I once had a consulting gig for a hedge fund on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. I think that was called Pig Island or some such before some developer bought it all up and made it damn near the most desirable property on the entire planet.
When I was in The Special Motel I was shown a DVD of the remake of James Bond's Casion Royal. There's a scene where Bond pretends to be a car-parking guy at a Bahamian country club, then instead of parking the guy's car, Bond drives it into the parking lot and slams it head-on into some other car. Not long after that he gets to pork some married chick who he meets in the beach there.
I'm not one hundred percent certain, but the beach-side resort where Bond pulled those two little stunts sure looks a lot like the place where the wealthies man I have ever met or am ever likely to meet took me out to lunch during my job interview. I tried the Conch Fritters at their recommendation, but there is not much actual Conch in them. But Conch Salad roadise stands are all over the place. It's very cheap, has lots of Conch, and is totally to die for.
Despite the fact that this guy had more money than God, he put me up in the cheapest hotel he could find. Perhaps that's the very reason he has more money than God while I don't.
I was very puzzled that among the cable selections on the TV there in my hotel room was NTV, which is a Newfoundland television network. It was pretty cool to get the news from back home, and to see all the sights of Newfoundland, but I had to figure that the cable company offered NTV in The Bahamas because it was available at firesale prices.
However, one benefit of this fleabag motel I was staying at was that it happened to be owned by the same company that owned Atlantis. That place has to be the biggest damn hotel on the whole Planet of the Earth. I was told when I checked in that while my accomodations were quite low-budget, I could avail myself of all the recreational facilities at Atlantis as if I were a guest there.
One day I was wandering around after getting off work when I came across a small cove where Atlantis guests moored their yachts when they were in town for some casino action or maybe a bowl of Conch Salad from their favorite roadside stand.
Look man, these yachts put those that tool around Penobscot Bay completely to shame. Some of them were damn near as big as coast guard cutters, and must have had crews of dozens of people, not just to operate the yachts but to serve drinks and fancy Horse Doovers to bazillionaires and all the h07 ch1x0rs he was banging on the way down from T3h H4m70n5 to Paradise Island.
The guy offered me a permanent job for his company. One of the benefits would have been that I could participate in his hedge fund, which I have always described as "A License to Print Money".
He had software that could more or less accurately predict the futures market. You're NOT supposed to be able to do that; day traders always think they can "time the market", so that they can always buy low and sell high, but somehow day trading never works out any better than a gambling addiction. Those who don't have significant expertise in finance are always advised to diversify their investment to average out the risk, then to hold on to their assets forever, only selling them when they retire.
Not this guy. By the time I consulted for him, what I euphemistically refer to as a "futures trading decision support system" would execute tens of thousands of trades per day in a completely automated fashion. He had a very high-speed Internet connection that I think was short-range microwave from across the channel, with incoming day being the latest trade figures, and outgoing data being buy and sell orders.
His software was the biggest single executable I have ever seen in my entire life, let alone actually contributed to. I've worked on the Classic Mac operating system, but it had many, many different software packages in it. This behemoth was just one single Windows 2000 .exe with more DLLs than I could even count.
As a result of my work for him, which a year after my contribution went live still had not one reported bug, his license to print money was able to print money twice as fast.
However, I'm pretty sure he did not predict the economic meltdown. I have a good friend who worked for this guy at a little shop he ran in downtown Vienna long before he got into investment. I asked my friend how my client was doing during the downturn. Even though they are now the best of friends, he replied that he had not heard from him in a long time. My client was ordinarily a quite sociable guy; I expect he was devoting his energy to putting out fires.
Bonita wanted to visit The Bahamas more than life itself. The client offered to pay Bonita's way during my job interview, but I would have to front the airfare then get reimbursed upon my arrival. We were both quite crushed that it was everything we could do to fly me there. I damn near didn't have the cab fare to get to my hotel.
During my interview the guy asked me how much my air fare from Maine had been. I said it was about five hundred dollars. Then pulled five one hundred dollars out of his wallet and handed them to me. He didn't ask for a receipt or my used plane ticket or anything. I'm pretty sure this guy was just like Bill Gates: if either of them dropped five hundred dollars on the ground, it wouldn't be worth their while to pick it up. They could earn more doing something else.
As for why I turned down their perm job offer, and insisted on doing all but a small portion of my work off-site, from our home in Owl's Head.
This guy was in The Bahamas because there are no taxes there. Investors in the US have to pay Capital Gains Tax. The Republicans all whine about it, but they do pay it and the stock and futures markets more or less do just fine.
But this guy was too cheap to hire programmers for any decent wage; he only hired me because he had been completely unable to even propose how to architect what I actually implemented, and implemented quite well. All but one of his coders were brought in from countries where coders earn less than half of what those in the US do. I got no end of crap for the money I was asking, even though I earned a lot less working for him than for a lot of my other work.
But the Bahamian government has to raise money somehow. Just about the only industry in The Bahamas is tourism. The soil is very poor so there is no real agriculture. There could be commercial fishing but other than feeding Conch to tourists there really isn't.
The two things they do to raise money is that absolutely anyone can get a work permit to live and work in The Bahamas for ten thousand dollars. I never learned whether that was an annual or one-time fee.
This fact damn near got me deported when I refuse to lie to an immigration official at the airport, when I said I'd come there for a business meeting. He asked if I'd been "set up," that is, whether my client had forked over ten grand so the government might be able to pave a road or two. I said I had not been, as I worked in the US. I was just there to meet with a client. There was damn near smoke coming out of this guy's ears as he was trying to figure out whether my client owed the "set up" fee or not. In the end he stamped "Take No Paying Work" or some such into my passport, then wrote an expiration date of two weeks.
When my client wanted me to overstay my visa, I flatly refused. I enjoyed the work and the people, but I was missing Bonita something awful and regarded The Bahamas as a total Hellhole.
Places like Paradise Island are totally luxurious, but one could walk over a short bridge over the channel to find the locals living in abject poverty. This because the other way that the government raised money is that they had a 50% import duty. Because nothing of any substance was manufactured in The Bahamas, you had to important it from the US, then fork over half its retail price to a government that was barely able to keep its roads paved.
I found the divide between rich and poor there absolutely appalling, and wanted no part of it. Neither my client nor any of his employees seemed to even notice what could not possibly escape my attention. To the extent they even acknowledged the people who really grew up in The Bahamas, they were servants, and not very good ones, because I never heard any end of their complaints about the locals being lazy and having no work ethic.
Mike Crawford for Clark County Commissioner
District 1 North County
Paid for by The Communard Party of Washington State