Archive for December, 2009

Waiting for the Perp Walk

December 25, 2009

   With baited breath, are we soon to have the thrill of seeing another indictment of a “Big Time”  Wall Street crook? And — dare I say it — will we see the WALK ?

   My appetite was tingled by an unusually lucid and well-researched piece in the Times (12/24/09) that described preliminary investigations into possibly criminal activities by some firms, most particularly Goldman Sachs, in marketing C.D.O.s (collateralized debt obligations).  The major question appears to be whether management promoted these securities as solid investments while at the same time placing negative bets, or shorting them, so as to reap big profits when they sank to the bottom.  The front page piece, written by Gretchen Morganson and Louise Story, mentioned planned or ongoing inquiries by Congress, the SEC and Wall Street’s own regulating body into this practice, and that it may lead to the discovery of violations of securities laws and “rules of fair dealing”.

   Is that all?  This is nothing like a Madoff ponzi scheme, but the odor of real corruption is too strong to dismiss.  I  mean, there have been other reports of investigations recently, and the practices described, including bonus transfers, accounting cover-ups and weird credit swap deals may be found to be criminal, perhaps, once somebody understands them and can get a grand jury to deliver an indictment.  But I can’t see how actually creating and selling investment instruments with the foreknowledge that they are worthless, and then making  bets on that outcome can by anything less than criminal fraud!

   Of course, this is easier to imagine than prove in court.  And you can bet that Goldman and the other firms will spare no expense to quash it in discovery stage.  But this is the first time I feel we may hit pay dirt if we keep digging.  And because this just may involve real criminal activity, I don’t want the indictment to include that wacko “loss of honest services” law that is clearly unconstitutional and, hopefully, will be found as such by the Supreme Court this term.


Isn’t it Precious?

December 16, 2009

I couldn’t let this go.  The Times felt obligated to give the l-a-r-g-e-r view of the (half) critically acclaimed film, Precious, when it urged people to see this (reputedly) somewhat unappetizing movie about black urban life.  Not being content to simply praise it for honesty and its inspiring, uplifting message about overcoming racism and poverty, the writer, Michael Cieply, no doubt encouraged by the editors, lamented the lack of a single black Best Director nominee in the entire history of the Oscar awards.

With strenuous sincerity, the piece tried to analyze how this outrageous omission could have been allowed to continue for so long.  Of course, the names Spike Lee and John Singleton were trotted out again, but little else that was new.  Would the new guy, Lee Daniels, be the first to break through the barrier?

It’s possible that its newer readers would be unfamiliar with the tone of the article, and think, gee, wouldn’t it be grand if the country at last overcame this shameful vestige of racism and advanced to the next stage.

And just what is that stage of our collective consciousness supposed to be?  Or, why is it supposed to be progress when people declare an artist as the “Best Director” even though they may not believe that he is the best?

I say that because that is the impression I got from the article.  It was as if Cieply and the Times board were ashamed that they could not be more enthusiastic about the film.  Instead of a feeling of triumph — that at last a real artist has emerged that can compete, on an equal level, with authority — they are instead given this worthy, but, well, kinda messy and less than authentic effort by someone who just may be both a serious and successful filmmaker, perhaps,  someday.

It leaves you with a queasy feeling.  But that is inevitable when critics openly declare a social agenda as part of their aesthetic.  It makes you wonder what the writer of the article was thinking.  The film is still in release, but apparently not a blockbuster, in spite of Oprah’s name.  But, as I said, the tone of the piece was more of disappointment than celebration.  And I’m sure the Times was aware of this.  In that case, would a reader who is somewhat sympathetic to that point of view feel eager to see the film, or just obligated to. What do you think?

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