Bill Moyers, for a second bite of the apple.

30 Jan
January 30, 2014

The only plausible means by which a mook with a C+ grade-point average from a state university and fifteen years covering a second-tier rust belt city can be shaved and shaped into a crude approximation of a public intellectual is to be interviewed by Bill Moyers.  I was interviewed by that gentleman today, for a second time, about a good many things.  And I know, from my first experience with Mr. Moyers and his team, that I will somehow emerge sounding almost coherent.

For one thing, his raw interview is, by design, quite long, but then edited carefully and judiciously by the Moyers team, leaving behind the useless asides and sentence fragments, the staggered brain farts and half-considered rhetoric—and highlighting instead the core arguments and premises.  This contrasts with bite-sized interviews that begin and end with a provocation or two, or worse, some long and belabored discussions that require viewers to endure every tangent and marginal aside.  The Moyers process also avoids the savage carvings of the ideological inquistor; he is as professional as journalism gets.

What I am saying, I suppose, is that good editing is the great unseen craft of prose journalism, of documentary, of drama, and indeed, all narrative.  At this, Mr. Moyers and his people are masterful and honest.  I haven’t seen the interview, but I’m guessing, based on past experience, that it bears a good chance of actually conveying some of what I do actually mean to say.

You may disagree with that content.  And despite the care that the Moyers crew takes to hone and preserve the core discussions in these interviews, you may nevertheless find me to be an insufferable idiot.  I won’t argue the point here except to assure all that in lesser hands, my performance would be worse.  Certainly, if I make no sense in this format, then there is little hope indeed.

To that end, I’m posting this preview clip and mentioning that the full interview will be available online shortly, and those interested can get showtimes and channel info by following this link: http://billmoyers.com/schedule. And I am also thanking these folks for their attention to some of my arguments and interests, and to say that we could do worse as a nation than to have all of our political discourse addressed and coalesced and considered by Bill Moyers.  It might not solve anything in the way of any actual argument, but hey, we could all go to sleep at night pretending to be much smarter than any of us actually are.

110 replies
  1. Jeanne Shields says:

    My nephew is off to college this year and has just discovered ‘The Wire’. He LOVES it. We were discussing the scene in the first episode (I believe) where the whole conversation in the rented townhouse was one word over and over and over again. The two detectives were under the watchful eye of the caretaker. I told my nephew that the entire scene was a detail conversation that only the two detectives understood. I could catch on to most of it as I watched but by the end of five seasons I was a master.

    Reply
  2. Mr. Bones says:

    Mr. Simon,

    Have you heard Mark Cuban’s comments about prejudice? If so I am curious to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
    • Brendan says:

      Screw that. I’m much more interested in hearing what DS thinks about Edward Snowden not liking S2 of The Wire.

      What an idiot. He thinks the show is about wiretaps.

      Reply
      • David Simon says:

        Yes, I hope we didn’t waste all that time and effort writing a show about surveillance. That said, everyone is entitled to an opinion on what they prefer. Even celebrities.

        Reply
  3. isomorphismes says:

    You said in the interview that poor people should benefit at least a little from the growing wealth of capitalism.

    My knee-jerk economist reaction is: haven’t they? Prices are lower and I recall public debate involving P Krugman during the 1990′s to the effect that the rich were getting richer faster than the poor were getting richer—not that the poor were getting poorer.

    I haven’t read any monographs on this subject so I won’t say the poor are getting richer in the US. What’s your reason for thinking the poor are not getting richer?

    Reply
  4. isomorphismes says:

    David: you use the phrase “short-term profits”.

    All profits are short-term.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Well, this is a semantic matter.

      But if we measure the actual profit of long-term investment in the health of an actual economic sector — if we are talking about buy-and-hold investments in the actual growth potential of a corporation based on its actual long-term performance and its future potential, then no, all profits are not short-term. Such profits are achieved through the judicious investment of capital in the long-term health of a corporation or industry.

      If we are talking about meeting some analyst’s number for the next quarter, without regard to maintaining the quality of an actual product or the long-term viability of a company or industry, then the profits of which we speak are decidedly short-term in nature.

      For example, in an industry dear to me, if you were a newspaper executive who kissed Wall Street’s ass and made your number quarter after quarter in the 1990s by attacking cost and pumping short-term profits up to a level of 25 or 30 percent, while at the same time diminishing the actual substance of your product — you helped to marginalize your industry and its future potential at a critical time when the internet was going to demand more substance — not less — in order to compete. On the other hand, if you ignored the analysts and sought to maintain the integrity of your product in the run-up to digitization, you were interested in profits that were the opposite of any short-term gain.

      There is short-term money to be made running a company into the ground, or in eviscerating its products.

      Despite libertarian fantasies about market purity, the fact is that our means of capitalization allows money to be made on things other than long-term economic growth and long-term economic health. Indeed, there were some people who made a great deal of money betting against a housing bubble that was itself the construct of the same financial firms making those bets. The folks who invested in some of that real estate — the homeowners, at any rate — were seeking long-term profit. The parasites who sold shit for gold as mortgage-backed securities and then, with the other hand, began to hedge against the bubble — they had no interest in the long-term economic health of the housing market and the profits that would accrue from home ownership. They were on the make and in the moment.

      It is relatively easy to distinguish between the two. At least, I think so.

      Reply
      • isomorphismes says:

        I intended that remark to underscore the problems you’ve talked about (in this interview and in a speech I watched you give with the same title as this blog).

        Your story about newspaper management is very compelling, as would be a 20-year comparison of Berkshire Hathaway share price versus the personal trading profits of those who hawk daytrading advice.

        But it’s impossible now, to measure if profits are here to stay or will evaporate. We can certainly argue about it—and I think all of this resonates on what I see as a few of your key messages.

        I think it’s almost incoherent to talk statistically about “picking up pennies in front of steamrollers” or “pursuing bimodal strategies”. Humans who understand the markets they trade in may have wisdom about the viability of their project. But identifying eg “Hedge funds who pursued a left-skewed strategy” is incoherent in ways that really matter. I’m talking of the fundamental problem of extrapolation.

        Like your reporters who know their beat, human experts may reasonably opine that a strategy is left-skewed, without any of those tail risks showing up in actual history—which is what goes in the prospectus.

        Let’s talk about a character who’s the anti of the villain in the second-to-last paragraph of what you just wrote. An entrepreneur brimming with optimism that s/he is going to solve long-term problems with her business and not only make profits but make the world a better place. In fact let’s say it was Bob Shiller’s MBA student who put the Case-Shiller indexes (meant as a hedge for the homeowner tied by his job to Cleveland, 90% of his wealth is tied up in his home in Cleveland, but he wishes his wealth to be agnostic among Phoenix, Cleveland, Chicago, and LA). It all makes so much sense and it should have made the world a better place—but look at the volumes http://www.cmegroup.com/trading/real-estate/residential/SandP-case-shiller-home-price-index_quotes_volume_voi.html they’re essentially zero. No short-term profits, only long-term ones—if the damn thing ever gets kickstarted. So in saying “All profits are short-term” I meant to agree with your cynicism, or I guess to amplify it.

        Reply
        • David Simon says:

          You’re writing a lot of words. Let’s try to be blunt and precise:

          Do you believe that Wall Street and market capitalism is in all major respects a legitimate effort to marshal capital investment to grow the American economy? Because that is the moral suasion that capitalism has claimed for itself. By marshalling capital on behalf of worthy investments, businesses and the economy as a whole will grow and all will prosper.

          Please relate such a claim specifically to what happened in 2008 and what it revealed about market capitalism as it is practiced. Please explain how the short-term quarterly cycle of beat-the-estimate/reap the bonus is commensurate with a process that ensures or even values the long-term health of a company, its product, or indeed even an entire industry.

          You began by claiming there was no such thing as a short-term profit. I disagree entirely. Selling your sister to a bunch of bikers is short-term profit. Nurturing your sister, educating her, subsidizing her early forays into a professional career, etc. — that might yield long-term economic growth, and more of it than the initial capitalization of your sibling. Don’t get us lost in semantics. I know what I mean, and I think I’m doing a credible job of saying what I mean in this instance.

          Reply
          • isomorphismes says:

            David, I’m arguing that only short-term profit is observable, yet only long-term profit is valuable.

            Reply
            • David Simon says:

              No, you’re still planting a flag on semantics.

              If I chart the growth of a company, or a product market-share, or an industry over a five- or ten-year period; wif I judge a CEO and pay his bonus on the basis of what he achieves for his company and his industry at a much longer, more meaningful interview; if I make a decade or two of economic growth my metric, then that metric is as observable as profit reaped in any shorter and more manipulated framework. It’s all observable and it’s all empirical.

              The difference is what we choose to value. I understand what you are arguing. I don’t agree.

              Reply
              • isomorphismes says:

                David, decisions have to be made during the first 3 years of that 10-year CEO’s tenure.

                Reply
                • David Simon says:

                  Of course they do. But what does that have to do with a board of directors authorizing immediate bonuses. Why not defer such bonuses until a more meaningful verdict on performance is in? CEOs defer income and stock options all the time for tax purposes. Why not make the bonuses contingent on the substantive performance of the company over a meaningful period of years?
                  Why? Because that would move the swine away from the money trough for too long a moment.

                  Reply
              • isomorphismes says:

                How about in the case of the Baltimore Sun. You’re the CEO making 37% profits and you want to explain to the owners why you should do more deep research, hire more writers, rather than finally paying them back what they deserve for funding you all this time. How do you make the pitch?

                I don’t think this is a trivial or pedantic distinction at all. Rather it seems to me to be the whole game.

                Here’s another example. Look at the Wikipedia page for “Seed money”. It contains this graphic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Startup_financing_cycle.svg which even has the mathematical honorific “J curve”. The Kauffman Foundation published a thoroughly sour study detailing the performance of venture funds. The promised J curve turned out to be more like a \. But of course investors are told that those short-term losses are merely the “valley of pain” one must endure to pass into Canaan.

                If this is semantics then it’s only so in the following sense. The “juking” you described had real consequences and so does winning the rhetorical battleground of whether felt losses from last quarter are part of a higher expected-path (unobserved) — a “valley of pain” on the road to riches — or just regular old failure.

                Statistically, from the data,

                Reply
                • David Simon says:

                  And yet all those newspaper executives who led their industry into the sewer while cutting costs, publishing shittier newspapers and making Wall Street’s number — they’re out on the golf course at Hilton Head now arguing over where they should go for dinner. They’re long retired. They’re well paid. They did nothing to assert for the future of journalism — which is a desperately needed commodity in America right now. But attend to the quarterly numbers they did very well.

                  That kind of market capitalism — in which actual producers and service providers serve the short-term goals of Wall Street, which are often inconsistent or objectively antagonistic to the long-term health of the economic concern — brings us to the current moment. So what are you defending here? And why?

                  Reply
          • isomorphismes says:

            To your third paragraph: it’s worth noting that Janet Tavakoli marked the failures of synthetic investment vehicles down to “massive, multi-year fraud“. (from memory)

            Fraud, of course, was midwife to the scandals you said you had in mind when writing The Wire. Problems caused by fraud are solved differently than problems caused by the inherent suckiness of capitalism.

            Now to answer the second paragraph: Sort of. In the long term. As long as there’s no fraud.

            Economist readers have seen over the past 5 years, studies quantifying both the apparent profits to lobbying and the apparent growth boost (mean, not underclass) to a modern financial system. Both effect sizes are, according to that publication’s sources, meaningfully large.

            A more interesting linchpin to pull on, I think, than the Crash of 2008, is the ability of private buyers to take a public company off the exchange for 3 years and then re-list it at a profit.

            Reply
            • David Simon says:

              All attendant problems of this version of late-stage capitalism. All of them unreachable by populist reform mechanisms unless government itself isn’t purchased by the same interests that operate freely and voraciously in such an environment.

              Reply
  5. Davis Rogan says:

    It was a great interview, and it said all the stuff you say without haivng to hang out with you for years on end …. good stuff!

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      Brah,

      To catch all the stuff you say, I needed 36 hours of commercial-free television. So let’s credit Mr. Moyers for being economical.

      Reply
  6. Yusuf says:

    Overdue, Mr. Simon, and quite the humble introduction. My dad & I always enjoy a good Bill Moyers as he usually has sound-of-mind rational thinkers. sparsely populated as they are in today’s absurd political and financial structure, and it’s one of the few welcomed times of substantive dialogue between father and son, lol. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  7. Marilyn says:

    I could not agree with you more about Bill Moyers. I very much enjoyed both of the interviews. While I remain depressed about the state of our state, I somehow took comfort in finding that there was someone else who sees our situation exactly as I do. By the way, you are far too critical of yourself. You were able to articulate this C level state student’s thoughts perfectly.

    Reply
  8. D Green says:

    I watched last night. I’m super-appreciative of your efforts. You and those others’ (like Bill, btw. What a guy) thoughtful analysis and efforts to inform and engage “the masses” are the true heroes of our era. Thank you, and best of luck.

    Reply
  9. Donna G says:

    I just read the analysis by Mike Elk on the UAW defeat at VW in Chattanooga. UAW signed a neutrality agreement with VW without worker input or consent, which the opposition used, primarily highlighting sections of pages 10, 11, and 12, to prove their point. Why would UAW sign a neutrality agreement in the first place, when VW agreed to remain neutral? Do they realize the damage they’re doing to unions everywhere, especially the German unions who promoted this venture? On page 6 (c) UAW agreed not to make home visits prior to the vote unless explicitly requested by the employee.
    To forego educating your membership in this day and age of appalling ignorance and hubris by union employees who despise unions but enjoy all the fruits produced by decades of bloody battles fought and won by guys like my dad; and to turn your back on the groundswell of community activists at the ready to educate the community, especially in the South, is the antithesis of union organizing, if you ask me. Elk also wrote a piece about VW ties to two anti-union/anti-worker groups, but I’ll leave it at that.
    I would be very interested in your take on this, so I hope you’ll be writing about it.
    I’ve watched your entire conversation with Moyers and your talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas more times than I care to admit, shared it with friends, and enjoy lively conversations afterward.
    I thought I would share something I wrote in the comment section of the petition I filed yesterday against McCutcheon at Move to Amend:
    As long as money is speech, speech is not free. McCutcheon does for individuals what the Citizens United hustle did for corporate: more secret passageways for dark money’s criminal enterprise sowing corruption, bribery, graft, extortion, racketeering, and influence peddling. As long as Citizens United stands, SCOTUS is in direct violation of abridging the people’s Constitutional First Amendment right to free speech.

    Reply
    • Mr. Bones says:

      Regarding the McCutcheon decision. you’d think murder was just legalized, given all the hysterical shrieking.

      Like Citizens United before it, the shrieking needs to be misleading to work. The exaggeration and outright lying has already begun. The ever-shrill Common Cause alleged that, The Supreme Court just gaveled in a new era of political corruption made it easier to bribe politicians. The truth is, the McCutcheon decision was actually pretty mundane.

      Before McCutcheon, an individual could donate only. $2,600 to individual candidates, $32,400 to national party committees and $5,000 to political action committees.

      After McCutcheon, that same person could donate only. $2,600 to individual candidates, $32,400 to national party committees and $5,000 to political action committees.

      Oh the humanity!

      What ACTUALLY changed is the total amount that an individual could contribute in a political season. Before McCutcheon those caps were $48,600 to all candidates and $74,600 to all PACs and parties, for a total of $123,200.

      After McCutcheon, there is no cap.

      The hysterical bawling about this decision is that now the rich will have more influence over elections… As if they didn’t have this influence already, under the silly, incumbent-protecting laws we’ve had since 1972!

      But this Common Cause led bluster doesn’t make sense.

      The individual contribution limits remain the same! Does anyone honestly believe that a mere $2,600 contribution is going to swing a federal election?

      Reply
      • David Simon says:

        Murder has not been legalized, no.

        But our democracy, ever more purchased by capital, has been further marginalized. If you are comfortable with the top 600 richest people in the country now being able to heave millions of their dollars into political races in legislative jurisdictions where they do not actually reside, exerting their influence in greater proportion than the voters who actually live in those districts and seek to be represented in our republic, you will be comfortable with the very idea of plutocracy. That makes you — and five Supreme Court Justices who now rival even Chief Justice Roger Taney in their small-minded sense of democratic idea and purpose — ripe for the second-rate society being built here.

        Reply
        • J. Goode says:

          Those who favor campaign finance limits cry foul, under the slogan
          “Money isn’t speech”.

          After all, the machine through which Stephen Hawking speaks clearly required no money to build or program. It never needs maintenance. It just magically appeared and will run forever.

          Extend the reasoning:

          - “Money isn’t religion.” No church needs money to function.
          – “Money isn’t the press.” It costs nothing to publish books, magazines, and newspapers.
          - “Money isn’t assembly.” No one ever pays rent on a meeting space.

          Here’s the truth: The Statists could repeal the entire First Amendment simply by forbidding anyone to spend money on speech, religion, press, or assembly.

          The slave cannot earn or spend as he or she chooses. But a free person can. Which do you want to be?

          Reply
          • David Simon says:

            How charming. Semantic games.

            Let’s speak bluntly and to an actual substantive point: In a healthy republic, the marketplace of ideas rewards the best ideas and the most popular causes are given support and succor. In a plutocracy, the rich shout down the less-rich and serve themselves, using their money to corrupt the marketplace of ideas and see that no popular sentiment survives. They behave not as fellow citizens of a true democracy, but as greedy swine, who mistake their own financial advantage for the merit and worth of their opinion.

            And a government that recognizes and honors such a distinction is no longer fit to call itself truly democratic.

            You are free to earn as much as you like. But your sophistry in claiming that anyone who would then object to your spending millions — now in representative districts in which you are neither living, nor voting — are willing slaves is quite vile. They are no such thing. They wish to have as much say in how they are governed as someone who has acquired more money, and no more a say than those who have acquired less. Speech is speech. Money is money. Playing bullshit word games to walk away from what it means when capital purchases the very reigns of governance achieves nothing honest here.

            If the best ideas are going to find purchase in a republic, and if popular sentiment is going to survive, then the monied arguments cannot be encouraged to shout down the unmonied ones. That’s not a marketplace of ideas. That’s just human greed, screaming. Dressing it up as freedom is just embarrassing. Sorry.

            Reply
            • Kevin Stevens says:

              Warning, vulgarity to follow:

              A-fucking-men to that, my brother!

              Reply
            • assman says:

              “In a healthy republic, the marketplace of ideas rewards the best ideas and the most popular causes are given support and succor.”

              I guess Nazi Germany was fairly healthy then since Jew Hating was an extremely popular idea in Europe. That idea was given excellent support and succor. Popular ideas are not necessarily the best ideas.

              “then the monied arguments cannot be encouraged to shout down the unmonied ones”

              I disagree. Monied interests aught to have a huge voice vastly disproportionate to their numbers. Otherwise your so called democracy will fail. The reason is straightforward…they have huge interests and will make sure those interests are not harmed. And that is extremely important because our whole society depends on the many of their “interests”.

              For instance a banker has an understanding of the intricacies of finance that most people simply do not. Finance is hugely important. If it fails then the whole society fails. But only a very small percentage of people understand it really well. The same goes for a huge number of other things like power plants, cable companies, the list goes on. If you have true democracy its highly probable that uninformed people will enact crazy policies that will completely destroy these industries. Its therefore essential that these people be able to scream loudly whenever something happens that threatens their interests.

              The 1907 Crash is a good example. JPM essentially single-handedly save the whole financial system and prevented a huge depression. Bankers after the crash advocated for the creation of a lender of last resort…aka the FED modeled on the actions of JPM. The FED is fundamental to the proper functioning of banks and monied interests were both the ones that prevented the 1907 crash and ensured the Fed got created.

              Does Joe Blow on the street understand what the FED does?!??? Hell no. Do you David Simon? Nope. But bankers do. And if their voice is not vastly louder than yours when deciding whether we have a Fed or not, then we are in big trouble. Because you have no fucking clue how anything works. Most of the public doesn’t either. So how the fuck should everyone’s voice count equally on issues they care far less about, have far less interest in because it doesn’t directly effect their interests and are clueless about.

              If some idiot like you proposes shutting down the Fed you can bet your money that Warren Buffet, Bankers and others will exert influence to prevent it from happening. And Thank God! If an idiot like you had to decide issues like this we be in for a world of hurt.

              Reply
              • David Simon says:

                Astonishing.

                I write of healthy republics, and you cite Hitler’s Germany as a counter. Here’s a clue: The Third Reich was not a republic. There was no marketplace of ideas tolerated. The only ideas that were tolerated were those of national socialism — ergo no populist sentiment could organically exist. For you to actually quote me speaking to “healthy republics” and then proceed, without irony, to a discussion of conditions in that which is the exact opposite of a healthy republic as a means of refutation isn’t even coherent.

                For you then to express your assurance about what constitutes informed citizenship — and to have those examples be relatively devoid of some of the most fundamental ideas and philosophies is equally amusing. The WSJ business pages? Really? I can only quote Mr. Kane on that score: “It’s easy to make money if all you really want to do is make money.”

                For you to lastly conclude, emotionally, with name-calling others as idiots, given your own vapid performance thus far, leaves you at your level. Your fellow citizens cannot think as you do. Ergo, call them names and hope that they shut up. If affluence and mastery of finance is, as you imply, indicative of a greater intelligence and capacity for leadership, then it is clear from what you have just posted here that you must assuredly be poor as dirt and reading the WSJ with your lips moving slowly. That, or the skills that you think constitute the worthy citizen are in fact irrelevant to the attainment of such responsibility.

                Reply
            • assman says:

              The other thing is that you don’t have any of the qualities needed to make good decisions and neither does most of the ignorant masses.

              How do you make good decisions? You need a shit load of facts. You need to read, read, read. And you need to read boring things like the Wall Street Journal business section and you need to read it again and again and again. You need to read 100 page documents on Dodd-Frank. You need to think about markets, institutions etc. Its pretty freaking boring and its a lot of work. You need to read industry journals.

              You need to be experienced with leading people. Operating departments. Reading memos. Going to meetings. Writing meeting minutes. The exquisitely boring minutiae of business and government. That is what it takes to run things and understand how things work. Its not fun.

              The world runs because of people like these. Not people like Hitler, Mao or who had incredibly popular ideas but could not stand boring administrative work.

              100 million people are dead, nations impoverished because of ideas which were popular in the marketplace of ideas. Enough.

              I want boring, elite, memo-writing, decision-making, meeting minute taking, powerpoint presentation delivering, conference attending elites making decisions which protect their interests and the interests of people like them. You can take your super popular ideas like Fascism, Communism, Anti-Semitism, Millennium Cults, Boxer Rebellions, White Lotus Rebellions …. all the madness of the crowd and shove it up your ass.

              Reply
              • David Simon says:

                Again, you are deeply, deeply confused.

                Fascism, Communism, Totalitarianism — these are political forms that target the marketplace of ideas first, restricting dissent and argument to mere affirmation of existing power structures. To cite their failures is to affirm that the free-flow of ideas and arguments in a society is elemental. To allow those intellectual and political arteries to calcify — either through political repression or through the purchase of governing institutions by capital — is to make vulnerable any free society.

                Hitler didn’t rise to power because he was a popular idea. He did so by beating and assassinating political opponents and critics, burning down the national legislature, outlawing dissent and then, yes, coopting Germany’s industrial and business leaders by incentivizing their participation in his regime. The business leaders of Germany weren’t outside the Nazi Party, any more than the rest of the country was once Germany became a one-party system. Your attempt to fashion for them a collective intellect superior to their times is an embarrassing lie of history. I.G. Farben, Albert Speer, Volkswagen, Krupp — these folks knew their business climate inside and out, and good Nazis they were because capital always — always — routes itself toward power. Your memo-writing, decision-making, conference-attending elites were the first to squeal at the possibilities of a wartime industrial complex and slave labor.

                And those for whom Nazism was not a business opportunity and morally repugnant — they were those ordinary Germans who suffered for their dissent, who were punished and marginalized, and who voted with their feet in the early days of the Reich. The popularity that followed comes after the fascists have eliminated political discussion and dissent, and rewarded the loyal, most notably the ruling classes and industrialists. Take your head out of the WSJ. Read Shirer. Or Arendt.

                Lastly, your assessment of who has qualities required to make good decisions and who doesn’t — when you offer it as a personal critique of your opponent — is embarrassing. You don’t really have a clue about my decision making, my leadership, or my operational experience. Not. A. Clue. Having done no business with HBO or Blown Deadline PRoductions or NBC or various publishing concerns, you can’t actually speak to any of that. Yet speak you do. It’s as if you are so unsure of arguing your ideas on the merits that you can’t stop yourself from adding the ad hominem invective and unsupported personal insult.

                Is that how you see argument? Because I don’t think a more corrupted logic has been ventured here in a good long while. Take a breath, think more deeply, abandon the embarrassing equivocation of a premise in which totalitarianism is somehow equal to a healthy republic — a dishonesty that underlies all of your confused rhetoric — and, finally, please go to google and consult “Godwin’s law.” From that rhetorical escarpment alone you have tumbled into the void.

                Truly, in any argument, the first person to compare an opponent or his ideas to Hitler nearly always loses. And rightly so.

                Reply
                • Kevin Stevens says:

                  “Rhetorical Escarpment” is my new favorite phrase.

                  Reply
                • assman says:

                  Fascism and Totalitarianism came to power precisely because they were hugely popular. Hitler had only one special ability….he was a hugely popular speaker. Populist leaders of the time like FDR and other envied him for precisely this reason. They knew he had an incredible appeal to the masses. The very masses you propose to empower. According to you Hitler just magically got into office using violence and intimidation. Are you really that stupid.

                  “You don’t really have a clue about my decision making, my leadership, or my operational experience.”

                  I have a clue that all you basically know at your very best is media. There are large and enormous parts of industry outside of that about which you know nothing. About which everyone who is not IN THOSE INDUSTRIES knows nothing. And therefore you are completely unqualified to make any decisions in them as are the vast majority of the populace. So how the fuck do you prppose an informed democracy is supposed to regulate them. The problem is you are too stupid to see my point.

                  Your basic idea is that we need real democracy. Which I equate with disaster. My basic idea is that we don’t need real democracy. We need sham democracy where elites have a vastly disproportionate influence.

                  Again answer the basic question: how do you regulate industries which you do not understand?!

                  Reply
                  • David Simon says:

                    If Hitler was enormously popular, why was it necessary for him to burn down the national legislature in order to consolidate power? Why not rely on the electorate to empower your party within that legislature? If Hitler’s popularity was so defining, why did all opposition to his party need to be outlawed? If Germans were only singing his psalms, why go to such lengths to stifle the opposition press and assassinate or jail all major critics? Again, read Shirer and Arendt.

                    Your reference to Roosevelt is noted. As the winningest politician in American history and a man who was able to cultivate the popular support of an informed and free populace, he pretty much defines democratic leadership. Somehow, the unwashed masses of America managed to successfully negotiate a great depression and a world conflict as a populist, one-man, one-vote endeavor. I have not read anywhere of his “admiration” for Hitler; that sounds hyperbolic. He may have acknowledged Hitler’s gifts of oratory, but certainly, he had his own. And in a society in which oppositional ideas were allowed to exist, FDR used both his own gifts and the substance of his arguments to acquire the consent of the governed. It was one of democracy’s finest hours and the credit can’t merely go to Roosevelt — but to the millions of Americans who maintained him in power by mass action in four successive elections. For someone so quick to revile the masses and democratic principle, your myopia here is impressive: Hitler, having outlawed a marketplace of ideas and democratic action in his rise to power, was a populist! Roosevelt, having bested his opposition in a free marketplace of ideas and relying on mass democratic action to achieve power, was somehow not a populist, but indeed admired Hitler!

                    God, man. Are you even tracking your own argument, or just blurting absurdities as they occur?

                    And of course in what I can only presume to be a deep libertarian blackout, you fail to answer the fundamental question about all those insightful industrialists and technicians who failed to object to National Socialism and in fact helped Hitler to consolidate power. Farben, Krupp, Volkswagen…were they not devouring their era’s equivalent of the WSJ news columns? Were they not paragons of financial and technocratic knowledge? You mistake economic intelligence with moral insight, which is understandable given that the views that you are expressing here are indeed fascistic in and of themselves. Your contempt for your fellow citizens is noted. And your confused and intellectually dishonest comparison of a totalitarian epoch in history in which massive governmental effort was undertaken to keep citizens uninformed and political opinion narrowed with the the democratic essential and necessity of a fully informed electorate is just astonishing and embarrassing.

                    But most telling here is your demeanor, which renders you personally unsuitable for any democratic ideal. Certainly, for all your self-satisfied insight into our political condition by virtue of the value you place on your own understanding of the world, you are ill-equipped to either lead or inspire other citizens:

                    “You’re too stupid…”

                    Really? Are all those you disagree too stupid? Is middle-school name-calling the dynamic with which you hope to enlighten your inferiors? Is this what you hope to bring to the marketplace of ideas? Do you not understand that you have wandered onto a website that is not the comments section of Yahoo or Fox? That grown-ups are endeavoring to have civil discourse? And that restraint is being shown to you, despite the fact that you seem emotionally incapable of governing yourself with any corresponding restraint?

                    Look back on what I wrote to you, even as you offered the same juvenilia of ad hominem in your previous posts. Were you called names? Were you attacked personally? Or were your arguments attacked? Do you understand the difference? Have you undertaken any educational endeavor that offered you logic as a discipline? Have you heard of the Aristotlean fallacies? The basic ones, at any rate.

                    Given your contempt of the unwashed masses with which you are obliged to share governance in this republic, and given your Tourette-like impulses toward the personal denigration of those who think as you do not, it’s a small wonder to me that you find it within yourself to object to Hitlerism in the slightest. After all, he and his kind showed no inclination to share power either, and they quickly labeled those who disagreed with National Socialism to be less worthy, if not less human. And their impulse toward epithet and the dehumanizing of their political opponents was unrivaled in the last century. You seem quite comfortable with the same tactics, if not the label.

                    As to what I know or don’t know, never mind my duties as a writer or, previously, as a journalist. Let’s ignore what you categorize as media. For two decades now, I have been operating a production company. From project to project, this endeavor requires my participation in the supervision of as many as two hundred employees and more than $30 million a year in operating funds. It operates on a synchronized schedule of production that takes place in cities hundreds of miles apart and to this date, it has never in a given fiscal year exceeded budgetary projections or scheduling deadlines. It’s gross revenues are in the hundreds of millions, and it is regarded by HBO as its most fiscally responsible vendor. And exactly none of the above entitles my vote to matter more than other Americans who endeavor in different spheres, or who have different experiences and pursuits. It certainly doesn’t entitle my ideas to prevail because I have more financial wherewithal to spend on various electoral contests — including those in districts and jurisdictions where I do not actually reside. In a healthy democracy, my wallet doesn’t matter. Yours doesn’t either. Our ideas matter. They should prevail if they have merit, and not because they can be screamed at a pitch that money can purchase.

                    So, what do you do for a living, other than scan the Wall Street Journal and sneer at those who do not value what you hold dear? Not that it matters. Just curious, at this point. From your rabid insistence that economic acumen makes you so much more suited to lead other men, I expect that I am bantering with a lost Koch Brother at this point.

                    Reply
                    • Kevin Stevens says:

                      David,

                      Each of has a limited number of keystrokes in us before we die, don’t waste any more of yours beating your cortex against this guy’s cranial wall.

                    • David Simon says:

                      Sometimes I like to probe just to marvel at the abyss. Sure is dark, though.

                    • Kevin Stevens says:

                      Been there. Though I admit there is a fatalistic optimism in the attempt, if no hope of actual results.

                  • katie says:

                    Let’s pretend I think it’s possible to have an exclusive group of “experts” running the things that are too difficult for mere mortals to understand. How on earth would you control for the possibility of corruption?

                    Reply
          • Kevin Stevens says:

            This doesn’t even rise to the level of semantic games. The sheer amount of equivocation staggers the imagination. The audacity of thinking that a word used in once context can be used to justify arguments in another is breathtaking in its scope.

            In the amount of time it would take to unentangle the web of “reasoning” in your reply, you could take some time to educate yourself in the art of rhetoric and debate and spare the rest of us a headache.

            I continue to be astounded at the definition of “free” being reduced to, “You aren’t the boss of me.”

            Reply
            • David Simon says:

              Seriously, the converse of that logic is that to be a perfectly free man in these United States is to have enough cash to fully advance your politics and have your message heard to a greater and louder degree than your fellow citizens. Absent money, one cannot fully express one’s political freedoms or have them considered to the same degree as other men’s desires. Money as freedom. That rivals the best of Orwell.

              Reply
        • Mistah Bones says:

          “…ripe for the second-rate society being built here.”

          Some people think that is already here:
          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

          Seems to me a first step in the right direction would be to repeal the laws in place since 1972 that protect incumbents.

          Reply
      • Kevin Stevens says:

        I’m assuming you consider yourself an opponent of judicial activism and a proponent of strict construction. Given that, can you please reference the part of the Constitution which permits cash donations to politicians?

        And if you go down the “penumbra” or “associative rights” path, you need to be willing to accept that for abortion, voting rights, etc.

        Well?

        Reply
  10. katie says:

    Just saw part two – I’m struck by your statement that we got upset about the wrong issue in Citizen United. The outrageous idea is not that corporations are people but that money is speech. That’s definitely a new way of thinking for me. Thanks for that perspective shift.

    Reply
    • Linda says:

      Seemed a bit facile to me. How does one jail a corporation for bad behavior? Do states get to execute them, as if they were people? I dunno, something doesn’t add up there. Limited Liability says “I get to externalize my costs…..water depletion, water poisoning, etc” which individuals do not “get” to do.

      Reply
      • michael beaton says:

        I don’t know… how does a corporation impersonate a person at all? Perhaps working thru this stupidity and trying to come to something of a coherent understanding will help fix this issue….
        For the moment.. how do you jail a corporation? Jail the Board Members who are responsible for oversight, and then the next layer down the exective management who are obligated to follow the law…
        Start there… the next steps will present themselves…

        btw.. this is similar to the rule that the ceo had to sign off on the accounting after the enron and other major corporate scandals. (ummm… is that rule still in force? something to explore…)

        Reply
  11. Linda says:

    While we’re waiting for part two to be aired, I’m curious about something. Mr. Simon, your views on Chris Hedges? He’s been talking about our slide into inverted totalitarianism and seems to believe some plan is at work. He’s one of the few “east coast media types” that seems to understand what common Americans are experiencing daily.

    Is he crazy? Is he a conspiracy theorist?

    Since the mainstream is covering such a tiny portion of what is actually going on in the world, people like me, who want to be well informed, are being pushed to the fringes for information. I have to rely on my own devices to assess whom I can trust to give me truth. He strikes me as trustworthy.

    What do you think? (I ask, because you strike me as trustworthy.)

    Reply
  12. Jeanne Shields says:

    The interview was very thoughtful. I sent it to my adult kids who not only love The Wire and Treme, they hooked me on the shows, but are progressive and they vote. Hurrah for me. I did things right. When I talk to my kids about things we share on the internet it’s interesting that we all find different things as important. It will be interesting to have that conversation.

    One thing that struck me in the interview was that we view people as inessential. Of course it’s true but the statement made me see the migration to the outer suburbs clearly. I understood it finally. I love the city. I live near the inner ring of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I go to certain spots in both cities and look down on the river and can imagine life before the white man. I can go down Central Avenue and hit the Afghan place, the Palestinian place, the Thai place the Hispanic place, the co-op, the place where I buy my pottery. I memorize the addresses on some of the houses and I guess the dates they were built and then I go home and look them up on the property site to see how close I came. Every Memorial Day I clean the graves of my relatives that go back as far as my great great grandparents at the St. Anthony Cemetery. I promised my mother I would. Somewhere in NE Minneapolis my great great grandparents planted themselves after walking through the prairie with their children during the Dakota War in 1862. I always wonder where they lived. It’s all gone I’m sure but I feel them there. I feel the history of the city.

    I have friends that won’t go past 37th Avenue on Central. They’re even afraid to go past 53rd. Gangs. I tell them no, no. If you walk into the Holy Land Restaurant you hear the banging and the yelling of Arabic, The artists walk in and chat with the workers. Life is real.

    But this is what finally hit me during the interview. I always believed that they feared the gangs, the differences, the bad schools for their kids, the influences and maybe all of that was true but I think it’s one more thing the trumps them all. They feared becoming inessential. If you put 50 miles between you and inessential you protect yourself, you protect your children from the taint. But the Koch brothers don’t care, Mitt Romney certainly doesn’t care where you live. They just grab and smile while they do it and they don’t care if you’re white and did everything right. They don’t care if you’ve moved and placed a nice big buffer zone of safety between you and inessential. Bam. The union can’t protect you. The brand new house you bought is worth about 100 grand less. Your portfolio is down 20 grand. Your kids want what they had before. And some of those people cling to Michelle Bachman and Fox news like they’re the only rope to pull themselves out of the deep blue sea.

    Not all though. My father was a union man and I’m proud to say that and I can’t tell you the joy I felt in 2008 when I was going to my caucus and I couldn’t get within a mile of my designated building. The line was snaking down on the freeway, headlights a string of precious pearls. All those union guys saying, “fuck you GOP. Watch this.” I wrote a letter to Beohner thanking him for helping to elect the first black president.

    Reply
    • Brandon says:

      Your an awesome human being and u am sue your kids are too that’s what’s essential hopefully there’s more out there much like yourself if so we can turn this world around . I have faith.

      Reply
      • Jeanne Shields says:

        Thank you. I think what is so very important is teaching our fellow voter that we are not a one issue nation. You can’t go into the voting booth chomping at the bit to vote for a candidate who promises one solution to the issue. I’m pro choice but if I was against abortion my desires for this country can’t overshadow the needs of the children who are homeless, who sit hungry in a classroom, who live without healthcare. And that’s what’s happening. Immigration is another hot topic. Why is this such an important issue where there is no immigration issue? Why are the voters allowing this to become front and center while the roads crumble and the schools become overcrowded? We have lost our way. The wolf guides the sheep.

        Reply
  13. Lisa says:

    This was an outstanding interview. You allowed me to see things in a way I hadn’t before.

    Reply
  14. Brendan says:

    Looks like they’re not airing part 2 this week. My Guide shows a piece on Obama and the oil companies tonight.

    Reply
  15. Cathy Lang says:

    I liked what you said on (and about) Moyers. He is terrific, though not as tough on some people as I would be.

    You seem informed and clear on all the progressive talking points. But I would love it if you would make clear we in America (or anywhere else) do NOT have a democracy and never have, While researching socialism (communism) I came across the idea that the workers (or I would insert majority people) do not have control of the means of wealth and should. IT never occured to me before that our economies are upside down. I would love it, if you agree that the majority should control the world’s wealth, that accepting the status quo and how democracies are currently set up is not acceptable, that you would make that clear. Instead of trying to work within current systems designed to make the wealthy more so, aided by government. We need ‘radical’ change, not continued tweaking of a system never designed to be a real democracy.

    I agreed with a sugggestion that the majority of people, globally, need to rise up together and, by sheer numbers, can peacefully take over control from the wealthy minority and those complicit with them and establish more democratic and equitable systems.

    Reply
  16. Chris says:

    lest anyone think that The Corner or the game has changed a bit in the 20+ years since Gary Fran, DeAndre, Blue, Fat Curt, and company were holding down Fayette & Monroe:

    http://www.salon.com/2014/02/05/too_poor_for_pop_culture/

    Reply
  17. J. Sachs says:

    Ideologies become more extreme as cognitive dissonance mounts; bigger and bigger excuses are required to continue believing that the exceptions prove the rule.

    The threatened ideology, in this case, is the part of our social contract which stipulates that growth will smooth out all class conflicts in the long run, so the rich need only to grow and the poor need only to work. What we have seen is that growth in the financial sector, far from overflowing and trickling down, tends to get captured there and that work, far from a human right, is on the way to being scarce.

    There are numerous ways to address the conflicts within the narrative, including changing to a new narrative. My fear is that instead we are going to waste decades trying to force this one into existence without somehow upsetting the neoliberal establishment while actual conditions for the working class grow worse and worse.

    Reply
  18. Tom Hagan says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. Marx was right in that the means of production can be owned either privately (capitalism) or collectively by everyone (socialism). You are right that capitalism has proven better able to improve human productivity, and should not be abandoned. Private ownership of the means of production, and the time value of savings (interest on deposits) are inherently unsustainable in that they concentrate wealth, leading to inequality that cannot be sustained, as now. But that does not mean we must abandon capitalism, or representative democracy. True, we need a strong dose of what many will call socialism, to redistribute income. But that can be done with a truly progressive income tax and a Citizens Dividend for everyone – Social Security, but beginning at birth. If everyone got say $16,000 per year from birth as a Citizens Dividend, there would be no need for a minimum wage, food stamps, unemployment insurance, or any other aspects of a “social safety net”. Huge swaths if government could be eliminated. The question of having a “small” or a “large” government could be independently determined.

    2. The oligarchs who currently run our economy and our government need to see that continuing on the present course will lead eventually to violent rebellion. Even the flat tax urged by Steve Forbes won’t prevent that violence.

    3. “Never dip into capital” goes the adage. But a moment’s reflection reveals that it is unsustainable: the more you have, the more you get, until fewer and fewer have more and more. “Them that has, gets” goes the song.

    Reply
  19. Sigi Hale says:

    In any case, David’s Words/Concerns/Efforts inspired me to share this … no hidden motive, just doing my part to try to effect change. This conversation needs to grow.

    The Cognitive and The Sensorial Cow
    A Neuro-philosophical Rant About The State Of Our Union
    By T. Sigi Hale

    The concept of independent action is a farce. All human behavior occurs within the context of complex biological and social life systems and is inseparable from their influence. We are parts of broader systems. I intend to highlight that human effectiveness is tied to our capacity to understand and adapt to these contextual systems. I will also argue that this capacity grows and wanes at a predictable stages of human civilization development, and that this is directly linked to our self-induced cycles of civilization rise and collapse. I will also argue that we are currently in a declining period and that the associated reduction in our ability for big picture contextual awareness has already manifest dangerous cultural trajectories, not the least of which is a societal misunderstanding of what free-market capitalism is and was intended to be. However, before entertaining this discussion, I will first address a few relevant aspects of how the brain processes information (i.e., how we perceive).

    About the Brain – Words vs. What IS
    In my work as a neuroscientist, I’ve come to understand the brain as a machine that changes gears (via brain-state orientation). It does this to serve different forms of cognition and experience. For example, when performing complex goal-directed actions, we see the world in a fundamentally different way than when we’re watching a sunset. In the former, we aim to cut through the sensory milieu as quickly as possible to identify task-relevant content and put it to use. In the latter, we do the opposite. When watching a sunset we want to immerse ourselves in the uncategorized richness of raw sensory flow.

    Put differently, when we are task-oriented, our experience becomes more informed by the word categories we use to parse the sensory world into behaviorally relevant things that we can use and interact with. When we are experience-oriented, we aim to break through such word delimited conceptual boundaries to bask in the full richness of the raw flow bombarding our senses. One mode imparts a ‘word based reality’ that is useful for getting things done. One mode imparts a reality derived from direct sensory analysis that is useful for perceiving ‘what is’ beyond the purview of thought and language.

    Now that we have evolved these distinct modes of processing, humans must wager our capacity for sensory efficiency against our capacity for sensory fidelity in the course of our moment-to-moment actions. I believe that learning to better integrate these disparate manners of engaging the world represents our most pressing evolutionary challenge. This is because words have the power to create their own reality, and we humans have proved time and time again that our biggest evolutionary foe is the power of our own bad ideas.

    Once a word is triggered, the word label itself imparts an experience. For example, the word ‘cow’ means very different things to a beef rancher in Montana and an Indian who considers them sacred. At very early perceptual processing stages both perceive the same sensory thing (i.e., a sensorial cow), however, once the word ‘cow’ is triggered, vastly different experiences ensue. One sees dinner. One sees a deity. Their word-delimited cow-concepts create the illusion of having seen and experienced vastly different things.

    Accordingly, when we emphasize a verbal mode of brain function in service to accomplishing tasks, we are subjected to our word-based realities. Sometimes our words are accurate depictions. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes words can convince us that bears are not dangerous, or that if we don certain tennis shoes and poison ourselves we’ll be magically transported to a passing comet. On the flip side, this loose relationship between words and reality can be leveraged to our advantage. Our words can embolden us to overcome seemingly impossible odds, or to achieve incredible feats of daring. In short, words are ideas that we create, and when we rely on them to organize our experience for the sake of behavioral efficiency, they impact our perception of reality. It is why eyewitness testimony is so fallible. Everybody sees his or her own cognitive cow.

    To maintain a stable grounding in objective reality, a balanced expression of our verbal and nonverbal modes of brain function is critical. We must on occasion experience the world outside the bounds of verbally mediated thought, and be willing to update our word systems if and when such experiences contradict our ideas. In fact, with a balanced expression of these states, our words should become increasingly better depictions of reality. This is why art, gazing at sunsets, traveling to new cultures, learning new languages, and the like, are typically considered healthy. They help us to balance our brains, and reduce the likelihood that we might become trapped within the confines of word-delimited thought structures. This type of imprisonment by ideas is the operative factor behind cult thinking. Cult members become fixed within their word-worlds, and forgo all interest in stepping outside those boundaries.

    I’m now going to suggest that that this type of transition into cult-like cognitive brain function occurs at a society-wide scale at predictable and cyclical points in our species’ attempts to form civilizations. Moreover, until we recognize this, it will repeatedly undermine our quest to avert destruction under the weight of bad ideas. You see, I think we are still evolving in our capacity to use language. In particular, we have yet to realize its power to manufacture word based realities, and the associated importance of maintaining our non-verbal perceptual intelligence so that we can continually re-sample ‘what is’, and use that information to maintain the accuracy of our words and ideas. When we fail to do this, our cognitive and sensorial cows diverge, and things get messy fast.

    How Civilization Building Changes our Brains
    At the outset of any new civilization, humans are faced with a great deal of uncertainty. There are few recipes to follow, and as such, we are forced to become hyper perceptual and vigilant as we strive to learn about our surroundings and solve new challenges as they arise. Under such circumstances we obtain a natural balance between our task and experience oriented brain states. However, as a civilization becomes more successful, it begins to solidify around things we know how to do. In essence, the civilization’s rulebook becomes written, and we become increasingly oriented toward following those directives.

    This orientation towards protocol and procedure begins to bias us toward greater expression of verbally dominant and task-oriented brain-states. Two other factors accelerate this. First, the task-master state is naturally inclined towards getting things done, and so those wielding it are bound to achieve a disproportionate share of power and influence. Next, this state is inherently bad at perceiving what it does not know, and so those wielding it are also prone to undervalue the contribution of more experientially oriented members of society.

    Together, these factors conspire to increase our collective emphasis on verbally mediated and task-oriented states, while diminishing our valuation of perceptual forms of intelligence. This pattern continues until our word-derived realities become almost entirely unchallenged and self-contained. We become fixed in our ideas and incapable of seeing beyond them. It is at this stage where society becomes a cult, or rather, a hodgepodge of warring cults that have almost no hope of reconciliation, as their respective abilities to see the common ground of ‘what is’ have become too far degraded.

    The End Game- Task Master Rule
    I believe that our society has reached such a peak (or nadir, as it were). The evidence is everywhere. Idea zealots run our government with cult-like fervor, and our citizens retreat ever further into ideological camps. Our education system almost exclusively teaches to the test, while art programs are cut en masse. We’ve even become accustomed to the practice of altering the neurochemistry of our children to make them better task-masters when we deem they are not good enough in that regard. Do we really need any greater evidence than that?

    I believe we are indeed witnessing what human behavior looks like when our capacity for word-derived experience grows at the expense of perceptual intelligence. We are, in effect, caught up in our own heads. Again, the problem here is that absent sufficient power of perception, our words become an increasingly inaccurate depiction of life. When this error becomes too great, a civilization inevitably fails. It is the exact same fate that must befall a person who thinks bears are not dangerous, and lives in bear country. That unfortunate person will eventually get eaten. Their word-derived reality is just too inconsistent with the facts on the ground.

    How This is Changing Us
    To better understand how losing our perceptual intelligence affects us, we need to further consider its natural role. I believe that regular shifting between verbal and perceptually derived experiences is supposed to help us realize that our words are imperfect descriptions. The resultant uncertainty should then compel us to look more closely at the world, and to constantly reassess what we think we know in order to improve the accuracy of our knowledge. We should become seekers in perpetuity. Over time, this should enhance our ability to see both the sensorial cow and the life systems that sustain it. And with this more accurate and holistic awareness, we can then learn to better adapt our ideas and behaviors to the systems within which we operate.

    Finally, by performing our own perceptual due diligence we inoculate ourselves against verbally delivered nonsense. Imagine watching a sporting event and listening to the commentator’s play-by-play. The fact that we like listening to a verbal description of what we’re already watching speaks to our current dependency on words for experience. In any case, to the extent we orient towards the announcer’s verbal content, we become vulnerable to his or her errors. If they are sufficiently biased, their words can influence us to experience an inaccurate portrayal of the game. Thinking for ourselves requires that we are first able to perceive for ourselves.

    How This Change is Hurting Us
    In our current imbalanced state, I believe our collective sensibilities have gone awry in a number of domains. The worst of the bad ideas come from what I call the caveman’s climb to power. This phenomenon is the result of three intersecting events: 1) the decline of our ability to perceive the contextual life systems of which we are a part, 2) our increasing ability to create word-derived realities, and 3) our use of this growing verbal ability to rationalize and accommodate the wants and desires of our inner cave-selves.

    Our conscious awareness lives atop an ancient brain replete with brute force instincts evolved to lead our bodies through the primordial swamps of life. These instincts served us well during early stages of our species’ struggles with survival. For example, our stomachs evolved to gorge on fat. They even have a mechanism to shut off satiety cues so that we can do this more effectively. This helped our bodies survive when food was scarce. Now, with food readily available, we rely on an explicit awareness of our complex biological systems to usurp control over this ancient instinct and better align our behavior with what we now know. In a very real sense, our awareness fights against our primordial drives. Accordingly, when our awareness of these systems declines, our ancient brain is more apt to push us towards the chocolate cake. We revert, then awaken, revert, then awaken … and the conflict within us is palpable. Then, our verbal brains come to our rescue.

    To the extent that our word-derived experience can dominate our perceptual experience, it offers us a means to ease this tension. This comes in two basic forms. We can create word-worlds that help us to manage our primordial drives via built-in rule structures (i.e., religion and other forms of thought governance) or we can create word-worlds that help to rationalize/justify the expression of our primordial drives. I am concerned about the latter.

    With unchecked verbal dominance, like an isolated cult member, we can simply weave ideas to make our primordial drives make sense. Of course, not all primal instincts are dangerous or in conflict with our conscious goals, but many are. I’m concerned about those (think seven deadly sins). Specifically, I’m concerned about our capacity to create thought structures that can rationalize and encourage their expression. Once this occurs, it is only a matter of time until we damage our own civilization from within by wielding the power of bad ideas.

    A Specific Example: How The Caveman Brain Has Messed Up Our Economy
    I would now like to address a specific example of the caveman’s rise to power. This example has to do with our current conception of our economic system, and the associated negative consequences. To make this point, I want to first consider what originally compelled us humans to form economic systems, because the context and intent matters!

    At some point in our history, we humans realized that five guys with spears could battle a lion and win. Since then, our species has not only been induced to group behavior by circumstances and instincts, but also by a conscious intention to harness our collective power. It is in this context that our various forms of civilization and associated economic systems, including free market capitalism, have been creatively developed. In the broadest possible sense, I’m suggesting that our quest to build civilizations follows from our explicit intention to increase our species’ strength via collective action. We’re trying to organize ourselves as teams.

    Free market capitalism is arguably our most successful attempt at this. Here, rather than try to dictate the roles for individuals comprising our civilization, as was the case for many team-building experiments (e.g., caste system, feudalism, communism, socialism, etc.), we saw it more effective to use an internal competition to discover who was best suited to do what- and then let them do it. In this context, everybody was conceived to be a potential asset, and the explicit goal was to optimize the symbiotic relationships amongst the group’s members. It was a competition aimed at optimizing our team’s strength. I believe this very unique form of competition has now become dangerously confused with the more ancient mechanisms of natural selection.

    To the extent that natural selection supports the strengthening of groups to protect shared genetics, it is not at odds with our efforts to form civilizations. It may even help. However, in its myopic quest to promote individual’s genes, natural selection has also produced aggressive and individualistic instincts that are very incompatible with the goals of civilization development. These instincts underlie aggressive and violent aspects of our quest to alpha-status, and produce warlike behaviors aimed at diminishing or eliminating perceived competitors who might otherwise stake a claim on available resources.

    In the context of free-market capitalism I believe we are meant to rely on the in-house competition I described above to build our own team’s strength (team-capitalism), and direct our more aggressive inclinations wrought by natural selection to help keep our economic enemies at bay (jungle rules capitalism). However, with our declining perceptual intelligence, I believe that to a great extent we’ve lost the fundamental awareness that WE ARE A TEAM, and so en masse have turned the full force of Darwinian evolutionary warfare against ourselves. Moreover, in doing this, it seems we have leveraged our growing capacity to conjure word-derived realities to mutate the idea of free market capitalism so this team destroying behavior seems rational.

    I believe this transformation began in earnest in the 1980s, and was well exemplified by the movie Wall Street. This film asserted that the individualistic gene-centric aspects of natural selection were free market capitalism, and with the unbalancing of our brains already in advanced stages, we were ripe to receive this bad idea. Endorsements of jungle rules economic warfare resonated throughout our cultural ethos, as we embraced ideas like trickle down economic theory and bank de-regulation. In essence, the play-by-play announcers of our society began making bad calls, and having stopped watching the game well enough ourselves, we were fooled.

    Now we are seeing the effects. A generation or two of caveman capitalists (at every socio-economic level of society) abandoned their allegiance to ‘the team’ and eviscerated our society’s strength by turning jungle rules capitalism against our selves. Now, once again, another great civilization stands on the verge of collapse. It is astounding how powerful our cognitive cows can become. As members of a society we are a team whether we like it or not. When we perceive this and act accordingly, we are strong. When we do not, we are not. It is that simple.

    A team-oriented approach has been wielded by many great members of our society, but is perhaps most famously portrayed by Henry Ford in his decision to pay his employees above market rate salaries so that they could also be his customers. With a strong systems level awareness, the utility of this is clear. It does not require a moral stance. If all American CEOs and citizens could see this practical truth as well as Mr. Ford and contemporaries like James Sinegal (the former CEO of COSTCO), our country could get back on track in no time. In short, I’m arguing that we do not have an economic problem. We have an evolution/idea problem.

    Nevertheless, this time around, there is a difference that might help us to avoid repeating our historical cycle of building civilizations and destroying them under the weight of bad ideas. This particular descent into our word-worlds and the associated corruption of our thoughts by primordial forces is happening at a time of unprecedented technological development. I believe this technology might help us to break out of our heads.

    How We Might Escape Our Bad Ideas
    Technology has given us two important new abilities that we can now apply to this ongoing conundrum. We have the ability to communicate en masse, and we have the ability to share information via created visual experiences.

    The current essay is evidence of the former. A brain scientist such as myself, and many others like me, can now readily find a conduit to share our experiences and thoughts. We can pool our collective information on a scale the human species has never before experienced. When we amass lots and lots of ‘data’, the signal (the true) should become louder, while the random noise (the false) should become quieter. By sharing our thoughts en masse, we stand a better chance of distilling what is real. It is the same mechanism that underlies our historical instinct to travel and learn about other cultures. Exposure to new and different information keeps us from getting stuck in our heads, and as discussed above, is a fundamental condition for truth seeking.

    Technology is also giving us the power to share information using visual media. For example, where we once had no choice but to communicate the machinations of organic chemistry using abstract equations and verbal descriptions, we can now ‘show’ students the real underlying phenomena. They can virtually move through electron orbits and see molecular interactions unfold in real-time before their own eyes. We can provide a near complete experience of the information, and our capacity in this regard is growing at an astounding rate. As this technology grows and works its way into our education system, it will change us forever.

    Being able to communicate information in this way will reveal to us the other half of our human potential – the half we’ve left behind. Previously marginalized students, who lacked verbal procedural intelligence, will excel. Our education system, which until now has prevented such individuals from entering the upper echelons of society, will recognize their abilities. With this change, the governing institutions of our society will begin to manifest a more balanced expression of verbal and perceptual intelligence. The sunset watchers among us will for the first time rise in prominence during a mature stage of civilization development, and with this, our species should achieve its true potential as both doers and seers of what should be done, and never again face the prospect of destroying ourselves under the weight of bad ideas.

    Reply
  20. Brandon Jefferson says:

    I happened Across the interview before I turned to the game tonight by chance. Needless to say by the third quarter I wAs watch g dangerous ideas, and now here I am . I love Treme by the way. I am extremely intrigued and joyfull as a veteran to come across a great mind as yours to champion for American citizens and what some many have gave their life’s for unjustly. Have you ever consider working on anything with Noam Chomsky ?

    Reply
  21. Larry Chang says:

    Just saw part I of Bill Moyers and am thrilled with your analysis. Thank you. Going to go watch Dangerous Ideas now. But i’m emboldened to share with you a few ideas i’ve had about replacing the broken system.

    Reply
  22. aninjurytooneisaninjurytoall(Facebookhandle) says:

    A bit computer illiterate and Dyslexic so I left my Moyers feedback comment on the July 25th post and type slow, could you please take a look at it on the July 25th thread, Tha
    nks David

    Reply
  23. Linda says:

    I love and admire your willingness to talk about these issues. God know, damn few are!
    But sir, you’re driving me crazy with what appears to be a willful refusal to connect the dots. You’ve mentioned your fear of the rabbit hole that conspiracy theories reside in, and I do respect and share that fear, but please…..get over it!

    Off of the top of my head, I can think of four states that have had boilerplate legislation introduced and passed – your beloved stand your ground, open carry, and right to work have all passed here in Michigan. Michigan, birthplace of the UAW. Ag-gag bills are also popular across the country. Is that a coincidence?

    The mainstream media is owned by six corporations, none of whom are covering what you refer to as “the environment” but which I view with love and respect and it’s crashing and most people have no clue. Is that coincidence?

    Over a billion dollars was spent last year to deny climate change and promote energy independence, which is the new code for tar sands and fracking, so that people don’t understand what the science is and what the future holds. Is that a coincidence?

    If it looks like a plan, smells like a plan, acts like a plan, it might be a plan, don’tcha think? Or am I batshit crazy? It’s entirely possible, because I just can’t believe what I’m seeing.

    Here in Michigan, three women crawled into an Enbridge pipeline to protest line 6B, the one that caused the largest inland oil spill in the world and still isn’t cleaned up three years later, and is now being “improved”. They were quite respectful and polite, but wouldn’t come out when law enforcement demanded it, so they were charged and convicted of trespass and obstruction and face sentences of three to five years. Meanwhile, I’m still stunned that 300,000 Americans are without clean drinking water (a most fundamental human right, I hope you’ll agree) and no one has been arrested. Either the world is nuts or I am, but something is wrong with this picture.

    Perhaps you don’t understand, but when you dismiss the possibility that we are here by design, you further marginalize those of us who are paying attention and, for now at least, are still engaged. I voted last cycle, but it was third party and mostly out of respect for Alice Paul et al and not because it’s going to change anything. Emma Goldman was right about that.

    I look forward to seeing the next part of the interview. You’re a good man.

    Reply
  24. Jimmie von Tungeln says:

    Watched the Bill Moyers show this morning and then your Australian speech. It caused me to decide finally that I must spend my remaining time as a practicing urban planner in more meaningful fashion. Sadly, our profession seems hell-bent on contributing to the unworkable mess of which you speak. We are in a “we can design our way out of it” approach to urban issues. Prettier subdivisions will solve all our problems if we can only derive the proper distance between the front of the house and the street. Sigh.
    I see a real urban issue mornings while walking the streets of downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. I often pass a lady waiting for the city bus, sometimes in the rain or snow. (We are one of only three cities in the state with any type of mass transit).
    For any number of reasons, automobile usage in American is dropping, considered by many to be a good thing. Not so, says our state’s Highway Department. Its solution? Since road taxes are dropping, let’s make up the shortfall with a sales tax. What are we doing with the sales tax that the lady waiting for the bus in the weather pays? We’re building freeway lanes to “white-flight” cities so that more residents can make certain that their children will not have to attend school with hers.
    While I have some credibility left, I’ll use it to speak out and act. So, I’m afraid you may have changed my life. TV doesn’t do that very often.

    Reply
  25. Dan says:

    Is this site really run by the real David Simon??? Doesn’t sound like it. This site is probably run by some right wing nut who hates the man and anyone who has the decency to do some good in this world.!!!!!

    Reply
  26. Christina says:

    I’ve just “discovered” you on Bill Moyers! We need to hear more from you. I’m disappointed that you flippantly dismissed Occupy. Not everything they/we do hits the news. OWS people were among the first to arrive at Sandy Hook to start rebuild homes. OWS has a program of buying up the mortgages of people who are near foreclosure – more than 6000 people so far are debt-free and keeping their homes. We here in San Diego are part of a nationwide campaign to keep Congress from fast-tracking Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership monster, which we are working to defeat. Opposing Keystons XL, ending violence against women, creating food security, creating alternative currencies, creating jobs through cooperatives Join us! We’re working outside the system to get things done. There’s lots of work to be done! (BTW, I was at Woodrow Wilson high school while you were at BCC – big rivals! :)

    Reply
  27. Scot Griffin says:

    Here is the permalink of the interview. Vimeo can’t seem to stream the video right now, but the transcript is here: http://billmoyers.com/episode/david-simon-on-america-as-a-horror-show/

    Reply
    • michelle says:

      I was thrilled to hear someone say what David Simon said on Bill Moyers. As a Family Therapist of 30 years and an inner city school teacher for 5 years, i experienced the death of the labor movement first hand.The Charter School movement is a capitalist move into education much as prisons are managed by private corporations. Philadelphia has the largest Charter Schoool movement in the nation and public education is hanging by a thread. Teachers in Charter schools have a starting salary of 28,000 after it costs 200,00 to gain an education.

      The blatant selling of politics has resulted in horror after horror the likes of oil spills, pollution. climate change, election fraud.Overall, I fear for the future as my oldest son is 20 years old. I had always thought of America as a country of immigrants with open doors .I would like to feel proud of the heritage we hold and not feel disgraced.

      I sign petition after petition and continue to help the needy but feel at the same time hopeless.

      Thanks you for expressing my feelings on television.If nothing else, I know someone is as outraged as I.

      Yours,

      Michelle Simons,

      Reply
  28. Robert says:

    Although the interview may be heavily edited, I feel the Moyers team accurately captured your feelings and beliefs. I enjoyed the interview very much, and found myself wishing I knew you personally and could continue the conversation. I share your concerns of our future in this society, and I hope to see and hear more from you. Somehow we must collectively find the answers to these issues.

    Reply
  29. liberalnlovinit says:

    Your first interview with Bill Moyers was my introduction to you…and to The Wire (all five seasons in one summer sitting); followed by Treme, The Corner and Generation Kill. I have yet to watch Homicide or to read the book yet, but it’s on my shelf (the book, that is).

    You must have done a pretty good job the first time around. I look forward to your second interview with Mr. Moyers.

    Reply
  30. steven zhou says:

    Damn, I think Moyers’ show is the best current events broadcast in the country. It’s better than a lot of the “alternative” stuff, which I mostly like, and it’s definitely better than Charlie Rose or whatever else there is in the so-called “mainstream.”

    I’ve always felt that Moyers is one of the best interviewers on TV, able to compose a set of questions that shapes the overall form of the interviewee’s answers–in the best of ways.

    Reply
  31. Reid says:

    Great piece, please keep saying these things.

    Epigraph discovered by future archeologists at the entryway to a bygone Super Mall: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

    Reply
  32. Leslie says:

    Moyers and co. Is always “must see” television, wish more people were watching it. Instead we will binge watch almost anything else. Looking forward to tonight’s show. L

    Reply
  33. pat says:

    Two of my favorite people – can hardly wait to hear it (this coming from a bi-cultural family living in Greece who watched The Wire tog, aged 60 down to early teens and all loved it, and I have just this minute finished the last episode of Treme. I don’t think there was an episode that didn’t have me in tears at some point. Thank you).

    Reply
  34. Mike Rossiter says:

    Whats a mook?
    For someone who doesn’t live in the US.
    My degree was not very good either. Who cares?

    Reply
  35. Amy Goodwin says:

    You are not a mook!

    Reply
  36. KathyB says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I will check the KET schedule for air date and time.

    Reply
  37. Jeff, Syracuse says:

    I actually saw the link for this earlier this morning, and after watching the preview clip, I read the comments section. At that time, the first comment was something to the effect that “David Simon is a hero.” Interesting. I look forward to the full interview.

    However, I’d like to see journalists tackle capitalism, politics, etc, from different directions with you. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard you comment on, just as an example, the NCAA and the system that exists with regard to “student-athletes” and the whole issue of compensation. As I’m sure you’ve seen, the football players at Northwestern are filing papers to create a college football players union. It would be interesting to see if ESPN would book you for their “Outside the Lines” program to discuss such issues, but I’m not holding my breath. This issue seems to pop up every few years and is just one of many I’d love to see someone talk with you about.

    I”m thrilled that you rarely talk part in the cable news talking head nonsense. There’s no point. Usually those “discussions” devolve into two pinhead partisan dorks arguing over talking points, not willing to concede a single point for fear they’ll lose their invitation to the latest party cotillion…not to mention the so-called “objective” hosts who stack their shows with ideologues who clearly represent the show’s producers, if not the network itself. It’s good to see that there are still places where individuals can have meaningful discussions without everything turning into a political brawl.

    Reply
    • David Simon says:

      The NCAA are thugs. Labor racketeers. Completely agree with the Northwestern unionists.

      Reply
      • Jeff, Syracuse says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty much what I figured….My favorite part of the whole mess is that the NCAA, and the schools themselves, make a ton of money off the sale of the jerseys with the numbers of their stars on them…yet they say because there’s no name on the back, it’s not technically any specific player’s jersey.

        The Fab 5, when they were at Michigan…beyond the awful, hateful racism they had to deal with from, among others, graduates of the very school they were winning games for, saw no part in the enormous money generated from everyone buying Jalen Rose, Chris Weber, or Juwan Howard jerseys. A kid can’t afford pizza…his mother can’t afford her electric bill back home…but the school can make a zillion dollars selling replica jerseys. Awesome system!!!

        Reply
      • Harper Robinson says:

        There is a great documentary on the NCAA that recently came out called “Schooled: The Price of College Sports”. It is well done and very detailed.

        I have always loved your TV programs especially “Generation Kill” and “Treme”, but never had any idea of your breadth of knowledge on politics, economics, society, and it’s current trajectory. After reading your blog and viewing your Bill Moyers interview and speech at “The Festival of Dangerous Ideas” I couldn’t help, but feel the truths you have been blogging and speaking about deserve a bigger audience. I believe the size of the market for this type of film as well as the hunger for this information in modern society is growing exponentially as everything becomes more and more lopsided in favor of the rich. This being the case I feel this audience can be reached much more efficiently and powerfully by using the format of a documentary film. This doc would incorporate the same subject matter, but in a more linear point driven format. Similar to the documentary entitled “The Collapse” it would be shot with you being interviewed in front of a dark background (with a touch of dramatic lighting) discussing these topics and inter cut with animations, photos (ex “vote for the crook its important” bumper sticker), as well as possibly clips of your past TV series that show examples of your points.

        I apologize for approaching you with this on your blog, but I thought it would resonate more if you heard it directly. Please feel free to take this idea and produce it yourself without my involvement if you wish. Like I mentioned earlier I think the information and knowledge you have deserve to be heard by as many people as possible to help make a difference. If this sparks any interest at all please do not hesitate to contact me. Below is a bit of my background. I would consider this a passion project and have no qualms about doing it Pro bono. My crew and I can meet you wherever and whenever is most convenient for you, film your interview in 3-5 hours max and do everything else ourselves in post. We would love to get any and all the input you would be willing to give us and you would of course get final cut approval.

        I am an award winning documentary filmmaker, film professor, and film festival programmer based in Dallas TX. I recently produced and co-wrote a doc covering the BP Gulf oil spill entitled “Beyond Pollution”. The film, narrated by Dean Cain, tells an egregious tale of systemic greed and corruption by one of the largest multinational corporations in the world. British Petroleum. It was one of four films invited to be showcased at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences environmental series last year and nominated for the Cinema for Peace: Berlin, Germany “International Green Film Award” along with Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” starring Matt Damon.

        Thank yo for your time.

        Reply
  38. Kevin Stevens says:

    Also C’s get degrees, no shame there :)

    Reply
  39. Kevin Stevens says:

    The world will be a poorer place when Bill finally retires for good. The eloquence, grace, and intelligence he brings to his work is missing in nearly all public discourse. I look forward to seeing you on his show.

    Reply
  40. Dan Mitchell says:

    We need a many more public intellectuals who are mooks with C+ grade-point averages from state universities and fifteen years covering second-tier rust belt cities, and way fewer who have been trapped in academia and punditry their whole lives. And we we need many more journalists in the upper reaches of both “old” and (especially) “new” media with the mook background, and fewer who have gotten there a few years out of the Ivy Leagues and in the meantime have done nothing but opinion blogging.

    And lest you think that sounds too much like Dick Nixon or some resentful, regular-guy Internet commenter, I think the rare ideal is some mixture of those backgrounds. I’m pro-Ivy, and I think more mooks should have better degrees. But they should stay mooks, if that means relating to people in genuine, human ways, and not living in the bubble.

    After all, what we get from many “public intellectuals” is stuff like this:

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/jon-meacham-executive-order-fdr-lincoln-obama

    Reply
  41. Katiie says:

    Ha! I think you are selling yourself short here.

    I saw the horrorshow clip on my facebook feed yesterday and passed it along. A friend has asked me to listen to a podcast with Peter Schiff as a complement to this program. Hmm.

    Moyers is a national treasure, in my opinion. I certainly don’t always agree with him, but the voices he brings, along with depth, is incomparable, even on other PBS shows. Looking forward to seeing this over the weekend!

    Reply
    • katie says:

      Well done, Mr. Simon. I’m impatient for part two though.

      I like Amy said above, I didn’t realize there were roll out issues with medicare and social security. I’m glad you brought up the ridiculousness of wanting to throw out a law because of IT issues.

      Please, keep banging the drum. It’s hard to stay optimistic, in my opinion, when as you said there already was a class war and capital one. The way the message is dominated by overly simplistic and downright meanness seems impossible to overcome. I guess the best we can hope for is marginalization.

      Reply

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