The Tide Is High, But the Downturnaround Is Holding On

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GM Rick Wagoner promises, from the bottom of his heart, that he won't be back.
Photo: AP

This is shaping to be another of those weeks — years? — not to look at the Dow, unless your livelihood depends on it (in which case we suggest you get a new livelihood). We recommend pretending you live in L.A., where months go by without anyone mentioning the stock market. Or reading only the Downturnaround, which continues to contend that beneath the pounding waves of bad news, you can still feel undertow of recovery and vitality. To wit, we'll borrow a phrase we read in the comments section of Barry Ritholtz's blog, the Big Picture: "Hopelessness may be fun to write about, but it's not hard wired into the human brain."

Some of the reasons to keep it all together this week are: Airfares are ridiculously cheap, there is evidence that our bankers may be less dumb than other bankers (!), and both the German people and the beleaguered Noel family are showing sturdy resilience that we can all take as an example.

• Overheard yesterday outside the Bryant Park fashion tents: "I know the world is coming to an end, but I have friends — well-connected people who grew up on Park Avenue — whose kids did not get into kindergarten." We know, cry me a river, but we consider it a positive economic indicator that there remains a surplus of parents willing to pay 30K-plus per year to send their kids to private school.

• People's Express is back, except now it's called JetBlue. Whoa, are the fares low! Unfortunately, a lot of them are to places that not even the Downturnaround has an interest in visiting (Syracuse, Rochester), but we also saw a $49 one-way fare to Burlington, Vermont (ahh, the slopes of Stowe!), and just $89 to Fort Lauderdale, which is an especially good deal, considering one could probably save on hotels by shacking up in a foreclosed McMansion! [JetBlue]

• In the midst of one of those economic analyses that makes your blood run cold, financial expert John Mauldin throws the Downturnaround a bone: "This Monday I fly out to Colorado Springs to look at a very intriguing high-tech start-up. As gloomy as this letter was, there are so many cool opportunities to get involved with new companies with truly world-changing technologies. Maybe it is just serendipitous, but I am seeing more exciting possibilities than I ever have." [Big Picture]

• For those who take comfort in believing that American bankers aren't the stupidest people on earth, consider that at least they didn't recklessly shovel our deposits into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc countries, where the economies are seriously sucking wind. [Bloomberg]

• One valuable function of recessions is that they purge the economy of useless rituals like corporate gatherings where they the give the guy who wrote Good to Great (which included bankrupt Circuit City in its list of "great companies," by the way) $75K to give a talk he's done so many times he can recite it in his sleep. [NYT]

• Germany's economy isn't quite as crappy as ours, but they've got problems: They've resorted to paying people to scrap their old cars, to spur the sales of new ones. Plus, they're in a monetary union with totally busted economies like Ireland and Greece, the sovereign equivalents of GM and AIG. But Germans aren't dragging their asses around. They're gaining confidence. Let's steal some of their steely resolve. [Bloomberg]

• Hey hey hey, the economy is not slipping into the toilet quite as it was before. [NYT]

• Sure, the Japanese bank Nomura has lost billions and laid off staff worldwide, all the usual stuff banks are up to these days. But in New York, they're doing something very strange, according to the Economist: Nomura's on a "hiring binge" in New York. Now those are two words we haven't seen strung together in a while. [Economist]

• All right, if the Noels — that once-fabulous Greenwich clan that served essentially as Madoff's chief marketing officers — can continue to hit the social circuit and dine out at Swifty's even as they face a lifetime of being hounded by lawsuits, a liquidation of most if not all of their precious assets, and a reputation that makes Ivan Boesky look like a candidate for sainthood by comparison, well, what reason do you have for letting the recession get you down? [NYP]