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"Kevin. Mac Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 5 Jan 2006 10:31:04 -0600
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Just when we thought it was safe to sneak a glance at a posting in this
Forum we get yet another Vaudeville song & dance routine from Mr. Slotta,
who violated the rules of this forum by choosing not to disclose his
substantial financial commercial interest in his posting about two items
being offered at auction. Whether his motivations were merely unethical or
criminal only
Mr. Slotta knows. Sometimes the best defense is not a strong offense. When
caught with pants down around the ankles, most Vaudevillians slinked off
stage, or a merciful hook appeared from a curtain, but Mr. Slotta keeps up a
furious tap-dance --not a pretty picture-- and the kind of "chaser"
performance that threatens to empty the house. I'm no more interested in his
diversions and his excuses for non-disclosure than I am in essays on the
same topic by Ken Lay, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Jeff Skilling, Bob
Woodward, et al. And I'm equally certain that subscribers to this Forum are
not waiting anxiously for a pontifical lecture on business ethics from me.
And oh how I am haunted --yes, haunted I say, by the thought of Wes Britton
cringing in some cold corner.

Mr. Slotta's non-disclosure was no trivial oversight of little or no
consequence. The potential profit was quite large. At the time he acquired
one of the items in question, he held himself out to be an expert and
offered the owner $5,000 for it, and the owner, clearly not an expert and
not pretending to be one, accepted his offer. Mr. Slotta bragged to me at
the time about his stealthy intervention and victory over Nick Karanovich,
who was negotiating its purchase at the time, and whom Mr. Slotta memorably
disparaged.  He later tried to sell the item on ebay with a starting bid of
more than $100,000, and after it garnered no bids, again tried to sell it on
ebay, with a lower starting bid, and it again failed to attract any bids. He
then consigned it to Sotheby's and it carried a rather "optimistic" estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000, and it finally fetched just $30,000 (plus a 20%
buyer's premium). This was no trivial non-disclosure, and postings about
violations of the rules of a listserv, while surely tedious, are not

On a Twain-related note (which we need more of...), we should all note the
passing on Dec 20, of the grandson of Twain's close friend William Dean
Howells, retired Harvard Professor William White Howells, at age 97. He was
a delightful fellow to talk with, and as he spoke and gestured, it was easy
to see his grandfather's reflection --the face, the voice, the gestures,
even his posture. W W Howells was an anthropologist and was well-known for
his study in the 1960s of the measurements of human skulls from all over the
world, providing the first solid evidence that all mankind was one species
(the measurements within a group varied more than the measurements between
groups). Such a study may sound silly now, but this was before DNA could be
compared, and race was being widely and hotly debated. He was a humanist
like his grandfather and his grandfather's good friend, and those of us
lucky enough to have known him lament his passing. The books and papers of W
D Howells are (with a few exceptions) at Harvard, including most of the
letters from Twain to WDH.

Kevin Mac Donnell
Austin TX