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Is criticising financial capitalism anti-American?

by Jerome a Paris Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 11:02:26 AM EST

Bernard pointed us to an article in Businessweek that explicitly makes that assertion, with a pretty unambiguous title:  More Fodder for the Yank-Haters: The spreading U.S. credit crisis is turning up the heat on Europe's simmering anti-Americanism.

This is worth deconstructing in detail:



Dietmar Bartsch doesn't consider himself anti-American. A basketball fan, the 49-year-old from the East German city of Stralsund just returned from New Orleans, where he caught the NBA All-Star Game. "The people were really friendly," he enthuses. But Bartsch's feelings about the U.S. aren't uniformly warm and fuzzy, and he finds Wall Street's shenanigans especially galling. The big subprime losses at banks "confirm a broad feeling that something's not right," says Bartsch, general secretary of Germany's Left Party, which rode discontent with the global economic order to unexpected success in state elections this winter. "The elites are making decisions that aren't tolerable."

That's pretty sneaky (if not down right unporfessional) to use the general secretary of the Left Party for the obligatory introductory anectode. It's also a bit strange to use "East German" to present him - a not-too-subtle suggestion, via a no longer existent entity, that he is a communist leftover.

And the main message of that paragraph, which, remember, introduces an article about "Yank-Haters", is that anti-Americanism is not defined by your attitude to basketball or to New Orleans, or even to American people (because absolutely everybody, even East German communists, loves them), but by your position about Wall Street. and not just about Wall Street in general, but about Wall Street today.

And it's totally unexpected (ie there is no rational reason for it). Thus is must be basic anti-Americanism.


As credit woes endanger the world economy, they're giving Europeans another reason to resent U.S. influence. Anti-Americanism was already simmering because of the Iraq war, dislike for President George W. Bush, and mistrust of rampaging buyout firms. Now, Europe's pundits and politicians are feeding public perceptions that ordinary folks will be left paying the bill for the financial missteps of big banks. "This crisis shows why the market must be regulated. Left to itself, it often produces the worst," says Jean Quatremer, the Brussels correspondent for French daily Libération.

So, not thinking the Iraq War was a good idea is anti-Americanism. Disliking George Bush (approval rate in the US: 25% or thereabouts) is anti-Americian. Mistrust of rampaging buyout firms is anti-Americans. As we say in France, les Democrates sont habillés pour l'hiver... ie it very much looks like Dems are being labelled as anti-American.

I also very much note that the article makes the stupendous claim that ordinary people will NOT be paying for the follies of the banks - in fact, that's just a perception (ie a false one) fostered by pundits and politicians.  Europe, like the US, is in the throes of an evil liberal conspiracy.


It's always hard to measure the practical impact of anti-Americanism on U.S. businesses abroad.

I was initially wondering why, in the paragraph above, Libération is not identified as a left-wing paper. But that first sentence of the next paragraph makes it obvious: by moving on, it suggests that the case that anti-Americanism exists is closed - and thus that discussing regulation of capitalism - any regulation - is anti-American. In that context, making Libération a leftwing paper would weaken the case: you expect lefties in Europe to want to shackle freedom, but maybe not all pundits - so when an apparently moderate, reasonable, unlefty pundit says these things too it is notable - and as the sentence above shows - proof positive that the whole continent is in the throes of the disease.


But this latest outburst could have repercussions. For starters, the Continent's distaste for what it sees as the Ellbogengesellschaft, or "elbow society," found anyplace west of the English Channel is aimed squarely at financial fat cats, who do tons of business in Europe and often face off against regulators there. The atmosphere gets even more charged with actions such as the EC's record $1.3 billion fine against Microsoft (MSFT) on Feb. 27.

"outburst", as in disease, of course. And the battle lines are clear: France and Germany standing in for Europe, and the UK still on the right side of the evil divide.

And, of course, punishing lawbreaking Microsoft is not a sign of enforcing the law, but one, again, of anti-Americanism - duh, Microsoft is American, so any European decision about them is, by nature, anti-American.


As popular European attitudes against the American and British brand of capitalism harden, governments may tilt left (it's already happening in Germany) and economic nationalism will get a boost, as it has in France.

Again, the current financial capitalism is seen as the Anglo-Saxon capitalism, as if it had not changed from the version 30 years ago. what we have today is the "right" kind of capitalism, of course.

And I sense that European governments are seen as wimps for daring follow the opinions of their population, instead of sticking to their guns. Ah, Europeans are such losers - commi populations, cowerdly governments - anti-Americans all. Of course, after attaching the "reactionary" label to the left, now it's the turn of the "nationalist" one, so that yet more traits of the anti-big-business right can be pinned on the left to disparage it.


The resulting backlash could make it harder for U.S. firms to make acquisitions in Europe, and high-risk, high-reward financial products from Wall Street will be ferociously scrutinized.

Ah yes, it's the popular backlash that blocks US companies in Europe, not the fact that they can no longer borrow to pay for acquisitions, or the fact that the euro-dollar rate makes acquisitions in Europe kind of pricey these days...

And yet another jibe at backward Europeans who don't appreciate the innovations coming out of Wall Street, and don't understand simple risk-reward calculations. Stupid paysans... No mention that the high risks have blown up the financial system (notably because the rewards were not commensurate to risk), and I should probably not even note that most of the quants in US and UK banks that have invented all the fancy new products that Businessweek brags about are European mathematicians, notably French ones...


And as Europe's Left uses anti-business sentiment to press for an advantage, it will be much harder for companies to restructure or negotiate globally competitive wages.

So...

  • anti-business = anti-American (because that's all America is about);

  • the left "presses its advantage": how dare they? Don't they know they're supposed to be the brave opposition that shows that we're a democracy but does not prevent business from happening as it should?

  • "globally competitive wages"... ahh, there we are. This is code, of course, for "lower wages", and being anti-lower-wages is, naturally, also being anti-American. As usual, the interests of the population are discreetly replaced by that of the economy, the economy is conflated with the very rich, and the very rich of any country have the same interests as those in the US. Thus, anti-American behavior to not strive for "global competitiveness".


In recent years, Europeans have grudgingly accepted U.S.-style reforms as necessary to compete in the global economy. The French elected vocal Americophile Nicolas Sarkozy. Germans in 2003 swallowed cuts in jobless benefits, while for years unions agreed to below-inflation pay hikes.

Again, progress associated with "reform", which are necessarily "US-style". I wonder what recent policy choices in the US one should look to in practice... the ballooning budget deficit? The pork-laden budget? The destruction of FEMA? Of course not - the only reforms are the tax cuts for the wealthy and the dismantlement of pesky regulatory agencies like the EPA, the FEC or the MSHA. And, of course, the holy grail: lower benefits and lower wages - as explicitly noted above by BusnessWeek, along with the claim that a vote for Sarkozy was thus a vote for lower wages (the French might beg to differ, as Sarkozy's plummeting popularity right now, on the back of massive unhappiness with stagnant purchasing power, suggests...)


But even as economic growth surged and unemployment plummeted, many people felt the benefits went mostly to the wealthy--who critics say failed to pay their fair share of taxes. Suspicion of the rich runs deep in Europe, where labor leaders and left-leaning politicians still speak the language of class warfare.

As was noted above, the article refuses to even acknowledge that inequality is growing, presenting that as something "felt" by many people, ie something not real. And it's only "critics" who say that the rich are not paying a fair share of taxes (a particularly ironic claim in the middle of the biggest tax-evasion scandal in Europe).

And of course, it's just that Europeans are still unrecontructed commies (well, you'd expect reactionaries not to change, heh), hate the rich - and freedom, and America, becuase America is all about the rich.


Of course, Europe's elites are doing plenty on their own to bring the moneyed classes into disrepute. Many of the tactics that led to the subprime crisis were cooked up in London, and European banks such as UBS were among the most avid buyers of the loans. France has Jérôme Kerviel, the trader blamed for $7 billion in losses at Société Générale. And German police have been raiding the homes of people suspected of hiding assets in Liechtenstein. The cover of the left-leaning weekly Stern features a caricature of the most prominent suspect, former Deutsche Post chief Klaus Zumwinkel, clutching a fistful of euros. "What feeds the Left?" columnist Hans-Ulrich Jörges writes in the magazine. "Capitalism--its excesses, its greed, its shamelessness."

It's getting boring to flag this, but again, the article is supposedly about anti-Americanism, and that paragraph talks about the "moneyed classes" being in disrepute. (And I thought "classes" no longer existed, except in the imagination of Europe's lefties?)

Did it sink it, by now?


Criticizing the moneyed classes = being anti-American

But Europeans are so stuuuupid that even their moneyed classes are dumb, get caught in silly scandals, and bring disrepute to capitalism (the only kind there is, cf above). Thus the obvious hint that even rich Europeans are anti-American, through their incompetence in that case. What a sad, sad continent.

:: ::

This article reads like a parody, but it's not - it just incorporates more of the usual tools of the pundit class to get their propaganda across - the repeated use of buzzwords (with both positive "much needed reform" "US-style capitalism" and negative "class warfare", "left-leaning", "populist" signifiers), the easy conflation of disparate notions (America = prosperity = dynamism = business = moneyed class) to have them all in one camp  and claim that any attack on one is an attack on all others, and the permanent steroetyping about both the US and Europe.

But Europeans don't really care about being labelled anti-American, so that would seem to be part of an attack, yet again, on the US left, to associate it with commie, wimpy, reactionary, close-minded and empoverished Europeans.

In any case, the propaganda has only one goal: continue the transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the very rich, and all arguments are good. But hey, as many even on DailyKos seem to agree with that, given how I'm seen as a hard lefty on the site, maybe that's what America really wants.

But it's so easy to ignore that by calling me, in turn, lefty or anti-American, as it's become essentially the same thing.

Display:
Rationalisation is any interesting career choice.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 11:15:23 AM EST
And always a booming growth industry in political and financial circles!  ; )
by keikekaze on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 04:16:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/3/9/11040/35996/65/472834

where I added this comment on the candidates:


Hillary Clinton knows that, and is trying to eliminate all angles of attack on that topic - which looks like triangulation or worse, and amounts to accepting the terms of the debate set by the right, but seems to work to some extent in the wider electorate;

Barack Obama knows that too, and is trying to claim the Reaganesque mantle of hope for America - which is also an indirect way to play on America's belief in its own superiority to all others.

ie both are trying to avoid being labelled "anti-American", rather than making boldly the claim that the ideas dismissed as "anti-American" are nothing but.

The bits of their policy speeches that are critical of the current economy are pretty mild, and are each time blasted as "populist", "dangerous" or worse by the pundits (which fully expect these proposals to be ignored anyway once they are elected).

Both of their foreign policies are still far too militaristic.

I still have no idea what either will do in practice against that real menace - an a-national (ie they no longer have any real loyalty to any country) global elite more interested in growing and protecting their money, and the power that comes with it, than in governing.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 11:21:11 AM EST
The Business Week article is crap.  What do you expect from a corporate propaganda outlet? In the US, corporations always drape themselves in the flag to achieve their goals. Why?  Because a lot of Americans buy that sort of BS. No surprises there.

No one can be elected president in the US by "making boldly the claim that the ideas dismissed as anti-American" are nothing but." Ralph Nader makes the same criticisms of corporate capitalism that you do and you can see how well he fares in presidential elections. I agree with Nader, but I sure as hell have no intention of wasting my vote by voting for him. Edwards was a better-looking critic of corporate influence than Nader and you saw how far he got.

And the perception of anti-Americanism is not the chief problem in any case. It's just one of many arguments that the corporate shills use to defend their bosses' interests. Americans' support corporate capitalism not because it's criticized by foreigners.  The average American doesn't have the slightest idea what foreigners think of him or his political/economic system nor does he care.

No, the chief problem is that Americans still believe in corporate capitalism.  They think the crooks who get caught are aberrations and they hope that, someday, free enterprise will make them, personally, rich.

Finally, since when is calling for hope "Reaganesque"? Is hope some sort of conservative property, or a mere buzzword without real meaning that is only used by opportunists and swindlers? Obama says as much as he can say in the American political context. I suspect that after the first Obama administration has done it's work (with the support of large majorities in both houses of Congress, there will be an atmosphere here more conducive to the kind of debate that you're calling for.  In the current environment it would be political suicide.

"My True Religion Is Kindness" -- The Dalai Lama

by JohnnyRook (johnnyrook1@gmail.com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 01:59:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dKos needs to be told that, but methinks the attack is also on our economic and political elites, to keep them in line.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 06:26:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or is championing anglo-disease anti-european ? It is the necessary corollary of this is a contempt for european cultural and economic norms.

Just as "The West" looks down on inferior nations and shoulders the "White Man's Burden" to civilise them by destroying their culture through classical music, americans display their version of the WMB vis-a-vis europe by attempting to destroy our social support system by a financial mismanagement that resembles their own.

Of course, the WMB was just an excuse by the Imperial nations to plunder other countries and cover their theft with pious homilies to civilisation. And finally that's what it's all about, as Deep throat said ...."Follow the money"

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 12:22:47 PM EST
But writers like the BW clown are essentially correct because,

  1. There is virtually no place in USA to learn economics without becoming a cheerleader for the sort of "capitalism" that has lead directly to the current credit market woes.

  2. Therefore, finance capitalism defines USA these days.

  3. So in fact, criticism of finance capitalism is, by definition, anti American.

And because this is true, we also see that a former bond salesman (Bondad) is the go-to guy for "progressive" economic thought in USA (Dailykos, Huffington Post) and a "sound-money" hack named Whitney is the economic expert at Counterpunch.

sheesh!

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 12:52:59 PM EST
he's got personality.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 01:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is criticising financial capitalism anti-American?

To steal the line from Atrios:

Yes.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 01:26:43 PM EST
I have often seen critics of financial capitalism attacked as anti-Semitic - in some cases quite rightly.

Equally I have seen genuine (not the increasingly prevalent ersatz variety) exponents of Islamic Finance classified alongside bin Laden, no doubt as Economic Terrorists...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 01:34:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A goal of propaganda is to create an association of something with an existing emotively high negative, such as "Terrorist or anti-Semitic," to what is being attacked.  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 02:02:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have often seen critics of financial capitalism attacked as anti-Semitic - in some cases quite rightly.

quite rightly for Western Europe? I really haven't seen it other than the usual suspects like the German far right. No different than the US in parts of the paleocon and paleolib currents. Eastern Europe is a whole different story - there it is unfortunately quite common. I get the impression that the same is true in the Islamic world. Or in other words it's what you get with right wing economic populism. The old socialism of idiots model.

by MarekNYC on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 02:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In NBBooks's last post I mentioned "vulture funds." Triumphalism of financial capitalism:

... Jake Terhune's $985,000 home (I previously overstated the value --MT) just outside of Geyserville, in the heart of California's Sonoma County wine region. Terhune, 28, a self-employed cabinetmaker with tattoo-covered arms and a ginger goatee, put down $100,000 and agreed to pay about $6,900 a month for 30 years to buy the three-bedroom house in 2006.
[...]
By purchasing loans for as little as 50 cents on the dollar and then collecting the payments and handling the paperwork, Dellacamera can cut costs enough to offer easier terms and still make a profit, he says. Once borrowers have re-established themselves, the loans can be resold in the secondary market at a 15-20 percent gain.

More intellectually disturbing are a couple of stories this week, written to indemnify the Fed's torrential exposure to market risk through the TAF "innovation." While alluding to Northern Rock receivership in the UK, they call it "covert nationalization" US banking: minyanville.com and interfluidity.com. Quoting from the latter

The Fed announced that it would auction off $100B in loans this month rather than the previously announced $60B via its TAF facility. In the same press release, the FRB announced plans to offer $100B worth of 28 day loans via repurchase agreements against "any of the types of securities -- Treasury, agency debt, or agency mortgage-backed securities -- that are eligible as collateral in conventional open market operations".
[...]
The distinction between debt and equity is much murkier than many people like to believe. Arguably, debt whose timely repayment cannot be enforced should be viewed as equity. (Financial statement analysts perform this sort of reclassification all the time in order to try to tease the true condition of firms out of accounting statements.) If you think, as I do, that the Fed would not force repayment as long as doing so would create hardship for important borrowers, then perhaps these "term loans" are best viewed not as debt, but as very cheap preferred equity.

Given the number of new jumbo conforming loans insured or originated by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be securitizing (MBS), the author goes on to trivialize the Fed prerogative to write-down its own "equity" in the event of serial defaults.

If this rationalization of capitalism gains currency, "the left" will be thoroughly discredited as well in the US, in the UK, and across the world, because no good will come of it.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 02:06:38 PM EST
I don't know what is wrong with those "vulture funds". The name "vulture" is given to them by people who created the original overpriced securities, now selling at closer to their true value.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — Franšois in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 07:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is wrong with "vulture funds"? Well, it seems to me you answer your own question without interrogating the unstated assumption, there is a market solution to any economic conflict, which is a tenet of the ideology comprising finance capitalism. Detecting hypocrisy in the language of its advocates ought go without remark. For "information asymetry" as against the theory of perfect market information is but one arbitrage exploited by sellers to extract profit from buyers.

A more disturbing association, to my mind, is how the author internalizes death, death of capital formation and investment, represented by this home "owner" is "carion" to the "vulture." Doubtless the reporter is conversant with the fashion and financial mechanics of private equity agents extorting IMF and World Bank clients. For example

Debt Advisory International (DAI) On Thursday 15 February a high court judge in London will rule whether a vulture fund can extract more than $40m from Zambia for a debt which it bought for less than $4m.
::
Kensington International Critics say Kensington International, a subsidiary of Elliott Associates, is a "vulture fund," an investment group that buys up Third World debt at discounted prices and then sues for the full amount or more in court.
::
disambiguation  MUMBAI: Can the vulture nurture as well? Perhaps, it can. Distress asset funds (pejoratively called vulture funds) and distress asset arms of global hedge funds operating in India are increasingly beginning to focus on small and medium enterprises [SMEs], a segment which is the preserve of commercial banks.

By choosing such a term, the author glibly acknowledges that finance professionals are at long last consuming the dead, domestically. How long before wage-slave US consumers participating in 401(k) and pension plans discover their annuities derive from such equity- and asset-stripping activities in their own communities?

When pigs fly. "America" revels in its ignorance.

What frustrates and saddens me most is not only the socially acceptably, normative, psychopathy demonstrated by "financial cannibalism" in the US but the conspicuous absence of alternative remedies to depredations of so-called free enterprise. Before current even registering legislation to correct US Code regulating the industry is the abject failure to prosecute what are obvious fraudulent "business" practices. For example, the judicious opinion delivered by Hon. Jeffrey Bohm of Countrywide Financial Capital's institutional "incompetence." (How useful and ubiquitous that ascription has become!) Link to his 75pp "excuse" and choice quotes:

The problems at Barrett Burke and McCalla Raymer are not limited to training lawyers; there are other aspects of these firms' culture that is disconcerting. What kind of culture condones a firm signing an engagement letter which prevents its attorneys from communicating with its client? What kind of culture condones its lawyers preparing, signing, and filing motions to lift stay without having the client review the final version for accuracy? What kind of culture condones its attorneys signing proofs of claims without even contacting the client to review and confirm the debt figures? What kind of culture condones attorneys testifying to basic facts and then, at the next hearing, recanting the testimony on the grounds that the attorney had not sufficiently prepared to testify? And above all else, what kind of culture condones its lawyers lying to the court and then retreating to the office hoping that the Court will forget about the whole matter?

Mind you, the FBI is investigating CFC and WaMu among others pursuant to a separate suit of racketeering charges initiated by NY State AG, Andrew Cuomo, concerning property appraisal. Mr Cuomo, you will recall, was recently the object of racially-charged controversy concerning his use of the phrase "shuck and jive" to describe politicians' relationship to the press.

That's America for you. Watch out.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 12:28:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This article is not worth the electricity that brought it to me, but I feel we weaken the strength of our criticisms when we include things that can seem borderline badfaith (of course, the article is way over the line of bad faith).

Such as, being against the Iraq war or George Bush is not anti-americanism, but they are elements that did give more confidence to anti-americans. So to say that anti-americanism (we shouldn't claim that it is a non existent thing) probably can be honestly described as simmering in this context -for good reasons, of course.

Similarly, I don't reckon that stating that there is a perception of something necessarily implies that it is false. And since it will (or would) be in the future anyway, what matters today is the perception. And it's not because something is felt by people that it is false either.
I must also say that I failed to spot where in the article the left was given a reactionary label.

Don't get me wrong -there is much that is devious in the article. I just feel that it should not lead us to completely lose balance and criticise every word, even words that some of us could have honestly written, and that doing so risks drowning the substantial, neutral deconstruction of very devious points in a host of criticisms of wordings that are at least defendable.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 02:24:15 PM EST
they are elements that did give more confidence to anti-americans

If so, so what? Is "anti-Americanism" a real big problem and all-influencing societal pehnomenon, or one played up waaay beyond its significance? In none of the issues the quoted article discusses is 'anti-Americanism' the real matter at hand (or even a significant factor), so discussing the effect on real "anti-Americans" would only be a diversion (one intended by the Businessweek article).

I don't reckon that stating that there is a perception of something necessarily implies that it is false.

If an article persistently speaks only of perceptions where it could have spoken about facts, and several articles committed the same fault before, avoiding the conclusion that such an implication isn't intended is naive. This is how subtle spin works.

I must also say that I failed to spot where in the article the left was given a reactionary label.

On that I agree, I didn't see it in this article.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 06:21:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, in that case they talked about perception of things that would be in the future anyway. So it's hard to talk about facts -we don't actually know.

OK, we have a pretty good guess.

Anyway, I'm not disputing that this article is full of spin. I'm just saying that I feel we weaken our position by attacking even the reasonable parts. That would then make an outsider reckon that maybe the other attacks also are exagerations, wouldn't it?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 07:59:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Such as, being against the Iraq war or George Bush is not anti-americanism, but they are elements that did give more confidence to anti-americans.

The article being fisked in the original post employs a standard rhetorical trick to deflect criticism: Make statements that can be interpreted in two ways: One that is true but trivial, and another that is interesting but false. Listing the Vietraq and Bush the Lesser as contributing factors to the (postulated) increase in anti-Americanism.

One can interpret it the way you do; that BushCo and their insane policies have emboldened anti-American sentiments among those who already hold them, and/or contributed to an increase of said sentiments. This interpretation is, of course, true. It is also, however, trivial: If a country screws up royally, those who are already antagonistic towards said country will beat on its failures as hard as they can. This is no less true for Europhobes than for anti-Americans.

The other interpretation - which Jerome criticises - is that criticism of BushCo and their insane policies is by itself evidence of anti-Americanism. This is an interesting proposition, in the sense that it is non-trivial: There is no a priori reason to suggest such a relationship. It is also, however, very obviously false.

As an aside, the very fact that a central contention is so ambiguously worded as to engender this confusion is a sign that the author is either himself confused about which point he is trying to make, or he is mendaciously attempting to shield an obviously nonsensical point from criticism by leaving sufficient ambiguity in the wording that he can retreat to a true but trivial interpretation should he be criticised.

Given that the piece is written by a corporate shill, I'm inclined to assume mendacity.

Similarly, I don't reckon that stating that there is a perception of something necessarily implies that it is false.

That is true, to an extent, but again the ambiguity is either the result of muddled thinking or outright mendacity on part of the author: When speaking to an issue of fact, it is conventional to make the strongest statement in which one has confidence. If, for instance, I say that "my friend Tobias says that the party tonight is cancelled" it implies that I don't know whether this is true or not. After all, if I know first-hand that the party is cancelled, I would just have said "the party tonight is cancelled."

Thus, by stating that economic inequality is the "perception" of the majority of Europeans, the author is either indicating that he believes this perception to be false - in which case he really needs to lay off whatever drugs he is doing - or he is indicating that he does not know the facts of the matter well enough to make informed comment - in which case I am given to wonder why he pontificates about it...

Of course there is a third possibility: That he doesn't really smoke enough crack to believe that inequality isn't growing in Europe, but he wants his readers to believe it, in which case he is being mendacious.

As before, my bet is mendacity.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 03:16:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well said.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 04:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"perception" did not refer to economic inequality, but to the perception that the less wealthy would end up paying for the crisis.

Yes, I'm pretty sure that they will, but so far it has been the investors who have lost quite a lot, more than the share I'd expected they'd end up with. Anyway, it lies in the future, it's not something we can already know for sure.

And I dispute your statements about the anti-americanism point. No, expressing it that way is not a sure sign that the reader is either confused or mendacious. I could have written that sentence, yet I am pretty clear about who screwed up, and have no intention to make people believe that it was those opposing Bush. I don't think the first interpretation is trivial, and even if it were, in the deepest written article you will always have some sentences that are not exactly extraordinary revelations. Neither do I rate the second one as interesting but false, I'd rate it as either dumb or a deliberate misinterpretation in order to make a point. And I say that with the greatest respect for Jérôme's intelligence -I am not for one second suggesting that he may be dumb.

Anyway, my point is that if you look at something where there are huge black spots and some areas that are maybe white and maybe a very light grey, you keep discussing about how much dark there is in those areas, it sort of weakens the description of the black bits.

I dislike propaganda as much as you do. But the axiom that every word in this article must be a deliberate lie is a kind of propaganda too, in the other direction. Mostly, I feel, perhaps wrongly, that by denying the possibility of there being even one neutral sentence in the article we do not greatly enhance our credibility towards those who would not be full converts...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 11:51:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"perception" did not refer to economic inequality, but to the perception that the less wealthy would end up paying for the crisis.

You're right. I got it confused with the part about "feeling" that there is increasing inequality. My bad. I'll maintain that Jerome's reading is closer to what the piece was meant to convey, however.

And I dispute your statements about the anti-americanism point. No, expressing it that way is not a sure sign that the [author] is either confused or mendacious. I could have written that sentence, yet I am pretty clear about who screwed up, and have no intention to make people believe that it was those opposing Bush.

Alright, I was probably a bit harsh there; the statement by itself isn't necessarily mendacious or confused. But given the context of the rest of the article - that is, given that the rest of the article is brimming with similar evidence of deliberate mendacity or astounding confusion (not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course - just look at Answers in Genesis) - I think that it is an entirely reasonable interpolation to assume that this is also the case here.

Mostly, I feel, perhaps wrongly, that by denying the possibility of there being even one neutral sentence in the article we do not greatly enhance our credibility towards those who would not be full converts...

This is a possibility, of course, and one that should be taken seriously in our communication strategy.

On the other hand, blanket dismissal is an entirely valid strategy when dealing with cranks - even if they may have an innocuous sentence or two buried in their screeds. Because acknowledging the existence of an innocuous (or even correct) sentence gives the impression that the correct bits are in sufficiently reasonable proportion to the incorrect bits to be worth mentioning. This is generally not the case.

Precisely how to balance these requirements in our communication is an issue I will happily leave to those more competent in public communication than myself.

More generally, however, your criticisms of the interpretation given in the diary would be both valid and persuasive if the original article had been written in good faith, by an honest broker in the debate. But the evidence - both in the article itself and given the venue of its publication - points massively to the conclusion that it is neither.

And when you're dealing with dishonest shills, you need to discredit them as fast as possible and as dirty as necessary. Because if you engage them in a reasonable debate, you'll get worn down by simple attrition: Making shit up is a lot faster than rebutting it, and the shills have a lot more manpower (and funding) than we do.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 01:54:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we shouldn't claim that anti-americanism is a non-existing thing, we should define it. How is it defined? Is it hatred of all (or most) Americans? Of all  (or most) things American? If so how many people would fall under that definition, and what influence could they have?

In fact there are only two definitions that make sense: anti-americanism as a species of anti-imperialism, that is opposing American imperial power; or alternatively as the opposite of "americanism" (considered as a synonym for US exceptionalism) i.e. anyone not believing that the US is better than everybody else is anti-american.

Under both these definitions however the term "anti-americanism", signifying, as mentioned above, to most "hatred of all Americans", is highly misleading as a term, and its intended use IMHO is mostly as an instrument of internal propaganda.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 05:49:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The current situation is the first international monetary crisis since the world went off the gold standard (the US under Nixon).

Before this time the options for central banks were limited and so was the coordination between them. We now live under a set of new rules, and whether these will make solving the crisis easier or harder is hard to say. I certainly won't try to predict, but personally, I not doing anything to change the balance of my portfolio investment. On what basis could I make a sensible decision?

My guess is that the panic is overblown, just because people are looking back at other crises and make historical analogies which aren't appropriate.

My second point is more of a question.

Is European "capitalism" any different than the American variety? As far as I can tell the major differences have to do with limits on CEO greed and labor having a bit more say in governance than in the US. Neither of these factors really has any effect on how firms pursue their goals. Shell seems just as unsavory as Exxon. European (and Asian) banks have been getting caught up short just as have the US banks. Rational assessments of risk seem to be lacking in all markets.

I understand that talking about American style capitalism is mostly a code for getting rid of labor's power in the EU, but aside from that are there really any important differences?

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 07:56:49 PM EST
Is European "capitalism" any different than the American variety?

Of course it is different.  Perfect example--Vestas of Denmark.  The USA has WAY more prime wind site than Denmark.  The USA has just as big a real interest in harnessing non-carbon-based power as Denmark.  Both countries have similar access to international markets.

Yet Wall street did NOT finance the wind turbine industry.  In fact, it seems impossible that could have done so considering what their goals are.  Wall Street is the epicenter of pirate capitalism, while there was still enough left of producer capitalism in Denmark to get a wind turbine industry off the ground.

Is there a difference between the forms of capitalism?  I would maintain that the difference between pirates and producers is the single greatest social distinction on earth.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 09:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vestas and the Danish Wind Industry were definitely funded by Wall St in the earliest years in the US.  In fact, it was primarily in response to tax credit partnerships set up by both private firms and major investment house, which provided the lion's share of funding for the US market, that Vestas, Nordex, Micon, Bonus (now Siemens) and the rest.

Yes, they were also helped by Danish installations, also funded by tax credits, but the Danish credits were also used to fund US projects.

Wall St money did tend to emphasize US manufacturers, but was by no means limited to them.

It is most certainly "pirate" money today, based in the global financial centers, which funds the mature wind industry.  In the US, the lead venture funder in windpower is Goldman Sachs, while they, Lehman, Morgan and many banks fund the projects and companies.

Particularly when discussion Anglo Disease, we see the effects of pirate vs. producer capitalism, but the logic breaks down when referring to windpower.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 09:09:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Should read:  "that Vestas, Nordex, Micon, Bonus (now Siemens) and the rest" were able to get their feet wet and then increase capacity.  (When the tax crdits dried up and Wall St left the industry, many of the Danish firms went out of business, or suffered painful reorganization.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 09:14:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Particularly when discussion Anglo Disease, we see the effects of pirate vs. producer capitalism, but the logic breaks down when referring to windpower.

Or is it that the sector is still in growth/early maturation and there isn't enough to raid yet?

by Francois in Paris on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 12:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know crazy horse, it is damn difficult to argue with you about the early days of windpower because you were there.

But....I believe you grossly underestimate the investment it requires to get to the point where something is actually offered for sale.  Funding an enterprise when there is already a working prototype and a sales brochure may SEEM like brave investment strategy, but compared to the folks who got the project to that place, such investment is virtually irrelevant.

Or perhaps you could explain to the rest of us exactly WHY there is no USA version of Vestas.  There are no parts of wind turbines we could not have manufactured, but aside from some pathetic attempts, it never happened.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 01:06:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, you can argue with me about anything you want after posting those beautiful photos of your church restoration.

You make a good point about the Danish farmers and machinists who actually built the early turbines.  They did bootstrap themselves into becoming companies.  Vestas was already a company, making something for agriculture when I visited the factory in Lem back in 1879, or was it 1979, can't quite remember.

btw, Here's a site on windpower's history put together by an old friend of mine, the builder of the blades for all those initial Danish machines.

As to your 2nd question, part of the reason the US never developed viable manufacturers can be laid at the hands of the government research program.  Large machine contracts were awarded to defense industry companies who didn't give a shit about windpower.  The small turbine companies scuffled along as best they could.  But even the commercial turbines at the same scale as Vestas in those days were a bit higher technology, and were perhaps too far ahead of the curve.  As we all know, the robust, primitive technology of the Danes won out.

It took some time before NREL (then SERI) got with the program, but by then it was too late.  Another factor was the continual boom and bust cycles, which did not allow for long term investment.  Look at Zond/Enron, who never built a reliably working machine.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 02:02:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the attaboy, crazy horse!

In order to build something as difficult as a reliable wind turbine, two things are required--a compelling vision and patient capital.

Pirate capitalism has neither.  Good producers have both.

Wind turbines may not be the best example of these phenomena but it is one I thought appropriate for this site.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 03:55:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, there are many examples of your point about pirate capitalism, but windpower doesn't quite fit.

Hope you enjoyed Eric's windpower site (above comment).  I think it's gorgeous and a great template of the industry.  Wish lot's of people would go there and check it out.  He's the perfect example of the antidote for pirate capitalism.  (But then some of us did do it for the greater good, and not because there was so much money to be made... which really hurt the industry.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 04:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe that you are forgetting the fact that the Danish government had a deliberate policy of supporting research and development of wind technology. No small part of the Danish wind turbine R&D was done at DTU and Risø - both of which are government institutions.

Without this kind of government-funded research programmes, it is highly unlikely that the Danish wind industry would have ever gotten off the ground. And considering the sway that the drill-and-burn lobby holds over Washington in general and the Repugs in particular, I seriously doubt that such a programme would have survived past the first US Congress committee.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 03:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is that US support mechanisms for wind in the early 80s were not provide good incentives - all the money was upfront, so investors had an all too strong motivation to put up machines that would work initially but did not really care about how they fared in the long run. They were in for a quick buck.

Also, of course, the fact that support has been yanked away, and has generally been inconsistent (sse still today the on/off nature of the PTC mechanism and the yearly uncertainty as to its renewal).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 04:55:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rdf:
The current situation is the first international monetary crisis since the world went off the gold standard (the US under Nixon).
What do you call the Black Wednesday
In British politics and economics, Black Wednesday refers to 16 September 1992 when the Conservative government was forced to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) due to pressure by currency speculators--most notably George Soros who made over US$1 billion from this speculation. In 1997 the UK Treasury estimated the cost of Black Wednesday at £3.4 billion.
or the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis?
The crisis started in Thailand with the financial collapse of the Thai baht caused by the decision of the Thai government to float the baht, cutting its peg to the USD, after exhaustive efforts to support it in the face of a severe financial overextension that was in part real estate driven.[neutrality disputed] At the time, Thailand had acquired a burden of foreign debt that made the country effectively bankrupt even before the collapse of its currency. The drastically reduced import earnings that resulted from the forced devaluation then made a quick or even medium-term recovery impossible without strenuous international intervention. As the crisis spread, most of Southeast Asia and Japan saw slumping currencies, devalued stock markets and asset prices, and a precipitous rise in private debt.[1]
Maybe you mean the first monetary crisis to affect the US since it dropped the Gold Standard?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — Franšois in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 07:07:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would argue that the US never did leave the gold standard - at least not completely. As long as oil is traded in US$ - and as long as oil is as critical a strategic resource as it is - the US has a quasi-gold standard.

Now, the fallout when OPEC stops trading in $ is going to be... interesting - particularly considering that the US has very little control over the timing of such a move.

As an aside, I believe you forgot Argentina, which is arguably an even better analogy to the current US situation.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 03:34:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wrong way around I think. When considering monetary "standards" you have to look at what it is that the reserves are kept in.

ie the gold standard was backed by bullion reserves.

The US were not the ones exchanging oil for dollars: they were creating and exchanging dollars for oil.

It wasn't that the the US was on an "Oil Standard" - it's that the rest of the world (and the oil nations in particular) has been on the Dollar Standard, and kept reserves in dollars, thereby giving the US a free ride on the seignorage on the dollars.

The solution IMHO is that we get on to an energy standard backed by an energy-based value unit, and "pools" of energy, whether carbon-based or renewable.

This would allow the monetisation (and hence inescapable taxation/levying) of the energy content of carbon, not the completely fatuous concept of monetising the carbon content of emissions, or carbon credits.

These are both "deficit-based" solutions brought to us by the same people who brought us the Credit Crunch, and as the guy said...

"...if you want to keep a donkey healthy you don't regulate what comes out of it, you regulate what goes in...".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 06:49:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Alright. Thanks for the clarification.

The fallout will still be interesting, but for different reasons than I thought...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 11:24:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I left Argentina out intentionally. That was a monetary crisis but not an international monetary crisis - it didn't spread.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — Franšois in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 19th, 2008 at 04:22:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rdf:
My guess is that the panic is overblown, just because people are looking back at other crises and make historical analogies which aren't appropriate.

I fear that the panic is understated, for the same reason. There is no appropriate analogy.

Credit intermediation, in the US at least, is finished for at least a generation.

On the other hand, maybe it's possible to create a successful US economy without credit intermediation.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 07:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes it is, if you believe, as Businessweek and the rest of the MSM and BushCo do, that "global corporate capitalism," "the United States," "America," and "freedom" all name exactly the same, co-extensive, thing, no more, no less.  

Having grasped this linguistic key, the rest of the language is fairly easy to crack.  I particularly delight in "U.S.-style reforms":  Beggaring the workers is "labor reform"; kleptomania and enforced upward transfers of wealth are "economic reform"; war is "diplomacy reform"; torture is "interrogation reform," and so on.

by keikekaze on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 09:34:45 PM EST
Oh well, in France now they just say "reform".

Which is infuriating. Rightist politicians can claim that they see the electorate still wanting reforms and that's supposed to mean that they want movement conservatism.
Yet of course I want major, country changing reforms: a complete rethink of our organisations in order to dramatically reduce our use of primary resources, and constitutional changes that would get us out of this elective monarchy dead-end would be rather major reforms wouldn't they? I doubt, though, that they are the same ones that the extreme-right UMP party have in mind. I sure don't want my support for a multiparty government in charge of major changes to be used as support for UMP...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 02:48:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ummm...well, hopefully "change" - sorry "Change" - won't go the way of "Reform".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 06:36:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's funny how all the U.S. presidential candidates this year--Democrats and Republicans alike--couldn't proclaim loudly and ardently enough that they were the candidates of "Change."  (I mean, Mitt Romney, for pete's sake!)  One might almost have thought it was a bipartisan judgment on the last seven years, and a highly negative one on both sides of the political aisle--until one remembers that in American politicalspeak, "Change" means "more of the same."
by keikekaze on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 04:09:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Attacking any comforts and privileges of riches is surely un-American, you infidels! The biggest evil is questioning and undermining competitive advantage of anyone!

Some say that the current crisis is very similar to the S&L crisis. Its all American if the Bush family (see brother Neil) is glad. The blogosphere unearthed a Megadeath clip of those times, "Foreclosure of a Dream". (Hat tip here.)

by das monde on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 04:11:40 AM EST
Why deconstruct shit?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — Franšois in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 07:16:12 AM EST
Come now! Tish!

sthi
hsit
isht

...enough already...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 10:15:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't doctors use stool samples to diagnose illness?

;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 12:20:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the answer to the question in the title is yes. It's antiamerican.

You know the stuff about "words mean whatever I want them to mean", nothing more and nothing less.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 08:12:14 AM EST

  1. Place article in jar with wad of ether-soaked cotton wool.
  2. Seal jar.
  3. Re-open jar when article's legs are no longer kicking.
  4. Remove article and pin to board.
  5. Place board in entomological specimen box.
  6. Label Propagandus americano-dummiensis and exhibit under heading Food for Non-Thought.

In fact I think this shows that, though there may be some face-saving thoughtful stuff from Martin Wolf and some others in the FT, for example (as there was when the dot-com bubble burst), mostly the machine will go on telling us that problems are only a wrinkle, markets are functioning, and that all that's needed to get them working better is a little more "reform". Never apologise. Never admit anything went wrong.

All those fools who jumped out of Wall Street windows in 1929 had a misplaced sense of responsibility. Or shame, or something. What wimps.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 10:25:18 AM EST
... or maybe they just hadn't understood the key to Modern Capitalism(TM): Always make sure that the profits accrue in your money, and the risks are denominated in somebody else's money.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 11th, 2008 at 03:39:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometimes when I hear Bu$h talking about the enemy I think he's talking about Democrats.

I agree all candidates are too militaristic.  However,no candidate will get elected who wants to downsize the military and mind our own business.  

We have forgotten Eisenhower's military industrial complex speech as our politicians are too busy scaring us to death.  Alas.

by tobysmom (tobysmom) on Mon Mar 10th, 2008 at 11:46:03 PM EST


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