Lance Manion draws surprising and ponderable links between the Kindle, AIG execs, and your average county fair. Essentially an assessment of alienation and the human need for that which is tactile, in order to remain human:

[E]ven if all [former AIG exec Jake DeSantis's] claims about himself aren't bullshit, they are claims about himself. He himself is his only object of concern. He shows no sign that he understands that his job was playing not just with other people's money but with their lives.

People lost their jobs, lost their homes, lost their life savings because of things AIG and the other big Wall Street casinos did. It doesn't matter that he was personally honest and competent, he was still part of it. In fact, his honesty and competence contributed to the disasters, because he helped keep that division, and AIG, going while the mess was being made. The mess was bigger, the harm was greater, because he gave his incompetent and dishonest colleagues cover and time to continue making messes and doing harm.

It doesn't matter if he didn't know what was going on at the time. He knows it now. And it should bother him. He should feel guilty, even if the actual blame doesn't fall on him. It should bother him that he's pocketing millions of dollars while the people who were screwed by his fellow wheelers and dealers are wondering if they're going to have enough money to buy groceries next week.

But I get no sense that he has a sense that other people besides himself were screwed or that they even exist to be screwed.

This led me here: DeSantis's NYTimes Op-Ed

And then here: Blogger Matt Taibbi takes it apart point by point

Before that, I was here: Slate: Why does Star Wars take over the minds of small boys? (Er, I would submit that observations of one's two own sons does not a viable "study" make, but whatever. Also, the title is actually "still take over" but I think the question the essay actually addressed is the one I typed above. Whatever, it's still pretty cute.)

Which led me here (hee!): Read more... )

WAH HA HA! Muppet Star Wars! )
-- What to do with your money now

-- Jim Hines once again proves himself brilliant agrees with me

-- I vow to stop abusing the "strike" command, even though the utter glee that I've finally figured out how to even DO it has not yet worn off

-- Amanda Jones: 109-year-old daughter of a slave casts her vote

Can you even imagine being that old, living through so much change? It's beautiful. It's amazing. I'm Generation X and I can't even figure out Facebook. She got through poll tax, intimidation, grandfather clauses, and [bits of!!] three different centuries to come to this, today, here and now.

1. This fiction addict says the progression of history is the greatest, most exciting story possible. (WHY do they suck all the life and dynamism out of it in school, I ask you?)

2. God bless America. ~___^ (Keep it up! We've still far to go, but you can do it!)

(I am, er, having a rather good morning it seems.)
The Times of London says 'Punish greedy bankers' is not a bailout plan

Ignoring the grammatical "well DUH" of the title*, an interesting analysis. (I like the provisions detailed in the seventh paragraph.) Comments also interesting. (General advisory: Internet anonymity distills and concentrates bile; proceed to comments at your own risk.)

More: Wall Street's Mastered Masters** of the Universe Dethroned "Even if it hurts them, Americans want to hurt the people who got rich and made America ill on toxic credit..."

* Really? "Not bailing anyone out" is not "a bailout plan"? Glad we got that straight.
** Hee! Okay, that was a typo on my part, but it amuses me, so I'm leaving it under the strikeout.
So -- I have lost money. Less than I thought, though. My consolation remains that I couldn't have had any of it for another thirty-five years anyway. Barring total apocalypse* -- does apocalypse even COME in degrees? -- it'll probably recuperate.

(A glimpse into the convolution that is my brain: I am worried about the fact that I am not scared. =/)

Ai. My nice new bank now bought out by the bank I thought I'd ESCAPED.

New York Times: "Is My Money Safe?" (login necessary)

Musing, meandering: A couple years back when my salary was less -- in fact, while I was NOT salaried but still freelancing and health-insurance-less, a couple people suggested to me that I (a single woman with no children or drivers' license, freelancing, and tethered to a large, expensive city by profession) should buy a house, which I found utterly...well mindboggling, to be quite honest. (And implausible, and not quite worthy of serious consideration.) I am so, so glad that my ingrained and possibly not-entirely-accurate neuroses (houses are for mommies and daddies!) are stronger than my peer pressure. =/ My neuroses may not be healthy, but at the moment they seem to be safer.

Hmmmmm... I wonder if NYC rents will go down?

An anti-bailout politician speaks. (Lively debate in comments. Standard warning: Internet anonymity distills bile; go forth, thou wary pilgrim.)

So I've got my friend (who is in the "Marxist Theory" portion of her PhD program) writing to me that we should TAKE TO THE STREETS and DEMAND BAILOUT**.

I regret to inform those who care that I'm simply not that cut-and-dry yet in my outlook.

Aiyahh. I remember back in 2004 or thereabouts, I had a coworker who supported Bush like Bush was his sainted mother. This was a lovely man in many other respects. Supported the Iraq war as well. (I'm not judging that, at least not here in this post -- it's not my point, and also hindsight is 20-20. Hell, after a period of extreme nonsupport in the form of "what the HELL??" I supported it for about a month, or at least considered the other side, based on articles written by expat Iraqis, as well as two protests by same on the Mall in D.C. that the press pretty much ignored. Then I stopped.) What I'm judging is this -- at one point in the year, a Bushian tax cut kicked in and my coworker rushed over to show my his pay stub that had gone up by about six dollars. I was meant to appreciate this, you see, as tangible evidence of Bush's wonderfulness towards the working man. What I did NOT see, and tried to point out, was why wasn't my coworker willing to give up that ever so precious $6 to buy a soldier a flak jacket?

With all the railing against taxes there is still a larger-than-I'd-like contingent of Americans who don't seem to get that in order to SPEND money, you have to HAVE money, and the money for what you want and support doesn't appear by MAGIC just because the nation runs on a larger scale than your household/neighborhood/city. "Big" does not equal "theoretical." It's not a case of "the money for the programs that I oppose because they benefit lazy promiscuous foreigners people who are not like me comes directly out of my own personal pocket, whereas the money for the things I want is a mystical sky-gift from heaven and a just reward for national righteousness."

I don't pretend to be an expert. I am not an expert. But I think the bailout is primarily a placebo, and I'd be in favor of it more if I could be made to believe that it 1. will actually have an effect on consumer/investor confidence (which is a necessity when you have a science-fiction economy based on "profession of faith") and 2. whatever effect it has BEYOND the temporary soothing of ruffled feathers won't actually make everything worse. I am not assured of this.

The anti-bailout opinions floating around suggest that the case is, quite simply as follows:

The Bush administration -- the Federal government headed by it -- spent money at record levels. (Libertarians and Republicans, this is your cue to get pissed, and hang your head that you didn't yell louder, and also for certain of your less-pleasant numbers to quit blaming me the minorities and disenfranchised for not properly appreciating your "largesse". I might have more to say about that later. Also, we need to cut some bamboo switches for Congresspersons who allowed this to go on.) Shocking levels. Levels sort of flying in the face of public will, from where I'm standing. Mostly war, some domestically. I still consider that two-time $300 tax incentive bullshit to be a transparent effort to buy my vote.

(Sigh. The feds have always been lousy at spending. I remember being in eighth grade and hearing reports of purchases of $25-dollar nails. Not a box of nails.)

The spending has been financed by debt (a LOT of predatory lending has gone on, in my opinion) -- purchases being paid for with theoretical future money. Interest rates have artificially been kept low (hasn't Greenspan been bitching about this for years now? In which case why was it still done?). Lots of easily-obtainable credit kept all this in semblance of balance.

Thing is, when easy credit is available, people are going to TAKE it. It's no good bitching about human nature. This is exactly how I feel about abstinence-only sex education -- it's no good waiting for the majority of people to be paragons when it flies in the face of aeons of DNA programming: FOOD HERE! MAYBE NOT TOMORROW! EAT NOW! FATTEN UP! WINTER COME SOON! Stop whining about "everything will be fine when we all exhibit perfect virtue" as if you were waiting for goddamn Godot, and create a situation that minimizes harm in the long term to the largest amount of people here and now!!

So back to the current situation -- would a bailout actually help, or exacerbate the problem? Is the bailout not essentially more credit? Propping up bad investments, using Mastercard to pay Visa, and wholly at the taxpayers' risk? If we let things run their course, will they get bad in the short term here and then pick up, as opposed to a prolonged period of badness later on? Maybe it would be best to let bad investments flop and be bought out by new investors, spawning better investments in the long-term?***

Back in the day when I was teaching ESL, I had a LOT of Japanese students complain to me about the government pouring cash into badly-run business where the CEOs were pretty much the kids of former CEOs, regardless of competence. It didn't work out for them. I am very, very wary of this idea.

*points to Sweden again*
I've been to Sweden. It's a LOVELY PLACE. So clean! (Even though people tend to let doors slam on you in the mall...)

Thought for today -- China's governmental officials/equivalent-of-congresspersons/parliamentarians are predominantly political-science PhDs. Our governmental representatives are predominantly lawyers. Discuss.

* I've had to use this phrase entirely too often this year.
** This is not fair, actually. Rereading: She's not pro-bailout, she's anti the whole situation and us getting shafted, but I'm still not going anywhere to hold up a sign and shout -- that's simply not effective and I'm tired of pretending it is. Let's repeat it one more time, people -- the Civil Rights Movement did not succeed because there is something inherently magical about signs and loud poetry in unison. It succeeded because it was a stark, televised and publicized contrast between very obviously innocent, calm, well-dressed and orderly persons being blatantly attacked with excessive force in public by the establishment, therefore turning public opinion in their favor. These were people who were willing -- no, whose very modus operandi was the willingness to be unquestionably victimized in full view of the public. And before they marched/did sit-ins/chanted, they TRAINED. They trained for MONTHS to be utterly stoic and utterly above suspicion. That is civil disobedience, my friends, not just spontaneously gathering together to yell and storm police barriers. Regardless of what that substandard film version of "V for Vendetta" told you. Also, read the book. PLEASE.
*** [ profile] ag_caint Look, woman, just take for granted I'm assuming a certain level of transparency, non-corruption, and not-outright-eviltude for this to work, 'kay? *wink*
For his birthday, author Jim Hines would like you to give a book, any book, to someone who needs or wants it.

And... I really have no excuse not to go see Neil Gaiman on Friday, do I. *ponders* *has ticket*

AND... as of midnight last night, I am free of Bear Stearns. Ooo-rah!
Note to self: Get the hell outa NYC Dodge

(Ad in paper today)

LIVNG WELL IN MANHATTAN! *smiley couple in white cardigans with sunny rosy cheeked baby*


Sunny 1 bedroom, spacious living room $2495
2 bedroom, 2 marble baths, granit kit, river view $4495
3 bedroom, 2 bath, granite kit with window $5295

(that's the cheap area)
The Financial Genius of John Scalzi

Unasked-for Advice to New Writers About Money

It's actually nothing new... BUT it's all in one place, and Scalzi is deliciously bitchy about it. (Sigh. I need to read Old Man's War already; I bought it over three months ago...)



December 2013

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