Saturday, October 19, 2013

Well, I just had to laugh

Anthropologist Karen Ho talked about Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street, based on interviews with employees of Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and other firms, on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.
If you haven't listened to this week's Virtually Speaking Sundays with McJoan and Stuart yet, here's the homework:
Joan McCarter, "How House Republicans guaranteed a shutdown: by changing the rules"
Rules Chair admits changing rule to prevent vote to fund govt
Jay Rosen, "The production of innocence and the reporting of American politics"

David Dayen, "Right-wing nuts nab new way to sabotage Obamacare: Remember how the shutdown deal only gave the GOP "small" concessions? One low-profile component could prove costly."

Benjamin Wittes, "The Debt Ceiling as a National Security Issue: If a body other than the Congress of the United States were actively contemplating a step that would, by the accounts of virtually all economists, tank the U.S. economy, cause interest rates to shoot up, and trigger a financial crisis, we would talk about that body as threat to national security. At a minimum, we would talk about the step it is contemplating in national security terms. A government shutdown, after all, can invite a national security event, but by itself it isn't one. It's a game of Russian Roulette. A default, by contrast, is a national security event, the loss of one of this country's great international and domestic assets: Its undoubted creditworthiness. It is an asset on which much of this country's prosperity and power rests."

"Glenn Greenwald Exits 'The Guardian' to Help Launch New Media Outlet [...] But who was the moneyman behind the new venture? A short while later Reuters was the first to report this scoop on the man behind the offer: 'Glenn Greenwald, who has made headlines around the world with his reporting on U.S. electronic surveillance programs, is leaving the Guardian newspaper to join a new media venture funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, according to people familiar with the matter.'"
"The extraordinary promise of the new Greenwald-Omidyar venture [...] By hiring Greenwald & Co., Omidyar is making a clear statement that he's the billionaire exception. A little more than a year ago, Greenwald was writing for, which (somehow) has a market cap of $3.5 million. Six years ago he was still typing away on his own blog. It's like Izzy Stone running into a civic-minded plastics billionaire determined to take I.F. Stone's Weekly large back in the day. It does sound exciting. And this is interesting: "NYU's Jay Rosen interviewed Omidyar and breaks the news that he was one of the few people approached about purchasing the Washington Post. That process led Omidyar to 'ask himself what could be done with the same investment if you decided to build something from the ground up,' Rosen writes. Wait... did he say 'same investment'? As in $250 million-ish? Yes he did."

Sirota: "Hostage-Taking In The Classroom [...] 'Experimenting with new methods' is Wall Street Journal-ese for anti-union aristocrats like Bloomberg using children as pawns in an ideological scheme to turn more of the public school system into union-free - and failing - charter schools." And that's just one little thing.

We're having a resurgence of 'Evil Old People Are Eating Their Kids' from the media, again as an argument for cutting Social Security. You really have to wonder how these people got the idea that old people are magically going to take care of themselves if they lose SS, as if everyone didn't know that one great selling point of the program is that it helps prevent old people from being a burden to their children. Your choice isn't just between "the government" taking care of granny and granny magically being kept on longer at the company she has been working for or finding a new job, it's between granny having no job and granny having no job but receiving Social Security. Which means the real choice is between granny maybe being able to afford to stay in her own home and pay for her own groceries, or granny moving in with the kids and grandkids and being another mouth to feed (one who doesn't have a few extra bucks to send to the grandchildren at Christmas). Not to mention the fact that if granny and grandpa can't afford to retire and can manage to stay in the jobs longer, that means no one below them is moving up and no new jobs are opening up at the bottom for younger people to get onto the jobs ladder. This is all so obvious that it's embarrassing to feel the need to re-state it. Digby, "The moustache of (mis)understanding strikes again: I know there is no more trite phrase in America, but Lord, this Thomas Friedman column is bad is bad. It's so bad you have to read the whole thing to experience the full horror of it. In fact, I'm not even sure he wrote it himself. It reads more like something the messaging shop at Fix the Debt put together to sound like Thomas Friedman."
I rather enjoyed Michael Brooks' response to David Gregory's claim that "entitlements" are "cannibalizing the budget".

"Pete Peterson Exposed: The 'Grand Bargain' Hoax"

"Miami attorney to challenge criminal asset seizures in Supreme Court case" - The forfeiture process is meant to reduce the possibility that "organized crime" earnings will be spent on legal defense rather than be available to be spent by the government. What it really means is that the cops take your money and then you can't defend yourself. And, interestingly, no one seizes the assets of bankers who visibly acquired their ill-gotten gains by breaking the law. It will be interesting to see what Scalia says in this case.

I generally avoid the Republican Crazy Train, but I'll make an exception for this story on John Bolton and his place in history: "But Mr. Bustani and some senior officials, both in Brazil and the United States, say Washington acted because it believed that the organization under Mr. Bustani threatened to become an obstacle to the administration's plans to invade Iraq. As justification, Washington was claiming that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, possessed chemical weapons, but Mr. Bustani said his own experts had told him that those weapons were destroyed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war. 'Everybody knew there weren't any,' he said. 'An inspection would make it obvious there were no weapons to destroy. This would completely nullify the decision to invade.' Mr. Bolton disputed that account. 'He made that argument after we invaded,' he said. Twice during the interview, Mr. Bolton said, 'The kind of person who believes that argument is the kind who puts tin foil on his ears to ward off cosmic waves.'" Since everyone saw this happening in real-time, you'd have to be a moron to believe anything John Bolton says.

Beating the DCCC's protection of Republicans, one district at a time.

Ted Rall, "My Fake French Birthplace and the NSA: Why the Best Way to Keep Big Data Safe is Not to Have Any [...] After the war, the French realized that data collected for innocent purposes during the 1930s under a leftist government headed by a Jewish president had facilitated the murder of thousands of people who might otherwise have escaped or stayed hidden."

Glenn Greenwald, "The perfect epitaph for establishment journalism: "'If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them?', says the former editor of The Independent."

This bit in Bill Moyers' "Let's Call The Shutdown What It Is: Secession By Another Means" bothers me: "Despite what they say, Obamacare is only one of their targets. Before they will allow the government to reopen, they demand employers be enabled to deny birth control coverage to female employees; they demand Obama cave on the Keystone pipeline; they demand the watchdogs over corporate pollution be muzzled and the big bad regulators of Wall Street sent home. Their ransom list goes on and on. The debt ceiling is next. They would have the government default on its obligations and responsibilities. " I am befuddled by his including of "caving" on the Keystone pipeline. Is he implying that Obama opposes Keystone? Or that Keystone is a good thing? I don't get that at all, because everything else on this list (excerpted, he tells us, from a much longer list that "goes on and on"), is something every good liberal opposes, right? Something Obama (at least publicly) opposes. But Obama doesn't oppose Keystone, and from all reports he seems to be the guy who is keeping it alive. Does Moyers believe this is not the case? I can't believe he actually supports it himself, so....

How the Obama administration is killing black colleges

Ten myths and facts about the death penalty

Russell Brand on all kinds of revolution

Lee Camp on gun rights

Benedict Cumberbatch wrote a letter to Julian Assange asking if they could meet. Here's Assange's reply.

Well, fancy that - CMike tips me off that Sanjay Gupta has finally admitted that marijuana has medical value and actually has a documentary about it.

One of the most stunning things I ever saw anyone say on the internet was back in the old Usenet days when a libertarian opined that what made Dilbert so funny is that it was so unrealistic, no one had those experiences. Which I guess explains why he was a libertarian, at least. Anyway, here's a post called "How 'Dilbert' Practically Wrote Itself."

"Gamers solve decade old HIV puzzle in ten days."


"A Day in the Life"


  1. Speaking of Pete Peterson and 'Fix The Debt', this is rich.


    umair haque@umairh

    If we sell the poor into slavery and train the young to be gladiators, will that fix our looming debt nightmare? #fixthedebtqa

  2. Not a very good likeness but otherwise here's a faithful depiction of the stern, one stray at a time approach the New Deal purist Stuart Zechman uses to herd Democrats back to the fold.

    1. Well, at that rate (of conversion) we should all survive the maelstrom by a few extra days.

    2. Mike Flannigan asks why the Democrats feel the need to negotiate with a political party that hasn't enough steam left to close down a hot dog stand.

    3. "Wha...?"- more like "which?" I should think, but not "what?" Both jcapan and jurassicpork "got it," so I wasn't all that abstruse. Jurassicpork zeroed in on the friendly interpretation that, when it comes to signature New Deal programs and strategies, don't fix what isn't broken, e.g. Social Security, the corollary unfix what wasn't broken but is now, e. g. the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and back to the future by, for example, revitalizing the domestic American manufacturing sector. Stuart, undeniably, you are a great champion of these and other New Deal cornerstones, the tried and true; the old-school solutions that remain relevant for today.

      Jcapan adds on an ironic take, that there are killer economic, environmental, or political downdrafts ahead around which the New Deal doesn't provide much guidance and movement liberalism doesn't seem to be suggesting a route, not even one just for the sake of discussion. I wasn't going for ironic but, being more of a lefty than a New Deal liberal these days myself, I have been thinking about that 1930 Keynes essay wherein the great man anticipates the possibility of a fifteen hour work weeks providing ordinary workers the means for a comfortable life style by the year 2030 if they could make a success of their leisure time, Jeremy Rifkin's 1995 book The End of Work, and now the 10-22-2013 David Atkins post which is related to all of this:

      [BEGIN QUOTE]>>>>>You remember IBM's Watson, the Jeopardy champion computer program? It diagnoses cancer now, and better than doctors do.... [T]hink about what it means for public policy..., the world economy, and capitalism itself...

      The implications of this are staggering on several fronts. Most policy makers are fighting over sand castles while an oncoming tide is surging at them.

      ...[A] funny thing is going to happen when the machines start taking the jobs of doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, managers and professors. We're not quite there yet, but the day is coming very soon when many of what had traditionally been considered untouchable jobs will be done just as effectively or better by machines.

      ...When the machines and the Internet start taking the white collar jobs, look for a moral panic and rethinking of the capitalist bargain that should have started 30 years ago, but didn't because blue collar workers have no political power....<<<<<[END QUOTE]

    4. Or did I misinterpret jcapan's interpretation?

    5. Ruh-roh.

      This is tough. I can't even begin to respond how I'd like to, because there's a fucking word limit in this commentary.

      Let's have a voice conversation, how about that, CMike?

      I'll just say that I did read ThereIsNoSpoon's piece and thought about it, and I know about modernism's predictions for labor, and I am aware that A) the New Deal ultimately gave us the the government that warred in South East Asia, B) the features of the Great Society that are the most similar to Robert Moses' solutions to large-scale problems have ultimately proven to be grotesque failures, and C) we have very little time remaining with which to invent and disseminate a new language of the left that can adequately describe how and why we have no power to do anything worthwhile, especially when there's a new day rising across the world.

      What do you say, CMike? Should we talk?

    6. Nope, CMike, you got me:

      "Jcapan adds on an ironic take, that there are killer economic, environmental, or political downdrafts ahead around which the New Deal doesn't provide much guidance and movement liberalism doesn't seem to be suggesting a route, not even one just for the sake of discussion."

      I like SZ's variation: "we have very little time remaining with which to invent and disseminate a new language of the left that can adequately describe how and why we have no power to do anything worthwhile"

      But is language enough at this point, or only as a means of inciting revolt against a state with zero intention of surrendering power, power as currently wielded that is guaranteed to lead to (wider) dystopia and mass death.

    7. Stuart Z. writes:

      >>>>>I can't even begin to respond how I'd like to, because there's a word limit.<<<<<

      Word limits never used keep Stuart from responding before as he liked, i.e. at length, at least not before the blessed event. Which reminds me, here's a handy parenting technique Stuart might want to work at mastering.

      Stuart, I kind of think print is the best medium for discussing political issues but I'm certainly willing to say hi and listen on the phone to anything you might have to say on this, or any other topic. My own chattering out loud skills about public policy have been in moth balls for a few years because of the company I've been keeping so don't be expecting me to hold up my end of the conversation. I'll email you the landline number here later today, I'm currently sans cell phone and don't expect the new one to arrive until after the weekend.

    8. Ordinarily I don't have much patience for prescription-less rants but I listened to this one to the end and then I listened to it again.

    9. 1) word limit point taken.

      2) Lovely parenting technique, I employ a version of it, myself.

      3) Does this mean you are totally against doing a "Z Axis" (the name of my new monthly VS show) call in, if we did a preliminary conversation to go over a prepared outline?

    10. I certainly will be listening to Z Axis and find it very encouraging to hear about the prep work you're planning to put into each show. What I would like to hear from a lefty/liberal talk show is rhetoric that is smooth and concise enough, and repeated from show to show regularly enough, for me to pick up on it, internalize it, and then be able to repeat it should the opportunity arise when I am in conversation with someone. You get that from listening to right wing talk radio, that is, at least in your own mind, you can just about stay two sentences ahead of their most effective hosts with what they're going to say on a topic or to a caller-- and that's the strength of those shows towards building a consensus among the listeners. There's a clip of Chomsky deriding concision but actually it would be a big help to New Deal liberalism and the left for their spokespeople to be serving that stuff up on a daily basis.

      That said, at present I'm sure I'd be too rambling from a lack of practice in the art of out-loud argumentation to do the cause any good on this front. Maybe if I spend some time in the coming weeks talking aloud to myself off in a corner somewhere I can recapture the gift of glib that I, at one time, fancied myself as having had. If so, and if I can book some studio time in the bedroom at home when know I won't be interrupted, maybe I will tell your producer I think I'm ready for my close-up.

    11. Re the prescriptionless rant,
      Fascinating to see the initially patronizing and sanctimonious Paxman fade and Brand gradually come to dominate. Because he's the one with real passion and anger (as well as intelligence) - Paxman seemed to recognize that by the end. Worth it just for Brand's description of Parliament looking like Eton and Oxford.

  3. 13 billion dollar settlement or 6 billion dollar settlement? Bill Black on The Real News.

    BTW, CMike, you weren't abstruse. I got it and laughed, but then I'm not keen on a "return" to much of anything.

  4. Great story on Foldit and retroviral protease, Avedon!

  5. I am inclined to think that modern politicians lack depth. The people who, in the UK, enter politics with a PPE degree, have had a very broad education (good) which is necessarily shallow (bad). You can see a certain failure to consider the numbers, such as David Cameron obviously not realising the implications of millions of Facebook users uploading potentially offensive content. I am not a statistician, but I see some very obvious weaknesses in figure that politicians claim for problems. Do they realise they are liars?

    The latest bit of Cameron's number-wanking is the claim that a new trade agreement will improve Britain's GDP by 0.02%. That's down in the noise of GDP statistics. The ONS revised down GDP readings in the third and fourth quarters of 2012 and said full-year growth last year now stood at 0.1 percent, down from an earlier estimate of 0.2 percent.

    When I was doing my A-levels, [mumble] years ago, we had a sliver of "English for Scientists" on the timetable. Maybe there needs to be a GCSE called "Numeracy for Politicians".

    1. Any thoughts as to: "Would US Education Be Better If We Replaced Algebra Requirements With Stats & Logic?" Pretty hard to argue against the idea that most high-schoolers would find dice and playing cards a lot more interesting to work with than log tables.*
      *Log tables, I typed that without thinking. I guess that does mean I'm an ancient.