Archive for January, 2010
Prolific blogger Om Malik posted this provocative, loaded question for his readers to answer:
Does anyone else feel that World Economic Forum in Davos is elitist, all talk, no action, and a perfect representation of crony capitalism? The off the record nature of conversations only bolsters my argument. Talk away folks.
The older I get, the more I realize the value of conversations conducted in secret. One doesn’t have to worry about the oversensitive media creating an overblown polemic over some logical, agreeable, yet also out-of-context and outwardly controversial statement (Ex. Harry Reid’s observant remark that Barack Obama became the country’s first black president because he had “no Negro dialect.”)
Likewise, Obama’s meeting with House Republicans this week in Baltimore should’ve been (and indeed was initially planned to be) conducted in secret in order to foster dialogue, but was opened to the media as a result of secret meetings’ perceived incompatibility with Obama’s pledge to be the most transparent administration ever.
It just goes to show that even seemingly universally-positive values like transparency can become negative as you approach their extremes (liberalism, socialism, libertarianism, and conservatism are also examples of ideologies that become dysfunctional, regressive, and destructive as you approach implementations of their extremes).
Anyways, getting back to Davos, you are exactly right to call them elitists. Davos is where elitists feel comfortable amongst their brethren. And you’re also correct in your characterization of Davos as “all talk … no action.” Davos is basically a week-long press conference for elitists to trumpet their ideas and pat themselves on the back, coupled with receptions and parties, networking, and a little skiing. Little is actually accomplished AT Davos. However, the value of Davos can be seen in two key ways:
1) its benefit of expanded dialogue between business/political/cultural leaders,
and 2) the inception of many relationships between the elitist attendees that flower into real-life business relationships, which “greases the wheels of capitalism,” by the creation of useful partnerships.
I write this on a BlackBerry engineered in Canada and built in China, inside a centi-million dollar condominium building financed by major transnational banks. The existence of these two simple things (a cellphone and a condo building) are shining examples of the benefit to society that comes from cross-border business relationships–some of them made at places like Davos. So complain all you like, but the truth is that you likely benefit greatly from the World Economic Forum in Davos, whether you recognize it or not.
(I should note that I am not advocating corrupt crony capitalism between business and government. Rather, I’ve tried to illustrate my belief that elitists hosting a meeting like this and fostering incestuous business relationships is not in any way negative, nor should pejorative words like crony capitalism be used to describe the WEF.)
The mix of the vocal hook (chorus) and the beat that come together at 2:24-in are Magical with a capital-M.
This is some of the best hip-hop I’ve heard since The Game. The production is fantastic, as are the beat and the vocal hook.
Thanks to Bad Allison for tipping me off about this song — and Bad Allison, if you’re reading this, let me just say that you are one of the best female rappers I have had the pleasure of hearing. Your rendition of “Ice Cream Paint Job” is without equal.
I found myself a participant in the following conversation earlier today and thought I should share it. It has shown me that there really are quite a few people out there who have odd beliefs and no evidence to support them. When I think of religious fundamentalism (perhaps extremism is a more fitting word) I often think of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan’s tribal areas, but rarely do I ever think that religious extremists are right here in my fair city, hiding in plain sight.
Jessica R: “The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
Cameron Newland: Fear yourself, for if you believe these quotes to be true, you are weak; you have lost faith in yourself as an agent of your own destiny.
Cathy B: I will definitely fear myself the day I start thinking Im the agent:-). I am however in control of my attitude which is a great thing!!
Cameron Newland: Don’t worry–you’ve lost your reasoning faculties already, Ms. Browning. This kind of understanding of reality is not something your brain allows you to do. Don’t be sad…god, in his infinite wisdom, created people with different capabilities (or in your case, handicaps) such that you don’t even comprehend the intellectual cop-out (that of humans having no control over their destiny) that you’re perpetuating.
Jessica R: Cameron -To each his own. That said, would much appreciate you keeping your opinions and diatribes on your blog or your own page, if you don’t have anything nice to say.
Cameron Newland: Jessica – I don’t find anything pejorative in anything I wrote. If you think being mentally handicapped is pejorative, I would question your compassion for those who were born with any disability.
And Jessica, why would I think to keep my (well reasoned) opinions to myself? I’m shocked that you would say such a thing during the week that began (well, Monday) with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. MLK stood up for what was right and what he believed in. What if MLK had “[kept] his opinions and diatribes [to himself],” as you’ve suggested I do? If he followed your advice, we might live in a much more cruel world, one with institutionalized segregation. I advise you, Jessica, not to dig yourself deeper in this hole of absurdity that you’ve dug.
Cathy B: Im saying that I dont believe Gods words AKA scripture…to be false. You are right if you mean that my great attitude can bring me to amazing places Id never imagined Id be! I LOVE the places God has walked me through and my attitude, strength and determination has gotten me there as well:-)). Sooo not quite sure what that long response of yours meant…you clearly don’t see that I recognize the decisions I make and goals i set will take me to different places…..I know though that there are things Im not in control of BUT that’s great that you control your destiny….no need for you to mock me by calling me Ms Browning….you never know…..we might actually find eachother to be great ppl that just think differently if we ever crossed paths. I respect you are entitled to your beliefs as am I Cameron:-)) I hope your having a great evening….really!
Oh and Jess….I just wanna make sure you know Im in no way sad:-)) Lifes good and I love the ride…..its way to short to not enjoy! goodnight all!
Cameron Newland: Dear Cathy – after reading your reply, it seems you’ve come around (or perhaps we were more in agreement than we originally thought)! Like you, I believe that I am not in absolute control of my destiny, but that I do have control over my choices and the way I think, and this empowers me and I am grateful for it.
By your replies regarding the biblical citation, I was under the impression that you took a much sillier view; that you believed that we are but powerless puppets whose every action is controlled by an omnipotent spirit somewhere! I’m glad we cleared that up and that you don’t believe such a silly thing!
Why would you think I was mocking you by calling you ‘Ms. Browning’? I thought it only proper, as we have yet to be introduced.
Anyways, I AM having a fantastic night (I’m smiling as I write this), and I wish you only the best today and far into the future!
Cathy B: For the record….I dont view my strong faith and belief in the Bible as silly at all. Im real enough to know that we obviously have different viewpoints on this. Its alright because its neither the first nor the last time this will happen in my life where Ill cross paths with all types of people. And yes….what an amazing thing Martin Luther King Jr spoke for…..I was honored to perform in front of about 5,000 men, women and children who were honoring him this last Monday! His words spoke loudly on his faith in God and you still respect him Soooo lets just leave this as we are two people who think a bit differently in areas! doesn’t mean were handicapped or incompetent…….Im sure your great at the things you do in life Cameron and I assure you Id be in no place to serve the community I do at work in the way I do if I was as incompetent as you originally thought I was….Cathy is my name…and its been an odd pleasure meeting you Cameron:-)
Cameron Newland: Cathy – please clarify something for me…are you a fundamentalist Christian? Perhaps a better way to word it is “do you believe that every word in the bible is fact, that it is the word of god, and that nature was created in only six days?”
If you answer yes to either of those questions, then I think you can understand why I would call such thinking silly and a sign of someone who certainly has a mental handicap or psychosis.
Luckily, there are not very many among us who call themselves fundamentalists. Those silly people–people who blow up airliners in a delusion that they’ll be sent to heaven, those who believe unfathomable things like the primitive biblical creation myth–are vastly outnumbered by moderate Christians who selectively believe in (or don’t believe in) parts of the bible as modernity shines light on the patently ridiculous/inaccurate sections in it.
What I’m saying is that perhaps I have passed judgment on you too early. I made an ASSUMPTION that you believed in a bunch of very silly things, that you were a fundamentalist, which may have been an error on my part. I don’t want to make the same error in assuming you are a moderate Christian, which is why I ask this very important question of you and that you clarify your stance: moderate or fundamentalist, sane or deluded?
Cathy B: Cameron….heres what ill say…Im very SANE and the ppl who blow up planes and kill people as a result are terrorists.
Cameron Newland: So, are you a fundamentalist, or a moderate?
Cameron Newland: It seems that you’re trying to answer that you’re a fundamentalist, but that you are certain that you are sane. I don’t want to read too much into your short answer, though. It’s a mistake (assumption) that I’ve already made.
Cathy B: And you have passed judgement on me too quickly. I assure you of this…. It amazes me that this world was created by God so quickly….and its my FAITH that carries me through the times ive questioned it. Now, there are plenty of things in the Bible that I have yet to learn about and things that I just don’t understand….Ill just have to see where this road of trust, learning and faith in Jesus leads me and while Im at it Ill continue to enjoy the ride Im on called a blessed life:-)
Cameron Newland: But you’ve sidestepped my question: are you a fundamentalist, or a moderate?
(I assure you, I haven’t ultimately passed judgement on you–I will when you answer my question).
Cathy B: Oh….and Ill continue to set my goals and succeed just as I always have before:-)) keeping good attitude along the way while loving and trusting the God Ive come to know:-))
Cameron Newland: Good for you!
Are you a fundamentalist Christian, or a moderate Christian, or neither?
Cameron Newland: I take it by your silence that you believe yourself to be a fundamentalist Christian (please correct me if I’m wrong!)
In my opinion that qualifies you as delusional. I also think that if you had the mental capacity of an average human, you would certainly agree with me.
And I’m so sorry that the educational system in your hometown ([a small town] in the great state of Texas, correct?) was so primitive so as to lead you to delusions instead of toward seeking the truth by humble inquiry. Perhaps your parents/family are to blame for the silly beliefs and schooling had nothing to do with it. I cannot be certain because I don’t know you personally, but either way, I feel very sorry.
I’m glad I got to learn some things about your point of view tonight!
I wish you nothing but the best!
Note: our conversation actually continued after I posted this. Luckily for us, Cathy admitted that she only dabbles in Christian fundamentalism and that she herself thinks certain fundamentalist Christian beliefs are over-the-top and dangerous. I was very happy to hear that Cathy was not in fact a complete fundamentalist, and breathed a sigh of relief.
She then proceeded to lower herself by resorting to an ad hominem attack, calling me an “arrogant ass”, which I thought was quite ironic. Cathy is the one who is so certain of her faith to the point of being arrogant and cocksure. By comparison, my faith in science is quite humble, as it is based on the idea that we do not know everything there is to know and can surely learn much more.
After the Democrats effectively lost their filibuster-proof majority (and consequently any hope they might’ve had for passing their healthcare package), the US markets took a dive, with Bespoke Investment Group reporting:
The major indices are approaching the -2% level on the day, which would be the worst day for the market in some time. While some people thought a Scott Brown win would be good for the market, it appears to be doing the opposite. The dollar is strong today on the Brown win, which is hitting stocks (especially commodity-related stocks) hard. As shown below, the Materials sector is down 2.39% on the day. The Health Care sector is down the least of the ten major sectors at -0.96%. So while the Health Care sector has benefitted for the time being, the rest of the market is taking it on the chin.
To sum up today’s action, the markets responded in the opposite way that was expected by many market watchers and commentators, due in no small part to the complexity of global markets and the strong influence of currency fluctuations on US stock market indices. The first-order expected outcome of a Republican win in Massachusetts was that Congress would become less partisan and hence more inactive, which would be a positive sign for the market because legislative inaction means predictability for businesses and individuals, who can invest without fear of the unknown and potentially risky effects of legislative change. Instead, the financial markets reacted not to the perceived enhanced predictability of Congress, but rather to the projected effect on the country’s budget offered by the failure of the Democrat-sponsored healthcare reform bill. If the Democrats had been successful in passing their bill before the special Senate election, any such bill would’ve increased government spending, added to the deficit/national debt, and would’ve struck a blow to the government’s fiscal health, which is already in shambles. After this fear was vanquished by Massachusetts voters, the US Dollar rallied against major currencies, which consequently made US stocks more expensive to foreign investors and sent domestic indices sharply lower.
If any four lessons are to be learned from these developments, I think the following are constitute a good list:
1) Markets and their behavior are complex.
2) In order to accurately forecast the direction of the market given a certain event, one must consider more than the first-order expected outcomes, instead integrating the first-order outcomes with second and third-level outcomes in order to come up with a holistic meta/macro-outcome that integrates all necessary and relevant data and accurately predicts the macro outcome that follows from the behavior of the relevant market participants. In addition to integrating first-, second-, and third-order outcomes, one must have a strong understanding of reflexivity (in the sense that George Soros uses the word) to model the reflexive effects of a development upon itself and consequently the ‘integral system’, as I choose to call it.
3) Markets behave like biological systems and are composed of many actors, all with different incentives and behaviors. To accurately forecast the outcome of a given event, one must accurately model the micro-level decisions and behavior of particular groups of market participants, and model the groups’ behavior proportionately to one another when extrapolating the model into a full-size model simulated economy.
and 4) Even if your model is up to snuff with modern economic theory, your model may still spit out predicted outcomes that are completely wrong, so don’t be cocksure about your predictions—be humble.
Any track armed with strings (specifically the cello) automatically becomes a favorite. This is no exception.
By connecting humans to one another, the internet has revolutionized communication, and by extension it has also revolutionized aspects of every other discipline. This can be seen quite clearly in the lightning-fast response to the post-earthquake humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
Within an hour of the quake, news reports were disseminated across the globe instantly. Those reports made mention of the quake, its location, and its severity. That put aid agencies on alert, and sparked hundreds of thousands of subsequent phone calls between consular officials, humanitarian/aid organizations, foreign militaries, airlines, medical staff, concerned families, et cetera. The fight to save Haiti became viral, and the virus’ method of delivery was undoubtedly the internet.
The internet has allowed for much more than quick dissemination and virality of news results. On Wednesday, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal posted image galleries online which effectively communicate the scale of the destruction to outsiders. The image galleries act as a crucial emotional appeal to humans’ nurturing instincts, and are most probably responsible for a surge in the size and quantity of charitable donations being made.
Already, Haitian-American recording artist Wyclef Jean has managed to raise more than $750,000 for his Haiti-focused charity, Yele, by soliciting donations via Twitter. His charity accepts donations via the internet, and through SMS shortcode (Anyone on an American wireless carrier who texts ‘YELE’ to the phone number 501 501 makes a donation of $5 to Yele which is charged to their mobile phone bill). Without the viral platform that Twitter offers, Wyclef Jean’s charity surely would have raised much less money.
The immediacy, virality, and rich media offered by our modern internet has surely helped save the lives of Haitians who would’ve perished without it.
If you’d like to make a donation to the relief effort, consider the following organizations:
The lyrics are just too good not to post this:
This is the best track I’ve heard so far this year. Kind of addicting.
Cross your fingers that he was indeed holding the proper licensing.
Props to Marco for having found this.
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