The Moral Lowground

In case you didn’t think these are times meant for satire, take a look at business and politics in the world today. Some juicy examples of attempts at seizing the moral highground by companies and countries who have been in the news lately. Some of them fall instead into the low ground of hypocrisy1 – even laughably so.

That’s what makes programs like The Daily Show so popular – how can anyone take the news seriously when there are so many stories that need to be told with a skewer in hand rather than a microphone. The jokes are already written up by Reuters, not a satirist. Here are three that are heading up the news today make the point rather plainly. And they’re a good change from discussions about inflation and the value of the US Dollar.

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Satire

We live in a time made for satire. Everything is changing so rapidly that the powers that are have trouble holding on, the flood of news is difficult to make sense of, and even our language is often inadequate to explain what’s going on. Everything and everyone seems vaguely hypocritical and irrelevant. That’s why the Daily Show and The Colbert Report are so successful.

Shame then that so much “satire” isn’t really funny – or actually satirical.

You may have unwittingly believed a story shared on basefook or some other social media site that seemed true but wasn’t. Many stories written about Rep. Michele Bachmann (R, MN) for example are based on faked quotes that seem like something she might say – but didn’t. What many aspiring satirists fail to understand is that satire is more than just fake news, it has to reveal an inner truth that, at its best, is slightly painful. Also, satire has to be funny, we can’t forget that.

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Eurocrisis II: The Hot One

Pity poor Europe. 2014 was supposed to be the year that they finally put the Eurocrisis behind them, culminating with a stress-test of banks to prove they could weather the next downturn. There has always been hope for a little bit more growth, too, showing that the forced marriage of nations had benefits beyond just staying together for the kids’ sake.

Then, it all blew up in Ukraine.

Like the previous crisis Europe faced as a freshly united single entity, this one was partly their own making. Ukrainian President Yanukovych was clearly fishing around for about $15B to stabilize his country – and when Europe couldn’t offer reasonable terms he went over to Russia for it, sparking this whole conflict. Europe eventually had to offer the new, less legitimate government the same aid when things turned again. But unlike the previous Eurocrisis, this is an external conflict that will test their determination to stand together to face a more horrible threat – war.

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Pragmatism

You probably have a better idea about how to do something. But will it work? You’ll never know until you try. When you do give it a go, you may find that getting there requires a lot of compromises along the way before your dream is realized. Or, perhaps, you’ll simply give up – blaming your own inability to make it happen or blaming the world for being so darned unfair.

Both experiences are simply part of human nature meeting reality. We’re all idealists at heart, at least in a certain sense. Only a few people have the skills necessary to make those dreams a reality and much of the time they have to keep their eyes on the prize. A dream is one thing, but getting there requires wide-awake attention.

That is why an open, democratic political system can’t live by rigid ideology alone.

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Keystone XL: No Decision, a Good Decision

The Keystone XL Pipeline dispute is one of the hottest political issues for the President Obama. Backers claim that it will provide jobs and detractors claim it’s an disaster waiting to happen. The dispute has torn apart the Democratic Party, with unions calling for the jobs and environmentalists working feverishly to stop the pipeline. Both of these claims are rooted in facts, but both are overblown.

Rather than make a decision on the pipeline, however the administration has delayed the pipeline yet again, probably until after the November 2014 midterm election. This upset nearly everyone. But in terms of what is actually needed, this is probably the best thing to happen. The reason for this lies deep in Canadian oil and politics, quite apart from whatever we have going on in the US.

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The Underground Economy

Given the holiday and a lot of work to do, it’s time for a repeat.  This one goes with along with my musings on Velocity and Inflation like a hand in a glove – why isn’t there more inflation?  We’ve had a small series this week on that topic, and this brings it back home.  Have a Good Friday and a Happy Easter!

It’s good to have a lot of money, assuming that not everyone has a lot.  Inequality is apparently bad when it gets too big, but it also makes the whole economy possible in small doses.  But how much money is really out there, and where is it going?  It turns out that this is more complicated – and hidden – than most thought.

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The Amazing Dollar

Even if most people don’t believe it, the economy is certainly improving for some people. The Federal deficit has declined to $415B, or 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), from a high of over 10% as recently as 2009. This has been fueled by a large increase in tax revenues combined with a drop in spending on unemployment insurance, mortgage assistance, and so on. Our trade deficit with other nations is also dropping rapidly due to lower imports of fuel, and now stands at less than $400B.

That’s good news all around. The only problem is that the US economy is borrowing money or sending it overseas at anywhere near the rate that the world needs it as trade expands. That is putting upward pressure on the US Dollar, meaning that while imports are likely to become cheaper there is little hope that US manufacturing is going to get a break anytime soon – despite remaining one of the big casualties of the depression so far.

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