Friday, June 4, 2010

The Thousand Years of America?

Are the Floyd Landis allegations about doping and steroid use by cycling legend Lance Armstrong and others just the tip of the iceberg? (“After Doping Allegations, a Race for Details,” NYT, 5/21/10.) Just about everywhere we turn, new evidence of chicanery is discovered in the aerie of aspiration that used to be known as Imperial America. In a pattern that has been reported on repeatedly, Goldman Sachs, the hard-driving, seemingly invulnerable investment bank, seems to have bet against its own clients. The latest in the rash of revelations about such behavior concerns the beleaguered Washington Mutual Bank, a client that Goldman apparently represented and bet against at the same time. The Times recently reported on 14 principles that Goldman teaches its employees, beginning with Principle One—“Our clients’ interests always come first”—and ending with Principle 14—“Integrity and honesty at are at the heart of our business.” “But some former insiders,” the Times reported, “…say Goldman has a 15th, unwritten principle that employees openly discuss. It urges Goldman workers to embrace conflicts and argues that they are evidence of a healthy tension between the firm and its customers.” (“Clients Worried about Goldman’s Dueling Goals,” NYT, 5/19/10.) 

What constitutes success, and to what lengths does one go to achieve it? Do the ends justify the means? Extraordinary rendition and torture techniques like water-boarding may get a terrorist to talk, but, the Guantanamo fiasco and the continued failure of our intelligence services to correlate basic information relating to no-fly lists notwithstanding, these techniques are bought at the price of constitutional protections and principles. Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent and surprising comments on the withholding of Miranda rights for terrorism suspects are a recent case in point (“Eric Holder: Miranda Rights Should Be Modified for Terrorism Suspects,” The Huffington Post, 5/9/10). In our striving for greatness, are we not losing sight of the very things that once made us great?  

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