Revisiting “The Great Depression”

While I happened to be stopping by the Hoover Institution site the other night, I ran across this video concerning a new book by Amity Shlaes (syndicated columnist for Bloomberg and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations) that challenges what many people assuredly think they know about the Great Depression from received wisdom — i.e., that it occurred because of a systemic breakdown in capitalism and that it ended because FDR, and government in general, came to the rescue.

I love alternative interpretations like this that just completely upend the “official” version of history as it’s retailed to us through the media, generally taught in schools and otherwise widely disseminated.

Given the present economic crisis, maybe it would be a good thing to study up on this subject in more depth (that is, beyond John Hodgman’s entirely counterfactual account and the hundreds of wonderfully evocative fantasy hobo names he generated as one of his supposed “areas of expertise”…). Ironically perhaps, the new Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has focused much of his scholarly work in the past on the economic and political causes of the Great Depression.

According to Shlaes, it was “the government” that exacerbated problems associated with the Great Depression and made them even worse. Moreover, she contends that this opened the door to FDR’s “progressivism” that… according to her intractably convoluted logic has led us right back to square one.

Christopher Buckley’s Endorsement

I referenced author and (now former) National Review contributor Christopher Buckley in the previous post. Here’s his endorsement of Obama from Hardball the other week.

The article on Tina Brown’s new site that he mentions in the interview can be found here. It’s a very reasonable and thoughtful piece:

As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a “first-class temperament,” pace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s famous comment about FDR. As for his intellect, well, he’s a Harvard man, though that’s sure as heck no guarantee of anything, these days. Vietnam was brought to you by Harvard and (one or two) Yale men. As for our current adventure in Mesopotamia, consider this lustrous alumni roster. Bush 43: Yale. Rumsfeld: Princeton. Paul Bremer: Yale and Harvard. What do they all have in common? Andover! The best and the brightest.

I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian. I believe with my sage and epigrammatic friend P.J. O’Rourke that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.

So, I wish him all the best. We are all in this together. Necessity is the mother of bipartisanship. And so, for the first time in my life, I’ll be pulling the Democratic lever in November. As the saying goes, God save the United States of America.

As well, here’s Buckley speaking at the end of last month with former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson from the Hoover Institution ‘s Uncommon Knowledge program where he criticizes the state of the modern Republican Party and expressed his tacit support for the Democrats in this election:

The whole interview can be viewed here. It’s quite delightful if you have the time to sit through the entire thing (about half an hour).

Stupid 4Ever

It’s quite unfathomable to me why anyone claiming to be a “liberal” (let alone a “Liberal 4ever”) would so vigorously defend a truly wretched political nightmare like Sarah Palin, yet such is the case with the painfully illiterate fellow who natters on ungrammatically at this desperately mirthless, largely unreadable blog, not infrequently extolling with evident passion the supposed virtues of the Alaska Governor and cheering on John McCain in his bid for the presidency for some entirely mysterious reason that seems to defy any reasonable explanation.

At the risk of trying the patience of readers, let’s have a closer look-see at one of his recent posts, shall we? It’s entitled “Hypocrisy?” for reasons that are never made altogether clear, and it starts off this way:

This is my personal observation on the Palin issue especially, when the press in Canada went after Dion’s personality, his English, his green shift, been a tax plan, so on, the blog on the left was up in arms, ctv was attacked, even the cbc, according to them they where helping harper get elected.

Okay, so immediately it’s fairly obvious that we’re not dealing with an essayist of the finest caliber here. Why it needs to be stated on a blog that something is a “personal observation” seems to be more than a little redundant. Next, one presumes that the writer meant “being a tax plan” rather than “been a tax plan” but that would be quibbling, I suppose. I mean, after all, who amongst us writes, publishes and actually edits themselves? Aren’t we just supposed to blurt out the first thing that pops into our evil noggin and dash it down with the utmost speed and haste, never looking back to even bother seeing whether it makes sense or not? As for subsequent corrections… forget about it!

Similarly, we’re not entirely sure what “the blog on the left” is. Does this refer to some nefarious, leftist, Borg-like entity (“The Blog”), or is it simply a case of a carelessly neglected “s” that would have made it plural, as in “the blogs on the left” — which is also problematic, come to think about it, being a rather sweeping and wholly imprecise generalization.

While there were definitely a number of Liberal bloggers who got exercised about the supposed “bias” of the corporate media (CTV/Global most especially) I’m not sure how entirely seriously this should be taken. Certainly there was a great deal of negativity about the Liberal campaign, even from more usually sympathetic outlets like the Toronto Star and it did seem like a bit of a savage dog-pile at times, but that’s perhaps not altogether unexpected behaviour under the circumstances — it was, after all, a weak and ineffectual effort by the Liberals fronted by a man not well suited to retail politics.

Moving on…

Now that the main stream media in America is doing the same thing to Palin, does the left come to her defense, and say she has the right to be who she wants to be, no. It is OK and even quoted in some blogs.

Funny, but I always thought “mainstream” was all one word. Go figure. One wonders why the more familiar acronym “MSM” wasn’t simply employed as brevity and intellectual sloth seem to be operative hallmarks of the writer. Drawing a connection between the way Dion was treated by the press corps here in Canada and the handling of Palin by the media during the presidential race seems like a bit of stretch, but never mind that for now. How this boils down to a matter of self-actualization (“the right to be who she wants to be”) though is something of profound mystery that perhaps only “Liberal 4ever” can properly expand on in the fullness of time.

By the way, just reverting back to the lazy knock against the “main stream media,” it’s maybe worth remembering that the most vociferous and immediate reaction to Palin’s nomination actually came not from the MSM, but from the left-wing blogging community who, in amazing short order, demonstrated their stunned outrage at someone so manifestly unqualified and ideologically horrific in almost every conceivable respect being added to the McCain ticket for the transparently obvious and entirely cynical reason of shoring up support from the absolute lowest common denominator of the GOP’s base — a group that had, by and large up to that time, still remained thoroughly lukewarm to the “maverick” from Arizona for all sorts of reasons.

I have seen the word now floating around, that Palin is an embarrassment, nothing about her achievements in Alaska, the populist policies that makes her the most popular governor in America.

In fact, this simply isn’t true. It was widely reported as part of her potted biography when Palin was first nominated that she was “the most popular Governor in America” and consequently this is well known (quite aside from being frequently repeated by Sen. McCain at every opportunity). And it’s not actually that hard to say why either. She does have a very compelling back story in many respects… something that was also extensively and quite favorably reported on in the press, at least initially — how she went from being an “average hockey mom” and small town mayor, to take on the corrupt powers that be within her own party in Alaska, etc.

But it’s when you start looking beyond those simple, folksy biographical tales that things start to get pretty dodgy and the left-wing blogs were all over this right from the outset. The various shenanigans and blunders with regards to her administration in Wasilla, the threatened book-banning, the intimidation of local officials, the imposition of religious-inspired policies with regards to birth control, her advocacy of creationism, her strange involvement with a kooky, fundamentalist Christian sect (being blessed by a witch doctor, for example), the tawdry “Troopergate” mess, her pronouncements on the Iraq War and natural gas pipeline construction both being of divine inspiration, her incurious views on foreign affairs, her dismissal of AGW, her fondness for shooting wolves from helicopters, her association with Alaskan separatists, and so on and so forth.

This reminded me of the 1993 campaign here in Canada when the same attitude was promoted by the Campbell camp in a commercial, describing J. Chretien as an embarrassment.

Completely different. That was based solely on the man’s physical attributes, which is why people immediately found the attack reprehensible and intolerable (not to mention that the fact that Chrétien’s facial deformity that was the “embarrassing” target of the ad was actually caused by Bell’s palsy). No, quite to the contrary, I don’t imagine anyone would dispute the fact that in purely physical, entirely superficial terms, Palin is a very appealing candidate — indeed, I suspect for no small number of men that comprises a great deal of the attraction. Would there have been such rabid passion for Kay Bailey Hutchison? I rather doubt it.

The withering and sometimes vicious criticism that’s been leveled against Palin in terms of being an “embarrassment” (that particular term, by the way comes from none other than Christopher Buckley, son of WFB, echoing the sentiment of his National Review colleague, “the superb and very dishy” Kathleen Parker) runs much deeper than that… conceivably venturing into the whole debasement of the Republican Party in recent years and the crisis of conservatism at the present time (something best left for another discussion down the road). But speaking of which, David Brooks (a conservative columnist for the NYT) even called her “a cancer on the Republican Party.” I merely point that out to show that this isn’t simply a matter of all the attacks coming from the “left” by any means. Such a characterization is dead wrong and entirely misleading.

What about the feminist movement, I thought the fight for women’s rights, was for her to choose the path she wants, without been ridiculed for it?

This may be the writer’s understanding of “feminism” but it certainly isn’t mine. Not that I’m all that attuned to “feminism” it has to be admitted. Certainly it goes without saying that women should have the rights and freedoms to enjoy all of the same opportunities in life that men do, but at the same time that doesn’t give them some special exemption simply because of their gender. What a curious double-standard. Also, with respect to “feminism” it should be noted that Palin adamantly does not support a women’s right to self-determination vis-à-vis reproductive rights, so that kind of undermines the whole “feminism” angle of things, doesn’t it?

What if ACORN was an organization leaning for the right, instead of bho, good grief, the left would be up in arms.

Just FYI, I’m not pulling these extracts out of context. They seem random and disordered because that’s exactly the way they were originally written down — pretty much a “stream of consciousness” thing I guess.

Does anyone on “the left” have a problem with any “irregularities” perpetrated by or in the name of ACORN being investigated and dealt with according to the provisions of the law? From what I know of the situation it’s not all that difficult to understand how this situation arose and I don’t think it seems to be a case of systemic and deliberate “voter fraud” but if indeed that’s the case, then prosecute them. As discussed at great and wearisome length on another thread here, these matters should all be dealt with fairly and judiciously regardless of the political leanings or affiliations of the groups in question. Better yet, just overhaul and clean up the whole system, which currently is a balkanized, shambolic clusterfuck that one might expect to see in a third-world country, not the good old US of A.

Anyway, you know where I am going, I really expected that the left would respect and defend her right to be who she is, that the criticism would be concentrated on her policies and views, but the only thing I see is the same personal attacks, that the left have complained about against the right, in other words, everybody does it, and if they do it, we will do it, where is the high road in all this?

Again with the “self-actualization” thing… Urgh. What is that, three times now in one post? I think we get the point, but unfortunately, it’s frivolous and entirely irrelevant. Most certainly we can concentrate on her policies and views: would you like to start at “A” or “Z” or something in between, because I can assure you that they’re all dead wrong, poorly conceived, badly formulated, and essentially nothing but a bunch of half-baked lies, boilerplate right-wing talking points and kooky, God-bothering nonsense. Funny thing, but I don’t see this self-described “Liberal4ever” actually advancing any of these wonderful “policies and views” that so impress him when it comes to Palin. I guess it’s easier to just pretend that she’s something more than a vacuous mediocrity with a winning smile and a bit of folksy charm.

We centrist, who I believe represents the true political path of this nation, are the only ones who are disgusted by this behavior. Centrist criticize policies and try to keep away from personal attacks, I have been critical of bho’s policies and his associations, but never attacked him personally, I think B. O’Reilley said it best, you know where this guy is, no problem, I just don’t agree with his views. I am not a fancy speaker, but I hope my point is been made.

Need to take a deep breath after that one.

Well, you “centrist” and floundering, non-fancy speaker, you appear to be rather confused. As noted previously, the criticisms against Palin are coming from all directions, including from moderate centrists and no small number of conservatives, in addition to the preponderance of “average” voters according to the most recent polls, so whatever your own personal views may be about that what you presume to be the “true political path of this nation” it really has no bearing at all when it comes to whether it’s reasonable for an unqualified, thoroughly meretricious hack like Sarah Palin to be a “hearbeat” away from the presidency in the unlikely event that John McCain gets the nod from the American people next week.

If anyone is remotely interested, a “rebuttal” of sorts is provided by “Liberal4Ever” on his blog here. It’s really not my intention to get into a flaming contest with this individual as I suspect such an endevour would be supremely futile and a complete waste of time/effort.