Scritti Politti: April 6, 2009

05/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Calculated Risk has some great highlights of Bill Moyers interview with University of Missouri professor William K. Black that are worth reading. Here's just a taste:

BILL MOYERS: In your book, you make it clear that calculated dishonesty by people in charge is at the heart of most large corporate failures and scandals, including, of course, the S&L, but is that true? Is that what you're saying here, that it was in the boardrooms and the CEO offices where this fraud began?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: How did they do it? What do you mean?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, the way that you do it is to make really bad loans, because they pay better. Then you grow extremely rapidly, in other words, you're a Ponzi-like scheme. And the third thing you do is we call it leverage. That just means borrowing a lot of money, and the combination creates a situation where you have guaranteed record profits in the early years. That makes you rich, through the bonuses that modern executive compensation has produced. It also makes it inevitable that there's going to be a disaster down the road.

BILL MOYERS: So you're suggesting, saying that CEOs of some of these banks and mortgage firms in order to increase their own personal income, deliberately set out to make bad loans?


Lots more at Calculated Risk, which is, in general a good candidate for addition to one's daily intellectual devotional.

Ugh, Halperin: Any chance you've been reading Time Magazine's "The Page" blog since the election ended? No, probably not, because why would you. You've probably been reading the superior "Politico Playbook," where Mike Allen does a bunch of crystal meth and then starts typing whatever the hell occurs to him, creating a madcap romp of lede-burying, pointillist, tradition-inverting wackness. But, a former Time employee sent me news today that Mark Halperin is still at it, writing idiotic one-sentence news blurbs and making terrible photoshop images.

Balance of Power: Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan made it clear on Monday: "Israel does not take orders from [US President Barack] Obama." Right. They'll take money, and sacrifices, and our time and attention, but not orders. And look, I know you cynics are adding, "Sheesh, what do we get in return?" Well, I am working on a car that runs on pointless acrimony and empty promises, so don't worry, everything's going to turn out fine.

Dismantling The Unitary Executive, an Unfortunately Ongoing Series: "In other words, beyond even the outrageously broad "state secrets" privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and -- even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal -- you are barred from suing them unless they "willfully disclose" to the public what they have learned."

The Unstoppable David Weigel: I read Washington Independent reporter David Weigel's twitter feed, and it occupies a special place -- life just often seems to want to turn its most quotidian moments into pitfall-strewn fusillades of pain for the guy. Check back over his Republican National Convention twittering if you don't believe me. But that's probably why he's able to fearlessly walk into these terrifying corners of America, I guess. One day, journos will measure the potent combination of intrepidity, latent cynicism and oddball beauty in Weigels. Or the world will end.

Journo Ethics: You Make The Call: In this case, I say that the reporter was free to poach the information, but that everyone else would be free to ostracize him for being a jerkwad. What say you?

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