Archive for June 2010
“There’s no capacity to regulate or punish them because they’re too big to be threatened with failure,” Blum says. “They seem to be willing to do anything that improves their bottom line, until they’re caught.”
"Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending."
Cold War II — This Time It's Personal! A secret cabal infiltrating some of the most powerful companies in the… Just kidding. They went straight for Congress.
U.S. consumers footed most of the bill for the scam because, amazingly, about 94 percent of all charges went uncontested by the victims. According to the FTC, the fraudsters charged 1.35 million credit cards a total of $9.5 million, but only 78,724 of these fake charges were ever noticed. Typically they floated just one charge per card number, billing on behalf of made-up business names such as Adele Services or Bartelca LLC. As credit cards are increasingly being used for inexpensive purchases — they're now accepted by soda machines and parking meters — criminals have cashed in on the trend by running this type of unauthorized charging scam.
"But I think it's important. I may be the only person who goes on Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck and says the exact same shit. I am so much more socially liberal than Olbermann will ever be. You can't believe how pro gay and pro freedom of speech I am. I'm way out beyond anyone on the Left. And as for fiscal conservatism and small government, I'm so much further to the right than Glenn Beck. Nobody is further left and further right than me. As I'm fond of saying, if you want to find utopia, take a sharp right on money and a sharp left on sex and it's straight ahead."
The bill of materials for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone is $187.51 according to an iSuppli tear down of the phone. The research firm notes that the total is comparable to the $170.80 estimate it calculated in 2009 for the 3GS, or the 2008 estimate of $166.31 for the 3G in 2008, and the first iPhone at $217.73.
"Previous episodes of low interest rates suggest that loose monetary policy can be associated with credit booms, asset price increases, a decline in risk spreads and a search for yield. Together, these caused severe misallocations of resources in the years before the crisis, as evidenced by the excessive growth of the financial industry and the construction sector. The necessary structural adjustments are painful and will take time."
This is not the end of the world. Less than 1% of the spilled oil is ending up on the beaches. Watch TV, and that is not 150,000 barrels on the beach in Pensacola, Florida. Most of the crude is being moved parallel to the coast by the current and will eventually end up in the mid-Atlantic, where it will break down or dissipate. Tropical sunlight, salt water, and crude are all highly corrosive, and the three don’t last together long.
Certainly, the late nineteenth century was not an era of laissez-faire, despite the stubborn and persistent myth to the contrary. True, there were few government regulations on business, but high tariffs, railroad subsidies, and the national banking system prove that the government was no neutral bystander. Sumner more accurately termed it the era of plutocracy, in which politically organized wealth used the power of the state for selfish advantage.
President Obama on controlling the debt: "Somehow people say, why are you doing that, I'm not sure that's good politics. I'm doing it because I said I was going to do it and I think it's the right thing to do. People should learn that lesson about me because next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step-up because I'm calling their bluff. We'll see how much of that, how much of the political arguments that they're making right now are real and how much of it was just politics."
"But I was not like the people running the organisation. I knew full well that buying a house could be a financial time bomb. I hadn’t drunk the home-ownership-leads-to-prosperity Kool-Aid. But I had drunk enough cola to rot my teeth. I led people down the road to financial collapse – and I did it for the dental insurance."
I need a tag for "Better Late Than Never." "The leaders of the world's eight top industrial democracies on Saturday condemned the alleged sinking by North Korea of a South Korean warship and called on Iran to do more to respect human rights."
Hmm. I wonder which political party will get to pass the "Pension Default Authorization" bill here in America.
Here’s the problem. All the good names are taken.
We used to be “classical liberals” but that name was appropriated and then discarded by the other side. “Liberal” is like an old sock that your brother stole out of your dresser. Twenty years later you find it in his closet and he says, “Oh yeah, I guess that is yours. It’s kind of gray and stiff now, but you can have it back if you want.”
Modern liberals want to be called progressives now. I guess Rush Limbaugh finally destroyed the l-word.
I’m not really a conservative, although I’ve been to some of their pot lucks. Libertarian is accurate, but that label has been appropriated by hippies, gun nuts and people who never quite got over Ayn Rand.
So, I would like to propose a new label. I want to be a Regressive. I don’t want to create bold new policies for the future. I want to go back to old, forgotten policies that seem boring and simplistic now.
Our slogan will be “Regress…TO THE FUTURE!”
Still deciding on our campaign vehicle. I don’t know if I should go with a DeLorean, an A-Team van, or a 1918 Ford Landolet. Technically I should use a horse and buggy, but I think we’ll have enough trouble getting on the ballot without adding animal permits to the mix.
I know what you’re thinking. How are you going to convince people to adopt economic policies that America rejected in World War I?
By never explaining what those policies are. We’ll have it on the web, you know. For obsessive types who like to read. But for the public and mainstream media, nothing but empty platitudes and obscure historical jargon. We can’t possibly WIN anything, so this will be a movement based on spectacle. Bowler hats and gold pocket watches. Ridiculous moustaches and vintage fabrics. Our goal is to entertain the public and suck up TV time that should be going to legitimate candidates.
Not a legitimate party. More like a historical LARP.
Our most highly paid employee will be the graphic artist who makes everything look like a patent medicine ad from 1918. Our TV ads, if we ever get to afford TV, will be sepia-toned and silent, with everything written on placards that no one will read. Can you imagine the impact of that? Utterly silent TV commercials? Maybe with some sloppy piano music in the background?
When Rachel Maddow asks us if we would preserve the Civil Rights Act we will say “absolutely!” But that 19th Amendment has got to go.
I was talking about how much I was enjoying Zerohedge lately and made a comment about how naive I had been about the market before I started reading ZH and Michael Lewis.
I don’t actually invest in anything, but if I did I think I would be like a white trash version of this guy.
A Texas oil billionaire walks into an investment bank.
TEXAN: I’m here to invest a chunk o’ money! Who wants to get off their ass and sell me somethin’?
SALESMAN: I’ll help you, sir. What kind of portfolio did you have in mind?
TEXAN: Well son, I believe in three things: God, Guns and Gold. I invest in God every Sunday. I want you to set me up with the rest.
[One lovely aside here. Putting the words "smith and wesson stock" into Google brings up a report about their financial instruments, with no reference to the physical "stocks" they make. Investing in SWHC is no doubt much easier, requiring much less paperwork, than acquiring physical guns made by the company. A sign of our times, I think.]
SALESMAN: We can certainly help with that. Just so happens we have an equity position in Smith & Wesson, available at 4.3. But I should warn you, this stock can be kind of…
TEXAN: End of the world, son. That stock has nowhere to go but up.
SALESMAN: Yes, sir.
[Two months later, three magazines and five rifle designs made by Smith & Wesson are outlawed by a new federal statute. SWHC stock value drops to 2.8.]
SALESMAN: We also have a very popular gold fund that has performed very well this year. We could set up a standing buy order and add to your holdings every month.
TEXAN: Now just a minute! If I buy gold I want GOLD! The shiny kind that smells good!
SALESMAN: Oh, it’s all real gold, sir. We have certificates, contracts, London guarantees and a picture of the vault!
TEXAN: Sign me up!
[Two months later: "Hey guys, Jerry has a customer dumping $1 million in GLD on the 3rd Friday of every month at 10 a.m.. Program the HFT to buy $1 million GLD every 3rd Friday at 9:59:59:30 at +.10 and sell it to him. We'll make ~.10 cents off every dollar he buys and off every dollar that follows him.]
[Two years later: The SEC orders a physical audit of GLD bullion holdings, revealing that they can only make physical delivery on 60% of what they hold. The price of real gold jumps 40%. GLD shares drop to nothing. SALESMAN has been promoted six times and can no longer be reached for comment. Texas billionaire has lost $12 million. Salesman has earned $3 million in bonuses.]
[Notice that the one thing the Texas billionaire did not invest in was oil, the one commodity he knows something about.]
People spend a lot of time making predictions on the Internet, but are rarely, if ever, called upon to account for those predictions. Recently, I’ve admitted that libertarianism has a credibility problem. We predict doom and gloom so often, we become economists who cry wolf — easily dismissed during long, dramatic boom periods.
The effects of Keynesian economic stimulus (government spending) take effect relatively quickly, but the consequences occur on a whole different time scale. These policies can extend for a very long time, as long as you can find another source of cash to prop them up. Globalization gave governments a tremendous amount of capital to borrow on, and on an emotional level, everybody WANTS this to work. Everybody in the system from the government officials at the top to the bankers in the middle to the individual investor at the bottom wants to believe that money is the same as wealth, and that easy credit is the key to prosperity.
So, here’s a series of predictions I made in 1999 — predictions that sounded utterly ridiculous at the time and actually looked dumber every year thereafter, as Europe benefited from a global economic boom and the Euro was heralded as a tremendous success.
I posted this to alt.politics.jaffo on January 1, 1999, referring to a Forbes article that is, shockingly, still available:
I’m not nearly as worried about Y2K as am about this unified European currency.
Europe is a collection of seriously fucked-up welfare states. You don’t make a ward full of sick people healthy by stapling them together. All you get is one giant sick person.
This article explains how the Euro will pave the way for one giant Neosocialist economy in Europe.
The next decade could be very tough for Europe and America. We might see a global recession.
If Y2K doesn’t kick our asses, the European currency will.
It’ll take about 2 to 5 years for the shit to hit the fan.
The amusing part is by the time everything goes to hell, the guys who voted for it will all be gone.
Look for economic booms in Greece, Ireland, Spain, and the other European nations leaning on France and Germany.
Those booms are totally artificial, like the American boom in the 1920’s.
The Roaring 20’s weren’t based on real growth, they were based on permissive monetary policy. Eventually, the debt will catch up with them, and they’ll have a recession or depression.
The little economies around Germany and France will fall over like dominos.
Then the big boys suffer from trying to bail them out.
This will be an ugly, icky 10 years for Europe, and America could end up in the same boat if we’re not careful.
My error? The consequences took almost twice as long as I thought they would. I believe the same thing is happening now.
On February 25, 1999 I wrote:
I have been predicting disaster for the Euro since the beginning,
based strictly on political factors.
It’s too early to know if my prediction is accurate, but this early
sign of weakness provides some evidence for my position.
The fact is, the European economy is SICK. Double digit unemployment,
preposterous budget deficits, and worst of all, a huge European
bureaucracy eager to regulate every minute detail of this new “free
The Euro is inherently unstable as a monetary unit because the
economies underneath it are Neosocialist nightmares.
We’ll see if the evidence matches my prediction over time.
You’ll see that I’ve created a Predictions category in my del.icio.us bookmarks now. I invite you to check back from time to time to see who ends up being right and wrong as this giant 10-year curve begins to turn down. It may take another 10 years, or one unlikely event could trigger a panic and fire off 10,000 stock market algos all at once.
We shall see.
[I THINK most of these are original, but don't be too hard on me if I accidentally "repurposed" a Chuck Norris.]
John Perrin once beat Deep Blue at chess. But first, he taught it how to cry.
When he was 13, John Perrin challenged the Devil to a riddle contest. So any sins committed after 1994 are your own damn fault.
With a single handshake, John Perrin can determine the exact moment of your death, or change it.
Every morning, John Perrin composes a symphony, cooks a gourmet meal, and makes three crucial stock trades. On October 17, 1987 he overslept.
John Perrin is on 58 distinct government watch lists, but not as John Perrin.
John Perrin doesn’t browse the Internet. He remembers.
John Perrin is not the 14th Doctor. Yet.
John Perrin didn’t cause the flash crash, but something in his pocket did.
John Perrin knows an antidote to global warming, a limitless energy source, and a cure for cancer. The first one’s free.
John Perrin made a mistake once, but the dinosaurs forgave him.
No one knows John’s real last name. But his first name is “The.”
Let’s say you’re a teenager who’s just gotten his first car. The government is your Daddy, trying to set down rules that will make you a safe driver.
LIBERTARIAN DAD: You got a job and worked for this car. You can drive as fast as you want, but if you break it, you’ll have to fix it yourself.
DEMOCRAT DAD: I gave you $500 to help you pay for this car and I’ll pay half your repair costs but you are not allowed to drive it over 55 m.p.h. I can’t watch you all the time, so I’ll just have to trust you to obey the speed limit.
REPUBLICAN DAD: You used a tax refund check to pay $500 towards this car. You can drive as fast as you want and I’ll pay for all repairs.
Example #3 is called “Deregulation.”