Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ten Trillion Reasons

Your money at work. For them.
It's all about getting information...they call it trading stocks, but it's really trading information. That's what we were doing.

--Turney Duff, former Galleon trader


Just peeped Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, and I'd bet the average person would say it's about the craziest story ever. I'd get that. But Jordan Belfort's slimey infomercial rat-a-tat buggery is chump change compared to the black hole that's the state of finance now.

Yesterday, Frontline aired To Catch a Trader, whose bullseye was puss sack Stevie Cohen (SAC Capital). Given that I've devoted a good amount of time to looking at finance now, not much these days surprises me. One thing did; "expert networks," camouflage for leakers on the inside who personally profit by leaking info (in advance, of course) to traders.

Turney Duff related how he picked up a call intended for Rajaratnam with a tip on Amazon. Raj wasn't around, so Duff took the call and the info. It being his first experience with insider rigging, he hung up and wondered what he should do.

He ended up placing a bet and "making" 500 g's in 30 minutes.

But it's what Duff says after this that's key, and I paraphrase: "I thought, 'Gee, if I could get a call like this every day, I could be a great trader too.' So I determined that I needed my own 'whisper guy' too."

Poker players don't cheat. In fact, gamblers are, at least when it comes to gambling, some of the most ethical and honest people I've ever encountered. But in this EM08 world where up is down, gangster dons like JPMC, Goldman and HSBC get away with historic looting, while nothing is done to police them -- even in the wake of their historic crimes! Meanwhile, walk into a Vegas casino and you'll have a camera up your ass and are surveilled at every turn.


Today, about half a decade after EM08's initial rumblings, we've reached another historic mark: aggregate U.S. debt (fed, state, muni, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, auto...): sixty trillion. There is, simply, no turning back.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Greatest Read, Ever: Stanislav Petrov

One of the most important skills is reading, not literacy-wise, but assessing information in order to make decisions, to act. Athletes, coaches, entrepreneurs, politicians, school counselors, shrinks, investors, parents... all of us in one way or another make decisions based upon reads of situations.

Here's back to back world poker champion Johnny Chan making one of the most incredible lay downs ever. For those non-poker players, a lay down is when you fold, or quit your hand, and here Chan is dealt pocket aces, the optimum starting hand in poker's "cadillac of games, Texas Hold 'Em (dubbed by two-time world champ, Doyle Brunson in his seminal book on poker,  "Super System," who's in the cowboy hat). 

video
Chan's read of the situation is spot on, but what's interesting is his assessment afterwards, that "instinct" just told him and he concluded that his aces were no good. As commentator Ali Nejad aptly says, it's poker at the highest level, true, but what's interesting here is that Chan gives credit to his instinct, his gut.

Now up the ante to human destruction, and that's light years beyond poker. That was the "poker table" Stanislav Petrov was at. And it's interesting that like Johnny Chan, something in his gut told Petrov things weren't right. 

I first heard the story of Stanislav Petrov via Glynn Washington's show, Snap Judgement. I recommend listening; it's the segment "End of Days." Kudos.

Too many stories in history are relegated to obscurity. Here's one that deserves sunlight, devoid of negotiations between the White House and the Kremlin, but nonetheless shows history playing out at its own highest level and the greatest read ever.


from The Atlantic

The Man Who Saved the World by Doing Absolutely Nothing

Thirty years ago, Stanislav Petrov proved a cool head in a Cold War.



Petrov receives a 2011 German media award from Karlheinz Koegel, chief of the German Media Research Group, during a ceremony in 2012. (Reuters)

It was September 26, 1983. Stanislav Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defence Forces, was on duty at Serpukhov-15, a secret bunker outside Moscow. His job: to monitor Oko, the Soviet Union's early-warning system for nuclear attack. And then to pass along any alerts to his superiors. It was just after midnight when the alarm bells began soundingOne of the system's satellites had detected that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles. And they were heading toward the USSR. Electronic maps flashed; bells screamed; reports streamed in. A back-lit red screen flashed the word 'LAUNCH.'"

That the U.S. would be lobbing missiles toward its Soviet counterpart would not, of course, have been out of the question at that particular point in human history. Three weeks earlier, Russians had shot down a South Korean airliner that had wandered into Soviet air space. NATO had responded with a show of military exercises. The Cold War, even in the early '80s, continued apace; the threat of nuclear engagement still hovered over the stretch of land and sea that fell between Washington and Moscow.

Petrov, however, had a hunch -- "a funny feeling in my gut," he would later recall -- that the alarm ringing through the bunker was a false one. It was an intuition that was based on common sense:  The alarm indicated that only five missiles were headed toward the USSR. Had the U.S. actually been launching a nuclear attack, however, Petrov figured, it would be extensive -- much more, certainly, than five. Soviet ground radar, meanwhile, had failed to pick up corroborative evidence of incoming missiles -- even after several minutes had elapsed. The larger matter, however, was that Petrov didn't fully trust the accuracy of the Soviet technology when it came to bomb-detection. He would later describe the alert system as "raw." 

But what would you do? You're alone in a bunker, and alarms are screaming, and lights are flashing, and you have your training, and you have your intuition, and you have two choices: follow protocol or trust your gut. Either way, the world is counting on you to make the right call.

Petrov trusted himself. He reported the satellite's detection to his superiors -- but, crucially, as a false alarm. And then, as Wired puts it, "he hoped to hell he was right."

He was, of course. The U.S. had not attacked the Soviets. It was a false alarm. One that, had it not been treated as such, may have prompted a retaliatory nuclear attack on the U.S. and its NATO allies. Which would have then prompted … well, you can guess what it would have prompted. 

As Petrov, now retired and living in a town near Moscow, puts it of his decision: "That was my job. But they were lucky it was me on shift that night."

Thirty years later, there are lingering questions about the specific events of September 26, 1983. Was it really up to Petrov, the single man, to make the call? Weren't there other failsafes that would allow for malfunctioning technology? Wouldn't other cool heads, finally, have prevailed? Petrov, for his part, emphasizes the ambiguity of the situation, saying after the incident that he was never convinced the alarm was erroneous. (The odds of his getting it right, he now figures, were pretty much 50-50.) 

One thing that seems clear, however, is that the world carried on into September 27, 1983 in some part because Stanislav Petrov decided to trust himself over malfunctioning machines. And that may have made, in a very broad and cosmic sense, all the difference. Petrov's colleagues were professional soldiers with purely military training; they would, being trained to follow instructions at all costs, likely have reported a missile strike had they been on shift at the time. Petrov, on the other hand, trusted his own intelligence, his own instincts, his own gut. He made the brave decision to do nothing.

And we're here to read about him because of it. 

Hat tip Nicholas Slayton and Chris Heller. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bad Boys

I'm a... criminal???
Members of the Pensacola community have pressed the City Council to reconsider a so-called“camping” ordinance passed last summer, particularly the sections of the law that criminalize keeping warm with a blanket, tent or other materials commonly used by the homeless for shelter. At the time of its passage, the ordinance was defended in the Council on the bases that “camping” in public was considered a threat to sanitation, public health, and safety, in addition to being a blight on Pensacola’s “aesthetic” quality.(1)


See, Lloyd, we're more than leaders. We're fine, upstanding
models of American citizenship. Cleave to that, baby boy. L'chaim.
What does "the law of unintended consequences" tell us? Careful what you wish for... For every action... You may get what you pay for, but you pay for everything you get....

Time worn sayings all, leading us down the same road. In the case of EM08, take a look around and notice, not just what's illegal, but what gets indicted, what gets prosecuted. In other words, what has a target on it?



It's easy enough to see that the evil empire dons are above the law, but when we criminalize the homeless, folks, we're nearing the bottom. Even for EM08.

What next, an ordinance against day dreaming?

=================


1.  ​Amid freezing temps, Florida town’s ‘camping’ law bars homeless from using blankets

RT, February 12, 2014
 http://rt.com/usa/florida-ban-blanket-homeless-611/

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Slide

Old media dinos sliding into the "new media
audience doesn't give a shit about you" tar pit.
In what world does a hard print magazine have over 12,000 employees plus all of the costs of producing a magazine, then sell that magazine for what, 3 or 4 bucks a week in the face of new media that's been inexorably crushing hard print for years?

How many mags do you have to sell just to pay your rent???

Lest we forget, Tina Brown, a semi-comatose publisher, only recently took "Newsweek" all digital. Problem is it was about a decade too late. 

But the "other real problem" is the old media itself, apart from its business model. 

In some ways, the old media dinosaurs are akin to the new media brats -- and those that buy into their horseshit -- in that they evidently don't know basic math. Un-parallel to the media brats, they fail to consider how their content is in at least some (major?) part generationally driven. That is, young kids don't read "The Atlantic", "The New Yorker" or "Time" let alone any of the other dino periodicals. Hell, they don't even read the icon of counter-culture when I was a kid, "Rolling Stone"!

The word is "relevance."

Simply, new media audiences don't give a crap about old media content. Isn't that obvious? On the other side, oldies who care about old media content aren't new media savvy. This latter digital divide is closing, but the crucial element is time; can old media fool, for instance, equities, and sucker them long enough in order to survive for a critical mass of oldies to catch up?

Does that sound like a good bet to you?

Meanwhile, a whole new crop of young/new media, from Voice of San Diego shaking off old journalism's business model (a very good thing), Priceonomics' smart, young take on things thought of from an incisive angle, to any number of smart takes on culture, politics and polemics (Jacobin, Edge, Medium...) that are not only pushing out new thought at an alarmingly good rate but greasing that silicon slide the old media dinos are losing their footing on.

History often focuses on the epochs - the Renaissance, the Third Reich, the Depression ... - but the transitional period/s to me are really interesting. And when you think about this time, given all of the stress points that EM08 is producing, this is obviously a key transitional time for old media.


Time Inc. Hit With Huge Layoffs


As feared, mass layoffs are starting at Time Inc., including editorial cuts at top titles like People andTime, where a voluntary buyout period could be followed by the much-sharper ax. CEO Laura Lang said in a memo to staff today that 6 percent of the company's 8,000 employees, or about 500, have to go in the struggle to be a "leaner, more nimble and more innately multi-platform" publisher. The company is already down some 4,000 people in the last five years.

-- 

​I'm a man without a corporation.
-
​Paddy Chayefsky

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If You build It

"In the fall of 2008" as I'm usually saying these days to the point where, notice, I'm quoting myself, "if Barack had done one thing, just one, if he'd have tossed us one bone, I could maybe say, 'okay, I get how the system works. But he at least threw us a rope we can hang on to.'"

Back then I had the idea to take $70 billion out of the TARP and tell the banks, Look, assholes, we're not gonna just hand over $770 billion to you numbnuts and not give the people whose money you're robbing nothing. So write down this $70 bil and stfu! You're STILL getting $700 BILLION so, one more time, STFU!"

Then, take that $70 bil and start a campaign where startups can apply for seed money. They go to the "restartamerica.org" site and can view tutorials, go through a bootcamp, see examples of what works, find mentors, find co-founders, network with others... 

That leads to putting together a pitch package: exec summary, slide deck, maybe wireframes or diagrams if applicable, maybe a short video. Then it gets vetted. If it passes muster, it gets seeded, let's say up to $70k. That's a lot of startups.

Most will fail. That's ok. Because even the failures will be better off; they'll have acquired very valuable skills in how to prepare a professional presentation, how to meet and greet, learn what investors are looking for... and with the advent of crowd funding, now they even have a second chance. Maybe that'd even be their first choice.

But the successes... there'd be a few... would be so motivating, so positive a message for us that we'd almost forget the evil empire because, well, who wants to focus on them when we got this great stuff over here going?

Hell, take that money and lay fiber in America  everywhere. Massive project, huge job creation, big stimulus for supplier entrepreneurs ... and at the end of the day, something to show for it: a state of the art network that will boost productivity (hopefully).

I believe entrepreneurship is one of the keys to unlocking the unprecedented set of problems that EM08 presents. And though all but the uber-rich have been hit with the EM08 wrecking ball and at least its shrapnel, young people today are up the creek. Have we ever put an entire generation at risk like this? This is suicide in the making, and the EU is foreboding in ts massive unemployment among its young people.

Enter Studio H, its founder, Emily Pillotin, and filmmaker Patrick Creadon's brilliant film on Studio H's foray into the unknown, which in this case is tiny Bertie County, NC. Yee haw, time for a hoedown.

Not quite. Studio H -- Emily and her partner Matthew Miller --  having been recruited by the superintendent to bring their design approach to the local high school. There are, of course, many letters between that a and z, but, as with all good stories, the troubles mount.

What sticks is watching these country kids come alive in new ways -- there's a great line by one of them when he's being introduced to the audience, and he says something like, "I'm an old fashioned boy" -- ways that city kids could never imagine, even in private schools. One of my big buzzwords these days is "craftsmanship," and I believe it's a dead philosophy, certainly in our dead ass educational system. Studio H teaches design from a holistic perspective, from the community perspective, in thinking and doing as one integrated process.

Olvera Street is where the City of LA "officially" got started, and is all touristy now. When Ma would take me there as a kid to eat, I remember wanting to stop and watch the glassblower dude. For me, the fascinating part was not watching the corny animals and baubles "come to life" but how he'd prepare the tubes, how he'd heat them, blow a bit, form them... the technique, the deftness... There is, for me, great pleasure in watching someone who's adept at something.

But the genius of If You Build It is not the voila! of watching these kids as design whizzes, it's in the how they become adept at design. And that speaks to "the 10,000 hour principle," but presents a problem for the artist; how do you convey the sweat magnitude of the principle? For Studio H, it's getting down to brass tacks; design begins with approach, consideration, thinking, then planning, and last but not least, doing. It's a ton of hard work.

One of the observations about East LA's lowriders is this; many, if not most, of the kids then were languishing in school. The schools in my hometown were some of the worst, with ultra-high dropout rates, recidivism and all of the attendant ills that go with a socio-economically-challenged area. But those kids who were into lowriding... they'd ply endless hours at dead-end gigs and plow that revenue into their craft, working tirelessly on their cars. And when you think about what goes into car restoration and customization, the myriad considerations and details... it really is remarkable.

I think that same spirit and practice is on display with the kids of If You Build It. Their "character arc" is also remarkable, as you watch kids who have no inkling of design principles and aesthetics blossom with the water of creativity.

An old acquaintance once remarked his displeasure with the dating scene thus; "Any woman I meet from now on has to be into something." And he didn't mean "shopping". That, I think, is what's so great about watching the kids of If You Build It, that they really get into it. Currently, California is having a statewide debate on the so-called "Common Core," what students must know. But it begs the question: Will students get into it? And beyond, method, to borrow from McLuhan, is pedagogy.

If You Build It is not a panacea, nor is it "the solution." Our educational system is so broken here that saying that is beyond trite. But things that work are already known, and some I have written about here. Let me add design and the pedagogy, the admirable practice of Emily Pillotin and Studio H. If I had a young kid in school now, I'd kill to have her/him experience this program.

The farmers market: Student designed & built.


Studio H founder Emily Pillotin with students CJ Robertson & Stevie Mizelle


IYBI's director, Patrick Creadon




Sunday, January 26, 2014

All the Chips

This is wrong: It's the GANGSTER
that should have the tie & briefcase.
People at this point have no choice but to have some other values because I have really bad news for everyone:
THERE'S NO MONEY LEFT THEY TOOK IT ALL!
--Fran Lebowitz




Pics: Sunday Morning, 1/26/14














Saturday, January 18, 2014

Selllout

Sales fixes everything.
--Guy Kawasaki


Perkily, Marissa Mayer
Proving no American exception, Yahoo! didn't learn from history. When they announced Marissa Mayer's hiring, my reaction was the same as when they hired Terry Semel (from, aol-time-warner, the old media side, film, which made zero sense to me; an old media dude to run a new media company...?): why?

From the article below:

Mayer was on the product/engineering side of Google, but not in the advertising part of product/engineering.

Even "advertising" doesn't get it right. Advertising is not sales, it's mechanics, not sales (making money). Sales, and only sales, is sales. And yet, no one ever talks about going into sales, oddly opting instead for marketing because, given our valorization of money, that's where the cache is.

But marketing (mechanics) doesn't fix problems -- sales do (making money).

It's why I think ad traffic models have an inherent flaw; at pennies per click ("cpc" cost per click in industry speak) it relies on Godizilla amounts (economies of scale) of suckers (traffic) to "keep on clicking" -- that's why fb, twitter, et al ad nauseum, can cash in - for now. These "new economy" models have to be free to attract Godzilla traffic which they in turn sell to spammers. But is that sustainable for anyone outside of the billionaire boys club of facebook, instagram, and the rest of "the smoke and mirrors gang"?  

Maybe someone will figure out how this makes sense over, say, "build it, sell it", but until then I see these two core flaws as not just unsustainable, but ... weird. Why? Because despite the "irrational exuberance" of gamblers who're in the market with a new equities high yesterday, the smoke and mirrors gang lose money. And until that's addressed, how can anything else be considered more important? Am I missing something? Hey, despite Jeff Bezos claiming he can turn on the earnings spigot "anytime" most would be surprised to know that Amazon doesn't make money and for quite a while bled money like Niagra Falls.

But at least I can see the Amazon model's potential to succeed, because they sell like crazy.They're excellent at sales and customer service.

Then there's the weird insidiousness, the crassness, of "free". People are up in arms about the NDAA and NSA spying, but there's nary a whimper from the msm about your information being the target of spammers. It's as if there were an invasion scale; NSA prying? Hell yes we give a damn! Corporate retailers whose only goal is to weasel their way into your wallet? Eh, huh?

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Two snis:

[de Castro] has no experience whatsoever running any kind of a real ad salesforce...

It looks like former AOL ad executive Ned Brody is going to take over for De Castro. We're hearing that he too was a "systems" guy at AOL. Mayer still needs to find a true sales person who understands the media business.

In the meantime, I'm not completely stupid. I'm working on a model that at least in part is derived from my contribution to the vomitus vernaculus --  "fread": free + advertising. Yeah, yeah, I know, sellout.


From Business Insider

Marissa Mayer just had her first major mistake as Yahoo CEO.
She was forced to oust Henrique De Castro, her hand-picked, and highly compensated COO after just 15 months on the job.
From the moment De Castro was hired, people warned that he was a big mistake for Yahoo.
Yet, Mayer plowed ahead, hiring De Castro, likely because when she started at Yahoo she had a blind spot for how the ad industry really works. After almost two years on the job, she now understands the industry better and is trying to correct her mistake.
When Mayer hired De Castro, one source told us, "[Henrique] is very smart, but he has a difficult personality; both his teams and his clients dislike him ... He has no experience whatsoever running any kind of a real ad salesforce, let alone a 1,000+ team selling experiential media into brand buyers."

This source wasn't an outlier. De Castro had plenty of enemies.
He has his own parody Twitter account that tweets some of the outlandish things he's said, such as, "To the CEO of major UK TV broadcaster: 'This deal is like sex with a Russian prostitute. Veeeerry tempting.... but no.'"

At Google, De Castro oversaw the successful creation of its display ad business, but Yahoo's ad business is different from Google's ad business. De Castro was running systems that served/targeted/optimized/ display ads for Google. That sort of advertising is radically different from a takeover display ad that runs on Yahoo's front page.
Mayer was on the product/engineering side of Google, but not in the advertising part of product/engineering. She didn't have to think about advertising. And since ad dollars flowed into Google, she probably thought she could just pluck any Google ad guy out of a lineup and plug him into Yahoo.
To people like Mayer who didn't pay attention to the ad business, an ad is an ad is an ad. But there are important, nuanced differences.
Despite many warnings that De Castro was bad fit for Yahoo, Mayer still poached him with a giant payday. Executive compensation firm Equilar estimates De Castro will collect $109 million from his time at Yahoo.
His time at Yahoo yielded little in the way of results, as far as we can tell. Yahoo's ad business remained stagnant, and De Castro was clashing with Mayer and her top executives.
Kara Swisher at Re/Code reported, "In recent months, according to numerous sources, he and Mayer had developed a tense relationship that many in meetings with the pair found it hard not to notice."
De Castro was a no-show at CES, the big tech industry trade show where Yahoo had a massive keynote with all sorts of executives. That was a warning sign that De Castro was not long for Yahoo.
Now, he's gone. In a note to employees, Mayer didn't try to soften the news. She said, "During my own reflection, I made the difficult decision that our COO, Henrique de Castro, should leave the company."
While this is a high-profile mistake for Mayer, there's some reason for optimism.
First, the stock is only down 2% this morning. By firing De Castro, Mayer telegraphed that the ad business is not doing well. And still, investors don't care, because Yahoo remains (for the most part) a tracking company for Chinese Internet giant Alibaba. In other words, Mayer has time to find her footing.
Second, she made her decision relatively quickly. De Castro was only at Yahoo for 15 months. She didn't let his tenure drag on just to save face. She cut him before it got too ugly.
Moving on from De Castro is good, but there's already murmurs in the ad industry that she still hasn't solved the problem.
It looks like former AOL ad executive Ned Brody is going to take over for De Castro. We're hearing that he too was a "systems" guy at AOL. Mayer still needs to find a true sales person who understands the media business.

-- 
Many are called
but it's not that so few are chosen
it's that so few choose.
-Ogami Deyegoroe

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Studs

Little Bear Park, the kiddie park where the
Rizzo gang told Vives & Gottlieb to meet them.
I've resisted following up on the City of Bell crimes til now, but the trial of assistant city manager Angela Spaccia -- guilty -- and the plea by slimeball Robert Rizzo of no contest to 69 counts has resurfaced this "huge little story." So, while the big EM08 dawgs (continue to) sip cognac on yachts and laugh at the little peeps, at least these medium gangsters are getting bracelets. 

Here's a pretty good talk with Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb. What I appreciated was how they detail that from deciphering contracts to interviewing to forensic accounting to making simple requests that can stretch for days if not weeks... this is long, painstaking work that only investigative journalism can do. They remind me of my television hero, Columbo; persistent, a focus on detail and a poker pro's nose for horseshit when they smell it.

More, their talk underscores why media is so crucial to freedom. Rather, a media that values sunlight, can figure out the dollars and has the balls to stand up to power.

Back on the ground, reporters Vives and Gottlieb deserve some kind of medal. An unlikely pair, Gottlieb is the grizzled vet, having bounced round honing his skills, while Vives shouldn't even be in his position if we listened to some. As a kid he was an undocumented immigrant (Guatemala). That he's here, standing with a Pulitzer in hand speaks well for our country.

These guys are studs, and really make me proud. Sometimes our country works pretty well.
(Doesn't Gottlieb have a passing resemblance to Bob Odenkirk? Don't know who Odenkirk is? Better call Saul....)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Broad

"Don't hate me because I don't danything
but somehow get you to pay me. Hee hee!"

Who was it -- Goebbels...? -- that said if you keep on repeating a lie enough the plebes will believe anything?



Marketers practice the blunt force mind-screwing they do and feel it's a science; one technique they call impressions.(1) I don't know what the current rate is, but as I recall back in the stone age it was in the teens before a sheeple converted. That's a marketing slime $5 word for when you finally break down and buy after the Nth time seeing that NIKE ad, despite it having Lebron even when you HATE Lebron.


When I bring up the subject of marketing to crazy liberal groups like Occupy, they look at me as if I'm Count Alucard standing at high noon in defiance. They conflate "marketing" with "spam" and the evil empire, and I get it, but would they do the same with "project management" or "operations" or "customer service"? Of course not. 

One of the examples I usually cite (as I did with the crazy Occupiers) is during my pitch about marketing being an integral part of change (AND stasis!). Back in the stone age, America had a problem: trash. Litter was everywhere on sidewalks, and roads, not just gutters and alleys. What cleaned it up? Marketing, the Keep America Beautiful campaign. It ran everywhere: magazines, billboards, radio, newspapers, and, perhaps most famously, the Clio winning tv spot with "Iron Eyes Cody" (not a native, but an actor) turning to the camera as it dollied in to a close up, a tear running down his cheek. It raised awareness and exerted social pressure on the bad habit.

The key was impressions, a consistent stream of them. The medium may be the message, but so is access and the resources to deliver them.

Leading us to the current Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erica Groshen. Newly minted as of 2012, the BLS has been chest thumping about unemployment having dropped to 7%. That of course is a lie, there being any number of ways to slice and make mincemeat of their hubris. But oh, they know marketing, and they own the media, which has no hesitation about carpet-bombing this "good news" every chance they get.

And who is Erica Groshen? It reminds me of Marcello's line about his betrothed, Giulia, in Bertolucci's masterpiece, Il Conformista, here paraphrased; She's all theory and academy. As if that weren't bad enough, she's also ex-NY Fed Reserve; double whammy for us, two for one for the evil empire! And before her? Another academic/bureaucrat, Keith Hall.

During the prime bubble inflating years of EM08, yet another academic-- see a pattern here? -- was honcho: Kathleen Utgoff. She hurts in more ways than one; she's an LA gal from Cal State Northridge and UCLA, where econ was her poison. And boy did she ride that pony; by my estimate she retired early (Phd in '78) and ...
...chose not to continue for another 4-year term and completed her term as Commissioner in July 2006. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and others honored her for her service. Although she has not ruled out future opportunities to serve the Nation, she now spends her time with her family and does volunteer work in her community.(2)
These are people who have never run a business much less been an entrepreneur and know nothing about the real world because they've never had to sustain themselves in it. There's not an innovative, problem solving bone in their bodies.

They produce NOTHING. Well, unless you count bureaucracy under the guise of policy-making.

Or paperwork. In the aftermath of the Pecora Hearings, the Glass-Steagall Act was an utterly ridiculous 37 pages or something. And yet, it protected us in terms of its goals for half a century. Meanwhile, the Dodd-Frank Act? Over 800 pages.

Is it really any wonder why we're so jacked?

Then that numbnut Phil Gramm decided to grow a hair up his ass and, with then Travelers honcho Sandy Weill's cash in pocket, began to methodically work his slimeball routine on congress. And it worked. See the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.(3) Weill, by the way, was so confident that Gramm-Leach-Bliley would pass, that he applied for and received -- evidently with our bureacrats' blessing -- a special dispensation to go ahead and merge with Citibank before Gramm-Leach-Bliley passed, and America crossed an historic line with the creation of its first Frankenbank: Citigroup.

Personally, having taken econ in school I can safely say that, as taught in the academy, it's a sure cure for insomnia, and has as much relevance to the real world as rocket science to workers eking out an existence in East LA.

As a friend pointedly put it recently when talking about bureaucrats, academics and theorists: If they didn't have their "jobs", these are people who wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

And lest you, dear reader, think I have some inborn sense of disdain for theorists, let me disabuse you of such; one of the most influential books in my life is Noel Burch's seminal Theory of Film Practice, and I have nothing but respect for Bill James.

And as if it wasn't a cruel jester ruling this sad universe, here's a bit of recent history: the one recent presidential advisor who has business experience? None other than Obama hand-picked slime ball, the former GE CEO Jeff Immelt, one of the worst CEOs ever. Maybe not Rick Wagoner bad, but horrible by any standard. Look up both of their track records if you don't believe me.

Immelt and Wagoner do share something else quite significant by the way: both have MBAs. From Harvard.

Then again, so does Groshen. Patterns, indeed.

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1. For those with a case of auto-masochism, it also quantifies and therefore justifies marketing and therefore marketers. Slap up flavor of the month singer/actor/athlete in a campaign on billboards, mags, site banners, commercials... and sit back and wait for the magic. If revenue goes up, well, there it is, and they're off to bonus land and the Clio awards. Next to bankers, pols and Hollywood execs, marketers have a bad case of full of shit. Interestingly enough, if the company posts negative during the campaign, well, it must be "the economy."

The corollary in sports are athletes and incentives. Star clauses have things like making the all star team will get you X amount over and above, or leading the league in scoring, etc. But I've often wondered why it doesn't work the other way if an athlete has a dog of a year. Or is just plain overrated. For NBA fans, think 19 mil and then picture Rashard Lewis (pre-Heat stint).

Back to the point about brilliant marketers (and bankers, pols, etc.) and blunt force; that entertaining old curmudgeon of Hollywood, Sam Fuller, said something funny once and I paraphrase:

Know what they do to ferret out snipers? They send a lone soldier out into the open; when the enemy shoots at him, they can get a bead. They thought that one up at West Point.

2. http://www.bls.gov/bls/history/commissioners/utgoff.htm

3. Gramm's balls only grew once he'd decimated Glass-Steagall; he then turned his best evil eye toward derivatives, and cheer-led the Commodities Futures Modernization Act a year later, in 2000, which kept derivatives dark. Thus, the fertile ground was perfectly primed for EM08.

And lest anyone still believe in the big game of "Democrats and Republicans" let me point out that each of these bedrock EM08 laws were of shepherded by a Republican -- Gramm -- and signed into law by a Democrat: Clinton. Americans should use a Q-Tip as history once again screams at us.