On Matt Taibbi

I get the sense that Matt Taibbi is hitting his stride now, and is starting to become the major writer of the Obama era from the WTF side of the telling. I have been reading him for some time now, and he just keeps getting better and better. Going back to around the '04 campaign and forward, he seemed amused by the insane quality of American campaigning, and if you've read 'Spanking The Donkey' you know it falls into the Thompsonesque style of covering politics-- splat out insightful but not aspiring of actual policy influence. I don't know that Matt had done ludes or bennies while writing STP, but I wouldn't blame him if it was necessary.

So if you missed it, read Taibbi's latest, The president has packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway; and then you can read a post by Tim Fernholz over at TAPPED, The Errors of Matt Taibbi; and then, what is an eviscerating come back by Taibbi aimed toward Fernholz, On Obama's Sellout.  

Felix Salmon nails the back-and-forth drama:

Fernholz's game of gotcha comes up with precious little of real substance.

...it's worth cross-checking everything that Fernholz says against what Taibbi actually writes, because often Taibbi simply doesn't say what Fernholz implies that he says.

...Fernholz is basically saying that Taibbi is right, and that not only is he right but that he will now and henceforth utterly overshadow anyone else who's criticizing the Obama administration from the left. At the same time, however, despite Taibbi's astonishing ability to encapsulate and personify the entire group of people who criticize the administration, he's not even going to manage to "make a dent", because he's not going about his job in an evenhanded J-school manner.

Personally, I love it that Taibbi exists, and I'm impressed that his 6,500-word screed (into which a great deal of work clearly went) in fact has very little in the way of factual errors, let alone "lies". Yes, Taibbi is polemical and one-sided, and he exaggerates his thesis, and he's entertaining; I daresay he's learned a lot from watching Fox News. And no, I would never want to live in a world where everybody wrote like that. But Taibbi is one of a kind, and we can enjoy him and learn from him as such. He might not end up changing policy in Washington. But he's doing a much better job of making the policy debate relevant to Rolling Stone's readership than anything Tim Fernholz has ever done.

Taibbi concludes with the same take obvious take on Fernholz as what Salmon wrote:

...The Prospect writer argues that "the problems Taibbi tries to describe aren't some ridiculous cabal" but instead "come from group-think and structural influences." Correct me if I'm wrong, but this was exactly the point of the article.Then the basic disagreement that Fernholz has with Taibbi is stylistic, and that's all he's got. Whatever.

Taibbi is going to be very influential on our side. He certainly comes across to me, as someone that has been skeptical that Obama was ever any different than Clinton, as speaking the truth. I took a lot of shit from others in the progressive blogosphere during the '08 for not drinking Obama's hopeaid, and like Digby, I find it exciting to see a voice like Taibbi's emerge on our side with a big platform with a loudspeaker. In fact, its good to see that Markos is now calling idiocy. As Barry Ritholtz says in the comments on Taibbi that "he seems to capture the Zeitgeist of the moment perfectly... The best way to enjoy Taibbi is to think of it as the culmination of frustration by the public..." and since he alone seems to be occupying this massive space of un-done journalism, I'll reiterate the opening, in agreement with a comment from the Reuters link, that "Taibbi's highly entertaining abrasive style is much more policy minded than it seems. He is, for my money, already THE reporter of the Obama era."

I'll give one substantive example in all this back and forth from above to make the case, when Taibbi responds to this "irritating" passage of Fernholz:

"Neil Barofsky, the inspector general charged with overseeing TARP, estimates that the total cost of the Wall Street bailouts could eventually reach $23.7 trillion." It could, if every single loan guaranteed by the Federal government failed at once and all of the assets bought with those loans were destroyed -- and many of those loans are to homeowners, including low-income homeowners, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or to small businesses. Some of that money went to Chrysler and GM in what was primarily a job saving move. TARP's actual outlays are only $518 billion (still nothing to sneeze at), including foreclosure relief for homeowners. More money has been actually allocated so far on fiscal stimulus, including funds to reinforce the social safety net, than on the bank bailouts.
That:First of all, Barofsky did use that number, so let's get that out of the way -- there's no factual issue with the passage I wrote. The Prospect writer wants to take issue with Barofsky's number and imply that the use of it is misleading. Obviously Barofsky's number is a worst-case scenario. But let's cut the bullshit about the bailouts being intended to help ordinary homeowners and save auto workers. We could have paid off every subprime mortgage in America for about $1.4 trillion and instead shelled out at least ten times that to Wall Street, primarily to pay off derivative bets made by bankers on those assets.

The writer notes that the total TARP outlay was only $518 billion, and implies that this is the entire outlay for the bailouts when in fact the TARP is just one small slice of the bailout package -- most of the bailout monies went out through little-known Fed programs like the TALF, the TLGP, the TIP, the PPI, and the Maiden Lanes. The number my friend Nomi Prins is using now for the bailouts is about $14 trillion in total outlays, and just as Barofsky pointed out, that number could rise. But to imply that the bailout outlay is not only comparable to the $700 billion stimulus but smaller than it is totally disingenuous.

The bailouts have been a massive boon to Wall Street, not so much to the rest of us (again, see Nomi's report on that). Most of the bailouts came in the form of very cheap money lent out to the same banks that caused the crisis, who then took that money and lent it out at market rates, pocketing the difference.

That's where all these billions in bonuses for the major banks are coming from this year. It's almost impossible to not make mountains of money when your cost of capital is next to nothing because you're borrowing your money from the government basically for free. Moreover we issued government guarantees for all the least responsible banks in the country -- so while you and I have to keep our same old shitty credit scores, all the people who leveraged themselves to the hilt and bet the farm on subprime mortgages that we ended up bailing out now get squeaky clean, brand-new AAA credit ratings to borrow from. The cost of credit for them plummeted thanks to these guarantees, while we're paying the same old rates to borrow our money.

This, again, is perfectly in line with the basic premise of the article. Geithner and Ben Bernanke continued a bailout policy that rewarded the very people who were most responsible for the crisis. The rest of the population did not see those same benefits. We can argue about the motives behind Obama's bailout decision, but the numbers are not really a factual issue.

We should thank Tim Fernholz. I hope Taibbi keeps on getting irritated; I certainly have been for some time now and as it keeps getting worse, I enjoy reading it laid out in this sort of pissed-off truth-teller populist-progressive perspective.

We've got a bunch on nonsensical dolts on the right trying to tell the nation how Obama has messed up, while few have taken the time and research, like Taibbi is doing, to put together the populist anger against what is going on from a progressive perspective.

Update [2009-12-12 23:14:37 by Jerome Armstrong]:

I see that Charles Lemos has commented on Taibbi's article, and and writes that: "Robert Rubin wasn't CEO at Citibank when Citi went in all on CDOs, Charles Prince was. To blame Rubin for Prince's failings undermines much of his argument."

The nit-picking about whether Robert Rubin is the boogie-man cabal-leader is really not that interesting to me. Throw that part out imo. Because its really aside from the core of what is deserving in Taibbi's writing (Like what I blockquote above). Yea, Taibbi is compelled to personalize the story a bit too much, and he even admits to such a Rubin error in his response, but those are just personal facts misplaced, not substantive critiques of Taibbi's assult of our political class assumptions that led the bailout decision-making over the past 16 months. Speaking as someone within the Democratic ranks, I don't think a circular firing squad is helpful, but listen: Huge mistakes have been made with the ongoing (yes ongoing) financial giveaway.

And I agree with the second point too, made by Charles:

This is not to suggest that much of Taibbi is saying isn't true but his premise that Obama wasn't beholden to Wall Street prior to winning the nomination is simply not true. If Obama "sold out," it happened long before he was elected to the Senate. His record in the Senate was a centrist one. He voted for the Bush-Cheney Energy policy. Progressive Punch ranked him as the 25th most liberal Senator. Obama outbundled Clinton on Wall Street and that's quite an accomplishment considering that Clinton represented NY in the Senate. Taibbi is not one to let facts get in the way of a good expletive-laden rant.Anyone that looked at the amount of money Obama was pulling in from financial interests could tell this; and as Ben Smith notes, "...at the pivotal moment, Obama worked closely with Hank Paulson to support the bailout." Right, the argument that Obama was ever pure is untrue; but that just gets us back to square one again. Look at this bailout policy as its unfolded. A massively unfair burden of debt to the middle-class taxpayer; an extremely benevolent bonus to mega financial corporations; and a severely damaging hit to the Democratic Party's brand as being a party of the people and not the elite. It was done wrong, and it needs to be spelled out how it is being done wrong-- I don't give a damn how impolite either.

Update [2009-12-13 11:56:21 by Jerome Armstrong]: I have to just laugh at the irony of the arrows that are thrown my way whenever I point out something less-than-desirable regarding Obama. Throughout the '07 & '08 primary, while I was pointing out that Obama wasn't really that different than Clinton, it was about how wrong I was (too cynical to hope & believe); and now that it turns out, with nearly everyone seeing that's the case (especially in terms of Treasury & State), its about taking false umbrage that anyone would have expected Obama to govern any different. I'm consistently amazed at the mental gymnastics on display.

Tags: Matt Taibbi (all tags)



Re: On Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is my old alma-mater, of course he was gone a long time before I got there.

I'm not really surprised by his views, the place was more on the Nader side than Gore, and was hot bed for the anti-Clinton left during the late 90s.

by vecky 2009-12-12 05:18PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I think Taibbi is a very effective spokesman in an era where being factually accurate is not the first or the second or even the third most important thing in political debate.  Heck, even on a bad day he's still closer to the truth than the people we're fighting against.  But he's still basically a glorified DKos diarist.

by Steve M 2009-12-12 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

In fact, being wrong with some of the facts gives you more of a megaphone in the ensuing debate. This, with all the Rubin debates about timelines, is a great case in point.

"Facts place a close second to Hacks" was the MyDD byline I had here back in 2001 to describe this era. I was joking...

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-12 06:50PM | 0 recs
I read his stuff on Russia in the 1990s

when he was based in Moscow. He's a fantastically talented writer, and he did see through the bullshit spin on how the western-oriented Russian "reformers" were running the country. I agree that "even on a bad day" he is close to the truth, whereas at that time the NYT and WaPo Moscow correspondents were pretty much serving up whatever spin came from the IMF or Larry Summers or the Russian "good guys."

by desmoinesdem 2009-12-13 01:35AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I am so darn sick of the Taibibi/Jerome/Bartcop/Kucinich klatch, I could just wretch.

Get on board the reform train, or join the Nader/Kucinich/Paul detritus.

In other words: Take a flying leap at a rolling donut, dudes, cause you're never going to get on board...

by lojasmo 2009-12-12 05:59PM | 0 recs
I uprated this...

But I didn't see Jerome's name in there, and now it's too late.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

No shock here that Jerome "loves" Obama's biggest critic from the left.

by Bobby Obama 2009-12-12 06:46PM | 0 recs
Don't complement Matt Taibbi like that

Self-serving iconoclast and wannabe gonzo journalist playing hard and loose with the facts. Miss Huff 'n Puff has competition.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

The problem with Charles Lemos' argument is as I have said before: branding.

Whatever the "facts" were is not what Obama was selling as his public image. Now, it is true, those of us who paid close attention got that there was no dimes worth a difference between he and Clinton, BUT, that's not an argument for claiming that this is the brand he road into office on. I remember saying as much last year when people were saying he was different from Clinton. I remember writing a diary in which I specifically argued that looking at the economic policy there was no difference other than slight tweaks between the two.

I remember someone else writing the problem was that people were buying into the Obama brand. That when he talked to progressives, those progressives simply did not want to hear it. That they believed what they wanted to believe of label. And, therein, is a lesson.

This is a "What's the Matter With Kansas" thesis- people voted for one thing because they were told to look else where by both the campaign and by their own projections  they bought into the effective branding campaign that President Obama ran on.

I mean- "You are the change you want.""Yes we can" All of that was branding because it was taking liberal idealism and turning it on its head. The substance of what he was saying was anything but change. It was anything "yes you can." It was Clintonism under a very good marketing campaign.

So, while Charles is right- he also misses a larger point.

The greater lesson is that we all can buy into branding. We are all influenced by it. I look at myself- I am cynical. Really cynical. I found myself wanting to buy his speeches when it gave them. This is the lesson that progressives can learn- how to use branding to build an emotional truth with voters. Not just policies or issues- but emotional truth.This emotional truth need not even be true or real versus the reality underneath.

I remember saying that regarding medicare for all. If the progressives had wanted to win, their opening move should have been "we want medicare for all because we believe in America" or something like that.

Every time I hear these stories about Obama- that's the lesson for me that I think progressives should take away. Rather tahn being bitter- figure out how to use what he did to your advantage.

by bruh3 2009-12-12 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I know, that's a whole other can of worms there which I've attempted to lay out but just don't feel like bothering with it. Yea, I talk with plenty of casual political observers whom you describe perfectly. heck, big bloggers we know bought it up. I just don't resonate with fighting it because I was never there personally, even though I do know that was in the selling.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-12 07:18PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

You've been reading Naomi Klein again. Tsk Tsk.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 07:35PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I don't get the connection? Has she said something similar? I actually got this idea from my friend who pulled me aside in 2008 saying that Obama is the Oprah-fication of politics. And, I know Oprah is big on brand management.

by bruh3 2009-12-12 07:41PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

What politician is not big on brand management... it's integral to being a politician.

For example Kuincihs votes against every single reform bill is not so much about principle, but largely about maintaining his brand.

by vecky 2009-12-12 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

There are other talk show hosts out there, but none of them has Oprah's brand. The key innovation for Obama is the disconnect between his brand, what he says and what he does versus what people believe about what he will do. I see that here all the time.


Brand: Obama is different from other Presidents in the relationship he wants to have with Congress. That's why he did not strong arm them.

Reality: He strong arms Congress on other policy issues in precisely the way that progressives advocated that he do for health care reform.

Brand: He's the anti-Clinton

Reality: His policies are centrist.

Brand: He is concerned with the letter of the law. That's why he had to have his DOJ write the DOMA brief the way he did.

Reality: Army window's penalty

Brand: If he does something, it is because that is the "politics of the possible rather than the IMPOSSIBLE."

Reality: who the hell can say what is completely impossible or possible when discussing political strategy that he has never used.

Brand: "Trust him. He got your back."

Reality: He's governing like most politicians do

These are just off top my head. He uses the brand without relationship to what he will eventually do. Other politicians worry about image, but he uses it to create a sense of what the underlying reality is.

The Oprah part is that he excels at it. She seems like  a sweet everywoman with nice middle class values. Reality: she's a ruthless billionaire.

by bruh3 2009-12-12 07:54PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I've never thought of Oprah as anything other than a business woman. So I guess I don't get taken in by branding as much as some others.

I've always considered Obama centrist and pragmatic. Even during the campaign when the loony right was saying "most far-left eva!".

by vecky 2009-12-12 08:21PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

This is not about you viewed him or me for that matter. It is about other people's perceptions and listening to them with regard to their rationale. I had many friends say he would be nothing like Clinton in policies, and I was like did you read the same policy statements I did? The reality is that they would rationalize it or ignore it.

by bruh3 2009-12-12 08:52PM | 0 recs
I had many friends who said things abiut Bush

That he was "plain spoken", "just like them", and "a good Christian".

That doesn't make them any less stupid.

Obama has been relatively consistent in his campaign rhetoric and actions, for a politician.

I wish we lived in honest fairytale land, but if Obama failed to brand himself, McCain would have branded him for us (see: 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004, inter alia).

Sorry dude. All's fair in politics.

There are remarkably few progressive politicians, and the one we had didn't make it out of the primary.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:27PM | 0 recs
Re: I had many friends who said things abiut Bush

Live by the sword, die by the sword.  You may think it's intellectually cute to accuse those who bought the Obama brand as different and populist of being stupid, but I assure you they won't like it one bit and may make it known at the ballot box.  

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

and by the way- lease you say it was them- it was a 2 way street. obama cultivated the image of being anti clinton. The idea that he was going to be centrist like clinton was hardly what he what he wanted as the upstart for people to think of him or else why would they choose him over her? that's the reality

by bruh3 2009-12-12 09:07PM | 0 recs
So what?

What does Hillary have to do with anything?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:28PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Do you have any support for your claim about Kucinich?  

by orestes 2009-12-13 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

You read a post on Open Left that went over the thesis developed by  Naomi Klein in No Logo and you have been spouting those talking points ever since.

If you honestly believe them, fair enough. But I am not convinced that you fully understand either Paul's review or Naomi's book. I would encourage to read the book.

Naomi Klein Nails Brand Obama.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 10:36PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I remember that article now. Unless Paul or Klein are discussing the "Oprah-fiction of politics" as my friend described it, this has nothing to do with my argument over branding. You are 1) telling me that I am using someone else's argument, but 2) also telling me that my arguments are not like the arguments you claim I am using.  There is a reason for my argument being different- that's because it comes out of something my friend said rather than what you read in that article. The branding issue is not even probably original to my friend, Klein or myself.  Although the Oprah line is unique to my friend.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 04:20AM | 0 recs

What wasted effort in a back and forth of unsubstantiated facts.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 07:18PM | 0 recs
So says Matt Taibbi and the Obama haters

Many of whom never liked the guy.

There's a real shortage of facts and solutions here. If you have some and would like to share, go ahead.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 06:10AM | 0 recs
Re: So says Matt Taibbi and the Obama haters

Let's assume you are correct that Taibbi "hates" Obama (a bit childish in the overstatement, I would argue), you have to prove that he is inaccurate in his statements.  Your so-called reasoning is the same applied by the right wing to deflct any criticism- Richard Clark, Joe Wilson, Hersch, the list goes on.  The fact that you do not see the similarity is what is truly troubling for the left (if you can be considered a part of the left).

by orestes 2009-12-13 09:37AM | 0 recs
Missing the point

This is about criticism based on fact. The minute we stray away from fact, we become a Tea Party. And if saying so makes me no longer a member of the left, then so be it.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 11:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Missing the point

No, your criticism is not based on fact.  You imply that Taibbi should not be believed because he "hates" Obama.  That is an appeal to argumentum ad hominen, not facts.  You want to discredit him because you assume bad motive.  That is precisely how the Bush admin and its enablers deflected all criticism.  Similarly, if your argument is that, oh, Taibbi referred to the wrong Rubin, therefore everything he says must be disbelieved, you are engaging in the same argument that cost Dan Rather his job.  Let's look past the truth in the report and focus solely on an irrelevant error.  

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:51AM | 0 recs
Pot, meet kettle

There are no factual errors in Taibbi's piece? Aside from Rubin?

There are no conspiracy theories or guilt by association?

Check the back and forth in the OP.


  1. You seem to be hung up on the word 'hater'. I used the term 'hater' in a modern, slang sense (someone who constantly puts another down without full justification), not in someone who has passionate hatred.
  2. Dan Rather's error was huge, even if it was against George W. Bush. Dan Rather also had a distinguished journalistic career to comepnsate for such error. Taibbi is a gonzo journalist. It's not that it's not journalism, but it isn't exactly journalism either.
by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Pot, meet kettle

a) the question is whether an error is material. Do you understand the concept?

b) Do you understand that groupthink does not require conspiracy? Do  you understand what groupthink is? I ask because you make claims that suggest you don't understand that while association may be important to conspiracy, it is also important to groupthink. Intent to cause harm is irrelevant in groupthink. It merely requires a narrow world view and bubble in which one exists. In other words, DC and Wall street thinking personified.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 12:17PM | 0 recs
Do you have any evidence?

Or is this just your opinion?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Do you have any evidence?

Why don't you go back to read the Taibbi piece and multiple articles written on the subject at sites like Naked Capitalism. Why don't you read the articles about the way the White House approached the health care bill and the groupthink there very early on about what was and was not "possible." Or the Groupthink that occurred with those who eventually dominated the debate over the stimulus. In many ways, they reflect Obama's tragic flaw regarding politics. Their strategy created a self realizing prophesy. Why don't you read Summers comments from today and think about for a change whether or not that mindset is truly "reality" or just the reality Summers believes or wants to spin to us. Spend less time here trying to tell me and others that we are wrong, and spend more time researching and understanding what people are saying. The fact you are going on and on about conspiracy  theories while others are discussing groupthink  says a lot.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 12:36PM | 0 recs
Do you have any evidence?

I could give a rats arse what some two-bit blogger in his pajamas says. If you don't have any evidence, then you're wasting you're time.

Groupthink groupthink groupthink repeating words over and over doesn't make the charge accurate groupthink groupthink groupthink.

As you have been criticized here before, you have a preconceived notion of facts in this Administration, based on select, narrow readings and specious evidence at best, and you will force  facts through that prism.

I'll give you one more chance to defend your position, which I am not even dismissing: what is your evidence?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Do you have any evidence?

The irony of course is that you are posting in blogs saying you don't give a rats ass about bloggers.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 12:47PM | 0 recs
Oh Lord.

I'm having a political discussion here in a blog.
I'm not formulating my view of the Obama Administration based on unsubstantiated facts, rumors, half-truths, or theories reported in blogs.

This discussion has to do with facts and evidence. And again, I will ask for such. Do you have it?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh Lord.

Denial is a form of logical fallacy.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 12:57PM | 0 recs
Denial of what?

And no, it's not.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 02:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Pot, meet kettle

The factual errors are not material to the overall argument.  Fernholz's claims have been refuted by Taibbi.  Charles makes some good claims in his comment, but again they are not material to Taibbi's point.

As to conspiracy theories, I would appreciate you pointing those out.  The only guilt by association I see in the article is that people who helped cause the crisis (or were too inept to see it coming) are now heading the Obama economic team.  This is factually based.  

Regarding the term hater, I accept your use.  It is a term that is being used in the netroots by some people to deride people who are critical of the president.  I don't want to go into the Rather incident, but it was never proven that the document was false.  And the rest of the report did not have any factual errors in it.  If you want to reject any report that does not permit any human error, I submit you will find very little to believe.

by orestes 2009-12-13 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

You are seeing what you want to see, not what is there. Taibbi is no different than Glenn Beck. Both are ideological flame-throwing polemicists. Two sides of the same coin.

I read the Taibbi piece and was aghast. Riddled with factual errors. Blames Rubin for every sin under the sun. Not saying that Rubin hasn't made mistakes but Taibbi is way off base.

"Rubin was the driving force behind the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act." No, it was Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan. Moreover the assault on Glass-Steagall began in the 1970s. Hard to be a driving force for 20+ years.

"Rubin had pushed the bank to invest heavily in mortgage-backed CDOs and other risky instruments." No, it was Charles Prince, Citi's CEO until 2007. Citi's investments in CDOs peaked in 2006. If anything Rubin curtailed betting on CDOs.

"Froman brought in none other than Jamie Rubin, a former Clinton diplomat who happens to be Bob Rubin's son." Wrong Rubin. Jamie Rubin is the former US State Dept spokesman. He is the son  of Harvey Rubin, the publisher and is married to Christiane Amanpour, the Iranian-born reporter.

"the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (passed specifically to legalize the Citigroup megamerger)" Geez, where to begin on that one. Citibank and Travelers merged in April 1998, Glass-Steagall (what was left of it) was repealed in November 1999. Taibbi is throwing out bombs and you believe them because you want to believe them not because there is actually a fire there. Glass Steagall covered the merger of investment banks and commercial banks. It was the the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 that kept commercial banks from underwriting insurance, not Glass-Steagall.

What rendered Glass-Steagall effectively obsolete was a ruling in December 1996 by the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan's directive that permitted bank holding companies to own investment bank affiliates with up to 25 percent of their business in securities underwriting up 10 percent. It is this expansion of a loophole created by the Fed's 1987 reinterpretation of Section 20 of Glass-Steagall that began the wave of mega-mergers.

"Even Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who has been out of government for only 30 months of his adult life, managed to collect $18 million during his private-sector stint with a Wall Street firm called Wasserstein-Perella." Taibbi omits to tell you that Rahm Emanuel got hit by lighting twice. The reason Emanuel made all those millions, apart that his connections to the Clinton White House landed him the job, is that Wasserstein-Perella got bought out twice during Emanuel's tenure. In short, Emanuel was very lucky. But Taibbi leads you to believe that the gains were ill-gotten.

Taibbi has an axe to grind against Rubin, perhaps justly so but that does not excuse a) shoddy journalism nor b) making up facts to fit a narrative. He's no different than Glenn Beck.

The irony of Bob Rubin: He's an unapologetic arch-capitalist demagogue whose very career is proof that a free-market meritocracy is a myth. Much like Alan Greenspan, a staggeringly incompetent economic forecaster who was worshipped by four decades of politicians because he once dated Barbara Walters, Rubin has been held in awe by the American political elite for nearly 20 years despite having fucked up virtually every project he ever got his hands on. He went from running Goldman Sachs (1990-1992) to the Clinton White House (1993-1999) to Citigroup (1999-2009), leaving behind a trail of historic gaffes that somehow boosted his stature every step of the way.

Rubin is a lot of things but a demagogue is not one of them. Not sure what Rubin did at Goldman to "fuck" it up. By all accounts, it was very successful tenure for Goldman and its employees bearing in mind that at that time GS was a privately held partnership. As Treasury Secretary, he balanced budgets and his policies led to full employment. One can and should take issue with a lax financial regulatory environment but that is the fault of more than just Bob Rubin. Finally Rubin didn't become Citi CEO until 2007. Rubin had an influential role at Citi since being brought on board by Sandy Weill in 1999 but to say that Rubin controlled Citi is a stretch. And that's just it, Taibbi stretches his facts to fit a pre-determined narrative.

Barack Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers "at the expense of hardworking Americans." Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it's not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing.

Honestly, that's biggest piece of drivel that I have read in a long time. Did he bother to check Obama's bundlers? It was stunning in 2007 how much money was pouring into the Obama campaign coffers from Lehman and Morgan Stanley. Ironically, the Citi and GS money backed Clinton. The trail of errors is beyond belief.

Obama built a coalition of African-Americans, the 29 and under crowd and white liberals who earned more than $75,000 to win the nomination. He was hardly the most left-leaning Democrat running. I'd argue that Obama was the most centrist with the possible exception of Bill Richardson and the most in bed with Wall Street after Clinton and Dodd. There was a reason he carried the demographic that earned more $250,000. What inspired his supporters was a well-tuned marketing campaign built around his anti-Iraq war stance. He differentiated himself on the score and his supporters chose not to see his record like the fact he voted for the Bush Cheney Energy policies or that Obama on national security was one of the most conservative Democratic Senators.

If you wanted a genuine outsider, your man was Gravel or Kucinich.

As director of the NEC, meanwhile, Obama installed economic czar Larry Summers, who had served as Rubin's protégé at Treasury. Just below Summers is Jason Furman, who worked for Rubin in the Clinton White House and was one of the first directors of Rubin's Hamilton Project. The appointment of Furman -- a persistent advocate of free-trade agreements like NAFTA and the author of droolingly pro-globalization reports with titles like "Walmart: A Progressive Success Story" -- provided one of the first clues that Obama had only been posturing when he promised crowds of struggling Midwesterners during the campaign that he would renegotiate NAFTA, which facilitated the flight of blue-collar jobs to other countries.

Shocking! Unless you live in the real world where it was clear that Barack Obama was a centrist whose record belied his rhetoric. I've actually read "Walmart: A Progressive Success Story" because I covered the company. It was written in 2005 for Podesta's Center for American Progress not for Brookings' Hamilton Project as Taibbi implies.

It is not, I think, much of a shock to realize that bank and state in the US are wed together in an unholy union to the detriment of the country. It's a problem that should be clear to anyone who is paying attention.

I have no interest in substituting insanity of the right for that of the left. Insanity is insanity. I have no interest in substituting populism of the right for that of the left. Populism is insanity, left or right.

I'm not much for populism of any kind. This just detracts from the national conversation. If Taibbi is going to be very influential on our side, then I for one will tune out. I have little love of mobs. I was in Buenos Aires when the peso crashed, it wasn't pretty. The urgency of reform should be self-evident to the elites that run the country because the anger that both Taibbi and Beck encapsulate in their body of work is real even if their facts are stretched to fit a pre-determined narrative.

Restore Glass-Steagall and educating the public on the too close for comfort relationship between bank and state should be the task at hand. But throwing bombs serves no one. It may be amusing to read a rant but to assign it a level of importance is to denigrate the national discourse. Those who play with populist fire get burned eventually. Today's GOP is a case in point.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Good luck on getting any of that to happen given the people in charge.

by bruh3 2009-12-12 07:42PM | 0 recs

Well then, let's get off our lazy arses and do something.

Challenge conservative democrats in primaries with progressive candidates.

Support and campaign for progressive candidates.

Keep respectful pressure on Obama.

Actually, you know, show up at rallies for progressive causes, unlike the pathetic 500 person turnout FDL had for the PO this past summer.

You do realize that you have just defeated your own argument? In a democracy, claiming you have insufficient power to affect change absolves those in power of any transgressions against your point of view.

Are you a (political) minority in this democracy or not?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:34PM | 0 recs

You seriously think the white house takes public opinion seriously? Elections are won with big money, spelled corporate money. This administration will never do anything to disrupt that cash flow.

by tarheel74 2009-12-13 05:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Naïveté

We certainly saw that with both the public option and re-importation of drug issues. Both poll to this day extremely high with the public, but the White House killed both. They are far more interested in what industry leaders think than the public.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 06:11AM | 0 recs
There you go again...

Obama killed the public option? Is he also making it rain today?

Aside from the fact that you're hung up on the public option, which is quite stupid considering it is one of several viable cost control measures and had been so watered down by that other body of Democrats called the Legislative Branch that other avenues may be more viable to such end, please, explain to me how Barack Obama single handedly killed the public option he campaigned on, which his reelection (and the election of legislative democrats) in part depends upon, and which Harry Reid wrote into the Senate Bill?

Please, explain.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: There you go again...

You willfully miss his point.  You argued that progressives need to demonstrate, etc. if they want their voices heard.  Bruh provides an example of how worthless that is with this administration, citing the overwhelming support for a public option.  Please explain, in light of your call to arms, the discrepancy between public support for the public option and the admin's response.  If 60+% public approval has no effect, what do you think can be done to bring about progressive change?

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:37AM | 0 recs
Talk to Joe Lieberman.

Ask him what his hold up is, 'cause I'd really like to know too.

Seriously, let's first leave aside your (and the bruh's) grave confusion between this Administration and the Legislative Branch of Our Government, and the demonstrated difficulty in counting to 60.

Why do you think the Tea Parties got so much attention this summer, despite being a minority opinion, as you note?

Jane Hamsher at FDL got a measly 500 people to rally for the Public Option. That loon Michelle Bachman got 10,000 to show up and rally against reform.

It's easy to ignore the voters when you don't see them. Did you honestly expect your congresscritter to do the right thing after you sent them to Washington if you don't ever speak up?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Talk to Joe Lieberman.

"That loon Michelle Bachman got 10,000 to show up and rally against reform"

Do you not know a thing about who bankrolled that?

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 12:38PM | 0 recs

And how is that remotely material?

Anyways, we spent quite some time researching the cost to get progressives to rally for reform. You know, actually doing something to help the public option. The cost comes to about $50/person for a round trip to DC for the day. The idea died due to apathy and lack of organizers with DC rally experience, not due to cost.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Talk to Joe Lieberman.

Please, not that old saw that the president plays no role in passing legislation!  That is a fool's argument, but the only one available to those trying to defend the admin's lack of leadership on the issue.  

But, again, you ignore the point.  The public overwhelmingly supports the public option, but there is little support for it in the admin or senate.  How does your call to arms play with those facts?  

So, your argument is that the polticians correctly ignore polls because some right-wing backed nuts have financed opposition to health care reform?  I agree that pro-health care reform people should be out fighting (and many of us are- why do you types always like to baldly assert that no one is doing anything on this issue?), but that does not explain the govt's ignoring the will of the people.

by orestes 2009-12-13 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Talk to Joe Lieberman.

This is the fall back argument: When they can not explain the president's behavior, they blame the American people for it. On some level, the same argument is present in saying that the public should have known that despite the rhetoric that Obama was going to govern as a right of center centrist.  It is never his fault for anything. All excuses follow from that underlying belief.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 12:50PM | 0 recs
Who's "they"?

Now you're thinking there's more than one of me?

And where is this political center you define (and put Obama way to the right of)? You're all over the place today, man.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 01:02PM | 0 recs
You read Jerome's response about astroturf.

Good for you. But you still seem to have terrible problems counting to 60. So whose fault is it that there's no public option?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: You read Jerome's response about astroturf.

Look, there are many options that are available to the Dems to pass a good bill.  Buying into this false notion that 60 votes are needed is self-defeating and it saddens me that it has become common wisdom.  It is common wisdom precisely because it justifies not doing anything right by the people.  The simplest tool available is permitting a filibuster.  Let the opposition stand up in the senate day and night reading the phone book.  The American people will see who they are, how they are willing to stand in the way of legislation for their own purposes.  The negative fallout would be a good lesson for them and would eventually lead to capitulation.  There are other strong-arm tactics that can be used, not least of which is a public campaign in favor of a good bill which also identifies and explains the opposition.  As a corollary example, I would point to the recent push by the NY governor to have the senate vote on gay marriage.  Of course, the bill was defeated, but the benefit of this vote is that NYers now know where their senators stand on the issue, which facilitates public pressure on both sides.  This is the way government should work.  Unfortunately, the movement has been in the opposite direction- if we can't pass something we don't bring it to a vote.  This now common method protects politicians from the wrath of their constituents and does a disservice to the people and the democratic process.

by orestes 2009-12-13 01:16PM | 0 recs
Say that to the Civil Right movement

How many social justice movements in history have been covered by less action outside the voting booth than progressivism? It's really quite pathetic.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Say that to the Civil Right movement

Eh, the civil rights movement, along with all other social justice movements, were/are progressive.  What warped view of progressivism do you have if you do not include these movements?

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:39AM | 0 recs
Yes, I know that.

But the civil Rights movement, despite having allies in Washington DC and the rest of the nation, didn't sit on their arses and moan about how Washington was not listening to them. They resorted to public action and nonviolent protest.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, I know that.

Okay, so now you change the argument.  Clearly, you're only interested in venting at everyone else for not resorting to public action and nonviolent protest.  I agree there should be more civil action re health care, but you cannot compare this issue with the civil rights movement.  First, we are not sure what we are fighting for or against because we are given so few facts (likely an intendiontal ploy to keep people off guard), we are working within a much tighter time frame, and, significantly, we cannot agree amongst ourselves on the bill and our demands.  Many on the left seem happy to accept very little.  

As an aside, the civil rights movement also included a fair amount of violent civil disobedience and protest.

by orestes 2009-12-13 12:52PM | 0 recs
I think we've beaten this to death

I don't believe we disagree as much as we may have initially presumed.

Your argument is (and correct me if I'm wrong!) that despite indicating desire for a PO in a poll, the public is confused, divided, and apathetic.

My response is: why on Earth then would the Legislature do anything for us in those circumstances beyond the bare minimum?!? why not take the path of least resistance? And I personally think that is what we're seeing.

I'm not venting at progressives for sitting on their hands. I'm just questioning how badly people really do want the PO, despite their anger, as well as the PO as one of many cost control mechanisms.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 01:26PM | 0 recs
Re: I think we've beaten this to death

I do not believe the public is divided and apathetic.  I believe they are intentionally confused.  Throughout the process it has been difficult to follow where things stand and what we can expect to get.  That has been a challenge even for those of us who are actively following the issue.  

I also do not believe the public is divided, as the polls may clear.  I believe the protct Obama/Dems at all costs crowd on the internets is divided.  These are the people who I would expect to participate in leading public protests, etc.  I am also disheartened that our elected representatives and party leaders don't lead in this effort.  

Finally, on what do you base your view that the public is apathetic?  I see no indication of that at all.  The public clearly wants a public option, an opportunity to have effective health care.  Where do you see apathy?  (If your point is that the public is apathetic because they do not flood the streets, I think that's not an accurate reflection of people's opinions.  Also, it is unfair to claim that if you don't rally in the streets you must not care.)

by orestes 2009-12-13 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Like I granted, personal facts and timeline's aside.

No doubt, Taibbi should have fact-checked his piece with you, seriously.

But on the substance of his angle, you and he agree; and it might be the case that it "is clear to anyone who is paying attention" but outside our little realm of the netroots, where is that conversation being told?  A few digits of reach at best.  Good for Taibbi for increasing the reach.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Perhaps he has increased the reach but he has also perhaps unwittingly exposed a divide. Read the comments over on the American Prospect in response to Fernholz's critique. There is a pitchfork element to some of those comments.

My bottom line: beware letting that populist cat of the bag. You think it a kitten but it is a tiger. A populist wave can very easily become a tsunami wiping everything in its path.

The GOP is now learning the difficulty of controlling a mob. Two books I strongly recommend on the madness of crowds.

Elias Canetti's Crowds and Power and Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The Mackay book was written in 1841. It is largely about the psychology of financial asset bubbles and was written as the Panic of 1837 was winding down. One of the most insightful books ever  written. It is an easy read.

Canetti's book written in 1960 is tougher. It's a scholarly work. Canetti who won a Nobel Prize for Literature was a Bulgarian Jew born when the Ottoman Empire was dying. He lived through the Balkan wars. He writes about the "prevailing emotions" of crowds. He looks at how crowds gather and move.  Taibbi is what Canetti would call a "baiter." That's also the psychology of a lynch mob. He baits and goads and spurs a crowd into action and the consequences are wild and unpredictable.

Taibbi is making an emotional appeal in his piece. The emotion is based on betrayal. He is accusing the President of a "bait and switch." There's an anger prevalent throughout his discourse. This is not a sane man. He is a very angry man and writes from a poisonous well.

When one starts discarding facts or curving them to suit one's ideology, one enters a very dangerous territory. This is the world of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. It is a crowd that self-deludes.

One other point worth mentioning. Taibbi complains that Obama reached for Rubinites to fill his posts. Well given that the GOP has governed for 20 out of the last 28 years, where else is Obama to pick from for Democratic talent with government experience? The talent pool is ipso facto going to be dominated by Rubinites because Rubin so dominated the political economy of the last Democratic Administration.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

OK, on your last point-- it is too far to reach; and this is probably exactly where Taibbi comes in with the "bait and switch" claim.

This is candidate Obama:

"The American people . . . understand the real gamble is having the same old folks doing the same old things over and over and over again and somehow expecting a different result."

You can't go from that transformative promise to a Treasury and policy that has domination of the old guard and status quo policy, without a serious mental feat of denial.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 10:13AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Yeah both you and I didn't take Obama at his word. We weren't swept away by soaring rhetoric. We looked at his record. We took the time to dig deeper and Taibbi didn't.

Whose fault is that?

Much of the Obama crowd was one that self-deluded. In particular, the young set to which Taibbi is giving voice was one that saw Obama as this messianic politician. You and I knew better.

Am I disappointed by Obama? At times yes and over his lack of human rights in our foreign policy I am angry beyond words. Am I surprised by his actions? Not in the least.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Can I just say that your post here perfectly demonstrates the Wall Street mentality even as you say you are not one of them.

A person who helps take care of a family member of mine works 13 hours daily. She has children she takes care of with her husband.  

She bought into the rhetoric that you are saying she should have found out was not true.  When do you in your estimation think she should have had to realize the soaring branding was not reality?

by bruh3 2009-12-13 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Also, in regards to Rubin and Citi, let me just point you to the NYT's summary, which clearly shows there's no buck-passing from Rubin to Prince:

The bank's downfall was years in the making and involved many in its hierarchy, particularly Mr. Prince and Robert E. Rubin, an influential director and senior adviser.

Citigroup insiders and analysts say that Mr. Prince and Mr. Rubin played pivotal roles in the bank's current woes, by drafting and blessing a strategy that involved taking greater trading risks to expand its business and reap higher profits. Mr. Prince and Mr. Rubin both declined to comment for this article.

When he was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, Mr. Rubin helped loosen Depression-era banking regulations that made the creation of Citigroup possible by allowing banks to expand far beyond their traditional role as lenders and permitting them to profit from a variety of financial activities. During the same period he helped beat back tighter oversight of exotic financial products, a development he had previously said he was helpless to prevent.

And since joining Citigroup in 1999 as a trusted adviser to the bank's senior executives, Mr. Rubin, who is an economic adviser on the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama, has sat atop a bank that has been roiled by one financial miscue after another.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/busine ss/23citi.html

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I wasn't exculpating Rubin as much as suggesting that Citi's woes extended beyond Rubin to others including Charles Prince.

But Taibbi put it all on Rubin when that it is clearly not the case.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 11:26AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Charles, pitchforks can have great deterrent effect.  What methods do you espouse?

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I've got to run. But I'll be back around 4 PM PST. Happy to engage then.

But I've always believe that you engage people with arguments based on facts and not play to their emotions.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

OK.  I look forward to continuing the discussion.  I take the view that facts and emotions are necessary to energize the populace.

by orestes 2009-12-13 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Yes, but there is a difference appealing to hope and playing on fears.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 02:30PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I don't understand.  What is your view on the role of emotion in social causes?  I understood you to say that emotion should not be engaged; that appeal to facts is the correct approach.  However, now you seem to be drawing a distinction between appealing to hope and appealing to fear.  I would agree that one should not appeal to fear- but appealing to anger is a different story.  I believe the way to social change is to rally the people to demand policies that will improve their lives.  And to use their anger- with facts- to get them engaged.  What do you espouse?

by orestes 2009-12-13 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Although I agree it was true that Obama was a centrist in fact, he fabricated an image of being a rational populist, primarily through his speeches.  Sure, voters could have looked behind that, but most don't.  In fact, many of those supposed educated about the candidates vehemently denied the facts.  I think Taibbi's take is on the mark.  Or at the very least, is a reasonable take on how the O campaign acted.  

You have stated before your dislike of populism.  I understand that it can lead to problems if it gets out of control, but what tool does the left have to bring about change if not populist outrage?  Most citizens do not have the time, inclination, or intellectual skill (not meant as a hit against people, but rather our terrible educational system) to become fully engaged in politics.  Their anger needs to be heard and channeled into effective organizing for change.  Numbers is the key strength that the left has on its side.  Class warfare is very real and it should be harnessed for progressive change.  Again, what tools do you think should be used in its stead?  

As for the national discourse, it is already denigrated.  And I would argue that comparing Taibbi to Beck (a gross overstatement, in my view) is just the kind of denigration you decry. We have all bemoaned the absence of an open and honest discussion of real issues and real facts.  We are simply not going to get them in the major media.  If flame-throwing is what is required to get people riled up, then so be it.

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Slippery slope, I tell you, slippery slope.

When discussions ceased to be based on reason and logic and move into the realm of emotion, you're unleashing forces that take on a life of their own.

What tools does the left have?

The ones we have always had. Facts.

I haven't come to my conclusions on neo-liberal economic policies because I have a pre-determined ideological viewpoint. If anything, I was trained as a neo-liberal but the statistics point in another direction. I've moved left because that arguments that Stiglitz, Galbraith and Krugman make have validity.  

I disagree with the premise that people can't be reasoned with. Perhaps it is not easy, but it can be done.

There is also a difference between mass-based popular movements and populism. Populism is often but not always laced with deep-seeded fears and peppered with conspiracy theories. There is often this external threat that marks populist movements, generally a reaction against elites.

Both Taibbi and Beck play the same game. Their politics are different no doubt but both see conspiracies everywhere and both either stretch or omit facts to suit their arguments.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Come on- are you really arguing that populism cannot be based on facts?  It is the melding of facts with action that are the basis of a populist movement.  Pointing out the inequities in our society and calling people to arms to rectify them is the heart of populism.  Cool reason is simply not an effective tool.  I would love to hear an example of a successful social change movement based solely on reason.  

The rejection of emotion as a useful tool castrates any social movement.  We are all aware of how unchecked emotion can lead to devastating consequences, but you don't have to employ emotion exclusively.  This is the difference between the tea party movement and ACT UP in the eighties.  The tea party folks wallow in ignorance.  Act Up used the anger gay men felt at the AIDS crisis and used it to bring about effective change.  To conflate the two does a disservice to social movements and, perhaps unwittingly, advocates the continuance of the status quo.  It is simply a fact, Charles, that oppressed people are going to be angry.  To deny that is to deny them and the change they demand.

by orestes 2009-12-13 12:01PM | 0 recs
I don't think Charles is talking about anger

We're all angry.

I think he's saying that our anger must be based on facts, and that alternative solutions must be present, otherwise we degenerate into teabaggers.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't think Charles is talking about anger

I'll let Charles speak for himself, but he appears to be arguing that emotion is too dangerous a tool to use for social change.  Anger, of course, would fall into this category and is indeed the most threatening emotion.  

by orestes 2009-12-13 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I'm not sure that I would count ACT UP as a populist movement. It was a single issue. I'm talking about something more broad based. The aim of ACT UP was to change a policy, the aim of the Tea Party is far greater than that. It is aiming for political power.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 02:34PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

By that definition, you are limiting populist movements significantly.  Suffrage was not a populist movement?  The civil rights movement?  I can assure you that ACT UP was more than a single issue movement for those involved.  Granted, it had a specific series of goals, but it was a real community movement.  

So, do you see populism as only a broad-based movement to make serious change to the form of government?  If so, we apply different definitions.    

by orestes 2009-12-13 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I wouldn't count the suffrage or the civil rights movement or the anti-war as "populist." Populism has a class component even though it is ideologically neutral. Populism can come from the left, right or even center. But populism is couched in an us versus them language. The suffrage movement and the civil rights movement cut across class lines.

From a political science perspective, there is a difference between a populist movement and a mass-based popular social movement. The former is more broad base while the latter single-issue (or at least very specific goals). Populism aims for power while popular movements aim to change minds and policies without necessarily effecting a change in government.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 03:19PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

What is wrong with having emotions about the class component in a conversation involving economic issues?

And mass based social movements also aim for power. Power is the point of politics. How they achieve that power may differ, but the underlying goal of the civil rights movement was black power in  society that denied my parents any power.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 04:25PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

The goal of the civil rights movement was empowerment but it did not seek to put Martin Luther King in as President. The goal was enfranchisement not a particular political office for its leadership.

Populist movements seek to place their leaders in power. Popular social movements seek only to redress some perceived aggrievement, they do not necessarily require a change in government.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 04:47PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

a)  The civil rights movement did not begin and end with MLK. There was also Malcolm X and others. The movement continued on, including presidential runs by Al Sharpton and more importantly Rev Jackson.

b) However, assuming your argument true regarding seeking office, you are setting up a false choice. That the desire to seek economic populism must mean that one is discussing occupying an office. The desire to occupy an office grows out of the desire to address power to influence economic policy outcomes rather than to elect a particular figure. When people discuss wage stagnation, that's an issue they are discussing about power. When they discuss trade, unions, health care, bailouts to wall street, progressive tax structures, education, and a multitude of other issues- they are discussing things that affect their lives.

I think you are turning the present situation on its head. The people advocating that we follow personalities are coming out of the status quo because they know that will distract us. If anything, the economic populist (at least on the left) are coming from a place of saying lets move behind these distractions.

I consider myself an economic populist. So, when you write what you write- to say the least- I think to myself "who the hell is he talking about?" It certainly ain't me or any of the other economic populists I know.

I was not supporting Edwards because I liked Edwards. I was supporting him due to the policies I wanted enacted. I was indifferent to his personality. That's why when he dropped out- I was able to move on within days to saying whoever wins the Democratic nomination - I will support them. Meanwhile the two real cults of personalities - the Clinton and Obama teams fought over nothing but personality.

That diary up right now by Jerome- illustrates that's exactly what Obama ran on. Not issue, but the desire to gain power, if I am understanding your argument, for the sake of power by winning an office.

You seem stuck with some historical views of some types of populism, but ignore what presently his fueling economic populism right now.

To the person, I never met an Edwards supporter who supported him because they thought he would "save" us. We supported him because as my friend said "he's not talking ying-yang about economic issues" like "we can sit down and talk to the insurance companies when it comes to giving up their billions" or the yingyang that Summers spewed today.

In other words, the desire to seek office is totally different from how you describe it. The desire for power is to enact economic policy changes rather than prop up some authoritarian personality. Indeed, the authorirarian persinality cults are coming from other aspects of the electorate.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 05:19PM | 0 recs
Would it be creepy if...

...I built a shrine to Charles and worshiped at it?

(This is hyperbole, of course, and I don't mean to creep Charles out. I'm not starting a religion about him. But I just cannot sufficiently express how important I feel the sentiment of maintaining fact is)

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I am still not quite sure why I feel compelled to defend Bob Rubin or the Obama Administration when in fact they both irk me on this score.

Taibbi's not wrong but the whole conspiracy angle really really irks me. Pre-determined narratives are, I think, intellectually vacant.

I suspect that I may be the odd man out on this debate. I think my views in my post on the Separation of Bank and State speak for themselves.

I understand people enjoy a good rant and perhaps it serves the purpose of letting off steam. The anger is real. There is no question about that. This I hope is evident to the Administration.

Restoring Glass-Steagall should be a top priority. Geithner is against that idea. All the more reason, he needs to go.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 07:50PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1936.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:36PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Unfortunately with the complete lack of transparency with the TARP handling, it just feeds into conspiracies. However much you might dislike Taibi's thesis, it not a coincidence that two comapnies got sweetheart deals, Citi and Goldman and both of them had former or current employees working for the government. IMO Citi is a bankrupt company and the only way it survived is through this extraordinarily opaque sweetheart deal it got from the Fed.

by tarheel74 2009-12-13 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Fernholz's point was:

but politically it's bad for progressives because conspiracy theories stand in the way of good policy analysis and good activism, replacing them with apathy and fear.

If you think the tea-baggers are good for the Republican party, then maybe you can make a case for Taibbi being good for progressives. I think Fernholz, and Charles above, are correct. You have to diagnose the actual cause to successfully change things, wishful thinking and pleasing narratives end up serving the interests of the status quo. Taibbi may motivate people, but he will motivate people to burn the witch (in this case Bob Rubin) rather than address the political power of Wall Street.

by souvarine 2009-12-12 07:57PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Good point, but I don't buy the equivalency angle. The angry rhetoric opens the door to addressing the concerns.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Burning the witch, as you put it, does serve a political purpose in that, to the extent it instills fear in the overprivileged thieves, it can have some deterrent effect.  Also, you falsely assume that one cannot burn Rubin while still focusing aim at Wall Street.  Why would you make this assumption?

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Witch burning is a handy way for the people profiting from the system to short circuit any attempts at reform. Historic witch burnings didn't scare anyone with actual power, and of course they couldn't instill fear in non-existent witches, but they do serve to misdirect people from the real cause of their problems to personalized imaginary ones.

Bob Rubin won't suffer from the slings and arrows of Mat Taibbi, nor will he, or any "overprivileged thieves", be hurt by whatever fervor Taibbi manages to stir up, but that fervor can serve to block reform. The Republican populist arm, the Tea Parties, are in sync with the party's goal of weakening government. Taibbi's polemic shifts attention from the decades of Republican policies that led us to this point and dumps the whole mess on one guy, Bob Rubin, who Taibbi attempts to turn into a Democratic Svengali. So what might Democratic politicians do? Denounce Rubin, the same way Obama denounced the DLC while campaigning on DLC policies.

by souvarine 2009-12-13 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

What we do know is that Barack Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn't be surprised. Maybe it's our fault, for thinking he was different.

It's your fault, there Matt. Nothing some self-flagellation can't correct.

There was no bait and switch. And the problem extends much deeper than the President. I'd argue that most of Washington has been captured by the easy money of haute finance. It's not some vast conspiracy theory. It just is. Pretty much historical fact at this point. This is a road we have been traveling since the Carter Administration when the first reins of regulation were loosened. And the problem is that the economy has become dependent on  financialization (securitization) to drive economic growth. Instead of investing in productive capacity, we create money out of thin air. But money created out of thin air can also vanish into thin air when the underlying assets to support those derivative instruments falter. The model is the problem.

But I am not a polemicist because what would that solve?  

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 08:31PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Still waiting to see how things will change by the set of people in charge being from Wall Street.

by bruh3 2009-12-12 09:03PM | 0 recs
Guilt by association

And here I thought that tactic was limited only to only the right.

You know, the world isn't going to change overnight.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I am from Wall Street. My sentiments, while that of a minority, are not rare in banking. You have to remember many have backgrounds in economics. They are at the very least aware of the arguments being made.

One's occupation does not disqualify you from being a progressive.

Yellin at the Fed. Corzine at Treasury, Stiglitz at the head of the Council of Economic Advisors

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 09:56PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Groupthink is the problem with your argument. This has been discussed here by me several times regarding issues like health care and the DC bubble mindset before this article, and has been brought up at least once by Naked Capitalism with their discussion of cognitively captured. The point is I don't believe real change will happen so long as the people in charge are from Wall Street culture.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 04:30AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Tell that to FDR then.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 02:35PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

You see an FDR figure amongst Wall Street today? More importantly, what has that got to do with groupthink. My argument is not an argument against wealth.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 03:12PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Jon Corzine.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 03:20PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I know you believe that.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 03:28PM | 0 recs
Where exactly is that bait and switch?

Can someone quote, source, and cite? Anyone?

If anyone's at fault, it's people like Taippi believing that governing America isn't an ugly business, even though I still hope for a brighter day.

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

No bait and switch?  I'm sorry, but this defies reason to me.  Do you think the American public expected the bank bailout to go down as it did?  Do you think Obama was clear about his intentions there?  What about the lack of Wall St reform- esp. in light of the hardball played with GM?  What about the urgent need for health care reform that has been treated tepidly at best by the admin or with disinterest at worst?

I will agree that Taibbi was naive if he believed the hope/change rhetoric and does deserve some flagellation for it.

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:13AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

My problem with the discussion. Each time someone criticize the president, the discussion becomes about the writer or criticizer.  Now, we hearing complaints about Taibbi. In other context, it is Glenn Greenwald. In others, it was one of President Obama's former aids, who  was attacked for criticizing the president. My point is that this is really at base to me more of the culture of personality approach to politics even while arguing one should not look at personality. WHy are we suppose to demonize Taibbi, but to do the same to the figures who caused the problem is unseemingly. I don't get the logical consistency.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I doubt very much that Taibbi is representing himself there with the belief in the transformative Obama. In fact, I'm sure you could pull something up in Google to show his take seeing through it.

But, his audience here is RS, and is there any publication that exalted Obama as the savior of change more than RS? It was way over the top, and these are brand consumption voters of politics, not policy or voting history.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 12:44PM | 0 recs
How is this not a giant straw man argument?

I am asking with the utmost respect, but I am wondering if this is not one giant straw man argument from the anti-Obama left?

"I took a lot of shit from others in the progressive blogosphere during the '08 for not drinking Obama's hopeaid,..."

People during the election (apparently) believed a fantasy about Obama.
I never believed that fantasy about Obama.
The fantasy now clashes with reality, as was inevitable.
Therefore, I am right.

You (and Matt Taippi) aren't prescient. You're just betting on reality.

I'm somehow supposed to be surprised that the reality of governing a nation, protecting its citizens from foreign threats and its economy from collapse clashes with a progressive fairy tale?

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-12 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: How is this not a giant straw man argument?

That fantasy was sold to the American public, whether you believed it or not.  And it was done intentionally and with the collusion of many who should have known better, but refused to look at all of the facts.  If you are unwilling to acknowledge this, then I don't think you are being intellectually honest.

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:17AM | 0 recs
Alls fair in politics

If Obama didn't brand himself, then McCain would have done it for him.

Personally, I was quite tired of our nominees allowing the GOP opponent to brand them (see: 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004)

by NoFortunateSon 2009-12-13 12:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Alls fair in politics

It is not about whether he should brand himself.  I agree, all politicians do that.  It is how he branded himself.  He tried to be all things to everyone.  In the netroots, any criticism was met with (and continues to be met with), give him a chance to do what he said.  The risk of promising so much is that you will have to answer for failing to meet those promises.  

If you are positing that it's fair in politics to lie to the public, I disagree morally and practically.  The former is a personal view, but the practical consequences can be very detrimental.

by orestes 2009-12-13 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: How is this not a giant straw man argument?

Given you joined here recently in Oct of '09, where were you posting during the election and primary. I think it'd be interesting to read what you wrote then about how Obama was running. Certainly you have the links to your old usernames, right?

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Jerome's link to Digby is really worth the read.

it emotionally "makes sense."

Yes, I understand that it does. The mood of the country is foul indeed. Reality no longer matters, only perception does. Hence the appeal of a Sarah Palin and therein lies the danger. We cannot eschew reason and pepper our arguments with half-truths because ultimately we are sacrificing the coherence of logic for the speciousness of emotion.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 10:28PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Yea, but reason among righteous anger & projection will get you about 44% of the vote most often. We have to recover the populist thrust if we want to govern in these times.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

What's the alternative?  Clearly, we did not have such an honest debate during the last election cycle, given the number of people who are now so disillusioned with the distance between Obama's rhetoric and policies.  

Furthermore, I disagree with your position that emotion should not play a role in politics.  It certainly got Obama elected.  And it is an important tool to be used for good.  The fact that it can also be used to bad ends is not enough to eschew its value, in my opinion.  Especially when it is the biggest tool in the shed at this point.  

You keep arguing against populism and emotion, but I don't hear of any tools that can be used in their stead.  It's easy to try to remain above the fray, but that gets us nowhere.

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Thank you. I repeatedly ask Charles to explain how he thinks we get to the policies he says he wants. I am ignored. I am not saying he needs to answer me, but he does need to answer the question outside of attacking anyone or any idea that pushes for a way forward.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Emotion clearly plays in political discourse and decision-making but there's a difference between aspiring our nobler aspects and playing to the lowest base instincts.

The latter breeds demagogues.

No doubt, emotions played a big part in Obama's win. Obama won over 90% of the African American vote in the primaries. Totally understandable. I get that. Just like women over 50 preferred Clinton by an overwhelming numbers. People vote for one of their own. I have a harder time comprehending why Obama captured the 29 and under crowd in such numbers apart perhaps from his stance on the war. Taibbi isn't part of this demographic but intellectually speaking he is.

He feels betrayed, hoodwinked and now he's lashing out. He's not just attacking Obama but also attacking the message. My guess is that in the 29 and under crowd a deepening cynicism and apathy may set in.

We'll see.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 02:53PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Charles, I can't help but feel you are being evasive on the emotion question.  Do you accept channeling anger as a means for progressive change?  If not, why?

I would assume most of the under 29 crowd embraced Obama because of his change rhetoric.  What is wrong with Taibbi attacking the message presented by the Obama economic team?  Isn't that hte purpose of the press- to question government?  I hope Taibbi is not so naive to hve bought the Obama package, but if he were, doesn't he have the right to feel betrayed?  (This is not an invite to debate the merits of the admin, but simply a statement of personal right.)  Is it your view that he is wrong because he is acting out of anger/disappointment?  

by orestes 2009-12-13 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

We probably have to define anger.

I'm not saying that anger doesn't motivate people, it clearly does. But I do think it important not to foment outright rebellion and mobs on the street. Not that I believe that Taibbi is doing that but rather his narrative is pre-determined and he selects his facts to fit it. This was as much an attack on Bob Rubin as it was on Obama.

My problem with Taibbi's piece is that he is weak on facts and seeks to paint the world as black and white when there are so many shades of gray. He oversimplifies the complexity of the issue. Moreover, he paints the problem - the capture of government by haute finance - as one tied to a few personalities suggesting thus a nefarious conspiracy when the problem is more systemic, institutional and cultural.  

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

What material fact is Taibbi weak on?

by bruh3 2009-12-13 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Read Fernholz or my comment above.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 04:36PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I read your posts to mean that  anyone who did not realize that I I read your posts now 3 times.

You argue (or seem to argue) that people should have seen through the brand to the centrism. To some degree, I did last year- hence my comment about Oprah-fication. Hence why after Edwards dropped out, I said I would be fine with Clinton or Obama- I saw not difference. But, I do not judge the population by my level of political awareness, which is the mistake I often see made here. You seem to be judging people by your level of involvement rather than theirs. You also do not seem to aknowlege that Obama used this lower level of awareness to manipulate them.

Hence, my response above in which I pointed out that quite a few Americans are apolitical and/or too busy to realize that the brand is not real.

The stuff you mention about Rubin was odd to me. Rubin is considered the intellectual godfather neoliberal policies to come out of the Democratic Party. Are you saying he did not influence the present economic leadership in the White House? Are you disputing that idea? That's the material dispute I would like to read about.

The material information for the reader is whether the Obama team is as Naked Capitalism described it: "cognitively captured" by Wall Street.  Do you dispute this?

by bruh3 2009-12-13 05:02PM | 0 recs
If I understand you correctly..

you are advocating against anger based policy making because you are afraid of the consequences, not because it would be right or wrong ?

Did I get that right ??

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-13 04:52PM | 0 recs
Re: If I understand you correctly..

I am skeptical of movements that are largely based on anger and nothing else. They are reactive rather than proactive.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 05:40PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

And say what you will about Jerome's motives but this is spot on:

A massively unfair burden of debt to the middle-class taxpayer; an extremely benevolent bonus to mega financial corporations; and a severely damaging hit to the Democratic Party's brand as being a party of the people and not the elite.

It is our party that will take the hit.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-12 10:46PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

If the banking system had collapsed near the end of '08 it would have been the collapse of the middle-class tax payer as well. Now that it's clear collapse has been averted it's easy to throw stones.

I agree it's the Dems who will take the hit. If it was only about politics the Dems would have voted against the bailout let the system fail all the while blaming Bush and the GOP. But most Dems aren't that selfish...

by vecky 2009-12-13 12:37AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

There is something to say about rescuing troubled financial institutions and writing blank checks to compulsive gamblers and taking a subpar payback for that. What this administration did was the latter. In essence we rewarded bad behavior without any preconditions or reform. Therein lies the rub and that is the reason why the Democratic brand is severely tarnished.

by tarheel74 2009-12-13 06:32AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

The Dems could have also altered the bailout on the basis of their economic policies and a sense of fair play.  You set up a false choice between playing politics and throwing truck loads of money at Wall Street.  It is this kind of thinking that will lead to the demise of the Democratic party.  Dems need to start using the power they have instead of engaging in these false paradigms.

by orestes 2009-12-13 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Like what? After the first vote failed, the promise was made by the Dem leadership that a stimulus legislation would be passed as a first priority of the Obama admin. And that was kept.

The bailout was an emergency legislation - more stuff could have been added to it at the expense of delaying it. Delay it too long and the rot would have spread. As it was the financial sector tethered on the brink right uptil Jan-Feb.

by vecky 2009-12-13 02:14PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Well, for one, they could have attached restrictions on the beneficiaries.  I also do not buy the sky was falling scenario.  

by orestes 2009-12-13 02:25PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Financial panics are pretty brutal.

I have no problem intervening to stave off collapse but I most definitely want a regulatory environment restored.

by Charles Lemos 2009-12-13 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I agree with staving off financial collapse.  I just don't think it's an excuse or rationalization for giving away the farm.  Also, it was apparent to me (still is) that we continue to merely kick the can down the street.  Mortgages, credit cards, PE credit- all of it still out there waiting to explode.

by orestes 2009-12-13 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

What kind of restrictions? The Obama admin has put in place pay restrictions on the top 100 executives at the firms.

What else were you looking for?

by vecky 2009-12-13 04:58PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

It was reported this week that they mostly have been giving exemptions for the rules they set up for the companies. And there are other things they could have done, but blocked. Certainly we can take  a lesson from the British, and , if you prefer right of center governments- the Germans are also contemplating heavily taxing executive pay.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: the indies are abandoning us in droves

for who?

by vecky 2009-12-13 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: the indies are abandoning us in droves

Does it matter? If it is not for you- you are still Corzine.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 05:05PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

It's just amazing to me that those people who CLAIM to have paying attention during the election season are now SHOCKED that obama is a centrist democrat.

Frankly, I'm astounded.

by lojasmo 2009-12-13 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Its not that astounding, really. The sales pitch and group think was amazing. As I posted in the update, just go back and read the anger thrown toward anyone that dared to point it out in the primary, especially right after Edwards dropped out. Late Jan to late May '08 especially.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

it is not just with the primary branding image (Anti-Clinton, anti-war, etc) versus his policies as a centrist that they indulge in mental flips. It happens to this day with policies that he is making decisions on now. With the torture photos, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out- it would be one thing if you were against releasing torture photos. However, that is not what occurred with  some of the more zealous supporters. They were for releasing the photos when he was for it. They were against it when he was against it. They never made any attempt to explain the shift that did not amount to trust President Obama. The same occurred with other issues- he had not hand in the Baucus healthcare bill, but when it suited some- they claimed that he did, and on and on.

The real point of all of this overtime with multiple issues involved is to subvert discussions of accountability. If you can hold the argument down to what were the core truths, you can start to hold the President accountable for the choices he makes. That can never happened so long as the game is to pretend whatever he is doing at the moment was always what he wanted to do because there is never a prior benchmark that you are allowed to use to gauge his action by.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I think the differences you site are merely the differences between being a pragmatist and an ideologue.

by vecky 2009-12-13 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I think you would argue the sky is pinstripe black and white if you thought it would favor the president, and thus, I really don't care how you care to demarcate pragmatism and ideologue- especially given the irony that the Obama administration is full of idealogues of the right of center kind.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 05:06PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I disagree.

During the campaign, Obama walked a fine line between a bunch of progressive policies and a bunch of centrist-conservative policies.

He had some of both, and anybody paying attention could have figured that out.

However, his governing hasn't seemed to be in the same proportion. While he has enacted some progressive policies (mostly quick and politically easy), he hasn't gone to bat for them in a way that we expected.

However, he HAS gone to bat for the centrist-conservative policies (war funding arm twisting and troop levels, wall-street bailouts, starting with a stimulus that was in large part tax cuts, working for a HCR trigger behind the scenes, his admin threatening progressive but holding hands with the blue dogs, etc.

THAT'S the problem.

by jeopardy 2009-12-13 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

And if folk cared they could look at his history in the Illinois legislature. It had Centrists written all over it.

Not to mention during the GE campaign Obama veered heavily towards the center.

by vecky 2009-12-13 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

are you denying that Obama talked about progressive stuff during the campaign? are you suggesting that Obama campaigned on filling his cabinet with wall st. guys who would then orchestrate gigantic transfers of taxpayer money to already rich bankers with no or very few strings attached?

if if you believe that Obama is governing 100% as progressive as his voting history, etc, the fact remains that he's only really put his full weight behind the more conservative parts of his platform (arm-twisting progressive about war funding, for instance) and not the more progressive stuff.

and even then, it is absolutely illogical to say that people should still support Obama now even if they were "dumb" enough to think he is more progressive than he really is. That makes no sense. If he is not governing how you want him to govern, then it is completely justified to not support him in that.

by jeopardy 2009-12-13 05:27PM | 0 recs
I was shocked by M Taibbi's piece...

I read Charles' rebuttal, and all the other fact checks.  But I am still shocked.

I have never been an Obama fan (as my wife constantly reminds all our guests), but I have tried to be fair to the President in the criticism I dish out.  In that vein, I had written a somewhat complimentary diary on the politics of his economic policies.  Seems like I was speaking mostly in ignorance.

I think I will refrain from making any comments on any political matters for the foreseeable future (i.e., the rest of this week)

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-13 04:58PM | 0 recs
Re: I was shocked by M Taibbi's piece...

The jury is really out as far as if its working. Unless I see inflation really quick, I'd doubt it.

I'm sure you linked to the PDF above and saw 10 Trillion added to the estimate you previously held.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-12-13 05:59PM | 0 recs
Re: If I understand you correctly..

Except your "nothing else" argument is incorrect. You add that into a situation in which people are discussing how they are angry over very specific problems in our society.

by bruh3 2009-12-13 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

I did see that link; I only saw an additional $6.8T or so, corresponding to the GSEs (Fannie and Freddie).

Still, it is quite a number.  At 20T, it would 2X US GDP, and 33% of the world's GDP.  Another way of looking at it is that the housing valuations increased from $36T in 2002 to $72T in 2007.  

And yes, a wee bit of inflation would be good news.

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-13 07:19PM | 0 recs
Re: I was shocked by M Taibbi's piece...

Posted my comment below by mistake link

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-13 07:20PM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Well, Charles, I don't want to get into a game with you, but you can certainly define an us and them in each of the movements I mentioned.  However, I think I finally get your point.   You define populism as a movement of the people against their oppressors/the overprivileged.  You're afraid of class-based populist movements.  I wish you would have just stated that from the beginning instead of tapdancing around it.  I think it's immoral to try to deny the people their right to anger at inequities in society because you fear for your own hide.  It's the classic case of trying to deny the rights of the masses as one of the elites.  In my view, one of the inherent downsides of being overprivileged is that a lot of people bear resentment towards you for your privilege.  That is their right.  Being overprivileged carries many advantages; this is one of its disadvantages.  Plain and simple.  

As I said, I think it's immoral for you to want to take away one of the few tools the average citizen has (numbers) in order to protect yourself.

by orestes 2009-12-14 05:20AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Charles, you keep changing the terms of the debate.  Now, you are saying anger is okay, but not if it foments rebellion and mobs.  Okay, fine.  But, how in the hell does an article in RS rise to this level?  You accuse Taibbi of "populism" (and insanity) and dismiss it/him because populism "distracts from the national discourse." Wow.  I am really shocked.  You turn progressivism on its head.  Taibbi is insane because he points out the relationships between Obama's economic team and the financial industry collapse.  He should be avoided for that.  Yet, all he has done is expose those relationships.

And to make the old claim that he doesn't show there are shades of gray here is really a complaint that he didn't put the spin on the story that you would have liked.  I bet that in your story there would be lots of caveats- these people were at the center of the crisis, but there were many others.  (I hope you wouldn't include the old "no one expected this to happen" lie.)

I'm sorry, Charles, but it sounds to me that you are simply more interested in protecting the wall streeters who created this mess than ensuring equity for the rest of us.  And the vehemence with which you attack Taibbi demonstrates how strongly you hold those views.  At the start of this discussion, I asked you what tools the people have if they should not appeal to emotion at all.  You said facts, as if Taibbi and populists don't have any concern for facts.  That is a canard.  I would posit that you are really interested in taking from the people the one power they have- their numbers.  That scares you because you identify with the elites.  That's your prerogative, of course, but I don't think it's very progressive.  There is a class war in this country and you want to eviscerate the power of the people under the guise of some higher calling.  At least now we understand each other.    

It seems to me that you feel more protective of the  think you simply don't like having the SOBs who brought our economy to its knees to be publicly exposed.  To my mind, that's not very progressive.  Oh, to identify some of the ringleaders is somehow unfair/insane.  That really makes my head spin.  I cannot disagree more strongly with you on this issue.  

Well, you accused Taibbi of doing just that in your initial post.  You brand him a Beck-like demagogue!  It is clear to me now that you simply want to protect the wrongdoers from themselves.  I take a very different view.  I believe that those who are responsible for creating this horrible mess deserve at least to be called out and publicly identified.  

by orestes 2009-12-14 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: On Matt Taibbi

Those last two paragraphs should have been deleted from my post.

by orestes 2009-12-14 05:49AM | 0 recs


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