American Exceptionalism: Not the Rule Any More

America-Firsters hated it when Will McAvoy deflated the country’s standing in the world on HBO’s The Newsroom. They hate it even more when academic studies show everything he said was true. (HBO Photo)

America-Firsters hated it when Will McAvoy deflated the country’s standing in the world on HBO’s The Newsroom. They hate it even more when academic studies show everything he said was true. (HBO Photo)

In the first episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, anchorman Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) delivers a rant that begins: “There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.  We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, No. 4 in labor force and No. 4 in exports.” Writer Aaron Sorkin was accused of everything but jihad for having his character express such negative thoughts about America, and the program was heartily loathed during its run by real Americans. Now, three years later, a new academic study confirms what Will had to say. And more. Continue reading

There is No Such Thing as a Civil War

War used to be up close and personal. Then, with artillery, we achieved enough detachment that people started to like it. (Photo by walterpro/Flickr)

War used to be up close and personal. Then, with artillery, we achieved enough detachment that people started to like it. (Photo by walterpro/Flickr)

Neocons and candidates for president and others trying to establish their patriotic bona fides bray for war — with ISIS, or Iran, or China or Russia, virtually anyone will do. When those of us who have either experienced war, or read a book about it, object that to choose war is lunacy, they condescend to reassure us. It will be a surgical strike, they say; or we will just train and advise a surrogate country, and it will do the messy part; we’ll use air power, so neither you nor any of your children (Wait, none of them is a pilot, right? Good.) need worry about it. Continue reading

China, the Paper Tiger

Is China a paper tiger or a pussycat? It depends on which numbers you look at.  (Photo by Jinzl’s Public Domain Photos/Flickr)

Is China a paper tiger or a pussycat? It depends on which numbers you look at.
(Photo by Jinzl’s Public Domain Photos/Flickr)

The punditocracy assembled yesterday, as they do every Sunday, to yelp their yin-yang talking points that pass, these days, for wisdom. Mostly they want to talk about who, a year and a half from now, might be chosen as the new captain of the Titanic — Hillary or anti-Hillary? Then, like the proverbial elephant terrorized by a mouse, they vent about the latest pimply-faced adolescent who, dreaming of celebrity and inspired by an ISIS website, takes the first giant step toward jihad: gets in touch with an FBI informant for his very own ACME bomb-making kit. Then before the pundits rest, they make their fervent nominations for our next war. Continue reading

US Repeals Laws of Mathematics

mathematics.jpg

“And so this proves that, for purposes of the U.S. economy, one plus one no longer equals two, but a seasonally adjusted, annualized integer to be announced and subsequently revised.” (Photo by Ed Brambley/Flickr)

It’s official: As we do not believe in climate change, because to do so would expose us to unacceptably harsh expectations, so we have ceased to believe in arithmetic, for the same reason. This mindset (can we call it that, since the “mind” part seems to be absent?), once the province of right wingnuts, has been adopted by the government of the United States so that, unfettered by the iron logic of numbers and their former, simplistic relationships (you know, addition, subtraction, that sort of thing), the government can proclaim its own brand of creationism — job creation, wealth creation, money creation and above all creation of the myth of the robust and immortal recovery. Continue reading

47 Felons in the US Senate

Benedict Arnold

Stop the presses! We have 47 names to add.

When 47 United States Senators sent a letter to the government of Iran, presuming to explain our Constitution (which, the Iranian Foreign Minister immediately observed, they do not seem to understand) and demonstrating profound ignorance of international law, they did not merely embarrass themselves and our country, they broke the law. Their purpose was to prevent the Obama administration from reaching an agreement with Iran to prevent that country from manufacturing nuclear weapons (something the country has always professed it does not want to do anyway).

These Senators presumed to tell the leaders of Iran that should they reach agreement with the United States negotiators, who for years have been trying to find a way to limit Iran’s nuclear energy program to prevent weaponization, any such agreement would probably not be honored by the Congress or the next administration. Since no such agreement exists yet, they made this threat without knowing what would be in it. Doesn’t matter; if Obama did it, it’s evil. Continue reading

America’s Most Violent Terrorists: White Christians

Say “terrorist attack” to us and, like Rudy Giuliani asked how he’s feeling, we immediately respond “Nine-eleven!” But in the 14 years since 9-11, it’s not Al Qaeda operative who have been killing us. We have met the enemy, as Al Capp told us so long ago, and he is us. (US Navy/Wikipedia photo.)

Say “terrorist attack” to us and, like Rudy Giuliani asked how he’s feeling, we immediately respond “Nine-eleven!” But in the 14 years since 9/11, it’s not Al Qaeda operative who have been killing us. We have met the enemy, as Walt Kelly told us so long ago, and he is us. (US Navy/Wikipedia photo.)

“The domestic radical right has killed more people than radical Islam since 9/11 in the United States, without a doubt.” Those are  the words of Ryan Lenz, principal writer of a Southern Poverty Law Center study of violent “terrorist” attacks that occurred in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015. In a classic example of confusing ideologues with facts, the SPLC study found that while US security officials were focused exclusively on protecting against foreign organizations of Islamic extremists, Americans were steadily being picked off by home-grown, Christian lone wolves. Continue reading

When Life Gives You Yemens

What happens when Yemenis have had enough, as they did in 2011. It’s not about which son of Allah you follow, or whether you get to vote; it’s about food and water and fuel. Always. (Wikipedia Photo)

What happens when Yemenis have had enough, as they did in 2011. It’s not about which son of Allah you follow, or whether you get to vote; it’s about food and water and fuel. Always. (Wikipedia Photo)

When the nation of Yemen was put on a gurney and trundled down the hall from the global intensive-care unit to hospice, it was in pretty bad shape. The United States runs the ICU, of course, and has only two treatments to offer, whatever the symptoms presented: massive injections of cash, or invasion surgery. The outcomes are universally terrible, and have been since about 1950, but no one seems able to think of another approach. That may have something to do with the quality of diagnosis: a patient who is starving and dehydrated is unlikely to respond well to either a high-pressure currency infusion or a brain transplant.   Continue reading

Mid-Term Message: Abandon Hope

Okay, we won. Now would everybody please go home and leave us alone. We’ll let you know if we need you again. (Photo by Jayu/Flickr)

Okay, we won. Now would everybody please go home and leave us alone. We’ll let you know if we need you again. (Photo by Jayu/Flickr)

Bull beat brains just about everywhere in America on election day last Tuesday, (with an exception or two), and anyone who still harbors the hope that the American Dream is alive, that the future will be better than the past, simply was not paying attention. People who profess not to believe in climate change have been given power over our national response to this rising threat to our continued existence; people who owe their souls to industrialists have been given responsibility for protecting ordinary citizens from the depredations of industry. We the passengers of the Titanic just elected a crew that doesn’t believe in icebergs. Continue reading

Junkie Nation

Are antidepressants depressing the vote in America? (Wikipedia Photo)

Are antidepressants depressing the vote in America? (Wikipedia Photo)

I was standing outside a small-town courthouse, chatting with a clutch of town and county officials, on a fall evening a few years ago, when the conversation turned to their constituents. We were on a break from a sparsely attended candidates’ forum inside, and I asked them what was on the voters’ minds that year. After a little bit of this and a little bit of that, they reached sudden and enthusiastic consensus (after making sure that no one from the local paper was in earshot): in general, the voters don’t give a shit.

Now this is at a level of politics that big money has not been able to lock down, simply because in a race for a few thousand votes to get elected to the county commission, there’s nothing on which to spend big money. At this level, votes decide, but the voters don’t care. The only way to get a crowd at a political debate is to open with Beyonce.  Continue reading

Former Treasury Secretary Sees Climate Crash Coming

Henry Paulson (right) speaks at his nomination as Secretary of the Treasury. He lived through one crash. Now he sees another coming.

Henry Paulson (right) speaks at his nomination as Secretary of the Treasury. He lived through one crash. Now he sees another coming.

The man who was at the center of the global financial crash of 2008 — Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson — knows a thing or two about crisis. And he sees another one bearing down on us. He wrote about it in a hair-on-fire op-ed piece in the New York Times last weekend. The headline: The Coming Climate Crash. And he’s a Republican! Continue reading