27 February 2009

"an irresponsible bill produced by the Old Order"

For reasons that I have not been able to make out clearly, Señorito D. Brooks has never seen his employment by the NYTC as an opportunity to vocifererate for the crude interests of the economic class of his daddy and his mommy and his aunts and his uncles and their neofriends, all the ideological allies and commercial associates of the extended Toppe-Percentile family.

One natural, or rather predictable, result has come to pass: General Arnold and Judas Iscariot would be more welcome at Rio Limbaugh nowadays than little Davey, and that without taking this latest, and most extreme, provocation into account. ’Tis rather as if B. Arnold were to lecture George III on how to be a True Brit for Master Brooks to set up as a better friend to Socialised Medicine (sic) in the holy Homeland™ than a President drawn from the ranks of America’s party. [1]

Whatever was the case yesterday, this morning all of little Davey's bridges to the Big Movement are well and truly burnt: nobody sane on either side of the now impassable ditch is going to waste fifty cents of stimulus on trying to reconstruct that very minor unit of dogmatic infrastructure.

Are we now to be treated to a lecture course from D. Brooks, in his capacity as amateurish social-scientiser, to the effect that the Party neocomrades with whom he has broken off were never really ‘conservatives’ at all? Fortunately NYTC customers are not obliged to read such tripe if the señorito does decide to serve it up. Around these parts it is at least good manners to suppose that everybody else too has long since noticed how the devil herself can play at bein’ an authentic Friend of Eddie Burke™. Mr. Norman Mailer spoofed (?) that point to death as long ago as 1964, working through Senator B. Goldwater’s libertarian scribble with a red pen that bled copiously on every page where Eddie would (presumably) have disagreed with his wannabe epigone. ("Yes, Master Davey, of course you can prove that Burke would have thought highly of the NHS. And furthermore, Queen Anne is dead. Haven't you anything interesting to say?")

Well, in a way the apostate specimen does afford points of interest. If it decides to vend a Genuine Conservatism of its own manufacture, doubtless the new snake oil will contain a stiff dose of the Unitary Executive™ theology that is laid on with a dumptruck in the second half of this article. The Brooks specimen devoutly believes that Congress cannot legislate its way out of a paper bag unassisted.

So, as it happens, do a large number of the Big Management Party neocomrades whom it has just definitively ditched. This thoroughly unconservative dementia seems more suitable to them than to it, although perhaps the militant extremist GOP loyalty to Big Management as a guidin’ principle (rather than as the social class of Harvard Victory School MBA’s) will wane after the bozos have been out of power in the Fedguv a little longer. On the other hand, a sudden conversion to Congressional Government would not get the Big Party any forwarder as long as they continue to be outnumbered on Capitol Hill. Oh, well!

Needless to say, Eddie Burke can be invoked in favour of Big-Management-by-the-Unitary-Executive, although he cannot be invoked very exclusively, considering that every Brit believer in what is called "the omnicompetence of Parliament" thinks so too. In our own holy Homeland™, of course, BMUE is not only unconservative by virtue of being (1) thoroughly neoteric, and (2) patently inconsistent with the views and intents of James Madison and the Gang of ’87, it also (3) labours under the "not invented here" stigma to some extent. If Master Brooks wants to recommend BMUE to the Homelanders anyway, I shall certainly not throw any chauvinistic stones. But it is not quite throwing stones, I trust, to point out that the apostate señorito may not have adequately noticed the way we customarily do things around here.

An hour of Constitutional ‘conversation’ with Senator Byrd of West Virginia might be profitable for little Davey. Amateur social-scientising being what it is, however, such a confrontation might easily be in vain. My shudder-quotes around ‘conversation’ are borrowed from Davey's own, after all.

Happy days.

[1] It may not be merely an accident that Comrade Krugman sings a vaguely similar tune this morning, "America’s really big fiscal problems lurk over that budget horizon: sooner or later we’re going to have to come to grips with the forces driving up long-run spending — above all, the ever-rising cost of health care." If the señorito and the economist did compare notes in advance of this particular essay question, however, there can hardly have been any substantive meeting of minds. Though partisan, P. K. is also genuinely interested in "really big fiscal problems" and all that jazz, whereas Davey seems mostly interested in Davey.

26 February 2009

"those who got in honest trouble"

Neocomrade #0 says "(Even the AP figured this out.)"

The Associated Press figured (inaccurately) as follows:

OBAMA: 'We have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values.'

THE FACTS: If the administration has come up with a way to ensure money only goes to those who got in honest trouble, it hasn't said so. Defending the program Tuesday at a Senate hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it's important to save those who made bad calls, for the greater good. He likened it to calling the fire department to put out a blaze caused by someone smoking in bed. 'I think the smart way to deal with a situation like that is to put out the fire, save him from his own consequences of his own action but then, going forward, enact penalties and set tougher rules about smoking in bed.' Similarly, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. suggested this month it's not likely aid will be denied to all homeowners who overstated their income or assets to get a mortgage they couldn't afford. 'I think it's just simply impractical to try to do a forensic analysis of each and every one of these delinquent loans,' Sheila Bair told National Public Radio.

The philosopher will reflect that the AP--or rather Citizens C. Woodward and J. Kuhnhenn, AP employees--run together two categories that Comrade POTUS may not have distinguished emphatically, but did at any rate formally distinguish: (1) "speculators" and (2) "[or] that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford."

Without paying much attention to what they are doing, Woodward & Kuhnhenn quote Quartermaster-General Bernanke von Ludendorff about (1) and Neocomrade S. Bair about (2). It is true that both these august personages are hold-overs from the days when the militant extremist GOP controlled the Unitary Executive™, so it is not absolutely impossible that they both cherish some peculiar Big Management Party theory that equates gamblers on Wall Street with deadbeats on Main Street. However, the general drift of BMP dogmatics is not in that direction at all, and, in any case, there is no evidence that either B. Bernanke or Sh. Bair actually believes any such thing. Let alone that both do. Presumably the two do manage to communicate with one another successfully, and both of them with Mr. Obama and President Summers and Secretary T. von Geithner and all the rest of Team Bailout as presently constituted.

The philosopher who takes an interest in ordinary language naturally wonders what the Anglophone mob requires in a ‘speculator’ that "that neighbor down the street" with the underwater mortgage lacks. Strict construction of the usual dictionary definitions would imply that anybody stuck with an adjustable-rate mortgage has eo ipso been guilty of speculation. But this move proves nothing much, considering that everybody who ever bought a lottery ticket would be guilty as well if judged by that criterion. Clearly that is not the way we talk here in our holy Homeland™!

Though scarcely a native speaker any longer, I should guess from my recollections of Chicagoland English that to be a ‘speculator’ in real estate requires, at a minimum, that one not live in the house or houses that one is gambling on. In other words, one’s gamble is rather to be called ‘investment’ (huzzah!) than ‘consumption’ (boo! hisssss!). Bernanke von Ludendorff was not talkin’ about real estate at all, to be sure, except very remotely and through several layers of penumbræ and emanations and securitizations and credit-default swaps. It seems safe to assert that if one cannot begin to understand the terms of the gamble, the gambler must be engaged in speculation--perhaps even in the Higher Speculation!--rather than in the icky consumption-side sort of thing that so vexes Neocomrade R. Santelli.

"People who drink the water," the journalistico-managerial neocomrade rather mysteriously and poetically called those who fall short of the dignity of being named as speculators, the latter bein’ Santellian "people that can carry the water." Like Comrade POTUS, and unlike Citizens C. Woodward and J. Kuhnhenn, Neocomrade R. Santelli does manage to see the distinction of which I scribble, even though, once havin’ seen it, his Big Management Party instinct was to fuzz things up again immediately by misrepresentin’ the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as your typical slice of Main Street, Peoria IL 61606.

R. Santelli knows (as I conjecture) exactly what he is doin’ when he starts fuzzin’ in aid of his Party, whereas Woodward and Kuhnhenn evidentally just naturally see things vaguely and cloudily. There can be charm in that as well, though this obnubilated sort of charm is not the sort that the philosopher cares for best. Their masterpiece of fuzz is perhaps "those who got in honest trouble" -- a formula equally applicable to Neocomrade Ll. Blankfein, Esq., at the Goldman Sachs Group and to certain star performers at Comrade POTUS's "town hall meeting" in Florida, that remarkable human event of which Radio Free Wingnut can never recycle selected bits too often. In both cases, the honesty of those troubled is vigorously disputed, so that Neocomrade Sh. Bair might very justly point out the impracticability of tryin’ "to do a forensic analysis of each and every" similar instance.

Politics being what it is, a playground for peccatum originale, turning the Woodward-Kunnhenn fuzzword inside out seems advisable. Everybody can agree, verbally though not materially, that those who are in trouble dishonestly ought to be lynched. Goes without sayin’, that does! Unfortunately the neocomradely friends of Ll. Blankfein, Esq., will consider that he and certain of his colleagues have already been sufficiently waterboarded in public by Rep. Frank of Massachusetts to atone for six lifetimes of Madoff-class dishonesty. And presumably there must exist a few l*b*r*l fiends who seriously think that the attested lifetimes of the Fort Myers Untermenschen entitle them to certain entitlements without any persnickety questions about their honesty. As Comrade Brecht used to sing, Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral. (Both those opinions are more than a little subphilosophical, are they not?)

General Bernanke von Ludendorff and Chair Bair were talkin’ about quite distinct problems, yet the fuzz artists at AP might defend their fuzziness up to a point by pointing out that, after all, these distinguished neocomradely quacks prescribe basically the same therapy for two diverse diseases, namely, to let the rain fall upon the just and the unjust alike. (More or less.) Whether with banksters or with Untermenschen, it would, in their view, be prejudicial to the Common Good and the Public Interest to make too many fine distinctions about other folks’ honesty or dishonesty. Such appears to be the general consensus of Team Bailout, for presumably Secretary T. von Geithner's "stress tests" will not be testing for moral rectitude. Die Moral undoubtedly gets the back of Team Bailout's hand, although it strikes me as unwarrantable as well as invidious and impolite to accuse our policy betters of excessive devotion to das Fressen.

The philosopher can not anticipate smooth success for a general policy of just-and-unjust-alike, however. Those who don't mind doing favors for a few crooked Masters of the Universe will object rabidly to benefiting a proportionate quantity of crooked Untermenschen. And vice versa. The neocomradely community is bound to feel itself upon sound ground here, for obviously (?) bankin’ is a public utility, a sine quâ non of Western Sievalisation as they conceive it. Whereas who needs Untermenschen anyway?

L*b*r*l fiends will, I suppose, not attempt to rebut by professing to detect some esoteric public value in the domestic LBW, "lesser breeds without", although they might conceivably do so by appealing to the potential usefulness of the LBW as IED-fodder. Still, only invasionite l*b*r*ls could respectably take that line, a requirement that rules out a great many. And our holy Homeland™ does not happen to have military conscription at moment in any case.

Assuming that "We won" eventually proves as inadequate politically as it is unpresentable philosophically under any circumstances, what will Team Bailout do? No sane philosopher would be caught dead making predictions about the future of the sort that such a question solicits, but, being only an amateur, perhaps this keyboard may switch over to amateur historian mode at this juncture? The paradigm of fiendish l*b*r*l success is (almost) universally acknowledged to be the Social Security Administration, which has undeniably a large just-and-unjust-alike aspect to it. Clearly Team Bailout would be well advised to attempt to emulate that mighty feat of yore, if emulation be possible.

But is it possible? As regards the unjust banksters, and unjust economic royalists and Harvard Victory School MBA’s more broadly, the saga of Social Security seems scarcely pertinent: mere restoration of elementary Rulalaw in the wake of Hurricane Dubya ought to do the trick on that front. Team Bailout has, of course, made all the right noises, though it remains to be seen if they can carry through properly.

Unjust Untermenschen are a much greater challenge or opportunity. Among other reasons for this is that the Untermenschen have enough votes to really matter, which the economic OnePercenters, simply as such, do not. However that consideration cannot be decisive when one is investigating the case in which "We won!" has proven to be insufficient. A certain rather zentraleuropäisch school of neocomrades is mystified (or pretends to be) that the militant extremist Republicans ever win any elections at all, when America’s party has become so firmly identified with the Untermenschen. (From the good-guy side, this same supposed mystery appears under the species of "What's the matter with Kansas?") Ms. Conventional Wisdom’s received claptrap about "the middle class" seems to satisfy all the vast host of the conventionally wise, though it does not satisfy them all in exactly the same way. How could it, when half of them want to be middle rather than lower, whilst the other half of ’em -- the neocomradely and Big Management Party half, obviously -- are attemptin’ to shrug off or camouflage or conceal their -- aw, shucks! -- Upperness?

Team Bailout does not need to be told that they must gratify "the middle class" or perish. They know that already, though unfortunately that particular scrap of knowledge is not worth knowing. Especially at the moment, "the middle class" is a grave impediment to Pascalian [*] clarity of thought, because the MC could be alternatively defined as "everybody in the holy Homeland™ who does not require to be (or: 'is not going to be') bailed out."

"Neither a bankster nor an Untermensch be!" advises Polonius still, usually without mentioning that his plan pretty well guarantees Laertes a bailout-free lifestyle. That advice is OK, maybe, when Laertes does not happen to be an envious Neocomrade R. Santelli or Neocomrade J. Wurzelbacher, but it breaks down badly when the tacit stipulation is not met. (‘Envious’ is not the mot juste, but there seems to be no single convenient word in ordinary language to express the concept "resentment of another who is in every way worse off than oneself." But God knows best.)

I see that I have not actually told Team Bailout how to cope, which is just as well since I am not at all sure what to say. One learns as one scribbles, bien sûr, but in this occasion one has not learned enough to be dangerous. What was it Comrade POTUS said just yesterday? "I’m sure it’s not lost on anyone that we’ve tried this a couple of times. But I’m a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right." Just so. But not just now.

Happy days.

[*] Travaillons donc à bien penser: voilà le principe de la morale.

(( Hmm. Did some other clever Frenchman maybe lay down le principe du ‘Fressen’? ))