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Down, Down, Down

Everything went down today...and everywhere. Except oil which ended at $88 a barrel. Some suit visiting on NPR tried to explain why this was bad. It's not. The decline in crude is the only hopeful sign we've seen in months.  Some businesses may be encouraged to start up and invest again if the petroleum prices permits them to do so.

Well, that's not exactly right. The overstoked stock markets in China and Russia are also plummeting, and the Moscow bourse was forced to stop trading twice during the day. This should give us some confidence that these two government-manipulated exchanges are not immune to the forces that have affected Wall Street and the City. Take whatever joy that is available. But don't go haywire: This may be the last good news we get for the foreseeable future.

At about 2:30 this afternoon, the Dow industrials were down almost 800 points bringing the market to near-9500 and ending up below 10,000 for the first time in years. David Leonhardt argues in the Times on-line that the S & P 500 is a much more salient index than the Dow. It is heading downwards to half its high while the Dow is heading south by only a measly third. You want a calamity: you'll have one.

John Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, made his own calamity. But he cushioned it for himself and his partners by siphoning off millions and millions--no, tens of millions--as bonuses while asking the Fed for rescue from the very choppy waters into which he had pushed his bank. They got the bonuses. But the bank sunk from view.

But I did have some pity for him nonetheless. He was being questioned by Henry Waxman's House committee. Waxman was, as usual, being both pointed and courteous. But two loud mouths--I do not recall their names--put Fuld to the stocks. They wanted him to pillory himself. "Answer 'yes' or 'no'," they bellowed without giving him a second to respond.

Maybe tomorrow's markets will be stronger. I doubt it.