Review DVD: The AMERICAN Ruling Class

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Congress (Failure, Reform), Culture, Research, Democracy, Economics, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Justice (Failure, Reform), Leadership, Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Reviews (DVD Only), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Remarkable–Provokes & Entertains

December 10, 2009
Robert Altman, James Baker, Bill Bradley, Harold Brown, Hodding Carter, William Coleman, Walter Cronkite, Barabara Ehrenreich, Vartan Gregorian, Robert Hackney, Doug Henwood, Mike Dedavoy, Joseph Nye, Samuel Peabody, John Perkins, Pete Seeger, Lawrence Summers, Arthur Sulzberger, William Taft,  Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Zinn

This DVD is superb and also subversive. I doubt that the “stars” in this movie, particularly James Baker, Bill Bradley, Howard Brown, and Larry Summers, really knew what they were getting into, since their words–and their bland denials–ring so false in this context.

I put the film in while trying to deal with Microsoft’s latest “update” that cost me half the morning, and I recommend it very strongly as a Christmas present or for classrooms and book clubs.

My notes:

+ A Peabody, whose ancestors came on “the boat” and also founded Groton, laments that whereas all the leaders used to pass through Groton, now there is no real “source.” I am reminded of Lee Iacocca’s Where Have All the Leaders Gone?.

+ Hedge fund visits basically boils all ownership in America down to four banks, and later in the film we learn that six multinational control almost all “content.”

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Review: Nickel and Dimed–On (Not) Getting By in America

5 Star, Atrocities & Genocide, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, Economics, Justice (Failure, Reform), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Photography Books (Countries)

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5.0 out of 5 stars If You Can Afford to Eat Out, You Need This Book,

October 10, 2002
Barbara Ehrenreich
This is an extraordinary book that every American who can afford to eat out, or rent a video, or visit a doctor, should be required to read.I had no idea just how irrelevant the “poverty” line as a measure of true poverty–nor did I realize how constained people are, the 60% of America that earns less than $15 to $20 an hour, in seeking out other options.

The author does a really effective job of investigating and communicating the horrible realities of life where…managers and corporate regulations and plain meanness deprive hundreds of thousands of people of things many of us take for granted: the right to go to the bathroom, to pause for a few minutes, even to sit down quietly for a few minutes in a clean room.

Especially admirable is her focus on rent and the conditions that are imposed on the poor and lower working class (between minimum wage and $15 an hour)–not having enough money for a deposit, being forced to pay outrageous rents for decrepit motel rooms rented by the week, having to spend a precious working day finding a place to stay, etcetera.

This is a very valuable book, both from the perspective of someone who might benefit from a little humility and gratitude for their blessings and advantages; and from a policy point of view–our understanding of poverty and welfare and what it takes to allow decent hard-working people to have a *life* appears to be terribly, terribly flawed. As the author documents so ably, it is not enough to have a job in America, you need to have one that pays enough to cover rent, food, and medicine.

I was especially moved by the many details the author provided on how life at the lower levels brings on more and more hardships–not enough money for good shoes, bad shoes causing major spinal and related injuries and pain. The pain–the endless hours, the desperation for aspirin and other pain killers, cigarettes as the least expensive narcotic for the pain–this is very powerful stuff.

At a minimum, this book changes how I will evaluate politicians that speak in ignorance about welfare and poverty and safety nets–and it is going to substantially increase how much I tip and how I tip–from 15% to 25%, and in cash… This might be a good time to think of ourselves, and follow the Golden Rule–our welfare system should be what we would want it to be if we were the ones asking for welfare.

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