Ten Years and One Month Ago at Grasping Reality: July 12-14, 2008

stacks and stacks of books

BBC Reality TV?: Andrew Samwick: "A News Program or Reality TV? | Capital Gains and Games: I agree with Stan—this post by Brad DeLong about his appearance opposite Grover Norquist on a BBC 'news' program is a classic.  If Norquist is the BBC's idea of a right-of-center expert on the challenges facing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the implications of those challenges for federal policy, then the BBC does not qualify as a news organization.  And as a result I care as much for its continued existence as I do any other reality TV program, which is not much at all..."

Richard Milhous NixonRick Perlstein's Nixonland is an even better book about Richard Nixon and the Nixonland we live in than Garry Wills's Nixon Agonistes.... For the first time, I think I understand how Nixon could win so much and yet wind up such a loser: his entire strategy was to win by making himself the oppressed loser and the spokesman for all the other oppressed losers--which meant that the more he won, the more he saw himself as and became a loser, until in the end he lost absolutely everything. And made the Republican Party the world's biggest loser as well...

McCain: Phil Gramm and Fred Malek: McCain Throws Phil Gramm Off the Train/Under the Bus/Over the Side.... But the Infamous Dog-Roasting Jew-Counter Fred Malek Is Still in the Boat/on the Bus/Riding the Caboose...

Tim Lee Reviews Brink Lindsey's "The Age of Abundance": You know, The American Scene is like the love child of National Review and Partisan Review in their heydays--except, that is, for the fact that The American Scene is really good...

Paul Mason's Primer on Fannie Mae and Freddie MacThis is good: "Paul Mason's blog.... The panic on Friday about the two US mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is followed by the collapse of California's IndyMac, a regional mortgage lender.... Fannie and Freddie were sustained by one of those necessary fictions that underpin finance capitalism: that this $5 trillion was not really guaranteed by the US government at all. Now that fiction is collapsing (every step of the financial crisis has destroyed a necessary financial fiction) we are confronted with the emergence of something very strange: a state backed financial capitalism.... All over the word, slowly but surely, the state is becoming exposed to the debts and liabilities of the finance system..."

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch: This is the kind of thing they want us to pay to read?: "Hummer, How We Need Thee: Matthew DeBord: When General Motors announced that it would subject its Hummer division to what in the automotive business is known as a "review," you could hear the tree huggers, the unreconstructed hippies, the postmodern Greens, Al Gore's organic peanut gallery, every single customer at the Pasadena Whole Foods and the United Prius Owners of America shove aside their alfalfa sprouts and commence clapping.... It would be a mistake for GM, assisted by the raving grease-monkey CPAs of Citibank, to sell the brand to an upstart carmaker in India or China or to breed it as a hybrid, as some have suggested. GM desperately needs an obnoxious, attention-grabbing brand to keep from turning into a dreary shadow of its former self..."

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Young David Broder Chronicles Edition): From Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, describing Richard Nixon's 1966 barnstorming political tour: "Nixon still pleaded cloth-coated poverty when he wrote old associates.... He hit up the Republican National Committee for a free airplane because, he said, he would be working for the party’s sake, not his own. Fortunately for the other 1968 contenders, RNC chair Ray Bliss, who had a keen ear for bullshit, made him rent one.... His usual round of Lincoln’s-birthday Republican fund-raising dinners followed, run this year like a miniature presidential campaign: blocks of hotel rooms reserved for the press; mimeographed bullet points slipped under their doors; then on to the next city by Jetstar—the same plane 'in which James Bond was transported by the fabulous Pussy Galore in the movie version of Goldfinger', wrote an agog David Broder of the New York Times...

New Yorker Death Spiral Watch Rich Yeselson of Change to Win writes: "Here's the problem... the satirical thrust of the drawing is entirely dependent upon the viewer being hip to the fact that this, well, The New Yorker's cover. There is nothing, per se, about the drawing itself that cuts against the grain of a completely literalist interpretation of its depiction of the Obama's as terrorist. Anyone so prone to such an interpretation will see here a visual representation of their views. As art, the work is completely overdetermined by its cultural context.... So: That's bad satire. And, so, yeah—I blame the New Yorker for publishing bad satire..."

Paul Krugman on Fannie and Freddie The way Laura Tyson puts it, a mortgage packager and guarantor is almost surely a good thing--but the GSEs should never have been privatized in the first place. Organizations with great government privilege are government responsibility--and there is no way in which they should ever have been let loose from oversight and made responsible to their private shareholders alone...

The Law Is Strange From Sudeep Reddy: "The Federal Reserve Act’s Section 13(13)... allows the Fed to lend to any individual, partnership or corporation with collateral backed by U.S. government securities or securities issued by federal agencies. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt is generally included in that latter category of safe holdings, even though it’s not directly guaranteed by the U.S. government..." Of course, the reason the Fed is contemplating this is that right now Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt is not regarded as "safe"—even though it is "safe" in normal times...

Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Republican Candidates?: Douglas Holtz-Eakin's McCain Budget Plan: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/13/AR2008071301643_pf.html Even the thoroughly-in-the-tank Washington Post editorial page of Fred Hiatt cannot swallow this, and barfs it up...

Barack Obama Health Reform Position There are three documents: http://www.barackobama.com/2007/05/29/cutting_costs_and_covering_ame.php http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/HealthCareFullPlan.pdf http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/Obama08_HealthcareFAQ.pdf

Economist Death Spiral Watch Let's pull the plug there, and stop reading. Whatever John McCain's economic policies are, he is not a "champion of fiscal responsibility—perhaps he used to be, but he has flipped. John McCain's proposals take a budget that is projected to be in rough balance in 2013 according to the CBO baseline and transform it into a $700B deficit. Those plans are not those of a "champion of fiscal responsibility"—and the only people who would say they are are ones who are deliberately auditioning to be the star in a Clown Show. There are two theories for why the Economist—since it lacks bylines, we have to speak of it as a single entity—wants to star in a Clown Show these days: (1) They are simply bonkers... (2) They think that if they do not pretend to be bonkers, then rich Americans won't subscribe in sufficient numbers and they will have to shut down... I used to think (2), but this makes me think (1). What extra subscriptions can you gain by saying that John McCain is a "champion of fiscal responsibility"?...


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