Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for the ‘unintended consequences’ Category

The demise of the dollar and the rise of the Russian petrostate?

Posted by Charles II on January 1, 2015

That’s what Marin Katusa, author of The Colder Cold War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp, believes. Aired a few weeks ago, before the intensification of the ruble crisis, Katusa makes some excellent points (a number of which we have made on this blog year after year):

* Aggressive U.S. policy has had the perverse effect of bringing America’s chief rivals, Russia and China, much closer together
* The failure to push alternative energy has left the U.S. in the unenviable position of being dependent on the oil with some of the highest production costs
* Where alternative energy has been developed, it has in the past been dependent on government subsidies
* Russia directly controls a very large fraction of the low-cost reserves of gas, oil, and uranium in the world
* Russia indirectly controls more energy reserves through Russian companies, notably Gazprom operating in Israel and a uranium company, ARMZ, in North America
* A number of U.S. allies and neutral countries are heavily dependent on Russian energy
* OPEC regards North American energy producers as rivals that need to be driven out of business
* OPEC’s biggest customer is China, so its interests are no longer so deeply entangled with the U.S.
* The sanctions against Russia have accelerated the negotiation of contracts in currencies other than the dollar

Katusa predicts a dollar crisis, in which a number of countries ditch the dollar, the dollar starts to fall, and foreigners dump dollars. Then energy prices in dollars will rise, hurting the poor and middle class. (See here for an article about the dollar’s recent rise)

You can read more about Katusa’s views here.

Noting the usual caveat emptors–Katusa has heavy investment in the Slavic world, and probably some personal loyalty to it–this is still an interesting take on world events. Mercury Rising has repeatedly noted the dysfunctional U.S. approach to alternative energy, unconventional hydrocarbon development (fracking, deepwater drilling, etc.), and places like Ukraine and Venezuela. Certainly the U.S. has played the game badly, alienating allies, consolidating rivals, and baffling the world by its senseless and ineffectual interventions in places like Iraq.

I don’t think his analysis of a dollar crisis is accurate. First off, of course, is the point that Russians keep offshore bank accounts because they don’t trust their government. If they dump dollars, there are no attractive currencies. More broadly, currency crises generally occur when the assets of a country are falling in value, with no foreseeable rise. Now, the asset could be the currency, and the cause of the decline could be speculative outflows. But US assets are much more broadly held. There are $188T in assets, most of them financial. By contrast, M3 is an order of magnitude smaller.

I do, however, think that Katusa could be right for the wrong reason: the incompetence of the U.S. government, and the paralysis caused by Republican control could indeed cause a panic. There is no objective reason why we cannot convert much of our energy supply to alternatives, undermining the use of energy as a means of control by any government, including Russia. This action would be in the interests of the entire planet, as it would slow global warming. But with a government as stupid and paralyzed as the present one, the chances of getting into a fix we can’t handle are actually pretty good.

Posted in eedjits, energy, Obama Administration, Oil, unintended consequences | Comments Off on The demise of the dollar and the rise of the Russian petrostate?

An article I ought to read

Posted by Charles II on February 7, 2014

I linked this lengthy article by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine in a comment to PW. It has to do with the latest billionaire Oz who imagines that his benevolent neo-liberal ideas will solve the world’s problems, namely Pierre Omidyar. There’s a lot in it:

* How to turn microfinancing into payday lending, complete with suicides and ruined lives
* The latest corporate libertarian Great White Hope Hernando deSoto, aide to dictator Alberto Fujimori
* Hayek’s ILD as the first of the international right-political think tanks linked to Cato and Heritage

And Omidyar is financing Jeremy Scahill, Laura Poitras, and Glenn Greenwald to do FirstLook Media.

It’s an interesting article. I should read it.

Posted in corporatists, corruption, half-vast rightwing conspiracy, media, Media machine, neoliberals, unintended consequences | 2 Comments »

Government? We don’t need no stinking government?

Posted by Charles II on September 17, 2012

Via Ritholtz, the latest insanity on privatization of public functions from Jessica Silver-Greenberg, NYT:

The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.

They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.

What’s next? We already have what amounts to debtors prisons. So…Press gangs?

Posted in impunity, privatization, unintended consequences | 1 Comment »

Explaining the Wisconsin exit polls:

Posted by Charles II on June 9, 2012

Toles is da best (via Bartcop)

Posted in capitalism as cancer, unintended consequences, unions | Comments Off on Explaining the Wisconsin exit polls:

We need a post on Ron Paul’s connections to the John Birch Society

Posted by Charles II on January 4, 2012

Just sayin’.

Figuring out what politicians will do in office is very difficult. Most of them are masters of disguise and deception. Tens of millions of people imagined that Bush would be a compassionate conservative (despite the fact that he was well known to be personally sadistic). Tens of millions imagined that Obama would not get involved in all sorts of optional wars, even though he told people ahead of time he would have American troops cross Pakistani borders whether they gave permission or not.

A very important part of anticipating what politicians will do is understanding where they get their ideas. Obama’s close ties with guys like Austan Goolsbee was a warning sign that he wasn’t an economic liberal. An economic liberal would have aligned himself with guys like Joe Stiglitz (for the record, there were some liberal economists like Jamie Galbraith and Bob Reich among his advisors. They just were not in any clear majority or among his personal associates). Understanding which wells or sewers a candidate drinks from in forming his ideas is a much better predictor of what he’ll do than what he says.

So, Ron Paul’s links to the John Birch Society, which are much more recent than his survivalist newsletter should be a focus for those who want to understand what Ron Paul would actually do. American Opinion, the JBS newsletter, gives Paul a 100% rating on 20 recent votes. Now, the JBS is a very strict grader. In the House, I count only 4 South Carolina Republicans, 1 North Carolina Republican, and Ron Paul who meet their exacting standards. In the Senate, there are none. The JBS is remarkably mainstream in Republican circles, considering they were once drummed out of the Republican Party. They sponsored a recent CPAC meeting.

Since there is no clear distinction between the John Birch Society and the conservative movement, one may wonder what the special interest in them should be. The answer is that the JBS is, in effect, the Bolshevik Party of the right. They are intensely conspiratorial, use deception routinely, and–because they have pre-determined that the world governments are all in the hands of the communists–have completed the process of dehumanization that is necessary for the use of ruthless means. For the latter, see for example this article, which includes such interesting lines as:

But now there appears to be another secret cabal, known as the Shadow Party, controlled by radical billionaire George Soros who operates secretly to influence the direction our government is going in. He has boldly proclaimed his intentions, so they are not secret. But how he controls events in Washington is another story. We suspect that he is behind Barack Obama’s presidency…
John Dewey and his colleagues were all socialists and made no secret of their intent to take over the public schools and use them as the means of converting America from an individualist society to a socialist one….Most readers of The New American are familiar with the Illuminati conspiracy that was launched by Adam Weishaupt on May 1, 1776, at Ingolstadt, Germany….The earliest conspiracy I know of in the United States was created by the Owenite socialists who wanted to convert America into an anti-Christian communist society.

So, let me speculate on what a couple of Ron Paul’s positions which are so attractive to the left might actually mean:
* does withdrawal of American forces from wars mean that we will use nuclear weapons when our interests are threatened?
* would legalization of drugs without any compensating effort to help people get off and stay off drugs mean that drugs would effectively become a means of medicating and controlling the population?

What does the John Birch Society say about these things? I’d really like to know. There’s been a lot of talk about how the Republican Party will never let Paul gain the nomination. I don’t see why not, not when some of the biggest money in the GOP comes from corporate libertarian/John Birchers like the Koch brothers.

Posted in 2012, anti-truth, antiwar movement, capitalism as cancer, corporatists, eedjits, evil, fascism, unintended consequences, War On Some Drugs | 20 Comments »

Add cows, cut cars

Posted by Charles II on July 22, 2011

It’s more complicated than that. But Judith Schwartz of The Guardian did a nice, easy-to-follow explanation of how proper livestock and range management can help actually reverse global warming.

When we consider our CO2 predicament, we tend to fault our love affair with the car and the fruits of industry. But the greater culprit has been agriculture…

So, how do we get that carbon out of the air and back into the soil? Some suggest placing calcium carbonate or charcoal (aka “biochar”) directly into agricultural soil (see “Black Is the New Green,” Conservation, Summer 2010). But a growing number of soil and agricultural scientists are also discussing a low-tech, counterintuitive approach to the problem that depends on a group of unlikely heroes: cows.

Perhaps the most steadfast advocate of this future is Allan Savory. A 76-year-old native of Zimbabwe, Savory has the relaxed, weathered look of a lifelong outdoorsman … Cattle, he began to realize, could play—if properly managed—the crucial role in grassland ecology that used to be occupied by herds of wild herbivores. They could help prevent and even reverse land degradation and the desertification of grasslands

Savory’s singular insight is that grasslands and herbivores evolved in lockstep with one another. This means that to be healthy, grasses need to be grazed.

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Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in climate change, environment, unintended consequences | Comments Off on Add cows, cut cars

Oooopsie!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 12, 2009

The MnIndy reports that Norm Coleman’s donor list was found on an unsecured portion of his website. The discovery was made as a result of people trying to determine if Coleman had crashed his own website back in January.

— Presidential wannabee and current Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty had better worry about his own house first: His approval ratings have dropped ten points in three months.

Posted in 2012, Minnesota, Norm Coleman, Republicans, Tim Pawlenty, unintended consequences | Comments Off on Oooopsie!

Torture Is Not Only Wrong, It’s Counterproductive: Part 23493

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 1, 2008

From the 11/2 Washington Post:

My team of interrogators had successfully hunted down one of the most notorious mass murderers of our generation, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind of the campaign of suicide bombings that had helped plunge Iraq into civil war. But instead of celebrating our success, my mind was consumed with the unfinished business of our mission: fixing the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq. I’m still alarmed about that today.

I’m not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me — both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn’t work.

But of course this wasn’t on any of the TV or radio news programs that most Americans are likeliest to encounter, so this will disappear down the memory hole for all but regular internet news perusers. They’re far more likely to see the fictional Jack Bauer on TV successfully using torture as an interrogation tool.

Posted in abuse of power, Afghanistan, Iraq war, terrorism, torture, unintended consequences | 7 Comments »

Bankruptcy bill the petard on which Bear, AIG, and Lehman are hoist

Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2008

Francesco Guerrera, Nicole Bullock, and Julie MacIntosh, FT

Wall Street unwittingly created one of the catalysts for the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and American International Group by backing new bankruptcy rules that were aimed at insulating banks from the failure of a big client, lawyers and bankers say.

The 2005 changes made clear that certain derivatives and financial transactions were exempt from provisions in the bankruptcy code that freeze a failed company’s assets until a court decides how to apportion them among creditors.

The new rules were intended to insulate financial companies from the collapse of a large counterparty, such as a hedge fund, by making it easier for them to unwind trades and retrieve collateral.

“The changes were introduced to promote the orderly unwinding of transactions [like you losing your home] but they ended up speeding up the bankruptcy process,” said William Goldman, a partner at DLA Piper, the law firm. “They wanted to protect the likes of Lehman and Bear Stearns from the domino effect that would have ensued had a counterparty [like you] gone under. They never thought the ones to go under would have been Lehman and Bear.”

So, see, it wasn’t all bad.

Posted in mortgage crisis, unintended consequences | Comments Off on Bankruptcy bill the petard on which Bear, AIG, and Lehman are hoist

Sarah Palin’s Pals

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 5, 2008

So now that the desperate Republicans have decided that Bill Ayers is an Evil Terrorist, let’s look at the people that Sarah Palin pals around with, shall we?

Take it away, Greg Sargent!

As you already know, the group is the Alaska Independence Party, which sees as its ultimate goal seceding from the union. Todd [Palin, Sarah’s husband] was a member, with a brief exception, from 1995 until 2002, according to the Division of Elections in Alaska.

And though Sarah Palin herself was apparently not a member of this group, there’s no doubt that she repeatedly courted this secessionist organization over the years. In 1994, Palin attended the group’s annual convention, according to witnesses who spoke to ABC News’ Jake Tapper. The McCain campaign has confirmed she visited the group’s 2000 convention, and she addressed its convention this year, as an incumbent governor whose oath of office includes upholding the Constitution of the United States.

Got that? An elected governor of a state within the United States of America is palling around with people who openly hate America. More than that — she married one of them and is married to him to this very day.

And lest you think that “hate” is too strong a word:

The founder of the AIP was a man named Joe Vogler. Here’s what he had to say in a 1991 interview, only a few years before Palin attended its convention: “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government.”

He also said this: “And I won’t be buried under their damn flag. I’ll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home.”

Vogler has also said: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.”

McCain apologists will argue that Sarah Palin was not a member of this group. But Obama wasn’t a member of any Ayers anti-American group, either. And again, Palin repeatedly courted the AIP, and her husband was a member for years.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Posted in 2008, Barack Obama, John McCain, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples, Sarah Palin, terrorism, The smear industry, unintended consequences, WTF? | 3 Comments »

 
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