Tuesday, September 30

So, We're A Blind, Pitiful Giant Hamstrung By Religious Zealots And An Illiterate Peasantry? And This Is News?

David Brooks, "Revolt of the Nihilists". September 29

What we need in this situation is authority. Not heavy-handed government regulation, but the steady and powerful hand of some public institutions that can guard against the corrupting influences of sloppy money and then prevent destructive contagions when the credit dries up.

--David Brooks, September 29, 2008

[W]hy oh why can't we have a decent overclass in this country — a group of highly attractive dimwits who spread bland but worthy stability over our political scene.

--David Brooks, January 4, 2007 [punctuation in original]

BEFORE we begin today's thoughts on the search for human happiness and revenge, I was taken to task yesterday (privately) for saying we were spending $1 trillion a year in Iraq, on the highly sensible grounds that the Bush administration was quite awful enough without exaggeration. Well, sadly, the exaggeration was intentional, and the fault not in my lack of familiarity with the sort of numbers bandied about by people who don't know, but who know more than I do, but, rather, in my assumption that no one would ever take anything reported in this blog as factual, or as mattering one way or the other. But point taken, with thanks. In my defense, not that I'm mounting one, it felt good typing it, and Ben Stein, et. al., would have gladly spent $1 trillion/year in Iraq, or five times that, to appease the bloodroar in their own ears. It's a blank-check war. It's still being funded by emergency suppliments, where now "emergency" is clearly understood as denoting the distinction between the Iraq war and sensible, responsible, legal action.

Well now. If  Stein was given a guest slot on the Times Op-Ed pages last weekend to rail at the brigands who'd demonstrated that brigandage was not a reductio ad absurdum of Reaganfriedmanomics, but rather an essential and ineluctable component, Brooks cranks open the awning of his punditological kiosk to moan about leadership. If we chide Stein for showing up late to the banquet, then grousing loudly because the waiters cut off liquor service to the fallingdown drunks on his side of the table, what do we say when Brooks decides to crawl under the table? Leadership? Now you want leadership?
House leaders of both parties got wrapped up in their own negotiations, but did it occur to any of them that it might be hard to pass a bill fairly described as a bailout to Wall Street? Was the media darling Barney Frank too busy to notice the 95 Democrats who opposed his bill? Pelosi’s fiery speech at the crucial moment didn’t actually kill this bill, but did she have to act like a Democratic fund-raiser at the most important moment of her career?

OMG Exclamation Point. Nancy Pelosi, the Human Fucking Torch. Barney Frank, Media Darling (and, I guess coincidentally, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which apparently is not sufficient reason for anyone to stick a microphone in his face during a crisis in financial services). I doubt it's Frank's job to personally count votes in his own committee, let alone the entire House. He crafted compromise legislation--twice, thanks to John McCain--that many people thought was the best we were going to get given the requirement of bipartisan passage a month before national elections. There's a huge seething anger in the country over this, and rightly so. That was reflected in the vote. And rightly so. I'm not sure what Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi were supposed to do about that, but a) not speak to the Press or b) not criticize the people and the party responsible for this mess, lest David Brooks' feelings get hurt, are not two good options.

Leave us note the sort of bonhomie offered Democrats in the pages of the Weekly Standard after they stood behind an unelected moron-in-chief post-9/11. Did it last two weeks? What sort of honesty have the last three Democratic Presidential nominees received from Brooks? Democrats sought bipartisan support for a bill which was a vast improvement over the Acting President's demand for a blank check and a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Why shouldn't they? They're not going to get any cover from David Brooks. Suppose at this point they decided to pass a bill with only Democratic support. Suppose they decided to try what appears to be the most sensible solution--temporary nationalization on the Swedish model. How much support do they get from David Brooks? How long before he uses the word "Socialism" in a column?
I’ve spoken with several House Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in free-market principles. What’s sad is that they still think it’s 1984. They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. They seem not to have noticed how global capital flows have transformed our political economy.

Yeah, thank god we narrowly averted that socialist takeover in 1984. Too bad "free-market principles" turned out to be a much greater threat. How, exactly, do you call them "admirable" at this point?

For that matter, how does one come to term the opponents of yesterday's bailout measure "nihilists"? It's long been clear that something was amiss in Brooks' cerebral cortex, or in his moral code; the histrionic appeals to Burke and Hayek were either further evidence, where none was needed, of his willingness to say anything that furthered his party's intentions, or of a massive intellectual bald spot of the sort most people his age have learned to throw a rug over. He answered the question for all time recently, when he quoted Meganjane McArdle-Galt as an authority on something other than the drink preferences of the rest of her Atlantic daycare companions. Fer chrissakes, Nihilism not only has two very specific meanings, one philosophical and one political, but the Latin derivation couldn't be fucking plainer, could it? We're fond of noting that words make poor cudgels, but is it necessary to add that undiscriminating spitball petulance makes an even sorrier defense? Republicans were principled free-marketeers when they, heavy-hearted and copiously tearful, voted to keep healthcare unaffordable for 40% of the public, but they're bomb-hurling anarchists when they refuse to rescue Brooks' portfolio.  By dint of an unfortunate geographical choice I made years ago, yesterday  I had to listen to Rep. Mike "Choir Boy" Pence on all three local newscasts, as though his position as GOP mouthpiece meant he must have something worthwhile to say. And twice I listened to him "explain" that we needed to "unleash the entrepreneurial spirit" of the US of A, as though the problem with the financial sector was there wasn't enough profit in it, as though if we'd just eliminate whatever regulations are still on the books, however much they'd been ignored, people across the country would open financial institutions in their garages, breezeways, and unused attic spaces; as though Mike Pence hadn't been in Congress all the while this shit was going on. (I heard him twice because the third time he turned up I grabbed the remote from my Poor Wife, who is more and more subject to periodic fits of stunning while the "news" is on.) And still, and all: at least Mike Pence is an honest tool, not like the hypocrites whose Road to Damascus moment took place at a Milton Friedman lecture, and whose sudden reconversion to Big Government Liberal they think accords them first place in the bread line.


Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Nihilists, huh...that must be exhausting.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will about national socialism, dude, but at least it's an ethos.


Brendan said...

For the record, I was the private task taker, and I chose the channel I did as a courtesy, because I thought the error was more along the lines of a typo than something worth debating publicly. I do see your point in (re)phrasing it the way you did, Mr. Riley. Thanks for the clarification.

One quibble: When you protest that no one ought to look to this blog for its factuality (to channel Colbert), I agree, but I don't find that a sufficient reason not to get facts right anyway. However, as I said, I now see the point you were trying to make in this case, so this quibble is more in the abstract.

Anonymous said...

"...we care about nothing, Lebowski... so give us the money or we will come and cut off your Johnson and then we will step on it and then squish it."

KathyR said...

the awning of his punditological kiosk

I totally want one of those. Do they come in black?

heydave said...

Brooks must have some strange, hybrid Thesaurus that replaces adequate words with pseudo-heavy sociological/philosophical terms.

The good news is that this will turn him into the jailhouse bitch after the revolution.

heydave said...

...who will likely get his Johnson cut off...