Friday, September 26, 2008

Should I suspend my blog and go to Washington to help save the economy?

Should I Suspend My Photography to Go Help Save the Bailout?
Nah. John McCain is already on the case. He can handle it. I'd rather post a photo. This oasis of serenity in a collapsing, chaotic world was brought to you by Santiago Calatrava. His addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum is a serene exercise in form, bathed in light and magic

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The new Old Wise Men sure look a lot like the old Old Wise Men who got us into this mess

David Brooks, the NY Times Op-Ed columnist, continues to practice the politics of disingenuousness as a he fantasizes a "new establishment" riding to the rescue of the financial system in the guise of the Paulson bailout. That would be in contrast to the non-establishment "math geeks" that got us into all this trouble with their complicated new fiancial instruments.
Year followed year, and the idea of a cohesive financial establishment seemed increasingly like a thing of the past.

No more. Over the past week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner of the New York Fed have nearly revived it. At its base, the turmoil wracking the world financial markets is a crisis of confidence. What Paulson, et al. have tried to do is reassert authority — the sort that used to be wielded by the Mellons and Rockefellers and other rich men in private clubs.
I wasn't the only one who did a double-take reading this "Wall Street was taken over by aliens, but they're gone now" rationalization for what's unfolding now. Glenn Greenwald has a nice dissection here.

I think I'll become a bank holding company

If it works for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, why can't it work for me? With the biggest banking bailout giveaway in U.S. history shaping up in Washington, it seems to be the only way to get in line for the gravy train. I know I would be a very small bank, but I think even the smallest bank is entitled to consideration.

This would be a great move to clean up my balance sheet. I realize my mortgage portfolio is quite small (one mortgage) but for a small bank like me, having the Feds take it off my hands would mean a lot to my financial well being. (Though, while they're at it, they might as well take the credit card balance too.)

The way I see it, we should all become banks. The Feds don't seem to be able to do much for ordinary working Americans, but they clearly can do a lot for banks. I'm sending in my application to become a bank holding company to the Federal Reserve today. If they turn it around as fast as they did for Goldman and Morgan, I should be totally debt-free in a week or so.

Monster of Market Malfeasance raises its savage head to devour the U.S. economy

Monster of Market Malfeasance Rises to Devour the U.S. Economy
Our shared nightmare: Rearing up from the Sea of Financial Atrocities while illuminated by the dark glow of an ocean of red ink and burning sulfur, the Monster of Market Malfeasance is raising its fierce head and threatening to devour the entire U.S. economy. Treasury Secretary Paulson has proposed setting out a nice trillion dollar meal for it (at taxpayer expense) and asking it to be nice. Not likely, not without more effective controls than Paulson proposed. It's likely to keep chewing its way through the financial marketplace until eventually everything, down to the last credit default swap, simply collapses of its own weight.

(Note: Madisonians may recognize the head of one of the Dreamkeepers, the scrap metal sculptures on S. Patterson St. by the artist known as Dr. Evermor -- captured in a 9-second handheld time exposure.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last summer weekend on Lake Wingra before reality sets in

Last Hours of the Last Day of Summer, 2008
On Madison's Lake Wingra, these were the last hours of the last day of the last weekend of the summer of 2008.

On Monday reality returns. It's the first day of autumn, and there will be a special chill in the air as Congress tries to deal with a trillion-dollar (!!!) financial industry bailout package in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Who knew a Republican administration would suddenly see the light and advocate socialism as a solution for our financial woes? (By sticking the taxpayer with the losses after Wall Street CEOs took home huge bonuses for running their firms into the ground.) Can't wait to hear them explain.

The presidential race is finally reaching its final stage. Friday John McCain and Barack Obama hold their first debate, which is supposed to be about foreign policy, but it's hard to see how they can avoid the economy. Fasten your seat belts.

17 Hippies on Willy Street

Kiki Sauer of 17 Hippies
Kiki Sauer trained as a classical pianist, has a degree in French philosophy and is one of the founding members of 17 Hippies, the eclectic Berlin-based German band that hit the World Music Festival stage at the Willy Street Fair Saturday night. She's a singer and songwriter and plays the accordian and the Indian harmonium. She's also one of several band members who plays the kalimba, or African thumb piano, shown here.

17 Hippies at Willy Street fairThere weren't really 17 musicians onstage -- only 13. But nobody was counting. That only happens in Germany, as Sauer explains.
“In Germany — and only in Germany — people tend to count musicians on stage,” chuckles Kiki, “and sometimes they say, ‘Why, there aren’t 17 of you!’ One or two have wanted their money back! Same thing happens about the hippie thing: ‘Why, you’re not hippies?’ We tell them, ‘Well, the Rolling Stones aren’t exactly stones.’”
The band's sound is an infectious, danceable blend of folk, acoustic, and rock traditions, with influences as wide-ranging as Cajun and klezmer. The band formed in the early nineties, after the Berlin Wall fell, Germany was reunified and all sorts of musical influences came flooding in from eastern Europe.

Christopher Blenkinsop of 17 HippiesThe band's guiding spirit is Christopher Blenkinsop, who sings and plays ukulele, after having played bass in other rock bands. This is how he describes the way they developed their unique sound.
The band started with a simple concept, says vocalist and musical mastermind Christopher Blenkinsop. “We said, ‘OK, so you play an instrument? Well, don’t bring it!’” Christopher picked up the ukulele (after playing bass in rock bands); Kiki, who had been trained on classical piano, took up accordion; Lüül found a misplaced banjo; Dirk, the heavy metal drummer, had always wanted to play guitar; Antje switched to clarinet, after classical flute training; and off they went creating their own sound.
More photos at this Flickr set.