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Because risk is an intrinsic part of most financial transactions, a Financial Product Safety Commission would not—and should not—prevent every financial mistake. But the agency would allow consumers to make informed decisions about the amount of risk they want to take and would protect them from unscrupulous practices that disguise the dangers. The FPSC might evaluate loans and credit-card agreements using standards similar to ones employed by other agencies concerned with consumer safety: Is a reasonable consumer likely to get hurt by this product? Is the information provided complete and helpful, or is it designed to create a false sense of safety? Will this aspect of the product’s design provide a meaningful service to consumers, or will it confuse and mislead them? Is the malfunction rate—that is, the default rate—reasonable, or is it unacceptably high? Each year millions of credit-card offers go out with tiny print detailing “double-cycle billing” and “trailing interest,” terms that have enormous financial implications but are meaningless to most people. Likewise, such products as mortgage prepayment penalties are slipped surreptitiously into agreements for the sole purpose of trapping people into loans that they otherwise would not likely take on. — “Protect Financial Customers,” Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, from a November 2008 Harper’s Forum
I’m not sure if I explained how circumcision fits into all this. About the time young boys begin to play basketball in the Philippines, they also get “cut.” The folklore around circumcision includes beliefs about male potency: you need to be cut to be able to marry and to have children—and to play basketball. Bad performance in a game—missing an easy shot, for example—brings jeers of “Supot! Supot!” (Literally, paper bag, referring to the conformation of the uncircumcised.) –“Thump, Thump,” Michael Tan, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Greg Stubbs, a Guapo regular and one of the most vocal members of the old skate scene, laments the turn he’s seen in popular skateboarding, down the same hypercompetitive path of youth baseball and soccer. A remarkable skater on a ramp used to draw a cheering audience of dozens of fellow skaters; now, Stubbs says it’s about kids running skate drills on their own until they nail a given trick. A 43-year-old legal consultant, Stubbs remembers his early skating years in Oklahoma City, when riding a board was just about having fun and breaking a few rules. “Skateboarding has gotten so accepted. It’s a P.E. elective,” Stubbs says. “I was out at the skatepark in Allen and there was a dad literally screaming at his kid, ‘Do your frontside grind!’” –“Legendary Dallas Skateboarders go Underground,” Patrick Michels, Dallas Observer
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”