Amongst the mountain of spam emails that I had collected, I found one truly fascinating specimen with the Subject "Here is Your August Newsletter". At the time, I was astounded by the content. The sender, who purported to be Mike Gasior had sent me a spam email with very few spelling errors or grammar errors! Furthermore the spammer showed that he had a good grasp of (American) English and was able to express his ideas coherently and energetically with colorful metaphors and well structured argument.
Mike Gasior was not like other spammers. He did not send out the same poorly written bullshit over and over. He sent out grammatically correct bullshit about once a month and it was obvious that someone (most probably Mike) had spent a considerable amount of time composing those "newsletters". Each one was unique and had the appearance of a genuine newsletter. And they were nowhere near as intrusive, boring, repetitive and mindless as your regular spam.
Unlike other spammers, Mike Gasior did not hide! Today, he proudly displays his face on his website. You can find him quite easily with Google. Furthermore, if you can believe half of the stuff on his site, his business seems to have done rather well over the past decade.
But let's be clear about one thing. The early samples I examined back then were definitely spam. Over several years I saw evidence in his emails of constantly shifting IP addresses and subtly (sometimes munged) morphing headers, so that simple pattern recognition at the MTA would not block him. Obviously he has a good IT department.
Out of curiosity, I tried siccing Spam Assassin onto Mike, And the fiendishly efficient assassin quickly sunk its sharp teeth into Mike's skinny rear end. However I decided to call off Spam Assassin, because I'd sort of grown a little fond of Mike. It's hard to despise someone when he so proudly displays his identity on The Web and puts so much effort into writing. I gotta give him points for that.
Over the years, Mike has continued to send me e-mail. I don't know if the latest versions of his spam will actually honour a "remove" request. Possibly since the CAN-SPAM act was passed in the USA, he would. The last email I got had the subject header: "Here is Your September Mike Gasior Newsletter". It had been sent from from an email promotion site run by globalsuite.net. The host was not listed in any RTBL and the letter had been scrupulously constructed in order to appear legitimate. All the headers appeared to be genuine. So by now this may even be a bona fide "newsletter". In any case, over the years, the dispatches have became less frequent and lately it seems to be a quarterly rather than a monthly "newsletter".
However, the tone of Mike's most recent email is somewhat more sombre than
previous samples. Here is the text of the message:
September 2008 Newsletter
Issue Five, Volume Nine
I thought that everyone learned the most well-known lie of mankind at a very, very early age:
"I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."
It's amazing to me that just over a month ago I dedicated this newsletter to the history of the government and Federal Reserve tinkering with the economy and the detrimental effect is almost always has on us. I could never had envisioned this "Mother of All" bailouts getting dreamed up by this current group of politicians and bureaucrats. This month's edition will be short, unsweet and to the point since my schedule has been insane this year and you are already too aware of my inconsistency in drafting these on a monthly basis. You can view last month's newsletter at this link:
(Advertising links removed by GP)
I don't know how else I can refer to the events that have taken place over the past couple of weeks other than "The Apocolypse". While I can certainly be prone to melodrama, take a look at how the dictionary defines the term:
apocalypse - noun
5. any universal or widespread destruction or disaster: the
apocalypse of nuclear war.
Perhaps you can see where I'm coming from with my assessment of the 850 billion dollar bailout (the total price tag with all the added pork needed to get this thing passed by both chambers). We will not recover from this decision in my lifetime and perhaps not my daughter's lifetime either.
What makes me sad and angry is that this plan will not work. Period. Paragraph.
You will not get me to admit that it even has a chance of working since it will not under any circumstance. Already you hear some of the smartest people in the universe trying to figure out exactly how this thing is even going to be implemented.
It took the United States 232 years in order to amass $9.7 trillion in national debt. It took the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and U.S. House & Senate exactly three weeks to add another trillion dollars to that number. Based on my own views of the immediate future of the economy, we will be unable to make any progress toward paying back a single dollar of all that borrowed money, and in fact the U.S. Federal deficit will only be larger than the huge numbers anticipated into the far, foreseeable future.
While I was against the bailout of Bear Stearns, it was a relatively minor intervention by the government in dollar terms and it would have been genius if it had stemmed the bleeding. But much has occurred since then.
--Lehman Brothers is gone.
--IndyMac is gone.
--Washington Mutual is gone.
--Wachovia is about to go.
--Merrill Lynch is now owned by a bank.
--Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are no longer investment banks.
--Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now U.S. government agencies.
--AIG is majority owned by the U.S. government.
Wall Street may perhaps never be the same, and that makes me enormously sad. I've spent my entire adult life as a proud member of the investment community and we had quite a run for the past 28 years. My fear is that we will no longer be viewed as "Masters of the Universe" and instead will now be looked at as the "Masters of Disaster" to quote Apollo Creed. Frankly, Wall Street did themselves in during the past ten or so years, but politicians and regulators have an equal share in shouldering blame for why we're here. Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the guilty in this current debacle will get their own analysis in a future newsletter since I worry I dedicate too much space to politicians already.
Let me summarize my thoughts and predictions about the financial and economic future in light of this "bailout":
--Residential and commercial real estate values will continue to decline well into 2009 and very possibly beyond. U.S. residential real estate values may decline another 15% to 20% from current levels.
--There will be an acceleration of bank failures over the next 12 months, leading to further consolidation in the industry.
--Americans, who are already drowning in debt and losing their jobs at the fastest pace in 17 years will slow their spending to an absolute minimum in an effort to survive. Savings rates will quickly spike to positive numbers for the first time in almost four years and the economy will continue to slow.
--U.S. unemployment will continue to rise and should be in excess of 7.5% by the third quarter of 2009 and possibly by the second quarter.
--The Federal Reserve will flood the economy with new money with passage of the "bailout", much as they did in 1999 in preparation for Y2K. This may temporarily keep the stock market from declining, but the end result will be more severe inflation than already predicted and perhaps a decline in the value of the U.S. dollar.
--Barrack Obama will win the presidency and the Democrats will secure larger majorities in both the House and Senate. Taxes of all sorts will be increased, spending increased and movement toward protectionist policies regarding trade will all be implemented quickly. All moves will slow the economy further.
--As global investors digest and assess the assortment of new debt and liabilities taken on by the U.S. government you will begin to see the slow rise of interest rates on U.S. Treasury securities demanded as compensation for the perceived credit risk. These increases will also raise the cost of capital for home buyers and corporations seeking to borrow money.
--With oil prices somewhat reduced and Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate, there will be further delay in drilling and exploration for new U.S. energy sources. While there will be debate over pursuing alternative energy solutions, actual progress will be slow.
I wanted to get this newsletter out as fast as I could after the passage of this horrific legislation to perhaps begin preparing my friends mentally and financially for what the economic future holds. There was no need to try and rush it out in an effort to try and prevent Congress from passing it, since that was a foregone conclusion. As always, I am trying to assess the new landscape in an effort to better try and survive and thrive in the future while others lament and complain.
Please stay conservative in your own life and try your best not to lose your job, your money, your house or your mind in the coming few years. It will be a tough slog, but the economy and America will eventually depart this dark tunnel when we figure out what houses, stocks, bonds and the dollar are worth. Unfortunately, this government interference will only make this take much longer than it needed to be and make it much more painful as well.
Writing this newsletter also causes me to notice yet another sadness that I find unexpected, but wanted to share with you also.
Watching a terrific Olympic games on my terrific high-definition television, streaming live from Bejing, China, I couldn't help but be impressed with how far that country has moved toward capitalism and free markets.
Watching the disgusting display on low-definition of the goings-on in Washington, D.C. during the past three weeks shows me how far the United States of America has moved so far toward socialism.
As if two large ships are passing in the night on completely different journeys with both being unable to change course in any rapid fashion.
I live in a country where over 80% of ALL mortgages being given to homeowners are being given by a government agency.
A country where the government owns the largest insurance company.
A country where the government rescues businesses with taxpayer money who have managed themselves badly but are deemed "too large to fail".
It's a sad day in America and I wonder when and if we might ever get our pride back and once again be that "Shining City on a Hill". All evidence says that it isn't going to be anytime soon.
YOUR SEPTEMBER BRAINTEASER
Another quick, and to the point brainteaser involves making something new out of existing letters. Here is your question:
"Rearrange the letters in the words 'new door' to make one word. Can you figure out what the answer is?"
Blah, blah, more links etc. removed by GP
As you can see, apart from some minor errors, this is a reasonably well written email. If he had used his spell checker he would have picked up the couple of times he mis-spelled Apocalypse (obviously a typo). And if he had proof-read it, he probably would have spotted the grammatical errors. I've had far more serious lapses in proof-reading myself. And I have to say that for once I agree with a some of what Mike says in his "newsletter" and with most of his predictions. I have blogged quite a bit about the problem of Peak Debt in my Elephantine Blog. There is one glaringly obvious error in Mike's "newsletter", however. He states that it "took the United States 232 years in order to amass $9.7 trillion in national debt". This is just not true! It took the US only eight years to accumulate that debt. The eight years that the Bush Turkeys have been in office. And rather than blame it on governments in general, as Mike tries to, I think we can lay a lot of the blame at the feet of the Bush Turkeys in particular. I won't go into details here. You can find details in my Elephantine Blog. And actually, I don't need to go into details! Just consider the facts! When the Bush Turkeys took the reins they had a substantial surplus. When they leave in a few weeks time, public debt may have exceeded eleven trillion and domestic debt has climbed to unprecedented heights. So I think their record on economic management speaks for itself.
However, I do think that Mike could give even more consideration to the possibility that many of his colleagues in the Investment community must accept more responsibility for the Peak Debt Crisis themselves.
It is interesting to reflect on what I found from my research into spam back in 2002/2003:
Very few cases of legitimate businesses built on spamming. since then, the only two that I have come to know about have been Mike Gasior and TechRepublic. Both of whom seem keen to leave their spamming past behind them. TechRepublic recently honoured a removal request from yours truly.
A burgeoning pornography industry. One of the true "growth" industries on the Internet,
Well organised, well resourced groups of spammers in the mortgage and dodgy finance sector, especially around Florida. I concluded from the scale of their organisation that they had established links with organised crime and the main purpose of their operations was to oversell "credit" and harvest more email addresses.
Evidence of consolidation by organised crime in all sectors (now confirmed).
It seems that if I could have read the tea-leaves, there were signs back then of problems that would develop with the American economy.