Monday, April 30, 2007

The Nugget, run by Fabian and based in San Francisco reported this item about the closing of the world’s oldest business. Please note, this is the oldest business, not the oldest profession; prostitution in all its many forms is still going strong (see below).

World's Oldest Business Closes Shop
A family business that was founded in 578 closed its doors last year without much fanfare. Kongo Gumi, a Japanese Buddhist temple construction company, was in continuous operation by the founder's descendants for 1,428 years! A key to success the family claims was to not always hand the reins of the business to the oldest son, instead they chose "the son who best exhibited the health, responsibility, and talent for the job. Furthermore, it wasn't always a son." The 38th Kongo to lead the company was grandmother of the 40th, and last, leader.

Despite the company's history, it was a set of ordinary circumstances that led to its demise. The company borrowed heavily to invest in real estate in the 1980s prior to the Japanese real estate collapse of 1992-1993. Through the 1990s revenue dropped, and by 2006 revenue dropped to the point where it could no longer service the debt. "To avoid a similar demise, evolve as business conditions require, but don't get carried away with temporary enthusiasms and sacrifice financial stability for what looks like an opportunity."

I actually found a list of the world's oldest businesses after reading this story. Now that Kongo Gumi is gone, the oldest business is Hoshi Ryokan, a family inn and spa near an underground hot spring in Japan. It is run by the 46th generation of family members and was founded in 718.

Do check out the list. Several of the businesses were founded in the year 1000 and before, and the history given of the founding of the Zildjian Cymbal Company--a newcomer at a mere 384 years old--is very interesting.

So, on to prostitution. To date, the scandals of the Bush administration have pretty much all been political or legal. That crowd makes a fetish out of never engaging in moral/sexual sins and probably a) wouldn't have the imagination to commit or, b) wouldn't know how properly to enjoy such transgressions. Until now.

Enter the one figure so far missing from Bozo's Washington DC: The Bimbo du Jour aka The Washington Madam. Deborah Jeane Palfrey (seen in a mug shot from a previous arrest) was arrested from a home of hers in San Diego for running a prostitution ring, and when her "little black book"--doubtless a highly annotated computer file--was examined by the police, it contained some very highly placed names. And there's more to come as Ms Palfrey has declared that she is in possession of 21 kilos of telephone records that will expose many thousands of clients. Her lawyer says that she has turned those over to ABC News already. She also recorded five hours of radio interviews that are the subject of several efforts to suppress, which she intends to sell to the highest bidder.

The sudden resignation of a State Department undersecretary last Friday was the first warning that this scandal would lead into the highest levels of the government. One of State's top advisors, he previously held a major job in the Bush administration overseeing AIDS relief, in which he promoted abstinence and a policy requiring grant recipients to swear they opposed prostitution. Randall Tobias, age 65 and a family man, admitted to engaging Palfrey women but claimed that their services were limited to massage. Continuing in this vein, Ms Palfrey declared that the arrest, seizure of her considerable financial assets, and negative publicity about her are all a red herring--that her business was about fantasy sex, not physical sex.

But it gets more interesting. The lady wasn't representing and promoting ordinary whores at her Washington DC business, Pamela Martin and Associates. Her ladies had to be pedigreed by at least two years in college and possess a variety of skills and talents. Among the approximately 130 women of all ages from early 20s to 55, were college professors and highly accomplished professional women.

Ms Palfrey did not represent male prostitutes to her Washington DC clients--the fallout from that would have been really something.

I'm always ambivalent about these sexual scandals. On the one hand, I think that we live in a far too prudish society and that we shouldn't encourage that prudishness by caring about whom are political figures sleep with.

On the other hand, Republicans frequently try to make political hay from their supposedly superior morals, and they very much deserve to be called out for their hypocrisy.

People from all parts of the political spectrum have sexual interests that they don't want anyone to know about. I reckon that if we can't get people to agree that everyone's sex life is irrelevant, then we should at least make sure that scrutiny falls on the right as well as on the left.
Teddy, I very much agree that people's personal sexual preferences and practices should be completely irrelevant to the political process with the exception of pedophilia and rape, for example. I almost wrote "as long as laws aren't broken' but, of course, that means gay men, lesbians and consenting heterosexual adults who engage in anal intercourse could be hounded out of office.

I get the sense that we're laughed at in Europe a lot for our prudery and hypocracy about sex but we're still a lot more liberal than large parts of Africa and Asia. I'm all for some further liberalizing, particularly as regards our legal code.

The Democrats have had their share of sexual scandals, but they at least have the common decency not to trumpet their moral superiority while doing exactly the same things we're doing. If it were just that Republicans and the religious right get caught with their pants down with some frequency, I could find it humanizing. When combined with their judgmental stance on my life, I have nothing but contempt.
Interesting tidbit about the oldest business. Who would've thought
it is always educationing to read your entries!
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