Gadfly is Marty Aussenberg, a columnist for the weekly Memphis Flyer. Marty is a former SEC enforcement official, currently in private law practice in Memphis, Tennessee. (A full bio is below the fold.) Cross-posted at The Memphis Flyer.


“There are only two families in the world, as my grandmother used to say; the haves and the have-nots.” –Sancho Panza in Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes


Hey, you!  Yeah, you, sitting in front of your TV or
computer screen, watching pictures of France burning.  Maybe you’re not all that
upset that the French are getting what you consider to be their comeuppance for
thumbing their nose at “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” You may even revel in the
Franco-bashing statements made by Bill O’Reilly, including about the French
people’s supposed aversion to personal hygiene, and the fact that THEY DON’T
SPEAK ENGLISH (the uncivilized bastards).  You’re probably smug in the assurance
that the French riots are just another one of those disasters that only happen
in some other part of the world.

I have some news for you: the same conditions which gave
rise to the rioting in France exist right here in the good old U.S. of A.  In
fact, in some ways they’re even worse here than they are in France. We know that
racial and economic tensions can, and have, reached flashpoints in this
country.  Los Angeles in 1992, the unrest in New Orleans that followed the
“natural selection” of African Americans as the victims of government ineptitude
following Hurricane Katrina, and the rioting in Toledo last month in response to
a hate group’s demonstration are just the most recent examples of a phenomenon
with a rich history, much of which has had a racial etiology.

The rioting in France is a manifestation of the
disenfranchisement of a significant subculture in that country, African and Arab
immigrants (i.e., black people in a white society), whom the government has
taken great pains to marginalize and relegate to second class citizenship
status.  These immigrants, despite being French citizens, are already the
victims of a form of apartheid not unlike what existed in South Africa.  But it
didn’t help that situation much when the French interior minister referred to
the rioters using a word as inflammatory to them as the “n” word would be to
African Americans here.

The uprising in France is also the natural consequence of a
worldwide phenomenon, but one which has gotten, and is getting, progressively
worse in this country: the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
A recent study by the United Nations Human Development Report Office shows
the bad news that of the 124 nations studied, the U.S. ranks 74th, behind
Vietnam, but the good news, that it still ranks slightly ahead of Iran.  France
comes in at 34th.  This mirrors similar studies done by the World Bank and by
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the latter of which shows that, of the 27 member countries, the U.S. ranks 24th. The disparity
is no more graphically illustrated than in the comparison of executive to worker
compensation.  According to
a recent survey, executive compensation in the U.S. is over 400 times what
line workers make.  That same comparison is only 15 times in France.

On virtually any measure you care to name, the equivalent
subculture in the U.S. to the one rioting in France enjoys a much lower quality
of life than the middle class.  Unemployment levels, incarceration levels,
income levels, education levels, health levels are all disproportionately higher
among African Americans.  The natural consequence of this increasing gap is,
inevitably, disaffection (to put it mildly), and, ultimately, violence.

Now, would you like a serving of “freedom fries” with that
dose of reality?


Mr. Aussenberg is an attorney practicing in his own firm in Memphis, Tennessee. He began his career in the private practice of law in Memphis after relocating from Washington, D.C., where he spent five years at the Securities and Exchange Commission as a Special Counsel and Trial Attorney in its Enforcement Division, during which time he handled or supervised the investigation and litigation of several significant cases involving insider trading, market manipulation, and management fraud. Prior to his stint at the S.E.C., he was an Assistant Attorney General with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking in Philadelphia and was the Attorney-In-Charge of Litigation for the Pennsylvania Securities Commission, where, in addition to representing that agency in numerous state trial and appellate courts, he successfully prosecuted the first case of criminal securities fraud in the state’s history.

Mr. Aussenberg’s private practice has focused primarily on investment, financial, corporate and business counseling, litigation and arbitration and regulatory proceedings. He has represented individual, institutional and governmental investors, as well as brokerage firms and individual brokers, in securities and commodities-related matters, S.E.C., NASD and state securities regulatory proceedings, and has represented parties in shareholder derivative, class action and multi-district litigation, as well as defending parties in securities, commodities, and other “white-collar” criminal cases.

Mr. Aussenberg received his J.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and his B.A. degree in Honors Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Immediately following law school, he served as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow with the Delaware County Legal Assistance Association in Chester, Pennsylvania.

He is admitted to practice in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, before the United States Supreme Court, the Third and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the United States Tax Court, as well as federal district courts in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He is an arbitrator for the NASD, New York Stock Exchange and American Arbitration Association, has published articles (“Stockbroker Fraud: This Kind of Churning Doesn’t Make Butter”, Journal of the Tennessee Society of C.P.A.’s,; Newsletter of the Arkansas Society of C.P.A.’s; Hoosier Banker (Indiana Bankers Association), and been a featured speaker on a variety of topics at seminars in the United States and Canada, including: Municipal Treasurers Association of the United States and Canada, Ottawa, Canada; Government Finance Officers Association; National Institute of Municipal Law Officers, Washington, D.C. ; Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants, Memphis, TN; Tennessee Association of Public Accountants, Memphis, TN (1993)

Mr. Aussenberg has two children, a daughter who is a graduate of Columbia University and holds a Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and is currently a student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and a son who is a graduate of Brown University and is working with a conservation organization in Marin County, California while he decides what to do with the rest of his life.

Mr. Aussenberg is an avid golfer whose only handicap is his game, an occasional trap shooter whose best competitive score was a 92, and an even less frequent jazz drummer.

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