Saturday, August 21, 2010

The American wealthy class is mostly parasitic on the people who actually create value

The current Great Recession is exactly the same kind of economic disaster as was the Great Depression. The ultra-wealthy reached a position of power from which they were able to change the rules regarding who got the benefit of value created by working people. Why is this wrong? Because wealth does not create wealth. It creates power.

From that position of power the wealthy have become able to skim wealth from those who are creative and who actually work to create more wealth. The problem is what anthropologist Eric Wolf called Structural power. Structural power is the kind of power that is used to predetermine what markets can possibly allocate before the buyer and seller ever meet. It is the power that is ignored by the people who claim that free markets properly allocate everything. As an example, no CEO is worth hundreds of times the value of the workers who actually create goods and services. Nor does wealth perform the entrepreneurial function. Instead, the wealthy question entrepreneurs and decide how they can extract the largest amount of vigorish from entrepreneurs in order to lend them money.

Which is not to say that there are not special skills needed to manage large organizations, and especially to do strategic management (something most practicing strategic managers don't do well.) It's just to say that such skills are highly over-rewarded because the people at those levels of the organization have enough power to control how much they get paid and to avoid responsibility for the errors they make.

what we have in America today is a society that rewards the guys at the top based on the power they have and ignores most of the people who actually create the value of the economy. Dean Baker describes what we need to do about that problem.
We have enormous ground to cover to restore an economy that works for the vast majority, but the first step is to know where we are. The upward redistribution of the last three decades has nothing to do with the market and a belief in "market fundamentalism." This is about a process where the rich and powerful have rewritten the rules to make themselves richer and more powerful.

For example, they wrote trade rules that were designed to put downward pressure on the wages of the bulk of the U.S. workforce by placing manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in China and other developing countries. This had nothing to do with a belief in "free trade." They did not try to subject lawyers, doctors or other highly paid workers to the same sort of international competition. They only wanted international competition to put downward pressure on the wages of workers in the middle and bottom, not those at the top.

This elite has instituted a system of corporate governance that allows top executives to pilfer companies at the expense of their shareholders and its workers. Top executives are overseen only by a board of directors who owe their hugely overpaid sinecures to the executives they supervise. And of course the Wall Street barons themselves are given a license to gamble with the implicit promise that government picks up their tab when they lose.

No progressive movement will make any progress until we understand the battle we are fighting. Our income is a cost to the rich. They will look to cut it wherever they can, whether this is wages for private sector workers, pensions for public employees, or Social Security for retirees. That is their target.

We have to fight back using the same logic. Their income is our cost -- the multimillion dollar bonuses for the Wall Street wizards is a direct drain on the economy. So are the bloated paychecks of top executives and their lackey boards. Progressives must be prepared to use all the same tactics to bring down the income of the rich and powerful that they have used to reduce the income of everyone else.

This means restructuring the rules of corporate governance to put serious downward pressure on the pay of top executives. The highest paid workers (doctors, lawyers, and economists) must be subjected to international competition in the same way as manufacturing workers have been subjected to international competition. And, we should sharply limit the extent of the patent or copyright protections that are exploited by the drug industry and the entertainment and software industries.

We have to put the focus on the ways the rich have rigged the rules and place this at the center of political debate. The three decade-long battle over tax cuts for the rich is important, but at the end of the day it is a side show. If we let them steal all the money at the onset, it really doesn't make much difference if they end up letting us tax a little of it back.
It's not that people who create new businesses should not get rewarded for it. It's that their descendants do little more than defend their wealth. Inheritance is not a great value to society because it does not reward those who actually created the value they inherit. The thing is that with the power that wealth gives them, they have been able to become dangerous parasites on the American economy. Their efforts to defend their inherited wealthy from the inheritance tax explains why the conservative Republicans are so dead set on removing the inheritance tax.

The economy runs better when the middle class gets a larger portion of the rewards of their work. So look back at Dean Baker's prescriptions for the progressive movement.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Corporation: A Legal Person

a corporation, which is

* Legal Person (with no moral conscience)
* accountable to stock holders
* not to stakeholders
* relatively recent (after the 14th amendment ... between 1890-1910 there were 307 cases brought to the court ... 288 on behalf of corporations, just 19 for people.)

Source: KSU Introduction to Anthropology

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Onion clarifies the abortion debate

This news item from the Onion News Network tells us everything that we need to know about the anti-abortion laws currently being proposed in several states.

New Law Requires Women To Name Baby, Paint Nursery Before Getting Abortion

See? See how simple and rational the whole thing is? It's obvious what needs to be done.

[H/T to Digby at Hullabaloo]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Weisberg explains Palin

Sarah Palin has been a rhetorical train-wreck since she was foisted on the American public by the desperate John McCain two years ago. If she were a comedy act she would fail, but most of us are convinced that rather than her shtick being an act for an audience, she seems frighteningly real. So the question is - how can she be explained? Jacob Weisberg of Slate Magazine takes a pretty good shot at it.

So far as I can tell, Sarah Palin has four core beliefs:

1. Things go better with God.
2. Yay, Alaska!
3. Let's drill that sucker.
4. Curse you, political establishment


Tina Fey's caricature of Palin as an unprepared high-school student trying to bluff her way through an oral exam by mugging and flirting hit its mark not merely because of the genius of the mimicry, but because of its fundamentally accurate diagnosis of Palin as bullshit artist. Palin's exuberant incoherence testifies to an unusually wide gulf between confidence and ability. She is proud of what she doesn't know and contemptuous of those "experts" and "elitists" who are too knowledgeable to be trusted. This curious self-regard echoes through her book, Going Rogue, described by the critic Jonathan Raban as "a four-hundred-page paean to virtuous ignorance."

The issue is not that Palin, thrust upon the national stage with little warning, still doesn't know all the details. That's understandable. The issue is that she rarely appears to have the slightest grasp of what she's talking about even when she's supposed to know what she's talking about. For instance, in one of the 2008 campaign's most surreal examples of rhetorical excess, John McCain said Palin "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America." A few days later, she offered a sample of her expertise in a town hall meeting: "Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. ... So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here."


The non-Sarah Dittoheads among us have to decide whether to regard this babble—favoring creation science, aerial wolf-shooting, and freedom of the press, so long as the press is "accurate"—as scary or funny. During the 2008 campaign, when there was a real chance that Palin could become the automatic successor to an impulsive, elderly cancer survivor, I found it more scary than funny. After McCain lost, and after Palin terminated her governorship in the effusion of furious gibberish known as her resignation speech, I have found it mostly funny.
I think Weisberg gets it rather well. My own conclusion on the Palin has been similar. She seems to have been an athlete in high school who was driven by the desire for celebrity hard enough to become a noticeable basketball player and a runner-up in some beauty contest, but her record of cramming a four year college degree into four or five schools in a variety of locations demonstrates the limitation of her efforts to bluff her way through life.

She seems to have found her ecological niche as a blatherer with chutzpa in the nearly unpopulated state of Alaska and in the evangelical fundamentalist church which puts no demand on her nearly non-existent intellectual and practical side. Her ability to say what the fundamentalists want to hear gave her the entry she needed into politics, where she promptly failed. But her base of support does not see her inability to govern as failure so they have not abandoned her. She has instead taken her personal need for celebrity and made herself into the liaison between the desperate Republican Party and the social Republicans.

She arrived at the perfect time for McCain and the Republicans when, after the Republican Presidential Primary of 2008 was over, found that there was no candidate who could appeal to both the conservative Republicans and the Social Republicans the way George W. Bush had been able to. When everyone else self-destructed in the Presidential Primary, John McCain was left as the closest to a viable candidate. But he was going to lead the Republicans into a disaster on the level of the Goldwater candidacy in 1964 if he didn't do something to get the social Republicans to turn out to vote. Sarah Palin appeared positioned to help him there to an extent no one else could.

I'd bet the McCain handlers thought that with her being so unprepared that they could handle her, but she promptly demonstrated that she would not be handled. No matter. She at least saved many down-ballot Republican candidates by giving the social Republicans a reason to go to the polls and vote. But then her mavericky anti-establishment image matched the disaffection of so many with the collapse of the economy and the loss of the Presidency by the Republicans. Many of those individuals drifted to the astro-turf operation of the teabaggers, with Sarah Palin as their standard bearer.

What's Sarah getting out of the deal? Several years of national celebrity and tons of money as she rolls along. But she is still a bullshit artist who is working to play her audiences as long as they will show up for her shows and buy tickets - And the Republicans have no one else who can match her as a steady reliable draw for the social Republican audiences and for the disaffected tea partiers.

That's my best guess about the Palin phenomenon, riffing off of Jacob Weisberg's excellent explanation. But it really is a snapshot of a train-wreck in progress.

Kudos to Tina Fey and Jacob Weisberg who so far have provided the best explanations of the Sarah Palin phenomenon that I have seen.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Where is the Republican outrage with federal judge's blocking of California's effort to outlaw gay marriage?

The right-wing reaction to the California Supreme Court's decision that blocking a ban on gay marriage caused massive counter reactions and led to the passage of California Proposition 8 making gay marriage unconstitutional under the California constitution. You'd expect the Republican party to have a similar massive and angry reaction to federal Judge Vaughn Walker's decision announced Wednesday that a ban on gay marriage was a violation of the Constitution.

But what do we get? Well, not quite crickets, but the reaction is certainly quite muted. Where is it?

Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor offers an explanation for the lack of reaction on the right. Apparently the Republicans are depending on the bad economy to get them reelected and to make gains in Congress.
Republican leaders today are focused intently on the economy – and on blaming Democratic policies for its still-sluggish state – as they try to rally independents, libertarians, and "tea party" adherents around conservative economic ideals in advance of midterm elections.

"Every indicator that I have ... generally speaking, is that economic growth and job creation are the tandem issues that will be the principal drivers of voter decision at polls,” Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins told reporters Thursday. "What I’m encouraging candidates to do is go out and run on an economic platform, a jobs platform."

That's not to say passions no longer run high on gay marriage. Atlanta on Saturday is host to dueling protests over the Proposition 8 ruling from California, as will be the case for other US communities in coming days. Indeed, the ruling in California, if validated on appeal, could affect some or all of the 45 states with similar gay-marriage bans on their books or embedded in their constitutions.

But Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and a staunch opponent of gay marriage, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and a several other top Republicans have offered muted responses so far to Wednesday's ruling from federal Judge Vaughn Walker
What it boils down to is that the leaders of the Republican Party will happily throw anyone - including the American nation and the American Constitution - under the bus as long as it gets them back into power.

Friday, August 06, 2010

What happened on the stock market during the May 6 "flash crash?"

Why did the Wall Street stock market suddenly go crazy and drop out of bed very suddenly on May 6th? That's still a question that has no clear answer. Tom Lauricells and Scott Patterson provide an update in the Wall Street Journal. This article is a progress report telling us the current status of the investigation into the flash crash. What isn't known is a lot more than what is known, and a lot of investors are quite leery of investing in stocks at present as a result. But what is known? The clearest thing is that all of a sudden the Dow Jones Industrial Average went into a sudden decline which was more rapid than ever before. Hundreds of stocks suddenly lost nearly all their value for no apparent reason.

It's not that there were no warnings at all. Fund managers were cutting back on buying stocks even before the crash because the market was acting strange. But there was no indication what the strange happenings meant.

Some new details include:
Stock-price data from the New York Stock Exchange's electronic-trading arm, Arca, were so slow that at least three other exchanges simply cut it off from trading. Pricing information became so erratic that at one point shares of Apple Inc. traded at nearly $100,000 apiece. And computer-driven trading models used by many big investors, apparently responding to the same market signals, rushed for the exits at the same time.


Todd Sandoz, co-head of equities in the Americas at Credit Suisse in New York, kept track as clients reduced risk in their portfolios. One way they did it was through trades that would profit if the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell: They sold short, or bet against, futures contracts linked to that index. They did the same with exchange-traded funds, which track baskets of stocks.

Those kinds of trades can send waves through the market. Brokers on the other side of the trades often hedge their own positions by selling the stocks contained in the index. That morning, Mr. Sandoz heard from his traders that there were relatively few buyers and sellers for some individual stocks—a sign that the market might not be able to smoothly handle big index trades.

The market was especially vulnerable because of the trading pullback identified by his colleague Mr. Vasan. The hedge funds that had been pulling back for several days—specialists in a strategy called statistical arbitrage—normally trade so much stock that they are a key source of market liquidity.

At about 2 p.m., as protests in Athens over the Greek debt crisis turned violent, the euro fell sharply, especially against the yen. The euro-yen exchange rate is watched widely by traders, with the yen seen as a safe-haven currency, the euro a proxy for riskier investments.

The euro's fall triggered concerns that a rush out of stocks was in the works. At Chicago hedge fund Sharmac Capital Management LLC, trader Jason Roney noticed the drop. "Something is wrong, look out!" he recalls shouting to his trading desk. He started shorting S&P 500 futures.

Traders across Wall Street were making similar moves, many driven by computer models that have become standard tools at banks, hedge funds and mutual funds.

Fund managers at Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. in Overland Park, Kan., moved to hedge their U.S. stock holdings, which total more than $7 billion, by betting that the S&P 500 would fall. Waddell decided on a large short sale of futures contracts known as E-minis, which mimic movement of the S&P 500. As Waddell's computers began parceling out the trade, other investors also were trying to hedge their portfolios, so trading volume in E-minis shot up to six times the usual volume.

But liquidity, the ability to buy or sell easily, was drying up. Between about 2:35 and 2:45, the six "market-making" firms that were most active that afternoon in E-mini trading—they step in as buyers or sellers on many trades—cut back their trading. Some pulled out altogether.

As a result, traders say, the big Waddell trade accelerated the sell-off. Waddell says it did not intend to "disrupt" the market.

Computers started to groan under the weight of the orders and slow by fractions of a second. It became difficult for exchanges and investors to keep track of prices.

In recent years, due in part to rules instituted by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007, the stock market has been opened to numerous trading venues and has evolved into a high-speed network. The rules stipulate that when an investor trades a stock, the order is routed to the venue with the best price.

On the afternoon of May 6, it was difficult for traders to trust the information they were getting, and for buyers and sellers to find each other. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. operations personnel noticed problems with orders it had routed to Arca, the electronic trading platform of the NYSE, which handles about 12% of U.S. stock-trading volume. It was taking Arca longer to acknowledge receiving some orders. Orders for Nasdaq-listed stocks such as Apple and Inc. were hitting lags of two seconds or more on Arca—an eternity in today's markets.

Trading in Apple became especially volatile. At 2:40, its stock began falling swiftly, losing 16% in six minutes. Because Apple is a component of several indexes, weakness in the stock helped drag down the broader market.

Concerned about the impact of the delay on orders routed to Arca, Nasdaq officials used a tool called "self help," designed to prevent problems at one exchange from spreading to others. At 2:36:59, Nasdaq stopped routing orders to Arca. Other exchanges, including Chicago Board Options Exchange and BATS Global Markets, an electronic exchange near Kansas City, Mo., did the same.

The NYSE says Arca had "minor delays" on a computer server during the period, but says the problems were not significant and didn't add to the market's broader problems.

Computer systems at big brokerage firms were straining to keep up with the volume. Dark pools, trading venues that match buyers and sellers away from the major exchanges, had trouble getting accurate information. Some temporarily shut down.

2:40 p.m., Dow down 415 points

High-frequency-trading firms, which account for some two-thirds of U.S. stock-trading volume, were having their own problems. Their strategies often involve buying and selling stocks within microseconds—or one-millionth of a second. The market's plunge, along with discrepancies in data feeds from exchanges, scrambled their computer-trading systems.

With the Dow industrials down about 500 points, Tradebot Systems Inc., a Kansas City high-speed trading firm that says it can account for up to 5% of daily volume, pulled out. Other such firms did the same.

The roar on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was deafening as the sell-off accelerated. The E-mini contract suddenly fell a massive 12.75 points in half a second, triggering a CME circuit-breaker that stopped trading for five seconds. The pause gave computerized futures-trading systems time to stabilize.

On the floor of the NYSE, the fast declines in some stocks were triggering brief slowdowns in trading, known as "liquidity replenishment points," to allow floor traders to step in and restore order. Other exchanges, such as the Nasdaq, didn't slow trading.

Among the problems this caused were "crossed" markets, where offers to buy were at prices higher than orders to sell. Around 2:46, for example, an investor offered to buy Apple for about $218, while another was willing to sell it for about $202. Such nonsensical quotes sent warning signals to computer systems and gave traders yet another reason to pull back.

Stocks everywhere started to collapse. Apple lost more than $23 a share, or 10%, between 2:44 and 2:46. Procter & Gamble Co., which had been trading around $61.50, saw huge sell orders hit the NYSE, and the exchange briefly slowed trading in the stock. By 2:47, the market for P&G was in chaos, with orders to buy from NYSE, Nasdaq and the BATS scattered from $39.89 to $44.24. The basic function of the stock market— bringing together buyers and sellers in an orderly fashion—had broken down.

Trades flickered across computer screens that made no sense. Shortly after 2:47, shares of Accenture PLC dropped in seconds from about $40 to one penny, then rebounded just as quickly. The explanation surfaced later: Market-making firms—regular buyers and sellers of certain stocks—have to maintain quotes at all times. To fulfill the requirement, they use "stub quotes," dummy quotes they never expect to be executed. But in the absence of buyers on May 6, computers matched automated sell orders with the dummy quotes.

Rumors swirled about of an erroneous "fat-finger" order by a trader at Citigroup Inc.—that the trader mistakenly entered extra zeros, turning millions into billions. Citigroup and regulators later said such an errant trade did not appear to have taken place.

But the rumor helped stabilize the market. If the massive decline was the result of a mistake and not some terrible news, that meant there were bargains to be had.

At 2:47, the Dow reached its nadir, down 998.50 points. As trading resumed in the futures market, buyers flooded in and prices started to rebound.

Within one minute, the Dow reclaimed 300 points.

But the problems weren't over. Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, are baskets of securities that trade like a stock. NYSE's Arca is usually home to 30% of ETF trading. When other exchanges stopped routing orders to Arca, the normal flow of ETF buyers and sellers was disrupted.

Two big hedge-fund and trading firms, D.E. Shaw Group and Citadel Investment Group, detected problems in Arca's ETF computer feed. Citadel asked customers to route orders elsewhere. NYSE officials say they found no problems with Arca's ETF platform on May 6.

Some of the biggest ETF traders are firms that try to profit from discrepancies between prices of ETFs and the stocks that they track. But as questions mounted about pricing of individual stocks, these firms pulled back from trading. This hurt small investors who had placed "stop-loss orders," aimed at protecting against big losses by automatically selling once prices fell below a certain level. Those orders hit the market when there were virtually no buyers to be found.

At 3:01, Nasdaq once again began routing orders to NYSE's Arca.

Executives from several major exchanges joined a conference call to discuss, among other things, whether to declare some trades erroneous. After considerable debate, they decided to cancel trades in stocks and ETFs that had fallen or risen 60% or more.

In the final hour, trading remained erratic. At one point, Apple traded for nearly $100,000 a share on Arca, according to NYSE officials, after a buy order for 5,000 shares entered the market and only 4,105 shares were available. When Arca's computers saw that no more shares were available to sell, the system automatically assigned a default price of $99,999 to the remaining 895 shares. Those trades later were cancelled.

4 p.m., Dow closes down 342 points
This looks like a system that has grown too large for anyone to oversee, understand or in times of trouble, react to. It requires the high speed arbitrage traders to operate to create liquidity, but with the various markets getting out of synch with each other the possibility that one market would sell at a price lower than another was buying at can cause investors to back off and do nothing. The result can be a lack of stocks to buy or sell in specific markets and price reports that are delayed from one market can completely disrupt the functioning of the market.

This set of problems will be compounded by computerized trading when the trading data goes gives signals the computer is not programmed to react to. Since much of this is arbitrage trading which no human being looks at except in retrospect, the only thing the program can be programmed to do is just get out of the market. This is going to give other people in the market unpredictable signals. So everyone is going to hedge their investments all at once. Such hedge trading will then slow down and again provide signals that are fed back into the market causing more unpredictable behavior.

Regulators are already doing a few things to change the system, but since the details of what happened are not yet known the efficacy of the new regulations is not known.
New circuit breakers, now in pilot mode, require a five-minute trading halt on S&P 500 stocks that move more than 10% within five minutes. These "collars" could help keep prices from suddenly cascading.

But some forces behind the flash crash seem beyond the reach of regulators. Exchanges are unlikely to be able to prevent high-frequency trading firms or statistical-arbitrage firms from bailing out of the market en masse.
So there is not any real reason to think that there might be another flash crash any day.

That's the kind of uncertainty the markets hate.

Addendum 08/07/2010 3:08 pm
Well, well. I am going to thank Paul Hinds for sending me this link to an explanation of the flash crash by Nanex. This link is the text and back the main page at this link are the graphs. Here is the key part of Nanex's analysis:
There are 9 exchanges that route orders to NYSE listed stocks: NYSE, Nasdaq, ISE, BATS, Boston, Cincinnati (National Stock Exchange), CBOE, ARCA and Chicago. Each exchange submits a bid and/or offer price for each stock they wish to make a market in. The highest bid price becomes the National Best Bid and the lowest offer price becomes the National Best Ask. Exchanges compete, fiercely at times, to become the best bid or offer because that is where orders will be sent for execution. Exchanges also go to great lengths to ensure they avoid crossing other exchanges (bidding higher than others are offering, or offering lower than others are bidding), because if they do, many High Frequency Trading (HFT) systems will immediately execute a buy/offer and capture an immediate profit equal to the difference. Today, it is very rare to see markets crossed in stocks for longer than a few milliseconds.

Beginning at 14:42:46, bids from the NYSE started crossing above the National Best Ask prices in about 100 NYSE listed stocks, expanding to over 250 stocks within 2 minutes (See Part 1, Chart 1-b). Detailed inspection indicates NYSE quote prices started lagging quotes from other markets; their bid prices were not dropping fast enough to keep below the other exchange's falling offer prices. The time stamp on NYSE quotes matched that of other exchange quotes, indicating they were valid and fresh.

With NYSE's bid above the offer price at other exchanges, HFT systems would attempt to profit from this difference by sending buy orders to other exchanges and sell orders to the NYSE. Hence the NYSE would bear the brunt of the selling pressure for those stocks that were crossed.

Minutes later, trade executions from the NYSE started coming through in many stocks at prices slightly below the National Best Bid, setting new lows for the day. (See Part 1, Chart 2). This is unexpected, the execution prices from the NYSE should have been higher -- matching NYSE's higher bid price, unless the time stamps are not reflecting when quotes and trades actually occurred.

If the quotes sent from the NYSE were stuck in a queue for transmission and time stamped ONLY when exiting the queue, then all data inconsistencies disappear and things make sense. In fact, this very situation occurred on 2 separate occasions at October 30, 2009, and again on January 28, 2010. (See Part 2, Previous Occurrences).

Charting the bid/ask cross counts for those two days reveals the same pattern as 5/6! Looking at the details of the trade and quote data on those days shows the same time stamp/price inconsistencies. The NYSE stated that during the same intervals, they were experiencing delays in disseminating their quotes!

In summary, quotes from NYSE began to queue, but because they were time stamped after exiting the queue, the delay was undetectable to systems processing those quotes. On 05/06/2010 the delay was enough to cause the NYSE bid to be just slightly higher than the lowest offer price from competing exchanges, but small enough that is was difficult to detect (See Part 3, The Evidence). This caused sell order flow to route to NYSE -- thus removing any buying power that existed on other exchanges. When these sell orders arrived at NYSE, the actual bid price was lower because new lower quotes were still waiting to exit a queue for dissemination.
The key to the problem seems to me to be the various other markets cross-linked to the New York Stock Exchange and the problems caused when there was a delay in some but not all of the linkages. For those of you not familiar with computers, that is what the statement "If the quotes sent from the NYSE were stuck in a queue for transmission " means. Quotes that buyers and sellers depend on to make buy and sell decisions were lined up and not moving (stuck in the queue) making the buy and sell decisions made outside the New York Stock Exchange based on bad (delayed) data.

Computer trading depends on this instant transmission of data to operate. Because the computers supposedly have the very latest quotes sooner than other buyers and sellers in the market they can be programmed to buy or sell sooner than anyone else. That's how the computers perform the arbitrage function between different markets and supposedly keep prices on the different markets in synch within milliseconds.

I have NOT dug into all this data to make sure of its accuracy and guaranteed that each of the analysts or groups I am quoting performed good analysis. All I am saying is that the reports I have posted here make sense to me.

This is very similar to the set of cascading power problems that took down the Northeast power grid in 2003. Both appear to be problems when a massive interconnected system suddenly gets unbalanced demands on part of the system that are fed back into the overall system and causing a cascade failure. The initial cause this time is of course different from that of the power failure, but the problems caused when one part of the system did not reacting promptly created strains on other parts of the system. When an portion of the system failed it then increased the strains thrown onto the rest of the system. The system here is the group of 9 exchanges that route orders to NYSE listed stocks: NYSE, Nasdaq, ISE, BATS, Boston, Cincinnati (National Stock Exchange), CBOE, ARCA and Chicago. In this case, the New York Stock Exchange was the recipient of massive number of buy and sell orders caused by delays in quotes sent to the computers doing computerized trading.

The problem seems to me to be one of unbalanced workloads. If somehow regulations are put into place that prevent delayed quotes from causing outlandish workloads (orders to buy and sell instantly) on a single part of the system, then I suspect that such regulations will only solve the problem for delays in communications between the various markets. That is not to say that there aren't other possible causes of unbalanced loads screaming through the system in the future.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

California Prop 8 declared unconstitutional.

This was a good decision. California's Proposition 8 declaring that marriage is limited to those based on one man and one woman is not Constitutional.

The two main reasons are 1. there is no rational basis for the state to deny marriage licenses to two men or two women, and 2. mere moral disapproval of another person's behavior is not, by itself, justification for declaring that behavior illegal.

CNN also reports this decision: Judge rules California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

From the NY Daily News: Federal judge Vaughn Walker overturns California's Prop 8 in win for same-sex marriage.