The Column of Lasting Insignificance: February 19, 2011
“Why should anyone care about injustice when we have Alan Greenspan (past chairman of the Federal Reserve), Robert Rubin (then Treasury Secretary) and Lawrence Summers (his deputy) still riding around in style giving interviews instead of being behind bars being interviewed by their lawyers? These bums were once put on the Time cover in 1999 as the committee to save the world …Journalists still pursue them and ask their opinions, and these three shameless jerks continue to offer them…”
TOO RICH TO CARE might well be the mantra of what’s being tagged as the new global elite, that growing international body of chilly capitalists who have elevated themselves so far above the common people that they live in a world of their own. “The circles we move in,” opines Glen Hutchins of Silver Lake, a private equity firm, “are defined by ‘interests’ and ’activities’ rather than geography,” while an American media executive in London adds: “We are the people who know airline flight attendants better than we know our own wives”.
Isolating themselves ideologically, the business elite increasingly view themselves as a global community, says the Atlantic, distinguished by their unique talents, and way above such parochial concerns as national identity or devoting ‘their’ taxes to paying down ‘our’ budget deficit. “The widening gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years… parasitic bankers and other elites (living in a plutocracy) in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.” (The Economist describes them as “smug, self-satisfied jerks.”)
Meanwhile (the Atlantic explains), the vast majority of US workers, however, devoted and skilled at their jobs, have not been part of this winner-take-most economy — or worse, found their savings, employers, or professions ravaged by the same forces that have enriched the plutocratic elite. “The result…a jaw-dropping surge in US income inequality. Between 2002 and 2007, 65% of all income growth in the US going to the top 1% of the population… The 28 leading hedge fund managers were paid, on average, more than $1billion each in 2009. One of the two co-founders of the private equity company Blackstone was Stephen Schwarzman, who came away with $8bn.”
The now-jailed former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky admitted last year that he had “treated business exclusively as a game,” and “did not care much about social responsibility.” Allstate’s CEO Thomas Wilson claims he can get workers anywhere in the world, one explanation of why so many of America’s business elite don’t care about the problems of the US workforce.
Astonishingly, this above-it-all elite are enraged by criticism, displaying “a wounded incredulity that anyone could think of them as villains rather than heroes,” the villains in their eyes being the working and middle classes for extravagantly buying things that they can’t afford.
Increasingly, however, they are being judged by their own kind. Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve, declared that Wall Street’s claims of wealth creation were without any real basis: “I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence,” he said, “that financial innovation has led to economic growth.”
IT’S ALWAYS SEEMED too obvious to give the homeless money instead of indirect help, but London tried it — and it worked. Admittedly this was on a small scale, a trial run with about a dozen people who were given an average of about $1,250 each, but none of them blew the money on drink or drugs, all bettered their lives in some way (buying clothes, an old trailer, a TV set) and so authorities now think that as it costs the state an average of $40,000 per year to care for the homeless, maybe cash hand-outs might work out better in the long run.
“National stereotypes take a long time to die. Foreigners still talk about British ‘reserve’ even though the nation that
pioneered Big Brother is a world leader in emotional incontinence. They talk of our good manners and sobriety, even though we are the drunks and hooligans of Europe. In the foreigners’ mind, and even in our own, bankers still wear bowlers.”
Jeremy O’GradyThe Week
WHAT IS ART? Is a cliché so venerable that you’d think the question would be obsolete by now, but even the distinguished guardians of the European Community still seem uncertain of the answer. Art in America tells the story of Berlin’s recent import of a Dan Flavin light sculpture which was classified as having “the characteristics of lighting fittings” and charged the 17.5% VAT tax instead of the 5% tax for artworks: a difference of $47,000. The magazine recalls an earlier precedent, back in 1926, when customs officials tagged Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space merely as “a manufactured object of metal.” That definition was eventually reversed by a judge because, he explained, “it was pleasing to look at and highly ornamental.” Art in America said about the Flavin sculpture that it was surprised that the EC reached this “unenlightened conclusion.”
WITH A POPULATION of 310 million, the U.S. is ungovernable, suggests Kirkpatrick Sale, referring readers of Chronicles to Aristotle who maintained that “a very great multitude cannot be orderly.” Of course, writes Sale, the population in that philosopher’s day was around 50 million tops, but nevertheless, he had a point. More than three-quarters of the world’s most prosperous countries today are small with “economic and social misery” increasing in direct proportion to the size and power of a central government. What size brings, Sale maintains, is increasing restriction, warfare, autocracy, crowding, inequality, and starvation. And the solution? “The only hope for reenergizing American politics is to create truly sovereign states through peaceful, popular, powerful secessions”.
“I’m just drawn to more difficult stories. I always was, even as a child—I started reading the Russians, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, when I was 11 or 12. I’ve always been drawn to things that are left of center. That’s just been me. I never see it as a risk. I just see it as my artistic voice….What I’m best at doing are the things I know are unusual and dangerous. That’s always been my case.”
Nicole KidmanSanta Barbara Independent
ARE THEY CLONING PEOPLE YET?
Alex Besher: They’re definitely headed that way. They ALREADY have the technology to clone people, but as you can imagine it’s a political, social, “religious” etc., etc. TABOO.
Next best thing, medically and approved — and they’re already doing it now, albeit on a beginner’s scale — is they are CLONING bits of vital organs instead of doing transplants likely to get rejected.
Now that they’ve cloned animals are they cloning people?
AB: It’s imaginable/unimaginable where the human species is headed, but there’s not much doubt that “man” is going to look and be a whole lot different within the next half-century.
Organs diseased or aged get replaced. There will be a life-span revolution whereby it will be possible to live a “quality” lifestyle, active, and whatnot, up to say age 300, and thereafter the sky or eternity is the limit.
Once the so-called bionic man has been created (memory data disks containing neurological archives of memories, ability to access all the known knowledge in the universe, thereby if you’re in Spain you instantly start speaking Spanish like a natural-born pro, customized all the way down to local dialects, references to literature, song, local info etc. . . .
We will be, already are (but I certainly don’t feel like one, in fact, I rebel against this sort of pseudo-reality which WILL be the predominant consensual reality) GODS.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Pity the Koch brothers are so greedy; with all those billions they could really do some good. But, of course, they’d have to grow hearts…. Despite uncertainty about the future of the Euro, talk continues about the prospects for creating for South America a common currency (Single Unit of Regional Compensation), the Sucre which, in a previous century was the name of Ecuador’s currency…. Unpunished war criminal Condoleeza Rice has deservedly been forgotten but it’s too optimistic to hope that she won’t pop up again sooner or later….“I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat,” quoth Will Rogers….It’s a mystery why would-be immigrants pay thousands of dollars to smugglers when they could just buy airline tickets as tourists and then overstay their visas as do so many others…. Britain’s BAF Systems has devised a laser weapon which can be used to temporarily immobilize Somali pirates before they get close…. Entering a doctor’s prescription into the ATM-style InstyMeds machine issues a coded voucher which, in turn, releases the prescribed meds …. Calling him “an accidental distiller,” Newsmax touts Brian Ellison’s Death’s Door gin, produced on Washington Island, Death’s Door being the waterway between the island and the Wisconsin mainland…. I want my Al Jazeera TV….A new Sherlock Holmes adventure — “aimed at an adult audience” — has been commissioned 80 years after Arthur Conan Doyle’s death, by his estate,…. Why on earth do 6million airheads want or need to know what Ashton Kutcher thinks?….Still in the early stages of testing, reports the New Scientist, is a drug ZGN-443, which (it’s claimed) can reduce one’s weight by up to a couple of pounds a week…. Is anybody reading this column?….Isn’t making a smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing section in a swimming pool?…. “Clever tyrants are never punished.” — Voltaire (1694-1778)