Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Smartest Guys in the Room

Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein famously said that, far from being dangerous and corrupt, his firm was doing "God's work". I was delighted to read that Jeffrey Skilling once said his own company Enron was doing "the Lord's work".

I read it in The Smartest Guys in the Room; a very interesting read about the fall of Enron (and the baleful effects of securitization).

Saw the movie of the same title but hadn't read the book; if anything this 400 page book is even more accesible than the film - almost to a fault. The authors are excessively conversational, and don't show much faith in their reader's understanding. I wonder if they imagined their words being read aloud at a Wal-Mart and wrote accordingly.

Even the jacket design gets the spirit of it. This blurb from Jim Cramer is at the top on the back cover:

"...those who want to learn what happened here, you don't have to read anything but this."

Now, I appreciate being able to learn something quickly, which is why I appreciate this TV-investing-infotainer's ability to capture the essence of the anti-intellectualism at root of modern culture and learning. When did we lose the idea that learning something has a price?

When was the last time you re-read a book, just to appreciate what you may have missed or forgotten the first time?

That's what I thought.

Everyone - go out and read Oedipus Rex, then read it again two weeks later. It will be a totally different experience the second time.

Or Androcles and the Lion, though to my shame I haven't actually finished my second reading.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Enjoy the Sun While You Still Can

This lady claims that she owns it. Check out the article, it also has a very helpful photo of the sun in question.

You may think she's crazy, but consider this. From the article:

Duran, who lives in the [Spanish] town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation's pension fund.

She would dedicate another 10 percent to research, another 10 percent to ending world hunger -- and would keep the remaining 10 percent herself.

"It is time to start doing things the right way, if there is an idea for how to generate income and improve the economy and people's wellbeing, why not do it?" she asked.

Did you get that? She is shrewdly proposing a new income stream to the government of her nation. That's a lot of things, but crazy it isn't. Governments like tax money a lot, and like this lady they are willing to pretend that it is good for the economy.

As for me, with the down economy and all I don't think I'll be paying her sun tax. She'll have to turn off my service.

Politics + Reality TV Continued

Here is the state of politics in the US today:

The wiser and wordier than I have talked about what this means so I shouldn't expend too many words on this, but: TV allows us to have relationships with people we don't know. Sarah Palin will be a test case for politicians' abilities to form those relationships and get elected. If it works, then the producers for reality shows and the networks that host them will be the new political power brokers in America.

And what a world that will be!