Category Archives: Global Tectonics

Bursting the blockchain bubble

http://skywaysmedia.co.uk/design/brochures/ The massive hype surrounding the crypto world is unlike anything I have witnessed over three decades in and studying the financial markets. This includes my direct participation in the securities markets while the dotcom boom raged and collapsed. Crypto far exceeds that excess. There are billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people now being sucked into the vortex of this very odd world.

Eschweiler What makes it so dangerous is the ability of this whirlwind to enable people “just switch off their brains and stop thinking,” as Martin Walker, recently testified to a Parliamentary Committee. In fact, it was impressive how the members of that Parliamentary Committee were unwilling to accept the simple facts that Walker tried to share with them. Evidence, clearly, of the impact of crypto hype.

http://disegnoworks.com/news/new-look-2016/ Further evidence of the problem was found recently when Professor Nouriel Roubini, an economist famous for having foretold the collapse of the credit markets in 2008, testified to a Senate Committee about his longstanding view that “cyrpto is the mother of all scams and (now busted) bubbles while blockchain is the most over-hyped technology ever, no better than a spreadsheet/database.” Roubini was then made the subject of a twitter attack that appeared to be something on the scale of what the Russians did to Hillary Clinton, including rampant use of anti-semitic comments and tropes.

As a securities lawyer and legal scholar who has spent the last decade studying the decentralization of the stock markets, I have a particular interest in the bitcoin/crypto/ICO space. It is clear to me that the very same radical ideology that somehow convinced the SEC to condone the destruction of a stable stock market has now migrated towards the heart of our financial system, namely the institutions of money, banking, and payment systems. And since I also train future securities lawyers as a law professor I have a particular concern about the way that crypto has taken on momentum in the legal, banking and tech startup world where I work and study.

I plan to post information on my blog about research and events that are helping to burst the bubble that this ideological assault on our financial system represents. The principle that will guide this effort is a simple one, borrowed from the crusading progessive lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who wrote in his famous 1913 text, Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It, that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

A Fall 2016 seminar on “global tectonics” – call for papers

The theme will be the application of law to the problems created by what I call “global tectonics.” I intend to consider problems like the Ukraine, Boko Haram, Mexican drug violence and more. Students will be reading the globalization and rule of law literature and then examining these trouble spots where global social, political and economic tectonic plates are clashing. They will be asked to consider how or whether legal solutions to these situations are feasible. If you have any ideas for papers or other material for the seminar or would like to present work of your own please let me know. My campus email address is sdiamond@scu.edu.

Putin dances to the tune of fictitious capital

Today’s Financial Times has a front page story on the newest stage of the Russian crisis. Putin’s Russia is being hit by both western sanctions as a result of its invasion of its sovereign neighbor, Ukraine, as well as by a glut in the supply of global oil.

This chart indicates the significant downward move in oil prices:

ChartBuilder-1

As a result, the world market is marking down the value of the Russian economy and hence the ruble is tanking in value.

In response, Putin is now forced to pump large amounts of cash into the banking system to keep key financial institutions afloat. The latest infusion amounts to close to $8 billion for three major banks. While the regime is claiming the ruble crisis is over, the FT story includes the following: “This is only the beginning,” said a senior executive at a large Russian financial institution. “Everyone is bracing for what comes after new year.”

Indeed the news about the bank infusion sent the ruble down again Friday after a rally earlier in the week. The overall damage of recent months is clear in the chart below:

ChartBuilder

Meanwhile in a recent speech Putin continued to make noise about diversifying the Russian economy which is another way of admitting that a quarter century of post-Cold War political and economic development has largely been a waste for the majority of Russians (and for much of the former eastern bloc as a whole it might as well be said, Ukraine first and foremost).

Thus, the Cold War may be over but we are far from resolving the fundamental imbalances in the global economy. These have now become so severe that countries like China and Russia are increasingly willing to confront the West with provocative actions like the Ukraine invasion and the assertion of Chinese sovereignty in the south China sea area.

It is understandable that we sympathize with the victims of this kind of aggression but pushing counties like Ukraine to choose Nato membership over genuine autonomy, which has been US policy for years, only stokes the tensions with Russia and provides Putin with political capital that he uses to shore up his own domestic position. Sanctions, too, are a dual edged sword. It is true that Russia needs the world economy but authoritarian forms of capitalism have been very stable over time. As the crisis deepens inside Russia it is just as possible that it will lead to greater centralization of power by Putin and his military and bureaucracy.

Global Tectonics: Pentagon confronts militant dilemma in Africa

As this story and fascinating accompanying map indicates, the US military presence in Africa follows major conflicts at the heart of global tectonics – the setting where a global grab for natural resources (from minerals to ivory) is uprooting traditional societies. Fundamentalist reactions are legion and thus the growing security problem.

The hum of US drones is becoming more familiar over African skies. From Nigeria to Somalia, US military presence on the continent is a creeping reality. US troops may be thin on the ground, with the Pentagon preferring to rely on training and

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Source: Pentagon confronts militant dilemma in Africa – FT.com

Global Tectonics: Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war

From California to the Middle East, huge areas of the world are drying up and a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. US intelligence is warning of the dangers of shrinking resources and experts say the world is ‘standing on a precipice’

Source: Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war | Environment | The Guardian

Workers play a big role in these global ‘middle-class’ revolutions

Workers play a big role in these global ‘middle-class’ revolutions | Richard Seymour The Guardian.

Wall Street Journal panics in face of Egyptian revolution

No_(2012_film)As the ordinary Egyptian population stood up and said it was no longer willing to follow Iran and other middle eastern countries into the abyss of authoritarian and fundamentalist Islamist politics, the mouthpiece of western arch-conservatism, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, was thrown into a panic. In an editorial published, sadly, on our Independence Day, the paper called for the installation of a Pinochet-like General in Egypt.

Either the Journal has been struck by some kind of severe cognitive disorder that allows it to paint over the history of one of the most brutal regimes to have ever ruled or they really mean it. If the former, they owe their readers and the Chilean and Egyptian people an apology and should retract the statement. If the latter, then they are in fact the leading edge of a new fascism emerging here in America. Since I am not a medical professional, I will simply comment on what it means to suggest that fascism is the right outcome in Egypt.

220px-Missing_1982_filmFirst, for any of my younger readers, if you want a taste of what it means to be for a Pinochet then go to iTunes and download this week’s Editors Choice – the film “NO” which recounts the very final stages of the Pinochet regime, after the blood had been washed off the streets. If you have a stronger stomach, then find a copy of the magnificent Battle of Chile, an important long documentary film that includes amazing and disturbing footage of the Allende era and the imposition of the U.S.-backed brutal Pinochet dictatorship, now viewed as a political model for the middle east by such august figures at the Journal as Paul Gigot, Daniel Henninger and the recent Pulitzer winner Bret Stephens. (Stephens, the recent recipient of a Pulitzer, we have encountered before on these pages – it seems he looks for his ideas all over the place and is not always willing to give proper credit.) The Battle is hard to find but you can also look at Missing the fictional account of an American, Charles Horman, who was kidnapped and tortured to death by Pinochet’s thugs.

PinochetHere is a capsule summary of the Pinochet period, though, just so we are all on the same page: 3,000 murdered; 30,000 tortured; political parties outlawed; trade unions smashed; nearly two decades of brutal repression and fear. Two of those killed were blown up by Pinochet’s secret DINA police force on the streets of Washington D.C. The regime was installed with the not very covert support of Henry Kissinger and the Nixon Administration. Pinochet was feted by “Lady” Margaret Thatcher and other right wing thugs in order to burnish their own domestic reactionary politics. Pinochet’s regime was advised by economists trained in the shock therapy politics developed by Milton Friedman at  the University of Chicago.

For brevity’s sake I will spare readers an account of the book burnings carried out by the regime.

Unknown-1Now that we are all up to speed on what one is talking about when one invokes the name of Pinochet, what does it mean that the Journal would react to the unfolding events in Egypt like this? It means, most likely, that American conservatives are in a full blown panic over the popular uprising we have witnessed there in recent days but not only there. It signals broader panic among the Wall Street and D.C. elite over what is known as the Arab Spring, the region wide unfolding of a new democratic era in a part of the world that has for many decades found itself in the grip of what ever great power rivalries were taking hold in Europe, first, and later, in the cold war, between the great US and Russian blocs. For the first time, the region’s own populations are speaking up independently and saying, as the Chileans did to Pinochet, No.

This kind of democratic uprising is, inevitably, messy and volatile. There is, undeniably, also the presence of opportunistic forces that are not democratic, most clearly the Islamists. That makes the situation particularly complex but does not mean that the overall direction is one we should fear or condemn. Chile was able to make a more peaceful transition but only because a pre-existing political culture that had thrived in a long period of relative stability and democracy prior to the Pinochet period was able to survive underground and re-emerge when the regime finally was pushed aside. Egypt, Syria and Libya do not have that luxury, as they have been either under the direct colonial thumb of imperial powers such as Britain or held down by the local thugs representing post-imperial powers for generations.

Since the great powers have invested billions and many decades in creating the authoritarian regimes now being challenged, it appears to the mouthpieces of those same forces, like the Wall Street Journal, that all is chaos. Even “liberal intellectuals” like Harvard’s Noah Feldman are frightened by the disorderly nature of the popular effort to recreate these long repressed societies. He condemned the Egyptian millions as a “mob” as I explained here.

No doubt, when one is threatened with the loss of a significant investment panic is a reasonable enough reaction. But should they really be surprised that the “order” they imposed on the backs of the middle east is now under challenge?

It is a sign of how the world is turning on its axis now that the Journal would go this far. The Egyptian people are to be congratulated for being among the first to put their shoulder to the wheels of history and pushing.

Let’s hope the American people will find the courage to join them. Then the Journal’s editorial writers can join their fascist comrade in arms Pinochet in the ash can of history.

Review & Outlook: After the Coup in Cairo – WSJ.com.

Legal Geography: Expanding spaces of law

New book from Stanford Press:

    Legal geography is a stream of scholarship that takes the interconnections between law and spatiality, and especially their reciprocal construction, as core objects of inquiry. Legal geographers contend that in the world of lived social relations and experience, aspects of the social that are analytically identified as either legal or spatial are conjoined and co-constituted. The legal geography scholarship highlights that nearly every aspect of law is either located, takes place, is in motion, or has some spatial frame of reference. In other words, law is always “worlded” in some way. Likewise, every bit of social space, lived places, and landscapes are inscribed with legal significance. Distinctively legal forms of meaning are projected onto every segment of the physical world. These meanings are open to interpretation and may become involved in a range of legal practices. Such fragments of a socially segmented world — the where of law — are not simply the inert sites of law, but are inextricably implicated in how law happens.

Braverman, Blomley, Delaney, & Kedar on Legal Geography.

Urban World: A new iPad app for exploring an unprecedented wave of urbanization | McKinsey Global Institute | McKinsey & Company

Urban World: A new iPad app for exploring an unprecedented wave of urbanization | McKinsey Global Institute | McKinsey & Company.