No one on the window sills – yet
How could they have screwed up so badly – all those selfproclaimed Wall St money wizards and the guardians of the system who are there to protect the markets and the world’s mum and dad investors?
The now-wise commentators say the signs have been obvious for years.
How come then that the all-knowing ones fell into a trap which yawned wider and wider by the month?
Not only toppled in themselves but took many of the world’s economies, billions of dollars, public confidence in experts and millions of people with them, or teetering on the brink.
Some of the top names are well-heeled victims of their own incompetence, like the big name executive of one corporation who has “exited” – as they say – with a “Golden Parachute” worth nearly $500 million. For exited, read escaped. Meanwhile, tens of thousands are fossicking through the debris he left behind hoping they’ll find some remains of what they treasured as nesteggs.
Some make no bones about their anger which is as deep as their loss.
An artist of some talent and grief displayed a big true-to-life portrait of one of those executives outside his corporation’s palatial New York head office.
It was named and labelled Thanks for Ruining our Lives.
There was multimillion support for that from all the other ruined investors.
But don’t expect learned comment on this situation from me.
Pardon my ignorance, but I’m one of those who wouldn’t recognise a prime mortgage if I tripped over it – or were offered one.
You may have recognised them instantly, but I’d never heard of Lehman Bros, the American International Group, Bear Stearns Cos, the site of that angry portrait.
Goldman Sachs rang a bell. So did Morgan Stanley.
It needed a typical Dr Cullen smart crack to remind me that John Key once worked for Merrill Lynch.
Which drew me into Who’s Who revealing strangely that, as an historian, Dr Cullen’s unusual qualifications to be minister of finance includes a tome with this non-compelling title The Statistical Movement in Early Victorian Britain. Riveting. But not necessarily relevant.
All this economy upheaval, mystery and despair took me back to my father’s life-long anger over similar misjudgements in New York skyscrapers before I was born that drove men to throw themselves off their very high level window sills. And, half the world away, had reduced him to pick and shovel on Depression relief work.
Even those hard years wouldn’t have prepared him for the latest worldwide economic crisis in which two key players sound like leftovers from vaudeville days.
You’d think that people who pride themselves on their Wall St cred should have been aware of the serious weaknesses which lurked and grew exponentially behind those seemingly frivolous music hall titles.
It’d be funny if it wasn’t such a personal, national and international disaster.
I mean, how could anyone take them seriously – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
If only someone had. And questioned their balance sheets.
Meanwhile, there are other accounts closer to home which could have done with an early audit.
Let’s not forget thousands of New Zealanders whose cash crisis came months ago and still goes on.
They’re the continuing victims of collapsed finance companies and pie-in-thesky development projects which enticed money from them – sometimes up until the last hours before the truth was told – with fine promises and now crippling non-delivery.
Our very own $5 billionplus business bust.
Their pain goes on and could be worsened further by whatever are the outcomes of the Wall St catastrophe.
Whoever is calling the financial shots in the Beehive after November 7 – the onetime foreign exchange dealer or the former history lecturer with a thing about Victoria statistics – must act to see that better safeguards are in place.
No more empty pledges to once again empty the bank accounts of people who – even if naively – took developers’ words and investment experts’ advice at face value and now pay the price in loss of cash and security.
It’s an accepted fact that “the mills of God grind slow” – and that suburban trains run slow.
But evidence suggests that neither are as slow as New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission.
The heading looked interesting: “Runaway train sparks call for operational review.”
A suburban train with 12 people aboard apparently ran half a kilometre between Britomart and Newmarket without a driver.
He’d got out to check why the emergency brake had come on. Sounds pretty dangerous. Called in to study the incident, the commission agreed.
“The potential for a derailment was significant” as the train headed for a curved section of track travelling 60 percent faster than the speed limit, it said.
The report asked the New Zealand Transport Agency to “assess how widespread maintenance shortcomings are”.
Good question. Very wise. But very late.
The runaway incident happened in October, 2006.
The NZ Press Association reported the findings on September 27 this year.
Which siding had the report been shunted to in the nearly 23 months between?
Are suburban train drivers still running after their locos after getting out of their cabs to check the brakes?
How long might we have to wait for the suggested transport agency check on maintenance – 2011?
Who said scientists haven’t got a sense of humour?
Dr Robert Mann, applied ecologist, relentless commentator and critic on scientifi issues like genetic engineering, has taken a few moments off from his speciality to share this with us:
“My first $5 award for an item that got in the NZ Lessener media-howlers column Life In NZ was in 1975.”
Quote: There was no question of secrecy regarding the Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Huntly thermal power station, said the Minister of Electricity, Mr McGuigan.
But he confirmed that it would not be made public. – Auckland Star.
“Now Radio NZ has moved into the same star territory and will surely get me the current award which these days is, I believe, a Lotto ticket. So, maybe RNZ is about to win me $1,000,000.”
Quote: The Food Standards Authority has detected the toxin melamine in some dairy produce.
But the concentration is so low that it falls below the limit of detection. – Radio NZ News, September 30.
To contact Pat Booth email: email@example.com. All replies are open for publication unless marked Not For Publication.