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Sunday: That Giant Sucking Sound

I just finished listening to The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.  It’s an historical fiction novel saga of massive proportions revolving around the building of a cathedral and the original robber barons who didn’t give a flying fig for truth or beauty.  Follet is a perfectionist when it comes to historical accuracy so I can only imagine what life must have been like to live under the rule of the despicable Sir William Hamleigh, the local lord.  Sir William rapes, raids and plunders his own burghers with impunity.  He owes his allegience to the King and the King doesn’t have time or interest in mitigating disputes or hearing the pleas of Hamleigh’s besieged populace.  Essentially, the 12th century, pre-Magna Carta, was a lawless place.  The church had ecclesiastical courts but the barons did what they pleased and everyone else was forced to eek out a living between tithing the church, paying their outrageous taxes and keeping their heads down whenever Hamleigh decided to torch their homes out of spite.

Virtue wins in the end, but it takes 45 years before the wicked get their comeuppance.  Justice comes when the good guys take time to help themselves and their neighbors, don’t allow fields to go fallow,  keep the poor on their land even when poor weather conditions make it impossible for them to grow food and pay their rents and taxes.  They pitch in for community infrastructure projects, like building a wall and barbicon to keep their lord and his men-at-arms from entering and robbing the village at will.  They volunteer their time on building the cathedral and in the process, create a bustling commercial zone where people from surrounding farms and villagers can ply their wares.  If Sir William had just left well enough alone, he would have seen an increase in tax revenue and a healthier, more productive population.  But nooooo, the wealth that was starting to build had to be siphoned off immediately by Sir William time and again.

History keeps repeating itself.  In the past eight years, the robber barons have made a comeback.  When Bill Clinton, the man of good government stepped down, he left a population that was prospering.  There was a mild recession but in general, people had money in their pockets, were gainfully employed and there was a surplus.  And the robber barons sat back in their saddles and decided it was plunderable.  So, they manipulated the energy markets in California first and siphoned off the assets of vulnerable Enron workers when the whole scheme went south.  But that was just the beginning.  Then came collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and tranches.  The Paulsen Bailout Bill was the biggest transfer of wealth from average taxpayers to the wealthy and powerful with virtually no accountability or oversight.  And Barack Obama was all for it, even as Hillary Clinton tied desperately to get the country’s attention in order to fix the bill before it passed.  But that wasn’t enough.  Then the nobility at Halliburton got no-bid contracts to rape and pillage another country and hoard the oil.  But that wasn’t enough.  Now we know for sure what we suspected all along: speculators drove the price of oil up so that we, the hapless burghers, would spend $4.00/gallon in gas, driving food and heating costs up and bringing vulnerable families in shady mortgages to their knees.

But that wasn’t enough.

The plot of Follet’s book revolves around the White Ship disaster.  King Henry I was a powerful Norman monarch who had a zillion illegitimate children but few true heirs.  His only male heir is drowned in a shipwreck early in the book.   Follet writes the shipwreck as sabotage, planned by the barons, in order to keep the monarchy weak.  Henry’s only remaining heir is a woman, Matilda.  Matilda has a cousin, Stephen, who promises the churches and barons everything they want.  So, they give their allegience to Stephen, setting off a 20 year civil war that tears the country apart and leaves many rank and file English on the brink of starvation.  Stephen *is* a weak king and alliances to him shift like the wind with the end result that the barons pretty much do whatever the F^&* they want, sucking up wealth with impunity and terrorizing the villagers.  And Stephen can’t do a damn thing about it.

Plus ça Change™!

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60 Responses

  1. Thinking about community, I happened on this post through Feminist Blogs. It’s a story of a homeless woman who made an impact on those that knew her. She was in need and had much to give at the same time.



    (2nd story down)

    Saturday, January 10, 2009
    ‘She’s grace on the streets.’ ” posted by Anthony McCarthy

  2. (I’m stunned) I love it when you write like this, Riverdaughter.

  3. RD, But that can’t be the end!

    (Hi Katie…)

  4. Matilde was rejected by the nobles because she was strong, opinionated and stood her ground. She was called a virago by the men scared of her strength. In teh end, her son gained the throne.

    I find it really amazing that women realized and acknowledged that their inferior position to men was false and artificial so long ago, yet it took forever for something to be done about it on a systemic level.

  5. I was lurking earlier on my iphone …… now that I am at my desk I want to comment on early morning music of Melissa Ethridge —

    Melissa is pissed at Bill and Hillary because she doesn’t think she did enough for the Gay Community. Even though Bill went forward and put his political career on the line for Gays / Lesbians to serve openly in the military. He took a TON of heat — the DEMS ended up losing the mid-term elections over it. We got Don’t ask Don’t Tell —

    Fast forward — Melissa is all pissed off and was completely RUDE to Hillary during the LGBT debate. Now Melissa is pissing all over herself with happiness over Barry and WHAT THE FUCK has he done???

    I went to the Melissa Ethridge concert the day I flew back from Denver — the day after she “sang” for him – she was in Oakland, CA. I walked out of the concert because she couldn’t stop talking about him.

    She’s even defending Rev. Warren. Fuck her.

    One of my friends got kicked off her website for speaking the truth.

    I will NOT LISTEN to the sell out Ethridge. She’s lost my support. She can go straight to hell.

  6. I don’t do that linky thing, sorry, wish I did, but Hillbuzz has a great you tube of Shirley Bassey singing “History Repeating”. I love that song!

  7. katiebird — 1:58 post – (I’m stunned) I love it when you write like this, Riverdaughter.

    Agreed – Puma SF and a couple others were chatting yesterday about the brilliance “The Confluence” brings us on a daily basis. How everyone is so incredibly smart / talented. My life has been enriched.

  8. simo — what do these people see that we’re missing?

  9. i voted ..love this site.
    RIVER DAUGHTER is awesome….

  10. simofish, I couldn’t agree more. I am so thankful for this place.

    I couldn’t begin to match the voices here. I love it when they so eloquently speak for me.

  11. If I wanted to referee a fucking flame war over Melissa Etheridge I wouldn’t have closed the comments on that thread.

  12. I have a pack of gay women friends here–ALL obots. I just can’t get by with WTF anymore. It just feels like there aren’t enough words, and I no longer have the energy to say anything.

    I still stand by my new plan to print up “Effin Republican” stickers to plaster all over the Obama marketing materials everywhere.

    I swear, the marketing groups have all the names and contacts they need to sell crap for decades to come. They have certainly identified those that would buy absolutely anything.

  13. I’m being moderated and don’t know why.

  14. My history might be a little rusty but didn’t England expand further then ever and win several wars under
    Queen Elizabeth I?
    Didn’t Golda Mier help Israel?
    There are many parts of history that women played important role and got great things done.
    Smart men understand that and are not afraid of that fact.
    Look at Both the Clintons and the Palins, they work together and respect each other. Much could be learned by watching the things that they accomplish together.
    Both women could stand alone but choose to have smart men in their lives.
    Only a fool does not understand all his assets and when he undervalues women he pays a price.



  15. I don’t know either JB – I think Spammy has the hots for you.

  16. MYiq,

    I’ll take spammy. I’ve been so alone lately. How does he kiss?

  17. With or without his false teeth in?

  18. Well, false tooth is more accurate

  19. Oh teeth. They just get in the way. Send him over!

  20. RD is brilliant. She always says we are feeding her ego we we say it. This post is a perfect example of why I never left The Confluence once I had read RD for a couple of weeks. What I admire most is her ability to draw analogies between what we are experiencing in politics in the moment and some seemingly unrelated event or experience–and then tell a compelling story that makes the reader see the analogy very clearly.

  21. BB,

    I saw an article on American Thinker today:

    Massachusetts gives us a sneak peek at universal health insurance

    What do you think about it?


  22. “If I wanted to referee a fucking flame war over Melissa Etheridge I wouldn’t have closed the comments on that thread.”

    Why the name calling? Why is M.E. not okay and false teeth and spammy having the hots okay?

  23. I just want to share something I saw in a course on
    Old English language and literature years ago. I’ve always remembered it. It was a translation made from the old Anglo-Saxon somewhere around the time of the Venerable Bede (700-800).

    The text referred to the unification of the different counties of Southern Britain under the Anglo-Saxons, but it was the pride with which the achievement was referred to which got me.

    The example given, was that a pregnant woman could walk on foot alone, from one end of the kingdom to the other, without ever being in difficulty, such was the peace that reigned throughout.

  24. Excellent article and reference to the book. The more things change indeed. It is interesting that the person most responsible for England becoming an empire was Elisabeth, who my state of Virginia is named after in a really wonky sexist way.

    OK, now let’s have at the ME flame wars…. 🙂

  25. Simofish…are you still lurking?? If so, yeah, Melissa E has gone off the deep end and I am baffled and disgusted. Lobotomy in lala land!

    Re NiceDeb: She’s had some bizarre entries in the past and I can’t vote for her. Anti-gay and even and anti-Hillary remarks, referring to Hill’s laugh as a – what else – *cackle* and even making a gossipy, utlimately-meant-to-discredit crack about Hillary’s “lesbianism”.

  26. RD-do you listen to audibooks too? I love them.

    myiq has had to put up with a lot lately, so has BB-thank you for all you do for us.

  27. Yes, I can’t vote for nice deb either-I’ve been voting for mutiny.in !

  28. Hi Afrocity,

    I’m not that knowledgeable about the MA system, because I have had private coverage for a long time, and I haven’t had to deal with looking for an insurance plan. But I’ve heard horror stories about it. On the one hand it is good for people who don’t have any insurance, because they are able to get into the Mass Health plan, which is our version of Medicaid, except MA puts more into it than a lot of states do.

    The MA plan isn’t real “universal health care,” which would only really work with a single-payer system. The best thing for the U.S. to do would be to expand Medicare to cover everyone. Medicare is very economical and has very low administrative costs as compared to private heath ins. I don’t know if you know this, but people who are on medicare still have to purchase private supplemental plans that are very costly. The MA plan still forces employers to pay for insurance for employees or be penalized. To me it sounds like it resembles Bush’s medicare drug coverage plan, which was really designed to give a lot of tax money to big insurance co’s. BO’s health care plan would do the same thing, but I think that is dead as a doornail at this point.

    So the American Thinker article is probably correct, but extrapolating from the MA plan and saying that single payer would also be a boondoggle is wrong. And they are wrong about the Canadian system.

  29. Thanks, Laurie!

  30. I usually only lurk here, but after reading this post I decided to take the plunge and comment.

    I was given a copy of the book “The Pillars of the Earth” for my birthday last fall and after reading the first chapter I got caught up in family matters and the election and never did get back to the book. After reading this post I will go back to my book tonight and stay with it to the end. RD your rendering of the tale has made it a must read for me. Thank you very much . It would seem that today’s situation is very much like that of the book.

  31. lee M. welcome, it’s great to hear from you.

  32. Thanks BB,

    I wanted to know your take on it as a Boston woman.

  33. Another giant sucking sound coming from MSNBO:


    Bleah. Gotta go vomit.

  34. Slightly off-topic, but I just wanted to put a little plug in for the I Can Haz Cheezburger Nao? site for best pet site. F******Penguin is brilliant and funny but Haz is also very funny. I’ve been alternating my votes.

    Etheridge — I missed the flamewar thread but I’ve lost all respect for her. There’s a problem with celebrities getting involved in politics, I think, because people give much more emphasis and authority to their opinions than they deserve. ME has sufficient talent to have become famous and successful in today’s current music market (whatever that means); that doesn’t mean she’s particularly smart, observant, or astute. From the way she’s been babbling over Obama and drooling in saccherine lapdog appreciation of Warren just because he didn’t try to burn her at the stake, in fact I think all the evidence points the other way.

    Also, I think a lot of famous people get kind of wacky once they’re successful, even if they didn’t start out air-headed, because they are no longer surrounded by the usual constraints normal people are, of having to suffer the consequences of their kooky opinions, and they have way too much money and often time on their hands.

  35. KJ, love this quote:

    Generational change… And yet the reference is not to Obama’s relatively young age — at 47, he’s only tied for fifth place on the youngest presidents list with Grover Cleveland.

    And yet he is the Michael Phelps of inexperience.

  36. Afro
    Sadly, the Examiner editorial about the MA health insurance is true and correct.
    Mitt should have used hrc’s plan as a model.

    the real butt-kicker is that tax professionals (me) are now burdened with being the health insurance police, as taxpayers without coverage are made to forfeit a personal income tax exemption. A three page questionairre must be filled out and efiled (again, that would be-by me) for every adult resident filing taxes here.
    My clients hate me for nagging them about the questionairre. I hate them for not giving me the info I need, thus slowing down the pipeline.
    The coverage is expensive, small businesses are hurt, many still have no coverage, and Blue Cross Blue Shield is having a fat year.

    But bb is right. You can’t fairly compare this to a single payer system. More like a single payee system..
    thanks Mitt!

  37. looks like I’m in trouble again and I didn’t say vajay or tr**l..

  38. O/T but important:

    Tomorrow marks Louisa being in a coma for 4 weeks. Pls keep her, BJ & Denise Richardson in your thoughts.

  39. As I said earlier about Etheridge, I still like her music but I think her politics are under informed. In her defense, she is constantly surrounded by those Hopey/Changey people. She probably doesn’t know about The Confluence. When she went to talk to Warren, she most likely found him to be surprisingly charming and disarming–those folks tend to be. That’s how they get followers. But yes, I do wish celebrities would butt out, unless they really are into politics enough to do the full research.

  40. One more thing: Thou shalt root for the Steelers ( pronounced Stillers) over the Chargers. Violaters will be spammed.
    Just kidding.
    ( or *am* I? Do you really want to find out?)

  41. Ah, yes. The Iggles won, so why not the Stillers?

  42. I already rooted for the titans, the panthers and the giants. I’m 0 and 3. you may not want me to root for the steelers, but I honestly do want them to beat the chargers.

  43. RD, you are a great writer and so prolific. I get exhausted just thinking about it. I just wanted to mention that maybe you should say on your on your front page that you don’t have to register to vote in the blog contest. It’s so darn easy, I can’t believe you don’t have more votes with this great blog that you have.

  44. Chargers bite the heads off cute puppies.

  45. Sophie, Melissa E is old enough to have her feminist values intact by now. She’s been surrounded by dykes her whole life! Not saying they’re all feminists but she hasn’t lived under a rock. She’s fallen for the bs. Like so many.

    I’m ashamed for her.

  46. Unfortunately for Obama and MSNBO, we boomers aren’t going anywhere, but I’ll be happy to say “bye bye” to Barack anyway.

  47. Definitely go Steelers!! At least against the chargers. 49rs, now that would be a different story. 🙂

  48. No Niners!


  49. TD Steelers!


  50. You just can’t make this stuff up. From the NYT panel discussion this afternoon:

    Ironically, Obama may have found an unexpected cheering section in the form of the Bush administration.

    Outgoing White House officials who recognize the current president’s unpopularity are hoping the president-elect will be able to carry out parts of the Bush team’s policy vision, particularly with respect to Iraq, that are currently incomplete.

    My question is: Why would this be irony? FISA, Gitmo, tax cuts — what isn’t for the Bushies to like?

  51. Prolix:

    Today Teh Precious admitted he won’t close Gitmo in the first 100 days like he promised.

  52. MyIq, you know what they say, a day without a BZero broken promise is a day that hasn’t happened yet.

  53. Please, please go vote for Pharyngula for Best Science Blog. The current leader is a climate change denier. Pharyngula is in second place and could take the lead. Please consider adding this one to your list.


  54. wdib: Oh, pshaw, go on! {{blush}}
    No, really, GO ON!

    Yes, it is hard to believe that we don’t have more votes. But in a way, it is very understandable that the liberal, anti-Obama blogs are still smarting from the election and trying to find a coherent voice. We have a strong PUMA contingent and not everyone feels comfortable with that, though we don’t understand why.

    Or it could be that post I made the day after the election that took everyone by surprise. I have an upcoming post on it that will pull together the whole Melissa Ethridge thing. It isn’t easy making sense of the current times. We get things wrong, occasionally. But it’s all for a good cause.

  55. bluelyon: i saw Pharyngula at a YearlyKos. His blog is good but he “personally” is an elitist asshole who, I believe, was a Kool-ade drinker. I expected him to be a bit more objective. Very disappointing, though not at all surprising given his propensity to put down working class people as unteachable morons.

  56. RD You must read the sequel, “World Without End”. The heroine of the story is, well a strong woman fighting ignorance.

  57. oh, I forgot. Yes, that is my new avatar because it seems right to be counted.

  58. anyone wants to stand with me, the full size avatar is available to take from my account at Partizane.com. Please wear it with pride.

  59. RD:

    That’s ironic, because it’s my experience that it’s the elitists that are unteachable morons.

  60. Right. Obama = a raping, land-stealing robber baron. Totally.

    Zing, Obama! Zing!

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