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May 4, 2009

Theater of the absurb
Highly stylized song and dance
A walkway that extends into the electorate (audience)
via which dramatic entrances and exits are made.
Trap doors in the stage through which the audience is played.


Arlen Specter
Stress Tests
John Edwards’ Campaign

Tax reform
Justice for Abu Ghraib

The audience, distracted and delighted by the costumes, masks and high pitched squeeling, don’t realize there are rats beneath their seats, their purses stealing.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    May 4, 2009 8:17 am

    Woo-hoo a new language! I’m assuming that’s Japanese although on my screen it shows up as little boxes with numbers and letters inside and not Japanese characters.

    Haven’t had much time to check the intertubes yet today, but after a quick glance at the headlines on a couple major portals I didn’t see any front and center news about the stress test results. Maybe the banks aren’t done rewriting them the way they’d like them to appear to the public and need a little more time to shape all the papers into nice little origami swans.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 4, 2009 8:39 am

      Yes, we have become Japanese, I really think so! (there’s a nice earworm to infect your consciousness this morning!)

      The stress test results won’t be out officially until this Thursday. Here’s some related articles:

      Showtime for banks: Stress test results out this week

      Bank of America, Citi Argue Stress Tests Shocking, simply shocking, cough.

      NY gold rises 2 pct ahead of US bank stress Some people aren’t buying the BS and are hedging

      • cometman permalink*
        May 4, 2009 8:55 am

        I liked this part from your second link:

        Stress test results have been delayed and will be released on Thursday, May 7th giving the market plenty of time to continue rallying for no good reason.

        It mentions a FT article which I bet is the one I was just reading here which I found poking around Zero Hedge. Sounds like Citi is going to try to cram some unpleasantness down preferred shareholders’ throats:

        Citi is believed to be considering a plan to convert more than $15bn in trust preferred shares – a hybrid of debt and equity – into common stock. Since trust preferred shares are held by non-government investors, this conversion could enable the authorities to inject further funds into the bank without raising its stake beyond the 36 per cent it has already agreed to buy. People close to Citi say it would have to force holders of trust preferred shares to convert them into common stock, which ranks below those securities and does not pay a yearly interest rate, by threatening to stop paying interest if they reject the offer.

        The banks and the government declined to comment.

        And they all declined to comment. Imagine that. I doubt preferred shareholders are going to like becoming run of the mill common stockholders who would be the first to be wiped out completely when this whole pyramid collapses. It will be fascinating to see what convoluted mess they come up with to deal with this.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2009 8:42 am

    Paul Krugman notes that inspite of all the Green Shoot over the rainbow crap, we have falling wage syndrome

    But why is that a bad thing? After all, many workers are accepting pay cuts in order to save jobs. What’s wrong with that?

    The answer lies in one of those paradoxes that plague our economy right now. We’re suffering from the paradox of thrift: saving is a virtue, but when everyone tries to sharply increase saving at the same time, the effect is a depressed economy. We’re suffering from the paradox of deleveraging: reducing debt and cleaning up balance sheets is good, but when everyone tries to sell off assets and pay down debt at the same time, the result is a financial crisis.

    And soon we may be facing the paradox of wages: workers at any one company can help save their jobs by accepting lower wages, but when employers across the economy cut wages at the same time, the result is higher unemployment.

    Here’s how the paradox works. Suppose that workers at the XYZ Corporation accept a pay cut. That lets XYZ management cut prices, making its products more competitive. Sales rise, and more workers can keep their jobs. So you might think that wage cuts raise employment — which they do at the level of the individual employer.

    But if everyone takes a pay cut, nobody gains a competitive advantage. So there’s no benefit to the economy from lower wages. Meanwhile, the fall in wages can worsen the economy’s problems on other fronts.

    In particular, falling wages, and hence falling incomes, worsen the problem of excessive debt: your monthly mortgage payments don’t go down with your paycheck. America came into this crisis with household debt as a percentage of income at its highest level since the 1930s. Families are trying to work that debt down by saving more than they have in a decade — but as wages fall, they’re chasing a moving target. And the rising burden of debt will put downward pressure on consumer spending, keeping the economy depressed.

    Things get even worse if businesses and consumers expect wages to fall further in the future. John Maynard Keynes put it clearly, more than 70 years ago: “The effect of an expectation that wages are going to sag by, say, 2 percent in the coming year will be roughly equivalent to the effect of a rise of 2 percent in the amount of interest payable for the same period.” And a rise in the effective interest rate is the last thing this economy needs.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2009 8:56 am

    Obama just announced his reforms to the Tax Code that will address offshore tax havens for the corporatists and their ilk. If real, if enforced, this is very important and good news. If Kabuki, which is what I expect, regulation in name only, then the pillaging will continue.

    Here’s Bloomberg’s take on it: Obama Wants $190 Billion Tax Increase on Companies They call it a tax increase as opposed to closing a tax loophole. Maybe their spin indicates it will nail the pirates in their Caribbean havens.

    • triv33 permalink
      May 4, 2009 11:04 am“>Erin Burnett, CNBC’s favorite little fluffer, had something to say…

      • triv33 permalink
        May 4, 2009 11:05 am

        Well, my link didn’t quite come out right…but it’s there.

        • Stemella permalink*
          May 4, 2009 11:34 am

          Erin Burnett is an ignorant little slut! Though, according to her creed of zombie Milton Friedmanism where she worships at the temples of prophhhit, she is correct.

          “Isn’t it your obligation in this country – there is a tax code for a reason, to take advantage of every bit of it you can and pay as little as you can.”

          Inherent vice. Inherent greed. The disease is systemic, but the cure is only treating the extremities, not the heart of the beast. If the heart of the beast was being treated, fluffers like Cramer and Burnett would be out on their asses. toot sweet!

          • triv33 permalink
            May 4, 2009 11:50 am

            I cannot begin to describe how much I despise that woman. I can tell you when it went from mere dislike to loathing …

            I think people should be careful what they wish for on China. You know, if China were to revalue its currency or China is to start making, say, toys that don’t have lead in them or food that isn’t poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up, and that means prices at Wal-Mart here in the United States are going to go up, too. So I would say China is our greatest friend right now. They’re keeping prices low and they’re keeping prices for mortgages low, too.

            Erin Burnett-August 10, 2007

            • cometman permalink*
              May 4, 2009 12:10 pm

              I’d never heard of her before, but now I despise her too :)

              The way the talk about how it’s all perfectly legal makes me want to barf, as they ignore the fact that the main reason it’s legal is because the corporations who benefit have bought off Congress and often write the legislation which the typical Congressperson doesn’t even read before voting on.

              • triv33 permalink
                May 4, 2009 1:00 pm

                Of course you despise her, how could you not? Now, time for me to mess up another link…more loathesomeness from Erin.

                • Stemella permalink*
                  May 4, 2009 1:40 pm

                  Here’s Burnett’s pre CNBC work history. Need we say more? Well besides that she’s a Corporate Ho?

                  1998: Burnett began her career in 1998 as an analyst for Goldman Sachs in their investment banking division, where she worked on mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance. She soon left to be a writer at CNN and a booker for CNN’s Moneyline with Stuart Varney, Willow Bay, and Lou Dobbs.

                  From CNN, she moved to Citigroup’s CitiMedia division. VP responsible for all anchoring of their online financial news network founded by Citigroup.

                  2003 – 2005: Bloomberg Television: Anchor of “Bloomberg on the Markets” which covered the stock market open and newsmaker interviews, and “In Focus” where she broke down the day’s top business story.

                  • cometman permalink*
                    May 4, 2009 2:15 pm

                    Goldmansux and Citi? Who would have thunk it. This would be a good place to post that gif of the stick figure smashing its head to a bloody pulp against the keyboard since that’s about how I feel right now. Do they even let anybody speak anymore who hasn’t worked for and/or been bribed by these assholes?

                    • triv33 permalink
                      May 4, 2009 2:51 pm

                      um, er…no.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 4, 2009 12:12 pm

      Seems like when one loophole is closed a few others always manage to appear. Even if the legislation passes, I won’t believe it’s serious until I see the IRS start seizing some corporate assets.

  4. cometman permalink*
    May 4, 2009 10:34 am

    Very good article on China, which is bucking the economic downturn the rest of the world is going through from truthout:

    In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a new world order is emerging – with its center gravitating towards China. The statistics speak for themselves. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink by an alarming 1.3% this year. Yet, defying this global trend, China expects an annual economic growth rate of 6.5% to 8.5%. During the first quarter of 2009, the world’s leading stock markets combined fell by 4.5%. In contrast, the Shanghai stock exchange index leapt by a whopping 38%. In March, car sales in China hit a record 1.1 million, surpassing the U.S. for the third month in a row.

    “Despite its severe impact on China’s economy,” said Chinese President Hu Jintao, “the current financial crisis also creates opportunity for the country.” It can be argued that the present fiscal tsunami has, in fact, provided China with a chance to discard its pioneering reformer’s leading guideline. “Hide your capability and bide your time” was the way former head of the Communist Party Deng Xiaoping once put it. No longer.

    Here’s the part I think is key:

    Recognizing that its time has indeed come, Beijing has decided to play an active, interventionist role in the international financial arena. Backed by China’s $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, its industrialists have gone on a global buying spree in Africa and Latin America, as well as in neighboring Russia and Kazakhstan, to lock up future energy supplies for its ravenous economy. At home, the government is investing heavily not only in major infrastructure, but also in its much neglected social safety net, its health care system, and long overlooked rural development projects – partly to bridge the increasingly wide gap between rural and urban living standards.

    I’ve seen some arguments that if the US economy goes down the tubes it will hurt China too, because so much of what they make goes to the US. The growth they have seen from manufacturing has created a lot of new wealth there but it has gone to a relatively few people who live in and around the urban areas where the manufacturing and financial sectors are located. The cities have boomed while the rural areas have not done as well. But if the Chinese decide that the US isn’t worth lending any more money or sending goods to, they have an enormous untapped domestic market and it looks like they are taking steps to address that fact, so it isn’t like their industry will just dry up and blow away without us. While we destroy our middle class, it sounds like China is trying to create one.

    Now I don’t think a billion plus Chinese consuming at Western levels is necessarily a good thing for the overall health of the world, it sure does seem the China has the West by the short hairs right now and they know it.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 4, 2009 11:42 am

      Does this mean I should change our blog language to Chinese? < ;-0 hah!
      I’ve come to expect that China will be our new overlords sooner or later. Given their environmental record and attitude towards civil rights let alone human rights, I don’t really welcome that reality. I don’t think planet earth does either.

  5. cometman permalink*
    May 4, 2009 1:26 pm

    Chris Hedges has a nice take on junk politics and the voters being sold a bill of goods with his latest article Buying Brand Obama. Well worth reading the whole thing, but one tidbit I had been unaware of stuck out and made me a little sick:

    Obama’s campaign won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference in October. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and

    This part brought to mind a story by David Foster Wallace:

    Pseudo-events—dramatic productions orchestrated by publicists, political machines, television, Hollywood or advertisers—however, are very different. They have, as Daniel Boorstin wrote in “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,” the capacity to appear real even though we know they are staged. They are capable, because they can evoke a powerful emotional response, of overwhelming reality and replacing reality with a fictional narrative that often becomes accepted truth. The unmasking of a stereotype damages and often destroys its credibility. But pseudo-events, whether they show the president in an auto plant or a soup kitchen or addressing troops in Iraq, are immune to this deflation. The exposure of the elaborate mechanisms behind the pseudo-event only adds to its fascination and its power. This is the basis of the convoluted television reporting on how effectively political campaigns and politicians have been stage-managed. Reporters, especially those on television, no longer ask if the message is true but if the pseudo-event worked or did not work as political theater. Pseudo-events are judged on how effectively we have been manipulated by illusion. Those events that appear real are relished and lauded. Those that fail to create a believable illusion are deemed failures. Truth is irrelevant. Those who succeed in politics, as in most of the culture, are those who create the brands and pseudo-events that offer the most convincing fantasies. And this is the art Obama has mastered.

    I picked up Wallace’s book of short stories called “Oblivion” this weekend and read the first one called “Mr. Squishy”. I’d never read Wallace before but after this story I think I’m going to really enjoy the rest. Here’s an excerpt from a Salon review from a few years ago:

    Something awful, for example, is likely to happen to the market research focus group described in “Mr. Squishy,” the first story, though exactly what remains unsettled. Be that as it may, Timothy Schmidt, the character at the story’s center, a “thunderingly unexceptional” focus group facilitator nursing a hopeless love for a married co-worker, already finds his life pretty dreadful.

    Wallace revels in professional jargon and takes a transparent, boyish delight in knowing how things work, which is why “Mr. Squishy” isn’t just another flabby diatribe about the stupidity of advertising. Instead it’s a half-awestruck speculation on the fiendish brilliance of advertising that probably gives the field too much credit.

    The company for which Schmidt works seethes with more intrigues and counter-intrigues than John le Carré’s Circus: Schmidt knows that his focus group doesn’t know that it’s the subject of a study of how behind-the-scenes knowledge of a marketing campaign affects a consumer’s experience of the marketed product. But what Schmidt’s supervisor knows (and Schmidt doesn’t) is that the group itself will become the subject of an advertising campaign about the difficulty of selling a “labor-intensive ultra-gourmet snack cake” called “Felonies!” And what Schmidt’s supervisor doesn’t know is that his supervisor has set the whole thing up (including a staged disaster) in order to study the focus group facilitators themselves as part of a plan to eliminate them from the realm of market research, along with “all the infinite ephemeral unnoticeable infinite ways human beings always kept impacting each other and muddying the waters.” But what none of these puppet masters knows is that the disillusioned Schmidt has plans of his own.

    I read a few other reviews of the story and most found it awful. Maybe because the reviewers had engaged in a little too much PR and marketing in the past and the story hit a bit too close to home. I loved it. A very enjoyable fiction describing pretty much what Hedges is getting at in his article.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 4, 2009 2:25 pm

      That is a great article by Hedges. Junk politics in an age of junk food, junk culture and junk society. Makes perfect sense. Bernay’s and his PR fantasies have completely taken over the nation.

      Junk politics does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. Junk politics personalizes and moralizes issues rather than clarifying them. “It’s impatient with articulated conflict, enthusiastic about America’s optimism and moral character, and heavily dependent on feel-your-pain language and gesture,” DeMott noted. The result of junk politics is that nothing changes – “meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.”

      The same could be said of what’s become of the press in this country and the emergence of the big blox blogs. Isn’t the above paragraph the perfect description of Klub Kumquat, I mean brand Kos? HuffPo is the same with a stronger dose of Hollywood Celebrities.

      You could almost go through all the Presidential campaigns of the last decade and compare them to known fast food restaurants. It’s funny how the content of these races is pure PR and branding junk, but they last for fucking forever, not fast at all!

      I’m so tired of all the fake. It’s not just W’s and the Republican’s Rovian schtick that’s become threadbare, Brand Obama is very much a broken hopey changey record.

      • cometman permalink*
        May 4, 2009 3:43 pm

        Ooh ooh!! Let’s try.

        Obama -TGIFriday’s – lots of ethnic sounding but not really authentic stuff with something to please everybody
        Ms. Clinton – Jack in the Box- very low end blue collar
        McCain/Palin -Applebee’s – white bread goodness that old people love with just a hit of pizzazz
        Gore- one of those wrap places – you’re supposed to feel good about eating it but it isn’t really that great
        Dole – Stuckey’s – southern family style -or maybe Roy Rogers, does anybody actually eat there?
        Bubba- Boston Market maybe- you can still get that fried chicken but there’s enough to appeal to that northern liberal elite too

        • Stemella permalink*
          May 4, 2009 4:08 pm

          McCain – Luby’s – food where no teeth are required! gum smacking foulness

          Edwards – Wendy’s for sure (where he and his wife share anniversary’s – supposed to be healthist but still junk)

          Dubya – Arby’s – all hat no cattle (that shit ain’t beef and it’s definitely on a shingle)

          Kerry – Au Bon Pain – expensive cold cuts on stale boring bread

          Bubba – an alternate has to be Bob’s Big Boy with a side of dunkin donuts

          Kucinich – Panera – for the salads of course

          Romney – Long John Silvers – fried and fishy

          • triv33 permalink
            May 4, 2009 5:57 pm

            Obama–Red Robin, everybody wants to go there for a burger, it’s popular and crowded and everybody is happy as hell to be paying that much for a burger but, I don’t see why.

            McCain–IHOP, where old white folks linger over something that is neither rooty tooty nor fresh and fruity but, they are too stupid to notice.

            Nader–Howard Johnson’s, sure the name used to mean something…now they’re practically out of business but, try telling them that.

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