B Traven on Finding a Job

The Treasure of the Sierra MadreThe bench on which Dobbs was sitting was not so good. One of the slats was broken; the one next to it was bent so that to have to sit on it was a sort of punishment. If Dobbs deserved punishment, or if this punishment was being inflicted upon him unjustly, as most punishments are, such a thought did not enter his head at this moment. He would have noticed that he was sitting uncomfortably only if somebody had asked him if he was comfortable. Nobody, of course, bothered to question him.

Dobbs was too much occupied with other thoughts to take any account of how he was sitting. Just then he was looking for a solution to that age-old problem which makes so many people forget all other thoughts and things. He worked his mind to answer the question: how can I get some money right now?

If you already have some money, then it is easier to make more, because you can invest the little you have in some sort of business that looks promising. Without a cent to call yours, it is difficult to make any money at all.

Dobbs had nothing. In fact, he had less than nothing, for even his clothes were neither good nor complete. Good clothes may sometimes be considered a modest fund to begin some enterprise with.

Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn’t know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.

Dobbs would have carried heavy stones in a wheelbarrow ten hours a day if someone had offered him the job, but even had the job been open, he would have been the last to land it, because there already would be hundreds waiting and the natives of the country come first and a foreigner afterwards, if ever.

—B Traven
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

H/T: Paul Krugman

America Goes to War Because It’s Always Afraid

Don't call me chicken, or I'll have to go to war!Paul Waldman has addressed an important question, Why ISIL Wants to Be in a War With America. But before we get to that, let me throw in with Waldman on another point: it is an insult to YouTube artists to say that ISIS creates “slickly produced” videos. Even he gives them too much credit, “[I]t’s nothing your teenage nephew couldn’t create with a few hours and a copy of any of a dozen free video editing programs.” I think Flames of War absolutely sucks. It’s got one nice (but at this point totally cliched) bit in slow motion. But otherwise, it is cluttered and clumsy. And it doesn’t make a clear point. It is clearly meant to be like Bush the Younger’s “Bring it on” comment. But I only know that because I already knew it. Anyway, the only reason that anyone says that ISIS videos are slick is because they are something more than a man sitting on a pillow ranting.

Waldman’s argument is that ISIS wants the United States to be at war with them. That is obviously true. It is a recruiting tactic. It is also a way for the leaders of ISIS to fluff themselves up. It means that they are the biggest baadassssses in the world. At least in their own minds. I remember in the lead-up to the Persian Gulf War. The television news endlessly repeated that Iraq had the fifth largest military in the world! What that actually meant was that Iraq didn’t have much of a military.

But of course that was true. The United States doesn’t go to war with countries that have big militaries. Is there any question that we will go to war with Russia or China? Of course not! The big prize for the neoconservatives is to go to war with Iran. That would be a total disaster. But that is the biggest game that the chickenhawks are willing to go after. No one wants a proper war where taxes might have to go up or American children might have to be drafted. That’s why we have to whip up terror about little authoritarians the world over — as long as they don’t have nuclear weapons!

The people in ISIS are smart though. They clearly understand the United States a lot better than we understand ISIS. It doesn’t take much to get the people of the United States to start screaming for war. I wrote about this last week, We Will Soon Regret Bombing Syria:

The media have managed to work the American people up into yet another of their fear and anger tantrums. And so the call has gone out. The Batman light is shining on the clouds above. “Please save us! Do something! Make our fear go away!” So Obama “reluctantly” accepts what all the “liberal” and conservative analysts always say: more bombing in more places until it becomes clear that it isn’t doing any good.

Waldman pointed out that just because ISIS wants the United States to be drawn into this conflict doesn’t mean it is actually to ISIS’s benefit. That’s true enough. But I think he misses the main point: in a fundamental way, ISIS absolutely can’t lose. The best case scenario for the United States is that it crushes ISIS. There will be two results of this. First, no one will care. The United States military is almost the same size (in terms of funding) as every other country in the world combined. So we take out a regional army with a tens of thousands of mostly badly trained soldiers? Who cares?!

The second result is even more important. If ISIS is destroyed, it will just be replaced with another group like it that the American media will claim is “even worse than ISIS!” The reason is because ISIS didn’t spring up in a vacuum. The Sunnis are not happy. They have been oppressed by the newly empowered Shia in Iraq. Now there is something we could do about that. We could create a kind of Marshall Plan for Iraq. But we didn’t do that before and I see no reason why the people of America would beg for it now. After all, there won’t be public beheadings of American journalists and so the United States will go back to its normal posture of making the entire world a lucrative playground for our corporations.

If ISIS is stupid or ignorant in any way, it is this: they don’t need to provoke the United States into stupid wars. We do it all by ourselves. This is because Americans are a bunch of terrified pussies. But ISIS can be forgiven for not understanding this about us. Any reasonable (or right wing authoritarian theocracy) would think that after two centuries a country would be self-assured enough to not act like a child on a playground who’s afraid of being called a chicken.

Sean Hannity’s Fascist Child Rearing Advice

Sean Hannity“I got hit with a strap. Bam! Bam! Bam! And I’ve never been to a shrink…” That was what Sean Hannity had to say about corporal punishment. It isn’t surprising that he would be a big advocate of beating children into submission. Most people who are brutalized as children hold this kind of opinion. And among conservatives, this kind of thing just makes sense in the same way that constant warfare and torture makes sense.

Now I won’t psychoanalyze Hannity, because I don’t think it is necessary. The 16 words above speak for themselves. And his additional comment that he’s never been to a shrink is just brilliant. Imagine a guy with a tumor the size of a grapefruit on the side of his head who insists nothing is wrong with him because he’s never been to a doctor. He’s fine. Really. Never felt the need. That must mean there is nothing wrong with him.

In the case of Sean Hannity, the tumor is pretty obvious. It’s pretty obvious on Bill O’Reilly too. Joe Scarborough is a conservative hack who rarely has anything interesting to say, but at least he isn’t out there cheer-leading for child abuse.

Check out the following segment from The Young Turks, because it provides a number of different times that Sean Hannity has fought the good fight in favor of brutalizing children:

The fundamental argument here seems to be that the way children were raised in the past is the the right way. Norms never change! Of course, by this logic, we would still be burning heretics. So what is it that we are afraid might happen? That little boys won’t grow up to be brutes like their fathers? This sounds a lot like what Hitler thought about the rearing of children:

My teaching will be hard. Weakness will be knocked out of them. A violently active, dominating, brutal youth — that is what I am after. Youth must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness and tenderness in it.

He goes on to talk about how knowledge is the ruin of his young men. If Sean Hannity is not a full-fledged fascist, he is a proto-fascist. And this is the thinking that he disseminates to millions on his radio and television shows. This is what the power elite want Americans to hear.

“I got hit with a strap. Bam! Bam! Bam! And I’ve never been to a shrink…”

Addressing Global Warming Won’t Hurt Economy, Not That it Matters

Paul KrugmanPaul Krugman wants you to know that it would cost very little to fight climate change, Errors and Emissions. In fact, he wants you to know that doing so might actually improve the economy and spur economic growth. I want him to know that I already knew that. I discussed this last year, Environmentalism Good for Economy Right Now. But he does provide some new work that shows things are even better than anyone thought.

The problem is that this doesn’t matter in the least. Let us consider the twentieth century during which time many tens of millions of Americans had their lives shortened and degraded all in the name of cigarette company profits. Was this good for the economy as a whole? Certainly not. People actively poisoning themselves did not make the auto industry more competitive. It didn’t expand the steel industry. It didn’t make the United States the biggest in the world. No. It made a very small number of people very rich. And in the name of those profits, we let millions of people die. The damage continues to be done.

So even if we discovered that taxing carbon would increase the standard of living of Americans by 50% and make roses smell ever so much better and provide lollipops for the kids, we would not tax carbon. I hate to be a killjoy, but this bears repeating at least a hundred times per day: we do not live in a democracy. It doesn’t matter what is best for the people or the country. What matters is what is good for the powerful. And even though doing something about global warming might be good for the computer industry, the privilege of the computer industry will stop it from standing with the people and against the oil industry.

If the government chooses the people over of the oil companies, who’s next? First they reduced the profits of the oil billionaires and I did not speak out — because my billions came from a different industry…

You know how conservatives are always complaining about how poor people lack impulse control? They are a paragon of virtue compared to the rich. At least the poor know that there are limits on their power. For example, they know that if they jaywalk, some police officer might shoot them in the head because he was “afraid.” But the rich live in a different world where their economic desires are all fulfilled. Thus, they have no impulse control. And why should they have impulse control? Global warming is very unlikely to be so bad that they can’t move to a good location and watch the billions of little people suffer and die from a distance.

Still, I think it is important to get the news out that addressing climate change is not bad for the economy. There are a whole lot of people who argue that it is. I’ve discussed before the three stages of global warming denial, It’s Raining, But Not for Long:

  1. There is no global warming!
  2. There is global warming, but humans aren’t the cause!
  3. Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do!

But the truth is that there is a fourth stage: “There are things we could do about global warming but it will destroy out economy!” And so it is satisfying to bat down that claim as well. But it won’t matter. There will always be another stage of global warming denial. If all else fails, they will start claiming that addressing global warming will not really provide lollipops as I promised earlier. So it’s hopeless!

Beloved Cultural Icon Adam West

Adam WestAdam West is 86 years old today. Hooray! Really: hooray! I don’t think there is a more beloved American actor. First, he brought us the only superhero to the screen that is as campy and ridiculous as superheroes ought to be. And then in recent years, he has played the charming Mayor West on Family Guy, the only man who is truly deserving of Meg. I love him to death and I hope he lives to be 124 — the theoretical limit for humans.

He was born in Walla Walla, Washington — a town so generic that even two names can’t make it memorable. He got his bachelor’s degree in literature and then he was drafted into the Army for what I assume must have been the Korean War. In the army, he became an announcer for American Forces Network television. As a result, after the war, he pretty much fell into television.

He was a bit player throughout the early 1960s until he landed the ultimate gig in the title role of Batman. Although it only ran for three years, there were 120 episodes. Plus, of course, there was the 1966 Batman film. This probably did not make him rich. As I recall, actors of that time only got residuals for the first half dozen repeats. The rest of the money went — Of course! — to the money men who made no creative contribution to the show.

This led to a difficult time for West following the show. He was typecast. But he still managed to work. He did what he could to push past that, including working in low budget films like Zombie Nightmare (which is actually a pretty damned good film). Eventually, of course, he became the cultural icon that he is today. I think for a long time, people thought the original Batman television show was an embarrassment. But it wasn’t. It was brilliant. Really: go back and watch it. You’ll see. Here are highlights from the 1966 film:

Happy birthday Adam West!