Monthly Archive for September, 2008


Igor Yopsvoyomatsky, Editor of,
Answers readers questions.

Dear Igor,

My cellmate, Jeff Skilling, here at Waseca Federal Penitentiary, says the “so-called bailout” is a conspiracy by Goldman Sachs to rule the world. Is this paranoia or fact?

Worried Lifer
Cellblock D

Dear Worried Lifer,

This is fact.

But first, a little background. The wealthy have been seeking to undermine the idea of Democracy since its inception. The notion that the collective action of yeomen, scribes and servants could prevail violates the elite’s equation of power:


Socrates questioned the Greek pseudo-democracy as the “rule of some one person or very few.” He was accused of impiety and subversion and sentenced to death. The Greek empire was subsequently overrun by Roman barbarians.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperors systematically eviscerated the Senate and all democratic institutions. Rome was later overrun by Goths and vandals.

There ensued a period of 15 hundred years in which the world was ruled by corrupt clerics and hemophiliac, schizoid, deviant monarchs, while their vassals expropriated all the land, treasure, social and cultural capital; and doled out patronage to their groveling favorites.

At the start of the American Revolution, the anti-democratic Loyalists, most of whom were of the wealthy merchant class, fled to Canada where they have been sniping at the US ever since.

The French Revolution had a short life of bloodshed and intrigue and was quickly overrun by Royalists and Emperors– then imploded into a series of fragmented “Republics” that had no national unity.

Southern slave owners sought to spread their feudal system across a growing nation. They were stymied by Lincoln. His elimination was guaranteed when he threatened to fully realize the equality promised in the Constitution.

During the “Gilded Age” financial capitalism made its first attempt to take over the country. Jay Gould’s move to corner the silver market ended in “Black Friday” and a major financial panic.

From then on a pattern was established. Financiers would manipulate markets and bribe politicians to expand their wealth. Soon, the value created by the productive classes would be unable to support the inverted pyramid of baseless speculation. The system would collapse, impoverishing millions. After a last minute intervention (J.P. Morgan 1907, FDR 1932, RTC, 1989) a slow recovery would take place. Once again the financiers would build capital and public trust in preparation for their next coup d’etat.

Petroleum added a new arrow to the quiver of the elite. Beginning with the Teapot Dome Scandal of the ’20′s oil and government became linked. The Rockefellers and the Dulles brothers started a revolving door between government ( CIA, State Dept.) and the oil business.

As oil controlled foreign policy, finance sought to shape the national economy. Again, heedless speculation led to the Great Depression of 1929. FDR’s New Deal was designed to change the emphasis of Government from insulating the consumers of wealth to protecting those who produced it. Social Security, which guarantees a modest pension to elderly workers, became the bete noire of the moneyed elite. On the very day of its creation a conspiracy was launched against it. The financier who climbed the heights and vanquished the beast would be celebrated in song and story…

Goldman Sachs has dispatched its double agents to fulfill what it describes as its “great tradition of public service.” The list of Goldman partners who have gone into Government is long and illustrious. Beginning with partner Henry Fowler in the ’60′s, they have served both parties as Treasury Secretaries.

Partner Robert Rubin was Clinton’s Treasury Secretary. During his tenure he managed to repeal the Glass Steagall Act passed during the Depression, which separated investment and commercial banks. This opened up hundred of billions of dollars of new business for the firm. Goldman partner Stephen Friedman was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Partner Jon Corzine is Governor of New Jersey. Partner Robert Zoellick was US Trade Representative and is now President of the World Bank…The list is endless, Worried Lifer, trust me.

With every infiltration into Government Goldman’s wealth has increased. But its most daring coup came with the appointment of CEO Henry Paulson as Secretary of Treasury. During Paulson’s tenure as CEO (1999-2006) Goldman acquired an $18 billion exposure to subprimes and billions more in derivatives. Goldman was in the forefront of the movement to privatize Social Security, which would have added trillions more in profit. In 2002 Goldman analysts were accused of producing biased reports to benefit corporate clients.

A teetotaling Christian Scientist college football hero, Henry Paulson was the ideal double agent. He spent his early days trying to reassure the public and the Congress that the economy was recovering while his colleagues worked feverishly to liquidate bad debts. When that didn’t work he bailed out Bear Stearns. When that didn’t stem the tide of failure he got Fed Chairman Bernanke to release billions to the banks. But they hoarded the newfound money and refused to lend it to failing investment houses and hedge funds.

Paulson let Lehman Brothers, Goldman’s biggest competitor, go under, and thus got more business for the firm.

But when AIG started to totter he had to intervene to protect Goldman’s $25 billion investment in its defunct derivatives operation. He paid $85 billion dollars for 79.9% of AIG, a bargain basement price for a trillion dollar company. I am betting that soon some investor (maybe Goldman Sachs?) will offer $100 billion for the steal of the century.

Paulson’s most audacious move was yet to come. In a last ditch effort to save the fortunes of a few thousand very wealthy individuals he gave Congress a two and a half page proposal in which he asked for a blank check of $700 billion to save the banks. In a backhanded afterthought he said this might help the millions of mortgage holders as well.

He tried scare tactics. He tried a charm offensive. He even made the surprising tactical error of getting a discredited President into the act.

So far genius of the American system seems to have beaten him back.

But don’t be fooled. The financial conspirators are regrouping.

They’ll be back.



PHOENIX, Ariz, Sept. 26…Dr. Irwin Zahnsaggler says he’s “sick and tired” of John McCain’s excuses.

The Phoenix endodontist began doing root canal on the Republican candidate three months ago.

“I told John there would be discomfort at first, but it had to be done,” Zahnsaggler says. “He laughed and said after what he had been through a little toothache would be nothing.”

But, after the first session, McCain jumped up, holding a tissue to his swollen jaw.

“I feel like Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man,” he told Zahnsaggler. “We should have used this technique in Guantanamo…”

From then on McCain began canceling appointments.

“When the Russians invaded Georgia he said he had to be at his post because we are all Georgians,” Zahnsaggler says. “Then when the Large Hadron Collider was activated he said he was going to Geneva because we are all protons. Last week he canceled to go to Washington because he said we are all homeowners, especially Cindy. He just called and said he can’t make it today because he has to debate Obama…I realized then that he would do anything to avoid going to the dentist.”

Zahnsaggler says he’s going to start charging McCain for canceled visits ” because we are all Americans.”


WASHINGTON, D.C…Tempers flared yesterday when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made an unscheduled visit to the Democratic caucus.

The party leadership was debating a response to the Republicans newest bailout plan when Paulson walked in.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi greeted him with a smile. “Mr. Secretary, is that a bazooka in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

At which point, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank jumped up, snarling: “Back off, bitch, I saw him first!”

Later in the day when Paulson’s plan was rejected by both parties, a “blogwag” opined that, “Paulson’s bazooka has turned into a derringer.”

And the Treasury Secretary couldn’t get anyone to return his calls.


WASHINGTON, D.C… During a tense emergency meeting on the bailout yesterday, staff members noticed President George W. Bush (B.A. Yale, MBA, Harvard) twitching impatiently. Then, while Secretary Paulson was explaining how CDO swaps had caused billions in losses, he erupted:

“You can’t run a company by swapping CEO’s,” he said. “Let one man stay on the job. Be accountable like me.”

“That’s CDO’s, George,” Dick Cheney said soothingly. “Collateralized Debt Obligations.”

“Too many damn initials,” Bush grumbled. “That’s why nobody knows what’s goin’ on.” Then, he challenged the crowd. “I’ll bet none of you smartasses knows what pdf stands for…” There was an awkward silence…”How about url?” Bush said. “A lifetime supply of high test to anybody who can tell me what that means…”

Later in the day when caffeine and fatigue were beginning to wear and Fed Chairman Bernanke was droning on in his patented monotone, Bush whispered irritably to Paulson:

“Does he know what he’s talking about?”

“Yes, Mr. President,” Paulson whispered back. “He’s an expert on the Depression.”

“Hell, we all know about depression,” Bush said. “I have days when Laura has to bring me a Twinkie and a double Carnation Instant Breakfast just so I can get out of bed.”

Paulson turned to hide his pained look. “No sir, I meant the Great Depression of the ’30′s.”

“Well, if he’s been depressed that long, he should get help,” Bush said. “I’ve got a good man in Dallas, Doctor Kopfshtumpfer…Cured my daddy of the yips.”


Summer 1973…It was a bad time to be a bartender.

The economy was in recession. Unemployment had risen from 5% to 9% in a year and a half. The prime rate was 10.2%. Inflation was at 7.4%.

Real Estate was in the toilet. You could buy a three-story brownstone in the 80′s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for $60,000, but they wanted 20% down and nobody had 60 cents worth of collateral.

You moved warily through the city like a mouse rushing from one hole to another. The subways were a no-go after 10 p.m. Mugging was a simple speedy transaction by which money was transferred in exchange for safety. But the hard core pros complicated it by slashing you on the arm or even the face to keep you from pursuing, so you had to run or yell for help or even fight back and that’s how people got killed.

The murder rate was up to 11.5 per 100,000. Blacks were eight times as likely to be murdered as whites. The police shot 54 people to death that year.

We had stopped fighting in Vietnam, but Nixon was still bombing Cambodia. The Senate ignored Kissinger’s heartfelt pleas and blocked funding for the attacks.

Oh yeah, and the whole country was mesmerized by the Watergate Hearings. Watching in astonishment as White House Counsel John Dean ratted out Nixon, saying they had discussed the break-in 35 times.

So now we knew that our President, who had won by a landslide in ’72, was a burglar, a blackmailer and a drunk.

But my big problem was glassware.

I was working at a place called “Maude’s” in the Summit Hotel on 51st. and Lexington. “A commercial caravansary,” W.C. Fields would have called it. A no-frills flop for the professional traveler. The guys with the dog-eared address books and smudged invoice pads…Suits getting shiny in the seat.

The Gay ’90′s red-light bordello theme played well with this crowd. They liked the all- you-can-eat buffets, the sullen waitresses in low-cut leotards, spangles and tights. But they didn’t like the drinks.

In line with the Art Nouveau knockoffs, the Tiffany lamps and the plush booths management had given us their version of period glassware. The rocks glasses were what were once known as “double old fashioned,” designed for a voluminous drink with whiskey, mulled sugar, and soda.They were as big and hefty as cut glass vases. if you threw them against a wall the building would crumble. I could empty a ten ounce bottle of soda into them with room to spare. No way I could make the “house pour” an ounce and a half shot look respectable in a glass that big.

Inverted shot glasses stood on a towel on the bar. We had to pour a shot into the glass right in front of the customer so he would know what he was getting, then pour it into the glass where it hardly covered the bottom. Piling the glass with ice just made the drink disappear altogether.

The waitresses complained bitterly. I was killing their tips. They thought I was short-pouring them to make up for my own larceny. Any hopes of a romantic interlude were dashed.

I actually felt for the customers. They would belly up, bright-eyed and expectant. But even veteran tipplers could be thrown by faulty glassware. If a drink didn’t sparkle or look generous their moods would quickly sour. It was the same volume of alcohol they got everywhere else, but it looked like a squirt in the big glass and they took it as a personal affront.

The cocktail glasses were 8 ounce “double martinis” with thick braided stems. They had a line bisecting the bowl at the four ounce mark. It was the high water mark for cocktails—we surpassed it on pain of dismissal. All the cocktails looked incomplete as if the bartender hadn’t made them properly, when in fact much skill had been employed toeing the line.

The customers would squint pointedly at their glasses while I stood there with a hapless smile, all hopes of a gratuity cruelly dashed.

It was killing the business. Hotel guests were going down the block to Kenny’s Steak Pub where the bartenders free-poured into conventional glassware, making the same ounce and a half look like the Johnstown Flood.

I complained to the the General Manager, a Cornell Hotel Management grad, but he was besotted with the design scheme.

“If we put in standard glassware it’ll ruin the look,” he said.

The bartenders were dying, too. Sure, we were the High Priests of the Sacred Fount, dispensing good cheer, sage advice and the occasional condign chastisement. But we made less money than a plumber’s apprentice.

Shift pay was $30 a night. The union deducted dues for a pension which vested after ten years, (effectively meaning never for an itinerant bartender) and health insurance which gave you the right to spend the whole day in a clinic while screeching children and croaking oldsters were triaged ahead of you.

The servers who we called “the floor” made more money than we did. So did the cooks who we called “the help.” Only the porters made less. But they had the hereditary right to plunder lost wallets and loose change on the floor. Once in a while you’d hear a shriek of glee as a porter reaped a bonanza from a dropped purse.

The bartenders huddled. There were four of us, each with a pressing need for money. I had to make my alimony. Danny had to pay his bookie. Freddie’s daughter was at Iona College. Jack was a cross-dresser and his hosiery bills were enormous. We couldn’t complain to the union, couldn’t go on strike.

The glassware issue had risen from my pocket to my psyche. I was going through life with my head down. Cashiers were short changing me. I was saying “excuse me,” and “sorry” more than I ever had in my life.

I dreamt I was in my high school locker room. The other guys on the basketball team were pointing at me and laughing. I looked down and saw that my penis had shrunk to a nub.

That night the place was dead. I stepped behind the bar, ready for another $20 shift, if I was lucky.

“Hey pal, can we get a cocktail?”

I looked up. “Irish” Jerry Quarry, the “Bellflower Bomber,”who had fought Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight championship, was at the end of the bar with his brother Mike, another ranked boxer and two knockaround pals. Big smiles, twenties up on the bar, getting a head start on the evening.

Jameson on the rocks, VO and Coke and two vodka tonics.

Was I going to short pour these guys?

No way. Let ‘em fire me.

Their eyes sparkled as I filled their glasses to the brim.

“Can I get a whiskey sour?”

I knew that clucking voice from commercials. Standing in the middle of the bar was Frank Perdue, of Perdue Farms, the largest chicken producer in the country. With his pointy head, beak nose and bobbing Adam’s Apple he looked like the world’s largest chicken.

I reversed the recipe. Three ounces of booze to an ounce and a half of lemon juice.

“How ya doin’?”

Two substantial black guys flashing gold from wrist to tooth, slid in. They were members of B.B. King’s Blues Band, I had seen them in the lobby the night before.

“Beefeater and Coke…Wild Turkey with a splash of Seven Up…Just a splash…”

“Just a splash, sir, don’t worry.”

They had never highballs like these, even when they made them for themselves.

The waitresses came up with their table orders. Their eyes widened as I made them huge drinks.

“Is that okay?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Make money my children.”

I hadn’t heard laughter at the bar in months. Everybody was all smiles. I was making people happy.

“Can we get another round?”

“You bet.”

Pretty soon the King sidemen recognized Jerry Quarry.

“Hey champ…”

Perdue looked up from his second sour and squawked:

“Jerry Quarry. I thought that was you…”

Now they were all clustered together, laughing and telling war stories.

“It’s my turn…”

“No, this one’s on me.”

Jerry Quarry leaned over the bar.

“Hey, is it against the rules to buy the bartender a drink?”

“It is strictly verboten,”I said in a burlesque German accent, while pouring myself a triple Hennessy to general hilarity.

At closing I had two hundred bucks in my pocket.

Quarry and Perdue were off to Toots Shor’s. The sidemen were tottering to a gig.

Olga, the Norwegian waitress followed me out into the street.

“You think you can get away with this?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” I said. “I’m sick and tired of those stupid glasses.”

“Well, I did really well tonight thanks to you,” she said.

“Your legs helped….”

“So I’m going to buy you a drink now. “Okay?”

“Absolutely not.”

She laughed and took my arm. She pressed against me as we crossed the street.

Oh yeah…I was a man again.








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GREENPOINT, Brooklyn, September 19th…Imagine a crap table without a DON’T PASS line. A betting line without a point spread.

Imagine a world where you’re only allowed to bet for–not against.

A world where the house always wins.

“Unthinkable,” says Efraim Durg, CEO of Durgometrics, a hedge fund which specializes in high-risk sports betting.

But that’s what the SEC created yesterday when it banned the short selling of 799 financial stocks.

According to Business Week the companies covered are an “A to Z of nation’s powerhouse financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and commercial banks running the gamut from Bank of America to Charles Schwab to (Warren Buffet’s $147,000 a share) Berkshire Hathaway.”

The SEC’s action was echoed by the UK’s Financial Services ban on all short selling in Great Britain. By the end of business CALPERS (California Public Employees Retirement Service) announced that it would no longer lend stocks to short sellers.

“The fat cats are really stacking the deck this time,” Durg says.

Short sellers are the pessimists of the market. They borrow a company’s stock and sell it immediately, then buy it back when it goes down and pocket the difference. Short selling is a legal, respectable form of trading and is credited with keeping markets healthy by identifying corrupt and mismanaged companies. It’s been in existence since 1609 when a Dutch trader oversold his own company, betting that the English Navy would sink his ships. It was blamed for the Dutch Black Tulip crisis, which tumbled the bourses of Europe in the 17th. Century. Herbert Hoover blamed short sellers for the Great Depression, while J Edgar Hoover (no relation) threatened to investigate and imprison them.

Hedge funds were invented by short sellers to allow them to make larger bets. Recently short sellers were actually credited with forcing down the price of oil. Now they are the convenient scapegoats for a crisis caused by the greed and stupidity of “long” sellers who believe their assets should keep on appreciating no matter badly they are managed.

The anti short-selling rules had the predictable result of driving up the market, the Dow rising by close to four hundred points. Some stocks saw a 20 to 30% rise in their value.

“What goes up must come down” says Durg. “It was the perfect market for a short seller. And I was the only game in town.”

As an unlicensed, unlisted and unregulated hedge fund, Durg could create a market of his own. He started small, making a “proposition” to his few “clients.”

“I told them to pick a stock,” Durg says. “They would pay me a small premium which would be my “vig.” If the stock went down after a negotiated period I’d be stuck the difference. If it went up they’d be stuck…”

Durg’s eyes widen as he relates what happened next. “I started with four thousand in reserve capital, but as word spread through the neighborhood I suddenly had twenty-six thousand dollars in action.”

Looking to cover his bets, Durg went to Bolek Bernankovicz who takes numbers out of Paulsenki’s Paint Store. Bolek kicked in forty thousand in exchange for twenty per cent of the profits.

“But it wasn’t enough,” Durg says. “I blame the Internet and credit crisis. All these execs from Bear Stearns and Lehman sitting around with nothing to do until they’re indicted. By lunch I was looking at a $213,000 in bets.”

Durg couldn’t stop now. The market was skyrocketing. He was making a fortune

Durg called the Bank of Wroclaw, but couldn’t get a loan. He was desperate.

“I ‘m a bookie, I can’t operate on leverage,” he says. “I have to back my bets with real money.”

In a panic Durg and Bolek called Fat Funzi, a private lender in Red Hook. Funzi drove a hard bargain demanding half of Durg’s action.

“I was carving myself up, but I needed the cash,” Durg says.

In the next hour there was a rash of bank robberies, smash and grabs and senior muggings as Funzi raised the capital for his investment.

But it still wasn’t enough. Durg’s phone was ringing. His web site was crashing.

“I was getting calls from Tiblisi and Kandahar,” he says. “PayPal said they would expedite for five per cent. I had no choice.”

By close of business Durg had $17 million on his books and counting. “I was doing great in this short term bull session,” he says. “As long as the big boys tried to cover up all the bad news I’d be okay. But it would only take a rumor to send the market plunging. I could see myself doing the perp walk…”

Durg panicked. “I called the Treasury Department and got a voice message saying there was a 17 day wait to talk to a bailout specialist.”

Then, Durg had a miraculous visitation. “It was like I rubbed a lamp and a genie appeared.”

Mahmoud, who owns Saudi Sundries on Huron Street came with a proposition of his own. There was a call to Riyadh.

“It was late at night,” Durg recalls. “I could hear music, women laughing. A guy called Bin Taleeb came on the phone. I like your business plan, my friend, he said. I will buy fifty per cent.”

Taleeb bought out Bolek for $100,000 and Funzi for $250,000. By morning with over $30 million on the books and more coming, Durg put an ad on Craig’s list for “Certified Financial Advisors.” In an hour he had eleven thousand applications.

He had been running his operation out of the walk-in box at Golubchik’s, but is now negotiating for the executive suite in the soon to be empty Lehman Building.

It all happened so quickly, he says. “I got rich. There was nothing to it.”

But now Durg has time to plan his next move. He has put together a Board of Directors of Wall Street veterans, among them Stan O’Neal, Richard Fuld and Jimmy Cayne.

“I’m thinking of cutting my bets into tranches and issuing short-sale backed securities,” he says. “Derivatives is where the real money is.”


GREEN-POINT, Brooklyn, Sept. 17…The Large Hadron Collider is  part of an alien real estate conspiracy, a community activist charged last night.

At a tumultuous meeting at Golubchik’s Tavern Igor Yopsvoyomatsky, editor of accused “gullible scientists” of standing by while the earth was taken over by what he called “deep space developers” and insisted that international agencies call a halt of its operations pending a thorough investigation.

“Don’t be fooled,” he warned. “This collider is a superweapon built by aliens. They are going to implode the earth like a Las Vegas hotel and put up intergalactic timeshares…” 

The Large Hadron Collider, an $8 billion project, twenty-five years in the making, is a 17 mile, 38,000 ton tubular steel track, built 326 feet under ground outside of Geneva at the French-Swiss border. It contains 10 gigajoules of energy, the equivalent of 2.4 tons of TNT and generates 120 to 200 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power  200,000 California homes. In full operation the collider will introduce trillions of protons into the tube at opposite directions. Its huge magnets, cooled by 91,000 tons of liquid helium and 10,000 tons of liquid nitrogen to a temperature lower than that  in outer space, will send the protons hurtling toward each other at speeds exceeding 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light. 

The purpose of the collisions is to replicate the “Big Bang” that scientists believe created the universe.  It is hoped that the collider’s experimental results will answer several questions.  How does matter create mass? Is the universe is made up of more than four dimensions–possibly ten or eleven? And can one unified theory can explain all of creation?

After a few “minor electrical problems” the collider had its first successful test on September 10th. Thousands of scientists around the world watched cheering as a beam of protons made its first circuit of the tunnel track. 

Champagne corks popped at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) which built the collider. 

“We can now look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe,” said project leader Lyn Evans.

But while the Europeans were toasting each other, Yopsvoyomatsky was drinking Popov Vodka out of a plastic bottle on a bench in Greenpoint’s Barge Park and staring across the East River at the glittering New York skyline. He had just been evicted from his rent controlled studio by a developer who planned to implode the building and replace it with a high rise mixed-use condo–units starting at $1million–with a pool, fitness center, on site masseuse and concierge; and with space on the first floor for art galleries and “fine cuisine” restaurants. 

“It was then that I had my revelation,” he told a rapt audience. “My Newton-under -the- apple tree, Einstein- under- the- clock- towers- of -Basel moment. I had discovered the one force that makes the entire universe run—Real Estate.”

Taking frequent pulls from a bottle of Vitamin Water, his shaven pate reddening, he continued.

“The history of this planet is told in the dispossession of people from land. Call it conquest, colonization, ethnic cleansing…Call it development, gentrification if you like, it always the same. If it happens globally why not planetarily? Why not cosmically? Why not aliens who want to galactify the earth? Call it species cleansing.”

“You’re insane,” someone shouted.

“And your precious physicists, they are not?” Yopsvoyomatsky jeered. “They are the arrogant priesthood of the intellect who believe they can penetrate the mystery of creation. In five years a processor the size of my thumbnail will have more computing power than all the brains of all the physicists in the world. Do you not think it is  megalomania to claim that your puny mind can build a machine that will encompass the universe?” 

“The collider will advance human knowledge,” someone shouted.

“In what way?”Yopsvoyomatsky jeered. “Basic research is supposed to have some technological application, some way to make our lives better. What will the collider contribute? Will it make us healthier, richer? Will it produce cheaper energy, more food for starving masses?”

“Then why did they build it?” 

“Europe, a dying culture with zero population growth and sclerotic bureaucracy was manipulated into building it so it could say my collider is bigger than yours to Americans.”

“Who manipulated Europe?”

“Alien infiltrators working for Intergalactic Real Estate Developers.”

The crowd roared its derision.

“You’re just mad because they threw you out of your apartment,” someone shouted.

Yopsvoyomatsky recoiled as if he had been hit and sank back onto his barstool.

“That was a low blow,” someone said reprovingly

“My beautiful little studio,” Yopsvoyomatsk said, mournfully and the crowd hushed. “New floors, new WaterPik shower head, new appliances, even a four-slice toaster…I could see all the way from the battery to the Triboro.” 

A few people nodded in sympathy.

“Four-twenty five a month,” he said.

There was a sob in the crowd.  “Oh my God…”

“Working people were my neighbors. They took their children to the park on summer days. I could smell their barbecues…Now they will build a tower of steel and glass. Aliens will come from  Europe and Asia…”

“No,”someone shouted.

A woman ran out of the room, crying, “I can’t stand it.”

Yopsvoyomatsky raised his hands. “But that my friends is just a preview. We are  a very desirable piece of property, the Hawaii of the universe.Our sun large enough to give us a varied, temperate climate. We are not overly troubled by solar winds and sun spots. We haven’t had a serious meteor collision since 1907 in Siberia. Our moon creates the gentle flow of tides and enthralls us with its cool, clear light playing on the waters…” His tone hardened. “But somewhere in space a developer has homed in on us. Like Greenpoint we are a cosmic steal. One night when the pull of the full moon increases the circumference of the collider tube, the scientists’ calculations will be thrown off. The proton beams will go off course. Black holes will form, each consuming the other. The liquid nitrogen will leak out of its sealed tube and explode. The 91,000 tons of liquid helium will go up as well. The planet will be devastated. Our species will become extinct.”

A wild-haired man with his own vitamin bottle rose, voice quavering prophetically. “This will come to pass…”

“Then the developers will come with their architects and contractors,” Yopsvoyomatsky said with a look of disgust. “They will turn our beautiful planet into a resort for the spoiled, rich, spaceship-setters. A slimy alien will sit in this spot with cocktail enjoying our sunset…”

The people sat in silence, contemplating their dismal future. Then a voice piped up from the back of the room:

“Igor, I know a guy who’s got a two family in Jackson Heights. He’s looking to rent the top floor. Nice one bedroom, your own kitchen, full bathroom with stall shower, private entrance…Five hundred…He’ll give you the first month free.”

The crowd stirred hopefully. 

Yopsvoyomatsky thought it over. “Jackson Heights is in Queens, no?”


Yopsvoyomatsky shook his head. “I could never live in Queens…”


RED HOOK, Brooklyn, September 12…Until last week Barb Blasingame thought Shylock was just a character in  a Shakespeare play. 

But then her bank turned her down for a home equity loan. 

Now Barb knows that Shylock is alive and well and going by the name of Fat Funzi   of Sackett Street and she couldn’t be happier.

“Call him a loanshark if you like, but Fat Funzi saved my life,” she says.

Barb and her husband Pabu, a Tibetan weaver, have been running Yayla Rugs out of their brownstone on Fifth Avenue in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn since they left their ashram in Ashland, Oregon six years ago. 

“We were dewy-eyed hippies ripe for the plucking,” she says, “but Brooklyn took us to its bosom and gave us life.”

They prospered in this newly trendy area, selling the colorful 150 knot rugs that Pabu’s family have been weaving for centuries.  “We dealt with the newly childed wealthy,” Barb says. “They were young, accomplished and expanding their lives to include new souls.”

But then tragedy struck. Working late into the night to fill their orders Pabu fell asleep at his loom of rods. A spark from his prayer lamp, which burns clarified yak butter, dropped onto the tangle of pure mountain sheep wool at his feet. Within seconds his work room was aflame. 

Pabu was lucky to get out with minor burns, but the work room was destroyed. With their customers clamoring something had to be done. Barb went to the bank to extend her home equity loan. To her astonishment they turned her down.

“The loan officer was very sweet,” she says. “He explained that the bank was carrying so many bad loans that it couldn’t lend any more money. He also said that he had to close our credit line because the value of our home had dropped below the amount we owed, between mortgage and home equity…”

Barb did some research. She found that Americans owed $1.1 trillion in home equity loans.  As of 2007 more than 5 per cent of those loans were delinquent or in default. That number had shot up to 11 per cent in the first few months of 2008. Banks were taking billions of dollars in bad debt write offs. More than 60% of banks had tightened their loan criteria. It was estimated that $50 billion had been taken out of the credit market in the last few months.

It looked like Barb and Pabu were going to become casualties of the sub prime crisis. But then their guru Soygal Rinpoche told them about a mysterious benefactor. He guided them down Sackett Street, past Googie’s Adorables and Riskay Rita’s Unmentionables. In between Fern’s Tchotchkies and Tots’n'Tubers, which specializes in teaching toddlers creative projects with root veggies, was a storefront its windows painted black.

“I had walked this street ten thousand times and never seen it,” Barb says. “I realized I was entering another dimension.”

Inside the dark room she found a huge fat man sitting like an inscrutable Buddha on a bridge chair. 

“He said his name was Fat Funzi,” Barb says, “but I knew he was an avatar of Tsho-Gyalma, the God of Happiness.”

Fat Funzi was a man of few words. 

“How much you want?” he asked Barb.

She told him and he nodded.

“Six for five,” he said. And the deal was done.

The mob reigned supreme in Brooklyn for many years, but fell on hard times in the ’90′s.

“Giuliani put us in jail,” Fat Funzi said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Event, “but Alan Greenspan put us out of business.” 

Greenspan, head of the Federal Reserve Bank, presided over the largest  expansion of credit in  history.

“Under Greenspan any deadbeat could get a loan,” Funzi said. “You didn’t need no collateral, no references. You didn’t need to come to me no more…”

Funzi gloats over what happened next. “But deadbeats don’t pay back. And if you can’t collect  with a two-by-four you’re outta luck.”

As of March 2008, ten percent of the mortgages were delinquent or in default. Banks were foreclosing on property that was worth less than their loans. Billions of dollars of mortgage derivatives were transformed into junk. Investment banks went under.  Retail banks facing huge losses, had no money to lend. 

“We were back in business again,” said Funzi.

After years of indigence the Mob was cash poor as well. But it had ways of raising capital.

Barb’s first loan  was in sacks of quarters that Funzi’s boys got from plundering parking meters. Then there was an envelope of two-dollar bills burglarized from a collection upstate. Hundreds came rolled up with traces of cocaine. 

“Funzi said they were donated by ex drug dealers who wanted to give back to the community,” Barb says.

Funzi even arranged for contractors to come and rebuild Pabu’s work room. They didn’t need an approval from the city.

“Funzi said the building inspectors were with him,” Barb says. “He took my hand in the nicest way and said: You’re with me, too. Nobody will ever bother you again.”

Barb felt she was going back in time to the old Brooklyn that existed before the settlers came from Manhattan and the Continent.

“It was like finding middens, remnants of an old civilization,” she says. “There had been a rich native culture here once.”  “With its own traditions, its own rituals.”

She says she learned some of the native language. 

“Vig was the interest on the loan. It was very zen. You paid and paid, but it never got any smaller.”

Only Funzi had power over the “vig.”

He taught me another word,” says Barb. “Gummare…It was like the Chinese custom of the second wife. Funzi said if I became his gummare he would make the vig go away.”

But Pabu said polyandry was forbidden in the Tibetan culture and Barb gratefully refused Funzi’s offer.

Then, after a few missed payments, Barb learned a new meaning for the word “kneecap.”

In the hospital, Pabu did some research. When he  came off the crutches he told Barb he had discovered a branch of Buddhism, the Vagrayana, that allowed a married woman to become the “spiritual consort” of another man.

Now balance has been restored. The debt is repaid. Pabu’s loom is clicking. Barb has  a huge diamond ring and a diamond choker so heavy she can hardly hold her head up.

“Everywhere we go Funzi introduces me as his Spiritual Consort,” Barb says. “His friends laugh and clap and everybody’s just in the best mood.”




It was 1973. The Playboy Clubs were packing them in and it wasn’t for the Surf’n'Turf. Half-naked women serving highballs were all the rage. We called it “Chicken Smarmygiana” in the trade.

I was working at a place called “Maude’s” in the Summit Hotel on 51st. and Lexington. It was done up as a Gay Nineties, brothel. The eponymous Maude was a buxom store window dummy dressed as a madame with an electric eye that squawked “C’MON IN BOYS!” whenever a customer entered. The bartenders wore pleated shirts, red bow-ties and were issued one black garter, which management insisted they wear on their right sleeve. The waitresses squeezed into decollete spangled leotards and mesh stockings and teetered on spiked heels as they carried heavy drink trays. Hiring was democratic. Some girls made the costumes work. Others had you running for a raincoat.

I was the new man, so I had to open and work lunch. This meant getting up at nine-thirty, which for me was the crack of dawn. After I had stifled the staticky blast of the alarm, slid that fifty pound cement block off my chest and coughed up a cup of ashtray soup, the day started to get better. I had perfected the art of sticking my head under the shower without getting my shirt wet, which for me was the equivalent of a triple axel landing in a split. Most of my neighbors slept later than me so I could swipe the NY Times from a new door every morning. The 104 bus was a block away and I always got a seat. Now if I didn’t sleep past my stop and end up at the UN I would have it made.

Hotel security stood by the main entrance making sure all employees stayed out of the lobby. I was caught in a stream of chamber maids, cooks, clerks and janitors heading for the time clock.

Not a drop had been poured in that bar for twelve hours, plus it had been swabbed down with ammonia, but it still stank of cigarettes and stale beer. No problem. I made myself a French Kiss (cognac, kahlua, white mint and half and half.) In no time a warm feeling of well-being spread through me. Once in a while I’d find a dead mouse under the duck boards and twirl it by the tail to freak out the waitresses. I was suffering from what later became known as George W. Bush Syndrome–I thought I was just brimming with wit and charm. Nobody agreed, but I didn’t notice.

There was Marcy, a chunky Brooklyn brunette, who was always on the floor looking for a lost contact lens. “Hey, Marcy from Canarsie,” I ‘d say.

She’d look up sourly. “Hey, Dickhead from Schmuckville.”

Inga was tall, and Nordic with haunted Garbo eyes. “Inga, the Swedish Nightingale,” I called her.

“I’m Norwegian,” she said.

I wracked my brain. “Okay…Inga, the Broad from the Fjords…”

To this day I break into a cold sweat remembering her baleful look.

Monique was from Harlem. One afternoon after a few French Kisses I grabbed her hand. “Weird goddess, dusky as the night.”

She pulled away. “What’d you call me?”

“Dusky as the night,” I said. “It’s from a famous poem by Baudelaire.”

She slid a cocktail napkin across the bar. “Write that down…There better be a Baudelaire or my boyfriend’s gonna come down here and beat your ass.”

You could understand their sour moods. Lunch was an all-you-could-eat-serve-yourself buffet bar, $6.85, drinks and dessert extra. The specialite de la maison, Maude’s Famous Chicken Salad, dominated the table in a huge, gleaming silver tureen. It was the creation of Bob, the big, black gay chef, and was made with chicken chunks, Miracle Whip and Heinz Hamburger relish, studded with dried cranberries, apples, raisins and walnuts. People pushed and shoved to get to it and then piled it onto their plates out of spite. The waitresses only served drinks and coffees. As much as they wriggled and jiggled and giggled they still couldn’t get decent tips.

It was a union job, local 6, Hotel Workers. All that meant to me was a dues checkoff out of my check. I wasn’t planning to be around for the pension.

After I had been there a month, Red Eisenberg, the local’s Business Agent came to visit. If thugs hadn’t existed he would have had to invent them. He had a Cro Magnon head and walked like his species had only recently become erect. It was early February, but he was wearing a knit golf shirt and gray slacks. He rested his massive, freckled forearms on the bar

“What part of Brooklyn you from?” he asked.

How did he know I was from Brooklyn? “All over,” I said. “We moved a lot.”

“Why? Your father in the rackets?” He handed me a form. “Your health plan. Don’t get sick…”

On his way out he warned me: “Don’t make too much money. They’re watching you.”

I had been hired by Personnel and forced on Mr. Carney, the Food and Beverage Manager. He was from Oklahoma, a little guy with a blond comb over and wispy mustache. I heard him saying “when I was in the military” to Marcy one night and found out he had been a manager of the Officer’s Club at the Pensacola Naval base. I could imagine him hating the foreigners, the degenerates and the draft-dodgers he had under his command.

The kitchen help was mostly foreign, Hispanic, and Asian, who spoke halting English. Carney forced them to work extra shifts for straight time. He docked them for sick days. He didn’t provide locker space. The employee washroom was a disaster.

“He’s violating the contract ten times a day,” I said to Bob, the only American in the kitchen.

“If they’re too dumb to take care of themselves that’s their lookout,” he said.

The waitresses were constantly harassed. Somebody had drilled a hole in the wall of their dressing room. Customers pawed them and followed them after their shifts. Security wouldn’t help them, saying what did they expect if they walked around like whores.

I was ashamed of my own crude overtures. Of thinking that these ladies were fair game because of the costumes their exploitative employers made them wear.

“This place needs a shop steward,” I told Marcy. “Somebody to confront management. The union’s not doing enough.”

“The union’s protecting our jobs,” she said. “You’d have to blow the place up to get fired.”

But a week later I came to work to find a knot of anxious workers at the bar.

“Carney fired Mei,” Gus, the Dominican garde manger told me.

Mei was the Chinese dishwasher, the only one in a kitchen that turned out hundreds of covers and cocktails every day. I knew him as a a pair of splotched pants and stick-like arms behind three racks of washed glasses.

“You’re not a dishwasher, you’re a pearl diver,” I had told him once. After that he laughed whenever he came to the bar.

“No pearls today,” he would say.

Sometimes I would slip him a short beer. He would open his wallet and show me his daughter, who was playing cello in the Juilliard Youth Orchestra.

Why had Mei been fired?

“He was eating the chicken salad,” Gus said.

Every morning Bob would sculpt a mountain of chicken salad in the tureen and cover it with saran wrap with a big sign: “DO NOT EAT.” But when he returned to put it out he noticed the saran wrap disturbed and a huge gash cut into his mountain.

After Bob secretly complained, Mr. Carney had security install a hidden camera in the kitchen. They had caught Mei walking by lifting the saran wrap and jamming a handful of chicken salad into his mouth.

“So he was fired for eating chicken salad?” I said.

“For insubordination,” Marcy said.

“But did he even know about that rule?”

“The sign was clearly displayed,” she said.

“But does he even speak English?”

Carney came glaring to the door and everybody scattered.

I started cutting lemons, indignation boiling within me. Mei was the hardest worker in the place. You couldn’t see him behind that cloud of steam in the kitchen. He never missed a day.

They had all come to the bar to tell me. They were expecting me to do something, I could sense it.

And why not? I was the same kid who had taken the bus to Washington in 1963 to cheer Martin Luther King. Who had walked picket lines and demonstrated for all kinds of causes. Who had protested the Vietnam War even after I was drafted.

In a second I had an idea. It was 10:30. Lunch started at 11. We didn’t have much time. I called the waitresses together and went into the kitchen.

“Are we gonna let the bosses get away with this?” I shouted.

Everybody stopped slicing and dicing.

” Let’s show solidarity with Mei.”

“How?” Gus asked.

“Let’s each take a bite out of their precious chicken salad. Right on their sneaky hidden camera. They can’t fire us all…”

Bob jumped at me on a panic, his cap quivering. “The man don’t want you to eat his motherfucking chicken salad, what’s the big deal?”

There were a few grumblers, but Gus quieted them in a torrent of eloquent Spanish.

“Form a line,” I shouted.

The waitresses looked at me with new respect.

“Okay,” I said, going to the head of the line. “Look right in the camera…”

I marched up, grabbed a handful of chicken salad and crammed into my mouth.

Everyone followed me, laughing, hugging and hi fiving, At the end, a few scraps of chicken salad were smeared in the bottom of the tureen.

“And we’ll do this every day until Mei is reinstated,” I shouted into the camera.

Everybody cheered as they went out to work.

Bob was busily cubing chickens. “Now I gotta make a whole new batch…”

Lunch was especially busy that day. But I could sense an elation and camaraderie in the air. I remembered what an old anarchist had told me:

“Collective action is the source of all human happiness.”

At two-thirty when the crowds thinned I saw Carney talking to Red Eisenberg at the door. Eisenberg came to the bar.

“Step outside with me for a second,” he said.

It was one of those all-weather winter days where the sun shines warm in one spot while the wind screeches in another, invisible snow flakes crinkle your face and cold shadows fall across the street.

A man in a dark overcoat was leaning against a gray Coupe De Ville parked in front of the hotel. He had a Florida tan and a mountain of coiffed white hair that reminded me for a second of Maud’s Famous Chicken Salad.

“This is Mr. Prinza, President of the union,” Eisenberg said.

“Who do you think you are, John L. Lewis, famous labor leader?” Prinza asked mildly. He lit a cigar with a gold Dunhill. “What part of Brooklyn do you come from anyway, the Russian neighborhood?”

“Just trying to save a man’s job,” I said.

“You incited an unauthorized work stopage,” Prinza said.

“This could cause them to tear up the contract and move to renegotiate,” Eisenberg said.

“Insubordination is grounds for dismissal in every labor agreement,” Prinza said.

“This guy hardly speaks English,” I said. “He should at least get another chance.”

Eisenberg shook his head. “He’s illegal. Working on somebody else’s Social Security card. He’s lucky they don’t throw his ass in jail.”

“He was stupid to break the rules,” Prinza said. “When you’re on the run you obey the speed limit.”

“There’s a lotta other people in that kitchen and busboys, who are illegal and supporting kids,” Eisenberg said. “You wanna open a can of worms they’ll all lose their jobs.”

I hadn’t thought of that. “It’s my fault,” I said. ” I started this. They should just fire me.”

Prinza flicked a big white ash off his cigar. “Don’t fall on your grenade, soldier. Nobody’s gonna get fired.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just wanted to help this man…”

“Sometimes you gotta sacrifice the one for the many,” Prinza said.

In the silence I felt a strange sort of sympathy coming from both men.

“You payin’ alimony, kid?” Prinza asked.

It was as if he knew everything about me.

“You can get a good loan from our Credit Union,” Eisenberg said.

“Smoke cigars?” Prinza asked.

I shook my head, but he handed me a cigar anyway. ‘I’ll bet you’ve got an uncle who loves a good cigar…”

He even knew that.

“Go back to work, kid,” Prinza said. “And don’t feel so bad you won a major victory…

“Management says from now on you guys can eat all the chicken salad you want.”








ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 5…Inside the Denver Pepsi Center two weeks ago Hillary Clinton was congratulating women on the progress they’ve made in the last eighty years. But outside, Leah Schildkraut was on a hunger strike in front of the heavily guarded doors of to protest what she called the “Democratic party’s willful neglect of the dire plight of women around the world.”

While Hillary was celebrating the fact that “my mother was born before women had the vote, but in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President,” Schildkraut, candidate of the Anarcho-Feminist party, was handing out leaflets detailing what she called: “the systematic genderocide of young, poor, vulnerable women throughout the world.”

As delegates and media types rushed by, heads down, focused on their iPhones and Blackberries, Schildkraut stood behind a rickety bridge table brandishing a copy of the Democratic Party Platform.

“The Democratic Party is the last best hope of women all over the world,” she said. “But aside from a ritual affirmation of Roe v. Wade and a promise to expand microcredit to women in the developing world, there is no commitment to end the campaign of intimidation and extermination being waged against them.”

Schildkraut was part of a heavily vetted group of bloggers, activists and ordinary citizens, who were denied access to the convention floor and had set up their banners and tables outside.

In the crowd was Efraim Durg, candidate of the Gambler’s Rights Party, who was advocating legalized marijuana and a “casino on every corner” as a cure for America’s  ills. He listened with amusement as Schildkraut preached to the indifferent crowd.

“Millions of women have been victimized by sex traffickers,” she said. “Whole villages in Moldavia and Dniestra have been emptied of young women sent to the brothels in Western Europe…”

“Forget it,” Durg said.

Schildkraut ignored him. “In the Baluchistan province of Pakistan five women were killed for daring to try to choose their own husbands,” she said. “The women were thrown into a ditch, shot and buried alive. When two older women tried to intercede they were killed as well. A Baluchistan senator, Israr Ullah Zehri, said the killings were ‘part of our tradition,’ and ‘should not be highlighted negatively.’”

“Nobody cares,” Durg said.

Schildkraut persisted. “In Beirut, considered a civilized city, female domestic servants are imprisoned in the houses of their employers. The women are so desperate that they jump from high floors, some in a futile quest for freedom, others who prefer suicide to servitude, while others possibly murdered by abusive employers. This year Beirut is averaging twenty-seven deaths of foreign domestic servants by defenestration a month.”

Durg smirked. “News flash! Powerless people have no power. Film at eleven.”

Last week at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took the podium to bask in her historic moment as the first female Vice Presidential nominee of the Republican party.

“Hillary left 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling. But the women of America are going to shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” she said to thunderous applause.

Meanwhile, outside behind police barricades, Schikdkraut, weakened by her fast, was exhorting the hostile female delegates. “This isn’t about one women being nominated for cynical political reasons.”

A squad of St. Paul police in riot gear moved in.

“Better be cool,” Durg warned. “These are Republicans…”

But Schildkraut had gotten the attention of one grandmotherly type and was reading from the Republican platform.

“We support the advancement of women in the military… We promise to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life. That’s it,” she said. “There is no recognition of the oppression of women in the developing world.”

“Because it’s not happening, dear,” the grandmother said.

Schildkraut handed her a clipping from the Financial Times. “Women in Afghanistan are burning themselves to death to avoid forced marriages or persecution by family members. Iranian movies advocate self-immolation as a way out…”

The grandmother shook her head. “You shouldn’t make up stories like that.”

“It’s in the newspaper,” Schildkraut said.

Something in her fierce gesture made the police think she was inciting a riot.  They knocked over her table, threw her leaflets away. “On the ground,” a Sergeant shouted.

“You men are husbands, fathers,” Schildkraut pleaded.

“Don’t you feel any empathy…”

Her legs buckled.

A cop jerked her to her feet.

Durg rushed to her defense.

“Hey guys, be careful. She hasn’t eaten for nine days.”

A cop whacked him in the back of the knee with his metal baton and smashed him in the shoulder as he was going down.

As they were strapping Schildkraut onto a gurney a red-faced cop leaned down and shouted:

“When a crack whore slashed me with a broken bottle who was protecting my rights?”

Schildkraut closed her eyes, too weak to reply.


GREENPOINT, Brooklyn, Sept. 3…Does size matter? “Maybe not in sex and basketball,” Efraim Durg says, ” but in geopolitics it’s the only thing that counts.”

Durg, CEO of Durgometrics, a hedge fund that specializes in high risk bets, is advising his clients to back John McCain to win the Presidency for one reason only—he’s short.

“Issues come and go, but over the last ten years one variable has remained constant throughout the world —the winner is always short.”

An informal survey shows that no elected world leader is over 5 ft. 9 in. and most are hovering around 5t.6.

Russian Prime Minister Putin is 5:5. His anointed heir apparent Dmitry Medvedev is exactly the same height. French President Sarkozy is 5:6. German Prime MInister Angela Merkel is 5:6 in her “practical” shoes. Former Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda is 5:6. Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi is so short that he actually brags about being 5:7. British PM Gordon Brown claims 5:10, but often looks shorter than former PM Blair, who seems no more than an inch taller than President George W. Bush, who is hovering around the 5:9 mark depending on his shoes, but in photographs with Putin seems to be closer to the Russian’s 5:5.

“The G8 meeting this year looked like a Munchkin call for
“The Wizard of Oz,” Durg says.

At the cocktail reception, the leaders spent a lot of time on their toes, measuring themselves against each other and trying to rise to new heights.

“Have you noticed, I’m the little guy in my family,” Bush told Berlusconi. “And I’m 5:11.”

Berlusconi repressed a sneer at this obvious exaggeration. “Satirists describe me as a dwarf,” he said. “But I’m 5:7 without lifts.”

Bush smiled down at the top of his head.

“Well. I’m taller than Putin or Sarkozy,” Berlusconi said.

In the group photo all avoided Chinese President Hu Jintao, a virtual giant at 5:10.

McCain at five-seven. with broad shoulders and short arms fits the winner’s profile to a tee, Durg says. But there are more amazing similarities.

McCain is the shortest person in his immediate family, several inches below his dad and grand dad and only an inch or two above his 94 year old mom. He is the same height at his wife Cindy, but she towers over him in her heels, which may be why she is always photographed sitting down.

President Bush is dwarfed by his dad and brother at 6:3. Even his mom, Babs, looks down on him. His wife Laura has to wear flats and stand on the bottom step to look him in the eye.

Sarkozy’s wife, singer-model Carla Bruni, plooms over him at 5:9 and 1/2.

Putin has never been photographed with his wife, but rumors link him with a diminutive Russian gymnast, who hits the mark at 4:11.

“Power is trending short,” Durg says. “In every election we studied, the little guy won over a much taller opponent-Bush-Kerry, Sarkozy-Segolene Royal, his taller female rival, Berlusconi over Prodi, etc.”

The US was founded and led by tall men for most of its history. George Washington was measured at 6:3 and 1/2 on his death bed, which made him a pituitary oddity in Colonial America. Andrew Jackson was 6:1 and 1/2. Abe Lincoln was 6:4, more than a foot taller than his opponent, Stephen Douglas.

“If that election were held today the short, fat, rich, political insider Douglas would win in a landslide,” Durg says.

Durg doubts that the trend will reversed in 2008. “Look at Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin,,,Short men tend to hold on to power once they get it.”

Barrack Obama at 6:2 is well-aware that his height is the biggest hurdle he faces to the Presidency,” Durg says, and he has been trying to lower the bar. Recent statements from his campaign had him at 6:1/ and 1/2. “Expect that to shrink to 6 feet even by election night,” Durg says. At the upcoming debates his podium will be raised to his chin to make him look shorter.

Michelle has gone below the 6 foot mark to 5:11. But she still has to double over to speak to the ladies on “The View.”

“This isn’t the year of the tall person,” Durg says. “If the Democrats really wanted to make history they should have nominated Gary Coleman.”