Simon Johnson versus the Scumbags

In a pivotal scene from a recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Lord Petyr Baelish hints at his knowledge of a secret potentially fatal to the Queen Mother, Cersei Lannister, and smugly warns her that knowledge is power. Her response is to order one of her bodyguards to cut his throat.

With his attention newly focused by the razor-sharp dagger under his chin, she reminds him that power is power, and that he’d do well to remember it.

Both are right, of course, but in politics, context is everything. That’s why I find it refreshing to watch Simon Johnson, MIT professor and former Chief Economist at the IMF, go after the academic economists who not only shill for the financial industry, but wax indignant when anyone calls attention to their shenanigans.

Back in 2006, Brad DeLong rejoiced that the Left had escaped its destructive embrace of Marxism. Reading Johnson’s appeal six years later, one wonders if someday we’ll be able to rejoice that the neoliberal academy has escaped its destructive embrace of Capitalism. That day may be nearer now than it was back in 2006, but I’m not breaking out the champagne just yet.

Discomforting the South

From Ta-Nehisi Coates, this eloquent re-statement of fundamental American principles still being trampled on by a legion of racist Dixie apologists. It should be read aloud from every pulpit in the nation. Re-light Frederick Douglass’s torch — here’s someone more than worthy to carry it forward.

History is identity. When we erase the painful portions, we lose texture, color and we are reduced. Patriotism, in my eyes, has always been about the strength of seeing those rough spots, of considering your home at its worse, and remaining enthralled, nonetheless. That is how we love our daughters, our husbands, our mothers. That is how we make family.

I have come to a fairly recent regard for Lincoln. He rose from utter frontier poverty, through self-education and hard work, to the presidency and the upper reaches of American letters. His path was harsh. His wife was mentally ill. His son died in office. He was derided in newspapers as ugly, stupid, a gorilla and white trash. For his patience, endurance, temperance and industry in the face of so many troubles, Lincoln was awarded a shot to the head.

Now in some sectors of the country for which Lincoln died, patriotism means waving the flag of his murderer. The party he founded supports this odious flag-waving and now gives us a candidate who would stand before that same flag and peddle comfortable fictions. What hope is there when those who talk of patriotism brandish the talisman of bloody treason?

The matter falls to you. Don’t [be] conned. Don’t be a mark. Live uncomfortable.

Amen, brother Coates.