Monthly Archives: September 2011

China In The Spotlight

More Than Reading Tea Leaves

Okay, non-movie related entry today. Sorry guys, but this stuff keeps being so interesting, so bear with me.

Time Magazine had this article today, pondering the likelihood of China being able to help out Europe as the global financial crisis part 2 unfolds.

China certainly has the cash on hand ($3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves) to make a difference. It also seemingly has a strong interest in keeping global markets afloat. But that wasn’t the take I got at a lunch this week in Hong Kong with a regional banker, an economist, and a Hong Kong politician.

For one thing, frugal Chinese citizens aren’t keen on spending their country’s savings to bail out profligate Europeans, they said. Beijing is already under enough pressure to spend more of its export cash on its own people. The government and China’s sovereign wealth funds also aren’t sold on the idea. That’s partly because China doesn’t feel as vulnerable to Europe’s debt crisis as we might think.

That sounds oddly familiar. For one thing, the Germans don’t want to spend the money to bail out the profligate Greeks but in their instance it can be argued that they should seeing that the Euro actually keeps Germany sheltered from a much more fluctuating and volatile currency. Some have done the sums and think that a re-issued Deutschmark would appreciate 30% above where the Germans are trading, putting a massive dent in their exports.  So an argument can be made that the lazy Greeks are in part keeping the Germans in business, even if they owe too much money.

Furthermore, there’s this interesting article here.

The concerns about Europe’s banks have been simmering in the background for some time. Economists have warned that at the core of the euro zone crisis is an unstable support system: Poorly capitalized banks were holding up poorly financed governments, which in turn were expected to back the poorly capitalized banks. As the sovereign debt crisis has escalated, sucking in giant Italy, those fears have only inched closer to becoming reality. Many influential voices have proclaimed that Europe’s banks just don’t’ have the level of capital necessary to withstand a one-two punch of slowing growth and widening debt crisis. They could end up taking a massive smack from losses on their holdings of European sovereign debt.

Right. And when the European banks start really failing, what is that going to do to Europe which is China’s great export market? Hot on the heels of that article is this article here in Yahoo7.

“Everyone is getting more concerned about risks accumulating domestically (in China)” said Ju Wang, a fixed income strategist at Barclays Capital in Singapore.

The implications for Australia are huge. Although BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have both issued bullish statements about demand from China for our natural resources booming for at least another decade, experts say that producers such as our miners are often the last to know when demand from customers falls off a cliff.

If China’s property market continues to fall, building will stop abruptly and demand for Australian iron ore will plummet because most of our goods go towards building China’s infrastructure.

“This is certainly a big issue and one we cannot afford to be complacent about” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital.

“The biggest concern are the loans from outside the banking sector that fuelled the property boom. But there are risks across the economy and it could have a big impact on our exports. China needs to look at loosening monetary policy sooner rather than later to help stop so many investors borrowing from unregulated lenders.”

In other words, China actually needs Europe to sort out this Greek sovereign debt mess because if it doesn’t, it has as much to lose in the ensuing global recession. One can’t say with any confidence that wise heads will prevail in the Euro debate or the US policy debate, let alone who-know-what that passes for policy setting in Beijing. So strap yourselves in for the double-dip recession and hope like hell it doesn’t devolve in to wars and destroy the world.

The Dark Crystal Ball Says…

This one is from Pleiades, and everybody who is vaguely interested in where things are likely to go should have a read of it.

Unless Germany moves quickly to reverse its current account surplus – which is very unlikely – the European crisis will force a sharp balance-of-trade adjustment onto Germany, which will cause its economy to slow sharply and even to contract. By 2015-16 German economic performance will be much worse than that of France and the UK.
If Germany does not take radical steps to push its current account surplus into deficit, the brunt of the European adjustment will fall on the deficit countries with a sharp decrease in domestic demand. This is what the world means when it insists that these countries “tighten their belts”.

If the deficit countries of Europe do not intervene in trade, they will bear the full employment impact of that drop in demand – i.e. unemployment will continue to rise. If they do intervene, they will force the brunt of the adjustment onto Germany and Germany will suffer the employment consequences.

For one or two years the deficit countries will try to bear the full brunt of the adjustment while Germany scolds and cajoles from the side. Eventually they will be unable politically to accept the necessary high unemployment and they will intervene in trade – almost certainly by abandoning the euro and devaluing. In that case they automatically push the brunt of the adjustment onto the surplus countries, i.e. Germany, and German unemployment will rise. I don’t know how soon this will happen, but remember that in global demand contractions it is the surplus countries who always suffer the most. I don’t see why this time will be any different.

About a week after I set down these “predictions”, and two days after I finished this point, I saw in the Financial Times that German growth has already hit a wall. Expect to see a lot more articles like this over the next few years.

The rest of the article makes for fascinating reading.

I was thinking the other day that there is far more debt than there is money in the economies all combined. So at some point somebody is going to be stuck with the un-payable debt, and that will lead to all kinds of conflict. There’s really nowhere to run in the markets or even outside of it. The money you hold might evaporate in policy-led inflation; the assets you hold might devalue severely. The governments you vote in might have to tax you harder than you thought. And none of this would add up to what would be enough.

Ultimately we’re going to end up like Argentina in the late 1990s. You wouldn’t be able to insure anything because insurance companies will die back. All those Woody Allen jokes about insurance salesmen will sound quaint on that day. It’s all in the cards. We live in interesting times, that’s for sure.

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Movie Double – ‘Sucker Punch’ & ‘Scotty Pilgrim Versus The World’

‘Sucker Punch’ & ‘Scotty Pilgrim Versus The World’

Today’s Movie double is a no-brainer. These are 2 films that essentially bring video game graphic sensibilities into the movies. As such it seems fitting to at least bash these 2 coconuts together to have a look at what comes out.

Manga Much?

‘Sucker Punch’ has been getting some strange responses around the traps. I think it’s one of those films where it provokes a certain kind of wowserism out of all sides of the political spectrum. Personally, I don’t see  what the big deal is with girls showing off their figures in dance studio trainers and fishnet tights if it’s set in an asylum brothel cabaret. Yeah, it’s degrading to women, but it’s degrading to men too. In fact, most of our civilisation is degrading to everybody. It’s not a good excuse, but sometimes some things are not as particular critics make them out to be. The point of ‘Sucker Punch’ seems to be – if it can have anything so poignant as a point – is that life is full of ugly men and a gal’s simply got to fight her way through the crap they dish up.

In most part, the action of the girls shooting and stabbing and punching their way through fantasy fight sequences that looked like something out of Final Fantasy was reminiscent of ‘Sailor Moon’. Nobody really complains about Sailor Moon’s skirt being too short. Or maybe they do. I personally feel like I’m just too old for this stuff to be impressed by it, but even allowing for it, the film has some interesting moments.

‘Scotty Pilgrim Versus the World’ by contrast draws much of its inspiration from arcade game beat’em ups. The moment they start fighting, the scores start dialing up in the frame. The graphics work over time to convey the sense of frantic movement in combat games while hyper-real depictions of over-the-top-impossible action makes for some pretty plastic viewing. It’s not good or bad, it is beyond that kind of critique; it’s more surreal and dream-like  without being beholden to Dali’s vision of the surreal. No melting clocks, no references to Dali.

In each instance, the exaggerated action and elastic portrayal of time harks back to manga and anime. It’s not hard to see the gush of ‘Cool Japan’ washing up on the shores of Hollywood and getting appropriated.

Conflict Without Drama

There’s a lot of killing and maiming and blowing things up in both films. What’s interesting in each instance is that no matter what the stakes, there is no doubt whatsoever about who is supposed to win. As such, the suspense is less than optimal. To remedy this problem ‘Sucker Punch’ resorts to killing off the team members to show the conflict is deadly. This makes the film far less sentimental – which is a good thing – but in turn gives it a new problem of making the audience wonder about the narrative displacement. Every time the girls go on a mission, the film’s narrative switches over to a computer game fantasy combat sequence. At one point the narratives overlap and we see how the two lines interconnect when Rocket dies; but it raises the question as to why the metaphorical combat sequence is truly necessary. Maybe there was an even more thrilling film in telling the straight up story of breaking out of the asylum. By displacing the narrative to the fantasy space, it actually detracts from the drama, not heighten it.

‘Scotty Pilgrim’ too suffers from the same issue. If the combat scenes are in fact ‘real’ in terms of the action on screen, then the film is simply too silly to sustain a full viewing. It is only when we understand the combat sequences as metaphorical representations of the interpersonal conflict, that the film starts to have any kind of emotional depth, but again the dissociation kills the drama.

It’s an interesting development in narratives but I don’t know if it really can sustain a lot of meaning. It’s the opposite of a film like ‘Never Let Me Down’ I wrote about yesterday because in that film, the drama is particularly poignant because the problems for the characters are inescapable problems of the story. Once the problems get re-stated in these metaphor sequences, somehow the problems also get abstracted.

That being said some of these sequences on both these films are pretty spectacular and delightful to watch. Just don’t look too deeply for meaning. Too much irony will kill a film.

Chicks With Guns

We’re in a new period of cinema where guys like to watch girls beat up on bad guys. We can call this the Cinema of Ange, after Angelina Jolie who has been kicking butt since playing Lara Croft. Angelina Jolie has had a string of films where she plays the kick ass woman – ‘Wanted’, ‘Salt’, ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’ and in the wake has been an acceptance that maybe watching the feminine form – read “Hot Body” – beat up on bad guys is more fun than watching another bloke do it. This transition was particularly pronounced when Angelina Jolie got the role for ‘Salt’ instead of Tom Cruise.

Suddenly there is no shortage of movies where females are toting guns in sexy garb, showing a bit of leg in fishnets. It’s like some BDSM fetishist dream come true, but there they are in ‘Sucker Punch’. I found myself laughing mostly, but I can well imagine the film is going to be some kind of cult hit for years to come. It’s a lot sexier than Snyder’s other offerings in ‘300’ and ‘The Watchmen’. ‘Scotty Pilgrim’ also slides into the weird terrain of girls high-kicking with long leather boots. I mean, if there were girls like that back at my school, my high school days might not have been so miserable. Then again, they might have been worse.

The point of all this is unclear, but there seems to have been a change in demographic in the Hollywood system that readily accepts this and ever more vampire stories. Oh look, they’re planning another incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Post-Modernity Goes Rococo

Both these films are pretty mannered. They have many sources which they then milk for effect and move on to the next influence they can milk. Both films are a kind of testament to the victory of form over function, style over content kind of movies – but for once the styles are enjoyable enough that you don’t care too much about the shortage of content. After all, if you find yourself watching a movie with chicks in tight clothes fighting orcs, mechanical zombies and droids, while a B-24 Liberator dogfights with a dragon, just what kind of content is going to satisfy you as being sufficiently ‘content-y’? Isn’t it the case that sometimes, one should just go with the flow of visuals? Maybe at that point one should admit, asking for the kind of rich, thought-provoking content like in ‘Cracks’ or ‘Never Let Me Go’ is an entirely incorrect expectation for such films.

Anyway, I though I’d mention that because it’s not as if I didn’t have fun watching these films. It takes all kinds of films to make up cinema after all. We might have bitched about the obscurantist terror that is post-modernism back in the 1980s but at this point in time it is interesting to see that workable method of narrative has emerged from that soil.

Rickenbacker Bass Mention

It goes without saying, the coolest thing about Scotty might be his flame-glo Rickenbacker bass. Why that is his choice of bass guitar escapes me; maybe I missed it, but the choice gets my vote.

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Movie Double – ‘Cracks’ & ‘Never Let Me Go’

Boarding School Movies

There’s a sub-genre in British movies about boarding schools, that’s been added to greatly by the 8 films of Harry Potter, but more recently we’ve seen two films that mix it up with other genres. ‘Cracks’ is a film about the strange world of girls’ boarding schools in England in the 1930s which veers into all kinds of voyeuristic fun, while ‘Never Let Me Go’ is a really bleak existentialist film with a Science Fiction tinge.

Both films are, in my humble opinion, very good and worth the viewing, but I’m bringing them up together because back to back, will be the most emotionally wrenching Sunday’s viewing. These films are each tragedies that don the costume of English boarding schools but hark at very deep and disturbing issues in life. I think watching them together would make for a truly challenging viewing.

Still, I think I should go through a few things just to give you an idea of how interesting both these films are. As usual, here’s the obligatory spoiler warning.

Faulty Adult Supervision

One of the themes in cinema this side of Gen-X coming of age in the mid 1980s has been films where adult supervision is either lacking or faulty. This is more pronounced in American cinema and I have touched upon it in crits of films such as ‘Superbad’, ‘Better Off Dead’ and the ‘Back to the Future’ series. Other films include the Home Alone movies, and even the Harry Potter series swings around the theme of absent parents. There are probably sociological reasons for this narrative movement, but in most part we are asked to see these setups as abnormal. This is because in American films, there is a strong impulse to re-assemble even the most fragmented of families.

In both ‘Cracks’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’, we see the opposite where there is no hope of any family – the kids cannot reassemble that myth – so they are forced to travel the terrain of the the strangely restrictive social order of the British boarding school. In each instance, the teachers are stern, conspiratorial, distant and authoritarian, rendering the children emotionally adrift. In both films we see the children become wanton but then they conform into exerting self-control in line with the school’s discipline, which ends in tragedy.

Part of the rhetorical question in ‘Cracks’ is that if the teachers come from the same stilted mold, how can they confer anything of true value in the outside world to these children? Similarly, in ‘Never Let Me Go’, we find that the teachers’ ultimate interest is not in education at all, but in the production of a commodity to suit the consumerist society and its never ending wants. In neither case can the adults said to be ethical or good – and I don’t think this is the simple case of people getting back at their own boarding school experiences, but in fact a deeper despair about the meaning of education in our own society.

Rampant Emotions

We associate the British culture with the whole reserve and stiff upper lip thing and yet these characters in both films are extremely expressive of their feelings. There is a sense in both films that because the system squeezes so hard, the feelings cannot help but pour out. And when they do, they just don’t seem like ordinary emotions but outpourings of primal rage and lust.

Eva Green’s Miss G is a tremendous creation in fiction. The tremendous irony of a woman who claims to be of the world and is so distant from it, cloistered away teaching in a girl’s boarding school is already a kind of novel tragedy. The irony and her inability to escape it makes for some punishing viewing. At the end of the film you come to realise that she never grew up, that she became a teacher and guardian to these children with about as much emotional maturity as the children in her care.

Similarly, Miss Lucy, a minor character played by Sally Hawkins in ‘Never Let Me Go’ is also unable to contain her emotions as she blurts out the truth to the children. As the film progresses we come to realise the weight of her confession to the children about their short destiny. The meaning of those words circle around to the denouement, when discussing souls and art, Miss Emily played by Charlotte Rampling declares, they were looking at the art to see if the children had any souls.

Tommy in ‘Never Let Me Go’ is subject to tremendous attacks of rage. The deeper angst about his existence is simply too much. In most part he is polite and self-controlled but he cannot accept his own death until just before the end. It’s a furious kind of flame.

In both films, it’s surprising to see just how deep the feelings run and then gushes to the surface like a geyser. You wouldn’t believe it’s about reserved English people.

Exchange Of Food

The exchange of food is a very important motif in both films. Fiamma’s pastries from Spain in ‘Cracks’ at once represents her Christ-like appearance as well as presages her doom. Each meal with Fiamma is the last supper. Similarly the sharing of food is more intimate than the love-making in ‘Never Let Me Down’. This could be because sex doesn’t lead to life if you are a cloned organ donor unit, but food most certainly will be of sustenance.

‘Cracks’ spends a fair bit of time on showing food as an important social token. Food being shared immediately correlates with shared information and secrets. The party bonds the girls around food.

The flip-side of this is how dysfunctional pleasure is in both films. Miss G, for her pleasure drugs and rapes Fiamma. Not only is it transgressive, there is something craven about Miss G, not to mention the lesbian sex. Miss G clearly fears men and the outside world. Similarly, the sex depicted in ‘Never Let Me Go’ is not joyous but rather emotionally abortive. Kath, played by Carey Mulligan participates in sex vicariously by overhearing to her two best friends fuck. When she finally sleeps with Tommy, it is the most sad, mournful, depressing love scene I’ve ever seen on the screen. You’re grateful it cuts away.

Love And The Soul

Oddly enough, both films want to discuss love and the soul. In ‘Cracks’, it is assumed that without love, then the soul cannot be. Miss G’s exhortation to live with desire and for desire essentially leads her to her own demise. ‘Never Let Me Go’ is more elaborate in that it posits a litmus test wherein artistic expression is seen as the corollary for the existence of the soul. The main character Kath and her lover Tommy can only operate on the theory that love proves there is a soul. The ending runs in the opposite direction to the seeming momentum of the discourse, for Charlotte Rampling’s character essentially represents a system that has no soul, and is totally willing to condemn Kath and Tommy.

In many ways ‘Never Let Me Go’ is the film ‘Atonement’ wasn’t. It’s a much better piece of narrative fiction by far, and the payoff is heavy, heavy, heavy.

The Film Beautiful

I just want to quickly say how beautiful both films look. There are some stunning moments of cinematography in both films.

Too Bad She Won’t Live, But Then Again, Who Does?

So now, it’s time to have a look at the ‘Blade Runner’ references. Jordan Scott, the director of ‘Cracks’ is the daughter of Ridley Scott, director of ‘Blade Runner’. In ‘Cracks’, she pays homage to her old man’s work in a key scene when Di witnesses Eva Green’s Miss G rape Fiamma. Set-up -wise, it’s a re-run of the scene when J.F Sebastian witnesses Roy kill Dr. Eldon Tyrell, down to the reaction as she turns and flees the scene.

In ‘Never Let Me Go’, we come to realise our main character and her cohorts in the school are not natural humans but some kind of genetically engineered organ donating surrogates; they are replicants, for want of a better word. The despair they feel for their destiny is in fact the despair of Roy Batty. They want more life, but they cannot get it. At the end, the main character asks if their short lives are any different to the lives of normal humans. It’s very bleak, but you applaud the director who gets you there emotionally, without the cinematic pyrotechnics of a ‘Blade Runner’. Then again, it’s been 30years since that film.

The message is unsurprising because it has been 30 years since ‘Blade Runner’, and yet it gets delivered with the same gravitas. It’s very well played.

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What Housing Shortage?

This Made Me Laugh

They’re talking about whether there is a shortage of property or not.

This line cracked me up:

More than two-thirds of the government’s shortage estimate arises by including people who can’t afford housing, such as the homeless or those living in trailer parks, Mr Sayce said.

In most part, the belief is that there isn’t enough housing, but there’s this bit here:

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens is among those flummoxed as to why homes are so pricey in a nation almost as big as the US, with just 22.7 million people.
“How is it that a country of our size – we are not short of land – how is it that we cannot add to the dwelling stock for the marginal new entrant more cheaply than we seem to be able to do,” Mr Stevens told a parliamentary panel in Melbourne late last month.

Now, what are we to make of that? Obviously the answer is people just want to live on coastal cities and the small areas along the coast, and not in that dirty big inhospitable bit in the middle people call The Outback.

Harry Dent Says…

Harry Dent has written some interesting books based on his observations to do with demographics and how they impact on the economy. He’s out in Sydney saying that the Bubble is overdue to take a hit, and most likely will cop it next year.

“Australia is probably the best place in the world to survive this, but we do think Australia will not escape as well as it did from the last crisis (in 2008),” Mr Dent told AAP.

At the centre of the coming debt crisis is real estate, the forecaster says.

“People in places like Sydney or Tokyo or Miami say, ‘Hey, real estate can never go down here, we’re a great place, everyone wants to move here, there’s not much land for development’, and what I say is that is exactly the kind of place that bubbles,” Mr Dent said.

“Outside Hong Kong and Shanghai, Australia is the most expensive real estate market in the world compared to income.”

Mr Dent said Australia’s house prices would return to late 1990s or early 2000 levels.

Driving all these changes is simple demographics, specifically the peak of the baby boomers’ spending, Mr Dent said.

That is all pretty simple and obvious, but will it really happen? This is exactly the scenario the Reserve Bank of Australia is trying to fight off, isn’t it?

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From The Sidelines

The Gap Between Common Sense And A Coup

Following on from the post about the High Court judgment against the Malaysian Solution the other day, I had the rare opportunity to ask one of our preeminent human rights lawyers about our constitution and government – specifically about the spectre I raised the other day of “what happens if the Prime Minister pushes for policy and orders the ADF to ship the asylum seekers to Malaysia, ignoring the High Court’s decision?”

The answer I got back was that the High Court would issue an injunction against that course of action, which in turn would lead to the ADF desisting.

“Even if it was a direct order from the Prime Minister?” I asked. And he said yes, because the top level of the ADF reports to the rule of law itself.

“What if the generals agreed with the Prime Minister and followed orders and did it?” I asked.

“Well then, you would have a coup.”

As in Coup D’etat.

The way he explained it, the top level brass of the ADF are answerable to the rule of law, (and not the office of the Prime Minster) which is an abstraction of what is allowable under the law. Which is why the General would exercise common sense and desist when the injunction came; and is exactly the common sense being practised by the Prime Minister in not pursuing such a radical course of action to push policy, according to the preeminent human rights lawyer.In fact all of our top level government runs on the assumption that all these people will act with this common sense.

In fact, he went on, when the whole Gough Whitlam dismissal was going on, a Unionist piped up and told Gough he should mobilise the army to stop the Governor General getting his way. Whitlam dismissed the suggestion as being outrageous – and lacking in common sense – and so he never went to the army to back his government in 1975. And this, according to the preeminent human rights lawyer, is how democratic government is practiced in a civlilised nation.

I have to tell you I felt very afraid that the only thing standing in the way of a coup was the presumption of common sense being held by people in power. I look at Tony Abbott and the way he carries on and I doubt he has anything like what we would call common sense. I would live in fear that he would be entirely short of such common sense.

I share this with you all in the best spirit that may we all live under a government with plentiful common sense.

The Big Protest

Making the news today was the crowd of 30,000 + people in the domain protesting against the NSW government’s attack on the public sector workers. They seem to do this every time a conservative government gets into office in NSW. I seem to recall they did this in the early 1990s when Nick Greiner got in, and the protests did nothing. They had the numbers and did as they pleased.

Big Warwick reports that the Police Union were there which was good for moral support, but that the prison wardens were there. “Who’s looking after the prisoners today then?” asked some wag. If the Health Sector Union were in there, then it meant the mentally ill were also on the loose, so to speak. Crazies and Prisoners running riot was a nice mental image.

I get that these unions are angry to have their pay rises indexed at 2.5% which is below CPI – and we all know that CPI tends to under-report inflation. It’s a kind of bad faith by the NSW Government. It’s also part of a global trend in the wake of the GFC to try and pare back public spending. Why should these people take a pay cut? Because if they don’t the NSW Government will have to sack a whole bunch of them instead. You can see both sides of the argument if you step back and look at it calmly, but nobody is ever going to be calm when it’s their hip pocket (and you certainly have to respect that too).

The irony that doesn’t get missed is that when it comes to politicians giving themselves a pay rise, they never say no.

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Even More From Steve Keen

Makes For Interesting Reading

Here’s the latest from Steve Keen, sent in by Pleiades.

So is the chopping of The Block a sign that the days of ever-rising house prices are over? Not if you listen to Christopher Joye (Property’s fine forecast, August 25). The median forecast of the “21 leading market economists” he polled was for 5 per cent growth in nominal house prices per annum for the next ten years, which Chris notes would suggest “that they will likely be 55 per cent higher in ten years’ time”.

Good luck with that. As Chris notes, my forecast wasn’t included, but it should be no surprise that I expect a fall in house prices of about 40 per cent over the same time period.

I differ with the 20 who predicted positive price growth for one simple reason: I focus on the role of debt in driving house prices. Having argued that debt drove prices up over the last fifteen years, I now expect debt to drive them down again.

The mechanism is simple – but it’s not part of conventional ‘neoclassical’ economics, which is why Chris and his surveyed market economists don’t consider it. Aggregate demand is the sum of income plus the change in debt, and this is spent on both goods and services and assets. There is thus a link between the change in debt and the level of asset prices (and the fraction sold, and the quantity produced, but I’ll focus on just house prices for now).

Going one step further, the change in aggregate demand is the change in income plus the acceleration of debt. There is thus a link between the acceleration of debt and the rate of change of house prices. If this relationship is strong, then rising house prices require that the rate of growth of debt rises over time.

The first thing that pops into my head is that the moment the real estate asset class starts to nose dive, the RBA would be cutting interest rates to shore it up as much as it can, because let’s face it, if the banks lost 40% on their mortgage books, there will be widespread panic. More likely is the scenario where the RBA is going to wind it back towards earlier norms slowly, but can it be done? At least for the next decade, you’d have to concede that Real Estate is a bad bet.

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9/11 Remembered

A Decade of Two Wars

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is rapidly approaching. The media are rolling out interviews with people who worked at Ground Zero as well as digging up their archival footage. Just watching the TV promo spots for these things is bringing me down. I caught Channel Seven’s effort tonight and an old hand from the FDNY was asked if the killing of Osama bin Laden brought closure. He replied caustically that he hated the word closure. He pointed out there was no filling the rupture in the lives of people, and that they cannot stop remembering. By extension the enemy cannot forget that day r the retribution upon bin Laden either, so there can never be such thing as closure.

I’m trying to remember my 9/11 moment and it’s pretty easy. I watched it on TV and couldn’t sleep. I went to work that following Tuesday as Monday still played out in the USA and knew the world had changed. Amongst my friends I was most definitely the most hawkish in retaliating. This was because I had grown up in New York City and the World Trade Center towers meant a lot more to me than people around me. To the extent that it happened to a place I knew materially made my response a little more visceral. I had explain to Australians that had it been a landmark of theirs like the Sydney Opera House, they wouldn’t be so forgiving. To this day I find myself the least sympathetic to jihadists, terrorists, Islamists and other parties who actively hate on the West. I don’t care about their grievances. It’s not an intellectually satisfying position, but not all of our politics is for our intellectual satisfaction. Some times it is simply because a line is drawn in the sand – and we didn’t even do the drawing of that line.

The toll of the Afghan War and the ill-advised Iraq War that followed has been well publicised. They are probably the two most covered wars in the history of mankind, thanks to modern communications. The freedoms we’ve lost, the intrusions we must endure, the suspicions we must sustain, the injuries and the dead we must accept; all keep mounting up on one side of the ledger. It is very hard to see the benefits of all this expenditure on the other side of the ledger. If Osama bin Laden wanted to see the collapse of the western world, the GFC of 2007-2008 certainly gave us an inkling of how that might already be happening – with or without this stupid pair of wars.

Still, I think it’s important that the West have a quiet think about who exactly is the enemy. It might be surprised to find that it has more than a casual few.

David Hicks Again

For a guy who wants to live the rest of his life quietly, David Hicks seems to keep popping up. As you may know – long time readers here most certainly will – I have a reasonably fixed opinion of the man so it gets tedious to have him brought up in conversation and to hear both extremes of the discussion.

My own view to this day is that on 11th September 2001, upon witnessing the World Trade Center brought to ground by terrorist attacks, David Hicks chose to head to Afghanistan to side with the Taliban. I’ve said this before but I can’t countenance his argument that he was somehow a wide-eyed kid who got caught up in these affairs almost by accident. The day he left for Afghanistan, he should have know that part of the risk would be capture by the US Marines.he shouldn’t have been surprised to find himself in Guantanamo Bay.

Without going into the legalities of the plea-bargain or the Military Tribunal itself – long time readers know I covered that stuff in my previous blogs – it seems if there’s one thing that could be said of David Hicks was that he got exactly what he asked for. And if he were as sanguine a human he claims to be about it today, then he might reflect on that fact and shut the fuck up and go away.

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