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2008 October Archive at Three Roads Blog
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Archive for October, 2008

Viva el socialismo!

The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent. The latter is what it would be under Obama’s proposal, what it was under President Clinton, and, for that matter, what it will be after 2010 if President Bush’s tax cuts expire on schedule. –Hendrik Hertzberg

The title of this post is meant to be facetious, but the funny thing about the renewed focus (courtesy of the McCain campaign) on the issue of socialism is that the US is much more socialistic than people realize. Every macroeconomics textbook in the country will tell you that the US has what is called a “mixed economy,” an amalgam of private, market-based enterprise (aka capitalism) and public, government-based enterprise (aka socialism).

Here are just a few places where you’ll find socialism at work in the United States:

  • The VA (with its shining example of socialized health care)
  • Public works projects (highways, drinking water, etc.)
  • Your local post office
  • Alaska (taxpayer-paid pork projects, annual rebate checks taken from oil company revenues)
  • Wall Street (bailouts)

Bonus: Here’s Joe (the) Biden vs. a red-baiting TV news anchor from Florida. (Watch) The best part is at 0:54. Notice how Biden moves from surprise to shocked disbelief to disgust.

Added bonus: Here’s an excerpt of a 1908 letter to the editor that decries the socialist policies of … Teddy Roosevelt:

Moreover, most of the [Teddy] Rooseveltian policies - the arid land reclamation schemes, the National forests, the leasing of coal and mineral rights, the renting of grazing lands, the construction of the Panama Canal by direct employment, the development of water powers under public ownership and control - are in strict harmony with Socialist principles…(link)

Teddy Roosevelt is, incidentally, McCain’s favorite ex-President.

Bonus to the added bonus: Ezra Klein explains why red-baiting doesn’t work as well as it did in the past:

There was a time when socialism — and more to the point, communism — was a legitimate thing to fear. It was a living, breathing ideology. It had appeal. What we’re seeing now is that argument divorced from its substantive content. The best McCain can manage is to darkly warn that Obama will “spread the wealth.” To which a struggling electorate says: “Dude! Spread some wealth over here!” McCain has identified a thing to fear, but the failure of his message is that he can’t explain why you should be afraid.

Your choices according to David Sedaris

The chicken or the “platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it.”

“To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked,” says Sedaris. “I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?”

Ok, I know there are sane, smart and thoughtful undecided voters out there who still need more information (despite the 24-7 print/web/television coverage of a 20-month primary season) before heading into the voting booth. And I realize that a good many of those sane, smart and thoughtful people will end up pulling the lever for John McCain. They will have their reasons, and absent among them will be an affinity for shit with bits of broken glass in it.

Sedaris’ utter confusion over how people can be undecided in this election is something many on the left are feeling right now (including yours truly).

But that confusion is typical of anyone who believes anything strongly. It’s really hard to understand where other people are coming from when they disagree (or merely hesitate to agree) with something you feel passionately about.

Reading Sedaris’ take on the election, I was reminded of an article in Harper’s by the late David Foster Wallace. The article was about the fierce and ideologically-charged English usage debates. Noting the link between politics and the English language, Wallace offered this incredibly cogent description of what he calls the “Democratic Spirit,” a strength of mind that is required for civilized debate on vexing issues:

A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a very difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a D.S.’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity — you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually.
This kind of stuff is advanced U.S. citizenship. A true Democratic Spirit is up there with religious faith and emotional maturity and all those other top-of-the-Maslow-Pyramid-type qualities people spend their whole lives working on. A Democratic Spirit’s constituent rigor and humility and honesty are in fact so hard to maintain on certain issues that it’s almost irresistibly tempting to fall in with some established dogmatic camp and to follow that camp’s line on the issue and to let your position harden within the camp and become inflexible and to believe that any other camp is either evil or insane and to spend all your time and energy trying to shout over them.

At this point in the presidential campaign, the Democratic Spirit is much harder to find, and I have to keep reminding myself to strive for it.

But damn, that David Sedaris is funny.

Nouriel Roubini

It’s time to start listening to Nouriel Roubini, economist at NYU.

For months, Roubini’s concerns about impending economic catastrophe went unheeded, and he was caricatured as ‘Dr. Doom.’ Now he’s known as Dr. I Told You So.

This is what he thinks we should do now.


Puck

Has been very busy blogging lately.

The Great Race

At the repeated request of a friend, we watched “The Great Race” this weekend.

Though I was already a fan of the late Jack Lemmon, I am now a super fan. His performance as the villainous daredevil Professor Fate will stick with me forever. (As will his simultaneous performance as the prodigal drunkard Prince Hapnick.)

Anyway, I must spread the word and encourage you watch this delightfully loony movie, which, by the way, includes a four minute pie-throwing scene.

“More brandy!”

Gotchaware™

The Columbia Journalism Review, in conjunction with the company Journosoft, has thrown Sarah Palin a life line. They’re offering Palin their newest product: Gotchaware™, a great tool for inexperienced pols who have been thrust into the national spotlight only to be hounded with questions (hard questions!) from the snooty news media.

Read more.

Buying a car?

Here is a handy tutorial on haggling your way to a lower price:

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/08/13/how-to-buy-a-new-car.html