More ‘Uber’ advocacy/apologetics at the Financial Times. Almost Marx comments

When will the Financial Times admit the fact that Uber is a ‘Employer’ and that it has ‘Employees’ ?  like every other Capital enterprise, except that the Neo-Liberals at both Uber and FT have manufactured this dull-witted neologism of ‘ride-hailing service’ as cover for the exploration of their ‘Independent Contractors’: this a rationalization for not performing the actual responsibilities of an ‘Employer’: providing access to health insurance,  deducting taxes, Social Security, retirement plan deduction, and providing a safe and comfortable working environment, free of harassment of any kind!

Unions won some of those benefits in the 30’s and 40’s, only to have Reagan and Thatcher begin to dismantle that hard won ‘contract’ ,that has now become part of the Free Market Mythology’s propaganda against the Welfare State, argued as the Nanny State. In America one of the many beneficiaries of that ‘State’ is Paul Ryan, who sprang from the thigh of Ayn Rand. Uber is a taxi company which will now do what ‘Employers’ do, act ‘as if ‘ they have an ethical responsibility toward their ‘Employees’. The next step for Uber employees is to Unionize, in the face of another dull-witted Neo-Liberal neologism the ‘Gig Economy’

Almost Marx


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5 views of Tom Wolfe: American Writer surveys the political/literary territory of the book review & obituary

The death of Mr. Wolfe has produced a great deal of praise for this literary capon in a white suit: a Dandy as imagined by Walt Disney:

Here is an excerpt from Janan Ganesh’s obituary , at The Financial Times, of Tom Wolfe that makes Wolfe look like a harbinger of the Trump Populism, although he clarifies/corrects any assumption the reader might have made, this in the latter part of his essay.

He exposed the credulity of the rich for artistic fads. He made fun of their recreational left-wingery, or, in that unimproveable phrase, their “radical chic”. Among the vanities that went into his bonfire was the idea of America as classless. At the risk of tainting him with politics, there was something Trumpian about his ability to define himself against Manhattan’s grandest burghers while living among them.

The mutation of these thoughts into a brute populism in western democracies cannot be pinned on Wolfe, who was civility incarnate. Like a good reporter, he wrote what he saw and left it to the world to interpret. What he saw were people who had wealth, refinement and so much of the wrong stuff.

Matt Purple at The American Conservative makes Mr. Ganesh’s essay look like faint praise, except for this bit of literary candor, tinctured by fulsome praise of a literary giant.

That lens may have proven distorted in New York, but position it over present-day America and it suddenly seems less smudged. Wolfe’s understanding of humanity was primarily tribal: people take on the customs and prejudices of the groups they belong to and clash with those they don’t. Hence why his characters are often accused of being universals rather than particulars. Hence, too, why his final (and weakest) novel, Back to Blood, was set in Miami and covered the tensions engendered by mass immigration. Contra Hitchens, what could be more prescient than that? In Back to Blood, the Cuban-American mayor of Miami tells the African-American police chief: “I mean we can’t mix them together, but we can forge a secure place for each nationality, each ethnic group, each race, and make sure they’re on the same level plane.” Is this our destiny, an America of subgroups that never quite melt into the pot? Are we doomed for more conflagration a la Charlottesville? Or is the liberal multicultural dream still possible, even desirable? That we’re even asking these questions suggests Wolfe has been vindicated more than his critics allow.

Ultimately, the only way we’ll get the answers is if we trouble to embark into this America of ours, sneakers laced, notebook paper crinkling in the breeze, lush phrases turning in our minds, determined to confront the weirdness in our backyard and chronicle it in a way that is—saints preserve us!—fun to read. Tom Wolfe’s work is ours now. May he rest in peace.

For another telling bit of information about Mr. Wolfe’s testiness, in regard to criticism of his work, from a writer who had actual contact with the Great Man, Louis Menand ,this short essay published by The New Yorker offers insight. The concluding paragraphs of Mr. Menand’s essay offer some clues as to who that Great Man was.

My brief Tom Wolfe moment—apart from coming across him one day waiting to cross Park Avenue; he was not an easy figure to miss—had to do with a piece I wrote on Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had quoted Wolfe, along with other critics of the design, as calling it “a monument to Jane Fonda.” In due course, I received a fantastically high-handed letter from Wolfe, protesting that he had not been judging the design; he had only been repeating what someone else had said. This seemed to me beyond absurd. Of course Wolfe hated Lin’s memorial. Why would he pretend that that was not his view? I wrote him back to explain that he had, in fact, written those words as his own, and to ask why he was troubling to insist otherwise.

I received a second letter from Wolfe, this one even more fantastically high-handed, in which he deftly filleted every sentence in my letter to him and ended by putting it to me that my reportorial talents were beneath notice. No doubt they were, or are. Still, he had clearly devoted a lot of time to the composition of two longish letters concerning less than a single sentence in my piece. I concluded that he must be suffering from writer’s block on whatever novel he was working on, and did him the kindness of declining to continue the correspondence. However, I saved the letters.

Christopher Hitchens’ 1983 essay titled ‘A Wolfe in Chic Clothing’ , as recently re-published at Mother Jones site, is, to say the least, Mr. Hitchens at his most biting and insightful on this writer:

Here is Hitchens reviewing ‘A Man in Full’ in the London Review of Books of January 7,1999 (Behind a paywall). He first provides a devastating review of Bonfire of the Vanities and a view of New York of the period and ‘Bonfire’ as the literary paradigm that Wolfe used for his other novels.

Like every writer before him who has ever scored a triumph … Fallow was willing to give no credit to luck. Would he have any trouble repeating his triumph in a city he knew nothing about, in a country he looked upon as a stupendous joke? Well … why should he? His genius had only begun to flower. This was only journalism, after all, a cup of tea on the way to his eventual triumph as a novelist.

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987)

Take it for all in all, The Bonfire of the Vanities was a blockbuster. It rewrote the whole career description of commercial-cum-literary success. And it got people where they lived, if they lived on or near Park Avenue. These days, New York City is becoming a ramified variant of St Louis, Missouri or Des Moines, Iowa: a great big ‘thank you for not smoking’ town, with ‘buckle up’ messages played on automatic tapes in the yellow cabs, and the cheery, kitsch sovereignty of Walt Disney exerted over what was once Times Square and 42nd Street. The golden arches of McDonald’s are to be seen winking near the Bowery, and cops look out for jay-walkers as if patrolling some dire Jim Carrey utopia. The mayor of the city, and the governor of the state, are two mirthless white ethnic conservatives named Giuliani and Pataki. They have restored capital punishment, and encouraged franchising of all sorts while discouraging loitering and littering. Not long ago, a Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima was grabbed outside a funky nightclub, roughed up in the police van, hurled into a cell at the station-house and held down while a guardian of the peace forced a rupturing lavatory plunger all the way up his ass. The foul object was then violently withdrawn, only to be shoved into his mouth (breaking many teeth) and down his throat. This was a hot case, for about ten days.

There has probably never been a less prescient journo-novel than The Bonfire of The Vanities, which subliminally heralded a New York that was given over to wild and feral African politics at one end (reading from north to south of Manhattan Island) and dubious market strategies at the other. The market strategies continue. Indeed, Wall Street has almost deposed the opinion polls as the index of national well-being. The ethnic spoils system, meanwhile, is manipulated by the same class as ever. If either of these elements ever undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis, it won’t be Tom Wolfe who sounds the alarm.

Yet, even as he tries to move to another city, and to make the leap from former journalist to actual novelist, Wolfe keeps The Bonfire of the Vanities constantly at hand. It worked once. Why should it not work again?

The reader can look to Edward Copeland’s ‘The Silver Fork Novel: Fashionable Fiction in the Age of Reform’ as a paradigmatic description of Status Anxiety in a British context. Where addresses mattered, where one went to eat,  for relaxation and the promenading of one’s self before the public gaze.  Not to mention one’s politics: Historical refraction aides in seeing Mr. Wolfe’s journo-novel’s as politics/morality by another means, in sum, Conservative Melodrama, in which brevity of exposition played not part: A Man in Full was almost as unwieldy as my copy of War and Peace.

Take note that Mr. Wolfe moved to New York city, with all the other Social Climbers, and shared in the Status Anxiety that he chronicles. Wolfe chose to make himself the center of attention, by his manner of dress. He was a Dixiecrat in the guise of a Dandy, as the in-order-too of establishing his pseudo-independence from the thrall of the Social Climber’s  existential malady of Status Anxiety.

American Writer





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Myra Breckenridge replies to one of the Tom Wolfe enthusiasts

‘Yet how else should he have been? Wolfe, whose death this week left our literary scene all the hollower, is known today for his novels.’ Once a Dandy, Disraeli wrote novels as a way of giving his politics life, speculations on political possibilities, within a Conservative frame.  Mr. Wolfe  was a Dandy as imagined by Walt Disney, with a politics to match that old gargoyle’s. But T. S. Eliot immortalized Mr. Wolfe  in his ‘The Hollow Men’:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Truly yours,

Myra Breckenridge


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@FT vs. @Economist on Gaza Massacre. Political Observer comments

@FT offered  one small news report on the Gaza Massacre and then this editorial :

Headline: Israel’s disproportionate response to the Gaza protests

Sub-headline: Trump encourages Netanyahu to embrace maximalist positions

This observation near the beginning of this ‘editorial’ almost demonstrates that The Financial Times editors are just partial invertebrates, with a talent for articulating the patently obvious :

Celebrating the opening of the embassy during the 48 hours when Israelis and Palestinians are most divided each year in commemorating their very different versions of history was little short of diplomatic arson.

And then this restrained, almost sympathetic treatment of the Nakba appears, as a recognition of a Palestinian reality of  Gaza, although as a non-state under siege, from a State that is financed and armed by that ‘honest broker’, remains just offstage!

The contrast between events in Jerusalem and those in Gaza during the past two days is revealing. In Jerusalem on Monday, the 70th anniversary of the birth of the modern state of Israel, Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, mingled with assembled Israeli and US VIPs as they cut the ribbon on the new embassy. In Gaza on Tuesday, the day the Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or disaster — when 700,000 were driven from their land and homes — thousands gathered to bury their dead.

There is noting new here, except that The Financial Times quotes from reliable American Foreign Policy marionette Richard Haass:

As Richard Haass, president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, noted, the “US played a big card for nothing, weakened its claim to be an honest broker [and] helped to fuel violence”.

That ‘honest broker’ Party Line is repeated by Senator Dianne Feinstein in her press release with the title:

Feinstein: Israel Must Exercise Greater Restraint Responding to Gaza Protests;

Refusing to act will only reinforce the perception that this administration has chosen a side in this decades-long conflict and can no longer be an honest broker to bring peace to the region.”

‘Greater restraint’ is the least offensive critique, that an American politician, in the thrall of AIPAC’s swift destruction of any nonconformism of America’s political class.


The @Economist offers this :

Headline: Israel must answer for the deaths in Gaza

Sub-headline: But it is time for Palestinians to take up genuine non-violence

Even with the equivocation in its Sub-headline, ‘genuine non-violence’ . The Nakba has no political legitimacy and ‘thriving democracy’ for citizens of ‘The Jewish State’ .  This opening paragraph is unsurprising in its exercise of  Oxbridger withering contempt allied to a corrosive dishonesty. This contempt for the lower orders of humanity, in what ever historical/political context, is the natural inheritance from Oakeshott.  Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration were the British Imperial documents  that ushered in the State of Israel, aided by the guilt of ‘The West’ over their inaction over the Shoah.

GAZA is a human rubbish-heap that everyone would rather ignore. Neither Israel, nor Egypt, nor even the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants to take responsibility for it. Sometimes the poison gets out—when, say, rockets or other attacks provoke a fully fledged war. And then the world is forced to take note.

Note that the ‘rockets’ are enhanced fireworks, and that the Israeli army strictly controls everything that enters Gaza, a non-state under siege. Gaza is a burden to all respectable bourgeois editorial writes, who tire of the burdens of setting the world on the right path, of the Free Market, and its issue the necessary ascent of the indispensable rule of technocrats and their propagandists. The Human Rubbish- Heap is a product of the misbegotten notion, that the Holocaust required that the Jewish state should be about the dispossession of the indigenous peoples of Palestine. The British Zionist who wrote the above paragraph continues her/his screed but modifies the tone, but not by much.

But Palestinian parties, though weak, are also to blame. Seven decades after the creation of Israel as a thriving democracy, there is a better way than endless conflict and bloodshed.

This is pure agitprop, as the Palestinian demonstrators were armed with tires and Molotov cocktail, the Israeli’s used live ammunition and sharp-shooters to murder unarmed civilians: weapons provided by America!

But the reader is unprepared in this exercise in coruscating  polemic at the appearances of something that resembles something like historical candor but rhetorically framed, as always, by the perpetual bad actor Hamas:

Just as important is the broader political question. The fence between Gaza and Israel is no ordinary border. Gaza is a prison, not a state. Measuring 365 square kilometres and home to 2m people, it is one of the most crowded and miserable places on Earth. It is short of medicine, power and other essentials. The tap water is undrinkable; untreated sewage is pumped into the sea. Gaza already has one of the world’s highest jobless rates, at 44%. The scene of three wars between Hamas and Israel since 2007, it is always on the point of eruption.

Might this list of Palestinian grievances be enough to trigger a ‘revolt’ ? A question that eludes this potted history in the guise of a propaganda melodrama that has as its lead villain Hamas.

Then there is this about the Israeli economy:

It is hard to convince Israelis to change. As Israel marks its 70th birthday, the economy is booming.

With American aid in the amount of $4 billion dollars a year, provides an economic cushion, or call it by its actual name subsidy,  that few other countries in the world can match in any way.

But the final two paragraphs of this polemic are astounding in denial of the reality of the Palestinian revolt against their  captivity, oppression.  And even the attempt of Israel to engage in the active project of genocide against Palestinians, by poisoning their water, and keeping them in  a continuing state of starvation ; and their state of being the actual prisoners of a Zionism, that enacts the same oppression that Jews experienced in a European context. Call this an obscene historical recrudescence of the Warsaw Ghetto. And where are the  ‘guns’ and ‘explosives‘ spoken of in these two final two paragraphs ?

For all their talk of non-violence, Hamas’s leaders have not abandoned the idea of “armed struggle” to destroy Israel. They refuse to give up their guns, or fully embrace a two-state solution; they speak vaguely of a long-term “truce”. With this week’s protests, Hamas’s leaders boasted of freeing a “wild tiger”. They found that Israel can be even more ferocious.

If Hamas gave up its weapons, it would open the way for a rapprochement with Fatah. If it accepted Israel’s right to exist, it would expose Israel’s current unwillingness to allow a Palestinian state. If Palestinians marched peacefully, without guns and explosives, they would take the moral high ground. In short, if Palestinians want Israel to stop throttling them, they must first convince Israelis it is safe to let go.

The Party Line , as it emerged from these two publication, on the atrocity commented by Israel in the Gaza Massacre, was that it was Hamas that was/is the guilty party! Though it was the Israeli forces that fired the live ammunition at the unarmed ‘infiltrators’. Call this the  ‘Looking Glass Reasoning’ of the Israeli Apologists, an utter banality to act as cover for mass murder.

Political Observer



Thank you for your comment. My reply is that Post-Holocaust, there can never be any legitimate critique of Judaism, Zionism or Israel. Read Norman G. Finkelstein’s book ‘The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering’ for the necessary background for my assertion. Perhaps not?  Even in the face of this bloodbath, in which only Palestinians died,while Israel simply used their American supplied weapons, to slaughter a caged people. Who have had enough of their servitude, to the last gasp of European Imperialism: Sykes-Picot, The Balfour Declaration and Western Guilt are the fateful destructive triad that led to the Nakba. The 70th anniversary of the Nakba is  a reckoning long in coming.
Bret Stephens and Thomas Friedman were the New York Times political vanguard, that pronounced on the culpability of Hamas as the Party Line of this atrocity: in its various iterations, it will be endlessly repeated as a kind of ersatz political fact, in the respectable bourgeois press. Yet the slow erosion of Israeli legitimacy and its status as moral arbiter is a fact. The success of BDS is a telling symptom of that erosion.

See this quote from Hannah Arendt on the fate of Israel from this Mondoweiss essay:

And even if the Jews were to win the war, its end would find the unique possibilities and the unique achievements of Zionism in Palestine destroyed. The land that would come into being would be something quite other than the dream of world Jewry, Zionist and non-Zionist. The ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded into ever-threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and acitvities. The growth of a Jewish culture would cease to be the concern of the whole people; social experiments would have to be discarded as impractical luxuries; political thought would center around military strategy…. And all this would be the fate of a nation that — no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries (the whole of Palestine and Transjordan is the insane Revisionist demand)–would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbors.

Under such circumstances… the Palestinian Jews would degenerate into one of those small warrior tribes about whose possibilities and importance history has amply informed us since the days of Sparta. Their relations with world Jewry would become problematical, since their defense interests might clash at any moment with those of other countries where large number of Jews lived. Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people. Thus it becomes plain that at this moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland…

Sir, your reply is unsurprising, in its recitation of historical instances of Anti-Semitic thought, the ‘Blood Libel‘ and ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’. You should have spent a bit more time organizing, and thinking through your reply, as the in order too of coherence : as opposed to a reply that is more about the scattershot of anger, than about rational argument.




Chas Arthurin, thank you for your comment. ‘Right to exist’ is part of the ex post facto apologetics for the state of Israel. Does any ‘state’ have the right to exist? The states of the Americas are founded on genocide and economic exploitation: do these states have a right to exist? Yes, because they exercise that right to exist based in the genocide of indigenous peoples.
The Zionist Project was about the guilt of ‘The West’ Post-Holocaust, the Balfour Declaration and Sykes-Picot that created the ‘States of the Middle-East’ like Jordan. I think your comment should be directed to the authors of Sykes-Picot or its contemporary rationalizes like the Zionist, who continue to repeat this propaganda of ‘right to exist’ while they operate their own Warsaw Ghetto! The demographics are such that the Palestinian Captives have a higher birth rate that the Zionists. Even though they live where 97% of the water is undrinkable.
The Nazi’s called Jews ‘rats’. What sobriquet do the Zionists use to describe Palestinians? The Palestinians are ‘The Wrenched of the Earth’, to use Frantz Fanon telling description.



‘Your perspective strikes me as sad, essentially one of self flagellation.’ A reckoning with the facts of history is about the liberating possibility of the exercise of candor. You echo the Conservative Party Line, that somehow facing those facts is nihilistic: genocide and slavery built the New World and made ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire’ a fact. As uncomfortable as that my be to Conservatives, it is a fact. As a part of that reckoning the question then becomes , what is to be done?

The British Empire’s documents Sykes-Picot and The Balfour Declaration were the Colonial origins of the state of Israel. The dispossession of the indigenous population of Palestine, was the sacrifice that Europe and America were willing to make, to rescue their political self-esteem, and the myth of Western hegemony, and its deep seated belief in its moral superiority. Although that moral superiority is still yet to manifest itself. But the bloodbath perpetrated by Israel, has now demonstrated that it and its allies are willing to do anything to maintain the murderous status quo. BDS will only grow more powerful, even in the face of sanctions against it in some America states, which only demonstrates the power of the Israel Lobby and its propaganda arm of AIPAC.

Tony Judt published this essay in the New York Review of Books in  the October 23, 2003  titled Israel: The Alternative

The status quo is untenable: what is to be done?




Thank you for your comment. Injustice begats injustice, to use a cliche, that is more than applicable in the case of founding of the state of Israel, and the subsequent turmoil that has been its watershed. Here is a link to a report from April 10,2018 by the Congressional Research Service documenting American aid to Israel since its founding and or before:
I and many other Americans want this military and economic aid to end. No more economic aid as de facto moral support for this state. Also no more economic/military support for the Arab states in the region and its leader Saudi Arabia.
The American Empire needs to end and its beneficiaries need to fen for themselves. The American Empire and its ‘Clash of Civilizations’ called the ‘War on Terror’ has destroyed what was left of The Republic.
China is just off stage waiting for its historical moment of dominance, and The West, under the Leadership of America, can’t get its house in order, so scattered are its ‘interests’ and its Free Market Dogmas have proven catastrophic. Given that utterly bleak description of the political present, America as the World’s Policeman and Moral Arbiter, not to speak of ‘Honest Broker’ in terms of Israel/Palestine peace looks like what it is hegemonic delusion!


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@TimAlberta interviews AEI Radical Neo-Liberal, with a soft touch, @arthurbrooks. Political Observer comments ‏

The reader of this ‘exit interview’  with Mr. Brooks might look bit premature, at least to this cynic , as he is leaving in June 2019. May 13, 2018 must have been a slow news day, or I’ve missed the point of the Politico Magazine, as a space for journalistic cultivation of sources. Mr Alberta prefaces his interview with this ‘evaluation’ of Mr. Brooks that can only be described as Access Journalism at high velocity.

Arthur Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute, the center-right Washington think tank that has, amid a decade of turmoil inside the Republican Party, remained a sober, respected voice on matters of policy—while gradually shedding its George W. Bush-era reputation as a leading voice for pugnacious, interventionist foreign policy.

Brooks, who is stepping down in June 2019 after 10 years at the helm of AEI, has consistently struck me as the smartest figure on the American right—someone not given to bouts of provocation or hyperbole, but rather someone who speaks with equal authority on macroeconomics and family budgeting, global starvation and American giving, corporate structure and worker behavior, cultural evolution and societal happiness.

There is more of this obsequious political chatter, but the reader just might read the ‘About’ on AEI web site:

The American Enterprise Institute is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world. The work of our scholars and staff advances ideas rooted in our belief in democracy, free enterprise, American strength and global leadership, solidarity with those at the periphery of our society, and a pluralistic, entrepreneurial culture.

We are committed to making the intellectual, moral, and practical case for expanding freedom, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening the free enterprise system in America and around the world. Our work explores ideas that further these goals, and AEI scholars take part in this pursuit with academic freedom. AEI operates independently of any political party and has no institutional positions. Our scholars’ conclusions are fueled by rigorous, data-driven research and broad-ranging evidence.

AEI welcomes comments on the policies and procedures described here. They should be sent to Arthur C. Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute, 1789 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Tim Alberta offers this caveat:

‘Excerpts of that conversation follow, edited for length and clarity.’

Mr. Alberta opens his interview with this question: For conservatism, for Republicanism, for the institutions of government and for the country as a whole, from your perch over the past 10 years, what went wrong?  

The answer from Mr. Brooks is surprising, I’ve underestimated his mendacity as a propagandist. He begins here:

For me, unity is a really big deal. By that I don’t mean agreement. The founding model in this place was super old school—a competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society, which was so subversive in the ’30s and ’40s because there was no competition of ideas.

Here is his oblique attack on the New Deal, presented as a benign observation : which was so subversive in the ’30s and ’40s because there was no competition of ideas. The lack of the competition of ideas that Mr. Brooks refers to is the telling consequences of the 1929 Crash, and the Depression that followed it. Roosevelt saved Capitalism from its own greed, and put in place a series regulations, like Glass-Steagall, that worked till Capital reached one of its many expressions of its dysfunction, as the post war boom stalled.    The catastrophic consequences of Wall Street’s unrelenting greed made the Myth of the Free Market, in the environment of the Depression, completely un-marketable, to use the dull witted patois of the Free Marketeers.

Mr. Brooks must think that the readership of this interview can’t read this laughable assertion, and critically evaluate it as an instance of a recursive self-apologetics, for a failed Free Market. The critical reader of his  pronouncements cannot make a connection to his failed  Neo-Liberal economic/political dogmas and the seemingly permanent state of the economic  dysfunction, ten years after the Crash of 2008?

But just in that first paragraph, I’ve just quoted from , there is more, and it doesn’t disappoint in its moralizing earnestness, and mildness of tone : Mr. Brooks is the modest political moralist for the cadre of Economic Buccaneers.

Disagreement is the essence of how we can unify as a people. We have a moral consensus about pushing opportunity out to people who need it most. Then we actually have to become a constellation of disagreement around that so that we can find the best way to do it. In the same way that you need a competition within the economy so that you can serve consumers best. Competition is hugely important in all areas. It’s a moral good. When you basically see a culture that’s not trying to win competition vigorously and civilly and respectfully, but rather trying to shut down competition by any means necessary, that’s like an economy that’s going from free enterprise to mercantilism. That’s basically what’s happened. We’ve gone from free enterprise of ideas to mercantilism of ideas. That’s what’s happening on both right and left today. That’s really disappointing.

This interview is very long, let me quote a collection of his telling comments on America’s political scene, and his moral/political aperçus:

Now, I’m sanguine still. Why? Because that happens periodically and competition also always wins out. There are basically two kinds of people in life: people who want to win competition and people who want to shut it down. People who don’t understand competition actually are the ones who want to shut it down because they don’t understand that competition requires rules. It requires moral precepts.

Note that in the above quote Mr. Brooks riffs on Ayn Rand’s Producers vs Drones, in another key. Competition is the engine of everything in the world system, as conceived by Brooks. Whither The Republic and its institutional expressions?

Mr. Brooks offer an unqualified endorsement of Reinhart and Rogoff’s book, This Time Is Different.

The two things to read are Reinhart and Rogoff’s book, This Time Is Different. It came out in 2010—the single best book ever on financial cycles and financial crisis.

Here from The Economist of April 20, 2013:

Headline: The 90% question

Sub-headline: A seminal analysis of the relationship between debt and growth comes under attack

GOVERNMENT indebtedness matters. Default and financial panic are the stuff of finance-minister nightmares. Government borrowing can crowd out private investment, dragging growth down. Yet economists have struggled to specify when a country needs to worry about its debt load. In a 2010 paper Carmen Reinhart, now a professor at Harvard Kennedy School, and Kenneth Rogoff, an economist at Harvard University, seemed to provide an answer. They argued that GDP growth slows to a snail’s pace once government-debt levels exceed 90% of GDP.

The 90% figure quickly became ammunition in political arguments over austerity. Paul Ryan, a Republican congressman, cited their “conclusive empirical evidence” in a budget plan calling for swingeing cuts to public spending. In a February letter to European Union finance ministers Olli Rehn, the vice-president of the European Commission, touted the “widely acknowledged” 90% limit as a reason to press on with European fiscal cuts. Such rhetoric has helped to make the Reinhart-Rogoff number the subject of bitter dispute. And this week a new piece of research poured fuel on the fire by calling the 90% finding into question.

The sharpness of this turning-point excited lots of attention. In economic jargon the debt-growth relationship was not “linear”, with growth rates gliding steadily downward as borrowing rises. Instead, debt levels look benign until a critical point is reached, and then they don’t. The authors reckoned that beyond the 90% threshold, market perceptions of risk can jump. That could translate into soaring interest rates or financial-market stress, forcing hard choices: austerity, inflation or default.

Firm conclusions on thresholds are elusive. A 2010 IMF paper turns up “some evidence” of a 90% threshold; a 2011 study by the Bank for International Settlements identifies a threshold of 85%. But another IMF analysis published in 2012 found that “there is no particular threshold that consistently precedes sub-par growth performance.” The costs of even moderately slower growth can quickly add up, however: Ms Reinhart and Mr Rogoff warn that the average debt overhang lasts more than 20 years.

The latest dust-up does nothing to answer the question of causation. Slower GDP growth could be the cause of a rising debt load rather than the result. Ms Reinhart and Mr Rogoff acknowledge in their academic work that this conundrum “has not been fully resolved”, but have sometimes been less careful in media articles. This is perhaps their biggest mistake. The relationship between debt and growth is a politically charged issue. It is in these areas that economists must keep the most rigorous standards.

Mr. Brooks assumes that the readership of his interview, don’t have the intelligence, nor the resourcefulness, to do the most basic kind of research for themselves, on his enthusiasm for the Reinhart/Rogoff stumbling Political Economy, and its wobbly statistical matrix.

On to American politics: Brooks pronounces on Populist Bernie Sander:

Bernie Sanders is a populist. Bernie Sanders’ populism is all about scapegoating. It’s rich people, it’s bankers, it’s Republicans—it’s all these people who got your stuff. That’s the kind of populism that we frequently see as opposed to a kind of ethical populism, which basically says we have good values, let’s go share. Let’s make sure that our values are ascendant to save our country. Right?

Mr. Brooks accuses Mr. Sanders of ‘scapegoating’, when in fact he simply focused his campaign in the rhetoric of The New Deal, as expressed in the Occupy Wall Street slogan, that has dominated the whole of the economic debate since Zuccotti Park, of the disparity between the 99% and the 1%.

On Trump: Its the usual denial of responsibility invoked by Brooks, and whole of the American Political Class, for the rise and victory of Trump: the failed generation long economic/political experiment in Neo-Liberalism, and its collapse. And the failure to appear of that cornerstone of the Free Market Dogma, The Self-Correcting Market. The disparity between the 1% and the 99% evokes the dismal economic/political present with telling brevity.

At this point I’ve run out of patience with Mr. Brooks’ self-serving, yet inept propagandizing chatter. Mr. Brooks’ twitter account has an irresistible candid photo and self-description.


Final thought: the preppy, clean cut Paul Ryan looks like the perfect replacement for Mr. Brooks at AEI. A blood thirsty Social Darwinist, that looks like the boy next door, from Central Casting.

Political Observer



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John Paul Rathbone on Macri’s ‘Gradualism’ . Old Socialist comments

Headline : Argentina’s fickle fortunes have turned sour once again

Sub-headline : Despite President Macri’s efforts at reform, the country faces a new financial crisis

Mr. Rathbone writes advocacy journalism, or should the reader call it propaganda? With help from the headline writers of The Financial Times. Mr. Rathbone presents Ms Fernández as first part of a ‘pink tide’ : the perpetual enemy of the Oligarchy is the Communist, or its invented political simulacrum.  Néstor Kirchner  ‘broke with the IMF in 2006.’ , ‘Yet he balanced the books…’.

Ms Fernández is the enemy, yet ‘pink tide‘ and the amassing  a considerable personal fortune , would seem to be antithetical to Socialism in whatever guise: we are back in the territory that political simulacrum. Is Ms Fernández just another  political opportunist?  Her self-presentation as the New Evita is more like the homegrown fascism of Peronism: has Mr. Rathbone broken new political ground?

Ms Fernández was part of the leftist “pink tide” that swept to power in South America at the start of this century. Her predecessor and husband, the late Néstor Kirchner, broke with the IMF in 2006. A political bruiser, Kirchner even sported a plaster on his head at his inauguration. Yet he balanced the books and it was only after his wife took over that the economy truly went off the rails. Ms Fernández cast herself as a latter day Evita Perón, a patron of the poor, but left the presidency with a considerable personal fortune.

Macri is the Neo-Liberal in a more harmonious key: ‘gradualist reforms’ instead of the stark reality of Austerity, as Argentina has experienced it in its recent past. Macri is the rarest of political creatures, as narrated by Rathbone, a Neo-Liberal with a heart!  Expressing compassion for the lesser beings of the Argentine polis.  One dull-witted American political technocrat has named this ‘Progressive Neo-Liberalism‘! Mises/Hayek/Friedman and Ayn Rand would denounce this very notion as Heretical!

Cleaning up the mess left by unfulfillable populist promises is hard. It takes ambitious, market-friendly and socially sensitive reforms of the kind that Ms Lagarde praised in Argentina. Mr Macri has liberalised the exchange rate, slashed blanket subsidies and put in place a tough structural reform package. But contrary to his image as heartless businessman, he has also boosted pensions and increased targeted cash transfers for the poor. With the IMF now involved, it is an open question if those will be cut back.

Mr. Rathbone points to Macri’s gradualism as the reason for that failure, allied to ‘easy money’.  Mr. Rathbone might just be in the Mises/Hayek/Friedman and Ayn Rand camp?

All of which begs the question: if Mr Macri’s reforms really are so fabulous, what went wrong? The simple answer is that he wanted to avoid the brusque shock treatments of the past. Such “gradualism” required ample foreign financing. For a while, ultra-low global interest rates made that easy: Argentina sold more than $100bn of bonds in just two years.

As US homeowners and emerging markets worldwide are now discovering, those days of easy money are coming to an end. A central flaw of Mr Macri’s plan to make Argentina “normal” was that it rested on borrowing rates that were not normal at all.

Old Socialist

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Macri’s Sputtering Revolution as ‘reported’ by Robin Wigglesworth. Old Socialist comments

The game underscores the tempestuous, on-off relationship Argentina has long had with the IMF, which this week took another unexpected turn with President Mauricio Macri’s decision to ask for an assistance package from the IMF.

Is Wall Street already in over its head on the new $257bn of bonds outstanding? With its enthusiasts: ‘Pimco, Allianz, Franklin Templeton, BlackRock, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, AllianceBernstein and Fidelity’

Those Wall Street enthusiasts might be on the right track?


Nonetheless, there remain a lot of tricky questions surrounding what kind of package Buenos Aires and the fund will negotiate — and whether they will pull it off.

On Wednesday it emerged that Argentina would not, as was initially reported, apply for one of the IMF’s “flexible credit lines”, but instead go for a “standby arrangement,” the organisation’s workhorse programme. Listen: Argentine president seeks IMF assistance In truth, an FCL always looked hopelessly optimistic.

The IMF has  wisely chosen to use the SBA economic instrument. Mr. Wigglesworth’s arguments given some necessary pruning :

…in truth, an FCL always looked hopelessly optimistic. This facility is akin to the IMF ’s platinum credit card, and available only to countries that pass nine conditions with flying colours.

The lesser “precautionary and liquidity line” might have been more feasible, but is also primarily designed for countries with more solid fundamentals than Argentina. That left an SBA as the obvious outcome.

That could prove hard to sell politically.

Still, the government remains reasonably popular and the Peronist opposition is a shambles, which gives Mr Macri the cover to make tough choices.

But here is the apology for the failed two year and less that six month ‘reformist government’ of Macri’s ‘‘gradualist reforms’: Austerity in its least unpalatable form.  And the Neo-Liberal Melodrama of thwarted Economic Virtue, victim of Populist rabble rousing:

The danger is that this week’s drama is just another act in a sadly familiar Argentine play: reformist government gains power and delighted investors throw money at the country. Reforms happen too slowly to fix economic vulnerabilities and a crisis at some point ensues. Reformist government is ousted by populists, shocking investors and leading to a financial and economic disaster.

Mr. Wigglesworth, the abject failure of Macri’s ‘gradualist reforms’ will mark the return of ‘Populist’ Mrs. de Kirchner, or, if not her, then some other ‘Populist’.

Old Socialist




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