Friday, May 13, 2011
The Decline of the American Empire
A popular media topic these days is the cultural, economic and political decline of the American Empire. It’s reflected in a large number of books, blogs and mainstream news stories. My former professor, Morris Berman, writes a popular blog, Dark Ages America, almost singularly devoted to the theme.
Perhaps you’re skeptical? Well, if you remain doubtful, I’ve come across a number of recent examples of this decline, including two from that increasingly important barometer (and archive) of American culture, YouTube. Let’s proceed with the evidence…
Exhibit #1: In the land of torts, Gloria Allred has risen above the pack and become a well-known trial lawyer and media manipulator. She’s also lost her mind. Witness the following press conference captured on YouTube, and consider the utterly inappropriate content given the two young girls who are flanking her.
Exhibit #2: American presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee [Note: On May 16, Huckabee withdrew from the presidential race.] thinks American teachers are too biased, so he's created his own company called learnourhistory.com. Here is the website's introduction:
Welcome to Learn Our History, where kids discover history through entertaining animated videos! I co-founded this company to give children a fun, fresh way to learn about America’s rich past and most influential people.
Many of our schools and teachers today haven't found ways to make history for kids fun. Instead, they’re teaching with political bias that distorts facts for the sake of political correctness. As a result, our national pride and patriotism are in jeopardy.
That's what makes Learn Our History different. Your kids will love to learn American history as they watch our nation's stories come to life right before their eyes! All the while, they’ll build a strong sense of national pride and appreciation for America.
Now, watch one his company's "inspiring"
video promos on Ronald Reagan:
Not surprisingly, comments have been turned off for the YouTube site. As an educator, my only question is this: Do I use Huckabee’s site first to teach irony, or do I move immediately to the topic of propaganda?
Exhibit #3: On a more serious note, Andy Kroll, a well-known writer for Mother Jones magazine, has written a chilling article on the hollowing out of the American middle class. He documents the jobless and unequal recovery now being touted by the Democrats - minus the jobless and unequal part, of course – and the critical role that labour unions used to play as the foundation of the modern middle class. Here are two excerpts:
... On April 19th , McDonald’s launched its first-ever national hiring day, signing up 62,000 new workers at stores throughout the country. For some context, that’s more jobs created by one company in a single day than the net job creation of the entire U.S. economy in 2009. And if that boggles the mind, consider how many workers applied to local McDonald’s franchises that day and left empty-handed: 938,000 of them. With a 6.2 percent acceptance rate in its spring hiring blitz, McDonald’s was more selective than the Princeton, Stanford, or Yale University admission offices....
…Bargaining-table clout is crucial for unions, since it directly affects the wages their members take home every month. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers pocket on average $200 more per week than their non-union counterparts, a 28 percent difference. The benefits of union representation are even greater for women and people of color: women in unions make 34 percent more than their non-unionized counterparts, and Latino workers nearly 51 percent more.
In other words, at precisely the moment when middle-class workers need strong bargaining rights so they can fight to preserve a living wage in a barbell economy, unions around the country face the grim prospect of losing those rights….
Do I take any comfort in this decline of a superpower? Do I display Schadenfreude, the pleasure of witnessing the discomfort of others?
But of course, it’s self-defeating and just plain ‘ol bad karma. As a Canadian, I know that America’s decline almost certainly means our decline. But it’s like a car wreck. Terrible. Awful. Irresistible.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Sun Media Brings Fox News to Canada
This is almost hilarious. It must be the
most absurd media promo I've ever seen - as if it's a parody made by the
people at The Colbert Report or The Onion. Unfortunately, these yahoos
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Comic Sans: The Write Type?
Apparently some people don't like the Comic Sans font:
"Comic Sans walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "We don't serve your type."
But seriously, here's a response in defense of our favourite faux handwriting font:
Here's another somewhat backhanded endorsement of Comic Sans. Honest.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
One of the great Jon Stewart episodes
One of the benefits of a DVR is that I can watch Jon Stewart's Daily Show even though I'm too old to stay up that late. The following is one of the best episodes I've seen from one of the best reasons to watch TV:
[Update: Because the original episode has been removed, I have to offer this summary news item.]
Bumper sticker politics
And you thought I was above juvenile humour?
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Things You Learn On A Ferry Trip!
Things you learn on a Wednesday evening ferry trip!
You know things aren't right when...
... you hear your ferry is canceled when
you're already half way there.
... your alternative ferry terminal, Horseshoe Bay, is so windy that you don't leave your vehicle to go to the bathroom.
... you find out your 5:00 pm ferry is the last one to leave for Vancouver Island.
... the swells are so bad that you don't feel like eating dinner.
... the Captain says we will be making a hard turn and that we need to sit down, hold on, and brace ourselves - and then concludes gravely, "Here we go!"
... while he is saying this, you're in a toilet stall with your pants down.
... you quickly pull your pants up [unrelieved] and hold on to the walls of the stall.
... you go to the bathroom quickly, waiting for the big Poseidon wave that... thankfully never hits.
... grown but panicked men are asking the crew, "Is this normal?"
... the passengers clap with gratitude when we hear the Captain's address at the end of the ferry trip.
... there are hardly any other vehicles on the highway from Nanaimo to Victoria (because only idiots would be driving in a storm).
.... another storm is coming the following night, when we are coming home.
Friday, May 08, 2009
If you think government is bad, think of the alternative!
One of the first points I make to my political science classes is the necessity of government. I remind my students that the alternative - a society without rules, a legitimate government or the rule of law - would be much worse. I often point to Somalia, a country in name only. In reality, it's an ever changing potpourri of warlords, clans and fiefdoms that periodically descends into a Hobbesian state of nature.
That's why it's important to consider the currently fashionable notion that politicians and government are all "stupid" or "corrupt", and that "they're all the same". This hip cynicism works because, as Noam Chomsky points out, the "concision" of "common sense" is so commonplace that you don't need to defend it. Of course, because it's so commonplace, it's not really hip, and it's not the detached, apolitical stance that cool cynicism craves. Actually, it's very much a part of the long running ideology of classical liberalism - the liberalism of John Locke and Adam Smith (those hipsters from the 17th and 18th centuries). Classical liberalism sees government as a necessary evil, a set of institutions that ought to be minimized to the greatest extent possible. According to this view, government is inherently negative and grasping. In modern times, the American libertarian movement has taken this perspective to its logical conclusion, and to a large degree is closer to anarchism than liberalism.
Ok, so how does all of this fit together?
Well, I invite you to watch "Libertarian Paradise"...