Friday, June 15, 2012

Education Is A Verrrrry Slooooow Process (In The US). Are We Sufficiently Amused Yet? And Ready To Learn Something About What's Really Going On? Or Just Buy More Tickets?

Professors' Rodriks' piece should be required reading for US politicians and media. Unfortunately the politicians are owned by the banks and are prevented from writing legislation that will protect the public from the excesses of banking behavior. The media, having been made recipients of a gusher dollars of campaign ad spending, are co-opted or too timid to report the possibilities of crisis bought on by banking and hedge fund gambling in Europe. As for the European Central Bank or Angela Merkel preventing any of this, there is a better chance of Hades freezing over. If they haven't learned by now, they will never learn. Greece exiting is all but certain and Spanish bond yields tell the story. The EU, bankers and politicians have put the world on a roller coaster ride straight to destruction.

Mark, Cheyboyagen MI,

Actually, what we really love is circuses and the ever-present clowns.

Just watch our show (national dialogue).

For instance, there are people (lots and lots of people actually) who believe the guy below is an intellectual capable of making decisions that affect the economic health and well-being of over 300,000,000 people (population of U.S.).

The fact that he was a known incompetent, specifically picked for the job because he was sure to follow orders without thinking of their implications was only one of his many selling points. His buyers are still pleased. (Blogger has gone italics crazy today so please be aware of Blogger-inserted italics appearing where they are not required!)

Tea Party Sen. Jim DeMint Wants JPMorgan CEO to 'Guide' Congress on Banking Regulation

Tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) on Wednesday asked JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who recently announced that his company had lost at least $2 billion in the derivative market, to "guide" Congress in creating friendly banking regulations.

During a U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing, DeMint told Dimon that lawmakers had no right to judge JPMorgan for their massive losses.

"We can hardly sit in judgement of your losing $2 billion," the junior senator from South Carolina explained. "We lose twice that every day here in Washington and plan to continue to do that every day. It's comforting to know that even with a $2 billion loss in a trade last year, your company still, I think, had a $19 billion profit. During that same period, we lost over a trillion dollars."

Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington,D.C., on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.(Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)

Jamie Dimon’s Testimony: What It Tells Us About the Banking System

Christine Harper

Thursday, June 14, 7:33AM

June 14 (Bloomberg) - JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon’s U.S. Senate testimony yesterday underscored how much more complex and government-dependent the bank has become, said historian Ron Chernow.

“What happens today with Jamie Dimon, because of the scale and scope of JPMorgan Chase, is a Main Street story,” said Chernow, who wrote the 1990 book The House of Morgan. In 1933, when then-CEO J.P. “Jack” Morgan Jr. testified before Congress, it “was in essence a Wall Street story.”

Dimon, 56, described to the Senate Banking Committee how the New York-based company’s $2 billion loss on credit derivatives stemmed from a unit of the business that helps invest part of the lender’s $1.1 trillion in deposits. In 1933, Jack Morgan’s bank didn’t have retail customers and federal insurance for deposits hadn’t yet been created.

“You can just imagine in this environment if there wasn’t deposit insurance how much money would be left in these banks,” Chernow said in a telephone interview. “The tradeoff was that in exchange for federally insured deposits that bankers would behave in a particularly cautious and responsible manner.”

JPMorgan, now the biggest U.S. bank with $2.3 trillion of assets, grew during the 2008 financial crisis when it acquired Washington Mutual Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. with the federal government’s support.

“It was quite counterintuitive that, to this day, the government’s response to the crisis was to create yet bigger and more complicated institutions,” Chernow said. “In addition to the deposit insurance and the regulated nature, another reason why the government has a special stake in this firm is because it was partly a creation of the government during the financial crisis.”

And then there's this guy:

Stephen Colbert had a bit of fun with GOP presidential candidate 'Rmoney' after his comments that President Obama didn't get the message from Wisconsin about cutting teachers and firefighters.

COLBERT: Well said. Obama is totally out of touch. Romney then flew off in his private jet to watch Rafalca compete in the national dressage championship.
And Romney was just getting luke-warmed up. […]
Yes! Only Romney has the courage to say what we're all thinking. America is being sucked dry by fireman, policeman and teachers. These big-government teet moochers are so lazy they can't even take the stairs. Some of them slide down poles.
Must be nice. And the worst part folks is our kids look up to these parasites. Ask any brainwashed six year old what he wants to be when he grows up and it's always members of public service unions; firemen, policemen, teachers.
Kids need to start admiring society's real heroes; job creators.

And this not-be-ignored review of the present day situation from Arthur Silber.

In a culture that was healthy to any significant degree, the recent NYT article about the Obama administration's institutionalized, systematic program of murder by secret decree would have resulted in a deafening, sustained, nationwide howl of outrage and denunciation.

In a healthy country -- and here, I use "healthy" in the sense described in an essay from four years ago: "to designate those goals and motives that can generally be described as supportive of individual life and happiness" -- the government's announcement that it regularly murders innocent human beings, wherever they may be in the world, for any reason the government wishes, and that the murderers are proud of their murders and plan to continue them indefinitely, would have propelled millions of people into the streets.

Given the government's proclamation that it considers anyone's life to be entirely disposable and subject to the State's momentary whim, it would hardly have been surprising if many of the potential victims resorted to violence to register their shock and disgust. In such circumstances, acts of violence in response should properly be regarded as acts of self-defense. If someone tells you he believes he has the "right" to murder anyone at all -- including you -- you cannot demand that the person who might be the next target should sit back and hope for the best or try to "reform" the monster, especially when the monster regards his murders as good, even noble.

It is true that such acts of violence would almost certainly be futile and very probably result in the imprisonment or death of the person who committed them, particularly when the monster is the State itself, with its monumental panoply of death-dealing personnel and machines. But people who grasp that their lives have been threatened might understandably be overtaken by the desperate need to protect themselves -- and to strike out in defense not only of their own lives, but of life in the most general sense, and of the possibility of happiness.

In a situation of this kind, I would never condemn the individual who resorted to violence, just as I refused to condemn the rioters in England last summer: "Violence is a completely understandable response, particularly when every other means of amelioration and recourse has been systematically closed off. When you leave people no choice but to engage in violence, they'll engage in violence."

Jon Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution puts it all in perspective for us. I've read from many viewers (and I concur) that this is just about the wittiest take on our current tragedy possible in so few words. And you know how I like just a few words.

The Aristocrats!

Lots of people like Atrios and Dean Baker are complaining about yesterday's column by David Brooks headlined "The Follower Problem." And at first glance it does seem pretty gross:

We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power...our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect [makes it hard] to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves… I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem … people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else...
But what's going on here is that David Brooks — as widely celebrated as Richard Cohen for being an extremely funny man — is telling his own version of the classic joke:

DAVID BROOKS: Okay, so our act starts with us inflating a giant internet bubble. Then that collapses, taking the country's economy with it, just as we massively cut taxes on millionaires because, we say, if we don't the government will have too much money.

Right after that we blow off warnings about terrorism and let 3,000 Americans get slaughtered. We use that as a chance to lie the U.S. into invading a country that had nothing to do with the attack, killing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions into refugees. In the middle of all that we borrow torture techniques from the Inquisition and use them on people in secret sites around the planet.

Then we make billions off another financial bubble, the biggest in human history, and do nothing as it collapses, plunging the world into the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. To fix that we open up the national bank vault and shovel out money as fast as possible to all the criminals who made it happen in the first place.

Then — as the amazing finale — we refuse to prosecute anyone for that, for the war, or for torture, and we start killing U.S. citizens with flying death robots.

AGENT: ...That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?

DAVID BROOKS: The Aristocrats!

Jon Schwarz

June 13, 2012

At least some have found it amusing.

Driftglass is not among these folks.

Honestly, I think that Mr. Brooks' latest odious paean to authoritarianism had less to do with Washington D.C. statuary that the fact that Mr. Brooks is himself a rich and privileged man and getting richer and more privileged every day. And however utterly unearned and undeserved his wealth and privilege may be, Mr. Brooks sincerely believes that those beneath him in the social order should be required to shut the fuck up and defer to his.

After all, in Mr. Brooks' Beltway Universe, moral tidiness and good order is maintained only by relentlessly flattering and cozying up to power.

In Mr. Brooks' world, Sucking Up is The System and he who learns earliest and best how to suppress their gag reflex and cauterize their conscience will rise farthest and fastest. And for Mr. Brooks, no further proof of that system's benevolent efficacy is needed beyond the fact that Sucking Up harder than a quantum black hole is precisely how an otherwise talentless man like Mr. Brooks accumulated his wealth and privilege in the first place.

Want to really shake in your shoes about the international meltdown? From Paul Krugman's blog:

Historical Echoes

June 14, 2012, 9:02 am

Kevin O’Rourke:

… the extremes are gaining in Europe because centrist parties are offering voters no meaningful choices. Pasok and ND are an egregious example, but the same is true in all the other programme countries, and to a lesser extent in other countries as well. So if you want to vote against the status quo policies, you have no alternative but to vote for Syriza, or whomever.

Second, right now in Europe, support for international institutions means, de facto, support for the current policy mix, just as being an internationalist in the interwar period, in too many cases, meant support for gold.
Also, Dani Rodrik has an all too plausible for global disaster.

Right on cue, Hungary Lauds Hitler Ally Horthy as Orban Fails to Stop Hatred.

But remember, the big problem is that the public isn’t showing enough deference to the elite.
From the comments at Paul Krugman's blog, it gets even better (or worse, depending on your political position):

Joseph O'Shaughnessy, Downers Grove, Illinois

Hungary's Fascism is in the open. Ours hides behind the propaganda purchased at the price of the honesty and integrity of our political system.

The enemies of the people cloak their true intentions behind the doors of propaganda-generating, pseudo-empirical institutions like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. They fund paid political organizations like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

It accelerates through the secretive ALEC movement that buys up local legislators. Even supposedly consumer-friendly companies like Coca-Cola and Kraft are involved. Sip a Coke and have a piece of pays for the vote against your clean water or to deny your product liability lawsuit.

The Federalist Society now owns the courts...from the districts to the corporate Supreme Court.

We're losing the right to vote, with 180,000 Americans cut from the rolls in Florida...and more elsewhere.

Dick Cheney bought a private mercenary army. He sent it to Iraq but then to New Orleans to protect his friends' interests. There are14,000 sitting in North Carolina...a private army...

First Wall Street came for the middle class--took their jobs and homes. Now they want to divide the rest -- public workers from private workers.

Attack, divide and conquer. Sound familiar?

The news out of Hungary is truly frightening. So is the chatter here at home. Responses on blogs reveal a mean-spirited neighbor-against-neighbor meme. For some, this Great Recession was caused by their neighbors' over indulgences and foolish spending. While Mr. Romney cheers the policy of firing public workers in order for "the American people" to progress, I see people cheering and nodding in agreement. Some bloggers are a step away from throwing all Latinos in concentration camps. Arizona is already on its way to achieving that goal.

Should the economy get much worse and we begin competing for scarce resources, the monied interests have already set the stage for citizen-on-citizen violence by their political machinations. Monied interests have managed to get us to blame each other to the point we can't see who really took the little family wealth we accumulated.

We must all support the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is at present the only movement that is trying to stop this slide into the heart of darkness.

You're doing your part to stop the slide, Prof. Krugman. Thank you.

And thank you all for trying to stop this oncoming train.

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