Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This blog has moved...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Voices of Madmen in Authority Distilling Their Frenzy

“When policy-makers have already witnessed a significant move in asset values, and are confident in what that move means for the outlook, it should be prepared to adjust policy accordingly. The central bank must be responding to its assessment of what an already observed movement in asset prices will mean for output and inflation.”

- Timothy Geithner, at the NY Association for Business and Economics.

“Monetary policy itself cannot sensibly be directed at reducing imbalances.”

- Timothy Geithner, at the Global Financial Imbalances Conference in London.

“To do otherwise would run the risk that monetary policy would be too accommodative, pulling resources from the future in a way that would alter the trajectory for the growth of the capital stock, perhaps amplifying the imbalances, and compromising the price stability.”

- Timothy Geithner, at the Japan Society Corporate Luncheon in New York City.

"...in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil."

- John Maynard Keynes, General Theory

Images of the Recession

Thousands of people at job fairs, construction cranes, closed factories, cul de sacs with no houses, foreclosed home-buying tours, unused freight containers, etc. What does this all mean? - that we are in a recession. Take a look at the photographs.

What kind of capitalism is this that images from times of down and out look identical to images from times of up and coming? These photographs look like they could have been taken at any point in the business cycle. Creative destruction? Accelerating change? The law of uneven development?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Understanding Media...

"Obama sets new standard for managing the news". - McClatchy Newspaper.

In the past week, Obama has done the following.

  1. Spoke with Iranians through video conferencing.
  2. Spoke to viewers of a Latin American music awards ceremony through video conferencing.
  3. Appeared on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show".
  4. Appeared on "60 Minutes".
  5. Wrote an opinion column that appeared in newspapers around the world.
  6. Held a prime-time news conference aired on television.
  7. Held an online town hall meeting.

A former Google manager is Obama's new director of "citizen participation". Obama has directors of new media, directors of online programs, broadcast media, regional media,
African-American media, Hispanic media, research, and "message events". All of this has created - in the words of McClatchy - a "symbiotic government-media relationship".

The gift of Television

"I call a cat a cat."
- Boileau

Because of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish Republic only officially recognizes two special ethnic groups: Jews and Greeks, because of a long-standing animosity between Jews, Greeks and ethnic Turks. These ethnic groups are protected under special provisions that give them the same rights as Turks.

The question remains what Turkey has to say about Kurds, Nogais, Zazas, Ossetians, Laz, Arabs, Georgians, and Armenians who officially are not recognized by the treaties. Minorities in Turkey are discriminated against not just in practice, but also in legal writing. Did you know that speaking Kurdish was still an illegal practice in Turkey until 2003? The Turkish penal code has many other problems, which is why Turkey cannot enter the EU. But what to make of the new 24-hour Kurdish-speaking television news station?

It may seem like Kemal is smiling upon the Kurds at last, but the Turkish Republic is full of secrets and many disguises. This is probably the most salient feature of the country I realized when I visited in July of 2007: the country is rife with conspiracy theories. For every Turk I talked to, I heard at least three conspiracy theories. The generals did not trust the politicians, the politicians did not trust the intellectuals or the military, and the intellectuals did not trust anybody. Everybody else is caught in the crossfire of propaganda.

The ruling political party, AKP, chose to use wicked brute force to invade the Eastern region settled by the Kurdish separatists about a year ago. Now they want to give Kurds a television station, just before an election cycle. Is it not the case that this television station is merely a way to create divisive feelings amongst those Kurds who see it as an act of kindness and Kurds who see it as an act of appeasement? Those who see it as an act of appeasement truly believe that Kurds must be separate from Turks politically. Those who see it as an act of kindness can be bought by the government into the Turkish political system.

You cannot look at the situation and say, "Either way, Kurds win", because even though they have a television station, it comes at the expense of many Kurds turning to the statist and corrupt Turkish government. It comes at the expence of political capital. The AKP party is set to win these elections again, which means the Eastern Kurds will have to endure more bombings. The TV channel, since its state-owned, might then become just another mouthpiece for the government. And that, my friends, is why the government is kicking your asses.

Separatists will never get anywhere if the people they defend are constantly giving into to concessions.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Supply Chain disruption

On any given day, millions of containers carrying up to 32 tons of goods each are moving on trucks, trains and ships in and out of ports. This movement has become remarkably affordable and economically expedient for global supply chains of manufacturers, retailers, and until now, the US military.

The possibility that "foreign terrorists" would seize control of a public port, or bring in a dirty bomb to explode it inside a port facility near a large city, would haunt Homeland Security ever since 9/11. In the past port security compromised port efficiency by constantly packing and repacking at checkpoints. This proved very costly. As a practical matter, some considered that process a non-tariff barrier to trade.

Today only about 5% of containers entering the US are inspected like this, and the Department of Homeland Security is suggesting upgrading its ports to operate much like Hong Kong's port where every container passes through a gamma-ray machine and a radiation portal to detect nuclear weapons. Just one bomb that sneaks in through a port could prove disastrous - not just for the city affected, but for the entire economy afterward. In the words of author and policy analyst Stephen Flynn, "The entire intermodal container system will grind to a halt."

In effect, every guerilla warfare operation has realized that one of the most effective ways to cripple an empire is to disrupt its supply chain security, and make every movement of goods and commodities extremely risky.

It is for this reason that protesters, playing on the government's fear of 'homegrown terrorists', would find that supply chain disruption in their own backyards could prove costly for the occupying forces as well. In the past just a group of about 40 people has proven very costly, up to $500,000 for just sitting and blocking traffic. These are, in effect, non-tariff barriers to trade. So much so that the Army will not use the sea-port system for the future shipment of military vehicles. Instead, it will fly all of the military vehicles to Afghanistan for the upcoming surge.

But is this because of activists in the US? And if so, is it a victory or an acknowledgment of Port Militarization Resistance (PMR)? Difficult to say.

Guerrillas are busy disrupting the military supply chain in Pakistan as well, and the US and NATO forces may be using air travel as a way to get supplies deep into the land instead of driving them through port cities.