It’s a lazy day, and I’ve spent part of the afternoon cleaning up my Evernote files. If I don’t do this occasionally, so much stuff accumulates that it becomes self-defeating. Even doing it every couple of months, there are always a fair number of “What the hell was I thinking”s. Here are some of the items I saved to blog about later:
On April 20, I clipped this gem from Steve Bennen writing in The Washington Monthly:
What I find odd, though, is the underlying message. Leading Republicans make it sound as if America’s stature is so fragile, it is easily weakened by casual courtesies at an international forum. President Obama, in contrast, acts as if America’s stature is strong, and can withstand a handshake with a foreign head of state. Since when does the GOP find it useful to promote the idea of American weakness? [Steve Bennen]
May 13, brought this whole post from Bernard Chazelle
Our Awesomeness in Numbers
from A Tiny Revolution by Jonathan Schwarz
By: Bernard Chazelle
The OECD report is out. Like a pack of hungry wallabies, the media pounced immediately on the only item worth reporting: the French eat and sleep longer hours than anyone, and yet they’re among the thinnest. The Americans work the longest hours, spend half as much time eating as the French, and they’re the fattest! No wonder everybody hates the French. Oh, and something the wallabies missed. The French (like most Europeans) are now taller than the Americans. No doubt the nativists will blame short immigrants, except that science has conclusively debunked that myth. Americans are shrinking (in height, not width) because of poor diet and lousy prenatal/infant care.
If you prefer, you can quit reading right here, and surf on to other sites that will tell you how the US is number 1 in all sorts of important things, like arms sales; bank transactions; billionaires; etc. GDP is high, too, and by the measures of classical economics, we’re not doing too bad.
The difference with the OECD report is that it gives you numbers that actually matter to living human beings. You may choose to be shocked, shocked that such things happen in our advanced society. But when a rule has more exceptions than instances in which it holds, it’s helpful to change the rule. Once you think that we live in a third-world plutocracy, then all of a sudden everything begins to make sense.
Also, after you read and weep, ask yourself why the only item that made the headlines was about the sleeping habits of the French. Maybe the French always sleep but the American propaganda machine surely never does.
Here are the US rankings out of the 30 OECD countries (1 is best; 30 is worst — worst as in Somalia-like). The names of the countries even more Somalian than the US appear in parens.
Infant Deaths: 28 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey).
Life Expectancy: 24 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Czech & Slovak Republics).
Health Expenditures: 1 out of 30.
Poverty Rates: 28 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey).
Child Poverty: 27 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Poland).
Income Inequality: 27 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Portugal).
Obesity: 30 out of 30.
Incarceration: 30 out of 30.
Work Hours (ranked in ascending order): 30 out of 30.
Height (women): 25 out of 30 (Mexico, Turkey, Korea, Portugal, Japan).
Height (men): 24 out of 30 (Italy, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Korea, Japan).
OECD countries: Turkey, Mexico, Poland, USA, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Greece, Luxemburg, Australia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Korea, Czech Republic, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Iceland, France, Austria, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.
— Bernard Chazelle
June 10, I saved my own verbose but prescient response to the primary defeat of Terry McAuliffe in Virginia:
Being a flatlander out here in the flyover part of Illinois, I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know enough about the the situation in Virginia to have any sense of what this means to Virginians, but boy, howdy! let me tell you how pleased I am to see McAuliffe knocked out of there. I only hope that it ends up to be, finally, a stake through the heart of his political career. But part of what’s most seriously wrong about the guy also makes it highly unlikely that it will be: he’s too well connected to power.
Our obstacles to making the best choices are no longer matters of Democrats vs Republicans. The Republicans have taken care of that one all by themselves. However, one of The Bear’s First Principals of Conflict states that in an intense prolonged conflict, the likelihood that the complete, sudden collapse of one of the parties will trigger the subsequent collapse of the the ‘victor’ party is directly proportional to the length and intensity of the conflict.
In other words, since the Republican party’s response to their electoral repudiation last fall has been to become a laughing-stock, there’s a very real danger of the Democrats doing the same.
If you listen to America (and I most certainly don’t mean the polls), you’ll hear that it’s not a good idea to rush to judgment on what voters were saying when they threw out the Republicans. I mean, who are you going to vote for when your choices are between an OK but probably not thrilling Democrat and a member of the Clown Party who, if an incumbent, was likely lurking somewhere near the helm cheering as the captain sailed the ship over Niagara. Saying ‘No more!’ to Republican insanity is not the same as saying ‘Yes, please!’ to not-a-Republican, whoever s/he may be, and "May I have more, please.’
So the Democrats won. Why is nothing meaningful happening? Well, if you go back to The Bear’s Principles, you’ll see that in group conflict, there’s always an element of what the Bear calls ‘group identity ambiguity’, somehow proportional to the degree of singularity of purpose that brings the group together in the first place. In simple English, there are always a certain number of folks who are in the wrong group.
As long as both sides are healthy and going at it tooth & nail, this isn’t anything that can’t be worked out over time. Allegiances change, people drift to the more appropriate group, others are exposed as frauds and shunned by the group, and some try to operate outside of the groups. But when the opposition group is suddenly removed from the scene, watch out! And that’s where we are today in our Nation.
As often happens when the bad guys are put away, today’s Democratic Party is discovering that it doesn’t stand for much of anything in the absence of opposition. McAuliffe, the Clintons, the whole DLC thing represent Corporate America (with varying degrees of ‘social responsibility’ sensibilities, as long as it doesn’t exceed corporate policy on charitable giving). They do not represent what I think America voted for last fall, and I am delighted to see my judgment ratified by the voters of Virginia.
On August 20, ‘CanSoc’ wrote this is the comments section of a Salon article on the health care debate:
Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Present, speaking about the children that cling to him: "This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both; but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom for men, unless the writing be erased." Or at least doom for an equitable healthcare system, along with an equitable society, in the US.
And finally, in today’s column, Andy Tobias links to this depressing article by John Mauldin. Sadly, I’ve gotta say it’s a must read.