Economic bubble reading list: The Lost Bank

Today is the beginning of the big GDP statistics update from the BEA:

At the end of September, BEA will update five years of U.S. gross domestic product and related statistics, as well as GDP statistics for industries and for each state.

Maybe we’ll get some insight into how badly we fooled ourselves in imagining that people sitting at home scrolling Facebook and playing Xbox were as productive as if they’d continued to go to the office. The latest from the BEA:

Speaking of fooling ourselves, let me recommend The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual – The Biggest Bank Failure in American History by Kirsten Grind, a Wall Street Journal reporter. The Collapse of 2008 has been covered at a high level in a lot of books, but this one manages to touch on all of the big issues in the context of a single enterprise and group of people. As with “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic,” a narrative about one company is more compelling and easier to follow than a story about the entire U.S. economy.

The book explains how our modern world of a handful of enormous banks came to be. When there are no limits on how big a bank can get, small variations in bank health lead to enormous concentration. Due to being slightly larger, WaMu might have slightly lower costs per customer than a smaller bank, e.g., with information systems being spread across a larger base, thus making an acquisition sensible on both sides. WaMu would buy banks after the CEO got sued for divorce, leaving the target without effective leadership while the CEO was defending the lawsuit. WaMu would ultimately buy banks to feed its own executives’ egos, particularly Kerry Killinger’s, regarding its size rank among U.S. banks (when you’re #4, the desire to become #2 or #1 becomes tough to resist).

The book explains the roots of the Collapse of 2008. At a high level, the book identifies the following culprits:

  • the federal government, starting with Bill Clinton, pressuring banks into lending big money to Americans with low income and bad credit history to serve a social justice goal of achieving a desire mix of skin colors among borrowers (regulators could simply shut down a bank that didn’t lend enough money to the groups of interest to the government)
  • Fannie Mae, which abandoned its insistence on high quality mortgages and, partly due to pressure from the government, started buying low quality mortgages issued to home buyers/flippers who could not be expected to pay back loans if house prices flattened
  • New York City, whose investment banks sold mortgage-backed bonds to investors worldwide and, also, those investors. The book describes people on the ground at subprime lenders, e.g., Long Beach Mortgage (acquired by WaMu in 1999), recognizing that the borrowers would never pay but assuming that if Wall Street kept buying the mortgages the investors must know something that they didn’t.
  • California, where most of the fraudulent practices originated.
  • the issuance of complex variable rate mortgages, such as Option ARM, to consumers who lacked the sophisticated or, in many cases the English language skills, to understand them (it didn’t help that these folks had the financial capacity only to pay the initial teaser monthly payments and were guaranteed to default if a house price didn’t go up enough to enable a refinance; Federal regulators at the Office of Thrift Supervision approved the practice of issuing a $4000/month mortgage to a consumer who could afford only the $1000/month teaser rate)

As in Bubble in the Sun book: even those with the best information can’t predict a crash, those on the inside did not always see crash coming. In early 2007, for example, as investors were fleeing from high-risk mortgages and as some of his junior executives warned of impending doom, Kerry Killinger tried to buy a huge California-based subprime lender, Ameriquest, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. Questioned regarding why he would want to pay for Ameriquest while the crash appeared to be underway, Killinger responded “They don’t ring a bell at the bottom.”

Kirsten Grind references Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?: The Boom Will Not Bust and Why Property Values Will Continue to Climb Through the End of the Decade, by David Lereah, Ph.D., the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. The 2005 book was rereleased in February 2006 just as the market for subprime mortgage-backed securities began to collapse (but Fannie Mae kept buying!).

The book is a great lesson in what we might call “success disease.” Executives who take risks when everything is going up imagine that they have some special talents. Like individual investors in high-beta stocks, they don’t risk-adjust their high historical returns for the fact that they took a lot of risk and that it could easily have gone in the other direction.

The book answers the question Why did banks work so hard to lend money to people who obviously weren’t going to pay? Due to the higher interest rates on subprime, and the assumption that almost all of the low-income folks who took out subprime loans would actually pay, it was 5-10X more profitable to lend money to someone with no job than it was to lend money to a person with a job and a history of paying his/her/zir/their bills. The book doesn’t say so explicitly, but this also explains why banks couldn’t easily abandon their subprime practices in 2005 when the problems were already obvious. If they had done so, they would have needed to fire half of their employees (since the revenue from being a mortgage lender to those who could actually afford houses was such a small fraction of the subprime revenue stream).

Those passionate about social justice will be pleased to learn that the one voice of praise from a shareholder at the April 2008 meeting was from a Ph.D. economist who was also and employee. She expressed confidence in the Board and executive team, thanking them for their focus on diversity in hiring and lending to minorities (“community”). WaMu had recently rejected an $8/share buyout offer from J.P. Morgan Chase and also recently obtained $7 billion in smart money from the private equity geniuses (WSJ, Sept 2008 describes all $7 billion being lost). The private equity investors got half the company and let the Board and executives keep their jobs.

The book is also a cautionary reminder that it can take a while for bad decisions to work their way through the system. The California-style lending practices first reached the rest of the U.S. perhaps in 2003. It wasn’t until four years later that the subprime lenders began to go bankrupt, in mid-2007. And it was more than a year later before the broader U.S. markets and economy collapsed. If you think that U.S. economic policy has been misguided since March 2020 (as I do, because the rewards have been tilted in favor of those who don’t work or who engage in counterproductive activities), it could be a few years before the consequences of this policy become apparent.

Don’t forget that a disaster for ordinary folks, investors, etc. may be only a minor problem for the executives who caused the disaster. Kerry Killinger took so much money out of WaMu on the way up that he could pay off Wife #1 while also building and enjoying a dream lifestyle with Wife #2 that apparently persists to this day. The Latinx subprime borrowers lost everything, but Killinger still had his collection of $6 million houses (worth $20 million each today?). Killinger’s epic risk-taking would have been rational, even with full advance knowledge that it would render the bank’s shares worthless. If he had managed the bank conservatively, nothing dramatic would have happened either to the shares or to his own net worth.

I’ve actually been listening to The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual – The Biggest Bank Failure in American History via Audible, but don’t love the narrator so perhaps the Kindle or print versions would be better.

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Book recommendation: Anatomy of a Murder

Here’s a book that I recently enjoyed, loosely related to my slavery as an expert witness: Anatomy of a Murder. It was turned into a 1959 film with some added twists (Jimmy Stewart, a combat B-24 pilot in World War II, is the star). Although the subject of the trial in the book/movie is a murder, which is a little more dramatic than the typical patent infringement lawsuit, many of the ideas and concepts are similar.

Due to its age, the book contains no 2SLGBTQQIA+ angle. What if you need a book that is more up to date? The Barnes & Noble in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida is ready to meet your needs. Some photos from an August 13, 2022 visit that I think our loyal reader/commenter Mike will appreciate:

Need some tips on Zoom etiquette? The store carries this masterpiece by Jeffrey Toobin:

One book is not enough about our fellow Palm Beach County resident?

Prefer to ponder what happens after a few more years of open borders?

Passionate about the skin color of the person who wrote the text on the page?

Who else has a book to recommend? What have you all been reading?

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Book recommendation: All the Flowers of the Mountain

Today we celebrate the traitorous rebellion of slaveowners and land-stealers against the legitimate authority of the British government.

Today our family also celebrates a cousin’s wife’s novel, five years in the works, being released. I managed to read the first 60 pages via a preprint and can vouch for it being well-crafted. At the risk of sounding too much like an Oprah copycat, it contains richly imagined characters. The chapters also have an interesting back-and-forth sequence that does not feel like a gimmick. At least in the first 60 pages there are no 2SLGBTQQIA+ characters of color so I don’t expect this book to be featured in the New York Times. I was engaged, despite the romance angle. My only criticism so far is that the main male character seems unrealistically emotional. I’m not sure that the author fully appreciates the “one mood all the time” principle of cisgender masculinity.

The book is All the Flowers of the Mountain. My Kindle copy arrives today and I’m going to be anxious to see how it turns out. A good beach or lake vacation read, certainly!

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Memorial Day reading: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

For Memorial Day, let me recommend The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, a book about the Battle off Samar, in which puny destroyer-escorts and destroyers charged heavy Japanese cruisers and battleships in an attempt to prevent destruction by surface fire of American escort carriers (cargo ships with a flight deck, essentially).

The situation was the opposite of the typical American military engagement, in which we enjoy an overwhelming advantage in numbers and equipment. Most of the American fleet had steamed far away, distracted by a Japanese decoy force.

The book is also timely because the events are the opposite of what happened in Uvalde, Texas. There, the heavily armed, full armored, and numerous police were so intimidated by a single teenager that they took no action. Off Samar, however, captains of absurdly small vessels steamed forward into what they expected to be near-certain death in order to protect the escort carriers and their crews.

Here’s the Samuel B. Roberts, at 1350 tons:

She was sunk by the Kongō, 36,600 tons.

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Philip’s Book Club: Bubble in the Sun (about the Florida real estate boom 1895-1926ish)

The latest book… Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression (Christopher Knowlton). I’m enjoying it so far (listening via Audible). Timely, considering that home prices in the decent neighborhoods of Florida have roughly doubled since the lockdowns began in the Northeast and California.

The author notes that at some point in the 1920s, Florida had 60 million single-family house lots mapped out and ready to sell.

Chart of Florida population growth from 1900-1930 (source):

For context, here’s Maskachusetts v. Florida over 120 years:

Note that 1947 is highlighted as an important year for window air conditioners and the 1960s as when home central A/C become standard (energy.gov).

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Book recommendation: The Great Siege, Malta 1565

Sadly topical, let me recommend The Great Siege, Malta 1565 by Ernie Bradford. For Americans softened by 150+ years without war on our soil, this is a sobering reminder of the nature of war and life in a besieged city. For those who are concerned about the fighting abilities of the innumerate 79-year-old whom Americans elected as our Commander in Chief, the book may provide some comfort. Suleiman the Magnificent, who ordered the siege, was nearly 71 years old at the time. Dragut, “The Drawn Sword of Islam”, who proved to be Suleiman’s best military leader, was 80 years old. Jean Parisot de Valette, who led the defense and gave his name to Malta’s capital, was 70.

Trigger Warning: the book’s author died in 1986, when Science was but poorly understood, and thus the book lacks coverage of how the 2SLGBTQQIA+ and BIPOC communities experienced the siege.

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What are folks reading in Boulder?

Pictures from the Boulder Book Store.

SARS-CoV-2 has achieved much more mindshare in Colorado than in Florida. Boulder and Denver are the centers of concern regarding COVID-19. As you enter the store…

The #1-selling book is The 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.”

(Black Americans may be at the very center of the United States national narrative, but I did not see any employees or customers at the bookstore who appeared to identify as “Black”)

Another prominently displayed book reminds customers that there wouldn’t be any Black or white people here if the Native Americans had been more successful militarily.

Joe Biden might be able to find his next Supreme Court nominee in the children’s section:

Speaking of the Supreme Court, AOC stands next to RBG. Perhaps my dream that Joe Biden will nominate thought-leader AOC to the Supreme Court is shared by others?

(Fortunately, no Deplorable had snuck in to set up a Willie Brown action figure next to Kamala.)

The best way to deal with climate change is stoned and drunk:

If you need pocket-sized constant inspiration:

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Finished San Fransicko

I have finished San Fransicko, the book by a self-described lifelong “progressive and Democrat” that I wrote about in Reading list: San Fransicko.

Let’s go to the solution first. The author describes 50 years of failure by California government agencies and 15-20 years of spectacular failure by state and local government agencies, with ever-growing revenue for non-profit contractors. What’s the alternative to failed state government?

What California needs is a new, single, and powerful state agency. Let’s call it Cal-Psych. It would be built as a separate institution from existing institutions, including state and county health departments and health providers. Cal-Psych would efficiently and humanely treat the seriously mentally ill and addicts, while providing housing to the homeless on a contingency-based system. Cal-Psych’s CEO would be best-in-class and report directly to the governor. It is only in this way that the voters can hold the governor accountable for the crisis on the streets. Cal-Psych would have significant buying power, be attractive to employees, and be able to move clients to where they need to be. It would be able to purchase psychiatric beds, board and care facilities, and treatment facilities from across the state. And it would be able to offer the mentally ill and those suffering substance use disorders drug and psychiatric treatment somewhere other than in an open-air drug scene.

What if someone is homeless because he/she/ze/they is consuming opioids?

Cal-Psych would do as much as legally, ethically, and practically possible to establish voluntary drug treatment and psychiatric care and would also work with the courts and law enforcement to enforce involuntary care through assisted outpatient treatment and conservatorship. The low-hanging fruit, according to Rene, is getting twenty-something-year-old opioid addicts off the street and into medically assisted treatment programs, since we have good substitutes for opioids in the form of Suboxone and methadone.

What’s in these “substitutes for opioids”? Suboxone isn’t packed with healing essential always-available-even-when-schools-are-shut cannabis, but it does contain buprenorphine… an opioid. In other words, if someone is taking too many opioids, give him/her/zir/them more opioids.

So… the solution to failed government is more government and the solution to drug addiction is government-supplied drugs.

Homelessness certainly is a growth industry in California:

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of homeless rose by 31 percent in California but declined 19 percent in the rest of the United States.2 As a result, there were, as of 2020, at least 161,000 total homeless people in California, with about 114,000 of them unsheltered, sleeping in tents on sidewalks, in parks, and alongside highways. Homelessness had become the number one issue in the state.3 Half of all California voters surveyed said they saw homeless people on the street five times a week.

A big part of the reason for the failure of the homeless industrial complex has had to do with perverse incentives, progressive resistance to mandatory treatment, and the insistence on permanent supportive housing over shelters. But it also has to do with the neoliberal model of outsourcing services. Instead of governments providing such services directly, they give grants to nonprofit service providers who are unaccountable for their performance. “There is no statutory requirement for government to address homelessness,” complained University of Pennsylvania researcher Dennis Culhane. “It’s mainly the domain of a bunch of charities who are unlicensed, unfunded, relatively speaking, run by unqualified people who do a shitty job. There’s no formal government responsibility. It’s only something we dream of. And that is fundamentally part of the problem.”23 Nobody can even accurately calculate how much money is being spent. The state auditor calculates that California spends $12 billion total on homelessness, and it is not clear how much of that is overlap with other state spending. The Legislative Analyst’s Office found many difficulties: “Difficulty assessing how much the state is spending on a particular approach towards addressing homelessness, for example—prevention versus intervention efforts. Difficulty determining how programs work collaboratively. Difficulty assessing what programs are collectively accomplishing.”

There is a philosophical-religious basis for why Californians decided that they wanted to be surrounded by tent cities:

Unlike traditional religions, many untraditional religions are largely invisible to the people who hold them most strongly. A secular religion like victimology is powerful because it meets the contemporary psychological, social, and spiritual needs of its believers, but also because it appears obvious, not ideological, to them. Advocates of “centering” victims, giving them special rights, and allowing them to behave in ways that undermine city life, don’t believe, in my experience, that they are adherents to a new religion, but rather that they are more compassionate and more moral than those who hold more traditional views.

Some more quotes on how San Francisco got to this point:

How and why do progressives ruin cities? So far we have explored six reasons. They divert funding from homeless shelters to permanent supportive housing, resulting in insufficient shelter space. They defend the right of people they characterize as Victims to camp on sidewalks, in parks, and along highways, as well as to break other laws, including against public drug use and defecation. They intimidate experts, policy makers, and journalists by attacking them as being motivated by a hatred of the poor, people of color, and the sick, and as causing violence against them. They reduce penalties for shoplifting, drug dealing, and public drug use. They prefer homelessness and incarceration to involuntary hospitalization for the mentally ill and addicted. And their ideology blinds them to the harms of harm reduction, Housing First, and camp-anywhere policies, leading them to misattribute the addiction, untreated mental illness, and homeless crisis to poverty and to policies and politicians dating back to the 1980s.

There is a chapter on Jim Jones, who was close to former mayor George Moscone and Willie Brown.

Moscone made Jones the chairman of the powerful San Francisco Housing Commission.12 Jones cultivated progressives with money and favors. He made large donations to the ACLU, the NAACP, and United Farm Workers. Jones and Moscone met privately with vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale on a campaign plane a few days before the 1976 presidential election, and Mondale praised People’s Temple shortly afterward. Jones met with First Lady Rosalynn Carter several times. Governor Jerry Brown praised Jones. Glide Memorial Church’s Rev. Cecil Williams loved Jones. There is a photo from 1977 of a smiling Williams awarding Jones the church’s “Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.”

A conservative member of the Board of Supervisors who was defeated in the mayoral election by Moscone accused the new mayor, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the rest of the city establishment of being blind to Jones’s extremism. “There’s no radical plot in San Francisco,” insisted Moscone, in response. “There’s no one I’ve appointed to any city position whom I regard as radical or extremist.”

Brown was master of ceremonies at a dinner for Jones in the fall of 1976 attended by an adulatory crowd of the rich and powerful, including Governor Jerry Brown.

San Francisco’s establishment stood by Jones even after a California magazine, New West, owned by Rupert Murdoch, published an exposé of Jones’s beatings of Temple members and financial abuses in August 1977. The article was written by a San Francisco Chronicle reporter and was meant for the Chronicle to publish. But the newspaper killed the story because it didn’t want to alienate Jones, whom it viewed as central to its plans to expand the Chronicle’s circulation in the heavily African American Fillmore District. Jones also managed to avoid investigation and prosecution in part by getting the district attorney to hire as deputy district attorney Jones’s longtime attorney and confidant.

Harvey Milk, too, was tarnished by his association with Jones. In the fall of 1977, Milk wrote to President Carter’s secretary of health, education, and welfare requesting that Social Security checks be sent to elderly Temple members in Guyana. “People’s Temple,” wrote Milk, has “established a beautiful retirement community in Guyana.”

“Even as the bloated bodies of the dead were removed from the jungle and the wounded were airlifted by the U.S. Air Force to hospitals in the United States,” wrote a historian, “Brown said he had ‘no regrets’ over his association with Jones.” They repeatedly disavowed responsibility. Said Moscone, “it’s clear that if there was a sinister plan, then we were taken in. But I’m not taking any responsibility. It’s not mine to shoulder.”

Moscone was ultimately killed by Dan White, an anti-Progressive former firefighter. The author tries to explain how Dan White was acquitted of what certainly looked like premeditated murder:

The jury appeared to pity White. What seemed to be particularly influential was a recording of White breaking down in tears during his confession to the police.

Playing the victim, or what researchers call victim signaling, appears to be working better than ever. Society’s definition of trauma and victimization is broadening, researchers find. As a result, there are more people who identify as victims today, even as actual trauma and victimization are declining. Researchers find that people are increasingly “moral typecasting,” or creating highly polarized categories of “victim” and “perpetrator.” And they find that people who portray themselves as “victims” believe they will be better protected from accusations of wrongdoing. In one study, participants judged how responsible an imaginary car thief was for his actions. One group was told that he had a genetic oversensitivity to pain. The other group was not given that detail. The people in the group who were told that the man was oversensitive to pain held him less responsible for his action.

Victim signalers are more likely to boast of their victim status after being accused of discriminating against others, or of being privileged. And so-called virtuous victims, people who broadcast their morality, alongside their victimization, are more likely to gain resources from others, researchers find, and display Dark Triad personality traits, than victim signalers who did not signal their virtue.

San Fransicko is worth reading, if only to see just how bad things can get for the middle class and even upper middle class before the elites need to worry about losing elections or personally experiencing anything negative. I find it tough to believe that the author’s proposed solution, a new massive state bureaucracy, would be effective. Suppose that the new state agency worked precisely as hoped, unlike any of the previous or existing government initiatives described in the book. If California were then to deliver on its promises to its current homeless, why wouldn’t that attract a more or less unlimited supply of new homeless people from other states, other countries (just walk across the border), etc.?

In the meantime, since California progressives are so passionate about helping the homeless, the least that folks in other states can do is purchase bus tickets for any homeless person who wants to go to California!

Greyhound bus photos below are from February 2020, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, currently a Deplorable-free environment:

THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES REQUIRES PROOF OF FULL VACCINATION TO ENTER THE MUSEUM. At MOCA this policy applies to all visitors 12+.

What counts as proof of vaccination? You must provide both:

  • Your vaccination card issued by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (which includes the name of the person vaccinated, the type of vaccine provided and the date(s) dose(s) administered), or similar documentation issued by another foreign government agency, such as World Health Organization, a digital vaccine record, a legible photograph of the vaccination card, or documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination from a healthcare provider; AND
  • Your photo ID.

(It is not in any way racist to require a photo ID.)

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Book to read if you’re upset that everything is out of stock

Island of the Lost: An Extraordinary Story of Survival at the Edge of the World by Joan Druett is a timely read given for those who are upset that everything has been out of stock for two years. It covers the experience of five guys whose sailing ship wrecked in the Auckland Islands in 1864. They’d been looking for new places to kill seals or, possibly, do some silver mining (their cover story). The Auckland Islands are southwest of New Zealand, 50.7 degrees south latitude (old saying: “Below 40 degrees south there is no law; below 50 degrees south there is no God”).

The weather is miserable, the sandflies are relentless, and they were stuck there for almost as long as 15 days to flatten the curve. The resourceful crew manages to build a hut from the timber of the wrecked ship and they kill enough seals that starvation isn’t an issue. But the sailors have to do their own blacksmithing, sew their own clothes, make their own soap, tan their own hides, make their own cement (from seashells), make a forge bellows, turn wood into charcoal to fuel the forge, and create anything that they would ordinarily have purchased in a hardware store (e.g., nails).

The book will also be helpful if you’re worried about climate change destroying humanity as a species. It turns out that we can be difficult to eradicate.

Finally, the book is also encouraging to those of us who are so old that we are more likely to be killed by Omicron than by Alec Baldwin. Island of the Lost also talks about a shipwreck that happened around the same time, that of the Invercauld. A sailor on that ship sat down and started typing a vivid and useful memoir at the age of 86, six decades after the experience. This is the basis for a great-granddaughter’s book: Wake of the Invercauld.

Related:

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How far would you go to get your child into college?

Now that the Harvard College application deadline is behind us, let’s look at a book by Nobel-winner (like Obama!) Kazuo Ishiguro that turns out to be partly on the topic of what a parent would be willing to do to get a child into college. Klara and the Sun was published in 2021, so I’m not sure if the author gets prescience credit for this:

‘Where were we? Ah yes, so the plan was for Rick to be home-tutored by screen professors like all the other smart children. But of course, you probably know, it all became complicated. And here we are. Darling, would you like to tell the tale from here? No? Well, the long and short of it. Even though Rick was never lifted, there still remains one decent option for him. Atlas Brookings takes a small number of unlifted students. The only proper college that will still do so. They believe in the principle and thank heavens for that. Now there are only a few such places available each year, so naturally the competition is savage. But Rick is clever and if he applied himself, and perhaps received just a little expert guidance, the sort I can’t give him, he has a good chance. Oh yes you do, darling! Don’t shake your head! But the long and short of it is we can’t find screen tutors for him. They’re either members of TWE, which forbids its members to take unlifted students, or else they’re bandits demanding ridiculous fees which we of course are in no position to offer. But then we heard you’d arrived next door, and I had a marvelous idea.’

Ishiguro tries to inhabit the mind of an android (lowercase) that is solar-powered and was designed to be a child’s artificial friend (“AF”). What comes naturally to the artificial intelligence is personification/deification of the Sun. From the AF’s point of view:

The most important thing I observed during my second time was what happened to Beggar Man and his dog. It was on the fourth day – on an afternoon so gray some taxis had on their small lights – that I noticed Beggar Man wasn’t at his usual place greeting passers-by from the blank doorway between the RPO and Fire Escapes buildings. I didn’t think much about it at first because Beggar Man often wandered away, sometimes for long periods. But then once I looked over to the opposite side and realized he was there after all, and so was his dog, and that I hadn’t seen them because they were lying on the ground. They’d pushed themselves right against the blank doorway to keep out of the way of the passers-by, so that from our side you could have mistaken them for the bags the city workers sometimes left behind. But now I kept looking at them through the gaps in the passers-by, and I saw that Beggar Man never moved, and neither did the dog in his arms. Sometimes a passer-by would notice and pause, but then start walking again. Eventually the Sun was almost behind the RPO Building, and Beggar Man and the dog were exactly as they had been all day, and it was obvious they had died, even though the passers-by didn’t know it. I felt sadness then, despite it being a good thing they’d died together, holding each other and trying to help one another. I wished someone would notice, so they could be taken somewhere better, and quieter, and I thought about saying something to Manager. But when it was time for me to step down from the window for the night, she looked so tired and serious I decided to say nothing.

The next morning the grid went up and it was a most splendid day. The Sun was pouring his nourishment onto the street and into the buildings, and when I looked over to the spot where Beggar Man and the dog had died, I saw they weren’t dead at all – that a special kind of nourishment from the Sun had saved them. Beggar Man wasn’t yet on his feet, but he was smiling and sitting up, his back against the blank doorway, one leg stretched out, the other bent so he could rest his arm on its knee. And with his free hand, he was fondling the neck of the dog, who had also come back to life and was looking from side to side at the people going by. They were both hungrily absorbing the Sun’s special nourishment and becoming stronger by the minute, and I saw that before long, perhaps even by that afternoon, Beggar Man would be on his feet again, cheerfully exchanging remarks as always from the blank doorway.

I don’t want to spoil the book, a reasonably quick read, and I do recommend it, so I’ll stop here.

More: Klara and the Sun

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