March 1, 2011

Up to a point, Lord Bloomberg

From the New York Times:
Bloomberg Seeks to Dominate World of Opinion

Over the last year, representatives of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg [net worth; $17 billion] quietly reached out to a handful of the country’s top journalists with an intriguing job offer: Divine and distill his unique brand of political philosophy and disseminate it around the globe for an annual salary of close to $500,000.

In interviews inside a grand Beaux-Arts town house on the Upper East Side, he spoke with candidates about education reform, post-partisan politics and urban affairs. And in a slightly startling admission for a man of abundant self-certainty, he acknowledged that there remained essential areas where he had yet to develop convictions. “I don’t know what to do about Afghanistan,” he said during the process, according to a person familiar with that conversation.

After conquering Wall Street in the 1970s, crushing competitors in the information-technology industry in the ’80s and reigning over New York City politics for the past decade, the ever-ambitious Mr. Bloomberg now wants to dominate a new sphere — the world of opinion.
At the mayor’s urging, his giant media company will soon make a splashy foray into opinion, churning out columns and essays on issues as varied as gun control and deficit spending. At the center: up to two editorials a day that channel the views of Mr. Bloomberg himself....

As with all of his undertakings, Mr. Bloomberg is sparing no expense. Offering outsized salaries, Bloomberg View has hired editors away from a variety of national publications, like The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Week. And it has begun recruiting a stable of well-known contributors, like Peter R. Orszag, President Obama’s former budget director, who briefly wrote a column for The Times last year.

Orszag's first two columns for the New York Times were comically bad sub-Gladwellian sermons:
Success in most arenas of life is thus not a reflection of innate skill but rather devoted effort. 

When readers cuffed him around badly in the comments section, Orszag huffily replied:
Indeed, the examples we have of individuals who put in 10,000 or more hours of dedicated practice and fail to achieve stunning levels of performance is quite limited — because most people are not willing to put in that time and effort.

When the first name of a hotshot pundit you leak is Peter Orszag, you're just reinforcing assumptions that you aren't in the opinion business, you're in the business of providing sinecures for future high ranking government officials.

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

"the business of providing sinecures for future high ranking government officials."

Another way to say that is, the business of recruiting and organizing talent to staff an administration. You not only build goodwill, you get to evaluate your future staffers. How do they perform, how do they interact with others, etc.

josh said...

"Up to a point, Lord Bloomberg"

I get it.

Evil Sandmich said...

Divine and distill his unique brand of political philosophy and disseminate it around the globe for an annual salary of close to $500,000.

Wouldn't it be cheaper just to post a link to Stuff White People Like?

Harry Baldwin said...

The trouble with a lot of Bloomberg's views, such as those on gun control, the Ground-Zero Mosque, and illegal immigration, is that that they run smack into the brick wall of public opinion. No amount of turd-polishing and $500,000 salaries is going to change any of that.

AMac said...

So Mayor Bloomberg's notion is to co-opt talent -- subtly or otherwise -- and have them expound on ideas he approves of.

A challenging and novel approach. I am glad that the NYT has chosen to report it.

Given the Times' continuing financial perils, I wonder... is there any chance that the paper's owners could find synergies between similar desires of another Super-Rich person and their own needs?

Even a Slim possibility?

AMac said...

Others, too, may need to Google up a reference for Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Paavo said...

Funny how Orszag seems to be inviting comments about the 10 000 000 dollars rule of success in politics. Is mentioning the 10 000 hours just a hidden way to protest against how Bloomberg is buying hacks like him to achieve political success.

I can't believe that people take this 10 000 hours rule seriously.

First analogy to pop into my mind is that growing more than 7 feet tall is not a reflection of genes and nutrition, but rather a reflection of devoted effort of staying alive 10 000 hours or more.

But as it is clear that people become rather succesful in most areas before they have spent 10 000 hours practicing.

I haven't read Outliers, but using the Beatles as an example is kinda disingenious as being able to perform more than 10 000 hours of live music and make your living doing that is success for a musicians. So the Beatles we're succesful before they met the 10 000 hours rule.

And the Beatles isn't remembered because of their live performance. Nor their playing skills. People who love
The Beatles always talk about the songwriting. I bet that they didn't devotedly practise composing or writing lyrics before they wrote their first bestselling songs. So they didn't meet the 10 000 hour rule, but seemed to innately capable and mostly just lucky.

Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan is a much more convincing book about the Outliers, even when it's kind of annoying when Taleb is not discussing ideas, but making jokes and being an obnoxious crank.

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg has been turning over countless public assets to private developer friends and heaping tax subsidies on them - Bruce ratner is an example - his latest is building over some of the last open wetlands in NYC - then he turns around and bans smoking in public.

I remember a couple of years ago his buddies floated stories about a presidential run.. and some journalist put in a line 'he's just the sort of outsider that can shake things up in washington"
Yeah, a wall street billionaire, open borders pro israel shrill, gun control nut.. never seen one of those before.

Eric Falkenstein said...

When you are at the top of several social status ladders as Bloomberg is, the only thing really complementary is the intellectual route, as I'm sure many flatterers tell him how wise he is. But usually good managers don't have keen big picture insights.

The good thing is that by trying this, and getting feedback, he'll learn. Rich guys who never do this die thinking they could be a modern Montaigne if they only had the desire or time.

Anonymous said...

Let a hundred flowers bloomberg.

Chicago said...

He really needs to come up with a little book with a well chosen color, such as Gaddafi's green book or Mao's little red book. Perhaps Bloomberg's little lavender book would be the way to go. Op-ed pieces aren't any good as the masses don't read anything anyway; you have to put things into a popular format that's not too demanding. This way the average, and even the sub-average, peasant can benefit from all of Lord Bloomberg's wisdom by simply whipping out their copy whenever they're stumped and seeing what he has to say about it. Lord Bloomberg's Little Lavender Book has such a nice ring to it.

DCThrowback said...

The obvious unanswered question from your post, Steve, is would you go to work for Bloomberg for that kind of money?

OR - is it the bias of self selection, where he'll pick folks who will simply parrot what he knows to be true so that it comes with an intellectual hue?

Fred said...

"Another way to say that is, the business of recruiting and organizing talent to staff an administration."

No, that's not the point of sinecures, anon. The point is to influence current politicians and officials. They know that if their policies are consistent with Bloomberg's there's a chance of a Bloomberg sinecure in their future.

This is, by the way, what Saudi Arabia has done for years: hire former administration officials to sinecures at think tanks they fund.

Fred said...

Steve, you should apply for a job there. You could be the in-house contrarian, like Douthat is at the NY Times (and Safire was before him).

El Gordo said...

This is not a new idea, just brazenly executed.

For all the money Carlos Slim loses on the NYT, his pay-per-pundit ratio is probably higher than the $500k Bloomberg is now offering.

Bloomberg's unabashedly style at least has the advantage of efficiency: more of his payola ends up in the pockets of his mouthpieces than the traditional model Slim if using.

Anonymous said...

Is Bloomberg trying to Portlandize NY city?


http://www.economist.com/node/15911324


The above article is hilarious. SWPL must think they are soooo wonderful and cool because they elected a gay mayor. I guess it's the same logic as voting for a black guy to be president. They just love symbolism over substance.

Anyway, what is funny is Portlanders say they want a tight-knit urban community without the sprawl of so many other big cities, especially Los Angeles. Sprawl in LA may indeed be crazy, but what is often called 'sprawl' in other cities is merely a euphemism for white flight(whites fleeing from urban centers) or black blight(blacks pushed to the edges or suburbs via gentric cleansing, as in Paris and in NY to some extent).
Portland can choose to reject sprawl since it's dominated by SWPL. (Is SWPL pronounced 'swapple'? 'Stuff white people like' is a mouthful).
If Portland had lots of dangerous blacks or poor Hispanics, its white community would not be so closely knit. They would either be moving OUT of the city to the outlying areas or pushing non-whites into the outlying area, of course by economic means since political means would be 'racist'.

Furthermore, the real irony is that Portland is, in the larger context, part of the national sprawl. Its rise as an 'elite city' was the result of privileged white people moving away to a city recreated as a kind of white suburb. A city with a green front lawn. Portland was created by whites who fled from darkening realities elsewhere in the country.
And all the expensive 'eco-friendly' stuff can be afforded by swapples in Portland cuz they are RICH.
So, the idea of using Portland as a model for other cities is ridiculous. Even if Detroit were to adopt the Portland model, how many swapples would move there? I heard Detroit has a lot of green space now. Shouldn't swapples see it as paraside? But of course there are too many blacks, so swapples across the country sprawl out to cities like Portland.

Ironically, privileged rich whites who most enjoy the fellowship of white community and white power/wealth are also the most likely to be liberal, ideologically anti-white, and ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Did you hear that Natalie Portman has eviscerated Galliano by proclaiming that "he, is, no longer, a friend, of MINE."

lol.

What do you think Steve?

Anonymous said...

btw, your snickeradoo "LORD Bloomberg" strikes me as a lot of snicker and snark--- i thought you were above that resentment stuff.

Anonymous said...

"As with all of his undertakings, Mr. Bloomberg is sparing no expense. Offering outsized salaries, Bloomberg View has hired editors away from a variety of national publications, like The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Week. And it has begun recruiting a stable of well-known contributors, like Peter R. Orszag, President Obama’s former budget director, who briefly wrote a column for The Times last year."

We all know how frustrating this must be for Steve living off PayPal donations, given the lame and putrid content spewing out of the mass media sphincters.

Tino said...

10.000 hours is only five years of working a standard 9-5 job.

A PhD degree requires more than 10.000 hours of work. About 1% of Americans have a PhD.

If you work in for example finance or high-end law or consulting, 10.000 hours is about 3 years of work.

I don't think I know many people who have *not* put 10.000 hours or more in mastering an activity, and not all of them are successful.

Anonymous said...

Providing sinecures for future high ranking government officials *is* the same thing as shaping opinion.

Its just elite opinion you're shaping, not public opinion.

Should I be concerned that a really smart and successful guy has decided that shaping elite opinion and not public opinion is the way to get the Presidency?

Eric Rasmusen said...

"the business of providing sinecures for future high ranking government officials."
Good thought. This is an especially good way to do it, because you appeal to both their greed and their vanity. Maybe nobody else would publish their columns even for free, but you publish thema dn pretend they're worth $500,000/year. Having a comments section after such columns is a very bad idea, tho--- the whole idea is to stroke their egos.

Chief Seattle said...

One way to test Orszag's hypothesis would be to track performance in Chinese and Romanian gymnastics programs. Any failure there is not going to be due to lack of practice.

Anonymous said...

You're a curmudgeon.

fish said...

Doesn't Bloomberg already pontificate on a near daily business?

Maybe he's just tired.

Whiskey said...

Bloomberg is dreaming. He's destined for failure. He's not even popular in NYC due to failure to remove snow. And lives in the Huffington Post bubble like an aging athlete with his paid entourage.

What does Bloomberg offer that Obama does not provide in even greater abundance: Puritan-style "total control" over daily life (regulate salt in fast food) while failing to provide the basics (snow removal, crime, national security, cheap oil)? Bloomberg is the White Obama and will fail, completely.

Comment Inflation said...

To author of blog: What is your problem with Bloomberg? He is exactly the sort of person that you should like: He isn't whiny or entitled and he is a talented self-made man. He is quintessentially "American." I hate to "go there" but it seems that his Jew-ness has something to do with it.

So, let's observe:

Jews and asians are bad because they work so hard and are so disciplined, or as you put it "game the system."

NAMs are bad because they are entitled and prone to criminality.

There seems to be only one group above reproach.

Dennis Dale said...

Bloom's compiling his comprehensive Green Book. I hope I'm around for the ramling, defiant speech from a ramshackle Manhattan hi-rise in the not-too-distant future.

Fred said...

The problem the paleo right has in this country is that any righty rich enough to do what Bloomberg is doing will have the same views as Bloomberg on the major economic issues (immigration and trade). Bloomberg View will ape the WSJ on economic issues and the NY Times on social issues.

Conatus said...

The Gini coefficient is a measure of income disparity. It was 46 in the U.S. in 1929, went down to 38 in 1968, when we were more equal income-wise and is now back up to 46. That there are billionaires who can buy and sell opinions like commodities is pretty well understood, what is less recognized is the change in trust law that is ending the rule against perpetuities. This rule set a time limit of about 100 years for direct control of family fortunes. Presently the states are enacting laws that end the rule against perpetuities so they might attract trust money to their state banks. This means fortunes such as Bloombergs will last indefinitely under the direct control of his descendants and their political leanings. This will have a tendency to concretize the Gini coefficient to the existing South American-like levels leaving only Europe and Japan as somewhat equal places to live.

Anonymous said...

this is one of those situations where you have a point, but you may be overstating it a bit. bloomberg himself and bloomberg tv seems unusual in promoting reasonably intelligent ideas which fall to the right of the spectrum. it seems likely that he's paying for prestige to build the bloomberg opinion brand, rather than to favor seek or develop a reputation for favor seeking. bloomberg really doesn't need much, after all.

Anonymous said...

in-house contrarian, like Douthat is at the NY Times

NY times has never had a true in house contrarian. its more degrees of difference - eg 'lets wait to bomb iran' or 'lets not open all the borders legally but just grant continue to ignore illegal immigration' you'll never find a true paleo writing there.

Conatus said...

The Gini Coeficient was 46 in the U.S. in 1929, it was 38 in 1968 and now it is 46 again. That billionaires can buy and sell opinions like commodities is well known. What is less well known is how long this will last. The rule against perpetuities is a legal concept that basically limited direct control of family fortunes to approximately 100 years. The state legislatures, in their rush to attract banking trust business are repealing the rule against perpetuities so fortunes like Bloombergs will last indefinitely.
The end result will be the Gini Coeficient will concretize at 46 and we will be more like South American than Europe or Japan.

jody said...

personally i was fairly insulted when bloomberg went far, far out of his way in pursuit of his fanatical gun grabbing agenda, by going to other states looking for law breakers. what business does he have doing that?

what if state employees from a random state went to new york city and routinely filmed and documented the myriad immigration law violations that occur there daily, all of which are sanctioned by bloomberg?

Anonymous said...

To author of blog: What is your problem with Bloomberg? He is exactly the sort of person that you should like: He isn't whiny or entitled and he is a talented self-made man.
bloomberg is a multiculturalist,
open borders globalist pro israel pro iraq war douchbag.. the kind of thing the author of this blog doesn't like.

Anonymous said...

" To author of blog: What is your problem with Bloomberg? He is exactly the sort of person that you should like: He isn't whiny or entitled and he is a talented self-made man. He is quintessentially "American." I hate to "go there" but it seems that his Jew-ness has something to do with it.

So, let's observe:

Jews and asians are bad because they work so hard and are so disciplined, or as you put it "game the system."

NAMs are bad because they are entitled and prone to criminality.

There seems to be only one group above reproach."


The problem with Bloomberg is that he undermines the kind of society that makes his type of success possible in the first place.

What we have here is a tacit conspiracy of the top of society using the bottom of society to destroy the middle.

It really isn't that hard to figure out once you drop the "Steve is a racist anti-semite" shtick and try looking at things from a HBD point of view which understands that the long term viability of Western Civilization does not rest on IQ-fetishism or worshiping the rich and powerful who are most successful at "gaming the system" as you put it and who are busy corrupting the system even further.

If you think that Bloomberg is "quintessentially American" you're nuts and you don't know what an American really is. Too many people have bought into libertarian and liberal "proposition nation" myths where "America" is not a people but simply an idea, an ideology, or, when you get down to it, simply a geographical expression with a certain political and economic system, suitable for exploitation by any who are smart enough, ruthless enough, and sociopathic enough to fight their way to the top.

America: flophouse for the world. Plutocrats and peons of all races welcome.

ricpic said...

The poor bastard caught the presidential bug and that's all he can think of, not how personally unattractive he is, not how dated his beautiful person brand of liberalism has become, just a steady presidential pounding in his head.

Thripshaw said...

Whiskey nailed it. Bloomberg is a shorter, geekier, older and whiter Obama. Who does he think he's going to fool? His "ideology" consists of every stupid, destructive piece of conventional wisdom shared by the morons of the main stream media.

Most of whom are also members of his tribe.

Good luck getting contrary opinions, rabbi Bloomberg.

Anonymous said...

"Others, too, may need to Google up a reference for Up to a point, Lord Copper."

Waugh wrote in a more industrial age than ours. It would now have to be Lord Bond Tips. Hmm, Bond Gossip?

Baloo said...

"Flophouse for the world." Brilliant! Anon, may I put it on a T-shirt?

Kylie said...

"btw, your snickeradoo "LORD Bloomberg" strikes me as a lot of snicker and snark--- i thought you were above that resentment stuff"

Apparently his literary allusion was above you.

If it hadn't been, you'd have been able to provide a context for his remark and might even have thought it, as the rest of us did, clever rather than snarky.

Anonymous said...

Seems like media in Putin's Russia is Bloomberg's model for an independent press.

Anonymous said...

what's with the semicolon?

I don't see that error in the NYT article. Did they fix it?

chris said...

Is SWPL pronounced 'swapple'?

It should be sweeple, as in sheeple.

Mr. Anon said...

Comment Inflation said...

"To author of blog: What is your problem with Bloomberg? He is exactly the sort of person that you should like: He isn't whiny or entitled and he is a talented self-made man. He is quintessentially "American." I hate to "go there" but it seems that his Jew-ness has something to do with it."

No, I rather think it's Bloomberg's "asshole-ness" that's at issue.

BTW, I don't read the financial press much - just an article here and there - but I get the impression that Bloomberg Financial's reporting is actually pretty good. They've reported on a lot of the seemier aspects of the recent/current crisis in finance; they haven't just repeated the propaganda as one sees in the WSJ. Anyone else, who follows the financial press, have an opinion on this? Am I in error?

TGGP said...

Carlos Slim made money off his NYT investment.

I don't think Bloomberg will get anywhere with this venture (his earlier aspirations at national office were hopeless). But I think he will remain dominant in New York and will be re-elected if he wants to continue the job.

Dave said...

"Anyone else, who follows the financial press, have an opinion on this? Am I in error?"

No, you are correct. Bloomberg offers first rate journalism and commentary, better than the WSJ and NYT online and in print (Bloomberg's magazine), and better than CNBC on TV. Which makes it stupid for Bloomberg to mess with it.

Chris said...

He is exactly the sort of person that you should like: He isn't whiny or entitled and he is a talented self-made man.

I absolutely love Ceausescu too! Who on earth could be more American than that.

Anonymous said...

"America: flophouse for the world. Plutocrats and peons of all races welcome."

America: A land of plutocrats, peons, and patriots. May the patriots triumph.

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg is doing what Charles Foster Kane did in Citizen Kane.

Anonymous said...

"Up to a point, Lord Bloomberg"

"I get it."

I don't get it. What was Sailer alluding to?

Anonymous said...

"But as it is clear that people become rather succesful in most areas before they have spent 10 000 hours practicing.
I haven't read Outliers, but using the Beatles as an example is kinda disingenious as being able to perform more than 10 000 hours of live music and make your living doing that is success for a musicians. So the Beatles we're succesful before they met the 10 000 hours rule."

George Harrison was as dedicated to music as Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Yet, Lennon, even when taking it easy, wrote better songs than Harrison when working very hard. All in all, Harrison managed to write only two great songs as a Beatle: While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something(though he wrote several good songs, like Think for Yourself and Taxman).

Anonymous said...

"Whiskey nailed it. Bloomberg is a shorter, geekier, older and whiter Obama."

Bloomberg thinks NY is and should be the world. What works for NYers doesn't work for everyone else.

helene edwards said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there seems to be a word used promiscuously by SWPL but never by normal people. It's "deeply," as
in,

"I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano's comments that surfaced today ..."

I don't even rememember gay men in the '70's using it.

Anonymous said...

" Is SWPL pronounced 'swapple'?

It should be sweeple, as in sheeple."


I would advocate "swipple" on the grounds that it is the pronunciation closest to SWhiPL - ie the vowel should come from the "i" in "White". Using "a" or "e" doesn't make any sense if you are basing the pronunciation off of the words that SWPL is based on.

SWPL = "swipple".

Example usage: "The swipple are out in force tonight. Skinny jeans and Chomsky references everywhere."

none of the above said...

The 10,000 hours thing is probably a reasonable rule for achieving competence in some area, given the raw materials. That is, you know what you're doing, you understand the area pretty well, you are a competent practitioner of the art.

But success depends on all kinds of other stuff. In most fields, there's some role for luck and connections in success, and sufficiently bad luck or a lack of needed connections may keep you from succeeding. In some fields, there are far more people trying to succeed than positions available. Sports and the performing arts are both tournament kinds of field, where only a few of the competent, dedicated people trying can succeed. The world is full of would-be actors waiting tables, would-be quarterbacks selling cars, and would-be musicians teaching music classes at the local art center. And those are the ones who put in the 10,000 hours and more, who became competent practitioners at their art. But being the 200th-best quarterback in America, assuming you're not in college, doesn't pay the bills. Success in academia has a big element of tournament in it, too--plenty of people got PhDs in French Literature or Sociology, and never made it into a tenure track job. It's not like they didn't put in their 10,000 hours. They just didn't win the tournament.

Anonymous said...

"America: flophouse for the world. Plutocrats and peons of all races welcome."

"America: A land of plutocrats, peons, and patriots. May the patriots triumph."

I don't think so. Curly always got beat by Moe.

Anonymous said...

"We all know how frustrating this must be for Steve living off PayPal donations, given the lame and putrid content spewing out of the mass media sphincters."

Frustrating? No, it's hilarious.

Lewis said...

I suspected these sorts of things have been going on. I'm actually more concerned about the stuff that's not made public, like how the shadow money from Soros is spent on shaping opinions.

David said...

>What is your problem with Bloomberg?<

He buys people's opinions which are then falsely represented as their own opinions, and he does this in order to trick his way into greater political power. It isn't an original form of corruption, not by a long shot, but corruption and corrupting it remains all the same.

Next.

David said...

"Swipple" is the official pronunciation, short i.

It has the advantage of calling up no irrelevant associations of any importance. In contrast, "swapple" connotes someone swapping something, and "sweeple" puts one in mind of "sweep," as in "a clean sweep," more than of "sheep."

David said...

Addendum on "swipple":

The short i is necessary, for a long one connotes "swipe," as in steal.

"Swipple," short i, is a unique spoken identifier.

(The short i also lends an air of humor. "Swip" is funny, while "Sweep" and "Swap" are less so.)