Category Archives: Money Changers

Goldman Sachs Sucks Our Marrow

“Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough.”


– Jan Willem Van De Wetering

The battle has now been joined by the Great Satan (aka Goldman Sachs) as the brilliant Matt Taibbi piece has fortunatly gone viral thanks to bloggers. When the pigs on Wall Street, their legal armies and on call public relations propagandists turn into pirannhas as they are with this piece the fuckers are on the run. The seige on CNBC’s drooling house baboon Jim ‘Mad Money’ Cramer that was kicked off by comedian Jon Stewart was beaten back with a disinformation laden blitzkrieg and the moneychangers regained control of the temple. It’s all been the hogwash of the GREEN SHOOTS ever since. And despite the dismal news contained in yesterday’s jobs report the long weekend couldn’t come at a more fortuitous time as the gold plated cocksuckers will regroup once again and launch a saturation bombing campaign of more goddammed lies.

Give some credit where it is due to Rolling Stone magazine, after initially witholding Mr. Taibbi’s withering takedown of Goldman Sachs entitled The Great Bubble Machine from internet users it has finally seen fit to put it online. Probably sound business on their part since the absence of it on their site only fueled the fire. Now today, the agents of the ivory tower piggies are in full attack mode, there is certainly no shortage of sewage flying in Taibbi’s direction – the good ole pejorative of choice to those who dare to ask questions “conspiracy theorists” has been nailed into his skull like a crown of thorns (some might find the delicious irony in this since Taibbi was the one who punched his ticked by sliming 9/11 truthers) and he is very likely being measured for one of those wooden crosses that are erected whenever the whores in the establishment media are summoned to perform a public crucifiction on an out of line journalist or other ill mannered whistleblower. Here is just a sample of the early stages of the barrage that is directed at Taibbi for his transgression. The reputedly liberal New York Times (the former employer of Iraq war pitchwoman Judith Miller) has one entitled Goldman and Rolling Stone Writer Trade Barbs, Time has Goldman Sachs vs. Rolling Stone: A Wall Street Smackdown, BNET has one entitled Uncovering the Goldman Sachs Myths, a particularly gut wrenching piece as it is from a looter capitalist apologist organ. I could list more but why fucking bother, the common talking point is that it is all conspiracy and that Taibbi is of course, not even a real journalist to begin with. Typical rancid establishment swill from all the garbage churned out of America’s so-called journalism schools who chose corporate shillhood as a career over honest reporting.

I have to admire Taibbi’s balls, he has come out in defense of his brilliant, Pulitzer Prize worthy piece with some nice rebuttals to the Great Satan and all of it’s well paid catamites. Here are two of them:

Goldman Sachs is Reeling Under Public Pressure

You acknowledge that we may monitor your use of the Services for our own purposes (and not for your benefit). We may use the resulting information for internal business purposes or in accordance with the rules of any applicable regulatory or self-regulatory body and in compliance with applicable law and regulation.

via Is Goldman Legally Frontrunning Its Clients? zero hedge.

After watching its thoroughly maladroit handling of several p.r. problems this week, I’m absolutely convinced that Goldman Sachs can be hurt if enough people keep piling on with the pressure. The latest evidence of this is its abject collapse in the face of questions from Zero Hedge about the possibility that it is using the data its takes from users of its website to front-run those same people.

Front-running takes place when a bank or broker-dealer– say, Goldman, Sachs — executes a trade for its own account before filling its customer’s order. Since a large enough trade (executed by institutional investors, for instance) can actually move the price of the security in question, front-running can be a very profitable activity. It’s sort of like fast-food insider trading. It is common knowledge that front-running on Wall Street is rampant, and I interviewed more than one person for my recent Rolling Stone story who accused Goldman of front-running its big clients in all sorts of arenas, from the internet IPO years to the commodities markets.

What caught Zero Hedge’s attention was a curious disclaimer uncovered on Goldman’s website, which includes a trading platform that visitors can use to execute trades. At one point the disclaimer read:

Monitoring by GS: Your use of the products and services on this Web site may be monitored by GS, and that the resultant information may be used by GS for its internal business purposes or in accordance with the rules of any applicable regulatory or self-regulatory organization.

Subsequently readers uncovered an even more sinister disclaimer that appears on other Goldman documents (see the quote at the top of this post with the key line “and not for your benefit”). So Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge wrote to Goldman to ask if this meant what it quite obviously seems to mean, and got this response from the bank’s Senior Vice Scoundrel, Ed Canaday. Note the way he seems to be addressing Dick Durbin, which looks like a case of wish-fulfillment to me:

Dear Mr Durbin:

This is in response to your recent blog about our web site disclaimer. It is quite usual for websites to have disclaimers that refer to the monitoring of site usage. Most web sites, including yours we noticed, track usage by their visitors. This is primarily used for marketing and to help inform decision about enhancing content.

Your suggestion that we monitor our web site to facilitate front-running is untrue and offensive.

Sincerely

Ed Canaday
Vice President
Goldman, Sachs & Co.

In exactly the same manner that Goldman demonstrated with regard to my story, Canaday avoided any of the factual concerns that Zero Hedge presented about the curious disclaimer; in fact his letter, if anything, is such a classic non-denial denial that it really just confirms everyone’s worst suspicions. Most notably, he doesn’t specify what “internal business purposes” the company is talking about, and while he insists it is not front-running, it’s a very thin, curiously worded denial.

That a company as rich and powerful as Goldman would stoop to peering through the web version of a locker-room peephole to make a few extra pennies either front-running random trades or somehow using visitor data “not for their benefit” shows how completely and utterly morally absent this company is. There is not an ill-gotten dollar they will not chase, no matter how small or insignificant the sums might be.

Word should be spread about this and anyone who used the Goldman 360 portral for trading should seriously investigate this situation, as it is entirely possible you’ve been ripped off — legally, perhaps, although how much “legality” a disclaimer like that can confer is a serious question in my mind.

More to the point, the fact that Goldman is getting enough public pressure that it feels it has to respond to these queries shows that the company is reeling. And the fact that their public statements have been so hilariously transparent and clumsy shows that they’re rattled and don’t know how to handle this kind of heat, which they’re not used to getting. Kudos to Zero Hedge for applying the pressure; readers who want to see Tyler’s very funny response to Canaday should read here.

And in another piece…Taibbi punches back hard yet again!

On Giving Goldman a Chance

After my recent piece about Goldman, Sachs hit the newsstands last week, I started to get a lot of mail. Most of it was thoughtful and respectful criticism, although there was an amusingly large number of people writing in impassioned defense of their right, under our American system, to be ripped off by large impersonal financial companies. “If my pension fund is buying [crap mortgages] from Goldman, and my pension fund loses lots of value, that’s not Goldman’s fault,” wrote one reader. “No one is forcing anyone to buy anything. The only thing Goldman is guilty of is making profits.”

I’m not even going to go there – the psychology of a human being who would take the time to actually write in a complaint like that is so bizarre that it would take more time than I have today to even begin discussing it. One other complaint that I will address quickly, though, is the notion that I didn’t tell Goldman’s side of the story. “Not exactly a balanced approach,” complained one reader. “You should take an ethics class. You have to give the other side a fair shot.”

Actually I did contact Goldman and gave the bank every opportunity to respond to the factual issues in the article. I’m bringing this up because their decision not to comment on any of those questions was actually pretty interesting.

We figured ahead of time that Goldman was probably not going to respond to many of the allegations in the article, since its MO in the past with regard to hostile journalists has usually either been to make bald denials or to simply avoid comment (that’s when they’re not using the carpet-bomb litigation technique, as in the case of GoldmanSachs666.com). So what I decided to do the first time I approached them was to send a short list of simple factual questions. If the bank decided to engage us and educate us as to its point of view on these simple questions, we would send more queries and expand the dialogue.

Given this, I tried to make that first list of questions as basic as possible. I asked if Goldman would have turned a profit in Q1 2009 if it hadn’t orphaned the month of December 2008. Then I asked if Goldman had made changes to its underwriting standards during the internet boom years; if Goldman’s position was still that the steep rise in oil prices last year was due to normal changes in supply and demand; and if it could explain its 1991 request to the CFTC to have its subsidiary J. Aron classified as a physical hedger on the commodities market. Citing various sources, I also noted that some people had complained that its move to short the mortgage market in 2006 even as it was selling those same types of instruments proved that the bank knew the weakness of its mortgage products, and asked if the bank had an answer for that. And I asked if the bank supported cap-and-trade legislation, and if it was fair to say (as we planned to in the piece) that the bank would capitalize financially if such legislation was passed.

I intentionally put a lot of yes/no questions on that list. If the underlying thinking behind any of those questions was faulty, it would have been easy enough for them to say so and to educate us as to the truth. Instead, here is the response that we got:

“Your questions are couched in such a way that presupposes the conclusions and suggests the people you spoke with have an agenda or do not fully understand the issues.”

You have to have swallowed half a lifetime of carefully-worded p.r. statements to see the message written between the lines here. That this is a non-denial denial is obvious, but what’s more notable here is that they didn’t stop with just a flat “no comment,” which they easily could have done. No, they had to go a little further than that and – and this is pure Goldman, just outstanding stuff – make it clear that both I and my sources are simply not as smart as they are and don’t understand what we’re talking about. So the rough translation here is, “No comment, but if you were as smart as us, you wouldn’t be asking these questions.”

So now word filters through that Goldman has issued yet another statement in response to the piece, this one by amusingly-named mouthpiece Lucas Van Pragg. Again, the company does not take issue with any of the facts in the piece – not one. Here’s what he says:

Taibbi’s bubble case doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny either. To give just two examples, even with the worst will in the world, the blame for creating the internet bubble cannot credibly be laid at our door, and we could hardly be described as having been a major player in the mortgage market, unlike so many of our current and former competitors.

Taibbi’s article is a compilation of just about every conspiracy theory ever dreamed up about Goldman Sachs, but what real substance is there to support the theories?

We reject the assertion that we are inflators of bubbles and profiteers in busts, and we are painfully conscious of the importance of being a force for good.

Okay, let’s look at that bit piece by piece. Van Pragg takes issue with the bubble argument by citing two “examples” of the case not holding water, the first being:

… the blame for creating the internet bubble cannot credibly be laid at our door…
I kept waiting for the “because…” clause here, but there wasn’t one. He just says so and leaves it at that. Now there is obviously some measure of hyperbole in solely blaming Goldman Sachs for something like the internet bubble, or any of the other recent Wall Street disasters, for that matter. But you’d have to be absolutely crazy (and you wouldn’t need “the worst will in the world,” either) not to accept the notion that Goldman shouldered a significant portion of the blame for the internet mess. They were, after all, the leading underwriter of internet IPOs during the internet boom years. In 1999, at the height of the boom, they underwrote 37 internet companies, most of which had little or no history and were losing money at the time of the launch. By late 1999 Goldman was underwriting one out of every five internet IPOs. They were repeatedly caught and punished for manipulating the prices of their IPOs, either via laddering or spinning. Van Pragg doesn’t deny any of this, and just blithely says that one can’t credibly blame them for the internet bubble. I’m almost insulted by the lameness and half-assedness of that comeback, but that might be part of the point, to be insulting. He moves on:

…and we could hardly be described as having been a major player in the mortgage market, unlike so many of our current and former competitors.

Again, not to beat this into the ground, but in 2006, at the height of the housing boom, Goldman underwrote over $75 billion in mortgages, over $59 billion of which were non-prime. That represented 7% of the entire market, which seems like a pretty “major” slice to me. It is true that they did not jump so completely ass-first into the market as Lehman and Bear did (note Van Pragg’s bemused reference to “former competitors”), but if you read the piece, we noted why that doesn’t take them off the hook at all. Because while their “former competitors” (one of whom is clearly “former” in large part because a former Goldmanite, Hank Paulson, elected to save Goldman’s hide instead of Lehman’s) were dumb enough to hold their mortgage paper and be sunk by it, Goldman shorted their own crap, which means (and I know I’m repeating myself here) they knew that what they were selling was a loser. So while they maybe weren’t the biggest player, they were still a major player, and one can easily make the case that they were the most obnoxious player, given that they dove into this muck with their eyes wide open, unlike so many other idiots on Wall Street.

In the middle of this weirdly substanceless retort, Van Pragg then goes on complain about the lack of substance in the article, makes the predictable charge that the piece was a compendium of invented conspiracy theories, then moves on to “reject” the notion that the company inflates bubbles and profits in busts (about that last part: I recommend checking out Goldman’s profit/bonus numbers in 2002, 2008, and 2009 to date. I’m not sure how they can refute the notion that they have profited during the recent financial calamities). Lastly, he says that the bank is “painfully conscious” of the importance of being a force for good, which I noted with amusement is not quite the same thing as saying that that bank is a force for good, or wants to be.

So to sum up, this all translates as:

“Taibbi’s bubble case doesn’t hold water. To use just two examples, Taibbi’s internet bubble case doesn’t hold water, and we didn’t sell as many mortgages as Lehman Brothers. Taibbi’s article is a compendium of every other story about Goldman that doesn’t hold water. We reject these theories that do not hold water, and are aware of the difference between right and wrong, making us legally sane according to the law.”
I’m aware that some people feel that it’s a journalist’s responsibility to “give both sides of the story” and be “even-handed” and “objective.” A person who believes that will naturally find serious flaws with any article like the one I wrote about Goldman. I personally don’t subscribe to that point of view. My feeling is that companies like Goldman Sachs have a virtual monopoly on mainstream-news public relations; for every one reporter like me, or like far more knowledgeable critics like Tyler Durden, there are a thousand hacks out there willing to pimp Goldman’s viewpoint on things in the front pages and ledes of the major news organizations. And there are probably another thousand poor working stiffs who are nudged into pushing the Goldman party line by their editors and superiors (how many political reporters with no experience reporting on financial issues have swallowed whole the news cliché about Goldman being the “smart guys” on Wall Street? A lot, for sure).

Goldman has its alumni pushing its views from the pulpit of the U.S. Treasury, the NYSE, the World Bank, and numerous other important posts; it also has former players fronting major TV shows. They have the ear of the president if they want it. Given all of this, I personally think it’s absurd to talk about the need for “balance” in every single magazine and news article. I understand that some people feel differently, but that’s my take on things.

Such gross intransigence from a reporter in the age of the moneychangers is stunning, in fact it actually borders on outright blasphemy – shit, it brings to mind real muckrakers like the great Upton Sinclair. Talk about a David vs Goliath story for the modern era, Taibbi has put all the other so-called reporters that pollute our press, make excuses for the corrupt, milk the lurid excesses of the dumbed down cult of celebrity (currently on display with the necorphiliac corpse humping of Michael Jackson) and provide the bread and circuses that are necessary when our shiny newly minted (largely with Goldman Sachs money) reality show president come out and brags about saving the markets while millions are beggared to fucking shame and justifiably so.

Let’s hope that David has it in him to lob the killshot right into the testicles of the Goldman Sachs Goliath that has stomped on the necks of American’s for too long now.

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Start Taxing the Goat Barn Megachurches

 

“Don’t stay away from church because there are so many hypocrites. There’s always room for one more.” 
-Arthur Adams



A California church was recently ordered to turn over records to the IRS for an anti-war sermon delivered in 2004 which should evoke the very important question on whether the Bush administration is using the agency for Nixon style harassment of it’s critics. Just what in the hell kind of a down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, bizarre country do we live in where a sermon denouncing war and violence can have the church in which it was given in face the treat of losing tax exempt status for engaging in politics while the reactionary religious right flagrantly act as nothing more than a subsidiary of the Republican party and not only are not held to the same standards but are actually encouraged through the funneling of tax payer funded graft under the guise of the administion’s prized Faith Based Initiative programs.

As the biblical parable states, Jesus will divide his sheep from the goats amongst them, he also dispenses some very good wisdom about prayer:

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say to you that they have their reward.”

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly”



That’s Matthew: 6, Verses 5; 6 – so go and look it up.

While I not a theologian, I do understand very clearly that the true message of Jesus Christ does not happen to include advocating for greed, bigotry, war, murdering brown skinned children or neglecting the poor which are all not coincidentally some of the traits of the mutant fundamentalist version of Christianity that is pimped by false prophets in three piece suits and a card in Karl Rove’s rolodex. Christ seemed to think that it was not necessary to be seen amongst others in order for the worship of the lord to be legitimate, in fact the verse that I referred to above states exactly the opposite.

But in America today it is obvious that those goats that brayeth the loudest have replaced the humble sheep in the grazing order, especially when it comes to feeding at the public trough and most specifically in the taxpayer subsidized ‘goat barns’ that are the huge mega-churches that are popping up along thy fruited plain nearly as rapidly as Wal Mart superstores.

Of course in order to get the money for one of these great and shiny temples where concerts and light shows extol the ‘virtues’ of God, capitalism, militarism and nationalism there as always is a quid pro quo. They must in return disseminate and perpetuate the message of Republican party propagandists in order to keep the flock focused on the true task at hand which is to attack phantom enemies like gays, judges and liberals while acting as a proxy army for corporatism and the agenda of the wealthy.

This brings to mind the following dialogue from the movie Pale Rider between Clint Eastwood’s ‘Preacher’ who champions the poor local miners and the corrupt town boss ‘LaHood’ (obviously a Republican) who is trying to screw them by initially trying to swindle them and then ultimately hiring his thugs to force them to leave their gold rich land so that he could bring in his strip mining operation.

LaHood: “It occurred to me it must be difficult for a man of faith to carry the message on an empty stomach, so to speak I thought why not invite this devout and humble man to preach in town? Why not let the town be his parish? In fact why not build him a brand-new church?”

Preacher: “I can see where a preacher’d be mighty tempted by and offer like that.”

LaHood: “Oh, indeed.”

Preacher: “Then he’d be thinking about getting himself a batch of new clothes..”

LaHood: “We’d have them tailor made”

Preacher: “Then he’d start thinking about those Sunday collections.”

LaHood: “Hell, in a town as rich as this one that preacher’d be a wealthy man.”

Preacher: “That’s why it wouldn’t work, can’t serve God and mammon both. Mammon being money”

 

America’s mega-church moguls have no such qualms over taking mammon, in fact the more mammon the more message that the GOP can expect from the grand temples that serve as political halls. Unlike Clint Eastwood’s humble preacher the pastors and preachers of the religious right and it’s affiliates perform astride stages in venues the size of small arenas to the accompaniment of light and special effects shows that would be the envy of a heavy metal rock band on a world tour. They adorn themselves with the finest in tailored finery and wallow like hogs in pools of taxpayer dollars funneled in by Bush’s programs. If more on the right had some consistency in their ideology they might come to call this for what it is: Christian Socialism.

This politicizing of the churches ends up driving the smaller houses of worship out of business due to their inability to compete with the extravaganzas presented by their competitors in the well-heeled and not coincidentally much whiter suburbs. The ones that suffer most are the residents of the inner cities and the poor whose lives depend on the organizing power and moral examples of the small churches that truly seek to perform humanitarian deeds in the name of the lord while preaching the real gospels of Christ and don’t demand their congregation to make calls or write letters to their congressmen threatening retaliation if they don’t discriminate against others or take stances that further contribute to the corrosive corruption and coarsening of our society.

Well, here’s a great idea to cut into massive national debt as well as to allow all who benefit from citizenship to have the great feeling of contributing their fair share: start taxing the churches. Not all churches of course but the `tax cheat’ false churches that serve as political organs of the Republican party need to be immediately stripped of their tax exempt status. By using their pulpits as a forum for polemics, making congregation lists available to party operatives, laundering money and waging war on the concept of the separation of church and state, therefore becoming political organizations and they should render unto Caesar that which is his or if we are to believe that we still live in a functional democracy more precisely ours. Tax breaks for biblical theme parks like the massive abomination called Holyland where according to a St. Pete Times story one can experience:

“A biblical theme park in Orlando where guests pay $30 admission to munch on “Goliath” burgers and explore reproductions of 2000-year-old tombs and temples could get a property tax exemption written into state law”

 

The owners of these all too common turnstiles to apostasy also need to be kicked off of the government dole, how hypocritical that the same moneychangers who seek to eliminate the hated welfare state sing a different hymn when the entitlements are being funneled into their pockets and not the pockets of the poorest and the most disadvantaged amongst us who Christ himself championed.

And I would like somebody to tell me just how biblically correct that chowing down on a fucking Goliath Burger is.