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February 25, 2009

Jim Cramer Compares Bank Nationalization to Disastrous Civil War Battle

I'm not a big fan of Cramer's "Mad Money" show. It's "Financial Porn" that I rarely watch; HOWEVER, I happened to be channel surfing last night when I caught a snippet of his show that absolutely floored me with it's insight. It's a long clip (12 minutes), but it's pretty good stuff. Like I said before, I'm not a big fan of his schtick but he's been spot on in evaluating the tempest in the financial system since September.

The Battle of the Crater? July 1864, during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia. If you caught "Cold Mountain" in theatres a few years ago, it featured this particular battle. One of the more innovative ideas from the Civil War that was doomed by piss-poor execution.

My ears always perk up when someone makes an apt analogy between current events and a historical battle, but I've got to nitpick just a little bit. Cramer alleges that General Burnside screwed the pooch by blowing up the Confederate lines with NO plan on how to proceed once the lines were breached. That is definitely NOT the case.

The original plan for this operation was for Union Black troops, under the command of Brig. General Ferrero to skirt the edges of the crater and fan out along the Confederate lines to maximize the size of the breach while the Confederates were still reeling from the initial explosion. At the last minute, General Meade instructed General Burnside to replace these specially trained troops with a White unit, commanded by Brig. General Ledlie. Unfortunately, Ledlie didn't bother to instruct his troops on how to exploit the breach (and reportedly spent the whole battle drunk & sitting behind the lines), so they simply charged into the crater and secured its edges. Once the Confederates recovered from their initial shock & counterattacked, Ledlie's troops were in no position to repulse their attack and were slaughtered. Of course, since this WAS the Civil War, Burnside responded to this event by sending Ferrero's specially trained troops down into the crater to shore up Ledlie's doomed men. All this did was add to the casualties on the Union side. According to the reference material I looked at last night, the total casualties on both sides were 3,793 Union troops and 1,182 Confederate troops (between 200 and 300 of them were killed in the initial blast). What should have been a major reversal of fortune for the Confederacy turned into a stalemate where the Union/Confederate casualty ratio was greater than three to one.

Cramer's analogy says that nationalizing the banks is a bad idea similar to the Union's plan in this battle. The truth is that any plan to nationalize banks is WAY WAY worse than the planning that went into that battle: The battle was the result of a brilliant idea that was poorly executed, while bank nationalization is a poor idea that will be poorly executed.

There, now don't you feel better about the people running our government? Glad I could help.

(Even though I didn't watch the whole show, I thought this would be a better topic for a post than summarizing what I DID watch. "Magnum Force" was on AMC last night, and I'm a big time sucker for the first 3 "Dirty Harry" movies.)

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posted by Russ from Winterset at 07:31 AM

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