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Monday, April 11, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"On the op-ed page of the New York Times, (Neil) Barofsky argued that TARP had 'failed to meet some of its most important goals': protecting home values, easing the foreclosure crisis, alleviating the credit crunch—helping Main Street, in other words. Indeed, only when it came to aiding Wall Street had TARP worked like a charm. 'Billions of dollars in taxpayer money allowed institutions that were on the brink of collapse not only to survive but even to flourish,' he wrote. 'These banks now enjoy record profits and the seemingly permanent competitive advantage that accompanies being deemed too big to fail.’ Without necessarily intending to, Barofsky’s op-ed provided the perfect coda for the era of bailout rage—a two-and-a-half-year spasm of populist fury that promised, or threatened, to inflict enormous changes on the financial sector. In the political realm, Wall Street faced the prospect of root-and-branch reregulation, up to and including the potential nationalization of the industry’s largest players, and in the cultural realm its transfiguration into a kind of pariah state. Once upon a time, the Street’s leading lights had been glamorized and admired to the point of worship; now the likes of Robert Rubin, Lloyd Blankfein, and Richard Fuld were relentlessly pilloried and demonized. Once the megabanks were seen as indomitable powerhouses and sources of 'financial innovation' (whatever the hell that was); now the greatest and most fearsome of them all, Goldman Sachs, was recast—by a famous and infamous Rolling Stone screed—as a 'great vampire squid.' Yet today on Wall Street, all of that seems a very long time ago. Not only are the banks rolling in dough again, but their denizens’ customs and sense of self-esteem have largely reverted to the status quo ante. With the enactment of a ­financial-­reform law that is widely seen as toothless, the peril posed by government intervention has receded, and with it the industry’s concerns about the vicissitudes of public opinion. Vampire squids? That’s so 2009—an eon ago in Wall Street time. We won, you lost, get over it, is the prevailing attitude." (NYMag)



"This past Friday it was about quarter to three. As I was turning out the light by the window I happened to see that shopping cart under the streetlight, overflowing with balloon-like plastic bags filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of empty aluminum and plastic cans and bottles. I went out onto the terrace for clearer sight. The neighborhood is very quiet at that hour and most of the lights in the buildings surrounding are out. Occasionally a taxi passes through. The gathering of used plastic and aluminum is not unusual in our neighborhood of affluent consumers of convenience items. The task is almost always carried out by men who must get there before the sanitation trucks. Although I have very occasionally seen a woman busy picking through what is basically the rubbish and domestic detritus from these apartment buildings. It’s a dirty job. Scavenging really. But they are all diligent and focused. Their grit is just a step away from desperation. It protects them and provides that which is required of all of us: hope, no matter how subtle. Friday night’s gatherer really got to me though. Watching him work; like a man in charge. Many of the buildings sanitation bags were piled high, waiting. At first I saw only the cart and not him, as he was a few steps up 83rd Street and out of my sightline. When he appeared, walking with a loping but deliberate gait." (NYSocialDiary)


"Google is said to be making big offers to senior engineers to keep them from defecting to startups where pre-IPO shares might mean a big payday. Well New York can’t let the west coast have all the fun. Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley has jumped into the Google baiting game, passing along this note with a little help from Mike Arrington: 'If you’re a Google employee and you aren’t out interviewing at Facebook, Twitter or Zynga you are a moron. what about foursquare, brother?! we’re hiring faster than we can drop desks in here! where’ the love?! Dennis Crowley, co-founder / ceo, foursquare, Foursquare is looking for engineers on both coasts ..." (BetaBeat)


"Which female rapper, who was paid big bucks to play a sweet 16 party, blew a gasket when the sound system wasn't up to snuff? The diva stomped off-stage, ending the show and breaking the hearts of her teen fans . . . Which heavy-hitting Hollywood producer locked his assistant in the bathroom for two hours on a recent business trip? . . . Which now-married Hollywood he-man's favorite pastime in his single days was receiving oral favors in hot tubs after a long day's work -- and didn't care whether the favor came from a woman or a man?" (PageSix)


"When I went to the main military weapons depot in the contested town of Ajdabiya on March 27, just after Qaddafi's forces had fled the city and rebels were still busy celebrating their victory, I had the entire base and its 35 munitions bunkers, stacked to the rafters with weapons, all to myself for several hours. What we found was shocking. Qaddafi's weapon stocks far exceeded what we saw in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein; some of the weapons, such as the surface-to-air missiles capable of downing a civilian aircraft, now floating around freely in eastern Libya are giving security officials around the world sleepless nights. After I began circulating some of the pictures I had taken, I began getting anxious calls from arms-control officials, asking for more details about what I had seen. There is good cause for U.S. and European officials to worry -- there are rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles, and artillery shells full of explosives that can easily be refashioned into car bombs. And there are plenty of groups in the region, including al Qaeda affiliates and rebel movements, that would love to get their hands on these weapons." (ForeignPolicy)

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