How CNBC Squandered Roubini and Taleb

Feb.10.09 | About: General Electric (GE)

CNBC had what could have been phenomenal business television yesterday when they managed to get Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Nicolas Taleb on for a double segment. They billed it as Dr. Doom and Black Swan.

Unfortunately it was mostly squandered. Whatever you think of either one of them, they have contributed a stream of consciousness to the current crisis (Roubini more economic, Taleb more philosophical). To the extent they have been useful to anyone, we are at a certain point between the beginning and the end of the crisis and the greatest benefit now comes from their assessment of where things are now, along with some investment philosophy. That is these guys' A-game.

Robin Farzad was on there and asked a ridiculous question about how to invest a college fund for a newborn. Michelle Caruso Cabrera devoted about 30 seconds to a monologue that their status as "rock stars" could be sign of a bottom. Someone else asked if there was anything to the financials being up today (Monday). Dennis Kneale was asking square-one questions, thus preventing the dialogue from advancing beyond elementary. I gather from what I have read from Taleb that he has a lot of disdain for this sort of thing; I doubt anything about yesterday changed his mind.

A couple of things that emerged are that Roubini thinks a bottom might come sometime in 2010, which is not that far away in terms of time, but in terms of price he thinks another 20% down from here. Taleb said we haven't even started deleveraging, a lot of private equity will go out of business, but I did not hear him quantify what he thought the decline in equity prices would be or the time needed for this to all play out.

As opposed to investing advice, I would have rather heard more about Taleb's philosophy on investing. They got into it a little, but there were a lot of interruptions. From Roubini I would have liked to have heard a little more detail on what he thinks is going on currently, and maybe a couple of if/then scenarios about what is being proposed and what he thinks should be done. Instead, we learned that both of them have a large allocation to cash.

As I started to write this, I did not intend it to be a rant. I get plenty of utility from watching CNBC in terms of straight news. For years I have spent more of my reading time on more opinion-oriented commentary as opposed to straight news because of the network. This is a tremendous time saver. An example of this that I have used before is the car companies. I have never owned a car company and doubt I ever will. I don't need every last detail, I just need to be in touch with the story. When something comes up that I hear about on the network that I need to read more about, I can seek that out later.