Sunday, January 20, 2013

If you're so smart, how come you're too rich?

It is the belief of our elites that they are smarter than us and know what's good for the economy, and that's why they should be running things, undemocratically and against our wishes, to "fix" the economy. Like, for example, these guys: US Federal Reserve 'underestimated financial crisis': "The US Federal Reserve may have underestimated the looming 2007 global financial crisis, released transcripts from its meetings that year have shown. The documents suggested Fed Governor Ben Bernanke wanted to hold off from addressing rising panic in the markets. He said in December of that year that he did not "expect insolvency or near insolvency among major financial institutions". Yet many US banks and other financial firms had to be rescued in 2008. [...] The released Fed documents from 2007 also suggest current US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner underestimated the crisis. Mr Geithner, who at the time was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, said in August of that year: 'We have no indication that the major, more diversified institutions are facing any funding pressure.'"

The National Journal: "Connaughton calls Obama's view 'financially illiterate,' and he's right." (Note this follows a paragraph in which Obama misstates the problem and ends saying, "So the problem in today's financial sector can't be solved simply by reimposing models that were created in the 1930s." But of course, these are precisely the problems that those 1930s models were created to solve - and they worked.)

Or is that just a story? Maybe they already knew the real one: "Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else - particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder." The elites also believe that they deserve to have all the money, and that the rest of us deserve to be poor. Maybe they're not solving the problem because, for them, it's not a problem.

* * * * *

"Big Banks Get Tax Break On Foreclosure Abuse Deal: Consumer advocates have complained that U.S. mortgage lenders are getting off easy in a deal to settle charges that they wrongfully foreclosed on many homeowners. Now it turns out the deal is even sweeter for the lenders than it appears: Taxpayers will subsidize them for the money they're ponying up."

Via Dean Baker ("Good News on Social Security: We Aren't Living Longer"), I see that the Social Security Actuaries have responded to a piece of nonsense in the NYT that claimed the Social Security shortfall was "worse than you think" because we're living longer than the Actuaries project. What they found was that the authors in the NYT piece were, well, wrong, even in their own results.

Rick Perlstein, "Our Obama Bargain (Part 1 of 3): We have on our hands a President Groundhog Day. [...] Obama initiates a negotiation; finds his negotiating partner maneuvering him into an absurd impasse; then 'negotiates' his way out of a crisis with a settlement deferring reckoning (in the former of further negotiation) to some specified time in the future, at which point he somehow imagines negotiation will finally, at long last, work - at which point the next precipice arrives, and he lets his negotiating partners defer the reckoning once more." Or, at least, that's the story we're meant to believe....

On the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Jill LePore looks back at Sanger, Guttmacher, et al., and how the top-down anti-choice strategy made liberals timid.

Abi Hassen: "Aaron Was a Criminal and So Are You [...] Thus, we are all criminals in waiting - a fact that is dramatic in the world of 'cyber-crime,' where a typical Internet user is potentially liable for millions of dollars per day in copyright violations. The question then becomes, who is chosen for prosecution and why? If the feds just randomly prosecuted typical Internet users for violating 'terms of service' agreements, which is what Aaron did, the popular backlash would be too great. So instead, they pick their targets carefully."

Laurie Penny says the Murdoch phone-hacking case and the Levenson report were Britain's Watergate: "The British press is about to change for ever but that's no thanks to the Leveson report. After another round of back-room, minute-less meetings between ministers and managing editors, it has become clear that the bland tome of equivocation and suggestion that was the ultimate result of a media and parliamentary corruption scandal that nearly brought down the UK government is going to make almost no difference. An alternative draft bill has been published by Hacked Off, a pressure group representing 'victims of press abuse'. The term describes a group distinct from the vast majority of us who have to live in a country where 'shirker' has become a political category. Hacked Off's report is hardly a radical document. It merely suggests that the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry be implemented in full, rather than politely ignored."

Stomping on the Flag

Bill Maher, Why Does Amendment #2 Trump All the Rest?

"For Want Of A Nail" is a fine example of a Poe.

The Weapon Shops of Isher

Atrios posted a link to an animated .gif of the NY subway expansion over time, and naturally we all thought, "I wanna see one of the London Underground."

In 1969, it was a whole lot easier to go to the moon than to fake it. And your government has bigger things to lie to you about.

"Shine" - Louis Armstrong and his orchestra

Eddie Condon, "Wolverine Blues"


  1. Anyone that still believes in the Apollo Moon Landing Hoax should read the brilliant, funny
    expose "Wagging The Moon Doggie" @

    1. Actually, I did read it, and he asks a lot of questions that only make sense if don't think too hard. Like, why didn't we keep doing it? Well, we did, several more times, and then we did other, more interesting things, and more economical things.

      Anyway, a much better conspiracy theory would be that there've been far more space projects than we think, but they don't want us to know about them and they only do big launches when they need them to cover up their other space activities. (It's a great way to make sure astronomy buffs have their telescopes pointed in the other direction, isn't it?)

      See, I've often wondered where these plutocrats are planning to live after they've destroyed their own countries....

  2. My electronics teacher told me (back around 1973-4, which turns out to be right about when Eddie Condon passed on) that Condon (disclaimer: I think it was Condon) played in a club where he was, and that Bill, my teacher, was permitted by him to record him with his reel-to-reel machine. I don't know how many hours he said he recorded.

    Bill told us one day that he made a little circuit that generated a sound like a dripping faucet, and used to leave it on sometimes during the day when he was out, keeping it hidden. Drove his wife crazy, and when she asked if he heard it, he'd say he didn't.

    One day she found it. He came home from work and was greeted by one of his precious 78s hitting the wall next to his head. His wife was in the living room with his dripper device, surrounded by unspooled audio tape of Mr. Condon, into which she dropped a match.

    I liked Bill, but I felt then, and feel now, that he had it coming. He never indicated any reason for what he did to his (ex) wife. I was sorry that the price of his actions should have been hours of irreplaceable recordings of a jazz great, who I'm about 78% sure was Eddie Condon. (Thus does time make perjurers of us, I guess.)

  3. ps: Another blog on blogspot seems to have helped me pinpoint a problem I have in commenting on blogspot blogs. For a brief while, the blogger was trying a different setting to allow threaded comments, but several people — not just me! — reported being unable to comment from SeaMonkey or Firefox. He changed it back, and that was the end of the problem.

    Just saying.

  4. In this not-crisis of humanity we face, this iteration in our evolution, it'll not necessarily be the strong, the well-armed or the well to do [or Mad Scientists] that will survive.

    I chuckle often ore the best laid plans of mice and men: here we have a hundreds perhaps thousands year collusion of banking and financial interests to rule just on the very cusp of coming to fruition and wham! out of nowhere comes something like anthropogenic atmospheric disruption comes along and blows it all to shit, leaving nothing to rule but fodder for legend.

  5. Paul Krugman, who I like and whose Opologies I will sometimes tolerate (or ignore), truly made me wince today.

    => Finally, there’s financial reform. The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it’s certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.

    Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn’t as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favored Mr. Obama in 2008 — but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost). <=

    No.The plutocrats said, hey we got a great deal from Obama, but here's Rmoney, offering even more.

    =>Now, none of what I’ve just said should be taken as grounds for progressive complacency. The plutocrats may have lost a round, but their wealth and the influence it gives them in a money-driven political system remain. Meanwhile, the deficit scolds (largely financed by those same plutocrats) are still trying to bully Mr. Obama into slashing social programs. <=

    More crap. Nobody made Obama pick Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as co-chairs of a Catfood Commission back at the beginning of 2010.

  6. In my work I've met enough of the self-made super wealthy to offer this personal insight: they are dis-functionally functional. They have an aberration, or psychosis, that just happens to be a working model in our society. They are permanently agitated and dissatisfied. Never happy and forever driven to chew into the next exploitable opportunity. It can be creative in some cases but mostly they just leverage their existing position to extract what they can no matter how much destruction it causes.

  7. Just read part II of the Perlstein and feel like smashing my keyboard in half … on my face. How otherwise intelligent people can pen 1000s of words without ever concluding the obvious—the POTUS ain't a fucking liberal and has never had any interest in fighting for liberal causes. Christ almighty, it's inauguration day of his 2nd term and this stale shit is what passes for insight. Perlstein and co. are the folks stuck on Groundhog Day. At least Bill Murray was pursuing true love. It’s tiring enough pointing out reality—I can’t fathom how tiresome it must be willfully deceiving oneself/one’s readers month after month.

    1. Better to avoid stress hormones by sticking to the sceptics and cynics. Jim White over at Emptywheel says:

      Once the tears of joy get wiped away over the beautiful words Obama delivered, it would be best to stand guard against his actions, which almost certainly will be the exact opposite. To believe this is true, all we have to do is look at the great signature moves from Obama’s first inauguration. As Marcy pointed out yesterday, one of the first documents Obama signed the first time around was his executive order “closing” Guantanamo. This time, Gitmo is still open with no prospect of closing and one of Obama’s first signatures was to nominate his drone czar as Director of the CIA.

    2. JC: Here's Rortybomb attempting to answer the question "How Has the Liberal Project Fared Under President Obama?"


      "Social Insurance
      Goals: Sharing risks from poverty, large declines in income, and health problems.

      The obvious win over the past four years is Obamacare. Universal health care was the missing piece in the safety net..."

      "This framework is obviously missing international and civil libertarian projects."

      The question that I've been attempting to answer is "What exactly is the Liberal Project?"

      What is the Liberal Project, JC? What would it be, if you were Dictator-in-Chief of movement liberalism?

    3. Thanks for the link, SZ. It’s nice having an exchange with you—it’s been a while. I trust your girls are well? I have to admit that every time you mention “movement liberalism” I think of Hemingway’s line about icebergs: “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” From my perch across the (bigger) pond, liberalism appears to be equally submerged. Not so sure about its dignity though. Anyway, regarding a would-be project, I’m going to pass and simply quote the fella whose birthday we just celebrated, well, not in East Asia but…
      MLK, Jr: I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here?" that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?" These are words that must be said …

    4. MLK, Jr. con: the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
      In other words, "Your whole structure must be changed." A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.

      1967 or 2013—the project remains the same IMHO. And of course lest we forget this from his most famous speech:

      This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

      We need to be radical, yesterday. Anything less at this point is palliative care.

    5. It's been a while, JC, because I had to concentrate purely on work/baby for a bit.

      I have missed our exchanges, also.

      I'd say "Confiscating from plutocrats (and returning to the people) such political-economic power appropriate to a sustainable, free and democratic society" should be the movement Liberal Project. Liberalism is submerged to the extent that folks like Mike Konczal have forgotten to include "confiscating power from plutocrats" in lists of goals on whose progress their President should be judged.

      For (hopefully) your interest, here's a picture of The Dictator (in her words) " one of my lighter moments, relaxing after a review of strategies for enforcing absolute global dominion"

    6. Thanks SZ--will check out the dictator's image later when I'm on a less restricted network. Slovakia, famous dictators in history--coming up blank. Vlad the Impaler was from present-day Romania right?

    7. Yes, JC, Vlad was from completely different stock, not Slovak at all.

      Alžbeta Bátoriová on the other hand...

    8. OK, first off, old Lizzie was one seriously wacked-out chick. Hey, I wasn't that far off--the Carpathians arc across that whole region, don't they?

      And, well, seeing those burrito-sized eyes, I understand why you've been scarce of late. What was most unsettling is that once that pg. loaded, I couldn't go back in my browser--it'd try to but then she'd reappear again, me starting to get a bit spooked by all the piercing orbs. Reminds me of something Carson McCullers said once:

      "His eyes made a person think that he heard things that no one else had ever heard, that he knew things no one had ever guessed before. He did not seem quite human.”

      The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

  8. I prefer Nassim Taleb's form of this question:

    "If you're so rich, why aren't you smart?"

  9. Avedon writes:

    [Indent] The elites also believe that they deserve to have all the money, and that the rest of us deserve to be poor.[End indent]

    Here's a bible passage which defends this belief [LINK]:

    [Indent] When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom your spend your time denouncing.

    The machine, the frozen form of a living intelligence, is the power that expands the potential of your life by raising the productivity of your time. If you worked as a blacksmith in the mystics’ Middle Ages, the whole of your earning capacity would consist of an iron bar produced by your hands in days and days of effort. How many tons of rail do you produce per day if you work for Hank Rearden? Would you dare to claim that the size of your pay cheek was created solely by your physical labor and that those rails were the product of your muscles? The standard of living of that blacksmith is all that your muscles are worth; the rest is a gift from Hank Rearden.[End indent]

    If this were but a probate matter, as it has been reduced to here, what is the counter-argument?