Tags: Oligarchs

Former Aide to Bill Clinton Speaks – “My Party Has Lost its Soul”

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.37.26 AMOne reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them. 

- From Bill Curry’s excellent article in SalonMy party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats.

Bill Curry’s article published this past Sunday by Salon is simply extraordinary. One of the things I’ve felt has been lacking in America for some time is the ability for well-meaning people within the “power structure” to look inward and be honest with themselves about the immoral decay fellow members of their socio-economic class have wrought upon the nation via a singleminded pursuit of wealth and power. A perfect example of an ignorant, destructive oligarch completely devoid of self-awareness was put on full display earlier this year when Sam Zell appeared on Bloomberg TV and essentially said the poor just need to act more like the rich.

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The New York Times Describes Obama – “A Restless President Weary of the Obligations of the White House…”

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 4.27.46 PMWhat’s so amusing about today’s article from the New York Times titled, At Dinner Tables, Restless President Finds Intellectual Escape, is that the author appears to be quite sympathetic to Obama. She seems to want to portray the President as a real statesman; one who is so far above politics and the pedestrian task of being Commander in Chief that he finds it necessary to flee his responsibilities in order to find intellectual escape while dining extravagantly with “elites” in Europe. In contrast, he merely comes across as the arrogant, disconnected, oligarch coddler he is.

The article also seems to say something important about the New York Times’ own disconnectedness, particularly considering the paper’s Pentagon correspondent recently referred to the American public as children, with the government and mainstream media playing the role of parents.

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India’s Central Bank Will Sell Gold on the Market in Exchange for Gold at the Bank of England

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 3.50.34 PMIndia’s gold policy over the last several years is about as dysfunctional as any government policy I have ever seen, and that’s saying a lot. In case you need a reminder, here are a few posts I have written on the subject:

The Times of India: “Almost Every Passenger on a Flight from Dubai to Calicut Was Found Carrying 1kg of Gold”

Gold Smuggling Increases 7x in India and Surpasses Illegal Drug Trade

Indian Temples Fight Back Against Government Gold Grabbing Plot

In a nutshell, Indians were buying too much gold for their government’s comfort, so the “authorities” stepped in with duties and import restrictions in an attempt to stifle the trade. So smuggling soared.

Fast forward to today. It appears the government has finally realized they can’t stop their citizens penchant for gold, so they have decided to dump central bank gold onto the market. What is incredible to me is that they are justifying this with a so-called “swap” into phantom gold at the Bank of England. The favored global hub of shady, rent-seeking, banker oligarchs.

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The Pitchforks are Coming…– A Dire Warning from a Member of the 0.01%

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

From Nick Hanaeur’s excellent Politico Op-Ed: The Pitchforks are Coming…For Us Plutocrats

Over the past several years, I have been extremely critical of the 0.01% as a socio-economic class, often referring to them as criminal oligarchs. This has nothing to do with the incredible sums of money they have amassed. I’m simply not interested in chasing that kind of wealth, nor am I an envious person. I don’t care how much money anyone has. What I do care about is the kind of power that such money can buy, and how that power is then abused to purchase politicians and run roughshod over entire societies. I have also been disgusted with the fact that the 0.01% as a class seem self-absorbed, apathetic and delusional when it comes to the catastrophe the current economic and financial system is reaping upon the planet. So busy are they patting themselves on the back and scrambling to acquire that next billion to see what is rapidly unfolding beyond their moats.

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Matt Stoller Destroys Timothy Geithner in His Epic Review of “Stress Test”

Geithner is at heart a grifter, a petty con artist with the right manners and breeding to lie at the top echelons of American finance at a moment when the government and financial services industry needed someone to be the face of their multi-trillion dollar three card monte. He’s going to make his money, now that he’s done living his life of fantastic power after his upbringing of remarkable mysterious privilege. After reading this book and documenting lie after lie after lie, I’m convinced that there’s more here than just a self-serving corrupt official. There’s an entire culture, of figures at Treasury, the Federal Reserve, in the entire Democratic Party elite structure, and in the world of journalism, a culture in which Geithner is seen as some sort of role model.

- From Matt Stoller’s fantastic article published yesterday, The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party

Timothy Geithner is likely to go down in American history as one of the most dangerous, destructive cronies to have ever wielded government power. The man is so completely and totally full of shit it’s almost impossible not to notice.

The last thing I’d ever want to do in my free time is read a lengthy book filled with Geithner lies and propaganda, so I owe a large debt of gratitude to former Congressional staffer Matt Stoller for doing it for me. Stoller simply tears Geither apart limb from limb, detailing obvious lies about the financial crisis, and even more interestingly, Geithner’s bizarre bio, replete with mysterious and inexplicable promotions into positions of power.

So without further ado, here are some excerpts from this excellent article. From Vice:

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Silicon Valley Billionaire Who Blocked Public Access to Popular Beach Claims: “He Owns the Road, the Beach and the Tides”

Earlier this month, I highlighted the fact that one of Obama’s closest billionaire buddies, Silicon Valley oligarch, Vinod Kholsa, had aggressively moved to block access to the very popular Northern California destination Martins Beach. The post was titled, Silicon Valley Billionaire Buys Popular Beach and Then Blocks Public Access, in which I wrote:

Vinod Kholsa, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and well known Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is at the center of a lawsuit revolving around the popular Northern California destination Martins Beach, located six miles south of Half Moon Bay. The beach has always been popular with families and surfers alike, and the prior owners had always provided access for a $5 fee. Mr. Kholsa has taken a different approach, which has consisted of putting up a locked gate to block the beach’s only road access point and painting over a billboard welcoming people to the beach.

At the time, some expressed disbelief that such a good so-called “liberal” would take this action, but it is now clear these people were in serious oligarch denial. We now learn from the SF Gate that:

There had, until now, been a note of uncertainty about why beach owner Vinod Khosla decided to kick people off Martins Beach, but the billionaire venture capitalist made his motives pretty clear, according to this Chronicle story by Melody Gutierrez.

The green tech titan does not want the hoi polloi touching what he believes is his sand, tidelands or surf.

“Martin’s beach is private property, including the sandy beach and the submerged tidelands seaward of the mean high tide,”  argued lobbyists hired by Khosla in a letter to state lawmakers. “There are no existing ‘public’ lands to which access is needed.”

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Silicon Valley Billionaire Buys Popular Beach and Then Blocks Public Access

Vinod Kholsa, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and well known Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is at the center of a lawsuit revolving around the popular Northern California destination Martins Beach, located six miles south of Half Moon Bay. The beach has always been popular with families and surfers alike, and the prior owners had always provided access for a $5 fee. Mr. Kholsa has taken a different approach, which has consisted of putting up a locked gate to block the beach’s only road access point and painting over a billboard welcoming people to the beach.

Mr. Kholsa sees himself as an “eco warrior” and is a darling of the Democratic party (he held a private dinner with Barack Obama and U.S. Senators after the Snowden revelations first hit), yet his behavior in this affair portrays him as the typical elitist oligarch limousine liberal. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the behavior of a man who’s firm hired British war criminal Tony Blair back in 2010 (was this before or after Blair took on his role at JP Morgan).

From SFGate we learn that:

SAN FRANCISCO – The billionaire landowner who bought a popular beach in San Mateo County and then locked out the public was evasive and uncooperative when questioned Monday about his decision, stating repeatedly he “did not recollect” conversations, letters or legal documents.

Vinod Khosla testified during the civil trial in San Mateo County Superior Court that he did not remember why he set up two limited liability companies to buy Martins Beach, what amount he paid for the property, when he bought it or why the decision was made to keep the public out.

For such a brilliant guy, he certainly seems to have a selective memory when it comes to peasant access to his beach.

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist remained calm but gave no ground during the intense questioning – sometimes tinged with disbelief and sarcasm – by the lead attorney for the Surfrider Foundation, which sued Khosla for blocking the only access road to the beach. Khosla explained that he never had a conversation about the property without his lawyers present, a strategy that allowed him to invoke attorney-client privilege for virtually every question whose answer he could recollect.

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Is the Credit Bubble Popping? Carlyle Group Warns on Frothiness and Junk Bond Deals Get Pulled

Given recent geopolitical and macroeconomic events we are surprised at how well credit markets have been in 2014. The world continues to be awash in liquidity and investors are chasing yield seemingly regardless of risk. Leverage levels in the United States are increasing and rose by almost a full third over the past year while spreads between IG and HY are ~250 basis points below the 20 year average. Thus, the market is not assigning a significant premium to riskier assets. We continually ask whether the fundamentals in the global credit markets are healthy and sustainable. Frankly, we don’t think so. 

- From Carlyle Group’s 1Q14 Earnings Conference Call yesterday

Over the weekend, I published a Guest Post on the bubble in the junk bond market titled: Is There a Massive High Yield Credit Bubble? If you haven’t read it already, I suggest doing so before reading the rest of this post.

The following piece builds on that prior one by highlighting some of the most absurd practices currently going on in the less creditworthy areas of the bond market. Signs that prove without question there is some sort of dangerous bubble already percolating throughout the credit markets.

The first of these are known as “dividend deals.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, you might not believe what they actually are. Basically, dividend deals are when companies owned by private equity firms tap the credit markets, and then a sizable percentage of the money borrowed is used to cut a check to the private equity owners themselves. Often times, the remainder of the debt is used to refinance existing debt.

Yes, you heard that right. The money earned from credit issuance isn’t used to expand operations, it isn’t spend on R&D, or anything productive whatsoever. Rather, funds are used to pay money directly to the private equity owners. From a private equity owner perspective, this is free money and of course they will take it. The insane thing is that creditors are willing to buy this garbage, and buying it they are. By the billions. In fact, you might own some in your mutual fund or pension fund. Who fucking knows, but this is insane.

The second sign of insanity is the increase in “payment-in-kind” notes. What this means is that interest on the debt can be paid back in, wait this is no joke, more debt! Even crazier, we are seeing examples of “payment-in-kind” notes being issued for the purpose of paying out dividends to private equity owners. I want to know which fund managers are buying these notes, and you should too.

Bloomberg recently covered the credit insanity in their piece: Dividend Deal ‘Epidemic’ Intensifies Junk Alarm. Here are some excerpts:

Companies owned by private-equity firms are borrowing money to pay dividends like it’s 2007, adding to concern among regulators that excesses are emerging in the riskier parts of the debt markets.

Borrowers including Madison Dearborn Partners LLC’s mobile-phone insurer Asurion LLC obtained almost $21 billion in junk-rated loans this year to enrich their owners, the most in seven years, according to Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ LCD. Some of the least-creditworthy companies are even selling notes that may pay interest with more debt, which BMC Software Inc. did for its $750 million payout to a group led by Bain Capital LLC.

“It’s kind of like an epidemic,” Martin Fridson, a New York-based money manager at Lehmann, Livian, Fridson Advisors LLC, who started his career as a corporate-debt trader in 1976, said in a telephone interview. “Once an investment banker sees that, he’s going to go to his clients and say, ‘Here’s a window of opportunity, you can take a dividend and get away with it.’”

That says it all right there. Why is private equity rushing to do these deals? Well, why does a dog lick its balls? Because it can.

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With 1 in 3 Homes Unaffordable, Freddie Mac Prepares to Enter the Trailer Home Loan Market

I can’t say this is surprising. After all, with average peasants, I mean citizens, now priced out of the domestic housing market (Zillow recently showed 1 in 3 homes are unaffordable) due to billionaire financiers and foreign oligarchs buying up all real estate in cash purchases, American serfs now will find out where the “elites” think they belong. In trailer homes, naturally.

Oh, but the story gets better, a lot better. As is generally the case in the USSA these days, crony capitalist oligarchs have perfectly positioned themselves to benefit financially from the final transition of Americans to neo-feudalism. Recall that in my post from last October titled, Carlyle Group’s Latest Investment…Trailer Parks, it was noted that trailer park owners share the following attractive quality:

Our customers have no alternative shot at homeownership, nor do they [normally] even have the credit scores and quality to seek anything better…They never leave the park they are in, and the revenues are unbelievably stable as a result.

Sure, we know from the Dark Ages that peasants on the land stay put. Same concept here. However, it gets even better than this. America’s number one hypocritical, crony capitalist, Warren Buffett is also positioned to benefit.

From Bloomberg:

Want to buy a trailer park? Freddie Mac wants to give you a loan.

The unit of the government-owned mortgage giant that funds apartment buildings is set to begin financing manufactured-housing communities, the company said in a statement today.

The firm is broadening its reach in the multifamily segment of the housing market as it seeks to fulfill its mandate to provide affordable options for low-income families. The McLean, Virginia-based lender will work with established companies in the industry across the U.S., said David Brickman, the head of multifamily operations at Freddie Mac.

“It’s rounding out our ability to touch the affordable housing space,” Brickman said today in a telephone interview. “Manufactured housing is a big piece of rural affordable housing.”

Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., lamented the punitive rates charged to purchase factory-built homes in his 2009 annual letter to shareholders. Berkshire owns Clayton Homes Inc., a builder of manufactured housing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 2.17.55 PM

Serfs up!

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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The Homeless in NYC Are Now Living in Tiny Spaces in the Frame of the Manhattan Bridge

I just got back to Colorado from 10 days in my hometown of New York City. It’s always fun to see friends and family as well as take stock of how much things have changed since I left. There is no question about it, NYC feels more like “Disneyland for Wall Street” than ever before. The very rich are doing very well, everyone else, not so much. We are often told by charlatans and mainstream media propagandists that this mythical rising tide of wealth lifts all boats. If that’s the case, I find it quite perplexing that the homeless population in America’s financial center is exploding five years into the so-called recovery. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that 22% of the city is on food stamps.

How is this possible? Because we have witnessed five years of egregious corruption and crony capitalist theft, not a genuine recovery. That’s how.

The war on the homeless has been accelerating in recent years, as city officials across the nation would rather hide the problem that admit the economic recovery is bullshit. In most cases, the measures are subtle, but have the desired effect of pushing homeless people away from public view (in Columbia, South Carolina it is not so subtle and you need a $120 weekly permit to feed the homeless). NYC officials are a bit more nuanced. For example, I was shocked to see a sign posted in a park in Manhattan that said adults can’t come in without children. It looked something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.25.22 AM

No matter what spin somebody may put on this, the primary goal is to keep homeless people away.

I grew up in New York City and was a toddler in the early 1980′s, not exactly the safest period in the city. I remember playing in the parks around my parents’ apartment and there were homeless people everywhere. It was a part of my childhood for better or worse, but it was reality. I think I was better off knowing the homeless existed than if they had all been pushed away to the outskirts and everyone pretended they weren’t there.

The thing is, many of the very wealthy in New York City want to believe this bullshit story that things are generally getting better. Meanwhile, the statistics speak for themselves, and according to HUD, the homeless population in NYC increased 13% last year. That’s quite disturbing five years into raging bull market for stocks.

Moving along, we now we find that homeless people are living in coffin-sized spaces inside the frame of the Manhattan Bridge.

From the New York Post:

Crafty hobos are turning the Manhattan Bridge into a veritable shantytown, complete with elaborate plywood shacks that are truly “must see to believe.”

One of the coffin-sized living spaces — which have been built into the bridge frame near the Manhattan entrance — is secured with a flimsy bike lock and bolted to a metal beam by its inhabitant.

The pods are built into the underside of the upper deck, below car traffic but above the subway and bike lanes.

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