Some Updates

Updates:  Lobamas of BorgThe Goldman Borg to Obama: You will be assimilated

Two Goldman Sachs related items.

The first involves Goldman’s continuing takeover of the financial levers of power of the executive branch of the US government, a subject I’ve covered here and here. This week President Obama appointed Goldman’s Vice-Chairman Robert Hormats to the State Department as its undersecretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

I’d really liked to have been a fly on the wall when the commander of the Goldman Borg told Obama that resistance was futile and that he would be assimilated.

The second concerns Goldman’s manipulative  practice of “high frequency trading” that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago here. Friday’s NY Times had an above-the-fold article about the practice titled “Stock Traders Find Speed Pays, in Milliseconds”:

“It is the hot new thing on Wall Street, a way for a handful of traders to master the stock market, peek at investors’ orders and, critics say, even subtly manipulate share prices.

“It is called high-frequency trading — and it is suddenly one of the most talked-about and mysterious forces in the markets.

Powerful computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high-frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap bill ions at everyone else’s expense.

These systems are so fast they can outsmart or outrun other investors, humans and computers alike. And after growing in the shadows for years, they are generating lots of talk.

Nearly everyone on Wall Street is wondering how hedge funds and large banks like Goldman Sachs are making so much money so soon after the financial system nearly collapsed. High-frequency trading is one answer.

Since some 40-70% of daily NYSE trading volume fall into that category, at even a quarter cent per share, that’s no small change.


Healthcare Reform Propaganda.

In my post Monday, I noted that:

President Obama’s push for a bill by August seems to be faltering, thanks in large part to the Dem “Blue Dogs” freaked out by incomplete cost estimates being churned out by the CBO.

The preliminary study of the Senate bill was released June 15, and didn’t score the effects of a public option or employer mandates. It estimated that the total cost over ten years would be $1 trillion and provide coverage to an additional 17 million people. On July 2, the CBO modified its analysis using updated data and concluded that the cost over ten years would be $611 billion and cover 21 million of the uninsured.

Not that you would know it from the tube coverage. As Media Matters points out:

CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC aired at least 15 segments to discussing the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary analysis of an incomplete version of the Senate health committee’s draft health reform bill, but they have aired only one segment to the CBO’s analysis of the updated bill.

Facts are stubborn things. Bogus facts used to shape a new or emerging narrative are, for reasons related to the narrative structures of the brain, extremely difficult to dislodge since it means changing entire networks of neurons. These include emotional patterning— how we felt when we first heard the ‘news,’  as well as how we’ve incorporated that news into the neural networks that undergird our self-identity, especially if it contains a moral component (something evolution spent many moons selecting for).  While revising a story may be relatively easy at an intellectual level, rewiring its emotional content and the sense of moral outrage it originally generated  is quite another matter.  Said Tolstoy:

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life.

Pentagon propagandists know the importance of cognitive framing all too well.  How many times have we heard preliminary reports about military strikes resulting in large number of “enemy” deaths that later turn out to have been mostly innocent civilians?  For example, predator drones kill 98 civilians for every 2 militants.  But initial reports are almost always framed as the successful killing of high level Taliban or al Qaeda leaders.  Only later do we sometimes hear about “collateral damage.”

We saw a similar disinformation technique at work in the Jessica Lynch “hero” fantasy, fabricated during the time when the brutal costs of the occupation of Iraq were hitting home.  And in Afghanistan, we were told that Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire, though it was obvious from the very beginning that he died at the hands of his own troops.  But that was the same week that the Abu Ghraib photos were released, and the Pentagon desperately needed to regain control of the hero v. villain narrative.

Of course the same problem with cognitive revisionism is observable in the print media.  What has more impact:  a front page story blaring out something sensational but bogus;  or a small print correction buried somewhere else in the paper after the original news cycle has passed?

Framing the narrative is essential to controlling it.  Or as George  Orwell put it:

He who controls the present, controls the past.  He who controls the past, controls the future.

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