State Sanctioned Pedophilia

8-Year-Old Girl Not Old Enough to Divorce Husband, 58

A Saudi court has ruled that an 8-year-old girl who is married to a 58-year-old man cannot divorce her husband until she is older.
After the girl's father married her off for a £5,000 dowry, the girl's mother, who is separated from her husband, filed for divorce on behalf of her daughter. "The judge has dismissed the plea because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," said lawyer Abdullah Jtili. Relatives say the father and husband have a verbal agreement that the marriage will not be consummated until the girl turns 18, and she still lives with her mother.

COMMENT: I'm glad she lives with mom, and it's oh-so-nice that dad and the husband have a verbal agreement, but I suspect when push-come-to-shove, if the hubby wants that marriage consummated, he'll do it, verbal agreement or no. This stinks. -NefariousNewt


"She doesn't know yet that she has been married," lawyer Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.
Saudi Court...

Dear friends, our lives are too dark for you to even imagine. Scores of young girls are too timid to deny the wishes of their parents and too often marry men who are of an advanced age to be grandfathers. Once legally bound, these young girls feel as though they have no choice but to do this man’s bidding. They leap to fulfil his every wish. In the dark of their bedrooms, they have sexual intercourse with men whom they fear! The thought of such pitiful lives lived in perpetual dread is too much to even imagine. The physical attacks women in Arabia endure are accompanied by mental abuse.

From an early age, female children come to realize that their lives pale in comparison with that of male children. This is a cruel existence, even if there is no physical abuse. To always feel that your status is undesirable creates a distressing sadness in our young women. If you ever have occasion to witness the behavior of an Arab women, most likely you will notice that they will respond in a bashful, hesitate manner. This is a direct result from their childhood lessons that their thoughts, dreams and wishes do not matter.

Even in my own family, a family that rules the land, there are women who are beaten and sexually assaulted by the men who are responsible for their well-being. This happens frequently, even though in my religion it is forbidden for a man to behave in the manner too many Saudi men believe is their God given right. Letter from a Saudi Princess


Joe Hunt: White Collar Psychopath

Joe Hunt stands trial for the murder of Ron Levin c.1986 (trutv.com)

Joe Hunt c.2000 (bluedharma.com)

by Katherine Ramsland

Joe Hunt, a.k.a. Joe Gamsky, was the second son of Kathy and Larry Gamsky. He was born on Halloween in 1959, and as he grew up, it was clear to his educators that he was academically gifted. Author Randall Sullivan writes that one teacher said that he was not only the brightest student she had ever seen, but was mature and "preternaturally calm." Little did she know she was describing the essence of a psychopath.

The foremost expert on the condition known as psychopathy, Canadian researcher Dr. Robert Hare, says that psychopaths display certain obvious traits, notably a lack of attachment to others, impulsive decision-making, a lack of remorse, a tendency to rationalize what they do and to blame others, a charming and manipulative manner, and a lack of empathy. Joe Hunt would grow into all of these qualities, along with a verbal fluency that bordered on glibness. He was also arrogant and narcissistic, and he never failed to grab the opportunity to exploit others. Even without a formal diagnosis, descriptions of his words and behavior easily fit the prototype.

In fact, everyone noticed that young Joe was quite competitive, with a drive toward perfection. He had to create an impression on others and he had to win. Even worse, he cheated sometimes, and he lied. Or rather, he "rationalized" a sticky situation to make it look different to others than it really was. This strategy became his trademark, and when he set for himself the task of improving his vocabulary, he added another weapon: a wealth of words that mesmerized others. He became a talented and intimidating salesman.

Joe and his older brother were both admitted into a prestigious Los Angeles prep school, the Harvard Club, on a scholarship. Joe, 12, didn't fit in very well with the children of actors, moviemakers, and corporate businessmen. His principal liability was his family's lack of money, but at that point in his development, he was also socially awkward. He joined the forensic club, which gave him a modest social life, but when he falsified evidence during a debate, he was kicked off. He took it hard, but rebounded.

Joe's father, who insisted that his children call him Larry, viewed himself as Joe's teacher. He insisted, as author Sue Horton put it, that his children become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. After Joe dropped out of the University of Southern California, Larry sent him to business school, where at the age of 19, he passed the examination for Certified Public Accountant. While he was the youngest person to have been successfully tutored for it by a specific firm, he bragged that he was the youngest person in the entire state of California to have passed the exam. (In the film based on Horton's book, he's presented as the youngest in the entire country.)

Joe managed to impress two other young men, Dean Karny and Ben Dosti, who had attended the Harvard School as well. He began to hang around with them and mentioned that he would like to start an investment club with members from well-to-do families who could make a good impression and help the club to succeed. He described some of his ideas for trading commodities at low risk, and the other boys were impressed. He also told them he wanted to create a corporation with a Utopian atmosphere based on the works of Ayn Rand, where each person would do what he was best qualified to do. However, he would need money to get started.

Then in 1980, Joe's father, divorced from Kathy, moved to Chicago. Joe went with him and learned his way around the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He was a bold trader, impressing those around him, and he managed to do very well. He convinced Dean Karny's parents to invest money with him, and they gave him $150,000.

It was right around that time that Joe's father changed his name to Ryan Hunt, and Joe followed suite by accepting the new last name. The difference was that Larry changed his name through legal channels and Joe did not.

Then in short order, he lost 14 million dollars. His story was that he'd been squeezed out by people who were jealous of his success. In the movie, he named the Mafia and a Middle East conglomerate, but in Horton's book, he blamed a large brokerage house. When he returned to L.A. two years after he'd left, he had four dollars, but he assured those who had lost money with him that he had a surefire plan for making it back, and then some. For some reason, they believed him.

"You won power over a person through the knowledge of two things, Joe explained: One was what they wanted, the other was what they feared."

What the investors did not know was the Joe had actually taken their money but had failed to register it under the investors' names. He was investigated and then suspended from trading for 10 years.

However, that didn't stop Joe Hunt. He knew ways around the system, and he soon inspired Ben and Dean to help him gather people for a club, which he wanted to call the BBC, after the Bombay Bicycle Club in Chicago, where he used to play videogames.

It wasn't difficult for three young men, dressed well and with the gift of the gab, to interest other young men in their ideas. After all, image was everything, and they looked pretty good. Ben and Dean believed in Joe, and Joe knew how to talk a good talk. In short order, the club was up and rolling, fed by naïve and gullible investors.

Joe liked to persuade people that life was best lived and business best done according to what he called "paradox" philosophy. It was a combination of situation and utilitarian ethics: the ends justified the means, and one should do whatever had to be done to benefit oneself. From different perspectives, the same item or situation can have contradictory qualities: White is black and black is white. Everything depends on how you look at it. As long as there was a payoff, one could reconcile oneself to doing anything. Anything.

The core group of "boys," as they called themselves, prepared a presentation in 1983 to give to 30 prospective members, in which Joe outlined how the club would be formed. Sue Horton points out that he took his central tenets from science fiction: People would operate in "cells" comprised of a small number of members, and a "nexus" for communication. They would propose "shapes," or monetary projects, for approval by the whole club, and the shape would have an "output."

The club itself was to be run by specific levels of personnel, and the three founders were to be called "Shadings." A Shading, someone who operated in a shaded realm between black and white, was eligible for leadership because he was the one who best understood paradox philosophy and who was committed to protecting it by doing whatever needed to be done. Shadings would be judges in the Paradox Court, and they would resolve all internal disputes.

As Joe put together his company and brought in more members - always young men from families of wealth or breeding - he gave them a test, which was later described in court as the following:

"Would you murder someone, if you knew you could get away with it, for a million dollars?"


"Would you do it if it were a matter of saving your life?"


"Would you murder someone if you had to do it to save your mother?"


"Then you can't claim that you have a line you won't cross."

If there were no moral absolutes, as Joe contended, then it was just a matter of believing sufficiently in the situation to take the necessary action.

Joe was always angling for psychological leverage, no matter what the gain: one-upsmanship with a wine connoisseur, deceiving an investor about where his funds were going, or manipulating his partners to do whatever he asked.

In fact, they did not even get salaries. Most had allowances from their parents, so Joe would buy them things, pick up dinner tabs, and sometimes offer them rolls of cash from out of his pockets. He kept pretty strict control over them. He was the benevolent father.

"He mesmerized us," one of the members later admitted. Joe had a charismatic manner and an ability to tell convincing stories about his success, as well as to lay out clearly what had to be done to continue to have that success. The others all bought into his schemes and became emotionally dependent. Joe's method was to instill in them an all-encompassing desire for flashy cars, beautiful girls, and classy living so that they'd go along with anything he did, including murder.

CON vs CON - While his ultimate dream was to house all his boys together in a huge condominium as a single social and business unit, Joe knew that would take a lot of money. He looked around for investments and decided to get the BBC into the energy arena, so he persuaded Gene Browning, a bio-scientist, to sell him rights to an attrition machine he called a Cyclotron. They would give him a salary, a house, and a car in return for the rights to develop and market the machine. Browning agreed.

Now they needed even more money, so they looked around for people interested in investing in the development of more prototypes of this machine, under the auspices of a company called Microgenesis.

To make a better impression, Joe rented an expensive office suite, told investors he was making money hand over fist, and built the BBC into a company that looked prosperous and busy. In reality, the boys didn't have a lot to do. Nor was Joe investing money. Instead, he was using whatever he brought in to pay the rent, throw lavish parties, and build up his fleet of cars.

He needed big money and he needed it fast. Enter, Ron Levin.

Levin had a reputation for running a lot of sideline businesses at once, but he was also a con man who'd served time in prison. Joe figured that he and Levin would have a meeting of the minds and that he, Joe, would emerge the winner. Levin agreed to meet him and hear him out, but failed to offer him any money. Joe kept badgering him, and eventually told him that he'd gotten a large investment from someone else. He even showed him the check. Levin just laughed at the other investor's gullibility.

However, he agreed to let Joe prove himself. He set up a credit line of five million dollars with a certain investment firm, and Joe could use that to show his mettle. While Joe initially lost four million, he got a few tips from another commodities broker and within seven weeks, he had driven Levin's five million up to fourteen million. Then Levin closed the account. Joe had been promised half the profit for the BBC, so they fully expected a check to be sent to them for over four million dollars.

They started the celebration early by leasing condos in a ritzy neighborhood overlooking Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Joe described his vision of them all living and working together in the same place, one big family. He was ebullient that night as he talked about the luxury cars they would buy to share.

However, even in the midst of all this revelry, one of the members, Dave May, began to have reservations. He didn't buy into Joe's ideas, although his twin brother, Tom, obviously did. He decided to wait and watch.

It wasn't long before Joe began to wonder why the check wasn't arriving. Levin avoided his calls, so he called the broker and learned that the entire operation had been on paper only. There never had been any money. It was all a game.

In fact, in the days to come, Joe discovered it was even worse than that: Levin had used him to con someone else. He'd taken the statements from Joe's paper trading to show to another investment firm as a way to get a sizable loan. The con had conned the con.

Then Levin said he'd used the money to buy a shopping center in Chicago, and he would give the BBC a share. They thought they were again on the rise, but soon discovered there was no shopping center.

Yet Joe wasn't about to just accept defeat. Now he was in deep financial trouble, as well as having a bruised ego. He had to face his boys and tell them the truth, but according to statements some of them later made, he added that one day he would kill Ron Levin.

THE LIST - Dean introduced Joe to a security guard who called himself Jim Graham, although in reality his name was Jim Pittman. He was a muscled black man who claimed to have once played pro football and to have won weight-lifting contests. He had fled Delaware to escape felony charges. Yet because he knew things about guns and explosives, he was allowed into the inner sanctum. He became the BBC's head of security.

Around this time, one of the boys figured out that the group was spending around $70,000 a month, but he didn't see that same amount coming back as income. He realized that Joe was spending money entrusted to him by investors. Clearly, things were deteriorating.

Joe decided it was time to pressure Levin to pay them at least something. He decided that he would have to force Levin to sign over some assets and then kill him. He would leave a contract for Microgenesis in Levin's home so that it would be easy to explain why he had a signed check, and he created a paper trail by writing a series of letters back and forth about the deal. These, too, would be planted in Levin's house. Being the organized person that he was, one day Joe made a seven-page list of things that had to be done, that included some of the following:

Jim digs pit.
Joe arrives at 9:00. Lets Jim in.
Execution of agreements.
Close blinds
Tape mouth
Kill dog.

The plan was to take some dinners over to Ron as a friendly gesture so they could have a meeting. Then Jim would arrive with a gun and demand money that Joe supposedly owed him. Joe would tell Levin that Jim was a Mafia enforcer and that he will kill them both if Levin doesn't sign over a sizable check. Once they had the check, they would pack Levin's bags, since he was scheduled to go to New York the following day, and "send" him out of town. Then Jim would go to New York and use Levin's credit cards in the hotels to make it look as if he had actually gone there.

On Wednesday, June 6, 1984, Joe and Jim carried out this plan. They got Levin to sign over a check from a Swiss bank account for $1,500,000. Then they handcuffed him and took him into the bedroom, where they made him lie face down on the white comforter of his bed. One of the two men shot Levin - it was never clear who - and then they wrapped him in the comforter and hauled him outside to stuff into the trunk of a BMW.

It was Joe's idea to take him to Soledad Canyon, about an hour from Los Angeles. He often went hunting there, and he had noticed that it would be a great dumping ground: anything or anyone left there would never be found.

Dean Karny later testified that Joe had described what they had done at the canyon as an added touch: They shot Levin's corpse numerous times to make him unrecognizable. During this grisly session, Levin's brain had popped out of his skull and landed on his chest—an image that Karny was never to forget. What made it worse was the way Joe told the tale, as if he though it had been kind of neat to watch.

Then Jim went off to New York,while Joe tried to cash the check. He'd left the contract and correspondence in Levin's house, so he felt perfectly safe, but what he'd forgotten in all the haste to get rid of the body was the "to do" list. That, too, was back at the house.

THE COVER UP - Jim Graham got himself into trouble when Levin's credit cards proved to be over-extended. He tried to flee from the luxury hotel off Central Park where he'd been staying, but he was caught and arrested. Joe flew east to bail him out. Then he found out even worse news: Levin's check had been refused.

He knew it was time for another meeting. Referring to the Levin matter as "Mac," he talked things over with Dean Karny, who was stunned by what had taken place but who did nothing to encourage Joe to turn himself in.

They handpicked the members they felt they could trust and divulged to eight more people the facts about Levin's murder. Joe Hunt told them it was "the perfect crime."

At least, it was perfect within his narcissistic delusions. Little did he know what was forming around him among those who thought he was dangerous.

The boys to whom Joe confessed all seemed to go along with it, but some were secretly getting cold feet. Dave May, who was not at the meeting, nevertheless heard about what had taken place. He went to his father to admit how wrong he'd been about Joe Hunt and to ask for help. His father brought in an attorney.

The attorney pointed out the difficulties: There were no witnesses, no body, no proof, no missing-person report, and Hunt was known as a liar. They would have to get some hard evidence, possibly in the form of documents. The boys should just return to work as if nothing had happened, so as to avoid making Hunt suspicious.

To raise morale, Joe threw another expensive party and used $20,000 to purchase 10 matching motorcycles. The boys were impressed. Looking at those bikes, it was easy to forget that they had some real problems.

In the meantime, Ron Levin's father asked the police to check into his son's disappearance. They found a thick file on him for fraud, theft, and other scams. Because it was no surprise that a con man might turn up missing, they shrugged it off.

Then the BBC found another target.

Joe Hunt: White Collar Psychopath

Wikipedia's condensed version
Joe Hunt is the only person in California's legal history to represent himself in a capital case and not receive the death penalty.

Ice Heist

Harry Winston diamond wreath (couturesnob.com)


NEW YORK (AP) -- Criminals, too, have to get by in a recession, and one group of robbers wanted nothing but the best.

Chic jewelry retailer Harry Winston Diamond Corp. was robbed of $108 million in merchandise Thursday, in one of the biggest jewel heists in history. The company's stock fell 42 cents, or 11.9%, to close at $3.12 on Friday.

It was déjà vu for the store, which caters to the über-rich on the fashionable Avenue Montaigne in Paris. A year ago, it was robbed of $28.4 million in jewels, according to Thomas Weisel analyst Matthew O'Keefe.

"While insurance should cover this loss, it could take several quarters before the settlement is received," the analyst noted. "With two robberies at the same place in a relatively short time span, there is a risk that insurance and security costs will rise, putting further pressure on the retail business." $108M Stolen


French police suspect that the Pink Panther gang, could have been responsible for last week’s Harry Winston robbery, Paris media report.

The recent robbery of Harry Winston fine jewelers in the French capital could have been perpetrated by the Pink Panther group, made up of a sophisticated chain of criminals from the former Yugoslavia, whose specialty is robbing large jewelry stores using “Hollywood methods”.

Last week, a French court convicted fugitive Dragan Mikić to 15 years, Goran Mikić to 10 years, and Boban Stojković to six years for robberies committed from 2001-2003, with booty totaling EUR 7.5mn.

Having pulled off spectacular heists in Paris, Geneva, Dubai, San Tropez, Monaco, Tokyo and London, worth more than EUR 100mn, the Pink Panther group has become a nightmare for police around the world, Paris daily Figaro writes.

After police stated that the latest robbery on Saturday bore all the hallmarks of the Pink Panther group’s style, French media have gone into the group’s modus operandi in detail.

Once a location has been determined, a team is sent for reconnaissance. This is usually a couple who play the role of rich clients, who speak several languages very well, and who are sent to gauge the security situation and plot an escape route. Another camouflaged team then takes care of the robbery.

According to the French media, the group’s “hard core” is made up of 30 kingpins based in Zagreb, Tirana and Belgrade, who send instructions to operatives made up of former Serbian, Croatian and Montenegrin policemen and soldiers who fought in the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Pink Panther gang

'To Catch an ID Thief'
'To Catch an ID Thief'


Master Cons

A confidence trick or confidence game (also known as a bunko, con, flim flam, gaffle, grift, scam, scheme, or swindle) is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence.
Persons of any level of intelligence are vulnerable to deception by experienced con artists. Confidence tricks exploit human weaknesses like greed, dishonesty, vanity, but also virtues like honesty, compassion, or a naive expectation of good faith on the part of the con artist.
The confidence trickster often works with one or more accomplices called shills, who help manipulate the mark into accepting the con man's plan. In a traditional confidence trick, the mark is led to believe that he will be able to win money or some other prize by doing some task. The accomplices may pretend to be random strangers who have benefited from successfully performing the task. Confidence Trick

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves promising or paying abnormally high returns ("profits") to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from net revenues generated by any real business. It is named after Charles Ponzi.
A Ponzi scheme has similarities with a pyramid scheme though the two types of fraud are different.
A Ponzi scheme usually offers abnormally high short-term returns in order to entice new investors. The high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises (and pays) require an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going.
The system is doomed to collapse because there are little or no underlying earnings from the money received by the promoter. However, the scheme is often interrupted by legal authorities before it collapses, because a Ponzi scheme is suspected and/or because the promoter is selling unregistered securities. As more investors become involved, the likelihood of the scheme coming to the attention of authorities increases. Ponzi Scheme

A fraudulent moneymaking scheme in which people are recruited to make payments to others above them in a hierarchy while expecting to receive payments from people recruited below them. Eventually the number of new recruits fails to sustain the payment structure, and the scheme collapses with most people losing the money they paid in.
From the day the scam is initiated, a pyramid scheme’s liabilities exceed its assets. The only way it can generate wealth is by promising extraordinary returns to new recruits; the only way these returns can be paid is by getting additional investors. Pyramid Scheme

Stock traders make their money by taking a commision of the stock trades they make on the behalf of their client. Everytime a stock is bought or sold, the trader makes money regardless of whether the client should purchase the stock. The stock may lose money, the amount of tax due by the client may increase and the client's money may be put in undue risk but the trader will still make their commission.
Therefore, an unethical trader can increase their own personal profit or profits of their company by increasing the number of trades they make. Instead of putting the client's money in long term investments, they will move the money quickly from stock to stock and fund to fund, making a fee each time they do this.
Churning has been found amongst small time brokers as well as top level executives of major firms. Churning


The World's Greatest Con Artists

To Catch a Con Man

Barton Watson of Cybernet

Amway/Quixtar Scam

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit


Tough Bill to Swallow

by Wayne Roberts
NOW Magazine (Nov.20-26/08)

If truth be known, Bush inherited, as Obama will soon, deregulated financial, agricultural, trade and social policies. Put in place by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, these were the achievement of the 1990s - a period that needs to be understood not, as greens once hoped, as the "turnaround decade," but as the "regression decade."

Clinton's government was the juggernaut behind this decoupling of national and human rights from food. "We blew it," Clinton admitted, speaking to a UN group in New York celebrating World Food Day on October 16.
"Food is not a commodity like others," Clinton said in a widely unreported speech. "It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves," he said, lambasting trade rules that forbid governments in poor countries to subsidize agriculture.

Another Clintonian icon, Alan Greenspan, also admitted to some errors of his ways. Greenspan, appointed chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan in 1987, was regarded as the wizard of high finance until his retirement in 2006.

Greenspan confessed to congressional investigators in mid-October that he was "in a state of shocked disbelief." The "whole intellectual edifice" behind the paradigm leading to unregulated derivative markets "collapsed in the summer of last year," he said.
That was a mild confession compared to the thoughts he blurted out during a mini-crisis in 2002. "There's been too much gaming of the system. Capitalism is not working!" the wizard screamed at colleagues, according to author Ron Suskind.

Bush's final days may be the end of an era, but to become the end of an error, the wild capitalist days of the 1990s will also have to be tamed.



Jordan Belfort
In five years, he has paid back $14 million of the $110 million he owes.

JORDAN BELFORT (b. 1962) was the CEO of of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. He served 22 months in federal prison for a "Pump and Dump" scheme. As part of the scheme, falsely purportedly profitable stocks were sold to investors at inflated prices. He is now an author of the 2007 book The Wolf of Wall Street, which details the havoc wreaked upon both others and himself as he fell under the influence of his addictions.
Belfort made at least $50 million from Stratton Oakmont, and acquired a beautiful motor yacht originally built and named for Coco Chanel. Belfort sank the yacht, "complete with seaplane and helicopter, after overruling the captain and taking it into a Mediterranean storm."
Belfort's story may be adapted into film. Martin Scorsese is possibly looking to direct Leonardo DiCaprio in the film adaptation the The Wolf of Wall Street book for Warner Bros. Pictures, with The Sopranos scribe Terence Winters possibly aboard to write. (Wikipedia)

The Wolf of Wall Street The book's main topic is the vast amount of sex, drugs and risky physical behavior Belfort managed to survive. As might be expected in the autobiography of a veteran con man with movie rights already sold, it's hard to know how much to believe. The story is told mostly in dialogue, with allegedly contemporaneous mental asides by the author, reported verbatim. But it reports only surface events, never revealing what motivates Belfort or any of the other characters.

CNBC Interview
...crossing over the line of right & wrong in tiny, imperceptible steps until one day you turn around & you're so far over the line everything seems normal.

CNN Interview
Every average street kid's dream is to be a Gordon Gekko.

A pioneer in promoting office bonding activities, Belfort thought it would improve morale if staff were encouraged to have sex with each other whenever they could, even under the desks. There were mid-afternoon "coffee breaks" with a troupe of hookers in the office car park. One office junior agreed to have her hair shaved off on the trading floor in return for $5,000 for a breast job.

Bringing Down the House
The story is told through the eyes of the author, who met one of the students at a party and was so intrigued by his outrageous tale that he was compelled to put it into a book.
This is a story of a group of math whizzes, most of Asian descent, who used the art of card counting, worked as teams, and legally won as much as 4 million dollars during the few years they spent their weekends in the Vegas casinos, living the high life.

From the author who brought you the massive New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House, this is the startling rags-to-riches story of an Italian-American kid from the streets of Brooklyn who claws his way into the wild, frenetic world of the oil exchange.
After conquering the hallowed halls of Harvard Business School, he enters the testosterone-laced warrens of the Merc Exchange, the asylumlike oil exchange located in lower Manhattan. A place where billions of dollars trade hands every week, the Merc is like a casino on crack, where former garbagemen become millionaires overnight and where fistfights break out on the trading floor.

Ugly Americans
Ugly Americans documents the "Wild East" of the mid-1990s, where young, brilliant, and hypercompetitive traders became "hedge fund cowboys," manipulating loopholes in an outdated and inefficient Asian financial system to rake in millions. Using a concept called arbitrage, they made their fortunes mainly on minute shifts in stocks being sold on the Nikkei, the Japanese stock market, collapsing banks and nearly bankrupting the Japanese economy in the process.

Liar's Poker
Probably the best way to look at this book is like a travel book - you're not visiting a country, you're visiting a world. Great travel books are not word-perfect descriptions of a place, they are representations of what the author felt like when he was there, and they give the reader a feeling of what it was like to be there. If you read this book, you will understand what it feels like to work inside a big bank, and you'll enjoy the ride, even if you have no interest in actually working there.

Den of Thieves
Den of Thieves is a snapshot of human nature showing its seemy side. Stewart's book has a cast of characters you couldn't believe if it were a work of fiction.
The most brilliant thing about "Den of Thieves" is the range of villians in the book; no two come to their law-breaking in the same manner or embrace it to the same degree. All of them find temptation (usually in the form of large heaps of easy money) too hard to resist.


Gawker Layoff Stories


I once worked for a newspaper that was nuking the bureau I worked in. We were taken out to lunch and when we returned the managing editor was waiting for us. One by one, we walked into the office to hear our fate (I was retained, but sent to a crappy place, hastening my departure.) Prick that he was, the managing editor gave each of us (15 people) six minutes of time, so that he could leave in 90 minutes and beat rush-hour traffic. -DaeSu
>Whoa, did your boss actually time that? -DakotaCadiots
>Yes, he did. He had his watch propped up against a stack of files so he could keep track of the time, and 90 minutes later --having told more than half the staff that they "no longer fit on the team," he was in his BMW and gone. -DaeSu

2002: I walked into my office late one morning (I had been to the dentist) and a coworker tells me that the director had called everyone to an immediate meeting by the front door. He informed them that people would be laid off that day. I was one of the unlucky ones, and had to hand over my key card and clear out my desk that day.
Even the poor guy who had worked there for 10 years and whose office was stocked with plants and books was asked to leave that day.
Director: We need you to leave today.
Poor Guy: Well, that's not very compassionate. And you know how volatile this business is. Why don't you consider that one day you could be working for me?
I still love this guy for saying that. -Squirrelwars

My boss didn't know how to save anything into different folders, so it all went into her "Annie's Stuff" folder on the shared drive. I had access, so I spent many merry months reading her Christmas letters, letters to an ex-baby daddy, and the performance reviews of my coworkers. One day I saw a new file with "Sylvia Fired.doc" on it. The dismissal form she'd filled out was full of misspellings and grammatical errors—I spent my last few hours at work copyediting my own dismissal letter. It was the most fulfilling project I took on during my time there. -Anon.

At my pre-ordained weekly meeting with my supervisor I was told I was being let go because the company was "going in a different direction". That direction, however, was not eliminating my position, but rather giving it to the intern who just graduated two weeks prior. I assume that move is saving them some salary payout and increasing their eye-candy quotient. -Anon.

My husband got laid off unexpectedly—on his birthday, no less. He had been traveling for work for two straight weeks, then they made him sit through a full day of bullshit meetings that were supposed to continue into a company dinner that night. They dropped the ax right before he was set to leave for the restaurant.

Again, on his birthday, after he'd been away for over two weeks. I had sent his birthday cards to his office because I knew that he would get them before he would see me. They wouldn't let him go through his mail to get them. He was allowed to take only the personal photographs from his office and then was forced to sign a form that stated that they did not owe him any money — even though they owed him all his expenses from his two weeks on the road. It took three months and we finally just got that check.

There were a few other layoffs earlier this year, and those people got more in their severance packages. However the company must have realized that they were losing money at an alarming pace so they cut the severance packages drastically... To top it off, he was unable to sell his stock in the company because the timing of his layoff was during a "blackout period." He probably would have only made like a dollar a share. Now, the company's stock is trading at fifty cents a share and so there is nothing of value to sell anymore anyway.

Some consolation: The assholes who are in charge don't stand to make any money on their stock options barring a miracle buyout, which would probably never happen because the place is such a mess and the people who are now in charge are completely incompetent.

If you print this, please keep it anonymous... unless it's after Friday when the severance package runs out. Then we can say whatever we want about those DICKS. -Anon.

May I vent?
I just had to lay off one of my favorite staff members. I've let people go before, but because they sucked at their job. Today, for the first time, I had to take someone I find talented, smart and generally entertaining because our clients are leaving in droves.
How did this happen? When did I cross the line from rank-and-file to management? It happened quietly and so subtly that I never really noticed it. But it crystallized for me today.
I'm sorry anonymous staff guy. Sorry to do this before the holidays, and sorry that our clients suck at running their businesses enough that I had to let you go.
Note: not looking for sympathy from anyone here, since I'm still getting paid (for now, anyway). But I know how much traffic these posts are getting and just hope that someone knows that at least one management person hates this shit as much as you do for getting shafted. -Larry Bird Flu
> I think my boss enjoyed it when she laid me off Tuesday morning. She was so cold I got a brainfreeze. -GregorMendel

Thread: Surely there must be such a thing as workers' rights? Why didn't they get notice? Do they get a severance package? -Vivien Smith-Smythe-Smith
Let's Use One of These Hot Blondes

My favorite story was a few years ago and involved Mercedes Benz. They scheduled a group of managers for an off-site "conference" at a local hotel/conference center. When the victims were seated an HR persons told them they had been fired and to go straight home. Their offices would be cleared out and their personal stuff sent to them. -Weegee's bored
>I knew layoffs were coming when all of a sudden half of us didn't have network access. -it takes a lot to laugh

With reference to corporations' access to legally restricted, confidential personnel files, such as insurance companies, company consultants and HIPAA. Oh, yes, certainly. Firms never break the law to save pennies or their ass, whether in times of crisis or prosperity. Is anyone familiar with what took place at humans-are-our-most-valued-asset..., progressive culture word speak giant Hewlett-Packard? They tapped phones and surveilled their own people. Where corporations, especially their balance sheets, are concerned, company policy or legal obstacles generally do not prevent them from infringing on individuals' privacy. Yes the perps at HP eventually got caught, but how many firms get away with it? To think this doesn't happen often is naive. -JillianParis

Thread: When bosses do shit like this, don't they worry that eventually someone is going to snap and do something really, really bad in the office?...-drunkexpatwriter

Thread: All these layoff stories are heartbreaking. But at least we live in the Land of the Free, right? Free to enter the workforce with $100k in student loan debt. Free to remain shackled to a job because your kids need the health care benefits. Free from awful pushy unions. Free from socialized medicine....-Baroness
Laid Off Just in Time for the Holidays

First off, this is the first time this has ever happened to me so my heart grows colder each day.
I was laid off this week from a large company and most of the points made here are true, except I would like to not think of myself as the dead weight amongst the ones that were let go.
Being the last hired they thought it would be easier to let me go instead of one of the 2 useless people they are keeping. There's a good chance that it had to do with me getting paid a higher rate than them, who knows.
All I know is that I tried hard to stay out of a corporate entity but it seems as though they own your ass one way or another.
My anxiety from a job loss is magnified greatly because of both the current economic state as well as right before 2 major holidays which make job hunting hard.
I'm beginning to understand why people dive off bridges! -Cheap Shot
>@Cheap Shot: The sting is bad at first, but it gets better! Also, try to take some time for yourself--especially if you've been working crazy hours and haven't had time to do so recently. And be creative in looking for new jobs--I totally sent my resume to local, fun places (like wine shops and cheese shops) if for no other reason than to get resume feedback and to get the feeling that I'm putting myself out there.
And keep in mind that usually, being laid off is a long-term blessing because you may be given one of the few lifeboats ahead of a monstrous Titanic-like sinking. -bellethellama

Jan. 24-09
It's true, and it's horrible. I work in a bookstore and we've seen a complete and total marked dip in sales and there are times when we can go an hour or more without anyone buying anything, or seeing a customer at all.
Only so many times you can shelve a book. :/ We're all screwed, huh? -Eldritch

My company is one of those companies that's profitable and getting moreso, but still laying people off pretty much just because everybody else is. They're basically using the recession as an excuse to cut staff and freeze salaries. I just had my evaluation and even though I'm underpaid by about 25% and asked for a larger raise (before the recession really hit), I was told the company couldn't afford it. This even though the company is profitable, we'd just laid off a bunch of people and everybody who remained was being asked to do a ton more work. I got the classic "we'll have to do more with less" line - yes, my boss actually said this to me! He may as well have given me the "it's not you, it's me" speech - I mean Jesus Christ, talk about cliches.
Literally that *same day*, my department had a meeting where my boss solicited ideas for what we could do with an extra $20,000 per month that we had had added to our budget.
Needless to say, morale is pretty goddamn low at my company, and NOBODY wants to work for these a-holes. -badasscat
Workers: Just Sit Quietly and Wait to be Laid Off

Keyword: Layoffs

Gawker Comments

You know, with more and more of my friends being fired, it's totally increasing my productivity. I'm so petrified of it happening to me, I've been working harder than ever. Anyone else doing that?
@__: If you shoot one horse, don't the rest run faster?
@__: Who fires HR people? The God of Karma?

Why do people still bring personal effects to work? Seems insane in this environment. My desk is spotless and empty - my exit will be the quick rustle of my coat on my way to the bar.
@__: I've got a couple of tons of engineering books and papers. Other than that, just pics of the kids to keep the gun barrel out of my mouth.

Yea, my family in Israel were part if Irgun. In fact, my aunt's parents met in jail! Her parents also happen to be the nicest most benign people I have ever met.
And before people start bugging out, guess what? We did this, too. It's called the American Revolution.
@__: You know, I bet there are a lot of nice and benign Palestinians who are part of or sympathetic to Hamas. But we're trained in America to view them all as "evil."
I wonder what Folke Bernadotte's grandkids might think about your "nice" and "benign" relatives? He was a hero during World War II, negotiating the release of 10,000 Jews from concentration camps -- saving their lives. After the war, he was deputized by the U.N. to forge a cooperative settlment to the exploding situation in Palestine. Of course, Irgun and the other Zionist terror groups wanted no part of a "cooperative" settlement -- they wanted all of the land. So they assassinated Bernadotte.
Such lovely people.
@__: Zioterror doesn't count, much less exist, for Americans.
@__: Exactly. I wonder what would happen if every Palestinian who died at an Israeli checkpoint while trying to get to a hospital received the same coverage in the U.S. media as every launch of a crude rocket from Gaza.
@__: You are really treading on thin ice here. Those rockets were launched every fucking day I was in Israel this year and the media did NOT report it. Stop saying the media is biased towards Israel - IT IS NOT. It is biased towards Palestinians. Visit Israel before you run your mouth.
Aren't there special places you can comment? Like, say, some anti-semetic website? You forgot "Death to Israel" in your little rant.
@__: Please, please, please do not reduce all criticisms of Israel to anti-semitism. __ did not advance an anti-semitic argument. I know you have a vested interest in Israel (family, right?), as do I, and I hate to have to plead, but can we please not go down this path?
@__: denouncing zionist terrorist groups is not the same thing as being anti-semetic and the sooner you figure that the fuck out, the sooner you'll stop coming across as a raving racist every single time this topic comes up.
@__: Shut the fuck up about your commingling of anti-semitism and criticism of Israel. Nobody cares about your emotional connection to the land and that special feeling you get from seeing Jeff Seidel wandering around HaKotel no Friday afternoons. That type of kneejerk bullshit is a bigger obstacle to meaningful dialogue than anti-semitism is. @__: You make some sound points, but to be fair, the checkpoints wouldn't be chokepoints if they weren't targeted by suicide bombers posing as dialysis patients and whatnot. Doesn't make them just, nor does it mean that the media bias isn't a problem, but it is helpful, like my homeboy Rashid Khalidi to consider some of the Palestinian contributions to the problems.
Anyway, fuck you both for dragging me into this.

2:06 - Puppy cam perspective makes Shibas look like deliciously browned breakfast sausages in a large, round pan. POPE NOW HUNGRY FOR SAUSAGES.
2:09 - Shibas motionless. The anticipation of motion leads me into a trance like state where I understand the Tao. Motion without motion. Energy without movement. Always ready to move but still, like the clarity of water in a deep pond. Still hungry for breakfast sausages though.
@__: They're all lined up sleeping (again) but I think they left a gap for you to crawl in.

Pink slips are the new black.

You left out the part where one CEO raised his hand and Rahm leapt from his chair, hurled it across the room, kicked the CEO next to him and shouted "Does it look like I'm anywhere near finished spreading your wealth yet?!?".

I saw this at 7:00 PM on Friday night - the epicenter of the teenage girl vampire riot. My thoughts on the experience:
1.) If you're a teenage boy, go see this. Girls your age will outnumber you 20:1. Free advice: put on a black hoody and go stand in line for this.
2.) Virtually every scene involving Richard Pattinson arriving or doing something sexy/heroic will elicit a shriek from the audience. If you can't stand that, go when the little 'uns are past curfew.
3.) Suburban/semi-urban parking will actually be quite good, because most of the audience is being dropped off.
4.) The movie is 121 minutes, and you will feel every excruciating second. The book is interminable, and the movie has opted to keep that dynamic. Bring your iPhone/BlackBerry/laptop/cyanide.
5.) Kristen Stewart is the most wooden actress I've ever seen get this much screen time. She has fewer facial expressions than Ben Affleck.
6.) For the menfolk/ladies in search of lipstick: they have a tremendously attractive woman named Ashley Greene playing one of the vampires. Perk up if you hear the name "Alice." She's off-the-charts beautiful.
7.) You know what the star of this movie is? The Volvo C30. The car had me swooning. Perk up if you hear tires.
8.) Drink beforehand. It helped.

Nearly 200 Dead
I suppose it depends on how you define terrorism, but 200 dead is a drop in the bloody bucket of India's ongoing Hindu-Muslim-Christian circular firing squad. [...]

I go to the same pubic hair combover stylist as Mr. Trump, and I can assure you that there is at least one bill he pays on time every week.
But for serious, this might actually be close to the end of the road for Don. His "borrow-default-sue" scheme has made it impossible for his to do business in Atlantic City. Banks won't loan to him anymore without collateral, and his only collateral is real estate which is now all underwater from previous borrowings/equity lines. Service providers (IT, construction companies, etc.) will only do work on his casinos if they are paid in advance because he's burned so many people with defaults. The Chicago building loan probably came on the heels of the success of the first Apprentice, but that gravy train dried up pretty quickly.
I'm probably full of shit, but I really, really hope I'm right.

I have seen the good and the awful side of Six Sigma. In quantifiable verticals, I felt some of the managers and practices might be good medicine for smokestack era companies that have become torpid.
But, in creative, agile, rapid response solutions practices, Six Sigma zombies were the numero uno poison pills in the cocktail.
I had to make an agreement with some of the older consultants that maintained their own client books that if we got hassled and blocked by the Six Sigma koolaid, we would break some kneecaps in the parking lot.

Christie's Auction Girls
These ladies will be laughing all the way back to mommy's house when Christie's lays off hundreds of staff this year, largely because... wait for it... all the finance money that was fueling the art boom has dried up.
I wonder if they and their ex-banker friends talk about how many jobs Christie's could have saved if they hadn't given alpha-finance-douche Dick Fuld $20 million worth of guarantees on works from his collection that had to be bought in by the house during last fall's disasterous sales? [...]

What I don't understand, though, is why Conde Nast insists on neglecting the only hedge it has against the decline of print. With the resources they have, they should be making loads of money off the web--and putting the rest of us out of business. I get that they don't necessarily *need* to (i hear you, Peter Feld) but if the opportunity is there, why not take it?
@__: Hi- I can shed a little light here. The reason that Conde, and every other magazine co, are effectively absent from online as a cultural force is that they have a problem accepting the narrow (if any) profit margins that online media businesses return. At this point in time, readers won't pay at all and ad agencies will only pay less than they did last year (per individual). As the job of the heads of these companies is to grow profits, not just audience, you really won't see them making the kind of websites that they are capable of until there's real money to be made. numberwrangler
Peter Feld: @__: That is a good analysis. To be fair to Conde Nast, few if any other print publication companies have really solved the web puzzle. They get too obsessed with making print and web "work together" when they don't, and can't - if there's one clear fact about the web audience, it's that they don't want your magazine, and if there's one clear fact about the print audience it's that they aren't interested in your website. Audiences are more stratified by media habits than they are united by common interests.

Gawker Popular


Max Keiser

Interviews on Al Jazeera English

The American Dollar is Dead

American Dollar = Toilet Paper


The Indian people could be the richest people in the world when this crisis is over.

Hank Paulson is a financial terrorist.

These guys will stop at nothing to keep their dirty laundry a secret.

What auditing companies?!?

These guys are wholesale thieving of trillions of dollars.

The US dollar is the only tether between the rest of the world & this criminal syndicate on Wall Street headed up by Hank Paulson.

Hank Paulson is taking the entire US economy into oblivion.

They're not going to stick around in the US when the Americans are going to have their pitchforks ready to go in & take back their country.

Under the Constitution, Hank Paulson qualifies as a tyrant.

Interview by Press TV (transcript)
US Dollar 'Backed by Bananas'
"The problems are here but the people who created this nightmare are gone. Cheney has already got his Halliburton corporation headquartered in Dubai. He's already out of the picture. All these crooks are going to be leaving this country. They're not going to stay for all of the rioting there's going to be in America."

Who's Max Keiser?

Kevin Phillips

Interviewed on Bill Moyers Journal
re: The Economic Crisis

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


This is going to be a big one.

Ordinary Americans don't have much of a role in this.

This is the denouement of a 25-year debt buildup which was undertaken mostly by the financial sector putting themselves on steroids to get bigger & bigger & bigger.

Moyers: You say it's the greatest story never told.

They (the financial sector) are the economy at this point.

The middle class is shrinking.

The financial sector has hijacked the American economy.

Finance has been preferred as the sector that got government support.

The rise of the financial sector is the rise of the debt industry.

Greenspan would do nothing to disturb finance...basically he gave finance what they wanted.

The people who were the arsonists are now racing to show up in fireman hats saying "We're going to solve it."

We're about halfway through.

Finance can bet on anything...they have figured out new ways to gamble.

I think it's (the economic crisis) another variation but on par with the '30s.

I don't think we have a sound economy at all. Not remotely, at this point.

He (Obama) doesn't seem to have anything very specific to say - that's part of the problem.

I'm sick of Washington.

We are on the wrong track.

Couple of decades coming up which are going to be very difficult for Americans.

A lot of people in the financial community that want to get rid of it (Social Security).

A lot of Democrats in the labour movement are very nervous about Obama. They see that the flesh of The Democratic Party carries a lunchbox but the new soul wears a pinstripe suit.

Who's rescuing the laid off worker? Nobody's rescuing them.

You don't rock the boat. You pretend it's a sound economy.


Numbers Racket: Why the Economy is Worse Than We Know

by Kevin P. Phillips
Harper's Magazine - May.08

Almost four decades have passed since the United States scrapped its last currency ties to precious metals. Our copper and nickel coinage still retains some metallic value, but not nearly enough for the purpose of currency tampering—the historic temptation of inflation-plagued or otherwise wayward governments, including, at times, our own. Instead, since the 1960s, Washington has been forced to gull its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics: the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured. The effect, over the past twenty-five years, has been to create a false sense of economic achievement and rectitude, allowing us to maintain artificially low interest rates, massive government borrowing, and a dangerous reliance on mortgage and financial debt even as real economic growth has been slower than claimed. If Washington’s harping on weapons of mass destruction was essential to buoy public support for the invasion of Iraq, the use of deceptive statistics has played its own vital role in convincing many Americans that the U.S. economy is stronger, fairer, more productive, more dominant, and richer with opportunity than it actually is.

Numbers Racket

Are You an Investor or a Gambler?

by Duncan Hood

When life was good for Ritchie, it was very good. Twenty years ago he was 33, working as a bond broker on Wall Street in New York, and making loads of money. Then he switched firms and started making even bigger money as a stockbroker. That's when things started to go wrong.

For Ritchie, the stock market glittered like the world's biggest casino and there was no such thing as enough. "I was a Vince Lombardi kid - I had to win at any cost - and when I played with money, I played to win," he says. "I was completely out of control. I would bet on everything - stocks, indices, gold, silver, currencies. It was incredible."

When he began dipping into his clients' accounts to cover his losses, the end was near. "In the early 1990s I got to that day when I knew that a bunch of my clients' statements would be wrong. So I put on my jacket, walked over to my two secretaries, and wrote a note for my boss telling him I resigned. Then I walked out and never came back."

What went wrong with Ritchie? It turns out he was a compulsive gambler. According to psychologists who study gambling behavior, it's all too easy for an innocent investing habit to swell into a gambling problem if a person is so disposed. Both investing and gambling let you wager big money and win or lose huge sums within minutes. Indeed, it can be difficult for even a professional to know at what point a sincere interest in investing edges over the line and becomes something darker and more compulsive.

What ultimately distinguishes gamblers from investors, says Dr. Marvin Steinberg, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, is a lack of control. Smart investors may decide to occasionally make big bets on a stock. But they can also go for months without buying a stock or even shuffling their portfolio.

"With any kind of compulsive behavior, you wind up being out of control," says Steinberg. "So if you tell yourself that you're going to do one thing and you wind up doing more, you have a problem. An alcoholic says he'll just have one drink and winds up having 12, a problem gambler goes to the casino with $100 in his wallet and winds up spending $3,000 on his credit card. In the same way, if you put more money into risky investments than you can afford to lose, that's a sign you have a problem."

Other symptoms include an inability to stop trading stocks, even while on vacation, using lots of borrowed money, and indulging in superstitious behavior, such as buying a stock because the symbol reminds you of your dog's name. Steinberg estimates that as many as 5% of investors have a mild to serious gambling problem. "There are Gamblers Anonymous meetings in New York and Chicago that are attended almost exclusively by stock market gamblers," he says. "It's a problem that needs to be taken seriously, but it's not well understood. Brokers don't want their clients to think of the markets as a place where you could become a problem gambler."

If you suspect you might have a problem, you can take Steinberg's questionnaire at CCPG.org. If you decide you need help, consult a mental health professional or contact Gamblers Anonymous, which has groups in many Canadian cities. You can also get referrals from Arnie & Sheila Wexler Assoc. (ASWexler.com), which is run by Arnie Wexler, a former compulsive gambler.

Ritchie only realized his investing was out of control after he lost his career. Thanks to Gamblers Anonymous, "I haven't made a bet in over 10 and a half years," he says. "And now I have a terrific life. I'm raising a child and taking care of my wife and running a business buying and selling art." But Ritchie knows he can never be fully cured. "I have to continue to go to the program, because I am what I am, and that doesn't change," he says. "So I'll never work for Caesars Palace - and I couldn't work for Morgan Stanley, either."

If you display five or more of these 11 traits, you may have a gambling problem, according to Paul Good, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco:

1. You engage in high volume trading,where the "action" is more compelling than the objective of your trade.
2. You are constantly preoccupied with your investments.
3. You need to invest more and more money or increase your leverage to feel excited.
4. You have repeatedly tried to stop or control your market activity and failed.
5. You become restless and irritable when you try to cut down or stop investing.
6. You invest to escape problems, relieve depression, or distract yourself from painful emotions.
7. You sometimes increase your position in an investment after a loss - that is, you chase your losses.
8. You have lied to conceal the extent of your involvement in the market.
9. You have committed illegal acts, such as forgery or fraud, to finance your market activity.
10. You are jeopardizing significant relationships or your job because of excessive involvement in the market.
11. You have relied on others to bail you out when you got into desperate financial situations.

Investor or Gambler?


BusinessWeek Magazine - Oct.20, 2008


Farming in the area (ie.Usman, rural district 300 miles south of Moscow), and across Russia's traditional grain belt, is making a comeback. Commodities traders, food processors, shipping outfits, and others are buying up farms, hoping to cash in on high global grain prices. These new investors are pouring billions of dollars into land, then revamping management and technology in operations that span thousands of acres. Today, large agricultural holding companies control some 10% of Russia's farmland, up from 4% in 2003—though in the most productive areas they have more than a quarter of the land, according to the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies in Moscow. "There's huge potential here," says Robert Coleman, a South African who oversees farms in the region for Agro-Invest, a Moscow group that owns 100,000 acres around Usman. "We've invested in big machines, are applying Western ideas, and are getting great results."

It's easy to see why there's so much interest. The U.N. says Russia has some 480,000 square miles of arable land—an area more than twice the size of France. That's 8% of the world's total, much of it highly fertile "black earth." But owing to decades of agricultural mismanagement, Russia accounts for less than 4% of global crop production and is a net food importer.

THE NEW AGE OF FRUGALITY by Steve Hamm (excerpt)

On a shady lane in New Hope, Pa., a quiet revolution in American culture may be taking shape. Here, a family of four lives in a white, colonial-style house in a manner that once would have been considered All-American but more recently has been seen as just plain weird: They're frugal.

Meet Leah Ingram, Bill Behre, and daughters Jane, 13, and Annie, 11. They walk most everywhere, they rarely eat out, they sometimes buy clothing at consignment shops, and they turn the lights off when they leave a room.

Theirs is no hard-luck-in-a-recession story. The Ingram-Behre family is solidly middle-class, fully employed, and not especially threatened by the conniptions gripping Wall Street. Behre, 43, is a dean at the College of New Jersey, while Ingram, 42, is a successful freelance writer and etiquette expert. They have no credit card debt.

That's now. A little more than a year ago, the family was ensnared in America's consume-at-all-costs culture. During the days of soaring home prices and easy credit, they took out a $101,000 home-equity loan on a previous house and spent lavishly on a lifestyle upgrade—going on three cruises in two years and taking the kids on annual pilgrimages to Disney World. "After 9/11 it became patriotic to shop, and we became as patriotic as anybody," laments Behre, sitting in the dining room after a meal of chicken stir-fry—washed down with tap water.

Ingram and Behre are harbingers of a dawning Age of Frugality. People who overconsumed during the past decade are now rejecting extravagant lifestyles. They're spending less, and more wisely. Some are getting their finances in order. Others are fearful of losing their jobs, shocked by investment losses, or hunkering down amid the general uncertainty.

The penny-pinching is already showing up in the numbers; this quarter could mark the first fall in personal consumption in 17 years. And with credit tight and Americans loaded down with $2.6 trillion in personal debt, consumer borrowing dropped in August, the first such contraction since 1991. Menzie D. Chinn, who teaches economics at the University of Wisconsin, figures consumers won't be in a position to spend freely for five years.

Which brings us to what John Maynard Keynes called the paradox of thrift. What's good for the individual, argued the famous economist, can ignite or deepen a recession. But that won't deter the newly thrifty. "I can't help the economy," says Kim Schultz, a resident of hard-hit Avoca, Mich., who with her husband, Jon, owes $40,000 in credit-card debt. "I've got to help myself." On the other hand, this newfound austerity could—emphasis on could—rewire Americans as savers rather than spenders. And that would help put the economy on a sounder footing over the long haul.

COSTCO'S ARTFUL DISCOUNTS by Jena McGregor (excerpt)

At Costco, where more than 29 million households pay $50 to $100 a year to shop, low prices aren't just a nice-to-have. They're a way of life. Not only does Costco's famously frugal CEO James D. Sinegal cap margins at a sacrosanct 14% on branded goods, he's constantly pushing his buyers to find creative ways to lower prices and add value while getting his managers to crank up their efficiency efforts. Besides the buy-in strategy, Costco has been redesigning product packaging to squeeze more bulky goods onto trucks and revamping processes for moving goods through its depots. Even small tweaks to its well-oiled operations can have a big impact. "If that stuff doesn't really turn you on," says Sinegal, "then you're in the wrong business."

Such tactics are keeping customers' shopping carts full—the $72 billion retailer's sales have been one of the only bright spots in today's brutal retail economy. But they've also been pinching profits. As commodities surged over the summer, Sinegal's call to hold the line on pricing helped prompt Costco to warn in July that its fourth-quarter earnings would be "well below" expectations. On Oct. 8, it announced quarterly net income of $398 million, slightly lower than Wall Street's revised expectations.

But to Sinegal, the short-term earnings pain is worth the potential for long-term market share gain. For one, holding prices low is the best way to protect profits: About 75% of Costco's operating earnings come directly from membership fees, and if prices rose too quickly, some members could flee. In addition, the 72-year-old warehouse club veteran knows that in this environment, Costco's reputation for bargain prices and surprise designer goods could inspire a new crop of warehouse chic devotees. "We should shine at a time like this," he says. "We have always believed that great companies build market share in really tough times."

What Sinegal isn't doing is wavering from the basic model that helped him and co-founder Jeffrey Brotman build Costco into a retail phenomenon. The Issaquah (Wash.)-based company's warehouse model relies on selling core items at rock-bottom prices while scooping up excess inventory from high-end brands. The here-today, gone-tomorrow nature of Costco products tends to foster carts full of impulse buys. The average store does $137 million in annual sales, a volume so high that Costco turns its inventory 11.9 times a year, meaning it often sells goods before it technically has to pay its suppliers. Combine that with high-income customers—the average Costco household makes upwards of $75,000—and "what they're doing is really high velocity retailing," says Boston Consulting Group Managing Director Michael Silverstein, who has studied Costco.

Even CEOs who'd rather not find their designer brands discounted in a warehouse are happy to say they shop there. "I think they have a terrific concept," says Eric Wiseman, CEO of VF Corp., which owns the North Face and 7 For All Mankind clothing lines. David Novak, CEO of YUM Brands, says he buys wine and cleaning equipment there. And QVC CEO Michael George is a proud card-carrying member of one of the first Seattle stores. "You don't just go there for bargains," says George. "You go there for the treasure hunt."

Lately, the loot in that treasure chest is getting even more high end. Over the last year, Versace dinnerware, Waterford crystal, and pastel girls' Lilly Pulitzer dresses have all made their way into Costco's stores, either through new direct selling agreements or diversions from distributors. As consumers cut back, Costco is finding more available inventory and fielding more calls from companies hungry to boost slumping sales. "I think their store will probably look like Saks pretty soon," says an executive at one popular high-end fashion brand. "Their ability to sell stuff is staggering."

"In a tough economy, the ability to change your assortment towards products that are selling more is a huge advantage," says Michael Clayman, a former buyer for Costco and the editor of trade publication Warehouse Club Focus. "If the item isn't a value anymore, or isn't generating the sales hurdles, it'll be deleted."

To hedge against price increases, the giant retailer is even taking the unusual step of commissioning its own pumpkin patches. For years, Costco has offered customers a pumpkin pie for $5.99, selling more than a million of the store-baked pies in the three days before Thanksgiving. Despite margins getting whacked by higher prices on canned pumpkin prices, Costco has opted to maintain its price. So this year, Jeffrey Lyons (head of fresh-food buying) began testing a way to get around the food processing companies' high prices, asking some of the farms that grow its melons to cultivate pumpkins. It will experiment with using the pumpkin in some of next year's pies. "It's not beyond us to figure this out," Lyons says. "We won't be held hostage."

Costco has even gotten vendors to redesign product packages to fit more items on a pallet, the wooden platforms it uses to ship and display its goods. Putting cashews into square containers instead of round ones will decrease the number of pallets shipped by 24,000 this year, cutting the number of trucks by 600. By reshaping everything from laundry detergent buckets to milk jugs, Costco has needed 200,000 fewer pallets a year overall.

Sinegal acknowledges that he can't hold back the cost increases forever. Indeed, within the past six months Costco has twice raised the price of its popular rotisserie chickens, by a total of 20%, to $5.99. But he isn't giving in to higher costs without a fight. "The biggest concern to me is that we lose our way and start thinking it doesn't matter if you charge another dime or another dollar or another hundred dollars," he says. "Without those disciplines, we don't have anything."


Hard times have been pretty good to Rita Cortese. Since 2006, she has owned a Plato's Closet used clothing store in Deptford, N.J. In recent months, Cortese says, business has exploded as people descend on her store to buy or sell castoff shirts, dresses, and jeans. Cortese is so busy she recently built a shed out back to contain her overflowing inventory.

Winmark, the Nasdaq-listed company that sold Cortese her Plato's Closet franchise, is a rarity in a scorched retail landscape: It's growing rapidly and making money. Sales at Plato's Closet outlets open more than a year were up 19.6% in August, vs. 1.7% for the industry as a whole. "I don't wish this economy on anyone," says John Morgan, Winmark's chief executive. "But we're going to make hay while the sun shines."

The company that would become Winmark was born 25 years ago as Play It Again Sports, which sold used hockey sticks, baseball mitts, and so forth. Ten years later the company went public as Grow Biz. But by 2000, it was suffering the usual ills of overexpansion. Enter Morgan, who renamed it Winmark and focused on four franchises: Play It Again Sports, Once Upon A Child (kids' apparel), Music Go Round (used musical instruments), and Plato's Closet (which, like the other franchises, also sells some new items). Today, Winmark has 861 stores nationwide.

Franchisees pay a $20,000 one-time fee, plus 3% to 5% of weekly sales. In return, Winmark provides the business model, training, and marketing. "All the risk falls on the franchisee," says Graeme Rein, research analyst for Bares Capital Management, which owns 14% of the company. "It's on their shoulders to create a profit." Because franchisees pay cash on the spot, they have powerful bargaining leverage. For example, Cortese pays $6.80 for a pair of Hollister jeans and resells them for $18.

Since consumers are going to be hurting for a while, it's a fair bet that Winmark, whose stock has suffered this year along with the rest of the market, will continue to outperform the retail sector. Not that Morgan, who owns a quarter of the company, is standing pat. He's plowing Winmark profits into another franchise operation he expects to do well in hard times—leasing office equipment to credit-parched small businesses. And guess who he's recruiting to run the franchises: managers who've lost their jobs.


ARTEIXO, SPAIN Many U.S. apparel retailers are choking on slow-moving inventories as consumers hold back on spending. But Spain's Inditex, whose Zara chain pioneered cheap chic, is zipping ahead. The $13.8 billion company, which is closing in on Gap for the title of world's biggest clothing retailer, has nearly quadrupled sales, profits, and locations since 2000. This year, Inditex plans to expand by up to 640 stores. "They will weather the storms better than most of their rivals," says Michael Lewis, a supply-management professor at University of Bath's School of Management.

Inditex's secret? Besides selling relatively cheap clothes, which fit the times, the company maintains an iron grip on every link in its supply chain. That enables it to move designs from sketch pad to store rack in as little as two weeks. This "fast fashion" way of doing things has become a model for other apparel chains, such as Los Angeles-based Forever 21, Spain's Mango, and Britain's Topshop, which is set to open in New York next year.

Inditex has spent more than three decades perfecting its strategy. Along the way it has broken almost every rule in retailing. At most clothing companies, the supply chain starts with designers, who plan collections as much as a year in advance. At Inditex, Zara store managers monitor what's selling daily—and with up to 70% of their salaries coming from commission, there's a lot of incentive to get it right. They track everything from current sales trends to merchandise customers want but can't find in stores, then shoot orders to Inditex's 300 designers, who fashion what's needed instantly.

Typically, apparel chains outsource the bulk of production to low-cost countries in Asia. Inditex produces half of its merchandise in factories in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, keeping the manufacturing of the most fashionable items in-house while buying basics such as T-shirts from shops in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Wages are higher at Inditex—its factory workers in Spain make an average of $1,650 a month, vs. $206 in China's Guandong Province. But the company saves time and money on shipping. Also, Inditex's plants use just-in-time systems developed in cooperation with logistics experts from Toyota Motor, which gives the company a level of control that would be impossible if it were entirely dependent on outsiders.

In addition, Inditex supplies every market from warehouses in Spain. Even so, it manages to get new merchandise to European stores within 24 hours, and, by flying goods via commercial airliners, to stores in the Americas and Asia in 48 hours or less.

Air shipments cost more than transporting bulk packages on ocean freighters. But Inditex can afford them. The company produces smaller batches of clothing, adding an air of exclusivity that encourages customers to shop often. As a result, the chain doesn't have to slash prices by 50%, as rivals often do, to move mass quantities of out-of-season stock. Since the chain is more attuned to the most current looks, it also can get away with charging more than, say, Gap. "If you produce what the street is already wearing, you minimize fashion risk," notes José Luis Nueno, a marketing professor at IESE Business School in Barcelona.

For rivals hoping to mimic Inditex's results, analyst Luca Solca of Sanford C. Bernstein has a bit of advice: Don't follow the Zara pattern halfheartedly. "The Inditex way is an all-or-nothing proposition that has to be fully embraced to yield results."


Zara is a interesting case study. Together with Apple, they seem to be redefining the process of delivering consumer products. Both exercise tight control over process and are optimized to meet customer demands rather than mere supply side cost management. The freedom, store managers enjoy at Zara to get the stuff they expect their customers to pick up, and Apple stores that allow customers to walk-in and talk face to face with service people, reasserts that the "human" acting as the bridge between customer and company can still make a difference on customer experience and profits. -Ajay

In the Zara model, who in the supply chain holds the raw materials inventory (fabric, zippers, trims, etc.)? How far in advance to they have to commit to it, and how do they know how much to buy? -mark erickson

I wonder if it is sustainable? As they open even more stores is their supply chain scalable enough to sustain the model and keep their tight processes on track? They certainly know how to run a value chain and make it hum but I have some concern that it may start getting too big to properly manage as they face more constraints. -TR

Thanks very much for your responses to the story. @TR: Yes, the challenge Inditex faces is as it expands further from Spain will it still be able to wield the tight control over its supply chain. I think it is sustainable as long as like-for-like sales are growing--if these fall for say, several consecutive qrts and Inditex's costs rise, it could be difficult. @mark erickson: Inditex owns 100 other companies that handle various parts of its supply chain. So for instance, Zara sources around 40% of its fabric from another Inditex-owned company, Comditel. Fabric is purchased in grey so that it can be dyed in season to react more quickly to trends. Prof. Nueno says Zara commits to 35% of raw material purchases and up to 50% of purchases of finished products once the season has already started. -kerry

Zara has excellent products, but the service in its stores is terrible - long lines at the cash register, the runaround for simple returns, etc. I've stopped shopping there. -Kay

It was about time Inditex entered the US market. Here in Europe we've been studying ZARA strategies as a very good example of SWOT analysis and Competitive Advantage. Thumbs up Inditex, break the american rules ;) -Ermela

Zara has another interesting thing. They spend ZERO on marketing. No advertising, no marketing stunts, nothing. Just good prices and word-of-mouth. -Lucio

Sounds like a standard model for success. Give 'em what they want, don't pick up deadwood, stay lean and flexible, be adaptable and move fast. -Christopher H

Although Zara's clothes are fashionable and very cute, I believe they also keep their costs low by producing low quality clothing. I have bought several items there, only to have them fall apart in a matter of weeks. A friend and I who bought the same sweater weeks before me, were in amazement as our sweaters fell apart in unison week after week, until while travelling in Austria in dead winter, I was forced to buy a new one...Never shop there if you would like your clothes to last for the season...Never... -Former Zara Shopper

Oppenheimer Funds' Ron Fielding likes to find gems among tax-exempt bonds that others dump—and often winds up scoring big

"They do take on a lot of risk," says Morningstar analyst Greg Carlson. "But they've got a pretty impressive research team, and they've gotten so many calls right over the long term."

Contrarian's Guide

BusinessWeek - Oct.20,2008


Perspective is Everything

Leading Church Bodies of America - 2000

Click on map to enlarge.


Perspective is Everything



Perspective is Everything

BP Statistical Review - 2004

Click on map to enlarge.



As a 15 year old, Michael Calce aka "mafiaboy" made history when he shut down CNN, Yahoo, Amazon & ebay.

The Hour interview

How I Cracked the Internet & Why it's Still Broken

Book's site

Dragon's Den


Dragon's Den

Dragon's Den UK

thestar.com feature
"At the end, it's you who does the work & takes the fame or blame, not others. You're the one."


Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter Schiff on Crash Proof: amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/m9NA2D6ADKBP0

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION The economic tipping point for the United States is no longer theoretical. It is a reality today. The country has gone from the world's largest creditor to its greatest debtor; the value of the dollar is sinking; domestic manufacturing is winding down - and these trends don't seem to be slowing. Peter Schiff casts a sharp, clear-sighted eye on these factors and explains what the possible effects may be and how investors can protect themselves. For more than a decade, Schiff has not only observed the U.S. economy, but also helped his clients reposition their portfolios to reflect his outlook. What he sees is a nation facing an economic storm brought on by growing federal, personal, and corporate debt, too-little savings, a declining dollar, and lack of domestic manufacturing.

is an informed and informative warning of a looming period marked by sizeable tax hikes, loss of retirement benefits, double digit inflation, even - as happened recently in Argentina - the possible collapse of the middle class. However, Schiff does have a survival plan that can provide the protection that readers will need in the coming years.

CUSTOMER REVIEWS Peter Schiff, son of American patriot Irwin Schiff, has written a very useful book that can not only assist you to take the concrete steps necessary for financial survival, but also change your individual psychology toward the storm on the horizon that is rapidly gathering strength. Today, we have the illusion of prosperity, and the sooner we break through that delusional state, the sooner we can prepare for darker days.

At this point, there are so many possible triggers for the Second Great Depression, it's striking that it has not already begun. The sub-prime meltdown may just be such a trigger that brings down the house of cards, once it becomes more clear which entities actually hold all the risk created as part of the Housing Bubble. Wall Street, sub-prime lenders, and the large banks have been ingenious in their ability to push risk onto other parties, but it's not clear if the counter-parties will have the ability to weather the defaults. Thus, the risk may yet reside with the banks, which normally would have been more restricted in the number of loans they could create by more traditional standards. So much debt has been created, and so much risk obfuscated, that it is hard to imagine our present illusion of prosperity can be maintained much longer.

Mr. Schiff breaks through our modern mythology by shattering these illusions, and here is where he shines best. A bear's bear, Mr. Schiff steps down from the towers of the economic elite to provide analogies that can be readily digested by more casual readers. The analogy of the Asians and the American trapped on an island together is apropos, as it reveals much about the true state of international trade. The Dollar Bubble heavily distorts trade in favor of America, which benefits disproportionately from the inflated value of the dollar.

Mr. Schiff also understands very well the entitlement crisis brewing, and aptly names Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. Most people in Generations X and Y understand that we're the bagholders scheduled for the Ponzi Scheme, but many Baby Boomers love to be delusional about this tragic farce, thinking it's a form of savings rather than our government writing worthless IOUs to itself and lying to the American people. They think Gen X "owes" it to them! Ha Ha! The sooner we can end social security, the sooner we can start saving real money with real assets. Until then, we are slaves waiting for generational emancipation.

I remember the first time I heard Mr. Schiff speak on CNBC. The discussion was about inflation, and I couldn't help but notice Mr. Schiff's definition diverged significantly from the definition used by the brainless cheerleaders on CNBC, and for that matter, our government and most of Wall Street. The proper definition of inflation is "debasement" and secondarily, "an increase in the supply of money which causes a rise in prices" (Webster's 1982). Note the difference between these two definitions and the more commonly used definition today, which is simply "a rise in prices."

CNBC would have us believe that money supply doesn't matter when you can fool people into believing that the risks associated with exuberant money creation won't be felt by anyone, or only by parties "most able to bear that risk." How convenient! What the government doesn't want you to know is that the Federal Reserve creates inflation, and both government and the Federal Reserve benefit from this inflation at everyone else's expense. In the history of every mania and crash, rampant money creation is behind the genesis of every one. Usually, it takes a unique form. In this case, it was the Housing Bubble. So, inflation and the Housing Bubble are intimately linked. As many have often pointed out, the Housing Bubble was needed to replace the Nasdaq Bubble that popped in 2000-2002.

Finally, the juicy part - how to survive. Mr. Schiff advocates foreign equities that are sound and pay excellent dividends, which due to the Dollar Bubble, might do very well. So long as there is sufficient domestic demand (abroad) after a currency revaluation, this appears good advice. Although, one has to wonder if the U.S. catches cold, would Asians follow?

Next, buy gold and silver, and mining shares. This is pretty standard advice from the "Gloom and Doom" crowd as we are sometimes named. Lastly, he recommends staying liquid, which generally means reducing debt and keeping assets in a form that can be readily converted from one type to another. He recommends leveraging overvalued home equity in other currencies and storing small amounts of imported goods likely to rise in price, and a few other measures.

The piggy bank on the cover is a nice touch, and the list of books for further reading is most helpful for those who have not already read many of the titles.

A very quick read, easy to understand, and very well put together. I highly recommend this book. -Patrick M. Hussey (Mar.07)

>Andrew Coonce says: Good review. When I first heard about Schiff's book, I read a negative review on Amazon, and, as a result, I almost didn't buy the book. The only reason I got it was because it was part of a 3-for-1 deal at the time. Man, am I glad I did that! I know enough economics and politics to recognize that his reasoning is sound and dead spot on. That's been confirmed by the fact that everthing he predicted in the book is now happening. I'm now a cleint of Europacific Capital, and I've made some pretty sweeping changes in my investments. I've been trying to tell family and friends about the book, and about what's coming, but they pretty much don't listen. I only wish I had read the book a year earlier.................... (Jun.29-08)

This book is nothing more that an overt advertisement for Peter Schiff's brokerage firm Euro Pacific Capital. There are no specific investment recommendations.

Here's the gist: The US dollar will collapse pretty soon. Schiff cites the usual suspects--- large trade deficit, large private and public debt held by foreigners, decimated manufacturing base in USA. 7 out of 10 chapters are a very generic rehash of these arguments. So you should have all of your assets in non-dollar investments (except 10-30% in gold and gold equities.) You should buy dividend paying foreign stocks through Euro Pacific Capital. Countries to consider are Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and maybe some other pac rim countries. He particularly likes commodities. That's it. He says, "the stocks of the caliber we've been talking about will probably never need to be sold and will provide a lifetime of increasing income." If these stocks are so stable he could list 10 or 20 examples. Yet, not a single specific stock is mentioned in the book. For that contact Euro Pacific Capital. Did I mention Euro Pacific Capital? -M. Passey (Mar.07)

>a satisfied reader says: I disagree with this reviewers complaint (and SWT's agreement) that
Schiff didn't supply specific recommendations on what stocks to buy. THis book will be in print for years and it would be irresponsible to suggest specific stock buys. Besides,as a licensed stock broker he is actually NOT ALLOWED
to do so unless he knows a person's specific financial situation. His goal was much more global and I think he did a good job. (Mar.07)

>Ron Kokish says: AN unfair review. Not only is it illegal for a licensed broker to make specific stock recommendations in a book, it's unfair to expect it. However, I've been a EuroPac client for two years during which, in spite of hefty 2% commissions the $100,000 I had them invest for me has turned into $153,000. Maybe it's luck. Or, maybe they are actually on to something. (May.07)

>"Fed Up With Liars" says: As of 6/11/07--You want MEAT? Then listen to Bill Gross, bond king at PIMCO--he's specifically saying that a "bond bear market" is occurring in the U.S., and the best moves to make for the future are investing in the Brazilian currency (the real) and investing in foreign bonds that currently carry a double-digit return.

Why Brazilian currency? Brazil is the ONLY country on the planet that is energy self-sufficient, meaning it imports absolutely no oil from outside. In an otherwise darkening future, this means that their money and economy will likely only be side-swiped instead of t-boned.

Why foreign bonds? That's where the Chinese are now spending their huge wads of money--they're no longer buying our bonds hand-over-fist. Without a huge and active buyer for our bonds, what do you think is going to happen to Uncle Sam's spending habits? He's lost his #1 financier.

Rats (even Chinese ones) know when to leave a sinking ship. Bill Gross just happened to bring it to our attention...on CNBC, no less! Some cheerleaders are worth listening to.

I'm ordering this book--not for basing my entire strategy on, but as part of an overall picture of how to protect myself. (Jun.07)

>Bruno says: 1. This is a book, not a magazine column. Any stock recommendation would be out of date soon.
2. HE wrote the book, why wouldn't HE tout HIS brokerage?
3. One man's "no meat" is another man's "easy to understand". (Aug.07)

>M. Beaston says: I've been making a ton of money following Peter's advice. I don't know what planet this bad review came from. Thanks for Crash Proof! (Nov.07)

>P. Smith says: What is this dude smokin'? I searched long and hard to find someone who could make sense of this market for me. That guy is Peter Schiff. I have done every single thing he has suggested and am tremendously grateful I learned about him. I've become an evangelist, of sorts.

The U.S. is one big Enron, people. Make no mistake: The guys at the top have all gotten their money out of US-denominated assets, while telling us "deficits don't matter." Peter is right--get out of the dollar while you still can.

I'd be the first one to say Peter shamelessly touting his company would be obnoxiuos...but I didn't find it to be that way at all. In fact, a few times I wondered if Euro Pac could help me because Peter talks generically about where to buy foreign stocks. (Nov.07)