Sine Qua Non Pundit

And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good -- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ------ ------ ------ ------ E-mail: charlesaustin@earthlink.net

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Friday, September 20, 2002
 

Coming Soon To a Theater of Operations Near You!



This message brought to you by the Iraq Tourism Board. Yes, it does exist.



Thursday, September 19, 2002
 

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. LII

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Well, that didn’t take along. One semi-reasonable column and Richard’s back to the hopeless illiberal we’ve known and loathed for so long now. Nothing new there, but self-doubt is starting to creep in to your humble Scourge. Richard offers up an eephus pitch today, but I’m afraid I might whiff at it. After all, how many times can I come up with something original and worth the five minutes you’ll devote to it when I have to start with material from the same fetid bucket of bits I’ve already been forced to reach into before? My audience is sophisticated and they have come to expect a certain level of philosophical whimsy, the odd rhetorical flourish, pop culture free word association, a wee bit o’ wit, a big bit o’ bite, and lots and lots o’ links. Unfortunately, all I have to offer are Dick jokes. But, my limited experience in comedy clubs leads me to believe that this will carry me a while longer.

Richard doesn’t much like the fact that Jack Welch earned the right to live in the lap of luxury. Maybe Richard is just a mean drunk. I don’t know what Richard’s been drinking, but the whine and poses, and occasional reference to fruit give me an idea. The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head in Richard’s column from Tuesday. Let’s see where Dick’s envy takes us as my virtual pen is dipped into the ethereal inkwell of the Internet to try and comprehend Richard’s sangreal hangover in Jack Welch And 'Class Envy':

Cleverly using a computerized database, I have delved into back issues of the Wall Street Journal, looking for the phrase "class envy."

Cleverly? Have you ever known anyone who wears his incompetence with technology so proudly? So Richard has mastered the first ten pages of Nexis for Dummies and can now execute a simple query – and regards that as clever. Sigh.

The Journal's writers use it occasionally, always pejoratively, sometimes with Wagnerian overtones of dire days ahead.

Kind of like Richard Cohen’s use of John Ashcroft. Ah, the Sturm und Drang of the Gotterdammerung. Where’s he going with this? Jack Welch as Parsifal? Nah…

Back in 1997, a Journal writer warned that the AFL-CIO's "new agenda" includes "class envy," while its current editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, wondered that same year if Bill Clinton wants a legacy "bigger than [Treasury Secretary] Bob Rubin's class envy."

Mr. Bill’s irresistible urge for a legacy has yet to encounter any immovable objects.

Somehow I doubt that Rubin, a multimillionaire, is afflicted with class envy.

Mr. Rubin’s affliction is more likely illiberal guilt, but who knows? On the other hand, there can be little doubt that despite Richard’s A-list dinner party invitations he still has this feeling of not being worthy and having to prove himself to the big boys.

But I admit that I am -- and I don't feel the least bit ashamed of it.

Well he bloody well ought to!

In fact, I think class envy is healthy, a corrective -- and that many of us are feeling it at the moment.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to spend the next three hours on a vivisection of all the underlying pathologies buried in that statement. Suffice it to write for now that the existence of such broad-based class envy is a figment of the imagination of Richard Cohen and Terry McAuliffe. Richard Cohen and the crowd he hangs out with must share many of the same inbred intellectual pathologies of Pauline Kael and her posse circa 1972.

It's not that we begrudge the lucky or the industrious their wealth.

Sure it is. Be honest about it. We already know that Richard Cohen buys into Dick Gephardt’s theory that success is more luck than skill and that gives the state the right to have confiscatory tax rates to satisfy their megalomaniacal plans to implement an illiberal utopia.

It's rather that -- to quote that great economist, my grandfather -- enough is enough.

Eek, it’s the poltergeist!

Clearly, Jack Welch, the former GE chairman, knows whereof I speak.

Oh? I don’t think clever Dick has earned the right to carry Jack’s jock when it comes to economics, business or money – much less to enlist Mr. Welch’s good name to forward his political struggle.

"The world has changed in the last year," he wrote in Monday's Journal.

Well, duh.

And so he has downsized his retirement package, which reportedly included a free apartment in New York, tickets to Knicks games and the U.S. Open, satellite TV at all four of his homes, newspapers in the morning and meals at night, flowers, laundry, toiletries, limo service, security and country club memberships.

Considering what Jack Welch did for GE’s stockholders, that seems like a pittance to me. How many people do you know that have created over $100,000,000,000 of value in their companies -- value that stuck and didn’t disappear in a speculative bust? Value evidenced by a P/E ratio of less than 20? Buying GE for my IRA 14 years ago was one of the best investment’s I ever made. But, of course, Richard doesn’t begrudge Jack any of the rewards for his industriousness, does he?

The details of the package were revealed by his (totally) estranged wife -- and, just for the record, Welch says she "grossly misrepresented" many aspects of his contract.

Perhaps. But was it really necessary to drag Jack’s divorce into it to make his point. Considering its Richard Cohen, I guess it probably was.

I recognize that Welch's perks amount to a trifle for GE -- and, anyway, they're not coming out of my pocket.

In some sense, a fraction of them are coming out of my pocket, but I don’t mind. But somehow, I’ll just bet that it really does bother Richard and we are about to find out why.

But they grate, they annoy, …

I knew it!

… they suggest -- and here comes true class envy – …

Yawn.

… that a kind of royal court was being established.

How dare anyone not named Kennedy do such a thing! Is that what’s bugging Richard? That a version of Camelot that didn’t involve massive government spending was created?

The cost to the stockholders was minimal; the cost to public confidence was much greater.

Jack Welch had to answer to his shareholders as the Chairman and CEO of GE. He shouldn’t have to answer to a fickle measure of public confidence, especially one poisoned with class envy by know-it-not-at-alls like Richard Cohen.

It's no surprise that GE announced yesterday that the Securities and Exchange Commission was informally looking into Welch's severance package.

This is a travesty. But anything to bring down an achiever, eh Dick?

The remarkable thing is that precisely at the time the Journal was on the lookout for class envy, there was not enough of it.

Wow! I think this is the first time I have ever heard anyone argue that what we really need is more class envy. Unbelievable! Time for the proletariat to man the barricades?

Instead, during the 1990s we were told to love the rich and almost never, never question them.

Of course, Richard Cohen has always wanted to eat the rich.

To be rich -- almost no matter how it happened -- was just plain peachy.

All fuzzy on the outside with a pit in the middle.

The Enron thieves did not take their money and run. They took their money and stayed, building palaces all over Houston and donating to local charities.

It takes some real chutzpah to mention Enron and Jack Welch in the same column to try and tar capitalism with the sins of those who distrust and abuse it.

Being rich meant never being ashamed.

Richard seems to believe that everyone should wear the hair shirt he chooses to wear.

Now, of course, there's been a reaction to the excesses.

And a reaction to non-excesses that happen to make good press fodder for wannabe class warriors and populists of all stripes.

Partly, that's because some of what has happened is just plain criminal -- or allegedly so.

Wouldn’t it be more responsible to label criminals as criminals and leave the vast majority of decent men and women that are the true captains of industry out of this discussion? Sorry, I forgot that we are talking about Richard Cohen.

But in part, people have just had enough -- and the politicians have heard them.

Actually, the people have heard the politicians – and the people have definitely had enough of Tom, Dick, and Terry’s class warfare.

The decision by the Bush administration to bring criminal charges against certain corporate thieves, to make them do the perp walk and to have the IRS concentrate on auditing the rich instead of you, brother, and me, is the sort of thing I'm talking about.

Just “certain corporate thieves”, eh Dick? And fortunately, the IRS has the manpower to perform these audits since they are no longer having to work off the list supplied by the Clinton White House.

"Get the SOBs," is the new cry.

Really? Anybody heard this? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

All of this is a form of class envy.

Prosecuting criminals is a form of class envy? Well, I guess it is if you assume there is a criminal class.

And -- sorry, Wall Street Journal -- we should have more of it, not less.

Ack! Thppt!

I do not mean European-style class envy, which can be senseless and destructive.

And when isn’t European-style class envy senseless and destructive?

I mean something totally American that can act as a brake on the whole Greed Is Good movement.

The whole Greed is Good Movement? All of it? Damn.

The excesses of capitalism -- a mere economic system, after all, and not something handed down at Sinai -- need to be reined in by public opprobrium.

Now he’s getting nasty. Capitalism is substantially more than a mere economic system. It is the only economic system predicated on the freedom of the individual. The fact that it doesn’t produce a utopian result is not a failure of capitalism, but something akin to a rational response to a natural law of the universe. Not everything important in this world was handed down from Sinai or lies hidden in Monsalvat. And I’m curious, what should rein in the unnatural excesses of illiberal utopian statism?

Even the Wall Street Journal would concede that's better than government regulation.

Uh, ok. Except that every Tom, Dick, and Terry want to use it as a rationale for … wait for it … more government regulation!

What's more, we do have classes in this country.

Actually, we don’t by and large. The whole point of class-based systems isn’t that you can draw some arbitrary lines and group people into classes at a point in time, but that once you are assumed to be in a class you cannot move out of it. By this definition, America is the most class free society the world has ever seen. Even Bill Clinton can be held up as powerful evidence of this.

We have an underclass, of course, but we have a moneyed class as well.

Sigh.

Fully 150 of Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans got their start by being born that way.

Is that all? So fully 62.5% of the 400 richest people in America were not born into this kind of wealth? That’s amazing, and argues very strongly against a “moneyed” class. How very un-European.

In a sense, they are not all that different from a whole class of CEOs who rode the economic boom to unprecedented wealth and demanded credit for being in the right place at the right time.

Lucky stiffs. That’s all it ever was. But, I don’t think they demanded credit so much as stock options, bonuses, corporate jets, free apartments in New York, tickets to Knicks games and the U.S. Open, satellite TV, newspapers in the morning and meals at night, flowers, laundry, toiletries, limo service, security and country club memberships.

Somehow, envy feels a lot like bitterness.

Bitterness or sour grapes?

The real plundering class is represented by the imperial CEO -- the creator of nothing except, in too many cases, a raging sense of entitlement.

Sounds more like Congress than captains of industry.

Jack Welch at least created wealth for plenty of others, and his retirement package, as he himself wrote, represented a different era.

Yes, the Clinton years.

But times have changed and, as Welch put it, "perception matters." After consulting some people, he changed his contract. "In the end, this decision may not satisfy everyone, but it sure feels right in my gut."

I’ve seen Jack speak about this and he’s a little more sanguine. He’s also quite savvy and knows how to play the PR game.

Mine, too.

And so, Richard’s true envy is at last revealed. It isn’t about class after all, but about the fact that someone has something he doesn’t, and he’d rather drag them down than raise himself up to satisfy his utopian ideal of equality of outcome. Then again, maybe it is all about class since Richard doesn’t have any.



 

Yes, The Dead Kittens Are Next

As Andrea noted below, it has started:

Gore Blames the Bushes for Florida's Election Briers

What could possibly be next?



Wednesday, September 18, 2002
 

A Scourge Anon

The ice cream cones aren't just smaller today, they are non-existant. Too much going on in the real world at the moment, so I beg your indulgence until I can make the time later this week to Scourge Richard as he deserves.



 

Is John McHugh's Brother a Fool?

In Secretary Rumsfeld's appearance before the House Armed Services Committee today, Representative John McHugh, R-N.Y. seems to be a little confused:

Rumsfeld did appear to have near universal support from the panel, including Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., who quoted his brother's favorite saying: "Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you."

Or is it John McHugh? This is sort of like saying regime change in Iraq is never better than late, isn't it?



 

Axis of EVIL

Tell me again why Kim Jong-il deserves some sort of credit for admitting to this instead of being shot on sight?

About a dozen people apparently snatched by North Korean agents as they went about their daily lives - walking home from school, enjoying romantic dates, leaving a restaurant. Now the shadowy stories have been invested with a chilling reality. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, in an historic meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, has apologised for the abductions and confirmed that eight Japanese abductees are dead. Among those who perished is the youngest on the list of missing - Megumi Yokota, who disappeared on her way home from badminton practice in 1977, aged 13.

But what is really amazing is that I haven't yet found a single reference in the blogosphere to this.



Monday, September 16, 2002
 

WTF?

Something very bizarre has just happened on MNF. Apparently, some "foreign substance" has been sprayed on everybody near the Eagles bench. Melissa Stark said that whatever it is, it is making her lungs burn. I sure hope it's nothing really bad, and they are apparently resuming play. But if is something bad, they don't seem to acting like they should. And FedEx Field would probably be the worst place in the country to have to get out of in a hurry.

OK, now they are saying it was pepper spray used by police to break up a fight in the stands.



 

Sic Transit Gloria Graeci

In other words, if there is no UN resolution, then they will not participate in the non-existant military non-offensive:

Greece said on Monday it would not participate in any military offensive against Iraq even if it had the backing of the UN Security Council. "We are totally opposed to any military conflict, and we will not participate even if there is a UN resolution," Greek Development Minister Akis Tshohatzopoulos said in a television interview. But he said Greece viewed a Security Council resolution as essential for any use of force against Iraq.

And these people invented Western civilization?



 

Shall I Be Plain?

I wish the bastard dead!

With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare.



 

That Explains All Those Stories About 10,000 Dead Babies in L.A.

LA Babies Get Lifetime's Toxic Air in 2 Weeks-Study:

A two-week-old baby in the Los Angeles area has already been exposed to more toxic air pollution than the U.S. government deems acceptable as a cancer risk over a lifetime, according to a report on Monday by an environmental campaign group.

I guess they missed my post on life expectancy in the US rising to a new high.



Sunday, September 15, 2002
 

Buffalo Chicken Hawks

These guys seem to fit the term chicken hawk better than anyone else. After all, they are clearly predators, preferring to kill defensless civilians, yet lacking the courage to put on a uniform and take on a worthy opponent who can fight back.





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