I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.
Is John King’s question about Newt Gingrich’s character as despicable as Newt divorcing his first wife while she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer surgery? As despicable as having an affair while married to his second wife and ultimately divorcing her months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis? As despicable as having an affair at the same time he was touting Republicans as the party of “family values” and leading a congressional impeachment proceeding against Bill Clinton because he denied he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky?
Apparently not, because the people of South Carolina chose him over Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and “Herman Cain.”
“I think Mitt Romney is a good man,” said Harold Wade, 85, leaving a polling place in this picturesque seaside suburb outside Charleston. “But I think we’ve reached a point where we need someone who’s mean.”
From pages 136 – 137 of David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, The Pale King, IRS agents discuss corporations and their responsibilities or lack thereof.
‘Corporations make the pie. They make it and we eat it.’
‘It’s probably part of my naïveté, that I don’t want to put the issue in political terms when it’s probably irreducibly political. Something has happened where we’ve decided on a personal level that it’s all right to abdicate our individual responsibility to the common good and let government worry about the common good while we all go about our individual self-interested business and struggle to gratify our various appetites.’
‘You can blame some of it on corporations and advertising surely.’
‘I don’t think of corporations as citizens, though. Corporations are machines for producing profit; that’s what they’re ingeniously designed to do. It’s ridiculous to ascribe civic obligations or moral responsibilities to corporations.’
‘But the whole dark genius of corporations is that they allow for individual reward without individual obligation. The workers’ obligations are to the executives, and the executives’ obligations are to the CEO, and the CEO’s obligations is to the Board of Directors, and the Board’s obligation is to the stockholders, who are also the same customers the corporation will screw over at the very earliest opportunity in the name of profit, which profits are distributed as dividends to the very stockholders-slash-customers they’ve been fucking over in their own name. It’s like a fugue of evaded responsibility.’
‘You’re leaving out Labor Unions advocating for labor and mutual funds and the SEC’s effects on share-price over basis.’
‘You’re a complete genius of irrelevancy, X. This isn’t a seminar. DeWitt’s trying to get at the heart of something here.’
‘Corporations aren’t citizens or neighbors or parents. They can’t vote or serve in combat. They don’t learn the Pledge of Allegiance. They don’t have souls. They’re revenue machines. I don’t have any problem with that. I think it’s absurd to lay moral or civic obligations on them. Their only obligations are strategic, and while they can get very complex, at root they’re not civic entities. With corporations, I have no problem with government enforcement of statutes and regulatory policy serving a conscience function. What my problem is is the way it seems that we as individual citizens have adopted a corporate attitude. That our ultimate obligation is to ourselves. That unless it’s illegal or there are direct practical consequences for ourselves, any activity is OK.’
The last American units withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011. Most of us breathed a sigh of relief while others believe it was premature to leave and that we’ll pay for it later. Who’s right? And what’s the final reckoning?
In a nutshell I think our troops were magnificent, our politicians awful and our national security overall has been diminished. And as for Iraq itself, we won’t know whether we set it on a new path to a unified and democratic future or a dead-end of sectarian fracturing and possible civil war for a generation.
It’s fair to say that the 30% of us who opposed the invasion from the outset, because it was unnecessary, unjustified and would create a messy aftermath to the successful toppling of Saddam Hussein were completely vindicated. On the biggest thing, in other words, we got it right.
On the other hand, those of us who opposed the so-called “surge” got it wrong, I’m happy to say, and it would be sour grapes not to admit it. In truth, we should celebrate the fact that the army was able to show sufficient flexibility to reassess its strategy in Iraq and, rather than reinforce failure, produce not only a winning formula for success but the man to implement it. General David Petraeus’s introduction of sound counterinsurgency principles, along with the modest boost in troop strength helped to turn the tide.
Of course, this success would not have been possible without the Sunni Awakening, for which we can thank al-Qaida-in-Iraq’s own murderous extremism, which drove the Sunni tribes of Anbar to make peace with the Americans and turn on the terrorists. This meant that 70% of the Sunni insurgents stopped shooting at us and, instead, provided valuable intelligence and other assistance which led to the effective defeat of al-Qaida. Of course this too was part of the American counterinsurgency strategy but let’s not underrate the role it played in the US victory.
Yet the cost of this “victory” was horrendous. It is now accepted that 100,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the invasion and the awful chaos and violence that followed. A tad under 4,500 Americans were killed and scores of allied soldiers, mostly Brits, were also lost. The toll in wounded including maimed civilians and soldiers hardly bears thinking about. The damage done to Iraq’s infrastructure was enormous; even now, for example, Iraqis only enjoy a few hours of electricity on any given day.
In strategic terms the invasion has to be viewed as a disaster since one consequence has been to significantly enhance the power of America’s nemesis in the region, Iran, since Iraq is no longer the counterweight to Iranian influence it once was in its pre-invasion days.
Even our long term relationship with Iraq cannot be taken for granted. There was no festoon of flowers along the route into Kuwait taken by the last American units to leave. Iraqis are at best ambivalent about the US invasion. Even those who benefit the most from Saddam Hussein’s fall wonder at the price they paid in terms of lives lost or ruined, and a broken country that we leave still in need of serious repair.
Back in America one of our major political parties obsesses about budget deficits whilst protecting our wealthiest citizens from overdue tax increases. This, when we face a huge and looming bill for the life-time care of thousands of former American servicemen and women who sustained permanent physical or mental injuries from this war and the one still waging in Afghanistan. We can only hope that the GOP will one day soon return to the reality that most of us live in and leave their alternate, fantasy world behind.
Finally, we learned that our volunteer military is both blessing and curse: A blessing because it performed with incredible professionalism, bravery and military competence even as the war increasingly and bitterly divided the country. Our servicemen and women never faltered in fulfilling their duty and it’s hard to find the words to praise them enough. But the volunteer military is also a curse because it enables idiot presidents with their own agenda to send it into unwise and unnecessary wars with few political consequences because most of us have no loved ones at risk. The few risked all while the many risked nothing.
Average annual tax savings for member of the top 1 percent of earners under the Bush tax cuts: $66,384
Average annual income for the other 99%: $58,506
Factor by which an American is more likely to cite unemployment than deficit as the country’s “most important problem”: 3
Factor by which a wealthy American is more likely to cite the deficit than unemployment: 3
And there you have it. The rich have been paying taxes at historically low rates for the past few decades (Yes, even the Clinton top rate of 39.4% is low by historical standards. It was 70% during the Kennedy years, and 91% during the Eisenhower years) and they are most concerned by the deficit while they are in the best position to do something about it-pay more taxes. Many of them do want congress to raise their taxes, but Republicans are doing everything in their power – filibustering – to prevent any increase in federal revenue through any types of changes to the tax code. In fact, every tax plan proposed by Republicans running for president includes more tax cuts for the super rich, and some even include tax increases on the middle and lower classes.
If wealthy Americans are really concerned about the deficit, then they should contact their representatives in congress and ask them to raise taxes on the top 1% earners.
If wealthy Americans are really concerned about the deficit, then they should contact their representatives in congress and ask them to pass the Obama Jobs Bill that would put hundreds of thousands of currently unemployed people back to work. Providing jobs increases tax receipts and reduces the deficit. Providing jobs also increases consumer demand which grows the economy.
All the proposed austerity measures that Republicans are pushing will decrease jobs and shrink the economy causing greater deficits. Simple math tells me they are really all about making the rich richer and screwing the middle and lower classes.
The very wealthy people need to start paying more taxes – at least at the rate they paid during the Clinton years – and the government needs to start spending money on projects within our borders that create jobs. Once the economy gets back to pre-recession levels, taxes should go up on the middle class too.
Okay so I am a couple weeks late getting this list posted for several reasons, but mainly because it’s so difficult to choose which twenty of the fifty-six 2011 albums I purchased belong on the list.
The top five are the albums I’ve listened to the most during the year, and two of the top five are by groups that don’t get anywhere near the attention they deserve, especially in the United States.
1. Capsula – In the Land of Silver Souls. This is the album I’ve listened to probably a hundred times, and I never tire of it. Their sound is part seventies Bowie, part Stooges, part Sonic Youth, a pinch of Link Wray, and a whole lot of “it.” Martin Guevara on guitar and vocals, Coni Duchess on bass and vocals, and Ignacio Villarejo on drums take all of their influences an blend them into one of the best sounding sonic stews I’ve ever heard. Top tracks are “Wild Fascination,” “Communication,” and “Hit ‘n’ Miss.”
Now that you’ve watched that video, you’ll probably want to go buy the CD. Good luck. Right here in Seattle where’ve they’ve been in heavy rotation on KEXP and have played two shows in the past six months (The Comet and the KEXP BBQ), you can’t find their music at Sonic Boom, Easy Street Records, Silver Platters, or any other store I’ve wandered into. The album is on the BCore Disc label, which must have very poor distribution in the U.S. Amazon sometimes has it, and you can buy it from the band for $10 if you go to a show. So what I guess I am saying is go to a show, see the band, buy their music, spread the word. (I guess you pod people can download it too.)
2. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake. When I read that P.J. was working on an album of songs she plays on an autoharp, I thought that’s gonna be pretty weird. What it is, is a masterpiece – an incredibly focused, forceful collection of passionate and sometimes angry songs about war. Here’s one of the twelve films by Seamus Murphy that are available on YouTube and on a DVD now available in the UK that hasn’t yet made it across the pond.
3. Tom Waits – Bad as Me. It’s been a long time since Tom Waits put out an album of all new songs, and it was worth the wait. Tom uses all his voices in this album. He delivers the rockers “Bad as Me” and “Satisfied” in a howling gravelly voice with a nice shout-out to Mick and Keith, and “Back in the Crowd” and “Last Leaf” in deep, slightly raspy melodious voice.
4. The Decemberists – The King is Dead. I had heard the Decemberists on the radio quite a few times, but I never paid much attention to them until this album came out. This is a pop album that the band says was influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees, XTC, and R.E.M. (Peter Buck plays guitar on three songs.) Top tracks are “Calamity Song,” “Down by the Water” and “This is Why We Fight.”
Be sure and watch the video for “Calamity Song” too. It was inspired by the David Foster Walace novel, Infinite Jest.
5. The Duke Spirit – Bruiser. This album was released in Europe in September and has not yet been released in the U.S. where they don’t get near the attention they deserve. KEXP has recently started playing a couple of tracks, so maybe the band will get a little traction and release their album in the U.S. soon. Liela Moss has one of the sexiest voices in rock ‘n roll today, and the band backs her up brilliantly. Key tracks are “Don’t Wait,” and “Surrender.”
7. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh. This album will grow on you. With lyrics like, “Then she left me here reeling with that time-release feeling/Like a long wisp of hunger, I swung from the ceiling” how could it not?
9. Viva Voce – The Future Will Destroy You. The album was released on the first day of summer and this guitar-heavy, retro-psychedelic-pop record instantly became the soundtrack to my summer. It’s a great one to listen to while driving through the city on the way home.
10. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi. She’s got pipes, she can play guitar, and she’s got impeccable taste. Here’s a list of her influential albums from the November 2011 issue of Uncut Magazine: Aladdin Sane – David Bowie, Death of a Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen, Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins, Gris-Gris – Dr. John, Grace – Jeff Buckley, The Ecstasy of Gold – Ennio Morricone, Quartet for the End of Time – Olivier Messiaen, Let Love In – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Wild is the Wind – Nina Simone, and Limehouse Blues – Django Reinhardt. ‘Nuff said.
19. John Doe – Keeper. It’s John’s “happy” record. No, really. Listen to “Little Tiger” and “Lucky Penny.”
20.Wild Flag – Wild Flag. Carrie Brownstein’s new band: “What is the sound of an avalanche taking out a dolphin? What do get when you cross a hamburger with a hot dog? The answer is: WILD FLAG.”
Honorable mentions to: Dave Alvin, The Cave Singers, Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi, Ry Cooder, Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell, The Kills, The Pimps of Joytime, The Roots, Sons and Daughters, Tinariwen, Trombone Shorty, and Thurston Moore.