Saturday, January 28, 2012

They Did It On Purpose

Sullivan today points to an interview with Francis Fukuyama recommending The Big Short. I'm probably never going to read that book, so it's good to know it's out there and being talked about by people who are listened to.
Another book is co-authored by Kenneth Rogoff, who Krugman is always referring to as being under attack for his economic opinions. I won't read that book for sure, but am glad it isn't just a few commentators like Krugman and the dirty hippies who are pointing at the Emperor.
So what this book does quite brilliantly is show that there was actually a high degree of intentionality in creating the crisis...Lloyd Blankfein doesn’t get up in the morning and say, “OK. How are we going to defraud people today?” but I do think the relationship of these banks to social rules is fairly dodgy. Rules are viewed as potential obstacles that you try to get around if that maximises your profit. This is a deeper social issue that I think has to do with the economisation of a lot of thinking. Economists have this model of rational utility maximisation – that social benefit comes out of everybody pursuing their private rational self-interest. This has shaded over – imperceptibly over the past couple of generations – to a downplaying of social norms as constraints on behaviour. You see this in a number of places. In business schools, for example. Back in the 1960s and 70s, business schools regarded themselves as professional schools along the lines of law schools or architecture schools. They were meant to inculcate a certain sense of professional responsibility, that you have obligations to society at large. But as a result of the economisation of a lot of what was taught in these schools, individual profit maximisation began to displace this normative sense, and this spilled over into the behaviour of the people who went on from these programmes into the financial sector. In their minds, they weren’t deliberately trying to defraud people, but if they saw an opportunity to take advantage of less sophisticated buyers of subprime mortgages, they would go ahead and do it.

Or you can just watch the movie Margin Call. Chilling.

UPDATE: I posted the Fukuyama interview before I had finished reading it. Now that I have, I can't recommend it enough.


She's wearing your grandmother's leopard print housedress. And what's that ugly, tacky thing on her wrist? I didn't know they had a gift shop at the trailer court.
Oh, wait, let me pull myself together.
Yes, when your enemies are busy destroying each other, do nothing.

January 29 Is Dog Day! Yay!

Because you look as though you could use some cheering up.
Warning: one or two of the links no longer work.
Okay, then, dogs, dogs and more dogs.

C'mon, you know you want it.
Teaser (heh).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Florida Primary Debate

I was told there would be fireworks. Newt, you let me down.

But he wouldn't put Marco Rubio in the cabinet, he'd give him a "more central, dignified role." President, perhaps? Heh.

Oh, next question is "why would your wife make the best First Lady?" I can't believe anyone even considered that question. Oh, wait, Republicans. Not president Barbie, First Lady Barbie. Sorry, girls.

I can see why Andrew Sullivan is seduced by Ron Paul. The crazy old geezer  sounds the sanest of the four. I mean, he'd talk to Raul Castro. Oh, brother.

Juanita Jean

for Honorary Contrarienne. What say you? It's decided then.

How's It Gonna Play?

You tell me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pesky Facts Dept.: Apple And Jobs

Krugman never ceases to please me. He doesn't confuse anecdote with data, no matter how charming the story. My friends hate it when I say stuff like that. I figure I'm in the right company.
 If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Obama’s auto bailout, just by itself, saved a lot more jobs than Apple’s US employment.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You Think You're So Smart

which is pretty much irrelevant and unnecessary. Heh.
What people haven't seemed to notice is that on earth, of all the billions of species that have evolved, only one has developed intelligence to the level of producing technology. Which means that kind of intelligence is really not very useful. It's not actually, in the general case, of much evolutionary value. We tend to think, because we love to think of ourselves, human beings, as the top of the evolutionary ladder, that the intelligence we have, that makes us human beings, is the thing that all of evolution is striving toward. But what we know is that that's not true. Obviously it doesn't matter that much if you're a beetle, that you be really smart. If it were, evolution would have produced much more intelligent beetles. We have no empirical data to suggest that there's a high probability that evolution on another planet would lead to technological intelligence. There is just too much we don't know.
The philosophy of physics. I didn't even know there was such a thing. And I thought the multiple universe thing was pretty much accepted. There is just too much I don't know.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Am So Lucky

I have a Roku and I have Netflix streaming and I get to watch all the Spectacle shows whenever I want.
I don't know if they're still on (Sundance), because this one is from 2008 or something, but no matter, Elvis Costello is host, Elton John is executive producer and Diana Krall is one helluva musician.
Which brings me to Diana Krall. Why haven't I ever thought to make her an Honorary Contrarienne before?
There, fixed.

Election Year Assessments

Last week, it was Andrew Sullivan writing for the cover of Newsweek. Pretty good piece, but weighted to personality, which is fine.
Ryan Lizza is not as good a writer as Sullivan is, but he's armed with recently released internal WH memos to bolster his story in the New Yorker.
 It's about politics this time, a bit plodding, but then that's kind of the way governance is.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Once In A While

I find a good poem. And I.  Fall.  Apart.
That's the point, I suppose.
Sullivan had this one up today.

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.