By N.S. Palmer
I’ll miss newspapers when they disappear. There will still be a few of them online, but it just won’t be the same.
This morning, I’m sitting at McDonalds and perusing The New York Times while I quaff my coffee.
I should put this in context, both politically and metaphysically.
Politically, I’ve concluded that the U.S. government and political system are irredeemably corrupt. A sufficient number of politicians and government officials are “on the take” from giant corporations and the super-rich that almost nothing positive can be accomplished.
Wall Streeters, banksters, and giant corporations will continue to loot the United States until there’s nothing left to loot. Then they will pick the carcass clean, leaving honest Americans to fend for themselves in a wrecked country. There’s nothing non-violent that we can do about it, and since violence is a very unpredictable instrument of social change, I don’t advocate it. All I can do is get a big tub of popcorn, watch the show, and laugh.
There’s a reason why mature people don’t start revolutions, which are almost always started by the young. When you reach a certain age, you’ve learned not to act without thinking about the results of your actions. You tend to act only if you are reasonably sure that your actions will improve the situation.
Violent action lacks that kind of predictability. Revolutions are launched by young people who are so outraged by injustice that they don’t care about the result. That might happen in the U.S., though corporate control of the army, the secret police, and almost all of the communications and news media would make it difficult. My guess is that our decline will continue until the corporations and super-rich start fighting each other for control of the country, with each side enlisting working-class cannon fodder to “fight for their freedom.” Then the country will break apart, with unforeseeable results.
In any event, that’s my political assessment: We’re done. Stick a fork in us. And the reason for the political situation — indeed, the reason why justice and freedom are such rare commodities in human history — lies in our metaphysical situation.
Metaphysically, in this world at least, the evil have a systematic advantage over the good. And the very evil, such as the Bushes and Hitlers and Stalins, have an advantage over the moderately evil. The pickpocket beats the liar. The robber beats the pickpocket. The murderer beats the robber. The psychopathic mass murderer beats the ordinary “amateur” murderer.
Consider what it means to be a good person. Among other things, it means that:
- You will not do certain things even if they are in your material self-interest.
- You will do certain things even if they are against your material self-interest.
The evil, on the other hand, have fewer such limitations. And the more evil they are, the fewer limitations they have.
Imagine a tennis match between two players of equal ability. One of them not only obeys the rules of tennis, but in the middle of volleys, he runs over to the side of the court to help children and little old ladies. The other player pays no attention to the rules and cheats constantly. He “wastes” no time on anything except winning the game.
Which player wins, the good one or the evil one? The answer is obvious. Unless the good player gets very lucky — which does happen on occasion — the evil player wins.
The same applies to life on earth. Good people have a long list of things they won’t do. Evil people say, “Sod all that, I’m going to win.” And they do.
All that provides a context in which the morning newspaper becomes an exercise in dark humour.
On the front page, we learn that the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi has been using cluster bombs against the rebels who want to overthrow him. The lead paragraph observes that such bombs “have been banned in much of the world.” Only later does the article mention that the U.S. uses cluster bombs. It never mentions that the U.S. and Israel both use cluster bombs against civilians, or that those two countries have not agreed to the treaty banning cluster bombs.
The New York Times is a real newspaper and often does a good job, but when it’s under pressure (or under orders) to publish war propaganda, it does so. The first paragraph demonizes Qaddafi, who is undeniably as bad as Bush or Cheney, but “buries” the inconvenient facts further down in the article. What distinguishes the Times is that to retain a little credibility, it did at least mention some of the inconvenient facts. Dedicated propaganda outlets such as Fox News and The Weekly Standard probably wouldn’t have bothered.
Elsewhere on the front page, we learn that Republican governors and state legislatures want to gut environmental protection laws so that corporations can pollute ad libitum and impose the costs on others.
On the editorial page, we learn that House Republicans want to throw open the Gulf of Mexico once again to the tender mercies of the oil companies, given that they did such a good job almost destroying it last year.
On the op-ed page, Columnist Gail Collins catches Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney falsifying the history of the 1990s, much the same as almost all Republicans routinely falsify the history of tax cuts for their wealthy sponsors.* Romney would probably take refuge in Republican Sen. John Kyl’s excuse that his lie about Planned Parenthood spending 90 percent of its funds on abortion “was not intended to be a factual statement.”
In fairness to Mitt, Collins found the lie (births to teenaged mothers peaked during the Clinton years) in a book of which Romney was the listed author. As a former Capitol Hill ghost writer, I can tell you that Romney almost certainly didn’t write the book.
Elsewhere on the op-ed page, columnist Charles Blow reiterates what’s widely known to everyone but Fox News viewers and Tea Partiers: corporations and the super-rich get a steadily increasing share of the national income but pay steadily decreasing tax rates. The top income tax rate was 91 percent under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who would now be considered a radical socialist. Since then, it’s been repeatedly reduced to reach its current level of 35 percent. House Republicans want to cut it even more to 25 percent.
U.S. economic growth was higher when the top tax rate was higher, but that’s one of those inconvenient facts that politicians can forget in the interest of getting money from Wall Street. Republicans are determined to give more tax breaks to “job creators:” but they fail to mention that the jobs are created in China and Indonesia, not in America.
I made my mind up, back in Chelsea,
When I go, I’m goin’ like Elsie.
Start by admitting, from cradle to tomb
Isn’t that long a day.
Life is a cabaret, old chum,
Only a cabaret, old chum.
And I love a cabaret.
* I don’t mean to beat up exclusively on Republicans. It seems to me that Wall Street pays Republicans to commit the crimes, and pays Democrats to stand around whining that they can’t do anything about it.
Copyright 2011 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL (http://www.ashesblog.com) are include