Daily Archives: December 30, 2011

Mario Piperni’s Illustrated Late-Night Humor

Late Night Political Humor – Best of 2011

December 30, 2011 By

My picks of some of the year’s best from Political Humor‘s compiled list…

”Osama Bin Laden’s supporters want to rename the Arabian Sea where his body was dumped Martyr Sea. Really? Martyr Sea? Hiding in your bedroom for six years? How about Chicken of the Sea?” —Jay Leno

”The Republicans are so happy about bin Laden they’ve granted President Obama full citizenship.” —David Letterman

”I think the next election just got a lot easier for President Obama ’cause his response to every question during the debates will be: ‘Wait, I forget…Did you kill Osama Bin Laden? Or did I kill Osama Bin Laden. Oh no, it was me, wasn’t it?”’ —Craig Ferguson

”President Obama’s approval rating is at a two-year high in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. If I were Obama, I’d fish bin Laden out of the ocean and kill him every Sunday.” —Jimmy Kimmel

”No! Not Captain Buzzkill! Not the guy who looks like everyone who ever fired your dad! He’s gonna suck all the fun right out of this crazy thing. Just look at the online video announcing his run. It looks like it could double as an ad for erectile dysfunction pills. ‘Mitt Romney: for when the moment’s right.”’ —Jon Stewart on Mitt Romney running for president

”As the Republicans continue checking underneath every available flag pin and Bible for viable candidates, presumed de facto frontrunner candidate Mitt Romney has gotta be thinking, ‘What the fudge? This is starting to hurt where my feelings should be.”’ —Jon Stewart

”Several congressmen have filed a lawsuit against President Obama for getting us involved in Libya. They claim Obama got the U.S. in a Middle East war without authorization from Congress. To which Dick Cheney and Bush said, ‘You can get sued for that?”’ —Jay Leno

”Egypt has responded to hundreds of thousands of protesters by shutting down the Internet. Just a word of advice: If you want people to stay at home and do nothing, you should turn the Internet back on.” —Conan O’Brien

”You gotta love Sarah Palin. She is now on her website asking her idiot fan base for donations for her to help make a decision about whether or not to run. She wants money now for just thinking? What a grifter.” —Bill Maher

”Sarah Palin continues to make significant contributions to the English language. She asked, ‘Is Libya a war, an intervention, a squirmish, what is it?’ Squirmish is how I feel every time I hear Sarah Palin talk.” —Jimmy Kimmel

”Bristol Palin just announced she had corrective surgery on her mouth. It’s being called the right procedure on the wrong Palin.” —Conan O’Brien

‘We had a national tragedy this week, and the President of the United States and Sarah Palin both made speeches on the same day. Obama came out against lunatics with guns, she gave the rebuttal.” —Bill Maher, on the Arizona shooting massacre

”New Rule: When you make stupid into an art form, it’s not stupid anymore. We just found out that the ‘Sarah Palin’ who writes Sarah Palin’s Facebook page is a fake. But the real Sarah Palin has her own Facebook page, under a fake name, and sometimes the ‘real fake’ Sarah Palin praises the work of the ‘fake real’ Sarah Palin. It’s like Inception for hillbillies. There’s also a rumor that she doesn’t really need glasses, she just wears them to look smart. And when she has them on, Todd doesn’t know she’s Superman.” —Bill Maher

”Sarah Palin visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. There was an awkward moment when she said, ‘So this is what keeps the Mexicans out?”’ —Conan O’Brien

”Michele Bachmann is kind of like Sarah Palin but without the charisma — or marksmanship. You know, maybe we should stop telling kids that anyone can grow up to be president of the United States.” —Jimmy Kimmel

”New Rule: Stop comparing Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann just because they’re both Republican women. And crazy. And know-nothings. And Jesus freaks, who claim to receive messages from God. Who both get their historical facts wrong all the time. Who both give off a sound that only animals can hear and makes microwaves explode. Seriously, stop comparing them.” —Bill Maher

”I’m not certain of a lot of things. But there are three things in this world that I know for certain: Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. OJ killed those people. And what my erect penis looks like in my own underwear from a bird’s-eye view.” —Jon Stewart, on Rep. Anthony Weiner saying he ”can’t say with certitude” whether a lewd picture posted on Twitter wasn’t his wiener

”Herman Cain said he’d only drop out of the race if his wife is no longer behind him. His wife said she’s always behind him, because there’s never any room under him.” —Conan O’Brien

”Herman Cain said he wants people to know that there’s more between his ears than pepperoni and pizza sauce. He says there’s also a few napkins and crazy bread.” —Conan O’Brien

”Donald Trump insisted yesterday that he is not racist, because one time an African-American won ‘Apprentice.’ Because nothing says ‘not racist’ like making a black man run your errands.” —Conan O’Brien

”Chris Christie decided not to run. He had a big decision. He weighed the pros. He weighed the cons. He weighed himself. I like the guy. This is a candidate we could have all gotten behind. Now they’re saying he might be a Vice Presidential candidate. He’d make a great one. I’ll bet this guy knows how to spell ‘potato.”’ —David Letterman

”This morning on the ‘Today’ show, Jenna Bush interviewed Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy was so confused and inarticulate that Jenna accidentally called him ‘dad.”’ —Conan O’Brien

”These people could have personally witnessed him being born out of an apple pie, in the middle of a Kansas wheat field, while Toby Keith sang the National Anthem and they’d still think Obama was a Kenyan Muslim.” —Jimmy Kimmel

”Today President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, proving once and for all he was born in this country. But you know, it never ends. Now Republican leaders are saying they want to see the placenta.” —Jay Leno

”A gay activist dumped glitter all over Newt Gingrich. He wants Newt to stop being against gay marriage. But Newt believes marriage is a sacred bond between a man and his wife and his mistress and the other woman he’s seeing on the side.” —Jay Leno

”Newt Gingrich said he’s afraid America will become an atheist country dominated by radical Islamists. Right. Our big problem could be religious atheists, almost as bad as pacifist warmongers. If they hook up with the communist capitalists we’re screwed.” —Jay Leno

”Newt Gingrich wants to repeal child labor laws. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the man that we need to lead us into the 18th century.” —David Letterman

”House Speaker John Boehner says President Obama should have clearly outlined his exact plans before bombing Libya. Apparently it’s only Iraq where you don’t have to do that.” —Jay Leno

”This is the first debate Rick Perry has participated in since he announced his candidacy. Perry is a mix between George W. Bush and Yosemite W. Sam.” —Jimmy Kimmel

”Big news from last night’s Republican debate, you guys. It turns out George Bush was actually the smart Texas governor. … Look, I know these Rick Perry jokes are a little mean, but tomorrow, he won’t even remember them.” —Jimmy Fallon

”Tonight was the 14th republican presidential debate, or as Barack Obama has started calling them, campaign ads.” —Jimmy Fallon

”If you’re keeping score at home, they have now applauded executions at the Republican debate, they have cheered letting an uninsured man die, and they booed an active duty U.S. serviceman for being gay. I don’t know how you get to the right with this crowd but Ron Paul’s new campaign ad is just the Rodney King beating to the sound of children laughing.” —Bill Maher

”You got to feel bad for poor Mitt Romney. He’s in their plugging every week, and every week somebody gets ahead of him. The people who have led Mitt so far: Donal Trump, then Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, now Herman Cain. He’s been led by a reality show star, a crazy lady, a stuttering cowboy, and the guy who brings the pizza. That’s gotta hurt a little.” —Bill Maher

”You want to add another candidate? It’s like the Republican primary is a season of ‘American Idol’ in reverse, where every week you just add some new idiot… Have you ever considered the possibility that your candidates aren’t the problem — it’s you?” —Jon Stewart to the GOP base

”Republican voters have been reduced to using the same criteria as a 4 a.m. barroom pickup: he has a pulse and no visible cold sores.” —Stephen Colbert

”Hank Williams Jr. got his ass kicked off of Monday Night Football. His crime was comparing Obama to Hitler on Fox News. Or as it used to be called, ‘The Glenn Beck Show.’ … If we are going to fire every Southern hillbilly who thinks Obama is like Hitler, who will be our Republican congressmen?” —Bill Maher

”Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now wants to outlaw prostitution. Let’s make politicians illegal and keep the hookers. At least they’re upfront about screwing you.” —Jay Leno

”I’m upset that Mike Huckabee criticized Natalie Portman for having a child out of wedlock. Listen, I’m no fan of unwed mothers either, but this is Natalie Portman we’re talking about. That unborn child is Luke Skywalker.” —Stephen Colbert

”The President of China is in Washington. It’s a bit like when you’re into your bookie for more than you can afford, and he stops by the house to say hello.” —Jimmy Kimmel

”My great-grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants.” —Stephen Colbert

You’ll find a lot more of the year’s best late night humor at Political Humor.

From Reality Check

We all know that when it comes to character, actions speak louder than words. So let’s call the moral bankruptcy showcased daily what it is.

Let’s start with the bankers.

The Bankers 

To show you the moral bankruptcy displayed by people like Bryan Moynihan (Bank of America), Jamie Dimon (JPMorganChase), John Stumpf (Wells Fargo) and the rest as clearly as possible, I need to set the stage using a hypothetical top banking executive–Banker Bob.

Let’s be as sympathetic as possible to Banker Bob, and have him start his job with clean hands. Banker Bob came in as CEO from a different industry; he’s some kind of turnaround specialist. That already puts him on higher moral ground than the people running our bailed-out banks.

True, BofA’s Moynihan got the top job as of January 1, 2010. But Moynihan was promoted from within; he’d been with FleetBoston Financial, which was swallowed by BofA, since 1993. And since 2004 he’d held “senior leadership positions at Bank of America representing experience across virtually all business lines,” as the press release announcing Moynihan’s promotion pitched him.

Dimon’s an even more culpable insider; he’s been running JPMorgan Chase as President since 2004 and CEO since 2006. Dimon fully consolidated his control by becoming Chairman at the start of 2007. Over at Wells Fargo, Stumpf has 29 years of experience at the company, taking over as President in 2005 and CEO 2007, and Chairman in 2010.

Perhaps the closest big banker to Banker Bob in this regard is Citi’s Vikram Pandit, who came to Citi in 2007 and took over near the end of that year. That said, Pandit’s no newbie, having run Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division, followed by running his own hedge fund. And he took over at Citi before Citi finished wreaking all the havoc it did in the meltdown.

Unlike those guys, our Banker Bob is totally innocent the day he gets the top job; none of his company’s current ruin is his fault. And let’s be specific about the ruin the company is when Bob takes over.

The Ruins That Are Our Bailed Out Banks

First, the executives that preceded Banker Bob “built” the company by buying up other companies, exactly the way Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo came to be the monstrosities that they are today. Each acquisition triggered major payouts to the executives, and each resulted in layoffs and reduced morale for the original companies’ employees. Such wealth for the executive few and pain for the worker many is justifiable if the executives deliver the shareholder value promised by the deals: a better, stronger, more profitable company. However, in the case of Banker Bob’s bank (and BofA, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo) generally the executives failed to execute the acquisitions properly.

Instead of a new, integrated and more potent company, say, a solidly built tinkertoy creation, the companies were like a bunch of marbles in a bag too small to hold them snugly. That is, profits and share prices may have spiked, but at the expense of the company. Shareholders lost.

And that’s the first moral failing: doing a lousy job without being accountable for the failure. How do I know they weren’t accountable? They kept their jobs, took big payouts and heaped misery on those much weaker than them. The failure to integrate the companies is deeply ironic, if you think about it, since executing, such as implementing a plan of merger, is what “executives” are supposed to be good at, right? Nonetheless, in those failures, Banker Bob’s predecessors were merely following the law of averages; “70% of banking mergers fail“, a Bain & Co. consultant told USA Today when Dimon merged BankOne into JPMorgan Chase.

As a result of all the poorly executed mergers, Banker Bob’s company has databases that can’t effectively talk to each other, just like the problems at JPMorgan Chase described by whistleblower Linda Almonte. (Read my DailyFinance story on Almonte here, and her SEC letter here.) I mean, banks’ databases are so bad that the “never-event” of being wrong about what a borrower owes happens all too frequently.

Second, Banker Bob’s predecessors ruined the company with gambling, er, “trading”, and lies. In fact, when the bets were called and the lies exposed (by the surprise mark down of AAAs), the company’s only hope of continued existence was a government bail out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. (See page 4 of the second link for a company-specific bailout breakdown current as of October 1, 2011, by Naomi Prins and Krisztina Ugrin).

What kind of “trading” destroyed the banks? Rampant speculation, including betting that companies the traders had no interest in would fail, like betting your neighbor’s house will burn down. Similar wagers were made on whether or nothomeowners would default on their loans. And in the years leading to the crisis, the bankers and traders were these placing bets with lots of borrowed money. (See also here and here.) That’s right; the bankers and traders were using credit cards for cash advances at the casino.

Many people have long viewed gambling as immoral, or at least morally questionable. And gambling with borrowed money? How about gambling with thrice borrowed money, so that the collateral no longer backs the loans? (Check out “re-hypothecation” here.) That’s definitely immoral. Worst, the bankers and traders knew they were making disasters for others to deal with; they didn’t care so long as they got their fat bonuses. This attitude is embedded in the Wall Street slang “IBG, YBG“, for I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone (when the s–t hits the fan, after the bonus has been paid.)

But the immoral corporate self-immolation in the name of massive pay for the few went beyond gambling; it included lies. What kind of lies destroyed the banks? Let’s start with making the loans. Bankers lied to homeowners about the terms of the loans they’d get (see comment about bait & switch at closing here) and lied to their own computers by inputting mythical, magic numbers so the software would approve the loan (so many possible cites, here’s one “this is the figure that made the ratios fit”). After the loans were funded, bankers lied to investors (like pension funds) to get them to buy the loans your employees called “crappy” (though more crassly) behind the investors’ backs.

But the bankers’ lies to investors went beyond the loan quality. The lies generally included all the contractual promises about giving good title to the loans they were selling. That is, the company lied about doing mountains of necessary and important legal documents truthfully and on time. Those lies alone have the power to destroy the bankers’ companies, as the Congressional Oversight Panel discussed.

So that’s another form of immorality the bankers have so flagrantly displayed: lying. The wrongness of lying is so basic my four year old gets it. Again, our Banker Bob, unlike the current captains of the industry, didn’t tell any of these lies. And don’t waste any time on claims that the guys on top didn’t lie. That’s nonsense. The guys on top set the compensation structures that incentivized lying, and they fired the whistleblowers who tried to get the executives to stop the lying. And, most fundamentally, the buck stops at the top.

When the financial crisis caused housing prices to fall off a cliff, foreclosures spiked. Suddenly all those never-properly done documents were needed, so Banker Bob’s predecessors hired document fraud factories to fill in the gaps. In so doing the bank executives revealed their belief that they are allowed to break the law, if the law interferes with their profits. And the immorality of that position couldn’t be clearer.

Okay, so here’s the picture when Banker Bob takes the reins:

The bank’s financial statements are a mess, and since investors aren’t (always) stupid, the bank is trading at a steep discount to book value;

The bank’s databases are so flawed it continues to drive homeowners into foreclosure that are current on their mortgages;

The bank is continuing to commit document fraud, even after signing agreements with the government promising to stop;

The bank is failing to modify mortgages sustainably in violation of its promises to the government and its actions reek of bad faith; and

The bank faces massive but as yet unquantifiable liabilities for all the immoral and illegal acts of Banker Bob’s predecessors.

So what does Banker Bob do?

The Bankers’ Ongoing Moral Bankruptcy

Does Banker Bob insist on giving investors an honest accounting of his banks’ books, knowing he has to sign off on the financial statements under Sarbanes Oxley? That would be the moral and ethical thing to do. I mean, doesn’t his signature on those certificates mean anything to him? Unlike many of the mortgage loans with their legalese and lengthy riders, the Sarbanes Oxley certificates are short and easy to understand. And Banker Bob self-righteously points to homeowners’ signatures on the mortgage loans, doesn’t he?

Moreover, all the big banks are public companies, seeking all the benefits of the capital markets. And the lifeblood of the markets is timely and accurate information. (See, e.g., the SEC’s Fair Disclosure regulation, aimed at the profitable-for-executives distortions of “selective disclosure.”) So does Banker Bob insist his company comes clean? Sadly, the answer is “No.”

On the incompetence resulting from busted acquisitions, what does Banker Bob do? Does overhaul procedures and dedicate resources to ensure that payments are no longer processed inaccurately? Does he stop his bank from charging inappropriate fees? Does he stop his company from forcing unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive insurance on borrowers? All those would be the moral things to do, since generally being competent is a basic part of good faith and fair dealing. But I can’t find any sign that Banker Bob’s doing any such thing.

How about the most blatant lawbreaking? Does Banker Bob shut down document fraud, insisting that his company will obey the letter and the spirit of all the laws that apply to it? This time the answer isn’t no. It’s Heck, NO!. At least there’s no sign any bank or mortgage servicer has quit the document fraud habit, not in any form visible in any court or land record office in the nation.

Does Banker Bob investigate his bank’s inability to modify mortgages as mandated, and fix the problems by dedicating the staff and resources necessary to do the job? That would be the moral thing to do, since the banks’ current practices are deceptive and abusive, and are harming homeowners in incalculable but devastating ways. Again, no.

Does Banker Bob make a Japenese-style show of contrition to save face while he struggles mightily to fix the bank he runs? Ha. American bank executives have responded to the situation by whining, while Japanese executives have been known to commit suicide in the face of humiliating failures by their companies. So that’s a “No.”

Does Banker Bob at least insist that he won’t take another dime in compensation–not another penny from shareholders–until he has fixed the company he’s running? I mean, his millions could hire an awful lot of people to make his company run better. Again, the answer is no. In fact, it’s more like, no, no, absolutely not, over my dead body will I give up any compensation even though my company sucks.

(To be fair, Citi’s Pandit has offered to work for $1/year, but it’s worth noting he cleared almost $80 million from Citi when it bought his company, and that’s money he only really gets to keep if he stays at Citi through the end of this year.)

The Damage Done

In total, the malfeasance and incompetence of the bank Banker Bob leads is devastating our economy. The banks’ securities fraud cut off the capital that used to fuel the mortgage market, destroying demand and pushing home prices into the free fall that’s drowning so many homeowners. The banks’ lies and incompetence of all sorts mock the rule of law daily, wrecking our land records, and evicting millions of people who rightfully should still be in their homes. (Millions when you count both servicer driven foreclosures and failures to appropriately modify loans.) And in the face of all this the only thing Banker Bob tries to do aggressively is settle lawsuits on terms abusive of investors and homeowners.

Let’s recap. After incompetently building bank behemoths by piling little banks up on one another like badly built cairns, bank executives lied to everybody, borrowed all the money they could to fuel their gambling, and demanded taxpayers bail them out. Throughout that time and after, their companies functioned incompetently, consistently abusing homeowners and wrongfully rendering many people homeless. And the bankers, including even mythical, initially innocent Banker Bob, have been paying themselves millions of shareholders’ dollars each year.

If that’s not moral bankruptcy in motion, what is it?

And I haven’t even mentioned how the bankers consistently push the “irresponsible borrower” myth and all the policy-paralyzing consequences that flow from it. Manufacturing and propagating that myth is in itself a demonstration of moral bankruptcy.

Beyond Morally Bankrupt Bankers: Our Government

The only thing worse than the moral bankruptcy so vividly on display by our top bankers is its reflection in our Government. I mean, beyond the need to obey the law, transact with good faith and fair dealing, and occasionally honor a fiduciary duty, it’s fundamentally not bankers’ jobs to look out for ordinary Americans. But it is our government’s job. And even a cursory look at our Government’s actions regarding bank and housing policy reveals a moral bankruptcy that makes bankers look, well, not quite alter-boyish, but certainly much better.

In future posts on this theme, I’m going to look at our most bank-captured regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; our most bank-captured cabinet positions, the Secretary of the Treasury (yes you, Mr. Timothy Geithner) and the Attorney General (yes you, Mr. Eric Holder); our indefensibly banker-wannabe Fannie and Freddie; our most bank-captured members of Congress (yes you, Consumer Bureau-blocking Congressional Republicans); and finally, our shockingly bank-cowed President Obama.

Right now though, I’m going to go scrub my hands over and over with warm soapy water, typing this up has just made me feel so gross.