Michael Lewis on California

Michael Lewis’s latest chapter length depresso is about California and how many of the cities there are pretty royally fucked because of pension promises that will begin to come due very soon, and in some cases have already begun to cause problems. One thing I learned, the states won’t ever have to bust their budgets because they can force more and more costs on to the cities. (I guess counties can do this, too, because this is exactly what happened in Topeka yesterday, where the city council voted to decriminalize domestic battery in order to force the county district attorney to start trying these cases again. He stopped last month citing budget concerns.) Anyway, we’re screwed, so here’s Lewis talking about a bike ride he took with Schwarzenegger.

He hauls a bike off the back of the car, hops on, and takes off down an already busy Ocean Avenue. He wears no bike helmet, runs red lights, and rips past do not enter signs without seeming to notice them and up one-way streets the wrong way. When he wants to cross three lanes of fast traffic he doesn’t so much as glance over his shoulder but just sticks out his hand and follows it, assuming that whatever is behind him will stop. His bike has at least 10 speeds, but he has just 2: zero and pedaling as fast as he can. Inside half a mile he’s moving fast enough that wind-induced tears course down his cheeks.

He’s got to be one of the world’s most recognizable people, but he doesn’t appear to worry that anyone will recognize him, and no one does. It may be that people who get out of bed at dawn to jog and Rollerblade and racewalk are too interested in what they are doing to break their trance. Or it may be that he’s taking them by surprise. He has no entourage, not even a bodyguard. His former economic adviser, David Crane, and his media adviser, Adam Mendelsohn, who came along for the ride just because it sounded fun, are now somewhere far behind him. Anyone paying attention would think, That guy might look like Arnold, but it can’t possibly be Arnold, because Arnold would never be out alone on a bike at seven in the morning, trying to commit suicide. It isn’t until he is forced to stop at a red light that he makes meaningful contact with the public. A woman pushing a baby stroller and talking on a cell phone crosses the street right in front of him and does a double take. “Oh . . . my . . . God,” she gasps into her phone. “It’s Bill Clinton!” She’s not 10 feet away, but she keeps talking to the phone, as if the man were unreal. “I’m here with Bill Clinton.”

As a bonus, here’s a profile of Lewis from NY Mag.


Michael Lewis finally writing Liar’s Poker movie

Michael Lewis is finally writing a screenplay for Liar’s Poker. Finally. I’ve only been clamoring for it for two and a half years. “John Requa and Glenn Ficarra of Crazy, Stupid, Love will direct“. Liar’s Poker tells the story of Lewis’ time as a bond salesman at Salomon Brothers, the firm that pretty much created mortgage bonds. The leveraging of which, you might remember, were at least partly responsible for our current economic troubles. Why wasn’t this movie made 2 years ago?

I went through my archives to see how many times I talked about them making this movie. 9 times. 9 times since February, 2009 I’ve wondered why the movie hadn’t been made. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Now what am I going to write about?

Via Stellar


Divorce Insurance

It’s good we’ve finally come to this. If you’re the type of person to get married, but want a little piece of mind, you ought to call WedLock. The idea of divorce insurance is seedy on its own. What really bothers me is it’s such a shitty deal.

WedLock, as it’s coyly named, is a new type of casualty insurance that gives the unhappily married policyholder a payout after he or she is unhitched. It costs about $16 a month for every $1,250 of coverage. But to discourage people from signing up just prior to their divorce, policyholders must ante up for four years before the policy will pay out. It adds a premium of $250 per unit for every year the marriage survives beyond four. So if a policyholder who bought 10 units got divorced after 10 years, he or she would have handed over $19,188 and would receive a payout of $27,500.


Brad Pitt Options Wrong Michael Lewis Book

It says here that Brad Pitt has optioned The Big Short. As loyal readers, you’ll know that I’ve been using the platform of Unlikely Words for several years to advocate for a movie based on Liar’s Poker. Actually The Big Short and Liar’s Poker could be released together as a part 1 and part 2 of the financial collapse. Shia Labeouf could play a young Michael Lewis.

Pitt’s Plan B productions is going full steam ahead on an adaptation of Lewis’ latest, “The Big Short,” about the events that led up to the current financial fiasco. They’re set offer Charles Randolph (“The Interpreter,” “The Life of David Gale”) $750G to write a script, reported New York mag’s Vulture.

Every couple months or so, I do a little Googling to see if Liar’s Poker has been optioned yet. Turns out it was optioned 20 years ago. Make the fucking movie already.

A few more Michael Lewis links to round out the day:
Complete Guide To Who’s Who In The CDO Scandal
Goldman Sachs Is Doomed

On Oaths

We pledge to meet and even get to know ordinary people who do not work for Goldman Sachs, so that we might better understand their irrational behavior, and exploit it only when necessary.


Goldman Didn’t Have A Single Day of Loss Last Quarter

Which I suppose is exactly what they had in mind when they put together their master plan, but it’s still a little shocking:

In the quarter ended March 31, Goldman made money on every single trading day. The firm did not record a loss of even $0.01 on even one day in the last quarter. That’s 63 days profitable out of 63 trading days. The statistic probability of this event is itself statistically undefined. Goldman is now the market – or, in keeping with modern market reality, Goldman is the house, it controls the casino, and always wins. Congratulations America: you now have far, far better odds in Las Vegas that you have making money with your E-Trade account.

When they’ve gotten so brazen they don’t even care about the optics of something like this, you know we’re all in trouble.