It’s the end of the world as we know it …

It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Actually, unlike the [tag]REM[/tag] song, I feel hot and somewhat sticky, as I’m in Savannah, GA at the moment. Maybe it is the heat and humidity that caused [tag]Wall Street[/tag] to melt down, and not years upon years of selling debt and encouraging people  who have no clear means of paying back that debt get more in debt, so that Wall Street can in turn sell that debt, and so on, and loan them more money they’ll never pay back, making financial services people hot and sticky in entirely different ways as they made money hand over fist.

[tag]Lehman Brothers[/tag] survived the crash of October 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Now it files bankruptcy.  But George W. Bush has faith in the system, so we shouldn’t be worried. And if Obama doesn’t save us with his meaningless rhetoric and empty promises, McCain and Palin will don their white hats and shoot at the big bad ogre of financial collapse with a big gun. Wasn’t it a big shooter from the West in a white hat that got us into this mess?

This is the one big issue I have with libertarianism; business is run by people, and people can’t be trusted when there is no visible means by which they can be punished for doing something obviously stupid for short-term gain. When it doesn’t seemingly hurt anybody that they can see, and they get rich in the process, what’s the problem? Where’s the harm? And thus, history repeats itself ad nauseum.

I was in such a good mood getting on the road this weekend. There is no better salve for a restless soul than the open road and singing at the top of one’s lungs to Social Distortion. But then miles upon miles of boring super highway coupled with morons that insist on driving five miles under the speed limit or 20 miles over (inspite of ridiculously expensive gas) and hearing the BBC pronounce the end of the world over and over, has weighed upon my psyche.

Fortunately, I saw the sun rise over the ocean as I walked on a beach at high tide this morning, and that makes everything better. No good pictures, though, as it was so hot and humid that as soon as took my camera out of my bag, the lens fogged over. Despite repeated wipings, by the time it had acclimated itself to the South Carolina swelter, the sun was high in the sky and the gloaming of the Atlantic morning had already burned off.

C’est la vie. It’s hard to get upset about anything while walking on the beach at sunrise. Let come what may. My Subaru is paid for. All it needs is a slightly bigger engine so it can haul around the extra fuel tank, siphoning apparatus and assorted roll cages, bars, and spikes I’ll need to survive the end of civilization.

As I say, I feel fine, if slightly sticky. But not sticky in a good way.

Understanding Wall Street: Maybe I Wasn’t Blowing Smoke …

Investing on Wall Street: the same thing as gambling. OK, I’m a year late in observing this, but I just discovered this last night. I was Googling myself (and we all know how painful a procedure that can be for a male over the age of 35) to see if this new site had been picked up yet by various search engines.

I know it’s really too new for the various spiders to have found it and indexed it, but just thought I would check. That’s when I came across this mention in The Stalwart of me and a story I wrote for Electronic News from November of last year. The Stalwart is a blog about financial markets and the economy, kept by a former equity analyst and an investment banker. Last year they cited a story I had done about a stock sell-off suffered by flash memory makers.

I was so jazzed to stumble across this because I’ve always found the world of high finance, particularly Wall Street, rather mystifying. When I first got hired to write for Electronic News, I didn’t know squat about semiconductors, and knew even less about the stock market. After a year at E-News, I could hold my own with a process engineer when it came to talking about semiconductor manufacturing, but I was still mystified by the vagaries of the stock market. Even as I wrote stories about it for publication, I was always worried, in the back of my mind, that maybe I was missing some key piece of information that would suddenly explain Wall Street in a way that made sense.

This was only reinforced by my environment at the time: having arrived in Silicon Valley at the pinnacle of the dotcom boom, I was always immersed in the world of venture capital and the stock market, or so it seemed. Wherever I went, that’s all anyone wanted to talk about. Wanted to get attention at a party or bar? Just mumble something about Internet startup or IPO.

Then came the dotcom bust, and that’s all anyone ever wanted to talk about: stocks and stock options. At work, my inbox would always be full of analyst reports about the chip industry, and most of the time, I’d be wondering if they were talking about the same chip industry I was covering, because from my vantage point, I couldn’t see what they were talking about half the time.

I eventually caught onto the racket that is Wall Street and investing, of course. I concluded that from the investors’ standpoint, at least, it was and is essentially intelligent gambling, and as such, very fickle. This was only compounded by some (not all, but some) of the research being put out by analysts, which now comes to us at Internet speed.

Then of course, there are the message boards … As an editor I was always struck by the lemming-like nature of investors to rush to buy and sell based on the scantest of questionable information, misperceptions or sometimes deliberate misinformation. I even wrote a parody of Shakespeare (you only hurt the ones you love) about Wall Street and its fickle nature for E-News. Later came a column about one of the more amusing examples of investors’ misperceptions.

Which brings us back to The Stalwart. I won’t bore you with the details; you can follow the above links to see for yourself, if you wish. It was just gratifying for me to see that I was seeing the same thing these Wall Street veterans were seeing, and that they felt I was on the mark.