[Marxism] A word of cauition

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Thu Apr 9 15:14:27 MDT 2009


John Thornton writes: 

<<Don't you think this is a bit over-the-top?
<<No one actually accused Buffett of running a Ponzi scheme but even if they
had so what?
<<If someone wants to believe Berkshire Hathaway is a Madoff type scandal
who cares?
<<Why jump to Buffett's defense so vigorously?
<<Fuck Buffett>>

First, on whether it has been suggested that Buffett is implicated in
criminal wrongdoing, S Artesian *just* reiterated: "the difference between
Buffett and Madoff is a matter of time." You might say, that's clearly an
opinion, not a statement of fact, but whether a statement is "factual" --and
thus actionable-- or merely opinion and commentary --and not actionable--
depends on whether a judge considers the *substance* of what was said
verifiable. 

Thus the statement, "I think Joe Blow is an axe murderer. I have no evidence
or proof, but that is my opinion" is clearly actionable because the
substance of it --whether Blow is an axe murderer-- is a factual matter
subject to verification. Worse, by saying it was your opinion you've gone
most of the way to meeting the plaintiff's burden of proof in a lawsuit
against you. So even clearly labeling something "an opinion" does not stop
it from being liable if the substance of the opinion is a factual
(verifiable) matter.

S.Artesian's statements --and there's not just that one, there are a whole
series of them-- can be construed as an assertion about a factual matter --
that Buffett's business activities constitute a criminal Ponzi scheme or at
least conduct that contravenes criminal law and involves a betrayal of
trust.

As to "so what," there are at least two "so what's".

First, such statements are, arguably, actionable, especially since some
participants on this list seem to spare no effort to make clear their
statements are driven by "actual malice," which is what needs to be proven
in the case of a public figure for that figure to be able to recover damages
for libel. Normally in a court case, "actual malice" is inferred from the
fact of publication knowing that what was said was false or saying it in
reckless disregard of whether or not it was true. And it is not a matter of
the person saying it being convinced in their own mind it was true, but
whether the substance of the statement is subject to verification.

Second, such statements discredit those who make them and the political
movements they are associated with. Buffett is a widely admired and
respected figure. The evidence that Berkshire Hathaway is NOT a Ponzi scheme
is overwhelming. This is a publicly traded company and has always been for
the entire time of Warren Buffett's association with it, complying with
numerous legal strictures and disclosure requirements, regularly audited,
etc. etc. etc. It is difficult enough to get a hearing for radical ideas
without handing your opponents on a platter all the evidence they need to
convince informed people that you have no clue what you're talking about,
that your statements are driven by jealousy or spite, and that you are
completely irresponsible.

It is undoubtedly true that *right now* the chances of someone being taken
to task in court or in debate by an ideological opponent of socialism are
none. But one hopes that will not be true forever, and given the current
economic crisis, it may change quite quickly and quite soon.

Joaquin





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