Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Apologists of the Pravda on the Potomac

Torture apologist and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, is giving GOP lessons on hostage taking.  His advice to the GOP caucus can be summarized in one line.  Hold the country hostage over the debt limit, it will be more effective.  All  this to deny millions health insurance.   Obama won reelection.  The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.  John Boehner can end this crisis if he wants to.  Earth to Republicans and their apologists, your party lost, get over it.  Meanwhile, the editorial Board of the Washington Post wants the Democrats to compromise with the hostage takers, because both sides do it, yes really.  Remind me again when the Democrats have held the Debt Ceiling hostage, as the Republicans have now threatened to do? The false equivalence practiced by Washington post is jaw dropping.  Liberal media, indeed.

 

The Party of Lincoln has sure come a long way

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LoL by: two_kittehs

Inside Job, Review

Finally, as promised a review of Inside Job. Made in 2010 and narrated by Matt Damon,  Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the financial crisis covers a lot of ground.   One can quibble about the details but his take on the big overarching themes was spot on, in my opinion.

  • The New Deal legislation on financial regulation kept the financial sector in check after World War II
  • Unraveling the regulatory regime for banks and other financial institutions from the late 1970s  onwards led to larger and larger crises since the 1980s, culminating in the biggest crisis since the Great Depression in 2008
  • The people responsible for the crisis got away without any criminal charges this time, unlike the Savings Loan Crisis of the 80s when people actually went to jail.
  • There is an unholy nexus between some faculty members of  economics and finance departments of elite universities and the banking sector.  They are the Inside Men, who bear the  ultimate responsibility  for the biggest bank heist ever.

Watch his interviews with Fredrick Mishkin and Glenn Hubbard, of Columbia University which make point four, crystal clear. Unfortunately for us the roots of this problem go even deeper than what Ferguson covered in Inside Job. The problem goes far beyond a handful of professors and their cozy  and borderline unethical relationships with banks and the like.  The conflicts of interest run deeper than just the speaking and consulting fees. The very tenets of the prevailing wisdom need to be questioned after such a spectacular failure.

The conventional thinking in economics  right now  owes its influence to Milton Friedman and his University of Chicago colleagues. Underlying  many of the policy changes since the seventies is the thinking that free markets are the epitome of freedom and that they are self correcting.  Government intervention of any kind is bad for the markets and in turn bad for the polity and the society at large. Friedman and his colleagues managed to change the postwar, mostly Keynsian consensus about economics  to the policies that favor the 1%.  Though many of the original Chicago economists are dead or retired, their intellectual spawn have cloned themselves many times over in academia.  Even the financial catastrophe of 2008-09 has changed little as the subsequent debates about austerity highlight. We have every reason to be suspicious when they blithely lecture  us about how austerity is necessary.In the words of Turgidson ,  a commenter from Balloon Juice:

And somehow, like a bunch of indestructible cockroaches, they keep surviving what should have long ago (but especially from 2008 on) been a complete discrediting of their ideas and maintain an astonishing amount of influence over policy and the debate in general

Getting rid of the cockroaches that can survive an economic Armageddon is easier said than done.

Coming back to the movie, watching Glenn Hubbard have a meltdown in front of the camera over Ferguson’s polite but persistent questioning is the highlight of the movie.  Watch Inside Job, it gets the big picture of the financial meltdown right.  It leaves you feeling both enraged and frustrated at the same time.  A must see documentary.

Grade:  A-, because some of the details about the actual mechanics behind the credit derivatives were fuzzy and unclear.

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Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Stay tuned for the upcoming blog sequel, Inside Men.

Literary Cats for Caturday

Tale of  two Kittehs

LoL by: two_kittehs (Picture by: two_kittehs)

Yogi and Inji, five minutes before the hissing starts.

Friday Kitteh has a Tired

Kitteh and Shrimp

LoL by: two_kittehs

Kitteh needs better minions!

Why Yes, Hypocrite is My Middle Name

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( Photo Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Why does the  poster boy of the party of 1% want  the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions, not  have the peace of mind that comes with having affordable health insurance?  While Crazy Cruz and his obstructionist buddies in the Congress enjoy the dreaded government subsidized health care themselves.

ETA: If memory serves me right,  wasn’t Romney lauded by most Republicans for passing a health care act in Massachusetts? A plan with provisions similar to the Affordable Care Act, down to the exchanges and the mandate.

Century, A Hundred Blog Posts!

Why do numbers ending with zero, that are multiples 10 and 100  seem more significant than numbers ending with digits from 1 to 9? Was it the same for Romans who did not have a decimal system? I have no idea, if you know the answer you can tell me.

Drum roll,  please.  I bring you my 100th post, my first century.  A significant milestone for my little blog.  I have written about economics, politics, done movie reviews and travelogues and even some recipes. Cats or Kittehs as they are more fondly known on the internet are my mews, so they have featured in many of my posts on serious topics as well.  I was looking at the summary  statistics of this blog and it would probably come as no surprise to anyone that 4 of the 5 posts with most hits featured lolcats.  All the  lols, that is photos with captions, with or without cats are my own.  I made most of them on I Can Has a Cheezburger, under my ICHC handle, two_kittehs.  In case you missed them the first time around, here are the top 5 posts.

Austerity Explained

A Tribute to Tunch Kitteh of Balloon Juice

The Die is Caste

Robert Samuelson wants to Repeal the Internet

President Kitteh Cannot Satisfy Everyone

Not the company named after a fruit

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LoL by: two_kittehs (Picture by: Jennifer Clausen)

Right Said Fred Kitteh for Caturday

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LoL by: two_kittehs

John Cole of Balloon Juice is responsible for my earworm, since he posted it on an open thread yesterday. I has just the kitteh to go with it.

Mohawk Trail II

Here comes the second installment of my camping trip to the Mohawk Trail State Forest, you will find the first part here.

So why Mohawk Trail State Forest, you may ask. Well, two reasons, it is nearby and  for me the name evoked the romance of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.   The Mahicans, who eventually lost out to the Mohawks, are said to be the  inspiration behind the Mohicans.  Mahican-Mohawk Trail runs through the forest.  It  is also home to some of the tallest pines in New England

The  Mohawk Trail  follows an old Indian trade route.  Along the way to Charlemont,   we passed many small towns on the winding road, that hugged the Deerfield river.  It was easy to imagine Hawkeye walking through these paths. Dashing Daniel Day Lewis with long hair, so hot! The sudden jolt I received when Mr. Schroedinger’s cat  had to slow down  brought me back to reality, from my day dreams.  Instead of handsome Hawkeye  there was road work to greet us as we entered Charlemont.  The rain had already tapered as we entered the State Forest.

I had booked the cabin online and filled a pre-check-in form, so it took all of two minutes to register.  As the pretty blond forest ranger handed us over key, I casually asked her about whether there were any black bears around, since we were officially in black bear country. I expected her to say, don’t worry about it.  Instead she recounted a story of how she had encountered a black bear on a walk in the town with her mother.  By the way, she said the bear can outrun  you. To make it go away you have to  yell in your most authoritative voice.   She also cheerfully volunteered that her mother had Lyme disease and could not run, nevertheless the bear had disappeared after a stern scolding.  Lyme disease brought up concerns about ticks, and added that she was bitten by ticks umpteen times before, and that it was no big deal. This was not good.  We finally got a bundle of firewood from her and proceeded to drive to our cabin, with me fervently wishing that I would never encounter either a bear or a tick.

The cabin was tiny but picturesque, though a bit dark and musty on the inside. There was a bunk bed and a table and some chairs. There was also  a tiny kitchen counter and dark cabinets above and below.  For cooler months there was a woodstove. The restroom and the showers were about a five minute walk from the cabin. Thankfully I had packed food for us that did not need heating.  I survived the night without an encounter with a bear.  As a safety precaution I had Mr. Schrodinger’s cat accompany me to the rest room so I had something to offer the bear besides myself, just in case the bear stopped by to say hello. (to be continued)

 

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Deerfield River

Au Revoir Ganpati

Girgaum-Chowpatty_5

Thousands of Mumbaikars bid farewell to Ganesha or Ganpati as he is more fondly known in Maharashtra, yesterday.  Its been a while since I was in Mumbai for  Ganpati Visarjan*, but the infectious enthusiasm of thousands chanting,

Ganpati Bappa Moraya,

Phudcha varshi lavkar ya

Rough translation from Marathi,  Dearest Ganpati, bye for now, but come again next year.

still rings in my ears, whenever I think of the last day of the Ganpati celebrations.

Ganpati ,  a rotund figure with  the head of an elephant and who rides a tiny mouse is the most beloved of the legions of Hindu gods.   Beneath his portly appearance is a sharp mind that can outwit even Shiva, one of the three that make up the Hindu trinity. 

 Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the leader of India’s freedom struggle before Gandhi, in a stroke of political genius, tapped into the popularity and affection people across caste and class lines felt for Ganpati and used the annual  celebration for grass roots organizing against the British rule.  After their bitter experience in the first war of Indian Independence in 1857, the British were vary of messing with religious rituals of their Indian subjects and gave the Ganesh festival a wide berth.   India won its freedom in 1947 but the  Ganesh festival in the public square still endures .

*Visarjan : Ritual immersion of the Ganesh idol in a body of water, in Mumbai that usually is the Arabian sea.

National Cheezburger Day

Step on it, Buster

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LoL by: two_kittehs

My contribution to the National Cheezburger Day!