August 29, 2013

Preface to the Chinese Edition of "Why America Failed"

Dear Wafers:

The Mandarin translation of Why America Failedis scheduled to appear in September, and the editors asked me to write a preface for it, directed to the Chinese reader. I take the liberty of posting it a little ahead of schedule, as a Wafer-bonus. Hope you enjoy it, and sheh-sheh(= thank you in Mandarin), as always, for your support.

-M. Belman

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the Beijing World Publishing Corporation for undertaking a translation of my book Why America Failed. I am honored by their decision to do this, and excited at the prospect of the book having a Chinese readership. Because this readership is not likely to be acquainted with my work, let me begin by providing a context for this book.

Why America Failedis the third in a trilogy on the decline of the American empire. It was a fairly radical notion when the first volume of the series appeared in the year 2000, under the title The Twilight of American Culture. First, because most Americans did not think of their country in terms of an empire, and second because they certainly didn’t think of it as disintegrating, as being in a state of decline. The comparison I made in that book was between contemporary America and Rome in the late empire period, and I showed that in structural terms, the factors that led to the collapse of Rome were present in full force in the United States. Furthermore, that these dangers were being ignored—in particular, the growing gap between rich and poor. It was for these reasons, I argued, that the American experiment had entered its “twilight” phase, and was now coming to an end.

The second volume in the series, Dark Ages America(2006), focused on U.S. foreign policy, showing how self-destructive it was. In the grip of a strange ideology that America had to be the model for the rest of the world, and that all other nations needed to get on board the ship of laissez-faire corporate-consumer capitalism, the United States had imposed its will on nation after nation, frequently overthrowing democratically elected governments in the pursuit of its commercial and geopolitical goals. What usually followed in the wake of this destabilizing activity was the installation of governments favorable to American capitalism, typically accompanied by the torture and massacre of huge numbers of the population (Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973, etc.). The result, to use the jargon of the CIA, was “blowback,” the retaliation of those who had been oppressed by this barbarism (to call it by its true name). American meddling in the Middle East, I showed, had been going on for some time, and it was hardly surprising that rage against the U.S. boiled over into the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. What then ensued was a “war on terror” that by definition has no end point, is bleeding the nation dry, and has led to the elimination of most of the civil liberties once guaranteed by the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments to the Constitution). Self-destruction indeed.

The Twilight of American Cultureand Dark Ages Americawere, in effect, waving a red flag, attempting to tell the U.S. government, and the American people, “Stop doing these things; you are driving the country into a ditch.” Of course, I never expected that anyone would pay any attention to me; I’m not a prominent intellectual figure in the United States, and even if I were, it still wouldn’t make any difference. Because the historical record is that no empire that has entered its twilight phase stops, takes stock of what it is doing, and then attempts to reverse its trajectory. In fact, as students of civilization such as Arnold Toynbee have pointed out, the usual pattern is to pursue precisely those actions that will accelerate the decline. In this regard, the U.S. has been depressingly exemplary.

And so, understanding that it was basically Game Over for the United States, in 2011 I published the third and final volume in the series, Why America Failed. This was not intended to be a red flag or warning of any sort; as far as I could see, things were too far gone for that. WAF, as I like to call it, is just a post mortem; an analysis of why the U.S. sank into the ocean, and was swallowed up by the waves. In a nutshell, it’s this: from the very beginning, America had only one idea, or ideology, and that was hustling—making money (what Thomas Jefferson euphemistically called “the pursuit of happiness”). There was, however, an alternative tradition (the original title of the book was Capitalism and Its Discontents), represented by the Puritan divines, various religious-utopian communities, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Vance Packard, Lewis Mumford, and even President Jimmy Carter, to name but a few. But this tradition was ignored or marginalized; it was regarded at best as “quaint.” The problem is that hustling cannot serve as a social glue for a society; in fact, given its essentially competitive nature, it really is a type of anti-glue.

American society is based on the notion of every man for himself; things such as friendship, trust, community, craft, meaningful work, family, and spirituality—the key components of a meaningful life, which the alternative tradition kept arguing for—were (and are) pushed aside in the scramble for money, status, and fame. The result is that nearly one out of five Americans is now unemployed, 1% of the population owns something like 40% of the wealth, and for the most part, our citizens are lonely and miserable (though they try to put a brave face on it). The national debt is now up to $17 trillion and growing by the day. Libraries and bookstores and newspapers close, cities go bankrupt, the educational system is in a shambles, as is the infrastructure, and the prison system incarcerates 25% of the prison population of the entire world. We are less than 5% of the world’s population, yet consume something like 66% of its anti-depressant drugs, and our divorce rates and homicide rates are through the roof. And this is the model, the paradigm, that a dying nation is seeking to export to the rest of the world.

Amazingly enough, the People’s Republic of China have bought into this! Instead of taking a close look at America and saying, “Thanks but no thanks,” the Chinese decided that imitating the United States was what it was all about. And so they couldn’t produce enough cars, enough TV sets, enough washing machines. They couldn’t industrialize fast enough (and to hell with the environmental costs of that). “To get rich is glorious!” (致富光荣—zhìfù guāngróng) Deng Xiaoping supposedly proclaimed in 1978, and the Chinese fell over themselves in the pursuit of wealth. In effect, the country became the United States in Mandarin. As in the U.S., the upper 1% holds roughly 40% of the nation’s wealth. Extreme luxury, especially in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, contrasts with abject poverty, particularly in rural areas, and those urban areas are ringed with slums that get larger with each passing month. A dinner at a fancy restaurant in Beijing can cost the equivalent of a peasant’s six-month income. Meanwhile, you’ve got Foxconn assembly line workers jumping out of windows to their deaths, and the company responding by installing netting outside the windows. The famous “trickle down” theory of Ronald Reagan, which was little more than a scam in the United States, has not panned out in China either: very little has trickled down; and a survey conducted in 2010 by a Beijing research group showed a serious drop in life satisfaction and confidence in China’s future from previous years.

Of course, much of the aggressive pursuit of wealth has been reactive on China’s part. After three decades of Maoism and enforced equality, opening the doors to individual ambition must have come as a great relief. What good is equality, after all, if everyone is going to be poor? But the reaction proved to be an over-reaction, 35 years after Deng’s proclamation: what good is inequality, if the country is run by a tiny, super-rich elite and the rest of the nation has to scramble to survive—as is the case in the United States? What we need to see is that growth, in and of itself, is not only not the answer; it is in fact the problem. Since virtually nothing trickles down, financial growth only leads to greater social inequality; and in addition, the strain on the environment is enormous: we do not live in a world of infinite resources, much as we like to pretend that the gravy train will go on forever. But above all, one cannot create a viable society out of hustling and competition: this is the great lesson that the failure of the United States has to teach the rest of the world, China included. There has to be a deeper set of values than wealth and accumulation, and it has to be spiritually real. The Chinese government likes to talk in terms of wa, harmony—it’s a word that keeps popping up in practically every official document—but what does it really mean? On what is it actually based? If it amounts to nothing more than a kind of obligatory Confucian conformism, so that no dissent or individual choice is tolerated, then this is a very empty kind of spirituality.

At the present moment we live in a multi-polar world, with the United States, China, and the European Union sharing the balance of power. It may not stay that way. Internal U.S. government memos have predicted that China will probably edge out America militarily in the Pacific Rim by 2025; and economically, we are on very shaky ground, with China holding $1.3 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes and bonds. So it wouldn’t surprise me if China will outstrip the U.S. in terms of military and economic strength within my lifetime. But to what end? As an analysis and post mortem of what went wrong with America, Why America Failed could conceivably be a wake-up call for the PRC.

Why do I have the feeling that’s not going to happen?

©Morris Berman, 2013

191 Comments:

Anonymous turnover said...

Alright! You certainly didn't try to soften your message for the Chinese in that introduction. But is open discussion of rule by elites and criticism of the path forward in China permitted?

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

MB a very thoughtful and penetrating introduction!

As flawed as China will be somehow I do not think that it will approach the idiocy of the U.S. Also its not conceivable that Chinese teachers will be turning to prostitution like american teachers--see this: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/08/28/detroit-teachers-moonlight-as-sugar-babies-to-offset-wage-cuts/

Its not just Detroit, over 500 miami dade teachers are on the website looking for sugar daddies!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

turnover-

I'm guessing not; it wd violate "wa". I'm also wondering if my Preface will get censured. Shd be interesting, in any case.

mb

9:38 AM  
Anonymous DiogenesTheElder said...

Powerfully stated and spot on. I teach a number of students from China - they are here learning English with the intention of taking part in US higher education. Can I find that text in Mandarin somewhere? I wonder if any of them have any idea...Of course, they are all trying to hustle right out of the gate, as it were, so I don't imagine it will have much impact. Wasn't it Upton Sinclair, who wrote that "it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it"? Truly, we are done for.

DTE

10:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DTE-

Mandarin translation of Preface will be part of the bk, of course, wh/is being released next month. You cd always write the Beijing World Publishing Corporation, see if u can get a copy.

mb

10:50 AM  
Anonymous AvengerSentinel said...

Great stuff Morris, much respect.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

That was a great preface, you speak truth to power whether it's the Chinese or Americans. Is any part of WAF going to be edited/censored by the Chinese government? When will you know if the preface will remain uncensored?

Here's some Onionesque satire I thought people might like :

Al-Queda celebrates eminent nomination of Larry Summers to Federal Reserve Chairman.

President Obama is poised to elect a new chairman to the Federal Reserve soon and the potential candidates have been narrowed to either Janet Yellen or Lawrence (Larry) Summers. It appears the nomination will be a cinch for Larry Summers because Obama has personally praised him and nobody knows who the hell Janet Yellen is. Summers has amassed a personal fortune exceeding $20 million dollars while espousing a neo-liberal ideology of deregulation. He personally spear headed an effort in the late 90's to remove the Glass-Steagall regulations that separated commercial from investment banking. Within a decade the entire financial system would suffer a meltdown from the exact activities Glass-Steagall was meant to prohibit. Mr. Summers was then summoned to Washington to fix the mess and was highly note for his efforts.

Mr. Summers has also received support from an unlikely source; the terrorist organization Al-Queda. Ali an-bin Muhammad of Al-Queda had the following to say:

“The greed and arrogance of Mr. Summers will play a vital role in bringing down America. His unabashed cronyism towards the financial oligarchs will lead to catastrophe. His policies will enrich the already wealthy at the expense of rest of your society just like the unwinnable and disastrous war in our homeland of the Pushtan region. Summers will widen the gaping chasm between the rulers and the ruled causing massive political turmoil and social unrest. All of this will culminate in Wiemar-like moment of hyperinflation or a radically devalued dollar destroying your economy and ending your empire. Allah has blessed us this with man (Summers) who will do far more to hollow out your country than we ever could. You will come to ruin during his reign at the Fed. ”

When reached for comment Larry Summers responded, “Well it's either me or Janet (Yellen) and we all know women don't have the math skills to be the Chairman.” Pressed to elaborate he retorted, “Fuck off, I'm eating.”

3:46 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

J-

Beijing publishers are going to send my agent a copy of WAF Mandarin, and he'll send it on to me. Problem: I don't read Mandarin! Damn! I'll hafta find someone who does, then match it up against the English original. It's anybody's guess what the censors will do w/it. I doubt they'll do anything w/the bk itself. But I'll forgive (almost) anything if they invite me to Beijing, and let me address the crowds on Tiananmen Square, who are screaming "Belman!" High pt of my life.

Great quote from "Ali"! Truth is, all of these people, Obama included, are a gift to our enemies, because they are doing their best to destroy the country. I think I wrote in DAA that Osama bin Laden and G.W. Bush were comrades-in-arms, and I still believe that.

mb

4:18 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Good day MB and Wafers,

M. Belman-

I have a dream today... I have a dream that one day... Belman the Magnificent will greeted by throngs of hysterical Chinese Wafers... Oh yes, I have a dream today! We cannot walk alone. We cannot turn back. One day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. And from the table of brotherhood will be heard... "Belman, Belman, Belman!"

Jeff

5:41 PM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I thought you and Wafers might enjoy this cartoon b Bill Watterson:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/08/27/bill_watterson_s_cartoonist_s_advice_in_comic_form_by_zen_pencils_aka_gavin.html

Thank You,
Himanshu

5:49 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Himan-

Nice comic strip, thanks.

Jeff-

Throngs of hysterical Chinese Wafers, all of them screaming "Belman!" There's an image 4u. Meanwhile, here's an interesting quote from John Michael Greer, "The Long Descent":

"At the core of the modern world's identity is the conviction that our civilization is exempt from the slow trajectories of rise and fall that defined all of human history before the industrial revolution...We have to face the fact that our civilization may not be exempt from the common fate, and could very well follow the great civilizations of the past down the long slope into history's dumpster."

mb

6:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: However, in cruising the online news services, it seems to be the case that Americans aren't concerned w/this, the economy, their way of life, or anything of any consequence whatsoever. Most of the current stories are abt twerking: what it is, how to define it, demos of twerking, and so on. I'm telling u, we've got 315 million Einsteins on our hands here. This is truly a society of cutting-edge intellects.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

I have to admit I take some interest in the Miley Cyrus twerking story... On the conspiratorial side, I wonder if it's purely a marketing ploy by her managers, or if there could be stranger forces at work. With only a few major media conglomerates, all of which are closely tied to the "military industrial complex" (and all the rest of it) is it possible that some master propagandists in those institutions actively create pseudo-events like this for purposes beyond crass commercialism? Could there be a conscious intent to reshape social mores by a gradual process, for instance? Aldous Huxley, I think, took ideas about such "social engineering" seriously. Master planners often take a great interest in the coming generations - they've done all they can with the adults; but children are highly susceptible to influence.

Of course, most of the interest reveals a shallow and frivolous public. But could there be more to such non-events than appears on the surface?

Congratulations on reaching the Chinese public btw. Will be interesting to see how it's received over there.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hack-

You cd be rt, altho it doesn't take a conspiracy to keep the masses agog over things like Miley's (or Kim's) tush. Their focus isn't exactly on reality, as I'm sure you've noticed.

On the other hand, it's probably the Jews. True, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" don't specifically refer to twerking, or mention Miley Cyrus by name, but if read in a certain semi-Cabbalistic way...

mb

9:30 PM  
Anonymous JimM said...

Hi Mr. Berman,

I predict your book will be a huge hit in China. A (former) American writing about the downfall of America may pique the interest of a lot of Chinese people.

Good luck on MASSIVE amounts of sales!

10:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jim-

A long shot, I suspect, but thanks for yr support.

mb

11:10 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Shalom Wafers:

You might be on to something there, Dr. Belman. "Twerking" sounds as if it may have a Yiddish root, such as "Tverech."

Could a "Tverecher" be some sort of lewd or seductive dancer, who uses her feminine whiles to distract her audience while Shunem or Syria is invaded?

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman, ellen, jarid, shep, et al—

Excellent preface... except maybe for the last line. It’s in the form of a question that begs for an ad-homonym answer, which I won’t do because I don’t know why you feel that WAF won’t be a wake-up call for the PRC. I’ve heard the Chinese referred to as “the Jews of the Orient,” so maybe they’ll respond Jewish style – with another question. Like perhaps, “Are you applying your vast knowledge about America to China but maybe overlooking some differences?”

I’m inclined to think that what ellen says about China is true – about China, but not the US. Throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries China has made major, and at times massive changes in the course they were on.

I really don’t know what will happen to China, but I have been interested in their culture and history since the 1970’s, and even though I’ve never been there, many of my close friends around the world over decades have been Chinese. I am really impressed with their culture and civilization and I share ellen’s perspective, and her optimism.

Also, if they do tone down your preface, it could be government censorship – or maybe your Chinese publisher, with that history of astute and canny commercial dealings (as ellen says), simply wants to sell more books. Who knows? Was Wiley’s choice of a title that turns off most Americans just un-astute business, or a CIA plot?

The book is about America, and I hope it does very well in China.

Shep – please! Within every country and society you’ll find the ‘best of times and the worst of times’ – just not always in equal balance. And our blessed land is leaning heavier by the day to the worst.

David Rosen

11:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

al-

Considering all the complaints abt the movements of Miley's tushie, the real connection here might be w/the word 'kvetch'. Which again hints at the possibility of a World Jewish Conspiracy (of twerking and kvetching), even tho discussions of corned beef are strangely absent from all the news coverage of the event. But then the suppression of deli-meats cd be part of the conspiracy itself.

DR-

I just can't imagine one bk w/a (so far) limited run of 5000 copies will make even a ripple of difference, but maybe there will be others like it, who knows. I sure hope yr rt, in any case, and that China starts backing away from our example. No sign of that yet, however; but then I'm not a China expert, by a long shot. As for Wiley, they were so good at killing off any possible visibility for the bk that a writer friend of mine half-jokingly suggested that my editor was in the pay of the FBI. I suggested it (again) half-jokingly to the VP of Wiley, but she was not amused (so rigid, these corporate types; hockey sticks up their asses, really). Anyway, I doubt it, but they were behaving *as if* that were the case. Meanwhile, they certainly succeeded in killing it off, no doubt abt that. And then w/those low sales, no other publisher wanted to pick up the pb edn, because they felt there was no $ in it, and what else is the publishing industry abt? Depressing story. As I've often said on this blog, my mother told me to become a plumber, but Oh no, I knew all the answers...

mb

12:30 AM  
Blogger MJ said...

Hard-hitting preface, I hope it isn't censored.

Some news stories:

"This week’s ‘tales from the excesses of copyright’ comes from the estate of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King who continue toput restrictions on the use of the civil rights’ leader words, images and sounds. The speech, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, cannot be found legally in the public domain, unless express permission has been granted by King’s estate. The only licensed version of the famous civil rights speech is found in its entirety on the Martin Luther King historical site which hosts almost all of his archives.

His speech “I have a Dream” is considered one of the most important cultural and historical moments of the 20th Century, yet is in incredibly difficult to find, listen to, or watch in its entirety when King addressed several hundred thousand people before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The speech, which won’t be in the public domain until 2038, can only be used if a commercial entity pays the King estate a hefty fee...."

http://reason.com/blog/2013/08/28/did-you-know-mlks-i-have-a-dream-speech

iPads invade an Idaho elementary school, replace all textbooks

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/ipad-idaho-elementary-school/

On Syria: "In Iraq we know it was the US that used white phosphorus in Fallujah in 2004 (there were no red lines there except those drawn in Iraqi blood), so the justification [for a strike on Syria] is as murky as it was in previous wars. ... Every single Western intervention in the Arab world and its surrounds has made the conditions worse ... Meanwhile in Egypt, an Arab Pinochet is restoring ‘order’ in time-honoured fashion, with the backing of the slightly embarrassed leaders of the US/EU conglomerate."

http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/08/28/tariq-ali/on-intervening-in-syria/

2:34 AM  
Anonymous James Newlin said...

Here's a story about China stealing land from natives in Ecuador.

http://www.salon.com/2013/02/10/to_get_the_gold_they_will_have_to_kill_every_one_of_us/

Here's another story, China to build 220 story building in 90 days.

http://gizmodo.com/5962070/china-will-build-the-tallest-building-in-the-world-in-just-90-days

These types of articles tell me what Chinese want - a bunch of industrial crap, just like Americans.

3:23 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr B said, re the Chinese:
'I don't think they pay much attn to Daoism in actual practice, however.'

I would agree but meant that both Daoism and Confucianism deeply inform their culture and worldview, in the same way that Judeo-Christianity inescapably informs our western culture and worldview. (I should declare here that I was looked after by a succession of Chinese amahs in childhood so am heavily biased. I remember the amahs with considerably more fondness than I do my parents.)

To illustrate one small difference, the US has planted enclosed military bases all over Africa in an attempt to control that continent and its rare earth natural resources while the Chinese have sent engineers, mining experts and are building a business infrastructure. Long term thinking as opposed to the US short term version.

I still think that the party cadre who inspects your text for subversion will excise great chunks of your interesting preface, particularly the bit about Foxconn and suicides. Have you seen the export earnings stats for the 'special economic zones' like Shenzen where Foxconn is based?

3:31 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

WAFers,

Greetings from Gibraltar, one of the few remaining sane places in the West.

And now, refocusing on our usual topic, the US is looking more and more like a slightly -- just slightly -- slower-motion USSR in the 1990s:

"Nearly 20 percent of US scientists considering work abroad due to poor funding":

http://rt.com/usa/us-funding-scientists-percent-study-189/

6:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ellen-

I guess they call it Daoist censorship, I dunno. But check out what Jas wrote, above.

mb

6:32 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Dovidel,

My good man, i'm not sure what ur message is conveying? Please expand. I do not mind being corrected?




Ellen,

Speaking of Oprah and Irish bands, here is a tasty comment:

Bono may be the darling of American chat shows, with Oprah Winfrey saying that in her eyes he is the ‘living embodiment of hope’ – here in his hometown, graffiti in the inner city offer a different opinion: ‘Bono is a poxbottle’. Or as another wag put it, ‘What’s the difference between God and Bono? God doesn’t strut around Dublin all day thinking he’s Bono’.

BTW, whatever became of George Galloway?




Recent, good CounterPunch (8-26-2013), Clancy Segal article, “What Would MLK Think of Obama?” I’d also like to know, ‘What wd MLK think of John Lewis, Mandela, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Andy Young?

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

If history in China is any guide most certainly capitalism there is syncretistic and have mostly Chinese features. I think John Gray (and history) is correct that capitalism in asia is not what would be recognized as such in the U.S.A. As you all know the Chinese experiment with communism was marked by excess and this led to another set of social arrangements. The killiing of the sparrows followed by famine and crop failures which led to the starvation of millions no doubt hastened the demise of that set of arrangements. No doubt the excesses some point out will also hasten change. I was in China in 1981 and then again in 07 and 09 and the changes were mind boggling--as if in a different planet. Though much wrenching change will occur I have little doubt the Chinese will be able to make whatever transtions they need to make quickly. WAF will (with perhaps "edited" preface) be read and serve as confirmation to many thoughtful Chinese who already see the need to recalibrate. Unlike the U.S. they still function as a society, whereas the U.S. has been seeing social and political collapse in addition to economic contraction.

Have a great new year Dovidel and MB! Much Nachas!

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Another study confirming what we know to be true & painfully obvious:

http://www.alternet.org/economy/are-we-being-ruled-self-centered-jerks-what-new-studies-reveals-about-ultra-wealthy?akid=10863.241474.L3T8a4&rd=1&src=newsletter889594&t=10

On the other hand, why are anti-authoritarians diagnosed as mentally ill?

http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/02/why-anti-authoritarians-are-diagnosed-as-mentally-ill/

MJ,

I'm seeing other stories about schools replacing both books & teachers with iPads. I think we can already predict the results waiting some 10 years down the line: people with great iPad skills but an inability to think for themselves, other than what's been programmed by the iPad & the culture that hawks it as education. People are already outsourcing memory to tech; the next step is outsourcing thought itself to tech.

Watched A Canterbury Tale again last night, a good antidote to the above. In checking the film at IMDB, I discovered that the cozy little tea shop where the 2 Americans meet toward the end is now a Starbucks. Ugh!

10:25 AM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

Bingo-

Good to hear from you in Gibraltar! Well, the only money and scientific training we have to spend here, will be put to use by Obummer on Saturday... Sunday at the latest.

Dr. Hack-

Yes, Miley and her Twerking are useful diversions. However, I would argue that the "real" pseudo-event will be the eventual U.S. strike against Syria. This is already starting to occur as the mainstream press and its talking heads blather on and on about Obama going "solo" on Syria, or chemical weapons users need to be "held accountable" for their crimes, and so on.

I see it as Obama trying to get some media mileage out of his sinking presidency. He's gotta be depicted as standing "tough" against evil-doers, punishing countries who violate international norms... something the U.S. does on a daily basis, of course. Essentially, Assad has replaced Osama in the narrative, and Obama replaces Bush.

Look for him and his handlers to portray him as the lone "moral" man avenging Syria's heinous acts. He will "strike the pose" with his leather bomber jacket and reassure the CRE that all is well. Furthermore, Obama created this mess himself by stating that the use of chem. weapons was a game changer. He's gotta go in or face up to the fact that his drawing of uncrossable red lines is as fake as he is.

Obama will continue to circumvent the Constitution in what will most likely be another protracted and costly struggle that will achieve dick. This is all good news, as it provides more evidence of the lawless nature of our Republic and creates an opening for Lorenzo and Latreasa in 2016.

Jeff

2:33 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Almost finished with "Reenchanment of the World." The passages on child rearing were absolutely fascinating. Those poor untouched babies... It shows how something so easy as holding a newborn can be of great importance and value. I never knew those first 16 hours was so critical, as you said the kids would show effects for up to 2 years later. I'm guessing it compounded throughout their life even. I thought it was kind of cute how parents would play with their kids genitals and it made the kids less sexually anxious. By today's standard that'd be creepy but at least it embraces our humanity.

I really admire your abilities as a holistic thinker. You tie in the scientific and cultural developments that fostered capitalism as a a socio-economic system. "Civilizations are a total package" as you say. Maybe Newton should be considered the father of capitalism not Adam Smith.

I've also realized how mechanical my worldview is throughout reading Reenchantment. Your other books made me realize I am guilty of having a "negative" identity in a lot of ways as well.

Have you heard of Jeff Faux? He's the author of the books "Global Class War" and "The Servant Economy." If you're familiar with his stuff, what's your thoughts about it?

3:22 PM  
Anonymous AvengerSentinel said...

I had a dream that you and I, along with a third person, did a cross country trip documenting the current state of the US (there was a fourth guy who was our cameraman).

We tried to talk with mayors and Congressmen but we were ignored and had the door shut on us pretty often.

I forgot what state we were in, but there was one point where we were asking High Schoolers if they were excited about the NDAA and they'd enthusiastically respond "Hell Yeah!"

4:04 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Mr. Lukeman

I guess I am an anti-authoritarian myself. You, Dr. Berman and others are one of the few authority figures I do hold in high regard. You guys are intelligent, post thought provoking posts, ask intelligent questions and never talk down to people. Your rules, Dr. Berman, are very specific. There is nothing that is implied.

Most of the authority figures make no sense to me, have contradictory standards and act like they're better than me. They're never open to questioning of their beliefs, assumptions or tenets.

I am the type as you guys have seen will question if something does not make any sense.

Mr. Lukeman, I read the Wikipedia article of what A Canterbury Tale was all about. If we're referring to the same thing then I have a question about Mr Thomas Colpeper. This man believes he was doing good for all parties involved. I have noticed a trend about those who we would say are evil.

They believe themselves to be doing good including Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and others. I've noticed this with Christopher Dorner as well. Since they believe they're doing good, my question is do they do evil intentionally?

What is good and what is evil? This makes me wonder what is the cause of evil and strife in the world. Could evil and strife come from ignorance? Is ignorance the cause of evil and strife?

Could the evil that comes from evil come from ignorance?

7:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Avenger-

Next time you have a dream, run this one by the high schl kids:

http://www.hlntv.com/article/2013/08/30/DeMarquise-Elkins-guilty-brunswick-baby-shooting?hpt=hp_t2

Doncha just love America?

Jarid-

You mean people are still rdg that bk? It just had its 32nd anniversary. I always felt bad that I omitted any discussion of Isaac's brother, Fig. Also a crucial fig(ure) in the evolution of capitalism. I actually corresponded w/Faux yrs ago, after he wrote an article on social inequality in Latin America. Good guy, I thought.

Jeff-

The problem is that Ovomit has no idea what to do, because he's an empty person; so it's all PR, nothing more. If Lorenzo were in the W.H., things wd be very different. I spoke to him today (we're in constant contact, planning his 2016 campaign), and he said the thing to do was bomb Syria, but with McDonald's hamburgers. This struck me as a very creative approach. (Latreasa favors saturation bombing w/Chicken McNuggets, bless her heart.)

Capo-

Shanah tovah, and may all yr knishes come with Chinese fortune cookie messages inside of them. (ps: on that subject, be sure to read a fabulous short story by Allen Wheelis called "The Signal.")

Cube-

Start w/Hannah Arendt, "Eichmann in Jerusalem." I'm not saying I agree w/her; it's just an impt thesis to consider ("banality of evil").

shep-

Fuck George Galloway. What abt Julius La Rosa?

mb

8:29 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

Tim,

I don't think we have to wait 10 years to see people lose the ability to think for themselves. We are already seeing that now, as Dr. B documents so well in WAF.

As an aside, I think that same inability to think is evident in the highest levels of the US government. It claims to be outraged at Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against Syrians because it violates international norms, yet does not care at all about the fact that they routinely violate such norms in all kinds of ways with complete impunity.

By torturing people throughout the world and having Obama's Department of Justice pardon the torturers, assassinating people through drone strikes without due process while also killing civilians, supporting governments in Egypt and Bahrain that kill nonviolent protestors, the US government is no better than the Syrian government. But due to their inability to reflect on their own conduct, they take on to themselves the role of global policeman and arbiter of moral norms, oblivious to their own conduct.

Looking at all this from a neutral and objective standpoint, it's beyond absurd that a government that bombs, tortures, and indefinitely detains people without charge claims it has the moral obligation to punish other government's misdeeds. What a strange and thoughtless world we live in.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

I'm coming to the end of a book that I want to bring to the attention of the WAF nation. I can't remember now how I learned of it, but that doesn't matter.

I'm finding in it some of the same ideas and sentiments contained in MB's work and in the comments I've read here.

The book is The End of the American Era by Andrew Hacker, currently professor emeritus at Queens College, NYC. Though it was published in 1970, it could have appeared yesterday for the accuracy with which he seems to have captured America and Americans. Plus ça change, I guess...

You can find the book available from different sellers on Amazon, and probably at ABEBooks too, at prices sure to please, though in used condition of course.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jas-

I was a student at Cornell when Hacker was there, and (being a math major) didn't really have time to take a class w/him, sad to say. I do remember attending a public lecture he gave, basically pointing out that most Americans were 'trash' (his word)--eerily prescient, I wd say, inasmuch as this was ca. 1964. "End of the American Era" was also eerily prescient; the only other prediction I read of the US being on a downward path was in essays of Vann Woodward in the 50s, and these were oblique refs, not a systematic analysis. But from Hacker on, thru my Twilight bk and beyond, there has been intermittent but regular discussion of the US having no future. Hacker was certainly a pioneer.

mb

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

nakedcapitalism.com has had some interesting posts in recent weeks. Today there's this, speculating on whether the Intel guys are at the top of the heap:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/gaius-publius-deep-state-is-the-upper-echelon-of-the-intelligence-community-running-america.html

I don't aree with all the conclusions, but find it useful to read. Also includes a video interview with an NSA whistle-blower more damning than even Snowden is. Plus good comments.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Shep—

My reply was brief and cryptic because I tried to compress it too much. Sorry.

I was trying to suggest that your cup of negativity runneth over –from the US to China. Wafers agree with Dr. Berman that the US is on a relatively rapid irreversible down-hill slide. He’s written three books with historical, statistical, and factual data to back up this argument.

What I question is the assumption that because China is presently following certain American practices, that it too is doomed to the same fate, even when the above historical, statistical, and factual data doesn’t fit China in many important ways. Perhaps we need three books of data and analysis about China before jumping to such dismal conclusions.

Both ellen and Capo appear to have a feel for Chinese culture, and they seem to share my hope that China can change course again and find a better way.

World Capitalism is in a state of decline, and while nothing new is likely to arise from the ashes of the US, China may well have better prospects. The Chinese may be able to contribute, hopefully for better rather than worse, to a new world system.

Again, listen to Ken Rose’s interview with John Cobb at:

http://whatnowsolutions.org/?powerpress_pinw=258-podcast

You’ll see that new ideas are not automatically marginalized in China as they are here.

Finally, daily events can be deceiving, so “Read not the Times, read the Eternities” (Thoreau). I’ve noticed that in the Hebrew Bible it often takes a number of generations to see whether something turns out well or badly. I guess that’s part of “la longue durée” view of history.

We need to accept that we'll always live with a lot of uncertainty.

David Rosen

12:41 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr Hack,

The comments discussion on your naked capitalism article is particularly good. The intel guys are paid lackeys, not prime movers.

Onto the more socially important stuff.
Shep, The graffiti nails it, Bono is indeed a poxbottle. As to George Galloway, I was just watching him on RT a few days ago where he was publicising a kickstarter.com attempt to crowd-fund a documentary entitled 'The Killing of Tony Blair.' Starts at 14.30:

http://rt.com/shows/keiser-report/episode-489-max-keiser-991/

Although Galloway is yet another variety of smart political chancer and showman, I support any effort to bring down that vomit-inducing, posturing, slick POS, Thatcher clone and papist loving Blair.
What possible credentials does the compiler of the dodgy dossier that triggered the Iraq invasion have as a 'Special Envoy to the Middle East?'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2402354/Peace-envoy-Tony-Blair-yacht-Mediterranean-West-debates-air-strikes-Syria.html

6:34 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

8-31-2013 - Alabama Football begins. UGH!!

One item:

Laura Gottesdiener's remarkable new book, A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place Called Home.


"For those interested in Race in America, or anywhere, Brazil for instance, here is a recent effort that delineates Racism, especially in America.

Clarence Lusane : " Just as the doctrine of White Supremacy came into being to justify the profitable system of slavery, through shrewd and subtle ways some realtors perpetrate the same racist doctrine to justify the profitable real estate business."

"That quote comes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community", which was published in 1967. It was his last book and the one that speaks most about poverty and the way that economic justice and social equality are inextricably entwined.
 
The quote, directly illuminates something very powerful: the way that racism is used as a mechanism to uphold - morally, legally and socially - unjust economic systems.

To repeat, white supremacy’s end goal is not racism itself. Rather, it’s a tactic deployed by economic elites who want to maintain their grip on power and use it to not only justify their profit but also to sow racial discord in order to discourage people from uniting and organizing together. It’s really one of the most vile ways of holding on to power, since it essentially entails instilling a doctrine of unfounded hate throughout society, particularly in the minds of young children.

And, as many historians have noted, racism often hurts middle- and lower-class whites as well as blacks, which is another reason that I think it’s quite silly for some white people to consider race an issue that only other people should worry about."

THIS HITS CLOSE TO HOME. My wife's ex- son-in-law made his fortune via this vile form of racism. He only sold sub-prime loans to blacks to move his homes (Up to 10,000 per year via his various sons and their combined companies. (Supreme Racist Hustlers) Today he has mansions everywhere as well as a fleet of jet planes. When the crash came along, he simply bankrupted, gave the land back to the banks and now, he is back in business with most of his assets intact.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/29-4

Also check out essays in QOV on how the US has to have an enemy in order to function. This is a psychology, a sickness, w/o end.

mb

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Shep,

Have you ever seen the film "Blue Collar"?

If not, you ought to.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Just finished rdg John Michael Greer, "The Long Descent." Sloppy history, at times, but a provocative argument; in fact, in many ways a gloss on my Twilight book, combined with the thesis that I've called "Dual Process" (as capitalism collapses, alternative ways of living, alternative expts in energy currency etc, will become increasingly attractive and will eventually replace the system that we've got today). Anyway, worth having a look at.

mb

3:36 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Reenchantment had it's 32nd anniversary huh? Well I was negative eight years old when it came out so give me a break lol. Besides it's still a good book.

I'm glad you've met Jeff Faux, he does seem really nice and he does write about economic inequality in Latin America a lot.

I watched the 11 minute Yotube clip of you talking at Vermont last September, about half the speech got cut off though! I googled the Mexican Billionaire anyways, it was the tortilla guy wasn't it? King of Tortillas Robert Gonzalez Barrera. Forbes put his net worth at $1.9 billion and you said $10 billion are they lowballing or you highballing? I loved the bit about him calling health inspectors to shutdown competition, those businessman take the free market seriously.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jarid-

Odd reply! Did u think I was blaming u4 rdg it? I never met Jeff Faux, only corresponded w/him. And I never said tortillas. Anyway, that lecture is probably somewhere on the Net, in full version, if u wanna bother; but for various reasons I can't reveal whom I was referring to.

mb

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

MJ,

Of course you're right about the loss of thinking right now -- it's just that I'm willing to bet that the crop 10 years down the line will make the present one seem like geniuses in comparison, alas.

cube,

I'll drop you an email about A Canterbury Tale; for now, I'll just say that all the characters go to Canterbury to either receive blessings or do penance. Colpepper is there primarily to do penance, though it can be argued that by integrating the rejected & despised feminine principle into himself, he's also blessed & made whole (or more nearly whole). If you can see the film, do so -- among other things, it's lovely, many-layered, deeply spiritual in the most subtle of ways, and has much to say about tradition, the past, and authentic meaning.

Wafers,

Here's a depressingly accurate article about the inevitable upcoming war with Syria:

http://www.salon.com/2013/08/30/no_one_wants_it_but_well_have_a_little_war_anyway/

In the near future, I'm sure they'll drop even the slightest pretense of considering public opinion. Right now they're still play-acting for their obsequious media stenographers, who'll dutifully report on just how tortured & agonized The Powers That Be were before making the wrenching decision to go to war, blah blah blah. Eventually they'll just do it as a matter of course, whenever they want, without the public show of moral struggle.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

David Rosen,

My concern with China and global capitalism would be the same concern I have with the U.S. - path dependence. The whole world is using capitalism now, and when it crashes in the U.S. I could see the people at the top taking whatever they have left, and I believe they will have some, and starting the same game over somewhere else. These guys only care about amassing wealth for the sake of amassing wealth, and I'm afraid nothing at this point will dissuade them. It's like a little kid who has a favorite game and no matter how many times you ask if they want t play something else, they only want to play that one game. Hope I'm wrong though, for the sake of the human race.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

ellen wrote: "The intel guys are paid lackeys, not prime movers."

In my humble reading of the world I would agree as a general matter. But I would imagine there's a lot of gray area too - after all, many people in media, business, etc. are secretly intel, so one would think some "prime movers" are also "intel guys." Though it would depend how you define "prime movers." Who would you point to as being the "prime movers"? Or, how do you view the power structure of society? To me it's a very nebulous thing and I can see many points of view having some validity. It depends too at what level one examines it - Philip K. Dick seemed to approach it from an almost metaphysical level (using "metaphysical" as I colloquially understand it; not sure of its precise philosophical meaning.) He was interrogating the nature of reality itself it seems - and apparently found it so baffling that the only way to approach it was through elaborate fictions. I sort of suspect something like that may be the best we can really manage; though I find more modest attempts to "name names" or analyze things prosaically worthwhile too.

shep- Wouldn't your wife's ex-son-in-law make more money if he ripped off white people as well as black people? Or are you saying that limiting it to black people permits him to justify his anti-social behavior in his mind?
(btw I'm in Alabama too, Birmingham to be precise.)

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

Dovidel,

Thank you for your compliment on knowldege of China. All told have probably spent a total of a year there on different visits. Am considerably more optimistic on their prospects than for the U.S.A. Have been fortunate to also spend a good bit of time in Europe and have a similar view. The mainstream media in the U.S is programmed to insure that no country is better than the U.S. and the populace likes to think of the U.S. as far better in every way. Chicago? LA? Dallas? Philly or Madrid, Milan. Shanghai, Melbourne, Paris, Berlin St Petersbug? Please.... the masses in the u.s. need to be reassured that nobody in the word is living better or has a way toward intelligently solving problems. Any trip to a southern city or some midwestern burg mall will reveal a mass of corpulent semi literate pre diabetic narcissists which on a good day collet info abotu the world from television or U.S.A today. Utter dolts.

I have found it pointless to argue with Shep and best to leave him with obsession of Alabama and the racism of whites against blacks there and the South. This is news to nobody though he seems to think this is new and a most pressing matter and nothing in the world comes even remotely close in horror or urgency! .E ven facts known to fifth graders in Silver Spring Maryland could not break his narrishkeit.



7:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capo-

Por favor, amigo: if u wanna argue w/shep, do so directly, so yr not referring to him in the 3rd person. Also, try to be a tad more polite. Gracias.

Shep-

He's probably rt, tho: you need to broaden yr interests. The collapse of the Stage Deli? Kim's buttocks? The world's yr oyster...

Hack-

Apparently Dick saw a pink light inside his head, but not clear what it signified. Tuna fish, perhaps. But these sorts of metaphors (like, Do Androids Dream...) often capture reality better than sociological analysis. The Matrix is a gd example. Or Shirley Jackson's story, "The Lottery." Or Stephen Vincent Benet, "By the Waters of Babylon." Etc.

Tim-

As u know, unless we're fighting someone, we don't know who we are. Perhaps, in the course of bombing Syria, the Pentagon will finally take my advice and nuke Paris and Toronto (long overdue). They are sort of on the way, after all.

mb

8:00 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

I've been reading this blog with considerable interest and general agreement for some time without any inclination to contribute anything. I've long admired Morris Berman's books as well as those of Chris Hedges, especially his The Death of the Liberal Class. I totally agree with MB that Americans are are a bunch of dolts and douche bags, just the kind of people you'd expect to find living in a country with a long history of anti-intellectualism. As was described by Richard Hofstader's 1964 book, the educational system here was designed to be the disaster it is, to be institutionalized anti-intellectualism as far back as 1918 when an NEA panel produced a document entitled The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education which outlines the kind system we actually have now, the one the denigrates knowledge of history, literature, science, etc. You can find this document online, and you can see how it dismisses serious academics in one sentence. The only thing that's changed since then is that things have gotten so much worse. But the opposition does not come entirely from the right wing; much of it comes from the left wing fringe, the academic left. (I've always suspected that the extreme right and extreme left are equally anti-intellectual.) A case in point has to do with the recent writings of Andrew Hacker. His name came up in a couple of recent comments on this blog, but you may not be aware of an article by him published in the New York Times about a year ago in which he claimed that mathematics (algebra specifically) should not be required of any American high school students. Why? Because math is hard and, according to Hacker, useless. It's just to much to expect high school students to master the mysteries of algebra. It's evil, too, I guess, because it leads to the lowering of self-esteem in students, just the opposite of what our educational system was designed to do, but not through accomplishment, of course. Aside from all the things that are wrong with this attitude, the principle one being that we should not even try to demand intellectual exertion and mental discipline on the part of American kids, the idea of trashing mathematical education is, in my view, highly anti-intellectual in spite of the fact that it comes from inside the academy. The gross ignorance (along with a "knowing" attitude) displayed by Hacker in that article, in my view, disqualifies him from serious consideration discussion about anything. His 1970 book may very well be worth reading, but his Times article of last year certainly puts me off any desire to read his book. Oh, yeah, the anti-mathematics cause has more recently been taken up by the novelist Nicholson Baker in Harper's and by the Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. Baker, whose attitude mirrors Hacker's, has had several other flaky ideas which I suspect he's put forward just to get attention for himself. But Wilson should know better. These people do want some people to be able to mathematics for their benefit. I suspect that only in America are people proud of their ignorance of mathematics (and of everything else. I just can't imagine such a public debate taking place anywhere other than the U.S., and I regard it as just another sign of American collapse, as if we needed another one. Oh yeah, I'm a theoretical physicist, an academic who sees everyday the awful results of American mathematical education. Even when the subject is taught it's taught poorly by teachers in the schools who barely know any mathematics themselves and who have been brainwashed (oh, so easily) into believing that self-esteem enhancement trumps learning. There's a reason I see college students, and have for 40 years, who are unable to even add fractions.

Chris

9:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Chris,

Thanks for joining us. I don't think this article disqualifies Hacker completely; he may, after all, be in his dotage. In the past, he's written lots of important stuff.

BTW, in future: compress abt 33%. This is just a bit long for a post. Thanks. And keep writing.

mb

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman—

I don’t know whether WAF will make, as you say, “even a ripple of a difference” in China, but here is what Professor Cobb told Ken Rose about David Ray Griffin’s “The Re-enchantment of Science.” He said it “caught the eye of some Chinese intellectuals, and whereas in this country, like most books, it disappeared very quickly – in China it led to national conferences, and from that time on there’s been a remarkably rapidly developing interest in constructive postmodernism.”

Apparently Whitehead’s process philosophy or constructive postmodernism has caught on in China in a way that would be unimaginable here. Whether it’ll ever do much good, I don’t know.

Speaking in 2010, Professor Cobb mentioned that twenty Chinese universities have centers of process studies – six of them in colleges of Education. He said there were 35 million students enrolled in schools with curricula based on constructive postmodernism. I’d love to know what they’re like.

He also said his center organizes conferences for Chinese officials and scholars to make available the ‘many good ideas’ found here in America, particular those addressing environmental problems. I guess these ideas belong to what you call our ‘alternative tradition’ – that has always been part of American society, but has always been marginalized.

This alternative tradition may be better known outside the US. My wife and I met a young man from Syria in downtown Kuwait City back in the late 90’s. He was teaching English in a Kuwaiti public school and we went out for coffee. When I mentioned that people all around the world seem to find happiness and wellbeing with much less wealth than most Americans have but are miserably dissatisfied with, he paraphrased Thoreau saying: “A man is free in proportion to the things he can abandon.”

David Rosen

10:25 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Well, that wd be a lotta fun, to say the least. I'd certainly like to go over there and tell them that if they continue on the American path, they will be committing cultural suicide.

mb

10:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Here's a gd description of that: This from Robert Lane, "The Loss of Happiness in Market Economies":

"There is a kind of famine of warm interpersonal relations, of easy-to-reach neighbors, of encircling, inclusive memberships, and of solid family life...For people lacking in social support of this kind [read: Americans], unemployment has more serious effects, illnesses are more deadly, disappointment with one's children is harder to bear, bouts of depression last longer, and frustration and failed expectations of all kinds are more traumatic."

Who, other than Americans, wd want to live in such a world?

mb

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Uncle Bob said...

Machines are Now Teaching Us How to be Human

An MIT team developed a program, “My Automated Conversation coacH,” or MACH, which has a computer-human face ("a dark-haired woman with steely blue eyes or a Midwestern-looking fellow with glasses") that converses with users, then rates and advises them on their ability to be human.

http://gawker.com/machines-are-now-teaching-us-how-to-be-human-1232332852

12:47 AM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Speaking for a moment of dolts on the "left" (does "left" have a meaning any longer?), try this article on for size.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/08/
private_school_vs_public_school_only_
bad_people_send_their_kids_to_private.html

The author wants yr children to do w/o classics & calculus "for the greater good." Double down on the dolt factories! The point seems to be that the way to right the Titanic is to stay aboard & bail water.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

WAFers & MB,

The news has been quite amazing these past few days, with the UK, the US, and now France (the greatest warmonger terrorist nations in the world, basically) all backing out of their disgusting push for an illegal military strike on Syria. This has been a massive defeat not only politically, but also a historical defeat of the corporate media-military complex in these 3 genocidal nations. The mass media in these three countries has lost miserably. CNN, PBS, MSNBC, BBC, and the rest of the alphabet-soup CIA-financed corporate media gangsters have been shamed and crushed by bloggers, independent media, and so-called "conspiracy theorists" like Alex Jones (say what you will about Alex Jones and his hysterical style, but he has been consistently right for years).

Obama is now a ridiculous and pathetic man, as are Cameron and Hollande. To give you an idea, Cameron is the first British prime minister to lose the so-called "war vote" in parliament since 1782.

I believe this is the Suez Moment of America and Western imperialism in general. Better stock upon popcorn, as this show is going to get very interesting.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

I don't know if this is a Suez moment, but it certainly is an Obama one. There's nothing to the guy; he's just someone in a suit, nothing more. The truth is that he doesn't know what he's doing. He's no more qualified to make decisions of state than your next-door neighbor. And he's got 2.5 more yrs to demonstrate (repeatedly, I hope) that he's rather a bad joke, a kid trying to play in an adult world. Where's Herman Cain when we need him?

mb

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

CCG,

Great comment. Reminds me of: Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house.
--Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love", (Robert A. Heinlein)

I was a university professor (statistics, economics, mathematical economics) and left the racket after some years due to unprepared students (at a "good" university). Went to work in "real" world and the lack of basic math ability among so called leaders is astonishing. They can;t do factors and well forget rates of change--its puzzles them like a dog attempting to operate a door knob. i.e. the diffference between a bond at 3% and 6% to a city councilman in Miami or member of congress implies a 3% difference in debt service when in actuality its a 100% difference and at 3% debt service costs doubles in 24 years at 6% in 12 years. The implications of not knowing this are huge! If readers can;t see the implications of this well that makes you a good american. 6th graders in seoul can figure this out but not members of senate finance committee. The U.S. is led by lawyers and other countries by engineers lets see what happens.......I bet Obama never took freshman calculus. Hell-since my freshman year in 1973 do many people take Fraeshman calculus--I think not.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Bingo said:

'Cameron is the first British prime minister to lose the so-called "war vote" in parliament since 1782.'

Well done for leading the charge to the rear, 'Call me Dave.'
Now we just have to keep an eye on what this guy, Mr Moneybags Bandar bin Sultan, gets up to next:

http://www.voltairenet.org/article179921.html

Are you currently resident in Gibraltar, Bingo? If so, you should seriously consider your options as 'Call me Dave' is shortly to bring his diplomatic skills to bear in Gib's current spat with Spain. God forbid that the 'Butcher's Apron' should ever cease to fly over the Rock. ;)

10:01 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: Also think how far Kerry has fallen, morally speaking, from the soldier who came back from Vietnam in 1971 and asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" What is it abt power, that people will completely sell themselves out for it?

http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Manifestos/VVAW_Kerry_Senate.html

10:07 AM  
Blogger Paul Brodsky said...

Chris -

I also recently read the Hacker article regarding math education. My take is that if you read between the lines, Hacker is basically saying that American kids are too dumb to do math, which is a sentiment I think we can all agree with.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dr. Berman,

I finished reading SSIG. My wife is reading it now and loves it.

I will be re-reading it at some point as it provides a domain for deep reflection. In SSIG you speak of insights that aging provides on one's own life and the world. Below is a quote on a related note from J. Krishnamurti for us to chew on:


Can one die every day…?

Now, can one die every day to everything that one knows—except, of course, the technological knowledge, the direction where your home is, and so on; that is, to end, psychologically, every day, so that the mind remains fresh, young and innocent? That is death. And to come upon that there must be no shadow of fear. To give up without argument, without any resistance. That is dying. Have you ever tried it? To give up without a murmur, without restraint, without resistance, the thing that gives you most pleasure (the things that are painful, of course, one wants to give up in any case). Actually to let go. Try it. Then, if you do it, you will see that the mind becomes extraordinarily alert, alive and sensitive, free and unburdened. Old age then takes on quite a different meaning, not something to be dreaded.

J. Krishnamurti, You are the World, p 135

Thank You,
Himanshu

11:30 AM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

MB,
In light of Kerry's trajectory since Viet Nam, or his chosen vector, if you will, I have to question whether there has in fact been any change. It is possible that his actions back then were based on the same calculations of political expediency as now, in the sense that he does whatever it takes to appeal to and accrue power among his generation. Are the Boomers running the show these days really different people than their selves during the 60s and 70s? (Full disclosure: I am a Boomer, albeit at the tail end of that generation) I am agnostic on the question of his "morality" then, in light of his "morality" now.

Nice article over at ZeroHedge on the role of American "cultural insensitivity" a/k/a cluelessness, in foreign affairs, and America'sdesire to test the Einstein theorem on idiocy once again with Syria.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-09-01/guest-post-we%E2%80%99re-not-arkansas-anymore-hillary

12:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tag-

You cd be rt, altho that 1971 speech is a very moving one, it seems to me. As for Ovomit, I have a vision (not a dream): He says something like the following:

"I looked in the mirror the other day, and I saw a shell; an empty, meaningless person. And if this is where evolution has taken the human race up to this pt, then the whole expt is a failure. As a result, I am ordering not merely the bombing of Syria, but the nuking of the entire world, starting w/Paris and Toronto. It's time to put an end to all of this nonsense. As for me, I shall fly to Kyoto this afternoon and commit hara kiri. Let's face it: I'm a douche bag. Good night, and good luck."

mb

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Ghastly vision of the glorious American future, rightly described by one comment as sociopathic:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/31/who-will-prosper-in-the-new-world/?_r=0

At one point he talks about your smartphone advising you when to kiss your date, as an example of how technology will help us -- basically, by outsourcing our very humanity. Uncle Bob's post about the software teaching us how to be human points in the same disturbing direction. See, for another example, this NY Times magazine article about the wonders of Google Glass:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/magazine/googling-yourself-takes-on-a-whole-new-meaning.html?ref=magazine&target=comments#commentsContainer

I can already hear the embedded tech telling me not to bother about unimportant things like war, poverty, despair, human suffering, morality -- see, shiny shiny things, make you happy all the time, OMG 24/7!

I wonder if Kerry ever faces his younger self in private moments & realizes just what he's become? Or is the notion of conscience & regret as quaint & outmoded as international laws restricting torture, for instance? (Purely rhetorical question, of course.)

1:29 PM  
Anonymous k_pgh said...

I really don't know what to make of the young John Kerry.

There's an awful lot of noise out there on the subject.

Did anyone happen to catch this article?

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/26/what-john-kerry-really-did-in-vietnam/print

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Chris and Capo---

I was certainly surprised to find "Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human". Though I've suspected for a while I have more faults than I ever acknowledged, I didn't realize I wasn't fully human. I guess that explains it. But, seriously, I know someone who finds math a second nature probably also finds it hard to understand those who just don't get it. I had to take remedial algebra in college as a degree requirement and the class started with 100 people and ended with 30 and he had to give us a multiple choice test to pass us. I just hope the poor man didn't blame himself as he was really nice and did a good job. I know this is inconceivable to many people but it's true -- there are people (and I'm not happy or proud to be one of them) who, try as they may, can't learn it. Please don't judge them; it's like thinking a person with a southern accent is lazy and/or stupid. There's a lot more to being "fully human" than a knowledge of math.

While I was struggling with math I was also taking an intro philosophy course and the professor taught us logic. He used the daily editorials for analysis and his instruction was invaluable. I learned the difference between opinion and evidence, assertion and argument and maybe this is a course that should be taught to all students. Perhaps this was what Hacker was saying -- give people the basic tools to think logically.

7:29 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

Paul...

I have a rather different take on the Hacker article. First, though, it's worth mentioning that the people who train teachers (i.e. those who teach the education courses), design the curriculum, etc, like to call themselves "educators." But as Hofstader and others have pointed out, the really should be called "educationist" as the advocate for educationism over education. The educationists are ideologues of a peculiar kind. They start from the belief that most kids are incapable of learning. That position is what's behind the The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education, which is all about using the schools for the purpose of "life adjustment." The NEA used to hold conferences for teachers on life adjustment at period. I don't see that American school kids as innately dumber than those in any other country. But the ideology driving the public school system provides for a self-fulling prophesy. It stupefies the kids to the point where they are unable to learn algebra, or much of anything else for that matter. Hacker, I'm afraid to say, comes off as an educationist, and I suspect his disdain for math has a deeper origin, possibly his own difficulties with the subject. And worse, he seems not to understand the importance of subject, and I recall him saying that studing it is a "waste of time." I will defer to MB as to the likelihood that Hacker's attitude is a product of his dottage, but it's not an unusual view among educationists. I have to wonder how such people imagine that the technology they come to take for granted comes into existence without somebody being able to do advanced mathematics. But as with so many other things, Americans seem unable to connect the dots on this issue and are quite proud to be mathematically ignorant. Another success story for American education(ism). (Hope this isn't too long.)

9:26 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Ha no I didn't think you were blaming me for reading it and I can't find the rest of the that Vermont talk anywhere but the transcript is online so I read that. It was another good speech.

You've quoted George Carlin before, "It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep believe it." Have you heard that whole special? Especially the 10 minute rant preceding the above quote where he addresses American consumerism, obesity, education and "the owners?" (WAFers WATCH GEORGE CARLIN - LIFE IS WORTH LOSING) He sounds like a stand up comic version of you or maybe you are a professor version of him.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Zosima said...

Sir Tagio said...

Are the Boomers running the show these days really different people than their selves during the 60s and 70s? (Full disclosure: I am a Boomer, albeit at the tail end of that generation) I am agnostic on the question of his "morality" then, in light of his "morality" now.


It’s important to remember that for every boomer like Kerry who questioned what was going on in Vietnam, there were ten like G W Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld who thought all the slaughter and napalm dropping on little girls was fine, and should even be increased. Boomer idealism was always a minority, focused on the civil rights and the anti-war movements and based in the elite college campuses and a few liberal cities on the coasts.

America had a strong right wing all though the sixties, represented by Goldwater, Wallace, Reagan and Nixon. They took power in 1968 and have mostly held it ever since, any idealism was quickly crushed. Kerry had ambition, so he knew that if he wanted to move up in the power structure, the idealism and the morals had to go into the garbage can. In other words he had to become more American.

Julian’s right about the American media. I’ve been following the Syria issue on NPR, their reporters have been pushing for an American attack from day one. It must be even worse on the other media outlets. When it comes to the lust for war and violence the American media makes Gen LeMay look like Gandhi.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Chris, Paul, Dr. Berman, et al –

I know nothing about Andrew Hacker, and I’m not a mathematician by a long shot. I am well aware that, in the end, learning is always the product of the student’s active mind. I also remember something I quoted recently from Joseph Chilton Pearce – “our schools have collapsed… from the majority of our children having been neurologically damaged past the point of educability” – largely by screen technology.

We could easily imagine a great mathematics teacher looking at America’s students and simply giving up. To paraphrase a recent remark by Dr. Berman – Why try and teach volleyball to people who have no arms?

But then, I avoided math in my misspent youth, only learning enough statistics to evaluate scientific research. I don’t think I missed much – but how could I possibly know?

On a similar note…

Sanctuary –

In “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person,” Allison Benedikt admits that her public school ‘education’ caused her to miss the entire liberal arts. She then asks “what the horrible result is?”

Somebody once asked Louis Armstrong a question about some aspect of jazz. I don’t remember the question, but the answer was a classic. Satchmo said, “If you gots to ask, you ain’t never gonna know!” I guess that’s true about me for higher mathematics, and about Ms. Benedikt for virtually everything!

I remember pointing out graffiti which said, “shallow white bread culture” and warning a young person that she must take responsibility for her own education or she’d end up as an ‘intellectual Hostess Twinkie.’ Benedikt thinks kids should become ‘intellectual Soylent Green!’

But wait! This article is so f-ing stupid that we should suspect it’s a hoax! Has she’s done to “Slate” what Alan Sokal did to “Social Text” in 1996?

David Rosen

11:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Did I really say that thing abt volleyball? It doesn't sound familiar. But then as I age, my brain is turning into cottage cheese (small curd), so who knows. I do honor the intellect of Michele Bachmann, after all. And Allison Benedikt takes her place in that tradition of great American educators, such as Bunmi Laditan and G.W. Bush. What she has to say shows what the result of a public schl education in the US amounts to; what it does to the students' brains. So, a perfect closing of the circle.

Math: great discussion. It's possible Hacker did mean, American kids are too dumb to learn it, and I do believe they are much dumber, say, than European kids. But there's a big difference between math 'literacy', wh/everyone ought to have--understanding percentages and fractions and squares and square roots, stuff like that--and being adept at Mathematics. I know something abt the latter, having just barely scraped by as a B student, getting my undergraduate degree in Math at Cornell. One of my teachers for Complex Variables (advanced calculus), Harold Widom, had received his doctorate in Math at age 19. Walking into something like the Liouville-Weierstrass Theorem is like entering the world of Alice in Wonderland (and Lewis Carroll was a mathematician). This world is incredibly Platonic, austere, beautiful, in the way that an ice palace is beautiful, or Wittgenstein's "Tractatus"--and really, I could only glimpse at its incredible richness. I wasn't Harold Widom; I never would be, anymore than I would be Mozart, who started composing at age 5. I could barely hang on to what Widom was saying, or writing on the blackboard; there was no way I would be able to formulate my own theorems because my brain wasn't structured that way. This is a realm that only a privileged few can enter, like Kant in philosophy; it's not something we shd try to impose on American high schl students (or college students), unless they have that type of brain. It's a very different world from simple mathematical literacy, quite obviously. Here's the kind of stuff I was trying to cut my teeth on:

http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~r-ash/CV/CV3.pdf

How I managed to graduate, rather than kill myself, is something I've never figured out. And after that, I went on to History, which kept me up nights in a different way. And yet, Math is a world I can't quite let go of (see the poem "Philosophical Investigations" in my collection, "Counting Blessings"). I began playing chess at age 7, after all (my father's father was chess champion of his city, in the Ukraine, early in the 20thC). When Andrew Wiles proved Fermat's Last Theorem in 1993, I literally danced around the room.

mb

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Loving the education discussion! Like Susan W., I hit a wall where higher math was concerned, no matter how hard I tried. I could see it was complex & fascinating, but I just couldn't make that leap. My bent was always more to literature & art. Yet as a child, I always thought I'd be some sort of scientist; it was only when math defeated me that I followed my equally strong interest in the liberal arts.

I've mentioned the late John Holt in some previous posts. He once said that on the first day of school, every child is more eager & capable of learning than he or she will ever be again, because school will kill that child's natural love of learning. He also said that an education is something you get for yourself, not something that's given to you -- often forcibly. Remember being told that school prepares you for life? It sure does: you learn obedience, obsequiousness, that you can be punished on a whim, that you'd better not question the way things are, that you're always suspect, that They are always watching & waiting for you to do wrong. Sound familiar?

Of course if Holt, or his compatriot A. S. Neill, are remembered at all today, it's as old-fashioned, impractical, entirely too idealistic fools -- i.e., their approach won't help your kid make money, and that's what matters, period.

Holt's How Children Fail is nearly 60 years old now, but still very much to the point & worth reading.

I think everyone here has had the experience of stumbling upon an idea or subject that is absolutely gripping, and then learning as much as possible about it, simply for its own sake. Current American education seems designed to quash that intensity; it wants technically skilled drones, service workers, and cannon fodder, not passionate thinkers eager to go on learning.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Capo REgime said...

The commentary is apropos of the Mandarin version of DAA.

Mathematics--Am sorry to poster of Robert Heinlein quote caused offense. MB is correct, we can't expect all college graduates to be conversant and capable in Laplace and Fourier transforms and even Real Analysis (proofs of calculus) etc. However, given the vast sums spent in education basic numeracy should be expected and indeed required to function in the world. But alas, americans and their leaders do not function in a real world and are barely literate and certainly innumerate.

The collapse of the schools as pointed out is indeed another indicator. More series than the collapse of a government institution is the lack of interest and valuation of learning. Most people of normal intelligence can be numerate but alas it takes work and focus--attributes not valued in a culture of disstraction, entertainment and self esteem building.

I think Chris is correct in his comment on "educationalists" and the article linked from Slate on how those of us who sent (d) our children to private schools are bad. It was very odd how the author wanted people to sacrifice the education of their kids to some "higher" political idea--alas these arguments converge on a basic fact--they all lead to the lowest common denominator and well isn;t that what a.) America is now all about and b.) is that not what a dark age is. Really, a dark age is pretty good if you are a innumerate and ignorant twit as the world is built to your specification. For a bright, sensitive, quick witted, lover of books and logic the dark age is hell.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Well, I'm stunned. Took me a couple of days to recover. Refreshing to some of u, eh.

I never thought a WAFer wud severly criticize another WAFer for laying out what they thought was reasonable, esp. something that MLK, Jr. pointed out to be the essential topic. (This subject is what got him eliminated.) For the record, I am not calling any WAFer a racist. I think it is in the room though and shud be discussed.


Capo,

I do not believe any of us have the whole truth but each of us on this blog have something to contribute even if someone doesn’t agree. Your temper is palpable and frankly not gentlemanly. Your words too (about math and noted by another poster) have no place here, IMO. (I applaud you for the apology issued this am.)

You know what? If you do not think racism is a factor, anywhere in the world, just say so. For me, I’ll stand with MLK, Jr. any day, over any white man on this planet. Think for a minute. Whites rule the world. Capitalism is their game, so, racism is a component of their deeds, according to none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. Come on now, if you don’t find any truth in these things then just say so and don’t get so worked up.

You are obviously an intelligent, well educated person, but you can't possibly be right on everything that comes along.

Additionally, you can ignore race as u please but the articles relative to it are as a tsunami. This came out today about income disparities. I wonder why?

http://www.zcommunications.org/black-white-income-differences-what-s-happened-by-arthur-macewan.html



Dr Berman,

I also wonder, in addition to Herman Cain, where are John McCain and Lindsey Graham when we need a hollow head to fill the empty suits.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Kerry's "mistake" was in not recognizing that by the Vietnam era it was no longer necessary for ambitious young political slugs to have served in the war of the moment in order to be considered presidential material down the road. Imagine his chagrin at having put his ass on the line only to watch faux war hero Reagan and draft dodger Clinton get elected and then get beaten himself by a silver spoon, frat boy asshole whose daddy got him out of the same war Kerry was stupid enough to think he needed have checked off on his resume.

As for his speech, that was nothing more than a way burnish his political credentials at a time when you needed to be seen as antiwar in order to get elected in a liberal district. It likely meant no more to him than Obama's supposed "opposition" to the Iraq war that was necessary for him to win the liberal vote and secure the Democratic nomination.

The mistake voters continually make is in thinking that those who aspire to high power have normal human feelings and emotions are are not in fact complete sociopaths who will do or say anything to get that which they so crave. In that regard, Kerry is no different than our last five presidents, nor the heir apparent, Queen Hillary.

It is entirely appropriate that Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on television these days, as the power mad crazoids who aspire to to the Iron Throne are really not much different than our own nation's so-called "leaders."

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Shep,

My "words" on math are a quote from Robert Heinlein--which was noted to make and further a point on the centrality of mathematics in civilization. I your feelings are hurt then take it up with the estate of Mr. Heinlein and perhaps sue for hate speech?

As to your opinion whether or not this is the place for my "words" , said opinion is irrelevant as the determination of who and what belongs here is up to Dr. Berman.

Also, I do think standing with MLK is out of the question as sadly he has been dead for some time.

Your readiness to censor is well very typical of the american progressive mind. I don;t mean to be ungentlemany but stories on racism of whites against blacks in the south are well trod everywhere and there is hardly a person in the U.S. alive today who has not heard this over and over and over again..

Racism exists (I am a mexican and a jew) the point which you fail to grasp is that the racism of southern whites against blacks in the U.S.A as bad as it is in the scheme of things of a large planet a small matter.

Am happy to discuss and argue with people but alas you put words (I never denied the existence of racism and in fact pointed out its presence around the globe and across races) in peoples mouths and or project your own emotions and that is not conducive to discussion and I would say downright churlish.

I will continue to read and enjoy the blog but Shep I will not treat with you further.


Ciao!

4:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dude-

You cd be rt, but not necessarily. Kerry may, once, have had ideals. It's hard to say.

shep-

I didn't wanna get between u and Capo in this odd feud you guys have been having, but let me try to help u out here, if I can. This is not a blog abt race relations; it's abt the collapse of the American empire. True, sometimes the latter is implicated in the former, but u come across as a guitar w/one string. If yr intellectual focus really is race relations, maybe you'd be better off finding a blog that deals specifically w/that subject--and there must be hundreds of them. Not that I want you to leave this blog, of course; not at all. It's just that you may find yrself increasingly frustrated that other Wafers may not share the intensity of yr focus.

While I'm on the subject, let me repeat something I've said b4: the subject of race is primarily a distraction from what's going on in the US. If Americans got 10% as worked up over relations of power as they did relations of race, maybe something substantive cd actually happen in this dumb-ass country of ours. The truth is that identity politics is an obfuscation of real politics--a substitute for it. Just think for a moment: if suddenly complete racial equality existed in the US, would things be that much different, except for things pertaining to race? Charles Mills, a black prof and author of "The Racial Contract," argues that 'white' is really abt power, not abt color. If suddenly every position of power in America were held by a black person, do you think relations of power wd be any different? Think Condi Rice, Pres Ovomit, or Colin Powell: they are white! It's exactly as Harry Belafonte said about 'house niggers' (his word, not mine) vs. 'niggers in the field'. The black folks who got inside the house got there because they upheld white values, and cd be counted on to defend the massah; hence, Uncle Tom. How do u think Condi got to be on the board of Chevron? She supports (white) corporate values (plus is a war criminal--an added bonus). Race matters for racial issues, to be sure; but that's abt it.


And what are the 2 realities abt America that identity politics hides?

1. 1% control the other 99%. They live in absolute luxury while the rest of us scramble to get by. Change the color (or gender) of the 1%, and the situation wd be exactly the same. (There are, in fact, very rich blacks and very rich women, but in mental terms, they are really white males.)

2. The 99% don't resent the 1%, by and large; they just want to be *part of* the 1%: that's the American Dream. OWS was not marching w/signs saying, "Abolish the American Dream." No, the signs were on the order of, "American Dream for Everybody." The only real critique of our system can be found among hippies and Native Americans; that's abt it. "Possessions are a disease with them," said Sitting Bull. The 99% want possessions. As a result, virtually the whole of the American population is white Anglo Saxon Protestant, color be damned.

Anyway, these are the sorts of issues this blog is dedicated to discussing. I'm not suggesting that racial prejudice does not exist, that it's not a national scandal that a young black man is 200x more likely to be in jail than in college, or on death row, etc.--the stats are there for all to see, and in terms of $ or opportunities, not much has changed since 1963. But again, racial equality will not alter the political organization (structure) of the US, and it certainly won't discredit the American Dream. So do yrself a favor: find some other topics (Sarah Palin, corned beef, etc.). Constantly harping on one thing, on a blog that is not really abt that subject, will not help you to grow intellectually. I'm saying this as a friend, amigo. There's only so much that can be said abt this one thing, and I've said too much already.

I thank you for your understanding.

mb

5:21 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Dr Hack,
I've been thinking about how to answer the questions you put to me re my power theory of society--and must confess that I don't have one.

To me power is a dynamic, constantly shifting 'thing' (the quotes are because it doesn't qualify as a 'thing' at all) and it is always in terms of relationship which means between two individuals. I really don't buy into concepts of overarching power residing in organisations, governments or even gun-toting gangsters.
This is of course a personal view but one borne out through experience. I rarely feel powerless as I have found that in any confrontational encounter (and I've had more than my share of those) I am always occupied in looking for and noting the various 'Achilles heels' of the other. This is instinctive and I neither ignore it nor feel compelled to always act on it.

OK, some examples of intel guys who are/were also prime movers: Putin, of course, who is thug enough to make the oligarchs once more subservient to the state after being the state in the 90's (some achievement, that.) Cap'n Bob Maxwell, media tycoon, who overreached and took an impromptu midnight swim for his troubles.
I can't think of any others whose names are commonly known, though there are undoubtedly others--even Mr Moneybags is just a bagman for others.

The problem with theories, conspiracy or otherwise, is the human tendency to try to shoehorn the facts into the pre-existing narrative. I prefer the swirling chaotic mess of facts to keep swirling until they throw up their own patterns--which rarely slot neatly into any truly coherent narrative. I'm no good at higher maths either, though I can calculate odds on the hoof like nobodies business.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Michael in Oceania said...

MB -

That was a great response (should be a post?) on the role of Identity Politics in America and the West. The late George Carlin had a lot to say about that too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4w_0nkyjnY

I find it very interesting, that Putin's government in Russia is addressing this problem very directly.

First, Russia recently passed a law (no different than U.S. law, BTW), stating that all NGO's have to publicly declare the sources of their funding. The Western news media is in an absolute snit over this, because they know perfectly well that most Western NGO's have ties to intelligence agencies.

Second, Putin has recently signed a law, prohibiting public promotion or propaganda of "non-traditional sexual relations." Please note, that homosexuality as such has not been outlawed, nor is there any intention of that. Putin's government could not care less what consenting adults do in their bedrooms. The Russians simply don't want anyone, inside or outside of Russia, to start using that as a political "wedge issue." The same thing goes for all the "Pussy Riot" nonsense.

Yes, I know - the Russians are probably being a bit ham-fisted in their approach. Nonetheless, I respect Putin for seeing what the real problem is, and trying to address it.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Merry Labour Day, Wafers:

re: Obama, Condaleezza Rice and Colon Powell being white. I agree. Not only are they white, they're "goyish," according to Lenny Bruce:

http://chutzpahfiles.blogspot.ca/2007/08/dig-lenny-bruce-was-jewish.html

The other day I visited the Jewish Pavilion at our "Folkfest." I found it quite comfortable and felt surprisingly at home, nibbling on my knish and blintz while listening to a bad, yet charming, Klezmer band.

I say surprising because I'm about as anti-Zionist as they come (for a few reasons, but let's say I have actual Nasrallahs in my family tree and leave it at that), and the principal cultural displays at the pavilion were of Israeli stuff.

Anyway, I always liked to think of myself as "Jewish" rather than "Goyish" in Lenny Bruce's terms.

More on identity politics aggro on that Canadian leftish site (enmasse.ca)...

I made the outrageous statement that gay rights were a harmless distraction that did nothing to alter power structures and was taken to task for saying so. A long time ago I said on that forum that radical atheists and religious freaks were similar in that they each had a place in their brains that felt pleasantly warmed by the thought that they knew absolute truth, then later found a quotation by Dr. Berman that said essentially the same thing, and so posted that. The "progressives" didn't much care to hear that either.

6:57 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

I thought I should jump in here and say that my remarks about the teaching of mathematics should were not meant to suggest that everyone should become a mathematician or anything of the sort. We all have our aptitudes, but we may not even discover what those are if we are shielded from exposure to challenges. And that's what I fear as a consequence of the spate of anti-mathematics propaganda that's been appearing of late. It's the anti-intellectual attitude of the whole thing should be disturbing; the attitude that if something is difficult we must shield the children form it lest their self-esteem should suffer. That's educationism. Learning math is almost the least of it. High school graduates here seem to have never heard of anything. In New York State, the educationists tell their teacher trainees not to teach English grammar. So naturally most can't write a coherent sentence, let alone strings of coherent sentences. They don't understand the meanings of common words. I've used the word 'analog' in my classes only to get puzzled looks from students. And here's great one: On exams I've asked students to list the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum in order of increasing wavelength (gamma rays, X-rays, UV, visible, infrared, microwave, radio) and invariably I'll have several students not understanding the question. The problem is never with the meaning of the technical word 'wavelength,' it's always about the meaning of the word 'increasing.' Think about that. One might ask: How do students get this way? Well, the answer is that it's in the program. Ultimately, most of what's wrong with America can be traced to what's in the program offered by educationists. If you should ever wonder where all the idiots who sit around watching "reality" shows, or the ones who want the gov'mint to get its hands of their Medicare, come from, just look to the nearest school. It's hard to imagine that the country would be as stuffed with douche bags as it is if we had an educational system instead of a system if educationism. But what most people don't suspect is that in it's own terms, it's a total success.

MB-Interesting that you should mention complex variables, one of my favorite mathematical subjects. The theorems in the subject are so beautiful they should just bring one to tears. And I really mean that.

Chris

7:07 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

Michael in Oceania:

"Second, Putin has recently signed a law, prohibiting public promotion or propaganda of "non-traditional sexual relations." Please note, that homosexuality as such has not been outlawed, nor is there any intention of that."

No, but you must ask why Russia has passed a law prohibiting the public promotion of non-traditional sexual relations, but has not passed a similar law prohibiting the promotion of traditional sexual relations. That fact alone indicates an animus on the part of the Russian government against homosexuals.


"Putin's government could not care less what consenting adults do in their bedrooms. The Russians simply don't want anyone, inside or outside of Russia, to start using that as a political "wedge issue.""

If his government didn't care about what consenting adults do in their bedrooms, then why would they pass a law prohibiting propaganda promoting consensual homosexual sex? It's a totally reasonable inference from the fact of that law's passage and the nonexistence of a similar law prohibiting the promotion of traditional sexual relations that his government does care what consenting adults do in their bedrooms.

It is not for nothing that there have been many attacks on homosexuals after the passage of the law in question. The law feeds into and promotes such homophobic violence.

"The same thing goes for all the "Pussy Riot" nonsense."

What is nonsense is a government that would imprison two music artists for two years on charges of "hooliganism" because they performed a 1-minute performance in an area they shouldn't have been in.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

MB,

Just to let you know that at the moment I am in Barcelona, at Els Quatre Gats café, where Picasso and other artists used to hang out. In case you sampled the place also, would you recommend I get the cortado, or the café con leche?

Ellen,

I spent a good while in Gibraltar over the years, and in fact just left yesterday. It’s a very fine place, quite unlike any other. I was lucky to somehow not be affected by the recent queues this last time. Personally, I doubt the Rajoy Nazis in Madrid really want to get it back, given the Ceuta and Melilla implications and the last referendum showing 100% of Gibraltar’s population is against the idea, but at the moment Madrid needs the diversion to cover up their recently discovered crimes and the crashing Spanish economy. But if the EU crumbles or Spain leaves the EU, it might get ugly for Gib.

9:25 PM  
Blogger nosferat_saolin said...

The President of Uruguay, José Mujica, (an atheist and former Marxist guerrilla who was shot six times by police after he escaped from prison) agrees with Dr. Berman:

http://www.lr21.com.uy/comunidad/1122890-mujica-la-civilizacion-cristiana-y-occidental-es-un-gigantesco-fracaso

9:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Julian-

Cortado! And don't forget to go to the MACBA and also the Museo Europeo de Arte Moderno, si us plau!

Meanwhile, I've been thinking abt the Carter section of DAA, and the 1970s section of WAF, and how the US was poised to go in a different direction in terms of 'Buddhist economics', but Reaganized instead. JM Greer, in "Long Descent," has an interesting take on this: that this possibility was held hostage to a prisoner’s dilemma situation: any elite group willing to put short-term advantage ahead of national survival cd take power (as did the GOP) by reaffirming the imperial project and the consumer society. (In fact, recent revelations have it that the CIA helped Reagan w/the Iran hostage situation, since they regarded Carter as too idealistic to be pres.: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/289-134/19089-a-cia-hand-in-an-american-coup. However, this clandestine operation has been known for some time now.) Esp. since 2000, says Greer, the American political class has backed survival of US global empire using all available means.Even w/o the factor of peak oil, this wd be disastrous. US policies have estranged its allies, increased overseas commitments, got its enemies organized against it, and destabilized the world political order. Add in an oil crunch (and the empire runs on oil), and here's what it looks like: "To counter the twin threats of internal dissidence and external insurgency, the imperial state must divert ever larger fractions of its resources to military and security forces. Economic decline, popular disaffection, and growing pressures on the borders hollow out the imperial state into a brittle shell of soldiers, spies, and bureaucrats surrounding a society in free-fall. When the shell finally cracks…nothing is left inside to resist change, and the result is implosion.”

mb

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman, et al,

About your volleyball remark: Quite a ways back we had a discussion of the damage done to kids’ brains by screen technology, and you replied to al-Qa'bong’s frustration over his students’ inability to grasp metaphor and symbolism. Here’s an excerpt from your reply:

“Just keep in mind what yr up against. What if they don't have the capacitance, neurologically speaking, to grasp these (or any) concepts?... But this issue of neurological limits is really impt, because why shd the kids beat themselves up for it, or why shd u? If they had no arms, wd u ask them to play volleyball?”

I suspect the same applies to math ability. But even among the neurologically intact there are many different kinds of intelligence, and math ability seems to be one of them. As you said, there are seemingly ‘natural born’ math geniuses such as the one described in Rebecca Goldstein’s novel “Mind Body Problem.”

This seems to happen in other areas too. There are a few Mozarts, a few absolutely tone-deaf people, and most of us in between. Or, a few religious geniuses like the Balshemtov or the Buddha, a few who wouldn’t recognize the sacred if it was standing in front of them, and those capable of ordinary numinous experiences.

Capo,

I can’t really know what I missed by not studying higher mathematics, but would knowledge of higher math prevent the stupidity you describe in business executives and government officials? Isn’t it ‘willful ignorance’ when they ignore long-term consequences and focus on the next quarter’s profits or their next election? Those who caused our last financial crisis knew what they were doing, but were only thinking about their immediate self-interest.

Clearly ‘smart’ and ‘good’ are not always the same. Could mathematics education really save the US from going over the cliff it’s headed for?

David Rosen

10:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Nos-

Has this guy been following me around w/a notepad? Great article, thanks!

mb

10:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

DR-

Good memory!

mb

10:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/289-134/19149-obama-promises-syria-strike-will-have-no-objective

Not sure that essay really is satire...

Meanwhile, the death of Seamus Heaney, Ireland's great bard. His last words: Noli timere--don't be afraid.

mb

12:24 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

Y'all,

Re earlier posts mentioning Condi & Colin, here's the Philosopher Carlin on the complex variables at play in the sandbox of race & power.
The important part starts at about 1:45.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcr8dm9Prkk

2:06 AM  
Anonymous ellen said...

Re: the crumbling EU and proposed new trade agreements with the US: Snowden gets a whistleblower award in Germany and is causing electoral wobbles for Angela Merkel:

http://rt.com/news/snowden-prize-whistleblower-germany-255/

Jacob Appelbaum accepting the award on behalf of Snowden:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW8lRCqYI6U

US intel services 'Black Budget' revealed:

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/421-national-security/19148-snowden-leak-reveals-intels-qblack-budgetq

And just to stir the pot some more with regard to pots and kettles:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/revealed-uk-government-let-british-company-export-nerve-gas-chemicals-to-syria-8793642.html

6:59 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

ccg said:

"High school graduates here seem to have never heard of anything. In New York State, the educationists tell their teacher trainees not to teach English grammar. So naturally most can't write a coherent sentence, let alone strings of coherent sentences. They don't understand the meanings of common words."

If what you say is true--and I accept that it is--then I must be living in an alternate plane of reality. You can't swing a dead cat anywhere in the metropolitan DC area where I live without hitting a parent whose child is on the honor roll at some middle school or other. (We know this because of the countless bumper stickers on cars trumpeting the scholastic achievements of the spawn of the driver-parent.)

Similarly, the appearance of the "above-4.0-grade point average-phenomenon" suggests that these young people are geniuses, as does the number of kids taking advanced placement exams and achieving sterling outcomes.

Are you--or others here--seeing what I've noted while at the same time seeing the weaknesses/failings you cite?

Attempts at reconciling the two pictures or suggestions from the WAFerverse offering possible useful avenues of approach for further study of this subject would be appreciated.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jas-

I think Garrison Keillor had the answer to this puzzle when he observed that in Lake Wobegon, "all of the children are above average."

ellen-

This is great, abt Snowden getting this award. Combined with Obama's recent egg-on-face performance re: Syria, we may be on the verge of a Suez Moment. All it wd take to push things over the edge is to have a group of Wafers come to the Rose Garden, where in full view of national TV, they urinate on Ovomit's shoes (Guccis). At long last, it wd finally be over for the US.

Meanwhile, in the These Are Your Neighbors Dept., there's this:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2013/08/31/dnt-mi-cell-phone-store-dispute.wxyz&hpt=hp_c3&from_homepage=yes#/video/us/2013/08/31/dnt-mi-cell-phone-store-dispute.wxyz

In this woman's eyes (and ass), we see the future of America.

mb

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Star Rover said...

Ccg I have noticed the same thing about parents and their kids. I have yet to meet the parent whose kid wasn't on the honor roll or the star quarterback or heading to the best university in the world. And don't forget the wide spread belief by just about every American wife that she married the greatest guy in the world. This is coupled with the firm conviction of EVERY American male that he is the world' greatest lover.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Yikes! I'm away from a computer for 3 days and there is much to catch up on. I'm finding the math and education discussion quite interesting. I studied chemistry and geology in college before moving to art history. I actually think science/math are very related to, say, philosophy or history. Both require creative and critical thinking within their own structure. It takes just as a (for lack of a better word) "creative" mind to solve math problems as it does to research and write a poem or historical essay. I found that being able to picture objects in 3 dimensions in my mind is as useful in chemistry as it is in sculpture.

I tend to think this lack of both creative and critical thinking is the "problem" with education/kids these days. Teachers are stuck teaching to the tests rather than opening things up to discussion. CCG's example of students knowing "wavelength" but not "increasing" is a great example of this.

James: I've lived through this above 4.0 thing myself. Way back in 1995 I graduated near the top of my class in high school with AP credits and all, only to get my ass kicked in college. Turned out I had a great short term memory so I could pass tests easily, but when it came to learning A so next semester I could move on to B and C, short term memorization doesn't work. I had to learn how to research and write from scratch! It really wasn't until grad school that I got there. Also, from what I hear from my teacher relatives/friends the "genius" thing you mention is really due to boomer and yippie type parents. Their kid is a genius so if she gets a B on something it is the teachers fault. So the parent complains to the principal or school board and the teacher is forced to dumb down their class so that kid becomes an A student. I'm not joking, this actually happened to my mother in-law and brother in-law just last week!

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

James,

They can brand performance that is mediocre at best in say Finland as extraordinary super special for U.S. students but the fact remains that they (U.S. students) are not very good. Grade inflation is rampant--schools are full of honors high school students which when tested score at the level of 7th graders of other countries. So don't let the labeling fool you as to the contents. Those bumper stickers and the branding of everything as magent and honors and advanced is just marketing colliding with parental narcissism.

Additionally D.C. metro area is not representative of nation--particularly schools in Bethesda, Alexandra and the private schools in D.C. which is the citadel of the empire and where the sprats of the leadership go to school. Beyond the beltway (save for maybe Loudoun) its Arkansas....

Dovidel,

You pose good questions which to address properly would require Gemara type dialogue and scenario generation. I don't know if more math savy would have changed much in many contexts. I can say with certainty that greater numeracy among a greater number of the population would enable then to make better choices as well as a better understanding of the world around them. Hell if I were better at math I would have done Physics or Math and enjoyed their sublime beauty. Instead I was merely competent and did economics and finance...... Shana Tova Dovid.



10:32 AM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

So naturally most can't write a coherent sentence, let alone strings of coherent sentences. They don't understand the meanings of common words.

Similarly, the appearance of the "above-4.0-grade point average-phenomenon" suggests that these young people are geniuses, as does the number of kids taking advanced placement exams and achieving sterling outcomes.


Dudes, clearly Garrison Keillor's take on the phenomenon is, like, so totally Newtonian.
Well...at least he knows he's being ironic.

What the educationists are serving up is their version of Schrodinger's cat paradox, where the cat/student is indeterminately dumb & bright...only problem is that they are missing the point by using two cats.

"Sure, we know, but we don't want to have one poor cat that's confused when we can have two cats, both with high self-esteem. See, it's a win-win."

Yeah, ever'body wins...
'cept poor ole Erwin
and his cat
and us.

Onward&Downward&Through

10:48 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

James Allen,

Oh shit.

I have a grand daughter in the tenth grade taking "college" courses as part of her regular curriculum.

She seems to do it with ease (Oh shit, again).

This school is public with a third best in the State rating.

Also, she did so well on her SAT's taken in the 9th grade, that she has had 60+ colleges writing her, ALREADY?

WTF is going on here. Ans: Bullshit.


In the 50's, we HAD to take calculus at my High School (Private). I too couldn't grasp it very well. One time I was sent to summer school (not the whole term - it was being used by the public schools that particular summer) to revisit some portions my Math teacher thought I needed help in although I had barely passed the course. I ended up teaching the course to all the others? I became the 'go to' guy.

Talk about WTF.



On China,

"It is better to sniff the French's dung for a while than to eat China's all our lives"

Ho Chi Minh (He who enlightens)
(Born Nguyen Tat Thanh)
Later changed to Nguyen Ai Quoc, "Nguyen the Patriot".




How times have changed department:

Quotes from "Army Orientation Fact Sheet 64, March 23, 1964,

"Fascism inevitably leads to war."

Fascism is government for the few and by the few."

"The United States also has its native Fascists who say they are'100 per cent American'."

"The germ of Fascism cannot be quarantined in a Munich Brown House or a balcony in Rome. If we want to make certain that Fascism does not come to America, we must make certain that it does not thrive anywhere in the world."




Can't resist department:

"The negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt."

MLK, Jr.




Dr Berman,

I cannot find words except to say that I appreciate your extreme kindness & empathy. I'm sure it is natural for you. We certainly can always use more of it.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Capo--

Thank you for your courteous apology; I very much appreciate it and I hope I can be as forthcoming with one when I need to be as you have been. I enjoy reading both your and Shep's posts and hope you both remain on the blog.

Chris--

I agree with you on the eroding educational system, lack of intellectual challenges and in general the abysmal prospects of producing thinking adults. It's only going to get worse and it must be pretty discouraging to be a teacher under these conditions. I had a broad exposure to the public school system growing up (was in 13 different schools in 12 years)and can tell you it's always the teacher who makes the difference, if that's even the slightest amount of comfort.

Dr. Berman--

I watched the CNN video of the woman in the cell phone store and, while I don't think her behavior was okay, I have to sympathize with the emotions behind it. She and her son got ripped off and $200 is probably pretty hard to come by. Who knows what lies they told that kid when they unloaded a defective phone on him. Here in a nutshell is one of the many reasons why America failed---dishonesty, exploitation of the powerless, complete lack of integrity and, most telling of all, at the end of the video the statement they were pursuing charges. She and her son don't have the ability to pursue charges against them for fraud and they know it.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan-

It's just a question of phoning the company and explaining the situation, and then bringing in the defective phone as proof--if indeed she *did* receive a defective phone. At least, that shd be the starting pt; not what we see on the video. But for Americans, all that counts is their immediate emotions; and parents no longer teach kids that that kind of behavior is not OK. The result is a nation of sick adolescents (regardless of chronological age).

mb

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

JWO,

Creativity of any kind is the last thing American education encourages, teaches, or wants to encourage or teach. The liberal arts are always the first to be denigrated & cut -- after all, you can't make money by understanding or appreciating poetry, right?

And I've definitely seen the grotesque grade inflation over the past couple of decades -- really no different from resizing clothes so that larger pants now have increasingly smaller waistline sizes on them. Why make any real change in the person, when you can simply re-label reality instead?

I used to partly work as a technical writer, and over the years the reading comprehension level required kept dropping & dropping & dropping. Rather than demand that consumers wise up, it was so much easier for the manuals to dumb down.

And you've probably noticed the other honor roll bumper sticker that's become so popular: "My kid beat up your honor roll kid."

A friend of mine, who's a truly good & dedicated teacher, has had fellow teachers complain to her about using "too many big words" -- not merely with her students, but with them. Apparently she's not being "a real person" by using the vocabulary that comes naturally to her after a lifetime of reading.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

You may like this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=A4UMyTnlaMY

It is about a troop of Baboons and what stress did to those on the lower pecking order. One day, the aggressive alphas ate from a garbage dump and they all died from tuberculosis.

I believe this is excellent symbolism as to what will happen to America. The alphas will eventually eat from the garbage dump.

With regards to education and grade inflation. A lot of teachers are forced to grade inflate. If one did not, the alpha dogs would not believe it because all of the other teachers have students with supposedly good grades. It is one big, gigantic, social cluster fuck. The best way to describe is to read "The Emperor's New Clothes."

Mr. Lukeman, I've received and I will respond when I get a chance to.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Mo Ronich said...

Interesting article by Rebecca Solnit on alienating aspects of tech. From London Review.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n16/rebecca-solnit/diary

2:30 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

A few more recent examples of our sick and self-destructing adolescent nation:

1. Employee pistol-whipped at a Dunkin' Donuts for getting drink order wrong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJZ1Q60fwoI

2. Female brawl and beating at Waffle House restaurant, egged on by cell phone recorder/witness
(Warning: Disturbing Content).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEhfiABqlzA

Jeff

4:23 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Infanttyrone - that Carlin clip was great. "Colin powell is openly white, he just happens to be black."

On the subject of education is anyone familiar with John Taylor Gatto? He was a high school teacher that's written books about the education system. His basic argument is that the system was designed to make passive and obedient individuals that would be controlled by the power elite. Compulsory education was founded in Prussia and their explicit goal was to regiment the working class to make them compliant soldiers. George Carlin also hit that same note, youtube search "George Carlin Education." He said the "owners" just want obedient workers - people smart enough to run the machines, do paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept these increasingly shittier jobs. I find their theories completely convincing and feel confident that's what's really going on. I'd love to hear others opinions. In one interview Berman said there was lots of books in the 60's and 70's with the message that schools were just teaching kids to follow orders. IDK the names of any of the books though.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

Great videos. These are True Americans in Action, and we see here the future of our nation.

O&D!

mb

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Maurice Ravel's tiny ghost said...

The most mathy thing I've studied with glee is chess*, which I'm fanatic about.

I'm more dismayed by the pouncing the arts take in our trash society than anything. I often see people talking about how kids go for those "useless" liberal arts degrees, and for years I thought I was some weirdo for going to school to learn something I wanted to know about rather than to secure a job. Even fellow arts & conservatory students were clearly tracking themselves for teaching careers down the road.

And so we have an ugly country with prescribed pop culture. Not only does the US have some of the most visibly disturbing public spaces in the world, with its garbage strip malls and neon fast food joints and billboards, but people are trained to have this thin gradient of tastes in music, arts, and literature appreciation.

I've trained to a high level of piano performance for over 3 decades, only to find myself in a country where the average person couldn't name 8 classical music composers and starts struggling around 4 or 5. (I had a Danish pianist friend in college who was very good at asking Americans this question without offending them.) So I have no place to perform, nobody my age to relate to save 2 or 3 friends who also do this stuff. In the late 1990s, wind surfing got more funding than American orchestras (source: Norman Lebrecht, Who Killed Classical Music?). Meanwhile, I've been forced to learn all sorts of stuff about Michael Jackson's life and tunes despite never trying to learn anything about him. At my local book store there are 8 books on classical music and 10 books on Bob Dylan.

*Chess is a funny thing too in the US. The top "American" grandmasters mostly are imported from other countries. Even Hikaru Nakamura, who at least speaks with an American accent, has parents that are straight from Japan.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

M. Ravel-

Love yr music. What do you think of the Sicilian Defense (Lowenthal Variation)? Meanwhile, I want to assure you that Americans are *so* intelligent:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1759324-alabama-high-school-football-coaches-brawl-after-game?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial&hpt=hp_t3

mb

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Maurice Ravel's tiny ghost said...

Ravel wrote some unbelievable music. Daphnis et Chloe is remarkable, and his piano literature is my favorite.

I rarely see the Lowenthal so am not expert at its developments, but I'm versed enough to know the developments of it. I don't personally play it. More common nowadays for Sicilian e5 lines is the Kalashnikov. When I play against 1. e4 as black, I usually go in for French defense or Caro-Kann setups myself, but when I'm feeling Sicilianish - depending on what white does - I try to steer the game into either the hyperaccelerated dragon (allowing the Maroczy bind), Najdorf, or Sveshnikov lines. I'll only do that if I'm feeling feisty though. Much more comfy with solidity as black than immediate counterplay.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Maurice-

Jesus, I didn't know there *was* a Kalashnikov variation. Is there an Uzi and an AK-47 as well? I played the French a lot, back in the day, for some reason; also Giuoco Piano, altho I'm sure that's considered passe these days. Ruy Lopez, I never got into.

mb

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Maurice Ravel's tiny ghost said...

Heh, now that you mention it I've never really looked into how the Kalashnikov got its name. Sveshnikov also uses the e5 move early, so I suspect it has something to do with that.

You were smart not to get into the Ruy. One has to memorize 8 billion lines to fully tap its potential - it's been so analyzed that master games don't actually start until move 20 or so - but it's one of those things that has been the source of an endless string of amazing games over the years, and the general plan of white is fairly easy to digest for the first 10 moves or so, especially with the characteristic knight maneuver to d2-f1-e3 or g3 aiming at f5 or d5.

The Giouco piano is a bit old fashioned and considered drawish at master level, but it can be deadly in coffeehouse settings. As white I'm primarily a Ruy player myself if my opponent allows it, though I don't pretend to know all of its secrets.

Chess is about to heat up, by the way. Women's world championship this month. There will be live coverage on livestream dot com and move diagram coverage with live computer lines on chessbomb dot com.

Then in November is the world championship between Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand! Exciting stuff.

By the way, happy to be finding a home here. I admire your world view a great deal.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Monsieur R.:

Well, welcome to the blog. We have only a few rules here; one of them is, Post only once every 24 hrs. If I didn't enforce it, I'd never get away from my computer. There are only a few of us here (known as Wafers), but we are very enthusiastic. Thanks. BTW, did u ever see a film called "In Search of Bobby Fisher"? I loved it.

mb

ps: Happily, there is no Metchnikov, Malenkov, or (horror of horrors) Molotov.

8:06 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

MB and everyone,

At one point in my career, quite some years ago, I taught at a branch of the University of Minnesota, of all places, where we were not allowed to assign grades lower than C. The grading system was A, B, C, no record. You can guess the reason. Those of us in the sciences hated it, precisely because on paper students where all above average. It's so easy to lie with statistics.

Grade inflation is rampant and has been for years, but more so at the so-called elite institutions. How else can one explain how W got through Yale though the gentleman C's he got would now be at least B's I suspect.

But right now it's the so-called liberals and progressives who are doing a bit grade inflation for Obama, falling all over themselves to praise him after his decision to have Congress take a vote on whether or to attack Syria. In emails I've been getting from some of these groups asking me to support his effort via donations etc., they fail to mention that Kerry has already said that even if there's a 'no' vote it won't be binding, just as it wasn't with respect to Libya. So according to them, having Obama perform a charade, to go through motions of doing something noble without the substance, is just fine. Now that's grade inflation. No doubt about, Obama is a douche bag, but so are his apologists, the same ones who would be up in arms were a Republican president doing the same thing.

Susan--There have always been some good teachers out there who defy the system or don't even know that they aren't supposed to teach anybody anything. However, the greatest density of inflated grades is in the education courses. That's why that field generally attracts the worst college students. By the way, it's a well known secret that education students have the lowest SAT scores of all college students.

Infanttyrone--Interesting that you should mention Schrodinger's cat paradox. I just can't help but mention that I just published book on this.

Chris


9:11 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is what Americans tend to be concerned about:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2013/09/03/tsr-moos-obama-foot-on-presidential-desk.cnn&hpt=hp_t2&from_homepage=yes#/video/us/2013/09/03/tsr-moos-obama-foot-on-presidential-desk.cnn

In the history of the world, has there been a dumber population?

mb

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Credit Where It's Due Dept:
The US public is proving reluctant to get whipped up into a frenzy over the supposed Syrian atrocities... Our Leaders are pounding the war drums, ably abetted by the media, but apparently even "dolts" have their limits... NOt that the public has a huge say in the matter, but they do like to get us thoroughly worked up anyway. So howzabout it, MB? I know it must pain you to contemplate, but could your beloved douchebags have gotten something right for once?

9:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hack-

No, they're still douche bags, just taking a break. This is part of an old historical pattern: the citizenry is war-weary, so not enthusiastic abt yet another round of bombing--rt now. But let a couple of yrs elapse, and if war is declared they get all fired up abt it. (VN, Iraq 1991, Iraq 2003, etc. etc.) Then, when we get bogged down and aren't winning overnight, as it were, they get disenchanted. It's all about strategy, or tactics, or timing: it's never about the moral dimensions of the war because Americans have no moral compass, so that almost never gets factored in. Iraq was a flop; Afghanistan has been going on for 11 yrs w/no tangible results; and in this context, we're going to invade yet another Arab nation? It's too much of a stretch. In other words, if the douche bags get it rt, it's by default. They don't think about the meaning or objectives of the situation because they don't think abt the meaning or objectives of anything.

mb

10:13 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

mo-

that Solnit piece was beautiful. and yes, it was the 90s where we breathed our last as human beings and dived headfirst into becoming The Borg. and everyone thinks that it's better now, because they have their phone constantly bleeping at them and their bosses harassing them.

"Nearly everyone I know feels that some quality of concentration they once possessed has been destroyed. Reading books has become hard; the mind keeps wanting to shift from whatever it is paying attention to to pay attention to something else. A restlessness has seized hold of many of us, a sense that we should be doing something else, no matter what we are doing, or doing at least two things at once, or going to check some other medium. It’s an anxiety about keeping up, about not being left out or getting behind. (Maybe it was a landmark when Paris Hilton answered her mobile phone while having sex while being videotaped a decade ago.)"

I still can't find the article I read back in the mid/late 90s nor the author, but his critique was that the computer and our other new machines train us for instant gratification, the same way monkeys press buttons for food in science labs. we lose the ability to have mental patience, pause, time or space.

think about that when people are flipping out in fast food restaurants and running each other down in road rage incidents.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Chris,

I agree with what you say about educationalism, but I do think you’re giving schools too much credit. You said, “If you should ever wonder where all the idiots… come from, just look to the nearest school.” Well, I think it goes much deeper.

One major message I see in Dr. Berman’s America trilogy is that the basic foundations of American society have always been flawed, and that the whole society has become so rotten to the core that everything turns into crap.

True, throughout the 20th Century our schools have been redesigned to provide custodial care, and indoctrination. Kids are brainwashed to be consumers, and to show up on time to endure meaningless activities thereby producing an army of obedient workers for the 1%.

However, suddenly transforming America’s schools into the best in world wouldn’t save the situation. Indeed, in today’s US such schools couldn’t even function. Those families of idiots are the product of much more than schools – and their kids now fill the public schools.

The majority of students come from such environments, and even if they haven’t been brain-damaged, they have little desire for learning. In the past, teachers could try and teach them, and in a candid moment might tell you that they occasionally ‘saved’ one or two. Now, with No Child Left Behind, coaching for standardized tests blocks even that. Most mature teachers I know are looking for a way out, or counting the days to the earliest possible retirement.

Moreover, American kids live in advertising driven youth or adolescent cultures where they vigorously detach from adults and virtually raise each other.

Even imagining good schools in today’s America is like putting a healthy, well-functioning organ into a rotting corpse.

But remember, ‘learning’ or ‘education’ needn’t mean ‘schooling’.

David Rosen

11:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

America Today Dept.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BMMg5V_zaE

4:46 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

“ they're still douche bags, just taking a break. the citizenry is war-weary”

Right. Americans are getting tired of the type of war product the politicians and the media are offering. No one except the CEO of Raytheon (based in John Kerry’s home state) is going to get excited about another round of Tomahawk cruise missile launches. Boring! It’s like watching an American football game where no touchdowns are scored. After so much of this tedious type war, Americans are plain burned out. What we need are increasingly exciting spectacles to stimulate us the way the Romans were able to do with their gladiatorial games. I believe that only nukes will wake the American people from their lethargy, we want to see entire cities reduced to rubble in an instant, just like back in the good old days. I hope our leaders are listening to the will of the people

If they are only giving A-C grades, then wouldn’t getting a C feel like getting an F? It would to me. It seems that grade inflation won’t truly be complete until the only grade given is A.

Maurice Ravel's tiny ghost said...

I'm more dismayed by the pouncing the arts take in our trash society than anything. And so we have an ugly country with prescribed pop culture. Not only does the US have some of the most visibly disturbing public spaces in the world, with its garbage strip malls and neon fast food joints and billboards, but people are trained to have this thin gradient of tastes in music, arts, and literature appreciation.

Great comment. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that the things Americans appreciate the least, must be the best. Love, kindness, beauty, thought, reading, nature, books, literature, philosophy, classical music, etc.. It’s a very long list.

David Rosen said - Even imagining good schools in today’s America is like putting a healthy, well-functioning organ into a rotting corpse.

Good one. Indeed, we know that the attempt will never be made. Our rulers want a rotting corpse, not a healthy society.

5:14 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Z-

It sounds like yr talking abt war inflation, not just grade inflation. I cdn't agree more. For 2 yrs I've been trying to get the Pentagon to nuke Paris and Toronto, but they are basically cowards. Where is this fabulous military that Madeleine Albright boasted abt? All we've managed to do since WW2 is attack two-bit nations and tinpot dictators; and even then, we are currently losing 2 wars against 2 minor nations halfway around the world. We cdn't fight our way out of a wet paper bag, wh/is why we're now rattling the sabers against Syria--another trivial, nonthreatening country. Of *course* the American public is bored. Shit, we've been in Afghanistan for 12 yrs now and the Taliban is back! Some fabulous military.

mb

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Wafers,

In addition to the waffle house fight, a solid perspective on the true condition of "the american heartland" can be gleaned from this:

http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/photos/

This was showed to me by a European friend of my son. Apparently among youth in europe making fun of fat and stupid americans is quite the rage.

8:28 AM  
Blogger ccg said...

David,

I agree with everything you said. Our educational system is both a cause and a symptom of the rot in America. It has an insidious feedback mechanism built into it. It surprises me sometimes that there are some good students who come out of it, but this is not due the system itself, it's in spite of it.

At the college/university level, where I've spent most of my career, teaching is exclusively judged by student evaluations. No attempt is ever made to find out if assigned grades are correlated with student learning. Grade distribution data are never part of the evaluation. Untenured professors would be fools not to pander to students and inflate grades just for the sake of self preservation. Whenever I try to explain to administrators what's wrong with this way of evaluating teaching, I tend to get blank stares. The same is true with many faculty. They all want to ignore the data that's out there on the strong correlation between grade inflation and the evaluation of teaching by students, a correlation that should be obvious.

I occasionally teach the physics course required of premeds. A recurring nightmare of mine is of waking up in an emergency room and seeing one of my former and poorer premed students hovering over me. I try ensure that this dream never comes true.

Chris

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Paul Emmons said...

A tidbit from this morning's NPR For your Techno-Brain-Rot dept:

Psychologists on college campuses have noticed a phenomenon called "sleep texting." This typically occurs when a room mate is studying late, cramming fretfully for an exam. When (S)he bemoans his/her fate, the sleeper across the room, without waking up, takes the ever-ready iPad or whatever and texts some incoherent non-sequitur in reply such as "Get me some pizza."

The palliative for the sufferer, who typically can't resist taking the silly thing to bed like a teddy bear, is to prevent sleep-texting by wearing mittens.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Capo-

Frankly, ridicule of typical Americans is abt as difficult as shooting fish in a barrel. Meanwhile, we strut around thinking we're the creme de la creme. Jesus, what a joke.

mb

10:31 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Rowdy,

"Blue Collar" with Keitel, Pryor, and the other guy was great. There are several ways interpret the thing. Script was fabulous and all three did a really good job.

Wiki said the three main characters didn't get along at all and the Director had a break down during shooting.

Thanks for the lead.

Yes, everybody ought to watch it.


All,

The Europeans have been calling Americans the "balloon people" for some time, al least the mid-90's on?

11:23 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

ccg said:

"At the college/university level, where I've spent most of my career, teaching is exclusively judged by student evaluations."

I don't remember now where I read it, but in a book dealing with the state of American education--higher and otherwise--the author pointed to what he perceived to be a serious problem: the notion, relatively recently developed in our history, that students are above all consumers. This "fact" implies several things: first, that they should determine the standards governing their participation in the process; and that they rather than their teachers should be the judges of their success in the process.

This trend--if it exists, as I suspect it does--seems a natural outcome of the culture in which the American educational system must operate. Interestingly, the high cost associated with obtaining a college degree today could serve to further exacerbate the "student-as-consumer" tendency. What is more, the prospects for graduating college students seem to be poor and getting worse. The issue of what purpose a college education should serve is only treated by the occasional social critic or some academics, while the great mass of students and their parents point to lifetime-earnings statistics as justification for continuing the dance of debt.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Jeff T said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,

ccg-

I appreciate your efforts to prevent your nightmare from becoming a reality. I was once told by a young M.D., attempting to decipher a strange skin rash on my forearm, "Well, who knows what causes anything, really." I couldn't tell if he was serious or joking about this...

Zosima, MB-

Right, geez Louise, talk about bor-ing! I wept because Obummer decided to take his Syrian campaign to Congress. What a gutless turd! Where the hell is General Curtis LeMay when we need him? Bomber McCain is as close as we have now...

There is, however, an outside chance for Lorenzo in 2016. Does he have the guts to bomb? MB has confirmed that this is the case. My only request for the Syrian campaign is that someone *must* rescue Assad's wife, Asma; she is simply too beautiful to die. Furthermore, her form of "retail therapy," despite the murder of her people, is extremely hopeful. Proof that she belongs in Manhattan with Carrie Bradshaw shopping for Jimmy Choo shoes and handbags is offered here:

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/2013/09/02/Asma-al-Assad-seen-splurging-while-country-burns.html

Maurice Ravel's tiny ghost-

Indeed, Daphnis et Chloe is simply divine. I also adore Pavane pour une infante defunte for piano. To offset the ugliness and violence of America that I posted yesterday, here is something beautiful for all:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bocyCWh1rBw

Enjoy!

Jeff

1:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jeff-

What I'm hoping happens is that Ovomit decides to attack Syria w/drones, and has the 4 gals from 'Sex and the City' at the Pentagon, collectively pushing the computer button that releases the bombs; while laughing giddily, and then saying: "Now let's go shopping!" Red letter day for Manolo Blahnik, clearly. All this wd put out a very impt message:

1. We, the US, can't kill enuf; for us, there is no meaning to the phrase, "That's too much killing."

2. Killing has been completely integrated into the chic consumer society. We kill w/style.

Whee!

mb

1:19 PM  
Anonymous MLW said...

Secession update:

http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_24013322/siskiyou-county-votes-secession-from-california

I wanted to be happy about this until I found out it was because they didn't want the tyranny of the fire department. Dr. Berman, what do you think?

1:58 PM  
Blogger Paul Brodsky said...



On a side note, is anyone else getting tired of hearing about how Obama is "eloquent" and "articulate"?
Boy, Americans really do have quite the standards for their leaders, don't they?

2:05 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong "The WAFerooni" said...

Dear Wafers:

The timing of this post, on the Angry Arab's blog, is interesting. Great minds, &tc.

Iraqi poet, Sa`di Yusuf, calls Obama "the most white US president ever".

http://angryarab.blogspot.ca/2013/09/the-most-white-us-president-ever.html

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Shep,

I believe Richard Pryor caused most of the on-set problems with "Blue Collar". Nothing wrong with that - he was by far the most talented person involved in that project.

Glad you're still with us - you are an excellent commenter.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

MLW-

This is an interesting pt, really, because history is always messy, w/o exception. I suppose wanting to secede because of the fire dept. is better than Chick Callenbach's scenario ("Ecotopia"), in wh/Northern Cal, Oregon, and WA threatened to detonate nuclear landmines. I'm very much in favor of secession, but local motives are not going to necessarily be the ones of VT: anti-corporate, eco-sustainable, etc. So Northern Cal may be preoccupied w/the fire dept., TX with race and god knows what else, etc. etc. You know, when I gave that "In Praise of Shadows" lecture in MI, someone in the audience accused me of having a 'utopian agenda', and I was flabbergasted: where did he get that from? That we are going to get change (mega-change, in fact) is beyond doubt; but change only means different--it doesn't necessarily mean better. I never promised you a rose garden, etc. So secession may be motivated by complex causes, but on the whole, I think the dismantling of the imperial-corporate-security-surveillance-hi-tech-consumer state will be a gd thing. We simply can't go on this way anyway, and altho the geographical breakup of the US is going to take another 30-40 yrs (I'm guessing), I'm quite sure it's going to happen.

The real problem is that those new 'republics' will be filled with Americans. About the breakup of Europe (which I predicted in the Reenchantment bk), and even w/in European countries (Catalonia, Basque region, and so on), I have some hope, because the value systems are often worthwhile; but what can a large collection of angry, stupid people, still wedded to notions of 'progress' and competition, manage to accomplish, even if broken down into sub-units? Spain is busy pursuing alternative energy/currency expts--325 of them as of 1 yr ago. Yes, some of that stuff exists here (see Joel Magnuson's latest bk), but it's feeble by comparison; and I can see it now: "I'm more organic than you," that sorta shit. (When Zen came to America, it quickly became "My guru is more enlightened than your guru." Not the idea, dummies.) The new sub-states will probably get involved in wars w/each other; and w/in them, the republican sense, of working together for the common weal, will be a mindset that will probably not be able to take root because as I show in WAF, it was always a highly marginal tradition in American history, from earliest days.

I think that after I wrote Twilight and Dark Ages, people were expecting that the 3rd in the series wd be Dawn. I wd have written such a bk if I believed it cd happen; but I just don't see it happening on American soil. We're just too damaged, intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and whatever other ally you can think of. And we're dumb; Jesus, we're dumb. Europe is a much more likely candidate.

Plus, keep in mind, that when Dawn came historically, long after the collapse of the Roman Empire, it didn't happen on Roman soil; it happened far away, in northern Europe (the urban revival of the 11th century).

The real benefit of secessionist movements w/in the US will be to *other* parts of the world: no military/imperial apparatus to destroy freely elected governments, install torture regimes, exploit colonies economically, and so on. It's kinda sad, that most of the world will watch our decline not w/regret, but w/a sigh of relief. This is the tragic legacy of a hustling culture, whose commitment to 'democracy' was nothing more than lip service--an ideal that got hollower over time.

And then, in my fantasy (as I've said b4), 50 yrs from now Chinese historians will be picking thru the ruins, our library archives, and come across my work. "Hey, will ya look at this," they'll say (in Mandarin); "this guy Belman was onto the whole thing ages ago!"

mb

5:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

al-

That's true, but yr poet shd have added, An empty piece of dreck. Think of it: what actual *content* does this pathetic buffoon possess? He's actually the perfect representative: the nation is rapidly becoming a hollowed out shell, and he's already there!

mb

5:22 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

I know of someone who is going to buy your books. He says that he may have an idea. He says that immigration may be the solution. If enough immigrants came in who were from a different culture and stuck to their own culture maybe a coup d'état of the culture could happen.

What do you think?

6:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube-

The problem is that that has been going on for decades already, esp. w/Hispanic population. What happens is that they just become gringos, WASPs; they buy into the American Dream and perpetuate it. The real 'solution' is individual: not immigration but emigration--i.e. leave!

mb

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

ccg wrote: "Grade inflation is rampant and has been for years, but more so at the so-called elite institutions."

That's interesting, I'd welcome further exploration of that. It brings to mind a fascinating 2010 article from "The American Spectator" (a mag I'm not familiar with, but this piece at least is not purely partisan hackery)-

"...Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. Hence for good or ill, France’s ruling class are bright people — certifiably. Not ours. But didn’t ours go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn’t most of them get good grades? Yes. But while getting into the Ecole Nationale d’Administration or the Ecole Polytechnique or the dozens of other entry points to France’s ruling class requires outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating from such places requires passing exams that many fail, getting into America’s “top schools” is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile. American secondary schools are generous with their As. Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.
http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-class-and-the

MB- I heard a claim from F. William Engdahl that struck me as quite a bombshell, wondered your take- He strikes me as a serious person, so could this be true? He claims that Russian scientists laugh at American geologists claiming oil is a "fossil fuel" derived from ancient flora & fauna- that the Russians believe oil is produced by some geologic process involving the core, and re-generates if fields are not drained too quickly. If he's right, this could put a kink in the idea of "peak oil"...

Sorry I don't know the time code, it's at least half-way in; but the interview has lots of good info on Syria as well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNet5aLKaWg

7:47 PM  
Blogger Horatio Nelson said...

some of us want to live, but are in no financial shape to do so & can barely speak another language to find the bathroom, much less obtain needed employment.

I want to get out of here, and have always wanted to get out of here. I wasn't smart enough to get one of those vaunted, valuable career things which would make other, perhaps saner, countries fight over my admission.

i'm just a small person trying to live a small, quiet life. the monastery movements that I've seen & heard about have been either for comparatively "rich" people--"buy a spot in our trendy, sustainable and beautiful co-op condo/cottage development! build community with like minds! only $500k entrance fee and full vetting by our residents as to your suitability required, then you too can live the dream!"

other things that are put forward are more trend to make you spend than seems substantial as well "show up for our Local Food Festival and buy handcrafted artisanal jam (at 3x cost of crappy store jam, so even if it is good who can afford it and what are you buying? the bragging rights that your jam has been handcrafted in some granola-head's kitchen? Icanmakemyown, thanks).

it all just seems geared to the wrong frequency or something. more of the same "let's find ways to make money off of each other and reinforce our superiority through conspicuous consumption that we can then claim is somehow more sustainable and thus holier-than-thou". where are real people with real concerns, personal and financial, supposed to call home port in all of this?

is there a country that wants me?

8:06 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Hack-

Re: the oil thing: 1st time I ever heard of it. Dunno what to say.

mb

8:07 PM  
Blogger Sean Hunter said...

As for the Hispanic communities in the U.S., as I mentioned in the comments section of some articles about a year ago, I did find a lot of them to be an enclave, and between 1985 and 2008 (which is when I moved to the Dominican Republic) I found them to be a great way to escape from the American lifestyle. More and more Hispanic communities do not want to assimilate, and in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami (where I lived), there are entire communities where you can literally feel like you're in another country. Road and store signs are in Spanish, Hispanic movies in some of the theaters, etc. Downtown Miami (Little Havana, Sweetwater, etc.) is just like Santo Domingo in many areas.
But, it still is not as good as just leaving. As long as you're there you're still beholden to the laws and all the B.S. America has to give. But, for someone who for whatever reason can't leave and who can speak Spanish, it'd be a improvement. But you must choose a community of recent immigrants. The hispanic communities that contain several generations of immigrants will be americanized. Puerto Rican communities are Americanized, for example, since they're americans at birth even if they never come to the mainland. The best were the Mexican and Central American communities of recent arrivals. There are many in all major cities, and even some small ones too. Charleston, SC has a big Mexican community, and it's a small city. I lived there for a while too in the late 80's.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sean-

I hope yr rt. From what I've observed, there is a process of 'gringificacion' in the US that puts everyone thru the Machine, so that they come out speaking and thinking white, language and skin color notwithstanding.

mb

10:47 PM  
Anonymous joe hohos said...

Dr. B,

As you have previously said, secessionist movements will come from the right. Both the Siskiyou county and North Colorado secession movements are coming from the far right fringe - small government, gun toting, no environmental laws, etc. Neither one of them want to secede either. They just want to be their own right wing states so they can eschew what they to believe liberal governments. They still want a piece of the pie known as hustling. No one in this country seems to understand there is no such thing as a political left in this country. All the right wingers think Ovomit is a socialist, for fuck's sake! No one even slightly to the left has a chance to run for office, let alone have any of their ideas be heard.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Joe-

Actually, I said would-be *revolutionary* movements wd come from the rt; like the Tea Party. But yr probably rt, in the sense that since there is no left-wing alternative in the US, it's not likely that secessionist movements wd be left wing.

However, we can't really expect a socialist secessionism anywhere, since socialism is usually highly centralized, and also flies under the banner of progress and industrialization; or at least, it has up to now. Secessionism is abt local govt, decentralization, and hopefully--eco-sustainability. But as I said b4, VT may not be representative of other secessionist movements, wh/may have idiosyncratic or even peculiar agendas. And then there is no real Green party to speak of in America, in any case. I just don't think that America has a bright future ahead of it, even 40 or 50 yrs down the rd. It will probably break up into individual regions, but I can't see where a new ideology wd come from, or how it wd be durable. The US is--the US. The idea of democracy was a great one, but for the most part was just that--an idea. Given the choice between imperialism/consumerism and democracy, Americans definitely knew what they wanted.

The glue of American society has always been hustling, and since that involves constant competition, it has proven to be no glue at all. Once the American Dream is really seen thru by a significant # of citizens, things will fall apart ("the center cannot hold"), kept together only by the surveillance-security state; coercion, in short. Why were people throwing paint on national monuments recently? How is it that the MLK statue looks like Kim Jong-il, and misquotes MLK, to boot? Is there anything Americans believe in any more, as a people? I, for one, wd like to know what the hell that is. What lies ahead for us is psychological and economic depression, and finally disintegration--which I believe will include geographical disintegration. There is no guarantee that such a scenario will include renewal; in the case of America, I can't even imagine what a renewal wd consist of. Europe, as I said, is a different story; at least, potentially.

mb

1:13 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

MB said-
It sounds like yr talking abt war inflation, not just grade inflation. I cdn't agree more. For 2 yrs I've been trying to get the Pentagon to nuke Paris and Toronto, but they are basically cowards.

So true! I’m embarrassed to be an American. They didn't even have the guts to attack Switzerland after they sassed America’s greatest humanitarian right in the middle of her compassionate effort to buy a $40k purse. I guess this shows the enormous power that the Swiss lobby has over congress. They’re just doing this Syria thing to distract from their failure to act regarding a much worse crime against humanity - the ruining of Oprah’s shopping experience. They expect us to forget, but I’ll never forget.

“We simply can't go on this way anyway, and altho the geographical breakup of the US is going to take another 30-40 yrs (I'm guessing), I'm quite sure it's going to happen.”

Americans are creatures of of habit and obedience, they don’t have any initiative. If America breaks up it will be through a process of actual physical destruction or decay, not from any citizen initiative (excp. a few tiny slivers, VT, Berkeley CA). What will happen is that one day people will wake up to find that there are now 50 coke bottles on the flag instead of 50 stars, and the country has been renamed The United States of Coca Cola. Our Congresscritters just sold the country, took the loot, and moved to China. Americans will simply say, “Oh isn’t that nice!”, and go back to their business. Those tiny areas of common sense that do try to detach themselves will quickly become targets of mindless neo-barbarian Christian hoards not unlike the first crusaders. The mayhem will just be more low-tech, decentralized and led by charismatic Glenn Beck types.

“And we're dumb; Jesus, we're dumb.” -- That motto will replace, E pluribus unum.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Bob Thurston said...

Here is a prime example of what Americans find funny today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pA_mz3XLiE.

In the video, someone takes a large glass pipe and smashes it over the head of his "friend". You can't make this kind of thing up if you tried, Americans really are this stupid. Keep in mind that the video has excellent ratings and over 88,000 views.

3:19 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Z-

Personally, I have not been able to recover from the incredible snubbing the Swiss gave Oprah, myself. She is a national hero, dispensing spiritual wisdom to the needy, and sending Harvard grads off into the world w/her May commencement address. That we did not nuke Zurich in response is a much larger blot on our record than Vietnam, to be sure. As for our new motto: Cd also replace In God We Trust on legal tender, I'm thinking.

mb

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Hack,

The "oil regeneration" idea is quite popular with corporate Republicans (or is that redundant), supposedly due to a bacterial process that'll keep the oil growing & flowing forever. It sounds about as scientifically plausible as the female body shutting down pregnancy in the event of rape, and other such gems. Any Russion promoting the idea must have a gold-framed portrait of Lysenko on his lab wall.

Bob,

Yeah, notice how so much American "entertainment" is about hurting & humiliating other people? It's why so much of it is framed as combat: "________ Wars" (fill in the blank) & such crap. If you can, take a look at the film The Year of the Sex Olympics (English, 1968), which sees this phenomenon coming.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Go China Go:

Uh Oh. Looks like the Chinese are going to the moon and set-up a colony way before we do. Damn Communists.

This has got to be driving the Joint Chiefs of Death bat shit crazy. We were supposed to set up a military station on the moon so we cd fairly set & administer the rules of space? Now, dang it, the Chinese are going to do it first. I guess the top brass in the war game college got distracted by all the other constant, important stuff.

http://www.opednews.com/Quicklink/China-confirms-plans-for-f-in-Sci_Tech-China-Politics_China-Top-Economy-2030_Earth-Moon-130904-451.html

8:35 AM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

I see the exact same problem as you do. I see them becoming Gringos as well and embracing the American Dream. I did not know how to convey this to him and you gave me the words to do it.

Personally, I think you're right. I do not think anything can be done. In my group, a lot of the members believe in the hustling culture. All of those who do not believe reformation is still possible. They will not accept that the underlying culture will not accept an underlying reformation because the culture sees hustling and the worshipping of Kim Kardashian's ass as enlightenment. The American people are fine with this and you can bring a horse to water but you can't make the horse drink.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Cube-

I think in this case the appropriate expression wd be, You can lead a horse's ass to water...

shep-

u.c.? If we were nuking Beijing as well as Syria, we cd put a stop to all this nonsense. We're No. 1, and if we hafta kill every non-American on the planet to prove it, then I say: Go for the gold!

Tim-

It does have the flavor of a perpetual motion machine...

mb

9:39 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Dr. Berman, hack is referring to abiotic oil. It's not a widely held belief. You can find a writeup at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin

Even were it true I doubt the planet could replenish the oil faster than we're depleting it.

Chuck

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

There are actually three positions in the debate over the origins of what we now call "fossil fuels".

The current mainstream (fossil fuel) theory is that ancient swamps, bogs, or even shallow sea beds accumulated huge amounts of carbon-rich sediments and then got buried very deep and petroleum was created by heat and pressure transforming those sediments. Actual trees have been found fossilized in coal-beds of course. But oil comes from so deep that we don't have much access to the actual layers where it is found.

Another theory is that oil is organic but originates entirely in the regions where it is found. Some sort of bacterial process is supposed to be producing it continuously.This is the Deep, Hot Biosphere theory promoted by Thomas Gold.

But there is a further position. The key term for the theory of non-organic sources of petroleum is abiogenic petroleum. This is the idea that the universe and the Earth in particular is just full of carbon and under the right conditions (which are found deep inside the Earth as well as within other planets) the carbon will combine into complex compounds.

Given the economic interests involved due to our nearly universal dependence on petroleum, there are interesting possibilities of motivated reasoning on all sides of the argument. But there are some valid points made in each theory and the debate has been going on for decades now. Whatever the truth may be, you may be certain that just like with climate change the origins of oil will not be allowed to change the course of corporate-managed consumerism.

11:37 AM  
Blogger ccg said...

Hack,

I like your quote from The American Spectator. It rings true to me.

Back in the mid 90's I had the misfortune of having a temporary position at one the country's "elite" four-year colleges, and I vividly recall what transpired during my first faculty meeting. Somehow the subject of grade inflation had come up, and the president of the college asked the registrar to stand up and say something about the grade distribution. And what he said was shocking even to me: The average grade across all disciplines was A-. And the mode was also A-. I later discovered that in the early 1960's the average grade there was C+, which makes sense as C was supposed to mean "average." But during my time there, A+ was the new A, A was new B, and A- the new C. Students were conditioned to think that any grade below A- was effectively an F. The grades across the sciences were a bit lower, but not by much, and what does that say about the standards of the humanities departments? One of the permanent people there told me that when he taught the premed physics course, 70% of the grades were A- or above, a ridiculous distribution for that kind of course at any institution. Nor were the students that superior as a whole, though many of them thought they were. This is what happens in the student-as-customer model of higher education wherein the faculty become scared to death of the students. I imagine that the situation at this school could only be worse now, if that's possible. "Funny" how they never include grade inflation data in those guides to colleges and universities.

Chris

11:52 AM  
Blogger Paul Brodsky said...

MB -

How plausible do you think it would be to suggest that American aggression is at least partly caused by the fact that, for the most part, Americans dont fuck/engage in romantic behavior? I have no hard data to support this (hehe) but from my experience it would seem like a likely source.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Politically Incorrect said...

Horatio...

Very familiar with the drill.. looking for susatinable, low cost anything? a lot of fake hippies out there... Been to Burning Man? that's another joke... more like a combination of Mad Max, the Wizard of Oz, Halloween, and Cirque Du Soleil...for what $400... to 'camp' for a weekend in a sweltering hot, dusty desert?...shit, at least there are hotels in Vegas... lets all sing cumbaya while we burn whatever isn't nailed down (which is the point after all), drink tequila shots, and run around naked so we can be 'so cool'... And this is art? ... here today, gone tomorrow (except for the pictures)...at least that's one reality we're eventually all gonna be living through. The only thing left being empty oil drums. Anyway, there is unfortunately not too many sane places left unless you are really interested in 'roughing it' in the outback or some jungle...(fending off loggers or other resource extraction companies) the alternatives being a scaled down version on the outskirts. Btw, as some of the secessionist threads have mentioned, Vermont is nice yet anything but cheap living... not saying it can't be in some areas but make sure you bring your snow shovel.

Anyway, good luck... and always remember "wherever you go, there you are"....

3:07 PM  
Blogger Jarid Wagner said...

Tim Lukeman - I wiki'd The Year of the Sex Olympics. That was pretty prescient to predict reality TV in the 60's . 1984, Brave New World and Idiocracy all touch on that some concept of pleasure being used to pacify. It also reminds me of a Steve Jobs quote, "When you're young you think it's a conspiracy that TV networks are trying to dumb us down. Then you grow up and realize they are just giving us what we want." It ties into a point Berman has made as well, "If the corporations had sex with America it was seduction, not rape."

3:14 PM  
Blogger relmuche said...

Dear Mr. Berman:

I believe that the lethal virus that the government and the rulers of the USA have incubated and inoculated their own People over the years, without a known vaccine or cure, has already infected the whole world.

Therefore, after the Mandarin version of your trilogy is published, and since the USA will probably not be any better by then, you might consider start writing: DARK AGES EARTH.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous sanctuary! said...

Renewable oil? Putin apparently doesn't believe in it much. After all, Russian warships are headed to the oil conflict in Syria:

http://news.yahoo.com/russian-warships-cross-bosphorus-en-route-syria-141156573.html

Ovomit may have just tripped WW3. I mean, what if one of those Russian ships fires on an American ship? Talk about a Suez Moment...just a "Marlboro Moment" for Ovomit tho.

Too bad we "live in interesting times," to quote the famous Chinese curse. Such times really are no fun.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous infanttyrone said...

MB,

Can we have a motto on the money without Latin ?

David Foster Wallace wrote an interesting essay/novella on television and U.S. fiction titled "E Unibus Pluram", so that twist has been taken already.

But what about just going for the simple fact for simple people?

Capita in Recta

Folks here may debate the effectiveness of the plural form versus the singular.

Let the people speak, as long as their capita are not wedged in their recta, otherwise their voces would be muffled past the point of intelligibility.

It is interesting to ponder that wah-wah pedals of a sort were in use before electric guitars were in vogue...they were usually an orange-red color, not unlike that of many clay tiles or the rubber parts of toilet plungers.
Oh, wait - I inadvertently gave out the answer.
Oh, well - I guess everybody gets an A for this class.

As you were...

6:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, lots of info here on abiotic oil and so on, which leaves me completely in the Dark. But I'm working on my new bk, Dark Ages Chopped Liver, so maybe I'll do a chapter on abiotic oil or whatever. Meanwhile, I'm very excited abt the possibility of blowing the shit outta Syria. It's exactly the same scenario as Vietnam or Iraq: no evidence, and White House insistence that there is. This is too much fun! We are so fucking stupid, really. Plus, we don't know how to be anything else anymore than a killing machine. This syndrome has been called 'imperial overstretch', and historians see it as one factor in the collapse of Rome. So now we'll be fighting wars on 3 fronts simultaneously: what a wonderful, self-destructive project. Hopefully we'll get bogged down in Syria (law of unintended consequences), as we did in VN, Iraq, and Afghanistan (12 yrs and counting--longest war in American history), and fuck ourselves up but good. The Universal Death Machine lurches ever more rapidly toward the cliff, amigos. It really doesn't get dumber than this. As for replacing In God We Trust, I'm thinking Heads Rammed in Rumps might be gd, altho Universal Death Machine has a nice ring to it as well. Or perhaps: Kill Others, Kill Yourself! As for speculation on the relationship between sex and war, check out work of Wilhelm Reich. Which suggests another logo for the dollar bill: Make War, Not Love. Boy, do any 4 words summarize the US better than those?

mb

7:30 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

As ever, George nails it:

http://youtu.be/BtSv3x6lh3o
[From the HBO special "Jammin' in New York"]

"We like war, we're good at it*."

"If you got any brown people in your country, tell 'em to watch the fuck out."

* Well, sorta. Good at starting them, less good at finishing them.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

ccg- My intuitive sense of it is that elites going to elite institutions are considered sort of like "made men" - hence if they put in any half-assed effort, and toe the party line, that's all that's expected of them. Whereas the peons out in the hinterlands, there's still a *little* expected of them because many will get jobs where they have to do actual real stuff, not just be figureheads. Then, the bottom of the barrel, the non-credentialed, are held to the most exacting standards of all, where slight infractions may cause loss of employment, or other retribution.

Tim Lukeman- maybe so, but F. William Engdahl does not seem to fit the mold of a corporate Republican - see his wiki page. And website, and books. I'm agnostic on the issue, but as a commenter said above, I think both sides of this (as with much science) are taken up by people with a political ax to grind. I think people tend to believe the science that they *want* to believe, many times- that is, whichever side favors their political views. And then they look for reasons *their* scientists are better than the other side's scientists... Or why one side is corrupted, biased, etc.

It's one of our biggest problems today, I think, the intersection of science with political (and economic) power - perverting the "noble mission" of a disinterested science.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Just saw a scene from the movie "The Day After Tomorrow." A plane is experiencing great turbulence during which a man grabs a woman's hand which causes her more discomfort than the possibility of the plane going down. As soon as the plane stabilizes the woman insists he let go of her hand. The message, of course, is that in the US you need to show proper decorum even in life threatening situations.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Sir Tagio said...

Horatio and Politically Incorrect,

You might be interested in exploring the ideas in the book, "Unlearn, Rewild," by Miles Olson, in which the author, who practices what he talks about in the book, recommends that people who are interested in paving the way to a new sustainable form of life live on the "fringes," the edges between towns and wilderness. It's not a prescription for a cultural renaissance, nor exactly MB's NMI because it is focused on developing a form in which humans can continue to live in harmonty with the planet, but it does involve the beginning of a new community and breaking away from dependence on the "systems of death" currently in play.

Here is a snippet of a review of the book that Dmitry Orlov wrote:

"There are entire shelves of books full of talk about “preparation,” “survival,” “sustainability” and so forth. Just about all of them avoid the real issue. And so I was very happy to come across one that doesn't: Unlearn, Rewild by Miles Olson, which is just going to press as I write this. Miles is not a theorist but a practitioner: he and his group of friends have been living off the land as squatters for many years. He doesn't mince words: we “civilized” humans are living in a “human monoculture” prison; we have fallen into a technology trap.

How can you get out of this trap? Miles does not mince words: escape is illegal. If you want to escape, you have to break the law. “As soon as you begin to act outside the system, you are breaking its rules... Red handcuffs or blue handcuffs. Anything too far outside this culture’s mandate is not accepted; non-participation is not a legitimate option... Really, if we are all forced to work as part of a death machine, with no other viable alternative, where is the possibility for a sustainable future? The answer is obvious: in breaking the rules. Or, to put it more accurately, breaking the ridiculously insane rules.”"

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2012/07/unlearn-rewild.html

9:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Tag-

Actually, they sound like NMIs to me. The idea is cultural preservation, after all.

mb

11:50 PM  
Anonymous the muted two said...

Tools that liberals love: Bernie Sanders and Jimmy Carter.

Here are a couple of quotes, these facts largely ignored by liberals who love to say how great these guys are. Bernie Sanders loves the defense industry, as it helps keep him in power and Jimmy Carter is an evangelical power hungry moron, who gets props for putting solar panels on the white house and his humanitarian work, while saying some really stupid things about abortion, and doing a lot of horrible things while president, and after.

These tools aren't as bad as republicans, but they should still both be in prison, so they won't be able to continue to harm people.

Jimmy Carter: "I never have believed that Jesus Christ would approve of abortions and that was one of the problems I had when I was President"

Bernie Sanders (Sept 4, 2013): "I intend to keep an open mind with regard to the president’s proposal on Syria." <-- says this in the face of huge opposition from Vermonters

Here are some articles about how horrible these two are. I get angry when I see idiot liberals give these guys praise (e.g. "Jimmy Carter was such a great president!")

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/06/27/jimmy-carters-penance/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/30/the-myth-of-bernie-sanders/

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Olsen comes across as something of a narcissist to me.

If you're going to be a tramp or a hobo, then just be one. You don't need to aggrandize yourself as some kind of Radical Lifestyle Rebel courageously taking on The Matrix.

What is it with people these days?

7:06 AM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dr. Berman and Sir Tagio,

Your comments on Miles Olson's book especially "we “civilized” humans are living in a “human monoculture” prison; we have fallen into a technology trap." reminded me of the following quote:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” - J. Krishnamurti

Thank You,
Himanshu

8:59 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Thanks Tag! I ordered Olson's book today, it is right up my alley.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Nick Turse strikes again!

The house of cards should been coming down pretty soon. Ah, blessed Militarism. Please note the map.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175743/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_africom%27s_gigantic_%22small_footprint%22



add to the police state file: A riot could have broken out over this incident.

A woman vet gets taken down by a bunch of Park Ranger thugs.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE_efOGFlho


On a much welcomed lighter note: A small effort attributed to John Cleese? Me, I'm the Scot.

http://harv8.blogspot.com/2013/06/john-cleese-alerts-to-threats-in-2013.html

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

Dr. Hack,

That's a fair point. Having heard the abiotic oil idea from the mouths of some notably stupid Republicans, I do tend to dismiss it with extra haste for that very reason. It does strike me as a secular version of "God will provide" which seems to have come along just as the oil's running low. And I haven't heard about any exhausted oil fields being refilled lately -- so even if it did turn out to be true, I don't know if it would be fast enough to regenerate the oil. My tendency is to go with what's currently the most plausible scientific model, i.e., that oil is finite & running out rapidly. But I honestly don't know for 100% sure, of course.

Even so, I hope my previous comment wasn't taken as a dismissive sneer. I look forward to your posts. :)

Rowdy,

We do tend to attach Big Defining Labels to our lives, don't we? For me, keeping my head down & simply living the best, most meaningful life I can under the circumstances is what matters. Glorifying one's life via defiant labels seems a lot like those Zen masters proud of their humilty that Dr. B has mentioned.

Watched the 1944 film Between Two Worlds the other night. Great scene: the arrogant self-made millionaire literally trying to buy his way into Heaven, and the look on his face when he's told, "You had everything on earth. You have nothing here. And nothing is what you take into eternity." One of those afterlife films that's really about taking stock of your life right here & now.

9:47 AM  
Blogger PALOBLANCO-CAJANEGRA said...

MAULICIO

In Chile this 11 of September, we are 40 years from the torture and massacre you mention, and we still have a sense of uneasiness.I remember the analogy you did years ago between Sophism and Confucianism: The Asian Road to Victory, were I understood (maybe I’m wrong) Confucianism accelerates sophism.

Let’s imagine USA was some time in history a real reference to the world, that embodied a long and changing virus, that promised a hope like the one at the bottom of Pandora’s box, a hope that slowly and surprisingly mutated from a luminous to dark form, like a kind of inverse butterfly metamorphosis.

If it’s geopolitical goal today is to spread this virus that leads to self destruction as increasing in magnitude and proportion, maybe that increase of proportions “global wide” is what makes us perceive the phenomenon accelerates. The growing gap between rich and poor creates a tension that makes growth not only change scale, but mutate from something possible and maybe natural, to something unnatural and sick. I think scale is the matter, territory, Wall Street influencing and having incidence over Bangladesh. Like to soldiers with swords, changed by a technician that presses a bomb-button.

Since a read your article yesterday, I haven´t stopped thinking about the nets installed the Chinese facilities, it really makes me think that any apocalyptic US movie is nothing. As we say in Spanish “La realidad supera la ficción”. Nothing to say, just maybe a desperate, stupid and maybe funny jock:

How about this on a bumper-sticker for China: “STEVE JOBS – GREAT JOBS”

UN GLAN ABLAZO AMIGO

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Rowdy,

What is with the name calling and ad-hominens?

Maybe Olson is a narcisist and maybe not. Does not matter.

As for being a "tramp" or a "hobo" those are loaded terms which judge people who may be either in difficulty due to mental health or other issues. If you think Olson in a narcisist from your comments one can infer you are a conformist--see thats not nice is it?

As for dropping out and checking out of the system voluntarily it takes a great deal of courage to do so. It is in fact illegal and the social approbium from friends loved one and the fact that this will also estrange you from employment and credit world also makes this a risky venture. For those doing so--a pat on the back is just fine.

Its much more interesting to engage in an argument rather than just say things like: "That Berman he is a weirdo and it takes a narcissist to put up a bog or jee that idea is strange so the the guy talking about it is a weirdo. What is it with these protestors don;t they know we live in a great society bunch of spoiled brats."....

10:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Andres-

Nice to see you've picked up a Chinese accent. Que tal, chico? Hopefully I'll get down to Temuco one of these days. Cuidate...Belman

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Ken Smith said...

Morris, Sean, Cube

I have heard a Mexican slang word for "gringificacion". It is agringarse, meaning to act like a gringo. For example: Mi hermano se fue al norte y se agringó totalmente. My brother went to the U.S. and now he acts just like a gringo.

I have lived in Mexico for six years and I know some Spanish, but I almost never use slang. Jokes and slang are the last step toward fluency and I am far from fluent. So, no slang for me -- it is just too easy to use slang in the wrong context.

There is a saying about Mexicans who act like north of the border whites. It is: Tienes un nopal en la frente, which literally means you have a cactus on your forehead, but actually means no matter how hard you try, you are still a Mexican. I have heard this said by friends teasing one another, but also in a heated argument.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous RealityChecker said...

@ Dr. Hackenbush:

"And it is an open secret that 'the best' colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages."

You obviously haven't looked at the curriculum of Columbia College/Columbia University lately.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous JWO said...

MB. Sorry for the second post in a day but I'll be without a computer for a few days. You're mentioned in an essay by JHK here:

http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/82831/returning-real

but, you have the be a member of that webpage to see the whole essay.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

Just another note on grades... I think the emphasis on that is a mistake (by design of course) since it assumes that the student has no interest in learning for its own sake, and must be motivated by carrots and sticks. I don't have a full philosophy of how to replace that, but I imagine there are ideas in the "un-schooling" (and etc.) movements.

Tim Lukeman- no offense taken, I enjoy your posts as well, thank you.

7:07 PM  
Blogger ccg said...

I just heard a radio news clip of Obama talking about the complaints of the Mexican and other governments over NSA spying in their countries. He sounds as though he doesn't realize that the spying is his own policy. He yapped about the capability of the technology as if taking full advantage that technology wasn't actually in the program, as if what was being done was accidental. Is it just me or am I just imagining it all? This is not the first time I've had this sense about things he's said. His hollowness is becoming even more obvious, it that's possible.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous LW said...

I admit to being too lazy to scroll through all the previous comments; I'm just curious if anyone else is hoping the Syria situation just grows worse and worse? I am really loving watching Obama (and therefore America's) credibility crumble right in front of our eyes.

MB, am I wrong to think this is a bit of a historic moment in the slow collapse? It feels like observing the first signs of actual, external damage after decades of internal rot.

Enjoy your weekend!

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Rowdy said...

Capo & Tim,

Look, to be blunt, although I have experience of America, I'm not an American.

If you want to buy into Olsen's schtick, then don't let me stop you.

I think it's pretty plain what he's up to: denigration of the civic realm, the impossibility of socialism, "rewilding" as America's "natural" ideology following the "end of progress" etc.

But ultimately, this is your problem, not mine. Nobody outside the US is showing any interest in what Olsen has to say.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Community of Wafers,

I’m going to have to back off posting for a little while (which may come as a relief). I’ll try to keep up with what’s happening on the blog, but it may be difficult for me to chime in before October.

Between September 13 and 30 my wife and I will be in Guanajuato, GT, south of the border – just casing the joint out as a new home in the fairly near future. My young niece lives there with her Mexican husband, so there’s a huge extended Mexican family waiting for us.

We had such a family in Kuwait, after we rescued and cared for their daughter (one of our students) during the Iraqi invasion in 1990-91 (very long story). It was one of numerous experiences that made it clear to us how paltry what normally passes for ‘family’ in the US can be.

Dr. Berman,

Thank you for the PDF of “The General Cauchy Theorem.” I’m afraid that I’ll need some other way to catch even a glimpse of that ‘Crystal Palace.’ My grandfather was a Kabbalist, and he made it that way. True, Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, but it’s clear he knew of other paths to Wonderland, since his caterpillar smokes a water pipe and hands out pieces of ‘magic mushroom’.

Capo,

The place of mathematics in a liberal arts education remains to be explored, and perhaps we’ll engage in a little pilpul when I get reengaged with the blog. At least we should see what Rashi said about it.

I sincerely appreciate your ‘Shana Tova’. Where I am now, it’s unheard of to be wished a good year – or a good anything. ‘Nice’, however, is all over the place, with Wal-Mart employees doling it out a day at a time.

David Rosen

11:31 PM  
Anonymous ellen said...

NSA backdoors built into most of the security software in use on the net, which include that used for banking and payment:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security

and the NSA response:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/nsa-encryption-revelations-roadmap-us

and Queenie is miffed about the 'small island' jibe and has taken to twitter to respond. I picked this link as the page also has a pic of Call me Dave, topless, trying for a Putin moment:

http://news.uk.msn.com/socialvoices/the-british-are-listened-to-more-than-the-russians

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Dave Young said...

This should scare us all:

Since 2003, Ciavarella received millions of dollars in bribes for condemning minors to maximum prison sentences. In one case, Ciavarella sentenced a 10-year-old to two years in a detention facility for accidentally bottoming out his mother’s car.

According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, over 5,000 young men and women were unjustly sentenced to prison and denied their constitutional rights. Many of them have now been released and cleared of their charges.

http://blackstarjournal.org/?p=3275&fb_action_ids=10151789930847052&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Capo Regime said...

Dovidel,

Good luck in Guanajuato. Enjoy the food and the momias.

Rowdy,

Be blunt by all means. I am not in U.S. either. But that does not preclude me (or Tim) from being open minded and entertaining diverse and interesting ideas on the merits. If I may be blunt you dismissed Olsons idea on some emotional/conditional level.

If say the messiah appeared you would be among those noting that he lived with his parents till age 30, hung out with 12 weird guys and a known prostitute so a bum and an obvious narcissit. What he is dennigrating the social structures, traditions and laws of the roman empire. Frigging narcissistic bum! He even attacked some bankers!

Olsson not the messiah by any means but hey how about discussing an idea beyond superficial appearances. To be blunt reason and discussing facts and structuring an argument is used all around the world! the issue that Olsson and others raise which you seem to miss is that current social structures in modern world are repressive (what tell me they are not Rowdy) and in fact alienating. Hell that is a theme of this blog and a theme clear to me with MB's work.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous shep said...

Rowdy,

Any chance of u coming to the WAFER SUMMIT CONFERENCE planned for 2015 in Ireland? (Actual details to be posted in late 2014 by Dr Berman) I do not think Ovomit is attending?

12:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

I think we may be approaching a Suez Moment. Ovomit doesn't seem to have the votes to go to war with Syria. If he fails, he'll look like the empty douche bag that he is, and the US will look ineffectual, divided, and impotent--which it is. If he then attacks Syria anyway, which is likely, he'll provoke a constitutional crisis. Plus, given our record in the MIddle East and Vietnam, probably pull us into a quagmire. There is no strategic plan here or serious motive; it's the usual American b.s., i.e. war for war's sake, but now revealed as empty. In short, there is no win here for Ovomit or the US, and hence we may be sliding toward our Suez Moment, finally: revealed as a confused, adrift, 2nd-rate power. And at the head of all this, a marionette, a piece of dreck who has no idea as to what he is doing or why. Finally, the tank may be tipping over the edge of the cliff--good news for the rest of the world.

mb

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Berman,

Regarding the Chinese Preface of WAF. If it's not too late, it's worth mentioning the Chinese own over 1 trillion of the US debt. That's nearly a thousand dollars for every citizen in China. So China has literally "bought into" the American Way of Fail.

11:19 AM  

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