culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Throwing a drowning man a yacht. Why do we even bother prosecuting things like cannabis possession when criminal behavior like
this is rewarded at the most lavish levels of luxury and unaccountability?
Habayeb, 37, was chief financial officer for the AIG division that oversaw AIG Financial Products, the unit that had sold the swaps to the banks. One of his goals was to persuade the banks to accept discounts of as much as 40 cents on the dollar, according to people familiar with the matter. [...]

After less than a week of private negotiations with the banks, the New York Fed instructed AIG to pay them par, or 100 cents on the dollar. The content of its deliberations has never been made public. [...]

The New York Fed’s decision to pay the banks in full cost AIG -- and thus American taxpayers -- at least $13 billion. [...]

The deal contributed to the more than $14 billion that over 18 months was handed to Goldman Sachs, whose former chairman, Stephen Friedman, was chairman of the board of directors of the New York Fed when the decision was made. Friedman, 71, resigned in May, days after it was disclosed by the Wall Street Journal that he had bought more than 50,000 shares of Goldman Sachs stock following the takeover of AIG. He declined to comment for this article.
Goldman Sachs is the most prominent of several multibillion dollar siphons suckling the US Treasury.

At the time the New York Fed was run by a genius called Tim Geithner, who has since become Obama's Treasury Secretary.

Unless we investigate and prosecute, we are also guilty.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The anonymous blogger responds to Leo Wells. Thousands of people have arrived at this site through Google to find impartial information about Wells Real Estate Funds, Wells REITs, and so on. Apparently Leo Wells & Co. are somewhat threatened by my observations because they have posted a special dedicated page, the
Leo Wells Pathetic Defense Page, to respond to what appeared on this blog.

Their statement:
Q. On the Internet, I read Mr. Wells described as some sort of “huckster” who steals money from widows. What’s that about?

A. It’s absurd. An anonymous blogger has focused on one investor out of more than 200,000. While we will not comment on any specific investor, the fund in question was a mid-1980s Wells limited partnership – and a particular class of partnership units. (For the record, that Wells fund exists today; unlike many of its contemporaries, it survived changes in tax law and the real estate downturn of the mid-‘80s. It is nearing the end of its life cycle, and will be returning proceeds to investors.)
My response: It's not absurd. That widow took the time to write a long letter to me — I did not solicit her story — and quite obviously from their response it's clear they never paid her back. So nothing new there... they took her money and are trying to dismiss it as a "mid-1980s" thing, because taking money from widows was obviously standard operating procedure way back then.

Their statement:
Q. That same blog says Leo Wells “has never fully repaid investors in any of his funds over the last 20 years.” True?

A. This is simply not true. Most Wells funds, including Wells’ flagship REITs, are designed as long-term income investments to be held for a number of years, and are not traded on the stock market. But our REITs have clearly stated redemption procedures, and more than 10,000 investors have asked for – and received – redemption of their shares. Additionally, last year Wells REIT sold more than $700 million in properties from its portfolio and returned the proceeds to REIT investors.
My response: "That same blog" was not the origin of this claim. The quotation “has never fully repaid investors in any of his funds over the last 20 years" is not from me, but is from the Wall Street Journal of August 5, 2004, as I document here. Falsely attributing these words to me, instead of to the most respected business newspaper who actually said it, is just plain lying. The full quotation from the Wall Street Journal is as follows: "In fact, Mr. Wells has never fully repaid investors in any of his funds over the last 20 years." Note, once again, that I did not say this — the Journal did.

The remainder of the Leo Wells Pathetic Defense Page is about how his Christianity is so great. But I vaguely remember something called the Ten Commandments, which includes the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." I notice God did not asterisk the commandment to disclose in the fine print that it would be okay if the theft involved a "mid-1980s Wells limited partnership – and a particular class of partnership units."

Sorry for having to state the obvious, but if the WSJ and Forbes have identified Mr. Wells's empire as questionable, far be it from me to argue with them. Further reading here.

Literally nothing on the Leo Wells Pathetic Defense Page is new. (And I haven't even mentioned the regulatory sanctions — how's that for self-control?) The Wells real estate empire is based on a flimsy facade of fake Christianity. It is an illiquid, overpriced investment of dubious quality and suspicious management. When the Wall Street Journal says, "In fact, Mr. Wells has never fully repaid investors in any of his funds over the last 20 years," investors would be well-advised to stay the hell away.

Hey, Bob Byrd! PR guy for Leo Wells! You're the one who wrote the Leo Wells Pathetic Defense Page — it says so in the page source &mdash can't you do any better?
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
How stupid is your financial advisor? Putting aside for the moment the difficulty of spotting the deliberate criminal activities of a Bernie Madoff, how can you know if the guy at the bank or the brokerage or the insurance company taking your IRA money has a brain in his head? How can you know if the financial advisor for your 401(k) plan, lecturing you from a script on the wisdom of asset allocation, has advice worth taking? To put it bluntly, how can you know if your financial advisor is a dolt? It can be tough because most financial advisors are fairly upright people on the outside: sincere, clean, and honest. But what lurks in that skull? A recent survey indicates that the majority of financial advisors, besides being superficially presentable, are also pretty stupid (
President Obama reached his much-ballyhooed 100-day milestone last week, but most financial advisers were in no mood to celebrate.

An exclusive InvestmentNews online survey conducted last week found that a hefty 63.9% of advisers did not approve of his overall performance as president. Only 36.1 % of the 1,010 advisers who responded to the survey thought he was doing a good job.

Worse yet, 68.5% said they had either “not too much” or “no” confidence in his ability to fix the ailing economy, while only 31.2% had a “fair” or a “great deal” of faith in his capabilities on that front.
If you think your financial advisor in one of those who have "not too much" or "no" confidence in Obama's ability to fix the economy, ask him if he believes in "correlation." Specifically, ask him (and more than 90 percent of them is a "him") if he believes there is a correlation between a Democratic president and a healthy stock market and a Republican president and a lackluster stock market. Ask him who was better for the economy — Clinton or Bush Junior.

Insist that he explain this chart, showing that $10,000 invested exclusively under the Democratic presidents of the last 80 years — who covered half that span — would have grown to more than $300,000. By contrast, $10,000 invested in the nearly 40 years of Republican presidencies since 1929 would have grown to a measly $11,733. Print a couple of copies and bring them to his office. Show him that the average annual rise in the S&P 500 under all Democratic presidents of the last eight years was 8.9 percent. The average annual rise rise under Republicans during the same period was 0.4 percent.

If you are unhappy with your financial advisor's rationale for why this is so, or if your financial advisor is unaware of these facts, or if your financial advisor questions the factual nature of this, your next step is simple. FIRE HIM.

This has nothing at all to do with political litmus tests. People who work in financial services seem to self-identify as disproportionately Republican, but to be effective any financial advisor worth his salt should exist exclusively in the reality-based community. The InvestmentNews survey shows that nearly two-thirds of financial advisors choose not to live in reality. Their advice is based on hearsay, belief, and hunches — not the kind of people you want anywhere near your money.
Monday, March 30, 2009
It's ten years later.

November 5, 1999: ''The world changes, and we have to change with it,'' said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. ''We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.'' [...]

''I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010,'' said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ''I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.''

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had ''seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes.''

''Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,'' Mr. Wellstone said. ''Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.''

Link via The Sideshow.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Just askin'. "Who were these people who wrecked AIG and other companies? How did it come about? And was the nature of their actions such that they should be
permanently barred from the securities and banking industries?"

And while we're clawing back AIG bonuses, why not a counterparty clawback for all the bailout banks? Why should Goldman Sachs bear none of the burden?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Pulitzer for Gretchen too. While we're giving out nominations for Pulitzer Prizes, let's give one to
Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times for her revelation of the identity of the puppetmaster Goldman Sachs behind the bailout puppets:
Decisions made during the final months of the Bush administration created an environment in which the most politically connected investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, not only flourished, but saw their competitors laid waste, with firms like Lehman in bankruptcy, and others, like Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, forced to merge in desperate hope of surviving. [...]

The roots of the linkage between Goldman Sachs and AIG go back to the closing months of the Bush administration, as the financial meltdown reached crisis proportions and key decisions were made that are now reaping the whirlwind. Remember who played a key role in deciding to bail out AIG? Henry Paulson, the Goldman CEO-turned George W. Bush Treasury Secretary. Paulson, according to a September 27, 2008 New York Times piece by Gretchen Morgenson, led a team of regulators and bankers in early September to determine what to do with the most severely wounded financial institutions. One of the participants in those meetings was Lloyd C. Blankfein, Paulson's successor at Goldman Sachs.

Out of those meetings came the controversial and heavily criticized decision to allow Lehman Brothers, a Goldman competitor, to go belly up, and to bail out AIG. Starting with $85 billion from the Fed, taxpayers have pumped a total of $170 billion into the giant insurance company. The bailout was crucial to Goldman in that it permitted AIG to pay off its $12.6 billion debt to the firm, $8.1 billion of which was to cover AIG-backed credit derivatives.
The key words above: "during the final months of the Bush administration."

During the final month of the Clinton adminstration, the USS Cole was attacked by Al Qaeda — an event that is still actively criticized as evidence of Democrats' "softness" on terrorism.

During the final months of the Bush administration, Hank Paulson demanded and received $700 billion to save his corporate legacy. The difference between the terrorists during the two administrations is that the terrorists during the Clinton era live in caves in central Asia, while the terrorists during the Bush era were in Bush's cabinet, running the Treasury Department.

GOP soft on terrorists? No way — they are the terrorists, financially speaking. Heckuva job, Hank!
Friday, March 13, 2009
"It's not a fucking game." Skimble hereby nominates Jon Stewart for a Pulitzer Prize:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The future of human beings. These observations about the global economy and how to make it work were written not years or decades ago, but yesterday...
We have grown and enjoyed economic stability. Our growth has been accompanied by the inclusion of tens of millions of people in the consumer market. We have distributed wealth to more than 40m who lived below the poverty line. We have ensured that the national minimum wage has risen always above the rate of inflation. We have democratised access to credit. We have created more than 10m jobs. We have pushed forward with land reform. The expansion of our domestic market has not happened at the expense of exports – they have tripled in six years. We have attracted enormous volumes of foreign investment with no loss of sovereignty.

All this has enabled us to accumulate $207bn in foreign reserves and thereby protect ourselves from the worst effects of a financial crisis that, born at the centre of capitalism, threatens the entire structure of the global economy.
It was written by
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil, who through his policies may be alone among developed nations in avoiding the global recession.
Friday, March 06, 2009
The complete and utter failure of financial journalism. Jon Stewart's takedown of CNBC was so much more than a takedown of Rick Santelli's highly suspicious
tantrum. It was a general criticism of the complete and utter failure of financial journalism in the US — the groupthink of "reporters" embedded in the machinery and chicanery they are supposed to be investigating.

CNBC and the Wall Street Journal are both notorious for presenting opinions that are clearly disconnected from any of the quantitative, reality-based information they manage to report. The Journal's opinion page, always a hotbed of right-wing talking points and ludicrous extrapolations, consistently and systematically ignores whatever objective evidence is there to see on the front page.

Today's WSJ provides the cognitive-dissonance-du-jour. Pieces on the opinion page are hysterically headlined, "Obama's radicalism is killing the Dow," and "Obama repeats Bush's worst market mistakes," but the front page shows the real culprit: the job loss that will undermine the potential for any recovery. This job loss started well before Obama was even a front-runner, and yet the opinion page manages to paint him as some sort of über-villain who brought Wall Street to its dirty, dirty knees within six weeks.

If you have ever gone sledding or skiing, you know there's an inflection point on the hill where gravity will pull you down pretty fast. Look at the chart from today's Journal and tell me with a straight face that it's all Obama's fault. [Blue text is mine; everything else WSJ.]

Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Buying the bailout. While Obama is being blamed by mindless commenters and cable talking heads for the recent market turmoil and the halving of everyone's 401(k) accounts, it might be useful to take a look a bit further back to see where the blame really lies (
The financial services industry spent more than $5 billion on political contributions and lobbying from 1998 through 2008, according to a study released today.

The study, issued by Essential Information, a Washington-based non-profit that seeks to curb corporate influence, and the Los Angeles-based Consumer Education Foundation, a non-profit consumer organization, blames influence peddling for the financial crisis.

Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurers made $1.7 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, the study found.

Securities firms spent more than $504 million in campaign contributions and $576 million on lobbying over the period.

Spending by the major New York-based firms was:

The Goldman Sachs Group Inc.: $46 million

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.: $68 million

Citigroup Inc.: $108 million

JPMorgan Chase & Co.: $65 million

In addition, Bank of America Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., spent $39 million; the former Wachovia Corp. of Charlotte spent $15.9 million; and Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco spent $21.9 million.

Lawmakers and regulators “responded to the legal bribes from the financial sector” by rolling back standards, barring new rules to address “trashing enforcement efforts,” Robert Weissman, director of Essential Information and the lead author of the report, said in a statement.
Only $46 million in bribes from Goldman Sachs? Such a deal!

Hank Paulson's "By Monday I need $700 billion, no strings attached" ransom note last fall — before the election — seems literally a steal. Talk about leverage! A mere $46 million will buy you $700 billion in deleveraging magic, which you can use as a wand to wish away your catastrophic management of the global financial system. Killing Lehman and "saving" AIG was all part of Paulson's plan to secretly save Goldman, Lehman's rival and AIG's pivotal trading partner, which was facing disaster thanks to Paulson's own leadership as former CEO.

(By analogy, you could regard Cheney's whoops-no-WMD adventure in Iraq as a way of secretly saving no-bid Halliburton, which was likewise facing disaster thanks to his own leadership as former CEO. Apparently "public service" is the last resort of Republican CEOs who fuck their companies up so badly that they feel obliged to empty the US Treasury to compensate for their multitrillion dollar errors of judgment and outright chicanery.)

Investigate and prosecute!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Decapitating executive pay. The more we learn about how the global banking industry has been managed in the last decade, the more we realize that simply limiting executive compensation will not be enough to match the profundity of the crimes committed against working people and taxpayers.

We citizens should respond in more visceral terms, resulting in something like this for the CEOs and the risk managers and the boards of Citibank and Bear Stearns and AIG and Merrill Lynch and all the rest...

Image source.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Tax cuts make a lot of sense. The GOP's highly principled, widely celebrated and fetishistic tax cuts will stimulate the economy for four hundred people.

WSJ: "The nation's top 400 taxpayers made more than $263 million on average in 2006, as the stock market was rallying, but paid income taxes at the lowest rate in the 15 years that the Internal Revenue Service has tracked such data, according to figures released Thursday. [...] Of the 400 taxpayers, 31 paid taxes at average rates between 0% and 10%."

That's $263 million each.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Keeping score. This is one of the few chances we get to judge a pair of opposing-party, two-term presidents back to back. We limit our judgment to objective, quantitative, market-driven data.

If the sum total of Americans assets is a portfolio, the president is like a portfolio manager — so let's look at how well they performed, using the Dow Jones Industrial Average as a yardstick.


Clinton       3,255.99     10,587.59     + 325.2 percent

Bush 43       10,587.59     8,281.22     - 21.7 percent

To review: if you had invested $1000 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average stocks during Clinton's first inauguration, you would have had $3252 by Bush 43's first inauguration. The Clinton presidency gave you an average gain of 40.65 percent for each of his eight years in office.

If you had invested $1000 in the DJIA stocks during Bush 43's inauguration, you would have lost more than one out of every five dollars, leaving you with only $783 today. The Bush 43 presidency lost you an annual average of 2.72% for each of his eight years in office.

Similar results are obtainable with the S&P 500 index. The effect on the Nasdaq index is even more pronounced but we're ignoring it here because of the preponderance of 1990's Internet bubble stocks on that exchange.

Further observations along these lines are
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Fire sale on the USA. The net result of his administration makes the point quite clearly: whenever Bush talked about the "ownership society," he was ultimately referring to wealthy foreigners buying up the United States (
January 12, 2009

Foreign investors plan to spend significantly more money on U.S. real estate in 2009 than they did last year.

A study released today by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate showed that equity investors plan to boost real estate investment activity by 73% in the United States and 40% globally.

“Our investor members have expressed a growing confidence and interest in U.S. real estate,” James A. Fetgatter, chief executive of the Washington-based association, said in a statement. “Their investment plans for 2009 for the U.S. resemble the flight to quality that is creating the demand for U.S. Treasuries.”

The 17th annual study surveyed about 200 of the association’s members, who collectively hold $1 trillion worth of real estate.

Washington topped the list of cities in which foreign investors are most likely to park their cash this year. [...]

The study showed that half of investors’ favorite cities for investing in real estate this year are in the United States.

This differs from a year ago, when five of the top 10 cities were in Asia.

The top U.S. cities were Washington, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston.

Investors named apartments as their favorite property type. That was followed by office, industrial, retail and hotel properties.

Also, most investors said that they are having little trouble finding attractive U.S. real estate opportunities.
Heckuva job, Greenspan, Gramm, and Bushie!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Killing the watchdog. I have yet to see this reported anywhere, but an anonymous commenter named trademonster on an investment forum said
this (notice the dates):
01-09-06 06:49 AM
I've heard that SEC is going to shut down Madoff financial and all of their hedge funds for SEC violations. Can anyone confirm this?
And this:
01-14-06 02:52 PM
I actually got some update and found out that it's Spitzer's office doing the investigation not SEC. But I don't know what the scope of the investigation is.
Suddenly Spitzer's dalliances with a hooker don't seem quite as fundmentally important to the financial health of this country.

We need people who understand the system to police it. No matter how sanctimonious or egomaniacal you may find him, Spitzer understands the financial system. If these posts are true, somebody in power was more interested in the the details of Eliot Spitzer's transactions than Bernard L. Madoff's. They were obviously more interested in killing the watchdog than in catching the billionaire burglar.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Prostitution is at least an honest profession. I'll show you my balance sheet if you show me yours. No? Well, let's insure our multibillion crap-loan transaction just in case. Hundreds of times over.

Everyone agrees that the current financial crisis is a self-engineered affair, an circle jerk orgy of fantasy profits emanating from eight years of Wall Street masturbatory excess — unfettered and unregulated because the laws were sneaked through while no one was looking.* And yet here we sit as the brew for our own 21st century Great Depression simmers menacingly, affecting every single American and possibly billions more around the globe.

Maybe one of the reasons "nobody saw it coming" is because "nobody" was too busy fishing through the bank transactions of one of Wall Street's most insightful and powerful critics,
Eliot Spitzer.

*Phil Gramm's beloved deregulatory legislation passed in December 2000, the height of the Bush-Gore election controversy. Legislation permitting massive, unaccountable capital leverage for the biggest investment banks passed in August 2004, the height of the Swift Boating of John Kerry.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Fixing the unfixable. All the hot air about who Obama should or shouldn't appoint to his cabinet won't do a damn thing about bringing to justice the people responsible for

Click on each photographer's name if you want to be sick.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Party like it's 1997. I'm in the mood for a quick review of the Clinton years. Let's look at a few milestones in the S&P 500, with closings on the dates shown:

S&P Closing     Milestone date
500.97         March 24, 1995
600.07         November 17, 1995
700.66         October 11, 1996
802.77         February 12, 1997
904.03         July 2, 1997
1,001.27       February 2, 1998
1,105.65       March 24, 1998
1,202.84       December 21, 1998
1,307.26       March 15, 1999
1,403.28       July 9, 1999
1,500.64       March 22, 2000

909.92         October 9, 2008

We are back to 1997. Eleven years of American investment up in smoke.

Heckuva job, Bushie, Hank, Alan, Phil Gramm, John McCain, and the rest of the deregulating laissez-faire right.

Clinton dates, Bush's achievement today.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
More like this, please. Some guy spots former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld on a gym treadmill, walks right up to him, and
knocks him out cold.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Plutocrats win! From the shit-eating, high-five grins on these two men's faces, it seems clear that today's $700 billion bailout may end up being even a bigger legislative and strategic mistake for the taxpayers of this country than the Iraq war itself.

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Outrage fatigue. I have ceased to care about McStupid's Britney video and Obama's acting presidency. Or the New Yorker cover. Or Cindy McCain's 20 painkillers a day. Or the endless hand-wringing about the fucking narrative.

The 24/7 minutiae of yet another artificial campaign horserace cannot captivate me. The big story is this: The Democrats have failed to hold the existing administration accountable for its flagrant and abundant crimes against Americans and Iraqis and Afghanis and all humanity. History will not be kind to Nancy and Harry, thanks to their perfect ineffectuality. History will also judge the present crop of American citizens as unbearably privileged and hopelessly idiotic for sitting complacently watching CNN while the oily machinery behind this administration waltzed off with the contents of the US Treasury and whatever coin it found in the pockets of the American working class.

If McCain wins, it will be because Americans deserve him, just as we have deserved Bush Junior. If Obama wins, he will be a glorified janitor for the endless piles of shit the GOP left in its wake. Just as Bill Clinton was for Reagan and Bush Senior.

Our complacency will be our downfall, and I no longer care. Let Rush Limbaugh and ExxonMobil have America — it's becoming a crumbling shithole anyway.

And on that happy note, we end the blog.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Once again, the punchline is Texas.
Texas had some of the cheapest power rates in the country when it zapped most of the state's electric regulations six years ago, convinced that rollicking competition would drive prices even lower.

This summer, electricity there is some of the nation's priciest.

Power costs are rising in the rest of the U.S., but everything is bigger in Texas: On a hot day in May, wholesale prices rose briefly to more than $4 a kilowatt hour -- about 40 times the national average.
Remember the California electricity crisis? That was likewise engineered by the magic formula of deregulators plus Texans — the GOP plus Enron.

The criminal genius of Enron serves as the core business model for Bushian GOP. "When then-Gov. George W. Bush signed the state's deregulation bill in 1999, he assured that 'competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates and offering consumers more choices.' The law, which took effect in 2002, left few restrictions on what power generators could charge and what consumers could pay."

"Reducing monthly rates and offering consumers more choices." Ha ha ha ha ha. Texas reaps what it sows.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Emergency retirement plan: elder suicide. "Emergency retirement plan: revolver with 3 bullets... in case the first 2 don't work. Coming soon to an America near you." A prophetic comment by
Mike Hunt on an otherwise sober post called "Inflation and Its Impact on Retirement" by Rod Ferguson.

With just 20 percent of today's working Americans expected to be financially secure in retirement, we will almost certainly be considering socially sanctioned suicide among our options. In a deeply tragic way, it will be fascinating to see how elder suicide will become ritualized, dignified, and euphemized as our society collectively begins to understand the gravity of the lost Bush decade — investment returns of crucial importance that never materialized. As workers now deplete their Bush-stagnant 401(k) plans to pay for their financial Bush-hardships in gasoline and real estate, there will be even less savings for them to depend upon in the coming decade.

Those who would privatize Social Security, i.e., Republicans, are exactly the ones who cannot produce a viable economy with market returns that would justify such a radical rethinking of America's most successful social program.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
The pause that refreshes. I'm halfway through my monthlong break. How about you?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Healthcare Republican style. Here's a reason to vote for McCain: health insurance that doubles in cost while 15 million people lose coverage (
Some 25 million U.S. adults with health insurance in 2007 faced financial stress due to insufficient coverage, according to a study from The Commonwealth Fund.

The ranks of the underinsured have increased by 60% between 2003 — when the New York-based health research foundation performed its first analysis — and 2007.

The full results were published today in the Health Affairs journal.

Health care premiums have skyrocketed between 2000 and 2007, rising by 91% compared to only a 24% increase in wages.

Last year, 17.2 million individuals said that their out-of-pocket medical expenses were equal to at least 10% of their family annual income, compared to 8.9 million in 2003.

The study noted that adults with annual incomes below $20,000 were at the highest risk of being uninsured or underinsured,

But people in higher wealth brackets have also been affected: 22 million people with income between $40,000 and $99,999 said they had insufficient coverage, compared to 9 million in 2003.

Meanwhile, seven million people who make more than $100,000 said they were uninsured in 2007, up from one million in 2003.

Although individuals between ages 50 and 64 were most likely to be insured, fewer of them had sufficient coverage, as 65% were fully insured last year, down from 74% in 2003.
You can apply the same logic to gasoline prices, food prices, the US dollar, the trade deficit, energy deregulation, the US Attorney's office, Iraq, you name it — the Republicans touch it, and it gets ruined.

Honk if you love incompetence!
Friday, June 06, 2008
One out of 3 Marines is broke. Enlisted Marines are suffering financial problems that are serious enough to affect national security, not to mention their own financial security. From a letter by two directors of the Foundation for Financial Planning to
Investment Advisor Magazine:
...nearly 30% of all enlisted Marines, rank E-1 to E-4, have financial problems serious enough to affect security clearances. This is causing some security jobs to go unfilled, jeopardizing not only careers, but also the country’s security. Credit scores are part of the criteria used by the military to determine security clearances and over drafts, pay day lending loans, maxed out credit cards, late payments, are all leading to poor credit scores.
But it's okay that Marines are broke because, as Dick Cheney pointed out, they volunteered for this.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Like taking candy from a Christian. If Republicans have proven anything in the last several years it's this: When you want to steal on an epic scale, pretend you're religious. Here's another example (
Investment News):
A rep affiliated with LPL Financial allegedly stole $5 million from about two dozen people he knew from church and Little League.

The adviser, James J. Buchanan, has been charged with one count of fraud and 14 counts of theft, according to an indictment filed May 12 with the Maricopa (Ariz.) County Superior Court.

Each of those are felony counts.

Mr. Buchanan, who is being held in lieu of a $1 million cash bond, joined LPL of Boston in 2006.

Before that, he was affiliated with Ameriprise Financial Inc. of Minneapolis.

The alleged fraud and theft has been going on since 2001 through April, when he was fired by LPL, according to the indictment.

Maricopa County includes Phoenix and Scottsdale and the surrounding suburbs.

Investigators believe there are numerous victims and an unknown amount of damages.

Court documents paint a picture of Mr. Buchanan committing affinity fraud, a scam that preys upon members of an identifiable group, such as a religious community.

He posed as a certified financial planner, persuading many elderly clients to invest their life savings with him.

The alleged fraud began to unravel in March, when one victim reported to the Maricopa County sheriff that she had been defrauded of $200,000 after Mr. Buchanan pleaded with her to keep quiet, court documents show.

Most of the victims reported that they invested with money with Buchanan because he was revered as an honest Christian man,” said an addendum to the case filing.

“Buchanan was a board member with his church, and offered help to many people in his membership.”

Some of the investors’ money went into Mr. Buchanan’s personal bank account, the addendum said.

Mr. Buchanan also allegedly stole $1 million from his church, the Christ Life Church of Tempe, Ariz.

One victim was a retired police officer who Mr. Buchanan talked into taking early retirement based upon the returns he promised the officer would realize on his investment.
In the investment world we have observed smooth-talking Christian thieves before, notably Leo Wells of Wells Real Estate and Wells REIT. Showy Christians distract you with great displays of their high-toned morality for one purpose: to get their hands on your wallet.

If my financial advisor or banker made a big show of his Christianity, I would withdraw my funds immediately.
Friday, May 30, 2008
I wish I had a dollar for every GOP crime because then I would be even richer than
Igor Olenicoff:
Criminal court filings in California and Florida highlight the ways in which UBS -- and other banks -- worked with California real-estate developer Igor Olenicoff to establish shell companies used to avoid paying taxes.

For more than a decade, between 1992 and 2007, Mr. Olenicoff moved nearly $500 million between banks in London, the Bahamas, Switzerland and Liechtenstein using the names of at least six corporate entities, including ones named Sovereign Bancorp Ltd., National Depository Corp. Ltd. and Guardian Guarantee Co. Ltd. [...]

About a week later, in what appears to be one of the first transactions with UBS, Mr. Olenicoff instructed Barclays PLC to move $89 million to an account at UBS. More transfers took place in 2002, including the movement of $60 million to a Danish shell corporation with an account at a Liechtenstein bank that court documents don't identify.
Tax thief UBS is vice-chaired by Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) while he is also co-chairing John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Igor Olenicoff was a generous supporter of Mitt Romney and is #286 on the Forbes 400 list of rich folk, advertising the usual donations to orphanages to cover his larger crimes.

Republicans don't like paying taxes, but with Iraq they have proved they love wasting the taxes you pay.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Scott and Jeff sitting in a tree. Who did conscience-stricken Scott McClellan always turn to when he needed a softball? The GOP shill and loyal escort,
Jeff Gannon (2/10/05).
Q Jeff Gannon. How did he get a White House pass, or what kind of credentials did he have?

MR. McCLELLAN: Just like anyone else who comes to the White House.

Q Hard pass?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he had never applied for a hard pass. He had a daily pass. I think he's been coming for --

Q Was he coming for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. I think he's been coming for more than two years now.

Q Under what name?


Q Under what name?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have to get cleared. You have to -- just like anybody else that comes to the White House, you have to have your full name, your Social Security number and your birth date. So you have to be cleared just like anybody else.

Q So he was being cleared under James Guckert, or whatever his name is?

MR. McCLELLAN: My understanding, yes.

Q Okay, and how did he get picked to get a question asked at the last news conference?

MR. McCLELLAN: He didn't. The President didn't have a list. The President didn't -- he was in the briefing room. There are assigned seats in the briefing room. We didn't do any assigning of seats, and the President worked his way through the rows, and called on people as he came to them. He doesn't know who he is.

Q Were you aware that he had another name?

MR. McCLELLAN: Was I aware? I had heard that. I had heard that, yes, recently.

Q But did you know during all this time that he really wasn't Jeff Gannon?

MR. McCLELLAN: I heard at some point, yes -- previously.
Nine months earlier (5/10/04):

Jeff Gannon: In your denunciations of the Abu Ghraib photos, you've used words like "sickening," "disgusting" and "reprehensible." Will you have any adjectives left to adequately describe the pictures from Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers? And will Americans ever see those images?

Scott McClellan: I'm glad you brought that up, Jeff, because the President talks about that often.
Energy conservation, Texas-style. Everywhere else in the USA, people are driving less, taking public transit more, screwing in those CFLs, and generally keeping a tighter lid on their energy usage.
Not in Houston:
How air-conditioned is Houston? Consider this: While highs are in the 90s outdoors, chilled workers smuggle space heaters into their offices.

"They're everywhere," says Heat Throat, my informant. A free-lance paralegal, she works with several downtown law firms. Often she brings a space heater and hides it under her desk — just like most of the office's other female workers. [...]

One time, a big firm's managing partner asked to borrow her space heater to warm his own office. "I hated to let it go," she says. "But he's a managing partner, so what can you say?"

"I'm amazed by the number of people who come in looking for heaters in summer," says Pauline Berry, who works at Southland Hardware on Westheimer.
Wait until Texans find out there have been major discoveries up north where the human brain apparently still functions. Thermostats and, when they fail, cardigans.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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