Monday, January 18, 2010

UN Report from Haiti

"Hello. I am Jean Pierre De Maurier, in charge of the UN disaster relief for Haiti. Which I hope you realize is a difficult task because there is no possible relief for Haiti. It is in a perpetual state of disaster. Or as the Haitian Prime Minister himself declared: 'The hope is that Haiti can one day move up from a state of misery to one of poverty.' (Trust me; he did say that.) So please forgive me if I answer all of your questions in the UN special "bureaucratise" language. As you know from talking to UN officials for over sixty years, we always try very hard to say nothing, but to say it very, very well. In many languages, of course, especially fractured English.

"Now, those of you who have interviewed us before knows there is a good reason we often say nothing. The reason is because we often know nothing (except always how to very, very well; and usually in somber tones). And the reason we often know nothing is that we are unusually hampered in information-gathering: such as reading, speaking on the telephone, and reading up-to-the-date online reports on the computer. The reason for this information-gathering dilemma is because, as you know from this daily contact with us, we keep our two hands behind our backs at all times, to protect our asses. And when you have your two hands behind you 24/7, it is very hard to turn pages in reading, picking up and speaking into the phone or working the keys on the computer keyboard. We of course could turn around and do all those things from behind us, which, if you remember, we occasionally do, especially on critical issues (from whence comes the term "UN officials, speaking from their assholes..."). Unfortunately, his undesirable state of often painful flatulence occurs usually after banquets and state dinners outside the US and Europe when we are forced to consume ethnic-identity foods containing excessive lactose and fats. I think you all remember, one time, a conference call where I told you all I was standing in the middle of a gusting windstorm in the Sahara amongst 5000 Africans who had died of thirst? Well, in truth, I had just finished a local African cold dish of greasy lamb and, with no water to drink, of course, to aid in digestion...well, back to Haiti. Are there any questions you'd like avoided? If not, we will pass pictures among you of dead Haitians and emaciated women and children with broken limbs so we can all weep and empathize and lift CNN's ratings, instead of understanding why a 7.0 earthquake kills only 65 people in San Francisco a few years ago while the same force of earthquake kills up to 200,000 in Haiti. Misery, the Prime Minister said, hoping for poverty."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A New Thirty Years War...The Greedy US Against Itself

The following is my version of the sequence of events that has led to the Great Recession of 2007/2008/2009/2010.

During the prior thirty-year period--after Jimmy Carter in the 1970s told us to expect a lesser lifestyle in the US and we threw him out of office--the US economy--especially in the eyes and pocketbooks of average Americans--has been consistently shrinking due to global competition and the widening disparity between the rich and poor: as middle class jobs especially in manufacturing disappeared and salaries diminished in buying power.

But...average people didn't want to cut back their lifestyles. So they adjusted by becoming two-worker families; or working longer hours and with more anxiety to maintain the same buying power.

They also chose to borrow; from the past, i.e., from their savings, by taking out home equity loans and refinancing their home mortgages; from the present (saving less from their paychecks); and from the future, by running up credit card debt.

So. logically enough, this desire and demand for credit made credit suppliers--finacial institutions--Kings in the economy. Just as one time when people demanded religion in their lives and churches were taller than any other building in society; then, subsequently, when demanded newer and more physical products factories were huge; then when government buildings (big City Halls) dominated the landscape when government was important; so in the thirty years we are discussing Wall Street institutions had bigger building when credit and money ruled the roost.

During this period, and according to the moneyed interests' rules of self-interest operating in free (unregulated) markets, Big Banks sought to logically maximize their profits by abjuring any sense of social responsibly...whoever said the moneyed classes were ever socially responsible by temperament and/or philosophical-economic beliefs in the first place?

The moneyed class (think Republicans), abetted by generous government printing presses (government borrowing--running up the deficit), provided the sources of consumer borrowing. Moreoevr, they sought to maintain and grow their power-grip on a financially deregulated society by buying off the government (campaign contributions, lobbyists).

And Liberals (think Democrats) colluded in the Republican power grab. (Oh, my God!! Beware when Republicans--the moneyed class--climb in bed with the poor and their representatives, the Democrats. It is always a recipe for disaster.

Democrats committed this political fratricidal incest, first, in order to get elected. (Elections were increasingly more expensive...Democratic politician like their Republican counterparts need money, too) and second, they liked the idea of providing an ocean of credit to help the poor (out of sentiment and the fact that that poor tend to vote Democratic). (SEE BELOW Barney Frank and his culpability in freeing the powerful mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend sub-prime loans to the poor and lower middle class.)

This money collaboration led to both Republicans and Democrats weakening if not killing rules and regulations (which, ironically--hypocritically?--enough all started under Mr. liberal "I feel your pain..." President Clinton and especially his Secretary of the Treasury, Robert (Goldman-Sachs) Rubin: Rubin persuaded Clinton to deregulate and loosen the rules the financial institutions, eradicating the line between savings banks and investment banks).

This government freeing of the moneyed class enabled power and profit to unfettering flow into Wall Street greed, which led to derivatives...and the financial markets feeling of the point of hubris. "You can't lose money on derivatives! We've got mathematical models (which no one but us of course can understand) to prove they are risk-free. Besides the financial markets always felt the government would bail them out if anything went wrong. (This was left unspoken, of course...but was no less true.)

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae--formerly part of the government--who were the now prime buyers and backers of sub-prime loans, with a wink and a nod from the the US House's Finance and Banking Committee--Barney Franks--whose life- partner at the time led the Fed for awhile, gave the financial market the indication that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (not to mention Goldman Sachs) were too big (and too well connected) to fail. Which made the derivative salesmen right (for the wrong reason) about the ultimate lack of risk in the purchase of derivatives and credit swaps. The Government will always bail us out!

Meanwhile, the supposedly independent Federal Reserve, who was supposed to oversee and prevent the power grab of the big banks, had been co-opted over the prior decades by (1) the swinging door between them and investment banking institutions (Tim Geitner former Governor the Fed of New York had come from Goldman-Sachs, etc...He is now the Secretary of the Treasury, by the way) but also (2) the government's swinging door with quasi-corporate Big Academia (Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, University of Chicago and Princeton), institutions who live and die on stock-invested endowments, and who also provide the top echelon of investment bankers from their yearly graduating classes (the best and the brightest go to where the money and power is... and that is in finance and investing banking).

Thus so we arrive at 2010: whence global economic competition led to US middle class and poor insecurity (reflected in the drying-up of worker union power); a nation thus mesmerized by borrowing wanted to maintain its lifestyle (a form of national public greed?) induces financial corporate greed (which generally needs little incentive to commit to rapaciousness). The financial community kills any real risk in their lending by hiring lobbyists to corrupt the Congress who always need money to get elected. Congressional oversight and regulations are neutered, the Fed capitulates its independence in tying itself too-tightly to big government, and...welcome to Recession.

Whence Wall Street tycoons are still collecting big bonuses after being bailed out by theor Government confreres, and the poor and the lower middle class are now paying (you don't expect the moneyed class to pay, do you?) for their borrowing by being thrown out of jobs (unemployment at anywhere from publicize unemployment rate of 11% to real 16%) and losing their homes.

The Government (who we overwhelmingly elected to give us Hope and Change) increases long-term debt and dependence on China and others modulate the effect of our rich and poor and middle class (what's left of it) alike collective thirty-year history of greed and financial self-deception. The way to solve the problem results of three decades of borrowing is to borrow more!! "Everything changes but everything remains the same."

The solution? It is follow in the next blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Journey into the Past

Today I begin a visit into the past. The specifics of which I will save unto myself; until that time the visit is over, and goodbyes have begun.

Am I preparing for and practicing for senility? Have I already begun senility? Perhaps; but I don't think so. As I explain that question to myself, the difference lays in the choosing; I choose to forgo a daily piece of the present; to willingly resist it's seemingly vivid seduction so the particular aspects of the past I seek to visit will dominate a portion of my everyday focus. As long as I am master of the on and off switch of memory, I remain actively pre-senile.

Besides, I look forward to visiting the past. It hovers like a soft, inviting cloud, high up on horizon, inviting me to sit and lounge while I look down on my silly self.

Am I wasting my energy? Shouldn't I be focused on the present, where they say the seeds of the future are best sown; and eventually harvested?

Maybe I am just getting old; deciding I have little effect on the present, why waste my energy...the present has been co-opted by the young, and their certainty. Age brings doubt, or at least pondering, and during that pause of reflection and assessment, youth's ever confident minions race aggrandizing past me? Whereas the past seems fixed. It offers the possibility of reflection; images are not racing so fast past the mirror that it leaves no presently tranmitting image.

Maybe I realize the present has little if no effect on the future. One best lives the present by remembering the past. My future is my past. The past wrote my book; I am just reading it in my daily activities.

Tomorrow is the mirror image of yesterday's events. As Plato said, the apotheosis of life, the purpose of life's present journey, is the discovery of self, the climax of of final self-recognition.

I look forward (backward?) to the coming release.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"Shallow Streams and Shallow Minds Freeze First."

by Ken Farmer