Friday, March 27, 2009

It Seeeems the Numbers Are Off a Bit...

I have a question, a legitimate question. I really don't have the answer to it. I think I may know, but I confess I do not know for sure. I am on the lookout for the answer, and look forward to meeting the kind soul who does know it.

I was introduced to a figure that is the most reasonably accurate assessment of the value of the world's assets. Essentially, it is the total dollar value of all the world's "stuff," and, pretty much, the claims people have on that "stuff." That figure: $250 trillion, give or take a few trillion.

I then came across another figure, the total value of the world's derivatives claims. Derivatives are those fuzzy investment instruments that apparently comprise mathematics/finance experts' genius calculations that make up their value assessment claims. That figure?

A little over $1 quadrillion.

Now, there's a bit of a disconnect here, and seriously, I don't know how to resolve it. I emphasize this because I really do not want to presume anything--I just may not know enough about how all this works to get it. But honestly, I do want to get it.

The thing is, here's what I'm just not getting. If the total value of the earth's valuables is $250 trillion, how on earth--to use a phrase--could anyone say it is anything higher than that, much less four times as much?

Is it possible--and please correct me if I am wrong--that a whole bunch of people of whatever "investor" class is assessing things higher than they are simply to make the claim for the purpose of getting enough people to believe that claim so those people can hand over more of what things are truly valued at to said "investors"?

I mean, can it be that simple? Have we simply caught everyone with their hands in the value extraction cookie jar? Really, is it as simple as far too many people pulling that 25 cent cookie out and saying it's really a dollar?

Some of this possible condition--if it is indeed true--is revealed in Hernando de Soto's recent piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he addresses this idea. It certainly seems to confirm what I'm addressing here. De Soto is the fine economist who wrote the groundbreaking work The Mystery of Capital, detailing how much of the productive capacity out there could be used to generate great prosperity for all except that too many people are just too deceitful and the law is far too impotent to keep accurate enough records of people's capital to make up for that.

In the WSJ piece he reviews six procedures that must be in place for capital movement to happen the best, but sadly he won't speak about the one thing--or, really, The One by whom those things would actually occur.

One of them caught my eye. He intimated he concurred with both Adam Smith and Karl Marx that "Finance supports wealth creation, but in itself creates no value." Aside from the premise that no value is ever really created outside of God already creating it and that we merely discover it, this statement is just flatly wrong. Wow. Taking issue with Smith, Marx, and de Soto. How's that...

Well, the reason I make such a bold contention is that yes, indeed, we really do want iPods, pizzas, and sunglasses. The problem is that iPods, pizzas, and sunglasses can only get made with bold fluid capital movement. And if you are someone who provides the service of making capital movement bold and fluid,

Then you have value.

Sure a dollar is just a piece of paper. It in and of itself is not wealth. This is what Smith, Marx, and de Soto mean, I know. But the dollar used properly helps create wealth (confirmed by the triumvirate), therefore the one who uses it properly is worthy of his pay. He and his work do have value.

The quadrillion dollar question is

How is that done the best?

World people do business the World way, and too often they request that Caesar do the capital movement thing. "Here, Barack, move some capital around." Whew--good luck with that.

Has anyone ever considered letting Kingdom people to the capital movement thing? People so wholly abandoned to Christ and His bountiful provision of charity, joy, wonder-- yes, productive capacity? People who'd end up making 100 times what the World professes to have however shadowy that is? They proudly boast to have a $1 quadrillion claim on what is actually about $250 trillion of actual stuff.

In the Kingdom that'd be $250 quadrillion. Kinda squashes the piddly $1 quadrillion.

I just have to put de Soto's conclusion here. Here it is...

"Financial institutions will have to serve society and fully report what they own and what they owe -- just like the rest of us -- so that we get the facts necessary to find our way out of the current maze. They must begin learning to put on paper statements about facts, instead of statements about statements."

Annnd you're going to continue to trust sworn dutiful liars to actually do that?

What makes me particularly sad is that I just don't see a whole lot of Kingdom people out there boldly and fluidly challenging them and their lies to make real capital movement happen. This is another thing I may be very wrong about. I hope I am.

I'd just like to see people authentically drawing on the power of the living God and still worshipping Him no matter what, and out of that sowing the bounty everyone in the financial world is swirling about trying to fix. As it is, too many of those claiming to be Christ's are tied to the very World that moors capital to cinder blocks, and must then resign themselves to enlisting the best liars to jerk them around with their duplicitous value assessments of that capital.

Want facts about capital not just statements?

Try trusting in the One Who Is Fact.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The World Racket Dilemma

As if we haven't heard it enough, for review, here's the AIG dilemma: Company does really stupid things, but it is too big to fail. Government rescues it with gobs of financial capital. Company's executives who did the really stupid things are also the only ones who can sort out the mess it's in. Said executives still expect to get what they consider is their fair compensation for services rendered. Million dollar bonuses ensue, as does righteous rage throughout America.

Yeah, uh-huh, that's just about it, right there.

What struck me was what a talk radio guy said yesterday morning, and it cracked me up--in kind of a bad way--simply because this is indeed the way the World Racket works. It is just so typical.

He said this whole thing is much like the suave, sophisticated terrorist who rigs an elaborate bomb to detonate and kill a lot of people. But once arrested, the authorities can't exactly prosecute him because, well, (you can see it coming, of course...)

He's the only one who knows how to diffuse the bomb.

Whaddya do with that?

On a major news network website I clicked on a story that detailed exactly why letting AIG collapse would be a very bad thing indeed. Yes yes we all know that AIG insures so many companies and that it is the parent company of so many companies that letting it fail would unravel the entire global economy. But in addressing the question why that would happen, the only thing the article could tell us was simply this.

So many people would just be too afraid.

Too afraid to work, too afraid to spend, too afraid to save, too afraid to invest, too afraid to do anything meaningful in the markets. And we certainly can't allow that to happen.

So now everyone is left there. Instead of being left with, "Oh, you're right, duh, we can't let AIG fail because they're too big, yeah," we're now left with, "Duh, yeah, we can't be too afraid. Shee, of course."

How come no one is asking this question:

Why, precisely, are we so afraid?

Could it be that it is true that liars reign and we just don't want to face that truth? Could it be that we're hoping with all our guts that Superman Barack Obama and his Justice League compatriots in Congress really get cracking and make it so we're not afraid anymore? Could it be that World inhabitants are so tied to the System of Institutionalized Deceit that they are forced to trust better liars to extricate them from their own deception?

See, if the answers to these questions are yes, then it does make perfect sense for people to be horribly afraid, and to completely avoid asking these questions.

One thing I thought about as I considered these things is why the Christian Church has absolutely nothing to say about any of this. Oh I'm sure some ministers blither about the economy, but cynical me, I tend to think for the most part they're just parroting the media's talking points.

My question is, why don't followers of Christ really know what's going on, speak articulately about it, and actually get people to understand?

I think it is simple. It is indeed something that is a core part of my premise about the Catholicist Nation--something you'd know if you've been following my work. I have to say I'm no one special. I think I just say what I see in Scripture, and then peek at reality out there, and it just seems to confirm it, that's all.

The reason very few followers of Christ can say anything meaningful to contrast the World with the Kingdom is because they are so tied to that World. Individuals are contracted tax agents, assemblies are incorporated to blindly shuffle in the steps of the System, the entire "Christian" nation is intractably beholden to the law that is the power of sin and kills.

So why is it that an institutionalized Catholicized 501c3 Christian cannot say anything meaningful about the World to draw people to Christ, the One Who Genuinely Frees?

The answer is that he is so much a part of the World that if he did, his own reprobation will become unraveled, and without the Rock Who is Christ to stand on, it would simply be too harrowing. We're left with whimpering frightened people--hundreds of millions of them with nothing but the most visceral despair covered in layers of sweet shimmering Obama frosting.

Hmm. Looks a lot like the AIG thing, don't you think?

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Tales of the Black Freighter Factor

I ended up seeing Watchmen the day after it opened, and I am intrigued by all the comments about it put through the World's megaphone. The ones I see mostly are along the lines of, "It's an excessively violent mess, something only fanboys would like." I'm not averse to being called a fanboy since I did enjoy the graphic novel -- and I should add I also enjoyed the film -- but the condescension that reeks from these kinds of remarks is a bit annoying.

My response: while I am not fond of the extreme violence like that in Watchmen, the violence is kind of the point. You can't deny that Rorschach, so devoted to uncovering the truth that he casually breaks fingers, represents our visceral desires to "choke the living shit outta some asshole who desperately needs it," as it is said on that T-shirt. Sure Bernard Madoff deserves many years in prison, but when the judge sent him straight to jail after his guilty plea, I didn't see anyone who did not cheer gleefully.

The film has been also criticized for following the novel too fastidiously. Um, excuse me, but I don't know what book these people were reading. Whole scenes did not appear at all. Some characters' appearances were a wisp of those in the novel. And the dialogue was trimmed so much that the profound meaning within the interactions was clouded. I understand that time constraints made these necessary, but don't fault the movie because it was too close to the novel, which it wasn't. They even Disneyfied some of the plot elements, most notably what Adrian Veidt did at the end, the most important thematic element of the whole story.

(By "Disneyfied," it doesn't necessarily mean they made it lighter or sweeter. It means they changed things around to make them more palatable for more mainstream sensibilities.)

One critical thing that was pulled whole cloth was the comic book within the comic book, "Tales of the Black Freighter." They said they've got it as a special animated short that will be added to the DVD issue. A cartoon completely removed from the Watchmen film -- sorry, but this is missing the whole point.

At first, as I was reading the novel, I was mildly irritated with "Tales." What is this doing in here? I thought. It was just so perversly morbid. But as I thought more about it, its inclusion was just another genius move by the author.

The whole meaning of Watchmen is no matter what you do to try to spread sweet vanilla frosting over things, the World is an abjectly ruthless place. It is harrowing in the deepest sense of the word, from the gutter to the penthouse. Even the most noble superhero potentates in Cain's service humbly know that the answer to mitigated violence is hyperviolence for imaginations catastrophized.

We nervously laugh and joke about things, with what amounts to turning that valve in our soul a bit to let some of the oppressive fear out. Insightfully understanding this truth was arguably the most repellant character in Watchmen. For all his bluster, the Comedian tearfully confesses it is all a joke. The joke is that the violence never abates no matter how much we think it will.

Yay!! -- Bernard Madoff is in jail! And that's going to keep others from doing the same thing? Really? Doing the same thing with more innovative forms of rank deceit? Really? And you think the Powers-That-Be who say they're going after these guys aren't routinely doing all of this themselves as a matter of sworn duty?

How naive people are. What a joke.

"Tales of the Black Freighter" amplifies this truth in a phenomenal way. Alan Moore puts this comic book rendering throughout Watchmen's exposition of World designs to highlight the fact that we ourselves are reading this comic book in the midst of the those designs being executed all around us.

This kid is engrossed in "Tales" while the Watchmen world is falling apart setting up the horrifying climax, while we are that very kid reading Watchmen and the same thing is happening in real reality. The repulsively gruesome events depicted in"Tales" merely showcase the bitterly cold darkness of the human heart in the same way Watchmen reveals in splendid colors that same condition of the World.

I can understand why "Tales" was removed from the film. Sure there're time constraints, but the key is that the comic book-within-a comic book device simply can't be rendered as cartoon-within-a-movie. Still, without it a key aspect of the Watchmen message is missing, and most will then surely deny Watchmen has anything to say to us except that it is a long rambling movie with far too much gore.

Sad.

It is much, much more than that, but you wouldn't really know it from the abridged version that is the film. No one wants to live in a world like that depicted in Watchmen, but they so mindlessly live in one with so many adept at smothering it with the sweetest yummiest goopiest vanilla frosting. I'm just someone who kind of thinks that if someone does see the World System as it is, they may then think about turning to Someone who offers the only truly viable way out.

For more of a take on Watchmen, I wrote about it with a little more depth in this piece.

Some thoughts on the Someone Who is The Way Out is here.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Watchmen Factor

As every Economics class I teach begins, I give my students an assignment to provide them with some insight into the principle of scarcity. I ask them to write a list of everything they'd ever want if they could actually have it. I tell them it would be as if a genie appeared and would give them as many wishes as they wanted, absolutely no restrictions... except one. This genie must have everything in writing.

My students enjoy this because it gives them a chance to be imaginative and connect with their deepest desires. Along with all the suped-up cars and mansions on islands and time machines there is the heartwarming request for food for everyone and a nice house for mom and dad.

When I last did this, one student wrote this among all the things he'd want:

“For zombies to be real, and to have lots of weapons to kill the zombies with.”

Hmm. Interesting. You want to have something just so you can not have it.

I've often pondered what I call the activity antinomy, the paradox of our impassioned desire to accomplish things even if all things are accomplished. Its simplest form is in the common consideration: If God has already done everything, then when we're in heaven won't it be boring?

This student is quite profoundly articulating the core nature of this paradox. I wonder, when we're in heaven bored with sitting on clouds humming to harp music, would God spice things up a bit by allowing some zombies to attack us so we can take out our Uzis to blow them away?

Let's face it, we all want to do that in whatever form we can. We can't help it. We want to kick butt at whatever and then thrill to the glory of victory over some bad thing. It's who we are.

Which brings me to this day, 3-6-09, the day of the opening of one of the most anticipated films I've ever seen in the pop culture milieu.

Watchmen.

I haven't seen it yet, but the reviews have been quite telling, in my mind. This is because while it has received a Metacritic aggregate score of 56--a tepid score at best-- the range of reviews are so wide ranging. Usually a film earns a score like this because most all the reviewers have scored it close to that 56, but Watchmen is different. A number of scores are the very best, 100, while an equal number are extraordinarily low, in the 20's or 30's. The critics who gave it a high score generally repeated the appeals that caused so many to embrace the graphic novel. The ones who gave it a low score seemed to resign themselves to a geniune incomprehension--they confessed they just didn't get it.

This made me think.

So many who just don't get how the World works.

Makes perfect sense.

One pull-quote from a review caught my eye, this one from Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Part conscious and part unconscious, Watchmen tells us of a world without hope and then makes us wonder if we're already living in it."

That's precisely it. I think the story is brilliant because it does go a bit of the way in exposing the way the World is. Brutal. Terrifying. Merciless. And this is with gallant superheroes out there rescuing everyone from it all.

You must know that there are indeed superheroes out there rescuing everyone out there from everything, and sorry but Barack Obama is not one of them though you'd think he was. He's just getting his strings yanked as all highly visible potentates do. (Funny, my wife and kids and their cousins are watching Pinocchio in the next room.)

These superheroes have been given seven times as much super-power as anyone else for the express purpose of protecting themselves in their duties of rescuing people, keeping an eye on everyone so we stay in line--hey, watch-men, it's what they do. Oh yes they are murderers, assigned the job of murdering murderers to keep the World System humming. Not sure this is the case? Take a look at the book of Genesis, chapter four to see how that happened.

Anyway, all this is indeed a shameless plug for the home page piece I put in my webzine a few months ago, precisely about the meaning of Watchmen for those fascinated by this weighty version of the activity antinomy. If you want to get more of an idea of how I see Watchmen as a dead-on metaphor for the dutiful tasks of World operatives, check it out.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Even Better Good Lie

"Oh yes, I lied, but, well, I didn't know any better and to get over it we might as well all just admit we lie and huddle up and hang in there together. Feel better now?"

This is the essence of what Joel Lovell said yesterday in the Washington Post, and I can't think of many things more putridly reprehensible than this. Well, actually, one of those things worse is this:

That so many get schlurped right into buying the good lie.

So many millions of World inhabitants, who when told about the freedom that comes with Christ and the real coming clean--"a repentance that brings true sorrow"--will just as soon tell you to take a hike so they can continue to snarf down this pap.

Lovell opens with some very transparent truths, namely that all these celebrity financial experts don't really know squat about what to do with money because first and foremost they don't know squat about authentic value. But he concludes with the very typical World blather about toughing it out together as we all accept our collective ignorance and just golly-well trying real hard to get it right all the while soothing each other with our value assessments zig-zagging like an errant rocket through our souls.

Hey.

You guys who have even the teensiest idea that you'd like to get value assessment right.

Hey-- how about asking the One Guy who is Value Assessment?

No no no-- not me.

But yeah!

Christ.

No no-- not the effete one blabbed about in 501c3 churches or any of the straw-man ones concocted by institutionally ordained experts in getting people to stay in the World.

No, the One Who Holds the Universe in His Hands.

Uh, no? Not interested? That's okay. You can blow Him off. That's your choice. What do I have to say about it. You'll continue to lie, continue to enable the best liars, and continue to screech about how it's some big-shot's greed or incompetence when it is much more rational:

Those who've not volitionally appropriated the magnificent benefit Christ freely offers will still have to do human sacrifice, and they will need to do it over and over and over again. What better way to do it than to hack chunks of value off others through dozens of opaque channels in the investment markets?

Well, anyway, I've written my latest webzine's homepage piece about this very thing. Check it out if you have a moment.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Good Lie

This past week's Newsweek cover says just about everything you'd need to know about the way the World System operates. Barack Obama is strolling across some red carpet in some official looking building, presumably the White House, to a podium to address everyone--God, Walt Disney, everyone.

Across the page are the words, "The Confidence Game," and underneath the subheading, "How Obama can talk us out of a depression."

Never mind that getting out of a depression kind of involves people actually doing certain things to produce things that would make people's lives better in some way. Instead the World seems to think Barack Obama's inspiring words will do the trick.

The trick.

That's what a confidence game is.

The con for short.

"You guys are really good," he'll blap. "Really really good. And those other people, they're very very bad and we're out to get 'em."

The ooo's and ahh's will follow for this rock-star Caesar whose dissembling will certainly be quite eloquent, we can give him that. Funny this cover comes so soon after another famous one that announced "We're all socialists now." Guess this means that to be good wholesome Americans we must believe it all then.

What's really going on in this "confidence game"? I've compiled some thoughts about what this all means in my latest home page piece, it is here.