The bonuses aren’t the big scandal at AIG

I meant to write this before, but Eliot Spitzer beat me to it.   I agree that we should force the folks who got bonuses at AIG to give them back (Doug Henwood blogs about how to do that), or tax them at 150% percent. 

However, the real scandal is that while millions of people have been laid off, UAW members are forced to renegotiate their contracts, and the US government is bailing out the banking sector seemingly without any upside, AIG paid out tens of billions of dollars to banks, hedge funds and others making good on the poorly setup Credit Default Swap (CDS) contracts that AIG entered into.

As he writes:

It all appears, once again, to be the same insiders protecting
themselves against sharing the pain and risk of their own bad
adventure. The payments to AIG’s counterparties are justified with an
appeal to the sanctity of contract. If AIG’s contracts turned out to be
shaky, the theory goes, then the whole edifice of the financial system
would collapse.

wait a moment, aren’t we in the midst of reopening contracts all over
the place to share the burden of this crisis? From raising taxes—income
taxes to sales taxes—to properly reopening labor contracts, we are all
being asked to pitch in and carry our share of the burden. Workers
around the country are being asked to take pay cuts and accept shorter
work weeks so that colleagues won’t be laid off. Why can’t Wall Street
royalty shoulder some of the burden? Why did Goldman have to get back
100 cents on the dollar? Didn’t we already give Goldman a $25 billion
capital infusion, and aren’t they sitting on more than $100 billion in
cash? Haven’t we been told recently that they are beginning to come
back to fiscal stability? If that is so, couldn’t they have accepted a
discount, and couldn’t they have agreed to certain conditions before
the AIG dollars—that is, our dollars—flowed?

The appearance that
this was all an inside job is overwhelming. AIG was nothing more than a
conduit for huge capital flows to the same old suspects, with no reason
or explanation.

The US government owns 80% of AIG, right.  It would have gone bankrupt without our money potentially taking down the economy.  So why don’t we force AIG to renegotiate the CDS contracts it has entered into.  What are the parties on the other end of the CDSs going to do, have us call in the money they have borrowed from us?

Hat tip to Dollars & Sense for citing Spitzer’s article.

I’m not 20 anymore

When I was 20 I found the Throwing Muses.  I loved the band, got their tapes (yes it was that long ago), saw them wherever I could and probably pined for the lead singer/guitar player/song writer more than I should have.  They were my favorite band, bar none.

Since those days, the band has gone through its ups and downs, but it still keeps working.  During that time I bought their albums and attended their concerts.  I tended to go alone since few that I knew were interested in going.  They didn't play at places like Foxboro stadium, where we were hundreds of feet from them.  Instead, they played smaller venues where I could (and did) wade up to the front so I could be six feet from the band with no one to block me.  I could stand, singing to the songs (non-verbally of course), swaying to the music and enjoy the show.

I anticipated that last night's show would be the same.  They were scheduled to go on at 11:30, so after a dinner out with my wife, we headed over and encountered the end of the second band of the line up, 50 Foot Wave.  Now 50 Foot Wave is most of Throwing Muses, but trying a different style of music: noise rock as the Boston Phoenix called it.

Before Throwing Muses went on, I moved to the front to repeat the experiences of past concerts, while my wife stayed in back.  After nearly half an hour, something unexpected happened.  I decided that I didn't want to be there and we left.  Sure the cigarette smoke was gone from times past.  However, I found that I put more time into keeping upright in the sardine confines of the hall, trying not to block other people's views and trying to get a good pictures of the band.  Instead of enjoying the show and being in the moment as the Buddhists would say, I let myself get distracted.

Once I realized this fact, I noticed that I really don't like experiencing a concert essentially alone.  A concert is a social event, and not having someone with whom to share it takes away the charm.  When I went to see Solas at the Somerville Theatre, say, the fact that I had to sit in a seat meant that I was forced to share that experience with the family and friends with me.  I am the better for it. 

Throwing Muses is still one of my favorite bands.  However, there is no way I can pretend to be twenty even for a couple of hours.  I won't be going to any more Throwing Muses' concerts.  That song is done.

NOTE: The folks at the Screaming Females/50 Foot Wave/Throwing Muses merchandise table were really great including the guy who offered to give me some free ear plugs.  Thanks!  Also a thanks to the guy who told me to put down my camera.  He was in the moment, I was not, but without his request, I might not have had the insight I did.