April 13, 2009

So, my heart is officially broken.

My car. My baby. My love, and my only possession worth more than $500 (next being my computer, which, resale, is likely worth more lke $200).

My car needs repairs that cost more than I can afford. I think…it’s time to sell my baby.

I should be able to sell it, no problem. Many a pimp has yelled offers as I drive with the top down.

It’s just…I love that car. I grew up in that car. When I was less than 2 years old my father left me in the passenger’s seat for a sec while he got out to talk to a friend, and I put the car in neutral and started rolling down the hill — the first care I ever drove, we joke. I have pictures of me as a toddler helping my dad wash the car. He and I used to go for drives at night, and I’d always fall asleep on his protective arm, stretched across the middle of the front seat, where I felt so totally safe.

I just can’t afford to keep fixing the car, and this time it’s the brakes that are shot, requiring a $3K job. Kiiiiiiind of a deal breaker.

It’s just — my raisin-in-the-sun profession, two imploded relationships in as many years, my oft-nurtured gypsy lifestyle, my beloved car, my chopped hair — I know that new beginnings require a closed door on the past, but, for the love of god, I’m feeling very, very far removed from my identity right now. I asked for catharsis, but this feels more like a total bonfire of my vanities.

I keep thinking that if I can hang on for just a couple more years, then I can afford to fix my car. But I’m not sure if I’m being childish.  Truly, I’m feeling very adolescent lately — with so many dramatic, shake-my-core changes, I’m feeling foreign to myself and unsure of exactly who I am.


Music Meme

March 23, 2009

1. Are you a male or female: She’s the One

2. Describe yourself:  All or Nothin’ at All

3. How do you feel about yourself? Book of Dreams

4. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend:  Don’t Look Back AND Let’s Be Friends

5. Describe your current boy/girl situation:  Back in Your Arms; Part Man, Park Monkey

6. Describe your current location:  Land of Hope and Dreams

7. Describe where you want to be:  Further On Up the Road  OR, Paradise

8. Your best friend is:  My Lover Man

9. Your favorite color is:  Light of Day

10. You know that:  A Good Man is Hard to Find AND From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)

11. What’s the weather like?:  Waiting on a Sunny Day

12. If your life was a television show what would it be called?  Working on a Dream

13. What is life to you?  Living on the Edge of the World

14. What is the best advice you have to give?  No Surrender

15. If you could change your name, what would it be?  Rosalita

Creature Comforts

December 15, 2008

Someone once said to me about a guy I was seeing that all he needs to be happy are “creature comforts.” I think about that a lot, and it plays so well with my “More” obsession from France. The question, of course, is: what are creature comforts? And, when you’re talking to someone who hasn’t had an unpublished thought in months, the question becomes: what creature is comforted like this?

I think creature comforts describe how high you have to go on Maslow’s hierarchy to be scraping self actualization. Obviously no one who knows me could confuse me for one of those Chomskyian neo-Barcelonites who need nothing more than a blanket and a cup of warm whiskey to start the actualization. But how much higher than blankets does the human creature need to go to be satisfied? There’s a huge difference between actualization through stimulating work and actualization by and through the attention of others.

But then I remember that I am American, and have never been satisfied with the French “less,” have always chosen the American “more” instead. So what creature am I, and why am I not actualized?

And then I published this thought.

America’s King

July 10, 2008

America’s King

This Monday Anheuser-Busch filed a lawsuit accusing Belgian-Brazilian beer powerhouse InBev of employing “illegal” takeover tactics against America’s largest brewer. Among other sins, Anheuser calls misleading InBev’s supposed “fully committed financing” in the case of recession or a change in the market. Anheuser concludes by calling for an injunction against InBev’s further unsolicited advances “to redress harm to Anheuser-Busch and its shareholders.”

Anheuser ostensibly represents the American interest in saving face against newly-capitalist Europe. But does America really require an injunction against capitalism? Clydesdales—while magnificent—are probably not the most efficient way to transport beer. Shareholders typically invest with their dollars, not with their emotion. Anheuser’s plea for protection suggests that the company has conflated capitalism with its metaphor.

Anheuser should not necessarily sell. Rather than merely save face against InBev’s aggressive tactics, Anheuser should evaluate this unsolicited offer by what is best for the company. Anheuser does represent an important pattern in the American fabric, but calling for protectionism loosens an integral thread. It is not beer that makes America great, but the values behind the beer: loyalty, hard work, and solid business ethic. InBev has become the world’s largest brewer by employing those traditionally American values, leaving Anheuser with a choice between behaving like a capitalist or pleading for protection in the face of a weak dollar and weakening economy.

Run by a divided family, the King of Beers became vulnerable when Anheuser-Busch remained cautiously local in a globalized industry. Anheuser may have many reasons not to sell to InBev, but “patriotism” should not be one. Patriots assess the facts and aim for long-term success, not short-term profits. Anheuser should similarly maintain its sights on the company’s long-term success. Hiding or calling for protectionism is, well, un-American.

Stockholders have cast their vote: when InBev’s whisper campaign began in May, Anheuser’s stock rose 8%. While InBev’s financing may prove less than “fully committed,” Anheuser may take comfort in its product—after all, beer is recession proof.

Kathryn Ciano


Obligatory Frost

April 11, 2008

I hadn’t read this poem in years, and forgot how peaceful it is.  Or it’s possible that I’ve become more peaceful in re indecision since I last read it.  Regardless, since I am at a set of many crossroads, and perhaps the paths I take moving forward will have more impact than those looking back – here it is.

The third verse is my favorite, bc this is my tendency, to hold on to things intending to return, AND bc it’s true that I look for “trodden” paths to benchmark my own instincts.  Everyone does, clearly, and that’s why this poem is almost bromidically overcited. 

Finally, I have always wondered if he’s being sardonic in the last line.  Does it in fact make all the difference?  To abuse his analogy, wouldn’t the narrator have taken a different path, but ultimately showed up at work the next day?  Similarly, I have this sense that almost everything is fungible.  Last night SG advised me not to stress, but, frustratingly, I have rejected that path before. 

The real Q re Roads is: are we talking about a sign of resignation, or contentment?  I can’t help but get the sense of resignation.  I can’t help but wonder whether the roads more frequently traveled are that way for a reason, or whether it does not make all the difference at all, but one difference: making a choice, rejecting the indecision, and acknowledging that you’ve done so.  Acknowledging that you likely won’t return to this fork in the future.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

K Poetry

April 4, 2008

Parker v. 20th Cent Fox  (Cal 1970)

P’s starring role was canceled by Fox

And Fox offered a Western film spot

P not required to settle

For role of unequal mettle

Damages reduced only by reasonable job opp.

Lake River v. Carborundum Co (7th, 1985)

To find a penalty Posner has said

The contrat must (1) specify one amount

Regardless of what breach in K is read

And (2) fixed sum exceeds damages account.

The Seventh Circuit called it “penalty”

When D breached and K overcompensates

Despite the parties weak attempt ex ante

to state specification of damage estimate.

Lake River Plaintiff incurred up-front costs

But L-clause failed here, and the Plaintiff lost.

California & Hawaiian Sugar Co (9th, 1986)

The Ninth Circuit has said it will suffice

when parties reckon “close enough” up front

Whether hard to estimate the price,

(ex ante proof of loss is difficult)

How to Reconcile Lake River and C&H Sugar

If parties reach a meeting of the minds

As to what damages to find,

The Ninth Circuit will honor liquidation

If parties prove ex ante estimation.

But just a little further to the East,

The Seventh looks more closely at the breach.

The prove prior estimates were too hard

Will satisfy the Western courts to guard

Your L-clause which in Posner’s court

He will call penalty and not enforce.

UCC 2-718(1)

The UCC says a contract may liquidate

If specified amount meets three-pronged test:

(1) It must be what both sides anticipate

Resulting from a breach at one’s behest

(2) Must be ex ante difficult to prove

(3) And hard to obtain other remedy

the court will call “void” and they will remove

Unreasonable sums as penalty.

And in the Seventh Circiut court et al

(Unlike the 9th’s agreeability)

Penalty is what is disproportional.

L-clause asks not about foreseeability

But looks instead to what the parties say

They think they might lose out on come breach day.

Sales of Goods

UCC 2-703 (Seller’s Remedies in General)

In general when the seller starts to seek

Remedy for the buyer’s sad rejection

The seller may (1) withhold from buyer’s rbeach,

(2) Stop delivery of the good in question,

(3) Or seller may abide 2-704

(Controlling goods outside the instant K)

(4) Perhaps he’ll see covering’s real allure [2-706]

(5) Or non-acceptance damages save the day. [2-708]

Our poor seller, breached buyer’s hapless victim;

He may yet decide that he wants full price

Sometimes the buyer may have to give him

SP If that’s all that will suffice [2-709, quasi Specific Performance].

(Or, if the seller remains so disinclined

He may still cancel if he has the mind).

New Mission

March 17, 2008

Instead of collecting huge “To Read” piles, from now on I’m posting it here (for future reference).  To that end:

Individual Responsibility–Posner’s Comment

Becker makes two principal points in his interesting post: that free enterprise encourages people to take responsibility for their actions and thereby make better decisions; and that there is “a strong trend toward shifting responsibility to others.”

I would qualify these points as follows. Free enterprise requires individuals to make a variety of decisions, concerning both production and consumption, that in a socialist system is the responsibility of government officials. It does not follow that people in free-enterprise societies “take responsibility,” in some psychological sense, for their actions. The tendency to blame others when things go wrong is deeply rooted in human nature and I imagine no less common in America than in any other country. In fact, in a free-market system, competition places significant limitations on the freedom of choice of consumers, investors, and workers.

But has the tendency toward shifting responsibility for our actions to other people perhaps become more common over time? Maybe so, with the erosion of belief in free will. In the traditional sense of that concept, a sense most highly developed (so far as I know) in Christian theology, uncoerced decisions, such as a decision to commit or refrain from committing a crime, are deemed to be uncaused. They are deemed the “free” choice of the person making them, so that if he makes the wrong choice he has no one to blame but himself. (There is an odd exception: some Christians believe that a person can be “possessed” by the devil, in which event he is not responsible for his actions until the devil is exorcised.) I find it hard–maybe for lack of imagination–to believe that decisions have no cause. I assume that they are determined by the balance of advantages and disadvantages as it appears to the decider, though he may not be fully conscious (or conscious at all) of the considerations that are moving him. Those considerations are influenced by background, intelligence, experiences, and other factors most of which are not, in any meaningful sense, within a person’s “control.”

On this view, to call a person “responsible” for a decision (such as the decision to take out a no-down-payment mortgage with an adjustable interest rate) is just to say that his process of weighing the pros and cons of the decision was not overborne by force or fraud or thwarted by a mental deficiency. The decision may not have been blameworthy in any very deep sense; it may have been foreordained by psychological factors. Becker mentions “greed.” Why are some people greedy? Because they choose to be bad? Or because their psychology, which they are not responsible for, has produced in them an abnormal demand for money? All “freedom” means is not being subject to certain kinds of coercion. Freedom so understood expands the opportunities open to people, but how they exploit their opportunities is the product of the interaction of their genetic and financial endowments, their upbringing and other environmental factors, and their good and bad luck.

Moral hazard is thus not a defect of the will, but a rational response to one’s opportunity set. If one has medical insurance without deductibles or copayments, the marginal cost of medical care will be low (even zero), so one will consume more of it. If one is confident that in the event of a flood or an earthquake there will be a government bailout, one will buy less or no flood or earthquake insurance. The government’s bailing out of investment companies, banks, and mortgagors will induce those entities to take more investment risks in the future than they otherwise would, and so will increase the risk of future housing bubbles and credit crunches. This has, I think, always been so. That is, there was never a time when, because people were averse to taking advantage of opportunities to shift costs to other people, moral hazard was not a social problem.

Criminals will sometimes try to place the blame for their crimes on a bad upbringing. That is nothing new. A criminal (or his lawyer) will make any argument that might reduce his sentence; he would be irrational not to do so. And it is plausible that a bad upbringing, along with a low IQ, increases the likelihood that a person will become a criminal, by reducing his alternative legal opportunities. But as Becker points out, most people with a bad upbringing (and equally most people with low IQs) do not become criminals. This has, to my mind, a practical rather than a moral significance. It suggests that the threat of punishment can deter even a person who has had a bad upbringing. So by adding that threat to the considerations that a person will weigh in deciding whether to commit a crime, society can reduce the crime rate. We may even want to punish the criminals with the bad upbringings more heavily than other criminals, in the belief that they can be deterred only by a threat of heavier punishment. On this approach to crime and punishment, we punish criminals not because they “freely” chose to do bad things, but because by punishing them we can at tolerable cost reduce the prevalence of activities that generate net negative social costs. We make people do the “right” thing not by appealing to the exercise of their free will but by increasing the cost to them of doing the wrong thing. Fortunately, few judges, whether or not they believe in a strong sense of free will, allow the excuse of a bad upbringing to mitigate punishment.

As for the people who took out risky mortgages in the expectation that house prices would continue to rise, they should not be bailed out (that is the moral hazard problem) by government even, I think, if they were victims of fraud. But if they were victims of fraud, they should have legal remedies against the people who defrauded them. Of course, if there were no legal remedies against fraud, people would be more careful–but they would be too careful; they would incur high costs of self-protection. It is cheaper to punish fraud, just as it is cheaper to punish burglary than to tell people to fortify their houses.

Catching Up

January 12, 2008

Tonight I had dinner with an old friend I hadn’t seen in five years.  Twice during that time we have started speaking again, but each time I realized that he was irreplaceable to me, freaked, and ended it.  He calls it “boundarylessness.”  I had had no boundaries, and, since those years, I am all boundary.  It wasn’t so much a good relationship – he was my best friend for a long time, and my first real love, 100 years ago – as it was rendering.  After five years of pure boundary, it was unnerving to take down my arm’s length, constructed wall.

Even more unnerving was to see how much I had changed.  It’s mostly in the boundary.  I’ve been with S for the entirety of those years since I built the wall – it’s strange now, to realize my relationships during those five years have been fundamentally different from those earlier.  The difference is not in my choice of friends, nor in my relationships with them.  It’s with my own attitude to the relationships themselves.  T was the single irreplaceable person in my life, and I was dependent, so I pushed him away.  I hurt him deeply, and it killed me to lose him.  Since, I have avoided anyone who invites dependency.  Our last conversation, I was driving next to campus in Gville, talking about beaches in CR.  Everything to do with him is in that kitschy place in my mind – but tonight for the first time in a long time I compared myself to who I was.  I’m not sure I know who I am.   I’m not sure it matters.  I’m almost relieved he’s gay – I missed him.  We were once grounded to each other, it’s nice to have an old friend back.

It’s funny: there was a time when I was immensely vulnerable.  I’ve not connected completely in years.  Clearly I’m no longer 16 – but why don’t I commit?


December 28, 2007

The State of Iraq: An Update

The New York Times, December 20, 2006

Nina Kamp, Senior Research Assistant, Foreign Policy Studies
Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies

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Michael E. O'Hanlon
Michael E. O’Hanlon

As 2006 winds down, two developments inside Iraq stand out: the failure of the previous year’s election to produce any sense of progress, and the commencement of Iraq’s civil war, dating back to the Feb. 22 bombing of the hallowed Shiite mosque in Samarra and escalating ever since.

It is still possible to find signs of hope in our running statistics on Iraq — the number of Iraqi security forces who are trained and technically proficient, the gradually improving economic output, the number of children being immunized. But those same children cannot feel safe on the way to school in much of today’s Iraq; economic growth is a top-down phenomenon having little effect on the unemployment rate or well-being of Iraqis in places like Anbar Province and the Sadr City slum in Baghdad; and those increasingly proficient security forces remain politically unreliable in many cases, just as inclined to stoke sectarian strife as to contain it.

Despite some unconvincing comments from President Bush in the prelude to the November midterm elections that “absolutely, we’re winning,” most Americans now agree on the diagnosis of the situation in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group warned of a further “slide toward chaos.” Colin Powell said on Sunday that he thought we are losing, even if all is not yet lost. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted in his confirmation hearings that we aren’t winning, even if he holds out hope that we also aren’t losing. His predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, in a memo leaked several weeks ago, recognized that Iraq is going badly and put out a laundry list of potential options that we may have to consider, including multiparty negotiations modeled on those that ended the war in Bosnia.

Significant changes are clearly needed. At a minimum, we will probably require some combination of the options now being offered the president by the Iraq Study Group, the Pentagon and others — a large program to create jobs, a surge of perhaps 25,000 more American troops to Iraq to improve security in Baghdad, an ultimatum to Iraqi political leaders that if they fail to achieve consensus on key issues like sharing oil, American support for the operation could very soon decline.

If such steps fail, last-ditch options may well be needed within a year, including the sort of “soft partition” of Iraq by religion and ethnicity that Mr. Rumsfeld and Senator Joseph Biden have been discussing, combined with a plan to help people move to where they feel safer within the country. Although it has been said before about previous new years, it seems very likely that 2007 will be make or break time in Iraq.

Categories Nov. 2003 Nov. 2004 Nov. 2005 Nov. 2006

Tall Boy

December 5, 2007

I’m trying to be good – studying finance, which routinely kicks my ass, and applied microfinance –

But there is this Extremely Large Man walking around the grad lounge. He’s so tall he has to duck to walk in here, and he’s big in a bulky “I don’t work out but eat lots of steak and play football on fall evenings” kind of way. It’s a good thing Steve is so fucking wonderful, sex in the grad lounge is generally frowned upon.

However, add “tall man” to the list of people I would sleep with if I didn’t have my best humming friend and the thought of Smoochface to keep me warm at night – right under “lanky cowboy.”

I do realize public horniness is repulsive; to that end, here is the official countdown: he will have been gone 23 weeks this Thursday. Which means that we are *almost* at the halfway point to the alleged 52 weeks he will be deployed in total. I’m not holding my breath and am not making any bets on them being back any time before next Christmas, but it is nice to feel like we’ve made some progress.