Links 4/30/10


  1. attempter

    “Legislating a Conscience on Wall Street”:

    You certainly can’t do that. If you face an assailant who has no conscience, you can’t reason with him or beg him to behave, and of course you can’t appeal to his nonexistent conscience. You have to kill him. Nothing else will work. So long as the rackets exist we can’t “regulate” them. They have to be destroyed.

    “We Can’t All be Net Exporters”:

    No way!

    It really is something to see the way all these “talented” officials and economists implicitly say we can be. “Economics” really is somewhere below palm-reading both intellectually and in terms of producing useful predictions. They’re all fools or liars.


    It would be nice to think that the SEC suit is aimed at this twisted worldview as much as at the actual offense. Some observers believe the case against Goldman was timed to pressure Wall Street into acquiescing to Sen. Chris Dodd’s loophole-ridden financial-reform bill, which probably won’t do much to prevent cases like the Abacus fiasco. Or maybe it’s just pure politics – Democrats dropping the proverbial horse’s head in Goldman’s bed to get their fig-leaf financial-reform effort passed in time for the midterm elections.

    I’ve always thought this was the administration’s intent. The sham bill itself proves the twisted worldview and the broad trend of practice isn’t the target. But I do indulge some slight hope that this might end up being a tipping point for public opinion, regardless of what the corrupt government intends.

    1. DownSouth

      I thought the most telling line from the Taibbi piece was this:

      We gave these people nearly a trillion bailout dollars, and no one knows what service they actually provide beyond fraud, gross self-indulgence and the occasional transparently insincere public apology.

      This alludes to something Reinhold Niebuhr said:

      Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.

      The most common form of hypocrisy among the privileged classes is to assume that their privileges are the just payments with which society rewards specially useful or meritorious functions.
      –Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society

      So now the curtain is finally being pulled back on Goldman and the entire “the Masters of the Universe” charade, and these people are being seen for what they really are.

      Shaw put it quite eloquently:

      Your friends are not religious: they are only pew-renters. They are not moral: they are only conventional. They are not virtuous: they are only cowardly. They are not even vicious: they are only “frail.” They are not artistic: they are only lascivious. They are not prosperous: they are only rich; not courageous: only quarrelsome; not masterful, only domineering…

      1. craazyman

        Is it possible for Matt Taibi or that apparently young gentleman from New York Press to write an article about contemporary financial practices without using the F-word 100 times, making lewd references to masturbation, referring to prostitution and/or invoking other fluid- or substance-emitting bodily processes?

        I wonder.

        I try to be a gentleman and a scholar. This sort of approach to the English language is what I would expect to find at some debauched sporting event where beer is sold to individuals who go shirtless with home-team symbols painted on their bellies in a mindless frenzy for physical violence even when the outside temperature is below 40 degrees, not in the rareified realms in which I prefer to cogitate on the weighty matters of the day.

        booo wha ahahaha ahahahahaha

        1. alex

          I agree with you about Taibbi’s “gonzo” writing style, but his points are generally accurate. He does help ‘spread the word’.

          If you want penetrating financial reporting without the profanity, read Yves Smith (hmm, maybe you already do) and Dean Baker.

        2. velobabe

          long live gonzo writing†
          in memorial to my neighbor the late great
          Hunter S Thompson
          i will be watching the kentucky derby tomorrow babe, and thinking about our past. R . I . P .

        3. Tom Crowl

          I understand, I generally also try to keep a civil tongue…


          I gotta admit I like Matt Taibi’s style since he’s got an emotional poetic rhythm he gets going.

          And all-in-all, I think bringing that emotional impact to a subject like the complexities of finance has been helpful in getting more of the general public to focus on the details.

          Though of course unemployment, bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, the food stamp explosion, etc…

          like knowing you’ll be hung in the morning…

          also tend to focus the attention.

        4. colinc

          craazyman, as a fellow scholar (or wannabe) I will concur that invocations of “other fluid- or substance-emitting bodily processes” generally reside in the realm of “too much information,” there are times when such may be necessary. However, may I posit that the word “fuck” is just another 4-letter word and not at all dissimilar from “love,” “work,” “hate” and “bank.” Personally, I know of no one over the age of 5, from ANY social stratum, whose lips have not regurgitated the “F-bomb” at least once. For those who [superficially] espouse umbrage to its utterance, may I refer one to ponder the Shaw quote cited by DownSouth, above.

          Moreover, the Fraudonomics article, regardless of its temerity, was spot on. Nearly a decade ago I mentioned to a few friends that I was considering writing a book called “Frauds ‘R Us: How Americans are Cheating Themselves, Each Other and Everyone Else.” A couple of them emphatically directed me to “Write that book!” Alas, it has not come to be as I am also aware that those thoughts would fall on blind eyes, deaf ears and closed minds. Just as I know I have NEVER had an employer (more than few names you’d recognize) who wasn’t cheating their customers and employees, I know far too few “ordinary people” who don’t “cheat” on their tax filings, at the very least. Exploitationism is an exceedingly more apt term for our form of “economics” or “government” than “corporatism” or others I’ve heard proposed. After all, what “you” don’t know can and will be used against you for the profit of others… and “your” detriment.

          velobabe, I commend and share you celebration of Mr. Thompson, the “best” American since Sam Clemens.

          1. Skippy

            I still have a signed copy of the his local rag.

            Skippy…ahhh boulder and the roads from it, lead to many a strange place or occurrence.

      2. attempter

        Reminds me of Heart of Darkness:

        This devoted band called itself the Eldorado Exploring Expedition and I believe they were sworn to secrecy. Their talk however was the talk of sordid buccaneers. It was reckless without hardihood. greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage. There was not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for the work of the world. To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe. Who paid the expenses of the noble enterprise I don’t know…

        But in the case of today’s parasitic criminals we know all too well who’s paying the expenses of the “noble enterprise”. Who’s the victim of history’s worst robbery.

        The taxpayers. The people.

        And it continues, millions every day. Until we put a stop to them.

      3. Hugh

        That is a great Niebuhr quote. The situation is even more egregious today where we have elites that do not perform even minimally useful functions, but arrogate to themselves most of the nation’s wealth.

        I cite these figures often, and it is important to remember that they are from 2007 so things have gotten worse since: but the top 1% have 13 1/2 times the wealth of the bottom 50% of the US population. What this means is that if we transferred even one-tenth of that wealth to the bottom 50% that bottom 50% would be more than twice as wealthy as they currently are. This is the essence of our kleptocracy and its new feudalism.

        I also like attempter’s quote from Heart of Darkness down below. Our elites are not just greedy but criminal in a profound and society-destroying way. It says so much about how controlled we are by them that we continue to pull our punches and curb our language in our descriptions of them. Our leaders, our elites, are thieves and murderers. They are terrorists such as Osama bin Laden could only dream to be. But we are not supposed to say such things. They are extreme. They are sure to damage one’s credibility, and yet, they are true.

        1. colinc

          I couldn’t have said it better myself! Alas, “baseless belief” trumps “facts & reason” far too frequently and I can only imagine we share similar frustration and disgust.

  2. Thomasina Jefferson

    From Tim Duy’s Fed watch, referenced above:

    President Barack Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years will be difficult to meet, business leaders and economists say, because of the lack of momentum on demolishing trade barriers and the shift by more American companies toward producing overseas.

    U.S. exporters want Washington to put more pressure on trading partners to eliminate tariffs, crack down on intellectual-property violations and take a harder line on trading partners’ currency policies. American firms say stronger action by the federal government could substantially boost prospects for U.S. exports.

    So let me get this straigth. The US wants to become a net exporter by eliminating tariffs and shipping even more manufacturing jobs oversees.
    How’s that supposed to do anything else than cripple national governments even more by eroding their income base even further?
    So the Capitalists’ trade and econmic model really only does one thing: Eliminate democratically elected national governments as a source of power that could resists them.

    1. DownSouth

      The statement you quoted also reveals the blatant double standards extant in US and European trade policy.

      In trade negotiations, Europe and the US always harp on “eliminating tariffs, cracking down on intellectual-property violations and taking a harder line on trading partners’ currency policies,” while at the same time completely ignoring the massive subsidies they heap on certain pet industries, perhaps the most egregious being agriculture.

      The poster child for this grotesque double standard is ethanol, where the US not only lavishes massive subsidies on domestic ethanol producers, but enacted protective tariffs as well, making ethanol produced in South America—-ethanol produced at a far lower cost—-non-competitive with US-produced ethanol.

  3. LeeAnne

    Securitization goes far beyond regulatory arbitrage. Residential mortgage holders and applicants seem to have been stripped of legal protections and the right to a hearing with legal representation in a court of law.

    The public seems to have bought the propaganda that people buying homes were all gamblers in a high stakes game.

    Apparently, the securitization of mortgages successfully stripped residential mortgage clients of all legal protections. From beginning to end, from the first approach of a mortgage salesman, through the application process and beyond after home ownership and occupancy, the process of buying a home is without legal protections.

    That’s the reason the word ‘greed’ was so popular for awhile. It covered over massive fraud with the complicity of our congress.

    How is that possible? We spend so much time pondering the details to get at the core of the collapse but practically nothing about the collapse of law for consumers. The law is there to throw people out of their homes in most cases. So the law does exist. It just doesn’t exist for consumers.

    Who is responsible for the success of the very idea of SECURITIZATION that moved residential real estate out of real estate law and away from securities law at the same time? Massive sales were achieved in the $billions at a shot that left societies not only with massive debt but massive garbage to sort out and massive unemployment.

    Goldman, Sachs, now the face of oppression by financial means in the world, is the personification of oppression, crimes against humanity, and massive fraud.

    They may be at the top of the heap. But its a heap of sh*t.

  4. Ray Duray

    Villain Watch: Before Blankfein there was Fuld…

    In a new whistleblower attempt, a former Lehman Brothers in-house counsel has brought out a spreadsheet, via Bloomberg/Business Week, claiming that Richard Fuld lied to the Waxman committee about his compensation, understating his income (perjuring himself) to the tune of $200 Million.

  5. Tom Crowl

    Re “NASA mulls 28 potential ’search for life’ missions Raw Story”

    Larry King and guests David Brin and others (depending, of course on events) will be discussing the SETI issue tonight in connection with Hawking’s musings on the possible perils of success.

    It’s possible you’ll see some discussion of the ‘altruism scaling problem’ (which, believe it or not, in the anthropological sense is connected to Wall Street and other problems in economics).

    Here comes the debate over the other kind of aliens…

    The Problem in Scaling Altruism: Where’s the Intelligent Life?

    P.S. I know some feel differently, but I for one appreciate that you don’t limit your links to only the finance related… you never know from where insight may come!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Why search for life elsewhere in the universe when what we really is their money?

      Let’s just find out where else in the universe can we find more fiat money…covertly of course.

      That will solve our money problem here without having to worry about how to get along with or avoid getting killed by aliens.

    2. craazyman

      Tom these people are lost in their own paradigm mind cage. Think about it. If you go fly fishing the fish thinks the fly is food. It eats the fly. Then it gets hooked, panics and thrashes around until you reel it in. Then, when you take the fly out of its mouth and place it gently back in the water (we fish catch and release, usually), it thinks it’s just been saved by God, a miracle of redemption. It can’t fathom the reality that the fly and you are part of the same phenomenon. This is the mindset by which our scientists search for aliens. They really should look under the bed, at 2 a.m., who knows what lurks there, just waiting to grab you by the foot. ha ha hahah ahahaha.

  6. Rex

    The Fraudonomics story has the feel of a Kafka-like nightmare. Unfortunately, I think it may be fairly accurate.

    The “Fun Fraudonomics Facts” link at the end of the story provides even more cheerful details.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Frodonomics – I think that worked pretty well in Middle Earth.

      I bet theirs was not fiat money though.

  7. BwO

    Yves, I don’t understand why you link to Le Cafe Americain. If people want to write flashy headlines back by substanceless posts lacking any intelligent analysis, let them. But don’t encourage them. It’s always the same over at the cafe — weak minds suffering the same infection as everyone else. Innoculate yourself to the drivel.

    Who measures naked total exposure as a percentage of Tier 1 Capital? A typical bank’s exposure to the US mortgage market is going to be something like 1000% of Tier 1 capital. This is a stupid number. Like measuring the distance to the moon in toothpicks, just cause it makes it sound really really far away.

    1. velobabe

      who the heck are you to judge jesse’s blog?
      what have you done lately sir?
      i go to his blog daily, he has a side bar menu, that has the best of articles online for the day, that interests me.
      he doesn’t have comments which i think is rather un-ego-ed, so jerks like you can’t condemn his chosen content.

    2. Zephyrum

      BwO, I find considerable value in Jesse’s blog. He is not always correct, and he does not post comments. But he often finds an angle not represented elsewhere that is worthy of thought.

    3. Skippy

      Even though I responded of late with a mace like barb over a narrow issue, I still go to his site and enjoy much of his work.

      Skippy…I do share is venom for the deeds done on the cheep.

  8. velobabe

    jesse, your the man†
    i say, gentlemen and ladies start your engines.
    thanks for mentioning JPMorgan, they need more attention.
    matt taibbi your the man, too.

  9. jumpjet

    It seems to me that if you want to be a net exporting nation, you’ve got to limit your imports- self-evident, I know, but it’s the most basic step.

    The elephant in the room regarding lowering US imports, the thing no one wants to talk about, is tariffs. Yet they do work. The United States had a high protective tariff during much of its industrialization process, and it was arguably among the most important factors in birthing the US industrial juggernaut. It generated quite a bit of revenue for the government, too- enough so that every year for a while the government would run large budget surpluses.

    I realize that throwing up a new general protective tariff would seem like hypocrisy after all the preaching the United States has done about free trade. But I’ll gladly be called a hypocrite if it means a rebirth of general manufacturing in the United States.

    1. Sundog

      Warren Buffet at one time proposed “import permits” to be earned by exporters and sold on the open market to those wishing to import.

      Throttling down global supply chains in the face of rising energy costs and the G2 mess won’t be pretty, but there are better and worse choices to be made.

  10. michael

    A big thanks for the Fraudonomics link!
    Will have to let it sink in and read a few more times.
    As hard as it is to admit, it’s maybe the most precise description of what’s really going on. Sad and depressing.

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