I’d heard whisperings about the existence of Kappa Beta Phi, whose members included both incredibly successful financiers (New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones) and incredibly unsuccessful ones (Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld, Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne, former New Jersey governor and MF Global flameout Jon Corzine). It was a secret fraternity, founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, that functioned as a sort of one-percenter’s Friars Club. Each year, the group’s dinner features comedy skits, musical acts in drag, and off-color jokes, and its group’s privacy mantra is “What happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.” For eight decades, it worked. No outsider in living memory had witnessed the entire proceedings firsthand. …
I wasn’t going to be bribed off my story, but I understood their panic. Here, after all, was a group that included many of the executives whose firms had collectively wrecked the global economy in 2008 and 2009. And they were laughing off the entire disaster in private, as if it were a long-forgotten lark. (Or worse, sing about it — one of the last skits of the night was a self-congratulatory parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” called “Bailout King.”) These were activities that amounted to a gigantic middle finger to Main Street and that, if made public, could end careers and damage very public reputations. …
The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who have completely divorced themselves from reality. No self-aware and socially conscious Wall Street executive would have agreed to be part of a group whose tacit mission is to make light of the financial sector’s foibles. Not when those foibles had resulted in real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.
The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust. We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.
Michael B. Jordan, the charismatic young actor from “Fruitvale Station,” has been cast in the reboot of “Fantastic Four,” in the role previously played by Chris Evans. As Evans is now one of the central figures in the Marvel “Avengers” franchise, it’s clearly a star-making role — and one that many fans perceive as white.
It’s common for fans of entertainment franchises to take to Twitter upon the announcement of any casting that deviates from an all-white universe — including, recently, the casting of a young black actress to play a role in “The Hunger Games” that was at the very least coded as black. No matter! White “Hunger Games” readers perceived all the characters as white, and they were really angry they were going to be forced to look at any nonwhite people at the movies. The same thing happened when Idris Elba got a supporting role as a Norse god in “Thor,” and when Samuel L. Jackson played a role that had been white in comics in “The Avengers” franchise.
This is the exact reason why casting minority actors in the sort of big franchises that have built-in audiences is at once difficult and important — fans who have pictured the plot of a novel in their minds, or who have looked at the all-white Fantastic Four on the page, are entitled to be mildly surprised at a casting decision, but self-righteous anger is a bit excessive.