Friday, March 29, 2013

except Brooksley Born

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission Act of 1974 created the CFTC as the new regulator of commodity exchanges. It also expanded the scope of the Commodity Exchange Act to cover the previously listed agricultural products and "all other goods and articles, except onions, and all services, rights, and interests in which contracts for future delivery are presently or in the future dealt in." - Wikipedia Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 [1]

I am researching a bit of stuff to find out just why Brooksley Born has not been canonized yet. She really seems to deserve it but you would not believe the number of hits that one of my really elementary articles on Brooksley Born gets. She seems to be such a key figure in the lead up to the biggest worldwide economic downturn since the great depression. So how much is out there if I am some kind of authority based on number of hits? Not much. When I try to find meetings or transcripts of her, it is as if she is as unimportant as .... say, onions in commodity futures.

I grew up in a time when history was made up of personalities. Perhaps that was before modern public relations really created an overabundance of personalities. People like Thomas Edison, but not Nikola Tesla, were held up as key elements that formed the molecules of history. It was all the history I was ever going to know unless I studied on my own or watched some educational program. Even knowing that Edison "invented" things really did not adequately state the incredible impact of his most important invention, the first industrial research laboratory. Think of the importance of turning science into practical use on an industrial scale. That is impressive but then flash forward to today’s Pharmaceutical Laboratories. Bill Gates said this about today's pharmaceutical industry "research laboratories."

“The malaria vaccine in humanist terms is the biggest need, but it gets virtually no funding. If you are working on male baldness or other things you get an order of magnitude more research funding because of the voice in the marketplace than something like malaria.” - Bill Gates [2]

Bill Gates himself is probably one of those personalities that are regarded as (what did I say?) key elements of the molecules of history.  His comment is about capitalism rather than just science.  

Steve Jobs, a Bill Gate's rival, once said "Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology." Steve Jobs is partly right, but, as I often find, the quote is probably truer about Steve Jobs than about the person he is criticizing. (Well, except for the philanthropy part. Jobs was one capitalist nightmare with no happy ending. He was insufferable before the end.) One learns critiquing best by being the object of criticism, I have found.

The really important figures in the history of computing were before either one of them. Did either invent the mouse? No. Who did? If that person doesn’t come immediately to mind, I rest my case. By Gates’ and Jobs’ time, both were putting together past discoveries to make things profitable, similar to Thomas Edison. There is definitely creativity in that.

Thomas Edison is the one of the key figures in that trend towards profitability as the measure of what is good or bad in science. However, I learned that he invented the light bulb, which he did not really. He looked at filaments with a great tenacity to create a light bulb that was marketable, but he did not really invent them. That is not to say that his significance in history isn’t astounding. It is.

Brooksley Born, though, I believe, may be buried intentionally at this point in time. I am interested because she seems heroic, like Thomas Edison seemed to me as a young boy, deserving of a place in history. Possibly she is heroic, possibly not. Oh she is important alright, vastly important. I just want to know if she is a hero. Can I meme her? Can I find that key moment when she stated the obvious and was ignored.

But, I must say, it does not help any when I am looking up the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Act of 1974 that gave her legitimacy and find the phrase "except onions." I mean, that is just plain weird. I did not expect my research to be like peeling back layers of an onion but… wow, a pun for Tomato Sandwich of Truth blog.  Thus… my entry. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


When I started this blog (a rotten way to start a blog entry, oddly) I filled it with one-off random thoughts that came to mind and attempted at every opportunity to turn a pun on sandwiches and sandwich shops. “Limiting?” you might ask, with tongue in cheek. Well, sandwiches are less limiting than you would guess but more than I was happy with. Limits are always helpful in art and life. They are… more helpful… than you would guess.

(I probably have blogged the heck out of this concept too, because: A. I have a short memory and B. I have few genuine moments that would light a bulb over my head and even when that happens they are such energy efficient affairs that they are rarely illuminating. But if I may…)  I find limits to be truly constructive.

 Politically, you would think the party that is conservative would have the most limits. Therefore, given the limitations of my own liberal views, I must by necessity think limits to be as evil as the party that has them. However, in real life I find this supposition that conservatives have more limits to be absolutely untrue. When one comes from a background of accepting whatever one has learned in the past to be true, or accepting particular types of people as authority figures and knowers of absolute truth beyond reasoning, it is not as limiting…. as you might guess.

 (And stop guessing. My plots are as hard to figure out as JJ Abrams’ “Lost!” crossed with his “Alias” and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Look thou be true; do not give dalliance
Too ... much the rein: the strongest oaths are straw
To the fire i' the blood: be more abstemious,
Or else, good night your vow! [1]
                                               - William Shakespeare

Actually that doesn’t look so bad in print and gone over a few times, yet ‘pon the fast paced stage: probably utter madness to the audience.)

If one accepts a randomly placed parent’s words to be true beyond all experience to the contrary, then one would be conservative.  That sounds rather limiting BUT somehow, it is limitless in its ignorance. There are limitless arguments one does not have to consider. One is free to let one’s mind wonder to more important things than “Who is God?” for God is exactly what your parents or some other authority told you. But surely this must limit your understanding of God. Well, yes, but you have an unlimited amount of freedom. As long as you limit your understanding of what is right and what is wrong, your behavior can be boundless. Add to this the idea that whatever you do wrong can be forgiven and you are truly blessed with freedom. There is no pondering over small issues like unfairness. Your behavior is automatically sanctioned because you, well, have accepted the truth and there is no need for further investigation.

And yes, it looks as if I am playing with the word “limit” but I really am not.

I find abstract art to be as crazy as anyone who is limited in their thinking. To me the limits placed on art started to fizzle just after the impressionist movement and anything became art. Putting paint on your nether regions and rubbing them on the canvas would be entirely acceptable as art. Some things were accepted as art that humans had nothing to do with. Limitless art! Everything is art!

However I do see a parallel here with conservatism even though by all means a conservative would scream at the idea of defecation on a representation of Jesus (preferring deification, as it were.) You see, the limitations make the art. As an artist I would work within the limits I have to create something that went beyond those limits. Ignorance is in the lack of limits. If I just splash in a puddle and say “That is art!” I have only limited the impact of art by having no limits on the definition of art.

Similarly, (I think, because I am really too lazy right now to logically figure out the analogy because of all that work below on the Shakespeare quote) if I am a conservative, and so, by consequence, ignorant of a wide range of argumentative theories, then I can say that an aborted fetus is murdered but the civilians who die in carpet bombing are not murdered. Or I can say that those judged and put to death by capital punishment are not murdered. While my authority says “Thou shalt not kill” and my authority says “Judge not” I can do both out of ignorance caused by my reliance on whatever authority I have chosen (an unlimited choice, really. My parents could have been anyone and I don’t know that they weren’t.)

Having said all this, I apologize for not posting more in “The Sandwich.” I have now done some penance. Limits and lack of limits: mix responsibly.

[1]  My explanation of what seems to be nonsense, or was listed as nonsense on the Internet, taking it totally out of context as a paragraph in itself: Be true to your vow, do not dally around, but stick with your vow. If you have too much rein (length of a dogs rein gives the dog much play) your vow or oath becomes meaningless. Similarly, emotions or fire in the blood may lead you astray from your vowed path, so be abstemious or lacking in emotion. Or else, your vow will be saying “good night” and be gone.  Why people find that confusing, I do not know.  wink