01 February 2008

Three brief items

First, Dan Rather.

His lawsuit against CBS for wrongful termination will likely go forward -- it has survived a motion to dismiss. I can't help but be happy about this, as I think the proceedings may help unearth testimony and documents that will in turn prove useful for the historians of the future as they struggle with this period in the history of the United States.

Rather, you will remember, narrated a report on the CBS evening news that said that George W. Bush shirked his duties while in the National Guard.

The authenticity of the documents came under attack, and CBS apologized for the report, expelling Rather from the anchor chair.

Rather maintains that the report was, in essence though not in every particular, accurate. He also says that he was made a scapegoat because the parent corporation of CBS, Viacom, was seeking regulatory favors from the Bush administration and had to hide the whole AWOL issue under the nearest rug.

CBS' lawyers made a motion to dismiss. No definitive decision has yet issued from the bench on that motion, but the judge has indicated he is inclined to let the matter proceed to discovery, that there is "enough in the complaint" to do so. Good for him.

Second, Crude Oil Prices.

How low will they go? And is their recent decline a good sign or a bad one? Just wondering.

You'll likely all remember that when crude prices were bumping up against $100 a barrel in the final days of 2007 that fact was covered extensively in all news media. This is natural enough: my attention tends to focus on my car's odometer as the zeros line up!

With odometers, the numbers only move in one direction. With prices, the general tendency is toward an inflation of the currency (given the fiat nature of money since the demise of the gold standard) and thus toward higher prices, but there's some non-odometer like downward movement too.

And that's what we've had. On Nymex, the spot price of a barrel of oil is now barely above $90. Is this good news or bad? Good if it amounts to a lifting of a drag upon the economy. Bad if it is symptom a symptom of a slowing-down already underway. After all, if there's going to be a lot less industrial activity in coming months, there's going to be a reduction in the demand for energy in all its forms, and the decline may simply reflect that.

Third, Springfield, Mass.

Springfield appears to have gotten away with something. For the background, go here.

Springfield has apparently persuaded Merrill Lynch that it has a case that somebody at Merrill tricked somebody in Springfield's city government into signing on to some highly speculative investments. Accordingly, Merrill has agreed to by the securities at issue back from the city at the same price at which it sold them.

This is quite a bath Merrill is taking. Those securities have lost 90% of their value since the sale, last spring, now being revoked.

Merrill has also agreed to pay outside legal fees incurred by the Springfield Finance Control Board.

This stinks. Has anybody associated with any institution ever heard the phrase "moral hazard"?

So of my three items for today, I find the first cheery, the second ambiguous, and the third depressing. A balanced portfolio of news items!

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.