Category Archives: Politics

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Whale Oil Blog, and International Organized Crime

A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:

Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.

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How Significant is the BRICS New Development Bank?

Yves here. Quite a few readers have contended that the commitment by the BRICS countries to create a developing country challenger to the World Bank represents a serious blow to the dollar hegemony.

While rising anger against the US use of its currency/banking system dominance to further geopolitical ends is well warranted, translating that into effective counter-measures is something else completely.

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Patrick Cockburn: Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed – The Underrated Saudi Connection

Yves here. While this is an informative piece, quite a few readers are likely to take issue with the notion that the war on terror is as failure. US foreign policy appears to be run by Saudi Prince Bandar and the military-survelllance complex, and the war on terror caper looks to be working out just fine for them. And the super wealthy and the domestic policy elites get the added bennies of having a political justification for full-spectrum-coverage of ordinary citizens’ activities and authoritarian policing.

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Lambert Talks With Tim Wu, Net Neutrality Pioneer and NY Lieutenant Governor Candidate

Yves here. Lambert interviewed Tim Wu, who is campaigning with Zephry Teachout to upset politics as usual in New York. Both are running in the New York State primary against Andrew Cuomo and his candidate for lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul. The Teachout/Wu campaign against Cuomo has gone from quixotic to the most interesting state race […]

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Pending Suit Against Countrywide’s Angelo Mozilo: Yet More Politically-Driven Selective Enforcement

Let’s be clear: we are fans of going after bank execs who bear significant responsibility for damage to borrowers and the economy, rather than just the footsoldiers. We also prefer criminal prosecutions. But in this era when the elites just don’t think of white collar crime as criminal, at least if performed by people who have big titles are large institutions, we have to highlight whatever progress we do see on the “get tough with the bad guys” front.

One deserving target is Angelo Mozilo, head of Countrywide, the biggest and most efficient subprime originator.

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Bank Settlement Grade Inflation: High Bullshit to Cash Ratio in $17 Billion Bank of America Deal

Over the last year, the Administration has entered into a series of bank settlements over various types of mortgage misconduct. The sudden rush to generate headlines from misdeeds that have been covered in the media in lurid detail during and after the crisis looks an awful lot like an effort to stem continuing criticism over the abject failure to punish banks and more important, their execs for blowing up the global economy for fun and profit, particularly since the Dems are at serious risk of losing control of the Senate in the Congressional midterms.

But as much as the media dutifully amplifies the multibillion headline value of these pacts, we’ve reminded readers again and again that all of these agreements have substantial non-cash portions which are ludicrously treated as if they have the same value as cold, hard cash.

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Merging Finance and Health Care Leadership – Robert Rubin Proteges Running DHHS, Spouse of Hedge Fund Magnate Running the FDA

Yves here. This post describes a pair of examples in the mistaken assumption that financiers, or at least people with connections to financiers, are the best people to put in charge of anything. Of course, whether people actually believe that assumption, or use that as a cover to curry favor with the 0.1% remains to be seen. But there is evidence that at least some people in positions of influence actually do believe it. For instance, during the famed auto bailouts, for instance, that the government brought in a dealmaker, Steve Rattner, whose investment banking experience was concentrated in media companies. And the crisis showed that the Masters of the Universe were better at lining their pockets rather than doing the job that ostensively justifies their elevated position and outsized pay: allocating capital efficiently, to the best outcomes for society as a whole.

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Benjamin Lawsky Shows Other Bank Regulators How to Do Their Jobs

It’s really easy to default to cynicism these days, since you are almost always certain to be right. And that goes double as far as bank regulators are concerned.

So that makes it even more important to call attention to exceptions to that sorry rule. One big one is the New York Superintendent of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky. As we’ll discuss later in this post, he’s again the subject of a top story in the Financial Times for doing what the banks treat as horrifically unwarranted behavior: punishing them for failing to live up to agreements to reform their conduct. Didn’t he get the memo that that was all theater for the rubes, and no one takes those commitments seriously?

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Ukraine’s Next Crisis? Economic Disaster

Yves here. While it’s not hard to imagine that war is bad for economies as well as living things, this post gives an overview of some of the costs that the proxy war in Ukraine is inflicting on the economy and hence on the population. Note that this tally does not include the impact of the efforts to render cities in the east uninhabitable by destroying water supplies and other critical infrastructure.

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Utopian Robotics

So the robots take over the social function of providing most everything in the two layers at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiology and safety. Food, water, shelter, warmth; security, stability (for example). We’ve got robot houses, robot servants, robot cars, robot malls, robot servants, robot baristas, robot Walmart greeters, robot drivers, robot security guards, robot financial advisors, robots to make robots….

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Does the Central Bank Control Long-Term Interest Rates? A Glance at Operation Twist

Although less prevalently talked about today many economists assume that while the central bank has control over the short-term rate of interest, the long-term rate of interest is set by the market. When Post-Keynesians make the case that when a country issues its own sovereign currency the rate of interest is controlled by the central bank and that the government never faces a financing constraint some economists deny this and point to the long-term rate of interest which they claim is under the control of the market. They say that if market participants decide to put the squeeze on the government they can raise the long-term rate of interest.

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The SEC’s Mary Jo White: A Failure, or Doing Her Real Job?

Your humble blogger has to confess to having called Mary Jo White’s appointment incorrectly, based on enthusiastic readings on her from people who’d worked with her as a prosecutor, such as Neil Barofksy. But the default assumption for Obama appointees, that he’d never give anyone who’s rock the status quo a serious role, was the right assessment. White’s ten years in the private sector at Debevoise seems to have reinforced habits that aren’t serving her well, even in her role as Potemkin fixer-upper of an agency that is widely seen as timid and floundering. Not only is she failing to move regulatory measures forward quickly enough, but she’s also engaged in an unseemly amount of turf warfare with other agencies.

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Debunking the Myth that An Aging Society and a Falling Birth Rate is Bad for the Young

One widely accepted nostrum is that falling birth rates, particularly when accompanied by rising life spans, are bad for economic growth and therefore bad generally. The assumption is that a shrinking pool of 20 to 65 year olds will be forced to support a larger and larger cohort of unproductive citizens, namely, the aged. That vision, of young people hostage to parasitic elders, is also one of the foundations of boomer hate, which is actively stoked by major Republican party funder Stan Druckenmiller, who has been touring college campuses to sell the false notion that Social Security and other social safety nets for the elderly are bad for them.

That picture is at odds with what is actually happening in advanced economies.

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