Believe it: man flu is real Sydney Morning Herald
Big Content, ISPs nearing agreement on piracy crackdown system ars technica
Control Considered Harmful ComputerWorld (hat tip Lambert Strether)
Is your wedding ring made of ‘dirty gold’? Documentary links child slavery to high street jewellery Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)
EU president unveils new £280m ‘gilded cage’ Telegraph (hat tip reader Thomas B)
A ‘United States of Europe’ or Full Exit from the Euro? (Part 1) Marshall Auerback, Credit Writedowns
Italian Banks Plunge, German Yield Spread Widens on Debt Concern Bloomberg (hat tip reader furzy mouse)
NY Fed Won’t Say How Much Money Went to Iraq CNBC (hat tip reader May S)
Obama Isn’t Working: Mitt Romney adapts Maggie Thatcher slogan that destroyed her opponents at election Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)
America, land of the free to go hungry Guardian (hat tip reader May S)
When it comes to the bailouts, the hard Left is dead right Telegraph (hat tip reader Tim C). When the Torygraph starts quoting Marxist papers approvingly, you know something is up.
New York Senate votes to legalize same-sex marriage Washington Post. I’m glad this bill passed (Cuomo signed it and it becomes law in 30 days). I can’t fathom why some people are so opposed to it.
EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Murphy Says Thomas’ Actions Call Into Question Whether He ‘Can Continue To Serve As A Justice’ ThinkProgress
Gallup: Democrats Only Group That Supports Libyan War Jon Walker, FireDogLake. In addition to Banker Derangement Syndrome, we need to start calling out cases of Democrat Derangement Syndrome and Republican Derangement Syndrome
Dropouts look to learn from Zuckerberg Financial Times
Allonge Fabrication 101 – Part I Foreclosure Hamlet
Excessive capital requirements will make markets more chaotic – Myron Scholes Risk (hat tip reader Tim S). Given that Scholes has managed to blow up two hedge funds, I’d take his reading as a negative indicator.
Former employees of subprime mortgage lender indicted by Cuyahoga County grand jury Cleveland Plain Dealer (hat tip reader Tim C)
To the Last Drop Aljazeera (hat tip reader May S). Today’s must read.
Antidote du jour (hat tip freude bub). The cat woofs then meows when caught out:
The Bloomberg link is broken, this one works.
Niceish article I ran across at bloomberg:
It seems I spoke too soon. It’s actually a bizarre article, but bizarre in an illustrative fashion. She continues by noting that GE is making use of lots of loopholes:
However, now comes a bizarre shift. Rather than to denounce the fact that GE is corrupt, she argues that, because GE (and lots of other companies) can do this, the US should consider abolishing all taxation, and replace it with sales taxes. But because this might weird people out, she first inserts a meaningless bit about finding “the lowest tax rate with the broadest amount of support” (as conceived by politicians, of course):
When quoting Grover Norquist regarding tax policy, why would anyone EVER deviate from the part line: Starve the Beast.
Whatever else you might have to say about tax policy in the U.S., please don’t muddle the issue by stating it as anything other than that. Starve the government of revenues, let the normal course of spending take it’s course, and wait for the inevitable to happen. Brilliant in its simplicity and execution, it’s a strategy so ingeniously brilliant that it could ONLY have been hatched by a simple-minded conservative.
And they say that liberals are too smart for their own good. Indeed!
Starve the beast means starve the people. When cuts need to be made they are made first to food stamps and last to military spending.
beast means starve the people. When cuts
The problem with starvation and other changes is that change is controlled by corrupt-power-plays-in-Congress. Thus change always takes the spiral faster towards the bottom of the black hole.
Yes progressive tax is philanthropic. Yes progressive tax can stabilize fluctuations in the balance between deflation and inflation. Yes, our government has tried it. Yes, it worked. Yes, with our-spiffy-new-progressive-taxation stabilizing things we will not need the fed to *regulate* things for the fun and profit of insiders who know in advance which way fed will regulate. Yes, all tax of every sort slows the economy to cause unemployment. Yes, government food-stamps would be unnecessary if employment were full. Yes, less government could easily be financed entirely by treasury auctions which pay fat interest to our oldsters during their fading years just before they pass the bonds on to their children who use the money to stimulate the home construction industry. Yes, we can!
Yes, if we do it the Chicago Mob will have us all shot before the week is out.
Yes, we can’t
Re: Controlling and monitoring the Internet.
From the Guardian:
“A sinister cyber-surveillance scheme exposed”
Clarence Thomas is not only the least competent individual to sit on the Supreme Court in a century, he is also the crookedest over that duration. There is no clearer symptom of political rot-out in the U. S. than his continued tenure.
The operative principle for the judiciary has always been the appearance of impartiality. As George Orwell wrote in “England Your England” in 1941:
An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is “just the same as” or “just as bad as” totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread. In England such concepts as justice, liberty, and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life is different because of them.
But now the appearance of impartiality, much less any genuine impartiality, has been jettisoned.
In 1941 Orwell was able to claim that the “totalitarian idea that there is no such thing as law, there is only power, has never taken root.” It is no longer possible to make that claim, at least not in the United States.
I daresay it is a symptom of near-collapse of the social construct that is the US of A. Loss of confidence in the justice system is the best way to destroy a society without an invasion.
Let’s consider this: that politicians do not raise as one to demand Clarence Thomas impeachment means that for them, justice and the Rule of Law are mere empty formulas, to be used only when it is time to mind-control the unwashed masses.
In other words, for the politicians and punditofuckologists, most especially those on the Right of Mussolini and Somoza, (plenty of these asshats in the current edition of the GOP) justices are just other team players in their camp or at the service of the “enemy”.
You won’t find a better anecdotal example of this then with the ineffable Laura “The S***” Ingraham, who, after the Dover PA decision about Intelligent Design, castigated judge John E. Jones (a George W. Bush appointee mind you!) for having “deprived our camp, your camp your honor” from a victory!
One only has to know the first thing about the Establishment Clause and a bit of Biology 001 to realize how full of bovine fazoo the defendants in this case were. Judge Jones apply luminescent and implacable legal logic (as was his duty to do so) to publicly quartered the School Board, bodyslam the supporters of Creationism and give a total victory to the parents plaintiffs, reimbursement of legal fees included. It wasn’t even close.
But, for Laura and similar fuzzyheads of her ilk, none of that mattered. The outcome should have been opposite to the truth and common sense because “her camp” would’ve won.
All this took place in 2004. Seven years later, what was a worrisome but localized political neoplastic cell has morphed into a full-blown cancer metastasizing up to the highest echelons of the judiciary. One only has to read the incredibly deranged decisions of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in matters of national security and terrorism, or Arar v Ashcroft (2nd Circuit COA New York) to acquire a heartfelt conviction about that.
As for the SCOTUS, is there anything earth shattering to write that is not known to those who pay attention? BTW, Thomas is the worst example, alas not the only one. Alito regularly participate in very partisan political gatherings for well-heeled and influential right wingers and see nothing wrong with that. Ditto Antonin Scalia!
Yet, Reichpubliscums can’t shut the fuck up about Democrat “activist judges” plaguing the justice system. Of course, the overpaid stenographers that passes for journalists in the USA dutifully report these jeremiads and grill the democrats and progressives about this existential menace to the country at large while opening their cameras and studios (60 minutes among others) to Clarence THomas et al for a lovefest of softball questions about their personal food and sport preferences.
Somehow, there is something not quite right with this picture, don’t you think?
I can’t fathom why some people are so opposed to [same-sex marriage].
I can’t speak for New Yorkers, but out here in the rust belt there are a lot of breeder couples working two jobs (or worse, unemployed) to support a family on a median income of $50k. They see same-sex couples being acknowledged even as they and their children go unacknowledged. And the Republicrats are only too happy to pit the oppressed against the oppressed…
Thorstein said: “And the Republicrats are only too happy to pit the oppressed against the oppressed…”
It’s the same scam we see happening in Europe, where the bankers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians pit German workers against Greek workers, as they give both a good fleecing.
“These persons gain prominence and power by the dissemination of false ideas, and by deliberately appealing to the deepest hate responses within the human mind,” is how Martin Luther King put it.
The appeal to us-versus-them thinking seems to be such an easy ticket to political power that most politicians seem unable to resist it.
In Evolution for Everyone David Sloan Wilson asserts that “the average person is a facultative sociopath.” As he goes on to explain:
We might not be fated by our genes to engage in violent conflict, but we are most certainly prepared by them… [T]here is ample psychological evidence that we are hardwired to distinguish between “us” and “them” and to behave inhumanely toward “them” at the slightest provocation, as science journalist David Berreby recounts in his book ‘Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind’. Much of this research was initiated in the aftermath of World War II to explain how decent people could have participated in the Holocaust. Henri Tajfel, a Holocaust survivor, discovered that he could trigger us-versus-them thinking merely by assigning people to arbitrary groups. In what has become known as the Robbers’ Cave experiment, social psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues showed that well-bred American boys at a summer camp could be easily set against each other by housing them in separate cabins and reunited just as easily by giving them a common task. Contemporary books such as ‘Among the Thugs’ by Bill Buford and ‘War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’ by Chris Hedges describe violent conflict as instinctively pleasurable, like a sexual experience… My dictionary defines a sociopath as “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior.” An ounce of evolutionary thinking makes it obvious that “extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior” do not necessarily reflect a personality trait or a disorder, but may be an evolved tendency that can be expressed by anyone in the grip of us-versus-them thinking. If we want to avoid this kind of facultative sociopathy, we need to avoid pushing the wrong psychological buttons, just as the president of the United States avoids pushing the fabled red button that is supposed to initiate a nuclear strike.
After reading Andrew M. Lobaczewski’s book Political Ponerology, and Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World, I’m not sure I agree with Wilson. I think us-versus-them thinking is highly appealing to something like 20 to 25% of any given population—-what Schell calls a “mass minority”—-but for the vast majority of people it is less appealing.
As Lobaczewski, who lived six years under a Nazi regime and 32 years under a communist regime, explains, us-versus-them thinking is a hallmark of sociopaths and other psychological deviants. The research group he participated in estimated that these deviants make up between 15 and 20 percent of any population, and breaks them down as follows:
• The 6% group, which includes essential psychopaths (0.6%) and other psychopaths, known as asthenic, schizoidal, anankastic, hysterical, etc (5.4%)
• The 12% group, which includes those “who have been able to warp their personalities to meet the demands of the new reality.” Concerning this group Lobaczewski says we can “assume that the genesis of their submissive attitude toward the regime, their greater susceptibility to pathological effects, and their skittish opportunism includes various relatively impalpable anomalies. We observe not only physiological anomalies, but also the kinds described above [in the 6% group] at the lowest intensity…”
“So it is that only 18% of the country’s population is in favor of the new system,” Lobaczewski concludes. In addition “such a system contains many normal people forced to join such a party by various circumstances, and who must pretend as best they can to represent said party’s more reasonable adherents.”
Not surprisingly, the percentages Lobaczewski cites are, according to data Schell cites, about the same as those that made up the Bolshevik and the Nazi parties when they seized power. For example, in the national elections to the Constituent Assembly, who the Bolsheviks evicted at gunpoint, the Social Revolutionary Party won 42 percent of the national vote, and the Bolsheviks 25%.
The rise of the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Nazis was thus a pattern, Schell concludes, “of minority mass support amid majority rejection or indifference.”
“Organizationally speaking,” Schell goes on to explain, “a disciplined, aggressive mass minority that had seized state power and was prepared to use any degree of violence to impose its will, in disregard of the will of the majority, was the dangerous new force.”
So assuming that only about 20% of Americans are hard wired as “us against them” people, it explains why the propaganda machine of political parties needs to work overtime to keep people in check by artificially creating hate for others. And one can only imagine the emotional toll it takes on all of us to be constantly fed this propaganda of hate.
“The appeal to us-versus-them thinking seems to be such an easy ticket to political power that most politicians seem unable to resist it.”
Given how much drive hatred can give some people, it is not surprising. My granpa had a say about that: “Some people won’t give you the time of day, but if they hate you, will run 20 miles just to get at you and kick your ass.”
Yves: “When the Torygraph starts quoting Marxist papers approvingly, you know something is up.”
Conservatives and Marxists have rather a lot in common: they’re both economic nihilists.
Hannan: “Their [that is, lefties] refusal to understand that excessive spending and borrowing were the cause of this crisis, and won’t be its solution, is almost heroic in its mulishness.”
Actually, Hannan would be surprised to hear that most Marxists agree with him on that point too. In private they also laud the likes of Hannan for austerity measures as it pushes the masses closer to revolution — in public they claim the cuts are terrible, but in private most reasonably well-thought Marxists will tell you differently.
Schumpeter, for example, has become very fashionable on the far-left — and not without reason. They use him to analyse capitalism at its most troubling points of contradiction. Hannan and his Tory commonsensical ignorance of anything to do with economic policy are that high point of contradiction embodied. Maybe he should be writing for The Morning Star…
It’s funny how when conservative finds common ground with Marxist, with both agreeing that the workers of Europe are being “sacrificed to appease speculators,” that the “2008 bailout round failed spectacularly,” and that the “eurozone bailouts are, in essence, another transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich,” that you should find it timely to brand both as “nihilists.”
Instead of applauding this point of agreement—-which is, by the way, the very antithesis of nihilism—-you instead launch into unsubstantiated assumptions about what “most Marxists agree.”
Stigmatization and scapegoating are old tricks of the propaganda trade, and they both involve labeling some individuals as members of an outcast group. They thrive on discrete categories and not continua.
Is DownSouth a Marxist?
Anyway, that aside — although do tell — that’s not what I was talking about.
What I was pointing to was the overlapping on the far-left and right (not far-right, note) of a similar attitude toward fiscal policy. I.e. a similar policy approach toward financial crisis.
This has deep historic roots — mainly Marx sticking a la lettre to the classical theorists when he derived his conclusions — but leaving this aside, the practical results are the same:
The conservatives view depressions as ‘shake outs’ that should not be counteracted by government.
The Marxists view depressions as building toward ever enlarging crises and hence, in the end, presumably revolution and overthrow of the system.
If both are to be consistent — and they usually are — they would be against government intervention to stabalise the (capitalist) system.
That makes sense: both seek the natural.
Nature, that is, a la Rousseau:
“Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains!”
Their views as to nature differ, yet they still seek the same thing, some dream of the “natural”.
Yes, absolutely that’s part of it — and if we’re to go in that direction it’s a very interesting discussion.
I wouldn’t say Rousseau, though. Generally speaking, conservatives don’t like Rousseau (neither do I, but that’s besides the point). While Marx’s theories are (implicitly) based on Rousseau’s theory of natural rights and ‘man being born free’.
The conservatives theories are more so based on the likes of Burke — sworn enemy of Rousseau and the French Revolution. For Burke and the conservatives (well, most conservatives — certain libertarians are different, but I don’t consider them real conservatives) rights are primarily negative, not positive. So, whereas Rousseau assumes natural rights are a given and maximum ‘freedom’ should be sought, Burke says that natural rights do exist but they generally place a ‘limiting principle’ on what we can and cannot do.
To bring this right back to where we were at the start, both Marx and the conservatives assume this view of ‘base-rights’ for individuals. Out of this view grows both theories which claim that state intervention in the economy is a perverse denial of natural rights.
Of course, many will think this strange. “Isn’t Marxism for state control of the economy?” they’ll ask. No, read the Communist Manifesto closely. Marx seeks to dissolve the state altogether.
“Is DownSouth a Marxist?”
Ah yes! Trundle out that trusty old artillery piece that sits at the heart of the right-wing arsenal. By painting the enemy with the face of evil, you no longer even have to respond to his actual argument.
To which I respond with a single word: stereotype.
But it’s not that easy.
So what is it? Are you for bailing out the banks, aka Greece, at the expense of the Greek, German, French and other taxpayers? Or not?
Of course we already know what you believe to be the “conservative” and “Marxist”—-that is the “nihilist”—-view: “they would be against government intervention to stabilize the (capitalist) system.”
But what is your view?
I can’t believe I’m answering this again.
My view is simple:
(1) The banking sector needs to be regulated to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
(2) Prosecutions should be undertaken for those who truly engaged in fraud.
(3) ‘Burning bondholders’ should be decided on the basis of the damage it causes to the ‘real’ economy. No/low damage = burn. Medium/high damage = find alternative.
(4) Government debt is not ‘funded by the taxpayer’. Nor are the currencies issued by the ECB. So, that’s a non-issue.
(5) However, government bonds in the European periphery ARE in a very real sense being funded by the taxpayer. This can be resolved by fiscal transfers from the ECB or pulling out of the Eurozone and using new currencies to plug the gap (not a big fan of the latter solution, but better than the present).
(6) US government should run high deficits (again, they’re not ‘funded by the taxpayer’) until full employment.
(7) Ditto for Europe.
(8) Break up the big banks. But DO NOT destroy the central banking system as some on here advocate. This is just stupid and serves no real purpose except to tear society to shreds and start again, Year Zero, Pol Pot-style.
But Philip, you’re still dodging the quesiton.
We’re down to the wire here, and we have to talk about the here and now, not about some imaginary could be, should be.
Should Greece default? Or should Greece not default?
Should the EU-IMF-ECB troika offer more bailouts to Greece, aka the banks? Or should it not offer more bailouts to Greece, aka the banks?
Well you’ve fudged the question.
You said: ‘Are you for bailing out the periphery banks…’
So far, so good.
‘At the expense of the core taxpayer.’
That ain’t the way it works mon capitan. When the ECB extends bailouts to periphery countries it doesn’t — or shouldn’t — burden the European taxpayer.
The ECB just needs to credit the account of the government in question. That doesn’t burden any taxpayer.
So, sure, bailout the banks. That’s not the big issue in Euroland at the moment (wish you were here, living it). The main issue is the BAILOUT CONDITIONS that are being enforced on the periphery. These are the problem.
So, yeah, bail them out — aren’t they already doing that? But stop the crazy austerity measures. THAT is the key issue.
Just to be super clear on this, take Ireland.
You do know that Ireland — where it truly is the banks that are being bailed out rather than the state — in Ireland, it’s the IRISH TAXPAYER that has taken on the burden, right? Not the German taxpayer. You get that, right?
Philip, this is not nearly so complicated as you are trying to make it out to be.
The position being ascribed to the Marxists is clarion: The government of Greece should default. It should not accept any more bailouts from the EU-IMF-ECB troika.
Hannan has also made his position abundantly clear: The EU-IMF-ECB troika should not offer any more bailouts to the government of Greece. After all, as he said, “the bailout money isn’t going to the people of Greece, Ireland or Portugal; it is going to bankers and bondholders who made bad investments.”
So again, Philip, what is it? Should the Greek government default? Or should it not default?
There is no bailout without “the crazy austerity measures.” It does not exist. It is not an option for Greece. So what should Greece do?
Actually, yes, it is all far more complicated than your ‘bankster’ narrative. I still don’t understand it all yet — and I know for a fact I put a lot more effort into doing so than you do.
“There is no bailout without “the crazy austerity measures.””
Why shouldn’t there be a bailout without austerity measures?
But, okay, if we’re to be pragmatic — yes, DownSouth has suddenly become the ruthless pragmatist — then I’d say that Greece join the rest of the periphery in threatening default and Eurozone exit if the austerity packages aren’t scrapped.
If they don’t scrap the packages — and they CAN scrap the programs, don’t fool yourself on his one — then call the bluff. Default… BUT… and here’s the BIG BUT… BUT also pull through on Eurozone exit.
Once again, the bailouts are far less important in my eyes than the austerity. The bailouts are essentially a bunch of balance sheets operations — the austerity is very real for the people experiencing it.
Philip Pilkington said: “Actually, yes, it is all far more complicated than your ‘bankster’ narrative.”
My “bankster” narrative?
I think a far more realistic question begged by all this is: Whose narrative is it not?
It’s certainly Hannan’s, the conservative’s, narrative. To wit:
As this blog never tires of point out, the bailout money isn’t going to the people of Greece, Ireland or Portugal; it is going to the bankers and bondholders who made bad investments. The repayment, however, will indeed come from the people of these unhappy lands. No wonder they are out in the streets.
It’s certainly Denny’s, the so-called Marxist’s, narrative. To wit:
He [Denny] added that new demands on Greece for endless austerity, privatization and other “hard-line-sado-monetarist policies” were aimed at bailing out big European banks which owned the Greek debt—-not the people of Greece or anyone else.
And granted, the bankster narrative is certainly my narrative.
But whose narrative is it not?
“But whose narrative is it not?”
Most people who actually study why the crisis occurred — and do so without ideological blinkers on.
The Eurozone crisis stems from the Eurozone itself. It stems from the institutions that grew out of the Maastricht Treaty and the EMU. Yes, part of this was a laxity on the part of regulators. And yes, this led to some dodgy banking practices.
HOWEVER, this is only part of the story. To take up the ‘bankster’ narrative as the be all and end all is pure journalism. Not that I have a problem with journalism — I’m a trained journalist for Christsake — but it oversimplifies.
Headlines about banksters allows people to look past the real causes of the crisis — which was the institutional structure of the EMU itself. This is not to say that its not true, but only that its only part of the puzzle.
And right now, it is by NO MEANS the most important part. The most important part of the puzzle — and by almost any measure: human cost, economic wastage, institutional failure — is the imposition of arbitrary austerity measures. Next to this the bailouts and banking regulations are — I won’t say a distraction, they’re very important — but certainly they should not be the main focus.
Wow, I can’t believe that even you, with your vastly superior intellect, are reduced to using the word “bankster”.
Insinuating Wall Street types are no better than common criminals. My husband works for one of the I-banks, and you wouldn’t believe how well educated he is. We’re tearing down a 10,000-square-foot historical mansion in Greenwich, Conn to build a 15,000-square-foot palace. We’re also adding a fifth floor to our E. 80th Street townhouse, purchased in 2000 for $11.5 million.
To call people like him a bankster! The nerve of those people, the ignorance!!
Like an I-banker could be equal to those lowlifes who get 15 years for stealing food from the local deli. Have you seen all the tattoos they have? The piercings?? Comparing Harvard and Yale educated Wall Street bankers to that scum!!
We both know reality is far, far more complicated than this simple-minded bankster narrative. If even you can’t understand it all, then the common folk should not even try to wrap their empty little heads around this issue, n’est-ce pas?
Thank god you put quotation marks around that awful word the first couple of times. But after that you neglected to put it in quotations.
Watch out, my friend. It’s a slippery slope!
Ah, Tamara… so good of you to join us. You see I’m not really an unemployed journalist — that’s just what I tell the peasants around here (I’ll bet they don’t even wear top-hats, hey ho!). I’m really a billionaire robber-baron in disguise — I also traffic Eastern European babies on the side, very lucrative mind you.
One of my favourite tricks is to take out ‘missing child’ default swaps against the child before I steal them from their beds. Missing child default swaps are a new innovation that allows you bet on the loss of impoverished children. The idea behind them is that if you’re a poor parent in a poor country your only asset is you kids, so it makes sense to take out a market position on them. What I do is I take out a default swap on the child and then send my goons to take them from their beds at night. As I said, very profitable.
Anyway so, why am I slumming it, you ask? Well, I’ve become very worried about these bloggers. So, I’ve come on here and basically started making stuff up about the economy to throw them off the sent. Meanwhile my dungeon is filling up with unsold children. They’ll never know! MWUHAHAHAHAHA!
Philip, how are Maastricht Treaty and the EMU not the quintessential bankster narrative? Surely you jest. They are as neoliberal and parasitic as the cronyism of the Washington Consensus, are they not? Do you think the ECB was not winking and nodding when Goldman Sachs hooked Greece into deceitfully circumventing debt to GDP ratios in order to load debt upon debt? It was no less predatory then subprime gotchas in the US.
However, in the same spirit as Tamara G. Ecclestone III’s defense of the gallant and noble banker, and your last post, I must also say there is indeed a silver lining to the utter impoverishment of the Greeks. Many of their treasures of antiquity can now be liberated for “highest and best uses”. The Acropolis and the public Agoras, for instance, can be auctioned to the Disney Corporation and those quaint little anachronistic islands to the Marriot consortium. Jumbled shoreline cliffs can then be cleared of “clutter” and properly reengineered for shopping malls, glass and steel towers, and mega-resorts a la Dubai. Similarly the many messy island quays with their garish fishing dinghies and hole-in-the-wall cafes can be cleaned out and sterilized, and their craggy coves blasted for suitably expansive mega-yacht marinas, fine dining, and of course fast-food chains. Just imagine the entire Greek landscape transformed by American crony-capitalist slum-dividers like the Donald. It’s simply breathtaking!
Doug, I have little doubt that that is true. However, I think it runs deeper than that in the Eurozone. For example, there shouldn’t even BE limits set on debt-to-GDP ratios — or at least, the limits should be far more lax and the sanctions far less… erm… completely batshit insane.
Fine, so let’s do away with the bankster narrative. Find something else that has some chance of resonating with the ignorant public. Something that can oppose the 30-second sound-bites of politicians. Or, I have a better idea. Let’s forget about the public as well. Who gives a shit.
“The skies will be glacial and empty, traversed by the feeble light of half-dead stars. These too will disappear. Everything will disappear. And human actions are as free and as stripped of meaning as the unfettered movements of the elementary particles.” – Michel Houellebecq
It is sad to see how badly you misunderstand Marx’s thought, considering the asininity of your suggestion that Marxists dream of suffering because of its catalytic function.
Marx’s notion of permanent revolution (insofar as it is relevant) has much more to do with ‘revolutionary reform’ than with trying to make the system go critical and then hoping that the suffering caused by the crisis will cause the proletariat to start a revolution. Therefore, your suggestion that they are secretly (or at least spiritually) in league with the capitalists is a rather low blow. I am not sure why you felt it was necessary to attack “marxism” (as understood by you) in this fashion, but I do hope it doesn’t have anything to do with your allegiance to MMT.
I’m just here for the animals.
My Dear Jersey Girl;
And they, dear lady, are here just for you! In fact, “They All Axed For You.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v_nCJIIOOg9Y)
aren’t there animals there in Jersey?
there seems to be a lot of them there
even on TV
and especially on TV
animals with arms and legs
unlike Manhattan, where everyone is cool.
I think the cat spied a cute poodle walking down the road and is making catcalls – er…you know what I mean.
to be honest, Cedric, even if it was “Jersey Dude” I would have said it, but I would have said “Ya mean Youze guys don’t have animuls in Joisey”. ha ha. that’s enough fun for one day.
On “Big Content,” I think “Big Media” is more euphonious. In general, the “Big ____” also allows working in “Mr. Big,” highlighting both the criminal and the patriarchal nature of our kleptocratic system. Rupert Murdoch, for example, is one of the Mr. Bigs of Big Media. So too was Conrad Black, poor fellow…
I always had a sneaking suspicion about the hypertextural qualities attendant to “Lord Beaverbrook.”
I notice the agreements would be between big content and ISPs. This means that normal working artists that don’t have sell-out contracts with bigness won’t be represented. Bigness will enforce the copyrights they took from artists while artists are allowed to be happy that their stuff is being viewed for free.
It isn’t recording piracy that’s killing music, it’s recording in general. Make recording unprofitable through piracy and we can get back to playing music for audiences rather than microphones. Way more fun. This trend is already underway.
Do you suppose that Romney’s people didn’t notice that the old Tory poster involves a clever play on words? Though, to be fair, I suppose that their version alludes to O’s time spent golfing.
Re “Allonge Fabrication 101 Part 1”;
Do also cross click at the bottom right corner of the ‘page’ to “Allonge Fabrication 101 Part 2.”
My favorite: The Judge writes; “..with HSBC, OCWEN and MERS, joining with Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs at Suite 100, the Court is now concerned as to why so many financial goliaths are in the same space. The Court ponders if Suite 100 is the size of Madison Square Garden…” Are you pondering what the Judge is pondering?
Good catch… I liked this line best,
“If HSBC seeks to renew its application for an order to reference, the Court needs to know, in the from of an affidavit, why Suite 100 is such a popular venue for these corporations.”
Re: Is your ring made of dirty gold? On the comments section following the article which chronicles deplorable exploitation of child labor (or any human labor for that matter), a reader wrote:
“It’s all very well for the sanctimomious (sic) documentary makers to try and make us feel bad about buying goods which are linked to child labour but what they don’t report is what would happen to these children if no-one bought these goods. Of course in a perfect world everyone would be well fed and educated but we all know that in reality this is never going to happen. If the price of goods increase to improve the way of life for these children then people will not buy them so their lives then become even harder. There is no easy answer but at least they have some sort of living.”
And therein lies the rationale for most of us who buy cheap (and sometimes expensive) goods. “Oh well, at least they are making some money.” I have heard that refrain in Cambodia in which the wages for making clothes are about $50.00 a month. I wish all products we bought had a tag attached explaining how much each person along the production line was paid–and a website to show their faces.
The quote from the investigator of this documentary is also priceless: “‘I’d had no idea that this was happening. I’d never thought about it before and all the while I kept looking at my wedding ring. If my marriage wasn’t so important to me, I’d have taken it off.’”
With all the fuss about Facebook, some may be wondering whatever happened to MySpace. A bit long, but well worth reading for it’s coverage of cultural, economic and technical aspects.
The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_27/b4235053917570.htm?chan=rss_topStories_ssi_5
There is always the tendency for human empathy and cooperation to be undermined by conformism and inadequate understanding as we witness in Communism, Fascism and Neo-Liberalism. Geoffrey Hodgson and Thorbjorn Knudsen make this clear in their book “Darwin’s Conjecture.” They argue that since life is uncertain we have to be adaptive and the quickest way to do this whilst waiting for biological gene change is to be adaptive and adopt the habits of others and particularly those who appear to be successful at coping with what ever life throws at them. The problem, however, is that very often those coping strategies through lack of foresight can often turn out to be maladaptive for other human beings and the planet. This leaves education, democracy and control of money’s creation and use as the principal tools we can use as societies to fight maladaptive coping strategies or habits.
My logic always fails me and I start to see glaring ironies. Please forgive my confusion over Marshall Auerbach’s A United States of Europe, but it seems to me that the United States is in a worse boat. It only appears we can deficit spend at will in this country but it is only because our private bankers have arranged it. You cannot call this political legitimacy by any stretch of the imagination. And our deficit is a heavy burden. If we had nationalized banking it would be a fairer bargain. And I would even make the point that the US doesn’t have any more political legitimacy than the EU. Congress cannot even form pockets of concensus, enough to make practical decisions. There is probably more political legitimacy in Europe because their politics are decentralized and can at least function on a regional basis. So I don’t see that the ECB’s lack of authority to deficit spend is much different from our situation.
I just read Kucinich’s HR6550 IH 12/17/2010. “The National Emergency Employment Defense Act of 2010.” (Thank you joebhed.) There is great clarity here in everyday America about the mess. And there is clarity on the solutions to it. This bill should be passed into law. It is a masterpiece. But because we lack political concensus and legitimacy this bill will languish until we have a popular uprising. And then some.
Susan, Thanks so much for taking the time to read and try to comprehend the Kucinich Bill – HR 6550.
He is the only person in either chamber that really comprehends the monetary system as being not only a real thing, but one that properly belongs to the people.
Everyone else think we need to live by bankers’ money, including the gamut of highly intellectual financialist that populate these pages.
Again, thank you.
Susan said: “If we had nationalized banking it would be a fairer bargain.”
The United States governemnt should immediately reassert sovereignty over all banking and money creation operations.
It would make me grin to see the inherited rich around the world that own the US Fed lose all their wealth. In fact I think we should make laws ending inherited wealth as we know it now.
I totally agree about nationalizing the money system, but once that is done correctly, there is no need to nationalize banks or banking.
Quite the opposite, I think.
Banking, limited in operations to operating on a full-reserved lending basis, could be mostly deregulated.
They would be providing finance to the economy with real peoples’ real money and could never again crash the economy.
Encinitas removes mosaic of Surfing Madonna from railroad bridge http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/24/local/la-me-mosaic-20110624
The US is full of wonderfully kitschy street/folk art like the Surfing Madonna. Discovered this when I drove crosscountry about 16 years ago with a friend (6 weeks, 6000 miles). Some cities and towns will let the good pieces stand, esp. if there is public support for it and it encourages tourism. In the countryside it’s more likely to be on someone’s property (by permission), which is why it’s good to take the secondary highways and backroads.
Car Henge, outside of Alliance, Nebraska, was possibly the most amazing find of the trip. In case anyone is unfamiliar with it, http://www.carhenge.com/
Some great shots on their brochure http://www.carhenge.com/images/brochure_09.pdf
Apparently more car parts artwork has been added since I was there.
Conservatives and Marxists in talking about ‘shakeouts’ are really talking about ‘habits’ with neither side proposing alternative replacement habits that work very well.
Should a doctor not take dirty money from a robber? Should a theater not take dirty admission money from an oil driller? Should we turn down dirty sunlight reflected off a communist? Should an author not sell his book to a corrupt government official? Should we refuse breathing oxygen from an invasive plant? Should we not read an email that has been routed through a dicatorship?
The specter of moral purity arises in many contexts. I find it laughable that conservatives are considered to be more concerned about “purity” than liberals.
Whatever happened to the idea that we live in a morally complex and ambiguous world with many shades of gray? And that most folks are doing their best to navigate that within the contraints of human imperfection.
Re: “A UNITED STATES OF EUROPE”
The quandary- “The creators of the euro were like parents fixing an arranged marriage. They knew that they were locking together countries with very different economies and political cultures. But they hoped that, over time, the new partners would grow together and form a genuine union.”
This was the same conundrum faced by our founding fathers faced at the first Constitutional Convention wasn’t it?
So what approach did the founders of the EU decide upon- “…a surge in trade and investment between the euro zone nations would create a truly unified European economy, in which national levels of productivity and consumption would converge on each other…It was also assumed – or perhaps just hoped – that the euro would create political convergence. Once Europeans were using the same notes and coins, they would feel how much they had in common, develop shared loyalties and deepen their political union…
In fact, the European Union was banking on three forms of convergence: economic, political and popular. At the time the euro was launched, there was much hopeful talk that a surge in trade and investment between the euro zone nations would create a truly unified European economy, in which national levels of productivity and consumption would converge on each other. It was also assumed – or perhaps just hoped – that the euro would create political convergence. Once Europeans were using the same notes and coins, they would feel how much they had in common, develop shared loyalties and deepen their political union…”
So let me get this straight. “EU” really stands for Economic Union. Economic success and unity will automatically evolve into political and social unity. Logic dictates that people will always act in accordance with the rules of economic theory. Yeah right.
Seems to me, with that philosophy they have no chance of creating a long lasting community of nations, willing to sacrifice individually, in order to maintain the greater good. Especially because, As Stephen Covey says – the bricks used to construct the foundation were made of weak mud. That is, unless they go back to the drawing board, start from scratch, and articulate a set of principles and values upon which governance of the union will be based, and which will also encourage the development of a common bond amongst all of the people that live within its borders.
Take a cue from what our forefathers did. While they fought over how much monetary power the federal government should have, they seemed to understand that it was a secondary issue. As Covey says, they put first things first. They focused upon clearly articulating the rights of individuals, rights of states and the extent of authority that was to be bestowed upon the federal government. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. Some of the issues with which they wrestled would be considered third-rail issues by today’s standards- especially slavery. But I also think they knew, that when their work was complete and the convention was wrapped up, they had created something that would last well beyond their days.
What did they do?
They put first things first. The universal principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, were clarified and expanded during the convention. This required that the representatives address difficult issues around which there was much disagreement. They argued and fought but they kept talking. Finally, they created a template upon which they all mostly agreed, that would become the foundation of a new federal government. They also developed a set of universal values around which the populations of the 13 colonies could rally. Their efforts gave birth to a national community.
It’s obvious, that these values, layed out more than 200 years ago, have since been amplified and immortalized in speeches by some of the greatest leaders of the country such as Lincoln (Gettysburg Address), Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We learned them in school. They continue to be sited in speeches,books, newspapers, etc. We take them as a given. And if you really think about it, those values are what truly bind all of us together willingly. They are the mud from which the bricks used to build the foundation of this country were made.
Getting back to the main point, I don’t see how the EU could ever truly succeed without undergoing a similar process. It seems they need to form a new EU governing structure. It would need a certain level of authority to enforce the rules. But more importantly, they also have to articulate the principles and values upon which the EU government would be based, and around which all the people of the EU would be willing to rally.
BTW, one big advantage the people of the early colonies had over the people of the EU today- they didn’t have to deal with economists.
quoted from article: “Once Europeans were using the same notes and coins, they would feel how much they had in common, develop shared loyalties and deepen their political union…”
Anon48 reacted: … Seems to me, with that philosophy they have no chance of creating a long lasting community of nations, willing to sacrifice individually, in order to maintain the greater good.
That’s 1 of the reasons I completely disagree with those who believe that taxpayers from the north should (i.e are morally obliged to) bail-out tax evading wealthy people and early retiring civil servants from the south.
They somehow believe that a single currency prevents war (yes, yes, it was written in the comment section of this blog …).
They reduce human beings to the name of the coins in their wallet!!
Same coin = same culture = same solidarity.
Anyone who has lived and traveled both in the USA and in Europe, realizes that the US is a country whereas Europe is a continent.
Well said. The EU architects constructed the EuroZone the same way Alexander Hamilton would have formed the USA, had he had carte blance.
Re: Marshall Auerback
-I think there’s a fourth Germany, albeit a segment of Germany seamlessly integrated with its counterparts in the EU, US, etc. The parasitic ueberbankers whose skimming off the top of the real economy of widgets, etc is at the root of the current mess.
-I’m wondering if Mr. Auerback thinks that the Monetary Union might have done better if it hadn’t been created in the same time frame that the American based contagion of reckless banking deregulation took hold.
The matchmaker analogy needed a musical accompaniment–from Fiddler on the Roof!
The question about whether the Monetary Union’s failure is a result of bad timing may come under the heading of “impossible contingencies,” but may still be of some interest.
‘Habits’ and human ‘suggestability’:-
I think the key point in that article is the importance of “loyalty” to the group/corporation/tribe,etc as a basis for altruism. This ties into something I read recently.
In case you haven’t seen this article from a couple of months ago, E.O. Wilson challenges what he formerly promoted… kin-selection as a basis for altruism. Now he’s essentially promoting “groupism” (my word, not his) instead.
Where does good come from? http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/04/17/where_does_good_come_from/?page=full
Recommend reading the whole thing, but the key points, IMO, are these:
The currently accepted explanation for altruism is something known as kin selection theory. It says that an organism trying to pass its genes down to future generations can do so indirectly, by helping a relative to survive and procreate. … Thus, acting altruistically towards someone with whom you share genetic material does not really constitute self-sacrifice: It’s just a different way of promoting your own genes. Wilson was one of the original champions of kin selection theory, but 40 years later, he is calling it a “gimmick,” and is imploring his colleagues to give it up. “Kin selection is wrong,” Wilson said. “That’s it. It’s wrong.” …
The alternative theory holds that the origins of altruism and teamwork have nothing to do with kinship or the degree of relatedness between individuals. The key, Wilson said, is the group: Under certain circumstances, groups of cooperators can out-compete groups of non-cooperators, thereby ensuring that their genes — including the ones that predispose them to cooperation — are handed down to future generations. This so-called group selection, Wilson insists, is what forms the evolutionary basis for a variety of advanced social behaviors linked to altruism, teamwork, and tribalism — a position that other scientists have taken over the years, but which historically has been considered, in Wilson’s own word, “heresy.” …
Wilson is not arguing that members of certain species don’t sacrifice themselves for the benefit of their relatives. They do. But it’s his position that kinship and relatedness aren’t essential in causing the development of advanced social behaviors like altruism — that the reason such behaviors catch on is that they’re evolutionarily advantageous on a group level. That socially advanced organisms end up favoring their kin, Wilson argues, is a byproduct of their group membership, not the cause.
Humans are a type of herd animal, where only a small percentage truly act as individuals. Economists need to take that more into account in their behavioral models.
I would argue that the herd mentality is not genetic but forced onto people as part of survival in our current world. I believe that if we had a adequate social safety net and true equality of opportunity you would see many more people abandon the herd center.
I used to believe that too.
Currency & Power
Relative to the universe, Caesar is no bigger than you, as an individual, and Caesar is contained within a multiplexing filter of filters. You know, misery loves company. Monetization goes vertical when the virus goes vertical, when there is no resistance to the resistance to change. When leverage becomes inelastic the threshold is reached, and time to capitulation is easily calculated, triggering spring release, because all of the derivative variables are identified, once relativity is filtered out. The economy demonstrates that the difference between fusion and fission is relativity, which may be controlled by a quantum controller, IF YOU PROVIDE A SUITABLE PATHWAY FOR BACKLASH. Physics is physics is physics.
Physics controls chemical reactivity, which controls biology, which is why they say you cannot productively fight biology, but don’t bother telling Caesar’s minions, who are determined to control breeding. Who is breeding, who is not breeding, and why? Government has short-circuited the relationship between individual and planet, replacing real demand with artificial borders, to the end of monetization in a positive feedback cycle, hiding the losses in an accounting sink, mirrored as profits, with the expected derivatives.
Quality begins with unique individuals sharing a common virtual communication hub. Remember the tile game; if you satisfy a market, add a dimension and branch out. Incorporate diversity through purely municipal interest law, which will trump federal law if you eliminate costs in the process. Write off individual officer living expenses, pay up to the non-taxable limit, and provide intangible benefits. The faster Caesar prints money, issues credit, and increases margin volatility, the easier it is to eliminate the need for currency, homes, autos, and government make-work jobs, which will all be in such great surplus that their value tends to 0. Ultimately, no nation/state can defend a ponzi property economy without community participation in the destruction of individual identity, a character/dimension of which is a purely municipal interest. If you give Caesar access to your intranet, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Practical developers operate in the first two integral circles beyond Caesar’s derivative multiplexer, in dimensions beyond the looking glass. The intelligent kids/aliens will be at the looking glass on the derivative side, where the dinosaurs, over the centuries, have, by evolution, come to congregate. Provide them with the tools necessary to maintain their unique identity, beyond Caesar’s knowledge, in a community where privilege is a function of productive participation in problem solving, not currency, and your problems will be solved, productively. You don’t have to give Caesar your kids’ test scores.
If Caesar puts up a mirror, you put up a mirror. For every relative action, there is a relative reaction. Maintain Caesar’s gravity accordingly, depending on the power required for your slingshot. Whether an event is a black swan or a white swan, and its power, is relative to your position, which is relative to the looking glass. On the automatic side, simple symptoms are addressed first, by increasingly greedy operators, which is why the number of random events increases and become more incidental at an intersection, which you may reliably anticipate, with adaptive tools, over time. Property is a derivative of derivatives; the black hole is mesmerizing.
Move immediately from internal competition to cooperation. Caesar knows only what you tell him, how you self-identify. The point of credit is identification, in a positive feedback loop with make-work jobs. Adjust it to meet power, which is all about leverage and is a function of communication. The looking glass is the pivot. To get current, you need circulation. Set up your resistance to the resistors accordingly. The difference between voltage and current is flow, containment, relative to resistance. Adjust Caesar’s currency accordingly.
Did your old man ever come home at night and throw away your bike because it was in the driveway one too many times? That is where this economy is headed. Salvage what you can before the churches are bulldozed and the false prophets are thrown in the fire. No priest should be asking you for a marriage license. Marriage is an inalienable right. The reptiles and the sheep might want to check with the developers before they start f***ing with the kids again. Salvage what you can, and don’t look back.
Real power, in the one true circuit, does not corrupt. It is the illusionary parallels that self-corrupt into a black hole, by attempting to drain the main with no return, resulting in gamma. The difference between gas and diesel combustion is relativity. The end instruction in the evolutionary cycle is not mom and mama’s boys. Don’t bother calling the firefighters. Let nature take its course.
Caesar is a bully, nothing more than a mama’s boy with a gun and a badge. What you have is much, much more powerful, and you don’t need no stinking badge. All you need is an education system. It’s called responsible parenting, which Caesar knows nothing about, by design. Dimes and nickels can only hold up a multi-trillion dollar enterprise for so long. It’s about priorities, not proprieties. Decisions have consequences, especially omission. They can lie to themselves, but an honest man always gets to the truth first. In a world of corruption, he is easy to spot.
10 guys on the line, millions of dollars worth of equipment, running crap lumber, and all trained to blame each other for the outcome. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
dude I want to make a movie with your Letters as a script.
I can see it now, in my mind, a rushing montage of surrealistic images — shifting from color to black & white, focus/out of focus — astral scenes of galaxies across deep space shifting to blowing fields of flowers like spinning galaxies on a universe of grass, etc. etc. Clogged piples and urban grit, bursting waves, explosions, stars
cut to a talking head — some bozo PhD talking about macroeconomics — fade out the sound back to the drone of the monologue script and shots of deep space and atoms
This would be sort of a Antonin Artuad style logopoeic dream of logic and illogic.
It would be a masterpiece or a collosal bore. Maybe both.
I just need 3 million dollars or a 5 bagger and let’s start filming.
Mr. DT Tremens, Director/Producer/Xanax Addict/Cinematographer/Deep Thinker and Part Time lunatic
A lovely little detail from Switzerland
Sometimes its the little details that tell the story. Here’s one such small detail that makes me think that I’m not the only person in Europe who thinks this crisis isn’t over.
A friend of mine in the financial world in Switzerland, told me today that the Swiss banks have very nearly run out of bank deposit box space.
The last few weeks have seen such a torrent of wealthy Europeans wanting to get their ‘assets’ out of Europe and in to a Swiss bank that if you want a bank box in Zurich today, they will require that you have a minum of half a million swiss francs on deposit in the bank, before they will even consider you. That is how short of space they are.
Capital flight anyone?
For some reason the idea of putting money is Swiss bank deposit box triggers an image of Gringott’s Wizarding Bank, which is run by goblins (of course!)… http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Gringotts_Wizarding_Bank
“Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.”
—Inscription on the doors of Gringotts
Hence the price pressure on commodities.
How many people will have to die before we change our ways?
My observation is that humans, and especially groups of groups, don’t generally change unless it’s forced on them. Hence the classic phrase… ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ I wish I saw more evidence of humans ‘rising to the occasion’ and pre-emptively solving obvious problems before they strike. It happens…. just not not very often. And there is the always sticky issue of “social engineering” no matter how well motivated. I believe’s there’s a classic phrase about what the road to hell is paved with, that addresses that one.
FYI, I am not a pessimist or fatalist. Prefer to think of myself is both an optimistic & cynical realist. History happens, and we all have to deal with it one way or another as it’s something we don’t have any control over.
While I agree that much of history happens without my influence, I will be dammed to think that my life is inconsequential.
To the extent that we have and exert “free will” we have the ability to create our own history to a degree.
To the extent we cooperate with others in matters of social import we create group history, whether or not it is chronicled as such at the time. Does it make a difference in the bigger scheme of things? You, me, Yves and many of the rest that come here hope so.
Agreed, and well said! It just gets tricky figuring out where to best put one’s own energy in order to have some sort of positive effect in our local environment and in the greater scheme of things.
Thank you for linking the Aljazeera post on the tar sands, Yves. There’s so much talk of climate change, but water quality is a much more imminent and rightable issue. The blatant disregard for downstream inhabitants is criminal and disgusting. This is yet another chapter in the colonial story of Canada that has been called the longest, slowest genocide in history.
From the NY Times:
Link re: neo-liberalism and Mexico
consequences of mining,
U bet. No significant climate change has happened. No reason for it to happen. Hurricanes are not increasing in number. They are decreasing in number. Forget GW, Global Warming! What we got in River City is polluted river. We got acid rain. We got fish full of mercury. We got beaches chock full tar-balls. We got Congress chock full odd-balls. No American is safe until Congress runs out of other people’s money and other people’s unregulated freedom.
We need the unregulated freedom to multiply like rabbits and replenish the Earth with air pollution, ground-water-pollution, and rap-musik. If we can just augment the population-bomb none of your half-a environmental measures will offer more than a temporary fix. Eventually we will win the battle then plunge the World into disease, starvation, and dog-eat-dog-hand-to-hand-combat.
Let the games begin