van nasty

Thursday, October 05, 2006

my forth grade book report

"but when im around strangers, i turn into a conversational mount st. helens. i'm dormant, dormant, quiet, quiet, old-guy loners build log cabins on the slopes of my silence, and then, boom, its 1980. once i erupt, they'll be wiping my verbal ashes off their windshields as far away as north dakota."

assassination vacation, sarah vowell

i wish i had written that sentence. that sentence would make gutenberg proud (johannes, not steve). i particularly love the "slopes of my silence" phrase.

i forgot my book at work last night, but thankfully i have a stockpile at home (i heart the library) so i started reading assassination vacation this morning on the metro. it is, so far, a fantastically hilarious book. which is a pleasant change from the tedious book im almost finished with: confessions of an economic hit man. how do you turn a book with such a salacious title into something so smug and trite? im the type of person who cant stop reading a book (no matter how bad, or how long) once ive started it. i have yet to test this theory with remembrance of things past but, its on my to do list.

confessions is about collusion between government agencies, international banking and development organizations, and corporations to create debt in third world countries, creating a system of interdependence between developing and developed nations. the author believes this system is a modern day american empire where developing countries are indentured servants in the american fiefdom. (yes, i know i just jumbled up my history and created the worlds ugliest sentence, but, i wanted to work both indentured servants and fiefdom into that sentence. sue me.)

the author claims that the u.s. secures huge loans for developing countries, far beyond what they are capable of repaying, and with that money obligates them to hire u.s. engineering and construction companies (read: hallibutron), handing the money back to the united states. but they are still indebted for their loan, basically repaying the money twice. coincidentally, most of the countries targeted (iran, saudi arabia, i raq, venezuela, ecuador), happen to be oil rich countries.

im not disputing the basic premise of the book; maybe im a conspiracy theorist, but, i dont think this is nearly as groundbreaking a concept as the author thinks it is. my problem is with the smug, condescending, self-aggrandizing tone of the author (and this from a girl who writes a vanity blog). the author repeatedly claims to see the destruction his work is causing (environmentally, socially, economically) but continues despite the guilt because he feels he has no choice, and after all, if he werent doing it, someone else would. eventually he does leave his job as an "economic hitman" and starts an alternative energy company. which he eventually sells for millions... to an oil company. i would have more sympathy for someone who claims they thought they were doing good by bringing modern technologies and opportunities to developing countries, then "saw the light" when poverty increased, and countries began having to dedicate 50% of their budget to repaying unpayable debts. the wealth that was promised these countries rarely came to fruition, particularly in latin america, and instead devastated local economies and environments and planted seeds of bitterness directed at the u.s. i have little pity, however, for someone who claims understand the ramifications of their choices but chooses to follow their wallet, instead of their heart.


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