Saturday, August 19, 2006

selfishly and incrementally

* yesterday i wrote:
"ew's 'construction company' comments are well considered - although even i don't buy into the logic. and i'm fucking delusional."
i'm not exactly sure what i was trying to convey - but today those words appear to suggest that i think that emptywheel is 'fucking delusional' - which is certainly not the case (at least not in any nefarious sense).

so until remember what the hell i was trying to say, i formally retract the statement but reiterate that:
ew's 'construction company' comments are well considered
much of the rest of my post is largely incoherent as well

thankfully, two smart commenters added some actual value (and ignored my nonsense). firstly anon:
"Texas is a fascinating subject of inquiry all by itself. There are marvellous things that have come out of Texas -- the music and the food, for two -- but it's also had an ongoing tradition of corruption, arrogance, and the abuse of wealth and power.

For example, Texas has been home to a continuing ultra-reactionary strain, having been home to fascist groups in the 30's, to a powerful McCarthyite movement in the 50's, and to extremist figures like oil magnate H.L. Hunt.

The conservative oil-and-business Democrats of Texas turned against Roosevelt and the New Deal by the early 40's, being particularly infuriated by wartime price controls on oil and gas, by the growth of government bureaucracy and the labor movement, and by initial steps towards desegregation. The anti-Roosevelt Democrats, known as the Texas Regulars, plotted unsuccessfully to throw the 1944 election to Dewey and then formed the core of the Dixiecrats, who ran Strom Thurmond for president in 1948. The issue of states rights at that time was far more about control of offshore oil leases than it was about desegregation. It was this essentially this same group of interests that would eventually switch from the Democratic Party to the Republicans.

Lyndon Johnson, for all his flaws, stood firm against these people. The Texas Regulars tried to oust him from his congressional seat in 1944, charging that he had thrown profitable construction contracts to his friends at Brown & Root while ordinary citizens struggled with wartime rationing. Johnson, who won his primary with ease, responded when he was accused of corruption by H.L. Hunt's Facts Forum that the charges came from "stooges of Standard Oil and Wall Street gold," angry because he had voted against legislation which would have enabled them to collect windfall profits.

And all of this was long before the Bush family became involved in Texas oil and politics, and even longer before the Saudis -- who after the 1973 oil crisis had more money than they knew what to do with -- started investing in Texas and making friends with George H.W. Bush and his Houston business and real estate cronies."
and marcy:
"Anonymous did much of my work on the role of the oil companies. Though Caro is MUCH less impressed with LBJ's ability to keep the Browns at bay. He depicts many of LBJ's more brilliant tactical moves as efforts to curry the favor of the larger TX oil and natural gas community.

But the point is they funded a lot of things--Anonymous mentions the Dixiecrats--that provided ideological cover for their own enrichment.

I don't know if you've read Confessions, but it's basically the book that shows what we've always known, that globalization is a scam to keep developing nations under our thumb. The notion is that big construction (Bechtel, Parsons, KBR, and some precusors) have a symbiotic relationship with the government (especially intell) and the World Bank and IMF. They get developing countries to invest in huge projects (dams and the like), thereby putting the country in terrible debt, at which point the IMF can require the country to basically sacrifice its sovereignty to pay back the loans (which they'll never pay back). This is the way we continue to carry out colonialism, while giving it a pretty face.

Anyway, the history of Hallburton is instructive: one oil services company Halliburton merges with another, Brown and Root (LBJ's funders and now Cheney's quail hunting partners). Halliburton's biggest rival is Dresser Industries (Prescott Bush Director, GHW Bush employee prior to founding the CIA-tied Zapata). They merge under Dick and Anne Armstrong's leadership, resulting in the oil side (Halliburton) and the construction side (KBR). Voila! A neat concentration of power, joining together the oil world with the construction world. There are other ties to construction in this S. Texas crowd (like Katharine Armstrong's lobbying for Parsons). But Halliburton really embodies it. And of course it is utterly dependent on the Federal government for 1) profts and 2) protection and Ex-Im loans to do business in developing countries (as was Enron, of course)."
I must admit that I'm not familiar with much of this history - but i suspect that much of it is very much on target. At the same time, my personal framework is that individuals make selfish, incremental, forward-looking decisions. To the extent that is valid, then a macro, retrospective, intrepretation seems somewhat bunk.

I'm not saying that we can't learn anything from the texas mafia story, or from the rise-of-KBR story, or from the fact that the same people may have been involved in the murder of JFK, or that the people in charge today should have been put in jail a generation ago - but as we try to retrace the genesis of our current problems from the 2004 election to bush vs gore to the clinton impeachment to vp GHWB to GHWB as CIA director to iran contra to the kennedy assasination etc - we need to be cognizant of the fact that at each of these stages, the people involved were probably only looking a week/month/year in advance. ergo, when we try to create a historical narrative, we need to remember that each decision was probably made selfishly and incrementally.

5 comments:

emptywheel said...

I think your argument that "the people involved were probably only looking a week/month/year in advance" is right on, with a few exceptions. The exceptions would be the Brown family, the Armstrong family, the Bush family, Dick Cheney, and Donny Rummy.

Richard Fye said...

'At the same time, my personal framework is that individuals make selfish, incremental, forward-looking decisions. To the extent that is valid, then a macro, retrospective, intrepretation seems somewhat bunk.'

Well, that's just it, isn't it? Such a personal framework doesn't want the capacity for macro view, thus the capacity to comprehend a vast historical conspiracy.

Don't call it retro simply because forward-looking is the now terminology; and such dismissive crap it is. Puff your feathers, say it and its done, the wankers are gone, I'm forward thinking. MegaBullshit.

Every one of the sited instances that you aren't familiar with were self serving, incremental, to be sure, because they just were, but very profoundly not forward looking as a media lite-motif might have it. Those cocksuckers were of the same sociopathic, power grubbing, thuggish ilk and driven by the grandees that still thrive today because nobody's familiar with history period; its not their personal framework.

lukery said...

thanks emptywheel. wow - they must be pretty amazing. As I say, I'm really not familiar with em at all. I've gotta go read up on my Texas history and get that book that you mentioned the other day.

Richard - lol. thanks. I didn't say that I'm forward thinking, I was just trying to understand the situation and explained the framework that I was using - and i specifically said that "i suspect that much of (the stuff i quoted) is very much on target"

rimone said...

Richard Fye: Every one of the sited instances that you aren't familiar with were self serving, incremental, to be sure, because they just were, but very profoundly not forward looking as a media lite-motif might have it. Those cocksuckers were of the same sociopathic, power grubbing, thuggish ilk and driven by the grandees that still thrive today because nobody's familiar with history period; its not their personal framework.

TESTIFY, BROTHER!

lukery said...

lol - richard was tearing shreds off me!