Botched Bailout

The Special Inspector General’s report on the bailout of AIG is pretty damning. It concludes that the bailout — which was engineered by the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve and occurred on the Bush Administration’s watch — involved some gross overpayments on certain credit default swap transactions. In many instances the Federal Reserve “made whole” the counterparties to troubled investments where the counterparties would reasonably be expected to take significant haircuts on what were, after all, extraordinarily risky transactions gone bad. One of the counterparties that made out very well was Goldman Sachs, which just recently reported enormous “earnings.”

The Special Inspector General’s report on the AIG bailout just confirms, once again, that when the government intervenes in a “bailout” scenario it is the taxpayers who inevitably end up getting fleeced. I appreciate that, at the time, there was significant concern that AIG’s collapse would have been tipping over the first domino in a long line. Still, you would like to think that the Bush Administration and the Federal Reserve would have had sufficient savvy, moxie, and guts to negotiate fair compromises with Wall Street firms and international firms that were looking to profit from bad deals.

Timing The “Tribute”

The Ohio State Buckeyes will wear special “tribute” uniforms for Saturday’s game against Michigan.  The uniforms are not replicas of the uniforms of the 1954 Buckeyes — which was Woody Hayes’ first squad to win the national championship — but instead are supposed to reflect the styling and color of the 1954 uniforms.  The tribute uniforms, made by Nike, are significantly lighter than the Buckeyes’ normal uniforms and, among other things, are made of fabrics that retain less water.  Some photos of the uniforms, modeled by Buckeye great Raymont Harris, can been seen here.  I think they look pretty good — although the Ohio State lineman apparently are a bit concerned about the cleats they will be wearing as part of the new uniform package.

For the most part, I don’t have anything against “tribute” or “throwback” uniforms.  When I’ve watched pro games with throwback jerseys, they add to the interest.  (Of course, the Browns’ uniforms really haven’t changed, so their throwback uniforms are the uniforms they currently wear.)  I don’t think the Ohio State-Michigan game needs any additional interest, however.  It is the greatest rivalry game in all of sports, and The Game should speak for itself, without the need for special jerseys or other marketing gimmicks.

I think Ohio State should pay tribute to Hop Cassady and the other members of the 1954 National Championship team, and I think “tribute” uniforms are a good way to do so.  I just think the tribute should be paid during some other game.  The Game should remain pristine and unadorned, to be enjoyed in all its natural glory.

The Video Game Revolution

Those of us who are old enough to have grown up with a black and white television sets often struggle to keep up with the latest cultural and social developments in the modern world. Particularly when the kids move out, and we aren’t given daily exposure to the latest fad or entertainment device, we tend to lose touch.

I therefore found this story about the unprecedented success of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 both interesting and surprising. I had no idea that video games were selling for more than $70 a pop, or that a game could sell 4.7 million copies on the day of its release, generating about $300 million in sales revenue. These kinds of figures show that video games are a heavyweight form of entertainment that competes with movies, television, and other popular media. They’ve come a long way from the days of Pong and Ms. Pac Man, and even a long way since the kids used to play Super Mario Cart on their Nintendo.

What does it all mean, when younger people spend so much time playing games that involve blasting zombies or gunning down members of an invading army, sitting alone in a room and communicating with other players via the internet? Does it mean that people are becoming more insular, or does it mean that people are just finding different ways of communicating that allows them to share a common experience with someone hundreds of miles away? I don’t know the answer to such questions, but I think they should be considered — and in any case, the fact of the change in how people spend their time is worthy of note.