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The only place where alarm seems palpable is in the downtown financial district. During the day, there are TV vans parked all down Wall Street, and crowds of tourists stop to gawk at blow-dried newscasters with serious faces as they to speak to camera. At night, the area seems much quieter than it did a year ago. No longer do you see limousines delivering dinners from expensive restaurants for bankers pulling all-nighters; that business has shifted to Chinese men on bicycles.

My dentist has his office on a high floor of the AIG building, a gorgeous art deco skyscraper one block north of Wall Street. It still takes a long time to get past the building's absurdly tight security - as in so many major office buildings you must submit to searches, X-rays and photographs before approaching the elevator banks - but at three in the afternoon, people are already on their way home. Posted in each elevator is a letter from the latest chairman of AIG urging resilience in almost Churchillian tones and promising that departments of the company will be sold off only to appropriately respectable and successful firms. The dentist's assistant points out photographs of two former AIG CEOs in the business section of the paper. Maurice "Hank" Greenberg is the man who built the insurance giant and who warned that a business built on risk should not engage in risky financial speculation in products like "credit default swaps" based on "junk" securities. He was essentially forced out by New York's now disgraced governor Eliot Spitzer. Greenberg's successor Martin Sullivan presided over a regime that allowed a company with 116,000 employees to be bankrupted by the activities of its 300-man London financial unit.

There's a newsstand down the street from the AIG building at the corner of Broadway and Pine, but there's a sad gap in the piles of newspapers below the magazines. The New York Sun - the first major media casualty of the financial crisis - closed on 30 September. Its tragic demise is all the more upsetting given the way the New York Times has apparently given up its pretensions to objectivity, running pro-Obama or anti-McCain "news" stories on its front page every day.

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Steve Beaman
November 20th, 2008
9:11 PM
Mr. Foreman, are you the same Jonathan Foreman that hung out with the scout platoon in Iraq in 2003?

Glenn Horowitz
November 1st, 2008
3:11 PM
The key unasked question in Mr.Foreman's elegant piece is: when the crisis concludes, as all crisis' must, will the traditional high income jobs NYC depends upon return in abundance or will enterprises avail themselves, finally, of new technologies to do what humans once did? The downtown may provide the space and time to implement the promises new technology has long held out for efficiency and speed.

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