Drawing Parallels on a Perpendicular Plane

darkside of dorothy politicizing movies
I’d like to see the darkside of Dorothy, if you know what I mean

The image above doesn’t really make a lot of sense given the title because in this case it is art drawing parallels with more art. However the Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz parallels are so popular I figure I’d go with it. The underlying point of it anyway is that you can draw parallel meanings from anything if you try hard enough. Sometimes, you don’t have to try very hard and that’s when things can become stupid and annoying. For instance, Rush Limbaugh made the shallow remark that perhaps the villain in the Dark Knight Rises film Bane is liberal propaganda against Mitt Romeny and his former company Bain Capital. After much Internet hubbub, Limbaugh backed down and said he made no such mention of a conspiracy theory.

It gets better though. A Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Andrew Klavan says the movie is about far more than just good vs evil (my words, not his really) but depicts a striking resemblance to the real-life Occupy Wall Street movement and other “leftist” movements that brought about radical change and “inevitable” dictatorships (his words this time, for real). Because let it be known, all “leftist” movements *will* result in some kind of dictatorship. In fact, I can’t think of any movement where a large group of people rebelled for freedoms and rights that didn’t end in a dictatorship – give this man a Nobel Prize!

Can’t The Dark Knight Rises just be what it is – a summer blockbuster where two VERY fictional characters in a VERY fictional world fight each other unrealistically? Why draw the Tea Party/OWS lines? Why even bring up Michael Moore?

The best part of the post is where he brings up the tragedy in Aurora just to say, out of respect for the victims, he won’t be talking about it in his article.

Mittens Romney a True 1 Percenter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a lot of focus on the Storm’in Mormon Mittens Romney’s finances, as he gets ready to publicly release his tax return information. Armed with his tax return statements, Romney’s rivals will likely label him as the top 1% of income earners to appeal to the anti wealth and exuberance sentiments of the now frozen Occupation Movement. While this is going on, I would like to point out who the first true 1 Percenters are, American Bikers. These Americans, once persecuted for their explicative antics, now embraced their titles and literally where them as a badge of honor. Perhaps, so to should top paid CEO’s.

The 1%er title came from the 1947 biker riot in Hollister California where a biker gang took over the town, stormed bars and brothels, and pillaged everything in sight like a marauderous gang of modern-day Vikings. This event, which inspired the movie “The Wild One” with Brando, lead the American Motorcycle Association to issue a statement claiming that 99% of motorcyclist are good citizens and that the other 1% is a criminal element that gives them all a bad reputation. Today the American Motorcycle Association claims no such statement was ever made publicly, however that has not stopped biker gangs coast to coast from proudly displaying their rightfully earned “1%er” patches.  To a professional criminal badass biker there is no greater honor then being labeled with this elite title by the very authorities that they rebel against.

This is a tactic I propose Mittens and other CEOs adopt for three reasons: First, he has been promoting his Business acumen as the cornerstone of his campaign for president. He should promote his accumulated wealth as a testament to his abilities as a leader and businessman.  Second, the republican dogma of tax policy promote the low tax rate he enjoys; if he does not defend his own tax benefits it will show that he has no guts to fight for what his party stands for. Third, while he may not have been the greatest CEO in the world, he was far from the worst and his companies did grow and earn profit. Therefore, he earned the money legally and that is what drives the global capitalist economy. The new 1%ers earn such exuberate wages because of globalization and the need to compete against businesses around the globe. For companies to find a man that can lead company and compete against all the other companies in the world requires exuberant incentives.

 The New York Times “Romney’s Dough”

The Economist ” CEO’s Pay”

Is Preventing Election Fraud a form of Election Rigging?

 

The right for all American Citizens to vote is one of the sacred tenets of the US Constitution, and one that make the US a beacon of dysfunctional democracy. After Rebulicans won control over many state leguislatures in the last election cycle many states have been passing bills to restrict the rights of voters by asking for ID at the polls. Critics of these laws claime they discriminate against the poor, homeless, minority, very old, and very young voters, all of whom have the right to vote but are less likely to have a state issued ID card. Interestingly enough most of the recent Occupy Wall Street protestors fall into this very youthful,  impovershed, ethinic, and often smelly catigory. This demographic also tends to vote heavily democratic, so it is logical that state conservatives would want to resticrt their access to the voteing block.

 

These laws are all created in the guise of protecting against voter fraud, which is a crime all but unheard of in the legal system because the risk does not outway the reward. Remember that most Americans, like basement Rob, don’t even bother to vote on election day let alone try to rig the election in favor of a candidate.But really can’t these politicains try at least to win these votes out right through campiagning and policy changes that reflect the demographic of thier constituetcy rather than taking away their constitutional rights. In the end, is that even really considered winning a seat in congress,where your sole job is to “up hold and defend the Constitutions”, if you aquired that seat by restricting the constitutional rights of your fellow Americans.

 

When an Indiana voter ID law was challenged in the Federal Supreme Court, the vote fell on party lines and held up the state’s requirement that voters must show a vailded state ID or appear at the court house a week before the election to sign a sworn statment. Manny in the court cases said that this case came down to either protecting the canidates against voter fraude, which several justices expressed there was a lack of evidence supporting its frequency, and protecting against the disenfranchiesment of a small population of voters.

Protect the Vote

Indiana Voter ID Supreme Court Ruleing

 

Forget the 99%: How About 33%?

Get a job, hippie!

As the Occupy Wall Street movement comes to an end (yes, it IS coming to an end), one of the strongest messages from it that will be remembered is the concept of the 99%; that is the 99% (you, me, etc.) that have little in this world vs the 1% (Donald Trump, Snooki, etc.) that have everything in the world. It does not take an economist to realize that this premise is stupid, and just not true. The idea behind it though, that there is an income gap that is widening more and more every year in the United States, is very real. According to the latest census numbers, 33% of Americans live below or right above the poverty line. This is a pretty big deal, at least according to economists who know a thing or two about how economies should function. Click the NYTimes link below to read the full story, but basically the last time income inequality was as large as it is now was during the 1920’s, and we all know how that ended.

NYTimes

Sarah Palin Op-Ed in WSJ = #WTF

First and foremost, I completely agree with everything Ms. Palin wrote in her latest Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal (this was the first hint towards my suspicion that something wasn’t right.) Palin’s article, How Congress Occupied Wall Street is a very well put, top down view of the kind of corruption that goes on inside Congress when it comes to financial transactions among our elected officials. Now, I hope your all thinking “hey, that sounds familiar…”, because it is! As mentioned here on Step Aside, 60 Minutes covered this very thing on last Sundays program, in a far more thorough and detailed manner. So then why would Sarah Palin be preaching this very thing a week later in the Wall Street Journal? I have no idea to be honest – then again I don’t understand any move Palin makes these days. It’s always as if she is preparing to make a run for some office, only to fade away into obscurity and reappear at a later date.

The point of all this it two-fold: 1) give credit where credit is due. 60 Minutes really did a great job of bringing this story to light, and you would not be commenting on this topic if it weren’t for their story and 2) don’t be afraid to point a finger here. You say

Astonishingly, none of this is technically illegal, at least not for Congress. Members of Congress exempt themselves from the laws they apply to the rest of us. That includes laws that protect whistleblowers (nothing prevents members of Congress from retaliating against staffers who shine light on corruption)

however you don’t point out a single example of this “injustice” happening.  Palin is clearly sticking around for the long run, probably in hopes of securing the Republican seat of the 2016 primary. Well if this is the case then show us you can be a leader and point out, in detail, the injustice you see around you. Otherwise, you’re just like every other presidential hopeful: all talk – no balls (metaphorically and literally in this case)

It Ain’t Over Yet: Occupy Wall Street Marches On and Police Respond

In an obvious response to Brooklyn Steve’s projection that the popular Occupy Wall Street movement was dead, several thousand protesters took to the streets of New York to personally prove him wrong. It seems that the liberal protesters have figured out that the key to winning a political war is through media saturation. This is an election year after all. This all means that the days of grabbing headlines with a few smelly bums sleeping in a small city park are over. So what gets headlines, cops pepper spraying old ladies seems to work for the Occupy Seattle spin-off protestors. This tactic continues to grab headlines as the Mayor of Seattle formally apologized to the 84-year-old liberal activist and suggested that the Seattle Police review their actions. In that protest Seattle Police arrested 6 protestors (the old lady was not one of them). New York, not to be out done by the Starbucks city, had hundreds of protestors arrested today. Its seems that Police have to sit down with public officials a comprise a clear plan that will allow peaceful protest but maintain the safety of the public at large, because if not there is going to be a lot more tity grabbing (see below) and grandma bashing to come.

 

Honk!

 Seattle Time

Seattle’s Finest Pepper Spray a Priest, Old Women, and Pregnant Teen, Justice is Served

 

Image Detail
Look at this dangerous criminal.

 

Stop me if you heard this one. Last night a pregnant teen, an 80-year-old woman, and a priest were walking in a peaceful Occupy Seattle demonstration. When Seattle police officers, obviously over whelmed by the threat posed by this trio, subdued the peaceful protestors with pepper spray sending the teen mom-to-be to the hospital. If that isn’t bad enough they were bicycle cops, the special-ed branch of the long arm of the law. I would like to point out here that this is a public relations war and whoever is on the other side of the Occupation movements just lost big. Shooting a Oakland based ex-Marine in the head with a rubber bullet is nothing compared to this, I mean the old lady was only 4 foot 10 inches. This event comes after a few weeks of clam in the Seattle based solidarity movement of the Occupy Wall Street Protestors. This is manly due the police forcing the occupation  to move from the Commercial center of Seattle’s Westlake district to a near by Community College. My message to the Seattle Police is that this is not your fight unless you make it so. If you look at the pictures from the local news website below there could not have been more than 50-100 protestors.  Although, they were blocking the road there is not much damage caused by a peaceful march of this size other than a minor traffic inconvenience. The risk losing face and thus perpetuating the movement through publicity versus the benefits gained through knocking some 21-century hippies around is nil. Just let them protest until it is too cold out or they find something else to occupy their time, patience and time are the invincible warriors.

Pregnant teen, elderly woman among pepper sprayed at Occupy Seattle King 5 News Seattle

TEXT ALERTS: Closings, News, more...
Good thing they are wearing those gay helmets.

All this leaves me asking, where were you Phoenix Jones?

Image Detail

The Beginning of the End is Here

NYTimes

Early this morning, police went in to Zucotti Park and cleared out the original site of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Tents were forcefully dismantled and thrown out, protesters who refused to leave were arrested, and heads were hung low as the spirit of a two-month old political anomaly flew away. Actually, I made that last bit up – the protesters appear to be pissed and will seek revenge  by shutting down the real Wall Street this Thursday. Perhaps they will try, but this is it folks. I’m calling it right here, Occupy Wall Street as we knew it is coming to an end. Many thought the cold New York winter would drive them out, but it appears billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets them out before Mother Nature even got a shot at them. It’s a real shame for the protesters too, because this week has been unbelievably warm out in New York.

NYTimes

Student Loans, the Next Bubble

 

In the ashes of the 2007, housing bubble is born the next investing bubble. In this slow economy, the American youth and recently unemployed finding themselves competing for fewer jobs against a more competitive workforce have been enrolling in college by the droves. With tuition costs rising faster than income and inflation, students from low-income families are increasingly acquiring student loans with the prospects of obtaining a high paying job in the future to repay the debt. Just as with the subprime mortgage debacle, where banks pushed low income consumers to take out teaser rate mortgages for houses that they could not truly afford when the rate resets after five years,  the financial industry is now doing a similar scheme by  conceiving students to take on more debt than they could likely payback.  It seems that not only did the industry not learn anything from the last bubble, but also they could barely even be bothered to change the rules of the game that nearly devastated the economy in 2007.

 

While student loans are financially similar to mortgages, they are politically different because student loans are often more protected as they encourage the creation of an educated workforce. As with all loans, there is a risk that students who have taken out these loans will default because their education gambit did not pay off with the acquisition of a better paying job to pay back the principal.  However, this is completely dependent on the projected growth of the economy and job market. If this booming population of college graduates return to the job market to find that it just as bare as when they left, it is likely that they will default on their obligations. Large amounts of defaults could burden the state-run student loan giant Sally Mae, just as large amounts of defaults caused the mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie Mac in 2007. This could then send the same ripples through the banking and investment industry in a repeat of the economic crash.

 

What happened in the housing crisis was that people began to default on loans at a higher rate then was statistically projected because the banks were lending to high-risk/low-income wage earners. Sallie Mae is not the only distributer of student loans, there are private student loans available through Citi-Group that offer loans upwards of $40,000, and often come with fewer restrictions on a person’s credit score and liquid assets. One of the reasons the private industry likes student loans is that borrowers cannot declare bankruptcy on the debt.  The private industry is well aware of the risk that students may default on these loans at higher rate than normal just as in the mortgage market. There is a vehicle to move this risk from the lender onto other institutions; these finical instruments called derivatives of credit default swaps and act like insurance on the initial investment. It was through the web of interchanging hands from banks to investment firms and hedge funds that nearly tanked the entire global finical system in 2007.

 

It is also possible that the bubble is not just beginning to grow but about to burst. As Sallie Mae has already reported a loss in its derivative market this quarter, and a report from the Department of Education reported that student loan defaults rose from 7% to 8% this year, as well other reports suggest that there is an even higher delinquency rate this year comparatively.  The debts incurred by borrowers are also up a full 5% from last year reports the New York Times. On the political front, there have been lenient government sponsored repayment options for students, one program started in 2009 and another enacted recently by the Obama Administration. Although these programs help borrowers in the short run, they could be creating incentives for future borrowers to continue to take on more debt than they can possible pay back in the future and therefore continue to feed the bubble rather than allowing it to run its course.

 

Of course, currently this bubble is in the boom cycle and is providing the necessary growth that the markets and economy needs to prosper and not all booms lead to as devastating a bust as the 2007 crash. From where I am sitting this bubble looks and smells all too similar to the last bubble, the negative externalities of which are still being felt.  I fear that it may prove to be a forlorn hope that Wall Street learned its lesson and is now playing a conservative game to lessen the economic impact of large-scale defaults on student loans.

The Economist Nope, Just Debt

NY Times College Graduates’ Debt Burden Grew, Yet Again, in 2010

Bloomberg Sallie Mae 4th Quarter  Derivative Loses

NYTimes Student Loan Default Rates Rise Sharply in Past Year

NYTimes Another Debt Crisis Looms

What the fuck is a Derivative?

If Jamie Dimon is an Asshole then so is Peyton Manning

On November 2 2011, Seattle police detained 5 protestors of the Occupy Seattle movement. The protesters were demonstrating in opposition to a visit from Jamie Dimon the CEO of JP Morgan Chase who was  being honored by the University Of Washington Business School. The protestors called for the arrest of Mr. Dimon claiming that he has commited “crimes against the people.” While I am all for the protestors right to demonstrate, I must offer a counter opinion that this is simply displaced anger on the part of the demonstrators. The theory that Mr. Dimon is a greedy over-paid Wall Street Gordon-Gecko like villain is not entirely warranted. One of the reasons that Mr. Dimon and other Wall Street Executives are villainized is that they are part of the wealthy elite, the upper 1% of income earners. The economic reason that Wall Street Executives are paid so much is that they are extremely productive people. JP Morgan Chase is a large and complicated organization the is involved in some of the most complex finical interactions the world has ever known, and there are an elite group of people that are capable of successfully managing such an institution.

If the protestors are correct that Mr. Dimon is over paid then they are also suggesting that anyone can replace him and match his productivity. I find it interesting that laypeople have a tendency to hate successful executives for their wealthy and exuberance, but at the same time laude Hollywood stars and professional athletes for their talents and charity work. So let us compare the two, take Peyton Manning a successful professional quarterback who earns about 20 million dollars  a year (which is give or take a few million is on par with Jamie Dimon). This season Mr. Manning  suffered a injury that keeps him from performing his role as quarter back; his team the Indianapolis Colts have unsuccessfully replaced him with three other quarterbacks. It seems that like Wall Street executives, successful NFL QB’s are not easy to come by, hence their high pay.  With Manning as the Quarterback the Colts had 9 consecutive seasons with 12 or more wins, this season with Manning on the sidelines the Colts have not won any of the 8 games they have played thus far. The productivity and the utility of Peyton Manning is evident in his absents, and his high pay is reflected and justified by his abilities, this means that Peyton’s pay must be judged relative to his productivity and value as an asset. This is how we should think about executives like Dimon, who are on the frontline of the American Economy and lately have been in the weeds fighting to get the US back into gear.

There is also a misunderstanding that this is a zero-sum game, suggesting that because Dimon is paid so much that all his employees are thus under-paid. Again let’s go back to Peyton Manning, by this logic then Reggie Wayne, the Colt leading receiver, would be exploited and under-paid compared to Manning, but Wayne a receiver would not be as productive without Manning throwing the ball to him, case in point this current season is his statistical worst in 10 years. The arguement againts the zero-sum game image is the economic clique that a rising tide will raise all ships. If Dimon does well and is productive then all his employees will benefits as well as those industries and business that work and have accounts with JP Morgan Chase. The Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Seattle crowed tend to portray this as a zero-sum game where people like Dimon and Manning are winning big and everyone else is losing but this is not a factual accurate depiction.  Such as when the Colts did well under Manning, attendance in the stadium improved, thus the local businesses around the stadium (such as bars and restaurants) benefited from this, sales of merchandise (Manning jerseys and hats) improved, as well as the boost the City receives from their Super bowl victory.

In sports, this all happens in the public space, but in the business world the benefits of Jamie Dimon’s work happens in the complex unseen, but much talked about, economy.  Case in point, when Peyton Manning became injured and unable to play no protestors called for him to be arrested because now the economy surrounding the Colts stadium and merchandise sales will suffer. Give the guy a break and let him get back to work, we need him just like to Colts need Manning.

Seattle Times

Dimion’s Response