SocraticGadfly: 9/12/10 - 9/19/10

September 18, 2010

More Americans want a third party - I'd settle for a second one

So says Gallup.

And, it's understandable why. We have one political party (GOP), its Dark Shadows alter ego (Tea Partiers) and a GOP Jaycees slouching toward Gomorrah (Democrats).

Unfortunately, the "third party" most Americans want is something between what Republicans are and what Democrats are stereotyped as being. In that case, we actually have a third party now in existence - THE DEMOCRATS.

Sad to say, though, we don't have a second party at the moment.

Obama from the left: A worse liar than Clinton

Meanwhile, Obama again mocked the "professional left," this time while sucking up to the rich in Greenwich, Conn., many of whom he protected from real financial regulation with his pseudo-reform bill.

It's clear that he's a flat-out liar about wanting to be "pushed" by the left. It's clear he's both a worse, and more unskilled, liar about it than Bill Clinton was on the same subject.javascript:void(0)

Obama mocks the "left" - gets Beltway kudos

Even for bloggers who don't have "access," maybe it's about "glow," the glow of acceptance from a thin-skinned president who continues to put the lie to claims that he wants the left to push him.

Obama Friday mocked the left while sucking up to the rich in Greenwich, Conn., many of whom he protected from real financial regulation with his pseudo-reform bill:
Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particular derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

Let me see. This is the health bill you made less historic by refusing to offer any support to a public option. The derivatives rule? As we all know, Blanche Lincoln supported it to win a primary election in Arkansas, then, away it went again. Most productive legislative session in at least a generation? Praising with faint damns, or the soft bigotry of low expectations. You want to be compared to the last Clinton Administration Congress, which was "productive" in passing all the financial dereg that contributed to the crash and that your "productiveness" refused to overturn?

And, you're not as skilled a liar as Clinton, either.

The latest U.S. military atrocity

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies, the Guardian reports And, no, I do NOT expect American mainstream media to pick up the thread of coverage on this story very quickly. Hell, before I saw a link to the Guardian story, I'd heard zilch about this.

TARPoholic neolib Obamiacs get the vapors

The neolibs and Obamiacs are singing in praise of TARP with its second anniversary approachoing. And, of course, they're singing the praises of George Barack Obama as a large part of that.

First, Kevin Drum:
And the cost of TARP? CBO estimates the government will make a profit of $7 billion from the bank bailouts (though it may still lose money on GM and Chrysler, which were also rescued with TARP funds) and it now looks like AIG will pay back all its bailout money too. Bottom line: the ongoing recession caused by Wall Street's reckless behavior has cost us a bundle. But TARP itself? Its net direct cost is zero, and when you include the fact that it almost certainly saved the banking system and softened the recession, it may boast the biggest bang for the buck of any bill ever passed by Congress.

Drum ignores the debit side, including a financial "reform" bill that does little of the sort, and was probably enabled by TARP, and may encourage further recklessness. He also offers no proof that TARP seriously ameliorated the recession. As for AIG paying back all the bailout, the devil is in the details of stock conversions, etc.

Yglesias unsurprisingly weighs in with more on the profit motive.

Is $7 billion any more than chump change, not a real profit? Of course not, on the size of Big Banking. And, like Drummie-poo, Yggy doesn't even try to calculate potential losses.

Karl Smith ignores the idea we had a better alternative - bank nationalization - even when it's raised by a commenter.

Meanwhile, Ezra Klein decides if he's going to bury his head up Obama's ass on this, he'll go whole hog.

Reality? Bank nationalization would have given Obama easy leverage to do real financial reforms. But, with his Goldman Sachs/Robert Rubin based financial team, and outraising McCain for campaign funds on Wall Street, he never really wanted to do that. Too bad none of the above will admit that.

Meanwhile, Obama again mocked the "professional left," this time while sucking up to the rich in Greenwich, Conn., many of whom he protected from real financial regulation with his pseudo-reform bill.

It's clear that he's a flat-out liar about wanting to be "pushed" by the left. It's clear he's both a worse, and more unskilled, liar about it than Bill Clinton was on the same subject.

If Dems lose midterms, it's Obama's fault

Likewise, if he loses in 2012. No, seriously. Don't blame GOP obstructionism, of which Prez Kumbaya should have been more cognizant from the get-go. Blame the man staring back at President Barack Obama in the mirror.

If he loses, it's his own fault.

But, the person who slugged the URl is wrong. Obama didn't get "rolled by Wall Street." Geither, Summers et al were willingly chosen as economic advisers precisely because of their Goldman Sachs/Robert Rubin "bloodline"; others were willingly excluded.
Yet those who were most aligned with the “progressive” side of the Wall Street reform issue remained, for the most part, on the outside of the administration looking in. Among them were Brooksley Born, the former chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Summers and Geithner, by contrast, had been acolytes of Bob Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who, along with then–Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, had presided over many of the key deregulatory changes in the ’90s. And they convinced Obama that the financial system they themselves had done so much to nurture was, on the whole, fine.

That relates to a failure of will:
(T)he leadership question can’t be ignored. Financial and economic reform just never seemed to be a subject that kindled Obama’s passions, his critics say. ...There was so much passion and ambition in Obama’s words about fixing the economy, and so much dispassion and caution in his policy choices. Early in the Democratic primaries, in January 2008, Obama had stunned many of his supporters by praising Reagan as a transformational president—a contrast to the eight years of Bill Clinton, Obama added cuttingly. Reagan, Obama said, “put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.” Yet at what would seem to be a similar historical inflection point—what should have been the end of Reaganism, or deregulatory fervor—President Obama seemed unprepared to address the deeper ills of the financial system and the economy. ... The Obama administration also did little to use its bully pulpit to reorient pay packages at the big financial houses, where bonuses still often run in the tens of millions of dollars. Critics make the case that changing this pay structure would do more than punish those who helped spur the meltdown. It might also encourage some of America’s greatest minds to stay away from financial engineering, which contributes little of substance to the economy, and instead consider real engineering.

Meanwhile, rather than acting like FDR or LBJ, Obama seems more and more like the second coming of Jimmy Carter. No, not every president is an LBJ, an FDR, a Wilson, or even a Reagan, at handling Congress. But, the more successful presidents improve their skills.

Another reason it's his fault if Dems lose big in midterms, or he loses in 2012?


Obama again mocked the "professional left," this time while sucking up to the rich in Greenwich, Conn., many of whom he protected from real financial regulation with his pseudo-reform bill.

It's clear that he's a flat-out liar about wanting to be "pushed" by the left. It's clear he's both a worse, and more unskilled, liar about it than Bill Clinton was on the same subject.

September 17, 2010

The Elizabeth Warren Rorschach test

Note to Andrew Leonard's thought: Count me as a cynic, based on Obama's previous actions, who see his non-appointment "appointment" of Elizabeth Warren to do "something" with the Consumer Finance Protection Agency as ultimately being a sidelining of her, an attempted sop to progressives (smart ones, like me, won't bite) and semi-progressives (who grudgingly, or stupidly, will bite), and that's typical of the man.

Also, note to Leonard's thought: WRONG on how much Obama "invested" in finance reform vs. what could really have been done.

Call this another hypocrisy alert.

Why does the Wall Street Journal hate America?

On its opinion page, I caught the Journal in an outright lie.

That said, chill, Dems; the lie, when corrected, redounds most poorly on the Slickster, not either Bush or St. Ronald of Reagan.

A lame-o op-ed, a Faux-ditorial if we will, since the WSJ is part of Rupertville, totally ignores what everybody with economic knowledge knows: the income gap in the U.S. is the worst since at least the Depression, if not the last 100 years.

Instead, it uses the editorial as an excuse to bash Obama.

As far as income inequality measured by the Gini index? The WSJ tells an outright lie with the claim that it hasn't changed much. Wikipedia shows otherwise.

We have about as bad of income disparity as Mexico! And, the gap is ... closing. If current trends continue, we will be more income-disparate than Mexico in 20 years or so.

That said, both parties are to blame. While the problem got moderately worse under Reagan, it really got worse under neolib, China-loving Bill Clinton, more than under Reagan or either Bush.

Wiki has more on American income inequality here and here.

Bud needs to invoke 'good of baseball' clause in LA

As the McCourts' divorce trial reveals new levels of greed, financial chicanery and more, one of baseball's most storied, and most important, franchises is at risk of moral bankruptcy, if not financial insolvency.

Bowie Kuhn barred George Steinbrenner from day-to-day operation of the Yankees in the wake of the Dave Winfield dirt-digging fiasco.

So, if current commissioner Bud Selig wants to push it, I believe he could force the McCourts to sell the Dodgers.

He should.

Now, if Peter O'Malley could just line up a consortium of buyers.

Plus ça change, even for the universe?

Looks like Old Man Universe might have changed over 13 billion or so years.

Specifically, the fine-structure constant may not be so constant.

Why is this important? If the constant is inconstant, then the strengthe of the electromagnetic force isn’t constant, either.

There had been some hints at this in the past few years, but with the question of whether the inconstancy was space-based or time-based. New evidence seems to not only support the inconstancy, but that it’s time-based. (Which makes more sense to me.)

Anyway, read all about it.

September 16, 2010

Geithner fiddles while senators burn at China

The Senate is raking Treasury Secretary Lil Timmy Geithner over the coals, and rightfully so, for not doing more about Chinese currency issues. At the same time, Chris Dodd, D-Pompous, while noting that every administration from Reagan on has kowtowed to China, ignores that every Congress in same said time frame has willingly swallowed presidential administration lies about "action."

Meanwhile, the administration is taking action on two lesser issues; but, that's not enough. In that story, an economic analyst notes that getting China to revalue its currency could create 500K jobs here and cut our trade deficit in half.

Why GM isn't really out of bankruptcy

So-called "old GM," now known as Motors Liquidation Company, is dumping the costs of numerous abandoned plants on the hands of local governments. And, using a Treasury loan, not likely to be repaid for years, to finance the cost of trying to dispose of these plants, while still waiting for a bankruptcy reorganization to be approved.

So, got that, bailout boosters? GM isn't out of bankruptcy; just a small part of it.

And, judging by the confusion involved with some shuttered plants, the lackadaisical attitude of new GM, and the sucky economy in Michigan, old GM will be in limbo or worse for some time.

OD-ing on sugar?

Possibly. One well-known endocrinologist, Robert Lustig, compares its effects to alcohol. Not just the addictive effects, it can,like alcohol, cause fatty liver.

That means that Type 2 Diabetes (and, for the days when we called it "adult-onset diabetes," which it ain't) isn't the only problem.

That said, Lustig both notes that high-fructose corn syrup has about the same fructose percentage as table sugar, and that fructose is the culprit. Sounds like we need people to get used to less sweet drinks AND to force ADM and Cargill to produce HGCS - high GLUCOSE corn syrup.

Hey, when you're on an IV drip in the hospital, it's glucose, not fructose.

An MD's Hypocritical Oath in action

OK, what's wrong with this picture? A hospital professional possibly violates HIPPA while perpetuating racial (it seems) and socioeconomic stereotypes. All to attack so-called "Obamacare."

Via the Snopes link, this was an actual letter to the editor Dr. Starner Jones had run in the Jackson, Miss. newspaper. I will quote the first graf in full:
During my last night's shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B tune for a ringtone. Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid. She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer.

The obvious racial stereotypes, as well as socioeconomic ones, bleed out of this doctor's letter.

First, how do you know her "shiny new gold tooth" is new? Fact is, precisely because it's so "visible," gold as a filling material has always been the poor person's filling. That's the first fact our good doctor won't let stand in the way of medical compassion, or his alternate world.

Second, how do you know the tennis shoes were "a very expensive brand"? How do WE know, even more, if you won't tell us what the brand is? Fact is, at a discount shoe store, "Docccccctttoooooorrr" Jones (to riff on Rush), Nikes can be bought for under $50.

Third, a cell phone is NOT a luxury. Depending on her rate plan and such, it may be cheaper for her than a landline.

Fourth, a "costly" pack of cigarettes? They're all kind of costly. That said, why don't you complain about Philip Morris, American Tobacco, Lorillard, etc., all of whom deliberately targeted minorities for decades? And, if you're spilling the beans, how do you know how much a day she smokes?

Fifth, buying beer isn't a sin.

But, the biggie, the "Medicaid" status.

Hey, "Docccctttooooorrrrrrr" Jones, your GOP-type buddies who own Wally-World had it as their corporate policy to push employees into Medicaid if they couldn't afford company insurance. Plenty of other people are on Medicaid who are employed. So are people on Social Security Disability Income.

Instead of complaining about her as a "cheat," let's look at rich, white present and former CEOs at Big Tobacco, the ones who targeted people like your stereotyped welfare queen.

Or, let's look at Dwayne Andreas at Archer Daniels Midland, who, via the "farm bills" that boost Big Ag companies like his, peddle junk-food crack to lower-income people.

And, to my family that lives in a state, Missouri, that lets junk food be bought with food stamps: Whose fault is that? Probably your rich white legislators being bought off by richer-yet lobbyists for folks like ADM!!! Get a fucking clue.

Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not that smart myself, supposedly.

That said, I've looked at a couple of other liberal blogs, and the conservative numb-nuts go batshit over the slightest insinuation this guy is a racist.

Well, as for the religious conservative numbnuts, and the Doooocccctttttttoooooooorrrrrrr, read Ecclesiastes about how chance comes to all before you talk about reaping what you sow. (Then, realize there is no such thing as "a unitary theology of the Bible," because it was written by dozens of people over several hundred years. Hell, Muhammad changes his mind more than once as the sole author - theoretically, in reality probably not - of the Quran.)

As for the claim that he's not talking about a black person? Sure, you can point to individual items and say, no that one, or this one, isn't necessarily a "black" thing. But, add them togethr and 2 + 2 = 4. Especially in the light of this seventh-generation Mississippian (who probably went to an all-white private school) protesting "Obamacare" behind this all.

Oh, and raise your hand if you believe Haley Barbour didn't come from "this Mississippi."

September 12, 2010

First, let's kill all the bankers, at least the lying idiots

With apologies to Shakespeare, who'd understand ...

Financial researcher Richard X. Bove, taglined in his NYT op-ed as the senior vice president of equities research at a brokerage firm, curiously doesn't want his firm to be identified.

Or not so curiously.

Since he can't figure out the difference between causal correlation and statistical correlation. And, can't or won't do simple analysis.

Bove notes that, in the past two years, the total loan volume of American banks has dropped by 8 percent, while business loans have fallen by 25 percent and mortgages by 15 percent.

That said, almost ALL of the total amount of falloff in all loans combined is from mortgages and business loans. Well, until his poor banker friends start renegotiating more mortgages and eating more mortgages they were stupid enough to write in the first place, the mortgages bottom line ain't changing. Business loans? Well, banks are generally less likely to write small-biz loans in a recession, no matter the change in banking laws. And, he NOTES that!
The size of the credit market is smaller today because banks will no longer make risky loans to marginal borrowers.

But, doesn't factor it into his calculations.

But wait, he gets even stupider, or more deceitful.

Next, we get to the empirical self-contradiction, of statement 1:
At the end of 2008, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data showed that the American banks it insured — around 8,000 of them — had $13.84 trillion in assets. At the end of the second quarter of this year, they held a total of $13.22 trillion — a decline of $620 billion.

And statement 2:
However, the main reason bank lending has declined may be that the banks’ capital requirements have increased, and this encourages them not to lend.

My emphasis added

There are so many problems here.

First, banks' capital requirements haven't magically increased that much overnight. Second, bank mergers have theoretically reduced overhead. Third, that $300 billion drop in mortgages probably reflects at least $300 billion of bad mortgages that are nonperforming.

But, we're told none of this by X. Bove from Company X.

And, fourth, note that weasel phrase "may be." You won't see it in the rest of the column, because X. Bove from Company X has an ax to grind with Dodd-Frank and other legislation and regulatory change that obviously has caused these problems.

X. Bove from Company X can't leave room for "may be."

Even if he's right on all the numbers AND better sorted them out, though ... back to problem No. 1.

He still hasn't done anything beyond showing a statistical correlation; he hasn't proven a causal one.

He finally says that the "animus against banks" is therefore stifling recovery.

Sounds like X. Bove from Company X is a fat-cat type who doesn't want to support more responsible lending even as big banks give out bonuses.

As for community banks? Some of them spit the bit on underwriting crapola mortgages more than any nonbank loan originator like Countrywide.

C'mon, Mr. X. Bove from Company X, some truth here, you lying bastich.

First, we kill all the bankers, at least the lying idiots.

Update: Here's the non-onerous, phased-in regulatory agreement, Basel III, that has X. Bove bitching. And, from somebody more fiscally renowned than X. Bove, Felix Salmon, here's why it's a good thing.

An "Andy Rooney" moment: capitalism vs. anarchism

Why is Joseph Schumpeter's comment about the "creative destruction" of capitalism considered perfectly economic mainstream, but, if I talked about the "creative destruction" of anarchism, somebody would probably report me to the government?