Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What an Asshole

is there some sort of unwritten rule of the universe that moral scolds are required to be utterly full of shit?

Grassley to financial executives: drop dead:

You know what America needs? It needs to instill the notion that when you've screwed up, the appropriate thing to do is kill yourself.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley suggested on Monday that AIG executives should take a Japanese approach toward accepting responsibility for the collapse of the insurance giant by resigning or killing themselves.
This is in the same class as joking about prison rape of financial executives--or anyone else. Suicide is an appalling tragedy. If you think we should have the death penalty for AIG executives, go ahead and introduce a bill to that effect. But joking about it is sick. People don't kill themselves because that's the honorable thing to do when you've failed badly; they kill themselves because something bad has happened and they have an uncontrolled mental illness. Creating a public culture that reinforces the belief that suicide is the correct response to the deep shame, guilt, and sense of worthlessness that accompanies depression isn't a good idea. It's certainly not funny. And this kind of macho performance art where we compete to come up with ever-worse fates to wish on financial executives is frankly a little sickening. When did our primary national pasttime [sic] become hate?
First I'd like to partially quote CP from the comments at Susan's place, as she does a good job of pointing out the rank hypocrisy Megan is displaying here.
This is the person who once compared sleeping on an air mattress outside of a high-end DC retail outlet in order to be among the first to buy a $500 phone to being in a refugee camp. She then accused anyone who found the comparison distasteful of not having a sense of humor. When Heath Ledger's body was still warm, as someone pointed out at the 11:01 mark, she was making flippant comments about his death while reports were saying it was a possible suicide. Now she's calling out some politician for *his* remarks about suicide - while completely over-simplifying the motives and reasons of people who do it to boot?
I'd just like to add that not only did Megan never apologize for her Ledger crack, she made it worse (oops, for some reason I thought the following was the second post on the topic by her, not the original. My bad);
I'm no cultural critic, and also, not sixteen, so I don't have much to say about this except the banal bewilderment at how much extra-tragic it seems when rich, beautiful, famous people die young. There were pills found near the body, and it happened in the middle of the day, which makes it sound like suicide. Even worse, he had a masseuse scheduled, which makes it sound like a too-successful suicide attempt. But presumably there will be an autopsy.
So in other words it's fine and dandy to speculate about suicide as a cause of death, just don't... ummm... reference your own work when being a scold.
My first response to Megan's little uppity rant was to think, once again, of how self-involved she is. It sounds as if maybe Megan has been touched by suicide in her life, maybe, so the issue is really about her and how it makes her feel. She's the only one who really understands it. Sure, most of us have probably been touched by suicide, I have, but I don't have the expansive perspective of Megan McArdle, moral giant, and thus seppuku jokes about financial execs who still consider themselves gods don't really bother me.
But if you reread it, I dunno, I think I might be giving Megan too much credit. It doesn't really read like an expression of emotion so much as an asshole being thrilled at a chance to act self-righteous in defense of criminals she's paid to propagandize for. She goes on and on and on and on and on about how the people trapped in subprime mortgages chose to be in that position and don't really deserve pity, but heaven forbid anyone look askew at the men, and a few women, who quite literally created this mess while making obscene amounts of wealth which they somehow expect to continue flowing to them after they've been revealed as utter failures. Heaven forbid Megan or the folks she worships should take personal responsibility. That's for people who can't afford paid flacks to cover their asses.
To steal again from the same comment thread at Susan's (or rather her discovery in Megan's comments from a different post);
Megan, I think this is optimistic on your part:

And I did about as well predicting this as anyone else, which is to say that I called the housing bubble, the savings glut, and the global imbalances, but not the specific disaster that would follow from them.

Lord knows I didn't do any better -- I thought the Dow at 11,000 was an excellent time to buy! Though fortunately I was too lazy to do much about it -- but I recall pretty clearly you were optimistic about stocks a year or so ago. And I also recall clearly that at about the same time you went on a video interview program, for The Guardian I believe?, and agreed with the interviewer that your general stance was "Don't panic". At a time when panicking would have been quite a sensible response. Unless "don't panic" was a hortatory injunction to the populace ("Please don't panic, despite the precarious state of the world's finances! You'll only make everything worse!").

Anyway, I really don't think you can claim to have done as well "predicting this as anyone else". You were nowhere near as pessimistic as Nouriel Roubini or Paul Krugman, and regardless of whether they got the shape of the collapse right, they were right that there was going to be a collapse. I'm pretty sure you did not think there was going to be a collapse.
Posted by Matt Steinglass | March 16, 2009 9:37 PM

Matt--true, but I deduct points for Roubini for not having been particularly concerned about the housing trouble, and from both Krugman and Roubini for calling imminent crises from multiple sources for 5-8 years before the actual crisis. Stopped clocks and all that. Nassim Taleb came the closest, and he, too, missed the housing bubble.
Posted by Megan McArdle | March 17, 2009 9:14 AM
In other words, Krugman didn't mention the steps the Bush Admin would take in response to his predictions in his predictions, so Megan is excused for having been absolutely, 100%, completely wrong. Y'know, like how Churchill was wrong about Hitler because every single thing C said about H didn't hold true, and thus Chamberlain was vindicated.
I never knew that imprecision from another excuses my own mistakes. I guess this is why Megan is a moral giant, and we're just poor slob plebs.


clever pseudonym said...

What about her stern warning to "think before you post" in regards to endorsing the AIG execs offing themselves as a favor:

"What you suggest in three minutes of 'gee aren't I clever' typing means a lot of other people paying with a lifetme of grief."

Both she and Will Allen, in the comments, are completely over-stating most people's reactions to suicide, as if it's something that makes loved ones take an abysmal turn into a dark tunnel of despair from which they never find illumination or joy again. Allen said something about how it "tears at people daily." Jesus, without treading into TMI territory, I lost someone very close to me from suicide and I have news for them: YOU GET OVER IT AND MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE. You'll always miss your loved one, you'll always regret their unfortunate choice, but come on. A lifetime of grief? Not even close.

Lord in heaven, don't let either one of those two ever see Heathers. They'll probably explode from the outrage.

Anonymous said...

Will Allen is a jack ass. Who cares what he thinks. He's probably the guy Megan lives in sin with.

clever pseudonym said...

No, that's Peter Somebody I've Never Heard Of that she lives with. But still, I don't care what Allen thinks so much as I enjoy mocking his ignorance.

It's funny. If you read through the comments of that Ledger post, all of Megan's sycophants step up to defend her blase attitude, lecturing everyone else about not taking it so personal. They even claimed anyone who could possibly be offended was obviously just a hysterical teenaged fangirl. I wonder if any of them showed up telling Megan to take a pill over her outrage this time around?

missmausie said...

The idea behind seppuku is that you have besmirched your own honor and that of your family, and have stained it so deeply that only your death will make up for whatever you did wrong. On the one hand, yeah, the comment was a little tasteless -- but it's not breathtakingly outrageous, and I'm saying that as someone who has not only lost a family member to suicide but contemplated suicide myself, on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, I think that death is a little too good for those execs. Why not sentence them to live in austere poverty for the rest of their natural lives? No fancy clothes, no cars, no TV, no more money... Just the opportunity to meditate upon their sins, and possibly even their regret for committing them.

*Sigh* That, however, would require that those people had consciences, which I kind of dount they do.