More Dogs on Main |

More Dogs on Main

Tom Clyde, Record columnist

It’s the first of May. That means we only have six more weeks of winter. There’s not much we can do about it, and it’s really not all that unusual around here for it to be snowing in May, but winter has worn out its welcome. There’s just something wrong with buying furnace filters in May.

Although I didn’t watch a lot of it, I have to admit to finding some of the Senate’s grilling of Goldman Sachs execs entertaining. While the financial world was imploding, Goldman made gobs of money. It may have been the result of good judgment and careful analysis, as the Goldman folks claim. Maybe they are that good. Or, it could be that they were selling the same crap to the investing public as every other bank, but they knew it was crap and bet against it. A company the size of Goldman isn’t a market participant. It is the market, and has the ability to manipulate things to their own benefit. But as CEO Lloyd Blankfein said, they are just doing God’s work.

But the real delight wasn’t in trying to understand incomprehensible financial transactions with no tangible value, or watching Goldman’s people give hours of evasive, slimy, greasy answers. The Goldman people were a slippery bunch, for sure, and one only needed a few minutes to conclude that they were not people you could trust with your nest egg. The real pleasure came from watching members of the U.S. Senate piously denouncing the ethics of the Wall Street bankers. Imagine that, ethical standards low enough to shock a senator.

All of them have been running for office for years on campaign contributions from the financial industry and we are shocked shocked to see that the financial industry has pretty much written their own regulations and special legislation. One senator whose ethical lobe was particularly inflamed was Nevada Senator John Ensign. He’s the guy who was having an affair with one staff member, paying hush money (borrowed from his parents) to her husband, and putting her teenage kid on the party payroll. It’s like watching a room full of skunks argue about who’s stinking the place up.

In the end, it’s likely that Goldman will be found to have been slimy; screwing clients for the company’s benefit, and making gobs of money doing things that were detrimental to the national interest and common good. But probably nothing criminal. The campaign contributions will flow, and Congress will make a big deal of adopting a "financial reform" bill that does nothing to protect us from Goldman and people of their ilk engaging in practices that put the financial security of everybody else at risk. The Senators will declare victory and head for the tropics to attend a Goldman-sponsored retreat.

Of course, before they can adopt do-nothing / feel good legislation, they first have to get it to the floor for a vote. So far, the Republicans in the Senate, who have been on strike for two years now, continue to block the idea of even bringing a financial reform bill any bill up for discussion. The status quo is working so well that they aren’t about to talk about making any changes to the system that brought us to the brink of a depression and a couple of trillion in borrowed bail-out money. The Democrats may have weak or even stupid ideas, but the Republicans apparently have no ideas at all.

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On a more positive note, the Mormon Church displayed a new "green building" design that will become the standard for their buildings around the world. It has xeriscaped grounds, solar panels, and recycling bins. The Salt Lake Tribune quoted H. David Burton, a church official in charge of physical facilities as saying, "There is something very doctrinally sound when we talk about conservation of resources." Latter-day Saints, he said, might consider their own environmental stewardship. "This is a teaching moment," Burton said.

Recycling bins may not sound like a lot, but recycling bins with the official blessing of the hierarchy that’s huge. Resource conservation was a very real part of the settlement of Utah, and something Brigham Young preached way back when. But environmentalism isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Mormons. I’m not sure where this leaves the global warming deniers in the Legislature. How does doctrinal environmental stewardship fit with riding your ATV up Salt Creek?

Sticking solar panels on the roof of the local ward house is highly symbolic. Remember the first thing Ronald Reagan did was take Carter’s solar water heater off the roof of the White House, setting off another generation of bad energy policy. Calling it doctrinal is huge.

Quick, park the Suburban!

Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.