One would think that having experienced The Great Crash 2.0 and The Night of the Long Knives on Wall Street there would have been some change in what CNBC does. After all, cheerleading stock analysts and recommending good stock picks in this environment would be like Shipbuilders Weekly talking to Joseph Hazelwood on the bridge of the Exxon Valdez about the new autopilot systems on oil tankers. Or at least you’d think so.
Two examples. First, things have gotten so bad with Great Crash 2.0 that even CNBC feels guilty and occasionally has a thoughtful, intelligent person on their show. For example, Paul Krugman sports an imprimatur from both the New York Times and the Nobel Prize committees, so he’s been popping up more often. And sounding a group of measured, sensible warnings. This past week, though, the rolled in the big guns, the Darlings of Davos, Nouriel Roubini and Naseem Taleb. Roubini is an academic economist who has been warning about the world economy for a couple of years. Taleb is a famous author (Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan) who has been trashing the way Wall Street works and how they think of the future for years. It’s hard to explain just how out of place those guys are on CNBC. Think Alien and Predator being the guests on Good Morning America, something like that. They titled the talk ‘Dr. Doom and the Black Swan’ but the graphic repeatedly run was ‘Turning the Corner.’ Neither of those guys were talking at all about a corner being turned. Roubini was talking ‘U-shaped’ recession, i.e. long and bad. Taleb was explaining how doing anything in the current system was folly, since it will just blow up again, maybe worse, sometime in the future, and probably sooner than we think. At the very end they were asked what everyone is asked at the end of a CNBC interview, what stocks should I buy? Taleb seemed so appalled he didn’t even answer, but went on another rant about how the system is fundamentally flawed. Watch here.
Second. on October 16th of 2008 UBS announced that it had taken a bailout from the Swiss government in order to stay afloat. Nobody is ever all that surprised when some part of the US financial system blows up. We do it about every ten years. The S+L crises. Long Term Capital Management. It’s our thing, we’re crazy wild risk-taking Americans. What we are not is Swiss bankers, who are (or rather were) thought of as the absolute smartest, most careful guys in the world. After all, they’re the fucking Swiss, right? Cantons, yodeling, chocolate, banks stuffed with Nazi gold and the ill-gotten gains of Russian oligarchs and Gulf potentates. Those oligarchs and potentates might be evil bastards, but they’re usually pretty smart about their cash so it’s hanging out in Zurich. After forcing a bailout by the government, one would expect shame, consternation, self-examination. One would be wrong. Within a week I saw CNBC pimping some new UBS analyst talking about, I think, European national indexes. I wanted to pick up a stapler and throw it at the TV. HAVE YOU NO SHAME? YOU PEOPLE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT WAS ON YOUR OWN FUCKING BALANCE SHEET! I WOULDN’T TRUST YOUR OPINION ON THE DATE OF THE NEXT FULL MOON YOU SICK BASTARD. However, all was forgiven and the CNBC anchors cheerily talked to the shame of the Swiss banking system prattle on.
Erin and I are through, by the way, I’m a Becky Quick guy these days.
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