вторник, 20 декември 2011 г.

В началото бе...

...едно злодейство: описано по-разговорно чрез "загадъчни хищници", за които пък има и "преки (научни) доказателства"
Следват накратко и двете:

Мystery predators contributed fiscal collapse
The study authors at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) retraced events to show that at a critical point in the financial crisis, the stock of Citigroup was attacked by traders by selling borrowed stock (short-selling) which may have caused others to sell in panic. The subsequent price drop enabled the attackers to buy the stock back at a much lower price.
This kind of illegal market manipulation is called a bear raid and the new study supports earlier suspicions that the raids played a role in the market crash.
"There used to be a rule that prevented it from happening by forbidding borrowed shares from being sold in large blocks that drive the price down," said Bar-Yam. "The Securities and Exchange Commission repealed that rule, known as the price test or uptick rule, on July 6, 2007."
On November 1, 2007, the number of borrowed Citigroup shares jumped by 100 million shares, a value of almost $6 billion. Six days later, a similar number of shares was returned on a single day.
Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam, President of NECSI, maintains this was no "freak" or coincidental event. "When 100 million shares are borrowed on a single day and then returned on a single day, the evidence that this is a concerted action is hard to refute."
Last year, the authors of the report sent preliminary results of their study to the financial services committee of Congress, and Congressmen Barney Frank and Ed Perlmutter sent it to the SEC. Unfortunately, Professor Bar-Yam says that he hasn’t seen any action by the SEC to identify or prosecute those responsible or to prevent its occurring in the future.
After the market crash, the SEC received thousands of requests from the public to reinstate the price test rule. Hedge funds that invest the money of wealthy individuals opposed its reinstatement. Eventually, the SEC put into place an "alternative" rule that only applies a price test when the price of a share drops more than 10 percent.
Professor Bar-Yam points out, "This watered-down rule would not have stopped the bear raid on Citigroup on November 1, 2007. This is only one example of the deleterious effects of the weakened rule. The overall effect of unregulated selling of borrowed shares is surely much larger and continues today."

Evidence of market manipulation in the financial crisis
Vedant Misra, Marco Lagi, Yaneer Bar-Yam
(Submitted on 14 Dec 2011)
We provide direct evidence of market manipulation at the beginning of the financial crisis in November 2007. The type of manipulation, a "bear raid," would have been prevented by a regulation that was repealed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in July 2007. The regulation, the uptick rule, was designed to prevent manipulation and promote stability and was in force from 1938 as a key part of the government response to the 1928 market crash and its aftermath. On November 1, 2007, Citigroup experienced an unusual increase in trading volume and decrease in price. Our analysis of financial industry data shows that this decline coincided with an anomalous increase in borrowed shares, the selling of which would be a large fraction of the total trading volume. The selling of borrowed shares cannot be explained by news events as there is no corresponding increase in selling by share owners. A similar number of shares were returned on a single day six days later. The magnitude and coincidence of borrowing and returning of shares is evidence of a concerted effort to drive down Citigroup's stock price and achieve a profit, i.e., a bear raid. Interpretations and analyses of financial markets should consider the possibility that the intentional actions of individual actors or coordinated groups can impact market behavior. Markets are not sufficiently transparent to reveal even major market manipulation events. Our results point to the need for regulations that prevent intentional actions that cause markets to deviate from equilibrium and contribute to crashes. Enforcement actions cannot reverse severe damage to the economic system. The current "alternative" uptick rule which is only in effect for stocks dropping by over 10% in a single day is insufficient. Prevention may be achieved through improved availability of market data and the original uptick rule or other transaction limitations.

сряда, 7 декември 2011 г.

Niklas Luhmann, the Radical and Occupy Wall Street

Niklas Luhmann, the Radical and Occupy Wall Street

Hans Georg-Moeller:

Unfortunately, the radicalism of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of society has often been ignored, misunderstood, or watered down. This is unfortunate because the theory is probably the most powerful one out there right now for explaining how society works. Its radicalism is much needed. And why is that?

Simply put, because the dominating ideologies currently available still operate with the humanist vocabulary of early modernity, with all its notions of freedom, rights, recognition, the other, justice—you name it. These concepts may sound appealing, but they are theoretically shallow—for instance, with respect to understanding the social phenomena connected with the recent financial crisis. It happened because of “greed”? Is this all that the “Occupiers of Wall Street” can offer us as an explanation? We need a radical theory so that those protesting in the streets will begin to comprehend what it is that they are protesting against, and so that they may begin to drop their moralistic jargon (which they share with the Republicans, by the way).

In his 1997 essay “Globalization or World Society? How to Conceive of Modern Society?” Luhmann already described the “new centrality of international financial markets; the corresponding marginalization of production, labour, and trade; and the transfer of economic security from real assets and first-rate debtors to speculation itself,” which created an economy focusing on “financial products” rather than goods and undermined traditional economic couplings with, for instance, infrastructure, means of production, or the legal system. Luhmann understood that the “volatility of the financial market with its new derivative instruments for simultaneously maximizing security and risk with unpredictable effects” had led to the following situation: “He who tries to maintain his property will lose his fortune, and he who tries to maintain and increase his wealth will have to change his investments one day to the next. He can either use new derivative instruments or trust some of the many funds that do this for him.” For Luhmann all this cannot be explained on the basis of the traditional vocabulary of “exploitation” or tackled with ethical appeals.

What we need is a radical departure from seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century thought, and the guts to look into the mirror without old wigs and fancy dresses that show us in all our assumed human dignity and moral beauty. Most disappointingly, in the course of the “Dialectics of Enlightenment,” the radical options that were once available, like Marxism, have now become the opium of the bourgeoisie. Luhmann’s theory is “radical” in the sense that it provides an entirely new framework for understanding how global society operates on a basic level, how social complexity emerges, how we are immersed in a relentless matrix of communication that has swallowed us and that provides us with a variety of comfort and illusions. Marx had meticulously and coldly described how the capitalist mode of production had shaped a society of industrialist production of goods and, in line with that, a merciless dictatorship of money. Luhmann, equalling Marx in meticulousness and coldness, describes how, in “postindustrial” times, communication systems have taken over and allow for a rich variety of modes of “exchange,” in which any claim for human control or for “making a difference” that the Wall Street occupiers hope for must seem absurd.

If society actually evolves, and this is one of Luhmann’s most basic premises, then it cannot be steered. The main difference between evolutionism and creationism is that the latter believes in “intelligent design” and “guidance from above.” Evolutionism, however, does not. Unfortunately, the illusion of intelligent design and guidance from above still dominates “postenlightenment” social theory, only in a secularized version. Once this was the job of God and His helpers on earth. Now the helpers claim that they can do the job alone. But this is not how the real world has ever operated. Perhaps we should finally liberate ourselves from the liberal premises that we can determine basically whatsoever on the basis of our “free will.” The free will and the free market are specters that still haunt contemporary society. To exorcise them, a little radicalism may be needed, and this will imply, as was the case with Marx, a radical departure from the values and ideas of bourgeois moralists, leading far beyond what is currently offered by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

We do not need to despair, however. Just as we survived the insights of not being at the center of the universe, of not being the crown of creation, and of not being the master of our unconscious drives and social constraints, we can also survive Luhmann’s sociological insult. The sociological insult finally liberates us from the illusion that we can, and therefore must, control society (or communication). It may be at first disappointing to let go of illusions of control and controllability, but it can turn out to be a relief. In a surprising turn, Luhmann offers us a new form of radical theoretical stoicism and thus enables us to find a degree of intellectual tranquility in the midst of the follies and the frenzy of a globalized world.

понеделник, 14 ноември 2011 г.

Six Questions for Žižek

Six Questions for Slavoj Žižek
(by J. Nicole Jones in Harper's, Nov. 11th)

Ideology is not only ideas. Ideology is something which structures our daily practices. Ideology is not that you think money is something mystical; ideology is in how you deal with money everyday. Legal ideology is that even if you don’t trust the legal, you use it, you rely on it.

събота, 12 ноември 2011 г.

Street Legal

Tangled Up in Law: The Jurisprudence of Bob Dylan

Prof. Michael L. Perlin

New York Law School

Electronic copy available

If all you knew of Bob Dylan’s law-related work was Absolutely Sweet Marie (“to live outside the law/you must be honest”) or Ballad of a Thin Man (“with great lawyers/you have discussed lepers and crooks”), you might think that Dylan had little use for the law or the legal system. And you would be wrong. Putting aside Dylan’s robust career as a litigator (as a plaintiff [to stop the production of bootlegs], as a defendant [in the Hurricane-spawned Patti Valentine litigation]) or as a witness before Congressional committees examining copyright legislation, a careful examination of Dylan’s lyrics reveals a writer - OK, let's say it: a scholar - with a well-developed jurisprudence, ranging over a broad array of topics that relate to civil and criminal law, public and private law.
Dylan’s lyrics reflect the work of a thinker who takes “the law” seriously in multiple iterations - the role of lawyers, the role of judges, the disparities between the ways the law treats the rich and the poor, the inequality of the criminal and civil justice systems, the corruption of government, the police, and the judiciary, and more. Of course, there is no question that may of Bob’s lyrics are, to be, charitable “obscure” (the frequent use of the word “mystical” in lyrical analyses seems to be a code word for obscurity). And Bob being Bob, we’ll never know exactly what means what. But, even in this context, many of his songs about law are “crying [out to us] like a fire in the sun.”

To be published in Fordham Urban Law Journal
June 21, 2011

Street-Legal (1978)

понеделник, 7 ноември 2011 г.

неделя, 30 октомври 2011 г.

'Democracy is the enemy'
Slavoj Žižek 28 October 2011

The protests on Wall Street and at St Paul’s Cathedral are similar, Anne Applebaum wrote in the Washington Post, ‘in their lack of focus, in their inchoate nature, and above all in their refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions’. ‘Unlike the Egyptians in Tahrir Square,’ she went on, ‘to whom the London and New York protesters openly (and ridiculously) compare themselves, we have democratic institutions.’

Once you have reduced the Tahrir Square protests to a call for Western-style democracy, as Applebaum does, of course it becomes ridiculous to compare the Wall Street protests with the events in Egypt: how can protesters in the West demand what they already have? What she blocks from view is the possibility of a general discontent with the global capitalist system which takes on different forms here or there.

‘Yet in one sense,’ she conceded, ‘the international Occupy movement’s failure to produce sound legislative proposals is understandable: both the sources of the global economic crisis and the solutions to it lie, by definition, outside the competence of local and national politicians.’ She is forced to the conclusion that ‘globalisation has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.’ This is precisely what the protesters are drawing attention to: that global capitalism undermines democracy. The logical further conclusion is that we should start thinking about how to expand democracy beyond its current form, based on multi-party nation-states, which has proved incapable of managing the destructive consequences of economic life. Instead of making this step, however, Applebaum shifts the blame onto the protesters themselves for raising these issues:

‘Global’ activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout: ‘We need to have a process!’ Well, they already have a process: it’s called the British political system. And if they don’t figure out how to use it, they’ll simply weaken it further.

So, Applebaum’s argument appears to be that since the global economy is outside the scope of democratic politics, any attempt to expand democracy to manage it will accelerate the decline of democracy. What, then, are we supposed to do? Continue engaging, it seems, in a political system which, according to her own account, cannot do the job.

There is no shortage of anti-capitalist critique at the moment: we are awash with stories about the companies ruthlessly polluting our environment, the bankers raking in fat bonuses while their banks are saved by public money, the sweatshops where children work overtime making cheap clothes for high-street outlets. There is a catch, however. The assumption is that the fight against these excesses should take place in the familiar liberal-democratic frame. The (explicit or implied) goal is to democratise capitalism, to extend democratic control over the global economy, through the pressure of media exposure, parliamentary inquiries, harsher laws, police investigations etc. What goes unquestioned is the institutional framework of the bourgeois democratic state. This remains sacrosanct even in the most radical forms of ‘ethical anti-capitalism’ – the Porto Allegre forum, the Seattle movement and so on.

Here, Marx’s key insight remains as pertinent today as it ever was: the question of freedom should not be located primarily in the political sphere – i.e. in such things as free elections, an independent judiciary, a free press, respect for human rights. Real freedom resides in the ‘apolitical’ network of social relations, from the market to the family, where the change needed in order to make improvements is not political reform, but a change in the social relations of production. We do not vote concerning who owns what, or about the relations between workers in a factory. Such things are left to processes outside the sphere of the political, and it is an illusion that one can change them by ‘extending’ democracy: say, by setting up ‘democratic’ banks under the people’s control. Radical changes in this domain should be made outside the sphere of such democratic devices as legal rights etc. They have a positive role to play, of course, but it must be borne in mind that democratic mechanisms are part of a bourgeois-state apparatus that is designed to ensure the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction. Badiou was right to say that the name of the ultimate enemy today is not capitalism, empire, exploitation or anything of the kind, but democracy: it is the ‘democratic illusion’, the acceptance of democratic mechanisms as the only legitimate means of change, which prevents a genuine transformation in capitalist relations.

The Wall Street protests are just a beginning, but one has to begin this way, with a formal gesture of rejection which is more important than its positive content, for only such a gesture can open up the space for new content. So we should not be distracted by the question: ‘But what do you want?’ This is the question addressed by male authority to the hysterical woman: ‘All your whining and complaining – do you have any idea what you really want?’ In psychoanalytic terms, the protests are a hysterical outburst that provokes the master, undermining his authority, and the master’s question – ‘But what do you want?’ – disguises its subtext: ‘Answer me in my own terms or shut up!’ So far, the protesters have done well to avoid exposing themselves to the criticism that Lacan levelled at the students of 1968: ‘As revolutionaries, you are hysterics who demand a new master. You will get one.’

петък, 14 октомври 2011 г.


Slavoj Žižek visited Liberty Plaza to speak to Occupy Wall Street protesters. Here is the full transcript of his speech.

Don't fall in love with yourselves, with the nice time we are having here. Carnivals come cheap—the true test of their worth is what remains the day after, how our normal daily life will be changed. Fall in love with hard and patient work—we are the beginning, not the end. Our basic message is: the taboo is broken, we do not live in the best possible world, we are allowed and obliged even to think about alternatives. There is a long road ahead, and soon we will have to address the truly difficult questions—questions not about what we do not want, but about what we DO want. What social organization can replace the existing capitalism? What type of new leaders we need? The XXth century alternatives obviously did not work.
So do not blame people and their attitudes: the problem is not corruption or greed, the problem is the system that pushes you to be corrupt. The solution is not “Main street, not Wall street,” but to change the system where main street cannot function without Wall street. Beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support us, but are already working hard to dilute our protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, they will try to make us into a harmless moral protest. But the reason we are here is that we had enough of the world where to recycle your Coke cans, to give a couple of dollars for charity, or to buy Starbucks cappuccino where 1% goes for the Third World troubles is enough to make us feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, we see that for a long time we were allowing our political engagements also to be outsourced—we want them back.
They will tell us we are un-American. But when conservative fundamentalists tell you that America is a Christian nation, remember what Christianity is: the Holy Spirit, the free egalitarian community of believers united by love. We here are the Holy Spirit, while on Wall Street they are pagans worshipping false idols.
They will tell us we are violent, that our very language is violent: occupation, and so on. Yes we are violent, but only in the sense in which Mahathma Gandhi was violent. We are violent because we want to put a stop on the way things go—but what is this purely symbolic violence compared to the violence needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the global capitalist system?
We were called losers—but are the true losers not there on the Wall Street, and were they not bailed out by hundreds of billions of your money? You are called socialists—but in the US, there already is socialism for the rich. They will tell you that you don't respect private property—but the Wall Street speculations that led to the crash of 2008 erased more hard-earned private property than if we were to be destroying it here night and day—just think of thousands of homes foreclosed...
We are not Communists, if Communism means the system which deservedly collapsed in 1990—and remember that Communists who are still in power run today the most ruthless capitalism (in China). The success of Chinese Communist-run capitalism is an ominous sign that the marriage between capitalism and democracy is approaching a divorce. The only sense in which we are Communists is that we care for the commons—the commons of nature, of knowledge—which are threatened by the system.
They will tell you that you are dreaming, but the true dreamers are those who think that things can go on indefinitely they way they are, just with some cosmetic changes. We are not dreamers, we are the awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything, we are merely witness how the system is gradually destroying itself. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice, but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. What we are doing is just reminding those in power to look down...
So is the change really possible? Today, the possible and the impossible are distributed in a strange way. In the domains of personal freedoms and scientific technology, the impossible is becoming increasingly possible (or so we are told): “nothing is impossible,” we can enjoy sex in all its perverse versions; entire archives of music, films, and TV series are available for downloading; space travel is available to everyone (with the money...); we can enhance our physical and psychic abilities through interventions into the genome, right up to the techno-gnostic dream of achieving immortality by transforming our identity into a software program. On the other hand, in the domain of social and economic relations, we are bombarded all the time by a You cannot ... engage in collective political acts (which necessarily end in totalitarian terror), or cling to the old Welfare State (it makes you non-competitive and leads to economic crisis), or isolate yourself from the global market, and so on. When austerity measures are imposed, we are repeatedly told that this is simply what has to be done. Maybe, the time has come to turn around these coordinates of what is possible and what is impossible; maybe, we cannot become immortal, but we can have more solidarity and healthcare?
In mid-April 2011, the media reported that Chinese government has prohibited showing on TV and in theatres films which deal with time travel and alternate history, with the argument that such stories introduce frivolity into serious historical matters—even the fictional escape into alternate reality is considered too dangerous. We in the liberal West do not need such an explicit prohibition: ideology exerts enough material power to prevent alternate history narratives being taken with a minimum of seriousness. It is easy for us to imagine the end of the world—see numerous apocalyptic films -, but not end of capitalism.
In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he tells his friends: “Let's establish a code: if a letter you will get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter written in blue ink: “Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair—the only thing unavailable is red ink.” And is this not our situation till now? We have all the freedoms one wants—the only thing missing is the red ink: we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What this lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to designate the present conflict—'war on terror,' "democracy and freedom,' 'human rights,' etc—are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think it. You, here, you are giving to all of us red ink.

10 October 2011...така беше в годината, когато опасно мечтахме, ще каже по-късно Жижек (и ще му завиждаме на английската алитерацията dreaming dangerously)