Late Day Links

Brian Cook

1) The big news out of the Senate today is that Ted Kennedy showed up to cast what was essentially the deciding vote on a bill to make sure that doctors who treat Medicare patients don't receive an 11 percent pay cut. (Once Kennedy provided the sixtieth vote, the Republicans allowed some of their members to cross sides and vote for this popular bill.) Kennedy's return will, rightfully, dominate the coverage on this issue, but it's also important to note that not only did McCain not show up for the vote (he was busy campaigning), but he says that if he was there, he would have voted against it. Eighteen Republican senators ultimately voted for it, putting McCain squarely in the camp of the most far-right knuckledraggers and mouth-breathers. Something to keep in mind in November. 2) Scott McLemee on Wall-E, Kenneth Burke, and the sci-fi dystopian nature of bottled water is a must read. Here's a taste: At the very start of the Great Depression, Burke published a Jonathan Swift-like essay in The New Republic calling for his fellow citizens to destroy more of their natural resources. This was, he wrote, the key to prosperity. The old Protestant ethic of self-control and delayed gratification was a brake on the economy. “For though there is a limit to what a man can use,” he wrote, “there is no limit to what he can waste. The amount of production possible to a properly wasteful society is thus seen to be enormous.” And if garbage was was good, war was better. “If people simply won’t throw things out fast enough to create new needs in keeping with the increased output under improved methods of manufacture,” suggested Burke, “we can always have recourse to the still more thoroughgoing wastage of war. An intelligently managed war can leave whole nations to be rebuilt, thus providing peak productivity for millions of the surviving population.” Not everyone understood that Burke’s tongue was in cheek. A newspaper columnist expressed outrage, and the letters of indignation came pouring in. Burke’s editor at The New Republic told him that this invariably happened with satire. Some readers always took it seriously and got mad. Four decades later, though, Burke saw an even greater problem. The joking recommendation he made in the 1930s to stimulate the economy via waste was, by the 1970s, an policy known as “planned obsolescence.” The idea of war as economic stimulus package evidently has its enthusiasts, too. Read the whole thing.

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Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.
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