Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wow

Unbelievable

Can I just start this post by saying that anyone who thinks losing $1.2 trillion dollars in a day - just in the US - is better than lending $700 billion for a calm, orderly sale with some prospect of getting most of the money back is an idiot?

Yes, the proposed bail-out isn't perfect, yes, it doesn't address some of the problems that caused this mess in the first place, but it's a damn sight better than the alternative, as we're finding out.

My God. I've heard more than one person say that Wall Street needs to learn a "lesson" so this doesn't happen again.

To those people I say this: No lesson is worth $1.2 trillion dollars.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Visual sleeping-pill (Another economics post)

I was going to call a moratorium on economic posts here, since they’re hard to write, hard to read, and bloody boring, but I can’t let the latest round of blame-gaming go by without at least a cursory commentary.

I’ve seen numerous posts on sites both left and right finger-pointing at the other side. There’s the obvious leftist view that “this proves that capitalism doesn’t work” to the rightist view “Carter and Clinton caused this”

The first view asks you to view this as emblematic of what happens when you de-regulate, leave supply-and-demand control the price of assets and the second asks you to view the banks as pawns of government who will do what you tell them.

My view? Neither is correct. For a start, governments, central banks and regulation tweak the market on an almost daily basis. The Market is monstrously complicated, and simply taking the view that it “doesn’t work” ignores the legion ways in which it does.

As for Carter and Clinton implementing legislation that “forces” banks to lend to borrowers who can’t afford it, let me tell you something now, from a former insiders perspective; if a bank doesn’t want to give you money, a bank doesn’t give you money. Q, E & D. If they don’t want to give you money – even if the numbers stack up in your favour, they won’t. All they have to have – legally – is a reason not to. And it’s pretty damn easy to find a reason, regardless of any legislation that may be in place, to knock someone back if you are so inclined.

And even if you threaten to fine them, they’ll still knock it back, because it costs them too much in bad-debt provisions not to.

I’ve been involved in implementing lending policies and procedures at three different financial institutions, and the one thing I took away from all three was a sense of wonder at how different people assess the same application, even when they’ve got the same policies and procedures to work off.

On the flip-side, if a financial institution wants to lend, it will find a way. Low doc and No-doc loans are the perfect example. Low-Doc loans and their bastard son the No-Doc loan basically allow you to specify how much you earn on a declaration that is used as “proof” that you can afford to re-pay a loan. Now, I’ve worked in a setting where I had the say on whether these loans went through, and when I was declining “too many”, it was pointed out to me that the policy was to approve No-Doc loans that had a signed declaration regardless of whether I had reason to think the borrower could not afford it

Low-Doc and No-Doc loans were originally formulated for business owners – particularly those in the first few years where it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide evidence that you can repay a loan. (My attitude on this, incidentally, is that whilst your accountant is showing you new and interesting ways of writing off almost every cent of your profit as a business loss they should inform you that if you tell the taxman your profit is $1.87 a year, it’s going to be damn difficult to get a loan at a decent interest rate)

Fine and dandy, but the problems started when financial institutions realised that the declaration itself (If it could not be proved that the financial institution told the borrower what to write on the form – and good luck with that) renders the clause in the Consumer Credit Code useless that tells a financial institution that they cannot lend to people they have reason to suspect cannot afford to borrow.

In short, you can’t tell a bank what to do for more than five minutes without them finding a way to circumvent that legislation. And because they are such big, powerful entities and (technically) own so many assets, they have the power to bring the economy to its knees.

And you know what? Yes, this is a crisis. But I’ll tell you what it isn’t:

New

Or, realistically, any one persons fault.

To suggest that one man, or even one administration, has that much power over entities that we know can bring the economy of the world to a teetering precipice is idiotic. No one piece of legislation has lead to this crisis. All of them have, by not wanting to acknowledge the fact that the measures they’ve taken have been insufficient.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Can't sleep, clown'll eat me

I can tell it's really spring and not just moving into spring when I go from not being able to sleep to sleeping on-and-off but having very vivid dreams.

Brace yourselves for an increase in checking whether we've actually had a conversation / organised an outing / been to Crown Casino.

And completely inane posts at all hours when I wake up suddenly and with an excess of energy from a dream about hot-ballooning with someone I haven't seen since high-school.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I AM the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells!

Because it is a well-established fact that leftists hate children, here's proof that we not only hate them, but will eat them, given half the chance:



Keep an eye on your children around Teh Left, people. And watch for suspicious looking bite-marks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Failing to disappoint

Um. Last year, I wasn't overly enamoured by what Shane McClintock was wearing.

This year? Well let's put it this way:



Or this way:



Someone, get the girl a stylist. Now.

God, Forgive me

I’m in two minds about the declaration by Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart that Catholic Hospitals may have to close if the proposed legislation before Victorian Parliament is successful.

Particularly, Archbishop Hart is concerned about the provisions that mean whilst a medical practitioner can refuse to participate in an abortion or advise on one, they must refer to a practitioner they know to not hold the same beliefs they do.

They’re also concerned about the provision within the act that means they could not refuse to perform an abortion if the mothers life is threatened by a medical emergency.

On one hand, I can sympathise with a medical practitioner if they feel torn between their religion and their duties as a health professional.

On the other hand, no woman should be at the mercy of the belief her doctor holds. She should be able to obtain a referral is the doctor is a conscientious objector - and that's especially important in rural areas.

And she should absolutely not have to die simply because the closest hospital happens to be a Catholic hospital, or she wasn't aware it was a Catholic Hospital.

Consider this scenario: A woman has Pre-eclampsia or HELLP. She lives in a rural area where the only hospital is a Catholic Hospital. She is too ill to stabilise enough to move.

Would you be okay with both mother and foetus dying simply because the doctor is Catholic? You can't save both mother and child, but you can save the mother.

And if you are okay with that, what possible right do you have to call yourself pro-life and others Pro-Death?

Let's be honest. Pro-Lifers - the kind who don't wany any abortion taking place anywhere for any reason, are quite comfortable with maternal death. They'll label the circumstances that might lead to it "rare" and "unfortunate", but they'll still happily legislate that your mother, sister, daughter or wife should die. They will choose the possible - or even the impossible - life of a foetus over your life, or the life of your loved one.

They want your doctor to watch you die, when you can be saved.

Let me be clear - once again, I sympathise with any doctor who has to perform a procedure he or she feels contravenes their chosen religion.

But that doesn't mean I will ever be okay with any doctor choosing to put the life of a child before the mothers because of his or her religion - that, my friends, I consider to be manslaughter. If you can do something to save someone and you don't - when they've asked you to - that's medical manslaughter.

Let me say again - sympathies, Catholic medicos - Now get in there and save your patients life.

Why on earth would a practitioner who feels so strongly about their religion they'd be willing to watch a woman die when they could save her be working in a field where that exact scenario comes up? Get out of Obstetrics, Catholic Medico, and into something where you don't have to risk peoples lives to follow your religion.

This declaration by Archbishop Hart, coupled with Pope Pious coming out and imploring people in pain and dying not to die with dignity but to let God choose the hour of their death has forced me to resolve my religious impasse.

As of this moment, I can no longer consider myself Catholic. I will not be part of an organisation that condones watching women die when they can be saved. I cannot ethically do that. For the Archbishop of my town in this day and age to come out and declare that, I cannot comprehend. I cannot abide.

Ad Te levavi animam meam, but my conscience dictates something different.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'd like to thank the Academy

I have to start today's posting by going a little Gwyneth Paltrow-Oscars-acceptance-speech* and thanking everyone.

Those who've wished me Happy Birthday in the comments or via e-mail, my father and step-mother and step-sister for the lovely birthday breakfast Saturday and for dinner last night, my best mate A and girlfriend A, my brother and his girlfriend for coming on Saturday night. My mother and step-father for organising the surprise three-course meal at the winery, for the flowers, and everyone who got me a card, present, or just said "Happy Birthday"

Seriously, I've been spoilt this year beyond anything I could possibly expected. Honestly, just, wow.

Now, if you'll excuse me, i'm off to cry into my new dressing gown, just to complete the analogy.

*Please note that whilst I'm willing to compromise standards far enough for a Paltrow-esque speech, I'm wearing an excellently uplifting bra (Black half lace balconette with red-rose detail - you know the one), and am not wearing panda like make-up. Some things would be gong too far, even for me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In Absentia

I may or may not be around this weekend, as it's my birthday tomorrow, and there are surprises in the offing.

I may update Friday, but if I don't, see you on Monday.

Have a good weekend, all.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Challenge or Mission Impossible?

Just as I thought the comment thread was put to bed, comments on this thread have taken off again.

Basically, I'd come across a website (and pamphlet drive) making false claims by a pro-life organisation, and put the challenge out to Pro-lifers to debate honestly and without deception or subterfuge about the proposed legislation de-criminalising abortion in Victoria.

As you can see, the one comment I've had from a pro-lifer has been proven to be less than accurate, and I'm not entirely enamoured of the preachy tone towards women thinking about abortion, either, but it doesn't overstep the mark.

Question is, why do I never seem to be able to find anyone on the Pro-Life side of the fence willing to discuss the issue honestly? Why don't they Tell the Truth as they claim they do?

And why are they still spouting the lie about the link between Breast Cancer and Abortion?

So, any pro-lifers (Apart from you, Iain. I know what you think) out there willing to take up the challenge?

Asploding geeks in 3...2...1

Wow. A new hitchhikers book, written by Eoin Colfer.

I have to say, when I first saw the headline, I was very apprehensive.

Then I saw Colfer would be the writer, and my heart resumed beating again.

Colfer, for those who haven’t heard of him, is the writer of the Artemis Fowl series of books for children/adolescents.

And yes, I’ve read all of them with glee. They’re fantastic. They aren’t at all like Harry Potter (Although there is magic) as I’ve seen some reviewers (who clearly haven’t read the book) state, and I love them.

I can see as well, why he was chosen. He’ll be perfect for it.

And I’m tipping cardiac arrests among geeks and nerds will sky-rocket today. I’m also predicting a Red Cross appeal will be set-up to help bookshop-repair drives just after the book is released.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Easily swayed

I also oppose the "strengthening" of Australian Literature being taught in English classes in school.

But for me, it's for no other reason than if I can save one single school-child from having to read David Malouf, I'll consider my life worthwhile.

Follwing up

On yesterdays post - Here is an excellent juxtoposition of todays climate and the Great Depression, which are the words being bandied about by some journalists.

Also, the predictions were correct - the Fed will be bailing out AIG.

I do like the rumoured structure of the bail-out though - "purchasing" a majority stake and setting up a three-year sell off of certain assets and companies to pay the money back. It gives AIG the time to do what they would have done themselves without shaking up the market any more than necessary.

Hats off, Fed. Although I am noting Bernanke hasn't been named in any of the press-releases I've seen thus far.

Interesting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Lehman's won't happen here.

If you have no interest in Economics, skip this one.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers - an investment firm exposed to the crisis in the US sub-prime market has hit the stock market - particularly the financial centres - this morning with a 2 to 4% average drop and a drop in the US against the Euro.

Basically, what we're seeing is the US market sending shivers through all financial markets.

But all is certainly not lost.

For a start, the US banking, financial systems and market are already under investigation - an investigation held off from completion at the current Administrations insistence until Bush leaves office, I might add - by the International Monetary Fund.

Bush has been resisting this push for seven years. And there's the first difference between the American market and the rest of the world - the ability and willingness to take short term hits for long term stability.

The American ethos seems to be that any sign of short-term weakness will be exploited, and must be avoided – no matter what the long term cost.

Alan Greenspan understood the market. And although I may not have agree with the policy of Fed bail-outs to the market (As apposed to the floating of currency, we’re talking buy-out of stock by the Fed to inflate market prices), Greenspan kept the economy on a remarkably even keel for the time he was in charge, considering he presided during not only September 11, but also the burst of the tech boom.

The American Fed Reserve is the equivalent of the Reserve Bank of Australia. And whilst the workings of the RBA look incomprehensible to the outsider (and sometimes the insider), the Fed can be alarmingly transparent (unless you want to investigate it, that is).

The Fed has been, for the last year, in my opinion, at the mercy of the stock market. If we're talking about "swerves" in policy responding to market conditions, Fed head Ben Bernanke is the perfect example. Up until August last year, Bernanke resisted calls for an interest rate cut, citing the risk of inflation as his reason for inaction.

Two weeks later, the Fed cut interest rates, but stated there would be none further -the risk was simply too high.

That position lasted for a month, until January. Bernanke cut rates by three quarters of a per cent. Days later, there was another cut.

Reactionary? Tick. A sign that policy was at the mercy of the market? Tick. Foolish? I think so.

The other big difference between America and the three markets I’m using as examples (Our own, Europe, and the UK), is regulation.

Australia has quite a high standard of regulation in regards to Authorised Deposit Taking Institutions (ADIs) and what their provisions are in regards to investment versus deposits and loans. In short, your bank or Credit Union must have a certain amount of cold, hard cash sitting around ready at a moments notice should something terrible happen to the share market. That way, your deposits are safe, and the institution is far less likely to call in your debt should something like the sub-prime crash occur, as you’ve got significantly more breathing room.

Also, second mortgages and unsecured lending practices in Australia are more heavily regulated, and banks themselves have tighter procedures than in the US.

Lastly, the face of the finance sector has changed since the introduction of FSRA regulations, which were the last phase of the reforms to the Financial Regulations introduced during the pyramid scheme debacle of the eighties.

The United Kingdom has also showed its willingness to regulate where necessary earlier this year during the furore surrounding the bailout of Northern Rock. The advantage the UK has over the American financial sector is that the current Prime Minister is the former Chancellor of the Exchequer – the man who engineered in large part some of the financial reforms in the UK is now the head of the government, whilst Ben Bernanke is finding himself more and more unpopular even within the Fed itself.

The legislation of the UK could still stand to be further tightened, however, if a repeat of Northern Rock is not to be seen. Gordon Brown has promised such.

As for the European Market, this is the one that most interests me. The market there is vastly different, as there are the competing interests of so many different countries and the far more prevalent practice (particularly in France) for companies – including Financial Institutions to be privately owned rather than public.

Regulation there is controlled through the European Central Bank (ECB), and their response to the Lehman crash mirrored our own – an injection of cash through the system, but no panic buttons pressed. What impresses me even more is the concerted effort of Europe as a whole to keep things on an even keel through modest management. This piece highlights what the difference between the Fed and the ECB (And Europe’s larger banks) in response to a crisis.

The Fed in the last sixteen months has reminded me of a hyperactive toddler on red cordial. I feel like grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and sticking it in a naughty chair to watch the action until it’s learnt its lesson. Bernanke doesn’t seem to understand that if you tie yourself to the market, you have to deal with the up and downs.

And with the sub-prime crisis already on the cards when he did so, you can only assume the man thought he had the magic touch Greenspan had. What he didn’t seem to grasp was that Greenspan’s biggest advantage was he knew when to go on the attack and when to go on the defence.

Bernanke doesn’t.

In the RBA, and through the tightened legislation in the last two decades, Australia is primed to ride out the crisis in the US, as are the UK and European markets.

Now, if AIG (American International Group) goes down* (I’m tipping it won’t – the Fed would have to be insane not to weigh in on this one), we’re in for one very interesting couple of quarters.

Oh, and America? This is why it's a good idea not to worship de-regulation of the Financial sector like a damn god. And when are you going to regulate your Insurance Sector? Australia's has at least been self-regulated for years.


*If you can't see this, do yourself a favour and sign up for a 14 day trial. Some call the AFR conservative. Yeah, well, so it should be. It's money, not a collection of Pogs, isn't it?

This, I swear

And this time I mean it.

I am very, very close to finishing my post on economics. The problem with finishing it has been that every time I think I'm done, the bloody market opens again and I have something to add to it.

God damn you, money markets! Could your computers not just go down for one day?*

I should have the post finished by 6pm this evening. If it isn't done by then, assume my body is lying in a ditch somewhere because I've been attacked by ruffians who are after the Whiz-Bang Phone just as I press Publish Post.

Because I am going to get it done today, damn it.

** I don't mean that. I know it would be disastrous for the economy, but relevant events keep happening just as I finish it, and it's starting to get on my nerves

Monday, September 15, 2008

Signs you might just be tired

You go to put the teabag in the fridge and the milk in the bin.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not scared yet? We'll just keep trying then

Dear Herald Sun,

I'm still not scared.

I hate to disappoint you, but telling me about "secret" internal logs (So secret they can be obtained through the Freedom of Information act!) that detail 1293 incidents (ranging, according to the limited incidents you reported from people being spat on to a sexual assault on a child) in a three year period has actually made me feel safer.

Because that's just more than on incident a day.

On a rail network the size Melbourne has, with as many people crammed on to it a day as it does, I think one-and-a-half incidents a day is pretty damn good.

And considering there's a been a 27.4 per cent drop between 2002 and 2008 in crime on out public transport system, I'm feeling safer every day.

But keep trying, Herald Sun.

If nothing else you're giving me a good chuckle.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please, Herald Sun, tell me what emotion to feel today.

The tag line when you click on this link is “Fear Grips Railway Users”

Gripped by fear?

Really?

Am I, Herald Sun? Just let me check.

Um, no, I’m not “gripped by fear” at the idea of public transport. I’m not even that concerned by a 2.5% rise in crime, considering the use of public transport has increased by substantially more than that in the last twelve months.

And I’ll tell you a secret, Mary Bolling, I’m not even afraid of catching the last train home by myself on – gasp! – the most dangerous line in Melbourne, the Hurstrbridge line.

Want to know why?

In the 14 years I’ve been catching public transport by myself, apart from the (frankly amusing) ranting loonies you see everywhere, and I’ve had no trouble at all on Public Transport.

I know it happens, I know serious assaults, sexual assaults, robbery and the like occur, and I’m not trying to downplay what actually occurs, but you know what the majority of crimes on the public transport system are?

Rocks thrown at trains.

Vandalism.

Bored kids screwing around.

Forgive me if I’m not quaking in my boots here, Herald Sun, but apart from the inconvenience of delayed trains caused by vandalism – which I’m more than used to by now – I’ve never been directly affected by the rampant crime you’re telling me to be all afeared of.

Media beat up?

Let’s put it this way. In half an hour I’m getting on the Hurstrbridge line. And I’ll be catching it later on tonight as well. And tomorrow, and well into the forseeable future.

And I’m not the slightest bit more concerned than I was before I read this piece of tripe very informative article.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Status: Not Dead

The world appears to still exist.

I'm not dead.

But as a colleague of mine and I were just discussing, it might be that we've died, failed to notice whilst pouring over a spreadsheet, and when we come to leave for the day we'll find the doors locked and discover we're in Hell.

I'll let you know if that's the case. Presumabely hell has Internet access?

Answering the tough Questions

The answer to the question I posed a few days ago when I asked what I was talking about when I said "I've been thinking about it, and I draw the line at monkey"

Is:

I wouldn't eat live monkey brains.

Someone was talking about the tradition in a country I forgot at the time I wrote the post to eat monkeys brains whilst they are still alive.

And that's where I draw the line. I'll eat offal in all it's manifestations (Apart from tripe and kidney, which I don't like the taste of), but I will not eat a live monkey brain.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Apa-Logies

Sorry, sorry. I know there's supposed to be actual, topical posts here today, but I haven't had a chance.

Tell you what, I'll try and write one (for both blogs) on the bus on the way home.

Gah!

In the meantime, here's something to keep the girls occupied:



And boys, well, there's a copy of Alpha next to my bed, I think.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Okay, I lied

When I said I wouldn't blog it. In fact, I'm blogging it right now.

A million points if you can tell me what I was talking about when I said the following:

"I've been thinking about it, and I draw the line at Monkey"

Accounting for a difference in attitudes

I've left a comment on this thread over at Andrew Bolt's den of iniquity.

Whilst there's nothing on the surface wrong with wishing someone with a mental illness well, it contrasts sharply with Bolt's treatment of Catherine Devaney's rumoured mental illness (Detailed at this excellent website here)

Basically, Bolt and his commenters were calling for Devaney to be fired in the wake of unsubstantiated rumours that Age columnist Catherine Devaney had received a possible diagnosis of Bi-Polar disorder. Apparently that's compassion.

His commenters, as Bolt was well aware they would, went one further and suggested her views were a result of that rumoured and unsubstantiated illness.

Of course, when it's one of his friends who suffers, things are vastly different.

One word:

Bastard.

Quick update

Still in the midst of writing multiple posts. Problem is, some of them are topical, so I have to finish them as quickly as I can. That isn't helped when Guitar Hero just looks so attractive, and I keep leaving the writing pad with the half-finished posts at work.

Additionally, there's been a sisters 21st, a death and Fathers Day and a major project deadline at work in the last week. Forgive the lack of posting, but priorities, etc.

So, coming in the next day or so - my post on economics, with a link to an article with "I told you so" written all over it, finally the post I've been promising people for two months on prison reform, and whatever fluff pieces I've been hanging on to for just this kind of rush.

The economics one, at least, should be up tonight. Hopefully. Maybe.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Non-Core Promising

I know I said the next post I did would be on the economy, but something more urgent has come up.

My new hair:



It's significantly shorter, a completely different style, and a pretty different colour.

Here's a very emo shot of me concentrating on keeping the camera still:



And a shot I like to call "See what I mean? My eyes look different sizes if you take a photo from the side!":



N.B:- I've been at work for two hours. Not one person has noticed. And it might not look it in the photos, but it's a big change.

Bastards.

So, what do we think?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Not just a once issue pony

There's a been a lot of pro-choice posting here of late.

So, hopefully by tomorrow morning, I'll be posting my take on the current economic climate, and what the interest rate drop means for it.

Jebus. Exciting around here, isn't it?

By the way, there's a dicussion on this going on at another venue. You've probably all seen it. I believe I've just been compared to a firework.

I have no idea if that's meant to be an insult or not.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Launching......

For a few weeks now, I've been in the process of setting up a new blog.

It'll be additional to this one, not instead, and hopefully I can keep both running at the half-arsed full-tilt pace I'm going at the moment.

Why, I hear you not ask?

Because when I first set up the new blog, this blog ranked number one for my full name. That's worrying, if I want to write anything vaguely personal here (Which I frequently do) without worrying about future employers etc judging me on the basis of a very, very crapulous on-line rant box. There are things I'd like to talk about that I feel I can't, because this blog is so bloddy findable.

So the other blog is up. An e-mail will be going round to the usual suspects, and if you traipse around the usual haunts, you might find a link.

Otherwise, contact me via e-mail and I'll pass on the link.

Speechless, for now

I'm working on about eight posts at once, which I've only now realised is a bad idea.

Also, I'll be unveiling the blogging project that's been keeping me busy soon, too.

For now, take a look at this

Apparently, according to Bolt and some of his readers, softening of an inflated housing market is a bad thing.

I'll come back and write more on this later, but for now, sit back and marvel at the stupidity who will try and paint positive economic outlooks as a negative as long as it can be pinned on someone Bolt doesn't approve of.

**Update**

Posted the following comment at the BoltCave:

"Don't bother, Owen. Why talk sense when there are witches to hunt?

Seriously, if you don't know enough about the economy to realise that a slowdown in inflation, drop in interest rates and softening in an inflated housing market was the aim of not only Swan, Rudd and the RBA but also their predecessors, you've got no place commenting on the economy to start with"


It'll be interesting to see if it gets published.