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October 22nd, 2004

snippets from the past

"Fancy poultry parts sold here, breasts and thighs and hearts, backs are cheap and wings are nearly free"--old Suzanne Vega song

Among a huge box of old music books I bought for nearly nothing on eBay last month, I found a book called "Creative Music in the Home", by Satis N. Coleman. This edition of the book was published in 1939.
The former owner of the book placed a New York Herald Tribune newspaper cutting from 1961 in the front part of the book, which is Ms. Coleman's obituary. Ms. Coleman focused on teaching music to children.
She objected to using the piano as the first instrument, on the grounds that it was too difficult.
A survivor of childhood piano lessons myself, I know what she meant. Her own quote was that most children taking piano lessons sound like "a cheap pianola from a second-hand piano store", which, sadly, fails to have the desired effect on me, because that sounds pretty cool.

arpeggiosCollapse )

on ethics

"This month's recipient of the Coordinator of the Month Award requests a body at the rescheduled April 23 meeting. He just needs a live body. Anyone from New York office would do. Given recent activities, perhaps you could send someone from your janitorial staff--preferably a recent hire from the U.S. Postal Service"--internal memorandum by a Marsh & McClennan employee

New York attorney general Elliot Spitzer released the quoted e-mail when he announced his new investigation into anti-competitive practices in the property and casualty insurance business. The "warm body" was sought to attend a meeting to give the illusion of a bidding process for
insurance business, when the business had already been steered someplace else.

I'm pleased to see this investigation begin. I'll follow with interest what it reveals about the American insurance market, and hope that any abuses are found and corrected.

I'm not one of those anti-corporate guys. I think corporations are useful business entities which serve valid purposes in permitting our economy to thrive and expand. But I do think that institutional ethics are so important, and can be so obscured sometimes, in the wrong group settings.

I work the insurance company failure business. I never cease to be amazed what people will do to try to prop up a failed insurance venture. I feel as though I have "seen it all", and sued folks over most of it. I think that sometimes people lose sight of that concept of trust and integrity.

I listen, bemused, when our President blames all our nation's business ills on trial lawyers. Does he think that Enron was caused by trial lawyers? Does he imagine that WorldCom cooked its books because of trial lawyers? Does he imagine that mutual fund managers did insider trading because of trial lawyers?

Even in medical malpractice, in which far too many needless suits are filed, the "solution" advocated by tort reform advocates is not imposing a higher cost of doing business on those who file meritless suits, but instead to cap the pain and suffering damages of those who prove their case. The "theory", flimsy and immoral though it is, is that it's okay to punish wronged folks through damages caps in order to
discourage those with meritless cases from seeking a large payday. I'm all for stopping frivolous suits, and for procedural reform to bring down the time and expense of litigation, but punishing the virtuous is not my idea of good social engineering.

I remember former SEC chairman Harvey Pitt, at the outset of the Bush administration, suggesting that the SEC would become much more accountant-friendly.Within eighteen months, accounting scandals had
wrecked many corporations, not to mention Arthur Andersen.The notion that SEC could change its
policies to "go easy" on reporting true financials to the public got short shrift as time showed that the kneejerk "call off the regulators" mode was just wrong and silly.

I think that the best way to keep an economy working for all is to ensure that it runs with integrity and good business ethics. I'm glad to see that another set of business practices will see the light of day.