BERTIE WOOSTER A NAZI?

According to an article in today’s Guardian, newly released records show that the light and fluffy British novelist P.G. Wodehouse was questioned by MI5 as a suspected German collaborator for broadcasting from Berlin during World War II. A shocked Wodehouse denied the accusation.

Wodehouse was 59 years old and living in France when war broke out. He was taken prisoner when Germany invaded and sent to an internment camp in the German town of Tost, Upper Silesia. He described how, “as he was playing in a cricket match” on 21 June 1941, he was moved to Berlin. Installed at the posh Adlon hotel, and was paid to make a series of broadcasts, mainly for American listeners, describing his life as an internee. He claimed he was motivated by gratitude over letters sent by fans from the US. Afterwards, he and his wife were relocated to Paris, where they lived in the Bristol Hotel until liberation of Paris.

In his statement for MI5 to Wesley Stout, Wodehouse said his broadcasts simply reflected the “flippant, cheerful attitude of all British prisoners. It was a point of honour with us not to whine. . . . .I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions.” In one of his jokes, he wrot: “If this is Upper Silesia, what on earth must Lower Silesia be like?”

Wodehouse said that, while interned at Tost, he completed his novel Joy in the Morning, and wrote Full Moon, Spring Fever, and Uncle Dynamite. The writer told MI5: “I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action.” MI5 decided that the broadcasts were not pro-German and had been unlikely to assist the enemy, and decided against prosecution. M15 later changed its mind, and said that if Wodehouse ever returns to Britain–he had moved to the United States, and lived there until his death in 1975–he should be prosecuted.”

GOVERNOR HIGH GAS PRICES

Writing on redstate.com, Erik Erikson says “[Rick] Perry is rapidly becoming the front running and consolidating the lead.” Just speculating, I assume this has to do with his leaderly Texas macho swagger (“He’s a good lookin’ rascal,” said Bill Clinton, with what I detect is just a bit of mischief in his choice of words), as well as a strong record of job creation in Texas. I guess the theory is that if he can created jobs in Texas, he will be able to create jobs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and so on.

This idea will never last. As Annie Lowrey pointed out in Slate, Perry benefited enormously from a decade-long rise in oil and gas prices that coincided with his tenure as governor. As she writes, “in December 2000, when he took office, the price of a barrel of oil was about $30, adjusted for inflation. Today, it is about $82. At its height, it was nearly $150. High oil prices mean high revenues for Texan oil companies. . . .Oil and gas currently contributes about $325 billion a year to Texas’ economy.” According to The Economist, the oil and gas industries have accounted for about 13 percent of the state’s job growth.

Don’t you think that sooner or later, don’t you think one of Perry’s opponents is going to point out that Texas’s enrichment has been at the expense of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and so on? Folks in those states are paying somewhere between $3.50 and $4 a gallon for gasoline, much of which is flowing into the Texas economy. And this isn’t just a lone example of taking advantage of a beggar-thy-neighbor opportunity; this is Perry’s economic policy. According to The Economist, “in 2003 the legislature established the Texas Enterprise Fund, a “deal-closing fund” that gives the governor subsidies and incentives to use in his efforts to woo, or if you’d prefer, poach businesses from elsewhere. This seems to deviate from free-market orthodoxy and it has exposed him to charges of crony capitalism, but it has also helped his administration create jobs.” He will be Governor High Gas Prices; you can write him off today.

The oil and gas industries are going to be chained around Rick Perry’s neck, and he will humble Houdini if he can escape that embrace. The coup de grace may come in mid-2012, when TNT rejuvenates the TV series Dallas with a ten episode run. Although the show will be an update of the 1980s-era hit, and will feature new characters, Larry Hagman will reprise J.R. Ewing. The embodiment of a scheming Texas oil man will be on display in all his mendacity just in time, I believe, for the California primary.

INTO THE HEART OF PENNSYLTUCKY

On Wednesday, Ginny and I and Cara headed out for the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where Cara will soon begin her freshman year. Thinking to combine some tourism with one of the last acts of basic parenthood (everything after this gets placed in the supplemental category), we headed first for Cleveland, where we saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (left), which sits inside a dazzling I.M. Pei pyramid on the shores of Lake Erie, which, as just as the advance word promised, is indeed a Great Lake. We stayed in a Crowne Plaza Hotel with bad room service, and then hit the Hall on Thursday. It was pretty cool, although it wa bit disconcerting to see one’s youth in a musem. The effect that is produced is not the warmth of nostalgia, nor the intellectual stimulation that is produced by going to, say, the Met. It’s kind of cool, but kind of dull. The best moment was seeing a montage of British Invasion groups, and being reminded how very cool the Kinks and the Zombies and the Animals really were. It was amazing how well Eric Burden could shake his hair and his ass simultaneously, but of course one now sees that lhe indeed loked like the spastic madman his critics said he did.

After lunch it was south on a very straight and boring I-75 (highlight: a huge billboard in a cornfield says Hell Is Real), through Cincinnati, and then onto Lexington. On Friday we moved Cara moved into her room, a process hectic enough to inspire a couple of stories that will be top of the line private stock family stories. After she settled in, we went back and spent the night in a very nice Hyatt. The next day, we visited Ashland, the home of the Great Compromiser Henry Clay, and then attended a couple of information sessions with Cara before sharing a pretty bland meal at an Italian restaurant (this is why Tony Soprano was neve drawn to the witness protection program), before taking our leave, and driving back up to Columbus, where we spent the night in an excellent Westin, of whose quality we were not worthy. (Top right, a new Wildcat in her lair; bottom right, Clay’s pile; Top left, Cincinnati, Thursday, 4:55 PM; bottom left, Columbus, Sunday, 8:30 AM.)

On Sunday, we drove from Columbus to Canton, which turns out to be far from everything, to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (If you wonder why the Hall of Fame is in Canton, it’s because football had it’s roots in Canton specifically and Ohio generally. But football soon left Canton for the bright lights of the big cities, and it’s no mystery why.) I liked the museum–it had some pretty cool Baltimore Colts stuff, including the Marching Band’s drum and Tom Matte‘s famous play-inscribed arm bands–but a lot of it was kind of static. They really could do a lot more. The best part was the collection of amazing films. And then it was eight hours back through Pennsylvania, and home. Happy to be back, but already missing Cara.

WHY DO WE THINK CORPORTIONS ARE PEOPLE?

Two sentences have resulted in more damage to American democracy than any other. The sentences are simple, but have had profound effects. Both sentences are false on their face, and yet both have been decreed true by the Supreme Court, and are therefore the law of the land.

One sentence is that a corporation is a person. The other is that money is speech.

The corporation was invented as a legal entity in the 19th century. The original corporations were government-chartered institution meant to effect specific public functions, such as building a bridge. In 1886, Morrison R. Waite, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, wrote an opinion that held that under the Fourteenth Amendment, corporations were “persons” having the same rights as human being. We have been living with Waite’s ruling ever since, and even strict constructionists as John Roberts and Antonin Scalia blythly agree without any doubt that this is the case. But it sure seems like a leap to me.

Mitt Romney attracted considerable attention this past week when, while attending the Iowa State Fair, he articulated this fundamental legal building block. Romney explained that one way to fulfill promises on entitlement programs is to “raise taxes on people,” but before he could articulate his position on not raising taxes, a protester in the crowd shouted “Corporations!”, apparently urging Romney to raise taxes on corporations.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney said, provoking some in the crowd to shout “No, they’re not!”

“Of course they are,” Romney said. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?” Romney seemed shocked that so many people didn’t understand this important legal finding. And it certainly seemed odd to see many pundits believing that this was a kind of gaffe on his part, to repeat this fundamental principle that so fw people understand or acknowledge.

Of course, many corporations are not simple people, in any individual rights, We the People, of the people, by the people, for the people sense. Many corporations are super machines for raising and spending money, with vast powers and privileges that dwarf that of most individuals. And most people understand in an obvious, plain as the nose on your face way, that corporations are not people. Governments are not people. Churches are not people. Why the hell are corporations people?

The bizarreness of our willingness to inhabit this legal fiction was made brilliantly clear a few years ago by The Corporation, a documentary written by Joel Bakan, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, and/or the companion book subsequently written by Bakan. The Corporation makes the point that corporations are legally required to always act in ways that maximize profits for shareholders, which means that if a corporation is a person, it is a clinical psychopath or sociopath, characterized by extreme self-interest, antisocial tendencies, a lack of empathy, a refusal to accept responsibility for antisocial actions, and an inability to feel remorse. And this behavior is tolerated to an insane degree; corporations routinely break the law, and suffer only fines for their misbehavior, no criminal sanctions. Moreover, any other kind of behavior is criticized. The great capitalist idealogue Milton Friedman called social responsibility programs “hypocritical window-dressing” in an article he wrote for The New York Times Magazine in 1970 titled “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” Kind of says it all.


The sharpest blow against corporate power would be a constitutional amendment stating unequivocally that corporations are not people and do not have the right to buy elections. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland introduced such an amendment last year. “Justice Brandeis got it right,” she said. ” ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ ”

I would just like to see a simple show of hands. How many people agree with Mitt Romney that corporations are people? All the clever guys, like Romney and Roberts and Scalia and other law schools grads would one answer. The rest of us would get another.

TALKING THE CIVIL WAR IN OHIO

I had the great pleasure of talking about And the War Came with Jim Fuller and his friend Bill Walker on WOUB radio in Athens, Ohio. Jim and Bill are very knowledgeable about the Civil War, and it was very rewarding to talk with people who are so well informed and so thoughtful about the issues that surrounded the conflict. I am very grateful that I was invited onto the program. Anyone who wishes to hear the broadcast can listen to it here. Thanks, guys!