Showing posts from May, 2011

Too Big to Fail, or Biting the Hand that Feeds You

I'm reading a book, Too Big to Fail, about the financial crisis on Wall Street in September 2008. The firms that were "too big to fail" (Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, Merrill Lynch) did, indeed, fail.

But their complete failure was not allowed by the US Federal government and by other huge Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Why? Because all the firms were so inextricably intertwined through deals, counterdeals, insurance, counterinsurance, derivatives, toxic assets, subprime mortgages and all kinds of arcane financial strategies, that for one to fail would bring all of them down.
The US far-right political view of these partial rescues was that Wall Street was bailed out by the Federal government in an unfair and illegal way. "Main Street" (solid, working-and-middle-class Americans) was contrasted to "Wall Street" (greedy, thieving financial barons); the Bush and Obama administrations were villified for helping to avert or at leas…

George Eliot--she could really write!

Breaking news--George Eliot, English writer and author of Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss, was a woman, Mary Ann Evans. In her day (1860), it was easier to publish a book if you were a man, or at least appeared to be one.

Evans wrote both fantastic dialogue and lovely lyrical descriptions. Here's a meditation from The Mill on the Floss, the story of stolid Tom and mercurial Maggie, on the memories of our childhood days and how they forever color our view of the world:

"Life did change for Tom and Maggie; and yet they were not wrong in believing that the thoughts and loves of these first years would always make part of their lives. We could never have loved the earth so well if we had not childhood in it,-if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass; the same hips and haws on the autumn's hedgerows; the same redbreasts that we used to call "god…