Daily Archives: October 14, 2008

ABC brilliant last night: "Mortgage Meltdown" and Imran Khan

Last night Auntie indulged herself in a repeat, as well she might. Mortgage Meltdown was first broadcast on Four Corners in September 2007.

PAUL BARRY: Mark Seiffert is a housing activist in Cleveland Ohio, the foreclosure capital of the United States. The hundreds of people who file into his offices every week are not rich and are not speculators, but they’ve been persuaded to take out expensive subprime loans they can’t pay back and should never have got into.

WOMAN (speaking to counsellor): … Mortgage started in September at an adjustable rate, which is almost $300 more than I was paying. When my husband lost his job …

PAUL BARRY: Now their city is now seeing a tidal wave of evictions and foreclosures.

MARK SEIFFERT, HOUSING ACTIVIST, CLEVELAND OHIO: It’s devastating. I mean, you know we’ve had, in Cleveland there’s supposedly about 80,000 property units, buildings. Ten thousand of those are vacant as of today. And we’re seeing foreclosures increasing by more than 300 per cent over the last couple of years.

And it’s no longer an inner city, minority, poor person type issue, it’s, you know, we see men, women, black white, it’s married, single, wealthy, middle income, lower income, fixed income. There is no, you know, status quo. I mean fire fighters, architects, TV reporters. It’s everybody. And it’s, you know, the crisis is just beginning.


PAUL BARRY: But bad as the problems clearly are for California and for Cleveland, how on earth have they spread so far as to shake the world?

The answer lies here on Wall St, because it was the big banks and brokers here who put up the massive amounts of money that fuelled the huge lending surge and the dodgy loans then came back here to be parcelled up into mortgage backed securities and collateralised debt obligations and sold to investors all around the world, with everyone picking up fat fees along the way.

SATYAJIT DAS, AUTHOR, ‘TRADERS, GUNS AND MONEY’:A German banker recently said to me with a very Germanic accent, “Why is somebody not paying their mortgage in Luneville, West Virginia,” and this is a real town by the way, “going to affect me?”

And the reason is very simple. Because of the web of transactions in global finance now and capital flows, people from all round the world have invested in the US.

PAUL BARRY: Satyajit Das is a world expert on hedge funds and credit markets and an adviser to banks around the world.

Based here in Australia he has long been warning how easily a crisis like this could develop.

SATYAJIT DAS, AUTHOR, ‘TRADERS, GUNS AND MONEY’:To give you an idea of global capital flows, 85 per cent of capital flows from Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East is in to the US. And a good chunk of that has gone into the subprime mortgage area, or the mortgage area in general.

PAUL BARRY (to Satyajit Das): So the money comes from overseas and it then gets lent out to people in Cleveland, Ohio?

SATYAJIT DAS, AUTHOR, ‘TRADERS, GUNS AND MONEY’:That’s absolutely correct.

PAUL BARRY (to Satyajit Das): Right.

SATYAJIT DAS, AUTHOR, ‘TRADERS, GUNS AND MONEY’:That’s absolutely correct.

PAUL BARRY (to Satyajit Das): So when the people in Cleveland, Ohio, stop paying, the wave comes back again outwards?

SATYAJIT DAS, AUTHOR, ‘TRADERS, GUNS AND MONEY’:It’s like the old saying about chaos theory: the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the Amazon causes a Caribbean hurricane. And that’s what we’re seeing now.

Do read/watch. Yes, well worth repeating!

Then on Enough Rope we had an interview with the rather wonderful Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.

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Posted by on October 14, 2008 in America, Australia, Australia and Australian, challenge, current affairs, globalisation/corporations, Islam, South Asian, terrorism, USA


Unheroic, super-intelligent gay fiction: Samuel R Delany’s "Dark Reflections"

delany You have to hand it to a writer who can so deflate his own self-importance that he has The Poet Arnold Hawley, black and over 65 and over-weight and the central character in this novel, lament that publishers foisted on him the “vomitous” title Dark Reflections for a slim volume of verse when he himself had called it Pretences. Unheroic but not an anti-hero, Hawley sees through so much of the pretension that is the New York literary world, and even turns his jaded yet innocent eye on the shifting political correctnesses of his times. He wonders when and exactly how Negro became “black” and then “Black”. He wonders about “gay liberation”.

In ’88, a year after he won the Alfred Proctor Prize in Poetry, three days beyond June’s Gay Pride Day, Arnold was walking through the West Village. Somehow, Arnold reflected, the closet had just… dissolved around him. Nearly twenty years before, in the summer of ’69, Arnold, yes, had read about the riots that had begun in his onetime stomping grounds, the Stonewall Inn. They occurred over on the other side of the Village, where no one Arnold actually knew lived. He had assumed they were as unimportant as any such city disturbance. But he kept finding more articles about them. Then more. His conviction was that this “Gay Liberation” business, which so clearly was just an imitation of “Women’s Liberation”, itself only a spin-off of civil rights, had to be a social aberration that would dissolve when people grew tired of it.

But it hadn’t.

Arnold was always vaguely bewildered as to why…

We should beware of taking the Prufrockian Arnold as the author’s voice, of course, even if the usual distinctions of fiction are quite often blurred in Dark Reflections.

We are reminded of the fact that in 1950 the great American poet Wallace Stevens said of African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks at a Pulitzer banquet: “Who let the coon in?”….

If such a novel as Dark Reflections had appeared in the Australian literary scene we would have heard of it over and over again as heralding a great step forward in Australian literature — or so I suspect. Certainly among those in the USA and elsewhere familiar with Samuel R Delany’s work, Dark Reflections attracted its share of attention, as it should. It is a marvellous novel. I was not familiar with Delany’s work, partly because much of it is in the fantasy/science fiction genre, which I rarely read.

I commend Dark Reflections to you.

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Posted by on October 14, 2008 in America, Best read of 2008, book reviews, Gay and Lesbian, gay issues, reading, Top read, USA, writers