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A little American intercine battling

by rootless2 Mon May 14th, 2012 at 10:41:37 PM EST

To see just how weird the intersection of racism and economics can be in modern America, one need go no further than Yves Smith's influential "Naked Capitalism" blog and an article with the title:

Exclusive: How Obama's Early Career Success Was Built on Fronting for Chicago Real Estate and Finance
Smith belongs with Matt Taibbi, William Black and others to a group of indignant critics of President Obama's supposed failure to restore the rule of law" in finance. These people portray themselves as pro-capitalism and anti-corruption. They claim things used to be a lot better on Wall Street back in the good old days of strong regulation and vigilant law enforcement (whenever that was). They are big fans of Paul Volcker,  cheer Paul Krugman when he is critical of the Obama administration, and put a great deal of emphasis on things like "market price". Smith is by far the most informative and sophisticated of this group, but she's caught up in the same dysfunctional anti-Obama nuttiness that they all inhabit. In this post, Smith is introducing and recommending what she calls a "prescient" speech given in 2008 by the late Robert Fitch. Fitch's speech begins by attacking Obama for saying there is a common national good that transcends class - a point disputed by both some Marxists and some right wingers. Fitch then goes on to situate Obama as either a stooge of or participant in a group of capitalists (rapacious and evil, of course) who have been redeveloping the south side of Chicago. The obvious question is what it is that Smith can find compelling in such a cliched Marxist critique. Is she unhappy that Obama is not a Marxist devotee of the class struggle or is it something else?  The answer can be found in the third part, the comments section which features an open sewer of racist resentment and paranoid conspiracy theorizing.

Let's take look at some examples:

  • I'd wager BarryO did not have the grades to clerk for the SCOTUS. I have long suspected that the reason no one wanted his grades released is b/c it would show that his editorial position @ HLS was given to him.
  • The grades are of little interest in themselves: the interest is in his obsessive determination to hide so much about life.
  • Rumors abound. Like the real reason Blago went down was because he peeved off Obama by trying to sell off his old Senate seat. It was supposed to go to Alexi Gianoulias. Gianoulias family owned the failed Broadway Bank. It was a big scandal right before the election. They supposedly made a lot of loans to mobsters. Anyhoo, the poor guy who landed Obama's old seat, Repub. Mark Kirk, recently had a stroke. He just left rehab yesterday the local news reported. Lots of coincidences...hmmm...
  • There actually is a very good reason to see Obama's records, as explained by Jack Cashill: "None of this, of course, proves Ayers' authorship [of Obama's Dreams from my Father] conclusively, but the evidence makes him a much more likely candidate than Obama to have written the best parts of Dreams.
  • In general, Obama's rise seems mysteriously easy. But then con men can do that, and aren't necessarily Manchurian candidates when they do. So I think Occam's razor applies. (from Lambert Strether!)
  • This is were Ayers comes in. He probably was more of Obama's handler, or fellow agent, etc., than he was anything else. He probably had the writing skills, as my link demonstrates. He is the one that appears to have helped Obama lay down his cover.
  • Wonder what Breitbart had on them...? Now Breitbarts coroner died under suspicious circumstances. Its all quite disturbing.
  •  broadly speaking of the left ... and I'm sure that there are plenty of exceptions ... their continued support of obama is tied to their vanity; they are so proud that THEY voted for a black man that obama has become a shining beacon of their moral superiority over all those that don't support him. His race was such a large part of why they voted for him ... the largest emotional reason why they voted for him, which for most people is the largest reason of all ... and they are so very conscious of his race that they also assume that if you don't like him it's becoz of his race.
  • What you are saying about white leftys or Progressives voting for Obama because they wanted to congratulate themselves for helping to elect the first black man to be President, I think is also true of white Independents. It was about being part of a grand historical moment.
  • The cops don't want to answer calls in the suburbs now.. Here is an example...my husband and I were in a local bar with friends when an african American decided to give the middle finger to our friend for no reason...A verbal altercation ensued..his African American friend joined the altercation and it was escalating so I called the cops. The dispatcher asked me if there were weapons involved..I said how would I know...? He tried to get out of sending help and at one point hung up on me. After my insistence this was going to get ugly... 5 cop cars eventually came. My point is the cops aren't so keen about going on these calls. I had to practically beg for them to show up.
  • My local news reported Saul Alinsky's book Rules for Radicals is Obama's Bible.....Which promotes community organizing as a means of infiltration. It is Marxist/Leninism revised. Lots of secrets, lies and deceptions to commit a lot of fraud.
  • Isn't the black community doing exactly the opposite of Martin Luther King Juniors dream? They are judging Obama based upon the color of his skin and NOT on the content of his character. If they judged him based upon the content of his character, they would be in the streets and angry in mass numbers over his policies whether it's on civil rights, the rule of law (especially letting financial fraud go unchecked), and too many other issues now to list in this comment.
  • Oreobama was groomed from Day 1 (CIA, Harvard, Ford Foundation, + Chase +Rubin + Clinton for Tony Soprano-type HUD deals in Chi. Clinton is ever Magog's fixer. Obama is Stepinfetchit Glorified for C.21. How low can he get?
  • Quite right. Obama has been a snake oil salesman from day one. Playing basketball while America burns...
  • There are so many anomalies with respect to Barry Soetoro that the people who actually have done the research are left facing a shrill group who use every response in his defence except the use facts to state their case. I'm undecided about the man but I know he's a composite character with strong CIA connections to that composite. His mother's strong links to CIA fronts is not hard to confirm as is his first CIA fronted job.
  • This is as ugly as it gets: murderous spoils politics via "Friendly FIRE" by Obama & Friends, ruining "his people" for profit behind their backs, as brazen as an organized crime Don in Chicago, brought to D.C. as their Trojan Horse. What has he done for his mob as the Black Don in the Office of President, our treacherous war-spoils Commander in Chief? Why would any citizen of color vote for Obama, the arch traitor for personal gain? Bring RICO.
  • Obama is where he is because many many Liberals and sort-of-liberals wanted to vote for a Black man to prove to themselves that they were not prejudiced.
  • Left/liberal/progressive support for Obama has always been mainly about the symbolism of the "first black President." It was a reversal of MLK's dream; Obama was judged not by the content of his character but by the color of his skin.
  • Jeremy Scahill traced the funding of candidates by the MIC during the run up to the 08 election. MIC donors shifted over from Clinton to Obama and Obama was suddenly anointed as the candidate!
    Now we see one loser candidate arise after another on the part of Republicans. This serves to frighten Democrats. They keep up their donations to Obama, they scream loudly for the election of their war and financial criminal. To Obama's handlers, what's not to like!
Of course, Smith is not responsible for comments people submit to her blog and but she is responsible for neither deleting them nor disassociating herself from what they say or at least chiming in to support the brave souls who write in defense of sanity in her comments section. And worse, Smith's writing is, consciously or not, a source of encouragement for a racist nutball audience.  She says the President was "fronting" for real-estate interests -"fronting" - a fascinating choice of expression. Maybe we could all benefit from more fake ghetto talk from white Wall Street consultants. She also directly feeds conspiracy theories - with a strikingly dishonest line of argument:
A central component of the seemingly impenetrable Obama mythology is his personal history: a black man, son of a broken home, who nevertheless got on the fast track to financial success by becoming editor of the Harvard Law Review, but turned instead to working with and later representing a particularly disadvantaged community, the South Side of Chicago.
Even so, this story does not quite add up. Why did Obama not follow the usual, well greased path of becoming a Supreme Court clerk, and seeking to exert influence through the Washington doors that would have opened up to him after that stint?
What exactly is it that "does not quite add up" ? Obama worked as a community organizer before law school and then went back to Chicago to take a job with Minor, Barnhill law firm, which Smith does not bother to explain was then and is now one of the most prominent law firms in the country involved in assisting victims of  sex, and race discrimination (see these and these).  It's suspicious! Because he is suspicious. And why is he suspicious? Well one can guess that Smith's comment contributors have a good idea.
But the important part is his [Fitch's] description of the role that Obama played in the redevelopment of the near South Side of Chicago, and how he and other middle class blacks, including Valerie Jarrett and his wife Michelle, advanced at the expense of poor blacks by aligning themselves with what Fitch calls "friendly FIRE": powerful real estate players like the Pritzkers and the Crown family, major banks, the University of Chicago, as well as non-profit community developers and real estate reverends . [ bold added]
 Unlike Fitch, Smith is pro-capitalism so she presumably is pro-making money. It makes sense for Fitch to assume that real-estate developers are evil bloodsuckers but why does it make sense for Smith? Is it wrong for people to make money developing section 8 housing in Chicago? Is the President morally tainted by knowing those people (because Fitch doesn't really show more than that)? Maybe the problem is that Obama is associated with people who make money while black (MMWB)? Those "real estate reverends" too - oooh!  And in association with the Pritzkers and Crowns, both of whom MMWJ? How vulgar! I assume Smith finds the stuff in her comments section repellent, but if you scatter enough crap around, flies will come. Note: Written as a response to this and discussion that followed.


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Be sure and have a good ol' battle there.

A diary consisting of over 50% of selected comments on an unlinked post from another blog sort of speaks for itself. I'm certainly not going to argue with these people (hint: I might have better things to do)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 04:55:43 AM EST
Come on, this really is pointless.

"Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow
As big as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel."

I still hope someone sees the crow.

by IM on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 05:18:45 AM EST
Caw! Caw!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 05:56:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
quoth the raven nevermore
by IM on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 06:12:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lost me by saying Matt Taibbi is pro-capitalist.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 05:41:11 AM EST
And as long as you're riffing, here's some jamming riffs from some of Frisco's finest jazz musicians, getting a bit funky. I was there that night for the 20th anniversary.

(The Broun Fellinis have a bit of different sound on their own stuff, which i find truly amazing if anyone wishes to dig deeper.)

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

by Crazy Horse on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 05:47:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He says he is. See his interview with Bill Moyers, for example
by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 08:03:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
e.g
Taibbi: Most of the time I talk about this stuff, I'm surprised because people say, "You're a socialist" or "a communist" but if you pay attention, I'm saying capitalism has been corrupted. This is an issue where right and left can agree. When government and private finance are in bed with each other, it's not a right versus left issue; it's a haves versus have-nots issue
Because capitalism used to be real, man. Before it sold out. Now it's just about the money.
by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 08:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds pro-Fordist.

Of course, it turned out that the capitalists weren't actually in favor of Fordist regulated capitalism, even if they had a lesser evil preference for regulated capitalism versus the state socialists of the Russian Empire. They doggedly and persistently weakened the regulations that protected capitalism from itself, whenever and wherever they found an opportunity to do so.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 01:34:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the bigger insights of the 19th century socialist intellectuals was that societies/economies are rarely static - that they are dynamic and evolving (or you can put it in mystical Hegelian terms if you want). So the structure of say 1960 advanced capitalism was transforming itself into something else. This was, at one time, a commonplace of "left" thinking and it is not compatible with the Taibbi idea that there was this stable golden age of WASP capitalism before all those grubby new people contaminated it with unbridled greed (OMG! apparently greed was simply unthinkable back when Harry Truman was President). To me the ideas peddled by Taibbi and colleagues are deeply reactionary - they are a nostalgia for the High Cold War Period, back when men were men, the rule of law was a rule and not a guideline, and so on. Just adding a bunch of tedious invective about bankers to that theory does not make it any better.
by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 02:45:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The invective against bankers was wearing thin in the 50's ~ hence the ability to get the process of deregulation of the banking industry underway ~ despite the fact that the bank runs of 1930, 1931, and 1932 were still in living memory.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 03:09:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the increased power of finance in the US did not come from a failure of invective, it came from the fading of the labor movement, the accumulation of capital through military and FIRE subsidies basic to post-war state, as part of the normal process of imperial states, via competition with European banking after the EU economies took off, due to the rise of a right wing exurban/suburban white collar working class created by New Deal policies ... And the ability of e.g. US bankers to solve crises by causing social catastrophes in Latin America, for example, may have contributed to social stability in the USA, but it's hardly a condition that make me feel nostalgic.
by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 03:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The initial victories in beginning to dismantle the New Deal banking legislation in the 1950's and 1960's were won without requiring any fading of the union movement, as the union movement was not substantial participant in the fights.

The Great U-Turn of the early 70's did not happen all at once: there was a lot of ground work laid in the 50's and 60's to make it possible.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 04:34:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Supposing you were correct, what dates do we assign to the golden age Taibbi has in mind?
by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 07:16:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be the period after the Great Compression of Wealth Inequality in the US (1935-1945), and before the Great U-Turn (roughly 1974-76).

My point being, rewind the clock to 1955, and we are in the middle of the process of big business and the entrenched aristocracy of wealth laying the foundation for the Great U-turn, and we have two decades of Fordism until we hit the Great U-Turn. Less, since having accomplished that transition once, they would be more skilled at it the second time around.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 07:32:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bruce, your ability to answer this question, by itself, demonstrates why economic history was dropped from most economics curricula.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 07:56:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While it was dropped as a core requirement, to make room for more math, economic history wasn't entirely dropped from the economic curricula. In most places, its considered sufficient to drop historical time from the economic history course and do your economic history on the basis of abstract neoclassical time.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 08:09:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...its considered sufficient to drop historical time from the economic history course and do your economic history on the basis of abstract neoclassical time.

And neoclassical economics really does not include time. Time is, at best, the interval between equilibria, but the different equilibria themselves do not depend on time.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 16th, 2012 at 12:29:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But don't you think that the aristocracy was always fighting back? The defeat of Roosevelt in 1938 by the segregationists was followed by the replacement of Wallace by Truman and then by the passage of the Taft Hartley act in 1947 - a devastating blow to the US labor movement. On the other hand, since the 1950s, one of the great liberation movements in human history frees black America from serfdom (although certainly not from oppression), there is the huge shock of the women's movement, gay liberation, a breakdown of the social structure of patriarchy, the transformation of much of the world from military dictatorship ...

I don't see a U-turn.

by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 08:13:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, since the 1950s, one of the great liberation movements in human history frees black America from serfdom (although certainly not from oppression), there is the huge shock of the women's movement, gay liberation, a breakdown of the social structure of patriarchy, the transformation of much of the world from military dictatorship ...

I don't see a U-turn.

Its not clear how you expect to find the reversal of policies compressing wealth inequality in the US by looking at the civil rights movement, women's liberation movenent, gay liberation, or, indeed, "the transformation of much of the world from military dictatorship".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 08:20:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not making that claim. I am saying that those days are as gone as the days when medieval guilds protected skilled craftsmen. People did not build industrial unions by pining for the days of guilds and feudalism and I don't see how we can expect to make progress by glorifying the Cold War era.
by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 08:41:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an interesting claim, considering that no credible alternative has been proposed to the industrial economy that provided the need and preconditions for industrial unions.

All I hear from the people who talk about the post-industrial society is bullshit platitudes about the information society or the service society. Both of which conflate rent-seeking with value creation and mistake transient colonial tribute arrangements for a durable economic model.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 09:18:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what that has to do with my claim at all. I am definitely not a believer in the post-industrial economy.

I am skeptical that the power distribution between a the first world predominately white male industrial working class and the first world corporate/military/govt structures of the 1950s can be or should be reconstructed in the current era. And I am unhappy with "analysis" of that system that minimize the role that race/gender and colonial exploitation played in its functioning. Those were not the good old days for everyone unless you define everyone as first world white men.

Furthermore, while I understand why our system of finance as the dominant mode of production of the dominant classes should be a popular topic of conversation, I am dubious that Wall Street Finance can be regulated or that doomed efforts to regulate it should be the focus of popular movements.

by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 09:55:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All you're doing there is tossing another straw man on the fire.  Obama is a centrist who in 2008 pitched himself as far more progressive than he is.  He has done very little to reverse the somnambulance of the financial regulators that began under Reagan and became a completely vegetative state under Bush II, causing the present mess, regardless of how the unreconstructed Austro-Chicagoans are determined to spin it.

And yes, if you're looking for content-filtered comments, Yves's blog is the wrong place to look.  You're here in the States, you know 99% of the comment boards work like that.  It isn't like over at the Grauniad, where if you blow your nose wrong, the mods will run you.  If there's effectively no difference between the post and the comments, then you know the blogger is backing the commentators.  Cf. Freep, Drudge, World Nut Daily, etc.

by rifek on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 05:46:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"straw man" is a lazy substitute for an argument - and your argument consists of restating the party line.

It doesn't matter how many times the same weak line is repeated, it remains weak. There was a progressive candidate during the Democratic primaries who was starkly at variance with the "big three" moderates. He got 7% of the vote from Democratic primary voters.  I can only conclude that the disappointeds among the progressives feel that their social status entitles them to have a candidate who ran specifically as a moderate adopt their minority and often poorly thought out policy positions. for example, I have many times heard progressives complain that Obama abandoned "single payer" even though he explicitly stated his antipathy to single payer during the primary elections. To conclude that "hope and change" means "I adopt the policy proposals of the fringe candidate that I defeated and abandon what I explicitly pledged myself to do" is to conclude that one is owed service by the menial staff - and certainly many of the "progressive" attacks on Obama sound very much like the complaints of ill mannered hotel guests who find the Hotel service is not up to their expectations. But one knows how lazy these people are.

As for Yves, my argument is that her writing encourages racist morons and I note she does nothing to disassociate herself from the loathsome opinions regularly expressed by her commentators - loathsome opinions that draw on her lurid claims like "it doesn't add up".  The comments on many of the firebag sites are so full of openly racist sentiments and the posts are full of coded racism. Since the argument she endorses by Fitch is mostly about how Obama's failure to disassociate himself from the postulated sins of his wealthy supporters makes him complicit, I'm quite sure she would have to admit that she is complicit in what her commentators write.

by rootless2 on Tue May 15th, 2012 at 07:14:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not restating any party line; you're writing the next Oliver Stone movie.
by rifek on Fri May 18th, 2012 at 10:57:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Capitalism used to be sorta-kinda regulated.

At least he didn't say "we've never actually tried capitalism."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed May 16th, 2012 at 03:10:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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