If Everyone and Everything at the Aspen Ideas Festival Were Engulfed in Flames, the World Would Be No Poorer

The world’s least sexy circle jerk is well underway at Aspen. I’m imagining David Brooks at a cocktail party, droning on to another Thought Leader about innovative innovators fostering dynamic dynamism through creative creation while he eyes up some waitress and sniffs around for money to be made.

I’m making my way through Chris Hayes’s book Twilight of the Elites, for which I’ll write a review. I’m reading about decades of failure– profound, life-altering, willful failure, failure that has caused human suffering on an incredible scale. And one of Hayes’s central points is that the exact same people who contributed to this spectacular failure are still in power, and still possess the ability to groom their successors. It’s not just that the system has fucked up, time and again, but that it has not responded to these fuck ups by removing those responsible, or by reforming the apparatus that put them in power in the first place.

The people currently celebrating themselves at Aspen are the people who best embody the system that facilitated these failures. Even if I thought that “big ideas” helped human beings rather than hurt them; even if the ideas being presented weren’t the inevitable reductive masturbatory techno-utopian self-congratulatory trite rehashes of empty buzzwords and tired cliches; even if I believed that most of the people there assembled have any real interest in improving the world, rather than improving their Q rating and driving up the cost of their speaking fees; even if they weren’t trotting out the same naked money grabs of privatization and stat juking– even then, I couldn’t get past the fact that this class of people is the self-same one that has plunged our country into depression and systemic failure. And there will always be ambitious young apparatchiks working at bloated, self-serious organizations like the Atlantic who will carry the water for the elite failures who speak at such events, in the hopes that they, someday, will get a column in the NYT and the occasional reacharound from Charlie Rose.

Our big idea men are one of the greatest threats to our country; they demand accountability from others and have none themselves, for surely the failed big ideas being debated here will be discarded and forgotten as soon as the checks clear. The Aspen Ideas Festival is expensive; the ideas are cheap, disposable.

Watch this video, absorb the awesome power of people ticking off every cliche on the Vapid Talk About Innovation checklist, realize that they’re selling the same broken promises about technology and privatization, cringe in horror at the emptiness of every word, and weep.

61 replies
  1. 1
    PeakVT says:

    Can somebody take off and nuke Aspen from orbit? Kthx.

  2. 2
    beltane says:

    Is Aspen in the path of the fire? If so, this would have the makings of a fine movie in the style of Luis Bunuel, something along the lines of The Exterminating Angel except with an inferno threatening in the background.

  3. 3
    Keith says:

    Idea for David Brooks: Smile with your mouth closed. (thx to Theon Greyjoy for that one)

  4. 4
    red dog says:

    News Flash. Drone from the Air Force Academy fires into Aspen seminar. Cadet pushes wrong button.

  5. 5
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    Aspen seminar, out of control wildfires all over Colorado. This is no surprise. Whose idea was it to let Mr Hot Air Himself into a red flagged fire zone?

  6. 6
    jl says:

    deBoer is now uncivil? I am shocked.

    I do not have the time to listen to the clip, but I have an IMHO answer.

    I am surely not the best teach in the world, but I do try. And IMHO, written language, wax tablet, scroll, printing press, adding machine, big computer, PC, tablet, smarphone, internet, hologram teachers with fricken laser beams strapped on their heads, will not transfrom education.

    Education has been, is, and will be, a mind to mind meld sort of thing that requires personal investment in the student’s point of view, incentives and attitudes. Some minimum level of personal investment and face time interaction with students, with no regard to ROI and efficiency but for the pure fund and adventure of it, is required.

    A minimum amount of face time and spontaneous interaction and surprise is required to determine whether the students ‘get it’ and whether or not they have the slightest idea how to apply it outside the class room or standardized tests.

    I’ll watch the vid later, but if those punditoids do not start from that premise, color me extremely doubtful that they will ever accomplish anything, other than raking in more dough for corporations and bureaucrats of every species and description.

  7. 7
    Yutsano says:

    @PeakVT: It is really the only way to be sure.

  8. 8
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @Yutsano: Funny you all should be quoting that – I was just reading this review of that classic flick.

  9. 9
    TenguPhule says:

    If Everyone and Everything at the Aspen Ideas Festival Were Engulfed in Flames, the World Would Be No Poorer

    But but, this will hurt some commenter’s feelings on violent fantasies! Think of the children!

  10. 10
    Elliott says:

    I was reading about pitching prospects while these people droned on in the background, but when something like “a perfect storm of mainstream adoption” resolved in my brain, I tabbed over and silenced the prattle. I don’t think any of those people ever taught anyone anything.

  11. 11
    Davis X. Machina says:

    As I said the other night, Aspen is where you go when you level up at TED. Next stop — as one of the regulars here said — is Davos.

  12. 12
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    OK, ok, Aspen sucks. But give the rest of us in Colorado a break. Think rain.

  13. 13
    Baud says:

    I was wrong once. Can I get invited to Aspen?

  14. 14
    TenguPhule says:

    I was wrong once. Can I get invited to Aspen?

    No, they require you be wrong at least 90% of the time, sell your soul to Norquist and eat a dead baby at the ritual pledging.

  15. 15
    General Stuck says:

    And one of Hayes’s central points is that the exact same people who contributed to this spectacular failure are still in power, and still possess the ability to groom their successors.

    Fortunately, we still live in a democracy that is fairly functional, so wingers are going to have to tinker with that machinery to get and stay in power. If they want to keep their greedthrift ways going. As well as any successors. I don’t care what anyone says, the edges of the GOP are surely melting, if at a anti glacial pace for now as a few more voters warm up to what is really happening.

    But the nutters are going to have to make some decisions, probably starting about now, to take a good long look at the changing electorate matched against their compulsive coveting, that is nothing less than an all out assault on the middle class. And make some course corrections, and find a way to sublimate the haters among them, at least in real policy geared for the new rainbow face of the American electorate. Or, take the other fork in their yellow brick road, and go all in for ratfucking the democratic voting processes, and democracy itself. I think this was the general question behind CU, and the wingnut jurists there. While we see it at the state level in all sorts of creative schemes to disenfranchise the disenfranchised . And oddly enough, the master mind of that calamity, John Roberts, did an about face with the ACA. And it was Kennedy that drank the chalice of Caesar’s blood. I don’t know what that holds for the SCOTUS future, but it certainly denotes turmoil and big choices made in the winger palaces of power. We will find out soon enough, with a number of voting rights cases, including the Voter Rights Act.

  16. 16
    WereBear says:

    @General Stuck: I don’t care what anyone says, the edges of the GOP are surely melting, if at a anti glacial pace for now as a few more voters warm up to what is really happening.

    The Right Wing has been coasting on the postwar success of liberal policies. These successful programs tapped the incredible reservoir of talent in the country, expanding it past the idiot sons of rich people that it was mired in.

    It was easy for the loonies to sell their “we’ll put money in your pocket” when everything was working well; when bridges weren’t falling down, when children weren’t being taught that Jesus rode a dinosaur, when they didn’t throw benefits at the local bingo hall for the neighbor’s life-threatening illness.

    They are spent.

  17. 17
    Liberty60 says:

    I’m also reading Haye’s book, and halfway through, it is a terrific if appalling read.

    ETA- It makes me want to perform a ritual apology for the civil tones in which I have previously criticized the ruling elite. I will henceforth use the appropriate amounts of snarling invective that is called for.

  18. 18
    hilzoy says:

    TNC sometimes goes to Aspen. The world would be poorer with no him.

  19. 19
    gelfling545 says:

    @TenguPhule: I’m sure he meant in purely in the Pickwickian sense.

  20. 20
    RaflW says:

    “…realize that they’re selling the same broken promises about technology and privatization, cringe in horror at the emptiness of every word, and weep and grab a pitchfork.”

    Way more cathartic. And useful.

  21. 21
    geg6 says:

    Zactly, Freddie, zactly.

    These people and their idiotic prattling to each other about their own awesome brilliance are everything that is wrong with this country. And the Chris Hayes book has had me sharpening the tines of my pitchfork.

  22. 22
    kd bart says:

    Glad to see Brooks could squeeze it in between Springsteen concerts in Europe.

  23. 23
    JoyfulA says:

    @hilzoy: True.
    But sounds like Lot bargaining with God about Sodom. “If there is just one good man….”

  24. 24
    Joel says:

    Tom Friedman is on the top left video.

  25. 25
    General Stuck says:

    @WereBear:

    I am glad you made this comment, as I was just reading a good NY times article, though some overwrought about what could happen in the aftermath of the supreme court tinkering with the language of the ACA. Like medicaid, and also environmental laws based on a primacy/state/federal relationship. That has been a cookie cutter like way for the feds to whip states into compliance with federal mandates on things like clean water and air. By initially taking over the regulation of those things itself, then the feds giving states time to meet goals of enforcement to the new federal laws, to get back their primacy to regulate these things themselves that are within their own borders. With an agency like the EPA remaining to keep tabs on things as oversight, and step in when necessary. I don’t know if the medicaid tweaking the court did for feds telling the states how to spend their money would reach all that far into other CC laws, but it is not out of the question. And there is always money involved in these things, federal money, so it is a little worrisome, but not as worrisome as striking down the mandate altogether, as the rest of the law the 4 other nutters wanted to do.

    from Neal Katyal NYT

    The government told the court that longstanding laws, like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, contain clauses that condition money on state performance of certain activities. The decision leaves open the question of whether those acts, and many others (like the Clean Air Act), are now unconstitutional as well.

    Not so much unconstitutional, as they could become unenforceable without the fed government having the big stick to withdraw those moneys if states don’t measure up.

    Of equal concern is the court’s analysis of the constitutionality of the individual mandate. While the court upheld the mandate, it did so by rejecting the federal government’s claim that it was regulating commerce. There is no judicial precedent or language in the Constitution that compelled that result; instead, the majority reasoned by constitutional inference.

    The court employed language that could be read to suggest that whenever statutes are novel, they are unconstitutional. This atextual reading of the Constitution, odd for “strict constructionists,” may later blossom into a radical constitutional theory that could upend decades, if not centuries, of precedent, going all the way back to Chief Justice John Marshall’s famous opinion in the 1819 case McCulloch v. Maryland, which spoke of a flexible, adaptable Constitution.

    I think this is really over thinking the future, in the way that anything can happen at the SC, that we already know is the case, or in government altogether. And If a future court took such extreme readings to lead them to draconian reinterpretations and wiping away all sorts of progressive laws, then we would likely have in general, way worse problems than that.

    It was refreshing to read a legal scholar though, that isn’t mouth breathing this or that, but just laying out the possible to chew on a while. Nor the wingnut braying about how Roberts secretly gave them the keys to live out their nihilistic fantasies of torching everything liberals law that exists.

  26. 26
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Dang, we need tumbrels in Aspen, stat.

  27. 27
    Heliopause says:

    I know the password to get in: “Fidelio”.

  28. 28
    Elizabelle says:

    OT.

    Good lord, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell re-appointed that crazy ass board member who plotted to fire the president of UVa.

    I was afraid that might happen since Helen Dragas refused to resign as Rector of the Board of Visitors, like any sane person would after leading a failed putsch.

    Unbelievable.

    There’s some support for the president of one of your commonwealth’s leading universities.

    I wonder if Dragas will remain Rector (chair of the BOV), or if the newly constituted Board will choose someone else.

  29. 29
    BB says:

    Right on schedule, the governor of Virginia reappointed to the board the colossal idiot responsible for the clusterfuck at UVa. Unbelievable. There is a class of people totally unaccountable for their actions, and it’s composed of the uber-rich and the people who tell them what they want to hear.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @jl:

    I’ll watch the vid later, but if those punditoids do not start from that premise, color me extremely doubtful that they will ever accomplish anything, other than raking in more dough for corporations and bureaucrats of every species and description.

    Money is the only thing these people love.

    So, mission accomplished!

  31. 31
    Valdivia says:

    @Elizabelle:

    ugh. can’t day anything more eloquent because I am

    +5

  32. 32
    scav says:

    @Elizabelle: Imagine that. Yet another management type aiming for Creative Destruction as the latest and greatest cool theory of governance. Shame about the creative side of things.

  33. 33
    Baud says:

    @Valdivia:

    Ok, I’m going to reveal my lameness, but what is with this +1, +3, +5 thing I keep seeing.

  34. 34
    mclaren says:

    Everything you’ve said is true, and unfortunately this cycle of insanity has been going on for a long time. A long long time.

    Look at the Big Ideas, the Great Ideas, the Huge Goals of America’s past: an unending series of gigantic fucking disasters.

    The War To End All Wars in 1917. Boy, that one sure worked out well, didn’t it? Or how about Prosperity Is Just Around the Corner (Herbert Hoover, 1930). Genius. Or how about the nuclear Balance of Terror that started in 1947. Brilliant. Worked so well that in 1962 we almost destroyed the planet. And then there’s DDT. Yeah, let’s spray that on all our crops until we contaminate the runoff water. That’s a good one. Or how about penicillin — we’ll use that for every little cut and scrape until the bacteria develop antibiotic resistance and now we’re fucked, stuck and outa luck.

    Or how about the Missile Gap? (Didn’t exist.) Or the Domino Theory? (Pure bullshit.) Or let’s try synfuels (1970s, moronic beyond description: to get enough ethanol to power America’s vehicles every acre in North America would have to be planted with corn.) Or how about the Space Race? (Magnificent. Just imagine what America could have done with the hundreds of billions in inflation-adjusted dollars we pissed away on that winner.) Or how about Star Wars (Reagan’s insane unworkable delusional anti-missile satellite program. More hundreds of billions down the crapper.) Or Supply Side economics?

    It just goes on and on and on. The ignorant incompetent fools who came up with these deluded follies just keep getting promoted. The more they fail, the higher they rise. And it’s been going on for at least 100 years, with no end in sight.

  35. 35
    jaleh says:

    @PeakVT: thanks a lot. I live in Aspen!

  36. 36
    Valdivia says:

    @Baud:

    + sign and a number is the amount of drinks you have had. In my case, +at least 5 negronis (gin and vermouth and campari). In 110 degree heat. So the fact I’m even answering is a miracle! :)

  37. 37
    Baud says:

    @Valdivia:

    Thanks. Unfortunately, I am +0 right now. (But feeling much hipper now that I know the lingo you kids use.)

  38. 38
    Valdivia says:

    @Baud:

    :D happy to help!

    I would give you at least +2/12 of mine so we could equalize. Also, too. I am so totally a nerd you have no idea!

  39. 39
    burnspbesq says:

    Be careful what you wish for, and never forget that everything is connected to everything else.

    Before you wish for the Aspen Ideas Festival to be consumed by cleansing fire, are you absolutely certain that none of your 401(k) money is invested in insurance companies that would have to pay out in the event of such a fire? And are you absolutely certain that any such insurance companies have adequate reserves and/or reinsurance?

    Put another way, are you prepareg to eat dog food in order to be rid of David Brooks?

  40. 40
    karen marie says:

    Watch this video, absorb the awesome power of people ticking off every cliche on the Vapid Talk About Innovation checklist, realize that they’re selling the same broken promises about technology and privatization, cringe in horror at the emptiness of every word, and weep.

    No, thank you. I’m sure it would spoil the narrative.

  41. 41
    BB says:

    @burnspbesq: That’s actually a good parlour game:

    “What would you do to be rid of David Brooks? Would you, um… Eat dog food?”

    “Hmm. Good one… Yeah, I’d do that.”

  42. 42
    Origuy says:

    Anybody else remember the Geek Code from USENET?

    GCS/d+s:a++C++UL

  43. 43
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Elizabelle: Good grief, that is Un.Be.Lie.Va.Ble.

  44. 44
    TooManyJens says:

    The #AspenIdeas hashtag has been taken over by mockery. Thank God.

    ETA: Oh my God, we have a winner, from @BrianRKnight: “Are #AspenIdeas just live action #slatepitches? #slatepitches”

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Valdivia:

    I am so totally a nerd you have no idea!

    Have a drink; you’ll feel better.

  46. 46
    Bob2 says:

    Someone should go to Michelle Malkin’s house and really check if it’s in danger of fire.

    Like you know…she’s done before to other people.

    I remember years ago, she claimed she survived off ramen noodles in college so why can’t other poor people.
    Pull up the bootstraps Michelle.

  47. 47
    Valdivia says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    biggest grin. I have been at it for a few hours. It ain’t helping. Still a nerd. ;)

  48. 48
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Valdivia: I didn’t say it would stop you from being a nerd. I said you would feel better – although by now you may be close to feeling numb.

  49. 49
    Augie says:

    And we all know the world is a better place because people like Freddie are too good to talk at Aspen or go on the Charlie Rose show. You’re much better off shouting into the echo chamber. That’s courage for you there! That’s how you change the world!

  50. 50
    Gus says:

    Preach it Freddie!

  51. 51
    Valdivia says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    /goes to hide under the bed ;)

  52. 52
    mclaren says:

    @burnspbesq:

    This clown is so hopelessly removed from real life that he actually believes anyone who has a 401(K) — and that’s a tiny minority nowadays, what with our ever-shrinking middle class — has anything left in it after the global economic meltdown of 2008.

    What a maroon.

  53. 53
    Recall says:

    @mclaren: Or how about the Space Race? (Magnificent. Just imagine what America could have done with the hundreds of billions in inflation-adjusted dollars we pissed away on that winner.)

    Something not nearly as awesome as going to the Moon.

  54. 54
    Diana says:

    “even if the ideas being presented weren’t the inevitable reductive masturbatory techno-utopian self-congratulatory trite rehashes of empty buzzwords and tired cliches…”

    do you write books?

    because if you don’t, you should…

  55. 55
    Ruckus says:

    @burnspbesq:
    Put another way, are you prepareg to eat dog food in order to be rid of David Brooks?
    How many cans do I have to eat for that to happen?
    Is it just me or do we have to have a mass dog food assault?
    Will you join me if that’s necessary?
    Seeing as he is a pretentious asshole do I(we) have to eat really expensive pretentious dog food?

    Inquiring minds need to know.

  56. 56
    El Cid says:

    There’s no way that our modern elites would blindly stick to their well-trodden paths into international crisis, collapse, and the sorts of chaos and violence and societal war which preceded World War 1 and World War 2, because, well, this time they know they’re right, and their critics are unserious and too radical, unlike, you know, those other times.

  57. 57
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @mclaren:

    Um, the space race gave you the PC and, eventually, the internet.

    So stop a teabagger dipshit who has no clue as to cause and effect.

  58. 58
    feebog says:

    The key to good education is not that complicated. Encourage people to go into the profession by offering them good wages and benefits. Reduce class size so that a teacher or an aide can spend at least a couple minutes with each student during the class period. Encourage community participation through things like reading programs. Ramp up special education programs for children with learning disabilites. Allow sucessful local schools to manage their own ciriculum, staffing and budget, in other words affiliated charters.

  59. 59

    @hilzoy: Who does TNC work for? Who sponsors the Apsen Ideas Festival? That should answer your question why TNC goes there.

  60. 60

    What about Salmon Kahn and the Kahn Academy? I’m pretty sure he’s been to Aspen. The KA is just good.

  61. 61

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