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The Book Review Thread.

Heraclitus

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Speaking of Behavioural economics, Inside the Nudge unit was an interesting read. Although it could've been edited a bit better.


 

Tadhg Gaelach

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The new Lombard Street - How the Fed became the Dealer of Last Resort

by Perry Mehrling

Princeton University Press

Lombard Street is the street on which the Bank of England is situated. In 1873, in the wake of a devastating financial crash, Walter Bagehot set out to write a book that would explain the workings of the Bank of England and the financial system of the British Empire to the educated Englishman - many of whom had been burned in the recent crash. His book was an enormous success, and was used as something of a textbook for decades to come.

Following the Crash in 2008, Professor Perry Mehrling took it upon himself to write a similar book to explain to the educated American what had just happened to him, and in 2011, he published The New Lombard Street. Of course, the Fed in not situated on Lombard Street, but it has taken over the role of the world's central banker - a role the Bank of England played until WW2.

Mehrling is Professor of Money and Banking at Colombia University and manages to fit a huge amount of knowledge into a relatively short book - just 160 pages, excluding notes. But let me say that its not very easy reading - the information is relentless, page after page. You would certainly have to have a good background in economics and finance to read it.

The book starts by giving a history of the Fed, which is fascinating in itself. It explains the growth of the kind of banking that we all thought we knew - where savers made deposits, and the bank lent money to borrowers based on these savings. Professor Mehrling calls this Jimmy Stewart banking - referring to the famous Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life. But, once we get to the 1980s, a beast of an entirely different colour begins to take shape - the Shadow Banking System.

A full explanation of the Shadow Banking System is given. It's long and complex and headwrecking, but the basic idea is that the big banks set up offshore funds to avoid banking regulations, and then engage in very dodgy dealings with money that we thought we had safely deposited in Jimmy Stewart banks. Today, if anyone in any Western country takes out a mortage on a house, that mortgage will be sold on to the Shadow Banking System, were all sorts of financial conjuring will be done to it. Now, you might say - So what! Why should I care where my repayments go? But, as we saw in 2008, when the Shadow Banking System falls, it brings everyone down with it.

The mad thing is that even after all of the pain of the last ten years, the Shadow Banking System is still the same - and still unregulated. This system has been instrumental in driving house prices through the roof and causing infinitely more social damage than all the drug dealers in the world could ever do. And yet, our politicians have no will to do anything about it.

Some people want the Shadow Banking System outlawed altogether. Professor Mehrling believes it's too late for that. The whole banking system is now dependent on the Shadow Banks. He proposes that the Shadow Banks be regulated instead. However, the very purpose of the Shadow Banks is to avoid regulation - and they have the money to hire an army of lobbyists in Washington and Brussels. The end result has been that the Shadow Banking System remains in the shadows, out of the reach of the law.

So, it seems we have learned nothing much from the Crash of 2008. It's really only a matter of time until the next one.

Professor Mehrling has a full banking course for free on Coursera, which I've gone right though and is highly recommended.

Economics of Money and Banking | Coursera
 

Tadhg Gaelach

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I've just finished reading the script of Ingmar Bergman's "Scenes from a Marriage," which was presented as a TV series in Sweden in 1972. It seems that most of the adult population of Sweden tuned in every night to see each show. It turns out that this script has enormous relevance for Ireland today. The series, which Bergman directed, stared two of his favourite actors - Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. Josephen plays a well off and deeply bourgeois psychiatrist and Ullman his wife. The couple already have two children, which already in Sweden in 1972 was considered quite enough. However, as often happens, after an unplanned night of passion, Ullmann becomes pregnant. Josephson immediately decides on an abortion. His wife is dismayed for a moment, but in good Swedish manner, she agrees that this baby was totally unplanned for and the only sensible thing to do is have an abortion.

However, as all women do, she knows that murdering her baby is the worst of all crimes. While she keeps up a front of bourgeois good sense for her husband, inside she is torn apart. I'm not sure if Bergman was particularly having a go at psychiatrists, but it is remarkable that a man who's profession is the unconscious mind should be so oblivious to the inner suffering of his wife.

She goes through with the abortion. But, afterwards everything has changed. She sees what a shallow man her husband is and can no longer live a life of lies with him. After all, any man who would ship his own wife off to the abortion factory can hardly even be called a man. I would say he is far lower than a rat - a rat would never dream of doing such a thing. But, a woman with two children is not as free and easy as a trendy middle aged psychiatrist. Soon he is dating a sexy blond young enough to be his daughter, while Ullmann struggles alone to pay the family bills on the remittance he gives her.

I've painted Josephson as an out and out scumbag here, but as you can see from the picture above, this is a very likeable actor, and it's never really possible to hate him. Even from the script - without the actor's help - the reader is never allowed to hate this man. This was the particular genius of Bergman. He showed how very ordinary and bourgeois evil is.

The years pass and lovers come and go - as one might even expect in swinging 1970s Sweden, and man and wife now find themselves in steady relationships with other people. They begin to meet from time to time, to discuss the good \ bad old days. Before long, they find they are cheating on their partners - with each other. Well, this all sounds very Swedish - but it has a deeper meaning.

Is it futile to imagine we can be anything other than ships passing in the night under the brutal régime of bourgeois liberalism? Is it madness to think a man would sacrifice his golf on Sundays for a new and smelly baby? Can a woman be allowed to feel the miracle that she has become when life stirs for the first time in her womb? Indeed, every women is Eve at this moment - but our world of techic has shunned and prostituted the Goddess. And beyond all that, must fruit always be forbidden to be desired?
 

Καπανεύς

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I think he correctly identifies a certain type of person who is drawn to anti-Liberal politics in the character of Lucien Fleur & I found the reason in the film- Namely that he refuses to cut his hair & is therefore mistaken for a girl- a better explanation for this & would feed in to the paederastic relationship he enters. The character develops & associates his problems with the general retardation of French civilisation in to the penultimate stage known as democracy- In the film this is associated with Wilsonianism & the treaty of Versailles- & this feeling of civilisational retardation & the effect it has had on himself is then made synonymous with the people of the Jewish race- Which finally leads to Lucien engaging in violence against a person of said race reading a Socialist newspaper. This piece of short fiction is essentially about the desire an outcast has for ideology & how this unchecked desire of what is surely a lot of people will inevitably lead to tyranny. Another view is that Lucien is the son of an industrialist, feels the need to live up to his class & sees his salvation in anti-Liberal politics. In his rage at growing up to be superfluous to the culture that he had always considered his own he wishes to initiate himself in it through some other means & mistakes tyranny with civilisational acceleration. The object of his hate is as I have already said made synonymous with left-wing Authoritarianism, with left-leaning or even Liberalism in general which he further associates with the influence of Jewish intellectuals & culminates in what he perceives to be an act of defiance or perhaps even just delinquency fed on rage.

That is probably what was meant by the author any way. I personally disagree.
 
D

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This delightful film tells more on the background to Peig's books. I think it's the English scholar, Robin Flower, who is speaking.

I enjoyed that. Toward the end, the people likened the statues of the women to Africans. How appropriate. Perhaps the donkeys can be changed for a few camels and the island would then surely be an ideal refugee center
 
D

Deleted member 1918

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ire-land, if u want a nice short read, u will read nothing better than ned kelly's letter - the jerilderie letter( its online). he dictated it but another lad wrote it down. he is trying to explain how things have got to the position he was in and lets them know he is not going to back down. inspiring. his mother was actually sent to hard labour and this was the straw that broke the camels back for ned. ned cud write but his schooling was cut short when he had to take over his fathers role in the home at a young age. he loved school and learning when a young lad and was in no way an ignoramus. he was a true irishman in his love for language. also as a lad he rescued a fellow schoolmate from drowning and received a green and gold scarf/cumberbund type of thing from the family of the lad. he wore it under his steel armor the day of the showdown. like most, i was a fan of his anyways, but when u hear him speaking in his own voice, u get a real sense of what was a great wild gaelic hearted human being trapped in a fucked up unfair shitstem. God be good to Ned.
 
D

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ire-land, if u want a nice short read, u will read nothing better than ned kelly's letter - the jerilderie letter( its online). he dictated it but another lad wrote it down. he is trying to explain how things have got to the position he was in and lets them know he is not going to back down. inspiring. his mother was actually sent to hard labour and this was the straw that broke the camels back for ned. ned cud write but his schooling was cut short when he had to take over his fathers role in the home at a young age. he loved school and learning when a young lad and was in no way an ignoramus. he was a true irishman in his love for language. also as a lad he rescued a fellow schoolmate from drowning and received a green and gold scarf/cumberbund type of thing from the family of the lad. he wore it under his steel armor the day of the showdown. like most, i was a fan of his anyways, but when u hear him speaking in his own voice, u get a real sense of what was a great wild gaelic hearted human being trapped in a fucked up unfair shitstem. God be good to Ned.
Are you telling us there is a recording of Ned Kelly. There was a pub in Dorchester called Ned Kellys
 
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