Fiddling While Rome Burns

Spotlight is on fire for a brief moment.

Google News had a great "choice" for the lead article on the Occupy Wall Street story this morning. The Reuters headline attracted my attention: Insight: The Wall Street disconnect. Sounded good to me and it didn't disappoint with this named quote near the top:

David Mooney, chief executive officer of Alliant Credit Union in Chicago, one of the nation's larger credit unions, used to work at one of Wall Street's top banks, JPMorgan Chase. There's a vast cultural gap between Wall Street and his new world, he says: Old friends from the Street, he says, now jokingly refer to him as a "socialist." A credit union is supposed to be run in the interests of all members, he says, while commercial bankers tend to see consumers as customers who can be "exploited" by layering on more fees.

Says Mooney: "I don't say this lightly, but the consumer is simply an income stream and exploiting that is the purpose of the banking organization."


It's not like that is some new and deep insight, but it always helps to have it stated so bluntly from an insider. People know that capitalism means the profit motive, yet generally they continue to fool themselves that this motive is pure. That both the means and the ends of capitalism are beneficial to all. Hogwash, that is.

Of course rationalizing the exploitation of consumers is raised to high art by those doing the exploiting:

In conversations with nearly two dozen current and former bankers, finance professionals and money managers across the United States, the prevailing sentiment is that the anger at Wall Street's elite is misguided and misdirected. Blame the politicians and policymakers in Washington, many of them say, for encouraging people to buy homes they couldn't afford and doing nothing to stop or discourage U.S. consumers from piling on more than $10 trillion in household debt.
Could they really believe that? Unfortunately, the article is framed as being a disconnect between the OWS protestors and the bankers:
Whatever its future, it's clear that so far, the Occupiers haven't changed many minds on Wall Street over blame for the country's hard times. The cognitive disconnect between the protesters and the captains of finance is alive and well.
No, the cognitive disconnect is between the banksters' views and reality. (By definition a cognitive disconnect can't be between different groups). Some of this is captured in the article:
Many of America's well-to-do, not just Wall Streeters, say they don't feel particularly advantaged. A recent survey by marketing firm HNW Inc. found that half of the nation's richest 1 percent "don't see themselves as being part of that elite group."
There's lots of material in the article, even an accurate and helpful policy suggestion:
Now that he's no longer working for PIMCO, McCulley is a bit more free to speak his mind. And he says the only way to jumpstart the U.S. economy is for the federal government to get behind a serious program to encourage consumer debt forgiveness and principal reductions on mortgages by banks. (

McCulley noted that mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been propped up by about $169 billion in federal aid since they were rescued by the government in 2008, yet there's a "a moral overtone" to the argument against reducing mortgage debt burdens for individual borrowers.

"Wall Street capitalism has given us a foul stench in our society," says McCulley.
Read the whole thing. Congrats to Matthew Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan for committing journalism.

But what about Nero? This was the number two story when I saw it. Here was number one:Natalie Wood
When I went back to the Google News homepage, the 30-year old case was still number one, while OWS had dropped out of the Top Stories category (there are six of them) and landed in the U.S. section. A different article was showing. This is just one good article that somehow rose to the top of the charts for a few minutes. Meanwhile, the fire still burns.

UPDATE: As I'm a news junkie and frequent Google News user, I went back and looked at the Top Stories section again. If you expand each story, it shows how many sources are carrying that story. Here are the stories in order and the numbers of sources when I looked:
Natalie Wood825
FDA revokes Avastin177
Crystal Cathedral sold to Catholics291
Oklahoma State coach dies570
Kindle Fire in Apple suit1,722
Occupy Wall Street2,773

I'd be fascinated to find out about the algorithm that picks the order for this.