You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

October 14, 2008

Steven Pearlstein Stunned By Sun Rising In East

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein is stunned:

If Wall Street were truly serious about convincing Main Street that we're all in this together, its top executives would have stepped before the cameras yesterday and promised not to cut lines of credits to long-standing business customers who have never missed a payment...

They would have committed themselves not to foreclose on any homeowner who is willing and able to refinance...

They would have offered to suspend dividend payments...

They would have given us their solemn promise not to advise clients to hold on to their own investments while quietly dumping whatever they can...

And the maharajas of finance could have set a wonderful example if they had all gotten together and agreed to work for a dollar a year until the crisis has passed.

There's a word that captures the instinct to take these kind of bold moves in the midst of a national crisis -- it's called leadership. We've seen quite a bit of it these past few weeks from public officials...Wall Street, by contrast, has served up a nothing sandwich, a lack of leadership that's been stunning.

Other things that have recently stunned Steven Pearlstein:

• Sun rising in east
• Bluish tint of sky
• Pope's seeming Catholicism. Who knew?

Who wouldn't be stunned when the most greedy, venal, vicious, cruel, arrogant, ignorant human beings on earth aren't eager to work in the public interest? Especially when people like them have never been willing to do so in the entire history of mankind, except on the rare occasions when they've been directly threatened with execution? It's stunning!

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at October 14, 2008 11:07 AM

This reminds me a comment in a performance appraisal done by a British Army officer upon a subordinate. "This individual works well when cornered like a rat and threatened with termination."

Posted by: Hairhead at October 14, 2008 12:01 PM

The Sun still rises
The Sky is still blue
George ain't IMPEACHED and
WE bought nine banks too.
25 bill each
Is all that they cost
While the shareholders and investors
Get to swallow the loss

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2008 12:06 PM

I am not surprised! The Maharajas of Finance probably do not know how to play the "jumbled letters" game to find a meaningful word. If they did, they would have found in "Sharpe Lied" the word Mr Pearlstein was expecting them to find and acted upon it and may could have cleaned up the jumbled mess on Wall Street!

Mike Meyer: If nothing else, this is certainly increasing creativity ( literary ) on this blog!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 14, 2008 12:15 PM

"I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken stronger hold on the affection of men."
Alexis de Tocqueville

Even Rita Hayworth couldn't touch our first love. And still, Pearlstein is stunned.

Posted by: donescobar at October 14, 2008 12:36 PM

Rupa Shah: THANK YOU for YOUR kind words. If I may brag-- I'm seriously concidering adding this little ditty into chapter 2 (titled "That's Where My Money Goes"[went?]) of my book "How To Conquer The World And Get In On The Big Money, A Great American Novel". It doesn't seem to fit in chapter 1 "Checkpoint Charlie". I WAS hoping to retire soon to a seaside resort to write it, BUT with the ecconomy as it is, it looks like I have a few more years in the saddle stareing at the ass end of a sea of black cattle with its attending ocean of cowshit.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2008 01:06 PM

Don't tell Pearlstein about what bears do in the woods. (shhh ...)

Posted by: Baldie McEagle at October 14, 2008 01:08 PM

donescobar: Isn't there hope for our country when some people still have some idealism left, believe that people should do the right thing and are disappointed when it is not done? I KNOW, 'hope' is an empty word for some and 'idealism' may sound phony and the person may be considered "naive" or worse, 'ignorant' but what other way is left to take the country in the right direction?

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 14, 2008 01:11 PM

Flat earth with a circle of friends--the 2 dimensional (dementia) ecconomy.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 14, 2008 02:23 PM

Join us next week when Pearlstein is shocked to discover that some poker players make bets as if they had a better hand than they actually do.

Posted by: Fledermaus at October 14, 2008 03:59 PM

Rupa Shah

Sure, there are decent and idealistic Americans. But one problem is the diminishing idealism among those Americans who might play a key role in changing the direction of this country--the educated elite.
Take a look at Christopher Lasch's "The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy."They may still be brightest, but the best? Not by a long shot.
The writers of their favorite TV show, "Seinfeld," had a similar insight. See how the main characters end up in the final episode. But nobody took it seriously. Very little is taken seriously. Very little is laughed at out loud. The best and brightest are pedestrian now, Everyman (and woman) with more bucks and a higher IQ than the great unwashed.

Posted by: donescobar at October 14, 2008 04:07 PM

The problem is that the entire system is set up to make sure that decent, idealistic people never get anywhere near the levers of power. You do not get to be rich and powerful by being a nice person.

However, I'm not entirely convinced that having decent, idealistic people working the levers of power is the right solution. The right solution is to shorten the levers.

Posted by: Dunc at October 15, 2008 09:15 AM

it's called leadership. We've seen quite a bit of it these past few weeks from public officials...

In what alternate universe with which alternate dictionary does this Pangloss-by-an-alternate-name reside?

Wall Street, by contrast, has served up a nothing sandwich, a lack of leadership that's been stunning.

It is the duty, by law, of a public corporation to maximize profits. The greater the profits, the greater the remuneration of those directing. For the corporation to consider the existence of society necessary for its profits requires an horizon beyond today's be visible. Short-sightedness accompanies avarice like a shadow the sun. IOW, na gon hapn.

Posted by: cavjam at October 15, 2008 11:38 AM

Well of course it's completely ridiculous to be at all surprised by the actions of Wall Street leaders. But I don't think it's because they're "the most greedy, venal, vicious, cruel, arrogant, ignorant human beings on earth".

The system is structured to reward the behavior which produces profit, and reward only that behavior. The corporation lives and dies purely by money. What we really need to do is to redefine the corporation to require some social responsibility as well.

Posted by: not completely useless at October 15, 2008 08:58 PM