Monday, May 10, 2010

Yay for Greed and Incompetence

In the last few months, it’s become obvious that, really, we don’t know what we’re doing… Consider this:

  • An oil spill that is still spilling threatens to be one of the most ecologically devastating tragedies of the millennium. We don’t know how to stop it.
  • A number of European countries—Greece is going going gone, Portugal, Spain and Italy are next—are on the threshold of economic disaster that may bring the entire global financial system down. We don’t know how to stop it.
  • An erupting volcano’s curtain of ashes closes down airport all over Europe and costs million of dollars. Nobody ever forecasted such an eventuality. We don’t know how to stop it.
  • An unsupervised computer program wreaks havoc on Wall Street and the DOW loses 1000 points in minutes.  We didn’t know how to stop it and it’s entirely conceivable that in a very short time hackers will learn how to reproduce the event at will.
What do these incidents have in common? Hmmm, let’s see how.  Lack of planning? Greed? A little of the former and a lot of the latter?

We want more oil so we can produce, purchase and export more cars, trucks, plastics, shopping bags and other petroleum-based products, most of which have a very limited use life-span and a very long biodegradable one.

Europe is going under because it bought into the American capitalistic system, complete with mortgages, credit cards, high interest loans, leases and borrowings. The basic thing to remember here is that the countries involved borrowed more than they are capable of repaying (sound familiar?), and only be securing more loans can they hope to survive.  This is called robbing Peter to pay Paul, and what it does is delay the inevitable.  What we are doing internationally is pretending to solve the problem when in actuality we’re simply passing it on to our children and grandchildren, who are unlikely to thank us for such a malicious gift.

The volcano? Some might say with questionable justification that acts of God can’t be planned for, but that’s nonsense. The history of the world is the history of survival against the elements. According to the Global Volcanism Program, at least 20 volcanoes will probably be erupting as you read these words (Italy's Stromboli, for example, has been erupting for more than a thousand years); roughly 60 erupted each year through the 1990s; 154 in the full decade 1990-1999 and about 550 have had historically documented eruptions.  But no one in the aviation industry planned for Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull  (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl, you read it here first) even though Iceland is a major fly-over for trans-oceanic airlines. Greed or poor planning?

And last, Wall Street… There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe the greed, corruption, hubris and incompetence of Wall Street, a temple to the worship of gluttony and fiscal irresponsibility. The recent crash of the DOW, it appears, was largely caused by an unsupervised computer program designed to make lightning-quick trades to benefit large investors. According to insiders, this program will be debugged and back in service within days.

Doesn’t that just fill you with confidence?

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