finem respice


Less Than Desired Duplication

Monday, May 4, 2009 - 17:33 (+0100) by ep

things that should not be cloned

A few entries ago, I described the rather unfortunate tale of a supposed confrontation between one of Chrysler's secured lenders and Obama "Car Czar" Steven Rattner. The response has been quite entertaining, particularly the rather uneducated histrionics emanating from those who ignored my warning to treat with something approaching academic detachment the use of the word "fascism." I took great pains to define my terms in this instance, citing no less than Welch, Griffin and Paxton in the process. Ironic, isn't it, that even given the large number of reactionary howls insisting my use of the term was some kind of karmic attack, most of which issued forth from authors with fairly developed vocabularies, no one bothered to actually map the definitions I cited against the actual political climate of the moment? It is also interesting to notice that none of these critics bothered to examine incidents outside of the present Rattner nonsense. By way of reminder, on May 2, 2009 I published this:

This (as yet unproven) yarn goes exactly like this:

Confronting the head of a non-TARP fund holding Chrysler debt and unwilling to release it for any sum less than that to which it was legally entitled without compelling cause, this country's "Car Czar" berated the manager of said fund with an outburst of prose substantially resembling this:

Who the fuck do you think you're dealing with? We'll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.1

Several commentators, including the likes of DealBook erroneously assumed that the confrontation I referred to was merely a second description of the now famous "never happened, seriously" dispute between Steven Rattner and Perella Weinberg.

It was not.

What I failed to make clear was that, unlike the supposed experience of Tom Lauria's client, the tale of woe that has been passed to me does not have as its agent of malice the White House Press Corps, which, while certainly annoying, lacks a certain killer instinct and terror inducing reputation. Instead, the creditors to which I refer were purportedly threatened with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. Moreover, the fund whose tale I am privy to is allegedly not the only entity that was subject to such inducements. There are, according to my source, two others.

Of course, in the present climate it would take a rather courageous witness to come forward and confirm these allegations. Let's hope that comes to pass.

No, scratch that. Let's hope that the entire thing turns out to be a fabrication. While I doubt this, it would be much easier to sleep if it were.

  1. 1. "I Can Only Hope This Proves To Be Inflammatory Nonsense," finem respice (May 2, 2009).
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The Mercurian Dealmaker

Monday, May 4, 2009 - 16:51 (+0100) by ep

slippery dealmaker

Sometime blogging colleague of finem respice and Going Private before, "The Epicurean Dealmaker" (hereinafter "TED") takes a number of exceptions to a number of issues surrounding Chrysler's bankruptcy and a number of related events occurring over the last few weeks. TED elucidates in the recent entry "You Realithe, Of Courth, Thith Meanth War." To wit:

But now that the patient has been wheeled into the operating theater, where a bankruptcy judge will soon commence the drawn-out and delicate procedure of reconstituting Chrysler into a viable new company which will magically produce vehicles irresistible to all those consumers previously inured to their temptations, I have begun to take notice of a certain strain of commentary which I feel compelled to address.

This commentary seems to issue primarily from Chrysler's secured creditors and their supporters, apologists, and fellow travelers. I believe one can fairly characterize the essence of this commentary as

"Waaah! The Government is Picking on Me!"

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I Can Only Hope This Proves To Be Inflammatory Nonsense

Sunday, May 3, 2009 - 05:11 (+0100) by ep

i want you to get this fuck where he breathes

One of the great pleasures of writing finem respice relates to the wide variety of surprises that one finds in one's inbox as a consequence of having an audience of any size at all. Write about finance long enough with the same electronic mail address and a number of interesting anecdotes will flutter your way. Write just a little bit longer and a shocking tale will pass under your eyes once or twice. Stick it out for two and half a hundred weeks and one is like to hear something quite disturbing. Hang in for more than a pair of years and a truly horrifying, bone chilling narrative will eventually confront you. Today, I have the distinctly unpleasant distinction of being on the receiving end of exactly this sort of recollection. That is, a bit of dialogue so genuinely awful that- were it not from a source I consider impeccable, and unimpeachable- I would not dare to credit at all. Unfortunately, I must do precisely this, and personally believe it to be totally, frightfully accurate. I take no pleasure in relaying it, instead hoping that someone more directly in the business of running such matters down and printing them will carefully document it and- if true- expose it, or- if not- discredit it quickly and finally. This (as yet unproven) yarn goes exactly like this:

Confronting the head of a non-TARP fund holding Chrysler debt and unwilling to release it for any sum less than that to which it was legally entitled without compelling cause, this country's "Car Czar" berated the manager of said fund with an outburst of prose substantially resembling this:

Who the fuck do you think you're dealing with? We'll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.

...continue reading and rate this entry.

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The Regulatori Sect Of The Cult Of Buoyancy

Monday, April 27, 2009 - 14:19 (+0100) by ep

the unexpected gauntlet

Examining "The Cult of Buoyancy," a dangerous following dedicated to the ceaseless, ignorance-based worship of upward pressure on all equities and other select securities in Western markets, is a new, but significant theme for finem respice. After almost thirty years of infiltration, indoctrination and integration, the Cult's connection to other prominent themes explored on finem respice, and, indeed, all of economics and finance, has spun an intricate and pervasive web with this sharp, dull gray threading woven coarsely into any market relevant enough to examine. These are the kind of jagged threads that might draw blood should you try to pull them bare-handed from the patchwork fabric they presently bind. But this, after a fashion, is less concerning than the realization that markets are not the most daunting institution "in the thrall" of the Cult of Buoyancy. This last distinction almost certainly now belongs to the financial regulatory apparatus of the United States.

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Human Sacrifice At The Altar Of The Cult Of Buoyancy

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 18:34 (+0100) by ep

float ever up

So strong has been the indoctrination administered by what can only be called the "Cult of Buoyancy" that several of its most dangerous teachings slip by in broad daylight, totally unnoticed by even professionals who should know much better. The acolytes of Buoyancy, that is the unrelenting upward cultural pressure on equity prices and the marks of certain commodities (but not others), cannot be blamed entirely for the fervor of their belief. They have, after all, endured nearly three decades of constant and unwavering reinforcement until each of them has come to expect year after year of volatility-less gains, marching Madoff-like, ever upward without risk or variance. A compliant Federal Reserve's willingness to patch the lanced dot-com bubble and commit to sacrifice the green blood spilled before the great Altar of Lift in the Temple of the Cult of Buoyancy (education centers in participating Best Buy stores nationwide) either gives lie to the political insulation supposedly guarding the Fed from such base and dangerous idolatry, or says something deeply worrying about the competence of the Board of Governors. Everything in the present climate and the events of the last 30 years is suggestive of bubble worship, unshakable and dangerously, even dogmatically religious in its practice, and consequences. The only aspect of the Cult of Buoyancy in opposition to its title is the lack of fringe status. The Cult of Buoyancy is mainstream. Despite this, and despite the blinding pervasiveness of the tenant of beliefs that has taken hold of the United States, Professor Gary Becker highlights a major tentacle of the Cult right under our noses, and critiques it:

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The Curse Of Merlin

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 08:27 (+0100) by ep

box your ears

It is years ago and Jeffrey is droning on, setting the stage for an "exciting new opportunity" and the square plastic earpiece on the phone receiver is already hurting the cartilage in my left ear. My right ear was already throbbing from three hours spent on the phone catering to the early-morning whims of a European time zone deal. This meant that my attention was almost completely occupied with my burgeoning and cunning plan to track down and painfully maim (or perhaps even kill) the designer of the crude successor technology to the ancient AT&T Merlin headset now responsible for the indignant offense to my person. Even in the midst of my suffering, the cobwebs lining the walls of my attention are briefly brushed away by the mention of a rather famous captive hedge fund managed by one of the big investment banks.

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Join My Fantasy Accounting League (Deux)

Sunday, April 19, 2009 - 00:39 (+0100) by ep

throw it in

One of the pure vanities of blogging is the luxury of spilling one's late-night thought experiments out to a wider audience than may otherwise have been prudent. This is particularly riskless on a weblog that has no public comment system activated. This means that if, for instance, one grows more and more skeptical of the attitude that "The cost of taking care of old folks is going to go up a bit. We'll pay it. Relax."1 a thought experiment in the earning power of leftist fantasy taxation scenarios is not a difficult exercise to undertake and expose an audience to. Let us, in this direction then, away:

  1. 1. CKMichaelson "SAR #9108/Weekender," Some Assembly Required (April 18, 2009).
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Creating Taxpayer Agency

Friday, April 17, 2009 - 07:00 (+0100) by ep

has a bit to learn yet

A long time ago on a buyout far, far away I had occasion to learn far more than I wanted to know about customer service operations and their nature as an exception processing problem. The stand out for me from that time was the fact that a super majority of disgruntled customers later rate themselves "most satisfied" with their customer service experience if a few key rules are adhered to. This statistic extended out even to customers who wanted, but did not receive, refunds or credits for future services. This was something of a surprise to me, as was the simplicity of the key rules that bound the experience. They were codified as "information and agency." In my notes from that time, which I recently found when moving boxes, I wrote down a few key remarks from the Senior Vice President for Customer Service, one of the smartest executives who was ever fired immediately after a buyout. (We lost the auction to a more famous named buyout firm who paid nearly 35% more than our offer- the next highest bid. The winner hacked up the executive ranks immediately. The company is presently in tatters and I would be entirely unsurprised to see it file before long).

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Redefining Capitalism To Suit Anti-Capitalists

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 - 03:44 (+0100) by ep

I spent a good deal of time reading and absorbing The Independent's stark and haunting take on Dubai,1 nicely cited today by Megan McArdle.2 I have spent quite a bit of time in Dubai and seen a number of sides of the "Middle Eastern Shangri-La," not least of which being the experience of a female expat in the jurisdiction. I can only describe this last as characterized both by the constantly disconcerting presence of an ill-defined malice (perhaps best understood as a sort of ambient white noise of potential danger) and the occasionally terrifying and instant materialization of real, even mortal danger from this shapeless white snow of audio. (This last I know only second hand, having watched the arrest of a friend without accompanying her into custody).

  1. 1. Johann Hari, "The Dark Side of Dubai," The Independent (April 7, 2009)
  2. 2. Megan McArdle, "Why Bankruptcy Matters," Asymmetrical Information (April 14, 2009).
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Civis Romanus Sum

Monday, April 13, 2009 - 05:20 (+0100) by ep

the lost orator

In 1847 Don David Pacifico's home in Athens was attacked by an anti-Jewish mob. His allegations that ensued against the Greek government included the accusation the the sons of a Greek minister had participated in the vandalism and that the Greek police had looked on and done nothing. As Pacifico had been born in Gibraltar, he had a rather strong argument that he was a British subject. Hence, when the Greek government refused compensation, claiming (with some merit) that he had inflated his claims for damage, Britain, in the form of Henry John Temple, The Third Viscount Palmerston, the then British Foreign Secretary, adopted the cause and used the British Navy to blockade Greece. What resulted is now commonly called "The Don Pacifico Affair." The House of Lords proposed a censure of what it saw as poorly formed ministerial foreign policy and, Mr. Roebuck, member for Sheffield, moved a resolution in opposition which should:

...test the confidence of the House of Commons and therefore of the people of England in the government: "That the principles which hitherto have regulated the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government are such as were required to preserve untarnished the honor and dignity of this country, and in times of unexampled difficulty the best qualified to maintain peace between England and various nations of the world."1

  1. 1. Hansard CXII [3d Ser.], 380-444.
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