* via BuzzFeed.
I am sickened by the idea that taxpayers may be bailing out high-flying investment bankers who made millions and millions of dollars over the years. And all this may happen because one guy says we should do it quickly! and "trust me". What is happening to our country?
Bob Herbert wrote a great piece on this yesterday:
A Second Opinion?
By Bob Herbert
Does anyone think it’s just a little weird to be stampeded into a $700 billion solution to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by the very people who brought us the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?
How about a second opinion?
Everything needs much closer scrutiny in these troubled times because no one even knows who is in charge, much less what is going on. Have you ever seen a president who was more irrelevant than George W. Bush is right now?
The treasury secretary, Henry Paulson — heralded as King Henry on the cover of Newsweek — has been handed the reins of government, and he’s galloping through the taxpayers’ money like a hard-charging driver in a runaway chariot race.
“We need this legislation in a week,” he said on Sunday, referring to the authorization from Congress to implement his hastily assembled plan to bail out the wildly profligate U.S. financial industry. The plan stands at $700 billion as proposed, but could go to a trillion dollars or more.
Mr. Paulson spoke on the Sunday morning talk shows about “bad lending practices” and “irresponsible borrowing” and “irresponsible lending” and “illiquid assets.”
The sky was falling, he seemed to be saying, and if the taxpayers didn’t pony up $700 billion in the next few days, all would be lost. No time to look at the fine print. Hurry, hurry, said the treasury secretary.
His eyes, as he hopped from one network camera to another, said, as salesmen have been saying since the dawn of time: “Trust me.”
With all due respect to Mr. Paulson, who is widely regarded as a smart and fine man, we need to slow this process down. We got into this mess by handing out mortgages like lollipops to people who paid too little attention to the fine print, who in many cases didn’t understand it or didn’t care about it.
And the people who always pretended to know better, who should have known better, the mortgage hucksters and the gilt-edged, high-rolling, helicopter-flying Wall Street financiers, kept pushing this bad paper higher and higher up the pyramid without looking at the fine print themselves, not bothering to understand it, until all the crap came raining down on the rest of us.
Yes, the system came perilously close to collapse last week and needs to be stabilized as quickly as possible. But we don’t know yet that King Henry’s fiat, his $700 billion solution, is the best solution. Like the complex mortgage-based instruments at the heart of this debacle, nobody has a real grasp yet of the vast implications of Mr. Paulson’s remedy.
Experts need some reasonable amount of time — I’m talking about days, not weeks — to home in on the weak points, the loopholes, the potential unintended consequences of a bailout of this magnitude.
The patchwork modifications being offered by Democrats in Congress are insufficient. Reasonable estimates need to be made of the toll to be taken on taxpayers. Reasonable alternatives need to be heard.
I agree with the economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, that while the government needs to move with dispatch, there is also a need to make sure that taxpayers’ money is used only where “absolutely necessary.”
Lobbyists, bankers and Wall Street types are already hopping up and down like over-excited children, ready to burst into the government’s $700 billion piñata. This widespread eagerness is itself an indication that there is something too sweet about the Paulson plan.
This is not supposed to be a good deal for business. “The idea is that you’re coming here because you would be going bankrupt otherwise,” said Mr. Baker. “You’re coming here because you have no alternative. You’re getting a bad deal, but it’s better than going out of business. That’s how it should be structured.”
The markets tanked again on Monday as oil prices skyrocketed. Time is indeed short, but alternative voices desperately need to be heard because the people who have been running the economy for so long — who have ruined it — cannot be expected to make things right again in 48 or 96 hours.
Mr. Paulson himself was telling us during the summer that the economy was sound, that its long-term fundamentals were “strong,” that growth would rebound by the end of the year, when most of the slump in housing prices would be over.
He has been wrong every step of the way, right up until early last week, about the severity of the economic crisis. As for President Bush, the less said the better.
The free-market madmen who treated the American economy like a giant casino have had their day. It’s time to drag them away from the tables and into the sunlight of reality.
My 'Your Amazon.com order has shipped' message noted my purchases:
A completely non-descript and normal looking young man and his wife are quietly eating lunch. The man says to her, "I am watching all these people around us and you know how in the East Village people may look strange on the outside but they're pretty normal on the inside? It's the opposite here. People appear normal but actually they're dysfunctional and yet overly confident."
Breaking up is hard to do, and few know this better than a lifelike sex doll owner who Shizuoka police have charged with illegal dumping.
On August 21, the 60-year-old unemployed resident of Izu (Shizuoka prefecture) wrapped his 1.7-meter tall, 50-kilogram silicone girlfriend in a sleeping bag, drove to a remote wooded area, and dumped her. A nice, clean break, he thought.
But nearly two weeks later, on September 1, a couple alerted police after discovering what appeared to be a corpse while walking their dog. The body had been wrapped in a bag and bound around the neck, waist and ankles. A head of black hair protruded from one end of the bag.
Police retrieved the body and immediately launched a criminal investigation. But several hours later, when forensic pathologists began to unwrap the “corpse” to perform the post-mortem, they realized it was actually a state-of-the-art sex doll. Seeing themselves as victims of a malicious prank, the authorities vowed to track down the perpetrator and charge him with interfering with police business.
The incident quickly captured the attention of the national (and international) press. After seeing the news reports, the culprit realized the trouble he had caused and contacted police on September 6.
According to investigators, the man had lived with the sophisticated doll for several years after his wife passed away, but decided to part with her after making plans to move in with one of his children. “It seems he grew attached to the doll over the years,” said the chief investigator. “He was confused about how to get rid of her. He thought it would be cruel to cut her up into pieces and throw her out with the trash, so he proceeded to dump her illegally.”
The man, who regrets his lifelike doll was mistaken for a corpse, now faces fines for violating Japan’s Waste Management Law.
* Here it is in Japanese.
* via BuzzFeed!
Thanks to a reader, I now know that Kathryn Erbe whom I accidentally ran into the other night while adoring her dog, is an ardent dog-rescue and anti-cruelty advocate which delights me to no end! Detective by day and dog lover and advocate 24/7??? She's my hero.
Check out her video!
Thanks to Aunt Suzi for sending this email gem along and making my day.
A Dog's Purpose (from a 6-year old).
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolf hound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, 'I know why.'
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, 'People are born so that they can learn how to live a good Life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?' The six-year-old continued, 'Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.'
While Jonah and I checked out the Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill neighborhoods this weekend, I spotted the. cutest. puppy. walking towards us (easily as cute as the puppy above although I couldn't find a photo that really looked like him). As usual, I stared down the pooch with no regard for the human being walking the fluffiness. My googley eyes met puppy's heart-shaped eyes and there was no stopping the love fest that ensued. I was practically making out with the pooch when I finally looked up at the human holding the leash to ask what breed her dog was...and I noticed that her face was the same face I watch hours of every week on my murder wall (what Jonah calls the wall onto which I project my assortment of DVR'ed crime shows)...Detective Eames!! So cool!
She was super nice and the best part is that her puppy is a rescue! Go Kathryn!
I started this book a while ago but had to put it down while reading for school. The irony is that this book has significantly informed my studies of crime and violence. The work of criminologist Lonnie Athens is groundbreaking and convincing (you'll have to read the book to learn what his decades of studies reveal about violent offenders!). I'm certain the communication of this knowledge was greatly facilitated by the fantastically clear and engaging writing of Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Rhodes. I think the best thing for an academic is to have a Richard Rhodes caliber writer tell the story of their work! Highly, highly recommended.
This book, a gift from my dad, is a crime novel set mostly in D.C. and just as the TV show The Wire does a great job illustrating Baltimore, this book does the same for the grittier neighborhoods of D.C. Coincidentally Pelecanos also wrote several episodes of The Wire! A well-written, page turner I highly recommend!
I deeply believe in what David Brooks wrote in his NY Times column today. Here it is in its entirety:
THE SOCIAL ANIMAL By David Brooks
Near the start of his book, “The Conscience of a Conservative,” Barry Goldwater wrote: “Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make; they cannot be made by any other human being.” The political implications of this are clear, Goldwater continued: “Conservatism’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?”
Goldwater’s vision was highly individualistic and celebrated a certain sort of person — the stout pioneer crossing the West, the risk-taking entrepreneur with a vision, the stalwart hero fighting the collectivist foe.
The problem is, this individualist description of human nature seems to be wrong. Over the past 30 years, there has been a tide of research in many fields, all underlining one old truth — that we are intensely social creatures, deeply interconnected with one another and the idea of the lone individual rationally and willfully steering his own life course is often an illusion.
Cognitive scientists have shown that our decision-making is powerfully influenced by social context — by the frames, biases and filters that are shared subconsciously by those around. Neuroscientists have shown that we have permeable minds. When we watch somebody do something, we recreate their mental processes in our own brains as if we were performing the action ourselves, and it is through this process of deep imitation that we learn, empathize and share culture.
Geneticists have shown that our behavior is influenced by our ancestors and the exigencies of the past. Behavioral economists have shown the limits of the classical economic model, which assumes that individuals are efficient, rational, utility-maximizing creatures.
Psychologists have shown that we are organized by our attachments. Sociologists have shown the power of social networks to affect individual behavior.
What emerges is not a picture of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another. Recent Republican Party doctrine has emphasized the power of the individual, but underestimates the importance of connections, relationships, institutions and social filaments that organize personal choices and make individuals what they are.
This may seem like an airy-fairy thing. But it is the main impediment to Republican modernization. Over the past few weeks, Republicans have talked a lot about change, modernization and reform. Despite the talk, many of the old policy pillars are the same. We’re living in an age of fast-changing economic, information and social networks, but Republicans are still impeded by Goldwater’s mental guard-rails.
If there’s a thread running through the gravest current concerns, it is that people lack a secure environment in which they can lead their lives. Wild swings in global capital and energy markets buffet family budgets. Nobody is sure the health care system will be there when they need it. National productivity gains don’t seem to alleviate economic anxiety. Inequality strains national cohesion. In many communities, social norms do not encourage academic achievement, decent values or family stability. These problems straining the social fabric aren’t directly addressed by maximizing individual freedom.
And yet locked in the old framework, the Republican Party’s knee-jerk response to many problems is: “Throw a voucher at it.” Schools are bad. Throw a voucher. Health care system’s a mess. Replace it with federally funded individual choice. Economic anxiety? Lower some tax rate.
The latest example of the mismatch between ideology and reality is the housing crisis. The party’s individualist model cannot explain the social contagion that caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to make bad decisions in the same direction at the same time. A Republican administration intervened gigantically in the market to handle the Bear Stearns, Freddie and Fannie debacles. But it has no conservative rationale to explain its action, no language about the importance of social equilibrium it might use to justify itself.
The irony, of course, is that, in pre-Goldwater days, conservatives were incredibly sophisticated about the value of networks, institutions and invisible social bonds. You don’t have to go back to Edmund Burke and Adam Smith (though it helps) to find conservatives who understood that people are socially embedded creatures and that government has a role (though not a dominant one) in nurturing the institutions in which they are embedded.
That language of community, institutions and social fabric has been lost, and now we hear only distant echoes — when social conservatives talk about family bonds or when John McCain talks at a forum about national service.
If Republicans are going to fully modernize, they’re probably going to have to follow the route the British Conservatives have already trod and project a conservatism that emphasizes society as well as individuals, security as well as freedom, a social revival and not just an economic one and the community as opposed to the state.
Obituaries are one of my favorite things to read as you get the satisfaction of reading about a person's entire life, their accomplishments, their struggles, their loved ones and their words. Gregory Mcdonald's I particularly enjoyed as he penned Fletch, the novel that inspired one of my favorite movies. The guy seemed like a cool guy, which is not surprising. R.I.P.
Gregory Mcdonald, an Edgar Award-winning crime writer whose acidly funny novels starring the subversive sleuth I. M. Fletcher, breezily known as Fletch, have sold millions of copies and inspired two Hollywood films, died on Sunday at his home in Pulaski, Tenn. He was 71.
The cause was prostate cancer, said his wife, Cheryle Mcdonald.
A former reporter and editor for The Boston Globe, Mr. Mcdonald was considered a master of the comic-mystery genre. The Fletch novels, nine in all, were praised by critics for their sharp, sardonic dialogue and mordant social commentary. (The journalists, politicians, Ivy League types and drug dealers who populate Fletch’s world are all equally reprehensible.) The series began in 1974 with “Fletch,” published by Bobbs-Merrill.
Irwin Maurice Fletcher was young, cocky and smart but no white knight. A Southern California newspaperman turned beach bum, he flouted authority wherever he found it. He was a slob (at least early on), whose sartorial taste ran to T-shirts and jeans. He was a cad, a deadbeat (unpaid alimony), an opportunist and a sometime accumulator of vast ill-gotten wealth. He was, in short, the perfect hero for the countercultural ’70s, and the public ate him up.
The Fletch novels have sold tens of millions of copies, Mr. Mcdonald’s manager, David List, said Thursday. Two — “Fletch” and “Confess, Fletch” (Avon, 1976) — won Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. Among Mr. Mcdonald’s other awards, as The Globe reported on Thursday, was his personal favorite, “Best Foreign Author — Not Yet Dead,” from the Moscow Literary Review in 1992.
Fletch made his way on-screen in 1985, in a film of that name starring Chevy Chase. He returned, again played by Mr. Chase, in “Fletch Lives” (1989). Another novel, “Fletch Won” (Warner, 1985), is being adapted into a feature film, Mr. List said.
Despite his acclaim, Mr. Mcdonald shunned the limelight. On airplanes, trapped next to seatmates who asked what he did, he would reply that he was in the insurance business. That pre-empted further interrogation.
Gregory Burke Christopher Mcdonald was born on Feb. 15, 1937, in Shrewsbury, Mass. His father was a newsman with CBS Radio. The younger Mr. Mcdonald earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1958.
An accomplished sailor, Mr. Mcdonald supported himself at Harvard, and for several years afterward, by running what he euphemistically called an “international yacht troubleshooting business.” His clients were tycoons who bought yachts but could not sail them. Lost, stuck, becalmed or otherwise in need of rescue, they sent for Mr. Mcdonald, who sailed the boats home.
Starting in the mid-1960s, Mr. Mcdonald spent seven years on the staff of The Globe, where he wrote about culture. He moved to Tennessee in the mid-1980s, and after settling in Pulaski, the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, he was active in anti-Klan work.
Mr. Mcdonald’s first novel, “Running Scared” (Obolensky), appeared in 1964. It told the story of a college student who stands coolly by as his roommate commits suicide. The book, whose subject matter distressed many critics, was filmed in 1972, starring Robert Powell and Barry Morse. Another non-Fletch novel, “The Brave,” (Barricade Books, 1991), about a young man who takes part in a snuff film to help his destitute family, was filmed in 1997 with Johnny Depp.
Besides his wife, the former Cheryle Higgins, whom he married in 2001, Mr. Mcdonald is survived by a sister, two sons, three stepsons and grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.
His other books include four novels starring Francis Xavier Flynn, a music-loving Boston cop introduced in “Confess, Fletch”; and a collection of his writing for The Globe, first published in 1985 and to be reissued in November by Seven Stories Press as “Souvenirs of a Blown World.”
A novel of which Mr. Mcdonald was especially fond was “Safekeeping” (1985), about the misadventures in New York of an English duke’s 8-year-old son. Praised by critics, it had been rejected by a spate of publishers before being acquired by Penzler Books for an advance of exactly $10. After the agent’s commission, Mr. Mcdonald got $9.
Though he wrote more than two dozen books, he remained best known for the Fletch novels. He found this a mixed blessing, and after “Fletch, Too” (Warner, 1986), he vowed there would be no more. He did not kill off his hero, but instead issued a very precise threat.
As Mr. Mcdonald said in an interview in 2002, “I’ve told my family and so forth that if, after I kick the bucket, somebody takes over writing Fletches and Flynns under my name or in conjunction with my name or as a franchise, I will come back from the grave and twist their heads off.”
As anybody who has grieved inconsolably over the death of a loved one can attest, extended mourning is, in part, a perverse kind of optimism. Surely this bottomless, unwavering sorrow will amount to something, goes the tape loop. Surely if I keep it up long enough I’ll accomplish my goal, and the person will stop being dead.Continue reading...
Last week the Internet and European news outlets were flooded with poignant photographs of Gana, an 11-year-old gorilla at the Münster Zoo in Germany, holding up the body of her dead baby, Claudio, and pursing her lips toward his lifeless fingers. Claudio died at the age of 3 months of an apparent heart defect, and for days Gana refused to surrender his corpse to zookeepers, a saga that provoked among her throngs of human onlookers admiration and compassion and murmurings that, you see? Gorillas, and probably a lot of other animals as well, have a grasp of their mortality and will grieve for the dead and are really just like us after all.
Nobody knows what emotions swept through Gana’s head and heart as she persisted in cradling and nuzzling the remains of her son. But primatologists do know this: Among nearly all species of apes and monkeys in the wild, a mother will react to the death of her infant as Gana did — by clutching the little decedent to her breast and treating it as though it were still alive. For days or even weeks afterward, she will take it with her everywhere and fight off anything that threatens to snatch it away. “The only time I was ever mobbed by langurs was when I tried to inspect a baby corpse,” said the primatologist Sarah Hrdy. Only gradually will she allow the distance between herself and the ever-gnarlier carcass to grow.
Another thought-provoking piece by friend Dalton! Readers may recall his controversial "Man's Right to Choose" piece from a while ago...
For many American professionals, the Labor Day holiday yesterday probably wasn’t as relaxing as they had hoped. They didn’t go into the office, but they were still working. As much as they may truly have wanted to focus on time with their children, their spouses or their friends, they were unable to turn off their BlackBerrys, their laptops and their work-oriented brains.Continue reading...
Americans working on holidays is not a new phenomenon: we have long been an industrious folk. A hundred years ago the German sociologist Max Weber described what he called the Protestant ethic. This was a religious imperative to work hard, spend little and find a calling in order to achieve spiritual assurance that one is among the saved.
Weber claimed that this ethic could be found in its most highly evolved form in the United States, where it was embodied by aphorisms like Ben Franklin’s “Industry gives comfort and plenty and respect.” The Protestant ethic is so deeply engrained in our culture you don’t need to be Protestant to embody it. You don’t even need to be religious.
But what’s different from Weber’s era is that it is now the rich who are the most stressed out and the most likely to be working the most. Perhaps for the first time since we’ve kept track of such things, higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do. Since 1980, the number of men in the bottom fifth of the income ladder who work long hours (over 49 hours per week) has dropped by half, according to a study by the economists Peter Kuhn and Fernando Lozano. But among the top fifth of earners, long weeks have increased by 80 percent.