Thursday, October 8, 2009

Conflict of Interest

The Doctors
Just listened to NPR on my way home. The program was about doctors and a study done in 1970 onward, putting ALL that state's doctor care in one huge database.

A stupendous task.

It came out that care and procedures varied from town to town, county to county. In one town much more of a certain medical procedure was done to women, for example, than in all the other ones.

As I was listening in and weaving in and out of traffic, something interesting caught my ear.

"A doctor was asked why certain towns had done more procedures than others, and an anonymous doctor answered it thusly:

A small rural town with one ophthalmologist, that doctor will do cornea operations for people with 20/80 vision - a very bad vision. A small rural town with two eye specialists will do operations on people with 20/60 - pretty bad eyesight. A small rural town with three ophthalmologists - those doctors will perform operations on people with 20/40 vision - which is not bad at all (20/20 is perfect eyesight)."

Catch my drift?

Just to ram the point home, a doctor's voice came over the radio and he stated:

"Hey, I want to keep busy. If there are more doctors, of course I want to keep busy performing procedures".

Which neatly led to the taboo, verbotten subject that the study performed in Vermont nor a formal effort by an organization polling doctors on why and how they treated patients a certain way (again done in Vermont) never asked.

Doctors get paid for each performed action. They get paid small amounts for advising a client and perhaps proscribing medicine (a patient visit) but get paid big money for performing operations.

Now ask yourself - assuming the doctor is honesty personified, but the decision she is mulling over in her head is to advise you let her hospital perform that CT scan on you or perhaps that CT scan is unnecessary?

Which way would the nice lady doctor be swayed?

A woman was profiled on the radio show; she was in a car accident. Her back was hurting, rarely, every few hours she got some pain.

Her doctor - a specialist - advised her to get an operation. And another. And another. And a third one. And a fourth.

Now she is in pain not rarely, not once or twice per day, but all the time.

Cha-ching, you stupid bitch!

She trusted her doctor, but as an American you must, absolutely MUST remember - you are not a patient, you are a client - in effect, a number.

The doctor does not have your best interest at heart; the system makes it much more profitable to make you sick enough so that an expensive procedure is performed... by the doctor who advises you to do it.

Ben Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment later.

In America, with doctors profiting off you getting sicker and your condition becoming worse, so that an (ka-ching!) expensive operation is performed to treat you, prevention is anathema, an enemy, and prevention will never be mentioned, or rarely.

Do you trust your doctor still?

What about...

The Lawyers
Do you trust these fuckers?

Oh, "kill all the lawyers", "lawyers are scum" - these are things people of all social strata, from the poor to the rich, say.

But what happens in a divorce?

Family example - a husband was so pissed off at his wife (and vice versa) that he got a lawyer, and, by gawd, he will sue her for everything she is worth!

After all, he worked hard, and made the majority of the money in this (un)holy union.

And, of course, the crying, desperate mother went and tried to get herself "lawyered up" too.

Because her English was somewhat bad, and definitely not good enough to really understand all the "lawyer speak", she took her smart-ass 15 year old son with her.

After speaking to several lawyers (free consultation) one lawyer (an inexperienced sucker) let slip that the state law stipulates that in a divorce both parties receive 50-50 of everything.

Curious, mom and son probed; so, why even get lawyers then?

Stuttering, asinine explanation, followed by "Well, good lawyers can turn this into 55-45, or even 60-40".

The smart-ass kid went on the internet and researched divorces, jumping from lawyer fees per hour (at that point the kid did a double take) to "no-fault divorce" to the 50-50 settlement law, in existence in almost every state of this union.

Next, a phone call to dad.

"Dad, you are a fucking idiot. Do you know about the 50-50 state law? Do you know how much it will cost you and mom to fight it out in court? By the time it gets to 45-65 settlement, much of the assets and money will be gone".

"But but" blah blah blah I made all the money I deserve more.

"OK, why not come to the house, sit down and we will fight it out without lawyers, and discuss this like adults? Lets see if we can divide everything and do the cheaper amicable divorce".

Which happened.

There was discussion, negotiation (a very civil one, surprisingly) and finally, after several meetings, an agreement.

The father let his lawyer go ("what's the point of keeping him?!") but the parasite did not let him go.

He was owed money, and the case was held up, preventing it from going to Court until he was paid.

Do you see any difference between doctors and lawyers?

"But but... doctors save lives, and lawyers..." blah blah blah, confused American thinking.

Shut up.


Both of them have to work in the same system.

Pay for play, pay for service.

A doctor WILL advise you to have that operation that will pay him more, and not recommend a simple procedure which has just as much chance (if not more!) of healing you for much, much less expense. A doctor will work on your fears and emotions, saying in a serious voice that yes, you do need that complicated operation.

A lawyer WILL advise you to SUE THE BASTARD!, FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS!, stoking your anger, playing your emotions while you are so vulnerable and unable to think logically.

Guess what assholes - competing lawyers do not directly talk to each other, but there is a tacit understanding between them - an agreement on how to play you, the suckers, for your money.

Think of a poker table with three people "in-the-know" and you sitting down to play a friendly game with some money involved.

The three sharks do not speak to each other - there is no need - they know what's up and that a victim - a mark - an idiot - has walked in ready to lose his money.

Same here.

And same with doctors.

There is a tacit understanding in the profession, and if there is a malpractice suit there are very few specialists who will come to say that "yes, that other doctor made a mistake".

Same as with....

The Policemen
Policemen in this country are a law unto themselves, and this is true that,as they proudly say it to others, "the police are the biggest gang in this country".

A policeman can beat you, taser you, stop you at a checkpoint and if you are a "smart-ass" give you a breathalyzer that YOU WILL FAIL, 100% guaranteed (and there are 30 other cops at the checkpoint who will verify that you were drunk, although, of course, you did not imbibe anything but 7-Up that night).

It used to be thought that policemen were the pillars of the community, but in reality, these are truly dumb, bored men, who get off when they see you in fear and watching you squirm under their questioning... And of course, the ultimate thrill is tasering some poor sucker or better yet, being "assaulted" by a driver who is sitting in the car, and then grabbing him by the collar and slamming his head against his car.

But who watches the policemen? Who watches the watchmen?

Oddly enough, other policemen.

Seen any cops on the stand being witnesses on the stand in police corruption cases?

Me neither.

And, even more surprisingly, this "self-policing" is happening in almost all areas of life in this country.

Lets take a look at...

The SEC, standing for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, is an agency charged with overseeing the stock markets.

It is nominally independent of the government, and so technically should do a good job.

A few problems - systemic issues - are present which make it a joke, however.

The first problem is that there is no incentive - no monetary incentive, no cashola, no big payday - for an SEC investigator to catch a white collar criminal.

So, in truth, much depends on the diligence of your boss and your own set of ethics and morals and work rate.

But, of course the American system has found a way to fuck that up.

You see, the incentive is for the SEC "investigators" to NOT pursue the criminals and to not catch anybody.

SEC employees make decent money, but the wages do not compare to the astronomical amounts that the private sector financial specialists make each month, each day even.

Right off the bat you (hopefully) see that only the dumbest, least motivated go into the SEC (the best go into the private sector to really make money), or the truly motivated, crusading types (very few Elliot Ness' around these times, n'est ce pas? Of course there was Elliot Spitzer, but he was taken down and removed from his government post in a classic whore-entrapment operation - he was becoming too dangerous to the establishment).

But looking at the SEC, one surprisingly finds that very few young people who join it make it a career.

What happens is that the young "investigators" gain experience, learn how the system works and how to game it, and then... well, you guessed it - they join a private firm to make real money.

Since every young inexperienced straight-out-of-college or long-term-loser SEC'er dreams of joining a private firm, is it REALLY in their interest to catch any corporate malfeasance?

Do you think a successful SEC investigator will get many offers to come work for a private investment firm? A hedge fund will not come a-calling for a motivated, ethical, moral and successful modern Elliot Ness.

Mr. Bernie Madoff run the most successful (known) ponzi scheme in the world, EVER.
He was investigated multiple times, and SEC agents visited him personally, even at his office and home.

And then they shit their pants - Madoff was the founder of NASDAQ, one of the most powerful stock markets in the world, and to say that he had connections and pull is akin to saying that Hitler killed a few people.

I guarantee you that if Bernie was in a bad mood one day, and was visited by an SEC "intern", if Bernie told that intern to fuck off, the SEC'er would snap to attention, drop his trousers and attempt to insert his dick into his anus.

So that is why you do not hear the names of successful SEC investigators.

Because there are none.

But the system, the so called capitalism, is build so that the CEO and leadership of a company has the best interest of company they lead at heart, right?

There are incentives built into the system to make that true, right?


The Chief Executive Officer
Lets include the CEO and the top tier of a private firm, any firm, whether a car making company, a toy making company, or a company gaming the stock market which does not produce anything and is, in effect, a parasite.

Lets talk about the CEO, the Chief Financial Officer, the top accounting, the operations guy, other executive officers, partners, the top, top 1-2% of a company.

In the American fucked up system, these people are paid a wage, but to spur them to action most of their monetary gains are tied to the price of their company's stock.

Hopefully you realize at this point that the stock market is irrational, guided by rumours, innuendos, planted (true or false) information, raids by giant hedge funds and corporate raiders onto companies to drive down (or up) a company's stock price (people can make money off a falling stock price on "put options" just as well as on a rising one).

In this environment, the CEO and his band of merry cronies and yes-men (and some women) will do everything in their power to keep the stock price as high as they can.

This leads to a very dangerous "short-term profits" mentality among our ruling elite.

Let me explain.

It is in the interest of a given company's employees, and their customers, and sometimes even a nation if a company is big and/or important enough that the company prosper in the long term.

A CEO and his cronies do not give a shit about that - they are there for a few years at most.

What is their motivation?

Like any American's - get rich quick (not much different than a black gangbanger on the street, really).

There are many ways to accomplish this "get rich quick" scheme for a CEO.

Lets start with the fact that the stock market likes layoffs - nay, adores layoffs.

Any company that sheds employees gets an instant boost in its stock price.

Think of this scenario - a CEO and his henchmen realize they may have a few years before a market bubble crash.

They will institute short term policies to maximize profits NOW, produce/serve more, ramp up capacity, expand, and not plan for the (inevitable) downturn coming up in 2-3 years (or sooner).

If they time it right, they are proclaimed as great captains of an industry, and as they leave the company (counting their millions) like rats leaving a sinking ship, the market tanks (which they have foreseen but made no action to prepare their company for), and now the overgrown, bloated, over-capacity company is in great trouble.

Employees laid off, factories close, losses mount... and the CEO and his buddies golf on their own private island.

Isn't capitalism great?

Another example - from the most recent stock market bubble crash.

Banks were competing with other banks and "investment banks" like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock (these are not really banks... well, they are now, as they were reclassified by our paid-for government to allow them to receive TARP money; think of them as parasites that live off the stock market trading and suckers like you investing in your pitiful 401K)

The market was so good, the SPY index and S&P 500 was always going up, that any idiot who put money into it made more money.

And the more money a bank (or "investment bank") put in the more money they made.

The firms that tried to be prudent and hedge their bets, who tried to play it safe, were crucified by their shareholders, the greedy American fucks that they are.

Greedy American idiot: "Bank A makes more money than us, bank B. Why?"

Responsible CEO of bank B: "Well, we foresee a stock market correction soon, and the stock market will fall a bit. We are trying to hedge our bets, keep some money in reserve and be responsible".

Greedy American idiot: "What! I am moving my money! Am buying bank A stock!"

Of course, that didn't happen. What did happen was that lower level employees did their research, thought a bit, and wrote alarming memos to their bosses - the CEO's and CFO's. For their due diligence and being right, they were usually either fired or demoted.

Remember - the CEOs were in hog heaven, making the big score and trying to time it right to exit juuuuuuuust before the crash.

Of course, the shareholders - the small fry like you and me having our 401K's and private stock portfolios, as well as the big players, like hedge funds, pensions, foreign governments - are not amused as we look at this fucked up system, and we glance at our 401K's.

But it - the system - has provided an independent watchdog, a non-government, private organization to oversee the CEO and take action if he (she) gets too wild.

They have the power to vote the CEO out, to appoint a new one, they dictate to the company because they, in effect represent the actual owners of said company, they are...

The Board of Directors
A board of directors is a grand thing; per Wikipedia, it is "a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company".

In effect, a cop, a policeman who represents the interests of the shareholders, the people who bought stock and are interested in the well being, especially (well, this used to be true - stocks were used to be held for years before the advent of day-trading and algos ruining the stock market - more on the stock market hanky-panky in another article coming up) long term well-being, of a company.


Capitalism works!

This board of directors is a splendid idea, and they do have a vested interest in making sure the interests of the shareholders - remember, the owners - of the company are represented and they watch like a hawk over the well being of the company.

But just to double check, lets ask a simple question - actually who is on a board of directors?

Lets look at most bloggers' favorite target, the Goldman Sachs' board of directors.

There is Lloyd C. Blankfein, the CEO.

His second in command, Gary D. Cohn, President and Chief Operating Officer.

And here come the watchdogs, unchained, wary, yapping, sniffing, watching Lloyd's and Gary's hands... uh....

Lets go one by one, and examine each member of the board a bit.

John H. Bryan - the retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sara Lee Corporation.

Claes Dahlbäck - currently serves as a Senior Advisor to Investor AB, a Swedish-based investment company.

Stephen Friedman - has been Chairman of Stone Point Capital, a private equity firm, since June 2006; prior to that, he was, since May 2005, a Senior Advisor to Stone Point Capital.

William W. George - was Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic, Inc. from May 1991 to May 2001 and its Chairman of the Board from April 1996 until his retirement in April 2002.

Rajat K. Gupta - has been Senior Partner Emeritus of McKinsey & Company since 2003. He previously served as McKinsey & Company’s Worldwide Managing Director from 1994 until 2003.

OK, lets stop.

This is enough.

Can you spot the pattern (if you can't - what are you, an idiot?).

All of these members of the board are either active or ex members of the management of other companies.

These are CEO's, CFO's, executive officers of other companies, and many even of the same industry - financial fleecing of America industry, aka "investment banks".

And you can probably guess how this works now, can't you?

Executive officers of company A sit on the board of directors of company B, watching, controlling, sniffing for any wrong doing so they can pounce, while, vice versa, executive officers of company B sit on the board of directors of company A.

Simplistic example, but in many true life situations this is exactly true.

Whose interest do these people represent - shareholders or their own?

Imagine two CEO's playing golf in Grand Cayman:
"Say, Bob, I noticed that you did some hanky panky last week at your company - buying your own company stock with your company's own money and hiding it in a financial maneuver - I'll bring that info to the next board meeting."

"Say, Joe, I am good friends with three guys in your board of directors - and they will fuck you up so bad you'll be lucky to open a mom-and-pop store in this town, so fuck you!"

"You're right, what was I thinking - lets play the next hole!".

This is unrealistic, of course, because in an industry - just like between lawyers, doctors or pimps or policemen - there is a tacit understanding and unofficial code of behaviour.

No policeman will testify in a trial against another policeman's criminal wrong doing. When such a thing happened, movies are made of such incredible events (actually, I can only think of one - Serpico. It is pretty rare, n'est ce pas?).

Do you see CEO's lining up to change the system for the better?

Or to testify against each other?

But wait, there are other organizations and agencies that oversee the private corporations.

What about the fine, upstanding accounting profession...

The Accountants
Their one and only job is to watch a company's money.

Watch their stocks, delve into a corporation's ledgers, look over their Excel spreadsheets, actually count the money in the register, so to speak.

They are paid to be professional, truthful, and do a good job - they are private companies paid to to this one and only job, and paid very well, in fact.

Being private companies, they are paid by... the companies they are overseeing (auditing, to use the business lingo).

Think on that for a second.

Lets say I got into trouble, smack my wife a bit, and a judge placed me under house arrest.

Lets say the crazy libertarians get their way, and the probation officer is a private company employee, paid - by me - to watch over me so that I can only leave my house to go to work and back and get 2 hours of shopping / free time, supervised, of course.

Since I pay him, I try to hire the best private probation watchdog.

I think I will hire the one who winks and nods and allows me to spend 4 hours away from my house.

Heck, I will pay a lot more and get the best of the best in private probation officer companies (PPOC - catchy) - and that probation officer will allow me whole days away from the house, while sitting in my house and wearing the electronic collar/tracking device himself.

Enough time for me to visit that bitch-of-a-wife of mine and really smack her up to show her the error of her ways.

This is how the paid for by the companies they audit accounting firms operate.

There are other agencies that have an impact on a corporation, which are paid to judge the performance of a corporation and give their unbiased verdict, similar to a teacher giving a grade to a student, AAA, BBB...

The Rating Agencies
Per the Credit rating agency Wikipedia page:
"A credit rating agency (CRA) is a company that assigns credit ratings for issuers of certain types of debt obligations as well as the debt instruments themselves. In some cases, the servicers of the underlying debt are also given ratings. In most cases, the issuers of securities are companies, special purpose entities, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, or national governments issuing debt-like securities (i.e., bonds) that can be traded on a secondary market."

Basically, these agencies grade all the shit you can think of.

Corporations, government bonds, banks, firms - all given a neat grade of "very good" all the way to "fucked up!".

Having just read the section above about the accounting profession, you know what question to ask:

Who pays them?

You probably already guessed the answer.

The companies that want to be graded (or are required by law to be graded) pay for the privilege.

Is it in the rating agencies own self interest to give a bad grade to what are, in effect, its clients?

How does this work in the real world?

It fucking doesn't, that's how.

JAMES N. BODURTHA, Jr., Georgetown University - McDonough School of Business Associate Professor of Finance and International Business:

Credit-rating agencies, the independent securities analysts that pass judgment on a company's financial fitness, saw signs of Enron (news/quote)'s deteriorating finances by last May. But the agencies — Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings — did little to warn investors until at least five months later, long after more problems had emerged and Enron's slide into bankruptcy had accelerated.

And of course, the most recent case of Lehman Brothers, AIG and all the other firms which were in the business of leveraging $40 to $1 or even (yes, that is a true record) $60 to $1 - meaning, in English, that for each dollar held in the piggy bank the bank/company/entity loaned out/invested 40 or 60 dollars.

All of these were rated "superb", "very good", AAA+ by the credit ratings agencies - I mean, what rating do such responsible companies deserve (perhaps, after Enron and the current financial crisis, there should be a new "AFU" rating - "all fucked up").

So what good are they, you may ask?

They give dupes - idiots like us - a false sense of security, as well as cover for Wall Street to perform their extreme risk taking, akin to betting all-in on black on roulette in a casino, and being told that that is "responsible" and being graded AAA on ethics and responsibility.

AAA rating, indeed.

In every Western democratic, first world country (save one - ours) there is a final, desperate organization that is supposed to represent the common man, the rube, the sucker, man on the street, the common citizen, Joe Six-Pack... me...

The Government
I have followed the zerohedge blog, which is superb, save for the inane comments made by crazy libertarians sitting in darkened rooms, with windows curtains drawn, shotgun in one hand and a half-finished (cheap) Whisky bottle in the other, nervously eyeing the door, expecting the black clad government commandos to helicopter in and storm their parents basement (sorry, just having fun here!).

There is a debate happening on that blog, as well as on a great majority of the internet these days - from reddit, all kinds of liberal and conservative blogs to newspapers publishing articles online and providing fori for discussions.

This is the government regulation vs. the free market believers debate.

On one side we have the free market, magical, "invisible hand of the market" believers in Ayn Rand religion.

On the other side, we have people who believe in the honesty, morality and common sense of our politicians (hah... hahaha!).

So, having got this far, your brain fried from reading this wall of text, you stop and ask yourself: "Wait, did americangoy just say that both sides are in the wrong here?".


This is a FALSE argument.

Let me start with examples - this should help to illustrate my point.
Remember my SEC section?

Young "interns" join the SEC, but their only dream is to join a private firm, preferably an "investment bank", such as Goldman Sachs or BlackRock, or, say, a Bernie Madoff fund.

Oddly enough, once they reach high enough, members of the private firms, corporations, "investment banks", leave the lucrative private sphere and join the government.

Goldman Sachs is an extreme example, to tell the truth, but as good as any, so hop on over to an old, 2006 FOXnews article:

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs has a long list of alumni who have gone onto government service

A the top of the list are names like New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Corzine was CEO of the brokerage before he won a Senate seat in 2000. Until taking up work with the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, Bolten was executive director for legal and government affairs at Goldman Sachs International in London. Rubin was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs until 1992, when he was confirmed for his Cabinet seat in the Clinton administration.

But company officials have filled in heavy-lifting posts in less visible areas, too.

The Goldman Sachs' alumni who have served in government include Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; former president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Kenneth D. Brody; chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and former director of the National Economic Council Stephen Friedman; Reagan Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead; and Reagan Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Robert Hormats. Goldman Sachs' graduate James Johnson served as president and CEO of quasi-government housing lender Fannie Mae.

Part of the reason for such prominent roles might be due to a corporate culture that pushes it. A letter to the company's investors accompanying the 2005 annual report notes that "Goldman Sachs has a long tradition of public service. Many of our people have gone on to significant positions in government and the not-for-profit sector and their achievements are a source of pride for all of us."

Re-read the last part.

Part of the reason for such prominent roles might be due to a corporate culture that pushes it. A letter to the company's investors accompanying the 2005 annual report notes that "Goldman Sachs has a long tradition of public service".

Do you think these ex-Goldman Sachs people - when they reach a government position - not have a soft spot for their old company?

During the bailout, a competitor of Goldman Sachs - Lehman Brothers - was allowed to fail, and was destroyed.

The company ceased to exist because the government refused to bail it out.

However, when Goldman Sachs had the exact same issue - too much $40 to $1 leverage - the government announced that the financial system needs a bailout, and that banks will receive our tax money to save them... then promptly declared Goldman Sachs a bank.

More, Goldman Sachs invested (stupidly, but so did everyone else) in certain very risky securities, but they hedged their gambling by insuring their bets in the insurance company AIG.

When the shit hit the fan, AIG did not have enough insurance to cover Goldman Sachs losses. Not to worry, our heroic government gave another bailout (billions, again) to AIG to help it - which money AIG promptly paid to Goldman Sachs to cover its obligations.

Obviously, Lehman brothers did not have a corporate culture which pushed its employees into "public service".

More examples.
Christian Science Monitor, In stock market, US senators beat averages:

A report showing outsize portfolio gains for US senators is raising new questions about ethics and conflicts of interest for Capitol Hill power brokers.

The study found that during the boom years of 1993-98, a majority of US Senators were trading stocks - and beating the market by 12 percentage points a year on average. By comparison, corporate insiders beat the market by 5 percent, and typical households underperformed by 1.4 percent.

Here is (yet another) smoking gun, showing you what's going on, how the real world works (Libertarians, you with me here? See how reality is a bit different than Ayn Rand?).

These are lawmakers who are charged with overseeing the stock markets, to regulate them.

"The public perception is that when a member has a stock in an industry he or she is regulating, there is a potential conflict of interest," says Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, which was not involved in the research.

No shit, Sherlock?

Remember Vice-President Cheney?

Project Censored: Cheney’s Halliburton Stock(...):

Raw Story, October 2005
Title: “Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Options Rose 3,281 Percent Last Year, Senator Finds”
Author: John Byrne

Senator Frank Lautenberg’s website
Title: “Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Options Soar to $9.2 Million”

Faculty Evaluator: Phil Beard
Student Researchers: Matthew Beavers and Willie Martin

Vice President Dick Cheney’s stock options in Halliburton rose from $241,498 in 2004 to over $8 million in 2005, an increase of more than 3,000 percent, as Halliburton continues to rake in billions of dollars from no-bid/no-audit government contracts.

An analysis released by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reveals that as Halliburton’s fortunes rise, so do the Vice President’s. Halliburton has already taken more than $10 billion from the Bush-Cheney administration for work in Iraq. They were also awarded many of the unaccountable post-Katrina government contracts, as off-shore subsidiaries of Halliburton quietly worked around U.S. sanctions to conduct very questionable business with Iran (See Story #2). “It is unseemly,” notes Lautenberg, “for the Vice President to continue to benefit from this company at the same time his administration funnels billions of dollars to it.”

Do you see this situation for what it is?

A vice president being (in effect) paid by a private company while he is a vice president, probably the second most powerful man in the world (OK, lets not kid ourselves, 'W' Bush was - and is - an idiot, and it was Cheney and his cabal who ruled the country).

In what other (non banana republic, or crazy African dictatorship) country would this happen?

Do you get it now?

This is how the real world works, people.

There are no two sides, no government regulators trying to reign in the free market corporations.

These are one the same people, on top of the government and on top of the private corporations.

Think of them as the elites.

Think of yourself as a number.

It is us vs them.

Conflict of Interest.

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