Posts Tagged ‘On Brighton Rock

09
Sep
10

OBR – Ensemble Casts: Mean Girls (2004)

Somebody mentioned a while back (probably FilmDrunk) that of the ensemble cast of 2004’s Mean Girls, it was arguable that Lindsay Lohan, easily the most famous prior to the film, was the least successful following it. There is a couple ways to answer that: ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, possibly profit earned by subsequent films starring each of the main actresses.  Such measures does suffer from a bias inasmuch as it leaves out any television roles for the actors or actresses, but it would be marginally informative on just how everyone is doing.  Better than going on how many nude scenes everyone has filmed since (Tim Meadows IS Demetri Blackulus in Mushroom Stamp; never happened but let’s be honest, The Ladies’ Man wasn’t far off, which, unsurprisingly, took 11% as far as RT was concerned).

Ensemble casts themselves don’t always work out well; there are often movies that toss a panoply of actors into a mix without any discernible plan (or plot).  Even a classic film can fall prey to the tendency: The Blues Brothers actually came dangerously close to losing itself in cameos but was saved by the strength of its leads and the overall inspired mayhem of the film.  All too often, a film houses an ensemble for the ensemble’s sake.  The much stronger effect arises, quite obviously, not so much from a movie designed for an ensemble but a well rounded cast designed to fit the demands and flow of the film.  Mean Girls, whether you like the movie or not, had an ensemble that molded well to the interactions of its characters.

Mean Girls was one of those films that played constantly on HBO or Showtime when I had access to those channels for a brief period of time a few years ago.  Lindsay Lohan’s tits brought you to the table and the movie was good enough keep the fork and knife in your hands.  Perhaps the most disturbing fact was that, with a cast is a murderers row of hotness spanning Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lohan, Lizzy Caplan and Tina Fey,  everyone except for Fey plays a student and their ages run (at the time of filming):

Fey: 34

McAdams: 28

Chabert: 22

Caplan: 22

Seyfried: 19

Lohan: just under 18

GOO!  Apparently Lohan being a sex-symbol in the film was a little bit over the wall to PervLand (where the oompa-loompas wear no pants).  No matter.  Here’s how the core of cast made out, post-production.

Rotten Tomatoes Score (click to enlarge):

Profit per Screen (Domestic; click to enlarge):

None of the members exactly made out like bandits, but Lohan hitting a brick wall in 2008 sticks out as she was easily the most well known when Mean Girls itself was filmed (despite being the youngest).   McAdams is probably the most respected at this point, although box office receipts are hardly guaranteed by her presence.  Seyfried has perhaps been the most risque (other than Lohan’s actual life) with her turn in Chloe that featured multiple sex scenes including a lesbian scene with Julianne Moore.

Beyond McAdams, the remainder have all appeared on television, with Chabert doing the bulk of very unsung work (in addition seven separate films that received no tomatometer rating).  The strongest television performances though came from Lizzy Caplan, who did 19 episodes of “Related“, six episodes of HBO’s delightful trashfest “True Blood” (in which she killed a vampire, went topless–somewhat of a prereq for actresses on this program–and was killed off via being strangled by a serial killer while high on vampire blood), and 20 turns in “Party Down“.  This ignores of course Fey’s writing and starring in 81 episodes of the award winning “30 Rock“.   Fellow SNL alum Amy Poehler went on to front “Parks and Recreation“, good for 52 episodes so far, and a series of shit caked flicks, the exception being Blades of Glory (RT: 69%), opposite Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and her husband Will Arnett.

The male actors in the film, namely mainly on Jonathan Bennett, Rajiv Surendra and Daniel Franzese, have basically done jack and shit since, .  They weren’t terribly memorable in the film itself either.  Tim Meadows, the best known of the fellas, has shown up in punch bowl turds like Semi-Pro (RT: 20%) and The Benchwarmers (RT: 12%), although Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story had some redeeming value (and a stunningly high RT of 74%).

Perhaps not a win all around for the Mean Girls‘ ensemble, but definitely a strong showing.  Well, if Lohan gets off the sauce and poppers.

Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.

08
Jul
10

OBR – The Sloth of Sportswriting Demagoguery Inflicts the World Cup

It may be turning customary to refer to pop culture duels in the light the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien Tonight Show feud that very publicly occurred on NBC over the last year.  In sports commentary, and specifically exposition meant to have varying levels of insight punctuated by humor, Bill Simmons was a trailblazer, the original sports blogger.  When he was able to arrive at juggernaut ESPN, he had to move toward the center for the Disney subsidiary (and has complained about it).  As tempting as it might be, comparing Simmons to Leno, even while acknowledging someone more like Drew Magary at Deadspin as Conan, is a bridge too far.  It’s unlikely that Magary could ever go to a mainstream audience like ESPN, as not only the content of so many of his columns is astonishingly crude (occasionally coming dangerously close to filthy-for-the-filth-of-it territory—great moments in poop history I’m looking in your direction), but also because much of it has a quirky genius that only certain segments of a viewing audience will respond to.  Conan struggled to adapt himself to a mainstream audience while flourishing with the more targeted live audiences of his tour and the internet.  As Simmons has gone mainstream, his jokes often ring hollow or are tired retreads; and even though his columns aren’t terribly frequent, he has made ridiculous statements reminiscent of someone not exactly lending his full attention, or pumped out championship previews reeking of an author who has become lackadaisical in his writing. But Jay Leno?  As bad as some of Simmons’ attempts at humor have gotten, he still surprises with an edge every once in a while—although perhaps to the downside: “Also confusing: ESPN using Michael Buble’s romantic swing music as the theme for tonight’s telecast. I can’t tell if we’re drafting players or trying to roofie them”, which raises the question, did he just make a rape joke?  About raping NBA draftees?  But he’s never quite sunk to the Jay Leno level of tired freeze-dried TV dinner comedic horseshit.  No sad puns followed by a head waggle cum rimshot. Don’t google those last three words; see, that right there is what I’m talking about.

But there is someone on ESPN that mails it the fuck in with lame attempts to humor on a consistent basis.  And he, like Leno, was a highly-respected writer before moving to his present gig.  Our author, of course, is Rick Reilly (who at one point, ironically, was accused of ripping off a Simmons’ column).  And there’s no better example than one of Reilly’s latest columns, annoying things about the World Cup!  Now aside from the fact that every four years when the World Cup happens, sportswriters trot out this tired old chestnut so they can effectively take another week of summer vacation, this is probably one of the laziest goddamn installments for a horse that’s been beaten well past death—like, say, another fucking “Headlines” gag.  As if to ram home this point, Simmons actually produced an excellent soccer column shortly after Reilly’s (aside from coming within shouting distance of claiming he was the key to soccer’s acceptance in the America).

So if anyone is a Leno doppelganger at the mothership, that person is Reilly.  And we’re about to see why, FJM-style.  Sully a worldwide sporting event for us, Rick:

World Cup buzz kill

Is that a vuvuzela pun?  In the fucking title?  This…this is going to be bad.

Here are the top 10 most annoying things about watching the World Cup already:

“Already”?  Were we waiting breathlessly for you to sling this moldering sack of rat feces at us?

1. That pesky cerebrum-blowing incessant buzzing sound coming from the TV set.

It was a vuvuzela reference.

“Babe, something’s wrong with the TV,” my wife said Saturday. But there wasn’t anything wrong. It was the dreaded vuvuzelas, the yard-long plastic horns (voo-voo-zella)

Typically you’re supposed to put the phonetics directly after the word they’re describing, but whatever, we’ve only been writing for 20 some odd years.

that South African fans blow all the time, without rhyme nor reason, when something is happening and when it’s not (it’s usually not), during timeouts and time ins, during halftime and at the breakfast table and while they’re on the bus and while doing their taxes,

“HA!  THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME!  EVEN WHILST BEING OPPRESSED BY THE WHITE MAN!  What?  I can’t put that in the column?  But it’s so topical.  I read all about the negroes getting beaten up like hotcakes in Newsweek.”

until you just want to stab two fondue forks deep into your ears and stir.

Stir?  Why would you stir with fondue forks?  Stabbing, yes, but stirring?  Don’t you dip with—shut up, I’m not overanalyzing this.

They never stop.

Get ready, Reilly’s about rip off a string of flailing searches for a simile resembling humor

It’s like having a desk in the center cubicle at American Bee, Inc. They sound like 80,000 yaks getting sick. They are the leading cause of Tylenol sales in the world today.

My, that was tedious.  Don’t worry, he’s going back to that well.

2. The embarrassing photographer bibs the guys on the bench have to wear during the game.

What?  Who even notices this?  Or cares?  These players are on the bench.  They’re not even in the game.  This has nothing to do with the actual action and, unlike the vuvuzelas, you barely notice them.

They’re very purple and dorky. My God, who knew you could make a World Cup team and be made to look like a geek? Hey, are you on the American national soccer squad or do you throw bags for Northwest Airlines?

Mr. Reilly is going to have an abnormal amount dog crap smeared on his checked baggage.  And yes, I’m suggesting Reilly smears dogshit on his luggage with no possible explanation for such behavior.

3. The Twinkie-fingered gloves goalkeepers wear. No wonder the English goalkeeper allowed that easy shot to give America a 1-1 tie in the Group C opener.

I’m going to wager that Reilly thought about looking up the goalie’s name and then decided on internet porn instead.  What?  Well, in a free country, I could place money on such a bet.

You couldn’t stop a beach ball with those big goofy things.

Whoops, Rick’s going over the wall again.

What, is Hamburger Helper a sponsor? Why must they be so huge? Doesn’t Roger Rabbit need them back? And where do the batteries go?

Batteries?  An Energizer bunny reference…maybe…we think.

How are goalkeepers expected to hang on to the ball with them on?

Really more for protecting your hands when people are rocketing 70 mph shots at you.  Goalies tend to only be able to (or try to) catch long crosses or shots that hit them in their center of mass.

And is it difficult to play goalie while also taking things out of the oven?

And now the jokes are starting to give me a rash.

4. The godforsaken vuvuzelas!

Notice this is the second time, in a ten item list, he’s mentioned vuvuzelas, the most oft-mentioned feature of this tournament.

Make them stop! One of the charms of soccer is the singing that fans do. There is always loads of singing and chanting because every game is 1-nil, so there’s plenty of time for singing and chanting.

Now I can see why some people don’t like soccer because it doesn’t seem like a lot happens and it’s low scoring, although soccer does play continuously for at least two 45 minute periods, different from pretty much any other sport and games often finish in under two hours.  But Americans like to pretend their cherished sports are action filled contests.  And while they may be higher scoring, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, there’s plenty of time for myriad other activities (like marching bands!) during American football: “Out of the typical 2 hours and 54 minutes of the average NFL broadcast, a whole 11 minutes actually feature live game action. So next time you want to call out soccer or baseball fans for following a sport where nothing happens, you might want to tend to your own garden.”

Soccer fans sing and chant inane hilarious things like, “We are from Norway! We came on a plane! And we are very drunk!”

Humor!  Effective humor!  I see it!  It’s right there!  Almost!

But we don’t get to hear the singing and the chanting because of the horrible, hideous, heinous vuvuzelas! My god, they should take them into the mountainous caves region of Pakistan and play them until Osama bin Laden comes running out, screaming, “OK, OK! I give!”

This joke would make more sense if anyone was still looking for Osama bin Laden.  And if it wasn’t a hackneyed premise.

5. All the faking.

Well, we knew this was coming.

I haven’t seen this much bad theater since I saw former “American Idol competitor” Ace Young starring in “Hair” on Broadway.

I’m all for a good obscure reference but this somehow managed to combine esoteric with useless pop culture with a startling lack of funny.  And it raises many more questions than it answers, mainly about what Mr. Reilly fancies in his free time.

These guys collapse as though they’ve just caught a javelin in the groin every time an opponent so much as asks them for the time. These guys make Paul Pierce look sincere. Sell it somewhere else, Sven.

Ah, the safety of a Scandanavian name.  Can’t possible offend with that.  Fucking Vikings.

We live in the U.S., where hockey players pop their eye back into their socket without missing a shift.

Yes, hockey, the game that’s a distant fourth to three other sports (and that’s if we’re not counting NASCAR, AND WE ARE NOT).  I think Reilly may be referring to Canada.

This will be the new rule when I’m made president of FIFA: If you stay on the ground longer than 30 seconds, you’re out of the game; 45, you are taken directly to the nearest hospital; 60, you get a telethon.

80 and WE KILL RICK REILLY.  Wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would you, Sven the diving moose-herder?

6. The yellow cards. I love the way the refs come running up to the player as though he has just taken out a chainsaw and sawed somebody’s hand off. The ref looks very stern and upset. And then all the ref does is snap his little yellow piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and stick it in the offender’s face, as though the little yellow card has some kind of superpower.

It’s really just signaling the penalty.  Like when NFL referees make those delightful hand motions denoting the foul.  Strangely enough, Simmons specifically said he’d like to see yellow and red cards signal technical and flagrant fouls in basketball.

As if to say, “Ha! you are powerless against my little yellow piece of paper, which shows your less-than-average marks from third grade!”

Like a frowny face sticker?  Kinda like to see that, myself.  Instead of a yellow card, huge frowny face sticker on your jersey.  And a kick to the taint.  Can’t discount the deterrent of a good taint-kicking.

I’d love to see that in the middle of an NBA fight. Can you imagine seeing some ref come running up to Rasheed Wallace after laying out Carmelo Anthony with a roundhouse right and sticking that yellow card right in his face? He’d soon be digesting it through his ear hole.

We’re talking about the same Carmelo Anthony who punched someone and then ran 40 feet the other way?  Of course, he’s the victim in this hypo, but the obvious person to mention would have been Captain Jack or Ron Artest.  But that may have been a bridge too far for the ESPN censors in bringing up that late unpleasantness in Detroit.  And I think, and this is just a thought, that soccer refs have to deal with far more violence and threats of violence than just about any other referees.

7. The ties. In the NFL in the past 10 years, there have been two ties.

Quick, someone alert Donovan McNabb!  Yeah, that’s going to haunt him for some time…and that joke is likely to haunt me.

As of Tuesday morning, in the first 11 games of this World Cup, there have been five ties. You will not see more ties at a J.C. Penney’s Father’s Day sale.

Ugh.

I hate ties. Doesn’t anybody want to win in this sport?

You can’t tie the final.

All these ties are about as exciting as a Jonas Brothers roundtable on sex.

Actually the ties only occur during the group stages, then it goes to penalty kicks, which I don’t like, so I’m actually in agreement here.  I’d have it go to penalties in the group stage and then play until someone scored in the bracket stage.  I’d also like to erase that Jonas Brothers joke from my brain with a claw hammer.

8. The World Cup itself. Really?

Honestly, no sport has a great trophy except for the Stanley Cup.  And maybe baseball but only if it involves Chris Duncan:

All this running and vuvuzela-ing and pulling off shirts for that trophy? It looks like somebody soldered it together in their basement — after drinking a handle of Jack Daniel’s.

In south St. Louis city, drunken basement soldering is a pastime and a spectator sport when the cops show up…or if you’re broadcasting it on chat roulette watched by three injury faking Svens windmilling their dicks.

It looks like something you’d use to prop open your Tuff Shed door during spring cleaning. It’s gold and small and looks like somebody accidentally melted it somewhere along the way.

Isn’t soldering essentially the same as melting?  I thought it was on purpose!  THE WHISKEY TOLD ME TO DO IT.

I mean, there IS chocolate in the middle of that thing, right?

No, there’s merely a horde of drunken angry wasps.  Because really, why the fuck not?

But if it was chocolate, wouldn’t that make it a statue of Üter Zörker?

Maybe I just don’t get it.

Maybe because there’s nothing to get.  It’s just a trophy.

Personally I’d like to a gold plated soccer ball attached to a chain—basically a mace.  Nothing you can’t accomplish with a mace.  Defending your cottage from Sven the pillaging boatswain, conquering Moldavia, raising a child…

9. Stoppage time. Why can’t we know how much time is left? Why must it be such a mystery? Whose idea was this? Why do only the refs get to know? Wouldn’t it be more exciting if we all knew? You tell me which is more exciting:

A. “Ten seconds left now! Kaka needs to get a shot off here or it’s over! Five seconds! Kaka wheeling! Two seconds! There’s the shot! And … ”

B. “Well, the ref should be calling this game shortly. A minute or two. Maybe more. Actually, I don’t know. Nigel, do you know? Kaka seems confused. He’s dribbling. Wait. Now he’s stopped to examine a small scab, and well, that’s it. The ref says it’s over. I guess that’s it, then.”

All we get is B. Somebody needs to put some stoppage to stoppage time.

This just makes no sense whatsoever.  Particularly B.  B is never how it actually happens.  Usually play will not stop until a ball has been cleared into the midfield or goes out of bounds.  And if we’re watching the game, we do know how much time is left.  It says it right there on the screen.

I can see how soccer is somewhat jarring for the typical American sports fan in that it doesn’t have a specific discernable stopping point until the ref blows the whistle—and perhaps Reilly has stumbled upon why soccer is considered distasteful for a large portion of the viewing public.  It is a game of constant, but shifting, flows.  One team will build a threat and if it doesn’t succeed, often the transition to the other team that becomes a return threat.  But a lot of time is spent building a proper threat—the constant, but often unexciting flow.  When time runs out, a ref has discretion to let a threat die and call the game when the flow becomes neutral.  It’d be interesting to see Reilly explore the issue of flow in this text—obviously, that doesn’t happen because the next, final and most important point is:

10. The vuvuzelas from eardrum-hellas! Don’t tell me it’s discrimination to want them to stop. Don’t tell me it’s an essential part of South African culture. If it is, it’s an annoying part of their culture. Yes, I know that centuries ago, the vuvuzelas were made from animal horns to call the village elders in for a meeting. And I’ll bet you five wildebeests that when the elders finally got to the meeting they said, “Would you STOP already with the blowing? You’re making me crazy!” I’ve been to Africa four times. They do some of the most beautiful singing you can imagine. At the World Cup, I’m hearing no singing. I’m hearing no chanting. I’m hearing 80,000 kazoos on steroids.

Now, we’ve had some fun with Mr. Reilly.  As one of the dominant, if not preeminent, sportswriter of his generation, perhaps mailing it in for a few years at the worldwide leader is his just due.

But consider: according to the New York Post, rumor had it when Reilly originally signed with ESPN in 2007, he was being paid $2 million a year for five years for his signature Life of Reilly column.  Out of a 1,118 word column consisting of a top ten list, 372 words or about of a third of the article, was on a single list item.  Why not just write a column on how you hate vuvuzelas?  Why even bother with the other stuff?  You clearly hate South African culture, why not just go all the way?

But it still sounds better than Ace Young.

Annnnnndddd we end with a second American Idol reference.

I wish to throw myself in front of a train.

Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.

23
Jun
10

On Mark-to-Market and Its Supposed Suspension

One of the most misunderstood episodes of the financial crisis concerned the events surrounding fair value accounting, specifically in reference to what securities should be marked to market.  Most recently, Steve Forbes criticized the re-imposition of any such rule on banks:

An economic version of the bubonic plague is ready to reemerge: mark-to-market accounting. This rule was the principal reason that the financial disaster of 2007–09 threatened to destroy our financial system. The system could have survived the losses from subprime mortgages and other unsound exotic transactions–though there would have been substantial casualties among players–just as we survived the raft of bad Latin American and commercial real estate loans in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In effect, mark-to-market accounting rules forced financial institutions to value securities for capital purposes as though they were day-trading accounts. Traditionally, an asset was held at book value for regulatory capital purposes unless it was disposed of or became impaired. In 2007 that standard was overturned by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). When panic set in regulators and auditors forced banks and insurers to write down the values of assets to absurdly low levels that weren’t even remotely justified by their cash flows. Forbes columnist and noted economist Brian Wesbury explained in his book It’s Not as Bad as You Think: Why Capitalism Trumps Fear and the Economy Will Thrive (John Wiley & Sons) that if mark-to-market had been in effect during our last big banking crisis some two decades ago the largest commercial banks in the country would have been destroyed. Those institutions had Latin American loans equivalent to 260% of their capital. On a mark-to-market basis those loans would have fetched barely ten cents on the dollar.

Mark-to-market is like being told to mark down the value of your house to a price that it will fetch within the next 24 hours. An absurdly destructive concept. But it explains why the massive losses financial institutions took were mostly book losses and not actual cash losses on bad paper.

Mark-to-market accounting was banned in 1938 because it was contributing to financial distress during the Great Depression. In March 2009 Congress forced a change: The FASB would allow cash flow accounting to be used when markets were illiquid. Overnight the terrible bear market ended, and the credit system came back to life.

But did Congress actually force a change, or just imply that they may take some action?  The language in many articles discussing the events during that tumultuous period is vague, whether deliberately or not.  Earlier this spring, another author was characteristically as blunt about the supposed suspension of the rules, although his conclusion was different—intriguing because he also harked back to the Latin American debt crisis:

Between September, 2008, and March 2009, the Fed backstopped the entire US banking system—but it still wasn’t enough. The losses were too great, the holes in the balance sheets too big.
So on April 2, 2009, a key FASB rule was suspended: Specifically, rule 157 was suspended, related to the marking of assets to market value—the so-called “mark to market” rule.
Essentially, the mark-to-market rule means marking an asset to the value it can fetch in the open market at the date of the accounting period. If I own a share of XYZ stock which I purchased at $100, but today it’s quoted at $60, I mark it on my books at today’s market price—$60—not at the purchase price—$100. The reason is obvious: By marking the asset to market value, I’m giving a realistic picture of the financial shape of my company or bank.
However, ever since April 2, 2009, when the FASB rules were suspended, the American banking system has been floating on nothing by air. By suspending rule 157, none of the banks have had to admit that they’re insolvent. With the suspension of mark-to-market, accounting rules are now basically mark-to-make-believe.
Why was FASB rule 157 suspended?
Geitner, Bernanke and Summers seem to have been trying to duplicate what Volcker did so successfully in 1982. This period since March 15, 2009, when the suspension of the rule went into effect, has been called “extend and pretend”.
Has it worked?
Prima facie, it would seem so. The banks seem to be stable, and have been raking in the big bucks ever since the rule was suspended. The markets—from their March ’09 lows—have rocketed onward and upward. In fact, Citigroup stock has quadrupled, Goldman Sachs has doubled—everything is wonderful! Nothing hurts!
However, the basic problems in the banking system remain: The banks are still broke, because of the same reason—the toxic assets on their books.

And referring back to the Latin American crisis:

In 1982, many of the banks hit by the Latin American debt crisis were effectively insolvent. Paul Volcker, as the then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve—charged with overseeing the banking system—effectively cast a blind eye on this banking insolvency.
Volcker’s reasoning seems to have been that the US banks were not broke—they were just getting temporarily squeezed. Volcker seems to have concluded that time would heal the balance sheet wounds caused by the Latin American defaults. Therefore, to hold the banks to the letter of the accounting rules would likely drive one or more of them broke, to no useful purpose—and it could potentially cause a bank panic and general financial crisis. But to pretend (for a while) that all was right with the US banks would avoid a potential panic—so long as the crisis sorted itself out and the banks repaired themselves by writing off and renegotiating their toxic Latin American debt.
Volcker gambled, and won: The US banks indeed took the Latin American debt hit, but grew their way out of their hole.

Regardless of the conclusions, both articles make the same claim: fair-value accounting was either suspended or forced out of existence, by either Congress or FASB or both.  The specifics on the mechanics of what actually occurred remain cloudy, however.  For instance, were the banks able to value anything based on cash flow models rather than market prices, or merely just certain loans, as the Forbes article suggests?  Was the problem really loans to small businesses or complex derivatives or securitized loans which did trade, but whose markets suddenly dried up—a question the Forbes article assiduously avoids, seemingly claiming that banks were forced to value their entire loan portfolio in some market, a fairly dubious assertion.  Other articles made similar, though less stringent assertions:

I contacted several academic accountants with substantial business experience in order to try and resolve this question.  Their responses paint a decidedly different picture than many news or even research analysis might depict.  Also notable is that their responses had slight differences between them.  I have listed my original question to them and their responses, given in the order they were received back to me.

Original Question:

I have heard this repeatedly in several articles about banking or the economy in general: that fair value accounting, or marking to market, was suspended or notably modified at some point between the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009 in order to allow banks to hide losses (although it was never transparently stated that way).  In an accounting class, I recall (hopefully accurately) hearing that while the flexibility in determining pricing already inherent in fair-value accounting was used to full extent by most financial institutions, there was no substantial change to the accounting method promulgated by either FASB or a governmental body or agency.  Notably, there was a press release in late September 2008 jointly by the FASB and the SEC that reiterated the previous accounting methods, with special attention to the current situation, but did not alter it (http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2008/2008-234.htm).  However, I keep hearing the assertion that accounting rules were suspended, changed or otherwise modified.  Moreover, this Bloomberg article from late March 2009 seems to indicate that the FASB did in fact cave to the banking interests.  As Bloomberg  states: “Four days after U.S. lawmakers berated Financial Accounting Standards Board Chairman Robert Herz and threatened to take rulemaking out of his hands, FASB proposed an overhaul of fair-value accounting that may improve profits at banks such as Citigroup Inc. by more than 20 percent.  The changes proposed on March 16 to fair-value, also known as mark-to-market accounting, would allow companies to use “significant judgment” in valuing assets and reduce the amount of writedowns they must take on so-called impaired investments, including mortgage-backed securities. A final vote on the resolutions, which would apply to first-quarter financial statements, is scheduled for April 2.”

So my question is:

  • Did FASB (or some other governmental body) make (or, as Bloomberg article implies, consider making) material changes to fair value accounting methods at some point during the meltdown?
  • If these changes were made, were was their content and implications?

Thank you for any help you can provide on this matter.

Opinion #1:

In my opinion, what are described as “changes” in the below paragraph do not involve rewriting of any fair value standards  . . .

“The changes proposed on March 16 to fair-value, also known as mark-to-market accounting, would allow companies to use “significant judgment” in valuing assets and reduce the amount of writedowns they must take on so-called impaired investments, including mortgage-backed securities. A final vote on the resolutions, which would apply to first-quarter financial statements, is scheduled for April 2.

Instead, the way I interpret the above paragraph relates to how the existing fair value standards are applied.  More specifically, I think what the FASB and SEC are saying is that just because a transaction price is observed, that doesn’t imply that other firms should automatically value their own assets and liabilities via reference to the observed transaction price.   For example, if another bank sells a mortgage back security at a fire sale price, my bank doesn’t have to draw upon that price if I intended to hold a similar security into the future.

Having said that, the FASB did issue an FSP that clarifies when markets are “inactive” and when transactions are “disorderly” – both of which presumably allow a firm to use a “Level 3” fair value.   The following document seems to summarize these things well. . .

http://www.debevoise.com/files/Publication/cd4b7869-103b-4e27-9f31-5042f0ffa301/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/684faf55-0ac8-4ab8-8765-56fdfd9ebeb5/FASBIssuesGuidanceOnFairValueDeterminationInIlliquidOrInactiveMarkets.pdf

Hope this helps!

Opinion #2:

This was very confused, and I’m not sure that I know exactly what happened either, but here is what I THINK happened.

First, this was going on simultaneously in multiple jurisdictions.  The pressure for change was actually higher in Europe (on the IASB) than it was here in the US, and I believe that there were some fairly major changes in IFRS to weaken the role of fair value.  In fact, I believe that the EU may have suspended certain IFRS rulings, with the result that, at least in terms of fair value, there is now an “IFRS” set of rules and an “IFRS-EU” set of rules.

In the US, there was substantial pressure on FASB to water down the provisions of fair value, but FASB has gotten fairly good (through lots of practice) at resisting such pressure.  I don’t believe there was ever any official change to the rules.  What the FASB did do, however, was to issue a number of “interpretations” and clarifications, where they made clear that provisions in the original rules did allow for firms to use judgment to ignore market value when market value wasn’t well defined (e.g., when markets were highly illiquid).  These provisions had not originally been well understood (they were very vague) and so these clarifications probably did change the way in which the rules were applied, even though technically they didn’t change the rules themselves.  My guess is that this is what the Bloomberg article is referring to.  My sense is that the accountants in the US did a pretty good job of NOT caving in, given the circumstances.  I also recall that FASB has several times promised to “review” the rules going forward.  FASB has learned that politicians have short attention spans, and so delaying a decision generally means not having to make a change.

Again, I haven’t studied this carefully – at the level of the courses that I teach, nothing has changed.  So it’s possible that I’ve missed something!

Opinion #3:

The FASB “clarification” issued on April 2 lead to an “easing” of mark-to-market requirements in cases where quoted prices are produced by illiquid markets.

My answer is not based on the text of the FASB’s April 2nd pronouncement.  The FASB is correct to argue that they did not say anything on April 2nd that differs from prior statements.

However, by reemphasizing the role of judgment in the application of mark-to-market, the FASB seems to have reduced the burden of proof on firms that argue against using market prices from illiquid markets.  In particular, the market in question was the market for mortgage-backed securities and the quoted price in question is the family of ABX.HE indices which provide quotes on a variety of portfolios of subprime mortgage-backed securities.

I make this statement after examining the economic implications of the standard with my colleagues.  First, firms were permitted to use the new ruling to prepare Q1 financials.  As a result, Wells Fargo says they reduced reported losses on available for sale securities in Q1 2009 by $4.4B.  But the anecdotal evidence is weakened by the fact the JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup say the standard had little effect. Second, the market price of bank stocks seems to have increased when the new standard was announced.  I say “seems” because the significance of the positive market reaction varies depending which events are included in the measurement period.  In some cases it is insignificant.

The key point seems to be that the rules were not changed, but that FASB tried to run cover for financial firms by stating that it was in their discretion to decide how certain securities and loans would be valued.  In truth, the original rules were so vague themselves that much of it was left to the judgment of companies employing such standards.  Moreover, the primary issue, in my opinion, was not that all of a bank’s securities suddenly had to be valued by some market price, but that certain securities which had, in the past, been accounted for in such a manner, no longer traded in orderly markets and would likely fetch an extremely low price, regardless of future cash flows.  Thus, the crux of Forbes’ article appears overblown—that fair value accounting is somehow equivalent to rat poison for financial institutions—and the talk of an outright suspension of the rules appears groundless: neither FASB nor Congress nor any governmental body revoked the standard.  What does appear to have happened was that FASB, under duress from Congress and financial firms, reiterated its position that companies had discretion in employing the rules, while never changing the wording or content of the rules themselves.

Any opinion expressed here is my own and not that of the firm which employs me.  Under no circumstances should writings or links on this website be taken as a solicitation for an investment or as investment advice.  These topics and commentaries are, whole and entire, for entertainment and discussion purposes only.

01
Feb
10

OBR – Of Hamster Metaphors and Men

I do not have many problems with the targets of much criticism in Growth Isn’t Possible (GIP)—I do disagree with the appropriate solutions.  I read only the introduction and conclusions in order to derive a general sense of the report and its purpose.  The remainder appears to consist of data and statistics to support its conclusions on the limits of resources within the planet Earth.  Since I didn’t read it let alone analyze it, I will generally try to refrain disputing the data itself.

The thrust of the report is that the fact the Earth consists of finite resources (hardly a controversial topic) posits itself in diametric opposition to the standard economic hypothesis that an economy must grow.  Growth, in this sense, appears to be defined as the common Gross Domestic Product formula, which seeks to calculate the sum of economic activity within a given set of arbitrary boundaries (namely the borders of a nation or state).  The world economy might be defined in a similar manner, although the category of exports and imports would, at this time at least, have to be eliminated.  Coming from the Austrian School of Economics (ASE) that differs highly from most mainstream economic schools, whether they be Neoclassical, various strands of Keynesianism or Chicagoan, I don’t view the GDP statistic as the end-all standard of the performance of an economy.  Indeed, the GDP category of government spending should be dubious because the government does not operate within an economic system of private property and profit/loss.  Thus, it is unclear whether government expenditures create how much or any value since there is no metric of profit/loss—more directly, it is unclear whether persons operating in the economy view the services as beneficial since they have no recourse to trade for them or choose not to, i.e., profit and loss.  Secondarily even the private measures of consumption and investment are suspect due to government interventions into the economy or by a bubble mentality.  The GDP of the United States during 2005-2007 period were generally non-descriptive given the enormous misallocation of resources as a result of the housing boom, via both actions of the Federal Reserve as well as the quasi-private relics of the New Deal in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which have since been nationalized), in addition to the reckless practices of banks and other financial institutions riding the bubble, all the way down to homebuilders and home supply stores.  In considering this, it is possible that under an Austrian perspective that GDP loses a significant portion of its meaning.  It may provide some sort of an indication of the health of an economy, but the distortions in the data may be too extreme to lend a complete picture.

Under these conditions then, one would probably agree with the report’s statement, “it was repeatedly observed that growth in aggregate national income couldn’t tell you anything about the nature of the economy, whether activity was good or bad.”   Undoubtedly true, although the definitions of “good” and “bad” differ wildly.  The report then mentions “spending on prisons, pollution and disasters pushed up GDP just as surely as spending on schools, hospitals and parks.”  This is essentially the same point made in the previous paragraph, if one could consider the housing bubble, like the tech bubble before it, a “disaster”.   What ASE points to, beyond the considerations of government distortions, is that the best regime for allocating scarce resources[1] is based on clear definition of property rights, free trade between parties and a dispute resolution process for aggressive, fraudulent or breach of contract actions.  In essence, a private property system attempts to allocate resources based upon subjective preference[2] according to an individual’s needs and wants.  If one person is proficient at producing shoes, they may trade them to a baker for bread and so on.  Taxes are low and uniform; the state does not have a significant standing army, perhaps, on a local level a moderate police force although much of security work may be done privately.

Such a regime has not existed and isn’t likely to exist in the near future.  The United States has ebbed and flowed violently towards and away from this state of affairs.  In its early years, chattel slavery, the grossest state subsidy man has yet invented, and oppression of the native tribes were affronts to a private property regime.  As slavery ended, the country began to move into a progressive era when nascent scientific beliefs combined with the interests of big businesses to immunize themselves from competition to create barriers to trade and regulations (the most significant being the Federal Reserve Act, in essence a banking cartel), bringing about such horrors as the misguided eugenics crisis within the U.S. that resulted in 64,000 persons being forcibly sterilized.  After the myriad military incursions on behalf of privileged business interests throughout Latin America and the horrific quashing of the Filipino rebellion, the New Deal and World War II crystallized the supposed efficacy of state intervention and the United States destiny as a mercantilist/corporatist state was set.

Returning to the implications of the GIP report, as it was generated within Britain, they detail the problems within U.K. economy:

The problem with our economic system is now threefold. First, governments plan their expenditure assuming that the economy will keep growing. If it then didn’t grow, there would be shortfalls in government income with repercussions for public spending. The same is true for all of us; for example, when we plan for old age by putting our savings into pensions.

The obvious solution to the problem is to restrict government spending to minimums, but the obvious retort is that private firms likewise undertake expenditures on the expectation of growth.  This fact seems self-evident, as what entrepreneur would undertake a new business if he didn’t think it could thrive.  The difference is the government can spend as long as it can force its citizens to provide it with money (either via direct taxation or inflation) to do so while a business may either prosper or fail, with small businesses being notoriously risky propositions.  In the private sector under a regime of property rights, small-businesses starting and failing need not consume ever greater quantities of resources.  Some businesses might fail and cease consuming resources entirely, while others might take their place as they are better at allocating resources in accord with consumer preference.

Today, though, many economies like the UK are facing this problem in any case. Ironically, however, it comes as a direct consequence of the economic damage caused by the behaviour of weakly regulated banks, which were busy chasing maximum rates of growth through financial speculation.

This aside is tangential to the central discussion of the GIP report, but one can find a succinct discussion of the Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle, which is decidedly different from almost all mainstream analyses.  However to delve into it slightly and address the accusation at hand, one need ask two questions: why do banks need regulation and why were they chasing the “maximum rates of growth”?  Greed, certainly, played a role as well as possibly ill-conceived manager incentives based on stock incentives (which can be very effective, depending naturally on how they’re structured).  Bank regulation arose though from the concern over the public’s considerable risk to bank failures.  Bank failures naturally arose not so much from “reckless lending” (a decidedly nebulous concept), but from the persistence of fractional reserve banking (FRB).  Although FRB may well be acceptable if properly defined as a financial security (similar, for instance, to a share in a mutual fund), FRB’s origins were decidedly unique in that it arose from goldsmiths and banks holding customer’s gold and then surreptitiously lending some of those holdings out[3]; legal regimes generally were accepting this practice among banks while prohibiting it in other commodity storage facilities.  Naturally, FRBs are prone to the infamous bank run, usually brought about by a downturn that calls into question the quality of the FRBs loans made on the base of deposits.  The bank run decreases the banks liquidity and causes a crisis when the FRB cannot return money to all depositors.  Solution: regulation that ensures banks keep a specified level of reserves to handle redemptions as well as control the riskiness of their loans so that they will have enough cash in the future to repay depositors (after paying depositors interest and generating a modest profit for themselves).  The FDIC only reinforces the supposed need for this regulation by providing a government guaranteed price floor for demand deposits (as well as time deposits and certificates of deposit), ensuring that banks will issue as many as possible to generate as many loans as possible to profit as much as possible.  What is not considered is forcing FRBs to become companies selling financial securities (instead of the legally privileged security of a demand deposit).

Secondly, neo-liberal economies typically put legal obligations on publicly listed companies to grow. They make the maximisation of returns to shareholders the highest priority for management. As major investors are generally footloose, they are free to take their money wherever the highest rates of return and growth are found.

It is always confusing when the “neo-liberal” moniker is used, as it refers to a long past time when liberals were considered those who supported an Adam Smithian economy of free trade in response to the conservative regime of militarily supported mercantile export policies, domestic guilds (basically the equivalent of state enforced labor unions) and licenses to trade granted to favored merchants.  The labels have become confused in modern times to almost mean what the other had previously meant.  The nomenclature is particularly treacherous for those of the so-called Austro-Libertarian focus who simultaneously support such diverse policies as gay marriage, drug legalization, freedom of speech, anti-police paramilitarism, anti-unionism, anti-minimum wage, free trade, and notably anti-militarism to the extent that one of its leaders, Murray Rothbard, broke with The National Review and allied with the New Left.

In order to avoid too precipitous of a digression, the “legal obligations” that are referred to here are, I assume, a fiscal duty to shareholders or potentially the possibility of a buy-out of shares if the company underperforms growth expectations.  Excluding the implications of the CAPM for the time being, investors must not only focus on the return generated, but on the risk of that return.  In the private sector, growth may be strived for but is certainly not guaranteed.  The evident lesson of the recent downturn is that growth blindly pursued without recognition of risk can lead to disastrous consequences—particularly when the downside of those risks are deflected by institutions such as the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and various Treasury programs.

Thirdly, in the modern world, money is lent into existence by banks with interest rates attached. Because for every pound, dollar, yen or euro borrowed, more must be paid back, economies that function largely on interest-bearing money have a built-in growth dynamic.

This contention is true due to the FRB institution described earlier and the existence of central banks and could be resolved without resorting to the scheme described in the conclusion of the GIP report.  GIP later notes that “nearly all money is lent into existence bearing interest. For every pound lent, more must be repaid, demanding growth.”  As noted with the curious legal distinction of FRB, there is no reason why, in a free market, money would be in the form of demand deposits—indeed, inasmuch as these are financial securities, they are always denominated in something else and thus couldn’t be considered money in a definitional sense but rather facilitating mediums that promote transactions, somewhat similar to credit cards.  ASE and other sources indicate that it is the inflationary bias of FRB’s ability of create money out of thin air that leads to the desire of return.  One could no longer set aside money in the proverbial coffee can in the back yard without it losing value as inflation is inevitable, thus giving the impetus for some “growth” investment. Although commodity monies might certainly inflate through discovery of more of the commodity, it would probably not be to the same extent as FRB based money.  The GIP report proposes the dangerous solution:

Low- or no-cost credit can be created by Central Banks for the purpose of achieving particular tasks – such as building new infrastructures for energy, transport, farming and buildings – for the environmental transformation of the economy.

Although the issue of control of many of these policies is important, it is never determined to whom the credit would be given or how the relative success or failure of the particular tasks would be judged.  Indeed, this is not so much a credit as it is a wealth transfer or subsidy to certain projects (which is essentially what the Federal Reserve provides to banks within the cartel at the present date).

Money, then, is one of the most misunderstood and indeed difficult to understand components of an economy.  Money, as a common medium of exchange, allows actors in an economy to trade to a much larger extent than a barter economy.  However, the good, most likely a commodity, chosen as a medium of exchange is usually one that all actors desire to some degree—the curious aspect of a commodity that becomes a monetary unit is that is worth more as money than its initial use.  Indeed, economic actors tend to use it far more as a medium of exchange than as its original intended use.  Money in its traditional sense does not carry an sort of implicit (this was a curious invention of FRB demand deposits that are considered money or, if they were treated as financial securities that they are, facilitating mediums akin to credit cards instead of money or money substitutes).  Though the supply of money might grow (or decline) there is no implicit impetus towards growth.

The problem extends beyond the economy. Our increasingly consumerist society demands ever higher consumption to demonstrate social status – conspicuous consumption.

Intriguingly, this is where the GIP report, both here and elsewhere, takes a turn for dangerous territory of pseudoscience.  Just as the ASE’s subjectivism casts serious doubts on the efficacy or meaning of mainstream economists’ bizarre attempts to mathematically graph or model a consumer’s utility, ASE’s subjectivism would regard the claim of “an overly consumerist society” as normative rather than positive.

It is possible that consumerism could be referring to purely the overuse of resources, and the GIP report states something to that effect:

This mainstream view of sustainable development is quite different from definitions of so-called ‘strong sustainability’. The ‘mainstream’ view tends to emphasise decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation (including climate change). And, to drive that dynamic it relies heavily on market-based initiatives – the ‘ecological modernisation’ of the economy, defined by German sociologist Joseph Huber as a twin process of ‘ecologising the economy’ and ‘economising ecology’.

Ecological modernisation assumes that already existing political, economic and social institutions can adequately deal with environmental problems – focusing, almost exclusively on industrialism, with much less consideration (if any at all) being given to the accumulative process of capitalism, military power or the nation-sate system, even though all contribute in different ways to environmental degradation by being instrumental to growth and international competitiveness.

Policies of environmental or ecological modernisation include: the ‘polluter pays’ principle, eco-taxes, government purchasing initiatives, consumer education campaigns and instituting voluntary eco-labelling schemes.

Murray Rothbard describes in “Law, Property Rights and Air Pollution” that damage to another party’s property right should take precedence over public good considerations such as “economic growth”.  Whether the authors here intend the “modernisation” schemes to include this type of analysis is unclear.

Other authors have addressed the fundamental paradox of resource depletion under a private property rights regime.  John Bratland has dealt with many of these issues in a series of articles in the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics:

One of the conclusions of these reports is that private property regimes enforce conservation of resources because as a resource becomes scarcer, it becomes more expensive thereby causing individuals to conserve it or find ways to exploit it more efficiently.  Individuals will then not find themselves in a situation where all of the resource is suddenly gone, but that as the resource is depleted, they need to conserve it by reducing consumption and/or finding alternatives.  Moreover, certain proactive programs such as recycling may actually expend more resources than traditional waste disposal.  Waste generation and disposal may both suffer from the tragedy of commons, since waste disposal is generally thought of as a public good.  In a world were vast tracts of land are unowned or have inexact property rights (such as bodies of water), waste tends to get dumped there as it does not cause an immediate problem for the dumper or other individuals[4].  The solution thereby may be not so much regulation of pollution be bringing unowned lands into ownership and clearly defining rights among so-called fluid resources such as bodies of water.

In all of this discussion on growth, it seems that most of the focus is centered on having more instead of having better.  The paper does point out that there are limits to efficiency, but to put this issue into sharp relief, consider whether it would be better to have double or even three times the amount of goods and services as an American in 1900 versus half or even a third of an American in 2000.  One might contend that even on that basis the 1900 American consumed fewer resources than the 2000 American, but it is unclear what even that entails—for instance, the 1900 American consumed considerably less oil because the full benefits of the internal combustion engine had yet to be realized.  However, consider now if transportation needs had to be filled by a combination of horses and steam engine trains.  Many cities would be grappling with the problem of what to do with the enormous piles of horse manure while methane from equine flatulence might be contributing to anthropogenic global warming.  The basic conclusion is then is that benefits are not best calculated the accumulation of things but by satisfying needs and wants, which, beyond basic human needs, is a very subjective concept.

However, the GIP report intends to quantify the unquantifiable by creating an objective measure of human satisfaction:

In fact, a growing body of literature shows that once people have enough to meet their basic needs and are able to survive with reasonable comfort, higher levels of consumption do not tend to translate into higher levels of life satisfaction, or well-being.46 Instead, people tend to adapt relatively quickly to improvements in their material standard of living, and soon return to their prior level of life satisfaction. This is known as becoming trapped on the ‘hedonic treadmill’, whereby ever higher levels of consumption are sought in the belief that they will lead to a better life, whilst simultaneously changing expectations leave people in effect having to ‘run faster’, consuming more, merely to stand still.

In truth, this is not tremendously different from the mainstream economic tenet (shared with ASE) of marginal utility, whereby an additional unit of any good confers a decreasing amount of satisfaction upon the recipient.

National trends in subjective life satisfaction (an important predictor of other hard, quantitative indicators such as health) stay stubbornly flat once a fairly low level of GDP per capita is reached. And, importantly, only around 10 per cent of the variation in subjective happiness observed in western populations is attributable to differences in actual material circumstances, such as income and possessions.

These claims are rather stunning in their attempt to quantify a “variation in subjective happiness”.  How can a subjective state be quantified?  A subjective state would by necessity differ from person to person, thus making a uniform level of measurement impossible.  Or so it would seem—the reports where this data is derived is footnoted but the definitions of “subjective happiness” are buried within them.

Possibly the most unusual claim of the GIP report is:

Between 1990 and 2001, for every $100 worth of growth in the world’s income per person, just $0.60, down from $2.20 the previous decade, found its target and contributed to reducing poverty below the $1-a-day line.38 A single dollar of poverty reduction took $166 of additional global production and consumption, with all its associated environmental impacts. It created the paradox that ever smaller amounts of poverty reduction amongst the poorest people of the world required ever larger amounts of conspicuous consumption by the rich.

Basically, not only is gross income inequality a potential result of poverty reduction under a free market, but a necessary condition thereof—meaning resource depletion will occur ever faster.  An objection of this paradigm, even in ignorance of the data, would be why would the inequality be expected to continue.  The aforementioned public company bias for growth could shed some light on this situation, as various companies often have very different profitability ranks at one point in time, but they tend to revert back towards one another as competition erodes their advantages.  Furthermore, apart from an apparent correlation, the GIP report does not make it clear what the causal mechanism is that necessitates larger amounts of consumption of the rich for consequent poverty reduction.

The conclusions of the GIP report are unclear in just exactly they are suggesting as remedy for the current state of affairs.  Clearly they reject traditional GDP as an economic statistic while proposing a number of alternative measures, but they do not ever outline a plan for sustainable growth.  They oppose the three bad conditions (gov. expenditure based on growth, equities favoring growth, interest bearing money) but it’s not clear what would replace them.  The report seems to point towards a mixed economy (elements of central planning and free markets) with a weight towards command-and-control but it’s not clear who would exercise control or how it would function.

However they do suggest a number of things.  First is a series of aforementioned measures to replace GDP:

The Happy Planet 2.0 (2009), which provides a new compass to set society on the path to real progress by measuring what matters to people – living a long and happy life – and what matters to the planet – our rate of resource consumption.

The National Accounts of Well-Being (2009), proposes nations should directly measure people’s well-being in a regular and thorough way, and that policy is shaped to ensure high, equitable and sustainable well-being.

If resource allocations where to be judged via certain statistics, what are the mechanisms to ensure that such judgments are made apart from political considerations.  The statistics would have to be protected from special interests seeking to tweak them in their favor.  Even if such public choice issues are ignored, what are the mechanisms for change if a better statistic is generated and how would it be decided that a new index is actually better.  Perhaps these papers do address these issues—unfortunately I have not read them.  But the authors do not seem to explicate these considerations when constructing a new framework for property rights:

First, he [Herman Daly] said, you need to identify the limit of whichever aspect of our natural resources and biocapacity concerns you, then within that, allocate equitable entitlements and, in order to allow flexibility, make them tradable. Such an approach could be applied to the management of the world’s forests and oceans as much as CO2. Daly credits the innovative American architect and polymath Richard Buckminster Fuller for first suggesting the approach. At a fundamental level, this is the primary mechanism to avoid the tragedy of the commons.

Fundamentally, this is what property rights within the ASE framework attempt to accomplish, without the preconceived bias to a “limit of whichever aspect of our natural resources and biocapacity concerns you”.  Who decides these limits?  Who issues these entitlements?  There are a host of problems here that the authors don’t address explicitly even if they are contained elsewhere within a footnoted paper.

In addition, an indicator such as the Happy Planet Index which incorporates the Ecological Footprint helps to reveal the degree of efficiency with which precious natural resources are converted into the meaningful human outcomes of long and happy lives.

I do not doubt that the authors have put considerable effort in constructing this index.  But the issue is not so much the statistic but who and how the statistic is engendered in the previously mentioned entitlement scheme.  For all the GIP report’s criticism of banking, this plan appears to suggest the hallmark of a modern corporatist banking—the central bank, headed by a disinterested president.  One of my previous rants against the Fed suggested a position that economists viewed as the ultimate post—here a fully disinterested individual, surrounded by the best data fed into the best economic models courageously steered the national economy through booms and busts.  To me, the GIP report inevitably implies some sort of governmental commission that would be viewed as the height of science—dispassionate and supposedly objective but no less at a loss to properly wade through the oceans of variables and data to decide the measures and allocations for the planetary good.

There are some other portions of the conclusion which would lead to a plan of action or at least a better description of the destination:

When the financial crisis hit, in the UK alone over £1 trillion was found to support the banks, apparently from nowhere. It can be done. Through so-called ‘quantitative easing’ money really was conjured from thin air (the dirty little secret of banking is that this is practically what happens all the time when people borrow, for example, to buy a house).

This is absolutely correct but as has been intimated previously, there is no discussion of eliminating FRB and central banking.  If anything, the report later supports central banks.

Governments can also change priorities, spending less on unproductive military expenditure and more on schools, hospitals and support for those who need care. New techniques employing greater reciprocity with the users of public services can also radically reduce the upfront cash-cost of services by making them more effective (through so-called ‘co-production’).

The first sentiment is excellent, although it would be preferable that government provide none of these services (except national defense in a time of emergency—i.e. no standing army), leaving it to the free market.  I am unsure on what the second sentence implies.

There’s also no reason why fairer taxation and greater redistribution, coupled with better services cannot provide security for all in old age, removing the insecurity that makes us all worry about having a private pension with a high interest rate.

There is every reason to believe that greater taxation and redistribution will only increase costs while decreasing incentives to allocate resources responsibly.  Here again as a visceral reaction to interest rates, which seems somewhat strange.

Herman Daly makes the point that in a non-growing, steady state (or dynamic equilibrium) economy it might actually be easier to approach full employment. With lower levels of material throughput and lower levels of fossil fuel energy use, the proportion of human energy input (labour) is likely to increase. Generations of having people made redundant by machines largely powered by coal, oil and gas could be reversed. He writes: ‘There are several reasons for believing that full employment will be easier to attain in a SSE [steady state economy] than in our failing growth economies… the policy of limiting the matter-energy throughput would raise the price of energy and resources relative to the price of labour. This would lead to the substitution of labor for energy in production processes and consumption patterns, thus reversing the historical trend of replacing labour with machines and inanimate energy, whose relative prices have been declining.’

Perhaps I am misunderstanding the intent of the authors, but this sounds like a return to Luddites writ large.  The report appears to suggest that humans perform labor that machines now perform in order to conserve resources would also help the unemployment.  This seems extremely counterintuitive since the use of fossil fuels to power machines would appear to use fewer resources than the use of human labor, since human exertion to power machines is arguably significantly less efficient.  It would seem to be the case that relatively more resources would be spent feeding, sheltering and caring for human labor than would be spent maintaining and fueling machine labor.

Other adaptations could bring a range of social, environmental, and economic benefits. A redistribution of paid employment via a shorter working week, tackling the twin problems of overwork and unemployment, would free up time for people to do more things for themselves, each other and the community, and reduce their dependence on paid-for services.

This seems to be a top-down force to convince people to consume less and take more in leisure.  Basically this is a cartel of workers, all agreeing (or being forced by government fiat) to work fewer hours while possibly enjoying greater leisure time or activities.  Of course, the danger here is if someone (or someone in another jurisdiction) breaks the cartel.

There are many things I liked about the GIP report in its criticisms of the current economic order.  But there were more things I disagreed with in its prescriptions for change in that order.


[1] What economics is all about; if scarcity was eliminated, these points would become moot.  Although from the report’s discussion of the laws of thermodynamics to basic human experience of need, resources are certainly scarce.

[2] A clear distinction from Ayn Rand’s objectivism, which extended not only to economics but morals and even the arts

[3] This curious legal exception  was granted to banks, although other commodity storage units, such as grain elevators, were generally prosecuted when they attempted fractional reserve: “Grain elevators issued fake warehouse receipts in grain during the 1860s, lent them to speculators in the Chicago wheat market, and caused dislocations in wheat prices and bankruptcies in the wheat market. Only a tightening of bailment law, ensuring that any issue of fake warehouse receipts is treated as fraudulent and illegal, finally put an end to this clearly impermissible practice. Unfortunately, however, this legal development did not occur in the vitally important field of warehouses for money, or deposit banking.”  Jesus Huerta de Soto has an extremely long and detailed discussion of the legal and economic issues in FRB.

[4] This was a point brought up by Rothbard in the previously mentioned paper—that air pollution was not considered actionable because it was so diffuse.  Many early lawsuits resulted in tall smoke stacks that dispersed pollution high above the population so that individuals couldn’t clearly point to a source of any resulting malady or property damage.

19
Dec
09

OBR – the BCS

Oh Barack, you had me at “I don’t know any serious fan of college football who would disagree with this [a playoff system]“.  YES WE CAN!

The most unabashedly imbecilic state of affairs in American sports outside of the designated hitter rule (seriously pick a direction and apply it to both leagues; I vote for dumping DHs but two separate rules is idiotic) is the fact that football, probably the most popular sport within the states, doesn’t pick a national champion via a playoff system at the collegiate level.  To be more specific, though, every NCAA division save one does have a playoff system—our scrappy rogue just happens to be the top level, which deigns to engage in a byzantine morass of bowls, most of which have ridiculously awesome names.  This year I think it’s a tie between the ever popular Papajohns.com Bowl and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (Go Wildcats!).

Each year, as the various undefeated or deserving teams are shunned, the BCS system, put in place the rectify the old system of yet more random bowls, has to again defend itself from the onslaught of attackers, now including Congress (if there’s a bandwagon, they’re sure to be on it).  This year witnesses the exclusion of three undefeated teams (TCU, Cincinnati, and Boise State).  More hilarity ensued when the BCS conjured up a website to defend themselves, self-seriously named playoffproblem.com, which Deadspin promptly ripped apart.  To turn matters decidedly surreal, the BCS also hired Ari Fleischer as their spokesman on Capitol Hill and beyond; this is the man who helped sell a fucking war on demonstrably false pretenses—which would make for a savvy choice if people had forgotten they were already scorched by this character once.  Even now-President Obama almost made me vote for him when he publicly came out in favor of a playoff system when ESPN asked the then candidate what he would change in sports, if he could.

The most dubious claim pertaining to our annual BCS clusterfuck of hitlerball is that it is a vast improvement over the previous system, ergo it is a success—despite the fact it has already produced a split national champion (LSU and USC in 2003) and left an undefeated 2004 Auburn team tits deep in shafted pudding.  This of course neglects the very real possibility that a playoff system, whatever its foibles, would be a vast improvement over the BCS system.  The turn from the bowls to the BCS was the moral equivalent of banging someone in the ear and then saying, “Hey, it’s an improvement!” when you switch to their ass.  But the vagina’s right there.  WHY AREN’T YOU POUNDING THAT KITTY?  Naturally the primary reason, from the Big Ten Network to NBC’s Four Hour Notre Dame Saturday Blowjob to the BCS, is money—the power conferences believe they only stand to lose from a playoff and without their consent (or Obama’s deployment of the 82nd Airborne) it is not patently going to happen.  The BCS: it’s a Monroe transfer of gold!

But since everyone likes to dabble in the middle word of life, we turn to Dashiell Bennettt, who makes a solid case on the specifics for a playoff.

  • Eight seeded teams
  • All neutral sites
  • Teams and seeding selected by committee

And probably the two most controversial:

  • You must win your conference championship to be in the playoff
  • All six power conferences (assumed to be ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, PAC 10 and SEC)  get automatic bids

The idea behind these measures was that it got the major conferences on board while preserving the sanctity of the regular season, via the condition of winning a conference championship, as well as encouraging a team to play a more challenging non-conference schedule (since losing those games would have a considerably smaller effect).  Also, the independents, mainly Notre Dame, would have to join a conference—yes, ND, your NBC golden dome fiefdom would come to an end.  Under this scenario, the playoffs would fall out something akin to:

The Sports Illustrated model of playing the first round games listed here at the higher seed’s home field might be preferable.  There would be an even greater incentive to play a difficult non-conference schedule to boost one’s standing while the opening rounds would get a more intense atmosphere, as well as rewarding the best teams’ fans with a game on their own campus.  That would leave only three “bowl” games instead of seven, but those could be divided up between the four current BCS bowls with one being left out in each year (as three are effectively left out every year anyway).

An expansion to a 16-team playoff might be the only way to ensure that any Division I (or “FBS” for the semi-tards) team could conceivably win the national championship in any given year.  Under similar rules, every conference champion would receive an automatic bid with the remainder of the teams selected by committee.  That would put all of the following 11 teams automatically into the playoff:

Conference Winner
ACC Georgia Tech
Big 12 Texas
Big East Cincinnati
Big Ten Ohio State
PAC 10 Oregon
SEC Alabama
C-USA ECU
Mid-Am Central Michigan
Mountain West TCU
Sun Belt Troy
WAC Boise State

If the remaining five teams were selected based on the current BCS rankings, the bracket would bloat to:

Sixteen games spread through three weeks after an autumn football orgy.  I think I need to change my pants.  The sixteen-game playoff would need four weeks; this year it would most likely start the weekend of the December 12th (four games per day or two Friday night and three on each weekend day) with the second round on the weekend of the 19th (two on each day).  Christmas week could be skipped so the semifinals would be played on New Year’s Day, which falls on a Friday in 2010.  The championship game would be played a little less than a week later on January 7th.

Getting giddy now; MUST PICK WINNERS:

Yes, I know it’s not an actual bracket (and if Brian Kelly still would have left under this scenario, I wouldn’t pick Cincy–but I don’t think he would have left).  IT’S STILL REAL TO ME DAMMIT!

Normal
0
false

false
false
false

EN-US
X-NONE
X-NONE

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

The most unabashedly imbecilic
state of affairs in American sports outside of the designated hitter rule
(seriously pick a direction and apply it to both leagues; I vote for dumping
DHs but two separate rules is idiotic) is the fact that football, probably the
most popular sport within the states, doesn’t pick a national champion via a
playoff system at the collegiate level.
To be more specific, though, every NCAA division save one does have a
playoff system—our scrappy rogue just happens to be the top level, which deigns
to engage in a byzantine morass of bowls, most of which have ridiculously
awesome names.  This year I think it’s a
tie between the ever popular Papajohns.com Bowl and the Gaylord Hotels Music
City Bowl (Go Wildcats!).

Each year,
as the various undefeated or deserving teams are shunned, the BCS system, put
in place the rectify the old system of yet more random bowls, has to again
defend itself from the onslaught of attackers, now
including Congress
(if there’s a bandwagon, they’re sure to be on it).  This year witnesses the exclusion of three
undefeated teams (TCU, Cincinnati, and Boise State).  More hilarity ensued when the BCS conjured up
a website to defend themselves, self-seriously named playoffproblem.com, which Deadspin
promptly ripped apart
.  To turn matters
decidedly surreal, the
BCS also hired Ari Fleischer
as their spokesman on Capitol Hill and beyond;
this is the man who helped sell a fucking war
on demonstrably false pretenses—which would make for a savvy choice if people
had forgotten they were already scorched by this character once.  Even now-President Obama almost made me vote
for him when he publicly came out in favor of a playoff system when ESPN asked
the then candidate what he would change in sports, if he could.

The most dubious claim pertaining
to our annual BCS clusterfuck of hitlerball is that it is
a vast improvement over the previous system, ergo it is a success—despite the
fact it has already produced a split national champion (LSU and USC in 2003)
and left an undefeated 2004 Auburn team tits deep in shafted pudding.  This of course neglects the very real
possibility that a playoff system, whatever its foibles, would be a vast improvement
over the BCS system.  The turn from the
bowls to the BCS was the moral equivalent of banging someone in the ear and
then saying, “Hey, it’s an improvement!” when you switch to their ass.  But the vagina’s right there.  WHY AREN’T YOU POUNDING THAT KITTY?  Naturally the primary reason, from the Big
Ten Network to NBC’s Four Hour Notre Dame Saturday Blowjob to the BCS, is
money—the power conferences believe they only stand to lose from a playoff and
without their consent (or Obama’s deployment of the 82nd Airborne)
it is not patently going to happen.  The
BCS: it’s a Monroe
transfer
of gold!

But since everyone likes to dabble
in the middle word of life, we turn to Dashiell Bennettt, who
makes a solid case on the specifics for a playoff
.

·
Eight seeded teams

·
All neutral sites

·
Teams and seeding selected by committee

And probably the two most controversial:

·
You must win your conference championship to be
in the playoff

·
All six power conferences (assumed to be ACC,
Big 12, Big East, Big 10, PAC 10 and SEC)
get automatic bids

The idea behind these measures was that it got the major
conferences on board while preserving the sanctity of the regular season, via
the condition of winning a conference championship, as well as encouraging a
team to play a more challenging non-conference schedule (since losing those
games would have a considerably smaller effect).  Also, the independents, mainly Notre Dame,
would have to join a conference—yes, ND, your NBC golden dome fiefdom would
come to an end.  Under this scenario, the
playoffs would fall out something akin to:

The Sports Illustrated model of playing the first round
games listed here at the higher seed’s home field might be preferable.  There would be an even greater incentive to
play a difficult non-conference schedule to boost one’s standing while the
opening rounds would get a more intense atmosphere, as well as rewarding the
best teams’ fans with a game on their own campus.  That would leave only three “bowl” games
instead of seven, but those could be divided up between the four current BCS
bowls with one being left out in each year (as three are effectively left out
every year anyway).

An
expansion to a 16-team playoff might be the only way to ensure that any
Division I (or “FBS” for the semi-tards) team could conceivably win the
national championship in any given year.
Under similar rules, every
conference champion would receive an automatic bid with the remainder of the
teams selected by committee.  That would
put all of the following 11 teams automatically into the playoff:

If the remaining five teams were selected based on the
current BCS rankings, the bracket would bloat to:

Sixteen games spread through three weeks after an autumn
football orgy.  I think I need to change
my pants.  The sixteen-game playoff would
need four weeks; this year it would most likely start the weekend of the
December 12th (four games per day or two Friday night and three on
each weekend day) with the second round on the weekend of the 19th
(two on each day).  Christmas week could
be skipped so the semifinals would be played on New Year’s Day, which falls on
a Friday in 2010.  The championship game would
be played a little less than a week later on January 7th.

Getting giddy now; all right here are my picks:

Yes, I know it’s not an actual bracket.  IT’S STILL REAL TO ME DAMMIT!

20
Aug
09

On Brighton Rock – Bloomberg Firestorm

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Our loyal Bloomberg economist Mr. Hassett has been busy lately (as opposed to myself, at least in the bloggerdome) and, as would be expected, making me want to stab myself in the eye with a tuning fork.  As I’ve noted before, Hassett is not an imbecile; he’s not even a terrible economist (like, say, Paul Krugman).  But, as previously stated, what he is, though, is a political hack.  He is most comfortable analyzing the political realm and its implications for economic policy.  Every once in a while he lets loose a highly quotable line like:

On the far right, there are many who think that everything the government does is always bad, unless it is being done by a government employee in a uniform. On the far left, there are many who think that everything the government does is terrific, unless it is being done by a government employee in a uniform. [Obama’s Inner Radical Unbound in Gates Cop Case, 7/26/09]

Fucking awesome.  Then he chokes on whatever Republican cock he was spit-shining and says:

Our government is broken because the far left and the far right are so busy trying to finish each other off that they have little time to devote to the nation’s real business.

Which I can only assume is popping their dicks out of their government issues clown suits and ramming them up the asses of people with turbans or the politically marginalized at home (hint: it’s not Goldman, Sachs).  Hassett did proffer a fairly cogent read on the health care situation and the supposed resistance of Democratic “Blue Dogs” [Blue Dogs Bark, Don’t Bite Socialized ObamaCare, 8/2/09], though not without the usual partisan trappings (“socialized Obamacare”?) that he bemoaned in the article previously mentioned.

But his most mind-boggling screed to date was charmingly entitled Cheney Was Right All Along About Budget Deficits [9/16/09].  First, if Cheney is right about anything, it was his proof that there was no God by the sheer fact he hasn’t been struck down by a swarm of locusts yet.  Secondly, Hassett makes an interesting discussion on whether interest rates are affected by budget deficits.  And let’s be honest, he is referring to primarily US deficits; quite naturally, other entities running deficits is usually quite deleterious to their credit standing and thus the interest rate they are charged.  The US economy has been robust enough in the presence of deficits though that it hasn’t experienced detriment in regard to interest rates.  The question though is whether the future will follow the past or even has the same conditions as such, which the economic about face we’ve seen recently should force economists to question some of their premises such as the bold statement of “deficits don’t matter”.  And to his credit, Hassett does lend an opposing viewpoint.  He begins though with:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was ridiculed by Democrats when he said “deficits don’t matter.” If they don’t rise with our current deficit, then the current recovery can be sustained. How strange it is that precisely now, Dick Cheney is the only thing between us and the abyss.

Dick Cheney lives in the abyss.  He feeds on the souls of children thrown in there by Rumsfeld.

I have always agreed with Cheney’s view, mostly because the link between interest rates and deficits is so tenuous in the literature, just as we have experienced over the past decade.

So here we have it, Hassett agrees with the bridge troll.  But wait:

It is anyone’s guess what the future would hold, but such a scenario of high deficits forever seems impossible. The deficit effect may already be baked into interest rates, in which case the increase from here on may be smaller.

Under what may be a more realistic assumption about future taxes and spending, the difference between today’s deficit outlook and 2007’s is about 6.5 percent. If that is the market expectation, then interest rates will be between 130 and 390 basis points higher.

Why does he let in the specter of possible higher rates?  So he can score some points off of Obama!

Needless to say, such interest rate spikes would be very troubling for the economy, were they to occur. They probably will not, even if Obama’s health-care plan becomes law, because Cheney was right all along.

If Obama wants to pursue yet more spending, he should at least level with us and explain why he believes we can afford to risk higher interest rates.

Boo-yah!  Didn’t even grease it up before he slid it in!  “If Obama wants to continue his dollar gushing orgy, he should at least tell us if it’s worth risking the herp.”  Yeah, Obama, you spending whore! (Ignore Bush’s profligate spending whilst under the banner of supposed pro-free market rhetoric, which is far more disingenuous than reckless spending under the flag of socialism).  Hassett isn’t done yet though:

But that talk will only happen in our dreams. The fact is, deficits are a problem precisely because politicians can get away with running them with near impunity. If interest rates did soar in the face of deficits, it would provide a constraint on the growth of big government.

Sadly, there will be no such constraint.

You sack of shit!  What the hell was this article about?  Why even bother mentioning Dick Cheney and the political skirmishes if your discussion consisted on whether deficits raised interest rates doesn’t even matter, in that even if deficits don’t raise interest rates that’s still bad?  Here’s fucking why: you wanted to massage Cheney’s taint at the expense of the Dems.  That was the point of this article and your brilliant conclusion was in fact your unmasking.

Well kids and kittens, my considerable vitriol isn’t even reserved for Hassett.  No, my good sirs, the winner of the past few months was the always sanctimonious Scott Soshnick, also of Bloomberg.  Soshnick did his best to construct a soapbox to hitherto unforeseen levels, in a sort of skyscraper race with Marioti.  Here’s a true winner, kids:

Sneak Video Reveals Ugly, Naked Truth of Sports

July 28 (Bloomberg) — What happened to ESPN reporter Erin Andrews is disgusting.

My penis didn’t seem to think so.

On that point there can be no debate.

So why bring it up?  Ah, you needed a man made of straw.

The facts are pretty well known by now: Someone secretly,

Well that’s not so…

and illegally,

MY GOD, NO!

videotaped a naked Andrews, twice named Playboy magazine’s Sexiest Sportscaster, in her hotel room and placed the footage on the Web.

You didn’t mention her astute sideline reporting or her possible charity work!  You SEXIST!

Once there it set Google records for searches. What does that say?

A lot of penises agree with my penis.

What is up for discussion, though, is whether Andrews might have unwittingly contributed to the widespread objectification of women.

By being beautiful?  The sideline reporter has always been a fluff job based on sex appeal.  Even when it was held by men.

Particularly in professional and big-time college sports, billion-dollar industries that go about their business with a perpetual leer on their faces.

Consider cheerleaders whose outfits leave little to the imagination, beer ads that depict women attracted to an awkward man made virile by the brand he chugs and even an iconic publication whose best-selling issue is about skin, not sport.

Um, is anyone missing the irony of the sports themselves were the athletes are objectified for their physical prowess?  What happens to athletes when they can’t play: they’re called soft or disappointments.  BUT SPORTS IS TRANSCENDENT AND NOT DIRTY AND SEXUAL AND ICKY.  Yes, no one wants to be Tom Brady purely for his ability to throw a football and nail supermodels—it’s his devoted Catholicism!   The same for Tebow!

Andrews, 31, is attractive, yes.

I WILL ACCEPT NO DEBATE ON THIS POINT.

And television is a visual medium.

And I’m banging my head against a keyboard right now.

More eyeballs translate into higher ratings, which mean more money. It’s a simple formula ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Co., and other TV networks know well.

Maybe he threw in the Walt Disney thing because this is a Bloomberg article.  But let’s be honest, there’s nothing he can do to Disney that South Park hasn’t already done.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Just ask Sports Illustrated, which generates a disproportionate amount of its annual revenue from the swimsuit issue, where slinky bikinis and tan lines are no longer titillating enough. Now the models sometimes literally wear nothing except for paint and a come-hither pout.

The pout is what sells it.

Swimsuit App

SI’s celebration of skin used to be a once-a-year thing. Then along came the Web and technology that lets us see what we want, when we want, where we want. This should be called the iWant generation.

You kids and your mobile porn!  Back in my day, we had to pay $2.50 to jerk off in a theater to poorly dubbed skin flicks with twenty other dudes!

So, naturally, SI earlier this month proudly announced its swimsuit iPhone application, which is being marketed as the “world’s sexiest app.” Only $2.99.

Why would people pay for stuff like this?  It’s probably free in the same place they posted that Erin Andrews video.

Don’t fret Blackberry users. Your swimsuit application is coming soon.

Is it any wonder that Andrews, with this as her occupational backdrop, has an unlisted telephone number?

She knows there’s a lunatic fringe out there, eager for more, hungry for an even closer, more personal relationship than the television allows.

Methinks most highly visible sports personalities do likewise.  Except for Bradshaw.  He wrestles the freaks shirtless on his lawn in a sprinkler; big fan of Lethal Weapon, I’m told.

The world is a scary place.

And Soshnick hasn’t even gotten to the crimes going on in Darfur yet.

I’ve attended a number of the same sporting events as Andrews,

My erection was enormous.

who has never been anything but professional, even when some dunderhead in the stands makes an offensive comment about her appearance.

Dunderhead?  Did Montgomery Burns just start writing this?  I’m guessing all sideline reporters take a lot of shit from drunken college fans though.  It’s sort of a drunken college fan’s thing.  In fact, it’s also Ryan Dempster’s (dammit, I may have proved one of Soshnick’s following points somewhat).

Scouring Morons

She knows those one-track-mind morons are out there, scouring the Internet.

Man is a sexual creature.

Which is why it’s so puzzling that Andrews willingly associated herself with a part of Sports Illustrated’s Web site called “Hot Clicks,” where, near as I can tell, there always seems to be a photo — or two or three — of a woman in something skimpy.

Models. Actresses. Girls next door. And yes, sometimes even athletes. Here’s the archive. Judge for yourself. The section exists, it would seem, to satisfy the carnal cravings of the frat-house crowd.

Or to compete with sports by brooks.  There definitely seems to be a T&A angle in that SI blog but it’s not like that’s the only thing they’re doing daily.

There’s even a college Cheerleader of the Week gallery. You know, for the Q & A.

Today, Leslie of ASU discusses astrophysics, we’ll have the musical stylings of Charlie Mingus, and Lane Kiffin discusses on the best way to remove your johnson from the vacuum cleaner.

Women such as Andrews and Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist for the Oklahoman newspaper and president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, have a chance — some might say an obligation

Like Lord of the Rings.  The Fellowship of the Tits.

— to alter perceptions and elevate discourse.

YOUR DISCOUSE WILL NEVER BE ON SOSHNICK’S LEVEL.

“You do have to have a certain level of vigilance about your brand,” Carlson told me, referring to questions about Andrews. “I have to think what image people have of me.”

Question: who the hell are you?  My image of you is a blank sheet—probably like the Oklahoman in a couple of years.

Worse in Clubhouse

Scott’s going into full attack mode.  The perpetrators:

SI’s “Hot Clicks,” for one, doesn’t aim to elevate discourse.

YOU HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN THE SOSHNICK ELEVATED DISCOURSE SEAL OF APPROVAL.  SUCK ON THAT, JIMMY TRAINA!

In Soshnick’s favor, “Jimmy Traina” who supposedly runs Hot Clicks, does sound like the douche of the month.

It reinforces the Neanderthal thinking that results in the Chicago White Sox last year utilizing a pair of naked female blowup dolls as a so-called slump-busting tool.

This is your fault, Traina!  Personally I think Neanderthals are getting a bad rap here.  Have we learned nothing from the GEICO commercials?

Each wore a sign over its breasts, one saying “Let’s Go White Sox” and the other reading “You’ve Got to Push.”

Just like Salt-n-Pepa.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in response to criticism said a lot worse things happen in the clubhouse. Oh, great.

Granted Guillen was referring to the time he reenacted the entirety of Henry 5th with his nutsack.

That ought to make the female journalists feel welcome in the locker room, which, let’s remember, is a workplace.

Whoah, pump the brakes now, chief.  This is something I’ve never understood: why do journalists feel the need access to the locker room?  What the fuck is the point of this?  How does the locker room have anything to do with sports?  Isn’t the field the beginning and the end of the workplace of sports?  I’m going into rhetorical question overload, you asshole!  I’m sure Soshnick encourages that male reporters are given the same courtesy in WNBA locker rooms (in which no players actually shower or dress when reporters or present…which sort of defeats the use of a locker room).  Point being: the locker room should not be part of the workplace.  That is retarded.

“Our organization feels for Erin,” Carlson said. “We are reminded that there is still a lot of ugliness out there.”

There’s no way that whoever did this to Andrews thinks of her as a human being with feelings and friends and loved ones, as someone’s daughter or sister. The perpetrator probably didn’t think about her at all. She was an object, a thing.

The dude drilled through a wall to take a secret video.  I’m not positive this person isn’t covered in jello having a conversation with Kermit the Frog right now.  Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on there.

Andrews herself has said the athletes she covers don’t see her as a sex object.

“If anything,” she told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis last year, “I think these guys look at me like a little sister or one of the guys.”

No, they don’t.

SOSHNICK KNOWS THIS FOR A FACT!  THIS IS NOT DEBATABLE!  ALL OF YOU ATHLETES WANT TO CHASE ERIN AROUND THE LOCKER ROOM WAVING YOUR DICKS!

And neither did the videotaping sicko,

I think he just compared all athletes to a guy that drills into walls and takes illegal videos of people.  I mean Stephan Marbury has probably done this, but it was also something crazy like watching the janitor’s closet.

who deserves whatever pain and heartache find him after the police. Consider that the next time you’re watching a sporting event and the camera lens zooms in on some cheerleader’s cleavage.

Are we considering the objectification of women?  The pain and heartache?  The police?  Sting?  What are we supposed to consider when we see bouncing jugs in our face?  And to bring it back around, what are we to consider when we see a kid with no college degree tear his knee in half?

Fucking douche tank.

Sports in general is the objectification of humans’ physical qualities for entertainment.  Humans beat the holy hell out of each in football every time they’re on the field.  Other sports all put enormous pressure on the fleeting physical gifts of various athletes.  What were being told here is that because sport takes on a sexual aspect, it is automatically bad.  Sports appeal primarily to men, so it’s of little surprise when advertisements or otherwise take advantage of other things that appeal to men: namely beautiful women.  The bounds of what’s licit are malleable to say the least.  There aren’t any hard and fast rules here.  But to deny a woman her right to use her physical beauty to advance herself, all awhile aware of the risk she faces of countless internet masturbators, is to deny them control over their own body.  We shall censor them for their own good, for the doughy skanks know not what they do. Decide for yourselves whether you consider the scantily clad women present around sporting events to be on the level and act accordingly; but those women owe neither you, nor society anything.

And you know where Soshnick is going next: OLIVIA MUNN, STOP OBJECTIFYING YOURSELF IN FRONT OF THE GAMERS!  Those people are Level-9 masturbators!

And if you think this is misogynistic, take a look see

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Harrison Ford:




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