Archive for the ‘Finance & Economics’ Category

And Then the Invisible Hand of the Free Market Slapped Its Forehead

July 8, 2010

So what's the word on the street? Heard any good tips lately?

Your preschool teacher was right: One person can change the world.

Last year, Steve Perkins, a broker for PVM Oil Futures (company slogan: “The Oil Professionals”), went on a multi-day drinking binge and then proceeded to buy more than 7 million barrels worth of oil futures. These saucy antics drove the price of a kind of crude oil up to an eight-month high.

His company eventually lost millions on the deals and Perkins was banned from trading for 5 years in the UK, but this story proves something very powerful. If you think of the world financial system as a giant bulldozer with the power to literally move mountains (as when the price of coal goes up and mountaintop removal becomes viable) or even devastate millions of lives, which is what happens when speculative trading drives up the price of rice or corn, this story reveals that any drunken asshole can hop into the driver’s seat and send the whole system lurching towards the nearest cliff.

...But I didn't really hit bottom until I bought all those shares in Chrysler... uuuuuh

Steve Perkins just had a few too many whiskeys and turned his life into a mash-up of Leaving Las Vegas and Wall Street. He wasn’t some evil genius, just some lush trader whose balls apparently got bigger with every drink until he decided that cornering the market on crude futures in the middle of a bender was a good idea. Imagine if someone who knew what they were doing tried to cause some real damage?

First, we'll get hella fucked up -- then we'll swap some collateralized debt obligations! Let's fucking paaarty!

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More Good News for People Who Like Shiny Metal

May 13, 2010

I wonder if there’s a leprechaun inside.

Here’s a story that’s sure to excite rappers, libertarians and James Bond villians: A hotel in Abu Dhabi has installed a machine that dispenses gold. According to AP, “The ATM-style kiosk in the Emirates Palace monitors the daily gold price and offers small bars up to 10 grams or coins with customized designs.”

I kind of wish they would install one in my neighborhood so I wouldn’t have to keep shaving slivers off of the gold bar that I keep under my bed ever time I need to tip the pizza boy. On second thought, a gold-spewing machine would probably attract unsavory characters… like Glenn Beck and his fans.

Just a reminder that this is where gold actually comes from. If you thought that genocide of indigenous people only happens in James Cameron movies, check out http://www.protestbarrick.net/ for the full story.

Land exposed to gold mine runoff water. Scariest before/after image I've seen since...

Maybe They’re Too Big To Fail Because They Ate So Much Pie

April 10, 2010

This is like America's richest 1%, but with money instead of corn.

Imagine the wealthiest one percent of America as a single person. Obviously, he’s an old white guy. Now, picture Mr. Moneybags inside a bank vault that contains all the cash in the entire country and he’s using a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the money.

The vacuum cleaner is so big that he can’t run it all by himself, so nine of his closest friends are in the vault helping him capture the towering piles of cash stacking up all around them. The reason why the mountains of money keep getting bigger is because there are 90 people outside of the vault who keep bringing them money.

Since the 10 people running the vacuum cleaner already have more money than they could possibly ever spend, they use about a quarter of the money inside the vault to keep this nice little arrangement running smoothly. They make sure that the bank tellers get some benefits and that the security guards have enough to feed their families. Some of these tellers and guards are living pretty comfortably, so they don’t complain and do what they’re told… because they don’t want to be on the outside.

On the other side of the bank’s heavily guarded gates, there are 50 people – the rest of America. Most of them think that if they just keep working hard enough, they can get a job inside the bank, too. Some of these folks outside are too hungry or sick to even try. The rich guys know that maintaining this arrangement is a balancing act, so they don’t take money from the poorest outsiders – they just keep a steady trickle of small bills and pocket change flowing to help them survive for a while (but not so much that they won’t want to work “for themselves.”)

This is the America I see when I look at this graph:

The world is not a simple place. Our country’s vast and unequal distribution of wealth is not a conspiracy – it’s the result of many influences ranging from complicit corporate media to our “pay-to-play” democracy. Rich people are obviously not all amoral money-grubbers. “Upward mobility” – while increasingly difficult – is still more possible for America’s working class and poor than in many other parts of the world.

But, really – don’t you think we can do better than this?

These charts are from a collection called “15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America.”  I would like to see people print out poster-sized versions of these charts and walk around Tea Party rallies with them. That way, when a Tea Partier starts screaming about how wealth is being redistributed, you can point to the sign and say, “Yes, the wealth of America is clearly being re-distributed. Which way do you think it’s going?”


*Note: I know that these figures are pre-Obama, but these trends have not changed significantly, and any “re-distribution” is certainly not of the radical, socialist variety that Glenn Beck is crying about.

Regarding my suggestion to confront Tea Partiers with the facts... don't even bother with clowns like this guy. There are lots of good folks out there who have been brainwashed by FoxNews and a little reality check could go a long way.

Meet the Guys Who Are Punking America

July 29, 2009
There's a good reason why he looks like he's laughing at us.

There's a good reason why Lloyd Blankfein looks like he's laughing at us.

Michael Lewis posted an Onion-esque op-ed online today titled Bashing Goldman Sachs Is Simply a Game for Fools.”

In “dispelling” the rumor that all Goldman employees look alike, he writes:

“Several recent newspaper photos have revealed that a surprising number of Goldman Sachs workers are white, male and bald. That non-Goldman people glance at such photos and think “Holy crap, they even look alike!” just shows how deeply anti- Goldman bigotry runs in American life.

We at Goldman represent unique clusters of DNA; if we bear some faint surface resemblance to one another, and to creatures from the 24th century, it is only because our superior powers of reasoning lead us to hold in our minds exactly the same thoughts, at exactly the same time.

A shared disinterest in growing hair, for instance, isn’t a coincidence of nature but an expression of healthy like- mindedness.

“The world is a pool table,” our naked-headed CEO likes to tell us. “And all the people in it are either stripes or solids. You alone are the cue balls.”

Indeed, not a single one of these bandits at Goldman bears a lick of resemblance to the Gordon Gecko archetype that I always envision when I picture Wall Street fat cats…

He's laughing at us, too, but he's better at hiding it.

Neel Kashkari is laughing at us, too, but he's better at hiding it.

This guy can't wait for you to turn away so he can laugh so more without feeling kind of guilty at the sad look on your face.

Gary Cohn can't wait for you to turn away so he can laugh some more without feeling kind of guilty about the sad look on your face.

This laughed so hard that he needs to change his pants... and his socks and his shoes.

Jon Winkelried laughed so hard that he needs to change his pants... and his socks and shoes.

She heard the real money is at Goldman Sachs, so she's getting ready for the big job interview.

Britney heard the real money is at Goldman Sachs, so she's getting ready for the big job interview.

This guy is just an intern now, but you can tell he's gonna go places, he's got "the Goldman look"

This guy is just an intern now, but you can tell he's gonna go places, he's got "the Goldman look"