A Serial Killer and A Stockbroker: Seems A Good Fit To Me



“OMG! I’m short 50,000 shares of National Widget and they just announced the largest quarterly increase in earnings ever!!!”


In American Psycho, the blood spattered novel by Bret Easton Ellis about a serial killer in New York City in the mid-1980s, the protagonist is a stockbroker. Although the character is an institutional broker, he is still a stockbroker. When the movie came out in 2000, all the guys I knew in the brokerage business agreed that the author had made a wise decision by having his main character, a sociopathic murderer, be a Wall Street broker.

The consensus seemed to be that of all the professions in New York, the most likely one to attract guys with the personalities of serial killers is the brokerage business. Not sure if this is a compliment. Nonetheless, the brokerage business is the only business I know of in which the word “kill” is part of a standard market order.

This phrase is used when you are selling a position but you are not open to negotiation. You offer the merchandise to the counterparty, in this case a buyer, and quote the price as “fill or kill at ninety-three” (or whatever the price is). The counter-party either says “fill” or “kill.” Kind of Freudian, isn’t it?

Christian Bale with sun screen all over his face playing the serial killer and stockbroker in American Psycho. He looks as if someone has just told him he has a margin call in his account.

BTW, the best movie portraying the amorality of Wall Street is the magnificent Margin Call starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Demi Moore. The movie was released at the end of 2011 and somehow didn’t get on the radar screen of moviegoers. But I promise it is worth your while. 5 stars.

[Source: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Image courtesy of Neoseeker.]

Titanic’s Sister Ship Arrives New York City Without Sinking


RMS Olympic


White Star liner RMS Olympic arrives in New York for the first time 21 June 1911.  

Photo courtesy US Library of Congress

Most British passenger liners were built with a subsidy from the Royal Mail to fulfill a secondary but very important role of carrying mail to the USA, Canada and the far flung British Empire.  Hence, RMS stands for “Royal Mail Steamer.”

(After the First World War, most small airlines in the US were subsidized by the US Post Office and that was the beginning of air mail)


White Star line RMS Olympic and her sister ship RMS Titanic probably taken circa 1911.

(Photo credit Titanic Wiki)

The RMS Titanic was her sister ship and built after RMS Olympic. The third ship in the series, originally to be named, Gigantic, had her named changed to Britannic prior to being built. I think this was a good idea, certainly from a PR point of view.


Above is HMHS Britannic in her hospital livery. According to author Sean Munger: “photographs of the Britannic are pretty rare. Here is one, taken about 1915, of the ship decked out in her hospital colors. The funnels would have been painted tan.”

photo courtesy of Sean Munger

Mr. Munger is an authority on these ships and his website can he found here:


Unfortunately, the name change didn’t bring luck. Just after completion, Britannic was requisitioned by the British Government on the outbreak of World War One to serve as a hospital ship and given the prefix “HMHS (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) Britannic”  She hit a mine in the Aegean on 21 November 1916 and sank.

Wreck_of_Britannic_2 - Copy

HMHS Britannic on the bottom of the Aegean Sea. The ship is a war grave since 30 0f the 1,066 passengers and patients aboard perished leaving 1,036 survivors.

(Photo credit Titanic Wiki)

The following info comes from  Titanic Wiki whose website is here: http://titanic.wikia.com/wiki/HMHS_Britannic :

The ship sank in water only 119 meters deep (390 feet),….the ship was almost 900 feet in length……So it is no surprise that–

“…..Britannic’s bow hit the bottom whilst her stern is was above the surface. The last few men who were below decks by now, had left the ship. Fifth Officer Fielding estimated the stern rose  some 150 feet into the air. With all her funnels detached, Britannic finally completed her starboard roll, causing heavy damage to the forward bow area. Britannic slipped beneath the surface almost an hour after she hit the mine.”

[I have changed the tense in the original quote above from present to past]

Since the ship was in the service of the British Government at the time it sank it remains the property of the British government and can’t be dived on without the permission of the British Government. In my mind, far too many warships are explored by divers who do not respect them as war graves and who often seize such equipment as engine telegraphs and other items which can easily be pried off and stolen. There are many details of this in the book Shadow Divers.

As you will recall, RMS Titanic had her unfortunate encounter with an iceberg in 1912 and sank.21 November 1916, and sank 55 minutes later, killing 30 people.

Fortunately, RMS Olympic enjoyed a long and safe life as a passenger steamer and temporary hospital ship and sailed from 1911 to 1935 without a mishap.

As much as we associate Atlantic liners of the era with the wealthy, the shipping firms actually made their money carrying immigrants to the US and Canada. When that stopped so did cash flow. In January of 1934, both the White Star Line and the Cunard Line were about to go under financially. The British government promised to lend them money to build several new ships if they would merge which the two companies did with “almost indecent haste.”

The new ships became the famous Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth which played a major part in World War Two transporting troops. Each ship could carry an entire US Army division of more than 15,000 men. Most US troops sent to Europe were transported on one of these ships. Indeed, so many American military personnel were transported to Europe by the Queens, that the US Government paid the entire operating costs of the ships.

Both liners retained their original Cunard Line officers and crew but their designations changed from RMS--Royal Mail Steamer–to HMT–His Majesty’s Transport–since the two ships were officially taken over my the British Ministry of War Transport.

A very large number of changes were made including a permanent ship’s police force mainly comprising US MPs who were assisted in maintaining order by the MPs assigned to each unit. There was little trouble form the soldiers, most of whom were seasick and were bunked in with their non-commissioned officers who had strict orders to keep everyone in their quarters.

In reasonable weather, the passage took less than four days since both the Queens steamed at maximum speed which was roughly 32 knots…………

You couldn’t walk around the ship as you pleased, not even the Army officers could do that.

Source: Warrior Queens: the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth in World War Two by Daniel Allen Butler.

Germans Wring Hands Over Morality of Using Drones Like the Trigger-Happy USA Does – Part 2

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

Whoa, wait a cotton-picking minute. The Germans invented the prototype of the drone. Gee, they have short memories those Germans.

Walt Disney, left, and Wernher von Braun, right. Dr. Werhner von Braun, then Chief, Guided Missile Development Operation Division at Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, was visited by Walt Disney in 1954. In the 1950’s, von Braun worked with Disney Studio as a technical director, making three films about space exploration for television. A model of the V-2 rocket is in background.

The V-2 was the first ballistic missile — a weapon against which there is still no adequate defense. Von Braun and his team invented the V-2 for the Nazis and over 3,000 of them were fired at Great Britain during the “baby Blitz” of 1944 and at the Allied port of Antwerp. More than 9,000 Allied civilians and soldiers were killed by V-2 attacks.

When the war ended, the V-6 was on the drawing board, being designed to hit New York City.

There is no question that had Nazi Germany produced an atom bomb, Hitler would have dropped it on London. Germany’s surrender on May 8th 1945 saved Berlin from being the recipient of the first atom bomb.

The Allies did not know how far along German nuclear research was. But we certainly knew they were conducting nuclear research in detail which is one of the reasons the British and Royal Norwegian commandos acting under British command went to such lengths to destroy the heavy water plant in Norway.

Neither the US, nor Great Britain, nor the Russians, have, to my knowledge, ever released the documents about the state of nuclear research in Nazi Germany but you can be sure based on the little that is known of these records, that we were scared out of our socks. This is one of the reasons the bombing of Dresden, or anything else the Allies did in World War Two, has never troubled me. We were entitled to do anything and everything to bring down the Nazi state which was the greatest threat to Western civilization since the Turks were stopped at the gates of Vienna.

[Image courtesy of NASA.]

Huey Long Accuses My Grandfather of Eating His Breakfast – Part 2

Part 1Part 2

Hilariously, as this article from the New York Times of December 9th, 1933 will explain, Huey Long told the US Senate that Grandfather had invited him to breakfast then stiffed him with the check. What’s more he said, Grandfather only ordered coffee but then ate most of Huey’s breakfast.

Grandfather was not the type of man to steal someone’s breakfast. While I never knew him, he was a very formal man. I’ve never seen a photograph of him, even at the beach, when he is not wearing a coat and tie. According to my uncle, Huey would come by my grandfather’s home in New York, uninvited, and phone people all over the US, leaving Grandfather with a huge long-distance phone bill. He often invited himself for dinner as well even though he only wore a rumpled suit. In that era Grandfather and the family and guests followed the custom of dressing for dinner in tuxedos. This never bothered Huey. He just sat down at the dining room table and paid no attention to how he was dressed.

According to my uncle, who was a child at the time, Huey was very friendly to him and the other children and that Huey liked children a lot.

The New York Times – 9 December 1933