Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changing Hues

Winter Is Coming

Mira! The leaves are changing color! It's so pretty!
Piss off; it's because they're dying.

Bringing a jacket to work?
School buses clogging the roads again?
Starting a passive-aggressive war with Ms. Mary over the thermostat?
Bethesda winds cutting right through my jacket making my nipples hard enough to cut diamonds?
Did I just hear Thriller for the third time this week?
D.C. United eliminated from the playoffs?

Yup, must be Autumn.


Yeah, there are a few good things about Autumn: spiced apple cider and the annual trip out to Baugher's and Westminster. There's candy and the one night when girls where as little as possible while trying to look like something out of a hot dream you dare not tell your psychiatrist about (Oh, you're a sexy lobster? You're a furry, but whatever, rock on, Rock Lobster). I suppose I like some of the foods, like acorn squash. Lower electric bills are nice (we have gas heat). There's. . . I don't know; dark beers are more satisfying for some reason and the Black Keys sound better in Autumn. Actually, I did have some fun activities that I'll try to post as soon as Ms. Mary gets me the pictures (because me in a kilt and a "Vagrant" sign really needs an accompanying image).

It's also encroaching cold weather with the associated itchy and static-y clothes. It's largely the end of outdoor athletics; should you try anyway, the cold air will burn your lungs. It's trying not to be a total little bitch when Mary drags me to scary movies or haunted houses (No, babe, I'm five-foot-six and have weighed a minimum of 30 pounds less than every other man you've ever known, so I would naturally develop a sense fearlessness and courage. No doubt, those are survival traits for my physical build, so let's go into that building where someone is going to try to make me shit my pants. You go first). Then there's the pounds that I'll pack on. Only, it's a damn shame that I didn't take off the ones from last Autumn and Winter.

An Autumn of War

My Fall is off to a blazing start. First, the heat broke. In fixing the heat, the apartment people busted the thermostat and we had to call Pepco to repair that. Dealing with Pepco was a damn blast. Then, the refrigerator broke. After that, because breaking household appliances are child's play, my bank card info was stolen - turns out, I didn't make charges in Maryland, Florida, and Iowa in a twelve hour period. While looking for fraudulent charges, I discovered that Bally's has been charging me for Anna's account, which I thought I canceled in, like, March or so. Here's how that phone call went:

Me: Hi, I have two accounts, but I wrote to you in the Spring to let you know that one account user had moved to Doha and I needed to cancel that account, but I'm still paying for it. (Seriously, why the hell did I have to write you a letter and mail it to California in this day and age? Before the internet, did you make people send it by Pony Express?)
Bally's Customer Service Rep: That's account blah-blah-blah?
Me: Yes, that's right.
Bally's Customer Frustration Rep: You didn't provide any evidence that the account holder had moved to a location without a Bally's within 25 miles. We need a utility bill or something like that.
Me: She's in (fucking) Doha; I don't have her utility bills. Do you know how far away that is?
Bally's Obstructionist: No, but she's certainly getting an electricity bill.
Me: Doha is a city in the Middle East; I don't know that she is. Look, I don't have a contract anyway, it expired, I'm month-to-month. Your website says I don't need to give a reason for that.
Bally's Hellspawn: That's correct.
Me: If I didn't need to give a reason, why was the account not canceled?
Bally's Advocate of General and Applied Evil: Because you didn't provide documentation of her change in location.
Bally's Zen Master of Circular Logic: You gave a reason, but didn't provide documentation.
Me: But I don't need to give a reason?
Bally's Mental S&M Rep: No.
Me: Fine, then can you cancel the account then please?
Queen of Helheim: No, you'll have to write to the following address and ask to have the account canceled. Do you have a pen ready?

I then beat my head against a wall for twenty minutes and that was actually a more pleasant experience. I know that I really should have noticed how much they were charging me long ago and that's why I didn't even pretend that I was going to get any of that money I paid refunded.

Bears, They're Smarter Than You Think

You know what is underrated? Hibernating. To hell with your pumpkin pies; I think I'm going to give that a whirl. Awaken me when D.C. United's season starts again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Raison d'être

You Can't Get There From Here

I should probably add "directionless" to my under-achiever status. Every time I even plan a little bit, I come face-to-face with the fact that my life is largely directionless. Even this blog is. My posts are sometimes personal and sometimes analytical and really it goes nowhere.
My friend Tad's blog, The Leisurely Historian, makes me want to die. He has, you know, thoughtful opinions on interesting topics and gets involved in exciting projects. He recently had a Foreword to a book/project published. He has lots of things that I want. I wonder if I could possess those things if I killed him and devoured his heart. . . Sorry, just musing. . .
My sister-in-law's blog, now inaptly-named The Decayed Gentlewoman, is an interesting lifestyle blog. It's one of those yuppie/hipster blogs
(Yes, Shelly, "hipster" - it was recently pointed out to me that when you moved to Portland, it was still "the Portland that you've probably never heard of") about her interests and passions, full of pictures of food, alternative lifestyles, her activities (pronounced: pɪˌkjuːlɪˈærɪtɪs), and, for some stupid reason, occasionally features pictures of a wannabe Redneck with too much domestic beer-related paraphernalia. I can't plan to kill her though, she and her husband are armed to the teeth. I wonder how long it would take me to get to Portland, ME, in the eventuality of the Zombie Apocalypse. . .
My blog bounces all over the place without the charm of the latter or the erudition of the former.

Vox Dei

I have to wonder if my inability to find my voice in this blog is because I don't really have concrete plans for myself. It is one thing to project something that isn't there, but goals provide focus. My life goals have been pretty general and I have or had no plans for the intermediate steps. Actually, who am I kidding? I didn't really have plans for the introductory steps to achieve any of my long-term goals. This, perhaps, for my total lack of intellectual focus and skill development. When I was younger, this was mistaken for attention-deficit disorder, but I, frankly, liked it. It is part of who I am. I pursued many a variety of academic interests in an effort to avoid myopic viewpoints and because I was relatively successful at blending disciplines into new and interesting thoughts. However, I never really developed passions or even what could be justifiably called interests. Kate and I listened to a bunch of idiots at a dinner table next to us fighting about the Civil War. They were clearly not academics, most of their arguments didn't stand up to a rigorous, or even sometimes simple logical, analysis. However, they had clearly read a great deal of material and knew a number of obscure facts that only academics and true devotees know. They were "enthusiasts" and I realized that I am an enthusiast of nothing. Thus, my blog has no structural purpose, no "topic" other than my musings on nothing concrete.

I Did Go by "Savonarola" Once

I'm like a poor man's Renaissance Man. A lazy Renaissance Man. The good folks ("good man" sounds wrong) over at XKCD put it best, except that I'm not a Malcom Gladwell fan. I've always rather gotten off on the fact that I can at least follow and participate in most discussions: history, sociology, literature, economcs, politics, pop culture, technology, sports (not including basketball). I can even follow many science discussions, even if I can't do the math. At least the interesting science discussions about exo-planets, general relativity, and lasers. But as my friends and colleagues have developed definite expertises, I have been less-and-less able to follow. In the meantime, I have developed no expertises of my own, lacking doctorate level studies or job experience that interests me. No one would ask me for an "expert" opinion or even seek to necessarily engage me in a discussion about a topic in which I consider myself interested, simply because I am unlikely to know the minutia that passionate people have acquired. It's not that I have "fallen behind" my friends. I still think I am smarter than everyone and I am still proud that I have the rhetorical capacity to argue most anyone into the ground (I try to do this less as I am told it is off-putting). I am different and my approach is different, but I am envious of their passions and disciplines and it is something that I hope to learn.

An Attempt to Create a Microcosm

The lack of focus for my blog needn't come from my life's propensity to meander. In this case, however, it does reflect it. I am starting to believe that because my interests have been so varied and that I have never really developed a real attachment to any topic or activity, I now need concrete plans for my activities. I think I do not naturally flow progressively deeper into my activities. In fact, this may be why I flounder when forced start something. While I am fine at creating end-points and measuring their relative justice or utility and even evaluating the inputs, but I just don't look toward how I would actually realize those means. Planning is now opening up whole new worlds to me. We'll see if I stick with it and actually achieve anything. Of course, I'll still consider myself an under-achiever; I'm far too egotistical to ever believe I am achieving my potential.

Ayn Rand: What a Misleading Tool

So what's wrong with my blog? Well, why would you read it? Unless you are interested in me, there is nothing here for you. There are few jokes and even fewer of them actually amusing. I've linked a couple good blogs to read. But this is a selfish post on a selfish blog. It is, at this point, written for me. I have no plan, after all, a plan would probably include a projected audience and then I would actually have to write something to interest that audience. Much like my life, I have focused on me and have little concrete to offer anyone else (particularly in a Capitalist sense, as my job search has made abundantly clear). Maybe my blog will take focus later, but I think I need to find a focus or two (foci?), other than myself, before my blog will.

Like Sand Through the Hourglass, So Are. . .

I'm starting to create better plans; the aspects of my life that they address are more varied and they have greater detail. I've found my general discipline has improved even in tasks not related to my newly-created plans. I don't have everything worked out. There's still a great to of haziness in my life that I prefer to call flexibility. After all, I'm still "working on working on it."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Re: 9/11 in Restrospect

10th Anniversary

I'm pointedly avoiding TV coverage of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 11 September 2001. So this post is not about that. Want to know where I was? I was at Eckerd College in a class called, The Constitution and Individual Rights. Good, glad we got that out of the way.

The rest of this is response to
9/11 in Retrospect by Melvryn P. Leffler in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs. I'm not linking to it because I assume it is behind a firewall. I pay for my subscription - if anyone feels inspired to go buy the issue after reading this, then great. Except, you should probably readjust your priorities. There are and will be better critiques than mine.

9/11 in Retrospect

The author appears to have several main points in his article - it is time to look long and hard at U.S. policy after September 11th without an eye to blame and that the Bush administration's policy choices were not so revolutionary as they were purported to be and all have a grounding in previous U.S. foreign policy. He uses the Bush administration's National Security Strategy of 2002 to examine the administration's response to terrorist attacks in 2001. He gives the priorities of that document as "preemption (really, prevention), unilateralism, military supremacy, democratization, free trade, economic growth, alliance cohesion, and great-power partnerships."
Leffler quite rightly points out that the GWOT and the related wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not the total of the Bush administration's policy. I rather agree with him that the Bush administration continued or marginally altered policies such as free trade (continued the Doha talks), prioritizing democratization, and that U.S. military expense and build-up had started under Clinton. Sure, Bush may have increased defense spending, increased rhetoric about democracy (and really, that's all he did), and was a champion of the free market in the face of increasing inequalities, but these were policy constants in Washington for years and were never really going to be challenged. Moreover, Bush managed to smooth relations with China after a rough start, realigned the U.S.'s relationship with India and dramatically increased aid to Africa. While there are complaints about the particulars of these policy moves, they largely were not controversial.
However, it is the GWOT and subsequent wars that are controversial and that have come to define the Bush presidency.


Leffler argues that the Bush administration's adoption of preventive war has historical precedents, specifically in the Western hemisphere associated with the Monroe doctrine, Roosevelt's policy regarding ships at sea and Germany, and Kennedy's imposition of a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. He also notes that the Clinton administration, in response to terrorism, proclaimed its intention to "preempt. . . individuals who perpetrate or plan to perpetrate" terrorist attacks against the U.S.
To me, it is somewhat telling that the most recent incident cited had taken place some nearly 40 years earlier. I don't dispute any of the precedents cited, but would point out that the latter two were specific incidents and were not part of a global policy. The Monroe doctrine is certainly a precedent, since U.S. power was limited to the Western hemisphere at the time. Such U.S. policies had formally ended and had been acknowledged as inappropriate or at least "unneighborly." A declared willingness to engage in preventive warfare on a global scale was new, especially in a post-Cold War environment. The Clinton administration's pronouncement was very specifically about preemption rather than prevention (the difference in this case being plans and the attempts to acquire means, rather than to generally wish the U.S. harm). Moreover, the Clinton administration specifies "individuals," not states. Both in scale and scope the Bush administration's endorsement of global preemptive/preventive war was a deviation from existing policy.


Leffler first cites the undercurrent of unilateralism in U.S. policy dating back to speeches by Presidents Jefferson and Washington. He notes that in the most modern times, even in the midst of Cold War alliances and the Clinton adminstration's use of NATO, the U.S. always publicly reserved the right to act unilaterally. The Obama administration's first National Security Strategy explicitly retained that right as well.
Color me unconvinced in this regard as well. In recent history, Cold War, Clinton, and Obama administrations have reserved the right to act unilaterally. . . as any state in a self-help system does. The difference is the propensity to do so and in fairness, the characterization of the Bush administration to act unilaterally is perhaps unfair. NATO was involved in the invasion of Afghanistan and, although just an alliance of convenience, the Bush administration did involve a number of other countries in the invasion of Iraq (some more useful than others). The real difference was the Bush administration very loudly proclaimed their willingness to act unilaterally. Previous administrations and the current administration have suggested that unilateral war would be an act of last resort and undesirable. The Bush administration and some of their louder-mouthed domestic allies suggested that it would better for the U.S. to act unilaterally and that they were unwilling to allow U.S. power to be constrained by international institutions. The only actual difference is that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not pre-approved by the United Nations.

The Invasion of Iraq

It is regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq that I most strongly disagree with Leffler. He argues that the common perception that a Democratic administration would not have invaded Iraq is unjustified. He cites belligerent statements from Al Gore, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton regarding Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
While there were certainly plenty of aggressive statements from many Democrats and their liberal allies regarding Iraq, I would argue that some of these statements were political posturing in the run up to the war. But the crux of my argument lies in the reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq. There are two generally accepted arguments that the Bush administration went to war in Iraq: Either the promotion of democracy in the Middle East by establishing a beachhead and thereby undermining the allure and arguments of militant Islamism or because of the nexus of between terrorist organizations and states that produce weapons of mass destruction (the so-called Axis of Evil), in this case, Hussein's dislike of the U.S. and supposed WMD programs. However, the neo-conservative movement played an essential role in both of those motivations. The democratic beachhead idea was first-and-foremost a neocon idea. In the case of the WMD program, the sources used to support the notion that Iraq had active weapons programs were from sources that had already been rejected by the previous administration. It was the neocons
who revisited these sources and reintroduced them into the discussion.
I possess no super-human abilities to prove a counter-factual, but I see little reason to suspect that the invasion of Iraq would have been a preferred policy option in a Democratic administration.

So What?

Leffler concludes that it is time to stop assigning blame and it is certainly hard to disagree. The Bush administration has left office and the current administration has made plenty of its own mistakes. However, Leffler lists the damages done to U.S. goals as a result of these policies. Many of these I feel were unfair, but I argue that the Bush administration did in many cases switch policies dramatically and that the Iraq war was unique to the Bush administration. These, at least short-term, damages are the Bush administration's responsibility and those decisions should reflect upon those decisionmakers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reflections on a Misspent 20s (Edited by MKB)

Now that I'm 30, I . . .

. . . need to stop wearing T-shirts with clever slogans on them.
. . . think Objectivism is just brilliant.
. . . don't think that holding my car window up with packing tape is "hardcore."
. . . need to completely stop splitting infinitives (sorry, Benj; stole your joke).
. . . watch rioters with an angry jealousy, but don't participate.
. . . don't hate The Man. In fact, he's got some good ideas. We should probably do what he says.
. . . have strong opinions on the Capital Gains Tax. No, wait, I'm 30, not rich.
. . . feel the need to get a mortgage so that I can complain about it at every social gathering.
. . . suddenly want a fast, flashy car. Or suddenly want one more, at any rate.
. . . need to add Just for Men to my grocery budget.
. . . believe anything is possible. For my kids. My life has a set trajectory now.
. . . live vicariously through my kids.
. . . view my kids as a source of cheap landscaping labor.
. . . try to push my kids into high-paying careers because they're my retirement plan.
. . . need to have kids, apparently. Asian ones, with math-smarts. That's so racist, but I'm old now, so it's excused.
. . . find Sarah Palin attractive. Or at least Lisa Ann.
. . . should have actual experience on my resume now. Don't, though.
. . . am less inclined to punch trees when DC United lose. What? I said "less inclined."
. . . think about my 401(k) from time-to-time.
. . . wander around the gym locker room with no pants on, talking to random strangers.
. . . feel younger because I am sleeping with a hot 20-something.
. . . find Kevin Smith films totally immature.
. . . am now sort of pathetic for owning an XBox360 and a PS3.
. . . assume I've spilt something on myself if a woman on the street gives me a second-glance.
. . . have been smoking for half my life. That's revolting. (Editor's note: Yes).
. . . am starting to get pissed that I'll never see that Social Security money.
. . . no, really. Hot 20-something. I know, right?
. . . don't understand the point of Twitter.
. . . sometimes think, "No, I might get hurt if I do that."
. . . believe that Obama is destroying this country. Did I mention that I am also white?
. . . sleep only 6 hours a night, but can't stay up for more than 20 hours straight.
. . . must use complete words and proper grammar and punctuation in text messages.
. . . consider an hour of tennis to be exercise.
. . . am less concerned if they reinstate the draft.
. . . yup, hot 20-something. In my bed. Fantastic.
. . . still remember ABACABB, but know that most people playing video games do not.
. . . am absolutely terrified by my computer and can only use it for email.
. . . coulda been a contenda.
. . . think that paisley necktie is pretty spiffy.
. . . can no longer live in squalor and be considered "cool." (Editor's note: Squalor has been out since I moved in)
. . . find Jay Leno funny. No, that's a lie. I don't, at all.
. . . prefer soft and bitter foods.
. . . did I mention the hot 20-something? Yeah, perky breasts and everything.
. . . have more reason to drink to oblivion, but less passion to do so.
. . . need to shave more regularly.
. . . believe that it reflects poorly on me that I have more athletic shoes than dress shoes.
. . . find it hard to walk when I leave the doctor's office.
. . . can no longer wear hats ironically.
. . . don't worry about passing drug tests.
. . . think of those hard partying college guys downstairs as "kids."
. . . Hot. 20. Something. Yeah, I've got a picture.

No, piss-off; she's not "living in Canada right now."

and finally . . . "am too old for this shit."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's a Long Boring Commute

Post-Independence (Day)

This post isn't about the 4th. I just thought that I would mention: The 1812 Overture. . . I know we all like cannon, but A) it's about Russia beating France (hence the refrains from La Marseillaise) and B) U.S. had its own goings on in 1812 and those ended poorly, New Orleans notwithstanding.
Also, I sort of resent the way that the military has hijacked Independence Day. I don't want to be stupid - I am well aware that American Independence Day has a very martial feel anyway. However, I don't want to be applauding service members every ten minutes. We Americans have plenty of heritage to be proud of; military service is not unique to our country. We also have other holidays dedicated specifically to the men and women in uniform - Armed Services Day, Memorial Day (for the fallen), Veterans Day (titular, that one), etc. Rather than jacking off soldiers for another day, maybe efforts would be better spent improving pay, medical benefits, and making certain that soldiers aren't left to rot if they come home physically or emotionally shattered. Perhaps higher standards for putting them in harm's way and a little healthy skepticism of the justifications. Just a thought.

Blood Is Thicker

I don't want to write too much about my views on the way this country handles our military. Not now, anyway. Instead, I was thinking about family. Specifically, my sister-in-law. I almost choked when I realized that I properly had a sister-in-law. Because, really, I don't. I have a brother's wife. Calling her my sister-in-law seems stupid. Mostly because it defines her through me, which seems acceptable insofar as it is her relationship to me. But I'm actually nothing to her.

You're So Vein (Get It? Blood? Vein? My Genius Is Wasted on You People)

This isn't about you, Shelly. Shelly is great; I really like her and so does Mary (which more or less sealed the deal on our end). It's also not about blood. Shelly is part of my family now, it is certainly true and I am glad that she is, but while my brother is part of her family, I am not. Shelly is part of Lowrys, with all the privileges and penalties there entitled, but I am not a Gallender. This isn't a weird clan thing where now all of her enemies are my enemies and vice-versa. "Sister?" Really? Look, I grew up with my brother - I have seen him evolve and change and know stupid little things about him that endear him to me. Shelly, I have met a couple times - you know, "she seems nice." Actually, too nice; if she really were my "sister" I'd tell her to smack my brother across the mouth a lot more because he often has it coming. Spousal abuse = unacceptable. Sibling abuse = totally acceptable. I digress. It is not that I don't wish Shelly all the best - I do; like I said, she's great. The relationship is different though, not really comparable. There are many things that I like about Shelly; I would list them but that would be annoying. Rather my point is that I imagine the things that I like about Shelly would be entirely different if she were actually my sister. It's not just that she has hidden facets, those would appear as I got to know her better. I believe that watching her develop as an individual would make me put value on different aspects of her personality and to weigh her positives differently. I've become aware of her life halfway through and that colors my relationship with her and my knowledge of her mostly comes from her blog and things that my family tells me. "Sister-in-law" seems an anachronism from a time when my immediate family would be closer to my brother's immediate family and it is a jarring anachronism to me.

Just Spitballing Here

I'm not entirely positive why I wrote this. I guess my point is that I should do something about it. That's it, I'm moving to Maine to be closer to my brother and his wife.* Coming, Kate?
Oh. I see. You feel that strongly about it?
Splendid, now I'm homeless and single. All the more reason to crash on my brother's (and sister-in-law's) couch.

*All ideas regarding moving are intended as jests and may not be used as justification to leave either me or my brother.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Too Big for Blame


I'm rather excited for HBO's Too Big to Fail on Monday. I read the book by the same name - I don't actually know if the movie is based off the book, but it covers the same material (except with a cast of the super-rich that we all know, rather than the CEOs that they are portraying). I feel like I should re-read it, but there is no way that I would finish it by tomorrow. Regardless, I probably should read it again to try to gain a better understanding a really pick out key points, having a better understanding of the conclusion. Mary has taken time off of read the Song of Fire and Ice series that we were reading to watch Game of Thrones on HBO and I am midway through book four, so I'm a few seasons ahead anyway. Still, I'm a little disappointed in my self that I would get exited about a dramatization, but here were are and as much as I can criticize myself for anticipating a television program, I am nevertheless and it is pointless to deny it.

Cousin's Friend's Brother's Stock Broker's Aunt's Hairdresser

On the bright side, I hope that my recognition of the actors will help me keep track of the players during the event. I am not plugged into the financial industry. My father may be able to recite the names of the CEO's of Goldman Sachs and AIG or the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury off the top of his head, but I cannot. Too Big to Fail the book, as much as it relayed the facts of the financial crisis and the efforts undertaken to preserve the companies, it is also a drama about the individuals involved. It is not a simple dry recitation of facts and events. Much to the dismay of the political science realist in me, the companies were not treated as black boxes or billiard balls. Lehman Brothers did not take x-action to preserve itself, but rather Dick Fuld chose x-action because he was a flawed human being and mistakenly believe y. That makes the book easier to read on the one-hand in that it is not a textbook, but, on the other, made it difficult to keep track of who was whom.

Alice's Restaurant

I told you that story to tell you this one and to bring us to the title of the blogpost. There is an awful lot of blame flying around. Perhaps it's human to do so, but I find such generalities to be sloppy. I think part of the problem is that it really validates so many conspiracy theories, at least in appearances. Quite literally, a bunch of rich men in suits got together in a room and made massive changes to the banking system during a time when a great deal of wealth disappeared and the economy plunged in magnitude comparable only to the Great Depression. Billions of tax payer dollars were suddenly plunged into the banking system through TARP, while many Americans faced lost jobs and pay freezes. To make matters worse, the banking system appears to have recovered with banks making money hand-over-fist again while the rest of the economy still struggles.
The last bit was intentional. Ben Bernake was a champion of the idea that the lack of credit, rather than the stock market crash, was what had truly caused the Great Depression. The idea was, and is, that the economy would not recover until the banks were healthy again. Lower and middle class Americans reeled at the notion that a collapse of Morgan Stanley or a similar financial company, with which they had no direct contact and no real knowledge, could mean that they would be unable to pick-up a paycheck on Friday, but that was the case. So many companies operated on short-term loans to meet the day-to-day operations of their businesses, including payroll, that if banks stopped "rolling paper" or processing these loans, that large and completely healthy business would be forced to close their doors and not pay their workers. The banks would not stop giving the loans because they themselves were unhealthy, but rather because the public would believe that they might be unhealthy. The run on the bank would not the traditional kind that we all saw in Mary Poppins, with account holders shouting at teller windows, instead it would be investors, hedge funds, and other banks that would fear for their money and withdraw it. The increased demand for cash on hand, coupled with the uncertainty of what their outstanding assets were really worth and short-selling depreciating what worth they thought they did have, would, and did, make banks incredibly tight-fisted (yes, I'm simplifying in the interest of time and space). The banks had to do well, to restore confidence and reduce the strain on their assets and make them more willing to lend. It worked, although there was nevertheless, considerably less credit available. But most of us don't see that on a daily basis. Sure, we're still getting a paycheck, at a reduced or static amount, whereas the bankers, who need a massive emergency loan, are now just fine and dandy, diving into their Scrooge McDuck-style money vaults.
But weren't these bankers to blame? Where's the accountability? Lehmann went under, to be sure, but most of the players in Too Big to Fail are still wealthy beyond our wildest dreams and making even more money, bonus caps be damned. Or could it be the short-sellers' fault. After all, when everything was collapsing and people were trying to desperately hold together these companies whose failing was a danger to the entire system, brokers were short-selling stocks, trying to get as much as they could while actively undermining the efforts to salvage the companies. It could be that large amounts of the problem lay with Llyod Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. Throughout the crisis, Goldman Sachs was dismissive of the danger to itself and played brinksmanship games to avoid contributing to the solution, all the while trying to wrangle an advantage for itself as it's competitors neared collapse. Such ruthlessness was not new to Goldman Sachs, they seized every advantage, quasi-legal or otherwise, during the collapse of Long Term Capital Management in 2000. However, the entire systems appears to have been built on a foundation of sand, Alan Greenspan's reputation has been dragged through the mud. After all, he failed to control the housing bubble and allowed the incredibly loose credit to continue. His successor certainly failed to see it coming. Ben Bernake, after all, said a few years before that such a thing could never happen and may have been singularly unprepared for the crisis.

And Your Winner (Loser) Is. . .

Blame is great and sometimes people need to be held responsible. I for one, am offended that Donald Trump can even get a credit card, let alone a business loan since, although he makes a lot of money, it seems just a matter of time before he loses it all and pays pennies for the dollars he's taken. But this was a massive crisis involving a massive system. I do not believe that there was a single moment of decision that caused the crisis. There were lots of mistakes, some of them were sins of ignorance, some of arrogance, and some of greed. However, my understanding is that is was so big and took place through such a variety of facets in the financial industry and took place so quickly, that no one knew what they were in and how deep until it was over. During the crisis, I was working at Barnes and Noble. They sent out a message to the staff, telling us not to worry because the company had strong and secure lines of credit. I have no insider knowledge of B&N's finances, but color me skeptical that GE, McDonald's, and the companies of some of the richest men in country almost lost their credit, but B&N was going to be okay. It could have been something said to placate us, or it may have been entirely true, but I get the impression it was symptomatic of the perception at the time - no one knew quite how serious it was and that is was something that was happening to everyone else, but not to us.
The failing companies themselves probably were not in such dire straights. Rather it was that a perfect storm rolled very quickly out of total calm and they were unprepared to weather it. The fall of Lehmann Brothers never seemed inevitable, they were constantly on the cusp - if they could just survive another few days then things would calm down and the company could rebuild and reform. It was the speed of the crisis and the panic (and perhaps some ideological decisions by the government) that killed Lehmann.
Nor do I think it fair to blame the Fed chairmen. The entire system probably needs reform (and certainly has not been), but their was no architect of the current financial system. It has evolved on the basis of need and opportunity and it has massive expanded. Much like the defense acquisitions process, I am doubtful that any single individual can understand everything that is happening at a given moment.
This is roughly my conclusion. There were bad decisions and they should be studied and avoided in the future. There was poor judgement and I would hope that they are held responsible for that poor judgement as any worker would be. The system is capable of catastrophic failure and, as currently structured, may tend in that direct, in which case the system needs reform. But trying to pin it on an individual is not only a waste of time, but counter-productive to reforms that need to be made.

I've mentioned HBO a couple times. They're not paying me. Not that I would object, I need the money. But they're not. They just have a couple programs I want to see or watch.