Jigga Should be Rapping about Public-Private Investment Funds

…after all, it would be fitting for someone who once said, quite cleverly I might add, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business man.”

I believe it’s time for hip hop to engage the financial and economic meltdown of our time, because it has done so brilliantly in the past (see Grandmaster Flash – “The Message,” all of Public Enemey’s It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, both of which cannot be fully understood without understanding the socio-political consequences of the Reagan years). So why not now, when the nation is facing its greatest economic crisis since the Big One?

You can easily construct a narrative around this: say an enterprising street hustler deals on the corner, amasses a small fortune, a crew, women, and cars. Now what? Instead of dying an early, if glorious, death, said street enterpreneuer could invest the money in one of many Public-Private Investment Funds (PPIFs) created by Treasury’s plan. And why would this street hustler invest? It’s a perfect opportunity: the FDIC is willing to go as high as 6-to-1 debt-to-equity ratio, while Treasury is willing to put up half of the equity. So at the most, an investor would only have to be 25% of the value of the asset, or at the least, an investor would only have to put up 7% of the value. If the asset makes money, the investor will win big, and even if it loses, the government is subsidizing the majority of the losses. Best of all, it is completely legal.

So for a rapper and a businessman of Jay-Z’s skill and acumen would be retarded NOT to invest in PPIFs. And maybe we can even get a semi-decent to great rap song out of this as well.

The Problem of Evil in Battlestar Galactica’s Ending

Whether you thought the ending to BSG was good or bad (and I certainly belong in the latter camp), one thing that you cannot deny is how, within a two-hour time period, Ronald Moore radically and irrevocably changed the entire orientation of the show. Instead of a futuristic/sci-fi socio-political allegory about human existence in the aftermath of catastrophe, the show, with the help of the finale, became Touched By An Angel…in space.

I was never really sure how seriously I should take the religious elements of the show, that is, until the finale. All the stuff about ancient prophecies, guardian angels, the One True God, I thought they were just the cosmology of the fictional BSG universe. Instead, I find out that Ronald Moore is a deadly serious religious man who believes that the BSG’s fictional universe has religious, metaphysical foundations.

It seems every major plot arc in the show can be explained thus: It was caused by Angels carrying out God’s will.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I seriously hope Lost does not pull this shit on me when it ends.

But putting the artistic merits of using such a heavily religious explanation aside, let’s take the show’s finale on its own terms. Even then, I still have problems with it. To me, the most pressing issue raised by the show’s finale is this: what kind of God would go through the trouble of causing massive genocide through nuclear annihilation, drag the survivors of said genocide through space, make them suffer severe hardship, only to let it happen ALL OVER AGAIN?

I mean, what was the point of Hera if she’s just going to engender a race of people who will create robots, which will then rebel, which will then wage war against their creators…you see where this is going don’t you? What kind of fucking God would allow this to happen? If a God like that would allow something like this to repeat ad nauseum, then what the fuck is the point of the Angels? I thought they are supposed to guide the humans and cylons to their destinies? Which is what, eternal recurrence of genocide and wandering in space?

This is the fundamental problem with theodicy, and it’s kind of ridiculous for BSG to introduce such a weighty topic in the very last fucking episode and just leave it, without even attemping to grapple with it.

Damn you Ronald Moore!

The US Financial System is a Series of Tubes

So Treasury finally(!) reveals the details of bank rescue plan (the NYT story here and the official white paper here). As I was reading through the white paper, one thing caught my eye:

A variety of troubled legacy assets are currently congesting the U.S. financial system.”

The first thing that comes to mind when I saw the word “congestion” is Ted Stevens! A series of tubes! It’s hilarious to me that Ted Steven’s most likely legacy among people my generation is that one particularly unfortunately metaphor. Nevertheless, I will continue to exploit it on every possible occasion.

But on a somewhat more serious note, I have my doubts about this plan. I wish that it succeeds spectacularly, but that wish is undermined by one fundamental objection. That is this: you can’t really “price” the market value of these bad assets if investors are getting money from the federal government to purchase them. Sure, the auction system gives the appearance of a true pricing mechanism, but since most of the money to purchase comes from the government, private investors probably won’t behave as they would in a true market. It’s more likely that the value of these assets, determined by the mechanism set out in the Treasury plan, would be higher than it actually is.

Or, the worse scenario is that even with this somewhat boosted value, these assets still might not be valuable enough to attract enough private capital to really revive the financial institution. Either way, Treasury is on the books for a ton of money, and if these assets do end up turning a profit, it’s the private investors that get the vast majority of it. And if these assets don’t make money, well, you know the rest.