From Meccania to Atlantis - Part 13 (1): Harpo, Gekko, Barko, Sarko
From the desk of Takuan Seiyo on Sat, 2009-11-07 10:51
Chapter 1: Harpo ÷ Gekko = Monkey Business x Terminal Greed
The Sprocket of History
This series has been written against the background of one of the most momentous events in history: the unraveling of the wealthiest, most powerful and most hopeful empire the world has ever known: the United States of America.
The orgy of U.S. government spending on every too-big-to-fail bankster or too-loud-to-ignore “social justice” race huckster is accelerating daily, funded by phantom dollars printed by the government or extracted otherwise from the value of its subjects’ savings. The banksters’ main column is feasting on the taxpayers’ dollars while in a maneuver worthy of Patton, the Goldman Sachs cavalry detachment has been sent to secure the perimeter of a socialist White House.
The Nobel-laureate in economics Gary Becker linked the financial travails of Argentina in the mid-1990s to government spending at more than 30% of GDP. The Swiss economist Peter Bernholz has linked hyperinflation triggers to government deficits exceeding 40% of expenditures. But government spending in Obamerica is 45% of GDP, and its deficit stands at 43.3%. Peronism has acquired a permanent perch in Washington, DC.
But there is more. In a long chain of catastrophic errors and intentional malpractice since the days of Lyndon Johnson, America’s ruling elite of both parties has run up an unpayable debt to its own retirees, to its bondholders, its foreign creditors. Having designed to turn the country into a banana republic demographically, the Club of Crooks and Loons has turned it into a banana republic fiscally too.
There is hardly anything as catastrophic to society as the giant fraud of a government stealing its subjects’ earned wealth in order to paper over the vast crater landscape of two generations’-worth of the rulers’ own corruption and incompetence. But when this comes in tandem with the government’s stealing also the social capital of its subjects via dysfunctional immigration and the coddling of hostile and criminal minorities, then the destruction is for the ages: the sack of Nineveh, of Rome, of Washington.
The strongest, most admired country in the world until just a few years ago is now a cautionary tale of the wages of sin and stupidity told to Chinese schoolchildren.
A nation that works for a living can weather perhaps even such great storms. But the jobs of the American lower class have been outsourced to imported Mexicans. The jobs of the American middle class have been exported to China and India. The jobs of the American upper-middle class have been taken from the white males who held them by merit, and given to resentful identity groups that hold them by the fiat of the government’s preferred skin colors and favored genitalia. And the jobs of the American upper class have been reprogrammed from leadership and service, to ripping off the less clever via lawyering, banksterism, and padding one’s golden CEO parachute, and then expiation via funding and leading socialist NGOs.
A freefalling dollar cannot help by increasing exports, when you have off-shored your manufacturing, and your main industries are predatory lawsuits, selling shoddy American housing to Salvadorians with faked mortgages, and marketing financial weapons of mass destruction worldwide. And a falling dollar is not a good inducement for the world to keep buying dollar-denominated U.S. debt. The cessation of that buying has such dire consequences to the United States that Chinese strategists have named them “the nuclear option.”
The American people can’t do anything about it either, except mailing tea bags to the crooks and loons who govern them. Their only electoral choice is between the party of demented progressives, and the party of progressive dementia.
And madness is everywhere. Take an example far removed from zero interest rates and collateral debt obligations: the Navy.
The Navy that just yesterday gave the free world ferocious fighting admirals like Nimitz, Halsey and Spruance now advertises itself as “A global force for good”, presumably adept at delivering food packages to shipwrecks of the global economy. It has so many pregnant sailors that commanders are complaining of a "lack of proper manning to conduct their mission" (pun not intended).
And that’s before the currently considered admission of female sailors into submarines and their “hot bunk” system. In a wholesale proactive blasphemy of crazed Body Snatchers (1) denying the natural order of the universe, the reality of the birds and the bees must win out – at a great cost to those governed by the Snatchers.
Thus, after bidding adieu to douce France, say a novena for the home of the brave and foolish. Even a European ought to shed a tear for America, for in her lay his best hope for freedom from tyranny, dhimmitude, and bloodshed on his home soil. After all, who will land in Normandy to rescue France from jihad and Afro-anarchy, when the rescuers can only send pregnant sailors under the command of an Afrocentric socialist of Muslim background relying on Muslim advisors?
Even an atheist ought to read the Bible, and the hard scientist Herodotus or Polybius, for we have been here before. This is how the Hebrew prophet, Nahum, described some 2650 years ago the terminal days of Assyria: “You increased your merchants more than the stars of the heavens. Your shepherds are asleep, your nobles slumber. Your people are scattered on the mountains with none to gather them. There is no assuaging your hurt, your wound is grievous.” (Book of Nahum, various 2:3 - 3:19)
The giant sprocket of history turns by its decennial teeth, imperceptibly to those who walk this Earth for seven and a half decades and live by hourly intervals devoted to the activities of their orifices. But he who sits still can apprehend both the direction of the toothed wheel’s revolution and the span of the arc his society is traversing. And if one does so now, survival arrangements must take precedence over everything else.
All of which is to say that the intervals between the publication dates of the successive chapters of this work have grown, by necessity, much beyond this author’s original intentions. As an American citizen, however, he has had to prepare for a predicament similar to what the citizen of Weimar Republic was facing in 1921 and that of Argentina did in 1977, just before things got much, much worse.
Harpo, or Monkey Feathers and Horse Soup
Our purpose here is not to induce all concerned proto-Europeans worldwide to fear and resignation. Rather, proper action starts from clear seeing. And guidance for proper seeing or acting cannot be found in the principles of the Swedish Democratic Youth League.
One should learn instead from exceptional people of the past, known otherwise as Dead White Men, who faced insurmountable odds that they bested. U.S. Marine General Lewis Puller, for instance, we invoked before. Surrounded with his soldiers by vastly superior Chinese forces in a frozen hellhole in Korea, “Chesty” Puller said: "All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us... they can't get away this time.”
This time, they are all around too. If they won’t get you with an Islamic takeover in Eurabia, they will get you with dissolving your net worth and outsourcing your job in Multimerica. They will get you even if you escaped to the Isle of Man, through their “Tax Equalization” blackmail of the small “tax-shelter” nations. They will get you even if you live on an Alaskan mountaintop, through their Treaty of Copenhagen.
The latter, as Christopher Monckton does not tire from pointing out, would create an unelected world government with direct power over all financial markets, and direct authority to intervene over the heads of elected governments in the economic and environmental affairs of all signatory nations. This, for the main purpose of extracting from the West 2% of its annual gross domestic product for redistribution to Third-World countries in Snatcher-warranted “reparation” for an imaginary "climate debt."
From these crushing depths of insanity, the ascent has to begin.
We left Part 12 on a note of advice: step outside the swamp and construct a new civilization. That reads like the preposterous verbal pap Body Snatchers mash together when they have a hormonal rush on account of peace, justice and equity. But these are preposterous times.
It’s not possible to understand our times, except by reading authors who lived in former inverted-reality circumstances: Solzhenitsyn, Némirovsky, Remarque, Hašek, Boccaccio, the odd Roman patrician at his diary in Gaul as the Dark Ages poured in irresistibly through the sieve of a broken civilization. That kind of clarity can also be absorbed from painters like Bosch, Goya or Grosz, and from folk tales like those of the Flemish trickster Tyl Uilenspiegel.
Then, we have the Marx Brothers. No factual analysis, no angry diatribe, could possibly convey the insanity of Western suicide-by-immigration better than Groucho as he goes about managing the occupancy of a steamliner cabin.
Spotting the lying morons who sing the praises of “Strength in Diversity,” as their cities burn and their economies crash from the Diversity Recession is easier once you have seen the mute Harpo trying to pass for Maurice Chevalier at Passport Control by lip-synching “If a nightingale could sing like you".
Seeing how the richest person in Fredonia, Mrs. Teasdale, loans money to the failing state on the condition that it be governed by “a progressive, fearless leader like Rufus T. Firefly” (Groucho Marx), helps in pegging the council of lefty billionaires ranging from George Soros to Penny Pritzker who bought the U.S. Presidency for The One. And the clueless American electorate’s supersession of the calamity of the Bush presidency with the ultimate catastrophe of the Regime Of Hope And Change is more understandable when one hears the newly appointed Leader of Fredonia announce in song and dance:
“The last man nearly ruined this place,
he didn’t know what to do with it.
If you think this country is bad off now,
just wait till I get through with it.”
Understanding the logic of Affirmative Action, of hiring not by competence but by skin color and genitalia shape is easier too, once you have seen the Leader of Fredonia hire Chicolini and Pinky to act, respectively, as his Secretary of War and aide.
It’s no longer possible to forgive and forget the 2007 subprime Alt-A mortgage scammers, the 2005 Florida condo-boom bimbo builders, when one has seen Groucho selling Florida real estate in 1929: "You can have any kind of a home you want to; you can even get stucco! Oh, how you can get stuck-oh!"
Ultimately, there is epiphany there too. For you can understand in your bones who it is that’s giving you the haircut and why, once you have seen how it’s done in “Monkey Business.”
The Monkey Business haircut consists in people like Gordon Brown (UK), Barack Obama (US) and Jens Stoltenberg (Norway), with their Body Snatcher deputies, pretending to be barbers, pretending to know what they are doing, wreaking catastrophic havoc disguised as service to their nations, employing deception to fool the customers, and demanding the customers’ praise and compliance.
Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing (2). And the monkey business barbers neither have a clue, nor let facts or wisdom ever interfere with their Body Snatcher ideology.
The Barbers of Eurabia, sing Hosannas to themselves for having blessed Western Europe with over 30 million imported Muslim taxpayers (3) and a half ton of new regulations. In reality, 70% of these “taxpayers” get more in social services than they contribute in taxes, 40% end up within one generation on the dole, and 10% become a jihadi demolition squad operating conveniently as citizens protected by the laws of the very society they aim to demolish. This treasonous farce is foisted on the European peoples because the Muslims are reliable, locked-in voters for the Socialists -- until the day when their critical mass takes Europe from Socialism to Sharia.
And the Barbers of Multiamerica pretend to govern for the benefit of the governed, while ceding to hostile minorities, subversive NGOs and unhinged banksters the power to exploit and dispossess the majority of the governed.
They give unlimited rein to the cartel of banks named Federal Reserve that has brought the country to ruin in the first place. They outsource economic policy to Goldman Sachs alumni from the industry that ruined the country in the second place. They shower taxpayers’ money and genuflect to the ACORN mob of overfed and undereducated “social justice” hustlers who have ruined the country in the third place.
We are ruled by lying clowns, forever trying to postpone the moment of truth. To the next election cycle, next government, next century. They have been destroying the West year by year for 55 years now by mismanaging government finances in order to bribe voters or to buy feel-good, do-good euphoria for their Body Snatcher vanguard. As the deficits grow, productive citizens are taxed up to double the 1/3 ratio of medieval serfs, more money printing and government borrowing is necessary, the value of money erodes and moral hazard gnaws at the foundation.
The government then cooks up “solutions” to the problems it created in the first place through its overspending, incompetence or corruption. The “solutions” camouflage the damage for a while longer and prolong the comforting illusion, just like the frantic “stimulus” to stave off a corrective deflationary depression now -- at a cost of devaluation or hyperinflation later. The “solutions” are often written up in 2000-page bills that nobody reads until their rot crawls out in litigation and 15-figure costs overruns years later.
All such “solutions” just multiply the damage and roll it forward so that the “crack-up boom” (4) boom now but crack up in the future, on somebody else’s watch.
But the future has arrived. It’s piled up all around us in heaps of diversity-enriching primitives from failed cultures bearing European and American passports, or silos full of mad mullahs and NorKor nightmare leprechauns thumbing their noses at the white castrati. It’s in the 24/7 stream of rotten mass culture that the harlots of Nineveh might envy, and in mountains of unnecessary junk purchased with nonexistent money. It’s in the giant vaults full of flimsy dollars worth 2% of their value in 1913, bloated deficits of generations of venal politicians raining borrowed currency onto client voters, and enormous industrial landscapes in China pumping out products that the now-crazed West once made at home and better.
The future is here. It can no longer be rolled over but maybe for a year with respect to Iran, three years with respect to hyperinflation, fifteen years with respect to the reconquest of the West by Muhammad and Montezuma. A delay just long enough for the misruling clowns to cash in their Goldman Sachs stock options, pass veto-proof immunity laws, declare national emergencies, and build for themselves impenetrable bunkers with landing strips in Andorra or Aruba.
Gordon Gekko is a fictitious investment banker made into a metaphor of Wall Street greed in a popular Oliver Stone movie. One year after they wrought the worst financial crash ever, a million Gekkos are pursuing with zest what they were doing before, except more boldly now because now they are “too big to fail” and have learned that the taxpayer will cover the losses of their gambling.
Just the top nine banks received $125 billion in “bailouts” from the Club of Crooks and Loons in Washington at zero interest rates. They borrow from the Federal Reserve branch of the Club at .25% short term interest, and lend it back to the U.S. Treasury branch of the Club at 3.5% long term interest. They take free money and “carry trade” it to foreign currencies and risky assets.
The Club’s open money spigot for the banksters devalues the dollar relative to foreign assets and currencies, thereby punishing everyone else. Nouriel Roubini has pointed out that the taxpayers’ money transferred to the Gekkos is not merely free (to them), but carries a 20% negative interest rate and provides a total return rate of 50-70%. For a while – until this bubble will burst too.
The Gekkos continue to securitize and trade tranches of dubious loans, coax through fraudulent but mathematically coherent algorithms derivatives out of derivatives, spin the roulette wheel by the billion with somebody else’s money at a 35x leverage, and pay themselves 8-figure annual compensation packages with taxpayers’ bailout money.
The notional value of outstanding derivatives is $1.28 quadrillion, or maybe 1.14 quadrillion, depending on the dates of the statistics used, or maybe $1.4 or $1.5 quadrillion, depending on whom you read, if the value of off-the-books derivatives be included (5). Maybe even that does not include the value of commodities- related derivatives.
But the point is, it doesn’t matter. It suffices to know that derivatives are debt bundled according to sophisticated mathematical formulas the real-world implications of which no one understands, marketed by smart and greedy people with no wisdom or conscience. What matters is that we have been catapulted into a spiraling orbit receding into cosmic insanity, hoisted on space weapons of financial mass destruction. That’s because even at $1.5 quadrillion, the derivatives’ total is more than 27 times the world’s GNP of $55 trillion (6).
Which means that if the value of the derivatives’ underlying assets slips by even 4%, the loss will exceed the gross product of the entire world. Moreover, as the trading in derivatives is typically done on a 1:20 -1:25 leverage, this is all akin to launching 25 juggling balls in the air, with the ability of catching only one, should they fall all at once.
The risk management company FRSGlobal warns that most financial institutions have a leverage ratio of 4 (i.e. 4 units of capital for each 100 unit of assets – 1:25 - versus the 30-40 leverage ratio customary in other types of business. Moreover, these crazy levels of leverage are poised on a fulcrum of fictitious capital. Nothing is the way it seems when a Gekko runs the shop.
The banksters have invented creative definitions of capital that treated subordinated debt instruments as if they were equity. They treated risk bundled into tranches of derivatives as if it were capital. Therefore, the actual ratio between capital (cash and equity) and assets has been 2%, and the banksters were really juggling 50 balls with the ability of catching at best one in case of a Black Swan event. Government regulators, hoping to move at 700% pay increase to the industry they were regulating, allowed these bloated levels of leverage to build up.
The derivatives’ juggling balls have barely begun their fall. U.S. banks alone lost $836 billion in derivatives trading in 2008, but earned $5.2 billion from this trade in the 2nd quarter of 2009. They still run this game unimpeded, secure in their knowledge that their captive government will do whatever it must to cover future losses. Greed has a short attention span; it does not concern itself with the possibility that God (call it Tao, if you wish) is a prankster, and God’s prank may trigger losses exceeding the world’s GDP several times over.
When the Club of Crooks and Loons is in charge, even arithmetic goes out the window. The financial executive Andrew Butter explains how collateral valuations were being done by lenders in Snatcherland (7):
“Someone walks into a bank and asks to borrow a trillion dollars; you say, ‘Great, have we got a deal for you! So what collateral are you offering?’ He opens up his bag and reveals that he has a miniature monkey in there, so you ask the person who does the valuations, ‘How much can I be reasonably sure to sell this miniature monkey for at some unspecified time in the future?’”
What you do, as every banker used to know, is assess the market value of the miniature monkey. But the way it works in Snatcherland, banks ignore the monkey, i.e. the underlying collateral, and instead reason:
"Oh we will check his credit rating, and we will do a multivariate regression analysis of our database to work out his ‘score’...so much if he owns a dog, a bit less if he owns a monkey, so much if he is quarter Hispanic, half White and quarter Cherokee Indian, and so much if one leg is shorter than the other, and then we will assign a standard error to each variable and run a Monte Carlo analysis and work out the probability of default, and if he passes that test we will hand over the money..." [ibid.]
It’s no wonder the IMF predicts another $1.5 trillion worth of toxic loans’ writedowns before the end of 2010, after $3.4 trillion in losses already incurred.
Greed per se is a dynamic force that can be salutary, as long as it is under a moral restraint. Milton Friedman has often praised greed. But there is a difference between greed that lays a railroad across the uncharted wilderness of America, and the Gekko type of greed.
The latter is of a kind that motivated a Rolling Stones writer Matt Taibbi to describe Goldman Sachs as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” And even that is a metaphor for a metaphor, for all the largest banks in the United States, and quite a few in Europe have engaged in these practices.
AIG, perhaps the most mismanaged enterprise in the annals of America’s folly, and the recipient of the largest bailout from the US taxpayer in history, also managed to preserve $165 million in bonuses for its corrupt, incompetent executives, after the bailout. The U.S. Senator who wrote the legislation protecting these bonuses, Christopher Dodd, is the Senate’s largest recipient of AIG donations.
President Obama was Number 2 on AIG’s largesse list. Six months after this scandal broke out, Christopher Dodd has not been impeached, and President Obama has been campaigning for his re-election.
Just as the $165 million Dodd –AIG bonuses scandal got the public agitated, it transpired that another bailed-out financial malefactor, Bank of America, had upped the ante 20 times over in this particular category of scams. When B of A was buying Merrill Lynch just before receiving $20 billion in taxpayers’ “bailout” money, it knew that Merrill Lynch had just paid out $3.6 billion in quarterly bonuses to the very executives who had steered it to a $21 billion loss for that quarter (and a $27 billion loss for the year).
“Bank of America and Merrill Lynch effectively lied to their shareholders,” said a federal judge who called the $3.6 billion in bonuses “effectively [a gift] from Uncle Sam”.
But there was another smelly link here. Judge Rakoff also sharply criticized the government watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that had been forced by a public outcry to investigate this case. The SEC had agreed to let Bank of America off the hook with a $33 million fine. That is 0.92% of the value of this single con, less than some at Merrill Lynch had received in 2008 bonuses, and certainly not a deterrent against future greed run amok.
Karl Denninger, the superbly informed critic of the putrid mess American-style financial capitalism has become, calls AIG “a Ponzi scheme plain and simple”, and the entire American financial system “a massive, pernicious fraud.”
This is the sort of nest of vipers where if you pull one out, all the others emerge tied head to tail. For instance, when Bush still presided over the Republican branch of the Club of Crooks and Loons, they gave a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, the power to “save the country” by doling out (among others) $85 billion (later a total of $173 billion) of taxpayers’ money to AIG. Which enabled AIG to pay a debt of $13 billion it owed to... Goldman Sachs. Which allowed Goldman Sachs to pay 953 of its executives bonuses of at least $1 million, and 78 executives at least $5 million, each.
The unrestrained greed of financial capitalism, or what I called at the 2007 height of the boom “Kapital Kapalit” (reprint here) has been sucking the vitality of America and of much of the rest of the economic structure of the West. Simon Johnson, professor of economics at MIT and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, compares the death grip of the financial oligarchy on the United States to a Third World power structure. “Financiers,” writes Prof. Johnsons, “played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse.”
The collapse is by no means over. The Bank for International Settlements estimates the banksters’ total derivative losses at $4.1 trillion. But this is, as such things always are, just a calming nostrum for frayed nerves. In case of a Black Swan event, which such estimates never take under consideration, the $4.1 trillion figure is probably too optimistic by a good-sized fraction of a quadrillion. But what’s a quadrillion or two between friends.
People forget that Adam Smith was not an economist but a moral philosopher. Before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he had written The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The free market is no place for cutthroats and purse snatchers. But to blame and punish the Gekkos alone would be a grave miscarriage of justice.
The biggest swindle in history could never have occurred, were in not for the active encouragement of Leviathan. It’s the U.S. Federal Reserve and successive governments in the U.S. and in Europe that have energized, refused to regulate, and bailed out the Gekkos. All this at the expense of all Americans living now and in the future, with much pain to Europeans too, catastrophically so in countries like Iceland and Estonia. Which will take us to the two models of Western misgovernance, Barko and Sarko, in Chapter 2.
Previous articles in this series can be accessed here.
(1) The basic analogy reverts to Part 1, where we cited the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In the film, alien “Body Snatchers” produce giant legume Pods that replace living people while appearing to be identical to them. From the Pods develop the new Body Snatchers who cultivate further Pods etc.
(2) These are Warren Buffet’s words.
(3) In addition to some 20 millions Muslims who live in the Balkans and in Russia.
(4) Crack-up Boom is a term coined by Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian economist, to describe the process of a deliberately inflationist policy that leads to a loss of the people’s faith in their country’s currency, a massive rush to buy things while the money still has some value, and then the ultimate crash of hyperinflation. But the term can be adopted to describe other fraudulent government policies that are inherently destructive yet not apparently so to most people for a while, because of the government‘s deceptive maneuvers.
(5) In Part 9 I quoted the derivatives’ total at $531.2 trillion. This was per up-to-date Bank of International Settlement (BIS) statistics. But since that data for December 2008 was released, economic intelligence analysts have been digging around to find a lot more than the BIS tables showed, e.g. per this.
(6) Currently quoted figures for the 2009 World GDP range from $45 to $65 trillion; we’ll average at $55 trillion.
(7) Snatcherland is my term for a society run by reality-disdaining Body Snatchers.