Serious Threats to Sirius Radio

Web outfits like Pandora, Foneshow, Stitcher, and Slacker broadcast portable and mobile content that makes Sirius look overpriced and stodgy.

Companies like the Web radio service Pandora, Foneshow, Stitcher, and Slacker—as well as traditional content providers—are broadcasting portable and mobile content that is cheaper or even free. Moreover, these upstarts can often replicate Sirius programming. One example: On Mar. 30, MLB will release an iPhone (AAPL) mobile application that will stream games live from all 30 teams—which is what Sirius customers get now—and offer video clips and live score updates for $10 for the entire season. Sirius’ subscriptions that include MLB games start at $10 a month. The new app doesn’t violate baseball’s contract with Sirius XM, which covers rights to stream games only on satellite radio.

For Sirius XM, this competition over price and content comes at the worst possible time.

via Serious Threats to Sirius Radio – BusinessWeek.

Pun-ishing Humor

THE inglorious pun! Dryden called it the “lowest and most groveling kind of wit.” To Ambrose Bierce it was a “form of wit to which wise men stoop and fools aspire.” Universal experience confirms the adage that puns don’t make us laugh, but groan. It is said that Caligula ordered an actor to be roasted alive for a bad pun. (Some believe he was inclined to extremes.)

Addison defined the pun as a “conceit arising from the use of two words that agree in the sound, but differ in the sense.” “Energizer Bunny Arrested! Charged with Battery.” No laugh? Q.E.D.

Op-Ed Contributor – Pun for the Ages –

Solar Storm Disaster in 2012?

Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.

The “perfect storm” is most likely on a spring or autumn night in a year of heightened solar activity – something like 2012. Around the equinoxes, the orientation of the Earth’s field to the sun makes us particularly vulnerable to a plasma strike.

blackout-warningThe projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. “We’re moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster,” says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.

According to the NAS report, the impact of what it terms a “severe geomagnetic storm scenario” could be as high as $2 trillion. And that’s just the first year after the storm. The NAS puts the recovery time at four to 10 years.

via Space storm alert: 90 seconds from catastrophe – space – 23 March 2009 – New Scientist.

Let’s Put Down the Pitchforks

During a financial crisis, fairness is a luxury we cannot afford. During the 1930s, bankers and financiers lost everything, but the outcome — a decade-long depression — was hardly fair to the ordinary American. The key question is not whether something is fair, but whether it helps get us through this mess faster and at a lower cost.

mob_pitchforks_smallAt the moment, the Treasury is working (and working and working) on ways to entice private capital back into the banking and shadow-banking system by offering government financing and guarantees against losses. Every dollar of private capital that can be attracted back into the system is a dollar that the Treasury won’t have to borrow or the Federal Reserve won’t have to print. And only with the return of private capital will the government be able to get back the rescue money it has committed.

As the financiers see it, there’s a big difference between the government that sets tough terms for participation in its financial rescue programs and a government that is a fickle and unreliable partner, that tries to micromanage their businesses and changes the rules of the game with every zig and zag of public opinion

While it was Wall Street that got rich by peddling new ways for Americans to live beyond their means, the decision to do so was ours. It was we who ran up the credit card bills, we who drew down the equity in our homes and we who refused to tax ourselves for the government services we demanded. Wall Street bankers may have been the pushers, but it was we Americans who became addicted to the easy credit.

via Steven Pearlstein – Let’s Put Down the Pitchforks –

Joe Cassano – The Guy Who Sank AIG

joe_cassanoThat guy — the Patient Zero of the global economic meltdown — was one Joseph Cassano, the head of a tiny, 400-person unit within the company called AIG Financial Products, or AIGFP. Cassano, a pudgy, balding Brooklyn College grad with beady eyes and way too much forehead, cut his teeth in the Eighties working for Mike Milken, the granddaddy of modern Wall Street debt alchemists. Milken, who pioneered the creative use of junk bonds, relied on messianic genius and a whole array of insider schemes to evade detection while wreaking financial disaster. Cassano, by contrast, was just a greedy little turd with a knack for selective accounting who ran his scam right out in the open, thanks to Washington’s deregulation of the Wall Street casino.

via The Big Takeover : Rolling Stone.

Continue reading “Joe Cassano – The Guy Who Sank AIG”

A Decade to Lose

If governments don’t understand and simply try to bring back the “good times” of an asset-based economy, it could result in a decade of stagnation.

Developing economies are already 30 percent of the global economy at current price and nearly half on a purchasing power basis. The export model cannot thrive for shortage of customers. Developing countries have to trade more with each other and develop domestic demand. But this would require painful reforms to their political economies. The key is property rights and income distribution. The two must go hand in hand. Lack of domestic demand tends to result from income concentration, which is due to uneven playing field in opportunities. Many developing countries, like South American and Southeast Asian countries, have stagnated in the past decade due to their inability to reform their political economies.

Bursting of the credit bubble is triggering the biggest recession since the World War II. Repairing the global economy requires complex and difficult reforms. Simple stimulus can’t bring back prosperity. Thanks to Peggy Sadler
Andy Xie was Morgan Stanley’s Chief Economist for Asia Pacific from 1997 to 2006.

via A Decade to Lose.

This Too Shall Pass

We are now in an astonishingly noncommercial moment. Risk is out of favor. The financial world is abashed. Enterprise is suspended. The public culture is dominated by one downbeat story after another as members of the educated class explore and enjoy the humiliation of the capitalist vulgarians.

Washington is temporarily at the center of the nation’s economic gravity and a noncommercial administration holds sway. This is an administration that has many lawyers and academics but almost no businesspeople in it, let alone self-made entrepreneurs. The president speaks passionately about education and health care reform, but he is strangely aloof from the banking crisis and displays no passion when speaking about commercial drive and success.

But if there is one thing we can be sure of, this pause will not last. The cultural DNA of the past 400 years will not be erased. The pendulu

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Commercial Republic –

Recession Doesn’t Raise Religion

“As the economy goes downward,” Tony Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, has theorized, “I think people are going to be driven to religion.” Wrong again. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, published last week, found that most faiths have lost ground since 1990 and that the fastest-growing religious choice is “None,” up from 8 percent to 15 percent (which makes it larger than all denominations except Roman Catholics and Baptists). Another highly regarded poll, the General Social Survey, had an even more startling finding in its preliminary 2008 data released this month: Twice as many Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community as do in organized religion. How the almighty has fallen: organized religion is in a dead heat with banks and financial institutions on the confidence scale.

This, too, is a replay of the Great Depression. History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return. But after the humiliations of the Scopes trial and the repeal of Prohibition, it did take a good four decades for the religious right to begin its comeback in the 1970s.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off –

And a rebuttal Who Made Frank Rich God?

A Simple Guide to the Banking Crisis

Proposition 1: The boom in the U.S. was funded almost totally by foreign money.

Proposition 2: Foreign investors preferred to put their money into investments that were perceived as having low risk.

Proposition 3: Today, after everything has gone bad, many of the counterparties on the other side of the toxic assets are foreign investors, directly or indirectly.

Proposition 4: It’s a lot harder for the Federal Reserve and Treasury to resolve a banking crisis where the main counterparties are not American.

Proposition 5: The fact that the counterparties are overseas means that out of the three options: bailout, bankruptcy, or nationalization—none are satisfactory.

The best actual marker of the progress of the financial crisis is not stock or real estate prices, but rather how well international cooperation holds up.

Sometime later this year we will have a massive global conference aimed at simultaneously resolving the banking crises in the major developed countries. The goal will be a political negotiation of the value of the toxic assets, and a clearing of the books.

If the conference succeeds, then it will be possible to fix the financial system relatively easily. But if it fails, then things get dicey.

via A Simple Guide to the Banking Crisis – BusinessWeek.