The financial services giant Morgan Stanley has agreed to pay a $3.2 billion fine for its creation of mortgage-backed bonds. If anyone is like me, they don't really understand the meaning of the agreement, but applaud the fact that an imagined "fat cat" might be called to account for doing something that screwed the rest of us.
There have been other stories of a similar sort in the past. No individuals are ever put on trial and -- the part that gets me -- no matter how big and satisfying the fine, no news story seems to winkle out and print precisely how much such companies made with their ill-gotten gains before they are called to account.
If Morgan Stanley was fined $3.2 billion but made $10 billion in its adventure, that sounds like pretty lucrative business to me: What are a few insults and a fractional payout when the income return is so satisfying? It's kind of a big-screen version of saying how many "jobs were created" without saying what sorts of jobs they were and what jobs the people filling them had before they went to work at Burger King or K-Mart.
What once may have been "news" is relegated to a strange and squishy -- but useful -- silence.
But a lack of probing the news also makes room for and time for brisk and bumptious tales with headlines like, "Is your toothbrush betraying you?" or "Lettuce -- the whole story" or "the secrets of dog-walking."
Hard-hitting pablum surrounded by loud delivery systems.