The importance of humble beginnings

I couldn’t help but notice this in the article about the “Wail of the 1%” that John linked to yesterday:

Jake DeSantis, a 40-year-old commodities trader at AIG, was an unlikely face of Wall Street greed. Stocky and clean cut, with an abiding moral streak, he’d worked summers for a bricklayer in the shadow of shuttered steel mills outside Pittsburgh; he was valedictorian of his high-school class and attended college at MIT.

You see, it doesn’t matter if he’s spoiled and greedy now, because he laid bricks over the summer when he was a teen-ager? Don’t you elitists get this?

It’s striking how much we now see the idea that a working-class childhood justifies an adulthood of careerist whoring. Somerby’s been all over this for years, but I think the most blatant example I’ve ever seen is this bit from a chat with Howard Kurtz recently:

Reader: Much of the scalding tone many of your writers on these chats are subjected to from readers is based on this premise. We know that the Post, the Times, the networks are working to support the establishment at all cost. (In Broder’s famous and haughty dismissal of Bill Clinton “this is not his town”). But the problem is that you guys don’t like to portray yourselves as defenders of the establishment. You are the “little guy.” No you are not. Be honest with your audience.

Howard Kurtz: Talk about sweeping generalizations! Evan Thomas declares himself part of the establishment and suddenly every member of the major newspapers and networks are pillars of that establishment as well?
That would be news to Brian Williams, who was a volunteer fireman as a young man and washed out in his first job at a tiny Kansas station. And news to me, a guy who went to a state university. And news to Katie Couric, who started out on the University of Virginia’s student paper and washed out in her first national job, at CNN. And news to longtime Post editor Len Downie, who went to Ohio State University and started here as an intern. And also news to me, a kid from Brooklyn who never met a professional journalist until my junior year at a state university.
If you want to say these are big corporations, if you want to criticize what they do, be my guest. But let’s not assume that everyone in the business grew up in the bosom of the establishment.

An even more amazing example is George Bush’s claim (from a 2000 Nick Lemann piece that’s subscription only) that the biggest difference between him and Al Gore is that Bush went to San Jacinto Junior High.

How did this idea of humble, or humbler, beginnings become so important? It’s worth noting that it’s Randian as well — her heroes usually come from the working class, even if they spend their adult lives spitting on it.

Update. I know that the Horatio Alger stuff has always been really big in stories about business people, but when did it cross over into being so important for journalists and politicians? I mean, I get the idea of “hungry kid” makes good, but when did it become a marker of solid journalistic common sense. That’s what I really don’t get.






141 replies
  1. 1
    Comrade Dread says:

    It’s part of a popular myth in Americana. That the obscenely rich through sheer power of will, hard work, and the occasional lucky break managed to make it big, and so can you one day.

    So don’t vote for those Progressives who want to hamstring the filthy rich with taxes and regulations. They’re just jealous losers who aren’t as American as we are.

  2. 2
    DonBoy says:

    Stocky and clean cut, with an abiding moral streak

    Citation needed, asshole. Seriously, where did this come from?

  3. 3
    Michael says:

    cf. the late Saint Russert, working class regular Irish Catholic guy from Buffalo! Which made the perpetual MTP fluffathon more authentic, don’t ya know. Thanks for your role in fucking up my country, jackass.

  4. 4
    Cpl. Cam says:

    Left unsaid is how they would do anything to never go back to those humbler times.

  5. 5
    Brachiator says:

    It’s amazing how much the idea that a working-class childhood justifies an adulthood of careerist whoring.

    There’s room at the top they are telling you still
    But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
    If you want to be like the folks on the hill

    A working class hero is something to be
    A working class hero is something to be

    John Lennon

  6. 6
    Blue Raven says:

    The image of the hardscrabble farmer comes to mind. The romance of the pioneer movement. And the small details that get left out, like how Rose Wilder Lane’s posthumous editing of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writings made sure to eliminate any hint of the fact her mother’s family often made ends meet only thanks to Federal farmers’ aid payments (aka welfare).

  7. 7
    Stooleo says:

    Yep, moral certitude and sheer will power allowed these ragged dicks to conquer all adversity and rise to their rightful place in the world.

  8. 8
    Napoleon says:

    @Brachiator:

    A working class hero is something to be

    Staying with the theme of this blog to use song lyrics in the title, that is what this thread should have been called.

  9. 9
    Cpl. Cam says:

    @DonBoy: What that means in villager speak, as Bill Maher will tell you, is : He fucks his wife. Nothing more.

  10. 10
    CT Voter says:

    How did this idea of humble, or humbler, beginnings become so important?

    How did Howard Kurtz not get the original point, and manage to mangle it into a debate about one’s early career? You’re part of the establishment NOW Howie, even if you were born on Mars and attended Jupiter Junior High before emigrating to Earth.

  11. 11
    gorp says:

    Hey Tonto, watch me pull my phony, tough guy, man of the people, knows better than you image up by my manly, square jawed, steely eyed, real American boot straps!

  12. 12
    par4 says:

    Kurtz mentions all of his fellow ‘wash-outs’ but doesn’t put together how degraded the media is now that they have reached the zenith of their careers.

  13. 13
    JK says:

    Warning: Long-term reading of Howard Kurtz may cause vomiting and severe headaches.

    Cue the violin, before reading Kurtz’s response to the reader. Evan Thomas, Brian Williams, et al can go to hell. They are courtiers trying to pass themselves off as journalists.

    I can’t wait to hear the hard luck story of Peggy “keep walking” Noonan.

    Doug, since you mentioned Daily Howler’s Bob Somerby, I’m concerned about his mental health. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Madow are not close to my idea of great journalists, but Somerby’s non-stop, over the top, vicious, vitriolic, venomous attacks on them is disgusting. Somerby is not well and I think he needs some psychiatric help.

  14. 14
    cleek says:

    Kurtz’s whole reply is a strawman.

    But let’s not assume that everyone in the business grew up in the bosom of the establishment.

    the question wasn’t asking about your fucking origins, numbskull.

  15. 15
    Shawn in Showme says:

    I think it’s pretty telling that these guys have to go back in time 20 years or more to prove they are down with the masses. Let that be a lesson to all of us — it doesn’t matter if you’re a fat slob now, you’re a world class athlete for life because you used to play Little League.

  16. 16
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I delivered Grit newspaper as a child. I defy anyone to be more hard-working Americana than that.

  17. 17
    JayDenver says:

    Pillars of the establishment, 2d generation.

    Couric was born in Arlington, Virginia, the daughter of Elinor Tullie (née Hene), a homemaker and part-time writer, and John Martin Couric Jr., a public relations executive and news editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the United Press in Washington, D.C.

    I picked Couric at random. Res ipsa loquitur.

  18. 18
    DougJ says:

    Doug, since you mentioned Daily Howler’s Bob Somerby, I’m concerned about his mental health. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Madow are not close to my idea of great journalists, but Somerby’s non-stop, over the top, vicious, vitriolic, venomous attacks on them is disgusting. Somerby is not well and I think he needs some psychiatric help.

    I agree completely. I’ve been thinking the same exact thing for weeks.

    His attack on Ana-Marie Cox (who I don’t like either) was way, way, way over the top.

  19. 19
    mcc says:

    The Big Lie of America is a specific Horatio Alger plotline that everyone is supposed to be living, where everyone starts out in a sort of rugged Andrew Jackson like innocent-bliss poverty and through hard work and good manners rises to success and importance. This almost never actually happens, but it is important to try to rationalize everything as conforming to it anyway. Therefore, if a person is successful, it is because they started out under difficult circumstances and rose to the top via hard work and good manners and they deserve everything that happens to them. If a person is unsuccessful, it is because they did not work hard and/or have good manners and they deserve everything that happens to them. If you are unsuccessful this just means you’re not successful yet, so what you need to do is keep working hard and being polite and oppose higher taxes for the top 2% of earners because otherwise someday when you [somehow?] get rich and successful and buy the plumbing business you work for, they’ll be taking your money!

  20. 20
    Shawn in Showme says:

    I delivered Grit newspaper as a child. I defy anyone to be more hard-working Americana than that.

    Before or after you signed up for the Charles Atlas program? By the way, Chuck, I want my $30 back.

  21. 21
    Bill Teefy says:

    Reminds of the old saw, No one has more zeal than a convert.

    Just an observation. Many of the most disgusting and grasping of any establishment are those who are rising into that establishment as they try to gain separation from their past.

    Its like the Victorian novel where the rich industrialist slobbers after the Titled Class and adorns his life with the symbols of the aristocracy to a ridiculous level, all the while treating those of his origins as less than dirt.

  22. 22
    Olly McPherson says:

    I stopped reading Somerby a couple months ago, and I don’t regret it. The total absence of perspective was starting to become distressing.

  23. 23
    theturtlemoves says:

    I would propose that working hard in an early career would make people MORE inclined to defend the establishment once they are part of it. The game isn’t called “King of the half-way up the Hill” where you zealously defend your position somewhere around Camp 2…

  24. 24
    leo says:

    I think if you look a little more closely at the background of these people who supposedly pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, you’ll see they enjoyed all the perks of a middle class life.

    Unfortunately because that’s how they were brought up, they can’t really appreciate (or even identify) the gifts they were given. It was just part of the environment.

    I mean, you only notice the presence of oxygen when it’s no longer there.

  25. 25
    My Prius rolls on dubs says:

    It’s completely Randian because to come from the “working class” and become rich and part of the establishment gives you that badge to flash around which reads:

    I MADE IT THIS HIGH ON THE CAREER SCALE ON TALENT ALONE.

    Which is what every Randian/Conservative/Libertarian wants to believe most of all in the deepest depths of their little selfish hearts; that they are truly Winners/Special/Chosen Ones.

    And then be able to send their kids to private schools.

  26. 26
    Jackmormon says:

    Having gone to a state university confers lifelong protection against greed?

    That is a seriously East-Coast, aristocratic, and even old-fashioned assumption.

  27. 27
    JK says:

    @Brachiator: Great song reference. Your post reminded me of this incredibly underrated and underappreciated song

    Salt of the Earth / The Rolling Stones

    Lets drink to the hard working people
    Lets drink to the lowly of birth
    Raise your glass to the good and the evil
    Lets drink to the salt of the earth

    Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
    Spare a thought for his back breaking work
    Say a prayer for his wife and his children
    Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

    And when I search a faceless crowd
    A swirling mass of gray and
    Black and white
    They dont look real to me
    In fact, they look so strange

    Raise your glass to the hard working people
    Lets drink to the uncounted heads
    Lets think of the wavering millions
    Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

    Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
    His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
    And a parade of the gray suited grafters
    A choice of cancer or polio

    And when I look in the faceless crowd
    A swirling mass of grays and
    Black and white
    They dont look real to me
    Or dont they look so strange

    Lets drink to the hard working people
    Lets think of the lowly of birth
    Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
    Lets drink to the salt of the earth

    Lets drink to the hard working people
    Lets drink to the salt of the earth
    Lets drink to the two thousand million
    Lets think of the humble of birth

  28. 28
    cmorenc says:

    I genuinely admire people who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps from humble beginnings to achieve great professional and financial success. Except that his financial success was extremely modest by orders of magnitude compared to contemporary Wall Street Robber-baron standards, my father (who went to college and medical school on the post-WW2 GI Bill) fit that description, as did plenty of his classmates, colleagues, and the sort of friends he tended to seek out during his life. His financial “success” would aptly be labeled merely upper-middle class affluent compared to his dirt-poor depression-era upbringing.

    NONETHELESS a frequent characteristic I’ve seen more often than not in these “self-made” up-from-humble-beginnings sorts of folks is that many of them never quite get over their sense of material hunger that often crosses the line into avarice and a near-insatiable need to accumulate as many tangible symbols of success as possible (including huge bank and investment accounts). Another frequent characteristic is a deep-seated sense that they’re deserving winners in the Darwinian competition that is the natural, inevitable, and rightful order of the world. That’s why so many (though hardly all) of the most outwardly successful among them morph at some point politically into colossal right-wing assholes.

  29. 29
    Tax Analyst says:

    Just Some Fuckhead
    I delivered Grit newspaper as a child. I defy anyone to be more hard-working Americana than that.

    My first job was at age thirteen in a car wash.

    OK, OK, so my dad OWNED it, and I got to go in the air-conditioned office when things were slow. I got the same $1-an-hour everyone else started at (the Federal minimum wage in 1963), and it was still hard work.

    Call it a “tie”.

    I’ll go you two-out-of-three, though. After I left the family business I worked for a Termite Company – crawled under buildings and into attics toting buckets of carcenogenic, cancer-causing toxic chemicals.

    Boy, was that stupid.

  30. 30
    Janet Strange says:

    @mcc: Years ago a professor in a class I was taking said something like, “The way to get the lower classes to accept their lot in life is to convince them that it’s their own fault that they aren’t more (materially) successful.”

    Which made me think of a survey Ms. magazine did years ago about money. It was long. Near the beginning of the survey they asked why the average income of women was lower than that of men and overwhelmingly the women who replied picked one of the responses that had something to do with systemic discrimination against women.

    A couple of pages later, there was a series of questions that added up to “Why aren’t you making more money?” and the responses were overwhelmingly, “I don’t work hard enough, I’m not ambitious enough, etc.”

    So even people who can see that the game is rigged . . . blame themselves rather than the system for their own situation. Almost every American buys the Big Lie, even if they think they don’t.

  31. 31
    bvac says:

    “But I’m just a caveman!”

  32. 32
    SnarkIntern says:

    How did this idea of humble, or humbler, beginnings become so important?

    On the day that “Holier than thou” became a phrase?

    In the United States of Corporations, your grassrootiness is all about your humbliness. By pointing to their humbly fans, the Corporations can appear to be working for the Common Man.

    For the record, I myself was born in a log cabin.

  33. 33
    Tax Analyst says:

    JK
    @Brachiator: Great song reference. Your post reminded me of this incredibly underrated and underappreciated song
    Salt of the Earth / The Rolling Stones

    Love “Salt of the Earth”. Great song. Thanks, JK.

  34. 34
    Zach Pruckowski says:

    The journalists/commentators feel a need to convey empathy with their listeners/readers/viewers. They want to be able to say “regular people, like you and me”. They want to come across as representative of their audience and as empathetic with it. When they can’t get away with that (making hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars), they instead focus on “I can empathize because I’ve been middle class”. They then use this empathy to try to downplay the giant divide between DC and the rest of the country (and I live in the DMV area, so I see this divide first hand daily).

  35. 35
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Tax Analyst: First, I sold and delivered Grit newspaper before the age of 13. Secondly, Grit newspaper was targeted to Rural America and Rural America is All Kinds of Wholesome Goodliness and trumps everything. Thirdly, my dad ran a Sherwin Williams paint store which, if you will recall, used Red, White and Blue in the logo.

    Thanks for playing. Please see my lovely assistant about your consolation prize.

  36. 36
    David says:

    Two myths often used in American politics are the “poor working boy who made good” and the “latest in the long line of patriots”. Otherwise known this time around as Obama and McCain.

    It’s no surprise that the boy-made-good myth keeps popping up. Most of us like that story, approve of that story, want to be that story. It usually even has a flavor of truth to it.

    But it is interesting when people with silver spoons impairing their speech (e.g., Bush and any number of supposedly populist conservatives) suddenly become heroic, or multi-million dollar compensated traders become boy-made-good. Seems to me, there should be a reality check here somewhere, both about the humbleness of their origins and about how much a boy has to whore himself to make good.

    Seems to me that if you sell your soul to make good, you are no longer a boy-made-good, but a corporate whore. Especially if you work in a business that doesn’t produce anything of value (i.e., trading on Wall Street) or is flatly destructive of economic value (i.e., the banksters).

    Too bad that the real Gault is so good at getting on his knees and blowing corporate America.

  37. 37
    NobodySpecial says:

    You know what bugs me most about this? Most of the superrich that I hear about who actually made their money the hard way tend to live more down-to-earth than many. In the city where I live, the big Richie Rich was not known for sartorial impress or for really ostentatious living.

    His KIDS, now, that’s another story. And most of the nouveau riche or the ones who made it with bullshit scams like credit swaps and toxic assets never display that kind of salt.

  38. 38
    passerby says:

    @Brachiator:

    A working class hero is something to be
    A working class hero is something to be…

    – John Lennon

    “…but they’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.”

    which is why Randian heroes spit on their fellow working class folk: individualism and self-reliance vs sheepledom.

  39. 39
    schrodinger's cat says:

    It’s striking how much we now see the idea that a working-class childhood justifies an adulthood of careerist whoring

    .

    Don’t forget Tim Russert and his regular guy from Buffalo schtick.

  40. 40
    Laura W says:

    @Tax Analyst: Fuckhead’s lovely assistant quit earlier today (harassment something something), but I do have your consolation prize.

  41. 41
    HyperIon says:

    @Bill Teefy:

    Its like the Victorian novel where the rich industrialist slobbers after the Titled Class and adorns his life with the symbols of the aristocracy to a ridiculous level, all the while treating those of his origins as less than dirt.

    Little Dorrit is currently showing on PBS.
    her father wants to totally deny that he was EVER in the poorhouse.

  42. 42
    KRK says:

    @Blue Raven:

    What are you talking about? What federal programs were making aid payments to farmers in the 1870s and 1880s?

  43. 43

    These are people who still think of David Broder as the authentic voice of the heartland, because he grew up in the mid-west sixty years ago.

  44. 44
    Paul L. says:

    It’s striking how much we now see the idea that a working-class childhood justifies an adulthood of careerist whoring. … How did this idea of humble, or humbler, beginnings become so important?

    Maybe you can ask John “Tabloid lies that I cheated on my wife with Cancer” Edwards or Joe “I go regularly to Katie’s restaurant which turns out to have been closed for 20 years” Biden? That seems to be their favorite narrative.
    Or ask the people who claimed that Sarah Palin can not be Vice-President because she went to the University of Idaho.

    @JK:

    Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are not close to my idea of great journalists, but Somerby’s non-stop, over the top, vicious, vitriolic, venomous attacks on them is disgusting.

    Links please. Quit teasing.

  45. 45
    Church Lady says:

    It’s the infamous “up by your bootstraps” model. We tend to admire the successful that come from modest backgrounds much more than those that, while equally successful, stated out on a higher rung on the economic ladder. Remember Ann Richards one-liner about Bush – something along the lines of him starting out with a silver foot in his mouth. Ergo, those that start out from an advantaged background have it easier than those that don’t. It’s all part of the American psyche.

  46. 46
    passerby says:

    @David:

    Too bad that the real Gault is so good at getting on his knees and blowing corporate America

    I don’t understand why you would attribute this behavior to Galt. I thought it was his rage against cookie cutter architecture that drove him to take the ugly corporate buildings down with dynamite.

    Perhaps I’m not understanding your reference to “the real Galt”. (?)

  47. 47
    Zifnab says:

    @mcc:

    Therefore, if a person is successful, it is because they started out under difficult circumstances and rose to the top via hard work and good manners and they deserve everything that happens to them. If a person is unsuccessful, it is because they did not work hard and/or have good manners and they deserve everything that happens to them. If you are unsuccessful this just means you’re not successful yet, so what you need to do is keep working hard and being polite and oppose higher taxes for the top 2% of earners because otherwise someday when you [somehow?] get rich and successful and buy the plumbing business you work for, they’ll be taking your money!

    That basically nails it in my mind. The difference between a maker like Jake DeSantis and a taker like one of his less fortunate brick-laying coworkers is that the taker didn’t work as hard.

    Now, some might say that DeSantis isn’t entitled to his million dollar bonus any more than a brick layer who collapses the house he’s building is deserving of a pay raise, but those people are liberal elitists who just want to keep the hard working American down.

  48. 48
    Zifnab says:

    @Paul L.:

    That seems to be their favorite narrative.

    Remind me again what John Edward’s fidelity or Joe Biden’s dining habits have to do with their economic life story. Also, remind me again, which of these guys wrote a page long op-ed in the New York Times demanding a six figure bonus in compensation for work at their collapsing businesses.

  49. 49
    TenguPhule says:

    Or ask the people who claimed that Sarah Palin can not be Vice-President because she went to the University of Idaho.

    Actually, Paul L, the problem wih Palin was that she was a fucking vengeful moron with delusions of grandeur.

    But keep on throwing out those jackalopes, they’re an endangered species here after all.

  50. 50
    Church Lady says:

    And remember that Chris Matthews (he of the $5 million a year contract) is a “regular guy” and quite proud of his humble Philadelphis upbringing (if the way he drones on and on about it is any indication).

  51. 51
    Kris says:

    Gotta love white privilege.

  52. 52
    aimai says:

    KRK,
    I don’t know what Blue Raven is talking about specifically but, of course, the Ingalls’ famously took part in the giveway of indian land by “staking claims” to land and agreeing to plant it and maintain it a certain way in order to get ownership of it. That big land giveway was a huge government program, sponsored and paid for with the use of the military to drive the indians off the land in the first place. In addition, just going by the books themselves, Pa never really “makes it” on his own–and neither does Alamanzo. Both make ends meet by working for the railroads and other proto corporate interests.

    aimai

    And don’t get me started on the bizzaro world libertarian messages in The Long Winter.

  53. 53
    KRK says:

    @aimai:

    Yeah, I know about the homesteading and the side jobs in the Ingalls story, but that’s not what Blue Raven is talking about. BR seems to believe that something along the lines of current farm payment programs was in place in the mid-19th century, which is news to me. If it really existed, I’d like to know more.

  54. 54
    Brendan says:

    Read back over this thread and you’ll see that the majority of commentators identify money and wealth with moral turpitude and generally lesser moral status. Whether that’s true or not isn’t really the point; the idea, rightly or wrongly, is afoot among many people in this country. People who self-perceive themselves as falling into that class, or believe that they would be perceived by others as doing so, try to identify out of it as best they can- and citing some sort of working class connection is an obvious method. It’s essentially a self-defense mechanism, and as such, probably a sign that some element of the debate against modern malefactors of great wealth is being won.

  55. 55
    colleeniem says:

    Is it just me, or is the author of that original piece a little tone-deaf to profile the asshole that wrote the watb open letter to the NYT when Jakie wanted to keep his bonus to send it all to charity? Because even though he was a VP, he had NO IDEA about the problems in AIG?
    Yeah. He can keep his moral streak.

  56. 56
    JK says:

    @Paul L.:

    Go to http://www.dailyhowler.com/archives-2009.shtml

    April 17: I see myself in others, he says. Maddow and Olbermann won’t
    April 16: KO’s report may have been the dumbest thing we’ve ever seen on cable
    April 15: Maddow was emoting hard—and handing us rubes half a story
    April 14: They say Somalia is a failed state. Then too, there’s progressive cable
    April 4: This morning’s Post is sadly instructive–and Countdown gives us a treat
    April 3: We liberals can be happy at last—as a big net keeps dumbing us down
    April 2: Ohhh jeeez! We’d had our fill of this channel’s dishonesty maybe like ten years go
    April 1: You might not mind their mugging and clowning—if their reporting was good
    March 31: We’re going to discuss that “in depth,” the host said. That’s where the humor began
    March 30: A former sports guy—and a former Rhodes Scholar—continue to dumb liberals down

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Somerby has a stalker-like obsession with Olbermann and Maddow.

  57. 57
    Nylund says:

    What is with this idea that going to a “state” school makes you instantly, and forever a hard working honest blue collar American, perpetually at odds with “the establishment?”

    In my given field, the article-cited Ohio State is actually very well-respected. One of the best. University of Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are also very well-respected in my field, to say nothing of those “state” schools, UCLA and Berkeley.

    Does anyone really buy the notion that 4 years at UCLA makes you a permanent member of the “little guy” class? Someone who could never possibly ever be considered part of the powers that be?

    And even if you did grow up poor and had no advantages, I think a few decades as a millionaire will override that past.

    And Jesus, am I supposed to feel pity for people who landed jobs or internships right out of college at CNN or the New York Times? How did those people ever overcome such set backs? Truly Slumdog Millionaires, every last one of them.

  58. 58
    Paul L. says:

    @Zifnab:

    Remind me again what John Edward’s fidelity or Joe Biden’s dining habits have to do with their economic life story.

    Both have hyped/promoted their “working class” background during their campaigns.
    Joe Biden mentioned the Restaurant to show his connection to the common man.

    “Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie’s Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years.”

    Church Lady don’t forget Mike Barnicle.

  59. 59
    TenguPhule says:

    And Jesus, am I supposed to feel pity for people who landed jobs or internships right out of college at CNN or the New York Times?

    Yes, SATSQ.

    They left their souls on the floor and their morals at the door.

  60. 60
    TenguPhule says:

    Both have hyped/promoted their “working class” background during their campaigns

    And has nothing to do with Edward’s fidelity or lack there of.

    Now if he’d been buying $10,000 an hour hookers….

  61. 61
    anonevent says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: I would say something about my dad and me mowing yards so that we would have food that evening, but that just means I was poor, not hard working. It wouldn’t count in their books.

  62. 62
    Brachiator says:

    @HyperIon:

    Little Dorrit is currently showing on PBS.
    her father wants to totally deny that he was EVER in the poorhouse.

    Little Dorrit should be required viewing. Even though a number of episodes have already run, you can easily pick up the thread of the plot and get involved in the narrative.

    Among the standouts of the uniformly excellent cast, Andy (Gollum) is surprisingly effective as “the murderous, but sexy French rogue” Rigaud.

    And everyone should keep his or her eye on a certain Mr. Merdle, banker extraordinaire.

  63. 63
    srv says:

    @passerby: That would be Howard Roark, the Fountainhead. Not Galt of Atlas Shrugged.

  64. 64
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    If the media wasn’t largely a bunch of insular, out of touch douchebags who’ve grown giddy from inhaling each other’s farts then Howie wouldn’t have to go to such laughable lengths to deny it.

  65. 65
    JK says:

    If you want to see the clearest demonstration that the Washington Press Corps are royalty who are totally out of touch with their readers and viewers tune into C-SPAN when they broadcast the White House Correspondents Dinner or Radio and TV Broadcasters Dinner. Prior to the dinners, C-SPAN airs the arrival of the guests and it’s just like the red carpet walk of stars at the Oscars.

    I don’t care about the hard scrabble backstory for any member of the Washington Press Corps. These people are scum who have sold their souls for access. Call them stenographers, lapdogs, or courtiers, but Jesus Christ, don’t ever call them journalists.

  66. 66
    Zifnab says:

    @Paul L.:

    Both have hyped/promoted their “working class” background during their campaigns.

    And that entitled them to massive corporate bonuses how now?

  67. 67
    JayDenver says:

    Four Yorkshiremen

    This thread got me to thinking about one of my favorite Monty Python skits.

  68. 68
    Paul L. says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Now if he’d been buying $10,000 an hour hookers….

    How about hiring his mistress Rielle Hunter to video his campaign or having his top donors paying for her expenses.

  69. 69
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    How about hiring his mistress Rielle Hunter to video his campaign or having his top donors paying for her expenses.

    I’ve lost track. Did that cost more or less than Republican donors paid for the Wasilla Snowbillys’ shopping sprees?

  70. 70
    cleek says:

    speaking of Paul L., i’ve upgraded the pie filters so that they can pull new pie comments from my server, on-the-fly (BJAX, bitches!). this means you get new delicious pie filling automatically – in case you were getting bored with the same old flavors.

  71. 71
    eemom says:

    I only recently started reading Somerby, but I think you are on to something. Right on about the weird obsession with Olbermann and Maddow, and also there is a kind of manic repetitiveness to his posts.

    Does someone know a way to help the man?

  72. 72
    anonevent says:

    @Paul L.:
    I know you want to avoid any discussion of this, but the difference between Edwards and Gingrich is that Edwards used his background to continue to fight for the working class, while Gingrich used his background to destroy virtually everything built to promote the working class. (Ha, they both cheated on their cancer stricken wives.) The point of the article was not that poor people are saints, or that you automatically become evil because you became rich, but that growing up poor doesn’t bestow on you a free pass to fuck other people over.

  73. 73
    Bill Teefy says:

    @HyperIon: Yep. For whatever reason I have been digging that period lately. History of the Poor Law and the Union Workhouse. Read Michael Armstrong, Factory Boy last month and re-read A Christmas Carol last night.
    Everytime I read/hear one of their talking points I feel myself wanting to reply by quoting Dickens. I think he wrote all of their material. and most of mine.
    It is almost frightening to see the rationalizations of that period regurgitated by the wingnuttia today. Cue the comment that America DOES not require children to work a 15 hour workday, etc. Which of course is due to the progressive push of people like Dickens as opposed to Market Forces.
    Interesting note in the forward in my version of A Christmas Carol, was that Dickens Father was in debtors prison and as a 13 year old he had to work in a Blacking factory pasting labels on bottles of Blacking (dye) to help get his family out of debt. Not quite like delivering the Grist…and he is not American, so we shall leave the crown on Just Some Fuckhead’s worthy brow. Note: As a kid, I covered on a paper route for a friend just one week. That is a job that I would not wish on anyone.

  74. 74
    cleek says:

    also there is a kind of manic repetitiveness to his posts.

    has he given up bitching about the 2000 election yet ?

  75. 75
    TenguPhule says:

    @JSF

    I delivered Grit newspaper as a child. I defy anyone to be more hard-working Americana than that.

    I had to eat instant grits once as a child.

    A horrible, horrible experience.

  76. 76
    Tonal Crow says:

    “The importance of humble beginnings” is a rhetorical device used to deceive the peasants into believing that they eventually will be rich, but only if they refrain from taxing the existing rich.

  77. 77
    skippy says:

    i delivered grit newspaper as a child. i defy anyone to be more hard-working americana than that.

    before or after you signed up for the charles atlas program? by the way, chuck, i want my $30 back.

    well i bought the xray specs and sea monkeys. that was hard work. and look where i am today.

  78. 78
    Paul L. says:

    I’ve lost track. Did that cost more or less than Republican donors paid for the Wasilla Snowbillys’ shopping sprees?

    Maybe more:
    Edwards Mistress’ Hush Money: $15,000/Month
    Definitively less than Obama’s Coronation Inauguration.

  79. 79
    passerby says:

    @srv:

    Oops. Epic lapse. Thanks for straightening me out.

  80. 80
    jeffreyw says:

    Translation: Hey! I shit my diapers as a child, just like you…(you low bred scum).

  81. 81
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @TenguPhule: Are you serious? Grits are awesome, especially with fried eggs. Give ’em another try. You can trust Hard Working Americana Fuckhead.

  82. 82
    gwangung says:

    @Paul L.:

    Which, in turn, was less than Bush’s bash, with inflation figured in.

    You’re a bald-faced liar, Paul, and it’s a sucker’s bet you’ve never worked with or for the poor or any group that helps them, you greedy, selfish bastard.

  83. 83
    kay says:

    I don’t think people in finance are going to have to worry so much about taxes when this all shakes out.
    No one will trust them to handle their money, so they won’t have any income.

  84. 84
    Nellcote says:

    Kurtz’s disdain for state universities is pretty elitist.

  85. 85
    Tax Analyst says:

    Laura W
    @Tax Analyst: Fuckhead’s lovely assistant quit earlier today (harassment something something), but I do have your consolation prize.

    Well, I’ve found, through personal experience, mind you, that if you are a Fuckhead you will surely lose lovely personal assistants…it’s not a matter of “if”, but only “when. However, I am quite certain you are assuming a far too modest role here, Laura W.

    Be that as it may, I graciously accept the consolation prize, although since I am at work and we have a “no streaming during biz hours” rule, I can’t actually appreciate it’s full wonderfulness at present moment.

    I’m still not sure Fuckhead didn’t pull a GW Bush on me, though, I once vacuumed 1/2 the interior floors of over a 1,000 on a single Saturday lo those many years ago. I don’t see delivering some local newsrag to rural hicks as being any more hard-working/character-building than that, Harrummppphhh. It certainly seems more pointless in retrospect (the vacuuming). I sure wouldn’t want to have to do that again any time soon. I guess the point was that I ought to make sure and get a good education so I wouldn’t have to make my living doing stuff like that. The point didn’t really take, but things worked out OK eventually, with emphasis on the “eventually” part.

  86. 86
    kay says:

    People in finance misunderstand me. I don’t doubt that they made this money. I understand it traveled, legally, from point A to point B. I’m not even “envious” and I certainly don’t want their children to have to attend public schools.
    What I don’t understand is why anyone paid them millions of dollars to destroy their own industry.
    From what I’m reading, finance people wildly over-valued, um, people in finance.
    Maybe they’re a little insular. They might need to get out and about more. Look at some other salaries, talk to some non-finance workers. Just take a stroll every once in a while. It couldn’t hurt.

  87. 87
    Zifnab says:

    @Paul L.: Paul. You still haven’t answered my question. At what point did Edwards or Biden demand six figure bonuses from their government subsidized failed businesses?

    Seriously, this is very important and I need you to clarify it. At what point did the Edwards / Biden campaigns declare that tax money should go to afford them $750k above their standard pay checks because of the hard work they’ve done?

    This is the crux of the issue. Jake DeSantis insists he worked hard to get his million dollar job and deserves a cash reward. How is this comparable to Biden or Edwards in their campaign stump speeches for elected office? Is DeSantis’s job an elected office? Are government salaries too low? Please explain.

  88. 88
    Mike S says:

    I guess that means that Joe the not Plumber is going to be king of the world. It doesn’t get more humble than being an unemployed liar.

    BTW, I only noticed today that Tommy McGuire has a banner at the top of his blog saying “We’re all Georgians Joe the Plumber Now.” At least he’s honest about being a lying dipshit.

  89. 89
    Tax Analyst says:

    TenguPhule
    I had to eat instant grits once as a child.
    A horrible, horrible experience.

    Instant Grits as a child. YOW! If I had but attained the crowne I woulde gifte it to thee.

    But you’ll have to wrest it from that fuckhead Fuckhead instead.

    Is there enough sugar in the whole world to make I.Grits palatable?

  90. 90
    Mike S says:

    Jeebus. Why does it show the strikes in preview but not on the post?

  91. 91
    Nicole says:

    And just to clarify the Randian world view- while a few of her male heroes started out poor, her heroines certainly didn’t. Dagny (AS) was VP of a railroad her grandfather founded and Dominique (Fhead) was the daughter of a rich architect and had no skills other than looking great naked.

    (Actually, now that I think about it, only one of her heroes was a poor guy who ended up obscenely rich. And the heroine dumps him.)

  92. 92
    Tax Analyst says:

    Skippy says:
    well i bought the xray specs and sea monkeys. that was hard work. and look where i am today.

    What, no “Uncle Milty’s Ant Farm”? Just what sort of Americun are you, anyway?

  93. 93
    Brachiator says:

    @Church Lady:

    those that start out from an advantaged background have it easier than those that don’t.

    Well, yeah. It does kinda work that way.

    Its like the Victorian novel where the rich industrialist slobbers after the Titled Class and adorns his life with the symbols of the aristocracy to a ridiculous level, all the while treating those of his origins as less than dirt.

    More lyrics!

    Well now we’re respected in society
    We don’t worry about the things that we used to be
    We’re talking heroin with the president
    Well it’s a problem, sir, but it can’t be bent
    Uh yes!

    Respectable, The Rolling Stones

    It’s worth noting that it’s Randian as well—her heroes usually come from the working class, even if they spend their adult lives spitting on it.

    By the way, to be fair to Rand, her heroes were natural aristocrats whose talents and individualism elevated them from the herd. And the herd is not defined by its income, but by its need to conform.

  94. 94
    DJS says:

    Hitler and Stalin came from humble roots as well. They should be lionized according to the Kurtzians.

  95. 95
    DJS says:

    Hitler and Stalin came from humble roots as well. They should be lionized according to the Kurtzians. Yeah, they killed millions and displaced millions more, but it’s ok, because they didn’t come from the elite, and they MADE IT, dammit!

  96. 96
    geg6 says:

    @Paul L.:

    I don’t know why I’m doing this because I was never even a John Edwards fan. Nevertheless…

    Rielle Hunter was allegedly paid that money by ONE DONOR to Edwards. Not the DNC, not anyone else.

    And she had a child who, I believe, has been identified as Edwards’ (I may be wrong about that). So the payments were for the care and nurturing of a child.

    Not for diapers for sex games or for prostitutes or for methhead blowjobs.

    Pretty big difference there, dude.

    As I said, I was never an Edwards fan and I really detest what he did to a very ill wife. But how he has lived his life, for the most part, is about a million times more admirable than almost any Republican currently on the scene.

  97. 97
    Hugh Jass says:

    I feel the need to defend Bob Somerby. I agree that his writing often is repetitive. I also agree that he gets obsessed with issues. But to be fair, if he’s losing his mind it’s only because he’s been speaking obvious important truths for nearly 10 years and has seen those truths almost completely ignored in the “MSM” (or elsewhere, for that matter). I think that could cause someone to get a little off-kilter.

    But I don’t think that his Olbermann/Maddow/Cox posts are evidence of any insanity. He’s just calling-out these liberals for the same BS (with a different spin) that the Fox crowd has been throwing for over a decade. I see little difference between Olbermann and Hannity, except for their ideological viewpoints. I can’t trust anything either one says, because both are too connected to their “team” to give me a straight story. Therefore, it’s more and more difficult to justify spending time watching or listening to either one.

    To be honest, I see a lot of that in the comments in this blog, and elsewhere in the liberal blogosphere. (I also see it in the conservative blogosphere.) Facts matter. Nuance and context are important. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend that certain people (with “R” or “D” next to their names) are inherently wrong, evil, stupid, etc. That’s what Limbaugh and Hannity do, and that’s what Olbermann and Maddow appear to be doing.

    The whole teabagging thing is a good example. Whatever you think of the people who organized it (I think that they are hypocrites without any credibility who are more interested in being anti-Obama than anti-tax), the public should be concerned about what’s going on and how much money we’re spending. These things matter, and making fun of protesters is simply avoiding the issue.

    Somerby’s point is that when the media and government engage in the “shirts vs. skins” game that they increasingly like to play, the public loses because it gets distracted by unimportant things.

    The recent scandal involving Jane Harman shows to me that the Democrats aren’t “the good guys” any more than the Republicans are “the bad guys.” Rather, they’re like the WWE, play-acting roles for the public while, behind closed doors, they negotiate the important decisions that get overshadowed by the media’s obsession with bullshit.

  98. 98
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Update. I know that the Horatio Alger stuff has always been really big in stories about business people, but when did it cross over into being so important for journalists and politicians? I mean, I get the idea of “hungry kid” makes good, but when did it become a marker of solid journalistic common sense. That’s what I really don’t get.

    Maybe when “journalists” began pulling down six and seven figure salaries?

  99. 99
    JK says:

    @cleek: Somerby actually has not stopped bitching about the 2000 election. Whenever he discusses any member of the Washington Press Corps, he always includes a quote or reference to that reporter criticizing Clinton or Gore. I agree with his point that their criticisms of Clinton and Gore were often unfiar or inaccurate, but at some point you have to let it go already. I hope Somerby gets the mental care he clearly needs.

    OT, I just visited your blog. You must be the first person in the blogosphere to ever mention Barry Manilow and King Crimson in the same sentence. Crimson’s debut album is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard and “I Talk to The Wind” is probably one of the most underrated rock songs of all-time. Glad to find someone else who appreciates a band that never received the recognition they deserved.

  100. 100
    KG says:

    I think Comrade Dead hit it on the first comment. Our history is chock full of guys coming out of nowhere to be something important. Hamilton, Franklin, Lincoln, Reagan, Obama, and about a million others. Take your pick, the story arc is always the same: humble beginnings; hard work/perseverance; big ambition; lucky break or two…

    That part of our mythos is probably a good thing. But the bastardization of it, like we’re seeing here, is a horse of a different color. The idea that just because you once did something menial means that you are not part of the establishment is just stupid. You may not have been born into the establishment (like a Hilton or a Kennedy would be).

  101. 101
    cleek says:

    You must be the first person in the blogosphere to ever mention Barry Manilow and King Crimson in the same sentence.

    you might be right. i’m the first non-junk Google hit for “Barry Manilow” “King Crimson” . i think i’ll put that on my gravestone. :)

  102. 102
    schrodinger's cat says:

    The importance of humble beginnings

    but is it more important than being earnest?

  103. 103
    GregB Formerly GSD says:

    My 40 year old pet sea-monkey attacked a neighbor after a night of hot tubbing and wine drinking.

    The Coast Guard had to shoot it with a harpoon.

    I’m still very traumatized.

    -G

  104. 104
    Sad_Dem says:

    Songs? How about:

    I still get angry
    I still get sad
    And the losers still drive me mad
    And I wonder
    If I have anything to say anymore
    Oh yeah I wonder if i have anything to say
    Except the masses are asses
    They’re all asses
    Things still piss me off
    And things still make me cry
    Poetry’s in motion but not in mind
    Poetry’s in motion but not in my mind
    Poetic justice will come in time
    And I just have to laugh
    I just have to laugh
    Because the masses are asses
    We’re all asses
    Masses are asses every day
    Masses are asses in every way
    Woo woo

  105. 105
    JK says:

    @Hugh Jass: Obsessed is putting it mildly. Sure, he has some valid criticisms. I don’t appreciate the clowning that Olbermann and Maddow all too frequently indulge in.

    After reading his100th blog post assailing their lack of professionalism, I get the fricking point already. He’s just flogging a dead horse.

    I’d have more respect for him if once a while, he wrote some posts in praise of a blogger, journalist, magazine, webcast, etc doing good quality journalism from a liberal or progressive perspective who merits my attention. I’d like to see him cite someone some of his readers had not heard of, shine a spotlight on him or her, and say hey folks take a look at this. Instead, Somerby rather spend his time throwing rocks at the same targets day after day and yelling he sucks, she sucks, he sucks, she sucks…

  106. 106
    tripletee (formerly tBone) says:

    speaking of Paul L., i’ve upgraded the pie filters so that they can pull new pie comments from my server, on-the-fly (BJAX, bitches!). this means you get new delicious pie filling automatically – in case you were getting bored with the same old flavors.

    cleek wins the Intertrons, again.

    To JSF: Grit magazine? Real Americans read “Boy’s Life” in their youth, you elitist poseur.

  107. 107
    MR Bill says:

    I think it odd that conservative commentators use Horatio Alger, confirmed bachelor and pederast, as an example of anything: see
    http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/29266/?page=1
    His novels, all have the same plot mostly, and Larry Beinhart gets it:
    “They feature a boy just at, or on the verge of, puberty, from the country or the slums. He comes to the center of the big city. He does work, but he doesn’t work astonishingly hard, certainly not as compared to the majority of other working children in the days of legal child labor. He doesn’t start his own business or invent a better mousetrap or find the Northwest Passage.

    What really happens is he meets a rich older man who takes quite a fancy to him and sets him up with money and educates him and teaches him how to dress and conduct himself. There is, indeed, a “meet cute” in which the boy does something that draws that nice rich man’s attention. It’s usually something heroic, like stopping a team of galloping horses that’s dragging a coach that is carrying the rich man’s daughter.

    This action is referred to in the books themselves and by people like those at the Horatio Alger Society as a sign of character. It is also a chance for the older man to notice how this boy stands out from the other boys. He has that forthright, noble-boy quality. Which is very, very attractive. Eager, earnest, shining. It’s what draws priests to alter boys. In addition to the convenience, of course.

    I do not understand how an adult can read Alger’s stories and not realize that these were homosexual pedophile fantasies. Actually, it’s a single fantasy repeated over and over again.”

    And Little Dorrit is great. Dickens would see someone like Mr. Madoff as like his Mr. Merdle, and with a name that is almost as revealing. In Hard Times, the canting businessman Mr. Bounderby brags about how awful his early life was, how he was abandoned by his mother. In the end, we are shown that Bounderby’s mother was quite respectable and raised him in a decent middle class school. His comeuppance is one of the great Dickens comic scenes..
    And I grew up on a dairy farm so I don’t want to hear it.

  108. 108
    JasonF says:

    My favorite “Average Joe” song is “Worker’s Song” by Dropkick Murphys

    Yeh, this one’s for the workers who toil night and day
    By hand and by brain to earn your pay
    Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
    Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

    In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
    We’ve often been told to keep up with the times
    For our skills are not needed, they’ve streamlined the job
    And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

    [Chorus:]
    We’re the first ones to starve, we’re the first ones to die
    The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
    And we’re always the last when the cream is shared out
    For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about

    And when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
    Who’s given a gun and then pushed to the fore
    And expected to die for the land of our birth
    Though we’ve never owned one lousy handful of earth?

    [Chorus x3]

    All of these things the worker has done
    From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
    We’ve been yoked to the plough since time first began
    And always expected to carry the can

  109. 109
    JayDenver says:

    It’s what draws priests to alter boys.

    That’s one way of putting it.

  110. 110
    CT says:

    Somersby gets some props in my book for pointing out that the left media has its share of personality-driven infotainment, especially as regards Olbermann, IMO. The repetitive, cutsey segments (Worst Person, Bushed, etc.) have made the show unwatchable-do we need daily updates on Bill O’Reilly? Rachel’s Talk Me Down segment turned me off during the campaign-“OMG, this one cherry picked poll shows Obama only leading McCain in PA by 6, at this rate, McCain will win by 20 points!” She certainly smart enough to know better, but she did it anyway to pump fake drama into things, just like all the other hacks we like to mock.

    That said, neither are anywhere near Hannity territory. He invited every wackjob he could find to hammer the sleaziest accusations about Obama the whole election season, over and over. He is ONLY about demonizing Democrats by any means necessary. Olbermann and Maddow are certainly partisan, and can be hacky, but they still hew much more closely to the facts, and are willing to take on Dems at times-Olbermann has been very pointed in his criticism of Obama on torture prosecutions, and Maddow has been all over the Geithner plan. Hannity, et al over at Fox wouldn’t dream of speaking so boldly against a Republican.

    IMO, what makes Somersby so tiresome is that he has one point of view-the media are all twits, all the time, so that’s all you hear about from him-minor disagreements about how Rachel Maddow phrased a question become an indictment of her as a complete hack.

  111. 111
    gopher2b says:

    Way to selectively leave out the rest of the paragraph:

    Compared with the way many of his Wall Street brethren lived, with their Gulfstreams, Hamptons mansions, and fleets of luxury cars, his life wasn’t one to invite scorn. He had canvassed for Obama in Scranton on Election Day and drove a Prius. His division at AIG was profitable. And since joining the company in 1998, he had never traded a single credit-default swap.

    There are some serious haters on this blog.

  112. 112
    Brachiator says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    but is it more important than being earnest?

    Oh, what the Hell. The obvious Tom Swifty…

    “Necrophilia might be fun,” he said in dead earnest.

  113. 113
    MR Bill says:

    From Wikipedia:

    n December 1864, Alger took a position as minister of the First Parish Unitarian Church of Brewster on Cape Cod. At the start of 1866 he abruptly resigned, left town, and retired to South Natick, where his father was then the pastor. Church records uncovered after Alger’s death indicate that stories had begun to circulate concerning his conduct with two teenage boys in the parish. These were investigated and proved to be true.

    In letters now housed at the Harvard Divinity School, Brewster church officials wrote to the hierarchy in Boston, complaining “that Horatio Alger, Jr. has been practicing on [the boys of the church] at different times deeds that are too revolting to relate.” Later, they are related: “gross immorality, and a most heinous crime, a crime of no less magnitude than the abominable and revolting crime of unnatural familiarity with boys. . . . which he neither denied or attempted to extenuate but received it with apparent calmness of an old offender—and hastily left town on the very next train for parts unknown.”[1] In response to complaints by the church, Alger Sr. wrote Charles Lowe, the American Unitarian Association (AUA) general secretary, stating that his son would resign from the ministry and not seek another church. All parties involved agreed to keep matters quiet – the parents of the boys reluctantly.,,,

    Alger would go on to start his literary career after moving to New York, having his first success with Ragged Dick. By all accounts, he was very interested in poor working youths..

  114. 114
    The Moar You Know says:

    If I’d ever “made it big”, I would be an insufferable prick. Anyone would. That’s how people are.

    These reporters have all “made it big”, ergo…

  115. 115
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    Alger would go on to start his literary career after moving to New York, having his first success with Ragged Dick.

    Write what ya’ know.

  116. 116
    John S. says:

    If I’d ever “made it big”, I would be an insufferable prick.

    It’s an old yarn that we’ve all heard before:

    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

    There are many variations and interpretations, but I think you could accurately say that it means people who “make it big” become insufferable pricks. I work in Boca Raton and have a lot of very affluent clients, and they all seem determined to prove the veracity of that statement, with little exception.

  117. 117
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    gross immorality, and a most heinous crime, a crime of no less magnitude than the abominable and revolting crime of unnatural familiarity with boys

    God, they make it sound so hot.

  118. 118
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @The Moar You Know: I think congratulations are in order.

  119. 119
    JK says:

    @CT: I agree largely with your assessment. There are many valid criticisms to be made against both Olbermann and Maddow.

    Reading Somerby, you’d never learn that
    Olbermann has been very pointed in his criticism of Obama on torture prosecutions, and Maddow has been all over the Geithner plan.

    I don’t think Olbermann and Maddow are mirror images of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. I think they have higher regard for truth and facts. Yes, they make Mistakes. So does every other person who has ever lived or will live. It’s called being human.

    I think Somerby paints Olbermann and Maddow with too broad a brush. He points every mistake, no matter how trivial, but is very sparing when it comes to giving praise. I think it’s gone beyond journalistic standards or issues of policy. I think Somerby has become unhinged regarding both of them.

    I’ve also read posts where Somerby has taken shots at Markos Moulitsas, Josh Marshall, Steve Benen, Kevin Drum, and Amy Goodman.

    Does this guy ever have a positive thing to say about anyone? Yippee, he says something nice about Naomi Klein today. Daily Howler is unrelenting, non-stop negavity.

    Nelson Algren had his rules: Never play cards with anyone named Doc and never eat at a restauarnt named Mom’s – both of which I endorse.

    I have a rule too. Be wary of any person who always refers to himself or herself either in the 3rd person or using the plural pronoun. Somerby never writes “I think” or “I read”. It’s always “we think” or “we read”.

  120. 120
    Betsy says:

    @Nylund:
    Moreover, the idea that people born with money and privilege somehow DON’T go to state schools is absurd on its face. Most of the wealthiest whitest kids in my high school went to University of Texas or Texas A&M, because most of them, despite that privilege, weren’t able to get into higher ranked schools. (Confidential to Kurtz: Just because A&M stands for “agricultural and mechanical” doesn’t mean the rich kids who go there have ever in their lives done anything agricultural or mechanical.)

    On the other hand, some brilliant folks I knew also went to those schools because it made so much more sense financially, and have done quite well for themselves. Going to a state school is evidence of neither non-establishment roots, as Kurtz would have it, nor intellectual inferiority. Those schools have 40-50,000 students – you’re going to get all kinds.

    Oh, and BTW Paul L: the problem wasn’t that Palin went to the University of Idaho, it was that she emerged with such an undistinguished record there (of anything, not merely academics). Oh, and also the fact that she’s a hate-filled, vicious, incurious, proudly ignorant embarrassment to the people of Alaska. That too.

  121. 121
    Paul L. says:

    @geg6:

    Rielle Hunter was allegedly paid that money by ONE DONOR to Edwards. Not the DNC, not anyone else.

    And she had a child who, I believe, has been identified as Edwards’ (I may be wrong about that). So the payments were for the care and nurturing of a child.

    Edwards has claimed the child is not his and Hunter has refused to allow a DNA test to establish paternity.
    Now this could be BS.
    Federal Grand Jury Investigating John Edwards Possible Misuse of Campaign Funds to Pay Off Mistress

    According to the National Enquirer, multiple sources are now confirming their report from one week ago that a federal grand jury is investigating possible misuse of presidential campaign funds by John Edwards, which were said to have been used to pay off his mistress, with whom he had a secret love child.

    Paul. You still haven’t answered my question. At what point did Edwards or Biden demand six figure bonuses from their government subsidized failed businesses?

    Nice strawman.
    When did I defend the six figure bonuses? I was pointing out two Democrats who assume the mantle of the common men in response to these question.

    How did this idea of humble, or humbler, beginnings become so important?

  122. 122
    wasabi gasp says:

    All the shitheads I’ve ever known had humble beginnings and are on a trajectory for humble endings. How does shining shoes have anything to do with not being a complete fucking asshole?

  123. 123
    Zifnab says:

    @Paul L.:

    Nice strawman.
    When did I defend the six figure bonuses? I was pointing out two Democrats who assume the mantle of the common men in response to these question.

    And so you’ve quickly and neatly dodged the entire point of the blog posting. The guy’s company went bust and he stomped his feet demanding massive compensation at taxpayer expense. Part of the defense for his childish conduct and obscene request was that he was once a blue collar guy. Cole asks how this is a defense – how does being a brick layer in your youth suddenly forgive you for being a spoiled brat in your later life.

    Your response has been to decry Biden and Edwards for using their working man credentials in their own favor. Yet, you never get to the actual offense. Biden and Edwards aren’t demanding tax payer money in the form of massive bonuses. They’re not being spoiled little brats. In your rush to defend Wall Street whiners, you’re trying to equate a couple of lawyers-turn-politicians canvasing for votes with a mega-millionaire banker demanding government money.

    The differences are stark. You just don’t choose to acknowledge them.

  124. 124
    Blue Raven says:

    Ok, I’m trying to find where I may have gotten the idea that Federal subsidies were part of what Rose Lane edited out of Laura Wilder’s books, but I’m not finding it easily. Either my Google fu is weak or my memory took the accurate remarks in this thread about the railway work and other stuff mentioned and transposed it with something else. It’s quite true that along with the usual tricks in a fictionalized biography, characters were merged and edited and events changed. Also some telling details of how Pa really kept the family together, with The Long Winter being a story that always made no sense to me and would’ve if Lane hadn’t been such a Libertarian. Figured I should make note of my inability to back what I thought was an accurate statement.

  125. 125
    Blue Raven says:

    @wasabi gasp:

    All the shitheads I’ve ever known had humble beginnings and are on a trajectory for humble endings. How does shining shoes have anything to do with not being a complete fucking asshole?

    One guy who works as a shoeshiner near my employer’s offices is at least a really cool guy while on the job, so how does what you have to say have anything to do with the complexity of reality?

  126. 126
    wasabi gasp says:

    @Blue Raven: Say what? The point was: a humble beginning and being an asshole aren’t mutually exclusive.

  127. 127
    Bill Teefy says:

    @gopher2b: I am not seeing the selective editing as regards to the point raised. That point being there seems to be an underlying idea or concept that humble origins make you outside the establishment. And further this point seems to be pushed by those who contrarily posit that part of American greatness is that anybody can become part of the establishment.

    Certainly that paragraph makes Desantis less of a caricature but I think the mocking here is about Kurtz and this faux man of the people shtick.

    Anyway, what your calling hate I would call mocking and rude observations.

  128. 128
    bago says:

    Also.

  129. 129
    Blue Raven says:

    @wasabi gasp:

    Say what? The point was: a humble beginning and being an asshole aren’t mutually exclusive.

    As you phrased it in the first place, I read it as saying being a shoe shiner and being an asshole are mutually inclusive.

  130. 130
    2th&nayle says:

    @Tax Analyst: Try non-instant grits with butter, salt, and pepper, like nature intended. As Fuckhead said, they’re great with fried eggs! Didn’t you learn anything from “My Cousin Vinnie”?

  131. 131
    El Cid says:

    From sociologist of American class & power, G. William Domhoff (Dec 2006):

    In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2001, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 33.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 51%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 84%, leaving only 16% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth, the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 39.7%…In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 44.1% of all privately held stock, 58.0% of financial securities, and 57.3% of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America.Figures on inheritance tell much the same story. According to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, only 1.6% of Americans receive $100,000 or more in inheritance. Another 1.1% receive $50,000 to $100,000. On the other hand, 91.9% receive nothing (Kotlikoff & Gokhale, 2000). Thus, the attempt by ultra-conservatives to eliminate inheritance taxes — which they always call “death taxes” for P.R. reasons — would take a huge bite out of government revenues for the benefit of less than 1% of the population. (It is noteworthy that some of the richest people in the country oppose this ultra-conservative initiative, suggesting that this effort is driven by anti-government ideology. In other words, few of the ultra-conservatives behind the effort will benefit from it in any material way.)Numerous studies show that the wealth distribution has been extremely concentrated throughout American history, with the top 1% already owning 40-50% in large port cities like Boston, New York, and Charleston in the 19th century (Keister, 2005). It was very stable over the course of the 20th century, although there were small declines in the aftermath of the New Deal and World II, when most people were working and could save a little money. There were progressive income tax rates, too, which took some money from the rich to help with government services.Then there was a further decline, or flattening, in the 1970s, but this time in good part due to a fall in stock prices, meaning that the rich lost some of the value in their stocks. By the late 1980s, however, the wealth distribution was almost as concentrated as it had been in 1929, when the top 1% had 44.2% of all wealth. It has continued to edge up since that time, with a slight decline from 1998 to 2001, before the economy crashed and little people got pushed down again.And now we have arrived at the point I want to make. If the top 1% of households have 30-35% of the wealth, that’s 30 to 35 times what we would expect by chance, and so we infer they must be powerful. And then we set out to see if the same set of households scores high on other power indicators (it does). Next we study how that power operates, which is what most articles on this site are about. Furthermore, if the top 20% have 84% of the wealth (and recall that 10% have 85% to 90% of the stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity), that means that the United States is a power pyramid. It’s tough for the bottom 80% — maybe even the bottom 90% — to get organized and exercise much power.

  132. 132
    El Cid says:

    I used to be able to do paragraphs in blockquotes not being bolded by doing [angle bracket] p [/angle bracket] at each paragraph start.

    Now that doesn’t work any more. Is there a new magic code?

  133. 133
    Govt Skeptic says:

    You know, Howard Kurtz is right. He didn’t grow up in the bosom of the establishment, and he’s not actually part of the establishment. He is, as alleged, a rabid defender of it though.
    The painful truth is that Kurtz is just new-money. The real establishment folk have Big Boats and collections of Faberge eggs. Kurtz (like so many others) is just a self-loathing dick who desperately wants people to notice that he wears expensive shoes.
    And the truly wealthy thank him for his service.

  134. 134
    wasabi gasp says:

    @Blue Raven: I suppose my initial phrasing was somewhat awkward. But, I did get a laugh out of your notion that I was intentionally opening a global can of whoop ass on shoeshiners. :)

  135. 135
    Bill Teefy says:

    @El Cid: At least you didn’t go all CAPS!

    I think losing the first Battle of Death Taxes was a significant blow to opportunity in America. Combine that with the Capital Gains Tax cuts and I would say Bush Generational Win.

    Bush-a-nomics should have made the cloth coat Republicans blanche. Think about hard work getting you to a six figure income and your paying about 1 2/3s or more in taxes than someone with a trust and they also don’t pay all of the other taxes associated with a paycheck. But instead you have some $40K (if he’s lucky) pseudo-plumber railing about socialism…err fascism.

  136. 136

    Two lit’ry comments:

    1. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books are some of the best windows into late 19th-c america and the Frontier around. They’re also well-written enough that an adult can read them aloud more than once without wanting to spork her eyes out.

    It’s the reading between the lines that’s the trick. So when aimai refers to, “the bizzaro world libertarian messages in The Long Winter” — what I really got out of it was how close their libertarian ideas brought them to total disaster, and how it took non-libertarian communalism to get them through it, and how much better off the community would have been if they’d all been living in one longhouse (or the hotel) like sensible people (the Indians).

    I don’t know who edited what when, but the Little House series as it stands is one of the more honest accounts of the Frontier in existence. Once you pay attention (like, say, if you’re an adult reading it aloud to a succession of children) you can’t help noticing things like: the Ingallses *never* are self-sufficient for food, they always depend on an industrial structure. And Laura shows how conflicted their feelings for the Indians are, how they veer between Ma’s hate/hate and Pa’s love/hate. Laura is also never sentimental about how hard Ma has to work, about how bad (and violence-ridden!) the schools are, about how much Pa loves the wilderness even as he destroys it.

  137. 137

    almost forgot, the other lit’ry comment:

    2. It’s one of the ironies of … something or other … that David Copperfield was a real impetus toward Child Labor laws and improved conditions for truly poor children. Ironic because what Dickens conveyed was not “how awful that children have to work so hard!” but “how awful that such things could happen to a gentleman’s son!” David Copperfield (and Dickens) fear and hate the truly poor children in the blacking factory — but it was they who would benefit from the movement Dickens helped start.

  138. 138
    CT says:

    @JK: I would only add that one should never play pool with someone named after a state, nor borrow money from someone with “the” as their middle name.

  139. 139
    Brachiator says:

    @El Cid:

    In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2001, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 33.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 51%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 84%, leaving only 16% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers).

    I love stuff like this because it explains a little, but is totally insufficient to explain the American (or any other country’s) economy.

    To describe the majority of Americans as “the bottom 80%” denies the existence of the middle class, and to lump managers, professionals and small business owner’s together is weird and confusing.

    And although I largely agree with the author’s take on death taxes, I don’t see a progressive tax system which doles out government “services” as a strong antidote to a supposed concentration of wealth.

    And one thing that the citation totally misses is mobility within income classes. There is not much of a hereditary oligarchy in America and the richest families around 1900 are not the same as the richest families in 2009 (and here I will give some credit to progressive taxation and the estate tax for helping to prevent the formation of a permanent upper class in this country).

  140. 140
    El Cid says:

    @Brachiator: It may seem “weird and confusing” to the average American to discuss the severely upper-class dominated U.S. economy, but our choice is to either be head-in-the-sand irrationalists and deniers of basic reality in order to make the “bottom 80%” feel better, or to understand how wealth and power actually function in this society.

    You apparently feel better reading things which tell you of the importance and value of the non-elites of American society. That’s fine.

    But the idea that sociologists of U.S. society should never focus on the clear, demonstrable, and influential concentration of wealth in the U.S. because it makes some people feel awkward about their role suggests that everyone in the “bottom 80%” are weak, frightened people who prefer to avoid basic truths.

  141. 141
    MH says:

    How did we get this many ‘working class’ song lyrics and not mention Common People, most notably the Shatner version?

    Rent a flat above a shop,
    cut your hair and get a job.
    Smoke some fags and play some pool,
    pretend you never went to school.
    But still you’ll never get it right,
    when you’re lying in bed at night,
    watching roaches climb the wall,
    if you called your Dad he could stop it all.

    You’ll never live like common people,
    you’ll never do what common people do,
    you’ll never fail like common people,
    you’ll never watch your life slide out of view,
    and dance and drink and screw,
    because there’s nothing else to do.

    laugh along with the common people,
    laugh along even though they’re laughing at you,
    and the stupid things that you do.
    Because you think that poor is cool.

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