I’ve started a brand new podcast series with David Cole called “The Dreaming”. It’s going to be a long series focused on indigenous affairs. We plan to talk to historians, anthropologists, academics, journalists, politicians, artists and every day people about Australia’s aboriginal people.
I totally endorse this rant by Penn Jillette. Sure, what Mormons (and Scientologists) believe sounds batshit crazy to most of us. But is it really any crazier than what mainstream Christians, Jews or Muslims believe? Hell no. “Just more modern, not more crazy”, as Penn says.
I’m as confused as Penn is about how otherwise intelligent-sounding people can just spout crazy stuff and act like it’s totally normal. It’s especially scary when you hear it from politicians, the people who are supposedly running the country. Surely there should be a sanity test that you have to pass before you can be elected to public office.
Step 1. Start a financial services firm.
Step 2. Make sure you are the only person in the company who sees the bank statements.
Step 3. “Using a combination of Photo Shop, Excel, scanners and both laser and ink jet printers… make very convincing forgeries of nearly every document that came from the Bank.”
At least, that’s how Peregrine CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr. did it – for over 20 years.
He wrote a suicide note explaining the whole scam before attempting suicide. He failed at that and has now pleaded guilty to fraud and embezzlement.
What about the Regulators? Why didn’t they catch him?
“It was relatively simple to deceive the Regulators” according to Russ. Good to know.
He ended his suicide note with “I am ready to die. I guess this is the only way out of a business I hate so much.”
It’s a far cry from his most recent “Chairman’s Letter”, where he wrote
“At PFGBEST, our consistent hallmarks remain: respectful and conscientious care of customers and their accounts; a keen sense of their evolving needs; and, the talent and resources to provide analytical, flexible and customized solutions.”
Guys like Wasendorf are fascinating to me. How high would he score on a test for psychopathy? Surely he would score highly on many of those factors.
You have to wonder how many CEOs, politicians and entrepreneurs are psychopaths? And what is it about capitalism that allows them to prosper?
Of course, the history of socialism and communism has it’s fair share of psychopaths as well. Why is it so hard for us to design a socio-economic system that weeds out psychopaths?
In the NYT today, David Brooks makes some interesting points about motivation, reflecting on Romney’s latest gaff:
The final thing the comment suggests is that Romney knows nothing about ambition and motivation. The formula he sketches is this: People who are forced to make it on their own have drive. People who receive benefits have dependency.
But, of course, no middle-class parent acts as if this is true. Middle-class parents don’t deprive their children of benefits so they can learn to struggle on their own. They shower benefits on their children to give them more opportunities — so they can play travel sports, go on foreign trips and develop more skills.
People are motivated when they feel competent. They are motivated when they have more opportunities. Ambition is fired by possibility, not by deprivation, as a tour through the world’s poorest regions makes clear.
If rich people really think benefits don’t help you, then they wouldn’t send their kids to private schools and elite universities. They wouldn’t use their personal networks to land their kids high-paying jobs in friends’ companies. They wouldn’t buy them a car, or give them a credit card or a mobile phone.
And we know this isn’t how it works.
So the next time one of your wealthy right-leaning friends tells you that the welfare system destroys ambition, you might want to point our their hypocrisy. If they really believed it, they would send their own kids to live by themselves in Kabul for a few years.
I grew up on the poverty line (by Australian standards) and I’m grateful that we had healthcare and education made available to us. If we hadn’t, I’d probably still be living in Bundaberg, either unemployed or doing some kind of manual labour. I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with those things, but it was only because I had a decent education that I could explore other opportunities.
Yes – growing up poor made me hungry. And in my 20s that was a hunger to be rich. In my 30s and 40s that turned into a hunger to improve the system.
What people like Romney don’t understand is that altruism is about enlightened self-interest. If you build a strong society of people with a decent education and decent healthcare, you will get rewarded a thousand-fold. These people will become the next generation of doctors, inventors, engineers, artists, authors, journalists, film-makers, musicians, scientists and historians that improve society for all of us.
(HT to @NikolasKozloff for the NYT link)
I’m re-reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes and thinking about the great irony that King George III punished thieves by sending them out to Australia while simultaneously stealing the entire country off of its traditional owners.
Steal a loaf of bread = five years hard labour in Australia.
Steal an entire country with incalculable wealth = it’s good to be the King.
Of course, he did go mad, have to deal with the American revolution and Napoleon. Karma is a bitch.