Saturday, March 30, 2013

Canada banking situation

Considering events in Nicosia it is startling the announcement this week that Canada's six largest banks have now been deemed too big to fail. hmmm, I mean why would the government make such an announcement at this time? Especially in the unmistakable backdrop of the situation in Cyprus. Is there concern that one or more of the majors is in trouble? Is there a quiet, electronic bank run going on? The domestic money is stuck, we can't pull out or go anywhere (nor are we inclined to). How much foreign capital is deposited in Canada's banks, and are they quietly pulling out or threatening to pull out.

By announcing this while Cyprus is going on could be interpreted as a signal that all deposits will be protected, there will be no "haircut" on depositors in any scenario. This renders deposit insurance (capped at $100k) now effectively infinite. Again, why would the government make such an assurance. Although everyone implicitly understands and accepts that the federal government would intervene for a major bank in Canada to prevent a disorderly failure; in the past the implicit understanding was strong enough. So by coming out now with an explicit announcement it is actually a sign of weakness, not strength. After all before now there was never a need to make such an announcement, the combination of the strength of the institutions, and the implicit social federal guarantee were sufficient.

It's a concern. After all it was just a couple of years ago that the federal government created $70 billion out of thin air and swapped this raw clean cash for a portfolio of dodgy mortgages off the banks books. I just realized now that the government by doing that very quietly created a "bad bank" to be presumably eventually wound down. Speaking of Canada's bad bank, what is the status of the people's $70 billion investment? Who is managing this portfolio, how many of the mortgages have gone into foreclosure, what are the losses at this point on the $70 billion portfolio now that inventory of listings is rising fast and housing prices are set to stall and then decline? Why does the media and opposition never speak of this or ask any tough questions, or even any questions at all for that matter?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

A little while back I read Fight Club. It was a good book. It was a bit hard to read despite being only 200 pages. The first time I got to page 80 then left it. It was a bit strange and painful experiences. Later I got it again at the library on my son's recommendation and finished it.

It's a book about men. A book for men. There are hardly any female characters and they are generally viewed as objects. It's a book about identity and the modern man. The book is told from the perspective of a nameless narrator. That's a running theme, the contemporary man is nobody with no identity. Later in project mayhem again the men are parts who have to do something special to get a name, an identity.

In the book the nameless narrator is a corporate wonk living alone in a condo with Ikea furniture and an Audi. He meets up with Tyler Durden. Tyler has a name, Tyler gets the girl Marla, Tyler is dynamic, a doer, a winner, a somebody, Tyler leads the Fight Club.

This book was in some ways ahead of its time. Reading the book I sometimes thought of occupy wall street. Tyler is subversive, despising and attacking corporate greed, shallow individual materialism and the wealthy. Tyler dreams of stalking elk from the ruins of the Rockefeller center and drying out fish on the abandoned 8 lane loop highway around Chicago. Alas OWS hadn't a shadow of Tyler's character.

It was a good book. A book that makes you think. I believe Fight Club would be a good book to use in high school or undergrad university English as there is a fair bit in there to think and write about.