The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government--a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF's staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we're running out of time.
March 2009 Archives
Just upgraded to the latest Movable Type. No pain, no muss, no fuss.
I've changed the HTML of my HTML header and archive pages so that the monthly archives and category archives do not display expanded. Instead, they are presented contracted and can be expanded with a click on the respective headers. It bugged me that the pages for these were so long when the archives are not necessarily used.
Update 2009-03-27: I did the same thing for Recent Comments and Recent Entries. Here are the required edits:
- Recent Comments widget
- Recent Entries widget
- Monthly Archives widget
- Category Archives widget
Changes in bold, metanames in italics.
- HTML Head template
Copy this file from dynamicdrive.com to /mt-static/js/animatedcollapse.js
Interviews with Microsoft technologists
Weekly talk show focused on Microsoft .NET platform programming
Scott Hanselman discusses utilities and tools, gives practical how-to advice, and discusses ASP.NET or Windows issues and workarounds.
Fusion of a training video and an interview show
Podcasts on state of Alt.NET
Podcasts on current professional programming practices and technologies
Short (8-12 minute) presentations on .NET and Alt.NET topics
geekSpeak is a weekly "talk-radio" for developers by working developers. Co-hosted by Glen Gordon and Lynn Langit (MSDN events). You ask the questions - working experts answer. Engaging talk w/whiteboard and demos - live or recorded. Pre-show questions and post-show resources on the geekSpeak blog.
History professor Jerry Z. Muller of The Catholic University of America contends that much of the current financial debacle is epistemological in nature -- that it was a failure of the financial actors to understand what they were doing.
The diversification of investment, which was intended to reduce risk to institutional investors, ended up spreading risk more widely, as investors across the country and around the world found themselves holding mortgage-backed American securities of declining and indeterminate value. There was a belief in the financial sector that diversification of assets was a substitute for due diligence on each asset, so that if one bundled enough assets together, one didn't have to know much about the assets themselves. The creation of securities based on a pool of diverse assets (mortgage loans, student loans, credit card receivables, etc.) meant that when markets declined radically, it became impossible to determine an accurate price for the security.
From the point of view of top management, the diversity of operations means that executives were managing assets and services with which they have little familiarity. This has led to the spread of pseudo-objectivity: the search for standardized measures of achievement across large and disparate organizations. Its implicit premises were these: that information which is numerically measurable is the only sort of knowledge necessary; that numerical data can substitute for other forms of inquiry; and that numerical acumen can substitute for practical knowledge about the underlying assets and services.
The Atlantic Monthly on experimental economics discoveries in trading: it always ends in a bubble and a crash, even if the security has a predictable and definite value.
The great thing about a laboratory experiment is that you can control the environment. Wall Street securities carry uncertainties--more, lately, than many people expected--but this experimental security is a sure thing. "The fundamental value is unambiguously defined," says the economist Charles Noussair, a professor at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, who has run many of these experiments. "It's the expected value of the future dividend stream at any given time": 15 times 24 cents, or $3.60 at the end of the first round; 14 times 24 cents, or $3.36 at the end of the second; $3.12 at the end of the third; and so on down to zero. Participants don't even have to do the math. They can see the total expected dividends on their computer screens.
Here, finally, is a security with security--no doubt about its true value, no hidden risks, no crazy ups and downs, no bubbles and panics. The trading price should stick close to the expected value.
At least that's what economists would have thought before Vernon Smith, who won a 2002 Nobel Prize for developing experimental economics, first ran the test in the mid-1980s. But that's not what happens. Again and again, in experiment after experiment, the trading price runs up way above fundamental value. Then, as the 15th round nears, it crashes. The problem doesn't seem to be that participants are bored and fooling around. The difference between a good trading performance and a bad one is about $80 for a three-hour session, enough to motivate cash-strapped students to do their best. Besides, Noussair emphasizes, "you don't just get random noise. You get bubbles and crashes." Ninety percent of the time.
I've started to do crossword puzzles in the newspapers, and I've picked up some unusual words. Here is my short list of new words:
An ancient article on using the .NET garbage collector.
Today's geek moment: IT staffers assemble a computer that uses 24 Samsung 256-GB solid state drives in a RAID configuration, creating a 6 TB drive that flies. Ripping a DVD to disk takes less time than a disk takes to fall out the window to the ground.1
1. For suitable height windows, of course.
I meant to post this a long time ago. Lots of people are alarmed to find out how Facebook works, particularly how private information is inadvertently broadcast to a wide audience.
Amazing YouTube link to the only person in the mainstream media who seems to have predicted the current economic collapse well in advance and to have stuck to his viewpoint against opposition.
An interesting article on Iceland
Just after October 6, 2008, when Iceland effectively went bust, I spoke to a man at the International Monetary Fund who had been flown in to Reykjavík to determine if money might responsibly be lent to such a spectacularly bankrupt nation. He'd never been to Iceland, knew nothing about the place, and said he needed a map to find it. He has spent his life dealing with famously distressed countries, usually in Africa, perpetually in one kind of financial trouble or another. Iceland was entirely new to his experience: a nation of extremely well-to-do (No. 1 in the United Nations' 2008 Human Development Index), well-educated, historically rational human beings who had organized themselves to commit one of the single greatest acts of madness in financial history. "You have to understand," he told me, "Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund."