Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Star that is Called Wormwood

 From the Abbeville Institute Press:

I lived for many years in a place that I was not from: New York City, a neighborhood known for brownstone townhouses built as “country retreats” for Gilded Agers. Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed the Biltmore’s gardens, also authored a nearby municipal park.  There were a lot of hipsters and 1968-vintage leftists. One childless couple – he a professor of education, she a social worker – owned the townhouse next to mine. They scowled when I told them I “did something in the bond market.” The professor, who in the evenings sat on his stoop sipping a craft beer from the neighborhood’s burgeoning array of craft beer retailers (police were once called to break up a fight over the difference between “winter” and “autumn” brews) always greeted me with “How much money did you make today?” in an exaggerated Southern accent. I answered him politely and, before he could escape, bored him senseless with the technical details of my day: triparty repo with the New York Fed, setting the spread for newly issued corporate debt with Treasury notes, arranging an MBS hedge with synthetic 5/10-year notes after an increase in prepay speeds. Eventually he came to tolerate me. I fed their aged cats and watered the marijuana plants in the upstairs bathroom when they split for weeks or months at their “country place” in, you guessed it, Asheville.

These expeditions were undertaken in a small Volvo sedan papered liberally with bumperstickers: COEXIST; YES WE CAN; OMG GOP WTF; WELL BEHAVED WOMEN RARELY MAKE HISTORY. My favorite was NO TEA PLEASE, I BELIEVE IN PROGRESS. This, of course, referenced the “Tea Party” movement that arose to bleat against Obama’s massive budgets in the first year of his presidency. It was quickly co-opted by the Republican Party and as quickly disappeared.

The bumpersticker amused in that it implied “Progress” is the sole proprietorship of the Democratic Party. Nothing could be further from the truth. Progress was the locomotive of the original Republican Party, forced down the nation’s throat and elevated to the status of an unassailable credo by the Republicans.  It is implicit and more often than not explicit in the Jaffaite “propositional nation” twaddle that Republicans still desperately market despite its embarrassing failure out in the real world. The Democrats were late to the party, so to speak. Despite their former pretended concern for the urban proletariat, and current pretended concern for People of Color, the Democrats are as fanatical for Progress as the GOP. The only difference between the two is who gets robbed to pay for it.

So what is this Progress? Let us turn to Gold and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World, authored by Walter Russell Mead and published in 2007. Mead, born in South Carolina, educated at Groton and Yale, is the “Global View Columnist” for the Wall Street Journal, Ravenel B. Curry III Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship at Hudson Institute and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College in New York. Mr. Mead once served the Council on Foreign Relations as its Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy.

God and Gold explores the “meaning” of American power, Mead says. If you’re expecting a sober, mediation on the march of history and the fate of empires, look elsewhere. It’s certainly not a piece of historical investigation. It’s the sort of thing that might appear in a Davos or Bilderberg gift bag. Let’s imagine, instead, that fuming from getting hopelessly lost where Highway 19/23/240/28/74 splits into 240/74 and 19/23/28 on the right bank of the French Broad River,  you step into the Bhrarami Brewing Co., 101 South Lexington Avenue, Asheville, NC (“creative lead” Gary Sernack “started home brewing in San Francisco”; “founder/executive chef” Josh Dillard once slung the hash at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago “and believes in community, locality and our environment”) to curse Asheville and your miserable fate. At the bar, a merry Falstaffian character, bearded and chunky, cheeks ruddy from five or more $6.00 pints of Your Zeros Look Like Sevens (Berliner Weisse with watermelon, cucumber, Meyer lemon, juniper and sea salt), strikes up a conversation. Is he going to bitch about the Tourists? No, your new friend Walter R. Mead – “call me Walt,” let’s pretend — is going to unburden himself of Deep Profundities. (Read more.)


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