The Pretense of Punditry

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

When I was young I would religiously watch the Sunday morning news shows, especially NBC’s Meet the Press. Beginning in 1947, MTP is the longest running show in television history. While the other networks had comparable shows, clearly MTP with its longevity was seen as the show of record.

“The show’s format consists of an extended one-on-one interview with the host and is sometimes followed by a roundtable discussion or one-on-two interview with figures in adversarial positions, either Congress members from opposite sides of the aisle or political commentators. The show expanded to 60 minutes starting with the September 20, 1992 broadcast

Face the Nation, premiering in 1954 is considered to be the other Sunday morning News show of record. FTN’s format is:

“The moderator interviews newsmakers on the latest issues and delivers a short topical commentary at the end of the broadcast. The program broadcasts from Washington, D.C. Guests include government leaders, politicians, and international figures in the news. CBS News correspondents and other contributors engage the guests in a roundtable discussion focusing on current topics.”

What all of these shows have in common is that they are repeatedly populated by the same people, whether politicians, journalists, economists or political operators. This link gives the background of the truth of Sunday morning “journalism”.  The casts rarely change and in all but the rarest of cases these guests make up what could be called our nation’s “Pundit Class”. They are seen as the “Serious People”, who lead America’s national debate on vital issues. I’ve been a “political junkie” since the age of ten. For many years I was misled into believing that these “Serious People” were really my intellectual betters when it came to public affairs and that political discussion must only exist within the ground rules of debate established by our “Pundit Class”. Beginning with the murder of JFK and in the ensuing disillusionment of the Sixties I’ve come to see that not only is this  “Pundit Class” inherently corrupt, but only a rare few can barely be called intellectually informative. This group is in reality the paid propagandists of the elite 1% that rule this country and their main task is to limit the scope of our national debate.

In the last two weeks one of the most heard and most esteemed members of the Pundit Class, Fareed Zakaria, has been suspended from Time Magazine and CNN due to the discovery of plagiarism in one of his columns. Zacharia is also a Yale University Trustee and there is talk that his removal from that august position is under consideration. I’ve never particularly cared for Mr. Zakaria, but I was surprised by his plagiarism, more so by the fact he admitted it so readily and so abjectly. An article in the Huffington Post provided an explanation of Mr. Zakaria’s actions with a surprising explanation that I hadn’t expected and yet one that in retrospect makes perfect sense.

On 8/12/12 Eric Zeusse, an investigative historian, posted an article titled: “Fareed Zakaria Is Bitten by His Own Tale: How He Helped Create the System That Bit Him Back”.  He began the article in this manner and in doing so exposed me to an idea that frankly hadn’t occurred to me.

“When Fareed Zakaria was suspended on Friday from Time and CNN, for plagiarism, this wasn’t merely justice, it was poetic justice: it rhymed. What it rhymed with was his own lifelong devotion to the global economic star system that he, as a born aristocrat in India, who has always been loyal to the aristocracy, inherited and has always helped to advance, at the expense of the public in every nation. He was suspended because, as a born aristocrat, who is a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and many other of the global aristocracy’s primary organizations, he is so well-connected that his writing-commissions are more than any one person can possibly handle, and he consequently cannot possibly actually write all that is attributed to him. He certainly cannot research it all.”

In my naivete it I never thought of the possibility that someone like Mr. Zacharia might not write all, or even most of his material. I wasn’t aware of his aristocratic background, nor of his close connection to some of the secretive groups that shape global policy. I always just saw him as a “middle-of-the-road” pundit, with whom I disagreed on many things. As Mr. Zeusse goes on to explain:

“Like many “writing” stars, he has a staff perform much of the research and maybe even actual writing for him, and many in his situation are actually more editors than they are writers; but, regardless, he cannot let the public know that this is the way things are, because this is simply the way that the star system works in the “writing” fields, and because the public is supposed to think that these stars in the writing fields are writers, more than editors.

And, it’s a very profitable system for such stars. As Paul Starobin said, headlining “Money Talks,” in the March 2012 Columbia Journalism Review, Zakaria’s speaking fee is $75,000, and “he has been retained for speeches by numerous financial firms, including Baker Capital, Catterton Partners, Dreihaus Capital Management, ING, Merrill Lynch, Oak Investment Partners, Charles Schwab, and T. Rowe Price.”

 So, he’s clearly a very busy man, with a considerable staff; he can’t possibly do everything himself.

 But he needs to appear as if he does. He needs to present everything “he” does, as “his.”

The last two sentences above ring true and explain why Zakaria is so willing to perform mea culpa, take his suspensions and hope that this will blow over quickly. To admit the possible truth that someone writing for him had actually plagiarized would expose the fact that this “World Class Pundit and Author”, was merely a “front man” representing his privileged class. If this is true of Zakaria, who else of these “serious journalistic stars” is also doing the same thing and more importantly how are they shaping the political debate?

“Fareed Zakaria knows the way it works. So, he cannot afford to admit when he is being credited with the work of his employees. Far less damaging to him is to admit that he has done plagiarism himself, as he has admitted in this particular case — regardless whether it’s true.

 If Zakaria didn’t actually do this plagiarism, could he very well announce to the world “I didn’t do it; I didn’t even research or write the article”? No. Romney and the Republicans say that the “job creators” at the top are the engine of the economy, and the aristocracy need to maintain this myth. It’s very important to them — that they are the stars, and that the people who might be the actual creators who work for them are not.

Zakaria wouldn’t want to burst the bubble atop which he is floating. To people in his situation, it’s a bubble of money, and it’s theirs. They don’t want to share it any more than they absolutely have to. (They despise labor unions for that very reason.) And their employees are very dependent upon them, so no one will talk about it — not the stars, not their workers.”

To make Eric Zeusse’s premise even more interesting we have this report on 8/16/12, “Fareed Zakaria Cleared By Time, CNN In Plagiarism Investigation”. .

“We have completed a thorough review of each of Fareed Zakaria’s columns for TIME, and we are entirely satisfied that the language in question in his recent column was an unintentional error and an isolated incident for which he has apologized. We look forward to having Fareed’s thoughtful and important voice back in the magazine with his next column in the issue that comes out on September 7.”

Since Zakaria originally admitted he had made “A terrible mistake” it is heartening to see that his “mistake” was only an isolated incident. I think back to graduate schools papers I’ve written and wonder how I would have fared if I had “made a terrible mistake” in them through plagiarism. Would an investigation of my “isolated incident” and remorse have allowed me to continue in school?  However, protecting Mr. Zakaria, one of the chosen, is not only important for his sake, but for the sake of these “News Entities” that rely so heavily on the “connected” pundit class to provide their“cogent” analysis of major issues.

How many other “Pundits” acting as the “serious” people are setting the parameters of the national debate through their appearances on Sunday Morning talk shows, News Channels, the PBS News Hour and it appears as paid guest speakers at supposedly meaningful conferences and conventions? The person who first came to mind as I read this article on Zakaria was Thomas Friedman. Friedman is a son of privilege who married into a billionaire family. He has been a champion of “Globalization”, which to me has always meant unbridled support for the multinational Corporatocracy. He also seems to me to be a very childish writer in that his use of analogies to draw global conclusions is inept to the point of comedy. During my illness my daughter bought me a copy of “Friedman’s “The World is Flat” and in reading it I was blown away by how flimsy a narrative it was for someone so respected as a pundit, who gets so much air time and respect as a serious commentator on global issues. As it was put in his Wikipedia Article:

“A number of critics have taken issue with Friedman’s views, as well as aspects of his writing style. Critics deride his penchant for excessive optimism, a consistently flawed analytical approach, and a habit of trotting out unexamined truisms to support his opinions.”

“Some critics have derided Friedman’s idiosyncratic prose style, with its tendency to use mixed metaphors and analogies”.

“Similarly, journalist Matt Taibbi has said of Friedman’s writing that, “Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying – and when you tried to actually picture the ‘illustrative’ figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.”

While I have no proof of it, I would speculate that Friedman too has people writing much of his stuff and that his journalism is more of the editorial kind. However, what is obvious and known about Friedman is that he is a pundit star, ranking with, or possibly above Zakaria in the firmament of “Serious People” who frame our national debate and dominate our national media. This is really nothing new in our country. In the past the “serious people” were the likes of Walter Lippman  Scotty Reston, .  These past pundits and “cold warriors”, share a commonality with Zakaria and Friedman, in that they all serve(d) the interests of the Corporate and Monied Elite that run this country from behind the scenes. Indeed, I’m sure that you the reader could expand this very small list of those who are deemed acceptable to lead the “serious” discussion of our national/international issues.

I assert that the entire Liberal versus Conservative debate in this country is but a smokescreen that distracts us from the one most vital issue. Our nation and indeed the world is and has been controlled by an Elite representing those with most money and power. Their first allegiance is to themselves, their class and to the belief that they alone are fit to rule us all. Call it what you will, but to me it is the continuation of feudalism in modern guise. Just as in feudalism there were “Courtiers” who gladly did the bidding of their “Royal Masters”, in order to enrich their own lives. Most of the “Courtiers” were either born to, or became part of the elite, while maintaining the pretense of speaking for the benefit of all humanity.

If we the people are ever to cast off the control of those who would leash us for their benefit, we must learn to think for ourselves and critically examine the opinions of those who are represented to us as “serious people”.  Unfortunately, this remains a highly individual task because we are surrounded by experts, who in reality are propagandists purveying non-existent mythology to keep us in the thrall of the Elite. Disdain the pundits for their message is false. Become your own pundit and most especially view the world through an iconoclastic perspective. Despite their degrees, their travels, experiences and accolades, few are really that perceptive since they have been co-opted and anointed as members of a Priesthood of Power, blinding them to what real life for most of us is about.

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

135 thoughts on “The Pretense of Punditry

  1. Excellent job pointing to the importance of critical thinking as a crucial skill in the modern world as well as properly valuating the position of the “pundit class”, Mike. After all, the first two rules of successful evolution (as formulated with a friend over a night of serious conspicuous consumption) are “pay attention” and “think”.

  2. Mike,

    “What all of these shows have in common is that they are repeatedly populated by the same people, whether politicians, journalists, economists or political operators.”

    “…I’ve come to see that not only is this “Pundit Class” inherently corrupt, but only a rare few can barely be called intellectually informative.”

    How right you are! I rarely watch the Sunday morning “news” shows these days for these very reasons.

  3. Me too, Elaine. I bet I haven’t watched “Face the Nation” or similar shows in 20 years. And now, another episode of “Face the Station” with your host, Earth Force Commander Susan Ivanova. Today’s guest are the representatives of the Drazi Purple faction and the Drazi Green faction.

  4. Sunday morning talk television has become such a vast wasteland of intellectual incest that the inbreeding has taken over completely and real journalism has either gone somewhere else, or died for lack of oxygen.

  5. Do you remember the following story?

    Mark Sanford emails expose how David Gregory plays the game
    By John Amato

    When the stories about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s love of hiking and the ensuing revelations about line crossing and soul mates were first revealed, I think it’s safe to say that most people never saw it coming. But what hasn’t been a surprise is the resulting confirmation of how many in the media are willing to sell their journalistic souls for political access.

    And leading that list has to be David Gregory, who went out of his way to continue the proud tradition of Meet the Press kissing the ass of shamed elected officials.

    From his emails to Sanford’s office, where he begs for an interview:

    Left you a message. Wanted you to hear directly from me that I want to have the Gov on Sunday on Meet The Press. I think it’s exactly the right forum to answer the questions about his trip as well as giving him a platform to discuss the economy/stimulus and the future of the party. You know he will get a fair shake from me and coming on MTP puts all of this to rest.

    … So coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on. You can see (sic) you have done your interview and then move on. Consider it.

    In the middle of the breaking scandal, Gregory not only offered to let Sanford guide the story, he was willing to give him a platform to change the subject. And then Gregory would “move on.”

  6. Mike Spindell:

    that was an interesting piece. And your solution is correct. I read a few pages of the World is Flat and thought it was crap.

  7. Thanks Mike…… I think you have hit the nail on many heads…. How I learned that not all authors are the best writers is when I lived in Austin….. There was the world reclaimed author that utilized every gifted English and History major to write his novel about Texas…. These were not his words….. They were everyone else’s words that he took credit for…. The novel was Texas….. And he had written one about Alaska….. James Michener…….Never read it based upon that precept…..

    I think everyone else’s posts here today are dead on…….

  8. Thanks MikeS. Something else to be glad I missed.
    Of course we have our pundits here, but no star circuit or remunerations of that class.

    You have done a very well done and convincing job.

    I’ve always looked for bare facts, giving up opinions of pundits when CNN went south in the Iraqi war. They had an honest correspondent in live reports from Baghdad, but canned him. He called them as he saw them.

    Lastly, your description of Friedmans (or rather Wiki’s) was so compelling that I’m considering spplying to him for a diploma in creative writing, finding he is a master of my style.

    Console yourselves that I don’t get paid for it.

  9. “I read a few pages of the World is Flat and thought it was crap.”


    you see we do agree on some things. What surprised me so much about that book was how poorly it was written and how his conclusions were not only simplistic, but unproven. This was juxtaposed by the acclaim he received for it, its best seller status ad the broad acceptance of his weak premises by others in the pundit class.

    “And leading that list has to be David Gregory, who went out of his way to continue the proud tradition of Meet the Press kissing the ass of shamed elected officials.”


    Thank you for mentioning Gregory. I couldn’t believe that the role of moderator on MTP could get any worse after Russert died. Remember his questioning of Hillary Clinton during the Impeachment? But Gregory is a complete tool and his appellation as a “newsman” is completely undeserved.
    However, I bet he lives very well in DC and in the end that is what is really important to him.

  10. Mike/Bron,

    You can add me to the list of those underwhelmed with “The World is Flat”. A prime example, much like Brett Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho”, that being a bestseller and getting published isn’t always about the quality of the work but rather who you know and how much money they are willing to spend on marketing.

  11. Thank you for this well written discussion. I have been thinking about this topic for quite sometime but your discussion has crystallized the issues. The Gregory incident ended my interest in MTP.

  12. Fareed has been reinstated:

    Time said that Zakaria’s column would resume with its Sep 7 issue. In a separate statement CNN said that Zakaria’s weekly GPS would be back on the air Aug 26.

    “We have completed a thorough review of each of Fareed Zakaria’s columns for Time, and we are entirely satisfied that the language in question in his recent column was an unintentional error and an isolated incident for which he has apologized,” Time’s statement read.

    (NY Daily). The most memorable quote from one of Fareed’s books was “It is not that the U.S. is declining, it is just that the other nations are rising” (paraphrased).

    He learned The Ways of Bernays quite quickly.

  13. Great job Mike! It is amazing how easy it is to become a “pundit” or serious person and get your face on the TV. I would add that we will never get critically thinking individuals if teachers are being maligned and forced to teach to the test. Also, These pundits don’t have to think critically because the journalists do not hold finding the truth as the most important aspect of their discussions and therefore the pundits are allowed to spew nonsense or discuss birther movements or outright lies as the truth. .

  14. I love when Matt Taibbi writes articles and blog posts criticizing Tom Friedman and his writing. Here’s an example:

    No Kidding: The Most Incoherent Tom Friedman Column Ever
    By Matt Taibbi

    I realize this is not a statement anyone can make lightly, but: this morning’s column by Thomas Friedman, “Syria is Iraq,” is the single most incoherent thing he has ever written. It’s… well, breathtaking is the only word.

    Others, like Glenn Greenwald, have already pointed out the column’s most obvious contradictions. But for those who missed it, here are two passages that were written, not as a joke, by the same human being in the same opinion column. Start with passage #1:

    And, for me, the lesson of Iraq is quite simple: You can’t go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes — a war of all against all — unless you have a well-armed external midwife, whom everyone on the ground both fears and trusts to manage the transition. In Iraq, that was America.

    Got that? Here’s the second passage:

    Because of both U.S. incompetence and the nature of Iraq, this U.S. intervention triggered a civil war in which all the parties in Iraq – Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds – tested the new balance of power, inflicting enormous casualties on each other and leading, tragically, to ethnic cleansing that rearranged the country into more homogeneous blocks of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

    This pair of passages can be summed up in a Friedman-syllogism:

    1. Syria will not become Switzerland unless it has the kind of help America gave to Iraq.

    2. When America helped Iraq, it triggered a terrifying four-sided civil war that left the country reeling in blood-soaked, genocidal chaos and hopelessly partitioned along ethnic and religious lines – very much like Switzerland, where a diverse collection of ethnic groups speaking different languages live peacefully under democratic rule.

    3. Therefore, when your wife needs help giving birth, she should hire a midwife who stands outside the door and carries an automatic weapon.

    This column today is so crazy I have to think Friedman is kidding. The line about how everyone on the ground in Iraq trusts America is especially awesome. Of course! True, you can’t even open a Humvee door there to dump a pebble out of your shoe without getting your face shot off, but still, they trust us!

    And yet the best thing of all is the rhetorical flourish at the end – a rare triple-figurative dismount, which he sticks with Nadia Comăneci-esque confidence:

    Without an external midwife or a Syrian Mandela, the fires of conflict could burn for a long time.

    God bless this man. There’s never been another like him!

    Editor’s note: Thanks to Justin Elliott at TwitLonger, who notes that this is at least the ninth time that Friedman has written a column calling for an Arab Mandela — and at least the third time he has used the winning Arab-Mandela/midwife imagery combination.

  15. More Matt Taibbi on Tom Friedman:

    Flat N All That
    Written by Matt Taibbi on January 14, 2009

    When some time ago a friend of mine told me that Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, was going to be a kind of environmentalist clarion call against American consumerism, I almost died laughing.

    Beautiful, I thought. Just when you begin to lose faith in America’s ability to fall for absolutely anything—just when you begin to think we Americans as a race might finally outgrow the lovable credulousness that leads us to fork over our credit card numbers to every half-baked TV pitchman hawking a magic dick-enlarging pill, or a way to make millions on the Internet while sitting at home and pounding doughnuts— along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-stached resident of a positively obscene 11,400 square foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism.

    Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”? Well, he’ll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian.

    I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying—and when you tried to actually picture the “illustrative” figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.

    Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? “It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,” he wrote, “as long as you remember you’re driving without one.” Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:

    The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging.When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

    First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen.

    Even better was this gem from one of Friedman’s latest columns: “The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it’s all too familiar. It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?” There are many serious questions one could ask about this passage, but the one that leaped out at me was this: In the “title” of that long-running play, is it supposed to be the same person asking all three of those questions? If so, does that person suffer from multiple personality disorder?

    Because in the first question, he is a neutral/ignorant observer of the Mideast drama; in the second he sympathizes with the Jews; in the third he’s a radical Muslim. Moreover, after you blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque, is the surrounding hotel still there? Why would anyone build a mosque in a half-blown-up hotel? Perhaps Friedman should have written the passage like this: “It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? And why did a person suffering from multiple personality disorder build a mosque inside it after blowing up the bar and asking if there was a room for the Jews?

  16. Zakaria is now like a ballplayer caught using steroids: they are all eventually reinstated, but they wear a “scarlet letter” forever.

    And, critical thinking is less in play because most of those who go to college today do so to get job skills versus the old school approach of tackling a liberal arts education first; as for the those who do not further their education post high school, well, they don’t have time for “critical thinking,” just survival.

    Good “critical thinking” skills were used in formulating this article, however.

  17. Elaine,

    Thanks for the Taibbi stuff. News for me like most things here.

    I think I understand Friedman’s play title. He is saying that you don’t know where you are or what’s up
    until you ask some questions to see who answers and what is answered, and then can make decsions re checking in or moving on.

    Grade D minus.

  18. Mike,

    Fareed Zakaria’s Manifesto
    Jun. 24 2009

    Deep down we all have a Puritan belief that unless they suffer a good dose of pain, they will not truly repent. In fact, there has been much pain, especially in the financial industry, where tens of thousands of jobs, at all levels, have been lost. But fundamentally, markets are not about morality. They are large, complex systems, and if things get stable enough, they move on.

    via Zakaria: A Capitalist Manifesto | Newsweek Business |

    From a distance I’ve always vaguely admired the skills of Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria, who is maybe this country’s preeminent propagandist. Any writer who doesn’t admire what this guy does is probably not being honest with himself, because being the public face of conventional wisdom is an extremely difficult job — and as a man of letters Zakaria routinely succeeds, or pseudo-succeeds, at the most seemingly impossible literary tasks, making the sensational seem dull, the outrageous commonplace, and rendering horrifying absolutes ambigious and full of gray areas.

    Wheras most writers grow up dreaming of using their talents to stir up the passions, to inflame and amuse and inspire, Zakaria shoots for the opposite effect, taking controversial and explosive topics and trying to help rattled readers somehow navigate their way through them to yawns, lower heart rates, and states of benign unconcern. He’s back at it again with a new piece about the financial crisis called “The Capitalist Manifesto,” which is one of the first serious attempts at restoring the battered image of global capitalism in the mainstream press.

    This writer has done work like this before, using a big canvas to rework an uncooperative chunk of history in the wake of a crisis. Zakaria is probably best known for his post 9/11 “Why Do They Hate Us?” article, a sort of masterpiece of milquetoast propaganda that laid the intellectual foundation for a wide array of important War on Terror popular misconceptions, not the least of which being the whole “They hate us for our freedom” idea. One of Zakaria’s central arguments in that piece was that poor struggling Arabs were driven to envious violence by the endless pop-culture reminders of American affluence and progress. It was just too much to take, seeing all those cool blue jeans and all that great satellite TV.

    In one exchange in that piece Zakaria talks with an elderly Arab intellectual who scoffs at Zakaria’s suggestion that Arab cities should try to be more like globalization-friendly capitals like Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong. The old Arab protests that those cities are just cheap imitations of Houston and Dallas, and what great and ancient civilization would want that?

    I thought the old Arab’s comment was funny, but Zakaria imbued it with serious significance. “This disillusionment with the West,” he wrote, “is at the heart of the Arab problem.” And while witty Arab potshots at tacky southern strip-mall meccas like Houston were significant enough to put high up in Newsweek’s seminal piece about the root causes of 9/11, things like America’s habitual toppling of sovereign Arab governments and installation of ruthless dictators like the Shah of Iran were left out more or less entirely (Zakaria managed to write a whole section on the Iranian revolution without even mentioning that the Shah come to power thanks to a CIA-backed overthrow of democratically-elected Mohammed Mosaddeq, whose crime was ejecting Western oil companies from Iran).

  19. ElaineM,

    You addressed the above comment to another person, but I will comment for my own reckoning—-as I usually do.
    I hope you don’t object in principle to my presumption.

    I do so only so as to broaden the POV on Zakarias, a person I long ago tired of.

    I can have obviously no ground to deny Matt Taibbi his experiences and his conclusions on Zakarias and the piece “Why do they hate us”; and the effect he said Zakarias has had and that the piece has had.

    I googled and finally got hold of the piece on Daily Beast. And reading the first long paragraph, my conclusion is that he does not point to these “envy” causes as the reason they hate us. On the contrary he ridicules such an idea for it envy was true, the billion muslims would be slaying us everywhere (my paraphrase).

    He instead in the first sentence in the second paragraph put the blame, contingently, on religion.

    I shall not go further. Only wish to express my
    disappointment in Matt’s questionable interpretation or shall we say presentation of the grounds for his
    disliking Zakarias. If I may say so: Don’t bend the facts to support your opinions.

    For those who want to read Zakarias article it can be found here at Daily Beast’s archive of Newsweek articles.

    Other persons have also reviewed it in more favorable light than Matt, but I thank you ElaineM and Matt for raising the qusstion of Sakarias real function and motivations.

    The question remains: Who can we believe in. None, is my conclusion, except the one who reports from his daily life.

  20. Thanks Mike. Glad I read this post. It never occurred to me that this might happen on such a large scale. We all know that there are those who carry water for others but now I’ll think about whether a pundit actually owns stock in the well.

  21. Good article, Mike.

    I used to love the Sunday morning shows until I realized that it’s basically just one opinion being presented every weekend. Some variations between center right and far right, with center right being claimed as “left”. All seemed to be Washington insiders. None represented “the people”.

    One example is environmental issues being discussed from a business perspective, one more extreme than the other, but never included those who actually study environmental issues and see the lack of regulation or lax regulation oversight as being problematic.

    They’re a waste of time.

  22. Elaine,

    Thank you for the Taibbi pieces, since they so well complete the story I was trying to present. In addition they were just so damn funny, yet so sad, simultaneously.

  23. Thank you Bill Clinton for media consolidation. it makes it so much easier to stay on message!
    Great post Mike…..this is one of the foremost ways the media elite keep average people misinformed.

  24. BettyKath,
    That’s why I included the Media Matters link. They’ve done extensive studies of the content of these Sunday shows.

  25. Good post, Mike S. Watching that stuff will rot your teeth and mix your pinafores. You must have a hearty constitution.

  26. I will skip the punditry section, and move to the end of Mike’s commentary: assert that the entire Liberal versus Conservative debate in this country is but a smokescreen that distracts us from […] the continuation of feudalism in modern guise.

    Precisely. There is only one party in the USA, and only one party in the world, and that is the party of the elite, the wealthy, the powerful, the famous, those people with the power to change other’s lives forever with a word. It is a necessarily small and exclusionary world.

    I believe it is in our evolved human psychology as well. We are tribal animals as much as wolves are, we survive better as a group, with an alpha directing us, with a pecking order.

    Much of the problem is that very few of us will admit this. Partially because, whatever the alpha-factor is, we all have it to some extent; it is not a factor that is there or missing, but has a degree of presence, like a percentage. In fact, one might define a person’s “alpha factor” as the percentage of people that will come to defer to that person in an extended social situation.

    When we do not admit to this tendency to follow or defer, we fail to protect ourselves against the dangers of that tendency. Specifically, the dangers of creating an elite class. Those elite classes throughout history have been, first, military leaders that have spent lives of others to conquer others and make themselves royalty, the shamans, frauds and witch doctors that became priests and Mullahs and cult leaders, the business leaders that exploited workers to become wealthy, the village elders that became chiefs (or mayors), and when enough of them band together, it gives rise to governors, Presidents and Emperors.

    The problem is within us. That does not mean it cannot be overcome, we have in large part overcome our native urge to kill our rivals. But this is a more subtle problem that will not be soon overcome, if ever, because the problem is letting our deference to those with high alpha-factors overcome us. Instead of limiting our deference to their leadership in organizing us and steering the ship of state, we extend our deference to let them claim the lion’s share of rewards, to use their power and fortune for selfish reasons, to put themselves above the law, and to forgive them for behavior we would see in others as high crimes.

    That is the real problem within us all, that we can step so willingly across the line from a useful deference to leadership into blind reverence for a demigod cult leader.

  27. Again, thank you Mike as we appreciate your insight and efforts.

    I suppose it might be a difficult a task for someone to have a staff, have such demands and still be able to maintain credibility through the accuracy of what was proffered, perhaps therein lies the problem.

    Walter Cronkite was an example for which I would offer to be a model for a young or new reporter to aspire to. A person who has a reputation for the truth and for honesty has more respect, even from those who disagree. One could achieve respect by creating a culture of accuracy and quality within the staff or organization, one where each individual contributor knows what is expected and collectively they are strong and not having a single point of failure as the Fareed example presents.

    Sadly, much of the news programming is essentially subscriber based, that is, catering to those who subscribe to a particular political belief and their competition the opposition. It seems the search for the truth is now the responsibility of the viewer.

  28. Mike Spindell:

    “you see we do agree on some things.”

    Why wouldnt we? My main disagreement with most people here is economics. Forced vaginal ultrasounds arent my cup of tea but neither is cash for clunkers.

    Your article identifies the problem as monied elites, I would say that most of those monied elites are either fascists or socialists. Warren Buffet is a statist, and so are many of the monied elite. They use the power of the state to protect their wealth, as I have said many times before; the state is the best protector of wealth because they make the rules and have the large guns. It is in the interest of wealthy statists to use their wealth to coerce government to make rules which protect and grow their fortunes. Having to compete legitimately is so passe when you can own a congressman and have him do your dirty work.

    That is why I believe in limited/small government. If you had a revolution in this country the only people hurt would be the poor and the middle class. The wealthy would just leave and take their wealth with them. What we need is to take back government from the statist monied/”intellectual” elite class and start living up to our charter as a Constitutional Republic.

    A good start would be the destruction of the Federal Reserve and an elimination of all banking laws, most of which I think you will find benefit the bankers.

  29. you know Bron, sometimes I am agreeing with you and then you blast into space with some Ayn Rand hackery: “an elimination of all banking laws, most of which I think you will find benefit the bankers”

    Please, there is another step besides wiping out all the laws that the bankers themselves wrote and paid politicians to pass into law.

    Something we know that kept the banks stable for over 50 years. oh, what could that be? Glass seagull? something like that…….

  30. @Bron: We already tried the elimination of all banking laws, it is what led to the greatest depression the world has ever known. The crash of 1929, runs on banks that went bankrupt, suicides of people that trusted banks and lost everything, all of it because banks had no restrictions, were not required to insure deposits in any way, and once the money was bet and lost, no outcome of any lawsuit can get ever get it back.

    This is just one of the central failures of all free marketeering, really. Without regulation, people always find ways to take risks they cannot cover, and “liability” or “responsibility” does not make any difference; it is no good to the victims if some guy is held liable for millions or billions he cannot ever repay. It does them no good if that guy is put in debtors prison for life. Without regulation it always happens, and the person risking more than they can ever repay is playing perfectly valid odds, because his expected payout can be far more than he can ever earn taking only risks he could cover.

    This is just one of the central failure of free markets: The downside of financial risk is naturally limited to just what you have; the upside is unlimited, and without regulation that imbalance produces instability.

    That is what caused the market crash of 1929, recognizing that is why Glass Steagal was passed, and when it was repealed in 1999, the result was pretty much the same, but this time they got bailed out with a few trillion to prevent another Great Depression.

  31. Shano:

    I read an article that postulated the Glass Steagall Act was written for one set of bankers [the Rockefellers] to increase the cost of another group [the House of Morgan] to do business by limiting their ability to compete. It was a pretty good article.

    Wake up Shano, the majority of regulations are for the sole purpose of making competition easier for one group of wealthy elite at the expense of another. It is all done in the name of main street, just like they told us the Wall St. bailout was to protect main street, that was bullshit too.

    Do you like Frederic Bastiat? He would have been against banking regulations as well.

  32. Oh, yea, Bron, I like my bankers to just take the money out of my account directly. And then say, oops! Just like MF Global! Sweet!

  33. two things tell you all you need to know about the Sunday jokeathons:
    Boy Blunder’s campaign people are heard on a BBC film saying they wanted to deal with an uncomfortable question On Meet the Press because Tim Russert would allow them to spread their BS. Then, when they wanted to humiliate Joe Wilson by exposing his wife who was a super secret itel asset the first call they made was to Timmy. TImmy didn’t run with the story until after that slug Novak did his dirty work. But even then Timmy pretended he didn’t know who exposed the CIA agent and even allowed Cheney to lie to the American people on his show.

    These shows are all about maintaining access to the beltway cocktail parties, they are nothing about discussing the state of the nation of informing the populous.

  34. Bron,

    Those laws don’t seem to apply to the wizards of Wall Street.

    Goldman Non-Prosecution: AG Eric Holder Has No Balls
    By Matt Taibbi
    August 15, 2012

    I’ve been on deadline in the past week or so, so I haven’t had a chance to weigh in on Eric Holder’s predictable decision to not pursue criminal charges against Goldman, Sachs for any of the activities in the report prepared by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn two years ago.

    Last year I spent a lot of time and energy jabbering and gesticulating in public about what seemed to me the most obviously prosecutable offenses detailed in the report – the seemingly blatant perjury before congress of Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman executives, and the almost comically long list of frauds committed by the company in its desperate effort to unload its crappy “cats and dogs” mortgage-backed inventory.

    In the notorious Hudson transaction, for instance, Goldman claimed, in writing, that it was fully “aligned” with the interests of its client, Morgan Stanley, because it owned a $6 million slice of the deal. What Goldman left out is that it had a $2 billion short position against the same deal.

    If that isn’t fraud, Mr. Holder, just what exactly is fraud?

    Still, it wasn’t surprising that Holder didn’t pursue criminal charges against Goldman. And that’s not just because Holder has repeatedly proven himself to be a spineless bureaucrat and obsequious political creature masquerading as a cop, and not just because rumors continue to circulate that the Obama administration – supposedly in the interests of staving off market panic – made a conscious decision sometime in early 2009 to give all of Wall Street a pass on pre-crisis offenses.

    No, the real reason this wasn’t surprising is that Holder’s decision followed a general pattern that has been coming into focus for years in American law enforcement. Our prosecutors and regulators have basically admitted now that they only go after the most obvious and easily prosecutable cases.

    If the offense committed doesn’t fit the exact description in the relevant section of the criminal code, they pass. The only white-collar cases they will bring are absolute slam-dunk situations where some arrogant rogue commits a blatant crime for individual profit in a manner thoroughly familiar to even the non-expert portion of the jury pool/citizenry.

    In other words, they’ll take on somebody like Raj Rajaratnam, who stacked his illegal insider trades so brazenly and carelessly that his case almost reads like a finance version of Jeff Dahmer tripping over bodies in his Milwaukee apartment. Or they’ll pursue Bernie Madoff on the tenth or eleventh time he crosses their desk, after years of nonaction, and after he breaks down weeping and confessing. Basically, if someone backs a dump truck up to the DOJ and unloads the entire case, gift-wrapped, a contrite and confessing criminal included, a guy like Eric Holder might, after much agonizing deliberation, decide to prosecute.

    But here’s the thing: most of the crimes Wall Street people commit involve highly specific, highly individualized transactions that won’t fit Eric Holder’s bag of cookie-cutter statutory definitions. That is not the same thing as saying they’re not crimes. They are: the crimes of the crisis period were and are very basic crimes like fraud, theft, perjury, and tax evasion, only they’re dressed up in millions of pages of camouflaging verbiage.

    Or, even more often, the crimes have also been sanctified in advance by “reputable” law and accounting firms, who (for huge fees) offered their clients opinions that, if X and Y are signed in accordance with Z, and A and B are stipulated by the parties, and everyone’s sitting Indian-style and facing the moon when the deal is agreed to, then it’s not fucked up and illegal when Goldman Sachs tells you it’s a co-investor in your deal when it’s actually got $2 billion bet against you.

    You know that look a dog gives you when you show it something confusing, like an electric razor or a lawn sprinkler? That’s the look federal prosecutors give when companies like Goldman wave their attorneys’ sanctifying opinions at them. They scratch their heads and say: “Oh, wow, well since this was signed in Australia by three millionaire lawyers wearing magic invisibility cloaks, it really isn’t fraud! They’re right!”

    As one high-profile attorney currently working on a closely-watched case involving a Wall Street bank put it to me yesterday: “With these Justice guys, everything the Wall Street lawyers say makes perfect sense to them, no matter how dumb it is.”

  35. If the media was not representing the elite (for the most part) maybe we have our Woodward and Bernsteins, which we so desperately need.
    (And not just elite they do not know what news is/have a conservative bias if these 2 anecdotes are any indication: When Romney did not go to a Wawa in Quakertown Pa, his announced destination, apparently because there were about 100 protestors, the news was that he did not go, the reporter asked 1 question, of one protestor. The rest of the story was dedicated to his deciding on a meatball sandwich and his apparent unease with the computer technology needed to order the sandwich. When the nuns on the bus came to Mike Fitzpsatrick’s office, a tea party republican, they showed him shaking hands with the nuns but no audio so it looked they were in agreement. Again, absent one protestor, there were many there that day, the news Fox and believe KYW, just showed the nuns and the bus in an about 1 minute story, and gave nothing about the reason the nuuns were there and about the protest, and the protestors,.)

  36. Elaine:

    I guess Mike is right, the monied elite take care of their own. So I am curious as to why you think their laws are going to protect you? They havent so far.

    So why not just give up the charade and let the market determine winners and losers? There really isnt much to left to lose, maybe if people had to really think about what they were doing and pay attention to the fine print or not even deal with companies who had fine print, there would be more transparency. The sunlight would help disinfect the financial institutions.

  37. Bron,

    The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in1999. The stock market is stacked against people like me. There has been no transparency with regard to financial products like Credit Default Swaps. We have banks that are too big too fail. We have had no real reform to change the way things were done on Wall Street that led to the financial meltdown.

  38. eLAINE:

    i am just a small guy as well, but you can make money in the market if you dont gamble and dont buy mutual funds unless you really know how they make money. I have a fairly simple strategy, quality stocks which pay a dividend. It isnt sexy but it works.

    My personal opinion is that Glass Steagall was political expediency. The sponsors of the bill were not all that thrilled with it. It is, in my opinion, the banking equivalent of the Patriot Act. It was passed in the middle of a crisis because the congress had to do something.

  39. Elaine:

    you ought to read a history of the law. The one I read was quite interesting and the author’s premise was the Rockefellers wanted to make the Morgans pay more to do business. They used the depression as a cover.

  40. Bron, to chime in, because the proper laws and regulations do protect people. “Their Laws” to benefit ‘them’ need replacing. If the law against murder was repealed here in St. Louis the wise thing to do isn’t give up and wear a sign that says “WTF, Just Kill Me”, it’s to get the law reinstated. You know this, your question is disingenuous. Nice try for a blawg where the audience would be more low-information though.:-)

    Think of the Glass in Glass-Steagall like the glass between the baby and the lion:

  41. Chris Hayes, Sat & Sun …MSNBC 8am-10am give him a look.

    Tom Friedman prior to 2001 was to me an incredible shiny light in his explanations of middle east conditions. He has a published book from this period. From Beirut to Jerusalem is the one I read. I am not a scholar, but I found this to be a most informative book.
    . IMO it was after 9/11 that he sold out.
    He made 100% wrong predictions for 4 years after !!!! anyone remember that? The expert ( well deserved in 2000) became a pundit stooge,… I guess the pay was good, and research was not as important.
    …. Anyways I respected his columns in the NYT tremendously, then I began thinking he was full of it. Almost as if he was listening to other peoples observations, then talking to selected individuals and writing pap for his paycheck. IMO he was a heck of a journalist at one time.

  42. lottakatz:

    The Glass Steagall Act is a regulation which controls how business is done. That is a little different than a law against murder.

    And laws are already on the books for theft and fraud.

    Do you know the history of the Glass Steagall Act? Did you know that prior to its passage banks selling securities were 4 times less likely to fail? If that is true why was it even needed?

    An abundance of information doesnt mean much if it isnt correct.

    The laws are already there to punish theft and fraud and have been for many years, you dont need special rules you just need to prosecute some people for theft and fraud.

  43. Brob,

    “you ought to read a history of the law. The one I read was quite interesting and the author’s premise was the Rockefellers wanted to make the Morgans pay more to do business. They used the depression as a cover.”

    I have read much about the Glass-Steagall act.

    Here’s a little history for you:

    James Lardner
    November 10, 2009

    Ten years ago last November, a Republican-led Congress and a Democratic White House rolled out the red carpet for a new age of global, “full service,” too-big-to-fail financial institutions. The move repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, a set of reforms responsible for the longest crisis-free period in U.S. financial history. At the time, industry lobbyists argued that this modern experiment in deregulation would bring greater stability and competitiveness to the financial services industry. Today, it is clear that they were wrong—and spectacularly so. Competition is suffering from high concentration and anti-competitive subsidies to the biggest institutions, and the system has been radically destabilized by unregulated activities, costing taxpayers nearly $19.3 trillion1 in bailouts and subsidies. As Washington debates the best way to prevent future crises, it is helpful to understand how public policy helped bring about the current one.

    What Glass-Steagall Was
    Officially known as the Banking Act of 1933, it was one of the landmark pieces of legislation associated with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The measure established the concept of deposit insurance and set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to provide it. Glass-Steagall2 also erected a firewall between commercial banks, which take deposits and make loans, and investment banks, which organize the sale of bonds and stocks.

    The Road to Glass-Steagall
    Between 1929 and 1933, more than 4,000 U.S. banks had closed permanently, saddling depositors with close to $400 million in losses. In March 1933, President Roosevelt had been forced to shut down the entire banking system for four days. The law at the time allowed banks to traffic freely in securities. A congressional investigation led by a firebrand prosecutor named Ferdinand Pecora unearthed massive evidence of recklessness, cronyism, and fraud both in the use of depositor funds and in the promotion of securities for sale to the public. A top executive of Chase National Bank (ancestor of today’s JPMorgan Chase) had enriched himself by short-selling his company’s shares during the stock market crash. National City Bank (now Citibank) had taken a heap of failed loans to Latin American governments, packaged them as securities, and unloaded them on unsuspecting investors.3

    Banking and securities underwriting made for a poisonous combination, many people concluded. The Glass-Steagall Act accordingly gave banks a year to decide: they could get out of the securities business, and enjoy the benefits of deposit insurance and access to the low-interest credit of the Federal Reserve; or they could be investment banks and brokerage houses, forego those privileges.

    What The Law Wrought
    Glass-Steagall’s goal was to lay a new foundation of integrity and stability for America’s banks. It worked. Financial panics had been regular and devastating occurrences since before the Civil War. No more. While individual banks continued to fail occasionally, their depositors escaped largely unscathed. Trust in the stock and bond markets also grew; for investors around the world, the U.S. financial system seemed to set a high standard of transparency and reliability.

    Building on the apparent success of 1930s banking and securities regulation, Congress decided to establish a Glass-Steagall-style wall between banking and insurance. Under the Bank Holding Act of 1956, banks were permitted to sell insurance, but not to underwrite it. (Had that rule remained in force down to the present day, AIG would have been unable to weave banks into its web of toxic credit derivatives, which are structured as insurance contracts.)

    How Quickly We Forget
    By the early 1980s, anti-regulation advocates had won sway in Washington. With steady weakening of the financial regulatory structure came a new period of crisis and volatility that began with the Savings and Loan crisis4 and has yet to end. In the spring of 1987, the Federal Reserve Board voted 3-2 to let banks engage in a range of securities underwriting activities. One of the dissenting votes was cast by Fed chairman Paul Volcker, who feared (among other things) that banks would again seek to profit from lucrative loan securitization opportunities.5

    His successor, Alan Greenspan, had more faith in the self-correcting machinery of unfettered markets. During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Greenspan and Treasury Secretary James Baker took steps that weakened Glass-Steagall by, for example, letting banks underwrite municipal bonds on the premise that they were safe by definition. In 1991, the administration called on Congress to repeal the law outright. Although a bill to that effect was voted down in the House of Representatives that year, the anti-Glass-Steagall movement was clearly gaining steam.6

  44. Mike S, an excellent and insightful posting, If more people really understood the nature of the punditry we are daily exposed to our politics might be far different. Shano’s excellent comment “Thank you Bill Clinton for media consolidation. it makes it so much easier to stay on message!” points to one method of returning actual debate and journalism to our country.

    I don’t watch the Sunday shows and consider John Stewart the best political commentator practicing the art. The ‘same old’, ‘same old’ that kills me about news and opinion TV was perfectly contextualized and explained by your article. Thanks.

  45. Byron Dorgan statement during the US Senate’s repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act. “I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930s is true in 2010”.

    Dorgan was one of only 8 senators who voted “No” on the deregulation bill (the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act) in 1999.

    He also said this about derivatives: “We are moving towards greater risk. We must do something to address the regulation of hedge funds and especially derivatives in this country, $33 trillion, a substantial amount of it held by the 25 largest banks in this country, a substantial amount being traded in proprietary accounts of those banks. That kind of risk overhanging the financial institutions of this country one day, with a thud, will wake everyone up.”

    Dorgan was right on both counts… we now know with certainty.

  46. In reading this article, I had somewhat of a related thought. That is, how do individuals manage to maintain so many obligations?

    A few individuals manage to teach at university, write several columns for various publications, engage in lectures or speaking arrangements, maintain a family, be on boards of directors and so forth.

    It is this skill that to me seems to be the difference between success and self actualization.


  47. Darren: they hire people to take care of the mundane work of houses, meals, laundry, scheduling, communications, et al. yes, they all have a small staff to accomplish this.

  48. Shano.

    Yes, they do have the staff but I really wonder what gives a person the drive and the ability to manage such affairs.

    Certainly this would be liberating to have such tools, and to concerntrate on what a person truly enjoys. Though it can’t be always easy.

  49. TonyC,

    Comment from a late arrival.

    Someone here taught me the name of that factor.

    According to that source hamdu thrives best if it is
    reinforced by deeds or words each day.

    Is that an explanation of many comments posted here?

    Ie the drive behind them?

    I buy the rest of your comment. As usual. But never guaranteed of course.

  50. Noam Chomsky describes this form of virtual censorship in “Manufacturing Consent.” The book is every bit as timely today as it was when the book was published in 1988.

  51. Lottakatz, I have thought (and said) for a long time that we have no more philosophers in our culture and that we are entirely dependent upon the comedians for this crucial service now. Therefore I really appreciate your comments about Jon Stewart.

    Tony C, Idealist: HAMDU might or might not be the factor Tony C is referring to. If I understand it correctly, what you’re calling “HAMDU” is a stand-up comic’s construct that is vaguely pronounced “HUMDOO” and it derives from the acronym “Heterosexual Male Dominance Units.”

    According to the routine, HMDU is “the currency of our culture.”

    Indeed, you do not need to be heterosexual to have lots of HMDU; you do not need to be male; Janet Reno had ENORMOUS HMDU in her day. (Remember Waco, Texas?)

    If, however, one is born heterosexual and male in America, one has a certain “bank” of HMDU to start with.

    One reason suggested for why straight men fear gay men is that they realize that gay men (except those in the closet, obviously) have voluntarily given up some HMDU, and the act of voluntarily giving up any amount of HMDU is scary to HMDU-deficient people and to HMDU addicts as well.

    It’s a fairly complex system with lots of ins and outs. Tony C, does this look like the same phenomenon you were describing?

  52. Elaine:

    yes, that is the left’s history of the banking act.

    here are some other resources:

    This is by Alexander Tabarrok who holds the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at George Mason University.

    Or “Is the Glass-Steagall Act Justified? A Study of the U.S. Experience with Universal Banking Before 1933

    Randal S. Kroszner and Raghuram G. Rajan

    “The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 removed commercial banks from securities underwriting business. We evaluate the argument for the separation of commercial and investment banking, that conflicts of interest induce commercial banks to fool the public into investing in securities which turn out to be of low quality. A comparison of the performance of securities underwritten by commercial and investment banks prior to the Act shows no evidence of this. Instead, the public appears to have rationally accounted for the possibility of conflicts of interest and this appears to have constrained the banks to underwrite high-quality securities.”

    George Benston went through the entire Pecora hearings and found them to be a complete sham.”

    His book on the subject is:

    “The Separation of Commercial and Investment Banking: The Glass-Steagall Act Revisited and Reconsidered”

    “Carlos Ramirez later showed that the separation of commercial and investment banking increased the cost of external finance.”

    Did Glass-Steagall Increase the Cost of External Finance for Corporate Investment?: Evidence from Bank and Insurance Company Affiliations
    Carlos D. Ramírez
    The Journal of Economic History
    Vol. 59, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 372-396

  53. “Whosoever tells a thing in the name of him that said it, brings redemption to the world” — Why is this so?
    ’cause such a person is an ass, and we all know that Messiah will appear riding a donkey…

  54. “yes, that is the left’s history of the banking act.

    here are some other revisionist apologist fantasy resources:”

    You should really just say you’re making shit up as you go along rather than quote any von Mises organelle, Bron. Post hoc rationalization for the Austrian School’s Political Polemic for Greed Posing as Economics is their specialty, but actual science, economics or history? Not so much.

  55. TonyC,

    If I broke some rule or your feeling of integrity by posting your comment to MikeS on the one party system and the alpha factor on another site, then I apologize.

    I did it without your signature, to “protect the innocent” as I added.

    It was in the way of stuffing it into the mouth of a Ryan enthusiast. Not that he would understand, but maybe others there would.

    What is the rule or custom on that? Is prior permission needed?

  56. Here’s my friend’s comment to this article:

    This editorial, merely-front-man role ascribed to Zakaria
    partakes, methinks, of the pervasive top-down, nondemocratic structure of our society, about which, if memory serves, I had complained before.

    The senator does not merely don a suit and brandish an attache case in his mission to Washington, D.C., but has in addition huge staffs both there and in his home state; POTUS himself sits astride a speechwriter pool [no secret there]; the professor surrounds himself with indentured graduate students; heck, even during the Italian renaissance, every painter of note drew upon the labor of anonymous apprentices. And don’t even get me started about our CEO’s, our so ever “talented” CEO’s!!

  57. Gene,

    The “left’s” history of Earth is that our planet is much more than several thousand years old…and that dinosaurs and humans didn’t co-exist…and that humans evolved from earlier lifeforms.

    Maybe “truth” has a liberal bias–as they say.

  58. The guy is a professor at George Mason University. The other sources are books or articles from the Journal of Economic History found on JSTOR which I dont think has anything to do with the Mises Institute.

    That you fail to realize there are works on the subject other than socialist apologists for the great depression is your failing.

    Raghuram Rajan is the Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
    Prior to resuming teaching in 2007, Dr. Rajan was the Economic Counselor and Director of Research (in plain English, the Chief Economist) at the International Monetary Fund (from 2003). Since then, he has chaired the Indian government’s Committee on Financial Sector Reforms, which submitted its report in September 2008.

    Carlos D. Ramirez is currently Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University He has been at the Economics Department since 1993. He currently teaches graduate courses in International Monetary Economics and Macroeconomics, and has taught undergraduate courses in Money and Banking and International Finance. He serves as Program Director for the Masters Program in economics, is a member or advisor of several dissertation committees, member or chair of several qualifying exam committees. In addition, since 2005 he has been a Resident Fellow at the Center for Financial Research at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. His current research interests include banking, financial markets, public choice, international economics, wine economics, as well as China’s economic development and growth. For more, including a list of research activity, please see his Curriculum Vitae.

    George J. Benston is professor of finance, accounting, and economics in the Goizueta Business School and professor of economics in the college of arts and sciences at Emory University. He is a founder and current member of the Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee and a member of the Financial Economists’ Roundtable. Benston has taught at the University of Rochester, University of Chicago, University of California at Berkeley, and other schools. He has a Ph.D. in finance and economics from the University of Chicago, an MBA from New York University in accounting, and a BA from Queens College. He has published extensively and has consulted for and worked with the principal U.S. banking regulatory agencies and testified before several committees of the U.S. Congress and regulatory bodies.

    I see a good deal of economic expertise in those 3 but not much about the Mises Institute.

    I am sure that Alexander Tabbarrok has written for more than just the Mises Institute seeing as how he has an endowed chair in economics at George Mason University.

    Do you just pull those comments out of your a$$? I am beginning to think so.

  59. Elaine:

    “The “left’s” history of Earth is that our planet is much more than several thousand years old…and that dinosaurs and humans didn’t co-exist…and that humans evolved from earlier lifeforms.

    Maybe “truth” has a liberal bias–as they say.”

    Well considering I and most of the conservatives I know think the same way, I am not really sure why you would bring that up. Truth is truth, it has no bias.

    I have offered an alternative to the left’s “history”/rationalization for the Glass-Steagall Act. You might do well to read these books and articles instead of dismissing them out of hand. I am not afraid of truth, why are you?

  60. Bron,

    “This is by Alexander Tabarrok who holds the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at George Mason University.”

    From Tabarrok’s website:
    “I hold the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and am an associate professor of economics at George Mason University.”

    I did a lot of research on the Mercatus Center and wrote a post about it for the Turley blog:

    The Mercatus Center: A Tentacle of the Deregulation-Loving Kochtopus Helping in the Effort to Deny Climate Change and Eviscerate the EPA

  61. Appeal to authority much, Bron?

    The fact that they are published through von Mises (one of them even directly thanks that clown Rothbard) shows they are Austrian “friendlies”.

    The problem just isn’t the von Mises Institute being disreputable, Bron. The problem is that whole “school” (as loathe as I am to use that term in conjunction with a bunch of non-scientific poseurs hiding politics behind the guise of economics) is disreputable. That’s what happens when you don’t base your theories on facts but rather the pronouncements of fools appealing to their own authority like von Mises. I don’t give a good goddamn if they also publish through Harlequin Romance. They are espousing the same kind of mystical “economics” and revisionist history that the Austrian School (and von Mises) is famous for. The “unpopular” ideas you like to put forth aren’t just unpopular because they inherently suck (and they do). They are unpopular because any critical thinker sees through their shoddy work and sloppy thought quite easily.

    Pulled out of your ass? That’s exactly what happens when you quote anything or anyone associated with von Mises and Austrian School. The only people who respect them? Are themselves. Which is simply ironic given they are simple minded apologists for corporatist greed.

  62. Bron,

    You claim the information I provided about the Glass-Steagall Act was leftist history. You dismiss information that doesn’t fit into your ideology. Are you afraid of the truth?

    In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins
    Highly religious Americans most likely to believe in creationism
    by Frank Newport

    PRINCETON, NJ — Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God’s guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

    Majority of Republicans Are Creationists

    Highly religious Americans are more likely to be Republican than those who are less religious, which helps explain the relationship between partisanship and beliefs about human origins. The major distinction is between Republicans and everyone else. While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.

  63. From ALEC Exposed/Sourcewatch:

    The Mercatus Center, part of George Mason University, is one of the best-funded think tanks in the United States at the moment. It is listed as “sister organization” to the Institute of Humane Studies. “Mercatus generates knowledge and understanding of how institutions affect the freedom to prosper and holds organizations accountable for their impact on that freedom,” it states on its website. [2]

    The Mercatus Center was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. Democratic strategist Rob Stein described the Mercatus Center as “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.”

    The Mercatus Center has engaged in campaigns involving deregulation, especially environmental deregulation. It now fills the role once played by the economics department at Chicago University as the originator of extreme neoliberal ideas. Fourteen of the 23 regulations that George W Bush put on his hitlist were, according to the Wall Street Journal, first suggested by academics working at the Mercatus Centre.[1]


    The Mercatus Center was founded as the Center for Market Processes by former economist Rich Fink, executive vice president of Koch Industries and former president of the Koch Foundations, who went on to found Citizens for a Sound Economy. Fink heads Koch Industries’ lobbying operation in Washington…

  64. @Darren Smith: It is this skill [accomplishing many things in parallel] that to me seems to be the difference between success and self actualization.

    I do not know why you think such people are “self-actualized.” I am in the group you describe, I usually have three or four things going on at the same time. I would call such people “organized.”

    No offense, but I have always thought that term, “self-actualization,” was drivel. As far as I can tell it means “reaching one’s potential,” but nobody ever reaches their potential, not even Darwin, Newton or Einstein. It is a ridiculous target and a formula for failure.

    If what you seek is accomplishment, let me suggest the pithy advice of two masters: Stephen King, the author, and Steve Martin, the entertainer. Steve Martin says he is often asked by audiences in Q&A how to become famous like him. His advice is, “You have to become so good at something that you cannot be ignored.” In entertainment there are plenty of places to perform for free, local places, open mikes, karaoke bars, street corners, whatever. He says it isn’t about you finding an agent, it is about making an agent want to find you.

    Stephen King, in Q&A, is often asked how to become a writer. He says, “By writing. What is stopping you? When you get good enough, try to sell it, but keep writing, every day, without exception.”

    He says he started out, while working full time, writing six hours every day, meaning 365 days a year, without fail. He wrote several novels worth of material before he ever sold anything.

    We follow Stephen Martin’s advice to become “so good that people cannot ignore you” by putting in the hours of practice and dedication to our craft. We do that by following Stephen King’s advice of self-discipline and schedule.

    I think the reason most people do not accomplish much is simply because they want to live their day by day life by the seat of their pants and their gut instinct. They are impulsive, and they want to stay that way, a schedule seems like a burden to them, organization of their time feels like work.

    For me the trick was overcoming that prejudice and seeing organization as the tool that let me manage my limited time to accomplish something. I truly feel like my schedule frees me, because it is through organization and scheduling that I know everything else is taken care of, I have no other responsibilities, the session I have allotted is my time to do that work and nothing is going to fall apart or collapse while I do it. It helps me focus, it eliminates worry and distractions so I can work.

  65. Say a blank-faced lie five times and some will believe it. Say it one time to a religious person and it will be believed.

    And God created all those anthro fossils too. And we fought with dinosaurs. And now we are using nukes to combat evil. We could use them against the gays, they say, but they have inseminated….sorry, infiltrated us. Uhhh.

    Do we really have so many idiots in America? 58% of the Republicans.


  66. A great example of organization and industry was Benjamin Franklin, according to himself.

    He is said to be our first franchiser. Training and financing newspaper publishers.

    Most of us are simply lazy and have never experienced a fully engaged life. Me too.

    Someday, you might rise up and discover the joys of doing…..just anything will do. What a nice feeling it will be.

  67. Bron, I notice your rebuttal to Glass Steagall is written in 1999, before the real crisis, so it has no merit.

    Here is a great discussion of Austrian economics and why fake Libertarianism is connected to von Mises failure to account for external costs. Confusing the object with the ends it must satisfy. The Ayn Rand School & Paul Ryan are fake Libertarians. Max Keiser talks to Sandeep Jaitly of about the real Austrian economics of Carl Menger versus the fake Austrian economics of Ludwig von Mises. The interview starts around 12 minutes in:

  68. You cannot believe anything from any think tank then, liberal or conservative because the funding is all from people with a particular ideology whether it be the Kochs or George Soros.

    Come on.

  69. Gene H:

    you might want to read a little bit more about economics.

    The only “critical” thinkers who “see” right through free markets are those who do not like free markets.

    By this time I would think you would be hesitant to make a statement like this:

    ” They are unpopular because any critical thinker sees through their shoddy work and sloppy thought quite easily.”

    It really shows how ignorant you truly are concerning economics. There are hundreds if not thousands of economists who think free markets are a good thing and that gold is a good form of money.

  70. shano:

    RT? come on they are a bunch of left wing partisan hacks. Like Fox News except with far fewer viewers. How can you trust them with the truth?

  71. Bron, Max Keiser has his own web site. RT picks him up sometimes, but he is a free entity. And he was a free entity long before RT picked up his show.
    So, you refuse to address his points about all you fake Libertarians and the mistakes in analysis made by von Mises?

    Of course, ideologues cannot rebut anyone who may have a valid point that does not support their flawed thinking. In my opinion, the biggest mistake vonMises makes is leaving out external costs. This causes most of his theories to fail to support reality.

    Ideas are nice, but they must be verified by reality.

  72. Shano,

    Appreciate that.

    Don’t throw bad money after bad money to extinguish a debt fire.
    Don’t expect interest on your bank deposits if you don’t realize they will loan it out for at least 20 imess at double your rate.

    The rest was kind of interesting too. Gotta go look things up: fiat banking for instance. Where can I get in on that? And how can I get to make inside deals like Ryan? Smart man. And Bernanke was his advisor too.
    And they get to make the rules these guys in Congress?

  73. Bron,

    “You cannot believe anything from any think tank then, liberal or conservative because the funding is all from people with a particular ideology whether it be the Kochs or George Soros.”

    It is best to check one’s sources of information and to seek out a number of different sources. One should also check to find out if the moneyed people who are providing the think tanks’ funding are doing it with the express purpose of pushing agendas that will benefit them or their businesses/corporations in some way.

  74. ElaineM.,

    Why would they do otherwise? Philanthropy?
    Just shooting at dead fish. Not at you.
    Or was it just trying to get Bron to understand?

    Just anticipating Bron’s answer. Answer not expected.

  75. @Malisha: Tony C, does this look like the same phenomenon you were describing?

    The phenomenon I am describing applies to women, children, men, gays, soldiers, artists, anybody. It is a phenomenon of human psychology.

    It is probably best seen as an unavoidable slippery slope of sorts. First, realize we are drawn to belong to tribes; that is human nature, and why we have circles of friends at all.

    But tribes have leaders, because some people are just better at friendly persuasion than others. Also human nature. Leadership is useful, but the slippery slope is when leadership morphs into command, when persuasion becomes orders, when negotiated policy becomes decrees from on high.

    I do not know why it is true, or what survival value it has (at least that is not coming to mind as I write), but it is true: We humans have a distinct tendency to elevate leadership to near worship of infallibility. It is why rock star performers (who are exploiting many subconscious cues of rebellious leadership) have groupies. It is why movie stars, sports stars and other celebrities are not laughed off the stage when they tell you what to buy or how to vote, even if they are complete dummies.

    Why in the world would anybody believe Michael Jordan’s endorsement of underwear meant anything at all?

    It isn’t logical, but the answer is because he is seen as a leader and virtually infallible.

    The phenomenon I am talking about is a slippery slope. Specifically we can defer to leadership when we might have done things differently or even disagree (a reasonable thing to do in order to avoid a complete deadlock of everybody insisting upon their own way). But we can slip from rational deference into blind, unquestioning trust and a belief that a leader is in special, elite class, somehow better than us and deserving of privilege and reverence.

    It does not have anything to do with gender or race or age. It occurs in any group of any age, leaders will emerge and people will defer to them. If the group lasts long enough, the leaders may become revered and obeyed without question, and (if the leader demands it) wealthier and more privileged than their followers, and few people will think twice about whether leaders deserve that privileged treatment or not.

    It is a very deep irrationality built into us, and it may have some survival value, but if it does I do not know what it is. However, in the modern world, I think deference to and near worship of authority and “leaders” is responsible for the majority of our problems.

  76. TonyC and Malisha,

    Nobody asked me, but here is my answer. Occured while reading TónyC’s comment.

    We have to go back to animals. One very basic decision by them is when conflicts emerge to use the least damaging way to exhibit their opposition, ie threats before physical conflict. Seen most often in rutting competitions.
    The second point is that the “cost” of repairing the body from damage received in combat must be much less than the prize to be won. Ie the success in procreation versus the cost of dying.

    Rutting conflicts often end in death of aged bulls, to give one example.

    Now sexual or procreation are not the only “desireables” in the panoply needed by us. Thus its guidance in others than males who compete on females.

    And from that we can go into the “competition vs cooperation” discussion that rages even today, I believe.

  77. If we are to believe Dredd, or for that matter the practice of breeding, we must give some weight to 10,000 years of selection and external pressure on us as a population.

    Herodotus tells the tale of the ancient ruler who received an emissary from another king, asking his principles of ruling his people.
    The king took him out into a ripening wheat field and walking through it struck off the heads of wheat that stuck up. He confirmed his principle also in words.

    Need I say more?

  78. @Idealist: Need I say more?

    Yes. You must explain the principle of how such a ruler became a ruler in the first place, because that is where the real psychological mystery lies. Rationally speaking, why didn’t his principle (strike off the heads of those that dare stand out) apply to him?

    Why doesn’t it still? Surely the king is not the fittest, strongest, swiftest warrior in the land anymore, that honor belongs to a 25-28 year old young buck. What holds that warrior back? If it is the guards of the king, what in the psychology of the guards compels them to risk their lives to protect (or even obey) a cruel and arbitrary king, that kills the bright and bold with such disdain, just to protect his power? What in the psychology of his people lets them accept such cruelty in a king, to allow him the privilege of immunity from murder for his own selfish interest?

    There is much to be said about the irrationality of accepting such an elite psychopath as one’s king and ruler, and even holding such people in reverence and accepting their immunity to laws that apply to one’s self.

    That was the point of my post, to point out that there is much remaining to be understood, in both ourselves and in others, that such irrationality has persisted for 10,000 years or more.

    I believe that like our occasional angry impulses to violence, that irrational “deferential posture” is a very negative feature of human nature, it is an impulse we should strive to control and suppress, but before we will ever do that we must first recognize it as a bad emotion that leads to endless trouble.

  79. Bron,

    Considering that you advocate a magical thinking school of thought vis a vis the Austrian School? There is little more amusing than being called ignorant by the delusional. Get back to me when you follow economic principles grounded in reality instead of von Mises unscientific rationalizations for greed (and ergo selfishness) being good. Oh, that’s right, every argument in favor of your beloved Austrian School you (or others) have ever floated in this forum has been quite handily dismantled by myself and many others like a poorly manufactured and designed child’s toy. The Austrian “School”, I’ll say it again, is a political polemic pretending to be actual economics and that polemic is a cheap rationalization for unbridled greed. Sorry if that conflicts with the conformation it falsely provides for your Randian world view. Cognitive dissonance is most uncomfortable, but you should be used to it by now.

  80. shano:

    “Of course, ideologues cannot rebut anyone who may have a valid point that does not support their flawed thinking.”

    And you arent an ideologue? That is the thing that kills me, you and Gene and Elaine are every bit the ideologues you claim me to be. You source from partisan left wing sites which take money from left wing billionaires who are trying to influence the dialog every bit as hard as right wing billionaires but those sites are OK because they espouse the beliefs you hold.

  81. Bron, the difference is this- we can source out facts in reality. the GOP and radical right wing just make stuff up and repeat that message over and over until people believe it. We call it the echo chamber.

    Soros is not getting richer by the political actions he takes. Nor is Buffet or Bill Gates. That is the difference between these ultra rich and the Kochs and Waltons.

    The money they spend in politics makes them richer. it is an investment in obscuring the truth so people will let them have their way and profit from it while others are hurt by these actions.

    For example, reducing anti pollution regulations profit the Kochs, while they damage the health of many and destroy the environment we all rely on for life, and completing this destructive cycle society pays the bills for the sickness and destruction caused by Koch.

    That von Mises refused to account for these costs too, and you think that is fine, is ignorance of reality. You like these hidden profits for some reason? the only people who do are the ultra rich who make massive profits from ignoring them.

  82. Bron,

    What are the beliefs that I espouse? That climate change is real? That I believe our society should have social safety nets? That we should support public education? That we should be egalitarian? That wealthy Americans who can well afford to pay their income taxes should pay them? That the working poor may need a helping hand from government at times? That I’m anti-war? That I’d prefer to have my tax dollars go to pay for education and social programs instead of endless wars and subsidies to corporations? That our political system has been corrupted? That I don’t believe that public money should pay students’ tuition to private and religious schools? Should I go on?

    What are the beliefs that you espouse?

  83. Shano

    God, I hate Max Keiser. (But I love Paul Krugman.) He (Max) often has some prof on from Missouri that I also can’t stand. The guy from Missouri says that Obama wants to depress salaries and GDP by 10% or something crazy. and engages in long discussions about “saving” Latvia. I haven’t been able to determine what Krugman thinks of either one of them. I can JUST barely manage to balance my checkbook. Anybody else have any thoughts on Keiser?

  84. He is right about the banks and the crimes of the bankers. I like many of his guests and Stacey picks interesting stories to report sometimes, they try to be funny.

    But he is wack, yea. Anyone who chose to work on Wall Street is wacky. I hate to listen to him too much, when he goes on about the trillions in the shadow banking system & derivatives and high speed computer trading it just gets depressing……just knowing the mechanics of it.

    Krugman (who I also like sometimes) would never dare engaged Max Keiser in public, too dangerous, anything could happen. I would like to see Max debate Krugman. Now that would be pay per view tv

  85. TonyC,

    I thought my “animal model” explanation covered it.
    One. Survival by avoiding conflict.
    Two. Procreation if possible, fight to the death by those with little procreative lifetime left (old bulls).
    Three Avoidance of bodily damage which is costly to repair and can diminish chances of survival. Hence demonstrative tactics not physical ones chosen first.

    It get’s more complicated with humans. But it must bottom in some man’s needs whcih normal procreative patterns can not satisfy. Ie an abnormality.

    Cooperation implies deference, deferance even of your needs in favor of getting them satisfied later, or on the promise of the person you are negotiating with.

    There are of course a complex mix of personalities:
    Some others, of the same temperament like the one mentioned above are quite willing to cooperate, lending their influence to his expansion, in return for a smaller cake but an assured one.
    Acqusition of a marginally better ecnomomic position which eases buying influence or support is also a factor.

    A persuasive tongue using not only carrots but sticks to entice and drive the underling, an organized society where titles of respect can be had and bought, and kings who can be killed by newcomers, establishing a new dynasty for how long or short time.

    Those with low drive, lacking in persuasive skills and the other requisites will remain in the low man position.

    Order which assures his dynasty will be the primary goal for the pathologicl leader. Why pathological?
    Because his need for not only a thousand sheep, but also a thousand sons to assure his genes pass on is not good for others nor the gene pool. Homozygotism is promoted.

    The early Aryans who invaded Indian subcontinent were led by elected chiefs, one for each tribe. It was not
    hereditary. The new one could be elected any year, and was based on warcraft, not money. How this was “corrupted” and changed is outside my kin. But indications are that this is key subject for much study of just the Aryans. How they then went from nomadism to sedentary life styles and occupations and societal forms as well.

    Just speculations and ruminations.

  86. Rebellions. There have been. But deadly consequences for the rebellious and their families has resulted in enrichment of “docile” genes in the pool.

    Breeding in other words.

    Fact: It takes about 20 generatios to breed from wild
    foxes to those who are tame and aimiable to human contact like a dog will be. Russian research demonstrated on TV program.

  87. @Bron: We are not ideologues at all, unlike you, I can take apart any argument you put forth and show you a realistic hypothetical situation that disproves your argument.

    The fact is that greed is a powerful motivator, in fact it is so powerful that it has motivated every crime imaginable, from petty shoplifting to genocide. That is why the free market has never worked, and will never work, because without the threat of societal retribution in the form of stiff fines or jail or punishment, greed motivates people to cheat, to lie, to endanger others, to exploit the misfortune of others, to shift risk from themselves to others with deception and trickery, and to use their power and leverage to coerce others into a subjugation trap.

    It is the regulations that punish cheating, lying, endangerment, deception and trickery. It is the regulations that protect the weak from being coerced by the strong. Every single thing you think the free market would allow is false, every single thing you claim as a benefit of the free market is actually the benefit of a properly regulated market.

    The regulations we have are not there to benefit the rich, or the rich would not be complaining about them. The regulations we have are there due to free market failures, because in the past, the rich were violating those yet-to-be regulations, and no free market solution presented itself, and that went on for so long that the people decided that the “free market” would not work and the bad practice would have to be outlawed.

    It is why we have a minimum wage, social security, medicare, banking laws, OSHA, the patent office, the FDA, the FAA, all the way up to the EPA, the whole of the law is there to correct free market failures, one after another, that prior to their passage the market could have corrected but did not.

    The reason it did not is quite simple, the “free market” principles imagine sources of profit or entrepreneurship or concessions that simply do not exist. No plant or factory is going to give access to an “inspector” without the force of the law behind them. If they think information would damage them, they will not reveal it, and they will take steps to ensure nobody else reveals it either.

    When NO factories exist that are safe for workers, no factory is really going to pay the high cost of safety, the added cost will put them out of business. If workers try to strike for safe workplaces, they will be fired and replaced, until they starve enough to keep their mouth shut.

    The free market fails because of logic and reality, not because of ideology. It has been tried in one culture after another since the dawn of time, and it always, always fails. In fact, it is plausible that the first laws ever passed, against murder and theft, are the very first corrections to the free market: When people are free to kill and steal to make a profit, greed will motivate them to do just that, and the only route with any hope of protecting people against being murdered in their sleep or robbed by a gang of thieves is a group agreement to refrain from and punish such activity. A regulation, that will not eliminate the behavior, but will make it costly enough that it is seldom the rational choice, and almost always an emotional choice.

    The reason the free market fails is that greed is the ultimate motivator, and without rules and regulations, certain people without morals or empathy or an ounce of regret will do literally anything for a profit.

  88. An Unserious Man
    Published: August 19, 2012

    Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate led to a wave of pundit accolades. Now, declared writer after writer, we’re going to have a real debate about the nation’s fiscal future. This was predictable: never mind the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan’s true constituency is the commentariat, which years ago decided that he was the Honest, Serious Conservative, whose proposals deserve respect even if you don’t like him.

    But he isn’t and they don’t. Ryanomics is and always has been a con game, although to be fair, it has become even more of a con since Mr. Ryan joined the ticket.

    Let’s talk about what’s actually in the Ryan plan, and let’s distinguish in particular between actual, specific policy proposals and unsupported assertions. To focus things a bit more, let’s talk — as most budget discussions do — about what’s supposed to happen over the next 10 years.

    On the tax side, Mr. Ryan proposes big cuts in tax rates on top income brackets and corporations. He has tried to dodge the normal process in which tax proposals are “scored” by independent auditors, but the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math, and the revenue loss from these cuts comes to $4.3 trillion over the next decade.

    On the spending side, Mr. Ryan proposes huge cuts in Medicaid, turning it over to the states while sharply reducing funding relative to projections under current policy. That saves around $800 billion. He proposes similar harsh cuts in food stamps, saving a further $130 billion or so, plus a grab-bag of other cuts, such as reduced aid to college students. Let’s be generous and say that all these cuts would save $1 trillion.

    On top of this, Mr. Ryan includes the $716 billion in Medicare savings that are part of Obamacare, even though he wants to scrap everything else in that act. Despite this, Mr. Ryan has now joined Mr. Romney in denouncing President Obama for “cutting Medicare”; more on that in a minute.

    So if we add up Mr. Ryan’s specific proposals, we have $4.3 trillion in tax cuts, partially offset by around $1.7 trillion in spending cuts — with the tax cuts, surprise, disproportionately benefiting the top 1 percent, while the spending cuts would primarily come at the expense of low-income families. Over all, the effect would be to increase the deficit by around two and a half trillion dollars.

  89. @Idealist: Fact: It takes about 20 generations to breed from wild
    foxes to those who are tame and amiable …

    Yes, I saw that show, but breeding doesn’t answer the question, or make sense as an explanation. For example, even though that show was talking about dogs being bred away from the uniform appearance of wolves, it remains true that in any pack of dogs there will be an alpha dog leader. What makes the tame and amiable towards humans does not affect their inbred social dominance hierarchy, it just lets humans be recognized as full pack members, including the right to be the alpha dog.

    The fact is that in ANY group of people, including the homeless or the poor or manual laborers or whatever, if they agree to be part of a focus group and come to majority decisions by discussion, there WILL emerge an opinion leader. If a large group sub-divides into two factions, each faction will have a leader.

    That is human nature. If breeding were the issue, this could not be true for just any random group, but it really is true for just any random group. Being a leader or follower is not going to be traceable to some gene, which is essentially your contention in claiming that breeding is a factor. If genes were causing deference, then since well over 95% of people defer to a leader, we would frequently (about 60% of the time) run across groups of ten where no leader emerges. But that doesn’t happen.

    Variations in development may be a real factor in personality, in experiments it does seem that even five year old children exhibit this tendency to “elect” leaders. But I have never seen anything to suggest that being such a leader is a genetically inherited trait.

  90. Elaine:

    “One should also check to find out if the moneyed people who are providing the think tanks’ funding are doing it with the express purpose of pushing agendas that will benefit them or their businesses/corporations in some way.”

    If a person does that, then there is no way to have source material. Everyone who funds political or economic research is going to give money to organizations whose message/ideology they believe.

    George Soros is not going to give money to a pro-free market think tank. John Allison is not going to give money to a socialist think tank.

  91. Or you could get your information from more than just think tanks, learn to think critically for yourself and how to evaluate evidence objectively so that evidence informs your theories (proper use of the scientific method and the path to factual information) instead of allowing your theories to inform your evidence (the path to confirmation bias).

  92. shano:

    I am doing a little Max Keiser investigation. So far he seems rather interesting. He and I certainly agree about Benny B being an international terrorist hell bent on destruction.

    Thanks for posting that video as a way of introduction to MK.

  93. Gene H:

    You mean like reading Adam Smith, JB Say, David Ricardo and Frederic Bastiat for starters? Since economics is based on either acceptance or criticism of these men. Particularly Adam Smith.

    By the way, nothing has value except in regard to a human consciousness. A lump of gold or uranium has no value to a beaver or an aardvark. I didnt see much, actually I didnt see any high level math in The Wealth of Nations. Did I miss it? Yet from my understanding Adam Smith basically created the study of economics. According to you that isnt possible.

  94. Straw man, Bron.

    I never said high level mathematics were a requirement of valid science. However, proper application of the scientific method is a requirement. Smith let his observations inform his theories. Von Mises let his theories (particularly his political theories) inform his observations. Because they eschew the use of scientific data and methodology, the Austrian School in general is one giant exercise in confirmation bias, but it isn’t good science. Also, you can be critical of both a man and his ideas, but his ideas should receive primary scrutiny. This is where von Mises fails. I could care less that most people personally found him abrasive and obnoxious. Most people found Newton to be an insufferable b*stard, but that didn’t make his ideas wrong. Personality is what people more often than not based their judgment of other people “as men”. That’s not the same thing as being critical of their ideas. I don’t think Bastiat is wrong because he’s Bastiat. I think he’s wrong because his logic is facile. The same goes with von Mises. He “as a man” has nothing to do with my rejection of his ideas. That’s secondary to his ideas being bad science based in politics instead of observation. Consider Rand. I reject her ideas because they are bad ideas. That her bad ideas came from a demonstrable sociopath is a secondary concern that has more to do with why her ideas are bad, but the grounds for their rejection are inherent to the flaws of the ideas themselves.

  95. @Bron: Since economics is based on either acceptance or criticism of these men.

    No it isn’t. Economics existed before those men were born; just as the science of physics and mathematics existed before Newton was born.

    Those men were mere humans, they were not infallible gods speaking truths we must accept as inviolate. They were early scientists, like Newton, coming to conclusions based on limited experience, observations and generalizations that could be right, or could be wrong.

    Like Newton, some of their insights were solid, and some were not, and all are open to question and disproof by later generations.

    This is your fundamental personality flaw, Bron, you trust so much in authority that you have lost the ability to distinguish an argument from a fact and an assertion from a proof.

    Simply claiming something is true does not make it true, no matter how famous the claimant may be, no matter how long ago they said it, no matter how many people agree with them or admire them or revere them. Truth is independent of individuals, acclaim, or admiration.

    You apparently have blind faith in experts, that is what makes you an ideologue. Without any independent ability to come to your own rational conclusions, all of your knowledge is received dogma, and all you can ever do is parrot others, as if they were infallible. Of course you cannot ever admit to any major flaws in their analysis, because without them you would simply not know what to believe.

  96. Tony C.

    The reason the free market fails is that greed is the ultimate motivator, and without rules and regulations, certain people without morals or empathy or an ounce of regret will do literally anything for a profit.

    This thread is about punditry in the media, What are you talking about Romney for? LOL

  97. David Blauw,

    I like the word Paul Krugman used for pundits–commentariat.

    An Unserious Man
    Published: August 19, 2012

    Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate led to a wave of pundit accolades. Now, declared writer after writer, we’re going to have a real debate about the nation’s fiscal future. This was predictable: never mind the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan’s true constituency is the commentariat, which years ago decided that he was the Honest, Serious Conservative, whose proposals deserve respect even if you don’t like him.

  98. @Blauw: Ha!

    @Elaine: I am not always a fan of Krugman; but that is a good quote; and yes, Ryan is either a blithering idiot or a lying mouthpiece for the Koch brothers and their sociopathic brethren.

    Krugman believes adamantly in free trade, and I (most vehemently) do not. It is insanely destructive and is ruining America. Frankly, his callous dimwittedness on this point makes me suspect his overall intelligence; I am not sure he can be trusted to put his ideology aside in assessing something.

    The logic is really quite simple. I assume we can agree that the reason corporations complain about regulations that protect employees, consumers, the environment, and their investors is that the regulations are costly, time consuming, and prevent them from doing things they would otherwise do. (Nobody complains about a regulation that does not restrain them in any way or cost them anything, because compliance is automatic.)

    Free trade lets corporations avoid those costs and inconveniences by doing as much work as they can in countries with fewer regulations. Any economist can see, by the standard rules of their own profession, that results in a race to the bottom and virtual (or actual) slavery for workers.

    Free trade promotes worker exploitation, unsafe working conditions, actual slavery and environmental destruction. From a patriotic point of view, it encourages corporations to ship every possible job that can be done overseas to some remote corner where minimum wages, taxes, and worker protections are non-existent or unenforced, it encourages the corruption of governments and the oppression of citizens.

    If you want to see why we have underemployment to the tune of 25%, look to free trade: Our laws protecting the health and safety of our citizens, which are the right thing to do, prevent us from competing on a cost-basis with countries like India and China that consider the lives, limbs and health of their citizens to be expendable resources in the pursuit of business profit. For them, polluting the environment is fine, putting employees in lethal danger, or routinely exposing them to carcinogens, is just fine. If you want to literally beat your employees so they work harder, feel free.

    Krugman chooses to ignore the obvious; that free trade lets global corporations shop for laws and corruption they can exploit. He may be considered by some to be a left-wing liberal, but when it comes to free trade, Krugman is as dangerously wrong about what is good for America as Ryan is.

  99. yea, Tony, that is the problem I have with Krugman too.

    These Neo Liberal economic theories have already failed and will continue to fail because of Multinational Corporations- which create massive income inequality wherever they are allowed to operate.

  100. Malisha

    “According to the routine, HMDU is “the currency of our culture.” and “One reason suggested for why straight men fear gay men is that they realize that gay men (except those in the closet, obviously) have voluntarily given up some HMDU, and the act of voluntarily giving up any amount of HMDU is scary to HMDU-deficient people and to HMDU addicts as well.”

    Thanks for the lightening bolt.

    I suggest adding a “W” to those four letters, (making five). W as in white. WHMDU. I have many non-logical weaknesses in me. Your mention of gays in this formula hits the spot. As a youth within my environment and peer group, we all strove to be “alpha males”. Thank goodness, I ain’t 16 no more, (sic) and struggling to achieve some fantacist goal of what I am. Now I am content with my efforts and my simple delusions :o) ..

    Yes I was, as my fellow peers were, threatened by the seemingly “lack” of manliness we perceived in gay people. Bashing them verbally was an ego stroker for our juvenile egos. This is not unknown today among youths, and sadly many adults. We were desperately searching for HAMDU CRED. A right of passage into manhood.

    Thank goodness, I ain’t 16 no more….. The lightening bolt I refer to, is this proceeding, equally true (to me) observation.

    Would I give up, my arbitrarily coincidence of nature, melanin challenged pale skin. I have never experienced life as anyone other than a US. citizen of Irish-German descent. Gay people have been challenged and questioned their entire lives, so that admittance to HAMDU is denied, or VERY reluctantly accepted. I propose in our society the same can be said of People of color.
    My personal HAMDU has never had to overcome that, Thus, I also propose WHAMDU. Our country is undeniably headed to being less than 50% pale skinned. (I protest the word white, it is as significant to me as being blond or brunette)

    This thought has floated around in my head, your comment, actualized it. I am uncomfortable. Martin Luther King dreamed of a day “When a person is judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin”. What a true and lifting hope this statement is. Write it in stone, teach it in school, realize it in all societies.

    Malisha, The weakness I find in me is, My innocence of birth, fate of environment, coincidence of skin color, has given me the qualification of acceptance to WHMADU.

    Innocence, environment, and coincidence, all 3 not of my choosing, has given me a privilege I did not earn. I was essentially born on second base in this society.

    Our government and society must exist to make a fair playing field to all. Education, Health Care, Balanced Law, Equal Treatment, these are principles everyone should be guided by. I as a person born on second base, recognize the unfairness to those that are not welcomed to “The Game”

    I ramble a bit more. We have those in our society born on third and think they deserve it. Some on third rolled in there with razor sharp cleats up, shredded lives strewn behind on their base paths. Applauding and lauding themselves …… and way to many people in the crowd of fandom cheering and adorning them with laurels.

    The pretense of punditry guides the sheep to adore the privileged, to see merit instead of greed, holiness instead of lust fulfilled, selfish self centeredness as good opposed to robbing humanity of equal opportunity and experience. …….

  101. Gene H:

    If you think Bastiat’s logic is facile, I think maybe you dont understand what he wrote. He nailed most everything he undertook to write about and in terms that a layman could understand and relate to. Which is what any serious academic should be able to do. If the average man cannot understand it, then either the academic doesnt understand what he is saying or what he is saying makes no sense. Fundamental truths are necessarily simple. If they are not, then that’s proof you have the wrong concepts and principles, because the purpose of concepts and principles is to simplify.

  102. TonyC,

    Thanks for your thoughts. My breeding point was that survivors of autocratic rule with execution of dissenters would select those who tolerated the system and did not stick up their heads.

    I still hold that to be the goal of autocrats through the millenia. However I don’t have the genetic facts to back up my surmise.

    This selection would have no effect and is not intended to suppress the alpha competition.

    Why should that be a matter of concern for an autocrat? On the contrary, he needs leaders, just ones that know their places. And how would the selection of rebellious individuals or persons effect the alpha drive. I see no connection nor claimed any.

    If anything, this selection reinforces the “know your place in the alpha order and stay there.”

    I had a simple realization just now. It is not the common man who is dangerous to the king, it is his closest who dare to challenge him. Have we not seen this for all the years we record.

    And folk heroes are, like David in the bible, just legends to tell by the fireside. Like the ones which tell of heaven which waits for the meek, obedient servant.

  103. Tony C and shano,

    Best to say straight off, I’ve never studied economics. But I have read a lot of Krugman’s columns and your take on him really surprises me. As you know, those discussions have centered on austerity and the budget. I can’t recall anything that supports unbridled free enterprise. I believe in regulation and would have gone on “alert” if such ideas appeared in his columns. I’ll pay close attention, but he seems such an humanist – it just doesn’t fit.

  104. @Curious: The question isn’t about “unbridled free enterprise,” it is about “free trade,” which means basically unrestricted trade of goods between countries (as opposed to tariffs or restrictions on imports, subsidies for exporters, protectionism of local industry etc). The idea is to let supply and demand determine the price of goods, not place of origin.

    The reason “free trade” is harmful is that it can be used to circumvent law. For example, in the USA, we set a minimum wage. We have chosen to support our government by taxation, and to support our elderly with Social Security taxation and Medicare taxes, we provide unemployment insurance with payroll taxes. Some of these taxes must also be paid by employers. Along with sales taxes, property taxes (both commercial and residential), and product taxes (gasoline, alcohol, cigarettes) and fees, tolls and taxes on workers and businesses, about 50% of our income goes to taxation in one form or another.

    That is fine, it is the cost of a society. But another way to look at it, for the greedy corporation, is that USA workers are very expensive, compared to workers in other countries they can use and discard with very few taxes.

    Free Trade lets companies like Walmart go to China and employ workers in dangerous, near slavery conditions at $1 an hour, because they pay no taxes and the workers themselves have far fewer tax expenses or living expenses. They provide no insurance, they have no social safety net, they have no retirement security, or unemployment security.

    Essentially, free trade allows Walmart or Nike to circumvent our labor laws and protections for employees by finding countries that will let them abuse and endanger workers. and then discard them if they get sick or hurt. It lets large companies cheat and costs American jobs. It might make your shoes cheaper, but ultimately it will either cost you your job or cost you more in taxes, because people won’t be able to work at a wage that competes with what is essentially third world slavery.

  105. Tony C.

    This was my shortcoming: I used the term Self-Actualization due to the inability of me to arrive at the appropriate word at the time I wrote the posting. I meant to say “preeminence”.

    You are right about some of the shortcomings of the idea of self-actualization, some would argue it is too polar of a definition to realisticly apply to people. And, it is a bit perhaps arrogant in that so few are elevated to this status by others when some otherwise exceptional contributions from different folks are consequently demoted meritlessly.

    I appreciate your agreeable advice as well.

  106. Curious: the Multinational Media conglomerates do not want anyone to realize that both the Neo conservative foreign policies and the Neo Liberal economic policies are complete and utter failures. Dismal failures.

    This is because these policies from the right and left all support the Multinational corporations.

    Fair trade policies would end the worst of it all. But the profits for Multinationals would go down, down, down. That is why it is never talked about.

    Fair Trade is communist, socialist, Marxist, evil incarnate.
    So is the ‘End the Wars’ (including the global war on drugs) world peace movement.

  107. Fareed Zakaria Resigns From Yale University’s Governing Board
    AP | Posted: 08/20/2012

    The Associated Press

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A journalist recently accused of plagiarism has resigned from his position on Yale University’s governing board to better focus on his work.

    The New Haven Register reports ( that in a letter to Yale President Richard Levin, Fareed Zakaria said he needed to shed some of his responsibilities as he re-examines his professional life.

    Levin thanked Zakaria for his time and service.

    Zakaria was suspended this month by Time magazine and CNN for lifting several paragraphs from a New Yorker magazine essay and using them in his Time magazine column. Zakaria apologized, calling it a “terrible mistake.”

  108. David Blauw,

    Thank your for your sincere and reasoned comment on how this society fears gay males and men of color. It is indeed all about the striving to be the Alpha and lead the pack. We humans arrogate ourselves above “the animals”, but seriously, except for facility with invention and innovation are we really that different?


    Thank you for the Yale update on Zakaria, good catch. Perhaps the Ivy University is more unforgiving of plagiarism, then is our media. Especially when the pundit well represents the opinions of the conglomerates owners.

    Tony C. and Shano,

    I am in complete agreement with your views on so-called free trade and found your explanations of its pitfalls right on target. It has always seemed a bad bargain to me in that it solely benefits multi nationals by depressing wages snd fostering labor akin to slavery.

  109. Free trade is one of those things that sounds really good on paper, but is a disaster in application. It ignores both the reality of human nature and the reality that some nationstates are going to engage in undercutting, flooding, protectionism and other anti-competitive practices no matter what treaty they sign.

  110. @Mike S: I think the hatred of homosexual males is cultural, not innate, and is the transferred fear of homosexual sons and their subsequent lack of procreation, and that is why it (anti male homosexuality) is most profound in men and less pronounced in women.

    No offense to the female gender, but culturally speaking for about 10,000 years worldwide gender preference in women has been a moot point for 99.9% of them; intercourse could be forced if necessary. In that same period that has really never been true of men, because men have been given the choices by culture (to be technical ‘culture’ means by force of arms and subjugation of women).

    The cultural goal of life for most men has been procreation, and an investment in a son would be more than a dozen years before innate homosexuality in that son came to light. For the interest of the fathers, a cultural taboo on male homosexuality could shame their sons into at least trying to accomplish procreation as a duty. When one’s societal worth is measured by the number of male descendants one has (as it still is in several modern cultures), this reinforces the cultural taboo.

    I think that is a natural, unplanned conspiracy that would arise; cultural shame brings the threats of exile, shunning or isolation, and that increases the odds (for the father) that even his homosexual sons will be shamed into procreation. He doesn’t really have to worry about his daughters; any lesbianism there is small cause for alarm, because for many thousands of years daughters have procreated whether they liked it or not.

    I believe that because it is cultural, it is also changing; clearly homosexuals do not have equality now, but they are gaining acceptance as the culture changes and we slowly throw off the chains of patriarchy.

  111. Of course it is cultural, Tony. One only needs to look to past civilizations like Greece (where it was considered perfectly normal behavior) and Egypt (where it was not only tolerated but bisexuals were considered blessed by the Gods). Also, it is slowing changing again in Western culture not just as we start to reject patriarchy, but as we start to reject religiosity in general and that most patriarchal of institutions – the brand of Christianity as defined by the Council of Nicea, adopted by Constantine, practiced by Rome and what eventually splintered off to become the various forms of protestantism and fundamentalism.

  112. GeneH.

    Here’s a weird spín. Maybe Nicea and its offspring inspired Mohammed to start his own thing. Envy. He is alleged to have been envious of both the other folks of the “Book”.

  113. Please read “The Creature from Jekyll Island,” by Edward Griffin to see how deep the rabbit hole might go.

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