The Gelded Age

March 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

George Grosz

George Grosz

Europeans are considering castrating sex offenders, while we can’t even manage to get the drop on the Wall Street economy-assassins.

Bernie Madoff in jail will make a lot of people feel better. But that was an easy case. He broke laws flagrantly, admitted guilt, and his victims are specific and powerful. What about the rest of them, the ones who may or may not have broken laws but nonetheless have impoverished millions of people?

Jim Cramer’s excuse on Jon Stewart last night was the CEOs he trusted, “guys I went to school with, friends,” lied to him. Stewart was scornful of this; journalists should expect to be lied to. Cramer isn’t the real villain here, though he’s a jackass. The powers-that-be at CNBC decide when and how to deploy their real financial journalists.

But what now? Americans want bonuses returned, regulation put in place, credit restored. They also want those who lied criminally to be punished, and for the rest to admit it was greed and stupidity as far above and beyond the greed and stupidity of the average person as those bonuses were above the windfall of 50 grand of new equity in your house that maybe you spent unwisely.

I understand that it all made sense if you were part of the club where everyone else was insane too. Really, I do get that, having hung out with alcoholics. But once the game is over, you’ve dried out and seen the damage, once the whole world is listening in on those private drunken conversations about your mutual brilliance…to not see what went wrong takes enormous mental effort, the kind that deforms and constricts all cognitive functioning.

Are they laughing up their sleeves? The ones who got out in time are. Many of the rest are painfully riding it out, hating their attackers. And some have brains are dribbling out their ears from the continual strain of lying to themselves. Those are the ones we need sobered out of the complex intoxication of wealth, status and risk and put to work in our universities and MBA programs, explaining to the young how it happened, what the dangers, temptations and ignored warning signs were. Nobody understands it better. Like ex gang members, they have street cred.

We don’t need their experience to run our banks. What part of it was valuable they trashed themselves. We need to tap into the fascination people feel for those who fall far, especially into the willful stupidity that intelligent kids find so hard to fathom—childhood and adolescence being places where you need your wits about you.

As for those caught in criminal lies…while they’re awaiting trial, lock them in cells with continuous video of those European doctors gelding sex offenders.

Under the Bark of Me

December 20, 2008 § Leave a comment

truffle assortments; book

truffle assortments; book

On TV last night, Pat Buchanan said Afghanistan was where empires go to die.  Obama made promises we can’t keep. I think we have the answer in Bernie Madoff. A name change, a little cosmetic surgery, and we could send him over to swindle the poppy growers out of their wealth, along with the Saudis, the Syrians and a few others. No money, no weapons. No weapons, no influence.Obama has shown a taste and ability for subtle political machination. If  he can work with Rick Warren, why not Bernie Madoff? Lots of laid off financial sector professionals who could play the Jack Nicholson part from The Last Detail, escorting and keeping an eye on the slippery ‘family man.’ And the money harvested could bail out the bailout, removing some part of a zero from the national debt. Meanwhile the auto industry, in thanks for its rescue, would send every registered voter a $2000 voucher toward a new (hybrid) car, redeemable in 2012; AIG would provide free health insurance to artists and the unemployed; and Citibank, Chase and the rest would send us more credit card offers…0 % for the lifetime of the loan, guaranteed to last longer than your lifetime, and to be cancelled upon your death. The god of money and death, Pluto, in his guise as a planet, entered Capricorn on Nov. 26, for the first time since the American Revolution. According to astrologers, this means dramatic change in the direction of  hard work , hard times, necessity and playing by the rules. You knew that already? Yeah, but you didn’t know it was Pluto, did you? Cold little bastard. Having a number of important planets in Capricorn, I’m supposed to feel an inner gladness at the triumph of the reality-based community, and in fact I do. I’ll pull myself out of trouble,  I will. I’ll make my own fortune, yessir.  It’s growing dark out, this evening before the winter solstice, Satchmo is singing  “(I’ll be glad when you’re dead)You Rascal You,” on an LP Philip found today in the Spence-Chapin thrift shop, and I’m ruining my stomach lining with coffee to have the wit to write anything at all after a night of cabernet, fettucine with venison, ceasar salad and christmas cookies, sambuca,  espresso, bourbon, rum and cigarettes. Not really as bad as it sounds; I’m not hungover, merely languid. This is the best way to be while contemplating 16 years of Pluto in Capricorn, the Taskmaster. This morning we went out to the Crawford Doyle bookstore and Maison de Chocolat and in both places Philip said, “Get whatever you want.” He hadn’t bought me any Christmas presents yet. It was one of those moments—I could almost feel my child self widening her eyes in wonder: a bookstore! A candy store! Get whatever you want!  It reminded me of a story about my father, told by my cousins to my sister. They were little children, in the local candy store, with maybe a few nickels to spend, or maybe nothing and this handsome man in a suit comes in and tells them they can have whatever they want. Whatever they want. (That probably did not refer to quantity, however.) He buys them all candy and disappears. Later, at home, the stranger is at the dinner table and they discover he’s their uncle, whom they’ve never met before.  That’s my daddy alright. Charmed strangers all to hell. He could be like that with us too, sometimes. Anyway, this bookstore, Crawford Doyle on 81st and Madison, is not the same store but is in the same location as the bookstore I went to several times a week in the two years we lived on 79th st, when I was 11 and 12. I bought my first adult  (as in non-children’s)books there and also my first ‘adult’ books. Actualy I didn’t buy the ‘adult’ books because it would only have embarassed both me and the kindly bookseller if I had tried. I stole them.Two or three, maybe four. Two I remember vividly.  They were  utterly perverted, even by today’s standards, but also, somehow, sweet.  I don’t think anyone could write like that now. I wasn’t frightened or put off by the revelation of the male sexual imagination (greedy and without boundary) but rather consoled. These guys were way ahead of me, and I was happy to be their student. Every afternoon after school, I read under the covers, masturbated  and ate chocolates . Pounds of chocolates. Many orgasms. —Now Philip interrupts me  to tell me Ring Lardner’s rewrite of the lyrics of “Night and Day”: “Night and day/under the bark of me/oh such a load of microbes making a park of me”—as I was saying, it was not that bookstore but almost that bookstore and not Fanny Farmer but Maison de Chocolat–and given free rein, I was restrained, 3 slim books, a quarter pound of chocolate covered ginger, a few truffles…and I think I need some of that chocolate now. Chocolate and kisses.

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