Op-Ed: Playing Russian Roulette with Other People's Money
Wall Street crisis founded on sham profits, promises.
I'm a bit on the cranky side today. Not enough that there's something nefarious in the air on this side of the tracks (read: New Jersey) that's making me sneeze constantly.
Maybe some real weird pollen floating over from Manhattan? No - it's probably dust from all the people cleaning out their desks, boxing up their personal stuff. I've gone through a box of Kleenex in no time flat. The keyboard swims somewhere in front of my teary eyes. And now this. Over and above the gazillion tax-dollars that will have to be spent to right the stupid mistakes of da boyz and everyone else who was (ir)responsible, money markets will be temporarily insured to boot.
Listen: We've embarked on the road to Trulala. Actually, when I read the financial news, bailout proposals and signs of a very visible heavy hand all over the markets, it seemed we were in fact already a ways down that road.
To explain, Trulala is a kind of Never-Never-Land. The Trip to Trulala is a very funny book of short stories by Russian-born Wladimir Kaminer about his life in the Soviet Union and his move to Berlin after the Wall came down, equipped with hardly more than his wits, survival instincts and a bottle of vodka.
That proved to be enough to catapult him to stardom by way of a Russian disco,
TV appearances and deadpan humor about his experiences adjusting to life in the West.
Why Trulala? Read on, and tell me we're not seeing some parallels to our current financial world:
Kaminer's uncle Boris lived in Kazakhstan. In the 1970s, Boris received an award for his impressive efforts on behalf of the proletariat. The prize was an almost free trip to Paris for this devoted party member. Properly warned about Western habits, he had to sign a form to never divulge anything about Paris to anyone ever after. He was allowed to exchange 200 rubles, and lucky uncle Boris was on his way.
Of course, there was one glitch: The Soviet government couldn't possibly allow
hundreds of the best working class people to succumb to the lure of a city like Paris. Who knows what lies they might be told about the motherland? Besides that, trips such as these were a severe strain on state finances.
Ingenuity to the forefront: A much more cost-effective -- as well as safer -- solution was found. Why send people to Paris, France, when a replica could be built on the good honorable Russian tundra? In summer, the city served as Paris. In fall, with clouds and rain for ambiance, it was easily converted into a look-alike London.
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