"If you break the public unions in Wisconsin you can break them everywhere." — Rachel Maddow

Ok, maybe Julian Assange didn't exactly parachute into Wisconsin. But he might have! And the pathetic fact is, that link-baiting baloney is what got you here. And that was my mission.

Why? Because with Gov. Scott Walker's outrageous effort to crush collective bargaining for state workers, the right wing has effectively declared war against unions, progressivism, and the American middle class, while most of the left is still sitting on the side of the road, like a brooding Rent-A-Wreck, with its ass stuck in neutral.

My good friend @karoli can bring you quickly up to speed.

With her usual knack for cutting through all the clutter, via Crooks and Liars:

Conservatives Declare War on Unions While National Media Snores

But my mission here….

Is to point out that while this issue has been building for well over a week, the American left has been mostly asleep until yesterday.  Naturally, the mainstream media did its best to help it snooze for as long as possible.  Only yesterday did CNN even show up in Wisconsin. And until last night, Twitter and Facebook were mostly abuzz with the usual updates about Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Glenn Beck, a dwindling bit of Egypt, the Chris Christie Minstrels, and the usual celebrity cacophony of moronic blither-blather.

No one was expecting this Battle of the Bulge for the Democratic party and our fading unions to come up in this way, or this suddenly. But here it is. And now, the big question is, will progressives finally fight hard, or just die quickly?  If you can't see what the GOP is doing with this issue, you simply don't get anything that's happened to  this nation over the past 30 years in general, and certainly in the past five years since Fox News became the steering gear for the Republican Party's ship to nowhere. So just shut the fuck up and get out of the way.

But if you do get it, then you realize that this can and should be a magic moment in our history. A moment where we can rise up and show this fetid teaparty army and their plutocratic puppet masters like David Koch and Sheldon Adelson that there is still a strong majority of sensible people in this country who know that a fair society is the only one that will ever survive long term.  And this generation of wrecking crew Republicans won't just delay that fair and just society. They will crush out any possibility of there ever being one. At least in this country.

And that would be a sad fail of unparalleled dimension. An easy win will have passed us right by due to our own apathetic lethargy and a mass delusion that all the horrible things happening to us were never quite as bad as they seemed. Our collective will to resist an obvious insurrection of selfishness will have failed to come alive at the very moment that it must, and the American experiment will probably die right here in the lab.

So maybe we needed a Julian Assange to land in Wisconsin. We shouldn't have needed anything that dramatic to smack us out of our cynical slumber. But now something even better is on the ground our there in cheesehead country. Something very big and very beautiful. We only have to get behind this moment and push it with all our might… and we can win.

We really can win.

Yes we can.

Vital View

Rachel Maddow: Wisconsin Is About The Survival of The Democratic Party

Vital Read

Labor's Last Stand, By John Nichols (The Nation)

Related Reading

Angry Wisconsin workers occupy Capitol (Peoplesworld.org)

DNC Expands Role In Labor Protests To Ohio, Indiana, by Amanda Terkel (Huffington Post)

George Carlin on the American Dream (with transcript)

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Chris Hedges discussing "Empire of Illusion."  Please see my post on his important work.

I totally disagree with Hedges about how we fix this problem, and especially his rejection of President Obama. But that does not dampen my respect for his analysis of the problem we face as a culture. But that's what makes Liberals different from conservatives. We can respect the diversity of opinions within our ranks, and not oversimplify either problems or solutions.

This takes a little bit to warm up.. but give it time. Roll with it.


Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

by Chris Hedges

I cannot stress how important this book is. Dark, yes.. but then so is the cultural calamity we're in. What people want to blame on Obama, Democrats, or Republicans, is nothing less than a full-blown smack down from the corporatist, oligarchical, monopolistic juggernaut that is our brand of capitalism run amok. 

And the very fact that this is NOT what we are all talking about, is proof-positive of the very kinds of profitable denialism that Hedges chronicles so well. Whether the analogy is pro wrestling, or our celebrity obsessed blogosphere, the image of success and happiness has replaced the need or want for the reality version of life. The pursuit of hedonistic pleasure is not just a ruinous way of life, it's also a perfect way to keep the masses docile, and accepting of the miserable state of decline we are now in.

I urge every American to read this book and to focus on the core diagnosis it offers.  It's important that we start admitting that we have a very big problem, or we will never find our way to any solutions. I've linked two free chapters below, courtesy of Google Books. 

If you really don't have the time or patient to read them, at the very least read this very respectable synopsis of the book.

If you insist on reading no further on this page, just skip down to the Neil Postman quote comparing Orwell with Huxley. Which do you think comes closest to where we are now? It may prompt you to read all the rest.

Note: As I write in other places, I fundamentally disagree with Hedges on many things, especially on his annoying habit of focusing on Obama and Democrats, when they are but a symptom of the disease he has detailed so brilliantly. Hedges is a diagnostician, and that's very valuable. But he is definitely not a physician. He isn't even that interested in remedies. That's why many find him so dark. But it doesn't matter. Whether we have a remedy or not, we still must understand the problem, and that, he helps us do quite well.

An Amazon Review

Hedges suggests possible future scenarios where most Americans are virtual corporate slaves, controlled and monitored by the ever expanding power of law enforcement. He fears that the biggest contrast in this country will be between a marginalized literate minority on the one hand and on the other a barely functionally literate or functionally illiterate majority enchanted by corporate entertainment and the vacuous PR spectacles and slogans of politicians. He fears that as social conditions worsen, right wing demagogues will make great headway. He is very worried about future environmental catastrophes. However he ends his book with the hope that decent human values can be utilized to confront our growing corporate tyranny.

Read all the reviews


Read These Two Key Chapters—Right Now

Reading them  will only make the entire work read better. Take my word for it.

An Excerpt

See below for 60 free pages of excerpts

In his book Celebrity, Chris Rojeck calls celebrity culture “the cult of distraction that valorizes the superficial, the gaudy, the domination of commodity culture.”  He goes further:

Capitalism originally sought to police play and pleasure, because any attempt to replace work as the central life interest threatened the economic survival of the system.  The family, the state and religion engendered a variety of patterns of moral regulation to control desire and ensure compliance with the system of production.  However, as capitalism developed, consumer culture and leisure time expanded.  The principles that operated to repress the individual in the workplace and the home were extended to the shopping mall and recreational activity.  The entertainment industry and consumer culture produced what Herbert Marcuse called ‘repressive desublimation.’ Through this process individuals unwittingly subscribed to the degraded version of humanity.

This cult of distraction, as Rojeck points out, masks the real disintegration of culture.  It conceals the meaninglessness and emptiness of our own lives.  It seduces us to engage in imitative consumption.  It deflects the moral questions arising from mounting social injustice, growing inequalities, costly imperial wars, and economic collapse and political corruption. The wild pursuit of status and wealth has destroyed our souls and our economy.  Families live in sprawling mansions financed with mortgages they can no longer repay.  Consumers recklessly rang up Coach handbags and Manolo Blahnik shoes on credit cards because they seemed to confer a sense of identity and merit.  Our favorite hobby, besides television, used to be, until reality hit us like a tsunami, shopping.  Shopping used to be the compensation for spending five days a week in tiny cubicles. American workers are ground down by corporations who have disempowered them, used them, and have now discarded them. 

Celebrities have fame free of responsibility.  The fame of celebrities, wrote Mills, disguises those who possess true power: corporations and the oligarchic elite. Magical thinking is the currency not only of celebrity culture, but of totalitarian culture.  And as we sink into an economic and political morass, we are still controlled, manipulated and distracted by the celluloid shadows on the dark wall of Plato’s cave.  The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain.  It is designed to keep us from fighting back.

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books," Neil Postman wrote:

What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of informatio­n. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevanc­e. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupie­d with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifuga­l bumblepupp­y. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertaria­ns and rationalis­ts who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractio­ns." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”

Thanks to Truthdig and Alternet, you can read the first 60 pages of this important work below. I am not sure just how complete each is, but it shouldn't take you long to learn.  The wrestling stuff may not grab you at first, but his setup is important.  Stay with it.