Freedom or Fraud?

London's Canary Wharf, the Banking District (via The New York Times)

London’s Canary Wharf, the Banking District (via The New York Times)

Only a few short years after the second-largest financial crisis in American history, the big banks are back in the news again, with less than positive headlines. This time, the world’s largest banks are under fire for manipulating currency exchange markets to make a profit. Individual traders made up to $500,000 on single transactions thanks to their collusions. The conspirators were from a variety of banks in America and Europe, including JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and UBS, among others.

These banks rigged the price known as “The Fix,” which is the intraday benchmark exchange rate for a currency (in this case between the Euro and the U.S. Dollar). By fixing “The Fix,” these traders were able to make large amount of money at the expense of those who were unable to predict these benchmark prices. The Fix is set every day at 4:00 PM, when the London Currency Markets stop trading for one minute in order to set the benchmark for each currency.

“The Fix” Explained (via The New York Times)

Regulators in the U.S., Britain, and Switzerland were quick to come up with fines and punishment, announcing that the banks that settled owed a total $4.25 Billion for their currency-rigging activity. While investigations by the Justice Department are still ongoing, these fines are a major step towards greater transparency in the Investment Banking sector, especially the notoriously grey area of forex markets.

There are many people, especially here in the U.S., that are adamant about keeping regulation out of the financial industry. Even after all of the issues with irresponsible loans and bad investments, a good percentage of Americans believe that the government ought to leave the big Investment Banks alone. While some may believe in this pure form of capitalism, it is a great opportunity to apply the ideas of John Stuart Mill that we have recently discussed in class.

Mill wrote that the freedom of individuals must be protected, but government should intervene in the case that other people may be harmed. The case of these banks rigging the prices of international currency exchanges harms individual investors and smaller banks as well, and is therefore the exact sort of situation in which Mill would have called for intervention by the U.S. government.

(via The New York Times)

(via The New York Times)

The long leash that we give to big banks seems to be as loose as ever. Even after regulators supposedly tightened their grip following the financial crisis, these large banks are still able to take advantage of their size and power at the expense of others. Mill’s philosophy would be very useful for the authorities that supervise these institutions, as these banks clearly need to be reeled in further. While these banks seem to think they are free to act in any way they see fit, they need to be held accountable for their harmful actions. While this settlement is surely a step in the right direction, more regulation is necessary to keep our Investment Banks in check.

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Soccer vs. Basketball

Michigan Vs. Indiana

Michigan Vs. Indiana (MY PHOTO)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._Bartlett_Giamatti

Giamatti

This fall I attended two sporting events. Men’s Soccer and Men’s basketball. The soccer game I attended was a very important one. It was against Indiana. In the first half of the game we were doing so good. We were playing with such intensity and we were playing as a team, but once we entered the second half we fell apart.

The second half of the game was a struggle. Not only did the offense and defense fall apart, the Michigan fans fell apart as well. Once Indiana scored a goal the Michigan fans automatically got discouraged and stopped cheering for Michigan. They just gave up. They started yelling at the coach and booing the players. The expected happened as a result as that. The team became discouraged and stop playing with  heart, like they started. This reminded me of what was mentioned in Giamatti’s Take Time For Paradisehow spectators watch because they want to be the athlete “…and to bound them in time or by rules or boundaries in a green enclosure surrounded by an amphitheater or at least a gallery is to replicate the arena of humankind ‘s highest aspiration”. It is such a pity that they turn on their own players because of that though, but the basketball game I attended was a whole different story.

The Men’s basketball game I attended was against Wayne State. It was an exhibition game, and after watching, I understood why. This game was amazing. Michigan continued their 30 plus point lead almost the entire game. The fans were very supportive and very enthusiastic throughout the entire game, which was the complete opposite behavior of the fans from the soccer game. I feel as though no matter if the team you are supporting is winning or losing you should support them. There should be no booing or disrespecting the coach.

Although the games are different, the fans still behave the same, When the soccer team was doing well in the first quarter they cheered and supported the team, just as the fans did during the basketball game.

Crisler Arena

Crisler Arena (MY PHOTO)

The athletes participating in these games are expected to do a lot. They are expected to win and listen to the spectators (the people who aren’t playing) boo them and then go to the locker room and listen to the coaching staff yell at them too. That is a lot of pressure to put on people that are just playing a sport and doing what they love. I feel like if the spectators were put in the athletes positions they wouldn’t appreciate being treated like that. To be critiqued on just doing something you love and enjoy is horrible. I know I would be very upset. I just think people really need to re-evaluate their actions and how they respond to things, especially things they know they are incapable of performing themselves.

Passion v. Public Opinion

Alex Honnold, arguably the most well known and best free solo climber of this era, has been under scrutiny lately due to Clif Bar rescinding their sponsorship of him. According to Clif Bar, free soloing and other extremely risky forms of climbing are “pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go.” As a large corporation with many interests other than being climbing enthusiasts, there is definitely some legitimacy to this decision by Clif Bar. The scrutiny of this decision at this point isn’t as much about dropping the sponsorship. The question now is how far is too far when it comes to these extreme sports like free soloing or BASE jumping, where the smallest of mistakes could result in a disastrous and usually life ending accident.

In response to Clif Bar dropping their sponsorship, Honnold wrote an op-ed for the New York times explaining why he free solo climbs. Honnold quite clearly states why he free solos, and the money and publicity he receives from sponsorships is not one of the reasons. Honnold free solos because it’s his passion. Similar to any other professional athlete, free soloing is what he loves to do. The problem with free soloing is the high risk and low margin for error, and that is why the public is becoming increasingly skeptical of these kind of high risk sports.

Wingsuit Base Jumper

Wingsuit Base Jumper

This conflict between Honnold’s passion for doing something so dangerous and the public opinion of what he’s doing almost directly relates to Mill’s writing. Although many people disagree with free solo climbing, at very worst it could be considered a self regarding vice. In no way has his climbing harmed any other people and there really isn’t any way that it could. Stated directly in his op-ed article, Honnold says that “I draw the lines for myself.” This is why free soloing is what it is and why it could be considered at worst a self regarding vice. Many people enjoy these kind of adventure sports because there really are no rules and you do draw the lines for yourself. Feeling freedom and being able to do what you want to do are the reasons these people have a passion for the sport. Although public opinion is growing increasingly negative on these extreme sports, these athletes have a right to do what they’re doing and that likely won’t ever change.

Alex Honnold free solo climbing

Alex Honnold free solo climbing

Science, Sports, and Women

We have spent a lot of time the past few weeks in my Deep Time science course discussing the contributions of women in science and how they were largely ignored because of the gender of the scientists. Even though we’ve made a lot of progress, gender discrimination is still a big issue, as Mika LaVaque-Manty points out in his book, The Playing Fields of Eton. He comments on this specifically in his chapter “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities”. We’ve touched on the theme of gender inequality throughout the Political Theory course, so it is interesting to see how closely it is related to my science class. We see today that, as a way to make reparations for the treatment of women in science, many high schools, universities, and clubs offer separate programs or scholarships for women interested in science. In the discussion section for my science course we debated whether special treatment for women in science and other related fields is a good or bad thing.  The intent of this post is to relate LaVaque-Manty’s work to the present day occurrence of programs for women in science.

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What Defines Family?

What truly makes something what it is? Is there a specific right answer for what definite characteristic makes an apple an apple or a computer a computer? In the article by Marc Tracy, “NFL Rule Changes: When is football no longer football?” he asks this question as well. Tracy discusses the recent rule changes involving the Pro-Bowl and how they affect the future of the American national sport.

Football Kick Off

Tracy questions whether the elimination of kick offs and new regulations regarding helmets pose to undermine the sport of Football in its entirety. After exploring defining characteristics, he ends his point by writing, the “NFL needs to decide what Football is”: its rules, its traditions, and its future. What Tracy hints at is called a constitutive rule, or a regulation that helps makes something what it is, that when broken, says you are no longer engaged in that activity.

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