Monday, October 27, 2008

Nixon's China

The other day, my Dad (may God bring peace to his soul) made
the connection to Nixon visiting China and first opening up that
door, to the current republican moves towards nationalizing the
banks and investment houses in the country and putting them under
Federal Government control. I myself had made the observation that
this new ownership, called “socialism of risk” by the mainstream
media, is really tantamount to adopting the communist system first
delineated and predicted by Karl Marx.

Prior to Nixon’s visit, communist China was considered to be far
distant, another world, their politics anathema, their people, culture
and goods unapproachable and completely foreign to our needs and
wants. We were fighting a consuming war with one of their satellites.
It would have been completely unthinkable for any Democratic Party
president or congressman or other public official to make any overture
whatever of recognition, friendship, cooperation or respect. President
Nixon by first opening the door, began a drip of trade, which then
became a trickle, a stream, and finally a torrent of goods coming to
America. Ambitious, hard-working immigrants also came and studied
to fill a hefty percentage of engineer, doctor, computer, and other
scientific positions in our economy, greatly aiding the continuing
advancement of the United States. Capital flowed the other way,
stimulating an economic expansion which is benefitting an enormous
volume of humanity, providing opportunities for huge numbers of people
who otherwise would have had only abject poverty to look forward to.

My Dad’s point was that the recent assumption of new powers and
controls by the Federal Government into the money industry may have
a similar unintended, unanticipated outcome. It is becoming more
obvious every day that the coming election will not only sweep a
Democrat into the White House with the largest victory since the days
of FDR, but a thorough house-cleaning and senate-cleaning will also
be taking place at the same time. There is also a strong possibility that
several of the current republican-chosen Supreme court justices,
including Stevens, 88, Ginsberg, 75, Scalia, 72 and Kennedy, 72 will
retire and be replaced by nominees of the Democratic White House.
Obviously a great number of new faces will be coming to positions of
power and influence in Washington’s cabinet offices and military brass.

And while the Bush administration has opened this door, so very
late in its tenure, it will be all these new, progressive brains who have
this stunning opportunity to write the rules and regulations and
conventions about how these vast new powers are going to be

Considering the travesty and devastation that the current crop of
bankers and Wall Street executives have made of the US economy,
this becomes an incredibly appealing opportunity. I can’t wait to see
how this unfolds.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Homeland Insecurity Department

But it goes back to trust.

The banks themselves, as well as the media, as well as the current crop of
politicians, have all been seeding the ground (and fertilizing) with
massive missives of distrust.

"Report suspicious packages" "Make sure you have virus protection, look out
for phishing and bots".don't trust your neighbor, don't talk to him, don't
even say hi when you pass him on the street. Late fees. Interest on the
late fees. Late fees on the interest. All the fine print on the microsoft
licensing agreements, on credit cards, on insurance policies. No one helps
anyone anymore, most help desks are either computer audio or in
Bangalore reading from a script.

Security cameras everywhere. Security guards everywhere. Torture ships
ply the oceans. IT departments concentrate on securing their information,
keeping users out, blocking any experimentation. Helicopters hovering
overhead, for no known reason. National electronic ID cards in the works.
Anyone who carries and uses a cell phone is carrying a device which can
keep track of everywhere he goes and everything he says, and soon will
also keep track of all his expenditures as well.

Its not to say that there are not legitimate concerns. But as my friend
Ferret points out, the authorities are “leveraging” the fear to such an
extent that originality, creation, productivity are crushed.

Now, all of a sudden, that mistrust has built up to the point where no one
trusts anyone.

And , guess what, money is just like a neutrino. What is money? Paper, that
doesn’t even burn well, just trash. Or, more and more often, only a few
microscopic magnetic fields on a hard disk somewhere. If there is no trust,
no faith, no agreement, no desire to cooperate with other people, all of whom
will have some divergence of opinion somewhere from our own, then money ceases
to have any meaning, any value. When it stops changing hands, when it
stops spinning, its gone.

And all the kings men and all the kings horses can't bring it back ...

We don't need to concern ourselves with muslims.
The enemy is here, and it is us (as Pogo said so long ago ....)
Where is the outrage?

"Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer of a muezzin"
I have, many times, and my heart aches for that quiet, lonely, peaceful sound
in the mornings. Instead, I wake to trucks, freight trains, helicopters, and
sirens, sirens, sirens, in ever-proliferating plethora of new, more frightful
cacaphony. Friends of mine joke that its the new national anthem.
Since almost no one sings anymore, that's about right ....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Negative Numbers

I am overseeing the general education and GED effort of a close family member these days. I have concentrated more on learning numbers, arithmetic, and mathematics since that is my particular specialty. Her teachers give her textbooks and assignments from ten years or more back, I suppose because the education department has been experiencing negative numbers in their new budgets for quite some time. It has gradually dawned on me that arithmetic teachers and texts in the USA no longer give instruction in negative numbers, as if conditions no longer exist which they can model and explain. No text mentions or teaches them and no sample
questions query about them.

Horror stories about "creationism" and "intelligent design" have made the
mainstream media. However, I've never seen anything mentioned about this travesty.
I am frequently reminded that our evangelists and our propaganda machines wish
to teach our populace "Don't worry. Be happy." as if denying the existence of
our problems, difficulties and obstacles may make them vanish. Alas, my experiences
in life tell me otherwise.

Websites about math instruction tell me that there is a general movement
afoot to only teach students how to use calculators, not to understand numbers
intrinsically. A walk through a supermarket has unit prices precalculated
for shoppers, usually reliably, so that they are spared the mental exercises
of working out ratios and prices themselves, despite packager's reliance on
constantly downsizing package sizes and going from even weights and measures to
more and more complex ratios. To my way of thinking this is part of a general
effort to teach people to be lazy and stupid; an effort in my experience
which has been extremely successful so far.

Am I the only person who finds this development to be horrifying?
Is it any wonder that investors have adopted use of the term "oversold"
to replace the term "cheap" when it does not mean the same thing? Is it
any wonder that so many banks and investment houses are now being found to
be insolvent, owning large quantities of financial instruments which are
found to have negative value and no one has been told about them or how much
losses they have incurred? Is it any wonder that investors are surprised to learn that stock prices sometimes go down? I wonder just how accountants are going to manage to prepare peoples' annual tax returns this year without reliance on losses?

I'd like to hear what other people have to say about this change in our education system.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This is an extension of discussions
from the yahoo finance Suncor message base,
hopefully with the spam removed
and the censorship evaded.

My first posting is a message which Yahoo systematically blocked from publication
(and you thought that that only happens in China!?!?!?!)

(This is from rhjl -- I'm just playing secretary here.)

(Oh, excuse me -- that's a dirty word -- administrative assistant ...)

"I'm thinking that the SEC really needs to grow a pair and declare Credit Default Swaps based upon directional trading illegal. Now.

They have the damn power, and they are corrupt beyond hanging for not doing it. The varieties I describe hereafter are "securities", pure and simple, and not allowed to be traded in unregulated markets. SEC Act 1934. We are being bullshitted into oblivion.

I heard some of a senate hearing yesterday, of all committees, the Senate agriculture committee, chaired by Harkin, I think, because of the devastating impact this is having on agriculture. ( I think I heard a bushel of corn now costs $5 and sells for $3.50-don't quote me). Anyway, the testimony indicated that 90% or so of credit default swaps were "directional", meaning, I gathered, that they were ersatz 'shorts" or "longs", not true insurance plays on real defaults.

I admit I didn't get all of this. If anybody has better info, straighten me out.

The fact that these hearings occurred is confirmed by Bloomberg's report of the CDS Association's reaction, but, of course, not the point of it. That never gets aired, unless you have nothing to do but catch Cspan broadcasts.

Anyway, putting this interpretation together with Cramer's views from last night, which I posted, I see that the "shadow market" is really the regulated market we watch with horror all day, and can't fathom. The "real market" is out of sight, and drives all this madness.

The real bets are placed out of sight, in "dark pools" which our gubment tolerates, while they skin us to the bone.

"Iowa Politics" seems to have heard of this, but not all the real gory details.

These guys picked up comments about naked credit default swaps. Ye Gads. seqNum=5

I think another part of the bill I would craft would require the seizure of the assets of all companies that wrote directional CDSs in the last year.

What a stinking, out of control, ungodly mess this is.

Cramer was right-this is nothing more than taking out "insurance" on your neighbors house, and burning it down."