Tuesday, July 16, 2002


LI looked forward to some raw conservative outrage over yesterday's vote in the Senate. Aren't we talking about a vast increase in the regulatory apparatus? I mean, sure, it is sweetened with some fire-eating go straight to jail legislation, which is always pap to the right-wing palate. But if that kind of legislation is actually enforced, we are talking about jailing white boys in suits.

Okay, realistically, we know the swat team approach to fraud will die very quickly on the vine. At least Alan Reynolds in the National Review has the guts to defend the potential pool of defrauders:

"I'm all for suing the pants off anyone proven guilty of fraud, barring co-conspirators from serving as corporate officers or directors, and using prison sentences when appropriate (though victims can't squeeze much reimbursement out of jailbirds). It is the uncritical rush to "reform" accounting and to encourage runaway regulation that worries me. The curiously trendy idea that investors welcome unlimited regulatory "investigations" by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seems particularly hazardous."

That kind of cautionary note is the reason the National Review exists, for God's sake. But the NRO editor has gone pink, or at least into guerilla mode. Instead of condemning the sudden flight to Naderite solutions, Larry Kudlow ladles on the "good news" gravy -- how things are looking up out there, really, folks. The economy is fundamentally sound is the message. Whenever presidents use the word fundamental in the neighborhood of economy, you know that something bad is going on -- that's been the unfortunate Bush's message lately, and it has had the effect of creeping Wall Street out. Kudlow outlines his own golden vision, which is for moderate growth. He also includes a bizarre graf:

"For those who still hold to the longer-term view of personal finance, which is the key to successful investing, today's market averages look to be nearly 40% undervalued."

What this means is anybody's guess. Let's call it the Glassman fallacy -- endemic among a certain kind of gung ho rightwinger -- which holds that the risk of holding stocks -- what, after all, makes stocks a potentially more profitable instrument than bonds, but also a riskier one -- has magically vanished. Hence, no need to look to historic P/E levels.

Perhaps Kudlow is subject to this fallacy because he is, at core, just a mark, a confidence man's happy accident. In support of this line of speculation, read the end of his column. It is a mark's prayer for sure:

"For those of you who have faith, now's the time to rely on it. Faith defeats the forces of darkness. Faith brings on the forces of good. The stock market has survived tough runs before, and it will do so again."

What makes LI sad is the apparent capture of conservative organs of thought by the Republican party. The National Review used to be a pretty independent place. I remember when they had no trouble turning on Richard Nixon. But as the conservative ground troops took over the Republican party, the Republican party also took over the conservative ground troops. Hence the inability to rise to any position above the last one adumb dumb dumb brated by our current POTUS. I mean, really, we expect a little cold blooded defense of unregulated commercial activity from our most prominent right wing journal of opinion. And damn the electoral consequences.

Monday, July 15, 2002


The celebrity interview, the celebrity face, the celebrity breath, the celebrity hair, eyes, nails, teeth, spunk, navel, birthmark -- we drink it and drink it, to quote Todesfuge in a blasphemous context. But is there a point, some magical critical point, when the sheer idiocy of it becomes too much? When the magazine reader, that slackmouthed denizen of the grocery story line, spews it from his mouth? When the factoid isn't enough, when the best fed bodies lugubriously placed in expensive toy palaces, which they systematically and noisily destroy (we call this film, we call this the block-buster) no longer support the backstory? That possibility looms in this NYT article that anatomizes the non-event of Tom Cruise errected, cruise missile like, on four major magazine covers in the last couple of weeks. Time went for him, Premiere went for him, Esquire went for him, Entertainment Weekly went for him, and they discovered, like melancholy druggies, that the high wasn't high enough.

LI's favorite comment from this sampling of mediocre America is this one, from Premiere mag:

"It may have been the most egregious example of magazine overexposure I have seen," said Peter Herbst, the editor in chief of Premiere. "And I'm not sure it was good for Tom Cruise. He may have to redevelop some mystique."

Ah, Redeveloping mystique!!! And so the key to the law and the prophets falls from the mouths of babes and editors in chief. David Carr's article is a long ponder of the obvious, which pokes a bit at the economics of the magazine distribution biz --

"But moving magazines off a newsstand has become a Sisyphean task, even for a megastar. Because of an epic consolidation, only four major magazine wholesalers remain, and they have raised the pressure on publishers to make sure their magazines sell. Overall newsstand sales have dropped 20 percent in the last four years, according to Harrington Associates, a circulation consulting business, and better than half of all magazines, many anchored by glamorous faces, go unsold and end up as pulp."

End up? No, darling, pulp was pre-figured in the very brains and fingers of the syncophantic scribes, in the very cracks and crevasses of the barely animated action figures up which editors in chief have their busy little tongues; pulp, the pulverized essence of dead trees, hangs over the entire scene, as Nature itself looks on, appalled.

The problem for LI is to develop a language apocalyptic enough to describe the sickness unto death of this trivia, this continual eroding acid rain upon American civilization. Imagine the suicide note of a cockroach... Imagine the pornographic memoirs of a housefly.

Lawrence's Etruscans

  I re-read Women in Love a couple of years ago and thought, I’m out of patience with Lawrence. Then… Then, visiting my in-law in Montpellie...