"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Turning Japanese
GISM was a Japanese mid-paced hardcore punk band (with heavy metal influence) formed in Tokyo, Japan in 1980. Even though the guitar style resembled heavy metal style riffs and solos, GISM were one of the first Japanese hardcore bands, while at the same time drawing influence from the early industrial/avant-garde music scene; something extremely uncommon in punk bands at that time.
The acronym GISM had many different variations; they include: God In the Schizoid Mind, Guerrilla Incendiary Sabotage Mutineer, General Imperialism Social Murder, Genocide Infanticide Suicide Menticide* & Gnostic Idiosyncrasy Sonic Militant.
GISM has attained a cult status in the international punk scene, duly for their unique blend of heavy metal and hardcore punk. Several Japanese punk bands have emulated the low-pitched vocal style of Sakevi Yokoyama.
In Lady Gaga's video for the song "Telephone," released in March of 2010, the performer wears a spiked leather jacket featuring a GISM back patch. Whether Lady Gaga is actually a fan of the band is unclear. However, the director of the music video, Jonas Akerlund, is former member of the Swedish metal band Bathory and could very well be the reason for the jacket's appearance in the video. The jacket also features patches for the UK crust bands Icons of Filth and Doom.
Krugman blogging about stagflation versus hyperinflation and the 1970s:
The kind of inflation we had in the 1970s, the famous era of stagflation -- high inflation combined with high unemployment -- was quite different. Deficits weren’t the issue -- actually, US deficits were much smaller in the inflationary 70s than in the disinflationary 80s. Instead, what you had was a combination of excessively expansionary monetary policies, based on an unrealistic view of how low the unemployment rate could be pushed without causing accelerating inflation (the NAIRU), plus oil shocks that pushed up inflation across the board thanks to widespread cost-of-living clauses in contracts. There was never any risk of hyperinflation; the only question was whether and when we’d be willing to pay the price in high unemployment of bringing inflation back down.
Kinsley seems to be confusing the logic of the natural rate argument, which says that expected inflation gets built into price-setting, so you need an accelerating inflation rate to keep unemployment below the NAIRU, with the very different logic of hyperinflation, which is about people fleeing money.
Meanwhile, for those predicting hyperinflation, my question would be: what is it about the United States now that looks different to you from Japan in say, 2000? Big budget deficits and high debt? Check. Huge expansion in the monetary base? Check. And yet Japan’s GDP deflator has fallen 9 percent since 2000.
 (Lady Gaga: "Prepare to be assimilated.  We will add your 
biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.  You 
will adapt to service us.  Resistance is futile.")

* "the systematic effort to undermine and destroy a person's values and beliefs, as by the use of prolonged interrogation, drugs, torture, etc., and to induce radically different ideas."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kurdish people total population: 23-36 million

Palestinian people: c. 12 million

Armenians: 7.3-7.4 million

Circassians: c. 4 million

Circassian beauties is a term used to refer to an idealized image of the women of the Circassian people of the Northern Caucasus. A fairly extensive literary history suggests that Circassian women were thought to be unusually beautiful, spirited and elegant, and as such were desirable as concubines. This reputation dates back to the Ottoman Empire when Circassian women living in the Sultan's Imperial Harem started to build their reputation as extremely beautiful and genteel, and then became a common trope in Western Orientalism.
As a result of this reputation, in Europe and America Circassians were regularly characterised as the ideal of feminine beauty in poetry, novels and art. Cosmetic products were advertised, from the 18th century on, using the word "Circassian" in the title, or claiming that the product was based on substances used by the women of Circassia.
In the 1860s the showman P. T. Barnum exhibited women who he claimed were Circassian beauties. They wore a distinctive Afro-like hair style, which had no precedent in earlier portrayals of Circassians, but which was soon copied by other female performers, who became known as "moss haired girls". These were typically presented as victims of sexual enslavement among the Turks, who had escaped from the harem to achieve freedom in America. 
The legend of Circassian women was also repeated by legal theorist Gustav Hugo, who wrote that "Even beauty is more likely to be found in a Circassian slave girl than in a beggar girl", referring to the fact that even a slave has some security and safety, but a "free" beggar has none. Hugo's comment was later condemned by Karl Marx in The Philosophical Manifesto of the Historical School of Law (1842) on the grounds that it excused slavery.
WASHINGTON — The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted narrowly on Thursday to condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians early in the last century, defying a last-minute plea from the Obama administration to forgo a vote that seemed sure to offend Turkey and jeopardize delicate efforts at Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. 
The vote on the nonbinding resolution, a perennial point of friction addressing a dark, century-old chapter of Turkish history, was 23 to 22. A similar resolution passed by a slightly wider margin in 2007, but the Bush administration, fearful of losing Turkish cooperation over Iraq, lobbied forcefully to keep it from reaching the House floor. Whether this resolution will reach a floor vote remains unclear.  
In Ankara, the capital, the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately issued a sharp rebuke. “We condemn this bill that denounces the Turkish nation of a crime that it has not committed,” the statement said. Ambassador Namik Tan, who had only weeks ago taken up his post in Washington, has been recalled to Ankara for consultations, according to the statement.  
Historians say that as many as 1.5 million Armenians died amid the chaos and unrest surrounding World War I and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies, however, that this was a planned genocide, and had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign against the resolution.

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s foreign minister said Friday that the vote by a Congressional committee in Washington condemning the mass killing of Armenians early in the last century as genocide would damage ties with the Obama administration and set back reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia. 
In recent years, Turkey has sought to play a bigger regional role, re-establishing ties with nearby Arab countries and reaching out to Armenia, whose border with Turkey has been closed since the 1990s, when Armenia was at war with its neighbor Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally. In 2008, Turkey’s president paid the first visit by a Turkish leader to Armenia in the two nations’ history. 
Interesting fact from a New York Times piece about China's trade policies:

I.M.F. policies call for it to disclose documents and information on a timely basis, with the deletion only of market-moving information. But under the rules a member country may decide to withhold a report, an organization official said.
China allowed the release of its reports until the monetary fund’s executive board decided in June 2007 that reports should pay more attention to currency policies. China has quietly blocked release of reports on its policies ever since, without providing its specific reasons to the I.M.F.
A person who has seen copies of the most recent report last summer said that the monetary fund staff concluded the renminbi was “substantially undervalued.”
The monetary fund regards a currency as substantially undervalued if it is more than 20 percent below its fair market value.
More than four-fifths of the I.M.F.’s members allow publication of the agency’s annual staff reports on their economies. Countries blocking release are mostly tightly controlled places like Myanmar, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia, although Brazil has also not released its reports.
IMF/World Bank support of military dictatorships chart

Jonathan Chait quotes a Ha'aretz editorial:
There is one reason for the crisis: Netanyahu's persistence in continuing construction in East Jerusalem, in placing Jews in Arab neighborhoods and evicting Palestinians from their homes in the city. This is not a matter of timing but substance. Despite repeated warnings and bitter experiences, he stokes the flames over the conflict's most sensitive issue and is bound to get himself in trouble. Netanyahu has made it clear by his actions that American support for Israel, especially essential now in light of the Iranian threat, is less important to him than the chance to put another few Jews in the Sheikh Jarrah or Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods.
Isn't this just ethnic cleansing? Why don't people call it by its rightful name?