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Saturday, March 3, 2018

What's postmodern about President Trump?

Not a few articles have emerged claiming that Trump is the first postmodern president or the postmodern president par excellence. This January, Edsall sums up what Heer and Ernst have suggested in other recent publications. Folks are dusting off their copies of Derrida or Foucault to put this presidency in context. But Baudrillard is more helpful because Foucault envisioned a deeply intrusive type of productive power that combined expertise with the political. Derrida traced the often contradictory practices that enabled ostensibly unbiased political ideals. But Baudrillard's focus on the media and networks reflects what commentators are sensing. The massive echo chamber of the media is like a super-saturated crystalline solution awaiting the tiniest morsel of solidity (e.g. notice how news organizations have gutted their investigative reporting bureaus) . Trump tosses in that morsel and more into that soup and the reverberations then expand far and wide. Baudrillard predicted that we would all be 'linked in' or plugged in to the web. Its pure connectivity is what allows Trump's even most narrowly focused messages to expand across communication networks like a tsunami. Critical thinking is impossible under conditions of pure connectivity (thank you, Mr. Zuckerberg for denying users the dislike button!). But it is unclear to what degree the former reality show host understands how postmodern media functions or to what extent the mass media relates to him. For example, it is possible that Donald Trump's mercurial style is a factor that allows him to float free from any particular ideological stamp. That allows his 'name brand' to reach every outlet. One implication of this analysis is that only a candidate with similar, postmodern capacity can win the presidency.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Border adjustment tax and Trump (?)

Where did he go? Where is the President, you know, THE guy? With all of the tax talk in the U.S. today, including reducing the corporate tax dramatically by the way, there is no talk of the border adjustment tax (BAT). This was the President's minimalist approach to addressing the trade deficit, a key campaign promise. Instead the tax reductions being tweeted are old fashioned policy dreams that any Republican, from Rick Perry to Jeb Bush, would have offered. How droll.

THIS is the moment to throw a real monkey wrench into the establishment with the BAT. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On Trump, Jerusalem and losing control of the message

The President's recent decision to move the embassy will not have the intended effect, not even for its biggest backers. Said to be a long time coming and to help the peace process, it will instead muddle if not change the main Sunni versus Shiite narrative that has dominated the media airwaves. 
There was recently more media focus and thus growing pressure on Hezbollah, on Iran, and even on the Houthis. 
Now there will be a slow, drip drip, media focus on the move of the US embassy. The media will watch surveyors, pundits will debate locations ('east Jerusalem, west Jerusalem, or right in between?'). Every aspect of the construction of the huge complex will be monitored, as will every incident involving it. 
Trump has just started a new narrative that will dominate Medieval minds from Tel Aviv to Karachi (Medievals believe their religion drives politics but postmoderns think it is the media/networks). 
Better build the new embassy quick if you want to restart the Iran versus Saudi narrative! 

BTW, the winners, beyond the usual suspects like Putin, will be the greatly suffering, Yemeni people. No longer a sunni-shiite war but simply war, it should become harder to maintain the farce of response to a threat with the focus now back to the holy city. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mama Merkel fights War with pure Peace

Cynics, say what you will about Angela Merkel's welcome to the refugees (e.g. undercuts local wages; revives German moral standing). She is waging a one woman peace struggle against the forces of and for war. What a wonderful deployment of political power! Her sort of Image of welcome is the key to victory.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Greece and ambiguity

Europe's fight to make Greece. pay in full seems stupid to me. I have heard the political complexities involved in a 30-50% haircut in their debt. But the risks to the European project (which is also mysterious to me) seem greater.

The EU is at the same place now as the old Articles of Confederation but without a James Madison to light the way forward.

The best solution for stability is a grand compromise, which is what the Obama wants.

But in a world increasingly without trends, it seems likely that Grec-ambiguity will continue and worsen.

If there is no grand compromise, then I expect the Greeks to begin printing and digitizing their own euros and nationalizing their banks to keep them from being under the thumb of the ECB.  

Or there could also instead be a little compromise that gives all parties to this squabble more breathing room.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What the Federal Reserve really wants (besides helping big banks)

It is a brave new world, of many worlds that have come before and which can irrupt again. Point? There are no sustained trends. Last quarter the Main Street economy neared recession. Now jobs and growth are supposedly bouncing back. Next quarter, who knows? For almost any object of analysis today there are innumerable possibilities, all of which fizzle out.

The Federal Reserve knows this or sees it.

What they want to do however is bring back what postmodern theory long ago said would be ended: mastery over the Object World, of finances, money, economics, even politics (Remember the don't fight the Fed saying?). The subject does to the object world, or so it was said in the old, Modern era.  
But without clear trends to guide or to ride, the Fed is out of a job.

So it is now trying to simulate mastery over events by talking about rate hikes. Yellen wants to do so and probably will. But she will not be able to gain the mastery over events that the Fed. would like. The bond market is already way ahead of the Fed.

The mastery game is over.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dear Oil Market: Welcome to Uncertainty, Regards, OPEC

In a recent article, commodities monitor Saefong on Marketwatch writes that a long term oil glut, over a span of years, is likely if OPEC continues its present course. Interestingly she does claim that the price of petroleum will decline as a result, which the so-called 'laws' of supply and demand would suggest. Wisely, she knows that the price is no longer guided by such laws but by an inscrutable mix of fear, externalities, politics, wars, potential wars, and so forth. OPEC has introduced the oil markets to greater uncertainty. The price could go up or go down, and back again. It is not necessarily under the control of OPEC.

This will still hurt the shale drillers in the US (unless the government supports the industry) because the uncertainty will wary investors will stay away.

The idea that this is about maintaining market share is unclear. The greater uncertainty may make some buyers turn away from unstable suppliers or potentially unstable ones like Saudi, which could surprise them. It could even make some buyers turn to the US or Canada or Venezuela for their supply. Yes, only Saudi can supply oil and still make a profit at low prices. But the new uncertainty does not guarantee that win.