November 16, 2014

The American Sage

Dear Wafers:

A short while ago a Mexican journal asked me to write an essay on Lewis Mumford; which I did, and it just got published in Spanish translation. I thought you guys might want to read the English original. As follows:

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was one of those rare American geniuses whom almost no one paid attention to during his lifetime. The United States has a tradition of ignoring (or even ridiculing) those talented individuals who have been critical of its dominant culture—unbridled materialism and individualism—and who have offered an alternative to it, one that might be called spiritual and communitarian. Indeed, in my book Why America Failed, I argue that the reason America failed was that it consistently marginalized the representatives of the alternative tradition, from Capt. John Smith in 1616 to Emerson and Thoreau and Vance Packard and John Kenneth Galbraith down to President Jimmy Carter in 1979 (a number of congressmen believed Carter was actually insane). Lewis Mumford quite clearly belongs on this list, and most Americans who bothered to read him, during his lifetime, regarded his views as “precious” or “quaint”—well-intentioned, but out of sync with the real world. It should come as no surprise that by the end of his life Mumford, who began his career as a kind of “utopian realist,” had become a pessimist, and a fairly depressed one at that.

And yet, the remarkable thing is that when one reads his work today, one can’t help being struck by how sane it all is. To those who contend that Mumford’s ideas are irrelevant to the real world, I can only respond: “real” on whose definition? “Real” according to Goldman Sachs, whose goal is to amass trillions of dollars (to what end?)? “Real” according to Google, which seeks to digitalize and virtualize us out of (human, physical) existence? Mumford was not one of those who held that “progress” consisted of the latest gadget, the latest innovation, and he surely concurred with Octavio Paz, that we need to clarify what we mean by that word. If Mumford’s world view seems, at times, a bit medieval, we might want to remember that much was lost in the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity: craftsmanship, a deep appreciation of beauty, community, silence, and above all, a sense of spiritual purpose. It was this collection of values that Mumford stood for, and that he struggled to preserve or reintroduce into modern American life. His “failure” as a supposed fuddy-duddy or hopeless romantic was, to my mind—given the integrity of his work—a great success; America’s (material) “success” has proven to be, in the fullness of time, a colossal (human) failure.

What, then, was Mumford about? His career as a writer began in the context of the go-go capitalist era of the 1920s, with a book called The Story of Utopias,which criticized the Western utopian tradition as one-dimensional, projecting futures based purely on technological development. This was followed (in 1926) by The Golden Day, which took its theme not from the leading lights of the time, e.g. Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor, but from Oswald Spengler, whose Decline of the West argued that the northern urban culture of Europe was a “Faustian” world, characterized by bigness and rationality, eventually to be dominated by the soldier, the engineer, and the businessman—as America is today. This, said Spengler, marked the end of true civilization, and all that it could look forward to was fossilization and death. Mumford repeated this argument, but with an important twist: he believed the trajectory could be reversed, based on a revival of regional and organic life. A few years earlier, he helped found the Regional Planning Association of America, whose goal was to promote the “garden city” concept of the British town planner Ebenezer Howard. This emphasized limited-scale communities that would combine home and work in a single locale. These were not suburbs in the usual sense of the term; no commuting would be involved. (Mumford once described the American suburb as “a collective effort to live a private life.”) The towns would be surrounded by farmland and forests, and be community owned. As opposed to the dominant culture, that of hustling and the acquisitive life, these centers would promote the good life, which he said “means the birth and nurture of children, the preservation of human health and well being, the culture of the human personality, and the perfection of the natural and civic environment as the theater of all of these activities.” People would enjoy a sense of belonging, a relationship to nature, and be able to pursue meaningful work.

If all of this sounds utopian, it is important to note that such a community actually got built (in 1928), Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, designed for workers and the lower-middle class. It still exists, after a fashion. The houses are small, and front inward, toward a common green area. It still retains a village atmosphere, and constituted a real break with the model of commercial real estate development. Mumford lived there for a number of years, as did the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mumford later described the time as the happiest years of his life. Writing in the New York Times in 1972, Ada Louise Huxtable remarked:

"Public ownership of land, one of the basic premises, made possible a planned community, rather than speculative piece-meal exploitation…It was simple physical planning—the kind of humane, paternalistic,thoughtful layout that dealt clearly and primarily with a better way to live."

“Un-American,” in short; quintessentially Green. Of course, it eventually became a privately owned haven for the upper-middle class, as it got overtaken by the juggernaut of the dominant culture, which apparently nothing can stop. Wal-Mart, not Sunnyside Gardens, would carry the day.

For Mumford, all of this turned on Americans acquiring a different set of values. The nation, he wrote, needed to slow down the pace of industrialization and “turn society from its feverish preoccupation with money-making inventions, goods, profits, [and] salesmanship…to the deliberate promotion of the more human functions of life.” If Mumford was heir to Spengler, he was also in the lineage of Henry David Thoreau. Thus in Technics and Civilization (1934), says the historian David Horowitz, Mumford “envisioned the replacement of an age over-committed to technology, capitalism, materialism, and growth by the emergence of a humane, life-affirming economy based on the values of regionalism, community, and restraint.” Democracy, Mumford wrote a few years later, could only be reinvigorated by substituting spiritual pleasures for material ones; by an “economy of sacrifice.” He urged his readers to turn away from the American Dream, which he called a “deceptive orgy of economic expansion.” Instead, they needed to commit themselves to “human cooperation and communion.” Utopianism indeed.

Mumford struck a (somewhat) more realistic note in The Condition of Man (1944), a book that was influenced by his study of the late Roman Empire. It was precisely the unwillingness of the Roman people to look at their way of life, he said, a way of life founded on “pillage and pilfer,” that led to the fall of Rome. This must not happen to America, he cried; and as with the construction of Sunnyside Gardens, Mumford took his philosophy into the streets. Working with other activists in 1958, he was able to stop Robert Moses, New York City’s controversial urban planner, from constructing a four-lane highway through Greenwich Village. (Jesus, the thought of it!) In an essay he wrote the previous year, Mumford skewered those Americans who allow their cities to be trashed, à la Moses, and then go on holidays to Europe to enjoy beautiful, historic urban centers. But he did see the handwriting on the wall. By 1975 his comment on the American city was, “Make the patient as comfortable as possible. It’s too late to operate.”

Following his inspiration, however, there was at least one city that tried to protect itself from the dominant corporate-commercial model, namely Portland, Oregon. Portland’s success in doing so can be attributed to Mumford’s long-range influence; indeed, the city’s urban planners (in the 1970s) drew specifically on the garden city concept. Mumford had delivered a speech to the Portland City Club in 1938, and also submitted a memo entitled “Regional Planning in the Northwest,” which regional advocates still quote. The memo recommended the construction of a series of “urban inter-regions,” which involved the greening of the city core and the connection of greenbelt towns so as to ease congestion. Portland, Mumford wrote, would need a regional zoning authority, which he referred to as “collective democratic controls.” The mayor of Portland, Neil Goldschmidt (elected in 1972), brought a number of these proposals into his administration, and Mike Houck, charged with setting up a Metropolitan Wildlife Refuge System there, appealed to the legacy of Mumford in his plan to design an interconnected system of natural landscapes, which would include a network of “greenways” to bring people together. In 1992, the Metropolitan Service District published A Guidebook for Maintaining and Enhancing Greater Portland’s Special Sense of Place, which included a reprint of Mumford’s lecture to the City Club.

Much was accomplished in Portland, as a result. The city rezoned, so as to create diversity-of-income neighborhoods. While other cities were busy building expressways, Portland tore down an old four-lane highway and reconnected the town with its waterfront. In 1975, it cancelled a planned freeway that would have devastated part of the city and set up a light rail system instead. It also established an Urban Growth Boundary that forbade the building of commercial projects beyond a certain point. Buildings were required to have their display windows at street level, and a cap was put on the height of high-rises and the number of downtown parking spaces. The business district has parks full of fountains and greenery, and the downtown area is vibrant, replete with bars and cafes. Of course, some of this got rolled back beginning in 2004, when Oregon voters passed a referendum to abolish many of the state’s land-use regulations—a defense of individual property rights, or so they believed. But with Mumford’s ideas in mind, Portland made a definite attempt to move in an “un-American” direction.

Mumford, in the meantime, kept writing. In Technics and Civilization he had argued that the technological model of “progress” required human beings to submit to the cult of the machine. In the Middle Ages, he pointed out, technology was used in the service of life, e.g. the building of cities or cathedrals. But in the “paleotechnic era,” starting with the Industrial Revolution, the defining idea was to bring all of human experience under a technological regime, a program that would ultimately throw life out of balance. Mumford picked up this thread many years later in The Pentagon of Power, in which he asserted that the American “megamachine” was based on a poisoned arrangement, namely that the individual could enjoy the benefits of techno-capitalism if he or she pledged unquestioning allegiance to the system. (This argument was recently updated for the digital age by Dave Eggers in his brilliant, depressing novel, The Circle.) The solution, said Mumford, was obvious: reject the myth of the machine, and the whole structure will collapse like a house of cards. By this time, however, Mumford didn’t really believe Americans were capable of such a shift in values, and like Heidegger, stated (at least in private) that only a miracle could save us. “I think, in view of all that has happened in the last half century,” he wrote to a friend in 1969, “that it is likely the ship will sink.” This is exactly what we are witnessing today.

But the story is not quite over, as it turns out. As America “settles in the mold of its vulgarity/heavily thickening to empire” (Robinson Jeffers, 1925), other forces are stirring. Every day, more and more people are coming to realize that ecologically speaking, there are limits to growth, and that the configuration of late capitalism is politically unstable. As one urban designer has written, “sustainable society will come because the alternative is no society at all.” It is more than likely that we shall have to change our basic values not because we are especially virtuous, but because there will be no other choice.

When Mumford published the first volume of The Myth of the Machine, in 1967, Time Magazine branded it a call to return to Neolithic culture. This is, of course, the kind of quip designed to get potential readers of the book to dismiss it out of hand. But the word “return” is not entirely inaccurate. When Mumford wrote that the good life means “the birth and nurture of children, the preservation of human health and well being, the culture of the human personality, and the perfection of the natural and civic environment as the theater of all of these activities,” he was not referring to Neolithic civilization, but certainly to a civilization that antedated the culture of techno-capitalist frenzy, and that has been all but erased by what came after. He was also referring to the elements of life that human beings simply can’t live without—not in the long run. If some form of restoration is no longer possible, then the future is no longer possible, when you get right down to it. “Utopian realism” may turn out to be our only hope.

Stirrings such as these have been going on for some time now. In 1975 the American writer, Ernest Callenbach, published a book called Ecotopia, which is clearly in the alternative tradition I described above. It was rejected by no less than 100 publishers; Callenbach had to publish it himself, after which it sold more than 1 million copies, becoming a kind of underground classic. He died in 2012, and shortly after, his literary agent discovered an unpublished essay in the files of his computer. The last two paragraphs read as follows:

"All things 'go' somewhere: they evolve, with or without us, into new forms. So as the decades pass, we should try not always to futilely fight these transformations. As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi—the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else. We can embrace this process of devolution: embellish it when strength avails, learn to love it.

"There is beauty in weathered and unpainted wood, in orchards overgrown, even in abandoned cars being incorporated into the earth. Let us learn… to put unwise or unneeded roads 'to bed,' help a little in the healing of the natural contours, the re-vegetation by native plants. Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth."

What can one say? The future may prove to be a Mumfordian one, whether we like it or not; and after all those decades of being marginalized, Lewis Mumford may, in the end, have the last laugh.

©Morris Berman, 2014


Blogger JimK said...

Thanks so much for that. I never knew about the connection between Mumford and Portland. I lived in the Portland area for a while and really liked it.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,


To answer your question about my new handle: jazz. And the only serious running I do is from my car to the deli counter.

Enjoy a bit of Mr. Davis and Mr. Coltrane:


10:56 PM  
Anonymous David G. said...

Really interesting essay. Thanks for the complimentary remarks about Portland. I have lived here for three decades and have known it is special and atypical for an American city. Now I know at least part of the reason for that is due to Mumford's influence. I guess a big reason why I can still mostly enjoy life and hold out in the US is because I live in this particular city. Not sure I could survive anywhere else in the US, though.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Marc L Bernstein said...

Richard Heinberg stands in the Thoreau-Mumford tradition, as does John Michael Greer.

There are many others but those are a couple of the intellectuals who have influenced me a great deal.

A couple of years ago Chris Hedges called Heinberg by telephone and they had a lengthy conversation. As a result of their conversation, Hedges read Joseph Tainter's book "The Collapse of Complex Societies". After that, Hedges gave a talk in which he related Tainter's ideas to the writings of Melville in describing where our civilization is heading.

By the way, Spengler and Tainter (and anthropologist Ronald wright who writes of the "progress trap") both seem to come to the same conclusion, that civilization is unsustainable and inevitably will collapse.

Derrick Jensen also stands in the Thoreau-Mumford tradition but he goes somewhat farther in his rejection of today's dominant culture. For Jensen, civilization itself is ecologically (perhaps also sociologically) destructive and unsustainable. Industrial civilization is far worse and involves Faustian choices involving inherently destructive activities (such as mining, deforestation, resource depletion, climate change, etc.). Jensen thinks that he has a logical proof that civilization is unsustainable. As of yet I remain unconvinced. I believe that it's in his book "Endgame" .

Jensen does interviews on the progressive radio network. They are posted to youtube. Jensen has interviewed dozens of environmentalists, intellectuals teachers, activists, etc. Included on the list are Chris Hedges and Henry Giroux.

John Zerzan has been a vocal opponent of technology for its own sake for many years.

James Howard Kunstler has written about alternative living arrangements, the new urbanism, etc. His ideas are also connected to those of Mumford.

Mumford lived a long time and might have become familiar with the issues of global resource depletion before he died. Perhaps he was familiar with the Club of Rome's 1972 Limits to Growth study. If so, he might have gotten an inkling that he was right all along and that the human species will have to move in the direction of ecovillages, intentional communities, designed agrarian communities, etc., or else face ecocide, cultural collapse and perhaps later, extinction.

The nation of Bhutan has something called the "gross national happiness" measure of national prosperity in place of "gross domestic product". I have not done much research into this small Asian nation, but that's what I've read, from Heinberg in particular.

In any case, I've learned about Mumford from your writings and it has enriched my understanding.

Bravo!! 2 thumbs up !!

12:44 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. Actually, I think Hedges got the ref to Tainter, and certainly to Melville, from me. But what the heck...


1:40 AM  
Blogger Marc L Bernstein said...

Here is Derrick Jensen's youtube channel for interviews. I forgot that it was with Deep Green resistance -

Here is the article I read a couple years ago in which Hedges talks about his telephone conversation with Heinberg -

If you scan over it again you will see that Hedges mentions Tainter. I suppose that's where I got the idea that Hedges learned about Tainter from Heinberg.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, I remember that; it's just that I had written abt Tainter's work, and its importance, before that. However, it's possible Hedges got it from Heinberg, for all I know. Not to worry abt, in any case.


6:52 AM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

@Dan … >> A few days ago I was talking to a friend who never reveals his emotional side to me. <<

You might enjoy the this Esquire article concerning the crisis of male friendship…

"Insofar as a television show is about women, it's about the meaningfulness of friendship — Sex and the City, Girls, Broad City, etc. For men, it's just the opposite. Male friendship on any given sitcom, or in any given Judd Apatow movie, is a retreat into thoughtlessness, crudity. The Big Lebowski hilariously painted male friendship as an extended and colossal fuckup. The Hangover movies turned it into a series of epic degradations. But the standard buddy movie of the moment, a movie like 22 Jump Street, is defined by a single word: dumb. That's why the greatest buddy movie of them all is Dumb and Dumber (although it may well be surpassed by its sequel this fall, Dumb and Dumber To). Men get together onscreen to be idiots with one another. … American men are more likely not only to be lonely but also to deny their loneliness. ...the transition from boyhood into manhood is a transition into isolation."

"The contempt for male friendship is a cultural failure on an epic scale."

I've given up trying to establish any soulful contact with the American males I have contact with. Anything beyond the topics of money, sports, or "politics" is basically a dead end. I'd rather read.

And here is an article about the movie Foxcatcher, which they say involves the same concerns.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Dawgzy said...

Fun fact: Portland commissioned Robert Moses' consulting group that came up with, among other things the 405 freeway as part of a master plan. Most of it was scuttled. but there are still vestiges- the offramp that connects the Fremont bridge to the East side ("kirby St.") was to be the start of the Prescott Fwy that would have run East obliterating charming Prescott St. The amount of new multi-unit residential building in PDX is amazing. I'm concerned that like Berkeley it will become a "brand in demand" and lose much of its easygoing charm.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Rest assured, if there is any way that Americans can undercut real (human) progress in favor of their screwed-up notion of (econ, tech) progress, they'll do it.


4:12 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


I couldn't agree more. Male friendship in America is a largely empty thing. One of the things I liked best about the 1960s/70s was the possibility for new male role models that incorporated tenderness, empathy, openness, emotional maturity. But that disappeared all too quickly, and in fact the current male role models have regressed. This is part of an increasingly militarized, aggressive culture that sees only Winners & Losers.

Consider this book review from this past Sunday:

Sample quote:

Disdain for anyone who sought psychiatric help was rampant among soldiers as well. Troops in one unit left a mock "Hurt Feelings Report" near the sign-up sheet for soldiers seeking counseling, listing reasons they needed care. "I have womanlike hormones," the sheet said. "I am a queer; I am a little bitch; I am a crybaby; I want my mommy; all of the above."

Even those who were charged with treating mental illness were skeptical. The base’s top military psychiatrist wrote a memo to counselors warning that many of the troops who sought help were "dead wood" who faked their symptoms. One military chaplain claimed that witches living in nearby mountains had cursed Fort Carson soldiers.

Of course this attitude extends well beyond the military world -- or else the military world & mindset has incorporated the culture as a whole.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Mark Robinowitz said...

Portland is pushing about twelve billion dollars worth of highway expansion and other "growth" BS.

They've done a few good things but most of their urban planning is essentially the same as everywhere else in the USA.

They do not consider limits to growth in their long term plans.

Most of the environmental groups in Portland do not dare challenge this at all, in part because Peak is not a popular topic, in part because Portland and Oregon politicians are Democrats.
Oregon highway plans

6:06 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

And now for something completely different...

Under the heading "America: Land of the Free, Home of the Instalment Plan," the following news item recounting the struggle of an Army sergeant based at Fort Bragg, NC with the company USA Discounters* over fees and charges added on to his bill for furniture and TV purchases.

*Now operating under the name USA Living. Their sentiment: "Good credit? Bad credit? No credit? We don't care, come in, we can talk. We support our troops**."

**You can tell by the monstrously large American flags that fly outside all our stores.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Thanks for posting the essay MB, I'll have to pull out the Mumford again.

From all the comments I guess Portland is the WAF-er capitol of the US! Someone let me know if the PAM ever needs a collections manager.

Another good Giroux essay:

"Of course, in the United States, political illiteracy seems to be the one qualification, besides great wealth, that gets one elected to political office. At the same time, celebrity culture smothers the US public with a rampant idiocy that practically ensures that violence is largely experienced as entertainment further reinforced by an anti-intellectualism that provides the foundation for paralyzing most forms of critical and engaged agency."

12:49 PM  
Anonymous kilo_mega_giga said...

I used to live in Portland, but I left after I realized it's not really different than the rest of the US. I thought I was moving there to experience something completely different, but that's not the case.

It's basically becoming this place where people can live a certain lifestyle (coffee shops, athletic clothing, outdoor sports) and the vast majority of people in Portland want cars, gadgets, and capitalism.

Having a nice waterfront means little when you're surrounded by freeways and consumerism. Hell, even DC is building a massive walkable waterfront project now. Walkability has just become part of the urban liberal lifestyle.

People are flocking to Portland from all over the country for that lifestyle. I think today it's far different than it was in the past. It's probably going to the way of Seattle.

There are definitely people on the west coast who want something fundamentally different. I just think they're a small minority compared to the people who just want that west coast outdoorsy lifestyle.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Hackenbush said...

MB- Looking forward to the essay.

Re: male friendship
I'm a freelance artist/ cartoonist. About a year ago I started a weekly group where I and some other ink-stained sorts can gather and compare notes on the biz, and other matters. It's helped me enormously to have a little group of semi-regulars to hang out with.

Speaking of comics, I have a new one up if anyone cares to indulge me by checking it out. It's called "Dronar" ("America's Greatest Drone-based Superhero" natch.) It's a satire about drones, with a superhero who is half-man, half-drone. He was a civilian whistle-blower who got experimented on by the MIC.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Not sure what essay u.r. referring to. Mumford essay *is* this post.


3:27 PM  
Anonymous Swordfish said...

MB, Beautiful essay. I'm sorry to say I haven't read Mumford, (what kind of a wafer am I?) but now I have to.

It's also interesting to note that Staten Island (my home for years), also fought Robert Moses. He wanted to put a huge highway through so that SI could be a conduit between Brooklyn and NJ, in the process destroying numerous neighborhoods including New Dorp (later almost leveled by Hurricane Sandy). The people fought and won; there's still a beautiful greenbelt system in SI, where, in some areas, you don't feel like you're in a city at all.
Then of course the SI expressway happened and SI became a way station anyway. Asi es.

Keep on keeping on.


5:31 PM  
Blogger Bertrand Caso said...

I have yet to read any of Lewis Mumfords work but I have heard a lot about him from reading your work. Which one would you recommend for a first time reader?

6:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


"The Lewis Mumford Reader." Also the bio by Donald Miller isn't bad.


6:46 PM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

Hello Wafers,

This is a great article profiling the founder of one of the biggest tech success stories of recent years. What it takes to "succeed" in our day and age. Jaw-dropping.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

@Tim Lukeman…
>> ...Male friendship in America is a largely empty thing... <<

That's a shocking NYT article. This is interesting. I watched Sebastian Junger's film Korengal. He says in a couple of interviews (here and here) that he wanted to investigate just what it is that compels young men to sign up for war - and to continue to sign up for more tours, in spite of the obvious danger and deprivation. He claims that it’s the comradeship, the sense of family that they get from their unit that they yearn for. These guys grow up in "a society that's quite dull", that's a "very alienated, fractured society", and "frankly they see it realistically for the first time when they come home". It's pretty pathetic when one has to go to war to experience family. I'm not sure if or how this might factor into why so many soldiers are so hostile to psychiatric trauma.

As for male relationships in general, it's sick how a guy has to tip-toe around this issue. For me, it's precisely because there's no sexual undercurrent with male-to-male relationships that makes them so valuable. With a woman, once you establish a rapport the sexual factor always kicks in, and is always present, even if you try to ignore it. Not that that's necessarily bad (well, I'm married), but it's completely oblique to the need to discuss serious life issues with another human being. If sex is out of the picture then you can more effectively address the other life issues. There is, after all, much more to life than sex - but our culture hasn't figured this out yet. And - of course - I'm not knocking sex. See what a hassle it is to talk about this? What an idiot culture we live in!


As for Portland, OR, I was there last November for the first time. Powell's Books rocks! Entire floors devoted to subject areas, and each floor well staffed. I also read that they were making good money, while B&N is struggling.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, like most successful Americans, the guy is apparently a thug. BTW, to the left of this article is a pic of Christine Lesti, of Windermere Real Estate. This is one of the most terrifying faces I've ever seen. Honestly, I nearly pooped myself. Is she a thugette?


And spkg of thugs, it's the need for male bonding that also leads teens to join gangs. Thug love, one might call it. Re: Powell's: I'm hoping they are willing to let me do a gig in March on the Japan bk, and my publisher (in Portland, in fact) is supposedly talking w/them; but they rejected me last time around (for SSIG), so there's no telling what will happen. If it comes thru, I'll also try to arrange something in LA, perhaps a rdg at Canter's Deli. Stay tuned.


7:57 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings Dr. Berman and Wafers,


I would be happy to be your point man in LA for a Wafer gathering if you do swing into town sometime in March. Hopefully, all LA area Wafers, or wherever, could treat you to a feast at Canter's. We look forward to the possibility of breaking pastrami covered bread w/you in March!

MB, Wafers-

Sad news:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Also Nichols produced a little-known and long-forgotten, but quite interesting television drama in the mid to late 70s called "Family." I think Wafers would enjoy it.


12:38 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Good to see the British response to Kim K:

2:39 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

Since the talk has turned to cinema for a bit, I suggest that the 1997 film "Gummo" would be WAF-worthy.

I heard something that I thought was strange on a CBC radio call-in show on November 11th. The caller, who said that his dad fought in the British Army in the "Afrika Corps" during WWII, also said that we face a greater threat today than at any time since the war because of the "clear and present danger" of terrorism. I think that's ludicrous, as terrorism affects .00001% of the population, except for the fear that it engenders, which is what the media and governments want.

Why is "terrorism" such a useful propaganda tool? Can't people see through it?

Anyway, what with the recent killings in Canada, we're starting to go down that well-trod path to idiocracy that the gringos have blazed so successfully.


2:45 PM  
Anonymous politically incorrect said...

Brilliant essay!... I thought what you had to say about the craft tradition of the middle ages was interesting as there was technological innovation going on but that there was a more purpose centered existence to life then as opposed to now where there is no purpose at all.

Not sure when the wheels fell off? The hustle and bustle of N. Europe didn't originate in GB as more trade went through Belgium but I wonder if one fed the other or the Anlgos were so isolated other ideas (like individualism) developed? You've mentioned Jefferson's part in history as his ideas relate in their own special way too...

I especially liked the end though where even in the decay of it all there is renewed life. Very uplifting perspective from Callenbach... a truly organic vision!

I will definitely look into more of his work...

4:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm abs. convinced that the future of America lies buried deep within Kim's buttocks.

This is not a metaphor.


4:49 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...


Thanks for yr piece on Mumford who is now on my 'must read' list. Since I haven't read him yet, I just ordered "The Mumford Reader." BTW: I just learned that the epithet "little Eichmanns" didn't originate w/ Ward Churchill (or John Zerzan), but was first suggested by Mumford in his book "The Pentagon of Power." ( Meanwhile, I recently came across that Jonathan Franzen interview where he says of Michiko Kakatuni: "It’s like listening to a self-righteous 10th grader spew moral judgment," he says. "She is a national embarrassment," And then something struck me: you'll recall that there was a buffoon here on yr blog (last Spring) dishing out a critique of your Japan book (and it still hasn't been published!). And what struck me is this: these kinds of trollfoons are not really readers. And they're not exactly "little Eichmanns" really... so much as they're "little Kakatunis."


I met my girlfriend, 2 summers ago at a train depot (well it's hardly a depot: it's now a museum shop; yeah, go figure) in Black Mountain, NC. She'd driven 3 hrs to hear this band called "Megan Jean & the KFB." So I tagged along w/ her to a local watering hole where the band was performing. Anyhow, quite impressed w their show. Anyhow, KFB stands for "Klay Family Band," but the band is only two people: Byrne Klay (husband) & Megan Jean (wife). A married couple. They've been touring together for at least 6 yrs now, mostly sleeping in their car. Well, this past May, Byrne & Megan stayed overnight at my girlfriend's place where I briefly spoke to Byrne who mostly wanted to talk abt his brother Phil (a former Marine, who'd been to Iraq) b/c the NY Times had recently published an essay by his brother. And now just last night, Byrne's brother Phil received the National Book Award in Fiction for his book of short stories, titled "Redeployment." Of course, Wafers are abt as impressed w/ these cultural awards as they are w/ the opinions of Kakatuni, the NY Times, & the rest of the Commisar class. Nonetheless, you may enjoy my own (somewhat) "discontented" view behind-the-scenes of the NBA & links to a few videos and a Q & A w/ Phil :

8:28 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's amazing the NYT keeps her on, and Norman Mailer was probably rt when he wrote that she wdn't have the job if she weren't an Asian female. She's basically like a dumb American undergraduate. I.e., if she likes a bk, then by definition it's gd, and if she doesn't like it, then it must be bad. Critical thinking and analysis are not part of her world view, apparently; no way she might dislike a bk and it might actually be a gd one. (And think of it, that the Times was unwilling to print my response--what cowards.) Worse than a national embarrassment, she's a clown. But when you consider that Brooks and Friedman do regular columns for the Times, and are little more than feel-gd therapists for the upper-middle class, you realize that this is part of the collapse of the country we've been talking abt. Pitirim Sorokin wrote that in the final phase, quality gets denigrated and garbage gets elevated, and that's what we're seeing today. I can only hope that Kakukaka doesn't review my Japan bk. Jesus, what a disaster that wd be.

And yes, I remember the trollfoon who 'reviewed' the book on this blog, never having read it. God Americans are stupid. With a little luck, the bk might be out before the end of the yr; and the trollfoons will be sharpening their knives, you can bet on it. Hell, I cd write their reviews for them (Berman wanted the Axis powers to win, and he ignores the dark side of Japan, etc. etc...). When I say there's no hope for this country, I mean NONE.


9:21 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Wafer non-trivia quiz:

"It's life's illusions I recall/I really don't know life at all."

The singer? The song?


10:26 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

That would be Saskatudlian Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," wouldn't it?

Back at ya, who sang "Don't be a goon from Saskatoon"?


11:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well done. "Goon from Saskatoon" was sung by Seymour Schwartz in Madison Square Garden, 16 May 1969, to ecstatic applause. Meanwhile, Ray Stevens, in "Ahab the Arab," says that every nite at midnite Ahab wd jump on his camel, Clyde, and ride. Q: Why was his camel named Clyde?


11:55 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

Ahab the Arab was in reality one Andrew from Lanarkshire, a Scotchman who converted to Islam in the last few months of the Gilded Age before the Great War. He had been on a pilgrimage to Mecca when he became lost in a Simoon.

Clyde wasn't even a camel, but Andrew's loyal draught horse, "Araby," a bay-coloured Clydesdale that Andrew rode over the desert sands.

It is rumoured that Andrew and his Clyde once walked over the Red Sea from Arabia to Sharm El-Sheikh to escape bandits who wanted to see what was worn under Andrew's kilt.

Before crossing, he is said to have yelled at them in Arabic that was heavily tinged with Scotch, "Worn? Nae, everything's in perfect working order!"

Such is how legends are born.


8:57 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


All Wafers are moved by the ballad of Andrew & Clyde. I trust Simoon has nothing in common w/trollfoon.


10:06 AM  
Anonymous For What it's Worth said...

Thanks for posting the essay, Dr. Berman, I was inspired to go to the library and check out Donald Miller's bio on Mumford.

Here's something WAFers might enjoy. A classic Jack Lalanne video about unhappy Americans, from the 1950s!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

"Why was his camel named Clyde?"

[You did say "Open Book" quiz, right?]

Brother Ray--we always call him Brother Ray--named the camel after Clyde Lensley McPhatter, founding member of the Drifters. McPhatter spent only a little over a year with the group (1953-1954) before striking out on his own.

Since the holiday season is upon us, perhaps the WAFeriat would like to hear Brother Ray do his holiday hit "Santa Clause Is Watching You. (1962).

And a little something extra for the stocking:

Clyde McPhatter sharing vocal duties with fellow Drifter Bill Pinckney in "White Christmas" (1954)

Happy [Your Holiday or Observance Here]

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Powhantan said...

Friday, 11-21-14

Dr. Berman:

“Indeed, in my book Why America Failed, I argue that the reason America failed was that it consistently marginalized the representatives of the alternative tradition, from Capt. John Smith in 1616…”

A sane white person might ask, “What alternative tradition.”

Hear the words of Powhatan in 1607 to Capt John Smith:

“I have seen two generations of my people die. Not a man of the two generations is alive now but myself. I know the difference between peace and war better than any man in my country. … I wish them (his family) to know as much as I do, and that your love to them may be like mine to you. Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love? Why will you destroy us who will supply you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions and run into the woods; then you will starve for wronging your friends. Why are you jealous of us? We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as if to make war upon an enemy. I am no so simple as not to know that it is much better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my wives and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them, and to lie cold in the woods, feed on acorns, roots and such trash, and be so hunted that I can neither eat or sleep. In these wars, my men must sit up watching, and if a twig break, they all cry out, “Here comes Captain Smith!” So I must end my miserable life. Take away your guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy, or you may all die in the same manner.”

11:45 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings all,

MB, al-

Hmmm, I thought "Goon from Saskatoon" was Gordon Lightfoot. Something like:

Saskatoon Goon, you better take care
If I find you been creeping 'round my back stairs

MB, Wafers-

Ain't nothing like a good riot and multiple gunshot victims to kick off the Holiday season. Gun sales way, way up; intelligence way, way down in Ferguson:


1:00 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This is of course encouraging, but I'm a bit depressed at the lack of drone purchases.


This is gd, but you might wanna check out the Smith quote I reproduce in WAF, as well.


All of this reminds me of the Platters and the Coasters. Ah, what memorable days. Yakity-yak: don't talk back!


6:19 PM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear MB,

Below is a link to a rolling stone article titled "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA".
Here is a summary:

Jackie, a freshman at the University of Virginia was brutally raped in 2012 by seven men at a frat party.She called a friend for help. Minutes later three of her "best"
friends(two boys and a girl) found her at street corner, shaking. Following is the conversation that followed:

"What did they do to you? What did they make you do?" Jackie recalls her friend Randall demanding. Jackie shook her head and began to cry. The group looked at one another in a panic. They all knew about Jackie's date; the Phi Kappa Psi house loomed behind them. "We have to get her to the hospital," Randall said.

Their other two friends, however, weren't convinced. "Is that such a good idea?" she recalls Cindy asking. "Her reputation will be shot for the next four years." Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie's rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: "She's gonna be the girl who cried 'rape,' and we'll never be allowed into any frat party again."

Some months later when Jackie asked the dean of students why rape stats were hard to find at UVA, the dean said:
"Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school."



6:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Food for thought dept.:

10:22 PM  
Blogger Val said...

A beautiful essay. I was especially struck by the 1972 quote from Ada Louise Huxtable:

"Public ownership of land, one of the basic premises, made possible a planned community, rather than speculative piece-meal exploitation..."

The NYT actually published this praise of a dangerous communistic idea? It's almost as if the Times were once a newspaper in a relatively open society where ideas could be freely discussed in a major public forum - even ideas which are threatening to the business model of Christine Lesti of Windermere Real Estate and all her ilk. Can such a thing ever truly have been on these shores?

On another topic: while suffering severe Wafer blog withdrawal symptoms a couple of weeks ago, I mischanced to glimpse a TV ad in which a man declared with gushing sincerity and conviction:

"Having health insurance gives you freedom."

A woman followed this up with:

"Things happen all the time."

And then -

"I'm in."

The immediate effect on me of this ad was very nearly violent projectile vomiting. The perfidy of this self-serving industry, to induce the President to completely destroy any possibility of a decent health care system ever developing in this country, and then to sell us on the notion that perforce purchasing insurance gives us *freedom* - the nakedly duplicitous manipulative hucksterism of it boggles my mind. And large numbers of people evidently actually *believe* this twaddle? What kind of crack are they smoking? "This is your brain on television," the old ad should have said.

I wish to further descant on the future that is imminently to emanate from the Kardashian posterior, and the Uber blessings of our sainted billionaires, but these high matters must wait until the next half page.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, in the pre-Kakutani-Friedman-Brooks days, the Times was a v. different paper. I remember C.L. Sulzberger w/affection.

As for insurance etc.: Americans are a remarkably stupid race, and if you just add the word 'freedom' to virtually anything, they go nuts w/excitement. But as u have apparently surmised, their future lies deep inside Kim's rectum.

For some relief from all of this, run out and watch "The Hundred-Foot Journey." I think it captures the essence of Waferdom, on a whole # of levels.


3:19 AM  
Anonymous Al B. Tross said...

First time posting here, but long time lurker.

For your viewing pleasure:

4:35 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Glad I opened up some discussion of male companionship or lack thereof. But my over all point is that even if a male should emotionally open up to you there may be some crass motivation behind it as was happened in the story I described in the previous post.
The insurance equals freedom ad reminds me of a coca cola ad from the 70's. The tag line was "Coca Cola tastes like love." Quite stunning equating a soft drink with the most profound life affirming emotion.
On a personal note, I will soon retire as a teacher. I love and will truly miss my students but, as usual, the bureaucratic nonsense is simply overwhelming. It's the typical organizational response to a problem-make things more complex. Now so much time is devoted to almost literally counting how many times a student farts than to actually teaching. Then there are now 15 discreet evaluation areas a teacher must satisfy in order to pass an administrative observation. I could pass all or most 15 if I simply do one thing-completely change my entire personality.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Perhaps we need to start thinking abt a Wafer Retirement Home, for those NMI's who just can't take it any more. Located in suburban VA, it wd be funded by the CIA. Or the DoD, I'm not fussy.


Thank u4 coming outta the shadows. Why lurk, when u can join the fun? But I digress...Thanks for the link. What really bugs me is that the sheriff cd have gone in w/a drone and wiped the entire schl out, no muss no fuss. Some law enforcement officer, I tell you!

Pop quiz:

"At length did cross/An albatross"

Name author and title of poem.


11:07 AM  
Anonymous Kneel Jung said...

MB, al-Q,

Thanks for the Mumford overview, much appreciated!

As for Gummo, be sure to check out W. Herzog's "Stroszek" from 1977, a spiritual forebearer to H. Korine's film...


1:13 PM  
Blogger Val said...

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, eighth quatrain

Sorry to break the 24 hour rule, but I just gotta post on this one. I have an old Dover edition illustrated by Gustave Dore that I received as a kid. I adore Romantic poetry and art.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well done. It's odd: I learned thru Coleridge's great-great-grandson, who works as a grocery bagger at a Tesco store in Leeds, that the original version went like this:

At length did mourn
An albahorn...

The major fight Wordsworth had w/Coleridge, tho is is not well known, was over these 2 lines. Wordsworth said there was no such thing as an albahorn, and why wd it be mourning, anyway? Coleridge replied that if there can be a shoe horn, there can be an albahorn. The two didn't speak to each other for 3 yrs, until, for the sake of patching things up, Coleridge published the 'albatross' version, tho he never liked it.

Romantic politics, eh wot?


2:39 PM  
Anonymous kilo_mega_giga said...

MB -

Your comments on the current protests in Mexico?

11:16 PM  
Blogger Frederick Froth said...

This image on the nature of the necropolis is featured in Mumford's The Pentagon of Power
As are panels 13 and 14. Panel 21 also sums up the driving force momentum of the Megamachine.

In the illustrations there is an item titled Homage to Giantism where he describes the twin towers of the World Trade Centre as a dinosaur and how it was an example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that was then and obviously still is eviscerating the living tissue of every great city.

Another original Wafer was Jules Henry. His 1963 book Culture Against Man is superb in its description of the USA cultural wasteland. This quote is from the book - it could also have been written by Lewis Mumford.

"In Western Culture today one must make a distinction between the culture of life and the culture of death. In the minds of most people science has become synonymous with destructive weapons, i.e. with death....
Where is the culture of life?
The culture of life resides in Waferians and all those people who, inarticulate, frightened, and confused, are wondering "where will it all end". Thus the forces of death are confident and organized while the forces of life - the people who long for peace - are, for the most part, scattered, inarticulate, and wooly-minded, overwhelmed by their impotence. Death struts about the house while Life cowers in the corner."

1:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for posting, but it's a whole letter better to send yr message to the latest post, since no one reads the older stuff. Thank you, and welcome aboard.


Wafers are definitely life, but we certainly don't cower.


That wd be a very long discussion, wh/I'm really not up to rt now. The events of Iguala are obviously horrific, a kind of echo of Tlatelolco (1968). My major concern is that the demos will die down, eventually, and that the crucial nodes in the system--overlap between police and narcotraficantes, role of US as a huge drug market and also supplier of guns, etc.--won't get addressed or dealt with. It's a mess, and better minds than mine, down here, have analyzed it in great detail.


2:34 AM  
Blogger jml said...

I thought you Wafers might like what Ursula Le Guin had to say while accepting her National Book Award the other day:

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies...We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

5:46 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Great quote from one of my favorite writers. Wafers are indeed "the realists of a larger reality"--all 145 of them. The other 318 million: drifting in fantasyland.


9:42 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

The Le Guin speech is wonderful, as I would expect from such a fine & thoughtful writer.

As a hideous counterpoint, here's an interview with a prime example of the American Dream come true, alas:

As one of the many comments posted in response says succinctly:

Simmons' guide to life summed up: If you don't have money, a lot of it, you might as well die. Anybody can become rich. Just work hard and never take a vacation from achieving the one and only profession that really counts: Stinkingly Rich Person.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous richard james said...

I thought you might like this recent acceptance speech from Ursula K. Le Guin for The 2014 Medalist For Distinguished Contribution To American Letters

12:47 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Sound familiar? dept.:

David Shulman writes in the Nov. 20 issue of the NYRB:

"Israelis live in a largely mythic world, a somewhat modified and vastly simplified version of the *Iliad*. In this starkly polarized vision of reality, in which Israelis are by definition innocent victims of dark, irrational forces operating against them, heroic death in war always makes sense, and violent coercion is the option both of necessity and choice."

3:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Annals of Douchebaggery Dept.:

After 6 yrs of utter incompetence, this is all the moron hasta say:

*What* a douche bag!


5:44 PM  
Anonymous David Earle Hall said...

@ Tim Lukeman,

Gene Simmons is a piece of garbage and has been for many years, that's probably why he's been so popular in America.

Here's another example of his degeneracy:

9:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is kinda charming:

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Savantesimal said...

Remember my post from earlier this year about the "shadow side" of American life that some others had mentioned "hidden poverty and misery). It was in the comments to "Our Exciting Future." Well, the woman who wrote that essay got a book deal and her book has been published.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

And she was on Onpoint Radio today talking about poverty in the USA.

Onpoint: Living 'Hand To Mouth' In Modern American Poverty

Last year, Linda Tirado wrote an online essay called “Poverty Thoughts” as an answer to the question, “Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive?” Drawing on her own experiences with poverty, and written with sharp black humor, it went viral with blazing speed, and has now been read by more than six million people. A year later, she’s got a new book – and it’s a funny, angry, personal appeal for empathy and humanity for the millions of Americans in poverty. This hour, On Point: Linda Tirado on “Hand to Mouth” America.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

Well, Wafers, the countdown has begun to Black Friday, 2014! It should be declared a national Wafer holiday, yes? I'm simply giddy for Friday; counting down the minutes to the mayhem in the streets and the big-box stores. I tell ya, I can't wait to see what you guys will *post* on this blog! In preparation for this sacred event, I haven't slept for days; quit combing my hair; stopped changing my socks; and subsisted on nothing but potato knishes and half-dill pickles. Jesus, I've seen the Buddha, Shiva, and Zoroaster all rolled into one...



9:30 PM  
Anonymous kilo_mega_giga said...

Seasons Greetings!

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Seeking Sanity said...

Black Friday will seem appropriate after smoldering from Burnt Monday a few days before. This whole Ferguson mess could make Black Friday even more energetic and interesting than in years past. Although, I would not hold out any hope that any of it will make my fellow denizens anymore insightful, self-reflective or aware. They are, after all, Americans and it is their right, privilege and manifest destiny to be clueless, ignorant, obnoxious and damned proud of it!

2:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Very emblematic foto, quite obviously.

Well, we've got a situation in which it appears that in the US, a white cop can kill an unarmed black boy and not suffer any legal consequences. It's just happened too many times by now to think otherwise. There's a lot that can and will be said abt this, including the fact that it's certainly possible, given police procedure, that Darren Wilson was acting w/in the scope of his duties, and the law. That's what the grand jury found, in any case. But the larger context is the real problem: things like the overall political structure of race relations in the US, the socioeconomic diffs between black and white, and the heavy militarization of the police since 9/11. Personally, I'm white and I'm not in the US very often; but when I am, I am aware, or at least believe, that one has to be very circumspect in interacting with the police; that you can get into trouble w/them for looking cross-eyed, and that they have all the power in any interaction w/you. How much more circumspect (i.e., scared) wd I be, if I were black?

Anyway, on purely technical grounds, the grand jury decision may have been an honest call (I don't know, because I haven't waded thru the evidence that was presented). But the bottom line here is that even if Michael Brown did attack Officer Wilson, *he was unarmed*. There is no way to get around this stubborn fact; and even if we leave out the political and social contexts I referred to above, there remains the question of why lethal force is regarded as a reasonable or even necessary option in such a case. For example: why not have the police, across the nation, equipped with tranquilizer guns, and use these first, before actual bullets are required? Even rubber bullets wd stun a perp sufficiently, no?

Finally, there is the much larger context of violence being historically woven into the American way of life. Over and over again, if any difficulty confronts us, our response is violence; and the philosophical framework is that Civilization is inside us, and Savagery outside. The foto in Ferguson of cops lined up under a 'Seasons Greetings' sign is just a bit too ironic, and too iconic. Let's not kid ourselves: at Thanksgiving, we celebrate the near-total destruction of the indigenous population. The bomb got dropped on Hiroshima with very little reflection or consideration on the part of Truman and his advisers, as historian John Dower points out. In Vietnam, we murder 3 million and torture tens of thousands, regarded as 'gooks' or 'slopes'. Always, Truth and Civilization is on our side, whereas the other side--typically, non-white--represents Darkness and Chaos. Denis Duclos, an eminent French scholar, has called this the 'werewolf complex', and his book by that title (Le complexe du loup-garou) has as its subtitle, "The fascination with violence in American culture." It's practically in our DNA by now, this mindset, and it's not going to go away any time soon. This notion of internal Innocence confronting external Evil goes back a very long way in our history, and it's why the rest of the world has often felt it has to tiptoe around us, because we are like a 3-yr-old w/a bazooka in his hand. Polls that have asked, "Which nation do you think is the greatest threat to world peace?" consistently return the same result: the United States.

(continued below)

8:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

It's also inevitable--many historians have talked abt this--that the psychology of Us vs. Them will be imported into the society itself: a kind of fifth column, or 'impurity'. It is surely no accident that Nixon equated the Vietnamese with rioters in black ghettos. Eventually, the Manichaean mindset of the need for external enemies comes home, in other words; and we have clearly arrived at that pt. TV shows such as "Law and Order," wh/are immensely popular, reinforce this perception on a daily basis, and the last 13 yrs have seen a marked increase in the number of such programs. All of this means that we are starting to eat ourselves alive, as Goya so dramatically portrayed in "Saturn Devouring His Son." As the cliche (correctly) has it, chickens coming home to roost.

We're screwed, my friends. It wd require something like a mass brain operation to get us out of this way of being in the world.


8:52 AM  
Anonymous Troutbum said...

Dr. MB and all fellow WAFers worldwide:

Today, I bring to your attention a slim wonder of a book " The Collapse of Western Civilization" by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Written as a history from the future in year 2393 by a Chinese Scholar no less, it tells the story of a world destroyed by climate change with the most astounding fact that the victims knew what was happening and why. Exactly how this occurred was due to the major influence of market fundamentalism. Market fundamentalism is described as a quasi religious dogma promoting unregulated markets over all other forms of human socioeconomic organization. It's all very plausible and what's rich, all the footnotes are real sources currently available today. As author Kim Stanley Robinson says,"the invisible hand never picks up the check".
Let me quote Dr. MB, "we're screwed"

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Rusty Snag said...

Hi Dr. Berman,

I read you blog daily but have posted only once before.

I'm wondering what the official body count will be from Black Friday tramplings. My guess is three. I thought the other Wafers might enjoy guessing also.

I appreciate all of the great movie and book tips I have received from this blog. Wafers are a smart and enlightened bunch.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, post more often. Yr a Wafer, now. And yes, let's all start guessing as to how many morons will get trampled to death at Wal-Mart this Fri.


Does the Chinese Scholar mention the work of Belman? Does he say that WAF got reprinted in a little red cover, and millions began waving it and chanting "Belman!" in Tiananmen Square? Hmm...too bad. And here I thought there might be a chance for posthumous fame, since I clearly won't make it in this lifetime.

Yes, screwed; totally, and irrevocably, fucked.


ps: Do 'progressives' ever pick up the check, either?

1:39 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

For those who can't immediately get hold of Troutbum's recommendation "The Collapse of Western Civilization," may I offer the following, a YouTube clip from the most recent episode of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" (HBO).

In this clip, Atlantis Cable News (ACN) news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) interviews the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on climate change and the (grim) implications for Americans (and the rest of humanity).

I recommend this series to the WAFer community. It's now in its final season (Season 3). There's a good sampling of clips on YouTube, should you not have HBO or another source for this series.

Here's the clip:


3:52 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Hola MB and Wafers,


I appreciate the critical points you made about the situation in Ferguson; particularly the points about American violence and the American peculiarity of being unwilling to *reflect* on decisions once they had been made. This rule even applies to those decisions which involve the comprehensive murder of other human beings on an unprecedented level. I've read that after Truman ordered up the atomic attack on Hiroshima, he refused to question his action at all. In fact, he wanted to make known that he was the individual that had made the call and was proud of it. I think this unwillingness to reflect is often seen as a defining American characteristic. I remember a conversation I had w/one of my professors, years ago. He said something like the Americans, as a people, are singular in their refusal to keep much of the past from ever entering their heads. It's considered unhealthy, perhaps neurotic and psychotic, to dwell on possible mistakes or morally questionable past actions. For the record, he was *not* Chinese.

MB, Wafers-

A misspelled LA freeway sign:


5:22 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks said...

MB - I haven't read the Brown shooting evidence in great detail either, but I would like to make one pertinent point. Had Michael Brown been an unarmed, well off white teenager walking through an upper middle class neighborhood and been shot by Darren Wilson under the EXACT same circumstances, Wilson would have been indicted and would no doubt be facing a long prison sentence. Anyone who can't see that fact is wearing racial blinders that are so thick there is no hope for them at all.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, the police do tend to protect their own, but I suspect yr rt. I guess we need a 'control' case, but the fact that that's not likely says a lot as well.


10:25 PM  
Anonymous David Earle Hall said...

RE: Black Friday Tramplings...

Whatever the number is, it won't be enough.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

Happy Thanksgiving to all native WAFers...

Wild Turkeys
by Lawrence Kessenich

I watch them from my office window
pecking at pebbles on the blacktop,
pink heads, iridescent feathers,
stick legs moving with surprising grace.

Living in the woods behind the office
park, they tolerate our diurnal presence,
unmoved by creatures four times their size
invading in steel and glass.

Ben Franklin preferred them for our national
symbol, and they act as if they deserve no less.

How different would our nation be if we
had chosen these gentle grazers—who
nonetheless defend their nests—over
a bird who scours the earth for prey?

American though they are, these turkeys have
no allegiance. They only need a patch of earth
to scratch, a place to raise their pink young. And,
come to think of it, do any of us need more?

You can listen to Keillor recite the poem here.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This American Life:

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

I think the last vestiges of the Renaissance are dead. We are now solidly in the Dark Ages.

"‘Get Me Off Your F*cking Mailing List’: Sham paper accepted by science journal"

11:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving; happily I live in a place that doesn't observe it. This is a source of great joy, for me.

I've just looked at a few major newspapers online. The Michael Brown case is still in the news, but in a low-key kinda way, being slowly nudged out by news of travel problems and incipient bad weather.

I think it's time we Wafers planned some reality-based conferences. Here are 3 to consider; pls feel free to add to the list:

1. Why climate change conferences are a form of masturbation, and why abs. nothing will be done to stop global warming or stave off ecological disaster.

2. Why race relations in this country will be the same 30 yrs from now as they are today. Why, in 6 mos. time, another white cop will kill another black kid, not be indicted (or else will be acquitted), riots will break out, pundits will publish the usual dreck in the newspapers, and then in a week we'll all go back to worrying abt the weather.

3. Why the US will continue to deteriorate, and why nothing can be done to reverse its downward course.

Participants to these conferences will be asked to deliver intellectual papers only; emotion is not welcome. Papers must also be 100% pessimistic; there can be no dogshit abt how if we just do this or that, we might be able to blah blah. Furthermore, anyone demonstrating the slightest bit of optimism will be taken to the alley out back and have their shoes peed on.

I'm guessing we'll hafta rent Madison Square Gdn for this stuff, eh?


11:21 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Clearly we need a need an injection of optimism here. So I'll give it my Tony Robbins inspirational pep talk best, and propose a failproof plan to get this great nation back on track.

I think Americans need to learn how to properly venerate billionaire poo. Whenever Bill Gates or Warren Buffett excretes a sample into his solid gold commode, devotees must whisk away the precious substance and transmute it into highly sought-after products: seasonings, potpourris, cologne, perfumes, etc. By these means the mystique of uber-wealth will magically rub off on consumers, mobs of whom will avidly tase one another on Black Fridays to obtain it.

Specially sacred specimens will be displayed in glass cases at holy sites, such as Apple stores. Damian Hirst will sprinkle them with diamonds. They will come with certificates of authenticity and will be auctioned for exorbitant prices, as befits the spirit of American entrepreneurship and enterprise.

The most sacred of all will be rocketed into orbit. Ages hence, this cosmic specimen will become a shooting star and bless the world with magical billionaire fecal fairy dust.

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Here's one conference idea Morris,

"Fracking the Past: How to Corner the Market and Profit from the New American Discovery of History." (TED Talk proposal/ MBA module)

After almost four hundred years of fleeing from/willfully ignoring the past, our United Stateser herd is out of options - we are now trapped by the consequences of our compulsive presentism and inability to learn from previous historical experience.

In response, more and more Americans have began to climb aboard the bandwagon of "It's the Past, Stupid!," naturally always insisting that they were all personally "ahead of the curve" in this shift of orientation. In the past few years, more and more institutions have discovered how to benefit from, monetize, or otherwise leverage this vast new market demographic of the suddenly "past-conscious." Stakeholders such as war planners, motivational speakers, self-help publishers, police departments, local school boards, HMOs, private equity firms, debt consolidation specialists, snack food manufacturers, payday loan businesses, gun rights or identity politics lobbies, social media entrepreneurs, public relations specialists, jails, college advisers...anybody looking to get their share of the coming profits from this vast new shift in the preoccupations and fascinations of the 360 million consumers/citizens/even-toed cud-chewing ungulates we have become, are cordially invited. Pre-registration with Visa or Mastercard at a 25% discount on full entry price!

Keynote Speaker: Sam Schmeck, PhD: "MY Trauma, not yours, was always the most important thing about the Past1"

-after a long absence, best wishes.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Clearly, we've got a winner. And I adore Sam Schmeck.


10:05 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I loved yr message abt billionaire turds, but oddly enuf, cdn't get it to post. Perhaps our technology is now sensitive to turds, or to criticism of billionaires, I dunno. Anyway, sorry...pls try again. I'll do my best.


10:10 AM  
Anonymous Brooklynese said...

Wafer Bowl 2014 (Black Friday) predictions: 3 people will be trampled to death in the great corral opening, 22 people will get their limbs crushed to save 5 bucks on a waffle press, 298 million Americans will continue to be full of shit.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think latest pop. estimate for US is 319 million. So what we'll have tomorrow is 319 million Americans w/heads rammed up their rumps, rolling around like doughnuts. A pleasing sight, in many ways.


4:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Buffoons Unleashed (aka The Real America):

My favorite quote, from one cutting-edge intellect-shopper:

"I love getting stuff like this, it's what I live for."

(ps: Whatever happened to the Michael Brown story? Or are all events 'entertainment', in the US?)

(ps2: In the history of the world, has there ever been a larger collection of dopes gathered in one geographical location? This is *not* a rhetorical question.)


2:15 AM  
Blogger Val said...

Last night PBS reported that the L.A. school district, while "upgrading" its computer system, lost the records for 670,000 students - grades, attendance, everything. There is no backup. Oops! Isn't technology wonderful? What a promising prelude to Black Friday & the rest of the Holidaze.

Clearly a conference must be added to our list to celebrate the scintillating character of American public education and the brilliant future that awaits its students.

In preparation therefor, I will persist in my fascination with geodesics, geometry & the octet truss to design & build a better grade of cardboard shacks for the millions of Americans who I fancy will increasingly be in need of them as time and the US Treasury get sucked down the black hole of our historical trajectory.

2:38 AM  
Blogger Kanye Cyrus said...

I was just quietly surfing the internet while sipping my coffee and I came across this:

As a profitable ahead-of-the-time investment opportunity, I suggest investing in: armpit hairdryers, armpit hair brushes, armpit hair colourings.

Happy Friday!

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Seeking Sanity said...

It's interesting that TeeVees seem to be one of the more common items the Black Friday Shoppers fight over. Just like addicts fighting for their drugs. Why aren't they fighting over copies of books by that Belman guy?

For me Black Friday is a day I purposely avoid doing any shopping of any kind if possible. It's my own little anti-consumerism day. Not that I, or all 126 of us Wafers combined could ever turn this tide. We're just trying to ride this wave of stupidity and not get sucked into any whirlpools or shot by any angry gun enthusiasts.

Enjoy the holidays Wafers. There is sure to be an abundance of buffoonery!

11:45 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Seasons Greetings MB and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

America vomits up a surge of crazed shoppers. Enjoy!


11:57 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I suspect there are more police shootings of young black men than we ever hear about. Did any of you hear about this case in Austin? It happened, as it turns out, at the end of my street in Shoal Creek. Tos summarize, a 32yr old African-American man tried the doors of a bank building to enter, found it closed, went back, tried again (but was in no way threatening or armed) and a policeman (whom APD has allowed to "retire" with full benefits) came out, decided "he looked like he was thinkin' about committin' a crime", the man got scared and took off, the officer chased him (flagging down a motorist to assist)and then shot him at close range in the back of his head in the creek at the end of the street. We couldn't figure out what had happened until the nightly news and it was hushed up pretty quickly. Here's the links:

And from the autopsy report:

"A now-retired Austin police officer facing a manslaughter charge fired at a suspect at such close range that medical examiners later found an imprint from the gun’s muzzle on the back of the man’s neck, confidential documents reviewed by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV show.

Gunpowder soot also covered the area where a single bullet entered Larry Eugene Jackson’s neck, according to an autopsy report. Jackson also had two fractured ribs, a torn colon and “scattered abrasions, contusions and small lacerations,” according to the report, which does not conclusively link those injuries to the struggle with the officer."

His trial has been postponed 5 times. And all the officer is charged with is manslaughter.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

America is no longer unique in its dramatic mental illness and depravity. Check out how the British are behaving during Black Friday:

"Black Friday: Fights break out after shoppers queue all night for bargains"

1:54 PM  
Anonymous neunder said...

Black Friday Psychotics:

VIDEO: Shoppers Fight Over Wal-Mart Deals In Michigan City

2 Women Fight At Norwalk Walmart Over Barbie Doll

Black Friday shopping leads to scuffles, fights

4:49 PM  
Blogger Himanshu Tiwari said...

Dear MB,

I hope you and Wafers enjoy the following black Friday related news:

“An Unstoppable Zombie Holiday” – Humanity Shudders As America Exports Black Friday To the World

Exhibit 1: Doorbuster deals at a Wal-Mart in Michigan City, Indiana, had shoppers literally stealing items from other people’s carts.

Exhibit 2: 2 Women Fight At Norwalk Walmart Over Barbie Doll

But it's not just America, it appears the UK as caught the post 'Thanksgiving Day'? bug...

Exhibit 3: Girls fight over cheap panties...


7:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u all. I love seeing videos of American morons in action. The fighting over panties is a nice touch.


Here's the thing: I don't really understand the selectivity involved in America getting up in arms over white cops shooting black kids. Why Michael Brown, e.g.? A short while ago, a cop shot a 12-yr-old kid in Cleveland who was sporting a plastic gun; at least, I think that's what I read. There was barely a murmur over that event. I just don't get it.


8:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Kill! Kill! Kill!

I love it.

Meanwhile, # of registered Wafers leapt from 144 to 147. Nothing can stop us now.


9:33 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

Very, very, very good essay here:

8:23 AM  
Anonymous brooklynese said...

I bet you that most of the employees who do those background checks just don't give a fuck and will not actually review the applications in order to make the deadlines.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u4 essay. Here's 1 4u:


1:31 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Info is still out on this shooting, but it may signal an important new(?) development in our national collapse: just shooting strangers for the hell of it. In most cases of homicide, the parties knew each other. Perhaps now, homicides will become random free-for-alls:


1:45 PM  
Anonymous neunder said...

UC Davis Economics Professor Says There's No American Dream:

1:53 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. It always tickles me, when some academic comes out w/something I've been saying for yrs, and it's hailed as a major breakthru. This wd have been a better 'breakthru', I think:

"UC Davis economics prof Gregory Clark declares that 'Americans have their heads rammed deeply up their behinds, and they will not extract them in the foreseeable future.'"


2:32 PM  
Blogger deb said...

A recent article in the Guardian which reminds me of why I avoid large trendy cities these days. Type A personalities (A as in asshole?) We used to just call them bullies:

2:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I note, w/great excitement, that the article uses the term 'douchebaggery'. This is wonderful. Tina Fey (my greatest heart throb) coined the word in an episode of "30Rock." "I will not tolerate douchebaggery," she said.

What can be done about these moronic buffoons? Only one thing I can think of: urine, on their Guccis. Problem is, I don't think there's enuf urine (or Bud Lite) in the world to drench the shoes of the douchebags just in the US, let alone elsewhere.

I was so relieved, in 2006, to flee Wash DC. If there's one city in particular that collects Peacocks (who are in fact turkeys), that wd be it. Phew!


3:18 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

MB, Wafers-

V.I.P. gun ranges that cater to the wealthy. Jesus, where is this death cult heading, Wafers? Oh, right, Kill! Kill! Kill! Thanks, MB.


3:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for latest update on American douchebaggery. Really, where were we when god was handing out the brains? Hiding in the basement? This country is the greatest collection of douche bags in the history of the world.


5:49 PM  
Anonymous kilo_mega_giga said...

Frontline just had a documentary on how Firestone funded Liberian warlord Charles Taylor in order to have access to their rubber plantation.

I had no idea of this history. Ex-slaves from the deep south founded plantations and ran the government in Liberia until Charles Taylor overthrew them. Firestone was the top source of funding for Taylor.

This is some of the most horrific stuff I've ever seen: cannibalism was everywhere and it was mostly young boys who were doing most of the killing, torturing, and cannibalism. Today Liberia has some of the worst conditions I've ever seen.

Some legacy America has left.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

Troutbum has kindly mentioned the Hedges/Wolin interviews in a previous post, but I'd like to reiterate by posting a more direct link to all eight (8) of the discussions here. They're WAFer-compatible.

On a different topic, dronin' for Christ, perhaps not everyone is aware that the late Rev. Falwell's Liberty University has a school of aeronautics that now has an "unmanned aerial systems" (UAS) concentration. They're taining "Christ-centered aviators" to fly drones. WWJD.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...


WWJD -- What Would Jesus Do, or Who Would Jesus Drone?

Lately my wife & I have agreed that we really don't want to see a lot of people, because the conversations are almost always banal & empty. Not that every word has to be straight out of My Dinner With Andre -- although we certainly wouldn't mind some of that from time to time -- but the inanity & pettiness of so much "conversation" these days is appalling. We really feel it has a tangible -- even physical! -- negative effect on us. After all, Garbage In, Garbage Out. You Are What You Eat. And so on.

We do spend much more time in our local park system, observing & admiring the flora & fauna. The moment you turn a corner & can no longer see anything manmade, it's like being in an older, more beautiful & meaningful world.

Anyone remember the classic Twilight Zone episode about the small-time crook who's killed & goes to a perfect afterlife, where he can have everything he wants? The American Dream of endless More realized! Except that in time it palls, so much so that he begs to be sent to The Other Place. At which point he's informed, "This is The Other Place!" Welcome to American society today -- except that very few can recognize or admit that they're in The Other Place, and by their own choosing, too.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous NJGuy said...

"The Other Place" can be shortened to T.O.P. or just "TOP" as in "I've reached the top" or the "commanding heights". This is becoming literally true. Just this week Bill Moyers PBS program described the ultra high residential skyscrapers being built around Central Park. Here the super rich can literally have a "top" experience physically separated from the rest of us.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...


I saw that Twilight Zone episode. I have a question about that episode. Is one of the themes is When one is in hell one gets everything he wants and more and when one is in heaven one gets what he needs?

By the way, how has everything been going for you? Long time, no see. I have been talking to someone like myself who is younger and sees the writing on the wall. He saw everything around him and rejected the whole hustling and oversexed culture that lacks love and substance.

By the way, I have started a sequel to my fanfic novel. It tears America apart and shows something better. You could say that I in my sequel I named my community to honor Rod Serling and I named it Willoughby.

I would love to join you in the park. Maybe I could get some more inspiration.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous JLH said...

I was hoping that w/ December we'd get your Japan book!

6:45 PM  
OpenID atearinrain said...


The Twilight Zone was one of my childhood favorites. That episode sounds great, so I may have to delve back into that show. I wonder if it was an intentionally allegorical critique of American materialism?

On a somewhat related note, here's a beautifully honest song by a beautiful exception to the dreck that is modern mainstream music.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous COS said...

There is no escape! The Twilight Zone episode you all mention was discussed today on TV by Tony Robbins with Oprah--point is that life must have a purpose and challenge. I am glad my father did not see the day that Tony Robbins was the inspiration for postings by Wafers!!!! Oh the

8:08 PM  
Anonymous neunder said...

"Guess who’s losing faith in the American Dream? Everyone."

8:52 PM  
Blogger Val said...

@ Pilgrim -

Trust Rev. Falwell to leave us a flock of unmanned drone pilots. I'm sure their valor ideally suits them to the harrowing risks of the job.

The late Christopher Hitchens had the last word on him as far as I'm concerned. Hitchens was invited by Chris Matthews & that other douchebag to help them mourn the great Reverend, then lately fallen, on "Hardball." When they repeatedly attempted to strong-arm him into saying something nice about Falwell, he told them to go to hell in no uncertain terms ("excuse me sir, *you* invited *me* on your program"). Then, when the segment was done, there was a tiny slice of unoccupied airtime before the ad break - a couple of seconds perhaps. Into this sliver of time Hitchens shot the closing words on Falwell:

"If you gave him an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox."

BAM! End of program, on to commercial.

I have my reservations about Hitchens, but he knew how to handle himself extempore, and on broadcast media.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Problem is what folks say in response to a poll, wh/can be purely intellectual, and what they believe in a visceral sense. No way of knowing the latter except thru actual behavior.


Shit, man, I'm working my little tushie off to get the thing off my desk (currently grinding thru the Index), but it seems to take forever. Just ordered the proof copy, in any case. My guess is we're looking at a January reléase. Thanks for asking.


12:09 PM  
Anonymous Rusty Snag said...

I was sorely disappointed by the reduction in Black Friday trampling deaths this year - zero at last count. However, I was elated by the economic news around Black Friday. As one brilliant retail expert stated: "there are a significant number of Americans out there for whom the recession is not yet over”. There are a significant number of Americans out there for whom the recession will never be over. Onward and downward.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman & neunder,

Aside from the unthinking superficiality of people’s responses to polls, it seems to me that the Washington Post was asking the wrong question. The question appears to be about the attainability of the American Dream and not about its value.

I would guess that most of the Great American People want the American Dream but are upset because they realize that they are unlikely to get it. Their purpose in life is still to accumulate as many material objects as possible, and their philosophy of life, as Dr. Berman once suggested as ‘America’s dumbest idea’, is “I’m here to get mine, and to hell with everybody else.”

To me the American Dream has always been the American Nightmare where you don’t own your possessions, but they own you.

David Rosen

1:13 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and fellow Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

Jesus, what kind of a terrorist was this guy?:

a) McQuilliams had hundreds of rounds of ammunition and multiple weapons, yet managed *not* to kill anyone...

b) His attack was conducted during *pre-dawn* hours on Black Friday. Huh? Why not grab a quick bite for breakfast at Applebee's and then hit a local Wal-Mart around 11:30 AM; plenty of targets available then.

c) McQuilliams was also prepared to start a fire at the Mexican Consulate w/fireworks. WTF?! Kids in my hood are more accomplished w/explosives. If pressed, I'm certain these little fuckers could rustle up some homemade napalm.

Anyway, this whole event is deeply discouraging. Identifying this guy as a terrorist is an insult to terrorism in general; and an insult to *American* terrorism specifically, of course.



2:22 PM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

>> Trust Rev. Falwell to leave us a flock of unmanned drone pilots. I'm sure their valor ideally suits them to the harrowing risks of the job. <<

Somebody better inform Tinky Winky.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

"The Angry Arab" blog linked to this article the other day:

Gregory Clark, who works at the University of California, Davis, claims the national ethos is simply an illusion and that social mobility in the country is no higher than in the rest of the world.

'America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England or pre-industrial Sweden,' he said. 'That’s the most difficult part of talking about social mobility - it's shattering people's dreams.'

In other news, the Zionist hologram is taking on a rather fascistic hue:

Like a rat caught in a trap, Israel improbably, harrowingly continues to plummet ever further into a frenzied de facto holy war against its own Arab population, evidently unaware that more of the same - racism, injustice, suffering - will not bring peace. In the last few weeks, it has instead brought this: A bill declaring Israel a Jewish nation-state belonging to Jews around the world but not its own citizens, who awkwardly happen to include over 1.5 million Palestinians, thus officially making Israel's much-touted "democracy" into what is in fact an ethnocracy...

What's going to happen in these two countries when ocean levels rise five feet, crops fail, and famine is widespread around the world?

And...wait a minute, COS. You watch Oprah?


3:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u all for yr (as usual) astute contributions. I think it may be time to refresh our post-its, to provide greater inspiration as we begin our day, staring at the bathrm mirror. I suggest:


That seems to capture the daily news in the US, and also what yr neighbors are up to.


5:27 PM  
Anonymous Rosegarden said...

After 38 years, I retired from elementary education. While reading Lewis Mumford's Art and Technics (c 1952), I realized that the joy I felt while teaching and now get from reading to preschoolers at the library comes from art.

“And at that stage, the artist's gift, his very development, depends upon the existence of a responsive audience, of people not too busy to listen, not so preoccupied with getting and spending... not too tired or bored to make the effort of understanding him.” (page 28)

The effort I spend to select books with great artwork and important ideas, the time I take to practice the right rhythm and pacing and volume, and the space I arrange for the children and myself, gets reflected back to me in their wide open eyes, attentive postures, and concentration. The book and the children and the teacher are transformed. When the book closes and we all come back down to earth, we know we have been somewhere special. It cannot be measured, only felt.

Teaching is a science and an art. You can learn the science (with content and methods classes) in college. The art comes from inside. The current drill-and-kill and teach-to-the-test leave no time or rationale for passion and the making of human connections.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

From the website "" and specifically the blog "Pharyngula" (subtitle: Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless,liberal), today's entry "Let's point and laugh at the libertarian."

This entry begins "They really are the dumbest people in America." It recounts the hilarity that ensued when a Texas resident was stopped in a police sobriety checkpoint. As they say, "You can't make this shit up." Readers are encouraged to follow the link inside the entry for further yucks.

And this item, a followup piece from on an interview of comedian Chris Rock for New York magazine by former NYT writer Frank Rich. As usual, it seems comedians possess a sharper vision and greater ability than most to notice the silliness and stupidity in the societies they inhabit. In this case, the silliness inherent in the notion of the American dream. You know the one, the one George told us requires us to be asleep to believe it.

Sent from my iPhone

11:17 AM  
Blogger Mark Munns said...

Man assaults pregnant wife with McChicken sandwich:

1:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Honestly, Americans are so sophisticated, don't u think?


I'm telling u, Americans have dog poop inside their heads.


1:52 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, a recent posting at Adam Curtis's blog links Lewis Mumford to Murray Bookchin. My only familiarity with Mumford has been via this blog and I know nothing about Bookchin.

Thought you may find it of interest:

Hope all is well. We're in the midst of unusual weather here in San Diego-it's actually raining!


3:59 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

MB, Wafers-

It just keep coming... No charges in the death of Eric Garner, unarmed black man, choked to death by the NYPD on a Staten Island sidewalk:

And the band plays on,


3:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gee, what a shock. I guess we can predict the same ol' shit: rioting, tear gas, the usual drivel from pundits on TV and in the papers, then 0 until the next incident. I'm thinking however that there's no reason for cops to restrict choke holds to black people. Why don't they just go out and choke at least one person, of any color, to death, once a day? Rt now, the incidence of cops killing citizens in the US is far too low. Drones, of course, cd help.


Nice to hear from u, muchacho. I was actually a friend of Murray's towards the end of his life. A character and a half, he was.


7:07 PM  
Anonymous COS said...


No I do not watch (volitionally) TV less so Oprah. Visiting relative in hospital and her room mate along with her delightful fast food guzzling sprats seem to have the television on all day. That there are other people in the room visiting the next person over who is sick (this is a hospital) does not seem to register as a reason to say excercise some consideration. Anyway, they had Oprah and Tony Robbins going on about this twilight episode and how he describes it in his book on money etc. The whole scene very depressing. In recent days, from the TV in the hospital room it seems the progressives are upset and well bad people are bad and gays and black people are nice victims. I disagree. Americans, including whites and yes blacks and gays and straights the lot of them are disgusting idiots who worship and are led by sociopaths. O&D

7:29 PM  
Anonymous cubeangel said...

Dr. B

You forgot one more prediction. People counting the hemorrhoids on Kim Kardashian's tushie. Can't forget Ole Kim right Dr. B?

8:37 AM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

A friend forwarded to me this essay by Josh Ellis that I think captures pretty well the zeitgeist of current America:

11:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I doubt color or sexual orientation matter all that much. If they are Americans, they're douche bags. The real question is, if Wafers wish to undertake the daunting project of recto-cranial extraction, how many crowbars, and how many buckets of K-Y jelly, wd we need? Wafers are encouraged to submit estimates.


Problem is that the foto of Kim's rump didn't afford us a glimpse *inside* her rump, so counting hemorrhoids cd be a bit tricky. But I don't doubt that sooner or later, she'll be displaying her rectum in all its glory. I have a visión of demonstrators marching in front of her house with signs that say: "Kim! Show us your rectum!" This will be the apogee of American culture.


Rt on, but it's even sadder that the poor shmuck hasn't figured out the solution: hit the rd!


12:16 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and distinguished members of the Wafer cognoscente,

MB, Wafers-

Recto-Cranial Extraction Estimate:

* I figure it'll take approximately 1.5 ounces per American rump
* A 5 gallon bucket contains 640 ounces
* That's 427 extracted heads per bucket
* Wafers will need 741,000 buckets
* That's 5,075 extractions per Wafer

Sheesh, somebody recheck my arithmetic.


ps: We need to recruit a whole lot more Wafers.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

MB, Wafers-

Correction to the last figure on my previous post:

It should read...5,075 *buckets* per Wafer.

Please excuse this second post rule violation, MB.


1:39 PM  
Anonymous OyVeyImTired said...

@COS I wholeheartedly agree. That's why there is such a push for this insane radical identity politics. Liberals don't want to end wars or punish the elite for looting America, so they push these ridiculous culture and identity wars. Take, for example feminists and liberals obsessed wIth Gamergate, which is thoroughly unimportant compared to the serious issues facing our nation, yet it's now the left's big focus. The left has become a bunch of infants, and will do anything to divert focus from the economy or ending war.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous politically incorrect said...

It's official...

We're number #2 now....

We're probably still #1 in kaka though I haven't found any studies to verify this...I guess we'll have to wait for the 2016 election returns...

3:48 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Hi Wafers,

I couldn't find much to quibble with here:
Meanwhile, I can't verify everything that's mentioned in this article (below) as "factual":

*but* as you showed me MB, what makes an article like this one interesting is that you can't necessarily dismiss it out-of-hand. Unfortunately, ian article like thist exposes another fantasy held dear by many in the Occupy movement. And that would be something like this: that most of the police, and those in law enforcement, are part of the 99% and would be persuaded, in a coming insurrection, not turn on the citizenry...or something like that... Alas, more of the disturbing side effects of deep deep CRE...yes, get out (emigrate) if you can and take as many loved ones along as you can persuade Wafers..

O&D my friends...O&D

5:13 PM  
Anonymous COS said...

Oyevey-you are correct. The race obsession and race baiting in tne U.S. by both right and left is pathological. On a too bad Shep is not around a SPLC writer David Ruenzel who railed against racism and white privledge was murdered by two black men. Point here by my lights, that behavior from violence to littering, chewing with mouth open once excused or ignored becomes the norm and the spiral continues. In a civilized place emphasis is on norms applicable to all members and no distinctions made. Once distincitions are made and excpetions and excuses made the thing spirals downward faster and faster. A now pet peeve is the delusion that voting or the left or the right will save things. Somehow, I think the people on the left are more delusional as they merely blame "bush" or "reagan" and think that it can all be solved by voting for the right people. Morons.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Todd said...

One of the greatest biographies I've ever read is that by Miller, "Lewis Mumford A Life" 1989. I wept, I learned in my heart, I encountered true greatness. I am grateful forever for his vision.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Jerome Langguth said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Wafers,

James Howard Kunstler recently pronounced the American educational system a "matrix of rackets", which seems about right. So what happens if a school eschews said rackets in favor of reading the great books, student-led socratic dialogue in the classroom, and high intellectual standards? You guessed it, it gets called the "worst school in America."


8:34 AM  
Blogger NearFar said...

We are eating ourselves alive, just as you've been saying all along MB. Our "society" is be torn apart, and the police continue to murder our citizens right in front of our eyes:

1:12 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the process "defining deviancy down," and that was a long time ago!


1:15 PM  
Anonymous Zeke said...

Jerome Langguth, I really liked that article about Shimer College. It reminds me a lot about news I just heard of New College, an equally quirky and academically rigorous honors college in Florida with small classes and a very alternative way of dealing with education. The state of Florida just recently changed their standards for colleges to receive public funds, mostly based around how many students have become employed within two years of graduating.

The problem is that the school prepares its highly intelligent student body so well that most end up pursuing advanced degrees, or studying abroad (Florida's metrics don't even take into account students employed outside the US). New College is actually so successful at creating grad/law students, phd candidates and high achievers (the school is even nicknamed the Fulbright Factory) that its considered one of the worst in Florida! Its being penalized for its strengths exactly like Shimer.

So now faculty and alumni are lobbying for a change to the rules, which definitely wont happen, and the school has to either adopt a more mainstream (ie dumb) curriculum, or shut down over lack of funds.

Like a lot of kids described in that Shimer article, I was a youngun more concerned with learning than my own education, which basically turned me into a drop out. I've always been interested in these little intellectual havens, but they always seem to be destroyed by "market forces". It makes me wonder what a young man is to do.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Bryan Yonge said...

Golly, Morris. I do so love the sanity and clarity of your posts in an F'ing crazier and crazier world. Thanks. Bryan Young - former student of yours from UVic.

10:19 PM  

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