September 10, 2011 archive

World financial leaders brace themselves for the next Big Crisis

   The next big shock to the world’s financial system could happen as soon as Monday morning.

  How do I know this? Because the world’s financial leaders are expecting something really bad, and have publicly announced their intentions of preventing the consequences of something that they have proven unable to fix.

 It started on Friday, when Germany gave up on Greece.

 Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is preparing plans to shore up German banks in the event that Greece fails to meet the terms of its aid package and defaults, three coalition officials said…

  Greece is “on a knife’s edge,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told lawmakers at a closed-door meeting in Berlin on Sept. 7, a report in parliament’s bulletin showed yesterday. If the government can’t meet the aid terms, “it’s up to Greece to figure out how to get financing without the euro zone’s help,” he later said in a speech to parliament.

 When it comes to unofficial leaks like this, I tend to fall back on the wisdom of Otto von Bismarck when he said, “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.”

 Then, right on cue, both Greece and Germany officially denied it. Thus making it true.

 What is really scary is the two developments that immediately followed this news.

 The G7 stepped up and promised their support in defending the financial status quo.

 Central Banks stand ready to provide liquidity to banks as required. We will take all necessary actions to ensure the resilience of banking systems and financial markets.

  Excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will consult closely in regard to actions in exchange markets and will cooperate as appropriate.

 Why would they bother to announce this unless they suspected that people questioned either their resolve, or their ability?

 To conclude all these official declarations that “there is nothing to worry about” and “everything is under control”, the IMF also promised to step in if necessary.

 The International Monetary Fund will likely re-activate a $580 billion resource pool in coming weeks to ensure it has funds to help cover Europe’s worsening sovereign-debt crisis, according to several people close to the matter….

  According to the IMF, the pool of supplementary resources are only to be activated when “needed to forestall or cope with a threat to the international monetary system.”

 The IMF has been beefing up this fund since shortly before the European debt crisis reached this new crisis level. It’s almost as if they knew something like this was inevitable.

  The problem is that politics often works more slowly than bankers.

 The board of governors agreed in December to roughly double quotas from around $375 billion to around $750 billion. But out of the 187 member countries, only 17 have legally accepted the increase, including Japan, the U.K. and Korea. Most of the countries with the biggest quotas, such as the U.S., China and Germany, haven’t yet gone through the legal process, such as parliamentary or congressional approval, need to hand over their promised dues.

 While the American media focuses on opening week of football, handicapping the presidential race, celebrity gossip, reality TV, or talking about the latest electronic gadget, the financial markets are preparing for crisis in ways that we haven’t seen since early 2008.

  If the worst happens, the American public will be caught by surprise again because the news media failed us yet again.

The Gold Bug

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Edgar Allen Poe

We estimated the entire contents of the chest, that night, as a million and a half of dollars, and upon the subsequent disposal of the trinkets and jewels (a few being retained for our own use), it was found that we had greatly under-valued the treasure.

When, at length, we had concluded our examination, and the intense excitement of the time had, in some measure, subsided, Legrand, who saw that I was dying with impatience for a solution of this most extraordinary riddle, entered into a full detail of all the circumstances connected with it.

Herr Doktor Professor

So what determines the price of gold at any given point in time? Hotelling models say that people are willing to hold onto an exhaustible resources because they are rewarded with a rising price. Abstracting from storage costs, this says that the real price must rise at a rate equal to the real rate of interest.

The logic, if you think about it, is pretty intuitive: with lower interest rates, it makes more sense to hoard gold now and push its actual use further into the future, which means higher prices in the short run and the near future.

(T)his is essentially a “real” story about gold, in which the price has risen because expected returns on other investments have fallen; it is not, repeat not, a story about inflation expectations. Not only are surging gold prices not a sign of severe inflation just around the corner, they’re actually the result of a persistently depressed economy stuck in a liquidity trap – an economy that basically faces the threat of Japanese-style deflation, not Weimar-style inflation. So people who bought gold because they believed that inflation was around the corner were right for the wrong reasons.

And if you view the gold story as being basically about real interest rates, something else follows – namely, that having a gold standard right now would be deeply deflationary. The real price of gold “wants” to rise; if you try to peg the nominal price level to gold, that can only happen through severe deflation.

On This Day In History September 10

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 10 is the 253rd day of the year (254th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 112 days remaining until the end of the year

On this day in 1776, Nathan Hale volunteers to spy behind British lines

On this day in 1776, General George Washington asks for a volunteer for an extremely dangerous mission: to gather intelligence behind enemy lines before the coming Battle of Harlem Heights. Captain Nathan Hale of the 19th Regiment of the Continental Army stepped forward and subsequently become one of the first known American spies of the Revolutionary War.

the Battle of Long Island, which led to British victory and the capture of New York City, via a flanking move from Staten Island across Long Island, Hale volunteered on September 8, 1776, to go behind enemy lines and report on British troop movements. He was ferried across on September 12. It was an act of spying that was immediately punishable by death, and posed a great risk to Hale.

An account of Nathan Hale’s capture was written by Consider Tiffany, a Connecticut shopkeeper and Loyalist, and obtained by the Library of Congress. In Tiffany’s account, Major Robert Rogers of the Queen’s Rangers saw Hale in a tavern and recognized him despite his disguise. After luring Hale into betraying himself by pretending to be a patriot himself, Rogers and his Rangers apprehended Hale near Flushing Bay, in Queens, New York. Another story was that his Loyalist cousin, Samuel Hale, was the one who revealed his true identity.

British General William Howe had established his headquarters in the Beekman House in a rural part of Manhattan, on a rise between 50th and 51st Streets between First and Second Avenues Hale reportedly was questioned by Howe, and physical evidence was found on him. Rogers provided information about the case. According to tradition, Hale spent the night in a greenhouse at the mansion. He requested a Bible; his request was denied. Sometime later, he requested a clergyman. Again, the request was denied.

According to the standards of the time, spies were hanged as illegal combatants. On the morning of September 22, 1776, Hale was marched along Post Road to the Park of Artillery, which was next to a public house called the Dove Tavern (at modern day 66th Street and Third Avenue), and hanged. He was 21 years old. Bill Richmond, a 13-year-old former slave and Loyalist who later became famous as an African American boxer in Europe, was reportedly one of the hangmen, “his responsibility being that of fastening the rope to a strong tree branch and securing the knot and noose.”

By all accounts, Hale comported himself eloquently before the hanging. Over the years, there has been some speculation as to whether he specifically uttered the famous line:

I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.

But may be a revision of:

I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.

The story of Hale’s famous speech began with John Montresor, a British soldier who witnessed the hanging. Soon after the execution, Montresor spoke with the American officer William Hull about Hale’s death. Later, it was Hull who widely publicized Hale’s use of the phrase. Because Hull was not an eyewitness to Hale’s speech, some historians have questioned the reliability of the account


This weekend’s episodes originally aired September 27, 2003.

K-9 Kaddy K-9 Kaddy Episode 11 Season 1

Late Night Karaoke

Random Japan



The former director of the US government’s Japan Affairs Office demanded that Kyodo News retract an article that quoted him as saying the Japanese are “masters of manipulation and extortion.”

The agriculture ministry said Japan will seek UNESCO World Heritage status for kaiseki cuisine.

The government is considering an across-the-board pay cut of 5-10 percent for nationally elected politicians. The scheme would net ¥290 billion, to be used for disaster relief.

Headline of the Week: “Mosses and Sea Slugs Offer Comfort in Difficult Times” (via The Asahi Shimbun)

Popular Culture (Music): The Who, Quadrophenia Part II of II

We last discussed the first side of the seminal album, Quadrophenia, by The Who, entirely written by Peter Townshend.  Since that time I have done more extensive research, and found some interesting things that I hope will be illuminating for everyone.  They were for me.  Without too many details in the introduction, I can say with a good bit of confidence that this record almost dissolved the band.

Roger put Pete in hospital with punches, Kit was almost banned, and the fraud that the management was doing to the band was discovered.  That was part of the genesis for the song “How Many Friends Have I Really Got” that was part of The Who by Numbers some time later.  But there is more!

I have a frank correction to make, and then what is more like a clarification as to the original characters who were combined to make Jimmy.  I also have a stupid one to make, about the name of the album itself.  Shall we begin?

Shorting LGBT People on Medical Care

Medical schools in the US and Canada are giving short shrift to the medical needs of LGBT patients, according to a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  One needs to be a JAMA subscriber to actually read the report.

The web-based survey was submitted to 176 medical school deans in the US and Canada, with an 85% response rate.

The average amount of time spent teaching the potential doctors about health issues facing LGBT patients is about 5 hours over the entire curriculum.

Although many medical schools do address some LGBT-related health issues in their curricula, the conversation needs to go deeper, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Juno Obedin-Maliver, of the University of California, San Francisco.