cans, and Native Americans, DorNer is so scrupulously balanced that he could probably place his 372-page companion volume on his head and walk a straight line. Convinced that a short, straight line across the Atlantic would lead him to the riches of Asia, Columbus set sail in his caravels. Much of Episodes two, three, and four follows the construction and voyage of quincentennial facsimiles of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria as they retrace the route during what Lyman calls “history’s most stunning accident.” We can drown our qualms about the enterprise itself in riveting details of Renaissance shipbuilding and navigation. But it is Episode VI, “The Columbian Exchange,” that offers the most intriguing information about the conse quences of a 15th-century encounter in the Caribbean. Horses and cattle seem so natural to the cultures of this hemisphere that it is easy to forget they were brought by the Spaniards. Italy did without tomatoes and Africa without cassava until Europeans carried them back from the Western hemisphere. Pre-Columbian America lacked wheat, onions, melons, lettuce, rice, and bananas, and Europe did not know about maize, beans, pumpkins, squash, and peanuts 500 years ago. In 1759, Voltaire was already mocking the fatuousness of balancing human suffering against the trade in produce when he has his Dr. Pangloss tell Candide that the trans-Atlantic transmission of syphillis was for the best in this best of all possible worlds without it, “we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal.” Columbus and the Age of Discovery offers a considerably more sophisticated account of how the Columbian exchange dramatically transformed the cultures of Africa, America and Europe. The contributions to Boston politics of Kennedy, O’Neill, and Flynn are a consequence of the fact that, during the potato famine, the Irish migrated to the continent that had first provided the crop on which they became dependent. Columbus died without ever realizing he had stumbled upon another hemisphere, and Lyman says of him: “The world was a bigger and richer place than he or anyone else had ever suspected.” The film suggests that the forces he unleashed also made it both bigger and richer and smaller and poorer. AFTERWORD Return of the King BY JAMES MCCARTY YEAGER Washington, D.C. 0 NE OF MY OLD HOUSTON friends wrote the other day to say he deplored what he saw as the selfish special in terests Congress displayed in last year’s budget debate. His proffered cure was to give the President the line-item veto power, exonerating Bush of any responsibility in the budget mess. My friend is now an attorney in an uptown Houston law firm. But when he and I were in Houston high schools and colleges together, he was much more conscious of being the son of a union electrician from Pasadena who had worked in the refineries and died in an industrial accident. When the children of Texas progressives and working people are sucked in by the Republicans, the state and nation are in trouble. While last year’s structural reforms in the Congressional budget process were ostensibly aimed at reducing the deficit, they are, in fact, merely the immediate means whereby the public can avoid deciding what it wants. For the last quarter-century the public has wanted middle-class entitlements paid for, not with taxes, but with subsidies to the upper classes in the form of interest on government bonds. This proved to be such a good deal that eventually the .Japanese and German upper classes lined up for these American subsidies too. In the face of these middle-class entitlements and The writer has been punished for his desertion of Houston by his having been exiled to a Republican Congressional District in Maryland. 22 OCTOBER 4, 1991 upper-class subsidies, the costs of government were then cleverly, maliciously, and successfully blamed upon the poor by the grand publicity apparatus assembled under and for such the InThe Republican Street Journal has been agitating for the line-item veto, which would allow a President to disapprove any part of a bill passed by Congress instead of having to accept or reject bills in their entirety, as has been the case for 205 years. The line-item veto campaign has been conducted in editorials and country-club conversations since early in St. Reagan’s reign, when his advisors concluded that their economic interests required the American government, except for the military establishment, to be bled to death. No matter how much the country grew, or how many public problems cried out for public solutions, tax revenues were not to grow and spending was to be cut, until the government fulfilled only its historic capitalist functions of keeping labor in line and property safe. The trouble with pure capitalism, of course, is that you can’t keep the working populace quiet and protect the homes and businesses of the propertied \(however middle class they may justice, and some mild approach, such as ours in the United States which does not go too far, toward political democracy. The notion of lobbyists’ watercarrier Lloyd Bentsen as a small-d democrat should be sufficient to dispel, upon gusts of laughter, any lingering hope that political democracy is very strong in America, or that the national Democratic party THE TEXAS OBSERVER thanks Marjon Bryan of Houston for helping to bring our technology out of the Stone Age through her generous donation of a laser printer. Thank you for supporting the Texas Observer.
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