Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Allowing People to Fail Upwards

The world is a strange place these days. Social and societal norms have been turned upside down. This is the only explanation when people who have failed are rewarded for that failure. Here are three examples:

1. Timothy Geitner:
Mr. Geitner was sent to Asia to fix the Asian Economic Crisis (Thailand and Indonesia) when things went south in the late 1990's. Many in the know say that his policies made things worse for Asia, not better. Instead of being sacked, he was made head of the New York Federal Reserve. Under his leadership, or lack thereof, Wall Street and the financial system the NY Fed oversaw has seized up and collapsed leaving millions of investors and the institutions that they invested with poorer. He's now been made Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.

2. Larry Summers:
Every economic belief the man believes in is wrong. What are the chances that a 60 year old academic will have the courage to refute his own conceptual framework and belief system in spite of events proving everything he believes in regarding economics wrong? This was the question posed by William Black at UCLA this summer (see the previous post for that lecture). His answer was, "It's not going to happen". He is now the Director of the White House's National Economic Council.

3. Ben Bernanke:
Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, now reappointed. The man who should have seen the Great Depression II coming, didn't. Imagine the captain of the Titanic steaming at full speed towards the iceberg despite warnings of ice ahead. After striking the iceberg, the ship continues along at a slower speed taking on water, but the boilers are fully stoked and the engines are still set to full speed. Instead of pumping the water overboard, steerage and second class passengers are tossed overboard as well as nonessential crew such as the band. The ship will be lighter and float for a time, but the ship has not been repaired or fixed, and water is still flooding the hull. How is this analogy different from the economic ship of State we call the United States of America? We've sacrificed the poor, lower middle class, and possibly the middle class, while transferring wealth in the form of present and future tax revenues and people's homes, to the wealthy investors and managers of the financial institutions who caused this mess. But likely these measures have just bought those managers and investors time to earn a few more million before the firms go officially bankrupt, even though they are likely underwater even now. We have no social safety net for the taxpayers and the poor other than unemployment benefits. Few families can afford to live on unemployment for as long as this economic depression will last. The benefits will likely run out long before the depression ends and the economy recovers. Yet, we've just reappointed Bernanke to his old job at the Fed.

Failure at the highest corporate and government levels has been rewarded, not punished. Corporate losses (banking and nonbanking) have been socialized, while the profits have been privatized. Control and accounting fraud are still rampant (the ratings agencies aren't fixed, the regulators aren't regulating, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act hasn't been repealed). In short, the system is still broken and people are still throwing money at the problem. The Fed is trying to fix a Housing Bubble collapse by creating another bubble. This is an insane solution to the problem. The normal solution would be to put insolvent banks into receivership, wipe out the creditors (shareholders and bondholders), and make depositors whole while sacking the current management. Fixing the rating agencies and the ratings system will stop the ongoing accounting and control fraud (financial fraud). While costly, the solution is much less risky and costly than what the Fed and the government are doing now. William Black knows this. Others in power do as well. The question is, why are we not taking the rational course, but repeating the mistakes of the recent past? Is this the reward for rewarding incompetence and failure?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How We Americans Got To This Point

This Max Keiser interview is one of the most entertaining and outspoken videos I have seen about the Great Financial Crisis.

This William Black talk entitled "This Economic Disaster" is the best informational lecture I have seen thus far on what happened and what is happening now. Black has a very informed perspective. He refutes the CRA argument of Republicans and makes a good argument that Americans are rewarding failure in government and in the private sector. Our leaders have no backbone.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Divine and the Manifest

Inspired by George Breed over at Embodying Spirit:

There is the Divine and the Manifest. People believe that they are separate, but the Manifest is a subset of the Divine, issued from the Divine, and would not exist without the Divine. So, to state that "All is Divine" is making a subtle point that Nothing exists without the Divine. Energy comes in two forms - potential and kinetic, but these are just distinctions made for the sake of convenience. The same is true of the Divine and the Manifest.


People cheapen the word Divine, but they have also cheapened the Divine itself because they don't know the Divine except in brief instances or moments when their minds let their guard down. A word is just a pointer to the larger experience or reality. The problem is mistaking the word or label for the thing itself, especially if the thing is not material like energy or Consciousness. How then would one point people to the truth or larger reality without any signs or labels to direct them to the truth? The word fire is not the thing it points to, yet everyone knows what fire is because they have experienced it. Is this true when people talk of the Divine?

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Hubble Ultradeep Field in 3D

The Hubble Ultradeep Field in 3D.

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It's Hurricane Season Again

It's that time of year again. I wonder if the Gulf rigs and production facilities will be hit hard this year. If so, the price will go up in spite of all the oil that is stockpiled in oil tankers and storage facilities.


Tropical Storm Ana via stormpulse.com


















Hurricane season has just started. We aren't even at the peak yet.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

What We Lost a Few Weeks Ago

How does one convey to others the loss one feels when the other person may not have ever experienced what you have? It seems to me that each succeeding generation will become poorer in many ways than the previous generation. This poverty especially applies to finite resources such as fisheries, land, water, and clean air, since a finite supply of anything divided by a growing population converges to zero at some point thereby causing the population to crash if that supply is food or water. But what about the intangibles like ethics and people? How does one tell another how much Walter Cronkite, Eric Servareid, or Jules Bergman, meant to him or her? How we've lost not only the people, but the trade they practiced. Lion Calandra has one nice Cronkite editorial, while Frank Rich has another entitled, And That’s Not the Way It Is. Here is Walter Cronkite's goodbye. Eric Sevareid's eloquent and emotional farewell is almost unparalleled even today, and people today would seldom hear such a speech by any journalist or public speaker. I miss those men and their colleagues. Very few journalists have the courage to speak truth to power these days. Most are just mouthpieces and cheerleaders for the government and corporate spin machines. It's rather scary how the future is turning out. It's part 1984 and part Rollerball, - corporate control and hegemony with the government as a mouthpiece, facade, and enabler. I'd include Fahrenheit 451, but who needs to burn books when you can digitize all of them, and then censor or delete the digital copies from the server or database it resides on. If some computer scientists have their way, future children won't have to read or write because a computer will tell them what they want to know, or a machine will write their essays for them. Then people really will be sheeple from cradle to grave.

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Tech Misdirection

I've about had it with netbooks. OLPC created netbooks for poor children in the developing world as a substitute for textbooks and to impart typing skills which would mean the difference between being a clerk who earned a lot more money and being a farmer, herder, or some other low income occupation. David Pogue pointed out that the XO laptop had many features that normal laptops lacked such as excellent power consumption (2 watts), a very bright screen readable in bright sunlight, mesh wireless networking, excellent security software, flash storage, and on and on, breakthrough after breakthrough. Yet, Microsoft and Intel tried and likely succeeded in killing the XO laptop. The XO laptop ran a version of Linux called Sugar, not Windows. Windows couldn't have run on an XO. It's a hog. This couldn't be tolerated since if children learned to how to use Linux and free software, they would not be future Microsoft customers. So Microsoft lowered the price of Windows overseas to $3 per license. Intel couldn't let the XO live either because it used an AMD chip that needed little power. Intel chips are power hungry. Microsoft and Intel have a symbiotic relationship. Microsoft sells bloated software that needs more processing power for each new version and Intel needs to sell chips to support each new Microsoft release. It's a synergistic partnership for them. For the consumer, it's a fleecing.

So, why am I still angry. Because tech writers are still waxing enthusiastic over netbooks, or complaining that they aren't big enough. Most netbooks now ship with Windows and they are priced at $300-400. They are growing in size because consumers want bigger displays. The market for them has shifted from the poor to the comparatively rich. It is not worth it for someone to buy a netbook unless they are giving one to a student. You can get almost the same functionality from your smartphone, and for $200-300 more, you can get a laptop that has more storage, a bigger display and a larger, more comfortable keyboard. But all of this is lost on most people. It's kind of sad really, how two tech giants have successfully killed a charity and transformed a low power, secure, and cheap educational laptop for children in poor countries into a pricey, cramped, crippled, insecure, and power hungry laptop for kids and everyone else.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Stormy Morning in Texas (about 0530 July 30, 2009)

Rare Texas Morning Thunderstorm (July 30, 2009 around 0530)
















Lightning Footage

video


This last video is the rain coming down. If you are having a drought, you might wish to play it to encourage the local rain god.

Rain

video



I think La Nina is the likely cause of all of our rain this summer.

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