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Factcheck.org on the financial crisis:

The frogs and lizards did it!

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This page last updated on or about 10-3-08
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Who Caused the Economic Crisis? MoveOn.org blames McCain advisers. He blames Obama and Democrats in Congress. Both are wrong. By Joe Miller and Brooks Jackson | factcheck.org Oct 2, 2008

Note that even the most well-intentioned of organizations and individuals can reach their own level of incompetence in a particular subject, and not even realize it. Scientific references for this phenomenon abound. Here, I believe that's what happened to FactCheck.org. Note that their main reason for being appears to be trying to even the playing field in political blame games, plus disprove popular notions. Here, they appear to have gone overboard on the matter, and ended up so spreading and diluting the possible responsibility for the crisis that the reader might get the impression frogs and lizards in your nearest farm pond could have had some hand in it, too.

I looked up Joe Miller and Brooks Jackson on Factcheck.org's own site to see their claimed qualifications regarding finances and politics and found the apparent primary author of the article Joe Miller (since he's mentioned first) to be an assistant professor for philosophy, with degrees in same. Some of that was said to be political philosophy. No mention of any significant schooling in matters financial is made at all. And this is possibly the primary author! Egads!

This made me immediately much more skeptical of FactCheck.org, across-the-board.

I believe Clint Eastwood in a famous film role said something along the lines of "A man's got to know his limitations."

I think FactCheck.org-- noble as their aims might be-- may have overstepped their own skills set in this case. Or perhaps tried way too hard to be non-partisan in their conclusions. Or maybe simply got bewildered and lost among all the complexities encountered during their research.

I had some philosophy in college too, and my own sampling was about as far removed from the financial and economic realms as it could possibly be. I must also admit that saying it had much relation to modern American politics would hold little accuracy as well.

So if there's anything at all to Joe Miller's arguments, it would have to be found in his references-- along with his interpretation of those references.

But I personally would be leery of his interpretation, based solely on the bits of his resume seen on FactCheck.org. Wouldn't you? I mean, I see no indication at all there that he would comprehend many basic concepts of finance and economics, let alone the far more complex items like derivatives which even esteemed top investor Warren Buffet has said he himself cannot understand.

Then there's Brooks Jackson. A guy I usually like seeing appear on my TV screen, as FactCheck.org whom he seems to represent as 'face man' (plus acts as the Director for the organization) usually seems like a source with some credibility.

As can be seen on the FactCheck.org site, Jackson appears to have a far more impressive resume for the matters at hand than Miller, whose name appears first as author. But still, Jackson lists no educational credentials at all on this subject (or even a single generic degree), though he appears to be a respected journalist who's won awards and written several books along with what I assume were thousands of news reports. However, none of those books dealt with anything near the subject of high finance and investing, judging from the titles. The closest he seemed to get was possible corruption and fraud in election campaign finance and legislative lobbying. Which-- while admittedly something which might be related to today's calamity-- isn't what most would consider to be at the heart of the most pressing issues of the moment.

And Jackson appears to have been the secondary author of the article, anyway (in many cases such status may consist only of the more senior player 'signing off' on a piece, after doing very little work on it themselves; maybe as little as proof-reading it).

It's also true that there's so much secrecy and corruption going on behind the scenes in big business and government regarding these matters, that it could take many years of determined investigation to reveal those bearing true and utmost responsibility.

But still, I don't think rhetorically throwing up your hands in resignation and spreading the blame to frogs and lizards is helpful to the discussion.

So who am I, and what are my own financial and economic qualifications, compared to the guys above?

I had one entire year of economics in college, plus business accounting, and have been a self-employed small business entrepreneur most of my life now. I've read quite a few business, investing, and entrepreneurship books along the way, and been a fairly faithful reader of Businessweek magazine since at least the early 1980s.

I also did my share of research into global economics and history in order to create my speculative timeline of future history in support of a novel I was writing. In that timeline-- some years ago (check the earliest related references seen there)-- I forecast a substantial economic crisis to take hold of America beginning around 2007 (yeah, I was one year early).

So although you don't see me on PBS, CNBC, or MSNBC, I'm not exactly a novice myself. And appear to be more than qualified to speak to a philosophy major's interpretation of these events. Jackson may give me a somewhat better run for my money, but he too looks to be treading on dangerous ground, credentials-wise. At least for this particular topic.

So as much as I hate to say it, I advise everyone to take this particular piece from FactCheck.org with a few million grains of salt.

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