The classicists argue as to whether Nero really fiddled while Rome burned. Yet the story is seen as apocryphal in the same way biblical parables and myths from Greek Mythology are often so viewed. That is because we all know people who have done just that sort of thing. It happens amongst us now – and on a grand and extravagant scale.
Perhaps the most amusing recent examples of this sort of behavior come to us from both the business world and from our friends, the environmental movement.
We begin with the detestable resort vacation taken by those corporate bums on the plush from AIG. The worst thing about unmitigated corporate failure seems to be that it clogs the pores and causes muscle hypertension. Less than one week after the government loaned the corporation $85B to stave off bankruptcy, it was time for AIG to hit the spa.
Less than a week after the federal government had to bail out American International Group Inc., the company sent executives on a $440,000 retreat to a posh California resort, lawmakers investigating the company’s meltdown said Tuesday.
The tab included $23,380 worth of spa treatments for AIG employees at the coastal St. Regis resort south of Los Angeles even as the company tapped into an $85 billion loan from the government it needed to stave off bankruptcy.
Apparently, the $440K included money Congressman Waxman had thought was earmarked for the coffers of the DCCC. He lit into them like the good faux-populist he truly is.
“Average Americans are suffering economically. They’re losing their jobs, their homes and their health insurance,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., scolded the company during a lengthy opening statement. “Yet less than one week after the taxpayers rescued AIG, company executives could be found wining and dining at one of the most exclusive resorts in the nation.”
Waxman’s outrage is of course selective and risibly phony. But just because Waxman came from the land of showbiz, doesn’t mean that he didn’t speak the truth. AIG’s customers should be protected. AIG should be dragged forth and made to clean the toilets at rest shelters along the Appalachian Trail with old toothbrushes.
What Congressman Waxman’s selective excoriation of THE EVIL RICH will deliberately overlook, is the behavior of some of his closest ideological allies at the WWF. You see the WWF demands us all to reduce our carbon footprints. According to them, we owe it to the children.
We should reduce our carbon footprints and stop raping Mother Gaia, unless we’re drunk and doing it aboard the WWF’s own fleet of private jets. It seems that carbon footprints are “different” when you drop $65K to party for a month with the WWF. The WWF is currently offering its elite class of wealthy members a soirée aboard private jet to some of the most remote ecosystems in the world. The brochure follows below.
Around the World: A Private Jet Expedition
April 6 – 30, 2009
Join us on a remarkable 25-day journey by a luxury private jet. Touch down in some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see the top wildlife, including gorillas, orangutans, rhinos, lemurs and toucans. Explore natural and cultural treasures in remote areas of South America, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Africa.
To reach these remote corners, travel on a specially outfitted private jet that carries just 88 passengers in business-class comfort. World-class experts – including WWF’s director of species conservation – will provide a series of lectures en route, and a professional staff will be devoted to making your global adventure seamless and memorable.
According to the WWF’s own methodologies of calculating carbon footprints, this trip is bender worthy of Senator’s Dodd and Kennedy at the local watering hole.
Using the carbon footprint calculator on the WWF’s own web site, the 36,800-mile trip in a Boeing 757 jet will burn about 100,000 gallons of jet fuel to produce roughly 1,231 tons of CO2 in 25 days — that’s the equivalent of putting about 1,560 SUVs on the road during those three-plus weeks and that doesn’t even include emissions related to local air, ground and water transport and other amenities.
The WWF laments on its web site that the average American produces 19.6 tons of CO2 annually, which is nearly five times the world average of 3.9 tons per person. But during the WWF’s posh excursion, travelers will produce 14 tons of CO2 per person. That’s 71 percent of the average American carbon footprint and 360 percent of the average global footprint in a mere three-and-one-half weeks. But who’s counting — especially when you’re in “19 rows of spacious leather seats with full ergonomic support” enjoying “gourmet meals, chilled champagne [and] your own chef.”
Yet again, it seems that a column written maybe two years ago by Peggy Noonan is absolutely and depressingly accurate. She entitled her article A Separate Peace, and it was some of the most cynical and demoralizing journalism I’ve seen in a while. The stated premise came early.
I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can’t be fixed, or won’t be fixed any time soon.
This leads to a variety of reactions, by a variety of people. Some rush to put out the fire. Others take out their fiddle (or lyre, if they lived in Julio-Claudian Rome) and strike up a jig. Eat, drink and be merry. The bar tab shows up in another hour.
Noonan describes how one of the most powerful men in America, the aforementioned Senator Kennedy, handled the sense of foreshadowed crisis.
Teddy “took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. ‘I’m glad I’m not going to be around when you guys are my age.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.’ “
Noonan concludes with perhaps the best explanation I’ve ever heard for why Nero would fiddle, AIG would hit the spa or the WWF jet would emit more carbon than I could produce with a howitzer, and 50WP rounds.
I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, “I got mine, you get yours.”
I loved this Noonan piece for its writing, but at the time, dismissed it for being so far over the top. Today, I just love the writing, and sort of hate the fact that the article was close to being true.
Cross-Posted At: THE MINORITY REPORT