Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG: Why is Anybody Surprised?

El Jefe confesses that he finds economics a dismal science, which is one of the reasons he has not had much to say about the apparently endless successions of bailouts, financial rescuses and assorted conniptions that form so much of our recent news.
The AIG business, however, is farcical. The politicians are shocked, SHOCKED that AIG, handed wads and wads of cash by the government, would do what ginormous corporations habitually do; and pay its senior management and its high-flying traders huge bonuses. AIG and the other corporate big wigs, for that part are shocked, SHOCKED that Federal money comes with some real strings, namely 535 gasbags who have to have their five minutes on television bloviating to show the home-folks that they are cracking-down on the fat-cats.
What's really going on here, of course, is unorganized bankruptcy, as compared to the more organized liquidation process provided by the Bankruptcy Code. Had AIG been pushed into bankruptcy, the offending salary contracts would have been out the window, and the company's assets sold to healthier entities. Instead, the government elected to go with bailouts, for arguably good reasons. Maybe AIG and the others really were Too Big To Fail, and bailouts were necessary. For the record, I supported the TARP (but not the recent "stimulus") because I bought the Too Big to Fail argument, and believed that not doing it risked a meltdown of the whole system.
But, today, quibbling over the side effects of bailouts is just absurd, particularly since the Feds forked-over the cash without making ANY rules beforehand. Now everyone affects surprise because the players have (of course) maneuvered for advantage. That's just farcical. All this crying over bonuses and other payments that the Obama administration knew about months ago is either gross stupidity, or political playacting. Probably, it's both.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Water on Mars

From the News that's No News Department:
Some scientists think that the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander found -- wait for it -- water on Mars! The scientists spotted droplets that seemed to change in size on photos of the spacecraft's legs. Some of said eggheads believe that this must be water.
Well, duh. What do they think Martians drink, anyway?

Grab Bag

El Jefe has been up to his ample posterior in work of late, and distracted anyway, and just generally hasn't felt like posting.
Okay it's a lame excuse. But as every fourth grader understands, better a bad excuse than none at all. A bad excuse, if nothing else, allows a little extra time to find somebody else to blame. . .In any case, I'm sure the present posting funk will pass. God knows, I'm not short of opinions.
I see that the Dow Jones is up like a rocket today, apparently because Citigroup actually reported a profit for the first of this year, and because Barney Frank thinks the SEC will re-impose the "uptick" rule against short-selling. But that hasn't happened yet. Wonder if the shorters will appear today, before closing time maybe? No matter: the markets appear to be fundamentally irrational at the moment, on the floor or the ceiling as the mood suits.
Oh bag that. For today anyway. Not for nothing is economics called the dismal science. El Jefe has been busy with other things -- playing with Facebook, and his impending birthday.
My dear friend T had SWMBO, the Heir and I to dinner last Friday evening. T is a good cook, and among other things, she had a super-wonderful chocolate cake and all kinds of other yummy food. All this food was exceptionally good for reasons not limited to taste -- we started on Cosmos at six-o'clock, and moved on to red wine at dinner, and wound up (sometime in the wee small hours) drinking champagne. As if that were not enough, T, knowing one of my many failings, gave me some uber cool books. Fortunately, T lives not far from the palatial residence of El Jefe, who, despite drink taken, managed to be-bop back to the Palace without any untoward incidents. Thanks to the food, and scads of water, even though I was pretty trashed, I was in good shape the next morning, although I didn't deserve to be.
This was a good thing, because on Saturday, El Jefe and family entertained the Great One's friend L, her hubby, and their two-year old son. SWMBO was such a really good sport, and, even though she had a really long week, she cooked all day, making super yummy steak pitas (very elaborate recipe) with Greek salad, interesting sauces for chips and the pita sandwiches, and key-lime pie (one of my fav things). L and family came all the way into town to see us, and it was lots of fun to have them around for the evening. Our guests also played to another El Jefe weakness -- bringing him a bottle of very good scotch.
On a less happy note: my home computer appears to have died. I've lost some pictures, a bunch of documents (most are backed up, but not all) and the whole business is just generally a mess. I can afford to replace the computer, but I don't want Vista, or the new post 2007 Microsoft Office.
In any case, I'm trying to figure out what to do. Any ideas? Is a second-hand machine practical? Available? Totally turned off by Vista -- but more especially by the re-design of Word. Probably too old a bunny to go to Apple, but I'm thinking about it because of the mad I've got on towards Microsoft. SWMBO's machine has the new version of Word, and every time I fool with it, the thing makes me mad enough to spit. Probably, I will have to give up and accept change at some point. . .but not quite yet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama to Wall Street: "Drop Dead."

President Obama, following his meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, told reporters, Breitbart says, that he was not measuring policies against the ". . .day to day gyrations of the stock market" but by whether lending is flowing more freely, businesses are investing and the unemployed going back to work.
Quite aside from the fact that we're failing on all Obama's parameters, the president's utterances need translation for all us non-Kool-Aid drinkers. St. Barack (no doubt pumped by his meeting with Mr. "Global New Deal" Brown) is telling us: "Who cares about the banks? I've been to Harvard Law, I was a community organizer, a Senator, and both Soros and Michael Moore like me. I know what's best for you, peasants! Who do you believe, me or Wall Street?"
True, the President says stocks look like a "potentially" good deal if you have a long term perspective on it. Oh, swell. Does St. Barack not understand that a rather off-hand comment by the President that stocks are a good buy in the "long" term may have somewhat deleterious effects on Jello stock in the short term? Does he care? Probably immaterial anyway, since all of us, our children, and our kids' great-grandkids are going to be so mortgaged paying on the stimulus that we won't be buying stocks.
Every time this guy opens his mouth, the Dow drops like a stone. How much will it fall this time?