First Galliano, now Japanese boy band causes a Führer

You would think by now everyone would have figure out the rule that No Nazis is Good Nazis. While this is universally true it seems the business world in particular has a problem remembering it.

Although former Dior designer John Galliano’s besotted ode to Herr Schicklgruber has captured the most headlines, he isn’t the only public figure with a swastika issue. In Japan (no slouch itself when it comes to fascist World War II atrocities):

Sony Music Artists Inc. apologized Wednesday on behalf of its popular boy-band Kishidan, after the group performed on MTV Japan in outfits that Jewish groups said looked like Nazi uniforms.

That description makes the whole thing sound like an acute case of oversensitivity, but if you watch the group’s video for its song Kira Kira! you see that Kishidan is astoundingly clueless in its use of imagery.

No Nazis is Good Nazis

First we have the band – with haircuts that would make Flock of Seagulls blush and outfits that are definitely inspired by The You Know Who – being faux gunned down by someone wearing Soviet-like army garb. (As you will recall, Commies were one of the other groups the National Socialists were going to save Germany from. How’d that work out, anyway?) This is followed by the band members being beaten up by

  1. Someone in metallic Japanese feudal armor
  2. A dominatrix who has definitely seen The Night Porter too many times
  3. The Russian, again; and
  4. A zombie. Don’t ask me why. (It’s time to let the whole zombie thing go. Either that or someone needs to tell a story from the Zombie’s point of view. Sparkly Zombies!)

Finally a virtuous and seemingly virginal Japanese school girl held captive by a sadistic robo-teacher takes a bullet for the band. This is easily the most incomprehensible Japanese film I’ve seen since Gegege no Kitaro and not 1/100th as entertaining.

Best quote in the story is from Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who “said he thinks the incidents reflect a hole in Japan’s education of World War II. “

“Generally my experience has been in speaking with young people they don’t necessarily know very much other than that Hitler was a strong leader or that aesthetically this is very striking and interesting. For a lot of young Japanese they don’t even understand. When these controversies come up their initial reaction is ‘what’s the controversy? What did we do wrong here? What did Nazi Germany do?’”

The war is a bit of a touchy subject in Japan. Almost as touchy as it is for the Chinese, Koreans, Philippinos, Allied vets and others the Japanese visited themselves upon.

I don’t think this band is pro-Nazi as much as they are idiots. Reminds me of Walter Sobchak’s line from The Big Lebowski: “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

New reg lets banks ignore actual value of “underperforming” loans

It is only fitting that on Halloween the Federal government is increasing the number of zombies among us.

Federal bank regulators issued guidelines allowing banks to keep loans on their books as "performing" even if the value of the underlying properties have fallen below the loan amount.

Blog_Zombie_BankThe rationale?

While CRE (commercial real estate) borrowers may experience deterioration in their financial condition, many continue to be creditworthy customers who have the willingness and capacity to repay their debts. In such cases, financial institutions and borrowers may find it mutually beneficial to work constructively together.

Nothing inspires confience in me like the phrase “financial institutions and borrowers may find it mutually beneficial.” Especially since banks are not required to only apply this rule to “creditworthy customers who have the willingness and capacity to repay their debts.”

I really can’t top what Doug McIntyre wrote at DailyFinance.com:

The FDIC appears simply to be taking losses that would be incurred in the normal course of business and pushing the true accounting for them into the future. It is to the political benefit of Washington to make it appear that the banking sector is getting better. It also probably helps the FDIC, which is essentially insolvent, from having to come up with billions of dollars to insure deposits at failing banks.

Some can argue that this regulation just does for commercial real estate what had already been done for home mortgages. In April, the Financial Accounting Standards Board approved a new set of rules allowing financial firms to fiddle with how big their real-estate losses are. (New accounting rules let bankers set the value of their own toxic assets)

When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Real crocs thriving as Crocs™ go extinct

gator-zombie The colorful landfill-filling life-threatening shoes are headed to that great fire sale in the sky. Despite selling 100 million pairs in seven years, the company lost $185 million last year, dumped a third of its workers and have to find someone willing to adopt all their surplus shoes. Why not try the time-tested method of flushing them down the toilet in NYC?

"The company’s toast," said Damon Vickers, who manages an investment fund at Nine Points Capital Partners in Seattle. "They’re zombie-ish. They’re dead and they don’t know it."

Zombie-ish? Love it, but can you be slightly zombie? Isn’t being zombie like being pregnant? It’s either yes or no. 

On the brighter side – for those of us who don’t live in Florida – real crocs are doing great. There population has rebounded from just 200 in 1975 to more than 2,000 and they were removed from the endangered species list two years ago.

BusinessPundit has a good roundup of 20 other brands/products that have died this year.

Despite the meltdown too many still think money = brains

bank-zombie-3 Turn a profit and you must be a genius, despite two successive bubbles that is still the essential view of too many.

Yesterday Goldman Sachs reported record earnings mostly because they are profiting from a government system they (or their former-for-now employees) helped create.

In the wake of Countrywide, Madoff, Bear Stearns, Enron, AIG, etc., etc., it would be nice to think a we had acquired even a slight sense of skepticism. But even many of our supposedly cynical reporters rushed to gush over Goldman winning a rigged game.

Here’s NPR’s Yuki Noguchi on All Things Considered: “Dick Bove is senior vice president of research at Rochdale Securities. He says Goldman suffered during the crisis. It shed 16 percent of its workforce in the last year. But what revived Goldman, Bove said, is the diversity of its business and its superior internal systems. So while some aspects of its business falter, the rest goes gangbusters.”

“Superior internal systems”? Is that a euphemism for no competition left standing? Nor is she alone in using effusive praise in the place of actual facts. Reuters quotes Michael Holland as saying:

What they have continued to do during the worst financial crisis in 25 years shows that they are the smartest guys in the room and, therefore, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the other people who are in the room.

“The smartest guys in the room.” Mr. Holland uses the old Enron catchphrase without a trace of irony. Here is a view from Australia:

The fact Goldman Sachs made as much money in the second quarter as it did for all of 2008 is undeniably good news. It shows markets are open for business, and given that many of its peers are dead or recovering the investment bank demonstrates the benefits of well judged risks.

The markets are open for business? Doesn’t the second half of that sentence beg a few questions of the first half?

No surprise that our elected officials are only too happy to jump on board the bandwagon. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee: "I’m not surprised. Goldman Sachs has a history of being well run and sometimes ahead of the others."

All this happy talk leads to a rise in the markets which is used as further evidence of the brilliance of Goldman, et al. It was only two and half years ago when Countrywide was considered one of the most esteemed companies in the US.

Anyone remember that?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Thankfully not everyone is falling for it. Over at the Washington Post, Binyamin Appelbaum even put some skepticism in the lead: “… as the decimation of its Wall Street rivals allowed the investment bank to romp across the financial landscape, buying low and selling high.” While Goldman has repaid its $10 billion government loan, Applebaum (and a few others) had the temerity to point out that the company “has not disclosed to what extent it continues to rely on other federal rescue programs, such as borrowing from the Federal Reserve.”

You can now rent zombies online

Headline of the day:

Cloud-computing zombies for $299 per month

Cloud-computing crimeware means networks of zombie machines can be hired to steal online-banking details for as little as $299 (£185) per month. ‘Fraud as a service’ is opening up computer crime to people with no technical expertise, warned Uri Rivner, head of new technology at security company RSA.

They can put zombies and computers on a cloud? The interwebs are even cooler than I thought.

Ummm, given the condition of most banks and most people with accounts at banks not sure how much good this information will do them.

zombies2