Friday, December 27, 2013

Banker's Notes 2013: Top 10 Best, Worst and Lessons Learned

In its inaugural year, Banker's Notes experienced the bliss of briefly going viral as well as the bust of boring posts. Below is the Banker's Notes Top 10 Best, Worst and Lesson Learned from 2013.

1) Most Insightful Commentary: Thank you +David Rider

BNer David Rider blessed Banker's Notes this year by not only reading the posts, but thoughtfully commenting, as in this one after the Panic of 1907 article:

2) Most Fun Email Received in Response to a Post: +Julie Kinloch and JP Morgan Jr Fights for his Life with the Help of His Powerful Wife, posted Sep 8

This post, detailing the failed assassination attempt on banker JP Morgan Jr, inspired the most interesting emails, such as this one from Julie Kinloch: "that one was fuckin fabulous and i love how he was wielding a pistol and a PhD from Cornell."

3) Most Supportive Parents: +Bill and Julie Wick

I want to give a shout out to my parents who not only signed up to receive (and consistently read!) Banker's Notes, but also recruited several of you to join as well. Thank you Mom and Dad!

4) Oldest Friend Reconnection: +Christine Cadrecha

Through Banker's Notes, I was able to reconnect with perhaps my oldest friend in the world, my one-time neighbor Christine Cadrecha. When we lived down the street from each other in Burlington, Vermont, we used to play pool in her basement and then swim in the pool in her backyard. Now we wade in the pool of the healthcare debate, thanks to the Banker's Notes post about the birthday of economist Kenneth Arrow, who said "There's really no logical relation whatever between employment and health care..."

5) Most Corrected Post: Federal Credit Union Act is Passed, posted Jun 25

In this post, I think I let my personal feeling that credit unions should be taxed just like banks cloud my reporting. Thankfully, I received this corrective comment from a careful reader who randomly found Banker's Notes. Our exchange is below:

6) Most Google+ Recommendations: Panic of 1907 vs. Crisis of 2008, posted Nov 18

This essay was inspired by a speech by +Ben Bernanke, and it not only received the most recommendations, it was also re-posted on the website One of the longer BN posts, it showed me that telling how we got to where we are, even on the dry topic of central banking, can be interesting and not just to me!

This post also benefited from a retweet from New Jersey banker +Jeff Marsico.

7) Most Community Building: Wilmington Coup D'Etat, posted Nov 10

While this post did not receive many pageviews, it demonstrated the power of the internet to build community. Through it, I was introduced to Wilmington filmmaker Chris Everett who is creating a documentary on the Wilmington Coup D'Etat. You can learn more about his film "Wilmington on Fire" and his kickstarter campaign here.

8) The Best: The Alaska Appropriations Affair, posted Oct 20

This story about the House of Representatives' refusal in the 1860s to pay Russia for our purchase of Alaska (even after we celebrated its inclusion as a US territory) received the most pageviews.

I think what made this post the most popular was the strong link between historical and current events. When it posted, our government had just shutdown because Congress had similarly refused to pay for ObamaCare even after the law's blessing by the Supreme Court.

This post also benefited from a retweet from +Alex Tabarrok, an economics professor at George Mason University and founder of the blog Marginal Revolution.

9) The Worst: Ad Man Bell Bernach: "The truth isn't the truth until people believe you", posted Aug 17

With three piddly pageviews (most likely all from me!), this story commemorating the birth of the inventor of the "Mikey" Life Cereal commercials was the least popular post. From this experience, I came to appreciate the wisdom of the ancient adage "embedded video does not an interesting post make." There are no shortcuts in blogging!

10) My Favorite Banker's Notes Post of 2013: Ship of Gold, posted Aug 24

I think my most favorite post of 2013 was the "Ship of Gold." This story delighted because when it came to a choice between life and money, survivors of this sinking ship chose life.

Did you have a favorite post this year?

If you have any thoughts on Banker's Notes--what worked well and especially what could work better in 2014--I hope that you will comment on this post, or email me!

As always thanks for reading!

Banker's Notes will be back Sunday Jan 12 (I'm on a 10-day meditation retreat Dec 27-Jan 7). Until then, Happy New Year to you!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

'Tis the Season for Opinons: Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807

President Jefferson addressing a group of disgruntled men, as he defends the policy of his Embargo which, combined with the Non-Intercourse Act, was intended to bring about a suspension of foreign commerce. Circa 1808, from

In a December 20 op-ed posted on, commentators Mieke Eoyang and Gabriel Horwitz proclaimed our founding fathers would be "horrified" by the NSA's collection efforts. Specifically, that our third President would be "dismayed" that our government "was doing things that could hurt our competitiveness and our ability to set the terms of global trade."

Perhaps in hindsight, yes. But with the Embargo Act, signed into law on December 22, 1807, Thomas Jefferson did his part to both expand government and limit our global competitiveness.

A ban on trade between the United Kingdom and France was intended as a diplomatic response to these militarily-superior nation's flagrant refusal to honor US neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars. Instead of economic harm to our enemies, however, the policy inflicted a devastating burden on the U.S. economy, while managing only to postpone the war until 1812.

According to historian Leonard Levy, Jefferson's doctrinaire approach to enforcing the embargo violated his own commitment to limited government. It also had the pernicious effect of undermining American citizens' faith that their government could execute its own laws fairly, and strengthened the conviction among America's dissenters that her republican form of government was inept and ineffectual.

After just 15 months, the embargo was revoked on March 1, 1809, in the last days of Jefferson's presidency.

An opinion piece from the time, taken from the Library of Congress, reveals that expanded government--even when enacted by a cherished founding father!--is an idea whose unpopularity stands the test of time. Below one citizen expressed his frustration in an aa bb rhyming pattern. (Oh that all op-eds could be written in verse.)

A Poem about General Washington with Some Remarks on Jeffersonian Policy
Reprinted by Nathaniel Coverly, Boston 1807

But we must all forbear to sigh
Since WASHINGTON was born to die,
He ever was his country's friend
But Washington must have an end
And must it be since he is dead,
That all our happiness is fled;
Behold the dismal change of late,
See JEFFERSON in chair of state.

He took to presidential chair,
And then soon after we did hear,
Of his great doings, and his fame
He sent to France and fetch'd Tom Paine,
To give him counsel and advice
To buy Louisiana with great price,
For want of money sold our ships
I'm sure we all know how he nips

Gunboats--he then went and built
To save men's blood from being spilt
Poor things indeed we all do know,
That ne'er defend us from the foe,
He then exerted all his wits
And laid an embargo on our ships,
And for fear that we should trade
'Gainst Canada embargoes laid.

Great Washington our friend is dead
And Jefferson reigns in his stead,
Much reason then to mourn and sigh,
But Jefferson must die
A man he is a frail one too
At sad experience now doth shew
Then will forsake out present head
And chase a better in his stead.

Banker's Notes would like to wish all of you a very Happy Holidays, and say a big THANK YOU for blessing me by joining the Banker's Notes family this year.

With gratitude,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Dakota

The Dakota, circa 1890, from wikipedia.
The Dakota, circa 1890
In the music world, December 8, 1980 is a truly infamous day. Beatles founder and writer of "Imagine," John Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman in front of Lennon's New York City apartment complex known as the The Dakota.

A born-again Christian, and former Beatles devotee,  Chapman came to view Lennon as a "phony" for imagining a world without possessions, but still having them. "There he was with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, [who] laughed at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music," Chapman told his biographer Jack Jones.

Most people who live in the Dakota, however, have possessions. Completed in 1884, the Dakota was the first high-end apartment complex in the city. Its name was derived from its location, at the time a rural north west corner of Manhattan, "bound on the north and south by humble cottagers," considered as remote as the Dakota territory.

In the second half of the twentieth century, it was a haven for famous artists. Lately, though, they've let in a banker or two like Morgan Stanley CFO Ruth Porat.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama considered nominating Porat as the next Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. It could be said that her possessions killed her nomination.

In March, the New York Times reported that Porat withdrew because she did not want to face questions about her finances, and suffer the kind of acrimonious confirmation process inflicted upon then Treasury Secretary-nominee Jack Lew. (Lew was scrutinized for receiving a bonus from Citigroup at the time the bank was receiving government bailout funds, according to Bloomberg news).

In July, Obama nominated Federal Reserve Board Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin to the deputy post.

Back on December 8, 1980, in breaking the Lennon news, Monday Night Football announcers Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford reminded us things are just things, football just a game.

Gifford: (whistle blows) John Smith is on the line. And I don't care what's on the line, Howard, you have got to say what we know in the booth.

Cosell: Yes, we have to say it. Football is just a game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take. Frank?

Gifford: (after a pause) Indeed, it is.

Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.