Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0

April 18, 2009

A Fable: Crash Takes NY Street Artist from Hard Times to Happy Days

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 5:55 am

Picture via My Life On (and Off) the GuestThis is a fairytale for anyone who has toiled away at any endeavor-–science, art, invention, entrepreneurship, love—without pay, or recognition, and, especially in these bleak times, with diminishing hope that your creation will ever catch on. 

Artists struggle, they starve, they die believing themselves to be failures only to become posthumous geniuses whose newly understood masterpieces rake in praise and fortune the artist never sees. That’s why it’s called dying for your art.

Even the tiny handful of artists who find fame while alive enough to enjoy it apparently are still required to suffer.  Not too long ago Poor Us posted about photographer Annie Leibovitz who pawned her life’s work—past, present and future–to pay off her debts.

 Boom2Bust blogged that the art market has plunged 35 percent during the first quarter of the year “as cash-strapped collectors looked to unload works by postwar masters that had earlier boomed in price along with the stock market. “

It’s a harsh reality, which is why the story of artist Peter Zonis is so very gratifying  on the face of it.  Let’s start with his life before the crash as reported by The New York Times in October, 2008.

Mr. Zonis is no stranger to financial hardship. 

“With all of my talent,” he said, “until I was in my mid-40s I had never sold any work.” Mr. Zonis, who grew up outside Boston, said that after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, he moved to New York in the early 1980s. His first job was on Wall Street designing corporate reports for an investment firm while studying at the Art Students League.

He was working at the Museum of Modern Art bookstore, making $10 an hour, he says, when fate intervened and Elle Petrincic, an Australian redhead who is now his manager and muse, came into his life.



March 12, 2009

Watch The Daily Showdown: Stewart vs. Cramer 2nite

Jon Stewart by Foxy Roxy237 via DiviantArt.comIt certainly has been a pleasure to watch Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert take on CNBC’s team of “reporters,”  who, as The Daily Show‘s clips have demonstrated, are about as “fair and balanced” about Wall Street as Fox News is on neocons.

What’s even nicer to know is that according to CNET, calling out Jim Cramer and company has done for Comedy Central what CNBCers failed to do for their Wall Street buddies (or for that matter CNBC), drive the stock way, way up.

“Traffic to the shows’ Web sites has been at its highest of the year so far in the past week, at over 60 percent their weekly average for 2009. ComedyCentral.com, which hosts video clips of both programs, also had its best traffic of the year, and the digital version of a viciously funny clip called “CNBC Gives Financial Advice” logged over 1.3 million views in a week, the sort of numbers usually reserved for grainy videos of cats behaving unnaturally.” via CNBC spat mints online hits for Stewart and Colbert | The Social – CNET News

Meanwhile, Mad Money’s mad man Cramer has been making the rounds on NBC and MSNBC pretending to be all hurt that he’s been made a laughingstock, which just may turn out to be the least of his problems:

Jim Cramer Shorting Stocks, Manipulating Markets, Saying The SEC Doesn’t Understand via Huffington Post

In light of the current economic crisis, and with the hullabaloo ignited recently by Jon Stewart over the accuracy of CNBC’s reporting, we thought it might be useful to revisit this shocking 2006 interview Jim Cramer gave to TheStreet.com’s Aaron Task. (more…)

March 10, 2009

Precarity: The Art of Living Dangerously Close to the Edge

Filed under: Uncategorized, Wise up — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 10:46 pm

The news is bad: “In addition to the 651,000 lost jobs in February, the government increased its estimate of the number of jobs lost in January to 655,000 (up from 598,000), while December’s was bumped to 681,000 (up from 577,000),” the Dallas News reported Friday. “It’s the highest national unemployment rate since December 1983. The number of job losses in February was the highest for one month since October 1949 – except, of course, for December 2008 and January 2009.”

And it’s making us stupid(er)–although given the self-inflicted lameness of our plight, it’s almost impossible to imagine we’ll be dumber still before this is all over, but that’s the Dallas interpretation:

“People who concentrate on all the news work themselves up emotionally and become much, much more likely to make unwise decisions” like selling investments at a big loss, said Daniel Howard, a marketing professor and consumer behavior specialist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.”

What’s clearly needed is an alternative method for finding answer to our pressing questions such as this a new age take on the Old World tradition Tarocchi di Precariomanzia or the Tarot of the Precaromancy.  Produced in Italy for May Day 2007,  the cards were designed to address the precarious situation the working man finds himself in these days. “We are precarious because our choices are limited by the blackmail of the companies, coming by the day with new and surprising shapes: the housing issue, the income lack, the job torture, the self-awareness of our body and soul, our educational system, the possibility to learn and share knowledges and technologies,” the precaria.org authors explain. “The precarity tarots are a symbol to be interpreted so as to read the reality around us. They do not think they can actually foretell the future. The 22 Major Arcana represent desires, ambitions, or needs of our present, of our past, or our future.”

XV The Bank

The Bank is money. The world lives by exchanges, and to have money to exchange for goods, you must work. Food, the Estate, the present for one’s daughter, everything is touched by the hands, the moods and the sympathies of the Bank. It is the necessary evil one has to come to terms with to survive and struggle. It stands for the interested help, for the lack of scruples, for the price of everything, for that which one has to give up in order to be able to get, with no certainty of what one will be able to get at all. The Bank could profit from the fall of the Towers and squeeze money out of the Intern. It is a negative tarot, even if some other tarot could lessen its ill portent. Opening the game, the Bank stands for an initial disadvantage and a bank account below zero. Closing the game stands for the debt with one’s destiny.

For more on the notion of precarity, read Bruce Sterling’s The True 21st Century Begins: “Precarity is, of course, the condition of existing precariously. The condition of losing one’s safety and security, of losing predictability and the ability to rationally plan ahead, the condition of being humiliated and in danger.”

March 7, 2009

We’re going to need a bigger band aid to cover the “wound market”

Filed under: Harbinger, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — debacled @ 7:35 pm

Greed by mscottsart via Deviantart.comThose Wall St. fat cats may have outfoxed themselves this time (again?). Since the collapse of the economy (thanks to the aforementioned’s hi jinx) we impoverished civilians have less  money to squander on food and booze, which means that far fewer of us will become “obese diabeticswho develop ulcers on the soles of their feet that do not heal, a condition that can become severe enough to require amputation,” thereby creating “a potentially huge market for innovative skin replacement products”

If  it were me,  I’d be investing all my ill-gotten gold in a technology that reconfigures cold hard cash into something useful like food or water for “the potentially huge market” in life sustaining “replacement products” I’d be happy to have when the  real ones run out. But then, it’s not me, it’s just my money, and the guys who have it are bullish on suppurating wounds.

Still Growth Despite Recession in Skin Ulcer Treatment Market

“There are many markets that will be impacted by the current economic climate, but the treatment of wounds is not one of them, according to a healthcare market research publisher’s latest report on the wound care industry. In the skin ulcer segment of the wound care industry, there are rapid changes as new products and devices enter the market. Estimates compiled by Kalorama Information and published in “Wound Care Markets, 4th Edition, Vol. I: Skin Ulcers” valued the market at $5 billion in 2008 and with annual growth of 8% through 2013 despite the current recession.

These new therapies will result in shorter healing times and hence cost savings. They will also increasingly focus on special populations, especially diabetics and the obese. Smith & Nephew reports that about 1.5 million diabetics per year develop ulcers on the soles of their feet that do not heal, a condition that can become severe enough to require amputation. So there is a potentially huge market for innovative skin replacement products.”


February 27, 2009

Wall Streeters want bonues? Give them toxic assets

Filed under: Reduced Circumstances, Uncategorized — debacled @ 6:33 pm

pirate nation by vhm_alex @deviantart.comRecession Hacking is a new blog with an optimistic, Yes-We-Can motto, “Where New Things Replace the Old,” that aims to use the collective intelligence of the online community to come up with a way out of this mess.  There’s even an  wiki to collect all the collaborative wisdom.

And so  far featured at least one excellent idea, williamtheliar’s   Hack for Wall Street Bonuses.  To my mind, it’s a most elegant solution to mitigate the off-with-their-heads fury inspired by comments such as Morgan Stanley’s CEO John Mack telling Charlie Rose that while he didn’t require a bonus the bank’s  top traders/fund managers needed their $100 million kick backs or they’d seek work elsewhere.

Okay, if they need outrageous fortune, let those Pirates of the Universe  spin this chafe  into gold:

Give them what they deserve.
It still amazes me the millions in bonuses that were given out on Wall Street this year. Sure, a lot of people lost their jobs and those that stay need to be incentivised. What I don’t understand is why they are given our money, rather than some of the bank’s worthless assets that they helped create and sell to our pension funds.

Here’s a hack that will fix the economic situation: The banks have billions of $ of assets that they cannot find buyers for – Sub prime mortgages, Asset Backed Securities and CDO’s. Why can’t these ‘toxic assets’ be off loaded to the Wall Street big wigs as bonuses at current market value? This gets the assets off the banks books, feeds the greed for bonuses within a broken industry and makes the fortunes of the ‘over-paid’ directly dependent on the financial future of the ‘over-loaned’.

February 25, 2009

Scholar sleuthes clues to financial crisis story

Filed under: Uncategorized — debacled @ 9:13 pm

detectiveFew screenplays feature research librarians in the hero role, but the sleuthing required to find the best sources of information is a little like a detective story, especially when the quest is focused on a fast-moving story like the financial meltdown.  University of Maine’s research librarian Steven Fadel gets a chance to tell how he pieced together the clues here.  Better yet, he provides links to all the well-vetted resources at his and other  libraries:

Enoch Pratt Free Library: American Money Crisis
San Diego Public Library: Hot Topic: Crisis on wall Street
Colorado State University Libraries:LibGuides: Financial Crisis

via Resource Shelf

February 20, 2009

Reporters didn’t miss the meltdown; they read all about it

Filed under: Uncategorized, Who knew? — Tags: , , , , — debacled @ 7:17 pm

How did the business press miss the most important  story of their generation?  Who knows? But they weren’t the only ones. The then President of the United States stuck to his story that “the fundamentals of the economy were strong,”  his once vice president  recently commiserated with reporters that,  “I don’t think anybody saw it coming,” and even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan claims he had no idea that Wall Street was too greedy for our own good.  What were the poor reporters supposed to do if even their best sources didn’t know what was up?

Nonetheless, last month a former Wall Street reporter took his colleagues to task in a piece for Mother Jones How Could 9000 Business Reporters Blow It? Then Diane Tucker at Huffington Post answered with How 9,000 Business Reporters Blew the Mother of All Meltdowns.  So what were the watchdogs of democracy doing while they were supposed to be minding our business?  Maybe they were  reading:

We Didn't See It Coming

February 13, 2009

Goldman Sachs CEO made $35k per hour in 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — debacled @ 4:20 am

They look like the Milquetoast Mafia, but yesterday when Barney Frank and members of the House Finance Committee tried to flame grill the C.E.O.s of eight major banks, they not only failed to fry, they didn’t even blush. Are these (former?) Masters of the Universe impervious to heat (and shame)?

Thanks to Recessionwire, the banksters’ heat-proof cocoons of cold hard cash  have been outed.  Reporter Sara Clemence figured out how much money each of them made during their hours rotating on the Capitol Hill spit by calculating their PER HOUR salaries  based on  2007 pay packages. She also provided the fake-sounding 2008 Mea-Culpa compensations they claim to be taking home now as a result of gorging on taxpayer TARP funds to bail out their sorry asses.

Goldman Sachs C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein
2007 compensation: $73.72 million
Hourly pay: $35,104
Testimony total: $245,728
2008 compensation: $650,000
Hourly pay: $310
Testimony total: $2,170

J.P. Morgan C.E.O. Jamie Dimon
2007 compensation: $20.68 million
Hourly pay: $9,847
Testimony total: $68,929
2008 compensation: $1 million
Hourly pay: $476
Testimony total: $3,332

State Street C.E.O. Ronald Logue
2007 compensation: $20.57 million
Hourly pay: $9,795
Testimony total: $68,565
2008 compensation: $1 million
Hourly pay: $476
Testimony total: $3,332

Bank of America C.E.O. Ken Lewis
2007 compensation: $20.12 million
Hourly pay: $9,581
Testimony Total: $67,067
2008 compensation: $1.5 million
Hourly pay: $714
Yesterday’s total: $4,998

Morgan Stanley C.E.O. John Mack
2007 compensation: $17.65 million
Hourly pay: $8,405
Testimony tota: $58,835
2008 compensation: $800,000
Hourly pay: $381
Testimony total: $2,667

Bank of New York Mellon C.E.O. Robert Kelly
2007 compensation: $14.05 million
Hourly pay: $6,690
Testimony total: $46,830
2008 compensation: $1 million
Hourly pay: $476
Testimony total: $3,332

Wells Fargo C.E.O. John Stumpf
2007 compensation: $12.84 million
Hourly pay: $6,114
Testimony total: $42,798
2008 compensation: $1 million
Hourly pay: $405
Testimony total: $2,835

February 12, 2009

Watch “House of Cards,” CNBC’s financial crisis tell all

Filed under: Uncategorized — debacled @ 6:50 pm

Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman

Charlie Rose had reporter David Farber on his show last night to talk about a two hour special, House of Cards, airing tonight on CNBC.  It’s aim is to explain how we got into this financial mess.  It would be swell if fingers were pointed and blame assigned, but let’s not go crazy.  Nonetheless, the preview on Charlie Rose was intriguing.

The title of the special comes from an e-mail written in 2006 from an unnamed high-finance villain, “Let’s hope we’re all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards collapses.” My guess is that they were kept in  business long enough to get their wish.

A clip from the show features Alan Greenspan claiming Sgt. Schultz-like “I know nothing!” Or, actually, “I knew nothing!” He tells Farber that the fancy newfangled financial “instruments,” (i.e. the WMDs George Bush couldn’t find in Baghdad), were beyond his comprehension and besides if he’d popped the housing bubble (aka: mushroom cloud) sooner the economy wouldn’t have grown in the last several years, there would have been “10 percent unemployment” and much less “profitability.”  And that’s just a 60 second clip.  Wonder what other sad revelations Faber’s uncovered.  Watch and see.

February 10, 2009

Darwin Award Winners

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — debacled @ 9:22 pm

The Origins of the Republicans via Natural Selection

via: Truthdig

Yes, it looks good on paper, but it’s just a theory.   And that guy taking a fall may not be  headed for reelection, but he’s got a cushion of tax-cut cash to make a soft landing and fund a comeback.

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