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The Missing Edited SNL Skit:

The SNL skit on the bailout legislation was temporarily removed from the web so as to edit out potentially objectionable content as well as to protect Rep. Barney Frank, or so it seems from this report.

In an interview with Gold, the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, said the Sandlers were distraught but had not demanded the changes. He noted the "People who should be shot" line was deleted as was a reference to their "corrupt activities."

But a comparison of the two versions shows that actually a little more than that was cut. What also was excised was any mention of the involvement of Massachusetts' Rep. Frank in the Sandler subprime mess.

Frank is the influential chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and an ardent political protector of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which participated in the subprime problem.

In the original skit Sandler addresses Frank, saying, "And thank you Congressman Frank as well as many Republicans for helping block Congressional oversight of our corrupt activities."

To which Frank replies enthusiastically, "Not at all!"

All that's gone in the new version, which Show Tracker has posted here.

I suppose the most charitable interpretation is that the dig against Rep. Frank had to go if SNL was to edit out any reference to the Sandler's "corrupt activities" — but why was this excised in the first place? As I noted in my prior post, the "people who should be shot" line was the only aspect of the skit potentially warranting any revision at all.

UPDATE: The New York Times TV Decoder blog reports:

Explaining the move, NBC said in a statement: "Upon review, we caught certain elements in the sketch that didn't meet our standards."

The couple had expressed their anger to Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of "SNL," who told the Los Angeles Times that he did not realize the characters were real people until Monday. "When I spoke to them, I can assure you this: 'They are very, very real,'" he said. "I think they were angry, I think distraught, I think they were not expecting to turn on the television and see that."

He said the couple did not specifically request that changes be made to the video. Nonetheless, the graphic and a reference to "corrupt activities" were removed.

SECOND UPDATE: More from John Fund here:

NBC yanked the video off its Web site sometime early Monday. It appears NBC acted because it feared a lawsuit from the Sandlers, who are prominent funders of such left-wing groups as Air America and MoveOn.org. While no legal threat was received from the couple, Mr. Sandler did tell the Associated Press the skit was "crap."

Apparently, NBC acted pre-emptively to appease the Sandlers. It explains that the sketch did not meet its "standards." It has now reinstated the missing sketch on its Web site, having removed the "people who should be shot" line as well as a reference to "allegations of corruption" against the couple.

Veteran Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke says "NBC surely could have handled this better." While broadly accepting its explanation, she notes that "today's action may or may not silence critics like conservative commentator Michelle Malkin."

In my view, NBC may have acted appropriately, but its hasty response to liberal outrage over the sketch is likely to have a chilling effect on the network's future satire of leading liberals -- especially if Barack Obama is elected president.

I am with Fund up until the last half of that last sentence. If this incident has any effect on NBC, I think it will a) cause the network to explain moves like this more promptly and thoroughly, and b) cause the show to be more reticent to make fun of those (like the Sandlers) who are not obvious "public figures." Once the Sandlers-should-be-shot angle arose, it seemed pretty clear that this, and not any political motivation, was the primary force behind NBC's actions.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Missing Edited SNL Skit:
  2. The Missing SNL Skit:
Angus:
My guess is because it had them admitting to "corrupt activities" and SNL felt it could lead to legal action from the Sanders. Up to that point, it had just been about the rise in their portfolios, investment activities, etc. Facts.
10.8.2008 11:07am
Cornellian (mail):
How dare he block Congressional oversight of corrupt activities!

By the way, is Harriet Miers still ignoring her Congressional subpoena?

That "shot" line was in a text box, not spoken dialogue so I don't see why they couldn't have replaced it with "jailed" or something like that.
10.8.2008 11:08am
hawkins:
Huh? If you take SNL at its word and the skit was edited to take out reference to the Sandlers' "corrupt activities," it was a necessity to take out the dig against Frank.

I dont know if I buy the reasoning. But if you do, it was not edited in order to protect Frank.
10.8.2008 11:13am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
SNL can edit it all they want but it is the unedited version that is virally propagating. Their attempts to reduce their exposure are only expanding it.

It also serves to further hurt the Sandlers and Barney Frank, by providing evidence of their corrupt activities, one of which is now getting a satire show to edit its work.

McCain and Palin should make this incident a part of their campaign. Art becomes (political) life.
10.8.2008 12:15pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
McCain and Palin should make this incident a part of their campaign.

Agree completely.

If they waste the next 3 1/2 weeks chasing after the righty blogosphere outrage of the day (TM) the election will be in the bag.
10.8.2008 12:22pm
Preferred Customer:
Yes, it strikes me that accusing the Sandlers of corrupt activities may potentially expose SNL to legal action (whether ultimately meritorious or not), and there is no sensible way of removing that reference without also removing the reference to Frank. Even if you'd left the reference to Frank in, deleting the phrase "corrupt practices" takes away the dig against him and turns it into a meaningless expression of gratitude.

But if there really is a conspiracy here, isn't it also one that benefits the "many Republicans" mentioned in the original skit?
10.8.2008 12:45pm
Frank M Howland (mail):
Jonathan:

Please explain to me what George Soros has to do with the current financial crisis. Also tell me why you fail to see anti-Semitic overtones in the skit. Blaming a rich Jewish financier as the mastermind behind a crisis when he has nothing to do with it has echoes of the worst kind of filth perpetrated in the previous century. Are you blind? You have my email.

Frank
10.8.2008 12:52pm
commontheme (mail):
You really are just a tiny cog in the republican propaganda machine, aren't you?

Is this the best you got - griping about SNL skits?
10.8.2008 1:00pm
occasional lurker:
"SNL can edit it all they want but it is the unedited version that is virally propagating. Their attempts to reduce their exposure are only expanding it."

No reason to think that SNL truly wants to reduce viewership of the unedited version. If I'm SNL, maybe I'm chortling. I "caved" to whomever complained, so I can reasonably claim that I acted reasonably in response to a complaint.

This is a little like celebs going after a tabloid -- often just draws more attention.
10.8.2008 1:08pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
"Blaming a rich Jewish financier as the mastermind behind a crisis when he has nothing to do with it has echoes of the worst kind of filth perpetrated in the previous century."

It's absurd to suggest that because he's Jewish, he shouldn't be blamed. I agree that it's not his fault, but that has nothing to do with his ethnicity. In fact, the resentment toward him isn't based on his Jewishness, it's based (just as irrationally) on his wealth.
10.8.2008 1:20pm
A.W. (mail):
Re: the main post…

Ah well, if they cut out the sandlers completely then we all know what happened. Their lawyers threatened to sue.

It was a bad mistake on SNL’s part to use real names for that. Barney Frank is one thing, but the Sandlers were not public figures (I assume).

Frank

So, Soros is Jewish and therefore it is inherently anti-Semitic to point out that he is an America-hating bastard who has used his financial power to hurt this country.

You know the fact you think Jews need a special protection against bigotry is just a sign of little you have moved on for the thought patterns of the past.

And, by the way, how do you know he is even Jewish? I personally have no information regarding his faith.

Occasional

Your cynicism is probably 100% on target.
10.8.2008 1:23pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
You really are just a tiny cog in the republican propaganda machine, aren't you?

You might want to learn the meaning of the English word "propaganda"...
10.8.2008 1:28pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Blaming a rich Jewish financier as the mastermind behind a crisis when he has nothing to do with it has echoes of the worst kind of filth perpetrated in the previous century."

I think one of the lies perpetrated by the anti-Semites of the last century was that Jews think they deserve special treatment.
10.8.2008 1:29pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Cornellian:

That "shot" line was in a text box, not spoken dialogue so I don't see why they couldn't have replaced it with "jailed" or something like that.

Suggesting they are people who should be shot seems a bit excessive. A public caning, however....

SNL could just have easily had the original actor insert "questionable" or "suspicious" into the audio track, in place of "corrupt". But I guess, avoiding pissing off billionaires--especially, allegedly corrupt ones--may be seen as the prudent course of action.
10.8.2008 1:31pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
AW,

I think (unless I misread Frank) he was referring to Mr. Sandler as a wealthy Jewish financier.

I am personally unaware of either the Sandlers' or Mr. Soros' ethnicity... just going by what Frank said.
10.8.2008 1:32pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
I think one of the lies perpetrated by the anti-Semites of the last century was that Jews think they deserve special treatment.

we have a winner
10.8.2008 1:33pm
commontheme (mail):

You might want to learn the meaning of the English word "propaganda"...

As might you.

If you don't think that harping on such petty trivialities that you believe somehow accrue to your advantage while studiously avoiding addressing the real issues is not a propaganda technique, then you are truly clueless.
10.8.2008 1:41pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
commontheme,

Here are Adler's last 12 posts:

The Missing Edited SNL Skit
The Missing SNL skit
Committee on the Judiciary v. Harriet Miers
First Monday: The Supreme Court opens the 2008-09 term today
Ohio Secretary of State Must Accept Absentee Apps
Forest Service Harassing Rainbows
Which SNL Tina-Fey-as-Sarah-Palin Skit Was the Funniest?
The President's Authority to Fire the SEC Chair
Mason v. Mitchell
44 Filings without Paying Fees Is Too Many
Judge Will Not Dismiss Stevens Case
Palin on the Supreme Court

Trying to place these posts on the only spectrum you seem aware of (whether Adler believes that these posts somehow accrue to Republicans' advantage), I see 4-5 that are potentially positive about republicans, 3 that are potentially damaging to republicans, and 3-4 that are neutral.

It's impossible to describe this as a pattern of Adler's "harping on petty trivialities that he thinks will somehow accrue to his/Republicans' advantage while studiously avoiding the real issues."

It's absurd to respond to a post about SNL's apparent bizarre attempt to protect Barney Frank from the political consequences of his actions by calling the writer "a cog in the propaganda machine." What, is the LA Times blog (the source of most of the post) a cog in the Republican propaganda machine, too?
10.8.2008 1:52pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I have a book called The Commissar Vanishes which deals with the doctoring of official public photographs for political purposes. Stalin's perceived enemies would mysteriously disappear even though everybody remembered the originals. After Khrushchev purged and murdered Beria (shot him right in a meeting*) his entry disappeared from the official Soviet Encyclopedia, replaced by an article on the Bering Straits. The Soviet government sent replacement articles to libraries along with a razor blade with instructions to remove the offending material. Of course Barney Frank disappeared from SNL to protect him, not to remove all traces of his official existence.

Like the Soviets NBC wants to tamper with reality. They can remove the show from their website, but bringing it back sans Frank is quite another matter.

*A well connected Yugoslav told me many years ago that Khrushchev shot Beria himself right across the table at a Politburo Meeting. The official history is different.
10.8.2008 1:53pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
A more reality-centered way to respond, if you actually disagree with the perception that SNL may be trying to protect Frank politically, might be to explain why you think that, instead of inventing offensive, absurd, and dismissive accusations against the post's author.
10.8.2008 1:56pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
last comment directed at commontheme, of course.
10.8.2008 2:00pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Frank M Howland:

SNL presents Soros as currency speculator shorting the dollar to increase his personal fortune. Soros is a currency speculator, and he made a cool billion dollars for himself attacking the British pound in 1992-- Black Monday. His attack caused the British Treasury to lose about $7 billion. He also engaged in currency trading during the Hungarian hyperinflation in 1946. One would think that Soros would be fond of Britain for providing him the opportunity to escape Hungarian Communism, but any fondness he might have takes second place to his greed.

It's entirely appropriate to connect Soros to the Democrats as he is a big supporter and contributor to their candidates. He is also the financial backer of a vast network of left wing organizations.

None of this has anything to do with his being Jewish. I think you're way of base here.
10.8.2008 2:21pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I am personally unaware of either the Sandlers' or Mr. Soros' ethnicity."

His name was originally György Schwartz. The family changed their name to "Soros" in 1936. He is indeed Jewish and survived European Holocaust through intelligent planning. He also survived the Communists.
10.8.2008 2:26pm
Germanicus:
I think it's clear that the writers at SNL had no interest in protecting Frank's reputation, since they wrote the sketch. Going back and changing it had to be NBC's decision, and since they could presumably pressured the writers to back off Frank by giving the show "notes" before it aired, it makes more sense to think that the redaction is purely a result of the Sandlers' objections (and potential threats of litigation).
10.8.2008 2:37pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
SNARK FOLLOWS:

Eh, Zarkov: I note, in the lovely bit of hysteria that you've linked to, that one of those left-wing propaganda rags that has published Soros' filthy subversive screeds was the Wall Street Journal. I'm curious exactly how much funding Soros, or his foundations, have provided to the NLG, and, BTW, while following the links through, I also found:

"In 2001, McCain founded the Alexandria, Va.-based Reform Institute as a vehicle to receive funding from George Soros' Open Society Institute. . .

McCain used the institute to promote his political agenda and provide compensation to key campaign operatives between elections."
10.8.2008 2:39pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
Zarkov: "None of this has anything to do with his being Jewish. I think you're way of base here."

Nonsense! Everyone knows Republicans are racist, and therefore anything they say must be motivated by racism. Besides, Soros doesn't support a vast network of leftwing organizations, he merely contributes to nonpartisan public interest groups, as any good person who has been gifted with riches by fickle fortune should do.

Only a tinfoil hat-wearing Fox News viewer could possibly come up with such a batty suggestion as that rich leftwingers used their money and influence to airbrush embarassing references to themselves out of the media. It's common knowledge that only rich Republicans do such things...
10.8.2008 2:42pm
FlimFlamSam:
What I love is how this would have been a total nonissue had SNL not gone and taken it down and edited it. I remembered watching the skit, and thinking "wow, that's a pretty conservative take for SNL," and going to bed. Now it's a huge deal all thanks to ham-handedness.
10.8.2008 2:43pm
commontheme (mail):

A more reality-centered way to respond, if you actually disagree with the perception that SNL may be trying to protect Frank politically, might be to explain why you think that, instead of inventing offensive, absurd, and dismissive accusations against the post's author.

You see Joe, that right there shows that you don't understand propaganda. I suspected as much but this pretty much cinches it.

I am not going to waste my time quibbling about the editing of a SNL skit. Number one - its really pitifully irrelevant. Number two - the whole purpose of this sort of propaganda is to steer the discourse into this little dead end.

I mean let's assume the absolute "worst" that SNL was trying to protect Barney Frank - given the problems facing the country right now, do you really think that is important? The reason why this propaganda technique works is that the are lots of people like you who are easily distracted by shiny objects.
10.8.2008 2:50pm
c.gray (mail):

It was a bad mistake on SNL’s part to use real names for that. Barney Frank is one thing, but the Sandlers were not public figures (I assume).


I suspect this entire business was the result of someone responsible for liability vetting the scripts discovering that the Sandler's were actually real people, not just a play on cast member Adam Sandler's name.

That one is probably having a very tough week.
10.8.2008 2:51pm
Michael B (mail):
Barney Frank doesn't need to be protected politically. That notion itself is a farce.

There is prima facie, in-your-face evidence, such as reflected in this youTube where Barney Frank essentially indicts and convicts himself, politically understood. Since that does represent a prima facie fact, one that cannot be blithely sneered away into the no-thought zone, into oblivion, the result instead has been a resolute and studied avoidance.

There's the comcommitant fact that it was Republican legislators who were attempting to correct the Fannie and Freddie problems.

So certain members of the commentariat might drop the Janus faced pretense that they care in the first place and much more simply do what Katie Couric does, both literally and, more commonly, figuratively.
10.8.2008 4:00pm
A.W. (mail):
Joe

On second reading you might be right. it is ambiguous.

Elliot123

Agreed. The touchy jew who accuses everyone of anti-Semitism is in my mind a stereotype unrelated to reality.
10.8.2008 4:06pm
Michael B (mail):
"concomitant"
10.8.2008 4:08pm
Michael B (mail):
Also, for those - including Senator Obama in last night's debate - peddling the idea that deregulation was/is the problem, this AEI report, titled The Last Trillion-Dollar Commitment: The Destruction of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, adequately refutes that misbegotten idea.

A much more detailed report by one of the same authors, covering more ground (this latter report in pdf format).
10.8.2008 4:35pm
Per Son:
A. Zarkov:

I loved The Commisar Vanishes - it is an amazing look at political erasure. I saw it in Vienna - at least I saw the exhibit. American reminders of that came to mind in around 2002-2003 when Bush press conferences had words changed/omitted in the written versions posted on www.whitehouse.gov.

If I had the time, I would love to do comparisons to find more things like that by US presidents going back 50 or so years.
10.8.2008 4:39pm
Melancton Smith:

It's absurd to suggest that because he's Jewish, he shouldn't be blamed. I agree that it's not his fault, but that has nothing to do with his ethnicity. In fact, the resentment toward him isn't based on his Jewishness, it's based (just as irrationally) on his wealth.


The problem is not his wealth but how he uses it. He is spending money to destroy our free society---to turn it into the very type of society that he fled from.

Why do some people come here to use our freedoms to turn this country into something like the one they fled? Why not just stay there?

My ancestors came here because it wasn't Europe. Quit trying to make us more European.
10.8.2008 4:58pm
occasional lurker:
On the topic of who should be blamed for the crisis, I recommend Richard Posner's comment on the Becker-Posner blog (VC links to the blog in its blogroll). Prof/Judge Posner writes:

The theme in the readers' comments to which I would like to respond, and it is also a theme in the Wall Street Journal's editorial comments on the financial crisis, is that government policy, rather than the free market, is responsible for the crisis--government policy in the form of encouragements spurred in part by Congress to home ownership through the government-chartered though private Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home-mortgage companies, low interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve Board, and lax supervision by the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators. I wish it were true. And what is true is that the government, including Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, and the SEC, were complicit in contributing to or creating some of the preconditions for the crisis--cheap credit and lax regulation. But there is a difference between creating and merely exacerbating a crisis. Moreover, it is a paradox to exonerate the market on the ground that the government did not do enough to regulate it!
10.8.2008 5:05pm
Frank M Howland (mail):
A Zarkov:

I am not way off base. SNL decides to pick on George Soros because he is a rich guy who has been famously involved in financial markets. Unlike Bush, Frank, and the Sandlers he has nothing to do with the current crisis (currency speculation is not the problem; Soros has warned about the fragility of financial markets). But he is Jewish. So what? There are many bad people out there, and some are Jews and we should not stay away from mentioning who they are. However, Soros is chosen as a convenient scapegoat and then slandered. (Think about how it would feel if it were claimed that rich, powerful men like Obama or McCain, or, even richer than McCain, Romney, buy women straight up for cash as sex objects.)

Most commentators seem to ignore the fact that there is a long, ugly history of picking rich Jews as the scapegoat for major troubles, and in particular claiming that they are manipulating world finances. In SNL's subconscious (I am using SNL as shorthand here for those responsible for the skit) is the notion that rich Jewish banker equals someone we can attack. In the subconscious of many viewers is the same notion. You can be sure the anti-Semites out there are well aware of Soros's religion. SNL ought to be protected by the 1st amendment, but I think this is vile stuff which ought to be attacked (though not censored).
10.8.2008 5:54pm
Thief (mail) (www):
Short version: "Parody of thee, but not of me."
10.8.2008 6:02pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Barney was humping Herb Moses at Fannie*, the guy who was developing Fannie's affordable housing and home-improvement lending programs when Frank &Co. were proclaiming F&F worry-free and we don't even know why we're bothering with a hearing by golly...

Not exactly, as mentioned above, "tiny cog" material.

http://justsaynodeal.com/acorn.html

*yeah, I said it- BWAAAAAAAAAhahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!
10.8.2008 6:05pm
LN (mail):

He is spending money to destroy our free society---to turn it into the very type of society that he fled from.

Why do some people come here to use our freedoms to turn this country into something like the one they fled? Why not just stay there?



Yes, why is Soros so eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil?

He fled Hitler in 1944, so why does he want to spend his money taking to turn America into Nazi Germany?

He should do the exact opposite of that -- in other words, support *my* political beliefs.
10.8.2008 6:19pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
You see Joe, that right there shows that you don't understand propaganda. I suspected as much but this pretty much cinches it.

I am not going to waste my time quibbling about the editing of a SNL skit. Number one - its really pitifully irrelevant. Number two - the whole purpose of this sort of propaganda is to steer the discourse into this little dead end.

I mean let's assume the absolute "worst" that SNL was trying to protect Barney Frank - given the problems facing the country right now, do you really think that is important? The reason why this propaganda technique works is that the are lots of people like you who are easily distracted by shiny objects.


commontheme,

Speaking of easily distracted, you failed to respond to my analysis of Adler's posts, which you say incessantly harp on issues he thinks will accrue to Republicans' interest. Reread your comments. You assert:

(1) Adler's just a cog in the Republican propaganda machine.
(2) This is true because harping on trivialities while studiously avoiding real issues is (a) propaganda, and (b) what Adler does.
(3) He does this to trick people into discussing SNL instead of real issues.

I pointed you to his last 11 posts, which are on a variety of big and trivial issues and which have a variety of implications (positive and negative) for Republican politicians. Are you arguing that Adler's posts generally are propaganda, or have you backed off from that position to argue that the two posts on the SNL skit by themselves constitute "harping on trivialities" as a way of distracting readers from real issues?

One of your assumptions is that Adler thinks people can't think about and discuss both "real issues" and Saturday Night Live. (Actually you appear to assume both that Adler believes this and that it's true, since you write, "the reason this propaganda technique works is that...")

Another is that if people know NBC censored part of and SNL sketch, that will somehow "accrue to Republicans' advantage."
10.8.2008 6:24pm
commontheme (mail):
Joe Bingham - look, it's a shiny piece of string!
10.8.2008 6:54pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
commontheme, for all the vocabulary you are showing off, when I reduce your posts to their central arguments they seem to say "you suck! And you're stupid, too!" You have been answered with content, which you choose to sidestep.

One more bit of evidence that progressives put their energy into the wit of the response rather than the content. You have been a gold mine.
10.8.2008 7:52pm
Michael B (mail):
"Moreover, it is a paradox to exonerate the market on the ground that the government did not do enough to regulate it!"

It's not a "paradox" unless arch or manichean forms of "free market" vs. "regulation" are conceived, are counter-posed. No one seriously proposes such conceptions. Obviously, within our system of governance there is no such thing as a pure, laissez faire marketplace, especially so when it comes to real estate, the banking and finance industry, etc.

It wasn't a matter of too little regulation, it was a matter of the inadequate quality of the regulation and oversight that did exist. Likewise, it's not an either/or; the market itself was/is a part of the problem as well, both buyers and sellers. It's not an either/or, it's a matter of instituting and navigating regulations that are reality based and responsibly conceived.

It's pervasive and systemic, including problems in the wider population, the demos, but there were basic political and legislative causes nonetheless. It is in fact the very job of the federal legislature to take on those responsibilities. That doesn't absolve "the market" (i.e. the demos at large), but such is the federal legislatures responsibility nonetheless. They're suppose to be acting "in loco parentis," properly understood.
10.8.2008 8:14pm
Justthisguy (mail) (www):
Considering the season, maybe they should have just changed it to "people who should be hanged higher than Haman."
10.8.2008 8:37pm
occasional lurker:
Michael B, not clear to me your position. Your earlier post seemed to suggest that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government actors/policies were more important causes than the behavior of private actors. Perhaps we do not disagree on Judge Posner's basic point that the fundamental causes are in the market, and that government "merely" exacerbated or contributed. (I think it is substantial, not "mere," but still parasitic on private-sector behavior.)

Then we should perhaps ask: Why did the government, in your words, have inadequate regulation and oversight? I think the story here is important if you want to allocate fault. Government actors often rely on what they are told by the private sector. Sometimes it is information about events and entities, sometimes it is policy advice, sometimes it is plain old lobbying (or a mixture). It seems to me odd to blame government actors for regulating or overseeing inadequately if Wall Street was politicking to prevent or cripple regulatory oversight. Or if we, the polity, voted for and elected politicians partly because they were not going to regulate.

Also, I think it is odd to blame government actors for failing to anticipate the problem. Hindsight is 20-20, and as I understand it, much of the real contagion problem -- derivatives, credit default swaps, and other complex instruments and transactions -- was much less visible than the subprime mortgages themselves. Conservatives normally require strong justifications for regulation, e.g. a good showing of market failure. So, if one is a conservative in that sense, when did the SEC, the Fed, the Treasury, Barney Frank, Fannie Mae, whomever, have sufficient reason to strengthen regulations, oversight, etc., such that (w/o benefit of hindsight) a thoughtful conservative should have agreed that "the government must act boldly now"?
10.8.2008 9:37pm
Floridan:
"McCain and Palin should make this incident a part of their campaign."

Please, please, please . . .
10.8.2008 10:51pm
SenatorX (mail):
His name was originally György Schwartz. The family changed their name to "Soros" in 1936. He is indeed Jewish and survived European Holocaust through intelligent planning. He also survived the Communists.

I think there is a good Nietzsche quote for this but I can't quite remember it. Something about a warning to be careful when fighting monsters to not become one yourself. Soros.

occasional lurker are you serious? You are willing to give a total pass to the politicians? Go look up the phrase "plausible deniability". It's ALWAYS "I am not corrupt, I was ignorant." That is one page one of the playbook and you think you are smart buying that hook, line, and sinker. The "nobody could see this coming" argument is so very weak.
10.8.2008 10:58pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
There is a good collection of video links on this and related issues at Naked Emperor News. It is partisan, but the videos speak for themselves, and from them we can reach a conclusion:

What's wrong with Obama is his party. It is not that he lacks experience, but that he lacks the judgment to avoid associating with unsavory characters. No, not Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, or Michael Fleger. People like Charles Shumer, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and Nancy Pelosi.

Of course, it can also be said that the problem with McCain and Palin is their party, but they seem a tad more independent of it than their opponents are.

But I'm still voting for Bob Barr.
10.8.2008 11:16pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
The quote is:


He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche, Aphorism 146
German philosopher (1844 - 1900)
10.9.2008 12:10am
David Warner:
Uncle Sam left his checkbook laying out (Fannie/Freddie's implicit backing, perverse/lax/nonexistent/impossible regulation), and a lot of people began writing checks, some with the best of intentions.

Lessons: Uncle Sam should be more careful with his checkbook, even when social justice/the interests of the middle class/seniors is involved. Find those who wrote checks illegally and prosecute them.

Not Lessons: Outlaw checks
10.9.2008 12:17am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The couple had expressed their anger to Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of “SNL,” who told the Los Angeles Times that he did not realize the characters were real people until Monday. “When I spoke to them, I can assure you this: ‘They are very, very real,’” he said.
That's a really poor defense on his part. As I mentioned in the first thread on the topic, if they weren't real people, then the skit really would be antisemitic. In that case, some stereotypically-Jewish bankers would be being blamed for the crisis for no reason.
10.9.2008 12:41am
Joe Bingham (mail):
DMN,

I guess I'm kinda stupid then, because I watched the skit and had no idea they were real people. Or that they were supposed to be Jewish. Maybe because I'm from Florida and all the old people there are Jewish, so they just seem like old people to me? :)
10.9.2008 1:42am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Fox News (Brit Hume) has picked up on this story and run with it. I am getting links to the unedited skit video from all over O(and spreading it myself), so it is intense on the Net. If the bloggers pick up on this it could do for McCain what he doesn't seem to be willing to do for himself, which is run against Congress, especially congressional Democrats (because he knows he is going to need them if he gets elected).
10.9.2008 3:52am
occasional lurker:
SenatorX, absolutely NOT a total pass to the politicians. They're part of it. There's no question in my mind that Greenspan's easy money policies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's politically-influenced role in subprimes, etc., made things worse.

But Judge Posner's point is that the private sector started it. What the private sector did was shaped or steered by regulation -- $$ was always looking to go to an unregulated or less regulated area (like credit default swaps and other derivatives, see Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000). Strongly recommend Das' book "Traders, Guns and Money."

And my additional point was (to be more blunt) that blaming the government or politicians has to include blaming ourselves, or we're not being honest.

You're of course right that "nobody saw it coming" is weak. But as I look back on the history of this thing, I see smart guys like Nouriel Rubini made dire predictions a number of years ago. Very few people, including the European bankers, were moved by him. At least as early as the Berkshire Hathaway 2002 annual report, Warren Buffett called derivatives weapons of mass financial destruction.

My own personal sense is that August 2007, when the liquidity crunch hit the headlines, was the earliest I could reasonably expect the government to have acted decisively. They should have been worried in 2002-03 and reined in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But at that time they had no power to regulate the credit default swaps and other complex instruments producing the insane overleveraging.

Finally I even more cannot absolve the private sector actors. They are not children. We cannot say, "what do you expect, their role is to be greedy, only government is expected to be a grownup." We aid and abet them otherwise. After all, government regulation is in theory only part of the discipline; there is a fiduciary duty to shareholders and I expect securities litigation as well (unless some immunity is passed).

BTW here's Posner's 6-factor summary of the crisis:

"I believe that the basic causes of the crisis were six factors internal to the market system. The first was abundant and therefore cheap global capital--the result of private economic activity--and, consequently, low interest rates, which encouraged borrowing. The second factor was a housing bubble caused in part by those low interest rates and in part by aggressive marketing of mortgages. The third was new financial instruments that businessmen believed reduced borrowing risks and so increased optimal leverage. The fourth was the difficulty of "selling" a conservative business strategy to shareholders in a bubble environment. Borrowing more and more at low interest rates while home or other asset values are rising enables financial institutions to make higher profits, and a firm that refuses to jump on the bandwagon will as a result experience lower profits and will have difficulty convincing shareholders that they really are better off because the higher profits of the competing firms are unsustainable.

The fifth factor was sheer uncertainty--was it a bubble? If so, when would it end? Would the new financial instruments assure a safe landing if it was a bubble and it burst? And the sixth factor was that the downside risk to highly leveraged financial institutions was truncated by generous severance provisions for their executives, authorized by boards of directors that were not effective monitors of executive decisions.

Cycles of boom and bust are intrinsic to capitalism. Government can make them more serious, and sometimes less serious, but if you take away government you will still have periodic economic crises."
10.9.2008 12:22pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Frank M Howland -- You can be sure the anti-Semites out there are well aware of Soros's religion.

All Semites are not Jews, and all Jews are not Semites. It is the height of cultural imperialism for the Jews to attempt to take ownership of an entire ethnic classification. I, for one, am deeply offended.

OK, I'll bet that seems pretty dopey to normal people, as the entire cult of victimhood should. My point is, there is real bigotry in the world--interestingly, some of the people nursing the worst jew-hatred are, in fact, themselves Semites--and it doesn't help anybody to call it out when the non-hypersensitive need a secret decoder ring to see it. If everyone in the room cocks their heads and gives you that "WTF?" squint, you probably need to recalibrate.
10.9.2008 12:36pm
TCO:
It's ok to make fun of political candidates and such but not multibillionaires? I'm not scared of those guys. Want me to say something libelous. Dare me, you faggot lawyers.
10.9.2008 9:34pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Posner:

Cycles of boom and bust are intrinsic to capitalism. Government can make them more serious, and sometimes less serious, but if you take away government you will still have periodic economic crises.

No. That is a popular myth. Cycles are the result of mass psychology and too many people pursuing the same investment strategies at the same time. It is entirely possible for capitalism to function without such mass madness. In many times and places it has, with each person seeking a strategy that others were overlooking. Inventors and developers of new products and services do that all the time, seeking to introduce a product that no one else has. Farmers plant crops that other farmers aren't because they perceive they will be offering a produce a product in reduced supply.
I independently discovered the mathematical equivalent of the Black-Sholes strategy, for a different line of investigation (and only later realized its equivalence, or metamorphism, to use the mathematical term), but unlike those who seized on it for use in hedge funds, because it was seen as a way to insure profit except in a scenario that "could hardly ever happen", also found that if too many players used it what "could hardly ever happen" becomes inevitable.

But all this reflection fails to identify the more basic cause of this calamity: fiat currencies. When money is backed only by credit, and not by something hard, like gold or silver (or perhaps joules of energy), then its value, and the economies of every nation that relies on it, becomes dependent on unfaltering growth, just like the mortgage market was dependent on unaltering growth of housing prices. Growth ends, and when it does, any that depends on it collapses, and if it is something as fundamental as money, it takes the economy down to barter, and productivity down to a level that cannot even keep everyone alive, must less comfortable.
10.11.2008 2:01am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Correction to previous post: I used the term "metamorphism" when what I meant was "homeomorphism". I claim a senior moment defense. I had been reading a paper on geology the day before and somehow that term (used in geology and biology) got stuck in my mind. Homeomorphism is the term in mathematics to denote logical equivalence of mathematical concepts, a mapping of corresponding elements to one another.
10.12.2008 4:53pm