Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Modern Version of an Aesop Fable...

Vanity Fair's Michael Shnayerson has a fascinating story about the professional con man Kenneth Starr, his rise in fortune, and his subsequent fall into disgrace and imprisonment. Not the Kenneth Starr who badgered the hell out of Bill Clinton in the 90s, obviously -- that motherfucker is currently the president of Baylor University. I'm talking about the accountant of the same name who scammed a group of people that included the likes of Caroline Kennedy, Martha Stewart, Al Pacino, Neil Simon, and Barbara Walters out of some $59 million -- sort of a low-caliber Bernie Madoff possessing a top-notch celebrity clientele.

As I was reading this thing, I kept asking myself why these stories just keep recurring over and over and over to no readily visible end. Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andy Fastow pulled essentially the same bullshit while they were at Enron. Bernie Madoff did it on a far larger scale and in deliberately wholesale fashion. There are many other examples of this with different names and entities.

The best answer I can come up with is Aesop's fable about the dog and his bone. That fleabag steals a bone from a butcher shop or somewhere, starts to cross a bridge on his way to bury it, looks over the bridge halfway into the water below, sees his own reflection, thinks it's another dog with another bone, decides he wants that bone too, barks at the reflection, and thus loses his own bone to the water.

Moral of the story: if you keep wanting more and more, you're liable to end up with less and less. Seems to me that's Mr. Starr's bio in a nutshell.

It's just really fucked up how his story is just the latest iteration of the ancient fable, and that there will be more iterations of it in the future, each as ignorant of history as the last. That's the part I can't quite get...

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