Politics/Media

Matt Taibbi does the dozens on NYT’s David Brooks. Myself, I think Brooks is, in general, one of the smarter moderate conservatives out there. But I don’t think Taibbi’s even remotely out of line here – these are exactly the kinds of contradictions conservatives need to be called out on, no matter how well-meaning they may want to be:

“If I’m writing about a bank that took a half-billion worth of mortgages where the average amount of equity in the home was less than 1%, and where 58% of the mortgages had no documentation, and then sold those mortgage-backed securities as investment-grade opportunities to pensions and other suckers — and then bet against the same kind of stuff they were enthusiastically selling to other people — is Brooks seriously suggesting that I also have to point out that the Chinese economy was doing well at the time?
“Yeah, okay, the rise of China is a factor in the overall decline of the American economy, but it has nothing to do with the Goldman story, which is a specific crime story about a specific bank…

“What’s so ironic about this is that Brooks, in arguing against class warfare, and trying to present himself as someone who is above making class distinctions, is making an argument based entirely on the notion that there is a lower class and an upper class and that the one should go easy on the other because the best hope for collective prosperity is the rich creating wealth for all. This is the same Randian bullshit that we’ve been hearing from people like Brooks for ages and its entire premise is really revolting and insulting — this idea that the way society works is that the productive ” rich” feed the needy “poor,” and that any attempt by the latter to punish the former for “excesses” might inspire Atlas to Shrug his way out of town and leave the helpless poor on their own to starve.
“That’s basically Brooks’s entire argument here. Yes, the rich and powerful do rig the game in their own favor, and yes, they are guilty of “excesses” — but fucking deal with it, if you want to eat.
“And the really funny thing about Brooks’s take on populists… I mean, I’m a member of the same Yuppie upper class that Brooks belongs to. I can’t speak for the other “populists” that Brooks might be referring to, but in my case for sure, my attitude toward the likes of Lloyd Blankfein and Hank Paulson has nothing to do with class anger.
“I don’t hate these guys because they’re rich and went to fancy private schools. Hell, I’m rich and went to a fancy private school. I look at these people as my cultural peers and what angers me about them is that, with many coming from backgrounds similar to mine, these guys chose to go into a life of crime and did so in a way that is going to fuck things up for everyone, rich and poor, for a generation.
“Their decision to rig the markets for their own benefit is going to cause other countries to completely lose confidence in the American economy, it will impact the dollar, and ultimately will make all of us involuntary debtors to whichever state we end up having to borrow from to bail these crimes out.”

http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi/2010/01/27/populism-just-like-racism/#post_comments

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music / economics

Our delightful ‘change we can believe in’ Justice Department has approved the Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger.
If I had a dollar for every time I thought “What the hell are they thinking…” over the last year…

“Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation and the merged company, said the merger creates “a more diversified company with a great selling platform for artists and a stronger financial profile that will drive improved shareholder value over the long term.”
“Under the Justice Department rules, Ticketmaster must license its software for five years to Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc., which owns the Staples Center and other venues. It was also directed to sell subsidiary Paciolan to Comcast-Spectator, a subsidiary of Comcast Corp.
“AEG and Comcast-Spectacor could take years to effectively take ticketing deals away from Ticketmaster,” Gabelli & Co. analyst Brett Harriss said. Only then would ticket fees start to come down, Harriss said.
“Both Comcast-Spectacor and AEG hailed the ruling as an opportunity to expand their businesses.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/25/live-nation-ticketmaster-_n_435821.html

Politics / Economy

“They Still Don’t Get It”… but Bob Herbert does.

“While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits…
“A new study from the Brookings Institution tells us that the largest and fastest-growing population of poor people in the U.S. is in the suburbs. You don’t hear about this from the politicians who are always so anxious to tell you, in between fund-raisers and photo-ops, what a great job they’re doing. From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.
“The study does not include data from 2009, when so many millions of families were just hammered by the recession. So the reality is worse than the Brookings figures would indicate…
“In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four…
“The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it’s not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats, a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/23/opinion/23herbert.html

With their economic muddling, bordering on negligence, and the dark circus that health reform represents these days, even some stalwarts are ready to resign themselves to three more years of change we no longer believe in:

“Maybe House Democrats can pull this out, even with a gaping hole in White House leadership… But I have to say, I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.”

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/he-wasnt-the-one-weve-been-waiting-for/