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Explaining the world financial meltdown : a novel approach

by eurogreen Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 05:48:13 AM EST

I'm sure we all have moments of despair when we listen to broadcast news, or read mainstream newspapers, explaining sententiously how financially ill-disciplined countries must pay for their prodigal ways, and how we must sacrifice more virgins to appease the angry gods of the Market.

A recurring theme at the European Tribune is how we can help to break through this "pensée unique", the "There Is No Alternative" syndrome, and implant alternative explanations in public consciousness. In order to, one supposes, mobilise civil society to pressure the Wise Heads who govern us into stopping the madness.

Jake's Financial Meltdown card game is a fabulous idea, but with, I would expect, a rather limited audience. ET itself as a think-tank / pressure group / e-zine is an ongoing subject...

But, personally, on a good day I am barely able to understand the economic discussions here, let alone usefully contribute. What could I do to help progress public awareness?

The other day, an idea for a novel popped into my head. (I have had a couple of tries, but never finished one yet. Perhaps this will be the one.) The germ of the idea is shamelessly derivative of a certain ongoing news phenomenon, as you will see.

My future novel goes something like this : one member of a small clique of progressive thinkers becomes depositary of a document dump from a whistleblower. This person, an insider in international finance, has accumulated damning documentation of financial skulduggery, involving

[INSERT HERE : laundry list of everything that's wrong with the international financial system].

frontpaged - Nomad


The group decides to publish. They are founding members of an international lefto-ecolo-libertarian collective blog, but this is not their chosen medium. They decide to build a viral organisation from scratch for the purpose. They need to cover their tracks, and they need a front man.

The novel mostly covers the adventures of their chosen front-man, through stages of organization building, publication, instant celebrity. There are various attacks on the organization (denial of service, financial, guns and explosives) from parties implicated in the exposed scandal. The front man has to go underground, has narrow escapes, changes countries etc.

The whole thing is written in an urbane, light-hearted, hopefully witty style, to match the front man, who's definitely a lightweight with respect to economics. He's fine as long as he sticks to the script, but it gets amusingly out of hand when he improvises. There is plenty of sex, including both bad behaviour from the anti-hero, and a honey trap.

I've got a handle on the story, the principal characters, and how it plays out. What I have no clue about, is the content of the scandal itself.

So here's a mission, or food for thought in festive post-prandial torpor (if food does not preclude thought in this context?), for the economically-sophisticated among us.

What to put in the laundry list?

Stuff that, in the cold light of day, would cast a very unfavourable light on important institutions. Perhaps triggering a run on certain currencies, or pushing a nation to the brink of insolvency. Stuff that illustrates how dysfunctional the international financial system is, who benefits from it, and suggests paths for improving outcomes. Stuff that would push the implicated actors to attempt suppression, censorship, and murder.

Obviously, one has to be cautious about naming names in fiction. So the people or organisations have to be mostly ficticious. I guess you can get away with the Fed, or Vladimir Putin, or the Zetas militia.

What do you reckon? Salient phenomena that will ring bells for the reader, combined with more subterranean stuff that can be set out didactically... It will all have to hang together in the end, but a disjointed list is an acceptable starting point. All contributions gratefully accepted!

(I brace myself for several weeks of silence...)

Display:
What to put in the laundry list?

1.) You could do worse than to buy a copy of Yves Smith's Econned. [That is on my to do list. :-) ] That will give you a good guide to how all of this came about. A review here.

2.) Read her site, naked capitalism, and especially anything to do with securitization of mortgages and that whole fiasco.

3.) Read Wm. K. Black's posts, starting with this. Black was involved in the investigations and prosecutions surrounding the Savings and Loan scandal of the '80s.

I'll post more links later.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 24th, 2010 at 06:27:21 PM EST
Check out the Wall Street Chop Shop article on Cryptogon, unde "how toxic is your mortgage?"

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 24th, 2010 at 07:33:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the products that the financial ratings service sells is credit evaluation software, very expensive, very accurate, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Although purchased and used, it was widely ignored because it predicted what happened, which would have limited profit if heeded. Good point to insert it early, and build suspense as some minor character gets all hand-wavey about ignoring it.

Also mention that the software used by the quants had nowhere to enter negative value for house price movement.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 05:02:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 1 of 15)

I have read much of this story by former Columbia Journalism Review writer Mark Mitchell.  It presents an interesting story of Mafia money being laundered through Mafia related financial companies specializing in naked short selling, (selling stocks one does not own -- illegal but not enforced by the SEC), to derail companies with good treatments because they specialize in "pump and dump" schemes in bio-tech and if genuine effective treatments came along they would spoil part of their game. The Gambino and Bonano families are specifically mentioned.

Bernie Madoff was much more than a Ponzi scheme operator, according to Mark Mitchell. He was also heavily mob involved and involved in coordinated short selling, using some of his "investors" cash as needed! There is a whole network of such people tied back to "philanthropist"  Michael Milken, the former Drexel, Burnham, Lambert "Junk Bond King" who is apparently still pulling strings. Turns out Milken's foundation might be tax exempt but is definitely not so charitable.

Mitchell breaks the story into chapters that were published as they were researched and written. In each chapter he recapitulates the findings of relevant former chapters, especially repeating the names and deeds of those involved. That tends to drill their names and deeds into your memory but some might find it annoying.

Change a few names and you have lots of plot elements and some pretty fascinating stuff. Everyone likes mob related stories. They are just normal business on steroids with a few added features, especially in the area of collections and damage control.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 24th, 2010 at 08:51:59 PM EST
Also check out the results of this search for "expert networks" on Zero Hedge. Tyler has had more than a few choice words for this industry, which is now drawing some legal scrutiny. Expert networks = organized insider information for traders?

I got a link to Mark Mitchell's Deep Capture blog from a comment on Zero Hedge.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 24th, 2010 at 09:10:39 PM EST
Why don't you go the whole hog (it is fiction, after all), and get to the real plan in which Wall St (controlling politicians) teams up with the Pentagon and the armaments industry to wage war against any country that has useful resources to maintain the elite lifestyle. Domestic security forces are well paid to subdue the starving poor in concentration camps. And so on...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 01:07:39 PM EST
Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. They claim that culture is created by the collective national society and its state, that cultural ideas are what give individuals identity, and thus they reject individualism. Viewing the nation as an integrated collective community, they see pluralism as a dysfunctional aspect of society, and justify a totalitarian state as a means to represent the nation in its entirety.


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 01:11:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why people think Islam/Umma is fascist.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 05:06:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but it all depends on how you define "islam". Personally I see no inherent contradiction between islam and humanism, except insofar as no religion is compatible with humanism.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 07:38:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First or second sequel stuff.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 02:43:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When the finance crises struck (as had been predicted for years, what can't go on won't go on...) there was somewhat of a general belief that the governments involved would take insolvent banks into receivership. Banks don't go into bankruptcy because banks are fundamental to a modern system, however the government can take them when they would go bankrupt, keep it running, protect deposits of the savers and keep the business loans and mortgages etc running. This means wiping out the stockholders and firing top management. It also means that government gets the books and can check if there is prosecution to be made. This happened for example in the banking crises in Finland, Sweden and Norway in the 1990ies.

Since the fundament upon which the banks roaring profits rested - housing bobbles and casino bets on housing bobbles - had turned out to be exactly as vacuous as the critics had predicted for years, it quickly became obvious that the banks were insolvent - ready for receivership. However banks has as a rule not been taken into receivership, instead government has pumped money into the banks under the pretence that the banks are solvent but not just liquid - ie they have no money to lend out. This is ridiculous since banks create money by lending, and thansk to wikileaks we now also know that it was always a bare-faced lie.

Cable Viewer

1. (C/NF) Since last summer, the nature of the crisis in financial markets has changed. The problem is now not liquidity in the system but rather a question of systemic solvency, Bank of England (BOE) Governor Mervyn King said at a lunch meeting with Treasury Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt and Ambassador Tuttle. King said there are two imperatives. First to find ways for banks to avoid the stigma of selling unwanted paper at distressed prices or going to a central bank for assistance. Second to ensure there's a coordinated effort to possibly recapitalize the global banking system. For the first imperative, King suggested developing a pooling and auction process to unblock the large volume of financial investments for which there is currently no market. For the second imperative, King suggested that the U.S., UK, Switzerland, and perhaps Japan might form a temporary new group to jointly develop an effort to bring together sources of capital to recapitalize all major banks. END SUMMARY Systemic Insolvency Is Now The Problem

So big banks colluded with government creating the ongoing financial crises we are seeing now, all in order to "avoid the stigma" of actually letting the shareholders and management of the big banks taking the loss after taking the profits.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 03:39:35 PM EST
King suggested developing a pooling and auction process to unblock the large volume of financial investments for which there is currently no market.
See Buiter and Sibert on VoxEU: The Central Bank as the Market Maker of last Resort: From lender of last resort to market maker of last resort (13 August 2007). Note the date. Leading economists were saying this within a month of the crisis starting, over 40 months ago. And King behaved like an incompetent fuckwit ideologue until at least January 2008. It took them ages to finally nationalise Northern Rock, with failed within two months of the start of the crisis.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 05:21:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And who is to believe that Mervyn King only recently figured out what he told the US representatives in the meeting described in the cable? I think "fuckwit ideologue" is a tad generous for King. Is there any reason to believe he did not know all that in October,'08?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 12:19:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose "the ideologues think we're fuckwits" might have been a better title, in hindsight.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:21:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is ideology really to blame?

Let's follow the money for a minute here... Months of hand-wringing before making inevitable, if painful, decisions have characterised the last couple of years, from Northern Rock to the Greek bailout, at least.

I've been assuming that this favours speculative investors, who do the naked short thing or the equivalent, insuring against a risk they are not taking, or even buying stock or bonds of the distressed entity, knowing that they are backstopped by the last-resort buyer/lender.

But that's too simple, and not scary enough. What if someone is leaning on the deciders, to push the decision horizon back? "Don't make a move until April, otherwise your wife, your children, your uncles, your nieces, all your mistresses past and present, will meet with nasty accidents..."

That, at least, would make the fictional equivalent of M.King a rational actor. Otherwise, I'd have to find some sort of plausible explanation of the deus ex machina that he was expecting to let him off the hook.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In your novel you need a dialogue in a smoke-filled back room where the criminals agree that they have to spin the policy to the public as "insolvent bank receivership is socialism" and also "contagion/domino effects" in case debts are written down as part of the process. How they come up with that spin should be a key event in the story line. "Let's not call it receivership, let's call it nationalization and let's claim that's socialism, everyone knows socialism is a term of abuse. Oh, and while we're at it let's call restructuring confiscation of creditors and warn about domino effects. Maybe this bank is not too big to fail, but the entire system is."

But notice that contagion wasn't really that much of a public concern until after Lehman Brothers. In the fist 14 months of the crisis it was all "government action is socialism".

By the way, Northern Rock failed when Mervyn Kind disallowed a "viability plan" involving a capital injection from JP Morgan. So, he knew NR was insolvent. However, when he denied the plan he did not immediately put NR into receivership or restructured it in a regulatory intervention, causing an actual bank run with queues on the streets for the first time in the UK in over a century. He just sat on his arse. However, even if NR had been put into receivership, the UK had deposit insurance for only the first £2000, and 95% of the rest up to £35k (surely the result of some sort of 'moral hazard' policy orthodoxy regarding saver discipline). So you might have had a run on NR even under a properly executed intervention.

The NR case led the British government to raise their deposit guarantee to make it 100% up to a limit more like the US FDIC $100k limit. But the EU-wide drive to raise and harmonise deposit insurance didn't take place until after Lehman Brothers.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:46:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not the speculators that have benefitted here, necessarily. In order of decreasing benefit from government hand-wringing, delays, inaction, and then bailouts, the winners here are:

  1. The management of the banks, who would normally be summarily dismissed without their golden parachutes and investigated for accounting fraud in the event of a regulatory intervention
  2. The shareholders, whose equity would be wiped out
  3. The junior bondholders, whose debts holdings would be converted into equity or wiped out entirely
  4. The owners of investment assets held by the bank in custody but which are not covered by deposit insurance
  5. The depositors with deposits above the legal deposit insurance limit.

Depending on the severity of the crisis, some or all bondholders might be wiped out. If the crisis is not very severe, with the bank falling short of regulatory capital requirements but still being solvent, then what happens is that shareholder equity gets diluted, not wiped out. If the crisis is very severe, even senior bondholders are wiped out, not even benefitting from a debt-equity swap.

Blaming speculators is facile. If doing it is the first impulse of governments and talking heads, then its probably not correct and your novel shouldn't do it.

Speculators are opportunistic and benefit from market volatility. They may cause a crisis, but they are not the ones to have benefitted from the incompetence or malice of the various authorities over the past 40 months.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:46:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You should move the shareholders to just above the insured depositors - most shareholders were wiped out, so they haven't really been protected much. It's management and junior bondholders that have been saved (including, and probably more importantly, the management of the junior bondholders).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:52:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, okay, the shareholders are the ones to lose first in our liquid, volatile markets. So they go to the bottom of my list.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:55:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Might I suggest that it is those who make the actual political donations that are the most protected, along with what ever is required for them to keep making those donations?

There was a famous meeting with US Senate and House Members, no staff, addressed by Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke. (Geithner was still Chairman of the NY Fed.) It was held in early October, 2008 and what Congress was told, in its specifics, has never been revealed. Good journalism would involve contacting senior staff and former Members to see if any will now reveal or have already revealed what was said. My guess at the time was that the scariest thing they could have said was "Do this or all your contributions from the financial sector will dry up immediately, the Dow  will drop to 2,500, the S&P 500 to below 400 and every pension fund in the land will be insolvent." Irrespective of the accuracy of those statements, the one thing certain would be the cessation of contributions with the election less than a month away.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 12:28:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd be most likely to get an answer from someone who's failed to get reelected and has retired from politics.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:35:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or their senior staff. We have three former Democratic House Members in Arkansas that in that category, but they are all about a three hour drive from me.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:54:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree... under the general principle that "shit happens", they are the shits.

However, for the storyline to contain lots of action and violence, I need actual villains. People who will try to physically suppress the whistleblowers.

Thinking on my feet here : the whole world comes down like a ton of bricks on our whistleblowing heroes. It looks like a co-ordinated attack : DDOS, domain name seizures, assets frozen, arrests, and at the same time, bombs and gunmen.

The bad guys (whoever they may be : Russian mafia, Mexican drug gangs, Gulf oil money, uS hedge funds...) have indeed made billions by speculating while the regulators dither.

But the punch line is : They think they are pulling the strings, by leaning on the regulators. But the  regulators are dithering through ideological paralysis : the world is not behaving according to their textbooks, and they have no answers.

Working on it. It's important to have the end sorted before starting to write, otherwise the thing will meander aimlessly.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 07:50:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The criminal and mafia angles would be easier with the North Atlantic Financial Meltdown than with the €-zone crisis, because in the NAFM, asset stripping banksters play a much more direct role.

In that plotline, the leaks would expose the insolvency of a major bank or two, and the management of that bank need to keep it under wraps for another two to three months, in order to cash out on their golden parachutes/bonuses/stock options before the whole thing goes tits-up. One of the banksters has a gambling problem, owes a lot of money to the mob, and convinces them that the only way they'll get their money is if the leakers Go Away.

In the €-crisis plotline, the armaments industry is pulling strings to get the Greek bail-in to include a large purchase of French guns and German trucks. A key executive in the French munitions firm has a cocaine problem, and sells insider information to the Cosa Nostra to fund his fix. When the leakers threaten to expose the information, the Cosa Nostra fear that their insider trading will turn sour and send in the goons to protect their investment.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 08:15:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The criminal and mafia angles would be easier with the North Atlantic Financial Meltdown than with the €-zone crisis, because in the NAFM, asset stripping banksters play a much more direct role.

The Wall Street Chop Shop angle already provides a convenient way to get the mafia involved with the banksters.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 08:29:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As does Mark Mitchell's reporting on naked shorting for fun and profit.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 12:31:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course threats of violence builds drama, but I think a more accurate account could be made on hints or offerings of advancement. Add if you like a churning disgust for the masses and an intense fear of falling down into the nameless crowd without any idea of how to manage. Witness the revolving doors of US government/Goldman Sachs (and probably many more, but Goldman Sachs is the most famous and therefore most written about).

Naked threats of violence is really only needed when things go outside the normal range (mobsters visiting your office). Normally the threats of getting the sharp end of the institutional ever-present violence (your boss visiting your office) is enough to keep everybody in line. Think about how the mobsters in, say Soprano, acts with each other. They do not need to tell each other that you might die from disobedience and neither would your boss, but if getting fired means loosing access to medical care, food or shelter, then it can be as deadly getting shot.

I would advice for psychological drama I guess :)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any mention of death threats, etc. would normally occur in the form of someone older and wiser explaining the facts of life to an ingenue. That explanation should include the importance of having your "Go Fuck Yourself Money" and hanging on to it.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and the core group includes at least one benevolent sponsor with "fuck you money" (as I remember the phrase, from Stevenson's Cryptonomicron). They spend a lot of time gently explaining terrible things to him. This is the plot device that allows The Message to be drilled into the reader, in short, amusingly anecdotal episodes.

But he doesn't really believe the danger until it happens.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 07:42:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That cable was from March 2008. That's around when when Bear Stearns was bought by JP Morgan for less than the value of its headquarters as real estate, with money provided by the US government in a non-recourse loan. At that time, Buiter and Sibert [link to VoxEU] were being commissioned a study of the viability of the Icelandic banking system
Early in 2008 we were asked by the Icelandic bank Landsbanki (now in receivership) to write a paper on the causes of the financial problems faced by Iceland and its banks, and on the available policy options for the banks and the Icelandic authorities.

We sent the paper to the bank towards the end of April 2008; it was titled: "The Icelandic banking crisis and what to do about it: the lender of last resort theory of optimal currency areas."

On July 11, 2008, we presented a slightly updated version of the paper in Reykjavik before an audience of economists from the central bank, the ministry of finance, the private sector and the academic community.
It is this version of the paper that is now being made available as CEPR Policy Insight No 26. In April and July 2008, our Icelandic interlocutors considered our paper to be too market-sensitive to be put in the public domain and we agreed to keep it confidential. Because the worst possible outcome has now materialised, both for the banks and for Iceland, there is no reason not to circulate the paper more widely, as some of its lessons have wider relevance.

The CEPR Policy Insight No. 26 is highly readable, too, and in the updated introduction it describes some incompetent actions by the icelandic government which eurogreen's novel could present as malicious. From the VowEU piece
During the final death throes of Iceland as an international banking nation, a number of policy mistakes were made by the Icelandic authorities, especially by the governor of the Central Bank of Iceland, David Oddsson. The decision of the government to take a 75 percent equity stake in Glitnir on September 29 risked turning a bank debt crisis into a sovereign debt crisis. Fortunately, Glitnir went into receivership before its shareholders had time to approve the government takeover. Then, on October 7, the Central Bank of Iceland announced a currency peg for the króna without having the reserves to support. It was one of the shortest-lived currency pegs in history. At the time of writing (28 October 2008) there is no functioning foreign exchange market for the Icelandic króna.

In addition, outrageous bullying behaviour by the UK authorities (who invoked the 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA, to justify the freezing of the UK assets of the of Landsbanki and Kaupthing) probably precipitated the collapse of Kaupthing - the last Icelandic bank still standing at the time. The official excuse of the British government for its thuggish behaviour was that the Icelandic authorities had informed it that they would not honour Iceland's deposit guarantees for the UK subsidiaries of its banks. Transcripts of the key conversation on the issue between British and Icelandic authorities suggest that, if the story of Pinocchio is anything to go by, a lot of people in HM Treasury today have noses that are rather longer than they used to be.

The main message of our paper is, however, that it was not the drama and mismanagement of the last three months that brought down Iceland's banks. Instead it was absolutely obvious, as soon as we began, during January 2008, to study Iceland's problems, that its banking model was not viable. The fundamental reason was that Iceland was the most extreme example in the world of a very small country, with its own currency, and with an internationally active and internationally exposed financial sector that is very large relative to its GDP and relative to its fiscal capacity.

David Oddson would make a convenient villain. Just search for his name in the blog Economic Disaster Area

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 06:10:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
David Oddson would make a convenient villain.

This is shaping up as a multi-thread novel, with bad actors in several sectors combining to create "the perfect storm". The storm happens because none of these actors can control enough of the action. Fer instance, take the 2008 oil bubble. The collapse of oil futures from $144/bl. down to >$50/bl. did a lot of damage to a lot of portfolios. And while it led to record profits for oil companies for Q2 08, the producers were likely not very happy. They would like to have steady, high prices, just below the level that would produce economic decline in major markets. This allows them to invest in extraction of oil that can be produced at that price.

Part of what happened was that investment firms specializing in commodities started pumping investors to "invest in something real" -- oil. I saw a bunch of these ads in spring '08, but expected a crash. This sucked in large institutional players. CALPERS, the California public employees retirement fund, appears to have thought it could get in and get out in a timely fashion. Didn't seem to happen. I am quite certain that many of their advisers personally profited in some way from front running these investments both into and out of oil futures. Sometimes that profit may have come from their participation in "expert networks" such as Zero Hedge has written about.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 12:52:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trying to do a multiple-thread novel is dangerous, because if it isn't pulled off quite right it's just plain confusing.

Besides, I don't really see much crossover effect here. What we essentially have here is a handful of different crises, with different origins, different histories and different solutions.

  • We have an Anglo-American crisis caused by thirty years of Thatcherite post-industrialism.

  • We have a Danish and an Irish crisis, both caused by corrupt governments and regulators scratching their asses during the bubble years.

  • We have the Icelandic, Croatian and Hungarian crises, caused by the respective financial regulators and central banks scratching their asses while the private banks in their jurisdiction ran a carry trade against the £ and €.

  • And then we have the German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Greek and Baltic crises, caused by Germany and France laundering industrial subsidies through Portugal, Spain, Greece and the Baltic states.

While there are common elements (neoliberal quackonomics played a central role in all of them, albeit in slightly different guises), there is no deep causal or systemic between them. You do not have to understand the complete picture in order to understand each of them individually, the way you'd have to if they were causally connected.

Yes, they're all breaking in the couple of years after New York broke Capitalism. While that is not a coincidence, neither is it an indication that they are more than superficially connected. It is simply the case that the collapse in New York generated a big enough shockwave to pop several different bubbles in rapid succession. The shock could equally well have originated in the collapse of the £ or the € carry trade, and been distributed to New York through Deutche Bank and the City of London, rather than the other way around.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 02:03:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Robert Altman could do it...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:34:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think capturing just one of these threads in a way that is both instructive and entertaining (thus fulfilling both its purpose as educational material and as a good novel) is adequately challenging in and of itself. I prefer the €-zone angle, because it seems to me to be the least well understood among the punditocracy (everybody who hasn't been spending a lot of time on the dark side of the Moon lately knows that Wall Street are up to no good, and the carry trade and Ponzi scams aren't that complicated).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:13:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason I prefer the € angle is that it is a little ahead of the curve. Politically it would be the most useful if it had a wide readership, because it would raise uncomfortable questions at a time when the Euro core is trying to entrench neocolonial disaster capitalism in the EU treaties. There will be a treaty to ratify soon...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 06:35:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is because I feel personally concerned, and care passionately about the outcomes.

I'm aware of the danger of letting this get in the way of a good story however...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 02:12:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Multithreading is tough to do in a novel, but it works fantastically on a small screen.

And while all the crises have essentially different (or at least distinct) origins/trajectories, I would imagine there is a dramatically satisfying degree of overlap among the beneficiaries of these crises.

Sven, don't you have experience writing TV treatments?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 10:10:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do, though not so much for fiction. But we have others here who are versed in the black arts.

imho there are always at least 3 audiences for outlines and treatments (or the pitches for them): your creative partners, your investors and/or funders, and the film the audience needs/wants to see. Thus they tend to be different arguments to fit the desires of each audience, or at least have different emphases.

The last audience, the end user, has never had much of a say in the process before (except test screenings). This is changing. The making of 'Iron Sky' now, is a strange mixture of the first and last audiences. But in general the vicarious interests of the Hollywood audience coincides with the investor audience.

So the question is, who is the treatment aimed at? And if it is aimed at the 'real' audience, the end user, are there better methods for creating a novel/movie?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 12:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dunno. Whom do you need to convince to get a multi-part TV production off the ground?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 04:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it can be a single thread novel which is a composite of actual events and actual people.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:37:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it unfolds over so many areas that a two or three thread approach might help. I am thinking of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle which was published in three large volumes - Quicksilver, The Confusion and The System Of The World or as many as nine? smaller novels. Each of the three initial threads was a couple of hundred pages long, but each was compelling by itself. In the second volume they started to come together.

In whole it illuminated the entire age from about 1645 to 1730 or so moving from the North American colonies to Restoration England, France under Louis XIV, India, Japan, and Mexico to dynastic politics in England and on the continent from Bohemia to London to the Siege of Vienna to the Harem of the Ottoman Emperor and dealt deftly with such matters as the discovery and refining of Phosphorous, Mining technology, the development and impact of the stock market in Holland, the development of Whig and Tory political parties around coffee houses, piracy, mercenaries, on and on.

Historical figures such as Charles II, James II, Louis XIV, William of Orange, his wife Mary, Queen Anne John Churchill, or Marlborough, appeared and all major actions seemed consistent with the historical record. It was quite an accomplishment, but Stephenson had written a couple of well received novels previously.

The real challenge will be coming up with a first section that is compelling and publishable on its own.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Novels are Teh Hard. Stephenson already had a very solid track record before the Baroque Cycle went anywhere near an agent or publisher, which is the only reason it was published.

Realistically, the chances of getting something published without melodrama, rape, or torture (all of which are in the Baroque Cycle - although they're not the main event) are close to zero.

You'd need a no-nonsense kick-ass world class prose style to sell a novel like this. The idea on its own is going to turn off most potential publishers ("You mean - it's about money? No magic? No vampires? No violence?") and even then it would be tough sell.

Non-fiction would be easier, but there have been a few of those already.

Novels only really sell now if they're simple-minded escapism, or if they're very literary and self-consciously about sex, death, guilt and so on.

ET-style nuts and bolts will do nothing for most publishers.

If I were tackling this I'd make it about the reminiscences of a bankster who sees the light when he has some first hand experiences of the effects of his decisions on real people. Then all the of the financial and political detail becomes colour, but the story is essentially character and relationship-driven.

Include some forced prostitution and child slave labour and you're good to go. (Cynical, but true.)

You'll be praised for gritty verisimilitude, which is always a good thing to see in book reviews.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 06:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did hear that it is now considered impossible to sell any detective novel if there isn't a dead woman inside the first four paragraphs.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 08:10:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Community, Politics & Progress.
we must sacrifice more virgins to appease the angry gods of the Market

That sounds like a plot.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 06:27:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we could have the teen-age beautiful daughter of one of the financial folks being threatened or kidnapped by the mob. She could either be ransomed or escape and develop into a major figure while trying to sleuth out what happened to her and why. An early and hard introduction to the dark side of high finance.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 02:16:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Were she the daughter of a German banker working in New York or Boston that would tie the two continents together.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 02:18:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having Deutche Bank involved is quite sufficient to tie the two main events together. Deutche was, according to the press reports, quite heavily involved in the subprime garbage.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 04:37:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With hooks such as that there is a lot of flexibility for future developments in many directions or threads while leaving the first work perfectly stand alone. It would be very difficult to get all that we would like to convey across in one ~200 page popular novel.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 04:50:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're incredibly dirty. But I doubt Legal will permit the use of real names in a fictional production.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 04:38:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First Bank of Germany? (Everybody knows foreigners talk English anyway.)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 08:49:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably, though IANAL.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 09:24:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It could be described as "a large German bank with significant operations in NYC and a subsidiary in Boston, or change Boston to Philadelphia or Chicago. Or call it Germania Bank.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:32:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our hero wakes up to find an unknown dead prostitute sharing the bed. And we are off.

Remember that every time the pace slacks, let two men with guns burst into the room.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:54:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our hero wakes up to find an unknown dead prostitute a torn condom sharing the bed.

Remember that every time the pace slacks, let two men with guns a murderous SWAT team controlled by Dick Cheney burst into the room.

See editorial suggestions.

(It's 2011 - I don't think two men with guns cut it any more. Not 1930 any more, yano?)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 03:23:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are we to teach not only the details of banking, trade balances and the ECB, but also about European Arrest Warrants and the enchanced cooperation of judiciaries?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 03:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They will all flow logically.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 05:58:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our hero is arrested and held without bail in Poland for an unpaid parking ticket in Italy.

Awaiting extraditionrendition.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 07:48:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And while there has the laws explained in relevant detail.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 10:27:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and will not attempt anything so encyclopaedic or ambitious...

just a little blockbuster. The common characteristic of the "bestsellers" I have read is that they are poorly written. Writing in a voluntarily simple style is one thing; not knowing how to write at all is another (and seems to be no obstacle!)

Giving the public what sells is not a problem, I quite like writing about sex and violence.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 02:22:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The common characteristic of the "bestsellers" I have read is that they are poorly written.

true, but the narrative has to be gripping enough to provide escape from present reality.

the 'what' sells the book, the 'how' is just aesthetic snobbery. lit-crit has the big O when the two combine.

people read Ludlum etc, because the narrative moves reflect modern times, jerky, disjointed, lacking in descriptive depth, believable characters or stylistic pretensions to elegance.

it just tells a tale, leaving the readers' imagination to fill the gaps. stark minimalism, terse paragraphs, ultra short chapters, stock Central Casting cutouts, shrewd, judicious tapping into mass fear/desire archetypes.... this is what best sellers from nukapocalypse/junkaggeddon/bodiceripper/truelove/psyops/ genres do.

there's a lean, spacious (as in lots of white page) conformity, that prods nerve endings then retreats to let us do the rest with our own fear/fantasy emotional databanks.

trying to read trollope in modern time, when brain activity has sped up immeasurably, is like driving a ferrari in first gear.

plot is everything. gordon gecko was a character we could love to hate, we need villains we can agree on, and they need to be realistic enough to be negatively iconic.

we need melodrama...   discussions between lloyd blankfein and michael hudson, henry paulson and william black, without lots of exploding matter and hoary amounts of gore will be just another wonkumentary.

maybe michael moore is working on something similar already!

something tying in eco-disaster porn like that biggie with manhattan underwater to the wall st brigades' friendly fires might work.

once we paint the villains, we can get to the stubbly taciturn white knight, or a lovable crew of wikigeek boy bands with keyboards and mice, or maybe yer lone warrior tatted girl misfit nikitarella, oh and scandinavia is kewl right now, finland could be a good locus for some of the action, lotsa skin, booze'n'hot guys in saunas?

;)

2c from ze peanut gallery!  

 

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 04:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
once we paint the villains, we can get to the stubbly taciturn white knight, or a lovable crew of wikigeek boy bands with keyboards and mice, or maybe yer lone warrior tatted girl misfit nikitarella, oh and scandinavia is kewl right now, finland could be a good locus for some of the action, lotsa skin, booze'n'hot guys in saunas?

All of the above!

A couple of years ago, with some friends, we started writing a vampire/scifi spoof novel on line. Within a few weeks I was the only one writing, and I took it a long way before running out of steam. But I may try to recoup some of the characters and situations. Dangerous, hip and sexy.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 08:47:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
eurogreen:
Dangerous, hip and sexy.

that's what you need as punchy 3 word review (on cover!).

now for the novel again... go any large airport, invest in $100 worth of bestsellers of the above genre, take a plane somewhere quiet, and set up your distillery, extract essence for a fortnight, then bring to a potboil.

if you want anyone to proofread, use me.

(i can do caps, when i'm not relaxing online ;))

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 10:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo - please come to Finland so I can disabuse you of your mythical notions of Finnish sexiness ;-)

And there's nothing here to interest Wall St - all we have is plain vanilla retail banking. The only person approaching financial ogre status is Nalle Wahlroos, chair of the Sampo Bank Group. And he still fills his little Buster aluminium hull runabout at the same island pump as we do.

But there are some interesting villains in St P. I wrote a script that included a fictitious version of the biker gang Night Wolves (who used Orthodox imagery). I had them on white-painted and gold-trimmed bikes, in white and gold leather kit. On their backs a black circle like an 8-ball with the horizontal 8 replaced by infinity.

BTW Russian billiard balls are quite a bit bigger (68 mm) and heavier than W*stern balls. And the pockets are much tighter.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 09:45:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is 68 the average russian ball size?

that girl who played the antiheroine in 'dragon tattoo', i might not have found her a massive turn on, but times have changed...

i didn't expect the villains from f-land, more the geeky saviour(ine).

saunas show up the tats better, with the drips and sweat sheen a feature.

but that's too derivative... new twist needed.

i like a double identity plot, where our hero(ine) worms into the system and captures the keycode by pretending to be 'one of them'.

make sure the vatican gets in there...

a blogger who works in the heart of darkness by day and blogs about it at night.

hard to outpace reality, since 9-11. no reason not to try, nothing better than a good yarn, especially if it helps you learn about unfamiliar terrain.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 11:26:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
68 is the tournament size.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 03:17:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for the network-building phase, sort of a safe place as the tension rises. But there is that Russian border... I imagine it's pretty permeable? e.g. someone could be disappeared in Finland and wake up in a basement in St P?

I like the Orthodox bikers. Snami Bog.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 11:51:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The roads are controlled (but the bad guys can of course bribe the border guards), also there is a lot of forest.

Someone waking up in StP maybe has to get back to Finland on skis, through the forest, when a snowstorm hits, and disoriented falls through weak ice on a lake, looses the skis and half-dead from cold happens upon a house in the forest, is brought back to life through the warmth of the sauna, has a romantic encounter and considers hiding out there but realises that he/she has to save the world - because if not someone, who else?

Or something like that.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 01:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could do a lot worse than reading Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. I think the publisher did Perkins a disservice in the promotion (much of the marketing material makes him sound like a conspiracy theorist to my ears), but it most definitely does not live down to the hype. And it does an excellent job of laying out the basic scam:

  • Step one: Go to an underdeveloped country and find some worthwhile engineering project.

  • Step two: Convince the government to take out loans in hard currency to pay for said engineering project, despite the project having a cash flow in soft currency.

  • Step two and a half: Optionally overengineer the project to drive up costs.

  • Step three: Watch the country's currency collapse as a result of the hard-currency payments that it is unable to make.

  • Step four: Send in the IMF and relieve the country of its sovereignty, along with the burden of administering its natural resources.

Net result: You have granted an cash subsidy to your industry, but in a way that doesn't break WTO rules, (steps 1&2), and you've secured a geopolitical advantage over the country you laundered the subsidy through (steps 3&4). What's not to like? After all, you get paid twice.

The only real news in recent months is that the scam is now being carried out within the €-zone as well. There are minor variations, but the basics remain: Germany launders industrial subsidies through the Mediterranean countries, and then wants the Med countries to pay for the subsidies for German businesses.

Now, the basic scam is pretty well known, and will not engender any serious coverup effort. But suppose that, say, an ECB insider were to leak confidential minutes from a highly confidential meeting where the German, Dutch and French delegations discussed how to carve up Greece and Spain. That would be explosive, because it would tell the Mediterranean publics straight from the horse's mouth that Die Seriöse Leute are not there to help them.

"We'll tell them to sell [insert Spanish car manufacturer that isn't already owned by Volkswagen] to Volkswagen for a pittance." "OK, but then we should lean on the Greeks to get their military to replace all their assault rifles with Fabrique Nationale. Oh, and can we get them to move the replacement forward by a couple of years too? I know there's no technical reason, but with the outbreak of peace in [insert random African hellhole here], we're kinda short on orders right now." "Those three shipyards in Northern Portugal are a pain in the neck - they need to get killed. Let's force them to take bids on their next warship purchases [warships are pretty much the only industrial policy you're allowed in the EU these days]. As a 'cost-cutting measure' of course. The yards in Wilhelmshaven can undercut them and then raise prices after they're bankrupt."

Of course this imputes rather more agency to the ECB than I believe it has. I believe that they're more stupid than mendacious. But that's something you can put in the author's postscript.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 06:59:09 PM EST
JakeS:
Step two and a half: Optionally overengineer the project to drive up costs.

Delete 'optionally over-engineer' insert 'massively over-price'; festoon with over-paid consultants; and garnish with fat kickbacks and 'commissions'.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Dec 25th, 2010 at 07:29:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's brilliantly synthetic. The original scam that I've been intuitively aware of for decades, boiled down to its bare bones, and the kicker... Neo-colonialism comes home to the Old Continent.

Possible title : The snake is eating its tail.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 03:58:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the English version, I think The Snake Eats Its Tail sounds better.

All The King's Horses would be an appropriate title if it focuses on the banksters (which I still think is a side story in the EU - the main game is that neocolonialism is coming to a capital near you). 'Cause that's what's being summoned up to rescue the banksters from their own stupidity and venality.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 04:54:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading The Shock Doctrine will give you a number of free scenes of how government is shaken down. Just change the location of the cabinet.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:48:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Ouroboros or Uroborus[1] is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.   Wiki


The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end (compare with phoenix). It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist's opus. It is also often associated with Gnosticism, and Hermeticism.

Title and cover art.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:44:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This would add a touch of mysticism and ancient tradition, as with Umberto Eco. Crudely put, it is also biting oneself in the ass.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:47:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes for the cover art, maybe the snake's tail could strangle the throat, just for diversity

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 04:18:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think your novel would basically be an exercise in describing every instance of "malicious or incompetent" as "malicious" rather than "incompetent". For instance, here is Obama either being wrong in public or misleading the public
Obama:
Here's the problem; Sweden had like five banks. [LAUGHS] We've got thousands of banks.
Krugman:
But are we really thinking about thousands of banks? Here's Martin Wolf, today:
The four biggest US commercial banks - JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo - possess 64 per cent of the assets of US commercial banks (see chart) [chart not available online]. If creditors of these businesses cannot suffer significant losses, this is not much of a market economy.
So as far as this discussion is concerned, we've got, like, four banks. The "thousands of banks" line is just a diversion.
Migeru:
The backroom conversation would be something like "Just tell people our problem is we have thousands of banks so it's very difficult to handle it. Most people are probably are not aware that the FDIC is quietly restructuring a few banks each weekend and you don't have to tell them that."

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:10:12 AM EST
I think that the most astounding thing here is the scale on which King has been rewarded for complete failure. The financial system was saved despite him, rather than because of him.

Just at the time when the FSA are showing distinct signs of competence the government is splitting it worongheadedly and handing its functions over to the people who gave us Johnson Matthey and BCCI.

As an ex-regulator myself, I weep.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 06:42:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... that will have to be made reasonably early in the project is whether the focus will be the banksters or the €-zone crisis. They are different. In the €-zone, the neo-mercantilist looting of the Mediterranean countries is the dog, and the banksters are the tail. In the Anglo-American story, the banksters are the dog, and the financial crisis is the tail (in this classification scheme, Ireland belongs in the Anglo-American box, not the € box). Trying to tell both stories at once will simply muddy the picture, I think.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:19:56 AM EST
So, the Euro crisis is basically Naomi Klein's disaster capitalism, where the EU Commission/European Central Bank implement the Brussels Consensus. The financial crisis is just the excuse du jour.

Let's call the other one (US, UK, Ireland, Iceland) "the North Atlantic banking meltdown".

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:32:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's pretty much my analysis. Except that the crisis isn't an excuse to implement the policy. The crisis is a consequence of the policy, and simply marks the transition from the bait to the switch part of the policy.

Of course it's not nearly that organised - it's not a conspiracy. It's just how neoliberal economic theory delusions play out in an industrial state (as opposed to the way neoliberal delusions play out in a merchant republic like the US or UK).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 05:58:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Having people send armed goons after a whistleblowing organisation after the incriminating data has been published isn't terribly plausible. Legal hassles, yes. Political pressure, certainly. But wet jobs are messy, so they're implausible unless there's a time-sensitive issue.

So you could separate the leak into three DVDs. The original leaker is a member of the conspiracy who has a change of heart, but doesn't want to reveal his actions to his co-conspirators (or, in a slightly less idealistic setting, wants a bigger cut and wants to put pressure on his co-conspirators). So he makes three data discs, and sends the first (least damaging, lest sensitive) disc to our heroes, in the hope that a little adverse publicity will cause the other conspirators to conform to his policy. But just in case, he makes the next two discs, with progressively more incriminating data, and places them with a bag man, who doesn't know what they are (or who his client is) but is told to send first the second and then the third disc to the protagonists if he doesn't hear from his employer every month.

After the first disc is sent, the leaker suffers an accident (genuine or otherwise) that leaves him incommunicado. But by the time the second disc goes out, the heroes are under observation, and the bad guys manage to track the package upstream to the bag man. But of course they arrive just the moment after the third package has been put in the mail. When the heroes find out that their package is at risk of being intercepted, a merry chase ensures across several scenic European cities.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 26th, 2010 at 09:52:38 AM EST

This interview with an expert in access control systems was recorded in 2001, with the proviso that it could not be released until after the interviewee's (William Pawelec) death. He died in 2007 and the video was released this month.

It is chilling. It appears genuine.

And it might contribute a deeper story line that would appeal to all the readers (and you are planning this also as a potential movie script too, aren't you?) for whom finance is a yawn.

The UFO story at the beginning is not really relevant to his later revelations. Interestingly, he is a devout Republican.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 08:48:07 AM EST
Sven, you keep up with this line of questioning, you will not survive this Finnish winter. Anti-grav propulsion systems reverse engineered from Alien Visitation Vehicles? Billions of missing implant chips? "If you take a Gallup poll, you'll find most journalists have a distinct liberal bent?"

Jeez, now you know i watched some. Enough to know a tin-foil hat won't protect you from this level of arggh.

Better we should meet Melancthon in Talinn, where i'll introduce you to some of my

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 02:29:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Come back, CH!

<aims raygun at alien abductors>

all in vain, CH seems quite taken with the several green eyes and smooth lilac skin of the curvacious alien whose pseudopodia now embrace him

goodbye CH, this is the end

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 03:58:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Survived! Every end is a new beginning.

'Spose it's the lilac skin which got me, but there's nothing like the intensity of several eyes fixed in orgasm (depending on intensity, an extra eye or two may appear above the normal three.) and the extra appendages, wow, she'd make a great drummer.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:03:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it made me feel weird.

And you're looking even weirder.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 04:00:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, please, Sven! My highly sensitive pattern recognition system was almost overloaded: that's pure Conspiracy bullshit... And it's only because you posted it that I took the time to look at it...

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 03:32:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I apologize if I wasted your time.

I placed the video very deliberately in a discussion about fiction potentially driving audience action. I suggested a plot arc or element. And that begs the question as to what is the purpose of fiction. Fiction is what-if.

Was Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' evidence of a conspiracy or was it a projection of social trends or an unscientific warning by a democratic socialist? It doesn't matter. What matters was, and is, the symbolic meaning accepted by most of its very wide audience - perhaps even in spite of the intentions of the author in driving audience reaction.

To me, this video content is chilling whether fact or fiction. But the question was: how to make the complex and arcane world of global finance exciting, and dynamic  enough for a general audience - and to provide the essential character identifiability that makes people care what happens, Because most of us (apart from ET of course), find it one big yawn. Our perennial problem, discussed at length, is how to turn a yawn into a 'fuck me, that's not right'.

And the answer (in fiction) to that is to pay attention to the audience, not facts - otherwise you're making a documentary. I'm not sure that I'd go along 100% with Hitchcock's belief that the audience can be played like an organ, but essentially all movies are discussed in terms of audience manipulation, however nicely you put it.

Bonk Business came about partly because of a series of discussions about the brochures of the (real) family company. These brochures depicted large engineering plant for the pulp and paper industry. It was plant that was too big to move to exhibitions where the brochures were given out. Basically you had to believe the facts and the figures of the brochure (at first contact). And you believed because nobody would be stupid enough to print brochures for products that didn't work.

And that intrigued us.

We then set out to create all the evidence to support this fiction: the entire history of a bizarre century old Finnish company. It didn't matter that the company had products that didn't work, because we 'proved' that a) the company had a long history of innovation in  technologies that our audience didn't quite understand and that b) the current 'defunctioned' products had an entirely different value to society as photon radiators.

Our audience was happy to accept this fiction because they were entertained and challenged along the way - just as all fiction is accepted. It didn't matter that the audience knew it wasn't real - they wanted it to be real. And that is the key to fiction. But whether it was the key to audience action, I'm not sure. Our other main intention was to deliberately blur the line between art and business - and in that, in a small way, we succeeded.

So the question remains (within the context of this diary): are the facts of the world financial meltdown too constraining or elaborate to create a viable novel or movie, or, in other words, to what extent fiction is needed to push page turns, or put bums on seats?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 05:36:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was also going to make the point about this being posted on a thread dealing with possible fiction efforts. I would also note that Sven self describes as a "paradoxical comedian". But my sense is that, irrespective of the merits of what William Pawelec has to say or of the other activities of his interviewer,  bringing AVCs and "electro-gravity" devices into a novel intended to provide understanding of the workings of the global financial system might be unhelpful, even if it got a greater audience -- provided that, without resorting to such a plot device, any audience could be obtained.

But some of Pawelec's statements about the activities of commandos and seals should not be too shocking, given what is coming out in Wikileaks recently. On the other hand, with a sufficiently deft treatment, the whole material could be presented as a Sci-Fi satire, much like Hitchhiker's Guide.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 06:21:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd certainly be tempted to do it as ridicule.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 09:49:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fiction is created by intent. this video interview may have been conscious fiction, for some intent; but far more likely it is conspiracy delirium incoherently straddling both fact and fiction.

Notwithstanding that a good writer can use anything a source material, this interview can only serve by example of how best to muddle an exposé of a very clear and present danger.

Tom Tykver's recent "The International" (An Interpol agent attempts to expose a high-profile financial institution's role in an international arms dealing ring.) and Polanski's "The Ghostwriter" (A ghostwriter hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister uncovers secrets that put his own life in jeopardy.) act as far better models on how to graft fiction onto reality.

I spent well over a decade exploring this craft, resulting in one "finished" novel, a highly polished screenplay (which you've read), and several advanced treatments and fragments. I learned how incredibly hard it is to find the right balance, and how easy it is be so lost in your material that you miss the audience completely. As evidenced by so many well-meant hollyweird wrong decisions.

Especially when one considers there are likely at least 15-25,000 film and novel efforts currently under way globally in eurogreen's genre alone, probably much more.

Please excuse me, my implants are ringing.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:26:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PS. Try to imagine a Shanghai screenwriter's take on the same subject. A completely different film (novel) with a completely different ending.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:29:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Grafting fiction onto reality is what Truman Capote called "the nonfiction novel."  His In Cold Blood is still a gripping read.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 03:01:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Cold Blood grafted reality onto the structure of fiction, not the other way around. i've written one which takes it to the extreme, by beginning at a point in time, where you don't know the arc nor the ending.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 03:13:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Craving Truth-telling   NYT

Paolo Bacigalupi is the author of "Ship Breaker," a 2010 National Book Award Finalist in Young People's Literature. He has also won the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Awards.

I suspect that young adults crave stories of broken futures because they themselves are uneasily aware that their world is falling apart.

    The truth of the world around us is changing and teens want to read something that isn't a lie.

We might pummel them with advertising that says they should buy a new iPod, or Xbox, or Droid XYZ, and that everything in the world is shiny and delightful -- but whether we're looking at the loss of biodiversity, or the depletion of cheap and easily accessible energy, or the hazards of global warming, our children will inherit a world significantly depleted and damaged in comparison to the one our parents handed down to us. And they know it.

With "Ship Breaker," a novel set in a future when oil has run out and New Orleans has drowned under rising sea levels, I was trying to illuminate the sort of world that we adults are handing off to them. In the story, child laborers tear apart ancient oil tankers and freighters, recycling the last valuable resources from "the Accelerated Age." Quality of life is significantly reduced from our present circumstances, and judging from teenagers' responses, they crave precisely that sort of truth-telling. Which doesn't really surprise me. As a teen, I remember that I craved truth-telling as well, and devoured it wherever I could find it.

Unfortunately, the truth of the world around us is changing, and so the literature is morphing to reflect it. Teens want to read something that isn't a lie; we adults wish we could put our heads under the blankets and hide from the scary story we're writing for our kids.

Perhaps the novel should be targeted at teens and young adults

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Dec 27th, 2010 at 10:56:46 PM EST
Make it a time travel story?

A group of scientists/engineers/whatever living in a future world where the banksters have managed to create a dystopia of Industrial Feudalism (or whatever your particular dystopia is) discover how to enter the Godel Universe and decide to go back in time to change the future.

After calculating the various inputs & etc. they figure 2011 is the best time because a small-enough/yet large-enough change at that point in time will percolate through because of sensitivity to initial conditions.  (Chaos & All That.)

  1.  You get to show the dystopia in the first part of the book and have some action scenes, intrigue as they scrape together (read: steal) the parts and computer time & so on to put the time machine together.  Possibly some intrigue as they get the team together.  (Blah-blah, standard stuff.)  

  2.  You can explicate the problems by showing Our Heroes in an action/adventure role assassinating, sabotage, computer theft, strategic investments in certain companies so they don't get taken over, helping people "now" organize and fight, etc. etc.  

  3.  Toss in some "Time Cops" (Real Baddies.  Think Nazgul with Terminator technology) from the future when the rulers in the future figure out what is going on.  To put some pressure on the heroes and thicken the plot.  Give the Time Cops futuristic weapons and technology to make it an "uneven" struggle.  The Heroes don't have their-time technology because they had to flee before they could grab any.  

3A.  This leads to the possibility that the Heroes have to engineer the future technology to fight the Time Cops, to do that they have to organize a High-Tech Company to build it, this technology enables people "of today" to successfully organize and fight-off the banksters, and THAT is what, eventually, Saves the Day?

The major advantage I see is this allows to sell the "message" through the narrative.  By making the dystopia truly gawd-awful it hooks the reader's emotions to root for the Good Guys and want to see them win.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 02:55:08 AM EST
I like using science fiction, and I also have a soft spot for magical reality, but I don't think this is a good genre for an unpublished writer... sf is "too easy". Cute ideas are a dime a dozen.

I need to nail down the parameters of the "political thriller" genre, and infuse it with my own style.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 08:58:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will you put in lots of gratuitous sex and violence?

Please?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 09:25:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All of the sex is of political significance. Of course. I do post-modern post-feminism and stuff.

The violence is probably gratuitous. But you've got to be a bit of a whore in this business.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 11:48:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On consideration I take your point about the sex. Coke-fueled debauchery, say, might be an excellent way to illustrate the figures' characters.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 12:32:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The coke-fuelled sexual bad behaviour is already on the programme. The thing is, the hero is not a bad guy, but the drugs make him do bad things. i.e. he is a bad guy (in the sense that all men are [potential] rapists), and the drugs bring it to the surface.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 08:43:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
eurogreen:
(in the sense that all men are [potential] rapists)

And all women are [potential] child murderers?
And all Muslims are [potential] terrorists?
And all [insert wide category of people here] are potential [insert horrible crime committed by some people belonging to the said category here]?

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 10:06:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm talking sociobiology, if you will. Yes, I imagine that infanticide is, like rape, a hard-wired adaptive behaviour, applied in extreme circumstances since pre-human times. Your other points are off-subject.

A man who is offended by the notion of himself as potential rapist, is offended by his own humanity. Which is legitimate, I suppose.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 10:52:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
???

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 10:54:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the same sense and to the same extent that every man is a potential war criminal (every woman too - no shortage of female soldiers in history).

The subject of nature versus nurture is scientifically thorny and politically disputed. I would suggest threading lightly here.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 11:07:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I'm only asserting the obvious : i.e. the potential for abomination is inherent in all of us by nature. This is a large part of what distinguishes us from animals. By nurture, culture, civilization, personal morals and ethics etc, most of us keep the bad stuff in check, most of the time. When barriers break down, then "otherwise normal" people behave badly. Surprise, surprise.

Personally, I like to think that this would not happen to me, i.e. that I would remain good under stress. A harmless belief. But I acknowledge no difference in nature between myself and all of the rapists, murders and war criminals the world has ever known.

I can't imagine why this should be controversial. Lack of imagination on my part. Others will believe what they wish about themselves, with my blessing.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 12:01:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a large part of what distinguishes us from animals.

Anytime you say something like this it's best to assume that you've gone off track. Newsflash: humans are animals. The more we look, the more we find that the things that distinguish us are matter of degree, not kind.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 12:12:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I imagine that infanticide is, like rape, a hard-wired adaptive behaviour

Do you have some evidence for that statement? Or rather, since you're clearly qualified to assert without that that you imagine it to be true, do you have any evidence that infanticide and rape are hard-wired adaptive behaviours?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 29th, 2010 at 12:14:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our desire to simplify might be leading us astray.

Hardwired is a metaphor.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 02:52:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for the sake of argument, to make a clear distinction between what might be considered innate human behaviours, and his strawmen.

It's a borderline case. I concede it to you.

As for whether or not rape is an innate adaptive behaviour or not, I'm afraid I'm not going to bother looking up research on the subject (such research is probably pretty sparse, for obvious reasons). But consider, two soldiers in any victorious army or band of marauders you care to name, in history or prehistory. One rapes, one abstains. Which one leaves the most descendants?

But I apologise for any offense caused, I'm aware that it's a politically incorrect subject (and will not feature in the novel!) And I also  apologise for killing this thread stone dead...

I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me. (Terence)


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 11:37:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
eurogreen:
One rapes, one abstains. Which one leaves the most descendants?

  1. That entirely depends on the overall lifetime reproductive activity of each with sexual partners - and the capacity to aid sexual partners to give birth to, nourish, and bring up offspring.

  2. Your question presupposes sufficient hardwiring for the "rapist" trait to be passed on to descendants. IOW, you beg the question.

eurogreen:
it's a politically incorrect subject

Speculation on what is hardwired into humans on the basis of speculation as to past behavioural traits is a subject that comes up in discussion here quite often. It's perfectly reasonable to differ with those who propose hardwired traits (with no scientific backing, as you admit), without the need to call on notions of political correctness.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 12:00:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I already do...

That entirely depends on the overall lifetime reproductive activity of each with sexual partners - and the capacity to aid sexual partners to give birth to, nourish, and bring up offspring.

Sorry, no it doesn't. All else being equal, the one who forcibly inseminates the greatest possible number of women will leave a greater number of offspring, statistically.

It's possible that the propensity to rape coincides with a lesser capacity to  aid sexual partners to give birth to, nourish, and bring up offspring -- perhaps that's what you're getting at? In which case rape would present the best chance for the loser to leave offspring. But I think it's a bit of a stretch, I'd be surprised if there were a strong correlation. Research needed.

Your question presupposes sufficient hardwiring for the "rapist" trait to be passed on to descendants. IOW, you beg the question.

We seem to have differing ideas about how evolution works. In my understanding, if some random mutation (or some other process) results in a greater propensity to rape, the only question is, does it provide a selective advantage to the bearer of the "rape gene" or not? If it does, then the gene will tend to propagate. The origin of the propensity doesn't matter -- perhaps it correlates to bravado in hunting, or intimidation of enemies, or some other selectively advantageous behaviour. Not important.

It's true that I haven't had this "nature/nurture" discussion for many years; perhaps the science has evolved a great deal. I find the notion that all humans are born (conceived) as a blank slate to be a rather quaint, romantic one (which I am probably mis-representing). Decades ago, I probably subscribed to it.

Since then, I have had two children.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 12:56:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The nature/nurture argument belongs in a trash can along with the Blank Slate Thesis.

As far as "A Gene" causing "A Behavior" I only need to fall back on the old bromide: Correlation is not Causation.  Studies have shown children having a genetic inheritance of schizophrenic do have a higher incidence of developing schizophrenia than the population but they also have a higher incidence when the child does NOT have a genetic inheritance but one, or both, of their adopting parents are schizophrenic.  The highest incidence of a child developing schizophrenia is, as one might expect, when the child has the genetic inheritance and one, or both, of the parents is schizophrenic.

But these studies confirm only a statistical higher incidence of schizophrenia in these children, not a 1:1 correlation.  A child may have the genetic inheritance, may be in a schizophrenic environment, and not develop the disease.

And some children may not have the genetic inheritance, may not have been raised in a schizophrenic environment, and develop the disease.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 02:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
eurogreen:
the notion that all humans are born (conceived) as a blank slate to be a rather quaint, romantic one (which I am probably mis-representing)

If you suppose that that is the idea I was putting forward, you are certainly misrepresenting. As in, big strawman.

But what-ho, you're doing well on the quaint side with your entirely speculative two-blokes-one-who-rapes-one-who-doesn't. Good luck with it.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 02:44:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I must have missed it.

It's perfectly reasonable to differ with those who propose hardwired traits

is the idea I guess. Insofar as you seem to oppose the idea that there might be a genetic predisposition to rape, I foolishly imagined that you were proposing that it was an exclusively acquired behaviour.

Your point of view must be something different, then. I will refrain from speculating on what it might be.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 06:18:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fine capacity you have for truncated quotes and building strawmen.

A hardwired trait?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 31st, 2010 at 02:23:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
May I suggest that this discussion passed the ET signal to noise threshold a couple of posts ago? In the wrong direction.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 31st, 2010 at 06:27:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really enjoyed Michael Lewis "The end of the Wall St Boom" which explained how ideas such as mortgage slicing, CDOs and CDSs came to rule financial transactions and ended up undermining everything.

It's very readable, but there will be moments where you simply cannot believe that something so obviously designed to implode and ruin everybody was not so much legal as a sanctioned and encouraged practice.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 28th, 2010 at 11:03:57 AM EST
As can be seen from this thread there are a lot of experience here, be not afraid on calling on it.

I am mostly intrigued by getting the community involved in mapping out environments (physical, cultural) visited in the scenic chase across Europe. A cool bar in Birmingham, a public sauna in Helsinki, a mosque in Germany - between us we probably has enough scenes for dozens of scenic chases without leaving the computers. If needed for legal reason, real places can always be superficially anonymised (but not more then to let the readers visit the places in real life).

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 12:59:12 PM EST
I'm not well-travelled myself. The heroes are going to have to take a lot of trains. Details about the locomotives, rolling stock, speeds and travel times will be a feature. The book will go viral among trainspotters.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Dec 30th, 2010 at 05:35:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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