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David Brooks and the Sidney Awards

David Brooks is alternately interesting, thought-provoking, and punch in the face infuriating.

We reviewed his book The Road To Character here, published shortly before he divorced his wife and married his assistant? which kinda sums up the whole deal.  Believe we’ve read all his books, and most of his columns, so he’s doing his job of getting our attention.

Impression of Brooks was shaped in a new way when we read this book:

Bacevich reminds us of some of the brave, cavalier statements Brooks put out there in the runup to Iraq War Two

“Come on people, let’s get a grip!” says Brooks.

Bacevich’s son was killed in Iraq.

If you’re a columnist, you’re gonna be wrong a lot.  How should you deal with that?  Bacevich’s larger point is that we could all do a better job on behalf of the people we’re putting in harm’s way.

We do enjoy Brooks’ annual roundup of good essays, The Sidney Awards.

The oral testimony by Dr. Kevin Menes was a bit over my head in terms of technical, medical expertise, and Brooks’ summary sufficed for me.

Oral testimony is compelling, why isn’t more of it published?

Phil Christman’s essay On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality was interesting as well.

Christman touches on the Midwestern humor of Garrison Keillor and Letterman.  For our taste, writing about the Midwest gets stronger and more compelling the more humor it contains.  If you’re interested in a funny, personal, quirky take on the Midwest, might we recommend Andy Sturdevant’s book?

Full of drawings and peculiar observations, centered around Minneapolis.  We were put on to this one by the great and mysterious Raynor Ganan, an old Boyland discovery.  Raynor’s Internet presence has declined but one hopes his physical presence prospers.

Brooks includes Caitlin Flanagan’s article about a Penn State frat.  Caitlin Flanagan is a favorite of all of us at Helytimes.  All her writing is worth reading.  We thought this one of hers was a good one:

Next, Brooks has a Michael Lind essay about the rise of the managerial class, which was terrific.

In the American South, most populist politicians gave up or sold out. In some cases, like that of Texas governor and senator W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, a country music singer, they were simply folksy fronts for corporate and upper-class interests all along. The few populists who maintained some independence were those who could finance themselves, usually by corrupt means. Louisiana governor Huey Long could battle the ruling families and the powerful corporations because he skimmed money from state employee checks and kept it in a locked “deduct box.” In Texas, anti-Klan populist governor James “Pa” Ferguson, along with his wife Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who was elected governor after her husband was impeached on the slogan “Two Governors for the price of one,” sold pardons to the relatives of convicted criminals. As billionaires who could finance their own campaigns, Ross Perot and Donald Trump could claim, with some justification, to be free to run against the national establishment.

We took a class from Michael Lind at Harvard U., ground zero for managerial class thinking.  He was so cool!  One of the most profound, historically informed, balanced Big Picture thinkers out there.

(In this photo from Wikipedia he looks kinda like Steve Bannon’s better-behaved brother.)

But here’s a q: aren’t takes like this, taking on the managerial class, written by and for the managerial class, even if they’re attacking the managerial class, kind of a way of flattering the managerial class?

If David freakin’ Brooks is quoting approvingly an article about how guys like David Brooks are screwing everything up, where does that leave us?





(and now here we are writing about his take!)

Says Lind:

Neoliberalism plus, also called “inclusive capitalism,” is the preferred response of the transatlantic managerial class to the populist revolts in Europe and America. Essentially, neoliberalism plus is Reagan-Thatcher-Clinton-Blair neoliberalism with more subsidies to the “losers” of globalization. The disempowerment of non-elite citizens by the oligarchic capture of politics and the destruction of unions would not be altered. But the masses would be bribed into acquiescence by means of higher wage subsidies, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the United States, or perhaps a universal basic income providing every citizen a poverty wage.

Great!  Sounds good to me!  What is the next sentence?

While something like this will undoubtedly be tried in many Western countries, the economics do not work.

Dammit!  Elsewhere Lind is quite tough on The Economist’s worldview.

That is our roundup on the Sidney Awards, a subject that we predict will interest… Vali?  Maybe one or two other readers.

For those of you wondering, our series on the Book of Mark will continue in the New Year!

We’re developing a Very Interesting theory about who wrote Mark, and the bromance at the heart of the story.

“We’re working on a theory of the Gospel of Mark” is definitely something a not crazy person says on their website.

See you in 2018!