Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miranda Devine, Einfeld, Demerits, Small Lies, Big Lies, and absolutely corker Ponzi schemes

The ongoing decline and fall of former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld endlessly titillates the right wing commentariat, and there's been endless joyful squawking about his jailing down on loon pond.

Miranda the Devine is a little late to the scene of the wreck, but she describes it all with a breathless hush, and gives the scandal an evocative fresh lick of polish.

It seems Einfeld is now a reassuring morality tale - restoring our belief that character is destiny, that karma eventually catches up with everyone, and that lying is a serious transgression that can land even a big wig in jail.

Then our humble everyperson trolls back over Einfeld's litany of petty frauds in Moment of truth for audience in Einfeld downfall.

The Devine is right about one thing - Einfeld's interview on 4 Corners (you can cop it here on iView along with transcripts and backgrounder information) was truly excruciating and revealing. For reasons that only can be attributed to narcissist vanity, Einfeld dug an even deeper hole for himself as he dissembled, paraded self-deception, and lied yet again in transparently obvious ways. Someone should have told him not to bother, but you can't blame the reporter - when confronted by a loon willing to expose himself in full glare of the camera - for getting it all down and putting it to air.

But surprisingly Devine plays down that which has pleased others in the commentariat - she doesn't harp too much on the pompous prat's status as a left wing national living treasure.

No, she's concerned with what made Einfeld lie, and the reality that everyone tells porkies on a daily basis, and she concludes after much huffing and puffing, that it's all to do with the evil demerit points system that causes people to lose their licences.

Yet she's already established that Einfeld was a serial offender, a serial liar, a man who in the past had got off speeding fines but also tickled up his CV.

I guess Miranda must have had some scrapes with the demerit system. After all, It is an intolerable situation for the average NSW motorist.

So's death by speeding for an innocent bystander.

Worse ... one of the main things which erodes the value of honesty in society is an unreasonable law.

People who would ordinarily be law-abiding will break an unjust law and then may find themselves caught in a web of deceit trying to escape the consequences.

Come on Miranda, you're sounding just like Einfeld. It was a seventy seven buck fine. He's on a 200k a year pension. He could lose his licence for three months and catch taxis everywhere and not worry about a thing. He didn't pay up, he used his gravitas to try to wheel a few lies through the system, shamelessly. And he got caught, more by accident than determined investigation, thanks to a Daily Terror reporter. Don't muddy the water with your own personal gripe about the demerit points scheme.

It really is extraordinary how the petrol headed loons resist any attempt to control their speeding, as a restriction on their libertarian values. I look forward to them freeing up which side of the road we drive on - why shouldn't we be allowed to drive on whichever side we feel is appropriate (after all, the wrong side is the right side in America, and when I come back here, I always feel I'm on the wrong side when I should be on the right side). 

This kind of petty minded control of motorist behavior really is an unreasonable restraint on our rights, it really is an unreasonable law. I can feel myself now beginning to whip up a lie about why I was on the wrong side of the road to the evil fuzz against junk coppers who just want to put me down man, what is it with these oppressive dudes and petty minded bureaucrats.

Yes, it's our right to crash into whom we like at times of our choosing at speeds we prefer. The law, it has been said before, and by better minds than mine, is an ass.

Sure, the Devine might be able to point out the strange case of an 80 year old who drove around Westmead Hopsital four times looking for a parking spot, inadvertently driving in a bus lane each time. Well that tells me something about his driving ability, not much about the merits of the demerits points system.

Still it allows Devine to conclude with the utterly opaque and mystifying remark Einfeld's downfall may provoke an outburst of honesty among his "audience". Well actually no. Who amongst us would want to consider ourselves part of Einfeld's audience? Or want to contribute to an outburst of honesty of the kind that tries to sell a change to the demerits points scheme on the basis of Einfeld's lying, cheating, offensive and perjuring behaviour.

Fortunately, there's more interesting stories about fraud going around, and I'd just like to draw your attenton to Ron Chernow's Madoff and his models in The New Yorker, which if you read online will require registration.

Chernow trawls through the Bernie Madoff rort, wherein he skimmed some sixty five billion dollars from his predominantly Jewish clientele, but he also covers the activities of Charles Ponzi, who gave his name to Ponzi schemes that paid off old clients with money from new ones.

He also spends a lot of time on Ivar Kreuger, a nineteen twenties Swedish financier, who became known as The Match King for the way he captured the world trade in matches. Kreuger started out as a conventional businessman, but then jumped the shark, Ponzi'd his way around Wall street, and became a victim of the depression, eventually killing himself by lying in bed, and using a 9 mm Browning pistol to deliver a bullet to the heart.

Kreuger's story is a fascinating one - his character is recessive and elusive - and Chernow uses him as a model to elucidate some of the ploys that Madoff used to ensnare his own clients - including an apparent reluctance to take someone's money, or allow them to join his exclusive club of investors, or to ask him difficult or awkward or socially impolite or offensive questions, or to question his charming, low key, 'in control' air by running a very small, tightly bonded office, or even to meet him, in the way of Greta Garbo or an elusive rock star. Madoff's beguiling sweet talking of his auditors is a prime example of how corruption can corrupt anyone in its path.

All three of these characters - Ponzi, Kreuger and Madoff - are much more interesting than Einfeld, for what they reveal about themselves and about those snared in the spiders' webs of fraud. Sure, it's same old, same old, and it's what we're going through at the moment, as booms always mask the frauds that turn up in the bust (so John Kenneth Galbraith said about the great depression, and so it turns out to be true today).

Chernow gives a nice overview of the Ponzi artist, and the devil is in the cunning details of the fraudsters' art, so it's well worth a read, as are longer form works about these hustlers. And let's face it, they didn't go down for seventy seven bucks and a few demerit points, they went down in real style. By the end Kreuger had got his total debt up to the hundred billion mark.

The Devine should take her own lesson from that. Stop whining about the demerits scheme, stop talking about mythical moments of truth for Einfeld's mythical audience, and get out amongst real fraudsters, who know a lie's not worth telling, unless it's worth telling big. As big as the state of Texas. Or even bigger, come to think of it. That's right you Lone Star tragics. Australia's way bigger than Texas, with five states bigger than Texas. A big country, ready for big movers and shakers ...

Now it just so happens I have this little investment operation running ... nothing grand ... just a reliable ten per cent a month ... and if you happen to be interested, I can guarantee to get you off speeding tickets as well, I know someone in the RTA, bikie mate. And you won't lose any points. You can speed to your heart's content. Honest. Oh yes, come on down, right wing commentariat, your salvation is at hand ...

(Below: Ivar Kreuger in his office in Stockholm, such a serious looking financier).


Nick D said...

The thing sticking out like a big black curly hair in a bowl of cafe soup, that hardly anybody apart from Steve Keen seems to notice, is that the entire real estate industry is a Ponzi scheme. Literally and in every which way. Running into the trillions and trillions of dollars.

Real estate prices are based solely on what the next sucker is prepared to pay. Full stop. There's no underlying value of property that moderates prices, the whole thing is a gigantic Ponzi scheme funded by debt, with promises of miracle capital gains only so long as the next sucker can afford the price.

That's why the Oz consumer is likely to hurtle to economic Earth even more spectacularly than the average US homeowner. We have even bigger debts tied up in our property than they do. It's just slower in getting underway here, at which point we'll see just how well 'regulated' and responsible our banks really were (the current feelgood myth).

dorothy parker said...

Gee Nick ... that image ... a big black curly hair in the a bowl of cafe soup. It's really hard to handle. I mean, cockroaches, mice, they're standard for Sydney siders ... but a hair in the soup ...

Anyhoo, you're talking real heresy to a Sydney person. Worse than Satanism. Personal debt bad, property vulnerable. Never! How on earth would the SMH survive without the property market, and its daily obsessional tracking of the price of bricks and mortar?

Clearly you haven't read Michael Duffy explaining how Kellyville is paradise on earth. You'd Ponzi up anything to live there ... Speaking of which, this week I've got a nice offer on garage space in the inner city ... complete with cockroaches and mice (and no hairs!)