Unsurprisingly enough, credit card defaults are on the rise. This industry is marked by less oversight and more shadiness than the mortgage industry, which is saying something. Now American Express is asking for a government handout, since AMEX depends on banks’ buying securities backed by credit card debt in order to make money. Banks, of course, are trying not to choke on the credit cards debts they already have without incurring more, which leaves AMEX begging Uncle Sam for money.
But let’s see here: if Uncle Sam helps out AMEX, it allows AMEX to float more credit card debt. Is this what our economy needs? Maybe credit card debt should dry up a little bit, especially since Americans abuse cards so badly. Sure, an illiquid credit securities market may make it harder for some Americans to refinance or consolidate some credit cards, but that is still no substitute for paying the bloody cards off and not incurring more debt, and ready access to new credits cards will probably just make it easier to avoid making the hard decisions.
In short, having the federal government go with more deficit spending so that Americans can get into more credit card debt sounds like a perfect recipe for destabilizing our currency and economy even more. No doubt it will be wildly popular on Capitol Hill for that reason.
Fantasy and Science Fiction kindly gave me a freebie copy of their upcoming October/November double issue. The most notable story is that of Stephen King, who delivers a short but touching story that isn’t scary, but strange, like a dream that may haunt you for a few days after waking up. The editor likened it to a Twilight Zone episode, which seems like a fair comparison.
The other story in the issue that struck me the most was Steven Utley’s The Sleepless Years. It reminded me in a strange way of H.P. Lovecraft at his best. Utley is a better writer than Lovecraft–he doesn’t overuse terms like “cyclopean” or “blasphemous”–but Lovecraft’s stories have a certain power because there is a fundamental loneliness behind them–which I presume reflects Lovecraft’s own life–and this can lend his tales of madness and a cruel universe a disturbing verisimilitude, like The Whisperer in Darkness.
Mr. Utley reminds me of that aspect of Lovecraft with his sad tale of a man trapped in an experiment. Just as Lovecraft’s loneliness powered his tales, to judge from the story’s dedication, Mr. Utley’s story was semi-autobiographical as well. Sounds like a man who could use a few prayers, if you have a mind to do that.
Not all the stories are sad: Mike Resnick has what can be best described as science-fiction variation of a fairy tale, where a robot scarecrow befriends a lost boy. Albert Cowdrey has a funny story of alien abduction in post-Katrina New Orleans (which is something of an alien environment itself). And I haven’t named quite half of all the issue’s offerings.
The double-issues are fun since there’s just about something for everyone–let me know what you think if you get your hands on a copy.
For all those Pittsburghers in medicine, nursing, dentistry and other healthcare fields (which is probably a good chunk of the population), please mark this on your calendars:
Sunday, September 21, 2008 Mass @ 9:00 a.m., Holy Family Chapel, UPMC-Mercy Hospital Bishop David A. Zubik, D.D. – Main Celebrant Breakfast Program to follow in Sr. Ferdinand M. Clark Auditorium Speaker: John F. Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L. Executive Director and Ethicist, National CMA