Friday, January 30, 2009

Madoff, the economy, collateral damage, absurdities, and other odds and ends

I've been remiss about updating things lately, and a little caught up in the juggling act of life. But I've been missing the chance to post, too. Things occur to me, and I make a mental note to conjure up a fully wrought post. Then life gets in the way again—the kid needs to go to school, dishes need to be done, a project crops up at work, sleep happens, the dog needs to go out, dinner needs to get made, and the list goes on.

Regardless, here's a quick addenda to jumpstart my brain at the end of the week:

  • Brandeis's decision to close the Rose Art Museum — The news that Brandeis would be closing the Rose arrived in alum's email boxes before it hit the news wires. In the email, President Reinharz explained that it was a difficult but necessary decision for the long-term future of the university, its endowment and its ability to fund student need. More than a few alumni disagreed and a the hue and cry hit newspapers and blogs. I'm still split on the matter. I understand the university's need to secure additional revenue sources, particularly given the damage done to major donors by the Madoff scandal. At the same time, I fear that they will be mortgaging a part of the museum's cultural and intellectual currency for a finite gain.

  • Madoff, Thain, and Gordon Gecko — Can we put the Gilded-Age-style greed that came of vogue in the Eighties out of our misery, please? The damage done by hedge funds and Ponzi schemes to our common good (see above) is going to have long-lasting effects on the institutions that keep our culture alive and will do long-term damage to the non-profit organizations that support all ends of our society. The exuberant greed of Thain and countless other CEOs, investment bankers, and their ilk leaves them complaining over smaller bonuses while the rest of us see the value of our investments and employers plummet because they've sucked the money out of the system to line their silk pockets.

  • The First Week — Two acts please me more than any other in the Obama administration's first week: their message to Citicorp that taking delivery of a new $50MM corporate jet would not be acceptable, and the message that banks were unethical in doling out billions in bonuses while taking billions in TARP funds.
  • Waste Management — I've decided to reduce my contribution to the waste stream. This is not to say I am recycling more, because I don't think that would actually be possible. No. I'm taking every opportunity I can to use silverware, plates, bowls and mugs at work. At home, I've begun to use reusable containers in Banana's lunch. A co-worker asked me if I was doing this because I am "Green." (The quotation marks were audible in her voice.) I said yes, but the reality is that I see this as an ethical decision rather than just a green decision. By reducing the amount that must be moved to a landfill or recycled, I've reduced the amount of energy used. By reducing the amount in landfills even by a few items a day, I've contributed a bit to leaving Banana and her children's children a cleaner, nicer earth.

  • Global Warming Is Irreversible. — A study was released this week that I can't imagine ever being released during the Bush administration. Basically, it details that global warming can't be reversed once it's begun. What makes this even more frightening is that all evidence collected in recent years points to the fact that warming is happening faster than expected. If all of this is true — and there is no compelling reason to ignore it any longer — our grandchildren's world is going to be a radically different place than the world we live in now. Unless we take stricter actions. Now.

  • Mini daffodils make the kitchen a nicer place. — In the midst of last weekend's stomach-flu-addled Trader Joe's run, Banana asked for a pot of mini daffodils. We sorted through until we found one with a couple blooms and several more on the way. It now lives on the breakfast bar, and there is something very calming and pleasant about looking at growing flowers in the morning sunlight.

So there you have it. Stay tuned for a bit of Friday Fun...