Archive for September, 2007

September 11th, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon, 9/11

911brooklyncropped.jpg

For the first time the anniversary falls on a Tuesday.

Tuesday six years ago was a crisp, clear day in New York. Today the pall of Mordor has issued forth, oppressing the city, and one daydreams of the Shire.

rooseveltpin.jpg

It seems that September 11 has supplanted July 4 as our national day.

What then has supplanted the Declaration of Independence?

The Patriot Act?

bon.jpg

Has the country been born again?

What does its future look like, when the hearts & minds stray from the day the Declaration was signed to embrace a martial defeat that breeds ever more momentous defeats?

The remainder of this rather lengthy piece, enhanced with many a curious link, has been filed elsewhere click here to read.

And then please feel happy to post comments below.

cribb9112007450.jpg

September 11th, 2007

Oil at all time high; nobody knows why

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

OPEC yesterday raised its production outputs, which one would expect to depress oil. Instead it is rocketing higher, two days in a row now. The pundits are all mystified. Esp when natural gas is near all-time lows. The disparity between the two (oil and gas) is very unusual.  US military stockpiling ahead of an enlarged mideast war?

September 11th, 2007

Midlife Praxis

Posted in Arts & Private Life by ed

Sex bores the pants off me.

September 11th, 2007

Doom & Gloom Update:
Man in Big Suit says “crisis of confidence” won’t end soon

Posted in Money by ed

This re US Treasury boss Paulson, from the Financial Times, supports my sense since this started that the problem with structured finance bonds is not a blip:

No quick end to turmoil, says Paulson

By Eoin Callan and Jeremy Grant in Washington and Tony Barber in Brussels

September 11 2007 22:31

The crisis of confidence in credit markets is likely to last longer than previous financial shocks of the past two decades, Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, warned on Tuesday.

He said the uncertainty in credit markets would last longer than the turmoil that followed the Asian crisis and the Russian default of the 1990s or the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s.

Mr Paulson was speaking in Washington as Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank president, warned that it was time for global financial authorities to tackle unregulated entities whose activities had contributed to the latest upheavals.

The comments came as it emerged that credit ratings agencies have been called to a special meeting in Washington by the umbrella body for the world’s securities regulators to explain how they rate structured financial products based on mortgage assets.

Like Mr Trichet, Mr Paulson said the complexity and global distribution of the securities at the heart of the credit crisis would prolong it. “We expect this period of turbulence to go on for a while,” he said.

Mr Paulson said he had been an investment banker at Goldman Sachs during the “Russian default, Asian crisis . . . and Latin American credit crisis” and expected this bout of uncertainty in credit markets was “going to take longer” to resolve.

US authorities expect that the uncertainty over valuing subprime mortgages could last for up to two years as many such loans reset to higher rates.
However, equities rallied strongly as investor hopes continued to rise that the Federal Reserve would be forced to make interest rate cuts by as much as 50 basis points next week in a bid to stop the economy sliding into a sharp economic downturn.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1.4 per cent higher at 13,308.39. Gains were sharper in Europe where the FTSE 100 jumped 2.4 per cent in the UK and the pan-European benchmark, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index, rose 1.7 per cent, its biggest one-day gain for three weeks.

Rate cut expectations put pressure on the dollar, which dropped to within touching distance of a record low against the euro.

The US currency fell 0.2 per cent to $1.3835 against the euro, just shy of the record low of the $1.3852 it hit on July 24.

Mr Paulson said the likely duration of the turmoil reflected the difficulties of financial services companies in valuing complex assets tainted by mortgage-backed securities.

“The reason it is going to take longer today [than in previous crises] is that we are more globalised,” he said. US mortgages had been “sliced and diced” and were turning up at Landesbanken – state-run regional banks in Germany.

“Secondly, it is the level of complexity,” he said, adding that he had met daily with bankers trying to value asset-backed commercial paper and other products.

“When they are confident they understand the products, confidence will return,” he said.

END QUOTE

One might be tempted to wonder how the Global Financial System could consume trillions of dollars worth of financial products without first understanding them. But that might lead one to think that most so-called bankers are ill educated musclehead hustlers in tight suits.

As far as the markets go, it’s hard not to think they will tumble again circa the Fed meeting next Tuesday, the 18th. Only a fifty bps cut in the fed funds rate would prop the markets, and that seems very unlikely in a world where everybody else is raising rates. Ie, the dollar is already comatose; a fifty bps cut would push it off a cliff. More likely is a 25 bps cut, which will likely sent the US stock markets back down after the gentle relief rally of the past weeks. Perhaps this process is beginning today.

September 10th, 2007

Baby Bush bestride the world

Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Even for someone as gaffe-prone as U.S. President George W. Bush, he was in rare form on Friday, confusing APEC with OPEC and transforming Australian troops into Austrians.

Bush’s tongue started slipping almost as soon as he started talking at a business forum on the eve of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney.

“Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction,” he told Prime Minister John Howard. “Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit.”

As the audience of several hundred people erupted in laughter, Bush corrected himself and joked, “He invited me to the OPEC summit next year.” Australia has never been a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Later in his speech, Bush recounted how Howard had gone to visit “Austrian troops” last year in Iraq.

There are, in fact, no Austrian troops there. But Australia has about 1,500 Australians military personnel in and around the country.

Upon finishing his speech, Bush took the wrong way off-stage and, looking slightly perplexed, had to be re-directed by Howard to a center-stage exit.

September 8th, 2007

Taxi talk

Posted in New York City by ed

Funny to come across this:

taxitalk.jpg

I drove a cab for three years in NYC during grad school. Recorded people surreptitiously (microphones under each headrest). Quite a gas, and a great way to study the spoken language. But Tony Schwartz was apparently all over it before I was born.

September 6th, 2007

Doom & gloom update

Posted in Money by ed

Another day, another 250 points down for the Murdoch Industrials.  Yawn.

Here’s a recent piece by a former treasurer of a bank and of a credit card company. Calmly alarmed.