The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The End of Wall Street's Boom

Essay by Liar's Poker author Michael Lewis, in December's Conde Nast Portfolio:

In the two decades since [1989], I had 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. The rebellion by American youth against the money culture never happened. Why bother to overturn your parents' world when you can buy it, slice it up into tranches, and sell off the pieces?

Word of the Year

Via Calculated Risk, Merriam-Webster has declared "bailout" its word of the year:

The word "bailout," which shot to prominence amid the financial meltdown, was looked up so often at Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary that the publisher says it was an easy choice for its 2008 Word of the Year.

The rest of the list is not exactly cheerful. It also includes "trepidation," "precipice" and "turmoil."

"There's something about the national psyche right now that is looking up words that seem to suggest fear and anxiety," said John Morse, president of Springfield-based Merriam-Webster.

Go figure.

I wasn't nervous until...

...Citibank just emailed me a notice that all of my deposits are protected by the FDIC. I wonder why they're telling me now?

More: Via Paul Krugman, an informed rundown of what this means:

Apparently Citibank and the U.S. government (i.e., we taxpayers) have reached a deal whereby we will backstop something like $300-billion in screwed assets on Citi's balance sheet. ... Here is the gist:

  • Citi will carve out $300-billion in troubled assets, which will remain on its balance sheet
    • The first $37-$40-billion in losses on those assets will go to Citi
    • The next $5-billion in losses will hit Treasury
    • The next $10-billion in losses will go to the FDIC
    • Any more losses will go to the Fed
    • There will be no management changes at Citi, because, you know, they are all fine and upstanding people who have done nothing wrong
    • There will be some compensation limitations, but those have not yet been made clear

    To be clear, this is not a "bad bank" model. Assets are not, apparently, being taken off the Citi balance sheet and put into another entity walled off from the Citi biological host. Instead, they are being left on the Citi balance sheet, but tagged and bagged for eventual disposal via taxpayers.

    Biggest...bank...in the world...and we're stuck with the Administration that opened our veins for another 57 days.

    Mukasey collapses

    It seem as if Attorney General Michael Mukasey may have had a stroke during a speech this evening:

    The 67-year-old Mukasey was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where his condition was not immediately known.

    Mukasey was delivering a speech to the Federalist Society at a Washington hotel when "he just started shaking and he collapsed," said Associate Attorney General Kevin O'Connor. "They're very concerned."

    Mukasey was 15 to 20 minutes into his speech about the Bush administration's successes in combatting terrorism when he began slurring his words. He collapsed and lost consciousness, said O'Conner, the department's No. 3 official.

    I hope it isn't as serious as it sounds.

    Late update: Fortunately, it wasn't.

    And then there were two

    MSNBC reports that convicted felon and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens has lost his Senate seat to never-indicted Mark Begich:

    Stevens' ouster on his 85th birthday marks an abrupt realignment in Alaska politics and will alter the power structure in the Senate, where he has served since the days of the Johnson administration while holding seats on some of the most influential committees in Congress.

    Tuesday's tally of just over 24,000 absentee and other ballots gave Begich 146,286, or 47.56 percent, to 143,912, or 46.76 percent, for Stevens.

    This brings the Democratic majority to 57, or 58 if you include Bernie Sanders who, I think, voted with us about 102% of the time in the last Congress. (Should we count Maine Republican Susan Collins as well and call it 59? And how about that Franken-Coleman battle in Minnesota? Hmmm....)

    The other of "there were two" is the contest in Georgia, which we'll find out about in two weeks.

    In unrelated news, Talking Points Memo reported today that Senate Democrats expelled Joe Lieberman (R-CT) from their pilates class. Yuk yuk yuk.

    Memo to party: We won, you fools

    Kos reports the Democrats in the Senate have some trouble understanding that Lieberman isn't one of us:

    When Senate Democrats meet Tuesday to decide Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) fate, leaders are expected to propose that he keep his gavel at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but lose his Environment and Public Works subcommittee chairmanship.

    Senate Democratic sources cautioned that the proposal is intended to serve as a starting point for the discussion over whether Lieberman should be punished for his aggressive criticism of President-elect Barack Obama’s candidacy, as well as his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

    Says Kos: "If this is the 'starting point,' and given the Senate Democrats' history of capitulations, expect Lieberman to come out of that meeting as majority leader."

    Says I: he might be an improvement over the current one, if the report is accurate.