Notes Feb 7

February 8, 2009 § 1 Comment

Lots of rawnotes and a few of mine.

The personalities on the economic front.

  Worse still, much of the money flowing into the banks to recapitalise them so that they could resume lending has been flowing out in the form of bonus payments and dividends. The fact that businesses around the world were not getting the credit they need compounded the grievances expressed at Davos.


My Economic Wish List, by Alan S. Blinder, Commentary, WSJ: While wiping my desk lamp the other day, a genie appeared, offering me — you guessed it — three wishes … So here’s what I wished for:


To my ear too much economics and not enough production.



symptom of the trend towards large systems.

Qaddafi Will Seek Single African State


The newly elected chairman of the African Union, Libyan president Muammar el-Qaddafi, right, has proposed a single currency and army for the continent.


A very interesting symposium


An all-day symposium with Françoise Lionnet (University of California, Los Angeles), Achille Mbembe (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research), and Istvan Rev (University of Budapest).

Stanford faculty participants: James Ferguson, Robert Harrison, Andrea Lunsford, Paula Moya, Hayden White.

Chairs: Elisabeth Boyi, Roland Hsu, Saikat Majumdar

Coordinator: Cosana Eram (email)

Date and Time:

 Thursday, April 9, 2009.  9:00 AM.

Approximate duration of 8 hour(s). 


Building 460, Terrace Room  [Map]





General Public







Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages Research Unit



Free and open to the public.

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Reading Taylor, Mark Confidence Games


Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey

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On vehicle and home sales bottom? The argument is that the fleet of existing cars is so old the fleet will have to be replaced


This suggests vehicle sales have fallen too far. And if vehicle sales just stablize, the auto companies can stop laying off workers, and the drag on GDP will stop.


New home sales is a little more difficult because of the huge overhang of excess inventory that needs to be worked off. But some people will always buy new homes, and we can be pretty sure that sales won’t fall another 270 thousand in 2009 (like in 2008), because that would put sales at 60 thousand SAAR in December 2009. That is not going to happen.


So, at the least, the pace of decline in new home sales will slow in 2009. More likely sales will find a bottom – to the surprise of many.

And we know for certain that single family starts will not fall as far in 2009 as in 2008, because starts can’t go negative! So, once again, the pace of decline will at least slow. And more likely starts will find a bottom too (although any rebound will be weak because of the excess inventory problem).


Even though most of the economic news will be ugly in 2009, my guess is all three of these series will find a bottom (or at least the pace of decline will slow significantly).


There is a wonderful old saying: in politics things are never as good or as bad as they look.


On the inevitable sophistication of Asia.  

The contest for global domination

The epic match between East and West for domination of the globe did not end with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. In the second round, the East, despite the mounting hardships of the global economic crisis, continues its rise. And an increasingly wobbly-kneed West, because of that very crisis, continues its rapid decline.

– W Joseph Stroupe (Feb 4,’09)

This is the first article in a two-part report.


And, our community synergy and strategy meetings..


Continuing the conversation began with the perception that philanthropies, as well as other organizations concerned with the difficulties of the economic downturn, do not spend much, if any, time on what we can call strategy: looking at how changes in the environment might shift the focus an activity of the organizations. Most tend to have an inward focus and be working on implementing an existing set of initiatives.


So Doug Carmichael from Stanford and Jeff Chow from Morgan Stanley, in a series of talks, decided it would be timely to bring together representatives from those organizations, including individuals, trying in one way or another to help get us through a very difficult period.


The availability of space at the Palo Alto Strategy Center, located at RichGreenInk, nudged us into action.


The idea of “Continuing the Conversation” is to develop a strategic space where we can learn from each other, ask for help, see linkages to other efforts, identify gaps, and increase the range of participation, the diversity, and breadth, of thee conversations.





Friday, March 13, 2009


Evolution, Cognition, and the Arts

10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Is Narrative an Adaptation?

William Flesch (English, Brandeis)

Jonathan Kramnick (English, Rutgers)

Blakey Vermeule (English, Stanford)

2:00 – 4:30 p.m.: Music and the Brain

Jonathan Berger (Music, Stanford)

Daniel Levitin (Psychology, McGill)

4:30 – 5:00 p.m.: Concluding Remarks


Location: Stanford Humanities Center

(All details to be confirmed.)

This event is cosponsored with the Stanford Humanities Center


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On the stimulus, house credit. Now 15000 regardless of income.


Clearly this favors higher income tax payers as compared to the current $7,500 tax credit. Ryan Donmoyer at Bloomberg has more: Senate’s Tax Credit Favors Higher-Income Homebuyers


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Insiders and Outsiders,”


Here in Canada, politics is markedly less YouTube-friendly–but it has still been surprisingly eventful. In October the Conservative Party won national elections on an unambitious platform. Six weeks later, our Tory prime minister found his inner ideologue, presenting a budget bill that stripped public sector workers of the right to strike, canceled public funding for political parties and contained no economic stimulus. Opposition parties responded by forming a historic coalition that was only prevented from taking power by an abrupt suspension of Parliament. The Tories have just come back with a revised budget: the pet right-wing policies have disappeared, and it is packed with economic stimulus.

The pattern is clear: governments that respond to a crisis created by free-market ideology with an acceleration of that same discredited agenda will not survive to tell the tale. As Italy’s students have taken to shouting in the streets: “We won’t pay for your crisis!”



Can you believe that this image is meant to be positive!






Ikea is selling cars?



Obama and the Empire



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he is, I think, getting it wrong. The $7.8 trillion extinguished risky debt by taking it onto the U.S. government’s books–and thus improved the risky-debt-oversupply situation. The debt that was created was safe U.S. government debt–and until government debt interest rates rise above zero, it is way premature to worry about there being too much of it.




Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House

The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.


Kenneth Adelman, a member of Donald Rumsfeld’s advisory Defense Policy Board: So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You’re very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You’re absolutely right. I’m not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.

Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things—”Stuff happens.” I said, That’s your entry in Bartlett’s. The only thing people will remember about you is “Stuff happens.” I mean, how could you say that? “This is what free people do.” This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.

I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn’t do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn’t give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?

So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down—he says, I’m going to tell you. I’ll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I’d like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.

And so that was not a successful conversation.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, British ambassador to the United Nations and later the British special representative in Iraq: The administration of Iraq never recovered. It was a vacuum in security that became irremediable, at least until the surge of 2007. And to that extent, four years were not only wasted but allowed to take on the most terrible cost because of that lack of planning, lack of resources put in on the ground. And I see that lack of planning as residing in the responsibility of the Pentagon, which had taken charge, the office of the secretary of defense, with the authority of the vice president and the president, obviously, standing over that department of government.





John le Carré, novelist and former intelligence officer whose novel A Most Wanted Manwas inspired by the Kurnaz case: Murat Kurnaz, a German-born-and-educated Turkish resident of Bremen, in northern Germany, by trade a shipbuilder, was released from Guantánamo on 24 August 2006 after four years and eight months without charge or trial. He was 24 years old. In December 2001, at the age of 19, he had been arrested in Pakistan, sold by the Pakistanis to the Americans for $3,000, and tortured for five weeks and nearly killed at an interrogation center in Kandahar before being flown in chains to Cuba. His family was first informed of his situation in January 2002. Despite repeated brutal treatment and repeated interrogation at Guantánamo, no evidence was found to link him with terrorist activities, a fact acknowledged by both U.S. and German intelligence. Yet it took years of intense lobbying by lawyers, family, and NGOs to secure his release.

Two weeks after Murat’s release, I was in Hamburg to take part in a television discussion on the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attack on America. A woman journalist attached to the program had been assigned the task of looking after Murat while the program’s producers prepared a documentary about him. Would I like to meet him? I would, and spent two days listening to him in a hotel suite in Bremen. Despite a disgraceful campaign of innuendo orchestrated by the complicit German authorities, I shared the view of practically everyone who had met him that Murat was remarkably truthful and was a reliable witness to his own tragedy.


Robert Shiller, Yale economist who warned of a housing bubble: The Bush strategists were aware of the public enthusiasm for housing, and they dealt with it brilliantly in the 2004 election by making the theme of the campaign the ownership society. Part of the ownership society seemed to be that the government would encourage home ownership and, therefore, boost the market. And so Bush was playing along with the bubble in some subtle sense. I don’t mean to accuse him of any—I think it probably sounded right to him, and the political strategists knew what was a good winning combination.

I don’t think that he was in any mode to entertain the possibility that this was a bubble. Why should he do that? Attention wasn’t even focused on this. If you go back to 2004, most people were just—they thought that we had discovered a law of nature: that housing, because of the fixity of land and the growing economy and the greater prosperity, that it’s inevitable that this would be a great investment. It was taken for granted.


Henry Paulson, secretary of the Treasury: I easily could imagine and expected there to be financial turmoil. But the extent of it, O.K., I was naïve in terms of—I knew a lot about regulation but not nearly as much as I needed to know, and I knew very little about regulatory powers and authorities. I just had not gone into it in that kind of detail. This’ll be the longest we’ve gone in recent history without there being turmoil, and given all the innovation in the private pools of capital and the over-the-counter derivatives and the excesses around the world, we figured that when there was turmoil, and these things were tested for the first time by stress, it would be more significant than anything else.

I said at the time, I have a concern that every rally we’re going to have in the financial markets will be a false rally until we break the back of the price correction in real estate. And these things are never over until you have a couple of institutions go that surprise everyone. Bear Stearns can hardly be a shock.


But having said that, it’s one thing to see it intellectually and it’s another to see where we are.


Ed Gillespie, campaign strategist and later counselor to the president: Politics goes in cycles, and my old boss, [Mississippi governor] Haley Barbour, who was a mentor to me, has a saying that in politics nothing’s ever as good or as bad as it seems.




Daschle might well have been the best choice to lead health-care reform. But his honorable public record was instantly vaporized by tales of his cozy, lucrative relationships with the very companies he’d have to adjudicate as health czar.


Few articulate this ethical morass better than Obama, who has repeatedly vowed to “close the revolving door” between business and government and end our “two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks.” But his tough new restrictions on lobbyists (already compromised by inexplicable exceptions) andporous plan for salary caps on bailed-out bankers are only a down payment on this promise, even if they are strictly enforced.


This includes Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary. Washington hands repeatedly observe how “lucky” Geithner was to be the first cabinet nominee with an I.R.S. problem, not the second, and therefore get confirmed by Congress while the getting was good. Whether or not this is “lucky” for him, it is hardly lucky for Obama. Geithner should have left ahead of Daschle.


Obama’s brilliant appointees, we keep being told, are irreplaceable. But as de Gaulle said, “The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.” You have to wonder if this team is really a meritocracy or merely a stacked deck. Not only did Rubin himself serve on the Obama economic transition team, but two of the transition’s headhunters were Michael Froman, Rubin’s chief of staff at Treasury and later a Citigroup executive, and James S. Rubin, an investor who is Robert Rubin’s son.


The neo-Hoover Republicans in Congress, who think government can put Americans back to work with corporate tax cuts but without any “spending,” are tone deaf to this rage. Obama is not. It’s a good thing he’s getting out of Washington this week to barnstorm the country about the crisis at hand. Once back home, he’s got to make certain that the insiders in his own White House know who’s the boss.


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