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September 16, 2008

Pedestrian Concerns

Lehman Pedestrians

Of all the images I looked at yesterday concerning the financial crisis, I found this one — by AP’s fine photographer Mary Altaffer — to be the most arresting.  These pedestrians are looking up at the (cool and sexy) headquarters of Lehman Brothers as news breaks of its bankruptcy.  (You can click open and look at the representative shots of the building, and its IMAX-like display, at bottom.  The last shot is from this past 9/11.)

The picture is only more fitting, however, accompanied by a comment that was posted in response to a post at the NYT “Deal Book” blog yesterday (Shock and Anger From Lehman’s Employees – link.)  The comment is in response to the plight of suddenly uncompensated and unemployed Lehman Brothers workers who might even be asked to return their Blackberries.  In the empathic post, Lehman workers wonder how this could have happened.

“Ann” writes:

How did it happen?

The real question is how did these smart-alecky Ivy League MBA whiz kids destroy a 158 year old firm that survived the Civil War, the depression of the ’90s (1890s for historical ignoramuses), the panic of 1907 and the Great Depression?

And the worker bees who gravitated there out of school are no better than the upper echelon. They were at a lower level but wanted to be just like those at the top. They are all cut from the same cloth.


By thinking themselves far far cleverer and more knowledgeable than those who had gone before so that they actually believed their own BS about a ‘new financial paradigm.’ They are so self-important and entrenched in the belief that they are smarter than anyone else in history that they would not have taken financial advice from John Pierpoint Morgan if he came back from the grave. They would have called him ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘passe’ and ‘out of touch’.

By thinking themselves oh-so-innovative because they could push buttons on a computer and come up with loopy theories and ridiculous ‘models’. If they had gone out and ask the farmer in the field or the plumber if the nutty lending practices of option-ARMs, NINJA etc made sense, the farmer and the plumber would have called them crazy as sooner or later someone would get stuck with a bill for the losses. The farmer on his tractor or the plumber had more sense about handling money than these self-important idiots who thought themselves so brilliant playing with their theories as if the theories were reality.

By buying into all that ‘free market’ garbage that idolizes ‘risk-taking’ and despises garden-variety caution and common sense and insists on unchecked growth at all costs. The only things that growths constantly and without end is cancer and then it kills the organism it inhabits.

By being greedy and thinking they had to have more and more and more in profits. They flaunt their greed. They value money above all. They assign values to others based upon their income and net worth. I seriously doubt that the one wailing about his Blackberry really chooses as his friends people who are social workers, daycare teachers or others unlikely to ever afford the 2nd and 3rd homes or get 6 or 7 figure incomes.

How did it happen?

Take a good long look in the mirror.

Then go out and get a job doing something that actually produces things. I hear the oil and gas fields out west need welders and workers.

Lehman Clouds Lehman Bridge Lehman Water

  Lehman Sunset Lehman 9 11

(image 1 : Mary Altaffer.  Sept. 15, 2008. New York. image 2: Reuters. New York, June 4, 2008.  image 3 &4 : Reuters. New York January 30, 2008. image 5: Reuters. September 15, 2008. )

  • NoContest

    Rage against the machine~?

  • Puka

    Did no one bother reading or seeing “Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room”?

  • black dog barking

    Serendipity. 21st Century Fates wearing pastel-ish red white & blue look out upon financial Armageddon. The mask of their carefully kempt ensembles reveals little of inner thought, perhaps a trace of panic in the middle. Of course their living memory touches the Great Depression only as childhood memory, not the crisper, raw nervy adult experience of national poverty. National failure of the national imagination.

  • jean

    What I see:
    These are women who don’t appear to have reaped any of the financial riches of the last eight years. They, being women, are the ones who will feel the recession/depression/crash the most. They traditionally have had the fewest resources. I realize it’s speculation, but the older woman on the left may have a fixed income, a pittance perhaps, but still *an income*. The other two still depend on the working world.
    And I may speculate that they outfit themselves at Rossdressforless, rather than SFA. They may have been shopping the sales for quite a while now. They are worried/fearful for themselves, probably for their families and hopefully for their country. They mirror my feelings and most likely my face. Republican malfeasance is coming home to roost, with a vengeance.
    In other news, thank you Bag, for posting pics of Lehman Bros as it was in happier times. Truly garish.

  • PaminBB

    Great post from Ann. To paraphrase: Welcome to the reality-based community.

  • Street Shooter

    And, sadly, there is a guy in the background (can’t crop him out) using a small pocket camera. As a freelance photographer I’m finding it difficult these days to get shots without amateur photographers in it. Unlike serious photographers they are not aware of other photographers and will thoughtlessly step into your shot at the worst moment. After positioning myself for an important shot and waiting for the moment to release the shutter only to have it ruined by having one of these yahoos step into the shot holding their 3 pixel cell phone out in front of them I have had to restrain myself to simply yell at them. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  • momly

    Street Shooter:
    Yell at them! You may be the only person who ever clues them in! Although, it looks like he is using a small digital camera. I will be much more careful in the future – count on it!
    I wonder what they are all looking at? I would have thought this was a 9/11 picture, but their expressions, while concerned, are not horrified. Yet.

  • learnedtoomuch

    The two women in front look so much alike that they must be related.

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