An Email Exchange: How Everything Is Really About Sex (Even The Auto Bailout)

An email from a squirrelly friend:

Q. How do you know you’re living under a Socialist government?

A. When your President is able to fire the CEO of an automobile company.

My reply:

I had the same thought. What are you doing?

His reply:

There is something absolutely surreal about the image of the President of the United States saying that it is okay to buy a GM car because the car warranty is backed by the government. So our federal government is now in the auto warranty business? How about backing our national security and just let the auto companies fend for themselves.

My reply:

Can I post that on my blog?

His reply:

Yes. Just say it’s from your squirrelly friend.

My reply:

What are you doing?


His reply:

I’m eating an oatmeal raisin cookie from LaMadeleine right now! But it’s not as good as I bet that Karamel Sutra is.

My reply:

You don’t want my cookies?

The Karamel Sutra is okay. It’s a bit hard. I’m waiting for it to soften up. You’ll never hear me say those words again.

His reply:

If you don’t leave it alone, it will never soften.

For Just The Slightest Instant

If you happen to glance at it, just the right way, against that blue, blue sky…


AIG Execs Forced To Donate To Dodd

Washington Times exposes a massive scandal (part two) involving Senator Dodd and AIG

As Democrats prepared to take control of Congress after the 2006 elections, a top boss at the insurance giant American International Group Inc. told colleagues that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd was seeking re-election donations and he implored company executives and their spouses to give.

Getty Images Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, has lost some political standing heading into re-election because of his ties to American International Group Inc.

The message in the Nov. 17, 2006, e-mail from Joseph Cassano, AIG Financial Products chief executive, was unmistakable: Mr. Dodd was “next in line” to be chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the insurance industry, and he would “have the opportunity to set the committee’s agenda on issues critical to the financial services industry.

“Given his seniority in the Senate, he will also play a key role in the Democratic Majority’s leadership,” Mr. Cassano wrote in the message, obtained by The Washington Times.

That email:


How nice that even suggests the spouses donate.

The article continues:

Mr. Dodd’s campaign quickly hit pay dirt, collecting more than $160,000 from employees and their spouses at the AIG Financial Products division (AIG-FP) in Wilton, Conn., in the days before he took over as the committee chairman in January 2007. Months later, the senator transferred the donations to jump-start his 2008 presidential bid, which later failed.

Now, two years later, Mr. Dodd has emerged as a central figure in the government’s decision to let executives at the now-failing AIG collect more than $218 million in bonuses, according to the Connecticut attorney general – even as the company was receiving billions of dollars in assistance from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He acknowledged that he slipped a provision into legislation in February that authorized the bonuses, but said the Treasury Department asked him to do it.

The whole article is a necessary read. Read and marvel at the hypocrisy of the Democrat party.

I Am Fucking Smart

I interrupt my holiday to bring you this important message.

This afternoon, a person who knows Jeff Skilling told me, “You are smarter than Jeff Skilling.”

Of course, I accused this person of heresy. I demanded this person wash his mouth out with soap. Then this person made it so much worse and said, “I think you’re much smarter than me also. I am going to start referring to you as “She Who is Smarter than Me.”

This is awful. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. In the first place, I think in pure intelligence, this person probably has Jeff beat by a few microns, so no matter how you want to calculate intelligence, they’re both extremely brilliant people.

The more important dimension to this is the fact that I need my heroes to be bigger and better than me. Both this person and Jeff Skilling are my heroes and it bothers me that I would be compared to them and found even better.

I started to think about why this is so. I found this in an essay by Ayn Rand that rings true for me. She is writing about why a woman would not want to be president, but there are ancillary points that I find are right on target:

“For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero worship – the desire to look up to a man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, ie. as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity s such – which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves but which colors her attitude toward all men. This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men. Quite the contrary; the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding er standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. It means that a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother – or leader.”

This line, especially, caught my attention: “intellectually and morally, ie. as a human being, she has to be his equal”. If this is true, one must assume that we can only admire that which we recognize (ie, that which we see in ourselves.)

I admire Jeff Skilling because he is strong, though I suppose my intelligence is what enables me to see it.

I admire this other person because he is strong and brilliant and gorgeous and funny and he is the most Randian man I’ve ever known. I see this in him because it’s the only thing one can see when one looks at him.

Over the weekend I was listening to an interview with Dianne Middlebrook who wrote a book titled Her Husband about the Sylvia Plath-Ted Hughes marriage. The interviewer was asking about the fact that in Plath’s marriage particularly but in most marriages – then and now – no matter how successful Plath might have been, she needed to be able to look up to Hughes, as a father figure or mentor. “No matter how successful the woman is, she feels she’s got to be able to have a husband who is even more successful,” the interviewer says. Then she quotes from Sylvia’s journal: “To have such a man. To make him the best man the world has ever seen.”

Again, I identify with this. I think perhaps Sylvia recognizes something universal about women: though we’re independent women who are as self-directed as men, there is an instinct in us to follow.

Some women are good leaders. Sarah Palin, for instance, is a credible leader. But Carly Fiorina, the ousted CEO of HP? There was always something a little uncertain about her; I believe she was probably a fine executive, but not a fine leader.

Women, in general, don’t lead. We either follow or do our own thing. It is this way because our biology tells us to be this way.

Sylvia Plath recognized this. In the very early days of their marriage, she wrote in her journal that it was good and proper for Ted to have been published first – the obvious corallary there is it would have upset some male/female balance if she’d been more successful than he. And note that her wild creative period which produced the Ariel poems were written after she realized she no longer needed Ted Hughes and his “writing exercises”, to teach her how to write. The marriage fell apart when she finally realized that she was not just his equal, she might be his superior too.

Likewise, Rand’s characters are always self-directed, and even the strong women follow the men. Dagny Taggart, for instance, is clearly the one running the railroad in Atlas Shrugged. The men respect her. The railroad improves under her leadership. But that’s not the end of the story. In the novel, she says to her lover, Hank Rearden, that she would give up any role she’s ever played but she would not give up being his pet, an object for him to play with whenever he wanted.

Whatever conclusions we can draw about the fictional character, we know that even Rand saw room in the most ambitious characters for this instinct.

Thus, when he tells me that I am smarter than Jeff Skilling, or smarter than himself, it feels all wrong. It may be true, but by saying it, he’s putting a terrible burden on me to live up to it. My biology has not prepared me for that.


I’m going on vacation for a few days so my blog won’t be updated. Please don’t worry.

Have a great April.

Cara Ellison

Notebooks: Domestique

Death, erotic love, the midnight mind: clothes, rooms, doors. Teapots, copper cookers, the smell of Windex and Pledge, maps in the glove compartment of the car. The long line at the grocery store, rolling the cart over curbs of hard white snow to the car. Missed phone calls. Traffic. No makeup. The backyard white and bleak. The constant static of the ocean: the subtext of every conversation circling back to this life in Connecticut, meaning: not that life in New York. Bread. Maplewood burning in the fireplace. The place settings gleam in the recessed lighting. In laws. Dog tracks in the snow. Little hands, needy hands, hands of the clock. Warm socked feet under enormous puff comforter. Computers, projects, entrepreneurship, making our own foundation. Checking account. Conical time: it gets wider and better lit as it gets closer. Breakfast at the table, the baby’s hands like little starfish. Winter patterns, winter colors. Back kitchen windows black at six. Male patrols, setting alarms and doublechecking locks right before bed. Falling asleep with his body curled around mine like a small sea creature. Final act of love.

Urban Ballet

If you can watch this and not want to jump up, run outside and assemblé, jeté, entrechat, and cabriole like your life depended on it, you are a better person than I.

Dominatrix, Her Husband, And Several Attorneys Commit $50 Million Mortgage Fraud

So. Imagine you’re an average guy who likes to get whipped like a bitch and have your genitals mutilated. After an evening in the – I quote – “beautifully decorated and fully equipped private dungeon” – you arrive home refreshed (I suppose?) and discover that your trusty dominatrix isn’t quite finished fucking you.

Newsday reports that your dominatrix, her husband, and several lawyers have used your identity to be a straw buyer in a $50-million mortgage fraud.

I like the idea of a dominatrix conspiring with lawyers to commit fraud. It creates some very Tarantino-worthy images.

But if you’re the average guy? That’s a real kick in the nuts.

John Galt Quits AIG

If this doesn’t set you right about AIG, I don’t know what – if anything – will. It is a resignation letter from Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit, to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of AIG:

DEAR Mr. Liddy,

It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.

You and I have never met or spoken to each other, so I’d like to tell you about myself. I was raised by schoolteachers working multiple jobs in a world of closing steel mills. My hard work earned me acceptance to M.I.T., and the institute’s generous financial aid enabled me to attend. I had fulfilled my American dream.

I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. Most recently, during the dismantling of A.I.G.-F.P., I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to A.I.G.’s effort to repay the American taxpayer.

The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.

I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.

But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.

My guess is that in October, when you learned of these retention contracts, you realized that the employees of the financial products unit needed some incentive to stay and that the contracts, being both ethical and useful, should be left to stand. That’s probably why A.I.G. management assured us on three occasions during that month that the company would “live up to its commitment” to honor the contract guarantees.

That may be why you decided to accelerate by three months more than a quarter of the amounts due under the contracts. That action signified to us your support, and was hardly something that one would do if he truly found the contracts “distasteful.”

That may also be why you authorized the balance of the payments on March 13.

At no time during the past six months that you have been leading A.I.G. did you ask us to revise, renegotiate or break these contracts — until several hours before your appearance last week before Congress.

I think your initial decision to honor the contracts was both ethical and financially astute, but it seems to have been politically unwise. It’s now apparent that you either misunderstood the agreements that you had made — tacit or otherwise — with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, various members of Congress and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, or were not strong enough to withstand the shifting political winds.

You’ve now asked the current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. to repay these earnings. As you can imagine, there has been a tremendous amount of serious thought and heated discussion about how we should respond to this breach of trust.

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.’s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.

The only real motivation that anyone at A.I.G.-F.P. now has is fear. Mr. Cuomo has threatened to “name and shame,” and his counterpart in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, has made similar threats — even though attorneys general are supposed to stand for due process, to conduct trials in courts and not the press.

So what am I to do? There’s no easy answer. I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn’t disagree.

That is why I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.

On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.

This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear.

Mr. Liddy, I wish you success in your commitment to return the money extended by the American government, and luck with the continued unwinding of the company’s diverse businesses — especially those remaining credit default swaps. I’ll continue over the short term to help make sure no balls are dropped, but after what’s happened this past week I can’t remain much longer — there is too much bad blood. I’m not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least Attorney General Blumenthal should be relieved that I’ll leave under my own power and will not need to be “shoved out the door.”


Jake DeSantis

Holy pogosticks. If there are still men like this out there, there is hope for our nation and our freedom. Mr. DeSantis is a real-life John Galt. Perhaps because of the difficult financial times and the narrowing of our culture as Socialism casts its shadow over us, I seem to be hearing more of these stories of great businessmen who are carry with them the values of independence, capitalism, self-reliance, and achievement. These are the flickers of greatness – these stories, these men – are the reason America will endure.

The John Galts of our society should be admired (I certainly admire them). They should be given every freedom to accomplish their dreams. Without them, the rest of society is doomed … and they don’t even realize it. Yet.

It Takes A Law Student To Freeze Madoff's Assets

Oh, I love this:

A Brooklyn Law School student from Dix Hills got a court order Wednesday temporarily freezing the assets of Bernard Madoff’s younger brother, Peter, in connection with a nearly $500,000 inheritance allegedly lost in the massive Wall Street Ponzi scheme, according to court records.

In papers filed in Nassau County State Supreme Court, Andrew Ross Samuels, 22, alleged that a trust set up by his late grandfather, Martin Joel Jr., in which Peter Madoff was also a trustee, was wiped out in the Ponzi scheme carried out by Bernard Madoff.


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