Thursday, February 23, 2012
The other day, listening to the latest podcast of Freakonomics, about bias in the media, I thought a couple of things:
1. I thought "Man, Freakonomics must have hit the bottom of the barrel on this report," because it was really thin: Their conclusion was "Newspapers slant their coverage to appeal to their readers," which is to say, "Newspapers try to sell products by identifying a market and then creating a product that market might want," which is to say "Newspapers are no different than any other business," in that businesses exist to make money and anything you think to the contrary is nonsense. (That goes for sports teams as businesses, too, a point I make frequently here.)
2. I thought "I wonder why Ann Coulter wouldn't reveal her score on Tim Groseclose's "Political Quotient" test? (The host asked her and she wouldn't give a score -- she just said she scored well into conservative, so she either hadn't taken it or didn't do as well as she'd hoped: Score one for honesty, conservatives!)
Tim Groseclose's political quotient test was covered in the podcast as part of the findings that -- surprise! -- media have a point of view! And it comes through in their writing and coverage choices! Tim Groseclose is a conservative political scientist who concluded not only that there is a liberal media bias, but also that the liberal media bias pulls the public to a more liberal perspective.
As Tim Groseclose sees it -- his findings being complicated to explain -- there is a spectrum of political beliefs, from 0 (conservative) to 100 (liberal.) On that spectrum, Obama scores about an 88, while Michele Bachmann is (no lie) -4.1. (Other scores are here.) According to Grossman, the average American is somewhere on the underside of 50 -- conservative territory -- but that the liberal bias in the media pulls them upward, making them more liberal than they would otherwise be.
As he said on Freakonomics, America would be more Texas, or even Kentucky, if not for the liberal media.
I'll give a moment for the dry heaves to subside.
Before getting on to the political quotient part, let's consider what that says about what Tim Groseclose thinks about Americans and their intelligence. And let's assume that Tim Groseclose is correct: that you, Average American, are about a 40 or so on the conservative scale. But you, Average American, read liberal media and all their high-falutin' East Coast thoughts about people not dying in the streets for lack of insurance, or how wrong it is to discriminate against people based on sexual preference.
According to Tim Groseclose, you would be against those things if you didn't read the newspapers, but after you peruse a copy of the New York Times while waiting for the bus, you're firmly in the camp of people who want to let everyone marry their endtable.
What does Tim Groseclose, conservative, say about you in that scenario? Tim Groseclose, being conservative, thinks those liberal ideas are wrong, remember: Tim Groseclose (presumably, I don't know for sure) thinks that taxing millionaires is wrong and Medicare should be Ol' Yellered. If you read liberal media and become convinced otherwise, and if Tim Groseclose is right that those programs are bad...
Then Tim Groseclose is saying you are stupid.
Tim Groseclose thinks Average Americans are stupid -- a belief held by most conservatives who claim there is a liberal media bias: A media bias can only convince you if you are convinceable, after all. I'm firmly of the mind, for example, that dark matter is bunk foisted off on us by scientists. I've read plenty of articles about dark matter, and I remain unconvinced. There is a pro-dark-matter bias in the media, and I am unconvinced.
So people that complain of a liberal media bias are first saying you're easy to convince -- but worse, they're saying you're easy to convince about bad ideas. If Medicare (or dark matter) is a bad idea, and you fall for it just because the New York Times talked about how Obama plans to infuse dark matter into Medicare to save the program, then you are gullible.
Is what Tim Groseclose is saying.
That's the bigger story that Freakonomics missed or ignored: There is of course bias in all media, and unavoidable bias that comes from the fact that everyone involved in the process, from politician who gets quoted to reporter who chose the politician to talk to to copy editor who deleted one quote but not another to editor who ran one story but not another to purchaser who bought one paper but not another... has a bias.
But whether that bias harms or helps or is useless is another story -- and what people believe about the bias is a third story.
Believing that the bias affects the minds of readers is a belief that readers are easily swayed by bad ideas, a paternalistic, diminishing view of voters and citizens: they will believe anything you tell them, so you'd best tell them good stuff-- that explains why FOX News exists.
There's another explanation, of course: Maybe it's not that you're gullible and stupid. Maybe you're convinced by the liberal media that these ideas are good because... these ideas are good.
Groseclose didn't talk about that. I wonder why?
I’ve always loved Zenni, even though I found out about them a little too late. About 10 years ago, when Sweetie and I were much poorer than we are now, Sweetie had to get some glasses and we did what everyone did back then: we went to one of those mall stores where you have to get your eyes examined and then pick out frames while they Hoover the money out of your wallet. Sweetie’s glasses cost over $200 – and they weren’t made of gold or able to see through walls or anything like that. They were just reading glasses.
Most of that $200 was the frames, which seemed a ripoff – and I learned later that it was when I heard about Zenni, which sells frames just like the ones Sweetie bought, for $6.95.
There’s been plenty of stories about Zenni on the Internet and in the news, how they make their own frames and sell direct on the Internet to keep prices low, and how they do that because they see glasses as a medical necessity, not just a fashion item, so I don’t have to bore you with that. What I can tell you is that when anyone needs glasses now, I send them to Zenni because you get them for less than you spend for lunch – and the whole “glasses over the Internet” thing lets you try on pairs without any risk to see how they’ll look on your face.
So NOW you can get three pairs for the price of 2, and the price of 2 is less than you’ll pay anywhere else I bet, so it’s like paying almost nothing for your specs. Get an office pair, sports pair, and going out pair. Get one for your kid for school, and two spares for when your kid loses them (You know he will.) You can’t have enough glasses, and with Zenni, you won’t spend very much getting them.
The Best Pizza Topping:
Yesterday, I had a lot of time to think. And this topic is one of the things I thought about. Specifically, here's what happened: I was driving home from Milwaukee, about a 1 1/2 hour drive, and I put on the song "This Guy's In Love With You" performed by Herb Alpert & His Tijuana Brass. You know the song, right?
And as I listened to that song, this thought suddenly occurred to me:
When does a thing stop being that thing and start being something else?
Which doesn't immediately, I know, make sense, but it will, if you bear with me as I do a little thought experiment.
Picture a ray. You remember "rays" from math class in high school, right? A line extending from a point in space off into infinity, represented by an arrow with a dot at one end.
Yeah, the middle one. Picture that ray, and assume that point "C" represents "pizza" the way "pizza" originally was intended to be represented, like, say, this:And maybe that's not your idea of a pizza. Maybe your idea of a pizza is something thinner crusted or square or with anchovies or whatever, but that's not the point. Or it is the point but I'm not yet at the point where I'm ready to make my point, so whatever your idea of a pizza is, of the quintessential pizza, get that picture in your mind, and picture your own Quintessential Pizza as the point at which the ray begins.
Got that? Now, picture, in your mind, making more and more changes to the Quintessential Pizza, each change moving you a little further along that ray, each change not a big deal, in and of itself, not so far removed from what came before, but each a change nonetheless. As that happens, as you keep making little changes here and there to your Q.P., this mathematically- and scientifically-accurate diagram gives an idea what happens:
As you can see from that Scientific chart, at some point, you, the Q.P. creator, have moved so far away from your starting point that we, as human beings/scientific observers, have to ask, in the interest of philosophical, intellectual inquiry, this question:
Is what you've got really a pizza anymore?
Which begs this question:
What is the essence of a pizza?
Which begs this question:
What is the essence of ANYTHING?
Which is how you can get from Herb Alpert to questioning the very foundations of human existence via pepperoni.
But this is a serious question, albeit a serious question I am choosing to answer via the method of "pizza-as-demonstrative-example." (I was about to say "Pizza-as-allegory," because that sounded good, but the pizza isn't really allegorical in this article, it's demonstrative.)
Which begs this question:
Which sounds better, "Quintessential Pizza" or "Allegorical Pizza?"
I think the answer is "Allegorical Pizza." But anyway, the pizza in this article is not allegorical, it is demonstrative of the question of when a thing stops being that thing, a question that actually was on my mind because I read the "novella" Disquiet on Saturday. Disquiet, by Julia Leigh, is a very, very good story. After I read it, though, I questioned whether it is a novel or novella or a long short story, and then I wondered whether that matters.
I decided that it is a very long short story, and that yes, it does matter.
Here's how I decided it's a very long short story: the transformations that the characters go through are ambiguous and not clearly explained, and much of the plot occurs offscreen or is left untold. That's the criteria I apply to a short story, as opposed to a novel. A novel is not only longer, but has more development, more wrap-up, more explanation.
In a short story, a character might (as one of mine did, once) get in her car and try to drive away from her house with her young daughter, only to rethink her actions as a thunderstorm starts to set in, and go back. And the reader might (as my readers were) be left to wonder or fill in the blanks as to why the woman is leaving, why the thunderstorm makes her change her mind. The short story shows an episode in the woman's life with some explanation but with little change in her and with little beyond that episode explicated.
If that story were a novel, though, we would expect more detail, more plot, more description, more backstory, more of everything. The short story is a snapshot; the novel is a photo album.
That's not to say one is better than the other; it's to say that each label carries with it a set of expectations and rules that guide the writer, and the reader, and determine how they should interact with each other through the medium being used. A short story cannot be said to be better or worse than a novel any more than a sculpture could be said to be better or worse than a painting.
The problem, if there is one, arises when we use the wrong terminology to describe something. If I told you to come to my house to see a sculpture, and showed you "Red Yellow Blue,"
you might be mystified. That's a painting, you might say, and while you might like "Red Yellow Blue," you may find yourself befuddled because you were expecting a three dimensional sculpture only to be presented with a two dimensional painting.
Or maybe you think you did see a sculpture, because "Red Yellow Blue" is three canvases separated from each other so that it is more than a two-dimensional splattering of paint on a canvas, it takes into account the space between the canvases and can be rearranged and in that way fully inhabits or more fully inhabits a three-dimensional world than a "painting," but is it a sculpture? When I say sculpture, do you think of "Red, Yellow, Blue," or do you think of this:
And if you do think of that, why didn't you think of this
when I said "sculpture?" Aren't they both sculptures? Of course they are: but one is more sculpture-y than the other. One is more a quintessential sculpture.
Which is my point again, here. At some point, a sculpture stops being a sculpture. As it gets bigger, and more made of metal, and more standing-in-a-harbor-in-New York, it stops being a "sculpture" and starts being a "statue" or "monument." And as it gets flatter and more primary-color-ish and on canvas, it stops being a "sculpture" and starts being a painting.
And as Disquiet failed to tie up all of its storylines, it stopped being a novel and became more of a short story. Which in Disquiet's case was not actually a bad thing. It wasn't what I expected, because I was told it's a novel, and so I expected more wrap up, but given the nature of the story and the general feel of the story, being left hanging somewhat at the end despite expecting more resolution wasn't a bad thing itself, either -- it made the story more of a meta-story, instilling in me one last time the exact feeling (of disquiet) that the author was going for.
So maybe messing with one's expectations can work, in some instances. But in pizza? That's where we began, after all, to consider whether a thing can ever stop being a thing, and as this discussion is important, it will help to keep it rooted in the things of reality: Herb Alpert and pizza.
So when is a pizza no longer a pizza? Is a breakfast pizza a pizza? I had a sample of breakfast pizza at the store two weeks ago -- miraculously, given that pizza samples are amazingly rare in the real world, and I had to wonder is this pizza? It was round -- like a pizza, except that sometimes when I make pizza at home I run out of pans and have to resort to making some of them square or rectangle. It had a pizza crust on it, which is like a pizza. But it had eggs and cheese, and while pizzas have cheese they don't have breakfast-y kind of cheese on them, they have pizza-y kinds of cheese on them: mozzarella, which I think is chosen for the way it can hold everything on the pizza while not having much actual flavor, which is why I usually substitute in some other kind of cheese on my homemade pizzas, because I like the stronger flavor, and because I also had a goat cheese pizza and liked that, too.
The breakfast pizza was toasted in a toaster oven, but aren't pizzas supposed to be cooked in pizza ovens? I sometimes grill mine, too, making them using the broiler setting.
All of which leads to much confusion: was this a pizza at all? And if it was a pizza, why is it a pizza?
What about the "mashed potato pizza" that I sometimes make using an idea I stole from a pizzeria -- making a pizza crust and then putting mashed potatoes into it and then topping it with pizza toppings and baking it? Is that a pizza?
And if it is, what about the "fruit pizza" my mother-in-law makes -- that's a sugar cookie with fruit and frosting on it. Is that a pizza?
And if that's a pizza, then isn't everything a pizza? If all that's required of a pizza is that it be round, more or less, and be called a pizza, then isn't this:
A pizza if I call it a pizza?
I come down on both sides of that issue. I understand the allure of saying that things have to be what we call them, that everything has to have a category, that a pizza must have some definable quality or qualities that makes it a pizza and that if something doesn't have all or most or enough of those qualities, then it's not a pizza, because then everything makes more sense and expectations are not dashed and we all know what we mean when we invite each other over for pizza -- nobody will be invited over for pizza and be served eggs on a crust, or fruit on a cookie.
But on the other hand, I see, too, the side that says anything can be a pizza if we want it to be, for two reasons.
First, the practical: I want to be aligned with the anything can be a pizza crowd because my pick for The Best Pizza Topping is mashed potatoes. Ever since coming across the potato pizza as an appetizer in that restaurant, I've loved the potato pizza. Done right, it is (as the pigeon might say of the hot dog) a taste sensation. It combines the mushy-but-crisp-edged creaminess of a twice-baked potato with the gluey cheese and savory tomato sauce and spicy sausage and fruity pineapple and zing of the onions that I like on my non-potato-pizzas, and does so in a way that creates a new feeling, a new thing that is both pizza and not pizza at the same time.
And that is the impractical, esoteric reason why I see the appeal of the anything can be a pizza argument: Because if we rigidly define life's categories, if we say a statue is a statue, and a pizza is a pizza, and things that aren't quite statues or pizzas aren't statues or pizzas at all, then we are limiting ourselves and our thoughts. We'll be saying to our imaginations: no, you can't put that on a pizza, or no, you can't sculpt that or no, Herb Alpert, you can't have the Tijuana Brass play with you (it'd been a while since I'd mentioned Herb) and we'll say that because pizzas don't have that, whatever that is, on them -- so pizzas will never have that on them, and limiting ourselves like that raises the prospect that we'll stop innovating at all.
After all, it's easier to take tiny steps than giant leaps. It's easier to decide to move a city away than a continent away. It's easier to move from painting to sculpting if a painting can kind of be a sculpture. And it's easier to try to mix something into your pizza than to create an entirely new dish... but doing all those little steps leads you into a direction that you might not have tried, had you had to do it whole hog right off the bat. How tough was it, do you suppose, for Columbus to get on his ship and sail towards the edge of the world? Pretty tough, I imagine. What if, instead, Columbus had known of five, six, seven island chains all stringing off into the west, and had decided he was just going to follow them and see if there was an eighth and instead of finding the Eighth Islands, he found America?
What if the space program, instead of trying first to get to the moon, had set off for the nearest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri? That's only 4.2 light years away. Voyager, our fastest spaceship, moves at 17.4 km/second. At that rate, it would have reached Proxima Centauri in 7 million years. Why would we have even tried to go into space if we wouldn't see results for 7 million years?
Tiny steps, incremental changes, minor modifications, shifting standards, can lead to big things. And not pigeonholing things into one category lets people experiment with tiny steps and incremental changes. And, not pigeonholing things into one category allows the mind to wander. It allows people to expand their mental horizons, to picture more than one thing when just one word is used, to play with the shifting sands of our imagination and in doing so, create something new, something wondrous, something that challenges our expectations and makes us think, at the end of our novel, or as we bite into a pizza, or look at a painting: "Hmm. Well, that was interesting. That wasn't what I expected at all."
In the end, that's one of the best things about Mashed Potatoes being The Best Pizza Topping: allowing mashed potatoes to be pizza opens the door for a world where one can move from pondering Herb Alpert to questioning the very basis of reality -- and that kind of world is the kind of world I want to live in, the kind of a world where a thing never stops being that thing but can be that thing and something else, entirely, all at once.
Here's a little more Herb to play you out:
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Saoirse's life didn't really begin until it ended: When a plane crashes, Saoirse wakes up in 'the After,' a place where everything is exactly what you want, unless what you want is to not be there.
Confused at first, Saoirse's new... life?... takes a turn for the (more) unexpected when William Howard Taft knocks on her door and says he knows a way out. From there, Saoirse travels through scenarios that are fantastical and mundane at the same time, trying to discover not just a way to end this new existence, but also whether she wants to do that in the first place.
'the After' is a heartbreakingly sad and funny mystical journey through one version of what happens after we die, told through the eyes of a woman clinging to the memory of a life she didn't know she cared about. Thoughtful but action-packed, 'the After' presents an entirely new and not always comforting view of what comes next for us all.
Click here to buy it on Kindle, or here to buy the paperback from Amazon.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
I’m just gonna keep on talking about clipix and you’re gonna have to just keep on listening to me about it.
That’s because Clipix is awesome.
I’ve mentioned Clipix on other blogs and it bears repeating that Clipix is a website service you can’t live without. It’s the only thing I’ve found that lets me make sense of the sheer number of things I see on the Web.
We all do this: we surf the net all day long and see tons and tons of stuff we want to buy, read later, remember to tell our wives about, show that guy at work, or whatever.
But how do YOU keep track of that? Post-it notes? Bookmarking sites until your linklist is a hundred tabs long?
Clipix fixes the problem of remembering and sharing what you see on the web. All you do is login (I used my Twitter account) and drag the Clipix button to your browser bar, and then surf the web. See something you like? Click the Clipix button and you’ll be asked which board you want it go on – so you can organize videos you like and boots you want to buy and movies you intend to see all by category.
And, more importantly, you can SHARE them. So you and your friends can all Clipix movies you like and put them in the same board and sync them, and then when one person comes across a great movie they want to see, all your friends will instantly have access to it.
Clipix allows you to collaborate – share blogfest posts or article ideas. It allows you to compare – put all the books you want on one board and then decide which is the first to get. It’s supereasy to use and superhelpful to use. There's even a Clipix app for phones!
So I won’t shut up about it, and you shouldn’t either – in fact, if you can think of an idea I should’ve put in here for how to use Clipix, list it in the comments.
It's going to be terrible for Republicans who have to argue that being gay is a choice but that hating people for being gay isn't, but that's where at least one half of science is heading: People are born Republicans and can't change, it seems.
So on the bright side, it's not your fault you voted for Worst President Ever George W. Bush. Stupid DNA!
From global warming denial to claims about "death panels" to baseless fears about inflation, it often seems there are so many factually wrong claims on the political right that those who make them live in a different reality.So the growing scientific consensus is that being conservative is genetic and biologically-based... time to start teaching the controversy!
So here's an idea: Maybe they actually do. And maybe we can look to science itself -- albeit, ironically, a body of science whose fundamental premise (the theory of evolution) most Republicans deny -- to help understand why it is that they view the world so differently.
[A] growing body of research suggest[s] that the difference between liberals and conservatives is not merely ideological in nature. Rather, it seems more deeply rooted in psychology and the brain -- with ideology itself emerging as a kind of by-product of fundamentally different patterns of perceiving and responding to the world that spill over into many aspects of life, not just the political.
... [there are] seven published studies showing a consistent set of physiological, brain, and "attentional" differences between liberals and conservatives.
Later on my blog, I listed no less than eleven studies showing genetic differences as well.
Last month, yet another scientific paper on this subject came out -- from the National Science Foundation-supported political physiology laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The work, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B ... goes further still in helping us understand how biological and physiological differences between liberals and conservatives may lead to very different patterns of political behavior.
While I imagine that conservatives will want to argue with this, what with today's GOP wanting to burn science at the stake and all, they should consider the "My DNA makes me stupidly vote in favor of billionaires who want to rape kids in my hospitals" defense as a bonus for them, and while science explains it all, they could always just tell people it's the same kind of "science" as "intelligent design" and then wink knowingly before they get back to diverting funds away from autistic kids and to Tom Coburn's buddies.
Science, after all, goes on to explain how you get from tiny (but already a human being like a corporation!) one-celled embryos to a walking slimeball like Rick Santorum who can tell people to pray away the Obama:
As the new research suggests, conservatism is largely a defensive ideology -- and therefore, much more appealing to people who go through life sensitive and highly attuned to aversive or threatening aspects of their environments. ... the Nebraska-Lincoln researchers had liberals and conservatives look at varying combinations of images that were meant to excite different emotions.So there you have it: pantsuits or not, conservatives walk through life viewing everything through eyeballs that see Hillary Clinton as a giant walking spider covered in maggots, and that's why they want to kill off healthcare.
There were images that caused fear and disgust -- a spider crawling on a person's face, maggots in an open wound [NOTE: INSERT YOUR OWN SANTORUM JOKE HERE]-- but also images that made you feel happy: a smiling child, a bunny rabbit. The researchers also mixed in images of liberal and conservative politicians -- Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
While they did all of this, the scientists measured the subjects' "skin conductance" -- the moistening of their sweat glands, an indication of sympathetic nervous system arousal -- as well as where their eyes went first and how long they stayed there.
The difference was striking: Conservatives showed much stronger skin responses to negative images, compared with the positive ones. Liberals showed the opposite. And when the scientists turned to studying eye gaze or "attentional" patterns, they found that conservatives looked much more quickly at negative or threatening images, and spent more time fixating on them. Liberals, in contrast, were less quickly drawn to negative images -- and spent more time looking at positive ones.
Similar things have been found before -- but the big breakthrough in the new study was showing that these tendencies carried over perfectly to the different sides' responses to images of politicians. Conservatives had stronger rapid fire physiological responses to images of Bill and Hillary Clinton -- apparently perceiving them much as they perceive a threat. By contrast, liberals showed stronger responses to the same two politicians, apparently perceiving them much as they perceive an appetitive or positive stimulus.
Wouldn't you? I mean, the way conservatives see if, every single liberal program ever was invented by Shelob. When you put it that way, I kind of want to kill off Social Security, too.
So the next time you wonder "Why is that conservative person taking a billion dollars from that Koch guy in exchange for promising to pass a law that will let them poison our water?" remember, to Eric Cantor, it's not just a funding bill for unemployment compensation or special-needs kids: It's the attack of the living dead.
But when I talk about Halloween Costumes that's not what I mean, and for some reason I'm thinking about costumes today, and specifically why it is that we only wear them one time a year, really.
I mean, on the one hand that makes it all the better, that day that we do put on our Wonder woman costume or Movie costumes or dress up as Han Solo or whatever -- in that respect, it's like Christmas, a rare occasion that makes it superspecial.
But in another sense, it's kind of a shame that we don't let loose like that all the time. I mean, look, in Rio they're doing Carnival and wearing costumes, and don't people wear costumes at Mardi Gras? They probably do, at least until the girls all go topless.
So I'm kind of torn, but here's where I'm going to land on this: Think about costumes more. If you're into Halloween, then be REALLY into it and get the best costume you can, and then spread it around: Have costume parties out of season. Have Oscar parties and dress up as your favorite Ryan Gosling character from a movie (mine's that one movie where he's the cool, good-looking guy who hardly talks). Or get all your friends together for a basketball game and wear costumes inspired by the town the teams are from.
Whatever it is, don't just dress up as, say, "that one accountant guy who really hates McDonald's cheeseburgers." Go all out and dress up as some sort of Knight or something. Maybe even a Scarlet Knight. That sounds like the kind of thing you'd probably want to dress up as. A Scarlet Knight. Sounds cool.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Giving the banks a pass using money that never existed (Or: why the Mortgage Settlement sucks.)(Government Works For Me?)
The good, the bad, and the warmed-over same-old-stuff about the latest attempt to claim the housing crisis was ended by a settlement that benefits only banks, as recounted to you by me -- the very first lawyer consulted in this article on Madison.com.
The full settlement documents haven't been released yet, so this information comes from the document entitled "Servicing Standards Highlights," available here.
1. It makes banks promise to follow the laws they weren't following already. (Good?). The settlement "highlights" begin with a section in which servicers are said to be required to stop "robo-signing" and actually have people read documents before they sign an affidavit swearing that they read the documents, and requires that affidavits be "accurate."
Really? That's a settlement? Getting the servicers to promise to stop breaking the law? If they weren't inclined to follow the law just because it's the law, will they be inclined to follow it now that some old guy from North Carolina has been appointed the mortgage czar?
Other things the banks and servicers were already required to do but now will be superextrarequired to do include "providing notice of foreclosure status before referring the case to an attorney." Every (noncommercial) mortgage document I've ever seen requires notice of a default. The added proviso of requiring that notice before referring to a lawyer may help reduce legal fees slightly for mortgagors -- but the required length of advance notice is only 14 days. That letter also must "document" the servicer's right to foreclose... but there's no information yet on what will be required as documentation, and people familiar with laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act with it's debt validation requirement can tell you that courts tend to require very little to meet that law's standards. Which is fine because...
2. There's really no enforcement mechanism (Bad!): Loan modification requests must be submitted for "internal review," and there's an appeal process for denied loan modifications -- but the appeal is to the lender who denied the modification in the first place.
I remember when I was kicked off of Facebook for making too many friend requests (how else are you supposed to publicize your new book?) and the email let me know that I could appeal that decision by replying to the email. So I did that, and the next day I got a new email that said "Your appeal was denied." I emailed back for an explanation of why, but I never got an answer.
We really take due process for granted, don't we?
There's also just a 30-day window for appealing, which is a pretty short time-frame to appeal something. You get 45 days, minimum, to appeal a state court case, for example, and that appeal is done by lawyers.
What's missing from the framework, though, is any mention of a private cause of action. That's something that restricted the effectiveness of HAMP and similar laws. The settlement appears headed for "enforcement by the government only" land, a scary country where government employees get no extra budget money or staff to enforce new laws, and are already hard-pressed to enforce the old laws we already have; in some states (such as Wisconsin, where our AG's highest priority is fighting terrorism) law enforcement officials may not be entirely motivated to enforce this settlement.
So Old Man Mortgage Cop will be the only authority enforcing this. Besides the lenders and servicers, of course.
Why do I hear snickering?
3. There'll be some transparency, finally. (Good!). Try finding out, sometime, what the actual restrictions or requirements for a modification are. And let me know if you get that particular pot of gold. One witness testifying in court in a trial of mine -- a witness who worked for the servicer - - couldn't say what the guidelines for modification were. Lenders lawyer up faster than mobsters when you ask them to tell you what the modification guidelines are.
Under the settlement, they'll be required to post the proprietary guidelines they have for modifications, and give you the name of the investor who denied your modification if you didn't qualify for a non-proprietary loan modification. That's helpful, because you'll be able to see if you should qualify for a loan, or contact the person who said you didn't.
...of course, there's no way to enforce that, so if your lender doesn't follow through, and you lose your appeal... to the lender... you'll have to call that guy from North Carolina who's going to be patrolling all this.
(The old man is former NC Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith, who will "monitor" the settlement as Mortgage Czar, or something. Not a single word of anything I've read sets up Smith with anything so much as an office, so he's less powerful than, say, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.)
4. There are (supposed to be) restrictions on the fees charged by servicers. (Good, except that nobody can enforce them which is kind of my point, here...) The settlement imposes restrictions on all kinds of fees, restrictions ranging from the ridiculous (fees must be bona fide and legally allowable, which is already a legal requirement, so we're back to point one) to the extra-ridiculous (attorney's fees "shall only be for work actually performed and shall not exceed reasonable and customary fees", a restriction that apparently requires servicers to keep their lawyers from being unethical, which would be a great idea except that's what state bars and courts are for, and also, again, nobody's going to be able to enforce that and also, in the vast majority of cases there is nobody who can challenge the fees, for a variety of complicated reasons) to the weirdly-complicated:
C. Late Fees If a homeowner is delinquent on two payments and then makes a full payment that is applied to the current payment, the bank/servicer cannot charge a late fee on the older delinquent amount. Banks/servicers shall not collect late fees: 1) while a loan modification is being considered 2) while borrower is making timely trial payments and 3) while a short sale is being evaluated.
to restrictions on third-party fees: banks can't impose duplicative or unnecessary fees, and cannot impose "property preservation" fees when there's a pending modification application... "unless there is a reasonable basis," so there's your trapdoor escape route.
5. The money really doesn't matter, and probably doesn't exist.
So here's the thing about that $25,000,000,000: Most of it doesn't exist. Only $5,000,000,000 is "hard cash," according to this article, which also points out that the $5,000,000,000 amounts to one percent of the settling bank's market capitalization, so once again, the 99% are getting screwed over. Settling for 1% of what you're worth is easy to do.
The remainder of the $20,000,000,000 is fictional monopoly money. As that article goes on to say:
That’s to come in the form of $3 billion in refinancings and $17 billion in principal reductions, deeds in lieu, short sales, anti-blight measures, etc.
Let me explain that: Banks will pay the $17,000,000,000 in taking homeowners' properties (deeds in lieu and short-sales) and in reducing the amount they are owed (principal reductions.) No money is going to come out of a bank's pocket for any of that. In fact, banks might well make money: A bank that takes a deed-in-lieu gets to issue a 1099C for any debt forgiven (possibly generating taxes owed by the homeowner), and then gets to sell the house, potentially generating a profit, especially where the property appreciates (as the market recovers) or the bank was owed close to or less than the value of the property. (Which is entirely possible; while homeowners are "under water" to a remarkable degree, as Judge Easterbrook on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out to me in oral argument once, an appraisal is just a guess as to the value of property -- so those losses, like previous gains, are only on paper.)
The article goes on to explain:
The banks receive variable credit for these actions, depending on whether these measures are taken for loans owned by the banks or owned by others and serviced by the banks. Basically, it’s full credit if the bank owns the loan, and half credit if the bank merely services the loan. Because of this formulation, the $17 billion in principal reductions, DILs, short sales is anticipated to result in $32 billion in actual relief.
In other words, it is expected that the banks will modify the loans owned by others rather than the loans they themselves own. And when a second lien loan owned by the bank is involved, it only has to be written down pari passu (at the same percentage) as the first lien loan. So from absolute to relative priority, which is a major handout to the big banks, which have large underwater second lien positions.
Hmmm. Something about that sounds... fishy. Almost as though... yep: We're getting screwed again:
Or put differently, $32 billion of the settlement is being financed on the dime of MBS investors such as pension funds, 401(k) plans, insurance companies, and the like—parties that did not themselves engage in any of the wrong-doing covered by the settlement. This shouldn’t be a surprise—the state Attorneys General previously cut a similar deal with Bank of America, which promised to make up for its wrongdoing by modifying loans own by other parties.
Really. Just read that article -- which I wish had existed before Obama lost my vote by letting this deal happen. Which brings us to
6. You can still sue your lender or servicer: While the language isn't finalized yet, the overall plan appears to be to preserve borrowers' claims against their lenders, which is good because borrowers haven't been represented at all in this process, and suing your lender is the only way you're ever going to get anything.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
WARNING! NSFW! (I'm not just saying that to guarantee that you'll read it, but I'm sure it had that effect.)
"Lesbian zombies are taking over the world!" Reverend Tommy hollered. He was in a lather.
So was I but that's because Brigitte was sitting next to me and had her hand on my knee. Above my knee, actually. Her little, soft, pink hand was resting right where my miniskirt would end if I wore my miniskirt to the Church of Our Savior of Living People Only, but I don't wear it there because Reverend Tommy wouldn't approve.
He wouldn't approve of my thoughts, either, or of what Brigitte and I had been doing just before we left for church in our church-y clothes: We'd been having sex, which Reverend Tommy disapproved of. Reverend Tommy disapproves of any sex, and he's not one of those preachers who say they disapprove of sex but then they're fucking the girls (or the boys) behind the curtains by the chapel; he was the real deal. Reverend Tommy hated only one thing more than sex, and that was zombies. And he hated only one thing more than zombies, and that was lesbian zombies.
That's what he was tearing on about, and it made me wish that Brigitte and I had not rushed to get there because if I'd known the whole sermon was going to be about nothing but how I'm supposed to be taking over the world, I would have skipped. But I doubt Brigitte would have skipped. She's not like that. Even though she's a lesbian, she's very religious. I don't know how she got mixed up with the Church of the Savior of Living People Only. I don't know how she got mixed up with me, either. She's going to be mighty confused when she finds out. If she finds out.
And I don't want to let her find out. Not yet, anyway, because I've got plans. I may just make her like me, for one thing. But even if I don't, I can't resist her lips. That's what almost made us late for church. I took a look at her lips as she was putting lipstick on them, and couldn't resist. Without even strapping on my bra, I had to lean over behind her and turn her head to face me and started kissing her.
I pushed my tongue into her mouth, forcing her lips apart so I could feel them on either side of my tongue, soft and pliable and gently sucking on my tongue and she pushed her tongue into my mouth, so I tried to return the favor, but my lips are always a little dry, probably (I think) as a result of being me and probably because I'm not very ladylike except in public and I associate wet, soft, moist lips with ladies. We kissed like that for a while, pressing our lips more and more firmly together, and I couldn't take it anymore, I wanted those lips everywhere else on me. I moved her mouth away from mine and stared into her eyes for a few moments and then lowered her head down to my breast. She took the hint, and she took my nipple and she nuzzled it and sucked on it. God, her lips were so soft that I almost came right then and I cupped her hands in mine...
So you can see why we were almost late. And here's Reverend Tommy, who's actually not a bad guy except he says I'm going to hell and he wants to kill me, and I don't even know why, ranting and raving:
"These lesbian zombies walk among us. They dress like us, they talk like us, they look like us..." although technically, Reverend Tommy, I don't look like you, because you are a man, I wanted to say. Brigitte squeezed my thigh. I thought she did it inadvertently but she leaned over and said
"They don't look like him," in a whisper that tickled my ear and made me start to perspire. She was so much like me already! Could I make her more like me? Would she like me more if she were more like me? Word games in my mind were better than Reverend Tommy:
"And they will come out in broad daylight and mock us, and then after dark they will steal into our houses and steal your wives and your daughters, they will corrupt them and drag them down to the bowels of hell with them. They move freely between the Life and the Afterlife."
That startled me. Do I? Do I move freely between the Life and the Afterlife? I'd never thought of it. Maybe those dreams I have where I go to Hell aren't just dreams?
"And they will leave our women in the fires of Hell and return to take your souls and eat them." I looked around, furtively. We sat midway back in the Church, and the Church attendance was evenly divided between men and women and children. Most of them were attentively listening to Reverend Tommy. Some of the women looked a little flushed. I guess maybe they wouldn't mind a little corrupting.
"And Jesus doesn't want them. He wants YOU. He wants to save you, but you've got to be vigilant against the newest trick of the devil. The lesbian zombies are out there. They are after your souls, and they are taking over the world!"
I should a few things straight.
First, I am a lesbian.
Second, I am not a zombie. I don't think so, anyway. I'm not a revenant, either, because nobody controls me. I'm some kind of creation. I think that because none of my parts match. I have dark black, straight hair, but my pubic hair is brown. My left hand is larger than my right and doesn't look the same. I have one green eye and one blue eye and who ever heard of that? Plus, my right shoe is size 6 and my left shoe is size 9. I have a slight limp. At least my torso appears to be all one piece and I don't have any scars, so I'm not a Frankenstein. I don't think. I've never met anyone like me. Or at least, anyone who I knew was like me.
Third, I'm not sure why I'm here. Not here in the Church of Our Savior Of Living People Only. I'm here because Brigitte goes here and I'll do anything for those lips. Not here in this town, either. I wandered here a few months ago after living in New York City for a while and then deciding that I couldn't go on working at a diner and wondering why I didn't have parents, or didn't rememer any parents, or even a childhood, or even anything before one day I was just there, working at the diner and serving people egg platters and refilling their coffee without any idea of who I really was. People called me by my name (Rachel) and seemed to know me but nobody talked to me much and I didn't live with anyone. That first day was kind of scary -- I left work at 5 and I didn't know why I was leaving at 5 because I didn't remember being scheduled to work or even that I worked or who anyone was, and then I started walking home and got on the subway but I didn't know what a subway was, and I was riding the subway and I realized that I was going home but I didn't know where home was or if I had one at all.
I got really scared, then, and then tried to clear my mind and relax, which worked because when I stopped thinking about it I just headed home, which turned out to be a kind of crummy little studio apartment that had a view of a wall and some furniture and a TV in it. So maybe someone is controlling me because I went home, but I don't think so because why would they let me just wander away?
But fourth, I think maybe I am trying to take over the world.
Or click here if you'd like to download the entire story for free.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
The Exorcist wins three states, so it's time to learn something about Rick Santorum. (Campaign 2012)
The headline today, at least at the "Nashua Telegraph" is "Santorum in position to shake up GOP race." That's apparently because Santorum won Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado on February 7, thereby proving both that money does not alter the political landscape and so Citizens United is no big deal contrary to what everyone and their brother would have you believe (something I'll post on when I have more time) and also apparently because Republicans aren't aware of just how insane Rick Santorum is.
It's not just Santorum made at least some of his money presiding over a hospital that specializes in exorcisms, rapes, and murders of disadvantaged and disabled children, which is bad enough. Santorum's other positions are either not generally known (which isn't that surprising, given that Republicans frequently hide their real plans until after they're elected) or are generally ignored by the GOP voters who occasionally decide to remind Mitt Romney just how little they like/support him.
To remind people who just was (briefly, and irrelevantly) put into the news again yesterday, here are some surprising positions Rick Santorum stands by:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is trying to wipe out minorities via mass abortions. Santorum has repeatedly stated his opposition to abortion, going so far as to suggest doctors who perform them should be prosecuted, but that moral stand didn't stop Santorum from suggesting that Planned Parenthood deliberately located in areas where minorities congregate in a plan to practice eugenics and wipe out other races. While conservatives frequently bring up the pro-eugenics stance of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, Santorum took it a step further in April when he suggested that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opposition to some laws was rooted in eugenic-inspired racism.
For added measure, Santorum has publicly stated that the social security 'crisis' is caused by there being too many abortions. To balance the budget, apparently, all we have to do is breed like Duggers. (For the record: Social Security would be fully funded for 76 more years at least if Congress simply ended the exemption from social security tax for income over $106,000, but Congress continues to cater to the 1% at the expense of your grandma, and then blames it on abortions.)
He wants to give $100,000,000 to Iranian hostage-takers. The Iran Freedom and Support Act, passed in 2006, appropriated $10,000,000, to be used for "pro-democracy freedom group" funding in Iran. The original bill would have funded groups that were on the State Department's terrorist watch list, until a Democrat sponsored an amendment to end that. One of the groups targeted for funding by the Worst President Ever administration was MEK, the group that was responsible for taking hostages in Iran in the 70s and which was, in 2005, actively helping the Taliban.
Santorum's official position on his website is to "restore full funding" to that Act. "Full Funding" means $100,000,000, according to this interview, in which Santorum lied about having to fight Worst President Ever to get the right to fund hostage-taking terrorists.
Women ought to forget about book learning and just find themselves a good man.
At a Dartmouth debate, Santorum waxed eloquent (?) on the relationship between being divorced or a single parent and being poor:
Finding causation from correlation there without any basis for doing so. Only 5% of traditional married couples are living in poverty while 30% of single-parent families are poor? Must be cause-and-effect, right? Just like beards and the stock market.
Leave aside that saying something like "You can’t have limited government - you can’t have a wealthy society if the family breaks down," suggests that abuse victims ought to stay with their abusers out of sheer greed, and leave aside the fact that in a Republican-controlled America, in 2002, 20% or more of all families experienced poverty at some point in their lives. Beyond those facts, the evidence just doesn't exist to suggest that the number of parents in a family has any real impact on the bottom line.
This study, in fact, suggests that it's educational level, more than marital status, that affects whether a child lives in poverty: less than 1.2% of children being raised by single mothers with at least some college were living in poverty, a statistic that correlates with the findings that every year of college raises income correspondingly. (In 2008, average wages for someone with "some college" was about $35,000, while a person who had only graduated high school earned about $31,000, annually.)
Santorum appears to have missed that point, as I don't see him saying "We ought to encourage people to get as educated as possible to increase their standard of living." But that's probably because an educated person would never vote for Rick Santorum.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Remember how I mentioned the other day that Mitt Romney, who’s likely our next president because nobody really believes in the one we have anymore (with good reason), is going to kill Obamacare?
He almost certainly will, which is why you’ve got to do something now to help yourself then. We’re about 9 months away from Republigeddon, and come this time next year, your “health care” plan is going to be a bottle of Flintstone vitamins you found laying in the road, provided you can swallow them all before you get renditioned off to Gitmo.
A bleak future? Sure – but there’s at least one bright spot I can point out for you: The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club.
The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club entitles you to discounts on prescriptions, allowing you to save on over 8,000 brand-name medications and on ALL generics. That’s money in your pocket, and if there’s one thing we can be guaranteed under the next administration, it’s that nobody anywhere will pay any taxes, so there’s that.
Plus you’ll save on flu shots, nebulizers, diabetic supplies and even pet prescriptions – so more money for you to contribute to a SuperPAC in hopes of getting some legislation passed. You’ll even get bonuses from buying other stuff at Walgreens or using their photofinishing.
All that for only $20 for an individual plan, or $35 for families – about what Mitt paid in income taxes last year! And the family membership is especially a deal: it covers everyone in your immediate family including any dependents under 22.
For $3 a month, you can start saving right now. Get more info here:
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Mitt Romney is super-rich and the likeliest man to be president at this time next year; as such, when he says things like this:
One major problem with sky-high deficit spending is that it necessarily leads to another practice that undermines the nation’s fiscal foundation: borrowing unhealthy sums to pay for what we already cannot afford.
He's only half-right.
That's a quote from his website, where he says that passing on "ever-increasing debt" to our children is "morally wrong."
What's morally wrong, really, is pretending that there are only two paths to take: deficit spending with combined borrowing, or cutting spending. Romney promises to dismantle Obamacare and cut "entitlement" spending -- which means Romney says that the only way to avoid the moral wrong of passing on ever-increasing debt is to cut spending and reduce the social safety net and protections that the sickest, oldest, and least-protected already have.
That is morally wrong, because it's a lie. There's a third way:
People will say you can't do that, because there's "not enough money" to do that, but that's the point of this series of posts: to point out that there's more than enough money to pay for things like "not letting kids die in the streets," if you know where to look.
Look today at the snack table: as I write this, it's 8 a.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, and I, like almost everyone in the world, will watch the game tonight with some snacks and sub sandwiches.
Our budget for our Super Bowl part is a $50 gift card we got at Christmas for a sub shop nearby; we're buying subs and chips for us and the boys and Oldest Daughter.
But other people's budgets are way higher. According to CNN, the average Super Bowl viewer is going to spend $64 on Super Bowl merchandise and snacks.
Last year, 111,000,000 people watched the Packers beat the Steelers in a one-off game for Green Bay.
If that many people watch this year, then in a single day we will spend $7,104,000,000 on Super Bowl crap: wings and jerseys and visors and little plates with the NFL logo and what not.
According to this article, the coverage provisions of ObamaCare, which Romney promises to repeal because we can't afford it, will cost $122,222,222 a year. Mitt Romney says we can't afford $122,222,222 per year and that we will have to cut that program -- Mitt Romney calls it a moral responsibility to end the coverage provisions of ObamaCare because we can't afford it.
Mitt Romney is silent on the morality of opting to stuff our fat faces with cheese puffs and wings while we wear our authentic Patriot* jerseys and and spend 58 times what the coverage provisions will cost... in a single day.
That's your image for the day: A Patriot, a fat one, full of barbecue sauce from his wings, shouting at the TV through a mouthful of food: "Yeah, you tell 'em Mitt! We can't 'ford thet 'Bamacare!" and then swilling another Bud Lite.
Meanwhile, outside, a kid dies in the street.
That's my theory, anyway: That my blood doesn't have enough oomph! to make it all the way down to my feet and still retain heat, and so the poor circulation means that my feet are ALWAYS cold.
Which is a big problem for me. I mean, on the great ranking of problems it might not be so bad, overall, but I can't get comfortable: I have to wear socks all the time, or shoes, and who wants to sit around their house wearing SHOES?
Plus, even that's not so great a help: I'm wearing socks and slippers right now, and my feet are still a little cold, even though they're all dressed up with no place to go.
I mention this because I heard about these Volt Heated Slippers the other day and went to check them out. That's a picture of them over to the right there. They look sturdy, and they look warm, and they aren't just insulated and tall, but they have their own internal heater that's rechargeable.
Here's some things about that: I think as I consider this that the problem is that while I can wrap my feet up in as many layers of socks as I can find, that's not warming them up because my feet aren't generating their own heat. That's where this Volt idea comes in: they make their own heat, so it's like an electric blanket for your feet: instead of wrapping them up and hoping they warm up, I can just simply get them warmed up right away.
I've never used a rechargeable heating thing -- but I believe this might work, because I read about how the company got started and where the idea came from: The inventor, according to Volt's site, worked in the heated clothing industry making things for motorcyclists and the military -- two groups who would really need quality stuff-- and then tried to create a heated slipper in part for his mom, who had cold feet all the time and then saw her condition worsen when she developed neuropathy and was diagnosed with cancer. Rather than watch his mom use two heating pads to try to keep her feet warm, the inventor came up with the Volt -- which acted like a heating pad but which let his mom move around.
Hence, the Volt: a durable slipper that acts like an electric blanket for your feet, but lets you go inside and outside.
I don't know what really makes my feet so cold -- poor circulation probably is the answer -- but I'm willing to give these a try, because if your FEET are warm, the rest of you is probably doing okay.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
Over on Billionaire To Be Author Patrick Dilloway's blog today, the esteemed Grumpy Bulldog took a strong stand in favor of people being entitled, and drew a rebuke from Author Michael Offutt, who likewise will be a billionaire soon. I then weighed in with this comment, which I liked enough to reprint here.
But read Dilloway's blog post, and read his blog in general because he's a great writer. And read Offutt's blog, too, while you're at it.
Dilloway's post was about how perhaps Americans need to be entitled more, and the Chinese, too, to improve their working conditions and standard of living. I agreed with him -- because it's not that hard to do to make life better, and because the way Americans are working themselves is bad for us and our economy. Here's my comment, as a whole:
Many people are spoiled -- but think of the numbers of people you see every day who aren't insisting on a non-Chinese, Windows 7 laptop. Those are the quiet people you don't notice, the ones who feel it's okay with them if their dinner took a few minutes longer to arrive because the restaurant is busy and so they don't bitch and moan and insist on a free lunch.
I'm with Grumpy. the US is 13th in average hours worked per year per full time worker:
at 1778, which is about 34-35 hours per week on average. That may seem low, but the countries above us tend to be third-world or emerging economies (except for Greece, which, WTH, Greece? 2nd hardest working country in the world, but can't pay your bills? Get it together, land of Aristotle!) while first-world economies slack around; the lowest is the Netherlands at 1377, or just under 27 hours per week. So okay, in the Netherlands, they're always all high, but West Germany is second lowest, at 1409.
So the Germans work nearly 400 hours less per week than we do!
I haven't heard that the German culture is especially fat, or lazy, or otherwise falling apart, or entitled, and they are (so far as I can tell, based exclusively on listening to "Planet Money") kind of the model of economic brilliance.
This past recession, a/k/a The 2nd Great Depression, is harder to pull out of in part because so many workers are working harder for less money. In 2009, US workers produced an average of $63,000 or so per year in wealth:
Which is way above the average median household income for 2009 ($39,231) which means in 2009 -- the height of Great Depression 2: Electric Boogaloo -- workers were producing an average of $24,000 in wealth THAT THEY WEREN'T TAKING HOME, and that was way ahead of everyone else in the world.
By 2011, that productivity was staggering -- and costing jobs. In 2011, corporations earned an average of $11,000 in profits PER JOB,
and the economy was outproducing the pre-depression economy by 0.14% -- but doing so with 7,300,000 fewer people employed.
In other words: We're working ourselves to death and producing sky-high profits to do so.
I work about 45-55 hours per week. So do most of the lawyers in my firm. Imagine if we were to work just 40, and take those extra 5 hours per week and hire another person. I would-- theoretically, I'll come back to this -- take a 12.5% paycut (reducing my pay by the same amount I reduce my time) and so would everyone else, but we'd hire someone else who would then make what we make, so 11 people would do the work that 10 now do and we'd all leave here at 5 p.m. every day.
Now: about that 12.5% paycut. If our corporation -- it's an S-Corp -- holds true to the average, then we make $11,000 in profit for every person who's employed here. That's PROFIT, not gross. We employ 33 people. So our firm on average can expect to make $363,000 profit off our employees. Which means we could hire a new employee, pay him, say, $60,000, and reduce the firm's profits by only 1/6, or 16% or so. That means everyone in the firm could retain their same salary, and the firm's overhead would be 1/6 closer to its profits, but we could hire a new guy and pay him 60,000 a year and go back to working 40 hours per week.
If people, including my lawyers, felt a little more ENTITLED, they might say "Why am I here on a Sunday when you could hire some new guy and reduce your bonus at the end of the year by 1/6 and I could spend time with my family?"
(The good news is: I discourage my employees from doing that. I try to encourage them to leave at 5, and we're probably going to hire two new people. But that's beside the point.)
But people are afraid and there's 7,300,000 people out there waiting to take our jobs, all because we run our society in such a screwy, heads-over-heels way.
I'm always pointing out to people that if we all just behaved rationally, we could have a nicer life. Lawyers, in particular, could have it cushier than we already do. We could, for example, agree that we will NEVER schedule anything on a Friday, so we could all take Fridays off and so could our clients or we could have easy, casual days in the office.
But even if 99.9% of us agree to do that, there's going to be one jerk/loser out there who schedules a deposition for Friday, and then everyone's going to do it.
In short: we could hire more people, all take minor cuts in pay or profits, live a more modest life that might mean we could only upgrade our cell phones 2 of every 3 years instead of every year, and have three weeks of vacation plus half-days on Fridays. But people are stupid.
WE NEED MORE ENTITLEMENT!