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Notebook, 15 January 2016: Twenty Years In The Making

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On stage, investing superstar Peter Lynch once held up a computer hard drive to the audience. The latest and greatest expression of mankind’s technological prowess.

“What a piece of shit,” he called it.

As an investment opportunity anyways. Yeah, Lynch never had much of a problem expressing himself. Point is, he went onto say, those interested in the stock market would be better off keeping their eyes open, seeing which retailers were busy, which factories was making lots of deliveries, that kind of thing. Call it situational awareness. As far as it goes, it’s excellent advice. Anyways, this is my story. I promise it’ll be short.
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Notebook, 21 October 2015: What Really Built America and Why Only a Socialist Gets My Vote

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It’s one of the most puerile notions I’ve ever heard that free enterprise is “the genius of America” (Barack Obama) or that it built “the greatest Middle Class in the history of the world” (Hillary Clinton). Yes, individuals and groups went out there and started businesses, the vast majority of which failed in under 3 years or were swept aside as others taking advantage of the economies of scale put them under, but that’s neither unique to Americans nor what built the middle class, because things never happen in a vacuum. Apparently, Clinton, Obama and everyone else who swallows that canard needs to return to elementary school.
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Notebook, 14 September 2015: Left, right and center

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A rare political post today, due to the media’s failure to notice the 800 pound gorilla sitting right next to them in the room. Tories in the UK think they can ride to victory over Labour’s choice of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the party and in a rare bipartisan consensus, centrist Labour agrees wholeheartedly. Yet Corbyn won in a landslide, taking 59.5% of the Labour vote. In the United States, centrist Hillary Clinton is beginning to slip, with at least one poll putting Bernie Sanders in the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, well outside the margin of error, please note. That particular poll may be an outlier, yet it confirms a long term trend in which Sanders has steadily eroded Clinton’s lead in the last weeks. Also in the US, Donald Trump creates quite the storm by leading, and leading, and continuing to lead the (admittedly weak) field of GOP hopefuls.

What Trump, Sanders and Corbyn, along with Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Pablo Iglesias in Spain, all have in common is that they’re outside political party mainstream establishments, which voters rightly conclude are captured by wealthy interests and voters are in rebellion.

So how does this play out? Well, let’s look at the alternatives. The right proposes that political systems change from one-person-one-vote to something more akin to one-dollar-one-vote. The left’s proposals are fuzzy, though even the mainstream “left” in the US agrees that a constitutional amendment is called for, but one thing is clear: they’re against an autocratic right wing agenda.

So where’s the political “center” in all this? Nowhere, of course. Where they always are. It’s time we recognize that the center has no ideology or agenda other than not rocking the boat, maintaining the status quo and offering excuses to do nothing. The center breaks right or left or both, depending on whose radical rhetoric they appropriate, but have nothing to offer themselves. In legislative and policy terms, this amounts to accepting the status quo as the “center” offers only its rejection of the policy preferences at the poles. I’m not saying this is never a viable position, but it is always a weakness, and one that the left (but not the right) has failed to exploit. Somehow, “we’re not as rabid as the right wing” fails to inspire.

So the body politic is polarizing and I am totally fine with this. While there’s ample evidence that rank and file working-class Americans are far from radicalized, political polarization brings the real debate to the surface, and that’s both a discussion we badly need to have as well as one I feel pretty confident the left can win.

Kapital: An Economic Memoir, Chapter 1: Growth I

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Introduction


What a ride:

The Oil Embargo Vietnam, Woodstock, the first computer mouse patent, the Nixon Shock, The Whole Earth Catalog, Augusto Pinochet seizes power in Chile, the Bangladesh genocide, Nixon’s visit to China, the second Arab Oil Boycott (the first was in 1967) results in lines of cars waiting to gas up, deregulation, the first cell phones, the Watergate Hearings, Nixon’s resignation, the Church Committee report, the first upright bipedal hominid skeleton is discovered in Ethiopia and is named “Lucy”, the rollout of the Apple II, the Chrysler bailout, the Sony Walkman introduced, the Marquette Decision, the Iranian Revolution and seizure of the US embassy, the US energy crisis which followed, Margaret Thatcher leads British conservatives to victory, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the election of 1980 and the Reagan Revolution, the air traffic controllers’ strike, more deregulation, the introduction of the Apple Macintosh, followed shortly by the IBM PC, Mount St. Helens erupts, Paul Volcker “tames” inflation1, deregulation (have I mentioned deregulation yet?), compact discs are introduced, the attack on the US Marine barracks in Beirut, and in a drastic example of news cycle management the US invades Grenada 2 days later, the worst industrial accident in history is caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal India, the Savings and Loan Crisis, the WELL is founded (a legend, the WELL was one of the earliest prototypes for social media), followed closely by the launch of AOL, the first Burning Man, the Berlin wall is demolished, Paul Mozer attempts to corner the treasuries market with fraudulent bids, the internet morphs into the World Wide Web, Tiananmen Square, MORE DEREGULATION, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, The beginning of a decade of war in the Balkans, the first Iraq War, Netscape is released, the Rwanda genocide, employees of Bankers Trust are caught on tape bragging how they were swindling their client Proctor and Gamble, the dot-bomb, Travelers Insurance acquires Salomon Brothers, the Fed “reinterprets” Glass-Steagall, then nearly in violation of Glass-Steagall Citibank acquires Traveler’s Insurance, after which Congress and Bill Clinton retroactively bless Citi’s action by enacting Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Y2K, 9/11, our retaliation in Afghanistan, Continental Illinois fails to do proper due diligence on a big deal and goes under, star traders and “Nobel” prize winning economists get caught looking the wrong way and Long Term Capital Management goes under, the second Iraq War, the housing bubble, the acquisition of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan, the Lehman bankruptcy, Roll Call 674 (Rick Santelli: “They didn’t pass it. The did not pass it. And I see that the Dow traders are standing there watching in amazement, and I don’t blame them!”), the passage of Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Santelli shelves his diapers and goes back to gargling with Blowtorch Mouthwash), the election of Barack Obama, the foreclosure crisis, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Arab Spring, Citizens Uniited, Occupy Wall Street and the CBO report on inequality, the collapse of the Rana Plaza plant kills 1,129 garment workers, the West Fertilizer Plant explosion, ebola breaks out in West Africa, protesters hit the streets in Hong Kong . . . .
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Notebook, 9 May 2015: Information Really Is Power

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Just to state the obvious, the power of information (as opposed to what amounts to the “noise” of op-eds, punditry, “research” emanating from pre-ordained conclusions and the like), it’s useful to note what the Information Age has recently wrought. This seemingly “DUH” title Citizen videos of police misconduct are eroding the presumption that police do not commit misconduct ought to be understood as a given, but the underlying assumption needs to be made explicit: people are hungry—starving—for real information (in a format they understand).
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Notebook, 24 February 2015: The Greek Reform Proposals, Annotated. UPDATE

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What follows is the list of proposals submitted to the Eurogroup, as reported by Reuters. Contrary to many reports, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that they were delivered to him on time—just another instance of the miserable reporting on Greece.
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Notebook, 27 January 2015: SYRIZA’s Next Moves

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For a long time, I haven’t focused on unfolding election results like I zeroed in on last Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Greece. SYRIZA’s significant not because it a leftist government, after all, socialists have ruled in Greece for a long time, but SYRIZA has posted the first anti-establishment party I can ever recall posting a win. If the definition of radical is anyone who demands structural change in the political economy, then SYRIZA qualifies. (Radical is frequently (mis)used as a synonym for militant, and most Americans haven’t grasped the difference, even though they have been electing right-wing radicals since 1980.)
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