Thursday, August 11, 2011

Link roundup

1. Michael Lewis's latest, outstanding article on the financial apocalypse focuses on Germany. It's 17 pages but well worth your time. Here's a sample paragraph:

This preternatural love of rules, almost for their own sake, punctuates German finance as it does German life. As it happens, a story had just broken that a division of a German insurance company called Munich Re, back in June 2007, or just before the crash, had sponsored a party for its best producers that offered not just chicken dinners and nearest-to-the-pin golf competitions but a blowout with prostitutes in a public bath. In finance, high or low, this sort of thing is of course not unusual. What was striking was how organized the German event was. The company tied white and yellow and red armbands to the prostitutes to indicate which ones were available to which men. After each sexual encounter the prostitute received a stamp on her arm, to indicate how often she had been used. The Germans didn’t want just hookers: they wanted hookers with rules.
OK, here's one more:
This is what makes the German case so peculiar. If they had been merely the only big, developed nation with decent financial morals, they would present one sort of picture, of simple rectitude. But they had done something far more peculiar: during the boom German bankers had gone out of their way to get dirty. They lent money to American subprime borrowers, to Irish real-estate barons, to Icelandic banking tycoons to do things that no German would ever do. The German losses are still being toted up, but at last count they stand at $21 billion in the Icelandic banks, $100 billion in Irish banks, $60 billion in various U.S. subprime-backed bonds, and some yet-to-be-determined amount in Greek bonds. The only financial disaster in the last decade German bankers appear to have missed was investing with Bernie Madoff. (Perhaps the only advantage to the German financial system of having no Jews.) In their own country, however, these seemingly crazed bankers behaved with restraint. The German people did not allow them to behave otherwise. It was another case of clean on the outside, dirty on the inside. The German banks that wanted to get a little dirty needed to go abroad to do it.
2. Kristin Tercek's having an art sale.

3. NPR's top 100 science fiction and fantasy novels.

4. Grantland continues to better than I had hoped. Two great articles today: Whether the Blue Jays are cheating; Whether John Cena has it within him to become a WWE villain, and how that change would impact WWE's earnings. (I'd love to see a chart showing how much traffic ESPN has lost to Grantland. I never even visit ESPN.com anymore.)

1 comment:

  1. @3, Snowcrash is all the way down at #26, I beg to differ!

    ReplyDelete