It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Staring into the abyss

Take a couple of hours and go through this blog entry by Karl Denninger. This is especially useful if you are one of those who believe our global economy will somehow come right.

The entry features a presentation by William Black, the lead investigator for the Savings and Loan scandal back in 1989. Famously, Charles Keating, Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan ordered a "hit" on Bill Black. You may recall the "Keating Five" Senate investigation of five Senators who conspired to quash the federal inquiry. It's a very long watch, but worth it for people who believe the worst has passed. Black is currently advising the government of Iceland on their investigations into the banking collapse. For an idea of how that's going read: The Telegraph article via Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed Blog.

Market Ticker is a very good source for finding out when the next - even bigger collapse will happen. Denninger has the exuberance of a kid with a new toy. I enjoy listening to his weekly radio blog because he is patient with phone-in questions and explains the "why" about what is happening in the markets.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Left/Right Paradigm

The left wing, right wing split in American politics appears to be an illusion. People are waking up to the realisation that regardless of whom occupies the big office on Pennsylvania Avenue, it has been business as usual for Wall Street.

Legislation coming out of Congress in the last decade has uniformly served the interests of financiers by dismantling the safeguards built into the system after The Great Depression. Bill Clinton's administration was a runaway train of change. Signing the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, and keeping Alan Greenspan at the Fed, was arguably the root cause for much of the economic destruction today.

George Bush will be remembered as a warmaker, so consumed with Al Queda, that the kids in Treasury and the Fed declared a free-for-all of consumption paid for by cheap debt. By the time Bush had packed his bags for Texas, the collapse had begun and it was "Good Luck" and a hug for Obama on the steps of the White House.

Obama entered the White House with the third highest approval ratings since Gallup began keeping track. And now, after 200 days in office, his ratings have dropped to the third lowest level since tracking began in 1930. Campaign promises to engineer change have not manifested. War has been expanded in Afghanistan, lobbyists still roam the halls of Congress and White House. Bankers emerged from last year's financial collapse intact; their losses socialised and "moral hazard" a forgotten threat.

Strangely, George W Bush achieved the highest approval rating ever - at 98%, following 9/11, with the traditional support given to a President at war. But efforts to shore up Obama's ratings seem destined to follow the Market, this October. This administration is poised to oversee financial collapse in America. The 5-year bond auction failed last week and the 7-year auction that followed was heralded as a success - until it was revealed as a fraud. It's just a question of time. Read here

Everything is hedged on his passing the Health Reform Bill, H.R.3200, to provide health insurance to the more than 30 million Americans who don't have any. The Democrats have the numbers to get the Bill passed, but voters on both sides are showing increased hostility. They realize that nothing in the legislation will reduce the skyrocketing cost of health care. The current recess, a time when congressman and senators return to their districts and feel the pulse of the people, is not going well for those politicians seeking re-election next year. At town hall meetings all across America the party faithful are turning on legistators now seen as puppets.

A grassroots movement has begun in Los Angeles that is puzzling analysts. Posters began appearing in Los Angeles and spread to San Francisco and beyond. The Joker posters are blamed on the American right but there is nothing to support this claim; Rupublicans and Libertarians are just as puzzled by the origin of the posters. Indeed, Democrats are now putting up their own version with the word "Fascist" dubbed in place of "Socialist". People are downloading the image from the internet and paying for the printing themselves. Kinkos reports people coming in with memory keys and getting a hundred, or so, at their own expense.

This may be the groundswell of a second American Revolution. Republican voters are embracing Libertarian candidates in local districts. Rand Paul is running for Congress in Kentucky and Peter Schiff is putting together a team to challenge Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. It seems likely that a third party will emerge from the ashes to contest the next presidential election.

But it may be too late for Obama to recover the "Hope" that used to emblazon his posters. Facing a Carter-like, one-term presidency, Obama needs listen to the people instead of the retreaded syncophants he began with in January.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Naked Empire

Photo courtesy of

This is one of those (rarer these days) posts to express some idea of where we are headed as a collective body. Its like finding everybody you hold, in respect and love, attending a drug-fueled satanic ritual involving the sacrifice of your baby brother. It is a time when innocence and childish things are lost forever.

The year began with so much promise. True; the economy was in a tatters, but when Obama was inaugurated all but the most cold-hearted of neo-cons had to feel some degree of hope that 'here was the man who might lead us out of the darkness'. Now it appears we are being led towards Armageddon instead of Camelot.

The amount of money in circulation is double what it was this time last year and there is nothing to demonstrate new industry or ideas. Instead, the government is the only growth industry today. Wars are expanded, industry nationalized, and new taxes in the form of carbon credits are soon to be felt in a country that is running out of customers for the never ending auction of treasury bonds offered, week after week. This week the 5yr bond auction failed, like a sharp chest pain to someone with heart disease.

The FDIC, backstopping what is left of peoples' savings, is broke. This year, two million Americans face a Christmas having exhausted the last of their unemployment insurance. California is bankrupt and is issuing IOUs to contractors and suppliers. Michigan is dead. Futures trading in food and oil show skyrocketing increases on the horizon. This October will see bank runs, a currency failure, and a fresh tsunami of housing foreclosures and job losses.

The stock market has become bloated with disease. Stock prices continue to rise, despite any earnings, growth, or dividends. Dark pools of traders meet in hidden rooms behind the hum of racks of servers plugged into the matrix of global trading, skimming pennies off the blind by the supertanker load. There is no regulation, no oversight, no justice for the impoverished retirees at the hands of bankers who have lost their humanity. Moral hazard... indeed.

And presiding over this band of merry pranksters is "The One". He's a perfect choice really. His color deflects any criticism with cries of racism. His manner is reminiscent of a newly elected JFK, but slowly the veil is being lifted to reveal the Wizard as nothing more than an actor. The Congress is a hen house full of blatherers. Content with their C-Span moment, they cannot fathom their complicity in the greatest fraud ever to take place.

Another war won't fix it: Nobody will be lining up to buy war bonds for an institution now regarded as an enemy. As Oliver Stone wrote, "Charlie is out there... and he's hungry.' So all that's left is to huddle behind the ring of nuclear might and blackmail the nations of the world to submit, if they don't collapse first.

Or will the unthinkable happen: that the elites will unleash a pandemic among its denizens and neighbours in a last stand effort to turn back the clock to a time when there was plenty for everybody. Once more Americans will be told to stand in line for the shots. This time, it may be a soylent concoction with the real intent of removing all but the most essential from among us. Carbon footprint erased, all debts eliminated, and resources enough for another millennium of V8 cruising and malteds at the corner store.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sick in America

An incredible item today from Naked Capitalism They linked to Taunter Media and featured a post called "Unconscionable Math".

In short, it says that half of Americans who carry health insurance do not claim anything. That it is only when you reach the 95th percentile that you find any appreciable costs - in this case: $11,487. It is the top one percent who are responsible for 22% of the costs. So far, so good.

But the insurance industry hedges against this one percent of policy holders by including convaluted and hard to understand questions in their application process. The health insurance underwriters will happily accept your premiums. But the minute you report cancer or some other high cost condition, a team from the company go over your quesionaire and application to see if you screwed up. Through this process half of all policies - in the 1% group - are cancelled.

Listen to this testomony on Capital Hill:

So President Obama promises health care for all Americans, but instead of universal care like systems found in Canada, New Zealand, or Britain, he proposes to deliver the care by subsidising the cost of health insurance. Only in America.