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America Is in Need of a Moral Bailout

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Posted on Mar 23, 2009
AP photo / M. Spencer Green

Traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

By Chris Hedges

In decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled. Once the spotlights go on they read their lines with appropriate emotion. Once the lights go off, they make sure Goldman Sachs and a host of other large corporations have the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses they incurred playing casino capitalism repaid with taxpayer money. 

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.

Theodor Adorno in 1967 wrote an essay called “Education After Auschwitz.” He argued that the moral corruption that made the Holocaust possible remained “largely unchanged.” He wrote that “the mechanisms that render people capable of such deeds” must be made visible. Schools had to teach more than skills. They had to teach values. If they did not, another Auschwitz was always possible.

“All political instruction finally should be centered upon the idea that Auschwitz should never happen again,” he wrote. “This would be possible only when it devotes itself openly, without fear of offending any authorities, to this most important of problems. To do this, education must transform itself into sociology, that is, it must teach about the societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms.”

Our elites are imploding. Their fraud and corruption are slowly being exposed as the disparity between their words and our reality becomes wider and more apparent. The rage that is bubbling up across the country will have to be countered by the elite with less subtle forms of control. But unless we grasp the “societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms” we will be cursed with a more ruthless form of corporate power, one that does away with artifice and the seduction of a consumer society and instead wields power through naked repression. 

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I had lunch a few days ago in Toronto with Henry Giroux, professor of English and cultural studies at McMaster University in Canada and who for many years was the Waterbury Chair Professor at Penn State. Giroux, who has been one of the most prescient and vocal critics of the corporate state and the systematic destruction of American education, was driven to the margins of academia because he kept asking the uncomfortable questions Adorno knew should be asked by university professors. He left the United States in 2004 for Canada.

“The emergence of what Eisenhower had called the military-industrial-academic complex had secured a grip on higher education that may have exceeded even what he had anticipated and most feared,” Giroux, who wrote “The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex,” told me. “Universities, in general, especially following the events of 9/11, were under assault by Christian nationalists, reactionary neoconservatives and market fundamentalists for allegedly representing the weak link in the war on terrorism. Right-wing students were encouraged to spy on the classes of progressive professors, the corporate grip on the university was tightening as made clear not only in the emergence of business models of governance, but also in the money being pumped into research and programs that blatantly favored corporate interests. And at Penn State, where I was located at the time, the university had joined itself at the hip with corporate and military power. Put differently, corporate and Pentagon money was now funding research projects and increasingly knowledge was being militarized in the service of developing weapons of destruction, surveillance and death. Couple this assault with the fact that faculty were becoming irrelevant as an oppositional force. Many disappeared into discourses that threatened no one, some simply were too scared to raise critical issues in their classrooms for fear of being fired, and many simply no longer had the conviction to uphold the university as a democratic public sphere.”


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By Kona, September 4, 2009 at 6:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello. I’m moving, but don’t worry! [Someone once] told me we’re all on the same planet, so I’ll be okay!
I am from Somalia and also am speaking English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “Americans general with the added metal could back open the cut between certain hair and these grooved programs.”

Thank you very much :p. Kona.

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By Sepharad, May 2, 2009 at 9:59 am Link to this comment

Dwight Baker—Didn’t think I had a flock. Am usually the out-of-step black sheep. Only other pastures I frequent are foreign newspapers, civil rights and journalism sites, and MeretzUSA (peace party in Israel, American branch).

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By Leefeller, May 2, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

National Health Care could emulate the VA.  I use the VA for health care, and it seems very efficient.  Sure it can be improved, most things can. If the VA was the tower of perfection, the arguments against health care would be moot. So, I suggest, planned ineffectiveness is required for the opposition to National Health Care. So needed to support the negativity and pointing against.

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By KDelphi, May 2, 2009 at 12:13 am Link to this comment

The thing about Natl Health Service , is , that everyone asks “how will we do it”, when, in fact, all we have to do is bring in a few Scandanavians or Canadians or anyone from the civilized world for a few months, and, say, “set us up”...its not like there is “no model”. We dont need” speical ‘Merkin healh care”—we are all genetically alike…

Also, when I hear Sen BaucASS say things like “‘Merkins dont want natl hs”, or, “go west young man” (anyone figure out what the hell he meant by that?), I think, “yes, and you took $500,000 from insurance insdutry”—I suppose that that has nothing to do with it….

THAT is the ‘answer”.

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By Sepharad, May 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller, Good question. I wonder about National Health Service myself because of the many drugs Medicare does NOT cover, not even partially. A lot of the cancer drugs, some of the more effective MS drugs, and the ONLY drug that really severely retards progress of incurable rheumatoid arthritis—all of them of course expensive. But there has to be a way to provide everyone with health care, education and enough to eat. What else is a government good for? Maybe the politicians should think about that.

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By Leefeller, May 1, 2009 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

Had lost touch with this thread, Corporatism is opportunism for the few. Capitalists cannot stand socialism, for it cuts into profits. Easy to get the people to vote against their own best interest, usually though constant advertising and of course the help of the MSM.  For example how else can one explain the number of people who feel negative about National Health Insurance?

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By Sepharad, May 1, 2009 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment

Charger finally came in the mail so I can read and write again.

sarah meyer—John Berger is one of my favorite writers, but I hadn’t seen the passage you quote. Thanks.

Leefeller—Socialists can’t be slackers or their whole system collapses (as some say happened in Russia). In Israel, the socialist kibbutz plan worked until they decided it wasn’t good for kids to be separated all week from parents, only reunited on weekends. Also some families wanted more privacy so they came up with the moshav—families had their own houses, but still everyone contributed to the economic projects then divvied up revenue equally. When socialism wasn’t contributing enough tax money to keep the country solvent and growing, some capitalism was introduced and now has taken over the main part of the private economy with the inevitable corruption. Centrists and lefties now want pendulum to swing back farther toward socialism but they didn’t win the election. Also, always seems that it is harder to move toward socialism from capitalism than the reverse.

KDelphi—I don’t know how smart fish are, but if you’re a Woody Allen you’d say “I don’t eat anything that has a face.”

Re Somali pirates, between the time you last posted—about when my charger failed and had to order another one—and now, we have indeed seen the 19-year-old survivor. I thought he looked pretty happy; maybe jail in the US is a better prospect than piracy in Somalia. (BTW, they just released the guy who threw a man in his wheelchair overboard during the Achille Lauro hijacking. He had served 23 years of a 30-year sentence and got off for good behavior. I don’t think anyone who could throw a man in a wheelchair into the ocean should have received such a short sentence in the first place. None of the Somali pirates did anything even approaching that level of cruelty.)

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By sarah meyer, April 27, 2009 at 9:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am reminded of the great writer, John Berger: “The film (La Rabbia) lasts only an hour ... And it is in such contrast to the news commentaries we watch and the information fed to us now, that when the hour is over, you tell yourself that it is not only animal and plant species which are being destroyed or made extinct today, but also set after set of our human priorities.  The latter are systematically sprayed, not with pesticides, but with ethicides - agents that kill ethics and therefore any notion of history and justice.

Particularly targeted are those of our priorities which have evolved from the human need for sharing, bequeathing, consoling, mourning and hoping.  And the ethicides are sprayed day and night by the mass news media.

The ethicides are perhaps less effective, less speedy than the controllers hoped, but they have succeeded in burying and covering up the imaginative space that any central public forum represents and requires.  And on the wasteland of the covered over forums (reminiscent of the wasteland on which he was assassinated by the Fascists) Paolini joins us with his Rabbia, and his enduring example of how to carry the chorus in our heads.”

from
http://www.amazon.com/Hold-Everything-Dear-Dispatches-International/dp/0307386732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240849919&sr=1-1
Hold Everything Dear
by John Berger (2007)

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By Leefeller, April 15, 2009 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment

Indoctrinations of control, always frothed with differences of us and them.

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By KDelphi, April 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad—Damn! It was called “Urine Town” and the song was “Free to Pee”...

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By KDelphi, April 15, 2009 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad—Sorry…lol. It is a funny/ironic play that, lampooning the tendency of free mkt capialism to privitizize everything—like Enron did with water in Latin America (it failed, thank gawd). Except, in the play , they charge you to pee….

Very good points, and, yes, I would allow for SOME Capitalism(lol) Say, dress shoes or La-z-boys… or sushi…yuk. Gold seems to be a killer wherever it is found…

I will have to think on the Somali pirate issue. I am befuddled. I know that they cant be allowed to do that, but, in truth, they were rarely violent. No, we cant restock the fish, but, the middle men make all the money off sushi. As with so many things,. the workers could never afford any of it. We are running out of tuna, but that is another story…

I saw a bit on CNN today about the pirates being shot (one that lived is 16 years old, I guess—still in custody—why dont we see him??). Then, they showed a doc that a California kids had made of 13 yr olds being forced into being soldiers and having their noses cut off in Sudan. I had to wonder, what’s the difference , a couple of years? If they were forced, in the beginnign, to be pirates, is it different? Was there another way to deal with this? Will this take attention away from the true hot spots? Were other kids—like us—just more lucky? If you are starving, is it force? What if your child needs medicine and is dying? Your husband or wife?I dont know all the answers to this.

I boycott all seafood, since diving—once you see them, touch them, see how smart they are, you just cant…but, if no one buys tuna from there, will it get worse? Did you see “Death on a Factory Farm”? But, I digress onto other plays/movies…

Denmark seems to do a good job…dream on…we have to figure out a way to take care of each other, each when each needs it. (And, everyone will, sooner or later, whether they realize it or not)Otherwise, we are worse than most Great Apes.

Chimps seem to care more about each other than humans do these days…

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By Leefeller, April 15, 2009 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

While some feel as Sephard about socialism, others prefer to look at socialists as slackers. If one wants clean air or water, why shouldn’t they pay for it and they should pay through the nose, if it hurts so what, unless it’s taxes for the wealthy? A true capitalist would cry over spilt mile, so why not wasted water? Water boarding, a socialist would provide the water free, opposed to the capitalist who would charge for the water.  Same for everything in life. Bunkie the free picnic is in the after life not here. So it is survival of the most wealthy, not necessary the most worthy. Screw or get screwed seems to work so well for Capitalism.  Socialists on the other hand want to give everything away, what is the fun in that?  People want to believe in obtaining wealth, not equality.

There is a super secret list floating around Capital Hill,  a list of socialist Congress members, once we find out who is on this secret list, behod. There will be retribution to pay. An Inquisition by self proclaimed opportunists is in the works, this special club of unenlightened have developed something much more profound than a special handshake, instead they have a special hiding place where they keep their slightly soiled tea bags.

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By Sepharad, April 14, 2009 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi—Nope, never saw “Free to Pee” but you’d better tell me more about it as I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what the plot might be. (More restrooms for women than men? A medical thriller with an uplifting ending? Sheltering bushes on every block?)

There are a lot of things that should not be sold or distributed for profit. Clean air, clean water, place to sleep, enough to eat, education through grad school for anyone who wants it, disability and retirement support, and all useful medical meds and procedures—but that would require a wealthy and just society in which such things were “givens” then we could improve our lots from there. Maybe pure socialism re the basics mentioned above, then regulated capitalism to allow for inventing, producing and distributing all other luxuries so many now take for granted.

Some of the older people in my family used to sit around after holiday dinners comparing hard times and some uncle or cousin or great-aunt always had some even worse experience or stretch of poverty to report—and most of that took place in the First World. (Some one, forget who, once noted that the recession of 1924-25 made the great depression look like prosperity.) And my own grandmother, charitable to the marrow and truthful in all things, for years got away with fraudulently telling us to clean or plates because of the starving children in China (until I got wise and suggested she send my beets to them, for which I rightfully got smacked on the bottom). But when you look at some of Sebastiao Saigado’s photographs from gold and diaimond mine workers in Africa and Brazil, people stricken by famine walking like stick-figures across Somali and Sudanese wastelands, etc., you realize we have never in this country ever experienced that kind of poverty. It’s endless, deep, and seemingly hopeless to the people mired in it, or so their eyes seem to say. So definitely there should be many things available to all at no cost to them. Problem is that the governments and elites of all these impoverished societies are just as greedy and benighted as ours are—they just set the bar of social need way way way lower and expect people to live with it (or die, and go to a better place they tend to call paradise).

The hopelessness of trying to cope with it is illustrated by the Somali pirates, if it is true that they are just impoverished fishermen (because all that pricey bluefin tuna they’d been selling has been overfished, thanks to upscale foodies’ sushi demands). So they hijack or try to a ship full of food aid headed somewhere above or below their point on the horn of Africa coast, only get a captain for their pains, then run out of gas. Heard people on radio saying it was overreacting to shoot the poor young pirates, that more moderate responses were needed, etc. But what response would make any difference to the reason the guys are pirates in the first place? Massive restocking of bluefin tuna? Educate them re non-extinction fishing practices (if it was indeed the Somalin fishermen do did the overfishing in the first place)? Or if the bluefin ever come back, have the fishermen sell it for an equivalent of weight-in-gold pricing so they at least get something out of it? Probably they’d have to figure a remedy out themselves, as their history and culture is so far from our understanding of it that even making suggestions seems impertinent.

Oh well. Tao would doubtless have something to say about all this, maybe instructive. Where I live, everyone knows everyone and if you get into big trouble neighbors help out till a crisis is over. Or it used to be like that. Different type of people have been moving up here the last decade or so, investment bankers and the like, and with them much of the community has evaporated though there are still some of us around.

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By Inherit The Wind, April 14, 2009 at 8:18 pm Link to this comment

DWIGHTBAKER, April 11 at 8:40 am #

Inherit The Wind, April 11 at 8:17 am
response

Hey what is the deal?  You can’t sleep either must be too much going on round these parts.  Some body got to keep watch.

Hey thought that was the politicans Job?

Just wondering think I could be wrong?
**************************************

I know you believe in faith, DB, but make sure you don’t include faith in Truthdig’s time-clock!  I think it may be on Tibet Central Time, tnen move to St.Petersburg time every 47.3 minutes…or something odd like that.

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By KDelphi, April 14, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad—I agree. (But, they do make obscene profits on some pills necessary for life)Just thinking, at what point is something so essential to life that it would be considered immoral to make a profoiti off of providing it? (Like, how they are charging for water in some parts of sub Saharan Africa and Enron tried to do in Latin America? The Sh9ck Doctrine… BTW—did you ever see the play, “Free to Pee”?) Hard to follow, arent I? Sorry. My thoughts just jump around sometimes…  Well, you know how I feel…lol./If it is essential to life, it should be a necessity for all human beings, considering that no one asksd to be born….thanks for reply.

Dont you think that some things just should not be for profit?

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By Sepharad, April 13, 2009 at 10:28 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi—correction: “$1500 per month”, not “per money”. Sorry.

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By Sepharad, April 13, 2009 at 10:25 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi—I didn’t mean to imply pharmaceutical companies are not greedy—said “no more and no less greedy” than other corporate top dogs (who, as we know, are pretty damned greedy). And also agree with you and Inherit that the pharmaceuticals prefer R&D on drugs that will become “cash cows” rather than antibiotics etc. This is why I wish the government would pour more federal funds into research and development of drugs and—should have but forgot to specify that—the feds and federal agencies also need to have some input into what is being researched. (Flesh-eating bacteria would be right up there.) Also think government needs to get involved in the pricing of drugs, which will never be effective if they aren’t putting enough money into r&d to buy them some clout. Inherit mentioned the oncological drugs that are high-priced. So are certain drugs that keep people with ms from losing their eyesight, and high-tech injectables that keep people with rheumatoid arthritis functioning instead of disabled. (One of the latter costs $1,500 per money—more than many people’s monthly budget for everything—and medicare does not even cover it at all. There are only a couple private insurance companies that cover it enough to make it affordable. That particular injectable was developed by a small research company in Southern California that sold its rights to a larger company. It does cost more to produce than most drugs, but not nearly as much as its price.)

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By Inherit The Wind, April 11, 2009 at 5:17 am Link to this comment

So, while they may “spend alot on research”, this “research” is not generally directed towards, say, diseases that plague the world most, as much as towards “cures” that they consider to be the most potentially profitable. Thats how “capitalism” works. I say, that it has no business in a life or death industry—-war, medical care, etc\But, that’s just my opinion.
**********************

KDelphi, you are absolutely correct. I work in that field and I can tell you that they all want the next blockbuster drug, especially one you have to take indefinitely, whether it’s Lipitor, Prevacid or Viagra / Cialis. 

The newest hottest erectile disfunction drug that can bring in $10 billion is far more important (to them) than an antibiotic that finally can kill drug-resistant flesh-eating staph.  Why? a patient will take a lot more ED capsules in his life than anti-biotic for flesh-eating staph—and he’ll be a steady stream of revenue for 10,20, 40 years.

Of course they LOVE oncological drugs too—because a new, great chemo, even though you only may get it 6 times or 20 times, can cost $5000 PER INFUSION!  And that’s just for the drug itself….

Meanwhile vaccines and antibiotics get little funding and research.  On 60 Minutes several years ago, the big pharmas even SAID they couldn’t “afford” to develop antibiotics unless…....THEY GOT GOVERNMENT FUNDING!!!!  Yeah, real chutzpah.

BTW, Sepharad, my own little company is going through the East/West thing right now. West sent a 25 year old to East to lecture 25 year veterans on how to do their job.  Did NOT go over well…..

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By KDelphi, April 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad—I believe the reliance on industrial research in the US is tied to ‘Merkin dependence on “rugged individualism” “‘Merkin exceptionalism” and Max Baucus repreated use of “Go West young man”? (as regards to the health “insurance” plan)

To the contrary ‘Merka has along history of acting alone, for the “good of the individual”, That is what free mkt capitalism is about.

Research is useless, if people cannot afford to utilize it.

“Research” as, far as i can tell, has been hijacked by private industry, and huge pharmaceutical corporations. Day after day, stories come out where a Statin, or other durg is NOT healthy, nor good for the disorder it is advertised for, and that the study was comducted by a corporate interest.

I would agree with most of what you say (I would find it hard to believe that university studies would have as big an ax to grind as a corporation marketing the drugs they test), except for your assertion that the pharmaceutical industry is not “greedy”...the uS is the only industrialized country I know of, where Rx drugs can be advertised to the general public. The patents they recieve, for, perhaps , changing one “molecule” of a given drug, are obscene.

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-15152421_ITM

“The pharmaceutical industry was the most profitable industry in the United States during 1995 to 2002. In 2003, pharmaceutical and all Fortune 500 companies had 14 percent and 5 percent returns on revenues, respectively. The increase in the number of dispensed prescriptions, as well as the use of newer, high cost drugs, results from advertising. During 1996 to 2002, consumer advertising reached its highest average of 22 percent.Prescription drug costs in the hospital system can be influenced both directly and indirectly by many factors, but the four most common direct influences on prescription drug costs in hospital organizations are the payers, providers, patients, and policy makers.”

Further…

“An estimated $111 billion was spent on U.S. health research in 2005.  The largest share was spent by Industry ($61 billion, or 55%), including the pharmaceutical industry ($35 billion, or 31%), the biotechnology industry ($16 billion, or 15%), and the medical technology industry ($10 billion, or 9%).  Government spent $40 billion (36%), most of which was spent by the National Institutes of Health ($29 billion, or 26%), followed by other federal government agencies ($9 billion, or 8%), and state and local government ($3 billion, or 2%).  Other Organizations (including universities, independent research institutes, voluntary health organizations, and philanthropic foundations) spent $10 billion (9%).

http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/chcm030807oth.cfm

So, while they may “spend alot on research”, this “research” is not generally directed towards, say, diseases that plague the world most, as much as towards “cures” that they consider to be the most potentially profitable. Thats how “capitalism” works. I say, that it has no business in a life or death industry—-war, medical care, etc\But, that’s just my opinion..

When I hear the G-20 talk about “rewarding good outcomes”, I have to wonder what happened to “good actions are their own reward”—perhaps it is naive, but, I dont think that it is too far-fetched to expect people to do a good job, go into medicine, medical research, the humanities, for the love of it or wanting to do some good in the world.Or, am I being incredibly stupid? I think (hope?) that universities have a goal in mind, aside from profit…

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By Sepharad, April 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm Link to this comment

(continued)

Perhaps the most profound of Hedges’ insights is that moral autonomy is threatened when what we usually call liberal arts or humanities are undermined, undertaught, underappreciated. I don’t think that liberal thinking or conservative thinking is the point, but critical thinking, the opposite of group-thinking, the opposite of the committee. As early as grade school, our youngest brought home a report card with decent grades but a comment from the teacher that he was not sufficiently group-oriented and thought too much for himself. An acquaintance of mine with her PhD in Communication & Statistics, responding to my puzzlement, said that while our son was definitely creative, the cat that walked alone was not a very marketable persona. Everything in every aspect of our civilization was built around the team, the group, the consensus. And she was right. In one of the most liberal university programs in the country, the first History of Consciousness department, students learned not through individual inquiry but through jointly reading material with their “cohorts”—no part of their canon being anything that was “pale, male, stale.” Literature, poetry, philosophy, political science, history and mathematics are made by individuals whose ideas and ideals have sufficient sense, appeal, or beauty to draw other individuals into them to ponder, appreciate, learn from. And departments that focus on these things are no longer considered as important as they once were, partly because they’ve become the fringes rather than the heart of our culture. What makes today’s societal heart beat is business, industry, money, and science—all of which are marketable, a source of money and therefore a potential source of university endowments. Obviously there are gifted individuals and innovators in all of these fields, but if there is no way for the writer, the philosopher, the historian, the mathematician to create and market their product as well, what kind of citizens are we selecting for? Is the society we now live in the best we can do?

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By Sepharad, April 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

DougD opens two separate topics that are as important as the rest of Hedges’ piece—the importantance of liberal arts and humanities education, and the corporate penetration that has existed for some time and, given the financial circumstances, is likely to get worse.

One of the most endangered areas is medical research at teaching universities. Even before government funding earmarked for research began to decline, pharmaceutical companies have heavily influenced, skewed, promoted and suppressed research. Declining federal revenues are going to increase the pressure on university and independent medical and biomedical research centers, as well as medical journals themselves, that pharmaceutical companies subsidize directly or indirectly. I’m not saying the pharmaceutical companies themselves are evil bad people: they risk, spend and sometimes lose billions on researching a single drug. Without them, medicine would not be anywhere close to where it is. But it takes a lot of money to bring a drug from development through trials, and few single payer plans allocate any funds at all toward R&D. It’s something that the Obama team on healthcare and insurance should add to their brief because it’s so basic to what constitutes the healthcare they are talking about. They need to do what they can to increase the amount of federal funding for medical and biomedical research so that money men within the pharmaceutical companies—no more or less greedy than top dogs in any other business—do not feel so pressed to control what is published re research findings and indeed might be prevented in their efforts to do this by adding voting public members to their boards of directors by virtue of public monies going toward that company’s research, almost always conducted through university and research centers as well as by numerous independent labs. (There IS some public oversight by NIH, CDC, and all the other government alphabet medical-research-related agencies, but this is not the same thing as having public members on a board of directors, who determine policy concerning research and trials in universities and other centers as well as accuracy of presentation of research results. The scientists of course do the research, but the pharmaceuticals routinely review and sometimes edit results of that research before it is published.) (continued)

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By KDelphi, April 2, 2009 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

DougD—Good points. Thanks

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By Sepharad, April 2, 2009 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

Inherit the Wind, re March 27 comment—True, you never said all Texans were bad. A couple of those I named were Republicans but no politicians. Don’t worry, am not metamorphosing into FT. Fallout from the amount of automatic dissing of Southerners and Texans that still exists in California where no region but bicoastal is acceptable. (I know you’re not among that company. Sorry.)

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By DougD, March 31, 2009 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Kdelphi - You’re right that it will depend on the university.  Those with business or engineering departments will have the greatest corporate influence, but these are still a small portion of the university.  As for the amount of defense funding, that is again concentrated in a relatively small set of departments at various universities. 

I’m sure academic freedom varies across universities too.  But in general, the principle is so fundamental to learning, teaching, and research that most faculty (and some administrators) try hard to protect it.  At least from my experience, faculty with academic freedom problems can easily get ethical and legal help from the AAUP—all they have to do is make the contacts. 

Still,  some departments (engineering, forestry, computer science, business, etc) do make corporate deals for funding.  This constrains academic freedom for these researchers and the content of their courses.  There’s also the problem of these schools turning into vocational programs.  But these “corporate departments”  are again a relatively small part of the university as a whole.  Ideally, we would have resources to set up a curriculum and requirements that forced all students to take more humanities (and more science). 

I was in a Psychology department that happened to be in a college of Liberal Arts along with the humanities and social sciences.  Republicans launched successful anti-property tax and anti-sales tax campaigns which cut our state funding by half across 20 years.  This truly crippled the university, and it’s always the weakest departments (humanities, etc.) which suffer the most.  As I said before, this lack of resources really opens things up to corporation penetration, because the administrators are desperate to keep tuition down and attract students.  Also, the financial problems cause degree requirements to be streamlined, and students get even less exposure to the humanities.

I think that universities should accept all students, that students should be able to study whatever they want, and it should all be funded by the state.  There should be a right to higher education.  When I went to college in California in the 60’s, higher education was virtually free:  All we had to pay was a small registration fee each quarter.  Then Reagan became governor.

But my general point is that Hedges really muddies the waters when he speaks of some “military-academic-industrial” complex.  What really exists is a huge military-industrial complex, which is beginning to form weak connections with academia.  Rather than smearing all three together as “the enemy”, we need to appreciate the value of academia and protect it from the other two.

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By KDelphi, March 31, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

DougD—Yes, but, doesnt it depend very much on which university, where, how it is funded, etc?

I know for certian that there is not the academic freedom that there was when I attended university. My sister and brother in law both teach, one at a state university, one at a private university. The private university has more academic frededom, but, where does that leave the students whoo cannot afford a private education (which may be almost everyone soon)?

What do you think of the idea of all publicly funded universities accepting all who wish to attend, and, being funded mostly by tax revenue?

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By DougD, March 31, 2009 at 9:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m sorry to have to disagree to strongly with BCC Meteorites.  Of course higher education has suffered funding cuts as a result of republican tax policy.  This has led to a reduction in tenure-track faculty (by 50% in my department), fewer course and larger courses, tuition increases and so on.  It also opens the door to corporate and military influences.

My most important point was that higher education is the only institution that has NOT been corrupted by corporatism.  We are based on principles of “academic freedom” and “shared government”, allowing faculty (so far) to resist takeover by corporate and military influences.  Rather than disparage academia in a false and paranoid way, what we need to do is to understand the external forces and the fact that faculty are fighting hard against these forces.  Articles such as Hedges give exactly the wrong impression and can do great damage.

Finally, to say “In essence, the US educational system is all quackery” is ludicrous.  This is exactly the kind of anti-intellectualism that I spoke of earlier.

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By KDelphi, March 30, 2009 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment

Education should not be a for-profit enterprise. It should not be an “enterprise” at all.

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By BCC Meteorites, March 30, 2009 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment

I respectfully disagree with DougD’s posting. I think Chris is right on the money and for those of us acutely aware of how academia works he did a great job highlighting the problematic issues.

You know someone is off base in turning intellectual discourse by using the tried and last resort tactic of saying, “it needs more funding and resources”. What we need is more law enforcement and thus far academia has been immune from administrations lacking the will to clamp down on such trivial things as scientific misconduct and fraud. Make no mistake about it the military defense establishment through NASA pumps untold sums into fake “academic programs”. It turns out these things are jobs programs for unemployed political staffers, appointees and their spouses. In essence, the US educational system is all quackery. Look at what the Harvard and Yale business models have done to the economy. Can you say quack?

http://www.bccmeteorites.com/misconduct-planetary.html

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By Cassiodorus, March 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m really amused by some of the commentary on Hedges’ piece.  Of course, what’s most crucial about it goes unattended: whether or not his complaint is justified by the actual state of life in universities.

Of course, there are the actual head-on attacks upon Hedges’ values, most of which are informed by a pigheaded indifference to the idea that the humanities may offer the world things which it needs: the ability to question social norms, an understanding of what sort of culture we live in, an appreciation of how things could be otherwise than what they are today.

Dan/ sprag80 tells us:

Colleges expanded their business programs because that’s what their customers—prospective students and their parents—wanted. Higher Education is a business, get over it.

Accepting this argument at face value, let’s take a look at college as a “business,” shall we? 

College is in fact a highly subsidized product, available cheaply at community colleges and with loans elsewhere, and one of the main reasons people attend it is to become “credentialed,” so that they can get better jobs—not by virtue of the training they receive in college, but by virtue of the fact that they have degrees, and are thus more likely to jump through prospective employers’ qualifying hoops.

Now let’s take a look at “what people want.”  People want plenty of things—clean air, drinkable water, good relationships—that aren’t things they pay for.  Moreover, people pay for plenty of things in order to avoid consequences they don’t want (e.g. taxes, to avoid government persecution) and they also pay for stuff because they want some of its secondary consequences, rather than it being “what they want.”  People buy shares of stock, for instance, because they appreciate in value and pay dividends, not because stock is “what they want.”

So let’s transfer these examples to the matter of paying for college.  People may actually want an education in the humanities—but they may not want to pay for it.  They may be “business” majors because they don’t want to be poor, and because they want to have business careers, not because they have any real interest in business.  Make college cheaper, and you might actually swing a few of them over to being humanities majors, and brighten more than a few lives as a result.

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By DougD, March 29, 2009 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

I usually find Chris Hedges helpful, but this article is misleading and counterproductive.  He vastly overgeneralizes the problems facing academia, and in so doing, ends up nearly anti-intellectual in tone.  I was a Psychology professor at a major state university from 1984-2006.

First, most of the problems facing academia are the result of tax reduction policies that have undermined state funding and thus the universities resources.  Universities need more financial support.

Second, although the humanities and some social sciences have suffered from these cuts, many of the basic sciences have continued to flourish.  Our universities remain the greatest source of knowledge on the planet, both in terms of acquisition and transmission. 

Third, although Hedges seems to paint all academics as corporate or military pawns, this is not at all true.  Relatively few academic departments have a content area that currently valued by corporations and the military, so this type of funding is relatively uncommon.  Most funding still comes through the traditional government agencies (e.g., NIH, NSF).

Fourth, it may be true that America’s corporate culture has influenced students and university administrators, a large number of faculty are aware of these dangers and have fought hard against corporatism.  This has been a major aim of the American Association of University Professors going back to 1915. 

It is definitely a shame to see the problems facing the humanities.  But in smearing academia as a whole, Hedges is committing a great injustice. In reality, academia is one of the few remaining institutions that hasn’t been corrupted by corporatism, and rather than degrading it, we should be working even harder to protect it. 

(On the side, the statements based on the psychologist Adorno are 50 years out of date and again, overly simplified).

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By skiptowne, March 29, 2009 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

Yes, what he says is true. Elliott Spitzer made a good point recently. Why not have college students repay their education as a percentage of their salaries, after they graduate? That way, they could go into more meaningful fields instead of focusing on just going into the highest paying fields. The present system is stupid. Get into tons of debt, up front, and have it waiting for you to repay as soon as you graduate. It’s about time citizens make some sacrifice for the common good (higher salaries would mean higher payments for college).

Another great idea is for the government to open a retirement account for each legal newborn of say, $2000. They couldn’t touch it until retirement but, they could always add to it. That $2000 compounds very nicely over 65 years. The gov. wouldn’t have the “rob Peter to pay Paul” system that is in place now. More expensive on the front end…much less expensive on the back end.

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By Rontruth, March 29, 2009 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

People often say: why do politicians “whore” their way into power; doing the lying song and dance with the fat cats who own corporations, etc.? Well, you see, at 63 years of age, I well remember when there WAS a politician who was not beholden to the campaign contributions of the wealthy corporate ownership class: President John F. Kennedy.

He made decisions, after the lying to him by the CIA about the Bay of Pigs CIA-led invasion of Castro’s Cuba, that fundamentally said, the CIA could no longer circumvent the president and make it’s own foreign policy decisions. The CIA had to let the president make such decisions. They could no longer lie to a president with such things as WMD evidence, etc.

What Kennedy did not foresee was a president who would be appointed by rightwing Supreme Court justices, and thus because he was not “elected,” he did not feel he owed anything to the American people. His name was George W. Bush.

Bush and Cheney pushed the CIA to go to foreign, well documented crimainals and thugs, to get the evidence of WMDs in Iraq that failed to show up in Iraq after Bush ordered the attack on Iraq. Kennedy never likely thought that someone of Bush’s ilk wouid ever set foot in the White House. He was wrong.

He ordered the withdrawal from Vietnam, left Castro in power in Cuba, while using the Cuban Missile Crisis as a political footstool, upon which to win re-election in 1964. He died when a hail of gunshots rang out in Dealey Plasa, Dallas, Texas, Friday, November 22, 1963. See http://www.jfkmurdersolved.com for the FBI-documented story of who in fact shot JFK, and where the man still is today, alive at 67 years of age.

“Dare a man to change the given order.” (from a song sung by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, a popular folksinging group of the USA.)

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By Rontruth, March 29, 2009 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment

Just be sure you know that “organized religion,” as it is currently practiced today, with politicians parading in front of congregations at election time, but then standing for corporate-driven policies that led to things like the illegal war in Iraq that has cost us so much in tax-dolloars and human life, is NOT the answer. The answer lies inside that old saying, “Do unto others as you would that they did unto you.” This is the basis of the moral lost link.

We can now see how corporate leader-hypocrisy has led to the economic “collapse.” Even so, those who orchestrated the rip-offs made to poor-credit borrowers through lying advertisements, have used their welfare handouts to give themselves pay bonuses, while those same “leaders” throw people out of work. Leaders who do these things should be tried, and if found guilty, forced to give up all their wealth to those they hurt. Then, they sould spend at minimum 10 years in prison at hard labor.

That would be the “moral” thing to do.

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By Leefeller, March 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

Taoseno,

What is your idea of a good (liberal) education? Hedges profoundness has already been accounted announced and established. He obviously has a following.

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By Taoseno, March 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

You wouldn’t know it from the previous comments, but this is an amazing article! Does anyone get it?

Hedges brings up some fundamental issues that this society had better be looking at. Most comments I read about education are made by people who have no idea what a good (liberal) education means or includes. The issue is not public/private/charter/religious, but what kind of a person do you want to emerge from the other end of the system. A great majority of our students, no matter where they attended school, know anything about their history, very little about math or science, and certainly nothing about moral and ethical issues -which is what Hedges is trying to address, I think. He’s right on about our universities! Its bunk to say that we have a good post-secondary system! What criteria are we using to support that…that we produce more MBA’s and Wall Street drones?

We need a complete re-examination of our education system. We had a good chance to do it with the new administration, but missed the opportunity.

We’re not very good at examining ultimate questions.

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By Leefeller, March 27, 2009 at 6:58 am Link to this comment

It is easy to lump all GOPers as something different from the living, but I prefer to look at them as the second party of the the two party system.  Contrived differences needed for the survival of the the two party system. Sort of a good cop bad cop song and dance routine.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 27, 2009 at 4:17 am Link to this comment

Sepharad, March 27 at 1:50 am #

Inherit, I must be in a perverse mood tonight, determined to persuade you to appreciate Texans. Not only is Molly Ivins an exception so was Barbara Jordan (Houston) She was such a tough, cool woman and what presence! And Larry McMurtry is a raving genius. His books are so good because he knows so much history. Had no idea Charlie Goodnight (of Lonesome Dove, Dead Man’s Walk, Comanche Moon and Streets of Laredo fame) was a real guy till one day browsing the bios in a used bookstore found his memoirs. Also the best horsetrainer I know of is a woman working out of San Antonio. Next to Guadalajara-based Miguel Leon Portilla, the best Spanish colonial scholar living, W. Michael Mathes, when he retired, left the fleshpots of San Francisco and is living somewhere in the cotton fields of west central Texas where, he reports, he is totally happy sitting on the porch with a rifle across his lap thinking deep scholarly thoughts and contemplating his hounds’ remarkable hunting ability. Texas is so big that I’ve been there several times and have no idea what it’s like, but it sure as hell isn’t all Crawford. A stranger in Texas is like a blind man touching an elephant.
**********************************************

What you are in, Sepharad, is a mood to NOT read what I am writing and to infer something that is not that.

Are any of these people you named Republican Politicians? No. Of course not.

Ignoring my point and putting words in my keyboard—that Texas politicians, especially REPUBLICAN politicians are a blight seems self-evident—is what I expect of FT. 

Last good Texas pol was Ann Richards and, of course, she was Democratic.

Naming me fine Texans is not the point—trying to convince me there are fine Republican politicians from Texas will be a good trick.

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By Sepharad, March 26, 2009 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

Inherit, I must be in a perverse mood tonight, determined to persuade you to appreciate Texans. Not only is Molly Ivins an exception so was Barbara Jordan (Houston) She was such a tough, cool woman and what presence! And Larry McMurtry is a raving genius. His books are so good because he knows so much history. Had no idea Charlie Goodnight (of Lonesome Dove, Dead Man’s Walk, Comanche Moon and Streets of Laredo fame) was a real guy till one day browsing the bios in a used bookstore found his memoirs. Also the best horsetrainer I know of is a woman working out of San Antonio. Next to Guadalajara-based Miguel Leon Portilla, the best Spanish colonial scholar living, W. Michael Mathes, when he retired, left the fleshpots of San Francisco and is living somewhere in the cotton fields of west central Texas where, he reports, he is totally happy sitting on the porch with a rifle across his lap thinking deep scholarly thoughts and contemplating his hounds’ remarkable hunting ability. Texas is so big that I’ve been there several times and have no idea what it’s like, but it sure as hell isn’t all Crawford. A stranger in Texas is like a blind man touching an elephant.

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By Sepharad, March 26, 2009 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller, you’re right of course. I think Texans get a bad rap because it’s a Bush bastion and does have a lot of Republicans. My cousin is an Irish Catholic/Jew cross on my father’s side and strangely enough the only Republican in my family anywhere, as far as I know. Yet he’s also a sympathizer of the IRA. When we were visiting him once, after a hard day outdoors we were all sitting slumped around watching the news before dinner. A bunch of Orangemen were shown marching provocatively around a St. Pat’s celebration and he actually leapt to his feet and shouted “Damned bigots!”, startling everyone, including his wife. Made my husband laugh.

The other reason people generalize about Texans is that the state is so big, with so many different kinds of people. So when someone asks what you think about “Texan” it’s like asking what you think about “Europeans.” (Lots of people also have weird stereotypes about Californians.)

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By Sepharad, March 26, 2009 at 10:09 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi, Good question, but hard to answer. Sometimes parents treat kids like chattels or are otherwise too controlling, sometimes they aren’t interested enough. Home schooling is another tough call because what if, as you say, the parents are stupid?

I’ve always kind of leaned toward putting all the money we can spare into good public schools with smart, motivated teachers. Now there are charter and magnet schools, which are public, but the brightest kids with the most interested parents usually end up in such places. Would like to see, for every charter or magnet school in a nice neighborhood, another one in the poorer part of town.

Is it too corny to say that if we want a decent society we have to make sure every single kid gets the education she or he needs?

Religious schooling in a democracy should be an option but only in addition to a general curriculum, whether you’re a Moslem or Mormon or Jew or Hindu.
It’s hard to label a culture or religion as by nature abusive to its children, whatever you might think its shortcomings. There are good parents and bad in all cultures, but it becomes abusive when our social norms are violated too drastically and children are forced into any sort of lifelong arrangemet—very young girls being married off to older men, polygamy, genital mutilation, etc.

Social service agencies are usually skewed toward “reconciliation” between abusive or negligent parents and children because they know that after a certain age it’s hard to find adoptive parents for a kid and even a bad parent might be better than a series of foster homes. I think this sucks, but like so much in our society it’s a matter of money. So far we’ve shown a real preference for spending money on everything except our kids. Big brother and big sister programs help, and some police departments have set up special counseling and education for chronically in-trouble kids, but it’s so pathetically inadequate and reaches so few kids who need it. One thing most of us could do is find a literacy program and spend a couple two-hour sessions a week helping kids (as well as adults) learn to read and express themselves in writing. You don’t have to be a certified teacher; I’ve done it for years, since our youngest went off into the big world, wherever we are living, through local community centers. You usually are assigned one or two kids, so it’s easy to form a relationship with them. (Some of them are initially embarrassed about being far behind other kids their age, which is why they need to know you enough to get past being embarrassed, after which they usually learn pretty fast.)

When I think of all the effort and money we spend on everything but our kids, it makes me angry, and amazed at how short-sighted society can be. In other words, I want to kick some pol in the shin.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 26, 2009 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller, March 26 at 8:44 pm #

KDelphi, don’t forget the octomom.

Sepharad and ITW, People should be judged on their own merit as individuals, not by stereotypes as groups or we end up joining the very bigots we despise.
***********************************************

You’re gonna extend that openmindedness to POLITICIANS?? 
From TEXAS???????? 
Who are REPUBLICAN???????????????????????????

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By Leefeller, March 26, 2009 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi, don’t forget the octomom.

Sepharad and ITW, People should be judged on their own merit as individuals, not by stereotypes as groups or we end up joining the very bigots we despise.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 26, 2009 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad, March 26 at 6:37 pm #

Inherit, Don’t forget Molly Ivins was a product of Texas. And one of my favorite sayings came from Texas—“That guy is all hat.”
***************************************

I said NOTHING about Texans, just their idiot crooked Re-Thuglican politicians. 

Molly Ivins wasn’t a politician, she was WONDERFUL! She just made her living pointing out what hypocrites, liars and idiots they were, especially Shrub and “The Lege”.

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By Sepharad, March 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Inherit, Don’t forget Molly Ivins was a product of Texas. And one of my favorite sayings came from Texas—“That guy is all hat.”

Leefeller, one reason you met so many “blowhards”
from Texas is that it’s such a big state that a lot of people who grow up there don’t feel the same sense of limits as the rest of us from smaller states that have little valleys and hollows, woods, etc. And I’ve had people laugh outright when they ask me how big Israel is and I tell them. Most of their ranches are larger.(Of course a true Texan would immediately remind me that they too have mountains and woods and cotton and cattle and desert and wet and green—it does seem like there’s nothing Texas doesn’t have.) One of my cousins, also from Missouri, runs cattle near Minneola (half way between Dallas and Louisiana)and likes most of the people because they are in general friendly. But he said “friendly” stops where private property begins, and in Texas that is spelled with two Ps. One year it rained a lot and flooded and the woman who owned an adjoining ranch threatened to sue him because so much of her land washed onto his side of the fence. He told her she was welcome to come and shovel it up and take it back. She never did but she didn’t sue him either. So I guess Texas is like everywhere else. Depends on who you meet.

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By KDelphi, March 26, 2009 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment

I agree about kids (and parents) but, what are we to do about BAD parents, espeically in this ownership society, where some peope are under the mistaken impression that their children BELONG to them? We have a right and responsibility to step in. But, that take money and, who gets to decide what’s abusive?

Is strange fundamentalist religon , like Mormonism, abuvsive? I think it is. Is Islam? I dont know.
What about home schooling or charter schools , if the parents are stupid?

Yes, things pass from generation, but, looking at things as they are, parents must have been doing a piss poor job, or kids would be more interested , educated, less delinquency, etc.

Alot of “parents” just arent up to the task!

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By Inherit The Wind, March 26, 2009 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

Leefeller, March 26 at 1:43 pm #

Stereotypes seem to be a common misconception, for I have an aversion to people from Texas, for no other reason then my experiences in the service? I should know better, In reality all people from Texas are not blow hard’s.
*************************************

Unless they are politicians, especially REPUBLICAN politicians.  Then they are usually moral degenerates and active fascists as well…Bush, Cornyn, Delay, Cheney..‘nuf ced!

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By Leefeller, March 26, 2009 at 10:43 am Link to this comment

Stereotypes seem to be a common misconception, for I have an aversion to people from Texas, for no other reason then my experiences in the service? I should know better, In reality all people from Texas are not blow hard’s.

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By Sepharad, March 26, 2009 at 9:50 am Link to this comment

Leefeller, You said it: kids learn values from parents one way or the other and being exposed to bigotry or non-bigotry, as long as the parents are otherwise people of good will, causes kids to think about it themselves and make up their own minds as you and I obviously did.

When I moved to California was amazed at how negative people were to Southerners as a group though most said they’d never actually known any Southerners except me—Missouri was a border state and remains split on many issues of race so they considered it more Southern than the enlightened bicoastal states. Found myself defending the South on a regular basis. Registering voters, I encountered a lot of Southern whites who were prejudiced against blacks and Jews and Catholics but were also very kind, and when they got to know individuals many moderated their opinions, or so it seemed. I think a lot of bigotry stems from poverty, from defensiveness, from fear of job loss and from just not knowing enough other people who were different (sort of like Californians who hear “South” and think “racist”).

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By John Hanks, March 26, 2009 at 8:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

People are generally trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, etc.  The only thing that is missing is smarts.  Americans are blind to liars and bullies and crooks.  They don’t believe in sociopaths.

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By Leefeller, March 26, 2009 at 6:22 am Link to this comment

ITW,

Little known are the amendments to the first 10 commandments, I believe hypocrisy is the fourteenth or I could be mixing up my ruse of laws with the Constitution, then the numbers also.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 26, 2009 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

So far, Mr. Baker, the only “we” I see is you, using Truthdig.com as an advertisement for your particular religious organization.  As you’ve posted, it’s becoming more and more clear that your posts are nothing more than ads.

Advertising’s fine, but it seems to me that other advertisers here at Truthdig.com PAY for the privilege!

Meanwhile, you, while preaching a great morality, are, at the same time, trying to steal free advertising for your own organization.

IF IT’S NOT YOURS, DON’T TAKE IT!

That’s one of the 10 Commandments, Mr. Religious Pontificator!  And you’re breaking it as you preach.

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By Leefeller, March 26, 2009 at 1:49 am Link to this comment

Values, another word for the great moral defining.

Sepharad’s story very enlightening, intriguing how kids learn in different ways, my parents were bigots but otherwise good honest people and instilled a good value code for me to live by, at least I hope so.  Suppose seeing bigotry firsthand, never made sense to me   Luckily I learned to question hypocrisy and prejudices at an early age.

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By Sepharad, March 25, 2009 at 10:53 pm Link to this comment

Like Leefeller, I’d have to go with Inherit the Wind’s list of moral values. They’re not that hard to remember, not painful to follow. Also agree that kids get their deepest values from parents. My parents remained friends with a Japanese botany professor during WWII when he lost his job and most of his professional peers avoided him; my parents had black friends along with white ones, Catholics and Jews and Protestants but never TALKED about racial or religious tolerance. My dad once spent the night in an Alabama jail for refusing to falsify an accident report in which we rear-ended a farm truck driven by an elderly black man who hit his brakes when a drunk highway patrol officer squealed out in front of him from a road house. An AAA insurance agent got mom and us kids a motel room, got the car repaired overnight and got a lawyer to help spring my dad, then told him to not stop till we crossed the state line. It’s not what you say but what you do that your kids absorb. (And that is more or less what I said to them when they freaked out when I went south to register voters.)

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By sprag80, March 25, 2009 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The irony is rich: near unanimous uncritical acceptance of a moral rant against those unable to think.

Not a critical thought in the bunch.

Just another Echo Chamber.

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By Leefeller, March 25, 2009 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment

Unquestionably such a great article, one never has to ever read anything ever again.  Nihilism explained, we shall all gather in one place and agree in unison the profoundness so agreed on.

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By Virginia777, March 25, 2009 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment

You are dead-on again, Chris Hedges, we are in DESPERATE need of a Moral Bailout.

You can see it so clearly in the dilapidation of the Left, the sorrowful moral opponent it has made to the Right-wing, immensely successful “Wrecking Crew” that has come close to destroying our country.

We all can see the role of Greed here, but how about Hate? how much has Hatred (stirred up by unethical media) harmed our country??

And I agree with Brian, its time to fight the madness!

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By Leefeller, March 25, 2009 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

“Chris Hedges is our contemporary visionary and prophet.  Brilliant, profound, devastating in his accuracy”.

Are you his wife, mother or publisher?

Please, humor us, what is visionary or prophetic?

Usually when someone agrees with something or disagrees it is a nice practice to describe what it was that caused one to write?  Please expand on, what was found so brilliant, profound, and devastating in Hedges accuracy, other than agreement, was this supposed attempted sarcasm?

Before you reply, let me read his article over, I must have missed something?

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By Natascha, March 25, 2009 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges is our contemporary visionary and prophet.  Brilliant, profound, devastating in his accuracy.

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By rollzone, March 25, 2009 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

hello. religion does not take place in school. it is in church. school is motivated by financial resources. church teaches about God. corporations need employees to represent the corporation. moral decisions independently determine whether you are able to work: in their environment. school that does not allow open discussion, and freedom of speech; for all topics: must fear something unAmerican. morality is as alive and well in our great country: as it ever was. if the media does not want you to believe that; change the channel.

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By Leefeller, March 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

Stating this article as a “fact that this piercing and accurate article is appearing here”, gives me pause to ask: “fact” to whom? Piercing and accurate in what sense?

Hedges is letting the dogs out again, issues and attentions of this article have all been said many times before, though I support the main premise of this article, I question Hedges full agenda beyond his points. 

If a person finds it enlightening, welcome.

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By KDelphi, March 25, 2009 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Archie1954—Well, thank gawd! Because if the GOP are totally to blame, everything should be just fine now!

Yeah, sure the Boue Dogs, Clintons, etc, had absolutely nothing to do with this criminal, immoral globalization and blackmailing of the working people. That is why the current president, as well as almost all the Congress, voted for the Bailout with no restrictiona, and put the bone-us(es) in the Stimlulus plan…concern forthePeople.

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By jbmjr, March 25, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

flow,

Thanks for the compliment. It’s been apparent the old paradigm is reaching the limits of effectiveness, so it seems necessary to understand why and what comes next. Everyone wants to fix what we have, but the problems are more fundamental than anyone cares to admit.
Think of what we have as the caterpillar and hopefully what emerges is the butterfly, but that might be a few generations.

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By Archie1954, March 25, 2009 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This problem is a very real result of too many years of Republican control of all three branches of government and on top of that de facto control of the media as well. How often has the venality of members of Congress been displayed? How many votes have various foreign lobby groups bought with cold hard cash? How many times has the chief executive approved illegal methods of questioning prisoners inclusive of torture? How often have the judges of the Supreme Court brought down judgements which were based on prejudice and fasciscm? All of these things are now normal in America. Why? Because the American people trusted the most egregious political party in the history of the country. The very essence of greed and immorality, the Republicans!

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By beth, March 25, 2009 at 10:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The fact that this piercing and accurate article is appearing here, in the left-wing alternative media, instead of in the New York Times Magazine or some other mainstream media, is another indication about the societal changes he details. I was at Cornell during the 1970s, doing a classics degree. For the past four years I’ve lived in Montreal, writing and worrying about what has happened to American society in the interim, in spite of the efforts many of us have put in. I do agree with a previous commenter that the values a child learns at home are of primary importance, but that’s exactly what I saw during the 1980s and 1990s in communities close to Ivy League universities: once the kids got to college, their values were already set, not toward openness and questioning, but in the direction of skillful manipulation of whatever system could bring them toward wealth and power. Chris’s seriousness may be off-putting to some, but he’s absolutely correct, and I’m grateful he continues to write pieces like this one.

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By Amon Drool, March 25, 2009 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

keep it simple stoopid:

  1) do unto others as you would have them do unto you
  2) give it your best shot and let the chips fall where they may

and these 2 don’t even presuppose a sky-god

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By glagadec, March 25, 2009 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

I have to agree with “Inherit the Wind” about the inherent simplicity of acting ethically and consciously in this life, with or without the promise or threat of reward or damnation if you do ...or don’t. Ethical tests given to atheists and true believers reveal no disparity between the two. People have been murdered in the name of religion and secularism. I guess it comes down to which part of the brain you respond to the most: the reptillian or neo cortex. We see now what happens when the higher brain functions are placed at the disposal of the snake within. We obfuscate the obvious so we don’t have to take responsiblity for our own actions and learn from our mistakes. Just a thought!

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By KDelphi, March 25, 2009 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

Leefeller—Yes, but, the “criminals” accept their morals as ones that they have “learned” the same as you may have “learned” the Ten Commandments. Most dont seem to apply nowadays.
“Alternativbe” moralities are probably certain that their own moral code fits the world “as they see it”.

I think that some morality is inherent, but, how moral is a two year old? most of it is learned.

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By bogi666, March 25, 2009 at 8:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would suggest a rephrasing of Eisenhower’s prophecy to the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL-CONGRESSIONAL-CHURCHIANITY RELIGIOUS COMPLEX. Here’s a quote from atheist H.L. Mencken in 1925, referring to the Scopes trial. “The so called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does….” Americans have been forged into a society of consumerist-narcissistic-gluttons who Ronald Reagan convinced that debt is prosperity and simultaneously removed the law against usury. It was Reagan who trumpeted that the Nicaraguan Sandinista Army was going to march across Mexico, invade Texas and capture Wash., D.C. and burn it to the ground[a good idea]. As for the role of the pretend christian-churchianity-religionists it’s all on TV with preachers of false doctrines insult their congregations of fools and then beg them for money[donations] and the fools give those who have just insulted and called them foul names the money. It’s all over Wall St. derivative traders have been promised a $1,000,000,000,000 dollars[for starters] by Obama which will cover any losses they incur. These derivative traders have been promised taxpayers money to buy shares and the same taxpayers will have no interest or say which stocks their tax money will buy. It’s all over America

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By KDelphi, March 25, 2009 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Yes, if everyone stopped coveting their neighbor’s manservant, we would all be so much better off…get your own, right?

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By Leefeller, March 25, 2009 at 7:22 am Link to this comment

Self righteousness is a problem in itself. Morals defined by whom, the self righteous. ITW, states a small list of morals, which seem common sense to me. Other posters suggest we should all go back to the stone age and live in caves.  Evidently relgions has it’s own agenda of morals.

A 75 year old women who is to receive 40 lashes and 4 years in prison for allowing unrelated delivery men into her home, in Saudi Arabia. She has abused her societies list of morals or religious laws. She supposedly knew the alleged morel law and broke it, now she is to pay her dues.

Seems morals are defined by the people in power,  sometimes using religion as a guiding tool, the spiritual definer of morals. In the case of the Saudi’s, why would these standards of morals be accepted by western culture, why should the Saudi’s accept mine, yours or ours?

Morals may not be inherent, but instead acquired? So when societies differ on standards of morals, what does that mean?

My list of morals is very much like ITW’s, Could morals really just be common sense, I doubt it. Criminals develop their own codes of morals and laws, much different from most in our society.  I may be wrong on this, looking at the state of things in our coutnry now. Maybe the difference is between laws of man, and inherent morals by other people around us. Which drives the other, morals driving laws or the opposite or morals and laws the same?

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By Louise, March 25, 2009 at 7:16 am Link to this comment

“They accept the assumptions of corporate culture because they have never been taught to think.”

~~~

What appears apparent to one might be missed entirely by another. Which is why it is so important to learn how to think. Our education system completely fails to teach our kids how to think. Seems like a simple thing, so how come it’s so hard to understand? If parents were teaching their kids how to think, their kids would demand the challenge of being forced to think when they get to school. Not by words, but by behavior. And if the educators were focused on teaching how to think, they would respond to that behaviour. But even they are teaching from a base where they were never taught to think. And all to often, so are the parents. Were that not true, so-called reality TV would be boring and laughed off the air!

One kid repeats excitedly what he “learned” watching someone struggle to free himself on last nights Survivor. The other kid asks, “Why didn’t he just ask the crew behind the camera to come help him?” Think. Nice when it comes out of the mouth of a youngster. Maybe there is still hope.

But is the not being able to think really immoral? Is a whole society of people who don’t know how to think immoral? Or is it something as simple as having, or not having a conscience? That’s a dilemma prosecutors deal with every day. We see whenever there is a real tragedy, not a virtual one, people respond in a positive way. The same people who believe everything they’re told by “authority” ignore authority and rush to help someone in trouble. Is that because they have a conscience? And what is a conscience if not empathy. Empathy is exploited by the producers of Survivor to promote their show. But true empathy, like most feelings, is hard to teach, unless to “think” guides the teaching.

Religion teaches we must have moral clarity, but at what point in time does the clarity become muddied by the constant repetition of “only one way?” Does that cancel out empathy? How can one empathise with the feelings of others if they are taught the feelings of others are wrong if the “other” doesn’t feel exactly as the religion says they should? The thinker will challenge that assumption. Just as the thinker will challenge the assumption that guilt by association is true guilt. And all things can be defined by a simple title or place in time.

It may offer some feel-good sense to those who feel abused to simply dismiss everything bad that happens as amoral, I do it myself. But in reality nothing is that simple. When we learn how to think well enough to recognize there is good and bad mixed together everywhere, we can then define and separate one from the other. Then we can use that thinking ability to make choices. Because I reject the notion that the world is that black and white. That we are captive to an impossible with no way out.

I also reject the notion that we can define a persons morality by their personality. It has been my experience that often the highly emotional, animated and vocal are driven as much by a need for attention (think politician) as by an ability to aggressively attack a problem. Likewise the person who functions soberly, slowly, with careful thought and little comment, may be focusing a lot more on the problem.

I know myself well enough to say, in a disaster, I’d probably be the one running around screaming call 911! Better to get out of the way and let the sober and serious help. Does that make me amoral? Does that make the sober and serious who quietly step in and do what they can amoral?

Think.

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By Amon Drool, March 25, 2009 at 5:33 am Link to this comment

i pretty much quit reading hedge’s stuff a while back even tho he’s obviously intelligent and there is much truth in what he says.  just too much humorless progressive preachiness for my tastes. i am glad that TD keeps posting his stuff tho…reading thru this thread has been a blast.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 25, 2009 at 4:04 am Link to this comment

What p***es me off is that “right” and “wrong” are really not difficult abstract concepts. 

If it’s not yours, don’t take it!
If you make a promise, keep it.
Don’t hit someone who didn’t hit you first.
If you screw up, admit it, stop screwing up, accept the consequences and move on.
Don’t hurt the ones you love by indulging short-term desires.
Don’t kill someone who isn’t trying to kill you first.

How the f*** can you not know these things?  Yet time and time again EVERY CRISIS is due to someone not following these basic rules of life.

Here’s another pretty basic one: Don’t “roll the dice” with someone else’s money. There’s a difference between risk and gambling when it’s somebody else’s hard-earned dough. Imagine it’s your Mom’s or Dad’s retirement money.

Yet we see civic, business and religious leaders constantly seem to have trouble with this basic kindergarten stuff.  Do I have a problem with Haggard or Hazard or whatever that preacher’s name was having gay sex with a male hooker?

Yes: Because he was publicly attacking “homosexuality” as a sin.
Yes: Because for his own selfish-short term desires he was hurting the ones he loved.
Yes: He was breaking a promise.

It’s not a battle between Rand-ian selfishness and Socialism.  It’s very possible to follow EITHER philosophy honestly and STILL live by these rules.

Rand-ian enlightened selfishness and greed is a scapegoat blamed for flat-out thievery

Socialism is a scapegoat blamed for attempts to STOP that flat-out thievery.

Both scapegoats are lies.

I’m not religious at all but I’m always shocked when I hear someone say it’s hard to live according to the 10 Commandments?  Why?

WTF is so hard about following the non-deity ones, starting with “Honor your father and mother”? OK, some parents are disasters and don’t deserve it, but most do.  And the best way to honor them is to be GOOD parents yourselves!

Don’t murder.  This is tough?????
Don’t commit adultery:  My view is this has little to do with sex and EVERYTHING to do with cheating on your mate.  Yet it’s been twisted to mean ANY sex not sanctioned by the Church or Synagogue, Mosque or Temple.

Don’t steal…DUH!

Don’t lie to hurt someone else.

And on and on. I’m always amazed that people say these are hard to live by when they are just common sense.

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By 99jonny100, March 24, 2009 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment

A significant oversight on the part of Mr. Hedges—What ever happened to
warrantless wire tapping? Did it just go away magically? I haven’t heard any
mention of it since Jan. 20th. Have you?
Its a hobby of mine to try to spot the cameras at traffic intersections. It seems
easier nowadays, and they’ve become more numerous, as strings of cameras now
festoon the interstate recording our movements as well.
Am I the only one here still uneasy about 1984?  Look around you, fools. While you play Tweedledum and Tweedledee—;
The fascist police state is here to stay.

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By flow, March 24, 2009 at 8:42 pm Link to this comment

jbmjr #

Well said. Very intriguing. As the house of sand constructed by the decaying paradigm disintegrates, it is precisely this kind of imaginative, intuitive insight and discernment that will—that must—furnish the cornerstone for the new construction.

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By Leefeller, March 24, 2009 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

glagadec,

Astute comment of opinion, very close to my own.

Find it interesting you mention tone. It has been one of my special interests on these threads. Many times I have been able to make a decision on suggestions, of bigotry from posters, through the code of tone displayed by their wording.  Many other things can be received or suggested from tone.  It can be fascinating sometimes how people express their opinions.

Missing here are the inflections of voice and facial expression not to mention posture or hand movement. So this is what we have to work with and interpret from, tone.

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By msgmi, March 24, 2009 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A Moral Bailout? It’s simple, get Tom Delay to head what was AIG and now is AIU. Tom and his ‘reborn christians’ can stock the board of directors and before “amen’ is said, the miracle of a moral bailout will put the financial markets on Wall Street into a Mardi Gras spell.

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By Dan, March 24, 2009 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is not my my writing but my dad’s.  I think he says it best.

Let me respond to Hedges’ overheated article, “America is in Need of a Moral Bailout.” First, while Hedges’ fact-free rhetoric of outrage appeals to his audience—leftist academics and liberal arts undergraduates—because it gives them a sense of moral superiority, to everyone else the screed leaves a bad after taste.

  Second, the article seems dated as if it were written in 1969, not 2009. Hedges drones on about the Power Elite converting liberal arts colleges into “vocational factories,” as if there’s no consumer choice in the matter. Colleges provide a service and like any business adjust their mix of products and services to meet changing demands.Colleges are responding to market forces, and not dancing to the tune of the Power Elite. Colleges expanded their business programs because that’s what their customers—prospective students and their parents—wanted. Higher Education is a business, get over it.

  Hedges speaks of this monolithic entity called the “press.” In this era of niche blogging, newspaper closings and Internet news, there’s no such thing. The alt website where you found this screed, truthdig, touts itself as “drilling beneath the headlines.”

  Hedges’ invocation of Auschwitz and vocational education was repellent. It is insulting, and flat wrong, for Hedges to attempt to link the two behind a 1967 essay by Adorno. Adorno was wrong, and Hedges is doubly so.Looking at historical facts, as opposed to red-tinted generalities, Intellectuals formed the leadership cadre of both the Nazi Party and Bolshevikk Party. These guys weren’t engineers or businessmen, they were self-identified Intellectuals. Lenin was not an engineer; Hitler never had an MBA.

  Third, Hedges’ moral condescension is offensive. In Hedges’ world, if you’re a philosophy or English major, you’re imbued with an oppositional, critical spirit. You’re capable of thought. On the other hand, if you’re a business major or engineering major, you’re an automaton who uncritically accepts all the “assumptions of corporate culture.” That’s bullshit, Dan. Pure crap.

  Fourth, Hedges claims, without proof or argument, that “the values that sustain an open society have been crushed.” That’s news to me and the millions of Americans who voted for Obama and liberal Democrats in the last election. If these “values” were crushed and everyone but left wing journalists, academics and liberal arts undergraduates is imprisoned by a false consciousness, how could Obama have won the election. Hedges’ piece is long on rhetoric, short on facts.

Last, Hedges labels and psychologizes his political opponents whom those he deems his moral inferiors. According to Hedges, those who don’t share his lefty, liberal arts boosterism views, are emotionally crippled, unable to have authentic human experiences, mentally ill, schizoid. This pernicious labeling of others is, for me, most offensive. Hedges essay would have been simply silly and dated without the insults. With these insults, he becomes that which he attacks: cruel, insensitive, arrogant, vicious.

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By maninwarren, March 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment

“Moral autonomy”, i.e., the practice of doing what’s right because it is right, regardless of whom it may offend or what institutions is may threaten.  And it is exactly what our new president seems to lack.  He has consistently deferred to the “experts” running the military-industrial complex, and so we are on the same road we were on under Bush.

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By Larry, March 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

YES! There is soooo much lying by businesses.

There was just a story recently about Best Buy (I call them Worst Buy) having their employees lie to customers who wanted to buy items in accordance with Best Buy’s advertised price matching policy, but who were then denied based on—-lies.

Almost every advertisement on television is a lie in one way or another.

I used to work for a ready mixed concrete company. They lied to their customers and cheated them when the company left some two or three old leftover concrete in the truck and added some fresh material, then sent that to the customer. Old wet concrete “sets off” newer wet concrete. Meaning that more water must be added, which weakens the later hardened concrete.

The recent news about the peanut company and their death-causing product.

Companies collecting money to get homeowners better loans, when the customer ends up worse off.

The Circuit City liquidation, where the liquidators raised prices before screaming 10 PERCENT OFF!!!!

The old Firestone tire story (involving blowout deaths), where factors management told workers to use partially made tires that had failed to meet normal quality standards.

And there is so many more examples.

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By glagadec, March 24, 2009 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

I quit posting comments on Youtube a long time ago because of the rudeness and sarcasm that some people pass off as chic intellualizing.New to this forum, I told a joke to illustrate a point about moral relativism. Although I do not agree with some of the assessments of Chris Hedges’ article, I did read them and found them interesting and well written. I will not engage in the type of snide and rude comments already directed at the comment I recently made. Thank you for your demonstation of superior knowledge, but that was the story as I heard it, and I believe it does accomplish my goal: to illustrate the current condition of obfuscation and rationalization that now represents our culture. There is also a general lack of civility and an inablity to argue a point with out an unnecessary, derogatory tone. Tone is everything when it comes to human discourse. Many have become deaf.

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By jbmjr, March 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment

I’ve lived my life by the code of treating others as I want to be treated, but I’ve come to the realization that the situation is more complex than our moral assumptions take into account.
For one thing, good vs. bad isn’t some overarching conflict. The attraction to the beneficial and repulsion of the detrimental is the primordial biological binary code on which all our thought processes are based. Amoebae distinguish between good and bad. We are just very complex manifestations of that basic impulse. Between black and white are not just shades of grey, but all the colors of the spectrum. The problem with idealizing good vs. bad is that it creates a brittle linear morality, where if a little of something is good, than a lot must be that much better and anything at all bad, is all bad. There is no conceptual understanding of reciprocity, reaction, balance, laws of unintended consequences, etc. This complexity is usually derided as moral relativism and everyone choses sides.
This goes to the nature of what God is. Pope John Paul II described God as the “all-knowing absolute.” This is a contradiction, because knowledge is a feedback loop of distinction and judgement, while the universal state of the absolute has no distinctions. It is the equilibrium. Zero, not one. The blank page, not the point at the center. A spiritual absolute would be the essence of being from which we rise, not a morally perfect and intellectually omnipresent ideal from which we fell.
It would be nice if there were simple absolutes we could all adhere to, but it’s time we begin to accept that it’s not that simple. Nature bootstraps itself up out of the muck, with each generation as foundation and fodder for the next. The next stage would be a transition from being the top predator of the of the planetary ecosystem, to central nervous system of the planetary organism, but it would take drastic change on the part of everyone.
It is the ideas which are the framework of society and civilization. If the moral model could be restated, it would undermine many of the more entrenched social and religious conflicts. Not right away, but if it can be broadly understood that the source is the essence and not the ideal, it would return conflict to basic tribal interaction, not divine ordination and compromise would be more logical. The polytheists invented democracy, while monotheism validated the divine right of kings.
In regard to the economic meltdown, it would require rethinking how the economy functions. Economics 101 is supply and demand. With capital, the supply is the lender and demand is the borrower. After decades of supply side economics giving every break to the lenders, the borrowers are now broke. Having the taxpayers buy the bad debts from the lenders to give them more money to lend isn’t going to fix the problem of limited borrowing. Money is a publicly supported utility, like a road system. It has to be publicly administered. This doesn’t mean one huge national bank, but to have banking as local as possible, with every level of government, county, town, city, state, having a banking function and profits going to fund local infrastructure. Political power used to be private once. It was called monarchy. The monarchists railed against mob rule, but democracy works by distributing the power as broadly as possible, through various layers of governance. Now we need to do the same with economic power.
If people understood money as a public utility in the first place, we would be less inclined to drain value out of our communities and environment to put in a bank.

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By Graymatter7, March 24, 2009 at 4:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just as a point of clarification, I think Eisenhower originally wrote, “...the industrial-military congressional” complex, but changed it before delivering the address. Giroux revised it to academic.

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By flow, March 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

Thomas Geoghegan on “Infinite Debt: How Unlimited Interest Rates Destroyed the Economy”

What does the proliferation of usury suggest about the moral fiber of our culture?

AMY GOODMAN: In your history of usury, basically, from ancient times to today, you’re also giving a labor history, a labor history of this country.

THOMAS GEOGHEGAN: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

THOMAS GEOGHEGAN: Well, history—historians like Niall Ferguson, conservative historians and progressive historians, many economic historians, see history as nothing but a turf war between three groups: the manufacturers, workers and the bondholders, or the financial sector.

So where does labor fit in in all of this? People lost the ability to get wage increases and got the ability, an incredible ability, really unknown in previous times, to get credit cards with which they had high rates of interest. So, unable to get wage increases, people—or unable to get union cards, really, people got credit cards and began running up these great debts, which addicted the country to high rates of return in the financial sector, so that people were kind of spending their way out of the real economy, pushing more and more money, by the fact that they were going into debt, into this virtual financial sector economy. So, really, the inability of people to raise their own wages and the incredible ease with which they could get credit instead helped create this flow of capital out of manufacturing and into finance. You know, we, the little people in this country, helped finance the bloating up of this financial sector and really the downsizing of our own jobs in the real economy. We sent the signals, you know, to investors to put money into the financial sector and not into the manufacturing sector.

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/3/24/thomas_geoghegan_on_infinite_debt_how

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By WarrenMetzler, March 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suggest the following regarding morality. Each activity can be done in a manner that produces an optimal outcome; each outcome involving a result that is excellent, and each participant thoroughly enjoyed doing that activity. When a person does an activity and takes the actions, plus focuses on the aspects, that results in an optimal outcome being produced that is behaving morally. When a person does an activity and avoids taking the actions and focusing on the aspects that lead to an optimal outcome that is behaving immorally.

Each person moves toward being consistently moral, or moves toward being consistently immoral. The government functions in accord with the mindset of the majority of the population, same with corporations; not the other way around. So each person who becomes consistently moral is doing her share to have society as a whole become consistently moral.

It is up to each of us to live our personal lives in a manner that works, it is not up to any of us to get other people to change how they operate, that has never worked.

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By M.B.S.S., March 24, 2009 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

sprag80a:  your buttress chris’s point by showing your view of colleges as mcdonalds.

Colleges provide a service and like any business adjust their mix of products and services to meet changing demands.Colleges are responding to market forces, and not dancing to the tune of the Power Elite. Colleges expanded their business programs because that’s what their customers—prospective students and their parents—wanted. Higher Education is a business, get over it.

isnt this exactly the problem?  cant education aspire to anything higher than pumping out hamburgers?  havent corporate interests skewed higher education?

Third, Hedges’ moral condescension is offensive. In Hedges’ world, if you’re a philosophy or English major, you’re imbued with an oppositional, critical spirit. You’re capable of thought. On the other hand, if you’re a business major or engineering major, you’re an automaton who uncritically accepts all the “assumptions of corporate culture.”

i went to one of the best engineering schools in the nation.  some of these business majors and engineers where amazing with regard to the specificities of their field.  ask them a question which requires critical thought or have them give some analysis of shakespeare and you will see what many of them are made of.  childish dribble at best.  they have a swollen bicep and a withered tricept.  also worshipping at the alter of corporate culture was the soup du jour.

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By KDelphi, March 24, 2009 at 1:45 pm Link to this comment

Yes, ITW, but, what are we to do with children who chose poorly when they chose parents? Also, please back off of glacadec—who gives a damn about a joke? They were here for the first time, and, personally, I think we can use some varied voices here.

Folktruther—You make some very good points. I havent read Hedges’atheist” book—I can only afford so many, and I know that I would disagree with so much…I havent bothered. But, you are right—-religion is a big killer of progresivism…

felicity—glad to see someone else blaming capitalism. Be careful though—in ths country , youre better off blaming almost anything else. We are not so much a religous country as a MONEY country….

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By Leefeller, March 24, 2009 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment

Somebody Else,

Thanks for you insight. Your comments about Hedges attitude towards atheists was in the back of my mind as I continued to read his article.  Hedges did not say anything new in this article. Everything mentioned has been suggested before by others. Notice he did not use the word plutocracy for some reason, or did I miss it?

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By TAO Walker, March 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

This old Savage has many times noted here that the real “rotten apples” the domesticated peoples must get rid of are those of their own tormentor-mimicking habits and attitudes, picked-up Stockholm Syndrome-style during their captivity, that have taken such a hold in their “individual” half-lives, and in the sociopathic CONfabulations arising out of that stifling CONscription.  We can best leave those “great-and-powerful” fools themselves, and maybe their two-legged tools, too, to the reliably perfect mercies of Life Herownself.

So the “differences” WriterOnTheStorm seems to see between our respective ‘takes’ on “things,” as we’ve offered them here, appear to this old Indian to be without any discernible distinctions.  One possible divergence might be in her/his accepting as valid western civ’s “universality” CONceit.  Us surviving free wild Human Beings see “civilization” (of whatever brand) clearly IN the effectively limitless context of The Way, rather than as some all-pervasive CONstruct sufficient unto both its “victims” and itself….the CONstricted “view” to which its owner/operators try so mightily to permanently CONfine those same involuntary inmates.

Chris Hedges does generally remain, in his “thinking,” well-inside “the box” he was born-and-raised inside.  He does, however, offer us a pretty accurate “survey” of that box’s suffocating ideological/institutional “boundaries.”  Meantime, he and others here evidently remain CONvinced there’s really nothing outside their CONsumption CONtraption worth looking into….a “rotten” notion that suits the wannabe parasitic pretenses of their abusers to-a-‘T’ (for Texas? or for 10-S.E.?).

Sure is a good thing there’s so much more to the Great Song ‘n’ Dance we all REALLY belong-to.

HokaHey!

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By geronimo, March 24, 2009 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We’re At The Abyss

Based on?

Perpetual war + global warming + economic collapse = doomsday

Prevention?

Turnabout

Where?

Everywhere

Who?

Everyone

How?

We just do it

When?

Now

And then what sort of world?

It’ll be up to us

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By felicity, March 24, 2009 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

Reading Hedges I turned to Orwell who said that the common man, to be controlled must remain an “ignorant fanatic, whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation and orgiastic triumph,” and decided that we seem to qualify as ‘controlled.’

Otherwise, I blame capitalism for our present condition.  It’s a system which has been described as ‘creative destruction,’ easily exemplified by the hedge funder, a predator who targets the weak and infirm. 

It creates unlimited economic power for some with the necessary consequence of economic powerlessness for others.  Powerlessness is a sure-fire breaker of the human spirit and when that’s broken our humanity is broken.

And now we’ve finally reached the point where capitalism, the efficiency and viability of which is to make profit as close to the poison line as possible, has crossed the line and finally gone septic.

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By dougherty, March 24, 2009 at 11:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

there is no such thing as “moral nihilism” - nihilsm is a concept of moral philosopjy to begin with -nihilism is the morale of empty values so to speak - commonly thought of as the absence of values, nihilism is the attack upon values in the name of values, it is an energy of empty values (nihil mean zero, as is used in the sense of empty) to suppress real values; early revolutionaries were accused of being nihilists for they attacked the values of a corrupt and repressive society - but they were trying to revalue society in the name of justice - this scared the neurotically attached and unstable observor like Dostoyevsky who felt that vibrant belief systems like Orthodox Christianity which in fact question the values of modern society as well were to be buried by this “nihilsm” and then and without Christianity, humanity itself wpul;d disappear ,for in his view Christianity reconciled something that the violence of society could not address -  Nietzsche used the term best: in the place of any real values,a movement would be used to promote the idea of values: that is consumerism and warfare capitalism today, which destroy values while replacing them,  “values” that are in fact a camouflage for the emptying out of all value - Adorno would agree ... in fact he wrote about nothing else!

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By Farid, March 24, 2009 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks Mr Hedges for this piece. My son and I read your articles together - particularly the ones like this that deal with education.

You’re a voice of reason and your contribution to the humanity is appreciated.

Cheers.

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By Inherit The Wind, March 24, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

‘it’s like the boss who asks his secretary: “Would you commit adultery for $50,000? She blushes and responds: ” Well. I guess I might be tempted.” He asks: “Well, how about $50.00?” She indignantly asks:“Just what kind of woman do you think I am?” His response: We’ve already established that!” ‘

If you’re gonna tell the story tell it right!

Oscar Wilde was at a party and out of boredom struck up a conversation with a young debutante.  When it got to the subject of marriage he asked her if would marry “that rich old man for his money”.  She said, “Of course!” 
“Then, would you sleep with that handsome young soldier for a fiver?”
“Sir! What do you think I am?”
“We’ve established that.” said Wilde, “Now we’re just haggling!”

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By prole, March 24, 2009 at 10:51 am Link to this comment

“Theodor Adorno in 1967 wrote an essay called “Education After Auschwitz” - at about the same time he was defending Israel’s sneak attack on the Arab countries in the Six Day War, a forerunner of the concept of preemptive self-defense later popularized in the infamous Bush doctrine. This latter doctrine too was concocted - and acted upon - by zionists like Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, et.al.  Since he expired in ‘69, it’s not possible to know for sure how Adorno would rationalize the conduct of his beloved Israel today, or the U.S. either,  for that matter. Adorno didn’t go quite so far as his close collaborater in the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer did, in endorsing America’s barbarous assault on Vietnam, but he was still quite sympathetic to the U.S., often finding himself somewhat at odds with the student radicals of his day. On one occasion in January ‘69, Adorno even resorted to calling the cops to clear striking students out of his Institute for Social Research building. To this day - for anyone still interested in arcane Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School - there’s an unresolved tension between theory and praxis that have led many to be a little sceptical of Adorno’s seemingly detached Ivory Tower intellectualism. Not only on the Right which can easily afford to ignore him altogether - especially in America where he’s virtually unknown today - but even on the Left where his brand of lofty, abstruse abstactions seem often remote from everyday practical struggle. Adorno was convinced that political struggle must be waged through the medium of theory. He not only asserted “theory a form of praxis”, he believed false praxis to be as good as no praxis. He was dismissive of activism as “the attempt to rescue enclaves of immediacy in the midst of a thoroughly mediated and rigidified society.” Such that “People locked in, desperately want to get out. In such situations one doesn’t think any more, or does so only under fictive premises”... Etc., etc. Or, in Hedges’ updated version, “a system of propaganda and a press that offered little more than spectacle and entertainment and an educational system that did not transmit transcendent values or nurture the capacity for individual conscience.”  But Adorno, as Hedges avers, not only “feared a culture that banished the anxieties and complexities of moral choice and embraced a childish hyper-masculinity, one championed by ruthless capitalists”, he also feared political activism and class-based politics, preferring instead to largely retreat into his own rarefied sanctum of opaque theory, which can be almost as remote and inaccessible much of the time to many on the Left as it is to those on the Right, not to mention the apolitical majority.  Adorno is almost as scornful of “a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency” among political activists as he is among ruling elites. But if, as Adorno warned, “It is especially difficult to fight against it,” it’s almost as difficult to even comprehend it through Adorno’s labyrinthian theory. Like Freud’s vaporous theory - from which the Frakfurt School critique of bourgeois society draws much of its inpiration - Adorno’s Critical Theory is largely a backdoor attack on Protestant culture by self-seeking Jewish intellectuals seeking greater personal prominence in the existing power structure. The same processes ocurred in a different theoretical guise more recently in the rise of the neocon political movement in America, also a largely Jewish cabal of crackpot theorists bent on pursuing their own self-interest and that of Israel with grandiose theories about spreading freedom and democracy. And now we have “manipulative characters” like Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, et.al. to misguide the goyim. They’ve always got something up their sleeve.

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By glagadec, March 24, 2009 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

This is a great site; I really enjoyed some of the comments on both sides of Chris Hedges statement. They really made me think, although I have to admit that some of the vitriol made me re-read his statement and I still don’t get some of the negative responses. I just finished John Perkin’s books: “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” and “The Secret History of the American Empire”; I also read Hiatt’s book: “A game as old as Empire” and I really can’t help but come to the conclusion that corporations have become really dangerous when the bottom line is God.I am a part -timer at a small local college and I do believe that there is something to the change in the intellectual ambiance- if I may use that word- in this college. Perhaps it’s a fluke, but there has been a notable lack of any student outrage at some of the excessives of the Bush administration in the past eight years. I realize of course that there is an intrinsic value judgement being made here, but when I volunteered to serve in Vietnam, I took an oath to defend the Constitution. There was no “signing statment”, no provisional clause letting me off the hook from this obligation. Have things changed that much? I believe situational ethics is no ethics at all. ;it’s like the boss who asks his secretary: “Would you commit adultery for $50,000? She blushes and responds: ” Well. I guess I might be tempted.” He asks: “Well, how about $50.00?” She indignantly asks:“Just what kind of woman do you think I am?” His response: We’ve already established that!” Judging from many experiences in the classroom, too many of my students view my attempt to pose some of the “big questions” as a waste of time or wooly-headed, unrealistic philosophizing. Maybe they’re correct, but to dismiss Mr. Hedges admonitions too quickly is a mistake.It is ironic that the really clever are so often scooped up by the corporate machine that offers big returns on soul purchases.

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By flow, March 24, 2009 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

Not long ago, during the previous administration, 70% of American citizens polled indicated they believed the country was on the wrong track with regard to the war in Iraq.  It was not making us safer, and was consuming an inordinate amount of precious blood and treasure.

Yesterday, Obama indicated he understands the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the Geithner Plan, but saving the banks is mandatory, given that the consequence of not saving the banks is too great.

So, at least in this respect, there is continuity between the administrations; both are perfectly willing to disregard the will of their constituents in favor of their favored policies. Policies that obviously benefit a very narrow field of interests, and seem deliberately engineered to maintain the status quo, but are never-the-less presented as having the benefit of the greater good in mind.  A complicit and dysfunctional Congress swaggers right along, though now the republicans are cast in the role of the dissenters.

My question: Why is saving the banks mandatory?

Can anyone present an argument that absolutely demonstrates that the majority of Americans would not be better off—5 or 10 years from now—if the banks were allowed to fail? Even if such policy would result in catastrophic systemic failure?

The answer is no. The reason the answer is no, absolutely not, is because any argument concerning the future must necessarily rely on a model that involves theorizing, conjecture, speculation and assumptions. All the factors and inputs contributing to the eventual outcome cannot be known simultaneously, therefore the outcome cannot be determined with any degree of certainty.  Even near term probabilities may be deduced with only a reasonable—not absolute—degree of certainty.  As the event horizon is extended beyond the near term there is a diminishing degree of certainty concerning the accuracy and validity of any prediction.

In addition, it depends on how you define “better off.”

I say let the banks fail. Let’s show the world why this is the land of the free and home of the brave. Allow the market to distribute the consequences to all parties involved. The long term effects of the moral hazard produced by the current policy, seem to me, to be the greater danger and potentially more devastating than something as simply as reconstructing a banking system or federal government.  A little catastrophe may be just the catalyst required to naturally incline US towards rectification of the moral decay at the heart of our crisis.  But, alas, I am only speculating and cannot know that with any certainty.

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By 99jonny100, March 24, 2009 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

I wonder how it is that Mr. Hedges is ignoring the last 250 years of American
history. Well before Ayn Rand, that is, the means have been justifying the end
in the USA. Take for one instance the militarism that has its grip around our
collective throats today: the tradition of aggression by our nation’s armed
forces rivals apple pie as moral fare.
In the last 4 months over 500 whales and dolphins have beached themselves
in southern Australia and Tasmania. Scientists can debate the causes of this tragedy forever,
until the US and Australian Navies confess that the use of “active Sonar” is
murdering these highly intelligent, self conscious fellow beings of ours. I
predict these species will join the minions of the extinct in our childrens’s
lifetime. Of course the demise of the whales will also be expedited by Japanese and
Scandinavian hunters, who kill and eat them, and extract financialy valuable
products from their cadavers.
Just one example of moral degradation Mr. Hedges could have mentioned in
his well written lambasting of American values.

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By jack, March 24, 2009 at 9:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

nothing is salvagable of this monstrous criminal system. it will collapse under it’s own weight unfortunately as always there will be victims.

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By sprag80, March 24, 2009 at 8:54 am Link to this comment

Let me respond to Hedges’ overheated rant, “America is in Need of a Moral Bailout.” First, while Hedges’ fact-free rhetoric of outrage appeals to his audience—leftist academics and liberal arts undergraduates—because it gives them a sense of moral superiority. To everyone else the screed leaves a bad after taste.

  Second, the article seems dated as if it were written in 1969, not 2009. Hedges drones on about the Power Elite converting liberal arts colleges into “vocational factories,” as if there’s no consumer choice in the matter. Colleges provide a service and like any business adjust their mix of products and services to meet changing demands.Colleges are responding to market forces, and not dancing to the tune of the Power Elite. Colleges expanded their business programs because that’s what their customers—prospective students and their parents—wanted. Higher Education is a business, get over it.

  Hedges speaks of this monolithic entity called the “press.” In this era of niche blogging, newspaper closings and Internet news, there’s no such thing. The alt website that published this rant touts itself as “drilling beneath the headlines.”

  Hedges’ linkage of Auschwitz and vocational education is repellent. It is insulting, and flat wrong, for Hedges to attempt to link the two while hiding behind a 1967 Adorno essay. Adorno was wrong, and Hedges is doubly so.Looking at historical facts, as opposed to red-tinted generalities, Intellectuals formed the leadership cadre of both the Nazi Party and Bolshevikk Party. These guys weren’t engineers or businessmen, they were self-identified Intellectuals. Lenin was not an engineer; Hitler never had an MBA.

  Third, Hedges’ moral condescension is offensive. In Hedges’ world, if you’re a philosophy or English major, you’re imbued with an oppositional, critical spirit. You’re capable of thought. On the other hand, if you’re a business major or engineering major, you’re an automaton who uncritically accepts all the “assumptions of corporate culture.” 

  Fourth, Hedges claims, without proof or argument, that “the values that sustain an open society have been crushed.” That’s news to me and the millions of Americans who voted for Obama and liberal Democrats in the last election. If these “values” were crushed and everyone but left wing journalists, academics and liberal arts undergraduates is imprisoned by a false consciousness, how could Obama have won the election. Hedges’ piece is long on rhetoric, short on facts.

Last, Hedges labels and psychologizes his political opponents whom he deems his moral inferiors. According to Hedges, those who don’t share his lefty, liberal arts boosterism views, are emotionally crippled, unable to have authentic human experiences, mentally ill, schizoid. This pernicious labeling of others is, for me, most offensive. Hedges essay would have been simply silly and dated without the insults. With these insults, he becomes that which he attacks: cruel, insensitive, arrogant, vicious.

  Lesson over.

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