Monday, July 23, 2012

Deny and Decline

I was awakened at the crack of an unseen dawn by a severe thunderstorm, so I got started early trolling the nets for news. We have been having more than our share of climate this summer and in my neck of the woods that has included extreme heat broken by the aforementioned severe storms.

Paul Krugman proves that his journalism goes beyond economics with his column today on climate change and the denialist crowd, who point to every brief cool spell as proof that the heat is all in your head. You might even be undergoing menopause, a/k/a the Climactic. (My comment is #16 under "Oldest.)

The climate on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's bum is due for a warm-up as he goes on Congressional hot seat this week to 'splain himself about Libor and Dodd-Frank and such. If a smoking gun were needed to place little Timmy smack dab in the middle of the Libor scandal, investigators have themselves an arsenal. He appears to have been an accessory during and after the fact. He knew cheating was going on, and like the newly statueless Joe Paterno, he did nada, nothing, zilch. The New York Times has an editorial up this morning cheering the fact that the DOJ is expected to prosecute at least one bank, and stops just short of suggesting Tim be included in the paperwork. (My comment is first under "oldest"). Ellen Brown provides a nice overview of the global banking cartel's high crimes and misdemeanors here. And Neil Barofsky, former TARP overseer, takes on the bungled bailouts. His tell-all book, including a juicy bit about Geithner's epic F-Bomb tirade, comes out tomorrow. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

And in case you missed it, here is the late Alexander Cockburn's last Nation column, in which he predicts the collapse under its own corrupt weight of the global financial cabal. 

Don't expect President Obama to suddenly call for a renewal of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the Aurora massacre. He is declining to address the gun control issue; perhaps he is in denial. But his people do expect the "tone" of the nasty presidential campaign to change as a result. So the people didn't die in vain. Phew. (Is it me, or are the politicians and the media really rushing through the five stages of grief at an epic pace? Shock on Friday. Sadness on Saturday. Acceptance on Sunday. Now it's Monday, and time to move on, people. Give each other hugs and celebrate the joy of shortened lives. If we don't mention the shooter's name, it means we win.)

American Decline, myth or fact? Frank Rich takes on the outbreak of Andy Griffith nostalgia and claims there never really were any Good Old Days, just a lot of the same old denialism. This is some of Frank's best work, and well worth the read.


spreadoption said...

Relevant to recent conversation, on Bloomberg just now was an old big-shot Billionaire Investor all pumped up for Romney, but it's Obama this, Obama that, all lying upside-down Republican inanity without substance. What an idiot! Obama has done nothing but bend over for this guy and he has not one ounce of gratitude. Hey, I'm no fan of Obama, either, for lots of reasons including that one, but what got me was the air of condescension. It felt like Ann Romney's "you people" directed at me and my people. I wanted to throw my shoe at the guy, but I don't want to have to buy a new TV right now. (Sorry, I haven't made my first billion yet.)

Pearl said...

It is interesting that Obama's speech to the people of Aurora spoke of forgetting the individual who was responsible for the massacre and who will receive what is due him, but to turn our minds to rejoicing for those victims who are recovering. In other words, the severely mentally ill and delusional man whose brilliant mind concocted such a terrible scenario is the embodiment of evil. Never mind that this very sick man was able to buy and store dangerous weapons with no questions asked instead of calling for the necessity of doing something about our lethal gun culture.

Where is our compassion for this human being's tragedy along with that of the killed and maimed? And then quoting Scripture which also dismisses such an event as a necessary part of life? Obama's speech took the true measure of the man who is helping to lead our country into ruin.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Well, I went to that piece by Frank Rich in “New York” and I’m not impressed. Someone will probably tell me to read it three more times to get it straight. Before I do that, I say read it for yourself just once and tell me whether I’m that far off the mark.

On first reading, we are provided with a welter of definitions and character limns for the nostalgic Exceptionalists and, as a bonus, their opposites at the other extreme, the Declinists. Rich does not use the term “purist,” which is so last year and owned by someone in the White House.

Exceptionists are wrongly upbeat about America; the Declinists, on the other hand, exaggerate America’s current difficulties, forgetting that big problems run in cycles. Further, Declinists are just too depressing -- you know the type, probably have an uncle like that who spends half the day in the attic. Rich doesn’t dig either type. Because Exceptionalists are right wingers on a nostalgic Mayberry kick -- misinformed, self-deluded and, last but not least, racist. Why else is so much of their animus directed against Obama?

As for the Purists, I mean the Nay Sayers, I mean the Declinists, they are Chicken Littles exaggerating the problems of the economic crisis. Rich skips the many problems, other than the economy, that also weigh on Declinists. The republic has had bad times in the past and got over them. Declinists should get over it. Serious people don’t go bi-polar like Exceptionalists or despairing like Declinists.

Rich treasures an unusually bland line from a Samuel Huntington – I don’t remember who he was -- from 1988, following the stock market plunge of that time: “decline, in short, may be in the eye of the beholder.” Wow, killer argument. Bland must now be the hip biz in “New York Magazine.”

The sky is not falling. The empire is not in decline. The news Frank Rich wants to impart is that Exceptionalists and the Declinists are extreme and, furthermore, straying from the good old middle and not giving Barack Obama a fair shake.

Well, I remain a Declinist (reluctantly) and, as such, find myself in better company, intellectually and emotionally, than the friends Frank Rich proposes.

Denis Neville said...

Bullshit reigns.

David Brooks, Americans Elect, No Labels, Indivisible, Fix the Debt,

Fix the Debt is urging Obama and Congress to embrace a deficit-reduction plan along the lines suggested by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission. Think of it as Simpson-Bowles 3.0.

Polish those turds!

Poverty is rising to levels unseen in nearly half a century. The government safety net is shredding.

Austerity is the key to our future. Please, bleed us faster!

“I was at dinner last evening, and halfway through the pudding, this four-year-old child came alone, dragging a little toy cart. And on the cart was a fresh turd. Her own, I suppose. The parents just shook their heads and smiled. I've made a big investment in you, Peter. Time and money, and it's not working. Now, I could just shake my head and smile. But in my house, when a turd appears, we throw it out. We dispose of it. We flush it away. We don't put it on the table and call it caviar.” ― Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities.”

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is more likely one who likes his country more than the rest of us and is those more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debouched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime, he is a good citizen, driven to despair." - H. L. Mencken

Denis Neville said...

“The faculty of attention has utterly vanished from the Anglo-Saxon mind, extinguished at its source by the big bayadère of journalism, of the newspaper and the picture magazine which keeps screaming, "Look at me." Illustrations, loud simplifications... bill poster advertising - only these stand a chance.” - Henry James

Frank Rich wrote, "The public tributes to Griffith were over-the-top in a way his acting never was, spreading treacle from the evening newscasts to the front page of the New York Times."

Apparently he never saw “A Face in the Crowd.”

As Lonesome Rhodes, Griffith definitely wasn't Sheriff Taylor, and it certainly wasn’t Mayberry.

Made in 1957, “A Face in the Crowd" was about the power of television to manipulate and control the minds of viewers. This movie never goes out of date. I saw it again last night.

Walter Matthau delivered the epilogue, “We have not seen the last of Lonesome Rhodes. He'll be back, with others just like him.”

Alexander Cockburn’s Harper’s/August 1982 critique of the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour on PBS,

“Tonight, are there two sides to every question?”

“A Galilean preacher claims he is the redeemer and says the poor are blessed. Should he be crucified? Tonight the crucifixion debate.

“Do property rights extend to the absolute ownership of one man by another? Tonight the slavery problem.”

“Reports from the Donner Pass indicate that survivors fed upon their companions. Tonight, should cannibalism be regulated?”

Cockburn wrote, “Tedium is of the essence, since the all-but-conscience design of the program is to project vacuous dithering (“And now, for another view on Hitler”) into the mind of the viewer, until he is properly convinced that there is not one answer to “the problem,” but two or even three, and that since two answers are no better than none, he might as well not bother with the problem at all.”

“By careful selection of the shows participants, the show tries to make sure that the viewer will not be perturbed by any views overly critical of the political and business establishment.”

Jay - Ottawa said...


I went back to reread Frank Rich's column. This time I realized the link put me on page 2. I stand corrected: the Decliners include the Exceptionalists, apparently the largest ingredient of the mix criticized by Rich.

But Rich does include critical writers from the other end of the political spectrum, whatever is left of the once-cherished vital center and whatever is left from some (certainly not all) of the old progressive left. These are the purists who, although not as base in motivation as Palin-type Exceptionalists, are also nostalgic about a golden age of politics that never was and who, as a result of their faulty historical bearings, unfairly expect too much from Obama.

What is Rich doing? He's paving a very round-about approach to the lesser of two evils. He's a better salesman than most, but I'm still not buying it.

Many decliners, some of them who hang out here, are not nostalgic, yearning for a time that never was. They are principled and their criticisms -- mine, anyways -- while they do refer to historical precedents, also refer to human rights standards, simple decency, the concept of fairness, and the law istself, especially the Constitution. It is against those standards, not my hazy memories of the 50s and 60s, that prompt me to reject TLOTE as well as the Exceptionalists.