Societies worldwide are suffering epidemics of mental illness because “human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart,” writes George Monbiot at The Guardian.
“Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.” The consequence? “[P]lagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness.”
Yes, this will no doubt offend. The carnage on the street has got to stop.
Matt Tiabbi on why the Pope’s environmental message is making many conservatives angry:
That the pope’s letter inspires such hysterical stupidities speaks to how deeply upsetting it must be to our guardians of mainstream opinion. But what exactly has all of these people so upset?
To me, all of this speaks to the weirdly cultist, neo-Randian, Road to Serfdom vibe that is increasingly swallowing up the American cultural and intellectual mainstream.
Capitalism and competition aren’t merely thought of as utilitarian systems for delivering goods and services to people anymore. To people like Brooks and Rand Paul and Charles Murray (also known as Jeb Bush’s favorite author), the free market is also a sort of religion that can address every important human question.
We used to think of wealth and spirituality as being two completely separate things. But in the minds of some in modern America, they’re becoming fused. The way Brooks and others clearly imagine it, one achieves wealth first, then dignity follows behind. We’re losing the ability to imagine a dignified life without money. Which is pretty messed up.
In the past, it was completely natural for a religious leader like a pope to suggest that our economic system leaves important spiritual questions unanswered. After all, that’s what religion was supposed to be for, addressing the non-material parts of our lives. But in modern times, this idea offends many people.
Hence this bizarre wave of criticism directed against an elderly cleric in a funny hat who is being blasted for being impractical, unrealistic and insufficiently appreciative of the material, despite the fact that it’s precisely a pope’s job to be all of these things.
I’m not religious, and I’m not particularly a Luddite or an anti-capitalist. But I’m open to the idea that there should be something else in life beyond money, or that we may be losing something important when we communicate by clicks and drags instead of face-to-face meetings. Is that really such revolutionary thinking, especially coming from a pope? It seems like such a strange thing to get angry about.
Here’s where free market fundamentalism leads us: dulled consciences and oppression of those on the brink of homelessness.
From the U.K. Guardian:
Some of the richest people in the US, including billionaires Warren Buffett and Sam Zell, have made millions from trailer parks at the expense of the country’s poorest people. Seeing their success, ordinary people from across the country are now trying to follow in their footsteps and become trailer park millionaires. The Guardian went to Orlando to learn the tricks of the trade from Frank Rolfe, the self-appointed dean of Mobile Home University, as he led would-be investors around a trailer park for sex offenders.
From Free Press, the Comcast-Time-Warner Cable merger will be bad for you.
Free Press research shows that the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger would create a media behemoth with unmatched power to raise prices, squash competition and reshape the future of the Internet. If the merger is approved, all kinds of bad stuff will happen. (Click the thumbnails in the article (here, here and here) to get the full scoop.) First off, Comcast will be the largest pay-TV provider in 104 markets encompassing 65 percent of the U.S. population. Wait, it gets worse: Comcast’s service area will cover almost two-thirds of the U.S., and it will be the only broadband provider that can deliver Internet and pay-TV services to nearly four out of every 10 U.S. homes. (See the company’s reach.) And to top it all off Comcast will control half of the truly high-speed U.S. Internet market, half of the TV/Internet-bundle market and a third of the pay-TV market.
Here are some more positions he took (this list is from the Office of Bernie Sanders):
Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:
“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
“We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
“We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
“We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”
I often think of the two main competing metaphors regarding the economy as this: Do we want a jungle or a garden? Many conservatives and libertarians insist we should just get out of the way and let amazing things happen. That is not my experience.
I would add that the rigged free market has brought us marvels like the invasion of Iraq, where the American fossil fuel industry and the military industrial complex hijacked the American decision-making process. Corrupted government at its best, and the American media has moved on, as though that illegal war was a success.
As usual, Florida is still undecided, a mess. According to NPR, though, it is leaning heavily toward Obama, despite the shenanigans of the state GOP in suppressing the vote.
I didn’t watch last night. Couldn’t. We went to bed early.
But then Donna got up around midnight and woke me by a whoop of joy that I briefly mistook for anguish.
To my small surprise and relief, Obama won.
I will not miss the constant electioneering, the radio ads, the tv spots, the slick mailers. I will not miss keeping still in mixed groups about my politics (something I am not good at, but this election cycle it feels more like holy war than an election). I will not miss wincing every time some politician opens his or her mouth and nonsense spills out. (This is, of course, normal, but during presidential years it feels much, much worse.) I will not miss…
Anyway, the election came out partially the way I expected, in those moments when I felt calm enough to think rationally. Rationality seemed in short supply this year and mine was sorely tasked. So now, I sit here sorting through my reactions, trying to come up with something cogent to say.
I am disappointed the House is still Republican, but it seems a number of the Tea Party robots from 2010 lost their seats, so maybe the temperature in chambers will drop a degree or two and some business may get done.
Gary Johnson, running as a Libertarian, pulled 350,000 votes as of nine last night. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, got around 100,000. (Randall Terry received 8700 votes, a fact that both reassures me and gives me shivers—there are people who will actually vote for him?)
Combined, the independent candidates made virtually no difference nationally. Which is a shame, really. I’ve read both Stein’s and Johnson’s platforms and both of them are willing to address the problems in the system. Johnson is the least realistic of the two and I like a lot of the Green Party platform.
More . . .
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone points out the lessons Americans have seen as a result of Hurricane Sandy:
The point is, we will end up with a big government no matter who wins next week’s election, because neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is supported by a coalition that has any interest in tightening its own belt. The only reason we’re having this phony big-versus-small argument is because of yet another longstanding media deception, i.e. that the only people who actually receive government aid are the poor and the elderly and other such traditional “welfare”-seekers. Thus a politician who is in favor of cutting services to that particular crowd, like Mitt Romney, is inevitably described as favoring “small government,” no matter what his spending plans are for everybody else.
But everyone lives off the government teat to some degree – even (one might even say especially) the very rich who have been the core supporters of both the Bush presidency and Romney’s campaign. Many are industrial leaders who would revolt tomorrow if their giant free R&D program known as the federal military budget were to be scaled back even a few percentage points. Mitt’s buddies on Wall Street would cry without their bailouts and dozens of lucrative little-known subsidies (like the preposterous ability of certain banks to act as middlemen in transactions when the government lends money to itself).
And if it’s not outright bailouts or guarantees keeping the rich rich, it’s selective regulation and carefully-carved-out protections from competition – like the bans on drug re-importation or pharmaceutical price negotiation for Medicare that are keeping the drug companies far richer than they would be, in the pure free-market paradise their CEOs probably espouse at dinner parties.