Archive for January 20th, 2008

Ian Welsh Explains It All To You

This is a long but excellent summation of how we as a nation have gone astray. Here are some excerpts, but do read the whole thing:

Walk with me a while and imagine you are mad. Crazy. Insane. It’s an interesting sort of insanity–you see the world as something other than it is. You are dead convinced that people are out to get you, but these people have almost no means to harm you and fear your retaliation greatly, because you’re a powerful person and they are weak.

You believe that you are hale and hearty; but in fact you’re ghastly, obese and ill. You think you’re rich, but in fact you’re poor. You think you have the best doctor around, but in fact your doctor is worse than almost every other doctor and charges 50% more than them. You think you’re tough, and you certainly haven’t let the fact that two ninety pound weaklings seem to be able to stand up to you get in the way of that.


The illness goes deeper though, a deep decay in your brain. The parts of your brain that make most of the decisions for your body think everything is wonderful. They seem only able to take in sensations from the taste buds these days, and for the last thirty years you’ve been on a rich diet. So they think everything’s great. Your once lean body, packed with muscles, has been replaced by a flaccid one, paunchy and fat, but somehow the key parts of your brain don’t know that. They don’t feel your sore back, they don’t hear the broken down breathing and they don’t see the gut hanging over your belt.


Americans went along with going to war with Iraq then because they thought Iraq had attacked them and had nukes and could attack them again. A complete propaganda tissue of lies. But if you believe it all, well of course Iraq needed to be attacked.

What looked to the rest of the world as crazy was entirely logical. It was, however, still insane. If I see a tentacled monster from the fourth dimension attack me and I respond by grabbing a knife and slashing apart my next door neighbour who’s waving at me, well, I had a logical, coherent reason for what I did, but I still murdered him, and I’m still insane.

This is the first type of insanity in the US and it runs deep. I often feel like I spend more time correcting outright lies, outright propaganda, than anything else. Just this week I had to explain to a left wing blogger (who should know better) that single payer health insurance is cheaper and gives better results than private insurance system. Now in the US this is somehow still in doubt, but that’s insane–this isn’t in question, every other western nation that has single payer insurance spends about 1/3 less than the US and has as good health metrics or better either in most or all categories. This isn’t something that’s up in the air; this isn’t something that is unsettled. This is a bloody FACT.


The second is worse, in a sense. When Diamond wrote his book on why societies collapse he came to the conclusion that it occurred when elites weren’t experiencing the same things as the majority of the society–when they were isolated from the problems and challenges the society was facing.

For 30 years ordinary Americans haven’t had a raise. And despite all the lies, Americans are beginning to get that.

But for the people in charge the last thirty years have been absolutely wonderful. Seriously, things haven’t been this good since the 1890’s and the 1920’s. Everyone they know–their families, their mistresses and toyboys, their friends–is doing well. Wall Street paid even larger bonuses for 2007, the year they ran the ship into the shore, than they did in 2006 when their bonuses equalled the raises of 80 million Americans. Multiple CEOs walked away from companies they had bankrupted with golden parachutes in excess of 50 million. And if you can find a Senator who isn’t a millionaire (except maybe Bernie Sanders) you let me know.


This is the second insanity of the US–that the decision making apparatus in the US is disconnected from the results of their decisions. They make sure they get paid, that they’re wealthy, and let the rest of society go to hell. In the end, of course, most of them will find that the money isn’t theirs, and that what they’ve stolen is worth very little if the US has a real financial crisis.

The third insanity is simpler: it’s the wealth effect. At the end of World War II the US had about half the world’s economy. Admittedly that’s because Europe had been bombed into oblivion, but even when Europe rebuilt the US was still far, far ahead. The US was insanely rich and powerful. See, when you’re rich you can do stupid and unproductive things for a long time. There are plenty of examples of this but the two most obvious ones are the US military and the War on Drugs.


All of this is what makes predicting the US so surreal. It’s not just about knowing what the facts are and then thinking “ok, how would people respond to that?” You have to know what the facts are, what the population thinks the facts are, what the elites think the facts are, who’s making money off of it, and then ask yourself if these facts are having any real effect on the elites and if that effect is enough to outweigh the money they’re making off of failure (how many of them have children serving in Iraq? Right, not urgent to fix.)

And then you have to go back to the facts and ask yourself “what effect will these have even if they’re being ignored.” Facts are ugly things, they tend not to go away.


But here’s what I do know–you can get away with being nuts as long as enough people are benefiting from you being insane. When the credit cards are all maxed out, when the relatives have stolen even the furniture, suddenly all the enablers go away and the kneebreakers or the men in white pay you a visit. At that point you can live in the real world, or you can go to the asylum.

I wonder which way the US will go?

Alas, I’m thinking… Down. Unless we can get some clearheaded, straight-talking people in charge of both our government and our media, and it’s difficult for me to envision how that will happen.

2 comments January 20th, 2008 at 11:59pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Iraq,Politics,Republicans


This is literally unbelievable. I never would have imagined the Giants going to the Superbowl this year in my wildest dreams. It reminds me a little bit of the 1990 team, which was good-but-not-great in the regular season, squeaked through the playoffs, and then miraculously beat an unstoppable juggernaut in the Superbowl.

I hope two weeks is enough time to get all their corners completely healthy – they’re gonna need ’em.

7 comments January 20th, 2008 at 10:37pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Sports

Sunday I-Got-Nothin’ Photoblogging

Well, I can’t think of squat to write about (not that unusual on a Sunday), so I might as well start working through the photos from my most recent ramble:

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Brown-paper coat with a plastic-bag scarf. Frugal, but probably not very warm.

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Reflections in an empty shop.

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Reflections on a metal awning.

1 comment January 20th, 2008 at 06:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

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