The Secret Goldman Tapes

It’s the kind of bombshell that, once it goes off, surprises no one at all. The American public is used to reports of bad behavior from banks and a complete lack of apparent regulation to stop abusive behavior. It was all supposed to change, yes, but no one believed it did.

Now, there are tapes. On “The American Life” the segment on the tapes of Carmen Segarra, former New York Fed lawyer assigned to Goldman Sachs, are the kind of explosion that may be something new. For one thing, they are raw and go deep into the heart of why the Federal Reserve isn’t regulating banks the way it should be. For another, they are the centerpiece of an investigation by the Senate Banking Committee headed by Sen. Warren (D-MA).

This could go somewhere. And it should.

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HeForShe

What is “feminism”? According to the dictionary, it is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” a definition cited in Emma Watson’s inspiring “HeForShespeech at the UN. Yet even as she spoke it, she noted that it is often not applied in this way in public discussion. If that isn’t he definition, what is? The only sensible argument is that those who support feminism get to decide.

I am a feminist. I support the work that Emma Watson and so many others are doing to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for women all around the world, and I embrace that definition. Yet it remains obvious that there is so much left to be done and so much to consider we can’t let it go at something this simple.

Watson, speaking for HeForShe, was speaking directly to me, as a man, to garner my support for women. I’d like to echo this, but also to refine and elaborate on what it means to me as a man.

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Hindsight Conspiracies

As US bombing runs extend across Iraq, and now into Syria, many people in the US have started to worry about our open-ended commitment to be the policeman of the world. The powerful counter argument is that ISIL is so dangerous it must be wiped out. Where did this threat come from?

If you believe one conspiracy theory popular in the Middle East, it’s a creation of the US – for the purpose of doing just what we’re doing now.

While this comes from a region of many conspiracy theories, hatched by governments like Iran with strong propaganda needs, it’s actually a common type of conspiracy theory. It comes from looking at the result of a world event and then working backwards to determine that the outcome must have been planned by nefarious forces. Such “Hindsight Conspiracies” are part of the news cycle these days – despite almost always being pathetically wrong.

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What is a “Nation”?

Much to the dismay of many people of Scottish ancestry around the world, a new nation was not created last Thursday. The people of Scotland, which is to say those who would have to live with the consequences of any action, narrowly decided to stay with the UK. In the lead-up to the election, when it looked like it might go the other way, the leaders of all the parties of the UK promised that Scotland would have more power to decide its own fate and that seemed to be good enough.

But a not-independent Scotland is just one of the many complications found within the UK and in many nations around the world. Simultaneously, an agreement was made in Ukraine to give more autonomy to the Russian speaking regions in an as yet undescribed power sharing arrangement if only everyone would stop shooting. And in Iraq that central government appears powerless as the autonomous Kurdish region uses its own army, the Peshmerga, to battle ISIL with help from many nations.

What, indeed, is a nation? The short answer is: whatever it needs to be.

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Industrial Capacity is Back

When looking for economic data that tells us all how we’re all doin’, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.

Long ago, the US was a nation that made stuff. Economic expansions or contractions could be measured by industrial output with a rather high degree of precision. Lower output meant that people were losing their jobs and the nation was slowing down.

The industrial capacity figure hasn’t been used much lately because we don’t rely on manufacturing for the bulk of the jobs anymore. At about 12M jobs, it’s just over 10% of all employment. But it still means a lot, and the results are encouraging.

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No Longer Driven by Oil

A new international war has started in the Middle East as Syria continues to burn. Russia is slowly being strangled by international sanctions that are now cutting off their ability to produce and sell oil. With all of this happening in the world, something remarkable is happening to the price of oil – it’s dropping.

How could this happen? The short answer is that the US continues to move towards energy independence, producing its own oil while consumption is stagnant. It’s a good thing, all in all, but it means that the environmental degradation that was once found only in distant lands, and conveniently ignored by nearly everyone in the US, is now upon us. What can we do?

There’s a decent chance that the free market will actually sort it all out – once it’s been properly regulated to account for the environmental damage, that is.

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Global Policeman, Again

Another year, another war in Iraq. Like the sunspot cycle, they seem to come ‘round about every 11 years. But this is not a natural cycle – this is caused by the instability built into a planet that is closer than ever before. Artificial “nations” created by outside powers with inherent instability, such as Iraq, are a burden on everyone.

There’s little point going into the strange history of Iraq and other nations like them because as it currently stands there are few ways to fix the problem. The climate of constant war makes redrawing boundaries in the Middle East (or, for that matter, in Ukraine) hard to imagine without making the situation worse in the short run. It usually takes years of peace and stability to contemplate a peaceful transition, such as the one that Scotland will vote on next week.

One question we can contemplate is why the burden always falls on the US. The short answer to that question is that we are by far the dominant military on the planet. But why?

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