Is Obama Pointless?


obama3Is Obama Pointless?

At the time of his election, it would have been expected that the presidency of Barack Obama would have created a climate more favorable to business ethics. This did not happen. Business ethics were not in any way part of the White House’s agenda. Under Obama, even mild interest in prosecuting business crime is absent. Under Obama, corporate cooperation with the White House has been a continuing priority from the Affordable Healthcare Act to the bizarre HAMP plan to “help” struggling homeowners. Both were business ethics nightmares. The President had run on a platform of open government, and yet a few months after taking office met with the insurance companies and cut a deal insuring their participation and profits in the new healthcare act. HAMP was turned into a deadly and devastating weapon to be used against homeowners, the banks ceaselessly manipulating the rules to force homeowners out while collecting billions of dollars in fees.

I could go on. Where this President could have sided against corporations, but he has avoided this, and is an advocate of enhanced corporate power. If the trans-pacific trade deal were to go into effect, corporations would gain many of the powers of sovereign nations. As if, giant corporation do not have enough influence in the government, the treaty would allow them to sue nations to prevent rules such as regulations on pollution from going into effect.

This President has failed in his duty to protect the American people from corporate villainy, in particular the great Wall Street investment firms.

The lesson of the Obama administration is that influence is better than righteousness, connections than a commitment to the public interest and expediency more powerful than morality.

James Pilant

What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for? | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian

Barack Obama has now been in power for longer than Johnson was, and the question remains: “What the hell’s his presidency for?” His second term has been characterised by a profound sense of drift in principle and policy. While posing as the ally of the immigrant he is deporting people at a faster clip than any of his predecessors; while claiming to be a supporter of labour he’s championing trade deals that will undercut American jobs and wages. In December, even as he pursued one whistleblower, Edward Snowden and kept another, Chelsea Manning, incarcerated, he told the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.

If there was a plot, he’s lost it. If there was a point, few can remember it. If he had a big idea, he shrank it. If there’s a moral compass powerful enough to guide such contradictions to more consistent waters, it is in urgent need of being reset.

Given the barriers to democratic engagement and progressive change in America – gerrymandering, big money and Senate vetoes – we should always be wary of expecting too much from a system designed to deliver precious little to the poor. We should also challenge the illusion that any individual can single-handedly produce progressive change in the absence of a mass movement that can both drive and sustain it.

Nonetheless, it was Obama who set himself the task of becoming a transformational political figure in the mould of Ronald Reagan or JFK. “I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now where people think that things, the way they are going, just aren’t working,” he said. It was he who donned the mantles of “hope” and “change”.

via What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for? | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian.

From around the web.

From the web site, FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

http://tfoxlaw.wordpress.com/tag/obama/

Still this resistance may be changing. In an article in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Obama Urged To Back Plan To List Owners Of Shell Firms”, Ravi Somaiya reported that “Anticorruption activists have urged President Obama to back a plan to publicly register the owners of shell companies in the United States and around the world, a move they say is essential to thwart corrupt government officials, tax evaders and money launderers who rely on an opaque financial system.” This problem has existed for several years in the US. Somaiya reported that “The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the Treasury Department, estimated in 2005 that as much as $18 billion in suspicious transactions were made using international wire transfers that used shell companies in the United States.”

Somaiya also quoted Jack A. Blum, a lawyer and the chairman of Tax Justice Network USA, who said “These anonymous shell companies are used by everybody who steals money. Tens of thousands of shell corporations have been set up within the United States, he said, primarily in four states — Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming — that have loose regulations.” We know that the bad guys are selling the U.S. as a place to set up companies,” Mr. Blum said, citing its “aura of legitimacy.”

How does all of this relate to due diligence as the US problem would not seem to impact a company covered by FCPA? First of all, a company should know with whom they are doing business, and more pointedly a US company which is subject to the UK Bribery Act needs to recognize that any agent, distributor or other type of representative here in the US, is a foreign entity under the Bribery Act and needs full due diligence. While the jurisdictional scope of the Bribery Act has yet to be fully fleshed out, such a US company needs to consider its due diligence here in the US and may need to strengthen its investigations and background checks on such parties to comply with the Bribery Act.

From the web site, Deadly Clear.

http://deadlyclear.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/hamp-the-modification-scam-and-now-settlement-sham/

See, the banks are not in the mortgage business to loan, they are in it to default and profit by defaults; to collect servicing fees and bid on defaults in the market and to sell a house multiple times… until their investors got wise and wanted their money back.  Thus, the creation of TARP, and then HAMP, a scam to support the banks by foaming the runway, deceiving the mortgagors that they could actually get a modification while they paced the timing of their foreclosures. These bailout plans were never for you and me.

The banksters’ eyes must have burst into tears of joy when they realized they could use the already deceptive HAMP program to confiscate even more homes. The homeowners were promised modifications which neither the federal officials nor banks intended to give as the only intent was to slowly foreclose and parallel a modification program which they knowingly had no intention to approve. They went one step farther and found if they lied to the homeowner who was not in default or behind in payments and just wanted a modification, that they would gain the homeowners’ confidence and tell them to stop making payments for 3-4 months in order to qualify for the modification.

The banks knew full well that the homeowners would rely on the banks to be telling them the right thing to do. After the homeowner was in default (per the banks’ instructions – all verbal of course), the banks would foreclose on the homeowner instead of approve the modification.

You Have To Prosecute Individuals


JPMorgan Chase Tower (Dallas)
JPMorgan Chase Tower (Dallas) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You Have To Prosecute Individuals

There has been much anger in the financial press about JPMorgan having to pay a multi-billion dollar fine. It has been strangely charged that this is a government attack on capitalism. No, actually the bank broke the law and failed over and over again to act in an intelligent manner about its investments or its clients. But Gretchen Morgenson is absolutely right. This kind of fine isn’t really getting tough with the banks. It’s merely carrying on the long tradition of banks paying some proportion of the losses they caused while criminal prosecution as individuals is off the table. 

There is no real penalty here. The billions are just the cost of doing business. The bank has paid out fines before. The bank will pay out fines again. The fun and enormous profits of reckless speculation will remain.

There will only be an effective deterrent when wrongdoers are punished personally by fine and imprisonment.

You can’t attack prevent crime by attacking organizations with minor financial penalties. You could effectively if you were willing to pull the corporate charter from the bank and destroy it, or seize all of its assets. But I see no willingness to do that. The only effective tool present is the power to prosecute individuals.

It is bizarre to tell students to act with business ethics when they can read everyday in the news of the incredible money being made by individuals under the cover of banks deliberately, knowingly breaking the law. But even that is eclipsed by the simple and horrible fact that we do not impose penalties on individuals.

Without justice, how we expect people less favored than bank executives to believe in the law?

James Pilant

Why JPMorgan May be Getting off Easy

In a criminal investigation, JPMorgan Chase is facing action from federal authorities who suspect that the bank turned a blind eye to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. That’s yet another headache in a week of migraines for America’s largest bank; last Friday JPMorgan Chase reached a tentative $13 billion settlement with federal prosecutors for its alleged manipulation of mortgage securities, which helped trigger the Great Recession. There may be more pain to come as the megabank faces litigation on a number of fronts.

And JPMorgan Chase is not alone – it is one of several banks being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. While many headlines in the financial press accuse the government of conducting a witch hunt, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson offers a different perspective: “If the Justice Department were being tough on Wall Street they would be talking about bringing criminal cases against individuals who helped to perpetrate this immense crisis.” she said. Morgenson adds that the investigations into JPMorgan Chase show that it and many other financial institutions are still ‘too big to fail,’ which means taxpayers could once again be forced to bail them out.

http://occupyamerica.crooksandliars.com/diane-sweet/why-jpmorgan-may-be-getting-easy#sthash.lIimWj0v.dpbs

From around the web.

From the web site, Democracy Now!

Subverting Pensions for Profit


English: The corner of Wall Street and Broadwa...
English: The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showing the limestone facade of One Wall Street in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Subverting Pensions for Profit

 

There are real plots, real conspiracies. It’s a sad thing that people sometimes unite not for ethical or moral principles but for the destruction of people’s lives, for predation, for money at any cost.

 

One of the constant themes in the lust for profits has been the conversion of public goods into private possessions: public and charity hospitals often run by churches converted into private property; parks, highways, parking meters, converted into private ventures, America’s public lands opened up for fracking in the one of the greatest land grabs in all of recorded history … I can go on and on.

 

Here is another one, public pension funds being converted into Wall Street Piggy Banks, looted with fees and then fed into speculation for anyone’s profit but the pension fund’s. It is as if the national looting of the last generation, the conversion of pensions into the predatory and vicious 401K’s didn’t generate enough profit, we must never stop looting, never stop stealing, never stop creating fictitious crises to be exploited.

 

Maybe this one can be stopped. I would like to see that.

 

James Pilant

 

The right’s sinister new plot against pensions – Salon.com

 

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/10/the_rights_sinister_new_plot_against_pensions/

 

As state legislatures prepare for their upcoming sessions, you will no doubt hear a lot about public pensions. More specifically, you will hear allegations that states are going bankrupt because of their pension obligations to public employees. These claims will inevitably be used to argue that states must renege on their pension promises to retirees.This is what I’ve called the Plot Against Pensions in a report I recently completed for the Institute for America’s Future. Engineered by billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold, championed by seemingly nonpartisan groups like the Pew Charitable Trusts and operating in states throughout America, this plot is not designed to strengthen pensions or to save taxpayer money, as its proponents claim. It is designed to slash public employees’ guaranteed retirement income in order to both protect states’ corporate welfare and, in some cases, enrich Wall Street.Consider the math of state budgets. According to Pew’s estimates, “The gap between states’ assets and their obligations for public sector retirement benefits (is) $1.38 trillion” over 30 years. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes, this gap was not caused by benefit increases, as conservatives suggest. Data prove that most of it was caused by the stock market decline that accompanied the 2008 financial colla

 

via The right’s sinister new plot against pensions – Salon.com.

From around the web.

From the web site, Brave New World.

http://bravenewworldnews.com/2013/10/01/the-plot-against-pensions/

Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

 

States and cities have for years been failing to fully fund their annual pension obligations. They have used funds that were supposed to go to pensions to instead finance expensive tax cuts and corporate subsidies. That has helped create a real but manageable pension shortfall. Yet, instead of citing such a shortfall as reason to end expensive tax cuts and subsidies, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing it as a reason to slash retiree benefits.

 

Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.

 

According to Pew, public pensions face a 30-year shortfall of $1.38 trillion, or $46 billion on an annual basis. This is dwarfed by the $80 billion a year states and cities spend on corporate subsidies. Yet, conservatives cite the pension shortfall not as reason to reduce the corporate subsidies and raise public revenue, but instead as proof that retiree benefits need to be cut.

 

Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.

 

 

Not What We Expected


international student movement
international student movement

Not What We Expected

Political Animal – The suicide rate continues to soar; or, how our dysfunctional economy is literally killing us

Our pension system is a shambles and we’ve seen a wave of mortgage foreclosures. Many people in this economy have lost their jobs and everything they’ve worked hard for all their lives, and have no realistic prospects of finding a decent job ever again. They are understandably freaked out, stressed out, and depressed. Losing one’s job is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a person, especially in this dismal economy. Moreover, when people lose their jobs, they also tend to lose their health insurance. And without access to decent mental health care, many depressions go untreated.

In the Times, one expert has this to say:

“The boomers had great expectations for what their life might look like, but I think perhaps it hasn’t panned out that way,” she said. “All these conditions the boomers are facing, future cohorts are going to be facing many of these conditions as well.”

How many people in this country will end their working lives having seen a significant decline in their living standards, relative to the standards their parents enjoyed? For the first time in America, declining economic mobility is a reality for many of us. The dashed dreams and expectations so many Americans are experiencing may explain much of the increased suicide rate. This economy is literally killing us.

Political Animal – The suicide rate continues to soar; or, how our dysfunctional economy is literally killing us

I was a little boy when Walter Cronkite had a program called “The 21st Century.” It talked about the wonders we could look forward to in the new century. We had a lot of hope and belief in continuous progress. The United States had done so much and had been so successful, we knew things could only get better.

We were wrong. The 21st Century is not what we expected,  not in our wildest dreams. Some of what people thought was supposed to happen was silly: personal robots, etc; but economic insecurity? in the United States? No one would have believed that.

The middle class is severely damaged, opportunity more circumscribed than the Gilded Age. The dreams of building great cities, great wonders, etc. don’t even seem to exist.

For the 1% this is a golden age beyond all imagining, and yet they do not have enough. They want more.

Yes, some people in the face of this kind of world are opting to die. I’m not surprised. We were supposed to be better off not worse.

James Pilant

Student Loan Debt Trap


 

Banking Honor?
Banking Honor?

Student Loan Debt Trap

Commentary: Helping alleviate the student debt trap | McClatchy

Andrew Ross, a New York University professor of social and cultural analysis and an advocate of student debt relief, spoke on the subject at Duke this month. In an interview, Ross said he sees the effect of debt on his students. “A lot of my students fall asleep, and not all of them because of my boring lectures, but because they are working two or three jobs,” he said.

Their struggle will continue after college, Ross said, despite a degree from one of the nation’s most expensive institutions. “This generation faces a predicament where their future is foreclosed,” he said. “They’ve taken on debt to prepare themselves for employment, and the employment is not there.”

At a time of bailouts for Wall Street banks and extensive corporate welfare through tax breaks, it’s wrong that we now accept heavy student debt as inevitable and inescapable. (Federal law prohibits, except in rare cases, private or federal student loans from being discharged in bankruptcy court.)

Commentary: Helping alleviate the student debt trap | McClatchy

 

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Individual Responsibility Except for Banks


Individual Responsibility Except for Banks

Justice Department’s New Get-Tough Policy Is, Well, Not | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

I get that regulators are worried about job losses. They should be. But the long-term job losses are going to be much greater when investors around the world lose confidence in the U.S. financial system because they recognize that individuals do not face punishment for criminal activity. The individual incentive not to commit crime on Wall Street now is almost zero. Even the worst of the worst – like, say, a certain unindicted co-conspirator in an evolving insider trading case – is only threatened with individual prosecution after years of monstrous and obvious market manipulation, resulting in massive profits that he’ll almost certainly get to keep most of, by the way, if previous settlements are any guide.

It continually amazes, the way all of these law-and-order types are so willing to pontificate about the importance of taking individual responsibility for one’s actions, until the guy in their crosshairs is someone he/she went to college with, or a former client of his or her law firm. Then, suddenly, their idea of drastic justice becomes maybe yanking the license of a foreign subsidiary.

Justice Department’s New Get-Tough Policy Is, Well, Not | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

 

Two Standards of Justice
Two Standards of Justice

Two standard of justice exist in this country. One for those in the government and the higher circles of income and influence and another for the “common” people. If you have been following my blog for the last few years, you will encounter wrong doing among the banking fraternity and the government going unpunished on a regular basis. When there is some justice, it is almost pathetic how little penalty the investment banks and their enablers face. 

But study crime in the United States, and you will note vast penalties handed out for very small crimes indeed particularly drug crimes. My personal favorite is the woman doing fifteen years for a third possession of marijuana. This is what passes for justice.

This poem is from the 17th Century.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

Have things changed all that much?

James Pilant

 

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Doug Guthrie addresses Business Ethics


Doug Guthrie addresses Business Ethics

Business Ethics and Social Responsibility – YouTube

I listened to this video and enjoyed it, particularly the discussion of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman early in the lecture.

Dean Guthrie’s background in Chinese studies is particularly interesting to me, since I also have a great interest in the nation’s culture. I am less sanguine about that nation’s prospects than he is. China’s long term geographical and political ambitions are not compatible with continued economic cooperation with the United States.

James Pilant

The glacier like movement of business ethics
The glacier like movement of business ethics

From around the web –

From the web site, Capitalism and Friedman:

There’s no way to appreciate fully the contributions of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006), who would have turned 99 years old this weekend, to the growth of libertarian ideas and a free society.

This is the man, after all, who introduced the concept of school vouchers, documented the role of government monopolies on money in creating inflation, provided the intellectual arguments that ended the military draft in America, co-founded the Mont Pelerin Society, and so much more. In popular books such as Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, written with his wife and longtime collaborator Rose, he masterfully drew a through-line between economic freedom and political and cultural freedom.

From the web site, Lisa Richards, Rock and Roll Politics:

The federal government appears to be under the impression Wall Street CEO’s are better at managing the United States Treasury than trained economists.[26] [27] [28]  America has over two centuries of proof that bankers and legislators cannot be trusted with the people’s money,[29] yet, despite forewarnings from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, Washington ignores the experts and continues helping itself to the Treasury. 

     America has gained and lost many times,[30] learning repeated lessons the central government continues committing: monetary stupidity.  In truth it is useless to wonder why Washington continues creating and wreaking economic havoc when it is obvious that human nature has proven those with power will continue doing harm[31] as long as mankind exists.  It is for this reason economics was invented, is practiced and taught: too often, lack of common sense has been in charge of money and the need for fiscally wise minds analyzing trade and industry is cost effective to society overall.  That being said, financiers tend not to listen to the money-wise discussed here: men who forewarned disaster if certain fiscal policies were not implemented, and devised solutions to resolve and repair monetary failure.  

And finally, from the web site, UNLADTAU:

To all fellow men and women out there who may have deep fondness for the liberal capitalist model of economic adaptation, I hope that you can make some adjustments in your cognitive banks. Capitalism is not a permanent facet of human life, but merely one among various epochs that will come to pass. Only impermanence is sacrosanct in the cosmos, so please refrain from singing hallelujah to a world system that is on its death knell as I articulated in a previous article.

And please refrain from swallowing hook-line-&-sinker the contentious propaganda of Francis Fukuyama about the ‘end of history’, that accordingly history had concluded with the galvanization of liberal capitalism, that history makes no more sense. Fukuyama’s theory is a slapstick narrative of hyper-valuation of the ‘mad economics’ of late capitalism and hypo-statization of reality that has no relation at all to the real in the world out there. Fukuyama had taken as ‘real’ what is actually ‘virtual’, and froze time much like unto a fairy tale of timelessness, of history-less Nietzschean moment that is fit more for infants than for adult humans. 

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Is the Justice Department Gutless?


How do we make sense of this? Goldman Sachs emails call their own investments “junk” and “crap,” and Goldman Sachs salespeople refer to clients as “muppets” and “elephants.” Yet the Justice Department says there is not enough evidence to bring a case on behalf of Goldman Sachs investors who lost vast sums of money.Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Seal of the United States Department of Justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goldman Sachs prosecution fails: Why can’t the Justice Department fight Wall Steet?

Now that that’s out of the way, I can say what we are all thinking: Really? Are you kidding me? Wall Street continues to get away scot-free? The Justice Department prosecutes Roger Clemens for perjury—spends countless resources, hours, and energy worrying about steroids in baseball—yet seems incapable of making cases against the big Wall Street firms that engineered the greatest lies, frauds, and scams in our economic history. I am as outraged, disappointed, and furious as you are. Have they no backbone, shame, or sense of what justice is all about? It does nothing for my already waning faith in this Justice Department.

Goldman Sachs prosecution fails: Why can’t the Justice Department fight Wall Steet?

Apparently the great “vampire squid,” is immune to prosecution. In their e-mails they virtually admitted they were committing fraud. What does the Justice Department need in the way of evidence to prosecute? It seems to me if you are well connected enough and big enough, an infinite amount of evidence would still not be enough.

This is another example of America’s two tiered justice system – one for regular citizens and another for the privileged. There is a certain irony in the phrase, land of the free. It seems that some are apparently more free than others.

Business Ethics – Did that play any role here? You bet it did. By systematically breaking the rules, abusing it customers and blatantly lying, Goldman Sachs made billions of dollars. It is a pure lesson in why the phrase, business ethics, often evokes sneers or knowing giggles. I’ve seen and heard them.This is a lesson in negative business ethics, the other side of teaching what is right, teaching to do what is wrong.

We are systematically educating our young to be financial criminals, to reject the values of the righteous and embrace less than the moral minimum.

Our society has an opportunity here to create a society fit for no one but the predators.

Is that where you want to live?

James Pilant

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Stock Market Increasingly More Casino Capitalism than Investment


Wall Street trading debacles raises fears | McClatchy

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, the top Democrat on the panel’s subcommittee that oversees capital markets, said she was very concerned about the volatility triggered by Knight. She supports hearings on the broader effects of the incident and other recent trading troubles.

“Like the problems with the Facebook initial public offering, events like this only further serve to undermine investor confidence in the markets,” Waters said. “Though we don’t yet know exactly what caused the problem with Knight Capital, with a drumbeat of financial market snafus continuing, it’s clear that the industry, with guidance from regulators, needs to strengthen their internal controls.”

Indeed, investors have stuck mostly to the sidelines after suffering crippling stock losses during the financial crisis. Many people have steered clear of sinking money into stocks, worried that big institutional investors and their high-speed tools can manipulate the market.

Knight’s losses reaffirmed Los Angeles retiree Robert Altman’s decision to pull nearly all of his investments out of stocks. Altman said his distaste for the market’s wild swings and technical glitches may confirm industry fears that recent Wall Street technical mishaps could scare off retail investors.

“I’m out of it,” said Altman, 73, who has plowed his savings into municipal bonds. “The little guy has no business in the market anymore.”

Wall Street trading debacle raises fears | McClatchy

Business ethics would seem to dictate that investors’ money should be handled with care. After all, the human beings  who invest have interests like long term returns to enable them to live a decent life. But as we can see from the headlines, stock market investment is more a matter of being sheared like a sheep than a fair deal . We’ve had enough scandals to call on the government to act. However, the interests that make money by these methods are well placed, very influential. If you want a safe investment, there are better places to go.

James Pilant

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Simplesimon8 Scourges Wall Street!


The great Facebook debacle Part 2 #mugs #muppets « simplesimon8

So what’s changed since the demise of Lehmans and the financial crisis of the last few years. Not much by the look of things. Seems that the rich are getting richer, the middle classes are still a great target and the poor, well nobody gives a damn about them anyway!

Common sense, don’t partake in an IPO without it!

The great Facebook debacle Part 2 #mugs #muppets « simplesimon8

Another of my comrades on WordPress weighs in on the Facebook Investment Debacle. I recommend you read the article and put this web site in your favorites.

To my colleague at Simplesimon8, “Keep fighting the good fight.”

James Pilant

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