You can't make stuff like this up:
(from Mbokamosika, a wonderful source of Congolese music and ephemera, with blog entries in French and Lingala)
Lots of people have pointed to Simon Johnson's The Quiet Coup, in The Atlantic's online version. If you haven't already read it, here's another voice suggesting that you should. I'm not much of a fan of the IMF, but their perspective is supremely relevant to the panics of the moment, and Johnson's experience allows him to find parallels that others might miss. Just one example:
...the real concern of the fund’s senior staff, and the biggest obstacle to recovery, is almost invariably the politics of countries in crisis.Johnson warms to the task as he goes, and by the last paragraph one begins to hear the creak of the tumbril's wheels:
Typically, these countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them overreached in good times and took too many risks. Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders. When a country like Indonesia or South Korea or Russia grows, so do the ambitions of its captains of industry. As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise...
But inevitably, emerging-market oligarchs get carried away; they waste money and build massive business empires on a mountain of debt. Local banks, sometimes pressured by the government, become too willing to extend credit to the elite and to those who depend on them. Overborrowing always ends badly, whether for an individual, a company, or a country. Sooner or later, credit conditions become tighter and no one will lend you money on anything close to affordable terms.
The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump "cannot be as bad as the Great Depression." This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.
I must be getting soft-headed, or something. It just seems obvious to me that (a) Juan Cole's Informed Comment is right about most of the issues it raises (for example, his treatment of Khamenei's Speech Replying to Obama is vastly clearer than other stuff I've seen), and (b) Matt Taibbi's The Big Takeover ("The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution") nails what happened/is happening better than most of what I hear or read. viz:
As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.
OK, rediffusion again (this time from the Automata / Automaton Blog), but it's just toooo wonderful to miss:
My interests, enthusiasms, and areas of expertise are errant: they persist in wandering off, but they eventually seem to come back from their assorted quests and reassert themselves in my consciousness and activities. So it has been with photography, as with music and woodworking and Information and Science Fiction and Literature and and and... When a particular fascination resurfaces, it has a whole new set of previously unrecognized (or imperfectly appreciated) facets that tempt me into a new Odyssey of exploration. This generally means the acquisition of new tools and resources, to carry out whatever new Grand Schemes assert themselves as necessities. Fortunately, the spouse is well acquainted with the pattern, and is skilled at eloquent rolling of the eyes.
I've been scanning negatives from 1963, when I was just beginning to think of myself as A Photographer. I'm mulling over some explanatory text for the project, and perhaps I'll put it up here as it unreels. Meanwhile, here's one that may or may not entice you into further explorations of my Flickr photostream:
This one came around again today and it seems to be at least as relevant now (I pointed to it 6 months ago, but sometimes repetition is a GOOD thing):
Tomorrow is oook blog's fifth anniversary, and what a long strange trip it's been. Dunno how to assess the blog's significance, since I have a constitutional aversion to conventional measures of "success" and I abhor counting hits or whatever. When you come right down to it, I've always thought of it primarily as a means to keep track of my changing attention (my magpie habits) for myself, and secondarily as a conduit for keeping informed of my doings the 20 or so people I think might be interested. Beyond that, I'm happy to occasionally discover that somebody has happened upon a posting via a search, or that some friend has pointed somebody to a posting.
I'm thinking about converting over to Word Press, but I don't have sufficient faith in my own geek skills to start the process. I've also thought of making some sort of Fundamental Change in presentation style or content, but I don't really have any positive reason to do that... so I think it'll probably just limp along in its increasingly vieux jeu format.