Monday, December 19, 2011

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow renounces Christianity

Denver, CO.  A day after his Denver Broncos were defeated 41-23 at Sports Authority Field in Denver, starting quarterback Tim Tebow, long known for his frequent sideline prayers, announced that he was renouncing Christianity.  "I'm done with Him", a dejected Tebow told a Denver sports columnist during a locker-room interview at the Bronco's practice facility.  "Everything that I've done was for the Lord, and how does He repay me?  He sends His angels to speed the feet of the gosh darn, excuse me, Patriots' linebackers, and I spent half the afternoon on my back.  No more!" 

"I feel like Salieri, do you know what I mean?"  Tebow stated, referring to the Austrian classical composer who was a contemporary and rival of Mozart.  Impersonating F. Murray Abraham's Oscar-winning portrayal of the jealous court composer, Tebow continued:  "From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy--yeah, I'm talking about Brady--and give me for reward only the ability to recognize the incarnation. Because You are unjust, unfair, unkind, I will block You, I swear it. I will hinder and harm Your creature on earth as far as I am able."

"But it's not just Brady" sniffed the former collegiate star for the Florida Gators.  "It's Favre.  It's McMahon.  It's Namath.  Football is the greatest sport that the Heavenly Father invented, but who does He choose to be its heroes?  Womanizers.  Drunks.  Partiers.  My brother Aaron Rodgers is far too humble to tell you this, but despite leading the Packers to a 13-1 record, all he hears anywhere in the whole state of Wisconsin is Brett this, Brett that.  I mean, Brett Favre went and played a season for the Minnesota Vikings.  Lucifer's team.  Aaron is a good man, and this is how the Lord treats him?"

"I'm done with God."

Immediately after the interview, Tebow reportedly sacrificed a small goat in the locker room's Jacuzzi.  While team officials refused to comment on the incident, Tebow was suspended for Saturday's game against the Buffalo Bills for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Bruce Springsteen classic updated for the Youtube era

I bought a bourgeois loft down in the Pearl
Put it on my credit card, with my girl
Man came by to hook up my ISP
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We surfed 'round the Youtube ’til half-past down
Fifty-seven million channels and nothin’ on

Well now portable media was my baby’s desire
So I one-clicked on Amazon for a Kindle Fire
A big brown truck came with a little brown box
Punched in the wifi password and we started to watch
404 came back from the great beyond
Fifty-seven million channnels and nothin’ on

Well we might’ a made some friends with the one percent
Be stayin' in nice hotels instead of sleepin' in a tent.
All I got was a note that said "Bye-bye Juan
Our love's fifty-seven million channels and nothin’ on"

So I bought a brand new Taser down at the local Fry's
And in the blessed name of Springsteen I just let it fly.
’Til my computer lay smoking there at my feet
And they busted me for disturbin’ the almighty peace
Judge said "What you got in your defense son ?"
"Fifty-seven million channels and nothin’ on"
I can see by your eyes friend you’re just about gone
Fifty-seven million channels and nothin’ on
Fifty-seven million channels and nothin’...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Fourth Directive of economic policy

The 1987 Peter Verhoeven dystopian science-fiction film Robocop concerns the adventures of the title character--a prototype cyborg law enforcement officer, constructed from the remains of a dead Detroit policeman by a giant consumer-products conglomerate, which was seeking to win a contract to replace the Motor City's police force, which was involved in a labor dispute with the city.  Robocop's activities were bound by three directives which he would mechanically repeat at public function:  Serve the public trust!  Protect the innocent!  Uphold the law!   Unbeknownst to most, including the conscious mind of Robocop himself, there was a fourth directive as well, and while the first three were arguably platitudes more than anything, the fourth was not:  do not arrest or harm any senior executive of Omni Consumer Products, the aforementioned corporation which was his creator. 

The movie was critically acclaimed (and a big box-office hit) and is highly recommended (its lame sequels are another matter).  However, the purpose of this post is not film criticism, but analogy.

Economic policymakers around the world, both in the US and (more recently) in the Eurozone, have various policy directives which guide their activities.  The Fed explicitly has a dual mandate to fight both unemployment and inflation, policymakers elsewhere are similarly charged.  Yet in many cases, including the current handling of the European debt crisis, policymakers at institutions such as the Fed and the ECB act as though they are guided by a "fourth directive" as well; and that fourth directive seems to be something along the lines of the following:

Do not do anything which will significantly harm the interests of capital.  

The various policy arms of the US government went to heroic lengths to bail out the financial markets, but seems far less interested in bailing out distressed homeowners.  Whether or not this is because the banks are really "too big to fail" (meaning their demise would truly produce systemic collapse), or simply too politically powerful to be allowed to fail, is an open question--but after programs such as TARP were enacted, it seems offensive to hear politicians tut-tutting about moral hazard when the subject is people losing their homes to foreclosure.

A similar scenario is now playing out in Europe, where the ECB seems intent in ensuring that the financial markets in the wealthy northern countries get their pounds of flesh, via imposition of stark austerity programs on the poorer southern Eurozone countries, programs which will likely result in a severe recession (on top of the current one), and may lead to the breakup of the Euro itself.  Granted, some of the debtor countries arguably went beyond their means and over-leveraged themselves to the point that an economic downturn left them unable to pay off their debts (Spain, Italy), and at least one debtor country could be fairly described as a deadbeat republic (that would be you, Greece).  The sanest course of action for European policymakers--insisting that the (mainly German) banks which made the bad loans in the first place take a haircut, combined with an injection of capital into the markets to protect depositors and refloat the Mediterranean economies, however, is simply not under consideration. 

Interestingly enough, the Fed last week announced a program to lend dollars at low rates to the ECB, in an attempt to stabilize European financial markets, a maneuver which prompts three questions:  1) The ECB is a sovereign currency issuer; why does it need to borrow money to fund its market operations, particularly when the bulk of the debt in question is denominated in Euros and not dollars?  2) Why is the US government being so activist in bailing out foreign financial markets?  3) And, particularly, if the answer to question #2 is "to prevent/limit recession", which is itself not unreasonable, then why is there so much reluctance to similarly intervene in the domestic economy, particularly on behalf of beleaguered consumers and underwater homeowners?

A likely answer to these three questions can be found within the fourth directive.