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Doctor_J Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 10:36 PM
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Frank Rich: No Time For Poetry

PRESIDENT Obama did not offer his patented poetry in his Inaugural Address. He did not add to his cache of quotations in Bartletts. He did not recreate J.F.K.s inaugural, or Lincolns second, or F.D.R.s first. The great orator was mainly at his best when taking shots at Bush and Cheney, who, in black hat and wheelchair, looked like the misbegotten spawn of the evil Mr. Potter in Its a Wonderful Life and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Such was the judgment of many Washington drama critics. But theres a reason that this speech was austere, not pretty. Form followed content. Obama wasnt just rebuking the outgoing administration. He was delicately but unmistakably calling out the rest of us who went along for the ride as America swerved into the dangerous place we find ourselves now.

Feckless as it was for Bush to ask Americans to go shopping after 9/11, we all too enthusiastically followed his lead, whether we were wealthy, working-class or in between. We spent a decade feasting on easy money, dont-pay-as-you-go consumerism and a metastasizing celebrity culture. We did so while a supposedly cost-free, off-the-books war, usually out of sight and out of mind, helped break the bank along with our nations spirit and reputation.

We cant keep blaming 43 for everything, especially now that we dont have him to kick around anymore. On Tuesday the new president pointedly widened his indictment beyond the sins of his predecessor. He spoke of those at the economic pinnacle who embraced greed and irresponsibility as well as the rest of us who collaborated in our collective failure to make hard choices. He branded as sub-American those who prefer leisure over work or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. And he wasnt just asking Paris Hilton to set aside childish things. As Linda Hirshman astutely pointed out on The New Republics Web site, even Obamas opening salutation My fellow citizens, not fellow Americans invoked the civic responsibilities weve misplaced en masse.
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DrZeeLit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 01:46 AM
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1. Frank Rich is my hero. Nails it again. Thank goodness for him or
I wouldn't have been able to make it through the last eight years.
Except for DU... of course.

I'm teaching a speech course this semester and my students are analyzing the Inuagural Address.
They don't have much background for criteria, but they were very thoughtful and thorough.
I plan to use Rich's analysis at the next class.

Thanks, Frank!
You rock... as always!
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underpants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 11:16 AM
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2. Can't highly recommend this enough "our deflated Gilded Age" "Subprime Pornography"
It was in keeping with the unhinged spirit of the boom that three days after Obamas Springfield declaration, a Wall Street baron, Steven Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, a private equity and hedge fund, celebrated his 60th birthday with some 350 guests in the vast Seventh Regiment Armory on Manhattans East Side. To appreciate the degree of ostentation and taste, you need only know that Rod Stewart was the headliner, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

That same week the National Association of Realtors told less well-heeled Americans not to fret about its report that median home prices had fallen in 73 metro areas during the final quarter of 2006. The bottom appears to have already occurred, said one of the N.A.R. economists. Another predicted: When we get the figures for this spring, I expect to see a discernible improvement in both sales and prices.

We have discerned what happened to those sales and prices ever since. As for the Blackstone Group, it went public four months after its leaders 60th birthday revels. Its shares have since lost 85 percent of their value, and Schwarzmans bash has become a well-worn symbol of our deflated Gilded Age.

Yet the values of the bubble remain entrenched even as Obama takes office. In the upper echelons, we can find fresh examples of greed and irresponsibility daily even without dipping into the growing pool of those money managers who spirited victims to Bernie Madoff.

Last weeks object lesson was John Thain, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch. He was lionized as a rare Wall Street savior as recently as September, when he helped seal the deal that sped his teetering firm into the safe embrace of Bank of America on the same weekend Lehman Brothers died. Since then weve learned that even as he was laying off Merrill employees by the thousands, he was lobbying (unsuccessfully) for a personal bonus as high as $30 million and spending $1.22 million of company cash on refurbishing his office, an instantly notorious $1,405 trashcan included.

Thain resigned on Thursday. Only then did we learn that he doled out billions in secret, last-minute bonuses to his staff last month, just before Bank of America took over and just before the government ponied up a second bailout to cover Merrills unexpected $15 billion fourth-quarter loss. So far American taxpayers have spent $45 billion on this mess, and thats only our down payment.

In less lofty precincts of the American economic spectrum, the numbers may be different but the ethos has often been similar. As Wall Street titans grabbed bonuses based on illusory, short-term paper profits, so regular Americans took on all kinds of debt wildly disproportionate to their assets and income. The nearly $1 trillion in unpaid credit-card balances is now on deck to be the next big crash.

This debt-ridden national binge of greed and irresponsibility washed over our culture not just through the Marie Antoinette antics of a Schwarzman and a Thain but in mass forms of conspicuous consumption and entertainment. Cable networks like Bravo, A&E, TLC and HGTV produced an avalanche of creepy programming catering to the decades housing bubble alone an orgiastic genre that might be called Subprime Pornography. Some of the series Flip This House, Flip That House, Sell This House, My House Is Worth What? still play on even as more and more house owners are being flipped into destitute homelessness.
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