FOLLOW US ON: follow us in feedly
Capitalism’s sacrifice zones: Some people are happy to destroy the lives of others for a profit

Image by Skywalker11

I grew up in West Virginia. Practically from the day I was born, I was exposed to the idea of what a strip mine is. When I saw The Lorax on TV for the first time, I would have been about six, and I can recall drawing an immediate connection to the barren wasteland hell-pit down the hill from my parents’ house as I watched. My childrhood was spent in an area where the “Truffula trees” were hard, black and underground, but the point Dr. Seuss wanted kids to instinctually grok, I can assure you, was not lost on me.

Large coal companies have been coming in and raping the land without opposition for decades. That is the way things are in West Virginia. Without opposition? Who am I kidding, they roll out the red carpet for the pleasure, because residents of the state are so desperate for the work. When your family is hungry, it’s all about the here and now. The coal companies write the laws in WV. This is how they’re able to saw the tops off of once pristine mountains and hills, fuck up the drinking water and destroy the soil, generally leaving the place looking like a lunar landscape in their wake.

When the coal is gone, West Virginia is going to be a big hole in the middle of the country. That’s all that’s going to be left of it. The people who live there who would like to stop it, can’t stop anything and most people outside of the state are either totally unaware of what’s going on there or they simply don’t care.

Very few images of the so-called “sacrifice zones” left behind by rapacious late-stage Capitalism make it to the mainstream media. Once in a while, maybe, but what goes on in the hills of Appalachia isn’t really the stuff of The New York Times, CNN or even MSNBC. The state is too far removed from the media centers and corridors of power, so the mountain tops keep getting removed and now the guy living in the mobile home down the road has sold the fracking rights to his five acres. Who gives a shit about your drinking water?

The answer, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to be anyone. This is just the way it goes…

After the jump, watch Bill Moyers and Chris Hedges discuss Capitalism’s ‘sacrifice zones’...

Posted by Richard Metzger
04:55 pm
Occupy Your Rage Against the Machine: Bill Moyers interviews Tom Morello

Bill Moyers continues to make astonishing television with his truly great new PBS series, Moyers and Company. It’s unmissable, the most intelligent hour of programming on American TV today, bar none.

In the latest episode, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello—a man I have a lot of admiration for—joined Bill Moyers for a particularly moving and inspiring conversation. From the show’s website

Songs of social protest—music and the quest for justice—have long been intertwined, and the troubadours of troubling times—Guthrie, Seeger, Baez, Dylan, and Springsteen among them—have become famous for their dedication to both. Now we can add a name to the ranks of those who lift their voices for social and economic justice: Tom Morello.

Morello is the Harvard-educated guitarist who dabbled in politics, then chose rock music to make a difference. He played guitar for the popular band he co-founded—Rage Against the Machine—and then for Audioslave. Rolling Stone chose his album “World Wide Rebel Songs” as one of the best of 2011, and named him one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

As likely to be spotted at a grass-roots rally as he would at a concert hall, Morello was in Madison, Wisconsin last year, braving bitter winter weather to sing on the steps on the state capitol in support of public service workers. Morello defended their collective bargaining rights against Republican Governor Scott Walker.

He was in New York City at the May Day demonstrations, an honorary commander of a battalion of musicians they called the “Occupy Guitarmy.” That same night, Harry Belafonte presented Morello with the Officers’ Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, honoring his “advocacy for and support of working people across the world.”

Tom Morello shares his music, his message, and mission with Bill Moyers, who’s all ears.

Two badass motherfuckers in conversation….

Posted by Richard Metzger
12:19 pm
Economic Malpractice and the Millennials, or ‘Heather McGhee, you’re my new hero!’

Okay, so did you watch that amazing interview Bill Moyers conducted with former Ronald Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett about the economic shambles that George Bush left this country in and why bold initiatives—not Tea party platitudes—are the only way out of this mess? You did? Great, now proceed on to its perfect companion piece, Moyers’ fascinating conversation from that very same program with Heather McGhee.


McGhee is an attorney and the Washington, DC office director of the Demos think tank. You may have noticed her on MSNBC before, or even Fox News, but this is the first time I’ve seen her in a situation where she’s had such a sustained media platform. McGhee shines here. What a refreshing, sparkling—and incisive—intelligence to see in a younger person. I must say, I’m super impressed by what this young woman had to say here and by what she represents about the up and coming generation. This is someone looking at the world with her eyes wide open and what she says here about how “The Millennials” (those born between 1978 and 2000, representing 80 million Americans) view the current state of affairs cuts straight to the heart of the situation they have found themselves coming of age in.

We already know what the Tea Party “elders” (are any of them young?) think needs to happen, but they’re the ones who’ll be dying off soon, anyways, so fuck them!

If you want to understand what the younger generation are likely to demand of society, moving forward, this interview is a very, very good place to start. This is a very important document of our times. Big picture stuff. It’s also one hell of a bravura talkshow appearance!

One thought I had watching this interview was what a great future President Heather McGhee would make and I doubt very much that I am the only one who was watching and thinking that thought. She’s too young now to run for President, of course, but imagine a progressive wet dream ticket for 2016 of Alan Grayson and Heather McGhee! I think they’d make a formidable team.

McGhee is the most articulate new liberal voice on television since Rachel Maddow. Crooks and Liars editor Tina Dupuy and Heather McGhee need to meet, pronto, if they don’t already know each other.

Posted by Richard Metzger
03:22 pm
Where (and When) the Right Went Wrong

I’ve raved here before about the great new Bill Moyers show on PBS and encourage DM readers not to miss it. Last week’s episode with Reagan administration economic adviser and former Treasury department official,  Bruce Bartlett, and attorney/activist/pundit Heather McGhee, the Washington, DC director of liberal think-tank Demos, knocked the ball out of the park again. I’m a week late on this, but better late than never…

The way the show aired had the Heather McGhee interview first, and the Bruce Bartlett interview second, but I’d suggest watching them in the reverse order because so much of what Bartlett talks about is “diagnostic” and much of what McGhee discusses is “prescriptive.” That there is approximately a 30-year spread in their respective ages provides an additional, unspoken context. The widescreen generational perspective here is simply priceless. You WILL be smarter after you watch these interviews, I guarantees it.

First Bruce Bartlett: In recent years, Bruce Bartlett has been a harsh, harsh critic of the economic policies of George W. Bush and the Tea party’s know-nothingness (he’s not much a fan of the Democrats, either, I should add). In recent months he’s been in the news for calling Texas Governor Rick Perry an “an idiot” on CNN, adding “and I don’t think anybody would disagree with that.”

In this interview, Bartlett, who began his Washington career first working for Congressman Ron Paul and then Jack Kemp, and who was an extremely influential figure in the “supply-side” economics debate, lets it fuckin’ rip, but in a very measured, dignified, highly informed manner. He’s not just an economist, he’s an historian as well. And he’s worked at the top levels of two Republican administrations. Here, Bartlett flat out calls “bullshit” on what’s going on now. It’s nothing short of amazing to hear someone say the things Bartlett says in this interview on American television.

The times they are a (still) changin’. What would a Tea party Republican make of the things Bartlett talks about here?!?!? I would imagine that it would cause their brains to spark, sputter & smoke!

Bill Moyers talks with conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who wrote “the bible” for the Reagan Revolution, worked on domestic policy for the Reagan White House, and served as a top treasury official under the first President Bush. Now he’s a heretic in the conservative circles where he once was a star.  Bartlett argues that right-wing tax policies—pushed in part by Grover Norquist and Tea Party activists—are destroying the country’s economic foundation.

Heather McGhee interview still to come in separate post.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Why Conservative and Liberals See the World Differently

Posted by Richard Metzger
01:00 pm
Why Conservatives and Liberals see the world differently

How absolutely grand it is to have a great American institution like Bill Moyers back on our television airways? After reading about Moyer’s reasons for returning to the public sphere—he feels compelled to re-enter the national conversation at what he believes to be a dark and critical juncture in American civic life—I had been greatly anticipating Moyers & Company. So far, the series has not disappointed, with a discussion on crony capitalism with Reagan’s budget director David Stockman and ace financial journalist Gretchen Morgenson, and a conversation on “winner-takes-all” politics with Yale professor Jacob Hacker and Berkeley’s Paul Pierson. We’ve only got him for two more years—Moyers will retire again when he turns 80—but it’s great to see him back conducting these meaty, intelligent and engaged conversations. Moyers & Company is among the very best programming that PBS has to offer.

On the most recent show, Moyers interviewed University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who many DM readers might be familiar with from his 2008 TED talk on the moral values that liberals and conservatives hold the most highly and how this influences their politics, and from his book The Happiness Hypothesis.

In his upcoming book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion Professor Haidt aims to explain what it means when the other side “doesn’t get it” to both sides. He makes some terrifically good points during his interview with Moyers, especially when it comes to explaining how “group think” and “the hive mind” work on both extremes of the political spectrum in America (and in other countries, too).

As you can see in this piece, Haidt’s research is fascinating indeed, but I found that some of his premises and conclusions were extremely unsatisfying. Some seemed downright counter-intuitive. Unhelpful. Don’t get me wrong, I think this entire interview is worthwhile, thought-provoking—even essential—viewing no matter which bit of the political spectrum you might fall on yourself, but the more or less false assumption that seems to be at the heart of Haidt’s work—that both sides have come to their positions through equally intellectually defensible routes—made my face scrunch up in in an expression that some might describe as a look of “liberal condescension.”

You could say that “Well, isn’t that just what he’s talking about? You’re a socialist, so of course you’d see it that way!” but even if that’s true, let me offer up Exhibit A in a lazy, half-hearted—yet utterly definitive—argument-ending rebuttal: Orly Taitz, WorldNetDaily and the whole birther phenomenon.

How is it “balanced” to give obviously unbalanced people the benefit of the doubt? What would even be the point of that exercise? What purpose would it serve to a social scientist? If someone’s political positions can’t be reconciled with actual facts, then their political opinions are absolutely worthless.

Try having a rational political discussion with a LaRouchie sometime! It can’t be done.

People who have difficulty grasping the complexity of the world they live in should not be seen as coming to the table as equals with people who are not as intellectually challenged! This seems self-evident, does it not? The birther phenomenon among Republican voters was never some fringe faction within the greater GOP. It still isn’t.

It would be a waste of time to try to catalog every instance of ill-informed right-wingers who can’t spell “moron,” vehemently protest policies that would actually benefit their own lives, and who think that every single word in the Bible is the infallible utterance of God himself, but at least in this interview (his book isn’t out yet) Haidt fails to demonstrate why stupidity, superstition and flagrant lies about established historical facts deserve intellectual parity alongside of opinions borne of widely accepted science, common sense and a commonly shared national history, as opposed to the made-up one the Reichwing subscribes to.

The age-old trusim of “There are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle” is no longer the case when you’re having a “philosophical disagreement” with a Drudge Report reader or Fox News fan who lives in their own private Bizzaro World where there is no difference between facts and Rush Limbaugh’s opinon . Internet comments that invoke conspiracy theories about Frances Piven, ACORN, the Tides Foundation, George Soros, Saul Alinsky, Van Jones or that comically conflate “Socialism” with “National Socialism” are dead-giveaways of a stunted intelligence on the other end of the keyboard. Teabaggers who want to pressure school textbook publishers to remove any mention of the Founding Fathers being slaveholders or Christianists who argue that Creationism is as equally valid as Darwin’s evolutionary theories should not be in a position to influence policy and yet in many parts of the country this is exactly what is happening, to the detriment of the school systems, the intellectual growth of the students who will be ill-prepared for higher education, etc. Does Haidt truly feel that these people who deny history and science itself came to their positions honestly and rationally? And if he doesn’t feel that way, wouldn’t that admission require a caveat so huge as to at least partially invalidate much of his take-away?

I’m intrigued by what his research has found, I’m far less impressed by how he interprets it.

I get that Haidt’s thesis must be presented in a manner which bends over backwards not to appear partisan, but when it’s been shown that a statistically significant percentage of lower IQ children tend to gravitate towards political conservatism in adulthood (read “Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice” at Live Science) I feel like Haidt might missing the boat entirely: What if the REAL revelation at the heart of his research is that there’s an unbridgeable IQ stratification in America due to our shitty public schools, and the malign influence of the churches and talk radio/Fox News that may have already rendered this country basically ungovernable. (Jonathan Haidt regularly asks his audiences to raise their hands to indicate if they self-identify as “liberal” or “conservative” and notes that when he’s speaking to an audience of academics, that over 90% tend to call themselves “liberals”—is this merely a coincidence? I should think not!).

I respect what Haidt is attempting to do with his research, but ultimately, watching this, I saw so many flaws in his assumptions and methodology (at least as he explains it here, which I suspect is adequate) that I can’t help feeling that someone else is going to come along later and take up some of the more valid points of his work, discard the less impressive parts and get it right. He’s on to something in a big way, but I have deep reservations with much of what he concludes.

Still, as I was saying before, this is some must-see TV. Most thinking people will find something of value here, for sure. If this is a topic that interests you, it’s a fascinating discussion.

Posted by Richard Metzger
12:15 pm
Sister Wendy on “Piss Christ”

Sister Wendy, the art lovin’ nun and a clearly flummoxed Bill Moyers discuss Andres Serrano’s controversial photograph “Piss Christ”. There’s something delightful about the way in which she calmly damns Seranno with faint praise and generally defends her appreciation for erotic imagery in this clip. Go Sister Wendy, go !

Posted by Brad Laner
04:45 pm