Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hot Air

I saw kids lining up in the cold for half a block at 7:30 in the morning to get into Foot Locker. I asked another middle aged gawker what inspired the line, and he told me with some disgust that the kids were foolishly wasting money on the new retro Jordans. I shared his sentiment, then remembered that I was wearing shoes that had inserts that cost me $400 (even with BCBS).

Who Do You Trust?

In October the American Spectator asked: Who do you believe: "professional doomsayers" Meredith Whitney and Nouriel Roubini or the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan -- Lloyd Blankfein, Brian Moynihan, Vikram Pandit, and Jamie Dimon.

First is Lloyd Blankfein, who testified before Congress in April 2010 at a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that Goldman Sachs had "no moral or legal obligation" to inform its clients it was betting against the products which they were buying from Goldman Sachs.

Senator Carl Levin told the veteran banker that he "wouldn't trust" Goldman as he repeatedly asked whether the bank would disclose its position "when they're buying something you solicit them to buy, and then you're taking a position against them?"
"I don't believe there is any obligation" to tell investors, Mr Blankfein responded. "I don't think we'd have to tell them, I don't think we'd even know ourselves."

Next is Brian Moynihan, whose Bank of America was caught in the robo-signing scandal and now wants to charge $5 a month debit card fee. Moynihan is helping inspire Americans to leave BofA and open accounts in credit unions.

Then there is Vikram Pandit, who recently said the sentiments of Occupy Wall Street are "completely understandable and that the "economic recovery is not what we all want it to be, there are a number of people in our country who cant achieve what they are capable of achieving and that's not a good place to be."

And finally, there is Jamie Dimon, who has been called "Obama's favorite banker" and served as Chairman of the Board of the New York Fed. Matt Taibbi writes: 2008, in that moonlighting capacity, he helped orchestrate a deal in which the Fed provided $29 billion in assistance to help his own bank, Chase, buy up the teetering investment firm Bear Stearns. You read that right: Jamie Dimon helped give himself a bailout. Who needs to worry about good government, when you are the government?
Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.
Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.
That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.
Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.

Read more:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus

It's a tough time to be truly observant of the meaning of the season, even though these should be what Catullus called "the best of days." There's gaming, music and drinking and eating to excess! Evergreens are found almost everywhere and yule logs burn in homes that still have fireplaces. Candles symbolizing light and the quest for truth and knowledge are plentiful-even if many are now electric. Preparations for the day of gift giving create hustle and bustle in the shops. But we have lost sight of the true meaning of all these preparations. Soon we will all be observing the birthday of the unconquerable sun and honring the deity Saturn.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

There Ain't No Such Thing as Sanity Clause

I was talking with a Jehovah's Witness about Santa Claus when he was making his round in my neighborhood. He remembered being disappointed and confused when he found out that there was no Santa Claus. I remember being skeptical 51 weeks of the year, but suspending disbelief every December. There was no sudden crisis of faith or outrage at being deceived. I now enjoy the rituals of Christmas and view Santa as the embodiment of the holiday season. When one rambunctious older brother told his mother during a visit to see Santa that I was "F-A-K-E" I told him that there are different ways of being real. Things like truth and justice might not literally exist in the real world, but they're still important ideas, just like Santa. The kid shrugged off my explanation, and his siblings didn't seem to notice his skepticism or my defense of the metaphorical existance of Santa.

The latest from the War on Christmas:

Eng, 58, was in the middle of a lesson about the North Pole Tuesday when one of her students pointed out that that was where Santa Claus lives.

The educator snapped that not only was there no Santa, but their parents are the ones who leave presents under the tree.

To P or not to P

I started my seasonal job last month and was suprised when I showed up for work and was told to wait in the manger's office and not punch in. He told me the HR Director wanted him to talk to me at 1:30, so we waited for half an hour and then he told me I had to retake a drug test at 2:00.
I was shocked, since I had aced three drug tests last year. How unfair is life when you can't pass a drug test but hadn't even had the benefit of a strange trip beforehand? My supervisor couldn't give me any more information, since it was confidential. I called the lab in Kentucky, but they couldn't disclose any information to me since my employer in Florida was their client. A half hour later I retook the test and passed.
It's hard being a recreational drug user these days-especially if you can't afford it. State budgets are tight and legislators seem to be looking ways to cut spendingon public assistance programs. I've read that more than half the states are considering drug testing welfare recipients, home heating assistance, unemployment insurance and other programs. Too bad the cost of putting drug users in jail and making children wards of the state is even more costly than providing marijuana smokers with food stamps or housing vouchers.