Archive for July 2nd, 2009
Geoffrey Miller has just published a new book, Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior. I haven’t read it yet, but I am now ordering it, based on Miller’s terrific prior work (see here, for example).
In the meantime, I did enjoy this NYT blog review of Spent, which includes this provocative question:
List the ten most expensive things (products, services or experiences) that you have ever paid for (including houses, cars, university degrees, marriage ceremonies, divorce settlements and taxes). Then, list the ten items that you have ever bought that gave you the most happiness. Count how many items appear on both lists.
If you’re looking for simplistic answers, you won’t get them from Miller. I won’t spoil the answers he obtained or his analysis of those answers, but you’ll find them here.
I found this one item refreshingly honest. Refreshingly, because I know a lot of parents, I see their faces, I hear their complaints (and their exhultations). I know that it’s PC to say that having children is a continuous wonderful joy and that all parents are glad they did had children. Miller’s research suggests that the answer is not this simple:
[Here's an answer that appears [much more on the ‘expensive’ than on the ‘happy’ lists [includes] Children, including child care, school fees, child support, fertility treatments. Costly, often disappointing, usually ungrateful. Yet, the whole point of life, from a Darwinian perspective. Parental instincts trump consumer pleasure-seeking.
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi is one of my heroes. I’ve often recommended his investigative pieces at DI. Taibbi’s latest Rolling Stone article is an all-out attack on Goldman Sachs as the culprit behind the bubbles and busts. No, they don’t “just happen.” [Note: the full article is here]. No, Goldman Sachs isn’t the only culpable entity, but Goldman serves well as a deserving target for the kinds of criminal abuses that have destabilized the U.S. economy and crushed the savings of so many people.
Here’s one example of many by Taibbi, this one explaining how it was that so many shitty mortgages were approved by lenders across the United States. Step One for this problem (as it is for so many other problems with the economy) is to eliminate sane standards for evaluating the economic worth of commodities, individuals and entities. The first step has the intentional function of destroying the possibility of honest valuation, thereby setting the stage for confusing and misleading investors:
Goldman’s role in the sweeping global disaster that was the housing bubble is not hard to trace. Here again, the basic trick was a decline in underwriting standards, although in this case the standards weren’t in IPOs but in mortgages. By now almost everyone knows that for decades mortgage dealers insisted that home buyers be able to produce a down payment of 10 percent or more, show a steady income and good credit rating, and possess a real first and last name. Then, at the dawn of the new millennium, they suddenly threw all that shit out the window and started writing mortgages on the backs of napkins to cocktail waitresses and ex-cons carrying five bucks and a Snickers bar.
Beware, that if you watch the videos of Taibbi explaining this blatant robbery of investors and taxpayer, as well as the Democrat complicity with this mess, you will seethe. You will feel betrayed.
I felt sympathy for Mark Sanford at first. I did. Gone are the days when journalists would respect a politician’s private life: it must be awful to live in the D.C. fishbowl. And, after all, he wasn’t just screwing around. The guy fell in love. We can all relate to that.
But Sanford lost me when he compared himself to King David. I mean, c’mon. King David? (Does that sort of thing really work with “values voters”? Do they think, Oh, yeah–Governor Sanford is just like King David, who was J.C.’s ancestor, sort of, and a great king and a really nifty songwriter, so let’s let Sanford keep his job, at least until his son starts sleeping with his concubines–?) Talk about hubris.
Anyhoo. Chris Kelly blogs for the Huffington Post and writes for Bill Maher and is, IMHO, one of the funniest men in America. Yesterday, on HuffPo, Kelly posted a piece about Sanford titled God is My Doorman, which highlights Governor Itchypant’s egomania and translates some of his Godspeak.