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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Usurpation

Years ago your Bloviator served a term working as a paralegal for a "white shoe" Wall Street law firm. During a particularly heated stretch of litigation involving a hostile takeover, I received constant requests from associates and partners for a copy of the "Nowicki Memorandum," a seven-inch-thick velo-bound collection of briefs, opinions, exhibits and the like.

Curiosity one day got the best of me (which can be fatal to paralegal) and I asked the only associate on the team I considered a friend, a brilliant if jaded lawyer (who naturally didn't make partner) why this fat stack paper was called the "Nowicki Memorandum." My friend explained: Nowicki was the senior associate on the case. The partner one day asked him to oversee the compilation of useful documents to assist the team in its prosecution of the lawsuit. That Nowicki did, farming it out to lower ranking associates who did all the research, finding the needed documents, copying them and sending them over to Mr. Nowicki. He composed a one-sentence memo to the partner stating (essentially):" Here is the collection of documents you asked for" and placed that one-page memo on top of the seven-inch stack of documents. He then, as my friend put it, laconically and with marvelous precision, "put a big staple through it;" hence the "Nowicki Memorandum."

That less than enthralling incident came to mind when I learned this morning the United Nations intends planting its blue and white flag in shattered Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Readers will recall after the 2004 Asian tsunami President Bush, even before the waters had subsided, ordered in the military, which quietly but swiftly did a spectacular job helping to bring relief to the millions of suffering. In contrast, a week later the United Nations announced it would hold a worldwide "emergency conference" far from the scene, to which bureaucratic hacks would jet in, stay in first-class hotels and discuss the matter. After a few days of jabber the UN proudly announced relief was on the way and pointed to the efforts our military as an example of it; claiming credit for it, stamping their name on it. At the same time, statements were released excoriating Mr. Bush for his niggardly response to the disaster (we can be confident our present President will escape such horsewhipping).

The UN, which is pleading for 560 million bucks in donations, will no doubt attempt a similar scam in Haiti, claiming the credit while charities and the military to all the work. Whereas Mr. Nowicki had at least earned the right to coast a little, having put in several years as an overworked associate, there is no disaster relief effort I can recall in my life in which the United Nations distinguished itself and to which it may legitimately claim responsibility for any success.

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