Comments on America's Financial Crisis

Henry Paulson & Ben Bernanke testifying before Congress


This "compromise" is between Wall Street billionaires and their Washington lap dogs ONLY. Working Americans were not seriously represented at the bargaining table.
If you doubt this, just read their proposed bill.
But because the election is approaching, we little guys can stop the bailout at least temporarily. This is one of those increasingly rare cases where democracy really will work.
Contact your Senators and Congressmen and tell them to vote NO on the bailout, or you won't vote for them on November 4th.
Future generations will thank you.
Do it for your children and grandchildren.
— B. Mull, Irvine, CA

Bailout shreds our first principles of equality and fair play. The innocent of limited means are to repair the greed and recklessness of the perpetrators, many of whom possess staggering wealth. If anything trumps the notion that some institutions are "too big to fail," it ought to be that some principles are too basic to be pushed aside.
— EW, Tucker, GA

I see a similarity between Iraq and WMD and the Fed and Toxic assets.
The only thing we learn from history, I am afraid, is that we do not learn from history.
The very people who have spent the past several years assuring us that the economy is fundamentally sound, and who themselves foolishly cheered the extension of all these novel kinds of mortgages, are the ones who now claim to be the experts who will restore prosperity!
Just how spectacularly wrong, how utterly without a clue, does someone have to be before his expert status is called into question?
Shoot down the bailout. Seize their assets, liquidate the malinvestments and throw them in jail.
I promise my vote to either party that stops this from happening.
The fed must be relieved of duty for either dereliction of duty or treason and be brought up on charges and fired.
Eliminate the federal reserve.
Let interest rates self-adjust.
It will be a tough year or two, better than a decades long international global financial collapse.
— Earl E, The City Time Forgot

1. What the U.S. economy needs is a recession. Historically, recession has been the best medicine to cure the excesses of an overheated economy, especially following a bubble. If the weak, the reckless are not weeded out then the next rescue package will be even bigger. A financial package in an effort to stamp out an upcoming depression is fine, even though I don't it will work. But it should not try to smooth over the natural selection process of the capitalist system.
2. Ultimately I don't believe the rescue package will achieve its intended goal. After a short period of false cheer, the reality will sink in -- when the Chinese and Japanese are forced to face the reality that they are holding a few trillion of worthless paper, the dollar, U.S. stock market, and U.S. interest rate will crash in a spectacular fashion as to make Japan's "lost decade" look benign.
3. Hank Paulson should not preside over the implementation of this bailout. He needs to resign after (a) being incorrect in every government intervention so far this year (b) arrogantly demanding monarch-like power in his initial request 2 weeks ago. This is absolutely not acceptable in a democracy (if people still value such quaint concept). (c) His obvious confliect of interest as former CEO of GS must be explored and exposed. Any judge in much more vague connection will have long since recused himself.
— Harry Huang, Philadelphia

The bill is a big fake. Current CEOs are to keep their golden parachutes, oversight is limited to the 'old boys network' and everything else in it is not even close to give the tax payer any insurance or hope of recovery.
Most Americans would rather accept some hardships to clean WallStreet instead of having to pay a truly unbelievable amount of money to those who created the problems in the first place - remember - even with the 'bail out' there are no guarantees that everything will turn out 'just fine' and it won't. Next up are the worthless credit card debts, our completely old-fashioned and almost dysfunctional automobile industries - all in need for a 'bail out'. We are already unable to maintain international levels in science, our infrastructure, roads, bridges, power lines are crumbling. What has happened to our country? We used to be strong, proud, we used to take on problems with determination. We used to have politicians we can trust - all our pride, all our self respect, our philosophies and our strength - all gone? All abandoned to support greed and big business?
What we should do is - help our country. Tell those politicians in DC and in your State that we won't play that game anymore. I will shift my support to Ralph Nader. Vote green and send a message to Democrats and Republicans.
Folks - we're just experiencing the beginning of the end. Main street is being sold out to the highest loser.
— Ela, Texas

Looks like the Titanic's about to get a really expensive deck chair.
— Kevin, San Francisco

I can not believe this is actually happening; I'm just sick to my stomach that this, George W Bush's White House, is getting in one more sucker punch to the Citizens of this nation when we thought we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
When President Carter called this "the most corrupt administration in the history of the nation" he had just come from post Katrina New Orleans where he picked up the phrase. It was common to our speech long before, having dealt with cronys stealing the clean up money ect.
This is just more of the same. Subprime was a national Katrina and this administration ignored it until it came to this- one last cash grab on the way out the door. A homeless, ruined middle class means nothing as long as the vultures stay well fed.
— missbike, New Orleans

Its the derivatives, not the mortgages.
The US already has 6 trillion owned and guaranteed in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of the 12 trillion US mortgage market. More with AIG and WaMu.
The companies and hedge funds that sold insurance on mortgage insurance are the black hole where this bailout money is going.
— Matt, Portland, Oregon

In a rush to spend money, Congress has done a horrible job of explaining to the American citizenry specifically WHAT companies are having difficulty securing credit right now, and I've not yet seen ONE executive from a company come forward to say they are having a difficult time getting credit for their company.
If this has happened, it sure isn't getting much coverage. All I'm seeing is Congress rolling over and believing the Executive Branch yet again without doing its homework, and being told how the financial markets will collapse if they don't act now, now, now. (Does any of this sound familiar?)
Congress will pass a bill, and the American public will hate them for it. Expect a revolution in November that will unseat a lot of Representatives and Senators, and shake many who thought they were safe.America is a shadow of its former self, and we have only ourselves to blame for not paying attention and forcing our government to be accountable and do its job. Shame on us all.
— Gregg, San Francisco

This bill could have been written under Henry VIII. It is overly complicated and misses the chance to correct predatory lending practices by allowing the government to renegotiate individual mortgages on fair terms (e.g., saving people from sudden balloon payments or unreasonable rate adjustments). Section 119 (b) (1) "Treatment of homeowner's rights," actually enforces the "rights" of contract holders not to re-negotiate, since it says "The terms of any residential mortgage loan that is part of any purchase by the Secretary . . . shall remain subject to all claims and defenses"--an open invitation to endless lawsuits.
— Charles Ross, Battle Ground, Indiana

Executive pay limits continued to be "a concern for Mr. Paulson, who worried about discouraging firms from participating in the rescue plan" -- Paulson has been consistent in pushing this point. But it can't be right. How can any responsible board of directors allow a financial institution to fail to save itself from the credit crisis because its CEO wouldn't accept a pay limitation?!
— pechmerle, California

Notwithstanding the essentially cosmetic items that have been included since McCain’s intervention last Thursday, this deal is simply very bad news for America and the American taxpayer and will do nothing to assure Americans that they are not being subjected to the most outrageous scam ever.
Why should Americans be forced to dig into their own pockets that the fat cats have been cleaning out for years to bail out the already over bloated fat cats?
Why should working Americans be held liable for this bottomless pit that will eventually cost them trillions of dollars in extra taxes?
Why is there no attempt to confiscate from the fat cats the loot that they have accumulated over the past fifteen years and more and use it instead of fleecing working Americans?
The reason is simple: Our so called politicians from both sides of the aisle serve not the interests of the American people but the interests of the powerful vested interests.
Indeed the most remarkable thing to observe over the past week is the weakness and lack of any moral backbone in our politicians as they meekly followed orders from Paulson and the rest of Bush’s henchmen.
— Mike Strike, Boston

All I have to say is this; I will actively campaign against anyone who votes for this abuse of taxpayers’ money. If the votes are not by roll call, than I will work diligently against any incumbent. I pledge this not just for this year nor in my own State nor my own party, but until everyone involved is removed from office. If possible I will work for their impeachment and conviction on abuse of power and embezzlement by statute.
I believe there was a man called Robin Hood who took it into his own to redistribute the taxes appropriated by questionable authority; I ‘d hate to think that we have gotten to that point with an elected (vs. aristocratic) government.
— kjm1102, slc, utah

I think this is the biggest act of theft in world history, and far and away the most irresponsible and corrupt thing that Congress has ever done. I'm so angry about it I can barely contain my rage. Suffice to say that if this goes through I will never, ever vote for either a Democrat or Republican again, no matter what.
In particular I am quite disturbed that virtually no professional economists were invited to comment and testify on it, or appear to have been involved in planning it. And I have to point out that virtually all of the people involved, including those in Congress who are voting on it, are millionaires who have major investments in the markets. Especially Pelosi, who appears to be the ringleader. They all stand to make major fortunes off of this, millions and maybe billions. Paulson in particular. I've heard he owns like $600 million in Goldman Sachs stock alone. So if the stock goes up he stands to make an enormous fortune, possibly a billion or more. It's beyond disgusting that someone so intimately connected to Wall Street should be involved in deciding what to do.
This won't improve things. On the contrary, it will make them worse. Much worse. Public opinion is overwhelmingly against it, and it is beyond scandalous that this will pass despite all of the opposition. This truly marks the end of American democracy. A sad day indeed.
— mike, Los Angeles

I have one question: If the government is too "broke" to finance Medicare and Social Security, where is the money coming from to bailout Wall Street at the expense of workers?
— John Jaros, Philadelphia, PA

My husband and I refuse to allow our federal taxes to be used for the bailout of a bunch of greedy bankers. Next filing season, we will pay our state and local taxes, but we will not file a federal return. This is not the first time we've had to save their behinds and it surely won't be the last. Our decision is final. As for the rest of you taxpayers, it's your call. Our votes mean nothing anymore.
— Heather, Milwaukee

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul.”
This then is the task for America; no less that to reclaim its soul. But, where to start, and under whose direction? Seems to me that you need a leader. Another Lincoln or Kennedy perhaps? But where to find them? On Oprah? 'Idol' perhaps? Or 'Survivor'? Get real folks - the fantasy is over.
— Robert, Melbourne

I cant help but look at the reaction of the market during all this and think that they're acting like willful, spoiled children: if they dont get their money, they're going to make financial life miserable for everyone. The fact that Congress wanted to think about this before just lobbing money at them caused Wall Street to drop a few hundred points -- which strikes me as the kind of short-term, me-first thinking that got the investment houses into this kind of mess in the first place. I'm sure that, even now, we're looking at two inevitabilities: (1) 700 billion wont be enough (Has Congress ever passed a financial package that stayed on budget?) and (2) the entire sum will be gone by Christmas, at which point we'll be back to where we are right now.
— Sean Martin, Mebane, NC

Has the time come to haul the US flag on the New York Stock Exchange down and replace it with a white one?
— Listohan, Sydney Australia

If this passes, America will be having its turkey early this year. The bill only gives us borrowed time because politicians don't want to make the hard decisions like living within their means. Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around between DC and Wall St, but throwing good borrowed money at this problem will not solve it. The politicians will have to learn to say no.
— Tom Paine, Windham, NH

hope that people understand what brought us here. It began with deregulation of the industry (compliments of Pres. Clinton) and congressional oversight of Fannie, Freddie and the banking industry (chaired by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Christopher Dodd...both liberal Democrats). The result of this fine mess was the granting of many, many variable interest loans to low income recipients who had no chance of repaying them.
Therefore, pointing fingers at Bush is simply pointless at this point.
— Jason B., Massachusetts

I would like to hear President Bush and the many member of congress who embraced the free-for-all deregulation that got us into this mess apologize to the American people. We elect them all in good faith to represent our interests but their oversight was irresponsibly driven by the special interests of high rolling financiers. I'm not impressed by the lip service they give to "saving main-street." We are long overdue for a major priority shift that values and rewards the hard work of average citizens struggling to make ends meet each month.
— JMS, New Mexico

This crisis is already hitting Main Street. My friend owns a small manufacturing firm in Chicago. He needs to buy a new machine to increase sales, so that he can fight rising input costs. A month ago, he could have walked into a bank and gotten the loan - now no one will lend to him. He's a respected businessman with great credit and collateral. Now instead of buying the machine, he has to lay off three of his workers. This is just the start.
— JC, CJ

Something is bothering me today.....With the banking industry now consolidated into 3 behemoth institutions - who is left to sell these assets to the Treasury? Seriously - what percentage of the toxic assets are now concentrated with JPMorgan, BofA and Citi? If they are so sound as to be able to take on all the problems of Merryll, WaMu and now Wachovia - do they even need this bailout? Something is not right here.
— Morgan, New York

Does any commentator, economist or the like think the the bail out plan coupled with low interest rates could be a catalyst for hyper inflation? Obviously, it won't have the same effect as printing money (which I presume the gov't would not even dream of doing), but wouldn't it have similar effects? The administration and Congress together are failing the American public. Nobody has come out and tried to explain in coherent terms why the bail out plan is the best alternative. The bill has failed b/c our government has treated the people like a bunch of morons. Don't just tell us "something has to be done." If you can't explain why the current plan is the best alternative, then, perhaps at the risk of worst case scenario, they should consider different alternatives. The last time this administration forced us into doing something for the sake of doing something, our troops got stuck in the Iraq quagmire.
— rlee, New York

People are reacting as if this doesn't impact them--it's insane that some people think that Wall St. needs to bail itself out...it's not about Wall St. it's about all of us. The credit markets are frozen, no money is being loaned, how do you expect the market to self-correct under these conditions?
— tina, boston

Consider that there may be some voters, like myself, who understand that a correction, driven by the government, is necessary. Consider that those same people may simply reject the methodology that his bailout represents. How can we be so irresponsible as to give over this sum of money to people who have proven themselves incapable of properly managin their own finances? What do you think they will do with free money from the taxpayers? Why have we not heard ANYTHING about jumpstarting the economy and securing jobs through government civic works projects like those that saved our grandparents from starvation 70 year ago? If the diseased banks are going to die, let them. There are other ways to help America than corporate and financier handouts.
— Michael, Chicago

When the populism of " class warfare" runs its overheated course, the average person or business will find, literally overnight, that their access to credit or capital is gone. Lives balanced by moving around debt will go into free fall. Companies will fire older employees, contract, and slash benefits. Leisure expenditures and luxuries will disappear as cash in pocket will be the only source of purchase. Millions will forgo homeownership, second cars, and college as the prospects for jobs after graduation will decrease. So, while the commentaries today are filled with passion, the other shoe is about to drop. Listen carefully to the Treasury and the Fed. As we contract, the Chinese will suffer as well and servicing our debt will no longer be so attractive in the world. Be careful what you are wishing for.....
— Jlevine, Northampton Mass and Quebec

someone please explain why we cant follow the sweden example? It seems so simple...
— Fred, LA

I've been following this with some rigor, but I'm still confused: What's the goal? Free up credit? Get cash out there? Are there other ways of doing this that don't reward stupidity and greed? Where can we find some sort of comprehensive ideas on how to deal with this situation? Is there any way we can get better ideas out there and get a groundswell going for them?And, has anyone thought about taking $700 billion and putting it into our infrastructure? That would get money out there, and the American people would actually have something to show for it! Would this fulfill the goal (remember I don't know what it is), even if NOT rescuing those dudes from their toxic debt?
— Francis, Brooklyn

House Rejects Bailout Package


Shit, and we need a car loan in the next few weeks. Looks like it's hitchhiking and Segways for us!

Somehow, even as the Empire falls, I just wanna go buy a big-ass TV while I stil have money left. 'Cause with the end nigh, few things seem as important as watching "Mad Men" in high-def.

I'm opening up an apple stand down here near Wall Street. If anyone wants help me diversify into pencil sales, I can be reached at howardroarklaughed@holyshitimfucked.com

This is great news. The bailout is a bad idea. Unless you fancy paying $5 for a roll of toilet paper because of hyperinflation (which would be a result of dumping $700 billion worth of monopoly money into the economy).
Listen to Peter Schiff, people. He's been right all along.

And who were the 2 fucks who didn't vote? I wanna know, dammit, so that I can deduct your salary from my taxes.

By the way, I'd like to report on a little unforseen effect of all this incredible financial idiocy south of the border.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's boneheaded and relatively useless Conservative party is going to get re-elected because while other parties staked certain campaign promises on advancing technologies and improving the environment, Harper's Conservatives have now sat back and are terrifying people with "well, world finances are in the shit, do we REALLY want to advance into the future? Why don't you just cower back into your safe, stupid little Canadian cages."
Which of course, we're doing. By the fucking crateful. So thanks America, I'm chalking up our inevitable new government of shitty, inbred, power crazy Conservatives to you.
We used to be a good country before we started getting Fox news. We're on the decline now. So Americans who thought Canada might be a good place to escape to - just fucking pack it in for Brazil.
-Pope John Peeps II

I don't know if I should be relieved that I have no money to lose or depressed that I graduated (May '08) into the worst economy since the depression.
Law school is looking pretty damn good right about now.

Saying no to the extortion, they cast the right vote, folks.
Giving the private, unconstitutional Federal Reserve and their Wall Street/international banking patrons even more ungoverned control over the economy they've handled oh-so-wonderfully to date is not the move, to say the very least.
Meanwhile, Hanky has already handed out more than $900 billion of your money to banks in the last week or so anyway, according to Reuters--because, hello, they do whatever they want pretty much regardless. They're just trying to get rid of what little remaining limitation exists on their self-dealing consolidation efforts.
Meanwhile, the new annual military budget is over a trillion dollars, half of our GDP.
Feel safer?
Well, what's a little more looting of the country in the last few months of the Bush administration?

I've decided to run for office. My campaign slogan:
"Seriously, could I fuck this up any more?"

Seriously: The bailout should include the following provisions.
No one at the banks may derive profit from having taken part in kleptocratic lending. The people who are in default will get some time to get back on their feet--6 months, a year. CEOs of said companies will forfeit all salary from this year, and turn over any stock and options, as partial restitution for their irresponsibility.
Paulson and Bernanke will step down once the deal is brokered.
Bush and Cheney will resign, once they have accepted resignations from the two public officials named above.
I did that in 30 second. How fucking hard can it really be?

Ted Kopple is on NPR right now talking about how the Chinese are about to start buying things up all over Wall Street.

I work for a nonprofit and upper management is shitting their pants right now. Ah to have dimished hope. AND I JUST BOUGHT A CAR!!!! FUCK!!!!!!

Can't we just sell Bush to the Chinese? I'm sure we could get a good $25,000. It's a start!

Dear Congress: If $700bln roughly translates to $400,000.00 per person in this country, and it's taxpayer money anyway, just give us our $400,000.00. We know what to do. kthxbai.

So I live on "Main Street", make $30,000 a year (before taxes! yay social work), rent, lease my car, and have a little bit squirreled away in a savings account. I'm in no worse shape then before,right? Wow, I never thought I'd be so happy to be poor.

Ok, seriously, fuckity-fuck-fuck. I am currently unemployed and have $119,000 in student loans and about $7000 in credit card debt. Yeah, I know people, the credit card debt is stupid. But seriously, am I going to be looking for a cardboard box soon? Am I glad this bill didn't pass? Please help the totally clueless.

Pareene brought up the fact that mess will be heaped on President Obama. Yes, it will. And I guarantee that today at least one Republican biggie turned to another and said "let the n****r clean this up. That's what they're good for."
As the American financial system spits its last breath, let it be in the face of the first black president. I'm positive that a LOT of Wall Street thinking today has been along those lines. Oh well. This will take care of Obama. He'll have four useless years and leave office in disgrace. And then we'll get the White HOuse back.
-Weegees bored

And make no mistake about it: there have been major crimes committed leading into this mess, and a major facet of the bailout legislation is de facto retroactive immunity for the most prominent "perpetraitors."
In other words, no investigations, no jail--just gives us a $700 billion broom and we're gonna sweep this up behind closed doors, thank you.

And, an artist friend of mine with almost no income and a terrible credit rating was on the phone with Chase yesterday as she was having trouble accessing their website to make her bill payments.
The Chase rep told her that they had pre-approved her for a new credit card.

I'm sorry did something happen today?

Who Set Your Money on Fire?


Welcome to October! You just witnessed the tip of the iceberg or the global warming of the fabric of America. We are just putting the finger in the dyke but the stupid ice caps keep producing more water. Enjoy pointing fingers and getting elected. Don't get distracted by lightning rods or ignorance. Not much of it will matter in the months ahead. Just don't make any major purchases and learn to live with less. This is the end of an era of mass consumption as we forgot what we do best, produce. We got sucker punched into chasing funny money. We all thought that is what we needed to do with our cheerleader in charge sounding the mating call. Now everyone is angry. Angry at ourselves, Scared for our future. We deserve it, we decided to go to sleep when we needed to be on watch and our lunchbox was stolen from us.
Jim Cramer's Sorry


Things you kids will want to know in the next few months:
1) You cannot cook a can of soup by putting the whole un-open can in the fire. The can will explode, possibly in a way entirely undesirable to you, especially since there won't be any doctors willing to take care of you if you can't pay up front.
2) Assume the locals are armed. When you are making your way from shantytown to shantytown assume that those who are there already are fortified and willing to defend themselves against any perceived threat. Be non-threatening and deferential. This especially applies to farmers and their attractive daughters/wives/sons/livestock.
3) Enforced deprevation of material wealth is not the same as surrendering an attachment to the material world. Being poor is neither enlightening nor broadening. This will suck.
The Bank Holiday

Two Christmases ago, I ended up in my bedroom closet, curled in a ball, as my father yelled at me through my bedroom door. My mother later treated me to a lecture on how I was breaking my father's heart. And they wonder why I refuse their offers to move home permanently.
Sweet Baby Jeebus, don't let the economy get so bad that I have to move back in with my parents. I don't think my horribly expensive health insurance transfers to their state, and that means I'd be sent to a state loony bin when I have a psychotic break after having to listen to my mother talk about the cats and/or nothing for five hours straight.

We're all in this together until you try to snatch the last can of tomato soup off of the rack right in front of me. Then I cut you. I cut you fuckin' deep.

The rent parties concept is a bit spurious... Even if you live all the way out in Brooklyn, rent is at least $1200, and you can't possibly fit more than 25 or so people in a New York apartment...So what kind of idiot would pay $50 to drink cheap liquor at someone's crowded apartment? Oh, it was a joke? Sorry...my bad.

Guide to Your Recession

This is one of those office e-mails, but, um, it fits:
If you had purchased $1,000 of AIG stock one year ago, you would have $42 left.
With Lehman, you would have $6.60 left.
With Fannie or Freddie, you would have less than $5 left.
But if you had purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have had $214.
Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.
It's called the 401-Keg
New Great Depression Stories

You know, I get AIG's argument that it's a different branch of their company that's going on these trips and blah blah blah, but it still looks bad and there's a lot of people who won't understand that. For them to stand there and be like, "No, we're going to continue to have these trips and do business as usual and, oh, can we have another $35 billion dollars?" is so insane. It's right up there with "Let them eat cake." Actually, that's a pretty good analogy. Marie Antoinette was not responsible for the crushing debt and famine, her spending didn't help, but it certainly wasn't the cause, but she was all showy and clueless about public perception and look where that got her. So it's like, yeah, AIG, keep making sure your execs get flown to the Ritz to get pedicures while people are getting laid off all over the place. No one's going to start throwing bricks through your windows or punching people in the face at the company gym or anything.
Angry About AIG


Is it just my realization or are our universities printing advanced business degrees as licenses to steal? Pearlstein's explanation seems like a description of a New Yorker cartoon as a couple of guys at a Manhattan bar discuss how to peel a buck from their client's pocket. It seems as though most big advances in the stock market are scams; in the early nineties it was savings and loans, early in this decade, dot com. Wall Streeters are schemers and behave like alchemists to devise ways to grow two dollars from one, tack on their fees and watch from the back of the wagon as the towns people dig in their pants for a crumpled buck to buy the latest magic potion. The sad part of it is many of us who shepard our dollars, stand aside and pay, yet again, to pull people from the brink. I used to think those elected and otherwise powerful and wealthy individuals in well paying positions were smarter than me and that's why they were there, now I realize that they are just as clueless as the rest of us, are dishonest and motivated by greed.

Great article. I even understand the general concept of tranchs. Similar to tinker bell but believed by adults.
Now, how does one who bought a small house, drives an old car, buys only what he can afford, shelter his modest savings from the storm now breaking?

"This may not be 1929
True, it may be worse. Once this is set in motion, it can't be stopped. Deflation is ahead, and that is the worst scenario for the US. I can't help but notice a lot of officials (fed, banks, etc) are starting to take great interest in how 1929 and the 1930s progressed. Lots of questions on what happened, how did they react, etc.
I've been around awhile, I've never seen so many people asking these types of questions

Actually this crisis more than just resembles 1929. The parallels are uncanny and exact.
I recall my grandfather, he was a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, explained how the great depression happened and his explanation was easy to follow. First there was a bubble in stocks, then a spreading liquidity crisis, then a recession and job losses, then people who could not pay on their mortgages lost their homes and just "walked away" from mortgages with balances greater than the reduced value of their homes. Liquidity froze as banks failed. A deflationary spiral set in as the money supply contracted.
George Bush is doing a pretty good imitation of Herbert Hoover failure to take decisive action.

...find out who made money during this debacle then tell Cookie to get a rope... -dwinrow

Pretty good article. Lays out some of the basics very well. I think it clearly explains how the responsible risk was restructured.
I wonder more about peoples comments than the article. Why do people keep insisting we didn't see this coming (with we meaning the government). I started working toward selling my house as soon as the recent bankruptcy reform was passed. Both that and the current bailout are band-aids designed to slow the crash. They won't stop the crash. Some people may foolishly track each blip up and down of the stock market and housing sales and argue day to day what comes next. Take a longer term view and it becomes obvious.The government (the Fed, Bush and company, etc.) saw this coming, a number of individuals saw this coming. You all have choices. Stick your head in the sand and believe the stock market and real-estate can continue to rise indefinitely if you want. Please do, in fact. I have been making more money off of your mistakes than at my full time job.

It's Not 1929, but...


It was pure greed, based on exploitation. (Some subprime lending) is just the same as organized crime.
-Frank Jackson, Mayor of Cleveland


Lets not forget that these are the people who voted for Bush and have benefitted enormously from his tax cuts. They had a big role in creating this whole mess. They made their bed and now they have to lie in it. I'm not going to feel too much sympathy for them, since it's still a much more comfortable bed than most of us will ever have. -hummingpenguin

This reminds me of a great line from the film In the Heat of The Night:
"I got used to better." -Lysergic Asset

@souplines: As a, now former, small business owner (perhaps again in the future, let's see), I can tell you, small businesses are taxed extremely unfairly. It is often more advantageous, from a tax and insurance standpoint, for the owner of a business to take on more work personally than hire people to do said work. Likewise, it is more advantageous to take out lines of credit, or to lease equipment, than it is to pay COD or purchase goods outright.

The net effect of this is that it often makes more sense for the owner of a business to keep money out of the economy than it is to put that money back into the economy.

I won't give the Republicans much, but I will give them this. Republican tax policies favor small businesses far more than Democratic policies. Back in '02 Bush tried to push a comprehensive small business tax reform package through congress. A package that would have roughly tripled the amount I could write off in capital expenditures. The then Democratic Senate killed the legislation. The immediate result of this for me was that I just didn't make those capital improvements. Thus keeping approximately $50k out of my local economy. That's just one example from one year, there are many others.

Now, this doesn't mean my vote is going to McCain (no fucking way), but it does mean I have to somewhat vote against my own economic interests as a potential employer of people.

Don't pile onto someone who wants to start a business that employs people. We small business people take our responsibility as employers very seriously, but a business is not a charity, we have to have incentives to put people on payroll, and too often the Democrats have taken the small business community and our needs for granted. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect it has to do with some built-in left wing biases that view all businesses large or small as being roughly the same from a moral standpoint, an unfortunate and patently untrue generalization.

@lionel-mandrake: This is not piling on. When confronted with the truth of an anemic economy, don't blame tax policy. Warren Buffet pays less tax percentage wise than the woman who cleans the bathrooms. This is an unjust and unfair policy that has done nothing to increase value or savings for this country. You cannot believe at this point that supply side economics (or voodoo) as it was called by Bush 1 has had a positive effect on the economy. There is more poverty and richer people in the world right now than ever and this inbalance has toppled the economy. Taxes spent correctly create jobs by building bridges, infrastructure. Plus they keep you safe and educated. Oh yes and by the way I do have a small business that employs 25 people. Do not lecture me on your right wing ideology. You had 25 years to prove supply-side and neo-conservatism. Now we are paying the price for your destruction. This is not left-wing as you call it but common sense. You cannot pay for a war with a credit card. -souplines

@souplines: Hey Jackass, read my other posts, I'm about as far from right wing as you can get.

I wasn't advocating supply-side economics, only making the point that on this one particular issue, the Democrats are often not responsive.

That's all.

Lordy, you are fucking nut-job. -lionel-mandrake

Wall Street Wives


@AMetamorphosis: Actually, no, this is bad. Do you honestly think that the higher-ups, the ones making all the money, will feel any of this? No, it'll be everyday working people that get canned, and then can't pay their mortgage, end up getting foreclosed on, losing their family, and having to eat out of the McDonalds dumpsters (and McDonalds won't even give them water anymore). Meanwhile your house plummets in value since they happened to be your neighbor, a gang occupies the house, and there's a drive-by shooting every other day. -howie_in_az

@howie_in_az: That is why I will be trying to buy any holiday presents I do buy from individuals or smaller businesses. That way I feel like I am more directly doing something to help someone else rather than help some CEO pay for his house in the Caymans. -bohemian

The signs have been there for a long time. Party's over,time to pay the piper.
This will be good for some folks...Folks that have lived within their means,saved and invested (not gambled,invested)and generally not gone overboard with a bunch of rapidly depreciating consumer toys. Those people will do fine.
Some however...Well, live by the easy payment plan,die by the easy payment plan. I take no joy in what's about to happen to these people.There is going to be some real pain and heartache. Broken marriages,split families,alcoholism,etc. But...
But. Some have been warning for years that our government and their citizens are overextended.Credit has been too easy. Credit card pushers and the 200 channel 24/7 wishbook that people stare at every day has sold them a bill of goods.You don't build welth this way. Deep down inside,I think everyone knew it was a mirage,that the whole "boom" we saw was just borrowed prosperity.Now ,it's the morning after and we feel kinda queasy. -Snarkysnake

I'm just glad credit card companies will be forced to appreciate people who pay off their balances each month. They're getting their come uppance for calling people who pay in full "deadbeats" for all these years. Really, when something's that broke, this kind of thing is inevitable. -stevejust

If they could only fathom giving people good interest rates and only giving a moderate amount of credit to consumers they wouldn't have people defaulting at this rate. Lower the interest and people can pay, it's pretty simple really. Instead they charge 30 dollar late fees and over credit limit fees and jack the interest rates up sky high. If you are late making one payment what makes them think they are helping you by charging a late fee and then raising the rates? They are simply trying to make their money off you as quickly as possible and then when you go into full default they can write you off on their taxes as they destroy your credit. -Gokuhouse

I won't lie... there was a time in our lives where we needed our credit cards. I was ill, not working, his car broke down, I lost my job, etc. But we did everything in our power to keep our cards from defaulting, even if that meant asking the parents for help, and now we've cut all of our cards up and I'm in the process of snowballing the debts. It'll take a while, but we'll get there. -citnos

Consumers Have Thrown in the Towel


Maybe the Time: Person of the Year can be, "The 600 We laid off who are forced to feed their children Fancy Feast and their fellow wives who've had to become hookers."
But in all honestly this is getting sad. 1,500 are going to be laid off at Yahoo, I heard Hearst is about to get ready and lay off some more... I watched something about a 20-30% unemployment rate in our country over the next year to 18 months. It's looking pretty legit... pretty legit. -mishappenstance

Not to put too fine a point on it, Ryan, but I would like to suggest that being laid off is a "shave" when it happens to someone else, and a fucking "amputation" of your most precious bodily parts when it happens to one's self. -The Warrior-Poet


Good Fucking Times! Keep these heart-warming vignettes coming.
Excuse me while I reach to my deck-side gun rack and contemplate living. -ElvisWorley

I stayed late every day for two weeks working on reports for my boss to justify his job and our department. After all that, my boss came in one morning beaming and telling everyone how he single-handedly saved our department, and how it was going to be smooth sailing from here on out.
Later that day he got rid of me and a few other people. I was really tempted to delete every file on my computer so he and his BRAND NEW assistant couldn't get their grubby hands on all my work. -ohthisoldthing

@Our Lady of the Massacre: I am sorry to say that on at least one occasion that (usually) idle threat was carried out. I was the temp who came in soon after the disguntled ex-employee wiped all the sales information for the past two years, and that means I was the one who had to try to recreate the data from bits and pieces of old sales reports, receipts and so forth. The point is, you never hurt "the company" when you do sabotage, you just pass along a shitload of worry onto someone else even lower than yourself on the food chain.
Not to get all advicey here, but there may well be a time when you will need someone at that old job for a reference, or (given the way most industries work) you'll find yourself employed at a new firm next to one of your former colleagues. Do you really want to go down in history as"the guy who erased the hard drive?"
(PS: this is one of the reasons people are terminated and then have only an hour or so to clear the premises, to avert this kind of childish revenge.) -La Cieca

@ohthisoldthing: Yeah, when I got laid off, I wanted to just change the project folder of what I was working on to "r:/gofuckyourself." That would have been awesome. -idratherbesailing

Something similar to the second story happened at my ad agency.
They fired 15 people, and the next day had a meeting to discuss the new departmental structure. Someone noticed that a coworker wasn't on the list (she was in the middle of a week-long vacation), and asked "what about so-and-so?"
The silence was deafening as they tried to avoid saying that she'd be fired the minute she walked in the door. -BaconBits

I am going to regret typing this but I almost wouldn't mind getting laid off. I'm so close to burn-out in my current job and I have very little free time to search for a new one. But I should be grateful for what I still have. :-/ -Our Lady of the Massacre

@Our Lady of the Massacre: The division president, HR supervisor and various other important-looking people have shown up at our office today. I'm somewhere between hope and dread right now. -Triphena

@Our Lady of the Massacre: You're going to regret typing that. I've been searching for four months, and it's a full time job, one that's much lonelier and scarier than my last, hellish, 70-hours-a-week stint. I've had four interviews in the last week and still worry ... I even learned how to bake my own bread, and I console myself when the groceries look meager that if I lose ten pounds, I'll be ready for the pole. -SylviaPlathWasFramed

@Triphena: They're checking your websurfing habits and reading your comments right now. -it takes a lot to laugh

@steveholtsmother: I had to go to a "career counseling" session at the Unemployment Office, and it was soooo depressing. The room was full of people that clearly hadn't had to look for a job in years and years, with graduate degrees and all, and the woman running the session tried to encourage people by saying that Target and Kmart are hiring for the holiday season. -ohthisoldthing

My hubby is a graphic designer and was tasked with making the "death chart"--a family tree of who worked for whom in what department of a majorly huge company, complete with ID card photos, so that the two Bobs they hired to trim the fat could have an easier go of it. The chart wrapped around three walls of a huge conference room. I told him to leave his name and face off of there, if they don't know you work there they can't fire you, right? -misslinda

I started my career in the early 90s, during the dot com boom. I'd join a start up, and about a year later they'd run out of money and lay everyone off. It went on like that until the dot com bust in 2001, which was basically a huge cull of useless companies and barely-qualified employees. There is a true art to layoffs, both on the part of the employer and the employees.

My rules for employment are thus:
- Never bring anything personal into the office that is larger than your handbag.
- Listen to the company announcements and start removing personal files from your computer as soon as you get a whiff of losses.
- Be honest about how valuable you are to the company. If there are other people with the same job role as you, know that the most ass kissy, cheapest, or hardest-working person will survive.
- If your boss doesn't like you (and vice versa), kiss your ass goodbye.
- Volunteer to be laid off if you want to move on. Then ask for a decent severance. You'll get it.
- Never, ever drink the Cool-Aid that is "company loyalty". The company is only loyal to its stakeholders. -Rosweeta

@Rosweeta: I've been around that same dotcom block too many times too. Now I work for myself from home doing the same stuff I did before but I split up the work by doing it for three to four different companies.
One slashed my workload in half but that means I'm still secure with 87% of my income. I'm on my husband's insurance so I'm the cheapest option some of them have. -ouiserboudreaux

@Rosweeta: right servicey of you! i would add: don't accept stock as a substitute for compensation from most start-ups. -thatgirlinnewyork

@thatgirlinnewyork: Oooh, ya, I forgot that one! Bought my stock options at $15/share and still have them - they're now worth $2.50/share. -Rosweeta

Actual story: Called into the boss' office one morning.
"I'm sorry to hear that you have decided to pursue other opportunities."
Me: "I have?"
"Yes. You have." -Truculent

Layoff Stories


Were it not for the fact that I systematically and regularly break numerous drug laws, I'd possibly go into one of two true, recession-proof industries - either political office or law enforcement. -overunderover

Compared to Japan and Europe, America is still way behind the automation process and shedding administrative jobs.
You go to any grocery store, coffee shop, or even some clothing stores in Japan and it is completely self service and you just pay on your own on your way out. (They do have employees monitoring the situation.) I guess that wouldn't work here since most Americans are hardened criminals. -Master_of_Ceremonies

Are we at the point in this economic deathspiral where it's cool to start stealing shit? -Sarcastro

I think the sounds of staplers, pens, and paper clips rattling in people's purses and backpacks is pretty much a given at this point. I'm just worried about the copier. How do you steal a copier? -steveholtsmother

@steveholtsmother: If there's no actual boss in the office--just a bunch of disgruntled, unpaid worker bees, some of whom are actually living in the live-work loft/office, because they can't afford an apt, not having been paid for weeks--you advertise it on Craigslist, take the $$$ when a dude shows up, and let him wheel it across the carpet and down into the elevator. heh. -piequeen

A bunch of years ago, I used to work for a subsidiary of a major music company (name rhymes with Bony) and things were starting to get bad in the industry. But our office managed to avoid several rounds of lay-offs, so we thought we were safe. Anywho, I go on vacation and my buddy calls me and tells me a bunch of people were laid off. "Aw, that sucks." I said. Then he went on, "I think you're going to get laid off too." "Whaaaaa?" I said. "Yeah, I called your line to leave you a voice mail and it was disconnected."
A few hours later my boss calls me and asks if I can come in. So I come in, on my "vacation", and he lowers the boom. It was quite sad. He was almost crying and I had to console him.
Then I packed up one of the platinum plaques in the hallway and went home. Ta-da! -BankerHardcore

Layoff Stories

THREAD: The auto industry should be allowed to fail and have a better more efficient company fill the niche. -Nemesisesq
Rahm's Knife Marks?

THREAD: I really don't understand the gloom & doom... -drunkenexpatwriter
Media Doom Forecast

Nov. 20-08
In 1997 I hadn't saved any money because I was a student. 11 years later, all the money I had saved and put on my 401(k) is gone. Result: I have no retirement savings. wheee this makes me feel young again. -Henifer Hropes
>I picked the worse case scenario. Unless you timed trades well or picked good stocks, I can assure you that you lost money, but if I had to guess, I'd say 25%. -sample032
The Lost Decade

Look To Sweden

Stopping a Financial Crisis, The Swedish Way
by Carter Dougherty


A banking system in crisis after the collapse of a housing bubble. An economy hemorrhaging jobs. A market-oriented government struggling to stem the panic. Sound familiar?

It does to Sweden. The country was so far in the hole in 1992 — after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom — that its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent.

But Sweden took a different course than the one now being proposed by the United States Treasury. And Swedish officials say there are lessons from their own nightmare that Washington may be missing.

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

The final cost to Sweden ended up being less than 2 percent of its G.D.P. Some officials say they believe it was closer to zero, depending on how certain rates of return are calculated.



Lofty Plot Ousts Artists

by Paul Terefenko
NOW Magazine
Aug.21-27 2008


Think back, if you can, to the late 90s. Love Inc. was popular, & the intersection of Bloor & Lansdowne was not. The phrase "studio loft living" could be uttered without eliciting contempt. In fact, many artists & performers were creating live-work spaces in turn-of-the-century warehouses & factories.

That was the case at 221-227 Sterling Road, aka the Sterling Studio Lofts, which extends from Bloor to Dundas. The building, which was once a munitions factory with subterranean rail links to the lake, suited performers who needed the 14- to 25-foot vaulted ceilings to practise.

But nowadays Sterling is a mess of landlord/tenant antagonism, & a mystery is stalking the studios: why is the landlord trying to ignore the building's live-work rezoning & get current tenants to sign commercial leases?

Parkdale Community Legal Clinic lawyer Andrew Pelletier says any developer trying to turn the building into condos would have to deal with the fact that certain rights held by residents would make the project more expensive.

"In order to rebuild it, you would have to accomodate the current residents by building apartment spaces for them, or continuing to rent units to them at a comparable price," he says.

But if someone could make all the the rezoning headaches vanish, life would be a lot easier for the lofts' owner, Firm Capital.

"It's in [their] interest for the building to be considered commercial," explains Pelletier. That would presumably allow the owner to toss current tenants with ease.

Urbancorp (controversial developer of the Abell Lofts) denies it has a finger in any Sterling project. "There's certainly a lot of interest from buyers these days for that type of product," explains John Skalenda, project manager at Urbancorp. "The principles of the company are always looking to move forward & have interest in acquiring new sites," he notes.

Moral of the story: even the coziest symbiotic landlord/tenant arrangement can turn ugly at the first fistful of dollars.

(ad: NOW Magazine - Sept.08)


People Power (part 1)

I resolve to...share my knowledge
by John Mighton

People who find math easy don't always make the best teachers. The essence of math has become so obvious to them that they can have trouble seeing why their students are struggling.

I struggled at math myself. As a teenager I read a fair number of biographies of scientists & mathematicians. They always gave me the impression that a person had to be born with a gift to do math, & that someone who had this gift would never do badly on a test or have a hard time learning a concept. This was something I learned to believe deeply.

Like many young people, I would often give up on things because I was afraid I would meet my limitations. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I had the courage to go back to school to study math.

Ten years ago I was looking for a way to give something back to my community. It occurred to me that I could do this by trying to help kids who were having trouble with the math I was finally able to grasp.

Because of my own background, I wasn't inclined to blame students or think they were stupid if they couldn't move forward. If someone didn't understand my explanation, I assumed there was something wrong with my explanation, not with my students.

Many of my closest friends are actors who often have time on their hands & will do anything for attention. So I convinced some of them, even those who had dropped math, that they could be math tutors. We started an after-school tutoring program called JUMP in my apartment.

The JUMP program was founded on a very lucky accident. I asked the principal of a local school to send me some kids who were having trouble with math. She misunderstood me & delivered some of the most challenged students in her school, including a number of kids in special education classes who were performing far below grade level.

Working with these students has been one of the most inspiring things I've done. I'm now convinced the brain can develop new abilities more readily than traditional theories of intelligence allow, & that even children who face severe challenges in subjects like math are capable of far more than we expect of them.

Many of the students from the first few years of JUMP moved into academic math classes by the time they entered high school. Thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers & teachers, JUMP materials & methods are now being used in many schools in Canada, Britain, the United States & South Africa.

Most complex systems in nature show emergent behaviour: new & unexpected properties of the system can emerge out of nowhere from a series of small changes. If you add a reagent to a chemical solution one drop at a time, nothing may happen until suddenly, with a single drop, the whole solution changes colour.

I've seen this kind of behaviour in hundreds of students; they can appear to be at the limits of their ability, & then, with a single drop of knowledge, they leap to a new level of understanding.

Given the enormity of the world's challenges, I've often felt that nothing I did could make a difference. But thankfully, the world itself is complex & prone to emergent behaviour. If you're willing to take the first step, or add the first drop, the ripples may spread more widely than you could have imagined.

(John Mighton is a playwright & mathematician. He is the founder of JUMP, a charity whose goal is to reduce poverty by helping children succeed in math. CanStage is remounting his play Half Life at the Bluma Appel Theatre in January.)

I resolve to...share my knowledge
by John Mighton
NOW Magazine

People Power (part 2)

Rescue Mission
Featured: Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity

Nine years ago Cameron Sinclair quit a promising job with a major New York City architecture firm to take up the torch of humanitarian architect pioneers like Samuel Mockbee & R. Buckminster Fuller. "When I was in architecture school, I didn't give a crap about Frank Gehry," says the lumberjack-size 33-yr-old Brit. "I looked to people like Fred Cuny, a Texas engineer who had a Cessna & basically would fly into disasters & take over - he was very renegade." So Sinclair & his wife, Kate Stohr, founded Architecture for Humanity, & last year the Sausalito, California-based nonprofit organization, which matches money & designers with real people facing disaster, barnstormed three continents to produce 25 architectural-relief projects, including post-Katrina housing in Biloxi, Mississippi, & girls' soccer fields that double as AIDS clinics in South Africa.

The projects are designed by architects he discovers through rigorous competitions, as well as a few on staff, but Sinclair himself doesn't even have his own license - "It's technically illegal for me to call myself an architect," he teases in a washed-out English accent - so he's more catalyst than creator. His 2006 book, Design Like You Give a Damn, is now the encyclopedia of humanitarian architecture & a manual for the grassroots movement Sinclair has ignited. From Iran to Tokyo, nearly 5000 people operate under the AFH umbrella, taking on issues no one wants to face, like helping New York City plan for refugee camps in case Manhattan were ever evacuated.

Now Sinclair's work has catapulted him into the company of Bono & Bill Clinton. Last year he was awarded the TED prize (Technology, Entertainment, Design), which sets winners up to produce their dream projects. His choice was to create a Flickr-style online network housing a library of blueprints anyone can access for free. By this fall, Sinclair's Open Architecture Network, a million-dollar project, will debut as the go-to place for architects, engineers, NGOs, & even frugal civilians looking to build.

Though Sinclair has become the charismatic leader of what has long been an under-the-radar movement, his days are mostly spent in the non-profit trenches, wrangling philanthropist cash. Still, while he was in India last year, working on a school that would help get women out of brothels, he received a death threat & had to leave the country. "When I was a kid, before I knew I wanted to be an architect, I wanted to either be a war photographer or a politician," says Sinclair, who still considers breaking into politics. "I just always liked the idea of exposing truths."

Rescue Mission
Featured: Cameron Sinclair
by Danielle Sacks
Men's Vogue
May 07

People Power (part 3)

Depth of Field
Featured: Samantha Appleton, documentary photographer

"If I could have any superpower," says Samantha Appleton, "I would be invisible." For Appleton, a 32-year-old photojournalist who has covered the war in Iraq off & on, this is not just an idle wish - it's a professional necessity. And in this, she has a distinct advantage over her male colleagues. When Appleton wants to disappear into the crowd, she dons an abaya, the long, black garment worn by women in Muslim countries. Most men ignore her; in conservative areas, they won't even make eye contact with her - a dream come true for a documentary photographer.

Though she's been at it for only seven years, Appleton's lush, visceral style has won her commissions from Time, The New Yorker, & The New York Times. She got her start in 2000 as an assistant to the acclaimed war photographer James Nachtwey, who cites her bravery in making "powerful, resonant photographs of issues that need to be in the public eye." But she soon began to generate her own stories, traveling alone to global hot spots, usually without a set assignment. Her big break came in April 2003, when she drove from Amman, Jordan, into Iraq just after the fall of Baghdad. At that point, most foreign journalists were exhausted & heading home, which left Appleton with a windfall of plum assignments that might otherwise have gone to more experienced photographers.

The pictures she shot that spring - & on five subsequent trips to Iraq - capture the brutality & chaos of war in swarming, off-kilter compositions packed with humanizing details. Although she's interested above all in documenting the effect of war on civilians, Appleton has also been embedded with U.S. military units. On these missions, there's tons of downtime. "Then all of a sudden," she says, "you're out on patrol & you spend 20 minutes terrified out of your mind."

At least since the 1930s, women have covered wars alongside men - Margaret Bourke-White & Lee Miller are renowned for their work in Europe during World War II - but war photography remains a chiefly male domain. "People always ask if there's a boys' club," says Appleton, "but I've never experienced it on the ground, not once." Men may still outnumber women on the front lines, but the common conception of war photography as a testosterone-fueled floating frat party is more fantasy than reality. "The thing you need in this job is a certain capacity for stress," she explains. "You either have it or you don't. And once you prove you're capable of doing the job, people want to work with you." Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that Appleton, a petite, striking brunette, grew up playing sports in rural Maine with her three brothers. "I'm used to being with groups of men," she confesses. "Nothing fazes me. Growing up with brothers, I've already seen the worst."

Depth of Field
Featured: Samantha Appleton
by Mia Fineman
Men's Vogue
May 07

People Power (part 4)

Queen of Green
Interview with Adria Vasil - Ecoholic columnist for NOW Magazine

As Adria Vasil reminisces about designing & selling sweatshop-free T-shirts, I'm thinking she might be the Martha Stewart of the eco set - chic, arty & rigorous.
She protests loudly, "Oh no, she's way too uptight. Don't categorize me that way, whatever you do."
Okay, then I'll categorize her as Canada's foremost expert on how to live your life, 24 hours a day, with complete environmental awareness. She does it without the hippie tinge thing that stereotypically accompanies that consciousness.

Her book, Ecoholic, takes the same name as her weekly column in NOW, which answers readers' questions with counsel on how to think about the issue & how to shop organically & locally to solve the problem. It makes eco living seem manageable, a major accomplishment when dealing with a vast set of issues that can be overwhelming.
Vasil says the key is to avoid thinking you can do everything at once.
"Let's face it. You can't achieve environmental purity unless you're Woody Harrelson & you have millions of dollars," she says.
Take things one issue at a time, she advises. Most people can't afford to overhaul their whole house at once, so if you're in the market for a new item, choose organic.
Not that it's always easy.
"The high-end items are a real problem. You can buy an eco-friendly couch made of latex in California, but then you have to ship it thousands of miles in a gas-guzzling truck. Believe it or not, Ikea is not a bad option. They don't use formaldehyde & stopped persistent fire retardants on their couches in 2002."

When NOW launched the Ecoholic column in 2004, even Vasil wasn't sure it would fly. Shortly after it debuted, she wrote an article proclaiming that environmental consciousness was dead, & a quick poll she conducted of activists in the field suggested they were prepared to say the same thing.
Nevertheless, Random House put out feelers a year later, suggesting there might be a book there. Nothing came of it at first.
"A sales guy told me there was no market," she says with a small smile.
But then the publisher came knocking again - loudly - when the world's collective consciousness seemed to turn on a dime.
More like millions of dollars, says Vasil.
"The first & most important factor was the rise in the price of oil in late 2004," she says. "When people have to pay, they'll consider change. I always applaud when the price of gas goes up, because people start making the connections.
"Then," she revs up again, "the tsunami happened, & Hurricane Katrina showed people what happens when storms get freaky. When whole cities are swallowed up in these situations, people start to believe that climate change is a problem."
There was also more science, she says, & it was growing more convincing. Polar bears starving in the Arctic & seals looking for an ice floe to birth their pups on - those images are powerful.

Though she insists that conservation is a money-saving strategy, she insists that people shouldn't be moved purely by financial factors.
"When people complain about the cost of organic food, for example, they have to be made aware that that is the real cost of food. Given what we put on our tables on a daily basis, food is ridiculously cheap in Canada.
"I'm always suspicious when someone promises cheap organics. When organic milk comes cheap in the U.S. you can be sure the cows are being rounded up & kept indoors - because that's the least expensive way of producing milk. Do we really want that?"

Adria Vasil was reading Noam Chomsky at 16 & that same year, she began volunteering at a women's shelter & getting active in the East Timor Alert Network.
She went into journalism because she was tired of sitting on the other side begging to get coverage for the issues that mattered to her, & came to NOW after graduating from Ryerson.
The Ecoholic column was the perfect fusion of her two major interests: corporate practice & the environment. When she began the project she was hurting for ideas, but NOW readers have flooded her inbox with questions, creating a backlog guaranteed to keep her busy for months.

But don't, whatever you do, consider her an eco ideal - she even has a bona fide eco vice: she loves travel, & takes those toxin-spewing planes.
"I really believe that seeing the planet helps drive our love for it & our passion to save it. I wouldn't be who I am without having had the experiences I've had camping through South America. Should we be flying twice weekly for business? No. Should we be flying to Montreal (from Toronto) for a vacation? No, but I still think a carefully chosen vacation - that is, not to a giant, all-inclusive resort that swallows the environment & culture around it - is not to be discounted entirely."
It's typical of Vasil's never-holier-than-anybody way of talking about the issue.
"Environmentalism can't be furthered by an elite club that knows the secret handshake & won't let you in if you're not doing the 150 different things you need to do to enter the club.
"I take a more welcoming approach."

Queen of Green: Interview with Adria Vasil
Conducted by Susan G. Cole
NOW Magazine