Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rajaratnam, Roddenberry & Redshirts

I can't say that I've been following the case of Raj Rajaratnam very closely, but I did note that he was sentenced today for insider trading -- 11 years. I read a NYT article about the sentencing, and it said: "Prosecutors accused Mr. Rajaratnam of using a corrupt network of well-placed tipsters — including former executives of Intel, IBM and the consulting firm McKinsey & Company — to illicitly gain about $70 million."

Rajaratnam is a hedge-fund billionaire, as recently as 2009 the 559th richest person in the world or some such. His elaborate scheme netted him all of $70 million, vast money to almost anyone else, but only about 5 percent of his net worth. What's the psychology of that? He did it for sport? Because he was bored? Because he was absolutely sure the government would never make an example of him? Guess he miscalculated on that score.

He didn't testify, but I doubt that his thinking involved anything as grand as shaping the future (how could it?), as the rich villain Noah Cross told Jake Gittes in Chinatown, when Jake was able to ask him why he'd perpetrated his land grab.

Jake Gittes: How much are you worth?

Noah Cross: I have no idea. How much do you want?

Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you're worth. More than 10 million?

Noah Cross: Oh my, yes!

Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?

Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.

I didn't have much time to waste today, but what little I did I spent watching a trio of videos on YouTube posted by one "led4acs." They're fun watching for anyone familiar with the original Star Trek. The videos keep a running track of all the deaths on the show, and illustrate them with well-edited clips and occasional funny comments. The dead include crew members, guest stars, assorted extras, aliens and even the sentient computers that Capt. Kirk manages to destroy.

Some 26 redshirts bite the dust, in case you're wondering. Joining Star Fleet is clearly going to be a lot like shipping out with the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century -- a third or a half of the recruits aren't coming back. Sure, Gene Roddenberry imagined a more rational future for mankind, but Star Trek is also a carnival of death.

This is Part One, followed by Part Two and then Part Three.

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