When they don’t like you, media outlets can crucify you with irrelevant personal attacks. This means that there is always an out for those who don’t really want to report a story. That’s what happened regarding Edward Snowden. He didn’t graduate from high school, though he did pick up a GED. Nonetheless, he has repeatedly been smeared as a “dropout.” FAIR reports on this hatchet job. It turns out that Snowden is in fine company. Consider this excerpt:
Consider these high-school dropouts: Founding father and genius inventor Benjamin Franklin. Founding Father and First President George Washington. The founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. American aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. The first lady of civil rights, Rosa Parks, who refused a Montgomery Alabama bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger. The man who gave the world its most popular chocolate bar, Milton Hershey. Before he would become America’s most beloved author, Mark Twain left school at the age of 12 to become a printer’s apprentice. The great man who saved the Union, Abraham Lincoln.
There are many others, including Bill Cosby, and presumably Jesus. But as we’ve seen, calling someone a “dropout” is a selectively used weapon, not a truly relevant aspect to most stories. To compound things, many of the smartest people I know do not have college diplomas, yet they too are treated miserably by a society that seeks quick, easy and often wrong answers to the question of who is “smart” or worthy of respect. This is a travesty for all of us, credentialed or otherwise.
The financial meltdown could never have happened if the ratings agencies hadn’t rated crap loans as excellent. It would have brought the entire corrupt system to a halt. Matt Taibbi is whipping these culprits with some stunning evidence that has recently come to light.
Thanks to a mountain of evidence gathered for a pair of major lawsuits, documents that for the most part have never been seen by the general public, we now know that the nation’s two top ratings companies, Moody’s and S&P, have for many years been shameless tools for the banks, willing to give just about anything a high rating in exchange for cash.
In incriminating e-mail after incriminating e-mail, executives and analysts from these companies are caught admitting their entire business model is crooked.
“Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at,” writes one Standard & Poor’s executive. “As you know, I had difficulties explaining ‘HOW’ we got to those numbers since there is no science behind it,” confesses a high-ranking S&P analyst. “If we are just going to make it up in order to rate deals, then quants [quantitative analysts] are of precious little value,” complains another senior S&P man. “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card[s] falters,” ruminates one more.
Here’s Taibbi’s conclusion:
What’s amazing about this is that even without a mass of ugly documentary evidence proving their incompetence and corruption, these firms ought to be out of business. Even if they just accidentally sucked this badly, that should be enough to persuade the markets to look to a different model, different companies, different ratings methodologies.
But we know now that it was no accident. What happened to the ratings agencies during the financial crisis, and what is likely still happening within their walls, is a phenomenon as old as business itself. Given a choice between money and integrity, they took the money. Which wouldn’t be quite so bad if they weren’t in the integrity business.
This is an engaging and detailed article that will leave you frustrated that it’s business as usual for the ratings agencies. Excellent reporting and phenomenal writing by Taibbi.
I’ve enjoyed being a parent, though it has sometimes been a lot of work. I’m proud of who my two daughters are turning out to be. They teach me many things, including humility.
Recently I read this post at Huffpo, an extraordinarily sad post, or at least that is how I reacted. This website features the comments of people for whom parenting is a sad, and sometimes dismal experience. It includes a “confessional” where people often openly express their dark thoughts regarding their own children. Here’s the post, and here’s the “Scary Mommy Confessional.”
At Reader Supported News, Bernie Sanders notes that Denmark and the United States are very different countries, but insists that there are lessons the U.S. can learn from Denmark:
While it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor.
Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. . . . They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.
Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. . . [M]others get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. . . . [B]oth parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.
[V]irtually all higher education in Denmark is free.
In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.
Non-believers have been villainized for so long by religious leaders that it leaves us flummoxed when a religious leader fails to take an unfair swipe at us. The religious leader I’m referring to is Pope Francis, and what he said was resoundingly refreshingly ordinary, though it sounded so good coming from the leader of the Catholic Church:
“Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis has said in his latest urging that people of all religions, and none, work together.
“Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point,” the pope said in a hypothetical reply to the hypothetical comment: “But I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.”
The new Pope has thus jumped over a very low bar. One small step for a man–one giant leap for a religious leader.
Ladies of New York , you are free to walk bare-breasted through the city! New York City’s 34,000 police officers have been instructed that, should they encounter a woman in public who is shirtless but obeying the law, they should not arrest her. This is a good step towards gender parity in public spaces.
So, a woman’s bare breast should be treated no differently than a man’s breast under the law. Nonetheless, the fact that this NY law is so contentious (or at least newsworthy), means that a breast is not the same as an arm or a leg, especially a woman’s breast. I explore the existential connotations of breasts here.
What is the Fed good at? Not much, according to Jessie Eisenger of ProPublica:
Investors . . . have almost no confidence in the Federal Reserve or the economics profession. And for good reason. It’s impressive that the Fed and many economists have successfully predicted the path of interest rates and inflation in the wake of the worst financial crisis in a generation. But neither the central bank nor academicians managed to predict or prevent the crisis in the first place. The failure dwarfs the accomplishment.
The Fed’s track record is out-and-out abysmal.The Fed began its lender-of-last-resort role in 2007, but did little to avoid or minimize the financial crisis. Once it hit, it did the right thing to flood the markets with money, but — along with the Treasury and a passive Justice Department — let banks and top executives off the hook. And now, asset prices are going wild. Junk bonds are up. Stocks are up. Housing in Phoenix and Brooklyn is going mad.
This prebubble euphoria only undermines the Federal Reserve’s fragile credibility. It reinforces the notion that it seems to know only two things: how to inflate bubbles and how to studiously not recognize them.
I’m convinced that if Ronald Reagan ran for president today, he would not have any chance of being the Republican Party nominee. Further proof of how far the Republican party has drifted comes from David Stockman, who served as Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director. During a recent interview, Stockman was asked about today’s Republican party:
I think the Republican Party is not really a party. It doesn’t stand for anything except reelecting itself. It’s a coalition of gangs….
The Neo Cons which I have no use for are only oriented to an aggressive imperialistic foreign policy, a big defense establishment, and suppression of our civil liberties. That’s a bad. I am against that.
The Tax Cons want to just cut taxes anytime any day regardless of the fiscal situation. That has gone to absurd lengths. I oppose that.
The Social Cons, social policy people, the right to life issue, gay marriage and all that, that’s irrelevant to governing a democracy in a free society.
That is basically the heart of the Republican Party. In that mix how can you find anything that is going to stand for conservative economics, fiscal rectitude, free markets, sound money; it’s not there. The Republican Party is basically irrelevant to the economic crisis that faces the country.