Article 43

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cultural Stupidity

America: Why R Your Peeps So Dum?
U.S. culture is going down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

By Joe Bageant
December 9, 2010

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us—those elites who run the institutions—very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.

Directly or indirectly, they understand that the real function of American social institutions is to justify, rationalize and hide the true purpose of cultural behavior from the lumpenproletariat, and to shape that behavior to the benefit of the institution’s members. “Hey, they’re a lump. Whaddya expect us to do?”

Doubting readers may consider America’s health institutions, the insurance corporations, hospital chains, physicians’ lobbies. Between them they have established a perfectly legal right to clip you and me for thousands of dollars at their own discretion. That we so rabidly defend their right to gouge us, given all the information available in the digital age, mystifies the world.

Two hundred years ago no one would have thought sheer volume of available facts in the digital information age would produce informed Americans. Founders of the republic, steeped in the Enlightenment as they were, and believers in an informed citizenry being vital to freedom and democracy, would be delirious with joy at the prospect. Imagine Jefferson and Franklin high on Google.

The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of cherry picking the blogs and TV channels to reinforce their particular branded choice cultural ignorance, consumer, scientific or political, but especially political. Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman’s right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That’s why they are called dumb.

But throw in sixty years of television’s mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news. The inescapable conclusion of half of heartland America is that her mama must certainly be presidential material, even if Bristol cannot dance. It ain’t a pretty picture out there in Chattanooga and Keokuk.

The other half, the liberal half, concludes that Bristol’s bad dancing is part of her spawn-of-the-Devil mama’s plan to take over the country, and make millions in the process, not to mention make Tina Fey and Jon Stewart richer than they already are. That’s a tall order for a squirrel brained woman who recently asked a black president to “refudiate” the NAACP (though I kinda like refudiate, myself). Cultural stupidity accounts for virtually every aspect of Sarah Palin, both as a person and a political icon. Which, come to think of it, may be a pretty good reason not to “misunderstimate” her. After all, we’re still talking about her in both political camps. And the woman OWNS the Huffington Post, fer Christsake. Not to mention a franchise on cultural ignorance.

Cultural stupidity might not be so bad, were it not self-reproducing and viral, and prone to place stupid people in charge. All of us have, at some point, looked at a boss and asked ourselves how such a numb-nuts could end up in charge of the joint.

In my own field, the book biz, the top hucksters in sales and marketing, car salesman with degrees, are put in charge of publishing the national literature. Similarly, ex-Pentagon generals segue from killing brown babies in Iraq into university presidents and CEOs. Conversely, business leaders such as Donald Rumsfeld who fancy themselves as battlefield commanders and imagine their employees as troops to be “deployed,” find themselves happily farting behind Pentagon desks. On the strength of having mistaken Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as a business text, they get selected by equally delusional national leaders to make actual war on behalf of the rest of us.

But the most widespread damage is done at more mundane operational levels of the American empire, by clones of the over promoted asshole in the corner office where you work. At least one study demonstrated that random selection for corporate promotions offset the effect significantly. Research again confirms what is common knowledge around every workplace water cooler in the country.

Save my spot in the gulag, I’m off to Wal-Mart

Cultural ignorance of one sort or another is sustained and nurtured in all societies to some degree, because the majority gains material benefit from maintaining it. Americans, for example, reap huge on-the-ground benefits from cultural ignorance—especially the middle class Babbitry—from cultural ignorance generated by American hyper-capitalism in the form of junk affluence.

Purposeful ignorance allows us to enjoy cheaper commodities produced through slave labor, both foreign, and increasingly, domestic, and yet “thank god for his bounty” in the nation’s churches without a trace of guilt or irony. It allows strong arm theft of weaker nations’ resources and goods, to say nothing of the destructiveness of late stage capitalism—using up exhausting every planetary resource that sustains human life.

The American defense, on those rare occasions when one is offered, runs roughly, “Well you commie bastard, I ain’t ever seen a sweatshop and I got no Asian kids chained in the basement. So I’ve got what the guvment calls plausible deniability. Go fuck yerself!”

Uh, don’t look now, but the banksters own your ass, your country has become a work gulag/police state and the most of the world hates you.

Such a thriving American intellectual climate enables capitalist elites to withhold and ration vital resources like health care simply by auctioning it off to the richest. Americans fail to grasp this because the most important fact (that a helluva lot of folks can’t afford to bid, and therefore get to die early) never gets equal play with capitalist political propaganda, to wit, that if we give free medical attention to low income cleft palate babies, a wave of Leninism will seize the nation. That is cultural ignorance. We breathe the stuff every day of our lives.

But when Americans too poor to buy health care nevertheless vote to retain the corporate auction process, that is cultural stupidity.

(Let us now pause to clutch our hair in our fists and scream AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!)

Like the old song says, “Them that don’t know don’t know they don’t know.” I venture to say that even if they did, they would not know why. Primary truths elude us because of the junk affluence and propaganda. We get buried under a deluge of commodities that suggest we are all rich, or at least richer than most of the world. A mountain range of cheap shoes, cars, iPods, ridiculous amounts of available foodstuffs, and the entire spectacle of engorgement defines, and is enforced as, “quality of life” under materialistic commodities capitalism. The goods we have in our clutches trump the philosophical, or even the most practical considerations. “I may die early eating unidentified beef byproducts soaked in waste chemicals, but I’ll die owning a 65-inch HDTV and a new five speed automatic Dodge Durango with a 5.7 L Hemi V8 under the hood!”

Even the threat of toasting planetary life is not enough to shake Americans loose from this disconnect. As Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Guy R. McPherson points out, “79.6% of respondents to a Scientific American poll are unwilling to forgo even a single penny to forestall the risk of catastrophic climate change. Scientific American readers undoubtedly are better informed than the general populace. And yet they won’t pay a thing to avoid extinction of our species. Kinda makes you warm and fuzzy all over, doesn’t it?”

Let us pray the next generation is a tad sharper.

Taser the tots

The “American Lifestyle,” increasingly suspect as it is these days, is heavily soldiered and policed in the name of keeping we self-defined lotus eaters safe and secure from a jealous outside world. Which according to cultural consensus is a world that is at this very moment stuffing its under drawers with explosives and buying plane tickets to Moline. Cultural ignorance dictates that the best way to stop foreign terrorists flying into the country is by humiliating American citizens flying out of the country. Go ahead, grope me, X-ray my dick and for god sake don’t let anyone bring a large bottle of shampoo on board.In an obedient, authority worshipping police state, physical insult and surveillance are proof of safety.

It’s profitable too, and not just for scanner manufacturers. The brouhaha over body scanners and crotch groping provide media with titillating fuel for ratings, thereby driving up TV advertising rates, which is passed on in the price of products we buy. So we pay to be insulted, have the hell scared out of us, and to unknowingly have our behavior shaped. Under American style capitalism, this mobius strip of cultural ignorance is called a win-win situation for everybody.

This also conveniently distracts us from the everyday human insult we practice on one another, as a result of state manufactured cultural misinformation—fear. Ten years of orange alerts and post 9/11 fear mongering have led us to draw some paradoxical cultural conclusions.

Let us briefly careen off into one of these paradoxes. For instance, that we can taser our way to domestic security and tranquility. Yes, it’s ugly business, but tasing the citizenry must be done. And besides, in these days of high unemployment, it’s a paycheck for somebody—usually, the guy who sat behind us in grade school happily eating chalk.

With taser packing police officers in thousands of schools, even grade schools (a weird enough cultural statement to begin with—needless to say, the resulting deaths and injuries of school kids have personal injury lawyers shouting eureka and contemplating new recreational sail craft moored at Martha’s Vineyard. Such are the rewards of righteous works through cult-ig.

In any case, the chance at a juicy lawsuit is accepted as a satisfactory offset to any screaming and writing in our school hallways. What are 50,000 volts and a little nerve damage, compared to a shot at paying off the credit cards, upgrading the family ride, and maybe remodeling the kitchen too?

But we gotta stick to the subject of cultural ignorance here, mainly because I wrote the title first and am determined to maintain some illusion of a theme here, or at least bullshit the reader into thinking that I have.

Soooo . . .

It can be safely said that cultural ignorance consists of the rational, sensible questions that never get asked. But it also includes the weird ones that are. For instance, one of the questions asked regarding tasering school kids is: What is the allowable weight range of a child to be tased? (Taser manufacturers say 60 pounds.) Somehow, by this geezer’s prehistoric reasoning, that sounds like the wrong question, not to mention one that by its nature leads us away from the cultural truth.

The truth is that we live in a society which sanctions semi-electrocution of its own children on the grounds that it is not fatal, and therefore not true electrocution. It springs from the same streak of cultural cruelty that deems semi-drowning by water boarding not to be torture because it is seldom fatal.

This is not to be uncharitable to American communities willing to pony up tax money for school tasers. They’ve amply demonstrated their affectionate commitment to their children by bringing creationism and pizza-for-breakfast into the schools. But there remains the question, “What kind of community comes up with the idea of tasering its own children?”

The information racketeers

It is the job of our combined institutions to manage cultural information so as to deny the harmful aspects of the rackets they protect through legislation and promote through institutional research. That’s why research shows that cell phone microwaves cause long term memory loss in rats, but do not harm people. Evidently, we are of different, more bullet proof mammalian material.

Our hyper capitalist system, through command of our research, media and political institutions, expands upon and disseminates only that information which generates money and transactions. It avoids, neglects or spins the hell out of information that does not. And if none of those work, the info is exiled to some corner of cyberspace such as Daily Kos, where it cannot change the status quo, yet can be ballyhooed as proof of our national freedom of expression. Here come the rotten eggs from the Internet liberals.

Cyberspace by nature feels very big from the inside, and its affinity groups, seeing themselves in aggregate and in mutual self reference, imagine their role bigger and more effective than it is. From within the highly directed, technologically administrated, marketed-to and propagandized rat cage called America, this is all but impossible to comprehend. Especially when corporate owned media tells us it is.

Take the world recent shaking WikiLeak’s “revelations” of Washington’s petty misery and drivel, which are scarcely revelations, just more extensive details about what we all already knew. Come on now, is it a revelation that Karzai and his entire government is a nest of fraudulent double-crossing thieves? Or that the US is duplicitous? Or that Angela Merkel is dull? The main revelation in the WikiLeaks affair was the U.S. government’s response—which was to bring US freedom of speech policy firmly in line with China’s. Millions of us in cyber ghettoes saw it coming, but our alarm warnings were shouted inside a cyberspace vacuum bell jar.

Bear in mind that I am writing this from outside the US borders and media environment, where people watch the WikiLeaks story unfold more in amusement than anything else.

The WikiLeaks affair is surely seismic to those whose asses ride on the elite diplomatic intrigues. But in the big picture it will not change the way the top lizards in global politics, money and war have done business since the feudal age—which is to say with arrogant disregard for the rest of us. Theirs is an ancient system of human dominance that only shifts names and methodologies over the centuries. Two years from now, little will have changed in the old, old story of the powerful few over the powerless many. In this overarching drama, Obama, Hillary and Julian Assange are passing players. Watching the sweaty, fetid machinations of our overlords with such passionate involvement only keeps us from seeing the big picture—that they are the players and we are the pawns.

Still, I for one am in favor of giving Assange the Mdaille militaire, the Noble Prize, 15 virgins in paradise and a billion in cash as a reward for his courage in doing damned well the only significant thing that can be done at this time—momentarily fucking up government control of information. But “potentially stimulating a new age of U.S. government transparency,” (BBC) it ain’t.”

Which brings us to back to the question of cultural ignorance. For ten points, why was Julian Assange forced to do what the world press was supposed to be doing in the first place?

Bulletin: PayPal has caved to government pressure to pull WikiLeak’s PayPal account for contributions. However, the feds generously let PayPal keep its porn and prostitution clients.

The transparency scam

It is a form of cultural ignorance to believe that at some point or other, we were more in charge and that our government was somehow more transparent in the past. Societies declining into obsolescence understandably resist looking forward, and hang onto their past mythologies. Consequently, both liberals and conservatives in America feed on myths of political action which died in Vietnam. The results are ludicrous. Tea Partiers attempt to emulate the 1960s protest gatherings by staging rallies sponsored by the richest beneficiaries of the status quo. For the average TP participant, the goal, near as I can tell, is to “start a new American Revolution,” by wearing foodstuffs, screaming, threatening, and voting for nitwits. Media pundits proclaim the Tea Party “a historic populist movement.”

Neither populist, nor authentic movement, the Tea Party may yet prove historic, however, by seriously fucking things up more than they already are. Spun entirely from manufactured spectacle (and thus void of cohesive political philosophy or internal logic), the Tea Party lurches across the political landscape bellowing at the cameras and collecting the victims of cultural ignorance in sort of a medieval idiots crusade. But to the American public, seeing the Tea Party on television is proof enough of relevancy and significance. After all, stuff doesn’t get on TV unless it’s important.

Progressives also fancy a revolution, one in which they participate through the Internet petitions, and media events such as the risk free Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity, where no one risked even missing an episode of Tremaine. Seeing people like themselves on television was proof fighting the good fight. The Stewart rally was nonetheless culturally historic; we will never see a larger public display of post modern irony congratulating itself.

In the historical view, cultural ignorance is more than the absence of knowledge. It is also the result of long term cultural and political struggle. Since the industrial revolution, the struggle has been between capital and workers. Capital won in America and spread its successful tactics worldwide. Now we watch global capitalism wreck the world and attempt to stay ahead of that wreckage clutching its profits. A subservient world kneels before it, praying that planet destroying jobs will fall their way. Will unrestrained global capitalism, with all the power and momentum on its side and motivated purely by machinelike harvesting of profits, reduce the faceless masses in its path to slavery? Does a duck shit in a pond?

Meanwhile, here we are, American riders on the short bus, barreling into the Grand Canyon. With typical American gunpoint optimism, we’ve convinced ourselves we’re in an airplane. A few smarter kids in the back whisper about hijacking and turning the bus around. But the security cop riding shotgun just strokes his taser and smiles. Not that yours truly has the ass to take on the security surveillance state. Hell no. I jumped out the windowwhen the bus shot past Mexico.

What America needs is some balls

GOP honcho Mitch O’Connell says what America needs is for Republicans to finish beating the snot out of Obama, and strengthen the already rich by eliminating taxes for them and shifting the burden onto us. Obama says America needs to find bipartisan cooperation with the party of ruthlessness. Elton John says that America needs more compassion (Thanks, we never noticed).

What America really needs is a wall-to-wall people’s insurrection, preferably based on force and fear of force, the only thing oligarchs understand. And even then the odds are not good. The oligarchs have all the legal power, police, jails and prisons, surveillance and firepower. Not to mention a docile populace.

Shy of open insurrection, a nationwide refusal to pay income taxes would certainly shake things up. But broader America is happy in the sense they know happiness as an undisturbed regimen of toil, stress and commodity consumption. Despite the way it looks in the news, most Americans remain untouched by foreclosure, bankruptcy and unemployment. So risking loss of their work-buy-sleep cycle in an insurrection looks to be sheer lunacy to them. Like cows, they are kept comfortable in the pure animal sense to be milked for profit. Animal comfort kills all thoughts of revolution. Hell, half of mankind would be thrilled with the average American’s present material situation.

And besides, revolutionary history does not exist for Americans. The 20th Century’s successful revolutions in Russia, Germany, Mexico, China, and Cuba are wired into our minds as history’s evil failures, because all but one were Marxist. (The only successful non-Marxist revolution of the 20th Century was Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution).

So if we are talking change through revolt, we’re necessarily talking about deconditioning because the thing we fear already has a life deep in our own consciousness. Deconditioning from cultural ignorance is at the heart of any insurrectionary politics.

Deconditioning also involves risk and suffering. But it is transformative, freeing the self from helplessness and fear. It unleashes the fifth freedom, the right to an autonomous consciousness. That makes deconditioning about as individual and personal act as is possible. Maybe the only genuine individual act.

Once unencumbered by self-induced and manufactured cultural ignorance, it becomes clear that politics worldwide is entirely about money, power and national mythology, with or without some degree of human rights. America still has all of the above to one degree or another. Yet for all practical purposes, such as advancing the freedom and the well being of its own people, the American republic has collapsed.

Of course, there is still money to be made by the already rich. So the million or so people who own the country and the government use their control to convince us that there is no collapse, just economic and political problems that need to be solved. Naturally, they are willing to do that for us. Consequently, the economy is discussed in political terms, because the government is the only body with the power to legislate, and therefore render the will of the owning class into law.

But politics and money are never going to fill what is essentially a public vacuum that is moral, philosophical and spiritual. (The latter was instantly recognized by fundamentalist Christians, disfigured by cultural ignorance, as they may be.) Not many ordinary Americans talk about this vacuum. The required spiritual and philosophical language has been successfully purged by newspeak, popular culture, a human regimentation process masquerading as a national educational system, and the ruthlessness of everyday competition, which leaves no time to contemplate anything.

Still, the void, the meaninglessness of ordinary work and the emptiness of daily life scares thinking citizens shitless, with its many unspeakables, spy cams, security state pronouncements, citizens being economically disappeared, and general back-of-the-mind unease. Capitalism’s faceless machinery has colonized our very souls. If the political was not personal to begin with, it’s personal now.

Some Americans believe we can collectively triumph over the monolith we presently fear and worship. Others believe the best we can do is to find the personal strength to endure and go forward on lonely inner plains of the self.

Doing either will take inner moral, spiritual and intellectual liberation. It all depends on where you choose to fight your battle. Or if you even choose to fight it. But one thing is certain. The only way out is in.

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Posted by Elvis on 01/25/16 •
Section Dying America
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Democracy Sold Out To Greed

While the free Western media cheers, the Western democratic governments sell out the peoples of the Western world to corporate tyranny

By Paul Craig Roberts
December 1, 2015

John Massaria has turned my interview with Julian Charles into a VIDEO.

The video helps me to bring home that” Western democracy” is a sham, a total lie.

Every Western government and Washington’s Asian vassal states are totally under the control of private corporations and private interest groups. The corporations govern, and they are in the process of institutionalizing their governance with the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnerships. The purpose of these partnerships is to make global corporations higher than the laws of the sovereign countries in which they do business.

Anything, whether law, rule, regulation, or moral principle that interferes with corporate profits is outlawed as a resraint on trade.

Western civilization is over and done with. Nothing remains except historical achievements that are no longer understood or appreciated.

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Land of the Greed; Home of the Slave

By Paul Craig Roberts
January 22, 2016

Who can put America back on a path to greatness?

One hundred years ago European civilization, as it had been known, was ending its life in the Great War, later renamed World War I. Millions of soldiers ordered by mindless generals into the hostile arms of barbed wire and machine gun fire had left the armies stalemated in trenches. A reasonable peace could have been reached, but President Woodrow Wilson kept the carnage going by sending fresh American soldiers to try to turn the tide against Germany in favor of the English and French.

The fresh American machine gun and barbed wire fodder weakened the German position, and an armistice was agreed. The Germans were promised no territorial losses and no reparations if they laid down their arms, which they didחonly to be betrayed at Versailles. The injustice and stupidity of the Versailles Treaty produced the German hyperinflation, the collapse of the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Hitler.

Hitler’s demands that Germany be put back together from the pieces handed out to France, Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, comprising 13% of GermanyҒs European territory and one-tenth of her population, and a repeat of French and British stupidity that had sired the Great War finished off the remnants of European civilization in World War II.

The United States benefitted greatly from this death. The economy of the United States was left untouched by both world wars, but economies elsewhere were destroyed. This left Washington and the New York banks the arbiters of the world economy. The U.S. dollar replaced British sterling as the world reserve currency and became the foundation of U.S. domination in the second half of the 20th century, a domination limited in its reach only by the Soviet Union.
The Soviet collapse in 1991 removed this constraint from Washington. The result was a burst of American arrogance and hubris that wiped away in over-reach the leadership power that had been handed to the United States. Since the Clinton regime, Washingtons wars have eroded American leadership and replaced stability in the Middle East and North Africa with chaos.

Washington moved in the wrong direction both in the economic and political arenas. In place of diplomacy, Washington used threats and coercion. “Do as you are told or we will bomb you into the Stone Age, “as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told President Musharraf of Pakistan.

Not content to bully weak countries, Washington threatens powerful countries such as Russia, China, and Iran with economic sanctions and military actions. Consequently, much of the non-Western world is abandoning the U.S. dollar as world currency, and a number of countries are organizing a payments system, World Bank, and IMF of their own. Some NATO members are rethinking their membership in an organization that Washington is herding into conflict with Russia.

China’s unexpectedly rapid rise to power owes much to the greed of American capitalism. Pushed by Wall Street and the lure of performance bonuses, U.S. corporate executives brought a halt to rising U.S. living standards by sending high productivity, high value-added jobs abroad where comparable work is paid less. With the jobs went the technology and business knowhow. American capability was given to China. Apple Computer, for example, has not only offshored the jobs but also outsourced its production. Apple does not own the Chinese factories that produce its products.

The savings in U.S. labor costs became corporate profits, executive remuneration, and shareholder capital gains. One consequence was the worsening of the U.S. income distribution and the concentration of income and wealth in few hands. A middle-class democracy was transformed into an oligarchy. As former President Jimmy Carter recently said, the U.S. is no longer a democracy; it is an oligarchy.

In exchange for short-term profits and in order to avoid Wall Street threats of takeovers, capitalists gave away the American economy. As manufacturing and tradeable professional skill jobs flowed out of America, real family incomes ceased to grow and declined. The U.S. labor force participation rate fell even as economic recovery was proclaimed. Job gains were limited to lowly paid domestic services, such as retail clerks, waitresses, and bartenders, and part-time jobs replaced fulltime jobs. Young people entering the work force find it increasingly difficult to establish an independent existence, with 50% of 25-year-old Americans living at home with parents.

In an economy driven by consumer and investment spending, the absence of growth in real consumer income means an economy without economic growth. Led by Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve in the first years of the 21st century substituted a growth in consumer debt for the missing growth in consumer income in order to keep the economy moving. This could only be a short-term palliative, because the growth of consumer debt is limited by the growth of consumer income.

Another serious mistake was the repeal of financial regulation that had made capitalism functional. The New York banks were behind this egregious error, and they used their bought-and-paid-for Texas U.S. senator, Phil Gramm, whom they rewarded with a seven-figure salary and bank vice chairmanship to open the floodgates to amazing debt leverage and financial fraud with the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall destroyed the separation of commercial from investment banking. One result was the concentration of banking. Five mega-banks now dominate the American financial scene. Another result was the power that the mega-banks gained over the government of the United States. Today the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve serve only the interests of the megabanks.

In the United States savers have had no interest on their savings in eight years. Those who saved for their retirement in order to make paltry Social Security benefits liveable have had to draw down their capital, leaving less inheritance for hard-pressed sons, grandsons, daughters, and granddaughters.

Washingtons financial policy is forcing families to gradually extinguish themselves. This is ғfreedom and democracy in America today.

With the demise of the American middle class, which becomes more obvious each day as another ladder of upward mobility is dismantled, the United States becomes a bipolar country consisting of the rich and the poor. The most obvious conclusion is that the failure of American political leadership means instability, leading to a conflict between the havesԗthe 1&#xan;d the dispossessedחthe 99%.

The failure of leadership in the United States is not limited to the political arena but is across the board. The time horizon operating in American institutions is very short term. Just as U.S. manufacturers have harmed U.S. demand for their products by moving abroad American jobs and the consumer income associated with the jobs, university administrations are destroying universities. As much as 75% of university budgets is devoted to administration. There is a proliferation of provosts, assistant provosts, deans, assistant deans, and czars for every designated infraction of political correctness.

Tenure-track jobs, the bedrock of academic freedom, are disappearing as university administrators turn to adjuncts to teach courses for a few thousand dollars. The decline in tenure-track jobs heralds a decline in enrollments in Ph.D. programs. University enrollments overall are likely to decline. The university experience is eroding at the same time that the financial return to a university education is eroding. Increasingly students graduate into an employment environment that does not produce sufficient income to service their student loans or to form independent households.

Increasingly university research is funded by the Defense Department and by commercial interests and serves those interests. Universities are losing their role as sources of societal critics and reformers. Truth itself is becoming commercialized.

The banking system, which formerly financed business, is increasingly focused on converting as much of the economy as possible into leveraged debt instruments. Even consumer spending is reduced with high credit card interest rate charges. Indebtedness is rising faster than the real production in the economy.

Historically, capitalism was justified on the grounds that it guaranteed the efficient use of societys resources. Profits were a sign that resources were being used to maximize social welfare, and losses were a sign of inefficient resource use, which was corrected by the firm going out of business. This is no longer the case when the economic policy of a country serves to protect financial institutions that are ғtoo big to fail and when profits reflect the relocation abroad of U.S. GDP as a result of jobs offshoring. Clearly, American capitalism no longer serves society, and the worsening distribution of income and wealth proves it.

None of these serious problems will be addressed by the presidential candidates, and no partyԒs platform will consist of a rescue plan for America. Unbridled greed, short term in nature, will continue to drive America into the ground.

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Posted by Elvis on 01/25/16 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Friday, January 15, 2016

How to Help the Older Long-Term Unemployed

unemployed-mba.jpg

Recommendations from a Next Avenue Influencer In Aging

By Ofer Sharone
Next Avenue
December 15, 2015

In my RESEARCH of LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT among 50+ workers, I frequently hear stories like Kens.

Ken graduated from MIT with a degree in math, and for over 30 years had a very successful career as a software engineer. Three years ago, he was laid off together with hundreds of other workers - following a merger. Ken began his search for a new position with much confidence given his in-demand skills.

But since the layoff, Ken has depleted his retirement savings and last year, he was forced to sell his house. Today Ken works at a retail store in a position that pays a little above the minimum wage and makes no use of his skills.

Kens story is sadly all too common. Nearly half of all unemployed workers OVER 55 become TRAPPED in long-term unemployment, meaning that they have been searching for work for at least 27 weeks.

Financial Pain, Emotional Pain

Long-term unemployment puts workers and their FAMILIES at great risk for losing their homes and life savings. What’s more, as my recent book, Flawed System, Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, shows, the financial fallout for many of these 55+ job seekers is matched by the EMOTIONAL PAIN of being excluded from MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION in economic life.

One important reason that older workers are more likely than younger workers to get trapped in long-term unemployment is unfounded employer stereotypes.

While some employers fear that older workers will not stick around in their jobs, my research (involving in-depth conversations with hundreds of unemployed job seekers) suggests just the opposite. I’ve learned that no group of employees is more committed than older workers to contributing to a company that gives them a chance to prove their value.

In addition to age discrimination, those who get trapped in long-term unemployment must confront another distinct barrier: discrimination based on duration of unemployment.

What HR Recruiters Say

In confidential interviews, HR recruiters have told me that in the absence of a referral, older long-term unemployed job seekers often face an uphill battle when competing with currently-working younger applicants. Research confirms that the likelihood of an employer inviting a job seeker for an interview is lower for someone with relevant experience but long-term unemployed than someone lacking relevant experience but who is not long-term unemployed.

For older workers like Ken, these hiring patterns mean financial disaster. But for society, they represent an enormous waste of experience and talent. Such outcomes also violate a basic premise of meritocracy: that hiring should be based on one’s ability to do the job, not his or her age or current employment status.

What can be done?

The persistence of long-term unemployment among older Americans suggests that simply APPPEALING to companies self-interest in finding talented workers is not enough.

Recommendations to Deal With This National Problem

A step in the right direction would be passing laws that make it illegal to discriminate against workers based on unemployment duration. While anti-discrimination laws are DIFFICULT TO ENFORCE, as evident from today’s pervasive age discrimination, they would nonetheless send a clear moral message that it VIOLATES THE AMERICAN VALUES of meritocracy and equal opportunity to engage in hiring practices which systematically exclude from consideration workers who are (for whatever reason) long-term unemployed.

Moreover, funding the expansion of effective support interventions can make a dramatic and immediate difference to the prospects and well-being of millions of older American workers, as my current research with the Institute for Career Transitions (ICT) reveals.

A range of other policies can make a difference, too, but all of these steps require proactive and concerted action.

Long-term unemployment among older Americans is disastrous for workers and society, and the time to address this issue is long overdue.

Editors note: This article is part of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging project honoring 50 people changing how we age and think about aging. Here, OFER SHARONE, one of the Influencers and an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, discusses what’s needed to assist older long-term unemployed men and women.

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Posted by Elvis on 01/15/16 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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China Miracle

image: Dying America

China miracle should inspire US fight on poverty

By Cynthia McKinney
RT News
January 6, 2016

Far too many people around the world still think roads in the US are paved with gold and streetlights are fashioned from pearls.  It just isnt so. 

In fact, POTHOLES and SINKHOLES now appear on those roads as the US economy creates fewer winners and more and more roadkill.  In fact, on many quality-of-life indicators such as LIFE EXPECTANCY, INFANT MORTALITY, and MATERNAL MORTALITY, the US is falling behind and in some cases, actually going in reverse.  Americans are, indeed, experiencing, a “reversal of fortune.”

In the early days of the 50 states, the US economy was open, but only for white men with land.  White women, Native Americans, imported Asians and Africans were denied the opportunity to benefit from the economic activity in which they were centered.  In the US of the 19th century, race defined ones present and future.  As blacks agitated for the same constitutional protections enjoyed by whites, other groups, including immigrant communities, were able to benefit from that struggle and the economy became more open to newcomers. 

Unfortunately, blacks remained the ”FACES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL.” The economy was open, but only for some, NOT ALL Americans.  Blacks in the US have always laughed at the notion of the country being a paragon of democracy and a beacon of opportunity because, in large measure, they were the one group that was LEFT OUT of American prosperity.  That fact was in plain and painful DISPLAY in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricanes KATRINA and Rita.  The world got a chance to see the pain and neglect experienced by blacks in the US.  Those visuals put a lie to US propaganda that American prosperity was open for everyone.

Then, one day, while writing another article for this space, I just happened to discover a slew of articles touting “The China Miracle.” Curious, about the information, I decided to explore the academic literature to see what the research results were. 

In 2001, the World Bank published a report entitled, ”FIGHTING POVERTY: FINDINGS AND LESSONS FROM CHINA’S SUCCESS.” It wrote that 400 million fewer Chinese were living in poverty than in 1981.  Notably, the World Bank concluded that Chinese poverty had been reduced because of agrarian reforms and decreased taxation on farmers; public spending from local and provincial rather than central government; and macroeconomic stability by avoiding inflation.  Interestingly, this report found there was no clear evidence that China’s openness to external trade contributed to poverty reduction.  The report noted, however, that as China tackled poverty, it was contemporaneously contending with income inequality.

IMF researchers found that the ultimate way to fight poverty is to invest in people, especially the poor and that the ultimate way to improve the health of the poor is to invest in it.  Currently, China’s policy invests in health by providing funding for medical students who commit to practice in poor, rural areas upon graduation.

WANG, WANG, AND WANG found in Explaining China’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Miracle that China succeeded in its poverty reduction efforts while Russia and India met with less success.  Another STUDY” found that a great deal of the world’s poverty reduction can be attributed to China’s success.  And yet another STUDY found that Chinas ecological challenges will have to be resolved in order for it to continue to make strides in poverty reduction. 

So, with all of this verification from official, non-Chinese sources, why don’t Americans know about this “Miracle”?

The answer is that US citizens have a media authorized by COURTS to lie to them.  But this is also a case of willful omission of information.  In a search on many different search engines for this article, I only found an ECONOMIST article that attributes the success of the world’s fight against poverty on capitalism, while and THE GUARDIAN that heralds China’s success also proclaims its next effort must be to tackle inequality.  The South China Morning Post writes that China certainly has a formula that can be copied by African and Southeast Asian governments.

A search on US-CHINA RELATIONS produces plenty of articles on the situation in the SOUTH CHINA SEA and the STRAIT OF MALACCA in the US press, but nothing on China’s success in poverty reduction.

No wonder Americans can be so ill- and under-informed.  Incredibly, they are subjected to a presidential election where endless commentary is provided on unimportant minutia with precious little debate on important issues. Adding insult to injury, on foreign policy, the major Democratic and Republican Party candidates all pay for the talking points of the same FOREIGN POLICY CONSULTING GROUP.  Therefore, “Plus ca change, plus cest la meme chose.” In other words, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  As I have written many times before, General Wesley Clark is correct in his observation that the US government is infiltrated and taken over in a POLICY COUP.  I believe that only a truly independent presidential candidate running in coalition with truly independent Congressional candidates can save the American people (and the world) from an unfortunate, dire, and violent impending future.

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Posted by Elvis on 01/15/16 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Agnotology

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“My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so.”
- David Dunning

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge? Georgina Kenyon finds there is a term which defines this phenomenon.

By Georgina Kenyon
BBC
January 6, 2016

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter anti-cigarette forces.

In one of the papers most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the body of fact that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or “not knowing,” and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

“I was exploring how powerful industries could promote ignorance to sell their wares. Ignorance is power and agnotology is about the deliberate creation of ignorance.”

“In looking into agnotology, I discovered the secret world of classified science, and thought historians should be giving this more attention.”

The 1969 memo and the tactics used by the tobacco industry became the perfect example of agnotology, Proctor says. “Ignorance is not just the not-yet-known, its also a political ploy, a deliberate creation by powerful agents who want you ‘not’ to know.”

To help him in his search, Proctor enlisted the help of UC Berkeley linguist Iain Boal, and together they came up with the term the neologism was coined in 1995, although much of Proctor֒s analysis of the phenomenon had occurred in the previous decades.

Balancing act

Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industrys obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the countrys credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

Proctor explains that ignorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

“This balance routine has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that experts disagree - creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”

We live in a world of radical ignorance Robert Proctor

For example, says Proctor, many of the studies linking carcinogens in tobacco were conducted in mice initially, and the tobacco industry responded by saying that studies into mice did not mean that people were at risk, despite adverse health outcomes in many smokers.

A new era of ignorance

֓We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise, says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ԑaccessible, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

“Although for most things this is trivial like, for example, the boiling point of mercury - but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups - like a commercial firm or a political group - then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, its over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. Its not just about the facts, its about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.

Making up our own minds

Another academic studying ignorance is David Dunning, from Cornell University. Dunning warns that the internet is helping propagate ignorance it is a place where everyone has a chance to be their own expert, he says, which makes them prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.

While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors,” warns Dunning.

Dunning and Proctor also warn that the wilful spread of ignorance is rampant throughout the US presidential primaries on both sides of the political spectrum.

“Donald Trump is the obvious current example in the US, suggesting easy solutions to followers that are either unworkable or unconstitutional,” says Dunning.

So while agnotology may have had its origins in the heyday of the tobacco industry, today the need for both a word and the study of human ignorance is as strong as ever.

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Posted by Elvis on 01/13/16 •
Section Revelations
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