Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tom Toles -- True Brilliance

True brilliance, again by Tom Toles at the Washington Post simple short and to the point. I don't even know where to begin with the current state of affairs, but this cartoon is a nice starting point. Much more to come on why the current rally has no fundamentals behind it, why volatility is resulting in traders leading the momentum, mark-to-market is saving capital ratios of otherwise insolvent banks, and profits are true accounting artifacts without real economic merit behind them.

Fear and greed.

The bailouts remind me of the show "Extreme Makeover" with that idiot Ty running around screaming at everyone, etc. I know, I know, it's TV, which is sold to the dopey masses (yes that's me watching Idol and Lie to Me). Create drama, push product. But here's the reason I hate this show; it's the same reason why I hate the bailouts.

If you watch the show, the set-up is by and large always the same "car crash." Some family has gotten itself into some trouble, and they are living in "dire straits". So in comes the ABC crew, sends them on a vacation, and promises to build them the house they've always wanted, but could never afford, etc.

Now don't get me wrong, there is some genuine tragedy in this show and some of it is not self-generated, so I'm not disgusted by the family's situation. I find myself more annoyed by the house they end up building the family. I get it, a big gaudy house sells ad revenue from Sears, Ford, etc. We all feel better watching a family in need get what they otherwise can't. But in all honesty, they should just build the family a modest house, and set up a college fund with a financial advisor, so the family can gain the skills they need to be financially self-sufficient. What does giving someone a large house prove or teach the family? What does propping up a car company that makes cars no one wants to buy do besides allocate capital in a wasteful fashion? If moral hazard is a the only solution, then the situation must be incredibly bad, and much worse than you and I are even being told. Just watch what happens after the bank stress tests.

I suppose the best part is that the basis for the show is, to me, a subtle microcosm of present America and the path we took to get into the trouble we are in (BTW, google Glass-Steagall...the seeds for the credit bubble were sown long before Greenspan and Bush got here. They just kept the beer flowing.) Americans wake up thinking they should have huge material things to be considered successful. Blame the banks, yell at AIG and the TARP money, etc. the average American probably couldn't even explain the TARP or TALF programs. But I wonder how many of the folks that are yelling are the same people that got themselves an exotic mortgage with the intent to live beyond their means or flip a house for quick profit they can no longer flip? There was a market for this stuff, and markets need demand before supply is ever created. Forget about houses, just think credit cards. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Guns don't kill people, people do. It's like the drug addict that blames drug dealer but never themselves. But don't worry, superman is going to save the world.

American Idol

This year's American Idol has been painful to watch in the early going, and I've alluded to why I've become hooked on the show here. One of my dreams would be to be able to sing while playing guitar, having taught myself how to play.

The three pictured in this clip are probably the most deserving to make it through to the finals. However, it's become painfully obvious how much better one contestant is versus all of the rest this season. Adam Lambert has in my opinion, completely exposed how ordinary the others are. It's true, these three all have tremendous vocal ability, but week in and week out, Adam continues to take huge risks that show not just how great his vocals are, but that he can interpret a song that's been done a million ways in that million+1 way that is so cool. The evolution of his celebrity began with his rendition of "Ring of Fire" (WTF???), and then broke out with his original version of Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears" (Holy sh*t) to his performance of Gary Jules/Tears for Fears song "Mad World" (Wow, the guy's for real) to finally tonight's version of "If I can't have you" (seriously, how do you make that disco upbeat song into a power-ballad? That guy just did it. Unf*#%ingbelivable.) The arc to celebrity has been really cool to watch evolve; in marketing, they call it the tipping point.

It's hard to really explain, but it's something that you see and just say "I can't really put into words what celebrity is, but I do know what it looks like." And that's kind of how you see things after this guy performs. To put another way, Paula Abdul is a complete trainwreck this season. But for some reason, her antics and words are only a distraction when speaking after the other performances. With this guy, she still says stupid things, but his performance is so memorable, you don't really remember what she says.

The only real question I have is, I think it's been acknowledged that Adam is gay. I wonder if America is ready for a "gay" american idol? I suspect they are, and hope so, because this guy is seriously an amazing singer/artist. Talent is talent. Good luck Adam. It's fun and inspiring to watch someone succeed in achieving their dreams.

Tracks of my Tears

Mad World

Frontline - Bush's War

For those who want to look beyond the headlines related to Iraq, you should watch Frontline's program "Bush's War." By posting about this, I am not taking a position, but this program is fascinating and gives a view of the events leading up to "shock and awe." To PBS's credit, the program examines the events that led to the decision to go in by looking at it from the perspective of the CIA, White House, FBI, Justice Dept., etc. If you watched Colin Powell present to the U.N. about the mobile missile launchers, etc. this program offers a fascinating behind the scenes that led to that presentation. The key takeaway is that you see how organizational dysfunction can lead to decisions that may be sub-optimal. While that statement is anything but profound, the stakes were enormous, so you owe it to yourself to at least understand potentially how we made the decision to go in with the best information we had at the time. This program makes it apparent that the information was all over the place. I think if nothing else, the program is a tribute to the brave men and women who have lost their lives over there.

Most who know me know I am fairly conservative on lots of things, and liberal on others, but really anything but political since at the end of the day I am a true cynic, but this program is worth watching. Albeit, it's an op-ed piece, but for those willing to set their political affiliations aside for the greater questions, you do have to ask, where are the WMDs?

Fast forward to today, and if nothing else, this program offers a possible answer as to how we potentially got the leadership we have today and why this country likely voted into office someone most had never ever even heard of, and looked the other way when most tough issues came up. It may have had nothing to do with race; things apparently were so bad people were ready for a change, no matter what it took.

Funny Superbowl Commercial from Careerbuilder.com

I had to post the below "movie" since it was a hilarious spot by Careerbuilder.com during the past Superbowl. The clip below is just part of the whole commercial...if you missed the spot during the game this past January, you should check it out. The ad agency for careerbuilder is quite good, and they have clearly hit a vibe with folks during these tough times. (BTW, most who know me know that I love animals, probably more than people all else equal, so the below clip is meant to get a harmless laugh, nothing more.)

funny animated gif

The original full commercial is here...enjoy.

I'm Back...I Think

So after a short hiatus, I'm back. Lots to post on, so hopefully with baby Allison finally sleeping through the night (mostly) I can start to find some time to begin writing my crap again.

Don't be blaming me daddy...!

Allie and big cousin Ava...