November, 2008

The Morality of Tuna Rolls

November 30, 2008 @ 11:45 am · Filed under Reality

tuna auction in JapanI love sushi, but it has been clear for a long time now that bluefin tuna are being hunted to extinction. The final blow to the tuna seems to have been struck at the recent meetings that have set the tuna fishing quota at an unsustainable level. See Bluefin tuna – magnificent fish too valuable to save for the details.

Which leaves me wondering what I should do? In the past, I’ve tried to assuage my conscience by telling myself that my abstaining from tuna sushi will not make a difference, and that’s certainly correct: the vast majority of tuna is flash frozen and sent to Japan. At this point, though, I think I have passed the point of rationalization. Every time anyone eats blue-fin tuna, they are eating an endangered species. And, I don’t think I can do that anymore.

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Finally, Somebody Goes After Rubin

November 29, 2008 @ 9:10 am · Filed under Reality

Finally, somebody is going after Robert Rubin and his part in the current rapid destruction of our financial system. Surprisingly, it’s the Wall Street Journal. Less surprisingly, Rubin has a litany of excuses:

Under fire for his role in the near-collapse of Citigroup Inc., Robert Rubin said its problems were due to the buckling financial system, not its own mistakes, and that his role was peripheral to the bank’s main operations even though he was one of its highest-paid officials. “Nobody was prepared for this,” Mr. Rubin said in an interview.

Sure, nobody was prepared! Except for all those people who were warning about the coming crisis for years before it happened! Since 1999, Rubin was paid, not counting stock options, $115 million by Citi! Presumably, he was paid that much to help Citi avoid bankruptcy.

Today, the United States’ political and economic systems are stuffed to the gills with people of two types: those who immediately and effectively blame others, and the fools who let them get away with it. Rubin is a prime example of the first type, and things will not get better until we all stop being the second type. This is why I have little hope for the incoming Obama administration. So far, he is staffing his economic team with people who were complicit in the current destruction. More of the same is not going to work, and that is all that Obama’s team is offering.

For more on Rubin, see Rubin Agonistes, and Mirabile Dictu! Rubin Takedown by the Wall Street Journal.

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Quince-Pear Tart Recipe

November 23, 2008 @ 5:20 pm · Filed under Reality

By popular demand, here’s my recipe for Quince-pear tart:

1. Mix 8 cups of water, 1 cup of sugar, some sliced ginger, and a pinch of cinnamon. Bring them to a boil. Peel, core and slice up two large quinces. Throw them in the boiling water, and simmer for fifteen minutes.

2. While the quinces are simmering, peel, core, and slice up four pears. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the pie crust with butter, slit, and put the pan lined with pie crust in the oven to bake for 10 minutes.

3. Mix the quinces, pears, a half cup of brown sugar, a half stick of melted butter, and enough of the sugar water you boiled the quinces in to make a filling with a nice consistency.

4. Fill the pie crust with filling, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

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The Downfall or Hitler as Real Estate Investor

November 16, 2008 @ 11:55 am · Filed under Reality

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How We Got Here

November 15, 2008 @ 10:07 am · Filed under Culture

Michael Lewis, the author of a great book about Wall Street in the 8o’s called Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, has written an article for Portfolio that everyone should read if they want to understand the roots of today’s financial crisis. As he notes in the article’s introduction:

[Since the 80’s, I’ve been] waiting for the end of Wall Street. The outrageous bonuses, the slender returns to shareholders, the never-ending scandals, the bursting of the internet bubble, the crisis following the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management: Over and over again, the big Wall Street investment banks would be, in some narrow way, discredited. Yet they just kept on growing, along with the sums of money that they doled out to 26-year-olds to perform tasks of no obvious social utility.

Until, eventually, it all fell apart. Read The End, and learn.

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Iron Maiden 1986 Tour

November 10, 2008 @ 5:37 pm · Filed under Culture

As I mentioned in a previous post, I saw Judas Priest on their 1986 tour. At the concert I saw, Iron Maiden opened for them. So, here’s a video from that year’s Maiden tour:

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The Bailout Keeps Getting Wider and Deeper

November 10, 2008 @ 5:29 pm · Filed under Reality

Today, the Fed announced that it was allowing American Express to restructure as a bank holding company. This gives American Express access to the Fed’s emergency credit lines. That’s a pretty good indication that American Express is in severe trouble.

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Will The Treasury Department Change Under Obama?

November 5, 2008 @ 1:55 pm · Filed under Reality

There are 13 former Goldman Sachs directors running the Treasury Department and the NY Fed. For the last five years, Goldman Sachs has been, by far, Obama’s largest campaign contributor. Jim Johnson, who sits on the Goldman Sachs board, was a chief Obama campaign advisor before he was busted for his sordid Countrywide deal. Warren Buffet, who owns a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs was another Obama advisor. Robert Rubin, a former Co-Chairman of Goldman Sachs was an Obama financial advisor. Other Obama advisors include JPM’s Jamie Dimon, who in the last 6 months has received $213 billion from the Fed and Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, the engineer behind the Bear Stearns/JP Morgan deal.

So, what’s the chance that the Treasury Department will see much change under Obama?

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Why This Election Doesn’t Matter

November 2, 2008 @ 2:14 pm · Filed under Reality

Only a fool would say that there are not substantive differences between Barack Obama and John McCain. Yet, in the end, these differences are irrelevant to the fate of the United States. Once an empire begins to decline; reversal is almost impossible. This is particularly true, when financial engineering has replaced real achievement. When a nation reaches that point, then there are few real sources of wealth available to it. As Kevin Phillips has pointed out:

On the edge of decline the Spanish had gloried in their New World gold and silver; the Dutch, in their investment income and lending to princes and czarinas; and the British, in their banks, brokers, and global financial network. In none of these situations, however, could financial services succeed in upholding the national preeminence that had been earlier built by explorers, conquistadores, maritime skills, innovative science and engineering, the first railroads, electrical dynamos, and great iron and steel works. Invariably, power and greatness passed to new explorers, innovators and industrialists.

Each of those declining empires had skilled statesmen who appreciated the true situation of their countries and tried to restore its preeminence. In every case they failed, because the power of existing political factions to defend their own interests was too great. Consider that Spain was far richer and more powerful than the U.S. in the 16th Century. And yet, it fell very swiftly. If the Count-Duke of Olivares couldn’t save Spain, who would bet that John McCain or Barack Obama can save the United States?

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The Perils of Translation

November 1, 2008 @ 8:50 am · Filed under Reality

Question: What does this sign really say?

Answer: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please don’t send any work to be translated” – Read More.

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