Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Greece and a financial system gone to hell

It still seems incomprehensible to me that a small economy such as that of Greece (representing 0.4% of the World’s GDP) can have such an impact on global finance. Yet somehow this minnow economy has the international markets in a tizz as the world waits with bated breath on the outcome of an austerity pact referendum that should for all intent of purpose be meaningless. The truth is that Greece is more than just that. It is the financial equivalent of a cardiac enzyme that provides insight into a circulatory system that is on the verge of or has just undergone some type of heart failure.

The financial system is broken and has been so for some time. Too much wealth or at least apparent wealth is backed up by nothing. Take the derivative market – at present it is valued at around 750 Trillion dollars – yes that’s trillions of greenbacks – making it ten times larger than our best value of real wealth – international GDP which sits at the 75 Trillion mark. But what are derivatives? A future that hedges us against contingencies – the promise of a promise with money itself being the original IOU. In reality it is another instrument to generate wealth for those eager to stay at least one step ahead of a giant pyramid built on clay. In short to cheat the system.

And so it is with much of finance – its very structure is built on an illusion in that it multiplies the real to produce a virtual wealth that in turn forms the ‘new clothes’ of an emperor class (at whose apex sits the Davos elite). It is fairy dust, as insincere as the kiss from a prostitute, but as hyped beyond intrinsic value as perhaps nothing else in human history.

Enter stage left Greece, a dying remnant of a once great civilization reduced to pathos by demographic suicide, historical turmoil, poor leadership and the entitlement culture of a stifling contemporary socialism. To survive it had to glean and scoop, borrow and beg, taking what it could from the bloated beast of the European financial appendage to keep abreast an economy so mismanaged and revenue poor (thanks to tax cheating and a lack of innovation) that it could barely stay afloat.

Until it no longer can. The buck had to stop and it did. The Northern Europeans called in the loans and the Greeks as predicted have been found wanting. But bad decisions have consequences and bad consequences (such as giving Greece the loans in the first place or better still allowing them to join the eurozone) multiply with a zeal especially when the system is geared by its very nature to do so. A butterfly flaps its wings and sends tremors through the financial Babel Tower and so it is with this blowback from the Greeks.

The clay must shift only time will tell us how far. But it will eventually reset. Some of the gnomes will cash in on their profits, others will crumple afoot. This should serve as a warning but it will soon be forgotten. One can count on that. We are experts at camouflaging our weaknesses and the financial system of nebulous wealth is defined by such a paradigm. This is its essence. Expect another crisis, perhaps Portugal or Spain or one of the former East Bloc countries in five or six years from now.
The clay may have shifted but at the end of the day its nature has not changed.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Failure to Launch - Falcon 9

This is an unfortunate turn of events. I was really hoping that Messr. Musk and co. would succeed with this attempt. Despite the setback I believe that he still will. For more go to

Saturday, June 27, 2015

History Hour #4 - City States of Mesopotamia

City States evolved to protect the Agricultural domains. Most were controlled by kings or ruling elites but were highly influenced by a priestly class who legitimized their existence by claiming direct (or feigning) contact with the gods.
Mesopotamia (the land between the rivers ie. The Tigris and the Euphrates) was the earliest one of these city state civilizations to flourish and together with the Egyptian Nile based culture most impacted the Western World.
The earliest Mesopotamian city was Ur that appeared to have been founded as early as 6500 BC and abandoned about 500 BC. It was located in the flood rich South Mesopotamian. Like the other cities of the time it was surrounded by a wall, had roads and streets and a sewer system. It prospered greatly during a time when all sea traffic entering Mesopotamia had to pass through this port city.
Ur’s greatest ruler was the king Ur-Nammu who ruled between 2047 and 2030 BC. He built the famous ziggarut (massive raised structure that resembles a step pyramid with its terrace like form), many temples and improved on the region’s irrigation system.
At the height of its power Ur’s population was estimated to be around 65,000. However this dropped substantially following periods of droughts and sacking by nomad groups.
By 500 BC it was abandoned as power in the region shifted to the Northern Mesopotamian city of Babylonia. Nevertheless Ur features prominently in Biblical history. In the Book of Genesis Ur Kadashim is identified as the birthplace of Abraham and it is mentioned in Nehemiah as well. Ur was not the only Mesopotamian city of note. Eridu, Lagash, Nippur, Sippar and Uruk also played key roles in the regional history.

History Hour #3 - Epic of Gilgamesh

Dating back to the 21st century BC the Epic of Gilgamesh is regarded as the first great work of literature. The poem is a product of Ancient Mesopotamia and consists of two halves that span twelve tablets. The first half tells the story of the wild beast Enkidu and his adventures with Gilgamesh. Part two details Gilgamesh’s jouney to find the secret of eternal life following the death of Enkidu. Included in the second part is the tale of Utnapishtim and the Great Flood which is believed to have served as the inspiration for the flood narrative in Genesis.

The Gilgamesh epic has made its way into popular fiction and has clearly influenced both biblical and classic literature as well. It tells a similar story to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, has parallel advice similar to that of the Book of Ecclesiastes, eludes to a Nebuchadnezzar-type Babylonian king and has an uncanny similarity to the works of the Greek bard Homer.

The Five Set Tennis Match

While I support pay equity in tennis I still take issue with the fact that the Women’s Grand Slam Events (Australia, French, Wimbledon, US Open) have not shifted to a best-of-five set format as opposed to the best-of-three scenario that currently prevails. If the sexes are to earn the same amount in prize money (even though the women’s game is markedly inferior on almost all measurable yardsticks of technical proficiency) then surely players should at least be expected to pla...y to the same level of competitive rigour especially in the big events. The Grand Slams represent the pinnacle of tennis achievement and those that succeed need to earn their spurs by being subjected to more stringent criteria than those of the regular tennis tournaments (which are generally best-of-three for both men and women). This issue has been brought up before, most recently by Andy Murray in 2013, but after the predictable shout downs by the feminist griping class is quickly swept under the table. Top female competitors are very much capable at playing to the five set format (in fact the season ending WTA tournament adapted the structure between 1983 and 1998) and rightfully should be made to do so to earn the multi-million dollar pay cheques that await the winners of these monumental tournaments. Lets stop with the excuses and get on with it. If you want the big money then work to earn it

Gay Marriage Decision

With the 5-4 US Supreme Court Decision Social Conservatives have lost yet another battle in the cultural war. The most recent defeat follows on losses that SoCons have suffered in the arenas of school prayer, intelligent design, divorce, birth control, sex education and if you want to go back far enough...Rock and Roll. Social Conservatism is clearly on the wrong side of what appears to be tsunami of changes that have engulfed the West from World War Two. Not being a social ...conservative (I am a Classic Liberal who emphasizes individual freedom) I do not take fault with the SCOTUS decision. Indeed I applaud it as a way of bringing into the fold those previously marginalized and enhancing the dynamics of marriage (a remarkable idea) as an important unit of stability in society. While SoCons may react with horror and indeed disbelief at the turn of events better questions to ask are: What defines Western Civilization in the first place? Is it our insistence on clinging to notions that splinter and thereby weaken society or is it the cultivation of a framework that guarantees freedom of being (the source of much of our innovation), non-hurtful action and extended cohesion across a broader platform?