Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Moral Normcore

“Normcore” is a label for the current fashion trend of wearing undistinctive, unremarkable clothing—but the word itself is exploding across the American zeitgeist. Somehow, people sense that the word describes more than just fashion.

I agree: To me, the term “Normcore” seems to describes how we as individuals and as a society are facing up to—or rather, not facing up to—the excesses, distortions, injustices and perversions sprouting like weeds across the America landscape.

First, let’s define what we’re talking about: Fashion website Idol Eyes describes Normcore as “[an] understated, nondescript style. The desire to fit in rather than stand out.” Wikipedia defines it as “stylized blandness”. New York Magazine says that Normcore “[embraces] sameness deliberately as a new way of being cool, rather than striving for ‘difference’ or ‘authenticity.’”

In other words, Normcore is situational conformity: The desire to not stand out in any given context. The pro-active effort to comply with and adhere to the dominant outlook of the group.

Understood in that sense—understood as the desire to conform, or to at least acquiesce to the norm of the group—the term “Normcore” describes contemporary American morality to a T.

Moral Normcore, to coin a phrase, is the desire to neither cause offense by expressing a difference in moral opinion, nor stand out by making a moral judgment about that which we think is clearly wrong. It is the “Not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that/No Judgment” moral outlook. It is to conform and acquiesce to actions, beliefs and statements of others which we find morally objectionable, if not outright wrong. It is timidity and silence in the face of moral transgressions, transgressions carried out by a vocal minority, or by the majority itself. Transgressions to which we object to—often virulently object to—often justifiably and rationally object to—but to which we remain silent, for fear of retaliation, or fear of being marginalized.

We see this every day. We experience this every day. We ourselves are guilty of Moral Normcore almost every day.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Only In America, Part I

The New York Times has a front-page story about how Federal prosecutors are getting tough on the banksters. The headline: “Long Seen As Immune, Two Wall Street Banks Become Targets”.

But look closer. The two “targets” of government prosecutors are BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse: The latter for offering tax shelters to American clients, the former for making deals with Sudan and other blacklisted countries.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs’ front-running of its own clients? Bank of America’s shameful, shameless mortgage scam loan business? Robo-signings? High Frequency Trading? Collusion on interest rates? All that and much much more, the government regulators have let slide.

They are going after two minor banks—two minor foreign banks, which did not receive any American government largesse (i.e., taxpayer dollars) when the Too Big To Fail banks were bailed out in 2008—while letting the big fish swim away, untouched.

And the New York Times has the gall to say, “The banks are finally getting their due!”

See, this is why it’s becoming too depressing to blog. Like Capt. Willard said: The bullshit piles up so fast, you need wings to stay above it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Twitter In The Coalmine: The End of Asset Price Inflation?

Poor dead Twitter-bird . . .
So Twitter (TWTR) released some user figures, and they are not good. Bottom line, they’re losing money, and their user-base is shrinking—which is why their stock took an 11% tumble in after-hours trading as I write these words. From a high of 71.31 back in December 2013, to 42.62 at the close on Tuesday (April 29)—and then down to 37.83 in after-hours trading once the news came out.

In other words, Twitter’s stock has fallen nearly 50% in four months. Eeesh!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

“When We Wave: Essays”

So here’s a new book (yes, another one! What can I say, I’m on a roll!). It’s a collection of essays written between the fall of 2010 and the winter of 2014.

It’s called When We Wave, and it’s about America: The idea of it contrasted to the reality of it. The wish for it measured against the truth of it. The hope for what it can once again be, opposed to the fear of what it will one day become.

Because America matters. So I wrote about what matters.

Go check out the sales page here, where you can download free samples of the book.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Chinese Shadow Bank Bailout May Mean A Crash In U.S. Treasury Bonds

This article is adapted from a post which originally appeared at my Strategic Planning Group. Go to the preview page to see what it’s about.

China’s economy in 2014 is remarkably similar to America’s in 2008: Both were fueled by real estate speculation, both speculative bubbles a product of cheap-and-cheerful shadow-bank financing.

And just like the U.S. in 2008, China in 2014 is looking down the barrel of a Minsky Moment: The point at which servicing debt levels becomes unsustainable, and there are no reserve cushions large enough to absorb the losses.

Lots of people are pointing this out; Mish Shedlock had a piece about it this morning, and he and others are right to worry that a shadow banking collapse will be bad for China.

But it will be even worse for the U.S.: Because after all—unlike the United States in 2008—China in 2014 has the reserves to buy its way out of the hole it’s in.

In 2008, the U.S. shadow banking sector began its collapse when real-estate backed bonds turned out to be a lot dodgier than originally thought. This set off a systemic domino effect. We all know how the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 (GFC) played out.

Friday, March 7, 2014

“The End of ‘Chimerica’”: Excerpt from “A Secret History of The American Crash”

click to enlarge.
Here’s another excerpt from “A Secret History of The American Crash”: From Chapter 5, “The End of ‘Chimerica’”, here’s the testimony of “Roland”, the head of a private equity firm, and “Tom”, a caretaker at the abandoned Port of Los Angeles.

The interviews were carried out in the summer of 2020, both men looking back at what happened in late 2014, early 2015:

Interview recorded June 28, 2020: Roland* is a 47 year-old former Wall Street bond trader who currently heads a major private equity firm. He is over six feet tall, slim, handsome in a Northern European sort of way, with short white-blonde hair and a crisp diction that speaks of education and privilege.
He is a wealthy, powerful man.
“I’m not powerful for who I am, much less for the money I have,” he tells the interviewer. “My power, my privilege and my security come from how I am connected to the One Percent--which is not the ruling class, but rather a ruling class; one of several.
“How necessary I am, how useful I am to the One Percent ensures that I remain a member of the One Percent, and thus remain protected. I’m . . . a useful cog in a vital machine. A key member of a street gang. I’ve worked at all the [Wall Street] firms, I even did a stint at the Fed [Federal Reserve], and everyone in finance likes me. Even the ones who think I’m an asshole think I’m one of the gang--and this is crucial: I belong to my gang. And since my gang is powerful, I am powerful.
“You see we’re all gangs, here in America.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finally! It’s here . . .

After over a year of writing, it’s finally done:

Here you can find a free sampler—and download it if you feel so moved.

If you read it, I would so appreciate you leaving comments here, telling me what you think.

Thank you.