¡Hasta la vista, Economista!

Today I canceled my decade-long subscription to THE ECONOMIST. In 2010, I began to notice strong currents of rightwing propaganda surfacing in your reporting. What had once been a stately journal of wonkish analysis was now resembling a print form of Fox News.

By 2012, the stench was so strong that I seriously considered canceling my two-year auto-renewal. But I kept my subscription going, trying to appreciate the many good things that I still enjoyed about your magazine.

Two years on, I now find that the good is so heavily outweighed by the bad that there is no point in continuing.

The+Economist

THE ECONOMIST has become a rightwing tabloid celebrating an ideology of race-to-the-bottom global corporate neofeudalism and the virulent deregulation and anti-environmentalism that accompanies it.

I agree with THE GUARDIAN’s critique of your magazine:

“[I]ts writers rarely see a political or economic problem that cannot be solved by the trusted three-card trick of privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation.”

The latest issue (March 1 – 7) is thoroughly disgusting, with scathing corporatist critiques of democracy, environmentalism, and Obamacare. You even went out of your way to pepper a Books & Arts article on the ancient origins of austerity with a gratuitously anti-environmentalist screed.

Several times I have written rebuttals to your poor journalism, rebutting both the print and web editions, as well as some of your social media postings on Facebook. But there is never a response, nor are there any noticeable changes in the magazine’s tone. Other longtime readers have written similar criticisms. But the reader feedback goes down a black hole, and it seems that you really don’t care what your readers think of your work.

With no course correction apparent, I have finally decided that enough is enough.

¡Hasta la vista, Economista!

Sean

Wealth Inequality in America

We’ve all heard the facts and figures about wealth distribution in America:

  • The top 1 percent owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.
  • The top 1 percent of Americans take home 24 percent of national income.
  • The top 1 percent of Americans own half of the nation’s stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
  • The top 1 percent of Americans have only 5 percent of the nation’s personal debt.
  • The top 1 percent are taking in more of the nation’s income than at any other time since the 1920s.

This video highlights the gross inequality of wealth in America in a profound way and illustrates the huge gaps between people’s beliefs and ideals.

Watch and disseminate.

Death By Degrees

global-warming-31

Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have just passed the 400 ppm mark. Most of human history evolved in a 220-300 ppm world, and 350 ppm is widely considered by scientists to be the upper limit of the safety range for the long-term sustainability of life as we know it on Earth. Crossing the 400 ppm threshold with no global strategy for ending our fossil-fuel addiction is sheer madness. Endless trillions for oil wars and oil subsidies, but precious little political will for, or government support of, green energy. This is exactly what the corporate capture of our government leads to.

“Letter from Boston” – a Response to the Marathon Bombings

(AFP Photo / Mario Tama)

(AFP Photo / Mario Tama)

I’ve mostly avoided coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombings, because I found the death and destruction to be so horrific, naturally, but also because I knew the mainstream media would rush to judgment, jump to all the wrong conclusions, manipulate viewers emotionally and ‘fetishize our own victimhood.’ And they did.

I found airline pilot, air travel columnist and author Patrick Stewart’s “Letter from Boston” to be a clear-eyed voice of sanity in the chaos that has reigned since last Monday. Stewart expresses what I believe many of us feel when he writes:

There’s something peculiarly, distressingly American about this style of commemorating. We seem to have a surfeit of compassion for “ourselves,” yet a striking lack of it for others. We, as Americans (or however we define our personal in-groups) have tendency to fixate on and endlessly memorialize anything bad that happens to us, regardless of scale. We expend so much compassion on ourselves that we have none left for anybody else. Maybe we’d get over our traumas sooner if we acknowledged that we are not the only people in the world these things happen to, and incidents like this are hardly unique.

Bombings and mass killings are a near-daily event in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places. We see the stories, but the violence hardly registers. We barely notice, much less devote nonstop coverage or erect plaques and shrines. Multiple homicides with injuries of bystanders are also a regular occurrence throughout the United States. When was the last time we shut down an entire metro region to catch a murder suspect?

One can further argue that it’s precisely this country’s ongoing preoccupation with terrorism, and our almost guaranteed overreaction should an attack occur, that can inspire certain people to violence. If we didn’t spend so much time obsessing and talking about it, perhaps certain deranged people wouldn’t be inspired to bomb, murder, and maim.

What the Media Tells Us About Rape Culture

media-rape-culture

The media’s response to the Steubenville rape trial and verdict tells us everything we need to know about the culture of rape in our society.

This cultural intervention, like any other, must be proceeded by the recognition that we have a problem. Is there any doubt?

In Memoriam: Hugo Chavez

hugo-chavez-election-day

The world lost a great leader this week.

Hugo Chávez was an authentic individual and a great humanitarian; a self-made man and a man of the people.

True, his ego and flamboyance often led him to act and govern in ways that were not entirely above-board or democratic, and the corrupt patronage system that plagues the modern state of Venezuela is certainly no shining testament to socialist revolution — but I do believe that history will look kindly upon Hugo, seeing him as a necessary bridge between the right-wing military plutocracies of 20th Century Latin America and today’s more socially progressive democracies.

Hugo, I will miss your smile, your enthusiasm, your charisma, your plain-speaking, and your chutzpah. You were a leader to millions, and a follower to yourself.

Like all great revolutionaries, you were a walking contradiction, placing ideals above pragmatism and people before principles. But you showed the way, and you led the way. And you did it your way.

Que descanses en paz, mi comandante.

“10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America”

Last July, Der Bananenplanet published a provocative piece: “10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America.” I’ll list those 10 things in a second, but I recommend reading the entire piece. Der Bananenplanet and I both see American culture, as we now know it, as a culture desperately in need of intervention.

Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him. This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.
 
I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

Here’s that list, if you can’t be bothered to click this link and read for yourself:

  1. Few People Are Impressed By Us
  2. Few People Hate Us
  3. We Know Nothing About The Rest Of The World
  4. We Are Poor At Expressing Gratitude And Affection
  5. The Quality of Life For The Average American Is Not That Great
  6. The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us
  7. We’re Paranoid
  8. We’re Status-Obsessed And Seek Attention
  9. We Are Very Unhealthy
  10. We Mistake Comfort For Happiness

“America is not the greatest country in the world anymore”

Having watched the entire first season of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, “The Newsroom,” I can confirm that the show is compelling much in the way that roadside accidents can be, at least from a distance. Once you get up close, you often find that traffic has slowed down for little more than a fender bender. In other words, there is nothing to see but some confused bystanders and fragments of the collision which you didn’t witness.

That being said, Aaron Sorkin is great at one thing: putting words, nay polemics, into actors’ mouths. In the pilot, Jeff Daniels delivers the rant below with outrage, aplomb, sincerity and gravitas. This is the show’s raison d’être and arguably its finest moment.

“And [to the conservative panelist] with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America’s so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.”
 
“And you — sorority girl — yeah — just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.”
 
“We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports.”
 
“We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”
 
“None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about?! Yosemite?!!!”
 
“We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest.”
 
“We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.”
 
“The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one — America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

Albert Einstein on Socialism

Socialism has long been a bad word in American political parlance, especially as used by the Right to denigrate those with left-leaning tendencies. Most Americans conflate socialism with communism, and know little about what the term really means, besides some vague notion of it being European, or less desirable than capitalism.

Albert Einstein is widely regarded as one of the world’s great scientific geniuses. Despite the fact that most people don’t fully grasp his ideas (myself included), he has been lionized in popular culture, both low and high.

Albert Einstein

I was surprised to learn that Einstein advocated socialism. Here is an excerpt from an excellent article he wrote for Monthly Review in May 1949 (“Why Socialism?“):

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

…continue reading…

Guns: “Our Moloch”

idol-moloch

Gary Wills writes for the New York Review of Books:

[Sandy Hook Elementary School] cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
 
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
 
The fact that the gun is a reverenced god can be seen in its manifold and apparently resistless powers. How do we worship it? Let us count the ways:
 
1) It has the power to destroy the reasoning process.
 
2) It has the power to turn all our politicians as a class into invertebrate and mute attendants at the shrine.
 
3) It has the power to distort our constitutional thinking.

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