Monday, September 27, 2010

The SEC's Rocket Scientist: He Aimed for the Stars, He Hit ... Scientists, Secrets and Wall Street's Lost $4 Trillion

By Pam Martens, CounterPunch

Thanks to an ever growing influx of Ph.D.s from the Ivies and an insatiable demand for an algorithmic trading edge by secretive hedge funds and proprietary trading desks at the largest firms, Wall Street has become part physics lab, part casino, part black hole.

What Wall Street bears no relationship to any longer is its primary mission in the U.S. economy: to be a fair and efficient allocator of capital to worthy businesses and innovators to propel job growth while also providing a medium for allowing investors to buy or sell stocks and bonds of those businesses at a fair price.

Stock brokers who previously scoured over annual reports and price to earnings multiples and bond prospectuses to build individualized portfolios for clients based on the client’s investment time horizon and comfort level with risk are so yesterday. The big firms lean on their brokers to turn their clients’ money over to impersonal “money managers” who use incomprehensible computerized risk modeling to manage the life savings of people they’ve never met. The business motivation for this was that the earnings of the big firms would not be dependent on the brokers’ inconsistent commission streams from trading by replacing them with a steady annual stream of money management fees. These huge pools of consolidated money have now joined the huge pools of hedge fund and proprietary trading monies, leaving small investors at the mercy of giant “pools,” the exact same word that dominated investigations after the 1929 crash. (Those intensive Senate investigations of the early 30s that turned up corruption at the highest echelons of Wall Street are also so yesterday)... Read it all

The Idea of a University

By Roger Scruton

...For Newman a university does not exist simply to convey information or expertise. The university is a society in which the student absorbs the graces and accomplishments of a higher form of life. In the university, according to Newman, the pursuit of truth and the active discussion of its meaning are integrated into a wider culture, in which the ideal of the gentleman is acknowledged as the standard. The gentleman does not merely know things; he is receptive to the tone, the meaning, the lived reality of what he knows. Thus, for Newman, "the general principles of any study you may learn by books at home; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all these from those in whom it lives already." The university of Newman's day was a place in which men (and it was then an institution for men only) lived for scholarship, and arranged their lives around the sacrifice that scholarship requires. It was not simply a repository of knowledge. It was a place where work and leisure occurred side by side, shaping each other, and each playing its part in producing the well-formed and graceful personality...Read it all

Woody Allen on Faith, Fortune Tellers and New York

Dave Itzkoff

...Q. The ideas of psychic powers and past lives, or at least people who believe in them, are central to your latest film. What got you interested in writing about them?

A. I was interested in the concept of faith in something. This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t. I’ve known people who have put their faith in religion and in fortune tellers. So it occurred to me that that was a good character for a movie: a woman who everything had failed for her, and all of a sudden, it turned out that a woman telling her fortune was helping her.

Q. What seems more plausible to you, that we’ve existed in past lives, or that there is a God?

A. Neither seems plausible to me. I have a grim, scientific assessment of it. I just feel, what you see is what you get.

Q. How do you feel about the aging process?

A. Well, I’m against it. [laughs] I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again. I’ve experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver. That’s what happens to Anthony Hopkins at the beginning of the movie, and from then on in, he did not want to hear from his more realistic wife, “Oh, you can’t keep doing that — you’re not young anymore.” Yes, she’s right, but nobody wants to hear that...Read it all

Note: I'd be very surprised if Woody Allen ever spent so much as 2 hours seriously examining the epistemological presuppositions of what passes as catch-all "science" today, to see if the speculative (as opposed to hard, engineering) sciences (origins, being, the universe, morals, etc.) were as compelling as our hapless High School teachers suggest. Aldous Huxley, a man truly conversant in the sciences, said there are usually very different motives for not wanting the world to have any ultimate transcendent meaning. I suspect Allen, who begs the question of being, simply accepted it as part of a convenient alternative to moral responsibility, a major theme in his movies especially since he broke off with Mia Farrow to take up with her daughter in the early to mid 90's... His most striking and thoughtful movies in my opinion were the ones in which Farrow starred, especially movies like September

--->Even true believers like Anthony Gottlieb concede, "If a claim is ambitious, people should indeed tread warily around it, even if it comes from scientists; it does not follow that they should be sceptical of the scientific method itself. But there is an awkward public-relations challenge for any champion of hard-nosed science." But then he goes on, as he must, to say that what makes science as opposed to creationism (the shadow that perpetually haunts people like Gottlieb) worthy is the fact that science admits its perpetual mistakes and revises theories, except in this matter of ultimate things which no man can empirically "prove"...Read it all. As for the so-called "scientific method" the truth is "There is no one method or procedure. Science isn’t a wash, rinse, repeat kind of thing. While hypothesis-experiment-conclusion is a method used by scientists, it is one of many. By telling such a lie, children are led to believe that there is no creativity or imagination in science"... Imagination indeed. Feyerabend said the same thing quite a long time ago now, as have not a few other philosopher's of science.

--->Chronicles Magazine: Atheism: What a Joke by William Murchison. "Assuming, no doubt, our anxious world could use a good laugh, Stephen Hawking undertakes to provide one. He says the universe created itself. The theory itself isn’t the joke. The joke is the dogged persistence of atheists trying in the face of common sense to persuade the world as to the wisdom they see in their every utterance. Another way of putting it would be, atheism is the joke. The likes of Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins---how, by the way, does Britain, the land that bred Lewis, Chesterton and Wesley, manage to produce so many certified atheists?---Hawking & Co., I say, want everyone to see God as, I guess, some sort of celestial intrusion in the affairs of intelligent men and women...

--->St. Vincent de Paul, a Page from the Gospel

--->FBI Raids Homes of Antiwar and Pro-Palestinian Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. Of course computers are among the first things siezed. See DN video report

--->Obama Invokes "State Secrets" to Defend Assassination Program

--->Says God and Faith saved her from despair. Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped by FARC rebels and held hostage in rebel camps in the middle of the jungle for nearly six-and-a-half years before she was freed in a dramatic military rescue in July of 2008 that made international headlines...

--->Karl Rove Builds Shadow Republican Party. Critics say Rove and company fear losing control of the GOP to Tea Party ranks.

--->Replace the War System: Why and How by Michael Nagler

--->New book provides details of Nixon campaign to discredit — or even kill
Jack Anderson

Utopians Without Christ and the Moral Law.
Jim Jones and 'the People's' Template

How Leftist-Egalitarian-Marxist 'Rev.' Leader Jim Jones Relished 'His' People Fantasying Vengeance on 'Dad's' (Jones') Foes / Defectors, Often Their Own Families...
(Warning Adults Only: Very strong language)

Hear Jones' demonic laughter as he reinforces his victims. See also the final death tapes here, subsequent Parts at YouTube. He 'loved' and exploited the idealist poor to death...False, lying 'compassion'....Showing again the potentially murderous-suicidal dangers of cults of personality, be it Mao or Jones himself, and the various kinds of dangers of 'social justice' as mere politics apart from Christ's moral foundations / principles. The truth is Jones considered himself a 'god'...he knew no other religion but himself.