Friday, July 13, 2012

Discognition Edition

It looks like the headline writers at the New York Times aren't even bothering to read the articles this morning.

In Latest Data on Economy, Experts See Signs of Pick Up: Happy happy joy joy, you think. Usually, the awful truth of continuing misery is buried deep within the article. So at least there is this immediate subhead:
A range of economists expect growth in the United States to increase in coming months, although only to a pace broadly considered sluggish, if not dismal.
A sluggish pick-me-up is better than no pick-me-up at all, I guess. If you feel tired, have a mug of warm milk to perk you up. If your economy is catatonic, at least it's not completely comatose. Glass half full because of Obama re-election. Maybe the economy is tired because it's gorging on too many goodies. So cut the food stamp program. Cut home-heating assistance, because shivering helps sluggish people lose weight. Distended bellies on starving children? Reactionaries say it means they're getting full. Situation hopeless but not serious. Stunted growth is better than no growth at all, say the experts. This was quite a stretch, even by the usual press propaganda standards.

JP Morgan Reports Profit of $5 Billion in Latest Quarter is on the homepage: But when you click on the link to the Dealbook section, the header magically changes to 

JPMorgan Says Trade Loss Tops $5.8 Billion; Quarterly Profit Down 9%

The Times will most likely wash away the first headline, once millions of readers have taken a quick glance at it and assume everything is hunky-dory with the Jamie Dimon economy. Still, the article insists you can have it both ways -- report a profit even though your losses more than erase it. Good. Now I can insist I'm in the black even when I am overdrawn on my checking account. I had the money before I spent it, so it's all good. 

Then, there's this smarmy headline on what Tim Geithner sort of knew about the Libor scandal years ago, and how he passive-aggressively strove to do something:

Geithner Tried to Curb Rate Rigging in 2008

As president of the New York Fed, it was Geithner's job to be a watchdog over the big banks on behalf of the public and not a coddler of banksterism. But all he did was write a CMA email when he suspected that interest rate-fixing was going on. He didn't call in the FBI, or Interpol, since the scam was international. But since it is looking embarrassing for Geithner and his boss, somebody has just hurriedly leaked a batch of exculpatory memos to The Times. He "reached out" and "made suggestions" to his British counterparts, such as maybe increasing the number of banks playing the game, so as to spread out the bad behavior and dilute the damage a bit. Too bad he didn't leak or act the whistleblower to The Times back there in 2008, thus potentially saving billions for bankrupt American cities who lost big-time from artificially low interest rates on investments. But Geithner gave the appearance of "trying", so they figure he's off the hook. Kind of like the Vatican transferring pedophile priests and admonishing them to behave, giving them helpful hints to curb their urges, rather than protecting the child victims. The Geithner response to the Libor crimes is just one more reeking example of people in power doing their utmost to protect corrupt institutions.


James F Traynor said...

Geithner is innocent because he didn't (as far as we know) actively take part in the fraud, he just knew about it. Penn State comes to Wall Street.

spreadoption said...

Also, I distinctly remember Geithner claiming (emphatically)in his confirmation hearing that his job description at the NY Fed did not include any regulating stuff.

Except that it (emphatically) does.

I hate to go ad hominem, but I wish this sniveling little twit would find himself in major serious trouble here. (I can dream, can't I?)

Denis Neville said...


“If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.” – David Brooks, “Why Our Elites Stink”

They’re lying thieves! Criminals! Felons! “The rotten heart of finance.” Bankers systematically stealing ~ $350 trillion, while governments looked the other way. What about their bonuses that will never be clawed back for this rotten activity? Where is the accountability for these crimes? What else lies beneath the LIBOR scandal?

Bill Moyers asks, “How far will inquiries go, especially when both American political parties are so beholden to high finance for cash? And you wonder why the banksters still roam free, like gunslingers in a Wild West town without a sheriff."

The better question is why aren’t there more people out in the streets, demanding these criminals (not brats!) be brought to justice for their crimes and jailed.

Today’s bonus tin pot sociology from David Brooks:

“Today’s meritocratic elites achieve and preserve their status not mainly by being corrupt but mainly by being ambitious and disciplined. They raise their kids in organized families. They spend enormous amounts of money and time on enrichment. They work much longer hours than people down the income scale, driving their kids to piano lessons and then taking part in conference calls from the waiting room."

"The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.”

Must be the altitude in Aspen.

Denis Neville said...

Contrast David Brooks’ views from Aspen with the realities of the 23 parking lots of the Safe Parking program in Santa Barbara, where the non-elites, formerly middle-class people will never again find jobs as lucrative and stable as those they lost, and will never be middle-class again.

Jeff Tietz, “The Fallen: TheSharp, Sudden Decline of America’s Middle Class,”

James F Traynor said...

Poor Brooks, the haute bourgeoisie, being driven crazy as his preconceived world comes tumbling down. Someone will find him in a fetal crouch, playing with himself, and humming London Bridges. Poor little man.

Zee said...


"The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.” --David Brooks


Can you give me a link to the source of this gobbledygook?

I ask only because I can't believe that it makes sense even when put in some larger context!

BTW: I motorcycled through Aspen only about a week-and-a-half ago, and while I found myself wondering in which gated-off community Robert Redford lived during the ski season, I don't think the atmosphere is so rarefied that it can explain the foregoing strange collection of words.

Suzan said...

Like "trying" to pay his taxes?

Geithner Tried to Curb Rate Rigging in 2008

The Times sounds like Pravda almost all the time now.

You won't believe how unpopular I become every time I mention it at my blog (or in my conversation with "well-educated" people).

Paper of record my ass.



Zee said...


Never mind, I found the link to the Brooks quote,

While I better understand now what Brooks was trying to say, I view it as nonsense.

“The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.” --David Brooks

Truly, a preposterous generalization. If there was a “best of the WASP elites,” in the "good ol' days," there was also a “worst” of the WASP elites, and the latter outnumbered the former.

And they were--and are--criminals who are bringing down the world, not mere "brats."

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, in his comparison of Christopher Hayes' book Twilight of the Elites with Brooks' subject column, has a more clear-eyed view of the reality, past and present.

“I enjoyed Twilight of the Elites, but I had a big problem with it, and it's the same problem I have with Brooks's competing thesis: I think they both view the past with unjustifiably rose-colored glasses. Hayes does a good job of describing all the pathologies of today's meritocratic aristocracy, but his book never seriously addresses all the pathologies of past aristocracies, meritocratic or otherwise. You're left thinking that cheating and corruption and nepotism are somehow unique to the 21st century West. But not only is none of that stuff unique, it's not clear that it's even any worse than it used to be. The scale is bigger than it used to be, because there's just more money sloshing around the system than ever before in history, but if you let your memory wander back a century, two centuries, or two millennia, it's pretty obvious that today's meritocracies not only aren't any more corrupt than past elites, they aren't even much better at it. Past aristocracies might not have had the high SAT scores of today's elites, but apparently their animal cunning was every bit as well developed.

Brooks, if anything, is worse on this score. He's careful to admit the problem with the elites of the 19th century, but even so he idealizes them. Sure, the best of the old WASP elites were good people in a noblesse oblige sort of way, but the best of any set of elites are good people. Today's meritocracy is loaded with fine, upstanding citizens. The problem is that they're a minority. But the upstanding folks were a minority back in the days of the WASP aristocracy too .”
--Kevin Drum (Bold emphasis added.)

In summary, to paraphrase Lord Acton, “Power tends to (mostly) corrupt, and absolute power (mostly) corrupts absolutely,” in any age.