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Minyan Mailbag: 'Hey, Joe' Edition

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Joe Kennedy: "Evil" in a lovable, Grinch-ish way?

A surprisingly large number of Minyans emailed some "constructive criticism" in response to Friday's column about "Our Pal, Rick."

The number and tone were notable for two reasons: First, it was a Friday afternoon column (where I usually safely "hide (in plain site)" my more "colorful" and "libellous" thoughts). Second, Minyans are an uncommonly generous and fogiving lot, given to following the "if you can't say anything nice remain silent" rule we all learned in grade school.

Minyans being Minyans, most managed to say both nice and "helpful" things...

Minyan WRHearst* Writes...

Jeff, you're a great writer with a lot of insight and humor and I always enjoy reading your views, but it disturbed me when you implied Joe Kennedy was an evil man. You didn't appear to be speaking facetiously.

I don't know that much about his life, but from what I do know, it seems he has been irreparably defamed by "historians" with a dishonest agenda. Was he evil because he overcame the old boy WASP network and became a success on his own? Was he evil because he was smarter than the others and therefore made a lot of money in the stock market, which, at that time, was a knife fight with no rules? (Only after he became head of the SEC were rules adopted.)

As for betting on the wrong side in the beginning of WWII, you're right, but at least he raised children who were such critical, independent thinkers and courageous men that they were not afraid to tell their own father (and the world) that he was full of ("stuff") in making that bet, and then risking (and in Joe Jr.'s case giving up) their lives backing up their convictions. It's hard to believe an evil man could have raised such children.

Minyan PG"13" adds...

Rick, Rick, Rick...poor feckless Rick...he is HIGHLY paid to make choices...painful choices that save the company.

Trouble is...some of his competitors are doing okay....and manufacturing in the USA.

No I don't hate all CEO's...but I do sort of know how they think as well...and how they got to that corner seat...and it's not by being a saint or for leadership skills...call me cynical...but I have seen it over and over and over.

He starts in sales or finance or treasury....and weasels his way to the top..going along to get along....but NEVER blowing a single ethical whistle.....NEVER ON HIS LIFE. That is career suicide...even though it's the right thing to do.

He would rather drive that BMW 7 series, own that big 5,000 square foot home, have an apartment in manhattan and a place at the beach....too much to give up to blow any whistles along the way to riches.

And that is the conundrum of america today.
TOO MUCH MONEY, and nobody wants to be the whistleblower. Ditto in government jobs.


Minyans one and all,

For whatever it may be worth, I admire all that Joe Kennedy was able to accomplish. Like Rick (I was working a theme on Friday), Joe did some things in his life that were a little ugly, by all reports. That doesn't mean he wouldn't be a great guy to be friends with.

And I thought comparing myself to Ted Kennedy was the written humor equivilant of throwing a pie in my own face. I couldn't resist.

As for CEOs and pay, at current levels, I don't particularly care to defend them. That said, I believe that CEO pay is akin to any other market class which was undervalued for too long; it has rocketed higher in the last decade or so, "overcorrecting", if you will, and going too high.

In the 80's and up to the late 90's, being a CEO was a bit of a sucker play. While CEO's were then, as now, vilified for excessive pay, the reality was that the CEO pay ranked like something resembling the "Lower-upper-class" amongst business types at the height of their profession.

If Senators were at one end of a "Low Pay, High Prestige" spectrum, with LBO Kings, Raiders and other levered-skin-in-the-game types at the other ("HIGH Pay, low Prestige") CEO's were somewhere in the middle. They lived nicely, got their names in the paper (a worse-than "mixed" blessing) and got respect.

But they didn't get F U money.

Now that CEOs do get that kind of money, it's both an indictment of their absurd over-reaching in the current world ("resigning bonuses"?!) and an indirect defense of them not acting out of greed in number-fudging and path-of-least-risk-tomorrow thinking.

Rick has money coming out of his dashboard. He's the kind of loaded that you would have had to put children into coal mines to make as recently as a century ago. He hasn't done anything "legendary" but he's got 9-figures in the bank (most likely, all in).

He may be afraid of not having access to the corporate airforce if he gets fired, but Rick has way too much money to care much about money.

SuperQuick Thought on Retailers Since I Promised

As a whole, they can now excuse: bad margins, weak sales, poor earnings, inventory write-downs and kitchen sink repairs as being a result of Katrina. They may be able to do it for as long as into the 4th quarter.

In that very real (actionable?) market sense, Katrina is a "Perfect Storm."

* Kidding! Hee... Hee...

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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