Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wiping the Slate Clean

Happy International BK Day!
We wish you a prosperous and debt free 2009.

For more on BK8, see our ‘Dream Sequence’ November 30, 2008 posting "World Forwards Final Bill to 'W' in Crawford, TX".

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why Bernie Made Off With 2008

There are few words to accurately describe the vibrant hum of Manhattan during the holiday season and this year was no exception, global economic collapse and all.

Standing on the corner of 53rd at 3rd in front of the Lipstick Building in Midtown, we caught sight of an announcement posted on the large lobby doors that read “Bernie Made Off like a Pirate. Premium Office Space For Plunder“. As the 17th floor sadly sat in darkness, we realized that there wasn’t enough in Bernie’s bank account to even pay the electric bill.

We stood there as it snowed and pondered the riches to rags story Bernie (see definition) had been weaving over the last several decades. Known as a man of international distinction with direct access to the highest of affluent societies, Bernie managed to build a no-questions-asked house of cards out of the world’s Kings and Queens of Diamonds.

The crème de la crème must find it incomprehensible that this old man of solid reputation – and one of their own - could simultaneously outwit all regulating authorities for more years than anyone can count, and single-handedly shatter their illusion of being insulated and protected from society’s fiscal underbelly with the prospect of imminent financial collapse and having to do without.

It’s hard not to admire how Bernie cleverly cultivated an illusion of elitism by straining any prospective investor through a narrow and somewhat arbitrary snob filter. Naturally he made it a point to reject a few every now and then. Aristocracy, nobility, gentry, bourgeoisie, nouveau riche – it really didn’t matter. They all wanted in, and big bucks from a cherry-picked elite was just as good as big bucks from his own family. In spite of the occasional investor rejects, however, he was pretty much an equal opportunity shyster.

A glance in the rear view mirror gave us a panoramic view of the Berlin Wall as it was being dismantled in 1989; when what had once been divided and segregated, subsequently became transparent and integrated. Bernie comparably dissembled the Madoff Wall upon making confession, and the Madoff Wall had long served to separate the money secrets of the upper class from everyone else. The irony in forbidding ordinary folk membership in his private investment club was that he'd inadvertently done them a favor.

While Bernie may claim to never have heard the idiom “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”, we’re certain he knows what it feels like to be caught with his hand in Peter’s now empty piggy bank. Suffice it to say, he robbed some of the old Robber Barons as well.

Now that the house of cards has been blown away in a Category 5 hurricane named Bernie, no one can be sure if any grand plan or exit strategy ever truly existed. Self preservation might’ve been a marginably understandable motivation for his actions, a personal quest to save face (his own of course), until the worldwide financial realm imploded that is. Ultimately though what Bernie did was simply travel down Bill Clinton’s highway – he did it because he could.

The rich trails of Bernie’s purloined funds go far and run deep. He’s unquestionably left a smoldering trail of scorched earth across the world’s affluent upper crust. As the charred remains of the 17th floor are sifted through, will we ever really know who Bernie burned?

For more on Buccaneer Capitalism, see our ‘Dream Sequence’ December 7, 2008 posting "Who’s Talking Like a Pirate Now?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Was That Wingtip a Size 10? (DS)

We had a dream……and in that dream we saw a pensive George W. Bush receiving his final invite from French Prezy Nicolas Sarkozy for an Adieu Party at the exquisite Chateau de Versailles on January 21, 2009 - the anniversary of French King Louis XVI’s beheading.

Our dream made it obvious that “W’s” guest list just wasn’t as world-class as it used to be which seemed to take the pressure off. There were few to impress at this party so he could comfortably let it all hang out and be detente-free. Opened Budweiser can in hand, he took leave of the merrymakers in favor of a solitary stroll through the Chateau.

It wasn’t long before X-P “W” (see definition) found himself standing smack dab in the middle of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors. The last 8 years had been somewhat stressful, and while he stared upon his full reflection in one of the 17 large mirrors lining the Hall, he couldn’t help but admire how well he’d aged like a fine wine through it all.

Before he could even stumble on to his next thought, George’s eyes glazed over like he’d been hypnotized and what came next can only be likened to an Alice-in-the-looking-glass adventure, except that he’d been sucked into a time warp that plopped him down into the sunset of the French Revolution 216 years earlier, on January 21, 1793. Inconceivably, George recognized himself in a previous reincarnation as King Louis XVI of France at the time of his execution.

George watched himself in the body of Louis resolutely mount the guillotine scaffold with as much dignity as he could muster and attempt to make a small speech reasserting his innocence. His speech was rudely interrupted by a shout exploding from deep within the witnessing crowd of the revolutionary cry “Liberte’, egalite’, fraternite’!!”. And then a large shoe came flying through the air toward his head. George as Louis was agile enough even then to dodge that first fast moving trajectory, but not agile enough to parry the countless other shoes and boots that quickly followed.

Those speedy projectiles almost saved the executioner from doing his job, but not really. George subsequently saw his Louis-head roll into the dirt after the guillotine’s blade swiftly fell, and watched as the mob dipped their stockings in his blood as it dripped to the ground.

Snapping out of it, George suddenly had a headache and wanted to leave his own party. As he approached the waiting stretch limo, the Adieu Party guests rallied around the courtyard to see him off. No sooner had his limo begun its forward roll, when the shoes of every guest present went flying high into the air, followed by raucous whoops and cheers in celebration. C’est la vie!

And then we woke up and could see why Louis XVI’s miserable failure as Monarch of France ultimately resulted in his assignation with the guillotine on the heels of the French Revolution. Yet somehow King Louis had managed to inadvertently make a profound contribution to the victory of America’s War of Independence from King George of England and all of his madness. We wondered if “W” consciously intended to destroy today as President what he’d helped build centuries earlier as King.

It seems very few of us get a do-over of this magnitude. Is it possible “W” will get a third time in the Rulership ring, say around 2200?

For more on “W’s” Gift to Rule, see our ‘Dream Sequence’ October 16, 2008 posting "Who’s Burning Bush?"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who Will Drive the Wild Car in Washington?

Much to the chagrin of the Big Three Auto-Titans, the music still hasn’t stopped and their bronze medal dancing has tangoed on for weeks around very wobbly court chairs. What had started out as a respectable pleading, now had them retching humble pie on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

And what had started out as $25 billion, had now been whittled down for the umteenth time to around $14 billion. It was an eye-opening sight to behold the new King’s court making its decisive motion to silence the music. Yet just as the new King's court moved in to halt the Auto-Titans' dance long enough for a sit-down, the old King’s court hotfooted in posthaste and ripped the chairs right out from under everyone just because they could.

We could see in our rear view mirror that the ancient rituals of old court vs. new court would certainly not be changing this time around. Out of all this posturing, however, did emerge what appeared to be an unusually constructive solution to the Big Three’s serious financial dilemma.

The Big Three Automakers would never see a dime … from TARP that is. Instead, Congress surprisingly agreed to take the Blago (see definition below) approach and simply sell the job posting of “Car Czar” to the highest bidder. The duties of the new Car Czar would not only be the review and approval of all Big Three workout plans, the Car Czar would be the one to lend them the money as well - on favorable terms and with a little governmental guarantee no doubt.

Rahmbo (see definition below) had already leaked the list of acceptable Car Czar candidates for Congressional interviewing and interrogation. The problem was that every prominent and potential auto industry savior on the list had placed its financial future in the hands of Bernie (see definition below) and it looked like Bernie was going to jail.

But all was not lost.

Racing straight from the Indy500 to D.C., came the shocking Car Czar wild card winner, Danica Patrick. Her well-oiled team swooped in like a pit crew wearing lip stick. She was a young, marketing machine who knew what made cars go. The time she spent under the sponsorship of subprime giant Argent/Ameriquest taught her a thing or two about loans, and her current GoDaddy sponsorship could equitably fund a portion of the Big Three bailout bridge loan in question. It was also believed that GoDaddy would give her the worldwide internet exposure she needed to raise plenty of additional capital in record time.

We overheard someone say that the new Car Czar tends to invest in what she loves, and we wondered if that, combined with a progressive, open-minded approach to doing 21st century business, would be enough to turn the Auto-Titanic around. But the real question is, who’s spinning the discs in the Court of Congress now?

For more Carmakers-The Musical, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ November 22, 2008 posting "Will They Get Dubai a Stairway to Heaven?"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who’s Talking Like a Pirate Now? (DS)

We had a dream……and in that dream we heard the Pirates of Somalia crooning the Robber Baron song of old about how exploitation was justified under the guise of bringing order to the industrial chaos of the day.

It’s one thing to throw caution to the wind while plundering the Indian Ocean for ransom money when there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. But 2008 had been an extremely profitable year. Undeniably it was time to legitimize their booty, and foster a long term economic enrichment plan which included putting solid growth strategies in to place. And like the historic Robber Barons of a century ago, this practical approach would ultimately obscure the source of their loot and afford them the opportunity to later gloss it over in some high profile form of philanthropy.

In our dream we watched the Somalian Pirates implement the first stage of their plan to go legit by orchestrating a sit down with Erik Prince of Blackwater Worldwide on friendly ground in Dubai - the Pirates planned to incorporate and take legal ownership of a sanctioned international port of their own. Everyone knew that Blackwater’s mercenaries were quickly running out of good paying work and Somalia’s Pirates desperately needed Blackwater’s help in navigating these new directional waters. It was clearly a win-win all the way around, and magic happened that day in Dubai.

Nothing can grease the wheels of speed like loads of cash. The Horn of Africa had its terrain forever altered when Blackwater rapidly established a new state-of-the-art training facility in Somalia’s lawless Puntland region, now re-named BLACKHORN. Blackhorn was located just east of the former pirate hideaway Port of Eyl, which had now been sanctioned as their internationally recognized shipping port officially re-named Port of Black Eye. No mercenary adventure of this magnitude could ever be complete without the perfect mission statement and Blackhorn’s call was now “Robbin’ the Hood”.

Our dream then turned toward the plan’s second stage: to form a pirate bank of their own. If the Red Shield could finance the exploitive goals of Carnegie and Rockefeller over a century ago, then the newly chartered SIMOLEON BANK could legitimately finance their enterprise and launder the shillings as well. After opening its flagship bank in Port of Black Eye, long term business plan projections provided for additional Simoleon Bank branch openings in strategic locations to include Mogadishu, Dubai, Liberia, and of course Tehran.

What we found ironic in all of this was that in their attempts to protect their own interests by going legit, the Pirates of Somalia unwittingly invigorated their country’s economy and created a stability in government, albeit Blackhorn militia, the likes of which had never been experienced by a majority of Somalia’s current population.

And then we woke up, and could see how the world yields a certain commiserative tolerance for those who act with moral compromise while on the quest for great wealth. Is it possible to walk the path of great riches and have room for genuine altruism to walk concurrently beside it, or must one path be pursued solely to the exclusion of the other?

For more Pirate gibber-jabber, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ October 8, 2008 posting “Will the Real Pirates Please Stand Up?”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

World Forwards Final Bill to “W” in Crawford, TX (DS)

We had a dream……and in that dream we saw a panic that far surpassed the hysteria witnessed 8 years ago as 1999 was drawing to a close. The fear of ‘99 simmered and swelled on the certain knowledge that our world as we knew it would fatefully end when Y2K made its inevitable entree at midnight on December 31.

Y2K’s frightful millennium shift ultimately proved to be unfounded, or so it seemed on January 1, 2000 anyway. Nevertheless it didn't take us long to realize that we really did have every reason to be afraid, for later in the new millennium’s first year, George W. Bush was elected to his first 4-year term as President. From that moment on, we watched the world we'd once known begin to steadily deteriorate, until the fatal economic barrage hit mid-2008.

In our dream we could see that as the end of 2008 fast approached, a powerful fear gripped the world once again. But instead of hiding out in bomb shelters with stored food stuffs waiting for the end of time, the masses collectively responded in revolutionary anger as they joined forces and decided to finally take matters into their own hard working hands.

The internet spread word of the People’s revolt like wildfire: December 31, 2008 had been declared International BK Day - BK8 for short. It was predicted that every court in the world would be packed to overflowing as the unruly multitudes simultaneously filed their legal version of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The People were done carrying the financial burden of international hedge fund greed and corporate mismanagement on their backs.

And then we woke up, and realized that it was probably no coincidence the People's BK8 insurgency came at the disastrous conclusion of "W’s" second term as President. So if capitalism is bankrupt and the People are bankrupt, who will be expected to pick up the tab and fund the now bankrupt system?

For more Treasure Hunt Clues, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ October 1, 2008 posting "Who Took Off With The Bank?"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Will They Get Dubai a Stairway to Heaven?

X-P “W’s” White House lawn hullabaloo protesting the demise of the Old Guard was indeed an attention getter, but not enough to deter us from watching the super sonic approach of three private jets in our rear view mirror preparing to land at The Gipper’s Airport. The three jets zoomed over our heads in a pattern similar to that of migrating albatrosses looking for a rich ocean to feed in.

It's no mystery that the Big Three Automakers have been relentlessly petitioning Congress to throw them a $25 billion bone. In the big scheme of things, it appears they may have come a’barkin’ a little too late. And everybody knows timing is everything.

Well, it just wasn't the time to consider the pros and cons of effective timing, because now that Congress had finally agreed to hear their supplications, there was no time to waste in making the appropriate D.C. travel arrangements for the big audience. As we sat nearby, it was easy to overhear a group of their executive assistants discussing the various travel possibilities that had been considered just days before.

This would involve a scenic road trip from Detroit to D.C. in their biggest, newest, and most deluxe gas guzzling ‘09 models fresh off the assembly line floor. We quickly realized that by going this route, they could’ve effectively promoted the very products they were in D.C. to represent by proudly parking them out in front of the Capital Building for everyone to see. All of this, along with a savvy sales team placed curbside to distribute attractive marketing brochures and offer seductive sales pitches, who knows? a sale or two may have even been made. Frankly, it was too much like driving to Florida or Seattle for the weekend. Option: Rejected!!

This was worse than Car Caravanning and not only that, travel like the working man? Option: Rejected!!

This would involve standing in a long line to get through airport security checkpoints which further meant they’d have to take off their tap shoes. And there again, travel like the working man? Option: Rejected!!

As a vision of the Hindenburg’s 1937 1-minute incineration loomed before them, this option was promptly nixed. That rejection, however, did not come before they briefly considered that a little promo for Goodyear might not be a bad marketing ploy. There might’ve been a free ride in it for them as well. In the end, it seemed obvious to us that if they weren’t inclined to promote their own products, then why would they promote the maker of the tires their vehicles ran upon? Free ride or no. Option: Rejected!!

Fast, luxurious, equivalent to their elite status and everyone had their very own so no one had to share. Option: The Winner!!

When the Big Three Auto execs arrived at court, we got a rear view mirror flashback to the roaring 20’s. The Big Three were walking anachronisms, dressed in the very clothes of their ancestors …..Tuxedos with bow ties, top hats, tap shoes, and the prerequisite solid gold pocket watches. Wafting invisibly through the airwaves was the tune “Puttin’ on the Ritz".

We watched as GM CEO Richie Rick pulled out his pocket watch to check the time. The pressure he was under was interminable, and this included a stringent timeline - Richie Rick was due to be in Dubai in several days. As he retrieved the solid gold watch from his pocket, he failed to notice the invitation that popped out and fell to the ground beneath his fast dancing feet. It was an invitation to the party of the decade at the new hotel Atlantis on The Palm. We could see he wasn’t too sure at this point whether he’d be celebrating with his tribe in Dubai or crying in his cups as he postured for an Arabian handout.

As the Big Three moved toward the inner chamber to settle in for some serious begging, they were surprised to see not 3 chairs, but only 2, placed out before the open court. And they logically wondered which one of them wouldn’t get to sit in a chair. They didn’t have to wonder long because Congressman Ackerman (D-NY) quickly hit a switch and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” began to play through the auditorium loud speakers. The three CEOs instinctively began a rapid tap dance around the 2 chairs as they each vied to be in a sitting position when the music stopped.

It was a tap dance that lasted two days, and while they pleaded for the music to stop, the music never did stop. When the music finally does stop, who will get to sit in a chair?

For more on the Big Three Bedrock-style, see our ‘Dream Sequence’ November 14, 2008 posting "Washingstone B.C."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Washingstone B.C. (DS)

We had a dream……and in that dream we saw our favorite modern Stone Age families strike it rich with a newfound energy source called crude oil, and make that big move out of the Bedrock burbs into the political tar pits of Washingstone B.C., where any Neanderthal can have an affect on the evolution of the species homo sapien.

In our dream, it was easy to see how one lifestyle change typically leads to another and having wealth did afford certain options one might not otherwise have. So with the revenues that flowed in like the oil, we saw Wilma and Betty opt to stay behind to raise Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm and do their thing in Bedrock; as Barney and Fred made the decision to move out together and finally get that place of their very own in a nice Bostone community.

It didn’t take Barney F. Rubble (D-MA) long to reach the political heights vital to fulfilling his altruistic dream of positively influencing public policy for the benefit of every primate under his jurisdiction. Repetitive evolutionary cycles were nothing new in the long history of an upstanding man, and we watched in our dream as Barney worked diligently to promote legislative measures he felt were necessary to curb the collective homo sapien’s tendency toward devolutionary back-stepping, which oftentimes occurred when too much power was held in the hands of too few and when deregulated greediness prevailed.

Suffice it to say, Barney was appalled when Mr. Slate – CEO of the nation’s largest Stone Quarry which now looked more like a Strip Mine – held out his hand looking for a large chunk of the newly legislated Big Boulder Bailout (“BBB”). The quarry had been cutting costs all right and Mr. Slate could prove it. His big-wigged henchmen had just laid off 75% of the quarry workers and Fred was one of them. Unfortunately, even the cost savings that strategy realized wasn’t enough to cover the enormous, yet still unpaid, contractual obligations now pressing him for immediate satisfaction.....Not only was his own bonus past due, so were those of his bigwigs. It was critical to the Stone Quarry’s continued economic survival that he keep his mis-management team in place and $40 billion clams was just what he needed to do it. This was, Mr. Slate insisted, in the long term best interests of Neanderthals everywhere.

The Stone Quarry wasn’t the only pit deep in the hole. The Stone Age car makers were way behind the times. They’d persisted in manufacturing energy inefficient cars that did little but produce foot calluses and wondered why no one was buying. Surprisingly, it never crossed their minds that maybe Mr. Slate of the Stone-Quarry-now-Strip-Mine was partially responsible for their slow car sales. All they saw was that Mr. Slate and his bigwigs got a big piece of the BBB without having to give up much more than lay a few workers off, and they wanted some of that action too. With a friend like Speaker of the Cave, Nancy Pebblosi, pleading their case in exchange for a new pearl necklace, they were very hopeful.

Of the three car makers, the loudest and most demanding was “Great Mastodon” (also known as “GM”). “Carnivore” felt that if Lee Iarocka could do it, so could Nancy Pebblosi. They were in. And not to be left behind, “Brontosaurus”, maker of the ever popular Bronto, was certainly expecting its lion’s share of the dole as well.

And then we woke up, and remembered that no matter how dire the straits, The Great Gazoo never seemed to appear when he was called. Will The Great Gazoo ever show up?

For more TARP twisting, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ October 23, 2008 posting "Who are the Wizards Behind the TARP?"

Friday, November 7, 2008

White House Tenant Served 60-day Notice to Vacate

It’s high noon. A trickle of light from the sun has finally begun to seep through and even though we’ve been stalled in the middle of this intersection for what seems like an eternity, we no longer harbor a sense of being abandoned on the dark side of the moon. Yes, we’ve witnessed some incredibly dramatic events unfold as we sat immobilized at the pinnacle of D.C.’s Donner Pass. And true, we’re not for the moment any better off than we were when our car first stalled, but at least the ignition started this time when we turned the key. Moving through and out of this impasse, we can, for a short spell anyway, coast our way downhill into the nation’s capital.

When we arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we stopped to read the legal notice conspicuously posted for public viewing on the front fence. It was a 60-day Notice to Vacate. Looks like X-P "W’s" second 4-year lease term on the White House is up, and he's been ordered out.

No sooner had “W” been formally served with his 60-day Notice, when the film crews began showing up at his door and they weren’t there for him. Seemed he was now out of the loop, and no one thought to tell him that the White House had just been selected the new winner of an “Extreme Makeover-Home Edition”. When Ty Pennington appeared unannounced with his pros to measure for new drapes and furnishings, and then the “Queer Eye” ensemble popped in to begin their work of designing the new occupant’s flair (china, crystal, silverware, color schemes and seating arrangements) - and all of this without cost to the taxpayers - it was simply too much for a man of his stature to bear.

George immediately got Condi on the phone and secretly arranged a protest rally to take place on the White House lawn. Some would accuse him of being too inebriated to remember much of the 1960’s, but he was sure they used to do something like that back then, didn’t they? Well, instead of picketing for change, the protesters he was calling to action on what was still his front yard would be picketing for things to remain the same. It had been a good ride, and he couldn’t just stand by and watch helplessly as his heady error (or was that era?) of the last 8 years abruptly ended.

When George’s protest rally finally began that warm late fall morning (really it was more like afternoon when tee-times were over), we could see in the rear view mirror that it was a far cry from what had happened back in the 60’s when the lines of rickety buses would pour into Washington D.C. from every corner of the country and unload at the White House gates an endless stream of pot smoking, flag burning hippies wearing tied-dye, flashing the peace sign and crying out for US withdrawal from Vietnam, equal rights, free love and above all, change.

Fall afternoon 2008, Pennsylvania Avenue instead saw a line-up of Rolls Royce limousines, with a few Mercedes and Lincolns thrown in for good measure, far more impressive than any formal White House affair he’d ever hosted during his 8-year reign. One by one, the limos unloaded its Moldy Old White Bread (MOWBs-see definition) sporting tailored Armani suits and Rolex watches, well-fed on the caviar and Dom Perignon that had been elegantly served to them as they reposed in the backseat and waited for an opportunity to emerge from their transports. Once the MOWBs were properly assembled, they began to clamor in unison for US extension in Iraq (the oil revenues were just too good to give up, oh duh), more bail out money to pay their executive bonuses, and above all, keeping the Old Guard.

When “W’s” rally is finally over, will the heads of the protesters continue spinning in drunken power, or will their heads be splitting in pain as they endure the inevitable champagne hangover?

For more on "W's" Retirement, see our ‘Dream Sequence’ November 1, 2008 posting "Will The Lame Duck Be Flying South For the Winter?"

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Will the Lame Duck Be Flying South For the Winter? (DS)

We had a dream…..and in that dream we saw Florida putting its post-presidential election ballot counters to good use, and former President George W. Bush winning a decisive victory in his run for Mayor of Guantanamo Bay.

Too much vacation time went against his workaholic nature and how to spend his twilight years after retirement from the White House in a way that continued to touch the lives of the people was of paramount importance. More important still was his bottom line, yet staring him in the face was an inconvenient truth. He was no math whiz, but he knew without a doubt that his social security checks just weren’t going to be enough to maintain the lifestyle he’d grown quite fond of.

Our dream made it painfully obvious that X-P “W” didn’t spend the last 8 years in D.C. and not learn a thing. He recognized a winning team when it was assembled on his behalf, so he promptly set out to place several of his favorites in key positions in an attempt to re-create some of that “Emperor’s New Clothes” type of magic he’d become most comfortable with.

Mayor George firmly believed he’d gotten things off to a good start when Rush Limbaugh accepted the position of Hostel Camp Manager and Activities Director. In determining the next appointee, even he knew it was critical that Guantanamo Bay’s new Mayor have a big thug (someone who was silent but carried a big shotgun) to put out in front. And without question, Sheriff Dick had an unbeatable track record. In his mind, though, the icing on the cake was when his new BFF, Paris Hilton, agreed to join the team as Director of Marketing and Promotion.

Paris didn’t waste one fabulous minute in putting together a highly impressive VIP guest list for the new Mayor’s inaugural celebration. She managed to procure RSVPs from some surprising world dignitaries, like Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Bashar al-Assad (Syria), and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), to name a few.

In his new position as Hostel Camp MAD-man, Rush’s first big maneuver was to re-open Camp X-Ray under its new name, Camp S+M. Paris immediately began a high profile across-the-globe marketing blitz spotlighting the camp’s new honeymoon-on-the-racks package for only the most discriminating of couples looking to stretch their limits. And Paris wisely included in her saucy promos something to attract the seasoned couple who believed marriage was torture by offering them the perfect setting to take their torment to another level.

No detail was too small and MAD-man Rush always made sure to have plenty of painkillers of the potent prescription variety on hand for distribution to his special guests as they required. He reckoned too it would encourage them to stay longer.

And then we woke up, and got a side mirror glimpse of Castro, in his final hours, making one last executive decision to finally deposit all of those Guantanamo Bay rent checks we’ve been sending him since 1959, then of course, he raised the rent. In pondering George’s short attention span and dubious intellect, are we safe in assuming this will be enough to keep him contained?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who Are the Wizards Behind the TARP?

It seems that ejecting the financial district’s golden parachute-packin' CEOs from Air Force One just wasn’t enough. We gasped when we caught sight of the final package to be thrown out before the jet sped off like an F-22 Raptor. The grand finale was a massive Hot Air Balloon, airbrushed in its entirety with a larger-than-life image of King George looking like a madman. The regal banner underneath his portrait read “Everything is going to be fine.”

Looking up, we stared directly into the frightened eyes of an 8-year old girl in pig tails as she peered over the side of the balloon’s basket while holding on to her little dog named RoveR. She tried not to panic when the hot air-producing flame which fed the balloon’s enormous cavity started to sputter then fizzled out, and the (not-so-hot-air) balloon commenced to free fall.

In our rear view mirror we kept constant tabs on the speedy approach of the two Cannibal King racing minivans we thought we’d lost way back on D.C.’s Donner Pass. We cringed when both drivers eventually slammed on their brakes too close on our tail for comfort. Brakes screeched, rubber burned, back tires peeled then skid, and road stones spewed in every direction upon their dramatic, simultaneous finish right beside us.

There sat Benny (see definition) at the helm of his White SUV, and by the looks of it, he’d picked up a solitary companion along the way. Sitting in the front passenger seat was a scarecrow tightly clutching a paperback of “Atlas Shrugged”.

Hank (see definition), on the other hand, had stuffed his White Minivan (see definition) to overflowing. In the front passenger seat was Dick Cheney holding a shotgun and dripping with the scent of road-kill. The back of the minivan was packed with Hank’s Goldman Sachs fraternity bros plus his most recent pickup, Daddy Warbucks (see definition). Like a bunch of back seat drivers, the riders in his minivan were all screaming to be heard at the same time, each with different advise and its own personal opinion of which way the minivan needed to go. Except Daddy Warbucks, who just smiled like a fox put in charge of the chicken coop.

The Hot Air Balloon crash-landed directly in front of us. Benny, Hank and all of their ride-along buddies (even Daddy Warbucks) exploded from the two white vehicles and ran to the little girl. It looked as if they were rushing to her rescue, but all they did was snatch the ruby slippers right off of her feet and sprint back to their respective vehicles, patting each other on the back and smiling with smug satisfaction.

Unfortunately the dog, RoveR, did what dogs do best and what came naturally. It leaped out of the little girl’s arms (while the shoes were being ripped from her very feet) because it was time to find something to lift its leg on. And Cheney’s own shoe, smelling of road kill, was the perfect target. Business done, the dog pranced off. But it didn’t get far; however, Cheney is a pretty good shot.

Reeling from this shocking display, we wondered who’s going to save the little girl now? Oui. Oui.

For more White Minivan Street Racing, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ September 26, 2008 posting "Who Will Be King?"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who’s Burning Bush? (DS)

We had a dream.….and in that dream we saw the last 8 years epitomized in a mirage of President George W. Bush wandering the desert wilderness with the masses of a nation in tow. He was holding the staff of a commander-in-chief in his right hand like a beacon, yet navigating like a blind man without the benefit of any higher guidance. Our dream showed him eventually finding his way to Mount Vernon (home to the original George “W”) and his subsequent discovery of that big burning rosebush in the middle of the Rose Garden.

The fiery rosebush began to speak. “W” clearly anticipated the deliverance of a divine message but instead got the booming voice of Richard Milhous Nixon, who simply said, “Don’t even bother looking behind this burning bush; there’s nothing here." Nixon continued on in a mumble, "And they thought I was bad…”.

And then we woke up and marveled at history’s propensity for repetition. It made us wonder whether we still had 32 more years of wandering in the desert wilderness left to go. So does this also mean that “W” will be denied favorable entry into the promised land of our history books upon his exodus?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Will the Real Pirates Please Stand Up?

Stalled in the middle of the intersection like we’d run out of gas, we sat, alone in the dark, with no true illumination from D.C. to show us the way. Or so we thought, until we heard the thundering jet engines of Air Force One oscillate above us. We looked up high in the sky and witnessed a breathtaking sight. Out of Air Force One’s rear passenger door, and on top of the discharged emergency evacuation slide which flapped spastically in the air, spewed forth all of the financial district’s CEOs with golden parachutes strapped to their backs. Their parachutes glittered in the style of fool’s gold.

Although they fell toward the ground in droves (and randomly like care packages that are dropped into POW camps when the war is nearing an end), we tried to follow each parachute as it opened up and released what we later learned was a new viral strain formally classified as the “Bush Financial Flu”. Subsequent studies eventually confirmed that the virus was carried and transmitted through the small air-borne drops of crude oil that leeched from the edges of the parachutes upon deployment. (For more information on the "Bush Flu", see definition below).

It became evident almost immediately that a majority of those golden parachutes weren’t going to hit the ground, let alone make it down safely. Out of nowhere appeared several old hand-me-down helicopters from a third world country which began to ominously encircle Air Force One. It was difficult to distinguish the origin of these helicopters because the only identifying marks they had were matching mission statements hastily spray-painted on to their side panels that simply read “WE’RE IN IT FOR THE MONEY”. From the choppers' opened side-doors emerged a countless outpouring of Somalian hang-gliders, and we watched in amazement as they swooped in and intercepted nearly all of the golden parachutes after ejection from Air Force One.

From our vantage point in the middle of the intersection, we could see a few of the CEOs slip through the swarm of hang-glider pirates and hit the ground around us. And in the rear view mirror we witnessed a duplicitous spectacle when a swarm of attorneys came running from all directions, clawing over each other as they scurried out to 'meet-n-greet' the fallen CEOs like ambulance chasers. Regrettably, a large portion of the CEOs were seized mid-air by the Somalian pirates because, well, we could state the obvious in saying that “like attracts like”, but the truth of the matter is, they didn’t even know they were high-jacking golden parachutes. They really thought they were getting $700 Billion in subprime mortgage paper that they could convert into quick cash on the secondary market.

If all that glitters isn’t gold (and that includes black gold), then who will survive, or perhaps even build an immunity to, the coming “Bush Flu” season?

For more about the Hedge Fund Castaways, see our ‘Dream Sequence’ September 28, 2008 posting "Wall Street Scrooges Live the Dream".

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Who Took Off With the Bank?

Whew! We just barely missed getting all tangled up in 700 tons of racing White Minivans (see definition below) and we’re back on the road. We admit, we’re looking pretty dilapidated right now as we push our gimpy selves further along D.C.’s Donner Pass, but we’ve side-stepped a mighty large collision and we’re feeling a little lucky!

Chugging upward, and determined to reach the apex, nothing could’ve astounded us more than to see four lonely boys looking like Huckleberry Finn standing on the side of the road trying to hitch a ride to the top. Three of the boys stood together holding a large sign which read “BAIL US OUT” while the fourth stood nearby clutching a large piggybank in his right arm like a football. We couldn’t resist the rescue.

They announced themselves while climbing into our back seat. The biggest boy, and the first to get into our car, was “Bad Assets”, then came “ChaseURMoney”, followed by “Won’t Go Far”, and lastly “CitiGombeens”.

Taking pity on their sorry state, we threw them a quarter. We watched those boys in the rear view mirror fight over that quarter as it flew about, slipping between each of their hands like a hot potato, before the biggest boy in the back, Bad Assets, decisively secured the coin. He quickly inserted the quarter into the piggybank’s slot and that’s when it all began….. the piggy’s eyes lit up and started to spin back into its head as the curly tail whirled around and smoke blew out of the hole beneath it. Yikes! That piggy swiftly grew hungry fangs and squealed out a nursery rhyme we’d never heard before to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”:

Four once united, four now divided
See the money grow, see now what they sow
They won the world in monopoly,
And hid their sins in philanthropy
The Red Shield’s call, “Integrity for All”!!

Finally nearing the highway’s pinnacle and looming right before us, D.C.’s Donner Pass was abruptly dissected by an intersection completely overshadowed in the sun-blocking silhouettes of four of the world’s tallest buildings, one standing on each corner. They blocked out the sunlight like the ninth plague. As we tried to move forward, our car unbelievably stalled right in the middle of the intersection, right in the middle of the darkness. None of this seemed to phase the four boys, however, who collectively shrieked “We’re Home!” And without so much as a thank you or backward glance, those four boys spun out of our car like a pinwheel, each whirligigging toward a different corner and its own respective Big House.

The problem is, as we sat there in the dark, we never saw who took the piggybank. Did you?

For more Bush-Whacking, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ September 20, 2008 posting "Whiplashed or Bush-Whacked?"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wall Street Scrooges Live the Dream (DS)

We had a dream….. and in that dream we saw the ghosts of Dot.Com’s executives from Christmas past visiting the Wall Street Executive Scrooges of today. The ghosts of Dot.Com showed the Ebenezers of Wall Street that it really wasn’t so bad living on 8 weeks of unemployment, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and having only $9.28 in their wallets to hold them over for the next 5 days until their unemployment check arrives.

As the Scrooges were shown their future, they could see that it soon wouldn’t matter they were made to join the ranks of all the other discards from a collapsed high rollin’ past because not only would they have the fanciest (and latest) computer models with all the ergonomic accoutrements, they’d also have high speed internet and the Monster Job Board.

And then we woke up and realized this was no dream, it was a nightmare, but whose nightmare?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Who Will Be King?

The financial winter storm has arrived early this century and here we sit, alone and exposed, on the side of the road with not even a mink coat to keep us warm. Tire jack in hand, we finally pulled out the Bear Stearns doughnut tire and made that change to our front passenger-side flat without assistance. OK, so it’s time to hobble slowly back onto the highway and try to navigate D.C.’s new 2-lane Donner Pass, when what do we see in the rear view mirror, coming up from behind and seemingly out of nowhere? Two large white vehicles fast approaching at lightning speed; each driver blindly focused on its hot pursuit of the other and clearly oblivious to us or their surroundings.

Our heads spin, like Daddy Warbucks (see definition below) spending his last $5 billion, while we watch the White SUV zoom past us on the left leaving the White Minivan (see definition below) jammed up behind us. Imagine our surprise to see Bernanke, at the helm of the White SUV, swerve vigorously to block the side-swiping maneuver of Paulson in the White Minivan. Although Benny appeared to be confident about his lead in this amazing race, Hank’s face clearly reflected a distinct mask of determined victory. We were trapped in the middle and afraid for our future, afraid for our lives. Before eating their dust entirely, we had to pull over once again, this time to catch our breath.

In a state of complete disbelief at the steeplechase we’ve just witnessed, we feel compelled to ask the very question one would ask when the unbelievable has just occurred: what could possibly be in our blind spot now that we don’t see coming?

A casual backward glance in the rear view mirror gives us a glimpse of another time, long, long ago….. back to the Salem witch hunt days of the 1690’s when the stored rye crop used for making the community’s bread developed mold, and those who consumed the bread it produced began hallucinating. In the acid-trip-like psychosis and subsequent hysteria that ensued, accusations began to fly and innocent bodies burned.

Snapping our attention back to today, we never cease to be surprised at how history repeats itself because we’re seeing it happen all over again. Except this time, the Moldy Old White Breads (MOWBs – see definition below) have begun eating each other alive causing similar mold-induced hallucinations. They’re seeing illusions in their side-view mirrors that only their fervent elite supporters can also see; fingers are pointing and accusations are flying.

What innocents will be burned at the stake while the two (appointed, but not elected) Cannibals decide who will be King?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whiplashed or Bush-Whacked?

Wow! What a week!! Driving down our free-market super highway which had been predictably constructed for over 200 years, we hit a sink-hole that rocked our world; blew out the tires, cracked our windshield and took us over the edge into darkness. We hardly had a chance to even glance in the rear view mirror as we were going down.

At this point, we find it necessary to get out of the car to assess the damage, and there was no Bernanke Towing Service or Bail-Me-Out Bond in sight. So now what? We’re sitting on the side of the road, with not a Thomas Jefferson nickel to our name (maybe because 3.5 million of them were in a rollover pile-up in Jeb’s state of mind, aka Florida), to ponder how on earth did this happen to our “Wild West” capitalistic approach to world economics?

Given the frantic pace with which our old world economy is dying, it’s obvious we won’t be able to hang around too long on the side of this road because while it may be promised, it doesn’t appear that anyone will be along any time soon to help us out. Not really, even though we thought we had insurance coverage for all of this. Seems the best option right now would be to just get out the jack, change our own tire, and get a-movin' on down the road – doughnut tire, shattered windshield and all.

The windshield was indeed cracked in two which makes us believe that we have definitely come to a fork in the road. Do we go left, or do we go right? Looking in the rear view mirror, we can certainly see the global Red Shield’s trend-setting re-positioning, and the overall direction moving toward privatizing profit and socializing liability. Has this been the plan all along? The bigger question still is what larger, long-term, and all-encompassing international strategy is moving into place?

Looking to the right, what do we see? A probable re-construction of major portions of the free-market super highway with perhaps a new bridge (economic re-shuffling) allowing the MOWBs (see definition below) to continue to run the world on our tank of gas, and with our permission no less, over the next 4 years.

Looking to the left, what do we see? The probable dissemination and/or restructuring of the mystery known as our Federal Reserve within the next 3 years into more transparent and separately managed sectors, thus providing us with a healthier 'checks and balances' atmosphere.

What will you invest in and which direction will you choose to avoid being “Bush-Whacked” (see definition below)?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What We Learn From a Bus Ride

There are moments in our lives that can, if we allow them, give us pause for deep reflection. These moments typically occur while moving through the simplest, most mundane tasks of our daily routines.

So maybe we are not world leaders. Maybe we feel insignificant and that what we do or how we treat others in the day-to-day doesn't matter. Who's taking care of us, right? If the experience below has any influence whatsoever at a personal level, then maybe it's a good time to have a re-look at our value systems and our role within the human walk.

This email came on August 5, 2008 from a very dear friend who has been living in San Francisco for more than 12 years. The email subject line read “what we learn from a bus ride”

Yesterday on a Van Ness St. bus, a woman sitting just behind the bus driver decided to "take charge." Tourists from abroad, as well as locals, were crowding the front of the bus and not moving to the back where there was more than ample room, as well as occupying seats designated for seniors and the disabled which are located at the front of the bus behind the driver.

The woman was black, slim, older, used a cane, etc. She told everyone that they had to stand behind the yellow line and then asked others to move back, but was ignored. Her remarks were priceless and although serious, I’d wished that I had only been observing a comedy sequence on "Mad TV", and not witnessing this in real life.

Two couples in their mid-30's to 40’s got this from her: “OK, so maybe you don't understand English, but common sense is universal and so is this Mutha f*cker, so look at my finger and see that as I speak it's pointing to the back. Mutha f*ckers move back!"

Three teenage, local white boys just stood there and laughed, so she told them that they had better listen to her because not only could she cuss them out, but she'd take them all on and ram her cane up their asses if that's what it took to get the right response.

She referred to a black 20-something-year-old as "n*gger boy" when she reprimanded him.

She told a British guy that he understood what the signs said, and he just stared at her and would not move. So she told him that in this country a black man can get shot at just for lookin' at a white woman, so if he did not stop lookin' at her and move his ass to the back of the bus she would beat the livin’ crap out of his frail, little mutha f*ckin’ frame.

When a legless lady tried to board in her wheelchair and nobody moved it was beyond anything cruel I could ever have imagined. This outspoken woman stood up, grabbed that cane, and started to ram it through the pants of the guys standing and blocking the invalid. I began to wonder who was crazier or more disturbed, the woman or the uncaring, oblivious, bastards just standing there.

Yes, I finally got involved. I told people to get off of the bus so a wheelchair could get on, and actually had to push a bit to accomplish it.

This woman was seriously over the top, but everything she was angry about was justifiable. People have become heartless, too many of them. A few even replied about the legless woman in the wheelchair: "let her wait for the next bus, it should be right behind this one." The black woman “in charge” went nuts and said, "mutha f*ckers all of yuh, don't want to be inconvenienced by someone who got no legs”, and kept repeating obscenities.

She told the white guys they were n*ggers even though their skin was white and that their mammas were all whores because they behaved like sons of bitches.

OMG...if we just look and listen and are not living in a state of denial, this was a major realization that we have to fend for ourselves and for others who cannot. In a period of 25 minutes I was exposed to far too many people of varied races, cultures, and age groups whose hearts beat only for themselves. It should never have to take an angry and seemingly “psycho person” to take control of what is right.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome Aboard! And Don't Forget Your Seatbelts.

Let’s face it. Things are looking pretty scary out there and the media isn’t bringing peace of mind to the world. It’s times like these that make late night comediennes a primary news source for more of the population than CNN may like to admit since humor seems to be the most palatable way for the everyday human to digest it all without falling apart.

This blog is an evolution of more than two decades of lengthy phone conversations (especially given the fact that the two of us haven’t even lived in the same state since the late 80’s and thankfully Verizon has an in-calling plan) about philosophy, current events, the past-the present-the future, and the state of the world at large through the filters of our personal experiences and our independent (and quite unrelated) professional disciplines.

Throughout the decades, we have shared many personal changes of the unusual kind: marriages, children, divorces, deaths, parental challenges, financial duress (including the loss of our 401Ks), and believe our unique interpretations may offer slanted insight and perhaps a different approach to these historic economic times.

What we know about ourselves is that we are risk takers. We are masters of observation and we are visionaries. We are ahead of things in one blink and then stop to scratch our heads because it seems we’ve been left behind in the next. We call that gas and brakes. We have a similar and somewhat dry, twisty sense of humor which has proven essential to our mental and emotional survival. And we believe that most of us do the very best we can each and every day.

We invite you to ride along with us as we give you our visions from the rear view mirror, and of course from the side mirrors on occasion.

The artwork and illustrations published on this website that have been produced and copyrighted by Artist, KA Collins may not be reproduced without the expressed, written permission of the artist and is strictly prohibited. As for the rest of our content, all rights reserved. ©