Monthly Archive for February, 2009


CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. Feb. 18…On a gloomy Thursday afternoon (Feb. 12) a random sampling of Americans boarded Continental Connection Flight 3407 departing Newark Airport en route to Buffalo.

Psychologist Mervyn Fliegel calls them “the givers.”

On that same day another group in D.C., New York, Dallas, Miami, Chicago and Hollywood, were desperately phoning, emailing and texting their lawyers, agents, flacks, trainers, astrologists, aromatherapists–anyone who could help them salvage their public lives.

Fliegel, research director of PUNS (Psychologists United for a New Society) calls this group “the takers.”

Several hours later the “givers” were lying dead in the burning wreckage of flight 3407.

The “takers” were still single-mindedly trying to burnish their tarnished images.

“It’s an American irony that you can take a random sample aboard a commuter plane and find people with more talent, character, courage and dedication than you’ll find in the centers of political, financial and artistic leadership, ” Fliegel says.

In his new book Who We Give Our Power To And Why Fliegel tries to answer the question of why ordinary people are morally, ethically and often intellectually superior to those they choose to run their lives. He calls this “American schizophrenia” and uses the event of February 12 as a textbook example.

Among the ordinary Americans who were flying to Buffalo on that day were:

A much decorated Marine (Silver Star, two Bronze Stars), who had survived two helicopter crashes in Vietnam.

A human rights crusader who had tirelessly worked to expose the genocide in Rwanda.

A woman whose husband had been killed on 9/11and had since become a leader of victims’ advocates groups.

A young hockey player who had been the first female ever to play on a men’s team.

Two jazz musicians, good friends, who were on their way to perform with Chuck Mangione’s band.

“These people were social altruists,” Fliegel said. “Whether it be human rights, terror victims, hockey or jazz they had sacrificed money, career and family life in the service of a cause greater than themselves.”

Among the stars, leaders and role models who were spinning their way out of trouble as they had each done so often in their lives, were:

An ex-president trying to salvage a “legacy” out of the wreckage of his administration.

Another ex-president going insane with thwarted exhibitionism.

A Treasury Secretary who had cheated on his taxes and had been brutally criticized for his financial rescue plan.

A Secretary of State whose husband is collecting millions of dollars in lecture and lobbyist fees from countries with whom she will be negotiating.

A prominent politician who had been forced to withdraw from his cabinet post because of $110,000 in undeclared income.

Still another who had withdrawn from a cabinet nomination because of an FBI Investigation into illegal fundraising.

A baseball star, accused of lying about steroid use, who was trying to buy his way back into the public’s good graces with crocodile apologies and a $3.2 million gift to a college baseball program.

A Governor impeached for solicitation of bribery.

A newly appointed Senator under investigation for perjury.

Various disgraced economists and financiers, who had lied, embezzled and misrepresented trillions out of the public coffers.

Movie stars, athletes, celebrities who had abused substances and each other…

“These are the sociopathic elite,” Fliegel says. “People who have risen to dominance in every area of American life. Their only cause is themselves and they pursue it relentlessly without regard for truth or scruple.”

Fliegel says that these radically different personalities share one character trait. “They are addicted to risk. They tempt fate like reckless drivers, breaking rules, lying, intriguing, even committing criminal acts. The fear of discovery and punishment is an almost sexual thrill for them.”

Again he asks: “Why do we give these people power over our lives?”

Fliegel says the American obsession with “world-wide celebrity, astronomical wealth and record-breaking achievement” is so demanding that only liars, cheats and connivers can hope to succeed.

“Those who aspire to success soon learn that it cannot be achieved by skill and application alone,” he says. “They become cynical about the system they are subverting, contemptuous of the people they are manipulating.”

The true problems begin when the sociopathic elite gain power, Fliegel says.

“The thrill is gone,” he says. “They become bored with the every day tasks of this power. They have no respect for the process, only for the prizes. They become inattentive, unfocused. They make terrible mistakes…

” Many are misled…Millions die…Tens of millions are ruined…”

Fliegel says the American political system has to be restructured so that the altruists, people like the passengers aboard that tragic flight, can assume leadership roles.

“We need to put the careful drivers behind the wheel again,” he says.

Analyst: New Euphemisms Will Stimulate Economy

BROOKLYN, N.Y. , Feb 13…The economic crisis is being prolonged by faulty terminology that distorts perceptions, dampens expectations and crushes optimism, an analyst charged today.

“Our nomenclature is counter-productive,” said Efraim Durg, founder and CEO of NeuroBrands, a marketing consultancy.  “We say one thing, but the listener reacts in a totally different way.” 

Durg released a study that he claimed proved that the words used by policy makers often produce the opposite effect of what was intended.

The study was done with an “eclectic” group of volunteers–executives with the Carlyle Group, inmates on Death Row at Angola Prison and residents of the Hebrew Home For the Aged. The participants were wired with electrodes attached to the pleasure and pain centers of the brain. Words and phrases were flashed on a screen in front of them and simultaneously spoken in their earpieces by a soothing female voice. Their neural responses were recorded.

The first phrase was the acronym TARP, former Treasury Secretary Paulsen’s bailout plan. 

“The word has a harsh sound and connotation,” Durg said. “The elderly people associate tarps with the gurney covers thrown over the recently deceased,”  Durg said. “Prisoners said police sometimes covered informers with tarps when transporting them from one unit to another. Carlyle executives said they used tarps to protect their vintage sports cars from the elements and  the prying eyes of reporters and government investigators. All agreed that TARP meant cover up and they had negative reactions.” 

Next, the participants were shown the term “toxic assets.” They reacted with revulsion. 

“The Government tried to encourage banks and private investors to buy these  assets” Durg said. “But our participants said they wouldn’t buy anything with the word toxic on the label and the banks haven’t touched them.”

Durg suggested a simpler label like “A Real Steal”

“Then, we could change the acronym to STARS for Secret Treasure A Real Steal.” In this celebrity-obsessed culture people would believe that a program called STARS could save the economy.”

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have been railing about bills that “are loaded with pork,” but when Durg showed that phrase to his subjects the response was positive.

“The inmates said they had ordered pork for their last meal. The Carlyle execs said the phrase made them think of the Charcuterie platters they used to get at their favorite bistro before Obama took their expense accounts away. The aged Hebrews registered ambivalent reactions, but all agreed that something loaded with pork was probably a good thing.”

“If you want these bills to die you need a stronger term,” Durg said. “Something like: ‘This bill is loaded with putrefying cadavers,’ Or ‘with conniving lobbyists.’ Then, you could have Senators ringingly refuse to support legislation that was ‘laden with putrefying cadavers and conniving lobbyists.’ No politician would vote for that.”

Treasury Secretary Geithner wants to work with private equity investors who specialize in bad debt. These people have been referred to as “vultures” who circle over a dying company and swoop down when its work force has been depleted and its debts buried in bankruptcy. 

Durg’s subjects recoiled from the term. “You can’t be saved by a vulture,” an aged Hebrew said. “You’re already dead.” A Carlyle exec complained: “Why are the rich always vultures while the poor are crippled sparrows?” Durg feels the billionaire investors Geithner is trying so hard to woo will stay away. 

“Nobody wants to be thought of as an ugly, squawking bird picking at carrion,” he said. “If we want to involve these investors we should change the description. Something like ‘public-spirited philanthropists.’”

Durg said a total rephrasing was needed to draw private equity into the market. Something like: “Public-spirited philanthropists flocked to the STARS program investing a trillions in “real steals.”

He smiled proudly. “That’ll jumpstart the economy for sure.”


The Daily Event reports from the Davos Conference.


Robert Polet, Gucci Group CEO, an AK 47 to his head, pleaded for help.

“Please, please help me find my children,” he cried as soldiers pinned him to the muddy floor of a refugee camp.

In a moment of high psychodrama, pampered executives learned what it’s like to be one of the 32.9 million displaced persons who live in squalid, brutalized conditions around the world.

The simulation, presented by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in coordination with the Crossroads Foundation and the Global Risk Forum, a Davos non-profit, was meant to heighten executive sensitivity to the problems of the oppressed. Polet, who was called Mustafa in the play, flinched as an actress stepped on a make-believe land mine and was stretchered away, gushing stage blood.

“What a humbling experience to feel so defenseless,” Polet told the Wall St. Journal and agreed enthusiastically when UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said that the lesson of the exercise was: “We should have the same level of determination in saving lives as saving banks.”

But then someone in the audience shouted:

“This is the height of hypocrisy!”

Suddenly, the stage was invaded by a young woman leading a group of South Asian children.

“This man is responsible for the poverty and oppression of thousands of workers,” she shouted.

The woman identified herself as Leah Schikdkraut, Labor Rights specialist with the Anarcho-Feminist Coalition.

“As the head of Unilever, this man employed 25,000 child laborers, ages 6 to 11, in the cotton seed operations of his Indian branch, Hindustan Lever,” she shouted. “Hindustan Lever factories in Nepal, Mumbai and Pakistan were targeted for unfair labor practices and false police charges against workers.”

Guards tried to evict her, but she waved an official invitation in their faces. “Polet now heads a company which hides its Made in China and India labels in the folds of its thousand dollar garments,” she shouted. As Davos officials debated what to do she swung an Yves St. Laurent sweater, with embroidery by Lesage over her head.

“The rhinestones are falling off, ” a designer screamed in anguish.

“This sweater cost $23,155,” Schildkraut shouted. “Do you know how many displaced people we could feed…?”

Schildkraut was quickly surrounded by Swiss Guards. Brandishing a bottle of wine she held them at bay.

“After attending a three course gourmet dinner to discuss world hunger, these men will go to a Classic Claret wine tasting hosted by Janis Robinson, wine columnist for the Financial Times,” she said.

“Be careful for God’s sake, that’s a Latour 1952,” a sommelier pleaded.

“Do you know how much medicine we could purchase with the price of this bottle?” Schildkraut shouted.

Outside, reporters asked Schildkraut how she had managed to wangle an invite to this exclusive session. She reddened and hesitated for a moment.

“I sold myself as a sex slave to Eliot Shpritzer, a real estate mogul from New York,” she said. “The price was his invitation.”

” I, too, wanted to know what it’s like to be exploited and degraded…”


Executives played the “blame game” at Davos and the US was the loser.

Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao blamed China’s sudden slowdown on US’s “macroeconomic failures and “underregulated economy.” He threatened to stop buying US T-bills, but was then seen offstage with his head in his hands, moaning: “What am I going to do with all that money?”

Russian President Putin blamed social unrest, the price of oil, the dispute with the Ukraine and the watery borscht on the US. He then raised eyebrows when he blamed an anti-government demonstration in Vladivostock on “Communist agitators.”

Finally, the Americans had enough. When asked how American bankers could be so “stupid,” Morgan Stanley Asia Chairman Stephen Roach fired back: “How could the regulators have been so stupid? How could the borrowers have been so stupid? How could everyone have been so stupid?”

Outside, the dispute continued.

“You were stupid to give mortgages to people who couldn’t pay,” a Chinese official shouted.

“You were stupid to buy the mortgage securities of the people who couldn’t pay,” an American banker replied.

“You were stupid to sell insurance on the mortgage securities of people who couldn’t pay,” a Swiss broker accused.

“You were stupid to trade swaps on the insurance on mortgage securities of people who couldn’t pay,” the American parried.

“You hit a mulligan into a sand trap,” a Japanese CFA snorted.

“You served toxic blowfish testicles and seven people died,” the American shot back. “How stupid is that?”


Feb. 2…Turkish sources today accused Washington Post columnist David Ignatius of being an “Armenian agitator” who deliberately snubbed and humiliated Prime Minister Erdogan at a debate on the Middle East last week.

Ignatius, an Armenian-American, has written of the world’s failure to acknowledge the massacre of a million Armenians by the Turkish Army in 1915. Sources claimed he had been planted on the panel to humiliate Erdogan. That it was all part of a plot to get Jewish legislators to vote for a Congressional resolution condemning the genocidal attacks

The debate began with four participants–Erdogan, Israeli President Shimon Peres, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa– ritually repeating familiar positions.

There were yawns. Heads bobbed in and out of wakefulness as:

Erdogan spoke of a “humanitarian crisis” and expressed annoyance that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had been in Turkey four days before the Israeli invasion of Gaza and had given no indication of what was to come.

Moon asked for $613 billion and said the Israeli attack was “disproportionate.”

Moussa said the Israelis were enforcing a “military occupation” and demanded a peace agreement by the end of 2009.

Peres protested that Israel “did not want to shoot anybody,” and asked “why did they fire rockets? What did they want?” Then concluded by saying it was all Iran’s fault.

At that point a Pakistani delegate’s stomach grumbled so loudly that several Indian IT executives thought there was a terror attack and caused a panic. Ignatius, responding to urgent messages in his earphones, said the debate had gone overtime and that the audience was “anxious to go to dinner.” But Erdogan grabbed his sleeve and demanded a chance to rebut. He accused Peres of speaking loudly to hide a “guilty conscience.” Apologetically, Ignatius cut off Erdogan in mid-tirade. Claiming that people were “late for dinner”, he closed the session. Erdogan invoked the Sixth Commandment (Thou Shall Not Kill) and left the stage to enthusiastic applause and a fraternal handshake from Moussa, vowing never to return to Davos “because you didn’t let me speak.”

Event host Klaus Schwab mounted the podium and thanked the participants as the audience stampeded to the buffet.

Later, sources confirmed that the diplomatic and military cooperation between Turkey and Israel would continue. Turkey was set to receive a shipment of Israeli- made UAV’s and modernized tanks to be used in its ongoing war against Kurdish nationalists.

Ignatius would not comment, but a spokesperson for the Washington Post said he had been instructed to end the debate when Deutsche Bank analyst Horst von Grepps fainted from hunger and had to be given a glucose IV.