“The U.S. has tended to see tanks-in-the-street military parades as tastelessly authoritarian, preferring instead to promote ritual deference to militarism and its trappings diffusely in society via sports, TV, film, air travel, and policing.”
Kieran Healy @kjhealy
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
Yesterday, or perhaps the day before, I watched a Stewart Granger retrospective on TV — King Solomon’s Mines, Prisoner of Zenda, and Scaramouche. Granger was one of my favorite “action” heros of my youth. I always thought there was something strange about him, however. I did not know what gay or homosexual meant back then, but he always appeared to me to be uncomfortable around women — not like Gary Cooper or Rock Hudson who clearly were men’s men and comfortable around women. Well, after having my mind washed out about jumping to conclusions regarding sexual orientation, I learned that Granger was not gay, merely a flaming asshole despised by his female co-stars. I guess that’s the price of maturity — all the heroes or heroines of our youth turn out to be dickheads. I suspect, a goodly number of He who is Not My President’s admirers will wake up some day and realize they’re no longer pre-adolescents.
Anyway, Scaramouche, in my opinion, contained the greatest sword fight in cinema. Some of it even realistic as well. No, not the jumping around or fighting up and down stairs — that would produce instant death in a real sword fight — it was when they were fighting from the en garde position that the parries and thrusts were almost real. In fact, Granger actually suffered some serious wounds while filming the sequence. Not that anyone cried over his suffering apparently.
Well, well, I may have been premature in announcing my clean bill of health. During my visit to my oncologist yesterday he said that one of the reasons they could find no potential cancer cells was because the sonogram could not see through the scar tissue that had grown up around the mass, so I need to have a PET scan in order to complete any definitive diagnosis. So it goes. As Rosanna Rosannadanna warns, “It’s always something.”
Last night I watched a Dana Andrews retrospective. Yes old square jaw himself. I also learned that these movies I have been viewing for the past couple of weeks are part of TCM August programming focusing on a different star each evening. So far I have seen, La Dietrich, Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald, Doris Day, Stewart Granger, and now Dana Andrews. TCM had nights that featured brighter stars, but I guess, I have only caught the more campy ones.
One night, however, I saw the 1935 production of Midsummers Night Dream with the young Mickey Rooney as Puck (it may have been Mickey Rooney night), the young James Cagney as Bottom, the young Dick Powell as Lysander and the young Olivia de Havilland in her screen debut and Hermia. It was great fun.
I don’t usually watch television except for some news or sports, but until yesterday (the convictions of Manafort and Cohen) the news has been so depressing that a little cinematic fantasy was a welcome respite.
Carol Baker, Baby Doll herself, was last evenings featured star. Two days later it was Anthony Quinn night but I only watched Viva Zapata.
One evening, we attended the monthly Jazz Night at the Pool put on by the HOC. They had a local group — a singer, pianist, guitarist and bass player — that played some standard jazz tunes including my favorite The Girl from Ipanema. I do not know why, but ever since I moved here in the Enchanted Forest, I find myself hanging out with people my age — The i Vecchi as we are referred to in Italy. More then I recall having done before. Perhaps, it is inevitable.
Anyway, we sat next to a woman our age or older who I had been told was an artist of some repute. She was dressed in “aging artist,” — all flowing fabrics encircling her body — and carried a handsome cane. After Naida explained to her our relationship, she quipped, “That’s nice for you. It seems that all of my recent affairs have been with parking-lot attendants.”
B. A FEW DAYS IN CARMEL AND BIG SUR:
The following week we traveled to Carmel and Big Sur. Naida had attended high school there and had many good memories of that time in her life. We intended to try and contact a few of her old BFFs.
I used to visit this section of California’s coast almost every week from when I first arrived here in California in !973, until about 15 years ago — at first as a wannabe hippy frequenting Ventana and other haunts and sometimes hiking off into the mountains for a week or two of camping usually by myself then later, during the period when I was active on coastal resource protection matters. I would go there often on one site visit or another.
That evening we strolled along Carmel beach and through the town visiting the art galleries and stopping for dinner at a place that had properly prepared Neapolitan pizza.
Pookie on Carmel beach.
Next morning we visited one of Naida’s high school classmates at an assisted living facility in Carmel Valley. She was a woman who lived what appeared to be a fascinating life. She had been a major fundraiser for many charities and traveled the world, from Borneo to Africa and South America tending to peoples needs. She now suffers from advanced Parkinson’s and is confined to a wheel-chair.
Later that day, we left for Big Sur. It was fascinating for me to see now, so many years removed, the amazing results of our efforts to preserve that shoreline from development — Including, the purchase of most of the still vacant land on the north entrance to Big Sur in an effort to halt creeping development from the already built-up areas (The Parks Department opposed it because it did not have high recreational value as did the Coastal Commission on the erroneous belief that they could retain it in open-space through regulation — why would a rational person want to repeatedly fight that battle anyway?) — and the 5000 acre Hill Ranch that surrounds Point Sur Lighthouse.
Pookie in Big Sur.
We ate lunch at Nepenthe, where I had eaten many times over the years.
Lunch at Nepenthe.
I then visited their curio’s store and marveled how little had changed over the 40 or so years I had been visiting there — the same curios, the same wind chimes, the same flowing, colorful, and expensive hippy fashions.
The next day we returned to the Enchanted Forest.
Sunset at Carmel beach.
C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
Days pass, another PET scan, more swimming and dog walking, now and then driving the Scooter Gang here and there, endless Kavanaugh hearings and ravings by he who was not elected president, good and bad dreams, decent food, all and all an ok week.
One day, I was walking around the lakes in Town Center and saw the Scooter Gang coming the opposite way. There were two girls about the same age as the boy’s age walking with them. HRM scootered over to me and said, “There are two girls with us. They just forced their way in.” I thought, “That’s one way it all begins.”
A few days later we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the clubhouses. I was chosen as the bartender for the Sock Hop next Friday. I did not volunteer. I do not know how to bartend. I assume it will just require passing out beer and pouring the wine. We old folks enjoy volunteering for things. The Sock Hop is a party where mostly geriatric cases dress up as they did when they were teenagers and dance the Hokey Pokey. I can’t wait.
For the last several years, I have argued that, for public policy and historical reasons, large American corporations that engage in interstate commerce should be required to obtain a federal charter (Articles of Incorporation). Recently to my surprise, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation entitled the Accountable Capitalism Act which provided just for that. As Matthew Yglesias describes it:
“As much as Warren’s proposal is about ending inequality, it’s also about saving capitalism…. The conceit tying together Warren’s ideas is that if corporations are going to have the legal rights of persons, they should be expected to act like decent citizens who uphold their fair share of the social contract and not act like sociopaths…. Require any corporation with revenue over $1 billion… to obtain a federal charter of corporate citizenship. The charter tells company directors to consider the interests of all relevant stakeholders — shareholders, but also customers, employees, and the communities in which the company operates — when making decisions…”
Matthew Yglesias, Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism.
The following lists and briefly explains all the provisions of Warren’s proposed legislation:
Requires very large American corporations to obtain a federal charter as a “United States corporation,” which obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders: American corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue must obtain a federal charter from a newly formed Office of United States Corporations at the Department of Commerce. The new federal charter obligates company directors to consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders – including employees, customers, shareholders, and the communities in which the company operates. This approach is derived from the thriving benefit corporation model that 33 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and that companies like Patagonia, Danone North America, and Kickstarter have embraced with strong results.
Empowers workers at United States corporations to elect at least 40% of Board members: Borrowing from the successful approach in Germany and other developed economies, a United States corporation must ensure that no fewer than 40% of its directors are selected by the corporation’s employees.
Restricts the sales of company shares by the directors and officers of United States corporations: Top corporate executives are now compensated mostly in company equity, which gives them huge financial incentives to focus exclusively on shareholder returns. To ensure that they are focused on the long-term interests of all corporate stakeholders, the bill prohibits directors and officers of United States corporations from selling company shares within five years of receiving them or within three years of a company stock buyback.
Prohibits United States corporations from making any political expenditures without the approval of 75% of its directors and shareholders: Drawing on a proposal from John Bogle, the founder of the investment company Vanguard, United States corporations must receive the approval of at least 75% of their shareholders and 75% of their directors before engaging in political expenditures. This ensures any political expenditures benefit all corporate stakeholders.
Permits the federal government to revoke the charter of a United States corporation if the company has engaged in repeated and egregious illegal conduct: State Attorneys General are authorized to submit petitions to the Office of United States Corporations to revoke a United States corporation’s charter. If the Director of the Office finds that the corporation has a history of egregious and repeated illegal conduct and has failed to take meaningful steps to address its problems, she may grant the petition. The company’s charter would then be revoked a year later – giving the company time before its charter is revoked to make the case to Congress that it should retain its charter in the same or in a modified form.
A. Yglesias on Top:
[University of Massachusetts economist William] “ economist William Lazonick of the University of Massachusetts puts the thesis very squarely, arguing that “from the end of World War II until the late 1970s, a retain-and-reinvest approach to resource allocation prevailed at major U.S. corporations.” But since the Reagan era, business has followed “a downsize-and-distribute regime of reducing costs and then distributing the freed-up cash to financial interests, particularly shareholders…”
…Lazonick’s basic observation that “since the mid-1980s net equity issues for non- financial corporations have been generally negative, and since the mid-2000s massively negative.” In the modern era of shareholder supremacy, in other words, owners take more money out of the corporate sector in the form of buybacks and dividends than they put in via new investments.
Matthew Yglesias, Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism.
B. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Paul Krugman on Parasites in Public Policy.
Paul Krugman in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times where he speculates whether direct-marketing scams that exploit and reinforce political partisanship, largely on the right, basically to sell merchandise is a parasitic infestation causing much the current political sickness that infects America today. He refers to a speech by Charlie Stross that I discussed in a previous post (https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/07/20/the-most-significant-post-you-will-never-read/). In that speech, Stross warned that very large corporations are like hive super-organisms poised to gobble us all up.
“And some of the most influential voices on the right haven’t just sold advertising space to purveyors of snake oil, they’ve gotten directly into the snake-oil business themselves.
Glenn Beck in his heyday juiced up his viewers by telling them that Obama was going to unleash hyperinflation any day now; he personally cashed in by hawking overpriced gold coins.
Alex Jones makes a splash by claiming that school massacres are fake news, and the victims are really actors. But he makes his money by selling diet supplements.
Ben Shapiro writes critiques of liberal academics that conservatives consider erudite (remember Ezra Klein’s line about a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like?), but makes his money the same way Alex Jones does.
Why should marketing scams be linked to political extremism? It’s all about affinity fraud: once you establish a persona that appeals to angry, aging white guys, you can sell them stuff that will supposedly protect their virility, their waistline, and their wealth.
And at a grander level, isn’t that what Fox News is really about? Consider it not as an ideological organization per se but as a business: it offers cheap programming (because there isn’t much reporting) that appeals to the prejudices of angry old white guys who like to sit on the couch and rant at their TV, and uses its viewership to help advertisers selling weight-loss plans.
Now, normally we think of individuals’ views and interests as the forces driving politics, including the ugly polarization increasingly dominating the scene. The commercial exploitation of that polarization, if we mention it at all, is treated as a sort of surface phenomenon that feeds off the fundamental dynamic.
But are we sure that’s right? The Alex Joneses, Ben Shapiros, and Fox Newses of the world couldn’t profit from extremism unless there were some underlying predisposition of angry old white guys to listen to this stuff. But maybe the commercial exploitation of political anger is what has concentrated and weaponized that anger. In other words, going back to where I started this essay, maybe the reason we’re in a political nightmare is that our political behavior has, in effect, been parasitized by marketing algorithms.
I know I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. Charlie Stross argues that “paperclip maximizers” – not people, but social systems and algorithms that try to maximize profits, market share, or whatever – have increasingly been directing the direction of society, in ways that hurt humanity. He’s mostly focused on corporate influence over policy, as opposed to mobilization of angry people in the service of direct-order scams, but both could be operating.
Anyway, I think it’s really important to realize the extent to which peddling political snake oil, whether it’s about the economy, race, the effects of immigration, or whatever, is to an important extent a way to peddle actual snake oil: magic pills that will let you lose weight without ever feeling hungry and restore your youthful manhood.
C. Today’s Poem:
I snagged the following in Brad Delong’s blog,
Note to Self: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and Historical Patriarchy: I was reading, as one does—I do not remember why I was reading this, however—an English translation_ of poet, landlord, scholar, bureaucrat, drunkard Bai Juyi’s Song of Everlasting Sorrow. And I was struck by four short lines:
All her sisters and brothers had royal demesnes granted.
Imperial but pitiful glory on the Yang family was bestowed.
。 On the mindset of all parents her success was a strong influence.
Baby girls instead of baby boys became the popular
The overturning of the natural order as a consequence of the love of Emperor Xuanzong for Lady Yang Guifei was so great that all across the empire parents wished for girl- rather than boy-children…
This struck me as having obvious bearing on my [“Historical Patriarchy”] lecture…
Continue reading “Note to Self: “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” and Historical Patriarchy…” » http://www.musicated.com/syh/TangPoems/EverlastingRegret.
This remarkable poem ends with the following lines:
“Let our pledge be as strong as the inlaid and the gold.”
“We will reunite, if not in heaven, in the mortal world.”
。 She asked the messenger to bring back a verse with a clue.
There was a vow in the verse only the two of them knew.
On a Valentine’s Day in Longevity Hall away from the crowd,
At midnight when no one else was around, they vowed.
“Let’s be two birds in the sky flying side by side.”
“Let’s be two branches on the earth inseparably tied.”
The sky and the earth will not be eternal, however.
Only this regret remains and lasts for ever and ever.
“Power concentrates until chance intervenes. The wealthy get wealthier, the ruling class becomes more and more entrenched. But all of them worry most about their short lives and self-interest.”
Conroe, John. Summer Reign: A novel of the Demon Accords.
As near as I can make it out from these graphs, merely by putting caps of the amount that can be deducted for health insurance and pensions (the gold-plated pension plans that seem to benefit the wealthy more than the rest of us and therefore are unfair) and a modest increase in the unearned income tax rates (capital gains rates are exclusively a subsidy for the wealthy with little or no economic justification — what would people who must pay a little more tax on certain investment income do with their money, bury it in the sand?) would substantially reduce the deficit or provide funds for governmental programs such as education or infrastructure maintenance and development. I figure this would produce an increase in revenues of somewhere between $100 -$200 billion per year.
Note: Additional reasonable changes to the 2017 tax bill, including returning the income taxes on the top income brackets to what it had been prior to 2017 could also substantially increase revenues.