Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Know that I'm Late to the Taibbi Party But ...

I didn't read the Taibbi article when it first came out because I was occupied with other matters, but I was flabbergasted when I did.

What a piece of garbage.

To write a blog post pointing out all of the errors would have taken hours and would have required at least the length of his article - and I don't think my readers want THAT much to read.

Initially, I was just going to use my few Twitter posts and leave it at that. Then I read this piece, from The Deal, questioning why the Columbia Journalism Review hadn't opined on the article - something I don't particularly care about, but this Executive Editor apparently does.

That gave me a specific, and finite, subject to write on. This is the response I left on that site.

As per usual, it is awaiting their review.


Taibbi produces a piece of crap article spewing conspiracy fantasies - reminding me of the mumblings I used to hear from a drunk at the Jersey shore - and he's a hero worthy of praise?

In my opinion, he's done two things:

  1. Brought into question whether there a need for Rolling Stone to exist; and

  2. Raised the issue of what quality controls publications should impose to ensure that financial journalism isn’t financial fiction.

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone has always prided itself as a publication free of "the man;" where different points of view could be expressed and where the "truth" could come out.

Arguably that was valuable in the 70s, when there were large media companies controlling the news - although it was The New York Times that broke The Pentagon Papers and The Washington Post that broke Watergate.

It was impossible back then for an individual to be heard unless the major media companies provided a platform.

Today, however, any crank can write his "truth" on the Internet. People WILL find it if it's compelling enough.

Taibbi's expletive filled piece of garbage could have just as easily been a blog post. Rolling Stone added no value, except for their audience base.

Financial Journalism
As to whether it's "OK to get some facts wrong, sling around unsubstantiated charges and throw away even the pretense of balance, as long as you believe the big picture you're painting is more or less correct?" WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING???

Taibbi has (if you look at his bio on Wikipedia), shall we say "interesting," journalistic credentials. According to an article about a lecture given by Taibbi at NYU from the Bullpen "After his stint as an athlete, Taibbi started the alternative, youth-oriented, English-language magazine 'The eXile' in Russia. 'We were out of the reach of American libel law, and we had a situation where we weren't really accountable to our advertisers. We had total freedom,' he said." Other parts of that article discuss his enjoyment of writing prank articles and distress at having to be accountable to advertisers and libel law in the US. He still managed to get fired from the New York Press in August 2005 after writing a column entitled "The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of The Pope" (Wikipedia has three cites for that one).

He has been used by sources that have an agenda against Goldman Sachs; and a tale to spin to produce a piece of propaganda that Goebbels would have been proud of. His background seems to make him the perfect mouthpiece for a smear job like the one he has written.

As for his mistakes, they are too numerous to list without matching the length of his venomous treatise. I’m sure that his sources know the difference between a Credit Default Swap, an Interest Rate Swap, and a Collateralized Debt Obligation – although he apparently doesn’t. He also seems to believe that accrued bonuses are paid in cash (if you're going to write an article about finance, you really should know the difference between accrued expenses and cash expenditures).

By the way, as to his "larger point" about Goldman Sachs having too much power. It's amazing that everyone making this argument seems to assume that all Goldman Sachs alumni get along. While Goldman has worked hard on its image as a collegial place with no stars, those who have even a passing knowledge of what goes on remember that Paulson allegedly maneuvered Corzine out of the firm and that retired partners rebelled at their treatment at the IPO.

It's not a monolithic colossus.

People also seem to uniformly forget that the initial recipients of TARP money weren't given a choice in the matter. They were told that they were taking it, and the terms of the deal (dividend rate, warrants, etc.). Goldman and JP Morgan Chase couldn't wait to pay it back - particularly after Congress added retroactive strings to the deal. What was initially pitched as a plan where all firms would accept the money so no one would appear weak became a license for Congress to attempt to manage how the firms were managed (because they manage the US Economy SO well).

Are you speaking for The Deal or for yourself when you are advocating slinging mud randomly at Wall Street firms in the hope that some will stick?

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