December 08, 2015
icon "The Big Short" is coming to town
Posted by Matt Bodie

If you're reading this blog, this is probably old news, but Michael Lewis's angled take the 2008 financial crisis will be hitting theaters on December 25.  It's got some big names, too -- Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt.  In this Lewis-to-film production, Pitt plays a less prominent role -- Bale is the one-eyed doctor Michael Burry and Carell is hedge fund savant Mark Baum, who for some reason is Steve Eisman but is not named Steve Eisman.  (And Mr. Pitt is "Ben Rickert" rather than Ben Hockett.)  Adam McKay directs.  New York Magazine had a nice cover story on the movie -- here's a passage:

Like the collection of derivatives Carell had finished sketching, The Big Short: The Movie is a very weird product — for starters, it’s a comedy about deadly serious things and a leftish movie lionizing hedge-funders. Nor is it a solid investment, not in these distractible, budget-minded, please-everyone times. As a package, it is composed of bets upon bets upon bets. . . .

And then there’s the riskiest tranche of all: the bet that those who do see it will come away with not just an understanding of what a CDO looks like but a fuller awareness of the cornucopia of [unfortunate] human behavior that led to the Biggest Financial Collapse Since the Great Depression and that it will cause them to reflect on those traumatic events, which have arguably never been properly processed despite their corrosive effects on our politics and culture and psychology. And that ultimately this experience will lead to some kind of reckoning that causes us to face uncomfortable truths about responsibility and financial capitalism and our entire way of life.

Looking forward to it (and to Christine's review)!

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December 07, 2015
icon Should Fannie And Freddie Be Replaced By Private Lenders?
Posted by David Zaring

Gretchen Morgenson says no, in a long front-page story in the Times, which should raise the hackles of any free-marketer.  I though Matt Levine's comments were smart.  The political economy of what to do about Fannie and Freddie is partly driven by the hedge funds who have taken big positions on the failed government agencies' stock, which wasn't wiped out when the government took the agencies over (and perhaps you can see how that structure is a weird one).  If they don't win their takings claims based on that takeover, they want a "recap and release," that is, they want Fannie and Freddie to go back to being the super profitable guarantors of mortgages that they used to be.  It's basically a big bet on Congress agreeing with them, because the current executive branch is dead set against it, and that seems like a very risky bet to me.  It is also buccaneering capitalists pushing for government support for residential mortgages, which you don't expect to see every day; it appears that Morgenson thinks the hedge funds are onto something.  

Anyway, the takings claim isn't a bad one - Steven Davidoff Solomon and I wrote about it here.

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December 06, 2015
icon How To Be An SEC Commissioner
Posted by David Zaring

Via Corp Counsel, I enjoyed this talk by outgoing SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar on "(Hopefully) Helpful Tips for New Commissioners."  Indeed, some of the people associated with this site might find it particularly interesting.  Aguilar makes being a commissioner sound a little like being a judge.  There's a staff of five, four counsels, and one confidential assistant, and you spend all your time talking to them, so they have to be good.  I also found these quotes - quotes from which Aguilar took inspiration - to be somewhat dark and foreboding:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” — Sir Winston Churchill

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” — Vince Lombardi

If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” — Margaret Thatcher

I would have thought that being a commissioner would be much more like being the deputy secretary of an agency than a judge, but perhaps for nonstop meetings with a dizzying array of underlings, it's the chair or nothing.

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December 04, 2015
icon I'm going to Delaware!
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

So this came in the mail....

Invite2

 

I'm going to Delaware!  I know, some people's reactions might be....

 

But, readers, you know my reaction is...

via GIPHY

 

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December 03, 2015
icon Teaching Transactional Law and Skills
Posted by Gordon Smith

Emory Law School is hosting a conference on June 10-11, 2016 entitled "Method in the Madness:  The Art and Science of Teaching Transactional Law and Skills." You can find the call for proposals here.

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icon How the Other Half Banks: Accept the World or Change It?
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

First, it’s impossible for me to be objective about HTOHB. I remember 2 years ago at Ted’s Most Best (yes, it's good local pizza with a kid-friendly sandpit, yes that's its name) telling Mehrsa to submit an editorial to the NYT about postal banking. I remember sharing her elation at the editorial’s publication, and of her book contract. I’ve been on the sideline cheering this book for a long time, and I’ve watched its reception with pride and pleasure. Funnily enough, however, I never actually read it in draft form, although we’ve spoken about aspects of it over the past two years, so I've been eager for an excuse to take it up.

My overall first impression was: This isn’t your typical academic book. This is an unabashed cri de coeur, with a tone of barely concealed anger and urgency. It’s a book with a message much broader than advocating for postal banking although, that being the culminating chapter, that is where the reviews have focused. HTOHB is describes and diagnoses the current banking problem facing poor and middle-income Americans, contextualizes that problem historically, and proposes a solution.  The funny thing--and it may well be a calculated move--is that the solution addresses so little of the problem.

First, on the descriptive: Even though I consider myself a fairly educated banking reader, I learned a lot. Like that there are more payday lender storefronts than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. Wow.  Like my co-bloggers I found her description of the role of regulation in banking compelling. She skillfully rebuts the arguments of those who would blame the financial crisis on the CRA or on greedy and improvident subprime borrowers. 

Second, the book leaves me feeling sorry for the big banks. Given the world that they live in—and yes, they created via lobbying and campaign contributions—they’re stuck. They just can’t afford to let the poor bank with them. Let’s take overdraft fees. They’re close to my heart, because once upon a time, in a moment of youth, inattention and temporary low bank balance, I swiped my bank card instead of my credit card and wound up overdrawing my account. I fumed at the overdraft fee, but knew it was my mistake.

Overdraft fees look a lot worse these days. Mehrsa describes one customer who received a notice of 5 transactions ranging from $4.35-$39.46 for which there was not enough money in the account. Bank of America reordered the withdrawals so that the highest withdrawal was taken out first—without that manipulation, there would have been 2 overdraft fees, instead of 5. At $35 a pop, these added up to $175, or an interest rate of 3,335%. And fresh fees are assessed each day you’re overdrawn. And now apparently banks pool their data in a ChexSystems database and banks will decline account applications because of them—97.5% of the denials are from this kind of “account mishandling,” and just one overdraft can cut you off from conventional banking for years.

What this story makes clear is that, although the banks are imposing punitive fees on these borrowers, they're not trying to make a business of it--they're trying to drive them away.  Although the percentage profits are high, these absolute dollar numbers are just too small to be worth it for the big banks. 

Do you remember back in 2010 when Bank of America tried to institute a $5 debit card swipe fee? It sparked a social uprising, including a “Bank Transfer Day” where people were urged to take their money out of big banks and put them in small banks and credit unions. President Obama weighed in against the outrageous fee.  But I remember feeling sorry for BoA at the time—it was responding to regulation in Dodd-Frank and imposing an upfront fee, just like it was supposed to. Political firestorm followed.  What was the lesson big banks learned?  Keep the fees on the downlow, and no one gets hurt.  And if the fees aren't enough to make the business profitable, the only alternative is to get out of the business.

So ultimately I guess I'm with Matt, who said this much better: that there's "an ambivalence that underlies a lot of the book.  Yes, banks are making beaucoup bucks while safely within the arms of their government protectors. At the same time, however, they are just being what they were designed to be: profit-making businesses operating within a market." Mehrsa tacitly accepts the status quo and works within it to argue for postal banking.  But her larger argument, particularly the larger historical narrative, seems to support a much more radical rethinking of government's support for banking.  Mehrsa starts off with a shrewd move, nodding to history by pointing out that debate about banking’s identity and core function dates back to the founders, with the Hamilton central banking model at odds with Jefferson’s localism and suspicion of concentrated banking power. She makes clear in that chapter that the tension between consolidated and local banking is an age old one in our republic. She asserts in the first line of Chapter 1 that "One of the most important sand oft-forgotten truths about any banking system is that it simply cannot exist without the government."  Her overall narrative sets the stage for a larger rethinking of what we as a society expect of the banks our government enables to exist.  Well-written and engaging, this is a big and important book, with big implications--for postal banking, and for banking as an industry.

 

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icon How The Other Half Banks: What Will Replace Banks?
Posted by David Zaring

As Mehrsa observes, the largest problem for middle and working-class access to the benefits of banking concerns the perceived cost of catering to such small time financiers. They simply do not borrow or lend enough to make it worthwhile. One question addressed in the second half of her book concerns some alternatives to banks that might be willing to enter a market that the big national banks have largely exited, in her telling.

But of course, fixes that can market efficiently to low dollar depositors might well have some competitive advantages when it comes to high dollar depositors as well. To me, the interesting question is whether the innovation here will be one of financial technology or one that requires a regulatory blessing. Mehrsa considers microfinance, which Christine has discussed (and so I won't), or community minded banking, which looks like a triumph of hope over experience. But she also surveys debit cards, Walmart, mobile banking, and peer-to-peer lending; they all offer the prospect of inexpensive credit, or at least efficient access to the financial system, without necessarily requiring the use of algorithms or robots.

Leaving aside mobile banking and the Wealthfronts and VenMos of the world, it is worth noting that the problems for debit card issuance, by the post office or whoever, banking at Walmart, and P2P are regulatory ones, rather than technological ones.  The question has been whether these institutions are enough like banks to be trusted with deposits.  Much of the answer to that question is tied up in bad old competition avoidance by the already extant banks, who lobby against potential competitors.  But some of it lies in the idea that few can be trusted to hold other people's money.  Bank charters, as Omarova and Hockett can tell you, require the institution to act in the public interest.  Other holders of funds have fiduciary obligations to the owners.  And the regulatory question is whether Walmart or Joey8359 on the internet will feel the same way, or, put another way, whether we should care that they obviously will not.

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December 02, 2015
icon How the Other Half Banks: Banking and Blame
Posted by Matt Bodie

I will echo the praise of the prior contributors: this is a really well-written book, packed full with insightful and accessible anecdotes, thoughtful analysis, and a strong message.  Like Christine, I was particularly interested in the middle chapters, as I worked on bank lending and Community Reinvestment Act issues with the Woodstock Institute prior to law school.  My former boss at Woodstock went on to work with South Shore Bank/ShoreBank, and I remember the real enthusiasm and optimism surrounding that bank and its mission.  But as the book points out, ShoreBank became insolvent in 2010 after being refused TARP funding.  The story of that bank's failure could be one of liberal cronyism and ideology run amok, or simply the collapse of an undiversified regional bank in the midst of an international financial breakdown.

The narrative is important and therefore contested because blame is important in this space.  The facts, marshaled clearly and thoroughly by the book, are undeniable: approximately 70 million Americans do not have a bank account or access to traditional financial services.  The services provided to the unbanked or underbanked are generally much more expensive and filled with costly penalties and fees.  At the other end of the spectrum, banks provide services to the well-off for reasonable prices and in turn are backed by a myriad of federal and quasi-federal protections.  The book makes a convincing case that our banking system is not a free market, but rather a highly-regulated market that is supported by the government.  And, due to a series of changes in the law over the last century -- ones that accelerated after the 1980s -- average Americans are much more likely to be left out of traditional banking services.

So who is to blame for all this?  The book essentially paints a picture of greedy banks shunning the poorer and less profitable consumers in flagrant disregard for their original, public purpose.  It is Jeffersonian in its approach: smaller is better, more local is better, community is better.  It is not wholeheartedly in this camp -- it acknowledges that large banks are more efficient, less vulnerable to regional conditions, perhaps better (and even cheaper) at providing certain services to certain clients.  And it also recognizes that banking services for the poor may not be that profitable (not profitable?) when conducted along the same terms as applied to richer folks.  But the central theme of the book, at least on my reading, is that banks have become unmoored from their public trust and are exploiting their special relationship with the government to capture the upsides of capitalism without the downsides.

So it is somewhat surprising that the book lets banks off the hook at the end by promoting a public option for banking, specifically postal banking.  The idea has a lot to recommend it, beyond even the problem of underbanking.  But it also raises a lot of questions.  Can the post office do what community banks couldn't?  Do we think post offices will do a better job of moving beyond the credit score to asses the "real" credit risks presented by each loan applicant?  Does the public really trust the post office?

But my more theoretical question is this: why should we let the big banks off the hook?  If the book had presented the problem of underbanking as a natural and understandable market failure, based on the inability of the poor to make traditional banking profitable for banks, then a public option would make a lot of sense.  But if banks are pulling a fast one here by shirking their public responsibilities , shouldn't we make them accountable?  The book's discussion of the CRA does a nice job of briefly outlining the history of the act, as well as the views of its supporters and critics.  But it left me wondering whether the CRA was doomed to failure, or whether it just hadn't been implemented with the appropriate teeth.  And I think this strikes at an ambivalence that underlies a lot of the book.  Yes, banks are making beaucoup bucks while safely within the arms of their government protectors. At the same time, however, they are just being what they were designed to be: profit-making businesses operating within a market.  

Perhaps, in the end, we'd rather solve the problem of underbanking than exact a just recompense from powerful economic and political actors.  Or perhaps we can square the circle by requiring banks to fund the public option with a special bank tax or fee -- something similar to the FDIC.  But I think a whole lot more people will be asking these questions thanks to Mehrsa's thoughtful, engaging, and provocative book.  Congrats to her on this terrific accomplishment.

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December 01, 2015
icon How the Other Half Banks: More of the Regulatory Story
Posted by Christine Hurt

Rarely does a fellow law prof's well-researched, well-written nonfiction book deserve as much attention as Mehrsa's book does.  In a very readable manner, the book gives all readers a window into the underbelly of banking.  HTOHB provides several contributions:  a brief history of banking, a broad overview of fringe banking and the high cost of being poor, a survey of governmental, market and philanthropic responses to the problem, and a proposal to implement postal banking.  The title is a nod to the middle chapters; an alternate title might be "How the Post Office Could Save Retail Banking." 

As someone who teaches The Law of Microfinance and has spent a lot of time in the economic development literature on microfinance, I was fixated on the middle chapters.  Microcredit and microfinance are proposed fixes to the ills of the unbanked in developing countries, and not enough time is spent discussing the challenges of the unbanked in the U.S.  Though being unbanked is difficult in a developing economy, being unbanked is becoming nearly impossible in our own cashless, electronic economy.  As Mehrsa notes, turning a paycheck into cash and then back into money orders and transfers for everyday expenditures is extremely inefficient and expensive.  If the book was Chapter 5 alone, it is worth the price just to see the daily toll being unbanked extracts.  The problems of the unbanked can be divided at least into two categories:  access to payment systems (the ability to write checks, make ACH transfers, use debit cards/ATMs) and access to credit (for either income smoothing or longer-term finance).  I say this because the solutions to each category may be different.  A payday lender may also cash checks and sell money orders; a microlender may only make small loans; a community bank may take deposits, make loans and sell financial products.  I believe that Mehrsa envisions the postal banking solution to address at least the most basic needs in each category:  payment systems, deposit accounts, and small loans.

One might envision unmet banking needs to be addressed by the market, government regulation or philanthropy.  Chapter 6 runs down the pitfalls in each.  Though I understand that postal banking may be the best of these solutions, I would push back a little on the reasons why neither the market nor philanthropy have fixed these concerns.  The one tension that will always be present in any solution is the tension between profit and protection.  As Mehrsa points out, commercial banks don't chase small depositors or borrowers because the profit margin isn't there.  But when the fringe market steps in, those players have the same math that big banks do.  So, interest rates have to be higher and so do transaction fees.  That may be enough to dismiss a market solution.  However, P2P businesses have tried to fill this niche with a different, cheaper model than brick-and-mortar businesses.  They seem to be meeting a need, but of course that is the need of people with access to computers and the internet and a bank account for funds to be wired into -- Lending Club cannot reach out and put cash into your hand.  However, one reason that the profit margins aren't there is regulation.  In talking to founders of P2P banking ventures, state lending laws come up quite a bit (not depositary safety and soundness laws, just lending laws), and of course Prosper and Lending Club had to eventually deal with SEC regulation.  It is very hard to simultaneously democratize credit and pursue consumer protection.   Perhaps this is where postal banking has an advantage with preexisting infrastructure and perhaps relaxed regulation.  In addition, philanthropy suffers from the same regulatory costs.  Chapter 7 talks about the now-defunct Chicago Shorebank.  Chicago is also the headquarters of Opportunity International, a global microfinance organization.  In talking with managers about why microfinance does not work well in the U.S., regulation will also be mentioned.  The magic question is how to simultaneously provide credit and banking services to the poor at affordable rates, with a low default rate, at a profit, in a highly regulated environment.  I think Mehrsa is saying that the answer is postal banking, and I think a lot of people are intrigued enough to hear more details!

I'm looking forward to hearing that answer in "How the Post Office Could Save Retail Banking"!

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icon How The Other Half Banks As A Regulation Story
Posted by David Zaring

Mehrsa's fine book is an appealing combination of history and policy. On the one hand, the book reviews the way that the poor and middle-class have accessed the finance system in the United States over decades, and how that access has been a story of changing institutions. On the other, policy, hand, the book features an appealing recommendation, not for a return to the community banking days of yore, but rather for a supplementation of our current national banking system with a reanimated postal bank.  While community banks, for a variety of reasons, handled the banking needs of the poor and middle class (or so she argues; I'm not entirely convinced about that), national banks are unwilling to chase small depositors, for profit lies only in servicing big ones.  A postal bank might at the very least be able to provide the unbanked with debit cards, and at best might be able to give them the sorts of financial services that are now being provided by shadow banks such as payday lenders, title loan companies, and the like.

I could see assigning this book to the class of business school or law school students interested in how the banking system has changed and what it does today.

One of the things it does, and has always done, according to Mehrsa, is dependent on the government. On page 16, she posits that "government support is the only reason depositors trust banks, and without trust from depositors, banks don't exist."  One of the interesting memes that I have noticed in law and finance scholarship is that, in marked contrast to corporate law scholarship, many of the authors agree with Mehrsa that finance, by some measures the largest component of the economy, is almost entirely a creature of regulation. For other examples of this sort of work see here and here. As someone interested in regulation generally, I see why I've grown particularly interested in financial regulation, though I suspect that an important component of financial intermediation is not purely an example of regulatory beneficence.  Indeed, the whole regulatory arbitrage story that plagues financial oversight suggests that regulatory fixes to fundamental finance problems, like banking the unbanked, will always be challenging.

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icon Book Club: How the Other Half Banks
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

We are launching our Conglomerate Book Club on my friend Mehrsa Baradaran's How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy.  Mehrsa has been tearing it up with this book, and it is well worth the read.  Here's a sample of some reviews:

Ben McLannahan, Financial Times

Ralph Nader, Huffington Post

Nancy Folbre, New York Times

Daria Roithmayr, Jotwell

Brian Bethune, Maclean's

We look forward to a lively discussion of How the Other Half Banks!

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icon The Bogeyman of Union Shareholders
Posted by Matt Bodie

Workers have become so divorced from the "corporation," in the eyes of many corporate law and finance scholars, that efforts to advocate on their behalf are signs of bad corporate governance.  At least, that seems to be the message of "Opportunistic Proposals by Union Shareholders," a new paper by Matsusaka, Ozbas & Yi (USC Marshall School of Business).  The titular "opportunism" refers to union efforts to use shareholder proposals to get a better deal for their represented workers.  The narrative is this: almost half of union shareholder proposals concern executive compensation (46%, versus 28% of nonunion proposals). Unions are 4.7% more likely to bring shareholder proposals during a year when they are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the company.  Unions then use these proposals as bargaining chips with management during negotiations.  The study found that wage increases are 0.22 percent higher following negotiations with a withdrawn union proposal than they are when the proposal goes to a vote.

more ...

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November 30, 2015
icon Family Film Blogging: The Martian
Posted by Christine Hurt

We are very late in seeing The Martian, but I will say better late than never!  My husband went with my fourteen year-old and I, and that is saying something.  He also was heard to say "That was a great movie."

So, after seeing Gravity and Interstellar, I definitely think The Martian is the best of both of those movies.  Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind on Mars, but the movie is not just him talking to himself.  Scenes with Watney are interspersed nicely with scenes of the team back at NASA trying to get him back and with scenes of his crew on their space voyage home.  And, when we are with Watney on Mars, he is doing interesting things, not just floating around.  And, unlike Interstellar, the movie doesn't bog down and is much more compelling.  Though long, every scene seems necessary and important -- and is enjoyable.

Back to the plot:  Watney is part of a six-man crew that is supposed to spend about a month on Mars collecting soil and other space stuff.  While five of them are out of the "hab" doing just that, a sudden, blinding severe dirt storm hits them.  (From my internet research, the author of the book, Andy Weir, acknowledges that this wouldn't happen on Mars, but it was necessary for the plot.)  The storm threatens to destroy their spaceship and ride home, so the commander (Jessica Chastain) orders the astronauts to the spaceship to blast off and away.  During the short walk to the ship, the crew's communication equipment snaps free and hits Watney.  The crew gets the audio message that Watney's suit has been breached, meaning death within 60 seconds.  After looking for him for most of those seconds, the commander determines he is a goner and they blast off back to Earth.  NASA announces that Watney died on Mars, and life goes on.  

And it goes on for Watney.  Apparently, the antenna that impaled him and breached his suit somehow sealed his suit, so he lived.  But he's all alone with limited rations and no way that anyone from Earth can reach him for months, even if they knew he was alive.  (Depending on where the two planets are in orbit relative to one another, travel can take anywhere from 160 days to 300 days, and that does not include building and readying the ship and crew.)  Eventually, NASA turns its satellites to Mars to see how much material was left on the planet, then they notice someone is moving the crew's vehicle around.  Aha!  Watney must be alive.  Then, the fun begins as each side tries to figure out how to communicate with one another.  During this time, Watney (a botanist) figures out how to grow food in the "hab."  Eventually, NASA must figure out a rescue plan.  Then everything falls apart.

The great part of the movie is the problem-solving.  As Watney explains to his video log, he has to "science the s--t" out of this.  And he does.  Between his logical thinking and the minds back at NASA, a plan forms, and then Watney's old crew will have to do some problem solving on the fly.  If you loved the scene in Apollo 13 in which the engineers throw all of the material the astronauts have on the ship with them onto a table and try to figure out a contraption to make a CO2 filter, then you'll love this whole movie.

This was definitely one of the best movies we've seen all year.  Who wouldn't want to bring Matt Damon home?  (Apparently his parents, who are mentioned once but never appear at all.)  We did take our eighth-grader, who enjoyed it.  The movie is a little like The King's Speech (which I let my kids watch when they were tweens) in that it has some isolated cursing.  Watney does let the F-word fly at least twice (and really, if you can get left behind on Mars and not curse, then you are really disciplined), and then the movie walks a line showing him soundlessly cursing, typing his cursing, etc.  I never thought KS should have been rated R, and I'm not sure how Martian escaped the same fate.  (Who can say no to Matt Damon?)  To me, it's a perfectly fine (and basically family-friendly) movie.

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icon Family Film Blogging: The Good Dinosaur
Posted by Christine Hurt

We have been looking forward to The Good Dinosaur for awhile, and when I say "we," I mean our eight year-old.  But, all three kids and I went on Wednesday before Thanksgiving for a good holiday treat.  I'm not sure if I felt treated at the end.  In sum, our group was mixed.  The youngest and oldest child liked it, but the middle one and I were skeptical.  And we generally aren't skeptical about anything Disney or Disney/Pixar.

The plot, as my fourteen year-old put it, is The Lion King.  As I put it, without the catchy songs or funny comic relief.  Arlo is an Apatosaurus, living in an alternate history universe in which the dinosaur-destroying asteroid did not hit earth.  Now, millions of years later, dinosaurs have developed even further as the top megafauna species and are living in a land that looks a lot like Utah.  Herbivore dinosaurs are now cultivating the soil and growing their own crops, and carnivore dinos are bison ranchers.  They still do not seem to have developed bartering or market economies, but they have developed language.  Anyway, Arlo is the runt of his dino litter, and never seems to be living up to his perceived place in his family unit.  His father is generally very patient and supportive of him, but one day Arlo lets the family down and his father loses his life in a flash flood in a canyon trying to fix Arlo's mistake (almost identical in visuals to the Lion King stampede scene).  Soon after, Arlo is separated from his homestead and has to make his way in the frightening mountains by himself, until he is befriended by a "critter."  This critter is described on the movie site as a human, but I'll leave it to the anthropologists to classify this hominid.  (Critters don't seem to have speech, travel on four legs as often as two, blah, blah, blah.)  Arlo calls him "Spot."  The bulk of the movie is Arlo and (nonverbal) Spot trying to make their way back to the homestead, meeting very strange creatures along the way.

Just as in The Lion King, the writers have to work around the whole "circle of life" thing.  Remember in that movie, we mostly saw Simba eating bugs and worms with Timon and Pumba, which worked because the audience probably couldn't take Simba stalking a zebra and eating it raw on camera.  Here, Arlo is an herbivore, but Spot is an omnivore.  So, we see Spot eat an iguana, a really big bug, and corn.  The T-Rexes have rounded teeth, and when they fight the raptors, they grab them in their teeth and throw them bloodlessly.  We do not see the T-Rexes eat their "longhorns" (bison).  Also, similar to The Lion King, Arlo's enemies here are scavengers.  Though not hyenas, the pterodactyls have learned to scavenge after the harsh storms, when animals are separated, injured, and scared.  Because they hunt in packs, they seem to be threatening to even large land animals, but especially the critters.

The biggest difference between LK and GD is that GD isn't funny.  At all.  It is sweet and it is touching, but it's not funny.  Spot doesn't talk.  The pterodactyls are not funny.  The T-Rexes are strange, not funny -- more Rango than Disney.  The weirdest character of all is a dinosaur named the "pet collector," as the website calls him.  He is really unsettling and bizarre, but thankfully only on screen for two minutes or so.

The best part of the movie is the amazingly beautiful scenery.  I can't imagine how difficult it is to make animation look this real -- the trees, the water, the dirt, the storm, etc.  The dinosaurs, however, look cartoon-ish.  (I never would have guessed Apatosaurus, for example.)  Arlo looks more like Dino from the Flintstones than an actual dinosaur.  Someone made a decision that the dinosaurs needed to look cute -- either for merchandising purposes or to avoid confusion with Disney's realistic-looking 2000 Dinosaur or the very realistic-looking 2013 Walking with Dinosaurs, or both.  The result is a landscape that is very realistic and beautiful, and a made-for-plush dinosaur population.  

The more we thought about the movie afterward, the more we weren't sure we liked it.  I can't imagine that it will be on our "can we buy the DVD?" list.

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November 25, 2015
icon Europe Proposes To Create A European FDIC
Posted by David Zaring

Creating a continent wide deposit insurance program is interesting because of its American antecedent.  The FDIC is one of two ways that America's entirely state-regulated banking system became, in essence, entirely federalized (the other one emerged through the Fed's oversight of bank holding companies).  Once you have an insurer on the hook for making your depositors whole if you disappear, you have an institution that is going to want to inspect your books and interview your executives.  And the EU commissioner who proposed it is British, one of the countries least enamored of the emerging EU agencies who are taking over from local banking regulators.  It is quite the rejection of federalism.

Permalink | Finance, Financial Institutions, Globalization/Trade | Comments (View) | Bookmark

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