Thursday 29th of October 2020

driven by growth rate and interest rate differentials. all others pay cash...


When the European Central Bank’s governing council met last week it was expected to do something, or at least say something, about the strengthening of the euro against the US dollar. It did nothing and said little.

Since mid-March, when the US Federal Reserve Board announced a blank cheque approach to a monetary response to the coronavirus, the euro has appreciated nearly 11 per cent against the dollar, threatening to choke the eurozone’s ability to recover from the dire economic impacts of the pandemic. In the June quarter, economic activity in the eurozone was almost 12 per cent lower than for the same quarter last year.

While ECB president Christine Lagarde said the strengthening of the currency had been “discussed extensively and that developments in the exchange rate would be monitored carefully, the European Central Bank did and said nothing stronger.

That may be because it is already at the outer limits of monetary policy – negative policy rates and large-scale asset purchases by the bank – but also due to concerns that too great a focus on the exchange rate might prompt a backlash from a Trump administration focused on trade imbalances.

The dilemma facing European policymakers is, however, one confronting much of the world as it struggles to recover from the destructive impact of the pandemic on economic growth.

Since March and the Fed’s decision to not only provide a deluge of dollars for its own economy through massive and open-ended purchases of bonds and other securities but to provide liquidity swaps with 14 central banks – supplying them with US dollars – the world has been drowning in US dollars.

The combination of the access to dollars, the extent of the monetary policy stimulus in the US and the Fed’s recent decision to hold US rates at their current negligible levels – negative in real terms – has seen the US dollar appreciate about 9.3 per cent against the basket of its major trading partners' currencies since March 19. That’s its weakest level for more than two years.

A weak dollar exports deflation elsewhere. It helps US exporters be more competitive (albeit while harming importers in an economy with a structural trade deficit) and therefore one that imports more than it exports) while damaging the exports and growth prospects of economies elsewhere.

The tumbling value of the dollar has had varying impacts. At one extreme is the Australian dollar, which has appreciated almost 27 per cent from its March lows. At the other are countries such as Brazil and Turkey, whose economies have been weakened more than most by the impact of the pandemic.

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the blob's primacy...

Despite its many failings and high human, social, and economic costs, American foreign policy since the end of the Second World War has shown a remarkable degree of continuity and inflexibility. This rather curious phenomenon is not limited to America alone. The North Atlantic foreign policy establishment from Washington D.C. to London, which some have aptly dubbed the “blob,” has doggedly championed the grand strategic framework of “primacy” and armed hegemony, often coated with more docile language such as “global leadership,” “American indispensability,” and “strengthening the Western alliance.”

In America, this unfortunate status quo in support of primacy persists even in the Trumpian Age and within debates around the eccentric and unconventional presidency of Donald Trump. In fact, despite all the talk of political polarization in the United States, it appears that when it comes to naming new threats and enemies to “contain,” “deter,” and deem “existential,” bipartisan consensus is found swiftly and quite readily. On the Left, and in the wake of President Trump’s election, the Democratic establishment began fixating its wrath on Russia–adopting a confrontational stance toward Moscow and fueling fears of a renewed Cold War. On the Right, the realigning GOP has increasingly, if at times inconsistently, singled out China as the greatest threat to U.S. national security, a hostile attitude further exacerbated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alarmingly, Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has recently joined the hawkish bandwagon toward China, even attempting to outflank Trump on this issue and attacking the president’s China policy as too weak and accommodating of China’s rise.



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the non-fiction intent of capitalism...

 ‘The Cash Nexus’: Realism and Conspiracy in Balzac and Dickens 


My gaze is like God’s: I can see into their hearts. Nothing is hidden from me. No one refuses the man who ties and unties the purse strings [....] Power and pleasure—do these two words together not sum up your whole social order?


(Balzac, ‘Gobseck’) 

Wonderful was the way in which she would store up the City Intelligence, and beamingly shed it upon John in the course of the evening; incidentally mentioning the commodities that were looking up in the markets, and how much gold had been taken to the Bank, and trying to look wise and serious over it until she would laugh at herself most charmingly and would say, kissing him: ‘It all comes of my love, John dear.’ 

(Dickens, Our Mutual Friend) 

In these two passages Balzac and Dickens provide the reader with very different illustrations of what money can do. Both come at significant points in the narratives’ management of information: Gobseck’s reflections on omniscience accompany the revelation that he is part of a brotherhood of moneylenders who, between them, surveil the social life of the whole of Paris. Bella Wilfer addresses her husband near the end of Our Mutual Friend, after his proper identity and inheritance have been restored, the predatory financial intrigues of others have been repelled, and harmony in the household and general economy has been established under the rule of ‘love’. This is not at how Balzac’s novella ends, with Gobseck dying alone in his apartment, surrounded by piles of perishable goods that have rotted and been claimed by insects, but what the stories have in common is that the basis for representing the social life of the cities in which they take place is the circulation of money, whose volatility and mutability I associate (as have others) with literary realism in the nineteenth century (Brooks 2005; Kornbluh 2014; Lukács 1972; Vernon 1984). An association that has not been explored is between realism and the presence of a conspiracy that serves to frame and propel the narrative. My claim in this chapter is that in different but complementary ways, these novels rely on ‘conspiracy theories’ as the basis for their narrative presentation. Looking back at nineteenth-century fiction in which money relations (the ‘cash nexus’) are the basis for plots of deception and conspiracy, it also becomes clear that the origins of contemporary conspiracy theories about international finance lie in the literary form of realism. 

There was something deeply suspicious about money and the behaviour it provoked. The deregulations of finance from the early nineteenth century onwards, including a removal of a ban on usury in 1833, the provision for joint-stock companies in 1844, and ongoing deregulation of financial speculation, established conditions for market volatility. Our Mutual Friend includes bankruptcy brought about by the fluctuations of ‘Shares. O mighty Shares!’ and a company whose principal activities are the extraction of interest on debt and trading in devalued bills of exchange. Walter Bagehot wrote in the Economist about the credit crisis of 1866 (shortly after the publication of Dickens’s novel) and described the social atmosphere when doubts about value leaked into the market: ‘Many people were a little suspected, and almost everybody shared in some infinitesimal distrust’ (2003 [1866]: 322). It’s surprising then that Bagehot, when writing as a literary critic, found fault in Dickens for his preoccupation with ‘the pecuniary side of life’ (1891 [1879], 2:194), considering how jitters in the money markets could create such ideal social conditions for novels of modern life, in particular conspiracist plots of financial intrigue. 

In his article ‘Against Plot’ in Our Mutual Friend, Michal Peled Ginsburg cites Franco Moretti’s work on the Bildungsroman and his claim that in the form’s English tradition the protagonist does not have the resources to generate plot on her own; plot relies on a villain who intervenes to deny her her rights, for instance of property. She fights back and ‘[p]lot is erased as a mere aberration or nightmare, the reign of innocence and order is restored’ (1992: 177).1 That formula is consistent with the antagonisms that drive the narrative of Our Mutual Friend, which rely on setting conspiracies of predatory, avaricious capitalism, at diverse social levels, against a model of the productive economy that was founded on honest and open personal relationships. In this ideal economy of just deserts, the protagonists’ moral education is accompanied by wealth and financial security is afforded the deserving poor. The predication of Dickens’s complicated plot on the (dis)entanglement of what he saw as distinct healthy and unhealthy economies (filth and lucre in Christopher Herbert’s article (2002)) reveals a fact also laid bare in Honoré de Balzac’s short fictions, namely that the circulation of money is the basis for realism’s conceit of being able to represent the ‘whole social order’ of the modern city. 

Plots revolving around money were not new, but embedding narrative in a realist setting that implied the totality of social relations was. The basis for the wholeness of these worlds should be linked to the recognition that economic relations could penetrate the breadth of social experience, implying the connection between realism and money that this chapter explores. Moretti refers to the question asked in Bleak House that speaks equally to narrative construction and narrated intrigue (plot and plot): ‘What connexion can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of the world, who, from opposite sides of great gulfs, have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together!’ His answer is that in Dickens’s London novels, it is ‘always the same’: ‘a bloodline. Lost and disavowed children, secret loves of the past, missing and stolen and insane wills: all acts that have separated into the many urban sub-systems the family that now the novel brings together again’ (1999: 129, 130 (original emphasis)). It is the instability that accompanies money that makes certain types of plot possible: of social elevation and decline (fortunes acquired and lost), of mercenary alliances and criminal conspiracies (plots to defraud), and how death transforms life (the inheritance). 

The importance of contemporary fiction to economic analysis was apparent to nineteenth-century commentators. Friedrich Engels wrote in a letter of 1888 that he had learned more from Balzac ‘than from all the professed historians, economists, and statisticians of the period together’ and Marx made Dickens first on his list of the ‘present splendid brotherhood of fiction-writers in England’ who had ‘issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together’ (1854). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was another enthusiastic reader of Balzac, also of the historian Michelet and the poet Nerval. Paul B. Crapo argues it was his attachment to these romantic thinkers that formed the basis for his ‘conspiratorial view of society’, which he epitomized in Confessions of a Revolutionary (1851) as ‘the conspiracy of the altar, the throne, and the money-box’ (Crapo 1981: 190). 

The status of money, or the status to which it referred, underwent a transformation in the European nineteenth century. Whereas money had previously been a token of wealth, whose basis was in landed property, the more ephemeral and volatile signs of wealth such as clothing and artworks increasingly became its evidence. The liquidity and transvaluation of wealth allowed for deception and confusion, as Anna Kornbluh’s wonderful study of Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form shows by pointing out that in Samuel Johnson’s eighteenth-century dictionary, to ‘realize’ (in a financial sense) meant to convert liquid wealth into land (property). ‘The Victorian usage, by contrast, connotes the conversion of land into money, and more generally the conversion of assets, whether “real” estate or virtual futures, into the realer real of capital’ (2014: 2 (original emphasis)). Contrary to new historicist accounts of how realist novels naturalized the new social and economic order, Kornbluh argues that the realist novel was a form able to render the unreal transformations that accompanied the modern economy, or to ‘think the conditions of fictitious capital’ (4). Peter Brooks notices a paradox in Balzacian realism that is a consequence of money’s unreality: ‘[T]he world he describes in such impassioned detail seems, like the inflationary economy, menaced with collapse, mined from within by the threat of non-meaning.’ The city, under these conditions, appears as a series of ‘labyrinths, total environments where survival depends on your ability to read the signs, penetrate appearances’ (2005: 33, 22). The plots depend on the use of information and the practice of deception. 

Read more: the-cash-nexus__carver.pdf


Capitalism is psychopathic in its intent. It is based on GREED (which is a sin — ahahah). Engels and Marx, while reading the fiction of Balzac and Dickens could see that these two "fiction" writers knew the true intent of capitalism in its early inception. With the present Covid-19 episode, there has been a slight shift — a new delicate balance in which the previously trodden now have to be "subsidised", in order for the money to still flow "upward" towards the rich. Capitalism had run out of steam... and was becoming floppy especially in the West because most people "had enough goods" and did not need more stuff. Envy was not tractoring anymore...

If no-one buys any more goods, because of lack of cash —and/or lack of envy— the capitalist system would collapse. The system that has fed the rich by exploiting the middle class that itself exploited the poor, cannot afford the middle class becoming poorer (or disillusioned), now not being able to participate in consumption. Thus moneys have to be added at the bottom of the pile with "subventions" (government printing moneys) such as JobKeeper, Jobseeker, so that the cash still flows upwards, while the rich enjoys tax cuts as well, with the fake intent of cash trickling downwards... It's a one way traffic in which the rich get richer and the poor do not revolt. Meanwhile the arts and restaurants became the major casualties of the lockdowns — which are necessary to give hope by breeding fear. It's perverse, and possibly irreversible.

Now the point to make: is this a necessary set of tricks or can we organise ourselves better and fairer? When is the Covid-19 saga coming to an end? What tricks will the system (our politicians influenced by "economists" and warmongers) invent to still feed the rich without a revolution at the bottom? Are the army and the police going to be super-busy to make sure we take our "vaccines", bitter pills and the potions of hubristic political blancmange? The "news"?

Are our pollies well-intended or are they bullshit artists? I know you know...

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a great reveal: money pollutes...


One of Vladimir Putin's closest friends may have used Barclays Bank in London to launder money and dodge sanctions, leaked documents suggest.


Billionaire Arkady Rotenberg has known the Russian president since childhood.


Financial restrictions, or sanctions, were imposed on Mr Rotenberg by the US and the EU in 2014, which means Western banks could face serious consequences for doing business with him.


Barclays says it met all its legal and regulatory duties.


A leak of confidential files — banks' "suspicious activity reports" — reveal how companies believed to be controlled by Mr Rotenberg kept the secret accounts. 


The documents, known as the FinCEN Files, have been seen by the BBC's Panorama programme.

(Gus: you need to know a lot more than this “all you need to know”…)

Inner circle


In March 2014 the US hit Russia with economic sanctions following the annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.


The Treasury Department designated Mr Rotenberg, 68, and his brother Boris, 63, "members of the Russian leadership's inner circle".


The pair had sparred and trained in the same judo gym as Putin when they were young.


Blah blah blah.


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If I was sarcastic, I would point out that it seems that this unauthorised release of secret documents by FinCEN is a direct deliberate attempt by the USA at denigrating Vladimir Putin (and his friends) once more, for being Russian. The last release was the Panama papers that had a limited impact because there was nothing, not a peep towards the crooked Americans.


The “sanctions” against Russia are usually coming from the Magnitsky Act which is a massive crock or are due to the annexation of Crimea — which was as much in Russia’s rights than a vote by Scotland to become independent or join the EU separately from Brexit — and who is to say that some rich people are not allowed to make a buck, when the US is full of billionaires and one trillionaire? So?


FinCEN Files: 'Bringing the big banks to justice’ 

The leaked documents have yet again exposed the failure of governments to rein in money laundering. It’s no different in Germany, where the financial regulators seem to be struggling to get their act together.

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We see that the whole thing is about annoying the banking system which still allows people "under US sanctions" to do business — contrarily to the empired dictumollations of the USA. In fact, the US has no right to impose such sanctions anyway, but when they do, everyone in government around the world becomes constipated… See, for example, the Europeans have to do as told, otherwise they get hit on the head, and the others such as Russia, Iran and China — the targets of such sanctions — are annoyed by the illegality of the capers… but often they shrug their shoulders a bit higher each time new sanctions are announced... In general, the leaders of a targeted country do not suffer, but the people of said countries do. This is a war without blood as the Iranian PM said at the UN as recently as yesterday — a war designed to foment resentment while people and kids die. This is a US war that kills innocent people without a shot being fired. It is as illegal as the war on Saddam.

In general, banks do not care much where moneys that flows through their gates come from — and they should actually be worried by the US deficit now standing near 30 trillion dollars which is about a third of the entire planet GDP. This could blow up any minute. On top of this, also hidden, is the Derivative Market, itself running at about 15 trillion dollars… So we are really looking at half the GDP of the planet in a very precarious position... If I was a Western banker, I’d hire more Russian female mathematicians to counter this mega-threat with more hedging of derivative bets. And I suppose this is why banks don’t shy about getting moneys under various “secret” accounts… while declaring honesty in their books.

Where will this all end? Possibly once more — like subprime real estate hitting the world economy — it will carry on like a garbage float hitting the shores of the town of Omoa in northern Honduras. The garbage travelled from neighbouring Guatemala, where anti-waste barriers have been damaged by heavy rain.

Footage from the scene shows thick layers of plastic bottles and other waste carried by the waves and piled up on a sandy beach next to wooden shacks and palm trees. 

Will I get brickbats for suggesting that European banks need the laundered cash to stay afloat in a ruthless US gangster controlled market — laundered cash which to some extend is much cleaner than the smelly brown stuff coming from the official US banking/treasury system…?


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