Friday, July 15, 2011

What can you see when you don't listen?

I made a mistake this morning. I hate to have to confess that, but it is true.

I turned on the TV and watched Nero speak. After the debacle of the last few days, I guess he felt the need to set the record straight. Unfortunately, I did not feel the need to listen to his dribble, so turned the volume off.

The one thing I did hear him say was this...."we don't need a balanced budget amendment to be able to do our jobs properly"....

Really? So the last hundred years of deficit spending is what you call doing the job properly? If you can't keep a balanced budget, what makes you think future administrations can?

As I watched the arm gestures, the hand gestures, the turned lips, the eye movements and all the other body signals that are easier to spot without sound, I suddenly realized that I have seen this before...exactly this. And it wasn't from a was from a businessman.

Back in the mid to late1980's I was working in Australia. Now I love Australia...Australia and America are both great countries separated by a common language. Australia is more similar to America than it is to it's cultural motherland, England (where I also worked for a number of years).

The 80's were a very interesting time in Australia. The economy was growing pretty well notwithstanding the legacy from the Carter years, and the early 80's saw low interest rates but that was short-lived, as interest rates on mortgages climbed to the 16% range by the mid 80's. Nevertheless, the country continued to boom for several more years, notwithstanding a stock market crash in 1987 .

It was the late 80-'s that were most dynamic. I found myself working in a group of companies that were listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. (Akin to being on NYSE). There were 5 large companies in the group (each individually traded) and about 30 companies for each large one that were "private".

The basic business model of the group was to find companies near bankruptcy, buy them for pennies on the dollar, turn them around and then sell them off, or keep them if the cash flows were strong enough.

In an era when Michael Douglas brought Gordon Gecko to the silver screen in 1987's Wall Street ( the same Gordon Gecko who proclaimed that greed is good), the public was very aware of greed and the corporate takeover cannibals. This was a PR nightmare, as we did not want to be lumped into the corporate raider category.

We were different. We were turn-around experts. We did not break up companies and sell the parts, we fixed them and saved people's jobs. It did not take long for investors to love us. We saved companies, saved jobs and, given time, saved their investments. In no time, we became the darlings of the investment world in Australia.

My role was officially Group CFO, with a team of accountants and financial experts doing the day to day grind for me. My real job was often referred to as "Assistant Minister for Having a Good Time" and involved wining and dining bankers, stockbrokers, investors, lawyers and the corporate teams. It was not unusual for me to have a luncheon engagement in Sydney and a dinner engagement 1,000 miles away in Adelaide on the same day. I would talk up our companies, explain what we were doing, provide financial information, talk about funding the next deal etc etc...all surrounded by the best wines, in the best restaurants and the thousand dollar suits.

With no limit on my expense account, and no restrictions on my activities, many people would think it was a dream job. In many ways it was very easy because I was meeting with all the Gordon Gecko wannabe's who could be manipulated easily by another bottle of  Chateau Super Expensive and a Cuban cigar. They literally drooled as they heard of the very real opportunities I was presenting. Our auditors at the time were bottle of single malt did the job, or, with two, they became very reasonable.

The reality was that this dream job became very wearing in a short period of time. The arrogance of the Gordon Gecko wannabe's was polluting my mind, while the thousand dollar suits and high lifestyle threatened to pollute my morals.

I remember that the Chairman was a man of rules...not many...but he had a few that would result in instant dismissal if they were broken. The first and second rules were the most often quoted.

Rule 1: Never believe your own BS.

Rule 2: Never believe your own BS.

As the darling of the investment world, the Chairman became a legend in his own lunch hour (where most of his deals took place.)

As Group CFO I had intimate knowledge of the financial strength or weakness of every company in the group. I knew what their sales were, what their profits were, what their debt was, and how they could pay their debts.

It was therefore something of a surprise when I saw reports that showed our expected sales and profits were significantly higher than I knew they would be. Long story short...

The directors of the companies had started breaking Rule 1 and 2 and were not only believing their own BS but were now trying to make every investor also believe it.

I left the employ of that company within a week or two of discovering this, as I refused to be a part of it and would not sell my soul to become the Gordon Gecko types that I had been wining and dining for the past 18 months. Goodbye expense account, goodbye company cars, goodbye thousand dollar suits, goodbye high lifestyle. The only light at the end of this particular tunnel I could see was that my waistline was thankful.

As is ALWAYS the case in these stories, it did not end well for the company or its directors, but that is another story.

I shared this part of my history with you for a couple of reasons:-

1. to give you a glimpse into my background
2. to help you understand exactly what it was that I saw in our Deceiver-in-Chief as he told his lies today

Today I saw a man who has started to believe his own BS.

In the couple of years since he was elected, he has repeated so many lies so often that he is actually starting to believe his own BS.

It has often been said that if a person repeats a lie often enough they will start to believe it is the truth, and then can be very convincing because he believes it. Well, our president has become that fool. Our president, the so called leader of the free world, can no longer tell the difference between truth and lies.

I said earlier that I had seen this before. I will now tell you WHERE I have seen it.

I saw it in a courtroom when I was testifying against the directors of the Company that had previously employed me. When I was telling the court what had transpired, I looked into the eyes of the accused directors and saw their hate for me, their utter contempt for the truth.

I watched as they took the stand and babbled some nonsense about what they had done, believing to the end that they had not lied and had done nothing wrong. Their hands moved exactly as did Obama's today. Their lips curled as did his. Their eyes roved the room seeking support from a friendly face, and when they could not find one, looked into the near distance without ever making real contact.

It has taken me a quarter century to see that look again. A look full of contempt for the audience. A desperate appeal for everyone to believe the lies they believe...and a total lack of understanding as to why nobody believes them any more.

The look of defiance mixed with fear that passed across these men's faces when they were found guilty and sentenced to jail was just a shade away from what Obama is showing us today. The defiance and fear is starting to show.

It is clear to me that Obama now believes his own BS.

It is also clear to me that this will not end well.

This country needs to fully awaken and make the changes necessary to ensure that this corrupt liar does not see another term. He is Gordon Gecko in political attire...

Rule 1: Do not believe your own BS.

Stupid is as stupid says.


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