Fourth of July Musings: What Does it Mean to be an American?

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Yves here. While I very much appreciate Lambert thinking hard about what the Fourth of July means in this post-Constitutional era, it might also be worth remembering the origins of this holiday. It came out of a corporate effort to stage “Americanization” events as a way to position immigrants (seen as a threat to American culture) as willing to adopt the native values and habits. “Americanization” celebrations were rebranded as “Independence Day” and cleverly made a Fourth of July holiday to tie it even more tightly to patriotism.

By Lambert Strether. Originally published at Corrente

I missed the parade. Which seems about right.

There was a Times series recently, which I didn’t manage to read — even though Jill Abramson really seems to have improved the paper, at least in non-policy areas, before she was axed — on “What does it mean to be an American?” Probably I avoided reading because I couldn’t answer the question. Or because the answer would have been too painful.

I remember back in the early 90s having a conversation with a (mainland) Chinese friend, and arguing for the unique strength of the American Constitutional system: The checks and balances system that the Constitution established reflected a wise understanding of human nature — “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” — and acted to prevent tyranny. No human is fit to exercise power over another, but at the same time, humans must exercise power over one another for the social contract to function, and so the issue becomes how to limit the damage done, on both sides of the power equation inequality, to help ensure that the worst abuses (e.g., slavery and its after-effects, or the The Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women) damp themselves out over generations. And since old-fashioned, Civics 101-style belief in the Constitution was what it meant, to me, to be an American, I don’t have an answer for the question the Times posed. It all reminds me of a Terry Pratchett joke in his wonderful The Truth, which every blogger should read:

[Dwarf:] “My grandfather used to think humans were sort of hairless bears. He doesn’t any more.”
[Human:] “What changed his mind?”
[Dwarf:] “I reckon it was the dying that did it.”

“[I]t was the dying that did it.” I believe the Constitutional order in the United States died, in my lifetime, at some point after the mid-70s, but in any case no later than Bush v. Gore. And now there I can’t think of one major social system that I would feel safe become involved in: Not the health care system, not the finance system, not the justice system, not the retirement system, not even the educational system (because I’d be an adjunct, and wages and working conditions are so horrific), and certainly not the employment system (credit check, pissing in cup). And, oh yeah, my every move on the Internet, where of necessity I spend hours a day doing my work, could be carefully monitored, and since it could be — given the unbridled power of our overlords, which I, for one, do not welcome — it is.[1]

I’m aware, of course, that my now lost (trashed, violated) feeling of — unconscious expectation of — safety in large-scale social systems is a product of unearned privilege; I’m a very tall WASP male, and that’s why Thai security guards salute and wave me through checkpoints; I fit their template for somebody high up on their social scale; an imperial operative of some sort. The Apostle Paul — civis romanus sum — had the same sort of privilege, in his day. And privilege, at its root (privi + lege) means “private law,” and certainly not every American, probably not even most Americans, shared the expectations and feelings of safety that those of my class and my cultural markers did. However, millions of Americans did share them, and I would have thought the point was to extend that zone of freedom, not pollute, diminish, and destroy it. Boy, was I wrong.

I was at a meeting to fight yet another proposed dump the other day, and when you get up to speak, you have to introduce yourself and say where you’re from. When my turn came, I introduced myself not with the formula “I’m _____, from ____ Maine,” but with “I’m ____, and I drink from the Penobscot Watershed.” In other words, I defined myself not by my legal residence, my jurisdiction, but by my use of a Common Pool Resource.

So, “independence,” but not as this holiday defines the term, eh? I think Americans can still accomplish great things on the American continent. I think that radical reform can make large-scale systems work for Americans once again. But “it was the dying that did it.” This Fourth feels more like a funeral than a celebration, to me. And that’s a good thing. Time to honor the dead, bury them, mourn, make use of the legacy, and get on with “the augmentation of the complexity and intensity of the field of intelligent life”. America doesn’t do that, right now. In fact, it does the opposite.

NOTE [1] To be fair, I’m involved in the power and fuel systems, where I feel safe, especially because I can always work out payment plans with them, since they’re public utilities. I’m also involved in the public and private transport systems, where I feel safe, although the roads up here are visibly deteriorating, even the Interstate. I’m also involved in the water system, and our local drinking water, it is becoming clear, is not safe. Finally, I’m involved in the food system, which if we generalized to “the ingestion system,” is so fantastically unsafe in its physical and biological effects that I don’t even know where to begin.

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  1. Clive

    The interesting one for me to reflect on (as a proxy for an American, me being English) is Independence Day. What were you guys trying to become independent from ? Why ? Did it work out as planned ?

    1. Ben Johannson

      Did it work out as planned? Only if you were Alexander Hamilton, who dreamt of a vast empire held together by commercial forces which trampled all in their path. This is very much his country, unfortunately. I don’t think the idealism of the revolution long survived politics.

    2. craazyman.

      When I think of NFL football and Bud Lite, I have to say “yes”. I’m just being honest!

    3. diptherio

      Our elites were bummed out about having your elites lord it over them (so the speak). They were also scared that black slaves and poor, indentured whites would band together and f— their sh– up. So they inculcated racism amongst the poor whites by treating them marginally better than the black slaves, and convinced them that the real enemy was across the pond, with a crown on his head, not right here at home, living it up in the plantation house.

      It seems clear that a goodly contingent of our “founding fathers” were mostly interested in setting up their own monarchy in the US. John Adams, for instance, in private correspondence, referred to monarchy as a “safe harbor” to which the American people would surely return after a few years. He had hopes that his son, John Quincy would be the first American king.

      Of course, things didn’t turn out in exactly that manner, but on the whole: mission accomplished!

      1. Susan the other

        Wow. No kidding? About the Adams Family. I can hear the jingle. Doesn’t really surprise me. Ben Franklin thought the Brits would forgive his duplicity, but it didn’t turn out that way. And my favorite book (which also happens to be about Marx) clearly outlines his personal goal of marrying his daughters off to very prosperous entrepreneurs like Engels. So it’s not just us Americans who are genetically programed to worship power; it’s everyone, it’s everyone. The thing about genetics is that you can actually bluff it for 2 or 3 generations. So When somebody asks me what it is to be an American, I always think (but I’m too polite to say) that it is eating breakfast in a pretty good greasy spoon, all the coffee refills I want, and distractedly reading over Paul Harvey’s latest restaurant brochure. Or put otherwise, it really amounts to nothing so far.

        1. diptherio

          Paul Harvey has restaurant brochures? Cool. I grew up listening to “…The Rest of the Story,” but I haven’t heard (or read) him in years.

          1. susan the other

            You must be a kid. Yes, Paul Harvey had lots-o-stuffs which were all self promoting. This country was very patriotic back then that it bought the whole lot. Not so much anymore.

          2. hunkerdown

            I haven’t heard (or read) him in years.

            I reckon it was the dying that did it. (1918-2009)

            I remember my grands, ardent Democrats in the fourth party system, watching his video segments along with the evening news around 1980 or so. Despite his charm, something seemed a little unreasonable about him; I realize now that it was the Reaganism.

    4. Carolinian

      “What were you guys trying to become independent from ?”

      The king. Aristocracy they didn’t mind so much, all being aristocrats.

      And this persists today since Presidents tend to be the national whipping boy (as they should be) despite media attempts to put the crown on various of their Presidential favorites.

      Perhaps it’s time for Europeans to do us a solid and declare their own independence. Haven’t you had enough of Pax Americana?

      1. hunkerdown

        The king. Aristocracy they didn’t mind so much, all being aristocrats.

        “Fighting oppression” as cover for capturing it for their own lords’ and ladies’ exclusive use? Sounds familiar…

      2. dearieme

        But the monarch was already far down the road to becoming a mere figurehead. It doesn’t make much sense.

      3. jrs

        It is true we don’t have to put up with the aweful royalty obsession. That is a relief. Though celebrity worship isn’t much better.

    5. beene

      Yes, and no. We learned by the early 1900s what was needed then implemented what was learned. Then forgot what was leaned are back where we started. Imperial government.

    6. Min

      “What were you guys trying to become independent from ?”
      The British East India Company.
      “Did it work out as planned ?”
      We dumped your tea. Now we worship at Starbucks.

    7. jrs

      Nah we don’t even have a (currently being dismantled anyway I guess) NHS. And we certainly don’t have anything else much less civil liberties. There are some nice national parks here I guess …

  2. Worker-Owner

    I was going to reply to Clive but my head exploded. Sorry, Clive. Someone else will have to take a crack at that one.

    Lambert, I sympathize with the watershed fight. Down here it is the fight to save what few trees are left in the neighborhood. “Development” means clear-cutting your neighborhood to make it easier for contractors to build butt-ugly rental properties.

    I am old enough to have lived through the crapification of the 1950s employment “social contract” and to have been punished by the losses to the dignity and satisfaction in the work the “Great Multinational Corporations” have imposed on the people who actually do the work that provide those huge surpluses with which the top bosses pay themselves and their cronies. The revolving door took that same disdain for “the rest of us” (Occupy‘s 99%) into politics and crapified governance.

    We drank, but not in celebration of the political holiday.

  3. pretzelattack

    ” I would have thought the point was to extend that zone of freedom, not pollute, diminish, and destroy it. Boy, was I wrong.”

    i don’t know if the america i grew up pledging allegiance to in elementary school ever really existed, but it was a nice idea and ideal. i’ve been watching it erode for 40 years or so; the erosion is accelerating.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Ditto. Great essay by Lambert. Only this sentence contains an assumption worth re-examining:

      ‘I think that radical reform can make large-scale systems work for Americans once again.’

      Large-scaleis a large part of the problem. Democracy works best at the local level, not so well at the state level. At the national level of a 300+ million population, hardly at all.

      Since the Constitution has failed, the Articles of Confederation (with their weak central authority) wouldn’t be a bad plan for a reboot.

      1. FederalismForever

        Completely agree. America is just too large, and too diverse, for a one-size-fits-all top-down federal solution to most problems. We would need to retain a federal central authority for some things, however – e.g., environmental regulations, so that states won’t avoid passing off the burden of environmentally damaging activities to neighboring states.

      2. Gerard Pierce

        You are probably right about the national level with 300+ million people, but smaller government is unlikely to provide a better answer. In small town America, there was always the “boss hog” who (along with his cronies) controlled everything worth owning. The combination of money plus family was usually enough to keep anyone else from even trying.

        There are still counties in the South where the same rules still apply and Django Unchained is more than a metaphor.

        It will continue to work that way as long as we do not understand how we work as members of a society.

        1. jonboinAR

          I agree about geographically smaller concentrations of power being any less corrupt or easy to dislodge than larger ones, or any sort of improvement over them, really.

      3. Susan the other

        We need to put the hobbles on large-scale while small scale gets its act together. But it will be time well spent. Otherwise the large carnivores will eat the small ones alive.

      4. Min

        “Since the Constitution has failed, the Articles of Confederation (with their weak central authority) wouldn’t be a bad plan for a reboot.”

        Except that the people who have made the Constitution fail prefer the Articles of Confederation, if not the Confederacy. Johnny Reb, go home!

        My tongue is firmly in cheek this morning. ;)

  4. MikeNY

    Props on the second full paragraph, particularly the reflections on power, and the wry reference to the recent formula kerfuffle, which made me smile.

    I don’t know how to answer the question, really. I spend most of my time trying to figure out what it means to be a fucking human being, to channel David Foster Wallace. I’ll deal with “American” after I get that one solved.

  5. The Dork of Cork

    Had some Canadians over recently.
    No different from Yanks.
    The same grossly materialistic culture.
    The same obesity combined with manic efforts in the gym to combat its effects.
    No effort to combine excercise within your local sphere and lifesyle. (I guess yee guys don’t have the time to walk to the shop or school)
    A distaste for a failed Inuit culture that refused or cannot engage with the local materlistic culture.
    But most of all a lack of understanding about pretty much everything.
    Irish Culture is now deeply American.
    Perhaps the most American in Europe.
    Gee thanks.
    Why did yee feel the need to project your failed lifesyle on others ?
    To drag us all down into the abyss

    1. dearieme

      There’s general rule that other people copy only the bad aspects of American culture. I’m damned if I see why Americans can be blamed for that. Irishmen could have remained corracle-rowing leprechaun-slappers if they’d wanted to.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        With the “good” aspects being what, again? Pre-crime global drone murder? Illegal citizen surveillance that would make the Stasi drool? Corporo-fascist homilies delivered by a pseudo-black liar-in-chief? Or perhaps it’s the culinary exports. Or is it the triumphalist exceptionalism? The science-denying creationism? Perhaps it’s the all-violence-all-the-time Hollywood movie mentality? Or, let’s see, the sexualization of children? Maybe it’s the toxic admixture of the profit motive and health care. Or the non-prosecution of financial crime….or…or…help me out here. Wait, I know: it’s the Kardashians! Maybe the Irish can get their own pre-teen Kardashian, in a skin tight leprechaun outfit

        1. jrs

          really what is the point of all this? All Americans are bad? The actual essay was a good one, talking about losing faith in the American government for virtues it maybe never exactly possessed (but it was easily to naively believe it did) but certainly doesn’t now (and now you’d probably have to poke out your eyes to believe in it).

          But this turns into a long string of stuff bashing Kardashians and being overweight. And no many Americans DON’T necessarily have time to walk. Commute times are too long. Work hours are long. The store is not in walking distance etc. The school is often not in walking distance. Get a clue. I make time to walk by stealing it from work btw. F the capitalists.

  6. amateur socialist

    It’s a difficult holiday and hasn’t gotten easier over the years. I find it easier to pass the day watching biopics or documentaries about the Americans I most admire.

    This year I re-watched the excellent Trumbo with my boyfriend who had never seen it. Being reminded of what he went through to try to continue working after McCarthy and HUAC etc. made me feel a little more sheepish about my marginal attempts to help out the few occupiers I knew.
    If the constitution is not dead it’s because of the newly blacklisted Americans who will one day be similarly revered. I celebrate the constitution via the lawless people of conviction who keep the conversation alive. Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and those outlaws who follow them.

    1. diptherio

      Some of us have come to the conclusion that it is unwise, unethical even, to continue to pay obeisance to our captured, corrupted system. Our obeisance, of course, often manifests itself in the form of green slips of paper that we dutifully hand-over to our corrupt overlords every April 15th. Some of us have determined that there are better things to do with our little green slips of paper.

      Bay Area Robin Hoods Steal from Government, Give to Solidarity Economy

      In mid-April, people across the United States struggle to fill out their federal income tax returns. This shared calamity has created something of an inverted holiday season — with grumbling about paperwork and frustration towards government bureaucracy replacing the “peace on earth, goodwill to men” of the Yuletide.

      But at a church in Berkeley, California, this past April, people were handing over their taxes with a smile. They were members of the group Northern California War Tax Resistance, and they were smiling because their checks — averaging more than $1,000 (more than €800) apiece — were not made out to the federal government, but to twenty-seven local groups including the Bay Area Community Land Trust, the Berkeley Food Pantry, the Biketopia Community Workshop, Oakland Sustaining Ourselves Locally, People’s Community Medics, and the Sustainable Economies Law Center.

      The money came from a war tax resisters’ “alternative fund” called the “People’s Life Fund” — one of more than a dozen such funds in the United States. The Fund’s annual mid-April “granting ceremony” brought together representatives from each of the recipient groups, who accepted their checks and briefly summarized their work for the benefit of the other attendees.

  7. Eureka Springs

    First and foremost to be an American it means you and I are murderers and torturers with the largest percentage of our brethren in the world imprisoned. To be an American means you live in and perpetuate the most paranoid, most surveilled society that any truth or fiction writer ever dared imagine. Where Wag The Dog meets Game of Thrones meets Robocop and most think of it as ‘progress’, exceptional or safe/secure.

    Where at best Human Rights and rule of law are really just tools of deception and oppression. Where Nazis in Ukraine, heart-eating liberal Wahabbis and Blackwater Inc’s everywhere else are our creation, our beastly representatives.

    To be an American is to be willing and determined to deny 50 million health care whilst charging everyone else double to triple the highest rates in the world. All for profit! Where we argue over pennies in school lunch costs, yet hardly notice or understand hundreds of trillions in derivatives reign supreme.

    Why as an American you can say you live in a Democracy whilst years of single digit approval pass by and hardly anyone notices the disconnect. To be an American is to find/promote lessor evil, which is always increasingly evil.

    To be an American is to be a master at self and societal deception. Always chasing the lowest price and wondering how we ended up with the lowest pay, the lowest quality/standards. To be an American is to be the biggest liars, the biggest Hazers with the biggest toxic easy-chairs….made in China, no doubt.

    1. FederalismForever

      That America currently has the world’s largest prison population does not mean that America is some uniquely harsh and punitive place. Rather, America is better able to afford the immense costs associated with: (i) detective and forensic work, (ii) a vast court system with well-paid judges, legal interns, law libraries, etc., (iii) building and maintaining so many prisons, etc. The fact is most countries simply cannot afford the costs associated with building and maintaining a comparable system. As a result, in many other countries a shockingly high percentage of violent crimes are unsolved, or are not prosecuted, or are handled via “extra judicial” methods (wink, wink). Brazil, for example, has far higher violent crime rates, yet in some areas of Brazil approximately 80% of violent crimes are never brought to justice. This is almost exactly inverse to America’s situation, where approximately 80% of violent crimes are brought to some resolution in our criminal justice system. With that in mind, the fact that America has a larger prison population is actually an indication that the rule of law prevails in America, to a far larger extent than in many areas of Brazil. (A similar story can be told for India.)

      To be sure, America’s per capita imprisonment rates are often much higher than other “first world” countries. But this differential sharply narrows, or disappears entirely, once one adjusts American stats to take into account its unusually punitive “war on drugs”. But the “war on drugs” is an American policy failure of the last thirty years or so. It has not been a regular feature of American history.

      I readily acknowledge that America’s criminal justice system still has lots of problems, with many injustices perpetrated on an ongoing basis. But try living in a country where 80% of murderers or other violent felons go free, and then complain about how evil and unjust America is.

      1. Banger

        As they would say in the old Python sketches–that was very silly. The U.S. Is, indeed, among relatively developed countries, extremely brutal both in its law enforcement (routinely brutal) and it’s courts (relatively corrupt), it’s prosecutors (mostly who care little for justice and systematically put away people they know are innocent) and it’s prison system that is, in the main, brutal and deliberately cruel featuring torture and severe punishments for often trivial offenses. People being human, certainly there are islands of decency but they are getting smaller. We know for a fact that punishment always damages people and that is what the justice system is designed to do to the non-rich who fall into its clutches. Rehabilitation has been, largely, ruled out even though it can work. Like the war economy the justice system thrives on crime thus there’s always a strong pressure from that community to keep the drug-war going to make sure prisons are filled.

        1. OIFVet

          Make that “to make sure PRIVATE prisons are filled.” The corrections industry needs their piece of the pie you know. And we do have two parallel justice systems: one for the rich , and one for everybody else. That is so that Holder and Obama, or whoever, can make sure that their real employers can go home free to their ill-gotten millions and billions,

        2. FederalismForever

          @Banger and @OIFVet. But nothing either of you have written contradicts my point, which is that it is misleading to simply infer that America’s large prison population necessarily indicates that America is some uniquely evil or brutal place, or that its criminal justice system is uniquely harsh or repressive. I can readily agree with all of your statements regarding the massive injustices regularly perpetrated by America’s criminal justice system, including by privately-owned prisons systems, and the inequalities that result, etc., etc., but that leaves untouched the comparison with countries like Brazil or India. Speaking of which, perhaps you should take a look at how rape is handled in India, before you come down too harshly on America’s criminal justice system.

          And OIFVet, it is a MYTH that America has imprisoned vast numbers of African American men for for simple marijuana possession. In fact, this rarely happens! Our prisons are too crowded, the justice system is too bogged down with more important cases, and judges are extremely hesitant to send anyone to prison for simple possession of a small amount of marijuana (assuming the judge has sentencing flexibility). Most any district attorney or prosecutor will back me up on this.

          If you want to check me on this, make sure to avoid three common mistakes frequently made in the current debate on this issue: (i) conflating all “drug related” offenses – as if running a large-scale heroin trafficking operation should be counted the same as simple possession of a small amount of marijuana – I am only referring to the latter; (ii) looking only at the percentage of the FEDERAL prison population that is doing time for “drug related” offenses – but the federal prison population is only 10% – 15% of the total prison population, and “drug related” charges are more common at the federal level, so this skews the results; (iii) not distinguishing those in prison for simple possession only as a result of a plea bargain from a larger charge, or who had an extensive prior record – again, I am focusing on someone who has been charged, convicted and sentenced to prison, and is in prison today ONLY for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana. I maintain that possibly only 2% – 3% of the prison population meets this test.

          1. OIFVet

            You are either playing dumb or just truly don’t care to actually read what I wrote. I gave an example that illustrates how unjust the system is: it is a FACT that black males have a much better chance of going to prison for simple possession than I do as a white male. Assuming you are indeed ignorant rather than a troll, well, sorry to crap on your rose colored lenses but I am not about to spread rays of sunshine where there is injustice and prejudice.

          2. Vatch

            Hi Federalism Forever. I was intrigued by your point that one reason for the high incarceration rate in the U.S. is that the United States can afford to investigate, prosecute, and imprison more people than many other countries can. That’s probably true if one compares the U.S. to most Third World countries, but I suspect it’s less true if we compare the U.S. to western Europe or Canada.

            But I was immediately suspicious about your dismissal of racial bias in marijuana cases. A Google search turned up this 5.9 meg file:


            From page 17:

            Extreme Racial Disparities in Marijuana
            Possession Arrests Exist Across the Country:
            Blacks Are 3.73 Times More Likely Than Whites
            to Be Arrested for Marijuana Possession

            On page 18 we see the differences in state arrest rates for the most extreme cases, and on pages 20-21 the authors point out that the racial disparity has increased in recent years. A table on page 54 shows the difference in arrest rates for whites and blacks in all 50 states plus D.C. There’s a lot of information in the document’s 185 pages. Who knows, if you spend some time reading the whole thing, you might be able to prove that my cursory impression is mistaken. But I doubt it.

            Here’s one other web site of interest that shows great deal of information about arrests. Of all drug arrests in 2012, 42.4% were for marijuana possession. The link:

            Crime in the U.S. 2012

            1. FederalismForever

              @Vatch. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I will peruse the link you sent. Please keep in mind, though, that OIFVet’s claim and the last sentence of my response above, make clear that I was referring to actual imprisonment, rather than arrests. I still maintain that the percentage of the current prison population that is doing time SOLELY for marijuana possession (not as part of a larger drug dealing charge, or as a result of a plea agreement, etc.) is quite small.

              See also:


              1. OIFVet

                “During the Giuliani Administration, the magazine served as an idea factory as the then-mayor revivified New York City, quickly becoming, in the words of the New York Post, “the place where Rudy gets his ideas.”” Awesome source dude, we all know how racially unbiased stop-and-frisk is. So you are indeed a troll, thanks for making it clear. America the Great, Equality for All, Rah rah, It’s just that blacks are inherently violent you see. No need for further analysis, our system is as fair as the morning dew is clear, nothing to see here, everything happens for a reason in this best of all possible countries and justice systems. That about the gist of it, or do you care to further reveal the breadth of your ignorance?

              2. OIFVet

                “(Odds of Incarceration for Marijuana in CA) “Compared to Non-blacks, California’s African-American population are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, 12 times more likely to be imprisoned for a marijuana felony arrest, and 3 times more likely to be imprisoned per marijuana possession arrest. Overall, as Figure 3 illustrates, these disparities accumulate to 10 times’ greater odds of an African-American being imprisoned for marijuana than other racial/ethnic groups.”

                Took about 2 minutes on the google machine.

                1. FederalismForever

                  But the stats you cite (i) don’t control for disparities in drug dealing (as opposed to simple possession); (ii) refer to marijuana “felony” arrests (which often apply to much more than simple possession); (iii) don’t control for whether the suspect had any prior arrests or felonies (increases the odds of imprisonment for a possession charge), etc.

                  If you’re too close-minded to read an article from a journal that Giuliani once liked, try pages 349 and 350 from this source instead:


                  1. OIFVet

                    1. Do you have any support for your contention that there are racial disparities in drug dealing?

                    2. In CA posession of any amount, even half a gram, can be construed to indicate an intent to distribute and is an automatic felony. Care to argue how likely a white person is to be prosecuted for intent to distribute? Besides, it is telling that you omit the part about a black person being “3 times more likely to be imprisoned per marijuana possession arrest” That’s possession, a misdemeanor, not a felony.

                    3. Given the higher likelihood for black males to be arrested for possession despite very similar rates of use amongst black and white, do you really believe that “controlling” for prior arrests would do anything other than widen the racial disparity? The numbers I linked to above prove exactly that. Policies like stop and frisk, Guiliani’s baby, only contribute to the disparity.

                    And yes, I do admit to being very close minded toward Manhattan Institute apologia for racial discrimination. Their argument boils down to “blacks are innately violent.”

              3. Vatch

                Incarceration can have at least two meanings. People can be incarcerated after they are convicted and sentenced for a crime, but they can also be incarcerated while awaiting trial, if they don’t have enough money for bail. In the U.S., black people have lower average incomes than whites, so if a black person is arrested, he or she is more likely to have trouble meeting the bail requirements. So many people, especially blacks, are incarcerated, even though they haven’t been convicted of a crime.

      2. OIFVet

        I will complain about how evil and unjust America is. When I, as I white male, get to walk free for a minor marijuana possession while the black guy gets shipped off to prison for the same offence, that is both evil and unjust. And that is just one example of how fucked up our justice system is. Second, what came first, crime or income inequality? I submit that America has a large proportion of its population in prison not because it can afford to investigate and prosecute crime, but because extreme inequality breeds crime. What does it say about us that we can afford to build prisons and fill them up with inmates but can’t afford to build schools and to alleviate poverty? Kinda shows where our priorities are. I can go on and on.

      3. indio007

        Maybe you should actually go to court and observe what actually happens in reality.
        People that are never there have idealized notions of what happens.
        It’s really not what you think.
        It is the same rentier BS that happens everywhere else except it involves victimless “crimes” and a gun in the room.

        As far as the forensic stuff goes , go watch The Real CSI on PBS’s website.
        Forensic science is pseudo-science.

    2. Susan the other

      + zillions. It’s that the evolution of our “economics” lags (due to self interest) our politics. What else?

    3. Yonatan

      I thought of showing pictures of all those Ukrainians mangled in the maw of the US machine. Those who failed to live to see their independence from the US-sponsored Neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine. But there are too many, and there are too many pieces. Here is the US on your Independence Day – Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

  8. Chris Maukonen

    It means you had the unfortunate fate of being born in a country that was founded by a group of selfish, self centered, arrogant, self involved pricks AKA capitalists, that has gone down hill from there.

    1. HotFlash

      A German-born friend of mine, now deceased, used to grumble about the US, “What can you expect from a country founded by every kook and religious nut in Europe?”

      1. dearieme

        Quite. Their frustrations at not being able to impose their notions on their countrymen were certainly taken out on the Indians.

  9. Steve H.

    “This is America, where a lying, cheating degenerate like myself can prosper.”

    From a 2010 videogame, Red Dead Redemption. “The game makes use of a morality system, by which the player’s actions in the game affect their character’s levels of honor and fame and how other characters respond to the player.” [Wiki] Screenshot here:

    Perhaps having the Freedom to explore value systems that are not imposed by authority means coming to understand the unintended consequences of those blind spots that all philosophical systems necessarily have.

  10. bmeisen

    the american character is essentially a rejection of political and religious absolutism accompanied by an active belief in and support of popular democratic virtue and practice with the aim of guaranteeing the broadest possible liberty and justice. this promises, and indeed even delivered – briefly between 1970 and 1980 – an unprecedentedly broad and true prosperity. this character is “american” to the extent that the framework that the founders of the american republic built to replace absolutism with popular democratic virtue and practice integrated developments in political theory which were not available to preceeding practioners of democratic government. i feel my “americanism” most strongly and positively when observing british monarchists, i.e. proud subjects of the queen. they are from my standpoint sadly misguided.

  11. Banger

    I love being an American because that is part of the culture my wife, my children, grandchildren friends and so on are a part of. We are people who are, in many ways, more open to change than other cultures I have known. Americans tend to be candid, well-meaning, friendly and charmingly innocent. Americans for all their “individualism” tend to crave conformity but much less so today than a few decades back. Because Americans have a history of pragmatism we have built a powerful civilization that dominates the world and has achieved imperial status. Sadly, success has not made us very happy and, instead, fed a ruling-class that is increasingly divorced from the average person that seems bent on creating a hereditary aristocracy.

    Because it is our innocence and unwillingness to remember we tend to keep our charm an optimism but it takes more and more denial to maintain it. We are, collectively, in denial about almost everything in the public sphere and we maintain a studied ignorance of the world around us and it is this that the oligarchs, through the lying media are able to help maintain an increasingly rigid status-quo. Our weakness is a culture of narcissism that includes forms of religion and spirituality that feed rather than inhibit narcissism–but I sense this may change and when it does then we may see some revolutionary changes. In my view it is interest in the spiritual dimension that makes Americans somewhat unique in the West. The rest of the world better hope for change in the U.S. and encourage those forces for change.

    As for the collective crimes of Americans–they really have no idea that their armed forces are as cruel and brutal as they are. Americans have no idea how nasty and corrupt their public officials and, more importantly, their media personalities are but I think we are beginning to see some glimmer of understanding at least in the coversations I’ve had–people are working much harder to be in denial and avoid talking about anything important one day they’ll have had enough. The Tea Party movement reflects some of that and eventually those people will begin to connect the dots. I see that more on the right than the left where connecting the dots is considered heresy, aka. “conspiracy theory.” Once the left, generally better informed, gets over its own denialism about deep politics we will see a powerful consensus for real reform.

    While we live in a post-Constitution era–I don’t believe it is un-reversable. Two things need to change: 1) we need to deconstruct the fraudulent “we are at war” (the war is Orwellian and made-up) excuse to eliminate civil liberties; 2) we must get rid of corporate mastery perhaps by working to eliminate the notion that corporations are people–as long as we have a situation that corporations have all of the rights but not the liabilities of people then they always have a competitive advantage over the public–another possibility is to allow people to form collective corporations which would similarly have the ability to go toe to toe with the current corporate power structure.

  12. fosforos

    Saul aka Paul never disclosed his Roman allegiance until he had been brought up on charges by the genuine Christians (Jewish followers of Jesus, headed by his brother James). Paul was a “Christian” in exactly the same way (and with comparably devastating effects) as the Okhranik double-agent Stalin was a “Communist.”

    1. harry

      Very interesting point. Pauls christianity won. James lost. Perhaps the modern battles can be seen in the same way. Snowden vs Nsa. Ows vs wall street. Local vs global. Chelsea manning vs chelsea clinton.

      I wanna quit Paul and join James. Now I’m disgusted by Paul and his double dealing.

      1. Susan the other

        This is an ancient story, probably lifted and dusted off for Paul and James, and had been in existence since Cain and Abel. But looky – all we really need to do is create a security/income/welfare system for all of humanity. What the hell is so hard about that?

  13. ambrit

    My Fellow Americans;
    (To steal a phrase from a real President.)
    As a hybrid Anglo American I can see all too clearly the malaise gripping not just America, but the entire Western Representative government experiment. The Arch Demon Reagan had the power of Glamour. Otherwise reasonable people embraced Reaction. Today we are living through the logical end game of those reactionary policies.
    In the early Seventies, I marched in the Miami Fourth of July Parade dressed up as Uncle Sam. My partner Uncle Sam, we both being members in what was known back then as a high school Service Club, was a Jewish Cuban American. That was America. Foreign born American citizens marched in support of the System. Despite all of the visible flaws and imperfections of that system, we Believed. That belief is what sustained the system. I call that Legitimacy. Today, Legitimacy has been thrown away for a mess of pottage.
    It is facile to condemn the American Founding Fathers for this or that failing. They did the best with what they had, and their best was revolutionary for their day. Representative government replacing quasi monarchical government! Over time, the pool of representatives was expanded. Limited suffrage became universal suffrage.
    Than the French had their Revolution.
    That would be what the Crypto Monarchists today fear the most: a world wide French Revolution, with its’ attendant Terror.
    So, allow me to congratulate America on its’ Revolution of 1776. Now on to the next Phase.

    1. Susan the other

      Who can disagree with you Ambrit. I think you are totally prescient. The encroachment of the .01% is an new monarchy (using much of the old monarchys’ stash) so that political allegiance is transmuted into commodities and currencies and somehow we all feel obligated to suffer for our dear leaders. Not me.

      1. ambrit

        Dear Sto;
        “..political allegiance is transmuted into commodities and currencies…”
        Right on. Join that with social allegiance being married to political allegiance, which wasn’t always the case, and you have the New Alchemists Creed: “All For Above, Nothing For Below.”
        (I have decided to dig out my copy of Thomas Paines’, “Rights of Man.” There was the visionary even the Founding Fathers were afraid of.)

        1. susan the other

          But we have computers now – not to be sarcastic – they can follow a path which, if harmful to any one sector of society, can be adjusted…It’s such a headache – because if a judge follows the law as it is written, he does not allow anybody to weasel their position. This is good but it may be very last century. If we are going to be global we need to be more agile, not less. One day, after all the public money has been accurately appointed to its appropriate social segment, the people running the social funding will wonder, why am I here. What does it mean to be an American anyway?

          1. ambrit

            Dear Sto;
            I’m not so sure that “accuracy” is a desirable trait. I am also a heritor/trix of the Cult of Progress, whose Hierophants reveal the god Science. The main defect found in members of that Cult is their susceptibility to Hubris. Just as the many exchanges in the comments here at Naked Capitalism show, all are prone to error, and the closer one claims to be to ultimate knowledge, the further from such one really is. In many endeavours over engineering is harmful. A sloppy fit and loose execution are often the optimal fit for any particular function. As scale increases, and variations multiply, parameters have to decrease in precision. More variation has to be accounted for. Either that, or variation must be suppressed. Those tasked with writing the code for our modern machines need to be on the order of the ancient Philosopher Kings. That is a tall order, and the main stumbling block to a truly Progressive directing of our development.
            Finally, as for the “people running the social funding,” they need to know why they are where they are before they begin their appointed tasks. Then, like Cincinnatus, they will know when it is time to go home. They will not need to know why they are Americans. They will know why they are human beings. That is everything.
            Sorry for the rant.

  14. ogee

    What American is…… is what it isn’t.
    To be born in the united states, means by lottery of birth, and proximity to technology and capital…you are just a legacy of promises unfulfilled.Luckier than many unfortunate souls who were born on the losing side of the lottery.While the real quality of a life depends upon your particular circumstances.Heaven is spread over the earth, but the eyes of men do not see it. But some people spend their lives there,or even a portion.Hell is spread over the earth. People spend their lives there.These metaphorical realms are the reality.a fickle reality.
    But to be living in the USA,You gotta just find something good for yourself and , try to help others. “follow your bliss,amidst the sorrows of the world”.
    But even though this is post constitutional America,The dream of what could be isn’t dead.The reality is that despite the American constitution being the greatest tool for mankind to move forward, it was never really taken seriously by our aristocracy.From the beginning, they have been religious fundementalists,slave owners/traders,genocidal land grabbers,etc.There has never been that perfect land.
    But in the course of human history, this country was best aligned to make a better union possible.In recent generations it has gotten worse, and who knows if the people will ever “get it”.But the foundations have been laid.The building is quickly going to ruin.But the foundation is still a solid one.It can be rebuilt,Many architectural aspects are recycle-able. And really, many people like the way it looked,even if they didn’t understand it was a façade. The real thing can be built.
    But not until everyone understands we need to demolish it as it stands.The people and groups who have perverted this possibility for over a hundred years, needs to go. and shown that their way is not “the” way.

    1. Susan the other

      Good comment. Very Norman Mailer (I know, total pig, whom I enjoyed, go figure) who (in one of his totallly chauvinistic hyper paragraphs) was so painfully truthful as to describe how America charged off across the continent with Empire-fervor and when they reached California, the defacto end of the line, they didn’t know what to do. they didn’t have a clue. So they set about eating themselves for the next 100 years, but using a marinade of public relations bull to make it palatable.

      1. ambrit

        Dear Sto;
        “..a marinade of public relations bull..” Wonderful!
        Is this the bull that is sacrificed by the priests in the temple of Mammon perhaps? Then they use it to make a marinade? They wouldn’t make this marinade by rendering the bull into stock, would they? Then use the stock to cook up a savoury sauce, eh? (Phyllis tells me that it would more accurately be called a con-somme. Ouch!)

  15. myshkin

    “Belief in the Constitution was what it meant, to me, to be an American… I believe the Constitutional order in the United States died, in my lifetime, at some point after the mid-70s, but in any case no later than Bush v. Gore.”

    I can agree with that sentiment or at times I think the Constitution and the promise of a democratic republic was stillborn or perhaps orphaned early; the parents and foster parents human and humanity bespeaks a frailty and negligence of purpose.

    Lambert and the NC readership are too wise and knowledgeable to not understand the deficits associated with the starting point of the American experiment including slavery, landowner, gender based enfranchisement, yada, yada; for the time it was progress, if history can and should be thought of as such a continuum but the inherent flaws turned out to be fatal. We all have an age of innocence when we imbibe the grammar school, foundation stories and then an eventual falling out when the truth emerges from behind the veils of myth.

    Somewhere I have read that Jefferson believed in a regular, frequent revisiting and rewriting of the Constitution, instead we have the priestly caste of clowns like Scalia and the originalists, channeling the fathers by stare decisis reckoning. Franklin said something to the effect that the constitutional convention had barely delivered a republic and the trick would be to keep it; clearly he didn’t like the chances.

    Yet I doubt we could have entrusted TPTB at any given point with a re-write of the document. Basically we’re screwed. One variation on the theme I’d like to see run up the flag pole, if I were supreme being; institute a parliamentary system, (no senate or president but a PM). Added to which would be the stipulation that campaigns be limited to ten days, no advertising and campaigning only debates on a cspan like media organ. All other programming pre-empted for that period. A third or so of the parliament would be elective office, a third chosen by lottery from among voters (two year term, voting compulsory and on a national holiday) and a third of the body would be represented by a computer running on some sort of algorithm designed to effect, ” A more perfect Union, establish Justice, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

    The question then, of course would be, who gets to write the algorithm.

    1. Susan the other

      I agree with you at least for this reason. All other countries have a parliamentary system. Nobody pretends to represent the citizenry and then does a substitution off to the “electoral college.” Whatever. The SCOTUS. So, then, if we had a system that conformed to other systems we could possibly more easily dialog with them. But than how can you casually dialog when all you want to really do is sell arms?

    2. Lambert Strether

      I like the perspective that the so-called Revolution was in reality a civil war between the English-speaking people; and that the so-called “Civil War” was the real revolution, because it overturned the political economy of slavery. A good thing, when netted out. I’ve also heard the argument made that given the casualties of the “Civil War,” there was no appetite for a second revolution in the Gilded Age, despite terrible exploitation, on the part of those who would have had to fight it. And so, fast-forwarding through two World Wars, here we are.

  16. Globus Pallidus XI

    Ask yourself rather, what does it mean to be a part of Yves Smith’s family? Only that you are a member of Yves Smith’s family. That’s it.

    What does it mean to be an American? Only that one is an American. A nation – all nations – are simply families writ large. They are groupings of people who have banded together for a common effort in a hostile and uncaring world. Political considerations are secondary. It is loyalty that is the main thing.

    The rich however want to split this up. They don’t like the prosperity that American have developed, they dream only of how much money they can accrue if only wages can be pushed down to 50 cents an hour. Not only profitable economically but also in terms of social power: do this for me or I’ll fire you.

    So the rich have pushed and pushed and propagandized and distorted the entire field of economics so that the primary issue of demographics cannot even be mentioned, only to create cheap labor. All those third world refugees flooding over the border have one purpose and one purpose only: the break the nation, to make America a piece of dirt with an endless supply of cheap labor and the rich can live in palaces.

    Curiously the rich have neither a moral nor a practical difficulty in preventing poor American from trespassing on their walled estates or private country clubs. Let some poor American try to enroll their child in a rich school district ‘in search of a better life’, good luck with that. Because you see sacrifice to help all those poor third worlders in the name of compassion is only for little people, the rich are allowed to defend what they have no problems…

  17. tyaresun

    As an Indian-American who spent the first 27 years in India and the next 29 years in the USA, I like to distinguish between the American government and the American people. While I agree with many of the posters on their views about the American government, I have to say that the American people have been extremely generous to me in countless ways, and for that I am thankful.

    I treat July 4, the way the rest of you treat Thanksgiving, I invite my American friends and colleagues for a BBQ every year, and together we watch the fireworks after.

  18. FederalismForever

    The tone of the article on the ‘Americanization’ movement seems somewhat dismissive of this movement, as if it were a bad idea, possibly made even worse by the fact that corporations were involved (horrors!). In fact, this movement, and others like it, helped bring about the “melting” of different immigrant groups into one collective American identity. President Theodore Roosevelt rightly spoke out against the idea that America should remain a “polyglot boarding house” occupied by various “hyphenated” groups. This remains a sound idea. To my mind, it’s no coincidence that the re-emergence of ‘identity group politics’ in recent decades has correlated with a decline in voting and civic participation (although other factors also played role).

    1. Min

      Gee, the only Americanization movement I know of has nought to do with the American ideal of the melting pot, which seems to have gone by the way. Rather, it is an exclusivist movement that is prejudiced against those who are not “real” Americans.

  19. impermanence

    I am quite optimistic about America and its future. As a collective enterprise, its about as good as could be expected, considering. Although at a low ebb, to be sure, the system has the tools necessary to right the ship.

    Hopefully, the lessons to be learned will stick for more than a generation or two before another cycle exacts another pound or two of flesh. People are much too concerned with the elite, people who are universal, and, by definition, willing to do whatever it takes to get as much for themselves as is possible. What made [makes] this system work is the professional class, those given the responsibility of administrating/regulating the system [and the elites]. Had the professional class not sold-out, the outcome of the past several decades would have been quite different.

    Reforming the institutions starts with the regulators and practitioners simply doing their jobs, nothing more. Refusing to go along with the corporate mandate of treating people like shit would be a good start. In my profession [Medicine], doctors could band together and simply say, “No mas.” No more corporate mandates concerning the care provided, no more government mandates concerning every god-damn thing.

    There are solution to all the problems this country face, just no leadership, nobody willing to stand up and say, “enough is enough!”

    Hang in people, the tide will turn one way or another, because as shitty as this country has become for the vast majority, its still has the greatest upside potential [geography, food production, technology, diversity, and a hell of a lot of great people!].

    1. FederalismForever

      @impermanence. Excellent comment, in no small part because it avoids excessive blame of some rich all-powerful “elite” (blaming the “rich” is another way to blame the “other”) and instead focuses on the more realistic aim of reforming our professional class.

      You are right that the American system “has the tools necessary to right the ship.” We don’t need to construct some grand utopian scheme, we just need to combine the best features of prior eras of American history, firmly resolve to avoid repeating our past mistakes (e.g., no more Vietnams or Iraqs), and then make a renewed effort to conform to highest and best of American ideals.

      1. OIFVet

        Wow, equating calling out the elites with blaming the “other” with all that implies? What an utter BS. You do realize that the “other” is by nature quite defenseless, right? Didn’t realize just how downtrodden the poor rich elites really are.

      2. hunkerdown

        As a cheap bit of pathos, why not? The elite have been Othering the working class for decades.

        As a matter of fact, impermanence correctly observed that the professional class is too deferent to the elites and their whims. Perhaps the American ideal of striving and struggle for its own sake, in light of the largely discredited but widely held myth of class mobility through hard work and/or pleasing the aesthetics of aristocrats (Horatio Alger fans prefer to conflate their virtues), has convinced them that their interests are more aligned with the elites than with the proletariat. Unfortunately, in the current social order featuring absentee authority, worship of antiquity, and a highly productive working class producing ever more surplus allowing more dead weight office fauna to justify their cushy existence, they’re absolutely right as to where their interests lie! At least insofar as the real world is the proletariat’s problem, not theirs.

      3. Vatch

        I question how feasible it is to reform the professional class without first altering the oligarchic class, since the professionals are in large part employed by the rich and the super rich. The majority of the professionals (lawyers, physicians, engineers, accountants, brokers) will do what their rich clients or employers tell them to do.

      4. Joe Jubb

        So… If the pot of shit is not turning into gold fast enough, just stir harder!

  20. OIFVet

    I don’t know what it means to be an American, seems that this exotic animal is extinct. We are all consumers now, not Americans. Being an “American” implies, among other things, citizenship. Can’t have citizens, citizens are too demanding and a royal pain in the butt for their betters of the ruling class.

  21. hildico

    Like Yves says, their first and best propaganda trick is getting you to waste time thinking about that vapid label, american. Used to work like a charm, not only on immigrants but on New Englanders, crackers, and New York Dutch. By now we’re trained to impute meaning and value to trademarks of all sorts: Apple, Barbour, Harley-Davidson, America and so on.

    The court of Magnus Maximus were proud Romans for a while but little by little they weren’t Romans anymore, they were burghers of Trier. That’s what’s happening to us.

  22. trish

    a little late to post but a few musings on Lambert musings.

    I never thought of it in terms of “feeling safe” within our social systems (except the ingestion system), but perhaps, at least at the very personal level, that’s my my anxiety/distrust/anger boiled down.
    Of course involves more when it comes to my feelings of fury re the degradation (and/or initial inadequacy) of our systems for all those others outside my own personal orbit. And all those more others out there across the planet as our kleptocracy via American exceptionalism continues its global rampage.

    the ingestion system directly goes right to “feeling safe” -direct line into our bodies, our selves. But, too, I’ve always felt it was so American to see it – and so many do- as all about us.
    This has always been especially apparent at a place like Whole Foods, where the parking lot is littered with SUVs and more and more organics are encased in plastics but who cares as long as it’s organic and pure for my body, my kids.

    But of course it’s not all about us…there are other creatures on this planet.

    and even our power, fuel, transport systems…I might feel safe in that I’ll get my power, can fill my tank, roads OK… but so many assorted interrelated issues…ie pollution (and currently my energy company under investigation for a river dump) with secondary costs born by the public, price gauging and excess executive pay while the poor struggle to pay to be warm in winter, no sufficient emmision curbs so we breath in crappier air than necessary (and more and more of these egregious red neck vehicles called “rolling coal” cropping up here)…

  23. ogee

    another thing that it means to be an American……A fool.
    we are played the fool.
    we pay for the military ,whose boot is on the head of the world,
    While we are attacked at home, and fooled.

    The twin towers were blown up.The court of physical realities, has convened.
    Look at the documentary by architects and engineers for 9-11 truth,”explosive evidence” 2012. In that hour long video, what happened to the three towers in manhattan, is proven.What other reasonable conclusion is there?
    Now if the fact is, the towers were blown up. That would mean they must have been wired in advance. That strains beyond any credulity that there just happened to be mass hijackings that day, who crashed planes into the very buildings that were wired for destruction.That means 9-11 was an inside job.
    This is even more than if the us gov’t was infiltrated by “p-tech”, and the yasin al-qadi connection to Saudi money.(remember p-tech was the software company owned by al-qadi, Which had above top secret clearance to nsa,cia,dia,nro,faa,norad,secret service,etc,c computer systems before qadi was investigated by fbi agents wright and Vincent before 9-11, and was “protected” by their superiors,before 9-11)
    This means thousands of americans were murdered by our gov’t.Or at least some inside our gov’t to pull it off.
    Then there was the invasion of Iraq. A false story all the way. Bush/cheney/establishment led this country into a war they knew was under false pretenses. We know it was false pretenses because too many people were well aware before and during the run up that the info was false. that the rationale was laughable.That it was as poorly excused as if it were made up by children.
    This means, America is dead. We are the corpse who realizes not, that the brain is gone.The coup has already happened….. these are the people who continue to spin every little thing to this day. The nsa who still gets to decide anyone who doesn’t trust them is “subversive”.
    the prerequisite for this country to be America,is that it is a nation of laws, The law is king. the king is not the law.
    Well, no more. now if we think our country is still here. than we are playing the fool.
    Now we are like everywhere else.

  24. masterslave

    diptherio : “” John Adams, for instance, in private correspondence, referred to monarchy as a “safe harbor” to which the American people would surely return after a few years.””

    He was correct if ” a few years ” is taken to mean about 230 years . Obama is the closest thing to a king that the USA has ever had ; and he may yet turn out to be nondeposable before this GFC is over .

    1. Sam Kanu

      You haven’t understood the system. The political system is a façade and the people fronting the executive branch are therefore not the real rulers – more like employees.

      America’s real rulers are an aristocracy set of immensely wealthy people who quietly decide what goes on. They use companies as fronts to funnel money into astroturfing their decisions, they fund Dem/GOP “battles” as a sort of WWF-style entertainment to fool people into thinking that voting matters. And they literally own the majority of “Supreme Court” judges.

      In this light, talking about anyone as a “the king” completely is off base. There are kings, as in plural.

  25. masterslave

    Gerard Pierce : “” It will continue to work that way as long as we do not understand how we work as members of a society.””

    That introspection may be helpful . However , the central ordering principle for all economic activity must be the development of space travel technology before all life on this planet expires when helios – the sun -expires ; otherwise everyone is just spinning their wheels . The atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima prove that helios will expire .

  26. masterslave

    OIFVet : “” Their argument boils down to “blacks are innately violent.” “”

    The term ” sheeple ” refers mostly to whites not blacks .

  27. masterslave

    Chris Makonen : “” a country that was founded by a group of selfish, self centered, arrogant, self involved pricks AKA capitalists, that has gone down hill from there.””

    What would you call the Bolsheviks AKA communists whom founded the Soviet Union ?

  28. masterslave

    ogee : “” we need to demolish it as it stands.””

    I hope that you have a satisfactory shelter to live in while your rebuilding after the demolishion .

  29. masterslave

    myshkin : “” Basically we’re screwed.””

    The sheeple have always been screwed because their sole function is to render their fleece to the powers that be whomever that is ( capitalist , fascist , socialist or communist ). They are incapable of doing anything else except go bah , bah and consume grass .

    “” One variation on the theme I’d like to see run up the flag pole, if I were supreme being; institute a parliamentary system “”

    Article V of the US Constitution allows for amending the constitution so that you could theoreticly convert to a parliamentary structure . Unfortunately the fedgov has treasonously morphed into an authoritarian corporatism which has renedered the constitution moot . The remedy , if there is one , will have little or nothing to do with what the sheeple want — their sole reason for existing is to be fleeced ; they are not needed for any other purpose .

    1. Lambert Strether

      I deprecate the term “sheeple.” It’s not only disempowering to the activist, it degrades and insults the very people who must be brought to see the necessity of change. And we wonder why the putative left never gets anywhere.

  30. masterslave

    Activists are not sheeple . The vast majority are sheeple . They will support a cause when enough others do but they themselves usually do not protest or demonstrate .

    1. skippy

      Masterslave is an activist that calls others sheeple for lack of informed agency…. IOTBP should know its not so enviable a prospective imo.

  31. Brooklinite

    Hello Everyone,
    I am sorry to post my personal issues. I am born in India on a farm being raised there for 23 years and now have been living here fro 14 years now. You can clearly see what is wrong with the current system and at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that America is gifted naturally too. I have been outspoken with my co workers and my friends who are married with kids. I have been outspoken about NSA, excess taxation and few other socialistic ideas. I have discovered that I am a liberaterian. Any ways they are at a point of sickness to be around me as I constantly talk negativity about america. They constantly say that why would I just keep talking when I am not acting on it. It starts with you doing small things like getting married and raising a great kid. Then we are all making a better world and paying our debts to the society.
    I am sorry guys. I am a coward. I am leaving the pac for a fairy tale.
    Under the brooklyn Bridge–

  32. Lafayette


    No human is fit to exercise power over another, but at the same time, humans must exercise power over one another for the social contract to function, and so the issue becomes how to limit the damage done, on both sides of the power equation inequality, to help ensure that the worst abuses … damp themselves out over generations

    I suggest that a generation is a bit too long to wait as regards Income Disparity that has plagued our nation since its inception. We had a progressive era that came to sudden close with the advent of WW1. As soon as it was over, for reasons that are lost in the mists of time, Upper-Income Taxation was brought from 75% to 25% in the early 1920s. Which prompted the frenzy that resulted in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. See the history of US tax levels.

    After a post-war period of relative affluence during which America generated millionaires in ample numbers, in 1980 Reckless Ronnie decided the numbers were not ample enough. So, down came the rates to the 30% level. Did anybody make a reference to the same diminution of upper-income tax rates in the early 1920s?

    Nope – and what do we have therefore? Considerable Income Disparity – the worst of anytime in its history. See the Piketty info-graphic of the History Top 10Percent Pre-Tax Income Share – France and the US.

    If we do not act now, we will unlikely ever act. Already the American public has become deeply apathetic about politics and politicians. Never has their trust been so low. Consider this study by Pew Reseach: Confidence in Government.

    Can it get any worse? Perhaps not, but neither do the Replicants particularly care. Because apathy keeps voters away from the polls, but the T-Party has learned how to organize their tight little group to go out and vote.

    If progressives cannot do their footwork militating for progressive ideals and increasing their numbers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, then there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that any reform will be undertaken.

    Yes for at least another generation, and well after this benighted present one passes on …

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