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Monday: Finding truth in the weirdest places

yesterday's spring in NJ-we're more than an exit

yesterday's spring in NJ-we're more than an exit

I’ve become an audible junkie.  Listening to books is the next best thing to reading them, leaving your hands free to do other things, like scrubbing your grout (which I never do, but I have that option).  So, yesterday, I was listening to In The Woods, the 2007 Edgar Award winning novel by Tana French, when her Irish police detective/profiler makes this observation:

“We all need to believe in something… Every society in the world, ever, has some form of belief system.  But now, how many people do you know are Christian?  Not just going to church but actually Christian, like trying to do things the way Jesus would have? Well, it’s not like people can have faith in political ideologies.  Our government doesn’t even have ideologies, as far as anyone can tell.  I just meant there isn’t one overall philosophy, so people have to make their own faith.  I was thinking of people who make a religion out of something completely different, like money.

Actually, that’s the nearest thing that government has to an ideology and I’m not talking about bribes, Sam.  Nowadays, it’s not just *unfortunate* if you have a low paid job, have you noticed?  It’s actually *irresponsible*.  You’re not a good member of society. You’re being very, very naughty not to have a big house and a fancy car.”

“But if anyone asks for a raise, they’re being very, very naughty to be threatening their employer’s profit margin, after everything he’s done for the economy.”

“Exactly, if you’re not rich, you’re a lesser being who shouldn’t have the gall to expect a living wage  from the decent people who are.”

Back in the Gilded Age, if you were a banker who went bankrupt, you would be excluded from society and ostracized by your family.  In The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, the only person who would visit Regina Beaufort, wife of a bankrupt banker was Countess Olenska, the scandalous cousin who left her miserable marriage in a social class where women did not divorce their husbands.  It was simply immoral and unacceptable to be financially ruined or to ruin other people.  By the way these people reacted, you’d think the banker had been discovered to be a serial killer.

But that’s not the way we do things nowadays.  Paul Krugman’s column today focuses on the salaries of the finance industry giants.  You may be surprised to find they are on the rise again after they took a beating in 2008.  Well, with all of that cash that we the taxpayers gave them, they now have the capital to continue to gamble, setting aside enough money for lavish bonuses, of course.  And they will be encouraged to take risks that lead to even greater profits, at the expense of the accounts of the money they manage, because that is the mentality.  It is the philosophy of the salesman.  Anything that increases their bottom line must be good and moral.

That is why I was so disturbed to recently receive an email from my governor, Jon Corzine, who is running for re-election this year. He considers it a great honor to be praised by Jack Welch.  Perhaps Corzine has forgotten what state he governs but the finance industry, the marketers and the salesmen are not the only constituents he has.  When I first moved to NJ 20 years ago, the state was a mecca of innovation and high technology.  This state’s industries included, telecommunications, satellite, pharmaceticals and biotech as well as the Wall Street Journal.  (BTW, I used to work across the street from the WSJ post 9-11.  The new concrete security barriers that went up to barricade their site were less than reassuring.)  Jack Welch is no hero of the scientific research community.  His management practices are geared towards selling things, not creating.  Creation is sometimes a very frustrating and painstaking activity.  It is feast and famine, fits and starts, marvellous breakthroughs followed by dead ends.  It requires coordination and collaboration.  Trying to box it into a “kill or be killed”, “round up all the resources for yourself” mentality is seriously non-productive.

I only mention this because the fact that research hasn’t produced anything lately, or so the marketers tell us, severely impacts the image of the scientist in this day and age.  We are being very, very naughty because we aren’t making ourselves rich.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in the lab and our jobs wouldn’t be threatened by outsourcing where the Indians will work for nothing, by God, and they will be grateful.  Nevermind the mergers that suck the life’s blood out of the research process.  Nevermind the lack of human resources actually required to get things done.  Nevermind the lapse in time it takes to apply basic research to industry.  If it can’t be done quickly with a massive payoff to the bottom line of some Jack Welch type and his hordes of testosterone fueled salesmen and marketers, you haven’t done your job and you are an immoral being that doesn’t deserve a living wage.

Thou shalt make money for the finance executives.  All bow.  Amen.

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52 Responses

  1. Yves Smith this morning points out a rare NYTimes article that calls out Geithner for being a part of the financial establishment: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/04/knives-are-coming-out-for-geithner.html

  2. I read “In the Woods” last year. I dont’ recall the quote of course, but it’s very perceptive. Yes, all hail the bankers, and if they go bankrupt, it’s probably our fault.

    • One minute it’s our fault cause we spent too much, the next minute it’s our fault cause we didn’t spend enough….bottom line, it’s our fault.

  3. It appears that this idea isn’t new. And if it isn’t and even fictional characters are seeing it, then why does it persist? Why can’t we stop it?

    Yah – they’re rhetorical.

  4. Terrific post.

    ….. Jon Corzine, who is running for re-election this year. He considers it a great honor to be praised by Jack Welch.

    It’s scary Corzine can be so divorced from every day reality AND be a governor. Jack Welch is the poster boy for pissing though 100 years of accumulated wealth in hyper speed. But no one in thier world is rewarded for dealing in the yucky realities needed to create and preserve . If they were , Hillary would be POTUS…

  5. OT 20,000 hits since 6 mil? It seems like only yesterday…. Wow! If it’s a hit every time I refresh, that explains a lot.

    • I don’t think every refresh counts, but I don’t know for sure. Also I don’t think it counts hits from the owner and admins.

      • Many counters count every time a new page is viewed.

        • I read something about it in the wordpress info. I can check again sometime. Whatever….

          • We’ve been getting about 10,000 “hits” a day for the past few months. That’s down quite a bit since the election but fairly consistent.

            I’m not sure what defines a “hit”

    • I wonder how many comments there are related to how many hits.

      Ever so often commenters air doubt that their comments are read, but as I gather that the hit count are substantially bigger than the amount of comments, wouldn’t that sort of indicate the opposite?

  6. Riverdaughter,

    Thanks for this. I love audibles too. It is not the same as actually reading a book but for busy people like me it is the only way I can get in a book or two. I saw the The Reader on DVD last night. It is the first movie that makes me want to read or hear the book. I think I will get it on audio.
    And I think it should have won best picture.

    • Oh, I loved “The Reader,” and Kate Winslet deserved her Oscar. She is such an honest actress.

  7. This piece makes me sad, and you may be right. One good thing out here? There is a fighter named Burton who is going to lead the Democratic Party. He’s a really Grassroots type.

    It’s all bad news. I wonder if there is any country where it might be fun?

    I saw Hillary on the news yesterday. She looks so strained. That is such a hard position. It was surorising how much they all have to argue back and forth — and nothing really gets done. It’s a little like the feel of this piece?

    This Burton guy dates from when the Clintons started out. It was a different party in the 70’s. And, the new little flash in the pan running for gov — Pelosi/Feinstein endorsed is going to try an pull an O in the web. Who are these people and how did they finesse themselves into position?

    I think the gov is bloated and tied in knots. What do they actually do?

  8. This is filled with stupid:

    In the midst of a government-declared public health emergency involving “emerging cases” of swine flu, President Barack Obama said today that he is closely monitoring a situation that poses no cause for alarm.

    “Don’t worry, it’s only an emergency”

    • myiq you know what else is filled with stupid: bypassing the confirmation process entirely so to run the government of the US by dictatorship: lots of acting handpicked cronies, no accountablility.



      The Obama administration declared a “public health emergency” Sunday to confront the swine flu — but is heading into its first medical outbreak without a secretary of Health and Human Services or appointees in any of the department’s 19 key posts.

      President Barack Obama has not yet chosen a surgeon general or the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His choice to run the Food and Drug Administration awaits confirmation.

      “I want to be very clear here: There is a team in place. Part of it is standing behind me, and part of it working as we speak to identify exactly what [Besser] and others have talked about,” Gibbs said. “This notion that somehow that if there is not currently a secretary, that there is not the function that needs to take place to prepare for either this or any other situation is just simply not the case.” “I think it’s all hands on deck, and we’re doing fine,” Gibbs said.

    • Um, I think he’s right on this one. It’s flu, not pneumonic plague. Everyone should just calm the fuck down and take regular precautions, like washing hands and staying away from people who are sick. It looks like most antivirals won’t work for this strain but if you do get sick, go see your doctor immediately and see what is available that might truncate the infection.
      The way they’re carrying on it won’t be long before my mom calls me hysterical that we’re all going to die. What purpose does it serve???

      • “What purpose does it serve???”

        That’s actually a good question. If it’s a distraction then what are we being distracted from?

      • If it’s nothing to worry about then they should call it something else besides an emergency.

        Call it an alert or a warning.

      • What purpose does it serve???

        If it’s a distraction then what are we being distracted from?

        What do they think it will get them might also be the point. Everything O does is directly related to something he /his financial backers want. Perhaps another appointee who just has to be put in place ASAP to deal with this emergency (which is at the same time nothing for us to worry about) who otherwise would be shot down?

      • Yup, right on schedule, my mom called me at 2:30pm asking what we can do if swine flu goes to epidemic levels.

  9. Is Dakinikat here? Has anyone posted on the investigation Cuomo is doing into the B of A bail out? It clearly explains that Bernake and Paulson broke the law (and of course, Geither was at the helm of NY Fed at the time). They basically forced Ken Lewis (BofA) to deceive his own shareholders!

    Busting Bank of America

    The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It’s a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse.


    One Nation, Under Banks With Justice for No One: Jonathan Weil

    The best that can be said about Bernanke and Paulson is that they believed the ends justified the means, and that preventing system-wide harm to the world’s financial markets took priority over strict adherence to the law. And yet, if you think they didn’t breach the public’s trust, ask yourself this:

    Knowing what we know now, how could you ever trust anything Bernanke says again?

    What about Paulson’s successor as Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who at the time was still the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York?

    All this puts the SEC and the rest of the government in a horrible spot. It is a matter of public record that the law wasn’t followed, thanks to Cuomo’s disclosures last week. And yet the agencies and policy makers responsible for enforcing the law are probably powerless to do anything about it.


  10. Audible books are great for doing yard work and road trips. The best deal is the $250 for 25 credits..$10 for a book, ya can’t beat it.

  11. Dirty Harry Reid writes:

    “‘That speech was phenomenal, Barack,’ I told him. And I will never forget his response. Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: ‘I have a gift, Harry.'”

    Can you pass me that bucket?

    • Sorry, it’s being used just now. I am reminded of the quote you posted months ago:

      “Barack Obama had a gift, and he knew it. He had a way of making very smart, very accomplished people feel virtuous just by wanting to help Barack Obama.”

      How He Did It
      A team of NEWSWEEK reporters reveals the secret battles and private fears behind an epic election.


      That’s the gift I’ll give him credit for.

    • Go take a look at Time Magazine’s 77 pictures of Obama in the White House (and what is it, that makes him look sooo like a little boy? As if he’s wearing boys pants and suspenders) – they are actually quite interesting:

      “Obama meets with his inner circle:
      Chief of Staff Emmanuel, Senior Adviser David Axelrod, Press Secretary Gibbs.”

      Do those people instil trust in anyone?

      “Silence is Golden
      All who enter the Oval Office, Roosevelt Room and Cabinet Room are asked to leave their mobile devices in baskets like these, stationed around the West Wing.”

      Would you leave your private “mobile device” like that?

      “Veep Biden works just outside the Oval Office.”
      … and they couldn’t even provide him with a desk!

      Then there’s O sitting with his feet, no make that legs, up on several chairs. Very presidential indeed.

      And what’s up with his meals? Is he suddenly on a diet?

      And – yawn – all the men-only pictures. Especially one caught my attention, the picture with 10 men in almost similar light blue shirtsleeves – and just a fraction of Obama shows. Asleep? Actually many of the pictures show Obama kind of off to the side.

      Go take a look. And keep in mind that those pictures are all calculated and arranged.

    • NO!!!!!!!!!!!!can’t you see .i.m using it.

    • Yea, that’s always what I get from him…humility (snaaaark).

  12. That “gift” always reminded me of the British writer Bruce Chatwin, who also seemed to make people care for and help him without really any reason. Wasn’t it kind of the same with Truman Capote?

  13. Reading the Krugman article makes me want to see if my new gravatar is working.

  14. I adore Audible books and podcasts. TV is hardly ever on inour house any more. Great description of the creative process RD, it’s tragic the bottom line the financial industry has reduced the world to.

  15. Nowhwere in the comments did I see info regarding one of the most troubling aspects of Corzine, for me.

    As bad as the Welch thing is, I find his realtionship with GS disturbing, considering the fact that most the current administration seem to be GS alumni……And, given the fact that GS seems to be the primal cause of most financial turmoil.

    A quote from a 2002 article:

    Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.). Mounting evidence has come to light that during Corzine’s reign as cochairman of Goldman Sachs–a rich and prestigious investment-banking house also formerly cochaired by Rubin–the firm may have manipulated the market and inflated stock prices through a controversial practice now being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

    If his GS past was mentioned and I overlooked it, I apologize.

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