Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Two approaches to economic collapse

The nervousness about the world's ongoing, meandering economic collapse showed up in two quite different news stories today.  One was a BBC interview with "trader"Alessio Rastani in which the fellow offered sober advice on the best ways to PANIC!  His exaggerated rhetoric brought many to conclude that the TV segment was actually a Yes Men stunt.  I doubted that conclusion right away because the Yes Men are never malicious in their well aimed barbs.  While they poke fun at corporations, governments and the global economic system, they would never offer the jump-out-of-the-nearest-window perspective of the kind Mr. Rastani was peddling.  Now the Yes Men have denied any connection to the interview, but use the occasion to urge people to join the ongoing people's occupation of Wall Street. 

Rastani is not in Liberty Plaza
By Andy Bichlbaum on Sep 27 2011 - 9:56am 

The Yes Men wish to commend Mr. "Alessio Rastani" for his masterful performance as "trader" on BBC World yesterday. Mr. Rastani's real name is Granwyth Hulatberi; he once appeared on CNBC MarketWrap as a "representative" of the WTO. Well done, Granwyth! You're getting better and better.

Just kidding. We've never heard of Rastani. Despite widespread speculation, he isn't a Yes Man. He's a real trader who is, for one reason or another, being more honest than usual. Who in big banking doesn't bet against the interests of the poor and find themselves massively recompensed—if not by the market, then by humongous taxpayer bailouts? Rastani's approach has been completely mainstream for several years now; we must thank him for putting a human face on it yesterday.

If you'd like to see the human face of the human perspective—the perspective of the 99% victimized by our demented and out-of-control financial system—come join the occupation of Wall Street. Michael Moore did so  last night, and pointed out that in America, it's just 400 people who own as much as most of the rest of us put together—and that when we decide we really want to change the rules of the game, those 400 people won't be able to do squat about it.

On a much different plain of reference, philosopher Ben Brucato directed my attention to Paul Kingsnorth's article in the Guardian -- "This economic collapse is a 'crisis of bigness:Leopold Kohr warned 50 years ago that the gigantist global system would grow until it imploded. We should have listened."

Leopold Kohr was a self-described "philosophical anarchist" whose book,The Breakdown of Nations, analyzes the problem of sheer size as the cause of the dysfunctions and, he argued, eventual collapse of the modern economy.  In Kingsnorth's able summary:

The crisis currently playing out on the world stage is a crisis of growth. Not, as we are regularly told, a crisis caused by too little growth, but by too much of it. Banks grew so big that their collapse would have brought down the entire global economy. To prevent this, they were bailed out with huge tranches of public money, which in turn is precipitating social crises on the streets of western nations. The European Union has grown so big, and so unaccountable, that it threatens to collapse in on itself. Corporations have grown so big that they are overwhelming democracies and building a global plutocracy to serve their own interests. The human economy as a whole has grown so big that it has been able to change the atmospheric composition of the planet and precipitate a mass extinction event.

One man who would not have been surprised by this crisis of bigness, had he lived to see it, was Leopold Kohr.  Kohr has a good claim to be the most important political thinker that you have never heard of. Unlike Marx, he did not found a global movement or inspire revolutions. Unlike Hayek, he did not rewrite the economic rules of the modern world. Kohr was a modest, self-deprecating man, but this was not the reason his ideas have been ignored by movers and shakers in the half century since they were produced. They have been ignored because they do not flatter the egos of the power-hungry, be they revolutionaries or plutocrats. In fact, Kohr's message is a direct challenge to them. "Wherever something is wrong," he insisted, "something is too big."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here we go again -- a new digital revolution in the schools

                                                      Your new teacher has arrived

The first proclamations of a "computer revolution" or "digital revolution" in the schools arrived more than 30 years ago and have reappeared with renewed intensity every four or five years since then.  The evidence of success for these recurring "revolutions" is at best very thin.  As new generations of hardware and software have been pumped into the classroom, student achievement scores, SAT scores, and other measures of educational success have continued to slide while America's standing in international comparisons of K-12 educational quality has steadily declined as well.  There's a widespread consensus that, for all the wonderful "innovations" targeted at them in recent decades, the schools remain in crisis.

The latest nationwide attempt to pump up this now old-fashioned idea is called the "Digital Promise," a program promoted by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.  In an article Duncan wrote with Reed Hastings in the Wall Street Journal the horizons of Computer Revolution 8.3 (or whatever it is now) are described  with "World of Warcraft" enthusiasm (hey, the kids will love this stuff!).

 "Imagine ... an online high-school physics course that uses videogame graphics power to teach atomic interactions, or a second-grade online math curriculum that automatically adapts to individual students' levels of knowledge. All of this will happen. The only question is: Will the U.S. lead the effort or will we follow other countries?
In the past two decades, technology has revolutionized the way Americans communicate, get news...."

While I'm not sure the "Digital Promise" people will like the idea, I have the perfect theme song for their cool campaign.

For those interested, below is the English translation of an interview on technology and education,  I did last spring with Sintesis Educativa, an Argentine online journal.  It's focus is another (now somewhat dated) computer revolution in the schools -- One Laptop Per Child.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 A Form of Imperialism 

Question: Professor Winner, what is your evaluation of the “one computer per student” model in pedagogical terms, and of Negroponte’s OLPC proposition as such?

Langdon:  While the model of education in “One Laptop Per Child” and similar laptop programs may seem to be new and “innovative,” it is actually just the latest appearance of a very old obsession, a approach that has failed repeatedly.  In his book, Teachers and Machines, Larry Cuban, professor of education at Stanford University, explains the pattern that this story has taken for many decades.  First there are businesses with a new product to sell – motion pictures, tape strips, television, computers, etc.   They take their products to educational bureaucrats convince them that there is a technological “revolution” coming and that they need to be a part to it.  Then the administrators purchase the machines, often at great expense, and push them into the local schools.  In most cases the teachers, students and people in the schools and communities learn about the changes that face them.  OLPC faithfully reproduces this dreary pattern -- educational technology promoted not because there is any clear idea about its value in teaching and learning, but because it promises to be a lucrative market.  Teachers are often sucked in because they want to appear fully up to date.

Question: What are the political implications of this strategy that OLPC officials call “digital saturation”, i.e. flooding schools with computers?

Langdon:  Digital saturation is a strategy that disempowers people and prevents them from making choices about education in critical, thoughtful ways.  A sane approach would ask:  What do our children need?  What tools and resources would best contribute to their ability to learn?  From that point of view computers are merely one variety of tool that might be included within a mix of sensible methods and materials.  One needs to ask: What are our basic purposes and priorities?  How can we best respond to them?  For example, teachers I know who’ve taught in African countries often report that the schools are ill equipped at the most basic level, that in some places the students do not even have desks and chairs. 

Proclamations about a crash program of “digital saturation” should be a red flag for any school system.  Wouldn’t it make better sense to do some trial runs on a small scale and see how they work out?  The OLPC pushers, like voracious marketers everywhere, want to sell as much as they can, as quickly as they can before they hustle out of town with the cash.  It’s worth noting that both Negroponte brothers, both John and Nicholas, seem to prefer solutions that involve saturation bombing in some medium or another. 

Question:  Assessment of the programs already in execution are scant, but preliminary reports 
from Uruguay, after two full years of implementation, indicate that one
fourth of the computers are broken or stay unused, and that they are used
mainly for entertainment when children are on their own, and only for
surfing the Internet and writing when in the classroom. What are your
reflections on this?

Langdon:  This is not surprising at all. In my own country, the closets of every school contain the costly, broken, useless junk of earlier “technological revolutions.”  Yet the crisis in our schools remains and, in fact, has gotten steadily worse since the computer entered the scene.  A number of studies indicate that they net effect of these technological experiments is just about zero – some good, some bad, and some neutral results.  But the belief that somehow a new piece of electronic equipment will have powerful, magical results in education keeps reappearing in each decade, despite the overwhelming evidence of its absurdity.

Do you perceive any dangers for children and young students, or any damage
for education as a  whole, deriving from these actions?

Langdon:  One of the main problems here is simply that computers are a huge distraction.  Your earlier question mentioned the ways that kids seek out entertainment and diversion on the Net.  Activities of that kind can easily become a substitute for the work of learning and thinking.  Laptops open up the alluring world of movies, sports, fashion, social chat, and consumerism. Such concerns can easily replace reading, math, science, history, and other challenges for young minds.  In my own classes I’ve found that when the laptop screens are “up,” students are reading email, texting and looking at web sites that have nothing to do with the questions we are discussing.  Because I want to see their eyes, listen to their words and engage their minds, I’ve adopted a “laptops shut” policy.

Another important issue concerns the role of teachers. One of the themes of OLPC promoters is that kids who have laptops can learn everything by themselves.  So who needs teachers at all?  One of the covert purposes of saturating schools with OLPC machines is to devalue the work and intelligence of teachers and to reduce the amount of money for their training and salaries. Politicians and bureaucrats can argue that “because we’ve bought millions of dollars on laptops, there’s no money left for more teachers.”  Historically speaking, this is a familiar pattern.  Computerization is a strategy that corporations and government agencies use to reduce their commitments to living human beings.

What do you see behind the regional character of these initiatives,
considering the fact that, although apparently uncoordinated, they seem to
be occurring simultaneously in Latin America?

Langdon:  The book on this pattern was written decades ago by Eduardo Galeano, “Las venas abiertas de Latina America.” Educational computing that arrives from laboratories and corporations the U.S.A. is, in my view, a manifestation of the kinds of imperialism and subservience that Galeano describes.  In this case it is techno-imperialism. At a time in which many people in Latin America have begun to rebel against neoliberalism and to regain control of their economic and political destinies, they should notice how the loss of autonomy can be packaged as a little, green, plastic laptop. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is nuclear power in its death throes? Seems likely

Fukushima nuclear power plant, March 2011
 "Clean, safe, too cheap to meter"

Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer industry.  After all the years of enormous government subsidies, of misrepresentation of its true costs, of blatant lying about safety and dangers to public health, of negligible progress in storage of its radioactive wastes, of small, medium and catastrophic accidents, of attempts to stiff others with its debts (e.g., poor Vermont), etc., it now seems that nuclear power may be be collapsing under its own ponderous weight and mendacity. 

Siemens, one of the world's leading producers of nuclear power plants, has announced that it is quitting the business altogether.  The primary reason given for its decision is the ongoing Fukushima nuclear meltdown/melt through and its consequences for the firm's business prospects.  Here are excerpts from the BBC story:

Chief executive Peter Loescher "told Spiegel magazine it was the firm's answer to "the clear positioning of German society and politics for a pullout from nuclear energy".

"The chapter for us is closed," he said, announcing that the firm will no longer build nuclear power stations.

A long-planned joint venture with Russian nuclear firm Rosatom will also be cancelled, although Mr Loescher said he would still seek to work with their partner "in other fields".

Siemens was responsible for building all 17 of Germany's existing nuclear power plants.
But more recently, the firm has limited itself to providing the non-nuclear parts of plants being built by other firms, including current projects in China and Finland.

The latest decision appears to imply a step back from building "conventional islands" - the non-nuclear plant in nuclear power stations - an area in which Siemens has remained active.

  * * * * * * * * * * *

For news on the State of Vermont's attempt to shut down the leaky Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and the state government's battle with "Entergy Corp." -- a debt and responsibility avoiding dummy corporation -- see this and this.   The issue is here not only the safety of the plant, but also whether or not the citizens of Vermont will get stuck with the costs of decommissioning this notorious techno-turkey.

It seems that both governments and the world's leading engineering firms are bailing out while they still can.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Appropriate technology: solar lights from 1 liter soda bottles

Appropriate technology, a social movement from the 30 years ago, is more often called "technology for sustainability" these days. It endures within wide ranging research and development efforts aimed at providing effective, low cost solutions to some important  problems.  A good example came to my attention recently from The Philippines.

According to its web page, "Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light), is a sustainable lighting project which aims to bring the eco-friendly Solar Bottle Bulb to disprivileged communities nationwide" The idea originally came from a group of MIT students.  In this simple design, used soda bottles are filled with water and caulked firmly into holes cut in roofs of small shacks and houses.  Since water refracts light 360 degrees, the each bottle can produce the equivalent of a 55 watt bulb during daylight hours.

Further details and an interesting video can be found on the group's web site.  Are similar concepts are under consideration for buildings of the developed countries?  I don't know.  Maybe I'll start drilling holes in my upstate New York house.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rap and hip-hop in the Arab Spring

This clip from MSNBC is one of the best videos on music and politics I've ever seen.  It shows performers, audiences and political situations from several countries involved in the Arab Spring. It's even handed and, for the most part, let's the participants tell their own stories.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ansar Mahmood, victim of post 9/11 racial profiling, harbors no ill will

                                                Ansar Mahmood with his three sisters at home
                                                in Gujarat, around 2005

I love the place and the community in which I live in upstate New York.  One thing I'm especially  proud of is they way people here resisted the post-9/11 hysteria in racial and ethnic profiling that swept the country during the period after the terrorist attacks.

One of those mistakenly swept up in the frenzy was a legal Pakistani immigrant, Ansar Mahmood, who worked as a pizza delivery man in Greenport near the City of Hudson.  In October 2001 he was detained for taking photos of a lake, but soon cleared of any wrongdoing.  Eventually, however, overwrought government authorities found irregularities in his residential arrangements and launched deportation proceedings.  Many people in Columbia County gathered together to resist this injustice.

Eventually, however, Mr. Mahmood was forced to leave the U.S.A. "permanently." Now, a decade later, a fine reporter for the local paper, John Mason, brings up to date on what's happened to Ansar, where he's living, what he's doing back in his home country.

Here are excerpts from the Register Star Online story:

COLUMBIA COUNTY/PAKISTAN — It was, ironically, love that led Ansar Mahmood to spend two-and-a-half years of his young life in a Batavia detention center: Love for the beauty of his new found home, Columbia County; love for his three younger sisters back in Pakistan, who teased him that no place could be so lovely, and to whom he wanted to send photos to prove it.

Mahmood was one of a number of people around this country who were the victims of racial profiling after 9/11. Born and raised in a small, rural village in Pakistan, he won the “green card lottery,” which allowed him to come to the United States and earn money to send home to his family for education, medical needs and other expenses. He landed a job as a Domino’s Pizza deliveryman in Greenport, a job he loved.

Now back in his home village in Gujarat province, Mahmood still lists the areas he found most beautiful, Mt. Merino, Gahbauer Road, Columbiaville.

On Rossman Avenue, where Hudson’s altitude reaches its highest point, Mahmood met customer Peter Jung, who pointed up the hill and said there were great views up there. And so Mahmood took his disposable camera there and started shooting views of the Catskills, and asked personnel at the Hudson Water Treatment plant, also located there, to take his picture against a wide panoramic background.

This took place Oct 10, 2001, one month after 9/11. The employees felt dutybound to call the police, suspecting a possible terrorist threat, and when Ansar Mahmood returned to Domino’s, various law enforcement agency representatives were there to greet him.

Although he was swiftly cleared of any suspicion of terrorism, the FBI dug into his personal life and learned that he was sharing an apartment with two young people from his village in Pakistan. Their visas had expired, so Mahmood was accused of “harboring illegal aliens.”

In the Kafkaesque chain of events that followed, he was jailed in Albany, released, and then imprisoned in the Buffalo Detention Center in Batavia, NY, near Rochester, where he stayed for 32 months, fighting the deportation he had been faced with after being convicted of harboring illegal aliens, a felony.  . . . .
Mahmood’s story forms one chapter in the recent book, “Detained without Cause: Muslims’ stories of detention and deportation in America after 9/11,” by UCLA Fulbright scholar Irum Shiekh, who writes, “Helping a childhood friend – a moral responsibility in Pakistani culture – was manufactured into a crime after the U.S. Congress adopted the 1996 immigration act, and law enforcement officers decided to enforce it strictly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Ansar’s narrative shows that the United States’ current immigration laws can transform an honest young man with aspirations into a terrorist or a criminal.”

But his aspirations are still of the most generous kind.

“If I close my eyes,” Mahmood said, “I’m still in the USA. If someone asks me, What is the biggest aim in your life? I’d say to go back to America and thank all these people  that were helping me from the outside. Old ladies [from Rochester] that held  a vigil outside Batavia, even in the wintertime. They fight for the right, what belongs to their nation; sometimes, I don’t have the words.”

He said he wishes he could return to the United States to “really thank in my deep heart” the people of Hudson and Columbia County.

And meanwhile, he is engaged to be married to a young woman in the village. And he continues to be a strong and loving support to his family.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Software Freedom Day

                                      Worldwide, Saturday, September 17
In the words of its organizers, Software Freedom Day "is a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business -- in short, everywhere! The non-profit organization Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organize the local SFD events to impact their own communities."

There are meeting sites in Boston, around the USA and rest of the world.  Check the various schedules for events and times.

Here's Pia Waugh's statement on Free and Open Software's importance for human rights.  The basic reference point is, of course, the United Nations accord, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights."      


Great idea: little free libraries

My own love of books was first nurtured at a free public library in San Luis Obispo, one of the ones built with money from the Andrew Carnegie fortune.  Now a group of low budget philanthropists have initiated the "Little Free Library" project.  Fabulous!  

From the Utne Reader:

Andrew Carnegie built an impressive 2,509 libraries around the turn of the 20th century. Now Rick Brooks and Todd Bol are on a mission to top his total with their two-foot by two-foot Little Free Libraries, reports Michael Kelley in Library Journal.

The diminutive, birdhouse-like libraries which Brooks and Bol began installing in Hudson and Madison, Wisconsin, in 2009, are typically made of wood and Plexiglas and are designed to hold about 20 books for community members to borrow and enjoy. Offerings include anything from Russian novels and gardening guides to French cookbooks and Dr. Seuss.  

Each Little Free Library runs on the honor system, displaying a sign that asks patrons to Take a Book, Leave a Book. “Everybody asks, ‘Aren’t they going to steal the books?’” Brooks told Kelley. “But you can’t steal a free book.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lewis Mumford's thoughts on the terror of our times and who's to blame

                                                                                               Hiroshima, 1945

Preparing for a class recently, I happened upon an essay Lewis Mumford wrote in 1946 – “Gentlemen You Are Mad!"  It's his response to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to the distinct likelihood that the people and institutions that produced these atrocities would continue as a normal, acceptable feature of American life.  

The questions he raises are every bit as relevant to the past decade’s “War on Terror” and apparatus of “Homeland Security” as they are to the version of the death machine Mumford observed and condemned.

“Soberly, day after day, the madmen continue to go through the undeviating motions of madness: motions so stereotyped, so commonplace, that they seem the normal motions of normal men, not the mass compulsions of people bent on total death.  Without a public mandate of any kind, the madmen have taken it upon themselves to lead us by gradual stages to that final act of madness which will corrupt the face of the earth and blot out the nations of men, possibly put an end to all life on the planet itself. ….

“Why do we let the madmen go on with their game without raising our voices?  Why do we keep our glassy calm in the face of this danger?  There is a reason: we are madmen too.  We view the madness of our leaders as if it expressed a traditional wisdom and common sense: we view them placidly, as a doped policeman might view with a blank tolerant leer the robbery of a bank or the barehanded killing of a child or the setting of an infernal machine in a railroad station.  Our failure to act is the measure of our madness.  We look at the madmen and pass by.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

Ordos: China's empty city in the middle of nowhere

Almost totally empty, the new city of Ordos in the desert of Inner Mongolia, is still under construction.  Wealthy Chinese buyers are snapping up its luxury houses and condominiums, furniture and all, despite the fact that no one is likely to move there for the foreseeable future.  Why?  Investors  see real estate as a long term, secure acquisition, much like gold.  To maintain the image that genuine social life may eventually take root there, town authorities hold two concerts each year in the city's enormous auditorium. 

Subsidies for solar energy? Why not?

This infographic from the always provocative 1bog.org -- One Block Off the Grid -- illustrates the ways in which current energy policies stack the deck in favor of fossil fuel and imagines what the situation would be if solar received equivalent subsidies.  It would be interesting (embarrassing) to include nuclear power in this comparison.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Economic recovery: Stimulus? or Austerity? How about neither?

This is a video, "300 years of fossil fuels in 300 seconds," produced by the Post-Carbon Institute.  It  summarizes the views of Richard Heinberg whose books, including a new one Beyond Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, argue the position in full. 

Unfortunately, so far at least, the mass media outlets in America have pretty much ignored the book and its lessons.  Not even a polite NPR feature has bothered to stir the pot.   From the standpoint of conventional economics, mainstream journalists and our political elites, Heinberg's down-to-earth reasoning about a planet in crisis are simply beyond the pale, justifiably excluded from today's "serious" debates about "economic recovery." 

Below is a segment from a recent interview, "How to Talk About the End Growth,"  in which Heinberg lays out the differences between his point of view and those of proponents of economic stimulus (mainly Democrats) and debt obsessed austerity (mainly Republicans).   While I'm  sympathetic to his arguments and conclusions, I do think he ignores a crucially important feature of our current predicament.  I'll explain that briefly at the end. 

He comments:  "Either you’re a political liberal and you think that more stimulus spending will get us back to job creation and consumer spending. Or you’re a conservative and you think the problem is too much debt  — government debt — and all we need to do is cut down on government spending and private enterprise will kick into gear and create more jobs and get the economy back in its traditional growth mode.
"I’m saying both of those arguments are wrong.
"And I think it’s really important that that point of view be out there. Because if all we have are these two failed options — and they have failed; you know, we tried the stimulus and it produced anemic and transitory results.
"And countries around the world are trying austerity packages and that’s not producing economic growth. It’s doing just the opposite. It’s causing economic activity to shrink for pretty obvious reasons. It’s causing people to lose their jobs and it’s just contracting economic activity altogether because the government’s basically the main game in town in most countries right now. ....
"So both of those prescriptions have failed. And they’ve failed for a reason. I explain why in the book. It’s not because these aren’t good people or smart people. It’s because we have been relying on a fundamentally flawed paradigm: the paradigm of continuous economic growth on a finite planet with limited resources. The limits to those resources are catching up with us, very rapidly actually. And that means that there’s no more growth available in consumption of energy and goods.
"So if we’re going to have economies that still support people, economies that don’t crash and collapse, then we’re going to have to start thinking very differently about how we organize our economies, and how we support people in what are inevitably going to be some pretty hard times."
   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
In both his book and the interview, Heinberg argues forcefully for a vision of economic possibilities beyond the orthodoxies growth, drawing upon conceptions of a steady-state economy adapted from Herman Daly and other thinkers.  He notes that recently there has support for these notions from a number writers.  " Paul Gilding, former head of  Greenpeace has just written a book called The Great Disruption. He’s coming to exactly the same conclusion from the standpoint of somebody who’s really, really at the core of the environmental movements .....Then you have Jeremy Grantham who founded one of the world’s largest investment funds. And he’s come to basically the same conclusion from his point of view."
I  applaud Heinberg for the brilliance of his writing and for the solid evidence he marshals to buttress his case.  What's missing here, however, is any hint of awareness of another dimension of the the economic, political, energy, and environmental mess in which we find ourselves  -- growing INEQUALTY and widening gaps of wealth and power within the world's population.  As Heinberg talks about the transition to a new economy -- local, far less resource demanding, more satisfying in it human relationships, etc. -- he leaves out the part of the story that includes what has actually happened to the dream of prosperity for all, namely, that beginning in the late 1970s (following the energy crises of that decade) those with a privileged overview (e.g., MBA globalist hot shots) settled on a particular proposition:  "Get yours while the getting's good, because the getting ain't going to be good much longer."  
Hence, during the past three decades we've seen the rapid, massive transfer of wealth, nationally and globally, from the lower and middle layers of the economy to the very top. I don't know why Heinberg takes little if any notice of the increasing inequality, plutocracy and landscape of "gated communities" that characterizes the early 21st century.  For readers looking for a more balanced understanding, a  good complement is the poignant essay by late Tony Judt's Ill Fare the Land that faces the situation head on.  For all their clarity and courage, Heinberg's reflections on the drastic transitions ahead seem to overlook the ugly ones carefully planned during the past several decades.

Monday, September 05, 2011

One of Jerry's kids speaks out!

                                                                  Smart Ass Cripple 
                                                                                                (Mike Ervin)

One of my favorite blogs these days is Smart Ass Cripple.  It's full of irreverent, often shocking hilarity by a fellow, Mike Ervin, who is every bit as funny and insightful as, say, Jesus General.  At first I was a little nervous about laughing his observations and quips.  But when I sent a link to my friend Paco in Madrid (himself a young man in a wheel chair), he wrote back, "I like the blog, it's fun and I do not think it is in bad taste."

A recent post by Smart Ass Cripple talks openly about the demise of the Jerry Lewis Telethon, an event that captured the attention of many Americans for several decades for reasons I've never fully understood.

"Who wants to adopt Smart Ass Cripple? I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve totally lost my identity. Ever since way back when I was a cherubic lad with just a hint of a smart ass glimmer in my eyes, they’ve been calling me Jerry’s Kid. But now that Jerry’s gone, whose kid am I?

I always knew that as one of Jerry’s Kids, I was different from regular kids. Jerry’s Kids never grow up. We’re not allowed to. It’s like they baptized us in the Fountain of Youth, except the age-retarding potency of the water in this fountain is magnified by ten thousand. It’s the Fountain of Infantilization. Even after I developed decidedly unchildlike traits, like pubic hair and a sex drive, they still called me Jerry’s Kid.

But whose kid am I now? American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe will be taking over as one of the telethon hosts. So I suppose some big shot in the hierarchies will attempt to deem that henceforth I’m am to be known as American Idol Producer Nygel Lythgoe’s Kid.

But that’s fucked up. You can’t just extinguish a cult of personality as entrenched as Jerry’s with the mere flick of a press release. It’s going to take a Soviet style purge, maybe even another Cultural Revolution, to do that. You may have to send everybody who ever watched the telethon to re-education camps to get them to stop looking at cripples as Jerry’s Kids.

So screw it. As far as I concerned, I’m now a free agent. And I’m selling my naming rights to the highest bidder. Whoever kicks in the most cash, I will be your kid. You don’t have to be famous. Adopt me and I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to make both of us famous."

   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

There's more.  Go read it and other gems such as "Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe."