Monthly Archives: May 2012

If The Taliban Are So Vile And Repugnant, Why Not Defeat Them With Propaganda?

War is as much about propaganda as it is about fighting and weapons. Wars are popular or unpopular, and therefore winnable or unwinnable, depending on their level of public support. The US and NATO should bear this in mind if they want to win the war against the Taliban.

Napoleon promised the people of Europe freedom from oppressive monarchies—he was successful until people no longer believed in him. Bush and Blair used WMDS to scare people into initially supporting the invasion of Iraq.

America lost the war in Vietnam not on the battlefield but on the TV screen as news channels brought the horror of the war into the living room of the American people. During World War I the British concocted the story that the Germans were throwing Belgian babies into the fire. That was to play a major role in influencing American participation in the war.

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Clearing The Bull: JP Morgan And Derivatives Derangement Syndrome (DDS) Part III

Some of the attacks on JP Morgan are indicative of the extent to which governments, regulators and the media understand neither risk nor banking. This is the third in a series of articles on the JP Morgan derivatives loss—here are the links for Parts I and Part II.

What is Derivative Derangement Syndrome (DDS)?

It is when the fear of derivatives becomes so irrational that it renders the victim either unwilling or unable (sometimes both) to see derivatives for what they are, or to come to terms with potentially greater threats to the financial system and the economy. It is a dangerous malady.

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Clearing The Bull: JP Morgan And Derivatives Derangement Syndrome (DDS) Part II

In the first article we placed the JP Morgan derivatives loss in context, noting that governments are a far greater danger to our financial health than banks. This article focuses on why more legislation, more regulation, more governance and more controls will not solve the problem.

Contrary to what everyone would have us believe the failures at JP Morgan were not about legislation, regulation governance and controls—history shows that these only work until the next cock-up. They are about the mission and values of the organization, and thus the type of culture within which it operates.

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Republicans Say Drill Baby Drill, Saudis Say Solar Is The Way Forward

The definition of insanity: the world’s greatest oil producing nation is looking to dramatically increase its use of solar and other renewable energy sources, while the Republican Party of the world’s greatest oil consuming nation is saying “drill baby drill”.

The Saudi government has decided that, for both economic and environmental reasons, it should reduce its consumption of oil in favor of renewable energy. The plan is that by 2032 a third of the country’s electricity will be solar. Given that the Saudis are planning to invest US$109 billion in solar power it appears that they are putting their money where their mouth is.

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Clearing The Bull: JP Morgan And Derivatives Derangement Syndrome (DDS)

The headline writers are at it again as just about every publication that can spell the word derivatives is bemoaning JP Morgan’s $2 billion credit derivatives loss. Meanwhile, on planet Earth, the EU continues to sink under hundreds of billions of dollars of debt.

JP Morgan’s $2 billion credit derivatives loss is, in reality and the greater scheme of things, a non-story.  It’s a 1% loss on a $200 billion investment portfolio. It is a 0.1% impairment of a $2 trillion balance sheet. This is minor when compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars in junk and distressed Eurozone sovereign debt.

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“No, Ma’am” (He’s Not An Arab) McCain Replied. “He’s A Decent Family Man, Citizen…”

Mitt Romney’s failure to respond to harsh attacks on Barack Obama has been criticized in the media. However, in contrasting it with John McCain’s reactions under similar circumstances four years ago, the media has revealed its own startling inadequacies.

Many people around the world, including myself, look up to the United States as a country where for the most part there is relative harmony between people of all races, religions and backgrounds. If anyone is in any doubt about this then you only have to look at the ethnic and religious tensions and conflicts in so many other places around the world. It is for this very reason, and the fact that the US trumpets its values of racial and religious tolerance, that we hold that nation to a higher standard when we look at racism.

Unfortunately, there is still much cause for concern there.

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Bundesbank Study: Women Make Riskier Bankers

A recent Bundesbank study has found that women make riskier bankers than men, casting doubt on the many calls for more female bank executives. Could this be true?

The Bundesbank conducted a study on women in banking and came up with the conclusion that women make riskier bankers. The study looked at board changes at banks which resulted in a higher proportion of female representation. In analyzing their findings it appeared that the women in the study tended to be significantly younger and less experienced than their male counterparts—and that translated into greater risk taking.

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Bank Shareholders Fight Back

The past few weeks have witnessed several instances where shareholders have rejected executive compensation packages proposed by bank boards. Is this the dawn of a new era in corporate governance?

Many years ago when I was Business Manager to the Global Head of Treasury at ABN AMRO, the unit submitted its bonus request for that year to the director responsible for the investment banking unit. When he saw the size of the request his acerbic response was; “so what about the shareholders”.

It would appear that shareholders around the world are now beginning to ask the same question. From one bank to the next shareholders are venting their displeasure at the size of executive compensation plans—forcing management to revise their payouts.

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What we owe Egypt

Interesting post on what the US and other western governments should really be doing to support the Arab Spring.

Global Public Square

Editor’s Note: James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoglu are co-authors of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and PovertyFor more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it onTwitter or Facebook .

By James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoglu, Project Syndicate

The question that still underlies much thinking about economic development is this: What can we do to kick-start economic growth and reduce poverty around the world? The “we” is sometimes the World Bank, sometimes the United States and other rich countries, and sometimes professors of development economics and their students huddled in a seminar room. It is on this question that the entire development-aid complex is based.

But what has transformed Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya over the last two years has not been efforts by the outside world to improve these societies or their economies, but grassroots social movements intent on changing their…

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Nuclear Weapons Don’t Kill People, People Kill People

Guns imported from the US are wreaking havoc in the Mexican drug wars and thousands have died. Yet, armed with the slogan “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, the NRA and its right wing allies insist on fighting any attempt at gun control.

The Associated Press cited a recent US government report which stated that a total of some 68,000 guns recovered by the Mexican authorities over the past five years actually originated in the US. During that same period the Mexican drug wars has claimed some 47,000 lives.

Yet, the NRA remains steadfastly unrepentant and is sticking to its slogan, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, while it refuses to contemplate any change in US gun legislation. However, that laissez-faire approach to weapons dramatically changes when the NRA and its allies start talking about Iran and its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

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