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« Faces of GodBlogCon, part 2 | Main | Daily roundup »

September 23, 2008


In today's New York Times, David Brooks announces that the "establishment is back." By "establishment" he means the "financial elite," "middle-aged men with names like Mellon and McCloy" who "during the first two-thirds of the 20th century . . . led Wall Street firms, corporate boards and white-shoe law firms and occasionally emerged to serve in government."

Dear Lord, I hope not. If we are entering "an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable — and often oligarchic — framework for capitalist endeavor," we are so hosed! Start with the fact that none, zip, bupkes of these establishment-types, who presumably have not been in cryogenic stasis for the past 10 years, foresaw the crisis that has required Brooks' return of the oligarchs.

The establishment has a track record of betraying the enormous trust placed in it, not because it's evil or even venal but because it's myopic and arrogant: it can't admit that that it doesn't know nearly as much as it thinks it does.

Instead it was decidedly non-establishment types like Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, two men from the Levant, who saw what was coming, warned us, and were dismissed by "establishment" types. As Taleb has pointed out, the past few decades have shown that the one thing American banks can consistently make money at is charging your mother-in-law fees on her checking account. Anything else and the soi dissant Masters of the Universe lose their shirts, become bed-wetters, and beg the rest of us to bail them out.

It's not only finance: in Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner of the New York Times documents the way that the folks drawn from the same (apparently shallow) pool have failed the trust placed in them by American presidents and the American people. Just as their cousins in finance missed every black swan in the financial world, they missed every one in the national security world: they told Truman that China wouldn't enter the Korean War. Oops! The missed the Cuban missile crisis. Oops! Vietnam? Oops! The Iranian Revolution? The Fall of the Berlin Wall? September 11? Iraq? To paraphrase the woman in the Amex Blue ad: "Oops! Oops! Oops! and Oops!"

So what did they do with all that money and all that power? Why, play at "Masters of the Universe," of course. Hundreds of covert operations which left countless people dead, whole nations eternally angry at us, and Americans less, not more, safe.

Dear Lord, I hope not.

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At least we can be happy that Roberto's back. Yaaay!!! Thank the Lord for intelligent, informed counterpoint - it's so refreshing.

Not only that, he created a title that overflows the right-hand border under "Recent Posts". Awesome! (I guess I'm easily amused by those little Matrix-like intrusions into cyberspace; there is no spoon.)

The only valid criticism of this piece is that the link to the David Brooks article is trying to send us through PFM's mail server. ("If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port, ...")

Other than that, we should definitely listen to all Levant savants. They'll keep us out of trouble.

Gina Dalfonzo

Sorry about the link -- it's fixed now.

Personally, I'm still trying to figure out why that righthand column let him get away with "Anti-Antidisestablishmentarianism," when my "Triskaidekaphobia" a year or two ago threw the whole page out of whack.


It's touching to know that I am missed after a sorts. I have some more rants about the current crisis, if you care to read them.


Roberto, I'm quite serious when I say that I've genuinely appreciated everything you've ever written.

So please, sir - rant away.

Jason Taylor

wouldn't a better word be counterantidisestablishmentarianism?

Rolley Haggard

Oh come on, Gina. Isn’t the answer obvious by now? There are Matrix-like aliens loose in our meatspace masquerading as harmless editors.

Jason, you put me in mind of a double/triple/quadruple/ad infinitum negative, doubtless as worthy in the field of Journalism as that immortal opening is in Literature, “it was a dark and stormy night”… To wit,

“In a reversal of what was expected to be a failed attempt by the Democrats to negate Republican efforts to stop the Labor Overtime Bill, the House today voted overwhelmingly against allowing any further attempts to block opposition intended to prevent motions against the measure.”

Even Nixon couldn’t have said it better. http://www.schipul.com/en/q/?2340

Wait – I just realized this isn’t this the “The Year Journalism Died” thread. Where am I? What’s happening here? I think I just slipped through a wormhole. Beam me up, Scotty! Wait, you’re not Scotty!

(Nod to Roberto: “Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2007/08/youre-not-paran.html )

Who we gonna call?

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