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« Neither Corruption Nor The Appearance of Corruption (Norman Costa) | Main | Quantum Fluctuations (Norman Costa) »

October 27, 2011


@ Ruchira:

When I first read of Raj Rajaratnam's indictment and arrest, several days ago, my first and spontaneous reaction was cynical. Why am I reading headlines of investment crimes about a brown-skinned, heavily mustachioed, immigrant billionaire from the other side of the world? What's the matter? Do we have a shortage of native-born, light-skinned, clean shaved, super rich criminals in this country?

You are right. We need to see some of those behind bars also. But remember that some of them get caught too. Bernie Madoff comes to mind. But he is Jewish. How about those "boys" of Enron? Many of them were brought down from their high horse. There was even a suicide, right here in my neighborhood, albeit in a subdivision where the home prices are in seven figures.

Rajaratnam is pathetic. He gorges a lust for money, and for trivia like panoramic views of Manhattan (this echoes a fluff piece I read a couple days ago about Larry Ellison's multiple residences, one of which has a view of San Francisco Bay he sued to retain), yet he has the gall to bemoan a former friend's disloyalty. He has no idea what loyalty means. He thinks it a species of "connection," a material support, rather than an emotional one, for reliance. Much of the story's efforts to explain his behavior as being consistent with some original ethnic/cultural background are weak. He deserves no cultural defense. Sri Lankan law enforcement is malleable. And so it is in the US, contrary to Raj's respect for its fairness, "by and large."

Apropos of all this, Glenn Greenwald has been peddling his book today on several street corners. Here's a good interview that captures the gist:, but there are plenty more linked at today's Salon post. I suppose it's telling that Raj is one of the few elite who wasn't spared, and that this is due to his ethnic identity. Similarly, many claim Martha Stewart was nailed because she's a woman. White establishment power can afford to sacrifice these outliers, the argument goes. I buy it, but frankly I wouldn't care much if America's peculiar institution were merely arbitrary exclusion of certain "sorts" of people from country clubs. Golf, like a view of the Manhattan skyline, is insignificant. The problem with finance and wealth accumulation in America isn't that there aren't enough women and Sri Lankans participating. It's that it exists in the form it has at all.

I doubt that it was pure 'lust for money' that drives the likes of Rajaratnam. Some of it is also the thrill of flouting the laws and making piles of money as a side effect. He may try to rationalize his ill-gotten gains by donating generously to various charities, but it does not excuse his activities. Now, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by having a sympathetic portrayal of his plight, and Suketu Mehta has done a fine job of portraying him as larger-than-life, in rather 'Nayakan'-ish terms, minus the gore (

I see that Bernie Madoff is trying that route of redemption by confessional biography, as well, with Barbara Walters' assistance.

Entertaining stories, even if they aren't edifying.

Re: Bernie Madoff:

I was reading excerpts from an interview with Madoff. His 'confession' and seeming resignation to his fate are typical of a sociopath. His commentary is completely self-referential. His acknowledgement that he should be in jail is only a tip of the hat to the legal system that he is forced to deal with. He acknowledges the legitimacy of his conviction only in terms of abstract consequences. If everyone got away with stealing, then our society would cease to function. Also, he tries to mitigate his wrong doing so that he is not viewed as the personification of pure evil. He said, "I made a lot of money for wealthy people." Finally, he shows a complete lack of empathy for those who have been impoverished, and their retirement devastated.

I taught college in a maximum security prison for one semester. My mentor, who taught as well, and I made the same observation. The most animated, fun, and pleasurable conversations the prisoners had with each other, involved relating how successful and clever they were in committing their crimes or getting over on a victim. In this regard, I am willing to bet dollars to donuts that Madoff is no different from the other sociopaths with whom he shares a cell block.

Still, his attempt to buy Brown victimhood is not irrational. Everyone, even prisoners, need sympathy and he will get some. His family and friends will have a narrative that helps them keep their head up. When he gets out, he will walk with pride as yet another victim of White privilege. In his situation, its the smart move…

Re Bernie Madoff - 2:

Why are people interviewing this sociopath?

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