10/06/2008

You Can Take That Panic to the BANK!

As I try and digest the most recent government hoodwink, in the form of the Emergency Economy Stabilization Act, several news articles have caught my eye. I could just ruminate about them to myself while sitting in the closet sipping whiskey from a jar, but I promised myself only to do that once a month. Instead, I'll share them with you!

I'll get right to the point: we done been Patriot-Act-ed. Yes, I know; my posts on this topic of late have been turning up the vitriol even higher than my normal 50% by volume cut off level. You may think that this post is shaping up to be just another rant. Let me assure you: while it does fill me with rage, I do have some actual facts in tow to back such assertions.

Check it out: terrorists (supported by the government?) kill people -> nation quakes in fear while legislation consolidating the nation's autocratic power sails through Congress. Happy Department of Homeland Security to you, the Department of Peace vulture born from the ashes of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (not a coincidence, but that's another story).

Now re-check: bankers (supported by government) screw over people trying to buy houses -> markets quake in fear while legislation consolidating the nation's capitalistic power sail through Congress. Our current door prize is the Office of Financial Stability, attached to the Treasury. You have to love that name. It doesn't quite say, "propping up our failing economic system" in the same way that "The Strong-Arm of Capitialism League" would, or the way a dilapidated FEMA trailer does. but OFS is good enough. It also lends itself to the great anti-globalization/capitalism slogan, "Fuck OFS!" My copyright certificate is in the mail.

Doubt it was fear that motivated? Well, seeing "777" written on the front page of my local paper makes it pretty clear what the average person was supposed to take away. But let's not trust an average person, let's ask a congress-person!

From the New York Times: "Fears about the economy also motivated support. 'Nobody in East Tennessee hates the fact more than me that I am going to vote yes today after voting no on Monday,' Representative Zach Wamp, a Republican, said. 'Monday I cast a blue-collar vote for the American people,' he continued. 'Today I am going to cast a red, white and blue-collar vote with my hand over my heart for this country, because things are really bad and we don’t have any choice.'" Well, Representative Wamp, you've made it pretty clear. Instead of voting in the name of your constituents, you decided to vote with your Jingoistic shirt on. Good on you.

One day, the bill is opposed because the constituents demand it. The next, it passes. Apart from a few tacked on incentives, the only thing that changes is the Dow dives by a number that is only 3 digits away from 666. What changed? They added the FEAR.

But after all, FEAR is the market. Capital is the universal unit of the irrational mob. Don't get me wrong, the mob is sometimes good. All understood signifiers derive their meaning from the linked desire of multiple individuals; linked desire is the mob. But this also means that it can get out of control. And once you link these mob-signifiers to things with actual material significance, like, say, mortgage-backed securities, a simple scream can mean that the government has a new bureaucratic entity run by good-old boys from Goldman Sachs. Or, so it seems.

Hey, and check this out too. You want to see mob-signifiers move a market? I found this story on Slashdot: it appears that a web crawling Google engine accidentally reprinted an old article from 2002, when United Airlines was just about bankrupt. Investors, thinking it was a current article, dumped the stock, which declined to $3 a share from $14, evaporating 1.14 billion in market cap. BECAUSE OF GOOGLE! Ahhhhhhhhh! That's okay, people pass laws in such ways these days. Soon enough, Google will be fact, so that won't be a mistake, it will be reality.

It happened again! Some jerk on CNN's newsTwitter thing posted that Steve Jobs had a heart attack, which he totally didn't. Too late! Apple's stock dived 9%. Now they blame this on the stupid citizen journalists who try to be real journalists, posting lies on their stupid blogs. Stupid blogs!

But wait, real journalists are just as stupid! Take the case of Gary Weiss, the BusinessWeek journalist who, it has been pretty conclusively proven, rigged Wikipedia to spread disinformation about selling "naked short" stocks, a strange market derivative that has been blamed for the current crisis almost as heavily as mortgage-backed securities. This disinformation was not accidental, but postively malicious, though the motive still remains unclear. "Real" journalists trusted Wikipedia, and blackballed CEO Partick Byrne, who was trying to warn marketeers about the dangers of the "naked short" phenomenon. Total cost: unknown. $700 billion dollars anyone?

So, what the deal? Well, it appears that is incredibly easy to manipulate large numbers of Americans and their representative leaders via the equity markets and the information markets. Effect: so-called "value" evaporates, leaving someone holding the tab. And even worse: government, as is typical in the case of panic, responds with authoritarianism, bureaucracy, and worse, which history always proves is worse for you and me.

'Adam, are you arguing that panic leads to Fascism?' Well, I would hardly be the first. But it's funny that you should ask. Apparently some one suggested to US Representative Brad Sherman that if the House did not vote for authoritarian bureaucracy as a delightful middle ground, the next step would be the end of Posse Commitus. I.E. You would have soldiers enforcing local "law and order".



Just a little something to think about. Sounds kind of familar, doesn't it? Say, about seven years ago? You, me, the president, congress, the end of civil liberties, the legalization of torture, and an ongoing, useless war?

Oh, the Dow dropped another 370 points today. Maybe its time to write your congressperson.

2 comments:

betabug said...

'Adam, are you arguing that panic leads to Fascism?'

Look up the word "Reichstagsbrand", then compare to "911"... the answer is "yes, panic compared with manipulation can lead to Fascism".

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