May 20, 2014 archive

Glenn Greenwald “No PlaceTo Hide”

“No place to hide”

Chris Hayes talks with Glenn Greenwald about his new book and new NSA revelations from his book “No Place to Hide.”

Hating on Glenn Greenwald

Chris Hayes gets journalist Glenn Greenwald to open up about his tendency alienate liberals.

Well, talk about bad taste!

Springtime for Bankers

Paul Krugman, The New York Times

MAY 18, 2014

By any normal standard, economic policy since the onset of the financial crisis has been a dismal failure.

Now Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury secretary for four of those six years, has published a book, “Stress Test,” about his experiences. And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.

How can people feel good about track records that are objectively so bad? Partly it’s the normal human tendency to make excuses, to argue that you did the best you could under the circumstances.

But there’s also something else going on. In both Europe and America, economic policy has to a large extent been governed by the implicit slogan “Save the bankers, save the world” – that is, restore confidence in the financial system and prosperity will follow. And government actions have indeed restored financial confidence. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the promised prosperity.

Much of Mr. Geithner’s book is devoted to a defense of the U.S. financial bailout, which he sees as a huge success story – which it was, if financial confidence is viewed as an end in itself.

One reason for sluggish recovery is that U.S. policy “pivoted,” far too early, from a focus on jobs to a focus on budget deficits. Mr. Geithner denies that he bears any responsibility for this pivot, declaring “I was not an austerian.” In his version, the administration got all it could in the face of Republican opposition. That doesn’t match independent reporting, which portrays Mr. Geithner ridiculing fiscal stimulus as “sugar” that would yield no long-term benefit.

But fiscal austerity wasn’t the only reason recovery has been so disappointing. Many analysts believe that the burden of high household debt, a legacy of the housing bubble, has been a big drag on the economy. And there was, arguably, a lot the Obama administration could have done to reduce debt burdens without Congressional approval. But it didn’t; it didn’t even spend funds specifically allocated for that purpose. Why? According to many accounts, the biggest roadblock was Mr. Geithner’s consistent opposition to mortgage debt relief – he was, if you like, all for bailing out banks but against bailing out families.

Tim Geithner, unreliable narrator

Felix Salmon, Medium

Published May 18, 2014

one thing has become generally-received wisdom about the book: whatever you might think of Geithner’s actions and opinions, he’s at least presenting himself in an honest and unvarnished manner. Michael Lewis describes this as a “near-superhuman feat”: “there’s hardly a moment in Geithner’s story when the reader feels he is being anything but straightforward,” he writes.

If Geithner isn’t being honest about his actions and the actions of others, then the whole book becomes much more problematic. And already critics on the right have, predictably enough, accused Geithner of lying.

Most of the time, such accusations boil down to a he-said-she-said about private conversations held in secret. But sometimes, Geithner makes simple declarations which are easily fact-checked.

Geithner at his most prescient and heroic. He enters a hidebound wood-paneled institution where coffee is brought to his desk on a silver tray while briefings involved precious little discussion or debate; and in his very first speech he decides to speak truth to entrenched financial power, trying to “push back against complacency” and warn against the rise of the shadow banking system.

But here’s the thing: we can read the speech, it’s archived on the Fed’s website. And so it’s pretty easy to tell whether Geithner did indeed try to push back against complacency, in his speech, and warn of the rise of the shadow banks.

Spoiler: he didn’t.

Geithner was saying that the shadow banking system is getting bigger, that the banks the NY Fed regulated were accounting for a smaller and smaller part of the total financial system - and that this was a positive development. Geithner wasn’t warning his audience about the risks of shadow banking, he was extolling it, on the grounds that it had “improved the capacity of our system to handle stress”!

This is a bright green light to all the bankers in the room, saying “go ahead with all your whiz-bang new innovative products, we think they’re great, even if we don’t really understand them or know how to regulate them, it’s our job to keep up with you, and we have people in Basel who are on it.” Not once did Geithner indicate that the financial system was getting too complex and that the Canadian approach of forcing banks to keep things simple was maybe a good idea. Instead, he embraced all of the complexity, and just said that the regulatory architecture would have to cope, somehow.

There are two big worrying things here. The first is that Geithner didn’t see the crisis coming at all, and indeed was something of a cheerleader for all of the dangerous activities that the banks were getting up to. The second, which is just as bad, is that with hindsight, Geithner sees this speech as being prescient and heroic - that it’s something to be proud of, rather than sheepishly ashamed of.

As I read the rest of Geithner’s book, then, I’m basically forced to treat the author as an unreliable narrator. Geithner might seem to be straight-up and guileless, but his report of this speech shows that he can remember things - even things which are easily found on the internet - in an extremely self-serving manner. Maybe that’s only to be expected, from a political memoir. But it’s disappointing, all the same.


The Breakfast Club: 5-20-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

On This Day In History May 20

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 20 is the 140th day of the year (141st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 225 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1896, the six ton chandelier of the Palais Garnier falls on the crowd resulting in the death of one and the injury of many others. The falling of one of the counterweights for the grand chandelier resulted in the death of one person.

This incident, as well as the underground lake, cellars, along with the other elements of the Opera House even the building itself were the inspirations of Gaston Leroux for his classic 1910 Gothic novel, The Phantom of the Opera.

The ceiling area, which surrounds the chandelier, was given a new painting during 1964 by Marc Chagall. This painting was controversial, with many people feeling Chagall’s work clashed with the style of the rest of the theater.

The Palais Garnier, known also as the Opéra de Paris or Opéra Garnier, but more commonly as the Paris Opéra, is a 1,600-seat opera house on the Place de l’Opéra in Paris, France, which was the primary home of the Paris Opera from 1875 until 1989. A grand building designed by Charles Garnier in the Neo-Baroque (or “Baroque Revival”) style (it is also said to be of the related Second Empire style), it is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time.

Upon its inauguration during 1875, the opera house was named officially the Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opéra. It retained this title until 1978 when it was re-named the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris. After the opera company chose the Opéra Bastille as their principal theatre upon its completion during 1989, the theatre was re-named as the Palais Garnier, though Académie Nationale de Musique is still sprawled above the columns of its front façade. In spite of the change of names and the Opera company’s relocation to the Opéra Bastille, the Palais Garnier is still known by many people as the Paris Opéra, as have all of the several theatres which have served as the principal venues of the Parisian Opera and Ballet since its initiation.


The Palais Garnier was designed as part of the great reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire initiated by Emperor Napoleon III, who chose Baron Haussmann to supervise the reconstruction. During 1858 the Emperor authorized Haussmann to clear the required 12,000 square metres (1.2 ha) of land on which to build a second theatre for the world-renowned Parisian Opera and Ballet companies. The project was the subject of architectural design competition during 1861, and was won by the architect Charles Garnier (1825-1898). The foundation stone was laid during 1861, with the start of construction during 1862. Legend is that the Emperor’s wife, the Empress Eugénie, asked Garnier during the construction whether the building would be built in the Greek or Roman style, to which he replied: “It is in the Napoleon III style, Madame!”

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Floating on a cloud of amber

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Les Misérables)


India Jones


TDS/TCR (Les Misérables)


India Jones