Sunday, December 21, 2008

perceptions of due dilligence

A reader in Mississippi sent a link to an article about AIG, fraud, cooked books and the lead-up to financial melt-down,"All I Want in Life is an Unfair Advantage". All during the rise of AIG, Enron, and Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, all of which bilked billions from common investors (and consumers), we had an ever more unregulated business environment. The assumption was that if you were that big you had to be honest.

In the meantime, the Securities and Exchange commission created a false sense of due diligence by going after small investors. Remember Martha Stewart and the millions of dollars spent to put her in jail? By taking a high profile celebrity and raking her over the coals, the SEC created a false sense of regulatory protection for investors, allowing them to be continuously bilked by the biggies. After all, if they would even go after much beloved Martha Stewart, could any crook get away with such stuff?

You might think that all this is unrelated to the hands. Reach for it and you may discover something. One of the things a craftsman learns is the value of simplicity. When things become convoluted beyond all reason, be wary. Complication is the hiding place of those who choose to deceive. Have you ever seen a shell game, or observed a magician doing card tricks? The little extra motions of the magicians hands are what allow you to be deceived and distracted from the important elements of the deal. In a shell game the con puts something under one of three shells and moves them around with the words, "the hand is quicker than the eye." And it is true. The hands of the deceptive CEO are quicker than the government's eyes, especially when they've been taped shut by an anti-regulatory fever. AIG was playing "hide the assets" and "hide the accountability" by setting up fake firms and shifting the assets and accounting and reporting responsibilities from one to the other. All those billions that disappeared? Those were paid as bonuses of successful deceit.

I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday and found that their entire collection of woodworking books had shrunk significantly from a book case to a single shelf 30 inches long. Help, I'm shrinking. They had only one copy of one of my books in stock. If how-to books are a bell weather of what is to come, look for us to get dumber and for things to get worse. In the meantime, John Grossbohlin sent a photo of a Christmas project. With just 4 days to spare! This small Chestnut chest, done with through mortise and tenon joints will be a beauty from the arts and crafts design era. The wood is from limbs that came down in a storm. If you are looking for honesty and integrity in today's world, look for things made from real wood and made by human hands. Sorry, no, and sadly, too, you won't find them on Wall Street.

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