June 01, 2010

Paul Passavant: The energy of blind faith (nukes, oil, and catastrophe) In the Sunday, May 30, 2010 New York Times Week in Review section, Elisabeth Rosenthal’s “Our Fix-It Faith” describes the blind faith of Americans in “technology” solving all of their problems. The eruption of the BP oil spill contradicts this technophilia, but Americans seem incapable of allowing this eruption to alter their psychological commitments. Not only have Democrats sought to embrace the Republican chorus of “drill, baby, drill!” as a way for the nation to meet its energy needs, but President Obama and many Democrats, like the weak-kneed “Blue Dogs” and the corporate sellouts known as the “New Democrats,” are also rushing to re-embrace nuclear power, after the latter has spent 30 years left for dead. The BP oil spill is exhibit A for the argument that we humans cannot rely on technology to protect us from the hazards of drilling for oil in the ocean. Indeed, we cannot stop the gush of oil into the ocean one month later! As gallons of oil continue to spread through the ocean, this will cause environmental devastation beyond our current ability to comprehend. This also means that the livelihood of many Americans who fish or harvest shellfish, and the families and communities that rely on their wages, will also face devastation, as we learned from the Exxon Valdez disaster, which now pales by comparison. And then there is the impact on those who simply want to be able to go to the beach and enjoy a swim in the ocean. So much...
Zach Carter: Liveblogging The Rating Agencies Hearing | OurFuture.org Buffett just offered a standard defense of Corporate America that allows companies to do terrible things without any accountability. Buffett is the largest shareholder in Moody's. He says over and over again that he believes in due diligence-- making sure you understand what you invest in. But Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Phil Angelides pressed Buffett on whether he knew or should have known Moody's was doing terribly reckless things that endangered the global economy. Buffutt responded that he didn't know, and he couldn't be expected to know. Companies are complicated, and no shareholder can understand everything that a company is up to. This is an astonishing statement in a couple of respects. First, rating securities is the business Moody's is in, and they screwed up just about every aspect of that business they could have, from corporate debt to synthetic CDOs. This was not one employee somewhere misunderstanding one deal-- this was the entire company missing every aspect of its business. But here's the bigger question: shareholders are owners. If the largest shareholder doesn't know what a company is up to, and can't be expected to, how can you possibly expect that corporation to ever act in a responsible way? Complexity has become a dirty word in finance. Financial transactions have become so complicated that people simply cannot effectively evaluate them. That same problem is reflected on a larger scale in the way financial institutions operate. Nobody can effectively manage a behemoth like Citigroup that engages in hundreds of different multi-billion-dollar...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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