The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (Review)

The Big Short is a description of the madness in subprime mortgages that led up to the financial meltdown of 2008. Michael Lewis, author of Liars’ Poker, is the best business writer today. There is no one who can tell a story about Wall Street like he can, no one who can break down complex financial dealings into simple language. This book was very good. As someone who was on the sell side during the big subprime explosion, I didn’t find a lot of his jokes funny, but as an outside observer, I can see why it should be funny in a tragic way.

What Chinese Consumers Want

Great article in the Wall Street Journal: What Chinese Consumers Want. It’s a very interesting article about how captalism is changing China but the demand of Chinese consumers isn’t exactly the same as that of Westerners. The three rules of Chinese consumption are, according to the article, that:

1.

“products that are consumed in public, directly or indirectly, command huge price premiums relative to goods used in private.”

2.

Chinese Professor Ad

Thanks, Azn of Reason, for posting the ad above.

I did a quick look around the blogosphere. Azn of Reason thinks Chinese dominance is the future, Frank Chow thinks the ad is yellow peril, and Angry Asian Man thinks it’s racist.  James Fallows from the Atlantic has a blog post about it here that references a politico blog post that talks about how the ad was made.  The politico post reveals that the producers cast a native Chinese guy as the professor and DC college students as the extras.  The Atlantic post humorously says: “They are DC-area college students. Their skin and teeth are different from what you’d see in a big Chinese college lecture hall.”  LOL!  Yup, those good ol’ straightened American teeth!  And yes, those kids all have perfect smiles when laughing at how China’s taken over America.  They must’ve kidnapped our dentists!

Scary Thoughts for Your Weekend on the Chinese Economy

Thanks to Alpha Asian, who posted this article on the topic of whether the Chinese are manipulating their currency.  According to the article, people in the U.S. take it for granted that China is manipulating its currency, while the Chinese think that American politicians are twisting and oversimplifying a complex issue just before elections.

I think it’s hard to refute that China is controlling its currency.  :)  It’s quite clear that that is why they’re buying all those treasuries.  If they let it float, the reminbi would shoot up.

Most Red Ink Ever

I’m not an economist, but my gut instinct tells me that this isn’t going to work in the long term…

In a chilling forecast, the White House is predicting a 10-year federal deficit of $9 trillion — more than the sum of all previous deficits since America’s founding. And it says by the next decade’s end the national debt will equal three-quarters of the entire U.S. economy.

A Disadvantage of Small, Independent Media

Protesters in Seoul, South Korea

Protesters in Seoul, South Korea

Good article here about Euna Lee and Laura Ling and how Current TV’s status as a small upstart affects their chances for freedom.  According to the article, it’s harder for a smaller channel like Current to exert leverage over foreign governments.  Roxanna Saberi had the same problems in Iran.  The article says:

One of the risks of this kind of improvised, headlong journalism is that reporters lack the backing of large established news organizations that might have the experience and leverage to deal with foreign governments. While Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee, full-time employees of Current, have the backing of Al Gore, who is a founder of the network, they lack the support system that their colleagues at CNN and the British Broadcasting Corporation enjoy.

I'm not your enemy, and I'm not your friend

psychology-at-mts-08

(pic from here)

The NY Times had an interesting article about credit card companies and the debt collectors they hire and train.  The article details how these financial companies train debt collectors as amateur psychologists, and how they teach them to squeeze every penny out of delinquent borrowers.  It’s a fascinating read.

I once applied for a job as a debt collector.  It was exactly as the Times described it.  The company hired large numbers of collectors, trained them to act as “counselors,” and reminded them that people want to pay these bills.  The phrase that they repeated over and over was “we’re not their enemy, and we’re not their friend. We’re just here to help.”

Um…okay…that makes sense

According to CNN.com, the works of Ayn Rand are experiencing a resurgence in the wake of our financial crisis.  Rand was a proponent of free markets, a believer in individualism, and someone who extolled the virtues of selfishness. People have begun to start re-examining her ideas:

“If only ‘Atlas’ were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I’m confident that we’d get out of the current financial mess a lot faster,” Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore wrote in early January.