Monthly Archives: January 2009

Through a Marxist glass darkly

Robert Burns, poet of the downtrodden, once considered moving to the West Indies to be a plantation overseer (of slaves) and later worked as an exciseman, a job much condemned as oppressive of the poor.  Joe Phelan comments:

The negotiation of such contradictions is one of the severest tests imposed on the working-class writer.

The near-miss on the overseer job

serves as a stark reminder of the moral compromises forced on people in Burns’s social position by the overriding need to make a living.

Forced?  No one in Burns’s social position ever refused such a compromise?

This is hardly to blame Burns.  The first stone finds few to cast it.  But the reviewer oughtn’t do such excusing.  This is in Times (of London) Literary Supplement, whose strength lies in its analysis on literary and scholarship grounds, not in lecturing readers on the human condition as seen from a strongly class-conscious point of view.

Cardinalatial fraud in L.A.?

A d.a. has a new stick with which to beat a cardinal:

The U.S. attorney in Los Angeles has launched a federal grand jury investigation into Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in connection with his response to the alleged molestation of children by priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

He cites “honest services fraud” by failing to protect kids from molesters, says a source.  Argument is that parishioners relied on Mahony and other church leaders to keep their children safe.

It’s a first?  At first blush it seems a very broad brush that could cover so many other deficient public and private officials that it gives a non-legal mind pause.

Birds of a feather

We compare, you decide.  The month’s Wed. Journal column is about O. and FDR as peas in a pod.

It’s a shame our first black president is a liberal. He appoints a few center-leaners here and there but has very crazy people at EPA and Labor, to name two Cabinet posts. . . . .

The comparison:

In some respects, O. [O’ in the online version, unfortunately] is like Franklin D. Roosevelt. He arrives trailing clouds of glory — to adapt Wordsworth — at a time of crisis. He’s popular, has a way with words, and plays the electorate like a violin. . . . .

There’s more more more . . .

Catholics once came to the rescue

To market, to market, to save us all:

* WSJ today, p-1, has “Price cuts spur home sales.”  Biggest monthly gain in almost seven years. What? Market correcting itself? It does that? Not for those whose mantra is market-bad-government-good. Holy Mother the State we believe in, not in any stinkin’ market!!!!

* Cardinal Cajetan, Dominican, 1468-1534, upheld the market as arbiter of justice in pricing and even endorsed upward mobility as individual goal. Saw money as a commodity, and so favored foreign exchange — francs for dollars, etc. — and lending at interest: usury, they called it in those days, regardless of rate.

There were statists among them, one of them fellow Dominican DeSoto, as in Rothbard, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, 1995.

* As for statism and its presumed role in bringing us together in a spirit of community, fellow 16th- (& 17th-) century commentator, Sir Thomas Smith chimed in (from England) on the role of self-interest in running things, within a property-rights framework:

It’s “a natural fact of human life to be channelled by constructive policy rather than thwarted by repressive legislation.” It’s better that people be “provoked with lucre [money]” than have governments “take this reward from them.”

Better too that entrepreneurs with their virtues and faults and their track record be the engine of change we can believe in than politicians with theirs.

* Also in the 16th, the papal bull “Cum Onus” condemning “usury” — lending at interest whatever the rate — issued in 1569 by Pius Fifth, came too late in the debate to quell lending at interest. Too many theologians (philosophers) had OK’d it.

In fact, four years later the Jesuits, forget their special vow to obey the pope, OK’d the mutually redeemable census contract — selling of annuities, whereby a price is put on delaying of money-use — in a general congregation and eight years after that, in 1581, all census contracting.

Some German Jesuits complained about such liberalism, and Jesuit Genl Claude Aquaviva told them to suck it up. “So much for the Pope’s census prohibition,” commented Rothbard, about whom one may look here.

Requiem for an industry

A book you all might want to own.

From the day Barack Obama announced his candidacy to the moment he took the oath of office, the mainstream media fawned over him like love-struck school girls. Even worse, this time they went beyond media bias to media activism, says CBS veteran and #1 bestselling author Bernard Goldberg.

In his most provocative book yet, A Slobbering Love Affair, Goldberg shows how the mainstream media’s hopelessly one-sided coverage of President Obama has shredded America’s trust in journalism and endangered our free society.

The nation’s orator

Here we go with the inaugural address, spotlighting passages that are overwritten:

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.

Come on.  This is schoolboy stuff.  So is this:

Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

I’m offended.

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.


More to come . . .

Something there is that doesn’t like an inauguration

For a thoughtful assessment, this commentary got off to a fatuous start? I think so.

Obama’s inauguration was just the kind of event that might inspire genuine poetry: it was that rare moment when the public intersected with the private for good instead of evil.

It’s about the dumbbell poem read at the grand event by Yalie Elizabeth Alexander, who is black, says Adam Kirsch in The New Republic blog, “The Plank.”  She is?  Could have fooled me.

Her best poems–especially in her first, reputation-making book, The Venus Hottentot–do not accept that there is an antagonism between African-American “folk” culture and “high” culture.

Reminds me of the woman sitting next to Winston Churchill at dinner who said she had decided to accept the universe.  “By God, you’d better,” fumed Winnie.  But this woman would rather not, apparently.

Kirsch likes her, but she

suffers . . . from excessive self-consciousness about her role as spokesman and example. As she writes in “Ars Poetica #92: Marcus Garvey on Elocution”:

To realize I was trained for this,

Expected to speak out, to speak well.

To realize, my family believed

I would have words for others.

Go, girl, they said, as families do.  But why is she so pedestrian about it?

This is the problem.  Wordsworth and friends walked away from the oh-so-poetic and found beauty in everyday matters, like daffodils and skylarks.  But this lady reads like a telegram.

Kirsch says her weakness lies in her “consciousness of obligation,” in her “poetic superego” that

leads her to affirm piously, rather than question or challenge. This weakness is precisely what made her a perfect, an all too perfect, choice for inaugural poet.

She’s ceremonial, period, producing “inspirational banalities”:

Indeed, in “Ars Poetica #1,002: Rally,” published in 2005 when Barack Obama was still just a first-year Senator from Illinois, she already imagines herself lecturing a crowd . . .

I dreamed a pronouncement

about poetry and peace.

“People are violent,”

I said through the megaphone

on the quintessentially

frigid Saturday

to the rabble stretching

all the way up First.

What, no irony?  Does she really want to go that far, with that people-are-violent stuff?

But Kirsch has choice words for her 1/20/09 offering:

This poem, written for a book and not for an inauguration, is already public in the worst sense–inauthentic, bureaucratic, rhetorical. So it was no surprise to hear Alexander begin her poem today with a cliché (“Each day we go about our business”), before going on to tell the nation “I know there’s something better down the road”; and pose the knotty question, “What if the mightiest word is ‘love’?”; and conclude with a classic instance of elegant variation: “on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp.”  The poem’s argument was as hard to remember as its language; it dissolved at once into the circumambient solemnity.

Knotty question, yes.  Kirsch is too kind, handling her as someone with something to say, trapped by a situation:

Alexander has reminded us of what Angelou’s, Williams’s, and even Robert Frost’s inauguration poems already proved: that the poet’s place is not on the platform but in the crowd, that she should speak not for the people but to them.

I’d say, rather, that she exposed herself, as her fellow poets expose themselves in today’s poetry-society readings coast to coast probably but definitely in Chicago, celebrating the everyday in terms that require little imagination and less cerebration.

Depends what you intend to shovel

In Connecticut “shovel-ready” is drastically in need of clarification.

The stimulus package is intended to provide new money for projects, not replace existing funding. That creates another problem, local leaders said. Any project within 90 to 120 days of starting – the common definition of shovel-ready – would already be permitted and into the bid process.

”Most towns don’t do that until the funds are already in place,” Mark Oefinger, Groton Town Manager, said.

Or, as Richard Guggenheim, assistant director of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, said during an interview Thursday: “It’s the ultimate Catch-22 on steroids.”

Wait a minute.  That is not the spirit.  Any more remarks in that vein, and you don’t get anything.

And what about this guy?  Is he out of it, or what?

Oefinger, like others, expressed concern that the stimulus will not provide long-term benefits or jobs.

”I think it’s going to be dumping a lot of money down the rat hole and not have a lot to show for it,” he said.

Rat hole, eh?

Yes, rat hole.


They be smitten

Tom Roeser disagrees with Charles Krauthammer, whom he rates highly, in the matter of Obama’s being blamed if the economy continues bad.

I don’t believe [it] for a moment. Amity Shlaes shows how the FDR’s wild experimentation convinced the voters that at least he was trying. The compliant, supine media will be in Obama’s corner throughout and even if nothing is accomplished, his sunny visage of hope-hope-hope will be portrayed in Rooseveltian style.

They loved FDR too, of course, as John T. Flynn says in his 1948 Roosevelt Myth.  Reporters “played along with this maker of news” as he pulled rabbits from hat, ex-Rooseveltian Flynn wrote. 

Hope-a, hope-a, rope-a, dope!

Will the stimulus work?

New York University economics professor Thomas Sargent:

The calculations that I have seen supporting the stimulus package are back-of-the-envelope ones that ignore what we have learned in the last 60 years of macroeconomic research.

Back of the envelope worked for Lincoln on his way to Gettysburg (Bob Newhart told us so), but for us in this day? 

Consider David Axelrod’s reaction, per’s Political Diary, to being asked about whether it will work:

Mr. Axelrod told Fox News that he didn’t view the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] [pessimistic] findings as important. He said the government has no choice but to act quickly in the current “national emergency” and “that a lot of these investments are ones that are going to pay dividends in the short term and the long term.”

This way lies madness.  Act quickly doing what?  Does it matter?  Of course.  So where does A-rod come off dismissing these economist hotshots hired by Congress and led by a Dem appointee?  Hack.

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