a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Issue #34 (February 24, 2010)

San Juan Bautista, California

Photo by Grace Krilanovich

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Gerald Seib in the WSJ, “Lessons Emerge as U.S. Economy Outpaces Europe”:

“Current data show that American banks have written down bad assets and raised new capital faster than their European counterparts, and have reduced their leverage further. The banks' ability to move ahead of the regulators also shows one of the inherent advantages of the American system over the European: Because there is relatively less government intervention, the U.S. economy is less rigid, more nimble and more inclined to self-adjust to stimulate growth.”

The President could own this relatively good news but he’s not likely to tout it because he hopes as did Kerry, Clinton, Gore, Dukakis, et. al., to move this country to Europe, so to speak. The VAT (value added tax), so common in Europe is an highly evolved tax which hides along the supply chain and thus baked into the price of the finished good is virtually invisible even as it slows economic activity to a crawl. Its many fans in the Democratic Party keep trying to launch it here. Their faith in the gouge is touching almost. Here’s the WSJ on the new push and it looks like Republican Alan Simpson, soon to be formerly of Wyoming we have to assume, has volunteered to wear the beard for this.


Bret Stephens’ “Europe’s Crisis of Ideas” in Tuesday’s WSJ:

“Why do Europeans so often find themselves trapped in this sterile dialectic of populist obscurantism and technocratic irrelevancy? Largely because those are the options that remain when other modes of analysis and prescription have been ruled out of bounds. ‘All European economic policies are the cultural derivatives of one dominant, nearly totalitarian statist ideology: the state is good, the market is bad,’ says French economist Guy Sorman. The free market, he adds, is ‘perceived as fundamentally American, while statism is the ultimate form of patriotism.’"


Alan Beattie in the FT Monday, "Centre-left fails to make capital from economic train wreck."


Unsurprisingly, Paul Krugman’s acrobatics blend well with The New Yorker’s and so neither falls to earth as they don’t really approach the sun. Their twin focus on George W. Bush as the end of “reality-based Republicanism” (which they now apparently concede to Reagan) allows for maintenance of a canard they absolutely need to be true -- that the New Deal model abides even as its unsustainable burden breaks state after state. This all passes as New Yorker realism courtesy Larissa MacFarquhar, her editor and the mag’s legendary fact-checkers, even though the piece reveals that Reagan’s defeat of mere Jimmy Carter sent Mrs. Krugman-to-be, Robin Wells, his near-editor and also an economist, to leave this country, and for Margaret Thatcher’s UK no less! In Monday’s Krugman fun is made of two-faced Republicans and Grover Norquist’s “starve the beast” metaphor. Paul begins, “O.K., the beast is starving. Now what?” Only, Grover, who is a critic of those Republicans (his site refers to the “Bush-Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending”), might ask the beast to kindly trundle onto the scale to prove it’s shed a single gram. Plan is, I’m told, to feed the behemoth another sixth of the economy. The NYT also reports Monday: “California Lawmakers Consider Creating Online Registry for Animal Abusers” so who knows when Krugman’s Leviathan-of-public service might keel over and whether a single cockfighter might be prevented from buying a live turkey. From the NYer piece: “Krugman presented his theory to the world in the form of a paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research in July, 1979.… One implication of Krugman’s theory was that, contrary to economic orthodoxy, industrial policy might have its benefits.” This just after Thatcher becomes Prime Minister to undo Grey Britain’s postwar binge of industrial policy, and just as small computer hardware and software companies are about to leave the garage for an almost total penetration of home and office and factory and lastly, maybe someday government offices. The piece does explain some of the mysteries of Paul Krugman’s bifurcated discipline/indulgence, but what to make of the boomer hell of St. Croix, where this hero-narrative that Mark Danner could only dream of, takes place. I guess that’s where The New Yorker and The Mere New York Times depart company.


“Doomsday is here for the state of Illinois” reads the Sun-Times as it launches its “Maxed Out” series on Monday. Certainly so if their editorial “Only big tax increase can dig out Illinois” sways policy. Do they really believe that if pressure is relieved our pols will then focus like a laser on all the spending cuts and withdrawals and privatizing they might do? If the tax constituency calls this doomsday then it surely is not. This will all be kicked down the line in two year increments, with slight differences state by state, because the baby boomers are just getting to retirement and nearer to geriatric care. After squandering their parents and grandparents’ bequest they will begin in earnest to borrow up their kids and grandkids earnings. They’ve just been tuning up; this is just starting.


John Lloyd in Tuesday’s FT putting a gloss on the boomers’ to-be-or-not-to-be/to-devour-or-not-to-devour soliloquy, which the very intensity of the scenery-chewing will contain the true answer while the monologue’s text pretends otherwise.


John Lloyd in the weekend FT on three politics-in-media books:

“The lowly aide who once handed out press releases or phoned correspondents to tell them what the prime minister thought they should know has been replaced by hundreds, at times thousands, of professional communicators, advertising executives, public relations experts, image consultants, voice and deportment coaches and directors of communications. There’s a conventional view, beloved of journalists, as to why this happened: politicians became devious and shifty, at best controlled by ‘spin doctors’, at worst downright mendacious. But that is unlikely to be true. Governments everywhere in the democratic world… have put more and more information in the public arena….”


Jeffrey Collins in the WSJ on Perez Zagorin’s Hobbes and the Law of Nature:

“Out of this miserable slaughter our modern notions of the state were born, and Hobbes was their midwife. If regicide had ended the English Civil War, it had also mortally wounded the sanctity of European monarchy. Hobbes was a supporter of kings but not of their spurious claim to divine right.”


Charles Wheeler’s “The Pension Chasm” in Illinois Issues:

“The dollars can’t be argued. When the books are closed on the current fiscal year on June 30, legislative analysts project the five retirement systems for which state government is responsible will need roughly $131 billion to cover benefits already earned by public workers, with only $46 billion in expected assets to cover the costs, or about 35 cents on the dollar. The other $85 billion represents the unfunded liability, an obligation the state must meet but for which no funding source exists. Nor can the state walk away from the commitment, as a private sector employer can do through bankruptcy. The Illinois Constitution guarantees that once earned, pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired. Even if the state were to abolish its public employee retirement systems today, every covered worker would be entitled to the benefits he or she has earned up to the moment the systems disappeared.”


Former Melrose Park Police Chief Vito Scavo gets Six. He’s quoted in the CS-T, “I truly feel in my heart I was only trying to better my life.” Uh maybe it’s just the German half of me talking, but I do not think that I would hire a guy named Vito Scavo to be Police Chief.


A place at the place on the corner. John W. Fountain’s Sun-Times column.


William McGurn in Tuesday’s WSJ on school vouchers rising from the dead again quotes Reverend James Meeks, also a state senator and exec-vp of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH:

“The voucher movement seems to have been born, or seems to have been started as a Republican idea. That's the way Democrats look at it. That's the way black lawmakers look at it. This is a Republican idea. This is what the Republicans want to push on us.... We don't seem to see public schools not working in your area."


Thomas Sowell is probably too smart a guy to be doing a newspaper column but it’s often a good one and here’s the latest in the IBD.


FT report: Halal fast-food chain threatens French republican secularism.


The FT’s Jude Webber on Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez gets close to explaining how Argentina can have a beef shortage. One hopes Cristina sleeps soundly, whether dreaming of Falklands oil or 30% inflation, because her real nightmare must be waking up and looking into that wall-eyed ex-President husband of hers.

[Cartoon by Hermenegildo Sabat]

Meanwhile the Latam energy power Venezuela browns-out, but Bolivarian pride requires rejecting purchases from non-oil-cursed power-rich Colombia.


WSJ in conversation with Mohsen Makhmalbaf:

“[S]ince the fraudulent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June, he's set aside filmmaking to become spokesman for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and, by extension, the democratic green movement. He's written op-eds, given countless interviews and lobbied behind the scenes. Most recently, he posted an article online that detailed the private life of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (who allegedly loves trout and caviar; owns five helicopters; is worth $30 billion) to shame him for his lavish lifestyle.”


Die Zeit interview with Werner Herzog on Los Angeles, Lotte Eisner, facts and truth, psychology and Klaus Kinski:

“I have absolutely no interest in psychology.

Why not?

Because I am convinced that self-analysis is one of the terrible mistakes of our current civilisation. Because it means shedding light onto every dark corner of our souls. But a house in which every last corner is illuminated is uninhabitable....

I was not suggesting that Klaus Kinski should have lain on the psychoanalysis couch.

Probably nothing that interesting would have come out of it any way. Much of him was very banal. And more than anything he had a healthy dose of natural stupidity. Strangely enough, for the last twenty years I have been receiving letters from women who have been involved with Kinski telling me terrible things about him. And for some strange reason they have increased lately. Without knowing about each other, they turn to me as a place to deposit their ghastly stories about him. Unspeakable things. Just wait for the day when his daughter decides to break her silence.”

…and in the WSJ Herzog at Berlin talking about having seen neither Metropolis nor Gone With The Wind.


The Criterion Collection has stumbled into the art-film motherlode: Hollywood in the high studio period with an aesthetic so rarified it's come to be described as invisible. Here’s Dave Kehr in the NYT on Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937).


Green on Green violence. It’s all good as long as The Edge’s manse ends up sliding into the Pacific Ocean with him, and all his state of the art recording gear, vintage guitars, and solar-powered juicers, in it.


Obituary of the Week:
Dale Hawkins, 73.


Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ on Sarah Palin. There are very few high-brow, or merely sophisticated, politicultural analysts one can trust to stay on-point when faced with a working class hero. Most are looking for opportunities to indulge themselves in their American haute class dance. This explains why late-Elvis never quite leaves the building either.


The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks, by Marc David Baer, reviewed by Adam Kirsch for TNR’s The Book:

“And because the Dönme played an outsize role at key moments in modern Turkish history, the myth of their secret Jewish power has itself become powerful. As Baer writes in his introduction, there have recently been bestselling books in Turkey claiming that everyone from the current prime minister, the religious Muslim Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of modern secular Turkey, are secretly Jewish. ‘Ghost Jews haunt the Turkish popular imagination,’ as Baer puts it.”


Jordan Mamone will read an adaptation from his piece which appeared in The New Vulgate No. 12.

•Friday, February 26, 7pm - Free
at Picasso Machinery
45 Broadway (at Wythe), Williamsburg, Brooklyn
also reading/exhibiting: Mike DeCapite, Ted Barron, Jim Mason, Kevin Thomson.


Svengoolie, or I believe his son, who at least carried on the Berwyn-bashing. This reminds me I should google Jerry G. Bishop one of these days -- now he was a Svengoolie.

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

1 comment:

  1. In light of the sound bytes making the rounds today (Congress members warning against Bush's alleged steamrolling of checks/balances)this quote from Sowell rings even more true:
    "It's not that politicians never learn. They learn how much they can get away with, when they can blame others."
    But hey, I guess that's pretty much a human constant. Sigh.