Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stanford! Stanford! (Rah Rah Rah)

We have a confession, and we feel a little dirty making it: For the past week or so we have been in the thrall of a wickedly demonic force, a power that has rendered us all but helpless. You know what we’re talking about: that insatiable urge to learn every goddamn thing we can about Sir R. Allen Stanford and his financial legerdemain (which, according to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department now believes was the result of a Ponzi scheme---shocking, no?)

The addiction is understandable: a “scandal” whose geographical coordinates include Mexia, Texas, Washington D.C., Galleria, Texas and the Caribbean island of Antigua and which has ensnared such diverse personages as Sir John Cornyn and Sir Johnny Damon has unmistakably high entertainment value (unless you were a, um, Stanford client) and is certainly deserving of attention. But we realized on Friday night that we might have a serious problem when we momentarily thought they were projecting Sir Al’s smiling visage on the Toyota Center’s Jumbo screen during a time out in the Rockets-Mavs game (on closer inspection it turned out to be only some contest winner or season ticket holder with a faint resemblance to the mustachioed financial genius).

We’re sure this will pass, shortly, and we can return to our normal late-night pursuits (sleeping the sleep of the just), but in the meantime we can’t get enough of that Stanford stuff, wherever it comes from and however “true” it may be. And we have many willing enablers.

The Houston Chronicle, which didn’t exactly hop right onto the story (its initial offering, buried inside the paper’s rapidly disappearing business section, was a reprint of the Feb. 13 New York Times story reporting the feds’ scrutiny of Stanford---at least they ran it on the same day), has recovered somewhat and is now assiduously squeezing every possible dollop of juice from the Stanford lemon by instituting its own Stanford Watch blog for the collection and distribution of Google-alerted news items regarding Mexia’s prodigal son. The newspaper, which just a couple of months ago wouldn’t spring to send a reporter to Denver for the crash of that Houston-bound Continental flight, even loosened the pursestrings to dispatch a lucky scribe to Antigua on a Stanford-spelunking mission. (The local paper produced an interesting and very readable profile of Sir Smilin’ Al in its Sunday editions, a story that answered one of the crucial questions regarding Stanford: whether he affects a British accent. [Answer: Yes, apparently he does!])

But the Stanford Watch blog is not the last word on all things Stanford---that distinction belongs to TPMuckraker, which as the true cognoscenti know has been nailing developments in the Stanford saga with a pleasing frequency, including digging up those pictures of Pete Sessions with Stanford in Antigua after the Dallas congressman’s office denied that he knew Sir Al.

Yes, this is a delicious turn of events, nicely illustrating the cozy corruption not only of Washington D.C. (the Times reported on Saturday that “Texas Republicans” single-handedly killed White House-backed and Stanford-opposed legislation to force banks to crack down on money-laundering) but also of the “financial advisory” racket. It appears that the Stanford M.O. was to spread around just enough gold-plated manure---“five-star” meals, trips to the Caribbean, sponsorship of sporting events, charitable donations, etc.---to impress the too-easily impressed and have them give him things (preferential treatment, their life savings ...).


Anonymous said...

Hate to let facts get in the way of a good tale, but the Chronicle did send a reporter (Susan Carroll) and a photographer to Denver after the crash.

Slampo said...

Yes, let's not let facts get in the way of a good tale, or even a mediocre one like this. We should have pointed out that the paper sent a reporter to New York recently to cover a fashion show that we believe had something to do with the anniversary of the Barbie doll's debut, so the place must be flush ...