Felix Salmon

Greece’s bond exchange: it’s official

February 24, 2012

If you go to the official website for the Greek bond exchange, greekbonds.gr, you can now find an actual official document! The rest of the website, it says, “will be available shortly”, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Matter’s vision for long-form journalism

February 23, 2012

Yesterday morning, a very exciting new journalism project was launched on Kickstarter. It’s called Matter, and it’s going to be home to long-form investigative narrative journalism about science and technology. “No cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top ten lists,” they promise. “Just one unmissable story.”

How to reduce the deductibility of interest payments

February 23, 2012

I was literally grinning when I read the framework for business tax reform put out yesterday by the White House and Treasury. Admittedly, it’s not going to get implemented any time soon. But it sets the agenda for any attempt to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 35%. And in doing so it makes an official and extremely strong case for massively reducing the tax deductibility of interest payments.

GDP bonds are a really bad idea, part 3

February 22, 2012

Can countries issue equity? Greece is making a stab at it, giving its bondholders GDP warrants which start paying out “in the event the Republic’s nominal GDP exceeds a defined threshold”. Chances are, the market won’t give the warrants much value; they’re more symbolic, really, of Greece’s good faith.

The epistemics of Greek default

February 22, 2012

Are you alarmed by today’s headline in the NYT saying, disturbingly, that the “Greek Crisis Raises New Fears Over Credit-Default Swaps”? Don’t be. The article in question turns out to be a solid 770-word explainer by Peter Eavis in which he gives the final word to Stanford’s Darrell Duffie, saying that any such fears are “small potatoes”.

Europe’s inevitable Greek divorce

February 22, 2012

I had a little bit of fun amidst all the seriousness on Canadian TV yesterday, laying out my genius solution to the Greek crisis: Canadians. (My segment starts at about 19:20 in.) Essentially, Germany wants Greeks to become German: to stoically accept real wage deflation while working hard and paying their taxes in a good Protestant manner. Canadians are well-educated, productive, and very good at paying their taxes; what’s more, they’d probably like somewhere warmer to live, especially in the winter. So bring all the Canadians to Greece, where they could help turn the economy around, and leave Canada to the commodity companies and the Chinese property speculators. It’s basically the Davos to Greece idea, taken to its logical conclusion.

Adventures with primary documents, sustainability-analysis edition

February 21, 2012


This chart, from the European Commission’s debt sustainability analysis of Greece, has been doing the rounds today. I posted it last night, and it got picked up by Joe Weisenthal as his chart of the day; it’s a very striking visualization of the degree to which the Greece bailout plan lies somewhere between optimistic and delusional.

The improbable Greece plan

February 21, 2012

Greece is now officially a ward of the international community. It has no real independence when it comes to fiscal policy any more, and if everything goes according to plan, it’s not going to have any independence for many, many years to come. Here, for instance, is a little of the official Eurogroup statement:

Aleynikov goes free

February 17, 2012

Count me in, with Choire Sicha, as being very happy that Sergey Aleynikov is once again a free man. To cut a long story short, Aleynikov used to work in high-frequency trading for Goldman Sachs, earning $400,000 a year. He then got offered a job in Chicago, earning three times that amount. So he accepted the new job. On his last day at Goldman, he uploaded to an external server various bits of code that he had worked with at Goldman. He claimed that the code was benign open-source material; Goldman claimed that it could be used to “manipulate markets”.