Some odds ‘n’ ends

1. An American (Jeff Madrick) in Europe

… as I write this, the leaders of the Eurozone are having trouble agreeing on a program to back bonds or expand their relief fund. More dangerous, the ponderous old guard who run the European Central Bank are not nearly as flexible as our Fed, which was once bad enough.

2. New Zealanders debate and consider voting systems

In the Herald,

Mt Eden resident Michele Donovan, who attended yesterday’s Keep MMP launch in Auckland, said she wanted to see it stay because it was the “best proportional system”, adding that the best way for the current system to be improved was by voting to keep it.

… while the Electoral Commission explains,

There’s a Referendum taking place at the same time as the 2011 General Election.

 The Referendum gives you the chance to have your say on the voting system you’d like to use to elect our Parliaments in the future.

3. Voting systems again: STV Irish-style – the power of the negative

… voters who want to do everything they can to ensure a specific candidate is not elected should use their vote as effectively as possible, by placing a 7 opposite their most disliked candidate and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 opposite the others in whichever order appeals.

4. Etymology

Charles Ponzi was probably the most colorful and outlandish practitioner of the scheme that bears his name. An Italian immigrant and postman’s son who arrived in Boston in 1903, he had charm, imagination, and chutzpah of epic proportions. [more from Ron Chernow]

5. Raising Kael

Lumet liked Kael’s work. Over the previous few weeks, he had allowed her on his set as a reporter, hoping she would learn something about shooting technique. Also present that night was the caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, and after a few drinks—actually, after quite a lot of drinks—Hirschfeld and Kael started quibbling about the uses of movie criticism. Finally, Hirschfeld asked her point-blank what she thought critics were good for. Kael gestured toward Lumet. “My job,” she said, “is to show himwhich way to go.” The evening ended soon afterward. Lumet later explained, “I thought, This is a very dangerous person.” [more]



Weekending 28 October 2011


It is entirely clear that the ‘deal’ concocted by the 17 eurozone premiers and presidents at the Brussels summit and unveiled at 4am local time on Thursday 27 October is simply fancy and fantasy.

First one needs to sprinkle any analysis with large doses of ‘alleged’ – as in ‘alleged deal’, ‘alleged agreement’ ‘alleged action’, and ‘alleged welcome’ as in ‘We welcome Italy’s plans for growth …’

In the words of Wolfgang Munchau in the FT,

The day may yet come when the eurozone finally agrees a comprehensive package to end the crisis, but this was not the day.

The bounce on stock markets through Thursday was nothing much more than whistling past the graveyard and on the eve of Halloween weekend to boot – entirely appropriate and of course by Friday everything was beginning to feel eerie with markets beginning to go off and the alleged Italian plan looking more like The Italian Job.

Second the spectacularly disastrous condition of Greece – and what has caused this collapse – needs to be gleaned from the  communiqué. Third, the banks recap is smoke and mirrors while finally the general scheme of it all, EFSF2½, is imaginative fantasy in the tradition of that children’s tale, The Magic Pudding.

But first to return to the condition of Greece. Read the rest of this entry »

A Night at the Opera …

… with apologies to the Marx Brothers

On the evening of 19 October, the FT’s rolling blog reported, the most senior politicians, diplomats and officials of the eurozone (EZ) and with Christine Lagarde (of the IMF) in train, gathered in Frankfurt. They had an appointment – a night at the opera with M Trichet ECB president (retiring) and Draghi ECB president (incoming). They also decided to go through a pretence of wrestling with deep policy issues on the future of the eurozone with M Sarkozy dramatically dashing from a Parisian maternity ward to get to Frankfurt on time.

With the passage of the past few weeks one has gone from initial disbelief to growing incredulity to the final realisation that actually, in both the EU and the US there is a now almost complete incapacity to formulate and implement anything approaching a coherent set of economic and financial policies capable of addressing the series of interrelated problems besetting both economies. In Europe there is on the official view first the Greek problem, second, the banking crisis and third, the finalisation of EFSF2 – the package agreed in outline (which is to say not agreed at all and no more than a fraudulent pretence) three months ago.  All three issues are inter-related but they are also three quite separate bits. In the US the EZ crisis also has real implications for American banking – and thus the prospective triggering of a global contagion.  To be fair to the Americans they have banged on at the Europeans (Obama and Geithner in particular) but to no avail whatsoever. Again though (Democrat) Washington also is paralysed: a Republican/Tea Party politics, deeply reactionary but entirely coherent holds the political balance. They are using it in effect to unpick those small remnants of the New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society (as well as their antecedents in nineteenth century progressivism) that have survived the last couple of decades. They also believe the wrong side lost the Civil War, the Federal Government is unconstitutional, the Federal Reserve is adulterating the dollar – and an awful lot else. They have a visceral hatred of banks (but hate Washington much more) – something they share with Occupy Wall Street. Read the rest of this entry »

The GFC on television – Links

Meltdown: A spectacular series on the GFC – of course not US-made, actually a Canadian production and aired on Al Jazeera.

To be fair, should be viewed having first watched Frontline’s The Warning (which is American-made but of course PBS).