Category Archives: culture

Let us now hang our collective heads in shame

The worst of humanity’s commercial and primal instincts are today converging in China, where it’s version of the TV show “Survivor” features condemned prisoners who are encouraged to breakdown in confession – before . . .

. . . being led off to be executed.

The show is setting records in popularity with 40 million viewers every Saturday night. The show has a market advantage of a country that can supply an endless line of subjects. The hostess of the show offers to convey messages to family and friends as well as taping a final message. Now the show will begin to appear in Britain. While there are 55 capital crimes in China, the show focuses on murderers and cases determined by the officials to be “educational.”

There is an obvious “Running Man” feel about this show that is entirely creepy. The crossover of criminal law into television entertainment has long been featured in movies and literature as the ultimate sign of social and moral breakdown. While Communist officials may insist that they are merely “educating” the viewer, the voyeuristic element is obvious.

From Jonathan Turley, here.

Ssshh, don’t tell the kids now . . .

Here we go again – Time Magazine knows not to challenge its readers.  It’s American readers that is.

It’s always bittersweet . . .

Happy New Year and Elvis bless us, everyone.

I know this will shock you, but . . .

. . .  Time Magazine thinks Americans shouldn’t have to process all that  challenging stuff. Especially during the “Season of Shopping”. More important things to think about you know.

George Carlin sings. Really.

I watched the repeat last night of the Mark Twain Award ceremony from 2008.  George Carlin was the honoree – posthumously, as he’d died only a few months before. It’s nice to know that he knew about it and was even planning his speech. They showed this video – see what a nice Irish Catholic boy from Queens NY can do!

Bertrand Russell, 99 Percenter

POSTED BY ORHAN

Bertrand RussellJohn Reynolds opened a copy of the Selected Writings of Bertrand Russell to this passage from the introduction, written in the 1920s on the eve of the Great Depression:

“It is evident that, in a world where there was leisure and economic security for all, the happiness of all would be greater than that of ninety-nine per cent of the present inhabitants of the planet. Why, then, do the ninety-nine per cent not combine to overcome the resistance of the privileged one per cent?

Reynolds researched the quote, sure the 99 Percent movement was inspired by Russell, but found no connection–it appears the good philosopher, as usual, was just ahead of his time.

#OccupyWallStreet – Alan Grayson schools P.J. O’Rourke

POSTED BY ORHAN
Grayson superbly summarizes the #OWS grievances. And O’Rourke summarizes what has become the mainstream criticism, from both Left and Right:

#OccupyWallStreet – Demands

POSTED BY ORHAN

The MSM continues to ridicule #OWS for not having a specific list of demands. The absence of demands, and consequent absence of a divide-and-conquer target, that’s driving the media into such a tizzy is not specifically a “tactic”, but, as far as I can tell, is a byproduct of the radical democratic process being practiced by the General Assemblies (nicely described by Matt Stoller).

Here is the closest thing I’ve found to an “official” statement on demands from The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a paper published and distributed by #OWS:

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

So it appears #OWS is specifically addressing the anger of the majority of Americans at the power, arrogance, and lack of accountability enjoyed by the coterie of the richest 1%, and the marginalization, disempowerment, and impoverishment of the remaining 99%–and doing it in a way that is “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based”, which most people–let alone members of the political class–find it almost impossible to wrap their heads around.

When I visited Zuccotti Park today, there were some very tense cops trying to keep everyone within the bounds of the metal pens they had set up, but the park is just too small for the number of people occupying it. A second Manhattan General Assembly was scheduled to meet in Washington Square Park this afternoon; I wonder how Mayor Bloomberg will deal with the growth.

He’s obviously expecting the onset of winter to disperse the crowds without police action, but if the “contagion” (as our pundits called the Arab occupations of public spaces) spreads, there will be more demand for him to take forceful action, even if he feels otherwise. What I find interesting about Bloomberg is that he’s a One Percenter with tremendous overt political power, who also owns and controls a massive media machine.

As I stood inside, the park was surrounded by gawkers and tourists slowly filing by. The cops were telling the passers-by, “Take your pictures and move on, there are other people behind you”. Now #OWS seems to be a tourist spot somewhat more popular than the new World Trade Center, two blocks due north.

#OccupyWallStreet – Oct. 5

POSTED BY ORHAN

The most authentic and thoughtful article I’ve seen on what’s occurring at Liberty Park is by Matt Stoller at Naked Capitalism.

This dynamic is why it’s so hard for the traditional political operators to understand #OccupyWallStreet. It must be an angry group of hippies. Or slackers. Or it’s a revolution. It’s a left-wing tea party. The ignorance is embedded in the questions. One of the most constant complaints one hears in DC about #OccupyWallStreet is that the group has no demands. Its message isn’t tight. It has no leaders. It has no policy agenda. Just what does “it” want, anyway? On the other side of the aisle, one hears a sort of sneering “get a job” line, an angry reaction to a phenomenon no one in power really understands. The gnashing of teeth veers quickly from condescension to irritation and back. Many liberal groups want to “help” by offering a more mainstream version, by explaining it to the press, by cheering how great the occupation is while carefully ensuring that wiser and more experienced hands eventually take over. These impulses are guiding by the received assumptions about how power works in modern America. Power must flow through narrow media channels, it must be packaged and financed by corporations, unions, or foundations, it must be turned into revenue flows that can then be securitized. It must scale so leaders can channel it efficiently into the preset creek bed of modern capitalism. True public spaces like this one are complete mysteries to these people; left, right, center in America are used to shopping mall politics.

We Are the 1 Percent

POSTED BY ORHAN

Tens of thousands marched through the streets of lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of Occupy Wall Street and to protest the actions of the financial elite that has devastated the lives of so many. The current issue of Orion magazine includes an article by Christopher Ketcham that  draws the connection between the demonstrators and the city they marched in:

Of the twenty-five largest cities, New York is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads.

It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. The One Percenters took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

New York’s wealth concentration is almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.

The number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.

Average workers have been the consistent losers since 1990. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women aged twenty-five to thirty-four with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers—defined broadly by the FPI as those drawing incomes between approximately $29,000 and $167,000—experienced a 19 percent decrease in earnings.

Almost 11 percent of the population, about 900,000 people, live in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500 (the average One Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day).

About 50 percent of the households in the city have incomes below $30,000; their incomes have also been steadily declining since 1990. During the boom of 2002–07, the trend was unaltered: the average income in the bottom 95 percent of New York City households declined.

The wealth of the One Percenters derives almost entirely from the operations of the sector known as “financial services,” whose preoccupation is “financial innovation.” The One Percenters draw the top salaries at commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages.

The largest twenty financial institutions in the U.S., almost all of them headquartered in New York, now control upward of 70 percent of the country’s financial assets, roughly double what they controlled in the 1990s.

According to the article, financial innovation is a “socially useless activity”, with “little or no long-term value”, whose purpose is to “merely shift money around” without designing, building, or selling “a single tangible thing.” Financial services once allocated capital for socially useful projects that also created jobs. The goal now is to maximize short-term profit by generating and bursting asset bubbles, hedging carefully to come out ahead no matter the cost to society. Having created a wave of gentrification that devastated manufacturing and made the city unaffordable for most workers, including writers, artists, and musicians, the One Percenter sits atop a cuturally sterile world that “that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth,” that trumpets “contempt for the least powerful in society,” that offers only “outrageous competition of all against all.”

Real Americans

POSTED BY ORHAN

There are now over 130 #Occupying groups nationally. There’s a site to find one nearby or start your own.

I went to Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon. The energy was different than a demonstration–the people were, well, occupying, not marching. The group was predominantly young, but people of all ages were participating. The area was mobbed with tourists, media (but not MSM), people who work in the area, some jeering, others curious or obviously sympathetic. My sense is that the energy changes from hour to hour.

There were lots of small groups, people working out tactics and strategy; if there’s anything like an organizational focus, the General Assembly is it; the emphasis is on leaderlessness, non-hierarchy, non-violence, consensus-building, giving everyone a voice.

There was a fairly heavy police presence, but the cops appeared laid back; they’re also learning–nothing energizes people like seeing college kids penned and pepper-sprayed.

Right now the people need sleeping bags, blankets, boots, food.

Paul Simon at ground zero

I missed this. At the 9/11 Memorial ceremonies, Paul Simon played The Sounds of Silence. I find it very moving.

Simon was born, raised and lives in Manhattan. The grief is still carved into his face.

Breitbart’s half-inch weiner

POSTED BY ORHAN
Little comment is required on this, although volumes could be written.

  • Andrew Breitbart really, really wants violent civil war in America.
  • The projection of his own hatred, violent impulses, and sense of inferiority is unambiguous.  This guy calling others bullies and thugs is bizarre.
  • Katie Couric?

“The criminalization of American society”

On his blog, Jonathan Turley keeps an eye on stories that mostly fly below the media radar. Turley is a law professor at George Washington University and appears periodically on the cables for legal commentary.

From today:

Michigan woman criminally charged for vegetable garden in her own front yard

Julie Bass is facing a misdemeanor charge in Oak Park, Michigan. Her crime? Planting vegetables in her own front yard. It is the latest example of the criminalization of American society . . .

How about this one?

Arkansas man arrested after videotaping police from his own front yard

 . . . a video has been released of a Jonesboro, Arkansas man who arrested after filming police conduct a search of a neighbor’s vehicle and body. The video was taken last year . . .

Police officers then confront the man for . . .  threaten him with a variety of possible charges from disturbing the peace to disorderly conduct to obstruction. Since when is it a crime to swear at officers?

The man is rude and clearly hostile to police. . . [but] Police are trained to deal with obnoxious and hostile people which is an unfortunate reality of the job. The response is not to demand identification when insulted and threaten arrest.

This one?

Good citizen, bad arrest: New York woman arrested after videotaping police – from her own front yard.

. . . new report of police arresting a citizen because she videotaped them — this time from her own front yard. According to his report, a woman named Emily Good was arrested after videotaping an arrest of a man at a traffic stop in Rochester, New York.

Deeply disturbing:

California family hit with SWAT raid . . . ordered by the Department of Education

In Stockton, California, Kenneth Wright was at home with his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11 when a SWAT team burst into his home at 6 a.m., dragged him out on the lawn, threw him to the ground, and put the family (including the kids) in squad cars. His alleged crime: default on student loans.

Add to ‘criminalization of American society, the ‘militarization of American police’. The first three arrests/threats of arrest are wrong, very wrong; but they could be attributed to a misunderstanding of the law by the officers involved. Or just regular abusive behavior by the police.

The SWAT story, however, should terrify you. It’s an extra-legal escalation.

Might as well take teh stupid all the way

After all, who needs schoolin’? I think Ed sent this:

Dorian mostly gets it right

Dorian rarely posts here (although he’s always welcome) and he rarely posts at facebook. When he does, it’s good. From him today:

I think, since we often trust homosexuals to work with sharp scissors near our heads, we can trust them with marriage and we’ll all be okay. You wanna defend marriage? Outlaw divorce.

New York Senate Does the Right Thing

POSTED BY ORHAN

The New York Times reports that lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed.

The bill was approved on a 33-to-29 vote as 4 Republican state senators joined 29 Democrats in voting for it: James S. Alesi; Stephen M. Saland; Roy J. McDonald; and Mark J. Grisanti.

After days of agonized discussion capped by a marathon nine-hour closed-door debate on Friday, Republicans came to a decision: the full Senate would be allowed to vote on the bill, the majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, said Friday afternoon, and each member would be left to vote according to his or her conscience.

“The days of just bottling up things, and using these as excuses not to have votes — as far as I’m concerned as leader, its over with,” Mr. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said.

Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who opposed gay marriage when he ran for election last year, said he had studied the issue, agonized over his responsibility as a lawmaker, and concluded he could not vote against the bill. Mr. Grisanti voted yes.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” he said. “I cannot deny, a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is, the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Earlier, Republican state senator Roy McDonald, who reversed his previous opposition to marriage equality despite threats from conservative groups that he’d pay for his actions at the ballot box, told reporters:

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing.”

“You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.

“I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”

According to the Washington Post, the bill’s passage was a milestone nationally because it was the first time a GOP-controlled chamber has approved same-sex marriage.

Andrew Sullivan writes that New York granting same-sex marriage rights is important not just because a Republican-led State Senate passed the law, but because it insists on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality, and because it doubles the number of Americans with the right to marry the person they love, even if they are gay.

My take is that those involved acted with integrity, dignity, decency, and placed individual conscience above partisan politics–a hopeful sign for America’s future.

Rick Perry mixes up a little tequila

POSTED BY ORHAN

From Rising Hegemon:

They ooze class:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry made a joke at a Latino convention that an appointee’s name sounds like a bottle of tequila — and it didn’t go over very well…

Perry reportedly joked that he liked how a man named Jose Cuevas had been appointed to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission because his name sounds like Jose Cuervo, a brand of tequila. The joke fell flat.

“Perry struggled to regain his confidence as he described Texas as a land of opportunity,” the Associated Press reported.

Perry next went to a gathering of rabbis and joked about how many of them had “Gold” in their names.

Good video there too

From The Upside of Inertia today, as succinct a statement of where we are as I’ve seen.

In today’s America, the executive branch is doing as little as possible, the legislative branch debates between an economic apocalypse and the destruction of the social fabric of the country, while the judiciary branch continues to turn this world into a dystopia.

And all the while our news machine is obsessing over Weiner’s weiner.

On Sunday, the Public Editor at The New York Times criticized his own paper  for paying too much attention to the titillating and for claiming an obligation to  ‘report what others reported’ as an excuse for delving into the realm of the tabloids.

Sun

Take that, Newsweek

POSTED BY ORHAN

The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan responded to a Newsweek article calling GR one of America’s “dying cities” with conceivably one of the greatest production numbers ever, performed in one uninterrupted shot by what appears to be the whole city (actually only 5000 humans). For me it eerily segues from Moe’s Gettysburg Address post earlier today–death, rebirth, the triumph of the human spirit–plus it makes me want to go there:

Netroots Nation, the liberal media and who’s making the money buddy?

Markos Moulitsas

The Netroots Nation convention (referenced below) was so named by readers of Markos Moulitsas‘ blog, Daily Kos, probably the most influential liberal site in the blogsphere. It’s routinely demonized by the right who have dubbed it – and by extension Markos – The Great Orange Satan (the logo color is orange). Kos has gone from a a lone blogger  – immigrant, veteran, lawyer, author, father, political activist -whose very first sentence in his first blog post (in ’04 I think) was “I am a liberal”, to a community of tens of thousands of activists,  hundred and hundreds of writers and advertising rates that would make The New York Times blush.

I’ve written often – here, and here, and here – about the utter failure of the liberal punditocracy and elected Democrats to make the point that liberal media dominates because it’s what people want and support with their dollars.

A blog is media. Daily Kos is a blog. Daily Kos is liberal and Daily Kos is making money. Lots of money.

It’s more successful than its conservative rivals (except perhaps  The Druge Report which even after a decade plus is still only a primitive blog acting as a news aggregator with a point of view). In any free market the major players are the ones that rake in the bucks because people value the product and pay for it. The media may be liberal, but what’s almost never mentioned is that it’s also   what America reads and watches. And pays for.

Let’s look at movies and compare the box office success of  the  anti-liberal movie Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged with Sicko, Michael Moore’s liberal documentary. Both of these were in limited release.

Atlas Shrugged:  Here’s a report from the Hollywood Reporter:

The man who says he spent $10 million of his own money to bring Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 to the big screen vowed Wednesday to go through with his plans to make the next two installments, even though critics hate the movie and business at movie theaters has fallen off a cliff.

[Producer] Aglialoro said he had to scale down his ambition for the film to be in 1,000 theaters this weekend, so it will likely be closer to 400. During its opening weekend, the movie took in $5,640 per screen but then only $1,890 in its second. Through Wednesday, the film had grossed $3.3 million since opening April 15.

That paper also covered Sicko when it was released in ’07. here

Lionsgate far outpaced the competition this summer, but its biggest hit was the Weinstein Co. co-release “Sicko.” Michael Moore’s harsh and humorous health-care expose took in $24.1 million. Currently neck and neck with “An Inconvenient Truth,” it will pass that film to become the third-highest-grossing nonmusical documentary of all time this weekend, though its purse doesn’t begin to compare with the top-ranking docu, Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” ($119.2 million.)

Liberal media has more reach. Because people pay for it. From an earlier post, I’ll republish this, because it can’t be posted often enough.

FROM Whatever Works in FEBRUARY of 2010 :

That most frequent target of conservative media, The New York Times, reported a circulation (March 2009) of 1,039,031 copies on weekdays and 1,451,233 copies on Sundays. And the venerable Wall Street Journal has equivalent if not higher weekday numbers. But since the Times is perceived to be ‘liberal’ throughout and the Journal is perceived to be conservative only in its editorial pages, they’re not politically opposite. The Journal is a hybrid. So a comparison would not be useful.)

NEWSPAPERS
The Washington Post – A publicly traded company
Daily audience 1,599,900

The Washington Times – A privately held company owned by the Rev. Sun Young Moon
Daily audience 83,511

MAGAZINES
The Weekly Standard – a privately held company
Can’t find circulation numbers, even at their own website, so to keep it fair(ish)
National Review – a privately held company
Weekly circulation 183,000

Time Magazine – A publicly traded company
Weekly circulation 3,400,000

I draw the reader’s attention to which of these publications thrive in the free market and which are rich men’s hobbies.

Hate is just so damned lucrative these days

POSTED BY ORHAN

Chris Hedges has a long post at Truthdig describing the Muslim Menace industry, a group of right-wing organizations that bill themselves as “counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world”, and make big bucks indoctrinating US law enforcement and security agencies in the evils of Islam.

The indoctrination is done through seminars paid for with public funds and “preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.”

Below is a sample of modern-day witch hunter and Christian fundamentalist Walid Shoebat, whose presentation is titled “The Jihad Mindset and How to Defeat It: Why We Want to Kill You.” According to Hedges, “Shoebat, who bills himself as a reformed terrorist and who speaks to law enforcement officials around the country, tells his listeners that mainstream Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are terrorist fronts and that Islamists are by nature violent extremists and pedophiles.”

Here Shoebat explains to a group of extremely gullible Christians why the Mark of the Beast, usually referred to as 666, really means Muslims, who owe allegiance only to the Antichrist. The part that gets me is when he says “It’s so clear! The reverse of what you believe is what they believe. The antithesis of the Bible is what they believe in.” And Shoebat and his colleagues are spewing their racist garbage at taxpayer expense.

Let’s hear it for the blonds

On MSNBC right now, a pretty white female anchor with really long wavy blond hair is talking to another pretty white lady with long straight blond hair about another white lady with regular blond hair who is missing.

A white blond girl is missing! She’s pretty so we must put it on the teevee.

Simple kindesses

Sometimes I find gentleness in unexpected places – like in this comment from Duane in a thread about the poor and homeless . It’s on his own blog, The Erstwhile Conservative, and is in response to a persistent ‘blame the victim’ series of comments. Here’s the thread and here’s Duane:

I hate to interrupt your discussion, but I must comment on at least one of the issues raised: putting money “in the hands of those with the placards asking for such.”

I almost never pass such people by without putting some money in their hands. Oh, I realize that some, or even most of the money, may go to booze or drugs or whatever. But I tell myself: So what? So what if a person in that situation uses the money to escape for a while from the plight he or she confronts? Recently I gave money to a woman who I knew—because I had met her before in a different part of Joplin—who was telling me a lie when she told me her “hard luck” story. She told me a complete lie when she was asking me for money. I knew it and told her just to ask me for money without the story. It was okay to just ask. Later the same day I saw her and her male companion, whom she had previously told me was too sick to go to work, in Wal-Mart. I said something to her to remind her that she didn’t have to lie.

But I still ask myself, What kind of life are these two living? Isn’t it worth a few bucks to keep them from otherwise starving to death? If you could have seen both of them you could easily see that there isn’t an employer in Joplin who would hire them. There is exactly no chance that either one of them could get a job. So what if they conspire to get a few bucks from a few strangers who have it to spare? What harm is done? These folks have figured out a way to keep their heads above water. And no matter if we think they “deserve” their fate, what a fate it is. And, in my opinion, it diminishes all of us, if we allow such people to simply starve and die, no matter why they are in the state they are in.

And if you want to look at it from a purely practical point of view, if they weren’t scheming to get a few bucks on Range Line road, they might be up at Snob Hill breaking into the house of a certain Joplin blogger.

Words I never hear anymore

  • Guess I’ll have to call back, the line is busy.
  • No answer. I’ll have to call them later.
  • I need directions to your house.
  • Why, it cost hundreds of dollars!
  • Whose turn is it to change the channel?
  • Where’s the fax machine?
  • I’ll check TV Guide.

Feel free to add .  . .

That’s about right

By Monte Wolverton, via Dave at The Conservative Lie, who got it from Bill at Under the Lobsterscope, who probably got it at Cagles Cartoons . . . we really do need a WORD for this pass along phoenomenon.

.

The ‘my-country-right-or-wrong’ folk will be offended

Well, who knew? I didn’t, but I suppose anyone under 50 did. Dennis Leary  sings. Herewith a tour de force, I’m An Asshole. (move right along to 2:11 for the good stuff)

Yeah, but we have a kick ass military

Newsweek just published one of those How Dumb Are We articles that seem to pop up every few years. We Americans never do very well, especially compared with the rest of the First World.

For as long as they’ve existed, Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators. . . .  the yearly shifts in civic knowledge since World War II have averaged out to slightly under one percent.

This time the magazine surveyed 1000 people and the 100 questions were from the current test for US Citizenship. It seems most of us would fail. I tried to take the quiz and got up to #28 (of 100 questions), but honestly, the process is painfully slow so I just quit. Each question is on its own screen, then another screen for the answer which also shows the scores of the people surveyed. It was depressing:

  • 70% of Americans don’t know what is the supreme law of the land
  • 86% don’t know how many members of the House of Representatives
  • 61% have no idea how long a Senator serves
  • 63% don’t know how many justices on the Supreme Court
  • 87% don’t know that the economic system in the US is capitalism
  • 81% couldn’t name one of the enumerated powers of the Federal Government
  • 73% couldn’t name the US enemy in the Cold War

Oddly, a full 58% do know that the Speaker of the House is third in line for the Presidency.

The accompanying article, in making the point that Americans have always been ill informed about their own government and country, said that now, however,  “the world has changed. And unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more inhospitable to incurious know-nothings—like us.”

In fairness, they describe some of the mitigating factors that contribute to why we fare so poorly against other developed nations,  especially in Europe.

Most experts agree that the relative complexity of the U.S. political system makes it hard for Americans to keep up. In many European countries, parliaments have proportional representation, and the majority party rules without having to share power with a lot of subnational governments . . .  In contrast, we’re saddled with a nonproportional Senate; a tangle of state, local, and federal bureaucracies; and near-constant elections for every imaginable office. . . It doesn’t help that the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world . . . we have a lot of very poor people without access to good education, and a huge immigrant population that doesn’t even speak English.

If you have the patience to take the test (here) let us know how you did.

The Zen of twisted steel: thoughts of Japan

The only country to ever suffer an attack by nuclear weapons might now be facing the worst peacetime nuclear contamination in history. It’s not Chernobyl yet, but Japan is an island nation;  there aren’t a lot of  places to hide.

Japanese serenity garden

In 65 years, the Japanese pretty much became the people they attacked in 1941 and who  dropped atom bombs on them in 1946; they embraced the Western way of life.

Theirs is such an ancient culture –  I wonder if there aren’t some today in Japanese universities or think tanks re-examining all of it, wondering  did they choose the right path?

Westernization has nothing to do with the fact of the earthquake or the tsunami of course –  God laughs when God laughs. But I think the ugliness of the aftermath, the horror of twisted steel and broken infrastructure and now, radiation turned to poison the builders, I think these things offend beauty and serenity, thinks the Japanese have always treasured.

Just a thought.

UPDATE April 4, 2011: A writer I admire, James Howard Kunstler (been perusing his site today) pretty much said the same thing about Japan and it’s esthetic. (He said it six days after me, think he got it here? Heh, fat chance.

Have you hugged a cop today?

POSTED BY ORHAN

Speaking love to power:

Because we deserve a break today too.