Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Horticulture of the Vanities


Today in Oligarchy: You're so Thain, you prob'ly think the trees are about you. 

That would be John Thain, the chairman and CEO of CIT, who recently paid to restore a 50-acre section of the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Naturally, he renamed it the "Thain Family Forest." But even that doesn't quite cut it. As David Dunlop wryly chronicles in the New York Times, you cannot take a leisurely stroll through this plutocratic Sylvania without encountering The Thain Family at every turn, on every twig, on every piece of bark. It's hard to see the forest for the sleaze:
They turn up on prohibitory signs, too. “Please Stay on the Path: The Thain Family Forest is a fragile ecosystem.”One expects donors’ names at entrance ways and on directional signs and maps. It’s more unusual to find donors’ names woven into the interpretive narration. At the garden, however, the words “Thain Family Forest” are slipped into signs about black oaks, hemlocks and hillside blueberries (“a favorite of birds and small mammals in the Thain Family Forest”); about vernal pools and great horned owls; about mound formations and forest layering; and even about snags, as standing dead trees are called, which help “reveal the Thain Family Forest’s great age.”
Indeed, by the time you reach the sign beginning, “When a tree falls in the Thain Family Forest —,” you may be tempted to finish the thought yourself, “— does it make a Thain Family Sound?”
Truth be told, John Thain himself is a fragile egosystem. You may remember John, formerly of Goldman Sachs, as the tycoon who was put in charge of the financially troubled Merrill Lynch and then proceeded to loot the company of more than $1 million for furnishing his office -- just as the financial world came crashing down on everybody else. Even as Thain self-pampered, and was firing people right and left, he himself was on his way out: Bank of America was already in the process of taking over the company and releasing him with a golden parachute. From the Daily Beast, here's a sampling of what he indulged in while Wall Street's victims were losing their jobs and their homes:

1) $2,700 for six wall sconces.
2) $5,000 for a mirror in his private dining room.
3) $11,000 for fabric for a "Roman Shade.”
4) $13,000 for a chandelier in the private dining room.
5) $15,000 for a sofa.
6) $16,000 for a "custom coffee table.”
7) $18,000 for a “George IV Desk.”
8) $25,000 for a "mahogany pedestal table.”
9) $28,000 for four pairs of curtains.
10) $35,000 for something called a "commode on legs.”
11) $37,000 for six chairs in his private dining room.
12) $68,000 for a "19th Century Credenza" in his office.
13) $87,000 for a pair of guest chairs.
14) $87,000 for an area rug in Thain's conference room and another area rug for $44,000.
15) $230,000 to his driver for one year’s work.
16) $800,000 to hire celebrity designer Michael Smith, who redesignied the White House for the Obama family for "just" $100,000.

When Thain was caught out by the media, he reimbursed the moribund company out of his own personal $83 million compensation package. An investigation into whether Thain used TARP funds to pay himself and his cronies bonuses even as Merrill was imploding was started by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.  Unsurprisingly, it came to nothing. It might have upset the confidence of the markets.

Hey, Zuccotti Parkers! How about we occupy The Thain Family Forest!!

A Tree Grows On Wall Street 


Anne Lavoie said...

It sounds like a nice campsite to me for the OWS family. They could even provide free fertilizer.

Valerie said...

Yes! As OWS grows they should definitely consider the Thain Family Forest as a campsite - maybe they can even rename it as they did the park/campsite in Occupy Oakland.

As my grandma would say, you can dress em up, but you can't take them out in public. These nouveau riche are without any class at all. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Anyone who goes into finance isn't exactly out to make the world a better place. I smell a tax write off somewhere in the mix. It is the same in Adelaide. There is a beautiful lane of giant fig trees in the botanical garden (truly spectacular) and of course, it is called “Murdoch Lane” or something like that. Why don't these people have a little class and just donate their money without getting credit for it! On the other hand, I am disgusted with Steve Jobs for not giving any money - at all - to anything! So I guess that is even worse.

Whatever happened to nobles oblige! I guess that went out when Paris Hilton came in!! Like I keep askin – When did it become socially acceptable to be so selfish?

James F Traynor said...

Noblesse oblige - ad nauseum.

4Runner said...

Longfellow would probably call it "the forest prime evil". And of course our friends have a good anagram for "Thain Family Forest" >>> "A Leafy North Misfit".

Valerie said...

Fellow Sardonicky readers. Take a mosey on over to TruthDig and read the article entitled "Why are the Police Treating Protesters like Terrorists?"

It is an important piece. I think we all knew that when the 99% started to push back, the 1% would be calling in favours from their bought off government officials. And from the beginning, civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald have been warning that the Patriot Act would be used against ordinary civilians if they bucked the status quo.

Interesting. Hearing that with the brutal winter to come, protesters are OWS are talking about moving to LA to occupy there. It is a reasonable solution. On the other hand, I read that ex military personell who were in Afgahnistan are working with the protesters and teaching them how to camp through the winter. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. I am sure Bloomy is counting on the protesters not being able to handle the freezing conditions and if the early blizzards are anything to go by, it could be a brutal winter on the east coast.

Denis Neville said...

Husbandry of vanities?

Is there a skunk among the small mammals in the Thain Family Forest?

“What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” - Abraham Lincoln

“He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.” - George Eliot, Adam Bede, 1859

James F Traynor said...

An aside.

I picked this up in Al Jazeera:

"It's hard to know if the inexperienced Obama is simply not very good at being president, and knowing how to wield the pulleys of power, or whether he is achieving the policy he wants and thinks no one is noticing the sizable gap between what he says and what he does."

This was in regard to the Arab-Israeli contretemps but, as a general evaluation of Obama, it's the best I've seen yet.

Sorry for the diversion.

James F Traynor said...

@ Valerie

Yeah, read that. Some of the comments are even scarier. Adding a .223 mini 14 semiautomatic rifle and a 12 guage pump to my armamentarium of one .22 target rifle. One never knows. At the same time applying for Irish citizenship, for which I'm eligible. I understand the Dutch Antilles are pleasurable isles. I wonder what my immigrant Irish parents would think?

Valerie said...

My husband gets updates on all things having to do with the world's waterways (due to his profession) and he just got an e-mail saying the BP pipe in the Gulf of Mexico is leaking again. So glad Obama allowed BP to continue drilling in American waters. They have done such a bang up job so far!

And sorry if I can't get all excited about Obama "reinvestigating" the tar sands pipeline situation, postponing a decision until after 2012 - how convenient for him. I don't know how anyone can believe that he will say no if he gets re-elected (without my vote)! He has just opened up more drilling in the gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Watch what he DOES people - not what he SAYS! Sorry, feeling a little grumpy about BP pipe.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Denis Neville

Welcome back, Denis! We were wondering where you went and hoping you were ok. Good to have you back, quotes and all.


Obama is now claiming that it is his decision to make about the tar sands pipeline. He had been saying all along that it was up to the State Dept. Apparently he is trying to shakedown the environmentalists for votes by putting the decision off, implying that if they are good to him, he will reward them. Like we're going to fall for his tricks, again.


Keep your eyes on the skies and in the news regarding domestic use of UAVs, unmanned aerial drones, otherwise known as the Spy in the Sky. The current domestic versions are the size of birds of prey and only fitted with cameras for now. It is soon to be the latest, hottest, multi-billion dollar taxpayer funded corporate welfare program.

I have read in various small town newspapers (in AZ and MT) in the past week about Congressmen tripping over themselves in a mad rush to promote and fund UAV projects. They are working on exemptions from FAA regulations, crafting legislation promoting the development, manufacture, and use of these mini spy drones, and making arrangements for partnerships with educational institutions and local municipalities for 'real life' practice. On us.

Some manufacturers are offering a spy drone for free to universities but only if they find a willing local government agency to partner with. Not sure if the Patriot Act covers(up) their use. The government agency would be your local city or county homeland security department, aka Emergency Preparedness.

Senator Max Baucus is working on legislation for six new testing sites for these domestic drones, coming to a place near you. Current domestic versions can be flown through the Internet from as far away as 1,500 miles and can reach as high as 400 feet in the air.

The chickens are coming home to roost. I hope all those hunters out there can handle birds flying that high in the air.