Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Cultural Permeation of Books and Music

Daniel Hall has "two beliefs about pop culture that initially sound incompatible": 1. There will never again be a musical act that attains the popularity and cultural permeation of the Beatles. 2. It is nigh inevitable that a book or … Continue reading

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Extra Credit, Monday Edition

Central bank independence under threat: A Free Exchange blog post with a byline! Here’s hoping for many more. Gentrification: Not Ousting the Poor? Barbara Kiviat reports on this paper. Mittal joins Goldman Sachs board Anheuser-Busch Rejects InBev Proposal as Financially … Continue reading

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How Bear Died

Bryan Burrough has a compulsively readable 10,000-word blow-by-blow account of the demise of Bear Stearns in August’s Vanity Fair. Go read it: it’s the best thing yet on what happened. And it does a good job of answering two of … Continue reading

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Yes, Vikram Pandit Is a Robot

Yesterday, going on the strength of a WSJ op-ed, I wondered whether Vikram Pandit was actually a robot. Turns out that yes, he is. Bess Levin has an email he’s sent out to every single Citi employee: You may have … Continue reading

Posted in banking, leadership | 1 Comment

Counterfeiting Statistics Watch, CFO Edition

Randy Myers has a 2200-word article on the economics of counterfeiting in CFO magazine, which displays none of the critical thinking for which the Economist Group is famous. Instead, it just regurgitates all the bullshit statistics which have been thoroughly … Continue reading

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The Economics of Frequent-Flier Surcharges

Call it the frequent flier arbitrage: rack up lots of miles when oil prices are low and flights are cheap. Wait a year or so for oil prices to skyrocket and fares to rise. Then cash in your miles, receiving … Continue reading

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When Pundits Discover the Repo Market

If you want to get a good idea of the disconnect between politics and the markets, try looking across the pond, to Will Hutton’s 1200-word jeremiad against hedge funds. Hutton is a highly respected political commentator, but he clearly knows … Continue reading

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WTC: Even More Delayed Than You Feared

Alex Frangos has the depressing news: the much-delayed fiasco that is the WTC reconstruction is going to be even more delayed than most of us had feared. The challenges center on the Port Authority’s planned transit hub and the memorial, … Continue reading

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The Curious Case of Hernan Arbizu, Cont.

I’ve now seen various complaints that JP Morgan filed against rogue private banker Hernan Arbizu in the Southern District of New York, which between them clear up a few of the many questions in this case. Firstly, the complaints say … Continue reading

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Is Vikram Pandit a Robot?

I’ll leave to others commentary on any substantive points which may or may not have been made in Vikram Pandit’s WSJ op-ed on Friday; I’m more interested in his use of language. Here’s his first and last paragraphs: If there … Continue reading

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Blogonomics: An RSS Wish List

Tyler Cowen asks: What feature in an RSS reader do you not have but long for? What would cause you to switch from one reader to another? Would you ever consider a reader that forced ads on you, bundled up … Continue reading

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Housing Market Paradox of the Day

UK house sales: down 50%, year-on-year. UK house prices: up 1.8%, with London prices up 6.9%. SAR: "Please explain". Not easy. Call it the upside of seller denial. In a down market, some homes will be sold even if nobody … Continue reading

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Food Inflation Datapoint of the Day

The best bit of the "Lunch with the FT" column is looking at the bill: how much lunch costs in various restaurants. Unfortunately, it’s a graphic, which the clever chaps at seem to be incapable of reproducing. The article … Continue reading

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Momofuku Ko Datapoint of the Day

Momofuku Ko is the impossible-to-get-into restaurant in the East Village, where I suggested in April that the chef-owner David Chang might want to auction off reservations once or twice a week. Well, he kinda took my suggestion: for a one-off … Continue reading

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Ben Stein Watch: June 29, 2008

Shorter Ben Stein: High gasoline prices don’t much affect me, or my dentist, or other people earning more than half a million dollars a year. Now it’s true that people on lower wages feel the oil-price rise more keenly. But … Continue reading

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Error, Randomness, and Payrolls Statistics

Just how error-prone are the monthly payrolls statistics? I’ve been reading Len Mlodinow’s very good new book, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, and one of his statements really stood out for me: if you have a data … Continue reading

Posted in economics, statistics | 1 Comment

The Curious Case of Hernan Arbizu

To read the English-language coverage of J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. v. Arbizu, a case in the Southern District of New York, it’s all pretty boring. A private banker named Hernan Arbizu was employed by JP Morgan, looking after clients in … Continue reading

Posted in fraud | 1 Comment

Extra Credit, Thursday Edition

A Metropolitan Strategy for America’s Future: An important speech from Barack Obama. Et Tu, Intel? Chip Giant Won’t Embrace Microsoft’s Windows Vista Don’t trust anyone who can’t see into the future: Greg Mankiw is unlikely to be getting many job … Continue reading

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The Citi Plunge Continues

Citigroup is now worth less than $100 billion, and is trading at about 85% of its book value of $20.73 per share – $17.73, to be precise, at just after noon today. Goldman Sachs analyst William Tanona now has Citi … Continue reading

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Great Email Rants of All Time, Windows Edition

This is I think now my favorite email ever. It’s over 1,000 words of ranting about how utterly useless Windows is: I decided to download (Moviemaker) and buy the Digital Plus pack … so I went to They have … Continue reading

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Countrywide: California Piles On

Well, that didn’t take long. California attorney general Jerry Brown (yes, that Jerry Brown) has now joined Illinois in deciding to sue Countrywide. Brown’s rhetorical powers have not deserted him: “Countrywide exploited the American dream of homeownership and then sold … Continue reading

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Whatever Happened to Curve Steepening?

Remember Julian Robertson’s curve steepener? At the end of January, it seemed very smart. The spread between two-year and ten-year rates had widened out to 150bp, from just 97bp earlier in the month. As a long-term bet it made a … Continue reading

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Bud Board Backs Busch By Blockheadedly Blackballing Belgian Brazilians

Disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, Anheuser-Busch will reject InBev’s takeover bid. Will they do so by promising shareholders much more value as an independent company? It’s hard to see how they could do that while maintaining a straight face. Will they wave … Continue reading

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Shareholder Activism, K-12 Edition

The shareholder-activist playbook is simple. "You are working for us," say a group of outspoken people who know how to throw their weight around and how to apply pressure to the board. Pretty soon, the board is putting pressure on … Continue reading

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Have Any Bank Boards Done Anything Right?

Francesco Guerrera and Peter Thal Larsen have a long and intelligent article on banks’ boards today. They point out that board members, the people with ultimate oversight over the multi-billion-dollar losses which have devastated the industry, have emerged all but … Continue reading

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