Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hooverville 2011 = Obamaville


At this point, "Occupy Wall Street" has gone viral, spawning similar protests in cities around the world, the most violent being in Rome.Speculation as to what they want runs rampant, if only for the fact that many of the protesters themselves have no clue as to what they want. It seems to be a general rant against the evils of capitalism and speculation, a position that I am not necessarily opposed to. But it is interesting to read the reporting on these movements as attributable to the excesses of Wall Street, as if they alone were to blame. I am not well-educated enough in economics to say with any authority that they are or not. I do remember, however, that when the current president was campaigning (as opposed to what he is doing now), the economy was all the fault of President Bush, as gleefully reported by the media. Now, the consensus is that the president can't do much about the economy.

Either way, remembering my history classes from high school, in 1929 the economy collapsed, resulting in the Great Depression, from which the US emerged only by the start of WWII. During the Depression, many people lost their homes, and camped out in shantytowns, called "Hoovervilles" after the president at the time, Herbert Hoover.

To be fair, Hoover wasn't to blame. But he ends up with the opprobrium, due to the fact that he approved of some short-sighted economic policies that didn't help, and may have prolonged, the Great Depression. Regardless of economic history, we are left with the image of the Hooverville as a testament to the failure of the Hoover administration to help the citizenry.

So, now we see shanty towns (tent villages?) popping up in New York, Boston, DC, and elsewhere, filled with people complaining about the present stagnant economy. Who is to blame for the economy? Wall Street? Certainly. Short sighted investment in the derivative market, bundling sub-prime mortgages as investment products, and the motivation to seek better stock price than better product are a definite factor. Banks? Sure. The creation of the sub-prime mortgage, the creation of easy credit, and now the complete contraction of credit can't help. Government? Of course. Over-regulation, creation of a "mandate of the day", the threat of new and excessive taxes on small businesses (the "millionaires and billionaires" of Obama legend) create an environment that makes most businesses gun-shy about investing in their work force. Along with that is a public with no confidence government or commerce, looking to hold onto what money it has left.

That said, the president is the president, and as a captain of the ship of state, he should be responsible, or at least as responsible as Hoover was.

So why can't we call the "Occupy Wall Street" encampments what they are, Obamavilles? These are the result of the poor economy which has not been improved by the president's ham-handed attempts at an economic fix (unless you buy another theory, that he is the agent in place of George Soros, who has made a considerable amount of money by investing in the collapse of national economies. Imagine how much he would make by shorting the US economy). Like the residents of Hoovervilles past, the residents of Obamavilles hope to shame the government and commerce into providing jobs and getting the economy started. And like the Hoovervilles of the past, Obamavilles are garnering a great deal of media sympathy.

In ninety years, provided there is an America to speak of, it will be interesting to see how this period is portrayed. Will the Obamavilles be the voice of protest and anger at the financial mismanagement of the country's elites, or will it be seen as a gathering of malcontents with questionable personal hygiene?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Cool things from the Army 10 Miler, October 9th, 2011

I ran the Army 10 miler here in DC for the first time today. I was pleased with my performance, managing to finish it in 1:51:14, and what is more, my knees stayed together. The weather was perfect, a little chill to start the day, clear blue skies and no humidity. Add to that a palette of impressions as I ran:

  • The tee-shirt worn by a young woman: "I run for him until the time when I can run to him."
  • Hearing Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero" as we run past Arlington National Cemetery, home to heroes;
  • Seeing the photos of young soldiers who didn't make it home on the t-shirts of those who are running for them;
  • The mother of a Medal of Honor winner, running with her son's photo on her back;
  • A father with a shirt commemorating his son's sacrifice with a quote from George Orwell: "Good men sleep soundly in their beds because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
  • The wounded vet, hiking the route on a prosthetic leg, carrying a spare in his ruck;
  • The wounded warriors running on racing prosthetics, especially the young man who was a double-amputee;
  • The feeling of purpose when soldiers are cheering you on. 
  • The sight of the Lincoln Memorial in the early morning sun;
  • The final mile, thinking of my dad, speaking to him, asking for help as I finished out the race. Thanks, Dad, you carried me again. 
  • The final mile, and what should pop up on the MP3? Amazing Grace, performed by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
  • Seeing the veteran in his 80s, running the race. What was I complaining about again? Oh, yeah. Nothing.
  • The taste of the chocolate shake I gave myself as a reward.

  • And, of course, thanks to all the women who ran the race. You made it easier to keep a good pace.