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Where’s The Outrage? The Way We Were Is Not Much Different Than the Way We Are

7:23 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

The Bastille – flickr creative commons

Short and sweet. My last diaries are presented to explore what what could and might take place now or the not very distant future, give our history and what our culture currently [at least tacitly] approves of.

An entry on Rowan Wolf’s Cyrano’s Journal Today — Article by Andre Vltchek with Forward by Patrice Greanville — delves into the writing by Andre Vltchek and the critique by Patrice Greanville. Vltchek himself laying into the public at large for their lack of any real action towards the bankers and corporations and what not.

The citizens of the Western Empire are actually so lethargic and indoctrinated, that even when billions are stolen from them (not just from the people in their colonies), when banks get bailed-out after their speculative orgies, or after so-called elections get fully subsidized and manipulated by the corporate mafia, they do nothing; absolute nothing!

Go to a pub in the UK or Germany, and ‘everybody knows everything.’ You will hear it repeatedly: ‘politicians are swine’ ‘corporations are controlling elections.’ If you stay long enough, after several pints of beer someone will perhaps slam his fist on the table: “We need revolution!” Then everybody agrees and they all go home… and the next day – nothing.

‘Occupy Wall Street’ activists got roughed up by the police… And nothing. Everybody goes home. And shouts at the television.

Vltchek then asks ..

Is there still anything that will outrage people to the point that ‘they would actually not go home?’ That they would stay on those bloody streets, build barricades and fight, as they did in the past, even as recently as in 1968?

How many millions have to die in the Western colonies, before the people in Europe and North America pay attention, recognize the massacres and admit that they are actually citizens of a fascist empire, and that it is their moral obligation to fight it and dissolve it? Is 10 million in the DRC not enough? Is one coup after another that the West openly orchestrates, not a sufficient eye opener?

A question that has been asked over and over.

I think some historical perspective is required here. First of all our revolution was not so much a revolution but a bunch of elite merchants and bankers that did not want to pay taxes to jolly of England anymore, as well as plantation owners who were afraid the England might free all the slaves, including the ones in the colonies.  Which — by the way — England did, not to long after.

As for as the English revolutions and the French revolution and Russian revolution, the conditions that the serfs and commoners lived under were horrific and the attitudes of the elites and royalty were as Dickens described as “If they would rather die … they better do it and decrease the surplus population.”   And that is putting it mildly.

In Russia the lead up was Bloody Sunday. Where the people and workers demonstrated and wanted to give the Tzar a petition, and the Tzar sent in his Cossacks who killed and maimed hundreds.

In other words life was hell at best.

We have come a long way since them but that is the problem. Even during the height of the depression of the 1930s, few if any had to live in conditions like that. No medical at all, water was undrinkable, the Feudal Lords would take what little food there was even if the harvest was bad. No television, radio, or Internet …

Now in the worst of times and places, life is as bad. We have come a long way but in the process we have become lethargic, complacent, passive/aggressive, arrogant, self involved, egotistical and really do not give a wet slap. We have lost our ability for passion and replaced it with reaction.

Our creative technology has made wars and executions downright boring. Killing has almost become common place and most people just want it to be either hidden away or inoffensive.

So we have reactions in a pub but little action anywhere. It’s much more entertaining and comfortable to sit on the couch or play video games. Taking one’s aggressions out on Twitter.

But our overall behavior has not changed much, we are just more felicitous about it. Which is why no matter how outrageous my predictions seem, they are not improbable. No more improbable than waging war forever or incinerating thousands halfway around the world.

Medicare…Attitudes….History….A Rant

6:31 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen


This diary is a rant. I make no bones about it.

I just finished up my Medicare supplement and Part D drug sign up. And even I was amazed at how many companies what a piece of the action. One even had someone come by to sell me their particular plan. Apparently it is so lucrative that those who have nothing at all to do with health insurance want in on it. But if you do not have a supplement plan the copays and deductibles can break you in a heart beat.

There are so many got-chas and things you have to look out for concerning the coverage it’s unbelievable.  I can see why some people would not want the federal government involved. I like the idea of Medicare for all or single payer but I am not sure I would want the federal government involved either.

But this has little to do with what kind or shape the government is or the economic system. It has more to do, I feel, with the country as a whole. As George Carlin has stated,

But where do the people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky.
They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from american parents
and american families, american homes, american schools, american churches, american
businesses and american universities. and they’re elected by american citizens. This is
the best we can do, folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces:
Garbage in, garbage out! If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, if you have selfish,
ignorant citizens, you are gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders.

The federal government with it’s bureaucracy and rules is convinced someone is going to rip it off. And if the past is any indication, they are right in assuming this. So they make  a good idea as difficult to use as it can be and yet get ripped off.

This country does not have an economic problem or a governance problem. It has an attitude problem. There are far too many people in this country that feel privileged, owed, special, entitled and prideful. That are arrogant, self righteous and spoiled.

They are forgetting their own and this countries history. That for a lot of people who came here it was work your but off from before sunrise to after sun set just go get by. That the west was won not by some adventure some souls, but by people who lost their farms and land when the weather turned on them and they had little choice. [Read 1800 and froze to death].   That others in other countries had figured out electric lighting, automobiles, radio, television….That everyone except the Natives are immigrants and these immigrants came here either to escape persecution or starvation or to make easy money or keep from going to jail.

I remember there was still a lot of talk about the DAR [ Daughters of The American Revolution]. A bunch of stuck up snooty old ladies who could some how trace their families back to the founding fathers. Well good for them. Most of the “founding fathers” were smugglers and tax dodgers and thieves of some sort.

The truth is that the only reason we have not so far been bombed back to the stone age is pure luck and has zero to do with any exceptional-ism.  We are still useful to enough people that no one has sought to put us in our place….yet.

But there are those who know someone could if they wanted to

Until the majority of people in this country rids them selves of their attitudes of superiority and gains some humility, I don’t see anything much changing.  This likely will not happen until we are put in our place.


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.


American Culture….American Albatross

9:15 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

1959 Fury -flicker creative commons

I did a diary a while ago where I contended that this country – America – had no culture or it was designed by Madison Ave. in NYC.  This was not entirely correct. No…American culture is whatever happens to be “IN’ at the moment. And Madison Ave. and their elites take full advantage of it.

Unlike Germany or Japan or China or Italy where there is still a deep cultural heritage that even the young embrace to one extent or another, America has little except for some vague historical reference or embellishment that Hollywood uses to amuse us.

It is not unusual to see someone decked out in traditional garb during a festival in Germany or France or Japan to also be holding a cell phone or iPad or some such, for what they have is NOT who they are. They may like the new music, but they also like their traditional music as well.

Americans on the other hand will eventually embrace whatever the trend is and throw the old away like yesterday’s New York Times. We like to call this willingness to change. But it comes with a price. The Japanese still live in houses of of traditional Japanese design and often wear traditional clothes, yet are some of the most progressive when it comes to new technology. The Germans have no problem with living in old baroque-style apartments although the insides may be quite modern.

They have a like or grounding with something more permanent to hold on to which makes change and that which is new easier to handle and less threatening, rather like children are more willing to explore because they have the security and safety of their parents and a home to go back to.

This willingness or desire to change, in my opinion, is a façade – superficial. The car with the futurist fins was not really any different from the model without the fins that preceded it.  The fancy new house that looked modern on the outside was quite traditional inside.  By the late 1960s everything had to look psychedelic.  Psychedelic love songs were still love songs. We defined ourselves as the bastion of liberty or capitalism or anti-communism or some other such nonsense, but when the Soviet Union fell and China started to embrace a capitalistic economy, even that started to look a bit thin and weathered.

But this springing from one new thing to the next without any really history of deep cultural values makes any real change very difficult to achieve. Psychology limits the security needed to explore, as well as making our understanding of our own history very muddled indeed. With no real anchors and no real goals, America is adrift in an ever more rough sea.

So we have those on the right who embrace a history that is fictitious and a left constantly searching for some nirvana using a utopian vision of Europe, or some other area, as their ultimate goal, yet not willing to let go of their current situation to achieve it.  Holding on to the status quo with a death grip. Like a child holding on to the clothes of whatever grownup is near since mommy and daddy are nowhere to be seen. All of which keeps us stuck.

And the right sees the left as far too eager to burn down the house even if the house has been condemned and empty and falling apart for ages.

So here we are…with a fallacious past and no new thing to grab onto. Lost in the forest afraid to move or at best not knowing where to go. The  ironic part is that we are currently involved over a country – Ukraine – whose cultural heritage is as vague and disjointed and [partially at least], imaginary as our own.

Which Side Are You On …

6:20 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Hunger March

From the 1900s until the early 1980s just about everything that was sold to you from automobiles to zithers was manufactured in some sort of factory somewhere, most of the time here in the good old U.S.A. With few exceptions if you worked in any of the larger cities the chances are you worked in one of the mills or factories.

Though the state university system got it’s start in the early 1800s, few people had gone to college by even the 1950s. By 1950 there were large areas where fewer than 1% of the population had  college degrees. But with the passage of the GI bill which had as part of the act the government paying for most — if not all — of the cost of a college education, this all changed as more and more veterans chose to obtain a college degree.

Well if that’s the case, how then were we able to come up with television, not to mention all technical advances of WWII? A large number of people were self taught and/or were trained on the job or apprenticed. As one fellow said who headed up a large electronics firm, “They had to learn this stuff like everyone else, by trial and error.”

As the veterans became more educated and their kids became more educated and the factory jobs declined due in part to automation and competition from foreign products — so to did the voting habits of the populace also change.

These so called baby boomers came from from homes that were relatively well off and where getting a college degree was expected. A college degree was the “key” to better income and a “bright” future it was said.

However these boomer ‘s kids began to see a less and less rosy future with fewer and fewer being able to get employment even with a college degree. By the 1990s we began to see more and more people with degrees only being to get service jobs like flipping burgers. And being saddled with a load of debt for their trouble.

And unlike those in technology of the past, these folks have the education but little — if any — experience in their field to go along with it. Business does not require it nearly as much. Just so long as one can be a positive to their bottom line.

Those fancy gated houses that many grew up in are becoming less and less attainable. So these same kids are choosing to reside once again with their parents. Which puts the parents at a disadvantage and of course changes their attitude as well. The rosy picture that was painted for the parents and their kids is no longer looking so rosy. Putting the parents and their grown up children one step away from the poor house in many cases and making retirement for even the most well-off a nebulous goal.

Should the economy take another downturn, these people could be the next victims. So the administration is doing it’s damnedest to keep that from happening by throwing more and more of those below to the wolves. I seriously doubt that the Obama administration will be successful in this though.

So as Obama his minions consider getting involved in more military adventures, they would do well to consider the impact this would have not just politically but economically as well. For if many of these families find themselves in an unavailing position economically, they could choose to side with those who have been there all along. Then the screw will turn and it won’t be pretty.

And as far as the families themselves, they would do well to look at who and what they currently owe allegiance too, as those further up the economic scale owe NONE to them. As they are too busy protecting their own sorry rear ends.

Left Over Politics

1:40 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Picketers encourage the workers of Vargish to join the ILGWU. – Kheel Center, Cornell / flickr

I have written about my feelings concerning the so called political left these days – the Late’ Liberals and Pretentious Progressives. Sam Smith has a good summation of it.

Liberalism collapsed because:

It became an elite demographic rather than a grassroots movement.

It lost interest in the economic issues that had made it relevant.

It came to prefer fake icons like Obama and the Clintons rather than real programs.

It dissed the folks it should have been converting. The working class just became Rush Limbaugh listeners not worth the time of day. Liberals condemned instead of connecting.

It made the federal the enemy of the local rather then an ally as it had been under the New Deal and Great Society. Instead of sharing decisions and money with the states and cities as the New Deal did, Washington became the boss who knew it all.

Well that’s close but maybe a bit simplistic. Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism goes a bit deeper though. Initially referencing a previous post by Bill McKibben on Leaderless Movements. As Yves says at the beginning.

The problem with non-corporate loose organizations is how to maintain consistency of vision, messaging, and tactics. One of the complaints about Occupy Wall Street was its lack of a message, which struck me as a straw man (isn’t being opposed to predatory banking and excess wealth accumulation by the 1% a clear position?). Even in its short life as a national movement, Occupy Wall Street also suffered from divisions over tactics, with a black bloc favoring violence while the majority of demonstrators were firmly opposed to that approach.

And if you’ve been involved in any of the OWS groups, the process of achieving agreement, even with some streamlining of processes, is painfully slow and can easily be hijacked by aggressive special interest groups. It can drive out busy and high functioning people who simply don’t have the time to participate in protracted debates. There’s also a huge problem in accountability: of getting specific people to take ownership of pieces of initiatives and bring them through to completion. But perhaps this reflects my dislike of politicking rather than the weakness of this sort of approach per se.

Now your humble blogger must make clear that he is not fond of strong leaders. The reason being that far too often the personality traits associated with strong leadership are the same as those of a sociopathic ego maniacal serial killer. And I don’t think I need to list examples here.

The remainder of Yves post on progressives contrasts the differences in goals and methods embraced by them and those she terms as radicals. (I would put myself in the radical camp, though it would depend on the situation.) To wit:

The first key point is that the tradition of progressive dissent is integrally a religious one. The goal isn’t usually power but ‘truth;’ that those in the right stand up for what is right, and those in the wrong repent. The City on the Hill and all that, but that is the intrinsic value. This is a tradition of ideas, many of them good, many of them implemented—by others, a point to which I’ll return. Coming forward to a recent and then present American context, consider these policies, all of which still hold for most who would define themselves as progressive:

Universal, secular education
End to child labor
Universal suffrage
Female legal equality
Consumer protections
Civil rights

Consider as well notable progressives who have held executive or even power positions in national governance. I struggle to name one. Progressives largely worked in voluntary organizations and reform societies outside of the notoriously corrupt political parties of America. (It is interesting and relevant to note that as a society we recapitulate that endemic historical venality once again c. 2011.)  - Richard Kline: Progressively Losing

As apposed to radicals who have done the real work of getting the action. Referencing Kline again.

The key point is that the tradition of radical activism is integrally an economic one, and secondarily one of social justice. It was pursued by those both poor and ‘out castes,’ who often had communal solidarity as their only asset. It was resisted by force, and thus pursued by those inured to force who understood that power was necessary to victory, and that defeat entailed destitution, imprisonment, and being cut down by live fire from those acting under color of authority with impunity. This was a tradition of demands, many of them quite pragmatic. Few were wholly implemented, but the struggle to gain them forced the door open for narrower reforms, often implemented by the powers that be to de-fuse as much as diffuse radical agitation. Consider these policies, all of which still hold for most who would define themselves as radical:

Call off the cops (and thugs)
Eight hour day and work place safety
Right to organize
Anti-discrimination in housing and hiring
Unemployment dole
Public pensions
Public educational scholarships
Tax the rich
Anti-trust and anti-corporate

While few radicals have made it into public executive positions either, they are numerous in politics, especially at the local level where communal ties can predominate. Radicals have always worked in organized groups—‘societies,’ unions, and parties—which have been a multiplier for their demands.

So what has changed since the days of Eisenhower — who embraced a high tax rate and the cementing of the New Deal reforms of FDR ?

First of all the unions — as Yves point out – got sucked into and suckered by the Democratic Party. Embracing the cold war and all the little wars that followed. Secondly the movements that followed — Civil Rights and the Anti War movements — alienated and were alienated by these old guard unionists. Later to completely reject any radicalism. The same radicalism that help the old guard acquire the gains they had made.

As Sam Smith pointed out above, they became the intellectual elites themselves. And as Kline stated in a comment to Yves entry.

Centrist bourgeois in American history have _never_ been predisposed to confront the state. They want to make money off the state, and often ARE the state at its margins. The Centrist bourgeois have seldom been inclined to confront the wealthy, being far more disposed to hang at the heel of the wealthy and hope for a good job when noticed. This orientations has typically worked for the bourgeois when the economy was, in various ways, expanding, as it has for most of American history. There was always a little more to go around, and being upstream of the poor and rural subsistence farmers, the bourgeois could typically get a plateful of expansion every time around. Bourgeois America does have a strong view of its own legal standing, and will push back against the wealthy if they perceive themselves to be abused. ‘Sharing the wealth’ was usually a pragmatic accommodation to economic and social grievances, however, rather than something done from any conviction.

These same people no only do not want to fight with TPTB and elites but identify with them and without a radicalized base have no reason to change the status quo. As it has always been the radicals that push for change and not the so called progressives, who a content with appeasement.

We need the radicals to really push for change.

Manufacturing Optimism

7:58 am in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

That seems to be the order of the day, these days.  The White House and the shills for Wall Street are all proclaiming how great the economy is doing, but the data tells a different story. Withe the GDP down to 1.8% – probably lower if you use real math and keep the data that is contrary to ones beliefs.

Even Robert Reich thought so back in April, before the new figures were released.

Four years into a so-called recovery and we’re still below recession levels in every important respect except the stock market. A measly 88,000 jobs were created in March, and total employment remains some 3 million below its pre-recession level. Labor-force participation is its lowest since 1979.

Businesses won’t hire and expand unless they have more customers, but most Americans can’t spend more. Last Friday’s retail sales report showed sales down .4 percent in March. Consumer sentiment has fallen to its lowest level in nine months.

The underlying problem is the vast middle class is running out of money. They can’t borrow more — and shouldn’t, given what happened after the last borrowing binge.

Once burned, twice learned – as the saying is.

Then there is one of the biggest scams of the century, Obama-Care. Talk about optimism. Sold as THE way to save money on health care it only enriches the pockets of the Insurace companies and leaves the health car industry free to charge what ever they damn well please and the patient left to pick up the bulk of these expenditures.

Ida Hellander, MD- The individual mandate compels people to pay a penalty — the greater of up to $695 per individual and $2,085 per family or 2.5 percent of family income — if they don’t have other coverage and fail to purchase an expensive and defective private health insurance product.
While the mandate may be “constitutional,” it is terrible health policy. Briefly, the main problems include:
The coverage under the ACA is so skimpy, with so much cost-sharing, it won’t prevent medical bankruptcy.  It’s really “underinsurance.” The coverage is unaffordable. In Massachusetts, where a mandate plan has been in effect since 2006, the cheapest policy for a 55-year-old is $5,000 and carries a $2,000 deductible. It costs $7,000 before even a penny of coverage kicks in. The burden of the mandate falls on working and middle-income families, who make too much for Medicaid but too little to afford private coverage, even with the tax subsidies. It enriches the private insurance industry with $447 billion in taxpayer subsidies. It maintains the administrative complexity of the current system with over $400 billion squandered on administrative waste The vast majority of the uninsured are in working families. Hence, they are already paying taxes to support Medicare (which pays for medical training and other necessary health infrastructure), Medicaid, and other health programs. It doesn’t lead to anything even close to universal coverage. ACA leaves at least 26 million uninsured.Sam Smith, Progressive Review.
I could do an entire diary alone on how most medical tests and procedures are unnecessary, ill-advised and promise more than they can deliver. That the majority of pharmaceuticals have little value and in many cases do more harm than good.  Or that unless you are in immediate danger of kicking off, being in a hospital is generally a bad idea.
The best illusion now is how great things would be if we brought all those manufacturing jobs back here. does a good job of deflating this little meme in Salon.

And yet, for all the talk of good jobs in an increasingly high-tech industry, as manufacturing employment has begun to grow, pay in the industry hasn’t gone up. In real terms, the median hourly wage for production workers in manufacturing—which includes front-line supervisors and programmers of computer-controlled machinery as well as hand assemblers and meatpackers—fell from $15.87 in 2010 to $15.51 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those numbers are probably a bit high, since they don’t include temps.

On average, factory workers with little education still make a bit more than they might in retail or fast food, but that’s by no means always true. And, unlike service-sector employers, manufacturing plants are almost worshipped by American politicians. It’s hard to find a plant that expands or opens a new location without getting some sort of tax subsidy. Resonetics got a government-supported financing package when it opened its plant in Nashua, and when Atrium moves to its new location, it will be eligible for a New Hampshire state tax incentive.

Those who tout manufacturing jobs as some great savior to the country seem to forget a few things. For one when we did make things here, unions were a lot stronger because there were more jobs than white people to fill them – minorities need not apply in most cases.  Most of these jobs had no medical benefits and the pay was still poor. But then most things, especially energy related, were a whole lot less. Gas was around 16 cents a gallon and fuel oil not much more.  Medical insurance and medical care was a whole lot less. (remember when Blue Cross was a mutual insurance company ?)  If you were white and employed at all, a TV, appliance and even a car could be had for 10% down and the rest in monthly payments from any dealer. Nearly all but the biggest high tech firms were privately owned and there were no OSHA rules to follow, so the pay could be higher.

Local taxes were lower for all but the rich, then there were no emergency paramedics and other services. One could actually work one one’s own car and in some cases even rebuild it, one chose to. Real estate was less expensive and building a house was not out of the question. My own father built two. Of course building codes were a lot more lax then as well.

Yes life was simpler and less expensive but also a whole lot more dangerous too.  And medicine could do a lot less. Circulatory problems and cancer generally meant an early demise. If you should survive a heart attack, it was a good bet you would not survive a second one. A stroke meant incapacitation and cancer was a death sentence.

So what we have is this tendency to embellish the past and white wash the present and refuse to look at the realities of either. Which of course keeps us stuck heading nowhere, on a merry-go-round of . . . . wishful thinking.



Cultural heritage and kinship and American’s lack of passion.

12:14 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

National instruments, Ukraine - flikr creative commons

I read a piece not long ago on the origins of the popularity of Adolph Hitler and what he was saying and who he was speaking to.  It was focused on Pan-Germanism – the Ethnocentric movement to unify all those of German heritage. One of the keystones of Hitler’s appeal in Austria, Hungary and Prussia – to name but a few.  A very strong and deep seated almost tribal belief and/or feeling. Much more than some political nationalism. More a nativism.

When it was stated that the Soviets won WWII for the Allies, they were corrected. It was the Russians winning it for Russia by shear strength of will. What Finns call Sisu or the British “Pure bloody mindedness” . Fighting on not for some political ideal but for their Russian kinfolk and heritage.

It was this deep seated feeling of native-ism and cultural/religious tribalism that was responsible for one of the last bloody conflicts on the European continent. Resulting in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia republic. Resulting in no less than 8 separate autonomous states.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, CroatiaKosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. The only things that kept this entities together as one republic were the heavy handed tactics of Marshal Tito and a lot of Soviet troops.

I was not as aware of how deeply seated this situation was until after viewing Michael Palin’s New Europe series. Where he visits most of the countries that emerged after the breakup and fall of the Soviet Union.   Examples being those I sited above as well as Trans-Dniestr - a break away territory from Moldavia.  They even fought a civil war over it. The people there speak Russian and consider themselves mostly Russian. It’s what binds them together.  Which is a bit precarious since  Trans-Dniestr  lies between the rest of Moldavia and the Ukraine – where proclaiming ones Russian is NOT a way to win friends and influence people.

The Ukraine is very  much anti-Russian and speaking anything but Ukrainian is at best frowned upon.

Moldavia itself has more a kindred connection with it’s western neighbor Romania, where the main language spoken is Romanian. In fact there was a movement to unite both countries into one. They are still working to get some closer relationship established.

Then you have Kaliningrad Oblast.  It sits on the Baltic Sea right between Lithuania and Poland. Part of Russia but not connected to it. It’s population is nearly all Russian.

When people spoke of the country it was more in a cultural/clannish or even ethic way than political.   Nearly all – if not all – having deep traditions, beliefs and backgrounds all their own and going back many hundreds of years. With music and arts that are still practiced and they are proud of. And a great deal of passion for all of it.

Which of course brings me to this country.  It’s a common misconception that the USA began as this “Great melting pot” where everyone would get along just fine. I would not say it as such. More like masses of people who where trying to escape various forms of oppression and poverty in there country of origin. Just as they are mostly today. And that they did not so much “get along” as they avoided contact unless necessary.  Easy enough to do initially with gobs of land to dot it in after the natives were removed.  Each keeping for a long time there own culture and traditions.

With large populations of Scandinavians in the upper peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin.  Germans in and around Iowa. Irish in the North East. And each city with enclaves of various nationalities – each grouped separately.

The US has not real culture or tradition of it’s own. It’s a mish-mash. And it still goes on with new immigrants associating and living mostly with those of the same background.  What Americans refer to as American culture and tradition is something that has been manufactured by some Wall Street firm and marketed to them by some Madison Av. advertising firm.   Mom, the girl next store and apple pie sold to you with a 20% off mark down. All clean, white and christian.

But this facade is wearing thin and the veneer showing cracks.  And I feel that one of the things we are seeing these days is a pent up desire to be able to define ones self and ones group by something more than a superficial view as sold by the media. What ever that maybe.

This innate need for some kind of tribal belonging trumps politics, even though it appears to manifest it self there. Indeed I fell that it is one aspect of what drives the expanding political divide we are having.   That our advances in communications have had the opposite effect on our relationships enabling people to align themselves in more deeper in a tribal and clannish manner but also creating more divisions by the increased contact with each one.

This false America of white anglo saxon christians is fading away at break neck speed as more and more  groups show their need to be recognized and respected. The immigration issue and even the gun issue plays into this as white America becomes just one more of a number of different clans. And the election of a black man to president makes this doubly obvious.

When I hear someone say “America is a christian nation” the word white is never said but always implied.

That this country will be able to remain as on without some very oppressive measures would be surprising.  And extreme oppression would not be tolerated by anyone regardless of their ideology or ethnic background.

Of course Wall Street will try to make hey on this as they do everything. Like and addicted gambler they will try to bet on the outcome and influence it, but I do believe they will fail since it’s always the gambler that has to get out of town fast.

And we are seeing this now not only in political realignment but in the continued change in physical/geographical demographics as well.   One can denigrate this behavior as archaic and insist that we here and elsewhere should be above all this.  But it is deep within the human psyche and goes back thousands of years. The basis for racial distrust and hatred.  And will take many generations to rise above.

But give all of this the one thing I find missing from the verbiage from both the right and the left is passion. Any strong expression of how they feel.  It’s nearly all what I call “head stuff”. Thought rational that lacks real feeling. The kind you got from the civil rights marches and MLK. And the peace movements of the 1960s and RFK.

Too many separate groups each with their own agenda which they may feel strongly about but not passionately shared by all. So each are easily manipulated.    A cumulative expression of passion on a single issue was last seen in this country during the 1930s and the rise of unionism and socialist though.  And most of these folks where white working class. Now quickly becoming a minority.

How can you become passionate about the right to own a big house and snazzy car ?   It’s totally superficial.   Which may also explain why despite what is going on economically and politically there has not been any real uprising. And why it has been fairly easy for TPTB to put down any attempt.

Even the so called tea party has fizzled.  No real passion there just a group of pissed of immature spoiled brats.

Our lack of any real cultural heritage and there fore lack of real passion is what is keeping the status quo alive.

The Way We Were….or….Talkn’ Bout My G Generation

7:13 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Banksy Foreclosed Dreams - flickr/Finger food

One of the main topics these days has been about how to “save the system”. Meaning our current political and economic system here and maybe elsewhere. Or the eventual collapse of same regardless of what anyone does or attempts to do.

And one of the main aspects of this is then context in which this is being done. As if the time after WWII and the depression of the 1930s is the way things have always been and the attitudes there in were the way people always were. The problem here is that anyone who has read any history should know – this is false. But most of us still alive think this way. Those of us born after WWII. The so called Baby Boomers and their off spring.

Before WWII unless you were born into a “Middle Class” family – and I am using the wikipedia definition here, the college educated professional class – your life would be pretty rough. Either working a farm or on one or working in some factory in some metro area for horrible pay and lousy working conditions and lousy housing. And that is if you were white. If you were a minority, it was even rougher.

There were no suburbs or interstate highways or big box discount stores. Health care was minimal, if at all. And the depression made this all much worse. For farmers thing were already getting rough with droughts that precede the dust bowl and the depression. Not to mention that just prior to this in the late 1800s, grain prices had gone down a black hole do to over production caused by the mechanization of farming.

And unless you were born into a very well off family, higher education was pretty much out of the question. There were few state universities and the private ones were beyond all but the very fortunate.

Babe boomers however had it much much better. Our parents got to go to college thanks to Uncle Sam if they were in the service. State Universities were being built along with community colleges. The war and what followed created a huge demand for workers not know before hand. There was a major building boom do to the lack of housing and suburbs popped up like weeds. Unemployment was low and wages were going up. If you were white, during this period, you future was a hell of lot more rosy than you parents was. And most kids then were expected to go to college if they had anything on the ball at all. A major change from previous generations.

Now here is the problem. We were all told – on the radio, television, by our parents and in school – this is the way things are and the ways things will always be. Maybe not on those words, but that was the message. We were not told that this was primarily because the US was the only show in town. That the rest of the world was in the stone age or had been bombed into the stone age. That a very large number of the jobs out there had to do with make weapons to fight those horrible communists. That the cheap gas and oil etc. were provided by US companies that used slave labor to steal it from other less developed nations.

And to tell you the truth few if any of us cared. We were too busy with rock and roll and the beat generation. Hot Rods and girls. The space race. A few of us became aware of racial bigotry and civil rights and began to come a bit more involved with this. Joining marches and protests and singing songs. But with the intention of returning to our nice comfortable lives.

The Vietnam war geared up and more of us get involved with protesting that – primarily to keep our heads from being blown off. And with the intention of returning to our nice comfortable lives. But along the way a lot of us became very disenchanted with our government and political system. We grew up idealistic and getting pretty much what we wanted. We expected to be treated well and listened to and when we were not… When we were treated like some kind of inconvenient pest, a large number developed a deep seated resentment. And far too often this was passed on to their children as well.

We were going to change the world…the system and when we could not, felt betrayed by the whole establishment. Government, education, corporate…you name it. But our expectations were unreal. We were unaware or refused to accept that the times and our it’s prosperity were one huge propaganda event. To show the world that our system was so much better that the “other” system. And as soon as this was no longer necessary, tossed aside like a used newspaper.

Because far too many of us – of my generation, the boomers – would not completely see that because we were white that others were not, was a big reason why our lives had been so comfortable. And that as soon as that was no longer necessary, we would become unnecessary as well.

We had the privilege to live a fantasy. A Disney kind of life for a while. But the fantasy is over. Time to get real.

America – The nation about nothing…

4:49 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Manhattan Buildings - flickr / Russ Glasson

America has been called the great melting pot. If so, then to me at least, it’s more like fondue that has gone horribly wrong. This great mixing of cultures has yielded a country that is becoming more splintered and divided each year. Instead of molding the traditions and cultural values that were brought over here by those from other areas into one, a number of these beliefs and values have been lost or simply tossed aside.

A country where personal agendas and monetary rewards take president over relationships and community. I remember when it was not so much. When everything did not have a price and avarice was considered by most to be crude and uncouth. Where you went out of your way from friends because friendship meant something. Where people looked out for one another and supported one another. Where jingoistic propaganda was not necessary to get people to back and idea or action. Where everything did not have to be sold by a carnival barker.

I remember a time when a cabbage could sell itself just by being a cabbage. Nowadays it’s no good being a cabbage-unless you have an agent and pay him a commission. Nothing is free any more to sell itself or give itself away. These days, Countess, every cabbage has it’s pimp. - Rag Picker “The Madwoman of Chaillot

Morris Berman brings this up using Seinfeld as a definitive example.

In the case of the Seinfeld scripts, Jerry provided the upbeat, overt aspect of the show’s humor, while Larry David supplied the subtext. Larry’s vision, especially about America, was quite dark. As a result, there is an undercurrent in the episodes, one which says that the United States is a country in which friendship is pretty much a sham and community nonexistent; a society where nobody gives a damn about anybody else.

This is true not only in the way that the four central characters–Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer–relate to those outside their little circle, but also in the way they relate to each other. They often talk simultaneously, “through” each other, as though the other person weren’t even present. All four of them appear to have only one motive: advancement of their own personal and immediate goals. In a word, the show is actually about the callousness, the almost autistic indifference, of daily life in America; and this is revealed in episode after episode.

Berman then gives a half a dozen plot synopsis as examples of this. But he leaves out I think a very important aspect in the socio economic context. That of the upper class white areas. The gated communities and those with home owners associations and condos and what not. Upper class suburbia and upper class town houses etc. But even the series Friends tried to play this kind of relationship for laughs as well, though with a bit more subtlety.

Among the poor and black and asian and latino communities, this is not the case. At least not nearly as much. For they need to have more brotherhood and fellowship to make it. And from my own small experience they do. This deep rooted community spirit was most prevalent within various ethnic and cultural areas but rarely between different ones. It was also quite visible in rural family farming areas and amongst those who were laborers and blue collar workers as well. It helped to bring together unions and other organizations. It was this value system and attitude that pushed us forward and paved the way for the inventions and progressive attitudes.

So it should come as no surprise that as this value of brotherhood and community as diminished, so have the unions and other organizations. The “Me Generation” and their offspring have take over. Born with a silver spoon in their mouths, dishwashers to keep them clean and sanitary and a guaranteed income from their bought and payed for education. Those that want to throw out anything that they personally do not benefit from but costs them money. A nation that goes to war for no good reason but to further someones agenda. Where Ayn Rand can is a popular metaphor. And as Berman points out at the end of his piece:

When Jerry phones his lawyer, “Jackie Chiles” (a Johnnie Cochran look-alike), to explain that they were arrested for not coming to someone’s aid, Jackie explodes with indignation: “Why, that’s ridiculous!” he barks. “You don’t have to help anybody. That’s what this country is all about!” As the popular American expression has it, He got that one right.

The trial over, the judge sentences our heroes to a year in jail, commenting that “your callous disregard for other human beings threatens to rock the very foundations of society.” But which society? What the show tells us, in episode after episode, is that callous disregard for other human beings is the foundation of society–American society, that is. And so the subtext finally breaks through in no uncertain terms: Seinfeld was A Show About Something, after all.

Seinfeld ran for 10 seasons and was one of the most popular shows at the time. And no wonder, it presented American upper class values to a tee. This show about nothing in a country about noting.