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Comments: Week of February 20, 2012

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1. In a much-discussed cover story on life on Wall Street after financial reform, Gabriel Sherman presented bankers at varying stages of anger, grief, and self-pity about what they saw as their own diminished prospects (The End of Wall Street As They Knew It,” February 13). “A withering view of life among the Masters of the Universe these days,” wrote Louis Lavelle at Bloomberg Businessweek. At Salon, Andrew Leonard called the story “amazing, if only for the plethora of quotes from bankers lamenting how the times have changed. There’s a self-­awareness of the fact that the country headed down the wrong road, that ­maybe, just maybe, there was something wrong with all the easy money. Wall Street sounds chastened. Whether or not the Occupy movement, or Dodd-Frank, or the bad economy is most responsible for this reality is impossible to say, but for now, let’s call it progress.” To Matt Taibbi, writing at Rolling Stone’s Taibblog, the Wall Streeters didn’t seem chastened at all. “A banker’s job is to be a prudent and dependable steward of other people’s money—being worthy of our trust in that area is the entire justification for their traditionally high compensation. Yet these people have failed so ­spectacularly at that job in the last fifteen years that they’re lucky that God himself didn’t come down to Earth at bonus time this year, angrily boot their asses out of those new condos, and command those Zagat-reading girlfriends of theirs to start ­getting acquainted with the McDonald’s value-meal lineup. They should be glad they’re still getting anything at all, not whining to New York Magazine.” Some readers, like Linette Lopez at Business Insider, argued finance may already be on the way back. “It will look different, but the demand for what Wall Street can sell—the traditional stuff, the advice, the simple products—is still there and increasing. Pension funds need Wall Street, and they’re not going away. Emerging markets need Wall Street, and they’re not going to turn back and shrink their economies if they can help it.” And while most readers were persuaded that financial reform may be working for now, mostly in anticipation of Dodd-Frank’s impact, some felt its effect would be fleeting. “The denizens of the financial world have never been shrinking violets,” wrote Sam Gustin at Time magazine’s Business blog. “There’s already a movement afoot to torpedo the Volcker Rule, which doesn’t go into effect until July 2012. Wall Street continues to pour money into the political system, evidence that the big banks aren’t going to take the new tightened regulations lying down. There’s no doubt that the landscape on Wall Street has shifted markedly since the high-flying boom days that preceded the financial crisis. But it may be too early to write the industry’s obituary. Wall Street may be down, but by no means is it out.”


2. A geeky 36-year-old virgin named Trent Arsenault has turned himself into an Internet-celebrity fertility god by building his entire life around sperm ­donation, Benjamin Wallace wrote in a profile of the devoted donor (The Virgin Father,” February 13). “Even with all of his eccentricities, I like Trent,” wrote one commenter at nymag.com. “I do, how­ever, feel sorry for his parents. They seem to have had a tough time in accepting Trent as he is.” Added another: “Trent sounds more than a tad strange. I wonder how the children will turn out.” One reader, saying she was a client of ­Arsenault’s, wrote in appreciatively. “My husband and I are mentioned in this article,” she wrote. “We are very grateful to Trent for helping us. We have been through almost seven years of infertility, two miscarriages, and are financially ­depleted after using a sperm bank numerous times. Thank you, Trent.” Another commenter spoke for most of the commentariat: “The degree to which Trent has committed himself to this ‘cause’ makes him seem more self-obsessed than compassionate.”

3. In a story spelunking into the Internet underbelly, Mark Jacobson examined the incredible rise of subway-fight and amateur-hip-hop video clearinghouse WorldStarHipHop.com (WorldStar, Baby! February 13). “I guess you’ve really made it when New York Magazine decides to write an entire feature on your God-awful website,” wrote Danielle Harling at Refined Hype. “I knew WSHH was unfortunately racking up the views, but over a million people visiting per day? That’s truly disturbing … I’m sorry, but two crackheads fighting on the A train is not hip-hop.” Other readers found the story a little patronizing. “I’m all for slandering WorldStar, but what exactly is a ‘semi-swag hip-hop blog’?” wondered Alvin Aqua Blanco at Hip Hop Wired. “New York also asserts that WorldStar went meta after footage of a security guard catching the fade on the L train hit the site in November 2011. That’s clearly suspect when you consider that WorldStar has been ­killing the page-view game for years now.”

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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