Saturday, May 19, 2012

And don't forget to bring Elke Sommer

Calling Inspector Clouseau;
JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail. As the largest bank-holding company in the United States, with assets approaching $2.5 trillion as reported under standard American accounting principles, it is inconceivable that JPMorgan Chase would be allowed to collapse now or in the near future. The damage to the American economy and to the world would be too great.
The company’s recent trading losses therefore call for greater public scrutiny than would be case for most private enterprise – and demand an independent investigation into exactly what happened.
The loss is a mere $3 billion, and only on paper at this point.  Perhaps if we are going to go to the expense of 'an independent investigation' we should start on something a little less ambitious; Is it possible for a $3 billion loss to bring down a firm with $2.5 TRILLION in assets?

An e-mail from a friend recently reminded us of Richard Feynman's famous Cargo Cult Science speech in which he explains what is good science;
It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem.
When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
Not likely to be the case in the kind of investigation being called for by someone who also thinks:
In the end, we may well come to the same conclusion as Elizabeth Warren – who has brilliantly seized the political moment and put her opponent for the Massachusetts senate seat, the Republican incumbent Scott Brown, on the defensive.
Ms. Warren is calling for the re-imposition of Glass-Steagall – separating commercial from investment banking. Mr. Fine is already pushing in the same direction. This position should be appealing across the political spectrum. 
Let's have a scientific investigation of whether or not Glass-Steagall has ever been repealed.

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