Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where are the new ideas we've been promised?

From the New York Times today:

The American International Group [AIG], which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

The company is claiming that they "have no choice," bonuses had already been promised in contracts. At what point does the government quit fearing the big businesses and lobbyists and say That's too fucking bad? If those bonuses have to be paid than AIG should figure out how they can fulfill those contracts outside of government money. 

The government's stance when it comes to the companies receiving bailout money who are doling out huge bonuses has been What can we do? They have the money already. There are contracts. There is plenty that can be done. Tax them for their bonuses. Hell, just take some back, all of the installments haven't been paid at this point. It's unacceptable. Obama's chief economic advisor, Larry Summers, said on ABC's "This Week" that the bonuses are "outrageous," but that's not good enough when the government continues to posture itself as helpless, they have all the leverage. Furthermore, they understood from the beginning how these companies have been using their bailout money, yet Congress refused to attach any strings to TARP. The administration's response to this news is leaving me feeling, like Jon Stewart said in his Jim Cramer interview, that they're all in on it, that the average American is providing the capital for their adventure. The notion that AIG can't break their contracts for CEOs bonuses is unbelievable. On two fronts we are already seeing that in a situation like this contracts are not always the most important thing. Auto-workers are letting the industry shred their contracts and create new terms for the unions, and the government is considering giving bankruptcy courts the power to shred contracts and re-negotiate homeowner mortgages. Why should bonuses for executives be exempt? 

Remember in January when John C. Hope III, chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, publicly talked about what his bank was going to do with the $300 million they received in bailout funds? "Make more loans? ... We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans." If this is how the banking industry and Wall St. feel then what was the point of giving them more money? Between CEO bonuses and banks, like Hope's, that are just storing the money away, it seems that there was no logical reason to bail them out. They could not have needed that money that bad if they aren't using it to sustain the business. And why does it continue to happen? At this point we should have realized that there is no trickle down. The only way the country is going to recover is by putting money in the hands of those who are actually struggling. $165 million could provide a whole lot of scholarships to people who might not be able to afford skyrocketing tuition, provide help to failing public schools, assist homeowners with failing mortgages, or help new businesses start up. 

The problem with these kinds of measures to revive the economy is it is putting faith in the exact same businesses and ideas that got America into this mess. There is an overwhelming lack of funding for new ideas right now. When the New Deal brought America out of the Great Depression there was an emphasis on new ideas. Reviving the economy through new businesses, new jobs, new public works. What we've seen so far is an attempt to get what has failed back on it's feet. The businesses that have received bailout money have shown no signs of planning on changing their methods. They should not receive a second or third chance. The executives who have put us in this situation should be given a cell right next to Madoff.

This notion of reviving what is already there instead of trying something new is part of the plan up and down. The NEA received funds to help ailing non-profit arts organizations. All of their new funding has to be distributed to organizations that have received NEA funding in the past. Again, why can't everyone apply on equal ground and give start ups a chance where they see fit. AIG is just one of many companies that is giving out bonuses to CEOs with taxpayer money, but take what their giving out alone - $165 million - how many non-profits could benefit from that? This is becoming a standard, we're investing in businesses that refuse to invest in America.

The government's refusal to fund new ideas, and to just accept that there is nothing that can be done about these big businesses whose back room bargains lead us to this financial crisis is mind-boggling. These CEOs have already been given a get-out-jail-free card, why just accept that they can squander the bailout money they received? If I cheat on my taxes I have to pay for it. If I steal from my place of employment, I get fired. If I steal from a customer at my place of business, I get fired. If I sign a contract that I can't pay I have to find a way to make good on it. If they steal from their business, and it's customers, I have to chip in, with the rest of the country, to ensure that they can continue to have a summer home.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Please Note:

If you have leeches crawling on you, you are either in water or you're with an apothecary.

not in it for the money

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Robert Bolano Discovered

It seems to me that Robert Bolano might be the most prolific dead author I've ever heard of. English translations of three novels and four collections of short stories are already slated to be released in 2001. Then there was the unveiling of a novel that was never published at a book fair (of sorts) in October. Now The Guardian is reporting that, while sorting through his piles and piles of notes et cetera at his estate in Spain they have discovered two more novels that were never published, and what they believe is the sixth part of the previously five part 2666. Add to that list that both 2666 and The Savage Detectives weren't translated into english until 2008 and 2007, respectively, and that makes for eight novels published posthumously in English (four were never released at all), four collections of short stories which were never published, and a possible epilogue to 2666 which was never published. Can't think of anyone who published more work after their death. Dickinson is a close analogy, but her body of work doesn't compare to this. Henry Darger didn't have any recognition until his death either, but, again, that's a little different. His work was epic, but there was really only one gigantic piece of work with art to accompany it. I really can't think of anyone else that compares. No real word on if these newly discovered novels and the sixth part of 2666 are going to be published, but Bolano's widow hired a new literary agent after his death and he's been pushing to get things published. Odds are they will be released at some point.

Monday, March 9, 2009

On Necessarily Skeptical Poetry Reviews

Jason Guriel has written a really great prelude to his reviews at the Poetry Foundation. The article, titled "Going Negative" highlights the importance of negative reviews of poetry and how those types of reviews are necessary for poetry. A small taste:

when a book of poetry receives a tough verdict we often label the review “negative” and speculate about the reviewer’s motives, the agenda behind the takedown. Indeed, behind words like “negative” and “agenda” and “takedown” lurks the sense that the reviewer is the one making the trouble, and the book of poetry—whether it deserved a kicking or not—is being bullied. We’re far less paranoid about motives when, say, a movie receives a tough review in the New Yorker or Slate or Rolling Stone, even when we disagree with the verdict—even when we’re so outraged we fire off an e-mail to some editor’s in-box. This is because negative reviews of movies (and LPs and TV shows, etc.) represent the norm, and aren’t usually labeled “negative.” Movie critics with whom we disagree are merely wrong; poetry critics (and politicians) go negative.

After all, how many volumes of new poetry published in the last calendar year will still be jarring us in five years? In one? Shouldn’t the negative review, if we’re honest and adult about it, be the norm? And if so, shouldn’t we retire the adjective “negative” in favor of something far more accurate, if a little awkward, like “necessarily skeptical,” as in, “Man, William Logan sure has gone necessarily skeptical on that poet?”


Bam bam-bam

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What People I Like Are Doing Right Now

David reviewed Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai at the Guernica blog.


25 Things You Might Not Know About Me by Martin Devaney from Twin Cities Daily Planet.


The Antler's were interviewed at Prefix.


What authors read at the latest InDigest 1207 with Jibade-Khalil Huffman and Paul Dickinson.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Oh yeah, I'm Reading Tonight

Oh yeah, I forgot to put anything about this up.

I'm reading tonight! With great writers! Yay!

It's for Minnesota Monthly Happy Hour at (Le) Poisson Rouge. The event starts at 6pm, and I think the reading starts at 6:30pm.

Sam Osterhout, Paul Dickinson, and David Doody will also be reading. StarDweller (ex Winter Blanket) will also be playing. It's like a little Minnesota in the Village. I think there are drink specials and tatter tot hot dish too. So, at the very least, if you've never had tatter tot hot dish you should come eat Minnesota.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Thoroughly Self-Interested Post About What People I Know, or People I Like, Are Doing

David wrote a piece that made me go straight to Alibris and purchase two books by Bill Holms. Holm's passed away earlier this week. David wrote about him for Guernica.

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Crack in Damn just joined MySpace and posted some new songs. You should be their friend, I like them. These new tracks are really great. Stand by for east coast touring.

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Bob Boilen, on All Songs Considered, is claiming that 2009 is already a better year in music that 2008. His number one album of 2009? The Antlers' Hospice Nice. I would have to agree. It's great.
The Antlers have a CD release show at Union Hall (Brooklyn) on Thursday. I am going to go to this. It's going to be great.
There is a listening party on Tuesday, at (Le) Poisson Rouge, for their new album. Open bar from 9-10. It's true. I'm not a liar. At least right now I'm not.

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Brad has a great new poem on The Daily Poem Factory Machine called "I Don't Even Know How Whitney Houston Got My Number." It's a marvelous thing. Really.

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Marlon James had a review of his new novel, The Book of Night Women, published in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. They liked it. You might as well. I'm not sure, maybe you should read the review.
Marlon is reading at Common Good Books in St. Paul at the end of the month. You could do this instead of reading the NYT review.

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Kendra Grant Malone has a new flash fiction piece posted at NanoFiction. Which I site I am just discovering and I think it has some really great stuff.

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The Music Slut is giving away free tickets to the Cut Copy DJ Set at LPR.

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Haley Bonar just did a Daytrotter session. It's pretty good.

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The New Yorker just published an excerpt from the IRS novel David Foster Wallace was finishing when he died. It will be some point

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Cursive is giving away their new album Mama, I'm Swollen for $1 today. It goes up $1 every day until it comes out on 03.10. It's ok. Worth the $1 I paid.

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Oh, and, I've said this, but there is new InDigest up. It has Mackenzie Epping, Kate Casanova, Charles Greene, Ashleigh Lambert, and Mandy Herrick.

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I wrote stuff recently at Rift, Tiny Mix Tapes, and f10.