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시진핑 주석에 대한 답변

베이징 정상회담에서 시진핑 중국 국가주석과 버락 오바마 미국 대통령은 기업인, 학생, 관광객들에 대한 비자 제한을 완화하기로 거의 합의했다.

하지만 기자회견에서 시 주석이 중국에서 일하도록 허가 받는데 어려움이 많은 외국인 기자들에 대해서도 같은 조건이 적용되냐는 질문을 받았을 때 그는 그리 관대하지 않았다.

당초 뉴욕타임스 기자 마크 랜들러가 질문했을 때 시 주석은 이를 무시하는 듯 했다. 이후 시 주석은 그 질문으로 돌아간 뒤“차가 길에서 고장이 난다면 내려서 확인해야 할 필요가 있다”고 조언했다. 비유는 완곡했으나 메시지는 명확했다. 바로 외국 언론들에게 당신들이 처한 문제는 당신들 스스로 야기한 것이라고 경고한 것이다. 비호의적이고 논란이 많은 기사들 때문에 벌을 받는 것이며 접근방법을 바꾼다면 문제가 해결될 수 있다는 것이다.

중국 정부는 중국 고위 정치인들의 재력에 대한 기사를 뉴욕타임스가 2년 전 보도한 이후 새로 온 뉴욕타임스 기자들에 대한 비자를 주기적으로 거절해 왔다. 중국 내 독자들이 뉴욕타임스의 중국어, 영어 홈페이지에 접근하지 못하도록 접속을 차단하려 하고 있기도 하다.

뉴욕타임스는 어떠한 정부의(중국, 미국 그 어떤 국가라도) 요구에 맞춰 보도 내용을 바꿀 의사가 전혀 없다. 뉴욕타임스뿐 아니라 신뢰할 만한 언론조직이라면 그러할 것이다. 뉴욕타임스는 오랫동안 미국 정부를 비판하는 기사를 써왔다: 국방부 비밀문서 보도에서 정부 도청 조사까지.

뉴욕타임스의 약속은 세상을 구성하는 사건과 사람에 대한 가장 충만하고 가장 진실된 논의를 기대하고, 또 접할 자격이 있는 독자들을 향한다.

13억 인구를 지녔고 미국에 이어 세계 2위의 경제 대국인 중국은 지역적으로, 국제적으로 강국이고 진지한 보도의 대상이 될만한 자격이 있다. 뉴욕타임스는 중국과 중국 국민에게 정직하면서도 주의를 환기시키는 기사를 계속 제공할 것이다. 시 주석은 중국이 언론조직의 권리를 보호하고 있다고 주장한다. 그러면서도 기자들에게 힘있는 자들과 감출 게 있는 사람들을 보호하려는 국가에 맞춰서 보도를 하라고 요구한다. 세계의 지도자라고 확신하는 체제라면 진정한 검증과 비판도 받아들일 수 있어야 한다.

NYT의 “시진핑 주석에 대한 답변”이라는 기사이다. (번역기사)

“뉴욕타임스는 어떠한 정부의(중국, 미국 그 어떤 국가라도) 요구에 맞춰 보도 내용을 바꿀 의사가 전혀 없다. 뉴욕타임스뿐 아니라 신뢰할 만한 언론조직이라면 그러할 것이다.”라는 선언(!)은 뉴욕타임즈가 왜 세계 언론계에서 주목받는 정론지중에 하나인지를 다시보게 해준다.

특히 요즘 도대체 어디까지 무너질수 있는지를 보여주려 하는 것 같은 MBC라는 방송국과 찌질이 산케이신분 보도에 대한 박근혜 정권의 찌질한 호들갑과도 묘하게 어울리기도 하다.

A Response to President Xi Jinping

During their summit meeting in Beijing, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China made much of their agreement to ease visa restrictions for businessmen, students and tourists.

Yet when Mr. Xi was asked at a news conference if he would do the same for foreign journalists, who have had a hard time obtaining permission to work in China, he displayed little patience with such concerns.

After first appearing to ignore the question from Mark Landler, a reporter from The Times, Mr. Xi circled back to the issue and advised that “when a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to step down and see what the problem is.” The metaphor may have been oblique, but the message was clear: He was warning foreign news organizations that their troubles are self-inflicted; they are being penalized for unfavorable or controversial news coverage and could correct the problem by changing that approach.

The Chinese government has regularly declined to process visas for any new resident Times journalist and has sought to block access to the newspaper’s English-language and Chinese-language websites for people inside China over the past two years after news reports were published by The Times on the wealth of China’s political elite.

The Times has no intention of altering its coverage to meet the demands of any government — be it that of China, the United States or any other nation.Nor would any credible news organization. The Times has a long history of taking on the American government, from the publication of the Pentagon Papers to investigations of secret government eavesdropping.

The Times’s commitment is to its readers who expect, and rightly deserve, the fullest, most truthful discussion of events and people shaping the world.

China, with 1.3 billion people and the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, is a major force regionally and internationally and merits serious coverage. The Times will continue to give the country and its citizens honest reporting and attention. Mr. Xi claimed that China protects the rights of media organizations. Demanding that journalists tailor their coverage to suit the state only protects the powerful and those with something to hide. A confident regime that considers itself a world leader should be able to handle truthful examination and criticism.

via. nytimes

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But what human skills will be more valuable?

In the news business, some of those skills are already evident.

Technology has rewarded sprinters (people who can recognize and alertly post a message on Twitter about some interesting immediate event) and marathoners (people who can write large conceptual stories), but it has hurt middle-distance runners (people who write 800-word summaries of yesterday’s news conference). Technology has rewarded graphic artists who can visualize data, but it has punished those who can’t turn written reporting into video presentations.

More generally, the age of brilliant machines seems to reward a few traits.

First, it rewards enthusiasm. The amount of information in front of us is practically infinite; so is that amount of data that can be collected with new tools. The people who seem to do best possess a voracious explanatory drive, an almost obsessive need to follow their curiosity. Maybe they started with obsessive gaming sessions, or marathon all-night study sessions, but they are driven to perform extended bouts of concentration, diving into and trying to make sense of these bottomless information oceans.

In his book, “Smarter Than You Think,” Clive Thompson describes the work of Deb Roy, who wired his house with equipment so he and his team could monitor and record every word he and his wife uttered while his son was learning to speak. That is total commitment and total immersion in an attempt to understand the language learning process.

Second, the era seems to reward people with extended time horizons and strategic discipline. When Garry Kasparov was teaming with a computer to play freestyle chess (in which a human and machine join up to play against another human and machine), he reported that his machine partner possessed greater “tactical acuity,” but he possessed greater “strategic guidance.”

That doesn’t seem too surprising. A computer can calculate a zillion options, move by move, but a human can provide an overall sense of direction and a conceptual frame. In a world of online distractions, the person who can maintain a long obedience toward a single goal, and who can filter out what is irrelevant to that goal, will obviously have enormous worth.

Third, the age seems to reward procedural architects. The giant Internet celebrities didn’t so much come up with ideas, they came up with systems in which other people could express ideas: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. That is to say they designed an architecture that possesses a center of gravity, but which allowed loose networks of soloists to collaborate.

One of the oddities of collaboration is that tightly knit teams are not the most creative. Loosely bonded teams are, teams without a few domineering presences, teams that allow people to think alone before they share results with the group. So a manager who can organize a decentralized network around a clear question, without letting it dissipate or clump, will have enormous value.

Fifth, essentialists will probably be rewarded. Any child can say, “I’m a dog” and pretend to be a dog. Computers struggle to come up with the essence of “I” and the essence of “dog,” and they really struggle with coming up with what parts of “I-ness” and “dog-ness” should be usefully blended if you want to pretend to be a dog.

This is an important skill because creativity can be described as the ability to grasp the essence of one thing, and then the essence of some very different thing, and smash them together to create some entirely new thing.

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Truth has never been an essential ingredient of viral content on the Internet. But in the stepped-up competition for readers, digital news sites are increasingly blurring the line between fact and fiction, and saying that it is all part of doing business in the rough-and-tumble world of online journalism.

Several recent stories rocketing around the web, picking up millions of views, turned out to be fake or embellished: a Twitter tale of a Thanksgiving feud on a plane, later described by the writer as a short story; a child’s letter to Santa that detailed an Amazon.com link in crayon, but was actually written by a grown-up comedian in 2011; and an essay on poverty that prompted $60,000 in donations until it was revealed by its author to be impressionistic rather than strictly factual.

Their creators describe them essentially as online performance art, never intended to be taken as fact. But to the media outlets that published them, they represented the lightning-in-a-bottle brew of emotion and entertainment that attracts readers and brings in lucrative advertising dollars.

When the tales turned out to be phony, the modest hand-wringing that ensued was accompanied by an admission that viral trumps verified — and that little will be done about it as long as the clicks keep coming. “You are seeing news organizations say, ‘If it is happening on the Internet that’s our beat,’ ” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “The next step of figuring out whether it happened in real life is up to someone else.”

The difference seems to be that the news organizations that published the recent pieces — Gawker, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Mashable among them — do not see invented viral tales as being completely at odds with the serious new content they publish alongside them. The Huffington Post won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012, Gawker was among the first to report the cocaine use by Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, and BuzzFeed is building teams of investigative and foreign correspondents. Of course, websites like these are not the only news organizations to be seduced by stories that are too good to be true. In just the last month, CBS’s venerable “60 Minutes” had to apologize for taking too credulously the claims of a security agent about the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Instead, editors at these sites acknowledge frankly that there are trade-offs in balancing authenticity with the need to act quickly in a hyperconnected age. “We are dealing with a volume of information that it is impossible to have the strict standards of accuracy that other institutions have,” said John Cook, editor in chief of Gawker, which highlighted the essay on poverty, by a woman named Linda Tirado.

“The faster metabolism puts people who fact-check at a disadvantage,” said Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post, which reposted the fictional airplane tweets, the letter to Santa and the poverty essay. “If you throw something up without fact-checking it, and you’re the first one to put it up, and you get millions and millions of views, and later it’s proved false, you still got those views. That’s a problem. The incentives are all wrong.”

But Mr. Cook says he thinks that readers can tell which content is serious and which is taken from the web without vetting. “We assume a certain level of sophistication and skepticism of our readers,” he said.

Elan Gale, 30, a television producer and the author of the invented article on the feud on the plane, is not convinced. His fictitious Twitter tale of exchanging increasingly hostile notes with a fellow passenger spread rapidly — a compilation of his posts got 5.6 million views. BuzzFeed sensed the tremor in the web and posted it, attracting nearly 1.5 million views to its site. (The New York Times travel section blog also linked to their story but labeled it as imaginary when it was discovered to be untrue.) Finally, Mr. Gale revealed that the entire exchange was fake, and BuzzFeed posted an update describing the story as a lie and a hoax.

“I really have an issue with the word hoax,” said Mr. Gale, who says nobody called him to verify his story. “I was broadcasting to my followers who know what I do. It’s the people who reported it who are deceiving their audience.”

BuzzFeed counters that Mr. Gale stoked the flames when his posts came to wider notice, instead of debunking the reports, and that a BuzzFeed reporter had tried to contact him on Twitter.

BuzzFeed, like some other sites, relied on updates and news stories to correct its previous reporting on the Mr. Gale’s story. (Its follow-up story drew more than 400,000 views.) But the site must continue to cover the frantic conversation of social media, said Lisa Tozzi, the news director at BuzzFeed and a former Times editor. This is because it “is where our readers are living,” she said. “Our readers are seeing all of this stuff and I feel like there’s an expectation that we are reporting on the culture they’re living in.”

Mr. Benton of the Nieman Lab put it another way. “This is journalism as an act of pointing — ‘Look over here, this is interesting,’ ” he said. He says uncertainty about a story’s veracity is unlikely, in most cases, to keep an editor from posting it. “I think BuzzFeed is probably a little bummed they are being called out, but they are not going to start asking for three sources,” he said.

It is unclear how much readers care whether a fascinating story is true or not, at least in terms of clicking on it. Melanie C. Green, a social psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said that while people told her they cared deeply, their emotional responses remain the same either way. “It’s the same as movies or books,” she said. “We want to see something new, maybe escape our lives.”

Most embellished stories have little real-world consequence, but not all. People donated $60,000 to Ms. Tirado, based on her vivid description of a life of poverty, until she closed off donations (Gawker also suggested people stop giving her money.)

In an email conversation last week, Ms. Tirado directed a reporter to seek her public assistance records and said that she thought people were “using this as an opportunity to avoid talking about the issues.” She expressed no intention to return the money.

Zach Poitras, a Brooklyn comedy writer who wrote the Santa letter two years ago, said he felt he had been unfairly labeled a hoaxer. “I am not into pranking people,” he said.

He and friends began calling some of the websites that carried the Santa letter as soon as they saw it online. “The real hoax,” he said, is that some journalistic websites can be lazy.

“No one called me,” he said. “They waited for the facts to come to them to correct.”

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NEW YORK — Fair warning: This column is a defense of Rupert Murdoch. If you add everything up, he’s been good for newspapers over the past several decades, keeping them alive and vigorous and noisy and relevant. Without him, the British newspaper industry might have disappeared entirely.


This defense is prompted in part by seeing everyone piling in on the British hacking scandal, as if such abuses were confined to News International (we shall see) and as if significant swathes of the British establishment had not been complicit. It is also prompted by having spent time with Murdoch 21 years ago when writing a profile for The New York Times Magazine and coming away impressed.

Before I get to why, a few caveats. First, the hacking is of course indefensible as well as illegal. Second, Fox News, the U.S. TV network started by Murdoch, has with its shrill right-wing demagoguery masquerading as news made a significant contribution to the polarization of American politics, the erosion of reasoned debate, the debunking of reason itself, and the ensuing Washington paralysis. Third, I disagree with Murdoch’s views on a range of issues — from climate change to the Middle East — where his influence has been unhelpful.

So why do I still admire the guy? The first reason is his evident loathing for elites, for cozy establishments, for cartels, for what he’s called “strangulated English accents” — in fact for anything standing in the way of gutsy endeavor and churn. His love of no-holds-barred journalism is one reason Britain’s press is one of the most aggressive anywhere. That’s good for free societies.

Murdoch once told me: “When I came to Britain in 1968, I found it was damn hard to get a day’s work out of the people at the top of the social scale. As an Australian, I only had to work 8 or 10 hours a day, 48 weeks of the year, and everything came to you.”

So it was easy enough, from 1969 onward, to rake in the media heirlooms. Along the way he’s often shown fierce loyalty to his people — as now with Rebekah Brooks, the embattled head of News International — and piled money into important newspapers like The Times that would otherwise have vanished.

The second thing I admire is the visionary, risk-taking determination that has placed him ahead of the game as the media business has been transformed through globalization and digitization. It’s been the ability to see around corners that has ushered him from two modest papers inherited from his father in Adelaide to the head of a company with about $33 billion in annual revenues.

Yes, there have been mistakes — MySpace, the social media site just sold for a fraction of its purchase price is one. But I’d take Murdoch’s batting average. He’s gambled big on satellite TV, on global media opportunities in sports, and on the conflation of television, publishing, entertainment, newspapers and the Internet. British Sky Broadcasting and Fox alone represent big businesses created from nothing against significant odds.

A favorite Murdoch saying is: “We don’t deal in market share. We create the market.”

Of course, his success makes plenty of people envious, one reason the Citizen Kane ogre image has attached to him. (He would have endorsed Kane who, when asked in the movie how he found business conditions in Europe, responded: “With great difficulty!”) His success has caused redoubled envy in Britain because there he is ever the outsider from Down Under. (America doesn’t really do outsiders.)

The Times, which I’ve found a good read since moving to London last summer, has impressed me with its continued investment in foreign coverage, its bold move to put up a pay wall for the online edition (yes, people should pay for the work of journalists), and with the way the paper plays it pretty straight under editor James Harding. The Telegraph to the right and Guardian to the left play it less straight.

British Sky Broadcasting is emphatically not Fox. It’s a varied channel with some serious news shows. Overall, the British media scene without Murdoch would be pretty impoverished. His breaking of the unions at Wapping in 1986 was decisive for the vitality of newspapering. He took The Times tabloid when everyone said he was crazy. He was right. He loves a scoop, loves a scrap, and both the Wall Street Journal and The Times show serious journalists can thrive under him.

But Murdoch’s in trouble now. An important deal for all of British Sky Broadcasting hangs on his being able to convince British authorities News Corp management is in fact reputable. He’ll probably have to sacrifice Brooks for that. Politicians who fawned now fulminate. Prime Minister David Cameron is embarrassed. Both Murdoch and his savvy son James Murdoch (of more centrist views than his father) are scrambling.

I’d bet on them to prevail. When I asked Murdoch the secret of TV, he told me “Bury your mistakes.” The guy’s a force of nature and his restless innovations have, on balance and with caveats, been good for the media and a more open world.

By ROGER COHEN

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CATHOLIC nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature. No, nuns rock!

They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s.

They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world. In my travels, I’ve seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits. Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.

So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is: You are crazy to mess with nuns.

The Vatican issued a stinging reprimand of American nuns this month and ordered a bishop to oversee a makeover of the organization that represents 80 percent of them. In effect, the Vatican accused the nuns of worrying too much about the poor and not enough about abortion and gay marriage.

What Bible did that come from? Jesus in the Gospels repeatedly talks about poverty and social justice, yet never explicitly mentions either abortion or homosexuality. If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’s life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.

Since the papal crackdown on nuns, they have received an outpouring of support. “Nuns were approached by Catholics at Sunday liturgies across the country with a simple question: ‘What can we do to help?’ ” The National Catholic Reporter recounted. It cited one parish where a declaration of support for nuns from the pulpit drew loud applause, and another that was filled with shouts like, “You go, girl!”

At least four petition drives are under way to support the nuns. One on Change.org has gathered 15,000 signatures. The headline for this column comes from an essay by Mary E. Hunt, a Catholic theologian who is developing a proposal for Catholics to redirect some contributions from local parishes to nuns.

“How dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world?” Hunt wrote. “How dare the very men who preside over a church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious?”

Sister Joan Chittister, a prominent Benedictine nun, said she had worried at first that nuns spend so much time with the poor that they would have no allies. She added that the flood of support had left her breathless.

“It’s stunningly wonderful,” she said. “You see generations of laypeople who know where the sisters are — in the streets, in the soup kitchens, anywhere where there’s pain. They’re with the dying, with the sick, and people know it.”

Sister Joan spoke to me from a ghetto in Erie, Pa., where her order of 120 nuns runs a soup kitchen, a huge food pantry, an afterschool program, and one of the largest education programs for the unemployed in the state.

I have a soft spot for nuns because I’ve seen firsthand that they sacrifice ego, safety and comfort to serve some of the neediest people on earth. Remember the “Kony 2012” video that was an Internet hit earlier this year, about an African warlord named Joseph Kony? One of the few heroes in the long Kony debacle was a Comboni nun, Sister Rachele Fassera.

In 1996, Kony’s army attacked a Ugandan girls’ school and kidnapped 139 students. Sister Rachele hiked through the jungle in pursuit of the kidnappers — some of the most menacing men imaginable, notorious for raping and torturing their victims to death. Eventually, she caught up with the 200 gunmen and demanded that they release the girls. Somehow, she browbeat the warlord in charge into releasing the great majority of the girls.

I’m betting on the nuns to win this one as well. After all, the sisters may be saintly, but they’re also crafty. Elias Chacour, a prominent Palestinian archbishop in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, recounts in a memoir that he once asked a convent if it could supply two nuns for a community literacy project. The mother superior said she would have to check with her bishop.

“The bishop was very clear in his refusal to allow two nuns,” the mother superior told him later. “I cannot disobey him in that.” She added: “I will send you three nuns!”

Nuns have triumphed over an errant hierarchy before. In the 19th century, the Catholic Church excommunicated an Australian nun named Mary MacKillop after her order exposed a pedophile priest. Sister Mary was eventually invited back to the church and became renowned for her work with the poor. In 2010, Pope Benedict canonized her as Australia’s first saint.

“Let us be guided” by Sister Mary’s teachings, the pope declared then.

Amen to that.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

We Are All Nuns

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TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs.Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.

By GREG SMITH

via. “NewYork Times”.

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HERE’S a paradox: We’re finding authentic leadership these days not from our nominal leaders in Washington but from unelected (and mostly unelectable) figures whom we like to deride as self-indulgent narcissists.

Congress is so paralyzed and immature, even sleazy, that we reporters sometimes leave a politician’s press conference feeling the urgent need to shower. But look at university and high school students. Sure, plenty still live for a party, but a growing number have no time for beer because they’re so busy tutoring prisoners, battling sex trafficking or building wells in Africa.

Even more startling, we can now turn to moral leadership from — brace yourself — Hollywood’s “most beautiful people.” I know, I know. What we expect from celebrities is mostly scandalous sex lives and crackpot behavior, and some do oblige. But increasingly as our “leaders” debase the national conversation, sex symbols elevate it.

Take Angelina Jolie, who is making her debut as a director and writer with the aching new movie “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” It’s a Bosnian love story set against genocide, and it illuminates the human capacity to both love and kill.

Let me acknowledge that I regularly embarrass my kids with my ignorance of popular culture. The first time I met Jolie, four years ago, I was brought over to a couch where three women were seated — and realized, to my horror, that I had no idea which one she was. She rescued me by introducing herself.

(Maybe I should warn of a conflict here. Jolie submitted a blurb for a book that my wife and I wrote about empowering women. Better yet, she held our book, the cover perfectly upright for the cameras, as a shield when paparazzi were hounding her.)

Jolie’s new movie doesn’t pander to anyone. For starters, she isn’t in it. The cast is made up of unknowns from the Balkans, speaking foreign languages with subtitles. When Jolie wrote the screenplay and proposed filming it, she said, everyone thought she was nuts.

The movie portrays the romance between a Bosnian Serbian man and a Bosnian Muslim woman. When the Bosnian war begins, he becomes an officer in a genocidal army and she becomes a survivor in one of the army’s rape camps. The couple reunites, but she is his prisoner as well as his lover. The army officer reminds me of war criminals I’ve interviewed: a good and decent guy when he’s not committing crimes against humanity.

“How do people get to the point,” Jolie asks, “when they’re murdering the grandmother next door. How does that happen? If we can start to understand it, then maybe we can figure out how to address the signs earlier.”

Jolie also wants viewers to meditate on humanitarian intervention and what can be done to prevent mass atrocities. “I hoped people would watch the film and think, ‘Why didn’t we stop it?’ ” she said.

I started off rather scornful of celebrities dabbling in humanitarian causes. When Mia Farrow inquired about going to Darfur with me, I archly declined on the presumption that she couldn’t hack it. Then she traveled to the region on her own, and I began to run into her anyway.

Once Farrow consulted me about her plan to buy a donkey and hike off by herself across a desert occupied by murderous militias. She planned to travel without even a tent, just a rope to encircle her as she slept in the sand on the theory that snakes and scorpions would turn aside at the rope.

Farrow has since become a friend, but I’m now afraid to travel with her. I might not be able to hack it.

Likewise, the war in Congo is the most lethal since World War II, but it hasn’t been much covered by many news organizations. One person who has visited repeatedly is Ben Affleck. He has made himself an expert on Congo, and he plans to return this month.

Or think of Sean Penn and Olivia Wilde, who have shown a more sustained commitment to Haiti than most news organizations.

Look, as a journalist, I’m proud of my profession. Yet it’s also clear that commercial pressures are driving some news organizations, television in particular, to drop the ball. Instead of covering Congo, it’s cheaper and easier to put a Democrat and a Republican in a studio and have them yell at each other.

Frankly, it’s just humiliating when news organizations cover George Clooney (my travel buddy on one Darfur trip) more attentively when he breaks up with a girlfriend than when he travels to Sudan and uses satellite photos to catch the Sudanese government committing mass atrocities.

So here’s my hope for the new year. That our “leaders” in Washington will pause in their supercilious narcissism and show a hint of the seriousness and moral purpose of, yes, celebrities.

via. “New York Times”.

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“And greed — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.”

That’s how the fictional Gordon Gekko finished his famous “Greed is good” speech in the 1987 film “Wall Street.” In the movie, Gekko got his comeuppance. But in real life, Gekkoism triumphed, and policy based on the notion that greed is good is a major reason why income has grown so much more rapidly for the richest 1 percent than for the middle class.

Today, however, let’s focus on the rest of that sentence, which compares America to a corporation. This, too, is an idea that has been widely accepted. And it’s the main plank of Mitt Romney’s case that he should be president: In effect, he is asserting that what we need to fix our ailing economy is someone who has been successful in business.

In so doing, he has, of course, invited close scrutiny of his business career. And it turns out that there is at least a whiff of Gordon Gekko in his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm; he was a buyer and seller of businesses, often to the detriment of their employees, rather than someone who ran companies for the long haul. (Also, when will he release his tax returns?) Nor has he helped his credibility by making untenable claims about his role as a “job creator.”

But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.

Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company.

Most relevant for our current situation, however, is the point that even giant corporations sell the great bulk of what they produce to other people, not to their own employees — whereas even small countries sell most of what they produce to themselves, and big countries like America are overwhelmingly their own main customers.

Yes, there’s a global economy. But six out of seven American workers are employed in service industries, which are largely insulated from international competition, and even our manufacturers sell much of their production to the domestic market.

And the fact that we mostly sell to ourselves makes an enormous difference when you think about policy.

Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. Any dollars taken off the cost side of the balance sheet are added to the bottom line.

But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed.

Now, to be fair, being a career politician isn’t necessarily a better preparation for managing economic policy than being a businessman. But Mr. Romney is the one claiming that his career makes him especially suited for the presidency. Did I mention that the last businessman to live in the White House was a guy named Herbert Hoover? (Unless you count former President George W. Bush.)

And there’s also the question of whether Mr. Romney understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.

Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. One might think that Mr. Romney would rather not talk about a highly successful policy that just about everyone in the Republican Party, including him, denounced at the time.

But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?

America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.


via. “New York Times”.

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When I spoke at Swarthmore College recently, I was startled by one question: Is it immoral for students to seek banking jobs?

The corollary question, with Mitt Romney’s business career under attack even by staunch Republicans, is this: Is it unethical to make millions in private equity?

My answer to both questions: no.

I’ve been sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement, but, look, finance is not evil. Banking has contributed immensely to modern civilization. By allocating capital to more efficient uses, banking laid the groundwork for the industrial revolution and the information revolution.

Likewise, the attacks on private equity seem over the top. Private equity firms like Bain Capital, where Romney worked, aren’t about destroying companies and picking over the carcasses. Rather, the aim is to acquire poorly managed companies, make them more efficient (sometimes by firing people but often by rejiggering the business model) and then resell them at a profit. That’s the merciless, rugged nature of capitalism.

Liberals should also be wary of self-selecting out of certain occupations. After Vietnam and revelations of C.I.A. abuses in the 1970s, many university students avoided the military and the intelligence agencies. So slots were filled disproportionately by ideological conservatives in a way that undermined everyone’s interests. We would have been better off if more Swarthmore idealists had become generals and C.I.A. officers — and we may be better off if some idealists become bankers as well.

Now for my caveats.

When young people go into finance, I hope that they’ll show judgment, balance and principles instead of their elders’ penchant for greed and rigging the system. Just as Communists managed to destroy Communism, capitalists are discrediting capitalism.

A Pew Research Center poll in December found that only 50 percent of Americans reacted positively to the term “capitalism,” while 40 percent reacted negatively. Among Americans ages 18 to 29, more had a negative view of capitalism than a positive view, the survey found. Those young Americans actually viewed socialism more positively than capitalism. In other words, America’s grasping capitalists are turning young Americans into socialists.

The Financial Times recently published a series about “capitalism in crisis.” It noted that the Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey, found that only 46 percent of Americans had confidence in business to do the right thing (and only 25 percent trusted banks).

Public skepticism is warranted, in my view. Corporations have vastly overpaid C.E.O.’s, handsomely rewarding not only success but also failure. Banks that helped cause today’s financial mess lobbied successfully for bailouts for themselves; they privatized profits and socialized losses.

Meanwhile, more than four million families have lost their homes to foreclosure, according to Zillow.com, a real estate company. Bankers and shareholders found a safety net, but not working-class families. One reason is that the campaign finance system allows financiers to buy access and special favors. If you’re a tycoon, your best investment often is a lobbying firm in Washington to create a tax loophole for you. The last few years have been a showcase not of capitalism itself, but of crony capitalism.

Romney’s average tax rate, which he says is probably about 15 percent, exemplifies the problem. The Romneys benefit because capital gains tax rates have been slashed to just 15 percent, much lower than rates paid on labor income.

Then there’s the most egregious tax loophole of all, for “carried interest.” A triumph of lobbying, it allows private equity and hedge fund managers to pretend that their labor income is a capital gain. So they sometimes pay a tax rate of just 15 percent, compared with up to 35 percent for almost everyone else.

Granted, young people haven’t been pouring into finance in recent years out of eagerness to reform this rigged system but to milk it. In 2007, on the eve of the financial crisis, 47 percent of Harvard’s graduating class headed for consulting firms and the financial sector — a huge misallocation of human capital. However well-meaning these new graduates are initially, they often end up caught up in the scramble at the trough.

In the postwar years, labor unions became greedy and rewarded themselves with feather-bedding and rigid work rules — turning much of the public against them. Likewise, Wall Street feather-bedding is tarnishing the public image of banks and business and undermining confidence in capitalism itself.

When financiers rig the system, they should remember the warning of John Maynard Keynes: “The businessman is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.”

So university students would be wrong to mock their classmates who choose Citigroup over CARE. Banking and private equity aren’t evil, and I would never urge college students to stay away. Maybe today’s young socialist sympathizers, along with healthy regulation and a loud public outcry, can help rescue capitalism from the crony capitalists.

via. “New York Times”.

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