MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/sites/all/modules/patched/service_links/images/digg.pn http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Stop Buying in Bulk http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/stop-buying-bulk <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="parsys contentWellTop iparsys"> <div class="section"> <div class="new"> <p style=""><em>This <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2015/06/bulk_shopping_creates_food_waste_shop_more_often_instead.html" target="_blank">story</a> was originally published by <a href="http://www.slate.com/" target="_blank">Slate</a></em><em> and is reproduced here as part of the <a href="http://climatedesk.org/" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p style=""><span class="drop-capped">I</span>f you're like me, you writhe in guilt-ridden anguish each time you forget to bring your canvas tote to the grocery store. But in the rare times we do remember our reusable bags, Americans tend not to think much about what we actually put <em>inside</em> them, according to a new survey. The takeaway: We waste a <em>lot</em> of extra food (and money) simply because <em>we don't shop often enough</em>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="text-2 text parbase section"> <p style="">As big of a problem as it is, food waste rarely makes the news. There was some buzz <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/05/france-supermarket-food-waste-ban" target="_blank">a while back</a> about France's ban on grocery stores throwing out edible food, but the numbers show that this is only <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/22/how-food-actually-gets-wasted-in-the-united-states/" target="_blank">a small part of the problem</a>. Americans <a href="http://www.newswise.com/articles/americans-may-be-wasting-more-food-than-they-think" target="_blank">vastly underestimate</a> their own food waste, which turns out to be <a href="http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/heres-why-americans-waste-so-much-food-180955569/?no-ist" target="_blank">driven mostly by</a> a desire to avoid getting sick&mdash;even though saving money is also a top priority. That means we end up stocking our shelves with more than we need to ensure we'll always have something fresh when we want it.</p> </div> <div class="text-3 text parbase section"> <p style=""><a href="http://www.kcet.org/living/food/food-rant/buying-in-bulk-wastes-more.html" target="_blank">That sort of behavior</a> is encouraged at bulk stores like Costco and Walmart, which operate on the myth that buying in bulk helps you save money. But <a href="http://uanews.org/story/ua-food-study-shop-more-waste-less" target="_blank">new evidence</a> shows that the push for huge quantities of cheap, high-quality food has caused us to be more wasteful than ever. Simply put: We're throwing away more in food waste than we are saving by buying in bulk.</p> <p style="">"People almost entirely neglect the cost of the food they're throwing away from their kitchen," says Victoria Ligon of the University of Arizona, who led the new study. "If you throw away a meal because you've eaten out when you weren't planning to, the cost of that restaurant meal is higher than you think. People don't account for that at all."</p> <p style="">Ligon's <a href="http://uanews.org/story/ua-food-study-shop-more-waste-less" target="_blank">study</a> examined shopping patterns of several households through in-depth interviews and food diaries. The results found that people are generally too ambitious in their grocery shopping&mdash;buying ingredients for meals days or weeks in advance&mdash;when our brains and appetites are hard-wired for little more than the next meal. Our lives get busy, we may schedule a few impromptu evenings out with friends, and suddenly we have a pile of furry cucumbers at the bottom of the fridge. As most people who have ever cooked a meal know, planning meals days in advance is almost impossible.</p> <p style="">"Every single person I talked to in my study felt very uncomfortable at the idea of throwing away food," says Ligon. "We have very strong norms in our culture around not wasting." But Ligon says people shouldn't feel guilty: "This is not a problem that stems from individual apathy. It's a structural problem."</p> <p style="">The bulk stores know this&mdash;their whole business model is to trick us into buying more than we need, and all the better if the food seems healthy and good for the planet. During a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/209281/here-are-all-reasons-walmarts-business-not-sustainable" target="_blank">green push</a> several years ago, Walmart became the biggest grocery store chain in the country. In May, Costco&mdash;that wonderland of <a href="http://www.costco.com/Tanka-Spicy-Buffalo-Bars-144-Total-Bars.product.100022551.html" target="_blank">9-pound cases of bison jerky</a> and terrier-sized <a href="http://www.costco.com/Red-Vines-Original-Red-Licorice-5.5lbs-.product.100113153.html" target="_blank">tubs of licorice</a>&mdash;<a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/costco-may-already-be-us-leader-in-organic-food-2015-05-29" target="_blank">became the leading purveyor of organic grocery items</a>, dethroning Whole Foods. Walmart's Sam's Club stores, which operate on a similar membership-based, it-takes-two-people-to-push-a-cart style of warehouse retail, is reportedly <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/business/retail/costco-becomes-largest-organic-grocer-analysts-say/" target="_blank">moving in a similar direction</a> and greatly expanding its organic offerings. Organic food is <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/5/organic-is-going-mainstream.html" target="_blank">becoming big business</a>, at least partly because stores are able to charge higher markups.</p> <div class="text parbase text-8 section"> <p style="">Which brings us back to food waste. As much as 40 percent of America's food supply <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-01-10/living-in-the-united-states-of-food-waste" target="_blank">gets thrown away every day</a>, with perishable items like dairy, breads, meats, fruits, and vegetables leading the way. The total annual bill of food waste for consumers is a whopping <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127881" target="_blank">$162 billion</a>, which works out to about $1,300 to $2,300 <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/06/youre-wasting-more-food-you-think" target="_blank">per family per year</a>. Clearly, that much food <a href="http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/" target="_blank">could feed a lot of people</a> who otherwise go hungry.</p> </div> <div class="text parbase text-9 section"> <p style="">But even that huge sum doesn't factor in knock-on effects: Wasting food means we're throwing away money, but we're also <a href="http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680494/the-environmental-impact-of-wasted-food" target="_blank">throwing away</a> 35 percent of the nation's fresh water supply and 300 million gallons of oil each year. That makes tackling food waste the low-hanging fruit amid <a href="http://www.slate.com/topics/t/thirsty_west.html">growing concern over drought</a> and climate change. <a href="http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680494/the-environmental-impact-of-wasted-food" target="_blank">Next to paper and yard trimmings</a>, food takes up the biggest share of the nation's landfills&mdash;and contributes about 20 percent of <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/01/15/forget_the_oil_industry_s_methane_obama_should_crack_down_on_cows.html">the country's methane emissions</a>.</p> <div class="text parbase text-10 section"> <p style="">Ligon thinks she's found the start of a solution: Just shop more often.</p> </div> <div class="text-11 text parbase section"> <p style="">"When you're talking about food, feeling really plays a big role. Things like predicting how hungry you are, your appetite, and what you're in the mood for&mdash;in the future&mdash;turn out to be very challenging," Ligon says. "If you're shopping more frequently, you can purchase food that is meant to be eaten in a shorter time frame."</p> <p style="">But there's a catch. Ligon's research also revealed that people regularly buy groceries from three to seven different stores. With so many choices, there's an incentive to overbuy at each stop&mdash;especially if you don't plan on being back for a few days. We've all done this: You go into Trader Joe's planning to buy some nectarines, and you come out with an armful of specialty potato chips and four frozen pizzas.</p> <div class="text-13 text parbase section"> <p style="">Ligon says same-day food delivery services <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2015/6/5/8737491/alone-with-amazonfresh-in-the-city" target="_blank">like AmazonFresh</a> (which charges $299 per year for free deliveries over $50 and provides you with a <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/4/5582932/amazon-announces-dash-barcode-scanner-microphone-for-amazonfresh" target="_blank">magic wand</a> by which you can place your orders) and soon-to-emerge smartfridges that suggest recipes for you based on your food that's about to go bad (<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/01/smart_appliances_a_washer_that_connects_to_the_internet_and_other_amazingly.html">like this one Samsung showcased in 2013</a>) might be among the most promising ways to cut down on waste, with big rewards in water, energy, and climate change&mdash;and money.</p> </div> <div class="text text-14 parbase section"> <p style="">After all, you can't waste what you don't buy in the first place.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Food and Ag Top Stories Sun, 05 Jul 2015 10:00:10 +0000 Eric Holthaus 278986 at http://www.motherjones.com Happy Independence Day! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/happy-independence-day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jeez, what am I doing, blogging about serious stuff today? Well, that's it. I'm going to go clean the grill or watch a parade or do something else that's date appropriate. Have a happy 4th, everyone!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flags.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 17:15:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 279031 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Rates May Be Going Up Significantly in 2016 -- Or Maybe Not http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/obamacare-rates-may-be-going-significantly-2016-or-maybe-not <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> reports that insurers are asking for <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/04/us/health-insurance-companies-seek-big-rate-increases-for-2016.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">significant rate increases for 2016:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans &mdash; market leaders in many states &mdash; are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota....The rate requests, from some of the more popular health plans, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_laptop.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">suggest that insurance markets are still adjusting to shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p><strong>It is far from certain how many of the rate increases will hold up on review, or how much they might change.</strong> But already the proposals, buttressed with reams of actuarial data, are fueling fierce debate about the effectiveness of the health law.</p> <p>....Insurers with decades of experience and brand-new plans underestimated claims costs. <strong>&ldquo;Our enrollees generated 24 percent more claims than we thought they would when we set our 2014 rates,&rdquo;</strong> said Nathan T. Johns, the chief financial officer of Arches Health Plan, which covers about one-fourth of the people who bought insurance through the federal exchange in Utah. As a result, the company said, it collected premiums of $39.7 million and had claims of $56.3 million in 2014. It has requested rate increases averaging 45 percent for 2016.</p> <p><strong>The rate requests are the first to reflect a full year of experience with the new insurance exchanges and federal standards that require insurers to accept all applicants.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I'd continue to counsel caution until we get further into the process. Big rate increase requests have been the opening bids from insurance companies for years, and they usually get knocked down to something much more reasonable by the time the regulatory process is finished. It's also the case that if lots of young people have been paying the tax penalty instead of getting insured, that might change as the penalty goes up. It was $95 in 2014, went up to $325 this year, and goes up to $695 in 2016. At some point, more and more of these folks are going to decide that they really ought to get something for their money instead of just paying a penalty to the IRS, and that will help broaden the insurance pool.</p> <p>Still, the bottom line here is that credible evidence is growing that we might see biggish rate increases in 2016. They won't be the monster increases that Fox News will be hyping endlessly, but they might be bigger than us liberal types expected. We'll know in a few months.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 17:10:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 279026 at http://www.motherjones.com On Independence Day, Pentagon Shows Off Some Real Fireworks http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/independence-day-pentagon-shows-some-real-fireworks <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bunker_buster_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">From W.J. Hennigan on the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-pentagon-iran-20150704-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">front page of this morning's <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As diplomats rush to reach an agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. military is stockpiling conventional bombs so powerful that strategists say they could cripple Tehran's most heavily fortified nuclear complexes, including one deep underground....U.S. officials say the huge bombs, which have never been used in combat, are a crucial element in the White House deterrent strategy and contingency planning should diplomacy go awry and Iran seek to develop a nuclear bomb.</p> <p>....U.S. officials have publicized the new bomb partly to rattle the Iranians. Some Pentagon officials warned not to underestimate U.S. military capabilities even if the bunker-busters can't eliminate Iran's nuclear program. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested at the same Pentagon news conference Thursday that airstrikes might be ordered multiple times if Iran tries to build a bomb.</p> </blockquote> <p>The usual questions present themselves. (1) This is obviously a piece spoon fed to the press. Why now? (2) Who is it targeted at? Iran, or our allies? Or Israel? (3) Is it credible? Does anyone truly believe that Obama will bomb Iran if talks fail? (4) Credible or not, does this kind of saber rattling do more harm than good? Discuss.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:20:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 279021 at http://www.motherjones.com China Halts IPOs in Peculiar Attempt to Prop Up Stock Market http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/china-halts-ipos-peculiar-attempt-prop-stock-market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The latest from China, where the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-setting-up-fund-to-stabilize-stock-market-1435991611" target="_blank">stock market continues to plummet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>China has decided to suspend new stock sales and establish a market-stabilization fund aimed at fighting off the worst equities selloff in years, as concerns grow among China&rsquo;s leadership that the stock-market malaise could be spreading to the other parts of the world&rsquo;s second-largest economy.</p> <p>...Previous steps including an interest-rate cut by the central bank have failed to impress investors, many of whom have been forced to unwind their leveraged bets as stocks continue to drop.</p> <p><strong>Chief among the decisions made is to halt new initial public offerings</strong> in a bid to preserve liquidity in an increasingly volatile market, the people said. Officials also discussed the setup of a market-stabilization fund.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another odd move that I don't entirely understand. Do IPOs reduce market liquidity in any significant way? Put another way: Am I missing something here, or is this just another panicky move by the Chinese authorities that's unlikely to make things better?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:05:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 279016 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 3 July 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/friday-cat-blogging-3-july-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today you get a very special episode of Friday Catblogging. It's a movie! I made it with my shiny new Surface 3, and although it's not the <em>greatest</em> catblogging movie ever made, it does prove the old adage: any camera you have is better than any camera you don't. So sit back and enjoy Hopper using her passive-aggressive defensive skills to keep Hilbert at bay. Our show takes place atop the fireplace mantel, everyone's favorite new place these days.</p> <p>Have a great 4th, everyone. See you next week.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ClQbE87PyAo" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 40px;" width="550"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 03 Jul 2015 17:36:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 279011 at http://www.motherjones.com Greek Media Really, Really Wants Yes Vote On Euro-Bailout http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greek-media-really-really-wants-yes-vote-euro-bailout <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Henry Chu of the <em>LA Times</em> reports on how the Greek media is presenting <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-greece-media-20150703-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">Sunday's upcoming vote on the bailout:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Strong emotions are in abundant supply. But impartial reporting is not.</p> <p>Along with Skai TV, nearly all the mainstream press and television stations in Greece have skewed their coverage or are openly in favor of the "yes" campaign, throwing in doubt just how fair Sunday's election will <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tsipras_oxi.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">be. The snap referendum has already come under criticism for being called with too little notice by the left-wing Greek government &mdash; which is urging a "no" vote &mdash; to allow for proper campaigning and educating of voters.</p> <p>....In a widely circulated examination of how the six biggest TV networks treated the rival referendum rallies Monday and Tuesday, freelance journalist Markos Petropoulos found that <strong>the pro-government "no" demonstration got about 81/2 minutes of coverage, whereas the "yes" protest received more than five times that much.</strong></p> <p>In another newscast, one network devoted 18 minutes to warnings and statements from European leaders about the breakdown of bailout negotiations with Athens and the surprise referendum announcement that had precipitated it. The Greek government's position got two minutes.</p> <p><strong>The bias toward the "yes" side reflects the fact that many of Greece's biggest news outlets are owned by corporate titans and other "oligarchs" whose business interests would be directly threatened by a "no" victory and the potential abandonment of the euro in favor of the drachma,</strong> [Nikolas] Leontopoulos said.</p> </blockquote> <p>I suppose it's no surprise that Greece's corporate class is deeply unthrilled by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist government, and would be happy to see him humiliated and tossed out of office. I assume that they also prefer the devil they know&mdash;grinding European-imposed austerity for years&mdash;to the devil they don't&mdash;exiting the euro amid chaos and eventually rebuilding their economy with a devalued drachma. After all, they'll stay rich either way, and sticking with their fellow European moguls probably seems the better bet by far.</p> <p>Less than 48 hours to go now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:58:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 279006 at http://www.motherjones.com Bobby Jindal Really, Really, Really Hates Gay Marriage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/bobby-jindal-really-really-really-hates-gay-marriage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_jindal_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2015/07/02/bobby-jindal-trying-delay-marriage-louisiana-yet-again" target="_blank">From <em>The Advocate</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After three courts told him he had to, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will finally allow his administration to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.</p> <p>....Jindal's administration argued it's possible the Supreme Court's ruling didn't apply to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where Louisiana had been defending its statewide ban....On Wednesday, the circuit court actually went through the motion of confirming the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over it.</p> <p>....But Jindal's administration jumped on that as reason to delay even further. The Fifth Circuit technically sent the case back to the lower, district court where its earlier ruling in favor of the state had to be corrected. The <em>New Orleans Times-Picayune</em> reported that Jindal's spokesman said no same-sex couple would be recognized until the district court formally reversed itself. And so it did that today."</p> </blockquote> <p>I've seen several people wondering why Jindal wasted time with this, since he knew perfectly well what the outcome would be. The answer is obvious: He's trying to position himself as the most tea-partyish, most anti-Obama, most combative conservative in the Republican field. So this is basically brand marketing. Republican voters now know that <em>no one</em> will stand up for traditional values as strongly as Bobby Jindal. Message sent and received.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:05:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 279001 at http://www.motherjones.com Music Review: "Alerado (Take 2)" by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra http://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/05/music-review-alerado-take-2-duke-ellington-his-orchestra <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="200" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/200746511&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p><strong>TRACK 2</strong></p> <p>"Alerado (Take 2)"</p> <p>From Duke Ellington &amp; His Orchestra's<em> The Conny Plank Session</em></p> <p>GR&Ouml;NLAND</p> <p><strong>Liner notes:</strong> Get your cool on, '70s style, with a swinging mix of lounge organ, breezy flute, and brassy orchestral flourishes. Finger snapping encouraged.</p> <p><strong>Behind the music: </strong>German producer and sound engineer Conny Plank collaborated with Ellington on this unreleased session before he became known for his work with Kraftwerk and Eurythmics.</p> <p><strong>Check it out if you like:</strong> Later Duke (not as consistent but still rewarding).</p> <p><em>We couldn't find audio for "Alerado<em> (Take 2)" online</em>, but that doesn't mean you can't get a feel for The Conny Plank Session. The above audio is "Afrique (Take 3, Vocal)" another track off the album.</em></p></body></html> Media Music Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:10:07 +0000 Jon Young 276056 at http://www.motherjones.com We Love America, and You Should, Too http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/we-love-america-and-you-should-too <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><strong>James West: </strong>Okay. How to start. How to start?</p> <p><strong>Ben Dreyfuss: </strong>July 4th! America! That great American holiday wherein we celebrate some bit of the American story. I think the earliest bit. Or the earliest official bit? We aren't celebrating the stuff with the Mayflower.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>So the idea is we're chatting about what makes this holiday so great for Americans and America and by extension the world, because for Americans: America is the world. It's a bit off-brand for <em>Mother Jones</em>, no?</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>You could say that, yes. We don't have a lot of stories called "America Is Great."</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>It's usually: "America: It's Far Worse Than You Think " or "America: Get Out. Seriously, Get Out While You Can."</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>But you can't be critical all of the time or you'll have an aneurysm. So let's talk about the truth of the thing, which is that we actually love America! We're harsh and critical about it, but that's because we love it so much. We wouldn't bother writing these stories that urge it to be better if we didn't have some deep abiding love for it.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I mean, I love America more than is reasonable, because I left a sun-soaked beach paradise with universal health coverage and a social safety net to move to this rat-infested fuckshow called New York City. But anyway, I'm going to start with a simple question. What is your favorite thing about America? FIRST THING that comes to your mind.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Blue jeans. I think blue jeans are amazing. I also love Hollywood and rock &amp; roll. Blue jeans and Hollywood and rock &amp; roll won the cold war.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Blue jeans, when they're not made by children in Asia.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Well, even then we invented them. <strong>"</strong>Guess" may make them in Asia but those kids are playing an American song.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>"Designed in California" is how Apple describes that particular phenomenon.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Apple! Right, that's another cool thing America has. Innovation! Other places have that too, though.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Innovation is one thing I think America excels at quite legitimately and can lay claim to (despite lack of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/tech-industry-diversity-jesse-jackson">diversity hires</a>.) Have you tried to use 3G in the UK? It's awful. And all their websites break when you try to book a ticket to see Jurassic World 3D. The internet is basically America. At least in the Anglophone world.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>That's true, but in their favor they did invent radar.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Jurassic World 3D, by the way, is an American film, made by Americans.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>American films are the best films. This is a fact. Cinema is&mdash;along with Jazz&mdash;the great American art form.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I think that's a fact, too. I mean, what is the comparison? French films? I don't think so. Bollywood? Bollywood is great. But very long films.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>And cinema in a very real sense created the American identity that has been exported around the world. For instance, would blue jeans be as important had not James Dean worn them? The French films are all very...well, French. Great! But arty to the point of being intentionally obtuse.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>British films are all set in a kitchen making tea... why is that? And Keira Knightley is in every single one of them.</p> <p><strong>BD:</strong> Have you seen the Eddie Izzard bit on the differences between British and American films?</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TjC3R6jOtUo" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>British films are all "room with a view and a staircase and a pond."</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Now I'm in an Eddie Izzard YouTube K-hole.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>"You fuck my wife? You fuck my wife?" "I am your wife!"</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Okay, now I'm going to stop this.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>One thing I think he gets at in this discussion of the size and expanse of American films is the thematic size and expanse of the American ideal, right?</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Big, brash, uncompromising, and designed to sell you food made out of corn served in containers made of corn, in seats made of corn.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>You had this ridiculous frontier mentality in the 18th century. Then you have the moon looming large in the 20th century. There is this idea that you can do anything in America! Even though this isn't true and the poverty trap here is as terrible as anywhere, it's still baked into the pitch. You came here from Australia. Did you get that growing up?</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I think what most Australians refuse to really admit is that we are far more similar to Americans than we are to the British. Same frontier thing, same sense of upward-mobility (as a sometimes-flawed, problematic) national obsession, same sense that given the right circumstances everyone can achieve greatness. (Though in Australia's case, not too great, otherwise you're arrogant, "like an American.")</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Haha right. "Arrogant like an American" is a very British thing. You still have traces of British in you.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>It's tactical! America loomed large&mdash;and continues to loom the largest for Australians, I think. My childhood was drenched with all the cultural products your childhood was.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Nationality was&mdash;and is&mdash;far less a divide than age&hellip; because "everything is global, man!"</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>If I dusted off my Marxist undergraduate degree I would say something about the spread of global capitalism and America's imperialist soft power. But that's kind of boring, isn't it. Plus, I love America.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Right, I mean we're going to get into the Bad Bits later. We are liberal journalists, after all.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>And if there's any country's soft power I would want, it's America's, on balance. I mean, Scandinavian furniture is really nice, and better than American, but they aren't a superpower. But given the choice of current superpowers, I would throw my chips down for America. Also, New York hosts the UN, man, and it's a beautiful building full of august (ineffective!) debate about the future of the planet!</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>And <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/hillary-clinton-launches-presidential-campaign" target="_blank">Hillary Clinton wasn't afraid to announce her run for president in front of it</a>!</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>No. That was bold.</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Clinton Launches Campaign Next To One World Government Headquarters <a href="http://t.co/d0biyOJaov">pic.twitter.com/d0biyOJaov</a></p> &mdash; Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) <a href="https://twitter.com/bendreyfuss/status/609718406728798208">June 13, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> </blockquote> <p><strong>BD: </strong>That was great. I think a lot of people&mdash;myself included&mdash;think of America as a leader of the world, right? But what Hillary was saying with that backdrop was that we're a leader sure, but still a member of this global community. And that's true and important and when America acts like its worst self on the global stage is when we forget that.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I've been doing some thinking about this question, and I want to get sentimental for a second about America. Are you ready?</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Yes.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>America got a really bad wrap in recent years around the world for obvious reasons. And it made people kind of&hellip;"bigoted" against Americans. Certainly there was this feeling that American culture is crass, debased, somehow inferior. But actually I've only ever found the opposite: a culture that is genuinely open to people and ideas, in the pursuit of creating something cool. In my case, writing and videos. But there's never any hesitation to welcome an idea in any field, from my experience. Americans are natural storytellers, and therefore natural listeners, alert to things and excited by them. That's a really fun culture to be around.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Right. Like, storytelling is a big thing in like every culture but it does hold a special place in America.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Every American has a "story." That's fun. (And great for a reporter.)</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Nietzsche said that everyone tells themselves the story of their life. That's true about countries, too. We're constantly telling ourselves the American story.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Americans are especially good at framing a personal narrative, and then putting it on a path to redemption. Right, the same is true for the country.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>I think we do that because&mdash;we should do it more, too&mdash;but we do that because we have done so much terrible shit. Like, I know we're talking about America as one thing right now and basically it's a very New York liberal blah blah version of America but I was raised with an acute awareness of our original sins. The story of America is necessarily one of progress because if it's not than it's a stale story where we have not risen above Klansmen.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I do like the stakes involved in the project of America though: "We've done awful shit. We'll keep doing awful shit. But we also think of ourselves as the best country on Earth, so we have to hold ourselves to a higher ideal." I mean, what a crazy motherfucking insane project that is. The Russians don't do that. The Chinese don't do that. But it matters, because if America succeeds in that project, the world is a better place for it.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>But like also, yeesh, obviously America is still totally fucking awful on these issues.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Dreadful.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>And it's insane. For decades in America, centuries even, lynching was just a thing that happened. Then not that long after people looked back at it with the genuine shock and outrage it deserved and wondered, "HOW THE HELL DID WE DO THAT?" I think we'll look back on a lot of stuff that happens today the same way. Not seeing ourselves&mdash;not recognizing ourselves&mdash; in our own history. That's a scary feeling. One that everyone can't help but feel time to time.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>But at the same time, America has this idea of itself&mdash;rightly, wrongly&mdash;of becoming better, never settling, never being comfortable, always at war with the concept of "doing good"&mdash;and that makes it really interesting from an outsider's perspective. I'm from Australia. We go to the beach instead of confront our demons.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Haha.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I mean, if you guys had beaches like Australia's you'd do the same.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Have you been to Southern California? Southern California is the most beautiful place on Earth.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>OK, apart from Southern California, which is beautiful. And the Pacific Northwest. And actually, a lot of America is really beautiful.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Gorgeous!</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Haha.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>There are ugly bits but even the ugly bits aren't that bad.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Coming back from Newark airport is pretty bad.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Wait, wait, before we start just listing our favorite parts of America&mdash;which we'll do in a second&mdash; I want to do something before we leave the history bit of this discussion.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Okay.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>The constitution looms large, right? My dad likes to talk about how it was a first. Other people had strived for freedom and promise and ratatatata but the Constitution was the first time we codified it aspirationally and wrote it down and put it up on a wall and said, "this is us." If your father was a cobbler, and his father was a cobbler, and his father was a cobbler, you don't have to be a cobbler.</p> <p>I mean Magna Carta was codified, DAD. "Look, dad, have you even fucking read the Magna Carta?"</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Apparently the Magna Carta was <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/20/the-rule-of-history">over-rated</a>?</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>I mean, it seems like it would have to be.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Look at Britain now!</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Haha.</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">ELECTION Photo du Jour: David Cameron meets pupils at Sacred Heart RC School in Westhoughton. By Stefan Rousseau/PA <a href="http://t.co/UE6qS5wm22">pic.twitter.com/UE6qS5wm22</a></p> &mdash; Stefan Rousseau (@StefanRousseau) <a href="https://twitter.com/StefanRousseau/status/585805409115643904">April 8, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> </blockquote> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I think Constitutional festishism can be a bit of a problem, though. Pick your amendment to be a nut about!</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Right. No one seems to give a fuck about them all equally. I mean, it would be weird to do that maybe too. I hate the constitutional originalism. Like, it's not some magical document. It was written by a bunch of smart people&mdash;most of whom are in hell now by the way&mdash;hundreds of years ago. Who gives a fuck what the founding fathers would think?</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Also, they would have been horrible people, by modern standards.</p> <p><strong>BD:</strong> Horrible!</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>With awful teeth.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Wooden!</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Thank god for fluoride.<strong> </strong>When I think of America, I think of Janis Joplin. I think of Nina Simone. I think of Martin Luther King Jr. I think of protest and struggle. There's never really been a time of calm&mdash;where counter culture has given in. All the way through to Baltimore, Ferguson, Charleston.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>That's so interesting. Maybe it's just because I'm a '90s kid but I really had this disruptive change after 9/11 where I felt a calmness lost. Like that is definitely because of "white privilege" and shit though.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Yeah, the "innocence lost" narrative of 9/11 is one to poke holes in for sure, but the whole world was involved, so wasn't just about America at that point.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Sure, but I don't think it's true that it was like equally spread out over the world. A few months ago I was abroad somewhere and a political person from that country was trying to make some point and kept being like "how did you feel on 9/11?" and I was like, "stop trying to co-opt our tragedy for your own bullshit purposes."</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Haha. Well, loads of countries went to war with you guys, including ours. So in that sense your tragedy was very ours.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Anyway...</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Can we list other things we like about America now, in short order?</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Yes. Southern California, Jazz, Hollywood, our breakfasts, the Pacific Northwest, basketball, rock &amp; roll, going to the moon, leather jackets, bourbon, New York City.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong><em>The Good Wife</em>. Road-trips and going to diners on road trips with my BF. HBO. The Empire State Building.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong><em>The Good Wife</em>!<em> The Americans</em>! Pop music!</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>American newscasts and hyperbolic segues. I love them. I also love the weather segments which go for so long compared to back home.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Oh, they're amazing I love the bullshit morning shows. They're so stupid but I love them.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>The national anthem is also pretty special, and amazing, piece of music. Especially as sung by Whitney.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x3po34" width="480"></iframe></p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>We're good at music.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>And I also think&mdash;I'm going to say it&mdash;the design of your national flag is really iconic and beautiful.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Yeah it's nice. I like it. It's on the moon, too! When the aliens come they'll be very impressed.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>America! I'm so worked up about America now and feel so self-validated by my decisions to move here! Yay, America!</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Yay!</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>Happy July 4!</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Ok, so I guess that's how we wrap this up. We love America. You should too.</p> <p><strong>JW: </strong>I think I wanna end on a quote from my favorite American play (duh&mdash;it's so unsurprising. don't laugh)... <em>Angels in America</em>&hellip; About the guy who wrote the national anthem, one of the characters remarks that he "knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it."</p> <p>I like that. Sums it up for me. Still trying to hit that high note.</p> <p><strong>BD: </strong>Perfect. All right, let's publish this motherfucker.</p></body></html> Politics Top Stories Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:00:13 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss and James West 278976 at http://www.motherjones.com