Friday, March 20, 2009

We gonna get the up in here up in here, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers

Bonus payout
How about that stock market yesterday? It shot up like a drunk guy after St. Patrick’s Day waking up next to Rosie O’Donnell. (Wow, that joke was so bad it might actually get a bonus from AIG)

President Barack Obama filed out his NCAA brackets and his final four are Louisville, North Carolina, Memphis and Pittsburgh. “I’ll take three cities and one state that all voted democratic for $500, Alex.”

A lot of shots blocked
New Jersey Devils’ Martin Brodeur broke the record for most wins by a goalie set by Patrick Roy. To give you some idea, this guy Brodeur has stopped more shots than Paris Hilton’s diaphragm.

First time
Barack Obama denied charges that he has been trying to do too much as President. In a related story, in President Bush’s eight year term, nobody ever used the words he has been trying to do too much as President.

Do we need this warning?
The erectile dysfunction drug Cialis has a commercial with the disclaimer; in case of a sudden loss of vision, call a doctor. I’m not a doctor, but isn’t a sudden loss of vision known as blindness? Do they really need to tell someone they might want to call a doctor if they go blind?

If I suddenly go blind, I won’t need a phone, the doctor will hear me screaming.

Blame it on the economy
The latest craze is blaming all questionable actions on a bad economy. “Hey, dude, did you really get drunk and hit on your cousin?” “Hey, what can I say? It’s a bad economy.”

The latest craze is blaming all questionable actions on a bad economy. “Hey, that shirt doesn’t go with those pants.” “Back off, it’s a bad economy.”

Another disclaimer
Have you seen the blanket with arms Snuggie’s new commercial? It comes with a disclaimer, “Warning, wearing a Snuggie might result in a sudden loss of self esteem and dignity. If you notice a lack of will to live, please stop wearing the Snuggie.”

Not looking good
I’m starting to think my NCAA picks aren’t so hot. I have Trenton City College losing to Gary Indiana Vocational in the finals.

Since you asked:
Reading about this Bernie Madoff clown in “Vanity Fair.” It is a cautionary tale about pride and greed on a colossal scale. And those are just his swindled investors.

Not that anyone deserves to be swindled out of their life’s savings, but some of these people were absolutely voracious in their greed to invest with Bernie. In many cases they were borrowing on their many homes in Palm Beach and Newport Beach and putting the money back with Bernie.

And now they are literally homeless.

But why wouldn’t they? In a stock market that was down 40% in 2008 Bernie was making them 12% a year like clockwork, or so their falsified statements said. So why not borrow $10 million on their homes and pay the bank 6% to get 12%? It was a license to print $600,000 a year.

A person couldn’t invest with Bernie just if they were rich. No, you had to know him or have a referral by someone who knew him quite well. And even then, near the end, the minimum was around $10 million. In the exclusively wealthy Jewish social circles of Palm Beach, Aspen, Beach, the Hamptons and Manhattan, investing with Bernie was the ultimate status symbol.

And here is a point nobody seems to want to bring up: wouldn’t it raise in eyebrow or two if a financial firm had an apparent staunch policy of only allowing Catholic investors? Or Protestant investors? Or Muslim investors?

Madoff was a type of genius, a genius of human nature, obviously not finance. He knew how to create an image of exclusivity that was so perfect wealthy brilliant people were lining up to throw millions at him. He played on their need to be at the top of high profile society.

There is a group like that here in Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar. The local papers are littered with their seemingly endless country club and ball room fund raisers. It’s mostly all the same people, old guys with bad toupees and women with scary amounts of plastic surgery.

The idiot who owns the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon, went around shoving the privilege of his “special investment” with Bernie in people’s faces every chance he had. Special was right. It cost him probably $200 million. The lesson is that hubris and greed and laziness are no strangers to the upper echelon of the truly wealthy philanthropic socialite crowd. The millionaires wanted to be multimillionaires, the multimillionaires wanted to be billionaires. And on and on.

And now many of these people are broke. Not broke on paper or theoretically broke. Their cell phones are turned off. They are moving in with their children. They are working at fast food restaurants. Some are committing suicide.

Several knowledgeable investors suspected Madoff was a fake and when they tried to warn the SEC and specifically Madoff’s investors, they were met with hostile accusations of anti-Semitism. And one of them was a Jew living in Israel.

Oh, and during and before the Madoff debacle, the Securities Exchange Commission made FEMA during Katrina look like avenging commandos. At least eventually FEMA did something.

What can you say about Bernie Madoff? What can you say about the kind of evil that knowingly swindles billions from friends and charities, a lot of which was destined for children with cancer?

A long time ago, although it is hard to believe now, I had a friend who was a tall, good looking smooth-talking rising young investment broker back when I was also a broker. People believed in him because they wanted to believe in him. And he told them what they wanted to hear, whether it was the truth or not. And we all believed him. If a well-dressed, clever, sharp guy like that can’t be right, who could?

Sure this guy was unreliable and hilariously cheap. While he and his wife spent every dime he made on expensive cars, clothes and mortgaged their house to the teeth, he borrowed money without ever intending to pay it back and skipped out on huge bar and dinner tabs and, as it turns out I was the last to know, cheated on his wife with impunity. But that was the price to pay for so much charm, right?

What was the problem? It turns out the charming, tall, witty, good-looking smooth talker was in fact a greedy sociopath with a terminal case of narcissism disorder as well as a pathological liar. But besides that . . .

And he, unlike Bernie Madoff, continues in the investment business to this day.