by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla..
May 30, 2006
PAULSON APPOINTMENT PROVES A POINT
BOCA RATON, Fla., May 30, 2006 -- Just when I needed to get one of these scattered potpourri columns off my chest, President George Bush pops up on my tv screen and names Goldman Sachs chairman Hank Paulson as the new Treasury Secretary of the United States. This news once again proves the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in giving every American the right not to vote.
Paulson replaces John Snow, who was forced out for speaking out.
I've often contended that the size of the non-voter pool not only sends a message to politicians, but a message to other Americans, that a large number of our brethren understand the system is rigged and the system itself is two-tiered: billions down to wealthy on one side, destitution to middle class on the other.
Here is the way it works: if you own the biggest paving contracting firm in town and a Democrat is mayor, you had best make sure you are a Democrat and you and your family attend all the dinners, fund-raisers and rallies, and have a check ready for Democratic candidates. At the same time, your CPA, Chief Operating Officer or father-in-law had damned well better be on the GOP county executive committee and support any well-heeled Republican challengers.
On Wall Street, they call this a "hedge" and they invented, coddled, caressed and perfected the game.
When Robert Rubin, billionaire darling of left-wing causes was Vice (no pun intended) Chairman of Goldman Sachs, he supported Bill Clinton's candidacy versus President Bush I, he was rewarded with the job of assistant secretary of the Treasury (later elevated to the full cabinet rank).
The truly great thing about Rubin is that before he left the prestigious Wall Street firm, he sent out, on Goldman letterhead, a wonderful "Dear Everybody" letter. To paraphrase in politically incorrect style, Rubin basically said, "Hey everybody, guess who's going to be answering the phone at the U.S. Treasury?
"I thank you for your past Wall Street business, and of course for being nice enough to accept business I happened to direct to you, and if I can ever - and I mean ever - do anything in my new position to help you, please, I insist, pick up the phone and call me."
When the letter was leaked to the press, Rubin back-pedaled faster than a dyslexic in spinning class, and months later verbally apologized for any impropriety. Ironically in the world of Wall Street and Washington log rolling, pork barreling, back slapping, and kick backing, former Supreme Court nominee Abe Fortis and others with similar letter trails were dumped for lesser infractions.
The key to Wall Street success, and Rubin's eventual new life as advisor to Sandy Wiell's Citigroup-Smith Barney-Travelers' Insurance kingdom (which Rubin helped create by dismantling the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act), is to play both sides of the political aisle.
The GOP reward has now come back to Goldman Sachs. It's heads I win, tales you lose, and by the way, you and I almost always lose.
center>You Don't Know The One
Some stars work for UNICEF, feed AIDs babies in Africa, and perform hurricane relief concerts.
Since my folks used to gather around the television to watch Bob Hope, America hasn't heard much about the USO and its dedicated stars. This is not particularly surprising in a nation of 300 million legal, illegal, and extra- legal residents, with a standing military of perhaps 1.3 million people who most Americans have never met, nor are likely to meet if they have an annual income of more than $50,000 per year.
In this mix comes a guy named Toby Keith, who I happened to like even before my son emailed me from Iraq on Memorial Day and told me that Keith and his country band from Nashville were doing eight concerts with the USO in remote areas of Iraq away from the safety of the "Green Zone."
This is Keith's fourth or fifth trip and he takes time from his lucrative concert tours in the United States to honor his dad's service to the nation a generation ago, and to hang with the troops. It's not just the show biz electric glitz, but Keith has been known to stroll around with his acoustic guitar for impromptu renditions to the guys and gals in uniform, or even jam with soldiers who on their down time do some guitar pickin' of their own.
Some bloggers have called it a soapy patriotism just to build record sales from military families. Those who know Toby Keith the man just laugh. They say that if you don't believe it is in his heart and soul to give back some of his success and freedom to those in uniform, you just don't know Toby.
Of course, I am prejudiced, because not only did he entertain my kid, but his latest hit song is an anthem to guys my age and waist-size when he sings, "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once, as I ever was!
In first grade we used to sing the "Farmer in the Dell." Why don't we sing "The Founder in the Dell?" Disclosure: I continue to hold and buy Dell stock for portfolios I manage for individuals and institutional investors. This morning I posed this question to a independently wealthy stock trader, whose family already has millions of dollars: "You must answer absolutely the truth:
If you had a clear net worth of a billion dollars, and I mean clear, meaning that you would not have to liquidate anything to be worth a billion bucks, and you could do anything with your money, would you consider going out on Glades Road, calling your banker, getting a few gallons of gasoline, and just for the hell of it, setting fire to $70 million?"
My friend looked at me like the nut case I am and shook his head, playing along with the response. "Absolutely of course not! Why would you even ask?"
"I asked," came my reply, "because Michael Dell, who can do anything he wants with his wealth, has just announced he is buying $70 million of his own company's stock. Now, assuming that he knows more about this company certainly than you or me, or perhaps anyone, why would you not be buying Dell stock as well?"
My friend raised his eyebrows, punched up DELL on his computer which was $25 per share, and said he would think about it. There is a healthy skepticism on Wall Street which says stock buy-backs are either great deals or terrible deals. Conventional wisdom has become so jaded by the occasional scam in which a company buys its stock back just to boost its market price and get some publicity on how "undervalued" current prices are, that the good side is forgotten. Back to basics.
If you actually believeE - which is your choice - that there is something in the fiber of a self-made billionaire who built the largest personal computer company from two rooms in his college dorm, and was motivated to "burn" $70 million, then the buyback is a scam. If on the other hand you think he is a wise businessman, conservative investors need to ask my famous litmus test question: "Ten years from now will I be happy or sad that I bought DELL at $25 per share?"
The "Survivor" was once a great, genre-cracking reality show. It's not anymore.
"Project Runway," conceived, produced, nurtured, and obsessively controlled by super model Heidi Klum is the single best reality show from both a technical, sleek production, and content point of view.
"The Apprentice," a one season gamble, survives for a fifth season because the obnoxious and ostentatious personality of twice-bankrupt "billionaire" Donald Trump is a hoot.
Say what you will, when Trump is given a choice of firing Bimbo A or Bimbo B, he decides to fire them both. Exactly the decision both my wife and I would have made.
Now that Trump will move the show to a fresh venue in Los Angeles next year, comes the super ratings opportunity to once again re-affirm Trump's role as rational irrational king of reality tv. Mind you, it's going to take guts to live up to this reputation and it will have to be done in the final episode next week, live on prime time television.
After watching "Part 1" of the final competition between two guys - one Brooklyn-accented and one British-accented - who seem more like fraternity house misfits than Wharton prospects, Trump needs to wait until 0:57 of the final hour and tell the Doritos and Dewar's folks at home:
"Having evaluated our final two contestants, and the incompetent jerks they chose as members of their final management team, I am proud to announce that in keeping with the goals of this program, not a single one of this season's contestants comes close to being anyone I would ever hire for anything, so this season, sorry - no winner!"
On second thought, just file this under "Shows we'll never see."