Friday, August 6, 2010

United States of Hypocrisy

I got a cow that's gone dry a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that get bigger each day

The county's gonna haul my belongings away

Cause I'm busted

, Charlie Pride

Lord, I hope this day is good

I'm feelin' empty and misunderstood

I should be thankful Lord, I know I should

But Lord, I hope this day is good

--Lord, I Hope This Day is Good
Don Williams


July is the cruelest month thus far, seeing the highest number of American deaths in Afghanistan since the war began (
U.S. Casualties in Afghanistan Soar to Record Highs.) The 66 servicemen killed last month followed the second deadliest month in the almost nine-year conflict.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Obama is yukking it up on The View, The Clintons are feting Chelsea and her new husband to the tune of almost $2 mil, and Mrs. Obama is enjoying a week in the Costa del Sol in Southern Spain with 40 close associates (Material Girl Michelle Obama). No doubt she needed a break after the Maine holiday.

Of course, wealthy people are entitled to enjoy their dough. However, it is all just a bit egregious coming as it did in such a somber month. Aren't leaders expected to show some restraint in a bid for solidarity with the governed? That means more than lip service to bite the bullet and hoe a row.
Oh, and not flying to your fun in the sun on the taxpayer's dime (Michelle Obama flew on Air Force 2.)

It's a given that politics is the last outpost for America's regency, but men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the missus made every effort to not flaunt the Bono lifestyle. In fact, since they were not arrivistes, there was no chance of such jeopardy.

The Democratic party used to represent the interests of the working class. Even if they weren't all Trumans, they at least understood the concept of
noblesse oblige. Today there are no such pretensions. It all seems pretty declasse, if you ask us.

These people do not lead nor do they produce anything of value. (The last Democratic president who did was peanut farmer Carter, himself a millionaire.) But they sure do sit in the catbird's seat and skim off the cream from those that actually do work and produce. Republicans are exactly the same, but they do not pretend to advocate for the Little Man.

While our New Brahmins throw their opulence in our face, another world hangs on by a thread.
Here in Tallahassee it was reported this week that a patent was awarded to the inventors of the "Cradle of Hope" -- a collapsible, mobile cradle to be used for those without a permanent shelter.

These are the two Americas: One where catered, air-conditioned tents are set up for celebrities hob-nobbing with politicos at swanky events, and one where tents cover grave sites at Arlington burial events.


  1. Now that I'm back from my comparatively modest summer vacation, I can write that I agree completely. To me, though, it's not just about vacationing during Afghanistan's long, hot deadly summer, but displaying such open opulence when so many people in this country are struggling economically and, indeed, the country itself is struggling. Even if these people don't care, one would think they'd be cognizant of the negative political perception such behavior generates.

  2. Andy,
    What did Eleanor R. do during the war?
    She visited the theaters of operations, and visited with the troops.

  3. I agree with Andy,

    except that I haven't figured out the cartoon yet . . .

  4. seydltz,

    Those two avoirdupois reps are our neighbors (on every street). They see no conflict in huffing the Cheetoes and Pepsi and offering platitudes while a small number of their ostensible brethren (so they are told on Sunday) lay it on the line every day.

    They clad themselves in red, white and blue and feel very vindicated.

  5. Not only that, Lisa, they still have jobs and can afford to take that summer vacation on the pristine shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

    oh, ooops.

    Jon Stewart, I've never seen him so pissed off.


  6. These people do not lead nor do they produce anything of value. (The last Democrat who did was peanut farmer Carter, himself a millionaire.

    There are a good number of Dems ( would appreciate knowing what you Floridians think of Grayson ) who are in gov't for the public good, but there aren't enough of them.

    It would be nice to have such a Dem in the White House as well.

    I'm watching the news about Elizabeth Warren, I think she's the best fit for this Consumer Protection Agency.

    If she's not installed, I'm giving Obama the boot. Metaphorically speaking, of course.


  7. The loss of the genuine populists in government truly saddens and sickens me. At least the GOP doesn't even pretend anymore; it's the Party of the Two-Yacht Family and if you're looking for a Fanfare for the Common Man you might as well keep on going down the street.

    The Dems were SUPPOSED to be our "Labor Party", our socialists, the people who were concerned about the "regular guy". This just reminds us the degree to which a huge proportion of our ruling class, regardless of the sign on the door, really has crossed the moat to join the aristos inside the castle and left the peasantry behind in the mire. And Monty Python said: "'Ow can you tell 'e's a king?"

    "'E ain't got shit all over him,"

  8. There is a funny thing about money and you can run your fingers through...yes, fan the bills, flip the coins, roll them over your fingers.
    Tangible, fungible, and quite valuable considering we spend our lives scrabbling for a few "guinea's, eh mate!"
    Empathy, now that is something one can just throw down on the table, and never know a penny cost to the emotion.
    Sure, words produce a stereophonic technicolor collage of images that leave the listener assembling the pieces to interpret the puzzle in a coherent manner that seems appropriate to them, never once pondering whether the speaker ever meant the way the listener interpreted the sound.
    But we're human, and so we're prone to give license to our biases with the slight possibility that somewhere we're right in our assumption...disregarding all those other times where we were completely, and embarrassingly wrong.
    So yes, we may think the rich are crass assholes with no heart, gallivanting all over the world doing what the rich always do, and they certainly didn't get there on their own two feet, or made their wealth with their own two, there was a whole army of people, which we'll ostensibly call rungs on the ladder of opulence who did their part...and got their share.

    You see, the money you hold in your wallet...that you trade those colored pieces of paper with each's completely and totally only holds its value if someone else values it, and we all seem to value it else we'd all be living a far more relaxed life...anyone doing that yet?

    Sure, we can say, "well, this one hundred dollar bill is backed by the gold of the US Treasury" which really sounds cool, false, but cool nonetheless.
    Really, that one hundred dollar bill is as valuable as the one dollar bill, but because we, as a collective group, have assigned values to those cute little pieces of clever art on the paper...they have some kind of value to us, hence, we are party to the reign of wealth in our nation.

    So when you come down to the reality of this whole disparity, it helps to remember that even though paper and metal is tangible, it really is only valuable if the collective deems it's value...but empathy...empathy has a value that requires us to show an effort of concern...even if we think that the speaker is just a buffoon, it could be our biases at work, but still, it has a value we should come to be thankful of...even for the effort of the moment.

    Because that is what you all should be grousing about...not the extravagant display of wealth, which we are party too, but rather a token of empathy...even from two very over stuffed flower shirts in an is at the least a moments feeling of empathy for the calamity that we, as a nation, have embarked on freely with our treasure of flesh and blood.

    Nothing wrong with isn't worth a penny, but certainly is worth the moment it was given in.

  9. Ranger et al,

    Like Andy, I could not agree more with the post and what's written here. I chalk up much of the current sad situation to the nearly complete decoupling of the elites from the commoners; and most importantly, the elites from even their own traditions of service to the whole of society for their own glory (if not only to mollify the masses enough to keep their heads).

    I blame Reagan, the Prosperity Jesus I keep hearing about, and of course, Gordon Gecko. I pray that its a generation thing, a sickness of the uber-privileged and obviously spoiled boomer kids (now in their peak of their political and economic power). At least then, it may be cyclical and we are not doomed to ever narrowing group of elites and ever widening numbers of the dispossessed and hopeless. Many of today's kids sustain that hope. But, we're going to need more than hope. Right now, we need a "class traitor" to make the elites swallow the bitter medicine of sharing.

    Just listen to the fevered discussion about expiring tax cuts. Millions unemployed and many without a dime while skinflints and craven politicians block action to aid the suffering. No doubt when the time comes to pass laws aimed at preserving ill gotten gains via lower tax rates, it will sail through like greens in a goose.

    Meanwhile, Section 60 will continue to fill up with those kids who hoped to change themselves and their country. And the cheeto huffers will remain proud of number 3 (or is it number 88)?



  10. SP: You nail something which has been concerning me for a while now, and that's the lack of anything or anyone representing the FDR sort of populist elite.

    When you think about it, we've sorta been here before, when the rise of the robber barons and the 19th Century business elites combined with some of the old landed gentry to fight the efforts of the huddled masses to do things like join unions and agitate for voting rights. We were lucky that time; a combination of events and people, culminating with the Great Depression, beat the aristos back inside the moat for several generations. From 1930 to 1950 Republican was a dirty word to most working people.

    The difference, I think, is that there was a substantial group of the wealthy and "well-born" willing to cross the street and join the picket line, so to speak. Pols like the FDR Democrats, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie...the creation of the middle class, and particularly the elevation of the pay and conditions of the working class so that they aspired to middle class mores and values...without those guys, I don't think it would have happened.

    Look around you now. Where are the elites leading the charge to root out the Bushite slime? Where are the elites who are openly populist, openly demanding a New New Deal to roll back the great transfer of wealth that has been taking place since 1980?

    Nowhere. That class of people, the "Rockefeller Republicans", the out-and-out liberal elites? Dead as the dodo, man.

    And I'm not sure that the American public can stand against the oligarchism we're seeing without them.

  11. Sheerahkhan,
    The thing about the Clinton wedding was that i was struck with the following-BILL NO LONGER FEELS OUR PAIN.
    Guys like Limbaugh do the same , but we don't expect him to feel anything , since he can get any painkiller he requires.

  12. sheerah says,

    "Because that is what you all should be grousing about...not the extravagant display of wealth, which we are party too, but rather a token of empathy"

    What we are saying is, there is a connection between the flagrant tossing about of the lucre (paper that it is) and the lack of empathy. Time and place. It denotes arrogance, insensitivity, superiority ... it is just gross. It is the tactless behavior of the nouveau riches.

    Empathy is fellow-feeling, and even though most politicians (people?) are probably more akin to lizards, in a time when soldiers are being killed, subdued behavior should be the tenor of the day. This is not Disneyworld, and leaders should not put on the somber face when talking of the war, then larf it up on an extravagant holiday.

    IMHO, that is the price of being a leader: When your peeps are not doing well (and your peeps are the nation), you reflect that concern in your behavior.

    Or, to borrow from Sam & Dave, when something's wrong with my baby, something's wrong with me...


    Thanks for the Jon Stewart. Fascinating phenomena that our outrage must be mediated by such people. I mean, thank God for him, but he is like a preacher at a mega-church: Once he vicariously expends our energy, we walk away calm again.

  13. Chief,

    The one big difference between today and the pre-depression era is the size and influence of government. To put it simplistically, the oligarchs back then succeeded because there were few checks on private enterprise which allowed monopolies and oligarchs to form. Unions along with additional government controls put in the checks that.

    Today, the situation is different. Oligarchs use government as a means to maintain their positions and reduce competition. Look at the revolving door between big business and government. Unions, thanks to anti-trust, tax and other exemptions, are legal monopolies and now represent more public workers than private. The benefits of doing so are obvious. In some cases they've been so successful at influencing policy that they've been able to get benefits for public workers written into state constitutions. I think the days are gone when unions were there to fight for the little guy. For the most part they are enablers and acting like all monopolists do.

    Also, consider banking as an example. The super-banks like Bank of America are given legal sanction to socialize losses and privatize profits while small and regional banks are shuttered on an almost daily basis. We're seeing consolidation in the banking industry and I think it's likely the recently passed regulations will only increase that trend. Same with health care since the big players not only enjoy economies of scale, but also substantial regulatory influence that smaller players can't match. Same with many other industries. It's not lost on CEO's and corporate boards that size and regulatory capture is good method to hedge against risky business practices - the evidence on that score is clear. All these advantages over small and medium business are overwhelming. Neither party seems much interested in addressing that problem by ending all the benefits big government provides big business. Quite the opposite in fact.

    It also seems to me that size and the cozy relationship between government, big business and unions stifles investment and innovation, which is the basis for economic growth and job creation. We haven't had adequate business investment for a long time.

    I don't know how all this is going to work out, but I'm not very hopeful. As I've said before, I tend to think there will be a crisis before we get substantive change.

  14. We have devolved into a society that is really everyone out for him/herself, rather than a real sense of ensuring the collective well being. Thus, those with the most toys will continue to have more and more toys. And, like little children, the electorate will vote for the one offering the most free toys.

    The head of the Air Transport Association captured it beautifully in a recent comment to Congress on the ever increasing number of "fees" for what was once included in the price of an airline ticket. He said that we have reached the true state of the purpose of deregulation - which was that no passenger should subsidize the fare of another passenger. Initially, this only pertained to the general pricing of one route versus another. Well, carrying that to it's logical conclusion, now no passenger has to subsidize the meal, baggage, boarding priority or any other service another passenger receives. You get exactly what you pay for and no more. Nor do you pay for any "service" you don't elect to use. So why should people bitch about being offered choice?

    Americans haven't learned to be careful of what they wish for.

  15. Lisa-

    Thanks for the explanation. I thought it a bit something else.

    As to the title of this post? Just as the other comments have stated . . . you play the game you take your chances. It's just that it appears someone has changed the rules. Where exactly did that come from and when?

    I find this thread very similar to the last on defining "patriotism", what do you think?

  16. But Andy, the period between the 1870s and 1929 were, if anything, worse in regard to the degree to which the oligarchy ran the government. When William Vanderbilt could say "The public be damned" and not just mean it but be capable of making it happen, then you have to cut our time period some slack - at least the titans of industry have to pretend to give a tenth of a nanoshit about the sufferings of the workers that they defenstrate. Back then? Fuck the "little man" was the outspoken creed of the robber barons, the trustifarians, and their bought-and-paid-for pols.

    But...mixed in with this lot were some of the elites who still clung to the remnants of some sort of feudal , social conscience, work ethic...something. They were fairly critical, because by themselves the socialists, unionists, muckrakers, and "good government" types wouldn't have been able to get a toehold inside the Capitol any more than they can now.

    The Roosevelts and the people like them were perfectly aware of their social "superiority". But they deliberately chose to work against the mean, short-sighted version of their "best interests", believing that a country with a well-established, confident middle class would resist the real horrors of anarchism, communist and fascist dictatorships. They weren't some sort of woo-woo hippies; they had taken a cold look at the prospects that awaited a rapaciously capitalist system that kicked the workers so hard that even violent rebellion looked good.

    Our present oligarchs seem incapable of the same breadth of vision. Sadly, I have no confidence in some sort of restorative "crisis". I think that we will take the long slide into oligarchic decline without a whimper.

  17. Ran across this today. I think it's pretty good despite a few disagreements. At least it's nice to see we're not the only people talking about this.

  18. Referring to "Rockefeller Republicans" is a telling comment. Once upon a time, people of means and power served in government to make a contribution. Rocky is but one example.

    Today, people seek political office to acquire personal means and power - to gain personal advantage. Consequently, they must take from others to get what they do not already have.

    Totally different underlying motivation.

  19. I agree with you Andy that having Billionaires give away half of their wealth is a good idea. The odd thing is that some super-greedy people whose blogs I glance at also approve.

    They maintain that these individuals are officially giving up their wealth but will maintain access to it somehow and avoid paying any taxes on it. When some of their readers suggested that this really was what it looked like on the surface, a generous and civic-minded gesture, they literally laughed the people off the website, maintaining that no rational human being would ever do such a thing.

    I hope they are wrong but fear they may be right about some individuals, Social Darwinism is very much in vogue right now in certain circles.

  20. Chief:

    The Dems were SUPPOSED to be our "Labor Party", our socialists, the people who were concerned about the "regular guy".

    What's your opinion about this guy?



    One of the side effects of The Netroots Nation convention was a blizzard of buttons, pocket-sized cards, pamphlets, 8.5×11 paper manifestos, leaflets, and broadsides, and a few magazines. One of those magazines was Tikkun’s July/August 2010 issue, featuring a cover story proclaiming "Queer Spirituality and Politics: Why Gay Rights is a Religious Issue," by Jay Michaelson. The feature article was, no doubt, the motivation for distributing dozens of free copies of this issue. But hidden inside are two other important articles that need our attention: The Second American Revolution, A review of Ralph Nader’s new book, Only the Super-Rich can Save Us!, by Charles Derber, and Barry Schwartz’s review, Prophetic Courage in an Imperial Age, of a book on Jeremiah.

    Derber observed that:


  22. "What you folks need . . . . . is a hero!"

    Disney's animated version "Hercules".

    I still have my Max H. plastic cup.

    Something else retained for the U.S. series (and much to its benefit) was a good portion of the original British production and writing team. As I’ve been working my way through the episodes over the past week, it amazes me how truly subversive the show was for U.S. network television; especially with its strident (and unapologetically leftist) anti-corporatist, anti-consumerist message. With hindsight being 20/20, it’s not so surprising that it was yanked after one season. Sad as it is for me to say, you would just never see a show like this on American television now that so dared to challenge the status quo (the The X-Files had its moments, but cloaked them in horror-show silliness, more often than not). Some of the storylines are also quite prescient, including the advent of social networking, cyber-crime, and the inevitable merging of the technocracy with the idiocracy (which any casual perusal of YouTube will confirm). Perhaps what resonates most significantly in hindsight is the show’s depiction of news as infotainment and an insidiously corporatized media (still dismissible as paranoid fantasy 23 years ago). Worth ch-ch-ch-checking out.



    It's an ongoing disgrace that anyone linked to or responsible for the policies and decisions that led to this human misery and national reversal of fortune is allowed anywhere near a job in DC, much less rewarded with reappointment. This blog has been sympathetic to Obama in the past, mainly with regard to the alternative in November 2008. And it's clear he inherited an economic collapse in progress. But for obstinately retaining Bernanke, Summers and Geithner, a trio the public associates with the failed or unpopular policies of the past -- and in Bernanke's case, the one policymaker aside from Alan Greenspan most responsible for the devastation -- Obama deserves both the increasing blame he's getting for the economy and the widespread skepticism that financial reform will change anything.


  24. A few points:

    Billionaires "giving away" all or some of their money promotes the system as it exists, does not question it or really improve the overall condition. European history is full of local nobles who shared some of their wealth with the serfs, but that never called feudalism into question or really improved the lot of the serfs.

    I find this topic linked closely with the previous thread on patriotism. The rough consensus on that thread was that patriotism was hypocrisy of some sort, so here we are again.

    I didn't define patriotism on that thread since I wasn't sure exactly what my definition was. Al's last comment contained part of what I hoped to bring across.

    To be continued.

  25. "Billionaires "giving away" all or some of their money promotes the system as it exists, does not question it or really improve the overall condition."

    Seydlitz points out exactly what I was groping towards.

    I'll go out on a limb here and speculate. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries there were some very powerful liberalizing, socializing ideas that seem to have captured a substantial enough portion of the wealthy elite to have made an impact. Some, I suspect, was the impact of "christian socialism", religion acting as a spur not towards mere charity but as motivation to change an unequal and, in many cases, clearly harsh and unfair system. Another factor may well have been the social pressure of the "good master" ideal, pushing the nobles towards acting for changes to improve the lot of "their people", whether it was landlords to tenants or industrialists toward workers. And then there was the "bad examples"; the threat of Red or Black terror pushing the oligarchs towards liberalism to avoid the even worse bogeymen of the Left.

    Jump forward 100 years. Christianity has lost much of its force as a liberalizing instrument; at least as many foursquare, evangelical, and other fundamentalist churches push the idea of rendering to God that which is Caesar's; of the idea of the "undeserving poor", prosperity gospels and such trash.

    The older feudal bonds have broken, if they ever were a real factor. It's Gordon Gecko time, every rich man for himself and the devil take the poor hindmost.

    And the boogeymen of the Left, the Reds and the Anarchists, are gone. Who's afraid of those Big, Bad Wolves anymore?

    And the past 30 years have been filled with the noise of the drums of the Tribe of Ronnie, beating out their insistent tattoo of growth, wealth, low taxes, and the abandonment of the public square...

    So I'm with seydlitz - these eleemosynary billionaires are a nice gesture, but only that. The defenestration of the middle class continues, and the oligarchy has nothing to fear anymore...

  26. Agreed -- the actions of the eensy cadre of eleemosynary billionaires is merely gestural.

    As Al said, the motivations of the political class have shifted. "The defenestration of the middle class continues, and the oligarchy has nothing to fear anymore..." Innovation and progress will not occur when tension of the dialectic is much reduced.

  27. "As Al said, the motivations of the political class have shifted. "The defenestration of the middle class continues, and the oligarchy has nothing to fear anymore..." Innovation and progress will not occur when tension of the dialectic is much reduced."

    As I think about it, I'm not sure if one would say that the "motivations of the political class have shifted" as much as I would offer that political service is attracting a different class of people, who have different motives.

    Do the masses like Palin, Limbaugh and company because they are stupid, like the masses, or because the masses fell elevated by agreeing with the stupid who have achieved star status though stupidity? Is the a "chicken or egg" issue here?

    Feel lucky about the space limitations here, or I could go on forever. I am an observant practitioner of a religious faith. Our faith stresses that the task is to make ourselves relevant to our God, in terms of His desires. It's a joyful faith, as those desires are based on love of God and fellow man.

    What sells in the US are the contemporary denominations that make God relevant to man, in terms of man's desires - love of self. Whether or not one buys into religion, intellectually, one has to wonder about a "Supreme Being's" supremacy if he or she is concerned with sucking up to his or her subordinates' selfish desires.

    Such is indicative of the direction of American culture. If the Supreme Being's purpose is to cater to my selfish desires, should not government and neighbor, far lesser creatures, exist for the same egocentric purposes? If the pulpit can be corrupted to cater to sell to selfishness, what's left?

    And so, the oligarchs thrive by simply catering to the electorate's ego driven stupidity. There is no "crisis" to an egocentric person until it effects him personally.

  28. It seem we have at least a couple of hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliacs in our community.



  29. Al,

    Yes, this could engender a lengthy discussion.

    Yes, to a large degree public service is attracting those with different motives, and as you say the electorate has changed -- the fokways and mores -- so by necessity, they too have changed.

    Everything and everyone in power panders to its constituent audience, and that audience is now self-focused to an extreme degree. Their religion tells them this is good, and Prosperity Gospel tells them God wants them to be flush. Forget about that guy Jesus who said to sell all your earthly belongings. (Must've been too much wine that night. Then again, the Southern Baptists think it was only grape juice.)

    We pay homage to the God of the Marketplace, the summation of the former diety.

    "There is no 'crisis' to an egocentric person until it effects him personally." As always. Perhaps we have always been a grubby little "me and mine" bunch, save for some brief shining moments of enlightenment.

    Everything assaulting us daily serves to elevate the petty tyrant in us all: How could we imagine to live a life in any other way? For most, the alternatives are capitalistic maximization, eking out survival, or at the far end, a Mother Theresa life of abstinence.


    You're not calling me a hippo, are you?!?

  30. Hippie maybie, but Hippo certainly not.

    With Chief and Jim, bb might get shot.