Monday, May 30, 2011

Why the "Always Wrong" Continue to Win/Rule (They Forgive Themselves (And Have the Power to Make It Stick)) DFB* - "Crafty" As Hell

For Gil Scott-Heron (1949 - 2011)

Standing On Your Shoulders.

"You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip, Skip out for beer during commercials, Because the revolution will not be televised. David (F*.) Brooks, he of the constantly stealing-from-already-published-somewhat-ancient-sources ideas, columns, and whining about how Reagan would have been sooooo much better (today, somewhat exposed in The Guardian) . . . has written a book that formulates for the ruling class new excuses for failure and the ability to continue to travel down the same path of personal (heretofore immoral) self-enriching, self-aggrandizement and never-ending nonthink. (Good to see that DFB has been keeping up with his best-seller reading!) My guess is that he's publishing (at Short Books) and speaking in England because he knows the audience for his particular brand of nonsense is limited throughout the rest of the educated, civilized world. Also, it's good to keep in mind that the corporeality of a DFB is an impossibility where the media aren't owned by the richest entities. Couldn't happen (as no one would be reading his "thoughts" without a huge, never-ending PR campaign by those who benefit from his narrowed logic). But we now hate any type of competition (and particularly that concerning those embracing well-thought-out ideas) in the USA! USA!! USA!!! (And you thought our mis-educated masses weren't a stroke of planning genius?)
But what's important about Brooks is not so much that he acts British, but that he thinks British. His new book, The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens (idea stolen from dozens of sources), is steeped in the anti-rationalist philosophical reflections of the British Enlightenment. And this is no ordinary book: even before publication this week it has become, according to Times columnist Rachel Sylvester, "the must-read text for politicians searching for a new prism through which to examine the apparently intractable challenges of social immobility, school dropout rates, welfare dependency and crime". Education secretary Michael Gove believes it contains vital clues for turning around failing schools; universities minister David Willetts reckons it may help define modern Conservatism; policy minister Oliver Letwin thinks it articulates the cherished Tory notion of the Big Society. The book is so hot that both David Cameron and Ed Miliband are meeting Brooks this week, and Steve Hilton, the PM's top strategist, has invited him to hold a seminar at No 10 on Friday. Brooks hails British rather than French Enlightenment thinkers as the guys who really understood what makes the social animal tick. While Voltaire, Condorcet and Descartes used reason to confront superstition and feudalism, thinkers across the Channel – Brooks cites Burke, Hume and Adam Smith – thought it unwise to trust reason. Rather, and here Brooks quotes Hume with approval: "Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions." Why is The Social Animal so important if it just dusts off old thoughts of Brits from 200-plus years ago? First, Brooks argues misplaced faith in human rationality has underpinned policy-making for too long. Second, research in neuroscience, behavioural economics and psychology stressing the importance of our non-rational minds can, if applied, create a better world. Brooks says that, overwhelmingly, human decision-making is not rational but unconscious. Much of the book's pleasure consists in reading digests of experiments (such as international differences in the incidence of touching during coffee) that show how non-rational we are and yet how successful the social animal when breaking free of mere rational decision-making. The style and substance will be familiar to readers of pop psychology bestsellers such as Malcolm Gladwell's Blink or Jonah Lehrer's Proust Was a Neuroscientist: for Brooks the unconscious isn't a seething Freudian netherworld of sexual urges, but where we make the key decisions of our lives – whom to date and marry, how to vote.

Most success stories stress academic ability, IQ, hard work, he argues. Brooks rather stresses non-cognitive skills, which, he writes, is "the catch-all category for hidden qualities that can't be easily measured, but which in real life lead to happiness and fulfilment." "By that I mean emotions, intuitions, genetic inheritance. Soft stuff, which is pretty rich given that my wife thinks I'm insufficiently touchy feely."

And what are these mysterious non-cognitive skills? Good character (energy, honesty, dependability, recognising your weaknesses and controlling your worst impulses). He also mentions "street smarts", by which he means reading situations and people, often unconsciously, and developing human relationships. He thinks these skills can be honed.

He gives examples of policy-making without non-cognitive street smarts. "When we invaded Iraq we were blind to the social problems that would be involved. We didn't realise they didn't trust us."

Hold on – didn't he write a New York Times column urging invasion? "I did. I was so blind about it. In that column I wondered what Michael Oakeshott [the British conservative political philosopher] would have said. He would have said: this society is very complicated and you should be circumspect in thinking about what you can achieve, and that invading to install democracy without trust is doomed. And then I wrote: 'Having said that, I think we should invade.'"

Another example is the banking crisis, which, he reckons, happened because we trusted bankers. "Many thought we should let these rational wealth-seekers get on with it. We shouldn't."

The Social Animal's thesis is expressed through the form of a novel. He creates a couple, Harold and Erika, he from a rich background, she from a broken family in a disorganised neighbourhood, and traces them through their formative years, marriage, careers, retirement and death. The book has become a US bestseller and is worth reading – even if with mounting exasperation – since it seems to promise answers to some of western society's deepest problems: how to generate social mobility and reform a non-society devoid of mutual trust and bristling with security cameras.

No wonder leading Tories welcome Brooks. He is to the Big Society agenda what Richard Layard was to Labour's happiness philosophy and Richard Sennett was to Blair's respect agenda. "The Big Society appeals to me because I don't think appealing to people as individuals gets you far. Many social problems are caused by insufficient social capital. Kids are brought up in broken homes and crime-ridden neighbourhoods; they don't go to university because they're not attached to their schools . . . to solve these problems you need to build dense social networks. You have to get beyond treating people as rational machines who respond to the economic incentives."

Brooks thinks his book, written with the US in mind, speaks to British problems. . . .

"There's also a liberal revolution in the moral sphere that says the state shouldn't impinge on choices about marriage, family structure, the role of women. That liberal revolution also took religion out of the public square. Together these revolutions undermine communal trust and law and order." It also . . . led to welfare policies that "enabled lonely young girls to give birth out of wedlock, thus decimating the habits and rituals that led to intact families".

Perhaps the fact that you're a self-described socialist will appeal to Ed Miliband, I suggest to Brooks. "Yes, but my socialism doesn't value state over society. It favours a more communitarian style of politics. The point is to ensure that people from different classes feel united in a common enterprise. When I meet Ed Miliband, I might ask if my kind of socialism appeals, or if he's stuck with the old one."

My hunch is that Brooks's socialism would make Miliband queasy. In the book, he eulogises charter schools – schools that get public money but are granted autonomy from state control in exchange for producing certain results, notably targeting kids from tough backgrounds. Erika, his character from a tough background, manages to get to just such a school established by a billionaire hedge fund trader.

But aren't charter schools anti-egalitarian, don't they stop people from different classes feeling united in a common enterprise? "These schools are unequal, but in an unequal society you need that. Poor kids need different things from schools than rich kids because they often don't have the structure in their homes or neighbourhoods to give them a chance of success and most schools don't help with that."

Isn't there a risk that decentralisation undermines your socialism? . . . Brooks cites Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee . . . . "It was a good article because it argued that when budget deficits are cut the poor are at greater risk. Not that I'm saying cutting the deficit is wrong; it's right, but it needs not to fall on the poorest hardest."

. . . Brooks reminds me of a reverse Jonathan Freedland. While Freedland's book Bring Home the Revolution argued the egalitarian ideas of American revolution should be imported to reform Britain's insufficiently rational polity, Brooks seems to be arguing that it doesn't matter that Britain's political institutions aren't rational, just that they need to be infused with more communal spirit and funky-sounding streets smarts. Whether that's a message Britain wants to hear is another matter.

You had no idea I was going to open with a hilarious bit, did you? That Brooks, what a kidder (or just more wingnutter PR?)! Catch this next one for more yucks.
May 28, 2011 David Brooks: The Lesson For Republicans on Destroying Medicare is They Need to Do Something 'More Crafty' Heather David Brooks apparently thinks that the way for the Republicans to fix their messaging on them wanting to destroy Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher system isn't so much a problem with what they want to do, but with how the voters perceive what they want to do with it. Here was his advice for Republicans during the PBS Newshour. DAVID BROOKS: I do think that is the lesson. The Republicans are telling themselves, this year, it's different. This year the people are so disgusted by the debt they want us to be serious. And so what they effectively did was, they saw a line of battlements and a field of 400 yards with no cover, and they ran straight at it. And they get mowed down. And so I think a lesson for the Republicans has to be, do something more crafty. Don't just run straight at it. "Do something more crafty", yeah, that's the ticket. So in other words, don't let the voters know what you really want to do to Medicare, and be more sly about it. Jesus, what a hack. And as I've said before, any time you hear one of these pundits using the word "serious" on the air, that's code for sticking it to the working class. Brooks apparently also thinks if the Republicans just get their messaging right, voters won't realize they're sticking it to seniors or future seniors with their budget plans which destroy our social safety nets.

Transcript via PBS below the fold.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let's bring it home and talk about politics in this country. There was a congressional - a special election in a congressional district, New York State's 26th District, where we saw the Democrat win, in part, David, by going after the Republican for embracing the Paul Ryan Medicare proposal.

What - are there lessons from this? Is it a one-time deal or what?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I don't think it's a one-time deal. If you ask Americans, do you think Medicare should be cut to help trim the deficit or trim the debt, 78 percent say, no, don't touch Medicare. So, Medicare is pretty popular.

When Barack Obama cut it by $400 billion or $500 billion as part of health care, Democrats - Republicans went after him for death panels and all the rest. Paul Ryan and the Republicans went after it. And the Democrats have gone after them for ending Medicare. Both those charges are more or less untrue.

Nonetheless, they struck a chord because people want to keep their Medicare. And so, to me, the depressing thing is not a partisan thing, is just the lesson for both parties is never touch Medicare, never touch Social Security, don't touch it.

And that would be fine if we could afford it. The problem is we can't afford that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard - in fact, Bill Clinton, former President Clinton, told Gwen Ifill this week in an interview that the Democrats have to be careful about assuming from the results of this election that they can get away with doing nothing about Medicare.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, the president did say that. And, in fact, he said something similar to Paul Ryan in a - sort of an off-the - off-the-microphone comment as well.

Judy, the reality is, any time there's a special election, and seats turn from one party to the other, especially where it's a seat that has been long held by one party, as is the case in the 26th District of New York - for over 40 years, a Republican - the winning - the losing side always says, it was local factors, unique local factors that caused the defeat. And then they usually confide that our candidate wasn't that good.

That was the case in Massachusetts, you will recall, last year when Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley. The winning side, by contrast, said, no, this is part of a national tide. It's a national movement. It's that Kathy Hochul was a far better candidate, the Democrat, than Jane Corwin. Make no mistake about that. She was a superior candidate.

But this was a Republican district. And Medicare was defining. The problem for the Republicans is this. They never ran on Medicare last fall. They ran on cutting the size, scope, and spending of the federal government, that government had gotten too big, that the economy was in terrible shape. They never mentioned Medicare, other than, as David pointed out, we're going to stop Barack Obama from cutting $500 billion, and we're going to defend the 65-year-olds and all the rest of it.

The problem for the Republicans is they're now on the defensive. They rushed to vote on this, this Ryan plan, and they're all on the record. And that - now the Democrats are emboldened. They're on the offensive. They have been playing defense now for two years. And Republicans who gloated over the fact that the Democrats were supporting health care when the polls were against them - David just cited a poll. The Republicans are in that position on Medicare right now.

So, the total role reversal of the two parties politically is really a change-change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I mean, in both cases, the parties were trying to do the right thing.

We can talk about this or that aspect of the Ryan plan, but it was an attempt to try to deal with a national problem, which is the debt problem. There is a significant chance that, over the debt ceiling fight, there will be a big national catastrophe if we don't reach an agreement on that.

There's also a very significant chance, over the next four years or five years, there will be a serious problem because of the debt and the credit rating of the country. And so, we do have to do something. This result, which I think accurately reflects public opinion, says, do nothing.

And what the Democrats did this week in Congress, there were four budgets put up for vote in the Senate. Every single Democrat voted against every single one of them. So, Barack Obama's budget got zero votes. And so, it's fine and it's politically smart to lay back and play possum and say, "Hey, I'm not for anything, nothing unpopular here." But, eventually, somebody is going to have to find a way to reach some sort of bipartisan deal on this.

MARK SHIELDS: I'm not saying there won't be a bipartisan deal and shouldn't be a bipartisan deal.

I just think the Republicans ran through several stop signs and red lights to do this. I mean, we talked...

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean voting for the Ryan plan.

MARK SHIELDS: Voting for it.

There was - health care - Obama ran on health care in 2008. And then the Democrats took the next 19 months of - of trench warfare, of making the case, of compromising. This was introduced and voted on in two weeks, and with absolutely no preparation, no public persuasion.

It was an act of incredible political arrogance and hubris on the part of the Republicans, and they're going to pay for it, and they are paying for it.

DAVID BROOKS: I do think that is the lesson. The Republicans are telling themselves, this year, it's different. This year the people are so disgusted by the debt they want us to be serious.

And so what they effectively did was, they saw a line of battlements and a field of 400 yards with no cover, and they ran straight at it. And they get mowed down. And so I think a lesson for the Republicans has to be, do something more crafty. Don't just run straight at it.

And of course the very "serious" people out there will never talk about raising taxes on the rich to take care of our budget problems.

From our favorite blog on "the news" (actually always "the olds") at Goldman Sachs:
Sunday, May 29, 2011 Goldman Sachs: Fraud and Manipulation
The reward for cheating the financial system and manipulating the markets is money - bundles of money, for example, from us to Goldman Sachs. People who are moral leave the cheating environment and the cheaters prosper, thinking of themselves as pure geniuses. That is why it is important to prosecute cheaters so that honest people can run the system. Laws that allow unetheical practices should be "deregulated" including commodity speculation which, apparently, is not illegal, but certainly morally reprehensible. Goldman Sachs is, by nature, speculative. You can view the video here You can view the video here. Rev Up Goldman Sachs's Revolving Door Goldman Sachs is trying to live up to its moniker "Government Sachs" by hiring Judd Gregg as international advisor to the bank. It helps that Gregg served on "Appropriations; Banking; Housing and Urban Affairs; and Health Education Labor and Pensions Committees." Gregg turned down an offer to serve in the Obama Government. He was an outspoken critic of Obama's administration. Just what are the incentives for a Senator to join Goldman Sachs?
Former Senator Judd Gregg to Join Goldman Sachs By Adam Martin - Atlantic Wire It's been a good month for government regulators going to join the companies they regulate. On May 11, Comcast announced Meredith Baker would leave the FCC to join its board, after she approved its merger with NBC Universal a few months earlier. Today, the news is about Judd Gregg, the former three-term Republican senator from New Hampshire, who is going to work for Goldman Sachs.
Gregg, who also put in a couple of terms as the governor of New Hampshire, was the top Republican on the Senate Banking Housing and Urban Affairs Committee before he decided not to run for re-election in 2010. Gregg will be joining Goldman as an "international adviser," which means he will "provide strategic advice to the firm and its clients, and assist in business development initiatives across our global franchise," according to their press release. Gregg has already shown he was a friend to big banks like Goldman. In 2009, he argued against a proposed federal breakup of Goldman, saying in a Bloomberg interview, "Big is not necessarily bad.... If an entity is properly capitalized and if it does decent underwriting, big can work to the advantage of this country."

And in 2010, he cautioned against populism as Senate Democrats sought to overhaul financial regulations: "The problem we have is that there is this populist fervor, this Huey Long attitude out there that says all banks are bad and that the financial system is evil and as a result we must do things which will basically end up reducing our competitiveness as a nation." He should fit right in.

Read the article here. Goldman Sachs Reaps and Reaps and Reaps Cash (Secretly) Trying to keep track of all the money that Goldman Sachs received in bailout funds (both short-term and long-term) could be a full-time job. From an earlier post, I found out that Goldman Sachs had accumulated a large amount of financial help from various sources:
Here's another analysis of the FCIC report, including a comment on Goldman Sachs's ever-increasing amounts of money achieved via the Financial Crisis. Goldman Sachs was given $10 billion in TARP funds, $12.9 billion in AIG TARP funds for GS counter parties , $1.9 billion for its own use from AIG's TARP bailout; $5 billion investment from Buffet, and $589 billion in total short-term loans from the Federal Reserve (PDCF) and $193 billion from TSLF throughout 2008 and 2009!
Now we see that Goldman Sachs received money from another Federal Reserve emergency lending fund: ST OMO (single-tranche open-market operations). These 28-day loans were made from March to December 2008 and Goldman Sachs borrowed at least $30 billion from the fund. Are we to believe that this revelation marks the end of the funds Goldman Sachs received? Ha!
Fed Gave Banks Crisis Gains on Secretive Loans Low as 0.01% By Bob Ivry - Bloomberg Businessweek

May 26 (Bloomberg) - Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc each borrowed at least $30 billion in 2008 from a Federal Reserve emergency lending program whose details weren’t revealed to shareholders, members of Congress or the public.

The $80 billion initiative, called single-tranche open- market operations, or ST OMO, made 28-day loans from March through December 2008, a period in which confidence in global credit markets collapsed after the Sept. 15 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Units of 20 banks were required to bid at auctions for the cash. They paid interest rates as low as 0.01 percent that December, when the Fed’s main lending facility charged 0.5 percent.

“This was a pure subsidy,” said Robert A. Eisenbeis, former head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and now chief monetary economist at Sarasota, Florida-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. “The Fed hasn’t been forthcoming with disclosures overall. Why should this be any different?”

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which oversaw ST OMO, posted aggregate data about the program on its website after each auction, said Jeffrey V. Smith, a New York Fed spokesman. By increasing the availability of short-term financing when private lenders were under pressure, “this program helped alleviate strains in financial markets and support the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses,” he said.

Not in Dodd-Frank

Congress overlooked ST OMO when lawmakers required the central bank to publish its emergency lending data last year under the Dodd-Frank law.

“I wasn’t aware of this program until now,” said U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chaired the House Financial Services Committee in 2008 and co- authored the legislation overhauling financial regulation. The law does require the Fed to release details of any open-market operations undertaken after July 2010, after a two-year lag.

Records of the 2008 lending, released in March under court orders, show how the central bank adapted an existing tool for adjusting the U.S. money supply into an emergency source of cash. Zurich-based Credit Suisse borrowed as much as $45 billion, according to bar graphs that appear on 27 of 29,000 pages the central bank provided to media organizations that sued the Fed Board of Governors for public disclosure.

New York-based Goldman Sachs’s borrowing peaked at about $30 billion, the records show, as did the program’s loans to RBS, based in Edinburgh. Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc and UBS AG each borrowed at least $15 billion, according to the graphs, which reflect deals made by 12 of the 20 eligible banks during the last four months of 2008.

Read the full article here

And they deserved every cent of those bonuses for such glib arguing. And, look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird, a plane or more failing upwards flying high? Those Rethugs (Chicago School especially!) cannot actually be allowed to fail. (Scary!) But it's not as though no one were paying attention . . . Simon Johnson is! From Baseline Scenario comments (read the whole essay!) about Christine Lagarde's nomination to the position last held by the disgraced-and-under-house-arrest Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Yes, totally unqualified, but perfect from the viewpoint of the banksters!
I see Ms. Lagarde’s nomination in much the same light as I saw Ben Bernanke’s when Obama decided to keep him at his post. It is obvious to most of us, if not all, that the largest banks in the world are really the most influential when it comes to major economic decisions, especially in the West. Not only are governments unwilling to increase capital requirements and cause a restructuring of finance in so doing, but they are willing to walk much further out the gangplank toward the abyss in every other way to appease their political backers. Mark my words, if we leave governance in the hands of those who would willingly destroy the world for a buck and damn the rest of us in the process, then all is going to be lost. The dominoes are in line. Touch one, and we will have a crisis which will consume most of the world’s economies. I am completely amazed that that the other economic powers even attend these conferences or remain members of the IMF (which could, at this point be renamed the EMF, since only Europe seems to matter to it). I really think that your wonderful article is quite restrained, in that sense. China, India, Brazil, et al, should really be terrified. If the Eurozone collapses (seems a decent bet at this point), their exports will fall drastically and immediately, and then all hell will break loose. I want truly and deeply to be wrong.

. . . Legarde, Legarde, hummm.

This is the chick who was sleeping over in one of the palaces in Tunisia the month before the revolution, right?

The girl who almost got thrown out of government for errors of judgment?

Oh well, its been a whole four months.

. . . By her own frank admission in an interview with the WSJ last December:

Lagarde knowingly entered into a conspiracy to break the EU treaties.

“We violated all the rules because we wanted to close ranks and really rescue the euro zone.”

“The Greek and Irish rescues – €110 billion and €67.5 billion, respectively – and the creation of the bailout fund were, Ms. Lagarde said, “major transgressions” of the Lisbon Treaty that is the European Union’s governing document. “The Treaty of Lisbon,” she says, “was very straightforward. No bailing out.”"

By normal standards that should be enough to disqualify her from any position of trust.

Certainly she should not be put in charge of another treaty-based organisation, the IMF.

. . . Nigel mentioned Portugal and Spain. Unemployment among the young people (18-26) there is something like 43%. Protests were held all over Spain last week. These demonstrators were ordered to disperse by beefy, gun-wielding, baton-carrying Planet of the Apes police, in a sign of the times. As Nigel says, the amount of debt for Spain exceeds the total amount in the Euro-kitty, what then?

Here are some clear photos taken in Barcelona documenting the events.

The writing on the wall is clear, can general war be far behind?

. . . Seems to me the best person would be an honest accountant who still understands double data entry…

. . . Are the Swedes sucking on the Swiss teat`s for temporal sinecure (simony & ideology) conterminous continuum?”

After all, the Swedes being the norm (religion?), have not the symbiosis attributes to co-exist fiscally (stern $ criterion) with the “Calvinist Swiss”? Again, the question that should be asked is where is “Waldo”? The answer please…it’s on the back-of-the-envelope – “Basel”! Surprised?

Ref: “Get on with it” (5/28/11) – “Fisching for a job” (5/27/11) – “En Garde” (5/26/11)
Well, you gotta admit that the people who are promoting her must have very specific instructions in mind that she will follow perfectly. As a lawyer should. World, stay tuned for further disaster! * David (Fucking) Brooks ___________________________


tony said...

'Love Your Blog.Regards From England & Me.

Suzan said...

Thanks, Tony!

I love you (and England) too!