Sunday, April 18, 2010

Money, Ball

With the nation still dry-heaving its way through this economic hangover, nothing palliates the soul like the beginning of baseball season. We've already seen a 20 inning game and the first no hitter of the season. Even the Astros have finally won a game. Good times, good times.

If you're not lucky enough to be at the game in your town, I'm lining up some reading and listening, dear Reader, for your spring leisure. These articles are loosely related to each other. First is the news that the government is coming after Goldman Sachs. This gives me a glimmer of hope. However, we'll see if it goes anywhere for a couple reasons: a) most of the high ranking gov't financial officials are from Goldman Sachs, and b) with all the shenanigans that clearly happened, how much of it was actually and more importantly, provably illegal? (sort of begs the question if regulation would even work?) Not sure of the implication of this being a civil vs. a criminal type thing.

This next link was forwarded to me the other day by a friend about a hedge fund that was very active in the creation of the financial mess, though again, it's questionable if they did anything illegal. The first 40 minutes of this mp3 are very interesting. Although it may unfairly imply that Magnetar was the main culprit or main agent that caused this whole thing, it at least explains very clearly how some of the worst aspects of it happened. Though, don't forget that none of this could have happened without the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates far too low or without the implicit backing that the Fed and Treasury have given to Wall Street in the event of past and future failures. In other words, the implication is that if we had regulated Magnetar, we could have prevented this, however, the very people we would supposedly trust to regulate Wall Street not only failed to regulate it or themselves but financially encouraged these types of behavior. But a very well done and informative show.

Finally, and this one may be harder to swallow, but it is some commentary by William Deresiewicz about the disadvantages of an elite education. The reason I offer this for consideration is related to the tight link between the Ivy League and our government financial institutions (e.g., Goldman Sachs and the Federal Researve). Do we not give passes to too many people simply because they are "smart" and went to a top school? Perhaps we would change our perspective if we considered that Harvard may be producing more crooks every year than Harlem.

But back to baseball. At a recent game in Milwaukee, I was dismayed to find the triangle nacho chip had infiltrated Miller Park as well. Is nothing sacred? A couple nice reads about the Boys of Summer. First, is an interesting ranking of the organizations of baseball. Boston and St. Louis top the list, and I'll let you find out for yourselves who is at the bottom. Then, a nice little blog about the latest, greatest pitching prospect in the game, Stephen Strasburg, last year's number one draft pick. This also calls to mind that even if you can't get to a Major League ballpark, there is plenty of good baseball in the minors and independent leagues. In fact, in some ways, they offer a much better baseball experience.

So whether you're more interested in the ivy at Cambridge or the walls of Wrigley, take heart! Spring is taking us into summer, one pitch at a time.

[April 22, Editor's Addition: Here's a link for those interested to a speech given by the same William Deresiewicz about Solitude and Leadership.]


John said...

I was thinking the same thing this weekend. I need to read your links before I make my comments but I really am wondering how this is going to play out.

Ryan said...

You were thinking about triangle nacho chips and how the most-jalapenos-on-a-single-chip-record might never be challenged again?

Last I remembered, Doughboy had the record. The Chip that Doughboy Built. Would it be premature to erect a bronze statue?

Nicole said...

I really enjoyed that American Scholar article and passed it along to a few people.

Roller said...

Nice post, Rye. I have not had a chance to read everything, but I did check out the American Scholar article. I found it interesting, although I thought it had a pretty cynical tone. Having never sniffed an elite university, I have no idea how accurate a portrait it is. Still, an interesting and though provoking read.

I haven't had the chance to listen to the TLA podcast, but interestingly enough another NPR podcast, Planet Money (thanks for the recommendation Doughboy) referenced the TLA story. They also played a short broadway showtune written about Magnetar. Don't know if that was in the TLA episode, but it was pretty funny. You can find the song about 15 minutes into this Planey Money podcast, the first 15 minutes of which are a story about OK Go!'s choice to leave EMI and start their own music label.

G. Smith said...

Nice post.

Does anyone else think that there is some parallel btwn the relationship between Goldman Sachs and the current administration and the relationship between Haliburton and the previous administration? Lots of taxpayer dollars to corporations very connected to the government. Perhaps that's just the way of things.

I'm glad they're going after Goldman Sachs, and I think Obama should lead the way even if it means hanging members of his team out to dry. We'll see about that, I'm not holding my breath.

G. Smith said...

One more thing, I've decided there's nothing as awesome as the that OK GO Rube Goldberg video.

Marty said...

Agreed on the Rube Goldberg is way almost have to watch it over and over again to see some of the makes me want to build one in my garage...but i don't have a garage....or a basement for that matter

kevin said...

when you say there's nothing as good as that video, i'm assuming that you mean nothing except for this one?

Ryan said...

Nicole, thanks for the comments. I'm always happy when you leave remarks, since I believe you're our sole female commenter.

I posted a speech at the bottom of the original Money, Ball if you're interested. It has similar themes and observations but has new ones and is bundled nicely towards the idea what helps make or ruin good leaders.

This brings me to Rollo's point about the Disadvantages[...] article being cynical. I've thought about that for a day or so because I think I know what you're talking about, but I also don't know if "cynical" is the right word.

Indeed, it's critical. And possibly in our American psyche that is dominated by an almost obnoxious corporate positivism (layered on an otherwise healthy popular spirit of "can-do"), it seems when someone is critical of an powerful institution, they are labelled as cynical or a naysayer, etc.

I try to think of the glass of wine half full/half empty idea to build a context of what's being said. Mr. Deresiewicz (to me) seems not to be saying 'the glass if half empty' against a sea of 'the glass is half fulls'. Rather he is saying the glass has half the wine in it that others are claiming it has. I.E. Others are claiming the glass is totally full, and he is pointing out that maybe its not.

I don't think that makes him a cynic. Possibly a skeptic.

Ryan said...

G, the relationships between many companies and administrations is highly suspect, possibly highly dangerous and deserves our scrutiny.

I will add, though, that for as nasty as Halliburton and a lot of the oil companies are, they pale in comparison to the size, power and sway of the financial institutions and financial companies that not only manipulate our country but tie up so much of the rest of the world. Pardon the pun, but by comparison, the oil industry is a drop in the bucket, er, barrel.

If Obama does anything, it will be in tight conjunction with the industry's approval. The man wants to get re-elected.

Coovo said...

"The first 40 minutes of the mp3 are very interesting." I thought it was a joke.

Over Easter, I told Ryan how impressed I was over his ability to find articles and items that are off the radar. But his first article here is a Yahoo news piece. Ripped straight from the AP fax machine. Is our man getting lazy? No. 40 minutes? I'm pretty sure MLB is trying to get their games under 40 minutes because nobody can pay attention for that long anymore. I sure can't. It almost takes leg restraints for me to get through the Rube Goldberg video and its interesting to me.

Not to say that the money and baseball stuff is not. Its just when I see 40 minutes, I ask myself if I really want to get sucked into this. Ususally by the time I've asked the question, I've forgot what its about and I fall asleep.

G. Smith said...

My general agreement with Ryan on this post and comment stream has caused me some lingering discomfort, so, I need to pick a fight with the American Scholar article.

I'm not sure if it was critical or cynical, but his description of the ivy league does not jive with the ivy league grads I know. Those I know and work with are smart enough not to be so snobby. They're good folks that acknowledge that the privileges they may enjoy are not necessarily "deserved" in all respects.

I'm not saying that the people Deresiewicz describes don't exist - I have no doubt they do, he's clearly one of them. But I just don't think it's as pervasive a problem as he lets on. In fact, based on people I know, I'd say Deresiewicz is overcompensating for his own personal problems. What asshole can't shoot the shit for 5 min in his own kitchen without having to write a snobby article about it in a snobby magazine?

It's not like him and his friends made the coolest video of all time (sorry Kevin, we sang the Ewok song in choir).

Doughboy said...

Interesting collections of articles and stories here. I have to echo Roller's recommendation to check out the Planet Money podcast. It is updated twice a week and Alex Blumberg, who did most of the presentation for the TAL story, is one of five regular contributers. All of them are great.

I could not agree more with G's assessment of the American Scholar article. First, I concur that the people that I have met or worked with from Ivy League schools in general are far from the caricature of the Ivy League grad that he portrays. No doubt, he probably nailed the personality and creative qualities of some grads but I know that he missed the mark on a large proportion of the one's I have met. I think the issues that he writes about have less to Ivy League education and much more to do with personality traits and upbringing of some of the people that he has met in his time at Yale.

Finally, as far as I know, I still hold the jalapeno record. My stomach lining has still not recovered completely. No need to build a statue to me, though. I built a little one myself out of stale nacho chips and jalapenos using nacho cheese for glue. It was the greatest moment of my life.

Ryan said...

Matt, G, and Matt:

I understand your points. There is a danger in speaking generally about groups of individuals. People tend to say I know people who are the opposite, quit harshing them bro. The other problem is that it's written in the negative, which can distress people.

The unfortunate generality to reinforce his point, though, is in the fact you guys might not know the "elite" he's talking about. The shmucks we choose between for President and a huge number of our banking/financial officials seem to come particularly from Yale. Harvard Business School also cranks out the elite. I hear lots of them speak, and they're not terribly impressive other than I know they're smart and hard working.

Doughboy, I really hope that statue looks better than that German chocolate cake that still haunts my dreams.

G, it doesn't feel too bad to find ourselves in shocked agreement, does it?

I would really like it if someone would be interested in doing a piece on composting.

Marty said...

I would be interested in reading a piece on composting...however I cannot write one

Coovo said...

The 2 guys I've met from an Ivy league school were complete jerks. Ergo, matt and G are wrong and that dude who write the article, 100% right and my newest facebook friend.

Wait, Depauw is not an ivy league shool? Nevermind. Great post Ryan!

Ryan said...

It's De'P'auw. Geesh, get it right. And you're right, Barnett sucks.

Who's the other guy?