Links 4/5/09

Film makers leave Hollywood BBC

Believing in Treatments That Don’t Work New York Times

U.S. property bust threatens condo “death spiral” Reuters

Be Nice Baseline Scenario. So NC isn’t the only site witnessing a recent fall in civility.

The Age of Balance Sheet Recessions: What Post-2008 U.S., Europe and China Can Learn from Japan 1990-2005 Richard Koo (hat tip reader Bjornar). Be sure to take note of Exhibit 12. Yikes.

Johnson and Kwak vs. Bernanke Tim Duy

Fannie, Freddie Quietly Lift Moratorium on Foreclosures Washington Post

A Question for the Economists Harvey Mansfield, The Weekly Standard. Yes, this is the same Harvey Mansfield who wrote a somewhat deranged book on manliness. But Mansfield is a professor of government, and this article discusses topics about which he actually knows something.

Why Creditors Should Suffer, Too Tyler Cowen, New York Times

It Really Is All Greenspan’s Fault Susan Lee, Forbes

Even Rick Wagoner’s Firing Got Lousy Mileage Frank Rich, New York Times. A must read.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. biosophia

    In comparison with caustic sarcasm that he had poured on the Bush administration, Rich goes very easy on Obama and his CEO buddies. First of all, he tries to deflect blame and responsibility from the culprit by spreading them far and wide on everyone. Well, when a doctor prescribes a pill, a patient takes it and goes belly up, who is to blame? Rich says we should blame the patient because he put the pill in his mouth and flushed it down with a drink of water. And second, he portrays the necessary cleansing that must by definition involve firing and prosecution as giving in – throwing a bone – to the animal desires for revenge on the part of the masses. This way he makes change impossible because change involves changing leadership – old dogs don’t learn new tricks. Rich reveals himself nothing but a partisan hack, an apologist for an old corrupt elite, just like about everyone else.

    As to Johnson and Kwak, looks like they are saying that third-world style inflation is the best we can do right now.

  2. alex black

    Cool antidote. I read the backstory in Rolling Stone. It was an April Fool’s joke. Someone distributed flyers all over Antarctica advertising a free outdoor U2 concert.

    A lot of the penquins were bummed because X is really hard to come by there, and many dropped their only tab just for the show.

  3. Anonymous

    Frank Rich’s column a must read? Rich and Friedman are the most over rated opinion columnists. Their columns are simplistic, state the obvious and, in Rich’s case, tend to be little more than the drivel of the up town elites designed to get him into upper west side parties.

    P.S. Alex Black: That was a very funny comment.


  4. Anonymous

    Yves, would you create a unique post for the Moyers/Black interview? It's not getting the mileage it should, and someone needs to kick it out there for Monday.

    (After Bush cronies axed his previous show, public outcry eventually forced them to bring Moyers back — but they gave him a Friday evening slot, because the weekend gives ample time for the story to be forgotten or eclipsed come Monday.)

    On YouTube:
    Moyers 1/3: Sharing the Blame for the Economic Crisis? 9:05
    Moyers 2/3: Sharing the Blame for the Economic Crisis? 10:18
    Moyers 3/3: Sharing the Blame for the Economic Crisis? 8.55

    Maybe you could post the video, with a few short specific comments on Black's words? Discussion of fraud & investigation has been light since guest posts ramped up. Still love em, just miss the proactive stuff that compliments the news analysis.

  5. Anonymous

    Bush appointed a new head for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in his first term. CPB was developed by PBS to watch over and maintain PBS’ independence, but Bush used it to try to choke out dissenting voices.

    From Wikipedia:
    “In 2005 then Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Kenneth Tomlinson commissioned a study of the show NOW with Bill Moyers. Tomlinson said that the study supported what he characterized as “the image of the left-wing bias of NOW”.[37] Moyers replied to this by saying that his journalism showed “the actual experience of regular people is the missing link in a nation wired for everything but the truth.” Moyers characterized Tomlinson as “an ally of Karl Rove and the right-wing monopoly’s point man to keep tabs on public broadcasting.” Tomlinson, he said, “found kindred spirits at the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal where the ‘animal spirits of business’ are routinely celebrated.”[37] Moyers also responded to these accusations in a speech given to The National Conference for Media Reform, pointing out that he had repeatedly invited Tomlinson to debate him on the subject, and had repeatedly been ignored.[38] Tomlinson subsequently resigned on November 4, 2005, after a CPB inquiry found improprieties in the commissioning of the study. Investigators at the CPB said on November 15, 2005, that they had uncovered evidence that Tomlinson had repeatedly broken federal law and the organization’s own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias.[39]”

    “Referring to a July 13, 2007, edition of Bill Moyers Journal, discussing the possible impeachment of then President George W. Bush, and featuring guests from opposing ends of the political spectrum, both in favor of impeachment,[40] PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler praised Moyers for his initiative in highlighting different topics, but felt he could have used a more balanced approach.[41] Moyers disagreed, saying:
    “The journalist’s job is not to achieve some mythical state of equilibrium between two opposing opinions out of some misshapen respect — sometimes, alas, reverence — for the prevailing consensus among the powers-that-be. The journalist’s job is to seek out and offer the public the best thinking on an issue, event, or story.”
    Getler responded by saying that
    “On the broad issue of balance, I don’t disagree with Moyers …. It can create a false sense of equivalence among readers or viewers in cases where that is not justified…. [but that] while conventional, equal-time balance is frequently a false measure, the absence of any balance can undermine any program.”[42]”

  6. Independent Accountant

    I agree with Rich in part. So? As a card carrying member of Pat Buchanan’s pitchfork brigade, it’s Paulson, Bernanke, Pandit, Blankfein and the other “capos of finance” whose heads I want to see paraded on pikes up and down Fifth Avenue.
    Wagoner’s firing did nothing for me. It was a diversion, just like the recent flap over $165 million of AIG bonuses, .001 of the $173 billion AIG bailout.
    What would George Washington say when confronted with “billions for TBTF bailouts, nothing for a guillotine to behead the monsters”?
    Where’s a real populist like William Jennings Bryan when you need one? “Thou shalt not crucify the future health care benefits of UAW retirees on a cross of hundreds of billions in TBTF bailouts”. That’s the ticket. Instead, Barney Frank intervenes to facilitate bank book cooking. Where’s today’s Harry Truman?

  7. roger

    Susan Lee’s column is almost perfect. That is, a perfect example of forgetting things as soon as possible, thus allowing oneself to hold onto one’s ideology and prejudices without bothering to test them against reality.

    Greenspan, she discovers, had a loose money policy from 2001 to 2005! Amazing! So the housing bubble was his fault! How dumb can you be. People, including Forbes’ editorial staff, were so aware of the loose money policy that they loved it between 2001-2005. Why? Cause they wanted the housing bubble. In fact, everybody wanted the housing bubble. It was what carried the median family household out of the dot com/ tech recession. We’ve already forgotten that it wasn’t a problem to be combated, but a solution to be welcomed. Otherwise, history would have been very different. The Bush “boom” in corporate profits would have been overshadowed by the Bush ‘lag’ as poor employment figures and stagnant and falling wages would have weighed on the economy and made 2004 feel more like a recession than the return of good times.

    We can pretend now that the housing bubble was all some horrible accident. But you have merely to read what was said back in 2004 to find out, a., that everybody knew that it was happening,, and b., that the mainstream journals, tv, punditocracy, etc., deemed it good.

  8. fresno dan

    “Believing in Treatments That Don’t Work New York Times”
    evidence based medicine…we just figured out that mathematical formulas can’t tell us much about risk (or the people who use the formulas don’t understand what they mean).
    There must be a ?billion? examples of something “proven” in a trial that is than disproven. see:

    Why, I am so old I remember the hormone replacement therapy controversy. (and there are still a million things to consider – what age do you start the therapy, underlying condition, etc.)

    Why so many contradictory outcomes? We’re all the same but we’re all different. Relative outcomes look impressive, but when measured in absolute terms the results are very, very modest. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of variables. Even highly designed and ethically run studies when repeated often give confounding results.

    And people will believe what they believe – try and tell someone their supplements don’t work.

  9. Yves Smith


    In fairness to Lee, my understanding is she had been a writer at the WSJ, left in 2003 to pursue a PhD (second one, in humanities, she already has one in economics, due to her discomfort with some of the WSJ’s editorial positions), aborted that plan, and went to work at Forbes, I think in 2007.

    Point is she was completely uninvolved in journalism or finance during most of the bubble period.

  10. roger

    Yves, if you say Lee’s good people, I believe it.

    The more general point is simply that we can’t pretend, now that it has blown up, that the housing bubble occurred behind our backs. The point isn’t just that homeowners were complicitous – the point is that policymakers wanted this to happen as a solution to the last recession. They wanted it because it was politically easy. It wasn’t that Greenspan was the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. Rather, the housing boom was supposed to be the showpiece of the ownership society – because with the median household assets going up linearly and forever, what need was there for social insurance? Or for government regulation, which would just get in the way of that linear movement?

    Thus, Lee, who may well have protested against that rather mad way of thinking, should still put Greenspan in context.

  11. Merry-will-go-round

    Hurrah, hurrah to the recommendation to post on Bill Moyer’s interview of William Black. (Although I disagree with Black’s assessment of the cause of policies, programs, and legislation that have socialized the still opaque and on-going costs of Wall Street’s malfeasance. Black attributes all this crony capitalism to a fear that bank depositors will make runs on banks should the insolvency of major banksters be admitted to the American public.)

  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous 9:51am

    Bill Moyers’ position on the goal of a false equilibrium in reporting.

    The persistence of this ‘he said’ ‘she said’ style rather than reporting with a point of view derived through investigation is clearly deliberate. It has successfully declawed journalism.


  13. James

    I thought Rich’s assertion that questions regarding the Obama Administration’s reluctance to act on the fraud perpetrated by Wall Street actors by firing a CEO or two in that sector arose from some sympathy for Rick Wagoner or the domestic auto industry was silly. I guess that he posits such a connection to avoid addressing the real connection between the fate of the auto industry and that of unionized labor.

  14. vitaminkid

    99% of the time, I have no use for Bill Moyers, but even I must admit his interview with Black is a gem. It’s “must-see TV.” Or better yet, read the transcript. Or both. Lots of ammunition there to write my Congresscritter. This is beyond party, beyond liberal/conservative. It’s criminality, plain and simple.

    If Bush was attempting to make PBS less liberal through new management, I think it was a laughable failure. PBS is still as liberal as ever. I accept that fact, learn what I can, ignore the smothering bias.

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