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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Fact-free Rightwing Attack on Barney Frank

Andrew Sullivan thinks he found a clip in which Barney Frank is being a "total asshole".

I've watched a lot of Barney Frank. As much as I can get. I've never seen him be gratuitously rude or an "asshole", even when angry.

The plain fact is that this student's preface, that the crisis happened "on your watch", is factually incorrect.  Even rightwing law students ought to know that if you bring the allegations ("on your watch"), you bring the facts.  I see no reason to kid glove him, really.

Prove otherwise or print a correction, no?

Update:  You can't miss today's O'Reilly Factor on Barney Frank.  Fact-free hyperbole:  "single handedly responsible", "biggest liberal of all time".    Epistemic closure, lunacy - it's not clear what the right collection of words are to describe it.

Update2:  Krauthammer joins the fray, locked into his own ideological deficit.   He and O'Reilly both seem to assume (and deliberately dis-inform their listeners) that the rightwing wanted to re-regulate Freddie/Fannie in order to strengthen its mission, rather than just make it possible for private institutions to take a bigger slice from the mortgage giants.  Krauthammer somehow thinks that there is some "new reality" for liberals to adjust to, rather than just the same old bankrupt GOP ideas to hold at bay.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Can a Nation Be Great With a Crap Intelligence Agency?


According to U.S. sources, in 2004, the CIA had lost its entire agent network in Iran when a CIA headquarters communications officer was about to send instructions to an agent via its Inmarsat transmitter/receivers. The CIA officer attempted to download data intended for a single operative, but accidentally hit a button that sent it to the entire U.S. spy network in Iran, these sources said.

This week, after years of rebuilding, another such catastrophe, with US listening equipment sold to the Lebanese government, eventually used by Lebanese Hizb'allah and other explanations:

Brian Ross, reports [link]:
"When you lose your entire station, either in Tehran or Beirut, that's a catastrophe," said Bob Baer, a legendary CIA agent whose Middle East exploits were fictionalized in the George Clooney film "Syriana." Baer said the disaster was due in part to a new generation of agents that has forgotten, or never learned, the traditional methods of intelligence gathering. "They don't understand tradecraft," Baer said. "And we have lost our touch in espionage."
 PIZZA party for Hezbollah?:

In Beirut, two Hezbollah double agents pretended to go to work for the CIA. Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case. The CIA used the codeword "PIZZA" when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials. Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut. A current US official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut. From there, Hezbollah's internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers. Hezbollah then began to "roll up" much of the CIA's network against the terror group, the officials said.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Score another one for resentiment

Spain rushes headlong into the conservatives.

Where have we seen this before: "Rajoy has said little about what his party would do to fight Spain's sky-high unemployment and pile of debt..."

Suddenly, the new era of campaign on vague platitudes, then claim a mandate for radical right-wing policies, extends beyond the USA....

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Photo That Says It All

Every now and then, a photographer captures the zeitgeist. This picture might be it, taken by Brian Smith for the NY Daily News.

The distraught look on the policemen's faces.  The outstretched arm, that cannot be received.  A system that sells its young (and old) out for the unpoliced, short-term greed of "The Big Short".  A mop of hair, soaked in blood.  A crestfallen fighter seemingly on the verge of tears...

We sold the national interest out to the Mortgage Bankers Association.  Politically timid-to-the-point-of-failure, didn't go far enough to fix incentives of loan servicers or set up oversight. 

We cut the stimulus from the wrong cookie cutter, so that the already cash-rich supply-side could "accelerate depreciation" and get richer (with no obvious "trickle-down" to be seen).

All the while, our politics remains mired in the bubble (often epistemic) that American exceptionalism implies that every wrong decision - even every bogus compromise - will somehow work out okay or not have consequences, short-term or cumulative, that America will always be "Great" and "#1".

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Honey, I trashed the balance sheet

QOTD: Would Merrill Lynch have trashed their balance sheet (or even AIG? Lehman?), if their trading floor and corporate-risk management spaces looked like this?:

("The Watchers" photo: the old Liberty Park, now called "Zuccotti", twit-pic, 11/17/2011)

Foxes in the Henhouse

Reality check, resource allocation:

Number of police and barricades deployed to stop or watch over OWS: hundreds (thousands?  air-support, too?)

Number of uniformed officers/ADAs on the trading floors of major Fox-in-Henhouse, too-big-to-fail institutions, either regularly or intermittently: zero

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A New Age of Diminished Expectations

I'm not sure, from this, if Andrew Sullivan "gets it".

A sane and responsible polity will fess up to this and propose and negotiate a fair balance of sacrifice ..

Actually, I'll say no, maybe it's not.  When the ship goes upside down, such as it likely is, the "sane" thing is not a "fair balance", as counter-intuitive to the mediocre, middle-of-the-road mind as that assertion may be. 

The sane thing is "radical" (even odious?) policies that push markets to clear and clear quickly, such as "insane" debt relief (deleveraging). The sane thing may also be a dose of what is not normal, like an increase in income re-distribution, in order to boost demand in specific ways (a "new deal", in the vernacular).

The alternative is long, slow "economic adjustments", much like the one in Japan.

Long, slow, and costly.

Put it this way:  the cost of bailing out sub-prime borrowers and consumers - perhaps even businesses - who have "too much debt" seems exorbitant and outrageous ("odious").  But, doing so is a LOT less costly, in the long run.

One could also argue it is a LOT less risky, to do so.  We have a false sense of security, because we've been bouncing along for over a year, now, without acute deterioration, i.e. the prospect of 'the bottom falling out'.

In our fragile condition, consider what would happen if there were an external shock to the U.S. economy, like a spike in oil prices. That's a truly terrifying prospect, no? Really, budget politics looks kinda small, bathed in that light.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Jordan is not Palestine"

Proof that, if you live long enough, you see everything:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Laugh of the Day

Donald Trump (on CNBC): "I represent millions of voters."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More "Do Nothing"Evidence

More evidence that the Tea Party wasn't much more than a trumped-up rebranding, filled with hallucinatory sloganeering, for the sole purpose of vacant vilification of "Obama".

Politico Reports on no need for action in post Tea Party victory world, here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Return of the GOP "Do Nothing" Congress

Why do people continue to vote for these do-nothings?

Seriously, is there a better do-nothing job than Republican Senator or Congressman in the U.S.?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oh, dear, another kind of Mankiw moment

Harvard students walk out on Bush's financial "architect".   Don't expect anyone to walk-out on Glenn Hubbard, anytime soon, though.

The backlash against the lies (including economic hallucinations) and irresponsibility of the Bush-era lives on.