Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's interesting to watch Democrats, and especially famously self-important Democratic policy-wonks, bash the know-nothing Republicans for shooting down a bill that they themselves know has no evidence to support it's basic premise. All that's left to defend it is the notion of serious people posing like models in ads for Wachovia and UBS while giving money away.

Economics as theater, defended by proponents of rational action.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roubini Against:
"Thus the claim by the Fed and Treasury that spending $700 billion of public money is the best way to recapitalize banks has absolutely no factual basis or justification. "

Dean BakerAgainst:
"The Banks Have a Gun Pointed at Their Head and Are Threatening to Pull the Trigger"

DeLong For:
"The important issue is "Perception."

DeLong's description and Baker's are not necessarily in conflict.
As I said a couple of days ago the answer begins in an acceptance of the possibilities of big responsible government, a possibility that Democrats, following Republicans (and greedy ex-hippies) have for years done nothing but discount.
DeLong is a competent technocrat but he doesn't question the values of his own variety of technocratic logic.
He's too much a scholar of self-interest.

update: The "DeLong Plan" is back
Bring Congress Back into Session After the Election...

...and go for the Swedish plan: nationalize the insolvent large financial institutions: dare Bush to veto that after the election.

Vote Count:

Democrats: 141 Yea, 94 Nay
Republican: 66 Yea, 132 Nay.

This Republican Party needs to be burned, razed to the ground, and the furrows sown with salt...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hilary Bok [aka "Hilzoy"] in The Washington Monthy, in June
...I don't think I really appreciated, on a visceral level, exactly how much this would mean to African-Americans until sometime around November. At that time, Obama was trailing Clinton by around 20 points among black voters, which I found odd, until I read some article -- I can't recall which -- with a number of interviews of black Democrats. Those interviews made it clear that most of the people quoted in the article did not believe that a black candidate -- any black candidate -- could win the nomination, let alone the Presidency. Once I had noticed that, I seemed to hear it a lot: just a few days ago, I was listening to CSPAN in the car, and a black voter called in and said that until Iowa, he had assumed that Obama was "some kind of stunt".

I suppose I live a sheltered life, but for some reason it hadn't crossed my mind that many African-Americans would think not just that it was very hard for a black man to win the nomination, but that it was impossible. But once it did, I found it horrible and heartbreaking, all the more so because, on reflection, I thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to think. (At least in its milder form -- 'he can't win' -- as opposed to the more ominous 'they won't let him win.')
Linked by Duncan Black, who adds: "I know and have friends and acquaintances who are African-American"
I know and have friends and acquaintances who are African-American, but that's something very different from being plugged in to the African-American community in any meaningful sense. There isn't one monolithic AA community, of course, but it is something which in broad general terms exists. The couple of times I went to Obama-linked primary parties I had a chance to have a pretty sharp reminder that African-American supporters of Obama are often coming from a very different place than his other supporters.
You'd think by this point there would be a more general understanding among the self-proclaimed enlightened intellectual elite of the anger and fears of blacks and Jews, of women, of homosexuals and Palestinians. But of course by the time you get to that last group the answer's obvious. And of course the American political intelligentsia has little interest in psychology, especially their own. As an aside I'll add that this [archive.org] from the bigot M.J Rosenberg, is just grotesque.
This subject came up talking with a few friends this weekend.

Josh Marshall initially thought the debate was a draw and wondered why Obama hadn't been more aggressive. The major newspapers with the exception of the NY Times also called it a draw. But the public says it's a clear win.

How would it have appeared to the block of narcissistic but all-important "undecided" white voters to see a young black man attack an old white man as aggressively as white liberals imagine they would if they were in his place? That's not to say Obama's reticence is conscious and strategic, only that it's how he's played the game; and it's important to understand he never had a choice.

Hilzoy: "I suppose I live a sheltered life,"
No shit.
more of the same a month later.
Fall repeats. From 2006 and removed from the original context but it still works. Notes from anger and bemusement
Armatures and intellect. Figuration and abstraction in art. Religion not as faith but structure. The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita are books, in which gods are characters. Religion is law founded on smoke and mirrors: it's the laws that are the point, not the smoke.
Sociologists and lack of affect: why do these people annoy me so much? Smiley-faced studiers of other things.
The rhetoric of science, or Justice as Contract. The logic -predicated on what?- of culture as exoskeleton, as constraint, rather than constitutive -"Dude, subtext is for other people" "Economics is science" - and everyone must have the same desires, must be pretty much identical. Subjectivity not as constitutive but as a thing to be avoided. Individualism as argument in effect the end of the individual sense: Individualism is the triumph of generalization.

Narcissism, the fragile fantasy of the hypertrophied self matches the illusion of the opposite: the atrophied self. Autism is the narcissism of the deeply shy. Marx was either a failed scientist or a great novelist like Robert Heinlein and a determinist just like Ayn Rand, except Rand was better cause she was right.
What does it mean to see the construction of the adult self as a social act? What's the moral philosophy of the good craftsman? Libertarians: again, nothing left but gurgling infants and sociopaths.

How do you gauge the movement of a drifting boat? If we're defined by culture how do we remember what language was in the past? If you refuse to look behind you how can you judge what you've become, even for the purpose of description? Modernity becomes a narcissist, referring to itself for justification. History is the history of ideas through the history of craft. it's the history of what people were not what they wanted to be. Terrifying thought? The only way not to fall victim entirely to determinism is to be observant. Invention without observation is the invention of children. Scientists left to their own devices revert to infantile asociality: gurgling infants and sociopaths again

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dean Baker says: "I'm with the DeLong plan!!!!!!"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On monday Atrios linked to Josh Marshall while claiming pride of place for making the argument first. Here's the argument, from Ed Kilgore:
For McCain and other Republicans, voting "no" on Paulson without accepting the consequences of that vote is the political equivalent of a bottomless crack pipe: it will please the conservative "base," distance them from both Bush and "Washington," and let them indulge in both anti-government and anti-corporate demagoguery, even as Democrats bail out their Wall Street friends and big investors generally. You simply can't imagine a better way for McCain to decisively reinforce his simultaneous efforts to pander to the "base" while posing as a "maverick."

Democrats are right to demand significant substantive concessions before offering their support for the Paulson Plan. But just as importantly, they need to demand Republican votes in Congress, including the vote of John McCain. If this is going to be a "bipartisan" relief plan, it has to be fully bipartisan, not an opportunity for McCain to count on Obama and other Democrats to save the economy while exploiting their sense of responsibility to win the election for the party that let this crisis occur in the first place.
Digby responds
He's right. If they go this way, McCain gets to distance himself from Bush by standing on the sidelines wielding a phony pitchfork while Obama, as the head of the Democratic party and thus the leader of the congress, gets splashed in all this muck. It's quite ingenious and a very possible scenario in my opinion.
I posted a comment at Kilgore's site and another the next day, both stating the obvious: that if the democrats had not betrayed their principles years ago they would not have to run against their new ones now. The era of small government in this country ended more than a century ago. The post office is big government; highways are big government; the military is big government; earmarks are big government. The Republicans live off it and lie about it. And the choice now is not between big and small but between responsible and irresponsible, and the Republicans have given us the latter. The Democrats have abetted them in that in word and less so at least in action. Bill Clinton ended welfare as we knew it, and to many of us that was a mistake, if not worse. But he didn't destroy FEMA. He was not an incompetent and a promulgator or ideologist of incompetence. The Democrats need to bring the fight to the Republicans, even if it means running against their own recent history. If they are afraid to do that, if they're afraid to take responsibility, then they'll need to worry about taking the blame.
I made that argument twice- the second more directly- and it didn't pass the guard.

I don't know enough to say whether we need to be in a rush, but I tend to think that's not the important question. The markets run on perception, and the perception of panic is the biggest danger. Of course for the republicans panic is a strategy to get them what they want. Panic is a tool: the defense of the decision in Bush v Gore.
Atrios on WaMu,
No, the fact that a highly regulated bank was, as prescribed by law and regulation, seized in an orderly fashioned and sold off with no cost to taxpayers is in no way a "wake-up call" suggesting that Congress needs to give large amounts of money to the largely unregulated shadow banking system

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Helena Cobban
Did you know that China has over $900 billion of exposure/investment in US Treasury bills and in debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-- and that the Chinese government has therefore (quite understandably) been exerting its influence in Washington and elsewhere to prevent the US financial system tumbling completely off the cliff of insolvency?

You might never know that fact if you read only the mainstream media in the US, which have been dominated by highly Americo-centric stories about the anguished interplay among the big players in the US government and economy.

But an article buried deep within today's WaPo tells us this:

As U.S. financiers scrambled this week over how to deal with possible collapse of major financial institutions, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan arrived in Washington with a message: To survive the crisis, U.S. equity markets need countries such as China that have massive foreign exchange reserves to jump in a big way.
... China ... is estimated to hold a fifth of its currency reserves -- as much as $400 billion -- in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt. In addition, its banks have billions of dollars worth of exposure to the American International Group, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and other companies in crisis. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, for example, has $151 million in bonds issued or linked to Lehman; China Merchants Bank has $70 million of Lehman bonds; and the Bank of China has $75.62 million of Lehman bonds.

...In a week of epochal market turmoil, for the Bank of Japan being very careful has meant being aggressively interventionist. Besides injecting the equivalent of about $96 billion in four days into money markets for overnight loans, the bank has gone into the business of making dollar loans.

It joined with four other central banks in a $180 billion currency swap with the Federal Reserve and will use its $60 billion share to supply dollars to local and foreign institutions.

...Andy Xie, an independent economist who was formerly Morgan Stanley's chief Asia economist, said the United States needs to accept that a large amount of U.S. assets must be transferred to other countries' ownership. "If the U.S. is not willing to accept that," Xie said, "they will have to print money and the dollar will fall. And we will be headed toward a global financial meltdown."
Companies in the United States and in Europe are already reaching out to Chinese investors.
Read the WaPo article and Cobban's analysis.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I laughed out loud
"Best 2 day the Dow has seen since 1929 "

Look at the chart
Big Fun
"The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms."

Three of which are now gone.

RGE Monitor-Roubini
Calculated Risk

As Helena Cobban says. "The Earth is shifting."
It has been for a long time. People notice the last straw, but that's all it is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Visser: Biden and the Democrats on Iraq.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last..."

It's coming.

The Impossibility of Corruption

Josh Marshall misses the point (again)
But the conclusion and packaging of the article is that both candidates deceive equally and that they do so because it works. (There was another example, though not quite as egregious, by Jonathan Weismann last week in the Post.)

We hear a lot about the steep and perhaps terminal decline of the business model underlying daily print newspapers. But this corruption in the basic conception of the craft [my emphasis] -- which is actually related to the economic decline -- gets discussed much less.
The corruption "in the basic conception of the craft" began with the rise, only recently, of the presumption that objectivity is desirable, based in turn on the assumption that it's possible. It isn't.

No one argues that judges are objective, only that they mediate between two designated advocates. If the press is "the ref" as we hear it is, then it can be no more so than a judge. But has the press ever passed even that test? Never, not in any country: not in the history of its existence. The justice system is formal: formal ethics precedes abstract morality. The press has no such rules, nor should it but it should have the same principles. The logic is simple, and I've said it before: If the political press treated politicians with the respect that the entertainment press deemed appropriate for Britney Spears we'd all be better off. But the political press takes itself seriously, and in a way specifically that it should not. Journalistic values as they are now defined begin in error.

The press cowers before assumptions, both its own and popular. The pretense among the American intellectual and political nomenclatura that objectivity is possible is allied to their assumption -Joshua Marshall's assumption- that they themselves are objective. The link list on the right holds proof enough that they are not.

The belief that you can use language without it carrying values leads to a flight from values: a flight to neutrality. The press is afraid of being seen as biased. It is afraid of the perception of bias. And in language we cannot escape perception. Rationalists pretend this is not so. The press desires to be seen as objective and American intellectuals desire to see themselves as rational actors.

The fundamental corruption of the American press and of the American technocratic elite is the fundamental denial of the possibility of their own corruption. At some point, you have to choose not to defend not objectivity but values. This is the question to ask McCain, Palin and their defenders: "What do you value?"

We all want to be rational, but wanting does not make it so.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In the context of a discussion of how to respond to creationists in the classroom.
Always be ready to defend any argument from the ground up. It keeps your mind sharp, and we’re all capable of making lazy assumptions. Zionists continue to imagine their 19th century racialist ideal of the state is modern, and Henry Farrell worries about how to respond the the Georgians in Russia without an acceptance of the notion of “Spheres of Influence.”
Reuters just reported: "Honduras ... told a U.S. envoy not to present his credentials as ambassador on Friday in a diplomatic snub in support of Bolivia. Bolivia and ... Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are in a fight with Washington over what they see as U.S. support for violent protests against Bolivian President Evo Morales. ...

"The United States imposed sanctions on aides to Venezuela's Chavez on Friday in retaliation for his expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, escalating a crisis that raises the specter of a possible oil supply cutoff. ...

"Violent anti-government protests have killed eight people in Bolivia, where rightist governors have rebelled against the popular president, demanding autonomy and rejecting his plans to overhaul the constitution and break up ranches to give land to poor Indians."
We’re not rational actors, we’re animals who make use of logical mechanisms in the pursuit of our interests and preferences.
Preference precedes reason, always trying [I'd written endeavoring which was pompous] to twist it to its purposes.

09.12.08 -- 10:00AM // link | recommend (36)
Obama leads on foreign policy; Bush eventually follows; and McCain is too proud to admit he was wrong.

--Josh Marshall

See Cambodia, below.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's been an amazing couple of days.
George Bush has succeeded in almost destroying the old Republican party.
"That is not an 'inappropriate sexual relationship' - that is a federal employee sexually assaulting a subordinate while on federal government business and it’s a felony."

"Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill -- signed into law by Knowles -- that banned the practice statewide.
"There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla," Knowles said
A May 23, 2000, article in Wasilla's newspaper, The Frontiersman, noted that Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies regularly pay for such exams, which cost between $300 and $1,200 apiece.
"(But) the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests," the newspaper reported.

It also quoted Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon objecting to the law. Fannon was appointed to his position by Palin after her dismissal of the previous police chief. He said it would cost Wasilla $5,000 to $14,000 a year if the city had to foot the bill for rape exams."
Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan

Perhaps now would be a good time to revisit the history of Cambodia.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A little late on this
Text Of The Draft Iraq-US SOFA
Report from England. My niece:
This is completely pointless since you can't do anything about it but I'm going to bitch anyway.

This happened yesterday and pissed me off royally. What the hell is wrong with AQA? I studied that poem for a year, and I haven't turned into a knife wielding psychopath. The rest of the anthology isn't any different. The other things in that section include two poems by Robert Browning, both about murder, a short story by Sylvia Plath which has a disturbing passage about prison camps in the second world war and a poem called Hitcher where a guy picks up a hitchhiker and beats him to death with a krook lock! I find it really patronising that they don't think 15 and 16 year olds can cope with serious issues. It's like they don't believe we can take it in it's context. The poem was written in the height of Thatcherism, the reasons behind knife crime and social issues today are entirely different. It just seems sad to me that AQA can't even interpret a poem in their own anthology. Also, giving in because of three complaints? That is pathetic, three reactionary, uninformed, ignorant people and they cave.
Anyway, rant over. I'm fine, sixth form starts tomorrow, which is very exciting.

Hope you're doing well,

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The republicans call McCain a war hero, the democrats should counter: "No, he's a survivor."

Friday, September 05, 2008

The problem with language is that [if] you pick one definition for a term you'll be able over time, and through a process of proximity and drift, to have the word come to mean the opposite. You can't do that with numbers. Liberalism is optimism. The pursuit of happiness as anything other than the happiness of pursuit is the pursuit of banality.

Liberalism as individualism stands for generalized as opposed to individual experience.

The book is silly, not because it's illogical or wrong, but because it's rational and logical and unobservant.

I remember picking up The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World when it came out and expecting some sophisticated argument. [I hear it's now called a classic by some people] I figured after Foucault et al., there had to be some reference to the obliteration of the body in pain and pleasure. Nada. Zilch. I thought of writing "The Body in Ecstasy: The Making and Unmaking of the World" but got bored and gave up.

From Marquis' essay.
The argument is based on a major assumption. Many of the most insightful and careful writers on the ethics of abortion-such as Joel Feinberg, Michael Tooley, Mary Anne Warren, 1-1. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., L. W. Suiiiner, John T. Noonan, Jr., and Philip Devine'believe that whether or not abortion is morally permissible stands or falls on whether or not a fetus is the sort of being whose life it is seriously wrong to end. The argument of this essay will assume, but not argue, that they are correct.
They aren't. The social world is not the world of simple moral logic, and the issue of abortion centers not on the fetus but the state. But as in economics I guess... "Assume 'A' "

This is similar to the attempts to construct a formal moral logic of illegal downloading. But at some point if a crime has become ubiquitous its time to change not the law but the system that made the ubiquity inevitable. But of course no one I know has ever had an abortions for pleasure, or even jouissance. [at least no one I know of]
If philosophy is to be more than the philosophy of knots, it has to include the philosophy of knives, the philosophy not only of untying but of cutting.
An expansive and vibrant philosophy can never be more than a philosophy of engagement. The philosophy of solutions is risible.

"What sort of critique is possible?
Everything is a critique. That means nothing.
Sado-masochism is a critique of the Humanist ideology of the body and the self.
Monarchism is a critique of democratic idealism and of our supposed need to be free.
I’ve always liked The Story of O.
I once had a girlfriend who told me that while she lay on the beach in the south of France reading that book she thought of me.
What happened to that relationship?
Ended badly.
She was a monarchist.
And what about you?
Oh, you know… king for a day."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Glass in the Sink. From 2002. On my mind recently, and still on the server
[file replaced years later.]

The President #2 and #12, 2003