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By Julian Delasantellis
They say it's not easy to be a teenaged girl these days, and, wherever in the
world you're talking about, that's probably right. In the Swat Valley in
Pakistan, you may be a teenaged girl on her first day in class after the
Pakistani army cleared the Taliban out of your town, but if a US Air Force
officer at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada looks through the video camera on
his Predator drone and sees a tall, thin, ruddy faced man as one your teachers,
he'll probably launch a Hellfire missile from the Predator and destroy the
That's certainly tough, but if you're a teenaged girl in Millburn, New Jersey,
about 40 kilometers west of Manhattan, attending Millburn High School, named by
Newsweek magazine as one of the 200 best secondary schools in America, the
says there might be a fate almost as bad in store for you. You could be being
chosen for inclusion in the "slut list".
Saturating the US electronic media last week were tales of torment and torture
from Millburn, a town whose US$1.2 million average real estate sales price
means that the only time such songs of woe are usually heard here is when
somebody's second mortgage falls through.
According to the greater New York CBS news affiliate, what happened at Millburn
was an instance of senior upon freshman hazing so severe that it was called
"hazing at its worse"; the NBC Today Show called it "a bizarre ... sexually
charged ... school ritual". A parent decried the entire affair as "socially,
morally, ethically unacceptable". On the New York Times "hyperlocal" blog page
devoted to all things Millburn, one parent said the future costs of all this
was "children who will become disfunctional [sic], psychotic, damaged graduates
that society will have to bear the burden of dealing with in the future".
Another parent pretty icily captures the zeitgeist of America 2009, if the
country doesn't like a person outside the US they are sentenced to death from
the heavens; but if the person is inside of the country and a member of the
community, they'll get carpet-bombed with fearsome and brutal waves of
mandatory sensitivity training.
"We know that the actions of a few who feel 'empowered' can have a lasting
effect on those that are less empowered at any age," the parent writes. "We
know that without intervention in the school, an 'innocent joke' can turn into
a devastating experience. So, where are our leaders and our social workers who
are supposed to be creating model schools?
"My first-hand experience is a downplay of incidents letting the 'complaining'
parents know that 'bullying is not tolerated', but truly, it is the act of
turning a cheek. As demonstrated by the township's social worker who suggested
to this parent that the 'alleged' victim of bullying will be fortunate to have
'lunch bunch' sessions to learn how to better handle social situations. Hmmm,
just a thought, could lunch bunch become sensitivity training for those who DO
the bullying? Even better yet, could it teach kids at a lower school level what
is and is not acceptable human behavior so that even the few who would think
that hazing is fun, would have had sensitivity traing [sic] and maybe even
become a shining example of MHS students."
So just what was the outrageous behavior? A few freshman girls were made to
wear some of the athletic team uniforms of the seniors. Others had school
papers and/or textbooks knocked from their grasp in the hallways. A few had
whistles blown in their faces or were pushed into school lockers. The worst
calumny seems to have been the actual "slut list", a surreptitiously
distributed handwritten list of the incoming girls' (presumably) false,
explicit and unorthodox sexual proclivities.
Everyone in Millburn seems to have been outraged, with one exception - the
students; these looked on inclusion on the list as almost as much an honor as
an abasement. This should not be surprising, as they see their heroes in teen
music or pop culture flagrantly flaunting their adolescent sexuality in order
to win power or fame; why shouldn't they get the idea that they could do the
same for popularity or boyfriends?
One former student summed up the obvious reason for the lack of student, as
opposed to the surfeit, of parent protest.
"Being on the list means you are rich, you wear expensive clothing, and
probably fall under the general umbrella of attractiveness. Essentially, the
slut list is the Goldman Sachs daughters list, a distorted assertion of wealth
and power within a highly pressured upper middle-class environment."
There's a nugget for the brain to chew on. Over there, on the other side of the
Hudson River, at Goldman Sachs World Headquarters on Broad Street in lower
Manhattan, as the new hires start their 65-hour weeks and those gunning to be a
partner go for 100, as their ever-scheming and calculating big brains concoct
more and better rewarding financial stratagems of ever greater and greater
ferocity, such as high frequency trading (see
Goldman Sachs, the Lords of Time, Asia Times Online, August 5, 2009 ),
or the $11 billion received from the Federal Government to make good American
International Group's credit default swaps, and all the rest of the general
"vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" (in Matt Taibbi's words)
activities that just spread so much love for the company, one wonders. Do they
ever ask why? Do they ever dream of a simpler life? What's it all for?
Now we know. It's so their daughters can make the slut list.
The past two weeks have seen the first anniversary of the 2008 Lehman Brothers
collapse that marked the demarcation line of the world economic downturn, from
something approaching a standard postwar pullback before Lehman to a straight
deep drop into the abyss following. We've seen very little cake and ice cream
to celebrate the red-eyed, web-footed little devil first anniversary; more it's
been a rendering of garments, a gnashing of teeth and the most horrific and
But very notable about what has not been seen in the past year has been any
implemented policy reforms to try to prevent it from ever happening again or
ameliorate the consequences if a recurrence threatens.
Unless he had included a proviso that predicted the world's destruction by
giant asteroids in the interval, with maybe some tag team action by our
galactic neighborhood's rogue blood sucking squid, someone who last year
predicted absolutely no policy response in the first year after the fall of
Lehman would have been thought to be mad.
With hundreds of billions of world stock market wealth being incinerated every
single week, even the dullards realized the necessity of action and to not
allowing events to terminate through natural causes; after all, a market on a
consistent path to lose 20% of its value every month will not be that much of a
problem five months or so from now. From the economics faculties of both
Cambridges, to the think tanks and international development organizations of
Washington, to some of the brokerages in The City and Wall Street, everybody
had an opinion on what must and what not be done next time to prevent what was
happening this time, and, just as soon as they were saved to disk, they were
being shot off to the "comment" page of the Financial Times, to be like
mechanical target ducks in a grand shooting arcade of the mind and wallet.
The fact that nothing has been accomplished and implemented in the interval
only glaringly illustrates the power of world finance capital, well armed with
and well disposed to use the gooiest and most sludgy molasses available to slow
down, in the interests of the furtherance of the status quo, the heralds of
change. In New Hampshire, people say that "if you don't like the weather wait a
minute - it'll change"; on the world's capitalist trading floors, it is
probably said that "if you don't like the existing regulatory environment, go
out and buy a better one".
Of course, the major change that has occurred in the international financial
architecture this year has been the election of a United States president,
Barack Obama, who is more focused on solving national and international
problems than on setting up Kansas focus groups to see who to blame them on. In
the all too brief interval between the passage of the fiscal stimulus in March
and the first guns of the Gotterdammerung of the health care fight, Obama came
up with a proposal.
The core of the financial sector policy reform plan involved two points as I
described early last month (see
When Timmy met Sheila, Asia Times Online, September 10, 2009). One was
the creation of a so called "super regulator", a single official with authority
and purview to regulate financial instruments and products wherever they may be
found, even if previously they might have been regulated by multiple officials
with specific, discreet regulatory jurisdiction over their individual areas.
An example of this would be, whereas in the past a trading position consisting
of a hybrid of individual stocks and index stock futures might be regulated by
two squabbling regulatory agencies, in this case the US Securities and Exchange
Commission for the stock part of the position and the Commodity Futures Trading
Futures Commission for the futures, now the regulatory buck would stop at just
Another initiative called for the creation of a Consumer Financial Products
Safety commission, to steer uniformed consumers away from the type of costly,
and ultimately destructive financial products that the financial industry sold
to the public like crack cocaine - the added bonus for the industry in this was
that these products could be sold out in the public view, in malls and shopping
centers, not in the cramped fetid bus-station lavatories and grimy back allies
where old-fashioned crack was purveyed.
Both these initiatives are floundering; to his displeasure, Obama is learning
the downside of draining every last penny of political capital for the health
care reform fight. So-called cap and trade, the government/market hybrid
solution for carbon-based global warming, will soon falter for the same reason.
Also, the financial industry is carefully taking notes from the health
insurance industry's glorious success in mobilizing the lumpen-proletariat to
take to the streets and march against its own best interests; can purported
government mandates to invest in "death bonds" be following all that far behind
failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's death panels?
The administration is displaying a similar cognitive dissonance as regards to
how to deal with banks and other financial institutions adjudged "too big to
fail"; it will be easier to deal with the phenomena of too-big-to-fail banks
once the Obama administration stops making more of them.
But even if all the rest of the Obama administration's financial reform efforts
are falling short of the mark, there is one area where the umpires have it all
over the players. Just as Achilles' mother Thetis held the young warrior by the
heel as she dipped him in the bath of inviolability that was both his legend
and his curse, all the markets' masters of the universe have one, common,
crippling flaw - they're all doing it for money. Take it away, and they're
powerless - and that's turning out to be exactly the intention.
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