Ender’s Arena

After a speedy game of old favorite War at Sea in which the brilliant and extraordinarily handsome Axis admiral took advantage of Ender’s inexplicable failure to control the Mediterranean in order to steal an early Turn 5 Axis Major Victory, it was decided that we would give the Avalon Hill classic Gladiator a try.

Ender’s first attempt in the Arena was remarkably short, coming as it did to a speedy end in the fifth phase of the first turn. His medium gladiator, Felix, was arguably the most inaptly named gladiator to ever stumble across the sands of the Colosseo. Felix collided twice with my champion Varius, a light gladiator who didn’t wear much armor but carried a large shield that gives +2 Impact Factors. Felix stumbled after the first collision, at which point Varius charged him, crashed into him behind the weight of that large shield, and Felix was out cold. Ender was more amused than disgusted, but wouldn’t even bother to consult the Moment of Truth chart to determine the unlucky Felix’s fate. *schlunk*

The undefeated Varius, whose wins date back over a period of ten years thanks to some old battles with Big Chilly and the Missile Digit, next met Ender’s light, but brawny Aptus. Aptus quickly put his massive +4 Strength to work, smashing into Varius and stunning him, then methodically bashing Varius’s large shield to bits. Varius repeatedly sought to get positional advantage to counteract the stun penalty he could not seem to shake, but to little avail.

After a few furious engagements, the two gladiators found themselves facing each other. Varius was vision-impaired, bleeding from a serious head wound, and was lacking both his shield and his weapon, which had been knocked from his grasp when parrying a thunderous head stroke. Aptus had clearly been getting the better of the combat, but was badly wounded in the chest due to four targeted attacks that had been inadequately blocked. Varius managed to elude Aptus’s subsequent charge and circled around behind to retrieve his sword, then immediately spun around to score with an all-or-nothing thrust to the chest that brought Aptus to death’s door.

In the first two phases of the fifth turn, Aptus tried to retreat, but Varius successfully anticipated his loss of nerve and forced two more engagements that both came within a single point of finishing Aptus off. But in the third phase, Varius made the mistake of sidestepping forward while Aptus turned and plowed straight ahead into the smaller, lighter, and shieldless gladiator. The combination of strength, shield, and movement advantages gave Aptus a +7 mod to the collision roll; Ender picked the perfect time to roll boxcars for a 19 that sent Varius sprawling unconscious on the bloody sands.

We were in accord that Varius merited Missus, as his Attack CF – Defense CF was +44 in only eight engagements. But the fans in the Colosseo were apparently in a bloodthirsty mood that day, as they nevertheless turned their thumbs down. *schlunk* And Varius the light gladiator was no more.

And now Spain

First Greece. Then Portugal. Now Spain. It shouldn’t be long before Ireland’s credit rating appears in the news, as per RGD.

Spain’s credit rating was cut to AA from AA+ by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. The outlook is negative, S&P said.

It’s going to go lower than AA….

Here we go again

Another much-ballyhooed bazooka fails:

“We have gone past the point of no return,” said Jacques Cailloux, chief Europe economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland.“There is a complete loss of confidence. The bond markets are in disintegration and it is getting worse every day. “The ECB has been side-lined in the Greek crisis so far but do you allow a bond crash in your region if you are the lender-of-last resort? They may have to act as contagion spreads to larger countries such as Italy. We started to see the first glimpse of that today.”

Mr Cailloux said the ECB should resort to its “nuclear option” of intervening directly in the markets to purchase government bonds. This is prohibited in normal times under the EU Treaties but the bank can buy a wide range of assets under its “structural operations” mandate in times of systemic crisis, theoretically in unlimited quantities.

And here is a perfect example of the inherent danger – and stupidity – in centralizing any form of power. In the pre-Euro days, Greece could have devalued the drakhma and relieved the pressure on its bond market. The effects would have been negative, but limited solely to Greece. Now, thanks to the centralized structure of the EU, the bail-out expense threatens the pocketbooks of Germans and the debt contagion threatens Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and Irish bonds.

The worst thing is that the proposed “emergency” solution involves further centralization, which involves kicking the problem down the road for a while. This means that when the debt issue resurfaces, it will threaten the ECB directly. The ECB would be wise to do what the Fed did not have the courage to do and let Greece default. Unfortunately, wisdom and central bankers appear to be mutually exclusive concepts these days.

I am amused by the continued expansion of the financial analogies, though. First the Fed had a “gun”, then the EU had a “bazooka”. Now the ECB has a “nuclear option”. But, like previous analogical armaments that were brandished so futilely, it can only be perceived as effective so long as it isn’t used. It’s an empty bluff, just like all the previous ones.

Here’s a few more details on the latest in the ongoing Euromeltodown:

ATHENS — Greece was pushed to the brink of a financial abyss and started dragging another eurozone country – Portugal – down with it Tuesday, fueling fears of a continent-wide debt meltdown. Stocks around the world tanked when ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greek bonds to junk status and downgraded Portugese bonds two notches, showing investors that Greece’s financial contagion is spreading. Major European exchanges fell more than 2.5 percent, and on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average finished down more than 200 points. The euro slid more than 1 percent to nearly an eight-month low.

“We have the makings of a market crisis here,” said Neil Mackinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.

Greece is struggling with massive debt, and with prospects for economic growth weak it could end up in default. Its 15 eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund have tried to calm the markets with a euro45 billion rescue package, but it hasn’t worked.

Standard & Poor’s warned that holders of Greek debt could take large losses in any restructuring, but a greater worry is that Greece’s debt crisis is mushrooming to other debt-laden members of the eurozone.

One bailout can be dealt with but two will be stretching it, and there are fears that other weak economies could be pulled down in the Greek spiral – including Europe’s fifth-largest, Spain. Can Germany, Europe’s effective paymaster, continue to bail out the weaker members of the eurozone?

The crisis threatens to undermine the euro and make it harder and more expensive for all eurozone governments to borrow money.

It has also disrupted cooperation between eurozone governments, with Germany resisting the idea of bailing out Greece unless strict conditions are met. Many investors think Greece will have enough money to avoid default in the coming weeks, but the future is cloudier. Both Standard & Poor’s and the Greek finance ministry insisted that the country will have enough money to make the euro8.5 billion bond payments due on May 19.

Beware the post-Ides of May….