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  1. #91
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    I am no longer certain that the events of March 13, 1964 are applicable to today’s urbanites, suburbanites, and ruralites. I do have my suspicions, though. Most people, I suspect, are incapable of loving all of humanity. Agape is not a dominant gene. So, what limits might exist? A possible answer: http://www.newscientist.com/article/...ic-number.html.
    This parallels your notion of breaking up the large democracies into smaller units but units of 150 people in a country of millions seems somewhat problematic. Except that, if the researchers are correct, the situation already exists.
    Bringing this back to your point about social disconnection, which approach do you think is better for encouraging social connection? National or local? And if, as Gary suggests, we need to encourage the spirit, how should best approach "spiriting" the masses?
    The object of education is to produce citizens. The kind of citizens I want to produce would adhere to a belief systems like this: http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/thisibelieve.html
    Having listened to our children complain about our smoking from the time they entered elementary school, I am quite certain of the efficacy that training.

  2. #92
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Boy, we're defensive today, aren't we??
    When it comes to Americans, I was born defensive!

    It's hard not to be when living north of you people. You remember in school when you had to do group work, and some idiot who thought they had all the information elected themselves leader of the group? And you were quite sure that they had some of their facts mixed? So you speak up and they shoot you down? Then you get a bad mark because the person who was the self-elected leader was a fingers-in-the-ears/hands-over-the-eyes moron? And that self-styled leader turns around and blames you for not pulling your weight, scolds you like a child?

    That's basically what it's like being Canadian when it comes to Americans.

    We know (as does most everyone else on the planet), with 100% certainty, that the "American History" that the average American knows is, in many many cases, flat out wrong. And no matter how many times we tell you, and no matter how many times we prove it, you never listen. And then you get a bad mark from the world and go "Why does everyone hate us? We're the best!"

    So we yell and scream and pull our hair out. We f***ing told you why! You didn't listen! And you're still not f***ing listening!

    It's not your fault, personally. You can't help it. You were raised in a nation whose national identity and self-esteem is predicated on certain specific lies. All nations are, to an extent. But some of the lies that America tells itself are frankly insulting to the rest of us.

    Like when Americans talk about their involvement in WWII. Or Vietnam. Or the Pilgrims. Or NAFTA. Or the UN. Or Democracy.

    The thing is, this notion that you have to get the people behind you, that you need "the spirit," is flatly false. There's virtually no empirical evidence to suggest that widespread acceptance of ideology leads to change. For the most part, history shows us that thing change first, and "the spirit" adapts later. This belief is really only a part of the American cultural mystique surrounding democracy. The rest of the democracies in the world don't champion this mentality the way you do and get along just fine. For Americans, "the spirit" seems to be part of American mythology, and now a part of consumer culture. It has become a commodity. It's the idea that buzz generates buzz. Sales generate sales. It's cyclic and self-referential. And again, it's a belief that is fostered in large part by some very specific lies.

    What's frightening is that you've also got this belief that you need to spread "the spirit" out through the world. Get on the American Dream train! Freedom for all! American foreign policy (including environmental policy) is based on this "get the spirit!" mentality. But we don't want it. It annoys us. And we don't buy it anyway, because we think y'all shouldn't buy it either because we know it's a fabrication. We try and tell you, but you don't listen. Content to go on believing in your lies.

    I'm not talking about truth or shaded truths or white lies. I mean flat out contrary-to-the-historical-record type lies. This isn't just, like, my opinion, man.

    It's as if Americans are christians and Canadians are atheists, and we're trying to convince you there's no God. And we know how that conversation goes! The difference being that in this argument, there's actual proof outside the conviction.

    What can you do when faced with such endemic willful ignorance? How do you proceed? How can one possibly know how far it runs? How deeply embedded?

    Can you really blame me for getting testy?

    What this has to do with your plan, Mr. Foo Dogma, is the mindset that will allow for it. Or for any plan to become effective, for that matter. If the people aren't receptive, then what good is a great plan?
    Who knows!?! Ask the French at Bastille Day. The English during the Restoration. The Spanish during The Inquisition. The Americans during the Revolution. The Chinese during the Maoist Revolution. The Americans after 9/11.

    The list goes on. Every major cultural change I can think of is based on the ideas of the few or the one. The many are enlisted by predating on their basic fears. Or they simply conform to mob mentality. Or they simply want to go about their life with as little intrusion as possible and simply conform because it's the easy thing to do.

    I'm sure your temper and temperament yields frustration in many cases. You're quite zealous. Relax. This isn't supposed to be a stressful place to visit.
    What can I say...

    I'm not trying to produce stress. That's not the goal. The goal (for me) is to search for truth. To learn. To examine possibilities. To challenge the mind. Sometimes that creates stress.

    And we all have buttons. American mythological history is one of mine!

    So, going forward, the salient point is the idea of "the spirit." I don't think you need "the spirit" so much as you need a good idea with some solid empirical evidence to back it up. Furthermore, people often need to be forced to change. You say otherwise, yes?

  3. #93
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    A possible answer: http://www.newscientist.com/article/...ic-number.html.
    This parallels your notion of breaking up the large democracies into smaller units but units of 150 people in a country of millions seems somewhat problematic. Except that, if the researchers are correct, the situation already exists.
    That's very interesting! I'd like to see more info, like geographic spread of the core group of 7 friends and the secondary layer of 20. Also, how many social groups of 150 living in the same geographic area can peacefully coexist? Assuming that the friendship tracks between community leaders, research like this argues strongly for community areas within cities. I've always found the older cities (or older parts of cities) the most appealing, mostly because of how they are broken up into smaller centralized sub-communities. I wonder if there's any analysis of urban community sizes, and what those communities are centred around? I'm guessing a Church and market, traditionally. Now, probably more around a central transportation station and grocery store.

    Taken together with the Heinlein piece below, it seems like awfully good sense to put a hard limit on our community sizes. I've just never taken to the idea of widespread democracy. Local democracy, certainly. And then some kind of democracy above that decided by the local reps by region. But why there are countries the size of Canada, China, Russia, Brazil, Australia, and the good ol' USA has never seemed like good sense to me. As a democratic platform, it simply seems counterproductive.

    The kind of citizens I want to produce would adhere to a belief systems like this: http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/thisibelieve.html
    I like it. I somehow never came across that when I wrote my thesis on Heinlein... weird! It would have made for an interesting argument about Heinlein's pseudo-utopia in Starship Troopers.

    Reading that makes me wonder what he'd think of American foreign policy these days.

  4. #94
    Grrena
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    Talking money, money, money..............

    I was inspired to read your comments on these two videos - its beautiful to see that everyday people are finally looking at how and why our society ended being the slave driving machine that it is. I recommend these to anyone who wants to further understand exactly HOW the system works - i believe that through learning, comes knowledge which gives you the power to be able to change things - this is never going to be achieved through an individual effort but by a combined group of us trying to figure out why we are in the quagmire that we are in.
    I would also recommend to anyone who is interested in economics/ money to listen or watch the interview with Benjamin Fulford ( former finance journalist for Japans' 'Forbes' Magazine); it is also available on google video;
    http://www.projectcamelot.org/interviews.html

  5. #95

    some interesting facts about money

    After watching a documentary called Zeitgiest I learned a lot about the federal reserve and money that I didnt realize. The federal reserve isnt any more federal than Federal Express. The federal Reserve is a group of private banks. Like any other bank the federal reserve loans out money with interest charged. All american currency in existence is loaned by the federal reserve, with a ton of interest. Think about all the U.S. currency in existence. I dont know what it is, but lets say for the sake of argument its 2 trillion dollars. Imagine the interest on a two trillion dollar loan. Thats a lot of money. You must be thinking right about now, "who cares", or "whats so bad about that", well, first of all who do you thinks paying for that interest, second of, all we dont need to borrow money from a bank we could just make are own money, then we wouldnt have to pay interest. We used to do just that, heres a little history lesson.

    the folowing is from
    "Secrets of American History - Timeline of Assassinations, Presidents in Opposition of Central Banks, and the Rothschilds" it didnt mention the author of this article on the website

    1790: Mayer Amschel Rothschild states “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.”

    1791: The Rothschilds get, “control of a nation’s money,” through Alexander Hamilton (their agent in George Washington’s cabinet) when they set up a central bank in the USA called the First Bank of the United States. This is established with a 20 year charter.

    1811: The charter for the Rothschilds Bank of the United States runs out and Congress voted against the renewal. Nathan Mayer Rothschild is not amused and he states, “Either the application for renewal of the charter is granted, or the United States will find itself involved in a most disastrous war.” However the United States stands firm and the Charter is not renewed which causes Nathan Mayer Rothschild to issue another threat, “Teach those impudent American’s a lesson. Bring them back to colonial status.”

    1812: Backed by Rothschild money, and Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s orders, the British declare war on the United States. The Rothschild’s plan was to build up such a debt in fighting this war that they would have to surrender to the Rothschilds and allow the charter for the Rothschild owned First Bank of the United States to be renewed.

    1816: The American Congress passes a bill permitting yet another Rothschild dominated central bank, which gives the Rothschilds control of the American money supply again. This is called the second bank of the United States and is given a twenty year charter. The British War against America therefore ends with the deaths of thousands of British and American soldiers, but the Rothschilds get their bank.

    1832: President Andrew Jackson (the 7th President of the United States from 1829 to 1837), runs the campaign for his second term in office under the slogan “Jackson And No Bank!” This is in reference to his plan to take control of the American money system to benefit the American people, not for the profiteering of the Rothschilds.

    1833: President Andrew Jackson starts removing the government’s deposits from the Rothschild controlled, Second Bank of the United States and instead deposits them into banks directed by democratic bankers. This causes the Rothschilds to panic and so they do what they do best, contract the money supply causing a depression. President Jackson knows what they are up to and later states, “You are a den of thieves and vipers, and I intend to rout you out, and by the Eternal God, I will rout you out.”


    1836: Following his years of fighting against the Rothschilds and their central bank in America, President Andrew Jackson finally succeeds in throwing the Rothschilds central bank out of America, when the bank’s charter is not renewed,

    1841: President John Tyler (the 10th President of the United States From 1841 to 1845) vetoed the act to renew the charter for the Bank of the United States. He goes on to receive hundreds of letters threatening him with assassination.

    1861: President Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the United States from 1860 till his assassination in 1865) approaches the big banks in New York to try to obtain loans to support the ongoing American Civil War. As these large banks were heavily under the influence of the Rothschilds, they offer him a deal they know he cannot accept, 24&#37; to 36% interest on all monies loaned. Lincoln is very angry about the high level of interest so he prints his own debt free money and informs the public that this is now legal tender for both public and private debts.

    1862: By April $449,338,902 worth of Lincoln’s debt free money (Greenbacks) has been printed and distributed. He states of this, “We gave the people of the republic the greatest blessing they ever had, their own paper money to pay their own debts.”


    1865: In a statement to Congress, President Abraham Lincoln states, “I have two enemies, the Southern Army in front of me, and the financial institutions in the rear. Of the two, the one in my rear is my greatest foe.” Later that year, on April 14, President Lincoln is assassinated, less than two months before the end of the American Civil War.

    1913: The last and current central bank in America, the Federal Reserve, is set up during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

    We were doing fine without a central bank, we definitely dont need one and could do without the interest.


    I am not sure about the veracity of this next claim, and would like to investigate further and here anyones info on this: Most of the income tax goes to paying this interest, were paying it.

    If you have any illusions on who is really in control of this country ill shatter them now, its most definitely the federal reserve, a group of private corporations. What does this all mean it means that are economy is based on debt and interest. What does it say on dolar bills "this note is legal tender for all debts public and private.

    Heres another interesting fact.
    All U. S. currency is only worth one tenth of its amount, this is because the federal reserve practices fractional banking.

    definition:
    Think of it this way. People used have gold and silver which is what real money is. People called goldsmiths would store other peoples gold in vaults for safekeeping for a fee. When a customers gives their gold to a goldsmith, the goldsmith would give that customer a primisary note representing that amount of gold, people would then exchange these notes for goods and services.
    The goldsmiths would also loan people the gold they were holding and charge interest. They realized that they could loan out more gold than they held, by making more promisary notes, because they knew that all there customers wouldnt all withdraw their gold at once. For example a goldsmith is holding 100 dollars worth of gold. He loans out 1000 dollars worth of promissary notes to ten different people, a hundred dollars each, it doesnt matter that he only has one hundred dollars worth of gold because it is unlikely for all his custiomers to withdraw their gold. He is using a reserve banking ratio of 1:10 as opposed to 1:1 whitch would be to only loan out what he has in gold. So at any one time he can back up a lone with a hundred dollars worth of gold. He has in a sense created money out of thin air.
    The current ratio for the federal reserve is aproximately 1:10. There are actually many benefits to Fractional reserve banking im just pointing it out to people who dont know.

    Its actually surprising that no one is taught this in school and that most people think that The U.S. government makes and controls its own currency and doesnt borrow money from a private corporation. The more I think about this the more I realize that our economy is on the verge of collapse, and that the banks control everything. If anyone wants to learn more about this go to "www.movie6.net" from the list of movies and choose "zietgiest addendum"
    I would like to hear everyone elses thoughts on this and also if any of my information is wrong or inacurate. Iwould also like to know how many people did not know this until recently, or until they read this post.
    Last edited by killhus; February 12th, 2009 at 01:27 AM.

  6. #96
    I agree with your opinion of Americans Kung Foo, and i am American. What makes me so mad is the general attitude of Americans, they just dont care about how corrupt America is, and they have this "who cares attitude" which is why we never progress. When I found out that our currency isnt made from the governmnet but is actually loaned to us on interest by a cntral bank, i was outraged and it blew my mind. A lot of people i tell dont care. I agree with your opinion on American history as well it is very biased. I researched all the wars of the past and found out that the U.S. involved themselves in every war for different reasons than what we are taught in history, every war, for example History teaches that The Union fought in the civil war to free the slaves, when in fact it was due to economical reasons.
    I never believe anything im taught anymore I always due research. Dont be prejudiced against Americans though not all of us are bad.

    I like this quote from "Money as Debt"

    "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist"
    Kenneth Boulding

    Our monetary based economy can not go on forever, a collapse is inevitable.
    Last edited by killhus; February 12th, 2009 at 02:30 AM.

  7. #97
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    Instead of losing the other thread to the ether, I've merged it with this one and then pruned the two posts that don't make sense (by pointing to this thread )

  8. #98
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    The danger of referring you over to this thread is that now I have to go back and re-read everything...

    Quote Originally Posted by killhus View Post
    I agree with your opinion of Americans Kung Foo, and i am American.
    In fairness, America mostly just makes for an easy target. That said, the world has rested on its laurels waiting for America to lead the way through the current economic meltdown, and it's a mantle America seems to enjoy wearing. The problem runs much deeper than just America. But America is something that many people, internationally, have a reasonably high degree of knowledge about, so it works well as a central frame for such discussions. The shortcomings of America can stand in as the shortcomings of us all.

    That being said...

    This thread started off with:
    Quote Originally Posted by KatG
    I don't think we're going to have a crash of the world's economy.
    So now that it's happening, I'm curious if anyone has any updates on their opinion of the world's economic situation and our approach to environmental policy. New administration in the US, and it looks like we're in for 8 more years of Iraq, trillions of dollars of new debt being generated to slow the fall of the economy and offset the existing debt. Borrowing from one pocket to pay the other, IMO.

    So who's satisfied with the Obama plan?

  9. #99
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    You're always such an optimist, Fung.

    I have faith in Obama. I believe him. I believe that he's sincere and honest and that he's going to try as best as he can to help straighten things out.

    Can he do it? Is it possible? I have no idea. But the Americans I know are very very hard workers, and they want to work and they're willing to work.

    I'm appalled by the CEOs of some of these banks too. I'm so disappointed. They walk away just fine, with a little tarnish on their gold cufflinks. But it wasn't just their fault. Everyone borrowed too much and charged too much and consumed too much. They just facilitated it, and in the end walked away with enough to secure their own futures. That's where the big difference lies.

    There's lots of both misplaced and appropriate anger all around today. But we need to work through it nonetheless. We need to work and move on.

    Obama represents a new vision for me. It's not easy for him, I'm sure. I don't envy him at all. But I trust that he's here for the right reason, and I haven't felt that way as long as I can remember. So I'm going to be optimistic and I'm not going to let anxiety and depression turn me into a cynic. I have three children! They have futures. I'll work as hard as I need to in order to provide them with a sense of hope.

  10. #100
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    You're always such an optimist, Fung.
    I am?!?!?



    I have faith in Obama. I believe him. I believe that he's sincere and honest and that he's going to try as best as he can to help straighten things out.
    Yeah, I think his heart is in the right place. It's the other people in the American government that worry me. I do think, though, that Obama had a chance to really shake things up and missed it by going with business-as-usual. The Stimulus Package only maintains a faulty system that is doomed to a full collapse at some point in the future anyway.

    I'm appalled by the CEOs of some of these banks too. I'm so disappointed. They walk away just fine, with a little tarnish on their gold cufflinks. But it wasn't just their fault. Everyone borrowed too much and charged too much and consumed too much. They just facilitated it, and in the end walked away with enough to secure their own futures. That's where the big difference lies.
    Now this I'm not so sure about. Because it's not just the "bank" portion of the financial industry that is being bailed out. The banks are no longer just store houses for our money; they're investment firms, and their trading capital is our money. How they handle our money, even if we do step into it with some degree of volunteerism, places the "blame" more with them than us. They didn't just make the debt available to be had -- they peddled it. They've convinced us to put our money into investment accounts, and they gamble with it.

    I think that investment banking needs to be taxed the same way we tax casinos. I don't mean the individual who gains at the casino -- trading on speculation with your money is your business, and if you win by investing its no different than winning the lottery (not taxed in Canada, unlike the US -- I don't think it makes any sense to tax lottery winnings). But as an institutional practice, whereby organizations and their officers gain massive profits off trading other people's money about in a game chance, Investment Banking is fundamentally no different than gambling. IMO, it should be treated as such.

  11. #101
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    The entire stock market concept is like a craps table. But some people are staring down from above, behind one way glass. And I think in some cases they have very strong magnets aimed at the table.

    The investment banking community is definitely to blame. They packaged **** in fancy, gift wrapped boxes and sold it as if it were gold. But they sold it to people who couldn't begin to know what was inside, who assumed that they were dealing with institutions of high credibility. And they sold it so many times, repackaging it each time, that it was barely even recognizable in the end.....except for the smell which eventually leaked out.

  12. #102
    bmalone.blogspot.com BrianC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    (snip) Because it's not just the "bank" portion of the financial industry that is being bailed out. The banks are no longer just store houses for our money; they're investment firms, and their trading capital is our money. How they handle our money, even if we do step into it with some degree of volunteerism, places the "blame" more with them than us. They didn't just make the debt available to be had -- they peddled it. They've convinced us to put our money into investment accounts, and they gamble with it.

    I think that investment banking needs to be taxed the same way we tax casinos. I don't mean the individual who gains at the casino -- trading on speculation with your money is your business, and if you win by investing its no different than winning the lottery (not taxed in Canada, unlike the US -- I don't think it makes any sense to tax lottery winnings). But as an institutional practice, whereby organizations and their officers gain massive profits off trading other people's money about in a game chance, Investment Banking is fundamentally no different than gambling. IMO, it should be treated as such.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    The investment banking community is definitely to blame. They packaged **** in fancy, gift wrapped boxes and sold it as if it were gold. But they sold it to people who couldn't begin to know what was inside, who assumed that they were dealing with institutions of high credibility. And they sold it so many times, repackaging it each time, that it was barely even recognizable in the end.....except for the smell which eventually leaked out.
    The major investment banks went public in the late 90's and early 00's. Goldman, Merrill, etc, were and are publicly traded corporations. Their profits are taxed (in the U.S.) as any other corporate profits. Whether they pay much or anything in tax is a separate matter, dependent on how they manage their business in light of the IRC, but they are taxed -- just like casinos are taxed. Even if the investment banks were still functioning under the classic partnership structure, taxes on profits would pass through to the partners.

    With respect to whether "banks" are to blame for the current global financial situation, the answer is complicated, but it ultimately boils down to partly. First, you have to distinguish between commercial and investment banks, and you have to add in all the other players likes mortgage lenders, facilitators, guarrantors, brokers, mortgage borrowers (either speculators or those who should have known they were getting in over their heads), rating agencies, Fannie and Freddie, absent regulators, MBS bundlers, CDO/CDS traders and brokers, and the United States Congress. Although the impulse to fix blame on the heads of a few feels compelling, there is no person or entity that is to blame, either solely or largely. A significant portion of the blame must lie at the feet of Congress, which repealed important sections of the Glass-Steagall Act and which was handsomely paid (both Republicans and Democrats) to keep its collective head in the sand. The Bush administration bears a large portion of the blame for doing nothing for so long and letting the situation build up to a crisis level. There were plenty of people who, until the defaults on bad loans started to whelm and while there was plenty of money to go around, were more than willing to go along with the status quo. But to just say that "banks" are to blame grossly oversimplifies the situation.
    Last edited by BrianC; March 16th, 2009 at 01:19 PM.

  13. #103
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Must disagree, BrianC, with your thoroughly rationale explication of where the blame lies. Unfortunately, rationalism has nothing to do with the blame game. The blame game exists so we can narrow the mess down to one individual or one institution. Then, we can castigate the individual and/or the institution and move on with our lives without being required to question our own role in the mess. As a prime current example I offer into evidence all the people taken in by Madoff.

  14. #104
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    But of course you're right, Brian. No one person or institution or group of institutions is to blame. But it helps to place responsibility somewhere identifiable. It makes us all feel better. But who cares anyway who's to blame anymore? We're all in this mess together and hopefully we'll learn a bit more about compassion and care a bit less about excess when it's all over.

    I worry that instead we might turn our frustration and anger in a non-constructive direction. We're becoming a bit vindictive, and though it does feel good sometimes to see people get what they deserve, they might not all deserve it, and it may just be about feeling good.

    It's complicated. Everything's complicated.

    What bothers me most, I think, is that no one really knows anything anymore. The world is spinning and spinning, and we all want it to stay under control but it doesn't always feel as if it is.

    We count on the future being predictable. We count on patterns repeating themselves. We count on recoveries and returns to normalcy, but none of that is guaranteed.

    Hmmmm. I wonder......

  15. #105
    bmalone.blogspot.com BrianC's Avatar
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    But we do need to understand what went wrong, so we can ensure it does not happen again. The heart of the problem seems to be the systemic risk posed by unregulated trading in credit default swaps. Conceptually, the CDS is fairly straightforward: a agreement to transfer the risk of default on a loan; in short, a CDS is a credit worthiness insurance policy. Example, you're an investment bank or a hedge fund and you want to buy a mortgage backed security (a number of real estate mortgages bundled together into a security (sort of like a bond)), but to hedge against the risk that the underlying borrowers will default on the mortgages, you buy a credit default swap (say from AIGFP) where you pay a premium and the seller of the swap guarrantees the repayment of the underlying loans. But because we do not call a CDS "insurance" it is not regulated by the state insurance commissioners; and because it is a derivative (i.e., its value is derived from the value of the underlying MBS) and it is traded over the counter (not on a regulated exchange) it is considered a commodity and not subject to any regulation by the SEC; and because the Commodity Futures Modernization Act passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton, created a loophole specifically for MBS's sold by banks, the CDS it is also not subject to regulation by the CTFC. To put it briefly, a CDS was (and still is) an unregulated transaction.

    What does this mean? Well, everyone was happy as long as the mortgage holders upon which this edifice is built continued to pay their mortgages. But the CDS requires the issuer (like AIGFP) to pay collateral to the holder of the CDS if the risk of default increases. In other words, if the rating of the CDS drops, reflecting an increased likelihood of default, then the holder of the CDS is entitled to be paid according to a formula. When these CDS's were originally issued the rating agencies generally gave them a AAA rating without much of a second thought. After all, real estate values in the US were climbing, the market was booming, and no one wanted to believe that the good times would ever stop rolling. When the real estate market slowed, and then contracted, the rating agencies were forced to downgrade the CDS's based on that market, and the holders of the CDS's called on their collateral.

    If the CDS market had been regulated all of this would mean that the CDS issuers would go bankrupt, the CDS holders would take a big loss (and maybe some of them would go bankrupt) but the financial systems of the major economies would absorb the losses. But the CDS market from 2000 to 2008 was the wild west, with the only restraint was what Alan Greenspan worshipped as "enlightened self interest". Turns out there was plenty of self interest but not much enlightment. AIGFP alone issued trillions of dollars worth of CDS's (yes, trillion with a 'T'). When the collateral calls started coming in it was to the tune of tens and then hundreds of billions of dollars, cash that the company did not have. If AIG alone had defaulted on its CDS obligations, the entire global financial system would have collapsed.

    There's more to the story, much more, but I have limited time. Suffice it so say that the CDS market as it developed was something of a legalized Ponzi scheme. The CDS issuers underwrote obligations far beyond what they could possibly meet in a worst case scenario. It's hard to believe that the smart people at the heart of all of this did not realize the extent of their exposure. They did what the Republican talking heads are lately fond of blaming subprime mortgage holders for: they took on more debt than they could repay. Only the CDS issuers did it on a scale that threatens economic apocalypse.

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