December 20, 2010

The Straight Poop

The following is from John Cassidy's Nov. 29 article in The New Yorker, "What Good Is Wall Street?" The subtitle is: "Much of what investment bankers do is socially worthless" (Duh!).

"A clear implication of [Lord Adair Turner's] argument is that many people in the City [London] and on Wall Street are the financial equivalent of slumlords or toll collectors in pin-striped suits. If they retired to their beach houses en masse, the rest of the economy would be fine, or perhaps even healthier." [Turner is the chairman of Britain's top financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority; he recently published an article entitled "What Do Banks Do?"]

"Last year, while many people were facing pay freezes or worse, the average pay of employees at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase's investment bank jumped 27%, to more than $340,000. This figure includes modestly paid workers at reception desks and mail rooms, and it thus understates what senior bankers earn. At Goldman...nearly a thousand employees received bonuses of at least $1 million in 2009. Not surprisingly, Wall Street has become the preferred destination for the bright young people who used to want to start up their own companies, work for NASA, or join the Peace Corps. At Harvard this spring, about a third of the seniors with secure jobs were heading to work in finance. Ben Friedman, a professor of economics at Harvard, recently wrote an article lamenting 'the direction of such a large fraction of our most-skilled, best-educated, and most highly motivated young citizens to the financial sector.'"

"Paul Woolley...has set up an institute at the London School of Economics called the Woolley Centre for the Study of Capital Market Dysfunctionality. 'Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry when it's just a utility, like sewage [excellent comparison] or gas?...'It is like a cancer that is growing to infinite size, until it takes over the entire body.'" [Woolley had a career as an investment banker.]

"Rather than seeking the most productive outlet for the money that depositors and investors entrust to them, [banks] may follow trends and surf bubbles. These activities shift capital into projects that have little or no long-term value, such as speculative real-estate developments in the swamps of Florida. Rather than acting in their customers' best interests, financial institutions may peddle opaque investment products, like collateralized debt obligations. Privy to superior information, banks can charge hefty fees and drive up their own profits at the expense of clients who are induced to take on risks they don't fully understand--a form of rent seeking."

"The insidious culture that allowed Wall Street firms to peddle securities of dubious value to pension funds and charitable endowments remains largely in place."

"Perhaps the most shocking thing about recent events was not how rapidly the big Wall Street firms got into trouble but how quickly they returned to profitability and lavished big rewards on themselves. Last year, Goldman Sachs paid more than $16 billion in compensation, and Morgan Stanley paid out more than $14 billion. Neither came up with any spectacular new investments or produced anything of tangible value."

"During the credit boom of 2005 to 2007, profits and pay reached unprecedented highs. It is now evident that the bankers were being rewarded largely for taking on unacknowledged risks: after the subprime market collapsed, bank shareholders and taxpayers were left to pick up the losses. From an economy-wide perspective, this experience suggests that at least some of the profits that Wall Street bankers claim to generate, and that they use to justify their big pay packages, are illusory."

"On Wall Street and elsewhere in corporate America, insiders generally learn quickly how to game new systems and turn them to their advantage."

"There is...a blog, The Epicurean Dealmaker, written by an anonymous investment banker...In March, 2008, when some analysts were suggesting that the demise of Bear Stearns would lead to a change of attitudes on Wall Street, [the author] wrote: 'I, for one, think these bankers will be even more motivated to rape and pillage the financial system in order to rebuild their ill-gotten gains.' Seven months later, on the eve of the bank bailout, [he] opined, 'Let hundreds of banks fail. Let tens of thousands of financial workers lose their jobs and their personal wealth....The financial sector has had a really, really good run for a lot of years. It is time to pay the piper, and I, for one, have little interest in using my taxpayer dollars to cushion the blow.'"

"In September, 2009, addressing the popular anger about bankers' pay, [he] wrote [to his colleagues in the banking industry]: 'You mean to tell me your work as a ___ is worth more to society than a firefighter? An elementary school teacher? A combat infantryman in Afghanistan? [bad example!] A priest? Good luck with that.'"

"In the first nine months of 2010, the big six banks cleared more than $35 billion in profits."

"Despite all the criticism that President Obama has received lately from Wall Street, the Administration has largely left the great money-making machine intact. [Gee, there's a shock.] A couple of years ago, firms such as Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs faced the danger that the government would break them up, drive them out of some of their most lucrative business lines--such as dealing in derivatives--or force them to maintain so much capital that their profits would be greatly diminished. 'None of these things materialized,' [Robert] Altman [the chairman of Evercore] noted. 'Reforms and changes came in, but they did not have a transformative effect."

"Even after all that has happened, there is a tendency in Congress and the White House to defer to Wall Street...."

The NYT review of "All the Devils Are Here," by McLean and Nocera (Nov. 21), concludes: "What about the future? The next crisis probably won't be a housing bubble or an Internet craze, because those are fresh in our collective memory. But in some other corner of the economy, easy money is almost certainly beginning to feed hubris and greed. So the chances are, the devils will be coming back again."


Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And in today's news, Census finds record gap between rich and poor:

That gap can only become wider, swiftly turning into a chasm. I'm sure those at the top assume that things will simply continue to go their way, and that nothing bad could ever possibly happen to them. As for the poor, "let them eat cake," right?

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Maury,

I'm still puzzled about false consciousness. How can Americans have it if to them the consciousness they're invited to adopt (through the Republican, right-wing propaganda machine that has affected the Democrats to move to the "center") seems to them to be the truth? So what is the talk about brain washing when the brains aspire to cleanliness and Godliness, welcome a dip in the cleansing Palin ice floes?

1:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Honestly, I just can't respect anybody who doesn't have at least $5 million and isn't involved in leveraged buyouts.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Morris,

A few general questions not directly applicable to this post:

Are there other leftish cultural critics you'd recommend reading? Why the putative dearth of left-leaning cultural criticism?

Can you envision ANY light at the end of the tunnel? Once this nonsense collapses, what kinda economy, values, belief systems, culture should take its place? Do you have any suggestions of new norms and the like? (In this way, you are frustrating the same kinda way Rieff is frustrating. What SHOULD we be believing in, then? WHAT IS TO BE DONE???)

Thanks, Dan W

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couple last things:

I should note that I've only read select works of yours and perhaps you have addressed alternatives, next steps, etc. in material I haven't read. That's my ignorance disclaimer!

Lastly, I believe that the lack of cultural criticism from the left has only allowed the right to diagnose our nation's ills in increasingly hateful and harmful ways. This only reconfirms the existing frame of motherly, permissive, passive progressives and hard-nosed, tough, straight-shootin', fatherly, authoritative conservatives.

This amounts to a double whammy politically. The right is benefited by the culture which has an inherent me-first, conservative ideology AND it still gets to show its toughness by criticizing that "culture" even if most rightist criticism criticizes some "Other" rather than ourselves or the culture itself.

And frankly, asking any sort of progressive politics to spring forth from this society and culture is like waiting for a beautiful orchid to bloom in a diseased, barren wasteland. Culture is the soil. It will need to be tilled and improved drastically before any new seeds of hope can be planted.


2:34 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

The next shoe may be dropping in April when Congress has to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Dean Baker has an article on Truthout Saving Social Security: Stopping Obama's Next Bad Deal that you might want to check out. Most Americans have no idea what this is (can't say I'm much better informed) so it will be easy to bully them into submission--again. The merry-go-round of endless profits for Wall Street at some point is going to slow down, then stop, then they'll turn off the lights b/c they really WILL be too big to save. It's only a matter of time; it looks like deflation out there to me and I live in a city that's not suffered too much from the real estate collapse.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


There's a lot of gd left-wing cultural criticism around; you might start by reading the work of Antonio Gramsci, or back issues of New Left Review. But I think you are right when you say that the left just mirrors the rt, in certain ways. After all, socialism is just about redistribution of wealth; it's not about quality of life. It is fully committed to "progress," cell phones and other techno-hoopla included; moral progress, true human progress, is not part of the equation. In this regard, as Jackson Lears once said ("No Place of Grace"), it is often backward-looking politics that is truly radical; but which makes things just a tad murky. The John Birch Society was big on conservation from 1960 or so, for example. Or take the journal "New Atlantis," the right-wing position of which I find more or less repulsive, but which regularly does articles on how everything valuable is being destroyed by an uncritical adherence to science and the worship of screens and techno-toys. It's a complicated picture, in short.


8:18 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


You might find Theodore Roszak's Where the Wasteland Ends particularly useful in addressing some of the aesthetic & frankly spiritual questions you raise. Published in 1972, it looks squarely at the religion of Progress, the worship of Scientism, and the crying need for a more religious/spiritual worldview with a sense of physical, technological limits & an in-depth exploration of the inner life.

Roszak, of course, coined the phrase "counterculture," and he examines that phenomenon as an antidote to so much of what was (and is) wrong with contemporary Western culture -- and he was just as unsparing with (for example) Soviet Russia as with capitalist America. While he was dealing with the counterculture of the time, he shows how it goes back to the alternative side of Western culture through the centuries -- the Romantics, the ecological consciousness of St. Francis, and so on.

Certain specific references are timebound, naturally -- but overall, he offers a powerful & detailed diagnosis of our cultural illness, and some possibilities for individuals & small communities. At the very least, it'll give you some good starting points.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Also check out "The Simple Life," by David Shi, which was the bk that led directly to my new one (coming out next yr). Kinda dense and academic, but a close look at the history of the alternative life in this country.


9:47 PM  
Blogger Bruce said...

Also, check out the website for Joe Bageant. There are many valuable essays about this topic and others.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm exhausted now, but I hope to respond in due time. All seem to be good recs. I spoke with Jackson Lears a few months ago about needing a left with limits, and then George Scialabba. They seemed good bets as they represent something of a "conservative" left (like Postman, Bell, Mailer, etc). You know, a left that doesn't believe we're somehow magically (and through no doing of our own) traipsing toward progress...?

Also, may I humbly recommend The Poverty of Affluence as an outstanding psychosocial critique of our culture? And, of course, The True and Only Heaven is probably Lasch's masterwork and discusses these issues.

1:45 AM  
Blogger Neb said...

I'm still thinking about that guy marinating a cat in his car. And here you are MB taking a bit with that Oregano comment. Now you know full well that Oregano futures are way up and there's just no way this guy's budget can handle that.

I'm sorry, that was the story of the moment for me. I think news on the US for Mexico and beyond is going to be amusing for some time.

As for this latest thing, I can only agree, RIP USA. But the bank lords aren't done. They're funding more distraction with a new group called "NoLabels"; the why-can't-we-just-get-along party. And they've got MSNBC (the anti-FOX) types buying in according to Frank Rich, NYTimes.

So as this cancer patient is approaching death and the MSM morphine drip dulls the nerves that should be actively resisting, I vacillate between hyper anxiety and peaceful accenptance -depending tho on how I feel after another dip in the cat stew.

2:47 AM  
Anonymous Barry Bliss said...

"Can you envision ANY light at the end of the tunnel?"
There is no tunnel.

Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges is good.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many yrs ago, some Chinese restaurant in NY was making their Moo Goo Gai Pan outta cats that they caught in a nearby alley, of course w/o informing their customers. Board of Health finally got wind of it, closed them down.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


8:59 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Giving people the benefit of the doubt rather than taking them seriously by what they actually say and do. The benefit side? People aren't really suaded by propagander, and if they mouth iPod, iPhone, iFood, iFuck, iLove, etc., they don't really mean it because, you know, they really know that life is not about things but relationships, right?

The non-benefit side? People really believe that iEating, iLoving, etc. is the same as eating and loving. They really believe that and they know that acquiring better things will make them really better and more admirable. They really, really believe that!!!

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

A link to Chris Hedges talking about his latest book and other things. Galvanizing!

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I just came across an article in the newspaper that examined the (supposed) "growing national movement of personal downsizers, people who are simplifying their lives by paring down their possessions and resisting the urge to buy more."

"Generation Y is more into making friends than amassing objects, according to a 2010 Study of the American Dream by MetLife. Nearly 40 percent of millennials (people born in the 1980s and early '90s) say they already have what they need, up from 26 percent in 2008."

-"Living With Less" by Kristin Tillotson (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

What do you make of this?

11:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Read my new bk. Oops! It's not out until August. In lieu of that, try David Shi, "The Simple Life." Minimalism in America comes and goes; it's never really been much more than a fad. Enforced minimalism, different story...


4:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hi Maury,

I just picked up Robert Skidelsky's 2009 book: Keynes: The Return of the Master [sounds like a Tolkien title!].

I heard that Skidelsky wrote a 3 volume biography of Keynes so I'm hoping to learn something. He also sees the current economic problems as yielding to Keynesian solutions, something to which you subscribe.

I'm really interested in the economics of collapse and am sporadically giving myself a crash course in basic theory. Robert Kuttner's book *Squandering American* was very helpful.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

I incorrectly cited Robert Kuttner's book title. It should be
*Squandering America*

Although Kuttner may have had hopes for Obama, they've probably been dashed given that Obama has continued economic policy diametrically opposed to that which Kuttner suggests in his book cited above. Kuttner also lauds Keynes's ideas on regulation.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

In the interview that I cited earlier, Chris Hedges remarks about the targeting of American Muslims:

AMY GOODMAN: The incoming head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, New York Congressmember Peter King, says he’s going to hold hearings on what he calls the radicalization of American Muslims. What is your response to this?

CHRIS HEDGES: It’s racist. It’s racist garbage. And I speak to Muslim groups all over the country, and they’re terrified. And it’s—in the stories that I hear anecdotally of every time they fly, constant intrusions by state security into matters of privacy, when these people have done nothing wrong. They are being demonized, especially by the right wing, for the failings of the—as the state continues to unravel and collapse, they are being picked out as scapegoats...

I, Kelvin, add that we can rest securely knowing that a significant percentage of Americans believe Obama is Muslim. Anyway, when it comes time for lock up, they'll be distinguished by silver crescents sewed onto their clothes.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


While a silver crescent has a certain aesthetic appeal, I personally favor that old favorite, the yellow star. Meanwhile, let's remember the lines from Martin Niemoller, regarding the Nazi roundups:

"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Tick tock

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Doctor,I only wish Obama were the non-entity you think history will render him. He is about to sign an executive order allowing for the indefinite detention of prisoners without charge or trial. As a result, the administration plans to indefinitely hold 48 prisoners at Guantanamo. In addition, the AG Holder openly called for the assassination of the American born cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki and the Washington Post a few days ago reported on the expansion of domestic intelligence apparatus including the storing of 96 million fingerprints of American citizens. Far from a non-entity, Obama is fully advancing a police state probably in anticipation of a complete economic breakdown.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Art, regarding the article you came across...Gen Y may be more into making "friends" than amassing objects, but it must be considered that clicking on someone's picture because she is super hawt and "friending" her is part of Gen Y's definition of "making friends".

I read a similar article recently about how ridiculous websites like facebook have "revolutionized how we interact". Specifically, making friends is now no different than amassing objects. It's great for Americans, because we all hate each other anyway, and the whole purpose of the offending websites is to create a Me Shrine. (or iShrine, I guess). God forbid anyone from Generation Y from having a gracious social interaction in real life.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hey, even nonentities can do a lotta damage. Just consider his predecessor.


9:45 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

"Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Paxton's writing on the evolution of fascism (1998)is interesting.

Looks like we're well on the road. Stage three of five?

The most interesting part to me is the disappearance of consistent political and ideological principles as the darkness descends, Mussolini's early, liberal/progressive program a case in point.

American liberals will be attempting to email their congressperson as someone else is knocking on their door.

Morris, if you have sex on an iceberg with Sarah your wee wee will drop off.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...


I really liked the Niemoller quote as it points up the necessity of always speaking up, always castigating and combatting error, stupidity, falsehoods, predjudice regardless of whether one is personally involved or not, for the sake of principles or values. That is the role of a public intellectual such as yourself. You've occasionally wondered if you have a public. But it may be that you have seen further than others and that they are beginning to wake up, if not in response to your work, then in response to the obvious signs of the times.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Every time I initially visit this blog my computer hangs and I have to restart my browser and revisit the blog. Am I being paranoid that this may be a sign that my blogging is being monitored?

On Septemeber 11th this year returning from my evening walk around the neighborhood, I noticed a van parked at a stop sign: no traffic, just parked there. It turned out to be a police van that passed me (when the occupants must have noticed me) and then parked in the shadows behind me next to a high wooden fence that bordered a house. I returned later in my truck and the police van was still there. The windows were so dark that it was impossible to discern the occupants.

I live in quiet, empty suburbia so why the police? It seems likely that the police were spying because there was nothing else to require their presence.

Now I know why Dr. Berman says that he feels safer on a street at night in Mexico City than he does on a quiet suburban street in the U.S.A.!

Weird but I'll shrug it off: don't like to feel paranoid.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I did have it in mind to use a tent, perhaps w/a little portable heater inside to keep both Sarah and my wee wee warm; but I'll hafta clear it w/her, I suppose. Problem is she is playing hard to get, won't answer my letters. Oh, the little minx; I know her game. When the time is rt, she'll devour me like a moose, I'm sure of it.


6:35 PM  
Blogger tide said...

I lived briefly in South Florida. I happen to sketch and take photos regularly. I was constantly being stopped by private,county or state security guys whenever I parked my car to shoot pics or draw.
I thought I was losing my mind for a bit but I probably happened across a number of contractors who work for DOD or some other similar firm.

See the series on the Washington Post concerning the security apparatus that's in place (just posted by Dan).

Once you get out of the States it ceases completely.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

From an interview with Canadian physician, Dr. Gabor Mate on DemocracyNow today. He discusses post-partum depression and early childhood development:

"What we have to understand here is that human beings are not discrete, individual entities, contrary to the free enterprise myth that people are competitive, individualistic, private entities. What people actually are are social creatures, very much dependent on one another and very much programmed to cooperate with one another when the circumstances are right. When that’s not available, if the support is not available for women, that’s when they get depressed. When the fathers are stressed, they’re not supporting the women in that really important, crucial bonding role in the beginning. In fact, they get stressed and depressed themselves.

The child’s brain development depends on the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available parents. In this country, that’s less and less available. Hence, you’ve got burgeoning rates of autism in this country. It’s going up like 20- or 30-fold in the last 30 or 40 years."

3:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


And the largest collection of dunces ever gathered in a single geographical locale in the history of the world. This explains it (partly; I'm convinced it's also genetic).


3:31 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...


I think you nailed it...there is also burgeoning research that suggests Borderline Personality and Narcissistic Personality disorder patients may have had difficult attachment-formation with caregivers, possibly due to the caregivers not having the necessary societal supports. From my point of view, I'd say this culture is rife with narcissists and individuals who at least exhibit cluster B personality disorder traits.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Too long! Compress it abt 50%, and send again.


8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few things:

Agreed, there is no tunnel.

Chris Hedges is great and I look forward to reading DOTLC.

Mostly importantly, I'm down for creating your (Dr. Berman's) Culture Preserve or Civic Sanctuary. If we can find other people with some dough, good ideas, and a good location, I'll throw down some cash. What are you thinking? Black Mountain College-like? (It doesn't have to be 451ish, does least not yet?) So, let's do it. Action, after all, is probably more important than all this thinking we seem to do. -Dan W

1:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I guess we need to find a hippie millionaire, eh?


7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are plenty of every sort of millionaire. More than ever, sadly. I bought my unzoned 20000 sq ft schoolhouse plus six acres in Kansas for 75K (with a nice metal roof and radiant heating) and I probably overpaid a bit. You could buy my whole town (pop 120) for less than a mil. Sure, a "sanctuary" near a mountain or river or major city would cost more than that, but not millions. Think on's time we all start reclaiming the possible, as corny as it may sound. - dw

10:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sounds groovy, but why limit ourselves to the US? I'm thinking a nice little commune nr. Tierra del Fuego might be cozy...


11:29 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

With Christmas over maybe a good laugh is what we all need. On Huffington Post under the comedy section is a video by Bill Maher: Christmas Message for Oprah that's funny and right on target too. It was posted 12/22 so it's further down the page but worth a little extra effort. 2011 promises to be an exciting year--the stock market is reinflating nicely, John Boehner will be in the news weeping for everyone but the unemployed and homeless, and Julian Assaunge will continue to overestimate Americans interest in illegal wars, torture or diplomatic malfeasance. So, once again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...


Do I actually see an impulse to DO something here? Maybe there’s hope for some of you intellectual whiners! I have a vision of the ship sinking and someone standing in the bow screaming, “this ship is run by fools and it is sinking!” In the boats someone says “shut up and row!”

There are hundreds of small intentional communities in the U.S. and elsewhere, looking for members and assistance. It makes sense that at least some of them might be sustainable, livable, perhaps even enjoyable? You cannot escape alone. An interdependent community is required, as are skills, and I doubt that we will, in any case, see much “cozy” again.

Find a master gardeners class, friends. Or learn blacksmithing, or leather craft, or self-loading, or carpentry, weaving, cooking, ceramics,….etc. If Hedges is wrong (and I don’t think he is) you will have fun anyway, and meet some smart, kind, decent, friendly people! Really, they are here! They’re in the boats, rowing!

Okay, one of you can be librarian.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

Here's an interesting perspective on the U.S.'s decline by "Mr. Decline", himself, Paul Kennedy, in The New Republic:

His view is that what we are actually seeing is merely a return to normal. I'd be curious to read your response to it, Morris.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Welcome back...however, once again, I must ask you to get off the hobby horse of referring to us, and this blog, as "intellectual whiners," or disparaging us in any way. We are intelligent analysts of the current situation, and if u wanna contribute, please respect that--and us. Otherwise, I'll be forced to discard your postings, and make some less than kind remarks about shamanic toaster repair.

I trust we understand each other.


3:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank you...that was worth a post all its own.


4:40 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...


You’re more than fair. I will restrain myself. I think the boundaries of what I consider civil and friendly are probably too wide, formed in part in cowboy bars and logger taverns. I don’t think we ever completely escape our roots, but the tension produced, the peculiarities (Sepulveda) seem enriching to me. So you see, I can enjoy your writing, respect you and your blog, including the respondents for the most part, and at the same time be uneasy about the constant agreement.

Experimenting with action I sat with the local peaceniks in front of the gate to a naval ordinance depot. They do this every week. I felt weird, sitting there staring at the gate and security guys, knowing it would have absolutely no effect on anything. I damn near froze them off! Hedges chained himself to the Whitehouse fence in the snow, for absolutely nothing, but you gotta love the guy. Lesson: action is better in good weather.

Oprah. My daughter and daughter-in-law watch her every day. hmfjc Beam me up, Scotty.

Peace and love from lahlah land, bro.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. Just to clarify a pt: I have no objection to critiques of what I or anyone else has to say on this blog; lifeblood of democracy and all that crap. But I don't want these framed as put-downs, or ad hominem attacks. It amazed me--tho I suppose it shdn't have--when I first began running this thing (kicking and screaming, BTW) 4.5 yrs ago, how Americans think that disagreement means you have to be an asshole. There was constant 'flaming' and peacock behavior ('see how great I am'), as well as dick-measuring ('my peepee is bigger than yours'), which I now see reflects the sorry state of the nation I'm talking about. (We have come a long way from the courtesy of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, that's for sure.) For this to be an intelligent forum, all it takes is for those who disagree with me or Joe Blow to say: 'I disagree, and here's why: (1)(2)(3)(etc.).' These points, hopefully, will contain some real evidence, not just personal experience: 'Sam Schmeck in yesterday's NYT points out that...'--etc. Then we can have an actual debate. Jesus, I don't expect to be right all the time; 67% might even be good. But these things can be debated and sorted out without recourse to sarcasm, rancor, and some heavy emotional agenda.

To take one example, from a long time ago: my opposition to techno-gadgets as being socially and psychologically destructive. One guy wrote an endless diatribe (heavily based on postmodernism) that never reacted to anything I said in reply; it was all just monologue. But there was another guy who provided a list of objections that was clear and intelligent, and I took the time to respond to each of these as best I could--I could hardly just brush him off. This (latter) form of dialogue is what I have in mind. (Not that we can't be semi-demented or hilarious in the process, of course, as extended discussions of delicatessen have shown.)

I guess there are blogs where people make reference to the sexual activity of their opponents' mothers and so on, but I'd like to see if we can't manage to avoid that here.

Take care of yerself-


6:47 PM  
Anonymous Nocti said...

Hmm, I thought that an article on the decline of the U.S. by Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, might actually generate some interest here. Silly me!

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,


I did read the article you recommended and I don't agree with his conclusion. America is "just coming back to normal"? Maybe that's true if "normal" in this world now means tent cities with thousands of people in them, a huge prison population, formerly thriving cities of postindustrial hells (go to Detroit) and the health, education and protection of children are cynically ignored. There's a good op-ed piece in the NYT by Bob Herbert today about the discrepancy between the cheery conclusions of economists and the stark reality faced by millions of unemployed. To be poor in America is vastly different from being poor in Germany or England.


I missed you and I'm glad you're back. There are people who are actively working to set up intentional communities and return to working with their own hands. My brother quit a job he hated about 5 yrs ago and started a small 17 acre farm and drives a school bus part-time to help make ends meet (and his wife has a very good job). He loves it but it's been difficult and he had savings to get him started. It's not impossible---just challenging to get to the point you can live off the land and a small income.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...


Thanks,and yes, it is tough to get out. It is interesting to learn how little we know and how inexorably we are tied into the system. The struggle is worth it though. Any skills or knowledge gained can only be good in the future.

My years as a farmer were the best in my life in many ways. I worked so hard I can't believe it now. Take 20 years off of me and I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Best of luck to your brother. He'll live longer, doing something he loves and if he has kids, he's teaching them invaluable skills for their future.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Art said...


Glad you're back. What you said about "doing something" really hit home for me, in a particular way. I've always been very comfortable with thinking, and am pretty good at feeling and perceiving. But I've always had trouble actually *doing* things; I don't know if it's fear, or just incompetence.

And now I find myself stuck in the middle-of-nowhere, dreaming my life away. Can you recommend any skills for an absolute beginner, preferably ones that (for the time being) can be learned on my own?

8:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


u.c. how many people here love u?
(I'm being sincere)


3:22 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Well, away for a few days, and there's a wealth of wonderful new posts to read!

I do like this discussion of positive approaches to what's coming, and would be happy to become the librarian.

Art, about "doing things" ...

As I've mentioned before, I buy books at library sales, especially out of print books, and give them to younger friends who don't know about them. Passing on ideas & knowledge is one way of doing something. Discussing ideas & knowledge with people hungry for them is another way.

My wife & I are going to try & start a vegetable garden in 2011. Just a small one at first, as we're starting from scratch & no experience at all! But we'll learn as we go.

Perhaps simply slowing down, becoming more aware of what's actually around us on a daily basis, and thinking about something more than the mainstream deluge of inanity, will generate new possibilities.


Your voice is most welcome! While I think (and hope) we discuss what's wrong with the intention of gaining a clear-eyed view of things, it could be very easily slip into despairing whining. I've sometimes wondered if I'm doing just that. I'll watch out for it!

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Art said...


Thanks for your suggestions. I've decided to try and learn how to cook; with my interest in nutrition, it's a natural fit. Not that it's going to be easy: the stove has poor ventilation, for one thing. But it might also help to slow me down ("the revolution will not be microwaved"). Good luck with your vegetable garden!

7:23 AM  

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