Links 8/12/11

Overrated: Authors, critics, and editors on “great books” that aren’t all that great Slate (hat tip Carol B)

Marriage for ‘Sesame Street’ pals Bert and Ernie? USA Today (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Falcon hypersonic vehicle test flight fails Los Angeles Times (hat tip reader Paul T). Your tax dollars at work.

Phone hacking: 61-year-old man arrested Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Caring costs – but so do riots Independent (hat tip reader PQS)

The Swiss will decide how long this rally lasts Golem XIV

Panic on the streets of London Penny Red

Leader: It is too simplistic to blame the coalition’s cuts for these riots New Statesman (hat tip reader May S)

Widespread policy failures have bred a feral British underclass Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip reader May S)

European quartet bans short selling Financial Times. This didn’t help during the crisis.

Saving too big to fail French banks would cost AAA rating Credit Writedowns

Enthusiasm for Obama Drops Significantly in Latest Washington Post Poll Jon Walker, FireDogLake

Obama’s conservative pandering Aljazeera (hat tip reader Crazy Horse)

Completing the Theft from the Social Security Trust Fund masaccio, FireDogLake (hat tip reader Carol B)

Republicans’ No-Tax Stand Unsupported by History or Facts Bloomberg (hat tip okie farmer). From earlier this week, but nicely done.

Krugman #FAIL: Wrong on MMT, again Lambert Strether

MA-Sen: Elizabeth Warren Likely to Run for Senate Dave Dayen, FireDogLake :-(

SEC makes S&P downgrade inquiries Financial Times. The SEC (IMHO weirdly) is looking at insider trading, rather than what would seem to be the slam dunk of selective disclosure. Is this a pro forma effort to satisfy Congresscritters?

How to make monkeys out of rating agencies Peter Tasker, Financial Times

Treasury Saves $647 Million in First Bond Sales After S&P Cut Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Virginia’s Cuccinelli sues Bank of New York Mellon, alleging pension fraud Washington Post (hat tip reader Bill)

Global business confidence slumps Financial Times

BofA faces struggle to sell CCB stake Financial Times

Extreme TV show about coupons tied to thefts of newspapers McClatchy (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

Most Americans can’t afford a $1,000 emergency expense CNN Money

Income inequality is bad for rich people too Yves Smith, Salon

Three Cheers for Decline Foreign Policy (hat tip reader Carol B)

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Jim Haygood

    ‘[James] Joyce himself clearly anticipated this development: He once remarked that he’d “put in so many enigmas and puzzles [into Ulysses] that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant.” Putting in is the tell-tale phrase here: It smacks of something illegitimate, from an authentically literary standpoint.’

    Submit a sample of your scribbles, and this handy site will tell you which noted author you write like:

    Duly inputting a paragraph of my ravings, it said I write like David Foster Wallace. [Strangely enough, so does Yves Smith, it claims.]

    Excerpted pages of Wallace’s Infinite Jest are available on Google Books. Its scenes are dense with eccentric characters, absurd situations, loopy dialogue, and elaborate, apocryphal footnotes.

    But even the Google Books excerpts were too much to finish. Couldn’t dig it …

    1. bmeisen

      Ulysses is rapturous reading and then you can get out the annotations and jaw drop a while. Wallace leaves me flapping like a stranded fish.

      1. ambrit

        Dear MLTPB;
        Sorry to disappoint but, most of us would write like a Trout in said watercourse nervously eying the Eagle.

  2. dearieme

    “Most Americans can’t afford a $1,000 emergency expense”: under any conceivable way in which you might run your economy, it would still be true that many Americans couldn’t afford a $1,000 emergency expense because they would choose to live that way. At least, that’s my guess based on the wide variety of Britons I knew when I was growing up, and the narrower variety I’ve known since. I am extrapolating to Americans.

      1. dearieme

        Yup, says me. I know plenty of people on good salaries who seem happy to pay interest on their credit cards. How much do you suppose they’ve put by for a rainy day? Are Americans noticeably reluctant to run up credit card debts?

        1. ambrit

          Dear dearieme;
          Most Americans are still extrapolated Britons, culturally if not genetically. And no, most Americans are no better or worse than ‘indebted’ Albionites. A cursory review of social histories of the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Gilded Age,” or any pre-panic epoch will present the same paradox. It takes ‘hard times’ to instill thrift into the social fabric, usually as a means of reweaving it.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Depends on what you mean by ‘many.’

      I guess a large number would choose to live that way.

    2. attempter

      under any conceivable way in which you might run your economy, it would still be true that many Americans couldn’t afford a $1,000 emergency expense

      How about a way without coercive money and the artificial scarcity it’s meant to enforce?

      I can conceive that easily. And unlike the cesspool we have, it would work.

    3. KnotRP

      For every two American Idiots who have negative cash balances, there is probably one who (through investments) lent their fellow citizens the money and that person has a positive net worth….at least until the other two declare bankruptcy.

      Head in the oven, feet in the freezer, average it all out and write a newspaper article to inflame the readership while selling them shit they don’t need.

    1. sidelarge

      Holy shit, what are they going to do in Israel NOW, of all times? Learning how to completely piss off the middle-class to cause the biggest mass protest ever? How to be scared enough to pathetically backpedal on almost all the neoliberal talking points that you have spewed all these years? How to find yourself as a leader in unfathomably deep shit in general?

      This is absolutely gold.

    2. G Marks

      As to the 84 in Israel… when are you dummies going to get it?

      Congress isn’t afraid of voters. Congress only fears Jews and their $$$. Jews choose our governors with their money. So commentary questioning the wisdom of visits to the “Holy Land” are fatuous or disingenuous.

      Voters simply do not matter anymore. We are a nuisance to our rulers. And unfortunately the same monsters who rule Wall St – rule our foreign policy. It’s all about the precious metals in your name darlin…..

      you and me ? nothing but useful or disposable goy.

      1. Jeff

        Rockefeller isn’t Jewish. Jews are smart and make
        sure their kids get educated.

        Here’s a source for wealth by religion…beware
        the Hindus…

        “Income levels of America’s major religious groups compared to the average U.S. income distribution.
        Over $100,000 per year:

        8% Black Christians
        9% of Jehovah’s Witnesses
        13% of Evangelicals
        16% Mormons
        16% Muslim
        18% National Average
        18% (Other)
        19% Unaffiliated
        19% Catholic
        21% Christian (Mainline)
        22% Buddhist
        23% Christian (other)
        28% Orthodox

        43% of Hindus

        46% of Jews ”

        1. alex

          Why bother arguing with anti-Semites? If Rockefeller wasn’t Jewish, it just proves that he was a Freemason.

    3. ambrit

      Now just wait a G– D—– minute! All this pseudo intellectual bantering about ‘hot button’ issues like religion and race, and no one saw the obvious joke staring you all in the face? Let’s get two more Congresscritters to jet over to Tel Aviv, and we can 86 the Holy Land!
      (Mayhaps we should back the UN as Trustee or Mandatory for Jerusalem. Internationalize the place, free access for all, no rebuilding the Temple, no Theocracy, of any stripe.)
      The main problem about this place, which I learned early on, is that it is a magnet for religious fanatics of numerous faiths, sects, and cults. The present policy of co-dominion split among the affected faith groups is the only workable solution yet stumbled upon. All other schemes have ended up in bloodbaths.

  3. Kevin

    The Salon article could be a fun project for kids to go through so as to pick out the logical fallacies.

    And, if the Willie Sutton model makes sense, then why not just start and win a war with Saudi Arabia?

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Funny how you didn’t (or weren’t able to) actually pick out one of the “logical fallacies”, or perhaps your ludicrous example of outright belligerence toward a relatively small but resource-rich country not happening (even though back door value-extracting strategies such as pegging oil to the dollar *are* happening) was supposed to be example? I mean, do you really expect much of anything other than snorting in response to your laughable oversimplification of the complex relationship between sovereigns and the long-term wealth exchanges between them?

      I get that her ideas are deeply threatening to you, but you gots to do a lot more to rebut her analysis. It’s amazing how strong the aversion to cognitive dissonance can be. Witnessing Kevin’s obviously instinctive repellence (in an infantile way) against actual evidence is really a quite impressive display of how the mind works.

      And by the way, Yves, that was a *fantastic* article. You should re-post it every day in my opinion. And effing everyone should read Frank’s “Falling Behind.” Of course, this may be my own cognitive dissonance, as I have argued my entire adult life that even the rich do not benefit (from at least certain perspectives) from a rising inequality of wealth (i.e., that it’s even counterproductive for them). You would think that the professional class ($200k earners, let’s say) would realize this by now, as they fall further and further behind in the competition against the truly rich for resources like land, housing and services, but it’s definitely difficult to pull people from their paradigm in order to re-examine the facts.

  4. Philip Pilkington

    “Honestly I’ve never been persuaded by Ulysses. To my mind, Joyce’s best and most genuine work is the wonderful Dubliners; everything afterwards smacks of striving to write a “great” work, rather than simply striving to write—it’s all too voulu.”

    This is the type of prat that turns up to a dinner party trying to sound controversial and contrarian. People then mistake this for being interesting, but it’s really a cover for being uninteresting — ask him for a substantial criticism of why Ulysses isn’t great and he’ll suddenly have to go to the bathroom.

    Pretentious idiot. Reminds me of this excellent clip from Nathan Barley, a brilliant British comedy from a few years back (wait till the pretentious twat says that the article is the ‘best he’s ever read’:

    Other potential quotes in this ‘critic’s’ probable canon:

    “Lincoln? Washington? Roosevelt? No. The greatest US president was obviously Franklin Pierce.”

    “South Korean cars are tremendously overrated.”

    “World’s greatest historian? Oh, Richard Pipes, without a doubt.”

    Meanwhile, some quotes from Ulysses:

    “History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

    “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

    “The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

    You decide, as they say.

    1. skippy

      My personal favorite is…crocodile mouth, but, humming bird ass.

      Skippy…pints on me..,tis a birth date…so throw some dirt.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        “…crocodile mouth, but, humming bird ass…”

        What’s that from? I don’t recognise it.

      2. ambrit

        Dear skippy;
        Big happy birthday to you mate! And lots more! I’ll heft one of my few pints to your continued bliss. (I’ve got the ‘curse of Erse’ in me geneology.)
        As for the ‘curious quote;’ could it be something from D H Lawrences’ “The Feathered Serpent?”

    2. craazyman

      It’s easy to forget what the modernist project was and what the ambitions were.

      Faulkner was up to the same game, somewhat, in Sound and Fury, which in my view only worked because of it’s sequential slide to clarity. I think he called Modernism in literature “A glorious failure.” In my HAIO (humble and irrelevant opinion) it worked better in painting and music than in words.

      I’m far more partial to Dubliners than the other stuff too. The Dead was the best.

    3. Anonymous Jones

      Wait. He’s “pretentious” because he *doesn’t* like Ulysses?

      Bizarro World, how I’ve missed thee, even though I saw you just yesterday!!!

      Seriously, Phil, man, wow, one’s enjoyment or lack of enjoyment of a work of art is perhaps, kinda, sorta *relative*, no?

      It really makes one an idiot to not like Ulysses?

      What do you mean substantive criticism? That was the great part of that article. Almost all the criticism was of the indisputable kind (i.e., that book made me sleepy). You can’t argue with that sort of criticism. It’s impossible to coherently argue with some who finds a comedy unfunny, a porno unstimulating or a particular book soporific. It is the *ultimate* in substantive criticism. Works of art either move you or they don’t!!!

      Oh, sometimes, I just can’t believe the things I read.

      And I like Ulysses!!!

      1. Philip Pilkington

        “Almost all the criticism was of the indisputable kind (i.e., that book made me sleepy).”

        That’s not substantial criticism. That’s just an opinion. Substantial criticism would engage with the work based on its merits. I doubt the author would do that because I think he’s just trying to contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. (“A literary critic saying that Ulysses is NOT Joyce’s best work… OMGzers!!!!!!!”).

        Anyone who cannot explain WHY they like or don’t like something shouldn’t be in the game of criticism. We pay critics to give substance to opinions (“I liked X because I thought the characters were strong” or “I didn’t like Y because I found the narrative weak” etc.). If the author was just being ‘subjective’ than he shouldn’t be a critic. Because then we’d just focus group plebs and get them to write their ‘opinions’ in the NYRB.

        (I don’t think he was being wholly subjective, but that’s a separate point altogether.)

  5. Philip Pilkington

    “South Korean cars are tremendously overrated.”

    Typo. That should read underrated.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Oh, look a real essay of literary criticism. As opposed to:

        “Haha! Ulysees just SMAAAACKS of striving to create a ‘great work’. Hey-ho.” *Takes a puff of his cigarette*

        “Incidentally, my dear fellow. Have I ever told you how absolutely AMAZING I think I am? No? Well, I’m basically the most amazing person in the world.” *Takes a puff of his cigarette*

  6. Foppe

    USPS wants to cut 220.000 jobs, pull out of health-care plan (note that title says 120k):

    The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut its workforce by 20 percent and to withdraw from the federal health and retirement plans because it believes it could provide benefits at a lower cost.

    The layoffs would be achieved in part by breaking labor agreements, a proposal that drew swift fire from postal unions. The plan would require congressional approval but, if successful, could be precedent-setting, with possible ripple effects throughout government. It would also deliver a major blow to the nation’s labor movement.
    In a notice informing employees of its proposals — with the headline “Financial crisis calls for significant actions” — the Postal Service said, “We will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit pre-funding costs imposed by Congress.”

    During the past four years, the service lost $20 billion, including $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010. Over that period, mail volume dropped by 20 percent.

    “The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence. . . . If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality,” the document continues.

    In a white paper on health and retirement benefits, the USPS said it was imperative to rein in health benefit and pension costs, which are a third of its labor expenses.

    For health insurance plans, the paper said, the Postal Service wanted to withdraw its 480,000 pensioners and 600,000 active employees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program “and place them in a new, Postal Service administered” program.

    Almost identical language is used for the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System.

    The USPS said the programs do not meet “the private sector comparability standard,” a statement that could be translated as meaning that government plans are too generous and too costly.

    “FEHB may exceed what the private sector does in certain areas,” said Anthony J. Vegliante, USPS chief human resources officer and executive vice president. “It may not meet what the private sector does in other areas. So cost may be above the private sector, while value may be below the private sector.”

    Other article, otherwise uninteresting:

    noting that the agency needs to reduce its workforce by 120,000 positions by 2015 through attrition, buyouts and possible layoffs.

    The US Postal Service (USPS), the second largest employer in the US after Wal-Mart, proposes eliminating 20 per cent of its workforce by 2015, but can only do so after getting approval from the US Congress and postal unions.

    The Postal Service, a quasi-government agency that relies on postage sales and revenue from other products and services to fund operations, is on track to lose a record $9 billion during the fiscal year ending 30 September.

    To make up for its huge losses, USPS is planning to cut as many as 120,000 jobs, though it actually needs to get rid of 220,000 jobs from its 583,908-strong workforce in order to get out of the financial mess.

    The latest cuts were first reported by The Washington Post, which said that the USPS has sent a notice to employees apprising them of its proposed plans. “Financial crisis calls for significant actions, we will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit prefunding costs imposed by Congress.”
    CNNMoney said that according to documents obtained by it, USPS has urged the Congress to remove collective bargaining restrictions in order to lay off 120,000 workers. It is also seeking approval to replace existing government health care and retirement plans and replace them with its own benefit plans.

    The USPS claims that while it needs to eliminate 220,000 positions, or more than 30 per cent of its employees by 2015, only 100,000 can be made through attrition, while the remaining 120,000 will come from lay offs, according to the documents.

    1. PQS

      See also this fantastic article from the LRB from a few months ago:

      I thought America led the way in the hollowing out of government services and the middle class, but at least in terms of what’s going on in the postal services in the EU, we’re postively progressive over here….must be an historical accident of some sort.

      From the article:
      “The price of driving down the cost of bulk mailing for a handful of big organisations is being paid for by the replacement of decently paid postmen with casual labour and the erosion of daily deliveries.”

    2. ambrit

      Bloody H—!
      I had the rare bad fortune to work for the USPS, in some of the ‘lower rings’ of the avernal organization, for three years. As a direct result of Dick Nixons’ spinning off of the profitable package delivery function, the Post Office was ever after financially challenged. Working conditions were quite Kafkaesque, almost like indebted servitude in many cases. (The instance that lead to my ‘self removal’ from the flock was prompted by a provision that required a substitute rural carrier to be on call at half an hours notice six days a week, with no provisions whatsoever for vacations and other organized in advance events. You were the regular carriers ‘slavey’ and ‘bond servant’ six days a week. He or she could call in and require you to come in and take the route over for that day with no explanation. Even if you had organized a mini-vacation with the wife and kids, and cleared it with everyone at the office in advance.) All of this in the interests of ‘efficiency.’
      Ben Franklin, argueably the smartest of the US Founding Fathers, championed a Public Postal Service as a necessary ingredient for a free and informed public. It never was intended to be a profit driven enterprise, but a Public Good. Lo how the Mighty are Fallen!

  7. Foppe

    Wow.. David Harvey, weighing in on the topic of the riots going on in the UK. I’m thinking it will resonate with some people here at least:

    “Nihilistic and feral teenagers” the Daily Mail called them: the crazy youths from all walks of life who raced around the streets mindlessly and desperately hurling bricks, stones and bottles at the cops while looting here and setting bonfires there, leading the authorities on a merry chase of catch-as-catch-can as they tweeted their way from one strategic target to another.

    The word “feral” pulled me up short. It reminded me of how the communards in Paris in 1871 were depicted as wild animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were) summarily executed in the name of the sanctity of private property, morality, religion, and the family. But then the word conjured up another association: Tony Blair attacking the “feral media,” having for so long been comfortably lodged in the left pocket of Rupert Murdoch only later to be substituted as Murdoch reached into his right pocket to pluck out David Cameron.

    There will of course be the usual hysterical debate between those prone to view the riots as a matter of pure, unbridled and inexcusable criminality, and those anxious to contextualize events against a background of bad policing; continuing racism and unjustified persecution of youths and minorities; mass unemployment of the young; burgeoning social deprivation; and a mindless politics of austerity that has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with the perpetuation and consolidation of personal wealth and power. Some may even get around to condemning the meaningless and alienating qualities of so many jobs and so much of daily life in the midst of immense but unevenly distributed potentiality for human flourishing.

    If we are lucky, we will have commissions and reports to say all over again what was said of Brixton and Toxteth in the Thatcher years. I say ‘lucky’ because the feral instincts of the current Prime Minister seem more attuned to turn on the water cannons, to call in the tear gas brigade and use the rubber bullets while pontificating unctuously about the loss of moral compass, the decline of civility and the sad deterioration of family values and discipline among errant youths.

    But the problem is that we live in a society where capitalism itself has become rampantly feral. Feral politicians cheat on their expenses, feral bankers plunder the public purse for all its worth, CEOs, hedge fund operators and private equity geniuses loot the world of wealth, telephone and credit card companies load mysterious charges on everyone’s bills, shopkeepers price gouge, and, at the drop of a hat swindlers and scam artists get to practice three-card monte right up into the highest echelons of the corporate and political world.
    [Rest of the article behind the link]

    1. Philip Pilkington

      I suppose Harvey didn’t catch this:

      Or the three guys killed in a hit an run while they tried to protect their family business. As they stood on guard to ensure that looters didn’t ruin the rather meager livelihood they tried to get out of their petrol station (‘gas station’ in American English), someone drove up and ran the three of them down, killing them.

      But hey, it’s class war right? And they’re just petit buorgeiosies. Anyway, that kid that was beaten and then robbed… well his Dad was probably middle-class or something, so being born on the wrong side of the class war was unfortunate but ‘all is fair in love and war’.

      Pity, because Harvey’s ‘Limits to Capital’ is actually a good overview of Marx’s more serious work. Marx himself would have referred to Harvey’s contemporary class-warriors as lumpenproletarians:

      “The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.”
      — Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto

      But no matter…

      1. Foppe

        I don’t quite get what it is you’re trying to say with this drive-by ad-hominem, because your response seems connected to the article I linked to in only the most dubious fashion (are you sure you read it?).
        Because I did not see Harvey condoning these riots anywhere, nor did he say that the actions the (let’s call them) ‘rioters’ take are rational or excusable per se — in fact, one might easily conclude that he is saying the opposite.

        What he is trying to point out is that one should be wary of losing one’s perspective. So while I’m sure the video contains something gruesome, by linking to it you are in a way just proving part of the point Harvey is making: whereas the effects of white-collar crime are very hard to capture on tape, the crimes of these ‘feral youths’ are not. Consequently, their actions are the ones that garner the most visceral response from commentators and on-lookers, even though the crimes perpetrated by the former are far worse.

        1. Foppe

          To wit:

          A political economy of mass dispossession, of predatory practices to the point of daylight robbery, particularly of the poor and the vulnerable, the unsophisticated and the legally unprotected, has become the order of the day. Does anyone believe it is possible to find an honest capitalist, an honest banker, an honest politician, an honest shopkeeper or an honest police commisioner any more? Yes, they do exist. But only as a minority that everyone else regards as stupid. Get smart. Get Easy Profits. Defraud and steal! The odds of getting caught are low. And in any case there are plenty of ways to shield personal wealth from the costs of corporate malfeasance.

          What I say may sound shocking. Most of us don’t see it because we don’t want to. Certainly no politician dare say it and the press would only print it to heap scorn upon the sayer. But my guess is that every street rioter knows exactly what I mean. They are only doing what everyone else is doing, though in a different way – more blatently and visibly in the streets. Thatcherism unchained the feral instincts of capitalism (the “animal spirits” of the entreprenuer they coyly named it) and nothing has transpired to curb them since. Slash and burn is now openly the motto of the ruling classes pretty much everywhere.

        2. Philip Pilkington

          Looks to me like Harvey is trying to absolve the rioters of their responsibilities by blaming everything on the economic system. Okay, he doesn’t say so explicitly. But he uses the riots as a starting point to rip on the political/economic system. This tends to make the reader connect the two phenomena. This is reinforced by calling the economic system ‘feral’ which is the word used to describe the rioters. Why do this unless you’re trying to draw a connection?

          He also quite explicitly compares the use of language to describe the rioters as being similar to the use of language used by the French to condemn the Communards (personal heroes of Harvey’s). Why do this? He must be drawing a comparison, otherwise why did he write it?

          Let’s just say if I were president, I wouldn’t make him minister for justice…

          1. Foppe

            Looks to me like Harvey is trying to absolve the rioters of their responsibilities by blaming everything on the economic system.

            Now you have to admit that your making this allegation is quite ironic, as coming from someone who is trying to blame bad economic theory for all the ills of capitalism. ;)

            He also quite explicitly compares the use of language to describe the rioters as being similar to the use of language used by the French to condemn the Communards.

            Because he is trying to suggest that these sorts of things (including the immediate, and very heavy-handed moralizing coming from the writing class) have happened before? And that these problems do not go away unless something is done about the income/wealth distribution?

            I really don’t get why you’re so hostile to this article, when he’s basically doing no more than saying out loud that this shouldn’t surprise us. Why is reductionism fine when you do it, yet a horrible crime when he seems to be doing it?

          2. Philip Pilkington

            “Because he is trying to suggest that these sorts of things have happened before?”

            So then Harvey IS comparing the Communard revolutionaries — who are heroes of his — with the London rioters? Well, that’s what I was saying.

          3. Foppe

            Well, that’s what I was saying.

            If only your self-assured attitude was matched by the quality of your posts. Anyway, let’s go back to your first assertion, because it seems to me that that is where your :

            Looks to me like Harvey is trying to absolve the rioters of their responsibilities by blaming everything on the economic system.

            Please point out where you read this. Because, again, I did not see it, and while I already pointed this out to you in an earlier post, I did not see you defend it, other than with this hand-waving “sure, he wasn’t saying it, but everyone knows this is what Marxists think”-nonsense.

          4. Philip Pilkington

            I said that he didn’t say it explicitly:

            “Okay, he doesn’t say so explicitly. But he uses the riots as a starting point to rip on the political/economic system. This tends to make the reader connect the two phenomena. This is reinforced by calling the economic system ‘feral’ which is the word used to describe the rioters. Why do this unless you’re trying to draw a connection?

            He also quite explicitly compares the use of language to describe the rioters as being similar to the use of language used by the French to condemn the Communards (personal heroes of Harvey’s). Why do this? He must be drawing a comparison, otherwise why did he write it?”

            Arguing with you is boring. I’m going to stop now. If what I’m saying is too subtle for you and you need me to post a picture of David Harvey wrecking a North London bus-stop to make my point… well, I obviously can’t. If you don’t get it, then I don’t care.

          5. Foppe

            Arguing with you is boring. I’m going to stop now. If what I’m saying is too subtle for you

            That’s the spirit. Back to the high ground, and whatever you do, call it a tactical maneuver rather than a retreat.

          1. Foppe

            Oh, ok. So in your private language,

            who clearly did NOT use the London riots as an example of ‘capitalism gone awry’ or implicitly compare the rioters to 19th century revolutionaries.

            Means precisely the same as

            Looks to me like Harvey is trying to absolve the rioters of their responsibilities by blaming everything on the economic system

            And in addition, I guess for you “partial absolution” (to stick to your choice of jargon) is exactly the same as “full absolution.” Because although Harvey is giving the former, from his doing so you conclude he is doing the latter. Analogously, you’re entirely right, by virtue of being slightly right.
            Why is it that once you start talking about Marxism, you suddenly lose the ability to think nuanced thoughts?

        3. Just Tired

          Foppe — Your turn to get Pilked today. I’ve had a couple of “fun” exchanges with him. He obviously speaks a unique dialect that is difficult for many to translate properly. Some time ago I made the comment that, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, Pilk is separated from the rest of NC readers by a common language. Your exchange reinforces my position.

  8. Typing Monkey

    “European quartet bans short selling Financial Times. This didn’t help during the crisis. ”

    No, but did a great job of screwing options holders at the expense of options sellers. I suspect his is at work again–as it no doubt will be in the future…

  9. Typing Moneky

    from “The Swiss will decide how long this rally lasts Golem XIV”

    “The other effect of any peg, and probably nearer to why the Swiss might contemplate such a move at all, is that it might save the collapse of all those countries who are currently approaching default due to the strength of the Franc relative to their currencies: Hungary and Romania in particular. I really do think the banks I have mentioned repeatedly in this context are feeling very insecure right now and would love some Swiss relief”

    And herein lies the problem–all this central bank activity is going to do nothing but temporarily move the bets into the currency realm. The fundamental problem is that valuations across the board are so far out of whack so as to be nonsensical. Now that the governments have decided to “fix” stock and bond prices (ie, interest rates) in their respective countries, the balance has to be made up in the currency realm–ie, in the measures of units used to denominate those fixed prices.

    This is going to be absolutely ruinous!!!

    As for Eastern Europe, any idiot can take a quick glance at many of those countries and see that they are screwed. Fixing the franc (incidentally, what can Switzerland offer its foreign savers other than a sound currency? Why the hell is one of the few countries that is not hyet worried about a currency run trying to create one??) may initially help a wave of defaults due to Franc-denominated debt, but those defaults are inevitable.

    This is just complete lunacy.

  10. Jeff

    Re. Overrated authors:

    Any book recommended or mandatory in any college or university “studies” program.

    American Studies, Gender Studies, Film Studies,
    Ethnic Studies, etc.

    It’s programmed self-loathing for American girls and boys to learn to despise themselves and their own nation,
    promoted by people who drank the earlier version of the intellectual Kool-Aid and have a vested interest in
    their “career”.

  11. Jessica

    “Ulysses” needs to be heard out loud, not read.
    I literally used it as a sleep aid for years. Never got past the first few dozen pages. Got looks of good sleep out of it over the years. Then I heard it read (bought the files from Audible). What a revelation. I love it that way.
    I would second and third that if a book doesn’t seem great to _you_, it is not for you now. Doris Lessing wrote a great little piece about exactly that. I think it is a forward or afterward for either the Four Gated City or the Golden Notebooks.

    1. Jessica

      Is there a reason why my proofreading eyes get so sharp a split second after I hit the Submit Comment button?

  12. EmilianoZ

    RE: Salon article

    I have a problem with this paragraph, which is not from Yves but from FT:

    “Rich Americans, for instance, are healthier on average than poor Americans, as measured by life expectancy. But, although the US is a much richer country than, say, Greece, Americans on average have a lower life expectancy than Greeks. More income, it seems, gives you a health advantage with respect to your fellow citizens, but not with respect to people living in other countries….”

    What you should really compare is the life expectancy of the top 1% in the US and the top 1% in Greece. On average, Greeks could live longer than Americans but the top 1% in the US could outlive their Greek counterparts.

    1. psychohistorian

      I don’t have a cite but what is galling to me is that the life expectancy for the working folks in US is much lower but they want to raise the age to get SS when the facts don’t support it….our sick world of propaganda.

      1. curlydan

        But Jim Clyburn on the Super Committee says he feels good at 70 and can keep on working! Oops, I see you said working folks. Never mind.

        1. Just Tired

          Good points! I always like how when talking about raising the retirement age they assume that a job is a job is a job. Compare for example a lawyer who merely needs to run his mouth for a few years to a construction laborer. (As an aside, maybe lawyers and politicians should be required to cease running their mouths in order to collect SS — that would save $Billions since non could meet the test).

          1. ambrit

            Dear Tired;
            It might not be a bad idea to take a page from Chairman Mao and send the lot of them to the Valley to pick crops for a year. Given the rise of the neocons, and the fact that we’re being exhorted to live by the pronouncements of a bunch of Black Books, why not turn the tables and start enforcing some ‘Little Red Book’ ideology for a change.

      2. Jim

        What is galling is that it’s Dems who are proposing, both (i) raising the retirement age, and (ii) adopting chained-CPI to cut benefits.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      My guess is that the average chicken in Mongolia is healthier than the average chicken in America. They are less likely to be caged.

      On the other hand, the average American chicken is likely to be less sleep deprived than the average American human worker.

    1. Typing Moneky

      I can’t understand this story–given the secrecy of the stealth bomber and the SR71 (which were only revealed decades after use), why would a mach 20 plane not be classified?

      Moreover, the entire rationale for the plane seems bizarre, as did the comparisons (used for bombing, and could go between NY and LA in 20min? Is NY planning to bomb LA??).

      This story really threw me for a loop…

      1. Susan the other

        wondering all sorts of things… as if the leak of this story were meant to get us thinking, like, well if it can go from LA to NY in 20 minutes, it can go around the world in 1:40 minutes; what kind of fuel, some secret synthetic element; and also to gain admiration not for their pretend incompetence losing such an aircraft in the Pacific but for how well our military dollars are being spent…
        Don’t they ever worry we will think: For all those trillions of dollars we could feed and educate the entire world…

        1. Cedric Regula

          Mach 20 is the speed of a nuclear tipped ICBM just before it hits ground after falling from outer space. I didn’t read the article yet, will have to recharge my eyeballs a bit. It’s so hard keeping up.

          1. Cedric Regula

            Ok. I watched the article, Fortunately it was a video.

            So they are launching this “airplane” into near orbit with a launch vehicle and dropping it towards earth. So it’s like riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove, except inside and at Mach 20.

            Now the first problem that passengers will have on this “airplane”, once they perfect flight dynamics, is they will be reduced to strawberry jam oozing down the sides of their seats. Seat belts or not.

            Seeing as this is a DARPA project, my mind sees the real vehicle. It is a Mach 20 air defense penetrating cruise missile, in case anyone ever develops air defense against nuclear ICBMs we have now.

            You shoot it up in your airspace, let it drop in no ones(an ocean is fine) then pull up at say 500 ft altitude and head for the target and blast by any air defense before they know what hit ’em.

            Next question is what would we need that for? DARPA does not concern itself with that question, but just whether we can do things or not. The question of “what for” is left to future generations.

            But they always say these things don’t cost much relative to US GDP (including going to Mars) and it doesn’t matter if we maintain the budget for this stuff.

        2. ambrit

          Dear Susan d other;
          We lived near Stennis Space Centre for a dozen years, it’s down near the mouth of the Pearl River. The government tests experimental engines, among lots of other things, there. Test bed proving of Space Shuttle engines was a tregular event there, open to the public occasionally. One of my neighbors who worked there related the sad tale of one of the first tests of a ‘scramjet’ engine. The theory and initial engineering go way back to 1950’s England by the way. It seems the boffins underestimated the thrust output of the design and ended up with a small forest fire for their pains.
          Another ‘wonder’ project is the Aurora spaceplane. It flys by exploding fuel ‘packets’ in a reinforced nozzle in a staccato pattern. Very efficient for high altitude and space applications. This is supposedly the cause of occasional sightings of trails of vapor puffs crossing the sky at very high speeds.
          What should concern us all is the oft quoted maxim that: “Every weapon ever invented is eventually used.”

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Hypersonic flight – I don’t think you get in-flight movies with that, unless they also develop the technology to fast forward at hypersonic speed.

  14. Hugh

    Can anything be more hypocritical than British MPs expressing their outrage at the riots of the poor and disenfranchized even as they continue to fellate their kleptocratic masters?

    Ratings are a pathetically transparent con. So why should anyone care if France loses its fictional AAA rating or not?

    Obama doesn’t pander to conservatives. He is a conservative.

    I have been writing about the Social Security surpluses as a regressive stealth tax for years. The reforms chaired by Alan Greenspan went through in 1983 so this is by far his longest lived con.

    Krugman’s understanding of money never progressed beyond the gold standard and is as a result completely wrong.

    Income inequality may be bad for the rich but no one ever accused them of being rational, only greedy and sociopathic.

    Lists have a fascination for us. I don’t know why really because we almost always disagree with their choices. I couldn’t help thinking that most of those responding were lazy readers. They didn’t seem to like anything that was complicated or challenging in either its substance or style, or that was in another language or reflected cultural norms of other times and places.

  15. econ n00b #343

    Forgive me for asking, but, how much do wars cost?

    Yes, yes. I see you giggling and pointing fingers at me. I don’t mind. I could start here:

    But my question is badly phrased. What I really want to ask: Where does the money for Afg & Iraq wars go? How much of the money the US spends on war stays in the States? How is war spending now different from WWII (or the Korea Conflict)?

    A good overview would be welcomed. Thanks.

  16. Jeff

    Dangerous runaway train of thought here:

    “Last night I watched Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives episode 1: the peasant. There was a big revolt in the late 1300’s, where English peasants stormed London, cut off a few heads, and raided the tax offices and burned their paperwork! This reminds me of the movie Fight Club, where working class men organize to blow up all the bank buildings and cancel debts.

    Personal debt forgiveness is not even on the radar as a political issue. The “tea-partiers”, a loose coalition of those Americans most susceptible to propaganda, are living 600 years in the past, opposing taxes when they’re already the most undertaxed and overindebted people in the first world. Their secret wish, as right wingers, is to replace the limp-wristed government with the much more brutal and efficient rule of private armies. Liberals are at least wrong about something that’s hard to understand. They think the poor need jobs, when really the poor need to not need jobs – to have the land, skills, and tools to provide their own necessities outside the money economy.”

  17. Jeff

    Re: Penny Red,

    Who blames “racism” for the fomenting of the riots in England. More like Chicken Little.

    Hiding out in your house and hoping that some
    thugs won’t come and burn you out.

    That’s gun
    control in action.

    1. craazyman

      turns out these rioters were debutantes, gourmet chefs and skinny white college kids!

      I wonder if Richard Smith knows any of these people, especially the debutante with the country chateaux and swimming pool. Or maybe the organic chef. :)

      This sounds like something out of Horses and Hounds magazine. Horses and Hounds gone wild! Could be a $24.99/month web site with pics.

      This stuff will not make me a conservative. I could never force myself to be that stupid. But, as usual, my instinctive empathy for the oppressed opens me up to overly credulous victimization by all manner of grifters, con-men, frauds, hustlers and actors studio quality sob-story panhandlers.

  18. Foppe

    Nice-ish op/ed:

    we celebrate people who live empty lives like this. A few weeks ago, I noticed an item in a newspaper saying that the business tycoon Sir Richard Branson was thinking of moving his headquarters to Switzerland. This move was represented as a potential blow to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, because it meant less tax revenue.

    I couldn’t help thinking that in a sane and decent world such a move would be a blow to Sir Richard, not the Chancellor. People would note that a prominent and wealthy businessman was avoiding British tax and think less of him. Instead, he has a knighthood and is widely feted. The same is true of the brilliant retailer Sir Philip Green. Sir Philip’s businesses could never survive but for Britain’s famous social and political stability, our transport system to shift his goods and our schools to educate his workers.

    Yet Sir Philip, who a few years ago sent an extraordinary £1 billion dividend offshore, seems to have little intention of paying for much of this. Why does nobody get angry or hold him culpable? I know that he employs expensive tax lawyers and that everything he does is legal, but he surely faces ethical and moral questions just as much as does a young thug who breaks into one of Sir Philip’s shops and steals from it?

    Our politicians – standing sanctimoniously on their hind legs in the Commons yesterday – are just as bad. They have shown themselves prepared to ignore common decency and, in some cases, to break the law. David Cameron is happy to have some of the worst offenders in his Cabinet. Take the example of Francis Maude, who is charged with tackling public sector waste – which trade unions say is a euphemism for waging war on low‑paid workers. Yet Mr Maude made tens of thousands of pounds by breaching the spirit, though not the law, surrounding MPs’ allowances.

    A great deal has been made over the past few days of the greed of the rioters for consumer goods, not least by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who accurately remarked, “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.

    Yesterday, the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be “reclaimed” by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television.

    Or take the Salford MP Hazel Blears, who has been loudly calling for draconian action against the looters. I find it very hard to make any kind of ethical distinction between Blears’s expense cheating and tax avoidance, and the straight robbery carried out by the looters.

    The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.

    In other news,an appeals court just rejected something related to Obamacare:

    An appeals court ruled Friday that President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring Americans to buy healthcare insurance or face a penalty was unconstitutional, a blow to the White House.

    The Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, found that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but also ruled that the rest of the wide-ranging law could remain in effect.

    The legality of the so-called individual mandate, a cornerstone of the 2010 healthcare law, is widely expected to be decided by the Supreme Court. The Obama administration has defended the provision as constitutional.

    (Warning: uninformative article)

  19. hello

    if you’re in China and see a bottle of Lafite that is priced too good to be true (or not uncorked in front of your eyes).

    After designer handbags, perfumes and tablet computers, the latest global success story to fall victim to Chinese counterfeiting is French wine. The process is easy, a vender tells FRANCE 24, and most customers don’t seem able to tell the difference.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Why pick on the Chinese and why limit ourselves to just handbags and computers?

      A while back, an Asian man in his 20’s from Hong Kong boarded a flight to Vancouver counterfeiting as an elderly Caucasian male.

      Further back in time,, many tried to outcompete ancient China with cheaper, imitation silk and pottery.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Speaking of not being able to tell the difference, George Psalmanazar (from 1679? – 1763, per wikipedia), the French counterpart to England’s Princess Caraboo, fooled many into thinking he was a Formosan (Taiwanese).

  20. KFritz

    Re: Feral British Underclass

    Except for affect and IQ, how are the ‘feral’ underclasses any less ‘feral’ than the ‘Uebermenschen’ who’ve looted our economies from the ‘top?’

    Memo to Mr. Sheehan: if you want to meet scary American football/sports fans, attend an Oakland Raiders home game. If the security staff and plenty of other fans weren’t just as tough, they’d make more headlines.

  21. PQS

    Caught this on the London riots linked at C&L:

    Written by Russell Brand, which blew my mind…

    I particularly liked this quote:

    “Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.

    These young people have no sense of community because they haven’t been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron’s mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there’s no such thing.

    If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.”

    1. psychohistorian

      Those are some strong words that need to be spoken more frequently.

      Thanks for sharing. It is good to know pressure for change is building.

  22. Anonymous

    A Standard & Poor’s director said for the first time Thursday that one reason the United States lost its triple-A credit rating was that several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the serious consequences of a credit default — a position put forth by some Republicans.

    Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” Mukherji said.

    Read more:

    Has a major ratings agency ever downgraded a large company for a quip or pessimistic or misguided statement by a manager?

    This report strikes me as really bizarre.

  23. Linus Huber

    This item is not related to the above topic but I do not know how to address Yves directly so I simply poste it here. I would be glad to get some feed back.


    It has been generally accepted that extremely high compensation of individuals occupying the higher echelons of financial institutions are a matter of the market (supply and demand) where the most sought after managers justifiably are rewarded at those levels as they are able to produce enormous earnings for the concerned institution. The negative consequences for the safety of the overall financial system have been categorized to be some kind of natural catastrophe that has unidentifiable reasons and therefore gave justification for being rescued by governments the world over under the general heading that it is required in order to tame the markets that seem to act in unreasonable fashion. It takes a long time for the political process to change as the lobby of those financial institutions has been very successful to influence the legislator and media with the vast sums of financial resources available to them.
    Change will not come from within the political and business class but can be achieved solely by the electorate. The crimes committed are not yet obvious to the general populace and the effect of the lobbying efforts do still keep many confused and disoriented with regard to the reasons for the presently difficult economic situation. Still, slowly the average person starts to grasp the reality of what happened and with some additional education by a number of respected individuals who do not depend on those financial institutions for their wellbeing, a new wave of awareness will start to arise over the next few years.
    The political party that will use a new approach in this situation should be able to gain vast popularity by capturing the presently slow emerging mood of the electorate. The new approach should aim straight to the heart of the reasons that caused the present misery. Obviously the new ideas will be fought without mercy by the moneyed interests with their high public profile. Nevertheless, time works in favour of this new approach which aims to deal with those individuals who drove the financial system into the abyss in ways that must be considered just and fair and are correcting the various violations of the spirit of the rule of law perpetrated over the past many years. A rudimentary text serving as a base for the implementation of a law by the legislator is herewith proposed:

    Individuals that have been promoting and in some way are responsible for the creation of unsustainable and unmanageable debt levels within the economy and in this process have been enriching themselves with compensation (including all benefits) in excess of 10x average national income while not being exposed to any risk of loss or risk to their financial health are subject to confiscation of their entire accumulated wealth and to be led to a life at conditions experienced by the individuals presently unemployed. These individuals are forbidden to ever again be in a position to influence credit creation or similar aspects of the financial system.
    Obstructions to the identification process of said individuals are punishable with a jail term of no less than 2 years without parole. Entrepreneurs who risk/risked their own personal wealth (who can lose as well as win) are not subject to this law.

    This idea is to be seen in historical hence longer term change of public mood and therefore to be eventually introduced in the time frame of within 10 years. Change in public perception is not easy to foresee.

  24. pj

    Re: Enthusiasm for Obama Drops Significantly in Latest Washington Post Poll

    Democrats, Independents and others voted for Obama because, after 8 years of conservative rule, dismemberment of the regulatory systems, slashing of constitutional rights, elimination of the rule of law, and downright selfishness and meanness, we were ready for “change”.

    We got a conservative wolf in sheep’s clothing, a Trojan Horse, which is exactly what one could expect of the win-at-any-cost conservative cartel that stole the Presidency and took over the country in 2000.

    I was not an actively political person until I began to understand the fact that this criminal conservative cartel – all of whom will stop at nothing – is real.

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