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Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 05:33 AM PST

Fruit Loops

by downtownLALife

The Americano Series
Part I: Fruit Loops

Okay, enough with the regurgitations on Ecological destruction, State-Sponsored Capitalism, Inverted Totalitarianism, Tea Party Fascism, the Death of Democracy, Drones, Surveillance, JC Penney, or even Ikea cuisine- We all know the score.
It’s past time for the down and dirty, the real nitty-gritty:
Fruit Loops.

I had bought them about a week ago- boxes, several boxes, now stationed on top of my refrigerator: Fruit Loops. And let me tell you, Fruit Loops are not cheap in Singapore. I remember the day that I walked up to the mall and splurged on this caviar of high fructose starch a la Americana. I remember that day when I looked like a starving hoarder with my grocery bag on the elevator en route to my 13th floor apartment. I remember the quick, appraising stares of the two Chinese hookers sharing my ascension. Hmm. Hookers must occupy at least 25% of this building. And hey, just so you know- I pay $2k a month U.S., so it ain’t exactly some cheap brothel. Anyway, these two gals on the elevator quickly give me the visual shakedown, and then glance down at my bag of Fruit Loop boxes… Silence… They know… They can feel it… Any aggressive move towards my Loops and I’m locked and loaded, good to go into full-auto, Kung-Fu judo mode… Finally, they get back to jabbering in high-pitched Mandarin about this, that, him, or her. They had no idea how close they came to dying that day.
Hmm. Loop Imperialism.

Disregarding the elevator experience, over the last weeks, there were indicators, ugh, indicators regarding my ugh, sanity- The overbearing likelihood that I needed to get back to ‘the world.’  
You know, ‘the world,’ man. ‘The world.’ Can you dig it? Groovy. Ride on.

#1

The first sign was the bus incident.
And it’s not that I didn’t see repeated, overt displays of compassion all over the island- but this one was just a bit too surreal for my tastes. See, although my wireless net was flawless in this apartment here along the Jalan Besar corridor, I still couldn’t get good phone reception. This led to my standing in front of our building whenever I needed to use the phone. And it was on that particular night, upon receiving updates from my brother that our Mom was getting a bit ‘loopy (she’s in her mid-nineties)’ -I thought I would give her a call.  Whoa.

So there I was, raggedy tee, stained bermudas, flip-flops, nighttime tropical downpour, 360 degree city lights, plethora of pedestrians, food-court boozers, all manner of hookerdom- and I’m standing in front of our building trying to make sense of my Mom’s ravings about evil black spray, my sister-in-law being in league with Satanic forces, and televisions that are always spying on her (that one might not be so crazy).

Anyway, as I’m trying to take all this in, a bus stops in front of our building. Two guys fall out of the back door of the bus, out onto the wet street, one on top of the other. Ouch. Damn. That had to hurt.  
… Mom still talking away…
Suddenly, my manly compassion kicks in: If the bus driver doesn’t see these poor guys, they’re going to get squashed when he pulls out. As I get closer, I realize that one of the guys is trying very, very hard to quickly lift up his drunk friend (and I mean ultra-super ‘drunk’). I amble over and grab the toasted guy by the back of his shirt lifting him up off the wet pavement- all the while talking to my Mom..
“Ugh Mom, it’s okay, sorry about all the noise, ugh, it’s raining tonight, ugh, go ahead, what about that black spray again?”

As I turn around, phone to ear, holding this geezer by his collar, I see a crowd of bus-waiting onlookers not ten feet away from us, all with absent, disconnected stares… as if they didn’t… never mind. Anyway, I park the guy in the one vacant bus stop seat, and go back to my spot by the building to continue talking with Mom. As a side note, the guy ended up barfing all over the place, much to the chagrin of all the do-nothing bystanders… Ha-ha… I liked that.

And yet what was eventful about this event was not the inaction on the part of the bystanders. I had grown accustomed to that. It was my awareness that I had grown accustomed to it. Not cool.

#2

The Karaoke Nuclear Weapon thing.
When I think about Karaoke bars in the U.S., I always have these arousing visuals of a 300 lb. heifer gal in a skin-tight midriff, slurping down her third bucket of Bud light, all the while bellowing some Stevie Nicks tune about lost love. Oh, and of course with all these Aryan, NRA types looking on with forlorn, hungry wolf eyes…
Yea, that’s some scary shit.

In Asia, Karaoke bars are a bit different. Differences I don’t really care to expound upon in this writing. Anyway, I’m at one of these joints one night, just down the street from our building. And it wasn’t ever a hassle to go to these places- our apartment building being surrounded by Chinese hardware stores, fast food stores, light bulb stores, a pig-organ soup restaurant, a casket factory, a 24-hour funeral store, a Tibetan temple, an Evangelical storefront church, and then these endless Karaoke bars. And it wasn’t that I was a regular expat lush- my drinking in Asia was just occasional outbursts of … of ... Okay, I just didn’t relish the possibility that I would ‘come-to’ in the Myanmar airport trying to explain to some government official that Bilbo Baggins had sent me to find some fucking ring… or something along those lines.

So there I am, seated at the bar, the lone Caucasian in a sea of … of… you know. Anyway, I start talking to this guy next to me, happens to be ex-Singaporean military. And how we got into it, I think I was just trying to make a stink or something. So I start telling this guy that Singapore has the bomb, that anyone ‘in the know’ knows that this little nation-state has at least three nuclear weapons. Ugh, he didn’t exactly agree. My argument went that- Hey, the Israelis trained you guys, you are surrounded by Muslim countries, the U.S. navy is always milling about, and if I was some oil sheik from Kuwait parking billions in banks and real estate here- I would want, you know, some extra-super protection on my investment.

Well, that went absolutely nowhere. He just couldn’t see the light. For that matter, after a couple of beers, I couldn’t either.
Besides, it is frightening to think that you’re sitting in some bar in some country trying to stir things up about their politics and military…
Not cool.

#3

Morgan Dickwad.
I decided to catch the bus down to Orchard Road. Orchard is the shining beacon of all that is modern, cool, eclectic, and expensive as shit. It is the shopping orgasm for potentates, dictators, sheiks, hedge fund gurus, their wives, and poor Australians on credit. It is a street lined with Cartiers, Armanis, D & Gs, and you know- all manner of rich sorta stuff. Me? I just went to scout another pair of jeans from this Japanese clothing store. So there I was, sipping Starbucks on this outdoor patio about 11:00 in the morning.
Hmm. A white guy. On his cell phone.  
Hmm. He sounds American. New York maybe.
Hmm. He’s casually dressed. Nice looking fella- sorta.

I approach his table and pull up a chair, introducing myself. Seems like a nice guy. Still I feel like a recent grad of the English 101 class at the Saigon School of Prostitution Science… you know, the typical questions: What’syaname? What’yadoo?
Turns out that the guy works as a consultant for Morgan Stanley, hoping to join their ranks fully in the coming weeks. Great! Disregarding that I hate the evil of our banking system, or Morgan Stanley even more-
I can sit and talk with this guy about it, whether we agree or not…
not.

But before we delve into the deep and profound conversation of global finance- I need to ask the basic stuff. ‘How do you like Singapore as compared to New York?’ Crap. Such open-ended questions can lead in some very bad directions.
For damn near ten minutes, I had to listen to this mini-mullet, jean and loafer, dick-dog go on and on about the women- all the beautiful, gullible, foxy Asian women he has had, now has, and will have.
So I asked this schmuck how he likes Singapore and now I’m having to listen to this sex-obsessed, self-obsessed, chauvinistic jerk-off go on and on about his exploits, his partying, and how much and why he just loves Singapore.

I never let-on to this guy that I had … ugh…  been there for a while, and that I too thought it was nice to have scantily-clad Asian ladies and lady-boys frolicking around everywhere (and note: I have a life-partner that I love dearly)- but after a while, seeing these gals everywhere all the time can actually become an annoying distraction from whatever it is that you’re doing or thinking about.

As I’m starting to get up to ‘ciao’ this dick, his beer-bellied, Morgan Stanley buddy shows up, and they start talking about who’s going to get the kegs for some party that night, and of course: All the foxy Asian babes that will be there, and which ones they plan to fuck.  Welcome to global finance. Welcome to why ugly Americans like Asia. Welcome to ‘scum of the Earth.’
Definitely not cool.

______

So. I’m back in my apartment on the thirteenth floor. I am still sweating from walking about the hood. Sweating is good. When you live on the Equator, you come to appreciate forced-detoxification brought about by becoming one with vapor. Then you wonder about dietary health in America- a plumpy place where you gobble down endless G.M.s and Fructose- none of it able to find a polite way to diplomatically disengage itself from your digestive track.

So after a liter or two of water- I do what must be done:
Fruit Loops.
With all the sensitivity of a performing brain surgeon, I ever so delicately pour the milk lightly and evenly upon the multi-colored grains of oral ecstasy-
Yep, Fruit Loops.

Hmm. What a view, like every day even. The thirteenth floor: The giant, looming crane, the skyline of endless, modernesque buildings, the many colorful tin roofs below, and the coming coalescence of a tropical construction boom and an approaching tropical cloudburst.
Ah, the crane. I feel like I can reach out and touch it. And as so often, I stand in amazement wondering just how nasty the lightning will get before the Bangladeshi construction workers are allowed to abandon the crane. Frankly, I never could figure that one out.

So there I am, standing, watching the approaching storm- savoring the taste of the Loops as they dance across the thousands of taste buds populating my very happy tongue. I even put on YouTube’s La Cigale performance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Things can’t get much better than this: Beautiful urban views, Chili Pepper Music, an amazing, approaching storm, the vibrant city life below… and the Loops.

I smile to myself. Then, without even realizing it, I look down into my bowl of delicacy…
Floating there, seemingly, meticulously placed among the wheel-shaped grains-
This… this strangely-shaped object.
Wait. Ha! Did a cereal-box toy make its way into the bowl?
Nah. No way.
I look closer.  
It is a toy- a little rubber lizard, floating on its back in the milk.
It’s so cute. It looks so real.
Gosh, I’m glad I looked- I could’ve accidently eaten that thing.
Wait. Wait.
What?
That’s not a toy.. That is a lizard.
Oh my, that’s a dead Gecko floating in my Fruit Loops.
It must’ve crawled into the box on the fridge and died there.
He looks so.. so..
Oh my…

Nope, not so cool.

Guess I should get back to the U.S. where things are more normal…

Discuss

“Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.”  -Army of Darkness

_______

As of August 1st 2012, there were 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the U.S., beating out grocery stores (36,569) and McDonald’s restaurants (14,098).
(ABC News)

Of course if you’re just shopping for ammunition, there are a plethora of online retailers that might meet your needs; however, don’t expect speedy delivery. With demand high, companies such as www.targetsportsusa.com advise on their site:

Due to a very high volume of incoming orders please know that it will take up to 20-22 days before we process your order and 2-3 weeks before you receive your order.

_______

The People’s Army

In 1959, Gallup reported that 49% of Americans said they had a gun in their home. In 2000, that figure had dropped to 39% (41% reported gun possession on their ‘property,’ however defined). In 2011, Gallup’s number had jumped to 47%. Subsequent analysis indicated that while gun ownership distribution was at 47%, the figure was misleading in that many gun owners possessed more than one firearm (and in many cases, a lot more). The National Institute of Justice reports that in 2009, Americans collectively owned 310 million firearms. Globally, in 2007, Americans were ranked first in gun ownership per capita at 88.8%, followed by Serbia (58.2%), and Yemen (54.2%).

As of and excluding the big sales month of December, ABC reported that 2012 U.S. sales of guns beat last years record by 350,000; the FBI recording instant background checks of 16,808,538.

In 2010, the top U.S. firearms manufacturers were:
Ruger                    903,968 Units
Smith and Wesson    681,834
Remington                555,794

The ATF Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report reported that 5,391,311 units were manufactured in 2010. Although impressive, this number was slightly down from 2009, driven by a buying frenzy that many attribute to President Obama’s taking office, his possible position on gun control, and perhaps- a reaction to the fear mongering primarily generated by the Tea Party, the fringe right, and Fox News.

The Geneva-based research group, Small Arms Survey estimated in August of 2011 that the U.S. dominated global market for ‘authorized international transfers’ of small and light weaponry, ammunition, parts, and accessories had ballooned from $4 billion in 2006 to 8.5 billion. The size of the U.S. gun industry vary, but IBIS World estimated in a 2012 Fiscal Times article that it generates approximately 12 billion in sales annually. The National Shooting Sports Association reports that in 2011, the American firearms industry employed 98,000+ people, up 31% from 2008.

And if one truly believes that the horrific events of last year might have had negative effect on the industry, ugh… nope. At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that regarding income and investment, firearms will continue to be ‘the way to go’ - at least in the short term.
The 2013 projection of economic impact on the U.S. economy now stands at $31.8 billion, including suppliers, taxes, and related secondary industries.

______

Gun Money

An article from Wall St. Cheat Sheet reported in April 2012 that fourth-placed, U.S. firearms maker Sturm Ruger had surged 360% over the last three years; to the point that the company suspended acceptance of new orders. Meanwhile, Smith and Wesson had surged 80% year to date.

From a December 2012 New York Times Dealbook article by Andrew Sorkin:

It is often overlooked, but some of the biggest gun makers in the nation are owned by private equity funds run by Wall Street titans. The .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that was used on Friday by Adam Lanza to massacre 20 schoolchildren was manufactured by the Freedom Group, a gun behemoth controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, named after the three-headed dog of Greek myth that guarded the gates of Hades. Its founder, Stephen A. Feinberg, hunts regularly on the weekends with a Remington Model 700.
Besides Cerberus, Colt Defense, a spinoff from the manufacturer of the .44-40 Colt revolver made famous by John Wayne, is jointly owned by Sciens Capital Management, a fund advised by the Blackstone Group and another fund run by Credit Suisse.
Bill de Blasio, New York City Public Advocate, provides us with a list of the largest twelve corporate investors in the gun industry that, “… continue to sell military-grade weapons and ammunitions to civilians.” – Among this list that he refers to as the Dirty Dozen:

Cerberus:                       $706-957 million
Blackrock                         345.8
State Street Corp.              140.0
Renaissance Techn.            79.5

Courtesy of Joe Nocera at NYT:

Cerberus Institutional Partners Series IV is the fund that took over Chrysler in 2007. It bought General Motors’ financing arm, now called Ally Financial. It gobbled up hospitals, purchased bus companies, and even bought the raunchy magazine Maxim.
It is also the fund that bought Bushmaster Firearms… It bought Remington Arms… a handful of other firearms companies, which it then merged into a new parent company, Freedom Group. At which point, Cerberus was the largest manufacturer of guns and ammunition in the country.
Mr. Nocera also provided a partial list of institutional investors that have remained quiet regarding their investment in Cerberus’ Series IV fund:

State of Wisconsin Investment Board    $100 million
University of Texas Endowment           75
Regents, University of California           40
Pa. Public School Retirement System       400
TIAA-CREF, the financial services giant       147+

Also listed was the University of Missouri endowment, the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension system, the Indiana Public Retirement System, and others.

And then there’s The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS:      
… now demanding that Cerberus sell Freedom Group, but even if it’s successful, the pension fund likely will still be in the gun business.  (Sacramento’s News Review)

According to his report, when Mr. Nocera queried many of the trust funds’ management, he was met with a number of excuses and rationalizations for continued investment in Freedom Group. Then there was Bruce Zimmerman, a spokesman for the University of Texas Investment Management Company:

We have no plans to divest… We invest strictly on economic considerations, and we do not take into account social and political consideration.

Go figure…

____

Blood Politics:  D.C. Firearms LTD

In a recent USA Today article:

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the NRA’s “successes are due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the American people agree with our position, not because of any influence.”
… Ugh… okay. Then that might explain the insertion of a measure hidden in a 2009 credit-card regulation bill that allowed for the carrying of concealed weapons in our national parks (Tom Coburn). Or the reversal of now allowing weapons on Amtrak trains. Or the 2005 law that protects gun dealers, associations, and manufacturers from crime-based liability lawsuits involving guns. And perhaps the worst of all:
Laws restricting doctors and insurance companies from asking patients questions about guns (to the extent of putting doctors’ licenses in jeopardy).

Since 2009, gun right organizations (including the NRA) have spent approximately $20 million on lobbing and political contributions (gun control groups: $832,000 over the same period).  
Note: When compared to Big Pharma and Big Finance, such expenditures might surely seem as ‘chump-change.’ Yet, inside the beltway, there is no such thing as ‘chump-change;’ and the hard-to-monitor, massive spending of guns rights organizations at the state and local levels must not be discounted.

Between 2001 and 2010, the NRA federal-level lobby spent between 1.5 million and 2.7 million. During the 2010 election cycle, NRA ‘independent’ expenditures reached $7.2 million+. As of 2012, fifteen of NRA’s lobbyists previously had government jobs.

And from Open Secret’s 2012 organizational profile of the NRA’s of lobbying activities:

… influence is felt not only through campaign contributions, but through millions of dollars in off-the-books spending on issue ads and the like.
OUTSIDE SPENDING= $19,289,000 (profiled organizations who have made independent expenditures or electioneering communications in the current election cycle).
Total contributions to PACs, parties and outside spending groups: $332,114

Total contributions to candidates: $1,013,187.
Top 10 Recipients:

Tommy Thompson        $12,950
Rick Berg                      12,400
Steven King              11,300
George Allen              10,400
Ted Cruz                      10,150
John Barrow                9,900
Dan Benishek                9,900
Francisco Canseco            9,900
Eric Cantor                        9,900
Dean Heller                        9,900

In a January article on Bloomberg, it was reported that nine states provided $49 million in various subsidies to gun and manufacturer makers over the last five years. Ammunition giant Olin Corporation and the Freedom Group of Cerberus received approximately 85% of the grants and tax incentives.

The article further reports:

Governments in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire and New York approved the subsidies to lure jobs from other states or to keep companies from moving, according to public records. The incentives were aimed at protecting or attracting more than 2,800 jobs, and for companies to train 500 workers. Lawmakers said they hoped more jobs would follow.
In Mississippi alone, state and local governments gave Olin $31 million in subsidies in 2011, relocating 1,000 ammunition-manufacturing jobs from Michigan.

Another recent article specifically addresses the makers of assault rifles. Posted on the pinetreewatchdog site, it was reported that $19,000,000 in tax breaks since 2003. The states granting subsidies: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Oklahoma.

Three of the states covered in the article:

Kentucky:          $6,100,000, since 1998 (Smith and Wesson)
Massachusetts       $6,000,000, 2010 (Smith & Wesson)
New York:          $5,500,000, since 2007 (Freedom Group)

Disregarding moral compass or social welfare, the granting of these incentives at the state and local levels was/is motivated by the objective of preserving or procuring jobs and industry for each state.

A revealing article by Nancy Watzman for the Sunlight Foundation shows the pervasiveness of gun rights organizations. The majority of the eighteen senators serving on the Judiciary Committee:

… have either enjoyed the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights groups come election time or suffered their opposition…  
Several members who won tough races last year got donations in the six-figure range from gun rights backers: Sunlight's Influence Explorer shows that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, got financial support from members of Safari Club International and the Gun Owners of America. The NRA spent more than $57,000 trying to get its members out to vote for him. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a veteran Utah Republican who has chaired the Judiciary Committee and faced perhaps the toughest reelection campaign of his career last year, benefitted from more than $97,000 in independent expenditures by the NRA.
______

With the horrific events of 2012, there have been a plethora of articles posted on many sites by authors that express themselves better than me.  
With the horrific events of 2012, like many, I have read, studied, and analyzed the ongoing gun debate.  And as a former ‘business person,’ I have tried to follow one creed:
Disregarding moral responsibility, with the objectives of profit or power- what would I do?
And whether it be a shoeshine S-corp in Baltimore, or a global pharmaceutical conglomerate based in New York, we have to confront the truth that money is king, that power is paramount. It is only by this understanding that we might recognize the weaknesses of those that ‘go against’ our common good.
And so goes that obsession so deeply embedded in our social condition: Guns.

(note, pls excuse errors: article hastily put together for Kos post, deadline for another publication)

Discuss

Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 08:11 AM PST

The Guns for Gold Report

by downtownLALife

“Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.” -Army of Darkness

The People’s Army

In 1959, Gallup reported that 49% of Americans said they had a gun in their home. In 2000, that figure had dropped to 39% (41% reported gun possession on their ‘property,’ however defined). In 2011, Gallup’s number had jumped to 47%. Subsequent analysis indicated that while gun ownership distribution was at 47%, the figure was misleading in that many gun owners possessed more than one firearm (and in many cases, a lot more). The National Institute of Justice reports that in 2009, Americans collectively owned 310 million firearms. Globally, in 2007, Americans were ranked first in gun ownership per capita at 88.8%, followed by Serbia (58.2%, and Yemen (54.2%).

As of and excluding the big sales month of December, ABC reported that 2012 U.S. sales of guns beat last years record by 350,000, the FBI recording instant background checks of 16,808,538.

In 2010, the top U.S. firearms manufacturers were:
Ruger                    903,968 Units
Smith and Wesson    681,834
Remington                555,794

The ATF Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report reported that 5,391,311 units were manufactured in 2010. Although impressive, these number were slightly down from 2009, driven by a buying frenzy that many attribute to President Obama’s taking office, his possible position on gun control, and perhaps- a reaction to the fear mongering primarily generated by the Tea Party, the fringe right, and Fox News.

The Geneva-based research group, Small Arms Survey estimated in August of 2011 that the U.S. dominated global market for ‘authorized international transfers’ of small and light weaponry, ammunition, parts, and accessories had ballooned from $4 billion in 2006 to 8.5 billion. The size of the U.S. gun industry vary, but IBIS world estimated in a 2012 Fiscal Times article that it generates approximately 12 billion in sales annually. The National Shooting Sports Association reports that in 2011, the American firearms industry employed 98,000+ people, up 31% from 2008.

At the ground level, ABC reports that as of August 1st 2012, there were 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the U.S.; beating out grocery stores (36,569) and McDonald’s restaurants (14,098).
Of course if you’re presently shopping for ammunition, there are a plethora of online retailers that might meet your needs; however, don’t expect speedy delivery. With demand high, companies such as www.targetsportsusa.com advise on their site:

Due to a very high volume of incoming orders please know that it will take up to 20-22 days before we process your order and 2-3 weeks before you receive your order.

And if one truly believes that the horrific events of last year might have had negative effect on the industry, ugh… nope. At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that regarding income and investment, firearms will continue to be ‘the way to go’ - at least in the short term.
The 2013 projection of economic impact on the U.S. economy now stands at $31.8 billion, including suppliers, taxes, and related secondary industries.

Gun Money

An article from Wall St. Cheat Sheet reported in April 2012 that fourth-placed, U.S. firearms maker Sturm Ruger had surged 360% over the last three years; to the point that the company suspended acceptance of new orders. Meanwhile, Smith and Wesson had surged 80% year to date.

From a December 2012 New York Times Dealbook article by Andrew Sorkin:

It is often overlooked, but some of the biggest gun makers in the nation are owned by private equity funds run by Wall Street titans. The .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that was used on Friday by Adam Lanza to massacre 20 schoolchildren was manufactured by the Freedom Group, a gun behemoth controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, named after the three-headed dog of Greek myth that guarded the gates of Hades. Its founder, Stephen A. Feinberg, hunts regularly on the weekends with a Remington Model 700.
Besides Cerberus, Colt Defense, a spinoff from the manufacturer of the .44-40 Colt revolver made famous by John Wayne, is jointly owned by Sciens Capital Management, a fund advised by the Blackstone Group and another fund run by Credit Suisse.
Bill de Blasio, New York City Public Advocate provides us with a list of the largest twelve corporate investors in the gun industry that, “… continue to sell military-grade weapons and ammunitions to civilians.” – Among this list that he refers to as the Dirty Dozen:

Cerberus:                   $706-957 million
Blackrock                    345.8      
State Street Corp.       140.0
Renaissance Techn.          79.5
Allianz Asset                67.9

Courtesy of Joe Nocera at NYT:

Cerberus Institutional Partners Series IV is the fund that took over Chrysler in 2007. It bought General Motors’ financing arm, now called Ally Financial. It gobbled up hospitals, purchased bus companies, and even bought the raunchy magazine Maxim.
It is also the fund that bought Bushmaster Firearms… It bought Remington Arms… a handful of other firearms companies, which it then merged into a new parent company, Freedom Group. At which point, Cerberus was the largest manufacturer of guns and ammunition in the country.
Mr. Nocera also provided a partial list of institutional investors that have remained quiet regarding their investment in Cerberus’ Series IV fund:

State of Wisconsin Investment Board    $100 million
University of Texas Endowment            75 million
Regents, University of California            40 million
Pa. Public School Retirement System     400 million
TIAA-CREF, the financial services giant      147.8 million

Also listed was the University of Missouri endowment, the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension system, the Indiana Public Retirement System, and others.

And then there’s The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS:      
… now demanding that Cerberus sell Freedom Group, but even if it’s successful, the pension fund likely will still be in the gun business. (Sacramento’s News Review)

According to his report, when Mr. Nocera queried many of the trust funds’ management, he was met with a number of excuses and rationalizations for continued investment in Freedom Group. Then there was Bruce Zimmerman, a spokesman for the University of Texas Investment Management Company:

We have no plans to divest. We invest strictly on economic considerations, and we do not take into account social and political consideration.
Go figure…

_____

To be continued:

Part II: Blood Politics
       D.C.-K. Firearms LTD

Discuss

Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:05 PM PST

Pharmajuana Rising. Part I

by downtownLALife

Follow the money into our collective future:
A massive expanse of hemp cultivation and a state-of-the-art processing facility heretofore unseen in any industrial endeavor. But what they make there? Might it be akin to that which we once knew, or some patented, genetically modified, pharmaceutical aberration touted as ‘all natural?’

"Two thousand pharmacologists and biochemists were subsidized in A.F. 178." –Brave New World, Huxley

_______

D.C. Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd.

“To know the product you must first know the producer.”

Note:
If we believed that the relationship between George Bush Sr., Eli Lilly, the FDA, and the subsequent introduction of Prozac to the marketplace- was an exception to Big Pharma’s modus operandi, we were terribly mistaken. From Obamacare to Medicare, from Opioids to Contraceptives: The power of the Pharmaceutical Industry and its insidious, elusive collusion with Congress and the White House is stronger than ever.

(Note, some data does not show sources, but easily found from web searches on the web)

Continue Reading

Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 05:26 AM PST

Live in the USA? You’re Nuts

by downtownLALife

God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
-Voltaire

Perhaps it’s time for us to appraise our collective sanity- the sooner, the better.

We as a nation have now traversed way, way past the boundary of logic and reason, entering a wacko Wally World where the only creed is some perverse mix of ignorance, idiocy, asinine amusements, and the continuous, happy, sucking sound of perpetual debt.

A place where guns are good, gun murders are better, where the solution to economic malaise is not investing in the economy, where you shouldn’t feel good about yourself unless you’re fat, pissed-off, male, straight, and of course white, …where internationally- it is either our way or the highway, where our commander-and-chief is a no good terrorist, illegal alien, where politicians proudly campaign based on non-truths and blatant lies, where we fight wars and nobody really gives a damn, where we are decimated by natural disasters and our ‘leaders’ don’t help, where automated, unseen, flying machines blow-up families based on a president’s command, where climate change is ignored until the next major, macro calamity, where our infrastructure looks like a pre-colonial Belgian Congo, and where the banks and governments know a hell of a lot more about you than you know about yourself… oh, and they can watch you 24/7 from the bathroom to the boardroom, from the traffic light to our disintegrating, potholed roadways.

A place of carnival smoke and mirrors: Where the warped image of our devolving, confused collective is reflected through mass media and television’s version of who we are, who we worship, and who we want to be. Once one survives the spin-scape: The catheter ads, the liposuction ads, the sue-somebody ads, the testosterone ads, the redneck beer ads, the drug ads that disclaim an urge to gamble, the fast food ads showing delicacies so close-up that you go into gag response, the diet ads that show ‘winners’ that are still heifer fat, the car ads that scream you-you-you even though all the cars really look the same, and the 24 hour news that desperately orchestrates piss-ant, pundit space-fillers, hijacking us all to a hilarious hinterland of hocus pocus ‘gone wild.’

Yea, once we wade through all the distractions that make us feel so good about ourselves- we are then entertained by a True T.V. that isn’t true, a History Channel of pawn shops, a Discovery channel of drunk moonshiners, a Travel Channel of worldwide gluttony contests, an Animal channel that specializes in parasites, and enough Law and Order SVU episodes to paint our world as the People’s Party of Pedophilia.

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Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 08:34 AM PST

And Insuring Guns? Oh well...

by downtownLALife

It escapes me as to what happened to this idea. We live in a money-driven economy whether we like it or not. And I am NOT a fan of the insurance industry; quite the contrary- especially regarding the crookery taking place in obvious areas such as health care and homeowners. Frankly, insurance carriers fall into the same category as Goldman- especially exampled by AIG.

... But, this is one of the few times insurance might be used for a constructive cause. And regarding money, let the insurance lobby and the ABA battle it out with the gun lobby. Require mandatory insurance based on number of guns and type of gun. Mandatory steep fines and jail time for those caught carrying uninsured guns in public. Increase sentences for those that use guns in commission of a crime.

After all, with their new windfall threatened by the specter of liability, who better to police gun ownership than carriers? With the threat of affecting their profits, might we believe that they would use every avenue at their disposal (a lot of avenues- some we don't even know about) in order to minimize liability?

Gee, with the gun population being so large, skim some taxes off the top to pay municipalities and states, i.e. an enticement. Such revenues might even offset premiums in health ins .... yea, the revenues would be Mind Boggling.

This could be the Presidential Mandate in addition to the others- for that matter: The cornerstone. Why? Because money is king. In all of this, ultimately, as usual.. it is about money.

Drug use is a consensual crime. The drug war is a drain on our country and a boon to the evils of the private prison industry. Both negatives. Guns? There's nothing consensual about being shot.... well, unless...

As for all the bellicose rhetoric in the media about War of the Century and incitements of violence- prosecute.

Not that everyone will agree, but put the burden on gun owners- you play, you pay. Of course someone will suggest we insure hammers. Well, if there were massive liabilities in using hammers (ha- secondarily, there are, i.e insurances in the construction industry) -- then big money would get involved in a heartbeat.. and, it would be heavily policed and monitored... by.. the insurance carriers.

For those that missed it:
Gun FAILS: Second Amendment Rights Gone Wrong In Honor Of 'Gun Appreciation Day' (VIDEO)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

Discuss

Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 10:32 AM PST

The Danger of Fiery Gun Rhetoric

by downtownLALife

This is not some informational or heavily referenced post.
As diaries go, this is truer to form as an actual diary entry.

The dangers of the present rhetoric coming from the right fringe, from municipalities to federal government, from Fox to talk radio...
We're in volatile territory here.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the detail-
this schmuck said this, that dickwad said that; but the overall trend is just plain scary. These, These people truly believe that any, Any gun legislation comes from true enemies of their warped, ignorant, misinformed, sick concept of American liberty. And it is frighteningly serious as to the rhetoric spewing from all corners of the gun-scape. (Did Reagan or Bush have to endure such dangerous dogma?).

Give us one rebellious bunch of pissed-off, deluded, drunk, 'patriotic,' assault-weaponed bigots that has been listening to this crap, for just a little too long- and with the NRA using terms like 'Fight of the Century.' Fight? Okay. And this continuing spoon-fed, borderline violence rhetoric might horrifically lead to attacks on federal entities, or people.

We're traversing dangerous territory here.

I am in northern Georgia after living in a crime-minimal, gunless society for years, Singapore. And whether one sees its government as oppressive or not..  frankly, I never felt that at all. And I was aware that if I engaged in mischievous or violent behavior, I might have been caned. And yea, regardless, I did 'raise some hell' while there.. however one chooses to define 'raising hell.'

But how do you measure a benevolent hierarchy that has strict expectations of conduct, a proactive policy agenda that decisively and expediently improves the country... vs. a nation where one's very security is threatened? And that's exactly where we are... A place where politicians, supposed pillars of our bureaucracy, engage in what might be considered war-talk.
And while in Asia, I lived in a Muslim neighborhood, Pakistani, etc. Fear of walking about late at night, alone, in the poorest areas? Nope. Safe as could be.
And the absence of guns made it feel VERY safe

And then I come home, with very dangerous people with assault weapons being all fired up by bellicose rhetoric spewing from traitorous idiots..

Well, I'm unsettled as hell. - for myself, my non-white wife, and my 5 sons.
These people are fucking crazy... and dangerous.
I needed to rant that, well aware that people might not agree or take some critical exception to this writing. And that's okay.

* These dickwads need to shut the fuck up.. collectively.

That's all.
Thanks.

Discuss

With all the bickering about debt ceiling, Social Security, and Medicare, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” This is just the little tip of a looming, ship-sinking iceberg.  And we damn well better change course… fast.

We face a heretofore-demographic event that could/will have devastating national and global implications- and one very rarely covered by the mainstream media. An issue that very few talk about- and more often than not, don’t want to talk about.

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Corazon de Jesus, Corazon de Nosotros

“If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones.”     -John Steinbeck

What they do in heaven we are ignorant of; what they do not do we are told expressly.    -Jonathan Swift

You shall find out how salt is the taste of another man's bread, and how hard is the way up and down another man's stairs.  -Dante Alighieri

The car was once a sleek, shiny symbol of power, technology and achievement. Now, rusted, dented, and faded, it is just a shadow of its former self. Oh, it still runs. It has to. It has to carry us down the darker, shadowed valleys that seem to be the only route out of here. The dull, chipped green paint, the broken tail light, the cracked windshield, the missing hubcaps: This poor clunker is the very essence of misuse, abuse, and recklessness.  Even the exhaust pipe is loose and unhinged from the undercarriage, occasionally banging the ground as we careen down the bumpier roads.  We never see the resulting sparks flying up from the pavement and the potholes, even in the rearview mirror; but we know they are there.

And this is not to say that these sporadic dancing showers of sparks are not seen at all. Although hidden from our own view, others, the mysterious sort, hovering along this dark, winding road- they see them.

The angels always revel at the sparks. With mad laughter at the irony, the angels see these haphazard illuminative displays. They see them for what they really are.
Bundled in quick lit, little packages trailing behind this tired, old clunker; these sparks are hope, the hope of the collective all- ever elusive, yet always following, always waiting to flash behind us in the darkest of nights.  

These sparks are the colors of the barrio, ever vibrant, ever bright- the last vestiges of humanity in its glory and disdain, revealed in all of its shamefulness and shamelessness. This is where life screams real; this is where the essence of all things human dwells. This is where the children laugh and cry as they scour the cracked pavements and narrow cardboard alleys of ramshackle shelters. These are the sparks of our collective hope so seen in the irreverent giddiness of the young. These are the sparks the angels see, their laughter echoing all the way to the firmaments- for they know: Everything is connected and hope is contagious, especially the hope of poor barrio children.

We might pontificate, and evaluate the mechanisms, structures, statistics, and horrors of oppression and the poor- whether it be old fashioned, overt tyranny, or the more insidious, cutting-edge global corporatism models, or perhaps the foreboding specter of state-sponsored capitalism. But maybe, just maybe- armchairing this thing was never meant to be anywhere near enough.
Getting our hands good and dirty at street level, and depending on which hemisphere we find ourselves, one is made aware that oppression is ultimately about the beans or the rice. It is the fifteen-year-old Mexican girl cooking frijoles for her younger brothers after school, because their parents are both working two jobs, or quite simply, gone.  It is the infirm, aged man in Singapore scouring the alleys, his daily route, hunting corrugated for the recycler, hoping that he will find enough to add some fish to his bowl of rice.
Quite simply, depending on the smorgasbord of available distractions and self-centric priorities, oppression is about forgetting people. Ultimately, that is what the oppressed are: Forgotten people.

This writing is about such a people, those that were of a place known as barrio Corazon de Jesus in Manila. It is also an attempt to show the oft hidden vibrancy of life in such places, those elusive sparks of hope, often and only manifested in the faces and movements of our mutual humanity.

You see, Corazon de Jesus is no more.  Yea, it’s gone.
For over twenty years, Corazon was basically a developed barrio town of squatters. Those residing there, albeit poor, had all the essentials of community: Stores, shops, homes, each other- all the stuff that evolves when humans reside in the same place for decades. For many of the residents, prior to their expulsion this month, this was the only home they had ever known. With the offer of some pocket money and relocation twenty miles outside the city, residents of Corazon were forcibly exiled so the demolition could begin. And boy did it begin.
In this piece, we could go into all the travails brought about by the Philippine judicial system, or the lack of preemptive measures on the part of landowners, or the rampant use of Shabu (meth) in such places, or the insidious corruption that is an accepted institutionalized mainstay of this massive archipelago. We could elaborate on the power of real estate moguls and the greed resulting from rising land values. We might even discuss the historical significance of the properties- that some battle was fought here or some famous patriot died there. Yea, we could get into all of that.
But how quickly such thinking might take away the vision, an uncluttered view of the sparks that were and always will be. For no matter how badly we might be squashed and cast asunder, the sparks will always flash again- sometime, somewhere- and not a time or place of our choosing.
On several occasions, I was given the opportunity to do shoots in Corazon, as well as other Manila barrios.  Under Barangay protection, I ventured these dark valleys; these often-abhorrent places where smells might assault and images are forever stamped into one’s unconscious consciousness. I was witness to the laughter amidst the hardship, and the despair amidst the brightness of barrio color. I was welcomed by the toughest and the meekest; I often felt a part of …
In many ways, I was witness to humanity at its very core, our very essence revealed in the collective shame and splendor.

And often enough, I felt a privileged passenger in that beat-up clunker of a car, only to hang my head out the back window to try and catch just the quickest of glimpses- the sparks of hope flying up from the cracked pavement as we careened down that dark, worn road.

And I am grateful for that.

____

Originally published in Downtown LA Life Magazine Int'l
From the Assoc Editor's desk.

Discuss

And keeping the people's enemy in focus:
We live in a perilous, poverty-bound time of Inverted Totalitarianism mixed in with Brave New World- a little 1984 thrown in for dessert.

I believe that while we're being bamboozled with bullshit,
distraction, and derision-
we might want to focus a bit on food clothing and shelter for 7 billion+

that the underreported most consequential issues of our time are:
-global warming
-worldwide domination imposed on a newly emerging debtor class
 by a global banking plutocracy
-the heretofore unseen demographic shift to massive aged and infirm populations.

_

Our collective fear that regarding our national condition,the big money 'has already left town.'
280 billion year- offshore lost tax revenue = $2,450.00 Year, Per US household
360 trillion in Libor derivatives

News today:

Continue Reading

For years now, I have scoured news sites, usually early in the morning, and found articles that I believe show trends; trends that indicate a direction that frankly scares the hell out of me.

Here and in Asia, I wrote pieces for a LA Mag about such things. Since the election and all that has happened since... I am exhausted, and frankly- disillusioned as hell.

I came home from Singapore jobless, insuranceless, and in absolute culture shock- my return predicated by my Mom being 94 and in her waning days, and to spend more time with my 5 sons here.

I believe we live in a perilous, poverty-bound time of Inverted Totalitarianism mixed in with Brave New World- a little 1984 thrown in for dessert.

I believe that while we're being bamboozled with bullshit,
distraction, and derision-
we might want to focus a bit on food clothing and shelter for 7 billion+

that the underreported most consequential issues of our time are:
-global warming
-global domination imposed on a newly emerging debtor class
 by a global banking plutocracy
-the heretofore unseen demographic shift to massive aged and infirm populations.

___

As I commented on the Senator Sander's diary earlier today:

My fear is that the big money 'has already left town.'
280 billion offshore lost tax revenue.
360 trillion in Libor derivatives

...with the rapid globalisation of the financial plutocracy...

D.C.'s primary constituency has been Big Money for years. And the acceleration of that devolution is reaching fruition- perhaps irrevocably compromising our bedrock of bottom up capitalism- and more important: Democracy.

As much as I enjoy the 'communion,' respite, rest, recovery, and security within the Kos-o-phere, I don't want to get too indoctrinated into battling a false enemy created for our amusement, disdain, distraction, and derision. I'm afraid of being hoodwinked... always paranoid of being even further bamboozled.

Continue Reading
"Hide the Old People" is an upcoming article that will address the upsurge of indifference towards the aged and infirm, specifically in societies that ascribe to a strong consumer market, hyper-capitalist model. It is a topic of monumental importance with the heretofore unseen shift in U.S. and global demographics, the social safety nets available, and the stark, sad reality facing many of our aged.

And Mitt Romney's 47% comment? Didn't surprise me. The auto escapade? Not that either.
What I felt was unfathomable in callousness, cruelty, and ignorance?
His comments regarding people not dying in their apartments without healthcare.
Perhaps he might talk with our First Responders, or anyone living on Earth for that matter.

These are a few of the photos for the upcoming series, taken in Singapore from 2009-2011. They are from the series: The Recyclers.  Perhaps one might consider the social safety nets for the elderly in other countries as well as our own.

As for the shoots themselves- many of these images were shot with zoom, others were shot in consideration of assistance to the subjects.
These are our seniors that deserve their dignity, our respect, our hope, and obviously, as much as we can: Our help.
I love and admire these tough as nails seniors of ours.

Discuss
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