PWNED! Sad or Porno for Commies?

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime,
Didn’t you?
Yeah, people’d call, say “Beware doll, you’re
bound to fall”
You thought they were just kiddin’ you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
And now you don’t walk so proud
Now you don’t talk so loud
About having to be scrounging
Your next meal”
-Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

Here are some of the pieces from the archives that I had planned on making into a longer series on the economy… but just got too depressed to finish. Dumped some of the older ones, and added a new one. A couple of my “sad” ones were off the web now, including the Wayback Machine, but I found a new one to replace them.


Let’s start with the two flat-out SAD stories. This one is fairly dated, but I haven’t heard anything about a miraculous Las Vegas “recovery” yet and would imagine the jobs situation there is still fairly dire.

In-N-Out Burger on the Strip

…In the recent past, the expected opening of a casino is what drew reporters to long lines of prospective employees. This week it was the expected opening of an In-N-Out Burger. Las Vegas Sun reporter Timothy Pratt observed Monday the growing amazement of Grace Robinson, manager of the Holiday Inn Express where applications for entry-level jobs at the restaurant were being taken. She had not prepared for the steady inflow of so many people, most of them desperate. As Pratt reported, she scrambled to find extra rooms and chairs as jobless men and women kept arriving on a cold and rainy morning.

It was estimated that the two-day opportunity to apply for the at-most 50 jobs that pay $10 an hour to start would draw more than 1,000 people. Privately owned In-N-Out Burger turned 60 years old this year, and it has earned a reputation as a good place to work. But on Monday and Tuesday the people pouring in may not have known that. They were looking for work wherever they could find it. The local economy is getting worse, mirroring the national crisis that erupted last year and whose momentum seems unending.

In line Monday was a 42-year-old woman, Freda Beckwith. She has been jobless since Sept. 17, when she was laid off from the Bellagio where she was a cashier. Her dwindling hope rests with her work history that includes nine years as a cook at New York-New York. She carried documents showing she had once been employee of the month and that she had never been late or absent. Behind on her mortgage, she said she thinks the dozens of jobs she has applied for are going to younger people. “Sometimes I just want to sit down and cry,” she said. The federal government, whose rescue plans are focused on bailing out big financial institutions, should be more aware that good people who want to work are on the verge of tears.

You think? Next up, we find a horrifying tale of the latest trend in Human Resources: companies only accepting applications from those who already have jobs! No more sifting through the apps of the dirty, poor losers who somehow found themselves jobless in the biggest economic crash in 80 years. I mean, how can you expect to get a job if you don’t have one right now? Jeez, what’s wrong with you folks! Makes everything neat, tidy, and efficient for every beloved American HR hack.

Disclosure: as always, this is no endorsement for the Huffington Post, just this one article.

Next exit: Maybe a double entendre from the folks at "People Place"?

Still waiting for a response to the 300 resumés you sent out last month? Bad news: Some companies are ignoring all unemployed applicants. In a current job posting on People Place , a job recruiting website for the telecommunications, aerospace/defense and engineering industries, an anonymous electronics company in Angleton, Texas, advertises for a “Quality Engineer.” Qualifications for the job are the usual: computer skills, oral and written communication skills, light to moderate lifting. But red print at the bottom of the ad says, “Client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason.”

In a nearly identical job posting for the same position on the Benchmark Electronics website, the red print is missing. But a human resources representative for the company confirmed to HuffPost that the The People Place ad accurately reflects the company’s recruitment policies.

“It’s our preference that they currently be employed,” he said. “We typically go after people that are happy where they are and then tell them about the opportunities here. We do get a lot of applications blindly from people who are currently unemployed — with the economy being what it is, we’ve had a lot of people contact us that don’t have the skill sets we want, so we try to minimize the amount of time we spent on that and try to rifle-shoot the folks we’re interested in.”

Sony Ericsson, a global phone manufacturer that recently announced that it would be bringing 180 new jobs to the Buckhead, Ga. area, also recently posted an ad for a marketing position on The People Place. The add specified: “NO UNEMPLOYED CANDIDATES WILL BE CONSIDERED AT ALL.” When asked about the ad, a spokeswoman said, “This was a mistake, and once it was noticed it was removed.” Ads asking the unemployed not to apply are easy to find. A Craigslist ad for assistant restaurant managers in Edgewater, N.J. specifies, “Must be currently employed.” Another job posting for a tax manager at an unnamed “top 25 CPA firm” in New York City contains the same line in all caps.

A company’s choice to ignore unemployed applicants and recycle the current workforce ignores the effect of the recession on millions of highly-qualified workers and could prolong the unemployment crisis, said Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator for the National Employment Law Project. “In the current economy, where millions of people have lost their jobs through absolutely no fault of their own, I find it beyond unconscionable that any employer would not consider unemployed workers for current job openings,” she said. “Not only are these employers short-sighted in their search for the best qualified workers, but they are clearly not good corporate citizens of the communities in which they work. Increasingly, politicians and policy makers are trying to blame the unemployed for their condition, and to see this shameful propaganda trickle down to hiring decisions is truly sad and despicable.”

There is no law prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed, though advocates said the practice could be illegal if it had a “disparate impact” on minority groups. Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.), whose home state of Michigan has a 14 percent unemployment rate, was particularly disappointed to hear about the ads.
“While I appreciate that many employers are facing unprecedented competition for job openings, to close the door on such a large population of potential employees is shortsighted,” he said. “Being unemployed is not a choice many workers choose to make. I would hope that companies that are discriminating against the unemployed will take into consideration that this choice is only further contributing to long-term unemployment in our country.”


The above two stories illustrate the sadness, cruelty, and viciousness of a major economic downturn, and how it affects regular folk who simply want living wages, a roof over their head, and “three hots and a cot”. Now here’s the FUN part of an economic downturn: watching spoiled, entitled rich people pout, bitch, and whine about their newfound circumstances. You know, life like the rest of us! Pure schaudenfraude.

First, let’s start off with the “Baglady papers” of one Alexandra Penney, Daily Beast columnist and author of “How to Make Love to a Man”, who lost all her money to Madoff. I have very little sympathy for Madoff victims. They had zero moral qualms about where their money was going as long as they got 10% profit every year, and were stupid enough to risk their whole fortunes with him. Get your popcorn, hold the kleenex…

“Yeah, the princess on the steeple
All the pretty people
Drinkin’, thinkin’ that they
Got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts
But you’d better take that diamond ring,
You’d better pawn it babe”

-more Like a Rolling Stone

Brotha, can you spare a cabin in Palm Beach?

Last Thursday at around 5 p.m., I had just checked on a rising cheese soufflé in my oven when my best friend called. “Heard Madoff’s been arrested,” she said. “I hope it’s a rumor. Doesn’t he handle most of your money?” Indeed, he did. More than a decade ago, when I was in my late 40s, I handed over my life savings to Madoff’s firm. It was money I’d been tucking away since I was 16 years old, when I began working summers in Lord & Taylor, earning about $65 a week. Not a penny was inherited. Not one cent was from my divorce. I earned all of it myself, through a long string of jobs that included working as a cashier at Rosedale fish market in New York City in my 20s, and later, writing bestselling sex books.

When I hung up with my friend, I turned on the TV and began to scour Google for news until the message became nauseatingly clear: Forty years of savings—the money I’d counted on to take me comfortably through the next 30 years—had likely evaporated in Madoff’s scheme. THAT MOTHERFUCKER!! The soufflé fell.

I called Dennis, my consort of 16 years, and he canceled the dinner guests. I took half of a very strong tranquilizer that I’d been stashing for years in case of a death in the family.

….I began to think about my options: I’d have to sell the cottage in West Palm Beach immediately. I’d need to lay off Yolanda. I could cancel the newspaper subscriptions and read everything online. I only needed a cell phone. I’d have to stop taking taxis. And who could highlight my hair for almost no money? And how hard was it to give yourself a really good pedicure?

Then there is my jewelry. I’ve always collected nice watches and pearls. In the back of my mind I’d think, “Buy good stuff because if you’re ever a bag lady, you can sell it.” It might have been a rationalization then—but here I am now: The nightmare may be coming true.

Before I reached for a bedtime Tylenol PM that night, I Googled the Hemlock Society. I wanted to know a painless way to die. Would you believe the Hemlock Society no longer exists?

…In the early 1980s, needing more money, I came up with a book idea: How to Make Love to a Man. My parents told me I’d lost my dignity and didn’t speak to me for nine years. Lawyers have advised me not to speak in specific numbers, but the book sold millions of copies worldwide. Four others followed; all hit The New York Times bestseller list. Checks started rolling in. I bought a one-bedroom apartment on Fifth Avenue, the first thing I’d ever owned. A few years later, Si Newhouse offered me a job as editor-in-chief of Self Magazine. I worked there until the mid-1990s, when I left to pursue my art full time.

…I suddenly had a lot of money. I was in my late 40s, and I felt that I was just too old to have it in a plain old bank account. But I was a creative person, not a savvy investor, so I asked around and talked to my smartest friends with Harvard and Wharton MBAs. There appeared to be a secret society of Madoff investors. A friend who was older, wealthier, and more established somehow got me in. I’ve always had good luck, and I thought it was another stroke of good fortune to be invested with the legendary Bernard Madoff.

Every month I got detailed statements, and my money looked to be growing around 9 to 11 percent. It didn’t seem greedy because I knew other people who were making 15 or 20 percent. I thought, “This is just a very smart investor.”

….It is too painful to think I will lose my Florida cottage, maybe my studio. This is everything I have worked for. I started out life as a painter. Since those days, my dream has been to have a studio to do the work I want to do, to be my own boss, to make the smartest art I can conceive. I finally found my studio two years ago: a small SoHo space awash in light and sun and energy and hope. I will almost surely have to give it up: It is an amputation I may not be able to bear. Not hearing the click of the key to “AP Studio” room 803 makes my thoughts turn to those sweet almondy cyanide capsules.

….I wear a classic clean white shirt every day of the week. I have about 40 white shirts. They make me feel fresh and ready to face whatever battles I may be fighting in the studio to get the best out of my work. How am I going to iron those shirts so I can still feel like a poor civilized person? Even the no iron ones need touching up.

Yolanda makes my life work. She comes in three mornings a week, whirlwinds around, and voila! The shirts are ironed, the sheets are changed, the floors are vacuumed. She’s worked with me for seven years and is a big part of my life. She needs money. She sends it to her family in Colombia. I have more than affection for Yolanda, I love her as part of my family.

…The art market, as everyone pretty much knows, is dead. If I can’t sell my work, I am going to have to find some way to make money. I’ve lived a great and interesting life. I love beautiful things: high thread count sheets, old china, watches, jewelry, Hermes purses, and Louboutin shoes. I like expensive French milled soap, good wines, and white truffles. I have given extravagant gifts like diamond earrings. I traveled a lot. In this last year, I’ve been Laos, Cambodia, India, Russia, and Berlin for my first solo art show. Will I ever be able to explore exotic places again?

….Yesterday, I took my first subway ride in 30 years. Dennis came with me to show me how to get a MetroCard. The world looks very different from a crowded Lexington Avenue No. 6 train.

Yeah, it sure does, honey, it sure does. Hell, that would make a great plot for “Sex and the City Three: Baglady Carrie”. Mr. Big dumps her, pulls out a prenup that he had her sign after three or four drinks one night, and tosses her out on the street. This next one is great, though, yes, a little dated as well. But laughing at Lehman snobs who helped crash the American economy yet also burned up their own fortunes and lifestyle as well never gets old!

Party over in the Hamptons?

Only months ago, ordering that $1,950 bottle of 2003 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon at Craft restaurant or the $26-per-ounce Wagyu beef at Nobu, or sliding into Masa for the $600 prix fixe dinner (not including tax, tip, or drinks), was a way of life for many Wall Street investment bankers. “The culture was that if you didn’t spend extravagantly you’d be ridiculed at work,” says a former Lehmanite. But that was when there were investment banks. Now many bankers, along with discovering $15 bottles of wine, are finding other ways to cut back—if not out of necessity, then from collective guilt and fear: the fitness trainer from three times a week to once a week; the haircut and highlights every eight weeks instead of every five. One prominent “hedgie” recently flew to China for business—but not on a private plane, as before. “Why should I pay $250,000 for a private plane,” he said to a friend, “when I can pay $20,000 to fly commercial first class?”

The new thriftiness takes a bit of getting used to. “I was at the Food Emporium in Bedford [in Westchester County] yesterday, using my Food Emporium discount card,” recounts one Greenwich woman. “The well-dressed wife of a Wall Street guy was standing behind me. She asked me how to get one. Then she said, ‘Have you ever used coupons?’ I said, ‘Sure, maybe not lately, but sure.’ She said, ‘It’s all the rage now—where do you get them?’”

One former Lehman executive in her 40s stood in her vast clothes closet not long ago, talking to her personal stylist. On shelves around her were at least 10 designer handbags that had cost her anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 each.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I guess I’ll have to get rid of the maid.” Why not sell a few of those bags?, the stylist thought, but didn’t say so.
“Well,” the executive said after a moment, “I guess I’ll cut her from five days a week to four

But the mid-30s or mid-40s Lehman banker who lived up to his high compensation—or beyond it—is reeling, hurting, and possibly bankrupt. One Sunday evening in October, a former Lehmanite in his mid-30s settles into a velvet banquette at the Gramercy Park Hotel’s elegant Rose Bar. At first he’s circumspect. But after a couple of Johnnie Walker Blacks on the rocks, he opens up.

“Let’s take a guy who makes $5 million a year,” the banker suggests. “He’s paid two and a half million dollars of that in equity compensation”—Lehman Brothers stock. Plus he gets to buy that stock at a 30 percent discount, so he’s really getting $3.25 million in stock. “Plus appreciation? Over five years? That’s $25 to $30 million!

“Then let’s say a guy in that position borrowed $5 million against the $30 million in stock. It would seem a very conservative loan, right? Until the $30 million goes down to zero, which is what happened. So now he’s negative $5 million.”

True, that same Lehman banker got the other half of his compensation in cash. The banker nods. “For five years, he made two and a half million dollars a year in cash. So that’s twelve and a half million dollars. But of course he’s had to pay more or less 50 percent in taxes, so divide that and he’s got six and a quarter million. He’s probably spent that money over those five years—$1 million a year, it’s not so hard to do, right? So he has nothing—and he has to repay that $5 million loan.”

A month before the bankruptcy, the banker muses, his peers were complaining about the $10,000 or $20,000 they had to pay for lifetime dibs on the best season tickets in the New York Giants’ new stadium. But they were paying. They were complaining about private-school tuitions. “But it was actually a way of saying, ‘I’m rich—rich enough to afford it.’

“The day Lehman went bankrupt, people realized they were going to get no bonuses, no severance, and no equity. Oh—and no health care. And no salary.”

…Before Lehman’s stock began to plummet, Lebenthal suggests, Blake’s annual compensation was $9.5 million—much of that in company stock. He was carrying a $2 million loan used for a house in the Hamptons, but felt perfectly able to afford his annual expenses: the Park Avenue apartment maintenance ($120,000); the Hamptons house mortgage ($75,000); the nanny and driver ($100,000); his wife’s clothing ($100,000); the personal trainer three times a week ($18,000); food, including restaurants ($30,000); charitable benefits and other nonprofit causes ($200,000); private school for three children ($78,000); Christmas in Palm Beach ($15,000); spring in Aspen ($15,000); and a wedding-anniversary diamond necklace for Grigsby ($50,000).

At least Blake has been hired on by Barclays. But his Lehman stock portfolio is now worthless. He and Grigsby have to cut their annual living expenses from about $1 million to a fraction of that, and do it in ways that don’t show, for the worst—the worst—would be the public disgrace of falling out of their social class.

First to go: vacations, the trainer, the driver, and entertaining. No restaurants, no shopping excursions, no new ball clothes for Grigsby (last year’s will have to do). But, for now—for appearances—the Somersets will scrimp to keep the kids in their schools, and the nanny, and the Hamptons house. For now.

… Greenwich estate manager Jacqueline de Bar describes how wealthy locals are cutting back: letting the pastures grow, canceling the leaf blowers, doing the storm windows themselves. At Betteridge Jewelers—known as Wall Street’s jeweler—third-generation owner Terry Betteridge says a lot more customers are coming in since the meltdown, to sell, not buy. “I’ve seen some bad ones in the last two months,” he says. “I know a Wall Street guy who’s literally been selling jewelry to make the mortgage payments. He and his wife came in together, bringing things to sell.… Just this morning, we took in a $2.7 million lot. An amazing collection, some of the best jewelry in the world, everything signed—extraordinary things I couldn’t buy before. No matter what I bid wasn’t enough. Now I can.”

… In this global economy, the age’s excesses and aftermath are spread wide, nowhere as vividly as in London. Notting Hill was the epicenter of London’s gilded age, where every driveway, it seemed, had a Maserati, every mansion a makeover, often including an underground pool. Now, says Sunday Times columnist Rachel Johnson, who chronicled the invasion of the financiers in her 2006 novel, Notting Hell, bankers are staggering around like lost souls, while their wives gather at 202, the stylish Westbourne Grove restaurant in Nicole Farhi’s boutique, to share their fears. “What they’re crying about is they’ve lost all their stock, and their houses are worth less than they were,” says Johnson of the wives, “but they’re really upset that on January 31 they have to pay huge tax bills. Even though they don’t have the cash anymore, the liability remains on what they earned before.”

Let’s finish off with a longtime figure on the New Age circuit, vegetarian activist and Baskin-Robbins heir John Robbins. I had always thought him to be a slightly pretentious, but generally harmless fellow, who talked a lot about “sustainability”, “right livelihood”, “alternative energy”, blah blah blah. Turns out he had ALL his money in with Madoff. And to top it off, he convinced our local paper to not only run this story on this “tragedy”, but even got them to add a plug for his “Save John Robbins” donation campaign! Pathetic. Now he is back on the circuit with a new book… more or less  “Surviving the Crash for Greedy New Age Hypocrites”. This article dates from when he first experienced poverty. I’m also including a short exchange I had with someone on the chat forum about this story.

“No one put a gun to his head to invest with Madoff. John should have put his money where his mouth was and invested in companies that were concerned with more than the bottom line.”

-No kidding! Total hypocrite. “Sustainable”, “socially conscious”, businesses don’t pull down 10% year after year. So he invested in the nastiest of hedge funds, not giving a **** what type of stuff they were invested in: 3rd world logging, sweatshops, who cares as long as I get my 10%? But, YOU all you New Age peons who buy my books: invest in a vegan restaurant! Recycle! Give up your interest in “material items”!
Unbelievable that the Sentinel would give him the little “donate” blurb. I think I’ll mail him a **** rock… an “organic, earthy rock!”
(Psychedelic Dungeon)

Six weeks ago, renowned vegetarian author and Soquel resident John Robbins was painfully reminded of what he’s always known to be true. Robbins, the Soquel resident who walked away from the Baskin-Robbins fortune to seek a simple life grounded in sustainable food practices, lost his entire life savings in the $50 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly headed by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff.

“I know at this moment more than ever that our real wealth is in the love in our hearts, and the people we care about and who care about us, and in the quality of relationships to the spirit and natural worlds,” Robbins, 61, said in an interview Thursday.

Robbins, the best-selling author of “Diet for a New America” and “The Food Revolution,” said he and his wife of 42 years, Deo, lost 98 percent of their net worth in the vast investment sham that has sapped international banks, movie stars and charitable organizations. As a famous longtime resister of what he calls the “toxic mythology” that “self-worth is defined by net worth,” Robbins acknowledged the inescapable irony of losing more than $1 million in a market-driven scheme fueled by old-fashioned greed.

“We are all part of the system, I’ve always known that,” he said. “There is no truly cruelty-free lifestyle. We can minimize the damage, and increase the level of respect we manifest toward others, and, in our economic dealings, try to be as socially responsible as we can be. I believed I was doing that.”

Robbins, who has spoken at the United Nations and appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” said he began investing small amounts with Madoff Securities International Ltd. through a trusted friend and attorney in Marin County whose family had been Madoff clients for 35 years. Then, after several years of steady earnings from what he thought was a portfolio in line with his principles, Robbins decided to place all of his holdings from book royalties and speaking fees with Madoff, who faces a host of federal charges.

“This wasn’t a bad investment,” Robbins said. “This was a theft, a criminal action.” Robbins assumed his savings were safe because he knew much wealthier people were longtime investors with Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman who had earlier been cleared by federal investigators.

“I’m not a financier, I’m an activist,” he said. “I took comfort that these people saw fit to invest.” On Dec. 11, the friend who had steered Robbins into the Madoff fund called with the bad news: They had both lost everything. Since then, Robbins has taken in tenants on the 8-acre property he and his wife share in the Santa Cruz Mountains with son Ocean, daughter-in-law Michelle and twin grandsons, River and Bodhi, who have developmental disabilities. “It’s just a shame — it’s a terrible thing to happen to anybody,” said Jeff Nelson, who along with wife Sabrina became vegetarian and founded the Web site after reading “Diet for a New America.”

The critically acclaimed 1987 book impeaching America’s meat-rich eating habits champions a vegetarian diet for the betterment of human health and animal welfare. Robbins followed it up with “The Food Revolution,” which argued against processed food, in 2001. The Nelsons are now friends with Robbins and are using their Web site to promote a fundraising effort launched by the author’s former agent, Patti Breitman of Fairfax, to help the Robbins family stay afloat. “He saved all this money from a lifetime of work and it’s been stolen,” Nelson said. “It’s like somebody burned his house down.”

Ever since Robbins left the legendary ice cream company started by father Irv Robbins and uncle Burt Baskin, Robbins said he has lived frugally, donating to charities and speaking for free in recent years. Robbins said he and his wife, who has gone back to work, nearly lost their home of 11 years last month, but were rescued by donations from supporters. Robbins said he also has submitted a proposal for a new book to his publisher.


~ by psychedelicdungeon on June 7, 2010.

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