I couldn’t resist another trip to Venice with the family this year. Despite the numerous complaints one so often hears, it is undoubtedly my favourite European destination. Yes, it is very warm at this time of year, and it is often overcrowded with tourists. The lagoon does stink a bit
Is the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? This is the question that is currently fuelling some heated discussions. Has he simply raised concern about bad behaviour, mismanagement, or other nuisances, for the public good? Can one really call him an ‘informer’ if he acted without hope
It is amusing to see the US, a country that has railed for so many years against minting a one-dollar coin, petition its government to issue one worth one trillion dollars. The monster mintage is simply a ruse to avoid having to negotiate a higher debt ceiling. The idea of creating a platinum coin (the only kind the Treasury is permitted to mint) is not new; it was tossed around last year too. Back then though, it never went beyond an audience of investment professionals.
Although High-Street bank Santander has taken the unprecedented step of suspending 800 of its UK retail investment advisors and sending them off to intensive re-training, angry bank customers are not appeased. Online comments continue to slate the bank’s management for pressuring these ‘advisors’ into heavy-handedly selling products that suit the seller more than the buyer. However, if Santander is ever to achieve anything positive on this front, this is certainly the way to do it.
Yesterday’s post concerned the documentary recently broadcast by Franco-German TV network ARTE: ‘Goldman Sachs – one Bank Rules the World’. In reality, one could easily have replaced the name Goldman with that of any number of institutions or associations, from Harvard University to the Freemasons, but I am not fond of conspiracy theories.
Upmarket porcelain maker, Villeroy & Boch’s, long relationship with women’s football has brought them into the press during the current World Championship. But the coverage has been less than flattering. Back in 1989, the European Championship-winning German team received no cash bonus from the Football Federation. So, as a goodwill gesture,Villeroy & Boch rewarded each player with an item from their tableware range: a 41-piece coffee service, bearing the design ‘Mariposa’.
Buy recommendations are easy; sell recommendations, less so. Quite how reluctant analysts are to give S&P 500 companies the thumbs-down was recently revealed in a Bloomberg study of 1,890 analysts. Only 5.1 percent of all ratings in the period January 2009 to April 2011 were ‘sells’. The explanation, according to the authors, was the stock market’s long-term tendency to rise: losers are simply much harder to identify.
I’ve heard Dominique Strauss-Kahn variously described as a philanderer, a womaniser, a seducer or, more euphemistically, as someone ‘with a reputation’. This had me wondering: what is a reputation? It appears to be nothing more than a norm, a reference point that is associated with an individual. One can imagine that a reference point will ultimately crystallise around the typical behaviour pattern of the individual. Hence ‘a reputation’ could be thought of as some rough average of the behaviour an individual exposes observers to over time. Remember, all reference points only exist in the mind of the observer; we cannot therefore perceive our own reputation, only other people’s.
I’m probably not the only soul on earth who thinks politics is defined by mendaciousness, and I guess that many people would nod in resigned agreement if I said that politicians lie from time to time. Nevertheless, elected officials are able to endure in a charade that they serve truth and justice by benefit of a behavioural quirk that linguists call individual knowledge.
Often when I speak on the theme of Behavioural Finance the topic turns to herd behaviour, perhaps because it awakens such vivid and testy notions in people. One automatically envisions a herd of bleating sheep
I am not sure whether it is a good or a bad thing, but a mid-afternoon workout on the cross-trainer at my local sports studio invariably has me watching TV shows that I would not ordinarily choose to view at home. The machine stands right in front of a huge flat screen whose soundless images ultimately become so annoying that I reroute the headphones from my iPod to the sound jack on the machine’s control panel. Today the show was about the luxury lifestyles of the rich and famous.
“…you chose the way of the hero. And they found you amusing for a while, the people of this city. But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail…” – Green Goblin (Spiderman 2).
As internet sleuths set about scrutinising every paragraph of the doctoral dissertation of Germany’s popular defence minister for evidence of plagiarism, it seemed as if this comic-book wisdom was playing itself out once again. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is at the centre of a scandal, accused of copying parts of his Ph.D. thesis. The discrepancies are so numerous that he has had to renounce his doctor title.
To be honest, I can’t stand Dr No (name changed). If there is one economist whose work I find overreaching, underwhelming and overrated, it is his. Despite this, my fellow blogger Unwonted Candour’s recent blog about Niall Ferguson prompted me to check the popularity or otherwise of Dr No in Twitter.
I am not going to slag off the railways. What with the weather and everything else, they are already getting it from all sides. But when a journey, between Christmas and New Year, that normally takes 90 minutes stretches to three hours, I have to say enough is enough.
‘You must welcome dissent; you must welcome serious, systematic, proselytizing dissent—not only the playful, the fitful, or the eclectic; you must value it enough, not merely to refrain from expelling it yourselves, but to refuse to have it torn from you by outsiders’
After denying for weeks that it needed or wanted an EU/IMF bailout, the Irish government has decided to apply for one after all. Ministers assure us that it is nothing more than a standby facility. The government supposedly has no intention to actually use it
‘Do the right thing’ may become a quaint historical slogan as the US housing market edges toward a double-dip downturn. The Fed already reckons that 20 percent of borrowers owe more than their houses are worth.
Commentators blasted Axel Weber for changing his opinion on the ECB’s current emergency policy of supplying unlimited funds in weekly, monthly, and three-month refinancing operations. Mr Weber was accused not only of morphing from a hawk to a dove in one swoop, some critics charged that the Bundesbank president had folded under pressure to better his chances of securing the next ECB presidency.
If the goal is encourage more people to come forward with information about wrongdoing within their organisations, it is hard to deny that the US SEC’s plan pay outsized monetary rewards to whistleblowers has merit. The first such payout, $1 million, will go to a woman who handed over a computer hard-drive stuffed with incriminating information belonging to her ex-husband. Based on powers granted to the SEC in the financial regulation bill, the amount could have been as much as $3 million
Between each pair of exercise machines in my local fitness studio are dispensers for disinfecting solution and for paper towels. A sign attached to each machine reminds members of their obligation to wipe down the machines after use ‘as a courtesy to other club members’. On a recent visit to this club, however, one woman, after 45 minutes of visible exertion, failed to adhere to this rule.
The outrage barely lasted a Sunday morning. Scarcely had Anne Milton, a British government minister, floated the idea of scrapping free milk for under-5s in UK nurseries, than Downing Street scrapped the idea. The Health Minister’s argument was that the scheme is very costly, some £50m annually and rising fast, and that the health benefits are unproven. Counter arguments largely consisted of the beastliness of ‘taking milk out of the mouths of infants’.