Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscar winner “Inside Job” couldn’t be more wrong.

Since it’s Wednesday, it’s “Shut Up and Sing” day. I just deemed it so.

In a new weekly event named in honor of Laura Ingraham’s book of the same title I’m issuing an appeal to celebrities like Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo and Sheryl Crow who feel compelled to share their wondrous knowledge of global warming, economics and the dangers of genetically modified seeds with their adoring fans.(Or in the case of Tom Cruise, his vast knowledge of Psychiatry and psycho-tropic drugs, derived from his years of study at the school of Scientology.) Please; all I’m asking is that you stick to whatever shtick you know well enough to get paid for.

I’m awarding the inaugural honorarium to Charles Ferguson, director of “Inside Job” the movie that won the Oscar for “best documentary”the other night. It’s about Wall Street’s avarice and misdeeds. **yawn**

Here are the opening remarks of Mr. Ferguson’s acceptance speech:

"Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong,"

charles fergusons

Yes, that’s true. Not a one of them is in jail.  A lot of them are working in the Obama administration. One of them just retired from the Senate as a result of his involvement in the Countrywide mortgage scandal (Chris Dodd) and another one just got re-elected to the House of Representatives (Barney Frank) despite his major involvement in the Fannie and Freddie failure. And another one of them practically bankrolled the entire Obama candidacy (George Soros).

Others in the liberal media contend that "almost everything that the White House has done has been haunted by the personnel and the money of Goldman….” And even the World Socialist Web Site has complained about Obama’s Wall Street ties.

So, no, Charles. Not in jail. Perhaps because, even stipulating to the fact that many people did many things that many consider unethical, they may not have done anything illegal. You can’t prosecute people simply  for acting in ways that you or I consider unethical. Not yet anyway.

As is often the case when technology and innovation get ahead of the curve, legal constraints lag behind. in these situations, there will always be people working in the shadowy margins. Their actions may have been unwise, speculative, greedy – and by most decent standards -  unethical. But unwise, speculative, greedy and unethical are not currently illegal.   Of course, there’s always RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organiztions Act). It can be used “to indict a ham sandwich,” but I digress.

Ferguson, who holds a doctorate in Political Science from M.I.T. made his fortune by developing the first visual webpage software which was subsequently sold to Microsoft and  incorporated into its Word program. After that, Ferguson got into movie making. I’m betting that, like most everybody else, he lost a goodly portion of his net worth in the ‘08 financial meltdown. But losing money in the market -  even combined with his PhD and his contribution to Microsoft’s Word - doesn’t make him an expert in finance, financial markets and complex systems.

With respect to Charles’ Shut Up and Sing tag:  I’m not sure what his basic talent/skill is any more. He used to be a software designer, but since cashing out of that business he’s made two political, but uninformed, documentaries. I can’t comment on his first movie No End in Sight which is about the “quagmire” in Iraq. I haven’t seen it, but it was released about the same time it became apparent that the surge was working.

So while he may have an ability to make movies, I’m not sure documentaries is his genre,although the standards for “documentaries” do seem to be a bit wobbly. What I can tell you for certain is his basic documentary skills do NOT include analyzing the breakdown of financial markets. When your logic can be picked apart and ridiculed by the New York Post’s movie critic, you’re skating on thin ice my man.

I’d be willing to bet that his research for the documentary was similar to that of the Democratic members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee. Which is to say, no stone was left unturned in search of facts that supported their initial assumptions, but  boulders that marked the spots where pesky facts that wandered off storyline were gingerly walked around. I suppose if that technique is good enough for science - which it apparently is these days - it’s good enough for movies and Congressional commissions.

If you watch Inside Job, do so with the knowledge that it is biased, slanted and uninformed. Although it is slightly better than Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone take down of Goldman Sachs: an even less informed “analysis” that the Left has been quoting since it was published last Spring as though its author actually knew something about financial markets. (See Megan McCardle’s disassembly of Taibbi’s piece rather than reading the original. You’ll learn a lot more. While she doesn’t “get” Sarah Palin, she clearly “gets” Matt Taibbi.

I’m clear on what the “shut-up” part of this guy’s tag refers to. I’m just not clear on what the “sing” portion of the talent competition entails for Chuck at this point. I guess we could always use a new Microsoft software program  that actually worked.

PS. And oh, by the way: “reliable sources” are now alleging that the entire financial crash may have been due to: Financial Terrorism. Something to think about. I mean, in the grander scheme of things.

h/t Larwyn