Random Musings on a Saturday Afternoon
May 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
I don’t have any important information to convey this afternoon. I just need the disciplinary diversion involved in writing something to avoid focusing on sad reality. My Beverly is nearing the end of her life and, having spent all but the first six years of my life in some kind of relationship with her,, I have no idea how I will proceed without her. It is like contemplating the necessity for the surgical amputation of my legs or my eyes. I’m sure I could survive it, but I am baffled about what that would be like.
The Sterling Absurdity
Unless you have been living in a cave, your brain has been saturated with breathless accounts of the mouthings of Donald Sterling, the pathetic racist cracker who owns the LA Clippers NBA basketball franchise. The hilarity of this episode did not occur to me until I heard his explanation for his taped comments to a young black woman with whom he apparently had, or wanted to have, a sexual relationship. The relationship ended on terms that did not please her so she published one of their conversations in which he complained about her attending Clippers games accompanied by black men.
I found that news to be of limited interest: Surprise, surprise: This guy’s a racist.
A few days later, however, when he decided to defend himself, I was grateful for his exposure as a living punch line in a pretty funny joke. Here is an 80-year-old guy, who looks like death warmed over, claiming he was jealous of the black men who were squiring “his girlfriend” around. He said his comments were not racist; they were an effort to persuade her to have sex with him. In other words, this was his idea of effective foreplay.
Now I don’t claim to be expert on the subject but a couple of things seem obvious to me: First, if old Don really wanted the black girl to go to bed with him, I don’t think it was a wise move to harangue her about associating with black men. And second, and this is what was really funny to me, is it possible this guy really thought that whatever relationship he had, or hoped to have, with this young, reasonably attractive woman had anything to do with his ideas, his personality or his opinions? It must be obvious to everyone except silly Donald Sterling that if he wanted to have sex with a young woman, regardless of her color, the only thing in his pants that he might wave around was his wallet; forget about foreplay and seductive conversation.
Now, I know that I may offend someone because I find this funny. I know the talking heads on TV are engaged in serious discussions about the propriety of having one’s private conversations made public; about this evidence of persistent racism in our culture; about the tension between private property ownership and offensive racism; etc. etc. etc. I assume we will be treated to months of this discussion and, probably, to lengthy litigation. I’m ok with that. My opinion is that the proper people to analyze this matter are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
The Elephant and The Cell Phone
I include a link to one of the funniest online videos I have ever seen. It has no political, economic or sociological significance. I offer it only because it is both amusing and astonishing. It is a short drama in two acts. Be sure to continue to Act II. The Elephant
Business As Usual on Wall Street
A day or two ago I became aware of a blog called “Naked Capitalism”. It is managed by a veteran of Wall Street who now seems to take pride and glee in a sort of a “tell all” blog. Imagine what would happen if Carl Rove had a “Paul on the road to Damascus” experience and decided to establish a blog exposing what really happens on the political right-wing.
A recent post describes a speech by Andrew Bowden, a SEC agent, to a meeting of private equity managers and their investors. Private equities are entities set up to manage money invested by rich people. The managers do not invest in publicly traded stocks. They invest in private companies they buy and sell. Their investors agree, when they turn over their money, that they will not involve themselves in the managers’ decisions. The arrangements, as they are described in the blog post, remind me of the relationship between a lawyer and a client: The lawyer represents the client, but he or she does not allow the client to control the lawyer’s decisions and tactics.
The difference is that a lawyer’s job is limited to protecting and advocating the client’s legal rights and interests. The client is entitled to complete access to all information concerning the lawyer’s billable expenses. The lawyer can be fired at any time and so can the client. The private equity manager, by contrast has a duty to make the investor as much money as possible. In practice, there is little transparency between the manager and the investor. Until 2012, when Dodd-Frank was enacted, these arrangements were unregulated. Mr. Bowden’s speech described what the SEC found when it began its oversight. It is an eye-opener.
About fifty percent of the private equity managers investigated were found to be guilty of theft, fraud and various kinds of dishonesty. Mr. Bowden’s speech described some of the nefarious practices and it must have been an emotional experience for some of the investors in the audience. The obvious conflict of interest problems seem to be so prevalent as to be commonplace, a sort of “everybody does it” thing.
Did that “fifty percent” sink in? In other words, when these presumably sophisticated rich people decide to turn their money over to one of these private equity entities, there is a fifty-fifty chance they are trusting a fortune to a con man or a thief. Would you shoot craps with someone if you understood there was a fifty-fifty chance the dice were loaded? I regard this information as additional evidence to a long-held suspicion of mine: There is little correlation between intelligence and the acquisition of money.
Here is a link: Private Equity
It’s Sunday morning and I haven’t posted this stuff. I just watched “Reliable Sources”. The host interviewed Mike Rogers about his imminent departure from Congress to become a radio talk show host. He has crafted a political career around being the Congressional liar-in-chief concerning the government’s intelligence practices. In multiple appearances on Sunday talk shows, he claimed that Edward Snowden’s disclosures endangered the lives of patriotic Americans around the world; that the NSA’s indiscriminate spying on innocent Americans thwarted many serious and deadly threats of terrorist assaults on the U.S.; that the collection of telephone numbers of every American for the past seven years did not involve access to the content of telephone conversations except for carefully limited instances; etc. etc. etc.
No matter how many times these claims were found to be false; no matter how many times neither he nor anyone else, when challenged, failed to offer a single fact to back up Rogers’ claims; he persisted in spreading his lies. It makes sense for him to become a radio talk show host. He will now be paid big bucks for lying for a living. He told the Reliable Sources host that he plans to use his show to interview present and former NSA officials. So, we will now have these lies amplified through a tag-team of liars.
I think this NSA problem poses a classic First Amendment problem. The underlying theory of the First Amendment is that public, open discussion is the best insurer of governmental integrity; that dishonest and misleading propaganda will be exposed by the right of others to publicly proclaim the truth. But -and here is the problem – if the purveyor of the lies can hide behind laws protecting the truth from public disclosure, then the First Amendment does not work. So, Mike Rogers can become a millionaire by hosting a radio show to trumpet his lies while Edward Snowden is branded as a criminal for disclosing the truth. I know this is complicated. Government cannot afford to sanction law-breaking. But the end result is still troubling to me.