Times are Tough All Over

The world never lacks for bad acting.

The new Forbes roundup of world billionaires is out, and the interns had an easier time of it this round: Just 793 filthy-rich folks to track, compared to 1,125 a year ago.

If you’re looking for poetic justice, you may enjoy the fact that former AIG head and Big Shitpile Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg lost about 95 percent of his $1.9 billion fortune. If you prefer spit-takes, that still leaves him with $100 million.

All told, there was less lucre to loot — $2.4 trillion among the billionaire survivors, down $2 trillion from last year’s feast of the damned.

But there are signs of resiliance in today’s challenging economy. One of the new members of the billionaire’s club is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, an industrialist from Mexico. His industry? Cocaine.

The World’s Billionaires [Forbes]

DEVELOPING HARD: Per radio (yes it still exists), Shoethrower gets three years.

Guy vents anger at idiot? Three years. Bernie Madoff, counting time off for dying in prison, may serve 20 years. Maybe. Yeah, that’s just about right.

A 100 mil is nothing to sneeze at if you’re just a regular Joe (non plumber) but the truth is that it is a problem when you’ve lived a billionaire lifestyle.

“Millionaire wallet, Billionaire tastes” is a hard thing to shake.

Considering that he has four kids and probably a lot of upset heirs (and assuming he has no mistresses and bastards on the side) who just watched their presumed trust funds go down in flames.


Also, I suspect his mental health is taking a beating right now. Some folks think that Ken Lay got off lucky by dying. I don’t think so. From what I read about him was that he was a broken shell of a man.

Old Hank knows that his legacy isn’t AIG, but the fact that he helped destroy the world he helped “create” and that his family reputation will be tarnished with it. From what little I’ve read about the guy, it seems to me that legacy and reputation are really important to him. With that kind of emotional trauma, even a 100 Billion isn’t enough to heal it.

@chicago bureau:
The rich and powerful are different than you, I and an enraged shoe thrower.


In the words of Justin Timberlake: cry me a river.

Fuck all those thieving motherfucker in every hole they have with a rusty chainsaw!

Oh, I’m not sympathetic to Hank’s plight one bit and I agree. Just telling it the way I see it.

@ManchuCandidate: Fuck Hank Greenberg, and fuck his family. AIG made ridiculous bets on shit they didn’t even own. They ignored the fact that the whole thing would eventually collapse and made obscene amounts of money. In a just world Greenberg would wind up on one of those “Ready, Willing, and Able” squads, forced to scrape gum off the sidewalk in front of AIG headquarters.

In a just world, Greenberg would be working as an organ grinder monkey dancing for bananas and bubble gum scrapings.

Note: I don’t have one iota of sympathy for the guy or his family, but the point is that this is my simpleton’s analysis of what Hank’s situation is and it’s not good at all.

Imagine having $100 Mill and realizing it’s worth a pile of ashes. Hank G is in a a glided cage of his own making.

I think the appropriate punishment for Madoff is the stocks, in whatever is the most conspicuous spot on Wall Street. He should be in them all the hours the stock exchange is open and returned to a jail cell after hours. Something similar should be devised for all the cynical, greedy traders and deregulators who have brought down the world financial system.

If everybody’s broke, who’s buying coke?

Did not mean for that to rhyme.

It has all the makings of Shakesperean tragedy… except it doesn’t.

The good news, of course, is that my Bugatti Veyron will probably be delivered early if some of these guys cancel their orders.

Serolf Divad: What, you mean this Bugatti Veyron?

Wise man, plunking down $1.3m for a car that doesn’t have satellite radio and a lithe woman in the backseat giving you a shoulder massage. Congratulations — we have a wiener!

bye bye bernie. judge cuts ira off at the knees, and interrupts him to say he intends to remand him, please shut the fuck up. applause from the crowd is gaveled quiet. so what? they’ll never find the money. usamerica does NOT have reciprocal agreements with the caribbean or swiss banks for sharing financial information. i’d like to see them go after his wife, who had to know what he was doing and certainly has the account numbers to pay some of the stolen money back. there is no justice seeing bernie in jail. justice will be finding the money. good luck on that.

Certain parties, cough Russian Mob cough will more than likely go after the wife and the rest of the Madoff clan.

Bernie will be safe in jail.

@ManchuCandidate: No way, Homes. They gonna shank his ass in the joint, ese.

@baked: And the judge told Bernie to “speak up” during his allocution. ha ha ha.

You’re probably right.

Did you know, Bernie wears a bulletproof vest?

SanFranLefty: Trouble is that Bernie was reading this really awesome book last night before he went to sleep in his penthouse. He was planning to come back to said pad and finish it tonight. Like, oops, dude.

@lynnlightfoot: From a certain perspective, we all should be thanking these assholes and throwing parties for them for bringing down the world financial system. It really was/is an inherently corrupt and rapacious system for organizing our economies.

From a certain perspective, we should be tossing rotten fruit at the thoroughly dishonest politicians who are shoveling mountains of imaginary money into the bottomless maw of the world financial system in a desperate and vain attempt to preserve it, instead of taking this golden opportunity to reset everyone’s expectations and create a slightly more sustainable system for raping the earth and distributing the profits.

@Pedonator: You’re right, of course, except that it’s clear that the current suffering is as usual being mainly borne by the already disadvantaged and that it is unlikely that the system that will arise from the ashes won’t closely resemble its unholy parent.

I hope I’m wrong about that last part.

@lynnlightfoot: Thank you, but I don’t want to be right, I want to be vindicated. You are entirely correct that the system rising like a Phoenix will inhabit its own corpse, precluding any rational discussion of limits, carrying capacity, etc. For a history fetishist it couldn’t be better times: we have the fortune of being witness/participants in the nascent Zombie Era.

A few months ago I had some Hope™ that the latest capitalist clusterfuck would teach the grazing masses that the Oligarchs Have No Clothes. But now, meh, not so much. Seems we just want to get back to more jobs! and growth! and Happy Motoring! and in the end, I’m totally sure that’s going to play out peachy keen.

@lynnlightfoot: @Pedonator:
International Corporate Capitalism is the enemy.
Recent progress in South America shows that there is a new way to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people that does not involve International Corporate Capitalism.
I hope the fires of freedom ignited in South America spread.

Perhaps a basic problem with US American society is a substitution of quantity for quality?

I listened to an NPR homage to economic growth this morning on the way to work. They brought out experts who told us that an alarming increase in the savings rate of US Americans bodes catastrophe for the Global Economic Prospect. Because saving doesn’t encourage growth, which, we all know, is the be-all and end-all of human potential on planet Earth. We’re not, apparently, being good obedient Consumers just when The Economy needs us.

WTF is this Economy? Is it an abstract idea that we must worship in place of our failing faith in some bearded-guy-in-the-sky? Am I supposed to spend money I don’t have, to please The Economy? Can I pray to it for salvation? Slaughter domesticated animals to appease it? What rewards might The Economy grant me in return?

Will I suddenly find favor with my neighbors? Collaborate with them on a community garden which might feed us in times of hardship? Convince them to replace their tungsten lightbulbs with compact fluorescents? Argue successfully for a curb on carbon and for water rationing in our desert state of Southern California? Convince the other members of my HOA that cheap resources are not coming back and they’d better stop running the lights 24/7 because it makes them feel “safer”?

Ha ha, I knew that wasn’t the answer!

@Pedonator: The US national psyche is capable of very wide shifts, even without violent confrontation. In our lifetimes it has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is now swinging back. Just because Madoff wasn’t drawn and quartered does not mean that the general public perception hasn’t shifted, and the idea of unfettered capitalism as always “good” and government as always “bad” has been abandoned completely by all rational people in this country (its a minority, but still, its good).

Be patient, we should be so glad, that our society can do this, change, in response to changing circumstances, without having to go through violent revolution or painful disruption. It takes longer, but then again, to a benthamist, mere stability is a high goal for government.

@Promnight: I would argue that we have not changed at all and that the general public perception has not shifted in any meaningful manner. I’m still vaguely glad that Hopey won over Mopey but it hasn’t fundamentally expanded the parameters of permissible debate.

From my perspective, the US national psyche is capable of very narrow shifts, ready to embrace whatever warlord or mob king is willing to tell them, “Hey, everything is going to be better now that I’m in charge“.

@Pedonator: It’s because humans still continue to breed like rats and so we need GROWTH! EXPLOSIVE GROWTH! to keep up with all the Snowflakes from Jeebus and Octomom and NFL player with 11 kids and the millions of angst-ridden unemployed young men in Asia, Middle East, Africa, and fly-over areas of the U.S. The only way to put all these excess humans/gifts from GAWD is to wage war or make more plastic shit to manufacture, market, and sell.

The next person who tells me I’m “selfish” for not breeding will have their head bitten off, BTW. And yes I’m off the age where a wide array of people feel it’s appropriate to comment on my reproductive choices.

@Pedonator: I had an econ prof in the 70s who said that it wasn’t communism, but fascism that was a threat to America. You were right, Dr Johnson, you were right.

@SanFranLefty: If you can bite the head off every human who deems you unworthy for refusing to spawn you will save humanity that many more 2.4 mouths to feed and win my undying devotion. Sharpen your fangs, SFL!

@Mistress Cynica: We really do have a fascist state, in the historical sense of it, in that we are a society enslaved to corporate interests.

Socialism: Fly, be free!

(Sort of).

@Promnight: It takes longer, but then again, to a benthamist, mere stability is a high goal for government.

I assume you refer to Jeremy Bentham, the theorist of the Panopticon? Not a philosopher I’d care to follow. Seems to describe to a tee the social surveillance norms to which we’ve been indoctrinated under GWB, with, so far, no overt repudiation from the Unicorn Administration.

I suspect, when you suddenly find yourself the opt in the panopticon, the tempations are too titillating to resist.

@Pedonator: Oh hey, please, I am not a capitalist, thats all I can say here, in public. OK, here is a hint, I am against the whole idea of private property. OK? As if I would be in favor of an economy based on constant perpetual growth. I don’t believe in perpetual motion machines. Did you know that the less publicized, quieter, big lie of the free marketers is the phrase you will always hear from them: “Its not a closed system.” Oh yes it is. The earth has limits, and we are bumping against them.

But I do beleive the country is capable of enormous shifts in general public attitude towards broad philosophical ideals. The compassion of my father, and Roosevelt and the great society, that general attitude towards the role of government and the nature of our moral duty to uphold our weaker brothers and sisters, that attitude held sway for what, 2 or 3 generations, depending on when you mark its death.

Then we shifted towards Reaanism and increasingly since then, a callous, cynical, government is evil, I got mine, greed is good attitude.

And I do beleive that the Bush years and this crisis, now in its what, 6th month, and still getting worse, has people scared enough to actually be rethinking things, and there is no doubt in my mind the wind has shifted. Soon it will fill the sails.

@Pedonator: @Mistress Cynica:
El pueblo unido jamás será vencido
And don’t you ever forget it.

@Pedonator: Oh, come on, cheap rhetorical trick, do I agree with his every notion? I am a utilitarian, whatever brings the greatest good for the greatest number of people, is the good.

Of course, we could argue all night over what is the “good.” I regard one apsect of the “good” as to be not dying in ideological struggles.

@Promnight: goddammit, be careful. Wu Wei can be a trap.
In the immortal words of Florence Reece: Which side are you on?

I guess I’ve overstepped the bounds of polite discourse. My apologies, Prommie. Sometimes I get too worked up about things.

@Ewalda: Thank heavens for Google translate.
@Pedonator: This same professor referred to our American economic system as “corporate fuedalism,” which I think describes it pretty well. It’s hard out here for a serf.

Perhaps this is why I am so fucking jovial tonight: I have finished the coursework and passed the State exams and am waiting for my insurance licenses to arrive. I am goddamned thrilled at the prospect of selling insurance. It’s too bad there weren’t any job openings sucking dogs dicks, or I would have done that instead.

@Promnight: Brother, I don’t doubt your intelligence, nor your humanity. Just can’t resist any chance to point out how very extreme our social contract has become. The mystopian “middle” has shifted so far to a truly fascist right in the last thirty years, I feel negligent if I don’t take every opportunity to highlight the boundaries of what is permitted to be discussed in terms of our options as a society.

@Promnight: I would also regard an aspect of the “good” as not being eaten by cannibal anarchists, but that is exactly the path we find ourselves upon.

@Ewalda: Donde está el pueblo venido?

@Mistress Cynica: At the risk of repeating myself, feudalism is exactly what the corporate overlord oligarchs are planning for us. And make no mistake, the Unicorn is only in his place of “power” at the leisure of those corporate feudal Lords.

@Pedonator: No, actually, I’m East Prussian back through 10 generations. There are, however, some revolutionary slogans that apply no matter where the struggle is taking place.

@Ewalda: Oops!, anyway, I meant unido, not some special if exhausted pueblo that has already, um, come.

@Ewalda: Don’t know if I should offer you my congratulations or condolences. What type of insurance? Car? Life? Earthquake?

@Ewalda: You didn’t call me a running dog, did you? I didn’t look it up.

Even if you did, understand, I am softhearted towards individual people, I could never pull the switch on anyone, never. But I am not softhearted towards institutions and ideologies. “Which side are you on,” is that the basis of the song by Billy Bragg, one of my favorites, the other is “The Diggers,” because it says the words “the sin of property.”

@Pedonator: I agree completely, the oligarchs have seen that a poor, ignorant populace is better for business than a wealthy, educated populace. At least if all you worry about is wages and safety and environmental regulations, when we get so poor we stop buying and they realize that they now have a cheap workforce, but noone to buy the cheap goods, they will realize, maybe, that they killed the goose.

Is Obama a lackey of the oligarchy, I don’t think so, give it some time.

@Promnight: Is Obama a lackey of the oligarchy
Very Probably he is.
He does, on the other hand, have the potential to man up and bite the hands that feed him if he thinks the ends would be worthwhile. I guess you’d have to go back to Truman to find that in a Prez. Maybe JFK, but that’s debatable because just when he seemed on the verge of growing a pair, they took him out.
Fuck, what a depressing thought.

@Promnight, @Ewalda: I do like the way our Prez is twisting the panties of the “conservatives” with his social(ist) economic agenda, with a few major reservations.

But he is certainly a tool of corporate interests. You cannot be preznident (or congresswhore) without being such a tool. That is simply the way our shining beacon of capitalist democracy is rigged.

You only have to look at his short Senate record to understand that he’s thoroughly a professional politician. He was mostly a force for good, when he bothered to vote, but he did cave and cave mightily on the telecom amnesty for illegal surveillance issue.

And his Justice department’s advocacy of some of the most insidious Bush-era “anti-“terror policies is really quite vexing. He has nothing to lose politically by abandoning the state-secrets ruse for throwing out lawsuits brought by US torture victims — that shit happened on the Other Guy’s watch, right? So WTF is he doing with that shit? We need a truth and reconciliation commission RIGHT NOW, but the Unicorn seems determined to preserve several of the unconstitutional imperial powers Cheney and his minions invested in the presidency. NOT a good sign.

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