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The Progressive Review

american notes

America ranks 16th in social progress index

Alternet - If America needed a reminder that it is fast becoming a second-rate nation, and that every economic policy of the Republican Party is wrongheaded, it got one this week with the release of the Social Progress Index.

Harvard business professor Michael E. Porter, who earlier developed the Global Competitiveness Report, designed the SPI. A new way to look at the success of countries, the SPI studies 132 nations and evaluates 54 social and environmental indicators for each country that matter to real people. The index is based on an array of data reflecting suicide, ecosystem sustainability, property rights, access to healthcare and education, gender equality, attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, religious freedom, nutrition, infrastructure and more.

While the U.S. enjoys the second highest per capita GDP of $45,336, it ranks in an underperforming 16th place overall. It gets worse. The U.S. ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.

More surprising is the fact that despite being the home country of global tech heavyweights Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, and so on, the U.S. ranks a disappointing 23rd in access to the Internet. “It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag,” notes Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, which oversees the index.

A half century ago, MLK described the strategy that still drives the American elite today: keep the weak fighting each other

Barely half of American adults are married.

Pew - Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.

In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years. Other adult living arrangements—including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood—have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.

The United States is by no means the only nation where marriage has been losing “market share” for the past half century. The same trend has taken hold in most other advanced post-industrial societies, and these long-term declines appear to be largely unrelated to the business cycle. The declines have persisted through good economic times and bad.

In the United States, the declines have occurred among all age groups, but are most dramatic among young adults. Today, just 20% of adults ages 18 to 29 are married, compared with 59% in 1960. Over the course of the past 50 years, the median age at first marriage has risen by about six years for both men and women.

It is not yet known whether today’s young adults are abandoning marriage or merely delaying it. Even at a time when barely half of the adult population is married, a much higher share— 72%—have been married at least once. However, this “ever married” share is down from 85% in 1960.

Quite an impressive tool from the Census Bureau that allows you to see a map of where people are migrating to and from your county.

If God is so central to football, why does he let NFL players die so young?

Alternet - A new study conducted by the Public Research Institute found that 50 percent of Americans think God will determine the winner of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The NFL and Jesus have become practically synonymous in this country. Teams hold prayer circles before, during, and after games. The NFL is among the most fervently religious sectors of American life. On any given Sunday you’ll hear players claiming, “God was with me today” or “I give thanks to God for our victory.” Prayer and praise of the Lord Almighty is not confined to the game’s participants, either. PRRI found that more than 25% of Americans pray to God specifically to help their team.

Some highlights from the survey include:

One-in-four (25%) Americans who report being a fan of a particular team believe that their team has been cursed at some point in time.

Roughly 1-in-5 (21%) American sports fans report performing a ritual before or while watching their favorite team.

The best finding in the study was that, “One fan reports that he wears “a dirty pair of underwear … over my pants and then I put my jersey on.” While that’s not specifically a ritual tied to Christianity, it is no less absurd than praying for divine intervention.

..So are truly faithful NFL players rewarded with success on the field?

The Broncos and Seahawks teams have an equal number of Christians.

The average life expectancy of the American male is 78 years.

The NFL players association says the average life expectancy of an NFL player is 58 years old.

The suicide rate of NFL players is 6-times the national average.

Obama's hat trick of failures

Seven studies find elite more unethical than ordinary Americans

American dialect maps


2013 National Hobo Convention

The new mind of the south

The decline of comic strips

Why your editor used to love going to Oriole games (don't miss the Earl Weaver video)

2012

Dream fades for Gen Y professionals

Massachusetts could change our view of death

How lawyers damage our culture

75th anniversary of Appalachian Trail

The secret history of shipping pallets

The end of the Simpsons creator's comic strip

Photos of Woodstock

Why do we idolize jerks?

What gun owners and gays can teach us about America


DEPRESSION PHOTOS

Science: the redefinition of coolness

TED: a massive, money-soaked orgy of self-congratulatory futurism

Loneliness, narcissism and Facebook

Ten years later, the Segway is still struggling

In praise of the Waffle House

America has to learn how to manage its decline

The F-word we're still scared to use

Local heroes: a security guard you can love

Only 16% of America is still rural

Babies prefer Picasso to Monet. . .

Crash of America

Court rules that lap dances are not tax free performance art. . .

Some 60 lawsuits against various "Real Housewives"

One quarter of counties had fewer births than deaths & 90% of these were rural

How common is infidelity?

A complete guide to American exceptionalism

Sex, war and the Ivy League

Monumental bathroom problem at 9/11 site

Playboy surveys sex lives of Americans

Why hip is no longer hip

Americans spend as much time on mobile phone as reading newspapers & magazines

What do Americans think about marriage and family?

Seven of ten richest counties are in in DC area

50 things restaurant servers don't like

SOME REASONS TO DUMP DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

U.S. IS LEADING BANANA REPUBLIC

New York City in the `1940s

2010

STUDY: AMERICANS LIKE VARIED SEX

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CENSUS BUREAU'S COMMUNITY SURVEY

BABE RUTH, BARRY BONDS AND JAY WALKERS: REAL AMERICANS

LADY GAGA: THE END OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION?

NEW YORKERS HIRE CONSULTANTS TO GET KIDS INTO RIGHT KINDERGARTEN

WHITE BREAD IS TOAST

HARVARD LAW SCHOOL RETAINS SUPER MAJORITY ON SUPREME COURT

DEATH BY POWERPOINT ADDS TO MILITARY'S CASUALTY RATE

HOW TO PRONOUNCE WISCONSIN PLACE NAMES

MULTI-GENERATIONAL HOUSEHOLDS HITS 50 YEAR RECORD

AMERICA'S CANNED BEER FETISH

WHIFFLE BALL

RECOVERED HISTORY: DANCING YOU WON'T SEE TODAY

The remarkable Nicholas Brothers show up at about 6 minutes into this You Tube clip in the finale to the movie 'Stormy Weather.' Fred Astaire said it was the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen. Mikhail Baryshnikov called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen. Incidentally, if you start at the beginning you get Cab Calloway and Bojangles Robinson as well.

MAD MEN SHOULD HAVE HIRED HIM


MITCH COPE

STRIKING PHOTOS OF DETROIT

KURT VONNEGUT MOTIVATIONAL POSTERS

AMERICAN NOTES: SWIM CLUBS DISAPPEAR WITH CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS

AMERICANS BECOMING MUCH MORE POLITICALLY SEGREGATED

BEER CAN HOUSE

AMERICA'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH SELF STORAGE

GREAT MOMENTS FROM 'THE WIRE'

THE VISITOR - "In a sense, "The Visitor" is about the global econ professor bonding with the illegals, but the movie's not a tract. It's really about how people can come into our lives, change them, and leave. This is a film of our times - paranoid, heartbroken, disillusioned - and the rare recent American movie whose characters react the way actual people might." - Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

CATHERINE RUSSELL: "After listening to a continuous stream of releases by purported rising jazz singers - who couldn't have lasted through a chorus in a contest with Ella Fitzgerald or Betty Carter - it's a delight to hear the real thing in Catherine Russell. . at the center of gravity that has always kept the music alive is 'the groove' that Cat Russell embodies." - Nat Hentoff

THE MYTH OF THE GREATEST GENERATION

POWER POINT KARAOKE CATCHING ON

IF LINCOLN HAD JUST HAD POWERPOINT

All power corrupts; Powerpoint corrupts absolutely - Edward Tufte

AMERICAN SNAPSHOTS

AMERICAN SNAPSHOTS

WORST ALBUM COVERS OF ALL TIME

This collection of demonic kids scarfing down food in 1950s advertisements is notable not just for its artistic content but as a reminder that the efforts by the food industry to stuff our children is not a new phenomenom. What's particularly interesting is that the percentage of junk food seems strikingly lower: kids are being urged to drink Campbell's Soup [above], non-sugar enhanced cereals and so forth. Some academic might wish to compare the relative number of pitches for normal and junk foods today vs. fifty years ago.

CELL PHONES, ATLANTA

PORTRAITS OF MASS CONSUMPTION

SOON TO GO

WHO NEEDS THE SOPRANOS?
THE BOSTON MOB IN REAL TIME
ALMOST KILLED POPULAR TALK SHOW HOST

TOPICS

Essays
Department of Good Stuff
Elite ethnography
Entropy update
Newtown murders
Pocket paradigms
Sports
Stats

ESSAYS

Eternal fundamentals of leadership (Rev. 8/14/11)

How America is changing

Football and American empire

Factories of fame

 The crash of America

Post empire America

Three wars we'll never win

American indicators

Why hip is no longer hip

Reflections on patriotism

What's new with me

Blowin' in the wind of cultural decay

 STATS

2012

Federal spending on programs serving the country’s children fell by $35 billion, or 16 percent adjusted for inflation, since 2010.

American Interest - More than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million—roughly one out of every seven adults—live alone. This is a significant increase from 1950, when only 22 percent of American adults were single. It corresponds with an increase in the average age of marriage by five years to 28 for men and 26 for women. Put another way, people who live alone make up 28 percent of all U.S. households, which makes them more numerous than any other domestic unit, including the nuclear family.

@Harpers - Percentage change since 1970 in the marriage rate of U.S. women between the ages of thirty and fifty: -20

Couples who tie the knot multiple times face tough odds: second marriages fail 67 percent of the time, while third marriages fail 73 percent of the time

2011

The percentage of people who changed residences between 2010 and 2011 - 11.6 percent - was the lowest recorded rate since the Census began collecting statistics on the movement of people in the United States in 1948,.

One third break up via Facebook, email or text

28% of rural residents - or about 19 million Americans - still lack access to broadband Internet service.

For the first time, reports the Census Bureau, non-white babies are the majority of new borns.

TV ownership declines for first time in twenty years

For first time, a majority of Americans have lower hopes for their children

Life expectancies in most U.S. counties lags behind healthiest countries

Good states and cities for gay couples

Average young adults downs nine drinks when they binge

Nearly one in three will be arrested by age 23

Married couples at record low

Check the ethnic change in your town or 'hood

Rural divorce rate catches up to urban splits

Among American children, the multiracial population has increased almost 50 percent, to 4.2 million, since 2000, making it the fastest growing youth group in the country.

2010

What do Americans think about marriage and family?

ENTROPY UPDATE: TEACHING AMERICA TO KILL
CREATED BY JOHN GRAHAM-CUMMING

GREAT CROSS CULTURAL MOMENTS IN U.S. HISTORY
Buddy Holly appears on the Arthur Murray Dance Party in 1957. Watch the immobile dancers in the background.

Richard Brenneman - In his 1976 film Network, Paddy Chayefsky presciently forecast today's world of "reality" television in which the ancient Roman practice of "bread and circuses" - panem et circenses - for distracting the masses is replaced by today's politics of bread without the circus. In this scene, Ned Beatty, playing conglomerate tycoon mogul Arthur Jensen delivers a soliloquy to the late Peter Finch, who plays newscaster Howard Beale, enlightening him about the realities of the new corporatized world. No better description of our Brave New Corpocracy has ever been written.

BLOG OF "UNNECESSARY" QUOTATIONS MARKS

DEPRESSION PHOTOS

1500 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PHOTOS FROM A HUNDRED YEARS AGO

ALTERNATIVE TEN COMMANDMENTS

WHAT DOES THE KILLING OF CAPTAIN AMERICA MEAN?

Huge gallery of comic book covers

PEOPLE - INCLUDING CHILDREN - TOO BUSY TO USE THEIR BACKYARDS

TEEN TEXT MESSAGES 6,800 TIMES IN ONE MONTH

GALLERY OF PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE NOTES FROM ROOMMATES AND CO-WORKERS

CHAPEL MADE OF FOUND OBJECTS
& OTHER WONDERS IN RIVERSIDE, CA

GHOST TOWN GALLERY   ABOUT THE TOWN

EIGHT ARTISTS CREATE SECRET APARTMENT IN SHOPPING CENTER PARKING GARAGE

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A FARMER

[Your editor recently uncovered in a forgotten file this wonderful description of what the disappearing craft of being a farmer is about. I was blessed as a young man to have worked on a farm and with farmers and as I reread this I was reminded where some of my sense of the possible comes from. I was also reminded that when I wrote the "Great American Political Manual," my editor at WW Norton apologetically told me that one of her colleagues had expressed fear that "repair" sounded too much like work. "Oh, that's right," I replied. "You folks in Manhattan don't repair anything; you just call the super."]

KW CARTER, MAINE TIMES 1974 - It will take a third of a lifetime for a man to learn the many and diverse skills necessary to enable him to survive while producing beef, potatoes, milk or what have you. He will, when he has attained competence as a farmer become expert in all of the following fields plus a great many others which I have not mentioned.

He will have a working knowledge of plant and animal nutrition.

He will be an efficient rough carpenter,

He will be a competent lumberman and woodsman.

He will be a veterinarian of sorts. ,

He will have the skills of a mediocre housepainter and electrician.

He will .have a working knowledge of many kinds of machinery and be a more or less skillful mechanic.

He will know how to dig a well, wall up a spring, lay a .waterpipe and do some rough plumbing,

He will ,learn how to predict the weather with greater accuracy than the U.S. [Weather] Bureau or he will be in deep trouble.

He must have some knowledge of accounting or the government will nail him to the cross the first time he makes any money

He must know how to build a barbed wire fence, corduroy a road through the swamp, butcher a hog, salt his sowbelly and raise his beans; how to deliver a cow of her calf, how deep to plant his beet and spinach seed, build a scarecrow to keep the crows out of the com, and shoot the foxes, racoons and squirrels that eat his poultry and raid his garden; he will learn to hang an axe, file a saw, shingle the barn, install lightning rods, repair the mowing machine, cure cannibalism among the chickens, and make a brine to cure his ham and bacon. He must learn to handle a dangerous bull or get gored in the process.

He must be capable of conning his banker out of a loan when things are taught, which they certainly will be; and he will learn [guile] when dealing with those who buy his produce or they will skin him alive and nail his hide on his own barn door.

This is perhaps ten percent of the skills he must learn to survive, None of them require any enormous intellectual capacity, but he will be years learning them the hard way

HOW TO TALK BOSTON

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY UPDATE
BAND NAMES THAT HAVE
ALREADY BEEN TAKEN

[Just a few from the A-B part of the list]

A Box of Fish with Tartar Sauce
A Boy Named Gomer
Above Average Weight Band
A Cat Born In An Oven Isn't a Cake Accidental
Adult Children of Heterosexuals
Afghanistan Banana Stand
Aggressive Crotch Display
Aha, the Attack of the Green Slime Beast
Albino Toilet Boys
Alcoholocaust
Alien Nymphos from Uranus Alien
Anal Beard Barbers
Apocolypse Hoboken
The Archbishop's Enema Fetish
Armpit Arthur Loves Plastic

Bad Mutha Goose
The Band Formerly Known As Sausage
A Band Named Bob
Bearded Clams
Beats the Hell Out of Me Beef
Ben Wa and the Blue Balls
Bertha Does Moosejaw
Big Balls and the Great White Idiot
Big In Iowa
Bionic Roomate
Black Leather Agenda
Black Leather Jesus
Body Falling Down Stairs
Boiled Angel
Bolt Upright and the Erections
The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir
Brady Bunch Lawnmower Massacre
Bullwinkel Gandhi
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas

 

DOWN AND OUT IN PALM BEACH

 

 

 

 

POCKET PARADIGMS
SAM SMITH

The four leading causes for the decline of the American republic were:

- Margaret Thatcher, who provided Ronald Reagan's with brains

- The Yale Law School, which has cursed us with everything from Clarence Thomas to Bill Clinton.

- The Harvard Business School which taught a generation of managers that they didn't have to know a damn thing about what they were managing

- The disco drum machine, which inaugurated our cultural collapse

In the end, it is not the culture from which we came but the one each of us is helping to create that will matter. It is our common fate rather than our disparate pasts that will ultimately describe, redeem, or destroy us.

America is not the answer; it is only a good place to look for the answer. America has never been perfect; it's just been a place where it was easier to fix things that were broken.

The fraud, the huckster, the salesman are not new phenomena in America; what is new is that they now so strongly control every estate of our society. Those of a character that would have once caused Americans to close the door, hang up, or say "no thank you," now teach our children, run our government, and tell us what to think. They are the Enron generation, filled with postmodern versions of Willy Loman: "He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He' s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine." America once made things people wanted, said things that needed to be said and fixed things, including itself, that needed fixing. Now it is out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. The problem, as Willy Loman discovered, comes "when they start not smiling back - that's an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished."

A good way to think about the history of our country is that it has involved repeated conflict between the specifics of the soul and institutional abstractions -- between people and places on the one hand and, on the other, a succession of systems desiring to exploit, subjugate or supplant them. You can say that one of the great characteristics of Americans has been not merely opposition to a system of the moment but antipathy towards unnatural systems in general -- opposition to all systems that revoke, replace or restrain the natural rights of human beings and the natural assets of their habitats.

We should seek a cooperative commonwealth based on decency before profit, liberty before sterile order, justice before efficiency, happiness before uniformity, families before systems, communities before corporations, and people before institutions

Today almost every principle upon which this country was founded is being turned on its head. Instead of liberty we are being taught to prefer order, instead of democracy we are taught to be follow directions, instead of debate we are inundated with propaganda. Most profoundly, American citizens are no longer considered by their elites to be members or even worker drones of society, but rather as targets - targets of opportunity by corporations and of suspicion and control by government.

Those who run the country, whether in government, business or media, seldom speak of this land anymore with feeling, affection or understanding. They too often carry forth their affairs unburdened by place, history or culture -- without conscience, without country, and without any sense of the pain they have caused. America is no longer a place to serve and to love. Because they have, in the name of global glories, cut themselves off from their own land, it is becoming for them increasingly a place of danger -- a place of long, grim shadows, the sort of shadows that too often conceal a foe.

We live in a nation hated abroad and frightened at home. A place in which we can reasonably refer to the American Republic in the past tense. A country that has moved into a post-constitutional era, no longer a nation of laws but an autocracy run by law breakers, law evaders and law ignorers. A nation governed by a culture of impunity ... a culture in which corruption is no longer a form of deviance but the norm. We all live in a Mafia neighborhood now."

The game plan of America's mandarins absolutely assumes a widening gap between the governed and the governing and between rich and poor, one that will have to be met by force of one sort or another. Those in power are prepared to do business with most favored nations abroad and to suppress least favored citizens at home.

o

One test of the state of an empire is whether a handful of angry young men with box cutters can wreck your major economic and military edifices and throw the country into total panic. One test of the state of your culture is whether you can think of much over the past few years to which you reacted by thinking "that's the best [whatever] that I've seen-heard-read in a long time." Another test is when you find yourself saying of some public figure, "I'm sure glad such people are around at a time like this."

When you can't trust your presidents of either major party, your beloved Constitution is in tatters, you have to submit to investigative fondling before flying to Des Moines, your Catholic cardinals say it's okay to bugger little boys as long as you don't do it too often and it doesn't become "notorious," a corporation thrice declared by Fortune Magazine to be the most innovative in the country turns out to be a den of thieves, the accountants who are meant to protect us from such scoundrels turn out to be co-conspirators, our lawmakers spend most of their time finding new things to prohibit, we feel we have to give kids drug tests to make sure they're safe to sing in the choir, our teachers have forgotten how to teach our children how to read, and our journalists have forgotten how to write or to tell a lie from a fact, you've got a problem and one that's not really Al-Queda's fault.

Empires and cultures are not permanent and while thinking about the possibility that ours is collapsing may seem a dismal exercise it is far less so than enduring the dangerous frustrations and failures involved in having one's contrary myth constantly butt up against reality like a boozer who insists he is not drunk attempting to drive home. Instead of defending the non-existent we could turn our energies instead towards devising a new and saner existence.

The drug Soma, obstacle golf, Feelie movies and Centrifugal Bumble-puppy were used in Huxley's Brave New World to placate the masses. These have been supplanted by a enormous variety of political tranquilizers ranging from actual drugs to distractions such as video games and even substitute elections such as American Idol and Survivor. Never have Americans in their off-work hours had so many ways to avoid what is really going on. Never have so many Americans been deactivated in imagination, creativity and energy by drugs prescribed by medicine rather than by taking those of their own choice.

Those who would preserve the better America and recreate from its damaged remains are not naive fools; they are the new founding fathers and mothers of a time and place still to come. Nor are they fantasizing. Any place, any community, any gathering can become what Hakim Bey called a temporary autonomous zone, an oasis of freedom, decency and hope, in which a new culture can take sprout. Name it, enjoy it, use it. It's the best we have at the moment.

True patriotism is an act of love, not hate. It is service not revenge, contributions not cheers, participation not prohibition, and debate not salutes.

To find the real America buried in our hearts, we have to turn off the amps of propaganda and hype, the reverb and distortion of our fears and failures, and listen to the country unplugged. Some of the best things can only be heard when everything else is still.

In the end, it is not the culture from which we came but the one each of us is helping to create that will matter. It is our common fate rather than our disparate pasts that will ultimately describe, redeem, or destroy us.