Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bankers More Hated then Lawyers?

One aspect of the current financial debacle that might make some happy is the very real likelihood that bankers will become even more hated then lawyers. Of course, that's only good for lawyers and is bad for bankers, but then, that is the least that bankers deserve.

Bankers should count themselves as lucky if people only hate them. By bankers, I mean mortgage lenders. Or anyone involved in 'repackaging' bad mortgages into 'securities'.
Maybe I'm being too harsh on these poor guys.
These are just bad guys. Everywhere you look, you can see bad behaviour. Even big 'normal' banks like Chase were involved in irresponsible (and I think, criminally negligent) loans. If Chase is doing it, there is not doubt that everyone else was too. It was simply too big a pie for these greedy bastards to resist.
Am I sad to see poor old Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch get crushed by their own incompetence? No, their egos and pay checks were too grotesquely large for me to have any empathy for them.
And now Paulson and Bernanke want 700 billion (who are we kidding, the real number will be way north of one trillion) to fix this mess, no strings attached. They tell us we need this because the system is just, 'too big to fail'.
They have not said it yet, but they really are selling this as the only way to avoid another Great Depression. The problem (well, one of the problems) is that this is what Bernanke has dreamed about, to be the guy who gets it right this time and saves us all from another depression. Don't mess with a boy and his dream.
I am not confident that their plan will work because the greedy bastards that got us into this mess will be the ones 'we the people' will have to deal with to get through it and based on their performance so far, I think it likely that they will just grab for the money. They will sell 'we the people' bad mortgages for much more then they are worth. They will add fees and other hidden costs to get every last dime for themselves. And when it is all said and done, they will buy new politicians to deregulate some other financial sector and start all over again.
But wait, say it does work, we stabilize the financial sector and it does not crumble. What do you think will happen next?
Taxes skyrocket.
It's very simple, this mess we are now in was completely foreseeable. I started to realise the implications when my wife and I bought a home in Texas in 2001. I saw that it was way too easy to get a mortgage and I looked around and saw a lot of people with sketchy finances getting really sketchy mortgages. I'm not an economist and even I was able to see it.
So why do taxes skyrocket?
Confidence in America will crumble. President Bush has been working real hard in chipping away at our standing in this world and this crisis will be the last straw. At this point, who in their right mind would invest in this country? We throw a trillion dollars at a useless war, we throw a trillion dollars at bad mortgages, really, who wants to be around that kind of stink?
So then all those other countries that have lent us all that money to buy all that junk will start wanting their money back. And that will cause a run on the bank. But in this case, that bank is the United States of America, or 'we the people'. So to pay that bill, we will need to pay a boat load in taxes.
This storm hits before Christmas season when all the retailers make most of their money for the year. But Americans are stupid (that's what got us into this mess) and may not fully appreciate the magnitude of the catastrophe. In which case, this will be the last Christmas for a long, long while. Might as well live it up one last time, right? But if we do wake up, them Christmas won't be much fun this year. It will look like a dream compared to what 2009 will look like. And that will be a cake walk compared to 2010. And 2011, well, I think I'll stop there, lest I get depressed.
The main problem is that we are just tapped out, there is no more money and we will soon be at the end of our line of credit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

From the "You Paid for That" dept

Microsoft has ended its recent ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. It is being debated if this was premature and simply in reaction to the negative reaction the ads have received. I thought the ads were OK, even a little funny. And though they did seem to ramble with no point, there was a subtle element to them that was humanizing Bill Gates and, by extension, Microsoft. But since Bill does not run Microsoft anymore, the timing seemed a little odd.

Now Microsoft's ad company will start to air commercials with a John Hodgman look alike as a direct confrontation with Apple's, "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ad campaign. Aside from being in poor taste to rip off your competitors characters, does Microsoft really think it's in their best interest to look like they are ripping off Apple... again?
Historically, one of the main complaints and accusations of Microsoft Windows was that it was just a bad rip off of Apple's OS. Now, with their ad campaign they are doing the exact same thing. Granted it worked for them in the past, but they had a lot more going for them at the time and I'm not sure that rekindling that old rip off argument will serve them well this time.
I wonder how much they paid their ad company for such a stunningly bad idea?
Even if the ads come out OK, the ridicule they will cause will likely negate any positive effect.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

John Maeda, I think he gets it

John Maeda is the new President of RISD (my alma matar). In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, he said, "Artists change how we see the world -- and that can have value in the way people do business." Having lived in Corporate America, I think he is right. But, I wonder if he will be able to sell his idea to business. They are often def to anything but thier own noise and this does not strike me as an idea that they will want to hear.
I am hopeful that he will be an effective leader for the RISD community, he is the first designer to hold this position. That strikes me as downright bizarre, it is long overdue to say the least.
During my time at RISD, I was rather disappointed that the liberal arts requirements kept going up and studio time kept going down. It looked to me like RISD was becoming just another liberal arts college. Some in the field no longer see RISD as a real contender as an elite art and design school. I think this academic shift is to blame. All it does it produce students with the same average liberal arts education as everyone else. I am hoping the Maeda sees and understands this and starts to reverse it.