Archive for July, 2010

And Then the Invisible Hand of the Free Market Slapped Its Forehead

July 8, 2010

So what's the word on the street? Heard any good tips lately?

Your preschool teacher was right: One person can change the world.

Last year, Steve Perkins, a broker for PVM Oil Futures (company slogan: “The Oil Professionals”), went on a multi-day drinking binge and then proceeded to buy more than 7 million barrels worth of oil futures. These saucy antics drove the price of a kind of crude oil up to an eight-month high.

His company eventually lost millions on the deals and Perkins was banned from trading for 5 years in the UK, but this story proves something very powerful. If you think of the world financial system as a giant bulldozer with the power to literally move mountains (as when the price of coal goes up and mountaintop removal becomes viable) or even devastate millions of lives, which is what happens when speculative trading drives up the price of rice or corn, this story reveals that any drunken asshole can hop into the driver’s seat and send the whole system lurching towards the nearest cliff.

...But I didn't really hit bottom until I bought all those shares in Chrysler... uuuuuh

Steve Perkins just had a few too many whiskeys and turned his life into a mash-up of Leaving Las Vegas and Wall Street. He wasn’t some evil genius, just some lush trader whose balls apparently got bigger with every drink until he decided that cornering the market on crude futures in the middle of a bender was a good idea. Imagine if someone who knew what they were doing tried to cause some real damage?

First, we'll get hella fucked up -- then we'll swap some collateralized debt obligations! Let's fucking paaarty!


Like the Taliban but Whiter and Way More Guns

July 2, 2010

If Rand Paul ever makes it to the White House, I think we all know who he'll be tapping for Vice Prez...

“New Study Shows That Majority Of Americans Want Their Warlord Leaders To Focus More On Economic Issues.” That headline was a Tweet from The Onion today as part of it’s future-headlines series: #NewsIn2137

Unfortunately, it looks like we could be dealing with warlords in this country a lot sooner than 2137. The hot trend in right-wing campaign ads this season seems to be gun fetishism (surprise!). Touting the NRA’s seal of approval is certainly nothing new for the GOP, ads like this one from Arizona’s Pamela Gorman take it to a new level of absurdity.

Now, unlike many lefties, I’m not a big fan of gun control. How are we supposed to celebrate weddings, mourn at funerals, or pass the time when we’re bored without shooting guns in the air? OK, there are actually much better reasons for supporting the second amendment, like not wanting the State to have a monopoly on firearms, but for Republicans to act like this is the most important issue facing out country right now is stupider than Forrest Gump at a nitrous party.

After all, the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of gun rights this week and Obama hasn’t done anything to suggest that he’s about to take away our ability to purchase weapons that could turn an armored car into Swiss cheese, so why are the Tea Partiers’ all getting their star-spangled panties in a twist?

Here are two explanations to that question:

1)    It’s easy. In US politics, guns symbolize the brand that these kinds of politicians want to associate themselves with. Tough, “law and order”, no nonsense, old fashioned, etc. These are the associations that conservative voters have with leaders who flaunt their firearms. Plus, by focusing on guns (and the brainless, never-ending mantra to cut taxes), these politicians can ignore the complexities of real issues facing us today. If Pamela Gorman tried to talk seriously about an issue that’s actually a major threat to our country like the need for transparency in the derivatives market, her supporters – most of whom I assume are constantly drooling anyway – would probably either fall asleep or start playing with whatever shiny object is closest.

2)    These people want to live in a fantasy world where they get to play the patriotic militia leader Rambo role and rise up against the New World Order and the “antichrist” black president. Media Matters just posted a great summary of how all the right-wing radio hosts are now proclaiming that we’re on the verge of a civil war. Many of these people are already living in a loony tunes universe where the Earth is only 6000 years old, abstinence-only education actually works, and Jesus will be coming back any day now riding a unicorn made of Bibles. The formerly fringe culture of survivalists has gone mainstream (with “crisis garden” commercials running on the number one-rated cable news network – FOX) and upscale (with next generation bomb shelters designed to look like luxury cruise liners).

Yeah, like the zombies really won't be able to find you down there.

Now, I’m not saying that the government isn’t totally messed up at every level and that it is doing and proposing lots of scary things, like an “emergency kill switch” for the Internet. But electing politicians based on the caliber of weapon that they’re stroking in their campaign ad isn’t the way to make things better – unless you want Congressional hearings to look like the climax scenes in Quentin Tarantino movies…

Although Dale Peterson does make a pretty convincing case about the Facebook thing…

But what the hell is this? It looks like a cross between a Tea Party wet dream and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure…