Category Archives: current affairs

Radio Free Discordia launches

http://radiofreediscordia.org/

RADIO FREE DISCORDIA is finally launching! You can hear its birth pangs tonight at about 7 PM EST. If you’re interested in doing a show, whether it’s a one-shot or a weekly gig, contact Mourning Star, who can (often) be found in the #RFD chat room.

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The coup d’etat

Matt Tiabbi brings the thunder, as always:

The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d’état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grâce: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — “our partners in the government,” as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

Daily Telegraph fail

Warning: “Do nothing” wankfest ahead.

Via the Telegraph:

We need more risk and less regulation of the financial sector

Um, OK?

Capitalism is based on innovation.

Adam Smith rang.  He said “did you even READ my fucking book?”

But innovations are not always well understood when they first turn up. People buy too many of them and pay too much for them.

I just want to quote this as evidence the market does not always work perfectly and people are not rational consumers.  This will become important in a minute.

That is what happened in this crisis. People paid too much for financial products that they didn’t understand.

And sold them for too much.  And floated an entire economy on the basis they would keep selling forever and would never drop in price.  Oh, and there was something about lying to investors and firing people who disagreed with that assessment, using things like evidence and projected trends.  So not so much a naive mistake and more like carefully calculated get rich schemes.

Left to function alone, the market would have punished those that had invested in the companies that lost.

And everyone else, for good measure.  The market approves of collateral damage.

Companies going bust and investors losing their money are not a “failure of capitalism”.

Not even if they are making a yearly profit, yet go out of business due to a lack of credit during more quiet seasons?  Because that’s what is happening.

It is capitalism; and if you don’t like it, then you don’t like the system.

If you love Communism so much, why don’t you live there?

There was no need for the British government to bail out the banks last autumn.

Apart from that whole “turning into the next Somalia” thing, and everyone knows Somalia is a healthy and functioning market economy, with reported growth in such vital areas as piracy, terrorism, warlordism and mercenary work.

The wrong policy response – the one adopted – was to reward investor error.

Yeah, those silly investors, believing banking CEOs.  They should have beat them until they told them the truth about the risks they were taking!  Jack Bauer would do no less.

It saved the capitalists made rich at the expense of private capitalism.

If you hate that so much, why don’t you move to Cuba or something, Che?

Calls for heavy-handed regulation to restrict the actions of banks are the flip-side of acting so as to undermine the market’s means to punish poor decision-making.

Yeah, not allowing financially risky decisions with the threat of jail is totally not a punishment when compared to what The Market will do.

This means there will be less risk-taking in the economy as a whole – less innovation and experimentation, less diversity and dynamism.

I cite the Open Source Movement as proof people cannot innovate without a profit motive.

We will have an economy that grows more slowly and a society that is less tolerant, offering fewer opportunities for those who have no money but good ideas to get ahead.

Whereas a worldwide economic depression every couple of years won’t make people more intolerant or offer fewer opportunities at all.

The financial sector is unlikely to be able to return to sustained profitability without significant restructuring of a much more radical nature than the current favourites of creating “boring banks” and “bad banks”. Governments are now the major shareholders in these institutions, and they should insist upon their restructuring.

Typical commie, looking to the government to solve all your problems.

Imagine if, instead of all that, we had used £100 billion or £200 billion for tax cuts to stimulate the real economy.

Yeah, but imagine if we had used £300 billion to stimulate the Really Real Economy (for Realness).  Or £400 billion to titillate the Somewhat Less Empheral Economy.  Or, and I will admit we are pushing the boat out here, £500 billion for The One True Objective Economy That No Rational Person Can Deny?  What then, eh?  That’s the problem with you Commies, your lack of innovative thinking.

Ye gods, that was the biggest pile of fail I have ever read.

Two Thousand and Nein

The Germain Cabal of Germans has officially declared 2009 the year of nothing. That’s right, the year of nothing. I mean, it makes sense doesn’t it? I mean, just look at the economy, it is moving in the direction of less, not more. What does that mean? It’s moving towards nothing! Will it achieve nothingness, or will it fail along the way?

What about the relationship between Michael Jackson and Michael Bloomberg. Oh, that’s right, THERE ISN’T ONE. Zoiks, the Year of Nothing works its mysterious magic again. And don’t even get me started on the Chicago Cubs this year.

In accordance with tradition, of which there is none, the GCG encourages all other Discordians and those that aren’t to pay special observance to the Year of Nothing by choosing the nothing to do of their choice. This can be quite challenging for some, especially anyone with any compulsion to do stuff. Spread the word to your friends and family and postal workers. Okay, well maybe not the postal workers, but everyone else.

Good day and other such pleasantries.
-Rev. What’s-His-Name? official fill-in spokesman for the GCG

The potential for far-right terrorism in the USA

I’ve been kind of busy, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon, so instead of doing a writeup myself, I’ll just direct you with links.

Orcinus has the details about the potential (and, in my view, likely) re-emergence of the “Patriot” militia movement:

One of the more disturbing trends we’ve been observing is the return of far-right “Patriot” rhetoric about government oppression with the election of President Obama. Fueled in no small part by mainstream right-wing talkers proclaiming we’re headed into “socialism” — not to mention a “radical communist” who must be “stopped” or else America will “cease to exist” — the overheated rhetoric has been gradually getting higher in volume, intensity, and frequency with each passing week.

The initial concern that this raises is the possibility of a new wave of citizen militias, particularly when you have mainstream pundits like Glenn Beck out there helping to promote the concept. As Glenn Greenwald observed, the “Patriots” are back with a vengeance.

At least for the time being, however, there isn’t any evidence of new militias forming, though we may see numbers growing within the coming months within existing units, particularly as Fox News and radio pundits start fueling right-wing anxieties.

However, we are starting to see a trend that’s even more disturbing: Military veterans voicing Patriot-movement beliefs, including threats of violent resistance to the Obama administration.

If anyone is foolish enough to think these guys are actually about liberty, I suggest you ask them where they have been for the past 8 years, or their views on Bush’s leadership.  There is a disturbing proto-fascist element to the militia movement which is really worrying.

A look inside the corporate PR machine

There are two excellent pieces up on The eXiled right now which you need to be reading.  They are Is CNBC’s Rick Santelli Sucking Koch, and Koch activists teabag media.

I’ll leave you to read them in your own time, but I could smell the PR bullshit coming off these Tea Party protests from the start, I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to dig.  Nevertheless, an insight into how these things work is always nice.  As Ames points out

So today’s protests show that the corporate war is on, and this is how they’ll fight it: hiding behind “objective” journalists and “grassroots” new media movements. Because in these times, if you want to push for policies that help the super-wealthy, you better do everything you can to make it seem like it’s “the people” who are “spontaneously” fighting your fight. As a 19th century slave management manual wrote, “The master should make it his business to show his slaves, that the advancement of his individual interest, is at the same time an advancement of theirs. Once they feel this, it will require little compulsion to make them act as becomes them.” (Southern Agriculturalist IX, 1836.) The question now is, will they get away with it, and will the rest of America advance the interests of Koch, Santelli, and the rest of the masters?

Burn baby burn

Increasing complex systems have a tendency to collapse in more catastrophic ways.  Hence, when George Soros and Nassim Nicholas Taleb say that this economic crisis will be worse than the Great Depression, I am not surprised at their appraisal.

However, what does a Depression actually mean, in our current socio-political economic condition?  No doubt, circumstances across those three areas of analysis do differ from the 1930s and so we have to ask ourselves, what does that mean for us?  The only viable mass movements of the moment seem to be, at least in the American contexts, religious ones.  In the UK, I don’t think even that is possible.  While I think the worries about fascism, at least in parts of the Third World, are valid, platforms explicit about such a program are rejected, and not just because of the negative connotations of such labels.

And how will the internet affect such a Depression, as well?  Will we see spontaneous protests, or even peaceful urban takedowns, orchestrated via Facebook and Twitter?  Or will the net become a talking shop, the modern day equivalent of a soapbox, where gripes and despair about our current conditon are aired but little else is actually done?

Obviously, my thoughts turn to recent graduates and attempts to get jobs, for personal reasons.  Will unemployment and the lack of prospects lead to, as it did in Italy in the 60s, a militant intellectual movement who felt they had more in common with the proletariat than their (usually) middle class backgrounds?  Or could it breed a new class of cosmopolitan guerrilla entrepreneur, an anti-Davos man if you will.

I could really do with a team of sociologists and cultural theorists right now.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…

For some unthinkable reason, I was not invited to Technoccult’s roundtable on the future of the nation-state.  Probably because they’ve never heard of me, Wes and Edward aside, but I won’t let that get in the way of some good snark.  Besides, I can now claim to be a renegade renegade futurist, which justs adds to my edgy appeal.  Or something.

Anyway, good question.  The whole viability/decline of the state has become a very interesting question in light of the credit crunch.  And I have more than a passing interest in social organization in the past and present, in no small way due to reading John Robb for the past three years or so.

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Reaping a whirlwind of trouble, and why smuggling is the new boom industry

This Financial Times blog outlies the reasons why Gordon Brown’s British Jobs for British Workers probably qualifies as the most stupid thing one could promise, especially when there was a financial downturn on the cards.  To whit:

In the UK, prime minister Gordon Brown is reaping the protectionist storm he sowed with his infamous protectionist and xenophobic call for “British jobs for British workers”.  What was he thinking?  Follow the logic: ‘British jobs for British workers’,’Scottish jobs for Scottish workers’ (along with ‘It’s Scotland’s oil’), ‘Welsh jobs for Welsh workers’ and ‘English jobs for English workers’.  Why not London jobs for London Workers, or London jobs for native-born London workers, or even London jobs for white Christian native-born London workers?

How divisive can you get?  British workers are demonstrating against workers from elsewhere in the EU – Italian and Portuguese workers are currently at the centre of a rather disgusting series of altercations at UK oil refineries, gas terminals and power stations, following a dispute at Total’s oil refinery at Killinghome in Lincolnshire, where an Italian engineering company was bringing its own staff from Portugal and Italy for a egnineering construction project.

This is already being exploited by fascist organizations such as the BNP, notably through their front organization British Wildcats – if you doubt this is the case then the Ministry of Truth details the evidence.

In addition to providing propaganda to fascists, gratis no less, the other main beneficiary of protectionism will be those operating in the black market.  John Robb outlines the details, basically stating that it just increases the range of goods such groups can provide and thus improving their economic standing.  Or, if you like, the Law of Eristic Calculation.  Not to mention that stoking such nationalism, at the expense of foreign countries, will only hamper efforts to cut down on such markets.

So yeah, nice going Gordo.  I’ve always wanted to live in a third world country, complete with pointless ethnic strife, a booming illegal industry, corruption, a lowered standard of living and de facto IMF control via “economic structural adjustments”.  No, really.

The Arctic Scramble

While the eyes of conspiracy theorists are permamently fixed on the Middle East and Central Asia as the Last Great Battleground for easy access to oil, it looks like both NATO and Russia are capable of hiring slightly more intelligent people.

At least, those intelligent enough to realize that sitting under the Arctic circle are massive oil reserves, so far claimed by no-one.  And as the economic crisis continues to deepen, both are considering sending in military forces to show everyone who really owns the oil and gas hidden under the ice.

Russia is especially worried.  Their much inflated and hysterically claimed resurgence only came about due to stable political leadership, ie; Putin, along with the strategic use of Russian oil and gas reserves to improve the economy and rebuild its military power.  With the current economic crisis, consumption is down and oil prices have plummeted, putting Russia in a very precarious position.  Economic growth is not assured and Russia’s economy has not really diversified in recent years, arms sales aside.

NATO claims that global warming means sea routes previously closed would open again, and that military forces in the region could act as a stablizing factor to ensure possible rivalries don’t get out of hand.  And while this is true, we’d be fools to consider that the Russian interest in massive energy resources is not also a facor.

It is tempting to put a Cold War pun here, but I will refrain.  But I do wonder how China, Japan and other rising powers (such as India) would react to renewed tension in the Arctic circle.  Concentrating such a crisis away from Eastern Europe, the Far East or South Asia may have interesting repurcussions on previously stable alliances.

Keep an eye on this one.  It’s going to be a slow burner.