Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Personal Aside: Eddie Vrdolyak’s Guilty Plea a Surprise as is His Moth to the Flame Career…More on Government’s Responsibility for the Meltdown.


A Gifted but Strange Man.

I’ve known Eddie Vrdolyak for many years…not well but when we were together on occasion his wit, sharp acumen and irreverent feel for street politics charmed me--but I have never…and I mean never…ever…figured out what makes him tick. Here’s a guy gifted with a superbly retentive mind, a thorough background in municipal law and public affairs...who was dissatisfied or bored to tears or rebellious at making a fortune with the law on the legit…which he in fact was extraordinarily capable of doing…in order to teasingly like a exasperating moth cruise around the flame of corruption. Was it the fun of not getting caught…of coming close but escaping at the last minute—to have people wag their heads admiringly and say, “that’s Fast Eddie! Smartest guy in town! They’ll never get him!”

He’s fun to be around; his repartee is quick and memorable. In an unanticipated sense he started me at WLS. I had been a frequent guest on some talk shows, nothing more. He had a very popular show in the afternoons…drive-time…with Ty Wansley and I’d call him up on the phone. He was getting big bucks from the station because he and Ty gave it topmost ratings—but he became infuriated that WLS decided not to carry his program on FM where his buddies could hear him downtown without the static that accompanies AM. So…not only a wealthy lawyer but a guy getting hefty six figures in radio with a huge audience at his fingertips every afternoon…he went on strike and affected a serious “sore throat” that was bogus. So he called me and recruited me in a sense to sit in for him, to hold down his seat until he would come back…come back when the station came to its senses. I wondered about that one. But I took his place.

He told me he was only going to keep the “sore throat” for a week or so until the station capitulated. I had just retired from Quaker Oats at the time and had begun a consulting company to businesses. At his behest took his role on the show with Ty which lasted for months before I had to quit the full-time broadcasting to save my consulting business. I ended up doing radio as I do now--an hour a week as a pastime. I’m okay but Eddie…Eddie was a true radio star. And Eddie never came back. His radio career ended by his choice—pique. Why? WHY? How do you figure it? How do you figure his running around with bums and doing tricks in grey ethical areas instead of concentrating on the serious practice of law which he was equipped to execute with high professionalism…as well as a lucrative radio career paying him big bucks… which his highly endowed intelligence and propensity for entertainment served him so well? Why did he allow his law license to be suspended because of crude billing “errors”?

Some observers have told me he liked to savor the thrill of beating the odds, of flying ever closer to the flame. It’s more than that, though. I think it’s self-destruction. That’s the only way I can explain it. Every so often when I saw him…and I didn’t see him often…he would jest about Richie Daley. “Nobody ever called him Fast Richie,” he would say referring to the mayor’s rather commonplace thought processes and stammering language. No, but Richie isn’t self-destructive. Now the odds are that at age 70 Fast Eddie is going to spend maybe 16 months in stir—unless he turns evidence against his cohorts which will reduce the time but not eliminate it.

No, we were never close but still and all, I remember the times we laughed together. I look back at his nice wife and the family he loves and now, sadly, I ask myself…he didn’t need the money…why was he doing these tricks in dank and squalid circumstances? Why-why-WHY?

Government’s Responsibility.

The sad thing is that liberalism…and pragmatic Republicans as well…have succeeded in putting the blame for the meltdown on enterprise—not government. With Fannie and Freddie blowing up the bubble and the Fed and the Bush administration weakening the dollar, regulators pushed banks to reduce book value due to mark-to-market accounting…the idea that financial institutions should correct their books when the market value of their financial assets goes up or down. As banks diminished the value of their assets they had to search for new capital—which signaled rating agencies to reduce credit value…forcing financial firms to hike collateral for default swaps meaning they had to issue more calls for fresh capital. So investment banks with positive cash flows discovered they were in a death grip. Another example is short-selling where the SEC ruled that a stock couldn’t be shorted unless it had gone up in price—the up-tick rule. Add to these things the SEC’s lamentable failure to enforce the rule against “naked” short-selling…meaning that before an investor shorts a stock he must borrow the shares and pay a broker or stockholder a fee.

What should happen to rectify things? The best index of monetary value is gold. The Fed should pin the dollar to a gold price of $500 to $550.

Just remember that the cause of the Great Depression was government…the Smoot-Hawley tariff and President Herbert Hoover’s insane decision to raise taxes…raise taxes…in order purportedly to balance the budget and give Wall Street confidence. Enough damage has been done by governmental action…I don’t mean the $700 bailout which was necessary to avoid a disastrous panic…but reckless governmental action so that the next administration should be prudent, should cut taxes…but wait—what am I saying?

If the polls are right that Obama wins, forget it. In fact, forget about a lot of things including prosperity.

1 comment:

  1. On your show with Ty, weren't you a spokesman for the Nordic Trak?