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Sunday, December 08, 2013
Bad Moon Rising Part 64 - America For Sale
China poised to play debt card for U.S. land
Communist nation could control American soil as ‘development zones’
By Jerome R Corsi
January 20, 2013
Barack Obama֒s involvement in the DeMar Second Amendment case was previously reported in Chapter 7 of Jerome R. Corsis AMERICA FOR SALE: FIGHTING THE NEW WORLD ORDER, SURVIVING THE GLOBAL DEPRESSION, AND PRESERVING USA SOVEREIGNTY.
NEW YORK - Could real estate on American soil owned by China be set up as “development zones” in which the communist nation could establish Chinese-owned businesses and bring in its citizens to the U.S. to work?
That’s part of an evolving proposal Beijing has been developing quietly since 2009 to convert more than $1 trillion of U.S debt it owns into equity.
Under the plan, China would own U.S. businesses, U.S. infrastructure and U.S. high-value land, all with a U.S. government guarantee against loss.
Yu Qiao, a professor of economics in the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsighua University in Beijing, proposed in 2009 a plan for the U.S. government to guarantee foreign investments in the United States.
WND has reliable information that the Bank of China, China’s central bank, has continued to advance the plan to convert China’s holdings of U.S. debt into equity owned by China in the U.S.
The Obama administration, under the plan, would grant a financial guarantee as an inducement for China to convert U.S. debt into Chinese direct equity investment. China would take ownership of successful U.S. corporations, potentially profitable infrastructure projects and high-value U.S. real estate.
Jerome Corsi exposes the globalists’ plan to put America on the chopping block in America for Sale: Fighting the New World Order, Surviving a Global Depression, and Preserving USA Sovereignty,Ӕ available at WNDs Superstore.
The plan would be designed to induce China to resume lending to the U.S. on a nearly zero-interest basis.
However, converting Chinese debt to equity investments in the United States could easily add another $1 trillion to outstanding Obama administration guarantees issued in the current economic crisis.
As of November 2012, China owned $1.17 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities, according to U.S. Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve Board calculations published Jan. 16.
Concerned about the unrestrained growth in U.S. debt under the Obama administration, China has reduced by 97 percent its holdings in short-term U.S. Treasury bills. ChinaҒs holding of $573.7 billion in August 2008, prior to the massive bank bailouts and stimulus programs triggered by the collapse in the U.S. mortgage market, dwindled to $5.96 billion by March 2011.
Treasury bills are short-term debt that matures in one year or less, sold to finance U.S. debt. Holdings of Treasury bills are included in the $1.17 trillion of total Treasury securities owned by China as of November 2012.
In addition to a national debt in excess of $16 trillion, the U.S. government in 2010 faced over $70 trillion in unfunded obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits scheduled to be paid retiring baby boomer retirees in the coming decades, with unfunded obligations showing no sign of being reduced with Congress at a deadlock over reducing federal government spending.
Yu Qiao observed that if the U.S. dollar collapsed under the weight of proposed Obama administration trillion-dollar budget deficits into the foreseeable future, holders of U.S. debt would face substantial losses that the Financial Times estimated would devastate Asians’ hard-earned wealth and terminate economic globalization.
“The basic idea is to turn Asian savings, Chinas in particular, into real business interests rather than let them be used to support U.S. over-consumption,” Yu Qiao wrote, “reflecting themes commonly suggested by Chinese government officials. While fixed-income securities are vulnerable to any fall in the value of the dollar, equity claims on sound corporations and infrastructure projects are at less risk from a currency default,” he continued.
The problem is that, in a struggling U.S. economy, China does not want to trade its investment in U.S. Treasury debt securities, with their inherent risk of dollar devaluation, for equally risky investments in U.S. corporations and infrastructure projects.
“But Asians do not want to bear the risk of this investment because of market turbulence and a lack of knowledge of cultural, legal and regulatory issues in U.S. businesses,” he stressed. “However if a guarantee scheme were created, Asian savers could be willing to invest directly in capital-hungry U.S. industries.”
Yu Qiaos plan included four components:
China would negotiate with the U.S. government to create a “crisis relief facility,” or CRF. The CRF would be used alongside U.S. federal efforts to stabilize the banking system and to invest in capital-intensive infrastructure projects such as high-speed railroad from Boston to Washington, D.C.
China would pool a portion of its holdings of Treasury bonds under the CFR umbrella to convert sovereign debt into equity. Any CFR funds that were designated for investment in U.S. corporations would still be owned and managed by U.S. equity holders, with the Asians holding minority equity shares that would, like preferred stock, be convertible.
The U.S. government would act as a guarantor, providing a sovereign guarantee scheme to assure the investment principal of the CRF against possible default of targeted companies or projects.
The Federal Reserve would set up a special account to supply the liquidity the CRF would require to swap sovereign debt into industrial investment in the United States.
The CRF would lessen Asians’ concern about implicit default of sovereign debts caused by a collapsing dollar, Yu Qiao concluded. “It would cost little and help the U.S. by channeling funds to business investment.”
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New studies: “Conspiracy theorists” sane; government dupes crazy, hostile
By Dr. Kevin Barrett
July 12, 2013
Recent studies by psychologists and social scientists in the US and UK suggest that contrary to mainstream media stereotypes, those labeled “conspiracy theorists” appear to be saner than those who accept the official versions of contested events.
The most recent study was published on July 8th by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK). Entitled What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories, the study compared conspiracist (pro-conspiracy theory) and conventionalist (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites.
The authors were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to leave so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones: Of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist.” In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority.
Perhaps because their supposedly mainstream views no longer represent the majority, the anti-conspiracy commenters often displayed anger and hostility: The research showed that people who favoured the official account of 9/11 were generally more hostile when trying to persuade their rivals.
Additionally, it turned out that the anti-conspiracy people were not only hostile, but fanatically attached to their own conspiracy theories as well. According to them, their own theory of 9/11 - a conspiracy theory holding that 19 Arabs, none of whom could fly planes with any proficiency, pulled off the crime of the century under the direction of a guy on dialysis in a cave in Afghanistan - was indisputably true. The so-called conspiracists, on the other hand, did not pretend to have a theory that completely explained the events of 9/11: For people who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy, the focus is not on promoting a specific rival theory, but in trying to debunk the official account.
In short, the new study by Wood and Douglas suggests that the negative stereotype of the conspiracy theorist - a hostile fanatic wedded to the truth of his own fringe theory - accurately describes the people who defend the official account of 9/11, not those who dispute it.
Additionally, the study found that so-called conspiracists discuss historical context (such as viewing the JFK assassination as a precedent for 9/11) more than anti-conspiracists. It also found that the so-called conspiracists to not like to be called conspiracistsܝ or conspiracy theorists.
Both of these findings are amplified in the new book Conspiracy Theory in America by political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith, published earlier this year by the University of Texas Press. Professor deHaven-Smith explains why people don’t like being called conspiracy theorists: The term was invented and put into wide circulation by the CIA to smear and defame people questioning the JFK assassination! The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term “conspiracy theory” and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.
In other words, people who use the terms “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorist” as an insult are doing so as the result of a well-documented, undisputed, historically-real conspiracy by the CIA to cover up the JFK assassination. That campaign, by the way, was completely illegal, and the CIA officers involved were criminals; the CIA is barred from all domestic activities, yet routinely breaks the law to conduct domestic operations ranging from propaganda to assassinations.
DeHaven-Smith also explains why those who doubt official explanations of high crimes are eager to discuss historical context. He points out that a very large number of conspiracy claims have turned out to be true, and that there appear to be strong relationships between many as-yet-unsolved state crimes against democracy. An obvious example is the link between the JFK and RFK assassinations, which both paved the way for presidencies that continued the Vietnam War. According to DeHaven-Smith, we should always discuss the Kennedy assassinations in the plural, because the two killings appear to have been aspects of the same larger crime.
Psychologist Laurie Manwell of the University of Guelph agrees that the CIA-designed “conspiracy theory” label impedes cognitive function. She points out, in an article published in American Behavioral Scientist (2010), that anti-conspiracy people are unable to think clearly about such apparent state crimes against democracy as 9/11 due to their inability to process information that conflicts with pre-existing belief.
In the same issue of ABS, University of Buffalo professor Steven Hoffman adds that anti-conspiracy people are typically prey to strong “confirmation bias"- that is, they seek out information that confirms their preexisting beliefs, while using IRRATIONAL MECHANISMS (such as the “conspiracy theory” label) to avoid conflicting information.
The extreme irrationality of those who attack “conspiracy theories” has been ably exposed by Communications professors Ginna Husting and Martin Orr of Boise State University. In a 2007 peer-reviewed article entitled “Dangerous Machinery: “Conspiracy Theorist as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion,” they wrote:
“If I call you a conspiracy theorist, it matters little whether you have actually claimed that a conspiracy exists or whether you have simply raised an issue that I would rather avoid: By labeling you, I strategically exclude you from the sphere where public speech, debate, and conflict occur.”
But now, thanks to the internet, people who doubt official stories are no longer excluded from public conversation; the CIA’s 44-year-old campaign to stifle debate using the “conspiracy theory” smear is nearly worn-out. In academic studies, as in comments on news articles, pro-conspiracy voices are now more numerous - and more rational - than anti-conspiracy ones.
No wonder the anti-conspiracy people are sounding more and more like a bunch of hostile, paranoid cranks.
Section Revelations •
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Something Is Really Wrong with the USA
Firearms, healthcare, inequality, government shutdowns.
I’m an incurable Americophile, but the US has a lot to work on.
By Karen Pickering
November 12, 2013
As I’m sure Americans have a particular view of Australia (if they remember us at all when they’re not at Outback Steakhouse), so too do Australians perceive the United States through a lens that simplifies and possibly distorts the truth. When I think of “America”, it’s usually difficult to disentangle exactly what I mean by that.
Do I mean the pop culture that I consume every day, from websites to television shows, through to movies and novels? Or the theory and commentary I devour from my favourite intellectuals and antagonists? Am I thinking of the political landscape, that still confuses and confounds me, despite having studied and taught it at university level? Or is it the America of Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and Bruce Springsteen the nation of such promise and innate goodness, that has lost its way?
As an incurable Americophile, I often romanticise the US and feel as though everything I’ve ever thought of, loved and felt is contained within it somehow. But when I compare it to my own country, toward which my patriotism is considerably more ambivalent, I’m reminded that all national dysfunction runs deep, even in two “new worlds”.
Nowhere is the comparison starker or more alarming, and so often made clear, than in our different approaches to firearms. In Australia, if you’re not a police officer, soldier or farmer, then it’s very unlikely you’ve ever seen a gun up close, much less held or fired one. This informs our horror at the reporting over gun culture in the US and in particular, mass shootings. I also despair at the recent murders of Trayvon Martin,Renisha McBride and other victims of structural prejudice. The racial nature of gun crime, the size of the prison population and policies such as Stand Your Ground and Stop and Frisk seem to be social diseases that need urgent solutions.
Of course, Australia has no proud history regarding race relations, and both countries are responsible for genocidal treatment of our first peoples. In America, this is complicated by the difference between Native Americans and African Americans in terms of broader social understanding and political will. Slavery must be one of the most recounted and memorialised events in American history, and yet that cultural awareness seems unrelated to improving real outcomes for African American people, notwithstanding the now-distant joy of Obama’s election.
It’s also been incredibly difficult for the average Australian to conceive ofshutting the government down in protest against citizens receiving health care. As a population with universal free access to medical treatment, we’ve internalised the narrative that Americans can be turned away from hospitals despite needing help. Or that they can be bankrupted by the treatment they do receive. I fervently hope that this is the beginning of a huge cultural shift and America starts to untie this Gordian knot.
I remember helping an American student who was badly injured while stepping off a tram here in Melbourne. There was bone visible and at least a dozen of us pulled out phones to call an ambulance. She screamed and begged us not to, as she thought her travel insurance wouldn’t cover it. We explained that going to a hospital was not a matter of choice at this point. I still recall the look of abject terror on her face, and realising that her first thought on being seriously hurt was: “But how will I pay for it?”
Money can often be a sore point for American tourists in Australia, and I’ve fielded many complaints about how expensive things are. I routinely explain that our minimum wage is close to $20 an hour, that the entire supply chain gets paid properly, and that many workers are unionised in industries that ensure their conditions are good. America has many more union members than our tiny country has inhabitants, but the difference is that our culture supports the right of workers to organise and collectively bargain with employers. For now, anyway.
This means that poverty is different for Americans on the wrong side of capitalism. Without fair wages and in the absence of a social safety net that allows any kind of dignity, I can see how the chance of rejoining the workforce might range from unlikely to impossible. Not to mention the crippling debts for students paying back loans, mortgages that bankrupt families, and the extent of ostracism for those who fall by the wayside. For a country that loves the idea of itself so deeply and passionately, I often wonder how it can hate its own people so profoundly and enduringly.
So why do I still love America? Simply, it’s given me so much. I’ve been utterly transformed by its artists, thinkers, and visionaries and oftentimes it feels like there’s something completely American about what they share. Maybe it’s a hope that things can always be different and better?
America, it’s time to be brave and redirect your immense power inwards. Imagine if just a fraction of military spending were channelled into education, health and a slew of social and economic programs. I remain as hopeful as the most fervent patriot that the full potential of your country will be realised ֖ fulfilling the promise that those poets believed in and taught me all about.
There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show
The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract.
By David Simon
December 8, 2013
America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I LIVE IN ONE, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.
I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.
I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.
You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism of how his logic would work when applied ֖ kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.
That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.
We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?
And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.
Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection.
It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.
After the second world war, the west emerged with the American economy coming out of its wartime extravagance, emerging as the best product. It was the best product. It worked the best. It was demonstrating its might not only in terms of what it did during the war but in terms of just how facile it was in creating mass wealth.
Plus, it provided a lot more freedom and was doing the one thing that guaranteed that the 20th century was going to be ֖ and forgive the jingoistic sound of this the American century.
It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.
It wasn’t just that we could supply stuff, or that we had the factories or know-how or capital, it was that we created our own demand and started exporting that demand throughout the west. And the standard of living made it possible to manufacture stuff at an incredible rate and sell it.
And how did we do that? We did that by not giving in to either side. That was the new deal. That was the great society. That was all of that argument about collective bargaining and union wages and it was an argument that meant neither side gets to win.
Labour doesn’t get to win all its arguments, capital doesn’t get to. But it’s in the tension, it’s in the actual fight between the two, that capitalism actually becomes functional, that it becomes something that every stratum in society has a stake in, that they all share.
The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn’t matter that they won all the time, it didn’t matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.
Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.
That we’ve gotten to this point is astonishing to me because basically in winning its victory, in seeing that Wall come down and seeing the former Stalinist state’s journey towards our way of thinking in terms of markets or being vulnerable, you would have thought that we would have learned what works. Instead we’ve descended into what can only be described as greed. This is just greed. This is an inability to see that we’re all connected, that the idea of two Americas is implausible, or two Australias, or two Spains or two Frances.
Societies are exactly what they sound like. If everybody is invested and if everyone just believes that they have “some”, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get the same amount. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people who are the venture capitalists who stand to make the most. It’s not each according to their needs or anything that is purely Marxist, but it is that everybody feels as if, if the society succeeds, I succeed, I don’t get left behind. And there isn’t a society in the west now, right now, that is able to sustain that for all of its population.
And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show. You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education. You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.
We have become something other than what we claim for the American dream and all because of our inability to basically share, to even contemplate a socialist impulse.
Socialism is a dirty word in my country. I have to give that disclaimer at the beginning of every speech, “Oh by the way I’m not a Marxist you know”. I lived through the 20th century. I don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth. I don’t.
I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over. But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a social compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me.
And so capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory all by its own hand. That’s the astonishing end of this story, unless we reverse course. Unless we take into consideration, if not the remedies of Marx then the diagnosis, because he saw what would happen if capital triumphed unequivocally, if it got everything it wanted.
And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is the diminishment of labour. They would want labour to be diminished because labour’s a cost. And if labour is diminished, let’s translate that: in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.
From this moment forward unless we reverse course, the average human being is worth less on planet Earth. Unless we take stock of the fact that maybe socialism and the socialist impulse has to be addressed again; it has to be married as it was married in the 1930s, the 1940s and even into the 1950s, to the engine that is capitalism.
Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.
The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It’s a juvenile notion and it’s still being argued in my country passionately and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?
If you watched the debacle that was, and is, the fight over something as basic as public health policy in my country over the last couple of years, imagine the ineffectiveness that Americans are going to offer the world when it comes to something really complicated like global warming. We can’t even get healthcare for our citizens on a basic level. And the argument comes down to: “Goddamn this socialist president. Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? It’s socialism, motherfucker.”
What do you think group health insurance is? You know you ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance where you օ?” “Oh yeah, I get “ you know, “my law firm Ņ” So when you get sick you’re able to afford the treatment.
The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you’re able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you’re relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go “Brother, that’s socialism. You know it is.”
And ... you know when you say, OK, we’re going to do what we’re doing for your law firm but we’re going to do it for 300 million Americans and we’re going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you’re going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm Their eyes glaze. You know they don’t want to hear it. It’s too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.
So I’m astonished that at this late date I’m standing here and saying we might want to go back for this guy Marx that we were laughing at, if not for his prescriptions, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don’t mitigate the authority of capitalism, if you don’t embrace some other values for human endeavour.
And that’s what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.
That’s the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we’ve managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people’s racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.
And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans. And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it’s not just about race, it’s about something even more terrifying. It’s about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?
So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody’s going to get left behind. We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.
We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.
The other thing that was there in 1932 that isn’t there now is that some element of the popular will could be expressed through the electoral process in my country.
The last job of capitalism Ŗ having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.
Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.
So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will. Even if we all start having the same sentiments that I’m arguing for now, I’m not sure we can effect them any more in the same way that we could at the rise of the Great Depression, so maybe it will be the brick. But I hope not.
David Simon is an American author and journalist and was the executive producer of The Wire. This is an edited extract of a talk delivered at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.
What happens to a society that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion?
Project World Awareness
September 14, 2010
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times, is the author of several books including the best sellers WAR IS A FORCE THAT GIVES US MEANING and EMPIRE OF ILLUSION: THE END OF LITERACY AND THE TRIUMPH OF SPECTACLE. . .
The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips DYING EMPIRES, is a country entranced by ILLUSIONS. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other peoples humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or John Edwards, enthralls the country despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.
The virtues that sustain a nation-state and build community, from honesty to self-sacrifice to transparency to sharing, are ridiculed each night on television as rubes stupid enough to cling to this antiquated behavior are voted off reality shows. Fellow competitors for prize money and a chance for fleeting fame, cheered on by millions of viewers, elect to disappear - the unwanted. In the final credits of the reality show Americas Next Top Model, a picture of the woman expelled during the episode vanishes from the group portrait on the screen. Those cast aside become, at least to the television audience, nonpersons. Celebrities that can no longer generate publicity, good or bad, vanish. Life, these shows persistently teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and a constant quest for notoriety and attention.
Our culture of flagrant self-exaltation, hardwired in the American character, permits the humiliation of all those who oppose us. We believe, after all, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked. Human beings are used and discarded like Styrofoam boxes that held junk food. And the numbers of superfluous human beings are swelling the unemployment offices, the prisons and the soup kitchens.
It is the cult of self that is killing the United States. This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation; a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation; and the incapacity for remorse or guilt. Michael Jackson, from his phony marriages to the portraits of himself dressed as royalty to his insatiable hunger for new toys to his questionable relationships with young boys, had all these qualities. And this is also the ethic promoted by corporations. It is the ethic of unfettered capitalism. It is the misguided belief that personal style and personal advancement, mistaken for individualism, are the same as democratic equality. It is the nationwide celebration of image over substance, of illusion over truth. And it is why investment bankers blink in confusion when questioned about the morality of the billions in profits they made by selling worthless toxic assets to investors.
We have a right, in the cult of the self, to get whatever we desire. We can do anything, even belittle and destroy those around us, including our friends, to make money, to be happy and to become famous. Once fame and wealth are achieved, they become their own justification, their own morality. How one gets there is irrelevant. It is this perverted ethic that gave us investment houses like Goldman Sachs that willfully trashed the global economy and stole money from tens of millions of small shareholders who had bought stock in these corporations for retirement or college. The heads of these corporations, like the winners on a reality television program who lied and manipulated others to succeed, walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses and compensation. The ethic of Wall Street is the ethic of celebrity. It is fused into one bizarre, perverted belief system and it has banished the possibility of the country returning to a reality-based world or avoiding internal collapse. A society that cannot distinguish reality from illusion dies.
The tantalizing illusions offered by our consumer culture, however, are vanishing for most citizens as we head toward collapse. The ability of the corporate state to pacify the country by extending credit and providing cheap manufactured goods to the masses is gone. The jobs we are shedding are not coming back, as the White House economist Lawrence Summers tacitly acknowledges when he talks of a jobless recovery. The belief that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the accumulation of vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others is exposed as a fraud. Freedom can no longer be conflated with the free market. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance.
America is sinking under trillions in debt it can never repay and stays afloat by frantically selling about $2 billion in Treasury bonds a day to the Chinese. It saw 2.8 million people lose their homes in 2009 to foreclosure or bank repossessions nearly 8,000 people a day - and stands idle as they are joined by another 2.4 million people this year. It refuses to prosecute the Bush administration for obvious war crimes, including the use of torture, and sees no reason to dismantle Bushs secrecy laws or restore habeas corpus. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Deficits are pushing individual states to bankruptcy and forcing the closure of everything from schools to parks. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have squandered trillions of dollars, appear endless. There are 50 million Americans in real poverty and tens of millions of Americans in a category called “near poverty.” One in eight Americans - and one in four children depend on food stamps to eat. And yet, in the midst of it all, we continue to be a country consumed by happy talk and happy thoughts. We continue to embrace the illusion of inevitable progress, personal success and rising prosperity. Reality is not considered an impediment to desire.
When a culture lives within an illusion it perpetuates a state of permanent infantilism or childishness. As the gap widens between the illusion and reality, as we suddenly grasp that it is our home being foreclosed or our job that is not coming back, we react like children. We scream and yell for a savior, someone who promises us revenge, moral renewal and new glory. It is not a new story. A furious and sustained backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually, emotionally and psychologically for collapse, will sweep aside the Democrats and most of the Republicans and will usher America into a new dark age. It was the economic collapse in Yugoslavia that gave us Slobodan Milosevic. It was the Weimar Republic that vomited up Adolf Hitler. And it was the breakdown in Tsarist Russia that opened the door for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. A cabal of proto-fascist misfits, from Christian demagogues to loudmouth talk show hosts, whom we na֖vely dismiss as buffoons, will find a following with promises of revenge and moral renewal. And as in all totalitarian societies, those who do not pay fealty to the illusions imposed by the state become the outcasts, the persecuted.
The decline of American empire began long before the current economic meltdown or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It began before the first Gulf War or Ronald Reagan. It began when we shifted, in the words of Harvard historian Charles Maier, from “an empire of production to an empire of consumption.” By the end of the Vietnam War, when the costs of the war ate away at Lyndon Johnsons Great Society and domestic oil production began its steady, inexorable decline, we saw our country transformed from one that primarily produced to one that primarily consumed. We started borrowing to maintain a level of consumption as well as an empire we could no longer afford. We began to use force, especially in the Middle East, to feed our insatiable thirst for cheap oil. We substituted the illusion of growth and prosperity for real growth and prosperity. The bill is now due. America’s most dangerous enemies are not Islamic radicals but those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization. They have dynamited the very foundations of our society. In the 17th century these speculators would have been hung. Today they run the government and consume billions in taxpayer subsidies.
As the pressure mounts, as the despair and desperation reach into larger and larger segments of the populace, the mechanisms of corporate and government control are being bolstered to prevent civil unrest and instability. The emergence of the corporate state always means the emergence of the security state. This is why the Bush White House pushed through the Patriot Act (and its renewal), the suspension of habeas corpus, the practice of extraordinary rendition,֒ warrantless wiretapping on American citizens and the refusal to ensure free and fair elections with verifiable ballot-counting. The motive behind these measures is not to fight terrorism or to bolster national security. It is to seize and maintain internal control. It is about controlling us.
And yet, even in the face of catastrophe, mass culture continues to assure us that if we close our eyes, if we visualize what we want, if we have faith in ourselves, if we tell God that we believe in miracles, if we tap into our inner strength, if we grasp that we are truly exceptional, if we focus on happiness, our lives will be harmonious and complete. This cultural retreat into illusion, whether peddled by positive psychologists, by Hollywood or by Christian preachers, is magical thinking. It turns worthless mortgages and debt into wealth. It turns the destruction of our manufacturing base into an opportunity for growth. It turns alienation and anxiety into a cheerful conformity. It turns a nation that wages illegal wars and administers offshore penal colonies where it openly practices torture into the greatest democracy on earth. And it keeps us from fighting back.
Resistance movements will have to look now at the long night of slavery, the decades of oppression in the Soviet Union and the curse of fascism for models. The goal will no longer be the possibility of reforming the system but of protecting truth, civility and culture from mass contamination. It will require the kind of schizophrenic lifestyle that characterizes all totalitarian societies. Our private and public demeanors will often have to stand in stark contrast. Acts of defiance will often be subtle and nuanced. They will be carried out not for short term gain but the assertion of our integrity. Rebellion will have an ultimate if not easily definable purpose. The more we retreat from the culture at large the more room we will have to carve out lives of meaning, the more we will be able to wall off the flood of illusions disseminated by mass culture and the more we will retain sanity in an insane world. The goal will become the ability to endure..
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