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Despair over financial policy

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 23:12 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons

[Quote:]

The Geithner plan has now been leaked in detail. It’s exactly the plan that was widely analyzed — and found wanting — a couple of weeks ago. The zombie ideas have won.

The Obama administration is now completely wedded to the idea that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system — that what we’re facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank. As Tim Duy put it, there are no bad assets, only misunderstood assets. And if we get investors to understand that toxic waste is really, truly worth much more than anyone is willing to pay for it, all our problems will be solved.

[..]

But it’s immediately obvious, if you think about it, that these funds will have skewed incentives. In effect, Treasury will be creating — deliberately! — the functional equivalent of Texas S&Ls in the 1980s: financial operations with very little capital but lots of government-guaranteed liabilities. For the private investors, this is an open invitation to play heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose. So sure, these investors will be ready to pay high prices for toxic waste. After all, the stuff might be worth something; and if it isn’t, that’s someone else’s problem.


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  1. Well, the halo tarnished pretty fast, and it turned out that Obama is just a politician like the rest.
    For all the change and hope and hype, nothing really changed at all.

Cartoons

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 16:59 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon


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KBR Says Abiding By U.S. Laws Puts it At a ‘Competitive Disadvantage’

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 12:57 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ

[Quote:]

In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, former Halliburton unit KBR complained that it will be at a “competitive disadvantage” to win “large-scale” international contracts because it is being forced to comply with U.S. laws. 


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  1. Well, former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney wasn’t interested in complying with US laws when he was Vice President, so why would they want to start now? I see this as “fruit from the poisoned tree”.

Follow the Leader

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 12:53 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

[Quote:]

Do you see a process for the continuance of rituals among Homo sapiens in this little experiment? I do. Please notice that I didn’t ask about the origin of rituals. That’s another question. I do think this experiment also puts question of the value of ritual on the table: value for the learning and enculturation of young, considerable; value for adult activity, little or none. Yes, yes, I am over interpreting the experiment. Yes, it did not involve adult Homo sapiens who, I think, would likely have acted more like the chimps than did the young Homo sapiens. But the experiment does raise as many questions as it answers. I’m trying to figure out if my questions are among them

[Quote:]

The child in this video is presented with task by a foreign person with authority who shoews her what to do while being filmed. If the experiment had concluded with the anthropologist stepping out of the room, leaving the child alone with the box, I can almost guarantee that she would NOT have gone through the elaborate sequence – she would have gone straight for the candy.


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  1. The only ritual I see in the sequence is the “tapping” with the rod. My own suspicion is that if you repeated the “experiment” with an adult (suitable reward) you would get the same result as with the child. The “reward” is driving the “behavior”, and if you give the adult only one chance at the reward, he / she is going to “tap”.

Too big to fail

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 12:11 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture

picture-1


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Pub evacuated after Monty Python prop mistaken for grenade

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 11:30 by John Sinteur in category: Funny!

[Quote:]

Water company engineers spotted the object when they lifted up a fire hydrant cover during work on a street in Shoreditch, east London.

The road was cordoned off and a nearby pub was evacuated amid fears that the “grenade” could explode.

After nearly an hour of examination by bomb experts, they counted to three. No more. No less. Three was the number they counted, and the number they counted was three. Four they did not count, nor two, except to proceed to three. Five was right out. Once the number three had been reached, being the third number, they declared that the grenade was actually a copy of the “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch” used in the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail.


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The Big Takeover

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 10:55 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons

[Quote:]

The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution .

Long but good read…


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Off With the Bankers

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 10:43 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons

[Quote:]

A.I.G. can hardly claim that its generous bonuses attract the best and the brightest. So instead, it defends the payments by arguing they’re needed to retain employees who are crucial for winding down transactions that are “difficult to understand and manage.” In other words, only the people who stuck the knife into the American International Group can neatly extract it for a decent burial.

There is no reason to believe this.

Similar arguments made during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when currencies and stock markets collapsed in much of Southeast Asia, turned out to be a smokescreen to protect the executives who were partly responsible for the mess. Recovery from that crisis required Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand to close or consolidate banks. In all three countries, bankers protested, claiming that their connections with borrowers were critical to recovery.

In South Korea, cozy relationships between banks and the large conglomerates called chaebols were a major reason for the crisis. But after the crisis hit, Korean bankers and companies insisted that the complexity of chaebols like Samsung and LG — with their many separate but interwoven businesses — meant that outsiders would not be able to distinguish good loans from bad.

In Thailand, some argued that the preponderance of family-owned businesses — and the lack of clarity about precisely which family members were really in charge — meant that only bankers already working in big institutions like Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank could determine which borrowers were creditworthy.

The leaders of Thailand and South Korea did not listen to such arguments, and thank goodness. Some of the leading Thai banks were taken over by the government. After the crisis, a civil servant in charge of one such bank noted that its bad loans were much bigger than had been indicated before the takeover, largely because of an internal coverup. Only when outsiders took over did the public discover the full scope of the losses.


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Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 10:27 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote:]

Elizabeth Eisenstein’s magisterial treatment of Gutenberg’s invention, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, opens with a recounting of her research into the early history of the printing press. She was able to find many descriptions of life in the early 1400s, the era before movable type. Literacy was limited, the Catholic Church was the pan-European political force, Mass was in Latin, and the average book was the Bible. She was also able to find endless descriptions of life in the late 1500s, after Gutenberg’s invention had started to spread. Literacy was on the rise, as were books written in contemporary languages, Copernicus had published his epochal work on astronomy, and Martin Luther’s use of the press to reform the Church was upending both religious and political stability.

What Eisenstein focused on, though, was how many historians ignored the transition from one era to the other. To describe the world before or after the spread of print was child’s play; those dates were safely distanced from upheaval. But what was happening in 1500? The hard question Eisenstein’s book asks is “How did we get from the world before the printing press to the world after it? What was the revolution itself like?”


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  1. The lack of an historical perspective makes difficult to think about or understand the future. Is this really the end of the printed newspaper? Perhaps not.

    “Mistaking evolution for revolution”

    http://artzen2.com/artzen2-0115.htm

Better Software Through Less UI

Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 10:15 by John Sinteur in category: Software

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I spent quite a bit of time creating mockups. While they technically satisfied the requirements, none of them struck me as being elegant or easy to use. For one thing the designs always required the user to translate a simple thought into many small interface manipulations. Sure, this is true with any user interface, but it seemed especially true for this problem. From the very beginning, a goal for The Hit List has been to create an application that is as frictionless as possible. I wanted the application to make the most out of each user interaction.

Not being satisfied, and after throwing away all of my mockups and even code, I went back to the drawing board. I’m glad I did because here is the end result:

repeating_task_1

There is no myriad of buttons and fields to choose from. All the user has to do is directly type in what he wants.


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