Who says we’re out of touch with the world out here?
Between Paul’s devotion to reading me the headlines and my own quirky research and friends, I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what’s happening out there. (It’s why I hide out here.)
Here’s some stuff I’ll bet you’ll be glad to know:
The latest fad in Japan is skirts for women that have printed on them something which will have you wondering if you have suddenly acquired x-ray vision: underpants. I gave up on Japanese pop-culture when they came up with “Hello Kitty,” but I’m having second thoughts about that now.
Old news, new views. For the last three or four years I have been following the work of an artist and spiritual researcher whose YouTube moniker is “usernamen.” His brilliant use of new music with historic documentary film footage is what first attracted my attention. Since then I’ve learned usernamen has made an extensive study of the myths and symbols used by man since prehistory and is only now beginning to reveal his conclusions in documentary form.
Here, however, is a link to a piece of his earlier work “Kamikaze Attacks,” which may help us keep the underpants fad in perspective:
No longer #1. China, which at $900.2 billion is currently the largest holder of US debt, has embraced the findings of its rating agency (Dagong International Credit Rating Co.) which on July 11th issued a report which rates US creditworthiness below China and 11 other countries including Switzerland and Australia due to high debt and slow growth. The report warned the US is among those countries facing rising borrowing costs and risks of default, while the US credit rating agencies continue to claim the US is the most creditworthy nation in the world. This probably means that China will be cutting back again on its investments in US Treasury bonds. Last year China began divesting itself of US treasuries—so much so that six months ago Japan briefly ranked first ahead of China as the largest foreign holder of US debt.
The report comes amid complaints by Beijing that Western rating agencies fail to give China full credit for its economic strength, thereby boosting China’s borrowing costs—a criticism echoed by some foreign analysts. At June’s G-20 summit in Toronto, President Hu Jintao called for the creation of a more accurate credit rating system.
What does this mean to you? Most immediately, the bargains at Wal-Mart and other importers of Chinese goods will become more costly. Labor costs in China are already increasing. But longer term? The Chinese government will, as our banker, have a greater say in our own government’s policies.
The next boxcar bump. The oil spill carnage will extend far from the tar-ringed beaches of the Gulf. As so many borrowers whose livelihoods are dependent on fishing, tourism, beachfront real estate and the oil and gas business are already seriously wounded by the BP Gulf Oil Spill, we’re now looking at a crisis among regional banks which, unlike those institutions which have already received bail-outs, are not too big to fail.
Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to Foresight Analytics of Oakland, CA, US banks have a total exposure of $136.4 billion to commercial real estate owners and developers alone in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. Regions Financial Corp., based in Birmingham, AL, has the biggest exposure of these potentially bad loans totaling $12.4 billion, or 14.6% of their total loan portfolio. This doesn’t include loans for shrimp boats, t-shirt shops, beachside residential properties, etc., so it’s just the tip of the berg.
This will make loans for healthy businesses harder to get, and more expensive too, just when the economy needs a resurgence in employment and investment by small and mid-sized businesses—the kinds of businesses that will never see a dime of BP damage payments.
Nevertheless, I’m guessing there have been many conversations like this one in BP’s corporate offices to justify their “positive” role in the “chain of life”:
See the conversation between Zorg (Gary Oldman) and Father Cornelius (Ian Holm) in one of my favorite sci-fi films, The Fifth Element (1997)
Department of Paranoia. After two weeks of rainfall originating in the Gulf, we have hatched a record crop of gnats and mosquitoes. What we are discovering is that bites from these insects are like none others that we have ever experienced. My arms, legs and face are covered with large itchy welts that make me wonder if we are being injected with small amounts of Corexit, a deadly neurotoxin used by BP as an oil dispersant, with every bite? As if we don’t already have enough to worry about…
Wherever we may try to hide, the outer world has its ways of reaching out and touching us.