May 30, 2012

Remember, Remember the 15th of September, or Why Frontline is Truly Must-See-TV

[We now bring you a companion piece to this post]

So, I finally got around to watching the fourth part of the Frontline program chronicling the events, people, politics and culture surrounding the 2008 financial meltdown.  You remember the part from my post about Occupy Wall Street where I said, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention," don't you?  If you watch this video - or better yet go to the PBS website and watch all four parts - and don't want to punch an ATM, then I worry about you.  Also, think about what your vote for Congressman, Senator, and President really means to the regulatory environment in this country and where that leaves your 401(k).  Who is watching the hen house?

May 29, 2012

An Entreaty to the Radicalized Middle, or Another Tired Film Reference...

[Editor's Note: First of all, if you haven't seen the 1976 classic film, Networkand committed this monologue to memory, or the millions of parodies thereof, then you aren't going to get the joke.  Also, we aren't sure we can still be friends with you if you haven't seen, Network.  And, just because it was made 35 or 36 years ago is no excuse.  It came out before we were born, too.  We will also be using the "editorial we" to refer to ourselves in the plural first person.  This is also known as the "royal we" and the "patronizing we."  You decide.]

"I don't have to tell you things are bad.  Everybody knows things are bad...I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot.  I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write...So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it. Stick your head out, and yell, 'I am sufficiently disturbed by the poor quality of information available to me from for-profit media that I will now be sure to be more discerning in my consumption of information vis-a-vis public affairs.  Sorry to bother you.'"
-Paraphrasing Howard Beale

[Attention MGM lawyers, this is fair use.  Suck it.  No, actually don't suck it.  Just go back to suing your customers and claiming more in damages than there is money in the world.]

May 24, 2012

Earnest, But Ultimately Misguided

I too was taken up in the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon when it was a nascent movement. Yes, they had - and still do have - a solid point that needed making and they largely made it well. The financial sector had become a cancer on our society with a bunch of empty suits pushing zeroes around on a balance sheet and extracting fees. There is no value to the economy being created by CDO's, CDS's, and synthetic versions of same. The public should be outraged at what transpired in the financial collapse. It's the old axiom, "If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention."

(Moreover, the criticism of Occupiers not having a coherent message was off base. OWS was a true mass popular movement organized around a single guiding principle, so there was bound to be a lot of different voices speaking up for the group.)

Despite my general agreement...

...I think the OWS movement is largely misguided. While we need to reign in the reckless gambling and exclusionary tactics on Wall Street, but there is a growing mistrust and vilification of finance and capitalism (with a small "c") that is troubling. Historically, a big reason the United States has been such a successful nation by many measures, has been the ease by which we can raise capital to start new ventures, enhance our national welfare, and grow our wealth.

(An aside: If you think it's just a coincidence that the US has dropped from first to tenth in per capita wealth since Wall Street drove our economy off the cliff, then I have some land in Florida I can sell you.) 

Finance, especially as "regular people" are more entrenched in the system through credit purchasing and retirement saving, needs strong, fair, sensible regulation to ensure a level playing field for all comers. But, in demonizing all financial institutions with a broad brush the general public is creating an atmosphere that is more distrusting of the very economic engine that makes us great.

I look at my own life's status, and I can clearly see where the (smart) use of finance has greatly raised my and my family's standard of living. There is no conceivable way that I would posses the education, assets, and piece-of-mind without the application of financial leverage at key times.

We can see this dangerous game playing out in the Presidential campaign, as well as in other less obvious, but ultimately more harmful ways. Exhibit A would be the median age of the typical OWS member.

May 21, 2012

G.I.G.O., or how I coined the phrase Fiction-Based Truth

The tech-savy among you will recognize that the above acronym stands for "garbage-in-garbage-out" and refers to a consequence of bad programming. In other words, if the algorithm is bad, the answer is bad. It applies to people just as much as machines. To wit:

I unwisely waded into a comment thread on FB today. It started so innocuously: a humorous and satirical post by a friend who was lampooning a certain extreme segment of one political party, me adding additional bite to the satire. Then it partly devolved into the predictably shrill flame war wherein people who agree far more than they disagree vilify each other mercilessly. But that's not what is frustrating. What was truly disheartening was realization that the vast majority of the voting public is paying misinformation. Whether it's coming from cable news, or talk radio, or who knows where, most people have their facts utterly wrong and are utterly convinced about the conclusions that they draw from their falsehood. It's data-driven misguidance in the worst way. Truthiness leading to knowiness. I'm calling it Fiction-Based Truth.

May 18, 2012

Another new blog? Contain thy excitement.

A new space to collect interesting things.

May 17, 2012

An Example

Exuberantly immature. Necessary.

May 16, 2012

More Fun With Ze

More fun times with the uber-creative +ze frank. Glad to see him producing a video blog again. The web wasn't quite as much fun since the old show went away.

A Show