Scumbag 101

A major league Wall Street scumbag (WSS)Imagination Exercise I.

Imagine three major league Wall Street scumbags (WSS) having a conversation at Moran’s. The first WSS says, “I have a two part riddle.

The other two WSS’s love riddles, as so many of the WSS do, and urge WSS one on.

Compliant, as ever, WSS asks, “What is the difference between a prostitute’s privates and the public interest?”

After an appropriate silence and shared vacant looks between WSS two and WSS three, WSS one says, “Nothing, both are sold as often as possible and to anybody with enough money.”

“What is the second part of the riddle,” asks WSS two?

“What,” asks WSS one, still compliant and eager to please, “is the difference between a member of US Congress and a prostitute?”

“That’s easy,” says WSS three, “the answer is nothing, again.”

“Wrong,” says WSS one, ” the prostitute owns what she sells.”

Imagination Exercise II.

Imagine you are sitting at a table in The Capital Grille in Manhattan’s financial District. This is unusual as regular old schmucks (ROS) rarely grace a table in The Capital Grille, home of the ninety-five dollar, low cal, low carb lunch.

What’s that? You do not consider yourself a schmuck of any kind? Well, this exercise is not about what you think about yourself. It is not even about what you and me and virtually everybody else thinks about ourselves. This exercise is about what we actually are. Events of the past several decades are proof positive we are schmucks. It is possible you may be Magnum schmuck (MS) or a better than average schmuck (BTAS) or, if you happen to be Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or Larry Ellison or someone like them in creativity and wealth, you may even be a useful schmuck (US), but you are still a schmuck and probably just a ROS.

Imagining yourself as an ROS may be too hard. After all none of us get up in the morning and, looking in the mirror, say, “Damn, how did I get to be such a schmuck?” If it is too hard to imagine this, the main exercise will still work, if you take my word for it, one ROS to another, you are a schmuck.

At a table next to yours at The Capital Grille are four superstars of the Street. These three are not just run of the mill WSS, these guys are superstar scumbags (SSS). These guys, though you can’t recognize any of them by sight, all have familiar names. Each is a big time player with your money as well as that of millions of other ROS, US, BTAS and MS. Your tablemate is a WSS and she recognizes each of the SSS and leans into your ear and whispers the names and where they work. For one of the SSS your WSS even takes the time to whisper, in some detail, a particularly sleazy operation that financially destroyed all the investors that particular SSS hoodwinked into buying interests in a sub-prime mortgage fund while simultaneously making a smaller number of investors even more wealthy when he sold them short positions on the same investment that paid off wonderfully well when the sub-prime funds went bankrupt.

The tone of your WSS’s voice when she was relating all this was positively reverential, almost worshipful. So much so she suggested the two of you might want to stop your conversation and just listen, eavesdrop, on the SSS’s. “We might pick up on some really valuable inside information,” she said.

So, you shut up and listen.

Unfortunately, the conversation at the SSS table consists of some reminiscences of a recent, out of season party held at one of the SSS’s beachfront house in the Hamptons. You glean from the conversation that the party was out of season because it was meant to be a working retreat with no spouses in attendance. Indeed, it was best the spouses weren’t in attendance since the everybody else in attendance, who were not working with the four SSS on recent large and lucrative deals, were hookers, secretaries, on the make, a butt boy or two and a couple of gigolos special ordered for the two female WSS in attendance.

Still, the overheard conversation, though not much in the way of insider information was not boring. So, you and the WSS decide to continue to listen. The SSS exchange stories of their favorite tricks and treats offered by the ladies of easy virtue. They laugh at the sexual proclivities of the lady WSS’ers and the gay WSS’ers and their young men.

It is clear from the conversation, none of the SSS at the next table respect the ladies who gave them, only a few days earlier, so much pleasure and comfort for the professional work done for them by the high class, expensive, hookers is evident in each man’s tales of physical conjoining, in the same breath, often the same sentence, contain elements of derision and disrespect.

This, of course, fascinates you tablemate buts begins to repulse and, eventually, bore you. Having no one to talk to, you address your full attendance to the food before you and begin to zone out.

Time passes and, between courses, you decide to listen in again to see if the topic has changed. To your surprise, the topic does not appear to have changed. The four SSS are still talking about “getting what ever you want, whenever you need it” and “how nobody needs to know.”

You are about to zone out again, thinking you should thank your hostess and just excuse yourself and head back to the hotel, when you begin to understand they are no longer discussing the “retreat” in the Hamptons but something altogether different. Slowly, it dawns on you they are discussing one or more Congressional Committees.

Imagine the impact of learning that to SSS’ers and WSS’ers there is the same paradoxical derision and gratitude simultaneously expressed in their voices when they are talking about Congress, the entire Congress, the institution, as when they were discussing ladies of the night. In the minds of the “market,” prostitutes and elected officials are the same. Unfortunately, there is a subtle difference.

SSS’ers, even the most misogynistic, obviously, do not disrespect all women. Surely, these men respect their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and so forth. Surely most have some friend they respect as well, a doctor perhaps, maybe a lawyer. Likewise, there might be one or more members of the federal legislature one of these SSS’ers respect.

However, none of them, no SSS’ers or the WSS at your table, had any respect for the institution of the Congress. And damn little respect, and none you heard expressed that day, for any of its members.

Oh, as if they were grateful for a well executed and timely blow job, each of your SSS did express pleasure at some act of grand generosity from one or more compliant elected official. But, the gratitude was cloaked in a wrap around expression of how the official did it because he/she was bought and paid for. It was an expression of craptitude.

Craptitude is the proper expression and tone to adopt when speaking about some one, you profoundly disrespect, who is, never the less, giving you something you want, maybe need, but do not deserve. When a WSS or SSS gives money to an elected official or a prostitute they are offering a sincere and profound expression of craptitude.

If you can just picture it, you passed the test.

Mike Copeland

Mike Copeland

I am old enough to know better. I have a B. A. from Birmingham Southern College and a Master's in City Planning from Georgia Tech. I have worked in SC State government for over a decade leaving as the Deputy Executive Director of the State Budget and Control Board, the state's administrative agency. I have owned the Fontaine Company since 1984 and am the managing member of a management, marketing and consulting company.

I am the author of several novels, some of which you may buy and read if you are of a mind to do so.