You, Me & the Babbitt of Our Time

Waging the economy as war brings externalities more awful than any profits. We can wage life! It doesn’t have to be this way.

Waging the economy as war brings externalities more awful than any profits. We can wage life! It doesn’t have to be this way.

Sometimes events mirror a nation’s character so clearly it is hard to look closer. Repulsion happened last week when a journalist went through a government door to get his marriage license. His fiancé waited outside, but he never reappeared.  We heard about the horrors inside because Mr. Koshoggi wrote for The Washington Post, not for a paper in his native Saudi Arabia.

More repulsive and revealing than the still open question of the Saudi Prince ordering his critic’s slaughter is our own government’s fake sympathy, held up in an ugly reflection. In the 1920s Sinclair Lewis wrote in cold satire about America’s Babbitt, an ad salesman who justified the soul’s sellout. Now Babbitt is resurrected in Mr. Trump, our  Salesman-in-Chief, who says:  We’d only “punish ourselves” if we interfered with the many US jobs that $110 billion in weapons manufacture for the Prince would create.

As with most things our Babbit says, there’s some question about the size of that sales number —but there’s no denying that “we the people” have long won jobs that lost other people their lives. No other country comes as close to depending on guns for its livelihood as we do. In his first proposed budget, Mr. Trump cut domestic spending, but he increased the military budget by 10 percent, points out Louis Uchitelle in a 2017 report in the NYT. Much of the capital that backs our manufacturing jobs comes from our public funds, he reminds us.

First, cities and states pour public money into tax breaks and other enticements to bring a factory in. Yet for every nine auto-fenders (or other non-lethals like shoes, clothing, or furniture), our factories put out one rifle barreI. It isn’t just the National Rifle Association’s corruption that makes weapons so profitable. About 10 percent of our manufactured products go to our Dept. of Defense, its purchases a dependable cash cow for corporations.

 The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower first warned us about continues to be “good for the economy,” depending on how you define good. Since the Cold War, the US outstripped other countries with our weapons exports and sales amounts, selling to 100 different countries. It’s no coincidence that top weapons’ exporters, the US, Russia, China, France and Germany are all “permanent members” of the most powerful group in the United Nations: the UN Security Council. As such, the US and they have veto powers over other rotating national members—and also a damning conflict of interest.


Ten Countries export 90 percent of global weapons sales, according to SIPRI, and its latest study find heavy weaons systems sales at their highest level since the Cold War in 1991. The five countries who dominate the UN Security Council sell 74 percent, but the US leads all.

Ten Countries export 90 percent of global weapons sales, according to SIPRI, and its latest study find heavy weaons systems sales at their highest level since the Cold War in 1991. The five countries who dominate the UN Security Council sell 74 percent, but the US leads all.

In the chart above, based on the latest report from SIPRI (The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), the five biggest exporter nations account for 74 percent of sales—but none comes close to the US. The five biggest weapons manufacturers are based in the US, says Business Insider, listing them in order: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

Another report from Irina Ivanova with CBSN’s Moneywatch says our nation sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — up 33 percent from the previous fiscal year, and a near record. Who is our biggest customer? Who else but the Saudis?  In 2017, the U.S. cleared some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals. Like our Babbitt, the Princes of the world use the press for glossy ads, but murder truth. 

What's Her Problem?

Getting mad does more good than getting depressed or feeling helpless.

Getting mad does more good than getting depressed or feeling helpless.

Here’s another timely book. Add it to your list. Righteous tenacity is needed, and it requires our being Good and Mad, the title of Rebecca Traister’s just released book, subtitled The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Rebecca had a conversation with Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Salon, though I saw this in Reader Supported News. Traister took on Orrin Hatch, the Republican Senator from Utah, who when women shouted at him as he got on the elevator, after the Kavanaugh vote, he brushed them away with a wave.

“Grow up,” he said—and I personally felt like grabbing him in a headlock, and taking him down, all the way to the basement.

For Traister his most infuriating phrase was: “We shouldn’t have to put up with this.”

He said this to fellow Senators when a woman who demonstrated at the Affordable Care Act vote, shouted that she would die if they canceled the ACA. He called her a loudmouth. He preferred she die quietly.

Traister observed, “Now, he said the exact same thing three weeks later talking to reporters in the senate building about these accusations being made against his Supreme Court candidate, and he said, ‘We shouldn't have to put up with this.’ That sums it up for me.”

That's it. That's stripped of its window dressing. We, the men in power. Me, Orrin Hatch — who has had the same goddamn seat on the Senate Judiciary committee since 1991 when I treated Anita Hill like shit — we shouldn't have to put up with challenges to our power. We shouldn’t have to put up with repercussions. We shouldn't have to put up with consequences, or with anybody interfering with our ability to exert authority over this nation.”

That mindset runs loose now, unchecked in three houses of government: Power should come easily to those entitled to power. That was the message.

Power belongs not to the sick and the scared, not to the traumatized, not to the female in any shape—by any name, in any condition but bent over, or on her back. No, LOCK HER UP—whether Hillary or Diane as in Feinstein, or Christine Ford, or Anita Hill, or ….Wait!

Lorena Bobbit?!! Put down that knife! What are you doing here? Don’t look at her face, John Wayne! Those snakes! Holy Medusa!

News You May Have Missed - September 2018

portishead1/Getty Images

portishead1/Getty Images

Workforce #ScrewedNews

Why Can’t People with Full Time Jobs Make it Anymore?
The first of a series of articles that explore the challenges of the full time worker in America.

'I Work 3 Jobs And Donate Blood Plasma to Pay the Bills.' This Is What It’s Like to Be a Teacher in America
Power stories from teachers across the United States. It’s worse than you think.

Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not.
This in depth look at one single mother’s attempt to make ends meet. Definitely worth the read. “We need a new language for talking about poverty. “Nobody who works should be poor,” we say. That’s not good enough. Nobody in America should be poor, period.”

Economy +

We Might Be Heading for a Crash as Bad as 1929
Have we learned from the lessons of 1929 and 2008? Perhaps not…

Women +

On Labor Day, a celebration of ‘Rosies,’ the women who kept the factories churning during WWII
Talk about strong and admirable women. Read this article for a history lesson and celebration of the women who kept things going during WWII.

Brett Kavanaugh and America’s ‘Himpathy’ Reckoning
Learn about Himpathy or “the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.” Sound familiar?

Listening to the Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh Hearing

Editor’s note: When a woman sent us this piece, longer than we usually publish, we knew we had to bring you her brave words. So many have stories!

After listening to both testimonies for the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, like many I ended the day feeling cognitive dissonance fracturing my mind and jangling my nerves. Two completely different possible truths. One was delivered humbly, with strength, but also trepidation: in a one-piece bathing suit she had practiced her dives. The other was delivered forcefully with anger, indignation, and bitter upset: he lifted weights, played football, and drank beers with the guys. The two narratives spoke volumes about the effects of patriarchy. Each voice could be credible, depending on one’s construct of reality, of what’s right and what’s wrong … of what is really going on here.

I took a long walk down my dirt road.

I thought about my sex education as a young woman growing up in the ‘70s, just a few years earlier than Blasey Ford, in a small town. I got a booklet from my mom, but learned the details on the playground, like many of us did. One boy in elementary school told me, as I sat casually, legs sprawled: “Close your legs; the war is over.” I had no idea what he meant. I am not sure he did either. I felt terribly embarrassed and did not feel confident to ever sit with my legs sprawled again.

As I progressed into middle school, some girls already having sex, I learned from peers, TV, movies, and jokes told by adults:

  • Girls with big boobs got male attention. I developed quite late, not until the very end of high school. Strike one.

  • Girls who had sex were desirable, popular, and got the cutest boyfriends. They dated the sports stars. I held out until I was 17. Strike two.

  • “Boys will be boys.” Whatever boys did or desired should get preference. Home run.

The last, most damaging message was: If you teased a boy—if you flirted, made out, or put yourself in close proximity unsupervised by adults—and you got the boy excited, he had every right to do whatever he wished, because … you asked for it. It was your fault. Especially if you were drinking. Because guys, well, they have this “uncontrollable” physical reaction. It was cruel, once arousing them, not to follow through. Girls who teased were chided with the phrase “blue balls.”

I am not sure if these messages were pervasive, then, for all girls my age, in all towns, and all schools, but these were planted in my adolescent psyche, and, I suspect, in the minds of most of my peers.

Fast-forward to my senior year. When I finally went “all the way,” it felt like a badge of honor. I was in the club! Not long after this dubiously victorious moment, I went out with my friends on Halloween. Somehow over the course of the night, in three cars, we got separated. We were hanging out near our high school, thirty minutes away from home, and decided to meet at this party a classmate told us about. Driving alone for some reason, I found my way to the party at a house out in the middle of nowhere on a back road. I waited in my car in the driveway, but my friends never showed up. Not wanting the night to be a total loss and miffed at my girlfriends, I put on my witch hat and cape and went inside. It was packed and loud music was playing. I did not know a soul.

Turns out many there were a bit older and from a motorcycle gang. I didn’t drink anything, or talk to many people. I didn’t stay long. But I remember two encounters: a short, thin woman, wearing a leather biker hat, took a swig from a bottle of wine as she told me she’d just taken two valiums. Then she confided she was pregnant. I remember feeling panicked. Oh my god! I must have looked out of place and startled. The owner of the house, a stocky guy with medium-length blond hair, came over and for the rest of the short time I was there, he was nice to me. I don’t remember why, or what he did, just that he was nice.

Fast-forward to some evening in some month following this party. I visited this guy. I don’t remember how it was arranged, or why. I don’t remember exactly when—not what day, what week, or even what month. I know it was my senior year. I know it was cold out. I know this because he was fixing his furnace, which wasn’t working. That’s what he did for a living. He fixed furnaces. I don’t remember how I got there, or how I got home. I suppose I drove. Who else would drive me way up to this house out in the boondocks? I have no recollection of where it was; I could not ever find it today.

I suppose this was a stupid thing to do. But he had been nice. Perhaps I wanted a boyfriend. Perhaps I hoped for love. Perhaps I wanted to be cool. Perhaps I was simply looking for a diversion. Our senior class was tiny and here was someone new, outside our small circle. I don’t remember what we did after he fixed the furnace. We might have eaten a little dinner, listened to music. I don’t think I had more than a beer, maybe two. If I had any.

What I do remember is this:

A narrow, dirty-white couch in the middle of an otherwise sparse living room. Making out on this couch with this blond-haired guy I barely knew. Saying, “Stop” when he wanted to keep going past making out. His look of disgust. I remember telling him it was my time of the month, hoping to dissuade him with a decent excuse. It did not stop him. He asked me how many days was I into my cycle. I said, “near the end.” I was shocked when he pushed forward, saying, “no big deal.”

I don’t remember if I said stop again. I might have just gone along with him, because, well, boys will be boys. He was stocky; I didn’t know him very well. I had aroused him, so it was my duty to deliver. I remember my humiliation when he removed my monthly protection and dangled it in the air, almost mocking me. I don’t remember the act itself. I think it was rather quick and business-like. I remember a sick feeling when we were done. Something wasn’t right. But I didn’t know what. And I remember the month of terror after, hoping I wouldn’t become pregnant. Luckily I did not.

I might have told a friend or two. Otherwise I filed this incident away as one of the dumb things I did as a teen. It was my fault. I filed it away initially as evidence that those early messages were true. But one was not true: I was not cool or desirable to have put myself in such a position. I filed away a sense of my powerlessness as a young woman, as a woman of any age. My “Stop” did not matter. Not to him. Not to our culture. I had no name for this until I was in my early 30s—date rape.

The snarky, hateful comments about Blasey Ford on social media run the gamut, but one refrain, even chanted by the President, ridicules her spotty memory of her trauma: How can she not remember how she got there and back? Why can’t she remember how much she drank? When it was? Where it was? Why she went in the first place?

Walking down my dirt road, thinking back on my own trauma, I realized I was missing all the same puzzle pieces. Yet, like Blasey Ford, the moment of violation was crystal clear some 36 years later. I have a similar residual trauma from the incident, though it has manifested in me differently than hers.

But Blasey Ford has at least one memory I don’t have. She remembers his name.

What a Week!

What a Week!

The Senate Judiciary Committee members forget about their female “assistant” and also common decency.

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