Sunday, December 22, 2013


From Business Insider:

We Saw 'Wolf Of Wall Street' With A Bunch Of Wall Street Dudes And It Was Disturbing

There's a lot of talk about how Wall Street has "changed" since the financial crisis. Compliance is up, bonuses are down, the holiday parties are boring.

But you wouldn't necessarily know that from what these guys were cheering at.

When Belfort — a drug addict who later attempts to remain sober — rips up a couch cushion to get to his secret coke stash, there were cheers.

Then, intercut with Popeye eating spinach, Belfort is irrevocably high on Quaaludes (or "ludes," a muscle relaxer) and dumps coke into his nose to remedy the situation — more cheers.

The worst, though, mild spoiler alert ... At one point later in the movie, the feds get Belfort to wear a wire to implicate others at his firm. Meeting with his No. 2, Belfort slides over a piece of paper: "Don't incriminate yourself. I am wearing a wire."

And the crowd goes wild. Don't rat! Stand by your firm!

More here.

This brings back to me what ended up being a pretty significant moment in my ideological transformation from conservative to liberal.  Back in 1988, I spent my summer break from college working at a stock brokerage firm in downtown Houston.  Full of Reagan, God, and capitalism, I thought, at first, that the whole thing was pretty cool.  By the end of the break, however, I was just grossed out by what I had experienced.

In short, I saw the heart of our economic system up close and personal, and all it did was make me feel dirty and sleazy.  

Individually, many of the brokers for whom I was working came off as pretty nice guys, family men just trying to make a living.  There were caricatures, of course, too, guys who were very likely high on coke all the time, guys who were arrogant a-holes lording over and cussing out anybody whose butt they weren't already kissing, but they seemed to be a minority.  So far, so good.  The problem, then, was that I eventually figured out that this minority actually embodied the overall values of the office.  The brokers all called each other "Gekko," the investor-villain in Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street, with delight, admiration, and smiling faces; what decent people condemned these brokers clearly believed to be right and good.  They were the culture of Wall Street manifesting in my home town, and it didn't matter how nice any of these guys were on a one-to-one basis: collectively, they were the kind of people who would sell their own mothers if there was some money to be made.

No, seriously.  Scum of the earth.  Years later, when those tapes of Enron traders gloating about how they had shut down California's energy grid and made millions doing it came to light, it was absolutely no surprise to me.  That's what these people are.  Ruthless sleazy pieces of shit who couldn't care less if their ripping you off puts you into the street.  And some of them are very nice people.

My experience at Oppenheimer hadn't quite congealed in my mind by the next November, when I voted Republican in my first presidential election.  But by 1992, I was voting for Democrats, and I never looked back.  Indeed, as the 90s progressed, and the Democrats, too, began to kneel before the masters of Wall Street, it became clear to me that the so-called liberal party was just as much a part of the problem as the Republicans.  I continue to vote for Democrats from time to time to this day, but it's always like making a deal with the Devil for me.  The culture of Wall Street has stained our entire body politic.  Neither party is immune to its seduction and control.  And our nation is on the brink of ruin because of it.

And that's what this writer experienced while watching Wolf of Wall Street with actual Wall Street wolves.  The true face of what has sickened America.  Greed and contempt.  A black hole where the soul, compassion, and decency ought to reside.  It's kind of like watching WWII movies and rooting for Hitler.  But like I said about the Enron traders, this is in no way surprising to me.  I already know what capitalism is about.

What gets me is how many Americans have been duped over the years into believing that what these people do is somehow good.  They're all fools.  And they would hate themselves if they truly understood the evil they support.