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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 22,353

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43 Years ago today, we created a symbol that anything was possible

To insert a break into today's sad news and toxic politics

We used to build great things, achieve accomplishments that once had only been flights of fancy, and chose enduring words like "we came in peace for all mankind" rather than chest-thumping bravado.

And if you describe our economy and policies back then to today's Republicans, we were a bunch of "socialists".

Where Have I heard Mitt's explanations before? Hmmm...

Demand a full and accurate prospectus from the Business Leader

Mitt should fully disclose everything. Period.

All the tax returns he gave John McCain, plus the ones since then.

All the documents related to his relationship with Bain and its associated companies and other organizations (whatever their actual name and category might be).

Full accounting of his offshore accounts. And any in his wife's name.

Not merely what the law requires. Not "more than this, less than that". Not just the minimum he can get away with revealing. Everything.

Sure, usually that information is considered private. This isn't usual.

How much he made and how he made it has a direct bearing on his potential presidency, because that's supposed to be his strength: that his monetary success gives him expertise and vision to lead the country as a whole.

If keeping it private is that important to him, then let him stay a private citizen. If he wants to be president, if he wants the broad public to "invest" in him with their votes, then he needs to put forth a compete and accurate prospectus. He can monkey around all he wants, but nobody is obligated to vote for him.

(well, nobody except the guys the Republican Party made sign loyalty oaths)

David Brooks misses Chris Hayes point, offers own, then refutes himself by not committing seppuku...

...or becoming a monk with a vow of silence, or just putting himself out to pasture.

Brooks focuses on one part of Chris Hayes' book Twilight of the Elites, where Hayes argues that even under ideal circumstances meritocracy leads to circumstances where it's not merely merit or performance that determine outcomes, that even when working as advertised it builds up hurtles against those outside the elite to show their merit and thus join their ranks.

In making this point Hayes uses examples he's seen in real life in New York City's magnet schools. (The NYC school system is large enough that it can support a number of schools with more specialized curricula, e.g., for mathematics and science, or for the performing arts, etc.). Brooks focuses on this to the exclusion of all else, and decries a general lack of integrity.

It’s a challenging argument but wrong. I’d say 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.

Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment. As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership.


The difference between the Hayes view and mine is a bit like the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. He wants to upend the social order. I want to keep the current social order, but I want to give it a different ethos and institutions that are more consistent with its existing ideals.

Hayes does not, in fact, argue for upending the social order, just argues for why a messy system like democracy works better despite the way it offends the sensibilities of elites and technocrats.

Brooks also mentions that in the LIBOR scandal "they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role." This from a guy who in two NY Times columns a week and numerous TV talking head appearances does exactly the same thing in regard to journalism.

The seppuku option would be the one most cathartic for the rest us, methinks.

Mitt Donor Mechanics...

...think the super-rich are the engines of the economy, but transmissions are socialism.

Lysenko Economics (naming the mess Krugman describes)

In a blog post today Paul Krugman (knowingly or not) describes part of the "Sovietization" of the right:

Portes quotes a three-year-old piece from Niall Ferguson I mercifully missed, ridiculing me as the “man from Econ 101” who believed, foolishly, that huge government deficits could fail to raise interest rates in a depressed economy. Indeed, that is what Econ 101 said – and it has been completely right. Basic IS-LM macro also said that under these conditions printing lots of money would not be inflationary, and that cutting government spending sharply would cause the economy to shrink. All of this has come true.

So Econ 101 has done just fine – and perhaps more to the point, it has made successful predictions “out of sample”, that is, about what would happen under conditions very different from normal experience. This is the sort of thing that produces paradigm shifts in the hard sciences: light bends! Einstein is right!

So why the sense that macroeconomics is a mess? I’d say that it’s essentially political. The type of macroeconomics Portes and I do offends conservative notions of how things are supposed to work in a capitalist society, so they reject the theory no matter how well it performs, and throw their support behind other views and other people no matter how badly they get it wrong. As a result, all the public hears are arguments between dueling economists (some of them not knowing much about economics). That’s a big problem – but it’s not a problem with the economics, which has, once again, been spectacularly successful.

In the hard sciences there's a name for that sort of thing: Lysenkoism:
The word is derived from the centralized political control exercised over the fields of genetics and agriculture by the director of the Soviet Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko and his followers, which began in the late 1920s and formally ended in 1964.

Lysenkoism is used colloquially to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.

Lysenko's ideas didn't pan out in practice, but he had the right message (from the Soviet's ideological viewpoint) from the right source (from a good peasant family, the equivalent of the Clark Kent "wholesome boy from the cornfields of The Heartland" image here in the US) at the right timeso the Soviets adopted it wholesale...and like so many things under the Soviets, dissent was "counterrevolutionary": treason, defilement of all that was good and pure, etc.
In 1948, genetics was officially declared "a bourgeois pseudoscience"; all geneticists were fired from their jobs (some were also arrested), and all genetic research was discontinued. Nikita Khrushchev, who claimed to be an expert in agricultural science, also valued Lysenko as a great scientist, and the taboo on genetics continued (but all geneticists were released or rehabilitated posthumously). The ban was only waived in the mid-1960s.

Thus, Lysenkoism caused serious, long-term harm to Soviet knowledge of biology. It represented a serious failure of the early Soviet leadership to find real solutions to agricultural problems, throwing their support behind a charlatan at the expense of many human lives.

Perhaps we should start encouraging use of the term: Chicago Soviet of Economics

Romney "Sick at Heart" Over Bain Job Losses

From Crooks and Liars:
Emphasis is mine.
Mods: this is 4 paragraphs from the C&L article. The indented parts are portions where the quoted article is quoting other sources, and are part of the paragraph of the non-indented lines above it.

But as the New York Times documented Friday, large sums of that money were going to Mitt Romney and his Bain colleagues whether their portfolio companies were profitable or not. Put another way, Bain won either way:

Bain structured deals so that it was difficult for the firm and its executives to ever really lose, even if practically everyone else involved with the company that Bain owned did, including its employees, creditors and even, at times, investors in Bain's funds.

Cambridge Industries, which filed for bankruptcy in 2000 after amassing $300 million in debt, is hardly unique when it came to Bain's "win even when they lose" business model:

Yet Bain Capital, the private equity firm that controlled the Michigan-based company, continued to religiously collect its $950,000-a-year "advisory fee" in quarterly installments, even to the very end, according to court documents.

In all, Bain garnered more than $10 million in fees from Cambridge over five years, including a $2.25 million payment just for buying the company, according to bankruptcy records and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Meanwhile, Bain's investors saw their $16 million investment in Cambridge wiped out.

"Traditionally," Josh Kosman wrote in his 2009 book The Buyout of America, "cash-rich public companies have paid dividends to lure and reward investors." But private equity firms, he explained, stand this process on its head:

Fourteen of the largest American private equity firms had more than 40 percent of the North American companies they bought from 2002 until September 2006 pay them dividends. In thirty-two of the eighty-three case, 38 percent, they took money out in the first year.

Mitt Romney was a pioneer of this strategy. His private equity firm, Bain Capital, was the first large PE firm to make a serious portion of its money not from selling its companies or listing them on the stock exchange, but rather by collecting distributions and dividends, which in this context is the exact opposite of reinvesting in a company. Bain Capital is notorious for failing to plow profits back into its businesses.

Just how notorious was first detailed by the Times five years ago during Mitt Romney's first presidential bid:

One transaction, involving the medical diagnostics company Dade Behring, took place in 1999 as Mr. Romney was leaving the firm, and the other, involving KB Toys, occurred about two years later. Bain and its co-investors extracted special payments of over $100 million from each company, enabling Bain to make a healthy profit even before re-selling the businesses -- a practice known as "getting back your bait." Lenders say Bain is one of the firms that has taken the most in such payments, which companies usually make by taking on additional debt.

Both Dade Behring and KB Toys soon suffered dips in their business. Unable to meet the burden of their debts, each filed for bankruptcy and laid off thousands of workers. Bain Capital spokesmen have said the company did nothing improper.

Mr. Romney, who remains an investor in Bain Capital, said he had not been involved in those decisions but acknowledged that such payments became part of the buyout business "very early on."

Breaking: Boortz retiring, to be replaced by Herman Cain

AP is reporting that Radio Ranter Neil Boortz is retiring, and that Herman Cain will be the one to fill his rather stinky shoes.

ATLANTA (AP) — Conservative talk radio host Neal Boortz announced his retirement Monday after four decades at the microphone, saying he will be replaced by former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

Boortz said during his morning talk show that his last day will be Jan. 21, 2013, the day of the presidential inauguration. The 67-year-old Boortz said he is in good health and plans to enjoy retirement by traveling with his wife.

"This has been a stress-free job for me. It's just been a total and absolutely joy," he said. "I'm going to miss everything associated with doing a talk radio show."

Boortz's show is syndicated across the country through Atlanta's WSB radio, drawing about 6 million listeners on 230 radio stations.

Radio host Boortz retiring, with Cain to step in

Source: Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Conservative talk radio host Neal Boortz announced his retirement Monday after four decades at the microphone, saying he will be replaced by former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

Boortz said during his morning talk show that his last day will be Jan. 21, 2013, the day of the presidential inauguration. The 67-year-old Boortz said he is in good health and plans to enjoy retirement by traveling with his wife.

"This has been a stress-free job for me. It's just been a total and absolutely joy," he said. "I'm going to miss everything associated with doing a talk radio show."

Boortz's show is syndicated across the country through Atlanta's WSB radio, drawing about 6 million listeners on 230 radio stations.

Read more: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gg_uPcHPMutrfaDdMpwAu84TLYUA?docId=a5e46707d4424d95b7ba024eaaff43f7

Absolutely Fabulist!

The president offers his sympathy (2007 edition)

On Wednesday, December 5, 2007, nineteen-year-old Robert Hawkins killed eight people and himself at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska.
President Bush offered sympathy Thursday to the families of the victims.

“I was in Omaha just before the shooting took place, and I know what a difficult day it is for that fine community,” said Bush, who had traveled to the area to attend a Republican fundraiser and was on his way back to Washington when the shootings took place.

“The victims and their loved ones are in the prayers of Americans,” Bush said. “The federal government stands ready to help in any way we can, and the whole nation grieves for the people of Omaha.”

Number of liberal pundits or Democratic presidential hopefuls who took umbrage, suggesting Bush would have been less sympathetic if his itinerary had been different: zero

A lot of times, people just add in a little personal note when expressing sympathy. That's all.

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