Friday, April 18, 2008

The Lords of Hedgistan

The top 50 hedge fund managers in 2007 made a combined personal income of $29 billion and now plan to incorporate themselves as a country. They are looking at Antarctica, which is getting balmier all the time. Despite record high crude oil prices ($115/bbl) that may restrict consumption and cause fewer greenhouse gases, they are nevertheless going ahead with plans to eventually grow cotton in the vast lands of the South Pole. Apparently, the Founding Lords of Hedgistan - for that is to be the name of their new nation - are betting heavily that burning coal will more than compensate.

Antarctica will be obtained from its current owners/claimants in exchange for immunity from speculative attacks on their currencies and domestic financial markets. America's McMurdo Station is widely expected to be renamed the Dead Buck Station as a warning to other countries that may resist surrender.

The new nation will have a tiny population (50 plus household members and serfs), but based on the earnings of its residents its GDP will exceed that of 100 out of 180 countries tracked by the IMF. Next on the list is Kenya (pop. 32 million, 2007 GDP $29.3 billion). One of the Lords suggested its outright purchase, but he was voted down. "Why waste equity when we have leverage?" was the sensible objection from the other 49.

The fifty Founders are to award themselves hereditary titles of aristocracy proclaiming their exalted station. Heraldic work is already under way for Order of Quantum, Lord of The Citadel, Harbinger of Perpetual Good News and Rex of Renaissance. The new nation's highest recognition for financial bravery has already been established, and is called Pour Les Cochons Volants. The medal of solid gold depicts two winged piglets encircled in a wreath of cocktail sausages.

And since (exploding) penguins come from the Antarctic...

I bid you all a fine weekend with the above Monty Python skit. The penguin bit comes near the end.


  1. Mike Whitney was using Hedgistan a while back but he stopped.

    W/respect to oil prices, Mother Jones devoted almost the entire May/June issue to peak energy and climate change. MJ also feels that it's not certain that there is enough energy left to power the shift to alternative sources. Not as gloomy as Matt Savinar but along the same train of thought.

  2. Forgot to mention; w/respect to the serfs, Thom Hartman wrote a very prescient article early 2003 (forget where I saw it) "The Real War-On American Democracy". It predicted that all the efforts of the Bush regime & foreign allies would be toward re-establishing defacto fuedalism updated for modern times.

    Sorry Thai, I don't mean to bait you (I don't know how to whisper). Pretend you didn't read this post.

  3. He he he... have a great weekend yoyomo! :-)

    I have never read any Savinar, would you suggest any links?

  4. Yoyomo: "It predicted that all the efforts of the Bush regime & foreign allies would be toward re-establishing defacto fuedalism updated for modern times."

    Ya gotta give it to the Cheney administration--they hide right in plain view--if you chose to be blind that's your problem. When the reality of insolvency hits the serf (by the way H I find this very offensive) sector of the population the boyz will be holding hands with their true brothers--Arab royalty, corporate "leaders" and financial wizzars in a Scamastan somewhere.

    "America doesn't torture." but this gang certainly does.

    The Shrub may be hedging his bets with a big land purchase in Paraguay though, guess he doesn't like those cold winters. Hear they got a lotta brush to cut down there, year round too.

  5. Matt Savinar's website:

    Enjoy, if you don't get depressed first.

  6. Marcus,

    a popular quote making the rounds on the doomer sites:

    Gold is for optimists, I'm diversifing into canned goods and ammo

    Scarily, it might come to that for those of us 'left behind' in a secular version of a Tim LaHaye novel with TPTP raptured to their walled estates in remote locations accessible only by helicopter.

  7. The hedge fund manager, who earned most, was Paulson. He clearly saw the mortgage bluff and bet against it. Second in place was James Simmons, an extraordinary physicist and mathematicians who could not take 'efficient market' crap from the economists any more and started Renaissance in 1982 to show that the markets are anything but efficient. Third in place was Soros.

    Point I am trying to make here is these people were brilliant and earned every penny by working hard and standing apart from the rest of the crowd.

    Hell, do you think they should be your best targets? Without people like Paulson (the hedge fund manager), we would still be hearing that NAR story that nobody could have anticipated this crisis before.

  8. I apologize for not sticking to the party line in the previous post.

  9. Greenie,

    I don't know about Paulson & Simmons but Soros seems to have a strong sense of social responsibility (even if not everyone may agree with his policy positions) and without it vast wealth can be dangerous.

    It's not about class envy but more a fear that the rich may use their wealth in a pernicious manner to exploit average folks. There are too many examples to argue that it doesn't happen.

  10. yoyomo, I have an honest question (not baiting-just trying to undertand your views and why we differ).

    While I completely understand/legitimize your fear of what a wealthy individual might do with their money, what I do not understand is why you feel handing the money to elected government representatives to 'redistribute' to other people with less wealth will create a system that is ANY different?

    In what exploitative ways would a weathly indvidual spend his/her money that a government would not?

    As I look at your concern, from my frame of reference, it is that same old addage: 'who do you trust'?

  11. A bit off topic, but the dollar goes far in these countries. Just looked at CNN "7 holiday spots where dolar still strong".....Argentina, Bali, Costa Rica, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, and Vietnam. Is there a common denominator in all of these? Sarcastically asking, why don't I see, Britain, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Germany, etc. as places to visit? I guess the US is now more in the company of the former than the latter.

    Brant, Atlanta, GA

  12. Sure, but his (Hell) real targets should be the people like Mozillo, who stole a cool billion by selling his stocks options before CFC sank, all the executives of Citi, Merrill and the other Paulson, our treasury secretary and ex-CEO of GS when the trouble happened, and are still retaining their bonus money.

    Just ranting against wealthy hedge fund managers is probably not the appropriate way. Those people are as brilliant as Hell in seeing mortgage crisis before it all happened.

  13. This is how Simmons spends his money:
    From Wikipedia -

    "The wealth that Simons has amassed funds his many philanthropic pursuits. Simons is a benefactor for the mathematical sciences, supporting research projects, chairs, and conferences in the United States and abroad.

    Simons and his second wife, Marilyn Hawrys Simons, co-founded the Simons Foundation, a charitable organization which supports projects related to education and health, in addition to scientific research. In memory of his son Paul, he established Avalon Park, a 130-acre (0.53 km²) nature preserve in Stony Brook. 34-year-old Paul was killed by a car in 1996 while riding a bicycle near their home. 23-year-old son Nick drowned in 2003 while on a trip to Bali in Indonesia.[14] Nick had worked in Nepal and the Simons have become large donors to Nepalese healthcare through the Nick Simons Institute.[15][16] Jim Simons also founded Math for America.

    In early 2006, he led a group of directors of Renaissance Technologies Corporation and of Brookhaven Science Associates in donating $13 million to fund a budget shortfall of the Brookhaven National Laboratory that would have shut down the operations of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider for 2006.

    Also in 2006 Simons donated $25 million to Stony Brook University through the Stony Brook Foundation.[17][18] The gift is intended to benefit the Mathematics and Physics departments at the university.

    On February 27, 2008, Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced a $60 million donation by the Simons Foundation to found the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook, the largest gift to a public university in New York state history.[19]

    [edit] Autism research

    The family's charitable foundation has committed $38 million to find the causes related to autism in recent years, and plans to spend another $100 million in what is becoming the largest private investment in the field of autism research, while Simons personally exerts extraordinary control over where and how his money is spent. Simons has provided DNA from his family for study (his daughter is autistic), and has given assistance in helping solve research problems. When MIT asked for brain research funding, he stipulated that the project focus on autism and include scientists of his choosing.

    On June 11, 2003, the Simons Foundation hosted its first "Panel on Autism Research" in New York City, a day-long event highlighting research into the causes of autism, the accurate genomic mapping of autism, and in the study of the biochemical mechanisms that occur in people with autism. Attendees included David Amaral, Dr. Eric Courchesne, Dr. Nathaniel Heinz, Tom Insel, MD, Catherine Lord, PhD, Dr. Fred Volkmar and Dr. Paul Greengard. The Simons Foundation recently gave $10 million to two researchers at the Yale University Child Study Center to study genetic influences on autism."

  14. Harbinger of Perpetual Good News- SNORT!

    "They stamp them when they're small"- SNORT!

    Hell, like Monty Python you mix the clever with the absurd to amuse us. And we're grateful :)

    Exploitation thread-

    It seems various theorists have tried to explain the "us vs. them, good vs. evil, how do you define kin, who do you trust" thing without success. I really think Marx meant well with his rich vs. worker theory, but as greenie lengthily pointed out rich doesn't equal cruel. We need to come up with some content-of-character-o-meter to judge people by because every o-meter we've tried so far doesn't work. How many times has the underdog (especially Marx's beloved worker) overcome his exploiter just to become an exploiter himself?

    Also, in previous day's comments it seems populist feathers may have been ruffled when discussing evolution because "winner" was used instead of "survivor". Perhaps "winner" brings up images of hyper-aggressives attacking the nice. I think its more like nature attacking both of them. The nice likely have even had better rates of survival.

  15. Thai:

    "While I completely understand/legitimize your fear of what a wealthy individual might do with their money, what I do not understand is why you feel handing the money to elected government representatives to 'redistribute' to other people with less wealth will create a system that is ANY different?"

    Who trusts politicians or rich people? Look at what the Bush family did with wealth: the S&L Scam and Junior? I don't think anyone needs to see the list of shame compiled by the "Torture President."

    Redistribution? Yes, tweak the system to sustain a healthy middle class that can afford education, health care, a reasonable amount of leisure time and security in old age--is this too communist?

    Its one thing to have a poor, unarmed indigenous people under your heel, ala Central America, its another to have poor, relatively sophisticated, armed and pissed-off "serfs" as your fellow citizens--reference Iraq. If this is the future Americans want, keep on electing greedy corporate toadies. Calling this present regime fascist is too good a term.

  16. After Kaiser Wilhelm had succeeded in bringing down the Imperial system in Europe by spending all their money on arms races and wars, he spent his retirement cutting down all the trees on his estate in Holland, much to the annoyance of his neighbors.
    There's a lot worse things Junior could do than cut brush down in Crawford.

  17. Well said Dink.

    To add to Greenie's post, and a point I made several days ago (that risk is infinitely scalable) not only does Simmon seem like a nice guy, I am not so sure having 2 children die and a third with autism is my definition of 'lucky'. Poor man, my heart goes out for him.

    Marcus- My point is if the wealthy give their money thru taxes to the middle class, it cycles right back to them anyway as the middle class spend the money they were given. The result is the system looks exactly the same as it did before the money was redistributed, even thought it was in fact redistributed... remember everything in the economy is interrelated to everything else.

    The reason the middle class in America are having trouble with things like healthcare and education is not because the rich are wealthy and 'stealing' healthcare or 'stealing' education from the middle class(America spends 15% of its GDP on healthcare, more than any other nation on the planet).

    The reason the middle class are 'seeing' less and less healthcare is because the money America does spends is being spent on fewer and fewer people (and those people are only sometimes wealthy).

    The problem is a classic fractal. 1% of patients spend 25% of all healthcare dollars and 5% spend 50% and 20% spend >80%.
    Here is all the US health spending data you could ever want.

    Do the math youself...

    If 100 middle class citizens spend $100 on health care, 95 of those 'middle class' citizens only get to see back at most 52 cents for each dollar they put into the system. But the reality is far worse as 80 people split less than .25 cents on each dollar spent, etc...

    Public education spending also follows 'fractal-like' patterns (I think they are actually hysteresis curves). Add as much money as you want into the system, only a minority of the money spent actually goes to 'average' or middle class children.

    The reality is that those who draw the most from the system are the reason the system is going bankrupt. It is not going bankrupt from those who pay the most into it.

    The only solution is rationing-period.

    The reason nationalized medicine works is because people 'trust' governments to ration more than they trust 'For-profit' business to ration.

    As for 'leisure time'-- you hit the nail on the head but I think it is the other way around.

    When Chinese making 1/10th the salary of the average American save 40% of their earnings, it is not hard to see a potential problem for the middle class in this country.

    But this has nothing to do with the wealthy. Redistribution will not save America's middle class from competition, it never could (all political slogans to the contrary).

    America's middle class still need energy for everything they do and more and more, America's middle class must get their energy from world markets so the must compete with people like the Chinese.

    It was always about how much you are willing to subsidize, not how much the top students are earning.

    IMHO-- I am not sure America can afford all that much 'leisure time' right now.

  18. Thai, I was like you eight years back, when I read all those power law theories, fractals, etc.

    You need to do a bit more thinking about the social context and you may come out with a different perspective.

    Why does middle class get screwed over time? It is inflation, period. Inflation changes the Gini coefficient and distorts the fractals that you described without changing the fractal order.

    I think you understand some things well, but you do not understand the concept of money.

    Just my naive opinion without interacting with you personally.

  19. Greenie- can you explain a little more? I certaily agree inflation harms people-- whenever you turn something most people think of as a constant into a variable, someone is going to loose out... That is also an indightment of people using government to change the rules on other people all the time.

    yoyomo and marcus- I am not opposed to redistribution thru taxes in any way (as I told Okie I could easily live in a system where my taxes were 90%, I may not be getting my point across well).... I just don't think it really does anything to change the underlying architecture of a society.

    My view of taxes is that they can help social cooperation, and in this regard, they are a very good thing.

    The problem as marcus alleded to is-- 'people like their leisure time' (really a form of inefficiency) and it is really easy to hide lots of small distributed inefficiencies in a large system. Especially where the people controlling the money do not feel the need to worry that they are spending their own money (it is always easy to be generous with someone else's money).

    Further the progressive nature of taxation gives people the illusion of 'free money' since most people are not rich and therefore do not pay as high tax rates. This too encourages people to spend their 'free money' (just an artifact of the way people think about money).

  20. why you feel handing the money to elected government representatives to 'redistribute' to other people with less wealth will create a system that is ANY different?

    Ummmm... because the elected representatives are elected?

    Some people here do seem to be arguing for a return to kings, lords, and feudalism. In modern society, money is power, and as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Now it is true that some ultrawealthy citizens have established valuable legacies (even some of the most ruthless barons, such as Gates). Also governments are very inefficient, but when I see things like the following, it does not inspire confidence:

    When MIT asked for brain research funding, he stipulated that the project focus on autism and include scientists of his choosing.

  21. Thai,
    I agree with you that people are overly generous with other people's money and that is why I support strict conditions for revenue redistribution. People that need welfare assistance should not have kids while they are receiving assistance and they should be required to volunteer in neighborhood improvement programs a certain number of hours a week leaving them enough time to look for work.

    W/respect to health care, of course a small minority will receive most of the resources, it works that way for all insurance programs. Of the people who buy fire insurance on their homes only a tiny percentage will ever collect but if we had a single payer program then the govt would be incentivized to do alot of things it doesn't do now. For example, toxic pollutants increase the desease load on a population; if the govt had responsibility for health care spending it would behoove it to better monitor pollution levels in our food, water and air.

    I went through school without ever meeting any kids with asthma. Go to a classroom today and see how many of them are on asthma medication today. Same with peanut allergy, something must be causing these changes and they're happening too fast to ascribe to genetic variation. The govt would also have better incentive to include health education in the curriculum instead of biology for those who have no interest in pursuing medicine. With responsibility for the system as a whole it would be cost effective to establish a more robust monitoring mechanism to detect fraud and waste. No system will be foolproof but it should be a higher priority.

    The two biggest hurdles to better governance are the SuprCourt's positions that corporations have the same constitutional rights as humans and that money is speech and so no restrictions can be placed on it in political campaigns. Some form of public finance is probably the best hope for breaking the power of money interests and their lobbyists. I've seen it mentioned in many articles that Arizona has had success with it so far.

  22. Thai,
    To focus specifically on govt vs the rich; unless a govt official is engaged in criminal conduct he isn't supposed to be receiving personal gain from the performance of his official duties and the threat of criminal prosecution can deter that sort of behavior. Unfortunately the media has been allowed to consolidate and so the function of watchdog has almost totally disappeared.

    With the rich it is the exact opposite, it is their right to extract as much profit as they can for themselves without regard to who they hurt. Classic example, pollution. It's cheaper to dump factory waste in to the river and unless the govt (us) stops them that's what they will do. Another more specific example: there's this drug (I can't remember the name) that farmers use to kill intestinal parasites in sheep and it used to cost $14 a bottle. It was then discovered that this drug is helpful in treating cancer (of the colon, I think) and lo and behold the price went up to $1,400 for the same amount of medicine relabeled for human consumption. A govt bureaucrat would have nothing to gain from such a price hike.

    Greenie gave a good example of the TanMan selling a billion$ of stock that he had to know was going to tank but proving malfeasence in the private sector is alot harder. Would Henry Blodget have been convicted of defrauding investors if he hadn't been arrogant enough to brag about it on company e-mail.

    I trust neither the rich nor the govt because they have power concentrated in their hands but in a functioning democracy I fear govt less. Now if you want to tell me that we no longer have a functioning democracy, lamentably I bow my head in acknowledgement.

  23. yoyomo-- I thought you might find this interesting

  24. Thai,
    I'll start at the beginning:

    A) howls of anguish over 75% marginal rates

    the poor object to being taxed excessively; the rich object to being taxed at all (not my quote, sorry I can't remember the author)

    B) tony blair

    1)the scumbag is a congenital liar who claimed Iraq had poison-tipped missiles aimed at uk capable of being launched in 15min
    2)raising incomes at the bottom without reducing them at the top can only result in inflation which forces the middle class to subsidize the poor instead of the rich

    C) 1 pound 1 vote

    the rich have co-opted both parties and the poor have no one to look to, if tax revenues are assumed to benefit only the well connected then even the poor will be against raising taxes. if the question were turned around and instead asked poor people if they supported more comprehensive programs for the disadvantaged you would have gotten a different answer (a truism in the polling industry is that asking the "right" question will overwhelmingly get you the "right" answer)

    D) Grover-gate

    people like grover norquist, newt gingrich and their fellow travelers have spent the last 25 years dismantling and sabotaging govt bureaucracy so that the level of service has gotten so bad no one trusts it any more

    E) WillieHorton-gate

    poor whites have been convinced that blacks, mexicans, pakistanis(in uk) are stealing their tax money so better to eliminate all assistance lest some undeseving darkie get his grubby hands on their hard earned pittance

    F) the lottery

    i've previously expressed to you my conviction that the main reason for legalizing the lottery was to dupe the poor they have a shot at becoming millionaires and so they worry that their once-in-a-lifetime chance of getting rich will be taxed away and forget about their more immediate circumstances

    G) sheeple

    "Against School" by John Taylor Gatto in the Sept2003 issue of Harper's (pp33-38) I don't know if it's available online but it outlines an effort started in the 1890's to use behavioral science to redesign public education to mold students into docile, easily manipulated units of labor, you take a strong interest in psychology so it might be worth a trip down to the local library.

    If people don't learn to think critically for themselves then it's easy to feed them any load of bull that the PTB find convenient, I started of with blairwitch and Iraq and I'll finish there. How could a country that was totally helpless to defend itself against 13years of uninterupted US bombing all of a sudden pose a mortal threat to the mainland especially when there were several hundred UN inspectors crawling all over the country with totally unrestricted access? They were on the evening news every single night for several months before the war disputing all the US claims as being unsubstantiated but somehow Cheney's secret sources had 70% of the population convinced.

    Nelson Mandela was wrong, the US doesn't have a president that doesn't know how to think properly; it has a population that doesn't know how to think properly. Bushler is alot craftier than most people give him credit for, he knew how Americans (don't) think and he knew how to push all the right buttons to get exactly what he and his cronies wanted.

  25. Thai,
    Pray tell exactly what made you LOL, some specifics would be appreciated.

  26. Yoyomo said... "Nelson Mandela was wrong, the US doesn't have a president that doesn't know how to think properly; it has a population that doesn't know how to think properly"

    I laughed quite hard when I read this

    FWIW, I don't quite agree with Mandela's implication: that others are MORE enlightened than we are-- I don't literally buy Bill Maher's "I'm Swiss" ... but the routine does make me laugh.


  27. Thai,
    People are people anywhere but the difference is that in the US people are encouraged to maintain their ignorance more so than in other rich developed countries. You would think that you were talking to people with no access to TV, radio or newspapers when it comes to many "boring" but ultimately important issues. This flexible ignorance is very convenient for TPTB when they want to push an agenda.

    When the PanAm flight went down over Lockerbie I lost track of how many times they shifted the blame back and forth between Syria, Lybia, Iran and the PLO depending on who was the villian of the week at the time. The media would have never dared jerk the audience around like that if they thought they were paying attention and without media complicity the govt wouldn't even attempt such transparent disinformation campaigns.

    I hope you you get a chance to look at the Harper's article because I'm convinced that the sorry state of education is not an accident anymore than Paul Bremmer dismissing the Iragi army and police with no replacement to take over their duties. These "wrong" decisions aren't mistakes or incompetence, they serve not-so-well-hidden interests. A population that is indoctrinated to disdain knowledge is an empty vessel into which the appropriate information can be implanted.

    BTW Mandela was referring to bush, not the American people. I'm the one dismayed by what the majority can be suckered into believing.