Corruption With A Growl

Excerpted from Jacob Riis’ autobiography, The Making of an American, ©1901:

You bring up the people slowly to a reform programme, particularly when it costs money. They will pay for corruption with a growl, but seem to think that virtue ought always to be had for nothing. It makes the politicians’ game easy. They steal the money for improvements, and predict that reform will raise the tax-rate. When the prophecy comes true, they take the people back in their sheltering embrace with an “I told you so!” and the people nestle there repentant.

When the investment bankers manipulated the market for their personal gain, requiring a trillion dollars in bailout money to cover their losses, there was no real debate:  the money was instantly available.

People are dying and going bankrupt  from lack of affordable health care, but that, we are told, costs too much money.

Jacob Riis, buried more than a century ago, would not be surprised.

All of his books are in the public domain and may be downloaded freely from Project Gutenberg, HERE.

(One question I am seldom asked is, “So, what are you reading these days?”)


The Oz Man Cometh

Most statues are of forgotten men who fought forgotten battles in wars I read about in a book.  They aren’t things I give a lot of thought to.

If it’s an especially nice statue, I might think to myself, “Hey- nice statue!” but I find it hard to invest much emotion into them–  in no small part because of this:

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


The first time the Klan came to our town, they were met with several hundred counter-protesters and people who just came to watch the show. They raged and shouted, and they all got their pictures in the paper. It was quite a ruckus.

But the second time they came, nobody much cared. They assembled on the courthouse steps, yelled for a little bit to empty streets, then scattered and went home.

They never came back a third time.

There are times when it’s important to stand up and be counted, times when it’s critical to make your voice heard, but there are other times when– almost counter-intuitively– the most powerful tool in your toolbox is apathy.

A Projection of Madness

“Nobody today is normal, everybody is a little bit crazy or unbalanced.  People’s minds are running all the time. Their perceptions of the world are partial, incomplete. They are eaten alive by their egos. They think they see, but they are mistaken; all they do is project their madness, their world, upon the world. There is no clarity, no wisdom in that!”  ~Taisen Deshimaru

I see that a lot in the media.  I see that a lot in politics.  I see that a lot in myself.

Sha la la la la la

The Evil Party™’s plan will allow insurance companies to charge seniors quintuple what everyone else pays, whereas under the Slightly Less Evil Party™’s plan they would only be charged triple.

Either way, I’m seeing zero incentive to save money for retirement.  Under the auspice’s of either plan you’re likely to die deeply in debt, probably impoverished.

So unless you have some special affection for the health care industry’s shareholders– and personally, I do not– the only strategy that makes sense under this system is to save nothing, live for today, and live the best life you can for as long as you can.