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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Forest/Trees: AIG Bonuses and Beyond

And Also: I had some "fun" recently regarding automatic help line options (the choices at times a bit selective), including some rather sarcastic (and unhelpful) sorts. At the end, though not before a lot of the former, I actually got a good result. I am all for persistence, but also support good customer relations. Depending on who the "customer" might be, you know like maybe a patient or whatever, a useful reminder across the board.

One concern of "mls" in this comment stream over the AIG bonus issue is that the "populist anger" (aka democratic feedback, you know, without the snark the previous term often implies) will lead to missing the forest for the trees. This is a valid concern, up to a point. But, if we look at coverage (e.g., TPM and Glenn Greenwald), we have both learnt a lot from such anger, and the discussions and actions have also dealt with various broader themes. This is far from unique: a specific point often helps us address the broader matter at hand. In fact, this often is the best way to approach things. Don't try to bite off too much, have a powerful hook, and so forth.

The bonus matter raises sensible responses given the number of people who -- without f-ing up and being required to be bailed out -- losing jobs and otherwise hurting in this economy. Meanwhile, they see how the rules are variable, especially for the powers that be. This only starts to suggest why we have this "populist anger" (aka "human anger"), and yes, the government should address it when it arises. But, the Obama Administration itself seems not to quite have gotten the memo, its actions (some, as those involving Dodd, looking a bit sleazy) suggest that they thought of the "big picture," that this was really a side show. This is not how life works,* and in the process, the mind-set was problematic across the board.

The fact, as GG notes today, that the critics often come off as bigger assholes does not really change this. This too is how life works, though we need not let them spin things as much as they sometimes are able to do.
IN the hallway of Hostos-Lincoln Academy in the Bronx this week, two ninth-grade girls discussed the pop singer Chris Brown, 19, who faces two felony charges for allegedly beating his girlfriend, the pop singer Rihanna, 21. At first, neither girl had believed Mr. Brown, an endearing crooner, could have done such a thing. ...

Underneath harsh, judgmental bravado, teenage girls themselves seem perplexed by the unfolding story, whipsawed by allegiance to their celebrities, fantasies about romantic relationships, and the terrifying mysteries of intimate violence — the savagery of the beating as well as the speed with which Rihanna apparently agreed to see him again.

-- Teenage Girls Stand by Their Man

This is a rather different subject, but it underlines the possibility of letting an extreme case (as repeated photos in the NY Daily News showed) can provide an important teaching moment. We cannot just say that most girls in this discussion are not being beaten up, or say that "feminist anger" can cloud the issues. First, as in the AIG case, too many serious cases of wrongdoing do occur. Second, a serious case involving a celebrity can be used to address a broader issue, in this case romantic and gender relations. Again, there is some hook to start things off.

And, the article is interesting in itself -- when addressing a story like this, we are often given too much coverage, because it is so easy to do so. If we are going to get such extended coverage anyway, let's try to include within it some broader context. This too can have broad appeal, since it does not just involve some celebrity or person in the news at the moment, but something to which many "regular" sorts can relate.


* Or, politics. See, Kerry not thinking the Swift Boat attacks was worthy of his concern, at least until much too late.

I'd note also that mls does exactly what s/he warns against: the very first comment is a snark that distracts, and makes it hard to take what comes next seriously. This includes conclusionary comments on how "unclear" things are or how "reasonable" AIG might be, or shots at Democrats. Rather symbolic of the "cloud the issue" nature of some voices.

OTOH, the comment stream (underlining why the blog should have them, some members thinking otherwise notwithstanding) has some good stuff, including "Shag" on the limits of the sanctity of contracts. To the degree the original post addressed a specific matter, which is what blogs quite often do, the comments help to add perspective. This includes addressing some who might be turned off by the specific blogger.