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A superpower in decline and the death of the American dream

by Democrats Ramshield Thu Nov 8th, 2012 at 11:43:25 AM EST

(Written by an American expat living in the European Union)

  America's plutocratic government by the rich and for the rich failed to protect the American people on 9/11. Failed to protect the American people during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and now they have failed to protect New York during Hurricane Sandy, because the American government doesn't work for the 59 million Americans who don't have medical insurance. It doesn't work for the 45 million Americans who live on food stamps and live under the poverty line.

In the cover article Divided States of America: Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation, German magazine Der Spiegel scornfully and quite rightly points to the fact that millions of Americans are without power now on the east coast. Particularly in and around New York city because of antiquated power systems that deliver electricity on power lines akin to what is seen commonplace in third world developing nations. Whereas modern electrical utility systems in Germany and prevalent in many other countries in the European Union have their power lines buried underground, because they know if you want good infrastructure that protects the people, you have to be prepared to pay for it. There is no such thing as a free lunch and that means that you have to step up and speak out. The ultra rich must pay their fair share of taxes. A fact that is lost on Capital Hill, lost in government by the rich, for the rich, (remember half of the members of Congress are millionaires) where conservative America's right wing Taliban sacrifices 45,000 Americans annually who according to a recent Harvard study die preventable deaths each and every year because they don't have access to medical care.

Spiegel quote:

Such everyday observations are coalescing into a new, tarnished image of America. Screenwriter Aaron Sorken, the creator of many legendary television series, has come up with a new, brutal look at America. The 10-part drama, "The Newsroom," tells the story of a cynical news anchor who reinvents himself and vows to do everything right in the future. In the show's brilliant premiere, he is asked at a panel discussion to describe why America is the greatest country in the world. After a few tired jokes, the truth comes gushing out of him.

The aforementioned video clip "The Newsroom" on YouTube:

For anyone who can't watch the video, Spiegel quotes this:

"There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world," he says. "We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined."

The German mainstream magazine Der Spiegel in this and other recent articles attendant upon this subject matter repeatedly makes the point that the American people want to be lied to by our politicians, who drag out the same old tired lines about American exceptionalism, when the brutal truth is that in the clear light of day the claim of American exceptionalism is at variance with reality itself. Also please let's remember the truth is never brutal, it simply exists quite unapologetically. This fact has become obvious the world over to all but the mentally comatose in a tale reminiscent of the Emperor's new clothes. In fact the Spiegel quote below is bolstered by a video from Professor Kaku (embedded below) who eloquently makes the point for anyone who is unable to watch the video, that half or more of graduate students in America are now foreign born at our flag ship universities, whose programs would collapse if not for the presence of these foreign born graduate students, and concurrently without those same students working in America's economy likely entire sectors of the economy would collapse in what has become the dumbing down of America, whose education system by international standards has become a failure. As such the term "Ugly American" has now been replaced by the notion that the stupid in America is becoming a mainstay of our failed education system, which has become an international badge of shame, and risks turning America into a global laughing stock. Clearly this must change.

Spiegel quote:

America will feel the effects of this trend. Immigrants made America great and have kept it great. Immigrants, who make up about 12 percent of the current US population, founded more than half of all Silicon Valley companies and filed one in four patent applications between 1995 and 2005. Almost half of all doctoral candidates in engineering and science do not speak English as their first language.

The most talented American students will not be filling the resulting gap, because they'd rather work on Wall Street than in technology and engineering fields. About a third of the students in every graduating class at Harvard University accept jobs in investment banking and consulting, or with hedge funds -- that is, industries that produce one thing above all: fast money.

In Today's America, Long-Term Goals Stand No Chance

Here's a simple truth that while Paul Ryan has been defeated at the polls, he thanks to the wisdom of the voters of Wisconsin, is still not out of public life, as he has been able to maintain his Congressional seat. As such the extreme agenda that he represents along with the American Taliban movement known as the Tea Party, we see a posture wherein the GOP obstructionists have turned their back on a large number of technological innovations such as high speed rail, which would relieve the gridlock on America's highways and airports, in a way that makes sense through a modern green technology whose infrastructure and maintenance would provide for American green jobs that cannot be moved offshore. This would help to move America's antiquated rail system moving at 1950's speeds into the era of high speed rail extant in 2012 in every other highly industrialized country in the world.

More Spiegel quotes (my emphasis):

For instance, the United States is no longer among the world's top 10 countries when it comes to the state of its infrastructure.

Such political reversals don't change the fact that important projects have turned into failed undertakings, while visions have been put on the back burner. The sad fight for more high-speed rail in America is a case in point. High-speed trains only travel on a few routes in the United States at the moment, at an average speed of 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour), which is much slower than Europe's ICE and TGV trains.

The failing project coincides with the image, already a worldwide cliché, of the United States as a country that doesn't understand the signs of the times and has almost willfully -- flying in the face of all scientific knowledge -- chosen to be backward.

On this subject:

Sadly, American plutocrats continue to obstruct investment in a high speed rail system. Their collaborators are American politicians they buy in de-politicized elections funded by private capital, primarily financial capital in a substantially atomized American society, wherein an angry American public is confused, wherein millions no longer know the way out.

The GOP has become an international poster child for the politics of petulant hate, obstruction and derision. As such the Tea Party who has through their actions become the de facto American Taliban is dead set on taking their country back, back to the 1950's in terms of the speed that American trains move at. Back to an era before the Civil Rights movement, back to a time before Penicillin existed, because effectively when 59 million people don't have medical insurance, they might as well be living in the Dark Ages of medical care. So it is that a recent Harvard study documents that 45,000 Americans die annually unnecessarily simply because they don't have access to medical care. When in fact every other major industrialized country in the world as a human right cradle to grave offers some type of universal medical access to all its residents. So when the Tea Party says they want their country back, maybe we should ask them how far back in time do they intend to take America?

More Spiegel quotes (again my emphasis):

In the last five years, Republicans in Congress have used the filibuster a record-breaking 385 times, or as much as it was used in the seven decades between World War I and the end of the administration of former President Ronald Reagan in 1989.

This obstructionism is largely attributable to the group within the Republican Party known as the Tea Party. As filmmaker Sorkin claims, the coalition of ultraconservatives has developed into the "American Taliban."

One day, a statue would also have to be erected for the first black president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. The plaque could very well read that he had the misfortune of coming into office when the American empire was just turning into a beautiful memory.

On this subject:

Now that we're done congratulating ourselves on the hard fought election victory. Enough with the happy talk, it is time to go back to work!

To win in America all we have to do is to care about each other and stick together!
If we are looking for change we must look to the Occupy movement to provide that peaceful nonviolent approach to change in helping to elect better progressive politicians to public office. The Occupy movement and the American unions are the last great hope of the American working class dream!!

The Occupy movement and the American unions are the last great hope of the American working class dream!!

if this is true, the battle is over. I'm waiting for the end Of The Empire, which probably means the end of the USA itself.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 07:40:19 AM EST
... American exceptionalism ...


  1. Ignorant

  2. Stupid

  3. Obese

  4. Selfish

Need I go on?

No offense intended but I don't see what there is worth saving. Let someone else be The Empire for a change ... I'm tired ... I'm bored with it.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 07:52:25 AM EST
Eh. Every nation, religion, or social group have the exceptionalism disease in some form.

Americans are just better at PR, so we hear about it world wide.

by Number 6 on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 08:04:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that we have lawyers, guns, and money, so our exceptionalism is rather more problematic.
by rifek on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 05:39:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to say "pick two", but that doesn't really work ... two is bad enough.
by Number 6 on Thu Nov 15th, 2012 at 05:59:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As for education here in Australia seems like we are in the same bout.Go and visit Universities here in Brisbane (and probably elsewhere)  and you will see mostly Asians. Not to mention that they are year after year pronounced best students. The difference here is that after they finish they stay here, find job and take permanent residence. That's for now...When Asian countries will be able to offer them better salaries than here they will fly.Some already does it and Australians of all kinds are already there ( like in Singapore).
Manufacture is already moved to Asia so I assume in not so far future we will change roles and Australians will go to Asia for work and possibly education.
Those who stay here will continue to dig that dirt till the end.
Our government just produced white paper calling it " Asian century"...We should prepare for it.
What bothers me is that this fall of one Empire and rise of another never happened peacefully...  
by vbo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 08:15:32 AM EST
The rest of the world has treated the Chinese so shabbily over the past God-knows how many centuries that when they finally take over the US military, look out. No more Mr. Nice Chinese. Don't want to be around to see that.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 08:38:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"third in median household income"

I find that extraordinarily hard to believe. Not because it's not higher on the podium, no.
Yet it appears to be true. I guess that's largely because healthcare is paid by the income in the US, where it's covered by tax elsewhere. But I'd have expected that to register under PPP.
Maybe there's a lot inequality between the median and the bottom quintile, much more so than in Europe. Because the bottom quintile looks much worse in the US (I'd have a similar observation about France and the UK -the UK is MUCH higher in median income, despite a fully free healthcare system, but there is much more poverty).

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 11:08:31 AM EST
Well, others with high household incomes are Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, etc. The U.S. is still a rich country, although we do a poor job of distributing the wealth.
by asdf on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 06:17:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's interesting to see Spiegel returning to a critical tone not seen in ten years. But the parallel op-eds show that the Atlanticists are still there. On the critical side, there is Jakob Augstein, the (adopted) son of Spiegel's founder:

Commentary: Total Capitalism and the Downfall of America - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Germans see the US election as a battle between the good Obama and the evil Romney. But this is a mistake. Regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday, total capitalism is America's true ruler, and it has the power to destroy the country.

The United States Army is developing a weapon that can reach -- and destroy -- any location on Earth within an hour. At the same time, power lines held up by wooden poles dangle over the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy ripped them apart there and in communities across the East Coast last week, and many places remain without electricity. That's America, where high-tech options are available only to the elite, and the rest live under conditions comparable to a those of a developing nation. No country has produced more Nobel Prize winners, yet in New York City hospitals had to be evacuated during the storm because their emergency generators didn't work properly.

Anyone who sees this as a contradiction has failed to grasp the fact that America is a country of total capitalism. Its functionaries have no need of public hospitals or of a reliable power supply to private homes. The elite have their own infrastructure. Total capitalism, however, has left American society in ruins and crippled the government. America's fate is not just an accident produced by the system. It is a consequence of that system.

Augstein's points are mocked (and taken out of context) by Jan Fleischhauer, a self-rpofessed conservative. Choice excerts:

Commentary on Why Germans Want America's Downfall - SPIEGEL ONLINE

German schadenfreude knows no bounds, particularly when it comes to the United States. The country loves to feel superior to a superpower like America. Yet Germany also harbors a childish infatuation with Obama -- one which has little political grounding. The reasons are psychological.

It's too bad that Mitt Romney didn't win. If the Republicans had won, we could finally have known for sure that our suspicion of America's imminent demise is correct. "Four more years," translated into the German viewpoint means little more than a "four-year reprieve."

...The reality is that a quarter of global wealth is still created in the United States. They still have at their command the largest military power on the globe, and will continue to do so, despite all of the talk of a multi-polar world.

...In the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Andrian Kreye correctly pointed out that for Europe, life with Republican presidents is usually easier, because the US then takes the obligations of its alliances seriously.

Obama has no interest in Europe, and all of his attention goes to Asia. If this president calls the German chancellor's office, it is only to try to sweet talk her into finally implementing euro-bonds, so Wall Street can sleep again. But that is one of those facts that is better to suppress.

One weird point he makes is that the USA is the number-one destination for immigrants, which, if the EU is treated as a whole, is simply not true. Legal immigration to the USA is slightly over 1 million a year. If you check Eurostat's detailed tables, the EU-27 had 1.8 million immigrants eith extra-EU citizenship in the last year with complete data (Spain alone getting half a million of that), while migration between EU countries was about 1.4 million in that year (it was maybe half of that in the next two, but I suspect it picked up again due to the self-made austerity crisis).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 12:53:06 PM EST

Is it easier to get to Europe 'illegally'?
I'm thinking the US is surrounded by water, Canada and a well-guarded border with Mexico.

(Weird peak in immigration in the early 90's: end of Bush or start of Clinton?)

by Number 6 on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 01:05:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both the US and EU statistics are for legal immigration only.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 01:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Legal immigration contains asylum seekers and you can only apply for asylum once you arrive. So probably geographical convenience is a factor.

Number 6:

(Weird peak in immigration in the early 90's: end of Bush or start of Clinton?)

End of cold war perhaps? Did not both blocs willingly accept each others fugitives to parade them as examples of how people were fleeing oppression? So if policies lagged perhaps a bunch fled the former eastern bloc as it turned into a neoliberal horrorshow?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 02:27:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The spike in legal immigration around 1990 reflects the legalization of 2.7 million unauthorized immigrants under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 03:06:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good for them. Also shows that Number 6's point about possibilities for illegal entry matters, because once in you can later get legalized.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 03:11:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like the way that people who wish to talk up the US always refer to its military power as if it were a good thing rather than an anchor weighing it down.

Far too much of USian invention is channeled into endeavours which do not enrich the US in any way whatsoever. Same with the UK. I always thought it was funny the way that Germany an Japan kicked our asses economically because they didn't waste their efforts on militaristic dick waving, but our politicians could never work it out.

China does not flaunt its military, the army is largely for domestic suppression. Their new aircraft carrier is a relic of a bygone era and is, I suspect, largely to protect their trade routes into africa from Somali pirates. They prefer to buy influence rather than confront power, it takes longer but china works on longer time scales than other countries. Confrontational aggression is just bad for business and does not make for partnerships, so is best avoided.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 01:07:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wonder how much of US military spending seems to be foreign aid - as in GI's spending money around the 700 bases they have.

Even if the guys spend all their time on base, surely the US must be effectively paying for a few power plants and some water infrastructure around the world?

by Number 6 on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 01:22:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They prefer to buy influence rather than confront power

Which could have been - and was with derision - said about the UK in the Napoleon wars. I suspect similar comments can be found about the US around the 1900.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 02:22:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The people who love "American Exceptionalism" and military power make a living off of both ... the military/industrial/MSM complex which produces nothing of value but it allows multinational corporations to invade countries in order to steal their resources under various bullshit justifications, and they hold these sham elections (choose between bad and worse) every so often to keep the population at bay. To the rulers it's just a job ... a well paying job. What else would they do if not this?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 03:32:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But all conservative pundits know those 1.8 millions would rather have gone to U-S-A!

Numbers is for Nate Silver and his ilk.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 02:30:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I think it's still true as a whole, even if there has been reduction in immigration to the US in recent years relative to the EU.  I'll have to find the stats later, but I recall that over a third of all immigrants (people born in a foreign country now residing permanently in another) in the world reside in the United States. For a country with only 5% of the world's population, that is a remarkable statistic. I believe the EU's proportion as a whole was somewhat less than the US's and nowhere else was even close.
by santiago on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 03:58:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Total immigration is a different thing, one about the past, not the present as claimed by Jan Fleischhauer ("Above all, the United States remains the largest chosen destination of millions of people in the world").

Still, I thought it interesting to check the numbers for total immigrants. Looking at the stats for foreign-born inhabitants of EU states, the total was 48.9 million last year, and those from beyond the EU-27 added up to just under 30 million in 2009 (with data for Belgium and Bulgaria missing). For the USA, in 2010, the foreign-born population was 40.0 million, including 22.5 million non-citizens.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 04:45:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, those figures are what I recalled.  Thanks for looking them up up. The apples to apples comparison would be between foreign born US residents and extra-EU-27-born EU-27 residents.

I agree that there is a difference between the total immigrant numbers and the most recent flows, but I think it is is hard to draw any inferences from just the last few years, especially given the extraordinary economic conditions in both the EU and the US.  

by santiago on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 01:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The apples to apples comparison would be between foreign born US residents and extra-EU-27-born EU-27 residents.

Not really: economic differences betwen EU states are more significant than those between US states and moving is more challenging due to a new environment dominated by a different culture and language and partially different laws, thus internal migration is of a different quality.

I think it is is hard to draw any inferences from just the last few years

It is even harder to draw inferences from total numbers, which aggregate the effects of both internal and external factors over a century-long period, without any indication of trends.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 03:33:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree.  Internal migration challenges are givens.  That migration within the EU is less than migration within the US because of language and other obstacles isn't really very informative of anything regarding how attractive the EU is to outsiders as a destination relative to the US. Total immigrants is a much better statistic for the same reason that an average is better than a single point in time -- it provides more data and a more comprehensive answer to the question of what place is more attractive to outsiders. The main thing that the current year numbers are really good for, if combined with other data, is for judging whose policies to prevent immigration are more effective, since both the US and the EU have adopted restrictive policies in the last several years. It appears the US is having better success in that respect.  
by santiago on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 04:31:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That migration within the EU is less than migration within the US because of language and other obstacles isn't really very informative of anything regarding how attractive the EU is to outsiders as a destination relative to the US.

No, my point wasn't that the EU's internal migration is more difficult than that of the US, but that much of the internal migration is more comparable to the external migration of the US (in particular from a magnet for people seeking a better life viewpoint), and the difficulties of moving across borders are part of this qualitative difference. In other words, my comment was more along the lines that the EU and the USA don't entirely compare as apples and apples: it's the richer parts that exert more attraction, but immigrating first to a poorer EU country means a difference compared to (say) immigrating first to Mexico.

A different way to account for this apples and oranges situation would be to also compare the numbers for the EU-15, but unfortunately, these are far for complete at Eurostat. It's clear that the EU-15 has the overwhelming majority of both the extra-EU and intra-EU foreign-born: 27.2 million out of the 29.7 million total in the first case (again without data for Belgium & Bulgaria), and 42.3 million out of the 46.2 million total for all foreign-born (this time for 2009 and without data for Bulgaria only). However, data for those born in other EU-15 states is missing for Germany, France, Italy and Luxembourg; the rest sum up to 4.7 million in 2009, so all I can say for EU-15 inhabitants born elsewhere is that in 2009 they numbered somewhere between 27.2 million and 37.6 million (my guess would be around 33 million).

Total immigrants is a much better statistic for the same reason that an average is better than a single point in time

Nope, a 100-year average is useless in this case, because it clouds every trend. If you want to exclude short-term fluctuations, use a 3-year or 5-year or 10-year average.

The main thing that the current year numbers are really good for, if combined with other data, judging whose policies to prevent immigration are more effective

That's hardly a current year issue: there have been immigration-restricting policies for a hundred years, and that aimed at both legal and illegal immigration.

It appears the US is having better success in that respect.

Nope: US legal immigration numbers are tending upwards (check my very first link), while the EU27's dropped sharply.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 05:44:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we might be talking past each other on some things here, but you bring up an interesting point with respect to EU-15 versus EU-27 with the argument being that the non-EU-15 members don't really count as the true Europe yet.  In any case, the numbers you provide still don't seem to argue against the US being the more dominant magnet for immigrants, which is something that has been pretty well parsed to death in the academic literature on the subject as well.  

We're not talking about a 100 year average either.  We're talking about the living people in the world today who have immigrated.  If such migration to the US has been lower due to the recession or increased deportation enforcement in the last few years, it doesn't really change the fact that the US is still the dominant magnet for immigrants because of the extraordinary circumstances of the past few years.

In the US, immigration restrictions have been very low since 1965 until the last few years, and even before then weren't enforced very much.  In 1996, restrictions on legal immigration increased, but it wasn't for a decade that any resources would be allocated to seriously implementing them.  Europe, of course, invented the idea of migration controls when it developed passports about a century ago, so restrictions have been much greater there, as you say.

The US policy change over the last few years has been to actually allocate significant resources toward deporting people, which had never really happened ever during the last century.  This would explain the higher proportion of legal immigrants while also providing for possibly reduced numbers of immigrants overall.  The EU's policy change has been to actually restrict who can legally immigrate, which would explain any sharp drop in legal immigration. If EU immigration is higher compared to the US in the last year, it would indicate that the US strategy of allocating resourced to implementation is more effective at reducing immigration than legislating yet more restrictions on legal immigration.

by santiago on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:14:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While there are numerous reasons I chose to leave my home country (means, motive and opportunity being at the top of the list), this rant points out some of my personal favorites:  leading the world in incarcerated citizens, number of adults who believe angels are real, and amount of defense spending.

But really, without even reading the article, all one has to do is look at the picture of the trains. A picture is worth a thousand words.

by sgr2 on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 01:23:05 PM EST
To sgr2,
The reason America's railway system is so badly antiquated is because under a more pure form of capitalism (as exists in America), it isn't possible for private companies to get rich on a properly run American high speed rail system. They however can make a lot of money on private contracts on highway construction, sales on automobiles, spare parts, gasoline, etc.

Likewise airlines also make a lot of money in America. I've written an article that discusses this more extensively which maybe accessed at the link below. Thank you for your great comment.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/11/19/921827/-Why-is-the-airtravelers-refrain-don-t-grope-my-stuf f-preferable-to-all-aboard-with-hi-speed-rail

sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]

by Democrats Ramshield on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 05:12:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The interstate system is pure capitalism?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 04:00:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought angels were proven to exist during the Iraq war, at least that's the implication from this US news source.
by santiago on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 01:33:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

I implemented several formatting changes in the diary, mainly due to improper quotation (links go to relevant points of ET's New User Guide):

  • the link to the Spiegel article discussed throughout the diary was given only halfway down, and as a lazy link
  • single blockquotes didn't just contain quoted text from a source, but accompanying text written by the diary author, or a related image not contained in the source article;
  • videos weren't properly embedded with the ET macro, but a generic HTML one displaying them smaller;
  • videos weren't posted next to related text;
  • emphasis wasn't marked as the author's;
  • I also changed "the Spiegel" to "Der Spiegel".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 01:39:56 PM EST
To DoDo,
Thank you for your assist in formatting my article. Your help is appreciated. Also I hope that you and the other readers here will continue to comment, as the article that I've written is meant not to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter but rather a discussion starter. To that end, thanks in advance for anyone willing to post. Thanks also for everyone who has already posted.

sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]
by Democrats Ramshield on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 05:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
America has huge problems, but this comparison of Europe to America leaves a great deal out. Personally, I thought the talk of utility poles was bizarre. Half of Manhattan was blacked out, and it had underground electricity, as do a great many cities. Be that as it may, it should be clear that America is actually moving toward a health care solution. It still has several advantages in technological innovation and productivity. But one must acknowledge as well that the USA contains a collection of different states, some very poor and some very rich. If one were to include the Euro periphery in the comparison of the USA to Germany, I'm not sure at all that Europe comes out ahead. I'm pretty sure it would be behind. The fact is, these peripheries in the USA were without electricity and water supply half a century to 75 years ago. Third world?? Yes, that's the point.

About the American eduction system, the low scores are largely the product of the poverty rate. America has a great deal more poverty than any other 1st world country. Inner city schools are a wreck. However, if you were to look at the eduction system on a comparable level (i.e. among students of the same socioeconomic background) the USA scores highly, one of the top 3 in the world. The urban education system in the USA is broken, not the greater system.

Diane Ravitch has cited extensive studies putting the US education system in a finer light.

by Upstate NY on Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 05:28:19 PM EST
But I can't agree with you on this one. While certain areas in NY city may have had underground power cables, the fact is the above ground power system that provides power to the small areas of NY city where underground cables exist were knocked out. Moreover the rich in America as they will not pay their fair share of taxes, would provide money sufficient to invest in necessary critical infrastructure upgrades such as providing underground power cables or a levy system. That was the point of the Spiegel article I believe. I certainly endorse their assessment in my article which I continue to stand by.

As for the American education system, both the Spiegel and as a separate source Dr Kaku, both of whom I cited concur in their opinion that the American education system is a failure. Of course right wing think tanks always produce sophistry to rebut the truth, but the truth is a very stubborn thing and just won't go away. The truth is the stupid in the American system of education has become so engrained that if foreigners don't attend our graduate schools, and provide at the highest level skilled labor, then many sectors of the US economy would simply collapse not to mention America's graduate school system, just as Dr Kaku correctly states, because to reiterate facts are a stubborn thing. If it weren't the case, the H1B visa system would be much smaller than it is, because there wouldn't be a need for it to be as large as it is.

It must be as large as it is because there are not enough sufficiently educated Americans to provide the skills functioning at the highest levels, just as Dr Kaku says. To believe otherwise is to be in a comfortable place called denial. Cheer leading on as if by Gregorian chant the vacuous renditions of American exceptionalism. It is an old worn out record and we ought best to give it a rest, as it has become an international laughing stock completely at variance with reality. That was the point of my article as a review of the Spiegel's article. I am nonetheless grateful for all opinions, even dissenting ones in the spirit of intellectual freedom.

In Europe we are afforded the tolerance in the spirit of intellectual freedom denied us the freedom of the media in America, as it is owned by the plutocracy as an instrument of their bidding. Therefore we must be grateful that the Spiegel in the spirit of true journalism of the kind that use to be common place in America has set out a position to tell truth to power. Truth to the masses which have been brainwashed by the American plutocrat owned media, in what may only be described as a de facto economic Stockholm syndrome, where they have come to identify with, support and indeed admire their very oppressors, wherein they are actually proud and hold up their articles of oppression as if it were a badge of pride rather than a badge of shameful worker exploitation.

Title: He is the poster boy for brainwashed right wing America an American expats view from the EU

Here's the link below to the full article that I wrote:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/15/1044461/-He-is-the-poster-boy-for-brainwashed-right-wing-Am erica-An-American-expat-s-view-from-the-E-U

sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]

by Democrats Ramshield on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:26:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you castigate Diane Ravitch as a right-wing think tanker? It's a smear. I find it unbecoming. In fact, your very argument is the one that pikers and conservative think-tankers use to destroy the high-performing American education system. They cite stats in the aggregate rather than looking closely at the figures to see where education failures are associated with high poverty. You're playing into right wing hands.

I also find it absurd that Spiegel would somehow know more about the US education system than professionals and researchers like Ravitch who know what's going on, inside and out. It begs belief.


Obama's agenda echoes the decline and crisis rhetoric that has become commonplace over the past several years. We have seen a spate of books and commission reports warning that our universities are failing, that students aren't learning anything, that colleges and universities are cheating the public, that tenure must be abolished, and that accountability is needed, preferably a cost-benefit analysis for individual professors and courses.

Yale scholar Peter Brooks wrote recently that the purveyors of doom and gloom are wrong; that the crisis rhetoric is a red herring intended to divert our attention from "the larger crisis in American society: the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots, the retreat from any commitment to economic fairness, the sense that the [economic] system is rigged to benefit a tarnished elite that no longer justifies its existence".

The root cause of low test scores is poverty; low academic achievement is concentrated in districts where there is concentrated poverty and racial segregation. Lack of medical care, lack of basic nutrition, lack of economic security - all these affect academic performance. But it is the teachers of these children who will be held accountable, not the underlying causes.

Furthermore, the H1B visa system is used to bring in cheap labor to maximize corporate profits. We all know this. What you portray as a failure is really a simple conservative scam to bring more money to the rich.

As for Europe, you talk about tolerance and general welfare, and yet your periphery is on fire. I mean, have you even taken a look at the real Europe lately?

by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:55:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason every US company I've worked for has used h1bs is because most american applicants can't pass the first phone screen.  Most of the good students coming out of college are internationals.
by njh on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 12:13:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And what of the many fired and replaced by lower salaried workers?
by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:49:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True.  The fact that the median age in high tech is something like 25 suggests that either the older generation are swamped by exponential growth, or they are all getting fired.
by njh on Sun Nov 11th, 2012 at 12:18:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand Diane Ravitch's position but thank you for posting the information. It's added value to our discussion here today.

sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]
by Democrats Ramshield on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 02:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Another little-known fact is that American students have never performed well on international tests. When the first such tests were given in the mid-1960s, our students usually scored at or below the median, and sometimes at the bottom of the pack. This mediocre performance is nothing to boast about, but it is not an indicator of future economic decline. Despite our students' mediocre test scores, the nation's economy has been robust for most of the past half-century. And the news is not all terrible. On the latest international test, the Program for International Student Assessment, American schools in which fewer than 10 percent of the students were poor outperformed the schools of Finland, Japan, and Korea. Even when as many as 25 percent of the students were poor, American schools performed as well as the top-scoring nations. As the proportion of poor students rises, the scores of US schools drop.2

America has a poverty problem. not an education problem. Yet it's arguments as portrayed by Spiegel which feed into the attempt to dismantle the current system, ignore those in poverty, and instead destroy Higher Ed. and why? Because right-wingers associate education with liberal ideology.

The top 10 states in education in the USA voted for Obama.

The bottom 10 voted for Romney.

by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:59:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand your position. You're saying that the Spiegel article suggests that the problem isn't poverty but rather a faulty education system? I think the Spiegel article makes it clear that it's both. Do you agree?

sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]
by Democrats Ramshield on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 02:14:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Spiegel article made absolutely no mention of the relation of poverty to education in the USA. Indeed, the Spiegel article said that America is declining when it comes to educational standards. But that is simply not true. American scores have not declined, as I showed you in the link to Ravitch's article.
by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:55:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
America has a poverty problem. not an education problem.

I'd rather say that there is an education problem that is linked to the poverty problem: the public school system is set up in a way that poor neighbourhoods also get crap schools. But, I would not reduce the problems to poverty: the push from the Religious Reich also impacts curriculum.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 03:39:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it's not an education problem. It's strictly poverty.

My city spends enough on education. $24,000 per student. It's not a matter of spending enough or hiring qualified teachers or the curriculum. It's a matter of crime-infested inner cities with people living impoverished lives.

by Upstate NY on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 10:51:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally, I thought the talk of utility poles was bizarre.

They are only channeling US media (in fact I think most of the article does – including the allusions to Keynesianism). For example:

Sandy's Blackouts Pressure Utilities to Bury Power Lines - Bloomberg

Super storm Sandy's record blackouts and prolonged recovery laid bare the U.S. electrical grid's vulnerability to wind and flood, renewing calls for utilities to invest billions to toughen their defenses against extreme weather that may become more common.

European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. routinely bury cables that connect homes to power networks, protecting them from wind and ice. U.S. utilities have balked at moving more infrastructure below ground, saying consumers would object to spending as much as $2.1 million a mile, according to one industry estimate, to bury wires for a system that's not fail-safe.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 10th, 2012 at 03:47:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You make some good points. Let me add something if I may please. Down utility lines which have been brought down from poles, a critical infrastructure modality which is prevalent in third world nations is so common place in America, that the American people actually consider it to be normal with no expectation of anything else. Therefore it is acceptable when downed power lines leave untold tens of thousands, or in this case even millions in the dark and in the cold, because it is considered an act of God rather than poor critical infrastructure planning based on the lack of liquidity in the system, given the fact that America's rich absolutely prefer never to be their fair share of taxes because they have the working class they can dump that responsibility on.

So it is that we accept needless deaths and serious injuries from electrocutions, which after all is an act of God, who could have possibly prevented that, and small businesses who have limited capability in alternative energy and back up power generators wind up taking a huge hit in interruption of service. But again it is an act of God, oh well too bad for them. Power outages can occur in Europe as well, but in an underground buried cable system however those outages tend to be far shorter in duration and far less expensive to repair, and occur far less frequently. But this was really meant to be a subject discussion starter, because America has one in 4 bridges that are in dangerous disrepair, because the rich won't pay their fair share of taxes.

That is also the reason there is no levy around NY city or that there was no levy around New Orleans which also did not have buried power lines. That is also why the rail system is so antiquated with no high speed rail in America, because the rich don't give a rat's ass about us in America. They don't care about the state of our critical infrastructure, and here is a positively foreign idea, if you want good critical infrastructure, a good rail system, good schools you have to be prepared to pay for them, and that means paying your fair share of taxes even for the rich, because there is no such thing as a free lunch. That is what the ultra rich in America keep looking for, free lunch. Because they don't want to pay for anything if they can get away with it. The only question is how much longer are we prepared to put up with it?    

sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]

by Democrats Ramshield on Sun Nov 11th, 2012 at 04:20:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a link about the disaster of living without power. Of course the rich are NOT impacted by this, they never are. Not in America. They just fly to California for a month to their west coast villa.


sig...You just ran into a hardcore progressive who's just another working stiff with an MBA degree & therefore a vociferous labor union supporter [smile]

by Democrats Ramshield on Sun Nov 11th, 2012 at 04:56:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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