Tag Archives: money

Junk Bonds and Drexel Burnham Lambert is today’s failure

So, for those of you who don’t know how bonds work, they basically come in different grades, AAA being the Bonds with the lowest risks, also those with the lowest interest, you get more they more risk you take, pretty standard mode of operation in the amazing world of finance.

So for instance bonds from for instance the Kingdom of Denmark are AAA bonds, corporate bonds from IBM or General Electric would usually be AAA, none of these instances are likely to go down in flames.

On the other end of the scale, you’ve got junk bonds, extremely high risk loans from companies that are basically a few steps away from being pornography studios and old school pawn shops, the interest rates are high, so obviously so are the profit, if the loaner can pay of course, which they couldn’t always do.

Now, Junk Bonds still exist to this day, but they true Golden Age was the age of Michael Milken of Drexel Burnham Lamber, the company itself was a shadow of former glories, a mid-range player in a world of giants, consigned to a slow but steady existence on the borders of the world of wealth.

Michael Milken knew people, people with money, and managed to literally network his way to starting an insane bonanza of Junk Bonds, backing the Leveraged Buyouts of the 80’s.

A Leveraged Buyout is a version of the Management Buyout, just with a lot more loans, a lot less secured, and sadly, the party of Leveraged Buyouts ended and Drexel ended up with a nice big pile of toxic junk bonds, you can probably guess the rest of that story.

Turns out that Milken had been “milking” the company for millions of dollars, taking kickbacks, the whole package of illegal shit you shouldn’t do. Drexel died, Milken got send to jail.

The story ends, with Michael Milken doing lectures on the dangers of Junk Bonds while enjoying all the money he somehow managed to keep.

Bridges to Nowhere are today’s many Failures

Bridges to Nowhere comes in many different configurations and permutations, some of them are basically excusable, for instance bridges that have been partially destroyed in a war, some were built as a form of future proofing with vague plans of roads and other infrastructure coming later on, other’s are just stupid prestige projects.

Putin just added me to his list of low priority targets, I probably shouldn’t ever to Russia now.

One good example of the stupid prestige project is the Russky Bridge in Vladivostok in, you guessed it, Russia. Build to connect Vladivostok with, again perfectly obvious, Russky Island.

It cost roughly a billion US$ or so, with a rough capacity of some fifty thousand cars per day, the problem? Oh right, Russky island have like five thousand people living on it.

Reason for failure: I suppose it didn’t fail for the companies that built the overprice useless bridge nor the politician that could point to a big shiny monstrosity. It did fail the people of Russia, as it was utterly and totally useless, built really just to impress foreign dignitaries at some conference no one remembers anymore.

Nowhere? No, Bridge to Lighthouse! PURPOSE!

Another example of a prestige project is the Saint Elmo’s Bridge in Valletta, Malta, played as a restoration project of a bridge destroyed by the Italians during World War Two, it just goes to a breakwater and a lighthouse, utterly pointless beyond the tourist value and the deck keeps getting damaged, so closure happens with tiresome regularity.

Whole project cost 2,8 million €, seems kinda pricey, but hey, URBAN RENEWAL, URBAN RENEWAL! ARGHH!

This one was built as part of a conspiracy by J.P. Morgan (Not the bank, the man the bank is named after) and the fucking Guggenheims to keep Alaska from gaining statehood.

Yeah, the Miles Glacier Bridge was originally a railroad bridge, constructed for the purpose of transporting copper from a mine inland to the Alaskan coast, after the depression the copper prices crashed and rendered the line to expensive to maintain.

The railroad fell apart, the bridge was actually re-purposed as a road bridge, however, the road on the far-side basically didn’t exist and a flood damaged one of the truss sections, so now it is a Bridge to Nowhere, however again, it did actually pay itself off, it cost 1.4 million US$ to built back in 1910 and around 200 million US$ worth of copper was extracted before it all went to shit.

So it wasn’t a total waste.

Then we have bridges that were blown up during World War Two and never rebuilt.

The Yalu River Broken Bridge was blown up in World War Two and the North Koreans dismantled their side of the Bridge, probably because the it was right next to the bridge you can see in the background of the above picture.

The Chinese turned their side into a historical landmark.

Then the Chinese built this actually very lovely Bridge.

In a valiant attempt to actually do something good for the poor sods in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China built a very pretty bridge with all the infrastructure and shiny shit needed.

On their side, the Koreans built a small gravel path linking the bridge to: NOWHERE.

Sure, Xi Jinping has promised that his government will now pay for the infrastructure on the Korean side too, because he basically has to do everything for the utterly broken North Korean economy.

There’s been bridges in both Norway and New Zealand with the same story, built to serve areas that didn’t get populated at all and now simply remain as curiosities for random people out for a nice walk in the countryside.

Germany had a motorway bridge that was built in 1966 but wasn’t actually connected until 1994, frankly, that was a bit to much planning, the maintenance cost of keeping that around for that long probably wasn’t worth it.

Bridges to Nowhere are delightful little stories, often failure, sometimes grand conspiracies and sometimes cute.