Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Black Wednesday

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

It seems a little ironic that the laws allowing the government to indefinitely detain human beings drew less protest than SOPA has. Then again, the line has to be drawn somewhere. As I wrote a few years back in my essay on the Future of War, the national security state is keenly aware that domination of the web is critical. Indeed, this past July, the Defense Department declared that the Internet to be an “operational domain of war”, and what’s going on right now is war by another name. For now, I think (and hope) that the wave of protests that constitute Black Wednesday will stem the encroachment; then again, if they can’t shut down your website, they can always arrest you and throw away the key.

Keep in mind, too, that this is merely the first round. The bills and executive orders that will be the successors of SOPA will be framed and justified by a national security imperative: i.e., telling the American public they need to give away their freedoms because companies need to make more money (e.g., SOPA) is one thing, but telling them they need to give it up for security…. hell, that works every time. Especially if the inevitable cyber-terrorist attacks that will be used to justify it came in the midst of food riots, looting, and economic chaos… shit, you won’t even notice that your screens have gone dark then.

Norwescon Schedule

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I’m heading to lovely Seattle in a few hours for Norwescon; here’s my schedule of panels:

Friday, 1 p.m. Tomorrow’s World: What amazing advances in technology are about to change the way we live?

Friday, 4 p.m. Energy Weapons: A Reality Check.

Friday, 10:30 pm. Reading. (Incidentally, this’ll be the very first reading ever from the third book!)

Saturday 2 p.m.  The Clarion Writers’ Workshop:  What’s It All About?

Saturday 10:30 p.m. Can We Change the World Through Science Fiction?

Hope to see you there!

Doin’ Dune

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Some of you live in a permanent state of it.  Some of you don’t know what the fuss is all about.  images1

I get it every few years.

It’s called Dune Fever.

And I go fucking crazy.

So crazy I start to think the series actually lives up to its promise in the later books.

Actually, my view of the Dune franchise falls somewhere in between (a) those people on the one hand who think the first book ruled and the rest was just a giant drone-on, and (b) those people on the other hand who will buy and read anything as long as it has a sandworm and at least half of Frank Herbert’s name on it.  Specifically, I think DUNE MESSIAH is every bit as good as DUNE —  I could talk all day about how it’s, frankly, the best sequel ever written.

But then cometh the Fall.


Where Herbert’s editors gave up.  And I’m tempted to as well.

But I stumble on, like the dying Planetologist Kynes staggering through the desert . .  I reach GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE, and it all comes back to me in one awesome rush that lasts until . . . oh, about the hundred page mark of HERETICS OF DUNE.  Which I finally finished three years back, in the midst of a business trip abroad where I literally had no other reading and no other excuses.

Now I’ve bought CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE and will be reading it on the plane to Norwescon this weekend.  Stay tuned.

(And no, I don’t think I’m ready to deal with the Anderson/Herbert collaboration yet.  For now, I refer you to my esteemed colleague David Louis Edelman, who’s said it all better than I could.)

That D-word

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I contributed a piece to Suvudu yesterday on dystopias and “positive” science fiction and why the latter is one of the most dangerous things ever invented. Other than Pez Dispensers. Anyway, check it out.

And why not buy BURNING SKIES while you’re at it.

Taibbi tells it like it is

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Matt Taibbi has published another of his great pieces in Rolling Stone; this one putting the AIG bailout in its proper context. Money excerpts:

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers. . . .

In essence, Paulson used the bailout to transform the government into a giant bureaucracy of entitled assholedom, one that would socialize “toxic” risks but keep both the profits and the management of the bailed-out firms in private hands. Moreover, this whole process would be done in secret, away from the prying eyes of NASCAR dads, broke-ass liberals who read translations of French novels, subprime mortgage holders and other such financial losers. . .

As to how last fall’s money was allocated:  “Another member of Congress, who asked not to be named, offers his own theory about the TARP process. “I think basically if you knew Hank Paulson, you got the money,” he says.

Taibbi concludes:

How much of what kinds of crap is actually on our balance sheet, and what did we pay for it? When exactly will the rent come due, when will the money run out? Does anyone know what the hell is going on? And on the linear spectrum of capitalism to socialism, where exactly are we now? Is there a dictionary word that even describes what we are now? It would be funny, if it weren’t such a nightmare.

I like his suggestion that the traditional left-right way of describing political views is rapidly becoming obsolete.  Yet the games continue as though it was  still politics-as-usual.  It isn’t. Not anymore.

My novel The Mirrored Heavens is now available in mass-market paperback.

The paradox of certainty

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

As the stock market returns of the last decade crumble into dust, and it becomes clear that the “growth” this country was experiencing was essentially a giant real estate Ponzi scheme, there was an interesting article in the FT re how the future gets ever more difficult to discern:

How do you frame a view of the long run from early 2009? The world has a ruptured financial system. . . The economic recession now encompasses the whole world. The speed of economic decline is without precedent. Government intervention is also without precedent, in its magnitude, depth, and complexity. Fiscal deficits are reaching numbers no one dreamed about even 12 months ago, yet they will have to be financed.

Juxtapose this with a Washington Post Outlook article by Joel Lovell:

It’s weird and disconcerting that after all that has happened there are still so many experts out there willing to dispense wisdom with utter assuredness, day after day, despite having been so spectacularly wrong in the past…..The more terrifying and destabilizing the news, the more the financial-news sages seem to commit themselves to dispensing advice with unblinking certitude.

It’s fascinating to reflect on how much of the political discourse right now presupposes a “rulebook” that—if it only it be interpreted correctly—will provide an infallible guide telling us What To Do, when the truth of the matter is that We Really Don’t Know For Sure.  I suspect this is what Obama meant when (if?) he told Biden that “30 percent of what we do won’t work.” Though if it’s only 30 percent that doesn’t work, then we can count ourselves as fortunate indeed.

My novel The Mirrored Heavens is now available in mass-market at Amazon.

Economy, meet wall

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

With another 800 billion tossed into the mix, the bailout(s) is reaching mindboggling proportions, and those in charge of it are pretty much making up the rules as they go, hoping to somehow borrow their way out of this mess. This latest move is aimed at consumer lending; it’s unclear to me how that’s really going to help, given that more consumer borrowing is precisely what we don’t need—and cash-strapped citizens are unlikely to step up and do their patriotic duty by continuing to Shop/Spend anyway. Meanwhile, the first, Wall Street-focused bailout (back when 700 billion seemed like a lot) trundles along pretty much immune to oversight.  My predictions are as follows:

—Paulson’s friends are going to get even richer than they already are

—The giant sucking sound you’re about to hear will be the U.S. dollar once it turns out there are way too many of them

—We may have bought our way out of the last downturn (2001), but we’ll eventually realize that our efforts to do the same for this one have only stirred the shit up to unholy proportions

—Paulson may not realize he’s being set up as Number One Scapegoat, but a lot of us will laugh when it happens.

—Can’t we start spending money on shit that will actually be useful when all this fucking money’s worthless?

—Aren’t you glad that Bush 43 failed to privatize social security?

Privatized gains; socialized losses

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

“It strikes me as unbelievably generous.” —former (unnamed) Fed official on the Citigroup bailout, cited in WP this morning.

The auto bailout

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Letting the Big Three go bankrupt would crater what’s left of the economy and reduce the midwest to a sea of rusted iron. Allowing them to continue to make cars is insane. Injunctions to retool the whole output to making green cars are going to lead to an awful lot of eco-friendly hybrids sitting around looking idle. No one’s got the money to buy anything anymore.

Except, of course, the government.  So . . just as the automakers retooled during wartime to produce tanks and munitions, now they should be retooled to produce Shit We Actually Need, like high-speed rail infrastructure, shitloads of windmills, clean mass transit, etc.  I’d also like to see Rick Wagoner run over by an SUV on pay-per-view TV, but you and I both know he’ll get a big bonus to fuck off instead. As long as he keeps the hell away from Detroit, that’s okay with me.

End of an era

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The failure of the bailout bill has set off all the usual recriminations, though as of this writing the market is regaining some of the ground it lost yesterday. The bill that went down to defeat yesterday was certainly rife with problems: as economist Nouriel Roubini (one of the few who saw the financial tsunami coming) points out, it lacked numerous safeguards and put far more of the public’s money at risk than is prudent. Nonetheless it seems virtually certain that some kind of bill will pass shortly.

But the underlying damage has already been done. Future historians are likely to mark 2000 as the apogee of the American Empire; the decline since then has been as swift as it was unnecessary.  Wed to their belief in American exceptionalism, the country’s leaders ran up huge debts to support wars that (as enemies like Bin Laden anticipated) undermined the state’s finances.  And the people showed even greater myopia, spending like there was no tomorrow even as they lapsed into endless blue state/red state culture strife.  The world economy has depended for way too long on the ability of the U.S. consumer to place him/herself in ever greater debt.  We’ve now reached the limits of that ability, and we’ve got a long way to fall.  We may or may not be heading for a second great depression, but we are certainly heading for a multipolar world (at first financially, but ultimately politically).  And the transition to it will be anything but pretty.