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« Remembering Regional Gasoline Brands | Main | Illustration Art in the Middle of Nowhere »

September 14, 2009

American Masculinity Redeemed

Friedrich von Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards,

On more than one occasion, watching the public do, er, nothing as the financial masters of the universe demonstrate over and over again who really calls the shots in this country, the thought has crawled across my reluctant mind that maybe we've got the financial services industry and the political class we deserve. An attitude of amoral greed, get-yours-while-the-getting-is-good and the-devil-take-the-hindmost seems to characterize the investing public (who maintain a deafening political silence while frantically piling back into the stock market so as not to miss the rally) no less than it describes the professional card dealers on Wall Street carefully palming a fifth and sixth ace or the professional politicos with their gerrymandered safe seats in Washington, happily selling votes for campaign contributions and future employment. Apparently no one in America minds a rigged game as long as it’s rigged in their favor.

The real question, I suppose, is that why – given my grey hairs and almost six decades of experience in this country’s daily life – any of this should surprise me. The best I can do by way of explanation is that while I never thought Americans were exceptionally moral, I did think they had, at a minimum, more self-esteem, more vanity, than this. Doesn’t anybody even aspire to playing the role of John Wayne in this Western?

Well, apparently, just when I thought the entire country was going to slink off into the shadows and let the gang wearing the black hats rape the schoolmarm and plunder the Farmer's & Mechanic's Bank at will, a righteous badass has stepped forth. (Stark but stirring theme music plays in the background).

Today I read of his manly exploits in the NY Times:

Giving voice to the anger and frustration of many ordinary Americans, Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued a scathing ruling on one of the watershed moments of the financial crisis: the star-crossed takeover of Merrill Lynch by the now-struggling Bank of America.

Judge Rakoff voided a $33 million settlement that Bank of America had reached with the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the bank had adequately disclosed the bonuses that were paid by Merrill before the merger, which was completed in January at regulators’ behest as Merrill foundered.

He accused the S.E.C. of failing in its role as Wall Street’s top cop by going too easy on one of the biggest banks it regulates. And he accused executives of the Bank of America of failing to take responsibility for actions that blindsided its shareholders, and the taxpayers who bailed out the bank at the height of the crisis.

The sharply worded ruling, which invoked justice and morality, seemed to speak not only to the controversial deal, but also to the anger across the nation over the excesses that led to the financial crisis, and the lax regulation in Washington that permitted those excesses to flourish.

You can read the full text of Judge Rakoff's decision here.

Damn, this guy makes me proud to be an American. Give ‘em hell, Judge.

Cheers (and big fat honking ones, too)


posted by Friedrich at September 14, 2009


"Jed": excellent.

P.S. what's "Jed" short for?

Posted by: dearieme on September 15, 2009 5:50 AM

Sweet...thanks for this.

Posted by: Steve W on September 15, 2009 12:49 PM

The ruling is a joy to behold. But the tide of moral decay seems far too strong for it to make any difference.

We've basically been defeated by a colossal, corrupt system. IMO, having been defeated so thoroughly, it's kind of natural to become apathetic or even to emulate the amoral greed that has beaten us.

We don't really have very many techniques for fighting the system, do we? But bankers, politicians, and other powerful people *do*, for manipulating us. I think that's a big cause of our ongoing defeat.

Posted by: sigher on September 15, 2009 5:10 PM

Yes indeed! That was my reaction also when I read that.

Dylan nails it.

Posted by: mark on September 15, 2009 5:47 PM

That's a fun article. But even as I enjoyed it, I'm not so sure about the exhortations Dylan gives us. There's a bit of the "citizens, rise up" flavor. Which I think either falls on deaf ears, or sometimes works, with chaotic upheaval as a result, followed by a return to systemic corruption.

As for me, the next time one of my friends tells me about his plans to work on Wall Street after university, I plan to scold him (perhaps subtly). I may even frown at anyone I meet who works, in any capacity, for an investment bank, which will be socially obnoxious, but perhaps the principled thing to do..

I don't know, I find it very hard to think of little everyday techniques, but I think in general, it has to be the way to make true progress- to break the cycle.

Posted by: sigher on September 16, 2009 2:32 AM

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