“Les Miserables” and the Shape of Things to Come

Submitted by: Mike Spindell. guest blogger

200px-EbcosetteOn New Year’s Eve my wife and I saw the movie “Les Miserables”. We’d seen the musical on Broadway and had been enchanted by it. The music from it is superb and this musical fully deserves all the acclaim it has received through the years. As much as I loved the stage version of “Le Mis”, the movie took all of the greatness of the stage and added something to the mix that lifted it into subversive social commentary. That is what I’m going to write about, but first for those who are unfamiliar with either the source book, or the musical adaptation, a very brief synopsis is needed to set the scene.

The story begins after the French Revolution and the defeat of Napoleon. The Royal Dynasty has been restored to power and the freedoms of the Revolution have been lost. The protagonist of this work is Jean Valjean. He was sentenced to twenty years of hard labor because of the ramifications of his stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister. Imprisoned he is noticed by one of his Jailers,  Javert, who notes Valjean for his almost super-human feats of strength. Valjean is paroled after serving his time and subsequently breaks parole. He is chased by Javert for the rest of the tale. The plot of the 1,900 page (in French) novel is summarized in detail at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Mis%C3%A9rables  Details of the play and the movie are available here: http://www.lesmis.com/.

The ingredient added to the movie, which couldn’t have been done on stage were scenes depicting the abject poverty of the common people and the poor. With the visual nature of film and what will probably be Academy Award makeup, costuming and art direction, you can see a recreation of  the life of the French lower classes in the 18th Century. These descriptions run true to the original novel which was so rich with detail. The book “Les Miserables” was intentionally revolutionary for its time as best summed up by the author Victor Hugo in the preface to the novel:

“So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.”

Hugo’s eloquence above and its implications for our current time is the subject that I want to discuss.

Having spent a career working with those in poverty in NYC, I am quite familiar with the conditions, mental states and environment of people who are deemed “the underclass”. The movie I saw portrayed conditions somewhat worse than those I encountered in my work, but remember that now when indoor plumbing is commonplace and the wonders of technological advance have become affordable to most, we should expect better living conditions. Yet in other places in our country, perhaps Appalachia and in the rural South, conditions are not that much better than what was portrayed in this film. Certainly, in many countries around the world analogous conditions of poverty and human degradation exist. Yet in many other countries there has been considerable progress made to elevate the general human condition. The rich construct of a social safety net in most European countries ensures the amelioration of condition of those deemed the “lower classes”. The various European social safety nets actually began in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, partially as the result of books such as Hugo’s masterpiece and the works of other artists like Charles Dickens.

Understanding how much progress has been made in the last one hundred and fifty years towards better living conditions for most people, with the knowledge though from personal experience of how far we still have to go to ensure an equitable life for all, I am disturbed by what I see as a trend among many to turn back this progress. Our country was born in Revolution, but our Revolution differed significantly from the French Revolution. Our American Revolution was fomented by the excesses of an imperialist power, exploiting the resources and the economy of overseas colonies to their detriment. The French Revolution came about because a small, privileged class exploited the resources of an entire nation via a tyranny of law from which this “Nobility” was exempt. Whether or not Marie Antoinette’s words were apocryphal: “Let them eat cake” was indeed the philosophy of the French royalty and nobility. Nevertheless, a short a time after the French Revolution the dreams of its’ participants were again shattered and the country was again under the tyranny of an elite social class.

As the Nineteenth Century progressed even the privileged classes in Europe began to dimly recognize that the state of utter misery of ninety percent of their people was unsustainable. Haughty aristocrats, such as Otto Von Bismarck in Germany realized this and he created the first system of “social security” for the aged. The devastation in Europe caused by depressions and two world wars led to an understanding that there needed to be a modification of the economic caste system. This is why today most European Countries have a strong “social safety net” to care for their citizens. As we see though, there are forces in the economic world, such as the World Bank, the IMF and the Council of Twenty who are trying to destroy this safety net in the name of an “austerity” that doesn’t work. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajan-menon/austerity-failed-in-europe_b_1926097.html   

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/23/austerity-wall-street_n_1690838.html

In the United States, as a result of our Revolution and of our Constitution, a different course was followed. We had no King and we had no “Noble Class”, at least according to our leaders, opinion makers and to the history that was being written as the country lived it. We were a “free society” and “All men were created equal”, or so we were told. That perhaps ten percent of the population existed as slaves and weren’t considered human, was a fly in the ointment of freedom, but this was the way of the world. That another percentage of the population, the “Native Americans”, were being lied to and conquered, their treaty-granted land stolen in a continued search for wealth, was merely the sad side effect of progress. We opened our “blessed shores” to wave after wave of immigrants and they became virtual wage-slaves, which was merely another by-product of the need for progress, in this land of the free and home of the brave. When these “free” workers began to form themselves into a Union Movement to uplift their conditions of employment they were attacked and murdered, with their leaders thrown in jail on specious charges. Nevertheless there was tangible “progress” for many and there developed a strong “middle-class” which those on the bottom strove to join. That uplifting of class was of course not open to the “freed” slaves, Native Americans and to certain ethnicities that were deemed sub-human. The African Americans were still constrained after slavery and that was as much a matter of law, as it was of social isolation. They are constrained today, even after the end of “Jim Crow”, even though our President is a Black man, as I illustrated here: http://jonathanturley.org/2011/11/26/the-incarceration-of-black-men-in-america/

By the beginning of the Twentieth Century a solid middle-class had been established in America. People could advance beyond their ethnicity and beyond their social caste. Our educational system emphasized this middle class dream; our literature generally proclaimed it and the amazing upward growth of our economy seemed to prove it. There were some, like Sinclair Lewis who saw with more clarity that all was not well with our emerging middle class: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Lewis  There were “Muckrakers” like Upton Sinclair, who exposed the dark underside of an economic system running wild: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Lewis And there were labor leaders like Eugene V. Debs and Joe Hill, who fought for economic justice for the working class: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_V._Debs

Myths die hard and especially in the dreams of average people trying to get ahead in life, who need the hope that they could by the dint of their own energy “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. Besides, even for the lowliest of Americans there was the rage of the movies, that everyone could afford and that painted fantasies to ease their troubled lives.  Our country was literally “slapped in the face” by the “Golden Age” of the “Roaring Twenties” that ended on the “oh so” sour note of the “Great Depression” accompanied by the “Dust Bowl”. http://jonathanturley.org/2012/11/24/humanitys-hubris/   These complementary calamities shocked most of the American people into the realization that the “American Dream” wasn’t as constant a reality as they were led to believe. Successful entrepreneurs lost their businesses and their homes. As the 1932 election drew near, our country was at a tipping point where the sheer hopelessness engendered by the “Great Depression” could well have led us to totalitarianism, as represented by either fascism or communism.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved us from radical nihilism politically, despite what historical revisionists now claim. His success wasn’t about the effectiveness of his programs, but about the re-invigoration of hope and belief in the Country and its system. The creation of Social Security now assured that the average working man, toiling at low wages until too infirm to work, would have some income available to stave off starvation. From the 1930’s to the1980’s this nation for the most part had unimaginable prosperity and rose to become the most powerful nation on Earth, both economically and militarily. During that time it was understood that for our nation to continue to prosper its citizens must see it as a land of opportunity. The populace must believe that any American, no matter how humble their origin, could achieve greatness. That this was mainly mythology really is beside the point. The comity and purpose of this nation required such a belief as a means of maintaining social order. http://jonathanturley.org/2012/10/06/american-dream-not-american-reality/

The reason which I related what I saw in the movie “Les Miserables”, to our situation today is this. The portrayal of the degradation of the French lower class was so heart rending, that I began to see the historical progress since as an outgrowth of the realization that with such human misery comes the sense that if all is hopeless, then any action is justified to keep a person going. When you’re starving, stealing a loaf of bread, even if there might be dire consequences, is a justified activity. This action in the face of hopelessness was put so well by Bob Dylan “When you ain’t got nothin….you got nothin to lose”. The lesson that was learned in Europe and in the United States was that there needed to be some basic protections to keep the average citizen from the kind of poverty and degradation that leads to massive social unrest. As the French Revolution taught, violent social unrest is a bloody affair which nobody wins. As I wept all through this movie, such is the emotion its dark beauty arouses in me, there was a part of my consciousness pondering why are they letting it happen again?

In the last thirty years we have seen the attempt to overthrow all of the programs coming out of FDR’s New Deal Philosophy. We see the Elite who think themselves nobility and with that thought there comes the desire to live fully as nobles. http://www.nationofchange.org/house-gop-taxes-wealthy-are-charity-1349010885 , http://jonathanturley.org/2012/07/07/mythology-and-the-new-feudalism/ and: http://jonathanturley.org/2012/03/10/what-motivates-the-1  To a great degree they have already achieved that. Mitt Romney has a great family pedigree, 500 million dollars, five houses and one with a car elevator. He sees 47% of the population as unproductive and sees himself as part of that small class of people essential to the United States. He is merely the representative of a movement that would destroy the social safety net, destroy Social Security and destroy Medicare. This destruction makes little sense for the Elite from a logical viewpoint, after all why not throw crumbs to the unwashed and keep them pacified? It certainly would seem to be an easier course than outright oppression. Outright oppression though, particularly of those you deem “unproductive” can be so emotionally satisfying to some. Then to, there is nothing more satisfying to some of the people “on top” than abject submission and the prostration at their feet of those less worthy, it makes one feel so special and so powerful.

It is has long been my thought that there are those today who would see the people of the world under their boots, as much as the poor in Hugo’s novel, its stage version and finally this movie which I think equals Hugo in its’ portrayal of the underclass. For those who look beyond the mere plot-lines, such as me, there seems to be a very subversive undertone to this picture, which serves as a threat of what could come. If reason among our ruling elite cannot be restored through our governmental processes, where then are those downtrodden masses going to go and will that too end in futility?

63 thoughts on ““Les Miserables” and the Shape of Things to Come

  1. Mike,

    Your intelligence and gifted writing style always challenge me. Thank you.

    I believe in some different processes to provide equal opportunity for all, but I am grateful for your rally cry for the poor. I am not a fan of creating equal outcomes because it can only be inauthentic relative to the human spirit, and I believe that people have the right to live in poverty. Yes, as you well know from your rich experience as a professional with the poor in NYC, there are people who for no explainable reason, choose to be homeless and live in poverty. I think that one of our challenges as a society is to make sure that we offer programs that support and allow those people to change their minds whenever they are ready, if they ever become ready.

    My own focus is to make sure that I do what I can for the people who have not chosen their present position. Foster Children are my primary example. I think they are among the most, if not the most, vulnerable and under-served people in our society. From my experience, not from any academic study, our nation’s lack of empathy, care and structural support for them generally is one key reason we perpetuate poverty, violence and mental illness in our society. There are well meaning social workers who care for many of them, but as a society, we don’t recognize our roles and responsibilities for these children.

    I was a fan of Les Miserables before the movie, and I have now seen the movie twice. Beyond its social commentary, I think it should sweep the acting and directing awards. Tom Hooper – Best Director, Jean Valjean – Best Actor, Fontine – Best Actress, Marius – Best Supporting Actor, Eponine – Best Supporting Actress.

    And finally Russell Crowe for Most Courageous. I have to give it to him, he jumped into the deep end with some very strong swimmers. He struggled massively, but I credit him for be willing.

  2. Joseph Piazza:

    “I am not a fan of creating equal outcomes because it can only be inauthentic relative to the human spirit, and I believe that people have the right to live in poverty.”

    *********************

    Some of the “richest” people I know live in all manner of poverty except the spiritual kind, and some of the “poorest” live in nothing but it.

  3. “Today there are more African-American adults under correctional control — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.” -Charles Blow

    In light of some of your comments, Mike S.:

    Escaping Slavery

    By CHARLES M. BLOW
    Published: January 4, 2013

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/05/opinion/blow-escaping-slavery.html?ref=charlesmblow

    “In fact, it feels as though slavery as an analogy has become subversively chic. Herman Cain, running as a Republican presidential candidate, built an entire campaign around this not-so-coded language, saying that he had left “the Democrat plantation,” calling blacks “brainwashed” and arguing, “I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way.”

    As the best-selling author Michelle Alexander pointed out in her sensational 2010 book “The New Jim Crow,” various factors, including the methodical mass incarceration of black men, has led to the disintegration of the black family, the disenfranchisement of millions of people, and a new and very real era of American oppression.

    As Alexander confirmed to me Friday: “Today there are more African-American adults under correctional control — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

    Definitely not progress.”

  4. The elitist Hollywood set are just as guilty as the Romneys in this country. At least Romney built companies that hired people and gave those people an opportunity to rise up the ladder. You seem to be demonizing the rich and I think that is very dangerous. Socialism has never worked throughout history, we know that. The problem is not going to be solved by distributing the wealth. It’s about people taking pride in providing for themselves, it’s about putting God back into their lives. This country has lost its pride in themselves and its conscience. That’s the core of the problems we have.

  5. Sharon:

    “. Socialism has never worked throughout history, we know that.”

    **********************

    Ever watch the NFL? It’s pure socialism: Shared profits. Drafting of the best assets by the least performing units. Combined effort for the good of the whole.

    How’s that working out?

  6. Oh that the subversion Mike S speaks of could be real again!

    The French majority did not want to be slaves again.

    Which means they saw things differently than their royal masters did, masters shallow enough to think they should eat cake to solve their hunger problems.

    “The king can do no wrong” did not work for them any longer.

    It is a great story, Mike S.

    However, it has an ending, when in juxtaposition to the prophecy of Huxley, engenders questions about some of the myths of revolutions.

    Karl Marx was convinced that the American people would go through the same thing the French did, because Marx said, in so many words, that capitalists would become corrupt by the power of money, and would become a new royalty (Impact of Toxins of Power on Evolution).

    Going on, he postulated that the workers in America would rise up to take the reins of production, and would direct the fruits of their labor to better themselves as they bettered their fellow workers, their fellow citizens.

    I am more inclined to go with Huxley rather than Marx (“people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing” – Huxley).

    You quoted Dylan, who also sings “I used to care, but things have changed”, which is to say that there are dynamics at play now that were not at play then.

    Current civilization is an addict to a drug, which like all such addictions, is life threatening (Peak of Sanity).

    It is also prosperity threatening.

    Add to that the sinister affect the drug gives (people love the drug or at least the illusory euphoria it temporarily has afforded them) and lo and behold we have a Houston problem.

    Which is a much greater problem than material poverty, because we have also civilization’s poverty of soul as a problem.

    The French at the time of “Les Miserables” did not have that poverty of soul.

    Nevertheless, I do not intend to give up love, faith, and hope.

  7. “I am not a fan of creating equal outcomes because it can only be inauthentic relative to the human spirit”

    Joseph,

    Thank you for your complements and for your reasoned comments. I don’t believe in “equal outcomes” either. What I do believe in is that every human being should have the right to adequate shelter, food, education, clothing and health care.

    “Yes, as you well know from your rich experience as a professional with the poor in NYC, there are people who for no explainable reason, choose to be homeless and live in poverty.”

    Not only do I have extensive expertise in working with the “homeless” as a social worker, program director and psychotherapist, I also was the Deputy Director for Facilities Management of NYC’s massive shelter system. Even though the Director and I strove to ensure that the shelters were clean, provided good food and took care of the thousands sheltered, they were dangerous places for many. So many people who were homeless did choose not to use them. However, a significant part of the homeless population were people who had psychological issues, particularly Viet Nam War veterans who suffered from PTSD and various addictions. In a more perfect world they would have been honored and their needs taken care of, but our country has a tradition of respecting our troops when they are in harms way and forgetting and even disdaining them afterwards. The presentation of this country’s “homeless problem” by our politicians and by many who earn their living off of the “homeless” does not always present the full tale.

    “I think it should sweep the acting and directing awards. Tom Hooper – Best Director, Jean Valjean – Best Actor, Fontine – Best Actress, Marius – Best Supporting Actor, Eponine – Best Supporting Actress.

    And finally Russell Crowe for Most Courageous. I have to give it to him, he jumped into the deep end with some very strong swimmers. He struggled massively, but I credit him for be willing.”

    Part of the brilliance of Director Tom Hooper’s staging of the movie was to cast actors, rather than strictly musical performers in the lead roles. Thus when compared to the stage production, the quality of the stage singers voices in in general better, as in the link I posted at the end of the piece. Yet using great actors and having them actually sing their songs, rather ten the standard movie technique of lip-synching added to the reality of the performances and the movie. Hugh Jackman was superb, as was Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried. Russell Crowe is a great actor and his ability there made up for the fact that he does not have a strong singing voice.

  8. “Socialism has never worked throughout history, we know that.”

    We know nothing of the sort.

    Many successful modern economies combine a blend of socialism and capitalism through Social Democracy. A strategy that has been far more effective than the extreme capitalism of the United States as many of these countries have weathered the global economic downturn (created in large part by American laissez-faire ideals) much better than other countries including America. These countries include: Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland, France, Switzerland, Portugal and Italy.

    What we do know is that many countries that were showing success with socialist policies have had their rightful governments overthrown by dictators with American backing such as Chile and Indonesia. Better a brutal dictator like Pinochet or Suharto than have reasonable market controls and policies that benefit society as a whole rather than an individuals profits. Right? Who in their right mind would say something like the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. Other than that pesky socialist Jesus, of course.

  9. Sharon,

    What Mespo and Gene said, plus I don’t think you understand the meaning of socialism which you seem to hate. As for Romney, he destroyed more jobs then he ever built and he wasn’t a businessman, he was a financier, which is an occupation that in the way he used it, does little for the benefit of our country’s economics.

  10. Excellent article Mike….. Hits a lot of truths….

    Mespo,

    Some of the poorest folks I know have money and lots of it…. You hit on a very interesting issue for me….

  11. Great Post. I too was moved by Les Mis and noted the analogies to our current social situation, but I wasn’t able to articulate my concerns as well as you have in this post. Thank you for your insight.

    A minor quibble: “Then to, there is nothing more satisfying to some of the people “on top” than abject submission and the prostration at their feet of those less worthy, it makes one feel so special and so powerful.” The sentence should begin, “then too…”

  12. Mike,
    Great job.I too am a big fan of the stage performance of Les Mis, but I have not had the opportunity to see the movie yet.
    And you beat me to responding to Sharon’s pure fiction about Mitt Romney. I would go a step further and suggest that Romney was not a financier, he was a disassembler. He took and Bain today still takes profitable companies and destroys them for a profit, along with the jobs of good American people.

  13. It’s about people taking pride in providing for themselves, it’s about putting God back into their lives. -Sharon

    No, it really isn’t about “putting God back into their lives.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/dennis-kruse-lords-prayer-indiana-schools_n_2410367.html

    Kindred spirits, you and Dennis Kruse, Sharon?

    “Dennis Kruse, chair of the state Senate’s education committee, has introduced Senate Bill 23, which would allow Indiana’s school districts to require recitation of the prayer, “In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen.””

    (Mike S., No, I didn’t miss your link — I posted the Charles Blow link after seeing the reference in your article, but I wasn’t clear about it. Great posting, by the way.)

  14. Going to see the movie this evening. Had to talk the other three into going as the reviews have been rather uneven It will be interesting to see how it stacks up against some of the other excellent movies that I saw last year.

  15. Our saving grace as a species is that there have always, in every generation, been those who choose not to worship the Almighty Dollar. It matters not into which class they are born.

    As Washington Irving (commonly credited with the phrase) wrote:

    “This phrase [the almighty dollar], used for the first time in this sketch, has since passed into current circulation, and by some has been questioned as savoring of irreverence. The author, therefore, owes it to his orthodoxy to declare that no irreverence was intended even to the dollar itself; which he is aware is daily becoming more and more an object of worship.”

    Even Andrew Carnegie eventually recognized the dangers wealth holds for those who hold it:

    “I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar.”

    Enter Thomas Paine. :idea:

  16. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul? Canibal capitalism is the Bain of our existence.

  17. Malisha,

    The Matt Walsh review was the work of a man without a sole whose notion of “Drama” is an NFL Playoff Game. After reading his review I think I’ll rent the “Dinner with the Kranks” movie that he also panned. It must be a masterpiece. :)

  18. blouise, Absolutely. I know some rich people that don’t mind having their taxes raised substantially. ;) Now those aren’t the people driving around Dallas in their Range Rovers with Romney Ryan stickers on their cars.

  19. Preceded by so many good comments it is hard to find more than my own experience.

    Equality of opportunity, not equal outcome was why I came to Sweden, if I look at the matter seriously. I have seen very few stage productions at our national scene “Dramaten”, but one which most aroused my sense of social injustice was GB Shaw’s Major Barbara. I left the play afterward incensed by it, to the amusement of my date, a lady DA here.
    A similar experience was given by seeing Les Miserabes on stage in NYC, many years ago. Valjean was my hero and the parallel with our current position was obvious, even if I did not have the vantage point or motivations that MikeS had and has.

    Leaving the theatre and films, one returns quickly to “reality” of not being one of these so oppressed, one is privileged and easily returns to routine.
    I wager that very few are impelled by seeing these portrayals to becoming a meaningful actor in this social crisis, willing to make the sacrifices, and least at the barriers or in the day after day experience of poverty of body and soul.

    Soul, because as mentioned, poverty, lack of education, prospect of a rising future, nor hope of change gives only room for existing, not the possibility of betterment. It was not the noble overclass that freed us. It was our concerted efforts as unions, unions of people that did it.

    My mother, born in1906, was a member of the middle class. She had a piano, took lessons, wrote and organized plays, etc. The Depression changed all that. For so many others too. I don’t think the middle class “recovered” until the fruits of war economy and the need for consumers gave a renaissance. Sadly, our returning soldiers then were better treated than the ones today with unseen but veritable mental damage. (Hope the new lady senator with two prosthetic legs from her war experience can help change that.)

    Speaking of faces and the ones we remember from the photos taken the Depression, how many remember the farmer’s wife, sitting on her stoop, her gaze far away—perhaps remembering how it was and wondering how the present poverty came after many years of work—-hard work. That we have those photos is thanks to Roosevelt and his makework projects, at least in part..

    I write this not as a bearer of new ideas, but as a living but anecdotal report from me.

    As I ruefully said above, it is too easy to return to our lives, inspired but not ready for the sacrifices needed.

    BTW, IMHO the nobility did not return by their own power in France. It was ironically Les Bourgeosie who sought out distant relatives to assist to regaining power. Why? Disorder, social change, and chaos was not fruitful for commerce—-especially those who played Le Bourse.

    Thanks to MikeS and all others for help providing reminders of how it was and is today for 15, 25, 47…..percent of our population in poverty.
    Thanks to the Professor, our founder and guiding spirit—even when we disagree with him!!!

    And poverty is not measured in economic terms only. Even students at our vaunted charter schools are not being developed or enriched.
    Malisha brought up the ideal school from her experience. I assume that the response to that movement is due to several factors: poor yield money wise, an idea before its time or too far from the mainstream of thought, or simply opposition from established forms.

  20. mespo:

    “Ever watch the NFL? It’s pure socialism: Shared profits. Drafting of the best assets by the least performing units. Combined effort for the good of the whole.

    How’s that working out?”

    As you point out, the NFL works very well. But this is a business model the league has embraced and it is funded by profits. Profits which are created by producing popular products, NFL games and NFL paraphernalia. Value is given for value. The money given to the poor performing teams is given so that they can improve performance, thereby increasing value to the paying public and thus revenue.

    Is each team on the “dole” in perpetuity? At least that is not the goal. And the expectation is that the game will improve and the service and products provided will be even better. Of course you could make the same argument for welfare, however the history has shown that poverty has not been eradicated even though trillions of dollars have been spent since Johnson’s Great Society.

    Do they have to produce? Yes, individual players, coaches, managers, administrative personnel must produce and perform to a certain standard or they are let go. There is nothing socialistic about the NFL. The best talent is recruited to provide the best product possible.

    How they share profits is a business decision made by the owners about their personal money and property. There is no force involved, it is a voluntary association.

    Where you are right is in the building of the stadiums, the NFL should pay for those out of its own pocket and not expect local communities to fund them. Members of the local community who, I might add, may not care one wit for football. Socialize the loses and privatize the profits is a bad idea in football, banking or any other industry. Socialism, in general, is a bad idea.

  21. Mike S, you made the mistake I love the most among all grammar mistakes. I will illustrate:

    In 1980 I went to a child psychiatrist to be evaluated, at my ex-husband’s insistence, because he said I shouldn’t be allowed to have custody because I was mentally unbalanced, and the evidence of my unbalance was that HIS father had committed suicide because he didn’t like his daughter-in-law. So I went to this shrink for a total of 36 hour-long sessions. AND I was subjected to a full day of forensic psychometric testing, too. Rorschach, thematic apperception, MMPI, other stuff, this, that, play with blocks, complete the picture, say what the word means, blah blah blah. Then he produced a report.

    He started out with the sentence: “Mrs. [name omitted] should have soul custody.”

    I pointed that out to him after the report had been sent in to the court already. He said, “It was a typo but it was essentially correct.”

    In fact, today my kid is coming up here to help me figure out how to do things on the computer. I remember very well how I had soul custody for the first 18 years of this kid’s life, and it worked.

  22. Mike, what a powerful essay, full of truth. We seemed to have learned nothing from history and our elite seems to be lead by sociopaths.. My father was a union man and he instilled in me the strong belief in the dignity of the worker and the importance of hope. Upwardly mobile and encouraged by a man who didnt finish high school my life has played out beyond my wildest dreams and confirmed his and my mother’s commitment to education and progressive values. Unfortunately, those opportunities are no longer available even for the middle class let alone the working class as the elite moves further and further into Cloud City and the rest toil below unseen and unheard.

    Thanks, Mike. I hope others who see the movie will be moved as you were.

  23. Mike, awesome article. I did homecare in Palm Beach County (not rural at all…) not terribly long ago and was stunned to find people living in what could only be described as shacks with no floor but dirt. The politics here are of the master/slave variety and it shows in the social fallout…

    Malisha, I haven’t seen the movie yet but I agree, that review was hysterical and I thank you for that blogsters site…what a hoot…and now I’ll have to light a candle for his wife because his plotted revenge sounds insufferable….

  24. Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital
    How the GOP presidential candidate and his private equity firm staged an epic wealth grab, destroyed jobs – and stuck others with the bill
    By Matt Taibbi
    August 29, 2012
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829

    Excerpt:
    The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn’t stand for anything. He’s a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who’ll say anything to get elected.

    The critics couldn’t be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He’s closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren’t the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they’re the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he’s trying for something big: We’ve just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we’ve been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.

    The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney’s run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he’s somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who’d be honored to tell Oliver Twist there’s no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race…

    And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a “turnaround specialist,” a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don’t know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America’s top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.

    By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you’ll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It’s almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.

    The unlikeliness of Romney’s gambit isn’t simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it’s dusted itself off, it’s had a shave and a shoeshine, and it’s back out there running for president.

    Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street’s greed revolution. He’s not a two-bit, shifty-eyed huckster like Lloyd Blankfein. He’s not a sighing, eye-rolling, arrogant jerkwad like Jamie Dimon. But Mitt believes the same things those guys believe: He’s been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let’s-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let’s-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of “creative destruction,” and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America’s rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.

  25. Bron,

    The problem with the NFL example is it is not an example of true socialism as there is no public trust or benefit involved. It’s essentially an example of welfare for private owners as the government has no control over the organization. There is a rational interest and a public trust involved in providing social services. The NFL is neither. It’s private parties getting business subsidies they don’t need but can afford to lobby for all in the interest of increased profits. It’s corporate welfare which is a bad idea and a hallmark of fascism but not proper socialism because of private ownership.

  26. Gene

    Very true of the football stadiums. I have maintained all along the seahawks stadium was more economicaly damaging to the the area than it was beneficial. When it was being planned, the majority of people then did not want it but the politicians rammed it down our throats. Now, they are going to put up a new stadium for a basketball team. Just one waste after the other. In fact, when the initial voter initiative (backed by the seahawks owners) was marketed to the public, they made promises such as that it could be used for childrens’ soccoer games and feel good crap like that. Of course, most children I know would be just happy playing soccer at their local school, but no they needed a huge stadium with only one field for the entire county. It was one of the stupidest arguments for the stadium I heard of but they widely used it. The voters rejected it, but then the team owners got the legislature to fund it for them. Of course now, the Seattle school district is having significant funding issues and several schools are on the closure list. Politicians have their priorities backwards.

    A worse example was in Wenatchee, WA where the politicians brought in the worst white elephant project in its history. It was a large stadium for semi-professional hockey, it nearly bankrupted the town.

    Town Toyota Center

  27. “Keep ’em in their place” Dept
    http://psychroaches.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-department-of-illiteracy-govt.html

    The Department of Illiteracy (Govt. Benevolence Manufacturing ADHD)
    Terrific insights on Government Creating ‘Mental Illnesses’.
    …While we are all familiar with the incentives provided by the government to discourage marriage by women living in poverty through the provision of various allowances and services so long as they are unemployed and unmarried and have children,
    fewer are aware of the incentives provided to the people living at the poverty level …to have their children diagnosed
    with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
    in order to boost their family income by about $8400 per year.
    What makes this even more shocking is that the New York Times’ leftist columnist Nicholas Kristof has noticed it:
    THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America:
    parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children
    out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read,
    they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.
    Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.“The kids get taken out of the program
    because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks,
    who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County,
    a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”…

  28. Thank you Mike Spindell, I have found the first & 2nd movie made from this book to be also enlightening and of value.

    Today we have 7 billion people on this planet. Perhaps in one hundred years we will have 14 billion people on this planet.

    The rise of human enlightenment will fall to the rise of the human population. Nothing will feed nor invigorate a population that is suffering from lack of food, shelter or energy.
    The best of common man will suffer from the worst of overpopulation. Lack of fresh water and waste water, will simply condemn the world population to the duress and reality of Jean Valjan.
    No bread, no water, no fuel, ……no silverware to steal from a kindly person to better ourselves.
    Overpopulation will condemn the best of humans to disavow, and to accept the disappearance of the least of humans. . ….. and who decides the best and least.

    The elephants of our ignorance are trumpeting. Their sound and warning ignored. A world of 14 billion people 100 years from now is the world of Jean Valjean. ….. PS. there won’t be any elephants around either.

    Signed Gloomy Gus. :o)

  29. 1935, directed by Richard Boleslawski, starring Fredric March and Charles Laughton, the first version of the story nominated for Best Picture Academy Award

    1998, directed by Bille August and starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Hans Matheson, and Claire Danes

    These were the two I was referring to. I wikied them and did not realize how many there are.

  30. There was a guy in Southern Illinois about 30 years ago who had a labradory named Hugo. He was named after Victor. The dog roamed a lot and the Pal followed him The Pal coined a phrase: Where ever you go, I go, Hugo. That phrase goes with this book as well.

  31. Gene H:

    I did not equate the NFL with socialism, mespo did. I disagreed with mespo. Although I say that stadiums are built under the auspices of socialism for the public “good”.

  32. Darren,
    You are making me cry. They put it up for a vote and ignored the result. Say, what is democracy worth.
    Poor kids, No schools but two huge stadiums (soon two).

  33. Bron,

    And by extension, I disagreed with mespo’s mischaracterisation as well. It isn’t socialism if there isn’t a public trust/public benefit and/or ownership in common. Those are the salient features of socialism. Part of the reason socialism is such a value loaded term in this country is it has been misused and abused for years as something it is not.

  34. Dobbie606,

    How bureaucracy in its wisdom can ruin a good thing. WTF is the meaning with a monthly checkup? Oh, it creates jobs for another bunch of bureaucrats.
    Does anyone know that ADHD is cureable? And don’t name drugs.
    Our king (damn his corrupt soul) is still a dyslectic, I know not the samee, and has passed it own to his kids. And he is subsidized too, but that’s another tale.

    Just glad I spent a summer in the hills before 1956, when folks were scratching but getting bye. They still had pride and hopes. Seems that’s all gone now.

    Haven’t been back since then. And won’t, Every “poor” soul I see, grabs my gut and gives it a wrench.

  35. David Blauw,

    Maybe Gloomy Gus is our guide to facing reality and stop eating lotus which the rich feed us indirectly through ITS government.
    The sole purpose (and soul purpose too) of government is to provide for the common good. What happened to that?

  36. Oro Lee,

    Thanks.
    For so many things. For showing a genius in action working with the reality of the world. He’s been doing this world health for 40 years now. His talk is based on one questionable premise, That the West will continue to lead and be a driving force for the changes needed. All indications now are to the opposite with TPP next. And Africa still with questionably motivated help from us.
    China is there for the oils sake, And we have diverse commercial interests. Hardly family planning and child survival.

    The message when presented previously digitally got the audience to vibrate, but the analogue version gives time for him to develop the underlying reasons, and us to reflect on what he says.

    The big question for all of us. Will we get off our fossil fuels intoxication and over to various forms of renewable electric (including portable/mobile) sources? Will we. and will the changing climäte allow us the time?

    Let’s hope that Rosling gets some national exposure, TED is not enough.
    He should be accorded a national medal, a dinner in his honor at the White House, an honorary American citizenship, a Nobel Peace Prize (now badly tarnished by Obama) and a permanent place in the “future of America and world health” commission reporting jointly to the President and Congress in joint session. A State of the World Union report simply. If we are to live we must do it on the same planet. a place on our National Security Council, and 250 bíllion in gratification. Bethcha that he will spend them wisely for the benefit of raising child survivability.

    Of course our corporate rulers are ruled in turn by the race for money, by whatever means. So they are already deaf and blind and will be so.

    Betcha that they are already looking for a new planet to exploit. Fools! Who sold them that snake oil? Space is like the climate can also be, not tolerating pipe dreams or defrauding or negotiable or bribeable. It is larger than we will ever be. Lacking the trappings of space operas.

    And one thousand Einsteins cannot change the laws of E=mc raise by two power; and c being a speed not ever to be exceeded, as long as his relativity theory stands. And it has withstood 40 years of the combined world’s physicists who have chased the string theory with neither theoretical nor practical result. Strings is a dead issue. And soon we may be taking the whole planet with us.
    Venus next.

  37. How do you help change population growth? By fulfilling our primordial human and unique pension and care for parents, Many kids, some survive and some will take care of their parents. We must diminishthe need for numbers of children so that numbers to insure the ancient pension system is not needed. And the answer there is child and general health improvement.

    A summary only.. Hope it helps.

  38. Gene,

    Thanks for your words clarifying the, much in America, maligned term “socialism”. We disguise many “do good” government programs under many names, but they in reality are socialistic. Quelle choc!

  39. Last post, if anybody is reading.

    Money, even gold, is useless to collect by the rich. It won’t buy a place on the evacustion rocket, Nor any goods if there are not any left to buy.
    And it will result in Zimbabian-like devaluations. A trillion dollars for a dead meager carcass to cannibalize on.

    I always knew that they were draculas or vampires, as they don’t tolerate the light of truth. Let’s all eat garlic.

  40. At Sharon:
    You wrote: “The problem is not going to be solved by distributing the wealth. It’s about people taking pride in providing for themselves, it’s about putting God back into their lives. This country has lost its pride in themselves and its conscience. That’s the core of the problems we have.”

    What you posted is overly simplistic. Sounds like one of the daily moralizing soundbites on many of the Fox Channel’s shows. I don’t believe that most Americans want wealth to be distributed. I think they just want a fair shake, an opportunity to work hard and earn enough to feed themselves and their families, a chance to improve their own lives and that of their children. They want to see justice done when some of the rich who run this country rip them off, lie and cheat and steal. Since when does one’s belief in God translate into upward mobility? Exactly which God do you recommend we all put back into our lives?
    Surely you must know how history and the present is rife with examples how faith in God is used by the church as medicine to create among the masses of poor people an acceptance for their plight in life. How convenient to sell God as one’s savior while in cahoots with the rich to keep things from really changing.
    As a solid member of the 2 per centers in this country I have recognized for a long time that it wasn’t just my hard work (and yes, I am proud of this) which created my current position in life. It involved some luck as well. In my case I believe that luck included being white, able bodied and with sane mind, educated (by a socialist government BTW), somewhat attractive and (used to be ) athletic. There is no doubt in my mind this kind of luck helped lead to finding a full scholarship, jobs, and a husband to boot.
    Yet, I also recognize that there are never any guarantees in life. I don’t take too much pride in the financial rewards per se. Today I am a two per center and tomorrow on the dole. I tend to take pride and find most rewarding the experiences I involve myself in like singing, dancing, volunteer work, family bonding. That’s what makes me confident that my future in case of financial loss, will still be worth a lot.
    Well, I could go on but I have to lift myself up by my boot straps now and get some work done.

  41. My gracious Elsie DL. You hit the nailhead.

    But do tell us how you became a two percenter. I will refrain from speculating. It is a very narrow percent to aspire to and achieve.

    Honestly hoping for forgiveness :-) and the info asked for.
    Hope also you are not one of the “once cranked, forever unforgiving” kind.

    You’re too intelligent and passionate for that. And both traits are revealed here by your comments since our unfortunate first meeting.

    if you read this, you can at least say “Phuck off”. That will do too. ;-)

  42. The 1% is an exclusive club today made up of heirs, con-men, and crooks. There are no brain surgeons, astronauts, quantum physicists, firemen, or US Presidents. They didn’t get there by hard work or excellence but by nepotism, chicanery, and ruthlessness. Their arrogance and entitlement is just the costume of fools.

  43. Elsie,

    “Since when does one’s belief in God translate into upward mobility?”

    I’ve been asking myself that question since the day I first heard the term “prosperity theology”. Unless the divine being in question is Mammon, the very idea is antithetical to not just Christianity, but most other religions as well.

  44. Not being favored with addressing I’ll give my views anyway!

    Gods were apppealed by sacrifices, gifts, prayer, litergical procedures and folloing proscribed rules in daily conduct.

    All this was done in expectation of Divine intervention on behalf of the supplicant. Tit for tat, and and the god’s intercessor strengthened this belief and even vaughted it snecessariness.

    We’ve got at least one church which is evangelistic and a “framgångs religion”
    To what the degree that the other religions are using this pressure promise and tecknique I have no knowledge. Pehaps even RCC,, Islam, and buddhism as well as Judaism.

  45. The comments so far are premised on a false choice: Permit the rich to keep their earnings while casting an undetermined lot into poverty or take that which the rich have earned in order to solve the problem of poverty. This is not the choice we face.

    We must maintain a social safety net and we are not close to abandoning it. In spite of the talk, the middle class welfare is what is bankrupting us. We have to means test our entitlement, for there is not enough wealth in the 1%, 10%, or 20% to satiate a middle class of voters who want more.

    This constant bell ringing to take from the “rich” ultimately influences decisions that discourage growth and makes for less opportunity for those in the lower income range and middle income range (the real middle, not the $100,000+ range).

    Maintain a tax code that encourages growth and maintain a welfare or safety net that helps those that are truly in need. Make none of it permanent as that will encourage stasis.

  46. Chubby41,

    So what is your gross yearly income on employmetn and capital yield?

    And where do you lie on the percent scale?

    What percent do you pay in fed tax compared to total gross income?

    How much do you draw`?

    Give facts, not opionions when advanceing political schemes Give us your bonafides too.

    You got my attention. Now cough up the facts. Romney did not.
    And we found out that way that he was a phony.
    Hope you are better. We need people like you here.

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