Handelsblad, Are You Crazy?

The Dutch broadsheet Handelsblad ran a review of three recent books on the state of race relations in America. Here are the graphics and the headline accompanying the review. You will notice the headline needs no translation:

CLvxdT5WwAURH2u
CLvxdT5WwAURH2u
CLvxdT5WwAURH2u
 

The Washington Post was not amused

How a group of Dutch editors decided to publish an attempt to examine race and racism in the United States, using the English n-word and blackface in a major newspaper is beyond comprehension at the least, and rage-inducing at worst. Indeed, the Twitter reactions were swift and angry. Michel Krielaars, editor of the Book supplement for NRC, said that the paper had taken down the illustrations online, in order not to “offend non-Dutch speakers who only read Twitter.” The illustration still appears on their online reader, however.

To summarize the backlash so far: the author of the review says he had nothing to do with the illustrations or headline choice, which is plausible. The editor who did make these choices has pointed out that the content of the review was sympathetic to the plight of black Americans. The quotation used as the headline comes from one of the books. The illustrations were not meant to be offensive: in fact they show black Americans cowering before well-armed white figures (90% of American black homicide victims were killed by blacks, and the white-on-black homicide rate is extremely small). He admits that there are no black editors in the book review section of the paper (although there are in other sections), and that he didn't get any input from any black people on the graphic. 

I read enough Dutch to know that the review is, of course, sympathetic and praises the books. But you'd hardly need to read Dutch to know that. It's Charlie Hebdo redux, fortunately without the mass murder. Europeans create a caricature graphic design incorporating centuries-old tropes about how to portray black people. They are either unaware that these tropes are considered offensive in the Anglosphere, or they think the Anglosphere are a bunch of PC hypocrites who should lighten up already. The Europeans point out, correctly, that the content of the caricature or text is anti-racist. The Anglosphere, usually unable to evaluate this claim, insists that's not the point; these stereotyped depictions are inherently evil and must never be used.

A few more points about this amusing kerfluffle:

  • You may be wondering why a Dutch newspaper should be so concerned about the state of race relations in America. After all, that country is across a vast ocean. America's race relations have negligible effect on Dutch society, and Dutch people can do nothing to affect them. Yet you will find wall-to-wall coverage of American race relations in the Western European news media. To understand this, you should understand that...
  • ...a bourgeois urbanite's opinions on race relations in America are a shibboleth, just as opinions on immigration are. The idea that America is an irredeemably racist society in which helpless blacks are excluded, oppressed, and harassed at every turn is part of the standard European urban-liberal catechism. This attitude has complex roots. Partly anti-Americanism, of course. Partly a response to mindless American crowing about being the Land of Opportunity. Partly a matter of compensation: 'Sure I supported austerity for Greece, but that doesn't prove I'm a reactionary -- look at my righteous outrage about America's blacks!' Soviet bloc countries denounced American racism as a defensive counterpoint to critiques of their own human-rights failings, as does China today. Europeans who denounce US racism may also harbor genuine concern for the plight of black Americans, but I've found most of them have never taken any concrete action. In any case, one of the reasons modern European left-liberal issues loud denunciations of American race relations for the same reason frogs issue mating calls: signaling.
  • This is what makes being called out by actual black people for using offensive caricatures and language so disturbing to people like Handelsblad editors. They consider themselves to be on the right-on progressive side of the issue of race in America (as to the issue of race in the Netherlands, it's complicated. Other People's Indians, you see). It strikes at a fundamental component of their identity. It's like accusing a devout Catholic of having recited an incorrect version of the Our Father her entire life.

In any case, I predict that Anglosphere norms about how to depict people of other races will soon spread throughout Europe. The pressure of international outrage in the era of Twitter is likely to prove irresistible. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I leave for you to hash out in comments, if you care to.


'European Awakenings' and Dead German Tourists

Following up on the last two posts, here's a term I coined a while ago: 'European Awakenings.' This refers to the eye-opening experience Europeans have encountering ghettos in the US. Europeans, you see, are fed a constant, unrelenting stream of naked propaganda about how racist the United States is, because the assumption of enduring, inherent, systematic racism of the USA is one of the fundamental building blocks of the left-liberal urban bourgeois European worldview. You know, the people who used to control what Europeans see and read.

As a result of this  world-view, African-Americans are sacralized victims. European documentary producers routinely send camera crews to rough neighborhoods and stenographically report whatever the residents have to say without any attempt at fact-checking. Reports on the place of blacks in American society are filled with errors and exaggerations like this one and this one. And the errors and exaggerations always, without exception, portray blacks as helpless, innocent victims of pervasive racism by white Americans. No unflattering portrayals of American blacks are permitted in the Northern European media.

As a result, ordinary Europeans have a thoroughly one-sided view of race relations in the US, and are unaware of facts such as the ones mentioned in the last post. This means that when Europeans visit the USA, they scoff at Americans who tell them of the potential dangers of certain neighborhoods. In fact, German tourists getting killed in Florida has become such a cliche that there's a Miami punk band named Dead German Tourists.

The ones who survive -- and, of course, most of them do -- have a 'European Awakening'.

Example: I once visited Baltimore, recently in flames and routinely among the top 5 most dangerous cities in the USA, with a couple friends, one of whom was from, say, Slovakia. Let's call him Gumbo. Like many Europeans, Gumbo is fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe, who thanks to Baudelaire is even more of an intellectual hero in Europe than the US. Gumbo wanted to visit the historic Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore.

I said 'sounds like a great idea. I'll call a cab.' He said 'No, no way. It's a nice day. I'll walk there!'

I said, 'Uhh, that might not be such a good idea.' He said: 'Why?' I said: 'Because it's in a not-very-nice neighborhood, and you'll also have to walk through some not very nice neighborhoods to get there.'

'Oh I get it, you mean black neighborhoods,' he said.

'Well, yes. Poor black neighborhoods. There are plenty of middle-class black neighborhoods in Baltimore which are fine to walk through, but these aren't.'

'Well, I have to say I think that's a bit racist of you. I'm sure nothing will happen.'

'Yes, it's 99% likely that nothing will happen to you. But this isn't Europe. If the 1% happens, the person making it happen will have a gun. Anyway, I can't stop you, so go nuts!'

So then Gumbo, with his extremely pale skin, sandals, and bulging backpack, set out on a trip through Baltimore. I made sure his cellphone was fully charged.

A few hours later he returned, safe and in one piece, but a bit shaken. I asked him how it was. He said, 'Uhh, well, I can sort of see what you mean. Lots of people pointed at me and talked to me, and I couldn't understand them, and boys on bikes were always circling around me. And I saw some things I wish I hadn't seen. Many things, actually.'

From that point on, he took my advice about which parts of American cities to not choose for a leisurely stroll.

UPDATE: Here's a website that features current warnings about dangerous parts of Houston, Texas. This helpful contribution was written by a person who actually lives in one of those areas:

Welcome to Houston , I'm a 36yro native . I grew in north and northwest houston . The Northside is low income/middle class . The worst parts of it are Northeast and Northwest .Some of the reviews are correct and some are based on opinion . I'm going to explain the inner suburbs in this region . 

...

3. White Oak Terrace * 

* denotes seriously deadly area 
A. White Oak Bayou 
B. Metro Rt 85 , 45 , 79 
Most Dangerous Streets 
Before I mention the streets , They will have * denoting very high crime and deaths . Some info will be mentioned .
I. Antoine *- Metro Rt 85, This street is very busy around the clock . It junctions with two major rail lines BNSF to the north and UP to the south . It intersects with streets listed above . It runs north to Veterans Memorial and south to Memorial Dr. . It runs through the western portion of Oak Forest near 290 in White Oak Terrace . From Pinemont intersection to intersection of South Victory across White Oak Bayou to the north is White Oak Terrace . This is very high crime area normally at night especially on the side streets . Antoine is safe . Do not get on the side streets . There are many apt clusters on this stretch that are riddled with drug trafficking , prostitution , and murder .
IA . * Desoto St. - This street is to be avoided at all costs day and night . This street is two segments . It runs west from White Oak Bayou to Antoine and from White Oak Bayou east to Ella in Acres Homes both segments are deadly to be driving on especially at night . This street is known as the most deadliest street in the city namely the western portion . It got its name and reputation from the Hurricane Katrina / Rita period when the evacs were here and the crime was high then . There would be two or three murders in a day or a week . Every night I would hear sirens going and coming . Today ,it is now drug trafficking in and out of there because of a recently rebuilt property by the city and drugs have taken it over .It got so bad that it poured into the complex I'm currently residing in . But we kicked it out before it got started . Sadly it ended up at a property across the street . Stay off Desoto St period . If you are moving do not move there . 
IB ** Antoine/Tidwell to Tidwell/Bingle - This stretch is to be extremely advoided at anytime day or night .Walking , biking or driving. If you don't live there or know someone who lives there, you don't have no business around there period . There have been many murders take place there . Summer 2012 , two people man and woman have been shot to death and there have been death by stabbing . Gangs are known to hide out there . Go on though and don't stop for anything .It is best to go through there during the day and not at night . This stretch is a cluster of apts from one intersection to another . Pay close attention to this vacinity . 
IC. * Hollyview- This street is located to the north of the property I'm currently residing in . It is a dead end street like Desoto but it curves southeast from Antoine . The last major incident that took place on this street is a police officer was gunned down in his cruiser. Over the years that have been major drug busts . It has toned down but never take it lightly that it has the potential of increased crime . The area is somewhat dark at night but there is plenty of lighting due to any old complex that was demolished by the city as an eyesore . Don't chance it with Hollyview St. Keep going . 

And here's a somewhat poetic contribution, also focusing on Desoto Street:

I am a missionary from London UK and on a Saturday evening my friend
invited me to go jogging as I did not know the area I thought it was ok but we ended up on
a park at Desoto st called Highland Park in Acres Homes I only found out later
where I was as I don't know the area and we live in some houses complex nearby
I was attacked by about 8 black youths ( I am black) my friend is white
And I was seriously assaulted I could have died, when we saw them coming
We tried walking away but 3 followed and hit me from behind.
I was shocked, so Stay Away At All Cost.
I work and leave near so I have to get the 45,40 and 44 bus but as others have 
Said if you have no business here stay away.
Not even when I was on the streets of Rio I suffered an assault like here.
Thanks and God Save America


Does Anyone Fact-Check 'Die Zeit'?

Doing a bit of research, I came across this unbelievable howler (g) in Die Zeit, from the pen of one Sebastian Moll (my translation):

The incarceration rate for black Americans suggest systematic racism in American institutions. 60 percent of American prison inmates are black, although they make up only 30 percent of the population. 

It took me approximately 4 seconds in Google to find out that the black population of the United States is 12.6%, and the percent of black prisoners is 39.4%. Of course, this statistic is misleading without the crucial context that blacks commit crimes at much higher rates than whites, but that's another story.


Who's Afraid of Big European Cocks? America, That's Who.

Topelement

[Hans von Thann (g) ringin' the bell of the Zytgloggenturm in Bern, Switzerland, if ya know what I mean]

I don't mean to give offense, so let me be clear: the word cocks doesn't mean what you're thinking. I only meant to refer to penises. When the BBC wanted to strap big English cocks into big English codpieces on the front of actors playing 16th-century Englishmen, the pussies at American Public Broadcasting Service said: 'not in my America': 

The codpieces in the adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall are “definitely too small”, according to a Cambridge academic who has been researching the 16th-century accessory through the literature and paintings of its time.

Victoria Miller, who is due to give a paper on codpieces at a Cambridge University conference on 30 April, concurred with actor Mark Rylance, who plays Thomas Cromwell in the adaptation and who said late last year: “I think the codpieces are just too small. I think that was a directive from our American producers, PBS. They wanted smaller codpieces.”

...“They’re way too small to be accurate – they should be at least double the size. You can kind of see them there, but they aren’t really stuffed, and are easily missed – they’ve really toned them down for a mainstream audience. The codpiece was meant to draw the eye to the general region.”

[h/t JR] Said it before, say it again: national stereotypes don't materialize out of thin air. Here's a photo from the Biblical Creation Museum in Kentucky, where the biggest challenge was, as Faggoty-Ass Faggot put it, how to hide Adam's cock:

Creation-006-small-thumb

Saturday Night Live once aired a skit (can't find the video, or even an image, alas) featuring John Belushi sitting at a bar. The guy next to him goes to the bathroom and comes back out with a noticeably grosser crotch bulging from his tight late-70's jeans, and a girl immediately latches on to him. Belushi tries the same thing with a few handfuls of toilet paper, to no effect. Then Belushi returns to the bathroom and stuffs entire rolls of toilet paper down the front of his pants until there's a bulge the size of a small automobile. He then waddles gingerly back into the bar and is immediately surrounding by fawning honeys.

According to the linked piece on Hans von Thann, Swiss codpieces were usually stuffed for protection of the genitals and contained enough room to store things like coins and keys, since the pocket wasn't invented until 1754. The German Word of the Week, by the way, is the antiquated German term for codpiece, Schamkapsel, or 'shame-capsule'. This joins shamelips, shamehair, shameregion, etc.


Bad Kaarma: 70 Years for Montana Burglar Trapper

Remember Markus Kaarma, the Missoula, Montana man who waited outside his garage for someone to come burglarize it, then fired his shotgun into the garage, killing German exchange student Diren Dede?

Well, as you might expect in America's gun-obsessed paranoid fanatic culture of cowboy-style vigilantism, he claimed self-defense under the frontier-style 'Castle Doctrine' and acquitted. He is now on a celebrity speaking tour among American gun-rights groups.

Sorry, having a bit of fun there. You didn't think I could pass up a chance to poke a little harmless fun at German Besserwisserei, did you? Kaarma was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced by a judge to seventy (70) years in prison:

He dismissed Kaarma's claim he suffered from "anxiety" and an "anti-social disorder," saying it "doesn't excuse the anguish you have caused."

"You pose too great a risk to society to be anywhere else but the Montana State Prison. Good luck to you, son," McLean said.

"I'm sorry my actions caused the death of Mr. Dede," Kaarma told the judge before learning his fate.

He will be eligible for parole in 20 years. As a law-talking guy, I feel compelled to use this as a teaching moment. Right after the shooting, both Kaarma and his wife, apparently believing Montana law gave them the right to do what they did, spoke in detail. They described how they had been burglarized many times, got fed up, and set a 'trap' by leaving their garage door open and waiting until a motion sensor told them someone was inside. Then Kaarma fired.

When a lawyer reads about people talking so freely about their involvement in a homicide, our reaction is similar to a doctor seeing a pregnant woman down a liter of vodka. If you're ever arrested -- and I hope  some of my readers live life loud enough to risk this -- do not say a word to anyone, no matter what, until you have spoken to a lawyer. This rule applies to everyone, everywhere, no exceptions. It's the equivalent of a fundamental physical constant, one of the basic building blocks of the legal universe. By chatting so volubly about his motives and actions, Kaarma didn't just tie his lawyers' hands, he practically chopped them off.

FWIW, I should add that this penalty, like most American criminal penalties, strikes me as Draconian. It is certainly longer than he would have gotten for a comparable crime in most European countries, including Germany. 


German Parents Dismayed at American Media Campaign Against Their Son

Paul Nungesser, the German exchange student at the center of a major campus-rape scandal in the United States (the woman who accused him of rape was invited by a US Senator to Obama's State of the Union address!) has decided to come out and publicly fight for his reputation, and his parents -- from Germany -- are supporting him:

“What really struck us as outrageously unfair,” says Nungesser’s father, Andreas Probosch, a schoolteacher who speaks near-perfect English, “was the university’s non-reaction to Emma Sulkowicz's public campaign. After investigating the allegations against Paul for seven months they found them not credible, but when Ms. Sulkowicz went to the press and claimed Columbia had swept everything under the rug, why didn’t they stand by his side and say, ‘We do have a process and we followed that process and we stand by the acquittal’? Instead they declined to comment and just threw him under the bus.”

Both Probosch and Nungesser express bafflement at the practice of letting colleges handle allegations of violent rape. But if such a process must exist, says Probosch, “doesn’t [it] only make sense if people accept its outcome?” In this case, he says, “Paul went through this whole process with endless hours of hearings and interviews and cooperated in every way possible. And yet if you Google him, in half of the articles you´ll find, he is still labeled a serial rapist.”

For Nungesser’s mother, Karin, the situation is laden with additional irony as a self-described committed feminist. Paul Nungesser’s comment to The New York Times, “My mother raised me to be a feminist,” caused predictable controversy; but his mother, at least, agrees. She points out that she and her husband took an equal role in parenting and that gender issues, which were part of her journalistic work, were often discussed in their home when her son was growing up: “I think we did not just tell him that men and women are created equal, but we lived it.”

Karin Nungesser fully understands the desire to support someone who comes forward with an accusation of rape: “This is a good cause—but even in a good cause, you have to try to check the facts.” What she views as the failure to check the facts in this case appalls her not only as a feminist but as a journalist. “We can’t understand to this day why the major media never asked Paul about his side,” she says. “Going back to our own history, the media in western Germany were built upon the model of The New York Times. It was the idea of good journalism, of good fact-checking, of not doing propaganda.”

You know, I can't give legal advice and this is not legal advice, but even under American libel law, which is much less restrictive than its German counterpart, you are not allowed to go around referring to an identifiable person as a 'rapist' unless they are, you know, a rapist. No legal system worthy of the name permits citizens to falsely accuse each other of serious violent crimes. This is defamation. Nungesser was cleared of all charges by the university and Sulkowicz declined to press criminal charges against him because it was 'too draining'. So at least since December, when his name became public, she should think very very carefully about continuing to refer to him in public as a 'rapist', assuming she is still doing so. And Nungesser and his parents should consult a lawyer.


Answering for America

Ann Jones, who lives in Norway, presents a list of questions she's constantly asked about America that will be drearily familiar to any expat in Europe. The main issue is why the US doesn't yet have universal healthcare. She praises the Norwegian social-welfare model, which is a bit unfair, since Norway is rich enough from its oil wealth to triply gild every tree in the country if it wanted. But of course, other countries with fewer resources have done this as well. 

Jones goes on to list more questions: 

Implications of brutality, or of a kind of uncivilized inhumanity, seem to lurk in so many other questions foreign observers ask about America like: How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba, and why can’t you shut it down? 

Or: How can you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty?

The follow-up to which often is: How could you pick as president a man proud of executing his fellow citizens at the fastest rate recorded in Texas history?  (Europeans will not soon forget George W. Bush.)

Other things I've had to answer for include:

* Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?

* Why can’t you understand science?

* How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?

* How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?

* How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?

* How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?

* Why do you Americans like guns so much?  Why do you kill each other at such a rate?

To many, the most baffling and important question of all is: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up more and more trouble for all of us?

...It’s hard to know why we are the way we are, and -- believe me -- even harder to explain it to others. Crazy may be too strong a word, too broad and vague to pin down the problem. Some people who question me say that the U.S. is “paranoid,” “backward,” “behind the times,” “vain,” “greedy,” “self-absorbed,” or simply “dumb.”  Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely “ill-informed,” “misguided,” “misled,” or “asleep,” and could still recover sanity.  But wherever I travel, the questions follow, suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others. It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around.  There’s another world out here, an old and friendly one across the ocean, and it’s full of good ideas, tried and true.

Ann Jones knows where she prefers to live, and so do I. And the list is not the dumbest, since it concentrates on areas in which the U.S. actually is exceptional, not areas in which the US merely shows one form of a social disorder which is present in every other nation. For the past 15 years, we really have been going all the world bombing and invading, and it certainly has caused problems for lots of European nations.

But still, let me provide a few correctives:

"Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?" The US can be largely exonerated on this one. Sure, there's a political controversy about abortion and a large and active anti-abortion movement. But American abortion regulations are, from a purely legal perspective, comparable to many European nations' laws, and more liberal than many Catholic countries. The United States provides more freedom to women and men in many other areas: it allows practices such as in vitro fertilization, surrogate parenting, and fertility treatments which are banned or regulated in many European countries. 

"Why can't you understand science?" Pfft. This is a product of biased press coverage: American fundamentalist yahoos and fanatics are favorites in German and French newspapers, but represent the views of only a minority. The questioner here is ignoring the basic ground rule of comparing like with like. The cognitive upper class understand science well in any country, and the cognitive underclass in any country either don't know about, don't understand, or reject many key scientific findings. Your ability to be a good clothes-stacker in a mall in Keokuk, Iowa or Dibbersen, Germany is totally unaffected by your belief in Biblical creation or ignorance of the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. Most humans think it's a waste of time to spend a lot of time learning about abstract ideas that are completely irrelevant to how they spend all their waking time. And irrational beliefs are omnipresent. Germans eagerly follow horoscopes and take homeopathic sugar pills. In Japan, one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world, millions of people believe beckoning cats and various other charms and tokens will bring them love, financial success, and good luck, yet Europeans delicately refrain from criticizing these ludicrous superstitions, presumably on grounds of multi-culti delicacy.

"Blind to climate change?" Simple, because it's in the financial interest of certain powerful sectors of the American economy to question climate change, and they have convinced a minority of the population to do so as well. This is foolish and potentially harmful, but the US, unlike most European countries, has a massive and powerful resource-extraction sector. Every country has disproportionately powerful and aggressive lobbies. French and Japanese farmers, for instance. In any event, the real damage to the climate is going to be done by the billions of Indians an Chinese acquiring cars and air-conditioners and other energy-using gadgets, and that's going to happen regardless of what Americans believe about climate change. 

"Why do you murder each other?" The overall U.S. murder rate is about 2-3 times higher than in most places in Europe, but still low by international standards. And here's another interesting fact: if you count only murders among white Americans, the murder rate, 2.64 per 100,000, sits comfortably between the overall murder rate of Norway (2.2) and Malta (2.8). Here's a January 2014 study on the subject (pdf):

According to the FBI SHR data, in 2011 there were 6,309 black homicide victims in the United States. The homicide rate among black victims in the United States was 17.51 per 100,000. For that year, the overall national homicide rate was 4.44 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide rate was 2.64 per 100,000.

Black Americans, about 13% of the US population, commit somewhere between 60 and 70% of all murders in the USA, for a murder rate 5-6 times higher than that of white Americans. Just as in Germany and France, violent crime is not distributed evenly across the entire population, it is markedly concentrated among ethnic minorities. About 70% of all prison inmates in France, after all, are Muslims. Let that sink in for a minute. To be sure, the overall murder rate in America is high by European standards, and that can mostly be explained by guns. Most studies conclude that about 50% of the difference between the USA and economically and demographically similar countries is explained by the prevalence of guns -- especially unlicensed handguns -- in the US.

"Your Presidents break the law to make war whenever they want." A bit starkly formulated, but I would say 'guilty as charged'. Also torture, rendition, black sites, etc. 

"Power to blow up the planet to one man." Actually, considering the likely aftermath of any nuclear strike anywhere, there are probably at least 7 men who have the power to blow up the planet. In any case, the likelihood of nuclear weapons ever being used is incredibly tiny, and the likelihood of the US starting a nuclear exchange is basically nil. President Obama has announced that he would like to see a nuclear-free world, and has presided over historically unprecedented reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles. I'm not sure what the 'one man' complaint is supposed to mean, either. Is the US supposed to surrender control over its nuclear weapons to some sort of international commission? Six words: Not. Going. To. Happen. Anywhere. Ever.

So those are a few rebuttals, or at least new perspectives. The US is never going to resemble Norway or Germany .


American Paranoia

Terrorism-in-america
In a comment to the gun post, Martin observes:

In the US guns seem to be ubiquitous and that creates a different mind-set in the people. Guns are there because there is a perceived problem that can be solved with them. Also, I got the impression that many believe that THEY are out there to get you. And you always have to be prepared for the time when THEY come!

...

And we [Germans] usually do not believe that THEY are out there to get you.

And I would really appreciate if you keep THEM. We do not need THEM here.

This reminded me of point no. 7 from Post Masculine's 10 Things Most Americans Don't Know about America, 'We're Paranoid':

Not only are we emotionally insecure as a culture, but I’ve come to realize how paranoid we are about our physical security. You don’t have to watch Fox News or CNN for more than 10 minutes to hear about how our drinking water is going to kill us, our neighbor is going to rape our children, some terrorist in Yemen is going to kill us because we didn’t torture him, Mexicans are going to kill us, or some virus from a bird is going to kill us. There’s a reason we have more guns than people.

In the US, security trumps everything, even liberty. We’re paranoid.

I’ve probably been to 10 countries now that friends and family back home told me explicitly not to go because someone was going to kill me, kidnap me, stab me, rob me, rape me, sell me into sex trade, give me HIV, or whatever else. None of that has happened. I’ve never been robbed and I’ve walked through some of the shittiest parts of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

In fact, the experience has been the opposite. In countries like Russia, Colombia or Guatemala, people were so friendly it actually scared me. Some stranger in a bar would invite me to his house for a bar-b-que with his family, a random person on the street would offer to show me around and give me directions to a store I was trying to find. My American instincts were always that, “Wait, this guy is going to try to rob me or kill me,” but they never did. They were just insanely friendly.

Let's not forget the paranoia about drugs. All over the United States, people who look like those in the photo break into the houses of ordinary people in the middle of the night and shoot their dogs and sometimes their children -- more often than not to protect society from the horrifying danger of harmless, delicious marijuana.


The Crumbling Plutocracy Votes

Lawrence Lessig bemoans the influence of the wealthy on American politics:

Here's what we must come to see: America has lost the capacity to govern. On a wide range of critical issues -- from global warming to tax reform, from effective financial regulation to real health-care change, from the deficit to defense spending -- we have lost the capacity to do anything other than suffer through a miserable status quo. If there is a ship of state, its rudder has been lost. We are drifting. We can't change course. And eventually, and with absolute certainty, in waters such as these, a drifting ship will sink.

...[B]ecause of the way we fund the campaigns that determine our elections, we give the tiniest fraction of America the power to veto any meaningful policy change. Not just change on the left but also change on the right. Because of the structure of influence that we have allowed to develop, the tiniest fraction of the one percent have the effective power to block reform desired by the 99-plus percent.

Yet by "the tiniest fraction of the one percent" I don't necessarily mean the rich. I mean instead the fraction of Americans who are willing to spend their money to influence congressional campaigns for their own interest. That fraction is different depending upon the reform at issue: a different group rallies to block health-care reform than rallies to block global warming legislation. But the key is that under the system we've allowed to evolve, a tiny number (with resources at least) has the power to block reform they don't like.

A tiny number of Americans -- .26 percent -- give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent -- 196 Americans -- have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.

These few don't exercise their power directly. None can simply buy a congressman, or dictate the results they want. But because they are the source of the funds that fuel elections, their influence operates as a filter on which policies are likely to survive. It is as if America ran two elections every cycle, one a money election and one a voting election. To get to the second, you need to win the first. But to win the first, you must keep that tiniest fraction of the one percent happy. Just a couple thousand of them banding together is enough to assure that any reform gets stopped.

Some call this plutocracy. Some call it a corrupted aristocracy. I call it unstable.

I, for one, call it plutocracy. For more America-bashing made in the USA, visit Post-masculine for 10 Things Most Americans Don't Know About America. Some are pretty standard, others more original. An example:

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s this culture of self-delusion that allows America to continue to innovate and churn out new industry more than anyone else in the world. But this shared delusion also unfortunately keeps perpetuating large social inequalities and the quality of life for the average citizen lower than most other developed countries. It’s the price we pay to maintain our growth and economic dominance.

In my Guide to Wealth, I defined being wealthy as, “Having the freedom to maximize one’s life experiences.” In those terms, despite the average American having more material wealth than citizens of most other countries (more cars, bigger houses, nicer televisions), their overall quality of life suffers in my opinion. American people on average work more hours with less vacation, spend more time commuting every day, and are saddled with over $10,000 of debt. That’s a lot of time spent working and buying crap and little time or disposable income for relationships, activities or new experiences.