PAPERS I WAS FORCED TO WRITE: Summary of History Channel’s “Crash: The Next Great Depression?”

Crash: The Next Great Depression?

            The stock market crash on October 29th, 1929 led to a decade of financial hardship for many Americans.  Referred to as Black Tuesday, the market fell about twenty percent (sixteen-million shares) and continued to decrease throughout the year.  President Hoover’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, pledged “the fed would stand by as the market worked itself out.”  A two and half billion dollar bailout plan in 1932 failed to solve the problem.  In retrospect, earlier government intervention may have helped prevent the worst economic failure in American history.

On September 17th, 2008, treasury secretary Henry Paulson watched in disbelief as credit markets seized up, banks stopped lending money to each other, and a run on money markets had begun.  Paulson recognized that the problem had been building for months and blamed it on subprime mortgage toppling the larger housing market, excessive consumer borrowing, and excessive lending by Wall Street.  By this point the government had already stepped in, spending five trillion tax dollars in August 2008 to save Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the brink.  When the world’s largest insurer, AIG,  looked to be the next to collapse, the government deemed it “too big to fail” and stepped in with an 85 billion dollar infusion.  Even with all this government intervention, October 10th, 2008 marked the end of the worst week of the stock market since the great depression.

One of the causes attributed to the 1929 crash was a lack of regulation.  Andrew Mellon believed the government should keep its hands off business and the market should be given free reign.  Since the Securities and Exchange Commission was not yet devised, the brokers made their own rules.  Under Mellon, capital gains taxes, corporate income taxes, and taxes on the wealthy are all cut.  Similarly, before the crash of 2008, tax rates in the 1990’s and 2000’s for the wealthiest Americans were at record lows.  Deregulation became prevalent and banks were allowed to make risky loans.  Throughout the 2000’s consumers borrowed against their biggest asset, their homes.  By 2008, twenty-five percent of houses were worth less than there mortgage and many home owners found themselves on the verge of foreclosure.

To avoid making the same mistakes that caused the great depression, the government moved aggressively to stimulate the economy.  In September 2008, President George W. Bush and Ben Bernanke urged congress to pass a $700 billion bailout plan.  In October, Henry Paulson announced that the treasury would purchase equity stakes in a variety of banks, making $250 billion available for financial institutions.  With the amount spent on bailouts already reaching to trillions of dollars, November brought another as Citigroup received twenty billion dollars and federal guarantees for 300 billion dollars of troubled assets.  Even with all this governmental intervention, whether or not we’ve avoided a full on collapse is unknown.

My Opinion

I have mixed feelings about the crash of 2008.  I feel that banks were allowed to take advantage of consumers, make poor decisions, lose money in the process, and then have the people bail them out through tax dollars – with minimal punishment. To me, Wall Street investors and bankers of the 1990’s and 2000’s changed the way America operates. A successful business previously made revenue by offering amazing products and leading innovation.  Nowadays, the best seem to profit by tricking those without a mathematics doctorate, through complicated procedures like credit-default swaps and derivatives. I understand that most of the bailouts were necessary in order to maintain and prevent deterioration of the national standard of living, but the financial burden will take decades to pay off.  I can’t help but wonder how long it will be until these banks need another bailout, as they instinctively go back to their old behaviors that caused this crisis to begin with.  Needless to say, I have little faith in the banking system and this History Channel presentation has effectively deepened my concerns.

GOD DAMN GENETICS: You have hair just like your uncle Mike.

My uncle Mike is bald.  Well, was bald.  He’s dead now.  I guess he’s still bald though — so I stand behind my first comment.  Anyways…

My mother is a stylist.  That’s a dumbed down word for beautician.  She has given me every haircut I’ve ever had, besides one.  Around age 10, she made the comment, “You have hair just like your uncle Mike used to have.”  This scared me.  He was bald then.  And as previously discussed, bald now… but you know, dead.

Around the age of 17, I first started to notice that my hairline was creeping up.  Whatever, Caesar style that shit forward and move on with life.  Around 23, the hairline was creeping further and a monkey butt was forming in the crown region.  Whatever, buy some minoxidil and dab it on. Now at 26, I feel like I’m starting to get to the point where I should just shave it off.  Every hairstyle feels like a cover-up.  Every day I’m swirling hair to cover up what some doctors describe as “a big fucking forehead.”

God damn genetics.  As if things weren’t complicated enough.  Now I have to design haircuts with different lengths and sweeping processes.  At what point do I break out the razor and rock the chrome dome?  If only my uncle were still alive to give me some much needed guidance.  Rest in peace.  Gone and never forgotten.  In loving memory of my uncle Mike and preteen hairline.

PAPERS I WAS FORCED TO WRITE: Cyberspace

Cyberspace: No Definitive Definition

Labeling cyberspace is no easy task. Countless people have tried to define it since William Gibson first coined the phrase in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. Regardless of whether a unified meaning is ever reached, it seems like almost everyone has an opinion.

The notion of cyberspace can be explained in a number of different ways. A simple Google search of “what is cyberspace?” brings back the website’s definition: the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs. Collins English dictionary defines it as: “all of the data stored in a large computer or network represented as a three-dimensional model through which a virtual-reality user can move.” David Birch and S. Peter Buck further back this description with “Cyberspace is an extension of the idea of virtual reality. Instead of seeing computer data converted into pictures that come from human experience (as in a flight simulator), or extensions from human experience (such as the “desktop” metaphor used with personal computers), cyberspace comprises computers, telecommunications, software and data in a more abstract form.”

Rain Ottis and Peeter Lorents expand these ideas in their publication “Cyberspace: Definitions and Implications.” They note that the aspect of time is missing in most explanations and describe cyberspace as “a time-dependent set of interconnected information systems and the human users that interact with these systems.” The article also refers to it as “unthinkably complex.” I whole heartedly agree with the latter statement.

Trying to wrap my brain around the question of “what is cyberspace?” and devise my own opinion makes my head feel like it’s going to implode. While most definitions refer to it as being computer based, I agree with Mr. Yurgens about it being invented with the introduction of the electrical telegraph. The electrical telegraph made it possible to transmit information over vast physical distance in short periods of time. I view cyberspace as a realm where communication is not stifled by the limitations of physical attributes. If I wanted to hand deliver a message to someone in Beijing, China, I would have to drive to Detroit Metro Airport, board a plane and fly for twenty hours. With the internet, the same message can be delivered in minutes, if not seconds. I see cyberspace as a platform for the instantaneous exchange of ideas via technology. It seems to have effectively flattened the world, and as everyone knows, the fastest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line.

I also consider cyberspace to be our collective consciousness. It has allowed us to befriend (and sometimes hate) people who we would never have had a chance to before. It has opened up the minds of countless people and showed us how small we are in the grand scheme of things. It has given a voice to the voiceless, and played a major part in the uprisings against tyranny across the changing world. The information offered in cyberspace continues to alter the spirit and mood of our era. In my opinion, cyberspace will never be clearly defined because it will never cease to evolve.

Works cited:

Cyberspace.” Google.com definition. 10 Jan. 2012.

Cyberspace.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. 2009

Birch, David G.W., and S. Peter Buck. “What Is Cyberspace?” The Cyberpunk Project. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/what_is_cyberspace.html&gt;.

Rain Ottis and Peeter Lorents. “Cyberspace: Definition and Implications” Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence 2010. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.ccdcoe.org/articles/2010/Ottis_Lorents_CyberspaceDefinition.pdf&gt;.