Homeland Review
November 30, 2011, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have been a huge fan of Claire Danes since My So-Called Life, the greatest TV show in history about a chick (close second: Felicity, up until the point where she cut her hair. Third: Double Trouble, starring Peggy Bundy’s twin sisters, if that counts.) That’s why I was so thrilled to learn (like last night – I keep on top of these things) that she was starring in a followup TV series, Homeland.

As far as I can tell via streaming the first four episodes from pirate websites last night till 3 a.m., Homeland is a direct sequel to My So-Called Life after a 15+ year gap. The premise of Homeland is that Angela Chase (Danes), having graduated from Liberty High in Three Rivers, Pennsylvania, has grown up, moved to Washington DC, and risen to a promising but shaky-high-wire career as as a CIA officer under the pseudonym ‘Carrie’ something. But make no mistake, she still has the same meepy, mopey, whiny angst she had as a 15-year-old that we all came to love so dearly, infinitely self-centered, acting all ditzy and unpredictable, second-guessing everyone and everything, and crying at inappropriate times.

Angela fans be warned – it’s kind of a tragedy to see how far she’s let herself go – her home is a mess, she has no friends or real personal life, no contact with her parents, she barely eats, she bums antipsychotic pills from her doctor sister (the grown-up Danielle Chase, I assume, though I didn’t check if she’s still played by Lisa Wilhoit). But when you think about it, this decline was all pretty much foreordained back when Angela first dyed her hair red, put on flannel, and started hanging out with Rayanne and Ricky. It’s almost a cautionary tale: ‘hey kids, this is what happens if you rebel and listen to too much Violent Femmes’.

She’s even still (this is so Angela) spending 95% of her waking moments obsessing over some guy – although with Jordan Catalano a distant memory, she’s now set her sights on a returned POW soldier guy played by Lt. Winters from Band of Brothers. Well, you do have to admit he’s a hunk, so can’t blame her there. On the other hand, the lengths she goes to play out this crush (setting up 24-hour surveillance in all the rooms of his house) are becoming kind of creepy.

I haven’t seen enough episodes to get a real sense of where it’s headed (there were some confusing side plots about terrorism or something – was too tired to pay attention), and the soundtrack so far has been a bit spare (no Afghan Whigs, no Juliana Hatfield), but it’s just good to see Angela back in a weekly series again. The only thing I wonder is how Brian Krakow the next-door neighbor kid is doing and whether he still has that unrequited crush on her. I assume so. But surely I’ll find out as the season progresses.


November 30, 2011, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Postworthy™ is a semi-regular feature of Rhymes With Cars And Girls that I just made up, in which we here (at RWCG) highlight a gem from the RWCG comments section that is worthy of a…

Aw hell let’s just go to the comment, left here, by Jehu of Chariot of Reaction, on what people really seem to mean by ‘fairness':

Society should socialize away the status effects of all my disadvantages while allowing me to continue to reap the status effects of all my advantages, and
Status should be allocated by society according to the formula that most benefits people like me

There’s nothing wrong with these two positions, IMO, since pretty much EVERYONE holds them at least in terms of revealed preference. What’s disgusting to me is when people attempt to pass them off as some kind of moral imperative.


It does remind me of a post I wrote along the same lines (for any given idea there’s always some post I wrote about it), something to do with how in the limit Matthew Yglesias would love a tax code that has credits for (all the things Matthew Yglesias likes to do), but I can’t seem to find it. Ah well. I link to myself too much as it is. It’s about time all y’all started pitching a hand and linking to me, anyway. I’ve spoiled you!

UPDATE: Expanded here.

Meet The New TLAs
November 30, 2011, 12:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t know why I feel the need to keep reminding my readership that all these attempts to come up with a ‘solution’, a ‘plan‘, to save Eurosocialism are at root attempts to use complexity and accounting tricks hide the fact for a little bit longer that they don’t have as much money as they’d been behaving as if they had and hope people buy it. You guys already know that. Don’t you?

Anyway to expand upon my helpful explanation of the EFSF (it’s a giant CDO2), let me now further put into language you have already heard what are supposedly its latest ‘plans’ to ‘solve’ the European socialism debt crisis:

“Under the partial risk protection, EFSF would provide a partial protection certificate to a newly issued bond of a member state.

“The certificate could be detached after initial issue and could be traded separately. It would give the holder an amount of fixed credit protection of 20-30 percent of the principal amount of the sovereign bond.

“The partial risk protection is to be used primarily under precautionary programmes and is aimed at increasing demand for new issues of Member States and lowering funding costs.

“Under option two, the creation of one or more Co-Investment Funds (CIF) would allow the combination of public and private funding. A CIF would purchase bonds in the primary and/or secondary markets.

“Where the CIF would provide funding directly to member states through the purchase of primary bonds, this funding could, inter alia, be used by member states for bank recapitalisation. The CIF would comprise a first loss tranche which would be financed by EFSF.


Option 1 (PPCs) means the EFSF will write some unfunded 70-80% fixed- or maybe floored-recovery CDS protection on Eurosocialist countries’ debt.

In detail: they’ll sell (essentially) CDS protection to some SPVs as their swap counterparty, and it looks like the SPVs will package that protection up with new-issue Eurosocialist countries’ bonds to buyers who (the idea is) will supposedly suddenly have more interest in bidding up Italian bonds when they come with this unfunded protection from an amorphous entity with vague, unfunded, uncollateralized, non-marked-to-market guarantees behind it. Because you see, then those bonds will not be merely IOUs from a bankrupt entity, they will be double-IOUs from a combo of bankrupt entities. That changes everything!

Now surely you remember reading about the evils of CDS in your Time Magazine’s Foldout Guide To The Financial Crisis. I’m guessing you know at least 2 (two) evil three-letter acronyms whose mere existence Caused The Crisis and that ‘CDS’ is one of them. You might even know that there were institutions that got into trouble using their ratings to sell a bunch more CDS protection than a sane accounting and risk analysis would probably have shown they were good for (monolines, DPCs), or that went bankrupt before they could pay up (Lehman). How’d all that turn out? What did CDS protection from Bluepoint turn out to be worth? Can’t remember. Well anyway, this PPC idea is just like that.

Option 2, CIFs is a bit vague but from what I can tell it may involve the EFSF implicitly selling funded super-senior CDO protection on baskets of the Eurosocialist bonds they hope investors will suddenly want to buy if they are given tons of cheap leverage. Maybe some hedge fund puts up $1 to EFSF’s $99 and together they go in on $100 worth of bonds, with the hedge fund getting almost all the return, and the EFSF covering any loss over 1%.

Now I am sure you recognize ‘CDO’ as the other three-letter acronym that Caused The Crisis. But nevermind that. This sort of arrangement was good enough for AIG, so I’m sure it’ll work out fine here.

Anyway, the important thing to remember is that these ‘new’ options with these newfangled three-letter acronyms that they’ve come up with are more or less just some CDS and CDOs they’d be entering into and levering up as much as possible (without harming their rating) to try to trick investors at large to overpay for things and keep spreads down. Because again, the EFSF is a giant CDO2.

Almond Milk
November 29, 2011, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t get it. I mean, I’ve seen almonds and eaten many. Guess what? No milk.

Vocab Note On Health ‘Insurance’
November 28, 2011, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For the record: although I’ve mentioned this before, what y’all usually call ‘health insurance’ isn’t insurance, it’s more like a complicated and opaque payment-plan for (mostly) routine items that for some reason precludes fair market transactions for even the smallest things, hides from you what you’re paying for everything, and thus prevents you from knowing whether you’re even gaining or losing money by being on the plan.

So if you ever see me refer to such a thing as a ‘health-care payment plan’ don’t get confused, I’m just talking about what you would probably (erroneously) call ‘insurance’.


November 28, 2011, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For what seems like years now I’ve been seeing young people wearing clothes with ‘Hollister’ printed on them. This has always made me do a double-take. How on earth can so many people be from Hollister?

Hollister, of course, is (to my mind) some city in California whose Little League team our league would occasionally encounter at the Lakewood Little League All-Star Tournament. That summarizes the extent of my knowledge about Hollister. So whenever I’ve seen these clothes, the only theory my subconscious mind had ever come up with is ‘Must be really big fans of their Little League team.’

Of course, this leaves unexplained why one never sees T-shirts with ‘Long Beach’, ‘Pacifica’, ‘San Leandro’, or whatever other Cali cities on them. It’s always just Hollister. Everyone just loves Hollister in particular! I even worked with a girl for about a year who would wear a ‘Hollister’ sweatshirt every N days, and assumed her family was from Hollister (like, when she took days off, my subconscious mind would think: ‘Must be going to visit her folks in Hollister.’) I’m pretty sure I even considered asking her about the little league thing, like maybe I once played against her brother?, etc.

Only recently did it occur to me, or did I devote enough brainpower to sussing this out anyway, that ‘Hollister’ in this context might actually denote something other than the random Little League city that would send All-Stars annually to Lakewood. Which of course it does (I actually Wikied it, and you can too if you are just that bored). But I still like my explanation better. Why shouldn’t lots of people just happen to love Hollister’s little league team?

Why Does Inequality Not Matter
November 27, 2011, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was reading this Norman Geras post on why inequality matters and was going to write a detailed response to it but have since had second thoughts. As usual with Geras, we approach things from such different angles that it makes me think the disagreement I feel welling inside me just stems from not understanding him.

I will just identify one of those non-shared assumptions: Geras appears to identify justice, and morality, with fairness. It’s not fair that (to use his example) some children are born into wealthier, and therefore more-advantaged, families than others – as I’m sure we’d all agree. Geras however goes on to call this unjust, equating it to a moral issue. I don’t.

As (apparently only some) people are taught from childhood, life isn’t fair. More concretely, if different children having childhoods of different wealth is immoral, the only moral outcome would be for all children to have exactly equal wealth. This means, in particular, that no single parent – not I, not you – should even be allowed to privilege his child in any way, with any advantage, as against any other child. It’s unjust and immoral.

Yeah, no, I don’t cotton to that. I see ‘fairness’ as distinct from justice. Lack of the former doesn’t by itself establish injustice in my mind.

But this does lead to the main point I wanted to make: why inequality doesn’t matter. ‘Inequality’, as commonly used, is a relative concept: it can only be defined by taking your life circumstances and comparing them to the life circumstances (in particular the incomes, wealth, property, etc.) of a bunch of other people.

And all that stuff? Is none of your business. Unless you can establish that the wealth is the product of, say, some crime (in which case the problem and the immorality and the injustice is that crime, not the ‘inequality’), how much money this or that other person makes and how much wealth they have and how much privilege they have is just none of your business. This is, by the way, another basic lesson in politeness and civility that some of us are taught in childhood – but again, not all of us, apparently.

And since how much (whatever) others have is none of your business, rectifying it can’t, even in principle, by itself be a moral issue. But people who don’t think in my terms will probably have as hard a time understanding me on that as I so often do Norman Geras.


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