Monday, March 29, 2010

The innocence of youth ...

Just read an interesting piece on a thesis written by recent Harvard grad, A.K. Barnett-Hart.

Though I enjoyed the article, one of the most interesting parts for me was the cynicism exhibited in the last five words of the piece (to give the proper context, I preface these words with the paragraph preceding them):

“After writing my thesis, it became clear to me that the culture at these investment banks needed to change and that incentives needed to be realigned to reward more than just short-term profit seeking,” [Barnett-Hart] wrote in an email. “And how would Wall Street ever change, I thought, if the people that work there do not change? What these banks needed is for outsiders to come in with a fresh perspective, question the way business was done, and bring a new appreciation for the true purpose of an investment bank - providing necessary financial services, not creating unnecessary products to bolster their own profits.”

Ah, the innocence of youth.

This ideal-crushing, five-word jab represents one of the fundamental roadblocks preventing any real, productive change on Wall Street: Disbelief.

The world's financial players (and those who write about their exploits) frequently exhibit disbelief that anything can change ... and, what's worse, sometimes they exhibit disbelief that anything should change.

For instance, look at how quickly the financial institutions have returned to "business as usual" in the wake of the financial crisis. These "movers and shakers" of markets and economies seem to have no problem pushing the world to the brink of chaos and then, after complete disaster is averted, start the merry-go-round over again.

The fact is, Barnett-Hart slammed her hammer down in exactly the right spot: The culture of the Street needs to change. The devil-may-care, recklessness must be removed (and possibly penalized) and a new culture of personal, moral, and ethical accountability must take its place.

An important question, of course, is how that change should be accomplished. Should we simply rely on Big Brother to come in with its newly-minted regulations? Or, should we seek to help the players develop stronger self-regulation skills? In a prior post, I wrote that
[T]he effectiveness of a free market model depends not on an unbreakable tome of rules and regulations ... but instead on a system of internal ethical and moral controls that must be imbued into the very nature of the people who work within the market.

Thus, I tend to stand in the latter of those two camps. Perhaps, though, a third possibility exists ... replacing the current players with newbies looking to "provid[e] necessary financial services" rather than create "unnecessary products to bolster their own profits."

But whether we believe in change through an external regulatory clamp-down (the easy fix), an internal ethical overhaul (the more difficult, more lasting fix), or some combination of the two, we should believe in change (both it's need and it's possibilty).

And we should applaud those who earnestly seek it.

Indeed, what right do we have to denigrate or mock someone who, seeing the moral mess on Wall Street, wants to bring the Street "a fresh perspective" and "a new appreciation for the true purpose of an investment bank"?

Answer: None.

So I say, go get 'em A.K.

Let's get to work ...

Listening to "Conversations" this morning, I heard Elder Bednar share an experience from Sept. 11, 2001.

After the horrific events of that morning, Elder Bednar was set to meet with President Hinckley and other presiding leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that evening. He mentioned how eagerly he anticipated what the brethren would say about those events. At the meeting, President Hinckley said, quite simply:
We live in very troubled times. Now, let's get to work.

We do live in difficult, sometimes scary times; we are embroiled in the events of the last days ... the days when men's hearts shall fail them. We are surrounded by a state of constant change and turmoil. Truly, all things are in commotion.

But, we must continue on in the service of God. The work of the Lord is rarely easy or convenient, but, with faith in ourselves, faith in God, and faith in the future, we can (and will) have the strength to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

I believe that the answer to fear and uncertainty is to go to work. God's Plan will not be frustrated and He will continue to work for the eternal benefit of His children even as the world drops further into complexity and (eventually) chaos.

As we work in the cause of the Lord, He will help us be prepared for all that comes and will give us the courage to face the future without fear.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life without Youtube ...

On March 25, 2010, Youtube suffered a minor (and temporary) outage.

The world trembled.
"YouTube is up again following a technical issue which has now been resolved," a spokeswoman for Google said in a written statement. "We know how important YouTube is for people and apologize for any inconvenience the downtime may have caused."
But do you really know how important YouTube is, Google? DO YOU!?

From talking cats to chubby dancers (dancing chubbily), YouTube connects us to all that is real and good and holy in life. To be deprived of its radiance - even temporarily - is almost more than we mortals can bear.

According to Google (that demigod of search engines), the outage was not caused by outside tampering. And, while it's good to know the Russians haven't hacked our system to the point of being able to interfere with our most basic, shared need, we can't help but feel a significant sense of loss for the time YouTube was down.

After all, you can never get that back.

But, somehow, we pulled through; somehow, we filled the gaping temporal void left by YouTube's catastrophic absence; somehow, we moved on.

Just don't let it happen again, Google.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chuckle-worthy review ...

Couldn't stop laughing when I read this EW movie review for Remember Me, starring none other than America's favorite vampire, Robert Pattinson:
As a shameless contraption of ridiculously sad things befalling attractive people, the engorged romantic tragedy Remember Me stands tall between those towering monuments to teen-oriented cinematic misery: Love Story and Twilight . . . the movie is one part "Love means never having to say you're sorry" and one part Edward's warning to Bella: "If you're smart, you'll stay away from me." ... [It is] a movie with all the hyperventilating hysteria of a 1960s teen-tragedy pop song and all the disposability, too.
Rotten Tomato Critical Score: 26% (a.k.a., certifiably ROTTEN).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On a Golden Springtime

In the springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, a ding a ding a ding,
Sweet lovers love the Spring.

- William Shakespeare

My friends, today I have but one purpose in this little post ... and that is to wish you all my love on this most beautiful of Spring-ish days! There is sunshine in my soul and happiness in my heart and I hope that the whole world can rise up with me in song and praise of Him who grants us this yearly renewal!

On a golden springtime, underneath the ground, a tiny seedling lay asleep until the sun shone down. Awake, awake, O little seed! Push upward to the light! The day is bright, with all your might, push upward to the light!

On a golden springtime, Jesus Christ awoke and left the tomb where he had lain; the bands of death he broke. Awake, awake, O sleeping world! Look upward to the light. For now all men may live again. Look upward to the light!

On a golden springtime, in a forest glade, the Father and the Son appeared as Joseph knelt and prayed. Awake, awake, O nations all! Receive the gospel light! The gospel true is here for you. Receive its glorious light!