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Copyright by John T. Reed

When Tim Russert died unexpectedly, I was moved to name others who I feel are living human treasures whom we do not appreciate enough.

These are talented, diligent men and women who are successful enough that we have heard of them. But they stand above other prominent people for their character. They seek position and ratings and raises, but not at the cost of doing what’s right. Their highest priority is doing what’s right, not what gives them status or money or fame. They comply with the ideal set forth in the Frank Sinatra song My Way.

They are also like John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage heroes only without the one big, famous, dramatic conflict. But we have to know that these people on my list below have fought a million little, behind-the-scenes battles to maintain their integrity as they have lived their lives. They tell people what they need to know, not what they want to hear. They also remind us of Henry Clay’s statement, “I’d rather be right than be president.” That is, they have a vision of how they want to live their lives and they will not compromise it for any of the enticements that tempt others to live their lives so as to win the approval of others. People who do this are extremely rare.

I have noticed over time that a disproportionately large number of blacks are on this list. Am I trying to show how non-racist I am? Ha! I have written very aggressively about blacks in America. I think affirmative action is a crock and racist. I think the Democrat party business model calles for radicalizing blacks, angering them against whites, and putting them on a plantation of entitlements where they will be dependent upon and therefore always vote for Democrats. Obama got 96% of the black vote in 2008 and 95% in 2012. We will know when blacks have grown up as a race when there is a black candidate running against a white candidate and the black candidate gets about 50% of the vote. We’re not even close. But when you think about it, blacks now have more opportunities to show moral courage than whites because of this same Democrat business model. Any black that dares deviate slightly from the Democrat party line is instantly attacked by liberals and blacks and called an “Uncle Tom” and “House N-word” and so on. The blacks on this list have stood up to that intimidation.

Scott Adams, Dilbert cartoonist, lives a couple of town away from me; we each were recruited to our first post-civilian-university jobs by Crocker National Bank in San Francisco; I left Crocker the year before he arrived; his cartoons are based on his experiences at Crocker and at PacBell where he subsequently worked, as well as on ideas from readers
John C. Bogle, author, founder and former CEO of Vanguard Mutual Fund Group; inventor and proselytizer of the extremely low-cost index fund
Dr. Michael Burry, erstwhile medical doctor who switched to stock market investing, tells people what they need to know, not what they want to hear, incentivizes himself to serve his investors first, limits their number and prohibits withdrawal for at least one year, very contrarian approach (I am the author of The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense), has no filter
Dr. Ben Carson, surgeon, author of five books. Ya gotta be kidding me. The guy’s life sounds like a Hollywood story that would be rejected because it was too good to be true.
Tom Coburn, Republican Oklahoma Senator, medical doctor, leader in the Senate in trying to make real cuts in entitlements; true moral courage
Ward Connerly, effective opponent of affirmative action, former University of California regent, leader of several state ballot initiatives to ban affirmative action in CA, MI, and NE
Chris Christie, New Jersey governor who really did cut spending after promising to do so, star of many great YouTubes
John Gagliardi, head football coach, St. Johns University; most all-divisions victories of any college football coach
Daniel Hannan, author, British member of the European Parliament. Outspoken advocate of free markets and individual liberty.
Christopher Hitchens, author, journalist, native of Britain, citizen of both the U.K. and U.S.; almost but not quite goes out of his way to show powerful people that he will not be bullied by anyone including cultural mob psychology; I am not him nor would I ever be mistaken for him in any medium, but I feel the same way about bullies. Died in December 2011.
David Horowitz, Advocate of reforming colleges and universities with regard to their being used for leftist political indoctrination of students and for suppressing campus speech that is not politically correct. His think tank advocates what they call The Academic Bill of Rights.
Bill James, author, baseball statistician, historian, Senior Advisor on Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.
Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and CEO, Apple Computer, Macintosh, Pixar, iPod, iPhone, iPad—see the article I wrote about him when he died
Elton John, composer, musician, singer, one of the most successful musical artists of all time, adequately appreciated for his music, but not for his independence which came to my attention when he performed at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding then told those who criticized him for that to go to hell, figuratively speaking. He also has done and said a number of other things that violate what a gay Hollywood superstar is supposed to do.
Charles Krauthammer Psychiatrist, conservative newspaper columnist, Fox News contributor
Steven D. Levitt, economist, co-author of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, and Think Like a Freak. I did not put his co-author in the list because he does not appear to fit the criteria listed above.
Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, Blindside, The Big Short, started at Salomon Brothers as a liberally-educated Princeton, London School of Economics kid who got paid hundreds of thousands for nothing and thought that was so stupid he quit
Rush Limbaugh, Conservative radio talk show host, pioneer of the genre, savior of AM radio, leading conservative in the U.S., appreciated fully by his fans, but not by non-listeners who underestimate him because of his mixing clowning and satire in with well-researched reporting and analysis
George Lucas, film director, writer, producer, entrepreneur who turned down things that few would turn down because, as Sinatra said in his song, he wanted to do it his way, and ultimately, he prevailed and the rest is history

Allan McDonald, Morton Thiokol’s enigneer senior engineer at Cape Canaveral when the doomed Challenger space shuttle blasted off. Moton was, in part, the manufacturer of the O rings that kept hot gasses from escaping from the main rocket motor. McDonald said it was not safe to launch because the ambient temperatures were too cold—below those in which the O rings had been tested. He was ordered to sign the safe-to-launch letter the day before launch and refused. His boss signed it instead.

The shuttle blew up 73 seconds after launch killing all seven crew members inculding shuttle first, a public school teacher crew member Christa McAuliffe.

The resulting investigation found that the disaster was caused by the O rings failing because of the low ambient temperature at launch. McDonald deserves to be on this list because of what he did, but he did not do enough. I don’t think he needed to do, or should have done, what Jimmy Stewart’s character “Theodore Honey” had to do in No Highway in the Sky—physically sabotage the aircraft to prevent it from being flown. But he should have gone public with his objections before the launch. That probably would have stopped it and gotten him fired. Definitive proof that the o rings would have failed would then may not have ever been found. But that beats getting seven people who trusted you killed.

Andrew Napolitano, Lawyer, former judge, author, Fox News talk show host, profile in courae for sticking to correct but unpopular applications of the Constitution, for example, he holds the unpopular position that kirling Osama Bin Laden was murder; I disagree with that. I respect his legal education and experience, but he needs to get a better understanding about the difference between peacetime crimes and war
Dr. Paul Offitt, Main advocate of medically recommended vaccinations and main opponent of the militantly ignorant who are mindlessly anti-vaccine and endangering us all as a result
Penn & Teller (Penn Jillette and ? Teller) Magicians like the Amazing Randi but also, like Randi, exposers of fraud and fellows of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute; hosts of the erstwhile TV program Penn & Teller: Bullshit! on Showtime. The Amazing Randi has appeared on that show.
Jane Bryant Quinn, fearless personal finance author and AARP and Bloomberg News personal finance columnist (in the interest of full disclosure, Jane is also my friend)
James (“Amazing Randi”) Randi, magician, escape artist and debunker of fakes, winner of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award
Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal editorial board. Believe it or not, there is no Wikipedia article on Jason. He is a fearless journalist regard to black racial issues and, I presume, any other topic he writes about.
Burt Rutan, innovative aeronautical and space engineer who designed a number of record-breaking aircraft and spacecraft, all as a private for-profit businessman; none as the employee of a large corporation or government organization
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), His Roadmap for America’s Future was the first legitimate proposal by an elected official for fixing America’s runaway fiscal train. He also created the Path to Prosperity in 2011. I think it’s too slow and should cover Social Security and defense, but it is one of very few realistic plans from elected officials.
Thomas Sowell, economist, columnist, author, Hoover Institute Senior Fellow, has no filter
Mark Steyn, columnist, radio talk show host, author. Funny as hell but also excellent substance. British native, Canadian citizen, New Hampshire resident; calls himself an “undocumented anchorman”
John Stossel, fearless Libertarian investigative reporter on ABC 20/20, switched to Fox News 9/10/09, goes out of his way to do provocative stories like one with the theme “greed really is good”
Walter E. Williams, relentlessly logical, powerful advocate of liberty and free-market economics. Economics professor at George Mason University, syndicated columnist, libertarian; takes great delight in using logic to prove all sorts of politically-incorrect conclusions, occasionally guest hosts for Rush Limbaugh having Limbaugh’s announcer introduce him as “black by popular demand”

I’m sure I will think of more later. I urge readers to suggest people to me. One reader suggested Milt Rosenberg a WGN Chicago radio talk show host. He may be deserving, but I know nothing about him so I cannot put him on my list.

Wouldn’t it be great if all these guys were at a convention we could attend? No, I am not going to organize it. I suspect some would not appear with some of the others. Also, I do not have the money to pay all these folks to gather and speak.

Why Charlie Rose is not on the list

Another suggested Charlie Rose. I generally like his show, but my impression is that he is too afraid to displease guests for fear of getting a reputation that would discourage that guest or others from accepting his invitation to appear on his show. If I did such a show, I would not have liars on and if one slipped through, I would either call him on the spot or after investigating his false statement. That would cause the liars in question to refuse to ever appear again on my show and would cause other liars to refuse to come on to begin with.

Who are the liars? Elected or appointed officials, mass market corporate executives, corporations that rely on government contracts, political activists, etc. Who tells the truth as they see it? Generally, authors, tenured professors, retired people, true experts.

Jamie Dimon

I put JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on the above list for a while. Then I removed him. I put him on the list because I was reading almost all the books about the late 2000s financial crisis and kept reading over and over what a great guy he was. Integrity. Excellent hands-on manager who actively and competently managed every nook and cranny of his companies.

So why did I take him off the list? Because I read the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report, listened to a speech by its head Phil Angelides, and talked to its top investigator about Jamie Dimon afterward. He quickly recited a number of bad things JP Morgan did while Dimon was CEO. In April 2011, JP Morgan Chase was one of 10 major mortgage industry firms named in a Federal Reserve news release that started with this paragraph:

The Federal Reserve Board on Wednesday announced formal enforcement actions requiring 10 banking organizations to address a pattern of misconduct and negligence related to deficient practices in residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing. These deficiencies represent significant and pervasive compliance failures and unsafe and unsound practices at these institutions.

Below is a list of events during Dimon’s tenure at JP Morgan Chase taken from the index entries of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) Report. That report is available on line for free along with additional background information that is not in the report. I bought a bound paperback copy for $14.85. The index to the bound report is online at www.publicaffairsbooks.com/ficindex.pdf.

page of report quote
18 "I blame the management teams 100% and…no one else." Dimon testifying to FCIC as to the causes of the crisis
63 In 2007, Dimon was paid $28 million
91 In 2009, Dimon ended JP Morgan’s broker-originated business after discovering the loans had more than twice the losses of the loans that JP Morgan itself originiated.
295 Dimon told FCIC he had not become fully aware of the risks stemming from his bank’s tri-party repo clearing business until the Bear [Stearns] crisis in 2008
  agreed to acquire Bear Stearns on March 24, 2008 for $10 a share and including federal bridge loan and guarantees on some of Bear’s assets. Originally, it was supposed to be $2 but a clause was left out of the agreement which would allow angry Bear shareholders to reject it. So Morgan had to quintuple the price to get Bear to agree to the clause that would prevent the shareholder rejection.
50 in 2008, 97% of OTC derivatives were traded by five large institutions. JP Morgan Chase was one of them
65 JP Morgan’s leverage from 2000 to 2007 was 20:1 to 22:1
225 From 2007 through 2010 [the Federal National Mortgage Association] put back loans to… JP Morgan $2.2 billion. This was the third highest total after B of A and Wells Fargo. Put back” means FNMA forced these banks to take back the mortgages they bought from them because they were not originated properly.
330-1

Lehman Brothers bankruptcy trustee says that JP Morgan Chase made an improper threat to withhold repo financing from Lehman on September 9, 2008. Lehman went bankrupt shortly thereafter. The allegations are currently being litigated by the bankrupt estate of Lehman Brothers.

328 "On July 10 920080, Federated Investors—a large money market fund and one of Lehman’s largest tri-party repo lenders—notified JP Morgan, Lehman’s clearing bank, that Federated would ‘no longer pursue additional business with Lehman,’ because JP Morgan was ‘unwilling to negotiate in good faith’ and had ‘become increasingly uncoopeative’ on repo terms.
Front page of the 4/15/11 Wall Street Journal JP Morgan Chase is expected to settle allegations related to the sale of a $1.1 billion mortgage-bond investment called Squared in early 2007…the settlement with JP Morgan is expected to involve conflicts of interest [i.e.,]…failed to tell investors who bought slices in a CDO that the investment had been created with input from hedge funds that were betting on the fall of the housing market—an event that would damage the value of the investments.

Page 167 of the FCIC report has a table. It is based on due diligence performed by Clayton Holdings. Clayton was an outside, independent third-party financial investigation company. They were like a bond-rating agency only one that looks at bond components in great detail. Their job was to select and put under a magnifying glass a sample of mortgages included in Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). Those were the bundles of subprime mortgages that were sold to Main Street by Wall Street.

In the January 2006 through June 2007 sample in the table, Clayton rejected 28% of the mortgages they looked at. Their basis for rejection was not subjective. They simply rejected those loans that did not meet the stated underwriting guidelines of the originator. Underwriting means checking the credit, income, cash, and appraisal of the borrower and the house. Originator is a company that makes an individual mortgage loan directly to a borrower.

The table lists nine major subprime lenders. JP Morgan is one of them. Over the nine lender sample, 39% of the mortgages rejected by Clayton were subsequently waived in by the lenders. That means they would let them be in the CDO even after having been told the loan did not even meet the proclaimed standards of the company that made the loan. Of the nine lenders, the one with the highest rate of waiving in was JP Morgan. They waived in 51% of the mortgages that Clayton told them were substandard. If I understand correctly, this means that JP Morgan paid Clayton to check on the mortgages, were told that 28% were bad, then ignored that on 51% of that 28% and put them into CDOs that were subsequently sold to Main Street investors. I would expect that the fact that they paid Clayton Holdings to check the mortgages was bragged about in the prospectus by JP Morgan as another reason to trust and invest in the CDOs in question.

I have seen a series of additional news items that could be put in this list of knocks on JP Morgan since the 4/15/11 one.

Steven Eisman

He used to be on this list as follows:

Steve Eisman, honest stock market analyst (all but a contradiction in terms other than Eisman), the hero of Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short, called the subprime crisis before it broke, has no filter.

On 5/31/11, the media reported that he had shorted corporations that owned and operated for-profit adult schools. I have no problem with that. But he was also working hard to get laws and regulations imposed on those schools that would substantially reduce the value of their stock which, in turn, would mean he would make a lot of money. I have no objection to shorts or to shorts explaining their reasoning for shorting a stock. However, I oppose short sellers trying to take action or persuade others to take action, to hurt the value of a company’s stock.

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck used to be on this list, then he endorsed Robert Kiyosaki, the co-author of Rich Dad Poor Dad. Indeed, in my commendation of Beck, I noted that he was the real “educational TV” and that the pretenders to that title, PBS, in stark contrast to Beck’s integrity, were doing things like running Robert Kiyosaki infomercials. I stand corrected.

Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno was told his former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky who still hung around PennState football facilities had molested a child sexually and he reported it to the athletic director and did nothing else. He should have ordered Sandusky off the premises permanently. When the story came out, Penn State belated banned Sandusky and fired Paterno.

The Paterno case highlights what I said about excessive emphasis on loyalty among coaches in my web article “Adverse effects on football team performance caused by overemphasis on loyalty to the head coach” and my various articles on the cover-up of the Pat Tillman friendly fire killing. Use the search engine at the top of each of my Web pages to search for the name Tillman to see those many articles.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards grants to fellows every year. They are commonly called the “genius awards.”

They say of the fellowships:

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

I wish there were a similar award for the combination of accomplishment and moral focus exhibited by the sort of people I have named above—and that it were not restricted to obscure persons as the MacArthur grants seem to be. It is easier to be moral when you are obscure than when you are involved in large organizations or mass markets.

I have no money to give to the folks I named above. Most of them probably already have more money than I do. But I tip my hat to them.