American Culture

Nota Bene #45

Link of the Week (as opposed to the Weakest Link):

In an American Prospect article, “Business as Usury,” Thomas Geoghegan writes: “Had we protected the poor and the weak, the problems of our mighty banks might not be so great. Why don’t we have a ‘National Usury Act’? Why, in the party of William Jennings Bryan, is there no one demanding an interest cap on our Visa cards and our MasterCards?. . . We may be the first society since the Code of Hammurabi to be operating with no law against usury at all.” Can the last sentence possibly be true?

Mike Davis: “Thus, my initial reaction to Wall Street’s infamous 777.7 point plunge a few weeks ago was a very sixties retro elation. ‘Right on, Karl!’ I shouted. ‘Eat your derivatives and die, Wall Street swine!’ Like the Grand Canyon, the fall of the banks can be a terrifying but sublime spectacle.” [Emphasis added.]

William Engdahl at Global Research: In recent testimony under oath by Mr Lynn Turner, Chief Accountant of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), testified that the SEC Office of Risk Management. . . was cut in Administration ‘budget cuts’ from a staff of one hundred down to one person. Yes, that was not a typo. That’s one as in ‘Uno.'”

Historian Mary Hershberger interviewed by John Dean: “The longer impact of the 2004 ‘swift boating’ of John Kerry is dismaying; for fear of being labeled ‘Swift Boaters,’ the press now shies away from ordinary investigation into McCain’s military record. It astonishes me that large swathes of the media appear convinced that they can’t do that fairly anymore, at least not for Republican candidates.”

Rachel Cooke of the Guardian interviewing Seymour Hersh: “. . . however, he is hopeful that Obama will pull it off, and if he does, for Hersh this will be a starting gun. ‘You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on 20 January [the date of the next president’s inauguration],’ he says, with relish. ‘[They say:] ‘You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then.'”

What drives Afghans into the arms of the Taliban? Fear? Civilian casualties by NATO? Neither, writes Christina Lamb in the Sunday Times of London. According to “Abdul Karim Khurram, the portly minister for information and culture. . . ‘Indian soap operas are a catastrophe for Afghanistan. People running TV stations are dealing with people’s thoughts and minds so must be careful.’ Khurram blames channels such as Tolo for the revival of the Taliban. ‘People are against such vulgarity,’ he said. ‘That’s why the Taliban are coming back.'”

Rachel Maddow’s obsession, as reported by the New York Times? “Loose nukes. I literally lie awake and worry that we haven’t paid attention to some of the real national-security threats that are out there.”

Dick Cavett at his New York Times blog Talk Show, “Anger Mismanagement“: “In the same way a badly adjusted set of binoculars gives you two overlapping images, the two McCains don’t come together for me. It must be frustrating for his handlers to be unable — due to some internal blockage in the candidate — to get the amiable self onstage instead of the less palatable one who shows up for debates and now-hollered speeches.”


At John Donovan writes that David Ortiz’s recent play was “a far cry from the Mr. October-like run he was on entering this postseason. From the middle of the 2003 postseason — after his struggles against the A’s and the Yankees — to the beginning of this one, Ortiz hit .380 with a .479 on-base percentage and a .708 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 36 games as the Red Sox won two World Series.” Our era’s Babe Ruth.

Ross Tucker at writes about the “growing segment of fans [who] believe it is time for the Boys to dismiss Wade Phillips as head coach. To which my overwhelming response is, fire him for what? Anybody who has watched the Cowboys play this year realizes that Phillips doesn’t really do very much anyway. … Jason Garrett handles the offense. Brian Stewart handles the defense. And Wade, well, he just wades up and down the sideline watching, from what I can tell.”

Tucker on the Raiders: “Calling the Raiders performance listless would be an insult to lethargic people everywhere.”


In “True Bromance,” David Hochman of TV Guide interviews the characters who play House (Hugh Lawrie) and Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) on the TV show, “House, M.D.”:
Laurie: I think House and Wilson are closer to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. What was that relationship, after all? Was it a marriage? They weren’t just two guys on horses. They couldn’t live without each other, that’s for sure.
Leonard: I agree. Or look at Cesar Millan and Daddy.
Laurie: I beg your pardon?
Leonard: You know, the Dog Whisperer guy and his pit bull. They have a special bond. “

2 replies »

  1. Russell, re. business usury..In Islam, it is actually not allowed. Banks are also not allowed to have interest on money owed. If memory serves me correctly, I’m sure there is a way around it (as with fasting during Ramadan [g]) but in essence, it ought to be interesting to do a comparison between Protestantism based capitalism and Islamic banking/business practices. As much as in the Western world there are many democracies, the ordinary person in essence has become subservient to the corporations such as here in the US. Corporations are considered legally a ‘person’ (how do they do it, perhaps when I commit an illegal act I can somehow convince ‘the law’ I’m an ‘it’ and therefore not responsible)..
    anyhow… socialism, or social equality is considered some kind of commie notion whereas subsidized malls/development is not considered a hand out of sorts.
    Perhaps that might be an apropos article in the light of our big banking fiasco? A comparison?
    just a thought,


  2. Usury laws tend to make the flow of money go out of those areas and to areas where interest rates are higher and investors can get a better rate of return. I lived in a state in the 70’s that had a usury law. As the prevailing national interest rates were higher, there was no local credit to be found, unless one paid a lot of points to make up the difference to get the loan. As far as those excessively high rates on some plastic, there is a lot of risk attached to those loans, and risk=higher rates.