Thursday, January 24, 2008

So, French bank Société Générale is finding out what it feels like to find out that a trader in "plain vanilla" stock deriviatives just cost you five billion euros. And Libération, flaunting the 'tude of a bizarro-world left wing doppelganger of the New York Post, is all over this. Of course, there's the de rigeur stuff like a list of uses for the missing money (320 business jets! Two aircraft carriers: one new, one used!) But they also had fun with the bank's press conference, which revealed (among other things) that they were still "in the process of" trying to file a legal complaint against the guy responsible. In a story headlined "He almost blew up a French bank, and then went fishing?!", Libé went on:
The journalists insist: didn't they have to file suit quick, so he couldn't just leave? [Replied the bank reps], "Someone may have made a bit of an error there."
Gee, do ya think?
Ever think that the neoconservative brain trust in Dubya's White House wasn't so much trying to achieve any particular result in the Middle East, as to just sow chaos? Well, here's Doug Feith:
Feith ... told me that the neoconservatives—at least those inside the administration—did not hope to create new borders, but did see a value in “instability,” especially since, in his view, the Middle East was already destabilized by the presence of Saddam Hussein. “There is something I once heard attributed to Goethe,” he said, “that ‘Disorder is worse than injustice.’ We have an interest in stability, of course, but we should not overemphasize the value of stability when there is an opportunity to make the world a better or safer place for us. For example, during the Nixon presidency, and the George H. W. Bush presidency, the emphasis was on stabilizing relations with the Soviet Union. During the Reagan administration, the goal was to put the Communists on the ash heap of history. Those Americans who argued for stability tried to preserve the Soviet Union. But it was Reagan who was right.”
So, um, who in America was trying to preserve the Soviet Union? But then again, as a Bush administration offical, Feith is just once again proudly affirming his place outside the reality based community...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

During the real estate boom, a lot of lenders effectively stopped requiring down payments. One consequence is that, if the value of the house drops, and the buyers want to leave, they can hand the bank the keys and walk away without losing anything. If the price drop exceeds what little principal they've built up, they literally have nothing to lose.

Apparently, there are bankers that feel that people who are doing this are somehow letting the banks down; one from Wachovia complains that some of them "had the capacity to pay, but basically just decided not to."

Well, one thing that gets said of troubled homeowners is that they made a deal, and if it went sour, then maybe they should have thought more about it going in. If that applies to poor zhlubbs who got pressured into a bad snap decision by pushy realtors, then it surely applies to the banks.

Then again, maybe this is just the new American ethos, in which forgiveness is only for big shots. One off-beat thing that's shaping my perspective on this a bit is seeing the reactions to a much-loved local ice cream shop that got into tax trouble, and (making no excuses) is asking for those with a will to extend a little help. Now, mind you, I don't see this personally as a charity thing. I make my charitable donations elsewhere, and I'm giving them a little cash because I've made a cold, hard-hearted, purely self-centered calculation that come summertime, I'll want their ice cream. But if you read the comments on their impromptu blog, it's astonishing how many people there are apparently offended by the idea that people might want to help a friend who's in trouble, even if some of it is their fault...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Is it nice to have a really successful football team around Boston? There are drawbacks. For one thing, they've filled the area with the moral equivalent of Yankee fans. Which is why it's no shock that chisel-chinned fashion plate Tom Brady (who may yet find a way to get one of those pocket handkerchiefs into a football jersey, and let the league office fight it out with Gisele) is himself a Yankee fan of long standing, who, it is rumored, used to wear a Yankee cap in the Patriots locker room until someone told him to cut it out.

But we may have to put this down as a case of unrequited fan-love. Or at least partly unrequited. The Pats are playing the Chargers in the conference championship today, and on his new blog, Yankee pitching phenom Phil Hughes is pulling for the Chargers.

No reaction yet from any of the Yankee fan sites that really, really, don't like pitchers blogging when they're named "Curt Schilling". But then again, if Hughes gets traded to the Twins for Johan Santana --- not likely, at the moment, but still possible --- then the problem may solve itself.