One reason for this urgency is the sheer abundance of corporate malfeasance. After Thomas established his whistle-blowing practice, at the law firm Labaton Sucharow, he commissioned an anonymous survey of finance professionals, conducted by the University of Notre Dame. The findings illuminate a rampant ethical permissiveness: more than a third of respondents who have salaries of half a million dollars or more say that they have witnessed, or have firsthand knowledge of, wrongdoing in the workplace; nearly twenty per cent of respondents “feel financial-services professionals must at least sometimes engage in illegal or unethical activity to be successful.” The S.E.C. established the whistle-blower program partly so that people who witnessed misbehavior would have a reliable mechanism for reporting it. The agency had ignored the forensic accountant Harry Markopolos when he sounded the alarm about Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. “Huge percentages of people know stuff,” Thomas told me. “They’re just not speaking up.” The JPMorgan whistle-blower said, “There were a dozen people I worked with who knew the same information I knew and still didn’t report anything.”
19 January, 2022
People’s objections to government shutdowns, school closings, masks, vaccines, testing and the like have been well-documented. They don’t want the government to tell them what to do. They have questions about the safety of the vaccines. Testing is inconvenient and uncomfortable. And so on. To be honest, I’m not as orthodox about those things as you might imagine. Widespread shutdowns and school closures at this point, in my opinion, do more harm than good.
But masks? Social distancing? Frequent testing? I’m sorry, but those are no-brainers. The same goes for vaccines. The World Health Organization, CDC, and other leading scientific groups have deemed the shots safe, and hundreds of millions of people worldwide have been safely and effectively vaccinated. Most covid protective measures have proved to be minor nuisances, involving negligible disruption and minimal risk. If the benefit is potentially saving the lives of millions of vulnerable people, and who knows how many in general, then the cost is clearly worth it.
Through ten years as a code compliance officer for the County of Los Angeles, Jonathan Pacheco Bell estimates that he entered about 1,000 different homes, most of them in the unincorporated areas around South Los Angeles. He handed out violation notices and watched illegal housing get destroyed or vacated.
But, after a decade of enforcement work, he said he came to accept that zoning codes become something of a fiction in the face of an affordable housing crisis. Many informal units are substandard or unsafe. But most, he said, are not. And until recently, the county’s policy of removing them was, in his view, creating more problems than it solved.
Mr. Pacheco Bell is now a consultant who gives frequent talks at planning conferences. In those presentations, he tells the story of a family he cited in 2016, just as the state laws on accessory dwellings were changing. The family patriarch had died in a bus crash in 2009 and, to supplement her income, the widow hired a neighbor to build a backyard home. It cost $16,000 to build and she was able to rent it for $500, providing years of income for her family and one unit of affordable housing in a region that badly needed it.
Mr. Pacheco Bell showed up after an anonymous complaint. The unit had plumbing and a kitchen. There was a crucifix on the front door, magnetic letters on the refrigerator and a child’s homework assignments taped to the wall. The home was usable and well-maintained, but was in violation of zoning codes because it was too close to a fence. Mr. Pacheco Bell wrote the unit up and returned a few months later to confirm it had been demolished. Walking around the backyard, and seeing the outline of the home and the rubble, made him question the job he was doing.
15 January, 2022
10 January, 2022
Edward Palmer and the Children’s Television Workshop built the distractor in order to improve their real work. That work, as described by the New Yorker’s film critic Renata Adler in 1972, was “to sell, by means of television, the rational, the humane, and the linear to little children.” Google and its ilk have instead concentrated on improving the distractor, and the result is the triumph of the irrational, the inhumane, and the non-linear. And it has made them very rich indeed.