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America: A Fantasy Game

8:09 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Robot Scrabble – flickr creative commons

I posted a link to my FB page from Alternet about the gun nuts and their power trip. An FB friend commented that it reminds her husband of the OK Coral and the Clantons. Maybe so, but I seriously doubt these clowns would engage in a shoot out with anybody. And in the “Old West” carrying a gun into town was generally not allowed.

Had a discussion with a friend the other day on this country’s infrastructure and how old and dilapidated it is.  That upgrading it would be pricey but would improve life immensely. This is done only for high price, new communities as a selling point. Places like Cleveland or Pittsburgh or even Chicago will still have the old wires on the verge of coming down. Like the ones out back of my humble abode.

Now, how do these two subjects tie together? Easy. If someone or some group really wanted to cause trouble, wanted to disrupt the status quo they could easily do it and without much effort or expense.

Another electric substation was attacked but the homemade device failed to detonate. Luck I guess.

I often go hiking to take nature pictures and very often the trails lead through areas where high tension cables are strung. Or near railroad tracks and sometimes both. Unguarded and unprotected. There are numerous sites — even with maps — that list and show where major communications cables and switching networks are located.

Bridges and overpasses and what not.

Now with such vulnerability that even a minor natural occurrence such as a hurricane or earthquake can be very disruptive, how come even the most extreme groups on either side of the isle have not launched even a small attempt to cause chaos? With all the big talk and open carry and all.

Because it would be very disruptive on a personal level. Living in Florida and going through many hurricanes the one thing I notice was peoples biggest concern was for things to “get back to normal.” In other wards for the status quo to return. The cable and electricity back on and the burger joint open.

As much as everyone bitches, moans, complains and even threatens mayhem concerning the status quo, nobody really wants it to change. Everyone wants a major change it the situation but with one main and overwhelming proviso: that it won’t prevent them from going to the local quicky stop store to get a carton of milk, a couple of six packs of beer and a carton of cigarettes.

They just do not want the inconvenience. In fact, the very thought scares the hell out of them because without the status quo, they do not know what to do.

As a culture America has become completely dependent of the very things we now despise. And the elites know it. That as much as people rail about capitalism, it’s injustices and environmental destruction there is no way anyone is willing to put it in jeopardy. And the elites know it.

In the late 1960s a group called The Jefferson Airplane put out an album called Volunteers. The theme of witch was tearing down a system that was unjust, unfair and despised. The very system that enabled this same group to charge thousands of dollars for a concert and collect even more in record sale. Obviously a fantasy album. Would make a great computer game, don’t you think ?

10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America – Mark Manson

9:06 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

I got this link to an essay by Mark Manson from a Facebook friend. One of the best assessments of America and Americans I have read so far. I myself have never been to Europe or any other country but I have talked with people outside this country on My Amateur Radio, and at length sometimes.  In over 200 countries in fact. I have found them to be kind, patient, for the most part humble, sincere and polite. Not what I would say about more than a few American Amateurs. I have lived in the north and south and visited a number of states but not many west of the Mississippi, so I do confess my experience in that respect is limited.
Even though I find the appraisal to be pretty much on the mark.

Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him.
This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with an analogy:

You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? Stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood, it turns out was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.

And so even though this article is going to come across as fairly scathing, I want my American readers to know: some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up. And that’s OK. Because that’s true with every culture. It’s just easier to spot it in others (e.g., the French) so we don’t always notice it in ourselves.

So as you read this article, know that I’m saying everything with tough love, the same tough love with which I’d sit down and lecture an alcoholic family member. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome things about you (BRO, THAT’S AWESOME!!!). And it doesn’t mean I’m some saint either, because god knows I’m pretty screwed up (I’m American, after all). There are just a few things you need to hear. And as a friend, I’m going to tell them to you.

And to my foreign readers, get your necks ready, because this is going to be a nod-a-thon.

A Little “What The Hell Does This Guy Know?” Background: I’ve lived in different parts of the US, both the deep south and the northeast. I have visited most of the US’s 50 states. I’ve spent the past three years living almost entirely outside of the United States. I’ve lived in multiple countries in Europe, Asia and South America. I’ve visited over 40 countries in all and have spent far more time with non-Americans than with Americans during this period. I speak multiple languages. I’m not a tourist. I don’t stay in resorts and rarely stay in hostels. I rent apartments and try to integrate myself into each country I visit as much as possible. So there.

(Note: I realize these are generalizations and I realize there are always exceptions. I get it. You don’t have to post 55 comments telling me that you and your best friend are exceptions. If you really get that offended from some guy’s blog post, you may want to double-check your life priorities.)

OK, we’re ready now. 10 things Americans don’t know about America.

1. Few People Are Impressed By Us

Unless you’re speaking with a real estate agent or a prostitute, chances are they’re not going to be excited that you’re American. It’s not some badge of honor we get to parade around. Yes, we had Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, but unless you actually are Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison (which is unlikely) then most people around the world are simply not going to care. There are exceptions of course. And those exceptions are called English and Australian people. Whoopdie-fucking-doo.

As Americans, we’re brought up our entire lives being taught that we’re the best, we did everything first and that the rest of the world follows our lead. Not only is this not true, but people get irritated when you bring it to their country with you. So don’t.

2. Few People Hate Us

Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us. I know, that sounds absurd, especially with CNN and Fox News showing the same 20 angry Arab men on repeat for ten years straight. But unless we’re invading someone’s country or threatening to invade someone’s country (which is likely), then there’s a 99.99% chance they don’t care about us. Just like we rarely think about the people in Bolivia or Mongolia, most people don’t think about us much. They have jobs, kids, house payments — you know, those things called lives — to worry about. Kind of like us.

Americans tend to assume that the rest of the world either loves us or hates us (this is actually a good litmus test to tell if someone is conservative or liberal). The fact is, most people feel neither. Most people don’t think much about us.

Remember that immature girl in high school, who every little thing that happened to her meant that someone either hated her or was obsessed with her; who thought every teacher who ever gave her a bad grade was being totally unfair and everything good that happened to her was because of how amazing she was? Yeah, we’re that immature high school girl.

3. We Know Nothing About The Rest Of The World

For all of our talk about being global leaders and how everyone follows us, we don’t seem to know much about our supposed “followers.” They often have completely different takes on history than we do. Here were some brain-stumpers for me: the Vietnamese were more concerned with independence (not us), Hitler was primarily defeated by Russia (not us), there is evidence Native Americans were wiped out largely disease and plague BEFORE Europeans arrived and not just after, and the American Revolution was partly “won” because the British invested more of their resources in beating France (not us). Notice a running theme here?

(Hint: It’s not all about us. The world is more complicated.)

We did not invent democracy. We didn’t even invent modern democracy. There were parliamentary systems in England and other parts of Europe over a hundred years before we created government. In a recent survey of young Americans, 63% could not find Iraq on a map (despite being at war with them), and 54% did not know Sudan was a country in Africa. Yet, somehow we’re positive that everyone else looks up to us.

4. We Are Poor At Expressing Gratitude And Affection

There’s a saying about English-speakers. We say “Go fuck yourself,” when we really mean “I like you,” and we say “I like you,” when we really mean “Go fuck yourself.”

Outside of getting shit-housed drunk and screaming “I LOVE YOU, MAN!”, open displays of affection in American culture are tepid and rare. Latin and some European cultures describe us as “cold” and “passionless” and for good reason. In our social lives we don’t say what we mean and we don’t mean what we say.

In our culture, appreciation and affection are implied rather than spoken outright. Two guy friends call each other names to reinforce their friendship; men and women tease and make fun of each other to imply interest. Feelings are almost never shared openly and freely. Consumer culture has cheapened our language of gratitude. Something like, “It’s so good to see you” is empty now because it’s expected and heard from everybody.

In dating, when I find a woman attractive, I almost always walk right up to her and tell her that a) I wanted to meet her, and b) she’s beautiful. In America, women usually get incredibly nervous and confused when I do this. They’ll make jokes to defuse the situation or sometimes ask me if I’m part of a TV show or something playing a prank. Even when they’re interested and go on dates with me, they get a bit disoriented when I’m so blunt with my interest. Whereas, in almost every other culture approaching women this way is met with a confident smile and a “Thank you.”

5. The Quality of Life For The Average American Is Not That Great

If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s this culture of self-delusion that allows America to continue to innovate and churn out new industry more than anyone else in the world. But this shared delusion also unfortunately keeps perpetuating large social inequalities and the quality of life for the average citizen lower than most other developed countries. It’s the price we pay to maintain our growth and economic dominance.

In my Guide to Wealth, I defined being wealthy as, “Having the freedom to maximize one’s life experiences.” In those terms, despite the average American having more material wealth than citizens of most other countries (more cars, bigger houses, nicer televisions), their overall quality of life suffers in my opinion. American people on average work more hours with less vacation, spend more time commuting every day, and are saddled with over $10,000 of debt. That’s a lot of time spent working and buying crap and little time or disposable income for relationships, activities or new experiences.

6. The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us

In 2010, I got into a taxi in Bangkok to take me to a new six-story cineplex. It was accessible by metro, but I chose a taxi instead. On the seat in front of me was a sign with a wifi password. Wait, what? I asked the driver if he had wifi in his taxi. He flashed a huge smile. The squat Thai man, with his pidgin English, explained that he had installed it himself. He then turned on his new sound system and disco lights. His taxi instantly became a cheesy nightclub on wheels… with free wifi.

If there’s one constant in my travels over the past three years, it has been that almost every place I’ve visited (especially in Asia and South America) is much nicer and safer than I expected it to be. Singapore is pristine. Hong Kong makes Manhattan look like a suburb. My neighborhood in Colombia is nicer than the one I lived in in Boston (and cheaper).

As Americans, we have this naïve assumption that people all over the world are struggling and way behind us. They’re not. Sweden and South Korea have more advanced high speed internet networks. Japan has the most advanced trains and transportation systems. Norwegians make more money. The biggest and most advanced plane in the world is flown out of Singapore. The tallest buildings in the world are now in Dubai and Shanghai. Meanwhile, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

What’s so surprising about the world is how unsurprising most of it is. I spent a week with some local guys in Cambodia. You know what their biggest concerns were? Paying for school, getting to work on time, and what their friends were saying about them. In Brazil, people have debt problems, hate getting stuck in traffic and complain about their overbearing mothers. Every country thinks they have the worst drivers. Every country thinks their weather is unpredictable. The world becomes, err… predictable.

7. We’re Paranoid

Not only are we emotionally insecure as a culture, but I’ve come to realize how paranoid we are about our physical security. You don’t have to watch Fox News or CNN for more than 10 minutes to hear about how our drinking water is going to kill us, our neighbor is going to rape our children, some terrorist in Yemen is going to kill us because we didn’t torture him, Mexicans are going to kill us, or some virus from a bird is going to kill us. There’s a reason we have more guns than people.

In the US, security trumps everything, even liberty. We’re paranoid.

I’ve probably been to 10 countries now that friends and family back home told me explicitly not to go because someone was going to kill me, kidnap me, stab me, rob me, rape me, sell me into sex trade, give me HIV, or whatever else. None of that has happened. I’ve never been robbed and I’ve walked through some of the shittiest parts of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

In fact, the experience has been the opposite. In countries like Russia, Colombia or Guatemala, people were so honest and open with me, it actually scared me. Some stranger in a bar would invite me to his house for a barbeque with his family, a random person on the street would offer to show me around and give me directions to a store I was trying to find. My American instincts were always that, “Wait, this guy is going to try to rob me or kill me,” but they never did. They were just insanely friendly.

8. We’re Status-Obsessed And Seek Attention

I’ve noticed that the way we Americans communicate is usually designed to create a lot of attention and hype. Again, I think this is a product of our consumer culture: the belief that something isn’t worthwhile or important unless it’s perceived to be the best (BEST EVER!!!) or unless it gets a lot of attention (see: every reality-television show ever made).

This is why Americans have a peculiar habit of thinking everything is “totally awesome,” and even the most mundane activities were “the best thing ever!” It’s the unconscious drive we share for importance and significance, this unmentioned belief, socially beaten into us since birth that if we’re not the best at something, then we don’t matter.

We’re status-obsessed. Our culture is built around achievement, production and being exceptional. Therefore comparing ourselves and attempting to out-do one another has infiltrated our social relationships as well. Who can slam the most beers first? Who can get reservations at the best restaurant? Who knows the promoter to the club? Who dated a girl on the cheerleading squad? Socializing becomes objectified and turned into a competition. And if you’re not winning, the implication is that you are not important and no one will like you.

9. We Are Very Unhealthy

Unless you have cancer or something equally dire, the health care system in the US sucks. The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th in the world for health care, despite the fact that we spend the most per capita by a large margin.

The hospitals are nicer in Asia (with European-educated doctors and nurses) and cost a tenth as much. Something as routine as a vaccination costs multiple hundreds of dollars in the US and less than $10 in Colombia. And before you make fun of Colombian hospitals, Colombia is 28th in the world on that WHO list, nine spots higher than us.

A routine STD test that can run you over $200 in the US is free in many countries to anyone, citizen or not. My health insurance the past year? $65 a month. Why? Because I live outside of the US. An American guy I met living in Buenos Aires got knee surgery on his ACL that would have cost $10,000 in the US… for free.

But this isn’t really getting into the real problems of our health. Our food is killing us. I’m not going to go crazy with the details, but we eat chemically-laced crap because it’s cheaper and tastes better (profit, profit). Our portion sizes are absurd (more profit). And we’re by far the most prescribed nation in the world AND our drugs cost five to ten times more than they do even in Canada (ohhhhhhh, profit, you sexy bitch).

In terms of life expectancy, despite being the richest country in the world, we come in a paltry 38th. Right behind Cuba, Malta and the United Arab Emirates, and slightly ahead of Slovenia, Kuwait and Uruguay. Enjoy your Big Mac.

10. We Mistake Comfort For Happiness

The United States is a country built on the exaltation of economic growth and personal ingenuity. Small businesses and constant growth are celebrated and supported above all else — above affordable health care, above respectable education, above everything. Americans believe it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and make something of yourself, not the state’s, not your community’s, not even your friend’s or family’s in some instances.

Comfort sells easier than happiness. Comfort is easy. It requires no effort and no work. Happiness takes effort. It requires being proactive, confronting fears, facing difficult situations, and having unpleasant conversations.

Comfort equals sales. We’ve been sold comfort for generations and for generations we bought: bigger houses, separated further and further out into the suburbs; bigger TV’s, more movies, and take-out. The American public is becoming docile and complacent. We’re obese and entitled. When we travel, we look for giant hotels that will insulate us and pamper us rather than for legitimate cultural experiences that may challenge our perspectives or help us grow as individuals.

Depression and anxiety disorders are soaring within the US. Our inability to confront anything unpleasant around us has not only created a national sense of entitlement, but it’s disconnected us from what actually drives happiness: relationships, unique experiences, feeling self-validated, achieving personal goals. It’s easier to watch a NASCAR race on television and tweet about it than to actually get out and try something new with a friend.

Unfortunately, a by-product of our massive commercial success is that we’re able to avoid the necessary emotional struggles of life in lieu of easy superficial pleasures.

Throughout history, every dominant civilization eventually collapsed because it became TOO successful. What made it powerful and unique grows out of proportion and consumes its society. I think this is true for American society. We’re complacent, entitled and unhealthy. My generation is the first generation of Americans who will be worse off than their parents, economically, physically and emotionally. And this is not due to a lack of resources, to a lack of education or to a lack of ingenuity. It’s corruption and complacency. The corruption from the massive industries that control our government’s policies, and the fat complacency of the people to sit around and let it happen.

There are things I love about my country. I don’t hate the US and I still return to it a few times a year. But I think the greatest flaw of American culture is our blind self-absorption. In the past it only hurt other countries. But now it’s starting to hurt ourselves.

So this is my lecture to my alcoholic brother — my own flavor of arrogance and self-absorption, even if slightly more informed — in hopes he’ll give up his wayward ways. I imagine it’ll fall on deaf ears, but it’s the most I can do for now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some funny cat pictures to look at.


The Ukraine Blues

8:46 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen


Here is a good interview with Dr. Stephen F. Cohen by George Kenney of Electric Politics. It’s about 48 minutes long but audio only. Well worth a listen. From the description:

One feels frighteningly disoriented, hearing an American president support deadly mob violence for what is, essentially, counter-revolutionary change (in the form of IMF austerity). The president’s message may be directed at unknown people far away but the effects are certain to be felt here, possibly for generations, as the bindings of what relative peace we have come undone. I was extremely fortunate to be able to talk with Dr. Stephen F. Cohen about the crisis in Ukraine. He’s in a tiny minority willing to discuss what’s really happening. This is an unscheduled podcast on breaking news. Total runtime forty eight minutes.

Dr. Cohen goes into good detail concerning the potential fall out of the crisis in the Ukraine and how Russia may respond to it. Also what this may mean for the Ukraine itself. A very good analysis of the situation. Especially the radicals that have stormed Kiev and the US EU response to the situation.

More from the Nation:

The crisis in Ukraine came to a head this weekend with President Viktor Yanukovych’s hasty flight from Kiev. The western response to his departure now threatens to fracture the Ukrainian government into two regimes: one led by a democratically-elected president and one chosen by the ‘street.’ Appearing on Electric Politics, Nation contributing editor Stephen Cohen situated the present conflict in Ukraine within the context of America’s foreign policy toward post–World War II Eastern Europe. He argues that western policymakers seem unaware of the possible consequences of their support for the Ukrainian dissidents. Pointing to a ‘new Cold War divide in Europe’ as one possible outcome, Cohen warns that ‘our children and grandchildren will pay the price of this winner-take-all policy.’

Here is the link to the podcast and download.

And Starring Jerry Mathers as The Beaver …

4:05 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

The Cleavers

Leave it To Beaver was probably the most watched and the most popular family sitcom of the late 1950s and early 1960s. And it was America’s idea of the perfect family in the perfect suburban area.

Oh there were other family sitcoms that came before. Like Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show. My Three Sons that came after.and in the 1970s The Brady Bunch etc. Hollywood’s depiction of America for all to see. And America eat it up.

But like nearly all shows Hollywood came up with it was make believe. A fantasy that was about as far as one could get from reality.  There were no minorities depicted in any way shape or form in these shows.  All the children were even more perfect than in Lake Wobegon. Both parents were kind, caring, soft spoken and understanding. Wally never picked on The Beaver and Beaver rarely got into any real trouble.  The teaches and school were perfect as well. Wise and understanding and patient. And when they finally became teenagers, there was not smoking of cigarettes or pot. Not beer or loud parties. All the women and girls wore nice dresses. And nobody was gay or had abortions or got pregnant.

I have live or visited all up and down the east coast of this country. From North Eastern Ohio. The rural areas to the City of Cleveland, suburban Phillie, Naples Florida, Miami Florida and Orlando/Winter Park Florida. I have never, ever come across any family or community that came anywhere near that which was depicted in Leave it To Beaver. No schools or teachers even close to that image. This was pure fantasy. But …

There are still a are number of people in this country that believe this was real. That saw their family as The Cleavers.  That still see themselves as The Cleavers. That sill see this country like these neighborhoods. Perfect white enclaves for the upper middle class. None of those misbehaved poor people or minorities.

Not just the Tea Party Right Wing but a fair number of those who consider themselves “Lefties” as well.

And they see this a disappearing and they want it back. So they have the cops arrest anyone who looks out of place. Or even try to remake the area in this image politically and economically. to keep the riff-Raff out.

A white upper middle class utopia that never existed.

Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Chris Hedges has a dream…

8:32 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

And in the last part of this segment on TRNN he articulates it with the 5 questions posed to him here. I shall embed it thusly.

Hedges dream is to organize massive protests. To get people out in the streets and to monkey wrench the PTB so that business as usual cannot go on. The end result being the removal of the current group of elites from power in a peaceful manner. The same dream I have read from others here and on other blogs and outlets.

The last time we had a massive outpouring of rage and discontent – though not in the streets – was in 2008 when the financial system locked up and Wall Street was about to tank and congress was ordered to pass a bill to refund the banks and Wall Street to rescue them with TAX money. This did not last long and Bush had little trouble getting congress to go along. Sure there was a small act of indignation but it was only and act and except for the fringes on the right and left, those typical Americans began to get quiet. Especially when it was reveled that it was their 401Ks and BMWs and McMansions Washington was trying to rescue from the abyss.  Since had the system collapsed, it would have been the stock holders and bond holders via their financial planners and managers who would have been literally thrown out into the streets.

I say it’s a dream because this is the same country where dumping old people into nursing homes and forgetting them is the accepted practice.  Where public education is for the great unwashed. And the general mantra is “anything that’s your problem is your problem and nobody else’s”.

So I wonder just how many people would be out on the streets…even if they began to round up dissenters or old people or immigrants and put them in detention camps or just exterminated them. Or would they just plead ignorance like the Germans who lived just outside “Auschwitz” and Chełmno did.

Or  would it really only interest just a small circle of friends.

Why aren’t we out in the streets like Brazil ?

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

That was the question Bill Moyers presented on his Face Book page.   It baffles my how anyone could ask this question. Or rather how they could compare our current situation with that of Brazil or Egypt or any other country that has the problems they do.

Since most of the people here live in places like this.


or this …


Or this.

And not in places like this.

or this.

Maybe it because every time people do take to the streets they are confronted by this.

And this…

Or maybe they just aren’t motivated to for some other reason.

Food for thought….

8:21 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Carlos Sayadyan - Famine / wikimedia commons - flickr

We like to compare ourselves to Europe and the rest of the world  a lot. Our economists do it, educators do it, health professionals do it even some politicians do it. In nearly every subject imaginable.

Those that like to extort what they call American exceptionalism and those that like to show how out of touch and behind we actually are.

Where here is one subject where most of the world has beat us from the time people originally settled here.


Yep…and they have had a bunch of them. Sometimes killing a million or more people from starvation and/or disease and plagues. We think of these as something that happens only in third world underdeveloped countries. Not so.

The closest we have come to the kind of famines that the rest of the world endured was Year Without a Summer where there were massive crop failures in the eastern part of the country.   Even then farmers could pack up and leave and move west, which many did.

Those even in Europe did not always have that option and actually could not except to immigrate here. This was not an easy task and for most far to expensive.  A good number of these famines were responsible for the immigration to this country. Like the Great Irish Famine in which up to 1,500,000 people immigrated

While the famine was responsible for a significant increase in emigration from Ireland, of anywhere from 45% to nearly 85% depending on the year and the county, it was not the sole cause. Nor was it even the era when mass emigration from Ireland commenced. That can be traced to the middle of the 18th century, when some 250,000 people left Ireland to settle in the New World alone, over a period of some 50 years. From the defeat of Napoleon to the beginning of the famine, a period of 30 years, “at least 1,000,000 and possibly 1,500,000 emigrated”.[89] However, during the worst of the famine, emigration reached somewhere around 250,000 in one year alone, with far more emigrants leaving from western Ireland than any other part.[90]

A large number of which immigrated to this country.

The classic image of an Irish immigrant is led to a certain extent by racist and anti-Catholic stereotypes. In modern times, in the United States, the Irish are largely perceived as hard workers. Most notably they are associated with the positions of police officer, firefighter, Roman Catholic Church leaders and politicians in the larger Eastern Seaboard metropolitan areas.Irish Americans number over 35 million, making them the second largest reported ethnic group in the country, after German Americans. Historically, large Irish American communities have been found in Philadelphia; Chicago; Boston; New York City; Detroit; New England; Baltimore; Pittsburgh; St. Paul, Minnesota; Buffalo; Broome County; Los Angeles; and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many cities across the country have annual St Patrick’s Day parades;The nation’s largest is in New York Cityone of the world’s largest parades. The parade in Boston is closely associated with Evacuation Day, when the British left Boston in 1776 during the American War of Independence. Not to be forgotten are the 56% of the people who claim Irish ancestry who are Protestant and populate large areas along the Appalachian Mountains and the southeastern United States, especially in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas and Virginia

Before the Great Hunger (“Irish Potato Famine“), in which over a million died and more emigrated,[51] there had been the Penal Laws which had already resulted in significant emigration from Ireland.[citation needed]

According to the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, in 1790 there were 400,000 Americans of Irish birth or ancestry out of a total white population of 3,100,000. Half of these Irish Americans were descended from Ulster people, and half were descended from the people of Connaught, Leinster and Munster.

According to U.S. Census figures from 2000, 41,000,000 Americans claim to be wholly or partly of Irish ancestry, a group that represents more than one in five white Americans.

Not only immigration but social, political and economic upheaval can be traced to famines. Most notably the French and Russian revolutions.

A history of not having enough to eat also influences the way one eats.  Unlike here where we are used to putting whatever we can grab into our mouths and fast as possible,  in Europe – and especially in France – meals are social occasions where one takes time to savor each part of each course. And when you don’t have much of any one item, you have as many items as you can. Hence the tradition of having multi course meals.  Each served separately and prepared separately – since refrigeration came much, much later and each item had to be fresh.

These social occasions were where you talked over your day and what not.

Food wise this country has never really had it as bad as a lot of the rest of the world. Even during the depression of the 1930s, we did not ever have a situation where 100s of thousands of people died of starvation.

At least not yet………………


Them or Us

4:30 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen


That is how it was put by Romney and his group in the last election, as Richard Wolff reminds us in his presentations. Such as this one.  An economic Us vs Them but not entirely.   This country is and has been unique in that it is one of the few countries that is not  made up of a majority of people from the same racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.  So there has been at least an undercurrent of racial/ethnic/religious animosity from the get go.

Add to that the economic and social differences, it’s actually pretty amazing we have not been at each others throats all along.  There was great debate as to whether voting should be limited to only those who owned land or were bankers and merchants and yeoman farmers and on and on.

For a while Us was was limited to white anglo saxon men. And then divided up to men either those with money and prestige or those without IE workers and farmers etc. Depending on which group one belonged to. But it did not include and minorities or homosexuals. It included women but only as second class members with – for a while – no voting rights.

Racial bigotry wasn’t limited to blacks. There was Native Americans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Japanese, Chinese and even Germans.  Some of it outrageous and some of subtle. Stereotypes and caricatures  galore.

Social too. The Hillbilly and Farmers and Southerners and rednecks and city slickers etc.  In movies and comic books and on TV and radio…….

And all was fine as long as They kept their place and kept quiet.   The war or animosity between the business owners and the workers is nearly as long and in a way rather ironic and most of those who became business owners originally here, came from the working classes over there.   Both groups convinced that They are the ones who do the work and They are the ones who make the country great and They are the ones  who deserve respect. And that the Others should be grateful and are lazy and uncouth etc.

After WWII and the availability of higher education came another group of educated professionals that did not exist in such great numbers who also spit but this time along more ideological lines of US vs Them.   Neither one fully or actually identifying with either of the previous groups.  Since they were not part of the rich elites or the working classes.  A new bourgeoisie as it were or elites wannabee.   Wishing they were rich and quite often trying to live like such.

But then another group emerged. One I first had contact with in the late 1970s. Baby-boomers who rejected the college educated crowd and intellectuals. Who felt that they had been  somehow betrayed by them. Angry, disenchanted people who wanted to relate to the proletarians or working stiffs but were quite often well educated.   Distrustful of the educated liberals who they thought had betrayed their ideals but not really from the working classes either.    An Us vs Them that is not nearly as well defined.

So maybe when Richard Wolff and others ask how come We and not rising up against Them in outrage, it’s because We are not all that sure who We are.  Not nearly as clear now as it was in the past.

The White Rose

4:39 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Schmorell grave - Jim Forest flickr

The vast majority of Americans support the extra judicial killings of people with drones.  This is not surprising at all since there was great support for going after protestors during the 1960s, Japanese internment during WWII, black segregation and slavery, Native American slaughter and relocation and on and on.

Just as there was great support for Japanese military atrocities in Japan and Nazi atrocities in Germany during Hitler’s time and Generalissimo Francisco Franco in Spain and Stalin in the USSR. Not just out of fear but also because people there were doing OK under these regimes.

And now the extreme right in Greece is becoming more and more popular and Stalin is gaining popularity again as a hero in Russia.

Germany has strict and harsh laws against denial  of the Holocaust and  tribute to Hitler but I wonder how long this would last should they find themselves in the same situation that led to his rise initially.  And how many would dare to speak out such as these young people did.

Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr, already a widow at the age of 29 following her husband’s death on the Russian front, was introduced to the White Rose group by her friend, Alexander Schmorell.

“I can still see Alex today as he told me about it,” says Furst-Ramdohr, now a spry 99-year-old. “He never said the word ‘resistance’, he just said that the war was dreadful, with the battles and so many people dying, and that Hitler was a megalomaniac, and so they had to do something.”

Schmorell and his friends Christoph Probst and Hans Scholl had started writing leaflets encouraging Germans to join them in resisting the Nazi regime.

With the help of a small group of collaborators, they distributed the leaflets to addresses selected at random from the phone book.

Furst-Ramdohr says the group couldn’t understand how the German people had been so easily led into supporting the Nazi Party and its ideology.

“They must have been able to tell how bad things were, it was ridiculous,” she says. – BBC Website

They distributed pamphlets all over the area including to the University of Munich.  Where they were spotted by a caretaker who call the Gestapo who came and took them away.

There was a trial with a quick verdict followed even quicker by an execution in the courtyard by guillotine. Now The White Rose are considered heroes and have a monument. But as Furst-Ramdohr says ….

Since the end of the war, the members of the White Rose have become celebrated figures, as German society has searched for positive role models from the Nazi period.

But Furst-Ramdohr doesn’t like it. “At the time, they’d have had us all executed,” she says of the majority of her compatriots. - BBC Website

Such as those who were killed here at Kent State or Jackson State are considered heroes…or were.

We haven’t had any execution here yet of protestors but the silence of those in LA concerning the LAPD, the attacks on OWS and the imprisonment of Bradly Manning  with very little outcry except some on the political left – leaves me to wonder.  As to why the German people of time supported Hitler and hist actions actively and even passively ? Here is one explanation.

A well-respected German historian has a radical new theory to explain a nagging question: Why did average Germans so heartily support the Nazis and Third Reich? Hitler, says Goetz Aly, was a “feel good dictator,” a leader who not only made Germans feel important, but also made sure they were well cared-for by the state.
To do so, he gave them huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also — in great contrast to World War I — particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a “warm-hearted” protector, says Aly, author of the new book “Hitler’s People’s State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism” [TC: I cannot find it on U.S. Amazon, try this German link] and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich’s unsavory, murderous side.
Financing such home front “happiness” was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.

Sound familiar ?  Bread and Circuses works every time.  Which could explain why so many here are pretty OK with the status quo. As long as they themselves are well taken care of and are doing OK, that’s all that matters, regardless of how the rest are doing.

And as for those who are just waiting for the system to implode, you might want to remember The White Rose.

A nation of deadbeats…but swindlers, con artists and crooks comes closer to the mark.

9:33 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

I came across the following video after searching a bit after reading this interview in Mother Jones.

“Deadbeat Nation” sounds like a great name for book. And as it turns out, it is a book. In A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters, William & Mary professor Scott Reynolds Nelson argues that American history consists of a never-ending string of defaults at the individual, municipal, and state levels. Credit bubbles alternately finance transformative policies like westward expansion and infrastructure improvements, and then remake the nation’s political landscape when they invariably pop. Economist Tyler Cowen, in a New York Times Magazinereview last July, needed just one sentence to summarize the book: “We have hardly ever had a well-functioning banking system.”

What this means is that from the very beginning the finances of this country were based on fraud. Watch the video here.

In this he shows how nearly all the financial disasters and crisis can be traced back to bank and financier investments that were dodgy at best and fraudulent at worst. What Nelson I think does not realize is that in this he also shows how capitalism itself is at it’s very core is based on fraud, swindling and corruption. And at the head are the bankers.

I have watched a number of these types of videos and read a number of articles and online books of this sort by various economic and financial historians etc. all with the stated or unstated premiss that there is nothing wrong with capitalism providing it is done honestly.

Then each one without exception goes on to show unequivocally that there is no such thing as honest capitalism.  There never has been and probably never will be.