Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day on Wall Street

    Trying to understand the Ways of the World, even while struggling to rise above them, I found myself voluntarily and without irony asking for change at the sidewalk restaurant where I was breakfasting, so I could buy the Wall Street Journal out of whatever the name is for that thing that holds newspapers. The headline, which captured me, was 'Insider Push Snags Big Catch,' which was not quite as good as the long ago Variety one: 'Wall Street Lays an Egg,' but did give off a whiff of the same smart-alecky approach to the spiritual and financial devastation that lurks and sometimes manifests these days.
    The story was about Rajat Gupta, who got the American Dream even though he was once a little boy from India, who was found guilty of passing information to a Mr. Rajaratnam about a Goldman Sachs meeting, that apparently resulted in Mr. R's unloading stock and making a great deal of money, or, even worse, failing to lose it like everyone else. That is, everyone else outside of Goldman Sachs and the rest of the high echelon traders and bankers who have been going home with millions in bonuses while everyone else in the country hangs on to whatever they have or hope for by their fingernails. Scratching on a blackboard, as I hear it.
    Mr. Gupta's two daughters wept at the verdict, so I don't know how they are experiencing Father's Day. But mine, sitting curbside in Beverly Hills, was peopled with happy children and their mostly baffled looking fathers, men who might have always wanted the stability of families, but weren't completely sure how to handle these growing tots, one of them playing 'Au Clair de la Lune' on a recorder.  
     I, on the same yet other hand was not sure how exactly to handle the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper the European edition of which I was sort of privileged to write travel for when I was living in Paris, and connected with the very smart Jim Ruane, a crackerjack journalist whose exact title I don't remember, but he answered the phone when I called Brussels, after my lovely friend Vicky King, a PR gentle dynamo, called me in Paris and said "The Wall Street Journal Europe is starting a travel page, and you'd be good at that." So I called and Jim answered, and I said "I have an idea: Swimming through Europe" -- all the great hotels with pools, and he said "I like it. Send me a couple of graphs." And I said, "What is that?" to which he responded; "Paragraphs." Which will tell you how much I understood about the lingo.
    Still, I set off, to do two of my favorite things: Swim and write. And so it was I got to be in some of the great hotels in the world, where they were expecting a Republican in a suit so when I showed up there was a palpable sense of relief, and I made great friends all over the world, when it was still the world, not this scary place teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown about money, all of which could be solved by throwing all the bankers in jail with Mr. Gupta. Shakespeare said "First, kill all the lawyers," but I think if her were here now he would be open to revisions.
    Then, my second cup of coffee having arrived, I made the mistake of reading parts of the rest of the paper, including the editorials, which were, (take a breath to deal with your surprise) virulently anti-Obama. I have my own reservations about some of the thing he promised us, like ending the war not coming to fruition, but to accuse him of anti-Americanism, which is basically what the opinion pieces do, is downright silly. Only in America, though, could such angry advocacy cost $1.50, and Michelle ask you (on the net) to wish Barack a Happy Father's Day and ask for a contribution.
     But back to the WSJ. When my son married the lovely Jenni from Australia, whose father Rufus Davis had been the head of the law school in Melbourne, many great political scientists from all over, who were friends of Rufus', came to the event.  Among them was Nelson Polsby, a near-mythic figure in political science, a professor at Berkeley, a man as wide and fleshy as he was brilliant, taking up most of the couch he sat on at the reception in Malibu, who, when he was introduced to me and told I wrote for the journal, told me "Most of those who write for the editorial page were my students. And they are all insane."   
    Read it yourself, as this is still America, and we should all listen to the arguments of people who hold opposing opinions, because that is what keeps us a democracy. At least until the election, or the next Supreme Court decision that suborns more of our rights. I am not exactly sure of the meaning of 'suborns', but I have heard it used with 'perjury,' so can guess it means quash, which is what that court appears to have been doing with respect to elections, fund-raising for candidates, and, coming up, health. 
     I wish I could discuss it with Nelson Polsby. But he didn't take good enough care of himself, as indicated by his size, and so is with us no more. As the country of our youth doesn't appear to be, either.