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Aug-06-2010 13:57printcomments

On Real American Life

There must be an economic floor for social existence, beyond mere subsistence.

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(CALGARY, Alberta) - There was a time, only a few centuries ago, when the adolescents of North America—not the palefaces—were taught about the world they were about to enter as men. Although they had been observing the adult world since infancy, in early adolescence they were initiated into adulthood and taught how to track, hunt and fish; how to make weapons (primarily for hunting, seldom for aggression) and tools; how to read the sky for predicting the weather; and many other subtle skills. We might today call it a sexist society, but the adolescent girls were taught their own set of related skills—primarily around what we would call “homemaking”.

The young men and women then entered an adult world where they had valued skills with roles to play in the society at large.

The young men and women in today’s society are not so fortunate. They are given lots of theoretical knowledge, lots of general interest information, but when it comes down to how the real world works, they are essentially cast adrift with luck generally playing a dominant role in how their lives play out.

There is a well known phenomenon in our society where people on welfare (relief, social assistance, the Dole) tend to come from parents and grandparents who are, or had been, on welfare. It’s a vicious cycle that no one seems to know how to stop. This failure exists because of blinkered thinking, particularly in the United States which is the least humane of all the developed countries. In the pre-civilized (for want of a better term) society of the first paragraph, those who could no longer contribute to the commonweal were not turfed out on the “street”, as such people are here in Canada and the U.S. Rhetorical question: Which society is the civilized one? Poor laws and workhouses have a long and disgraceful history in Western society. Political scientists Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward wrote a lengthy, disturbing book titled Regulating the Poor: The functions of public welfare. The second edition came out in 1993, from which I will liberally quote (no pun intended).

They wrote:

The harsh treatment of those who had no alternative except to fall back upon the parish and accept ‘the offer of the House’ terrorized the impoverished masses. That, too, was a matter of deliberate intent. The workhouse was designed to spur people to contrive ways of supporting themselves by their own industry, to offer themselves to any employer on any terms. It did this by making pariahs of those who could not support themselves; they served as an object lesson, a means of celebrating the virtues of work by the terrible example of their agony. Three years after the Poor Law Commissioners of 1834 decreed the abolition of outdoor relief and expansion of the system of workhouses, Disraeli accurately said of this reform that ‘it announces to the world that in England poverty is a crime’.”

In society overall, they note:

The regulation of civil behavior in all societies is intimately dependent on stable occupational arrangements. So long as people are fixed in their work roles, their activities and outlooks are also fixed; they do what they must and think what they must. Each behavior and attitude is shaped by the reward of a good harvest or the penalty of a bad one, by the factory pay check or the danger of losing it. But mass unemployment breaks that bond, loosening people from the main institution by which they are regulated and controlled.”

Mass unemployment is the reality in America today where one in six workers are unemployed or underemployed. This is about millions of workers and millions more—their families—who are in economic trouble through no fault of their own.

Take the auto industry as an example. People there have worked for many years, sometimes two or more generations in a family, making cars. When the auto industry collapsed, many became unemployed—those making cars and those down the line in supporting industries.

What can these people do in American society today? In the native society of the first paragraph, if a person somehow became disconnected from his society in an equivalent way to our auto worker, he had options. He still knew how to hunt or fish for food for himself and his family, find or build shelter and so forth. Our autoworker is not so fortunate.

Food is in the supermarkets and he has access to that food only if he has money. He cannot seek out shelter on his own—everything in the city is owned by others. In the final analysis he and his family will probably be thrown onto the public purse where his presence will be resented by working Americans. As Piven and Cloward observed:

Some of the aged, the disabled, the insane, and others who are of no use as workers are left on the relief rolls, and their treatment is so degrading and punitive as to instill in the laboring masses a fear of the fate that awaits them should they relax into beggary and pauperism.”

This is morally shameful. Our society is complex and interlocked on every level. I’m reminded of something that Canadian historian James Gray said about his experience in the 1930s Depression on the Prairies.

When Gray applied for relief in 1931 he said that “at home were my wife and daughter, and my mother, father, and two younger brothers. Applying for relief might prove the most humiliating experience of my life (it did); but it had to be done, and I had to do it. The deep-down realization that I had nobody to blame but myself made the journey doubly difficult.” (italics added) But it was not his fault. He and millions of others were victims of a global depression, just like in America today. Depression or no, economic distress can happen to anyone at any time. No matter how self-reliant or independent people believe themselves to be, they can be undermined in a moment.

There are still Americans who blame the jobless for their plight.

Alexandra Jarrin, 49, had a corporate job making $56,000/year and was enrolled in an MBA program. In March 2008 she lost her job as director of client services at a small technology company near NYC. In March 2010, she received her last unemployment cheque, being one of the first wave of so-called 99ers--people who have exhausted 99 weeks of extended benefits. Ms. Jarrin, evicted from her apartment, now lives in her car. When it is repossessed, she will be on the street. Shelters where she has applied have waiting lists. There are nearly 700 comments on her NYT story. One commenter, "Peter" in NYC wrote, in part:

"And I should pay higher taxes, and borrow more from China, to support this woman? Not in the United States of America, I should not have to. She has chosen and created the circumstances of her own life. That is freedom."

He doesn't say, but I wonder if "Peter" would have any more compassion for some of the victims of Bernie Madoff, who he is supporting in prison through his taxes.

If the company a person has worked for for decades, decides to move elsewhere, or goes out of business in this economy, they are out on the street. They have no control over this. If they are self-employed, their business can be lost just as quickly in this economy. And if they have money and believe themselves to be secure, it too can disappear in the blink of an eye. Just recall the people who went through Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Even with millions of dollars to start with, a few of them emerged on the other side destitute and near homeless. Some of them lost everything and ended up just like the laid off autoworker.

Piven and Cloward describe the dynamic of work:

Under capitalism, the distribution of workers is mainly the result of monetary incentives or disincentives: profits or wages, or the threat of no profits or no wages. As these incentives ebb and flow in response to economic changes, most people are more or less continuously induced to change and adapt. Continual change in labor requirements also means that, at any given moment, some people are left unemployed. In subsistence economies every one works; the labor force is virtually synonymous with the population.

But capitalism makes labor conditional on market demand, with the result that some amount of unemployment becomes a permanent feature of the economy. In other words, change and fluctuation and unemployment are chronic features of capitalism.”

In his book Capitalism and Freedom, conservative Nobel economist Milton Friedman argued that “a central element in the development of collectivist sentiment…has been a belief in equality as a social goal and a willingness to use the arm of the state to promote it.” (underline added) But what, he asked, is the justification for state intervention? His answer:

The ethical principle that would directly justify the distribution of income in a free market is, “To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces.” The operation of even this principle implicitly depends on state action. Property rights are matters of law and social convention. As we have seen, their definition and enforcement is one of the primary functions of the state. The final distribution of income and wealth under the full operation of this principle may well depend markedly on the rules of property adopted.

This is where the luck mentioned above comes in. Very few people enter the adult world with “instruments” that produce for them. What the vast majority of people have is the labour of their hands and minds. That’s all they have to sell to prospective employers.

It’s the irrational fear of collectivism that terrifies so many Americans. They refuse to acknowledge that they actually are a de facto collective; they are all in it together. There is also a resentment that someone may get something for nothing while they have to work. This is a misinterpretation of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (3:10) where he said For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." The key words are “will not”. Paul was referring to a commune of Christians where some people were there as freeloaders. But the numbers there were small. In today’s society, there are millions of people affected. There are bound to be some who game the system, but you cannot collectively (there’s that word again) punish everyone because of a few miscreants.

Friedman commented about equality as a social goal which is a reference conservatives use to scare everyone. But equality is not the goal. If some work harder than others, then it is only proper that they should get more for their efforts. No one, except perhaps for a few extreme socialists, want a levelling of the economic outcome.

I quote FDR from his 1936 presidential acceptance speech: “An old English judge once said: ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ Liberty requires opportunity to make a living—a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives a man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.”

James Gray recounted his experience in the 1930s Depression: “We received no cash in relief, and for the first year no clothing whatever was supplied. Relief vouchers covered food, fuel and rent, and nothing else. But we needed other things—many other things like tobacco and cigarette-papers, tooth-paste, razor blades, lipstick, face powder, the odd bottle of aspirin, streetcar fare, a movie once a week, a pair of women’s stockings once a month, a haircut once a month, and a permanent twice a year. Most people tried to find twenty-five cents a week, every week, for a newspaper. Unexpected needs continually cropped up, like needles and thread, darning wool, a bit of cloth for fancy work, a pattern for making a dress, a half-dollar every other month for a co-operative half-keg of beer for a neighborhood party at which the Woodyard could be forgotten. The catalogue of essential trivia differed from family to family, but it seldom added up to less than a rock-bottom minimum of $1.50 a week.”

There must be an economic floor for social existence, beyond mere subsistence. There has to be reasonable, minimum standards for the support of those fellow citizens who are unable to work or support themselves through no fault of their own.

If this is not an acceptable American ethic, then when people become a charge on the state, it would be better to put them out of their misery by shooting them. America has, after all, enough guns for that job. This echoes the infamous Social Darwinist Herbert Spencer who opposed government support of the poor. “If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die.”


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place

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Douglas Benson August 13, 2010 6:53 am (Pacific time)

No problem DJ . Our system when used properly works.We have the ability to change the system with our most powerfull weapon our vote. Backed up by our right to bear arms . Our country is full of people who are willing to fight for the rights of others they give thier time, money ,risk imprisonment ,thier jobs ect. and if it comes down to it lay down thier lives for freedom .Does that sound like every man for himself? Where else can the people boot every last lawmaker from office with the stroke of a pen? Where else can the people not politicians change and make the law . Where else is the goverment constrained by the rights of the people . Where else can the people pick up thier weapons and fight back at any time ? You rant about this right but in the end it is what truly keeps the wolves at bay and protects all our rights.Freedom is taken and kept by force and the threat of force [whether that force be your vote or a rifle ] from the revolution to the present day .If you think you can just demand freedom and it will be handed to you ,you need a history lesson [and so do a lot of my countrymen] Im out .Peace

Douglas Benson August 12, 2010 10:59 am (Pacific time)

Thanks for your response DJ . Our founding fathers saw no such thing and they debated at length the problems of corp.banks ,fedral law and the perversion of the system . If you know of a better system where the people have the power that we have regardless if it is used properly or not let us know. If you say Canada I will laugh [dont even try that one with appointed officials ] .Or mabey the reports from the G20 or the fight against American style prohibition alowing the extradition of Marc ect. are wrong? I could go on naming labor problems ect.
As a matter of opinion I think our system is the best ,but it has been hijacked as you say by the ones that will not act in thier own best intrests ,fooled by liars and thier own desire to impose thier beliefs on others .

Douglas: So you say "as a matter of opinion I think our system is the best". Only your opinion or do you have any substantive comparisons demonstrating (even proving) that it is better than other systems of government. 

Hank Ruark August 12, 2010 9:47 am (Pacific time)

DJ et al:
You wrote: "The world has changed in that the founding principles were based on the ideas of the Enlightenment, in full flower in the 18th century. The fundamental assumption of the thinkers and philosophers of the time was that people are reasonable and will naturally pursue their own best interest. This turns out not to be the case. :

That's "heart of the matter" and heart-of-the-heart is HOW people now learn what's their best interests.

Which is WHY piles of stillmoreproblems can and surely now do nothing more than further confuse the uninformed and support the would-be malignant bent on political pander to provocate radical change.

"Informed opinion" is only sure remedy as proven all thru centuries, via philosphers, education, Enlightenment AND, in America, starting with The Federalist Papers, invention of our system which was then and remains unique in what it can provide if we allow it to operate at its best possible level.

Your insights helpful to emphasize many, many places where injudicious choice and haman failings have hampered and sabotaged that system.

BUT for any possible remediation, we must now, in our 250 years-continuing mode of progess, move on to what we can do to perfect,promulgate, project and protect the many changes we now all need to learn about and begin to make.

Thus mine re remedy-plan you may see well from outside perspective, given agreement on large parts of what you report as at fault and very damaging to original American concept.

Thanks for your continuing sharp-vision insights, made so in part by position outside of our culture, which can help when properly applied.

For every point you thus can make, we can show 100-or-more solid American exceptionalisms
driven by care for others, as well as overriding cooperative attitudes by millions, and now even many corporate leaders learning and applying societal responsibilities based on the Third Bottom Line principle.

That's the actuality and reality current here as the 2ist Century first/decade is coming to remarkable end.

Hank: It's in people's best interests to cooperate but the American system, as it became perverted in the 19th century, is believed to be based on the concept of every man for himself. On such an anti-social foundation, who's surprised at the social and economic mess the U.S. currently finds itself in. Many American commentators have come to the same conclusion, but such thinkers are essentially in the wilderness. Cooperation, of course, leads directly to Communism. Bah!

Douglas Benson August 12, 2010 7:01 am (Pacific time)

DJ have you read ,the fedralist papers or any of the works of our founding fathers ? The world hasnt changed so much that the basic principals and problems that they adressed arent relevant today .

The world has changed in that the founding principles were based on the ideas of the Enlightenment, in full flower in the 18th century. The fundamental assumption of the thinkers and philosophers of the time was that people are reasonable and will naturally pursue their own best interest. This turns out not to be the case. 

Douglas Benson August 12, 2010 6:39 am (Pacific time)

Ive been working crazy hours so I havent been keeping up .Anyhow ,we do have the best system. If we choose to use it . As a group we are choosing to be led like sheep ,too lazy and distracted to preform our duty . The problems seem beyond our control ,how do you deal with a goverment that says .So what we are going to do what we want screw the people . I cant believe that any red blooded ,freedom loving person wouldnt speak up for removing these guys from office instantly . When my boss says do it this way I say "yes sir" ,if I think its a mistake I say so but if he says no do it my way thats what I do . These folks need a wakeup call that we are the boss .
Starting with our legislators we need to boot them from office and elect people who are not bought and paid for .Regular folk who value freedom and are willing to stand against those that would deprive us of liberty and our monies .
Im out ,peace.

Douglas, how do you know you have the best system, or is it just something you've been told your whole life? 

Henry Clay Ruark August 11, 2010 4:50 pm (Pacific time)

"ANON": You wrote: "May I suggest a reading of Scientific Revolutions, T. Kuhn. It's more geared for people with limited educational backgrounds, like less than a graduate degree, and especially for those with that limited liberal arts background and nothing else but what they think they know about the world, usually having never done anything but live a parochial existence." That's about the most open, obvious, arrogant,ludicrously self-deluded statement I've seen in some half-million or so here and elsewhere !! Mine own record shows over 6 million published words, most chosen/paid-for/published by critical editors, much done as client-signed coming to me for what product they needed... so I may just possibly qualify for that opinion just-stated ! For the record I know --and have on/shelf here-- the book you mention, and find nowheres in it anything even close to what you offer here, publicly, in a statement which puts you into precisely the kind of illumination needed. Re JD's contributions here, albeit I think he doth need to see some books, they surely are not in any way like what you suggest. His approach,attitude,and report/style offer broad and helpful perspective, and even though much of what he writes is interpretation, the very fact of his location outside our nation and our culture in itself adds to the values he finds and clearly reports. I note you fail to append even a pseudonym to yours. For any professional at any level, and especially for any professional writer dealing with public issues, putting out copy for public evaluation and probing appraisal, yours is the height of demonstrated cowardice. If one cannot find even the courage to sign his real name it is simply common sense to assign malign intention and to discard the infected stuff prior to any possible invasion it may make into ordinary common sense. SO --if you will permit me a minor departure into popular obscenity-- "go stick it, you know where !" Friend DJ, morecoming direct and thanks for your continued contributions here, even though I find some of them in need of further observation and even some cogitation. Do NOT be "put off" by this kind of s..., which comes only from those who thus reveal of themselves all it takes to put into place precisely their real value...

Henry Clay Ruark August 11, 2010 8:18 am (Pacific time)

Mike H:
For one, I find your good selection of quotes entirely relevant and right on the topic here.

Yours re "Shoe fits..." was headline for one of my most cited Op Eds in Chicago for leading learning media magazine-then:
"If the shoe fits, I hope it pinches !".
That referred to millions in media stolen by large-city av-centers then, via their canny ostensible Preview for Purchase...
State,national authorities followed and abuses uncovered led in part to change in the copyright law covering media.

Here we can still appreciate DJ's goodwill/oriented work from outsider-perspective we cannot apply from within the culture --depending on how it is stated and with directions for suggested remedial action.

Without latter, it becomes mere moreofmassivemisdirection massagebymedia via his simple restatement of what many of thosesamemediamorons are famed for already telling us...!! As if we didn't KNOW, living day by day withitall...

Dj-insihts far too valuable to allow waste thereof, when with simple feedback from some of us readers he can correct, and then proceed with cogent consequences consummated from his goodfaith goodwill-driven continuing efforts.

I am not going to respond to this thread here, because only a few people are following it. I am putting together an article detailing my argument, which will be posted in the next few days.  

Hank Ruark August 10, 2010 8:21 pm (Pacific time)

Friend DJ:
  Understood; sounds like normal day on wire-service.
  Son No. 4, Loren, worked 20 hrs. straight last weekend due to staff illness, covered fire in Sisters, back to Coast at Florence for lost/boy-found, exclusive footage, back to Eugene for 4-hrs. editing news into program formats.

  "Nothing personal", DJ. Only reassurance to readers we take allathis very professionally and try our damndest to make sure what we do is done right and well, with all due regard to factual coverage minus what we can subtract from personal perspective impossible to lose entirely.

  Take care, take your time, and moresoon...per slug to tech on wireservice copy, to let him know story continues.
  AND don't for  get to check for any new source, printed-
page or otherwise... !!

I am not going to respond to this thread here, because only a few people are following it. I am putting together an article detailing my argument, which will be posted in the next few days. 

Henry Clay Ruark August 10, 2010 3:11 pm (Pacific time)

Friend DJ:
Re denying impact of books, seems to depend on what the book seems to say to you --right ?:

"Dec-12-2009 23:26
Guns in America
Daniel Johnson

America is a gun culture sui generis; but also a culture based on several false interpretations or presentations of history.
children with toy gun
Kids playing with toy guns has long been considered part of American culture by many.

(CALGARY, Alberta) - Every few years I find a book that changes my entire paradigm about the world—sometimes just a significant part of my world; sometimes my total worldview. The last such book was The User Illusion Tors Nørretranders which I found (by accident) in a book store in May, 1998.

The current book is A Necessary Evil: A history of American distrust of government by Northwestern University historian, Garry Wills, which was suggested to me by my friend and colleague, Henry Clay Ruark."

But then sometimes, somehow, it also makes a difference by interpretation done by someone else --right ?

Which is here cited simply to emphasize points made on "intention" and "persuasion", which change markedly as any writer seeks out whatever advantage can be gained by one or the other directions in interpretation.

Tht's part of the profession and unfortunately also part of the business: You capture your hobby/horse and then ride --until something, somehow, tosses you off.

I am not going to respond to this thread here, because only a few people are following it. I am putting together an article detailing my argument, which will be posted in the next few days. 

Mike Hanley August 10, 2010 11:27 am (Pacific time)

As I've said to a number of foreigners in the past: "For those unfamiliar with America and our history there is a quote by one of our past presidents named Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Along with some other sayings: "If it's too hot in the kitchen, get out!" and "If the shoe fits, wear it."

I'm very familiar with American history and it explains how you got into your current political and economic mess. Unfortunately, within that history is no formula to help the current situation. Empires come and empires go. A few decades ago it was widely believed that Japan was going to be the next global powerhouse. They faded but I think that China is going to go the distance.

Note: Your sayings have no relevance to the current topic. 

Henry Clay Ruark August 10, 2010 9:17 am (Pacific time)

Friend DJ'
NOT really --interested in "converting" you, that is... gave that up after first five of yours.

BUT readers deserve fullview of "facts", and writers simply interpret those proven bits of reality/actuality for readers, having received them from other writers, rather than as "direct experience" for each situation themselves.

You "defy/deny" all repeated
requests for story on any-all visits-here you may have had.
Without that you have only other media channels --esp. including history and other printed books-- to which you can turn.
OR do you operate by some magic mental mechanism that the rest of us cannot enjoy ?

So S-N has responsibility to promote, preserve, protect and project all-possible views,in addition those you reap and then re-interpret from other writers --no matter whom.

Yours re Kool-Aid drugging most of 400 million of us, no matter how-or-who/brewed, and in what delivered volume, will simply not hold water...pardon me, Kool-Aid !
Do you really dare contend that most of 400 million have been so seduced that they can no longer interpret life for themselves ? That they must then be complicit for all the "bad things" it is possible to blame on ANY nation, now --with worldwide trends so obviously in control and even superseding so-called "national sovereignity" ?

That flies in face of all we know re our school system,in sorry shape, but according to your theory capable of great impacts --or do you give all credit to "other media" ?

If so, why not name some channels with program titles you see as atrociously so "perverted" ?

It is true atrocious use of democratic choice/privilege (the vote) has led us far astray --we all admit that.
But then that's true in Canada and Britain, too, if one reads current materals (incuding history books !)...all part of that "big picture" to which you so often refer.

That simply emphasizes that the only true remedy is --more democracy, properly, potently pursued, with all possible learning from life we lived --which after all is said, done (AND written !) is the ONLY true remedy applying to all 400 million of us.

We know our plight all too well (many of us read Krugman et al every day, some of us have even met him, some even correspond intermittently, as I do along with many others);
AND we read from within our properly famed U.S.culture, broad-based, internationally rooted (by immigrants !) society, a sure economy (surviving for 250 years, so far) in which we LIVE...which surely should provide us with somewhat better view than isolated one informed only by very-personal (unavoidable) interpretation from others to guide truly meaningful relations of all observations --AGAIN !!-- for use by you here... !!

SO that's WHY we resent any unwitting and ill-informed use of sometimes questionable "facts" as proclaimed by other pundits, mirrored again by any writer --especially one who refuses to read broad-based solid-source materials used widely in U.S. schools, and proclaimed worldwide for the accuracy, depth, and decisive handling of realities in our history --AND current events.
(Want prize-winner list ? You could compare with yours.)

600 Op Eds here at S-N seem to me to indicate something other than closed-mind single
-shot handling of realities.

But naturally they are all guided by deep, revealing, and honest reporting from proven reliable sources, tempered by long experience within our own culture...
That's the very observable and checkable fact, sir.

So with best wishes to your brother, driven by faith:
At least that's an admirable emotional reason for belief.

Economist Keynes, when once questioned on changing his stance, replied: "When the facts change, sir, I change my mind. What do you do ?"

Here it seems clear where lies both the closed/minded attitude and the claimed arrogant approach.

Booklist complete still upcoming... !!
Do suggest you sample-same, in light of the Keynes-quote.
It's fact-of-life one can continue the learning-process, right up until moment "the wheels fall off" !!

I am not going to respond to this thread here, because only a few people are following it. I am putting together an article detailing my argument, which will be posted in the next few days. 

Ryan August 10, 2010 9:00 am (Pacific time)

I respect the right for all to have their own opinions on anything they want to have those opinions on. There does come a time when it is advisable to realistically evaluate that when debating one who holds a different opinion than yours simply can stop meaningful debate. Americans, even non-Americans, well versed in our history, and how it has interplayed within the context of world history know how futile it is to try to educate those who are uneducatable. A Ryanism.

Henry Clay Ruark August 9, 2010 8:39 pm (Pacific time)

Friend DJ:
Great thing about public dialog is that it IS public, which means others, with or without "closed minds", will participate and set straight either side...thus showing who it is displaying both closed mind AND arrogance.

That's WHY I've sent you references for your simple check, now arrogantly refused and dispelled as only so much more consequence of mine own tragic fate as brain-washed American.
That was done in good faith, common practice among us real professionals, and standing usage for most magazine editors who not only learn that way but also can pass along what they know for others.
Your deny/defy reaction is symptomatic, so clearly so that it needs no further real detail here by me...we can simply leave it to common sense which I doubt you will wish to defy/deny among our readers.

Does seem odd that so many millions suffer same sorry symptoms, including long list of real history totally unlike your reliance on wild/radical/
and/disjointed statements from
Lundgren. He makes no bones about criticism; but as is so true with all writers the net impact and evaluation must remain with the audience, even here.

For anyone who has been writing professionally to state openly that he will NOT read ref. sent in good faith says it all, for me, and I do believe for most others,too.

But then that's life:
SOME operate on one set of values, ethics and beliefs while some others build their own differentiations and demonstrate them in very different levels and variety, too.

Which --for open-minders at least--surely doth demonstrate
depth and difference of what we call "exceptionalism" --a widely-recognized common characterization for every national group, found not only in many national histories, but for the record in three national magazines on my table NOW.

But of course allathat is meaningless, since you find it in your own interests NOT to read, here or in anything we can suggest...

Oh,so sorry...see 80-some previous direct msgs sent you starting with Welcome when you arrived...most friendly, warm and sympathetic, every one in good faith good/wishes...

Those who point out that the emperor has no clothes are never popular. I deal with facts, not myths and unsubstantiated opinions. 

"Exceptionalism" is an opinion and only some Americans and Americaphiles believe it. Non-Americans (and some Americans) can see a bigger picture.  You've been trying to convince me of your version of American reality almost from the beginning. The fact that I don't see it ("deny/defy") makes me, in your opinion, at fault. Just like my JW brother, if you could only get me to read the right book, I would see the truth. The concept that your version of reality might not be wholly accurate is a concept you're not prepared to entertain. It's easier to blame the messenger for information you don't like.

See Paul Krugman "America Goes Dark"

Bob Herbert "The Horror Show" 


Anonymous August 9, 2010 6:22 pm (Pacific time)

Lundberg is really not the kind of individual that intelligent people would refer to regarding an assessmnet of America, the unintelligent, well, that is an obvious "certainly would." P.S. DJ, regarding a Lundberg exerpt from your below quote: "...and, as it were ride a rocket to the moon and beyond..." Well we sure did do that and still are. Thank you very much. You should visit the U.S. Patent Department, then try perusing our old and contemporary scientific journals, and our history textbooks written prior to 1964. Also you might want to tally all those wonderful things in Canada that make your life what it is and see not just who invented them, but their antecedents. America is omnipresent, all over the planet, and space (deeper every day).

Really? Intelligent people would refer to you, I suppose... 

Henry Clay Ruark August 9, 2010 4:08 pm (Pacific time)

DJ: Missing --again !!--another one of mine...must I now copy here, hold and refire ?? Re "anon" agree with his opener but do believe he needs careful check on factual analysis of both vote and its consequences, to which he referred. Re yrs from Lundberg, his own crotchety tone and some of why he wrote as he did is all too well-known --but not, apparently, to you. Have annotated copy of that one here and will pick up some of the notes to explain last statement, well documented by those who take care to know their sources --including view of self.

Henry Clay Ruark August 9, 2010 10:50 am (Pacific time)

Re "If best, it would work"; that is naivete at its worst sir !
It entirely overlooks the absolute essential of all individual choice, since not everyone will --ever !!--agree on WHAT-or-HOW is "best", for anything, on any level.

That's"freedom of choice", no matter how or what is set out to obstruct it !

AND it also immediately opens up the entire massive matter of HOW/MEASURED and BY WHOM ?
(As in education, mine own professional area of continued study,re "learning".)

You wanta tackle those, better get setup for new-book publishing !!

DP: Yours recognizes the obvious intent of massive malign obstruction applied to every step, state, process and protocol of our once-workable democracy by the GOP, as most-massive political-pander in world history.

It becomes unmistakably, un-
forgettably, unforgivably so the longer it is permitted to go... SO what do we DO, WHEN, WHERE --and TO WHOM ?

That's the WHY of mine to DJ re his massive, mainly bright- lighted stuff-here, but still unanswering re direction, any action and possible outcomes.

DB: New Deal met absolutely demanded social, cultural and economic needs, some still not even partially met... beautiful example of active "wit, wisdom, will of the people", as our history so plainly documents for those who will but read...

BUT without "regulation" it could, would, demonstrably- later never did work/well, open to unrestricted abuse a la Reagan regime's "Govt. IS the problem !" --with those tongue/in/cheek tax/slashes for the richly ready, still draining national earned resources via family-fun by two Bushes...

Don't confuse advice and counsel with absolute demand for demonstrated action OR funding/withheld.
Would you want citizen dollars to go to needy users with nothing required but grasping hand ? After all, we do have representative govt. format --still changeable by act of judicious voting.

Rational,reasonable,workable and simply/regulated plans have been solid base of social progress ever since the Reformation and Enlightenment, despite determined difficulty designed for doing what GOP obstructionism is aimed to do NOW.

The stronger/State so truly demanded is still essential, but also surely open to all we've learned to guide needed changes for 21st Century.

See moretocome in work now.

Hank: Your attempts to convert me to your point of view are doomed to failure and I’ll be frank as to why. It’s not that my mind is closed; it’s your mind that’s closed. You’ve been indoctrinated since you were an infant so that you can only see the world as an American and are unable to appreciate other points of view and consider them valid. It’s like a fish being unaware of the water in which he swims. Everything you see in the world is through the prism of being an American. People in other countries have their own nationalistic point of view, but they are not so arrogant as to believe that they reside at the pinnacle of Cosmic Evolution which is what many Americans believe about themselves, their country, their system and their place in the world.

Here’s where my resistance comes from.

I have a brother who’s a Jehovah’s Witness. From his orientation, he believes he has cornered the truth about reality, just like any other evangelical type of religion. In his zeal to convert me, or at least try to convince me that he has the true handle on the truth, he was always giving me books and pamphlets to read. He believed, and still does, that if I would just read the right piece, I would understand everything and agree with him.

So it has been with all the books you think I should read. The right book and I would understand where you’re coming from and why you’re right and I am naïve and lacking knowledge in depth.

You’re so indoctrinated by the mythology of Americanism, that you don’t even know it. An open-minded person would understand that there are other, valid, points of view. It’s called relativity. 

Exceptionalism is something that only Americans can believe.

Sorry to be so blunt, some of your comments are pretty arrogant. 

Anonymous August 9, 2010 7:31 am (Pacific time)

DJ you continue to show your utter ignorance of our form of government and our history. There has never been another country as large as we are that has shown such a high degree of adaptability with the dynamics of constant world change. Sure the current leadership has not been very good, but a correction is coming up that will soon demonstrate the above referenced adaptability. Have you ever taken the time to look at the senate voting record of Obama and the other democrats in the house and senate? Well their votes are what led us to where we are currently, and our upcoming citizen votes will soon clear the deck. You stated that our form of government was setup for an agrarian/rural society, then how did we manage to prosper so well? In this world of rapid communications, then who were the people who invented that tech? We will be just fine, and will continue to provide our citizens with a superior environment to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Time will soon show your error in extrapolation, but your ignorance of our history is clearly evident. Cheers.

Well, anonymous, whoever you are. I quote Ferdinand Lundberg, author of The Rich and the SuperRich and other books analyzing your political/business system. He was a New York-based writer for the better part of a century.

On the luck of America he wrote:

“Whereas European royalty and nobility played profound integral roles in European history, the latter-day American rich were more like hitchhikers who opportunistically climbed aboard a good thing. They produced neither the technology, the climate, the land, the people nor the political system. Nor did they, like many European groups (as in England) take over the terrain as invading conquerors. Rather did they infiltrate the situation from below, insinuate themselves into opportunely presented economic gaps, subvert various rules and procedures, and, as it were ride a rocket to the moon and beyond, meanwhile through their propagandists presenting themselves, no less, as the creators of machine industrialization which was in fact copied from England and transplanted into a lush terrain.” 

Hank Ruark August 8, 2010 11:09 am (Pacific time)

Friend DJ:
  Seems we missing my last-one seeking straight answers to mine-previously, 5 through 8, and query re visit-time in our "good old U.S.A." --if any.

There's an old definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

I don't demand that Americans do anything. It's up to the American people to decide on both a short term and long term course of action. The American system of govt which you and others argue is the best system ever invented clearly does not work. Don't forget, it was set up for an agrarian/rural society. To believe that it is workable, unchanged, in the modern era of rapid communications, big money, concentration of wealth and property, etc. is criminally naive.

I don't anticipate visiting the U.S. in the foreseeable future. 

Douglas Benson August 8, 2010 11:42 am (Pacific time)

I think the problem is when you say socialism people think of total socialism .
The "NEW DEAL" brought us socialism .Expanding social programs is good for everyone ,as long as they are not used to curtail freedom by regulation .
For example health care . Its one thing to provide basic care to all but saying we will now tell you what to eat ect flies in the face of freedom .
Higher education should also be available to all citizens .How many people have had to abandon thier dreams of being a doctor, dentist,nurse ,scientist ect because they cannot afford schooling ?
Hate to break it to you Dan but our country was based on the exceptionalism of our great social experiment . Freedom and the right of the common people to regulate goverment.Ive been doing a little reading on our founding fathers can you tell? True that is not happening now but as long as we have the right to vote it is possible. Our system is still the best but its been perverted by the elitists and the religous nutballs who know whats best for us .
A bunch of greedy punks that wouldnt pee on you if you were on fire unless there was something in it for them profits,converts ,power ,ect. We have a problem huston and if we dont work together to send the message that WE THE PEOPLE rule here nothing will change .There will be no social changes that truly benifit us just more taxes and regulation.

Douglas: You write "our system is still the best". If it is so easily perverted and subverted, it is obviously not the best. The best would work. 

M. Dennis Paul, Ph.D. August 8, 2010 1:13 am (Pacific time)

Roughly 40 years ago, our compassionate government saw fit to, rather than examine the possibilities of more productive living for so many deemed "insane", dismantle whatever feeble supports then existed and simply opened the doors and pushed them onto the streets. Your article reaches into so many areas left untouched by media and the thinking of the "average" citizen. I applaud your efforts to bring thinking back. One can only hope that it is not too late for, within the past few weeks, the GOP has made it clear that not only do they detest even the the most minimal assists to those who have been victimized by the criminally created "recession", they fully intend to increase the numbers of the unemployed once they, again, take over the reigns of government.

Henry Clay Ruark August 7, 2010 10:03 am (Pacific time)

Friend Ersun:
  Thanks for yours re how this works in capitalist society, surely restating from different level the same basic truth as doth mine here...

  In any analysis of what we term "communicatiion" --in all its forms reflecting every human activity-- intention is fundamental and largely over-looked.

  Here, for DJ's content, that becomes extremely foundational and must be closely explored --soon !!

Natalie August 7, 2010 11:48 am (Pacific time)

Henry Ruark: Nothing extraordinary: mashed potato, meatballs, fresh tomato/cucumber salad and probably, chocolate cake for beloved myself if I don't decide that it's finally time for that nice New Year's Resolution.

Henry Clay Ruark August 7, 2010 11:02 am (Pacific time)

Friend DJ:
Pointy-head speaks up again, sir ! (Cogitation still needed on further detailed response.)

1. Nearly all you wrote here and earlier is "right on" ... with no mention of any money involved, either as payment for work or as "welfare".

2. Rhetorical flourish in end-pgh re guns-and-massacre accepted merely as persuasive image meant to massify your real intention in this and other similar pieces.

3. "Intention" --conscious or otherwise-- invariably and unavoidably shapes every part and piece of any statements here --including this one !
("Persuasion" itself exists only as product of "intention" which makes discovery of it so extremely pundit-demanded...)

4. Even IF we all agree-now to your pursued points here and previously (AND probably future, too!) we must still ask you the potently primary
"pundit-question": SO, What ?

5. By that we mean to proclaim that we cannot escape the necessity to seek from you what you wish US NOW to DO !

6. Most of us in the U.S. know full well (from closer contact since we LIVE HERE) what the true situation IS NOW and may well COME TO BE soon.

7. Since we closely agree on WHAT IS --if perhaps NOT on WHY-- we must now seek similar cooperative action (read:still further "civilized society").

8. Yours seems to demand of us some action NOW.
SO it is eminently fair and unavoidable to seek from you just as detailed declarations on decisive, democratic action within our natural national limitations--always consistent with our Constitution and our American values--as appear to you both appropriate and still possible.

IF your "intent" is other than to obtain action by us, what's the driving motivation for your continuing efforts ?
If you DO seek action, with all detail now deposited on what's so deely gone-wrong, it seems sensible to seek from your demonstrated sensitivity what would satisfy you as that needed "set of next-steps".

Forgive this pointy-headed non-pundit point-of-view, but I'm listening for you !!

Hank: I've laid out in detail in almost every article over the last 18 months what my concerns are about America and what my motivations are. In one specific piece from a year agoI laid it out: "Why I write"

Six months later I wrote "Why I write for Salem News" There is no mystery as to my motivations and intent.

Henry Clay Ruark August 7, 2010 10:10 am (Pacific time)

Lady Natalie: Yours forces me to ask that primary question: "What's for dinner tonight, dear ?" In all humility and humor, friend N.

Henry Clay Ruark August 6, 2010 8:24 pm (Pacific time)

Dan: Au contraire, sir, re single and sole "exceptional"...any sports-page in America will show several "exceptional" athletes in any of many major classifications. ("See with own eyes" during visit --part of standing invitation to you...) Also usage of term for many real-estate bargains may help, even though cheapens meaning re "American exceptionalism". IF meant to define sole-state would be written "exceptional Americans", perhaps; but even that ain't necessarily your asserted singling-out sense. Point may seem minor but is at heart of misunderstandings from which you seem still to be fleeing...along with word re any living-visits to U.S. at any time. You ever been here for week, month, year ? Unless/until Toqueville-type stay/over by you long enough for self-surveilliance vs now-evident poor-substitute reporter/summaries seemingly inescapably show/telling of what somebody else has seen here, yours must remain, for me at least, only "compiled from regular sources", Which sure ain't the same thing as "seen by own eyes" and then so reported. If you do come/NOW, can experience current situations via own systematic feelings and surely more sensitive,sensible analysis --avoiding quotes, which only reflect/others... Which is why I refrain from delicious shot at same-stuff re Canada and Britain and "dat ol' debbil de Brit/Empire", for root-report at surely most ruinous of most locations over most full centuries. Gotta be at least partially true -- or 1776 would NOT be true-blue, with red-and-white, too !!

Ersun Warncke August 6, 2010 6:07 pm (Pacific time)

Excellent piece Daniel. I would add as an adjunct that "welfare" spending in a capitalist society is, according to "rational" economic doctrines, set at an "efficient" level aimed at nothing more than maintaining sufficient social stability to maintain production/consumption and enforce property rights. In a capitalist society individual welfare and wellbeing never enters into the planning calculus.

Henry Clay Ruark August 6, 2010 5:10 pm (Pacific time)

Friend Dan:
Tour-de-force is only name for this one --not only for fully-justified content, but inescapably for erroneous and misleading "conclusion" in closing declaration.

Obviously any further full- disclaimer demands far more reshaping impacts than Pete-shaped head can cluster, muster, master and manage in few moments open currently.

But moretocome, and as most essential fact (from history, if you'll pardon further such reference !) Social Darwinism went the way of other similar wild, windy, witless and war-like "semi-conclusions" long ago.

But dialog is usually damned good fun, and this one is even more promising than last wild ride on discussion dips-and-
With added promise of plenty of participation, particularly from those who have "been there" and thus "know better" --and from those who HAVE NOT "been there" , but think they still know best.

What I hear you saying is that only Americans are exceptional which would force the conclusion that every other nation is "ordinary" by definition. 

Natalie August 6, 2010 4:38 pm (Pacific time)

As they say "women can make 3 things out of nothing: a row, a hairdo, and dinner". We always felt passionate about the first 2; this crisis will make us revive the 3-d one.

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