Data courtesy a reader.
Wrote this around 2008 to explain the financial crisis and the implications for US China relations.
Hope you see some relevance to current chaos, or at the very least understand the cynical humor.
Fannie Freddie and the Chinese: The IOU Laws
Hu’s your daddy now
or is it Yu is the Patsy
Those statements are going to make sense once you read this email. This is an attempt to explain what happening in world of high finance and world politics right now. This is Long, and you are ADD jump to the end and read the Law and the consequences.
There has been a lot of brouhaha on the Freddie and Fannie and their preferred shares.
As usual thats smoke and mirrors.
The bigger problem are Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) issued by Fannie and Freddie and the Chinese who own a large chunk of them
For the uninitiated:
Somebody got a loan for a house. They promised to pay that back and make monthly interest payments well.The bank took that IOU note (and a lot of others) and sold it to Freddie and Fannie. Fannie and Freddie in turn collected all those IOU’s and bundled them into a Big Ole IOU. Then gave it a fancy name called Mortgage Backed Security (MBS) and that Big Ole IOU was now an Asset. If one wants to know more about MBS, and Ubernerd called Tanta has written more than you ever want to know at a place called Calculated Risk. For our purposes all you need to know is that MBS is name for big IOU which is made up of little IOU’s
See, now when I was growing up, an Asset was something you could wrap your hands around. Or you get someone else to wrap their hands around it. First a story
Right out of school, I started working in a audit firm as an articled clerk. It was a job a that paid a very much less than indentured servant (125 Rs, USD 12 per month !) and tasks not much better. One of the first on site audits I did was for Mercantile Investments, who financed cars on Hire Purchase. This type of business is called, Leasing these days; same stuff different name. So as I am checking receipts/invoices and I come across this whole pile that just says Payment to xxx. And its a lot of money (remember I was getting only 125 Rs) 3,000 Rs each month. This definitely warranted an investigation, so I asked Philip who headed the audit and was never around what I should do. Phillip (Babapulles) say “Send the guy a post card (this was before cellphone days) and ask him what it is all about”. Couple of days later, the receptionist tells me some one has come over to answer the audit questions. Now I had heard of the de Goon family of Sri Lanka but had never met one. The gentleman seated at the reception didnt need an introduction. This was an honest to God, de Goon. I didnt need no introduction to recognize a member of the de Goon family. The instinct self preservation kicked in, I apologetically said all I needed to verify if Company had actually paid de Goon. See, I had the best interests of Mr. de Goon in mind. End of conversation. Note to self: No more postcards to Mr Gune de Goon in Goontown. (Gune means good in Sinhalese).
So you ask what the hell has my job got to do with MBS and Fannie and Freddie. Please bear with me: there was a moral to that story. Continue reading “Fannie Freddie and the Chinese: The IOU Laws”
The British Age of Enlightenment prized itself on scientific rationality, including with it strict taxonomies of racial and sex categorisation – i.e. your biology meant you were strictly male or female, and there was a rigid hierarchy of race superiority (with whites at the top). And so, Britain’s cannibalisation of the rest of the globe simultaneously erased rich non-Western trans histories.
Take, for instance, the transgender Hijra people of India, who, prior to British imperial rule, were exalted in their communities, tasked with important legal duties like collecting taxes and duties; in 1864, Britain imported its 1533 Buggery Act, which directly criminalised Hijra people and reduced them to second-class citizens. It was only in 2019 that this colonial law was rescinded. This obliteration of well-established transgender communities was replicated across the Global North; European colonists, when invading the Americas, pointed to the transgender Two-Spirit traditions of its indigenous people as proof of their primitivism.
It seems clear that the British introduced a rationalization. But this strikes me like saying the “British invented caste.”
This isn’t about Indians at all. Indians are seen as instruments in culture-wars.
Razib Khan talks to Kushal Mehra
Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.
I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.
This episode features Omar, Mukunda, and Akshar talking to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a defense and policy analyst, about his evolution of political thought with highlights on his former communist affinity, evolving feelings on Modi, and passion for Indian nationalism. We also get into the continued inefficiencies of India and how it has been so detrimental to its development, plus possible reforms to remedy it. The wide-ranging conversation also includes insights into Abhijit’s time in jail, Kashmir, and “Frugal Indian” cooking tips!
Edward Said’s Orientalism was a work of scholarship. I think it was a very mixed work of scholarship (better as a critique than a plausible interpretation of the facts, in keeping with the author’s expertise as a literary scholar rather than a historian). But it was one of the later 20th century works which ruminated on the impact and power of the colonial experience.
Its influence has echoed down through the past two generations, and not to good effect. One could actually understand the argument of Orientalism. The argument of much of mass-level postcolonialism is inchoate, while its academic variety is insular and unintelligible.
Consider this piece from The Juggernaut, Keeping Up with Cultural Appropriation:
What qualifies as cultural appropriation is complicated — some advocate for cultural sharing, while others call it cultural theft. Cultural appropriation is “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission,” according to Susan Scafidi, the founder of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, in her book Who Owns Culture: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law. This “taking” can occur in a variety of ways, from creative collaborations to cringe-inducing Halloween costumes.
Taking cultural elements without permission from a less predominant culture in a specific context is at the heart of appropriation. “It involves a culture with relatively more economic, social, or political power taking from a culture with less power, and so it involves an unequal relation,” explained Rina Arya, professor of visual culture and theory at the University of Huddersfield.
First, as an empirical matter, the individuals of a “less predominant culture” who object to cultural appropriation are invariably privileged, deracinated, and Diasporan or Diasporic in their cultural influence. People who reside in Japan, for example, have no problem with white people wearing kimonos. Instead, it is Asian American activists. Therefore, you have the farce a few years ago of an Indian American woman explaining to a Japanese art curator why white people in kimonos is “problematic.”
There are two points of this post:
– Is there anything of value in 2020 in the way postcolonialist academia views the world? I’d stay no. What’s the “postcolonial” angle on Chinese aggression Ladakh? Yes, the British borders matter, but note that the Manchus invaded Nepal without the influence of white people. Academic postcolonialism is sterile, offers no novel insights, and frankly centers white people and Europeans to a degree that is idolatrous.
– Second, mass-postcolonialism with its concepts such as “cultural appropriation” is not fertile toward cultural creativity. Rather, it promotes a vague and unclear essentialist idea of cultures, societies, and presumes a lack of dynamism and a static element of power relations. The Romans conquered Greece, but in their turn, they were conquered by Greek culture. One could say they “appropriated” Greek culture, but the synthetic glories of Greco-Roman art and thought would not be possible without the “appropriation.”
Contrast the above piece with another one from The Juggernaut, “Not Indian Enough”. Yes, it trades in some signaling to woke shibboleth, but it explores an interesting topic that is genuinely novel and not simply a rearrangement of cognitive furniture.
When the ancient Cro-Magnon crossed paths with the Neanderthal in prehistoric Europe, a conflict was born. Slowly but surely, the invading Cro-Magnons subdued and supplanted the native Neanderthals into oblivion. The only Neanderthal traces left were fossils and tiny genetic snippets in the Sapiens code. But why did these Cro-Magnons so rapidly succeed the Neanderthals?
In his book Sapiens, Harari posits that it was the ability of ancient humans to create myths that led to triumph over their Neanderthal cousins. Whether it was concepts of religion, trade, country, etc…, the Cro-Magnon coalitions weren’t just strengthened by shared genetic codes but shared mythic creeds. Innovation and legends built from this cognitive revolution gave early humans the tools to not only conquer other species but also each other.
Old myths were now carving new realities.
This blood of fratricide would continue across the ages to the tip of Spartan spears clashing against Athenian shields. In this land of early contacts, people who shared even greater similarities than the Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals were still locked in an eternal war over the myths of alliances and city states. Another incarnation would appear in the same land as Greeks and Anatolian “Turks” (who may have shared more DNA with an Athenian than a Central Asian) would come to gunpowder blows with a backdrop of whether Jesus or Muhammed was the supreme prophet.
Of course, one could say these conflicts were all over resources; but myths provided the fuel to the fire. The fictions of community, ideology, and religion were integral to these conflicts; and the legends of their conflicts were peppered with these myths, not over who controlled a salt mine.
History is filled with centralized powers and rulers having a vice grip over their societies’ myths. Nonetheless, massive calamities or upheavals would cause realities to shatter mythologies (much like the coronavirus today). The spread of the internet and social media have upended traditional formulas, and now myths are increasingly divided and divisive.
I came across an extremely interesting yet at times very hypocritical podcast – the Rabbit Hole. It is produced by the New York Times and delves into the story of a young man named Caleb and his radicalization by way of…YouTube. On the way it pairs a fairly centrist Joe Rogan with famous racists such as Stephan Molyneaux and Milo Yiannopolous, designates deviation from mainstream thought as a mental disturbance, and labels dissent against mainstream media as surefire pathway to bigotry.
It is slickly produced, gorgeous in audio, and loudly ironic – as it sounds like a parody of propaganda itself.
Let’s not forget the highlight reel of the New York Times’ myths this year includes lamenting that not enough Indians have died due to coronavirus, labeling the Chinese travel ban as racist, and canceling #MeToo because Joe Biden.
These are the myths that an esteemed and storied American institution propagates. It doesn’t take a mythologist or scientist to tell you that something is off.
Media, academia, corporations, and governments themselves are seeing their stories thrown into bonfires like an Evangelical reaction to Harry Potter books. The sacred myths of the past such as the accessibility of the American Dream, the “natural fit” of the European Union, the hyper-competence of the CCP, India’s minority favoritism in guise of “secularism,” and so many more myths of the elites are being capsized. Populist surges have been inflamed by mismatching of reality and myth, and alternative voices have been given suffrage by the internet.
The Rabbit Hole feels like a reaction. A major institution trying to silence alternative thought (much of which I strongly disagree with myself) as it feels threatened, using every aesthetic and influential trick in its repertoire. It’s a very entertaining yet at times jarring piece of content. It’s so fascinating seeing a media giant so brazenly and fearfully enforce its myth.
Māyā, the Illusion
The Hindu concept of Māyā is multifaceted; but for our purpose today, let’s pin it down to the idea that our world is an elaborate illusion, fueled by attachment, arrogance, and deception. The illusion is tailored. For one, it may be their emotional faults; for another, it’s their addiction; for someone else, it’s their position of power, etc…
Each person has their own māyā. Their own reality. Their own myth.
Institutions have for too long utilized prestige to create precedent. They have gotten used to their word being a given, rather than something that is taken. Now with the coronavirus baring the top-down māyā of the elites and institutions, a bottom-up backlash ensues.
A whole array of new myths and challenges to the status quo are arising. Many of my group chat debates with friends end up being us posting different articles that say wildly opposite conclusions with Herculean confidence – a testament to how we now have a myriad of myths to choose from yet increasing difficulty in discerning our reality. News is no longer news. News is narrative.
Truth is more subjective than ever.
The Vedas have described reality as “neti neti” – not this, not that. This comfort with ambiguity is something that is sorely missed in today’s world. The sages who composed the Vedas found ease in ambiguity and accepted the limits of truth. From their verses, flowed the founding myths of the Indian subcontinent; and subsequent philosophers and truth-seekers created their own spin on those myths. Debate, diversity, and a mutual respect became integral to the Indic ethos, something you would never assume today watching the screaming cobblestone screens of Indian news.
Now is a time to embrace ambiguity. Absolute truths are being overturned by the coronavirus and the cascading economic downturn. From the Federal Reserve’s infinite monetary sprint careening past notions of debt to the WHO’s blatant capitulation to the Dragon, old conventions are imploding to open a path for new strategies, new myths.
This piece is more of a collection of thoughts than a focused message. A quiver of arrows rather than a spear. I want you to leave with questions.
Why should I listen to the media and institutions that have been so consistently wrong? That have a permanent sneer towards me? That seek to sear any speck of debate into ashes?
The war over myths is the story of human progress. Our myths chart the trail of our future. Belief has proven self-fulfilling on an individual as well as societal level. We must make sure that our beliefs are not defined by consistently wrong and Puritanical elites and institutions.
Our myths should come from experience and inquiry. It’s time for conversion. It’s time for reincarnation. It’s time to choose our own mythology.
This is a repost from The Emissary. Please visit the blog for more content and thanks to Brown Pundits!
On the TV show Parks & Recreation Aziz Asnari’s character, Darwish Ghani, changes his name to Tom Haverford. The joke is that as a brown-skinned man he can change his name all he wants, but he’ll always be Darwish Ghani to the fair citizens of Indiana.
I thought of this while after I listened to Mindy Kaling on Fresh Air talking about her new show, Never Have I Ever, and a scene where aunties are ostracizing a woman who had married a Muslim. Kaling mentions offhand that the “racism” against Muslims is something that she remembers from her childhood. She uses the word racism, rather than prejudice, because for the predominantly white liberal/progressive listeners of NPR Muslims are a “race” after a fashion.
But if Darwish Ghani changed his name to Vikram Chokalingam, he would be able to “pass.”
Kaling’s peculiar interpolation of the Western view of Islam, as a “nonwhite religion,” has resonances in the Indian subcontinent with some Hindu nationalists, who view Muslims as an alien race, the scions of foreigners, and some Muslims, who proclaim their Arab, Iranian or Turkic antecedents. All the while, genetics and the plain evidence of our faces makes it clear we are basically all the same “race” (i.e., Punjabi Hindus and Punjabi Muslims aren’t really different except a tiny bit on the margins*).
* Muslims are more likely to have a bit of ‘exotic’ ancestry.