Friday, October 27, 2017

read Elmore leonard or Leopoldo Sciascia, not the papers, to find out how things work

Trust the great crime writers. It was somewhere in one of Elmore Leonard’s Detroit novels, one set in the early eighties, that one crook complains to the other that now, legit businesses have taken up the Mafia style. Hardly make a dishonest living anymore.
In reality, we know that the line between mafias and establishments are thin, thin. I’m on vacation in Montpellier, and I’m rereading Scascia, my fave crime novelist, or political crime novelist, and cross referencing with Peter Robb’s Midnight in Sicily, which was written when Andreotti was on trial and there was a vivid sense of the overlap between the establishment and the mafias in Italy.
I’m also crossreferencing the spate of stories, in the New Yorker…/the-family-that-built-an-empire… and Esquire, about the Sackler family. Philanthropists, aesthetes, and the peeps responsible for about 17,000 oxycontin overdose deaths per annum. Although, like the mafia, the Sacklers learned early to put their name on other things besides their drugs. The Sacklers are post-mafia, representative of a whole new era in deregulation, when there are no rules, and no regulatory agencies that can’t be legally bribed. Bribery, you see, is a temporal thing. Give a regulatory hundreds of thousands before he makes a decision, and it is a crime. Give him a job with your organization two years after he made a decision in your favor, and everything is fine, fine fine.
These new rules took the place of the old rules, the New Deal – Great Society America, where the mafias were all about extorting and defrauding trade unions. The old Vegas times. There were actually consequences for corporate malfeasance. Not always, but often enough. Even in the early Bush era, there was the Enron moment, when they actually put some upper management people away. In the 80s that happened too. We remember Ivan Boesky, fondly.
But the general ethos from George W. to Obama to Trump is: there are no rules for the powerful.
No banker goes to jail nowadays. And putting in jail a man who pushed oxycontin to the point that rural America is a trail of oxy and heroin burnouts ignores the fact that he is a billionaire. So there is no chance whatsoever that he will be deprived of the merest tuppence. It’s America, Jake.
Still, the new world order of impunity can’t last forever. It can break, as it did in Italy – and lead to something worse.
Thus, I like reading Sciascia, who lived through this, and saw through this, and tried to keep his sanity. Although, as Robb points out, Sciascia was never pessimistic enough.
Pessimism is your friend.

The ethics of integrity or the Baker at Dachau

    Throughout the 19th and 20th century, one stumbles upon the lefthand heirs of Burke – Red Tories, as Orwell called them. Orwell’s inst...