Around the web

The Comedic Legacies of Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis (RIP): A Study in Contrasts

 

From Open Culture

Two titans of comedy passed away this weekend, but the deaths of Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis have seemed like cultural footnotes amidst some of the most anxious, angry few days in recent U.S. history. Gregory and Lewis are stars of a bygone era, maybe two full generations behind contemporary popular relevance. And yet, in many ways, the mid-20th century world where both men got their start feels closer than ever.

Both Gregory and Lewis once wielded considerable power in the entertainment industry and in their other chosen spheres of influence—the civil rights movement and charitable giving, respectively. In nearly every other respect, the two could not have been more different.

Gregory broke into mainstream success with a new wave of black comics like Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, and like Pryor, he did so by telling painful truths about racism that many white Americans laughed about but were unwilling to honestly confront or change. You can hear an early example in the routine above, from his 1962 album Dick Gregory Talks Turkey.

Distributism Isn’t Outdated

 

 

From The American Conservative

G.K. Chesterton offers a non-statist vision for economic and social change that’s still relevant in the age of the iPhone.

I’m not holding out for a Red October 2017, but neither am I happy succumbing to a weary fatalism about the kind of capitalism we find ourselves with today. I want to believe things could be different, but that will require more vision than can be found in our current political arguments. And its accomplishment will hinge upon inspiring rather than alienating business leaders.

This will require a vision for transformation that—crucially—doesn’t revolve around a model of gladiatorial government whereby elected representatives battle for policy changes and social justice while we sit by cheering. No, we need a non-statist vision for economic and social change.

G.K. Chesterton’s early 20th century “distributism” is a movement typically considered a spent force, which is always a good reason to pay attention to something, for finding a vision for the future often requires swiveling back to the past. It holds out just the sort of powerful vision that could very well capture the hearts and minds of business leaders.

Chesterton’s “distributist” project tried to chart a middle course (but not “Third Way”!) between laissez faire capitalism on the one side and state socialism on the other. The problem with the former, as Chesterton wrote in The Outline of Sanity10 years after the Russian Revolution, was that “The practical tendency of all trade and business today is towards big commercial combinations, often more imperial, more impersonal, more international than many a communist commonwealth.” While of the alternative, Chesterton said, “the point about Communism is that it only reforms the pickpocket by forbidding pockets.”

Losing Our Religion: Movie Trailer…

 

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It is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true…

 


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All You Fascists Bound To Lose…

 

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Jazz at the Blues House

 


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Evangelical Christians and Donald Trump: They love him because they don’t trust facts or reason…

 

From Salon

Donald Trump is a man of many notable qualities. He is ignorant and a brute. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women by grabbing them by their genitals. He is a serial womanizer and has been divorced several times. He has also admitted to finding his own daughter sexually attractive. He is a serial liar who adores autocrats and dictators. He may even have gone so far as to collude with Russia and Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 presidential election. Trump is also violent, moody, vain and impulsive. He does not read and is proudly ignorant.

Why would anyone support such a leader? More specifically, why would any supposed “Christian” support Donald Trump, who appears to represent the antithesis of Christian virtues in so many ways?

Writing at Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall offers the following insights:

But Trump is able to take people of some apparent substance and attainment and destroy them as well. The key though is that he doesn’t destroy them. In his orbit, under some kind of spell, he makes them destroy themselves. It is always a self-destruction. He’s like a black hole. But for this there’s no ready explanation. Because what is the power? The force?

I puzzled over this for some time. Eventually I sensed that Trump wasn’t inducing people’s self-destruction so much as he was acting like a divining rod, revealing rot that existed already but was not apparent. … The rot was there but hidden. Trump is the moonlight. Perhaps better to say, to invert our metaphor, Trump is the darkness. …

Chlorinated chicken? Yes, we really can have too much trade…

 

From George Monbiot

Global trade once made us rich. Now it unleashes a full-spectrum assault on our well-being.

What’s wrong with chlorinated chicken? It’s not as if chlorine is absent from our lives: we drink it in tap water every day. Surely it’s a small price to pay for the trade deal with the US the British government seeks? There are several answers to this question, that range from the instrumental to the existential. Let’s begin with the immediacies.

Washing chicken carcasses with chlorine allows farmers and processors to save the money they might have spent on systemic sanitation, throughout the chicken’s life and death. You need only dunk the meat in a chlorine bath to kill any accumulated germs. Does it work? It is true to say that rates of foodborne illness are similar between the EU and North America*. But chlorine-washed chicken, remarkably, could be the least offensive of the US meat regulations a trade deal might force us to adopt. It has been pushed to the fore because it’s less politically toxic than the issues hiding behind it.

While European Union rules, that currently prevail in the UK, take a precautionary approach to food regulation, permitting only products and processes proven to be safe, the US government uses a providential approach, permitting anything not yet proved to be dangerous. By limiting the budgets and powers of its regulators, it ensures that proof of danger is difficult to establish.

An investigation by Reuters discovered that chicken companies in the US use a wide array of antibiotics as routine feed supplements, both to prevent disease and as growth promoters. Among these drugs are some listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as “critically important” in human medicine. They’re administered to the chickens in low doses, creating perfect conditions for bacterial resistance and the emergence of new superbugs.

The New York Times covers Dawkins’s Berkeley deplatforming…

 

From Why Evolution Is True

As we all know, radio station KPFA in Berkeley decided to withdraw its sponsorship of a book talk by Richard Dawkins, cancelling the fundraising even; the reason, they said, was that Dawkins had insulted Islam (see my coverage here and here).  As they explained, “While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech.”

That’s ridiculous, for criticizing a faith is not “abusive”. KPFA’s de-platforming was an unconscionable breach of free speech, especially by a Left-wing station that has, over the years, broadcast a lot of what could be seen as much worse “hate speech.” As I’ve noted, this wasn’t an explicit violation of the First Amendment, as KPFA is not a government-run station nor has anything to do with the University of California, but free speech goes far deeper than the Constitution. It’s a tradition—a sine qua non—of progressivism, and to do what KPFA did violates that tradition and erodes an underlying principle of democracy.

And, of course, we all realize that it’s Islam that caused it all; as Dawkins said in his response,

Neil deGrasse Tyson Conversation with Richard Dawkins…

 


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George Clooney: I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell…

 

The Bible is True because…

 

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Fish…

 


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How To Reclaim Public Services…

 

 

How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation

From TNI.org
Reclaiming Public Services  is vital reading for anyone interested in the future of local, democratic services like energy, water and health care.  This is an in-depth world tour of new initiatives in public ownership and the variety of approaches to deprivatisation.
From New Delhi to Barcelona, from Argentina to Germany, thousands of politicians, public officials, workers, unions and social movements are reclaiming or creating public services to address people’s basic needs and respond to environmental challenges.

They do this most often at the local level. Our research shows that there have been at least 835 examples of (re)municipalisation of public services worldwide since 2000, involving more than 1,600 municipalities in 45 countries.

Why are people around the world reclaiming essential services from private operators and bringing their delivery back into the public sphere? There are many motivations behind (re)municipalisation initiatives: a goal to end private sector abuse or labourviolations; a desire to regain control over the local economy and resources; a wish to provide people with affordable services; or an intention to implement ambitious climate strategies.

Remunicipalisation is taking place in small towns and in capital cities, following different models of public ownership and with various levels of involvement by citizens and workers. Out of this diversity a coherent picture is nevertheless emerging: it is possible to build efficient, democratic and affordable public services. Ever declining service quality and ever increasing prices are not inevitable. More and more people and cities are closing the chapter on privatisation, and putting essential services back into public hands.

Messages from Vienna, Barcelona and Paris 

Bacon and Beer…

 


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Imagine…

 

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Legendary Cosmologist Martin Rees on Science, Religion, and the Future of Post-Human Intelligence…

 

Legendary Cosmologist Martin Rees on Science, Religion, and the Future of Post-Human Intelligence . “Fundamental physics shows how hard it is for us to grasp even the simplest things in the world. That makes you quite skeptical whenever someone declares he has the key to some deeper reality.”

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire,”trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell observed in contemplating science, religion, and our conquest of truth at the end of the nineteenth century. “If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed,”Carl Sagan wrote a century later in his exquisite meditation on science and spirituality. And yet the longing for stable answers and thorough understanding — or, as Hannah Arendt memorably framed it, the propensity for asking unanswerable questions — might be one of the hallmarks of our species. After all, for as long as modern science has existed, scientists have attempted to answer such unanswerable questions by trying to either reconcile science and religion, like Galileo did in defending his theories against the Inquisition and Ada Lovelace did in considering the interconnectedness of the universe, or at least to relegate them to different realms of inquiry.

Adding to the canon of these meditations is the celebrated English cosmologist and astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees — the last European court astronomer in his position as Astronomer Royal to the House of Windsor and science adviser to the Queen of England.

In We Are All Stardust: Leading Scientists Talk About Their Work, Their Lives, and the Mysteries of Our Existence (public library) — Austrian physicist, essayist, and science journalist Stefan Klein’s fantastic compendium of interviews, which also gave us Nobel-winning physicist Steven Weinberg on simplicity, complexity, and the unity of the universe — Rees reflects on his rather unusual entry point into the question of science and spirituality:

The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality

 

From Church and State

For millennia, female inferiority was presumed, and mandated, in virtually every human culture. Through most of history, the brawn of heavier males gave them dominance, leaving women in lesser status – often mere possessions of men, confined to the home, rarely educated, with few rights.

Many were forced to wear veils or shrouds when outdoors, and they couldn’t go outside without a male relative escort. Fathers kept their daughters restricted, then chose husbands who became their new masters.

Sometimes the husbands also had several other wives. In a few cultures, unwanted baby girls were left on trash dumps to die.

In Ancient Greece, women were kept indoors, rarely seen, while men performed all public functions. Women couldn’t attend schools or own property. A wife couldn’t attend male social events, even when her husband staged one at home. Aristotle believed in “natural slaves” and wrote that females are lesser creatures who must be cared for, as a farmer tends his livestock.

Up through medieval times, daughters were secondary, and inheritances went to firstborn sons. Male rule prevailed. Anthropologists have searched for exceptions, with little success – except possibly some Iroquois tribes in Canada, where women reportedly had some rights.

In the 1930s, the famed Margaret Mead thought she found a female-led group in New Guinea, but she later reversed her conclusion and wrote: “All the claims so glibly made about societies ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they ever existed…. Men everywhere have been in charge of running the show.”

The very concept of sin comes from the Bible…

 


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Here is a list of people of the Salem Witch trials and their fate…

 

From Wikipedia

This is a list of people associated with the Salem witch trials, a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, most of them women.

Surnames in parentheses preceded by “née” indicate birth family maiden names (if known) of married women, who upon marriage generally took their husbands’ surnames. Due to the low population of the Massachusetts North Shore at the time of the trials, a significant percentage of local residents were related to other local residents through descent or by marriage. Many of the witchcraft accusations were driven at least in part by acrimonious relations between the families of the plaintiffs and defendants. Unless otherwise specified, dates provided in this list use Julian-dated month and day but New Style-enumerated year (i.e., years begin on January 1 and end on December 31, in the modern style).

 Accusers

“Afflicted”

Over-population is the real cause of climate change – it’s killing us all off…

 

GROWTH: India’s population is expected to exceed 1.27bn this year and is growing at more than 6.5m a year.

From Irish Independent

Despite all the warnings of global warming and imminent disaster, it is unlikely that we will change our ways until a real catastrophe actually occurs.

We have all read about the storms, droughts, melting ice caps and rising sea levels occurring worldwide, while here in Ireland, during last winter’s floods and gales, we experienced a small foretaste of what might well become the norm.

But are we prepared to do anything meaningful about it?

Probably not, is the simple answer.

A lot of hot air will be generated during debates, but if changing the way we behave requires a reduction in our living standards, then nothing will happen.

If the worst occurs and the prophets of doom are proved correct, by then it will probably be too late. Our children will be faced with wars, famine and destitution as strong nations attempt to take over the scarce resources available in other countries and in the poorer areas of the globe, people will simply starve.

Woman With Fatal Condition Caused By Faith Healing Wants Her Parents Prosecuted

 

 

From Friendly Atheist

Mariah Walton, a 20-year-old woman awaiting a heart and lung transplant, said she thinks her parents and other faith healers should face criminal charges for “treating” her with prayer instead of medicine.

It’s a tale as old as time: girl is born with a small hole in her heart, her parents refuse to get it fixed and instead ask God to oversee her well-being, girl is now permanently disabled due to years of being refused care. The twist, however, is that Walton — unlike many faith healing victims — lived on to call for her parents’ prosecution and to condemn the practice in general.

“It would have been solved. If I had a surgery when I was one year old, I would have been just fine,” Walton said in an interview with KTVB News. She said she can’t run, misses a lot of school, and gets sick easily because of her weakened immune system.

Wide Open Eyes…

 

From Resilience

Three months before his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994, the British playwright Dennis Potter was interviewed for the BBC by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg. In obvious pain and taking regular swigs from a bottle of liquid morphine, Potter explored a wide range of questions about his work, politics, family and feelings—given that he was already in the terminal stage of his illness.

I was spellbound by the raw honesty and energy of his answers, but there was one section that catapulted me into a different state entirely. It came when Potter described the plum tree blossom outside his study window:

“Looking at it, instead of saying ‘Oh that’s nice blossom’…I see it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it. Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more important than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn’t seem to matter. But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know, there’s no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance…the fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.”

I knew immediately what he meant. Potter had a complicated relationship to religion, and he didn’t use overtly spiritual language to describe his experience that day, but that’s how I felt it. He went on to say that this new state of consciousness had given him more clarity and serenity, along with the ability to stay fully focused in every moment. “Almost in a perverse sort of way”, he told Bragg, “I can celebrate life” so close to death.

These feelings of joy, compassion, clarity and connection are characteristic of mystical experience, but Potter’s story raises an intriguing question: why wait so long to enjoy the fruits of a fully awakened life? Shouldn’t we be living this way for as long as is possible, despite the constraints imposed by mortgages and college fees and all the drudgery of convention that surrounds us?

Epicurus: Happiness…

 

From FFRF

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing.

“If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent.

“Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” —Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.), Aphorisms
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Kurt Vonnegut Ponders Why “Poor Americans Are Taught to Hate Themselves” in a Timely Passage from Slaughterhouse-Five…

 

 

From Open Culture

Amidst what is now an ordinary day’s chaos and turmoil in the news, you may have noticed some outrage circulating over comments made by erstwhile brain surgeon, former presidential candidate, and current Secretary of HUD Ben Carson. Poverty, he said, is a “state of mind.” The idea fits squarely in the wheelhouse of Carson’s brand of magical thinking, as well as what has always been a self-help tradition in the U.S. since Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Consider, for example, the immense popularity of a book written during the Great Depression, Napoleon Hill’s 1937 Think and Grow Rich, which has increased in popularity every year since its publication, selling around 100 million copies worldwide by 2015. Hill’s prolific self-help cottage industry occupies a prominent place in a distinctly American genre, and an economy unto itself. Books, videos, seminars, and megachurches promise the faithful that they need only to change themselves to change their economic outcomes, in order not only thrive but to “grow rich.”

The notion has had purchase among wealthy opponents of a welfare state, who find it a convenient way to blame the poor for circumstances outside their control. But it also, as robust sales indicate, has wide appeal among the not-so-wealthy. Why? One reason—the presciently, acerbically insightful observer of American culture, Kurt Vonnegut might argue—has to do with the fact that Americans think of poverty as a personal failing rather than a social condition, and conflate wealth with intelligence and capability.

In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs

 

“The garden of life is strewn with such dormant seeds and so much of art blossoms from their unwilled and unwillable awakenings.”

And now for something a bit out of the ordinary: When editor Andrew Blauner invited me to contribute to an anthology of essays by some of his favorite writers about their favorite Beatles songs, I did something I rarely do — I accepted, because a particular Beatles song happens to be a significant animating force in my family story.

The anthology is now out as In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs (public library), featuring contributions from wonderful writers like Pico Iyer (“Yesterday”), Rosanne Cash (“No Reply”), Rick Moody (“The End”), Rebecca Mead (“Eleanor Rigby”), Roz Chast (“She Loves You”), Jane Smiley (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”), and Adam Gopnik (“Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Field”).

Here is my essay, as it appears in the book.

Richard Dawkins: Religion is the Root of All Evil?

 


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Oklahoma Republican Declares That Rape Is The ‘Will Of God’

 

From Church and State

Women should get as far away from Oklahoma as soon as possible because Christian Sharia law is about to make their lives a living hell.

If Oklahoma state GOP Rep. George Faught has his way, rape will be on the path to being legal in the state. At least that’s what rapists are hoping for after Faught made a frightening statement on the subject during a debate on House Bill 1549, which restricts abortion.

Democratic Rep. Cory Williams masterfully cornered Faught during the hearing by asking him if he believes rape and incest are the “will of God” since the legislation has no exceptions for either, meaning women would be forced to give birth to their rapist’s baby.

Faught’s reply is absolutely appalling and demonstrates once again why women should never vote for Republicans, especially Republicans who want to base our laws on the Bible.

Trump presidency is over. Buh bye! Hatch now getting security briefings…

 

“Trump’s Presidency Ended May 9th” – Hatch Getting Security Briefings
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Facebook Has Been Regularly Shutting Down Atheist and Ex-Muslim Groups…

 

From HeatStreet

Yesterday, Facebook restricted and then shut down the public pages of Ex-Muslims of North America (24k followers) and Atheist Republic (1,6 million followers) –groups that advocate secularism and provide support to “apostates” (people who leave Islam and who often face persecution).

In fact, the ex-Muslim group claims that for the last several years, Facebook has been continuously blocking groups like it. The ex-Muslims have written an open letter to the social media giant, calling on it to “to stop exercising intellectual persecution” against atheist and ex-Muslim organizations and to “whitelist” such vulnerable groups from organized false flagging attacks.

On Monday, Muhammad Syed, the president of the Ex-Muslims of North Americatook to Twitter to report that the Facebook pages of Ex-Muslims and Atheist Republic were restricted (and the next morning shut down) “in violation of Facebook’s community standards”. No details were given as to what standards were violated. On Tuesday, after appealing the case, both groups were able to regain full access to their pages.

Syed believes the pages had been targeted in coordinated attacks by Muslim fundamentalists using “simple and effective” Facebook flagging tools to report that pages falsely for standards violations. Facebook, Syed said, isn’t doing enough to protect “groups vulnerable to malicious attacks”.

In the open letter to Facebook, which was revealed to Heat Street, Syed pressures the social media company to take measures to improve its reporting mechanisms and to protect ex-Muslim groups.

The Trump Team: They are all going to jail including many in GOP…

 

https://patribotics.blog/2017/05/11/designated-survior-sources-russia-probe-should-result-in-president-hatch/


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TODD WALTON: Bumble Buzzing

 

Spider Web photo by Todd

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“That buzzing-noise means something. You don’t get a buzzing-noise like that, just buzzing and buzzing, without it’s meaning something. If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee.” A.A. Milne

Yesterday I went out to the woodshed to get firewood. The shed is fourteen-feet-wide and sixteen-feet-long with a high ceiling and a plywood floor. When I picked up a few pieces from the Small Log section, I heard the sound of small waves crashing on a distant shore. Then the sound stopped. So I picked up another couple little logs and the sound came again, only this time it sounded more like a choir of Tibetan monks singing far in the distance.

I carried the wood into the house and wondered what could be making those strangely beautiful sounds. So I returned to the woodshed and removed a few more small logs, and the sound came again, but only for a moment; and for the first time I thought the makers of the sounds might be bees. I then retrieved wood from another part of the shed, and this removal did not cause the bees to sound. Thus I was able to say with some assurance that the hive, if that’s what I had disturbed, was located in the southeast corner of the shed behind firewood created from a few small redwood trees we had felled last year.

Thinking Marcia might enjoy hearing the strangely beautiful sounds, I fetched her from her studio and we went to the shed where my removal of a log caused the loudest humming sounds yet. Marcia backed out of the shed and said, “I’m scared.”

Thom Hartmann: How Republicans Quietly Sabotaged Obamacare Long Before Trump Came into Office

 

 

From Thom Hartmann

Billions that should go to Obamacare are missing, thanks to senators like Marco Rubio.

Donald Trump suggested that the Affordable Care Act was a clever ruse by our first black president and his Democratic friends to have a successful health-care system in place for his own presidency, but was set up to fail in the first year of the next president’s term.

Trump said (on 3/10/2017) that this year “would be a disaster for Obamacare. That’s the year it was meant to explode, because Obama won’t be here. That’s when it was supposed to be, get even worse. As bad as it is now, it’ll get even worse.”

While most people are rolling their eyes (why would President Obama do that, particularly when everybody expected the next president to be Hillary?), there’s actually a substantial grain of truth to Trump’s assertion. However, he has identified the wrong culprit as the person who poison-pilled Obamacare for 2017. That distinction would go to Marco Rubio (and his Republican helpers in the Senate).

Let’s step back to 2015 for the entire story, which is bizarre and fascinating.

Joan Baez: Nasty Man

 


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Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl — Animated Book Summary

 


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The National Blues

 

 

From James Kunstler

While the news waves groan with stories about “America’s Opioid Epidemic” you may discern that there is little effort to actually understand what’s behind it, namely, the fact that life in the United States has become unspeakably depressing, empty, and purposeless for a large class of citizens. I mean unspeakably literally. If you want evidence of our inability to construct a coherent story about what’s happening in this country, there it is.

I live in a corner of Flyover Red America where you can easily read these conditions on the landscape — the vacant Main Streets, especially after dark, the houses uncared for and decrepitating year by year, the derelict farms with barns falling down, harvesters rusting in the rain, and pastures overgrown with sumacs, the parasitical national chain stores like tumors at the edge of every town.

You can read it in the bodies of the people in the new town square, i.e. the supermarket: people prematurely old, fattened and sickened by bad food made to look and taste irresistible to con those sunk in despair, a deadly consolation for lives otherwise filled by empty hours, trash television, addictive computer games, and their own family melodramas concocted to give some narrative meaning to lives otherwise bereft of event or effort.