Saturday, May 1, 2010

Hello Slate My Old Friend

Time for an old-fashioned Slate article round-up:

Do You Believe In Miracles? - The wild, weird world of Insane Clown Posse - Jonah Weiner

Back around 2000, I accidentally stumbled across an ICP song called "Fuck The World." I was very ready to dismiss ICP entirely, but I thought, "You know, this is more clever than it probably needs to be," so I decided I sort of liked these guys. The song is like the archetype of male adolescent nihilism taken into the realm of absurdity. An excerpt:
Fuck Celine Dion, and fuck Dionne Warwick
You both make me sick, suck my dick
Fuck the Berlin wall, both sides of it
And fuck Lyle Lovett, whoever the fuck that is
Fuck everybody in the hemisphere
Fuck them across the world
And fuck them right here
You know the guy that operates the Rouge River draw bridge
In Del Ray on Jefferson?
Fuck him!
Fuck your idea
Fuck your gonorrhea
Fuck your diarrhea, Rocky Maivia
"Fuck my gonorrhea"? How's that supposed to work? I love the cheerfully energetic lowbrow enthusiasm of their audience:

"The massive family reunion that brings together the most misunderstood people of all time"? "Ninjas juggling fire"? "Wrestling midgets"? "Free camping?" I almost want to go to this! And let's hear it for the Saturday Night Live parody while we're at it.

The Goldman Casino: Do investment banks do anything that helps America anymore? - Eliot Spitzer

Why does it take Eliot Spitzer to ask this question?

In the traditional model, investment banks are thought to serve two critical functions. First, they are financial intermediaries: They are the conduits for transferring savings to those sectors of the economy that need capital. They fulfill the essential function, the economists tell us, of efficient allocation of capital. That is where their initial public offering and other capital-raising functions come into play. They enable productive companies to access the capital markets so they can grow their businesses. Second, they are supposed to be market makers that provide liquidity and stability in the markets to permit the free flow of capital on an ongoing basis.

The question that must now be asked is: Are investment banks doing that? Are they doing the things that merit public support at all? Or are they just running a casino with products that have no great social utility? The regulators, legislators, and investigators have not focused on the fact that the fundamental business of banking has changed from capital allocation to, essentially, gambling.

Oh come on Eliot. All that "capital allocation" stuff is so pre-1980s.

You're awesome, America: Why the U.S. recovery will be bigger, faster, and stronger than economists and politicians expect - Daniel Gross

According to Gross, economic grey skies are going to clear up, so put on a happy face:
But the long-term decline of the U.S. economy has been greatly exaggerated. America is coming back stronger, better, and faster than nearly anyone expected—and faster than most of its international rivals. The Dow Jones industrial average, hovering near 11,000, is up 70 percent in the past year, and auto sales in the first quarter were up 16 percent from 2009. The economy added 162,000 jobs in March, including 17,000 in manufacturing. The dollar has gained strength, and the United States is back to its familiar position of lapping Europe and Japan in growth. Among large economies, only China, India, and Brazil are growing more rapidly than the United States—and they're doing so off a much smaller base.
I guess so. I mean, I'm glad somebody's excited. This is all very well and good, but it kind of seems like small potatoes to me. I still stand by my skeptical conclusion from Crazy Rant #2: what's the end game here?

You've Come A Long Way, Buddha: With a little help from Tiger Woods and PBS, Buddhism may finally shake its counterculture image - Wen Stephenson

As if Tiger Woods didn't stand out enough as it is. Stephenson writes, "That Woods was raised Buddhist is nothing remarkable; what's striking is the down-to-earth, family-guy image of Buddhism projected in his comeback campaign." Wait, what do you mean, "not remarkable"? He's the world's greatest golfer, he's black, and now you're telling me he was raised Buddhist?

The Pope Is Not Above The Law: The crimes within the Catholic Church demand justice - Christopher Hitchens

Finally, Christopher Hitchens continues to write about the pope as if someone in the Catholic Church actually cares what Christopher Hitchens thinks. But I'm amused, particularly by headlines such as "The pope's entire career has the stench of evil about it," and his brief forays into fiction:
Here's a little thought experiment on practical ethics. Suppose that you are having a drink with a new acquaintance and the subject of law-breaking comes up. "Ever been in any trouble with the authorities?" You may perhaps mention your arrest at a demonstration, your smuggling of excess duty-free goods, that brush with the narcotics people, that unwise attempt at insider trading. Your counterpart may show a closer acquaintance with the criminal justice system. He once did a bit of time for forgery, or for robbery with a touch of violence, or for a domestic dispute that got a bit out of hand. You are still perhaps ready to have lunch next Friday. But what if he says: "Well, I once knew a couple who trusted me as their baby sitter. Two little boys they had—one of 12 and one of 10. A good bit of fun I had with those kids when nobody was looking. Told them it was our secret. I was sorry when it all ended." I hope I don't seem too judgmental if I say that at this point the lunch is canceled or indefinitely postponed. And would you feel any less or any more revulsion if the man went on to say, "Of course, I wasn't strictly speaking in any trouble with the law. I'm a Catholic priest, so we don't bother the police or the courts with that stuff. We take care of it ourselves, if you catch my meaning."
Good luck, Hitch.

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