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July 01, 2009

Get This Man A Column In The Washington Post

Richard Cohen on going to high school with Bernie Madoff:

Others in my class did not say goodbye to Bernie until it was too late. Through Ruth, they invested with him -- modest amounts, a share of profits from a humble summer resort, the savings of a schoolteacher...

Now their money, their life's savings, is all gone. Oddly enough, they are still better off than some of Bernie's richest investors. My friend Ted has his New York City teacher's pension, while the very rich, who put all their retirement funds with Bernie, have been utterly wiped out. I feel sorry for them. I identify with them. They were not, as is sometimes written, greedy. The stock market was a mystery. It seemed to defy logic. They let Bernie deal with it. I would have done the same.

It's crucial that Washington Post columnists be credulous idiots who know that understanding financial basics is beyond their mental capability, and hence they should trust whoever has lots of money. Thank god Katherine Graham found someone who fits the profile so perfectly. Otherwise readers of the Post might learn something about how the world works, and that must be prevented at all costs.

Previously in Richard Cohen's flickering consciousness:

You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know -- never mind want to know -- how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later -- or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 1, 2009 12:38 PM

I doubt Kay Graham hired Richard Cohen. Her son Donald may have. Or Ben Bradlee.

Posted by: Juan Seis-Olla at July 1, 2009 02:17 PM

| Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator.

Cohen is less useful than a calculator. Not surprising really.

Posted by: Jimbo at July 1, 2009 02:52 PM

What a moron.

Two other idiocies in the conservative WaPo/WSJ discussion of Madoff:

1) Cohen: "Bernie is evil, which is what the judge said Monday in sentencing him to 150 years in jail. The yearbook has become like a Nazi artifact. It is compelling. It is repulsive. It is about evil."

Classic example of both missing the forest for the trees, and lining up as another conservative to label something as Nazi--either on purpose or by accident, in order to sanitize any critical thinking surrounding the larger context. If Madoff is evil, and he existed in a world which perpetuated a system only cosmetically different from Bernie's evils, then shouldn't we label the entire system as evil?

Oh wait, that's right. Bernie's system was created in a world imagined by such people as the Hoover Institute, whose stated goal upon founding was to, I'm not joking, "be free from the evils of the doctrines of Marxism."

The larger picture here, as pointed out in the book "The Right Nation," is that the conservative and moralistic tradition "predisposes Americans to see the world in terms of individual virtue rather than in terms of the vast social forces that so preoccupy Europeans."

And, I mean, come on! "The judge said he was EVIL!" Yeah, must be therefore true. One of Wall Streets most reputable people, managing billions of money, funneled in by a variety of institutions and well known actors is shown a fraud, and the best you can come up with, is, oh Bernie is EVIL!!! We're in trouble if that's the same conclusion society comes to.

2) Monday June 29th Headline, I swear to God read "Ruth Faces Living Off A Scant $2.5 Million." The standout quote "Mrs. Madoff faces, on a bigger scale, the same dilemma as many Americans: finding a way to stretch her income." Luckily, WSJ has figured that her scant sum should give her "an annual income of maybe $125,000 a year. That would make the money last all the way to age 100." Man, that really blows. Only $125,000 a year to live off. Imagine, in a world where all your friends have lost millions, your husband billions, and you have only a six digits to live off a year. OH WAIT, 20,000 Americans die a year because they don't have health insurance. 1/10 kids is homeless. And the WSJ is concerned for the fate of poor Ruth, and the WaPo feels bad that she was tricked by her evil husband.

Hopefully people will give up the art of thinking and just let computers and calculators do it for us... we could convince other people this was what was going on, call it neoliberal economics, modern finance, and the age of infinite prosperity, and get rid of evil.

Hilarious satire, if these type of people didn't make policy.

Posted by: Kyle M at July 1, 2009 03:38 PM

I read the second article. OMFG.

On the other hand, it gives me an idea. Bernard, could you help me with this? I think we should write a computer program which can write a Richard Cohen article.

Frankly it shouldn't take long.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at July 1, 2009 03:54 PM

I do not understand X. If even I, with my superior intellect and Punditry Credentials, do not understand X, no one should be expected to understand X. There is no earthly reason why anyone would find knowledge of X useful. X is an ineffable mystery. (WaPo: hire me!)

Posted by: Mollie at July 1, 2009 04:20 PM

Ha! you fools. I learned everything I need to know about X from a cab driver in Mumbai.

Posted by: john at July 1, 2009 04:30 PM

"Ha! you fools. I learned everything I need to know about X from a cab driver in Mumbai."

john, that sounds more like thomas friedman than richard cohen.

Posted by: grimmy at July 1, 2009 04:37 PM

I always appreciate a good Cohen-bashing post, but this was superb.

The thing is, Cohen will admit he's an idiot fairly often, yet still opine, and still feel his is a valuable voice to heed. He rarely demonstrates actual thought - he's just a collection of social attitudes, and crappy, flailing justifications for them. I'm amazed he doesn't accidentally kill himself tying his shoes every morning.

Posted by: Batocchio at July 1, 2009 05:27 PM

Oh, man! I'm such a sucker for paying college tuition to learn math! (Actually I do feel like a sucker sometimes, but needless to say, for the opposite of Cohen-like reasons).

Posted by: Cloud at July 1, 2009 05:45 PM

Hey asshole, I don't go around telling my students that they'll never need to waste their time reading the Washington Fucking Post.

Posted by: Algebra Teacher at July 1, 2009 06:33 PM
Hey asshole, I don't go around telling my students that they'll never need to waste their time reading the Washington Fucking Post.

Well, that just makes you totally useless then.

Have I missed the ATR post on Jeffry Picower?

Posted by: angryman@24:10 at July 1, 2009 08:47 PM

Don't know much about geography,
Or about the economy,
Don't know much about Afghanistan,
Or Iraq, or Iran,
But I do know what I love the most,
It's my paycheck from the Washington Post,
What a wonderful world this can be...

Posted by: Richard Cohen at July 2, 2009 09:18 AM

Always worth posting this possibly inebriated, possibly apocryphal, but wonderfully truthful bit given by John Swinton, during a journalist's fete, late 19th c.

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

Posted by: Oarwell at July 2, 2009 05:09 PM

Perhaps Cohen was hoping to charge fees for mathematicians who hoped to peddle their arcane wares at the WP:

"The Politico reports that the Washington Post, for a price of $25,000 to $250,000, is “offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, non-confrontational access to ‘those powerful few’ — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.” While the Politico notes that on-the-record events and conferences are becoming a trend in the newspaper industry, this type of closed, pay-for-access event raises serious ethical concerns."

As the Wicked Witch said while melting, "what a world!"

Posted by: oarwell at July 2, 2009 06:11 PM

It's a common affliction with these morons, they assume every-one is as dumb as they are.
Chris Matthews knew that no-one understands credit default swaps, Joe Biden is claiming that everyone misread the economy. I don't know anyone who misread the economy but then I don't know anyone who believed that things would change under Obama.

Posted by: Bill Jones at July 5, 2009 04:25 PM