Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Single Smartest Thing I've Read On The Internet

From one, if not the, most respected economist/blogger:

I've been reading Mark Thoma for about 3 years and I've never, ever, detected dishonesty.

He could very well have an agenda.  Simply publishing accurate accounts of current events might be construed as an "agenda" if one considers that fear is being pushed out by the pundits every hour of every day.  But for an accurate accounting of what's important in the days' reading (his links) and for clear-headed analysis, Thoma is really hard to top.

Yves Smith is much too kind to Greenspan

This is a must read, and has a great link to a video demonstrating the dangers of playing with explosives.

Must quibble though:  Greenspan was most assuredly not the headmaster.  He was the headmaster's personal assistant.  So who really was/is the headmaster?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two ex-SEC regulators fighting it out on Baseline Scenario

(see comment thread)

Goldman Goldman Goldman

Much ado about Goldman Sachs. Just wanted to point to two articles that talk about the continuing facepalmable antics of what Matt Taibbi described in his Rolling Stone article as a "Giant Vampire Squid."

First, this from the Baseline Scenario: Fox, Henhouse, which discusses the questionable act of installing a 29 year old Goldman employee as the new COO of the SEC, Adam Storch. The comments are particularly illuminating, especially those of Jack Chase, a former regulator.

Also, this, from the ebullient limey Reuters blogger, Felix Salmon:  Click me
Mr. Salmon reviews a little of Andrew Ross Sorkin's new book, "Too Big To Fail" and talks a little about how things can be fairly legal, yet very very wrong.

Just a stray thought...  I haven't heard anyone deconstruct this "too big to fail" (TBTF) meme into its ultimate significance (huh?).  What I mean, is that if you think about it, and this may be plainly obvious to everyone, TBTF is just blackmail;  it's a trick that kids and immature adults use all the time.  Right?

Black is Back

Prof. William K. Black was a regulator at the SEC during the S&L crisis.  He subsequently wrote a book called "The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One"

He has has appeared on television numerous times and receives the highest respect when treated in the financial/econ blogs, but he needs far more exposure; he states more clearly the causes of and solutions for our crisis.

This is a short video which should be required viewing for everyone old enough to understand the concept of fraud and deep capture.  If Prof. Black hasn't been coopted himself, (no evidence to suggest that he has, but appearances can often be deceiving) he certainly deserves a spot in a new, clean, regulatory system.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Creme De La Creme

A little early to get to the top of the pyramid (if that's what it is), but maybe it would be useful to start at the top in addition to trying to deduce the top from the base.

Who and/or what is your choice for the most powerful person/institution in the world?  Why?

Jaime Caruana?  Dominique-Strauss Kahn?  Angela Merkel?  Pete Peteson?  Carla Hills?  Warren Buffett?  The Pope?  Rahm Emmanuel?

"Illuminati" flavored organizations are fair game too -- Group of 30 (Bellagio), Bilderberg, Bohemian Grove, Trilateral Commission, etc.  It's probably hard to say something new about these groups, but  if you have links or a good argument, please commit them to blog.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Organized Crime

We should break down the top criminal organizations, but let's figure out what they are first and try to evaluate them for influence.  Wikipedia emphasizes the following:
  • Sicilian/American Cosa Nostra
  • Neopolitan Camorra
  • Calabrian Ndrangheta
  • Abruzzian Rancitelli
  • Apulian Sacra Corona Unita
  • Russian Mafia
  • Serbian Mafia
  • Israeli Mafia
  • Albanian Mafia
  • Mexican Drug Cartels
  • Columbian Drug Cartels
  • Indian Mafia
  • Chinese Triads
  • Irish Mob
  • Japanese Yakuza
  • Jamaican-British Yardies
  • Turkish Mafia
One of the running themes that will probably emerge is the complete "capture" and "control fraud" occurring at national and international levels.  The best microcosm for this is the Phenix City Story :
 The drama depicts the real-life 1954 assassination of Alabama attorney general Albert Patterson in Phenix City, Alabama, a city controlled by organized crime, and the subsequent imposition of martial law. Some prints of the film include a 13-minute newsreel-style preface including Clete Roberts interviewing the actual participants.
 Click here for video:  Phenix City Story

South Africa

Myanmar (Burma)


United Kingdom



















United States



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Civil War Averted

Egbok!  The danger has passed.  The next time you pull up outside your favorite medical marijuana dispensary, laminated smoker license in hand, you can stroll up to the front door without fear that a federal swat team is about to take you down.  Our benevolent dictator has decreed:  If it's okay with the state, it's okay by us.

States rights pwnage.  John Randolph, you can stop spinning in your grave and Angel Raich, you are now free to smoke about the country.

The AP is all over this like a fiend.  Reefer Madness.

Goodbye absinthe, hello cognac.

Goodbye absinthe, hello cognac.

Google News puts the number of articles about cognac, in the last month, at about 2,374.  2,265 just in the last week.  A trend!  (Though you wouldn't know it by looking at google trends)

It looks like the cognac lobby is writing the cognac entry on Wikipedia:
"Since the early 1990s, cognac has seen a significant transformation in its American consumer base, from a predominantly older, affluent white demographic to a younger, urban, and significantly black consumer. Cognac has become ingrained in hip-hop culture, celebrated in songs by artists ranging from Tupac Shakur to Busta Rhymes to Mac Dre and Nas.
It is estimated that African Americans now comprise 60%–80% of the American cognac market A majority of African Americans have indicated in studies that the endorsement of popular musical artists is a key factor in their preference for cognac. Moreover, Pernod-Ricard, the parent company of Martell, has acknowledged that “the USA is the biggest market for cognac, and African-Americans are a priority target.” Many have credited hip-hop culture as the savior of cognac sales in the United States. After poor sales in 1998 due to an economic crisis in Asia — cognac’s main export market at the time — sales of cognac increased to approximately US $1 billion in America in 2003. This was a growth that coincided with hip-hop’s entry into the mainstream of American music."

Let's get to know it a little better.  The Romans brought vines to France about 2,000 years ago.  Then, in the early 1600's, with the world thirsting for French wine, exports exploded.  But wine did not travel well on the ships, so the story goes,  so vintners began to distill it into what the Dutch called "brandewijn," or "brandy" as we know it.  From the authoritative website
"Brandy can be produced by the distillation of any wine. And the wine used can be made from not only any grape but almost any fruit according to Bureau National Interprofessional du Cognac. Cognac, on the other hand, has to be made from the wines of specific regions in Cognac called delimited area."

The rules of cognac are very strict, and regulated unmercifully by the Bureau National Interprofessional du Cognac (BNIC):

1. The wine heater, used in the double distillation process, if I understand this correctly, cannot exceed 30 hectoliters.
2. The wines used to produce it must come only from the "delimited area" surrounding the town of Cognac.
3. If it's not made from at least 90% Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, or Colombard grapes, it's not the real deal.
4. Distilled two times.  Aged at least two years in oak barrels.
5. The haughtiest of the cognac haughties swear only by oak from the forest around Limoges -- Limousin Oak.
6. Age, aside from the whole XO, VSOP, VS, Napoleon, Extra, Vieux, Vieille Réserve, and  Hors d'age thing:
" In France, the age of a Cognac cannot be put on the bottle, unless it is a “declared vintage”, and the French make that a very complicated thing to do.  So, the technical term is “Age at Tasting”, which means that if the “Age at Tasting” is declared to be 15 years by the local official when he taste tests a Cognac, then that means the Cognac tastes like it could have been from a vintage harvested 15 years ago.  Thus, when somebody claims to have a 25-year old Cognac, it means nothing about the real age of the Cognacs blended to make that certain bottle — they could be anywhere from 2.5 years old to 70 years old, and often are.  It simply means that the Cognac in that particular bottle has an “Age at Tasting” of about 25 years."
If the Reptillian Cognac high command is able to breach our bank accounts as definitively as Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae, and the Bank for International Settlements, cultural guerillas would do well to arm themselves with the knowledge that Foie Gras is not just a fatty goose liver and truffle smoothie.  Cognac is the secret ingredient.  Savoir, c'est pouvoir.