Liz Eggleston’s impeccably and indefatigably curated collection of sixties and seventies images–the glorious, the tacky and the gloriously tacky–mainly from her own scans of British and French magazines, is an unspeakably great treasure. Her focus is on the British Boutique movement, but she confesses to being inspired by “the weirder, even seedier, aspects of popular culture.” This is the kind of amateur (in the French sense) labor of love that the pre-listicle era Internet promised, but really didn’t deliver….
A former Morgan Stanley managing director, Huszar managed the Federal Reserve’s $1.25 trillion agency mortgage-backed security purchase program from 2009 to 2010. Since the crash of 2008, he writes, the Fed has, by one estimate, spent over $4 trillion for a total return of as little as a $40 billion bump in output, which is minuscule (it’s sometimes tough to visualize a trillion dollars. Here is a handy reference.)
This, while BOTH parties insist “we’re broke” (Obama’s very words).
We’re broke, but the Fed can create $4 trillion to loan to the banks. Oh, I see. In return the nation got very little, but for the banks it was a windfall.
Despite the Fed’s rhetoric, my program wasn’t helping to make credit any more accessible for the average American. The banks were only issuing fewer and fewer loans. More insidiously, whatever credit they were extending wasn’t getting much cheaper. QE may have been driving down the wholesale cost for banks to make loans, but Wall Street was pocketing most of the extra cash.
Here is a naive question: If the government can print $4 trillion to give to banks, to very little positive effect for the country, why can’t it print even a fraction of that amount to finance massive public works to make need infrastructure repairs, make education more affordable (or better yet, free), and convert our energy economy to one that is sustainable?
Hell,giving every American a few thousand bucks would be a much more effective stimulus than what the Fed has done.
And don’t forget that the QE program rewards the very entities that created the crisis.
Having racked up hundreds of billions of dollars in opaque Fed subsidies, U.S. banks have seen their collective stock price triple since March 2009. The biggest ones have only become more of a cartel: 0.2% of them now control more than 70% of the U.S. bank assets.
As for the rest of America, good luck. Because QE was relentlessly pumping money into the financial markets during the past five years, it killed the urgency for Washington to confront a real crisis: that of a structurally unsound U.S. economy. Yes, those financial markets have rallied spectacularly, breathing much-needed life back into 401(k)s, but for how long? Experts like Larry Fink at the BlackRock investment firm are suggesting that conditions are again “bubble-like.” Meanwhile, the country remains overly dependent on Wall Street to drive economic growth.
Even when acknowledging QE’s shortcomings, Chairman Bernanke argues that some action by the Fed is better than none (a position that his likely successor, Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen, also embraces). The implication is that the Fed is dutifully compensating for the rest of Washington’s dysfunction. But the Fed is at the center of that dysfunction. Case in point: It has allowed QE to become Wall Street’s new “too big to fail” policy.
Can’t explain exactly why I’ve been silent here for so long, or why I’m finally prodded into action by this (uncharacteristically) dumb Charles Pierce reaction to the “Obamacare by Morning” schtick at the CMAs the other night.
To these lyin’ eyes, Brad and Carrie’s routine looks like a fairly safe, innocuous jab at a much-discussed current event. And clever. Both in the wordplay and by the fact that it butters up featured CMA guest George Strait, who doesn’t always turn up for awards shows.
Its attitude is pretty closely aligned to this (also very funny) bit from the Daily Show:
But Brad and Carrie really set something off in Pierce:
Let’s forget, shall we, that the act is working gloriously in places like Kentucky, but that places like Tennessee, which hosted the yearly gathering of artificial redneck morons, have decided to sabotage the act because Tennessee insists on electing idiots, which is why there are a lot of the problems for Jethro and Zelda Mae to make sport of on the electric teevee. Let’s also forget how much an actual Medicaid expansion would help in all those Southern states where these posers sell records and that have governors who suddenly find themselves allergic to Free Money (!) Let’s also forget that none of the make-believe goobers on stage last night ever are going to have to make the decision between medicine for the kids and food on the table.
Not a lot to disagree with here on the substance (though I might be cautious about proclaiming “the act is working gloriously in places like Kentucky” until those enrolled actually try to get their claims processed), but what is notable (beyond the embarrassing attempt at country diction) is the contemptuous “How Dare They” vibe. “Jethro and Zelda Mae.” Wow. “Make-believe goobers”! Pierce knows as well as anyone the glaring issues with ACA, and Jon Stewart’s much more critical satire goes unremarked, but country singers making fun of what is looking (sadly) to be a prototypical product of 21st century (neo)liberalism is just too much for Mr. Pierce to bear.
First the ad hominem, and then the revealing obiter dictum.
Let’s forget all of that and concentrate on the main issue — which is that I think modern country music sucks gigantic bowls of monkey dick. It is, weight for age, the phoniest genre of music since Pat Boone was ripping off Little Richard. Most of what is celebrated as “country” these days is simply bad rock and roll played by people who look like they flunked the audition for a Night Ranger tribute band. I mean, Taylor Fking Swift is already a “legend,” and Patsy Cline would have eaten her on toast.
Stop the presses. Boston-based writer derides current country music as fake, knows what REAL country music is.
Pierce then moves on to the musical question “You know what coutry music is?” and name checks Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Harvard Divinity School dropout Gram Parsons. I’m a fan of all of these guys, but every one of them is a middle-class white dude, applying a bookish veneer to the country genre. To Pierce’s credit he does mention Loretta Lynn, but doesn’t link to any of her iconic songs (you know, the ones a Jethro or Zelda Mae might know), but to “Van Lear Rose,” from the all-over-the-place album she did with another slummer, hipster Jack White.
Which is a little weird. And where am I going with this exactly?
A first bash: patronizing east coast writer’s take can be summarized as: these rubes don’t know what they want (the ACA), or even what they like (debased country music, not the “real” stuff), and they sure as shit don’t know what’s good for them. There’s a lot of the crazy in Southern-identified folks mistrust of Yankee superciliousness, but sometimes there’s some justification….
Country music left its rural roots behind at least as far back as the (then-maligned, now celebrated) countrypolitan era. It’s been a suburban thing for half a century, so the Jethro and Zelda Mae jibe is kind of out of the blue. Are Brad and Carrie trying to act like hicks? Does Carrie Underwood have her teeth blacked out? Not exactly. Say what you will about her outfit here but … not exactly. (OK. Paisley does wear a cowboy hat. It’s a Nashville thing, a shorthand connection to country’s real country (distant) past. Also, a godsend for artists with receding hairlines.)
Ian Crouch’s dispatch in the New Yorker, while still a tad glib, at least indicates that he actually saw the CMAs and didn’t just fly off the handle because OMG these rubes were making fun of Obamacare.
And the music itself, as always, has one foot in respectability and the other in foolishness. The best-selling country album in the United States right now is a Christmas collection recorded by the family from “Duck Dynasty.” One of the tracks, “Away in a Manger,” features the vocals of Alison Krauss. It’s still a weird swamp down there in Nashville.
Weird swamp indeed. And it has always been so. As someone who listens to a lot of country music, both old (“authentic”) and new (“bogus”), I have a lot of problems with contemporary music trends, but beg to differ with the notion that today’s country stars are talentless hacks. All of them are in possession of major chops, as players, singers or writers (or all three) or they wouldn’t be on the CMA stage rubbing elbows with Vince Gill.
Random anecdote: I recently had a quick overnight visit to Nashville. Three friends and I went out to see some music. Being cheap–we only went to free bars, –and old–our night started at 5 and ended before midnight–, we were exposed to the absolute bottom tier of Nashville talent (it was a Sunday night too) but I found it pretty remarkable that everybody at that level could really play and sing. There are tens of thousands of full-time musical strivers between these cover musicians and the Carries, Brads, and yes, Taylors. Country is another classic American winner-take-all, long-shot business–like the movies, pro sports, and fashion–but the problem is never the talent. The business of Nashville is just like those other show biz machines. It mercilessly molds artists into a template that is predictable and sells. But the talent shows through, it always has. Personally, this is why I pay attention to any pop culture: genius, of some sort, rising above an overly rigid framework. The auteur theory of country music, to get all grad schoolier than thou.
A common tactic of those who argue for a false Golden Age of anything is to set up a dubiously intense competition between artists of yore and the poseurs of today. So “Taylor Fking Swift is already a ‘legend,’ and Patsy Cline would have eaten her on toast”. I disagree. If Patsy and Taylor had been contemporaries, they would have collaborated dozens of times.
To be even more contrary, I would go so far as to say that we are in the midst of a Golden Age of Nashville, for female singers and songwriters, at least. In thirty years, a crusty writer will spit when mentioning the current crop of fake country talent, fix you with a steely gaze, jab a bony finger in your chest and say, “Now Miranda Lambert. There was a true badass country singer.” (And so she is)….
Once again stuck for a way to end this, am bailed out by the great Robbie Fulks, who has noticed the tendency of Yankees to preach to country folks what real country is. I love the weird and wonderful adjectival mouthful below, and think Pierce might find himself somewhere in there. He certainly will see his reflection in the opinionated, overalled Bostonian (cue to 2:22).
Not a hillbilly dilletante, fair weather hick, demi-clod, faux po’folks, well-readneck…
Robert-E.-come-lately hayseed wanna-be undercover Yankee…
Mississippi Ph. D., Alabamateur, 50% less Tarheel armchair Arkansan
http://ghastlyandawful.tumblr.com/ fashion photography
I always feel I have to explain myself for the last one, but a long time ago I was held captive in a small office at Conde Nast, when it was still at 43rd and Madison. I was a poorly paid temp assistant for none other than Andre Leon Talley. While he was away in London, Paris and Milan, I spent entire days browsing through bound volumes of Vogue back issues. Have been addicted to fashion magazines ever since, but never enough to become a fashionable person.I am fascinated by fashion in the same way that I am fascinated by college football. Both offer the amazing and appalling in near equal measures. No plans on a college football tumblr at the moment, however.
I plan to keep dowackado.com going for a while, because I actually read it from time to time, and because one day I hope to summon the energy to write at (greater) length. But I hate repeating myself and that is what I seemed to be doing in the last year.
My time being limited today, I just wanted to highlight three apt quotes included in Greenwald’s article.
1.Teju Cole in Mother Jones
Killing a bunch of people in Sudan and Yemen and Pakistan, it’s like, ‘Who cares – we don’t know them.’ But the current discussion is framed as ‘When can the President kill an American citizen?’ Now in my mind, killing a non-American citizen without due process is just as criminal as killing an American citizen without due process – but whatever gets us to the table to discuss this thing, we’re going to take it.
2. Thomas Jefferson
In questions of power . . . let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
3. Frederick Douglas
Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.
“What is it, all of the sudden, that this drone program has gotten every Republican all spun up?” Graham asked. He said that many are ‘astonished’ that Obama has continued President Bush’s war on terror. “I’m not astonished, I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we’re at war,” Graham added.
“To my party, I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war,” he observed. “Not Senator Paul, he’s a man to himself. He has a view that I don’t think is a Republican view – I think it’s a legitimately held libertarian view.
Graham [also] slammed Paul for failing to sign a resolution in which the Senate professed its refusal to accept a nuclear-capable Iran.
So, are we any closer to progress here? Republicans (some of them anyway) spoke up in support of the filibuster and forgive me if I don’t quite believe they have become converts to the cause of civil liberties. It was simply an opportunity to get on television with the cameras rolling. The Democrats, who might be expected to have a civil libertarian or two among their ranks,* simply circled the wagons around their president and his scary nominee for CIA director. As Glenn Greenwald tweeted yesterday: “4 years ago, Brennan’s advocacy of torture forced him to withdraw for top CIA spot; now, all Dems except 2 vote to confirm him. #ObamaLegacy”.
You should never put faith in a politician to be jury, judge, and executioner.
In the GWOT decade we have seen successive, and mutually exclusive, fatuous personality cults built around whoever was sitting in the White House. Partisans of both parties would do well to put Kirell’s statement on a plaque somewhere in their offices. To me the distinctions between killing Americans on American soil vs. killing them overseas vs. killing non-Americans are really distractions from the major question: does any person, or group, have the right to sentence anyone to death based on secret criteria?
I’m hoping that years from now we will be able to look back on the past decade as an aberration, and we will revert to a time when extrajudicial assassination was, rightly, considered an appalling manifestation of an imperial mindset. Hoping, but not counting on it.
* OK there were exactly two, but one wished for more maybe?
As a lover? Well, obviously not as energetic and inexhaustible as Jeremy. And though Tony was in good shape for his age, I was a little put out first time to see what fifty-four years could do to a body. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, bending to remove a sock. His poor naked foot looked like a worn-out shoe. I saw folds of flesh in improbable places, even under his arms. How strange, that in my surprise, quickly suppressed, it didn’t occur to me that I was looking at my own future. I was twenty-one. What I took to be the norm–taut, smooth, supple–was the transient special case of youth. To me, the old were a separate species, like sparrows or foxes. And now, what I would give to be fifty-four again! The body’s oldest organ bears the brunt–the old no longer fit their skin.
–Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan
Really quite enjoyed the book, the milieu (“the post-60s England of strikes, bomb blasts, oil crises, cold war escalation, ideological grandstanding and generally impending anarchy….”)…
… and for some reason (perhaps an impending 54th birthday?), I absolutely love the passage quoted above.
In the Times, Julie Creswell’s A Digital Shift on Health Data Swells Profits in an Industry is about as good a case study in contemporary public/corporate sausage-making as you’re likely to find. Her story paints a vivid, if highly dispiriting, picture of the interplay between policy, lobbying and corporate profits (or profiteering).
I am always amazed at how cheaply our elected officials sell for. I am tempted to use a euphemism for prostitution here, but really that would be demeaning a profession where people actually work for their money. Typically these days, campaign contributions in the six-figure range can return profit boosts to lucky (generous) corporate donors on the order of half a billion dollars (or more) in increased sales.
Briefly, one thread of Creswell’s excellent article. Glenn Tullman, CEO of Allscripts, a leader in electronic records technology for hospitals, gets a gig as health technology adviser to the Obama campaign. He visits the White House at least seven times after Obama takes office. Between 2008 and 2012, he personally makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Obama, as well as to Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee chair, and Jay Rockefeller, head of the Commerce Committee.
Coincidentally (or not), in 2009, “legislation to promote the use of electronic records was signed into law as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.” Coincidentally (or not) Allscripts’ “annual sales have more than doubled from $548 million in 2009 to an estimated $1.44 billion last year, partly reflecting daring acquisitions made on the bet that the legislation would be a boon for the industry.”
Although much of Creswell’s focus is on the current administration, the electronic records Gold Rush got its start when President Bush called for digitizing national health records in his 2004 State of the Union address.
“After that, every technology C.E.O. wanting a piece of health care would have visited me every day if I had let them,” said David Brailer, whom President Bush appointed as the nation’s first health information czar.
Would it surprise you to learn this has been something of a jackpot for execs of electronic records firms? Cerner co-founder Neal L. Patterson has pulled down more than $21 million in total compensation and now has a billion-dollar stake in the company.
Creswell doesn’t report Tullman’s payday. In fact, she writes that he was forced out in what she describes as a “power struggle”–and that he has moved on to greener pastures.
He is now at a company he co-founded that focuses on solar energy — another area that, after Obama administration and Congress expanded government incentives in the 2009 stimulus bill, has been swept by a gold-rush mentality, too.
“My math teacher just stripped naked during class and was arrested! Go MSU!” one student wrote on Reddit, posting a blurry cell phone snap of a nude man sitting in the school hallway.
“Halfway through class he started screaming at us, swearing left and right….. He then started slamming his hands on the window and pressing his face against it, still screaming. Eventually he walked out and down the hallway to the end, all while screaming. He then then came back into the classroom and took off his clothes, except for his socks.”
From a story about a professor gone barking mad, to a nation absolutely mad about bark.
I loved this story in the Times about “National Firewood Night,” a twelve-hour program broadcast on Norway’s national television network. The show spent four hours featuring people cutting and stacking wood, then twelve hours watching a single fire burning in a wood stove in Bergen.
A full twenty percent of the population tuned in, and many weighed in on the unseen fire-tender’s technique.
“We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”
He explained, “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”
I would probably categorize myself as something of a wood dork. We use firewood as the primary heat source for our farmhouse, and I am of course the primary (only) chain-sawer, splitter, stacker and stove stoker. So for me this is absolutely fascinating stuff.