Thursday, March 19, 2009

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose*

*Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, January 1849, Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”).
Literally “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

Having spent a good part of the last 12 years working and living in Europe has given me something of an insider's view of the US from the outside and an outsider's view of Europe from the inside. Today's post will be a slice of the former.

I’ve been reading the collection of Janet Flanner’s dispatches to the New Yorker from 1925-1939. I am about dead center in the book, in the year 1934 during the "Great Depression", where she covers, with enviable brevity, the financial scandal generated by the actions of embezzler Alexandre Stavisky, which had unwelcome consequences for the French from high government officials to working-class citizens. (Read more at Wikipedia here)

Stavisky managed municipal pawnshops (credit organizations of the day) in Bayonne, France, but also moved in Parisian financial circles. He sold lots of worthless bonds financed on the surety of what he called the emeralds of the late Empress of Germany — which later turned out to be glass. Sound familiar? Not yet? Replace “emeralds” with “mortgage backed securities”, “worthless bonds” with “credit default swaps”…

Stavisky warded off judicial intervention and bought his way into the administration of several Parisian newspapers, controlling first advertising and then the news.

Today, much financial news and direction is received via the financial news networks on TV. This week, I was linked to a surprisingly on point “Daily Show” from March 4 on the subject of how our modern channels of information are part and parcel of the contemporary financial scandals.

Don’t let Jon Stewart’s ranting in response to Rick Santelli's ranting turn you off…

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
CNBC Gives Financial Advice
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

Whew, indeed!

“To go in the dark with a light
is to know the light.
... know that the dark, too,
blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”
"To Know the Dark" by Wendell Berry


1 comment:

swallowtail said...

Oh. This last photo is awesome... especially the lace on the table. Might turn into a painting?

And, I love Mr.W.Berry. And when I first looked at this page, I thought, I sure hope she's bringing that pink book home with her... seriously, I did.

Amazing, isn't it? Considering that a "free press" is essential for a "democracy" to function. Sputter. Sputter. Pop.

Awesome post. Are you going to make some Violet Macarons?


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