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Aug-01-2010 17:50printcomments

America Will Survive: But at What Price?

America will survive, but it will become the class structure it has always publicly eschewed itself to be.

American flag fading
Courtesy: twitrounds.com

(CALGARY, Alberta) - I’ve written a lot of critical commentary about what I see as the Decline of America, and I’ve been consistently taken to task about how I don’t see or understand America’s resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, etc.—from the American viewpoint. My friend and colleague Hank Ruark, regularly refers to the “wit and wisdom” of the American people who will somehow overcome adversity and obstacles. With all due respect to his years of knowledge and experience, he is looking backward, not forward. The fundamental document of the U.S. is the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to which is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. There are three errors or contradictions in this opening sentence.

First, is the concept “self-evident” which was an 18th century philosophical conceit. “Self-evident”, it turns out, is idiosyncratic. What is self-evident to one person, is not self-evident to another. We see this everyday in ordinary discourse. Herein lies the essence of both toleration and conflict. Toleration if individuals can allow that there are legitimate differences of viewpoint; and intolerance (fanaticism) as its opposite. “Fanaticism”, says psychoanalyst Richard Johnson “is always a sign that one has adopted one of a pair of opposites at the expense of the other. The high energy of fanaticism is a frantic effort to keep one half of the truth at bay while the other half takes control. This always yields a brittle and unrelatable personality. This kind of righteousness depends on ‘being right’.” American patriotism is basic fanaticism.

The second error is that “all men are created equal”. I believe this to be true, but the Founding Fathers did not. They did not believe in the fundamental humanity of any person whose skin colour was not white. This was the poison pill in America’s founding and it has still not been resolved and haunts the nation still. The third is of an inalienable right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. This is not quite an “error” but a failure of vision.

In his 1936 presidential acceptance speech, FDR said: “An old English judge once said: ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ Liberty requires opportunity to make a living—a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives a man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.”

If you look around at your fellow citizens, you’ll see that many do not have liberty. Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed what he called a hierarchy of needs. A person suffocating is not going to be concerned about food or water; a person trying to cover the rent or mortgage to forestall homelessness or trying to get food to feed himself and his family is not going to be concerned with such bagatelles as democracy. Thus is laid the groundwork for fascism, to which some believe America is already a fertile ground. I agree with this conclusion. Just examine the Patriot Act.

America will surely survive as a nation, but at what cost? Diane Francis is a high-end conservative columnist with the National Post newspaper in Canada (founded by Conrad Black). She wrote a column recently about Black who had been imprisoned in the U.S. Black, she wrote, believed in American justice.

But he braved on, based on a misconception that he was dealing with the same culture as Canada or Britain.” This is an issue that my critics have not understood. They seem to believe that Canada and the U.S. are sufficiently similar to make direct comparisons. But, says, Francis: “The United States, where I was born and raised, is NOT an Anglo-Saxon country. It is not a country where people aspire to become members of a leisure class or to create a welfare state. It's a country where many hate government, but will march at the drop of a slogan in to some tinpot country and viciously shame, or call un-American, those who criticize the misadventure.

The United States is the greatest country in the world to live in if you are not old, sick, poor, a minority or too rich and privileged. It is changing, I hope, but it's still a paradox which still believes ‘In God we Trust’ and social Darwinism.” (Her comment about too rich and privileged is a sop to her friend Conrad Black; the rich and privileged in America do very well, thank you very much.)

There it is.

America will survive as a nation, but at what cost to how many tens of millions of ordinary men, women and children who will suffer and die from the political results of ideology?

There are more medically uninsured residents of Texas—6.1 million—than there are people in 33 states and yet the government in Texas is opposing national health care and the State’s citizens are apparently in favor of such an anti-people stance. This is additional support for my argument that the weak part of democracy is that voters can usually be counted on to vote against their own self interests. America is notexceptional in this regard, but the voting results of the last half century in America support the thesis.

Unemployment is high and the number is going to come down slowly, if it does. This has devastated the lives of millions of families who have just believed. As David Brooks concludes: “America is not a nation of risk-embracing pioneers. It is a nation of heroic bourgeois families who want to thrive within a secure social order.”

To many Americans, it doesn’t matter what happens to their fellow citizens, so long as the Republic goes on. (I could have used the term “it doesn’t seem to matter” but I believe that American Social Darwinism, while not a majority sentiment, is alive and malevolent in U.S. society). The result is that tens of millions of Americans are being and will continue to be sacrificed on the twin alters of mythology and ideology. Diane Francis wrote: Ironically, Conrad used to tease me all the time about living in parochial Canada instead of the U.S. But now he has joined those of us who were, but are no longer, die-hard Americans, psychologically. I left family and friends behind there in the late 1960s due to the thoroughly stupid Vietnam War whose domino effect never happened and where 60,000 American kids died.

In the end it, for me, comes down to this about America: Many Americans, Hank Ruark is one of a legion, believe that America is Exceptional, a term coined in the 19th century by Tocqueville (Democracy in America). I’m not being patronizing when I acknowledge their right to believe whatever they want. My irritation arises from the Exceptionalists inability to allow others to disagree with them. On an individual basis this is no problem. But it’s the attempt to force this belief on the rest of the world that I have always found offensive. There are hundreds of millions of others around the world who agree with me on this.

America will survive, but it will become the class structure it has always public eschewed itself to be. There are the very rich; a shrinking middle-class; and a huge underclass of the working poor, economically disenfranchised and deprived of liberty in the FDR sense.

Addendum: Aug 2/10 Read Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times for an analysis of America abandoning its citizens. He opens his column saying, "I’m starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers..." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/opinion/02krugman.html?hp


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place

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Hank Ruark December 24, 2010 11:03 am (Pacific time)

Friends All: Apologies for too-long "time/away: forced by meds-situation, old/age factors here, topped by collapse of computer. Only now returning to fascinating, intriguing, demanded dialog triggered by friend Dan's professional critique of "America NOW !" vs Founder intentions and failures of achievement, as now interpreted by far too many. Stay tuned for continued examination of same/pattern for other nations also surely open to same approaches, with similar results. Tht's known as "history", unfamiliar to far too many --and unfortunately also open to interpretation(s) making any one as vulnerable as current America. We far from perfect, open to world and historical forces --but so 'What else is new ??" moresoon and watch for upcoming new Op Ed series.

Ryan August 6, 2010 6:27 pm (Pacific time)

In regards to a nation's "wit and wisdom" in comparison to others, well that's prima facie, then go look for the causal variables as to why the differences. My opinion, the differences are based on the obvious, the empirical. No big mystery at all, but no doubt disappointing for some.

You're living in the past Ryan (or whoever you actually are). Bob Herbert begins todays column saying: "The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/07/opinion/07herbert.html?_r=1&hp

Check out his column, then come back and comment further. 

Henry Clay Ruark August 6, 2010 4:59 pm (Pacific time)

Friend Dan: Every nation is unavoidably "exceptional" by definition; some have very individualistic characteristics which is fact about Americans. That's what has lead on to undeniable continuing life of "American exceptionalism", to which I often find necessity now to refer--again and again! Ours, like all others, too, was shaped (and is still under change !) by experiences and special impacts during history ...which is WHY we must know from whence we came to plot out any possible move --or even any choice of direction still open to us !-- in where we wish to go NOW and HOW we gonna GET THERE... Others you name --since it is "the people" who generate, then protect,preserve project any "wit,wisdom,will"--surely also have demonstrated and now continue so to do whatever the level of conjoint national characteristics may be --but that's surely "another story" especially for some you named. Disclosure: Perhaps I owe to all-here even further detailed Op Ed re this concept --not by any means mine own but drawn from whole group(s) of strong, standard American historians, and demonstrated-in-action by at least six well/recognized events/eras/impacts shaping not only our national history but also our "exceptionalism". That latter impact surely and truly has been and still continues to be unavoidable from early days of conquering continent right on through until Great Recession and its current/events. ONE key-image: Hamilton, hot on how to handle freshly-achieved continental big/show, THEN suddenly handed Louisiana Purchase perforce by French Emperor-decree and Emp desertion of own monumental opportunity in face of tooweak warforce and sure fighting situation for which he had no stomach and not enough armed might... moretocome--this unavoidably off top of head, which, as you may have observed, tends to "peter out" !! (Sorry,Pete !) Thank you for your own well- demonstrated patience and fine professsionalism, Dan...

Henry Clay Ruark August 6, 2010 11:19 am (Pacific time)

To all, esp. Natalie:
Passing ref. to Amazon impact on publishing deserves definite reference.

Here it is: The Trouble With Amazon;Colin Robinson;The Nation, aug.2/9;pp.29/32.
Subhead says it all:"It's big, cheap and convenient. But does the online bookseller really serve readers' interests ?"

Disclosure: Amazon is my own longtime source for many major referrals, esp. their customer reviews for guidance, and then "Used" for all really-needed acquisitions. (Now few since more than 1000 books here,from 50 years determined demands.)

BUT fundamental facts are still facts (as this dialog surely shows !!), and we need to maintain support for all independent bookstores, esp. since they constitute major group of "small business enterprise", without which we truly will suffer incalculable consequences.

Inevitably situation here reflects facts everywhere:
"Small individual savings now can cost us considerably more later when consequences come home to concentrate the damages-done."

Which is why dialog-now with deep reliance on honest, open, democratic learning/sharing may prove to be by far not only our best defense,but also our best potent direct-attack.
It guideth far more than any mere book-acqisition !!

Question for you Hank: You have made repeated references to the "wit and wisdom" of the American people. Do you mean to say that Canadians don't have "wit and wisdom"? Italians? British? Germans? I look forward to your insight on this. Daniel 

Henry Clay Ruark August 5, 2010 9:27 pm (Pacific time)

Lady Natalie et al: Do believe seat on hot stove should be held for partial- pundits presuming purported conclusions from concentrated consequences -- while causes continue rooted in history while still open to potent provisions of probing process. Re textbook/trial, might triumph via online "distance learning" with comp/screen use for content. Not always kosher but worth tentative shot. Re "free market", it never was free, always had own full price in other costs,continued constantly, currently hiding as corporate confusions. Conclusion here now under contemplation; best to you in further search for elucidation here or in classroom...

Henry Clay Ruark August 4, 2010 1:34 pm (Pacific time)

  Remember what Groucho said about priniples :
  "Those are my principles... if you  don't accept them,  I have others."
  Straight-shot: I agree re heartofmatter here vs resistance, but never find it so with cabal crowding several pages with piled-on portentous pork/stuffed...

  Take care down there ! Still using stickers re S-N...


Natalie August 5, 2010 3:39 pm (Pacific time)

Henry Ruark: as long as I don't have to sit on top a hot stove you can use any label you want; it doesn't bother me. Re books I used it only for comparison, but don't you find it interesting that 2 hard-cover large books (half my weight) about art galleries cost the same as 1 text-book? It's because "free market" doesn't apply to learning materials. We're stuck with 1 particular book used in 1 particular class; there's no way around. Sooner or later I HAVE to buy it. As for small businesses, I didn't say anything about "free" monetary help. Information can be a powerful help, too. At least, that's what we needed. And I know that our case is not unique. Many are happy to find an association where you can simply share experience and information how to survive. You're right, small businesses can't make the weather in the country; Enron can. BTW we did get help online from a person who was in the business and started helping others by sharing some information and some practical advices.

Henry Clay Ruark August 5, 2010 9:51 am (Pacific time)

To all: Short/summary clearly needed to clarify, illuminate and nail down dialog ongoing here, much too long for our small Comment-space... Apologies to friend DJ and thanks for his ultimately very essential patience and professional understanding... Here's clear motivating statement: "...I don't have time to look at them and I have argued my points and do not need to look up anything in history." ---sent in response to some "helpful" (!) references... Given that premise --"no time" and "unneeded"-- it is clear anything is possible, rational/reasonable or even radical/ragged. All that's needed is further pile-on-pile of purported "undeniable" --and thus ostensibly "meaningful"-- itemization of problems, issues, "scars and wounds", --infinitely further embroidered. Thus achieving ostensibly "unanswerable" impact while neatly negating need to know natural causative sequences and saturating situations so clearly shaping sense of any actuality. BUT that only obscures --as in smoke/screen-- the reality of rational, reasonable, full consideration of consequences leading to causes --which are and will remain the only fully realistic starting point for any possible new departures. That's why our Professor provided that "how we got here from there" starting-point. That's why we were there --to learn from history.

Henry Clay Ruark August 5, 2010 9:23 am (Pacific time)

(sorry for inadvertent-send !
Here's completion.-hcr

"..as to preclude full-skilled rational appreciation and thus
understandings on pressures shaping business, and theirs specifically, since small entrepreneurs are NOT --nor should they be-- economists or sociologists or historians.

They ARE --and should be-- very-skilled specialists in the localized understandings of all needs for their own friends, neighbors, community and all its other residents.

That's what makes business GO, GROW and SHOW both profits and satisfactions for both the proprietors AND at least most of their "customers" !

That's WHY academia produces for society allathose who so specialize in so many other invaluable (if esoteric !) areas, without whom-at-work NO ENTERPRISE, NO BUSINESS and NO GOVERNANCE capable of building stability-for-all can exist.

(Again history plays leading role since knowledge of new concepts, pioneering first steps to produce-and-use, and dissemination of the knowledge is WHAT they ALL DO ! --and WHAT our historians record, analyze and advise, furnishing invaluable further-guides for those who must then produce, market and service whatever is involved, in real-world use.)

That's WHY historians are the foundation-finders and compass builders for us ALL:
Surely it is plain common sense that we must know from whence we came --and WHY-- to guide us on WHERE WE WANT TO GO --and WHY !

MAN long ago learned he must listen to elders --with-scars and-wounds-- to find out how it/all happened, and how to avoid the same/or/other scars, wounds or whatever, in his own life-time.

For those who fail to listen lessons-to-learn happen all over again...andagainandagain.
Matters-not if content is concept,issue,problem,product or technology --process remains the same, demands the same attention at all levels, ends in frustration for all if any level is neglected or even ignored...as we've painfully learned --again/and/again...

NOW we can read, dialog and discuss, in detail and depth-- AND even disagree ! --while learning mutually much more than we can ever do just on our own --and of course ALWAYS starting with history because that's the very-natural AND unavoidable beginning !!

To deny, defy, purposely ignore and avoid is, very simply, not only UNwise but may also be damaging and even dangerous by absorption of strong energies demanded for remediation --WHEREVER.

Hank: Your continued references to my ignoring history are in error. I have long been student of history and in 1990 I wrote and published a book on history: Practical History: A guide to Will and Ariel Durant's Story of Civilization. The reason I am not taking your comments about history seriously is because the American people, as a whole, seem incapable of learning from it echoing Santayana who said that those who can't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. In the political area alone, the American people are clearly "insane"--that, I contend, is the essence of the "wit and wisdom" you so frequently reference. 

Henry Clay Ruark August 4, 2010 4:36 pm (Pacific time)

Natalie: Both of your insightful points --better/label perhaps than "complaints" !?-- tie directly into flat/facts re the lack of understandings caused by partial and erroneous views (read: personal feeling) seemingly both comprehensive and factual to those holding them (tightly, usually with no way to pry them loose even with proven-fact.) "Free market" supposes a situation untenable for books now that Amazon undercutting production with pressures on publishers and all others in supply-line. Plus texts at any level are massively more costly to produce and distribute, and suffer from far too rapid deterioration and from heavily competing views of how/what/when subject content should be taught. Toughest part of learning media production is the print- side; with heaviest costs in editing process following on next-heaviest cost of catching professionals capable and even willing to produce any content since returns are far more minimal than simple additional teaching/time. IF allathis seems mixed-up and wildly insensible, you understand well...but still fact of matter and one major reason for rebuilding whole educational system to bring it into 21st Century, for both demand AND supply, including massive home-learning, much simpler K/12 setup, far less kids/bussing/plus-lunch, et al, et al, et al. Will Op Ed someofthis soon when wheels stop spinning from this somewhat/wasted thread !! Thank you for provocative questions, demonstrating the sensitivities of the "wit, wisdom, will" of the people. Your small/group setup is vulnerable to misinformed and private-interest pressures, with govt. "in middle" no matter who runs show. What needs to be done is overwhelmed by "gimme help !" with no way to tie any to plan and purpose and payment; "been there, done that"; how about you ? Most "small business" is so small as to

Henry Clay Ruark August 4, 2010 1:43 pm (Pacific time)

Friend Dan: Seems we missing a piece or two here...framing some points we need to continue. Show 'em later-if-found...please. SO here's part-continuance, via notes on four major recent books --similar notes sent to you over some weeks-- making solid case for "wit, wisdom, will" and also indepth for "American exceptionalism". No apologies for length here since sent as offset to half- dozen of yours !: Early American History Classics For most Americans, early American history remains a seldom-visited mystery despite its great values for informing us “how we got from there to here”, as one professor plainly put it to us-in-class some decades ago. These first four are contemporary, indicating the new very-strong interest in the wit, wisdom and will of the American people through inherent difficulties and challenges as our nation was founded and began its unique development, recognized now as foundation for the world-acclaimed “American exceptionalims” shaped by the very facts of that development. 1. The Failure of the Founding Fathers; Bruce Ackerman; Harvard College 2005; ISBN 0-674-01866-4. “Jefferson, Marshall, and the rise of Presidential democracy” is the second-head on this major work to put the Founders in perspective as humans heartily driven by emotions, surely including ambition and self-interests. The Framers did not anticipate the rapidly-emerging party-system; this provides full evidence of perhaps one of the earliest emergences of “the wit, wisdom, and will” of the American public, resulting in “the plebiscitarian Presidency” reflecting public choice prevailing over even pure politics. 2. Revolutionary Characters: Gordon S. Wood; Penguin Press 2006; ISBN 978-1-59420-093-9. “What Made The FVOunders Different” is the main theme of this work by Pulitzer Winner Wood. He brings these men and their times down to earth and within our reach, revealing just who they were and what drove them, exceedingly demanded for anyone seeking to learn “how we got here.” 3. His Excellency, George Washington; Joseph J. Ellis; Knopf 2004; ISBN 1-4000-4031-0. “First, foremost, fantastic” describes the life and career of America’s originating President --also the first two-termer, setting permanently into place the strong framework which kept the new nation on-track to its Manifest Destiny and consummate world-leading position. Ellis here strips away the ivy and legend to give us thecharacteristics and components making this man the forerunner in making sure “we got here from there.” 4. Adams vs Jefferson; John Ferling; Oxford University 2004; ISBN 0-19-516771-6. “The tumultous election of 1800” was a thunderous confrontation forcing dramatic struggle between two parties with profoundly different visions of how our new nation should be governed --still continuing today. This is a fundamental part of “how we got here” with remarkable application to current issues and even to past-and-present challengis to “wit, wisdom, will”. (Ten-more to-come on complete booklist/used in dialog here.)

Natalie August 4, 2010 12:30 pm (Pacific time)

You, gentlemen, put so much energy and emotions into the fight over "whose daddy's stronger" as if our survival really depends on that. The way I see it there should be multiple meetings with small business owners on the local level to find out what support they need to keep them from closing down. The last thing they need right now-to pay huge suffocating permit fees and fines. The situation is like with books-you can buy one for $5-20, but when you really need it in college it costs $120 soft cover. And sometimes they just need help with finding the right contacts to keep that business going. See, that was easy; strange that I'm still not one of the advisers at the White House.

Henry Clay Ruark August 4, 2010 9:47 am (Pacific time)

Friend DJ: Far too slowly, I have now come to realize our apparent disagreements come from your strong recognition of complex, multiple consequences --while mine relates to causes for the same actualities, seen today. Had hoped you could skim the revealing book-review itself, since am not so naive as to assume you will --or can !!-- find and consume the two books thus reported in detail. BUT review itself cuts to heart of matter here, refers to facts of historic life, patterns of American history over decades untouched in your own-stated time-of-view, and also on opposing viewss-held. The historian helps us "get from there to here", as professor I had once pointed out. We sometimes find ourselves very confused without that kind of sure guidance --proven precisely profitable even for pundits, ever since the Enlightenment --one reason for massive growth of specialized studies at grad levels, as you will recognize. SO that is why three first- sent titles meant so much for first-recognition, skimming the genesis, content, controls and protocol/procedures our Founders invented, instituted, protected and preserved for us over their tenure from 1750s. We cannot reprise or replace early-American history here, but other two titles/sent then carry story through election of 1800 (Jefferson prevailed) and into Jackson-era, first "non-elite" "common man" to be President. I left Lincoln and absolute overwhelming proof of "wit, wisdom, will" --rejection of slavery !-- to your own examination, hoping early-time tell-it-right would stimulate some further study by you. DO believe you need now to re-examine eras neglected, as you state your surveillance covers last few decades while "rest of story" goes deeper, demanding understandings and appreciations otherwise not possible. That's especially true for anyone NOT immersed in both culture and its symptoms --the political struggle inherent in any democracy-- for at least several decades. If you have not had opportunities so to do by extended visit,you are in parlous position for precisely the unintentional distortions now discovered and detailed. Mine-own "immersion" (!) began at age 12,and continues now, at 92 --and I am still amazed at how much more I must still learn...!! The Federalist Papers are a difficult-read but remain the true mine-of-gold for those who will dig...but that also demands depth in discovery,and strength to examine and fully appreciate. Have your read "Federalist"? Your intent/purpose/plan and product are strong, mostly on the money (!), are extremely helpful, and well worth our full study. BUT they deal with mostly- malign consequences inevitable in nation/development, driven by exterior (sometimes world- level) forces, and far outside any possible remedy by either individuals or party- power, requiring massive continued social/cultural and inevitably also economic/fiscal/financial activities, provided only by very broad national movements. We are witnessing some first parts of precisely that kind of force now...which makes the emergence --once again !!-- of "wit, wisdom and will" a sure thing --as both the review and the books-referred point out. Best wishes to you for your paramount skill and proven good will, and please make sure to continue --but with this now, perhaps, somewhat clearer differentiation in mind and, hopefully, also in content containing some solid steps towards remediation, in a sensible, sensitive, solidly successful governance system still among world leaders.

Vi August 4, 2010 6:28 am (Pacific time)

No Hank...I am not familiar with nor did I read the "manifesto" of the Nationalist Coalition...Thanks for the heads up! I do however agree with the principle of leader-less resistance, if and when it comes down to that.

Hank Ruark August 3, 2010 3:58 pm (Pacific time)

Frieiend Dan:
IF you can't stomach "MORE history !", how about two brand-new well- qualified special book-length reports ?

Both are by contemporary writers known for their fine work previously, so can vouch for their reliability and the demanded proven credibility, surely raising them well above any hint of "mythology".

Please note Friedman traces entire initiation and potent strength through decades of the concept of "American exceptionalism" --showing its current influence on Supreme Court, "over time" coming to reflect "public opinion" --
euphemism for "power of the people."
He even puts that precise point in the name of his new book !!

Both are well-reviewed in July/ Aug. AMERICAN PROSPECT, which is available even in Canada, in most college or university libraries.

Here they are:
6. The Living Constitution; David A. Strauss; Oxford University Press.
7. The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution; Barry Friedman; Farrar,Strauss,Giroux.

These numbered to keep good track of ref. sent to you...
previous ones histories and special/report you praised.

"Mythology", sir ? Seems to me you using wrong dictionary.

Both on-way to read-and-then report here, as reviews OR in Op Eds to come.
Hope you will stay tuned ! Dialog raises right-kind of real-problems, encourages some others to tune in...and may even cause some tumultous cogitation, wanted or not !!

Both look like interesting books but I don't see how learning more about the American constitution is relevant to the real world, day to day problems I reference; trillion dollar deficits; multi-trillion dollar debt, two ongoing wars, millions of Americans unemployed and perhaps never be employable again. The one on the Supreme Court seems particularly irrelevant as long as you have Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas sitting there, ready to thwart any progessive will of the people. I think that if the American people willingly elected Bush to a second term, it's pretty clear evidence the "will of the people" is either irrelevant or pathologically misguided. The people also elected both Reagan and Nixon to second terms.

As Paul Krugman wrote in his most recent column: "Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal." 

I see the "will of the people" in Canada as well as the U.S. as a fiction. 

Hank Ruark August 3, 2010 3:26 pm (Pacific time)

Vic: Amazed to find you seeking solace in Mexico...and sending us to totally/WHITE-organized cabal whose self-description is candidly racist alltheway. "One never know, do one ?" Did you really read their pages-long,tedious,tendentious self-praising homily ? Content-analysis unneeded: they state it rightout inplain English albeit embroidered a bit by canny controls on the concepts and descriptions. Will withhold further rocks till we raise roof over the reality of what's there for all to see... "Theory" of NON-leadership they put out (read: "preach") for organized aggression vs current society is older than Nazi/Fascist roots, and do believe you will wish to separate/self from same. That ain't YOU as previously encountered, even though the cant-there is contrived to use strong objection to some of same actualities we all find too true in current U.S., as contemporarily contrived in a few similar situations. Watch out for White-rocks, keed ! --They crush allasame way as any others...

Vic August 3, 2010 10:03 am (Pacific time)

As Hank pointed out, the questions now are "What do we do?"..."What CAN we do ?" I have no real insights on this, but found this article relevant and interesting... http://ncoal.com/blog/?p=2983

Hank Ruark August 2, 2010 8:41 pm (Pacific time)

Yours of 5:10pm re lady now living in her car adds one more to my fat/growing/file of very similar bits/pieces. Not unknown in several earlier similar debacles, too.

Do you see NATION, American Prospect, NYRvw/of/Books,TIME, Newsweek, US/News, FORTUNE, MOTHER JONES, et al et al and more ? I do, with another half dozen prof.journals,too, like CJR and AJR and others...they might sub-for-you as modern meds since you refuse usual dose of documented history, on trends,events,forces and other nation-shapers most others rely on for "education".

Each-names, this issue or last ones, has at least one report of similar agonies by someone, severalinfile of much worse and city/wide.
Can pile up such paper half a mile high, weighing tons, and it still does NOT answer what you demand:
Action here by U.S which surely we both know is simply US, unspecified but obviously needing to seek to reverse, ameliorate,modify or otherwise changeforbetter what we ALL know, see, feel, hear and read-about --every day !

I.e., U.S. ("us") is having one hellish/time.
So are most other nations, some for same reasons, others for guilts and gluts and like- guzzles and guesswork of their own...

NObody guaranteed any of US anything; whatwegotwebuilt for ourselves.
Allasame Canada, Britain, et al, India, others long-gone but still suffering on-own.
Except we ("us") had guts, brains and guns in '76 and used 'em for our own still treasured "independence" while still establishing selves on frontiers, winningThe West and molding.making.manufacuring. massively to conquer continent and continue our "experiment in democracy".

WHY did not Canada do the same ?
WHY not spend alla YOUR strong effort pursuing same kind of now-perfection in YOUR OWN country ?
Your biog. shows work at national level, on a series so-titled as to show perfect- shot forsomeofsame...
DID you DO anything LIKEWISE thereandthen ?

Now YOU upbraid, denigrate, downplay and speak in simple "despise"/language (need your own quotes ?).
SO, given allathat, I still seek from you flat out fast and far/from/foolishly futile any/all simple answers on how youwishusto work on rebuilding nation to YOUR specs --and WHY we SHOULD do SO on arrogant historically-uninformed say-so now or at any time-ahead.

On what record of solid nation-building accomplishment and on-record professional psychological successes in attitude-changing and other mental gymnastics --plainly now demanded from us by your long list of pieces-- have you set patternforperfection you so clearly seek from US ?

Yes, Hank, everyone knows that the US is better than everyone else, the best nation history has ever seen and possibly the best in the entire known Universe. The FF, of course, were prescient because they were gods on earth. Please refute my arguments with facts and reasoned argument, not emotional mythology.

Colli August 2, 2010 6:18 pm (Pacific time)

One last philosophy Daniel and then I will leave you to it: When an artist paints with too broad a brush, he loses the finer points and ends-up with a picture where he might otherwise have had a masterpiece. You may try looking that one up . . . but, that just my opinion! Colli

Natalie August 2, 2010 6:06 pm (Pacific time)

If we're left with no income, we're moving to the Amish countryside. Word out they're prospering and expanding their lands. Sitting hungry in 4 walls with empty pockets is not for me. Not sure how I would cope with their particular dress code and hair cuts, but if that's what it takes to get out of the hole...who knows.

Anonymous August 2, 2010 5:57 pm (Pacific time)

Opinions do vary Daniel: The quote regarding patriotism that make the most sense to me is one by Pablo Casals "The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?" Another that make great sense is from Mark Twain (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court) - "My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its office-holders." This makes especially good sense to me right now and basically has for the last 43 years or so. And, one I believe stongly in but which worries me most right now: "A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle." from George William Curtis (a fellow New Englander). I believe the principles our country was founded on were right and just for the time but as you know, "time waits for no man" and for darn sure, it waits for no man to make adjustments to principles, laws, rules, guidelines, and mores. Adjustments to these things are usually thrust upon him out of necessity. Nations, societies, neighborhoods, cities, towns, and religions all adjust . . . but rarely as quickly as everyone feels they should. If we desert them before the adjustment occurs, we will never have the opportunity to see the best each entity has to offer, will we? Colli

Daniel Johnson August 2, 2010 5:10 pm (Pacific time)

Check out "Desperation Grows as Unemployment Benefits End" http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/us/03unemployed.html?hp

Hank Ruark August 2, 2010 3:56 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Pundits, by definition and most known activities, are bound to be both arrogant and self-substantiating. It's an invariable, invaluable part of of their peculiar personal psychological makeup --or "mix", if you will pardon that term. Unfortunately that must, of course, include any writer of any pundit-defining piece,too! Here we have perhaps a third disagreement, somehow even more disturbing than the first preceding-two. Few can doubt the deadly shadows cast by what you show as reported occurrence/event and long-known quotes, some from other surrounds... in themselves perhaps somewhat questionable applied here, distinctly out of contexts in which they do make some sense. BUT point for any pundit in our precarious "modern world" must be, unavoidably: "What the HELL do we DO, NOW !!" That's paraphrase from most of what one stumbles over on Internet or even printed-page references. (Damn ! I just dropped two-pound history book on sore toe !) SO let's agree U.S.WILL NOW survive --at least that much we've nailed irrevocably...I think. THEN let's agree, too, that most of what all of us find far too fearful and fully evident out there NOW even to question is perhaps partially or completely too-true...as always, depends on eyes-that -see and what words are then used to describe and develop, from deep start-then to deeper end-today. NOW can we then move on, once your two desired points are pounded into all reachable skulls, to that really rough, and nearly unreachable --and perhaps equally indecipherable from behind your snowshoe up there-- to the "heart of the matter": WHAT do YOU want THE REST OF US now to DO ? Here, in the UN, in our own Congress, and across the world ? To WHOM do we REPORT PROGRESS, if any/and /when ? HOW MEASURE THAT, to whose satisfaction ? AND at what cost to allathose still tightly-held American values ? Simply "agreeing" won't cut any ice or even mustard...what we must have, according to all you so strongly define, is a complete remake of this nation and of all existent-American attitudes, actions, and with absolute abeyance of all you so clearly see (and state !) as at fault, rotten, disabling of those same American values, and surely preparing us all for "final judgment" --by whom or whenever. Do, please, now consider the simple spell-out of allathat for me...as old geek with too-rusty fingers (not to mention, too, other failing parts !), I need alla help I can get now...and you seem ready, able and all too willing to advise. moresoon when my finger(s) recover... !!

Hank Ruark August 2, 2010 3:28 pm (Pacific time)

Friend Vic: I tend to avoid that term for as long as I can, Vic... BUT if any-come, it pays to find returners same-size or perhaps a bit "heavier"... Take care down there, I hear they throw stuff smaller but much sharper and faster...

Natalie August 2, 2010 3:19 pm (Pacific time)

Oh, pleeeeze; the only funding you need is to get to the nearest truck-drivers station. They'll be happy to get you anywhere and pay for the food if they find out that you can keep them from falling asleep on the road.

Natalie August 2, 2010 2:46 pm (Pacific time)

DJ is not a cynic. He's just planning on a trip around US and collecting all he can "you can stay at my place and see with your own eyes" invitations. The collection is big, but he's still awaiting for an invitation from the great state of Hawaii. When he gets that one, expect a repentance speech with nice pics and a little P.S., that to his surprise, Americans are not so gormless as he thought.(BTW adding a couple basic smileys to the menu wouldn't hurt).

Natalie: The only Americans I consider to be gormless are those who keep electing and re-electing politicians who do not serve the interests of the rank and file Americans. Trip? First I need funding. 

Vic August 2, 2010 1:31 pm (Pacific time)

Henry...You Rock!!

Hank Ruark August 2, 2010 1:27 pm (Pacific time)

DJ,Ersun, et al:
Second-head on DJ seductive piece uses "eschewed" -- so
I checked meaning and was NOT disappointed:
eschew (as in "shun") v. : avoid and stay away from deliberately.
(Please note last word !)

Error reigns here via two misunderstandings involved,one well demonstrated by this real definition. Much that has now happened, forcing massive new directions ever since '76, was far from "deliberate", in any common sense...

Both errors/here are related to lack of solid search and some appreciation in/and/of the open, honest, democratic history involved, easily and Internet-accessed.

One can even wend way from several classic texts (in print !) to some,many, others considered more radical -- and find the same basic fault:
American values, from the first stirrings leading our Founders from then-famed world -class philosophers into first The Federalist Papers and then on into Constitution and Bill of Rights, were felt very strongly by not only Founders but continuing American generations...precisely as friend Ersun has so fluently (and rapidly !) illuminated them for all here.

It strikes me that we can perhaps make rational and more reasonable progress here if we agree on basic history reports as foundation for common sense appreciation.
After all, ever since the Enlightenment, history has been "the book" which wise men keep insisting we must read --or repeat.

Since DJ denies need to go to historical/page-record, it perhaps falls to me now to furnish list of precisely the classic/modern historical work on which my perceptions have been based, starting some 80 years ago, with accumulating documentation ever since...my age-12 work --laugh ye not!-- was Boy Scout troop project.

Dunno if I can do so, but am now at work very simply by the transcript of texts and others on-shelf here, numbering about 20 or 30 or so...coming asap can be accomplished,if fingers on keyboard do not quit !!

Meanwhile, you might wish to start with some few of the ten or so for which I have already sent you reference by title, author, publisher and ISBN.
You liked one so well that you stated it had changed your life and perceptions, in an early report; unsurprisingly since history does that to one when read appreciatively...

moresoon "if the wheels don't fall off: and my eMac rolls rightly (small/cap !)

Who knows ? That might even be one more small blow blowing away that curse-of-eschew/ing and moving us further into the real demands of the 21st Century...aided by realistic dialog.

Hank: You keep saying that I deny history which is not the case. I am interpreting the current and recent events in the U.S. and am not the only one to be pessimistic about the survival of the U.S. As I argue in my piece, I believe the U.S. will carry on but at great human cost. It's one thing to sacrifice soldiers in a defensive battle. It's quite another to sacrifice millions of innocent men, women and children on the alter of capitalism. BTW, don't send me any more historical references. I don't have time to look at them and I have argued my points and do not need to look up anything in history. What I am more interested in is your refutation of my argument.

Colli August 2, 2010 10:52 am (Pacific time)

Much of what you say is either partially or wholly true. You are obviously an extremely bright man and I believe a good man but your cynicism may have pushed you over the edge to extreme negativism.
You give the impression that you believe it is wrong to be devoted to one's country or to take pride in its history. Every country in the world has a bit of its history that it is ashamed of. That fact does not make the country or its inhabitants evil. It would be interesting to see if you can overcome your obvious anti-U.S. prejudice and write a 100% positive article about the United States. Surely there is enough positive in our history to allow a you a temporary respite from negativism. Remember Daniel, throwing the baby out with the bath water does clean the tub but it also happens to make it useless!

Colli: Thanks for your comment. I don't believe I am being cynical but instead am interpreting both current event and recent history. Nationalism is a form of fanaticism and is the source of much human discord. We all live on and earth we share, but Americans, as a whole, tend to live and act as if they are the only ones on the planet. Look at other cases of nationalism--Serbs/Croats, Kurds/Turks, etc. Even the U.S. fell prey to that disease in the Civil War.

The most famous quote on patriotism is by Ben Johnson who said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Thoreau, "Patriotism is a maggot in their heads."

George Bernard Shaw “You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race."

Oscar Wilde "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious."

Leo Tolstoy described patriotism as "the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers". 

My favorite is by the anarchist Emma Goldman who said: "Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those born within this little spot consider themselves superior, nobler, more esteemed and more intelligent  than the living beings inhabiting any other spot.” This sums up American patriotism.


Ersun Warncke August 2, 2010 9:54 am (Pacific time)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The self-evidence of men being created equal is not really subject to dispute. You can say that this is philosophical conceit, but please, posit one single argument for the inherent superiority of one man over another, and I will happily shred it for you. It is no accident that this formulation has now been adopted worldwide in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been affirmed by almost every nation. "The Pursuit of Happiness" may be a bit of rhetorical flourish, but it should also be noted that this did not make it into the Constitution, as it is not really a substantive statement. The views of principal actors at the time on race varied, and were of a much stronger European-supremacist tinge than is accepted today, but those were the views of ALL Europeans. Was that not the view of Canadian politicians at the time as well? Why should Americans be criticized for rightly pointing out the inconsistency of racist viewpoints, and then going through the arduous process of trying to eliminate these from society, simply because Americans still by-and-large possessed the same racist views they inherited at the time this statement was written? Was not the slave trade created by European nations, and was it not the U.S. as a newly formed nation that imposed limits on the slave trade for the first time, and then suffered great hardship to eliminate slavery, which was not created by the U.S. government, but by the European governments? Is it wrong to state a goal even if it cannot be immediately achieved? Would it have been better for everyone in the U.S. to simply accept slavery as God's will and say nothing at all?

Hank Ruark August 2, 2010 9:18 am (Pacific time)

DJ, Vic, et al: You both have admirable insights, courage to speak, and (a few!) other outstanding characteristics...but you both now suffer from the same very important hampering situation of "diminished perspective" -- forced upon you by some slight distance from actualities now in evidence here, not only in the political part of the picture but even more widely --and sometimes even wildly-- in the social, cultural and fiscal/financial portions. Those recurring signs send signals are--once again !!-- extremely similar to what historic record shows has happened time and again during our entire 250-year tenure as a world/leading nation. That's the solid basis for my continuing "optimism" -- which may or may not turn out to be ONLY-that, rather than the hoped/for sometimes-sharp analysis. Saving-grace for all three of us is that "one never know, do one ?", especially about the future. Until this page of our 250- years/long-book is ready to turn into "the last chapter" ...not just yet, for sure!... we cannot conceivably stop writing whatever will occur, even if we so chose --which IS a choice !! (Worth much more dialog, too...) Pundits do as pundits must: Guess at the future ! BUT historians have it much heavier, on their side, since they already have books-full of pages to which to point, for those willing and able to learn that way. "If the wheels don't fall off" here, will see if I can find some of those right pages soon. (In all truth work is now hampered in several ways.) Please do NOT MISS fact of un-cap on "right"/here --since that,unfortunately, ties tight into precisely why we now have remarkably heavy extrusion of this kind of stuff, seemingly unavoidable for many --as in at least six similar "edge of cliff" situations in those pages provided by famed and widely-consulted historians. Thank you both for surely keeping flame burning...real question is who gets burned in the long run ?? For which you both have your ticket, while mine may already bears beginning punch-marks !! Dunno if will get to read the pages, but sure as hell fun guessing what will truly be on them all--in that last chapter --STILL TO COME !! Meanwhile you both might contend with the considerable real difficulties of deciding how we can make sure of what's to be written there. Even border restrictions do not a barrier make, for that kind of realistic analysis. AND if you gotta send a signal, that's pretty good kind to concentrate on now...

Vic August 2, 2010 6:39 am (Pacific time)

I appreciate my friend Henry's optimism, but fear that the "wit and wisdom" of the American people has been replaced by apathy and willful ignorance. Why are we in the situation we are now? Wit and wisdom without meaningful actions is useless. Our overlords know this and therefore could give a rat's ass about what the people want or think. The peasants start getting uppity? No problem...devalue the dollar,crash the economy (ours, not theirs)till the majority of us are simply concerned with survival and trying to feed our children...that will shut the majority of us up. Those rabble-rousers remaining will be much easier to deal with. All the wit and wisdom in the world is utterly meaningless unless it translates into actions. I dont see much of that.

Daniel Johnson August 1, 2010 11:53 pm (Pacific time)

See "Defining Prosperity Down" by Paul Krugman in today's NYT.

Henry Clay Ruark August 1, 2010 7:45 pm (Pacific time)

Friend DJ:
Indeed, I DO look backwards, into the prescient pages of profound historical statements by many, meaning much more than can any view defying and denying what we must learn from history if we are not simply to continue to exist --but, you skillfully,cannily and very honestly lay out in some detail for our "open, honest, democratic" and full consideration.

That's the great value both of your contribution, strong, seemly, extremely well done, and very insightful and accurate, too --and "the other part" which is simply the very great perspective of historic developments for this nation ever since those original "great documents" --the true foundation of both "the American way and of "American exceptionalism" you cite were done.

What you may be overlooking, DJ, is that "for their time" the principles they set out were Revolutionary, rightly so recognized worldwide then-AND -now, and built from dialog (The Federalist Papers) for which we now havge exceedingly more-powerful,widely possible for millions more, and strong in and of the new processes demanded --perhaps, for the first time, presenting us with both the tools --AND the very fundamental choices !!-- to make of those documents you cite precisely what our Founding Fathers meant them to be --and what we, in our now- enlightened further-state (!?) may well find to be not only possible, but perhaps the sole and even possibly the final opportunity we can hope to be given.

We have no unavoidable con- frontation, friend DJ; just a very simple but fundamental difference in perspective, for sure demanded by our differing location not only geographical but also historic.

(Done too hastily for comprehensive "confrontation", so here slugged "moretocome", as for further wire service copy ! Your fine honest, open, democratic --and continuing-- dialog highly welcome here as solid demonstration of what S-N is accomplishing.)

Hank: What I see in America is an essentially inhumane, socially-Darwinistic society. America as a capitalistic society will survive but at great human cost. Many people through the years have been quoted along these lines: The measure of a society is made by how it treats its most vulnerable and helpless members. On this scale America fails exceptionally.

I would have preferred you to comment on the three points I made about the Declaration. 

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