• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Finneran's Wake - Ep. #5

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

ITEM #1: CUOMO COMES UNDER SCRUTINY


New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, be it because of her relentless pursuit of the nation’s oldest firearms association, the NRA, or her determination to expose the indecencies and spoil the fortune of Mr. Donald J. Trump, has become, of late, a figure on whom all attention has turned.


It seems, however, that her prior fame—and the partisan fire by which it was propelled—was but a flicker of more noteworthy things to come. It was the beginning of an unpredictable life as a public official—a strange occupation after which she willingly sought. Now, every pair of eyes, so accustomed to the torrent of ceaseless screens, fix themselves in her direction and watch with curiosity her next move. In so doing, they read with horror, while moistening with sorrow, the contents of a sobering, damning report over which she had the joyless task to preside.


The report, released late last week, exposed neither the depredations of a conservative rifle organization, nor the peccadilloes of a rejected Republican presidential nominee—both figures toward whom her prosecutorial fury would be more expectedly aimed.


Instead, it outlined a few extraordinary facts by which, doubtless, the reputation of her own political Party will be gravely damaged. It showed not only the small shortcomings and trifling improprieties of the government within and for which she works, but the shameless mendacity and the horrible deceit of the man with whom, at least ideologically, she’s supposed very intimately to be aligned.


For months, if not almost a year, we were led to believe that Governor Andrew Cuomo, scion of a celebrated name and inheritor of a gallant reputation, had handled the COVID-19 pandemic impeccably. Are we to be held responsible, I ask, for having been caught in so credulous a state? Can we be blamed for not having suspected to be false, that which we were assured was incontestably true?


After all, the encomia for the Governor’s efforts were unending; there was no writer employed in the legacy news media by whom his conduct was ever tentatively questioned, much less sharply criticized. Their praise for him was as effusive as their scrutiny was unforthcoming.


Every morning, his straight-shooting, unembellished news conferences were streamed directly through our basic cable channels, and every evening, he appeared on his younger brother’s eponymous show on CNN. Indeed, so engaging, vital, and culturally-significant were his one hundred and eleven daily briefings, that he was nominated for an Emmy award. It was a lofty recognition of which, despite the continued presence of a disease to which so many in his state had already succumbed, and by which many more would soon be killed, he felt himself fully deserving. He proudly accepted the award and flattered himself with the newfound distinction.


Before he could do that, though, Cuomo took the time to publish a best-selling book, an intimate work in which he reflected on the “leadership lessons” of which the COVID-19 crisis was so stern and onerous a teacher. One seldom encounters through history a leader so stoic and resolute, so competent and graceful, as to be able to write in “real-time” the perils by which he and his people are at that very same moment being confronted. Perhaps none but Julius Caesar, in his famous commentary on the Gauls, has so eloquently accomplished the feat.


Yet while Caesar’s victory over the Gallic tribes was never in dispute, Cuomo’s record against the Asiatic virus is somewhat less certain. Increasingly, it looks to have been a humiliating and total defeat, one from which a less distinguished name—be it Caesar or Cuomo—wouldn’t easily recover. For this fact, of which we’ve all now been made aware, we have Letitia James to thank.


Pressured by families bereft of their elders, and harried by conservatives insatiable for the truth, James’s office conducted an investigation into Cuomo’s directives. Specifically, she looked at the number of deaths for which his March 25th mandate (requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-positive residents back into their facilities) was responsible, as well as the figures his health department attempted to fudge.


Cuomo and his health department, of which the esteemed Dr. Howard Zucker remains the head, deliberately concealed from the public’s view the real number of nursing home deaths. Time and again, they blocked every sincere attempt to access this knowledge. Those who contracted the virus in the nursing homes, who were then transported to the hospital before their untimely death, were omitted from the count of “nursing home deaths”. In this way, he sought to evade responsibility for his fatal decree.


This collaborative effort, we now know, is perhaps the most egregious example of obscurantism to date. Letitia James, providing much-needed light on a subject through which none was able to shine, informed us that, all said, Cuomo’s administration knowingly undercounted the total number of “nursing home deaths” by fifty-six percent. Cuomo, for his part, appears as impenitent as ever, and shockingly unfazed by the revelation of his error, and the lengths to which he went to keep it concealed.


For him, I suppose, things aren’t so bad. Despite Ms. James’s report, he remains a media “darling”, a man with whom none is shy to rub an elbow. Accompanied by an Emmy award and the profits of a New York Times best-selling book, he can disinvite the buzzkill Attorney General from his new circle of friends, and banish from his thoughts those thirteen-thousand souls.



ITEM #2: MYANMAR COUP D’ETAT


Myanmar, the verdant Southeast Asian country, with which the saber-rattling powers of China and India, and the modestly-developing nations of Laos, Thailand, and Bangladesh share a border, witnessed for the second time in its young history a veritable coup d’état.


Coup d’état. It’s one of the few French terms with which there’s near universal familiarity, to which both pedestrian and pundit alike make frequent reference. Yet it describes a phenomenon by which, mercifully, so few of us in the West have been personally affected. Those in the East, however, specifically the poor citizens of Myanmar, could only hope to enjoy so distant a detachment from so terrifying a word.


Literally, it translates to mean a “blow” or a “strike” of state, an event by which the prevailing government is suddenly, and sometimes violently, interrupted and overthrown. History is rife with a thousand examples of so startling a political event—some tranquil, most sanguinary, but all remarkable for the imprint they’ve left. The base trickery of Peisistratus in sixth century Athens; the righteous fury of Brutus in response to Tarquin’s abuse; the dissolution of the Rump Parliament by the haughty Oliver Cromwell; and the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 are but a few examples to which, when thinking of coups, one’s mind immediately leaps.


The point is, seldom a decade passes without some state, somewhere, experiencing so ageless and inexorable an event. Our present decade, the second of the 2000s, has proven itself no exception to this law. Like so many before it, our era is observant of this unbending commandment of politics, this dictate of nations from which, sadly, there’s no escape.


Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar—upon emerging from the shadow of British colonial rule—was created in very much the same way as it seems presently to have died: by way of a military coup. In 1962, when the state, now freshly autonomous, was in the wobbly stage of its vulnerable infancy, a military dictatorship was declared. Jealous of its power, the junta by which it was led held control for the subsequent twenty-six years.


In the 1990s, an Oxford-educated, democratically-inclined advocate of peace emerged in opposition to the tyranny under which she and her countrymen lived. Her name was Aung San Suu Kyi, the biological daughter of a “Father” from whom her fellow citizens claimed a mutual descent. As a result of her laudable and irenic work, she was recognized by the fellowship of Alfred Nobel for the purity of her endeavors and the peaceful outcomes after which she relentlessly sought.


The world applauded the sincerity of her commitment to peace, and encouraged the flight of her ambitions toward the liberty of her people, to be gained, of course, by none but tranquil means. The military of Myanmar, however, thought differently of her aim. It esteemed very little her new laureate pedigree, and thought very anxiously of what she might do next. In truth, it viewed her as nothing but a political threat around whom, so long as the Burmese people would allow, it’d be wise to keep an ever-tightening leash. To this end, she was placed under house arrest, where she lived as a political prisoner, of sorts, for many years.


In time, she emerged from her coerced and prolonged obscurity to become State Counsellor of Myanmar, President of the National League for Democracy, and, most recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the now-deflated cabinet of President Win Myint. She was thought to be instrumental in loosening the military’s grip over her beloved state, a land in which, admittedly, the values of democracy haven’t yet been deeply rooted.


The warmth of her personality, the agreeableness of her philosophy, and the tact of her political approach were undoubtedly on the ascendant. In Myanmar’s elections on November 8th, 2020, her party won 396 parliamentary seats, out of an available 476. The military party, for which popular tolerance had grown understandably thin, won only 33 seats.


Vox populi had never been so compelling, and the status quo, never so legitimately endangered.


Sensing the tidal shift in popular opinion, and incapable of resisting the strong sweep of its democratizing winds, the Myanmar military resorted to that maneuver to which it’s most shamelessly accustomed: the coup d’état. In the broad light of day, it overwhelmed the Parliamentary building over which, at long last, democracy thought it might exercise control. It proceeded to detain Suu Kyi, Win Myint, and other prominent members of the NLD Party on whom it fixed its sight. It instituted a nightly curfew, severed lines of communication, nullified the November election results, and declared itself, under the convenient guise of a “State of Emergency”, the sole proprietor of the government for the next year.


Before our very eyes, the coup was complete. We now await the response of the Burmese people and the outrage, or the indifference, of the rest of the world.




ITEM #3: GAMESTOP DROPS


GameStop, the humble brick-and-mortar retailer that now saunters about town as a financial bon vivant, has met its inevitable fate. It’s a destiny, compelled by market forces unseen but always felt, to which all artificially-boosted companies and over-valued stocks must, at one time or another, submit. Perhaps GameStop, so vigorously ascendant and convinced of its inherent worth, hoped it might prove the exception to so unbending an economic rule.


Much to its misfortune, and to the sadness of all those by whom it was momentary success was cheered, this appears not to be the case.


It’s meteoric rise, you’ll recall, was the subject of a previous episode to which, if you so desire, you’re not only sincerely welcome, but enthusiastically encouraged to return. In brief, an astute collection of retail investors, by whom such sites as Robin hood and Reddit are often used, detected an abnormality in the market. These people realized the disproportionate pessimism surrounding the company GameStop, the nostalgic seller of cherished video games from whose imminent collapse, many professional “short sellers” hoped to profit. They saw that the professionals were banking on the company’s failure, so long as the company played its assigned role and, well, failed.


With an understanding of this peculiar type of “borrowing” and “betting” of which so many lay people are frankly innocent, and with a confidence in collective action by which even the tightest of sports clubs would have to be impressed, these retail investors beat the professionals at their own game. They dedicated their dollars to the purchase of GameStop stock, to which, at great loss, the short sellers were forced to respond.


The “Davids”, as we might call them, were rewarded with incalculable profits, while the “Goliaths” were burdened by intolerable loss. In response to so extraordinary an event, and, as we might suspect, fearful of so imbalanced a shift of power, the executives at Robin Hood took it upon themselves to intervene.


For them to have done so is shocking. Robin Hood is, at least so far as we were led to believe, one of the few unique sites through which, with unusual freedom and capitalistic spirit, democratized and non-commissioned trades were allowed to flow. It’s one of the only platforms by which so copious and wild an amount of transactions has been not merely facilitated, but cheerfully encouraged.


Yet, suddenly, and without the assuagement of a good reason, Robin Hood prevented its users from buying further GameStop stock. Its members were permitted only to sell the stock, no longer to buy it, thus halting the velocity of its dizzying, “short-destroying” binge.


Users of the app, upon whose soaring profits, a heavy lid was suddenly placed, protested with vehemence the injustice of so unexampled a move. Politicians, always sensitive to a corporation exerting too much power and, perhaps more than that, to the conduct of a business by which the personal liberties of their constituents are infringed, joined in expressing their displeasure.


The explanation given by the CEO of Robin Hood, while not entirely convincing, was deemed adequate to those offering scrutiny. Facing insolvency, he explained that the move was not just a temporary inconvenience, but a necessary intervention. Opinions remain unsettled on the validity of this claim, and it’ll subjected to further examination.


What’s clear is that, since that time, GameStop’s value has continued to drop. Its decrescendo is taking effect, as the law of the market so accurately preordained.

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