Wednesday, March 9, 2016

High Time

Well, here we are. It's 2016 and the global economy still has not recovered from the so called Great Recession. How is it possible that things have improved hardly at all? Simples. The terminal state of the $IMFS, an acronym for the dollar based international monetary and financial system, will simply not allow for anything that smacks of a return to a healthy state.

In truth, the landscape that existed just before the onset of The Great Recession wasn't really healthy either. How could it have been since it gave rise to the ensuing collapse? The years that followed the end of the internet bubble bust may have seemed a time of halcyon breezes by comparison, but things were absolutely headed in the unhealthiest of directions from 2003 to 2007. The wide spread deployment of MBS, CDOs, and CDS attests to that fact. The period when instruments of mass destruction are being assembled is a happy one compared to the interval when said destructive devices are unleashed.

A tremendous amount of ink was spilled discussing and dissecting sub prime -and everything that was part and parcel of laying the groundwork for The Great Recession- in the aftermath of the aforesaid economic collapse, but our post Bretton Woods system, aka the $IMFS, has always been, at its core, all spur and no brake where credit/debt creation is concerned. As such, it really doesn't matter what the precise kind of debt instrument or credit derivative was at the scene of the crime, just that it was inevitable that some infernal debt concoction would be the culprit for a series of disastrous consequences. What's more, as the real economy choked on "old debt",  it was a foregone conclusion that ensuing debt gambits would become ever more audacious in their size and scope.

I am revisiting Disasterporn for the first time in approximately three years to proclaim that the forty four year old experiment, aka the $IMFS, is finally coming to an end, and in much less time than the time I've spent away from this blog. The monetary authorities have gone about as far as they can go, and, while they will undoubtedly unveil, or at least try to unveil, some number of idiotic schemes to keep the party going, by my runes, support for the system is now well down the road of entirely disintegrating.

Let it be known that foreigners hoarding U.S. sovereign debt has always been the linchpin keeping the $IMFS intact. When physical gold ceased to be the official reserve of the system, the world found it had no choice but to support the insupportable. The oil states, particularly the House of Saud, did what was in their best interest at the time and recycled their more than ample surpluses into Uncle Sam's debt. The rest of the world followed the oil state's lead and, though I am leaving out a few key details, suffice it to say that the rest is a litany of misallocation of wealth and mal-investment, and myriad other societal and cultural deformations, the likes of which the world has never even come close to seeing. From misbegotten monetary systems spring all manner of ills. As one of the Rothschild's observed several centuries ago, "Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws." I choose to take that bit of pith to mean not that he who has the most money wins, but, rather, the kind of monetary system one employs has everything to say about how those under its sway are apt to behave. And, so, here we are, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, faced with The Donald versus Hillary.

In fairness to our forefathers who cobbled together the ramshackle $IMFS, the world really didn't have a choice back then. The dollar had to be supported as there was no alternate currency system that could adequately handle world trade. In short, the choice was support the unbacked dollar or face global barter town. Trust me when I say that you absolutely don't want door no. 2. Thankfully, this no choice condition no longer obtains. However desperate the situation appears in the EZ, and it appears quite desperate indeed, my view is that the Euro is here to stay. Most pertinently, the Euro, which can certainly be mentioned in conjunction with the EZ, but should not be conflated with it, was built precisely to survive the dollar's inevitable collapse. Right about now you may be saying to yourself, "The last time I checked the world seemed quite pleased to pony up and buy U.S. sovereign debt."

Indeed. Private capital is still heartily engorging itself on Uncle's IOUs...for now. But there is clear evidence that officialdom, particularly officials who represent nation states who operate with surpluses, not deficits, are no longer bellying up to the bar as they once did. You may have heard or otherwise noticed that China and Saudi Arabia are spending down their dollar reserves toute suite. On the surface it might appear that this is simply due to economic hard times, but I submit that, certainly in the case of the U.S.' number one creditor, China, that there is far more to the story. China stopped becoming a net buyer of Uncle's IOUs a few years ago, and, what's more, even as China has been selling down their reserves, they have been adding physical gold to their official coffers. The House of Saud's activities are more opaque, but, then, it is a matter of record that they are long standing enthusiastic owners of tremendous stores of physical gold. In the meantime, the preponderance of CBs around the world, Venezuela and their minority ilk notwithstanding, are net buyers, not net sellers, of the shiny. To be perfectly clear in a non Nixon like fashion, I do not advocate or expect the emergence of yet another iteration of the gold standard, but I am fully expecting that gold will be the sole asset utilized to effect an overdue and desperately needed monetary and financial system reset.  After all, gold's unique attributes mean that it is the only asset in existence that can both retire the mountainous debt and allow the the old system to, in essence, swap out its bad DNA for good.

But let me conclude this post by briefly returning to the concept of "private capital" for a moment. Private capital's buying, whether it be real estate, or paper assets is qualitatively different than official buying. Private capital is in it to make money. Officialdom, on the other hand, buys to provide support to the system, and doesn't worry too terribly much about profit and loss. Quantitative Easing, of which there has been a boatload over these last seven years, is an excellent, albeit extreme, example of official buying enacted for the purpose of systemic support. For officialdom, making money on such deals, when it happens, is just a happy accident. Things always eventually go sour for private capital, especially in the $IMFS, where serial bubbles and busts are endemic to the system. As far as the system is concerned, that's generally manageable as long as officialdom fills the void left by fleeing private capital. What sunk the last system was a lack of support, and so too will that be this system's ultimate undoing. At such time as we find ourselves in a world where private capital's buying of U.S. sovereign debt constitutes the market entirely, or even just mostly, only the thinnest divide will then exist between a condition where dollars buy much more than they ought to and dollars that can barely buy anything at all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident

The following list comprises an incomplete and disparate selection of truths-according to me- on a variety of observed phenomenon.

1.)  The United States of America, long a police state, has now become a police state run amok.
2.)  The only way to change the system is to operate outside it, and starve it into oblivion. Reform worthy of the name is NOT possible from within.
3.) Blogging may not be entirely useless as an instrument of change, but, as an instrument of activism, it is far closer to useless than useful.
4.) China is a monstrous experiment in capitalism gone wrong.
5.) Those who present as Hale Fellows Well Met, seldom are upon close inspection.
6.) All things being equal, the older one gets the more insight into the human condition one acquires, until, at some unspecified age, a lifetime of wisdom is compromised by the general degradation of that which houses it.
7.) You can always tell when a tool is important, because the world remakes itself around the tool.
8.) Money must be useless to be money. The minute money has a utility beyond its function as either a medium of exchange, a store of value, or a unit of account it is no longer fit to be money. 
9.) There are few places in the United States that offer pleasant weather during the summer months.
10.) Memory is faulty, but, nevertheless, in recalling past events, however inaccurately, truth is revealed.
11.) Without even trying, one's children expose all one's flaws.
12.) A dog is better than a cat
13.) A cat is better than a dog
14.) A fish in one's tank may be a variety of things, but it is never a pet.
15.) Minivan's are a boon only to those who drive them, and then only just.
16.) A Proper night's Sleep is vastly more important than a proper breakfast.
17.) One can either be married and systematically aggravated or single and chronically lonely.
18.) Vanity has few advantages. One of them is that it sometimes over rides gluttony.
19.) Driving is exhilarating when one is young, a tedious bore in middle age, and a terrifying adventure when one is old.
20.) Lists, like the one you've just come to the end of, are usually hit and miss.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Want Your Vote

The senior Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, is vacating his seat in order to be appointed the nation's Secretary of State. In the meantime, a mad rush is on from both political parties to fill the void. As one might expect in the Commonwealth, such hoary political names as Kennedy and Weld are being bandied about as potential replacements. And, then, of course, there is the freshly vanquished interim Senator, Scott Brown, who, word has it, will also be tossing his undistinguished hat into the ring. Frankly, even though this is just a matter of bad luck for denizens of Massachusetts, the prospect of having to face yet another another ghastly election season feels just a tad punitive. I, for one, inspired perhaps by the mysterious synergy of my own personal idiosyncrasies with the fearsome zeitgeist known as The Mayan Apocalypse, am less than thrilled . Which brings me to this:

How would you respond to the following appeal if it was made to you in the form of a document delivered to your front door, or one handed to you as you walked down the street, or, perhaps, if it was made available to you in the form of a flyer on the wall at your favorite local haunt? Would you ignore it or read it, at least in part? And, if so, what would be the chance that you would do anything substantial as a result? So, without further ado, here 'tis:                  
                                                   Edwardo For Massachusetts Senator

Welcome to my campaign. This post constitutes my first act towards running for Senator of Massachusetts. Before acquainting you with my political orientation and legislative agenda, I'd like to tell you who I am and provide you with some personal details that may be of interest to you as you consider my candidacy.

First and foremost, I'm a private citizen with absolutely no background in politics. The closest I have ever come to politics was an introductory political science course in college and some brief campaigning for Bruce Babbitt two decades ago. To some of you this may not matter, for others, it will provide an immediate disqualification to my candidacy. For most of you I hope my status as a bona fide outsider is refreshing news.

I recently turned fifty, and live in_______with my wife______and my two children__________ and our pug_______.  I'm a musician/composer by training, though I haven't worked as a music teacher for a number of years.  Last, but not least, I’m in reasonably good health.


Through much of recorded human history the realm of politics and government has been viewed by many with a mixture of awe and revulsion. There is ample justification for this attitude since the acquisition and exercise of power has all too often been in the service of less than noble motives. And while I don't wish to belabor the point, or, worse, cast myself as being above it all- I'm not- I would simply like to point out what is probably already apparent to many of you which is that our present brand of politics and government here in the United States is, sadly, no exception to the proverbial rule. 

To some degree, the lamentable state of our national politics and government has impelled me towards an improbable run for office. Things must be pretty bad for that to happen, because, if you knew me, you’d recognize that I'm not a natural politician. I’m neither interested nor gifted in the art of being popular. Nor am I the sort of person who acts to bolster confidence in an enterprise at the expense of giving an unvarnished report that runs the risk of upsetting the apple cart. Fortunately, we don’t need more public servants that excel at public relations on behalf of themselves and a broken political system.  

                                                                  My Appeal to You

If you agree with me that we as a nation, particularly at the federal level, have strayed into unacceptable political practices, and that, as a result, government has become severely compromised, I have good news for you. Things can still be turned around. Profound improvement is within our reach. But in order to succeed the voting public must reject the usual cast of revolving door political operators offered up at each election cycle. Whatever their nominal political stripe may be, these well known cast of characters are all, by definition, captives of the present deeply corrupt, bogus two party system. And if anything has been demonstrated over the last generation of politics, it is that no authentic reform will be generated by those who reside within the system.  

                                                                  The Agenda

Given the emphasis I place on the necessity of dramatic political reform, I think it's fitting to begin this long (but by no means exhaustive) legislative “to do” list with the following planks.

                                                               Shortened Elections

On could easily underestimate the inherent harm being done to our society by an atmosphere of relentless political campaigning. Election seasons have become agonizingly long and exorbitantly expensive even as they are increasingly tedious and devoid of substance. By itself, the enormously time consuming nature of campaigns for federal office insures that politics are captive to moneyed interests, and that a high level of government functioning is unattainable. Limiting campaigns to no more than nine weeks from beginning to end means far fewer funds will be required to run campaigns, and that, by itself, would act as a great leveler of the political playing field. Thrown into the bargain we would end the insidious condition whereby we now select and elect candidates whose primary qualifications are that of a fundraiser first, a campaigner second, and a trusted and competent legislator or executive a distant third. This state of affairs is completely antithetical to decent government, and it can be corrected by creating conditions that remove the influence of moneyed interests from politics.

                                                                 Term Limits

It is axiomatic that very few incumbents lose hold of their seats. With few exceptions this is to no one’s benefit. Holding office was never intended to be a career, let alone a lifelong gravy train, but that is what it has become for those who are well connected and/or sufficiently wealthy to run winning political campaigns. In concert with the reduction in the amount of time set aside for elections, removing the possibility of lifelong tenure for elected officials will erode the overbearing influence of the special interest/lobbyist juggernaut that presently has a stranglehold on the actions of the political class. Last, but not necessarily least, by enacting term limits for legislators we will attract a different caliber of person to public service, namely someone who is committed to the idea of public service as an end in itself and likewise believes that it is the sole reason to seek, attain, and hold public office.

                                                          The Popular Vote
With respect to Presidential elections, the Electoral College system must be replaced by the popular vote. At one time the Electoral College had a certain logic operating in its favor, but, in our time, it simply leads to egregiously skewed contests where candidates spend inordinate amounts of time, money, and effort in a handful of key “battleground” states.  It is past time to decide Presidential elections by means of the popular vote. 

I hasten to add that everything on The Agenda that follows from here rests on enacting the above political reforms. On the surface it may seem that finding a workable solution to, for example, the Federal Government’s deplorable fiscal and financial condition is more important than, say, enacting term limits, but without the necessary systemic political reforms all the other items on The Agenda will have little chance of being passed. At this point, our political system is so badly corroded it will admit very little in the way of constructive change until such time as the system itself is overhauled. Any candidate for higher office who does not openly acknowledge this set of circumstances and subsequently pledge to reform the system as their top priority is, whether they mean to be or not, part of the problem, and does not deserve your vote. 

                                                                 To be continued

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I'm Baaaack!

I may not be better than ever though. In the meantime, I'm going to pledge to my erstwhile dear readers who have, quite sensibly, long since deserted my barren little blog, that I am planning to post one sumptuous piece a month. Should that initiative go reasonably well-don't ask how I will know if it goes well- I will endeavor to post once a fortnight. The Peter Principle, broadly defined may, at that stage, rear its ugly head and throw me back to a once a month offering, but now I'm getting just a tad ahead of myself.

So much has happened in our world since my last post, many months ago, though the changes have mostly been of the sort that may best be defined as beneath the surface. We are presently faced with a Presidential election that occurs in approximately two weeks, and, depending on which poll one subscribes to, what is left of the voting public that still subscribes to the worthiness of Presidential elections seems to be split down the middle regarding who they would prefer to hold executive power come 2013. I know I won't be part of the cult of votism where The Presidential election is concerned, but I will likely participate in the local referendum questions.

Suffice it to say that my view is that the trajectory of the course the U.S.S. USA is on will not markedly change regardless of who is nominally manning the helm come January.  There's just no room to maneuver any more as politics simply won't allow for the sort of bold, not to say draconian, responses that are required to address, for example, the government's seemingly intractable indebtedness. Enacting genuine solutions, as opposed to counterfeit ones, will be left to other actors, and, forces, and in their wake, nothing more than plentifully hollow excuses will be proffered by our political class.

In that light, if you haven't made preparations for the cataclysmic finale that will signify the bitter end of the dollar's global hegemony, I urge you to get with the program, pronto. After all, large swaths of the rest of the world have been preparing for the none too pleasant denouement of the greenback's reserve currency status for a number of years. That is, after all, what all the bi-lateral currency swap agreements that have been erected by and between a plethora of nations of all sizes and shapes are about. When the dollar reaches the event horizon of the looming financial system black hole that, with each passing week, draws ever closer, folks in other lands would like to be able to continue conducting trade for life's necessities. This is the proximate reason for the aforesaid agreements that are cropping up across the globe with all the dizzying frequency of dandelions growing in one's front (or back) yard after a heavy, spring rain.

With respect to timing, my view is that when The Europeans show some demonstrable progress in addressing the key issue that plagues them, namely how to stop living beyond their means via chronic debt expansion, all eyes will turn towards the U.S. and its own grotesque collection of financial excesses. My best guess for a time frame for a great reckoning on these shores is the middle of the decade whether or not the EZ gets things sorted. If, for example, the EZ manages to get a proposed banking union up and running by this coming year, the time line for the U.S. Gotterdammerung will accelerate. But, make no mistake, the train has long since left the station and is now well down the tracks. All that is in doubt is the ETA.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Vampire Squid and The Morgue

Two of the biggest swinging dick firms that still remain in the once vaunted Wall Street arena are Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. Over the last forty eight hours, in what strikes this onlooker as something of a fantastic temporal correlation, two public testimonials have appeared that excoriate the two aforesaid firms for profoundly unethical- or, perhaps more properly, thoroughly immoral- conduct. Unless you have lived under a very large and non porous rock for several years, if not longer, the perfidy of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan hardly comes as news. However, one devoutly hopes that whatever the intentions are of the authors of these very public jeremiads-more on that shortly- their damning admissions of (non specified) criminality will, in time, represent something of a watershed event.

In the meantime, pardon me if I detect the not so faint whiff of a rat, especially where the Goldman revelations are concerned. Greg Smith, the former Goldman Executive, makes various claims regarding the true nature of his erstwhile firm. Unfortunately a number of them strain credulity, not the least of which is that, in the not so distant past, Goldman Sachs operated at the highest levels of ethical conduct, systematically choosing "to do the right thing" in its dealings with its clients and other business partners. This will no doubt be news to folks such as Matt Taibbi, who, approximately two years ago, famously dubbed Goldman Sachs The Vampire Squid in response to their numerous misdeeds going back generations. How is it possible that such longstanding and systematic vile behavior, so well chronicled by Mr. Taibbi, has only recently become known to Mr. Smith? What's more, where is the evidence of the culture of do gooding that Mr. Smith purports to have, until only relatively recently, been subverted? To encapsulate, the New York Times op-ed written by Mr. Smith almost seems like a clever recasting of the essence of Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs is not the instinctively rapacious firm we thought (we knew) it was, but, rather, an avuncular outfit that lost its way due to some poor stewardship by CEO Lloyd "We're doing God's work" Blankfein who allowed a few- or maybe a few more than a few-bad apples to spoil what once was a bastion of rectitude. We can only hope that (should this be a very clever attempt to take pressure off Goldman by having a critical number of the public now believe that by dint of a few key firings The Vampire Squid can be transformed into a -name your favorite warm and fuzzy creature) such a gambit will fail. In the meantime, as always, we would do well to be more than a little reticent to buy whatever Goldman, or even a self professed, disaffected, ex Goldman man, is selling.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Fear for the future
As you live in a present
Undone by the past

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Occupy America

What does the Occupy Wall Street movement really amount to? Is it simply a nationwide act of civil protest by mostly youthful, disaffected citizens against a predatory and criminal finance industry (as represented by such commercial melafactors as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and the quasi private, state chartered Federal Reserve) or is there more going on? Who are the organizers of Occupy Wall Street? Is it, in fact, a leaderless, non hierarchical, self organizing entity that is not, in any meaningful way, controlled by some shadowy someone or something with an entirely different, perhaps even, sinister agenda-One World Government, for example- that is different from the one that the OWS movement ostensibly espouses.

I'm afraid I don't get out enough to have a firm first hand opinion of the precise nature of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it is my sense that, in the main, OWS participants are a peaceful, if somewhat scruffy group, who, contrary to a host of MSM reports, are neither violent nor criminal. In any event, even were the movement peopled entirely by nothing but some aggregation of entitled, snot nosed layabouts and/or execrable street thugs, the group's collective shortcomings and transgressions would pale beside those of the banksters and their wayward political enablers occupying our nation's capital.

In that sense, we would do well to not traduce the messenger let alone slay him. And by way of answering my own question, we would also do well to recognize some of the salient characteristics of this movement and its brief history as we try to figure out what Occupy Wall Street amounts to?

Here are a few key observations that, to date, I believe to be true about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

1.) Whatever hierarchy may exist within OWS it is, in fact, a youth movement. Many of the protesters are approximately of college age, most are under thirty.

2.) Unlike the Vietnam and Civil Rights era protesters the OWS youth are undeniably economically less well situated than both their parents and grandparents. More importantly, they are keenly aware of their condition, if, perhaps, a bit confused about how events and trends have conspired to leave them on the wrong side of the tracks financially and economically.

3.) So far, nothing the protestors have experienced by way of a response from the so called Powers That Be could be thought of as encouraging them to hold onto whatever faith in the system they may still possess. And that's understating the matter.

The following points are conjecture:

1.) Demographically, their numbers are all but certain to grow in the years ahead.

2.) Increasingly, for purposes of self esteem and survival there will be very little to encourage Occupy Wall Street protesters to continue to practice a mode of protest that is peaceful since it has garnered so little for the movement. Put another way, as Gerald Celente would say, those who have nothing to lose, lose it. The authorities have shown their hand in this regard. And even as the government prepare for greater unrest they all but guarantee that there will be more strife.

3.) The other strain of protest, besides outright and open defiance, will emerge in a different form that will constitute a kind of middle ground between peaceful protest and the throwing of molotov cocktails. This form of protest might even become a kind of nation building movement though that may be a bit grandiose and ambitious for what will, at the outset, amount to nothing less than a campaign of dropping out. Communities, hard scrabble ones, will form out of necessity and the values and ways of being that define these communities will be at variance with the values that have defined U.S. society for generations.

4.) The government will attempt to disrupt this movement. They already are engaged in preempting it if one looks at the recent passage of laws pertaining to the growing of one's own food. The government will fail, though they will, as is their wont, create a lot of misery on their way to a well deserved defeat.

In conclusion, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, though it has achieved very little, if anything, towards reigning in or redressing the crimes of the banking and so called financial services industry-which, for all intents and purposes doesn't even exist anymore on Wall Street- has, perhaps, taken the first steps towards setting in motion something far more profound, a society (within our society) that operates along genuinely different principles than those that inform the functioning of institutions that are now under protest.