RSSCategory: History

Credit limits: A Simile

August 3, 2011 | By | Reply More

Consider having finally bought the sports car of your dreams, getting your bills paid, and being able to afford the interest on your credit cards, even paying them down. You drive down the interstate smoothly, and see signs of construction ahead. That would mean a slow-down, but nothing insurmountable.

But then you are told to hand the keys over to another guy, a good old boy with whom you’ve never agreed. But now he has the roadster, and is seeing what it can do. But shortly, through no fault of his own, a rock is kicked up, and cracks the windshield.

“Duck this,” he yells, and steers that roadster off the pavement and heads out at right angles from the obvious way forward to bounce through the desert. Rocks, gulleys, and sand are not really where a roadster belongs. So this fellow runs up the credit cards to the limit seeing to the incessant need for repairs. And he increases the limit regularly, as he cannot pay the bills. Seeing that this keeps the car running, he wants to see how far he can make it jump.

Finally, the car is damaged almost beyond repair. He spends and raises the limit several times, in a last ditch effort to get the car almost running. But then he is told to hand the keys over to another guy: A tall, dark, erudite type with training specifically in aspects of handling a roadster.

The new guy tries to steer the car back toward smooth roads, but the car barely runs when he gets it. He spends up to the limit just to keep it running. Then he begs to extend the credit limit enough to make it fully road worthy. But the friends of his predecessor are determined to prevent any extra spending.

“Too much!” they cry. They don’t feel that the car really needs work. Perhaps it should heal itself.

Now, that makes sense!

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Insider Trading Writ Large

July 31, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More
Insider Trading Writ Large

Imagine, if you will, a country in which banking regulations were stripped down so far that worthless paper again becomes a hot commodity. Now consider that this had (as it inevitably must) blown up and caused a crash in the lending market and equities market and thus the economy in general. Further note that a necessary result would be a rapid rise in the price of precious metals, notably gold.

After a couple of years, that gold bubble would be ripe. People who had assets remaining when the junk bonds or sub-prime mortgages or whatever collapsed could have conservatively moved their money into gold, further depressing the equities market and inflating the price of gold.

But, wait. Because of government investing, the market was recovering too fast! So fast that the wealthy were unable to swap their inflated gold for depressed stocks at the optimum time. What to do?

Congress to the rescue! The wholly owned carriers of the banners of freedom and independence could be employed to create a palpably unnecessary crisis with a distinct deadline. Yes! This would quickly depress the markets and allow those holding too much bubble-gold to buy depressed stocks.

Meanwhile, those elected to carry the load of screwing the middle class could also jump on the wagon and buy up stocks just before the deadline hits. Then the price of stocks returns to normal levels, and the gold bubble can be allowed to pop.

I, for one, would like to see the trading histories of all those involved in the current crisis, and their friends and kin.

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On Palestinian statehood

July 27, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
On Palestinian statehood

Democracy Now! reports on recent developments regarding efforts to seek Palestinian statehood:

Israel, U.S. Denounce Palestinian Statehood Bid at United Nations

The Obama administration and the Israeli government are continuing a vocal campaign to quash the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations. Palestinians are seeking a vote in September that would recognize an independent Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. Speaking before the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor, as well deputy U.S. envoy Rosemary Dicarlo, offered matching positions.
Ron Prosor: “First let me state clearly, unilateral actions will not bring peace to our region. Like a false idol, the Palestinian actions at the United Nations may be superficially attractive to some, yet they distract from the true path to peace.”

Rosemary Dicarlo: “Let there be no doubt, symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September will not create an independent Palestinian state. The United States will not support unilateral campaigns at the United Nations in September or any other time.”
Both the House and Senate have threatened to cut off aid if Palestinians continue with their statehood bid. Also addressing the Security Council, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said Israel’s refusal to end the occupation remains the lone obstacle to peace.

Riyad Mansour: We have fulfilled our responsibilities and are ready to govern ourselves. The only remaining obstacle is Israel’s 44-year military occupation.

[More . . . ]

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Updates on Iran

July 24, 2011 | By | Reply More
Updates on Iran

I’m not seeing any meaningful news regarding Iran these days, at least from the mainstream media. But you can nevertheless follow the news of Iran by visiting Windows on Iran, an excellent website run by Fatemah Keshavarz.

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Free Speech Above All

July 11, 2011 | By | Reply More
Free Speech Above All

Johann Hari on Religious Censorship

This video is an impassioned declaration on the importance of not allowing “sensitivities” and an unwillingness to offend become a force against free speech.  It is also, underneath, an argument for rejecting the pseuodthink of irrational defenses of absurdity.

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Denominations of the Tea Party

July 6, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Denominations of the Tea Party

There appear to be three overlapping major factions of the current political movement called the Tea Party. I had thought there were really only two until recently.

The two to which I allude are the Theocracy Movement, and the Libertarians. Sure, there is actually a registered Libertarian political party. But as of the last election cycle, unelectable Libertarians like Rand Paul were elected under the Republican banner due to Tea Party support.

But today I found the article The Tea Party Stormfront that shows a real and dangerous overlap between the Tea Party and Stormfront, an umbrella for the KKK and other White Nation groups. This article shows how you can look up the data yourself, and how to find the instructions given by StormFront for their members to blend in with and lend their support to the Tea Party.

With luck, this is the least fraction of the whole. It does seem to me that the Theocracy branch is really the bulk of this tail trying to wag to political dog. And making scary progress.

Discussion?

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Some Thoughts On Independence Day

July 4, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Some Thoughts On Independence Day

It’s the Fourth of July.  I’ve been pondering whether or not to write something politically pithy or culturally au courant and here it is, almost noon, and I’ve made no decision.  I think I pretty much said what I had to say about my feelings about this country a few posts back for Memorial Day, so I don’t think I’ll revisit that.

Last night we sat on our front porch while the pre-Fourth fireworks went off in the surrounding neighborhood.  Folks nearby spend an unconscionable amount of money on things that blow up and look pretty and we benefit from the show.  Neither of us like large crowds, so going down to the St. Louis riverfront for the big explosion is just not an option.  The older I get the less inclined I am to squeeze myself into the midst of so much anonymous humanity.

We’ll likely go to bed early tonight after watching the rest of our neighborhood go up in brilliance, starbursts, and smoke.

I suppose the only thing I’d like to say politically is a not very original observation about how so many people seem to misidentify the pertinent document in our history.  The Declaration of Independence is often seen as more important than the Constitution and this is an error, one which leads us into these absurd cul-de-sacs of debate over the religious nature of our Founding. 

[More . . . ]

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A most unusual museum in Cambodia

June 27, 2011 | By | Reply More
A most unusual museum in Cambodia

Have you ever been to a landmine museum? Neither have I, but two friends just returned from incredibly beautiful country of Cambodia, which is still feeling the effects of horrific periods of war and unrest. And one can still find live landmines–there are millions of them in Cambodia, many of those landmines being “found” by current amputees. Which leads to the story of the Cambodia Landmine Museum, founded by a man named Aki Ra. His goal: “I want to make my country safe for my people.”

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Apparently We Need More Accidental Criminals

June 22, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Apparently We Need More Accidental Criminals

I was reading my usual science blogs, and came across Weekend Diversion: And now, they’re coming for me. Yeah, me. Because I write for you. at Starts With a Bang. Apparently Congress is creating new classes of felons that would have no idea they were doing anything even technically wrong.

In brief,  U.S. Senate Bill 978 (that just cleared committee) makes it a Federal Offense (felony) if you happen to embed someone’s video on your post that someday someone may claim infringed on a copyright. If I, for example, embed a video of some stranger’s birthday party on this blog, that pans briefly across a television set that happened to be playing a commercial for shoes, that has background music by the Beatles, and in five years Michael Jackson’s heirs decide that this infringed on their copyright on the music of McCartney and yank the video, I could technically be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. Even if the creator of the video, the owners of the network, and the shoe company and its marketing agent all had approved my use.

Ethan Siegel has more details about this silliness and suggestions on his post.

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