These are halcyon days for the Armageddon Financial Bloggers (the AFBs) who experience something akin to orgasm when they behold the latest unemployment figures from the Dept. of Labor, or quote from the Federal Reserve's monthly "Beige Book," which lays out American economic parameters in all their horrifying detail. Things really are bad - very, very bad indeed. There is actually no reason that the AFBs or anyone else needs to exaggerate our parlous state. It's real, alright.
July 03, 2009
July 02, 2009
After I finish Halberstam's majestic The Fifties, I think I'll read Kevin Starr's Golden Dreams, which covers California during the same era. It was my late, great cousin Jim Houston, writer and highly-practical philosopher, who taught me that when one's own times fail to satisfy, it's best to revert mentally to some earlier epoch when life seemed better. Jim went all the way back to the turn of the last century, 1890 to 1910, what the Parisians may have called La Belle Epoque. Before the First World War, before income tax, before all the improvements to modern life which have made it largely unlivable.
"Years later, when Ike gave his farewell speech warning against the power of the military-industrial complex, he was much heralded; but the truth was that such views were always the bedrock of his philosophy. He was the second President who had to make difficult choices about complex and expensive weapons systems. He worried about the potential drain on the economy, and he believed that the Joint Chiefs cared little or nothing about the dangers of inflation. He spoken often in private about the danger of spending so much on weaponry and defense and in the process destroying the economy and thus weakening the country these weapons were going to protect. The federal budget, he liked to say, had risen from $4 billion a year in 1932 to $85.5 billion in 1952 - with some 57 percent of that increase going to the Pentagon. 'This country," he once noted, 'can choke itself to death piling up expenditures just as surely as it can defeat itself by not spending enough for protection.' Defense spending, he believed quite passionately, was dead weight; it was inflationary and subtracted from the nation's vitality rather than added to it."
June 29, 2009
One must admit the circumstances are highly suspicious. A democratically elected Presidente in Honduras has been overthrown by means of a military coup soon after the Presidente signalled his clear intent to move Leftward in his policies and associations. As just one example, although only 70% of the populace in Honduras live in abject poverty, Presidente Zelaya saw fit to pass a law increasing their minimum wage from "starvation," which the business elites approved of, to "ridiculously low," which enraged them. It didn't stop there. Zelaya accused the U.S. of using the "war on drugs" as a way to intervene in Latin American politics, instead of taking the more logical step of controlling the distribution and trafficking within the U.S. No demand, no drugs. Who knows where this kind of thinking could lead? We might legalize drugs to remove the crime premium from their street value. While this makes sense and is a completely rational approach to an endemic and ineradicable problem, the approach is, for the very same reasons, contrary to U.S. policy.
June 28, 2009
Recently, I suggested that Governor Mark Sanford should be our next President. To say the least, this is not the majority view in the United States. Maureen Dowd in her column in the New York Times today, for example, wrote a whole number accusing Sanford of a Mark/Marco duality ("he was in love with her, and in love with the image of himself in her eyes," etc.) consistent with her usual pop psychological approach. I use Freudian references in my own amateur psychology; if you're going to use uninformed generalizations, be sure to borrow from the best - the classics.