Krakatoa

According to the History Channel show I’m watching, the third of four explosions from Krakatoa in 1883 is the loudest sound in recorded history. Equivalent to 13,000 Hiroshima bombs, something like 150 megatons, being detonated at once. It was heard two thousand miles away in the middle of the Australian desert.

How freakin’ cool would it be to watch something like that from a survivable, upwind direction? Survivable being the key as ~36,000 people died in the eruption – probably a tenth of what it would be if a similar eruption happened today. Morbidity aside, I can’t think of any spectacle that could be more awe inspiring than a volcanic eruption. Except maybe a nuclear explosion.

I remember another History Channel show where US soldiers were goofing and putting on sunscreen before they hunkered down in a trench not all that far from an a-bomb detonating. Close enough they got jostled by the shock wave. That would have been a rush. Nothing beats things that go Bang!.

So I’m enjoying the AIG bonus eruption of 2009. I must be the only person in America who says, “meh.” I negotiate salaries for a living and fight the talent attraction/retention every day. Bonuses to executives at a struggling company? Fact of life. How does an ailing company ever heal itself if it loses its people? Just replace them with new people, you say?

Look to Washington, my friends, change doesn’t necessarily mean change for the better. Although it is refreshing to see one tenth of one percent of the $150 billion in AIG bailout money considered an outrage-worthy amount in Congress.

Comically, the loudest whinging emanates from Democrats in Washington – the very birthplace of AIG’s woes. AIG insures the securities created to diversify risk from questionable loans mandated by Congress, signed into law by Jimmy, and expanded by Bill Clinton. Whatever correlations there were between redlining and minority home ownership, at least banks had incentive to rigorously underwrite home loans.

Obama? He used the Community Reinvestment Act to sue on behalf of ACORN to force Citibank to write questionable loans. So he was down with CRA.

Once lenders were forced to dispense with time-tested actuarial data they really have no choice but diversifying the risk. Abetted by Fannie and Freddie the housing bubble inflated. Fannie and Freddie execs rewarded themselves with lavish bonuses far in excess of anything bandied about by AIG. Accounting scandal and cooked books followed. Much hilarity ensued. Then Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the FDIC. Wow, the government is as crooked as Enron and spendthrift as AIG?

I’d mention Barney Frank’s experiences with Fannie, but I don’t want to be labeled a homophobe.

Nothing a little elbow grease won’t fix though. That and taxpayer-financed bonuses:

Although government officials are rushing to provide retention bonuses to keep key employees at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it might not be enough.

On September 7, the Federal Reserve announced that it was taking over the two mortgage finance companies to prevent them from collapsing. To ensure that key employees stayed with the agencies, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is overseeing the two companies, is developing a retention plan that includes bonuses.That’s the kind of funny you just don’t see coming. Then Chris Dodd’s AIG bonus amendment to the stimulus bill smacks you in the face like an LSD, mescaline, & ether-filled balloon. Really. Stop it. You’re killin’ me.

Why get mad? Do we really expect any better of Washington? The federal government exists to be served by the American people. I can only laugh as they serve us by dooming us to servitude. When that unsustainable spending spiral collapses upon itself the shock wave will make Krakatoa seem like a cherry bomb. This is the government chosen by the American people. Enough of us chose to light the fuse; all we can do now is wait for the Bang!. The key is ensuring you’re at a survivable distance when the economy blows.

One thing our government has always been quite good at is ensuring an ample supply of things that go boom. When politicians are creating much ado about nothing I start getting real worried about what kind of daisy cutter they’re plotting to drop. Shakespeare was right. Tragedy is funny. And comedy is not pretty.

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