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bosshog 1/29/2009 12:29:42 PM
Cucking Frooks!!!qtrhorse 1/29/2009 12:39:30 PM
To Paraphrase a former president's speech about the Berlin Wall, "Mr. Obama, take back that money."freddy_fremont 1/29/2009 12:44:14 PM
What's ironic is that the posters on here who will defend this type of behavior are 1) probably driving the most beat-up, broken-down, used cars 2) have the lowest incomes and 3) are the complete financial opposites of the fat cats. Never underestimate the power of denial, folks.
wcmillionairre 1/29/2009 12:49:12 PM
The most impressive thing about Obama is how poorly-conceived his newest "bailout" proposal is, in terms of his stated objectives. The man simply knows how to leverage political posturing. We must understand it will be "business as usual" for both politicos and CEOs. So much poppycock...
Snark 1/29/2009 12:58:49 PM
Ask Chuck Schumer how outraged he is.
exsfr 1/29/2009 1:13:27 PM
I have to apologize for finding this amusing. I mean it's ironic that the taxpayers, many of which are struggling financially, end up paying bonuses to wall street bankers pulling in hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. I guess we have to thank Barney Franks and the other congressional geniuses...
evilbush 1/29/2009 2:06:02 PM
I'll run your company into the ground for a mere $2,000,000. That's a steal --
evilbush 1/29/2009 2:09:29 PM
Goodbye free market. Hello flea market.nonunion 1/29/2009 2:11:47 PM
A peanut recall hah?... How about a Corporate Fat cat recall?... They make me sicker.bigskyguy 1/29/2009 2:13:07 PM
There goes the money I was counting on to trickle down to me.
Re. your unauthorised overdraft
Dear Western banking establishment,
I notice that your unauthorised credit facility from international lenders of last resort now totals approximately $10 trillion. As a taxpayer and therefore your largest shareholder I would be grateful if you could repay this facility at your earliest convenience. I have charged you an additional £30 for this letter and a monthly unauthorised overdraft fee of £28. If you do not repay this facility shortly I will have no choice but to become further massively impoverished along with legions of fellow taxpayers for multiple generations to come.
I would also be grateful if the strategists and economists who work for you could abstain from publishing their unsolicited opinions about resolving the banking crisis within the financial media. I am sure you will agree that hearing from the same strategists who worked for the architects of such widespread financial destruction is likely to irritate those of us who were not actually complicit in the extraordinary and venal credit boom of the last several decades. There is an expression that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Those of your employees who were the public face of the problem are, I think you will agree, unlikely to represent the solution, unless perhaps they are fired – en masse, from a giant howitzer, into an area where they can do no further harm. Alaska, perhaps. I would further suggest that the high profile commentators who work for you and who have implicitly played their part in marketing and then amplifying this catastrophe might consider quietly entering another field with superior ethics and enhanced value to society at large: perhaps as piano players in brothels. This note has been copied to the letters editors of The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal (which I understand is shortly to be renamed simply The Journal on the basis that Wall Street no longer actually exists – as was noted this week by Messrs Wen Jiabao and Vladimir Putin at Davos. Don’t worry about not being there – you weren’t missed).
Since the start of the year is always a time for slimming and working off the excesses of the festive period, I wonder whether your industry would consider operating along similar lines. Just as there is no real need to have 18 different coffee bars all touting their wares along my High Street, there is probably no real need to have 18 different banks, not all of which are subsidiaries of Santander, clogging the High Street and busily not wanting to extend me back any of my own money so generously lent to them.
I would also be interested in your views as to the wisdom and efficacy of the monstrous pile of credit being shovelled at you and your peers by governments when it was overmuch credit creation that precipitated this crisis. I do not, of course, expect anything other than a self-interested response. But you may find the following observations pertinent. If they seem acutely relevant today it is because they were written in the early 1930s, by one Garet Garrett (and a grateful hat tip to M. Gandon):
“The general shape of this universal delusion [that is, credit] may be indicated by three of its familiar features.. First, the idea that the panacea for debt is credit.. The burden of Europe’s private debt to this country now is greater than the burden of her war debt; and the war debt, with arrears of interest, is greater than it was the day the peace was signed.. Debt was the economic terror of the world when the war ended. How to pay it was the colossal problem. Yet you will hardly find a nation, state, city, town or region that has not multiplied its debt since the war. The aggregate of this increase is prodigious, and a very high proportion of it represents recourse to credit to avoid payment of debt.
“Second, a social and political doctrine, now widely accepted, beginning with the premise that people are entitled to certain betterments of life. If they cannot immediately afford them.. nevertheless people are entitled to them, and credit must provide them.. Result: Probably one half of all government, national and civic, in the area of western civilization is either bankrupt or in acute distress from having over-borrowed according to this doctrine.. Now as credit fails and the standards of living tend to fall from the planes on which credit for a while sustained them, there is political dismay.. When [people] have been living on credit beyond their means the debt overtakes them. If they tax themselves to pay it, that means going back a little. If they repudiate their debt, that is the end of their credit. In this dilemma the ideal solution, so recommended even to the creditor, is more credit, more debt.
“Third, the argument that prosperity is a product of credit, whereas from the beginning of economic thought it had been supposed that prosperity was from the increase and exchange of wealth, and credit was its product.”
"At a time when everything is suddenly up for grabs, some things are best left out of reach."
I’d like to propose that February 1st be, this year and forever, known and celebrated as “Greater Fool’s Day!”
What better and more fundamental a theme for Americans to observe (at least once a year) than the lust for fast cash, easy money, celebrity lifestyle and fame and fortune leading to the inevitable national panic and widespread financial ruin.
Yes, on this day we can pay homage to all the half-baked Ponzi-schemes that have ever swept our great nation, drawing in throngs of wide eyed “investors” full of optimism and greedy animal spirits only to finally see them crapped out again as total losers faster than our country’s macroeconomic fabric could withstand.
And what better a generation of Americans to begin this celebration than our current?
There is a scene in the film classic Casablanca when Captain Renault, the head of the local police, finds out that there is gambling going on in the cafe owned by Humphrey Bogart's character. Renault's reaction was to say that "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" Of course, Renault knew about the activity and was taking a few dollars on the side.
President Barack Obama blasted Wall Street for shameful and irresponsible behavior after reports that Wall Street paid $18.4 billion in bonuses in 2008.
...an ambulance goes by and Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker wonders whether that's another bank being taken the hospital
Raoul Felder, the Manhattan divorce lawyer, said that cases involving financiers always stack up as the economy starts to slip, because layoffs and shrinking bonuses place stress on relationships — and, he said, because “there aren’t funds or time for mistresses any more.”
(One such mistress wrote on the blog that when she pouted about not having been taken on a trip lately, her married man explained that with money so tight, his wife had taken to checking up on his accounts.)
The helicopter post has had the most reaction of any post on this blog. I guess that is the territory when you suggest that the solution to the financial crisis is to literally throw money from helicopters. Nonetheless I wish I could get that sort of reaction to a more serious post.
The reaction to the helicopter post fell into three categories:
- those that didn’t get it
- those that got it but may have had ethical problems, and
- those that understood it all too well.
I got one comment – via email – which explained very simply why the helicopter proposal wouldn’t work. I think that commentator’s argument is accurate – so – at the end I will lay it out and (tentatively) withdraw the helicopter proposal.
Those that didn’t get it
There seemed to be several comments (email and on blog) which suggested that it would be better if we just gave everyone a tax holiday (payroll, income, death duties depending on where in the political spectrum the commentator was).
This does not cut it. The purpose of the proposal (throwing money out of helicopters) was not to distribute money (for which plenty of effective mechanisms exist). The purpose was much more radical – to remove trust in money itself.
The proposal I made was remarkably cheap (a $2 billion solution to a multi-trillion dollar problem) and if it works it works for purely psychological reasons – which is that it is so reckless and irresponsible that nobody could ignore the inflationary impacts of Federal Reserve policy. Reckless and irresponsible (and small) was the charm of this proposal.
Indeed I suggested in the comments that it would work even better if Bernanke continuously surrounded himself with buxom prostitutes paid out of freshly minted moolah, but that image was just too horrific – even for this purpose (although it may be effective).
Some that simply got it
There were a couple of posts that simply got it. The cutest came from someone calling themselves the German Trader who put it very simply (if in very poor English):You only give something away when you think it is worthless and what you get is of greater worth. While seeing the riots after Bens helicopters came past I surely want buy a new car.
Kieren (who I do not know) pointed out that the trick was really to produce inflationary expectations (and hence to get people to spend) without producing inflation. That is why this might work. The amount of money involved is small ($2 billion versus over $2 trillion in money supply) so its effect should also be small – but the expectations effect could be enormous. That was – in theoretical terms – what I was trying to achieve.
Some who got it and raised ethical objections
There were a few ethical objections raised – firstly by people who thought I was right that this policy would cause riots and deaths and then promoted more responsible ways of doing the same trick. The people killed in riots are collateral damage of a deliberately irresponsible policy. I don’t know how to weigh one life versus another – but this financial crisis will kill hundreds of people before it is over – either suicides or more bluntly hunger in some countries badly hit. The ethical objection is real – and I have no solution. The policy proposed is deliberately irresponsible – and irresponsibility causes death in some instances.
The main ethical objection I expected was about property rights and theft. I wrote the post in Australian hours and it was seen by Australian/Asians then English/Europeans and finally by North Americans.
I had to wait until American waking hours for someone to point out the obvious - which is that the policy being advocated was the deliberate theft of property (deliberate inflation being theft). Europeans somehow seem less concerned than Americans about property rights.
I am usually very harsh on government policies which involve the removal of property rights simply because those policies are usually counter-productive. There are plenty of posts on this blog along those lines. However those posts are argued on a facts-and-circumstances basis – the abrogation of property rights is argued as a problem in this instance and property rights are not automatically given full moral status. That is my position generally – honouring property rights is a good thing to do because it generally leads to better outcomes. I understand that some people (almost all Americans and including many readers of this blog) have raised property rights to full ethical status (along with for instance the rights to liberty etc). Not my ethics – but I understand – and the outcomes are usually OK so I am generally happy to leave that form of right wing fundamentalism alone.
I prefer argue for property rights from an outcomes perspective (as incidentally did Adam Smith*). Your blogger does not really wish to comment on the property rights as a moral precept here – other than to note for some people this really is fundamental. Just leave it at that.
The commentators that got it all too well
The comment on the post which got the most comment from other commentators was someone that got it all too well. The comment was that – as a result of this policy – some right wing “nut” would load a truck with fertilizer and diesel and blow up the Federal Reserve.
Some people objected to calling that person a nut – but I have no other word for suicide bomber of any persuasion. More to the point – this person – and eventually many others – would realise what this policy was about – which is removing all trust from dollars – and hence theft of one ideal that they hold quite dear.
The question which was raised in emails was about how you would reintroduce trust after you have destroyed it. I think that is actually a key problem. Trust is essential for an economic system in general – but trust in money at the moment is quite destructive as people would prefer hold enormous quantities of money rather than build real assets and employ real people. However you can’t build real assets and employ real people without trust either. The helicopter proposal is targeted at getting rid of trust in one place and one time only (the trust in money in the rare instance of a liquidity trap). Whether you can conduct a strike that surgical with a helicopter full of rolls of money is open for question. Military strikes are nowhere near as precise as the pictures on CNN.
Finally – the real objection
This came in an email from one of the most astute commentators on my blog:It won't work because immediately after the drop, Congress would arrest Bernanke along with the entire Fed board (probably replace it with a money czar)…. Politicians would be forced to promise responsibility and accountability in the face of the threat of civil unrest - don't forget, a lot of people own guns legally in this country. There will be new laws designed to keep the value of the dollar. In the end, the dollar would get stronger, not weaker…
In other words the whole idea won’t work because it is actually not possible to be that irresponsible – that the underlying US system is sufficiently strong – that if Bernanke were that irresponsible he would simply be replaced.
If Bernanke can’t plausibly be quite that irresponsible we might as well park the helicopters.
And if you can’t use monetary policy to solve this recession then alas we are left with what appears to be two inferior choices (a) a fiscal expansion of gargantuan proportions or (b) letting the system burn and winding up in a great depression type scenario. Both are unpalatable – but I would vote for the fiscal expansion.
It would be much better to just load up that helicopter. Alas...
"... Do you think Robert Reich would make a plausible ambassador to Mongolia?"
Pavel Chichikov | 01.24.09 - 10:52 pm |
trying to collect nickels in front of a bulldozer by selling a lot of protection.
Don't Cry for Me Tehachapi writes:
"in five YEARS!"
maybe, but his last seven months weren't all bad:
- all 5 major investment banks wiped from the face of the earth like the shit stains they were
- gasoline back at 1.50
- equities back to rational 15 p/e levels
- housing more affordable than it has been in 7 years
- normal yields for corporate paper and superjumbo bonds relative to risk
- foreign creditors still totally deluded about treasuries
gotta look at the bright side, and give credit where its due
Don't Cry for Me Tehachapi | 01.24.09 - 11:05 pm | #
The horse ( the FIRE sector) is dead in the pasture having eaten toxic oats (debt)...
mmckinl | 01.24.09 - 10:26 pm | #
Credit ratings agencies have openly been engaging in payola, the same way you can always find an appraiser to give you the price you want.
sdbri | 01.24.09 - 10:30 pm | #
"if only the government starts allowing the free market to work again."
hilarious, democrats save "free market"
who was killing it?
irreverent | 01.24.09 - 10:48 pm | #
Jan 23 | FT.com
On reports former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain spent over $1,200,000 decorating his office and distributing up to $4bn in discretionary bonuses just three days before the BofA acquisition, we here at FT Alphaville are prepared to give the beleaguered executive the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps there was a reason he was so hell bent on spending every penny Merrill had? Perhaps there was a secret deal struck between him and Bernanke behind the scenes, much like this one. Just imagine, a new Fed policy based on teaching bankers how to stop wasting money the hard way.
“I’m going to do to you what my daddy did to me, I’m going to teach you to hate spending money, I’m going to make you so sick of spending money that the very sight of it will make you want to throw up. You have 30 days to spend $4 bn bucks, if you can do it then you get a bailout.”
Jan 23, 2009 | CalculatedRisk
"And I know why they call it Fannie..."
scone (i can haz catfood?) | 01.23.09 - 5:42 pm | #
The system is reconfiguring itself around bailouts and deficits.
ac | 01.23.09 - 5:46 pm | #
..some laid off Wall Street traders were taking their chances in Vegas, rather than trading their own cash for income (?!)
Anonymous | 01.23.09 - 5:52 pm | #
"Anyone care to describe all the attributes of a "broad deflationary cycle"?"
when the viagra wears off?
elmer fudd | 01.23.09
Angry Saver writes:
Since these banks bring nothing to the table except a taxpayer guarantee, shouldn't the taxpayers be the only ones to profit?
No. In this eCONomy, profits are for the bankers. However, if you have good credit, they will loan you back some of your own money - at a higher interest rate and on stricter terms of course.
Angry Saver | 01.23.09 - 6:12 pm | #
I'm starting to get immune to bad news. It's kinda like crack. Gotta have a stronger and stronger dose to feel an impact.
The world-as-looney-bin is starting to feel like normal. Someone losing money? No problem! Just bail em out with some tax dollars. There are no repercussions.
Whoever always signs off with "This will not end well"... they are right.
After even the most liberal-minded, open-government-committed party takes hold of the reins of government, it takes never more than a single term of office, four years - five at the most - before paranoia takes over. Disagreement becomes dissent, dissent becomes disloyalty, disloyalty becomes betrayal and betrayal becomes treason. The public interest merges seamlessly with the private interest of the incumbents. The state bureaucracy, where it has not been taken over by government loyalists on day one of the new administration, is gradually transformed into an arm of the government. Some formal checks and balances often remain, parliament and the courts among them, but they too are often feeble to begin with and weaken further as the term office of the incumbent government lengthens.
From comments“1125 A.D. In this year before Christmas King Henry sent from Normandy to England and gave instructions that all moneyers … be deprived of their members … Bishop Roger of Salisbury commanded them all to assemble at Winchester by Christmas. When they came hither they were then taken one by one, and each deprived of the right hand and the testicles below. All this was done in twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, and was entirely justified because they had ruined the whole country by the magnitude of their fraud which they paid for in full.” - The Laud Chronicle (E)
Posted by: All I want for Christmas.............. | December 31st, 2008 at 4:43 am | Report this comment
Bloomberg.com ... John Thain, the former Merrill Lynch & Co. chief executive officer ousted yesterday, spent $1.2 million redecorating his downtown Manhattan office last year as the company was firing employees.
I nominate "sovereign default".
"The nation's financial institutions are well captalized!" is so 2007.
Actually Bailout Bitter! Credit: Barley. Enjoy Responsibly !!!
Calculated RiskDuckDuckGoose writes:
# Stocks tumble on fresh worries about banks- AP
The key word being "fresh".
Is the best propaganda that the government/media complex known as the AP can churn out?
DuckDuckGoose | 01.20.09 - 10:52 pm | #
Send lawyers, guns, and money writes:
"If you experience an overhang of more than 1.5 million units, contact your health-care provider immediately."
Send lawyers, guns, and money | 01.20.09 - 10:56 pm | #
"The Baby Boomers have had their moment in power. The most spoilt generation in history has handled affairs with its characteristic hedonism. The results are coming in. The blithering idiots."
A joke on the streets of Moscow these days: "Everything the Communists told us about communism was a complete and utter lie. Unfortunately, everything the Communists told us about capitalism turned out to be true." —John Nellis, World Bank
Shown below is the first entry in the Help Desk section of the February issue of the nation's most popular personal finance magazine.
Hmm... what might happen if some pragmatism is applied to the matter?
Here's an alternate answer that might be provided by a rogue Help Desk editor at Money Magazine who, perhaps, had some great revelation one day about how the world really works and isn't afraid to share it with readers, up until the time he or she is asked to pack up their belongings and head for the front door:Robert,Comments:
Short-term, long-term - it really doesn't matter what type of investor you consider yourself to be these days.
You see, the asset allocations that our magazine have provided won't help you much for at least a few more years, maybe as much as another five or ten years. That is, until we get through this long-term bear market in stocks that, to be honest, we really should have caught on to by now.
But no, we keep telling people that they need to have a healthy allocation of stocks even when they're well into retirement because, even though things changed dramatically in equity markets back around the turn of the century, readers still believe us when we show those historical return charts with average annual gains in the double-digits.
People actually think that they'll get the returns of a stock bull market during a bear market, so we keep tellin' em do load up on stocks.
Truth be told, you'd have been much better off with an all-cash investment portfolio for almost the last ten years and if my employers weren't so obsessed with pleasing their advertisers who are peddling their stock funds for 401k plans (the bulk of our readership) maybe some of us would have told you that years ago.
Geez, you could have tripled your money in gold since the stock bull market turned into a bear - some of us here have been invested in gold for years now, but telling readers to do that would never pass muster with the boss.
Anyway, this might be my last bit of writing for MoneyMag. I hope it helps.
- Rational Roger, Staff Writer
- Anonymous said...
- "Choose your investments based on the return you need? Nice."
I need to double my money by the end of the day. Whaddya got?
To quote H. Simpson: "I don't want one of those get rich quick schemes, but I need a lot of money in a hurry".
January 17th, 2009 | The Big Picture
Barron’s Alan Abelson comes forth with the reason why the terrorists have not attacked the USA since 9/11.
They didn’t have to:
Thanks to his vigilance, this nation was spared a terrorist attack after 9/11. And so it was, for which we are all profoundly grateful. And only the most vehement Bush-basher would sniff that the real reason for the absence of an attack was that Mr. Bush did such a thorough number on the country all by himself that the terrorists figured, why bother?
One Response to “Fed Went Acourtin’”km4 Says:
January 16th, 2009 at 4:27 pm
This quote is more true today than in Depression years….
“We have, in this country, one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board. This evil institution has impoverished the people of the United States and has practically bankrupted our government. It has done this through the corrupt practices of the moneyed vultures who control it”.
— Congressman Louis T. McFadden
Forgive and Forget?, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times:
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
January 16th, 2009 | The Big Picture
Oh terrific: We are going to have two medium size piles, instead of one giant compost heap.
Is this going to be a good bank/bad bank split, or is it more accurate to say its a bad bank/worse bank ?
In an unexpected judicial turnaround, the Supreme Court this week reversed its 2000 ruling in the landmark case of Bush v. Gore, stripping George W. Bush of his earlier political victory, and declaring Albert Arnold Gore the 43rd president of the United States of America.
President Gore, retroactively determined by the Supreme Court to be the winner of the 2000 election, is sworn in for his six-week term.
The court, which called its original decision to halt manual recounts in Florida "a ruling made in haste," voted unanimously on Wednesday in favor of the 2000 Democratic nominee.
Gore will serve as commander in chief from Dec. 10 to Jan. 20.
"Allowing this flaw in judgment to stand would set an unworkable precedent for future elections and cause irreparable harm to the impartiality of this court," said Chief Justice John G. Roberts in his majority opinion. "Furthermore, let me be the first to personally congratulate President Gore on his remarkable come-from-behind victory. May he guide us wisely into this new millennium."
Quote of the day
Arthur awoke to the sound of argument and went to the bridge. Ford was waving his arms about. "You're crazy Zaphod," he was saying, "Magrathea is a myth a fairy story, it's what parents tell their kids about at night if they want them to grow up to be economists, it's..." —Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 16.
The American Prospect
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and thus clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." -- H.L. Mencken
...My God. Honor? I’d rather have infected hemorrhoids. These at least are not a mental aberration. Well, depending on where your head is.
Honor means nothing more than prickly infantile vanity dressed up, usually, in desperate class-consciousness. Of all the symptoms of a weak ego, honor is the most embarrassing, and the most harmful. In a right-minded society it would be made a capital offense. (In women honor usually means chastity, also a bad idea but not nearly as pernicious.)
I do not mean to rail against the virtues, manly or otherwise. A few of them seem to have merit. Courage is doubtless admirable, at least when not engaged in by criminals or ambitious soldiers. Loyalty to friends in the face of adversity is to be commended. Common decency has its allure and occasional practitioners. Honesty? I think it worth trying, though with care until we ascertain its effects. But honor? It is a sure indication of a bad character.
Consider its usual display throughout history. A duke or baron, or some such befeathered artifact of excessive inbreeding, encounters another, a count perhaps, or more likely a no-count, who is in a bad mood. This latter says, “Yomama, Monsieur. Your granny wears combat boots.”
Whereupon the duke, instead of saying, “Oh buzz off, Lancaster, before I York a knot on your head” – this would be sensible and therefore inadmissible in affairs of honor – takes off his glove and throws it on the ground. This benefits dry cleaners, though a man with one glove looks eccentric. Anyway, this constitutes a Challenge, more to common sense than anything else.
And so the Duke and the Count meet on the Field of Honor, in the manner of small boys settling a dispute on the playground after school, but with more gauds and glitter. A duke disposes of greater resources than does a third-grader, though this may be the only distinction. After fulsome precedent ceremony, they fight with swords, suggesting grave inner dimness, until one pokes the other, who thereafter waits for peritonitis to set in. The survivor stalks off with the ostentatious pride of a swamp bird in mating season, his honor satisfied.
Smarter people would settle quarrels by playing marbles, I think.
Now, credit where credit is due. Most often, the code duello approach to honor served to rid society of men it would be better off without. A country can prosper without dukes, while a strike by the plumbers would be disastrous.
But sometimes the effects of aggrieved vanity were actually deleterious. In 1832, Evariste Galois, a preternaturally talented French mathematician, died in a duel at age twenty, fortunately having invented the theory of groups beforehand. His was an extraordinarily unuseful foray into the practice of honor. What might he have done had he insisted on marbles? Honor has a high price.
Military men are particularly susceptible to notions of honor, and should be indoctrinated against it in their formative years. They employ it largely as a veil covering their actual business, which has generally consisted in killing, raping, burning, and pillaging, in putting cities to the sword, massacring the unwilling conscripted peasants of the opposing army, and generating widows, orphans, and prisoners for the slave trade.
None of this would seem particularly honorable if examined carefully, so it carefully isn’t. The soldierly focus is on teary-eyed memories of fallen comrades, on the bravery of the cavalry at Balaclava or of the leather-jacketed bomber crews who burned a hundred thousand civilians to death per night, and such like.
The infantilism undergirding honor can be seen in the game of chicken. This curious parallel to aristocratic bloodletting was played decades ago by brooding teenagers with ducktail haircuts and a pack of Camels rolled into the shoulders of their tee-shirts. One adolescent duelist-in-waiting would insult another in some mortal manner. “Yer a yellow-belly Yankee,” perhaps, or “You’re a four-eyed sissy.” The other, experiencing a hormone surge frequently confused with a call of honor, accepts the challenge to play chicken. They’re going to settle it man to man, though emotionally they belong in diapers.
So they meet in their cars at night on a deserted stretch of road, each with friends as witnesses and supporters (exactly like nominally adult duelists with their pistols and seconds: there is no difference). The witnesses get out and the antagonists, facing each other from behind the wheels of their cars at a distance of perhaps a mile, race furiously at each other like rutting mountain sheep. The idea is that whoever swerves to avoid a collision is a coward, and thus besmirched. Of course they then both survive, and can continue trying to tap the cheerleaders.
Here is the very essence of honor, an engorged, all-consuming vanity, a willingness to die for one’s ego. Marbles, I insist. Much better.
This irrational behavior finds a place in international affairs. In fact, it comes close to being international affairs. One sees it often in the unwillingness of countries (read: psychological short men in charge of countries) to back down when nothing important is at stake, or to cut their losses when hobbyist wars go awry.
As noted, today our thunder-thump patriots say that we must find an honorable exit strategy from Iraq. This means that if we can’t steal the oil, we can at least pretend we won the war gloriously. Again, honor is ego: We aren’t going to swerve. Better that we bankrupt the country, fill the hospital wards with paraplegic and blind teenagers, kill who-cares-how-many Iraqis, than blink. Mine is longer than yours. It is, it is, it is.
Honor is a protective device for people whose self-esteem needs protection. Picture some archduck in England – actually “archduck” was a typo, but I think it better conveys the sense. Anyway, this gorgeous trinket of chivalry, which is itself a loathsome hotbed of honor, probably has twelve toes from more intermarriage than a holler in West Virginia, and a thistle-down intelligence, and the self-reliance of a queen ant. He is a monument to non-hybrid unvigor.
How does he protect his etiolated parsnip-like self-esteem from some village kid named, oh, say, Newton, who would regard him as the intellectual equivalent of a turnip? Easy. He invokes his honor. Defensive vanity. “A mere commoner. Pish.” Elevated nose, depressed intelligence.
None of this is necessary. Perhaps the greatest military thinkers in history are Fredwitz and James P. Coyne, in that order. Dr. Coyne’s proposed exit strategy is simple: “OK, on the plane. Now.” Should this seem unfathomable by its complexity, it could be reduced to four words. But no. What general, what president who has said “Mission accomplished,” is going to admit that it didn’t work so well? We must leave with honor. Not necessarily with all our body parts, or all the soldiers we came with, but with honor.
January 7th, 2009
Look who’s asking for $5 billion of TARP Money:
Is the porn industry up next for a bailout? If porn titans Joe Francis and Larry Flynt have anything to do with it, it will.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, the titans of pornography are begging for a bailout. Joe Francis, creator of the “Girl’s Gone Wild” video series, and Larry Flynt, founder of Hustler, will ask Congress for a $5 billion bailout, according to TMZ.
Why does the porn industry need a bailout? Because apparently even porn is getting smacked by the recession.
According to TMZ website, Adult DVDs (and by Adult, we mean XXX) sales are, well flaccid. DVD sales are off 22%.
January 7th, 2009 at 8:35 pm
it’s called REALITY!
barry - you’ll love this cartoon:
Wall Street is about to become the new Catholic Church--the most distrusted and vilified institution in America. It's hard to top priestly pedophilia (and bishops covering up for them) for sheer despicability, but Bernie Madoff and his fellow hucksters are giving the men of clod a close run for their--and our--money.
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