Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
Resignation letters may be self-serving, but Smith's rang true: Wall Street is a conspiracy of the super-rich against the public
It may be, but Smith's letter wasn't about the public, or Main Street as Elliot goes on to call them. It was about Goldmans' clients.
I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.
And what sort of person is a Goldmans client? Well, it isn't the poor down-trodden masses. It's high net-worth individuals, and large corporations - "sophisticated investors" in other words, who should know better, but usually don't. From the perspective of the average man on the street, we are being invited to weep on behalf of massively wealthy people, who are being ripped-off by even more massively wealthy people. Sure, it's shitty behaviour by Goldmans, but I find it hard to get too worked up over it.
Oh, one more thing. Goldmans boys are more likely to be offended by this summary of their business practices than anything in the Smith letter:
The big structural change on Wall Street and in the City of London has been for the investment banks to become bigger and more integrated. That means that one team goes round trying to persuade companies to float shares, a second team of analysts then pens supposedly independent analysis suggesting the shares are a great buy, while a third team of traders makes money every time the shares move up and down on the stock market. There is a massive conflict of interest here.
I can hear the bond guys from here. "The fucking equities desk? Those losers? Is that what he thinks we do?" Equities lost their sheen in the 1980s, it's been bonds and derivatives ever since...
The power of poor writing
Samantha Cameron is not just flying the flag for British fashion in this photograph, she is flying it for President Cameron and the myth of liberal conservatism.
In terms of sheer, joyously bad writing, however, there can be only one nominee. Step forward Paul Taylor, of the theatre & dance section of the Independent. Lots of possible examples, but let's go with the "swallowed a thesaurus and then been violently sick on paper" approach illustrated in his review of Shivered.
When some artists affect to say the unsayable, the result is simply unspeakable. Likewise, when they make a show of thinking the unthinkable, the consequences are just flatly unconscionable...
It is not Ridley who is desentised; it is his attackers in their fixed and laminated indignation. They fail to take on board the generosity of spirit that impels his plays and makes them not a tragicomic reveling in the destructive element but bravura, abundant, tonally varied (there are always some great joles) tours de foce of the dramatic and narrative arts.
The typos aren't mine, by the way. I assume that the proof readers at the Independent simply lost the will to carry on past the first few sentences. Hard to blame them.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Why I like Dan Hannan
Friday, March 09, 2012
I like to think that I'm reasonably consistent in my views (I'd probably stand by most things I've written on here, and that stretches back more than six years now), but on this I really have had a sea-change. Like Hugo Rifkind (paywall...) I literally cannot think of a single cogent reason why there should not be civil gay marriage. Make it so.
The only proviso that I would make here, is that I think it would be unconscionable if religious institutions were compelled to provide a gay marriage service. But there's no reason why they should be. Marriage is now primarily a secular institution. In order to 'be' married, you need to fulfil the civic obligation of signing the register. There's no need for any religious involvement at all. As far as the state is concerned, the church is an optional extra, not a requirement.
In addition, churches are already entitled to refuse to marry people. Many Catholic churches won't marry divorcees - some won't marry across ecumenical divisions. Synagogues, I believe, will only marry Jewish couples. I'm sure that similar barriers exist in other faiths. It's not much of a step to extend this right to discriminate to same sex couples. (Equally, obviously, if there are churches that want to provide gay marriage ceremonies, then they should be allowed to).
You can argue, like Dan Hannan, that this isn't a terribly important argument - the major steps in fighting for equal rights have already been taken. Sure, I can accept that. But if this isn't a major point, then where's the harm in allowing it? I agree with Graeme Archer - marriage should be for people who love each other. it's not the job of the state to determine who's allowed to benefit.
Socialism in two pictures
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Why do women have legs...?
Tom Chivers, it appears isn't a fan of "banter":
Can we end it? Destroy it, cleanse it with fire, encase it in lead and hurl its charred corpse into the North Sea? It is, and I am speaking as someone who recently decried the use of hyperbole in public debate, literally and without question the single worst thing in the history of the universe.
Tom goes on to define banter as cruelty unleavened by wit but which is excused because it is a bit like wit, if you look at it from a certain angle and goes on to say
I'm literally and specifically saying that if you – you, the reader – like "banter", you are an idiot.
The difficulty of arguing with this is that Tom has defined the term quite narrowly to mean casual abuse (sexist, racist, homophobic, whatever) thrown around with the get-out clause that "it's only a joke" and that the recipient therefore doesn't have the right to be offended. Well, yes. That's really quite dickish, and the jokey get-out is really only a shield for a bullying demand that you ignore his rudeness.
But that's not all banter is, really. Before the Uni-lad exposure blasted "banter" into the headlines, my experience of it was generally the rather English thing that blokes tend to seek refuge in insulting each other if there's any danger of actual emotion being expressed. Compliments can only come in a reverse sugar-coating of insult. That's all bound up in the oddly English concept that you are only really friends with someone when you no longer have to be polite to them.
As with so many things, the acceptability of banter will depend on whether or not it is happening between equals. If it is, then it really is nothing more than another way of making social discourse that much easier. If it isn't, then it's bullying. Almost all the examples Tom uses (and really the way he defines the whole concept) falls into this latter category, and on that definition I'm happy to agree with him, except that I might go a bit further than "idiot".