Frontier Former Editor

March 17, 2009

Here’s another reason to major in history, or at least read it more than once every few years . . .

The Credit Mobilier scandal of 1872 – a good reason to hold big business’ s and elected government’s collective feet to the fire on a regular basis.

“Crédit Mobilier of America was formed by George Francis Train, the vice-president in charge of publicity for the Union Pacific Railroad. Crédit Mobilier of America was designed to limit the liability of stockholders and maximize profits from construction with the hefty fees being paid by federal subsidies. The company also gave cheap shares of stock to members of Congress who agreed to support additional funding  . . .

“It was claimed that the $72 million in contracts had been given to Crédit Mobilier for building a rail only worth $53 million. Union Pacific and other investors were left nearly bankrupt.”

Okay folks, and that was 57 years before the 1929 crash. Dubya, let’s go over the success of the “No Child Left Behind Act” again, shall we?

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March 13, 2009

Where have you gone, Louis Rukeyser? Our nation holds its lonely eyes to you . .

If anyone ever questions or trivializes the role of satire and humor in society, they should remember this 10-minute segment.

Especially in a time where Citibank is hosting conference calls – on our tax dime – to encourage union-busting and who-knows-what-else.

What Stewart did is in the best tradition of Petroleum V. Nasby, Herblock, Samuel Clemens, Mort Sahl, George Carlin, Tom Lehrer and hosts of other humorists – ridicule, embarass, shame, humiliate and destroy anything that would prey upon society.

This society needs a huge sweep to remind ‘big business,’ ‘Wall Street,’ and every other over-dominant segment of the American business and political scene that acting like Charles Keating did in the  years leading up the the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s may not be child molestation but is just about as legally and morally defensible as being a child molester.

And while we’re at it on a bleak Friday afternoon, please allow Rush Limbaugh to continue broadcasting and expressing his opinion. Part of a free society is having the right to express one’s opinions and having the responsibility to defend the logic and rationality of those opinions.

And please allow Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele the right to express his political views for the same reason – even if he lacks the intellectual weight to generate rational policy and philosophical positions.

By the way – even Louis Rukeyser got caught violating federal trading rules, so be thankful, Jim Cramer. Be very, very thankful.

October 1, 2008

A depression is like a . . . . .

I’ve just about had it with analogies today.

For the last 24 hours, it seems that damn near every congressman and senator who can walk and chew gum at the same time, every pundit, and half the people I spend time with at work have uttered most possible variations of the phrase, “The financial crisis is like a . . . .” Just before I started typing this, I heard former Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander enlighten me by saying “The financial crisis is like a car wreck.”

Lamar, pal. The financial crisis is not like a car wreck. A car wreck involves state police, ambulances, tow trucks, body bags . . . wait, if you’re on sidewalk level in the New York financial district, maybe it is like a car wreck, but not in the way Lamar meant.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post (thanks, Sledpress!) still has my eternal admiration for dressing up like Elmer Fudd when he appeared on MSNBC’s ‘Countdown’ after the Cheney lawyer-shootin’ scandal broke. And, like me, Milbank also seems bemused if not addled at the range of analogy and metaphor emanating from Congressional mouths (or sphincters – it’s really hard to tell even on HD TV).

“The verbal misfires ricocheted across the chamber: Asleep at the switch!. . . The worm turns! . . . Russian roulette . . A financial gun to the head. . . Pull the trigger!. . .Take the bullets! . . Jumping off this precipice. . . Get our house in order.”

Not to mention the fecal sandwich analogies I’ve heard ad nauseum.

Someone at work said, “This is just like the Great Depression!”

She was 19. What the f**k does she know about the Great Depression? I’m 46, a history major and have read about the Great Depression in historical and economic contexts and I don’t know what the f**k it was like during the Great Depression. I’ve got a fair idea what it might have been like, based on stories from my grandparents, but I know some ways in which it wasn’t like the Great Depression.

  • A. Herbert Hoover was smart and had experience in humanitarian disaster and food relief after World War One.
  • B. You can’t hardly buy stocks on margin anymore, unlike 1929.
  • C. A dumbass of the astrophysical magnitude of George W. Bush hadn’t been created yet, although a megalomaniacal putz exceeding Dick Cheney’s mathematical quantification was on work release in Munich.
  • D. Al Jolson a fraction less repulsive in blackface than was Ted Danson.

Being a fundamentally mean person at heart, I joined the “It’s like a . . .” bandwagon when prompted, merrily spouting, “No, it’s like the South Sea Bubble or the Dutch tulip depression!”

There’s nothing I enjoy more than an uncomprehending look from someone half my age.

Anyway, if you have to listen to every Tom, Dick and hairless tell you what the current financial crisis is like, at least relieve yourself by this bit of creative analogy:

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