Friday, October 10, 2008
Looking on the Bright Side of the Recent Market Declines
I figured this one out:
Look on the bright side, the amount of a one percent drop is less every day!
(one percent of a smaller number is a smaller number)
Here's a joke making the rounds among the traders:
There are two positions to take in the market right now. Sell, and fetal.
Did you hear that the Pope weighed in on the world economy? He said the global financial crisis shows the futility of money and ambition, and those who build their lives "only on things that are visible, such as success, career, money" should keep that in mind. Therefore effective immediately he will be selling the Vatican's treasures to give the money to poor.
No wait, sorry, he only said the first part.
Well look, here's my take on the crisis. It's a crisis of value certainly, and it's long overdue. What's really valuable in life? For millennia we've built up systems that encourage the exploitation of people and the wasting of the environment for the amassing of symbols of wealth to privilege the few.
We knew that had to change, didn't we? And with global warming and its imminent threats of mass starvation and disaster, we knew that change had to come quickly, right?
It's just weird to watch the slow motion train wreck. A few weeks ago, the world economy stopped. The world is no longer what it used to be.
This is a very important time to keep your eye on helping your neighbor, and trust in a higher plan. There is one, you know, and I don't just mean government bailouts. There are many people who, consciously or not, communicate with the massive angelic higher consciousnesses who manage this planet for the growth of humanity, and they know that the pain coming is only as much as it regrettably takes to make the people get serious.
People are getting serious. US voters are turning in droves to Barack Obama, for example, because they're not distracted by the past or celebrities or mud slinging anymore. Race is not a factor (though it will certainly be a thrilling milestone to reach the first black president!) Millions of people are simply evaluating what works and who's got the brighter energy for the future. McCain appears to be a grouchy old man stuck on deregulation, and his running mate is a prejudiced housewife turned governor who bluffs her way through cheerleading speeches. I'm not saying Obama is perfect - he and Joe Biden are still career politicians who rely on their talking points and egos - but there's a hope for the future that's coming that doesn't favor the rich or the white, so they are turning to that vision enough to be the ticket to ride.
Let's look at the markets. On Monday September 29, the US Dow had a 7% crash of 777 points, the biggest one day drop to date. It was scary enough to break the gridlock of the bickering Washington politicians who realized they needed to pass something quick, hence the rescue plan with further adjustments that Congress did approve later that week. Now I had dreams all through this process that showed to me that the rescue plan would work, and work it did. It is now the oft-quoted international benchmark for fast big action around the world, as the crisis becomes truly a shared global reality (so much for those who had hoped to blame it just on those reckless American capitalists).
Are we disappointed that the markets didn't bounce back with the rescue plan passed? But that wasn't the point. 7 is a divine number for many mystical reasons, and 777 is touted in the Bible as ultimate number of God. The markets still need to deflate, so the sign was that the process is being guided for the greater good. We will benefit for decades to come from the rise of international cooperation and generous coordinated response in the face of a crisis that knows no national boundaries.
Too bad world hunger, poverty, and pollution didn’t elicit that much response. Oh well, gotta find what works. At least the economy affects everyone, right?
Let's look at the mechanics inside. Politicians like to keep talking about the subprime mess, because unaffordable mortgages are something that the average person can understand. But you notice that the talk is alluding to bigger deeper problems, because really the deflating mortgage backed securities were only the fuse on the bomb created by the insanely wealthy world elite, while you and I worked our daily subsistence jobs. And the match that lit the fuse was reality, over time.
The falling stock markets? Falling stock prices aren't that real, and economists don't actually pay them that much attention. A stock price is just the amount that the last buyer was willing to pay, so if everyone tried to sell at that price they surely wouldn't get it. The Dow is really just a popularity contest (not unlike our politics), and stocks are understandably not popular now (neither is Bush). Millions of working people were cajoled into putting their savings into the stock markets for decades, and now they all want to get out. The prices are falling naturally, and it doesn't mean that real underlying assets are vanishing overnight. The real assets are the infrastructures of inventions, factories, workers, nations, and sure, even the consumers. The whole human ecosystem, which could be made sustainable and prosperous. But of course, the false assets that are invented by the power elite egos who ran hedge funds and investment banks, those are indeed evaporating, just as they need to be.
What's a false asset? Well, besides those mortgage backed securities which remain largely good but contain a few percent of predatory oversold loans that will expectably default (and since no one knows exactly where and how much, they became unpopular to the point of unsellable even if the houses and people they represent are still out there, begging to be helped), there are worse things that the greed of the rich has invented. We'll hear more and more about Credit Default Swaps for example, or CDS's. It's government's bipartisan fault they were incredibly unregulated, so when the US Treasury made the decision to let Shearson Lehman fall, they didn't anticipate the chain reaction of CDS bombs that would be triggered. Next day, AIG, the world's biggest insurer, fell, to be followed by many more. Why? Because Credit Default Swaps are an elite bond insurance run amok. Billionaire and humanist Warren Buffet, who is emerging as a rare trusted leader in this mess, had previously referred to these things as financial weapons of mass destruction.
Credit Default Swaps started out as just bond insurance. A bond is a loan to a company or government. Here's a million dollars, pay me back with interest in a certain time frame. If the company goes under, you lose, so you try to find stable bond issuers. But hedging your bets, i.e. making sure you make money no matter what happens, became fashionable with the super rich, so they wanted unbeatable insurance on all of their bonds. How special. Here, I'll pay you a million a year, if you agree to pay me a billion if my millions in bonds from company Z go bad. The super rich are by definition super rich, so they were, unlike you and me, quite happy to pay millions to make a little less overall but, at least in theory, guarantee they would remain super rich and in power.
Problem one arose quickly. Unregulated, Credit Default Swaps got issued for way more potential payout than anyone actually had. Insurance is already a risky game; if there's a natural disaster with a lot of claims at once, property insurance companies can go bankrupt fast. It's one indication that maybe trust in the universe is supposed to be chosen over paper guarantees between people. But egos want to do whatever they want, and have someone else be on the hook for it.
Many chickens are coming home to roost now.
The super rich with their super egos just took the suspicious concept of guaranteed personal insurance (which probably needs to be replaced by public giving as needed, which is what charities and taxpayers are called to do in disaster relief anyway) to new egotistical heights. Soon, unregulated, Credit Default Swaps became insurance you could buy on bonds you didn't even own. I'll pay you a million a year just to ensure that if company Z ever goes bad you'll pay me a billion. Then, unregulated, Credit Default Swaps became a commodity that could be traded. What today's price on a billion of insurance against company Z going under? Oh, two million. Great, well I bought it for one million yesterday, so I'll rewrite it with my name on it and sell it to you. That way you will pay me two million, I pay the guy I got it from one million, and I pocket the difference. Of course, if company Z ever goes under I don't have a billion to spare, but no problem, I'll just get it for you from the guy before me.
You see where this is going. Even Joe Six-Pack has heard of pyramid schemes.
Credit Default Swaps became a hot thing to buy and sell among the super rich institutions and investors. The money was made off the little changes in reputations of companies, so CDS's could be rewritten for millions of profit at a time. No one actually expected anyone to go under. So now the worldwide bond market, which is a fairly tangible sensible thing in itself, is only worth 5 trillion. In just ten unregulated years (mostly under President Bush of course) the worldwide CDS market, a totally fabricated invented thing with no real value, became worth 60 trillion.
That's what egos can do to real values - bury them and sell you on artificial stuff that is destined to collapse. So yeah, when the bad subprime mortgages started to weaken the big institutions, some winners and losers got called. The US government rescued Bear Sterns, then dropped Lehman Brothers. Bam. Trillions in CDS debts got triggered that no one could actually pay for. No problem, I'll get it from the issuer. Oops, they're going bankrupt, now I owe a billion, I guess I'm going bankrupt too, and so on down the line. Dominoes are falling around the world. Iceland - that mythic land of fire and ice which is very close to the spirit world and where close to a majority of people believe in and/or see fairy beings - is in debt ten times its GDP; if that was the US we'd be 150 trillion in debt, a number to which (thank God) we're still not even close. This is a global crisis now of spiritual proportions, and a few bad mortgages just lit the fuse.
So that's what's really happening in the world today. And those plummeting stock markets? Just popularity contests that mean little in comparison. The current problem is that there's no money to borrow in the credit markets, and consequently no money to run the world's businesses and meet the payrolls, because the super rich are all in a panic about trillions of dollars they don't have, so they're holding onto their billions for dear life. Meanwhile, Joe Six Pack loses his job.
But don't worry, it's still not the Great Depression, which contrary to popular belief wasn't a sudden crash of stock brokers jumping out windows, but rather a steady economic decline to which the government responded too slowly and wrongly, by tightening money and raising taxes. No matter how crazy and wasteful the 700 billion rescue package sounds (and there are politicians who want to make it your push button issue of the day) world governments are actually taking the appropriate actions by fast pumping money into the markets. There will be corruption of course, so we have to watch out for that. Regulations long overdue are needed for years to come. But right now, it just remains to be seen what it takes to get the elite egos around the world to pry their claws off all the wealth they unjustly controlled, so it starts flowing around to you and me again. In some ways that challenge may be scarier than the risks of the Great Depression, but it's also the lesson that's needed for human development going forward.
Remember the 777, remember there is a plan.
And for God's sake (for your sake with God) look out for your neighbor. There will be tons of opportunity to make needed differences now. Needs will be seen for the gifts that they are. Spread the love to become the love, that is the only true value there ever was. Being willing to make something better, offer something better, receive something better, during the chaos and crisis that most people are feeling, will be the response we can choose, to foster caring for and helping each other. Being willing to see the mess in a loving learning way will guide us to find the solutions.
A lot of brilliant new social engineers and reality entrepreneurs can begin to step forward now. They will say, this is it! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for in the world, the teachable moment, to adjust people’s perceptions of value before the doom becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! We’ve got a certain amount of time to respond, as the Great Depression taught. The right response took years to find back then, we’re even more sophisticated now. Today’s New Deal is a total philosophy of life and sustainable value, for the benefit of all. We begin by just learning to live together, by learning to help each other get through this mess of a global economic crisis. Communicating to help each other, sharing to help each other, caring to help each other. This nightmare can be seen as the dawn of a big global love opportunity, because the need is so great.
So let’s go, spiritual people! Let’s teach it to learn it, the big new way of sustainable living on planet Earth. Let’s go optimistically and with vision into that night, there’s crying out there!
And if my cheerleading sounds naïve, then here is one last curious joke to consider that came my way today. I think it could be taken a few different ways depending on who’s the boss, so I'll let you decide if it's optimistic or pessimistic or even both:
An inexperienced real estate salesman asked his boss if he could refund the deposit to an angry customer who had discovered that the property he had bought was under water.
"What kind of salesman are you?" the boss scolded. "Get out there and sell him a boat."
Friday, October 03, 2008
I'm watching the debates closely, like 20% of my country
She alternated randomly between saying Wall Street is greedy and needs massive regulation and John McCain will do things differently because he's, gosh, such a maverick and I'm going to go be a maverick with him too... then back to saying the standard Republican mantras which got us into this mess, like government is the problem and we need to cut revenues and cut spending and let business thrive. At one point she made this horrific Freudian slip, saying "It's a toxic mess, really, on Main Street that's affecting Wall Street."
She also says global warming is real but people didn't do it, so all we need to do is drill baby drill because we're all so hungry for energy. She's supposed to be strong on energy policy, so I guess that's her policy, even though it won't get us a drop of new oil for ten years. She even made another ridiculous mix-up (reversals like these are called spoonerisms) saying that she doesn't "attribute every activity of man to the changes in the climate". Well it may be true, that we can't attribute anything she says to the surrounding reality. She's too busy bluffing and remembering party slogans and pretending to be just like joe six-pack and all the other hockey moms who are governors and have a million dollars in personal worth.
I won't even go much into Palin's foreign policy, which is filled with patriotic provocations like quoting that Iranian (who isn't even in charge of Iran) that said Israel is a stinking corpse. She kept saying that we can't set any goals for leaving Iraq, because it's the most important place to fight terrorism, and the generals will tell us when it's time to leave, and all the Democrats want to do is wave the white flag of surrender. Even though the terrorists are based elsewhere, and Iraq has more surplus money than we do, and the Iraqis just want their own country back. Her whole approach was not only stubbornly narrow minded, but also insensitive to both Biden and herself, since they both have sons in Iraq.
What's amazing but true, is that people are saying Sarah Palin looked good because at least she did so much better at this debate than in her earlier interviews. I didn't see them, but apparently she was so completely incomprehensible and lost that they had to cut the worst parts (some are now on youtube I hear). This is the woman who would become President if that hot-headed McCain, who likes to routinely curse out his colleagues and even his wife, ever had a serious health problem while being the oldest US President in history. I'd be crazy to trust my future and my children's future to the team of McCain/Palin.
Like Barack Obama only better, Joe Biden was direct, competent, concerned about the middle class, and offered lists of actions to be taken. He was a gentleman who showed maturity and feelings, as when he choked up about being a single dad after his first wife and daughter were killed in a car accident, and then stayed focussed on his talking points and made plenty of sense without being shallow or evasive.
The context for this debate was that the Dow went down 777 points on Monday. That is traditionaly a most holy number that signals divine intervention. The country is waking up to a harsh reality, and that's a good thing if people come together in a serious way. Initial anger is giving way to sober responsibilities, including today Congress finally passing a version of the Paulson economic rescue plan which John McCain and his Republicans derailed last week.
I'm proud to see the polls changing rapidly, as Americans discern the real issues and the leaders who have the vision, experience, and skill to fix the system. Obama/Biden are way up. It's looking like this election could be a landslide, or at least far more a mandate than the one Bush claimed when he won his first election by losing the popular vote, and his second election by one of the closest margins in history. The era of problem fixing that could have begun with Al Gore, who's been on a crusade to warn the world of global warming for the past forty years, will at last begin with the extraordinary leadership of Barack Obama and his trusty sidekick Joe Biden. I just have to trust that there will be some country left to save by the time they start office.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Exciting Prospects and Great Expectations
AP Poll: Obama takes a 7-point lead over McCain
Senate passes $700B rescue; House votes lured
I like to believe that Americans are being guided to make things better now, including cooperation with the entire world. To hear about the central banks of all the nations meeting and lending each other money is a great pragmatic trend. Of course there are rough times ahead, but rough times can bring people together to solve the problems. I hear leaders talking in plain terms like, if we shift to a world economy that solves energy independence and global warming and other social needs, we will get out of the ruts we've been in. Bold visions are appearing, stark contrasts to the past, such as Obama would lead the United States in standing for. McCain can serve his country as the great senator he is, but Obama will change our hopes for the future. He's hugely respected and supported around the world, he is a global game changer along with many other great individuals of our time.
The best outcomes are coming, sooner or later, so we might as well relax, be open-minded, and support all of humanity. We make it together after all.
Here's to the future!