Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A paradoxical gun law

Here is an interesting infographic about paradoxical american law that prohibits the use of tasers and pepper spray in some US states.

Via: BrickHouse

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Penny Stocks short intro

Have you ever been interested in trading penny stocks? Here are some useful information for new traders who are interested in trading penny stocks:

Via: StockRockandRoll

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Discourse analysis

I'm not a huge fan of David Letterman, and though I've been mildly entertained by his one man campaign against McCain over the last week (McCain having been silly enough to cancel an appearance on The Late Show & then reappear on the floor of the CBS studio down the road - hell hath no such fury as a late night compere spurned), this piece with Brian Williams from NBC news is interesting. Very interesting.

Williams of course has been locked out of an dialogue with McCain/Palin camp as part of the general definition of his type of media as that elitist conspiracy determined to stop Mom & Pop America from enjoying its moment of glory in the electoral sun. And much of his approach is couched within the needs of a journalistic manner that forsakes criticism for something closer to understanding - the journalist as therapist, with a client more than willing to misinterpret or manipulate the therapeutic relationship, substituting insight and honesty for constructed truths intent upon fashioning a mediarised definition of self.

And like a good therapist, Williams keeps giving the space needed to reel the McCain/Paling camp into something like dialogue. The problem is that it is very unlikely that given weeks if not months of the GOP tactic of smearing the media with all responsibility for a campaign blunder or error of governmental judgement, McCain/Palin can now re-engage with anyone in the media other than the pundits who have remained their mouthpieces. The ridiculousness of this is revealed by Palin's attacks on Katie Couric. (If Palin's minders failed to insist upon a preview of Couric's questions and then failed to train Palin up to speed, I can only assume they're really Nader supporters).

What Williams and Letterman represent are media positions intent upon claiming independent status, which in the US version of truth and democracy is, as Letterman jokes, provable "as I've got the paperwork". McCain/Palin GOP '08 are increasingly relying on any hope of success upon winning over the notional independent voter and the Reagan Democrats from the MidWest and some southern states. Michigan's already been conceded (thank you Congressman McTrotter) and Ohio's looking nasty. It just may be that the GOP tactic of attacking the media as an unmediated space until defined by them may be starting to backfire.

Firstly, if media spaces such as The Late Show can provide a beautiful moment of discourse analysis from about six and a half minutes on, then the general level of debate and engagement is higher than we have come to mockingly expect. Secondly, the untrammelled access to infinite media sources undermines the GOP tactic of entirely focusing upon a constructed media space such as Fox - particularly when you are trying to engage with the swinging independent voters. It serves perhaps to reinforce those already rusted on, but leaves the undecided as "free agents".

The dialogue between Letterman & Williams is interesting in itself - I should imagine very very carefully scripted and a piece that should be compulsory viewing in every journalism & discourse analysis course. The multiplicity of technique, the space of undetermined or disputed meaning, and a rather brilliantly crafted play of advocate and devil. The upshot? McCain/Palin can no longer risk engaging with the mainstream media they have worked so hard to beat off. The problem is, all of the bleating about liberal elites will only convince those ready to be convinced. And the edge in Williams' negotiated therapeutic position does not bode well for any rapprochement with McCain 08. Somehow I doubt John McCain will be dialling 1800 NBC NEWS anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Schadenfreude: taking joy in the suffering of others. You know, the whole rationale behind the House of Representatives.
- White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) from The West Wing

Sunday, September 28, 2008


For anyone living in or visiting Melbourne on October 3, 4 or 5, you have something you have to do.

Follow the link to the ACMI and book a seat for one of the three screenings of Irena Salina's film, Flow: For Love of Water.

As far as I can tell, it has not yet got Australian distribution. This will be your only chance until that might happen.

And before you go, or if you can't, pop into your local bookshop and buy a copy of Maude Barlow's Blue Covenant. We've got work to do, people.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

I'm not entirely sure why or where this photo was taken. I suspect it's an Alaskan thing. Like hunting moose and rolling in the snow. It popped up in report that Palin has been busted by the National Enquirer having played hide the I-think-you-get-the-point with her hubbie's ex-business partner.

Given that there are Americans who apparently have the right to vote driving round with bumper stickers proclaiming her a good VP pick as she's a hottie, let us not assume that a tacky NE revelation that Sarah Palin may have clintoned at some stage is necessarily a bad thing. And as part of a campaign chock full of certainly weird things, the only negative thing to come out of these revelations will be the reputation of the woman sitting on the right of the front row. I hope she sues.

It might be that NE is attempting to draw attention away from the increasingly I'm not waving but fucking drowning antics of McCain's campaign. In a week which has seen McCain roam headless across that great nation in search of a campaign narrative, it appears he has hit upon the notion of deferring if not cancelling the first debate in light of the financial crisis. Off to Washington with Citizen John and just you watch - magically Capitol Hill will swallow the pill of Paulson's making, money will cross palms, bankers will get to go home to Martha's Vineyard still wearing their shirts, and the market has been rescued by the US government. Ta da.

Given that McCain is not and never has been on the Senate Banking Committee, he would have spent tomorrow wandering around the corridors looking for someone to stand around the water cooler with, but thankfully George W managed to be of use & summoning both Citizen John & Citizen Barack to the rose garden for a photo-op, will ensure John has something to write in his diary. Which still leaves the somewhat awkward few hours to fill before the debate but with any luck, Palin's indiscretions will turn out to involve Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and that woman in the photo enabling McCain to skip the whole damn thing in a media dust storm.

Did you hear Bush's address? Did you hear what he said? "Panic" "serious recession" "grave danger" - is he fucking insane?

Rule No 1 of How to Contain Panicking Financial Types:

1. Never ever ever admit how dire things really are. Do not use the word panic.

Why? Because that is exactly what will happen. And what really infuriates me is that Bush's motivation would seem to entirely rest upon the need to force a less-than-compliant Congress into signing up to Paulson's deal. Well it worked over Iraq - can't see why it wont work this time.

And the most interesting question is WHY? Why now?

Are things suddenly that bad? This thing has been rumbling 'round since at least August last year, though anyone with a fly's worth of sense has been getting more and more worried about the financial slicing & dicing, creating financial instruments so complex it is very doubtful that anyone has a firm grasp on either how they really work and how they might cease to work.

Either Paulson is incompetent or shall I wander into the meadows of speculation? Within the last three weeks, the US financial system has lost ALL of its major securities firms. All of them. The most potent instruments for amassing and shifting about large chunks of credit in the US sphere. And Paulson truly had no idea they were under threat? There is no argument that transparency in the US financial market is akin to sunbaking in the Chunnel, but was regulation so lax, reportage so poor that Paulson & Bernanke had no Plan B in hand? That it all had to be cooked up over a couple of days and forced through Congress?

In a rather odd convergence of events, there's nothing like an election to focus the attentions of those whose next lucrative term at the Washington troughs is at stake, and having to go back to their constituents to argue that $700 billion given away to a financial system that has asset stripped the American economy is a really good idea is not a pleasant thought. So they gather on Capitol Hill to get those magical numbers just right so that neither the Dems or GOP will electorally carry the can on this post November. A resistance movement Bernanke & Paulson did not expect.

While they continue to plead before Congress committees, Bush is wheeled out to presumably spread a little panic among the punters, particularly those old enough to have some inkling of what a depression is, punters who will start ringing their congress persons tomorrow in terror at the President's dire warnings. Which might play politically, but when New York opens, Bush's indiscretion may play out as his own version of a butterfly flapping its wings. If Congress doesn't sign off on something by the end of the weekend, whatever confidence remained in the market will have disappeared. Next week might get nasty - real nasty.

None of which answers the question as to why now? Dare I be accused of cynicism by suggesting that by having left this bailout til now, it places maximum leverage upon all members of the Congress, and ensures that the fools responsible for it will have well and truly left the building by the time the bills start turning up. Leaving it to a new administration possibly run by Obama would not have given the Masters of the Universe the assurances they would wish for that such a bailout was and will always going to happen. Time it just right and everyone's happy. Well except the punters but they'll be too busy picking nettles and standing in unemployment lines to complain.

And double bonus time if that pesky Dem chappie does get in - things turn ugly, real ugly and come the next election Mitt Romney can ride out of the sunset of Republican conservative la-la fiscal Land and save us all. Provided of course that pesky chap does get elected. I agree McCain is doing a pretty good job of helping Obama but there are still 40 days til the 4th. 40 days in which things can get very very ugly indeed. And you can be assured that if the Paulson bill is delayed or not, should it fail, and there is every chance it will, it will sheeted home entirely to the Dems in Congress. And therefore Obama.

Ugly stuff. Classic Rove. God help America.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One trillion dollars hanging on the wall....

The generous gift of something approaching one trillion dollars to the American financial system, (and I strongly suspect it will end up being much much more) was meant to provide surety where it had gone missing.

A certain amount of confusion surrounds what will be guaranteed and what will not, but it appears that not only will vast numbers of sour home mortgages be covered, but at the behest of banking lobbyists over the weekend, other debts will also be included. Credit card, student loans, and even margin lending gets a look in.

There are calls for a centralised piggy bank funded by US treasury to magically pop its cork and spill its pennies for anyone or anything profligate with their own or usually someone else's money. This is meant to ensure that a. no one panics and begins a run on a bank or institution and b. that liquidity does at its name suggests and is able to keep flowing through the economy.

If you are mortgage defaulter, you will still lose your home. But now your bank wont lose on the difference between the amount loaned to you and the now much lower value of the property. There have been indications that assistance will be available to keep people paying re-financed mortgages, but in an economy with rising unemployment, how generous will this largess be? Lehman Bros staff in the New York office will now receive their bonuses but will homeowners in Phoenix or Greater LA be living in their homes once they're unemployed and struggling on insurance?

There is another set of problems with this intervention. These will take perhaps some months to reveal themselves, and they are largely the unintended consequences of such large shifts of financial management. The most immediate issue is the impact that the deal will have on the US dollar. Opinion among pundits is divided but there is concern that it will lead to a devaluation of the currency against its major trading partners. This has been the case over the last 48 hours, which means little, but if it continues, it will undermine much of the supposed good impact of this wheeling and dealing.

If it declines sharply, it raises another danger that has been murmuring through the market for the last 30 months or so. Oil is bought and sold in US dollars, and is enormously important in supporting the market value of the currency. If the currency and its supporting economy appear unstable, and oil producing nations were to shift to say the Euro as an alternative, the impact would be severe to say the least.

The US economy is also funding itself by effectively borrowing - borrowing from its own future revenues. As the economy shrinks or stalls, tax revenues will also shrink. If unemployment rises, tax revenue will again fall. A very expensive war against terror has already made government deficits staggeringly large; public services have been experiencing budgetary pressure for some time (partly ideological) and the removal of upward of a trillion dollars from the public purse will have profound impacts upon government service provision over the coming years.

Market analysts began issuing advise to sell regional bank shares at the opening of trade in the US yesterday, as it appeared they being small and unrepresented at the weekend bailout meetings were not going to access any of the lovely money being thrown around. To make matters worse, the last two securities firms left standing are now morphing into holding banks, needing to access the security of deposited funds. And already looking to acquire the smaller and the vulnerable. Of which there are now a lot more than there were last Friday.

Regional banks probably will become ``lunch'' for larger institutions, JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Steven Alexopoulos told clients yesterday.

``We are seeing deals that are highly opportunistic and speedily arranged, where targets are distressed,'' said Marco Boschetti, co-head of global mergers and acquisitions at the Towers Perrin consulting firm in London.

What we will certainly see over the next few months is a rapid consolidation of banks and financial services. And as we Australians know, domination of the deposit market by four major banks is not the road to riches. Just ask anyone working in the farming finance area - the small are eaten, the vulnerable destroyed. And frankly, the bigger they are, the more difficult to govern and regulate. Recall the odd $330 million lost by "rogue traders" at NAB. The bank's own system of regulation failed and they were fined a pittance for reporting falsely to regulators as it unravelled. If governments fail to dramatically ramp up control and regulation, the next big market bubble will be beyond the scope of any one government to either control or ameliorate.

The market insists upon the logic of competition as the only mechanism able to impose the rational on the economy. With grossly increased consolidation, competition will decline. I suspect those fortunate enough to up at the pointy end of the economy wont be complaining.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A curious thing happened on the way to the bank

Within the last week, the Federal Reserve has engaged with the meltdown in US financial markets to a degree earlier events indicated they would not. AIG joins Fannie & Freddie as newly minted government owned assets, while Lehman Bros, Bears & Merrill Lynch were not quite so lucky. The hard reality is that the former could not be allowed to fail in the final weeks of a presidential campaign, while the latter were ripe for either buyout or breakup, which could be politically afforded.

An old adage frequently bandied about concerning the then Country Party of Black Jack & Co, was capitalists when profitable, socialists with loss. The same seems to be very much the flavour of the response to this mess from most western style democracies. Allowing the markets to unravel would have appalling consequences - appalling for workers & wage earners, appalling for the distress it would undoubtedly cause. Though I doubt that most governments are driven by concern about outcomes for the average punter, rather the political consequences of even a mild recession and the response from the economic and social elites.

US authorities are putting together a plan to effectively bankroll bad debt similiar to the L&S failures of the Reagan years. Markets as they always do, rallied, gaining 400 points and loud cheers from the New York Stock exchange floor. Quite what will be in the package is the focus of much rumour mongering, but there seems to be a universal expectation that the markets will be saved from themselves.

What I find most astonishing is the number of pundits, politicians and opinion givers who are insisting that the markets' problems are not caused by poor modelling, greed, incompetence and lack of regulation but on the contrary, had the markets' been able to run unfettered, none of this would have happened. Chicago School stuff of wet dreams. The astonishing arrogance and hubris of this type of contemptible rubbish is not only insulting to one's intelligence; it is so remarkably arrogant at a time when it would be vaguely within rights to expect these types to be displaying a small amount of humility in the face of the multi-trillion dollar mess they've got us all into.

Bailing, yet again, these greedy vain fools is not my preferred option, and in an ideal world, I would leave them entirely to their own devices. Given that banks of all hues are being very loath to place funds into central banks, which means there's no money for anyone to borrow, the ability of the market to regulate itself would very swiftly display itself for the myth it is. But it is not a perfect world, and the people who would suffer most if these bastards were left to sink would of course be us.

But not a cent of government revenue should be going anywhere near any of these firms without the clear insistence that a new regulatory environment will be put in place. And yet it would appear that this is not the case.

Gordon Brown's government passes emergency changes to financial regulatory laws within the last 24 hours to allow Lloyds to swallow HBOS; regulations that focus on ensuring competition. This raises the question of how governments will respond to market demands, and so far it would seem to be rather craven.

It in turn raises another interesting point - will large corporations such as Barclays, Lloyds - those that by prudent planning or sheer bloody good luck have remained above the rising flood waters of panic and insolvency - will they by dint of their size, power, position and last remaining option be able to demand and receive concessions from regulatory and governmental authorities which will be of immediate benefit in ensuring they take over whoever they are eyeing off, but also allow them to demand concessions that will greatly enhance their profitability in the future? Will the corporate saviours of the market be exploiting the panic no doubt gripping governments in North America and Europe to gain more advantage?

Will they in fact be using the shock doctrine?

The other issue of concern is that we now seem to have a very entrenched expectation that when they do fawk it up, someone else will clean up afterward. And the bigger you are, the less anyone will want you to fall. Nor is it simply about the immediate problems and consequences of these corporate failures - given the level of ownership of infrastructure, particularly in the area of transport, a failing corporation will be cutting back on maintenance, expansion and upgrades, which will have impacts throughout the economies of the world. But why should they worry? Someone will obviously take care of the mess. The slogan of 21st century masters of the universe is "the profit is mine, but the loss is yours."

Re-regulation of the markets is urgently required, a duty our governments cannot shirk, and no one with an ounce of intelligence or integrity can argue otherwise. Yet again the markets have proved they cannot regulate themselves, nor be trusted. The one small glimmer that is emerging from this mess is its impact upon the US presidential elections. McCain is doing a wonderful version of a headless chook, leaving to Obama to appear competent by saying very little. A delightful irony is the greed of the masters of the universe contributing in some small way to the end of small government/ free market regimes in the US and Canada.