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By TheophileEscargot (Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 08:15:51 AM EST) Listening, Web, Reading (all tags)
Listening: "Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations". Bailout. Web.

Latest TTC course was Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations. Short one, just 12 lectures. Lecturer is Kenneth Harl who also did the good "Rome and the Barbarians" course.

Covers the main early civilizations: Sumer, the Hittites, the Akkadians, the Assyrians, Egypt, Persia, the Indus valley and so on. Goes pretty fast since it's so short: dynasties rise and fall with bewildering speed. Probably for the best since history and evidence for some of these is a bit scanty.

There seems to have been a kind of Dark Age between the end of the Bronze Age and the start of the Iron Age: Harl draws parallels with the decline of Rome.

Also puts the early Jewish civilization into context, demonstrating their links with the other Semitic civilizations. The tie ins between the Noah and Gilgamesh flood myths make more sense to me now.

Other stuff. Writing seems to have been a by-product of accountancy. The Assyrians seem to be as bloody as their reputation: there's a first-person account of post rebellion torture and mutilation that makes the Romans seem like big softies. And trade seems to have been a part of civilization from the start: even the earliest cites of Sumer did a lot of it.

Good course, worth a listen.

Bailout UK
Should have known better than to hope: Darling and Brown seem to be following the US in the bank bailout. Doesn't look quite as bad since we're getting genuine equity, not just the crappiest of crap assets.

Still think they're making a mistake though. We have a hypertropied finance system: I think of it like an enormous tangle of leaky pipes that eventually feeds through into the Real Economy. The problem is that the bailout eventually affects the Real Economy, so it would be better to pump money straight into there while the finance sector plugs the leaks and short-circuits the worst pipes entirely. Instead they're desperately pumping more and more money into the leaky tangle.

Paradoxically, I think the global nature of the crisis is a good thing. When individual nations suffer a banking crisis, all the capital can just move to another country with better returns. Whereas now, there's not so many places for it to go. Eventually investors are going to have to put their money into real businesses. Unfortunately it might take high inflation to force them to do that.

YouTube. Toy Story / Dark Knight trailer

India's virtual porn star (MeFi) NSFW!

Quite liked one bit of this Savage Love:

Some bullshit is intolerable, AAU, but there's no such thing as a bullshit-free relationship. A long-term relationship is, at its core, two people struggling to put up with each other's bullshit -- day in, day out, year after year -- in exchange for things intangible (love) and things tangible (sex). And why should anyone put up with your bullshit, kiddo, if you won't put up with theirs?
Debate over Conservatism:
Today’s conservatism is lost. It is so lost it doesn’t actually know if it lost at sea, lost in space, or lost in a desert. It lacks moral courage, a philosophical core, and intellectual certitude. McCain’s defeat will help change all of that because his defeat will lead to a debate within conservatism unlike anything in several decades.
Bailout Web
Naked Capitalism, Johan Norberg think UK bailout not so bad.

IMF predicts UK recession

VoxEu says Too many bankers.

What will Labour do with the socialized city?

When the French government nationalised Crédit Lyonais, the opposite applied, with the people running the bank believing the state guarantee gave them the security to take ridiculous gambles with taxpayers' money, including buying a Hollywood film studio, with predictably disastrous results.
Daily Mash:
The historic move is being hailed as a lifeline for the financial system as long as nobody asks too many questions.
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Mission: Destroy All Aliens | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Bailout by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 09:23:39 AM EST
At least part-nationalisation means we should get the money back, at least long term. I'm not clear on just how much it differs from the US bailout though.

Re Jewish History: I'm about to start a book on Yiddish history which I've been looking forward to, I'll do a diary when I finish.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Yiddish history looks interesting by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 09:34:13 AM EST
At least, if share prices go up we get some money back. All depends on the details though.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Fundamental difference. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 2) #3 Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 04:14:48 PM EST
In the US the government took of the hands of the banks all the crappy assets, that are actually  worthless, in the hope they can sell them later. Honest, they really are hopping for that.

As a Republican representative put it very diligently, it is a crap sandwich. Bush and Co, wanted to give complete Carte Blanche to the Fed to use the money as it wished without the option of ever judging the performance of the person dishing out the goods. No wonder this was far too much to stomach for the US representatives, but after adding some pork and some minor oversight, the bailout passed with flying colours (and the markets have reacted negatively, as it could be expected, at the end the people working the trading floors can't work with what their bossed and politicians are throwing at them).

In the case of the UK the government is offering 2 things: to buy some preferential shares of the banks putting some conditions (i.e. partial nationalization with non voting shares as far as I can see, but negotiated strings attached) and to liquidize the interbanking market of credits by creating a fund to back interbank loans. In other words the UK government is allowing the banks to do business but with a gentle squeeze in the balls of the financial giants to keep their minds focused (next step: full nationalization).

A similar deal was on the table in the US, but it seems like Wall Street lobbied (what a surprise) hard to drop that from the equation in order to get rid of their toxic assets instead and avoid any massaging of their allegoric balls. WS will get a slap in the wrist a la Microsoft (if they survive) and will carry on as usual, knowing that the current corrupt political system in the US will allow them to continue more or less unimpeded after toothless legislation is passed or after the full sham implodes spectacularly, dragging us all to beg on the streets for food for a while.

I then, will demand my cake.


[ Parent ]
Whatever the government would do with the City ... by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 2) #4 Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 04:32:05 PM EST

... can't really be much worse than what the "professionals" have done now. Buying a Hollywood studio frankly is a minor peccadillo compared to making the international financial system a big Casino in the best Vegas style (hint: all punters eventually lose).

The fallacy that private enterprise is always better than government intervention is finally unmasked as the Ayatollahic Capitalist fallacy it has always been. There are many others we have been spoon fed in a Goebbelsian fashion (Goodwin be damned) but suffice this example for now.

We Mexicans learned this long time ago. Even a taxi driver in Mexico City told me a couple of weeks ago "hey mate, that mess in the US is pretty much the same as the one we had here in the 90s!"

In Mexico we bailed out banks, road administrators and several other key industries in which private hands simply messed up. The lesson obviously did not make it to the text books they used in Yale, Harvard and some other of those fancy places.

Regulation? Why should we regulate the wonderful private industry!

Argh ....


Post rant question though: where do you suggest the money should have gone here in the UK? It is not very clear where the mess of pipes ends frankly (the banks themselves do not know ...).

In one pipe dream I had, the US government pays all the defaulted mortgages and then some in order to reactivate the economy. But that would be to benefit the little guy, that ain't going to happen.

My plan by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 08:57:54 PM EST
Expand Northern Rock as a nationalized retail bank. (Not hard to do: they've had to refuse new accounts as everyone tries to put their money there). Expand lending to businesses (especially small ones who can't raise money with bond issues) and mortgages to private borrowers. Lending rates should be closer to LIBOR than the current enormous spread.

The private banks can either lower their rates to compete, or go bust. The banking sector seems to be too big anyway. Since they're only going bust to the degree that the lending business is going to real economy borrowers via Northern Rock, their bustitude shouldn't hurt the real economy much.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
And then by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #6 Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 03:44:43 AM EST
... deal with a Japan Post government owned monster in 20 years time?

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
Better to reprivatize it when the market recovers by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #9 Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 08:18:08 AM EST
But I suspect given actual competition, and denied bailout, the private banks would suddenly recover their confidence.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I think that or similar may be still on the cards. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 06:10:56 AM EST
If things get even worse the government may go for full nationalization of all (most?) banks.

The not so veiled threat is there, if bankers fumble the ball the government has all the political capital needed for nationalization.

Then they would have the freedom to reorganize the system as they see fit with an eye for re-privatization in the future.

[ Parent ]
Possible problems by OAB (4.00 / 1) #8 Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 06:12:07 AM EST
1. I'm not sure exactly how that would fit with UK and European law. Yes, laws can be changed, but not overnight.

2. Wasn't trying to grow the business too fast at least part of what got Northern Rock in a mess in the first place?

I basically agree with your plan, but I don't think it could be done fast enough.

[ Parent ]
Mission: Destroy All Aliens | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback