« March 4, 2012 - March 10, 2012 | Main | March 18, 2012 - March 24, 2012 »

March 15, 2012

the jsobsu bill

It's pretty easy to get upset about the JOBS bill that will probably be signed into law soon.  Despite its name, it doesn't have much to do with jobs.  In fact, as some have noted politely and some more viciously, what the bill actually does is tinker with some business regulations and investor protections in such a way as to give a much needed shot in the arm to the boiler room industry by allowing direct (i.e., online) solicitation for investment in closely held firms.  Maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing — I mean, if those little old ladies are just sitting on all that money, why not swindle it from them with a pump-and-dump email scam?

But personally, I think this JOBS bill is fantastic, as it is the most brazenly insipid/deceptive acronym that the Congress has tried to foist on us in some time.  See, it says JOBS right there in the name, so you're supposed to think it's about jobs!  That way when your buddy asks you, "What's Congress up to these days?" you'll come back with, "Something about a jobs bill?" without even thinking twice about it.

But what it actually stands for is, "Jumpstart Our Business Startups," which may have something tangential to do with employment, but not so much.  It's just the dog's breakfast that resulted when some clown realized that that pig of a law needed some serious lipstick.

It is in fact such an awkward bit of propaganda that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a man who knows from awkward, cannot resist the gravitational pull of the awkward:

"The White House has said we need to get started jump starting our business startups and that's exactly what this bill does," Cantor says.


Fortunately for Mr. Leader, getting lost in the tall weeds of such a sentence is exactly what makes a man vice presidential material.

Also!  Two of those words I would argue should be either hyphenated or separated into two words, so that ridiculous sign Eric Cantor is standing behind?  It should read JSOBSU.  And that joke of a law that is reauthorizing penny stock fraud?  That's the same one, the JSOBSU bill.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

March 14, 2012

quitting goldman sachs

So of course, "muppets," you have already read the resignation letter that Greg Smith left for his employer, Goldman Sachs, where they could easily find it: on the op-ed page of the New York Times.  And he won't be returning to Goldman anytime soon, as the letter is a scathing indictment of what Goldman has become: a rapacious and predatory culture of exploiting and ignoring the interests of clients.
These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

It's peculiar to realize that what current disapproval of the financial services sector boils down to is not some grand macroeconomic difference — no one's trying to smash the state here — but rather a call to return to the days when fiduciary responsibility actually meant something, and when the purpose of the financial services was actually the judicious application of capital and not reckless self-enrichment.

But, if you also need a laugh (and who doesn't?), ask yourself if the "live-blogging the reaction" to the letter over at Andrew Ross Sorkin's NYT vertical DealBook is an appropriate deployment of the live-blogging mechanism or just self-important and silly.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:55 AM

March 13, 2012

ken griffin is scared of poors

Here's another story that bounced around a little over the weekend, but did not splash so much — a Chicago Tribune interview with yet another whiny billionaire.  A billionaire hating on people that think that the financial system is somehow responsible for the recent near-Depression and wealth inequality in general is no longer the shocking story it was the first time some billionaire got indignant.  Now, it's more white noise, what we expect billionaires to do, at least the ones silly enough to seek the spotlight.

So this billionaire's name is Kenneth Griffin.  He's Chicago-based, and not just your run-of-the-mill billionaire.  He's a flagrantly political billionaire, divesting some of his billions to the Republican Governor's Association, Romney and Rove super-PACs, individual GOP candidates, and even a couple million to the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity.  Ken Griffin is not just a whiny billionaire.  He is a billionaire dingbat whose hair was set on fire by Ayn Rand.

But here is the interesting quote from the interview:

Q. Do you think the ultrawealthy have an inordinate or inappropriate amount of influence on the political process?

A. I think they actually have an insufficient influence. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet.

I don't wanna knock the guy for having a belief, but the dude said, out loud, is that the billionaires need to protect the mechanisms that made them billionaires, and that the price of being a billionaire is eternal vigilance against those who would make it harder to acquire your millions.

I mean, it's true (in the context of being a billionaire), but it's not exactly the thing that billionaires should be saying out loud.  It's a reverse invocation of the "Class war!" kung-fu the free marketeers use in their own defense: we must perpetuate the rigged system, and we are obligated to raise our voices so.

It's a douchebag greedhead sentiment, but I'll give credit to Griffin for not trying to put lipstick on that pig, or otherwise dressing it up so that the victims of it might be flimflammed into supporting it.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:27 AM

March 12, 2012

also: speaker gingrich, how long are the curtains?

There was a small political story bouncing around over the weekend about whether or not Newt Gingrich would ask Rick Perry to be his running mate.  I believe that initially it was reported that he would, culminating in this story from Huffington Post reassuring that, no, the Gingrich campaign has not yet spoken with the Governor about this prospect.

Now this is not my story, but here are some follow-ups I would liked to see asked of the Gingrich campaign:

Is Washington DC big enough for his inauguration, or should it be moved to someplace with more room, like Kansas?

If foreign leaders wanted to start offering congratulations to the Speaker now and not wait for the election, would that be OK with the Speaker?

Has the Speaker decided on whether he'll keep Rick Perry as veep for his second term?

Will the Speaker pilot the first spaceship to our new moonbase, or just be a passenger?

Will the speaker be able to overturn the 22nd Amendment in the first term, or will it take all the way until his second?

Those are just what comes to mind real quick, before the day gets started.  But I would be very careful in the phrasing of my questions, so I would not break protocol and be forced to play Risk with Newt and Callista (well, actually Newt plays Callista's pieces for her, but nobody ever says anything).

Posted by mrbrent at 9:27 AM