November 20, 2008

Holy Crap

Every now and then I pick up Maclean's to see just how far it's fallen (this week: a panic piece about how kids ain't as smrt as thy wuz befer all them 'puters an' junk!) and give a small sad sigh.

Then I glance through the Wall Street Journal and find things like this:
One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

No, really.

Okay, Maclean's has taken on the personality of a coot in his wifebeater demanding punks stay off his lawn, sure; but at least they're not following you down the street whispering madness sotto voce.

It's tough to expect much from a paper who knowingly publishes Peggy Noonan, but it would be nice if they occasionally thought about what might work in financial markets instead of preaching the repeated idiocy of that financial wizard Saint Ronnie. But it has it's echo in the current *ahem* leadership of George W(ho?) Bush who said this at the Manhattan Institute last week:

History has shown that the greater threat to economic prosperity is not too little government involvement in the market, it is too much government involvement in the market. (Applause)

Somehow I can't shake the feeling that simplistic, ritualized chanting just might have something to do with being incapable to anticipate future complexities. For instance, how many people in that room remembered the words Bush spoke less than two minutes before:
One vital principle of reform is that our nations must make our financial markets more transparent.
Secondly, we must ensure that markets, firms, and financial products are properly regulated.
Third, we must enhance the integrity of our financial markets. For example, authorities in every nation should take a fresh look at the rules governing market manipulation and fraud -- and ensure that investors are properly protected.
Fourth, we must strengthen cooperation among the world's financial authorities. For example, leading nations should better coordinate national laws and regulations.

There wasn't any applause for those lines, so maybe the folks in attendance just missed them. But back to the importance of Jesus to banking futures. In the writer's own words:

One had better explain that.

You think?
The path to 50% wealth reductions and the death of Wall Street was paved with good intentions, notably the notion that all should own a house, even if that required giving away the house to untutored borrowers with low-to-no-interest loans. This good intention set off history's largest chain of moral hazard.

Moral hazard? Moral hazard? How about using hyperbole to throw blame on whoever's poorest, instead of noting a complete lack of safeguards and greed and a system that rewards signatures on paper instead of the appropriateness of the mortgage granted? That morally hazardous enough for you?
Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism. Across several centuries of rising world incomes and social gains, the system has proved its worth. In this instance, the system has been badly used -- by mere people.

And for the writer, nothing ever, ever will. One gets the impression Mr. Henninger would be all for selling children, so long as it happened on the free market. Hey, at least the hands that molested them would be invisible.

When the Social Security and Medicare meltdowns arrive, as precisely foretold by their trustees, will we ask again: What were they thinking?

"...So long as we don't have to ask it now about this collapse, okay? Because that would be wrong. But the fact that hard-line free market fanatics have been hobbling these programs for the past thrity years must never be discussed; likewise that other nations can somehow manage both of these better than America can manage either one. Damn commies."

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse.

Amazing how these things also rather famously "went missing" in the 1980s (say hello to Mike Milken for me, would you?) isn't it? Despite the nation being led by another great moral leader...

Anyhow, three quick questions:
1) Responsibility to whom;
2) Restraint to what level; and
3) Remorse about what, exactly? By its very nature, you cannot feel remorse except in retrospect; this means you've already acted badly, so remorse isn't doing much good there, is it?

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees.

So we're only getting semi-metaphysical here, or was noticing that "restraint" wasn't a vegetable an accident?

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous.


That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people.

And no one else. Ever. Do not look behind the curtian. This had nothing to do with insurance investors purchasing and repackaging mortgages a number of times.

Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

This one's fun to parse.

In one sentence, Henninger says: atheists are neither Northerners nor Southerners; no Southerners vilify Southern evangelicals; Southern evangelicals are the only sources of 'useful virtue'; these self-same nurturers are also holders of 'obnoxious political opinions'.

So virtue and reasonable political views are mutually incompatible? Interesting that he's found the courage to say so in print, but you have to wonder who he's expecting to nod in agreement here.

My favorite pearl of sad wisdom is this:

In this instance, the system has been badly used -- by mere people.

Not sure who Mr. Henninger's banker is, but one hopes it's a human. Of course, that could explain his anger when the fish flakes market bottomed out in '03.

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posted by Thursday at 4:25 pm


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