I know I’ve been a bit slack in my posting of late.  So life goes.  I won’t bother you with the messy details of all that has occupied my time, but I will try to do a little better at getting things written for your ravenous appetites to devour.  For today, you get a random splattering of some things in my periphery.  The first is the article I just read over at commondreams.org, about our VT Senator Sanders’ recent “socialist” victory.  The story picks up last fall when Bernie introduced a bill that would limit executive pay at those institutions who receive federal money as part of the on-going economic “bailout” (read: “last raid of the public coffers while the getting is good”).  Bernie had proposed a $400,000 limit as individual compensation from such businesses, a proposal which immediately went absolutely nowhere.  Now comes Obama and his own $500,000 pay cap initiative, and even the conservative Cato Institute has championed the idea, sheepishly declaring “you guys had a chance, you fucked up, and now you get government regulation”.  The two details of the story that have captured my attention: first, one line of the article notes that Sanders, a Democratic Socialist (a la the VT Progressive Party or the Democratic Socialist parties of Europe) (and a side-note: the article notes him as a “self-described Democratic Socialist” in the same vein that the press always notes “self-described anarchists”, a dis-empowering and de-legitimizing two words meant so clearly to disparage the message and the messenger) moves “a step closer to the political mainstream” as a result of the championing of this measure.  Of course, any half-baked logic sees that it is the political mainstream moving towards him, not the other way around.  Otherwise he would be changing his stance to be more in line with the self-described mainstream; but he is not.  Quality journalism that I’ll touch further upon in a couple of paragraphs.

Second, it is simply puzzling to me how these “free market” dimwits (from the Cato Institute to Allen Greenspan to George Bush and most everyone else in between) keep saying “our way, our model is the best one, but because it has led the entire global economic system to the previously unimagined brink of collapse, well, then we’ve got to implement these other ideas- that are entirely antithetical to our beliefs– in order to “fix” and “save” the capitalist order.”  What I’m not quite understanding (and my apologies for being somewhat of a pragmatist on the matter) is how one can say “the effects of the system that I believe in and champion have turned out to be disastrous for the entirety of the world order and we have to change course” while simultaneously declaring those same beliefs to be the “right” way to do things.  Listen folks: if you believe something to be true, but in actuality the results of your belief don’t accomplish what you claim they will or should, then your belief system is just wrong.  Hypothesis, test, results, and then either vindication or repudiation.  You couldn’t claim “this drug will cure cancer, everyone in need should use it” and then watch all the people who did so die of cancer and then say “everyone should stop using this drug, it doesn’t cure cancer…. but I still think in the long run it will work”.  But do we hear the Cato Institute, Allen Greenspan, or George Bush (or any of the other “free market” talking heads who have bombarded us relentlessly with their insulting attempts at “vision” over the past century) admitting the failures of their ideas and accepting something else as the desired course for our economy and our society?  No.  “The experiment was a failure, but I still think the hypothesis is true” is all these idiots  will say.  How they get away with this is truly a nightmare more elaborate than Hitchcock himself could have come up with.

A side note about that short article for Vermonters who are likely aware of Bernie’s propensity for self-aggrandization: there’s an odd but entirely hilarious non-sequitur in the article in which Bernie is quoted as saying “I occasionally quote some of the things I did”.

Which is a good lead-in, it turns out, to the other thing fresh on my mind this morning: the press.  On NPR this morning (On Point I think) there was an interesting conversation about the media and the future of the Fourth Estate.  Same old conversation that has been happening for a number of years now, and seems even more relevant each time it gets brought up: the dying of the newspaper trade and its somewhat awkward replacement by the internet.  Everyone sees it happening before their eyes, yet no one seems quite sure what to make of it or how it’s going to play out (I mean, how do we make money off of something that’s free? is there way the, er, capitalist press frames the problem of its own slow demise).  Of course, if the press did their job well my first point about “free market” capitalists and their odd non-conclusions from the evidence wouldn’t have been written, because it all would have been brought to task by the media.  While the entire show that I’m referring to was interesting, what really caught my attention was when one of the guests (or callers or someone) pointed out what the major newspapers are: a conglomeration of points of view and interests not meant to inform or reveal, but just meant to sell the most papers and make the most money.  It goes something like this: once upon a time there were many, many newspapers in any given city- one from a capitalist perspective, one from a socialist perspective, one maybe about sports, one from a Jewish perspective, one from a Jewish-socialist perspective… etc.  Each of them did their job at looking at the issues pertinent to their target audience and pushing the opinion (open, straight-forward and partisan) of the paper’s editors and publishers.  Each openly attacked ideas which were not their own and championed that which fell in line with the same.  But then they consolidated.  The bigger papers said to themselves “if we swallow this paper- it’s ideas and perspective- we’ll then have their readers too, which means we can charge more for advertising”.  The effect of course was that they began trying to claim, trying to be, “everything for everyone”.  In the process, “objectivity” became the mantra and in its worship common sense, different ideas, and simply stating the obvious become poisonous to their product.  The effect is plain as day: you can’t attack the capitalist structure lest you offend those readers (and most specifically, those advertisers) and they stop reading/placing ads.  The cultural homogenization- of our politics, economics, social life, and everything else- has been disastrous.

Finally, in the midst of trying to open a business (or two), dealing with being out of work, doing the winter chores, writing a book (or two), and preparing to be a dad (and walking on eggshells around those preparing to be a mom) I just finished yet another JM Coetzee novel- Disgrace.  I’m not going to write-up a full review of the book lest someone accuse me of turning this site into the Coetzee fan club (my review of his Waiting for the Barbarians remains by far my most read post ever and is seemingly being read by every college student from here to Berlin to Beijing to Cape Town).  What I do want to say is this: go read some Coetzee.  His sparse elaboration’s and quick mood turns are just dizzying, and I am simply awe-struck by his ability to explore the deepest contemplations of the individual in the very same moment he’s deconstructing the entirety of our social lives.  According to the cover of the edition of Disgrace that I picked up, it’s “soon to be  a major motion picture staring John Malkovich” which is great because Coetzee’s scene’s and story-lines always lend themselves to be great visuals (at least as I’m reading them) and Malkovich is one of my favorite actors.  But don’t wait for the movie you lazy Americans: read the book first, or at least, read something else of his.  He’s simply a brilliant thinker and moving storyteller.  And he’s pre-ported  to never smile- a close, long time friend claims to have seen him do it once, ever; a meaningless factoid, unless like me you tend to get wrapped-up in the mystique of the genius’ mind.