Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reverence for $$$

In a really terrible story, the New York Times calls Hank Greenberg a revered Wall Street titan.

Considering the complete lack of morality and realism on Wall Street, this characterization is no doubt accurate enough but for newspaper readers it calls for some context.

Greenberg was head of A much larger fraud then Bernie Madoff ever dreamed of running. It was called American Insurance Group and it was the world's largest Insurance company. It also ran a bunch of other businesses -- a giant combination that was a festival of fraud.

It also was one of the handful of American corporations that started 2008 with a AAA credit rating:entirely undeserved as is Greenberg's venerated status on Wall Street.

Greenberg is a classic example of what RtO calls the Fireproof Hotel Syndrome: an incompetent and a fool who had a longish run because capitalism, despite its founding myth about how ruthless it is, in fact does not punish incompetence -- at least not always and not immediately.

Let us recall what the AIG business actually consisted of just before the Bush crash in October 2008. There was a division called Financial Products which was insuring derivatives to the tune of trillions of dollars and had set aside $0.00 as a loss reserve. Let that sink in for a moment: Greenberg, the most respected insurance man in the country in September 2008, had a division that was exposing his company to hundreds of billions of dollars in losses and he set aside $0.00 as a loss reserve.

It might have been supportable if AIG had crashed over that -- as it would have if the government had not given it $180 billion dollars to tide it over. What is not well understood is that AiG also had total control over the commercial paper market in the United States.

It was the realization by federal regulators that if AIG went down it would take down the commercial paper market the caused panic among the regulators and led to the bailouts.

Commercial paper is a sonkish sort of a subject. It is a huge market and the most liquid in the world, even more so than US Treasury securities. Corporations that need cash borrow overnight from corporations that have cash in hand because their incoming and outgoing are not perfectly synchronized

American businesses cannot operate for two days without a functioning market for commercial paper.

Greenberg was an incompetent as he demonstrated or was demonstrated for him in 2008, but his interview with the New York Times proves that he is a fool because he learned nothing.

So, sure, Wall Street revers him: he walked away from the wreck with a huge personal fortune. There's nothing Wall Street reveres more.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

It's like God is giving NRA a wedgie

Ha ha ha!

I especially like the part where the passer-by who found the gun that the Glocksucker left behind wanted to see if it was loaded so he just pulled the trigger. Here is where that happened. Notice any targets?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Goosing the VIX

Whatever Whiny Baby Donald thinks he's doing with respect to trade especially trade with China, all he's actually done so far is goose the VIX.

That's the Volatility Index which some market analysts think is important although everyone seemed just fine with a quiet VIX while the market was bowling its way up to 27,000 on the Dow. Some people like to gamble by betting on the VIX or its inverse he XIV, and they like to see an active VIX.

For the kind of investing that I do the VIX is more or less irrelevant -- buy-and-hold or, in the current state of affairs, sit on cash doesn't require attention to the VIX.

However for you VIX fans Trump's meandering and flailing about with tariffs has been a benefit. VIX has gone nuts. It isn't easy to see what other effect Trump's wacko trade policies have had so far.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Not just for white doofuses any more

So, the murderer who stalked YouTube was not a white man who couldn't get a date but a bloodthirsty and female vegan.

This will make life harder for the profilers who will no longer be able to say glibly that the suspect  was probably a young white man the next time some screwball with a firearm decides to shoot up a preschool.

Furthermore, the latest celebrity murderer was not stopped by a good man with a gun or good woman with a gun -- she shot herself.

Every day in America there are more guns and then more guns and more guns after that but somehow the number of shootings does not go down. Someone should tell the National Child Murder Association that its strategy is not working  -- unless, in fact, the strategy is to create more killers.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Big mystery

Today is the day the Christians celebrate the central mystery and dogma of their cult.  And a very mysterious mystery it is, too, if you think about it.

Christians never do. They study it, they argue about it, they kill each other when they disagree about it; but they never think about it. If you do think about it, some obvious problems present themselves and by the end of this post I will have cleared up one of them: Who wrote the gospels?

First, though, we have to set up some parameters concerning the nature of the Hebrew Messiah and the historicity of Jesus.

Bart Ehrman, a professor at the University of North Carolina, is one of the best-known popularizers of biblical interpretation in America today, and according to him almost no scholars doubt that Jesus was an individual who lived about 2,000 years ago.

He does not. however, describe this individual in any identifiable way. If we think of him as the man who wandered around Palestine bringing people back from the dead, then obviously no such person existed.  If, however, we think of him as a schizophrenic who attributed the voices in his head to his deity and wandered around Palestine telling people what he heard, then obviously not just one but probably dozens or even hundreds of such people existed.

We can be sure of that because tens of thousands of such people exist in the United States right now. I have met several of them myself.

It is unclear whether the Jesus figure -- whether he really existed or was just concocted by clever editors from urban legends of the time -- claimed to be the Hebrew Messiah, and this is not surprising because the Hebrew Bible is no clearer about the identifiable characteristics of the Messiah than Professor Ehrman is about the identifiable characteristics of Jesus.

All we have to go on comes from the five gospels. I say five because that is how the Jesus Seminar characterized the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Twenty-five years ago the Jesus Seminar, which was comprised of about 150 academic New Testament scholars in America, attempted to discern which parts of the five gospels could be confidently attributed to the historical Jesus that they accepted, rather uncritically. I believe it is generally agreed that the Jesus Seminar failed, and I found their methods and conclusions unpersuasive. (They were democratic; they voted on which parts were authentic. Not intellectually rigorous, which is a theme that will come up again several times in this post.)

If we start from the position that Jesus did think he was the Messiah, we must ask what sort of Messiah he was, and that is where the big mystery arises.

The Old Testament does not really define a messiah, but we can use information in it to make a firm prediction of what the Messiah was not going to be.

It is obvious that no Jew living 2,000 years ago and relying on the teachings of his tribal cult would have imagined that the Messiah was going to be the (or a) child of his tribal deity, still less that his tribal deity would have copulated with a human to produce a demigod.

There is simply no purchase in the Hebrew Bible for that sort of idea. We may ask then where the editors who put together the New Testament stories could have found such an idea, and the answer is  obvious: anywhere but in the Jewish tradition.

The notion that there were gods who gave birth to other gods was fundamental in the cults of all the people surrounding the Hebrews, and the notion that male gods copulated with human women to produce demigods was especially common in the Greek cults.

It is a notable fact that although it is assumed that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, and it is usually thought that they did not have the education that would have given them other languages as well, all the New Testament writings are in Greek.

What a surprise! The conclusion that stares us in the face but that biblical scholars are unwilling to think is that the authors or editors of the Christian sacred texts were not Jews. They must have been Greeks.

That there were more than one of them is commonly agreed by scholars, who have noticed that some of the editors were greatly concerned with Jewish rituals and others were indifferent.

We still do not know who these men were, whether they were hellenized Jews, Greeks who had been exposed to Jewish teachings or something else.

It is the fashion nowadays among biblical scholars to emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus and of the earliest Christians. When I was younger and Christians were more self-confident and it was still fashionable to disdain Jews, the novelty and separateness of Christianity were emphasized.

Well, from a Jewish perspective Christianity was certainly novel. No Jew ever, 2,000 years ago or now, would have imagined a Messiah who was another god who had a human mother and Adonai for a father.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Straight outta Compton

Where do we find those responsible gun owners about whom we hear so much from the gun nuts?

Do you want a heater? Perhaps a nice little Beretta owned by a code enforcement officer who only took it out on weekdays.

Hardly any zoning violators were shot with this baby. Who'll be shot by the subsequent owners remains to be seen.

Nuts! Nuts! Nuts!

Eventually the Second Amendment to the Constitution will be repealed. Gun nuts cannot imagine such a thing, but that is because they don't know anything about their own history.

The slaveocracy could not imagine that slavery could ever be ended in the United States, and when William Lloyd Garrison founded The Liberator to achieve that, it seemed to most, whatever their views about slavery, that the slave power was unbeatable. Yet it was beaten

Similarly, it seemed impossible that the Constitution could be amended to outlaw the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors when that drive began. Yet it was accomplished.

The Second Amendment will not be abolished soon but perhaps it would be possible to mitigate somewhat the slaughter being fomented by the National Child Murder Association and its allies.

For example, so-called responsible gun nuts -- they think of themselves as responsible, I do not -- like to point to the rigorous training in firearms that peace officers are alleged to undergo.

Like everything else the gun nuts say, this is ridiculous. The recent shooting of man armed with a cellular phone in Sacramento provides a good example of how ridiculous it is.

Police officers are trained in elaborate protocols about how to react when confronting a man armed  with a cellular telephone. The training involves an alarm to other officers nearby when an officer perceives the miscreant has a gun. This is exactly like what birds do when one spots a hawk. And the police demonstrate just as much brainpower as the birds.

When an officer sees a man armed with a cellular telephone that he believes to be a firearm, he is instructed to yell: Gun! Gun! Gun! This amounts to an instruction to all the other officers to commit murder.

Imagine the situation. It is dark, no one is certain who is about or what they're up to. According to the protocol, the most suggestible, frightened, racist, or stupid cop in the neighborhood can be depended upon to identify the cellular telephone as a gun gun gun. And if any of the other officers present are less suggestible, frightened, racist or stupid, they will still immediately lower themselves to level of the worst of the police present and start shooting.

So as a modest proposal, I suggest that all of the tens of thousands I'm so-called firearms instructors in America stop teaching their pupils to yell Gun! Gun! Gun! when their imaginations run wild.