"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Krugman on Charles Stross and the amoral corporation

One thing I like about blogs is when writers I admire discuss other writers from other fields who they admire. And one of the things I like about Krugman and DeLong is that they're polymaths and not soley focused on economics. Krugman blogs:
If you ask how it’s possible that a handful of bad actors can get their way so often, the answer has to be, wasn’t it ever thus? What we call civilization has usually been a form of kleptocracy, varying mainly in its efficiency (the Romans were no nicer than the barbarians, just more orderly). Yes, we’ve had a few generations of government somewhat of, by, for the people in some places -- but that’s an outlier in the broader sweep of things.
So never mind the hive-minds; good old greed still rules.
Yes but there is progress. Often the kleptocrats are helped by red herrings and distractions like racism and clerical demogoguery.

Hitchens writes about the Tea Party.

Nixon resigned when I was almost 4 years old. Recent released tapes of years in Presidency reveal his prejudice against Jews, blacks, Irish, and Italians. No doubt the Republican elite knew of it and probably shared his hate for the most part. Same thing with the voters and many Democrats.

And almost 40 years later we have a black President. That's progress.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"We need a tow, not a jump-start."

Obama referenced Mark Zandi in defending the stimulus component of the tax cut deal.

Krugman responds that we're in a process of deleveraging at his blog here and here.

I disagree with Krugman's criticisms of Obama, but Krugman could be right if the engine of the private sector doesn't get going. My view is that he's wrong to personalize the issues when it comes to Obama by saying stuff like Obama isn't a fighter. He isn't tough enough? The first black President? The man has no fear. Obama, Axelrod, and Plouffe took on the Clinton machine in the Democratic primary and dealt with their hard ball  tactics with "dirt off the shoulder."

It gets me down when he links to Digby or DeLong links to Jane Hamsher or Atrios.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

G.E. and JPMorgan Got Lots of Fed Help in ’08 by Sewell Chan and Jo Craven McGinty
The two companies received help even as their chief executives, Jeffrey R. Immelt of G.E. and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, sat on the nine-member board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Neither executive was involved in creating the emergency programs, which were approved by the Fed’s board of governors in Washington. Both companies also disclosed that they were among scores of institutions that received support from the Fed. Nevertheless, some policy experts expressed discomfort with the situation.

"In my view, it is an obvious conflict of interest for C.E.O.’s of banks and large corporations who serve on the Fed’s board of directors to have received cheap loans from the Fed," Senator Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who wrote the legal provision requiring the Fed to make the disclosures, said in a statement on Sunday.
Goldman, previously an investment bank, became a Fed-regulated bank holding company during the crisis. It tapped the Fed program to help investment banks 52 times, owing $18 billion to the Fed at one point -- receiving far greater support than JPMorgan.
The chairman of the New York Fed at the time, Stephen Friedman, was a Goldman director and former chairman of Goldman. The Fed granted Mr. Friedman a waiver so he could continue serving as chairman of the New York Fed.
While awaiting the waiver, Mr. Friedman bought shares of Goldman around the time the bank received Fed support. After The Wall Street Journal reported on the purchases, Mr. Friedman stepped down, saying the Fed "does not need this distraction." The New York Fed’s top lawyer said at the time that Mr. Friedman "did not violate any Federal Reserve statute, rule or policy."
Mr. Friedman’s successor as chairman of the New York Fed was Denis M. Hughes, president of the New York State A.F.L.-C.I.O. Fed observers say it is unlikely that a former banker will serve as the agency’s chairman any time soon.
Jamie Dimon: America’s Least-Hated Banker by Roger Lowenstein in the New York Times Magazine:
TARP became a symbol of bailout policy gone awry. Actually, the program has succeeded for banks and, thus far, for the government. Taxpayers earned $795 million on the J. P. Morgan stake. Dimon is upset that people think he was bailed out. But there is at least some truth to the view of Christina Romer, a former economist for President Obama, who notes that Dimon "was part of the system that gave rise to the crisis. He certainly benefited. If the system went south, he’d have gone south with everybody else."
Christina Romer on uncertainty in the economy
The deepest and most destructive uncertainty we face centers on the overall health of the economy and its prospects for growth. Unlike other postwar recessions that were caused by tight monetary policy and high interest rates, the recent downturn resulted from the bursting of a housing bubble and a financial crisis. Because we are in largely uncharted territory, figuring out how and when the economy will recover is much harder than usual.
I think we know what to do, it's Republican opposition that is the problem (see for example the lunacy Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Senator Corker of Tennesse about how the Fed shouldn't concern itself about unemployment. And so Republican Bernanke has to go on 60 Minutes to defend the Fed.) Othewise I agree strongly with Romer's Op-ed.

Also in the New York Times Magazine, Daniel Bergner on John Pendergrast:
"I do human rights the way I played basketball," John Prendergast said. We were sitting in the outdoor restaurant of an unfinished hotel in Juba, a boomtown of mud and shanties beside the White Nile in southern Sudan. It’s a restaurant where the South’s liberation leaders tend to gather, and these days they are in a buoyant mood. They have traded their fatigues for dress shirts and suits. A half-century of civil war seems to be culminating in independence. If a referendum on Jan. 9 goes as expected, the map of Africa will be redrawn " with a new nation around the size of Texas. But for the moment, Prendergast, who is America’s most influential activist in Africa’s most troubled regions and who huddled on a White House patio with President Barack Obama a few days earlier, talked about basketball guards.
One way to understand Prendergast’s influence, suggested Samantha Power, who is the National Security Council’s senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights and who counts Prendergast among her close friends, is not to see Obama as lacking a sense of urgency on Sudan were it not for Prendergast’s recent activism, but rather to view the president as long-engaged on Sudan partly because of the highly successful advocacy movement Prendergast helped to start several years ago around the crisis in Darfur. And now, she continued, on North-South peace, Prendergast is "creating a political space; he’s putting political wind in the sails of people who care about this issue: the president, Denis" -- she nodded toward McDonough, the deputy national security adviser -- "me. He’s elevated Sudan to Himalayan proportions on the mattering map in Washington." While this may be an overstatement, Prendergast has surely helped to pull an expanse of scrub and swamp, and the people who live upon it, into American sightlines.(emphasis added)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Krugman on Poland and the euro
Good piece in the Times about the advantages Poland is deriving from not having adopted the euro (yet):
The floating zloty, which has fallen about 18 percent against the euro since early 2009, acted as a pressure release valve, helping to keep Polish products competitive on world markets and insulating Poland from the effects of the sovereign debt crisis.
Poland has proved itself to be Europe’s most dogged economy during the last two years. It was the only member of the European Union to avoid recession, soldiering on even after a plane crash in April killed much of the political elite, including the president and the central bank governor. No banks needed to be rescued.
You want to think about just how hard it would be to cut wages 18 percent, as opposed to achieving it automatically via depreciation.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Movie about the Clash in the works

Just the other a day an employee at the local used book store in my neighborhood was shocked when Mick Jones and Paul Simonon entered the store, browsed and asked if they had a certain book. They were playing with Gorillaz who were performing at a local music venue that night.