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. 

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