Saturday, October 31, 2015
Friday, October 30, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Monday, October 26, 2015
Ben Bernanke’s memoir is out and the chatter about it inevitably turns to the sickening moments in September 2008 when “the world economy came very close to collapse.” Easy to say, but how many people know what that means? It’s every bit as opaque as the operations of the Federal Reserve itself.
There were many ugly facets to the problem but they all boiled down to global insolvency — too many promises to pay that could not be met. The promises, of course, were quite hollow. They accumulated over the decades-long process, largely self-organized and emergent, of the so-called global economy arranging itself. All the financial arrangements depended on trust and good faith, especially of the authorities who managed the world’s “reserve currency,” the US dollar.
By the fall of 2008, it was clear that these authorities, in particular the US Federal Reserve, had failed spectacularly in regulating the operations of capital markets. With events such as the collapse of Lehman and the rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it also became clear that much of the collateral ostensibly backing up the US banking system was worthless, especially instruments based on mortgages. Hence, the trust and good faith vested in the issuer of the world’s reserve currency was revealed as worthless.
The great triumph of Ben Bernanke was to engineer a fix that rendered trust and good faith irrelevant. That was largely accomplished, in concert with the executive branch of the government, by failing to prosecute banking crime, in particular the issuance of fraudulent securities built out of worthless mortgages. In effect, Mr. Bernanke (and Barack Obama’s Department of Justice), decided that the rule of law was no longer needed for the system to operate. In fact, the rule of law only hampered it.
Mr. Bernanke now says he “regrets” that nobody went to jail. That’s interesting. More to the point perhaps he might explain why the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission did not make any criminal referrals to the US Attorney General in such cases as, for instance, Goldman Sachs (and others) peddling bonds deliberately constructed to fail, on which they had placed bets favoring that very failure.
There were a great many such cases, explicated in full by people and organizations outside the regulating community. For instance, the Pro Publica news organization did enough investigative reporting on the racket of collateralized debt obligations to send many banking executives to jail. But the authorities turned a blind eye to it, and to the reporting of others, mostly on the web, since the legacy news media just didn’t want to press too hard.
In effect, the rule of law was replaced with a patch of official accounting fraud, starting with the April 2009 move by the Financial Accounting Standards Board involving their Rule 157, which had required banks to report the verifiable mark-to-market value of the collateral they held. It was essentially nullified, allowing the banks to value their collateral at whatever they felt like saying.
Accounting fraud remains at the heart of the fix instituted by Ben Bernanke and the ploy has been copied by authorities throughout the global financial system, including the central banks of China, Japan, and the European Community. That it seemed to work for the past seven years in propping up global finance has given too many people the dangerous conviction that reality is optional in economic relations. The recovery of equity markets from the disturbances of August has apparently convinced the market players that stocks are invincible. Complacency reigns at epic levels. Few are ready for what is coming.
I posted this video back in February 2013.
But not this version:
And speaking of what-a-difference-two-and-two-thirds-years make, remember this?
Well, check this out:
This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Dinner with a filmmaker/cinephile last night and we both agreed: 2015 is the worst year EVER for American film. An infection has arrived...— Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) October 22, 2015
I don't think so. Not with Straight Outta Compton, The Intern, Minions, et al. But stinkers like Mad Max: Fury Road, American Ultra, and Hitman: Agent 47 do cause worry about the state of the movies.
26 October update:
The Wall Steet Journal: "Huge Flops Hit the Box Office."
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The legacy mainstream media has a collective brain like dog’s — it exists in an eternal present, so that whatever’s happening right now is all there is. Thus, Hillary’s performance in the first Democratic debate, being as bad but not worse than her competitors’, means she has a lock on the nomination for president. The better part of a year lies between now and the convention, and time would be on the side of whatever force or figure rises to oppose the woman whose “turn” in power rides a myth of inevitability.
What perhaps ought to be more alarming is the way that the two major parties are lining up to be a men’s party and a woman’s party, a perfect acting-out of psychological archetypes in a society churning out millions of lost souls year-by-year. The American people apparently want a Daddy to fix all the broken systems and they want a Mommy to reassure them that everything will be all right. Hillary, of course, wants to be both, but her problem is that a lot of voters won’t accept her as either.
Her record doesn’t suggest she’s much good at fixing anything. That’s why the Benghazi affair is such a good stick to beat on her with. That was a moment when America needed a Daddy with a toilet plunger or a screw gun and all they got were cables from the home office saying everything was going to be all right. Mommy couldn’t save the Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans slaughtered there. The big pretense, of course, is the idea that congress holds hearings “so something like this will never happen again.”
It’s an interesting neurosis we’ve developed since the heyday of the assassinations in the late 1960s, this continuing promise to abolish the unforeseeable. Of course new atrocities happen all the time despite these ritual committee inquiries — these days, the mass murder of strangers is more in fashion than targeted political slayings — and there’s always another incident, and it ought to be obvious by now that we’re not so good at making sure that bad things don’t happen.
But that’s the Republican-controlled Benghazi Committee’s mission: to demonstrate that Mommy can’t fix stuff. It will be easily left to Hillary herself to prove that she’s not much good in the Mommy role either — reassuring the multitudes that everything’s going to be all right. Instead, Hillary falls back on an obsessive-compulsive pander tic, kind of an incessant hash-tag jabber of promises to the familiar cast of supplicants. Give it twelve months and see how sick of it the voters will get.
To see how much the Democrats have become the woman’s party, just consider the men candidates up on the debate stage: all pitiful archetypes. Bernie Sanders plays the meshugganah grandpa role reserved, on the screen, for Larry David [Larry David played Sanders on Saturday Night Live last week.--P.Z.] or Alan Arkin. He’s always worked up about something that nobody else can really get worked up about, always raising his voice and stabbing his finger in the air in imitation of Yahweh. There’s Jim Webb, a bobblehead rattling off long legalistic disquisitions that never get to whether he can fix something or not. [He's more substantial than Kunstler realizes, but Webb has just left the primary.--P.Z.] There’s Martin O’Malley, known primarily for his “six-pack” and “guns,” but with the persona of a frightened seven-year-old who doesn’t want to rile the teacher. And Lincoln Chaffee, a dizzy neighbor like Kramer in Seinfeld, butting in with cockamamie schemes that demonstrate he can’t fix anything.
Is it not amazing that the Democratic Party could not grudge up one figure really worth taking seriously? To me, this is truly symptomatic of how bereft of significance the party is? I’m not so sure the party will survive this election cycle. But the disorder across the gradient is equally impressive. The large Republican field of professional politician candidates is held in such bad odor as far as being able to fix anything, that the sinister clown Trump is able to put over his idiotic act of being a Daddy who can fix everything and anything, just by blustering. I suspect he’ll wear out his welcome — but if he doesn’t the Grand Old Party is showing serious signs of a serious crack-up.
Whoever get elected inn 2016 is going to face a crisis every bit as terrible as the crisis of 1860, only this time when the country blows it could come from a dozen different directions and be a lot harder to fix than the secession of Dixieland.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Still consider Hawaii my home, which is why this makes me so sad. "Ulupono" upright, righteous path...nauseating. https://t.co/JYku25kY5p— Lori Jablonski (@Lori_Jablonski) October 17, 2015
It's actually Tsargrad TV
Beautiful autumn colours on the Technical Site at Bicester Heritage today. pic.twitter.com/hK5HuyhMYe— Bicester Heritage (@BicesterH) October 14, 2015
Friday, October 16, 2015
I remember her for this.
Ilind.net: "Incident at University of Hawaii Cited in Harassment Findings Against High-Profile Berkeley Astronomer."
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
The Wikipedia article on William McKinley.
Historians regard McKinley's 1896 victory as a realigning election, in which the political stalemate of the post-Civil War era gave way to the Republican-dominated Fourth Party System, which began with the Progressive Era.
McKinley's name often figures among some in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, because the United States annexed Hawaii under his administration.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Kunstler: "Bang, You're Dead."
Others to read:
Michael Kimmel here and here.
Mass shooters by race and gender.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Thursday, October 08, 2015
Has she read Kunstler?
Louis Proyect reposts his old review of Whale Rider in a discussion of actor Cliff Curtis, one of the movie's stars, who now appears in a film about chess, and, unmentioned by Proyect, Fear the Walking Dead.
Monday, October 05, 2015
Senior administration officials say the new offensive holds promise and may change the dynamics on the ground.
— The New York Times
Whew…. That’s reassuring. Finally, a Middle East policy you can believe in.
It’s apparently based on a joint Kurdish-Arab army that our side (the USA) is pretending to assemble around the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, near the Turkish border. We’re informed also that American military officials have screened the leaders of the Arab groups to ensure that they meet standards set by Congress when it approved $500 million last year for the Defense Department to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Thank God we have a functioning HR department over there.
Is it safe to say that the table is now set for World War Three? King Salman of Saudi Arabia is itching to mix it up. Of course, the moment he sends official KSA ground troops in there, he will be eligible to have his oil terminal at Ras Tanura in the Persian Gulf blown up. Imagine what that would do to the S & P index. The Turks, too, are none too happy with their currency imploding and their economy falling apart, and perhaps view a widened war as politically refreshing. And let’s not forget Iran — having concluded the long, torturous negotiations to make America feel better about their nuke program, Iran is eager to put an end to this barbaric (Sunni-flavored) ISIS nonsense. Oh, did I leave out Israel. Probably a good idea since so many people just want to hate on it if the subject even comes up. But suffice it to say they are in the mix, too, with the ability to turn their adversaries into ashtrays, should it come to that.
As the old song goes: someone left the cake out in the rain. [Link added by me. ---P.Z.]
You had to at least admire the forthrightness of Mr. Putin. His economy of motion is breathtaking. He goes to the UN and says: “The situation in Syria is intolerable and we’re going to do something about it,” and a few days later they did. Russia commenced bombing groups that the US had labeled “the moderate opposition” to Bashar al-Assad. The quandary for the US, of course, as Mr. Putin pointed out at the UN, is that we keep on arming and training “moderate oppositions” to this regime and that regime and abracadabra (to use an old Middle Eastern term-of-art) they break bad on us. They use the Humvee’s we give them to control the landscape and they blow stuff up with the ordnance we give them, and cut off the heads of Americans on video in the rudest and cruelest manner imaginable. So, might we ask ourselves: is there anything to the US’s complaint that Russia is not bombing the right ISIS?
I suspect world opinion is not buying our claim that Bashar al-Assad has to go because he bombed his own citizens and used gas on them. I mean, we say that a lot, but is it actually true? US officials say a lot of things a lot that happen not to be true (e.g. the Federal Reserve’s claim that the US economy is humming.) In fact, we’re in this predicament precisely because we have squandered our credibility. We go into one country after another and destroy the institutions that held these places together, and leave a train of death and chaos behind. Iraq, Libya, Somalia, now Syria.
Maybe we just ought to step aside for a while and see what happens. The Russians could shoot themselves in the foot over there, of course. They did it before in Afghanistan. But that was back in Soviet times, with its clunky leadership. Mr. Putin proved pretty nimble in Georgia. Whatever else you can say about that little war, the region has been stable for years now. They’re not cutting off people’s heads on TV there. Similarly, you don’t hear much about Chechnyans perpetrating terrorist acts anymore.
Ukraine, for all its faults and troubles, was a stable country until the US decided to pull off regime change there. The deposed president Yanukovych was pressed into choosing between NATO and the Russian-backed Eurasian Custom’s Union and he chose wrong. The US pulled a few levers and abracadabra: civil war.
So, Assad still heads a government in Syria. We don’t like him because he is cozy with Iran, and their proxy war machine, Hezbollah. But will eliminating him make the situation any better?