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Bullet Points and Punch Lines by Lee Camp (2020; read in 2020)

Published by marco on

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.

This is a collection of essays by American political activist, comedian, writer, podcaster, and TV-show host Lee Camp. The foreword is written by no less an eminence than Chris Hedges himself, who is a fan of Camp’s work. The introduction is by Jimmy Dore, another comedian who’s hosted Hedges on his show several times. They are all good people on the right side of history, with good principles, good research, and strong writing skills.

I’ve followed Hedges assiduously for years and recently been quite impressed with Jimmy Dore’s YouTube channel. Hedges is scathing in his condemnation of the American political landscape, as is Dore. As is Camp.

“And, as Camp points out, the Democratic Party is as complicit in this debacle as the Republican Party. There is no way at this level to separate Trump from Obama. One may be vulgar and brash, but the other uses urbane polish to accomplish the same ends.”
Page 10 by Chris Hedges

I’ve been a fan of Lee Camp’s work for a long time—at least a decade, if not more. I started following and supporting him a long time ago, when he just had his original Moment of Clarity podcast (which he still does, but now on YouTube). I even took a long weekend in Berlin once to catch a rare European show. He’s had his own TV show called Redacted Tonight for several years now, in which he regularly delivers hard-hitting and well-crafted news and polemics.

He started out as a stand-up comedian and still does that. But he’s very much grown beyond that—becoming a well-spoken and often sardonic and hilarious voice for the downtrodden and for justice.

This is a book of essays that he’s published over the years. As you progress through the essays, you can follow along as he finds his voice. The first few essays are on interesting topics, but are a bit heavy on jokes and somewhat forced analogies. They’re not bad but they’re not nearly as good as those in the second half of the book. The book illustrates Camp’s writing style as it progresses from stand-up-comedy-like lines to truly insightful and cutting satire more akin to that of Matt Taibbi.

As the book is a collection of essays, the rest of my review simply chains together citations to give an impression of the scope.

Camp’s final word on Donald Trump’s place in the pantheon of U.S.-inspired misery is a good place to start. Trump is unexceptional, a symptom rather than the cause.

“I don’t believe Trump is the cause of our country’s main problems. I believe he is a symptom of an incredibly corrupt corporate-ruled system. He is a horrible and rather—not bright—man, but he is not the cause of the millions of hungry and homeless and imprisoned in our country. He is not the cause of the flaws in our democracy and our media. He is just the pimple that has risen up.”
Page 223

The U.S. Military & Foreign Policy

Camp’s first essays deal with the astronomical military budget, which continues to grow unchecked, to the detriment of all other societal need.

“[…] a country that can vomit trillions of dollars down a black hole marked “military” can’t find the money to take care of our poor elderly.”
Page 17
“The Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs: health care, education, job creation, climate action, infrastructure modernization, and more. Indeed, the Pentagon’s accounting fraud amounts to theft on a grand scale—theft not only from America’s taxpayers, but also from the nation’s well-being and its future.”
Page 33

It would be bad enough were the money misappropriated by people who honestly thought it was better put to use in the military. Their duplicity in appropriation and distribution makes it very clear that they are just using the military as a politically unassailable vehicle to which to attach their own ambitions—for graft, money, and power.

“Have no fear, patriotic Americans, this is not “lying to the American people, stealing their money, and using it for war,” this is just “unsubstantiated change actions.” Try that on your next tax return. Put in 10 thousand dollars marked “unsubstantiated change actions.” I’m sure they’ll love that.”
Page 58

Other essays discuss what the military actually does, which is enforce capitalism throughout its empire, beating down all resistance. The biggest crime a country could be guilty of, in the eyes of the U.S.?

“Being socialist. Pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have the same economic system as we do, we treat it like you have candy, and we’re not allowed to have any, so we slip razor blades in yours and tell everyone your candy kills people.”
Page 61

As I’ve noted, Camp has quite a way with words. His descriptions of U.S. foreign policy are succinct, darkly funny, accurate, and complete.

“The absolute last thing [Venezuelans] need is to be turned into a neocon/neoliberal parking lot in which America rips all their resources out from under them while calling it “freedom.””
Page 68

Animal Rights & The Environment

From there, he moves on to animal rights and the imperative of vegetarianism, both for moral and environmental reasons.

“We have food. We have year-round ripe mangos that don’t even make natural sense. There’s no need to keep 280 million hens and 68 million pigs in a fucking Saw movie.”
Page 87
“[The mainstream media’s job is to] make you think we live in a system that can recover from this carnage without large-scale changes, without a new economic paradigm that doesn’t reward waste and planned obsolescence and profiting off the lives of others.”
Page 96

It’s hard to know where to begin with saving the environment. Nearly everything we do right now is going in the wrong direction—and nearly everyone else we know actively benefits from this system—in the short term. In the long term, we’re all dead. It’s what our lives look like in the medium-term is where it gets interesting. We’re mortgaging our future six ways to Sunday, burning the candle not only at both ends, but in the middle in a couple of spots too. Those in power benefit; many others get short-term benefits, enough of them that it becomes nearly impossible to turn this boat around. Maybe we just can’t.

“Maybe we’re right to die off. Maybe our hubris and egos the size of SUVs have doomed us, and we should just give up and enjoy our final few years. But if that’s the case, I would like an announcement. I would honestly prefer a national address by some of our so-called leaders stating clearly,

““Look, folks, to continue civilized society of the human species, we would need to change everything. Every single one of us would have to labor toward a massive shift to a sustainable culture that works in harmony with nature rather than abusing nature like it’s a servant who gave us an ugly look. We would have to focus on achieving this new society rather than spending a third of our free time watching superhero movies. But we have no intention of doing that because it sounds kinda hard, not to mention that corporate profits would suffer in the short term. So instead, we’re declaring here and now that we’ll all just keep functioning as is until such time as the oceans turn to acid, the ever-growing storms consume us, and California feels like the inside of a kiln. According to our best minds, that will be 10 to 20 years from now, so don’t worry about starting that retirement fund. Don’t buy the extended warranty on that vacuum. And whatever you do, at no point and under no circumstances should you quit smoking and drinking…. Thank you, and good night.””

Page 100

Racism & The Police State

Camp gets the right argument about police violence. We get distracted because there are way more violent things, so it’s easier to point out all of the things that are more dangerous than the police. Deaths caused by police are just the tip of the iceberg of oppression, though. False arrests, cash bail, harassment, and so on, all impact lives to arguably a greater degree.

“Yes, it is true that cops kill a lot of white people. They kill more white people than Wendy’s trademarked Baconator sandwich. However, cops kill more people of color than the population percentages would dictate, and they’re more likely to kill people of color who aren’t armed. So while whites do lose their lives in our current police state at a ridiculous rate, they are far more likely to be waving around a gun when it happens.”
Page 164

He also gets it right when he points out that racism exacerbates the underlying anti-poverty stance and inequality. It’s a class issue. The police end up working for their real masters no matter where they start out on the ideological scale.

“In this particular instance, systemic racism does not originate in race but in the way the rich have crafted our laws and our systems to favor the rich. So it’s a class issue rather than a race issue. Unfortunately, other factors of systemic racism—such as hiring practices and who gets promoted—ensure that white people are more likely to be extremely wealthy and less likely to be extremely poor. Therefore, our country has a racial wealth gap the size of the Grand Canyon”
Page 182

When you’re rich, you make the rules that keep you rich and safe. All of those other animals haven’t earned the right to be treated fairly the way rich people have.

“All told, much of our systemic racism problem comes down to class and wealth, not just race. But race, class, and wealth are deeply, inexorably linked. And therefore, whether you choose to ignore it or not, we must acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing. It’s in our schools, our air, our water, and even our televisions. It impacts every area of our lives, and much like climate change, we need to start fixing it rather than acting like it doesn’t exist.”
Page 184

The Economy & Inequality

The stock market is essentially gambling and the house always wins. If you’re winning, it’s because you’re squeezing a profit out of some idiot who probably could afford to lose that money a lot less than you needed to win it.

“I would actually respect the whole system if right on the front of the stock exchange it said,

““Put your money into the stock market! The only way you’ll make more money is if you find a dolt to buy whatever stocks you just bought. But there are an infinite number of dolts! This gravy train is powered by morons. So you have nothing to worry about.””

Page 104

The market is rigged and the only way to really win is to be the house, as with any other gambling establishment.

“Step two is to realize that the market economy in general is designed to exploit billions of us while a tiny number get ridiculously rich. It doesn’t care about the health or sustainability of our society as it facilitates the extraction of all the wealth and resources by sociopaths. Just ask Jeff Bezos—he’s now worth 150 billion padoodles of Amazon stock, while his workers are on food stamps.
Page 107

For example, the pharmaceutical industry has incentive not to cure diseases with simple and cheap one-time vaccines if they already have a lucrative business selling treatments for the same disease. If we leave everything up to the market, these businesses will logically decide that it’s more profitable to sell suffering patients decades worth of drugs instead. We only listen to the opinion of these businesses and have been trained to think that the government, that society—with its vast resources and wealth—has no say.

“They aren’t even trying to cure infectious diseases that make them piles of cash. Instead, the moneyed interests are complaining to their clients that they need to avoid curing these diseases. Because not only do they lose money on the patient who no longer needs meds, they also lose money because that patient won’t pass the disease onto others.
Page 111

Market incentives are completely screwed up. The market provides those things that people who already have money think will make them the most amount of more money. We don’t need to go all the way to a planned economy, but this is nearly the furthest thing from it. We just keep throwing money at rich people and hope that something useful for society comes out of it. It rarely does. It’s only with concerted planning and regulation and oversight that we can actually get what we want. That gets in the way of them getting what they want.

We run the whole economy of the world just as poorly as we run any other project. And, just like those poorly run projects, we have terrible oversight and nearly no useful telemetry, using metrics chosen by those already benefitting from a crooked system and pretending that it describes our society’s health in any way realistic to all but the 1%. We measure economic health with the stock market; we compare countries only by GDP.

“How do we rate success? We look at gross domestic product—how much we’re producing. GDP doesn’t measure how many kids are drinking toxic water or breathing toxic air. It doesn’t measure how many dolphins are choking on plastic beer rings. It only measures how many beers you chug down. It doesn’t measure how many trees were planted. It measures how many trees we cut down to make the cardboard for coffee cups and condom boxes. It doesn’t rate how screwed the environment is, just how much stuff we buy to keep screwing. Buy a dildo? Good for the economy. Throw an old dildo out? Ends up in the ocean, gets stuck in a whale’s blowhole. GDP doesn’t care.
Page 130
GDP doesn’t measure how many animals went extinct. It only measures how many animals we ate or sold. You could be eating a bald eagle roasted with giraffe bacon wrapped around it. As long as you bought it at the store, it’s good for GDP.”
Page 131

GDP is a poor metric, and so is the stock market. Its macro-economic performance has long since become divorced from the economy most people experience. It’s become more obvious than ever in 2020 that the stock market has no macro-economic importance. It matters, of course, to the elite, who are busy stuffing their track-suits full of leaves.[1]

“The Post acts as if Wall Street’s growth is somehow good for average Americans. It’s not. Trump, Hillary, and the Post are all part of an elite class enjoying the spoils of a fully exploited working class. Judging the health of our society by looking at stock prices is like judging the health of a dying man by looking at the leeches on his skin. “Wow, those leeches are very happy. This man is in peak condition!””
Page 207

The only thing fantastical about the following little parable is that is assumes the existence of aliens. The rest is accurate.

Imagine the aliens that come down here after we’ve eaten everything, killed everything, and turned it all to dust. Imagine them showing up and going,

“What happened to those little fellows that used to be here?”

“Well, they imagined something called the stock market, where nonliving entities called corporations compete to see which one can exploit the earth the most. It eventually swallowed up the whole biosphere they lived in.”

“Oh, which corporation won?”

“Ironically, the one called Amazon, which used to be the name of the largest river in the world, until they paved it.

Page 132

This split society—the eternal “haves” and “have nots”—leads to jarring conclusions. One is that, in making a judgment on whether something is bad or good for society, you must always be careful to consider for whom.

“It’s like a guy driving a car and only seeing speed, being completely blind to how many people he runs down. He’d get to his destination in record time and say to the townspeople, who all had family members run over by this maniac, “We did it. I got here in record time. We should all celebrate together.” One percent of America is celebrating. It’s time to do things differently.
Page 133

There is a relatively small group in our society that benefits massively from policies that are detrimental to the overwhelming majority. It’s not as cut-and-dried as deciding on the right policy. We have to somehow scam this minority, this elite, into implementing it against their own best interests. Either that, or we seize the reins of power from them. We’ve tried the first way for a while; maybe it’s time to try the second.


[1]

I refer here to the story in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe about our likely progenitors, the Golgafrinchans, whose ark crash-landed on Earth long ago. They were on Ark Fleet Ship B—housing the most useless elements of society—with A and C to follow. It was clear they weren’t going to do so and that the A and C denizens had dreamt up the story in order to get rid of the folks on Ark B.

After crash-landing, they lacked the niceties of society, like currency, so they decided to use leaves as “legal tender”[2], making every one of them “immensely rich”. They all walked around with track-suits stuffed full of leaves. The subsequent inflation problem led them to “effectively revalue the leaf” by “embark[ing] on a massive defoliation campaign, and…er, burn down all the forest.”

[2] All citations from page 299 of my leather-bound edition of the first four books of the at-that-time-only-slightly-inaccurately-named trilogy.[3]
[3] Rather than the “increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy” that is the epithet of the next book in the series, Mostly Harmless.

Citations

“And, as Camp points out, the Democratic Party is as complicit in this debacle as the Republican Party. There is no way at this level to separate Trump from Obama. One may be vulgar and brash, but the other uses urbane polish to accomplish the same ends.”
Page 10 by Chris Hedges
“Given that the entire Army budget in fiscal year 2015 was $120 billion, unsupported adjustments were 54 times the level of spending authorized by Congress.”
Page 16
“Obviously, our government could do those things, but it chooses not to. Earlier this month, Louisiana sent eviction notices to 30 thousand elderly people on Medicaid, to kick them out of their nursing homes.11 Yes, a country that can vomit trillions of dollars down a black hole marked “military” can’t find the money to take care of our poor elderly.”
Page 17
“Earlier this month, Louisiana sent eviction notices to 30 thousand elderly people on Medicaid, to kick them out of their nursing homes.11 Yes, a country that can vomit trillions of dollars down a black hole marked “military” can’t find the money to take care of our poor elderly. It’s a repulsive joke.”
Page 17
“So we use NED and USAID to destabilize countries. Keep in mind, though it may not sound like much, there are consequences to destabilizing countries. By doing so, we indirectly kill a lot of people, or at least ruin their lives, leaving them poor or destitute. But to create a successful coup, it’s important you don’t care about any of that stuff. Leave that for the nerds with their pencils and their statistics. If babies die because they can’t get the medical treatment they need, not your problem.”
Page 23
“The Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs: health care, education, job creation, climate action, infrastructure modernization, and more. Indeed, the Pentagon’s accounting fraud amounts to theft on a grand scale—theft not only from America’s taxpayers, but also from the nation’s well-being and its future.”
Page 33
“President Bashar Assad gassed his own people, thereby guaranteeing more American involvement—and he did it just days after Donald Trump had told the Pentagon to begin withdrawing troops from Syria. At least, that’s the story the corporate media repeated on loop for more than a month, only pausing every 10 minutes to try desperately to get us all to buy more things with “Baconator” in the name or to seek out a harder penis.”
Page 41
“The propaganda line for Venezuela right now is: “We want to help the poor Venezuelans.” Well, if you want to help them, then keep America out of their face. Don’t force them to have anything to do with the country that came up with drive-through fried food served in a bucket and opioid nasal sprays. At no point does anyone look at the Donald Trump presidency and think, “Wow, that country really has things figured out. I hope they bring some of their great decision-making to our doorstep.””
Page 43
“Have no fear, patriotic Americans, this is not “lying to the American people, stealing their money, and using it for war,” this is just “unsubstantiated change actions.” Try that on your next tax return. Put in 10 thousand dollars marked “unsubstantiated change actions.” I’m sure they’ll love that.”
Page 58
“Being socialist. Pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have the same economic system as we do, we treat it like you have candy, and we’re not allowed to have any, so we slip razor blades in yours and tell everyone your candy kills people.”
Page 61
“The Venezuelan people deserve self-determination, no matter how you feel about the current government. The absolute last thing they need is to be turned into a neocon/neoliberal parking lot in which America rips all their resources out from under them while calling it “freedom.” Luckily, there are already many signs this US-created attempted coup is failing.”
Page 68
“Under Trump, five bombs are dropped per hour—every hour of every day. That averages out to a bomb every 12 minutes. And which is more outrageous—the crazy amount of death and destruction we are creating around the world, or the fact that your mainstream corporate media basically NEVER investigates it? They talk about Trump’s flaws. They say he’s a racist, bulbous-headed, self-centered idiot (which is totally accurate)—but they don’t criticize the perpetual Amityville massacre our military perpetrates by dropping a bomb every 12 minutes, most of them killing 98 percent nontargets.”
Page 80
“We are a rogue nation with a rogue military and a completely unaccountable ruling elite. The government and military you and I support by being a part of this society are murdering people every 12 minutes, and, in response, there’s nothing but a ghostly silence. It is beneath us as a people and a species to give this topic nothing but silence. It is a crime against humanity.”
Page 81
“There’s no logic in voraciously continuing a behavior that will kill us in both the short and long term and doesn’t add up with our views toward animals. We have laws against animal abuse—as long as it’s one of the animals we’ve been socially engineered to protect. If you see someone smack a Labrador Retriever in public, you’ll dive in front of it like you’re the Secret Service taking a bullet for the president. But if you replace that dog with a pig or a lamb, then we all think, “Grill ’em up! What kind of sauce you got for that?””
Page 87
“We have food. We have year-round ripe mangos that don’t even make natural sense. There’s no need to keep 280 million hens and 68 million pigs in a fucking Saw movie.”
Page 87
“Acting like each year’s fires are a fluke that will never happen again—that, in and of itself, is denying climate change. It is lying to the American people in order to cover up the fact that we are promoting a system based on big oil, big factory farming, and big environmental destruction.”
Page 94
“Are you starting to get the point? Kate Snow’s job—like most of those in mainstream media—is to cover up your reality. Her job is to make you think we live in a system that can recover from this carnage without large-scale changes, without a new economic paradigm that doesn’t reward waste and planned obsolescence and profiting off the lives of others.”
Page 96
“Generally speaking, the job of mainstream corporate outlets is to ignore the harsh reality that our endless consumption and furious appetite for fossil fuels are burning our country, turning it into a desert wasteland—and the easiest response is to throw slave labor at the problem.”
Page 96
“Simply put, humans have no business going about our day-to-day activities as if we aren’t on the event horizon. It’s equivalent to working on your model train set while your kitchen is burning down, your spouse is in the bathroom battling an alligator that’s taken up residence in the bathtub, and your 12-year-old daughter is in the living room, having just been offered heroin for the first time. Right now, humanity is still focused on the model train.”
Page 99
“Maybe we’re right to die off. Maybe our hubris and egos the size of SUVs have doomed us, and we should just give up and enjoy our final few years. But if that’s the case, I would like an announcement. I would honestly prefer a national address by some of our so-called leaders stating clearly, “Look, folks, to continue civilized society of the human species, we would need to change everything. Every single one of us would have to labor toward a massive shift to a sustainable culture that works in harmony with nature rather than abusing nature like it’s a servant who gave us an ugly look. We would have to focus on achieving this new society rather than spending a third of our free time watching superhero movies. But we have no intention of doing that because it sounds kinda hard, not to mention that corporate profits would suffer in the short term. So instead, we’re declaring here and now that we’ll all just keep functioning as is until such time as the oceans turn to acid, the ever-growing storms consume us, and California feels like the inside of a kiln. According to our best minds, that will be 10 to 20 years from now, so don’t worry about starting that retirement fund. Don’t buy the extended warranty on that vacuum. And whatever you do, at no point and under no circumstances should you quit smoking and drinking…. Thank you, and good night.””
Page 100
“I would actually respect the whole system if right on the front of the stock exchange it said, “Put your money into the stock market! The only way you’ll make more money is if you find a dolt to buy whatever stocks you just bought. But there are an infinite number of dolts! This gravy train is powered by morons. So you have nothing to worry about.””
Page 104
“But the casinos are honest with you. They tell you it’s gambling. The front of a casino doesn’t say “Invest your pension in roulette. Do you have a child with a degenerative disease? Then put all your savings on red-32 so that he’ll be taken care of after you’re gone.” Casinos don’t say that. The myth of the stock market does.”
Page 105
“Step two is to realize that the market economy in general is designed to exploit billions of us while a tiny number get ridiculously rich. It doesn’t care about the health or sustainability of our society as it facilitates the extraction of all the wealth and resources by sociopaths. Just ask Jeff Bezos—he’s now worth 150 billion padoodles of Amazon stock, while his workers are on food stamps.”
Page 107
“They aren’t even trying to cure infectious diseases that make them piles of cash. Instead, the moneyed interests are complaining to their clients that they need to avoid curing these diseases. Because not only do they lose money on the patient who no longer needs meds, they also lose money because that patient won’t pass the disease onto others.”
Page 111
“The only way a system ends up at this point—with our values this far upside down—is with endless advertising in a profit-driven society. This is a system built on the exploitation of others for gain. There was no time when that was not true. And that’s why we need a revolution of the mind.”
Page 112
“would you say, “Jeffrey Dahmer achieved eating the hearts of 10 different people?” No, that would sound odd to you. Yet having 150 billion dollars is nearly as sociopathic, and still we use terminology as if it’s great!”
Page 114
“Jeff Bezos himself could end world hunger for five straight years. If he teamed up with the Koch brothers, they could do it for eight to 10 years.”
Page 116

This doesn’t work. The wealth isn’t real. Take some of it and it collapses.

“[…] the goals of our economy (and any economy), according to Zeitgeist Movement founder Peter Joseph,12 and I agree, should be: pursuit of abundance (all people’s basic needs are met); sustainability (can the system keep going forever); liberation of humanity from hard and dangerous labor (nobody doing jobs they hate); adaptation to emerging technologies and variables.”
Page 118
“According to the Economic Policy Institute, “In 2007, average annual incomes of the top 1 percent of households were 42 times greater than incomes of the bottom 90 percent (up from 14 times greater in 1979), and incomes of the 0.1 percent were 220 times greater (up from 47 times greater in 1979).”7 Workers’ lives didn’t get better with productivity. Wall Street steals more and more of the money and gives less and less to the worker. The bottom 90 percent then fight over the scraps and hate each other for it. “Hey! Why do teachers get to have health care, while the rest of us don’t? Fuck you, teachers! What have you ever done for society? I’m voting for whoever is taking the health care away from the teachers.””
Page 130
“How do we rate success? We look at gross domestic product—how much we’re producing. GDP doesn’t measure how many kids are drinking toxic water or breathing toxic air. It doesn’t measure how many dolphins are choking on plastic beer rings. It only measures how many beers you chug down. It doesn’t measure how many trees were planted. It measures how many trees we cut down to make the cardboard for coffee cups and condom boxes. It doesn’t rate how screwed the environment is, just how much stuff we buy to keep screwing. Buy a dildo? Good for the economy. Throw an old dildo out? Ends up in the ocean, gets stuck in a whale’s blowhole. GDP doesn’t care.”
Page 130
“GDP doesn’t measure how many animals went extinct. It only measures how many animals we ate or sold. You could be eating a bald eagle roasted with giraffe bacon wrapped around it. As long as you bought it at the store, it’s good for GDP.”
Page 131
“I mean, if that’s not the point, just let me know, and I’ll get on board. Oh, the point is to make sure a tiny number of individuals can afford to purchase their own islands with helicopter landing pads? Oh, I had no idea that was the meaning of life. I’m sorry I’ve been resisting it so long. In that case, the stock market seems to be working perfectly.”
Page 132
“Imagine the aliens that come down here after we’ve eaten everything, killed everything, and turned it all to dust. Imagine them showing up and going, “What happened to those little fellows that used to be here?” “Well, they imagined something called the stock market, where nonliving entities called corporations compete to see which one can exploit the earth the most. It eventually swallowed up the whole biosphere they lived in.” “Oh, which corporation won?” “Ironically, the one called Amazon, which used to be the name of the largest river in the world, until they paved it.””
Page 132
“It’s like a guy driving a car and only seeing speed, being completely blind to how many people he runs down. He’d get to his destination in record time and say to the townspeople, who all had family members run over by this maniac, “We did it. I got here in record time. We should all celebrate together.” One percent of America is celebrating. It’s time to do things differently.”
Page 133
“It seems clear the real goal is to hand over our elections systems to the military-industrial complex—your friendly neighborhood death machine—and bury the reality of our votes under enough encryption and complex technology that no average citizen really knows what’s happening.”
Page 140

Easy there, Lee. The average American won’t know what’s going on no matter how transparent it is.

“In light of our endless need to meddle in the democratic elections of every country, when political philosophy heavyweight Noam Chomsky was asked about this topic, he said, “most of the world is just collapsing in laughter” on claims that Russia intervened in the US election.21 Well, I’m glad we could provide some entertainment for the rest of the world.”
Page 150
“Yes, it is true that cops kill a lot of white people. They kill more white people than Wendy’s trademarked Baconator sandwich. However, cops kill more people of color than the population percentages would dictate, and they’re more likely to kill people of color who aren’t armed. So while whites do lose their lives in our current police state at a ridiculous rate, they are far more likely to be waving around a gun when it happens.”
Page 164
“They passed the Protect and Serve Act of 2018, with only 35 representatives voting against it.7 This is impressively shocking considering that our current Congress usually reserves that level of bipartisanship for bills giving themselves a raise or approving war criminals for cabinet positions.”
Page 166
“Also illegal is housing the homeless.6 Earlier this year, according to Splinter News, “police arrived at [a Chicago man’s] house with a warrant and threatened to condemn his property unless he closed his ‘unlawful basement sleeping area.’” Not illegal is taking blankets away from the homeless, as the Denver police were caught doing.7 Also not illegal: destroying tiny homes built for the homeless. Cops did that too.8 Banks foreclose on millions of homes, making millions of families homeless. That’s not illegal. We throw out 40 percent of all food. That’s not illegal.”
Page 171
“The real reason we can’t have people helping the homeless, giving out food and housing, is because it threatens to give a good example, to show another way forward. As Act Out! host Eleanor Goldfield wrote: “Filling the gaping chasms purposefully carved by capitalism and its keepers raises people’s awareness; it forces them to reckon with the system they live in and ask whether or not it’s worth protecting—or fighting against.””
Page 172
“In this particular instance, systemic racism does not originate in race but in the way the rich have crafted our laws and our systems to favor the rich. So it’s a class issue rather than a race issue. Unfortunately, other factors of systemic racism—such as hiring practices and who gets promoted—ensure that white people are more likely to be extremely wealthy and less likely to be extremely poor. Therefore, our country has a racial wealth gap the size of the Grand Canyon”
Page 182
“All told, much of our systemic racism problem comes down to class and wealth, not just race. But race, class, and wealth are deeply, inexorably linked. And therefore, whether you choose to ignore it or not, we must acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing. It’s in our schools, our air, our water, and even our televisions. It impacts every area of our lives, and much like climate change, we need to start fixing it rather than acting like it doesn’t exist.”
Page 184
“Subconsciously they must believe that a life in which we’re tirelessly exploited by rich villains and know all about it thanks to the exhaustive efforts of an eccentric Australian is worse than one in which we’re tirelessly exploited by rich villains yet know nothing about it.”
Page 186
“We’re supposed to vote based on our knowledge of how our government is functioning. But if the entirety of our representatives’ criminal behavior is labeled top secret for national security purposes, then we aren’t really an informed populace, are we? So for all that was unveiled in the State Department cables, no one has been locked up. But Julian Assange has been for revealing them.”
Page 191
“So why have so many outlets and people turned against Assange and WikiLeaks? Because it turned out he wasn’t revealing only repressive Arab regimes. He also revealed US-backed coups and war crimes around the world. He exposed the criminality and villainy of the American ruling elite.”
Page 193
“We are all Julian Assange. As long as he’s imprisoned, we can never be free.”
Page 193
“Remember that the next time Jean Shaheen, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, and Sheldon Whitehouse try to tell you they’re “part of the resistance.” No, they’re “part of the freesistance”—giving Trump a free pass for unlimited war. They’re paid employees of the war profiteers. Having the word “Senator” before your name just means you’re one of the more highly paid employees. It just means you have a bathroom that others aren’t allowed to use.”
Page 198
“As George Carlin said, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” Schiff is corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Trump is corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Ninety-five percent of the Democratic congresspeople are corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Ninety-nine percent of the Republicans are corrupt and working for corporate America and Wall Street. Do not expect them to save us.”
Page 200
“Are we living our lives in a genuine, authentic manner or is a large part of it subconsciously (consciously?) mimicking bullshit from movies and TV and Cialis commercials? And the people who write this crap: Are they writing the wet shoes moment because it’s honestly what they believe falling in love looks like? Or is it because they saw it in a commercial 10 years earlier and internalized it? Which came first, the chicken or the chicken walking in the water worried about the sand stuck between his toes or talons or claws or whatever chickens currently have?”
Page 203
“The Post acts as if Wall Street’s growth is somehow good for average Americans. It’s not. Trump, Hillary, and the Post are all part of an elite class enjoying the spoils of a fully exploited working class. Judging the health of our society by looking at stock prices is like judging the health of a dying man by looking at the leeches on his skin. “Wow, those leeches are very happy. This man is in peak condition!””
Page 207
“The Post’s correction is the equivalent of the president bragging that he brought hit man jobs back to West Virginia and then the Post saying: “In fact, hit man jobs have not returned as promised, and very few people have been professionally murdered in West Virginia in the past year.” The Post should have said: “In fact, coal jobs have not returned, and that is a good thing if we value the air in our lungs and the life in our bodies.””
Page 213
“My show, written by me and my correspondents, is certainly not the Russian view of global news and neither is—for example—Larry King’s show on RT America. (I get that Dr. Who is further afield of news than my show is, but the analogy is simply meant to say these networks create shows that are not strictly straight news.) And anyone who thinks CNN, for instance, isn’t the American view of global news is kidding themselves.”
Page 221
“I don’t believe Trump is the cause of our country’s main problems. I believe he is a symptom of an incredibly corrupt corporate-ruled system. He is a horrible and rather—not bright—man, but he is not the cause of the millions of hungry and homeless and imprisoned in our country. He is not the cause of the flaws in our democracy and our media. He is just the pimple that has risen up.”
Page 223
“But describing those laughing Russians serves a purpose greater than an interesting tidbit. Zinoman sat through an entire 90-minute stand-up comedy show in which I covered everything from how our leaders force us into endless war through how we can feed every human on the planet and how we are sold an infinite parade of lies to how my comedy doesn’t go over well at children’s birthday parties. He saw me cover all those important issues. He saw an audience of over 200 people loving it and coming up to meet me afterwards. He saw a guy who has fought hard for 20 years to do stand-up comedy that matters—that enlightens and informs and entertains. He saw it all. But none of that fit with the propaganda he needed to push. In fact, it went against the storyline he was trying to create.”
Page 229
“Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, blackbox machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates, and two corporate parties that stand for the same goddamn pile of fetid crap! What part of this sounds like a legitimate electoral system? No, we have what a large Harvard study called the worst electoral system in the Western world.”
Page 234
“The dark truth is that we have to believe the myth that consuming is the answer, or else we won’t keep running around the wheel. And if we aren’t running around the wheel, then we start thinking, start asking questions. Those questions are not good for the ruling elite, who enjoy a society based on the daily exploitation of 99 percent of”
Page 237
“We are less free than a dog on a leash. We live in one of the hardest working, most unequal societies on the planet, with more billionaires than ever. Meanwhile, Americans supply 94 percent of the paid blood used worldwide,13 and it’s almost exclusively coming from very poor people.”
Page 240