the fab four

Is Occupy Wall Street an authentic movement or just a fad? Or, is the “real” just a metaphor for mass-produced and generic with an expiry date? Can an authentic movement lose its eternal qualities and become a fad? It is a trick question. To ask if OWS is a passing whimsey is to simply affirm it as such; another passing commodity in a chain of consumerism this one promising the utopian eternal quality. The movement has been maligned and maimed considerably by the center-right media as a pitch for status based consumerism based on criteria for the authentic; an attempt to posit dissent in the same basket of sentimental kitsch ladled out Oprah style as some teary pathos, tear wringing tale of from the bottom of the bleeding hearts before they move on to the Christmas shopping season. Yet, these are exactly the “values” the movement is opposed to; a way to deflect the post-modern virus where liberal democracy and consumerism dissolve any solidarity in its path, and if alienation doesn’t force you to prostitute your integrity then a good ole’ fashioned cop beating, head softening exercise is not out of the question.

nicholas poussin. ----Arcadia is a utopian world of bliss reminiscent to the golden ages of Islam, Hinduism the Kingdom of heaven of Christianity 'and the Elysian Fields in Greek mythology, the resting place of virtuous and heroic souls Read More:

Even the label of “authentic” is insulting. It connotes exclusion and the whole hierarchy of positional consumerism and the basis of comparative judgements at the heart of market based economic systems and what actually serves to support the entire concept of inequality on its many levels. Because, if the movement is authentic, it has to be opposed to something less authentic. Are greedy bankers less real. Are imbecile celebrities slumming in the park less authentic?  Authentic means its an open target to be de-legitimized, to become saturated, obsolete and replaced by something new also with the cheap varnish of the eternal quality. Millionaire pundit and flavor of the month Michael Lewis said of Occupy Wall Street that “it has legs” as if its a broad based market rally with enticing fundamentals; low lying fruit for the short sellers.

Authenticity implies contrast; which means commodity. Is  an authentic protester any different than an authentic chainsaw used by loggers on the B.C. coast? The 1% want to frame the issues collectively as a desire for status, a positional good that will accrue value from invidious comparison to say, the Tea Party or other groupings that will not effectively engage the system in a fundamental dialogue.

---Interest in all things Arcadian has faded in and out of vogue for centuries. The present fascination has been fuelled by a legend of heretical secrets concealed by learned priests in the South of France – otherwise known as the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. Nicolas Poussin’s painting The Shepherds of Arcadia (see above) links the Rennes-le-Château mystery with Arcadia. Analyzing the painting is a passion of enthusiasts who believe it depicts a landscape in France – near Rennes-le-Château, rather than Greece. I wondered if Arcadia was actually located in Arcadia, as the paintings suggest. After all – is that not what Occam’s Razor would say?--- Read More:

You can only be authentic if others are not. So, there becomes a race for status in change, revolution, evolution etc. to the point where it becomes ridiculous and loses credibility; as if everyone wanted to overthrow the system it would become meaningless.Like Ten year olds talking revolution in the school yard.

…The 99% sale. Like a dollar store revolution. Its a misnomer. Its not true in a plausible concrete sense. Reality is, and Chomsky has also remarked on this, is that there are 20% of the electorate to whom it is crucial to indoctrinate. Its the old marketing principal of 80/20: 20% have 80% of the wealth, more or less. The mass that runs and protects the system. A deep-pocketed version of drug mules and lackeys, Amos n’ Andy’s in black face dancing for the masters.This includes the police and you have an effective authoritative structure sure in their “authentic values” aligned against the rest.

---Around 1520 in Venice, Bellini and Titian painted the Feast of the Gods, a bacchanal inspired by the writings of Ovid. Both technically and stylistically, it would have been impossible and unthinkable a century before. Among the ruling families of these city-states there was unceasing conflict and intense rivalry—either by open warfare or, in times of peace, through economic and artistic competition to achieve the most brilliant court. It was this rivalry that drove Alfonso d'Este to commission the Feast of the Gods for his palace in Ferrara, some 100 miles southwest of Venice.--- Read More:

…Is there going to be life after capitalism? Will there be a  need for a political system at all?  Most of the problems in capitalist societies are directly connected to the economic system, and its behavioral manifestations in hierarchy and invidious comparison. Hence, its way too simplistic to assert  that once that sweeping out capitalists will be a panacea, since the orgy of public lynching will still leave divided class interests, and perhaps a greater need for parties and politics. Class is only one among may sources of antagonistic interests. No capitalism but raging and intense battles over racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual considerations. Certainly, any struggle to defeat capitalism will  be anti-racist, and so on, but the residue of past problems “kicking the can down the road” will remain unresolved. So, there will be still be many issues to divide people in a good society. Intentions do not guarantee success. By a long-shot.

Thomas Cole. The Course of Empire. Desolation. 1836. Stiglitz:On one level, today’s protesters are asking for little: a chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society. Their hope is evolutionary, not revolutionary. But, on another level, they are asking for a great deal: a democracy where people, not dollars, matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do. The two are related: As we have seen, unfettered markets lead to economic and political crises. Markets work the way they should only when they operate within a framework of appropriate government regulations, and that framework can be erected only in a democracy that reflects the general interest—not the interests of the 1 percent. The best government that money can buy is no longer good enough. Read More:




Brendan Coffey: There may be 147 companies in the world that own everything, as colleague Bruce Upbin points out and they are dominated by investment companies as Eric Savitz rightly points out. But it’s not you and I who really control those companies, even though much of our money is in them. Given the nature of how money is invested, there are four companies in the shadows that really control those companies that own everything. …

Thomas Cole. The Course of Empire. Krugman:In a way Occupy Wall Street — and all of those who are sympathetic to its concerns — should be grateful. There were, let’s face it, arguments in favor of an eviction carried out with full transparency and a proper regard for civil rights — although there were also arguments, stronger in my view, for allowing this peaceful, meaningful protest to continue. By acting so badly, Bloomberg has made it easy to see who won’t be truthful and can’t handle open discourse. He’s also saved OWS from what was probably its greatest problem, the prospect that it would just fade away as time went on and the days grew colder. Read More:

…But then consider this: the chief of hedge funds at a very large asset manager told me last week (alas, I cannot identify either) that an internal study his firm recently performed found that the vast majority of mutual funds defined as actively managed see 95% of the assets they hold determined by an index.That means just 5% of actively managed funds really are driven by the active manager’s judgment.

This less-than-active management is for two reasons: one is to maintain the fund in a style box (i.e. large value stock, medium value stocks) and comply with the reality all mutual funds are required to have a benchmark index they compare their relative performance to. The other reason is to adhere to risk metrics to which most of the fund industry is beholden. This second point is partly due to Modern Portfolio Theory  and to the human nature that active managers tend to build portfolios close to the indexes they benchmark against to avoid really awful downward relative performance years that ends up costing them their jobs.So of the $25.69 trillion in worldwide assets we’ve identified, $2.23 trillion are directly in indexes (ETFs and index mutual funds) with another $22.3 trillion indirectly beholden to indexes (that 95% of actively managed fund holdings said to be determined by an index).

You can see where I’m headed here. That means the real power to control the world lies with four companies: McGraw-Hill, which owns Standard & Poor’s, Northwestern Mutual, which owns Russell Investments, the index arm of which runs the benchmark Russell 1,000 and Russell 3,000, CME Group which owns 90% of Dow Jones Indexes, and Barclay’s, which took over Lehman Brothers and its Lehman Aggregate Bond Index, the dominant world bond fund index. Together, these four firms dominate the world of indexing. And in turn, that means they hold real sway over the world’s money.

While that may seem benign – they are indexers after all you may say – a financial index isn’t cut and dried like the index of a book. It’s a misperception indexers merely do some simple math like identifying the 500 largest US companies and voila! you have the S&P 500. Every indexer has a fudge factor that allows them to say one company is more “economically significant” for the index at hand than another company. To again take the S&P 500 as an example, the 502-largest company by market cap could get the nod over number 500 by size if S&P decides it wants to.

The power is even more obvious in bonds. The now-Barclays Aggregate Bond Index attempts to mirror volume of bond issuance in a region or the world, but it can’t include even a sizable percentage of all the bonds issued. Essentially, there’s a big judgment call in there in what bonds it adds to its index. A judgment that influences bond fund flows worldwide.

What does all this mean? Researchers at a desk in midtown Manhattan are the butterflies that cause the hurricanes in the markets. For instance, 37% of all index funds in stocks are in a S&P 500 index fund. That’s $370 billion directly buying and selling stocks based on when the S&P analysts decide to drop ITT from the S&P500 and replace it with just one of three ITT spin-off, Xylem, as announced on Monday. Then add on top of that all of the so-called active mutual funds aiming to beat the S&P 500 (but still reflect 95% of the S&P in their funds) who react to the change and then all of the hedge funds who trade ahead of time trying to guess what S&P may drop or add.

… And the folks at McGraw-HIll don’t seem to spook people the way George Soros manages to. But when you discuss power in the world markets, the answer isn’t what you think it is.Read More:
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