As many of you may already know, insvestment banking firm J.P Morgan recently lost nearly $2.3 billion dollars on some very, very, bad bets.
Sources in the MSM accordingly, show a trader only dignified by the sobriquet ‘London Whale’ was able to hedge together larger shares of Morgan company money and place them on malevolent trade returns. They did not pay off.
Some circles call it business as usual. Other circles call this collusion, or extended risk. Yet others would call this, hedging- or: placing large assets on wide-open targets, at just the right time and place. I don’t need to mention the implications of this; we’re back to 2007, when the Recession we are currently in, evolved- by these means.
Now, clearly- you could claim- the company knew what it’s employees were aiming at with their stoked assets. They didn’t. This story is just emerging, but it seems clear that this is a perfect example of those who don’t know what they are doing, laksadaising large amounts of money; and wielding power so great, there could be serious repercussions.
Gladly, at least so far, there have been few.
Nevertheless, what this shows is not only nefariousness on the part of some, but also the evident close ties in finance between Europe and the United States. We may think this country is just pulling from a recession, when in reality we’re right back to 2007, or earlier.
Entire Markets and nations are tanking in Europe: acidic debt scouring away at the health of entire economies. The European Union ready to dissect into multiple breakaway-province nationalities. National furor is high, while economic support has hit all-time lows.
At first sight, the entire investments-gone-wrong scenario would yearn for more oversight- but beware of what you ask for! Oversight by whom? I don’t think market regulation is a particularly good example of solving fiscal ‘problems’ by any stretch of the economic imagination.
What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.
During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.
Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.
Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Some panels are off in nowhere, little rooms here and there. Other panels are in giant ballrooms, like the Marshall Ballroom, second largest to the Marriott where all the major speakers are, well, speaking. (Perhaps “blustering” is a better word.) And sometimes, those ballrooms were not full. But then maybe I got there early.
It was certainly an illustrious panel, which explained why it began to fill up shortly after it officially began. It was chaired by Grover Norquist himself, President of Americans for Tax Reforms, and the legendary proponent of the “No New Taxes” Pledge he encouraged (some on the left would say “forced”) politicians to take up. To his right was Lew Uhler , chair of the National Tax Limitation Committee, and to his left were Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute and Phil Kerpen, Vice President for Policy, of Americans For Prosperity. I went because the subtitle implied there was going to be a debate between supporters of the Flat Tax, Fair Tax, a VAT, and maybe even 9-9-9—and that plan’s author, Rich Lowrie, did show up in the audience. But there really wasn’t any debate on that front.
And let’s face it, what kind of debate can we really have on taxes? Even the left admits that the tax code we have now is horrifically complex, prone to corruption and gaming the system. Though they disagree about “broadening the base and lowering the rates,” I don’t think any sane American, left, right, or center, can look at the miasma we have now and say, “Yeah, it works.” For whom?
There were some interesting points to be made, but ultimately I didn’t think the solutions that Norquist posed during question time were all that good. But let’s focus on the interesting first:
Welcome, United Liberty readers! Today we are solely focusing on the evil that is #SOPA and #PIPA, the two bills that are in Congress and aiming to destroy the Internet. Thousands of websites are going dark to protest, including such giants as reddit, BoingBoing, Mozilla, Wordpress.com, Scribd, and Wikipedia. Google is also joining in, though they aren’t going completely dark, they’re putting notifications on their front page, which will help the protest get a lot more attention.
If you’re new here, or you’re new to the whole SOPA and PIPA debate in general and want to know more about why these bills plainly suck, you’re in the right place. But rather than reinvent the blogging wheel, I’m instead going to give credit where credit is due, and direct you to Mashable’s Chris Heald, who has done an absolutely fantastic job dissecting these bills and showing you why they are some of the worst things that have ever been put before Congress (after the horrific NDAA, of course.)
The post is very long, because it dissects them so thoroughly. Here are some highlights I want to share with you, that I think are most applicable:
We’ll expand on this further down, but the really scary thing here is that there isn’t any qualification that the site be solely for the purpose of theft, only that it facilitate it. Since copyright violation is ridiculously easy, any site with a comment box or picture upload form is potentially infringing. Furthermore, DMCA Safe Harbor provisions are no defense. You, as a site operator, become liable for copyright infringement committed by your users, even if you comply with DMCA takedown requests.
In his column on December 30, George Will seemed positively giddy that 2011 ushered in a new era of fossil fuel abundance. You see, according to Will, this newfound energy abundance is good news for conservatives (and, presumably, libertarians) because the absence of energy scarcity is bad news for progressives. They need scarcity, Will writes, to justify “rationing … that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of Americans’ behavior.” And with this newfound energy abundance, progressives will have less justification for many of their big government endeavors.
There may be valid reasons for conservatives and libertarians to take a skeptical approach to anthropogenic climate change. There are certainly good reasons for those who care about limited government to oppose the means that have been proposed to deal with it, which include such big government gems as carbon taxation and its initially conservative alternative, cap and trade. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a conservative or libertarian who doesn’t oppose the scandal (Solyndra), overregulation (good golly), or nannyism (We <3 Incandescent Light Bulbs) that have passed for energy and environmental policy in Washington.
But there are no good reasons for either conservatives or libertarians to be excited about fossil fuels. George Will argues that our newfound energy abundance will liberate us from many big government endeavors. I argue that our dependence on Old Energy empowers progressives — and, in some cases, conservatives — in at least five ways to insist upon the necessity of big government.
Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.
I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.
Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:
1. Establish Approval Voting
I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.
Last month, the office of US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released a report [warning: PDF] on the GAO Audit on “major conflicts of interest at the Federal Reserve.” I didn’t see this until just recently, but the summary is quite interesting:
That little gem is from a new page on Facebook, called “Crony Capitalism is Phony Capitalism.” Now, you may be wondering why I posted this. I mean yes, it’s kinda cute (c’mon, this is the postmodern 21st century, zombies and Cthulhu are automatically cute), short, pithy, and expresses a libertarian message, even if it generalizes it. A lot. But a 30-second video from a Facebook page? Really?
The reason I did so is because I feel this is the Number #1 message we need to be getting out there (well, that and how feeling up women at airports is just wrong.) Back in college, when I argued about government intervention in the marketplace, “corporatism” and “crony capitalism” were just not mentioned. It was an important discovery for me when I found these terms, because previously I had been just trying to defend capitalism, no adjectives. It was difficult, because everyone associated large businesses ripping them off with the capitalist system, and they just could not understand how government so heavily involved itself in the market, but that system was not what we libertarians were espousing. Oh, how useful these new terms were! How sharp were their blades in cutting away the web of lies! How deep were their inkwells in writing the new papers blogs on liberty and the free market!
Everyone else has already said my thoughts on this OWS silliness. There is only one small part of it I want to comment on, brought to my attention by George Scoville:
With much of the nation’s attention on Occupy Wall Street and the protests that have sprung up around the country, one group taking notice is landlords responsible for the spaces where the protests happen, The New York Observer reports.
Some would like police assistance in moving the protestors out, as the Wall Street Journal noted, while others want to use the event to change the rules so that owners are given more leeway.
Privately owned public spaces, or POPS, are part of New York’s incentive zoning program, under which buildings are granted additional floor area or related waivers in exchange for providing these spaces. Zucotti Park in Manhattan is one such location.
Brookfield Properties, which owns Zucotti Park, pointed out that the plaza there hasn’t been power washed since the day before the protests began, nearly four weeks ago, the Observer reported.
The Real Estate Board of New York’s president, Stephen Spinola, told The Observer that his trade association may consider asking the Department of City Planning for new rules on the city’s POPS, perhaps allowing the private owners to close the spaces at a set time, which, he claims, would add to security and allow maintenance.
Not washed? Ewww.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke just announced Operation Twist, a new combat operation that will supposedly fix our market woes. Supposedly. (Hey, pass the vodka, will you? I need a drink before I listen to this guy.)
I am not a financial markets expert, and I have not heard that much on the actual details of Operation Twist, but, courtesy of CNN, here’s a brief explanation:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The Federal Reserve announced “Operation Twist” Wednesday, a widely expected stimulus move reviving a policy from the 1960s.
The policy involves selling $400 billion in short-term Treasuries in exchange for the same amount of longer-term bonds, starting in October and ending in June 2012.
While the move does not mean the Fed will pump additional money into the economy, it is designed to lower yields on long-term bonds, while keeping short-term rates little changed.
The intent is to thereby push down interest rates on everything from mortgages to business loans, giving consumers and companies an additional incentive to borrow and spend money.
So basically, they’re selling bonds and buying bonds. Nothing exactly Earth shattering here. And definitely not anything that will get us out of this rut.
Interestingly, some members of the FOMC agree with my assessment, and one of them had a speech about it. Mr. Richard W. Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, had this to say about recent monetary policy, using a Nordic weather station as a metaphor: