Thursday, October 30, 2008

In SD!

DOWWTF is in San Diego, designing software with the coolest guy in the world, for the next three days, so don't expect any posts until Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, take a look at the office I'm working at, here. Yes, it's outside. Yes, it's on a rooftop. And yes, that's the Pacific Ocean in the background. And yes, we're taking surfing breaks.

Oh, and here's Miss Kigurumi to keep you company while I'm gone...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Credit Crisis Interferes With Punjabi Woman's Effort to Import Caste System to New Jersey

From the LA Times...
"Here in Jersey you just have to have a house unless you're just a fresh immigrant," says Mona, who thinks she should be past that stage. Twenty years ago, she moved from the Punjab state in India to Santa Clara, Calif., where she lived with her parents in another two-bedroom apartment."

If You Were an Impoverished Egyptian

Bad news if you were one of the Egyptians rioting over the high food prices this past summer: at first, the credit crisis was good for the poor of developing nations. It lowered food and commodity prices. But now, farmers have reacted, and decided to cut production, and raise prices. So now you're effed. More from Bloomberg (they're on a roll, today)...
"The credit crunch is compounding a profit squeeze for farmers that may curb global harvests and worsen a food crisis for developing countries.

Global production of wheat, the most-consumed food crop, may drop 4.4 percent next year, said Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co. in Chicago, who has advised farmers, food companies and investors for 29 years. Harvests of corn, and soybeans also are likely to fall, Basse said.

Smaller crops risk reviving prices of farm commodities that sank from records in 2008 after a six-year rally that spurred inflation and sparked riots from Asia to the Caribbean. Futures contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade show wheat will jump 16 percent by the end of 2009, corn will rise 15 percent and soybeans will gain 3 percent."

Obama's a Muslim Antichrist

Who the eff are these people? (Note that the man is knowingly on camera, speaking to an international news source, giving his name, and representing his company, and doing it all with pride, not an ounce of hesitation.)

Who's on TARP?

Who's in the Paulson club, and who ain't? From Bloomberg today...
"The U.S. government's $160 billion handout to banks from Niagara Falls to Beverly Hills is going mostly to lenders that need it least, putting weaker rivals at risk of being shut down or taken over, analysts say.

'This has the unintended effect of making the strong stronger and the weak weaker,' said Gray Medlin, founder of Carson Medlin Co., a Raleigh, North Carolina, investment bank focused on banking deals. 'Banks that are getting bad exams and are under intense pressure from regulators won't be successful in applying.'"

Election TV-Ad Roundup

Great interactive graphic from the Times...

But Bloomberg notes that, because many of the big state races aren't competitive, election TV ad spending is down 40% from '04:
"Instead, campaign spending on local TV will fall to $984.3 million from 2004's $1.05 billion, Cassino said. Total ad sales for local TV will fall 8 percent this year."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Just give up: this kid is so much cooler than you will ever be...

M.I.A Lives In Bed Stuy, Now? Whoa.

"Bingo (Diplo Mix)"--M.I.A (right click SAVE AS to download, press play below to preview)

Choice quote from recent Interview Magazine interview:
"Because I spent time in L.A., too, growing up on gangster rap. My cousin was a gangster bitch, and she knew the Bloods and the Crips and she was Sri Lankan, so we’d go to all these clubs down on Crenshaw. Then I would come back to college at Saint Martins, and I was learning a whole other way. Like having that whole ‘90s hip-hop from L.A. and then going to Saint Martins, where it’s all the Britpop stuff about being shy and hating yourself. I was a Sri Lankan refugee, like, the scum of society, and then I went right to Los Angeles, into African-American culture, and it was just incredible. I’ve never seen black people like that in England. In England black people still live within the parameters of white society. It was an eye-opener. Then I’d be in school and the students would be like, 'I’m white, and I’m male, and I don’t know what to do, I hate myself.' I was just like, there is this contemporary culture in America that’s writhing with so much good shit and bad shit that no one is really making art out of yet, you know?"

Dubai Uh Oh

Walking through Dubai International airport last summer on, I passed an enormous aerial photograph of what claimed to be the Dubai skyline. But it looked nothing at all like the city I just flew over. I looked closer, and saw that many of the buildings were not photographs, but computer renderings, and they were accompanied by an asterisk, indicating that they were "slated for completion 2010-2012." These imaginary buildings took up 0ver 75% of the skyline.

In addition to being a complete sht hole, the city is also a sham. It doesn't exist in the form that it's presented to the world. And now it looks like many of those buildings won't be built for a long, long time, if at all. (I wonder how many of them will get Hearsted?) From today's Journal:
"Emaar [one of the city’s biggest developers]'s stock has fallen 62% since the beginning of the year, that’s more than the 48% fall in the Dubai Financial Market’s main index over the same period, according to data. Earlier this month, Colliers International said the growth of property prices in Dubai slowed to 16% in the second quarter of 2008 from 42% in the first quarter. Morgan Stanley warned in August that property hotspot Dubai could see a 10% fall in prices by 2010."

Learn You Some LIBOR

Great Donald MacKenzie piece in the LRB. Some excerpts..
"Libor anchors contracts amounting to some $300 trillion, the equivalent of $45,000 for every human being on the planet."

"As rates rose sharply in the 1980s, almost all the savings and loan associations in the US – the equivalent of the UK’s building societies – were caught out in this way. The resulting crisis, a precursor of today’s credit crunch, pushed more than 700 savings and loans into insolvency, and the rescue operation ended up costing US taxpayers around $130 billion."

"Given the criticism of Libor, why not abandon its conditional aspect (the submission of rates at which banks could borrow), and shift, as some critics have suggested, to an index based on actual transactions? At least two such indices already exist. Eonia (Euro Overnight Index Average), calculated by the European Central Bank, is a weighted average of the rates of overnight interbank loans denominated in euros. Sonia, its sterling equivalent, is a similar average of overnight loans transacted via London’s main money brokers."

Your New Favorite (Don Armondo, Girl Talk, and Aeroplane) Track(s)

Two classic tracks ("I'm An Indian, Too"--Don Armondo's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band and DJ Girl Talk's "Call It Off") and a new Aeroplane remix that has a shtty vocal track, but is kinda fun, and it's pissing like London outside all day, so wtf: "Paris (ft. Au Revoir Simone Aeroplane Remix)"--Friendly Fires. (Right click SAVE AS to download, click play below to preivew.)

"I'm An Indian, Too"--Don Armondo's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band

"Call It Off"--DJ Girl Talk

"Paris (ft. Au Revoir Simone Aeroplane Remix)"--Friendly Fires

Percentage Change of New York City Housing Prices, Month-Over-Month

Poors Vote Dem'

Check out these maps of the electoral college votes from before and after the Great Depression...



State Bailout Package, Here We Come

There are a number of crises we can see heading our way (defaults in the muni market, the ARMs in April '09, post election feuding, the banks stating more "write downs," 8-10% unemployment, wildly unstable currency markets, credit-crisis-ends-access-to-student-loans) and here's my favorite crises watch at the moment: the States bailout package.

New York State Gov, David Patterson, observed that he's projecting $12.5 billion deficit next year (that's more than 10 times the $1.5 billion that the State faces for '08) and noted that “In order to get through this, we are going to need federal assistance.” And so will every other state in the Union.

This is gonna get messy. More here.

Your New Favorite (It's Raining In New York) Track

Zach Condon's "Venice" (right click SAVE AS to download, press play below to preview)

Gift Ideas For the Holidays

Check out these great gift ideas from America The Gift Shop! Abu Graib coffee table, "Regions Destabilized While U Wait!" sign, inflatable Guantanamo Bay cell, and more, here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Earworm

Another DJ Earworm track, just for the eff of it. "Got to Give Up the Dancefloor (Marvin Gaye vs. Stylophonic)" Click below to preview, right click SAVE AS to download.

Give him ups for transposing Marvin's vocal track in a minor key, with little/no compression on the sample.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Original NINJA Mortgage

Referring to the Dutch Tulip bubble of the late 17th century has become popular among journalists reporting on the credit crisis. But a later historical anecdote, the case of Theresa Humbert, of 1903, offers a better analogy of our current predicament.

Claiming to have inherited $20 million (in 1906 dollars) worth of bonds, title deeds, and securities, which she kept locked in a private chest, Theresa secured a loan for $10 million, which she then used to buy a fancy Parisian townhouse, a castle, and a yacht. When the bills came due, she was forced to open the chest and furnish the collateral, in a dramatic public trial, and inside, were several coins, a button, and some papers.

August 9, 1903, New York Times piece here.

Mashup as Socio-Political Essay

DJ Earworm unleashes the illest mashup to date, putting DJ Girltalk to shame. "No More Gas," picks up where the Avalanches left off. (Right click SAVE AS to download, preview below by pressing play.)

For the uninitaited, a mashup is an editing (as opposed to a sampling) of multiple tracks into a single track. "No More Gas" combines works by, Estelle & Kanye West, Rihanna, Flo-Rida & T-Pain, Lupe Fiasco & Matthew Santos, Madonna & Timbaland & Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Britney Spears, Pussycat Dolls, Danity Kane, Leona Lewis, Kardinal Offishal & Akon.

And, speaking of no more gas...

Mary Boone on the Art Market

Don't be fooled by Damien Hirst's Sotheby's bonanza, the art market is not immune to the credit market. In this week's Observer, Mary Boone issues a piece of classic New York mental calculus...

"At the Whitney Museum Gala on Monday, Oct. 20, gallerist Mary Boone told the Transom she has been through three economic downturns: the first when she opened her gallery in 1977; another in the late ’80s; and finally a third directly following 9/11. And so the petite Ms. Boone, whose 5-foot-1-inch frame and tame, pitch-black hair make her seem deceptively mousy, is not particularly concerned this time around.

'In November of ’89, only 20 percent of works were selling at auctions,' Ms. Boone said. 'But the works then went on the market at the right prices. So it’s all a correction.'

Ms. Boone hopes that the economic downturn will rid the market of some of the exorbitantly priced works of art that are being flipped like real estate was until very recently. (She is also hoping real estate prices will drop so that her 21-year-old son, Max, will be able to afford a 'nice place downtown.')"

The Obama Administration Will Deprive the World of a Million Funny YouTube Videos

NBC and and Tina Fey aren't the only ones cashing in on the Palin-McCain mess, I swear that YouTube's traffic must have increased by at least 5% since Palin was put on the ticket.

To Muni Or Not to Muni

Municipal bonds, known as munis, have historically been the safest bonds on the market (save for the Orange County meltdown in the '90s). Buffet's been a longtime fan of them, and shows no sign of withdrawing his faith. Their payments are often tax exempt, they're safe, and they're popular. The muni market is estimated at $1.7 trillion.

But let's assume (as noted earlier), that the states, facing massive budget deficits, will soon collectively petition the federal government for a bailout package of their own (remember, the projected New York State budget deficit more than doubled in the last two months). When that happens, it will deliver a crushing blow to confidence in the treasuries and bond markets, and some municipalities could be faced with default.

As American municipal budgets go, Greenwich, Connecticut has one of the sweetest set ups. The hedge fund capital of the world is a small town, with a massive tax base, low population, a relatively small public school system (many of the kids go to private school), low crime, and no pressing infrastructure projects. But the Greenwich Citizen reports that the town faces a $4.2 million budget deficit, has frozen all new hires (despite the need for 40 new positions) and is preparing to cut further spending.

I'm not saying that munis are slated for massive default because Greenwich is in the red, but if I were sitting on a bunch of munis, I would start pulling out of them now. As the last month has shown, the name of the game now is getting out of the way of the next crisis before everyone else does.

02138 Gets Deep Sixed

02138, the 'life style' rag for Harvard alum, was one of the most obnoxious and embarrassing magazine concepts. It suggested that its readers were merely grow-up Gossip Girl fans, fretting about comparing their post Cambridge careers to those of fellow alum. So, this email from the magazine's publisher arrives with relief:

"Manhattan Media has decided to suspend publication of 02138. There is no question that, since the acquisition of the magazine in May earlier this year, a great team of editors, marketers, salespeople and designers have worked hard to re-launch the business. Nor is there a question that our views on the possibilities of a mix of media serving to inform, entertain and network alumni of leading universities have driven us to back that team to the hilt. But the current economic environment has made it too difficult to proceed at this time. While Manhattan Media, and its financial backer Isis Venture Partners, are committed to long-term growth capital, the funds needed to execute AMN's strategic vision would by necessity have grown significantly and beyond the company's risk/return profile.

The current issue is almost at completion and is full of great edit and design work. We plan to have the pages converted by our vendor Texterity into a digital magazine so that the world has access to this issue of 02138 in its entirety.

We thank Jamie Hooper, David Blum and all those who have worked on this venture so hard and so passionately. We hope there will be another day and another venture with all of you in the future"

Those Stupid Bud Commercials Redeemed

McCain Supporters Go Nuts In Vegas

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Father Krisis vs Yohji Yamamoto

If the credit crisis (and this whole ALL OF YOUR MONEY'S ON FCKING FIRE FOREVER AND EVER!!!! thing) were personified, he'd be like an anti Santa Claus. He'd be all huge and ugly and scary, and instead of giving you crap, he'd take it away, and he'd have a name like Father Krisis. So, here's my letter to Father Krisis...
Dear Father Krisis,

       Several months ago, an evil and tasteless man from Japan, named Yohji Yamamoto, opened up two pieces of architectural botulism at the intersection of the West Village and the Meat Packing District. You don't need to take away Yohji's life, or even his right arm, but if you could take these two stores away, I would love you forever!
       See, the West Village is the best neighborhood in New York (and ergo, the world) to live in, and the Meat Packing District was once the coolest neighborhood in the history of man, and it's as if Yohji found an intercontinental toilet, that leads from Ginza to the West Village, and he's just emptying his bowels here. It's offensive, and it has to end!
       The first store looks like a Foot Locker, and the other one looks like a Pottery Barn take on a Bauhaus building made for a shopping mall in Tampa.

Thank You Father Krisis,

Wal-Mart Sales Trends

Interesting fun fact about Wal-Mart: its share price, since 2003, moves at roughly the inverse of the DOW. This makes sense. When the markets and credit and confidence are up, people shop at pricier stores, including Target, which, you can see below, moves far more in line with the DOW.

At the moment, though, Wal-Mart's sinking with everything else. On Tuesday, Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and chief executive of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations, revealed some interesting bits about the company's recent sales data:
  • For the first time, Wal-Mart is seeing a paycheck-related spike in sales of baby formula, suggesting consumers are rushing to buy such necessities as soon as they have the cash.
  • Credit used as a form of payment at Wal-Mart is falling and the decline is expected to reach into the double digits this year. He noted that many consumers have "maxed out. Credit card limits don't allow them to use credit."
  • Wal-Mart's sales typically surge around pay periods at the beginning and middle of the month. Castro-Wright said that spike has become more pronounced as consumers' budgets become more stressed. In the last few months, the percentage of overall sales from the days surrounding those pay periods has risen 250 basis points, he said.

Heavy copy and pasting done from here.

Palin's Aiming for FOX

Palin doesn't care about politics. She wants her own show on FOX, and she'll get one, and it will be as tragic is it is hilarious. She's probably in negotiations with Murdoch as we speak.

Julie Taymor in Iraq

Julie Taymor, the Emmy- and Tony-award-winning director and set designer for the Metropolitan Opera and the Broadway production of The Lion King, has been contracted by Haliburton to design Iraqi prisons. This morning's Times includes a photo of her work at Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq...

I Love Me Some Elite Liberal Media

Friday, October 24, 2008

Crash...Real Estate...California...Blah Blah Blah...

Blah blah blah...California real estate market crashing....blah blah blah...but what about New York? More specifically, what about 2 bedroom walk ups, on Charles, W 10th, W 12th, Perry, or Horatio?


Your New Favorite (Sally Shapiro Booty Bumping) Track

Sally Shapiro, by way of the Junior Boys, serves up some basey beefy booty (sounds-like-45-at-33-lushness) bumps: "Jackie Junior (Junior Boys Remix)"--Sally Shapiro

(If This Isn't) Your New Favorite Track (You Have No Taste)

"Failure (Alfie version)"--Kings of Convenience

Howed Effed Are We?

Volcker and Stiglitz on a recent panel (this is worth it for the hilariously-mommy-cool-Women's-Economic-Forum-Round-Table logo, alone)...

Your New (Almost) Favorite Track

You know how when you read crap like, the DOW affects the hem lines of womens' dresses, and you think to yourself, Dude, who's the douche who majored in American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College?...? Well, in our weakest moments, we all get seduced by that kind of dumb calculus. My latest fantasy postulation? Diplo's been off his game 'cause he's been so busy traveling around the world, touring, and if the economy tanks, he'll stay local in Philly, and get back to producing greats like he was in '04-'06.

I remember walking into Other Music in early 'o4, and Geoff handing me the Montreal Mix and other Diplo mixes on a home made CD. This was pre-internet music blogness, and having that CD made me the coolest guy below 110th St. It was nutty coolness overload. But then Diplo blew up, starting hanging with A-track, and playing the Microsoft corporate Christmas party (wtf).

Anyhow, his latest isn't tops, but it's in the right direction, and it's fueling my fantasy that a low DOW=a tip top DIPLO.

"I'm a Lady (Diplo Mix featuring Amanda Bank)"--Santagold (left click to play, right click SAVE AS to download)

And because the liner notes (pasted below) are a study in coolness, here's "The Dutch Antilles Mix"--Diplo...

"if u go to the caribean u probably in like jamaica or bahamas or PR or somewhere thas relatively normal.. but sometimes u might end up steppn of a boat and hearin people speaking some weird german and trying to braid your hair..... thas when u realized ur in st maarten, curacao, suriname or one of the other netherland antilles.. those are wierd places for sure. recently i was clubbin with atrak in amsterdam and hangin out with some of the kids in holland.. its a wierd mix in the clubs.. all the girls ook like they are chinese african indonesian dutch martian and are hot and everyone knows the lyrics to house tracks and lil wayne.. its a special place. but they island kids there wer makin wierd music for a coupla years.. i had to inspect this stuff.. seems back in the day in curacao or N.A. this DJ mortje.. was playin reggae inst at 45 and gettin parties turned out .. then later on the sound moved back to holland and kids renamed it bubblin'... now they puttin anythign that represnts in amsterdam under these drums.. paul johson - check, tiesto- check, ciara - check, wierd polka - check, jumpstep - hell yeah.. ok so basically this is a mad decent radio made in heaven.. big up infatda sound form AMsterdam and laid back luke for the help and big ups any of my surinamese, aruban, bonairian, curacaoian, saba, sint eustatians and st maartians in the buildin"
For the uninitiated, "SOY CUMBIA!"--Diplo (left click to play, right click SAVE AS to download)

Look Out: State Bail Out Package

DOWWTF has reports that Goldman's about to lay off 10,000, and that a number of US states are gearing up to pitch the federal government for a bail out package of their own.

Let's take New York itself. The state relies on Wall Street (directly) for 20% of its funds. Albany taxes bank profits, and when there are only bank losses, that means there's no tax to pay. Period. And it all trickles down from there. The New York State deficit jumped from a projected $5 billion to almost $13 billion in the last two months.

In '09, look for a number of states to petition the federal government, en banc, for a bailout package of their own. And the size of that mess is going to be achingly huge. The (federal) government baling out the (state) government by printing T-bills?! How is that sustainable?

White Lines

Reuters reports that someone in Texas, is sending white powders, to banks, threatening death. So American, right? It's like a riff on the 9/11 anthrax scare, the unibomber, James Brussel (the original American terrorist...although I would accept a 12-page essay on the Boston 'Massacre' crew), and angry 1930s American populism. This is like an NYU MFA project gone really, really wrong.

Anyhow, here's the weird part: the letters were also sent to the FDIC and the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision. Anyone smell Ron Paul (I mean, a Ron Paul-er) up in this? Also, parsing the first clause (which the author ambitiously presents as a complete sentence sans subject), while noting the correct placement of both possessive and conjunctive apostrophes throughout, is an exercise in Americans-are-so-weird-cool-ness!: "STEAL TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE'S MONEY AND NOT EXPECT REPERCUSSIONS." (On second thought, maybe we just have Microsoft Word to thank for the correct spelling and the apostrophes?)

But in all seriousness, criminal activity is a defining element of any nation's culture. Americans have made much from the mob (the Soprano's, the Godfather, etc) and gang bangers (50 Cent, 2 Live Crew). The Brits had the first serial killer, Jack the Ripper, and anglophone countries have continued to dominate the serial killer genre. The Russians are starting to perfect the sophisticated-poisoning-of-highly-placed-targets schtick. Mexico has its people-just-go-missing-in-the-night bit. Germans OWN the cannibalism genre. Arabs, suicide bombers? 'nuff said! And this latest installment in the white-powder-in-envelope-sent-anonymously-through-the-post ouvre is another case in point. It is so American, in so many ways.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ok, Last of the YouTube Videos for the Night...

Very Worth Your Next Two Minutes and Twenty-Two Seconds

Moody's Ranks the Times Just Above Junk Bonds and Gawker Commenter Calls Bullsh*t

Sometimes, comments are better than the post. Check out this comment left on Gawker's post about Moody's report on the New York Times debt. First, the excerpted Moody's quote:

"(New York) Times' third quarter 2008 operating performance was within the lower end of the range Moody's had anticipated, but weaker expectations for the balance of 2008 and in 2009 and the refinancing risk associated with upcoming debt and committed revolver maturities have prompted Moody's to review the company's ratings," analysts John E. Puchalla and Alexandra S. Parker wrote...

Moody's will consider (New York) Times' ability to return free cash flow generation to meaningfully positive levels during 2009 through the culmination of several significant capital projects, a possible reduction in the dividend, and revenue and cost initiatives."

...and then the post:

I love the gray lady, even if she deserves a beat down sometimes.

Awkwardness Footprint=1,000,000,000,000,000

Brian says Palin told him in the interview that she will release her medical records? That must mean she's succumbing to the pressure mounted by those claiming that insufficient evidence exists to support that her youngest child is actually hers.

The (Scandanavian) Kids Are Alright!

Obama and the Big Picture

As the DOW tanks, so do commodity prices. If you're a starving Egyptian (remember the food riots this past summer?), that's good news. Food prices are also linked to oil prices directly, though. An acre sowed with nitrogen-based fertilizer will produce six times the amount of food that an acre without it will. And nitrogen-based fertilizer is an oil product. Since the globe is dependent on nitrogen-fertile soil, as oil prices go, so go commodity prices. It's therefore heartening to know that Obama is at least aware of this stuff:
"the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs."
More here.

Adam Smith, Merit and Demerit

In commenting on the "Joe the Plumber" election side show, Steve Coll points out in this week's New Yorker that Adam Smith, in 1776, wrote that
"The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor...The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess...It is not very unreasonable that the rich should also contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."
(Ugly writing, but makes the point.) Whether you disagree with the notion of flat tax (as Smith did) or not, recent events encourage us to revisit Smith and his English and French contemporaries.

In Wealth of the Nations, Smith also confessed that the success of capitalism depended on the propagation of the myth of human equality, noting that the myth is a necessary “deception which arouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind.” And in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, the ever-candid Smith observed that this new liberalism was a system of “merit and demerit” (italics, mine). In other words, capitalism doesn't just reward one for his labors, it also holds reward back (and in effect, punishes) for one's losses (or non labors).

If the ratings agencies lied, if NINJA mortgages (no income, no job, no assets) were hidden in securities, if lies were told, then let's see the system of demerit in place!

It's Time to Revive Shame Punishment

While I'm not willing to say that capitalism is dead, it's clear that the last several months have delivered a mindbendingly huge blow to the notion that in efficient markets, people act in their own interest and that markets will regulate themselves. The system totally and utterly collapsed, and now the American taxpayer is being called upon to guarantee loans, in the form of T-bills, to shore it up. This is, without a doubt, a brand of socialism. And it is hugely, hugely embarrassing. And we need to own up to it.

The US Congress has been putting on a parade, calling forth Fuld, other imbeciles, and now Greenspan. Their mea culpas, excuses, explanations, and prevarications have all been crap. We need a real cleansing of the system. We need to revive shame punishment. Put these guys in the stocks in the town square. Let's name the hundreds of guys who managed the fixed-income desk at Merrill and Morgan. Letting everyone slide is not gonna help.

White collar criminals have historically shown that the threat of fines and imprisonment are not a sufficient deterrent. But shame is. Puritan Massachusetts got a lot of mileage from shame punishment. It costs the public purse nothing to put someone in the stocks, and it's a hugely effective deterrent.

The Japanese took a long time (in terms of regulation and guidance) to turn themselves around, but they did, and they made realistic and stable and steady gains. They learned once again to fear debt and embrace transparency. But first, they embraced shame and public humiliation. For comparison, let's look again at the bosses of the failed Nippon bank in 1998, and Fuld several week ago and Greenspan today, both testifying before Congress.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Best Manhattan Chinese

New York foodies will claim it's heresy to pick a favorite NYC Chinese joint and rule out Brooklyn, which, by any measure, has the best Chinese food in the City (Win Shing on Avenue U and 12th St leads the pack), but for those of us in the greatest borough...head to Oriental Garden on Elizabeth below Canal.

Look for big, angry- and carnivorous-looking live fish, and giant crab in the window. Stare at the blond prostitutes that the Chinese tycoons in cheap suits have on their arms (no joke!). Notice how polite the staff is, especially for Chinese. Imagine what the $285 pot of shark-fin soup tastes like while ordering the duck-pork lettuce medallions, the mixed-seafood soup, and the snow-pea-and-sea-food dumplings. Sit at a big, round family table with your crew, and order too much food. Go at 9:30pm on a weekday, when the place still has some diners, but you'll get seated without a wait. And make a pact with your companions to hit up Win Shing next time you go for Chinese (go in the fall or winter for crab with black bean sauce)!

US Ain't the Uggliest?

Huh?! Here's more info that suggests we're not as effed up as the rest of the world. Who knew?

But Why Cows?

Choice quote from an internal email that came out of today's ratings agency testimony: “It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.” In another, an employee asserts: “Rating agencies continue to create [an] even bigger monster — the CDO market. Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

More here. Background and general info here.

TED Watch

TED finished the day below 3, but let's see what it does tomorrow in response to today's shitty DOW performance and earnings reports. More on the TED and why it matters, here.

Who's in the Hole the Most?

Here's a table from the World Bank Group that weighs the total private and public debt of various countries against each countries' GDP, though I must admit I don't totally trust the data, the US looks way too low (absolutely and relatively) on the list, if you ask me...

NYTimes: Fat=Republican?

So, I was reading the Times piece about the McCain-supporting couple in Park Slope this morning, and I thought, Couldn't they at least pick a couple who looked like a New York couple? Do they have to be fat hicks? Can't you show us some Republicans who don't look like the stereotype? There must be some reasonably good looking, non-obese Republicans in New York!?

And then the gray lady outdoes herself, also in today's paper, they give us this by Olivia Judson: "Weighing the Vote: Could obesity in a pregnant woman influence the eventual political outlook of her child?"