According to a new study from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, apparently stock brokers are more manipulative and reckless than psychopaths! Researchers compared the egotism and the propensity for cooperation of 28 professional stock traders with the behavior of psychopaths. Clearly to embark on such a study, the authors, Pascal Scherrer, and Thomas Noll, a prison administrator in Zürich, must have had an inkling that there would be some correlation between the behaviors of their two control groups, but the results were striking. Via Der Spiegel:
“Naturally one can’t characterize the traders as deranged,” Noll told SPIEGEL. “But for example, they behaved more egotistically and were more willing to take risks than a group of psychopaths who took the same test.”
So I suppose one actually could characterize their behavior as “deranged,” right? I mean, he just did that, didn’t he?
Particularly shocking for Noll was the fact that the bankers weren’t aiming for higher winnings than their comparison group. Instead they were more interested in achieving a competitive advantage. Instead of taking a sober and businesslike approach to reaching the highest profit, “it was most important to the traders to get more than their opponents,” Noll explained. “And they spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents.”
Using a metaphor to describe the behavior, Noll said the stockbrokers behaved as though their neighbor had the same car, “and they took after it with a baseball bat so they could look better themselves.”
The researchers were unable to explain this penchant for destruction, they said.
I think I can be of help here: Wall Street attracts rapacious, greedy psychopaths! You’re welcome!
Aren’t you glad to have psychopaths looking after your retirement pension? Let’s give them some more control over our lives, why don’t we? Below, “We appreciate your candor…”
Revolutions are great places to meet members of the opposite sex… just sayin’
There have been a lot of people wondering why they major media seems to be ignoring the Wall Street demonstrations. Some are calling for the protests to be brought to the media and it seems like a decent tactic would be to take the demonstrations directly to the headquarters of the various networks and news organizations so they simply can’t ignore it. In the meantime, until the networks deign to cover them, you can watch a live feed of the Wall Street protests on the Global Revolution Livestream channel.
If you’d like to show some support for the brave and persistent protestors who are occupying lower Manhattan to call attention to rapacious finance capitalism run amok, why not consider sending some… pizza?
Dangerous Minds, reporting from Fantastic Fest in Austin…and loving it.
Released last year in Mexico during the country’s bicentennial celebration, El Narco (aka El Infierno) is the cinematic equivalent of a turd in the punchbowl. Director Luis Estrada’s intimate and epic gangster film is a brutal, darkly funny and deeply cynical exploration of the illegal drug industry that is reducing a great country into a decimated war zone. Estrada clearly feels that in 2010 there was little to celebrate in Mexico. And it’s getting worse. This was not exactly the film Mexican authorities wanted as part of its glorious national celebration.
In a resounding “fuck you” to the those who tried to thwart the film’s release, El Narco became a critical and commercial success in Mexico and it is easy to see why. Like the Godfather or De Palma’s Scarface, El Narco tells a story that is filled with melodrama, violence and tragedy and it does so with operatic grandeur and a brash attitude. What separates Estrada’s film from Coppola’s and De Palma’s is in its sense of place, a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, a place where men are dwarfed by forces they cannot control, where stretches of highway seem to go on forever and a dead pickup truck is the only sign of civilization.
With its characters struggling against harsh realities meted out by a ruthless God, man and fate, El Narco occasionally looks and feels like a Sam Peckinpah film. As I watched the movie, I could imagine seeing Warren Oates from Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia walking into the frame holding his blood-encrusted, fly-specked bag. Estrada shares Peckinpah’s knack for peeling back the facade of a kind of ludicrous machismo that conceals the fear within the gangster mentality. Underneath the bling bling, big guns and bigger talk lurks men who tremble at an unexpected knock at the door, who deceive and are betrayed, who kill to keep from being killed… and the killers can be anyone at anytime. If the drug wars end it may not be because of any political or legal agenda, it may be the result of a bigass, collective, self-inflicted gunshot wound. Wait long enough and these fuckers may end up wiping themselves out. Except, as Estrada sees it, there is a younger generation just waiting to fill those dead men’s boots.
Throughout El Narco a Greek chorus of narcocorrido songs, drug ballads, comment upon and serve as ironic counterpoints to the action. Narcocorridos depict the drug lords as folk heroes, bigger-than-life figures that instill a kind of perverted national pride in Mexico’s youth. The songs serve the same cathartic function as old school gangster rap did for Black kids in the States two decades ago. For many young Mexican men, the choices are slim to none -deal drugs or make a run for the border. Either way, you end up enslaved. The ballads tell the tale but tend to glorify the gangster life in an all too familiar way, the difference lays in tradition, accordions instead of beat boxes.
The drug dealers in El Narco exude the seductive aura of money and power, implacable as Aztec gods, but in actuality they’re just expendable foot soldiers, as easily blown away as a line of cocaine in a sudden gust of wind. Estrada is very good at showing us the sweat beneath the swagger, laying bare just how pathetic and vulnerable these men are.
Although superior to most gangster movies, El Narco breaks no new ground. Its dramatic arc is tried and true, its narrative conventional. There is romance, intrigue, betrayal and cruel justice. It has fine performances, is beautifully photographed and emotionally engaging. It adheres to the rules of the genre. It had to. In order to get his message across, that Mexico is becoming a country run by drug dealing terrorists, Estrada had to smuggle it within a classic form of storytelling much like the folk songs spun by the singers of narcocorridos. El Narco is a song sung with the voice of a man who has seen the darkness on the horizon growing ever closer and who must keep singing.
El Narco has an American distributor and, after some foot dragging, is scheduled to hit theaters soon. Its an important film and a viable commercial prospect. Let’s get it out there.
Luis Estrada discussing El Narco after its screening at Fantastic Fest 2011.
Forget Warren Buffett. The coddle-the-rich crowd has now discovered “The Jimmy Buffett Rule.”
You know how that works, right? For the folks who own really big sailboats and shelter their wealth on islands with swaying palm trees, it’s always margarita time! Go ahead and squeeze the middle class some more!
Speaking from the Rose Garden on Monday, President Obama offered a more populist approach to cutting $3 trillion from the federal debt. His plan includes whacks in war funding and various programs Democrats are usually loathe to trim. It also advances what at any other time would be considered in a perfectly modest suggestion: That people at the very top should kick in too. The president would do this by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for upper-earners and by adding a special new tax on people who earn $1 million-plus a year.
My gosh, with all the shouts of “class warfare,” you’d have thought he’d asked hedge-fund executives to pay the same tax rates as receptionists and security guards. The uproar from some of the president’s critics was just that loud.
Here’s an important addendum to the Jimmy Buffett Rule: If you ask the bottom 98 to sacrifice, that’s a prudent fiscal policy. If you ask the top 2 percent to sacrifice, that’s class warfare.
And one other thing to remember: The rich-mustn’t-pay argument goes down a whole lot easier if you have the right phrases for the small, privileged group you are trying to protect. Don’t call them “fat cats.” Never use terms like “the super-rich” or “millionaires and billionaires.” Avoid all of that. They are “job creators,” “small business owners” and “people with the entrepreneurial spirit to get us out of this mess.”
After mulling over Obama’s (surprising? uncharacteristic?) plan to raise taxes on millionaires—and his threat to veto any “Super Congress” budget cuts to entitlements—he can’t really go back on that, can he? He’d be crucified on the right and left, and justifiably so—I must say I feel greatly relieved…
At last the guy is punching back—and hard: The so-called “Buffett Tax” is a well thought out way to drive a wedge between the class alliance strange bedfellows that comprises today’s Republican party. America’s GOP blue-collar workers are about to see EXACTLY what they have in common with the rich.
Well played! (Hint: It’s not money or political influence, but you knew that)
Personally, I’d soak the rich (during the Eisenhower administration, the top tax rate was nearly 90%) and this won’t go nearly far enough for my particular Bolshie tastes, but for a President who has proven himself time and again to be a shitty negotiator, THE WORST, like a bad joke, this was still an impressive move, I thought. A veto threat is the definitive presidential line in the sand. He actually HAS decided to take on the Republicans in the class war (which frankly was his sole option anyway).
In the words of Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post:
At last, the president hasn’t conceded the race before the starter’s gun, hasn’t opened the bidding with his bottom line, hasn’t begun a game of strip poker in his boxer shorts.
Sums it up so far, doesn’t it? For now let’s just hope that Obama isn’t proven by events to have some sort of “bad negotiator” Tourette’s syndrome where he shoots himself in the foot again, nervously blurting out pre-compromises and ceding ground he wasn’t even asked to cede…
For the past three years, it felt like Obama had almost completely abandoned the Americans who had happily voted for him (union members, progressives, greens, African-Americans, Latinos, middle-class Democrats, etc, etc) in favor of some Quixotic effort to woo the most ideologically rigid bunch of Reich wingers to come along in several generations. He could have done so much in his first 100 days and he, I think, fucked it up royally. The Democrats controlled the White House, the House and the Senate. The held all the keys cards, but mostly folded. If there was a strategy, I was unable to discern it and I’m not alone.
It was his own damned fault, not the Republicans. They TOLD Obama that they wanted to see his presidency fail. They told him this straight up and he refused to take that boldly declared statement—as they most assuredly meant it—at face value. What was subtle about the GOP position? It can be summed up in two letters, N and O. How would it have benefited their goals in any way to do or to be seen doing anything bipartisan by their constituency? That would have only served to make Obama more popular and yet nearly every move he made was to cater to them. It’s been maddening to watch. Are his advisers so lame that they can’t parse a statement as simple as “Fuck you, asshole” and take it to its logical conclusion vis-à-vis national politics, then James Carville was most certainly right, they all should be fired. Bill Maher said that Obama could personally save Republicans from drowning and they still wouldn’t vote for him! As Maher repeatedly exhorted the President, it was high time for Obama to “flip the script.”
It was as if over the summer, Obama (finally!) had an epiphany about the Republicans, at long last realizing that they fucking hate his fucking guts. It’s as if he’s been reading Daily Kos, AlterNet and MoveOn, taking to heart what Maher, Carville, Paul Krugman and just about every lefty talking head and blogger has been shouting at him at the top of their lungs and finally decided to DO SOMETHING LIBERAL. For a change.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a great start and if Obama sticks to his guns this time, it’ll be more than that: nothing less than the return of a truly progressive President Obama, the one we voted for and thought showed up for work on Inauguration Day. That man has been curiously absent for much of Obama’s first term, it’s nice to have him back. He made that veto threat and now it’s up to progressives to make sure he lives up to his words, without compromise this time. If Obama lets the base down again, he’s fucking toast, but I think he finally realizes that.
Below, Bill O’Reilly says he might QUIT if Obama raises taxes on millionaires like him. CALL HIS BLUFF, MR. PRESIDENT!
Some controversial remarks made by Andrew Breibart at a Boston Tea party meeting recently are getting a lot of attention, on blogs both right and left. In the clips below, Breitbart (inadvertently?) lays bare his psyche, specifically his liberal killing daydreams, when asked about the “Days of Rage” protests on Wall Street:
“I must say, in my non-strategic… ‘cuz I’m under attack all the time, if you see it on Twitter. The (unclear) call me gay, it’s just, they’re vicious, there are death threats, and everything. And so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should, and in those unclear moments, I always think to myself, ‘Fire the first shot.’
Bring it on. Because I know who’s on our side. They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war. They cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. (laughter) I’m not kidding. They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line because they know what they’re dealing with.
And I have people who come up to me in the military, major named people in the military, who grab me and they go, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, we’ve got your back.’
They understand that. These are the unspoken things we know, they know. They know who’s on their side, they’ve got Janeane Garofalo. We are freaked out by that. When push comes to shove, they know who’s on our side. They are the bullies on the playground, and they’re starting to realize, what if we were to fight back, what if we were to slap back?
Well…. to look at Breitbart, even if he DID have a gun in his hand, a rich well-fed Republican lardass like him could probably do very little harm. At the rate his waistline seems to be expanding, he’ll have to be fork-lifted out of his La-Z-Boy chair when the Liberals vs Tea party war breaks out, like most of the other “patriots” who um, “have his back” but can’t tie their own shoes or see their dick when they piss…
As for the military supporting the Tea party in the event of a civil war, whereas I do believe that most soldiers probably skew to the right of the ideological spectrum, the notion of Navy SEALS and special forces divisions coming to the aid of the likes of Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Scott Walker, Michele Bachmann and a bunch of cranky, confused senior citizens seems rather far-fetched to me…
Breitbart doesn’t seem concerned in the least here that he himself lives in the liberal stronghold of Westwood in Los Angeles, a place where there is probably one Republican to every five thousand Democrats. In the event of a new American civil war, it could be reasonably predicted that his fat, arrogant, shit-filled head would be one of the very first to end up on a pole.
Breitbart continues telling the Tea party activists about his “dreams” after the jump…
Today is the anniversary of 1920’s Wall Street bombing. On September 16th a horse-drawn wagon stopped in front of the J.P. Morgan building. At noon, the driver disappeared into the street and a powerful explosive killed thirty-nine people and injuring hundreds more, in what Dorian Cope describes as “the first symbolic terrorist attack on American capitalism and power” in today’s entry at On This Deity:
The Washington Post at once declared the incident an “act of war.” Impervious to the lack of any suspects, or even any credible claim for responsibility, the newspaper nevertheless did not hesitate to name the enemy: “The bomb outrage in New York emphasizes the extent to which the alien scum from the cesspools and sewers of the Old World has polluted the clear spring of American democracy.” Without any supportive evidence, this was a dicey statement which only served to further fuel the zeitgeist of post-World War One America in the grip of its Red Scare and ongoing labour disputes. Thus it was, with an amnesiatic shamelessness, that A Nation of Immigrants proceeded to blame the attack firmly and indiscriminately on its most recent arrivals. Fear of further violence intensified the so-called Palmer Raids – the gigantic Government-backed human dragnet, targeting Italians, Russians, Germans and Jews suspected of harbouring radical ideas. In the ensuing hysteria, thousands of ethnic-minority citizens were detained – 10,000 would ultimately be deported – in the name of “national security”, even though there was no evidence to link most of them to the terror plot.
Meanwhile, Wall Street – which, before the attack, had been suspiciously viewed by many for its unchecked growth of power – emerged as a new symbol of patriotism. Stock trading resumed the next day, and the continuing financial boom came to represent an act of defiance against terrorism. Anyone who dared to voice concerns about capitalism or the investigation into the bombing was denounced as unpatriotic, effectively smothering any public debate on the matter (is this beginning to sound familiar?). The attack also served to consolidate the position of the Bureau of Investigation (which, in 1933, was re-named the Federal Bureau of Investigation). Previous public concerns and criticism for a federal secret police evaporated as the fear of radicalism spread.
As one of Dorian’s readers points out:
“Given the current state of the Western economies, I’m surprised Wall Street is still in one piece.”
Glad to see that Senator Bernie Sanders isn’t out on a limb by himself this time. The new legislation he’s introduced to shore up Social Security by making the wealthy pay their fair share has co-sponsors Dan Akaka (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Surprise, surprise, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is also on board. No surprise, of course, that no Senate Republicans have signed on in support. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon’s 4th district, will be introducing the same bill in the House
The gist of Bernie’s legislation is to strengthen Social Security by applying the payroll tax that most Americans already pay to those with annual incomes above $250,000. Right now the payroll tax cuts off at $106,800. This simple, painless change by itself would keep Social Security solvent for another 75 years, about as long as Social Security has already existed. and although right-wing crackpots and extremists like Rick Perry may call it a Ponzi Scheme and predatory Wall Street shills like Mitt Romney may want to privatize it and turn it over to Wall Street, the vast majority of Americans see it as the most successful government program in our nation’s history and understand, despite Republican lies—that started 76 years ago—that it hasn’t contributed one dime to the federal deficit. It has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it can pay out every nickel owed to every eligible American for at least the next 25 years, according to the Social Security Administration. Before Social Security came into being something like half the senior citizens in the country lived in poverty. Now they have a much better chance of ending their lives in dignity and without eating cat food. In fact, less than 10% of the elderly live in poverty and more than 53 million Americans receive retirement or disability benefits.
“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 75 years is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000. Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as a billionaire. That makes no sense. The Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits or raising taxes on the middle class.”