Archive for March, 2009

occult investment

Monday, March 30th, 2009

http://helpeachother.us/images/occult-dollar_pyramid.gif

This amazing story serves to illustrate both the profound secrecy in which our government operates – it also illustrates some astonishing circumstantial evidence that would indicate the government acting well in advance of the current financial crash (indicating it knew long before, that it would eventually crash) and used public money (pension funds) in order to shore up the Wall St. ponzi scheme.

Just months before the start of last year’s stock market collapse, the federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million Americans departed from its conservative investment strategy and decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into stocks.Switching from a heavy reliance on bonds, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation decided to pour billions of dollars into speculative investments such as stocks in emerging foreign markets, real estate, and private equity funds. …

No statistics on the fund’s subsequent performance were released.

Nonetheless, analysts expressed concern that large portions of the trust fund might have been lost at a time when many private pension plans are suffering major losses. The guarantee fund would be the only way to cover the plans if their companies go into bankruptcy.

[…]

Charles E.F. Millard, the former agency director who implemented the strategy until the Bush administration departed on Jan. 20, dismissed such concerns. Millard, a former managing director of Lehman Brothers, said flatly that “the new investment policy is not riskier than the old one.” …Asked whether the strategy was a mistake, given the subsequent declines in stocks and real estate, Millard said, “Ask me in 20 years. The question is whether policymakers will have the fortitude to stick with it.”

I’ll try and ignore the arrogant “ask me in 20 years” quip, and move on to the larger question of how this could be possible. How can the government director of pension funds take the very risky initiative of changing the investment portfolio of God knows how many American pensions (all 64 billion of it) from the predictable bond market and smack them down on the Wall St casino tables – without any acknowledgment, let alone even a whisper of protest. Remember, this happened as long ago as last spring, and yet this is the first we’ve heard about it.

In order to see this travesty in proper context, we need only look back to the other attempt to pour massive amounts of public cash onto Wall St; the ill-fated Bush administrations attempt to privatize part of the Social Security system. Which if had it been successful, would have dumped multi-billions on to the Street in roughly the same time frame. Which of course begs both a question and an implication. If this was an attempt to shore up Wall St with copious amounts of fresh cash, which it seems to be, this implies that it was well understood – clear back to that S.S.debate time – that the financial health of the nation was already in dire straights. That the financial health of the nation had in fact become starved for cash in an addictive vicious circle dependent on unregulated malignant growth in a charade to appear “normal”. So instead of using the S.S. reforms, our wonderful government, threw into the insatiable maw of Wall St the only other alternative – the retirement pensions of millions of working Americans. And they did it in secret, without oversight.

occult and secrecy

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Emptywheel looks into her crystal ball – and sees secrecy. The troubled financial giants have apparently developed a penchant for offshoring  their risky investments onto the island paradises where they can maintain  occult from prying eyes:

You see, these companies are robbing us blind by using these countries as tax havens. But that’s not the most troubling aspect of the growing use of secrecy havens. As part of a very dangerous game, companies are using them to pick and choose when they want to be a big holding company and when they want to hide an incredibly risky venture somewhere were no one will account for it in stock valuations of the holding company or find it when suing the company. That limits the ability of consumers and investors to hold the company responsible, yet it’s not clear it really mitigates risk.

And, in the case of companies like AIG and Citi, it means taxpayers bear a great deal more risk than we’re talking about.

Now, I raise this not to take anything away from Conasan’s point–they are robbing us blind. But because the issue of tax and secrecy havens will be a key issue at the G20 meeting. And it looks like a key dispute will be how to enforce such new regulations.

There’s no telling what one might find should all the books on Goldman Sachs or AIG be revealed in daylight. Apparently, the lesson learned from the Enron catastrophe was not so much a hedge against corruption, but finding a better way to hide it.

occult democracy – participation without accountability = guilt transcended by temporal utility

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Ouija Board

Or as some would call it….”pragmatism”. And they think animism is superstitious.

banana republic

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Today, Glenn Greenwald citing several opinions on how the U.S. economy with regards to the bailout, and the “old sport” clique from Goldman currently infesting the Obama administration – has come to resemble 2ed or 3rd world emerging economies:
Desmond Lachman:

I still recall the shock I felt at a meeting in Russia’s dingy Ministry of Finance, where I finally realized how a handful of young oligarchs were bringing Russia’s economy to ruin in the pursuit of their own selfish interests, despite the supposed brilliance of Anatoly Chubais, Russia’s economic czar at the time.
[…]
In the twilight of my career, when I am hopefully wiser than before, I have come to regret how the IMF and the U.S. Treasury all too often lectured leaders in emerging markets on how to “get their house in order” — without the slightest thought that the United States might fare no better when facing a major economic crisis. . . . If we insist on improvising and not facing our real problems, we might soon lose our status as a country to be emulated and join the ranks of those nations we have patronized for so long

And Jonathan Schwarz:

There’s been a common phenomenon in the third world over the past three decades or so. A country’s financial sector, in collaboration with the larger financial world, would create some type of gigantic economic fuck up. The IMF would then (in collaboration with the local financial elites) step in and provide loans in return for what was called “structural adjustment.” Structural adjustment involved getting rid of any kind of social spending that made life bearable for everyone else.

In other words, the country’s financial elites would use the catastrophes they’d created themselves in order to do what they’d always wanted to but couldn’t get away with in normal times. They took the profit, and then imposed all the costs on everyone else.

And Simon Johnson:

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). . . .But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

And Glenn:

So our political class cheers on treasury-draining wars, allows financial elites to rob and pillage, witnesses huge transfers of wealth to the richest, and then when the whole thing explodes, the “real fiscal answer” is for ordinary Americans to have their Medicare benefits “slashed” and Social Security benefits reduced.

Personally, I’m beginning to wonder whether the U.S. ever was a first world country, and instead has simply been an overblown banana republic all along. Or at least until the financial sector was allowed to fully express itself.

shining city on the hill (through a thrift store window)

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

2008, 11″ x 14″ , full frame color film image (click on image for enlargement)

the big takeover

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

If you haven’t read the Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi, HERE IT IS in it’s entirety.

The Big Takeover

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

It’s over — we’re officially, royally fucked. no empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country’s heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That’s $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG’s 2008 losses).

So it’s time to admit it: We’re fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we’re still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream. When Geithner announced the new $30 billion bailout, the party line was that poor AIG was just a victim of a lot of shitty luck — bad year for business, you know, what with the financial crisis and all. Edward Liddy, the company’s CEO, actually compared it to catching a cold: “The marketplace is a pretty crummy place to be right now,” he said. “When the world catches pneumonia, we get it too.” In a pathetic attempt at name-dropping, he even whined that AIG was being “consumed by the same issues that are driving house prices down and 401K statements down and Warren Buffet’s investment portfolio down.”

page 1 of 8, if you haven’t read the whole thing, continue on (click the red “here it is” above – it’s the best overview I’ve seen yet.

white wash

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

2008,14″ x 23″ x 2″, oil and rhinestones on wood (click on image for enlargement)

from the israeli defense force:

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

2009 oil paint on photocopy

Bernhard at the Moon of Alabama has a small mountain of other evidence.

A T-shirt printed at the request of an IDF soldier in the sniper unit reading ‘I shot two kills.’

From the Israeli newsagency Haaretz

populist

Friday, March 20th, 2009

2009, oil on photo copy

bear line up

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

dshort.com

comparison of bear sizes and veracity courtesy of dshort.com.