Wolf Richter

Communication Problem: Buying Ointment for Ji

Tokyo, June 1996. Ji is the word for “hemorrhoid.” I looked it up. The sound is identical to chi, “blood,” and only the Japanese can distinguish them. My problem is I’ve run out of hemorrhoid ointment. A wiry lady in a lab coat, the only person in the small pharmacy, greets me apprehensively. I greet her in my best Japanese. “I’m sorry to trouble you,” I add, a fixed expression used in front of a question. It comes out smoothly, and I feel more confident. Her apprehension grows.

Ron Paul Slugs At The Fed One More Time

Before retiring from Congress, Rep. Ron Paul, Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, slugs at the Fed one more time: Tuesday, his committee weighs six bills to reform or abolish the Fed which “continues to reward Wall Street banks while destroying the dollar’s purchasing power and driving up the cost of living for average Americans,” he said.

Greece: “We Are Their Greatest Fear”

“There are certain misconceptions that worry me: for instance, the misconception that whatever happens, we are not going to leave the euro,” said Evangelos Venizelos, former Finance Minister and president of the socialist Pasok party. But outraged Greeks are searching for alternatives, and on Sunday, they’ll get to vent their anger at the political elite.

Havoc and Opportunity in Natural Gas

The fourth warmest winter on record, which curtailed the use of natural gas for heating, coincided with record production of natural gas. Storage facilities, filled to record levels for this time of the year, may soon reach capacity, forcing the industry to flare excess gas. This, doom-and-gloom theorists go, will force the price of gas to zero in the US. The point of maximum pain. But there’s a monumental shift, and demand is spiking.

“The Great Train Robbery,” California Version

The hoped-for April spike in personal income tax revenues for the State of California fell again below the assumptions used to get the budget to “balance.” Instead of $9.4 billion, the state collected only $7.4 billion. A 21% shortfall! Corporate taxes were also below forecast. Red in ink for fiscal 2012 is nearly $12 billion. And yet, California has a mega-project.

Calamity Economy Rearing its Ugly Head Again?

“Despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary, it looks like the air got let out of the balloon,” commented the members of the Survey Panel of the ISM-Chicago Business Survey; the closely watched numbers had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. But the phenomenon wasn’t limited to the Chicago area. And now there are real reasons for concern.

It’s in his DNA

Tokyo, June 1996. Satoru-san, wearing a chocolate blazer, cinnamon shirt, and hazel tie, is already at the Nishi-Azabu intersection though I arrive before 6 p.m. He greets me with a handshake and a nod. “I’m sorry I’m early,” he says. Is this a translation of something that makes sense in Japanese? Or is it one more aspect of the Japanese art of turning apologies into subtle accusations?

David and Société Générale: Jérôme Kerviel Fights Back

Fighting back: Jérôme Kerviel, the meek-looking French guy who became famous in January 2008 as the junior trader who lost €4.9 billion at French mega-bank Société Générale. Accused of a litany of shenanigans, he was condemned to five years in prison, though he claimed that his bosses had known about and had tolerated his activities. He just couldn’t prove it…. until now.

Collapse of the EU a “Realistic Scenario”

“Over the past months, we experienced a worrisome trend toward re-nationalization and ‘summitization,’” said Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Government leaders were becoming “more arrogant” and were attempting “to create a fiscal union outside the control of parliament.” His complaints went to the heart of democracy at the European level. And so, he said, the collapse of the EU was a “realistic scenario.”

Mad Cow: the Costs of Trying to Keep Costs Down

“The US is one of two major beef-exporting countries with no comprehensive traceability system,” said Erin Borror, economist at the Meat Export Federation. The other country is India. The issue was Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease. Humans contract it by eating contaminated beef. It’s always fatal. Lack of traceability “places the US at risk if an outbreak occurs in this country,” Borror said. That was last November.