Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.
After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”
Whatever happened to the American dream? Did it ever exist in reality?
We baby boomers can look back to the post-WWII years, when the economy was humming along and the GI Bill made it easier for our dads to get college degrees, find good jobs, buy houses for their families.
In those days, one salary was enough to support a couple and several kids. My dad did it on a college professor’s salary. It was a struggle early on, but those government programs for veterans gave us a push into the professional class.
Eisenhower was President then–a Republican who wouldn’t even recognize his fellow Republican today. Later on, after John Kennedy was murdered and Lyndon Johnson was brought down by the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon presided over the end of the good times. After about 1973, it was over; and since then, wages have essentially remained stagnant.
That was when we entered a new America, in which it took two salaries to support a family. Women went to work, not just because they wanted to, but to keep their families afloat. Children went to day care. So many thing changed. What happened to the American dream? Were those post-war years just an outlier, a brief period of prosperity that meant nothing in the greater scheme of things?
Yesterday, I read a piece by Joseph Stiglitz–in Politico of all places–that addressed some of these questions: The Myth of America’s Golden Age: What growing up in Gary, Indiana taught me about inequality. Stiglitz was born in 1943. Growing up in the industrial “company town” of Gary, he was able to observe the underside of the “golden age” of capitalism–“discrimination, poverty, and bouts of high unemployment.” The big steel companies deliberate brought in desperately poor African Americans from the south in order to keep wages low–to divide and control the work force. Stiglitz writes that he never bought into the notion of the free market as the answer to all ills.
Nearly half a century later, the problem of inequality has reached crisis proportions. John F. Kennedy, in the spirit of optimism that prevailed at the time I was a college student, once declared that a rising tide lifts all boats. It turns out today that almost all of us now are in the same boat—the one that holds the bottom 99 percent. It is a far different boat, one marked by more poverty at the bottom and a hollowing out of the middle class, than the one occupied by the top 1 percent.
Most disturbing is the realization that the American dream–the notion that we are living in the land of opportunity–is a myth. The life chance of a young American today are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in many other advanced countries, including “old Europe.”
Stiglitz points to Thomas Picketty’s research as evidence. Picketty’s work shows that capitalism leads inevitably to inequality. The post-war era of my childhood and early adulthood was an “aberration.”
Today, inequality is growing dramatically again, and the past three decades or so have proved conclusively that one of the major culprits is trickle-down economics—the idea that the government can just step back and if the rich get richer and use their talents and resources to create jobs, everyone will benefit. It just doesn’t work; the historical data now prove that. [….]
Ironically enough, the final proof debunking this very Republican idea of trickle-down economics has come from a Democratic administration. President Barack Obama’s banks-first approach to saving the nation from another Great Depression held that by giving money to the banks (rather than to homeowners who had been preyed upon by the banks), the economy would be saved. The administration poured billions into the banks that had brought the country to the brink of ruin, without setting conditions in return. When the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank engage in a rescue, they virtually always impose requirements to ensure the money is used in the way intended. But here, the government merely expressed the hope that the banks would keep credit, the lifeblood of the economy, flowing. And so the banks shrank lending, and paid their executives megabonuses, even though they had almost destroyed their businesses. Even then, we knew that much of the banks’ profits had been earned not by increasing the efficiency of the economy but by exploitation—through predatory lending, abusive credit-card practices and monopolistic pricing. The full extent of their misdeeds—for instance, the illegal manipulation of key interest rates and foreign exchange, affecting derivatives and mortgages in the amount of hundreds of trillions of dollars—was only just beginning to be fathomed.
I can’t quote any more, but I hope I’ve whetted your appetite enough that you’ll go read the whole thing. While you’re at that link, you might also take a look at this article by “zillionaire” Nick Hanauer, The Pitchforks are Coming for Us Plutocrats. Here’s just a small taste–it’s a long read.
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.
The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.
What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.
It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators.
Is it possible that because these articles appear in conservative Politico, even a few powerful people in Washington might read them and stop for a moment to think about what what is really happening to America?
Also in the news today:
This is a six-month report card time, and it’s failing grades for all of Washington. President Obama’s approval rating stands at 41% in our recent NBC/WSJ poll, his fav/unfav is upside down (at 41%-45%), and a majority of Americans (54%) no longer think he’s able to lead the country and get the job done. Republicans and Congress are in even worse shape. The GOP’s fav/unfav in the NBC/WSJ poll is 29%-45% (versus the Democratic Party’s 38%-40% score). Just 7% of the country has confidence in Congress (compared with 29% for the presidency and 30% for the Supreme Court, per Gallup. And when it comes to congressional productivity, the 113th Congress (2013-2014) has passed just 121 bills into law — fewer than at this same point in the historically unproductive 112th Congress (140 bills into law). Maybe it doesn’t FEEL worse, because there hasn’t been an epic showdown or confrontation like the government shutdown. But the numbers tell a different story — it has gotten worse.
From James Risen at the NYT, scary revelations about the murder of 17 civilians by Blackwater thugs in Iraq in 2007: Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater.
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”
I have a few more links, but I’m going to put them in comments; because I’m having terrible issues with WordPress today. I hope you’ll also post your thoughts and links in the thread below.
I”m finally getting over this sinus infection so I’ve had a chance to actually read a few interesting things. First up, is yet another one of those folks that insists that baby boomers are parasites. I really hate generational warfare, don’t you? However, this one is interesting. It’s put in terms of a conversation between baby boomer son and ‘greatest generation’ father and the arguments are backed up by interesting anecdotes and statistics. Still, why do have to keep score on who’s screwed up the country more in terms of age groups?
The boomers haven’t been a total disaster, of course. They did indeed blaze huge social and economic trails for women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Those groups have gained rights that, as long as the rest of us remain vigilant, will never be reversed: Young women can grow up to be lawyers or scientists. African-Americans can grow up to be president. Boomers gave us Apple and Microsoft. They made the Star Wars movies. They grew the economy for a bit. Once, for a couple of years in the late 1990s, they balanced the federal budget.
But the numbers on the laptop remind me how fleeting much of that progress was—and how boomers chose short-term gratification when they had opportunities to secure a better future for generations to follow. Classic example: Instead of devoting the budget surpluses of the late ’90s to social programs that desperately needed them, they voted themselves tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and an expanded Medicare benefit shortly after—a move a Congressional Budget Office study from that era suggests raised the expected tax rate on future generations from 29 percent to 53 percent. They borrowed heavily to cope with the economic sluggishness of the 2000s and, in so doing, inflated a housing bubble that, when it popped, triggered the Great Recession.
Median-income growth has stagnated for women and minorities over the past decade. The typical African-American today has less wealth than his or her parents did, according to Pew. Labor-force participation for women this year hit its lowest level since 1991.
So, the Brits pile on boomers too. Here’s something from The Economist on “Sponging Boomers” and how that relates to the next crisis.
These boomers have lived a charmed life, easily topping previous generations in income earned at every age. The sheer heft of the generation created a demographic dividend: a rise in labour supply, reinforced by a surge in the number of working women. Social change favoured it too. Households became smaller, populated with more earners and fewer children. And boomers enjoyed the distinction of being among the best-educated of American generations at a time when the return on education was soaring.
Yet these gains were one-offs. Retirements will reverse the earlier labour-force surge, and younger generations cannot benefit from more women working. There is room to raise educational levels, but it is harder and less lucrative to improve the lot of disadvantaged students than to establish a university degree as the norm for good ones, as was the case after the war. In short, boomer income growth relied on a number of one-off gains.
Young workers also cannot expect decades of rising asset prices like those that enriched the boomers. Zheng Liu and Mark Spiegel, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, found in 2011 that movements in the price-earnings ratio of equities closely track changes in the ratio of middle-aged to old workers, meaning that the p/e ratio is likely to fall. Having lived through a spectacular bull market, boomers now sell off assets to finance retirement, putting pressure on equity prices and denying young workers an easy route to wealth. Boomers have weathered the economic crisis reasonably well. Thanks largely to the rapid recovery in stockmarkets, those aged between 53 and 58 saw a net decline in wealth of just 2.8% between 2006 and 2010.
More worrying is that this generation seems to be able to leverage its size into favourable policy. Governments slashed tax rates in the 1980s to revitalise lagging economies, just as boomers approached their prime earning years. The average federal tax rate for a median American household, including income and payroll taxes, dropped from more than 18% in 1981 to just over 11% in 2011. Yet sensible tax reforms left less revenue for the generous benefits boomers have continued to vote themselves, such as a prescription-drug benefit paired with inadequate premiums. Deficits exploded.
Yes. So, all of us should just head to the ice floes. La-ti-da.
So, here’s my weekly update on interesting historical graves. Archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of an ancient queen in Guatamala. A tiny jar has given them some key clues.
Glyphs carved into a tiny alabaster jar have led archaeologists to conclude that the tomb in Guatemala where the jar was found belonged to one of the greatest queens of the Classic Maya civilization, known as Lady K’abel.
“She was not only a queen, but a supreme warlord, and that made her the most powerful person in the kingdom during her lifetime,” David Freidel, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a report released today. That description would put Lady K’abel in the same class as other ruling women of the ancient world, ranging from the biblical Queen of Sheba to Egypt’sHatshepsut and Cleopatra.
That’s some heady company for Lady K’abel.
Some of the most bizarre comments made by Mitt Romney was his dislike of shipping jobs to China or having China fund our lifestyle as compared to funding their own. It takes brass ones to suggest that he’s not been in favor of shipping jobs to China given this Bain Capital investment in a Chinese factory that is quite shocking. The word sweatshop is so inadequate. No wonder he thinks all of us are freeloaders if he thinks this situation constitutes a normal working conditions. Romney discussed the working conditions so he was well aware of where his money was going.
Economist Paul Davidson recently pointed out the truth on AlterNet : “Romney has spent his career offshoring and outsourcing American production processes — and associated jobs — to countries like China where human labor is valued in the market at a very low wage rate.” The sub-human conditions at these production facilities represent things that Americans are strongly opposed to: child abuse, squalor, forced overtime, and peanuts for pay.
Romney’s penchant for bragging about his business activities at fundraisers helps underscore just how vile his brand of capitalism really is. While CEO of Bain, Romney invested in a Chinese sweatshop which he appears to be describing in detail at the very same Boca Raton fundraising event where he made his infamous case that nearly half of all Americans are freeloaders.
A report recently released by the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights reveals that while Romney was deeply invested at a firm called Global-Tech, low pay and horrific conditions were status quo at its Chinese appliance factory.
Here are some really horrifying details from the same article.
From April 1998 through August 2000, Romney and his Brookside Capital Partners Fund, a Bain affiliate, poured around $23 million into the Global-Tech sweatshop in Dongguan, China. Among the details outlined in the report were the following:
- Factory workers made 24 cents an hour in 1998 and less than $2 a day. Wages in Global-Tech were less than 2 percent of U.S. wages.
- As CEO, Romney appears to have been uninterested in calling for improvements at the facility. Today, the sweatshop is still a horror where starvation wages prevail and workers’ rights are nonexistent. Overcrowded, filthy dormitories; rotten food; routine 15- to 16-hour shifts; and backbreaking 105- to 112-hour, seven-day workweeks are the norm.
- The appliance factory has 800 student “interns” — 16-years-olds forced to work repetitive, exhausting 15- to 16-hour shifts on assembly lines with no overtime pay.
… Dimon’s sanguinity is somewhat belied by the formidable lobbying machine that he’s built in Washington. JPMorgan’s shop is much bigger than that of other banks, and it is chock-full of politically connected former congressional staffers. The firm has become known for the regularity with which its top people show up in Washington.
Dimon has put himself front, center, and uncensored in the debate about tougher oversight. He’s lambasted regulators for failing to recognize that, while some companies were “too big to fail,” others were “ports in the storm,” and for making “hundreds of rules, many of which are uncoordinated and inconsistent with each other.”
Part of the explanation is purely pragmatic: Dimon is trying to preserve his firm’s profits—and maybe the firm itself. But it’s hard not to hear something more emotional when you listen to Dimon. “This country would be flying if we had gotten stuff right and all worked together, but we haven’t,” he says. He frequently says that banks and bankers are being “scapegoated” for their role in the crisis, and he is full of righteous indignation. He often invokes Abraham Lincoln: “I’m a Democrat, and I tell Democrats and Republicans, you guys are busy simplifying and scapegoating—well, Abe Lincoln wouldn’t do it.” He says he’s heard the story of a young officer telling Lincoln during the Civil War, “We’re going to win because God is on our side.” Lincoln responded, “Son, let’s hope that we’re on God’s side.”
I watched Amy Goodman on Democracy Now after the end of the Debates. She did a great segment on the difficulty of getting outsider candidates into the presidential debate. You may want to watch it if you get a chance.
President Obama made a good point in late 2011, when he told “60 Minutes,” “Don’t judge me against the Almighty; judge me against the alternative.” If only the public had a full range of alternatives against which to judge. In fact, most people do. They just don’t know it. The reason they don’t know it is because the media don’t report on third-party politics or campaigns. These campaigns also lack the funds to purchase television airtime, or to compete against the Democratic and Republican campaign fundraising juggernauts. This leads to less diversity of voices, and far fewer alternatives on the ballot.
It hasn’t always been this way. In 1980, the League of Women Voters ran the debates, and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson was allowed to participate (President Jimmy Carter opposed his participation and boycotted the event). In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot used his personal funds to overcome the media blockade of his presidential campaign. His successful debate performance temporarily propelled him ahead of both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in the polls.
Since then, no third-party candidate has been allowed into the presidential debates. The debates are run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization described by George Farah, founder and executive director of Open Debates, as “a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters.”
Farah told me that in 1988, “you have the Michael Dukakis and the George Bush campaigns drafting the first-ever 12-page secret debate contract. They gave it to the League of Women Voters and said please implement this. The League said, Are you kidding me? We are not going to implement a secret contract that dictates the terms of the format. Instead, they release the contract to the public and they held a press conference accusing the candidates of ‘perpetrating a fraud on the American people’ and refusing to be ‘an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people.’”
The Democratic and Republican parties wrested control of the debates from the League of Women Voters, and have controlled them since.
So, I love Japanese woodcut prints and had quite a collection of them prior to the divorce. Fortunately, older daughter has been ensuring they don’t disappear to E-bay and into her step mother’s casino fund. The one above is called Beauty and Violence. I wanted to end with a really interesting and inspiring story about the elderly in Japan. Japan has an extremely large population of long-lived seniors. This story is about them and their participation in athletics. Notice that Japan is not promoting the ice floes like Paul Ryan and a lot of Republican leaders even though Japan’s debt is substantially more worrisome than ours.
Saddled with record public debt, Japan is promoting social interaction to curb the cost of caring for the 32 percent its people older than 60 — the highest proportion globally. By 2050, one in five people worldwide will be over 60, from one in nine now, according to the United Nations. Japan’s approach may help other countries also facing rising numbers of elderly.
“It enables them to participate quite actively in community life,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, secretary general of the UN’s Population Fund, which is leading UN efforts on aging. People with strong social networks “will probably not fall ill as frequently,” he said in an interview in Tokyo, where the UN released a report on aging this week.
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released policies on health and aging that focus on strengthening seniors’ community involvement in July, a shift from previous approaches that centered only on individual behavior.
Finding cost-effective ways to promote healthy aging will be critical for countries trying to reconcile rising welfare costs and a shrinking tax base. By 2050, 42 percent of Japan’s population will be at least 60 years old, according to Global AgeWatch.
Read on about Japan’s 10 point plan for Healthy Aging. It includes subsidizing exercise for seniors and rewarding them for doing civic and group activities with coupons.
In Tokyo’s Suginami ward, where Doi lives, authorities award points in the form of stickers to seniors who participate in government-approved activities from picking up litter, to attending health and sporting events, to cultural activities. Each point has a value of 50 yen (64 cents) and can be exchanged for grocery coupons. The Suginami local government has allocated 80 million yen for the project this year, according to its website.
“People who are disadvantaged socially and economically have more health problems,” the health ministry in Tokyo said in July.
Each year since 1988, the ministry has hosted the “Nenrinpic” carnival in which seniors compete at a national level in sports such as tennis, petanque and croquet. Doi’s petanque team has represented Tokyo five times, been a finalist three times and won the championship in 1999, she said.
Health clubs are benefiting from a growing enthusiasm for exercise among seniors. Koshidaka Holdings Co., which operates 1,200 women-only fitness centers in Japan, says 50- and 60-year- olds make up more than 60 percent of its 500,000 members.
“The core customers have never really exercised in their adult life before, so they feel the benefits from an easy, 30- minutes of weight training,” Hiroshi Koshidaka, the company’s president, said in an interview. “Many come three times a week, feel improvement, make friends, encourage others to join, and stop people from quitting.”
The purpose of the plan is to end the isolation that many seniors feel and support them in a healthy, connected life style. Wow. Imagine that.
So, I’ve gone way past my usual length and MABlue always gives me a hard time about that so, I’ll leave the rest of the day’s news reporting to you. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good evening and a Happy 2011, Sky Dancers.
Here are my Saturday offerings for the New Year. There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the headlines, so I tried to mix in a few stories and thoughts of my own to put things into a more motivating and thoughtful perspective.
From McClatchy: “2011 looks grim for progress on women’s rights in Iraq… BAGHDAD — When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki introduced what he called a national partnership government two weeks ago, he included allies and adversaries, Arabs and Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunnis. One group, however, was woefully underrepresented. Only one woman was named to Maliki’s 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women’s rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq.“
From further down in the article: “After Maliki announced his lineup, Alaa Talabani, a female lawmaker from the northern Kurdistan region, delivered a rousing condemnation of the selection process to a packed legislative chamber. ‘The Iraqi women feel today, more than any other day, that democracy in Iraq has been slaughtered by discrimination, just as it was slaughtered by sectarianism before,’ Talabani said, her voice quaking with emotion.”
“…slaughtered by discrimination, just as it was slaughtered by sectarianism.” That is a powerful statement.
It reminds me of this Hillary quote: “To expand freedom to more people, we cannot accept that freedom does not belong to all people. We cannot allow oppression defined and justified by religion or tribe to replace that of ideology.” –Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the wall’s collapse
The words of both Alaa Talabani and Hillary Clinton above make me think of dry drunks and switching addictions. It is as if there is a certain quotient of oppression junkies out there who just go from one form of subjugating others to the next.
Which brings me to my next link. From Chris Hedges’, a few days ago, at truth-out… “2011: A Brave New Dystopia… The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World.’ The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.”
My apologies if another frontpager or commenter has already spotlighted Hedges’ piece and I missed it, but I think this is important enough a read to merit a repeat linking.
Speaking of our impending total enslavement, Derek Kravitz at the Washington Post reports that “As frustration grows, airports consider ditching TSA… Some of the nation’s biggest airports are responding to recent public outrage over security screening by weighing whether they should hire private firms such as Covenant to replace the Transportation Security Administration. Sixteen airports, including San Francisco and Kansas City International Airport, have made the switch since 2002. One Orlando airport has approved the change but needs to select a contractor, and several others are seriously considering it. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which governs Dulles International and Reagan National airports, is studying the option, spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said. For airports, the change isn’t about money. At issue, airport managers and security experts say, is the unwieldy size and bureaucracy of the federal aviation security system. Private firms may be able to do the job more efficiently and with a personal touch, they argue.”
No Profit Left Behind strikes again.
Oh, and it strikes here too — from Alan Johnson at the Columbus-Dispatch — “Kasich emphasizes ‘business’: Governor-elect wants to ‘exploit’ resources, picks EPA, DNR chiefs… Kasich, a former Republican congressman who will take office Jan. 10, emphasized that he doesn’t plan to empower business at ‘the cost of environmental degradation.’ But in the next breath, he said he wants to ‘exploit the wonders of our state.'”
Exploit? Way to thread the business vs. environment needle ever so delicately. Teddy R. has got to be rolling in his grave when he sees today’s Republican party.
Moving along and keeping with the theme from Chris Hedges’ piece, this headline from Raw Story: “Judge warns of ‘Orwellian state’ in warrantless GPS tracking case… Police in Delaware may soon be unable to use global positioning systems (GPS) to keep tabs on a suspect unless they have a court-signed warrant, thanks to a recent ruling by a superior court judge who cited famed author George Orwell in her decision. In striking down evidence obtained through warrantless GPS tracking, Delaware Judge Jan R. Jurden wrote that ‘an Orwellian state is now technologically feasible,’ adding that ‘without adequate judicial preservation of privacy, there is nothing to protect our citizens from being tracked 24/7.’ The ruling goes against a federal appeals court’s decision last summer that allowed warrantless tracking by GPS.”
Sounds like this judge in Delaware just may be looking out for us. So a little silver lining there.
In other uplifting reads… the Gray Lady has a very sentimental editorial today called “A Year Anew.”
From the link:“By now, of course, 2010 feels like a completely familiar, totally used-up year. But why does 2011 still sound like an annum out of science fiction? It’s not as though 2011 is a remoter outpost in the hinterland of the future than, say, 1971 was. Yet here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, living in the very future we tried to imagine when we were young so many years ago. Surely we must have colonies throughout the solar system by now. Surely hunger is no more, and peace is planet-wide. The coming of the new year reminds us, again, that we live, as we always have, somewhere on a sliding scale between utopia and dystopia and that we continuously carry our burdens and opportunities with us. 2011 is merely a new entry in our ancient custom of chronological bookkeeping, an arbitrary starting point for our annual trip around the sun. But it is also so much more. Who can live without fresh intentions, new purposes? Who does not welcome a chance to start over, if only on a new page of the calendar? Life goes on, but it goes on so much better with hope and renewal and recommitment. Last night was a night for banishing regrets. Today is for wondering how to live without new ones, how to do right by ourselves and one another.”
It’s probably nothing more than a neat little moment of synchronicity, but while reading the above, I couldn’t help but picture someone on the NYT editorial board reading Hedges’ column, getting depressed and a little drunk, and then deciding to respond with this editorial.
Next up from today’s Gray Lady, Bob Herbert has an op-ed on the suspension of the Scott sisters’ prison terms — “For Two Sisters, the End of an Ordeal… What is likely to get lost in the story of the Scott sisters finally being freed is just how hideous and how outlandish their experience really was. How can it be possible for individuals with no prior criminal record to be sentenced to two consecutive life terms for a crime in which no one was hurt and $11 was taken? Who had it in for them, and why was that allowed to happen? The Scott sisters may go free, but they will never receive justice.”
Those are good questions, but I doubt we will ever find any answers to them.
I saw a bunch of new year’s stories on Baby Boomers. I’m just going to link to a few of them without excerpting:
“Baby Boomers helped democratize art” (USA Today)
With so many of the headlines being so hostile toward boomers, like the NYT and ABC ones, I was glad to see that last one from USA Today. I think all the demonization along generational lines is such a waste.
I have a couple more quick links before I wrap this up.
Over in Brazil, some exciting news. President Dilma Rousseff is sworn in! From Newsday: “Brazil’s first female president vows to end poverty.”
Newsweek has an interesting piece — “The Manchurian Candidate: When Barack Obama posted Jon Huntsman to Beijing, it looked like a crafty way to sideline a 2012 rival. Don’t bet on it.”
I hope commenter Pilgrim catches this one! I know she’s a Huntsman fan.
From Raw Story — “Kucinich: GOP’s anti-health reform push may fuel Medicare-for-all drive.”
Here’s hoping against Hope on that one.
And on that note, your historical trivia for January 1st. On this day in 1892… The Ellis Island Immigrant Station in New York opened.
I’d like to close with this verse from Tagore on this New Years…
MIND WITHOUT FEAR
(Gitanjali, Verse 35)
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
Hope you are having a peaceful entry into the new year. Drop a note and let us know what you’re reading and thinking about in the comments if you get a chance.