Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Do they really hate Houston that much in West Texas?

So, Rick Perry (Sorry, Daily Show clip would not embed correctly) thinks that Washington began to "go off the rails" about a century ago. He might be correct:
•1910--A group of Houston businessmen headed by the Houston Chamber of Commerce proposes to Congress--and Congress accepts--a novel plan to split ship channel development costs between Houston and the federal government.

Of course, the federal's government's role in the development of Houston's economy goes back more than a century and continues to this day, but Rick Perry is from West Texas and might not be aware of this.

Here in Louisiana, when I watched six candidates for the U.S. Senate take part in an election debate, I thought that they sounded like six ordinary, middle class guys. It was only when I thought about what they actually said that I realized that five of the candidates did not have fathers or grandfathers who first went to college or first bought a house with the help of the G.I. Bill -- none of their families needed any help from the federal government to achieve the American dream. Boy, I must have been listening to five blue-blooded patricians discuss politics and policy and I didn't even realize it.

Yes, I listened to Perry's interview and I know he was discussing the income tax. First off, I think that's crazy. Secondly, I was making a joke to help illustrate the fact that the "federal government bad/market good" bumper sticker that dominates American political debate is based on willful historical ignorance. This will all be discussed in greater detail in my soon to be published book: Hedgehog Nation: High Concept Politics and the Destruction of the American Middle Class.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tom Wolfe? I was thinking Charles Dickens.

Because Jeffrey, if America's new aristos can even fuck over physicians with the connivance of state authorities, it's much more reminiscent of the Marquis St. Evrémonde and what happened to Alexandre Manette than of Sherman McCoy. I know, that's a little pretentious, and we're not supposed to get mad at rich people, but look at the D.A.'s reason for declining to prosecute:
"Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession," according to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

Yeah, right.

BTW, when I did a Google search to make sure that I remembered Sherman McCoy's name correctly, I came across a quaint little piece about Wall Street by Michael Lewis, of all people.

Also, the driver's attorneys claim the he may have sleep apnea, but I'd be willing to bet that he was calling or texting somebody when he swerved and hit the cyclist. At any rate, we could debate just how dangerous using a cell phone while driving really is for months without getting anywhere, but I don't know how anybody could object to examining cell phone records to help assess liability in the case of serious accidents. Not that it would necessarily prove anything in the Vail incident, but if I were the victim of what somebody claimed was his newly discovered sleep apnea, I'd certainly demand that he rule out every other possibility before I accepted him at his word.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Easy reference quote, Thomas Frank edition

Time was, the only place a guy could expound the mumbo jumbo of the free market was in the country club locker room or the pages of Reader's Digest. Spout off about it anywhere else and you'd be taken for a Bircher or some new strain of Jehovah's Witness. After all, in the America of 1968, when the great backlash began, the average citizen, whether housewife or hardhat or salary-man, still had an all-too-vivid recollection of the Depression. Not to mention a fairly clear understanding of what social class was all about. Pushing laissez-faire ideology back then had all the prestige and credibility of hosting a Tupperware party.

But thirty-odd years of culture war have changed all that. Mention "elites" these days and nobody thinks of factory owners or gated-community dwellers. Instead they assume that what you're mad as hell about is the liberal media, or the pro-criminal judiciary, or the tenured radicals, or the know-it-all bureaucrats.

For the guys down at the country club all these inverted forms of class war worked spectacularly well.
The God that Sucked

Easy reference quote, James Lardner (via Yves Smith) edition

To gain their political ends, the robber barons and monopolists of the Gilded Age were content with corrupting officials and buying elections. Their modern counterparts have taken things a big step further, erecting a loose network of think tanks, corporate spokespeople, and friendly press commentators to shape the way Americans think about the economy.... the new communications apparatus wants us to believe that our economic wellbeing depends almost entirely on the so-called free market - a euphemism for letting the private sector set its own rules. The success of this great effort can be measured in the remarkable fact that, despite the corporate scandals and the social damage that these authors explore; despite three decades of deregulation and privatization and tax-and-benefit-slashing with, as the clearest single result, the relentless rise of economic inequality to levels so extreme that since 2001 "the economy" has racked up five straight years of impressive growth without producing any measurable income gains for most Americans - even now, discussions of solutions or alternatives can be stopped almost dead in their tracks by mention of the word government.

From the June 14, 2007 edition of The New York Review of Books. Paywall protected but quoted in detail by Yves Smith here and here.

Ten years older than Jack Benny

Funny, I don't feel very old, but some of the things that I remember as if they happened yesterday, or just a couple of years ago, make me wonder.

Seems like only yesterday that most people realized what a mess the Republicans had made of the country. Actually, I was old enough to remember enough to know what would happen to that great new Democratic majority two years ago. Even if the point of this post wasn't particularly clear, I wasn't buying into the November 2008 optimism. If I had seen this Dark Wraith post written before the election, I'd have just given a link and a quote:
Better yet, John McCain should be the President when the house of cards that George built comes crashing down. In that event, McCain wouldn't have to go to Hell, he'd already be there.

Absent that happy ending, I suppose I'll have to content myself with a self-absorbed, messianic, vacuous rich-boy, globe-trotting Democrat taking the fall. In that event, maybe the Democrats will learn that turning their fortunes over to children in a nation of sick, vicious, cheating opponents and catastrophically failing circumstances isn't the answer.

I'm also old enough to remember the local press praising Ray Nagin for his handling of city finances. Doesn't seem like it was that long ago, but it must have been a totally different press corps than the city has today.

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