SocraticGadfly: 10/16/11 - 10/23/11

October 22, 2011

Friedman's #socialmedia is flat

Groupon and Zynga are "social media"? In the mind of Teapot Tommy Friedman, yes. (Probably in the mind of David Brooks and some of his boboes, too, but he didn't co-write the column.)

In the real world the rest of us inhabit, Mr. My Internet is Flat, Zynga is about online games, with access/links that can be found on Facebook ... and other sites. Groupon isn't media at all, except to the degree ads are considered part of media, and other than Groupon coupons being valuable or not depending on other users, there's nothing social about it.

That said, Teapot Tommy's real inaccuracies are in economics. Groupon has yet to make a dime; both it and Zynga, IIRC, have backed off IPOs. More on how "problematic" Groupon is, is here:
Groupon faces concerns about the viability of its daily deals business model. The novelty of online coupons is wearing off. Some merchants are complaining that they are losing money — and customers— on the deals. And competitors are swarming the marketplace.
"Groupon is a disaster," says Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester Research analyst. "It's a shill that's going to be exposed pretty soon."
I think that sums it up pretty well.

Teapot then gets cloud computing all wrong:
The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven (in part) by ... “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.
Nooo, that's not quite what "the cloud" is.

With that in mind, and ignoring Zynga's and Groupon's not-so-sterling economic performance, it's no wonder Friedman can write a Jeff Jarvis-like paean to speculation.

#OWS has a celebrity problem

Frank Bruni nails it: Roseanne and other celebrities aren't the 99 percent. They're not even the 1 percent. They're the 1/10 of 1 percent.

That said, celebrities of allegedly liberal stripe at protests like this do fit with the Adbusters-influnced segment of Occupy Wall Street population that probably is interested in protest as performance art more than anything else.

Again, Bruni nails it:
While (wearing lots of bling) doesn’t disqualify (Russell Simmons, Kanye West) or Barr or other entertainers from sympathizing with Occupy Wall Street, it does give their public gestures of solidarity a discordant, sometimes specious ring. It also confuses the identity of a protest movement that already has challenges aplenty in the coherence department.
Good word-smithing, not just "coherence," but "specious."

And, for the portion of the 99 percent that is NOT about Adbusters style, is not about myths of leaderlessness, and is about speaking its individual demands, at least, without "shusshing" from Occupy Wall Street officialdom, the problem is bigger.

Again, Bruni:
The movement’s “we are the 99 percent” motto expresses ire over not only the unaccountability of huge financial institutions but also income inequality in America and the concentration of so much wealth and privilege in so few hands. Every time a wealthy messenger gloms on, that aspect of the message gets muddled and possibly compromised.
And the glomming has begun. With a slowly growing number of actors and musicians paying well-chronicled visits to Zuccotti Park, the movement is in danger of becoming a sticky fly strip for entertainers who like to flaunt their self-styled populism: a gadfly strip. 
But Bruni's just warming up. With a Baldwin brother and his bloated, scene-munching acting style an easy target, he pulls both barrels:
In some cases entertainers even make money for the banking industry itself. This issue came up last week when Alec Baldwin dropped by Zuccotti Park.
Critics noted that he appears in television commercials for Capital One, a banking behemoth. While he responded that he gives his fee away, he’s still promoting the company, and there remain other facets of his work and life that render him, like other stars, a very odd fit for a movement concerned with the sway of big companies and the distribution of wealth.
He has homes in both the Hamptons and Manhattan, a fact widely noted in news reports about a New York City tax inquiry into which is his primary residence. He claims the Hamptons.
His television show, “30 Rock,” is shown on NBC, which is part of NBC Universal, whose president and chief executive officer, Steve Burke, had a total compensation package worth $34.7 million last year, according to a recent survey of executive salaries in The Hollywood Reporter.
That same survey put the compensation of Brian Roberts, the chief executive officer of Comcast, which owns a controlling stake in NBC Universal, at $31.1 million. Philippe Dauman, the chief executive officer of Viacom, which owns Paramount Pictures, outpaced both of them. ...
Celebrities help line those executives’ pockets, even if that’s not their goal, and then take the extra step of supporting other affluent corporations as pitchmen and pitchwomen. 
Man, this is the best column I've seen by far from Bruni's brief tenure. But he's STILL not done:

There are many mixed signals in the celebrity assist to Occupy Wall Street, along with a reminder that we too seldom hold stars to account for their own greed.
Some have reportedly accepted payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to show up and even perform at the private parties of superrich despots. The musicians Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Usher and Beyoncé (a pitchwoman over time for L’Oréal, Armani, Nintendo, Pepsi) sang for members of the Qaddafi family. Will they be warbling at the funeral? Hilary Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme attended the 35th-birthday bash for the Chechen tyrant Ramzan Kadyrov. This was not the outgrowth of a long, deep friendship. 
Now, many of these A-list "liberals" of entertainment will circle the wagons. You'll probably have them protesting too much, inquiring about Bruni's politics or other things.

And, that said, wingnut blogs will "run" with Bruni's column. But he's right.

Celebrities who really cared would donate supplies, not make public pronouncements.

Celebrities who really, really cared might spend a night on the streets.

Celebrities who really cared would, like Warren Buffet, call for tax reform.

Celebrities who really, really, cared, would stop performing for political thugs or making commercials for financial thugs.

More proof #OccupyWallStreet has an #OWS leadership

More evidence somebody is ... er ... leading! Occupy Wall Street is right here I agree with others that the story is a good write-up. That said,if there's a special central area, an "inner circle," with security, even ... somebody is leading this. Let's be honest. From the story:

Just a bit west of the library there is what appears to be the inner circle of Occupy Wall Street.
Several people, many working on laptops powered by a portable generator, sit in an area closed off by tables. Most people—including protesters—are kept out by beefy people whose blue arm bands mark them as members of the security group.

Exactly what this secretive group is doing is not clear.“They’re media relations, and outreach and planning,” one person said.

So why are outsiders being kept from the area? No one would answer.
And, this is why I'm skeptical of my own left-liberalism, let alone that of others. It's also why I'm a deliberate contrarian at times.

It's not just that this has leaders. It's the lack of transparency. It's the secrecy.

Where did we hear this before?

Oh, yeah. Dear Leader. Remember we were going to have the most transparent administration in history?

To riff on Orwell, "some are less leaderless than others."

This directly connects with my blogging about how the "99ers" website was actually started in June 2010.

The other concerns I have? Such as how a number OWS folks might actually be duped Obamiacs who believe he's being held hostage by the GOP? The concerns I've blogged about before about how for at least some, protest as performance art or whatever might be an issue? I'm not alone on those thoughts.

Meanwhile,  "leaderlessness" claims can backfire. Someone suggests $20/hr minimum wage, then the mainstream media gets blamed for reporting it. You can't have it both ways.

Although you can certainly try! The "General Assembly" of OWS says that it's the only "official" site to speak for the general assembly, claiming that other websites have no right to speak for it. From a Facebook friend:
Posting and reposting such sites is furthering someone else's agenda, not the movement.
To which, I responded:
So, the "movement" is subject to the advice of the General Assembly? Sounds like ... uh, leadership to me!
I have the feeling that, at some point before the end of the month, at least parts of Occupy Wall Street going to devolve into some sort of Trotskyist or Randian farce.

PDATE: Per the New York Review of Books, here's yet more reason to be skeptical, even cynical, about at least a certain swath of the "movement," along with claims of leaderlessness and at least some of the actual leaders:

Adbusters, in a word, a magazine I found pretentious when I first looked at it 15 years ago. From the story author's "welcome to Adbusters" email:

Thank you for joining our network. You are now part of a 90,000+ strong global network of activists, cultural creative’s [sic] and meme insurgents—a revolutionary force that, with your active involvement, just might reshape how power and meaning flow in the 21st century. Together lets live a little more on the wild side, launch a few telling cultural interventions and pull off some surprising pranks, jams and other essential mental resuscitations.
And, even without receiving such a "welcome" email, the "antic, Dadaist tone" is exactly what I saw 15 years ago, too. So, yes, I'm hard on OWS. To riff on Rahm Emanuel, protest as street art is wasting a good crisis, as are the degree of pampered Millennials. Union members who have shown up at Zucotti Park should take over, especially left-liberalish ones like longshoremen.

The iBio indeed ... NYT confirms #SteveJobs deification

The reviews are pouring in. And, it's clear from the New York Times that Walter Isaacson set out to deify Steve Jobs, and that, in Janet Maslin's estimation, he succeeded indeed.

The worship starts, indirectly, here:
Mr. Jobs promised not to look over Mr. Isaacson’s shoulder, and not to meddle with anything but the book’s cover. (Boy, does it look great.)
And continues.
Skeptic after skeptic made the mistake of underrating Steve Jobs, and Mr. Isaacson records the howlers who misjudged an unrivaled career. “Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work,” Business Week wrote in a 2001 headline. “The iPod will likely become a niche product,” a Harvard Business School professor said.
Reality? As Wired notes, Jobs himself intended the iPod, via iTunes, to be a Mac-only product and had to be talked out of it. Had his famous stubbornness not failed him, Steve Jobs' second coming at Apple would have been no more financially successful than the first.

The Washington Post falls in line, worshiping the future of Apple TV while ignoring its ignominious past and noting that Isaacson does the same.

Let's also not forget that Isaacson is president of the Aspen Institute, which basically is to fair degree a platform for business and financial leaders with outsized egos, even for their professions, to engage in various forms of platitudinous pontificating.

HuffPost notes he was in it for the "infowars" along with money, even though it doesn't draw that obvious conclusion from this take:
Isaacson’s biography reveals that Jobs also targeted the textbook industry for transformation and met with major textbook publishers to discuss a partnership with Apple.
“He believed it was an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction,” Isaacson writes. “His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad.”
“The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,” Jobs told Isaacson. “But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.”
It would hardly be the first time Jobs would take on the challenge of revamping education: NeXT, the company he founded in 1985 after his ouster from Apple, also had ambitions of providing new tools for the classroom, though academic institutions balked at the NeXT computer's $6,500 pricetag.
An iPad wouldn't be that expensive, but given Amazon's book market and the new Kindle Fire, Jobs would have had a big #fail here. Instead, Tim Cook will get that "Fun." And, whichever behemoth wins, kids will likely lose.

Meanwhile, the AP story notes the reality, especially vis-a-vis Google: Steve Jobs was thin-skinned and hypocritical.
The book also provides insight into the unraveling of Jobs' relationship with Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and an Apple board member from 2006 to 2009. Schmidt had quit Apple's board as Google and Apple went head-to-head in smartphones, Apple with its iPhone and Google with its Android software.
Isaacson wrote that Jobs was livid in January 2010 when HTC introduced an Android phone that boasted many of the popular features of the iPhone. Apple sued, and Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google's actions amounted to "grand theft."
"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs said. "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Jobs used an expletive to describe Android and Google Docs, Google's Internet-based word processing program. In a subsequent meeting with Schmidt at a Palo Alto, California, cafe, Jobs told Schmidt that he wasn't interested in settling the lawsuit, the book says.
"I don't want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won't want it. I've got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that's all I want." The meeting, Isaacson wrote, resolved nothing.
Now, I don't worship at Google's altar, either. But this is simply ridiculous.

Jobs got his original Apple idea from Xerox parc, and did other "idea lifting" during his years, and claims Google is a thief? That's laughable at least, and pot-and-kettle beyond that.

Why economics isn't even social-science scientific

It doesn't matter the school of thought, whether Keynesian, New Keynesian, neo-Keynesian Vienna School, Chicago School's tweaking of Vienna, or something brand new.

Most economics isn't even at the psychology or sociology level of social-science level of science. And, outside of the research-based behavioral economics, this is true for economics in general.

Take this Australian economist who claims that Keynesians of various stripes are wrong about how debt works in a fiat money society.

He's got interesting ideas. But, especially his three anti-Keynesian talking points at the end? They're not falsifiable. First, you can't falsify a whole society. Second, I don't think they're falsifiable even by computer simulation. Even using "falsify" more loosely than an ardent Popperian, they're really just not falsifiable.

Therefore, they're really not "theory," even in a loosely used sense of falsification. They're policy prescriptions. They're really statements of, "People should believe this about how debt works in a fiat money society."

And, thus, per Hume, with that "should," he's totally jumping the is/ought shark. But, it's not just him; as noted, my take is that most economics is not social-scientific science, but policy prescriptions.

In this particular case, I think they're some interesting policy prescriptions. But, they're not scientific.

Some are good. Others are somewhat straw men, like some claims about New Keynesianism, and, per Wikipedia, ignoring the links between modern monetary theory's roots and original Keynesianism.

Beyond that, here's some specific criticism of MMT.

The only way any macroeconomic theory can be close to scientific is to start by incorporating researched findings from behavioral economics.

At the same time, per Mitchell's blog, and per the main Wikipedia entry about MMT, it does appear at times to be generally "progressive" in its political stance, as noted here:
One commentator today noted that monetarism was neither right- or left-wing. I disagree. The whole edifice of mainstream economics – indeed its roots – are ideologically disposed towards what we call right-wing thinking. Modern mainstream economics is an extension of the marginalist school which emerged in the second half of the C19th to combat the fears the industrialists had about the growing popularity of Marxism.
However, in that same post, Mitchell lauds the Chinese for, in part, being free of democratic constraints. But, both it and New Keynesianism seem to assume too much about people's, or institutions', behavior as rational economic actors. And Mitchell assumes too much about the wisdom of China's leaders, to boot.

So, I think Krugman is right when he says MMT just isn't right. And, while it may not be right-wing, beyond being overly rationalistic, it is a monetarist policy.

October 21, 2011

#Spotted_owl, #sagebrush_lizard and untruths

It looks like, in the oil-drilling Permian Basin, the dunes sagebrush lizard, and its potential Endangered Species Act listing, is becoming a new version of the Pacific Northwest's northern spotted owl and its allegedly destructive impact on logging there.

Of course, that's not true. That's why the "allegedly" is there.

Reality? Let's start with the Wikipedia page on the northern spotted owl.
The logging industry estimated up to 30,000 of 168,000 jobs would be lost because of the owl's status, which agreed closely with a Forest Service estimate Harvests of timber in the Pacific Northwest were reduced by 80%, decreasing the supply of lumber and increasing prices. The decline in jobs was already in progress because of dwindling old-growth forest harvests and automation of the lumber industry. Subsequent research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison by environmental scientists published in a sociology journal argued that logging jobs had been in a long decline and that environmental protection was not a significant factor in job loss. From 1947 to 1964, the number of logging jobs declined 90%. Starting with the Wilderness Act of 1964, environmental protection saved 51,000 jobs in the Pacific .Northwest.
Now, it's true that the Permian Basin is nowhere as scenic as the Pacific Northwest, so it wouldn't gain a bunch of environmental jobs.

That's not the point. The jobs-loss overstatement is. This old AP story has more of the reality.

Beyond that, with slant and horizontal drilling, drilling of multiple wells from one pad, etc., if the oil and gas industry wants to do a little extra effort, it can reduce its drilling "footprint," and continue to do so.

No, this is at bottom line more of the same opposition of regulations just because they're regulations.

Center for Biological Diversity now has a protect the lizard petition.

We might be back in Iraq in 2012

Buried a few grafs down in the story about Iraq withdrawal was this piece of information, in the NYT story:
(N)egotiations will continue, and some of those troops might find themselves redeployed to Iraq in 2012 or beyond, an American official said on Friday. But the official, who spoke anonymously because the deliberations are meant to be confidential, said the talks will now center on arrangements that would begin next year, after all United States troops leave. 
Of course, this will all be based on Obama re-election politics, whether it's better to appear the Peace Prize Prez or the Tough on Terra Prez.

Also left unmentioned, with the former Blackwater and other mercenaries there, guarding embassy personnel, etc., is if they will be treated as a "tripwire" or not.

Suskind: Obama was (is?) an unconfident man

That's one key takeaway I have from Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men," my semi-pun riff intended.

Suskind's "Confidence Men," on Obama's organizational (as well as vision lacking) problems is good to very good overall, but not quite great. That said, Suskind was facing some focus and length limits, I'm sure. As I note in my review, one problem is that Suskind never squares the apparently un-confident, certainly unengaged, domestic policy/economy/health care Obama with the totally different (or so it seems) foreign policy Obama.

#Skeptic fail on #SteveJobs

Science writer Chris Mooney's hagiographic orgasm to Steve Jobs shows why one must be skeptical even about skepticism and professional skeptics.

First, it's an example of motivated reasoning.

Second, related to that, it's an example of cherry-picking to make a point. If Mooney wanted to talk about "openness to new experience," he could have used plenty of other famous people.

Third, it IS hagiography and isn't that closely connected to reality.

Chris, his study of Zen Buddhism apparently didn't "enlighten" him about Foxconn suicides. Do we have to have yet more hagiography of a man who is being overrated?

Fact 1: If he hadn't made the ideas he saw at Xerox parc into a workable, affordable computer, somebody else would have.

Fact 1A: That person would have signed off on "cloning" those computers, therefore spreading these innovations even more rapidly than Jobs did.

Fact 2: On his return to Apple, on the iPod, Jobs originally wanted it to be useable (via iTunes) with Macs only. No PC usability. An employee eventually talked him out of this when Jobs' famous stubbornness failed him for once. (I, personally, am sad it failed; with a Mac-only iPod, the iPhone never would have gotten the marketing takeoff that it did.)

So, there's the reality, not the hagiography.

 It's not as bad, certainly, as Brian Dunning overstating by a factor of 5-10 Jobs' fatal indulgence in alternative medicine. (I'm not condoning alt-med, by the way!) But, it's bad enough.

October 20, 2011

Why Dems can't be the pro-#OWS party - #Glass-Steagall

Barney Frank, not quite so liberal
It's simple. Nearly 15 years ago, more than half of House Democrats voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act and replace it with Gramm-Leach-Bliley. This breaking down of banking walls between commercial and investment banking may have been a major cause of the financial meltdown a decade later, as the Wikipedia article linked above notes. (Those who claim it wasn't are basically Republicans and neolib Dems! Actual liberals, along with a certain percentage of libertarians, believe it was a cause.)

Anyway ...

On the House side, all these "liberal" Democrats voted for the replacement/overthrow of Glass-Steagall:
Nancy Pelosi, Brad Sherman, Howard Berman, Loretta Sanchez, Mark Udall, Ben Cardin, Steny Hoyer, Elijah Cummings, Sander Levin, James Oberstar, Debbie Stabenow, Dick Gephardt, Rush Holt, Bob Menendez, Tom Udall, Jerry Nadler, Charles Rangel, Nita Lowey, Louise Slaughter, Mel Watt, Sherrod Brown, Deborah Price, Patrick Kennedy, Jim Clyburn, Lloyd Doggett, Ruben Hinojosa, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Solomon Ortiz, Silvestre Reyes, Martin Frost, Norman Dicks.
On the Senate side, the original vote was pretty much party line. BUT ... on the final vote, after a House-Senate conference, only eight Dems still voted no.

The yes voters for Gramm-Leach-Bliley include
Tom Daschle, Kent Conrad, Chris Dodd, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Pat Leahy, Patty Murray, Harry Reid, Paul Sarbanes and Ron Wyden.
And, in the final "procedural" vote on the House side, actually, 3/4 of Dems joined the Wall Street rush.

And, not all Democrats who voted against GLB actually opposed it in reality. Take Barney Frank, another alleged liberal. 2010 primary challenger, Rachel Brown, points that out:
He did vote against it, but not because of the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which his own statements from the time show. The truth is, as he stated on the floor of the Congress in July 1999 , he fully supported the repeal of Glass-Steagall and its separation of commercial from investment banking, declaring that, "It is a good piece of legislation for setting forth the conditions for the financial services industry," and that, "It does a very good job of creating the conditions in which the capitalist institutions can flourish, and that is a good thing." Frank emphasized, "We want capital to move freely. We gave the financial institutions everything they have asked for."
(This is in no way to imply any sort of endorsement of Brown, an obvious Larouchite.)

But, Barney Frank is no enemy of Wall Street, not even close. He wasn't really back then, and, as the link notes, he certainly isn't today. Above all, he's a friend of hedge funders and their below-income-level tax rates.

Oh, contrary to people who say this is all hindsight, nope. Only after some cosmetic safeguards were passed did a bunch of money-hungry Democratic senators jump on.

But, it's not hindsight in another way. Before this, the Clinton Administration had backed other relaxation of financial standards; the breach in the wall between commercial and investment banking happened earlier in Clinton's administration, also with largely bipartisan support, but warnings as well.

And, the fact that I'm focusing on legislative branch elected representatives is by no means to overlook the role of the likes of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

The Presidency we should have gotten in 2009

I'm reading Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men" right now. Yikes. Even more than the reviews revealed, a management-incompetent, unprepared Obama is shown to be without clothes indeed. He made ALL the wrong picks for financial positions. Imagine, instead (and this was all entirely possible):
1. Paul Volckier, the experienced older hand, at Treasury
2. Austan Goolsbee, somewhat a neolib, but not a Rubinite, at Natl Economic Council
3. Larry Krueger, or an outside prestigious guy like Stiglitz, at Council of Economic Advisors, with Stiglitz, whether getting this position or not, eventually replacing Bernanke at the Fed.

And, Tom Daschle (yes, he's a neolib, but an organized political player), at chief of staff. And a political realist. (He was considered, and should have been Obama's first choice, ahead of both Rahm Emanuel and Pete Rouse, if Daschle wouldn't have considered that a step down.)

Among other things, Daschle might have prevented Mod Max Baucus from hijacking health care the way he did. (More below.)

Instead, within the bipartisan duopoly, we honestly got the wrong person elected president.

That said, let's flip the deck and imagine things after John Sidney McCain III takes the oath of office Jan. 20, 2009.

Outside of Obamacare, McCain probably wouldn't have handled a lot of things a lot hugely differently. We would have had a smaller stimulus, true. But Dems would have made gains in midterms against an ineffectual GOP. McCain would have spent a bit more after the midterms. Probably a smaller Afghanistan war than we have now. Palin would be imploding as Veep by now and probably resigned.

So, John McCain, by acting like Herbert Hoover over the original TARP talks, screwed it for all of us. (That said, it was clear before then that he was as clueless as Bush as far as having an actual policy here; Suskind points out that Hank Paulson was almost as clueless even while claiming to be on top of things.)

At the same time, if McCain had kept a bit of that moral fervor against "moral hazard," he might have put more preconditions on further bailout money, instead of letting the likes of Citigroup off the mat time after time, as we have just done again.

Joe Nocera's review of "Confidence Men" provides more details on the main incident of handling Citigroup with kid gloves.
The most explosive allegation in “Confidence Men” concerns one such instance, early in the Obama presidency, when several top White House advisers, including Summers, wanted to “wind down” and restructure Citigroup, the most troubled of the too-big-to-fail banks. Obama liked the idea; it would show, he thought, that the government was willing to tackle the predicament of the banks and their toxic assets head on, and would set the proper tone for the way his administration planned to treat the banks. But Geithner, Suskind writes, strongly opposed the idea, so he just waited for the moment to pass — and for the president to forget about it. Suskind flatly labels Geithner’s action a “fireable offense.” 
But, he wasn't fired. As far as we know, he wasn't even given that severe of a dressing down. Or any. And, in Suskind's level of detail, if Geithner had been called on the rug, we'd know about it.

Anyway, picture a McCain presidency. The economy would be marginally worse off, but not seriously so, and the GOP would look even more idiotic than it actually does. Meanwhile, the Dems would have had openings for more honestly populist candidates than Obama. And, both Democratic leaders and the party as a whole, or even the nation as a whole, would have gotten to see Obama either develop some management skills, or not.

And, whomever came out of the Democratic 2012 primary battles would have been a prohibitive favorite for election.

Now, then, following the arc that Suskind paints, let's picture, instead of a team of financial advisers prostituted to Wall Street, some sort of semi-progressive Team Obama.

A bit further in, at the end of a chunk of Daschle time, Suskind, riffing on Daschle and Daschle's ideas, also notes this: We didn't get health care reform, we got health insurance reform. Between regulation and cost controls, this is something I've said for better than 18 months myself.

Suskind says that Baucus' grudge against Daschle is personal, without saying what all is involved.

But, a Daschle as chief of staff pushing Obama to get and stay engaged? We have a different health care bill, and one that passes House and Senate before Scott Brown's election.

That said, I think Suskind treads lightly over the player/lobbyist connections of both Daschle and his wife. We might have gotten health insurance, but not care, reform with Daschle, too - single payer without cost controls. 

We also, per Suskind, would have had a chief of staff working day and night to disillusion Obama of "bipartisanship."

Anyway, I suspect Daschle was Suskind's biggest source for this book other than Peter Orszag.

Reasons 3,433-34 to #VoteGreen not Obama

For the twentysomethings among the Occupy Wall Street crowd who thought Shepard Fairey's 2008 Obama Photoshopping was cool, guess what?

Dear Leader would like YOU to do something similar for his 2012 campaign. For FREE. And, the details of the request are clearly designed to comply with federal campaign-donation law.

Well, after Obama taking that page out of HuffPost, Greek Goddess Arianna Huffington should arrange a HuffPost money bomb.

Also, isn't there a bit of additional ... not irony, but, to stick the shiv in, ethical twisting for the nation's first black president (even though his dad was African, not an African-American slave descendant) to be so blatantly trying to get free labor, not for door-to-door or phone-call work, but for something that would be worth, what, $5,000-$10,000 at least out of a name graphics shop?

Speaking of Huff Post and money bombs, Dear Leader doesn't need too much help with that; Wall Street continues to like him.

A lot. Dear Leader got more money from Mitt Romney-founded Bain Capital than ... Mitt Romney!
One top banking executive who raises money for Obama, discussing fundraising efforts on the condition of anonymity, said reports of disaffection with the president “are exaggerated and overblown.” He said a strong contingent of financiers in New York, Chicago and California remains supportive of Obama and his economic policies, even as some have turned on him.
But, this donor added, “it probably helps from a political perspective if he’s not seen as a Wall Street guy.”
That said, to be fair, Obama's fundraising is for both him and the Democratic National Committee. His personal campaign is drawing less than Romney.

And, the other new reason to vote Green? The State Department, petulant that a career Foreign Service author has written a book about our rebuilding failures in Iraq AND that he linked to a Wikileaks document openly available on the Internet showing Team Obama's hypocrisy over Libya has put him in career exile by suspending his security clearance.
Peter Van Buren said the State Department is deliberately suspending his clearance, instead of revoking it, in order to place him in limbo and deny him the ability to appeal the decision.
This is petty petulance.

October 19, 2011

#RickPerry familiarity breeds contempt

The Washington Post didn't need a poll to tell us what many in Texas know: Familiarity with Rick Perry breeds contempt.There are other interesting outtakes, though, none of which are surprising.

"Texas" Perry and "Mormon" Romney both have unfavorable/favorable ratios of worse than 3-1 among black voters, while "Pizza Man" Cain is only at 2:1.

That said, Perry's overall ratings ratio has started skewing strongly negative.

The recent Las Vegas debate probably didn't help a lot. In an effort to look animated and involved, Perry instead looked more like a talk machine. Romney's semi-condescending hand on shoulder surely didn't help. Perhaps it didn't help Romney, either.

But we still won't break up Citigroup

A $285 million fine for fraud claims? Chump change. Every real progressive knows that because of its bloat, its financial ill-health, and its scheming, even though Citi and its predecessors have been bailed out at least once a decade, it's time to change that now.

And, every real progressive knows we won't. Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner, who ultimately does President Obama's bidding, has refused in every way possible to do this.

Again, that's why the one-third or more of Occupy Wall Street who think Obama is the answer are idiots.

More seriously, I'm reading Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men" right now. We had a great chance to either nationalize or break up Citigroup just before Timmy G. announced his vaunted "stress tests," and he did exactly as I noted ... he ignored  Christina Romer and others, who seemed to have at least a partial ear of Obama's on this issue, and refused to countenance doing anything to the bloated bank.

Joe Nocera's review of "Confidence Men" provides more details on this incident.
The most explosive allegation in “Confidence Men” concerns one such instance, early in the Obama presidency, when several top White House advisers, including Summers, wanted to “wind down” and restructure Citigroup, the most troubled of the too-big-to-fail banks. Obama liked the idea; it would show, he thought, that the government was willing to tackle the predicament of the banks and their toxic assets head on, and would set the proper tone for the way his administration planned to treat the banks. But Geithner, Suskind writes, strongly opposed the idea, so he just waited for the moment to pass — and for the president to forget about it. Suskind flatly labels Geithner’s action a “fireable offense.” 
But, he wasn't fired. As far as we know, he wasn't even given that severe of a dressing down. Or any. And, in Suskind's level of detail, if Geithner had been called on the rug, we'd know about it.

October 16, 2011

Bill Keller, smug anti-#OWS #NYT bastich

Keller rightly applauds Slovakia for throwing a temporary monkey-wrench into the latest round of EU bailouts for Greece. But, he has to add this:
By signaling that it was running out of patience, it struck more fear into the hearts of the world’s bankers than the cumulative protests of Occupy Wall Street have done in a month of poster-waving.
Followed by this, talking about Liberia:
Last Tuesday Liberia held an election in which the two top presidential candidates were both Harvard-educated — and not in the least ashamed of it!
The rest of the column is a snide dig at the Occupy Wall Street movement through looking at good news elsewhere in the world. Don't get me wrong. I'm skeptical about OWS, but in part precisely because Bill Keller's smug, snide, Harvard-educated neoliberal friends want to co-opt it.

I guess Keller ignored Paul Krugman, either today's column or past efforts. He notes the whining - but from Wall Streeters, not OWS.
On Saturday The Times reported what people in the financial industry are saying privately about the protests. My favorite quote came from an unnamed money manager who declared, “Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it.”
So, making money off encouraging other businesses to outsource so we can't manufacture stuff well should be rewarded? Exploiting many investors based on mortgage companies exploiting would-be homeowners should be rewarded?