Sunday, January 4, 2009

rescue me

some part of me wishes we can return to a barter economy. my socks for your pencils, or whatever. at least i would be able to understand how it works.

as the economy sank further and further, i took up reading the wall street journal, which i'd only associated with alex p keaton up to that point. the journal manages to synthesize complicated concepts like CDOs in a couple of sentences, while the times can barely explain leverage. moreover, the journal consistently includes sexy details like "On Tuesday, Mr. Buffett says, he was sitting with his feet on his desk in Omaha, drinking a Cherry Coke and munching on mixed nuts, when he got an unusually candid call from a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investment banker. Tell us what kind of investment you'd consider making in Goldman, the banker urged him, and the firm would try to hammer out a deal."

nonetheless, i enjoyed (?) reading this two-parter in the times from michael lewis and david einhorn on the state of the financial markets. indeed, this is an uncertain time; so much of what we'd assumed was real turned out to be spectacularly illusory. although it is much too easy to reduce this debacle into the usual for-profit bad, public service good dichotomy, we discovered that the two worlds are rather intertwined and, sadly, the destruction of the former has infected the latter. we all lose.

in any case, i am completely fascinated by this madoff thing. the family drama - i don't believe for a second that his sons weren't involved; the sheer breadth - literally six degrees of kevin bacon; those mysterious women (make sure you click on the link here) i once read about in vanity fair and vaguely envied despite their equine features - was their dad involved somehow or is it all just coincidence?

our justice system showed its best side, as it let a man who, in his own words, perpetrated (okay fine, allegedly) a $50 billion fraud traipse around lexington avenue like nothing happened. then the prosecutors thought better of it and decided upon house arrest. THEN, yet another shonda:

The disgraced financier Bernard L. Madoff tried to hide at least $1 million in watches and jewelry from government investigators and should have his bail revoked and sent to jail immediately, federal prosecutors told a judge Monday afternoon.

more impressively, the sons turned the father in!

Last week, Mr. Madoff’s sons, Andrew and Mark, received three packages, containing valuable jewelry and watches, as well as inexpensive items like cufflinks and mittens, according to a person briefed on the contents of the packages. Within a few minutes of receiving the packages, Mr. Madoff’s sons called the law firm of Paul, Weiss, which is representing them, to tell them about the packages, this person said.

guess they've lost their fear of being left out of the will.

and what did congress do? hold yet another hearing, of course. as usual, it was chock full of pithy condemnations and self-righteous anger. here's an idea - do something about it. and that "something" shouldn't be "give away all of our money to a bunch of guys who made more last year than i will in several lifetimes." oh what do i hear? a legislator is coming to our rescue?

Perhaps, one lawmaker suggested, the term “Ponzi scheme,” named after the Italian immigrant who engineered the huge pyramid-investment scheme of the early 20th century, should be declared obsolete and replaced by “the Madoff scheme.”

yes...that's the solution.

sometimes i think to myself, will i ever stop being cynical? isn't it just an easy out? but this unfathomable failure of public trust - how is it that we are giving money, our hard-earned money to vikram pandit? to lloyd blankfein? don't you think hank paulson would've noticed if $750 billion had gone missing during his tenure at goldman? after all, it might have prevented him from amassing an $800m fortune. is it trite to be angry about this at this point? i'd much rather the government give my money to the guy i saw taking a shit in broad daylight on 8th street a few months ago or some welfare queen so she can buy that cadillac she's been eyeing. this entire meltdown has only proven that i haven't been cynical enough.

there is a breathtaking thought.

in parting, to the girl who farted TWICE on the machine next to me at the gym: not cool, man.


cold4thestreets said...

But what say you to Kevin Bacon's unspeakable crimes?

E said...

really? i would so choose that movie with jennifer aniston over that one.

also, he's 50?!