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Barney comes to play with us, Whenever we may need him

By Owen Paine on Tuesday April 7, 2009 02:33 PM

Master of the site, Fr. M Smiff, passed along for comment this statement by Congressman Barney (DBA Henny Frankencluck):

Barney Frank Applauds FASB's Murder Of Mark-to-Market

“I applaud the very important actions taken by FASB (the Financial Accounting Standards Board) today.... which has made significant progress toward addressing inaccurate asset valuations in the markets.

The FASB believes the rule can be applied more fairly and take into account the currently dysfunctional state of some markets. The integrity of the standard-setting process is preserved, while avoiding the pro-cyclical effects of improper valuation practices."

No, it's not gibberish, it's Newspeak -- well, not entirely Newspeak; not every word means its opposite -- only 6 of 'em:

'Progress ' -- 'inaccurate' -- 'fairly' -- 'integrity' -- 'avoiding' -- and -- 'improper'

The rest is perfectly transparent to anyone willing to curl their brain some.

But for those in want of a small unbending hand here, interpreting chairman Frank's pronouncement, I hope this short spirited gloss will suffice:

We the people of America have a problem, and so do our leading private banks.

Despite the surprising efficiency of all markets, current trading prices of securities may not fully reflect underlying long-term values....

(No no, don't gasp, this is really really true, folks.)

This of course is a particularly nasty problem for our huge depository private banks.

Besides owing the usual limited liability corporate duty to produce pellucidly plain and accurate updates of their financial status, on a timely basis, to their stock- and bond-holders, these outfits -- because they hold the payment system of the economy -- have in addition the obligation to demonstrate "technical solvency" to an even higher authority than senior debt holders.

If they wish to remain a going concern, depository banks must accept the scrutiny of madame FDIC, the flying audit vulture that swoops in ever lower circles over funny-acting operations, ready in an instant to seize and rend 'em to pieces, if inflows or outflows go out of sync, and upon inspection their accounting books don't add up to black ink totals.

But what if the assets are complex securities? You can't use historical costs. What if they experience trouble -- unexpected rates of delinquencies and defaults?

In years past those able to get to the real books have looked to current markets to find the prices -- arms-length traded prices for like securities. But should they have?

Obviously, recent events on our leading asset exchanges have painfully shown us that asset markets are protean creatures, giddy fickle things, manic one moment and panicky the next.

Nothing going on yesterday or today can reasonably bring a sound expectation of what's next -- let alone what will emerge in the end. Finding any guiding light in this ceaseless price chatter can be daunting, to say the least

So what's to do? The answer, after much hugger-mugger, seems to be: why not make it worse? Why not allow standard accounting methods to replace the value from the id called market prices, with -- well, models, and offsets, and fudge factors, and....

Let Associate Bumfiddle pass along bookkeeping numbers to Account Manager Fred Faddle's techno team for the moral equivalent of waterboarding, which in this case means processing these hapless raw numbers through hierophantic hermeneutical quantitative models worthy of Kafka's penal colony, and keep processing them till the numbers themselves confess "this bank is sound, this bank is viable, this bank is going to be profitable," and of course "this bank nonetheless owes no taxes."

The historical record here is clear: green eyeshades, in their core Mickey Mouse role as the chief peculators' assistants, can readily shape, pre-shape, re-shape, post-shape, ultimately utterly mis-shape any and all reportings to fit whatever top management specifies as the appropriate illusion du jour for release to those fucking stinkers the investing public, and more importantly the ghouls from gubmint.

Now with this standardization, this certification, this Frankification of creative fabrication, untold profit Golcondas can be summoned from the least promising heap of toilet paper. Innocent petty investors beware! Your illusions are in the hands of imagineering gnomes, not the brainless tics of the marketplace monster.

Careful plotted designs await you at the broker's counter, designs able to carry you even further past the edge of the cliff than you were before.

* * * * *


Is that Mingo the Merciless I hear? "Why in these troubled times must you play the hideous vacuous traducing cynic, Owen?"

Okay, message received. In a moment of broadminded fairness, I'll let the other side speak for itself. This from "One member of the five-member accounting standards board", addressing the "criticisms that the body had bowed to political pressure":

'We are an independent standard setter and it's important that we maintain our independence [but the board can't] ignore what's going on around us...'
And what was the sentiment of that dumb brute with ten million mouths, even after recognizing it had just been drummed out of the catbird seat?

According the the WSJ, "The rules change spurred [a] stock-market rally."

Comments (22)


Only one objection here, OP: you're confusing the legitimate philosophical term "hermeneutical" with a merely operational one meaning deprived of one's ability to pro-create.

Also, you make it sound as if the idea of the accounting standards fiddle is to make the public believe the banks are safe to invest in again, whereas its real purpose is to keep the banks from having to declare bankruptcy.

Van Mungo:

Opie writes:

"Is that Mingo the Merciless I hear? 'Why in these troubled times must you play the hideous vacuous traducing cynic, Owen?'"

No, Opie, that's the sound of your own voice echoing against the cracked wall of your addled skull. No one but you could perpetrate such a tangle of fustian--no wait: others could, but only in parodying the vanity of a preening fop like you.

Opie, you and your little salon here claim to be ardent left-wing foes of the Democratic Party. Good enough as far as it goes. Presumably, as some strain of Marxoids, you must also believe that theory must be tethered to practice. So I must ask: At any time in the past dozen years or so, have you--or any of the other regular bloggers on this site--ever escaped from the must of your computer room long enough to collect a single signature to place a single left opponent of the Democrats on any ballot anywhere? Barry Commoner way back in 1980? Nader from 1996 onward? McKinney? Any of the socialist parties? Even one signature? Ever?

Do tell.


As a fervid supporter of "signatures" and "action," herr van Mungo:

How's that "program" worked out for you?

Van Mungo:

It's not a "program," it's an orientation: i.e., doing something rather than nothing to try to realize one's convictions in the world rather than simply babbling about them endlessly on the Internet.

More simply put: complementing the word with the deed.

Ever try it, bk?

My guess is that Opie and most of the commenters on this site have not, and are therefore mostly full of crap about their earnest desire to see a transformation of the status quo. They are what used to be called armchair socialists.

I've tried to make this elementary theory/practice distinction for you, bk, which has to do not with a specific program or results but merely with the basic intent to DO something. Clear enough? Even for you?

Those Kids Today:

It's not a "program," it's an orientation: i.e., doing something rather than nothing to try to realize one's convictions in the world rather than simply babbling about them endlessly on the Internet.

Have you ever sawed the leg halfway through on the chair of a real armchair socialist in real life rather than just fantasizing about it on the internet?

Seriously, it's fun. Most socialists are fat. Just saw the leg about halfway through then get ready for a good laugh when they sit down.


Van Mungo: excellent ad hominem attack!! You completely missed the point of the comment, which has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans but the way the ruling class works in the US. Nader would have said exactly the same thing. And BTW how do you know an arm-chair socialist by his writing? And how does a vote for Cynthia McKinney advance the world revolution, or democracy in America? How gradualist, lesser-evilist, are you?

Van Mungo:

"How did that work out for you" is ad hominem. My response was not. PAY ATTENTION!

You seem blessed with psychic powers that I admittedly lack, since you divined all manner of substantive content from a snide, off-handed barb. So let's assume that you're Kreskin and that your inferences correspond to bk's intended but well-concealed meaning. First of all, Nader would not "have said exactly the same thing." For the past dozen years Nader has been exhorting serious left activists precisely to get off their fat asses, break away from their keyboard ruminations, and get out by the thousands to collect signatures to help get him and other independent left candidates on the ballot--whether for his presidential campaigns or state and local contests. So you needn't speculate about what Nader "would" say--the record very clearly shows what he HAS SAID and IS STILL SAYING--and it's 180 degrees from what you appear to be saying. So you are hearby fired as Nader's spokesperson.

Second, I know an armchair socialist from a mile off, blindfolded, by the sickening scent of passivity and indifference to real-world ACTIVITY. bk's tart little sally positively reeked of such resignation and condescension toward any poor shmos who actually try to DO rather than just YAMMER. Your post betrays exactly the same malady.

As far as your preposterous notions that voting for Nader or McKinney is a variant of lesser-evilism--this is a picture-perfect example of the ultraleft disease that Lenin dubbed "an infantile disorder." Are you acquainted with the concept of transitional demands and how those can help to mobilize masses of people toward demanding radical change? Obviously not. You evidentlyl think it will suffice to sit alone in your dank apartment and recite "Socialist revolution now" to trigger the desired social cataclysm.

Do you know what the Bolsheviks' key demands were leading up to the revolution? "Socialist revolution now!?" "Down with capitalist/imperialist oppression?" No--the demands were "Land, bread, and peace"--because under the specific historical circumstances of that time and place those were REVOLUTIONARY demands that could not be achieved in the existing order--plus, they actually corresponded to pressing needs of millions of workers and peasants who could therefore understand and respond to them.

Get a clue and then get back to me.


Once more with the "leftier than thou" rage from van lingle M. Futility and its effects lead to strained, abusive households, so are we to expect daily shouting, storming, virulent anger directed against Papa MJS and other family members? The Seinfeldian points of "nothing" must have hurt the parental authority, but time to move on, move out, find a home. All the wan names and movements will not do the trick, since there is no way to establish lefty bona fides when the supersystem allots no power to the "left." The bombers are fueled and flying again today. The public treasury is being looted today by the same fascistii that did the thieving yesterday. The environment just got more infusions of toxicity, courtesy of you, me, and Ralph Nader. Want more socialist realism?

Those Kids Today:

Do you know what the Bolsheviks' key demands were leading up to the revolution?

You cite a gang of totalitarian murderers as an authoritry forgetting that almost everybody is aware of what happened over the next few deacades, the Kronstadt rebellion, the suprression of the Kulaks, the purge trials, the Gulag (where you would undoubtedly consign me should your "revolution" actually come to pass).

But it makes perfect sense since you condemn absolute principles in favor of locating within any specific period of history the political issues that will allow you and your gang of criminals to take over the state. In fact, you admit it yourself.

under the specific historical circumstances of that time and place those were REVOLUTIONARY demands that could not be achieved in the existing order

So it's easy to see why a few decades later, making an alliance with Hitler to divide up Poland became the commie idea of political maturity.

You should take the time to see Andrzej Wajda's movie "Katyn" if you want to see where your logic eventually winds up.


wan wingo
is anti stalin
please direct your high dugeon on kulacks
show trials liquidations gulagations etc
to me
the resident stalinoid
based on my years as a pol pot flack

as to kronstadt i suspect
van has two minds if not two heads
so try an easier analogue
try as a worthy substitute
the remote control
liquidation of anarcho-barcelona

keep it golden 30's
i think and your safe

lets see ...


since you're
a live wire of some ilk
i recall a high handed
spoooner posting drew u here

and a thumb nail credo
was broardcast
ie an earth sown with a zillion
muppet sized statelette-less
wonderlands ..
i guess i'd like to know
what school or pioneering
off shoot of a school
what manner
post rousseau free range proprietor systemite are u ??
what economic system under girds and sustains this mod vision of yours ??
what community unit
goes along with your
swiss miss optimal spontaneous
social hiving scheme

does the " conutary trading of equivalents on open markets " play a heroic or buffoonish role
do u see ...money based commodity markets
lacing us all together in post pepsi america
rare bear skins and contextual barter


One more reply to Van Lingl Mungo:

I've worked for Kucinich (paid staff), Barbara Lee (my former congress person) and Lynn Woolsey (my present one). The latter two, along with Maxine Waters, called themselves the "troika" within the Progressive Caucus of the DP -- implying that they had real power in the party.

Barbara Lee is the real thing, who walks the walk, but the troika as a whole, and Quixotes like Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, were mainly a way of neutering real radicalism within the system. Co-option, it's called.

The whole point of this site is to keep naive radicalism (we're all naive at some point) from being sucked into the sideshow of "progressivism." Or "hope-ism".


Random thought on politics as "existential choice":

From Peter Sellars, director of John Adams' opera "Doctor Atomic", cited by Louis Proyect today:

(quote) The main thing of course is this question of how do we deal with people, things, aspects of life that do object to us, people who actually want to kill you, people who have a very different idea of what the right next thing to do in life would be, people who in short are not like us. People who you know we tell ourselves they’re terrorists, they’re this, they’re that, we have our names for why we won’t deal with them. But here they are, they’re not going anywhere, and maybe we’re the ones that need to go somewhere. This question of how it is we take in that thing which is most opposed to us and who we are, who we think we might be, and that who we might be, who we think we might be part is maybe a conclusion we reached prematurely, maybe there is more to come in our lives, and maybe too early on we accepted a certain identity, and maybe life has something larger in store.

Are we open to that, or are we closed to that? Every day the entire world is knocking trying to change your life and say wait a minute, you have no clue yet. (end quote)

See, Van Mungo, there's room for all of us in this tent!

Van Mungo:

First, mjosef. Opie seems to have established the house style for this blog: drive-by ad hom attacks (with the obligatory frat-house Bush II monikers), glib one-sentence caricature of your interlocutor's position, and then another breezy sentence or two of lo-cal declamation. Only Opie himself is pompous enough to stir that witches brew into borderline-psycho prose poems--but others seem to emulate in less flagrantly wacky genres.

And that's all mjosef offers. He does not address substantively any of my points. He does reel of a list of current and impending enviro-politico-socio calamities. To what end? To rationalize his own passivity and defeatism? Even if various left initiatives of the recent past have been limited or abortive, the point is not then to cite impending disaster as a rationale for CONTINUING TO DO NOTHING (mjosef's apparent position), but to FIND A BETTER WAY TO DO SOMETHING. This is not "lefter-than-thou"--it's simply a call to throw in a dollop of politics with the usual palaver.

A blog that posits--correctly--the uselessness of the Democratic Party as a vehicle of leftward social change needs to spawn some actual ideas about how to lead people out of that swamp. Simply declaiming, day after day, that the Democratic Party is a swamp, that its leaders are knaves and liars and hypocrites, is laudable, a necessary step in raising consciousness--NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT. Sufficiency comes in the form of ideas for extricating people from the swamp.

People like Keith Olbermann get paid seven figures a year to go on the air every night to tell us (a) the Republicans are all knaves and liars and (b) Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity are dishonest bullies and creeps. Likewise, people on this blog cite numerous examples of both (a) and (b) about the Democrats--a similarly navel-gazing indulgence. Great.

So . . . . to both Olbermann and MJS and company I implore: NOW TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW. Now that we all agree about (a) and (b), is it sufficient simply to revel in our own superiority day after day, or do we ever reach the point of figuring out what we DO about all of this?

PRECISELY because of the dire litany recited above by mjosef, we MUST move from endlessly rehearsing the problems to contemplating solutions, and then acting. This blog doesn't even discuss potential solutions, much less act on them.

So for starters, aside from meolodramatically beating your breast, what do YOU propose to DO?

Van Mungo:

You're all over the map on this--your posts are a farrago of misinformation and self-contradiction. First you mistakenly state that Nader would endorse your attack on the idea of collecting signatures for left candidates, even though that's been a HUGE part of what Nader's been up to for a dozen years or so. WRONG.

Then you claim that voting for McKinney on the Green ticket is "lesser-evilism," even though she BROKE with the Democratic Party and ran on a radical platform that many independent socialist/Marxist groups, such as Solidarity, endorsed. WRONG AGAIN.

Then, after smugly lecturing others on "lesser-evilism," you have the chutzpah to trumpet your own personal history of serving as a factotum for . . . DEMOCRATS? Are you quite serious? And you're still defending Barbara Lee, even though she is still perpetuating illusions about the Democratic Party by running under its auspices? The point precisely is to BREAK decisively with the Democrats--so how can you possibly attack McKinney, who has done precisely that, and defend Lee, who has not? WRONG FOR THE THIRD TIME.

You are sadly confused, misinformed, and badly compromised by your own history of servility to the Democrats. When you clear some of this up enough to post some coherent thoughts to this blog, please do so.


So, Van Mungo, your role is to serve as the SMBIVA of SMBIVA? Convincing us of the errors of our ways? I am honestly curious here. But...blawg, man, blawg on. I'm sure your activism will save us all.


Very nicely put, van Mingle Lungo. Well done. I have failed terribly to "substantively address your points." You require, though, only "a dollop of politics." What do you "DO," you implore, you beseech, youcall out to your chosen gods.

Well, if you will send me $1,126,043 (corresponding, if you must know, to Henry Paulson's per diem expenses from Godlman Sachs) in a cashier's check, I will be happen to tell you what TO DO. I understand that I may only mope about in "passivity" and "defeatism" before cashing the check, from whichever bank is still open for business at the close of today, but I will promise that I will make you a leading lefty. A can-do, bake- sale, saving the earth and the people kind of lefty. It's a ten-point action plan to save us all, and all for only the aforementioned price.

And that is my plan.

Van Mungo:

Response to bk's last post:

Evasive ad hominem garbage--the last refuge of someone whose diddle feewinging got hurted and he has nothing really to say. Pretty pathetic. Sneering is not a substitute for thinking, nor is it a good excuse for doing nothing.

Van Mungo:

From you or any other armchair socialist I would settle for just a dollop. After all, you have to learn to walk before you can run.

As for the rest of your little riff--don't quit your day job as you clamber up on the stage at Stand-Up New York. But keep at it--when you hit "joke," I'll let you know.

Just to give you some encouragement--you clearly are a clown, but not yet in the sense in which you aspire to be.

Those Kids Today:

keep it golden 30's
i think and your safe

I don't even have to.

I can jump straight to 2008 and Van Mungo's assertion that "Peace Land and Bread" were merely slogans designed to gain popular support for the takeover of the Russian state by his merry band of Boleshevik gansters.

The totalitarian mentality is in evidence.

Note Peace Land and Bread are "revolutionary demands" first.

The needs of the peasants and workers are an afterthought.

Note the "plus" in his comment:

plus, they actually corresponded to pressing needs of millions of workers and peasants who could therefore understand and respond to them.


My feelings are not hurt, Humungus. I am too passive to have feelings. I am just amused. Now, scurry off to Daily KOS. I hear they have a mean campaign to elect Mo'better Democrats who will hold Dear Leader's feet to the fire!

Van Mungo:

If you're not just dishonest, you clearly some sort of weird reading-comprehension disorder. I've made it clear that I believe that the Democratic Part is where the left goes to die. That is not the issue. So your blather about the Daily Kos is just random BS that you pulled out of your ass.

My point is this (now pay attention, bk--I'll make it very simple for you): it's necessary to advocate and propagate the idea that the Democratic Party is merely a tool of the same corporate interests that run the Republican Party. We're in agreement there. The point is: What do you propose to DO about that? This blog claims to be dedicated to "the deconstruction of the Democratic Party." Now just how do you think that deconstruction is going to happen? By tossing coy little barbs on a blog like this all day? By flaming me?

Since you seem to believe that a left agenda can be realized only independently of the Democratic Party, let me ask you the following:

1. Have you ever collected a single signature to put a left party on the ballot to challenge the Democrats in any election, local, state, or national? If not, why not?

2. Have you ever spent a minute of your time attempting to build such an alternative party? If not, why not?

3. Do you have any idea how the deconstruction of the Democratic Party will take place other than sitting on your behind and playing archer-than-thou on a blog?

Please enlighten us on these points.

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