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Michael Hiltzik: Sex and the SEC

April 27, 2010 |  6:12 pm

Public furors involving sexual mores occur in this country so regularly that you can almost set your watch by them. If it's been, say, six years since the last one, you can be sure the time is ripe for a new one.

Sure enough, Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" occurred in 2004. It must be time for another helping of public outrage. Bring on the SEC's pornography brigade.

As my Wednesday column observes, America has an obsession with pornography -- not necessarily with the viewing of dirty images, but with the idea that someone might be viewing dirty images. Is this anything more than cheap sanctimony? Over the years we've seen Ken Starr address President Clinton's private sexual activities by making them public in, well, pornographic detail; and a succession of presidential commissions devoted to proving that pornography leads to psychological problems in the viewer. 

And now the SEC case, in which the personal habits of a couple of dozen government employees are blamed for an elemental breakdown of the financial system the roots of which, truth be told, lie entirely in the actions of Congress.

The column begins below.

As I write, our nation is still buzzing about the news flash that finally delivered the truth about why our economy melted down without word one from our crack government regulators.

You know what I’m talking about. Yes, it’s the great SEC porn scandal.

Last week, a new memo surfaced from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s inspector general stating it had investigated dozens of agency staffers, including supervisors, for surfing the Web for dirty pictures with their government computers and during work hours. The investigations dated back at least to 2008 and targeted some employees with truly heroic habits — one accountant allegedly made 16,000 attempts in a month to access blocked websites from his SEC computer.

Priceless story. “Adults” in Congress and the news business wasted no time connecting the dots. You see, 2008 was when the financial meltdown started. So while the economy burned, these guys fiddled.

Guardians of public morality, tee it up.

Read the whole column.

-- Michael Hiltzik