Friday, March 27, 2009

The technology that will save humanity

One of oldest forms of energy used by humans -- sunlight concentrated by mirrors -- is poised to make an astonishing comeback. I believe it will be the most important form of carbon-free power in the 21st century. That's because it's the only form of clean electricity that can meet all the demanding requirements of this century.


Well worth a read in my opinion. We have to move beyond coal and oil, it's simply imperative for the economic health of the country. Into the bargain we get a cleaner source of energy the footprint of which is minimal.

Electric Vehicles are Exciting

John Waylon and his car "White Zombie":

Okay, that's cool. But what if to generate all of that "fun" electricity it takes about the same dirty energy as a traditional combustion engine? The most meaningful benefit of electric vehicles is the chance to make a real green difference. That green difference doesn't just happen because you are using an electric car, although that's a huge step in the right direction.

You have to use solar, wind, and hydroelectric as your primary energy sources. Failing that, you might as well burn gasoline.

But, the world doesn't have to be the way that it is...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thomas Geoghegan on “Infinite Debt: How Unlimited
Interest Rates Destroyed the Economy”

Well, we took that stuff off, the thing that was kind of an instinct in human and legal civilization, from the time of the Code of Hammurabi up to the present, and we created all these incentives for money to go into speculation, derivatives, because we addicted the economy to very, very high rates of return by squeezing money out of people. And the way in which we disinvested from the economy was, in my view, not so much globalization or trade as the fact that we had preteens in shopping malls who were running up, you know, debts where they were paying 25, 30 percent interest, when investors could only get five, four, three percent from our globally competitive industry.
Well, history—historians like Niall Ferguson, conservative historians and progressive historians, many economic historians, see history as nothing but a turf war between three groups: the manufacturers, workers and the bondholders, or the financial sector. So where does labor fit in in all of this? People lost the ability to get wage increases and got the ability, an incredible ability, really unknown in previous times, to get credit cards with which they had high rates of interest. So, unable to get wage increases, people—or unable to get union cards, really, people got credit cards and began running up these great debts, which addicted the country to high rates of return in the financial sector, so that people were kind of spending their way out of the real economy, pushing more and more money, by the fact that they were going into debt, into this virtual financial sector economy. So, really, the inability of people to raise their own wages and the incredible ease with which they could get credit instead helped create this flow of capital out of manufacturing and into finance. You know, we, the little people in this country, helped finance the bloating up of this financial sector and really the downsizing of our own jobs in the real economy. We sent the signals, you know, to investors to put money into the financial sector and not into the manufacturing sector.
If private employers were not paying healthcare costs to the private sector, the private insurance industry, a lot of that money could go for wage increases. It also could make the country much more globally competitive. You know, in this congressional campaign that I just finished, I argued for an increase in Social Security, single payer, basically for the government taking over non-wage labor costs so that the globally competitive parts of the economy could lower their labor costs, hire more employees, people could actually get pay raises, and the government would be assuming these non-wage labor costs, which are so, so important to making the country globally competitive. It’s what many of our high-wage rivals are able to do. And they run trade surpluses; we run trade deficits.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what is your recommendation? You make four major points, what you think has to happen now.

THOMAS GEOGHEGAN: Well, my major points change from month to month, and that was some time ago, but I still stick with those that are in the article.

First of all, we ought to have an interest rate cap in this country. Senator Durbin proposed 35 percent, but it should be much lower than that, especially for the banks that we’re bailing out. I’d slash it at least by half.

Second, I think that there should be something in the country like what Europeans, the Germans, in particular, have, the Sparkasse—and I’m probably mispronouncing the German word. Somebody taught me the correct pronunciation of it, but I’ve bungled it. These are state-run banks that make low-interest rate loans to consumers and are a wonderful alternative to the payday lending system that is being put up in most states, soon will be in New York, too, I assure you, but are certainly in California and Illinois.

And third, I think that as long as we’re in the process of bailing out the banks, we’ve got to restructure them. That’s one of several grievances I have against the administration plan. And in particular, at the very least, let’s put aside the issue of nationalization. I think that there should at least be these public guardians on the board of directors who will, from inside the bank—from inside the bank, there has to be a restructuring of these banks to ensure that these banks are much more in the nature of fiduciaries and guardians and do what banks ought to be doing in this country: pushing money into the globally competitive parts of the economy, accepting lower rates of return, not squeezing money from consumers. It’s not enough to have external outside regulation. You have to change the internal corporate structure of the banks. And I think some kind of codetermination with the public at the board level is the way to go.

And finally, I think that we have to inject equity not only into the banks, but to the people who the banks are lending to. We’ve got to make people—we not just have to force the banks to extend credit, we have to make people more creditworthy. And one of the ways of doing that and encouraging future-oriented thinking is, I believe, for the President and the administration right now to make a big point about promising people that if they work for a living in this country, they will get a decent public pension to live on when they retire. So, instead of cutting back on entitlements—and all the veiled sounds coming out of Washington are to that extent—I would increase the replacement rate of Social Security from our very low level now, which is something like 40 percent on average, to the amount that other developed countries pay on average, according to the OECD, which is closer to two-thirds of working income.


Everything on this blog is a fall back position from a time when the problems were simpler. There is much to admire in the above excerpts and the whole is worth reading and/or viewing. Here are some ideas we have fallen so far away from that I am not even sure we can return to them. Most people barely understand the purpose of these ideas.

Money should be worth something intrinsically, like gold.

Usury should be illegal or tightly controlled.

Production should push the economy forward not financials.

We are so disconnected from what is real and what is created as legal artifice that we have absolutely lost our connection to labor as the primary mover of any sound economy. We all want to be the rich person benefiting from the labor of others. We imagine ourselves in a position of luxury, if not today then someday soon before we retire.

But labor is the only real economic value. Everything else is a con. The more you believe the fictions that are woven into the fabric of our society, the more you fall back from what is real.

The Big Takeover

Video Primer:

The article itself:

The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution


Grayson pressed on, demanding to know on what terms the Fed was lending the money. Presumably it was buying assets and making loans, but no one knew how it was pricing those assets — in other words, no one knew what kind of deal it was striking on behalf of taxpayers. So when Grayson asked if the purchased assets were "marked to market" — a methodology that assigns a concrete value to assets, based on the market rate on the day they are traded — Kohn answered, mysteriously, "The ones that have market values are marked to market." The implication was that the Fed was purchasing derivatives like credit swaps or other instruments that were basically impossible to value objectively — paying real money for God knows what.

"Well, how much of them don't have market values?" asked Grayson. "How much of them are worthless?"

"None are worthless," Kohn snapped.

"Then why don't you mark them to market?" Grayson demanded.

"Well," Kohn sighed, "we are marking the ones to market that have market values."

In essence, the Fed was telling Congress to lay off and let the experts handle things. "It's like buying a car in a used-car lot without opening the hood, and saying, 'I think it's fine,'" says Dan Fuss, an analyst with the investment firm Loomis Sayles. "The salesman says, 'Don't worry about it. Trust me.' It'll probably get us out of the lot, but how much farther? None of us knows."


I find Matt Taibbi a bit shrill and uneven at times but that article is a good solid read. I haven't fact checked it exhaustively, but it's correct in the main in its retelling of the economic disaster that now burdens us.

Economic Ping Pong

The Geithner Plan FAQ

Brad Delong explains the highlights of the Geithner plan.


Financial Policy Despair

And now Mr. Obama has apparently settled on a financial plan that, in essence, assumes that banks are fundamentally sound and that bankers know what they’re doing.
As economic historians can tell you, this is an old story, not that different from dozens of similar crises over the centuries. And there’s a time-honored procedure for dealing with the aftermath of widespread financial failure. It goes like this: the government secures confidence in the system by guaranteeing many (though not necessarily all) bank debts. At the same time, it takes temporary control of truly insolvent banks, in order to clean up their books.
The likely cost to taxpayers aside, there’s something strange going on here. By my count, this is the third time Obama administration officials have floated a scheme that is essentially a rehash of the Paulson plan, each time adding a new set of bells and whistles and claiming that they’re doing something completely different. This is starting to look obsessive.
You might say, why not try the plan and see what happens? One answer is that time is wasting: every month that we fail to come to grips with the economic crisis another 600,000 jobs are lost.


So that's Paul Krugman explaining why this is the same old story from Obama and Co. - give the wealthy folks that have driven our economy to the brink billions and billions of dollars without oversight because *THEY* know how to fix it. If they win, they profit hugely. If they fuck it up all over again, the taxpayers will cover it. Brilliant!


I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong

I find that a scary sentence to write. If the past decade has taught me anything, it has taught me that mistakes are avoided if you follow two rules:
1. Remember that Paul Krugman is right.
2. If your analysis leads you to conclude that Paul Krugman is wrong, refer to rule #1.


And then DeLong goes on to tell you why he's right and Krugman is wrong. The sentence I find a little scary to write reads:

I think Brad Delong is wrong.

Obama had the mandate to nationalize the banks they day he walked into office. Wasting a bunch of time getting there while the economy tanks even further is just idiotic.

What Obama obviously wanted was the same blank check Paulson demanded. And he's getting it even if he is cloaking it better. At the end of the day it's just the same socialized solution for those at the top while everyone else in the U.S. goes begging for the kind of economic justice more readily available elsewhere among the western nations.

Universal healthecare, the green agenda and better educational opportunities are starting to look like distant dreams indeed. After all of this money is squandered on solutions that will not and could not have worked, they will still need even more money to finally nationalize the banks and cover for the toxic assets that are very significantly lower in true market value than anyone imagines right now.

One things that is remarkable about this huge fiasco is how even well informed economists disgree on what to do and why to do it. That goes such a long way to covering the asses of our clueless politicians that I find it actually worrying.

So yeah, this is another follow-up on the countdown to nationalization.

Brain-Dead Economic Reporting: If Wall Street
Approves of Obama's Plan, It Must Be a Winner!'s_plan%2C_it_must_be_a_winner!/?page=entire

Our press corps has discovered an important scoop: Rich people approve of using taxpayer money to help rich people.


Please also see:

Who Cares About Wall Street Numbers Anyway?

So yeah, this is really just following up on the kind of flagrant collaboration we can expect from U.S. "journalists."

Most people really don't give a shit about Wall Street. Yes, retirement plans pegged to Wall Street are a factor - and a mistake. But really, people don't care.

But they *REALLY* want you to care. A lot!

The rich need your money.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Crackers Gettin' Paid!

Chrome only browser left standing after day one of Pwn2Own

A recent contest at CanSecWest, an event that brings together some of the most skilled experts in the security community, has demonstrated that the three most popular browser are susceptible to security bugs despite the vigilance and engineering prowess of their creators. Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer were all exploited during the Pwn2Own competition that took place at the conference. Google's Chrome browser, however, was the only one left standing—a victory that security researchers attribute to its innovative sandbox feature.
These contests contribute to the growing culture of commercialism that surrounds the art of exploitation. In an interview with ZDNet, Miller said that the vulnerability he used in the contest was one that he had originally found while preparing for the contest last year. Instead of disclosing it at that time, he decided to save it for the contest this year, because the contest only pays for one bug per year. This is part of his new philosophy, he says, which is that bugs shouldn't be disclosed to vendors for free.

"I never give up free bugs. I have a new campaign. It's called NO MORE FREE BUGS. Vulnerabilities have a market value so it makes no sense to work hard to find a bug, write an exploit and then give it away," Miller told ZDNet. "Apple pays people to do the same job so we know there's value to this work."


Make 'em squeal!

I'd feel differently about a project that was entirely open-source and not affiliated with any huge corporation.

Opera - the best and most innovative browser made - was left out of the competition for some reason.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Broke and Still Spending Money We Ain't Got
on Wars We Don't Have to Fight!

This next stuff is really common knowledge but I have to document it anyway...


Money mess created by six years of Iraq

It's primarily because we've spent or authorized more money on the Iraq war (its sixth anniversary is next Thursday) than we're putting into the stimulus program. Comparison:

•The Iraq war $864 billion.
•The stimulus program $787 billion.

Sure, greedy bankers, covetous Wall Streeters, irresponsible buyers of homes and cars they couldn't afford all contributed to this recession. But if we hadn't blown that huge bundle in Iraq, we could have handled our problems here at home more easily.


Many Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans in Congress gave Bush that blank check. Votes on the Iraq resolution:

• House of Representatives: Yes, 215 Republicans, 81 Democrats.
• Senate: Yes, 48 Republicans, 29 Democrats.

By contrast, the votes on President Obama's recovery or stimulus plan to clean up the mess that Congress helped create with the Iraq misadventure:

• House: 246 Democrats, 0 Republicans.
• Senate: 56 Democrats, 3 Republicans.

Both parties got us into this mess, but only one is trying to get us out of it.


It's simple really. Republicans think war is good for business and good for you too. But, of course, it isn't.

Maybe Obama, who very significantly rode in on the twin issues of the economy and the war in Iraq needs to rethink his position on Afghanistan. We don't need it. I know about the pipeline and the resource issue. But if we move quickly on greening energy usage we won't need any of that shit.

The world doesn't have to be this way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Watchmen on YouTube

I don't know why Alan Moore has been in such a twist over Hollywood versions of his stuff...

Obama Hearts Blackwater (Xe)?

President Obama, Why Did You Pay Blackwater $70 Million in February?

For those already outraged at the AIG bonus scandal, here is a fact that should add more fuel to the fire: The Obama administration has paid the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater nearly $70 million to operate in Iraq and, according to The Washington Times, may keep the company on the payroll months past the official expiration of its Iraq contract in May. I reviewed Blackwater's recent transactions with the Obama State Department and discovered a $45 million payment to Blackwater on February 4, 2009 for "protective services-Iraq." It is described as a "funding action only." Here is the interesting part: The estimated "Ultimate Completion Date" is 5/07/2011


When does this shit end?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIG Explained


Pretty shocking really. Makes this next bit sound even worse...


Watch CBS Videos Online

Watch CBS Videos Online

Watch CBS Videos Online

Watch CBS Videos Online


See? The chairman of the Fed is just a regular Joe - just like you and me! He's a Main Streeter with middle-america at heart.

And pigs are capable of flight...

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Daily Show vs. Jim Cramer


Ultimately, Stewart is unfair to Cramer. Yes, it would be nice if Jim Cramer would operate as more of a market watchman and do the hard-hitting investigative journalism that Stewart envisions as part of Cramer's job. But Cramer admits himself that what he actually does is more in the way of an entertainment show about the market. One has only to watch the show a little to see that his persona on the show is more in line with Bob 'Bulldog' Briscoe - a fictional character on the TV sitcom "Frazier." Cramer is clearly not the investigative journalist that Stewart would seem to demand of him. Stewart also ignore that CNBC has advertisers that are most likely major players in the market and that they will not support the kind of show that Stewart imagines them putting on the air.

Stewart seems to want Cramer to do the job of government in regulating the markets, but he's just not going to get that is he? I mean, in what world?

The reality is that our federal legislators are obviously in bed with the great manipulators of the markets and that the SEC is very nearly toothless and utterly outmatched by an investment culture that views it with the same annoyance and a wink as do children when they consider the importance of the hall monitors at their elementary schools.

Government is not doing its job and it's every man for himself. You must carefully scrutinize how you invest and read every contract to the last line. There is no one else watching out for you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Twit: Meghan McCain

See it here:

Almost articulate. Socially moderate - not an apparent racist, although I wonder about her in terms of probable classicism.

But she says she loves the GOP. What about it exactly Meghan?

You are barely able to speak to issues on the economy - not unlike your father - and yet what could be more fundamental to a party platform? You come across like an empty little head. A Pretty face for the GOP not unlike your dad's running mate. You want to have important opinions without doing the necessary legwork. What a surprise coming from a daughter of such privilege...

Not a very good showing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Camera Obscura

Caravaggio used 'photography' to create dramatic masterpieces

Art history scholars have long known that Caravaggio worked in a sort of darkroom, illuminating his subjects through a hole in the ceiling and projecting the image onto a canvas using a lens and a mirror.

But Mrs Lapucci is the first researcher to suggest that he treated the canvas with light-sensitive substances, including a luminescent powder made from crushed fireflies, in order to "fix" the image as 19th century photographers later would.


From "Chasing Amy"

Holden: Sorry about him, he's, uh, he's dealing with being an inker.
Alyssa: Oh... you trace.


It's cool. I understand the need to get the work out. Once you prove to yourself that you can draw naturalistically, why keep doing it?

And yet somehow a part of the respect I once held for masters like Caravaggio and Vermeer has quietly died.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Zombie Banks

Regulatory reports show 5 biggest banks face huge losses

America's five largest banks, which already have received $145 billion in taxpayer bailout dollars, still face potentially catastrophic losses from exotic investments if economic conditions substantially worsen, their latest financial reports show.

Citibank, Bank of America, HSBC Bank USA, Wells Fargo Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase reported that their "current" net loss risks from derivatives — insurance-like bets tied to a loan or other underlying asset — surged to $587 billion as of Dec. 31. Buried in end-of-the-year regulatory reports that McClatchy has reviewed, the figures reflect a jump of 49 percent in just 90 days.

The disclosures underscore the challenges that the banks face as they struggle to navigate through a deepening recession in which all types of loan defaults are soaring.

The banks' potentially huge losses, which could be contained if the economy quickly recovers, also shed new light on the hurdles that President Barack Obama's economic team must overcome to save institutions it deems too big to fail.America's five largest banks, which already have received $145 billion in taxpayer bailout dollars, still face potentially catastrophic losses from exotic investments if economic conditions substantially worsen, their latest financial reports show.

Citibank, Bank of America, HSBC Bank USA, Wells Fargo Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase reported that their "current" net loss risks from derivatives — insurance-like bets tied to a loan or other underlying asset — surged to $587 billion as of Dec. 31. Buried in end-of-the-year regulatory reports that McClatchy has reviewed, the figures reflect a jump of 49 percent in just 90 days.

The disclosures underscore the challenges that the banks face as they struggle to navigate through a deepening recession in which all types of loan defaults are soaring.

The banks' potentially huge losses, which could be contained if the economy quickly recovers, also shed new light on the hurdles that President Barack Obama's economic team must overcome to save institutions it deems too big to fail.


Here comes socialism

If South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint isn't declaring that even temporary nationalization of banks is "the same idea as socialization," then his colleague from the same state, John McCain sidekick Lindsey Graham, is telling NBC's "Meet the Press" that Obama needs to consider the idea. Even Alan Greenspan is part of the conversation. The Ayn Rand disciple whose every public utterance for most of his life has been devoted to extolling the virtues of the free market is suddenly pushing nationalization.

Of course, even though the federal government now owns 36 percent of Citigroup, and Citigroup and other massive banks are teetering on the edge of insolvency, the Obama administration swears there's no plan for a government takeover. "This is a very complex set of problems, and bad decisions can result in huge taxpayer expenditures and poor results," President Obama told the New York Times on Friday, bringing up -- and then shooting down -- the idea that bank nationalization would save the financial sector. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told PBS's Jim Lehrer last week that nationalization is "the wrong strategy."


No, the wrong strategy would be the one that will fail. Throwing good money after bad in more bailout bullshit with no oversight, for example.

Obama, Geithner: Stop being a bunch of fucking ponces and get what needs to be done accomplished. Here on this blog I post comments like this one as a veritable countdown to economic catastrophe based on your executive indecision.

Weekly Content Theft: This Modern World

Monday, March 9, 2009

On the Female Beauty Ideal

In one of these pictures a famous Hollywood actress looks like a woman - that is to say she has a womanly shape and has womanly features. In the other picture she does not - which is merely to say that she is bereft of the features mentioned above. I think it's possible for people to find her attractive in both instances.

Eventually, I'll have a lot more to say about this...

Krugman Nails It Again

I like Krugman's op-ed piece here:

Obama is doing things much too slowly. He's allowing the GOP to be obstructionists and thereby widening the chances of failure for his shallow policies. He needs to bold and make moves that run deep. Instead I see the same political manoeuvring that have made the last handful of decades economically disastrous for the U.S.

Force his hand, he apparently can't do it alone and never had the will to do so.

FDIC Takeovers


We need to break up and eliminate financial institutions that are "too big to fail." We need to take them over temporarily, break them up, and then sell off the assets that still have value to other players in the private sector.

No more bailouts. Instead we need what would be de facto bank nationalization. And just as with smaller banks, the heads of these large financial institutions need to be allowed to fail and to go home and announce that they are selling off their personal properties and downsizing their lifestyles. No more golden parachutes on the back of the taxpayers - and what's more, we should be going back in to collect on the bonuses and golden parachutes that have been paid out on the taxpayers' dime since last summer.

Get it done, Prez. The delay is costing us years in the recession trough.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Douchebags on CNBC


I am really starting to feel that the economic crisis that we now face is in reality the failure of capitalism. Given the chance, your countrymen will rob from you until you are a dead withered husk. People may complain about the ills of socialism, but I must ask:

How can it be worse than the last 150 years of capitalism in the U.S.? Is it possible to have even more corruption than we now have? Will we face an even more ruthless oligarchy?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Debt of the Dead

I hope when I die that people will say of me, "Boy, that guy sure owed me a lot of money!" - Jack Handey


So You’re Dead? That Won’t Stop the Debt Collector

Dozens of specially trained agents work on the third floor of DCM Services here, calling up the dear departed’s next of kin and kindly asking if they want to settle the balance on a credit card or bank loan, or perhaps make that final utility bill or cellphone payment.

The people on the other end of the line often have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a spouse, sibling or parent.


That last sentence up there is all I want to publicize on the matter.

Thanks Stimulus!

Who Cares About Wall Street Numbers Anyway?

Obama On Stock Market: The 'Fits And Starts' Are A Normal Reaction

President Barack Obama compared the stock market Tuesday to the daily tracking polls used during campaigns, saying that paying too close attention to how Wall Street "bobs up and down" could lead to bad long-term policy. "What I'm looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability of the United States ... to regain its footing," Obama said after meeting in the Oval Office with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

He said the developments he follows most closely are whether lending is flowing more freely, businesses are investing and the unemployed are going back to work.


Why the hell would the general public care what happens to Wall Street numbers on a daily basis? The market is so easily manipulated by pump and dump schemes and irrational bouts of both exuberance and pessimism that it's very hard to understand why the news media focuses on those numbers so much.

What is good for GM is not necessarily what is good for you and I. What is good for Wall Street is even less important to Main Street.

We are going to have to seek out a whole new set of indicators for what is happening in the economy. And we are going to have to find a set of numbers less easily manipulated than the current way the unemployment rate is tracked.

Legalizing Drugs

60 Minutes: Mexico's "Queen Of The Pacific"

The juice for everything discussed in that segment comes from the U.S.: the money and the guns. The problem is not so different from the gang problem we have within the U.S.: territorial disputes, graffiti wall markings, general gang culture hooliganism and drive-by gun violence all stem from the illicit drug trade. And the vast sums of money derived from the drug trade is such that the police and politicians in both countries can be corrupted.

The U.S. is awash in illicit drugs. The idea that drug prohibition is keeping drugs out of the hands of Americans is absurd. Anything you may desire is available for a price. Prohibition never curtails access, it merely creates a black market. The "Drug War" that the U.S. is still so famously waging is an admission that the drug traffickers are winning - that the drugs are readily available. "Just say no" is not a meaningful statement in a land without ready access to illicit drugs.

So what is the answer?


Everybody must get stoned


That article discusses only the legalization of marijuana but I could see things going much further. I mean, why stop there?

This isn't a call for society wide insobriety; it's about solving the very real crime problems confronting us on the streets each day. Prohibitions create black markets. Black markets create underground economies that thrive on violence, theft and prostitution. Gang cultures grow up around those economies and become problems of criminality for society as a whole.

What would the Mafia do without the drug trade? How about the Colombian, Peruvian, and Mexican drug cartels? How about the Crips and the Bloods?

Legalization and regulation are absolutely the cure for those problems.

When the money dries up and every drug becomes legal, regulated and taxed all the fun of being a bad guy goes away.

Why Pay Comic Artists? This Modern World