Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

It Was Completely Legal

by Mike Kimel  

It Was Completely Legal

Almost two decades ago, an acquaintance asked me to lunch in Los Angeles. Said acquaintance mentioned he had connections with a few nightclubs – he stressed that they were nightclubs – in Macao and Hong Kong, and that “Brazilian girls” – women from about 18 to 26 or so – were becoming a hot commodity in both places. Given that I grew up in Brazil, my acquaintance thought he could have me fly down to Brazil and do some recruiting for them.

We never got down to brass tacks because, though it would have been very lucrative, it wasn’t something I could do. Yes, I’m pretty sure it would have been very easy to locate women either “in the trade” or (what they were really after) semi-professionals willing to move to Macao or Hong Kong for promises that they’d make a lot more money. And my bet is that some of these women I would have located would have made a lot of money. And I’m sure that my end of the operation, recruiting, would have been entirely legal by the laws of the US, Brazil, Hong Kong and Macao. Certainly the way the business was described to me, my acquaintance and his connections had no difficulties with the law either. Things were set up in such a way that what they were doing was completely legal.

But there was a problem for me. I didn’t know all that much about the industry with which my acquaintance had turned out to be associated, but I did know it can be a very dangerous one for the type of person they wanted me to recruit. I could only imagine that the potential dangers would be even greater in a foreign country where the person had no ties and little or no status.


I had no illusions that my refusal to participate would make any difference at all. I don’t recall if I ever saw that acquaintance again, but I would be surprised if he didn’t find someone else who took care of recruiting for him. The industry in Hong Kong and Macao, no doubt, continued apace.

I should also note that whoever took that job would have made a lot of money, more than I did in any remotely comparable amount of time. The only thing my walking away accomplished was that whatever happened going forward, I had nothing to do with it. To this day, I have no regrets that I turned my acquaintance down.

I mention all this because the “it was completely legal” defense has been cropping up a lot lately in things I read. I think its use may be about to increase a lot more in the near future. And if I might contribute one thing to the discussion, please remember this: that an activity is completely legal isn’t an excuse for participating in it.

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I Wish I TA’ed Monopolistic Competition instead of Economic Development

Everyone should read Joe Wilcox’s update, based on the release of more court docs, on the ongoing saga of Why Vista Sucked on Release. (Short version: because Intel asked.)

Teaser quote, which would look fine in Mankiw or Krugman’s next Macro text:

Based on the available information, I come to an easy conclusion: One monopoly colluded with another for economic gain—and in this instance causing harm to Microsoft, its partners and customers. Matters were even worse than intended, because Microsoft delayed Vista:

  1. Vista-inferior chip sets stayed in market longer than they otherwise should have.
  2. More consumers bought PCs incapable of fully running Aero Glass.
  3. Notebooks were disproportionately affected, because the state of the art was even lower than for desktops.

So if the guys at Compaq wonder why I will never buy one of their products again, they may have a legitimate argument that it wasn’t all their fault. But it doesn’t change the reality—or, if you prefer, the Externality.

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Tic Tac Toe, Supreme Court style

Bribes, payola, favor of the physical kind? Forget-about it. Just put the right person in the appropriate agency, preferably a person from the line of business the agency is to regulate. But, for extra insurance over the long haul, with a little luck of timing you get to fix the legal issue almost permanently: supreme court justices.

Justices Make it Tougher to Sue Makers of Medical Devices

The case has significant implications for the $75 billion-a-year health care technology industry, whose products range from heart valves to toothbrushes. In a recent three-month span, federal regulators responded to over 100 safety problems regarding medical devices.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the estate of Charles Riegel could sue a company under state law over a device previously cleared for sale by federal regulators. State lawsuits are barred to the extent they would impose requirements that are different from federal requirements, said the ruling by Justice Antonin Scalia.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Congress never intended “a radical curtailment of state common-law lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries caused by defectively designed or labeled medical devices.”

But Scalia, in response, said, “It is not our job to speculate upon congressional motives.”

The Bush administration sided with industry, saying unfavorable state jury verdicts would compel companies to alter product designs or labels that had already gotten FDA approval.

Hey, the government said it was good, what the f#$k is your problem?

Well, besides lending its self to a commentary of fascism , or that all the court is saying is that congress needs to do a more complete job, or that this represents another major blow for our constitution in that the government is failing to respond to the people, this is the manifestation of gamesmanship having fully ascended to our final stop gap measure. I forget who, but a commenter stated that law suits are the free market response to a lack of government regulation (I think I have it corret). If true, then the free market is truly dead and it has been killed by the most effective means of all; legal tic tac toe. We have been observing it in congress for years, with it most refined and skillfully played currently.

Here’s how you play it. I ask you a question literally: X. You respond literally: X. I say no, I was asking figuratively: O. Everyone knows that you can not win it. But, and it’s a big BUT, the purpose of this version of tic tac toe is not to win. It is to perpetually play the game. Just keep on blocking. It can be played with me asking a question: O, feeling you out. You respond: X. I think Ok and ask it again as you have responded: X. You respond: O.

Think I’m wrong? Then think about the hearings for the supreme court justices. Think about the AG performance concerning torture. Think about the definition of “is”.

This form of tic tac toe servers a very specific purpose. It forever releases the player from being responsible. You can never fully come to terms with a person who’s entire approach to life is to perpetually play tic tac toe because there is no way to win the game of tic tac toe. You can only move beyond them. Stop playing the game. For a society with a form of governance like ours, it means voting. Voting not to approve those who do not answer the question as a responsible person. Holding in contempt, etc. For me it was a divorce.

updated to finish the last paragraph.

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