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Books, Literature & Ideas

Mr. Fish | Why I Am Not a Muslim / TruthDig.com

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The air-conditioned Puritan

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  • Why Americans, and those who are employed to write about them, cannot enjoy holidays
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  • The scandal of "vacation deprivation."
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  • America: The Grim Truth
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The Economist

“Let's take a boat to Bermuda, Let's take a plane to St Paul, Let's take a kayak to Quincy or Nyack, Let's get away from it all.” That may be all very well if you are not Lexington. For reasons only the flinty-hearted editor of this newspaper can explain, there will be no summer break this year for your columnist. True, Lexington has been allowed to saddle up his ultimate driving machine and motor north to join friends in a cabin in the Adirondacks. But get away from it all? No sir, this is a space that must be filled week in and week out this summer, come what may.

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In a way, of course, it is fitting that a Brit writing about America should not be allowed actual relaxation on a summer holiday. Having a complete break would make it harder to understand the natives. As all the world knows, Americans find taking time off, let alone filling that time with leisure, painfully hard. One travel website, expedia.com, believes (what a surprise) that “everyone deserves and needs a vacation.” Indeed, it has compiled comparative international data on the scandal of “vacation deprivation”. These show that in 2009 the average American adult received about 13 days of holiday, whereas the average Briton enjoyed a luxurious 26. The average “working” Frenchman, infuriatingly, had 38 days. Worse yet, more than a third of Americans do not even take all the days they are allowed. In 2009, harrumphs Expedia, Americans “gave back” a total of 436m vacation days. In fairness, America does indulge its children: their school year is one of the shortest in the world, as is their school day. But the indulgence ends with adulthood.
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America: The Grim Truth, Lance Freeman, Axis of Logic

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  • I am not writing this to scare you. I write this to you as a friend. If you are able to read and understand what I’ve written here, then you are a member of a small minority in the United States. You are a minority in a country that has no place for you.
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  • These Empty Spaces
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  • America Goes Dark
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  • We Are A Nation Of Sheep Being Led By Wild Dogs
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Rich Get Richer Because Poor Get Poorer

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  • Americans have bought the line that there are no class distinctions in this country, but as the aftermath of the great financial crisis of 2008 plays out, it has become clear that, in the memorable words of Warren Buffet, “There is class warfare, all right... but it is the rich class that's making war, and we're winning.”
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  • The jobs emergency
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Zelig Stern, Socialist WebZine

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It is likely no surprise to most Americans that the unemployment report for July released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated no improvement for the job situation. With the number of unemployed and underemployed workers remaining high at 16.5%, most people have at least one friend or family member in this category. What may come as a surprise is that while workers are subjected to chronic unemployment and underemployment, corporate profits have been recovering substantially and the ultra rich (those with over a million dollars in investible assets) have more than recovered their losses from the economic crisis. Americans have bought the line that there are no class distinctions in this country, but as the aftermath of the great financial crisis of 2008 plays out, it has become clear that, in the memorable words of Warren Buffet, “There is class warfare, all right... but it is the rich class that's making war, and we're winning.”

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While the official unemployment rate remained stagnant at 9.5%, this statistic significantly underestimates the burden of unemployment on working people. First, it should be noted that it excludes both underemployed workers (workers employed part time who wish to be employed full time) and workers who have become discouraged and have stopped looking for work. When these groups are included, the unemployment rate rises to 16.5%. But even this number falls short of capturing the crisis of unemployment this country faces. Of the 14.6 million officially unemployed workers, 6.6 million or 44.9% have been unemployed for over 27 weeks. It is safe to assume that the 1.6 million discouraged workers also fit into this long-term unemployed category. This means that not only are a growing number of workers losing their jobs, but once someone loses their job, they have increasingly low prospects of finding another.

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The jobs emergency, Robert Reich, Robert Reich

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  • Twelve thousand new jobs in July -- when 125,000 are needed monthly just to keep up with population growth, when more than 15 million Americans are out of work, and when more than a half-million more state and local jobs are on the chopping block.
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  • Predictably, Washington's latest rescue effort falls woefully short
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  • U.S. Experiencing Worst Episode of Prolonged Unemployment Since Great Depression
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  • An aid package to the states to prevent layoffs was funded by cutting the federal food stamp program.
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The 'Principled Left' Obama Needs

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In the last 18 months, the left has learned the hard way that it needs to be more independent of the White House to realize the change we’re seeking.
The left has lost its nerve and its direction
Hope Is Dead. Long Live The New American Independence Movement.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation

When Barack Obama embarked on what most political insiders saw as an audacious campaign for the presidency, the question was whether a newly-elected senator from Illinois could entice Democrats to consider a contender other than a former first lady who proposed to be the first woman president and a former nominee for vice president who was saying important things about the growing economic divide in America. What ultimately won him the Democratic nomination in 2008 was a decision by the principled left—professional and amateur—that the one leading candidate who had expressed blunt opposition to the war in Iraq before it began had shown better judgment than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards.

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So it was that an exercise in political purism by the broad left put Obama on the path to the presidency. Now that Obama is president, however, his press secretary derides the "professional left" for being too pure in its demands on the White House. In point of fact, Robert Gibbs is wrong; at the most critical point in President Obama's tenure so far—when Congress was deciding how to vote on a health-care bill that Republicans predicted would be his "Waterloo"—the most left-wing members of Congress and their allies (professional and amateur) across America rallied to support a measure that was deeply disappointing to many of them.

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The left has lost its nerve and its direction, Chris Hedges, Philadelphia Inquirer
If the left wants to regain influence in the nation's political life, it must be willing to walk away from the Democratic Party, even if Barack Obama is the (president), and back progressive, third-party (officials) until the Democrats feel enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we become slaves.

Hope Is Dead. Long Live The New American Independence Movement. The Pen
We are calling for all citizens of the United to declare that under no circumstance will they vote for any candidate associated with either the Democratic or Republican parties, and that we instead dedicate our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, to electing worthy independents who can demonstrate a lifetime of public policy advocacy on behalf of the people, true citizen legislators.

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Where Was The “Professional Left” A Year Ago?

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  • The under-reported scandal here is not that the White House tried to control and muzzle the professional left. The scandal is that the left, for the most part, complied.
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  • As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies
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Sally Kohn, Common Dreams

On May 12, 2009, I attended a briefing at the White House as part of a group of grassroots activists and community artists. Mike Strautmanis, Chief of Staff for the Office of Public Liaison and top White House advisor Valerie Jarrett, made some remarks about how community activists have a seat at the table as the Obama Administration sets the agenda for change. I raised my hand. Sometimes, I said, the role of advocates isn't to be inside at the table, but entirely outside the room, "creating the political space needed for change".

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Strautmanis bristled visibly. He criticized the "professional left" (he didn't use this exact phrase, but it's what he meant) for approaching the Obama Administration with an "outdated mindset", holding protest signs outside the fence instead of realizing what it means to be "inside the fence". At the same time, he not-so-subtly warned that those who criticized the Administration, instead of cooperating, would find themselves back on the outside.

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As Gibbs Attacks Progressive Critics, ACLU Says Obama White House Enshrining Bush-Era Policies, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now<http://www.democracynow.org>
It’s disappointing that the administration uses this kind of language to respond to thoughtful and considered criticism. I think it debases political discourse in this country. And part of the Press Secretary’s job is to make sure that political discourse is civil and informed.
ACLU Report: Obama Continuing Bush-Era Torture Policies
http://evergreenedigest.org/content/gibbs-attacks-progressive-critics-ac...

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