Links 11/13/09

2012: Carnival of Bunkum h+ (hat tip reader David C)

Tranquility Base ABC News (hat tip reader John D)

The Science Behind ‘Stop Me If I’ve Told You This’ LiveScience (hat tip reader John D)

Some Misses on the Bear Stearns Acquittals Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review

Insight: The sweet fix of CoCos Gillian Tett, Financial Times

Warhol sale gives brush-off to art downturn Financial Times. The rising tide of liquidity lifts all boats.

The Crafting of a Loophole Andrew Cockburn. Counterpunch.

Bloggers’ Meeting With Treasury Highlights Rise In Prominence Steve Russillio. A fair piece, but I don’t buy the headline assumption. This session was a symptom of Team Obama being very aggressive about message control (per the way they have tried corralling liberal groups) and illustrates how Team Obama approaches the world (through a PR lens). They are just willing to go much further down the food chain than past administrations would have (the absurd number of sent by President Obama as a result of my having given a wee bit of money out of sheer horror at the Palin acceptance speech is another indicator of how far they like to reach). It has very little to do with bloggers per se.

Housing Agency’s Cash Reserves Down Sharply New York Times

The Case for a Weak Dollar Isn’t Strong Wall Street Journal. The conundrum is now that the US has ceded a ton of manufacturing, what is left isn’t big enough to give the economy that much of a boost. Yes, we might rebuild if dollar weakness continues (as many expect) but currency volatility also makes planning fraught. No magic bullet here.

Former bankers look to buy failing banks: report Reuters

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Tim C):


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  1. Richard Kline

    Tranquility Base. . . Forty years later, it’s _still_ so awesome to consider that human beings made the effort and succeeded in walking on the Moon. Some things are worth doing just because, goddammit, they’re worth doing. And all of the folks who walked on the Moon have been American. That is an accomplishment to remember, amidst all our execrable folly ‘n’ general mookishness. Whether it will be rememberd a thousand years or now, or five thousand, that those were American boots that stepped there first, it’s hard to know. But it should be remembered. We got something right . . . .

    1. gordon

      Certainly something to be proud of.

      The creation of NASA and the adoption of a “man on the moon” goal also civilianised the US space programme – before 1960 the US Army and USAF were both in effect running their own space programmes, and inter-Service rivalry was the name of the game. I have always thought JFK pulled off a very adroit political move in setting up a civilian NASA and giving it a big, popular and visionary agenda, thereby politically burying any military objections.

      Thinking like this, you could interpret the “Star Wars” programme of the Reagan years as a counterattack aiming to recapture space for the US military.

      1. Richard Kline

        An attempt to recapture space for _military contractors_, and a highly successful one, I might add. Spending on space continues to weaken while the outright theft of public funds for ‘missle defense’ which will never be effective at any viable level eats up many times the revenue . . . .

    1. DownSouth

      I hardly think they’re succeeding in “corralling liberal groups.”

      If public opinion polls are any indication, you could put the Grand Canyon in between where this administration is and where the American public is.

      I think Yves’s assessment is right on about how this is all about “message control.” Here’s how Daniel Yankelovich describes this brand of American leadership:

      Often they are graduates of elite colleges and universities, which indoctrinates them with a noneradicable feeling of superiority to the general public…

      Many of them are aware of how remote their contact is with middle America and are eager to learn how they can better communicate their views to the larger public. They assume that they have much of value to communicate to the public, without imagining that the public has much of value to impart to them. One of the most severe drawbacks of the conventional model of quality-as-information is that it always assumes a one-way flow of wisdom from those with more information to those with less…

      The information-driven model leads to a concept of public education as a one-way process: the expert speaks: the citizen listens.
      –Daniel Yankelovich, Coming to Public Judgment

      And I also think Yves is correct in her statement about how “Team Obama approaches the world through a PR lens.” Hannah Arendt, in Crises of the Republic, has an entire chapter called “Lying in Politics” that deals with the “public-relations managers in government who learned their trade from the inventiveness of Madison Avenue,” and, as we’re seeing now with the gulf opening up between the Obama administration and public opinion, the pitfalls of this mindset:

      Therefore the psychological premise of human manipulability has become one of the chief wares that are sold on the market of common and learned opinion. But such doctrines do not change the way people form opinions or prevent them from acting according to their own lights…

      [They believe] that politics is but a variety of public relations and they [are] taken in by all the bizarre psychological premises underlying this belief…

      Image-making as global policy—not world conquest , but victory in the battle to win the people’s minds”—is indeed something new in the huge arsenal of human follies recorded in history… It may be natural for elected officeholders—who owe so much, or believe they owe so much, to their campaign managers—to think that manipulation is the ruler of the people’s minds and hence the true ruler of the world.

    2. mey

      Yup, tried, but not succeeded. Got take a swing at some liberal blogs. Liberals aren’t known for following in lock-step with whoever is in charge — they’re more likely to give someone they think will work towards the same goals the benefit of doubt up to a point, but that’s not forever.

  2. emca

    You’ve touch the crux of the matter /DownSouth, that unless your willing to seriously consider something said by someone ‘stupider’ than you, you won’t completely understand the situation. I don’t say this ironically.

    Consideration does not mean concerned nodding of comprehension followed by relief that the dirty deed is done and dues have been paid, the stuff of PR of which appearances are all.

    A public relation character of government not something new, (I would imagine it is more or less an ongoing enterprise since people first started throwing stones at each other – maybe before) but the difference with the current regime (and other ‘post-modern’ governments?) is that it is serving as the basis of government policy; not that the administration is always testing the winds, but that it is overly concerned a wind doesn’t muss any hairs. In this situation, the most committed are cynically the most gullible and prime objects of bluff, something the religious right appreciated with Bush, and the ‘Liberals’ are finding with Obama.

    Not prone to overall absolutes, but the truth in this matter is idiotically simple, its actions that are ultimately important, not nods of agreement, promises of fidelity or other words passing through flapping lips of talking heads.

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Socrates was the wisest man because he always said, “I don’t know.”

    Hopefully the elite (the supposedly educated people) would take note.

    They say the White House and the cabinet should be more like American people. I think Congress should be too. It’s time we elect more shoesalesmen, busboys, taxidrivers, teacher’s aids, gardeners, farmers, grcoery clerks and sons of carpenters and not just lawyers, high tech CEOs and movie stars in politics.

    That, for me, is diversity.

  4. gordon

    There seems to be a glitch on the site whereby when you go to the bottom of the page and click on “older posts” you get thrown back not to the latest “older post” but posts of several days ago. Some posts are getting lost?

    1. jimmy james

      Did you try hitting refresh? Sometimes there are bad cookies or a broken cache or some other mystical computer nonsense that is cured by hitting F5

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      This has been a frustrating ongoing problem, my tech guy has been trying to resolve it with no success. Apologies. It is some sort of caching issue.

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