Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Economic woes mean boom time for lawyers. -&- A broad, single, simplified new regulatory environment may be passed in 2009.

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"Economic woes mean boom time for lawyers"
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2008

LOS ANGELES - The loose-leaf binders on Beverly Hills attorney Paul Kiesel's shelves contain hundreds of stories alleging deception, loss, and heartache.

Kiesel is representing struggling homeowners who say they were misled about the terms of their mortgages. He is far from the only lawyer finding himself busy these days as a result of the hard economic times.

In addition to lawyers suing lenders, there are others providing counsel for companies that are downsizing or have been pushed into bankruptcy. Others are representing clients in fraud lawsuits against banks and Wall Street investment firms.

And there are lawyers guiding banks and others seeking a piece of the $700 billion government bailout for the financial system.

The country may be slipping into recession, but it's shaping up to be boom time for lawyers.

"From here on out, we're going to see huge opportunity as credit fans out and everyone tries to use the tools available from recent legislation," said Karen Garrett, a lawyer in Kansas City.

The bailout legislation also includes new rules on executive compensation that will create even more work for lawyers, said Scott Sinder, head of Steptoe & Johnson's government affairs and public policy practice in Washington.

In this year's Litigation Trends Survey by the international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, 43 percent of corporate counsel surveyed said they expected an upswing in lawsuits, largely spurred by the economic crises.

But Michael B. Dorff, associate dean and law professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, sounds a more cautionary note about the financial future for law firms, noting lawyers may be facing tougher times.

"If you look industrywide, the recession is going to hurt lawyers more than any kind of benefit they would derive from the legal work," he said.

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"Financial regulatory overhaul likely under Obama"
By Associated Press, Wednesday, November 5, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, 2008 Campaign

NEW YORK - Financial services firms will likely face a broad new regulatory environment in 2009 that could help regain at least a portion of the profitability enjoyed earlier this decade, analysts said today.

Exactly how that new landscape will shape up under President-elect Barack Obama and how much of a boost it will be to firms’ bottom lines is still a question.

Still, most analysts agreed that Wednesday’s stock market sell-off was more tied to concerns about a recession as opposed to the future of regulation in the sector. Financial firms broadly fell with shares of Citigroup Inc. tumbling more than 12 percent, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sliding more than 6 percent and insurer Genworth Financial Inc. declining more than 8 percent by late afternoon. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 400 points.

While it’s not the biggest issue on investors’ minds, regulatory changes are sure to come under the new administration.

"I see an overhaul in regulation similar to what we saw in the 1930s," said Octavio Marenzi, head of consulting firm Celent. "I see a rethinking of the landscape in the next couple of years on that scale."

Oversight will likely be consolidated under one major federal regulator, instead of the piecemeal system of state and federal regulation currently in place, said Gary DeWaal, a senior managing director and general counsel for Newedge, a joint venture brokerage firm owned by Societe Generale and Calyon.

In the past, financial firms focused on one area of business such as commercial banking or insurance and were regulated separately. More recently, firms have delved into a variety of areas lessening the need for as many regulatory groups.

"Financial institutions and products are basically the same regardless of name," DeWaal said.

After a regulatory overhaul, profitability is not likely to be as strong as it was earlier this decade, because rules will be tighter and some of the broad economic conditions in place since the 1980s are no longer available to spur growth, Marenzi said.

A consistent, broad decline in interest rates from peaks in the 1980s have provided a "tailwind" for bank earnings, Marenzi said. Now that rates have fallen so low, that boost is gone, and with tighter regulations, profits may be only half the size of profits earlier in the decade, he said.

DeWaal is a bit more optimistic, saying a single, simplified regulatory agency could allow financial firms to thrive and build their businesses. If properly put in place, new regulations could make the U.S. a more attractive place for foreign financial firms to do business, he said.

Obama’s administration will likely get input for from current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s plan, laid out earlier in the year, to consolidate and centralize financial regulations; international groups; and professional groups and academia. Changes could be swift given the market’s recent turbulence.

The market is "likely to see an acceleration to a harmonized regulatory landscape," DeWaal said.

A single agency providing broad oversight that does not micromanage the financial services sector would allow for a recovery and be positive for business, DeWaal said. A new regulator would also allow the Federal Reserve to get back to its primary focus dealing with broader economic issues, he added.

Companies could be regulated by size, said Roy Smith, a professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business. The largest financial firms might face increased scrutiny to ensure survival. Worries about systemic risk — one financial firm failing and setting off problems elsewhere — will need to be addressed, he said.

One area that will likely face immediate change is the derivatives market, said Michele Gambera, chief economist of Ibbotson Associates, a unit of Morningstar Inc.

Gambera said derivatives, especially complex insurance-like instruments called credit default swaps, have played a large role in the credit crisis and led to investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy and the government bailout of insurer American International Group Inc.

Banks are afraid to lend to each other now because the current structure makes it hard to evaluate risk, Gambera said. Regulating derivatives markets would create greater transparency.

Better transparency leads to calmer markets and would allow banks to be more comfortable lending to each other and help free up credit markets, Gambera said.

"While there might be a moment of adjustment, there is more trust," Gambera said. Trust is vital to improving the ongoing problem, he said.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/2008/view.bg?articleid=1130305
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"US automakers hope Obama will bring financial aid"
By Associated Press, Wednesday, November 5, 2008, www.bostonherald.com

DETROIT - Detroit automakers and their allies in Congress said Wednesday Barack Obama’s victory could help U.S. automakers line up federal funding needed for them to survive a terrible economic slump.

Obama made it clear during his campaign that he understood the automakers’ problems and would work to preserve the industry, Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said Wednesday.

"I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have a fighter in the White House for manufacturers, and that’s what we need," Levin said.

Levin said he was told Wednesday by Jason Furman, Obama’s senior economic adviser, that government aid is atop Obama’s agenda. Levin said the Obama adviser did not commit to a specific funding path for the industry but was supportive.

Obama has said he would meet with industry leaders and the United Auto Workers immediately to talk about helping automakers, but auto industry officials said a meeting had not yet been scheduled.

Levin noted that Obama expressed support for doubling an Energy Department loan program for automakers to develop fuel-saving technology to $50 billion from $25 billion.

The senator said he and members of Michigan’s congressional delegation would pursue several funding options to help the industry, including the $700 billion Wall Street bailout or access to capital from the Federal Reserve.

Obama’s victory over Republican John McCain came just three days before General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are to release their third-quarter results, which almost certainly will show billions in losses and cash burn rates that will push the companies closer to emptying out their treasuries if auto sales don’t bounce back soon.

Further cuts by both automakers are expected on Friday, and GM’s top executives sent an e-mail to other executives Wednesday saying that "important changes" will be announced just after the quarterly results are made public.

Spokesman Tom Wilkinson called the announcement a routine update. The e-mail did not give specifics and Wilkinson said he could not comment on them.

"We need to talk about what we’ll do to face the challenges," he said.

Industry analysts expect GM and Ford to make further factory job cuts to match an ever-dwindling U.S. market.

Analysts say GM could close more plants, but Ford said it likely will do temporary factory shutdowns and overtime cuts at some of its car plants.

GM is talking with Chrysler majority owner Cerberus Capital Management LP about GM acquiring Chrysler. GM reportedly is after Chrysler’s roughly $11 billion cash stockpile and is seeking federal aid to make the deal happen.

But a person briefed on the GM-Chrysler talks said Wednesday that no announcement of a deal is imminent because much of it hinges on federal aid. The person asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

A further indication of GM’s woes came Wednesday when its auto financing arm, GMAC Financial Services, reported a $2.52 billion third-quarter loss. GMAC is 51 percent owned by private equity firm Cerberus, while Detroit-based GM holds the rest.

Also Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi again called for a lame-duck session of Congress to enact a stimulus program to shore up the sinking economy. It was unclear whether aid for the troubled automakers would be part of that package.

Automakers and their congressional allies say some sort of government funding is necessary to bail out the troubled industry. They have been lobbying to speed up loans from the $25 billion Energy Department pot, and for access to part of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan and perhaps other funding.

Also on Wednesday, the Center for Automotive Research published a report estimating that about 2.5 million jobs across the economy would disappear in the first year if the U.S. auto industry shrinks by 50 percent.

Only 239,000 of those job losses would be at the Detroit Three — the remainder would be at parts suppliers and other related industries, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based center said.

Cerberus Chairman John Snow said Wednesday that Obama and his treasury secretary need a bipartisan plan to counter the worst economic downturn in about 50 years.

"What we need is to make sure that a vital industry like autos ... which is such a big part of the overall economy, doesn’t lead us into a deeper and harsher downturn," Snow said in an interview on the CNBC cable channel. "The collapse of the auto industry at this time would be devastating for a new president."

Snow, who served as treasury secretary under President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2006, said the economy likely is in a recession that could be serious and long due to the credit crisis and a severe economic contraction in and out of the U.S.

GM is burning through more than $1 billion per month and analysts have said the company could reach the minimum cash levels required to operate sometime next year. They say Chrysler could go into bankruptcy next year if it doesn’t take on a partner or isn’t acquired by another automaker, raising the specter of tens of thousands of lost jobs or the need for the government to take over the company’s pension obligations.

GMAC has said it is having discussions with U.S. federal regulators about becoming a bank holding company, a move that could help it access government funding and be part of a potential acquisition of Chrysler.

GM, in a statement issued Wednesday, said it welcomes Obama’s pledge to support the domestic auto industry and efforts to develop new technology.

"This support comes at an especially critical time as our industry confronts one of the most difficult economic periods in our nation’s history, caused by the global financial crisis," the statement said.

A GM-Chrysler deal could lead to job cuts of 24,000 to 35,000, according to industry analysts. They have predicted GM could close half of Chrysler’s 14 manufacturing plants and consolidate engineering, design, finance and other operations. Another 50,000 auto supplier jobs could also be lost.

Most of the losses would be in Michigan, but analysts say the alternative of Chrysler being sold in pieces would result in many more job cuts than a GM acquisition.
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www.bostonherald.com/business/automotive/view.bg?articleid=1130308
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Automotive Photo: 2009 Ford F-150 trucks are ready to leave the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Assembly in Dearborn, Mich., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. (Photo by AP)
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"Planned layoffs jump to near five-year high"
By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, November 5, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Planned layoffs at U.S. firms surged to their highest in nearly five years during October, with cuts in the financial and auto sectors leading the charge as the economic outlook worsened, a report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said on Wednesday.

Job cuts announced in October totaled 112,884, up 19 percent from September, the report said, citing evidence of widespread economic malaise as troubles that began in housing and banking infect the rest of the economy.

"The fact that nearly three out of four industry categories are cutting more jobs is proof of how widely the impact of this downturn has spread," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"A year ago, job cuts were concentrated in the financial sector and home-building industries. Job cuts are now rising across the board."

October represented the year's worst month for job cuts for several industries, said Challenger, including industrial goods manufacturing, consumer products, pharmaceutical, food and electronics.

The report comes as the government is expected to report 200,000 jobs were lost in October, bringing the total this year to nearly 1 million.

The unemployment rate is also seen rising to 6.3 percent from 6.1 percent. Economists forecast that the jobless rate will rise to more than 8 percent before the job market recovers.

The U.S. economy shrank 0.3 percent in the third quarter after a robust, stimulus-driven second quarter. The housing market continued to exert a tremendous drag, with the decline in residential investment actually accelerating between July and September.

Challenger said the data pointed to a prolonged slump, with few hints of any immediate comeback.

"Year-end job cuts are typically higher than at other times of the year, but the fact that October was significantly higher than recent years suggests that companies not only have been hit hard by this downturn, but they do not see a rebound any time in the near future," said Challenger.

"Even if the economy begins to rebound in the spring or summer, it could be months before we start to see net gains in employment and a decline in the unemployment rate."
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(Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Tom Hals)
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www.boston.com/business/specials/marketopportunity/
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"Business groups urge Obama to push stimulus"
By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer, November 5, 2008

WASHINGTON --Barack Obama rode a wave of economic discontent to the White House and now faces the daunting task of turning the weakening economy around.

Business groups wary of Obama's populist campaign rhetoric hope to make common cause with the Illinois senator and other congressional Democrats by pushing for an economic stimulus package, possibly as early as this year.

Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hope to include corporate tax breaks in the stimulus, along with the spending on roads and bridges intended to create jobs that is likely to be the cornerstone of his plan.

"We start off with a shared and very strong and mutual interest," said Bruce Josten, chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The number one issue today is ... the economy."

Still, Obama has promised tougher government regulation for a range of industries, including financial services, energy and health care, and he is likely to be a strong ally for labor unions.

Wall Street "will be surprised by the speed and degree to which the corporatist agenda is replaced by 1970s-style economic populism," wrote Andrew Parmentier, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, in a note to clients.

Concerns about the budget deficit, which could approach $1 trillion in the budget year that began Oct. 1, will likely take a back seat in the short term, economists said.

"It's going to be 'damn the deficit and full speed ahead on the stimulus,'" said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. Hoffman expects the package to include an extension of unemployment benefits and new spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Obama supported a $50 billion stimulus during the campaign that included funds for infrastructure spending and grants to state and local governments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday called for Congress to approve a new stimulus bill in a lame duck session before the end of the year. House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer said in a television interview the package would likely be in the "neighborhood" of $100 billion.

Whatever the amount, Josten said the Chamber will push to include tax breaks for business investment, which has slowed in the face of tight credit.

The economy, which many analysts believe is already in a recession, was foremost on most voters' minds Tuesday. Six in 10 voters said it was the most important issue facing the country.

The country's gross domestic product -- a measure of the overall economy -- shrank by 0.3 percent in the July-September quarter, the government said last week.

More bad economic news is likely this week. Wall Street economists expect the Labor Department to report Friday that companies cut 200,000 jobs in October, sending the unemployment rate to 6.3 percent. Unemployment stood at 4.9 percent at the beginning of this year.

The stock markets, after rallying on election day, fell Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 327 points, or 3.4 percent, to 9,297.9 while the broader S&P 500 fell more than 3 percent.

Economists are urging Obama to quickly put a team in place to oversee the $700 billion financial system rescue approved by Congress last month.

But any honeymoon between the Obama administration and Wall Street and the rest of corporate America could be short-lived.

Obama and Congress could toughen oversight of banks and other financial services companies, enforce environmental rules more strictly, and impose new surcharges on electric utilities and other companies that emit greenhouse gases, Parmentier wrote.

Unregulated corners of the financial industry, such as hedge funds, credit ratings agencies and the derivative instruments known as credit default swaps will likely come under government oversight as part of a broader overhaul of the financial regulatory system, analysts have said.

That overhaul could also place insurers such as Allstate Corp. and MetLife Inc., which are currently regulated at the state level, under federal supervision.

Obama also promised to take a more pro-consumer focus toward the housing and credit card industries. He supports a controversial measure that would allow bankruptcy judges to alter mortgages, which was strongly opposed by the financial industry, as well as a measure to limit the ability of credit card issuers to unilaterally impose new fees and other terms.

Obama's reputation as a conciliator, meanwhile, will be sorely tested by the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to form unions by getting a majority of employees to sign a card in support of a union, rather than through a secret ballot election.

Business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce fiercely oppose the bill because they say the elimination of the secret ballot would open up workers to intimidation and harassment.

The measure, supported by Obama and most Democrats in Congress, was approved in the House last year but stalled in the Senate. Josten said the Chamber hopes to continue to block the proposal in the Senate, where Democrats appear to have fallen short of the 60 votes that would allow them to force votes on controversial bills.

Oil and gas companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., meanwhile, could face a windfall profits tax, which Obama has promised to impose to pay for a $1,000 "emergency energy rebate" for families.

Also on energy, Obama proposes spending $150 billion over 10 years to speed the development of plug-in hybrid cars and "commercial-scale" renewables, such as wind and solar.

Obama's election could mean tougher terms under the Medicare drug benefit program for pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc. Obama has promised to negotiate prices directly with the companies, which could save between $10 billion and $30 billion, under one estimate. Industry groups have long opposed such a move.

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"Stocks plunge as investors ponder Obama presidency"
By Sara Lepro and Tim Paradis, AP Business Writer, November 5, 2008

NEW YORK --A case of postelection nerves sent Wall Street plunging Wednesday as investors absorbed a stream of bad economic news and wondered how a Barack Obama presidency will help the country weather a possibly severe recession. Volatility returned to the market, with the Dow Jones industrials falling nearly 500 points and all the major indexes tumbling more than 5 percent.

The market was expected to give back some gains after a six-day runup that lifted the Standard & Poor's 500 index more than 18 percent. But investors lost their recent confidence about the economy and began dumping stocks again; light volume helped exaggerate the price swings.

"The market has really gotten ahead of itself, and falsely priced in that this recession wasn't going to be as prolonged as thought," said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading at Voyageur Asset Management, a subsidiary of RBC Dain Rauscher.

"We're in a really bad recession, period," he said. "Wall Street can spin it anyway they want to, but this is likely going to be more prolonged than people anticipated. People are locking in profits and realizing we're not out of the woods."

Beyond broad economic concerns, worries about the financial sector intensified after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. began to notify about 3,200 employees globally that they have been lost their jobs as part of a broader plan to slash 10 percent of the investment bank's work force, a person familiar with the situation said. The cuts were first reported last month. Goldman fell 8 percent, while other financial names also fell; Citigroup Inc. dropped 14 percent.

Commodities stocks also fell after steelmaker ArcelorMittal said it would slash production because of weakening demand. Its stock plunged 21.5 percent.

Although the market expected Obama to win the election, as the session wore on investors were clearly worrying about the weakness of the economy and pondered what the Obama administration might do to help it. Analysts said the market is already anxious about who Obama selects as the next Treasury Secretary, as well as who he picks for other Cabinet positions.

"The celebration is over. Today we saw a bit of reality," said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis. "President-elect Obama is coming into a situation with limited experience, having to handle an economy in serious trouble, a couple of wars and terrorism. It's an extremely tough job."

Analysts said investors were also uneasy in advance of the Labor Department's October employment report, to be issued Friday. Economists, on average, expect a 200,000 drop in payrolls, according to Thomson/IFR.

Late-day selling by hedge funds helped deepen the market's losses during the last hour. More selling by the funds is expected to weigh on the market ahead of a Nov. 15 cutoff for shareholders to notify fund managers of their intent to cash out investments before year-end.

The Dow fell 486.01, or 5.05 percent, to 9,139.27.

The S&P 500 index fell 52.98, or 5.27 percent, to 952.77. Through the six sessions that ended Tuesday, the index, the one most closely watched by market professionals, rose 18.3 percent.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 98.48, or 5.53 percent, to 1,681.64, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 31.33, or 5.74 percent, to 514.64.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 4 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a light 1.31 billion shares.

Wednesday's trading, which followed a 300-point jump in the Dow on Tuesday, showed that the market is living up to expectations of continued volatility as it tries to recover from the devastating losses of the last two months.

Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management, said the uncertainty over the direction the government's financial bailout plan will take under the next administration likely weighed on financial stocks Wednesday.

Analysts agree that Obama's most immediate priority will be dealing with the nation's financial crisis and deciding how to further implement the $700 billion rescue package passed by Congress last month.

Goldman said trading could remain turbulent as investors begin assessing the shape and direction of Obama's forthcoming economic policies.

"The market has to go through a period of figuring out if they are going to gain confidence in Obama and the Congress or lose it," he said, adding that investors will be paying close attention to who will be appointed to top economic posts.

Obama's victory means that industries such as oil and gas producers, utilities and pharmaceuticals may face greater regulation and even taxes, while labor unions and automakers are expected to benefit.

In addition, banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector will almost certainly face attempts at a regulatory overhaul by the Democratic Congress next year.

Bank of America Corp. dropped $2.78, or 11.3 percent, to $21.75. Citigroup fell $2.05, or 14 percent, to $12.63. Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, tumbled $1.84, or 9.7 percent, to $17.06. Goldman Sachs fell $7.57, or 8 percent, to $87.43.

In addition to monitoring the direction the next administration will take, investors continue to heed the state of the credit markets. The paralysis in the credit markets that began after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in mid-September has been alleviated somewhat by a series of government interventions, but they still show some signs of strain.

Banks continued to ratchet down the rates they charge one another for borrowing on Wednesday, but the key interbank lending rate -- the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor -- remains well above the Federal Reserve's target interest rate of 1 percent. Libor for three-month dollar loans fell to 2.51 percent from 2.71 percent Tuesday.

And the bid for Treasury bills remains high. The three-month bill, considered one of the safest assets around, fell to 0.40 percent from 0.48 percent late Tuesday. A low yield indicates high demand.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell slightly to 3.71 percent from 3.73 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Other sectors that are being closely watched in light of the election results are pharmaceuticals and alternative energy, analysts said.

Merck & Co. fell $2.41, or 7.7 percent, to $28.72. Pfizer Inc., meanwhile, dipped $1.09, or 6 percent, to $17. SunTech Power Holdings Co. was among the alternative energy stocks that declined, falling $6.82, or 21.5 percent, to $24.88.

Light, sweet crude dropped $5.23 to $65.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In Asian trading, Japan's Nikkei index rose 4.46 percent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 3.17 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 2.34 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 2.11 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 1.98 percent.

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On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com

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A specilaist works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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www.boston.com/business/markets/articles/2008/11/05/stocks_tumble_as_investors_shift_focus_to_economy/
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"Bush picks federal prosecutor to oversee bailout"
By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press Writer, November 14, 2008

WASHINGTON --President George W. Bush on Friday picked a federal prosecutor in New York to be a Treasury-based special inspector general to oversee the massive $700 billion financial rescue plan.

If confirmed by Senate, Neil Barofsky, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, will be responsible for conducting audits and investigations of how the government spends the bailout money. He will also will report on the value of any assets acquired by the government and why they were purchased.

Currently, the job is being handled by the Treasury Department's inspector general -- Eric Thorson -- who has expressed concerns about the difficulty of properly overseeing the complex program in addition to his regular responsibilities.

Prior to his job as assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the Southern District's mortgage fraud group, Barofsky was a lead prosecutor in the district's securities fraud unit. Previously, he worked the district's international narcotics trafficking unit. Barofsky earned two bachelor's degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the New York University School of Law.

The establishment of a special inspector general dedicated to the program was one of the provisions added to the bailout legislation to secure its passage. Other provisions intended to boost oversight of the massive program included a special oversight board and regular government audits.

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"Buffett says automakers need bailout or bankruptcy"
By Associated Press, Friday, November 21, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Automotive

OMAHA, Neb. - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said U.S. automakers need a new business model to better compete, whether it takes bankruptcy or a government bailout to achieve.

Buffett also said he would never serve as U.S. treasury secretary because he loves his current job too much. The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman and CEO is a member of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition economic advisers.

Buffett said any automaker bailout package should include a business solution and be negotiated by the president, not Congress. Buffett spoke to Fox Business News in an interview scheduled to air this afternoon.

Buffett’s spokeswoman said he was not available Friday morning to comment further.

The government should insist top executives at Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC invest a significant percentage of their own net worths in the Detroit-based companies, Buffett said, ensuring both executives and taxpayers would share in any profits or losses.

Buffett said the government should be able to drive a deal like one of the ones he makes when Berkshire buys businesses, because automakers appear on the brink of bankruptcy.

Buffett said he’d tell the auto executives, "’We’ll give you more upside (than bankruptcy), but you’re going to lose if we lose.’"

Bankruptcy would be a poor solution for the auto industry, Buffett said, so he hopes a better way can be found to work out the union contracts and other issues the companies face.

He reiterated his belief that the U.S. economy will eventually recover from its current problems, but he predicted there will be more pain first.

"There are going to be more people unemployed. And I mean, I can’t think of anything worse than going home to a family, saying, ’I lost my job today,’" Buffett said.

He said he expects the unemployment rate to continue climbing past 8 percent and he doesn’t expect the rate to start falling anytime soon.

Buffett said he thinks the current treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, is a "high-grade guy" doing a good job with an extremely tough situation as he tries to reinvigorate the economy.

"I don’t think I could have done a better job, and I don’t think most of the congressmen could do a better job," Buffett said.

He said he doesn’t regret agreeing in September to invest $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, because he doesn’t think the investment bank would still agree to pay Berkshire the 10 percent annual dividend Goldman promised. Since Goldman announced Berkshire’s investment, it received $10 billion in assistance as part of the government’s $700 billion bailout plan.

Shares of Buffett’s Omaha-based company have fallen significantly this month since Berkshire reported a 77 percent drop in this year’s third-quarter profit. His report cited unrealized investment losses of about $1 billion weighed on the results.

Class A shares of Berkshire, which are still the most expensive U.S. stock, were selling for $81,900 Friday afternoon. The stock set a new high of $151,650 last December after an exceptionally profitable third quarter that was helped by a $2 billion investment gain.

Buffett said he’s not bothered by the recent share price decline, because he’s been through similar drops before and he values Berkshire based on its underlying businesses.

Berkshire owns a diverse mix of more than 60 companies, including insurance, furniture, carpet, jewelry, restaurants and utility businesses. And it has major investments in such companies as Wells Fargo & Co. and Coca-Cola Co.

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On the Net:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: www.berkshirehathaway.com

Fox Business News: http://www.foxbusiness.com

Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/business/automotive/view.bg?articleid=1134002

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"Lawmakers' interests not idle"
The Boston Globe, Letters, November 21, 2008

IN EVALUATING the congressional positions on the automobile bailout, it would be helpful if the Globe noted the presence of the industry in those states that the debate participants represent. For instance, it's common knowledge that Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, who are in favor of helping automakers, are from Michigan, but it's not pointed out that opposition has been from congressmen who come from states that have a high percentage of foreign auto manufacture. For instance, Senator Richard Shelby, a leading voice in opposition, is from Alabama, where foreign car manufacture is a leading industry, as it is in Mississippi and Kentucky. What's more, their opposition to aid is not entirely consistent, as the foreign car makers were induced to settle in their states by significant cost concessions and outright fiscal incentives. Where is the record of opposition to these concessions?

Bernard Moller
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

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In order to be eligible for the government's $700 billion rescue program, several insurers have announced plans to buy banks and attain approval to become savings and loan companies. Testifying before Congress Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he wasn't sure that was "a successful strategy."
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"Insurance Bailout Requests Raise Concerns: Is Your Insurance Policy in Danger? Experts Say No."
By ALICE GOMSTYN, ABC NEWS Business Unit, November 19, 2008 —

About two months after the government first announced its multibillion-dollar bailout of insurance giant AIG, more insurance companies are lining up for federal dollars, leaving some consumers worried about their insurance policies.

In recent days, the Hartford Financial Services Group, Lincoln Financial Group, Genworth Financial and Aegon have all announced plans to apply for the U.S. Treasury Department's Capital Purchase Program, part of the government's $700 billion financial rescue package (also known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP).

Insurance companies "are suffering very badly because of the losses in their investment portfolios," said Neena Mishra, a senior financial analyst who covers banking and insurance at the investment research firm Zacks.

The government, she said, "is a very attractive source of capital."

The news has led to an uptick in phone calls from concerned consumers to the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations, which represents life insurance guaranty funds that pay consumers' claims if an insurance company fails.

Worried callers are asking what would happen to their insurance policies if their insurers went under, according to the group's president, Peter Gallanis. They "want some reassurance on the condition of the investment or the contract that they've purchased," he said.

Exactly how worried should consumers be?

A Genworth Financial spokesman declined to comment on the issue. Lincoln Financial Group and Aegon did not return calls for comment.

Shannon Lapierre, a spokeswoman for Hartford, which has millions of policyholders in the United States, said that while the company is "financially strong and well-capitalized," the insurer decided that requesting a TARP investment was a prudent move given "the potential for more extreme market volatility."

Life Insurance Industry Hit Hard

Bob Hunter, the director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, said that while this year has been a bad one for insurance companies, the years before it have been good, allowing companies to shore up their balance sheets.

Hunter said life insurance companies, in particular, have been hard hit this year because they were more likely to make investments in mortgage-backed securities. Still, he said, while at least one small life insurance company could buckle under its investment losses, the majority of companies are not in as much danger.

"Most of the regulated industry will stay solvent," he said.

Gallanis, meanwhile, cautioned against comparing insurance companies in the news today to AIG, which is receiving a total of $150 billion in investments and loans from the federal government.

AIG's "business model is not followed by any other company in the industry," Gallanis said.

"I think the industry's actually in pretty good shape," he said.

Most Customers Won't Be Affected

If one or more insurance companies go under, insurance guaranty fund organizations say they're prepared to step in to ensure that most consumers continue receiving the benefits guaranteed by their policies.

"In any situation where you've got a number of insolvencies or a huge major insolvency, funds have proven themselves to be flexible," said Barbara Cox, the vice president of legal and regulatory affairs at the National Conference of Insurance Guaranty Funds.

Every state has at least two guaranty funds that cover claims associated with insurance companies that have shut down. One fund covers property and casualty claims, including workers' compensation, and another handles life insurance, health insurance and annuities. The funds are supported by assessments charged to insurance companies.

In the last six years, guaranty funds in the United States have paid a total of about $10 billion in claims, according to the guaranty funds group.

In the past, there's been criticism of guaranty funds for taking too long -- in at least one case, years -- to address claims, but Gallanis said the process is much faster today.

"We continue [customers'] coverage from the time the company fails," he said. "You never miss a beat."

Government Assistance Not Guaranteed

Whether insurance companies will succeed in their efforts to get federal TARP money remains uncertain.

In order to be eligible for the program, Hartford Financial Services Group, Lincoln Financial Group, Genworth Financial and Aegon have all announced plans to buy banks and attain approval to become savings and loan companies.

Testifying before Congress Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he wasn't sure that was "a successful strategy."

"We are going to look only at applications that we think make sense," he said. But Paulson added that a number of insurance companies are already bank holding companies.

"It may make sense to put capital into those institutions that are playing a vital role in lending and keeping our economy going," he said.

Proponents of directing TARP money to insurance companies argue that, by buying corporate debt, insurance companies have played a major role in the U.S. financial system.

Jack Dolan, of the American Council of Life Insurers, said that lately, the "irrational markets" have led insurance companies to hoard cash instead of investing it. TARP funds, he said, would help insurance companies return to the corporate debt market.

"It provides something of a safety net to allow us to continue or to get back more aggressively into our ways of providing capital and liquidity to companies and corporations," he said.

If insurance companies with newly acquired banks succeed in their TARP applications, they could see capital injections that are many times greater than the amount they originally spent on buying banks.

Hartford, which plans to spend $10 million to buy Federal Trust Corp. in Sanford, Fla., estimates that it could receive between $1.1 billion and $3.4 billion from the rescue plan.

That, said Zacks' Mishra, "is a very handsome return."

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"The Beautiful Machine"

First of three parts

Greed on Wall Street and blindness in Washington certainly helped cause the financial system's crash. But a deeper explanation begins 20 years ago with a bold experiment to master the variable that has defeated so many visionaries: Risk.

By Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 29, 2008; A01

Howard Sosin and Randy Rackson conceived their financial revolution as they walked along the Manhattan waterfront during lunchtime outings. They refined their ideas at late-night dinners and during breaks in their busy days as traders at the junk-bond firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Sosin, a 35-year-old reserved finance scholar who had honed his theories at the famed Bell Labs, projected an aura of brilliance and fierce determination. Rackson, a 30-year-old soft-spoken computer wizard and art lover, arrived on Wall Street with a Wharton School pedigree and a desire to create something memorable.

They combined forces with Barry Goldman, a Drexel colleague with a PhD in economics and a genius for constructing complex financial transactions. "Imagine what we could do," Sosin would tell Rackson and Goldman as they brainstormed in the spring of 1986.

The three men had earned plenty of money through short-term deals known as interest-rate swaps, a clever transaction designed to protect banks, corporations and other clients from swings in interest rates that threw uncertainty into the cost of borrowing the money necessary for their business operations.

They believed their revolution could never happen if they stayed at Drexel. Swaps in those days typically lasted no longer than two or three years. The trio envisioned deals lasting decades that would lock in profits and manage risks with unprecedented precision. But the junk-bond firm's inferior credit rating sharply raised its borrowing costs, making it a dubious and risky partner for such long-term deals.

Sosin and his team needed the backing of a company with deep pockets, a burnished reputation and the very top credit rating, a Triple A institution as unlikely to default as the U.S. Treasury itself. One name topped their wish list that fall: American International Group, or AIG, the global insurance conglomerate considered one of the world's safest bets.

They would find a partner for their venture. They would create an elegant and powerful system that earned billions of dollars, operating in the seams and gaps of the market and federal regulation. They and their firm would alter the way Wall Street did business, particularly in the use of derivatives, and eventually test Washington's growing belief that capitalism could safely thrive with little oversight.

Then, they would watch in disbelief as their creation -- by then in the hands of others -- led to the most costly rescue of a private company in U.S. history, triggering a federal investigation into AIG's near-collapse and making AIG synonymous not with safety and security, but with risk and ruin.

Over the past two decades, their enterprise, AIG Financial Products, evolved into an indispensable aid to such investment banks as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, as well as governments, municipalities and corporations around the world. The firm developed innovative solutions for its clients, including new methods to free up cash, get rid of debt and guard against rising interest rates or currency fluctuations.

Financial Products unleashed techniques that others on Wall Street rushed to emulate, creating vast, interlocking deals that bound together financial institutions in ways that no one fully understood and contributed to the demise of its parent company as a private enterprise. In the panic of mid-September's crash, the Bush administration said that AIG had grown too intertwined with the global economy to fail and made the extraordinary decision to take over the reeling giant. The bailout stands at $152 billion and counting -- almost 10 times as large as the rescue for the American auto industry.

Many of the most compelling aspects of the economic cataclysm can be seen through the story of AIG and its Financial Products unit: the failure of credit-rating firms, the absence of meaningful federal regulation, the mistaken belief that private contracts did not pose systemic risk, the veneration of computer models and quantitative analysis.

At the end, though, the story of Financial Products is not about math and financial formulas. It is a parable about people who thought they could outwit competitors and market forces alike, and who behaved as though they were uniquely positioned to sidestep the disasters that had destroyed so many financial dreams before them.

2: 'We Are The Tide'

Sosin, Rackson and Goldman could hardly contain themselves as they labored over a business plan at Sosin's kitchen table in his apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Their timing happened to be exquisite. The staid Wall Street of their fathers' generation was gone, replaced by an anything-goes culture that applauded the kind of path they were charting during the final months of 1986.

Their plan fit perfectly with another revolution they saw unfolding in Washington. Ronald Reagan's unwavering belief in free markets -- and his distaste for regulation that put hurdles in the way of entrepreneurs -- had steadily spread through the government. "The United States believes the greatest contribution we can make to world prosperity is the continued advocacy of the magic of the marketplace," Reagan told a U.N. audience that fall.

As eager as the three dreamers were, they had to confront certain realities. They had no backing, no inside track to the top levels of the corporate world that controlled the money they needed.

They had passed AIG headquarters at 70 Pine St., a few blocks from Drexel's offices, many times. Now, they wanted an entrée to the 18th floor, where legendary 61-year-old chairman and chief executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg presided over the nation's largest insurance company, with operations in scores of countries. Greenberg was proud and protective of his company's AAA credit rating, one of only a handful in the world.

The AAA, awarded after an examination by the bond-rating firms, sent a resounding signal to clients that they could always sleep well at night, that AIG was in no danger of failing. The more secure a company, the more cheaply it could borrow money -- a fact that would be pivotal to Financial Products' success.

AIG's roots went back to 1919 and Shanghai, where founder Cornelius V. Starr built a business around a lucrative, relatively untapped insurance market. Starr's company later received an unorthodox boost when he worked with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services during World War II to create an intelligence unit that gleaned information from insurance documents.

When Greenberg took the reins in 1968, AIG was a privately held company. Greenberg, a compactly built son of a taxi cab driver, eventually became a figure in both New York and Washington, where he counted Henry Kissinger and Reagan CIA director Bill Casey among his confidantes. The World War II and Korean War veteran had a temper, a gift for growth and a restless mind. He had transformed AIG into a global titan and now wanted to do more.

Few people thought of AIG as a financial innovator. Greenberg kept his stockholders happy by striving for an annual 15 percent increase in profits. He instructed his deputy, vice chairman Edward E. Matthews, to explore how AIG could get more involved in Wall Street's realm.

"This is never going to get any better than it is today," Greenberg told Matthews. "We're so big, we're never going to swim against the tide. We are the tide."

3: 'It Wasn't The Money'

At the law offices of Kaye Scholer in Midtown Manhattan, former Sen. Abraham Ribicoff had a match to make.

Sosin had come to the firm -- where the 76-year-old Ribicoff was a senior adviser -- seeking guidance on how to leave Drexel. As he mentioned his interest in getting AIG's backing for a new venture, a Kaye Scholer lawyer told him to see Ribicoff, an old Greenberg friend.

Ribicoff was happy to introduce the inventive Sosin to the ambitious Greenberg, and let them figure out whether they could do business together. But he warned Sosin that any partnership, no matter how productive, can sour. "I'll only call Greenberg if you let us plan your divorce while we're planning your marriage," Sosin remembers Ribicoff saying.

Sosin came to the negotiation with conditions. He wanted the kind of autonomy that Greenberg rarely granted. Greenberg wanted assurances that Sosin's venture would do nothing to harm the gold-plated rating he had spent two decades building.

Greenberg had little extra time for the nuts-and-bolts details that Sosin sought to negotiate. "I don't really know much about this," he told Matthews. "You go talk to these people."

The morning after AIG and Sosin signed their joint venture agreement, Jan. 27, 1987, word spread rapidly through Drexel's trading floor in lower Manhattan: Sosin, Rackson and Goldman were leaving. Discreetly, the three men had invited some of their colleagues to a recruitment meeting. Ten eventually signed up for the ride.

Michael Milken, the junk-bond king who was Drexel's star trader, tried to stop the breakaways. But the pull of innovation, and the promise of even greater pay, was too strong.

At Drexel, Sosin, Rackson and their band of brainy followers didn't have much say in how bonuses were doled out. At Financial Products, they would keep 38 percent of the profits, with Greenberg and AIG getting 62 percent. (Greenberg remembers AIG's share as 65 percent.)

Their revolution began with a whisper. They set up shop in a windowless, makeshift room at an accounting firm on Third Avenue. Until the rental furniture arrived, they sat on cardboard boxes. When it finally showed up, someone had made a mistake and so for a short time, they perched on children's chairs and worked at tiny tables. When Matthews escorted Greenberg there for a visit, the chief executive chewed him out. "You can't have them in such terrible quarters," Greenberg said.

Sosin and Rackson hoped that everyone would get rich, but they had their sights set on something more. They wanted to tear down walls they saw as impediments to innovation, the "fiefdoms" that were standard practice at other Wall Street firms. Their vision required a collaborative culture and a computer system that no one else had. For six months, the group worked on constructing "the position analysis and storage system," or PASS. They called it simply "the system."

It enabled Financial Products to bring a rare discipline to complex trades. By maintaining market, accounting and transaction details in one place, Sosin and his people could track the constantly changing value of a trade's components in a way no other firm could.

Put more simply, they could see opportunities in the marketplace for taking on risk that others couldn't, squeeze out profits where no one had before and protect themselves in the process.

They exploited the developing realm of derivatives, financial jargon for a contract settling in the future that is based on something trading now. A futures contract is a common derivative: A farmer might agree to sell wheat next spring for a price set today. If the price goes up, the farmer misses out on greater profits; if it goes down, the farmer is protected against loss. Essentially, the contract guarantees enough money to keep the farm going.

For its clients, Financial Products found ways to create more lucrative and longer-term derivative deals tied to all sorts of underlying assets, neutralizing the constant gyrations of prices in stocks, currencies and commodities. Behind each transaction was the cushion of AIG's AAA rating.

Precision was the key to tamping down the risk of these derivatives to the firm. Using another computer program to monitor the minute fluctuations in various rates, Financial Products could place offsetting trades on all sides of a transaction, so it almost didn't matter what the markets did. That was the beauty of their evolving machine: The firm won either way, as long as it stuck to its commitment to keep hedging its bets.

But it took more than technology to realize their vision. It took a culture of skepticism. The firm set up a committee to examine all transactions at the end of each workday, searching for flaws in logic, pricing and hedges. "Everyone kind of understood what the nature of the game was. . . . This was not a company that involved speculating," said Tom Savage, a mathematician from Drexel who joined the firm in 1988. "So it was everybody's job to criticize and double-check other people's opinions about what was appropriate business and what wasn't."

Sosin and his colleagues worked to create a finely balanced system that married technology, intelligence, verve and cultural discipline.

"We were all kind of artists," Rackson said recently. "The excitement of it wasn't the money. The money was the scorecard. The drive behind it was creating something new."

4: 'We Regret to Inform You . . .'

In July 1987, Sosin phoned Ed Matthews at his vacation house in the Adirondacks, where the AIG executive often went to escape Manhattan's summer heat. It was a phone call both would remember for a long time.

Financial Products was about to close its first significant deal, a $1 billion interest-rate swap with the Italian government, 10 times larger than the typical Wall Street swaps deal in those days.

The elements of the transaction might seem arcane to those outside the financial world. The contract involved an exchange of floating and fixed rates that gave Italy advantages in how it paid bondholders. Financial Products engaged in a separate set of transactions to offset the risk it was taking on. As Sosin explained to Matthews, the firm made money, over the life of the contract, on the spread between the cost of the deal and the cost of its hedge.

This one swap, Sosin told him, would pay the firm more than $3 million -- as much as AIG's two other small financial operations each earned in a year.

"I was stunned," Matthews said.

That first year, Financial Products brought in millions for the company -- $60 million in the first six months alone, as Sosin recalls. He and his team left behind their ad hoc digs for a swanky Madison Avenue address, a temporary stop en route to their eventual headquarters in suburban Connecticut.

Competitors hustled to keep pace. Sosin pressed to find niches where others weren't playing and provide cost-saving solutions for clients. Standard interest-rate swaps were no longer enough. The firm moved into more exotic deals, involving stocks, currency and municipal bonds.

By 1990, Financial Products had offices in London and Tokyo. It would soon set up a small bank in Paris to improve its image and lower the cost of some European deals.

As in the Italian deal, the transactions were hedged and, if necessary, hedged again. The hedges involved precisely calibrated transactions, including the purchase of Treasury bonds or other swaps, that brought a cash flow in almost direct proportion to the money going out.

But with success came tension. Greenberg's love of his joint venture's revenue could not overcome his desire for greater control. He chafed at the deal, worrying that he had given Sosin too much freedom.

One detail in particular nagged at Greenberg. Under the joint-venture agreement, Financial Products received its profits upfront, even if the transactions took 30 years to play out. AIG would be on the hook if something went wrong down the road, not Sosin and his team, who took their pay immediately.

Greenberg's uneasiness grew into distrust, and not just about the numbers. Greenberg was a wink-and-handshake guy, while Sosin relied on the written agreement as his Bible. If Greenberg asked for something that wasn't stipulated, Sosin wouldn't comply.

"We ran our company very openly," Greenberg said. "Our word was our bond."

For his part, Sosin said the agreement gave both sides a clear understanding of the arrangement.

Early in 1990, Greenberg summoned Sosin to his office. Drexel had just imploded amid allegations of fraud and insider trading, and Greenberg had recruited several executives to start an AIG unit specializing in currency trading. That was a problem: Sosin interpreted the joint agreement as giving his firm exclusive rights to that business. Greenberg disagreed, and hoped to finesse the conflict.

"Howard, I'm sure you won't mind," Greenberg said.

"Mr. Greenberg, I mind very much," Sosin said.

"Howard, that isn't wise," Greenberg responded.

Days later, on March 13, 1990, Matthews sent Sosin a letter on Greenberg's behalf announcing their intention to terminate the agreement. "We regret to inform you. . . " the letter began.

Under the agreement, Sosin could take a duplicate of his computer system and his team with him. He began looking for backing from another AAA company. Greenberg heard about Sosin's efforts and got cold feet. After a series of meetings, including one at Greenberg's Florida retreat in Ocean Reef, they patched it back together, reasoning that there was too much money still to be made.

Greenberg's next letter had a different tone. "It is with great pleasure that, with this letter, we revoke any and all of our prior notices of termination," he wrote on May 31, 1990.

The peace wouldn't last.

5: 'Cave or Terminate'

In late 1992, Greenberg once again summoned Sosin to AIG headquarters. He was livid over two recent Financial Products deals with entities controlled by the Edper Group, a giant Canadian holding company owned by billionaires Edward and Peter Bronfman.

The first involved the purchase of bonds, which amounted to a loan to one of the Edper entities. The firm occasionally ventured into such credit deals as part of larger transactions, but only with highly rated companies and with provisions that opened an exit ramp if the bonds started to default. "We want to be the first rat to leave the sinking ship," Sosin told his troops, reflecting his unease with credit deals, which their system couldn't tame.

When this particular ship sank, Financial Products sold out as quickly as it could, but not before it lost $100 million. The second deal, involving a swap with extra layers of complexity, was going fine. But the $100 million loss in the first deal and the intricate machinations in the other had spooked Greenberg.

Sitting in an anteroom to his office, in a favorite red leather chair, Greenberg demanded that Sosin stop doing some of the deals that had made Financial Products a Wall Street darling.

Greenberg handed Sosin a document that would change the terms of their joint venture. Greenberg was daring Sosin to flinch. Instead, Sosin walked out.

He visited his lawyer, Ronald Rolfe, at Cravath Swaine & Moore in New York.

"I said, 'What can I do?' And he said, "Cave or terminate.' "

6: No Reconciliation Possible

Under the agreement, either man had the right to terminate the joint venture. Sosin notified Greenberg that he wanted out.

Greenberg knew that Sosin's departure could cost him and AIG millions. But that wasn't his main concern. He didn't have a thorough understanding of how Sosin's system worked, and he wasn't going to let him get away without finding out.

In March 1993, as the two sides commenced a bitter arbitration battle, Greenberg formed what came to be known as a "shadow group." It verged on a covert operation. The group included AIG's auditors, now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, which set up an office near Financial Products -- now in Connecticut -- and built a parallel computer system to track the firm's trades. Greenberg also held surreptitious conversations with some of Sosin's colleagues, recruiting them to stay.

Years later, Greenberg and Matthews still chafe visibly at the mention of Sosin. "One of the most difficult individuals I have ever dealt with in my entire life. Hands down," Matthews said. "Howard was in it for Howard."

Sosin, too, remains sensitive about what happened. "Greenberg took this very personally," he said. "He likes to be able to step in at any point and change things at his whim."

In Sosin's view, Greenberg and Matthews were envious of the profits that he and his colleagues were keeping for themselves. "It was peculiar to have something go so well," Sosin said, "and for him to have such suspicion."

In August 1993, with no reconciliation possible this time, the AIG board of directors installed a new leadership team. Sosin and Rackson took some employees with them to start another firm. Sosin later settled with AIG for a reported payout of more than $150 million; Rackson later received a share of the settlement.

Greenberg and AIG gained control of Financial Products and the beautiful machine. In the coming years, the firm would accelerate its profit-making ability, while forging into uncharted -- and ever riskier -- financial territory.

7: 'Honor the Trust'

Tom Savage stood before a room of anxious colleagues at the Four Seasons resort in Dallas, eager to reassure them that Greenberg was not going to pull the plug on their money-making machine.

Savage, a 44-year-old Midwestern math whiz, had just been named the new president of Financial Products. With the honor came explicit expectations, which Greenberg made clear: "You guys up at FP ever do anything to my Triple A rating, and I'm coming after you with a pitchfork."

It was spring 1994 and, on the surface, nothing much had changed since Sosin left the previous summer. Financial Products had come a long way from the days of sitting on cardboard boxes. The Dallas meeting was opulent in a way that had become customary for the firm: Lavish meals, open bars, luxurious rooms and rounds of golf, which was Savage's particular passion. Dallas's international airport allowed dozens of associates to fly direct from the firm's far-flung outposts.

The employees couldn't understand why there was any doubt about the firm's future. In just seven years, it had grown into a 125-person operation with annual profits comfortably above $100 million.

Like his predecessors, Savage knew the enterprise could not thrive without AIG's AAA rating, which continued to provide the leverage it needed to stay ahead.

"AIG has given us the license to work," Savage told his colleagues that day. "We have to honor the trust they have given us."

The catch? Financial Products would have to take more direction than ever from Greenberg.

8: 24 Hours A Day

Greenberg called Savage most days that first year. "I'd be changing a diaper at home," Savage recalled. "He'd say, 'What are you doing?' I'd say, 'Changing the diaper.' He'd say, 'Well, I don't think I can help you with that.' But he would say, 'What are you thinking about? What's going on?' He was always taking my temperature."

Savage knew that Greenberg hadn't been 100 percent sure about his ability to run Financial Products. Greenberg had told him as much when they sealed the deal at a Vermont ski resort that AIG owned in Stowe. "I don't know if you have all the buttons for this job," the AIG chairman had said. Greenberg managed the company by both charming and intimidating his subordinates. He said of himself recently, "I suffer fools very badly."

Greenberg also had no patience for anyone who didn't share his relentless work ethic. "You don't build a company like AIG from nine to five, five days a week. It just doesn't happen," Greenberg said recently. "And you've got to surround yourself with a group of people who share the same values, the same aspirations that you do. When I traveled, I could call somebody, I don't care what time it was, maybe two, three in the morning. As far as I'm concerned, I'm working 24 hours, they're working 24 hours."

Savage understood that, but he came at the job with a mathematician's love of the numbers and how they worked. He was among a growing number of "quants" -- short for quantitative thinkers -- who had worked their way into the heart of Wall Street. With a PhD from Claremont Graduate University in California, Savage had started his career at First Boston in 1983, where he wrote computer models for a then-arcane type of security called a collateralized mortgage obligation, or CMO. It is the kind of asset-backed security at the core of the current meltdown.

Savage respected Sosin, but saw no reason to follow Sosin and Rackson out the door. "I think what was clear was that, however things should work out, there was a business at AIG Financial Products and Sosin didn't need to be there for it to be successful," Savage said.

Immediately after Sosin's ouster, Savage and three others -- soon dubbed the Gang of Four -- ran Financial Products on an interim basis, with Matthews assigned to keep tabs on them. Savage remained committed to running the place under the same rigorous, risk-reducing code that Sosin's group had cultivated.

But not everything stayed the same. Under a new operating agreement imposed by Greenberg, AIG owned Financial Products as a subsidiary, and the parent company received 70 percent of the profits, up from 62 percent.

Greenberg also wanted to change the way Financial Products' employees divvied up its share of the profits. Under the previous arrangement, Sosin and his crew had the right to book immediate profits on the long-term deals. Greenberg thought there was a powerful incentive to go after millions of dollars in short-term gains while leaving AIG and its shareholders responsible for potential losses for years to come.

Savage agreed with Greenberg that Financial Products employees should defer half of their compensation for several years, depending on the length of the deals being done -- an arrangement that would still yield hefty paychecks as the firm's profits soared in the coming years.

Savage said he welcomed Greenberg's input. "I would give Greenberg a lot of deference," Savage said. "Hank Greenberg's a great man. And I'm willing, when I talk to him, to say, you know, I'm in the presence of a great man and that's worth something."

9: 'We're Not Hiding Anything'

Financial Products found its profit margins shrinking on some transactions as competitors succeeded in duplicating its services. Like Sosin, Savage urged his talented team to devise ever more complicated transactions, often in untapped areas.

Financial Products was becoming a chameleon, taking on the coloration of whatever problem it was solving for its diverse clients. The firm pushed further into structured investments, hedge fund deals and guaranteed investment contracts, or GICs. The GIC deals involved loans from municipalities that had temporary surpluses of cash. Financial Products reckoned that it could borrow that cash, pay state and local governments more than they could make otherwise and then use the money for lucrative deals for itself, somewhat like a bank.

The firm also began applying its complex formulas to the movement of single stocks. Using such structured finance enabled clients, such as Microsoft, to better manage their stock prices. It also helped Financial Products to more than double its profits in three years -- to $323 million in 1998, from $140 million in 1995.

A new unit, called the Transaction Development Group, did its part by taking advantage of gaps between securities regulation and tax laws in the United States as well as in other countries. Financial Products associates noticed, for instance, they could make money by exploiting differences between the U.S. and British definitions of stocks and bonds. A security that met the definition of stock in Britain could pay tax-free dividends to shareholders. The same security in the United States was regarded as a bond that provided tax-deductible payments. A Financial Products client would get both tax breaks. The firm used the capital raised from that line of business, in part, to finance other operations.

"We're the guys there who are going to try to exploit that," Savage said. "We dot our i's, we cross our t's, we tell everybody what we're doing. We're not hiding anything. . . . However, we're getting different treatments in different jurisdictions and we're making money as a result."

But even as Financial Products experimented, Savage said, he continued to stress the need to minimize risk. "That was one of the things that really marked this company, was the rigor with which it looked at the business of trading. . . . There was an academic rigor to it that very few companies match," he said.

"It was Howard Sosin who said, 'You know, we're not going to do trades that we can't correctly model, value, provide hedges for and account for.' "

Though the language of caution was the same, the firm's drive toward novel and ever more lucrative deals led down the path of greater risk. The beautiful machine was about to crack.
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Staff writer Bob Woodward contributed to this report.
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For more, go to: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/business/risk/index.html
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The Boston Globe
BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
"What will business as usual look like?"
By Robert Weisman, Boston Globe Staff, March 15, 2009

Are you ready for the new normal?

Even as the casualties pile up, business leaders are sifting through the rubble of the current economic crisis for clues to what the postrecession business landscape might look like, what role their companies might play, and how to manage going forward.

"People are going to be in a rebuilding mode," said Alan Trefler, founder and chief executive of business software company Pegasystems Inc. in Cambridge, who predicted a swing back to business basics. "Both people and companies are going to spend the next couple of years looking at, and reinforcing, their core."

In an essay titled "The new normal" in McKinsey Quarterly, the online journal of strategy consulting firm McKinsey & Co., the firm's worldwide managing director Ian Davis suggested the coming era would be characterized by much less financial leverage, much more government regulation, a new wave of technological innovation, and a shift away from US consumption as the global growth engine.

"It is increasingly clear that the current downturn is fundamentally different from reces sions of recent decades," Davis contended. "We are experiencing not merely another turn of the business cycle, but a restructuring of the economic order."

Other captains of commerce, whether focused on survival or positioning themselves for renewed expansion, have taken to calling the economic tumult a "reset." That was the word used by Steve Ballmer, chief executive of software giant Microsoft Corp. on a recent visit to the company's New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge. Ballmer, like Davis, said there will be substantially less debt in the economy when it finally snaps back to growth mode.

"I think everybody understands there was too much borrowing," Ballmer said in an interview. "That borrowing's going to come out of the economy. Debt as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] is coming down. I don't think anybody thinks that money's coming back into the economy. So we're going to reset, and then productivity and innovation will drive GDP off that new level."

The wringing of debt from the financial system will be a sobering change, especially for businesses - like banks and real estate - that ballooned with the credit bubble. But even more wrenching for many will be stepped-up regulation, especially of Wall Street investment firms and their portfolios of arcane financial instruments. Accounting reforms like the Sarbanes Oxley Act, passed in the aftermath of dotcom-era abuses, did little to shield investors from the packaged scourges of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

"Asset-based securities turned out to be critical in increasing the velocity of lending," Harvard Business School professor William A. Sahlman told students during the school's first Research in Action Day, a series of informal faculty presentations earlier this month. "Through alchemy, basically, people were able to make a profit."

For regulators, the trick will be to rein in the excesses without smothering economic recovery. They'll need an overarching regulatory framework, and the help of managers and corporate boards who must patch up a business model that is badly broken, Sahlman maintained. That will mean more transparency and disclosure, along with better incentives and controls that align behavior with outcomes.

As debt deflates to healthier levels and regulators police financial transactions, it will be up to the innovators - the same folks who brought us personal computers and the Internet - to reignite the economy through new products, services, and efficiency advances. The breakthroughs this time could arise from emerging fields like genetics and alternative energy, as well as information technology.

Businesses will use technology to boost productivity and fuel their growth. "Organizations will figure out a way to squeeze out profit by increasing scale," said Trefler at Pegasystems. "We will see a return of entrepreneurs, but we will not again see the open checkbooks of the mega-venture funds. The new entrepreneurs will be scrappy and pragmatic about how they engage with customers."

They will also have to be global, because tapped-out US consumers will no longer be able to power world economic growth to the extent they have in the past. "Consumption depends on income growth, and US income growth since 1985 had been boosted by a series of one-time factors - such as the entry of women into the workforce, an increase in the number of college graduates - that have now played themselves out," Davis wrote in his McKinsey Quarterly essay.

American companies will need a rebound of economies in Asia and others regions, most of which have been brought low by the global slump, to drive their future expansion.

Depending on growth engines beyond our borders - like other aspects of the new normal - will take some getting used to. But business leaders understand that there will be no going back to the debt-fueled bubble economy.

"Things had been frothy for a while, frankly," Trefler said.
-
Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.
-
----------

"Lobbyists boost D.C. spending"
By Casey Ross, Boston Globe Staff, June 9, 2009

Despite the recession, Massachusetts companies and interest groups have sharply increased spending in Washington, D.C., to influence how federal officials distribute more than $1 trillion to revive the lagging economy.

In the first three months of the year, local firms spent $14.4 million to lobby the US government, according to federal records, 21 percent more than in the first quarter of 2008. Also, the number of Massachusetts companies hiring lobbyists increased 14 percent this year, to 320.

"That spending is up this year is a telling reminder that lobbying is a very different kind of industry," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors the influence of money in politics. "It may seem counterintuitive during an economic decline, but many companies feel it's a good way to maximize their chances at shaping legislation that will affect them."

Industry specialists gave several reasons for the increased spending on lobbying, including a change in presidential administration that brought new faces to the seats of power and a new bounty of government spending initiatives, most prominently the $787 billion stimulus package.

Companies and other parties that lobby the US government are required to disclose their activities quarterly to the US Senate. But the disclosure forms provide few details on the filer's interests, other than to indicate generally which areas of federal policy or certain proposed laws or rules they are lobbying on.

Still the forms show that some firms have nearly doubled their spending over last year, while others were compelled to hire lobbyists for the first time because of conditions in their sector.

First Wind Energy LLC, a Newton-based firm that runs wind farms nationwide, hired Washington lobbyists after the market for tax credits that finance its projects collapsed during the larger credit crisis last year, according to the records. First Wind spent $120,000 to get access to US lawmakers who were working on a proposal to revive the use of tax credits for renewable-energy projects.

"This is absolutely critical both to our company and to the growth of renewable energy across the country," said Carol Grant, vice president of external affairs for the company, which is seeking funding to build four wind farms in New England.

Grant said First Wind representatives met with lawmakers to discuss problems with the financial markets and ways to restore credit. The Obama administration is still developing guidelines for the energy incentives approved in the legislation.

The top spender in the first three months of the year was Waltham-based Raytheon, which reported its lobbying costs increased to $1.36 million, 24 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2008, according to disclosure forms filed with the US Senate. The firm reported lobbying numerous agencies, from the Department of Defense to the Federal Aviation Administration to the CIA, on defense and transportation matters, as well as on the economic stimulus bill.

A Raytheon spokesman said the company would not comment on its lobbying spending.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. reported one of the largest increases in lobbying costs: $790,000 in the first quarter, 41 percent higher than the $560,000 it spent a year earlier. MassMutual indicated it lobbied lawmakers, the Department of Labor, the Federal Reserve, and other agencies on economic stabilization proposals and issues related to pension reform and taxation.

A spokesman declined to discuss the firm's lobbying activities. A financial services powerhouse, MassMutual did not apply for or receive any of the funds the US government set aside to revive the ailing sector.

Lobbying activity typically increases with the arrival of a new president, as the incoming administration launches an array of policy initiatives and spending programs.

About 60 Massachusetts entities, ranging from energy companies to local governments to universities, reported lobbying officials on the stimulus program, although it is difficult to get an accurate count because of the vagueness of the information on the disclosure forms.

Sensitive to concerns that lobbyists would influence the course of the stimulus package, President Obama issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to post online their contacts with lobbyists over the $787 billion plan. He also created a federal oversight board to monitor how the money is spent.

Other matters Massachusetts firms lobbied on include healthcare reform and regulations affecting drug companies, the $700 billion financial industry bailout, and energy and environmental issues.

Among other firms that increased lobbying activity were:

. Sepracor Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Marlborough, spent $1.3 million, up from $20,000 in the first quarter of 2008. The firm indicated it lobbied members of Congress on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, according to federal disclosure forms.

Sepracor officials did not return a call seeking comment. The company makes drugs for the treatment of allergies and asthma. In 2008, the federal agency that oversees Medicare cut the reimbursement rate for Xopenex, its main asthma medication.

. State Street Corp. reported spending $210,000 on lobbyists, a 24 percent increase, according to Senate records. State Street said its records indicate its lobbying expenses were flat.

The firm reported lobbying members of Congress on international tax policies, economic recovery legislation, and banking regulations. A spokeswoman said the firm also lobbied lawmakers on rules relating to pensions and investment funds. The company has applied to return the $2 billion it received from the US Treasury last fall as part of the government's program to inject capital into the financial system.

. Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge increased lobbying by $80,000, to $180,000, citing interest in legislation related to drug safety and hepatitis C.
-
Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
-
----------

"Subprime brokers resurface as loan adjusters"
By Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, July 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES - Jack Soussana delivered staggering numbers of mortgages to homeowners during the real estate boom, amassing a fortune.

By Soussana’s own account, his customers fared less happily. He specialized in the exotic mortgages that have proved most prone to sliding into foreclosure.

Yet the dangers assailing Soussana’s clients have yielded fresh business for him: Late last year, he and his team - ensconced in the same office where they used to broker mortgages - began working for a loan modification company. For fees reaching $3,495, with most of the money collected up front, they promised to negotiate with lenders to lower payments on the now-delinquent mortgages they and their counterparts had sprinkled liberally across Southern California.

“We just changed the script and changed the product we were selling,’’ said Soussana, who ran the Los Angeles sales office of Federal Loan Modification Law Center. “You know, ‘You got screwed. Now, we’re able to help you out because we understand your lender.’ ’’

Soussana’s partners at FedMod, as the company is known, were also products of the formerly lucrative world of high-risk lending. The managing partner, Nabile Anz, previously co-owned Mortgage Link, a California subprime lender, now defunct.

Jeffrey Broughton, one of FedMod’s initial partners, served as director of business development at Pacific First Mortgage, a lender that extended so-called Alt-A mortgages for borrowers with tarnished credit for Countrywide Financial, which lost billions of dollars on bad mortgages before being rescued in an acquisition.

FedMod is but one example of how many of the same people who dispensed risky mortgages during the real estate bubble have reconstituted themselves into a new industry focused on selling loan modifications.

FedMod and other profit-making loan-modification firms often fail to deliver, according to a New York Times investigation based on interviews with scores of former employees and customers, more than 650 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, and documents filed by the Federal Trade Commission in a lawsuit against the company.

The suit asserts FedMod frequently exaggerated its rates of success, advised clients to stop making their mortgage payments, did little or nothing to modify loans, and failed to promptly refund fees.

Anz, who is challenging the FTC lawsuit, acknowledged FedMod’s business went “horribly wrong’’ but maintains it made genuine efforts to help. He said FedMod has refunded fees to 3,000 dissatisfied customers, while modifying 1,500 mortgages.

FedMod is among dozens of similar companies that have been accused by state and federal authorities of fraudulent practices.

Many of the companies formerly operated as mortgage brokers. Since October, California has ordered 210 businesses and individuals to stop offering loan modification or foreclosure prevention services, because they lacked a real estate license, as required by the state.

The California Department of Real Estate warns consumers that many dubious loan modification companies have organized themselves as law firms solely to allow them to collect upfront fees, even though the lawyers have little, if anything, to do with the services provided.

The department cautions consumers against hiring such companies.

----------

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About Me

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Amherst, NH, United States
I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

50th Anniversary - 2009

50th Anniversary - 2009
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety
Paul Capitanio, left, speaks during Monday night's Ward 3 City Council debate with fellow candidate Melissa Mazzeo at Pittsfield Community Television's studio. The special election (3/31/2009) will be held a week from today (3/24/2009). The local issues ranged from economic development and cleaning up blighted areas in Ward 3 to public education and the continued remediation of PCB's.

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

Outrage swells in Congress!

Outrage swells in Congress!
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listen during a hearing on modernizing insurance regulations, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh). - http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090318/pl_politico/30833

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!
Photo Gallery: www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/15/St_Patricks_Day_Boston/

The path away from Wall Street ...

The path away from Wall Street ...
...Employers in the finance sector - traditionally a prime landing spot for college seniors, particularly in the Northeast - expect to have 71 percent fewer jobs to offer this year's (2009) graduates.

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...
www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/14/economic_collapse_puts_graduates_on_unforeseen_paths/

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis
Should he be fired? As Bank of America's Stock Plummets, CEO Resists Some Calls That He Step Down.

Hookers for Jesus

Hookers for Jesus
Annie Lobert is the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" - www.hookersforjesus.net/home.cfm - Saving Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada?

Forever personalized stamped envelope

Forever personalized stamped envelope
The Forever stamp will continue to cover the price of a first-class letter. The USPS will also introduce Forever personalized, stamped envelopes. The envelopes will be preprinted with a Forever stamp, the sender's name and return address, and an optional personal message.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
First issued in 2003, the Purple heart stamp will continue to honor the men and women wounded while serving in the US military. The Purple Heart stamp covers the cost of 44 cents for first-class, one-ounce mail.

Dolphin

Dolphin
The bottlenose is just one of the new animals set to appear on the price-change stamps. It will serve as a 64-cent stamp for odd shaped envelopes.

2009 price-change stamps

2009 price-change stamps
www.boston.com/business/gallery/2009pircechangestamps/ -&- www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/02/27/new_stamps_set_for_rate_increase_in_may/

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles. www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/gallery/tom_gisele/

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse
www.manuse.com

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Supreme_Court

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressive News Commentator

$500,000 per year

$500,000 per year
That is chump change for the corporate elite!

THE CORPORATE ELITE...

THE CORPORATE ELITE...
Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric

The Presidents' Club

The Presidents' Club
Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton & Carter.

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!
White House Event: January 7, 2009.

Bank Bailout!

Bank Bailout!
v taxpayer

Actress Elizabeth Banks

Actress Elizabeth Banks
She will present an award to her hometown (Pittsfield) at the Massachusetts State House next month (1/2009). She recently starred in "W" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and just signed a $1 million annual contract to be a spokesmodel for Paris.

Joanna Lipper

Joanna Lipper
Her award-winning 1999 documentary, "Growing Up Fast," about teenaged mothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Happy Holidays...

Happy Holidays...
...from "Star Wars"

Massachusetts "poor" economy

Massachusetts "poor" economy
Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, but it is also very inequitable. For example, it boasts the nation's most lucrative lottery, which is just a system of regressive taxation so that the corporate elite get to pay less in taxes!

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Hollywood Actress

Peter G. Arlos.

Peter G. Arlos.
Arlos is shown in his Pittsfield office in early 2000.

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes
Big Dig - East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double. 11/15/2008.

The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2
Starring Steve Martin

Police ABUSE

Police ABUSE
I was a victim of Manchester Police Officer John Cunningham's ILLEGAL USES of FORCE! John Cunningham was reprimanded by the Chief of Police for disrespecting me. John Cunningham yelled at a witness: "I don't care if he (Jonathan Melle) is disabled!"

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
The 44th US President!

Vote

Vote
Elections

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check
A political cartoon by Dan Wasserman

A rainbow over Boston

A rainbow over Boston
"Rainbows galore" 10/2/2008

Our nation's leaders!

Our nation's leaders!
President Bush with both John McCain & Barack Obama - 9/25/2008.

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).
$5 rise at tunnels is one possibility $1 jump posed for elsewhere.

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My FAVORITE Journalist EVER!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!
John McCain and Barack Obama appeared together at ground zero in New York City - September 11, 2008.

John McCain...

John McCain...
...has all but abandoned the positions on taxes, torture and immigration. (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman. September 2008).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
The deregulated chickens come home to roost... in all our pocketbooks. September 2008.

Sarah Palin's phobia

Sarah Palin's phobia
A scripted candidate! (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
Family FInances - September, 2008.

Mark E. Roy

Mark E. Roy
Ward 1 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas
Ward 2 Alderman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Peter M. Sullivan

Peter M. Sullivan
Ward 3 (downtown) Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Jim Roy

Jim Roy
Ward 4 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Ed Osborne

Ed Osborne
Ward 5 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Real R. Pinard

Real R. Pinard
Ward 6 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

William P. Shea

William P. Shea
Ward 7 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Betsi DeVries

Betsi DeVries
Ward 8 Alder-woman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Michael Garrity

Michael Garrity
Ward 9 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

George Smith

George Smith
Ward 10 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Russ Ouellette

Russ Ouellette
Ward 11 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy
Ward 12 Alder-woman for Manchester, NH (2008).

“Mike” Lopez

“Mike” Lopez
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH. (2008).

Daniel P. O’Neil

Daniel P. O’Neil
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Sarah Palin for Vice President.
Republican John McCain made the surprise pick of Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate today, August 29, 2008.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.
Congressman Olver said the country has spent well over a half-trillion dollars on the war in Iraq while the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. 8/25/08.

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!
John Kerry's 9/2008 challenger in the Democratic Primary.

Shays' Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion
In a tax revolt, Massachusetts farmers fought back during Shays' Rebellion in the mid-1780s after The American Revolutionary War.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore
Actress. "The Big Lebowski" is one of my favorite movies. I also like "The Fugitive", too.

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"
Go to: http://www.berkshirefatherhood.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=699&cntnt01returnid=69

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"
The gap between rich and poor has widened substantially in Massachusetts over the past two decades. (8/15/2008).

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley
"The Bosley Amendment": To create tax loopholes for the wealthiest corporate interests in Massachusetts!

John Edwards and...

John Edwards and...
...Rielle Hunter. WHO CARES?!

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Rep. Edward J. Markey
He wants online-privacy legislation. Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan
She gained fame with her antiwar vigil outside the Bush ranch.

Olympics kick off in Beijing

Olympics kick off in Beijing
Go USA!

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall
In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File) 7/31/2008.

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'
Some kind of monster on Onota Lake. Five-year-old Tyler Smith rides a 'sea serpent' on Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Mass. The 'monster,' fashioned by Smith's grandfather, first appeared over July 4 weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ron Smith). 7/30/2008.

Al Gore, Jr.

Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore issues challenge on energy

The Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's financially wasteful pork barrel project!

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's pork barrel public works project cost 50 times more than the original price!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer
Note: Photo from Mary E Carey's Blog.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood
Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine.

Google

Google
Chagall

Jimmy Ruberto

Jimmy Ruberto
Faces multiple persecutions under the Massachusetts "Ethics" conflict of interest laws.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Obama vows $500m in faith-based aid.

John McCain

John McCain
He is with his wife, Cindy, who were both met by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (right) upon arriving in Cartagena.

Daniel Duquette

Daniel Duquette
Sold Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield two tickets to the 2004 World Series at face value.

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008
Clinton tells Obama, crowd in Unity, N.H.: 'We are one party'

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Wanna-be Prez?

WALL-E

WALL-E
"out of this World"

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/popup?id=5057139&contentIndex=1&page=1&start=false - http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=5234555&page=1

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
NH's Democratic returning candidate for U.S. Senate

"Wall-E"

"Wall-E"
a cool robot

Ed O'Reilly

Ed O'Reilly
www.edoreilly.com

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
World Champions - 2008

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
J.D. Drew gets the same welcome whenever he visits the City of Brotherly Love: "Booooooo!"; Drew has been vilified in Philadelphia since refusing to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997...

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs
www.2joes.org

NH Union Leader

NH Union Leader
Editorial Cartoon

Celtics - World Champions!

Celtics - World Champions!
www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_18_08_front_pages/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_finals_game_6/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_celebration/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_15_08_celtics_championships/

"The Nation"

"The Nation"
A "Liberal" weekly political news magazine. Katrina vanden Heuvel.

TV - PBS: NOW

TV - PBS: NOW
http://www.pbs.org/now

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone
List of Twilight Zone episodes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Twilight_Zone_episodes

Equality for ALL Marriages

Equality for ALL Marriages
I, Jonathan Melle, am a supporter of same sex marriages.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.
L.A. Lakers holds on for the win to force Game 6 at Boston

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail
The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

NASA - June 14, 2008

NASA - June 14, 2008
Space Shuttle Discovery returns to Earth.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston took a 20-second timeout, and the Celtics ran off four more points (including this incredible Erving-esque layup from Ray Allen) to build the lead to five points with just 2:10 remaining. Reeling, the Lakers took a full timeout to try to regain their momentum.

Sal DiMasi

Sal DiMasi
Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire
http://doj.nh.gov/

John Kerry

John Kerry
He does not like grassroots democracy & being challenged in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic Party Primary for re-election.

Tim Murray

Tim Murray
Corrupt Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts, 2007 - 2013.

North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts
downtown

Howie Carr

Howie Carr
Political Satirist on Massachusetts Corruption/Politics

Polar Bear

Polar Bear
Global Warming

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Warren & http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/WarrenAuthor.html

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
Consumer Crusader

Leon Powe

Leon Powe
Celtics forward Leon Powe finished a fast break with a dunk.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett reacted during the game.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo finished a first half fast break with a dunk.

Teamwork

Teamwork
Los Angeles Lakers teammates help Pau Gasol (16) from the floor in the second quarter.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant took a shot in the first half of Game 2.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins (right) backed down Lamar Odom (left) during first half action.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the national anthem prior to Game 2.

K.G.!

K.G.!
Garnett reacted to a hard dunk in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce reacted after hitting a three upon his return to the game since leaving with an injury.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce (right) squared off in the second half of the game.

James Taylor

James Taylor
Sings National Anthem at Celtics Game.

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick
Attended Celtics Game.

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!
Attend Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis
The actor (left) and his date were in the crowd before the Celtics game.

John Kerry

John Kerry
Golddigger attends Celtics game

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Ends her 2008 bid for Democratic Party nomination

Nonnie Burnes

Nonnie Burnes
Massachusetts Insurance Commish & former Judge

Jones Library

Jones Library
Amherst, Massachusetts

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton
2008 Democratic Primary

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"
U.S. Senator John Sununu took more than $220,000 from big oil.

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
4- U.S. Senate - 2008

William Pignatelli

William Pignatelli
Hack Rep. "Smitty" with Lynne Blake

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
Federal Reserve Chairman

Gazettenet.com

Gazettenet.com
www.gazettenet.com/beta/

Boys' & Girls' Club

Boys' & Girls' Club
Melville Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
Williams College - May 2008

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson
www.boston.com/lifestyle/gallery/when_the_celtics_were_cool/

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries
New Massachusetts state lottery game hits $600 million in sales!

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

John Barrett III

John Barrett III
Long-time Mayor of North Adams Massachusetts

Shine On

Shine On

Elmo

Elmo
cool!

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce kissed the Eastern Conference trophy. 5/30/2008. AP Photo.

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton
Kevin Garnett (left) talked to Pistons guard Richard Hamilton (right) after the Celtics' victory in Game 6. 5/30/2008. Reuters Photo.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce showed his team colors as the Celtics closed out the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. 5/30/2008. Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis.

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

Joseph Kelly Levasseur
One of my favorite politicians!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
In the Big Apple: NYC! She is the coolest!

Guyer & Kerry

Guyer & Kerry
My 2nd least favorite picture EVER!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

Nuciforo & Ruberto

Nuciforo & Ruberto
My least favorite picture EVER!

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senate - 2008

NH Fisher Cats

NH Fisher Cats
AA Baseball - Toronto Blue Jays affiliate

Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH
Police Patch

Michael Briggs

Michael Briggs
#83 - We will never forget

Michael "Stix" Addison

Michael "Stix" Addison
http://unionleader.com/channel.aspx/News?channel=2af17ff4-f73b-4c44-9f51-092e828e1131

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson
ABC News anchor

Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/scott_mcclellan/index.html?inline=nyt-per

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise Idaho

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Legislative Hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, BCC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
My favorite classical U.S. President!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Higher Taxes, Higher Tolls

Paul Hodes

Paul Hodes
My favorite Congressman!

Portland Sea Dogs

Portland Sea Dogs
AA Red Sox

New York

New York
Magnet

Massachusetts

Massachusetts
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Button

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
"Luciforo" tried to send me to Carmen's Jail during the Spring & Summer of 1998.

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/174

Luciforo

Luciforo
Andrea F Nuciforo II

B-Eagle

B-Eagle
Pittsfield's monopoly/only daily newspaper

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!
A Red Sox No Hitter on 5/19/2008!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Dustin Pedroia & Manny Ramirez

U.S. Flag

U.S. Flag
God Bless America!

Jonathan Melle's Blog

Jonathan Melle's Blog
Hello, Everyone!

Molly Bish

Molly Bish
We will never forget!

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo listens to some advice from Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the first half.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace embrace at the end of the game.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon calls for the ball as he charges toward first base. Papelbon made the out en route to picking up his 14th save of the season.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws to Royals David DeJesus during the first inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek during the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is welcomed to home plate by teammates Mike Lowell (left), Kevin Youkilis (2nd left) and Manny Ramirez after he hit a grand slam in the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury scored on the play. The Red Sox went on to win 11-8 to complete a four-game sweep and perfect homestand.

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

JD Drew - Go Red Sox
www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/05_22_08_sox_royals/

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!
Master Sgt. Kara B. Stackpole, of Westfield, holds her daughter, Samantha, upon her return today to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. She is one of the 38 members of the 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron who returned after a 4-month deployment in Iraq. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Kathi-Anne Reinstein
www.openmass.org/members/show/175

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
Tragic diagnosis: Get well Senator!

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search
http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=jonathan+melle+blogurl:http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/&ie=UTF-8

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Billionaire U.S. Senator gives address to MCLA graduates in North Adams, Massachusetts in mid-May 2008

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France
Go Red Sox!

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Interviewed on local TV

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
Luciforo!

John Adams

John Adams
#2 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood under a tree on the afternoon of May 9, 2008, on the foregrounds of the NH State House - www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/nhinsider/vpost?id=2967773

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Inside the front lobby of the NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Bill Clinton campaign memorabilia

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Liberty Bell & NH State House

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Franklin Pierce Statue #14 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Stop the War NOW!

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
"Mr. Melle, tear down this Blog!"

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood next to a JFK photo

Jonathan Levine, Publisher

Jonathan Levine, Publisher
The Pittsfield Gazette Online

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made rabbit ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made antenna ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I impersonated Howard Dean

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
mock-voting

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
pretty ladies -/- Go to: http://www.wgir.com/cc-common/cc_photopop20.html?eventID=28541&pagecontent=&pagenum=4 - Go to: http://current.com/items/88807921_veterans_should_come_first_not_last# - http://www.mcam23.com/cgi-bin/cutter.cgi?c_function=STREAM?c_feature=EDIT?dir_catagory=10MorningRadio?dir_folder=2JoesClips?dir_file=JonathanMelle-090308? -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Go Red Sox! Me at Fenway Park

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
My favorite journalist! Her voice sings for the Voiceless. -/- Go to: http://aboutamherst.blogspot.com/search?q=melle -/- Go to: http://ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com/search?q=melle

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus
Mary Carey blogs about my political writings. This is a picture of Jesus from her childhood home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. -//- "How Can I Keep From Singing" : My life goes on in endless song / Above Earth's lamentations, / I hear the real, though far-off hymn / That hails a new creation. / / Through all the tumult and the strife / I hear its music ringing, / It sounds an echo in my soul. / How can I keep from singing? / / Whey tyrants tremble in their fear / And hear their death knell ringing, / When friends rejoice both far and near / How can I keep from singing? / / In prison cell and dungeon vile / Our thoughts to them are winging / When friends by shame are undefiled / How can I keep from singing?

www.truthdig.com

www.truthdig.com
www.truthdig.com

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Concord NH

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=loc&newest=1&addr=&zip=01201&search=Search

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
smiles & beer

Jonathan Lothrop

Jonathan Lothrop
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Michael L. Ward

Michael L. Ward
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large
Pete always sides with the wealthy's political interests.

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez
Gerald Lee told me that I am a Social Problem; Lee executes a top-down system of governance.

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large
Kerwood poured coffee drinks for Jane Swift

Louis Costi

Louis Costi
Pittsfield City Councilor

Lewis Markham

Lewis Markham
Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor
Sherman ran for Southern Berkshire State Rep against Smitty Pignatelli; Sherman is a good guy.

Anthony Maffuccio

Anthony Maffuccio
Pittsfield City Councilor

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer
Pittsfield City Councilor

Daniel Bianchi

Daniel Bianchi
A Pittsfield City Councilor

The Democratic Donkey

The Democratic Donkey
Democratic Party Symbol

Paramount

Paramount
What is Paramount to you?

NH's Congresswoman

NH's Congresswoman
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat

Sam Adams Beer

Sam Adams Beer
Boston Lager

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Disney Animation

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008
"Luciforo" swears in Mayor Ruberto. Pittsfield Politics at its very worst: 2 INSIDER POWERBROKERS! Where is Carmen Massimiano? He must be off to the side.

Abe

Abe
Lincoln

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
Leader of the Autobots

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
1984 Autobot Transformer Leader

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/cleanupagreement.html

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/thesite/opca-reports.html

US EPA - Contact - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

US EPA - Contact -  Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/contactinfo.html

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/index.html

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Connector
Commonwealth Care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

www.network-health.org

www.network-health.org
Massachusetts Health Reform

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

BMC HealthNet Plan

BMC HealthNet Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform
Eligibility Chart: 2007

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
Massachusetts Health Reform

Business Peaks

Business Peaks
Voodoo Economics

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite
Reagonomics: Supply Side

Corporate Elite Propaganda

Corporate Elite Propaganda
Mock Liberal Democratic Socialism Thinking

Real Estate Blues

Real Estate Blues
www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/2008/0316/

PEACE

PEACE
End ALL Wars!

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell's World War II artwork depicting America's values

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
A young Abe Lincoln

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN
www.openmass.org/members/show/218 - www.rachelkaprielian.com

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/164 - www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/05/04/legislator_describes_threat_as_unnerving/

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!
My #1 Political Belief!

Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

A young woman Hillary supporter

A young woman Hillary supporter
This excellent picture captures a youth's excitement

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman
My favorite Actress!

Alan Chartock

Alan Chartock
WAMC public radio in Albany, NY; Political columnist who writes about Berkshire County area politics; Strong supporter for Human Rights for ALL Peoples

OpenCongress.Org

OpenCongress.Org
This web-site uses some of my Blog postings

OpenMass.org

OpenMass.org
This web-site uses some of my blog postings!

Shannon O'Brien

Shannon O'Brien
One of my favorite politicians! She stands for the People first!

The Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House
"The Almighty Golden Dome" - www.masslegislature.tv -

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Former Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
A corrupt Pol who tried to put me in Jail

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Another view of Pittsfield's inbred, multigenerational political prince. Luciforo!

Luciforo

Luciforo
Nuciforo's nickname

"Andy" Nuciforo

"Andy" Nuciforo
Luciforo!

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)
Nuciforo's henchman! Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail

Andrea Nuciforo Jr

Andrea Nuciforo Jr
Shhh! Luciforo's other job is working as a private attorney defending wealthy Boston-area corporate insurance companies

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.
Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail! Carmen sits with the Congressman, John Olver

Congressman John Olver

Congressman John Olver
Nuciforo's envy

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol
Our Beacon of American Democracy

Nuciforo's architect

Nuciforo's architect
Mary O'Brien in red with scarf

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)
Former-Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Nuciforo intimidated her, along with another woman, from running in a democratic state election in the Spring of 2006!

Andrea F. Nuciforo II

Andrea F. Nuciforo II
Pittsfield Politics

Berkshire County Republican Association

Berkshire County Republican Association
Go to: www.fcgop.blogspot.com

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer
U.S. Senator & State Representative

John Kerry

John Kerry
Endorses Barack Obama for Prez then visits Berkshire County

Dan Bosley

Dan Bosley
A Bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator!

Ben Downing

Ben Downing
Berkshire State Senator

Christopher N Speranzo

Christopher N Speranzo
Pittsfield's ANOINTED State Representative

Peter J. Larkin

Peter J. Larkin
Corrupt Lobbyist

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!
GE's FRAUDULENT Consent Decree with Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will end up KILLING many innocent school children & other local residents!

GE's CEO Jack Welch

GE's CEO Jack Welch
The Corporate System's Corporate Elite's King

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand
Equilibrium

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts
In 2007, GE sold its Plastics Division to a Saudi company. Now all that is left over by GE are its toxic PCB pollutants that cause cancer in many Pittsfield residents.

Mayor James M Ruberto

Mayor James M Ruberto
A small-time pol chooses to serve the corporate elite & other elites over the people.

Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick
Deval shakes hands with Mayors in Berkshire County

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick
Governor of Massachusetts

Pittsfield High School

Pittsfield High School
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Pittsfield's former Mayor

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Pittsfield Attorney focusing on Father's Rights Probate Court Legal Issues, & Local Politician and Political Observer

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Very Intelligent Political Activists in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq. is the spokesperson of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition. He has been practicing family law and has been a member of the Massachusetts bar since 1996.

Mayor Ed Reilly

Mayor Ed Reilly
He supports Mayor Ruberto & works as a municipal Attorney. As Mayor, he backed Bill Weld for Governor in 1994, despite being a Democrat. He was joined by Carmen Massimiano & John Barrett III, the long-standing Mayor of North Adams.

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta
Cuts Dental Care for Public School Children-in-Need

Manchester, NH City Hall

Manchester, NH City Hall
My new hometown - view from Hanover St. intersection with Elm St.

Manchester NH City Democrats

Manchester NH City Democrats
Go Dems!

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards

NH State House Dome

NH State House Dome
Concord, NH

Donna Walto

Donna Walto
Pittsfield Politician -- She strongly opposes Mayor Jim Ruberto's elitist tenure.

Elmo

Elmo
Who doesn't LOVE Elmo?

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!
Hillary is for Children. She is my choice in 2008.

The White House in 1800

The White House in 1800
Home of our Presidents of the United States

John Adams

John Adams
2nd President of the USA

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden
Hillary is my choice for U.S. President!

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Radisson in Manchester NH 11/16/2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
U.S. Senator & Candidate for President

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004
Linda Tyer, Pam Malumphy, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
My friend Brian Merzbach reviews baseball parks around the nation.

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy
The Elites double their $ every 6 to 8 years, while the "have-nots" double their $ every generation (or 24 years). Good bye Middle Class!

George Will

George Will
The human satellite voice for the Corporate Elite

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
The Anti-George Will; Harvard Law School Professor; The Corporate Elite's Worst Nightmare

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

State Senator Stan Rosenberg

State Senator Stan Rosenberg
Democratic State Senator from Amherst, Massachusetts -/- Anti-Stan Rosenberg Blog: rosenbergwatch.blogspot.com

Ellen Story

Ellen Story
Amherst Massachusetts' State Representative

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.
Books are being written on Pittsfield's high teen pregancy rates! What some intellectuals do NOT understand about the issue is that TEEN PREGNANCIES in Pittsfield double the statewide average by design - Perverse Incentives!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Supports $30 Scratch Tickets and other forms of regressive taxation. Another Pol that only serves his Corporate Elite Masters instead of the People!

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter
The first woman whom the People of New Hampshire have voted in to serve in U.S. Congress

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes
A good man who wants to bring progressive changes to Capitol Hill!

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress
New Hampshire's finest!

Darth Vader

Darth Vader
Star Wars

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush
The Gruesome Two-some! Stop the Neo-Cons' fascism! End the Iraq War NOW!

WAROPOLY

WAROPOLY
The Inequity of Globalism

Bushopoly!

Bushopoly!
The Corporate Elite have redesigned "The System" to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, masses, have-nots, poor & middle-class families

George W. Bush with Karl Rove

George W. Bush with Karl Rove
Rove was a political strategist with extraordinary influence within the Bush II White House

2008's Republican Prez-field

2008's Republican Prez-field
John McCain, Alan Keyes, Rudy Guiliani, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, WILLARD Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul

Fall in New England

Fall in New England
Autumn is my favorite season

Picturing America

Picturing America
picturingamerica.neh.gov

Winter Weather Map

Winter Weather Map
3:45PM EST 3-Dec-07

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Depiction of American Values in mid-20th Century America

Larry Bird #33

Larry Bird #33
My favorite basketball player of my childhood

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008
Kevin Garnett hugs James Posey

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
All heart! Awesome basketball star for The Boston Celtics.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady
Go Patriots!

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Owner of Fox News - CORPORATE ELITE!

George Stephanopolous

George Stephanopolous
A Corporate Elite Political News Analyst

Robert Redford

Robert Redford
Starred in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep
Plays a jaded journalist with integrity in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise plays the Neo-Con D.C. Pol purely indoctrinated by the Corporate Elite's political agenda in the Middle East

CHARLIZE THERON

CHARLIZE THERON
"I want to say I've never been surrounded by so many fake breasts, but I went to the Academy Awards."

Amherst Town Library

Amherst Town Library
Amherst, NH - www.amherstlibrary.org

Manchester NH Library

Manchester NH Library
I use the library's automated timed 1-hour-per-day Internet computers to post on my Blog - www.manchester.lib.nh.us

Manchester NH's Palace Theater

Manchester NH's Palace Theater
Manchester NH decided to restore its Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater
Pittsfield tore down this landmark on North Street in favor of a parking lot

Pleasant Street Theater

Pleasant Street Theater
Amherst, Massachusetts

William "Shitty" Pignatelli

William "Shitty" Pignatelli
A top down & banal State House Pol from Lenox Massachusetts -- A GOOD MAN!

The CIA & Mind Control

The CIA & Mind Control
Did the CIA murder people by proxy assassins?

Skull & Bones

Skull & Bones
Yale's Elite

ImpeachBush.org

ImpeachBush.org
I believe President Bush should be IMPEACHED because he is waging an illegal and immoral war against Iraq!

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008
www.blog.bobfeuer.us

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln
The 16th President of the USA

Power

Power
Peace

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer
A member of Green Peace activist sets up a giant thermometer as a symbol of global warming during their campaign in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. World leaders launch marathon negotiations Monday on how to fight global warming, which left unchecked could cause devastating sea level rises, send millions further into poverty and lead to the mass extinction of plants and animals.

combat global warming...

combat global warming...
...or risk economic and environmental disaster caused by rising temperatures

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org
P.O. Box 125, South Lee, MA 01260, (413) 243-5665, tstokes@kyotoandbeyond.org, www.kyotoandbeyond.org

3 Democratic presidentional candidates

3 Democratic presidentional candidates
Democratic presidential candidates former senator John Edwards (from right) and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd before the National Public Radio debate yesterday (12/4/2007).

The UN Seal

The UN Seal
An archaic & bureaucratic post WW2 top-down, non-democratic institution that also stands for some good governance values

Superman

Superman
One of my favorite childhood heroes and movies

Web-Site on toxic toys

Web-Site on toxic toys
www.healthytoys.org

Batman

Batman
One of my favorite super-heroes

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer
Massachusetts' Governor stands with Dalton's State Rep. Denis E. Guyer.

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer
TV Star Bill Cosby stands with Denis E. Guyer

Denis Guyer with his supporters

Denis Guyer with his supporters
Dalton State Representative

Denis Guyer goes to college

Denis Guyer goes to college
Dalton State Representative

Peter Marchetti

Peter Marchetti
He is my second cousin. Pete Marchetti favors MONEY, not fairness!

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple
Matt Barron plays DIRTY politics against his opponents!

Nat Karns

Nat Karns
Top-Down Executive Director of the ELITIST Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Human Rights for All Peoples & people

Human Rights for All Peoples & people
Stop Anti-Semitism

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill
State House, Room 227, Boston, MA 02133, 617-367-6900, www.mass.gov/treasury/

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley
1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103, 413-784-1240 / McCormick Building, One Asburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, 617-727-4765 / marthacoakley.com / www.ago.state.ma.us

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...
www.takebackthecourt.org - A political billboard near my downtown apartment in Manchester, NH

Marc Murgo

Marc Murgo
An old friend of mine from Pittsfield

Downtown Manchester, NH

Downtown Manchester, NH
www.newhampshire.com/nh-towns/manchester.aspx

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei
Movie Actress

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)
www.masschc.org/issue.php

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler
Mike Firestone works in Manchester NH for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

James Pindell

James Pindell
Covers NH Primary Politcs for The Boston Globe

U.S. History - Declaration

U.S. History - Declaration
A 19th century engraving shows Benjamin Franklin, left, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman at work on the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/
Sybregje Palenstijn (left), who plays Sarah Godbertson at Plimouth Plantation, taught visitors how to roast a turkey on a spit. The plantation often sees a large influx of visitors during the holiday season.

Chris Hodgkins

Chris Hodgkins
Another special interest Berkshire Pol who could not hold his "WATER" on Beacon Hill's State House!

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.
Most of Boston's Big Dig highway remains closed, after a woman was crushed when 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto her car. (ABC News)

Jane Swift

Jane Swift
Former Acting Governor of Massachusetts & Berkshire State Senator

Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci
Former Massachusetts Governor

William Floyd Weld

William Floyd Weld
$80 Million Trust Fund Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mike Dukakis

Mike Dukakis
Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
Amherst, Massachusetts, Journalist and Blogger

Caveman

Caveman
www.ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com

Peter G. Arlos

Peter G. Arlos
"The biggest challenge Pittsfield faces is putting its fiscal house in order. The problem is that doing so requires structural changes in local government, many of which I have advocated for years, but which officials do not have the will to implement. Fiscal responsibility requires more than shifting funds from one department to another. Raising taxes and fees and cutting services are not the answer. Structural changes in the way services are delivered and greater productivity are the answer, and without these changes the city's fiscal crisis will not be solved."

James M. Ruberto

James M. Ruberto
"Pittsfield's biggest challenge is to find common ground for a better future. The city is at a crossroads. On one hand, our quality of life is challenged. On the other hand, some important building blocks are in place that could be a strong foundation for our community. Pittsfield needs to unite for the good of its future. The city needs an experienced businessman and a consensus builder who will invite the people to hold him accountable."

Matt Kerwood

Matt Kerwood
Pittsfield's Councilor-At-Large. Go to: extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/profiles/12.htm

Gerald M. Lee

Gerald M. Lee
Pittsfield's City Council Prez. Top-down governance of the first order!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
Mary with student

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon celebrates with Jason Varitek

Free Bernard Baran!

Free Bernard Baran!
www.freebaran.org

Political Intelligence

Political Intelligence
Capitol Hill

Sherwood Guernsey II

Sherwood Guernsey II
Wealthy Williamstown Political Activist & Pittsfield Attorney

Mary Carey 2

Mary Carey 2
California Pol & porn star

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!
Andy "Luciforo" swears in Jimmy Ruberto for the returning Mayor's 3rd term

Berkshire Grown

Berkshire Grown
www.berkshiregrown.org

Rambo

Rambo

The Mount was built in 1902 & was home to Edith Wharton (1862-1937) from 1903 to 1908.

The Mount was built in 1902 & was home to Edith Wharton (1862-1937) from 1903 to 1908.
The Mount, the historic home in Lenox of famed American novelist Edith Wharton, is facing foreclosure.

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