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More on Ben Bernanke vs. John Taylor: In Which I Give Up

The Indictment of Dennis Hastert

Across the Wide Missouri: That Dennis Hastert was a high-school teacher and wrestling coach from 1965-1981 is material to this money-laundering indictment. That and the fact that Hastert's conduct between 34 and 50 years ago is material, is the source of the aggrieved party's believing they deserve $3.5 million, and leads Hastert to think he should pay up tells us more than I think we need to know:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-dennis-hastert-indictment-pdf-20150528-htmlstory.html?vd

PDF Read the Hastert indictment Chicago Tribune

PDF Read the Hastert indictment Chicago Tribune PDF Read the Hastert indictment Chicago Tribune

And I immediately flash to John Micklethwaite and Adrian Wooldridge's 2005 book, The Right Nation. One important argument of it was that:

  • Nancy Pelosi and her constituents in San Francisco are decadent perverts living in a city that is "stagnating... nondescript houses... [with] some districts (particularly south of Market) downright tawdry... thumbing its nose at business..." yet somehow "aristocratic".
  • Dennis Hastert and his constituents on the Illinois prairie are hard-working middle-class strivers who fear God and focus on being parts of stable, normal families.

It was obviously false and lazy back then, to Americans at least: A discussion of the prairie that doesn't mention methamphetamine? A discussion of San Francisco that does not mention the growing software and internet-media industries? A discussion of San Francisco NIMBYism that claims it has produced "stagnation" without noticing the most rapidly-rising property values outside of Manhattan? A discussion of "growth" on the prairie that omits how many of those buying 4000-square foot houses are putting themselves into extremely risky financial positions? Judgments of who is "family friendly" that take no account of the kind of behavior that Dennis Hastert was willing to pay $3.5 million to try to hide from public view? And since then its falsity has only become obvious even to non-Americans.

John Holbo had a nice review of The Right Nation back in THE DAY:

John Holbo: Intelligent Design: "[The book] affords many irritations to the non-conservative reader...

...The authors still enjoy toying with the idea that America is a 50/50 nation, half of which isn’t really American, but more … European. They equivocate between using ‘right nation’ as a tag for America, and a tag for half of America. 'To people who wonder 'What sort of place is Texas? the simplest answer is that it is America exponentiated. Texas is America’s America, or at least conservative America’s America' (p. 134). Lots of little nudges like that.... Tey don’t belly up to the bar and drink the conservative kool-aid, but they do take many a debonair, pinky-raised sip. Then, on p. 159-60 these Brits do some Texas-style kool-aid bong hits....

Discovery is also the leading proponent of an increasingly influential idea on the Right: 'intelligent design.'... Darwinian theory does not wholly explain either the origin of life or the development of species.... The intelligent design movement is an example of the Right’s growing willingness to do battle with what it regards as the liberal 'science establishment' on its own turf, using scientific research of its own. Right-wing think tanks have attacked scientific orthodoxy on stem cells, arguing that there is no need to harvest embryos, as it should be possible to extract stem cells from adults. They have also pored over the data on global warming. Bjorn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001), an indictment of green overstatement, is a cult hero in places like the AEI and Discovery. There are also battles brewing on animal rights, euthanasia and the scientific origins of homosexuality [science causes gays?]... The Right is clearly extending the battle of ideas into new territories, just as Milton Friedman and others did in economics forty years ago.

Puts the ‘crack’ back in ‘crackle of ideas’, you might say.... If you are going to count any effective rhetoric as ‘winning the war of ideas’ – if you don’t even make any attempt to test, prima facie, for intellectual seriousness and credibility – then you ought to just ‘fess up that you mean ‘winning the culture war’, which sounds less intellectually high-toned.... Ah, if only the Democrats remembered what a debate is: namely, an expression of populist ressentiment at perceived cultural elites. It really is very shameful that these British Tories, who I don’t suppose believe in ID, find it sufficiently amusing that liberalism is taking kidney shots from these people that they are willing to check their intellectual consciences at the door.... Another passage from Micklethwait and Wooldridge:

Yet from the first, Bush saw that conservative intellectuals could be useful – much in the same way that an R&D department is useful to a chief executive. His formative experience in Washington was to watch his father’s administration disintegrating, in large part for want of 'the vision thing.' …. Nobody would pretend that Bush, a man who regarded Yale University as a drinking competition (which he damn-near won), spends his evenings reading Strauss’s Xenophon’s Socratic Discourse. But he knows the importance of people who do. (p. 156-7)....

One last passage from Micklethwait and Wooldridge:

Here it is worth making a subtle distinction. Bush’s enthusiasm has generally been for business, particularly big business... Texas crony capitalism... outside investors with ties to his father periodically stepped in to save one floundering oil company after another.... Yet Bush still saw himself as a businessman, and his base has always been the business class.... And he eventually used his business connections to create the most successful fund-raising machine in presidential history. (p. 142)

It is worth pointing out that the difference between the free market and cronyism is not really subtle--and getting less subtle by the minute, as the resumes of FEMA execs rise to the surface of the floodwaters...


And Micklethwaite and Wooldridge's crescendo:

John Micklethwaite and Adrian Wooldridge (2005): The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America: "Dennis Hastert, the Republican Speaker, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader...

...typify the political clash that we have followed.... Hastert, a hulking former wrestling coach, is a fairly straightforward conservative: antiabortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-Kyoto, pro-invading Iraq, pro-death penalty. Pelosi, a tiny birdlike woman... at the other end of the political spectrum.... Revealing even more of the country’s political differences are the districts these individuals represent. Pelosi’s district (California’s eighth) is more or less coterminous with San Francisco, the “bluest,” most liberal city in America.... Hastert’s (Illinois’s fourteenth) is deep scarlet. It begins in the suburbs thirty miles west of the Chicago Loop and then stretches out through miles of cornfields to a point just forty miles short of the Iowa border.... The differences between the two places are so striking that it is difficult to know where to begin. San Francisco is part of vertical America—a land of soaring skyscrapers and high-density living. Hastert’s district is part of horizontal America. The same arguably goes for the people: in Illinois, a broad girth is a sign of health. In San Francisco, even the chefs are thin. San Francisco is as edgy as America gets--a peculiar mix of blue bloods and gays, dotcom millionaires and aging hippies. Hastert’s district is resolutely “normal.” The local citizens think of themselves as typical Americans....

The most important difference lies in attitudes to growth. San Francisco is one of the most beautiful places on earth.... All the same, the city is stagnating. Its share of the Bay Area’s population has fallen from 30 percent in 1950 to 13 percent today. Whenever it looks as if the place is beginning to pick up—as it did in the 1970s and the 1990s--antigrowth activists come up with ballot initiatives to hold it back.... As for beauty, parts of San Francisco remain stunning, but much of the city’s housing consists of nondescript houses and some districts (particularly south of Market Street) are downright tawdry. A good deal of the antigrowth lobby seems to be about thumbing its nose at business....

In contrast, Hastert’s flat, boring district is in love with growth. New houses march like a vast army resolutely westward across the Great Plains from Chicagoland to rural towns such as Yorkville (where Hastert was a teacher) and even to Dixon (where Reagan spent much of his boyhood). And behind the houses are all the accoutrements of suburban boom time, particularly huge schools and “mega” shopping malls... row upon row of shopping malls... filled with superstores that seem to be bent on testing the principle of economies of scale to the limit.

The second big difference between the two districts lies in the relative importance of family life. Most of the people flocking to Hastert’s district are doing so for one reason: to raise their children. They want space to build big houses--many cover more than four thousand square feet--and freedom from the downside of urban life, particularly crime. In upmarket St. Charles, 85 percent of the residents own their own homes; even in meat-and-potatoes Elgin, home ownership stands at 70 percent to 75 percent. San Francisco... was one of the most family-friendly cities in the country.... But the city now has one of the lowest proportions in the country of families with children (the local joke is that San Francisco has more dogs than children)... the capital of gay America... [and] a disproportionate number of young singles and older people living alone. Both the property market and the school system discourage families. Only 35 percent of San Franciscans own their own homes....

There is also a somewhat surprising class difference between the two districts. Hastert’s is as resolutely middle class as it is cheerfully middle American.... People belong to the vast American middle class... shop in the same giant shopping malls, eat in the same chain restaurants... send their children to the same giant public schools.... San Francisco, by contrast, looks more like an aristocratic society... a disproportionate number of single professionals with enough disposable income to live like the characters in Sex in the City. Yet the city also hosts one of the country’s biggest concentrations of homeless people, with between 8,000 and 16,000 people, many of them drug-addicted or mentally ill, living on the streets. ‘A mixture of Carmel and Calcutta”....

Hastert taught history and politics and coached wrestling at Yorkville High School for sixteen years (and his wife, Jean, taught physical education there for thirty-six years). He is passionate about old cars, sports and farming. Pelosi, by contrast, is more blue-blooded. Both her father and brother were mayors of her native Baltimore.... San Francisco’s political arrangements are dysfunctional.... The situation in Illinois is exactly the reverse.... Local politics seem to work pretty well: the streets are clean; the schools are successful. The mayors of blue-collar Aurora and Elgin have done a great deal to regenerate their cities....

New churches are being built, old ones expanded. In the Chicago suburbs some churches have thousands of members. Out in the sticks some small towns have one bar and seven churches. San Francisco, by contrast, has been closing churches for years. There was a time when the Catholic archbishop was one of the most powerful political figures in the town. Now, in a largely secular city, he is a marginal figure, one among a cacophony of religious voices that range from Buddhists to members of the Church of Satan. The second difference in values is attitudes toward social disorder. Hastert’s district is meticulously well kept and relatively free of urban ills such as vagrancy.... In Pelosi’s district, beggars line the streets and live in doorways.... Homeless people in San Francisco get a monthly stipend from the government and free food from religious organizations....

Looking at “Pelosiville” and “Hastertland,” it is not difficult to see why American politics has shifted to the Right. If American politics is a seesaw, it is an unevenly balanced one. Imagine Dennis Hastert at one end of the seesaw and Nancy Pelosi on the other end, and you have some idea about which party is sitting with its legs dangling in the air. In the war between the two Americas, Hastertland has been winning.... Something rather remarkable has happened in American politics. Who would have imagined that the 2004 presidential election would represent something of a last chance for the Democrats? But conservatism’s progress goes much deeper than the gains that the Republican Party has made over the past half century or the steady decline in Democratic registration. The Right clearly has ideological momentum on its side...

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