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Weekend Economists Que saudade! Brazil, Part 2 August 28-30, 2015

Que saudade!

The word saudade (sah-ooh-dah-jee) has no direct translation in English, and it's a major source of linguistic pride for Brazilians. Use Que saudade! (kee sah-ooh-dah-jee) when you miss something so desperately, you have a heartache over it. People say Que saudade! when they remember their best friend who's now living far away, or their childhood beach. Brazilians also often say simply Saudades! at the end of e-mails to tell you they're missing you terribly....A Few Favorite Brazilian Portuguese Expressions: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/a-few-favorite-brazilian-portuguese-expressions.html

Last weekend, I dragged you through the highlights of recorded history on Brazil up to the 19th century. One of the reasons I was so ignorant about Brazil is because while Brazil was booming, the US was coming apart with the Civil War, so history books focused on events close to home. The US was too busy, in other words, to do much meddling South of the border.

That all changed after a fragile peace was established in these Reunited States...as we shall see.

But what about modern Brazil? Can we get a taste of it without actually flying down to Rio?

Flying Down to Rio is a 1933 American Pre-Code RKO musical film noted for being the first screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, although Dolores del Río and Gene Raymond received top billing and the leading roles. Among the featured players Franklin Pangborn and Eric Blore are notable. The songs in the film were written by Vincent Youmans (music) and Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu (lyrics), with musical direction and additional music by Max Steiner. This is the only film in which screen veteran Rogers was billed above famed Broadway dancer Astaire.

The black-and-white film (later computer-colorized) was directed by Thornton Freeland and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Lou Brock. The screenplay was written by Erwin S. Gelsey, H.W. Hanemann and Cyril Hume, based on a story by Lou Brock and a play by Anne Caldwell. Linwood Dunn did the special effects for the celebrated airplane-wing-dance sequence at the end of the film.

The story is silly, but the music! and the Dancing! Special Effects!

Feeling the Bern With the Youth Vote By Nathan Heller NEW YORKER MAGAZINE


The oddest thing about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking Democratic nomination for President, is not his distaste for fund-raising, his insistence that he is a “democratic Socialist,” or even his unofficial slogan, “Feel the Bern,” a phrase that vividly recalls Jane Fonda at the moment of her disentanglement from the New Left. It is his popularity with kids. Since tossing his worn cap into the ring, in April, Sanders has racked up a disproportionate share of the youth vote: thirty-seven per cent of voters twenty-nine or younger, compared with Hillary Clinton’s forty per cent, in one poll. Why? Outwardly, he does not seem like a particularly hip or youthful guy. Sanders is nearly seventy-four, dresses like Willy Loman, and can name, from direct memory, the Dodgers’ lineup in the year 1951. When he shows up at events, his fleecy hair, or what remains of it, looks ravaged, as if he had puttered all the way there in a drop-top Model T. He wears a watch; it’s not by Apple. And yet, today, Sanders boasts a larger Facebook following than Clinton and Jeb Bush combined.

It’s on Facebook that Sanders fandom, and a language associated with it, has flourished. Followers post about the way he “slayed” in this or that speech, how he seems “so logical” compared with other politicians, how he motivated them to vote, for the first time, in their late twenties. As Sanders, an independent, throttled into a strong second place for the Democratic nomination, Bern-ers on Twitter praised him as “clever” and “trustworthy.” In the magazine last week, Daniel Wenger reported on an eighteen-year-old kid’s attempt to organize a Sanders YouTube viewing party in his parents’ living room. On Friday, in a greater coup, Sanders received the endorsement of the fifteen-year-old prank candidate Deez Nuts, who made a splash in some Midwestern polls earlier this month, and who cited his frank and accessible style. Queried about Sanders’s leading opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton, Mr. Nuts simply asked, “Why can’t you be more open and friendly like Bernie?”

“Open” is a reasonable description of Sanders’s campaign, which has worked to underscore the candidate’s ideological consistency over the decades. When Sanders started out, in the sixties, he was a civil-rights activist and a sit-in coördinator. After settling in Vermont, he worked in carpentry, wrote weird satirical erotica, and set about the business of losing elections. The goals of the young Sanders were a lot like the goals of Sanders now. From 1981, in his first elected post, as the mayor of Burlington, he fought for corporate regulation and against big-money fund-raising. He sought to lift the minimum wage. Recently, his supporters have produced old footage from his early years, as if to show that, in a field of opportunists, Sanders has held firm to his beliefs. The anachronism of his world view proves both his authenticity and his lack of hidden baggage as a candidate. For young voters, who approach the booth with shallow political memories, this “open” attitude toward Sanders’s past can come as reassurance: they don’t have to worry about being pinioned by a history that they don’t know, because history, for Sanders, is a backward projection of the behavior that they saw last week. The approach is striking in an era when even personal life is preconceived, polished, performed. Sanders is exceptional because he seems, demonstrably, the same guy who he was before the iPhone cameras first appeared.

The nature of that lineage may play a role in Sanders’s youthful popularity, too. He speaks often of “revolution,” as in: “Today, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially, and environmentally.” Revolution is a term that’s rarely heard now, but it recalls the period when Sanders landed on his political cause. Radicalism nostalgia—the Boomer-propagated idea that the sixties were a halcyon age in American culture—survives today even among people born decades later. For the uninitiated, Sanders is a link back to that heady time. “Neil Young playing at the end of #BernieSanders SC speech is making me hippie fangirl out,” someone far below the hippie age cutoff tweeted this past weekend. Now that American youth culture is increasingly business-oriented—there are shopping recommendations based on your exact location, parties with playlists picked by subscription algorithm, and privatized mobile transportation apps to ferry you between—Sanders’s tinge of hippiedom, his seeming lack of calculation, lets members of the smartphone generation embrace the political sixties trip they never had....



Detroit lost all its magnificent elm trees, and its natural air conditioning, thanks to global trade....I still remember the golden cathedrals of autumn, the black lace of winter branches, the tenderest, purest green of spring and the welcome shade of summer...

The causative agents of DED (Dutch Elm Disease) are ascomycete microfungi. Three species are now recognized:

    Ophiostoma ulmi, which afflicted Europe from 1910, reaching North America on imported timber in 1928.
    Ophiostoma himal-ulmi, a species endemic to the western Himalaya.
    Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, an extremely virulent species from Japan which was first described in Europe and North America in the 1940s and has devastated elms in both continents since the late 1960s

    And global trade continues to spread diseases and predators...invasive species is the polite term.

So much for that amazing rebound---DJIA down 200+, S&P down 25+

And you can see by the shape of the curves it was all PPT, all the way, and losing the battle...which brings me to this post:

Perry Mehrling: No One Has a Good Idea of How to Keep the Fed From Having to Rescue Mr. Market Again as Yves Smith called it, or

Toward a robust dealer system of first resort


Goldman Sachs takes “A Look at Liquidity”, and tells us what they see. Suffice it to say that different people see different things, depending on their vantage point, like the proverbial blind men touching the elephant. Let’s see if we can construct a picture of the animal as a whole from the snapshots provided.

What seems clear is that the bank dealer system of the past is now gone (notwithstanding last-ditch pleading to bring it back). Banks are largely out of that business, guided by new regulations (specifically the “non-risk-based leverage and liquidity rules”), but also motivated by their own experience with the crisis. Banks do not want to be in the position of requiring emergency support from the Fed any more than the Fed wants to be in the position of providing that emergency support.

Ever since the crisis, central banks have been standing in for the pre-crisis bank dealer system, flooding the system with funding liquidity. World-wide QE has essentially bought time for a new more robust dealer system to begin rising from the ashes of the old. However, at the moment that new system is far from complete, even as central banks (led by the Fed) are signalling that they will not be around forever. In normal times the central banks supports the market; only in crisis times does it become the market. What will the new normal times look like?

Steve Strongin talks about how the Fed might respond to the next crisis: “the Fed might have to buy the distressed assets directly and/or other parts of the government might have to step in” (p. 5). That is of course how the Fed responded to the last crisis, as I have myself recounted in my book New Lombard Street. But the necessity for that response shows exactly the inadequacy of the old dealer system–it was not a robust first resort system. That’s why we have junked the old system. The question is whether we can rely on the emerging new system to be more robust.

There is a lot of hype about electronic exchanges, and also Exchange Traded Funds, and some of the hype is warranted. Yes, to the extent that we can make it easier for buyers and sellers to find each other and do business directly, we can do without the now-missing dealer intermediary. In effect, all such measures work by making the broker function more efficient, which is fine if markets are balanced. “But the largest problems are likely to arise when markets are not balanced and under significant net selling pressure…” (p. 5)


Remember that refinery in Indiana that unexpectedly shut down?

And they were saying it would be out of commission until after Christmas, and gas prices soared almost a dollar in two days?

Well, the word is that refinery is back in service....it's a miracle! Or a federal investigation...I don't know which, yet. But if I find out, I'm gonna post the gory details....

Who was that famous woman journalist/muckraker? Ida Tarbell....such a suggestive name! It would make a great nom de guerre, if ever I need one.

And that's a great Weekend topic---after where the nuts come from.

The End of Democracy as we Knew it By Bernd Hamm



(1) How is the global ruling class structured internally?
(2) Is it theoretically correct to use the term class for the ruling elite?
(3) What are the major instruments of power?
(4) How do these analytical insights impact on the probable future of human society?

Drawing on C. Wright Mills’ seminal work on The Power Elite (1956), recent power structure research suggests an ideal-type model of four concentric circles:

  • In the inner circle, we find the global money trust, the richest individuals, families or clans, all with fortunes well above one billion Euros.

  • The CEOs of big transnational corporations and biggest international financial players make up the second circle. They are mostly concerned with increasing the wealth of the inner circle, and with it their own.

  • Top international politicians, some active in governments and international institutions, some more in the background as advisors, plus the top military, compose the third circle. This political class has assignments: organize the distribution of the social product in such a way as to transfer as much as the actual power balance allows into the pockets of the inner and second circles, and secure the legitimacy of government by organizing the political circus of an allegedly pluralistic structure.

  • The fourth ring will be composed of top academics, media moguls, lawyers, and may sometimes include prominent authors, film and music stars, artists, NGO representatives, few religious leaders, few top criminals and others useful for decorating the inner circles. They enjoy the privilege of close access to those in power, they are well paid, and they will make sure not to lose such benefits (Hamm, B. 2010:1008-9; see also Phillips, P., Osborne, B. 2013).

It appears that the degree of internationalization of the powerful correlates with their status on the ring hierarchy. The two inner circles have always been international. The third and fourth rings, however, tend to be much more nationally bound (by ownership and by elections) than the first and the second. The inner circle is not static but relatively solid. It builds on financial and social capital often accumulated by former generations (steel industry, banking, weapons, or oil barons). The major source of power is being borne to a family of the inner circle (for example, the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, the Morgans, the DuPonts, the Vanderbilts, the Agnellis, the Thyssens, and the Krupps, to mention a few).

There are also the nouveaux riches. Names like George Soros, William Gates, Warren Buffet, Marc Zuckerberg, Sheldon Adelson, or the Koch brothers come to mind (Smith, Y. 2013), and the Bush-Clan might also be mentioned here (Bowles, W. 2005); Russian or Eastern European oligarchs like Alisher Usmanov, Mikhail Chodorkowski, Boris Beresowski, Mikhail Fridman, Rinat Ahmetov, Leonid Mikhelson, Viktor Vekselberg, Andrej Melnichenko, Roman Abramovich; then there are Carlos Slim Helu, Lakshmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Jorge Paulo Lemann, Iris Fontbona or Aliko Dangote from the so-called less developed countries. These parvenus tend to be politically more active, at least on the front stage, than the old rich families: George Soros with his Open Society Foundation and his permanent warnings of the evils of unregulated capitalism is the best known for his liberal leanings, while the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson or Robert Murdoch are aggressively right-wing (Heath, T. 2014; Snyder, M. 2013; Webster, S.C. 2013). The oligarchs of the former Soviet block have almost all grabbed their fortunes during the presidency of Boris Yeltzin who, pathological alcoholic as he was, made room for large scale privatization of state corporations and raw materials after the collapse of the socialist regime. Shock therapy was pushed through under the influence of Western advisors, especially the Harvard privatization program with Jeffrey Sachs as the leading figure, as well the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Jegor Gajdar, Anatoli Tschubais (an oligarch himself) and Alfred Koch were their local executives in Russia (Vaclav Klaus in Czecholovakia, Leszek Balcerowicz in Poland, etc.).

The strategy for the creation of oligarchs and social polarization is easy to understand since it has been practiced by the IMF time and again to this very day as part of their structural adjustment policy (later cynically referred to as “poverty reduction strategy”). What it amounts to is the abolition of all prize control and public subventions, laying-off civil servants, limiting wages, devaluing currencies, and privatizing public corporations and infrastructure (the so-called Washington Consensus). Widespread poverty is the immediate result, and the other side of the coin is extremely concentrated wealth in just a few hands. If the number of victims multiplied by the gravity of damages done to each of them is used as an indicator, the IMF is certainly the most criminal organization on earth (Chossudovsky, M. 2001).

Does this global oligarchy constitute a social class in the theoretical sense of the term? If so, it should (1) be in control of the means of production, (2) be bound together by class consciousness, and in-group mentality, and (3) be party to a global class struggle over the distribution of the social product. The second criterion, in particular, was answered affirmatively:

“The GRC (Global Ruling Class) will tend to see themselves, very much like feudal kings, as being of divine superiority placing them far above all other human beings. Fascism is very likely to be a basic pillar of their ideology, and war will be just one of the tools to increase their power and profits” (Hamm, 2010:1010; see also Turley, J. 2014; Dolan, E.W. 2013).

As the money elite generally tend to focus their social contacts inside, groupthink is permanently reinforced. This might hold true even if it is not homogeneous in other respects (Lofgren, M. 2013; Domhoff, G.W., Staples, C., Schneider, A. 2013).

For the first question, the extent that the financial sector has taken over control of productive industries should be emphasized. Here, the enormous amount of freshly printed dollars injected in the global economy since the abolishment of the gold standard in 1971 is decisive. The Federal Reserve Bank under successive US administrations has followed this policy up to the present day. The amount of money strolling around for profitable investment is not underpinned by production or services but rather by printing fiat notes. It has allowed the financial industry to buy up real businesses by shares and bonds and their respective derivatives inside and outside the US. Thus, the financial industry acquired, in fact, control of large parts of the real economy including (via production chains) small and medium-sized businesses, fertile lands, and raw materials. The financial industry is also highly influential in the areas of science and technology, and through lobbying and campaign donations, it influences political decision-making. In fact, as US lawmakers tend to belong to the upper strata of the financial hierarchy (thus to the third circle of our power model), they also tend to widely identify with the interests of the inner rings (Money Choice 2013). Therefore, it is correct to conclude that the financial industry is in control of the means of production....


Weekend Economists Depart for Brazil! August 21-23, 2015

Well, where else can one go, when the US is in the gutter?

Go somewhere vibrant, lively, young and growing....(sorry, no such place)

The BRICS nations (a concept tm by Goldman Sachs) are supposed to be the places to go, and the first of these is Brazil.

The US is not happy with Brazil. Something to do with Brazil throwing a fit when Dilma found out the NSA was wiretapping her....and oil. It's always about oil, and when it's in the Western Hemisphere, throw in sugar, too. And then, Glenn Greenwald calls Brazil home...which takes us back to the NSA...

Let's try to sort out this mess by getting better acquainted with the "land where the nuts come from".

Brazil dominates South America, bordering every other nation except Chile and Ecuador. And due to the vicissitudes of Fate, it is the only one not speaking Spanish but Portuguese, a similar tongue, but not close enough for all practical purposes.

Oh, the places we'll go! All aboard!

How Not to Be a Leader


Whether it’s the rise of the extreme right in Europe, Donald Trump’s ascent in the US, Canada’s stunning plunge into fringe politics, the world is awash in a new political phenomenon: a tsunami of vocal, angry extremism, where once placid waters calmly shimmered. Not extreme enough for you? In one of the world’s most advanced societies, unemployed kids, of which there are too many, are going to have to go…not to school, college, or even community service…but to boot camp.


In this short essay, I want to offer a lens through which to see this phenomenon. A few years ago, there was a huge leadership deficit in the world. No one, it seemed, was steering the ship. And perhaps you thought things couldn’t get worse. But today things are different: there’s not a deficit of leadership anymore. There is a surplus of bad leadership. Too many angry, blind pilots pointing ships…straight into the icebergs. Leadership, it appears, has fallen into a deep abyss. From which it must climb out, if it is to regain its place in the world again.

And before I begin let me note. This isn’t an essay I particularly want to write. But the truth is that there are too few voices speaking too few simple truths about this unsettling — and profoundly self-destructive — phenomenon.

Let us, then, put our prejudices aside, and examine these new leaders. So we may see what they stand for — and whether it is worth believing in. What is striking — and immediately obvious — is that they share four positions in common; and that is what distinguishes them as a phenomenon, a class, a category, a larger movement.

  1. Fatalism

  2. Scapegoating

  3. Timidity

  4. Dehumanization



“Oh - You're a very bad man!"

Oh, no my dear. I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad Wizard.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


Permaculture and the Myth of Overpopulation


When teaching permaculture I often start out by doing a giant problems mind map. I ask students to brainstorm all of the major “problems” they see in the world to reflect on what brought them to study permaculture. Nine times out of ten the idea of overpopulation as a root “problem” in the world comes up.

Overpopulation describes a situation where there are too many people for the amount of resources available. It puts the blame of the environmental crisis on the sheer number of people on the planet.

Natural scientist and former senior manager of the BBC David Attenborough sums up this sentiment when he said, “We are a plague on the Earth. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us”

This cultural narrative, that human beings are the root cause of the environmental cri-sis is everywhere, especially among environmentalists. We also see this belief within permaculture design. The third ethic of permaculture reads:

Setting limits to population and consumption: By governing our own needs we can set resources aside to the above principles.

Not only is this idea of overpopulation oversimplified and inaccurate, it upholds a de-generative paradigm of scarcity, fear and competition that goes against the core teachings of permaculture. It also perpetuates problematic thinking that leads to ineffective and unjust public policies and global solutions. As permaculturalists, it is important that we contradict this notion that simply more people on the planet equals less resources and more pollution. We need to engage in dialog around the true roots of environmental, social and economic degradation. In this way, we can begin to shift mental models and design more effective and just solutions that take into account the real root causes of degradation and injustice.

In his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren reframed the third ethic as “fair share” or “redistribute the surplus.” He points out the paradox of permaculture’s core belief of abundance and this ethic. He states that, “Except in extreme famine and other natural disasters, scarcity is a culturally mediated reality; it is largely created by industrial economics and power, rather than actual physical limits to growth...


STOCK MARKET WATCH--Adding Tuesday to Monday

In lieu of a new thread, I've been posting to yesterday's



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