08 October 2011

Jon Stewart Interviews Boomerang Author Michael Lewis About Global Big Banks Disaster



From Denny:  This author decided to go on a walkabout.  Actually, Michael Lewis went on a financial disaster tour of several European countries:  Iceland, Ireland, Greece and Germany.

He wanted to view the global financial disaster through the prism of each culture and what a view he got.  (He is also the author of Moneyball that was recently made into a movie.)

In Iceland he discovered that up until seven years ago the only way to make money in Iceland was fishing.  But, seven years ago," the men literally walked off the fishing boats and walked into the banks deciding to become currency traders in a matter of days."

Even their president went around the world crowing about how Icelanders were natural investment bankers.  Yeah?  Where had that talent been hiding for the past 1,000 years?  The country is only the size of Peoria, Illinois with a population of 300,000.

Like typical men they told the women they knew what they were doing and not to question them.  Who needs directions, right?  They took three small Icelandic banks and morphed them into global banks inside five short years.  They amassed $140 billion.  Looked good, right?


And then the situation changed and the Icelandic banks lost $100 billion.  The men felt lost and wondered if they should have asked for directions.  Well, the women of Iceland had had enough.  They had been kicked out their banks when they did know what they were doing.  So, once the financial sector cratered they kicked out the idiot men who should have never been there in the first place.

They did not stop there.  They also fired the government and installed the first lesbian head of state.  "Do ya think?" they were attempting to make a statement?  Yeah, looks like the guys should have asked for directions after all since they proved themselves to be irresponsible and dangerous with too much money.

The way Lewis and Stewart discussed it is Greece is the state that destroyed their own banks.  Iceland it was the opposite where the banks destroyed the state.  And, Ireland, well, they expected it to happen anyway.

"You know the Irish," says Lewis, "they have a talent for suffering.  Anyone in a room full of people the greatest status goes to the guy who has had the worst thing happen to them most recently.  They have been waiting for this moment to compete for how bad they have it."

Another funny about Iceland is when the corporation Alcoa wanted to do business there.  Well, the story goes Alcoa had to pay to get some Elf Exorcisms done.  To do that they had to hire an Elf Expert before anyone would declare the business site safe and "elf free."  No kidding on this crazy story.  Culture, don't you love it?

What about Greece?  They are not faring well in Germany's eyes.  You see, in Greece a tax collector is truly not popular because they refuse to pay their taxes.  In fact, in Greece, if a tax collector actually tries to collect taxes and is good at it he gets denied promotions.  To get job promotions you have to be bad at tax collecting.

What are the Germans doing in Greece right now?  Trying to collect taxes.  Good luck on that one.

Of course, all the European financial woes lead right back to America's Wall Street.  They emulated us and they trusted us not to deceive them yet they got caught anyway.

When Lewis was asked about how America compared to the other countries financially - since we are the most stable with investors running to buy Treasury bonds - he said, "That's the scary part.  It's like saying we are the tallest midget.  We screwed up everybody else.  The reason all these problems exist in Europe is from a combination of emulating our financial system and a lot of Wall Street investment bankers did bad things (Goldman Sachs in particular) like helping the Greek government rig its affairs."

"Our fingerprints are all over the European problem.  As a result the Germans don't want to listen to us any more.  You guys have done nothing but come and rip us off the past 10 years.  You sold us all these subprime bonds that went bad.  You didn't used to be this way but now you are.  Why should we listen to you?"

Yes, it sure looks like Wall Street sure could use a slew of Elf Exorcisms to declare the place safe to do business.  Works for me.


Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Boomerang by Michael Lewis at Amazon - check out the review


Exclusive - Michael Lewis Extended Interview Pt. 1

Michael Lewis talks about touring bankrupt countries around the world in order to glean deeper insight into their vastly different societies.






Exclusive - Michael Lewis Extended Interview Pt. 2

Michael Lewis talks about Greece's precarious position in the European Union and the German people's increasing lean toward isolationism.







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