Monday, August 31, 2009

Karl, I Challenge You.

One of the blogosphere's most prolific commentators on financial matters, Karl Denninger, has time and again put forward the mantra "stop the looting and start prosecuting" at the end of his numerous posts detailing financial malfeasance and criminality. There must be very few folks about the land who have spilled as much "ink" in vain as Mr. Denninger, because, to date, there have been no prosecutions of any institutions or individuals of significance. There has likewise been little or no reform of the financial system. It truly is business as usual out there with almost the entire mise en scene intact. Karl Denninger's plea, "stop the looting and start prosecuting" has, for all intents and purposes, been ignored.

I would like to issue the following challenge to Mr. Denninger and the rest of the financial "forensics" community. If the latest obvious expose of criminality is not prosecuted-I have in mind Hank Paulson's perjury before Congress concerning the use of TARP funds- will you admit that the United State's Federal Government must now be overturned by any means necessary? Will you admit that "We The People" have been given no choice but to take extraordinary, perhaps even extralegal measures, to right the wrongs that The United State's Government has, at best, assiduously avoided righting?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

If You Aren't Alarmed, There's Something Wrong With You.

The link near the bottom of this post is to an article on pending legislation to shut down the internet in the event of some vague, unspecified cyber attack.

Here are a few thoughts:

The recent Town Hall Protests gained considerable support and momentum from the internet. For example, I know a lot of my fellow citizens were able to "follow the action," such as it was, on YouTube. Whatever one thought of the goings on that occurred all across the country at the so called town hall meetings, they were interesting, and even, at times, riveting, thanks to all the footage submitted by individuals to various and sundry internet sites. Much of what we saw on the net could not be seen, and was not even reported, by the MSM. I somehow doubt it is a coincidence that the pending legislation to shut down the internet under prospectively parlous circumstances has arisen- like the creature from the black lagoon it would seem- at approximately the same time that a major government initiative has suffered a serious, internet chronicled, setback.

In truth, for the practitioner of endeavors that involve challenges to entrenched power, the internet has become a tremendously effective tool of "asymmetric warfare." In others words, the playing field on which the powerful have tended to systematically squash the less powerful has been considerably leveled by the information superhighway. Additionally, and perhaps equally importantly, the internet has also evolved into an entity that now creates and propagates its own memes rather than merely acting as an instrument to spread memes created elsewhere. I am inclined to believe that such developments have created genuine fear amongst the powers that be, hence the Rockefeller sponsored legislation, which, under the usual flimsy, if not outright bogus cover of national security, amounts to yet another assault by "government" on The First Amendment of The Constitution.

I, for one, am well past the point of debating the question of whether or not The Federal Government is the greatest threat to liberty about the land. Time and time again, with nothing but lurid images of planes crashing into the Twin Towers, and the word of the government to go on, "We The People" have been literally terrified into allowing basic constitutional rights to be trampled on. Many of us thought that George Bush junior and his dark, nominal subordinate, Dick Cheney, represented the nadir of contemptuous and sinister actions designed to undermine The Constitution, and bend, if not shatter, the rule of law. Now, lamentably, with the profile of the Obama Administration firmly established as resembling all too closely that of the Bush/Cheney Administration-witness this new, Democratic party sponsored and presumably Obama blessed, internet legislation- such an assessment must be seen as premature.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and all that followed, critics of the official version of events were wont to ask, "Cui Bono" (who benefits), knowing full well that answering that question did little to buttress officialdom's account of what actually happened on that fateful morning. Asking the same question again, in the wake of this initiative to regulate and/or shut down the internet on pretexts that appear vulnerable to corrupt motives, yields little assurance that "We The People" are intended to benefit.

Here is a link to the bill itself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"We Are In A Death Spiral!"

So says retail analyst maven Howard Davidowitz, who observes that the consumer isn't consuming at anything like the rate he and she did just a few years ago. Too much debt coupled with poor job prospects will do that. Depending on one's vantage point, this is either very bad news or perhaps good news. It might be good news if it portends our culture possibly veering away from a profoundly wasteful and spiritually destitute way of life. The bad news is that with the consumer comprising 70% of the U.S. economy, the transition to a new and hopefully better mode of living will be quite rocky indeed.

In the meantime the powers that be are desperately trying to convince us and possibly themselves that "a recovery" is underway. The favored logic they tend to employ amounts to about as paltry and appalling a narrative as one can imagine. Here it is in a nutshell, and I emphasize the nut part of nutshell. A person with a severe and chronic drinking problem switches from a bottle of grain alcohol a day to a bottle of the grape. Voila, recovery! The MSM are flogging this less than compelling tripe anywhere they can, and the vast majority of the several thousand U.S. economists who didn't predict the most recent economic collapse are on board with it. Inter alia, new star economist Nouriel Roubini, who seems more or less in agreement with the recovery bandwagon, risks losing some substantial portion of the cred he earned by not being one of the multitude of economists who missed our financial and economic cliff dive by a country mile.

To return to the theme of the mortally wounded consumer briefly, one devoutly hopes that when all vestiges of green shoots are inevitably and unmistakably revealed to be brown weeds-the result of John and Jane consumer's persistently moribund condition- attempts to audit, if not completely do away with, the grotesque Federal Reserve System may finally achieve the impetus to reach escape velocity speed. Because right now, HR 1207 appears to be languishing in the bought and paid for (where it isn't simply a clueless and cowardly) Congress.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Speak Of The Devil

Yesterday I mentioned how the debt ceiling would inevitably be raised. Well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Corn's Not Green.

Charles Grassley has opined on the re-appointment of the Fed's capo de capo tutti, Ben Bernanke, and the Senator's statement reveals that he has no idea what The Chairman of The Federal Reserve hath wrought.

Here are The Senator from Iowa's comments, courtesy of The Hill.

"We won't know for a year if he's done a good job so far, because he shoveled money out of an airplane to save banks and the financial system," Grassley said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. "But shoveling money out of an airplane to solve problems can be inflationary — in this case, hyperinflationary — if he doesn't start mopping up some of the money that's out there."

Ugh. A good job? You definitely are not paying attention, Chuck, because there is no hint of the sort of inflation you have in mind. No, there is only rampant deflation. The hyper-inflation you posit won't look anything like the inflation the U.S. experienced in the 1980s. It will look like Argentina circa the 1990s. It will be caused not by too many dollars chasing too few goods, but will instead be the result of the nation's absolute and irrevocable insolvency. When the U.S. government debt markets are ineluctably shunned like a leper at a cocktail party, (at all points along the curve) Congress will raise the debt ceiling yet again, which will allow whoever has control of the money supply, most likely The Fed, to print with absolute abandon. And print like there's no tomorrow they shall, because they will have no choice in the face of a moribund bond market and plummeting tax receipts. That's how one gets hyper-inflation, Senator.

In the meantime, I think you will find, if you look behind the curtain of the MSM's "green shoots" lollapalooza, that what we have with respect to an economic recovery is all smoke and mirrors. In the words of Gertrude Stein, "there is no there there." The banks aren't doing much lending now, and all that cash that you are worried will cause inflation, the same cash the big boys were given-it wasn't shoveled out of a plane, but removed from the wallets of future generations of U.S citizens- in exchange for their almost limitless toxic trash, is either now in the process of creating more idiotic asset inflation vis a vis the share markets, or it is being deployed into "safe" returns within the banking system itself. There is a very good reason for this, Senator, which is that the consumer, the same consumer who votes for you, and represents 70% of the U.S. economy, is on their knees-preparatory to being flat on their backs- because the jobless numbers aren't improving, and their debt load remains just about insurmountable. Until that changes, and there is nothing on the horizon suggesting it will, the prospects for economic recovery worthy of the name remain very poor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Wish I Had Written This Essay

The following bit of brilliant insight is owed to the keen intelligence and erudition of Jesse of Le Cafe Americain. The link to his site is on the blog list. I came across this piece at Naked Capitalism. Again, the link is on my blog list. Jesse's post is so good I am reprinting it here.

Why the Austrian, Keynesian, Marxist, Monetarist, and Neo-Liberal Economists Are All Wrong

US Personal Income has taken its worst annual decline since 1950.

This is why it is an improbable fantasy to think that the consumer will be able to pull this economy out of recession using the normal 'print and trickle down' approach. In the 1950's the solution was huge public works projects like the Interstate Highway System and of course the Korean War.

Until the median wage improves relative to the cost of living, there will be no recovery. And by cost of living we do not mean the chimerical US Consumer Price Index.

The classic Austrian prescription is to allow prices to decline until the median wage becomes adequate. Given the risk of a deflationary wage-price spiral, which is desired by no one except for the cash rich, the political risks of such an approach are enormous.

On paper it is obvious that a market can 'clear' at a variety of levels, if wages and prices are allowed to move freely. After all, if profits are diminished, income can obviously be diminished by a proportional amount, and nothing has really changed in terms of viable consumption.

The Supply side idealists (cash rich bosses, Austrians, Marxist, monetarist, and deflationist theorists) would like to see this happen at a lower level through a deflationary spiral. The Keynesians and neo-liberals wish to see it driven through the Demand side, with higher wages rising to meet the demands of profit in an inflationary expansion. Both believe that market forces alone can achieve this equilibrium. Across both groups runs a sub-category of statism vs. individualism.

Unfortunately both groups are wrong.

Both approaches require an ideal, almost frictionless, objectively rational, and honest economy in order to succeed. The Keynesians have a bit of an edge in this, because it is easier to control inflation than deflation in a fiat regime, and the natural growth of inflation tends to satiate the impulse to greed. They don't care if they can buy more as long as they can say they HAVE more. People tend to be irrational, and there is a percentage of the population that is irrationally greedy and obsessively rapacious. People are not naturally 'good.'

The greatest flaw in the many studies that come from each of the schools to prove their point is the brutal way in which they flatten the reality of the markets and make assumptions to allow their equations and analysis to 'work.' They spend most of their energy showing while the 'other school' is a group of ignorant fools, doomed to ignominious failure, in an atmosphere reminiscent of a university departmental meeting.

This has quietly scandalized those from other scientific disciplines who review the work of many of the leading economists. Benoit Mandelbrot was poking enormous holes in the work of the leading economists long before Nassim Taleb made it more widely known. The ugly truth is that economics is a science in the way that medicine was a profession while it still used leeches to balance a person's vapours. Yes, some are always better than others, and certainly more entertaining, but they all tended to kill their patients.

The most intractable part of the current financial crisis, and the ongoing problem of the US economy is the huge tax which is levied on the American public by its corporations, primarily in the financial and health care sectors, and a political system based on lobbyists and their campaign contributions.

There are hidden taxes and impediments to 'free trade' at every turn. The ugly truth is that capitalism-in-practice hates free markets, always seeking to overturn the rules and impose oligopoly if not outright monopoly through barriers to entry, manipulation of the political process, distortion of regulation, predatory pricing, brute force, and the usual slate of anti-trust practices.

Some of these 'hidden taxes' are the bonuses on Wall Street which require an increasing percentage of the financial 'action.' The credit cards fees and penalties levied by banks to support profits in a contracting economy. The Sales General & Administrative portion of the Income Statements of the pharmaceutical industry which only American consumers seem willing to pay. A health care system which is a monument to overspending, outrageous pricing, and greed.

The notion that "if only government would not regulate markets at all everything would be fine" is a variation of Rousseau's romantic notion of the noble savage which no one believes except those who wish to continue to act like savages, and those who get no closer to the real work of an economy than their textbooks. Economic Darwinism works primarily to the advantage of the sharks. Anyone who believes that 'no regulations' works well has never driven on a modern highway at peak periods.

Yes, a certain portion of the population are adult, and generally good and fair. But there is a percentage of the population that is not. And since the 1980's they have been encouraged by the culture of relativism and greed to 'express themselves' and so they have, with a vengeance.

Discussion rarely proceeds very far because of the dialectical nature of American thought. Both extremes are wrong, but they seem to content to merely bash each other, pointing out their errors, while repeating the same mistakes over and again.

The engineering of the economy has become married to the engineering of the political dialogue by the corporate media and their political parties. "The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest." Edward L. Bernays 1947

The condition of the American economy is strikingly similar to the Soviet state economy of the last two decades of the 20th century. People are trying to sustain a system "as is" that is based on bad assumptions, unworkable constructions, conflicting objectives, and a flagging empire laced heavily with elitist fraud and corruption. The primary difference is that the US has a bigger gun and its hand is in more people's pockets with the dollar as the world's reserve currency. But the comparison seems to indicate that the economy must indeed fail first, before genuine change can begin, because the familiar ideology and practices must clearly fail before they can recede sufficiently to make room for new ways and reforms.

A new school of Economics will rise out of the ashes of the failure of the American economy as happened after the Great Depression. Let us hope that it is better than what we have today.

In the short term, what does all this mean?

There is NO system that will work without substantial, continuing effort, and continual adaptation and commitment to a certain set of goals that are more about 'ends' than ideological process.

Because our system has been abused for so long, and is so distorted and imbalanced and dominated by a relatively few organizations beholden to a self-serving status quo, reform is not an afterthought, it is the sine qua non.

It means that until the banks are restrained, and the financial system is reformed, and balance is restored, there can be no sustained recovery.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Barney Frank Says, "I Have a Dream"

Amongst the cadre of mountebanks, sophists, morons, and various and sundry execrable homo sapiens slinking about the dark corridors of power in the nation's fetid and corrupt capital, few are as infuriating and ceaselessly maddening as The Congressman from the Fourth District of Massachusetts, Barney Frank. His has been a career touched by sordid criminality, and marked by arrogance and idiocy rarely matched in a town where arrogance and idiocy flourish like mold on uncovered month old bread. From his early days in Congress, when Congressman Frank looked very vigorously the other way while his then boyfriend ran a prostitution ring out of Frank's apartment, to his strenuous efforts on behalf of the No Wall Street Banker Left Behind Bailout, Frank's career is studded with monstrosities.

The latest abomination comes in the form of a howlingly absurd and deeply dishonest statement made in support of President Obama's public pronouncements evidencing a shift away from Mr. Bush's "ownership society." Congressman Frank has lately offered that he has "Always said the American dream should be a home - not homeownership." Let me get this straight, Congressman. What you're saying, if I'm to take you at your word, and most importantly, correctly parse the meaning of your statement, is that you've always said that "Americans should, in fact, dream of a home, just not theirs?" We should instead dream of, oh, say, our neighbor's dwelling, or perhaps our Auntie Linda's lovely manse, and imagine how, one day, we might be able to pay our neighbor, or Auntie Linda four or five thousand dollars a month (not including utilities) to live in THEIR HOME.

Interesting. Please bear with me while I conduct a brief experiment where we travel back in time and listen to a slightly altered version of Martin Luther King's most famous public address, made in your very own Washington, D.C. "I have a dream, that one day black and white children will live and play together, side by side... in rental property." I don't know, Barn, it just doesn't have the same compelling and inspirational feel of the original. Okay, maybe you are saying something more prosaic, like, everyone should dream of simply having a roof over their head, whether it be the sloping roof of wood and shingle tiles on a single family home, or a (one room) card board box number with a bit of dirty plastic for cover against the elements. I mean, if you don't have to own the damn thing, then why not encourage people to live any old place that provides shelter, like a hollowed out tree, or a rusty old van, or a pup tent, none of which are, of course, OWNED by the inhabitants! By the way, Barney, I'm just wondering, since you already own your home, what's your American Dream? Wait, don't tell me, because I'm pretty sure I don't want to know.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where Are We As A Nation?

The United States exists in the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, in the middle of a great land mass that has the nation of Canada to our north, and the nation of Mexico to our south. The Atlantic ocean girds the U.S. on its east coast, and The Pacific on its west. End of Geography lesson. Now, where are we with respect to our functioning as a nation?

Here are a few ideas (where they are not facts, they are opinions) in no particular order of importance:

1.) America isn't # 1 anymore in anything, except raw military might, per capita gun ownership, and incarceration.

a.) Our once vaunted healthcare system works well.... for the well to do, but then that is the case in many nations.
b.) Our educational system, taken in the aggregate-from public K-12 through University- is by no means the envy of the world, though there are still plenty of foreigners who aspire to send their children to the United State's most prestigious private universities.

2.) The United State's Federal Government is captured by the banking industry. Even without such capture, the U.S. has not, for some time, functioned as a Democracy, but rather a simulacrum of one.

To wit:

The right to vote does not equate to authentic democracy, and the nation's only two fully functioning political parties, heretofore known as The Republicrats, do not offer anything like genuine choice each election cycle. What they unfailingly offer is merely the illusion of genuine choice. The ruling precepts of the two parties are effectively the same, and so, as a result of that fact, and the fact that the Republicrats are funded by many, if not mostly the same sources, this translates into, except for issues of style, identical modes of governance.

3.) The standard of living of the vast majority of U.S. citizens has been falling for decades, masked only by the extension of enormous sums of credit to anyone over eighteen that could fog a mirror.

And speaking of debt:

4.) The Federal government, along with a number of states, most prominently, California, U.S. corporations, and private citizens are, where they are not effectively bankrupt, choking on debt.

5.) Fortunately, environmentally speaking, the U.S. does not appear to be, as China does, a catastrophe in the making. However, until the U.S. cures its over dependence on imported fossil fuels, and curbs its (truly) mad levels of consumption, which entail frightening amounts of pollution and waste, it will have very little to be proud of.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sara (The Whore of Babylon) Watch.

Make no mistake, while I am deeply skeptical of Obama Care, TWOB, who has twittered that the prospective health care plan is "downright evil", ought to take a look in the mirror the next time she wants to see downright evil. And as a bonus, TWOB will also see downright stupid, and probably bat shit crazy, which so often goes hand in hand with downright evil.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, and Swastikas.

The Town Hall protests are getting to the Democrats and The Republicans who are pushing Obama care. The proposed health care reform, all one thousand pages of it, is being challenged across the U.S. by irate, middle class, middle aged, male and female voters. It is quite beside the point that this cohort of voters are, in many instances, being organized by "conservative" organizations of one sort or another. The point worth taking away is that a critical lack of trust in government lies behind the protesters actions. The Federal Government, through, for example, its egregious banker bailouts, has earned the distrust, and, in some cases, the enmity of We The People.

In response to the public's perfectly understandable and justified ire, Madame Speaker Bela Lugosi, excuse me, Nancy Pelosi, has engaged in a despicable attempt to tar the protesters as Neo Nazis. I've enclosed a link to a clip of The Madame Speaker being asked about the town hall protests, and whether they represent a grassroots movement. Speaker Pelosi's response, "You be the judge of carrying swastikas." What is she talking about? Have you seen the footage of the town hall protests? Nowhere are there any Nazi symbols on display. Madame Speaker Pelosi's tactic, in addition to being utterly loathsome, is also, unconvincing, since if she really did see swastikas, she should have, in no uncertain terms, condemned their appearance and castigated those who aligned themselves with the vile symbol. The fact that she has not gives the lie to her charge. In the meantime, this is the sort of heinous response you can and should expect from Madame Speaker Pelosi (and her ilk) should you decide to direct your free speech against her Congressional agenda.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Unruly Mob

Are you a member of it? I wouldn't blame you if you were. In fact, I might very well applaud your membership. Apparently, some portion of the citizenry are displaying righteous fury at town hall meetings of the sort routinely held by Congress critters, uh persons. The word is that our elected officials are getting more than they usually bargain for in this summer of discontent. It's no wonder really, because, despite reports that the economy is improving-it's not, and a visit to Karl Denninger's marketticker will prove it-we citizens' have not just been openly and outlandishly defied by the Federal Legislature, we have been made sacrificial lambs to the heinous Wall Street abattoir. And to add insult to injury this was done with the willing assistance of The House and Senate.

Our elected representatives have proven, in the starkest terms, to be merely our nominal representatives, and the repercussions of this, at long last, include some segment of the electorate getting a tad impolite. What a pity, but really, what, pray tell, is a bit of incivility compared to Congress' crime of aiding and abetting almost indescribable banker larceny of an unprecedented scope? This is not to say that the aforesaid galactic sized banker's crime is all that is on the list of misdeeds compelling voters to display maximum pique. From banker bailouts to government induced auto industry fiascoes to the latest health care initiative, there is plenty causing folk's blood to boil.

And who is to say the emotional display isn't mostly a positive development. At least it proves we are not all zombies here in Freedom's Land. After all, for a while I was worried that inhabitants of this nation were lacking the fortitude to directly (if not necessarily rancorously) confront officialdom. So, I guardedly take some heart in the news of the citizenry's recent unruliness, and will even dare to suggest that we may need more semi-raw displays of vitriol directed at both public and private higher ups. After all, the powers that be will continue to act, (in some cases egregiously), against our best interests until they are given strong incentive to stop.