Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Shall We Do with a Drunken Trader?

In the year of our Lord 2009, a fellow in Britain affected world oil prices during a drunken blackout. In an attempt to not say things like "I told you so" or "No shit, Sherlock", it is my duty to take severe notice of the, shall we say, flexibility of our commodities trading systems around the world.

The timeline, as I understand it, is this:

Steve Perkins, a trader at PVM Oil Futures left work after the end of a long, hard day.

(everything between now and 1:22 am is sheer speculation)

He went to his local, the Bung & Beaver, for five or six pints of the best bitter (or, to be exotic, five or six pint cans of Budweiser). He also stopped at a chip shop to get some delightful takeaway fish to go with the other few cans of beer sitting in his fridge at home. He also stopped at the offy to get a bottle of Scotch (unless he was upper class, in which case it was either Vodka or Gin).

After he arrived home, and haphazardly jammed the key into the lock, he opened the door to find his pet hamster waiting patiently for noms.

So he sits down at the telly, opens up his very hygenically-wrapped fish & chips (no more newspaper, folks!), cracked another can of beer (this time, some kind of shitty ale), and drank with his fish. More beer. More British Idol. More beer.

As we reach the late hour of ten o'clock, Steve is off beer and on to Scotch or one of the clear ones. On the rocks. Until getting up to get more rocks becomes too much trouble. He is sitting in front of his computer, surfing porn. Unfortunately, after ten pints of beer and half a pint of hard alcohol, he is no longer able to get it up, so he turns to the other manly thing he knows how to do: buy oil futures.

So, at 1:22 am (where we rejoin reality), he goes buck wild. And between 1:22 and 3:41 am, he buys up 69% of the world market in oil futures, equaling 7 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $9,763,252. Thanks to the volume and the fact that he kept raising his bids every single time he bid (being a drunken idiot), he raised the price on crude by $1.50 per barrel in a little over two hours. He calls in sick the next day, after an admin clerk calls to ask him why he went and bought 7 million barrels of crude, to which he probably replied, "bollocks."

Subsequently, an official investigation determined that he had a drinking problem.


They took away his traders' license, fined him around $116,000, and told him to go to AA or something like it. They say he will get his license back in five years if he can prove he is no longer a danger to the oil futures commodities market, or at least drinking a little less.

This is up there with the trader who wanted to get his firm in the Guinness book for first-time trading of oil at over $100 per barrel, or the computer-aided high-speed transaction systems sending the market into a tailspin after accidentally dumping stocks so fast the whole market lost a lot of value in a single afternoon. When do we start recognizing that human error and computer error should not have the power to affect the markets that much? It's up there with a mouse being chased by a cat being chased by a dog, etc., causing the fiery destruction of New York City.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Panera Cares but the Neighbors Don't

Panera has a small group of outlets called Panera Cares, essentially a pay-as-much-as-you-can restaurant that aids local homeless, while giving folks with more money a chance to subsidize the homeless and impoverished people in their neighborhood. This has led to an unfortunate side-effect - homeless and impoverished people becoming visible to the folks with money.

If there's one thing the well-off really hate to see, it's poor people in person.

Personally, I believe this is why the Occupy movement had such a hard time. A lot of people could simply look at the marginally hippie-esque garb of a lot of the participants, their obvious lack of resources, and think to themselves, "there but for the Grace of God, go I." And then yell "GET A JOB" at the few folks who actually had laptops or iPads or cell phones, because, of course, these were and continued to be people of means, who were just protesting to get a day off work or something. Or maybe, just maybe, they were people who had lost their decent paying jobs right after they bought iPads. Unfortunately, the media had a hard time with this dichotomy as well.

Don't forget, everything is either black or white.

Of course, the media latches onto the story and makes sure everyone is concerned about "safety", quoting one gentleman saying that if a sidewalk is blocked, well that's a concern. I dunno - a sidewalk is blocked in a minimall every time they have an outdoor shoe/handbag sale (sorry, ladies, but I'm married to a wonderful woman, and I've seen these things happen). Is safety an issue at that point? Are we afraid of roving bands of women who are blocking the sidewalks, trying to get cut-rate Manolo Blandniks at their favorite Needless Markup or at DSW Shoes (haven't they thought about how that reads? it's "Discount Shoe Warehouse Shoes" - while I realize they may sell other things, do they have any locations named DSW Cars, or DSW Fruit?).


This, then, follows the state of relations between the classes in America. Some people have money, and everyone else should just suck it up and, well, stay the fuck out of sight, because you're exacerbating my IBS. Or possibly my UBS. We got our dough, and we dislike the sight of people in stretch pants (unless they have a really fantastic personal trainer, plastic surgeon, or both). And we really hate to be reminded what greedy pricks we really are. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to live with such wealth? How much responsibility we have? - to make sure our children never have to lift a finger for as long as they live, and to be certain that they carry on our tradition of really hating the poor, because the poor are just shiftless, lazy bums, who didn't pull themselves up by their bootstraps with their trust funds, stocks, bonds, or college funds. And you know, God wants us to be rich.

Seems to me something about eyes, needles and camels is in there somewhere, but I forget - didn't someone of importance say that? Oh, right, he was poor - we don't have to listen to him.