Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Mr. B Sees The Writing On The Wall

Good, lord, Mr. B. You’re white as a sheet. What’s the matter, sir?

They did it again, Selig. They spray painted those nine horrible words on our front entrance. You must have seen them when you came to work this morning.

No, sir. Don’t you remember? Only top earners can use the front entrance these days. You made that a rule a few years back to give the rest of us something to aspire to.

Right. I remember now. So I guess you didn’t see those spray painted words when you came to work. Our security people wash them off every day. But they keep reappearing again and again like some kind of awful warning.

What are they, sir? These nine words that fill you with such obvious foreboding?

“You have been judged, and Glass-Steagall is wanted.”

Interesting mix of Bible and economics, sir.

Interesting, Selig? Horrifying! Glass-Steagall was one of those socialist laws passed during the New Deal to prevent the kind of market meltdown that triggered the Great Depression? It took us until 1999 to get that damn law off the books. It was cramping innovation. Putting a lid on our risk taking profits. The Volcker Rule they’re trying to push down our throats these days is bad enough. But Glass-Steagall…

I don’t know about that, Mr. B.

Don’t know what, Selig? You do believe in innovation, don’t you?

Of course, sir.

And in risk taking to bring new companies and new industries on line?

Absolutely, sir, Except…

Except what, Selig?

I just don’t understand why you don’t want Glass-Steagall to come back, sir. I mean, what I’ve heard is that it just separates retail and commercial banking that’s insured by the government to protect bank depositors, separates them from risk taking ventures whose aim is to make the biggest possible profits.

That’s right, Selig.

So what’s the problem, Mr. B? If the government brings back Glass-Steagall, it wouldn’t have to regulate Wall Street so heavily because the government, the taxpayers, wouldn’t have to bail out Wall Street companies if you lose a lot of money — you wouldn’t be under the same corporate umbrella as regulated institutions whose depositors aren’t risk takers and have to be saved at all costs. It looks to me like a good deal for everyone. Separation would free the government from an obligation to bail out risk takers. Risk takers wouldn’t have to be regulated as much because they would no longer be a risk to anyone but themselves.

Selig, Selig, Selig. That’s so, so…

Commonsensical, sir? I’m sorry.

No need to apologize, Selig. Common sense is a failing one sees a lot on Main Street. Only a relatively few of us on Wall Street, in Washington, and at some think tanks are blessed with the ability to think counter-intuitively. To transcend common sense. To see beyond the obvious.

What do you see beyond the obvious, Mr. B?

What I see, Selig, is opportunities. I see a future where every American has a shot at being able to feast regularly on caviar and truffles.

Sort of like a chicken in every pot, sir?

Yes, Selig. And a BMW in every garage, too.

A garage that hasn’t been lost to bank foreclosure, sir, along with the adjoining house?

Right again, Selig, You’ve summed up my vision perfectly. Now let’s get back to more immediate matters. Do you have any suggestions about how to keep those nasty nine words from greeting me and other top earners when we come to work?

You could erect a scaffold by the front entrance, sir. To scare warn off taggers.

Good, Selig, but too extreme. At least for the time being. Other ideas?

Well, sir, if the entire front of the building were made available to graffiti artists, another tag more or less would probably get lost in the mix. And passersby might even think that what’s going on inside Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street investment banks was actually a government subsidized conceptual art project.

Selig, your chances of ever coming to work through that front entrance have just taken a steep nosedive. Is my Stall #8 ready for use?

Ready and waiting, sir. And the only writing on its walls are Post-It notes from my wife thanking you for keeping me out of the house all day.


To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien



Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Mr. B’s Dimon And Clooney Angst

Poor, poor Jaimie Dimon. My heart goes out to the man, Selig.

But Mr. B, he’s a competitor. He heads another Wall Street bank, JPMorgan Chase.

I know Selig. I know. But his company lost $2 billion on some trading deals. Lost money, Selig! It was terribly embarrassing for the poor man.

But don’t Wall Street banks often lose money on their trading?

Almost never, Selig. Goldman made money 25 days last month and only lost money one day — and that was a bad month. Sometimes we go whole quarters without a single losing day. The really strange thing at Jamie’s bank is not just that it actually lost money on trades, but that the losses involved simple stuff, credit default swaps.

Credit default swaps, sir?

You know, Selig, Synthetic derivatives.

Synthetic derivatives?

For heavens sakes, Selig. They’re just a kind of insurance. Like the insurance that little people like yourself buy to insure their cars, their houses, their lives, except this $10 trillion insurance market is free from socialist government regulation. That’s what gives banks the ability to innovate there so we rarely lose money on our trading.

Didn’t such innovation nearly destroy the world economy a few years back, Mr. B?

Yes, Selig. Mistakes were made. We mustn’t focus on the past, however. Got to keep innovating. Like one of Goldman’s own innovations — pair trading.

Pair trading, sir? You mean like putting clients in a deal, then betting the other side?

That was yesterday’s pair trading, Selig. A better pair trading strategy these days involves buying the Australian dollar and shorting the S&P 500 Index. Or vice-versa. Ever do that one at home?

I’ll ask my wife, sir. She handles the family money. But there’s something I don’t understand, Mr. B. Wall Street firms were bailed out by taxpayers a few years ago. Was this bailout so the banks could continue to make most of their money innovating with things like synthetic derivatives? With buying or shorting currencies and indexes?

Can you think of a better use for taxpayer money, Selig? I certainly can’t. But that’s not what I wanted to discuss with you this morning. I have a question. Am I as handsome as George Clooney?

Beg pardon, sir?

George Clooney. The actor. Speak up, man. And be honest. Do I or don’t I look as handsome as George Clooney?

Well, Mr. B., if the lighting were a certain way, or the bulb blew, or the person doing the viewing had cataracts, or was standing far enough away, or..

I think I’m catching your drift, Selig. Darn.

What’s the problem, Mr. B? Why do you care whether or not you’re as handsome as George Clooney? He only entertains people. Wall Street is making the world a better place with synthetic derivatives, and with currency and index plays.

The reason, Selig, is that Wall Street has decided to back Romney this time around, while Hollywood is backing Obama. And I thought if George Clooney and I were both viewed as equally handsome and sexy, Goldman Sachs being the face of Wall Street to much of the public, it might help Mitt at the polls.

Interesting notion, Mr B. Very innovative. Why is Wall Street backing Romney, though? Didn’t Obama dump the economic advisors he ran with in 2008 after he got elected, the ones who wanted to tame Wall Street, and replace them with Timmy Geithner, who used to call here all the time for advice? Timmy who kept The Street from getting really regulated after the 2008 crash. Timmy who beat back limiting Street compensation. Timmy who put the kibosh on a transaction tax that would have made The Street’s computer-generated mega-trading less profitable.

Yes, Selig. Obama, guided by Timmy, has been more than kind. But Mitt will be even kinder. He’s also the sort of fellow you could meet at a beach club in The Hamptons and not have to listen to whining about food stamp and Medicaid shortfalls.

Romney does look really comfortable in a blazer and tan slacks, sir. Bet he’d also be a good tipper.

He’d tip like a sailor, Selig. And people mock trickle down. Will it never end?

It will if Romney and a Republican congress get elected in November, sir. Guaranteed. Ready for another Stall #8 visit?

Yes. Just take out the GQs first, Selig. They might have some pictures of you-know-who inside.


To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien


Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Composing The Music Of The Markets

Mr. B. You’re looking radiant. Today’s visit to Stall #8 seems to have touched you in a very positive way.

It has, Selig, It has. What was that wonderful music I was listening to with my headphones in there? It was so…so…

Strangely recognizable, sir? Uplifting? A perfect something to go with your reading of this month’s cover story in Bloomberg Markets Magazine?

Yes, Selig. And so much more appropriate than my usual listening choice in there.

Better than Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” sir? Your usual favorite? That’s high praise indeed, Mr. B.

Don’t get me wrong. Selig. Wagner is certainly bowl-worthy. But this new music…What was it?

“Dow 2007,” sir.”

“Beg pardon.”

I have a friend, sir. who composes the stock market. He takes charted stock movements, converts them to musical notation, adds a few jazz riffs, and creates a kind of music.

That’s amazing, Selig. I don’t suppose this technique also has predictive qualities. I mean, technical analysts in the market look at charts of stock movements searching for certain patterns they say sometimes predict which way the market — and certain stocks prices — are headed. Has your friend ever tried something like this with his market music?

He has, sir.

And have his predictions ever panned out?

Almost never, Mr. B. Though once in awhile…

Stop right there, Selig. I like that ‘once in awhile.’ If we were to package this kind of advice with the right legal caveats, claim its a kind of technical analysis that employs audial rather than visual hints, I see possibilities.

You might even bet the other side of the trade, Mr. B., to ensure Goldman wins either way.

Interesting notion, Selig. I’ll run it by our Ethics Committee. In passing, do you think we could afford to hire this friend of yours?

Afford to hire him, sir? He’s a musician. He makes his rent playing senior centers and bas mitzvahs. You can get him for a year for what you paid for dessert at that trader’s twenty-third birthday party the other night.

Hmmm. Much to cogitate about here, Selig. Do you have another market music tune from your friend that I can listen to?

I do, sir. Dow Fourth Quarter 2008. It has a funereal sound, but if you just want a bit of variety…

“That kind of variety I can do without, Selig. Hook me up one more time with Dow 2007. And have your friend destroy this other number. Believe me. No one wants to see, much less hear, 2008 played again.


To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien


Take A Billionaire Out To Dinner — It’s The Least You Can Do

The New York Times today reported that a former associate of Mitt Romney at Bain Capital is writing a book that purports to show why greater income inequality is good for the economy, and also benefits the 99 percent-plus who haven’t been cunning or well connected enough to become super-rich.

His argument, in brief, is this: most of the money garnered by these super rich worthies isn’t spent on their own luxuries. Rather, it is invested in ways that generate wealth that ends up being shared by all — though admittedly, the less cunning and well-connected 99 percenters do have to settle for much, much smaller shares.

The fact this this love-thy-economic-betters author is a former Wall Street colleague of a guy who is now running for President, a guy who sadly (that darn old democratic system) must appeal to more than half of today’s economically aggrieved 99 percenters, is probably not appreciated by the Romney camp. Maybe they shouldn’t feel that way, however. Maybe the rest of us shouldn’t feel that way either.

Maybe extraordinarily high levels of wealth concentration are good for everyone. I mean sure, it hasn’t proven to make most Americans wealthier in recent years. It hasn’t generated huge numbers of well paying jobs (or any other kind for that matter) at a time when this concentration has grown and grown. Indeed, it hasn’t made for an economy nearly as satisfying and secure and productive as when such concentration wasn’t nearly as evident, as during the post-WW II period between 1945 and the coming of Reagan.

But heck. Why focus on current realities, or the realities of recent decades past? Let’s focus instead on the economic theorizing of a super rich former Bain partner of Mitt Romney. And let us all then genuflect in the appropriate manner.

If this doesn’t seem a good enough of show of appreciation, why not invite a 0.01 percenter out to dinner to show your gratitude for the wonderful things he’s done for us all? And if that requires cashing in pension savings to make this best and brightest person comfortable at table with the fare we provide, cash in your pension savings (or what’s left of it). It’s the least you can do.

All hail Bain Capital! All hail Wall Street and the increasing number of tasty morsels it provides for vulture funds like Bain! Let us now all tap our heels together, mutter “death to regulation and progressive taxation,” and queue up to follow Bain folk down the iron pyrite brick road being laid out for us this coming election day.


To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Helping Mr. B. Make A Major PAC Decision

Mr. B. You’re back again. Nothing bad on the digestive front, I hope.

No. Selig. I actually came by to talk with you about something important. To get your advice. Can we sit down and chat?

Sit down, sir? This is a washroom. The only places where we could…

Point taken. We can chat standing. Do you know what a political action committee is, Selig? A PAC?

Yes sir. They’re things that promote free speech. They free the media from the clutches of socialist indigents and allow decent rich people to finally get a hearing.

Exactly, Selig. Though I’m surprised a washroom attendant like yourself has this sophisticated level of understanding.

It’s because I listen to a lot of a.m. talk radio when no one else is around, sir. One of my friends is also the attendant at the Supreme Court men’s room in Washington, and he keeps me up to date on the court’s thinking about money and free speech.

The Supreme Court, you say. I’ve always wondered something about those people. Those long black robes they wear. When they have to use a washroom, how do they…you know…how do they manage…never mind. I need your advice on something else, Selig.

I live to serve, sir.

Indeed you do, Selig. Indeed you do. Here’s the thing. Some of the gang here at Goldman are thinking of contributing to a PAC. Naturally this will be chump change for us, but for people in Washington its crumbs to die for.

I’m a bit short of cash right now, Mr. B. Maybe you could come around at Christmas time if I get a bonus this year.

No need to grovel, Selig. I’m not here for a contribution. I just need some advice. The actual contributors would be the firm’s top earners, the best and brightest people, the job creators, the fighters for an opportunity society. Our problem is that being so bright and working so hard to create jobs, we don’t have time for much contact with little people like yourself. In my own case, except for a gardener who I can’t understand half the time, you’re the only little person I meet with on a regular basis.

Perhaps if you changed your diet, sir. That taco parlor you frequent. You might try eating lunches elsewhere, too.

Focus, Selig. Focus. The focus here is on which party — from your average little person perspective — should get our free speech. Should get our money. They both slobber for it. And no matter what they say at election time, they’ll both do our bidding after the election. But I still need your opinion on which to support with our free speech.

Why do you care about my opinion, sir, if both parties are in your pocket anyway?

Because, Selig, in the event that Wall Street brings the world economy to the brink of disaster yet again, people like you will be called upon for another massive bail out. And we want to be sure the folks in power in Washington then are folks who also had little people’s support this election season. So we all share the blame.

I hope you won’t think I’m sucking up, Mr. B, when I say your thinking here is brilliant, and you are one far-sighted investment banker.

Of course I think you’re sucking up, Selig. That’s expected. Now…into which trough do you suggest we throw some chump change slops?

What the heck, Mr. B. Give ‘em both a taste. It’s only fair to PAC the pair.

‘It’s only fair to PAC the pair.’ Very good, Selig. Even rhymes. I like it. I always seem to come up with good ideas — and good catch phrases like this — when I come down here.

A surprising number of Goldman guys achieve clarity in this very washroom, sir. Up for another visit to Booth #8?

Lead on, McDuff. With your help, I am now Booth 8 ready.


To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

Coming Soon: The Bellman’s Revenge

A bizarre sewer-based ecology is the subject of my new comic novel, Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, currently available on Amazon. In a soon to be published sequel, The Bellman’s Revenge, I explore the possibility that a new variety of humans might also be spawned, this time by coffee shop droppings.

Here’s an excerpt from The Bellman’s Revenge:

…People who patronized this coffee shop, slurping and chewing in a collective digestive chorus, might actually have mutated to fill some critical role in the shop’s own ecology. I could almost visualize the process.
One night a chocolate covered honey dip cinnamon raisin cruller stick, bathed in pastry sugar and fast-fried in cheap trans fat oils, fell to the floor. There it lay untended for weeks, the brooms of the cleaning crew missing it time and again because the sweepers’ minds were immersed in fantasies of copulation with Burt Reynolds.
The high-caloric, high-polymer cruller, impregnated with gene patterns from higher life forms — higher in the sense that they had often been clumsily pawed by various counter servers — underwent a bombardment of rays from sputtering overhead fluorescents. This fecund mass was then ground down into a cracked tile floor by shoe soles rich in tapeworm tainted dog shit.
Over time, abetted by the laws of chance and mid-wifed by an unendingly droll Mother Nature, the raw life stock coalesced, unbidden and unobserved, into mutagenic building blocks. From the floor of the doughnut shop this was fan and windblown to a local men’s shelter where it permeated the threads of clothing in the castoff bin, thence into the germ plasm of shelter denizens, returning finally to the very counter from whence it originally sprang.
Yes, this certainly would explain the genesis of the people sitting near me as I sipped from a coffee cup whose tarry contents could have been resold as road surfacing. I was thinking I might learn more about the future of human evolution by striking up a conversation with the person (or whatever it was) seated on an adjacent stool.
But no. I had an even higher priority. It was time to confront Vincent Delgado…


Until The Bellman’s Revenge is published, you might enjoy its equally funny predecessor, Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan.

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Does The Second Amendment Fandango

Sorry to bother you, Mr. B. But something happened this morning I thought you should know about.

What is it Selig? A leak in the piping? I hope my Stall #8 hasn’t been flooded.

No, sir. Nothing that serious. It was just that guy who came by this morning. I don’t know who he was, but he said he was here to install gun mounts over the sinks and toilet bowls.

Oh that. No need to worry. He was authorized. Something new we’re offering our staffers. For their protection.

Protection? From what, sir?

Crazed investors. Fanatical terrorists. That sort of thing. Can’t be too careful these days, Selig. Everyone is doing it. Have you heard about that Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida this June?

Yes, sir. Word about it has filtered down to the washroom.

Well, Selig, they’re allowing concealed handguns in the area around the convention site. In some parts of the country you can also carry concealed weapons in bars and schools. So why not have them in the toilet stalls of an investment bank?

When you put it that way, Mr. B., I can see the logic. And I guess anyone who really understands the Constitution would have to conclude the Founding Fathers wanted everyone to have loaded guns at political gatherings, in bars and schools. Very prudent. But in Wall Street washrooms? I don’t know. I mean…

What exactly do you mean, Selig? What’s the problem?

Well, Mr. B., some Wall Street traders who come into washrooms are kind of… sort of… hyper. Overwrought. You know. Losing a few hundred million of other people’s money on a bond bet upsets them.

No reason to get upset over that, Selig.

You’re right, of course, Mr. B. But some traders respond by taking strong stimulants to help get them through the day. And when you combine that with guns you sometimes…

Strong stimulants, Selig? You mean cups of strong, heavily caffeinated coffee.

Of course, sir. What else could I possibly mean?

What else indeed, Selig.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr. B. I’m not saying that anyone, for any reason, most certainly not a highly stimulated trader, should not have ready access to a handgun. Or assault rifle. Or machine pistol. Or a bazooka or hand grenade if that’s what self defense requires. Only that in a Wall Street washroom it might cause occasional difficulties.

Say no more, my good man. Be assured this is only a temporary arrangement. The election coming up in November obliges Wall Streeters to make certain alliances to keep the country from going still further in the wrong direction.

You mean toward socialism, sir?

Yes. There. Big banks and gun super-enthusiasts will have to vote the same side to beat back the socialist beast. And if that means guns above sinks and toilet bowls, what the heck. We go along for a while, after November, the guns disappear. Does that make you happy?

Anything that promotes the interests of investment banks make me happy, sir. Your own Stall #8 is ready, by the way. And the man who came by this morning left a sample gun for you to play with… I mean for you to inspect. I think he called it a ‘MAC-10,’ along with a few banana clips of armor piercing ammo.

Splendid, Selig. Splendid. Forty-round banana clips with armor piercing bullets, you say?

For self-defense, sir. Just give me a few seconds warning before you actually lock and load. I have a family.


To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

A New Role For The Democratic Party — Comic Relief

Watching elected Democrats in the White House and Congress in the last couple of weeks was like watching a skinny little blowhard getting thrown out of a bar. Lying on the sidewalk he rails at the bouncer who sent him flying, while the bouncer, arms folded, merely smirks as the beaten little guy vents before slouching off.

The Republicans are Washington’s political bouncers these days. They have the measure of the Democrats down perfectly. We won’t compromise, they say, and the Democrats’ response is that if they won’t compromise we must. And like the bar bouncer, the Republicans let the beaten little guy lying on the sidewalk vent because…well, because the scene amuses them.

But why should the Republicans have all the fun? Why shouldn’t the rest of us not share in their amusement — especially those of us foolish enough to have believed the change and hope blather of that articulate Obama fellow, and the twaddle of congressional Democrats that they were actually up to governing effectively? Because once you get over disappointment with the Democrats’ ineptitude, and the shame in yourself for ever having trusted them to advance your interests, these folks are really quite a hoot.

Consider, for example, the amazing misunderstanding of Democratic policy advisers who actually believe that the “compromise” they went along with will give an extra boost to the present “recovery,” and position Democrats to keep the White House in 2012. Forgetting for the moment that this compromise was really a cave in, and the recovery ostensibly going on since June 2009 is a numbers game played by economists with few close links to Main Street reality, even a better economy in 2012 won’t work to the advantage of the President and his party.

Why? Because the Republicans have pulled off a political master stroke. They constrained the Democrats while the latter supposedly controlled all the elected power pieces in Washington, then ran the table during the lame duck session now coming to an end, and will set the agenda completely starting in January. Thus, they will be able to take credit in 2012 for a real recovery if by some miracle one occurs. But if it doesn’t, they will point to Democrats’ numerical control in the Senate and ownership of the White House and again blame the Democrats for economic failure.

Real political power with the option of taking credit for success and avoiding blame for failure. A master stroke. And the Democrats don’t have a clue.

Now ain’t that a hoot? Another great example of Democratic comic relief.

And then there’s the White House’s just initiated attempt to heal things with the liberal wing of its own party. Or the sanctimonious, purist, ungrateful liberal wing of the party as the Obama team likes to say, while folks like James Carville, that well known moderate Democratic strategist, refers to these liberals “gnats.”

Can you just see the meetings between the Obama team and these dissed progressives? The Obama gang desperately trying to triangulate, to appear friendly to the left without looking too friendly because the president’s best-and-brightest advisers are telling him this will turn off independent voters, while the progressives in the room are wondering if they can secret away some of the excellent pastries on the table so they come out of these meetings with at least something of value.

The hoots keep coming. And there’s plenty more to come.

Attention liberals, progressives, lefties, purists, gnats and whatever else they want to call us. We no longer have a dog in this fight. But there’s more to life than politics. A lot more. It’s time to really move on, to focus our energies in non-political realms, and to give our support to people who are worthy of receiving it.
Oh yes. And to read The Times and watch news on Public Television for laughs.