"The blog has made Glab into a hip town crier, commenting on everything from local politics and cultural happenings to national and international events, all rendered in a colorful, intelligent, working-class vernacular that owes some of its style to Glab’s Chicago-hometown heroes Studs Terkel and Mike Royko." — David Brent Johnson in Bloom Magazine
Fran Lebowitz once described the strife in Northern Ireland as history’s greatest nag. I believe she wrote that line in her book, Metropolitan Life.
I’ll agree with her to an extent: The Troubles, as they’re known in that neck of the woods, are rivaled and in recent decades have been surpassed in producing frustration around the globe by the Arab/Israeli feud. It’s worth noting that both squabbles are rooted in religion.
Scene From 2013 Belfast Riot
When all is said and done, after all the combatants have railed on and on and on and on about injustice, tyranny, chaos, violence, revenge, and many other horrors that, oddly enough, feature predominantly in most of the world’s religions’ charter documents, both fights are built upon a foundation of the belief that the son of a bitch over there worships god in the wrong way.
Because, you know, the omnipotent creator of the Universe needs to have his ego stroked in just the right way or else all hell’s gonna break loose.
I have friends and acquaintances rooting for both sides of the mess in the Middle East. I read and listen to their theses and am struck by how eloquent they are in describing their respective enemies as bloodthirsty beasts. All of them make compelling cases for their willingness to lob missiles at each other or park car bombs next to the other side’s elementary schools.
My God’s Better Than Yours — Gaza, 2014
This holy land likes to place itself in the middle of these internecine hubbubs. Americans of Irish ancestry for the last half century or so have thrown scads of money at the Catholic side in No. Ire. Christians and Jews, of course, are four-square behind Israel while Arabs in America, by and large, sympathize with the Palestinians. Each side has a strong lobby, prowling the halls of Congress and donating cash to countless political candidates.
“We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and ‘success,’ defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.” — Chris Hedges
A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE
A hearty hat tip to Bloomington novelist Julia Karr, who posted the above quote on her Facebook page.
According to Hedges’ criteria, laid out so clearly and forcefully, this holy land has condemned itself to death. I’ll go one step further: it’s already dead.
We’re dead. We just don’t know it yet.
Here Lie Us
We thought we were smart and superior when Soviet communism deservedly died. But as Fran Lebowitz so aptly put it, “In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.”
The making of scads of dough became this nation’s — and most of the world’s — one and only pursuit.
Home ownership? Hell, that wasn’t about putting down roots, becoming part of a community, creating a stable base for your kids, or any of that old fashioned silliness anymore. It was about serial buying and selling so everyone could make a quick buck.
Saving and investing? Not about prudent management of assets nor about slow and steady growth for the future. Hah! How quaint!
College education? Honestly, how many people in these Great United States, Inc. want their kids to go to a university to become a rational, analytical thinker? How many dream that a college degree just might make their young-un a better human being?
I Am Gonna Be So Rich
I once was involved in a discussion with recent college grad and his dad. I won’t reveal who they were because I’m hoping daddy-o regrets his tone and philosophy. Suffice it to say the three of us knew each other extremely well.
The kid was trying to figure out what to do with himself now that he had a bachelor’s degree in business. Pops was giving him the fish eye because it didn’t seem as though the kid was banging down any doors trying to get a job.
The truth was, the kid really had no idea what to do.
So, silly me, I figured the kid ought to pursue employment in some field that might, you know, bring him a little happiness in his life. I said, “The first thing you have to do is ask yourself, ‘What do I love?'”
What Should I Do With My Life?
Oh, daddy-o nearly popped a neck vein.
“What the hell are you feeding him that kind of shit for?” he demanded.
See, by the time this exchange took place, the concepts of happiness and fulfillment not only were quaint — they were downright dangerous.
Anyway, Hedges is saying what I’ve ranted about in these precincts time and again.
A college education should be a good thing in and of itself, not just because it’ll bear you well as you climb the corporate Jacobian ladder. It broadens your horizons. It opens your mind. It exposes you to the world and the world to you. It helps you learn to think rather than react, to listen rather than spew, to realize that what you’re sure of today might not be what you believe tomorrow.
How quaint. How dangerous.
Does it strike you as odd that guys who challenge capitalism’s alpha male set-up seem to get nailed on sex-related criminal charges more often than the average bear?
John Edwards. Julian Assange. Elliot Spitzer. Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Those are just four very, very high profile cases in the last couple of years.
Now, the truth is all four could be as guilty as sin. DSK, for one, has a rough and tumble sexual rep. And Spitzer really did meet with prostitutes in that Washington hotel room.
DSK May Be Warped — But…, But….
Still, I feel sort of itchy about the whole thing.
Is it that guys who see the inherent flaws in the world’s dominant economic system are unusually prone to sexual peccadilloes and transgressions? Even more so than guys whose lives are dedicated to climbing over piles of average citizens to reach an obscene pinnacle of power and wealth?
Or could there be a chance that when guys like Spitzer sniff around places they’re not supposed to go and start telling the public precisely how they’re being sodomized by the plutocracy, the sharp knives of the system get pointed at them?
Maybe I’m just imagining things. Or maybe not.
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THE WORLD IS A GHETTO
War was the very first group I ever saw in concert. They led off for Parliament at Chicago’s old International Amphitheater back in 1973. I’m fairly sure of the year.
My pal Whitey and I took a couple of multi-bus, hour-and-a-half rides to and from the Amphitheater that night. We didn’t get home until around 3:00am.
Funny my partner should have been nicknamed Whitey — we were among the very few white guys in the place. Oh, and the reek of pot — we couldn’t believe our noses!
Naturally, we had to stop off at Maxwell Street Polish for a couple of dogs smothered in grilled onions after we left.
“In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.” — Fran Lebowitz (h/t to RE Paris)
GOOD RIDDANCE, ANDREW BREITBART
“I’ve never killed a man but I’ve read several obituaries with glee.” — Mark Twain
Andrew Breitbart is dead. The Earth is now a better place.
Like Twain, I don’t care much for gloating when a bad guy dies but in this case, Whoopee!
Gone, Baby, Gone
Breitbart was a character assassin, an amoral ideologue, an agent provocateur, and, well, a dick of the highest order.
Here’s the difference between a warthog like Breitbart and a human being of decency. When Shirley Sherrod heard about his death, she said, “The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope during this very difficult time.”
Sherrod: A Gracious Victim
This from a woman whose career serving in government was derailed by a phony-assed, maliciously edited video produced by none other than Mr. Breitbart.
And speaking of phony-assed, maliciously edited videos, it was Breitbart’s airing of the ACORN footage that led to that social service organization’s eventual bankruptcy and demise. Nice work, Andy-baby, pissing on all those folks who need food, housing, and legal services for your own professional advancement.
Naturally, the Republican candidates for president are mourning his passing as though a great public servant is gone from the scene. Rick Santorum calls his death a “huge loss, in my opinion, to our country.” Mitt Romney remembers him as a “loving husband and father.”
“Aw, He Was Such A Nice Guy.”
Reminds me of when any notorious Outfit boss kicked the bucket back in Chicago. No matter that he’d been responsible for corrupting labor unions, forcing the Mob’s way into legitimate businesses, and murdering loan sharks, recalcitrant shopkeepers and potential witnesses, his neighbors would say he was such a nice guy and a real fine family man.
Hey, people, even A. Hitler was kind to his dog Blondi. That doesn’t excuse him for his evil acts.
Anyway, Breitbart — though not Hitler or a capo, but profoundly destructive in his own way — joins such luminaries as J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, Curtis LeMay, and Lee Atwater in the pantheon of dead evil Americans.
It’s irrelevant that he was “a loving husband and father.”
“Welcome To Hell, Andy!”
PAYING THE PIPER
Now that Mayor Mark Kruzan doesn’t have to worry about reelection for a while, he can level with Bloomington voters about the state of the city’s finances.
They ain’t good.
Kasey Husk of the Herald Times reports this morning that Kruzan says there are “dark clouds on the horizon” for us.
Potential Cover Shot For Bloomington’s Annual Financial Report
The reason Kruzan waited until now to drop the bomb on us, apparently, is the potential that voters could have blamed him for the economic mess we’re in. That would have been stupid, of course, but then again no one ever accused the electorate, either here or nationally, of being remarkably brilliant.
Smart Enough To Know We’re Not All That Smart
Hell, an entire major political party is fired up by proud anti-intellectualism. (I won’t even link to that party — you can guess which one I mean.)
So no, the city’s empty pockets aren’t Kruzan’s fault.
But we know where the blame primarily lies — all those clever, conniving, duplicitous investment banking house unindicted felons who played our economy for hundred of billions of dollars in fees and bonuses and left it dry.
Check out Michael Lewis’s book, “Liar’s Poker” for an early snapshot of the unregulated, greenback-worshipping, hyenas that populated Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street money-squeezers back in the mid- and late-80s.
Not a one of those reprobates has ever served a minute in jail. Yet guys like Mark Kruzan have to worry that voters may turn on them because of the sins of Wall Street.
We can only hope there is a hell so that Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the rest of their aiders and abettors can join Andrew Breitbart in it.
IT’S ALL RELATIVE
With Russia’s presidential election three days away and Vladimir Putin looking like a shoo-in, we’re being inundated by news stories and commentary about what a despot the former KGB spook is. Deep thinkers are howling about how un-democratic the supposedly-now-democratic heart of the former Soviet Union is.
No doubt Putin’s goons have had “meetings” with dissenting journalists, his spies have added a dash of “strychnine” to the soup of neighboring pols or fed polonium pellets to expat whistle blowers, and his PR flacks are hard at work manipulating the minds of Russian couch potatoes.
That’s all true. Plus, Putin is such a charismatic tough guy that when he met the notoriously untraveled George W. Bush, this holy land’s president-at-the-time tumbled into a deep man-crush over him.
Yesterday, though, I caught another side of the story. Former IU writing professor Erlene Stetson and her husband visit us at the Book Corner nearly every day when they’re in town. Her husband was born in Germany and they keep homes in both countries.
The husband — whose name I never catch because we start talking about world events and history immediately, leaving little time for idle chit-chat and social niceties, so let’s call him Mr. Stetson — started ruminating about Putin and Russia.
“It is amazing,” Mr. Stetson said, “how things have changed in Russia.”
He was talking about the Russia of today vis-a-vis that of such sweethearts as Joseph Stalin and his successors.
Mr. Stetson pointed out that even if the Russian press and TV outlets are manipulated and intimidated now and again, they’re still a hundred-fold freer than the old state media apparatus was under the Communist General Secretaries.
He also says the recent mass protests against Putin and Russian voter fraud would never, ever have been tolerated in the Soviet days.
Eastern Europeans of a certain generation view the new Russia in a state of near-awe these days, according to Mr. Stetson. Not that they envy Muscovites and the like, just that the relative relaxation of traditional Russian authoritarianism is so jarring in comparison to the bad old days.
Of course, it’s easy to look good when the object of comparison is a tyranny that, under Stalin, murdered tens of millions of people to maintain discipline, advance ideology, and just for the fun of it.
This reminds me of revisionist historians who decry the so-called Fathers of Our Country for owning slaves and treating women as decorative appendages.
White men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did indeed “own” human beings, including their lovely brides.
Viewed through today’s lens, Washington and Jefferson appear to be monsters.
In their own day, though, the framers of the US Constitution were the most progressive thinkers on the face of the Earth. They eschewed divine authority and legislated nobility out of existence. Yes, the only US citizens that counted were white male land-owners.
But that was a hell of a leap forward from previous social set-ups. We’ve been taking leaps in fits and starts ever since.
As the late, astute Molly Ivins once wrote, “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”
“The Lord” and Money — perhaps this should be our national anthem.