When Admiration Dies

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett, The Original

In the beginning, Warren Buffett was a prototypical “Deep Value Investor”. Driven by financial statements and waiting for “Mr. Market” to offer good dependable companies at irrationally low prices. Modeling his ‘style’ after his teacher, Benjamin Graham.

I, too, started with Ben Graham “Securities Analysis” and “The Intelligent Investor” and my first ‘style’ was also ‘value investing’. Later I found that a “good value” could become a “really good value” and then an “Insanely Good Value” on the way to “Crazy Wild Good Value” all the while causing you to lose buckets of money.

That led to my attempt to find ways to “spot the bottom” that eventually led to a set of indicators to let me much more reliably “call the bottom”; and eventually the harder task of “calling the top”.

While I now mostly use those tools, deep in my heart I’m still a “value investor” and idolized Warren Buffett for years.

One of my best “buys” ever was one share of BRKA at $2800. At the peak it was worth $150,000 though it is now well off of that high. I’ve often said my largest regret was not buying two shares; and that I would never sell – that task would fall to my heirs.

I’m now having second thoughts…

Why?

Warren Buffett the Pitch Man

At the end of their careers, famous folks will often “pitch” a product. Using their name and fame to sell everything from Yogurt to Cars to the all the junk sold by Art Linkletter when he became a pitchman. Inevitably the “deal” is to use their good name to lift the product. What is forgotten is that the product inevitably tarnishes the good name of the celebrity in exchange… (This is well known and was covered in my MBA Marketing class).

So what is Warren doing? Pitching for Obama. He has embraced the roll of “Pitchman” for Obama and his “Tax The Rich” scheme. It’s a tarnished scheme, and Warren is not looking so much like an elder statesman and trusted adviser any more. Now it’s more like “Lackey To The King”…

But wait, there’s more!

The pitch is a lie.

It pains me enormously to say that. My Idol is a liar.

Mr. Buffett makes the pitch that as a rich person “his tax rate is lower than his secretary”. There is a kernel of truth in it, he does get taxed at a lower level; but it is NOT because rich folks in general get a lower tax rate or pay less taxes. It is because of one small particular rule that applies only to folks who run hedge funds and similar investment programs. The assumption is that money they get must come from selling securities that have been held and traded. Capital gains. So why tax what are arguably capital gains at the ordinary income level? THAT is why he is taxed at a lower level; because he basically runs a hedge fund like vehicle and gets capital gains rates.

Mr. Buffett is clearly financially savvy enough to know he is lying. At that point, I find it very hard to hold him on high any more. The sheen is looking more like the glisten of sweat on the fevered brow of the Pitchman…

For a limited time only! Two, count them TWO!! abuses for the price of one!!!

Power Corrupts

Mr. Buffett stands to personally gain enormously from any increase in the income tax rates.

In fairness, I stand to gain along side him as long as I hold BRKA stock. Why? How?

Thanks to the Laffer Curve we know that rich folks hire others to hide their money from taxes so that they don’t actually pay more than a given peak level. What vehicles? Well, among others, annuities and life insurance products. What is THE largest business segment for BRKA? Why, insurance! So if rates are raised, his sales will increase. Nice…

Yes, Mr. Buffett is “talking his own book” in the parlance of Wall Street. He’s talking up the stock he holds. Trying to influence government policy for his own enrichment and the enrichment of his company and stockholders.

Act Now! We’ll throw in a special gift! (to the pockets of BRKA…)

What in many ways bothers me the most is not the Pitchman Problem, and not the Talking Your Own Book. No. It’s the walking away from the Deep Value Investor honesty and embracing “Crony Capitalism” and what can only charitably be called “An Offer You Can’t Refuse” investing.

In this decline, Mr. Buffett has bought Goldman Sachs GS and Bank of America BAC and others. But not at the same prices you can have. No. He has used the gigantic size and in some ways monopoly position of Berkshire Hathaway to strong-arm targets into giving him a deal no one else can get. Sometimes when the Government is squeezing them on the other side to do such a deal. (Quid pro quo? That “I Don’t Know” is the problem.)

He gets Preferred Stock (that feeds at the dividend trough ahead of the common) but even then with a “kicker” of warrants. Essentially undated options to buy more of the stock at the extraordinary prices of the bottom when the balance sheet is damaged, but later and after all that cash has improved things. I could write a justification for why that actually isn’t too evil a thing to do (short form: The money he gives them is why the stock rises later, so he ought to gain) but the bottom line is still that HE is buying what YOU can not get, based on power and position. Was he the consultant to The One that had the Fed squeeze his targets to need more capital that only he could reasonably provide? We may never know…

No other company in the world has the position in insurance as BRKA. It is the largest “re-insurer” in the world. A huge cash cow making giant buckets of money. The insurance companies insurance company. If he comes to call, any financial company MUST listen.

When did we turn from an economy where investors engaged in a fair, free, and open market; into one where power and size made some stock purchasers “more equal than others”?

So we see the inevitable result of power. Mr. Buffett has been corrupted. He is now angling more to “buy the right laws” and “strong-arm the right companies” and “gain the right place at the political favors table” than to pick good companies that are good investments selling at a low price on the open market.

My Heart Weeps

Teardrops softly soaking into the carpet. Faint whimpers of distress. The occasional moan and grown of a spirit being crushed. Those are the sounds of an icon being clast…

So now I move on. Without Mr. Buffett as my guide and signpost on the way to being an honorable and Intelligent Investor. Time to dig out the Ben Graham again…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Economics - Trading - and Money, Political Current Events. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to When Admiration Dies

  1. Terry Jackson says:

    Yep, Buffett has been a shill for the boys for a while now. We need an Estate tax but he puts his in the Gates Trust, and is untouched. Higher rates on the rich, but he does not mean wealthy, he means well-compensated. And another opportunity to sell insurance to the elderly to cover the tax and leave the heirs comfy. Sad.

  2. kuhnkat says:

    Kinda like T. Boone Pickins who is now pimping windmills and natural gas products to boost his bottom line!

  3. I was completely flummoxed by Buffet’s antics. Thanks for providing a plausible explanation.

    I have heard that the the IRS is demanding ~$1,000,000,000 in taxes from the great man but he is fighting it. It sounds hypocritical coming from someone who claims that the rich are not paying enough taxes.

    Kind of like Al Gore telling us to ride bicycles while he zooms around on a Gulfstream IV.

  4. This was, unfortunately, true several years ago when he first started making his claims, and people (including me) called him on it at that time. They are still doing so, as in here.

    The most poisonous notion is that free enterprise is bad, and “fairness” in the Marxist sense is the goal. Buffet overtly supports this, and thus wreaks catastrophic damage upon the attitudes and approaches that allow free enterprise to generate wealth. This is only good in the short term for Buffet, which suggests that his own mortality is an issue in his mind.

    But what will Obama do to the US and global economies with Warren’s help as pitchman? Buffet them. We are already being Buffeted.

    Curiously, Buffet is also being filtered. When he says something that is not in the official line, such things are sometimes edited out. Here was an example I saw a couple of years ago.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith DeHavelle:

    I first saw it a while ago, too, but had two issues.

    1) I had trouble believing it was true. Thought I must have missed something.

    2) There is a difference between seeing for yourself, and saying it publicly. I wasn’t ready, then, to make that leap.

    So I guess either you had more courage of your convictions than I did, or I just had further for my admiration to fall before I was “ready” to be “out” about it…

  6. Richard Ilfeld says:

    The starlet seduces the aging actor. We all understand why. From our point of view he is a useful idiot. He doesn’t care what we think, & is getting something he wants.

    Liberal revolutionaries have understood the concept of the useful idiot for generations. In the parlance of an earlier generation, Buffet has consented to becoming Obama’s beard.

    The Young Community Organizer fancies himself an economic titan. The Aging businessman fancies himself a political force. Neither gives a damn what we think.

    JP Morgan made a killing rescuing the banks, but he actually rescued them, and did not align with the progressive forces of his day. Buffet’s rescues and the droit de Signor they entail are as sleazy as his new paramour’s energy deals. Rescuing GE gives one a coven of cronies to consider.

    As you suggest, the best rule is still: Follow the money!

  7. adolfogiurfa says:

    Really there should be some limits to personal fortune and power, as it is ilogical to have more, say than 1 billion, that´s really crazy.

  8. PhilJourdan says:

    I think it is more just the fleeting narcotic of fame. He was a well renowned investor and all investors knew of him. But that is a very small segment of the population. He now has a proposed law named after him (or rule depending upon your take), so his name is becoming a household word.

  9. @E. M. Smith

    I’ve admired Mr. Buffet for decades, but (I suspect) in a more general and less specific way than you had. I had no investment in the admiration, so to speak, and as I’d never studied him at any length (and my financial interests at the time were commodities rather than equities), it was always from some distance.

    It occurs to me that, since he has long had enormous wealth but had been a very private man, political and public recognition has seemed attractive to Warren Buffet only in the last decade or so. I remember the fanfare about that time when he gave one of his rare interviews; it was a big thing in the news and was essentially apolitical.

    Over time, media fawning became something he could use to his advantage, and he’s apparently decided to use this took that had always been somewhat distasteful to him before. He seems to have positioned himself (quite cleverly) as the “likable” “evil billionaire.” (Of course, if “evil billionaires” are friends of the left, it’s okay.)

    I suspect that Soros spends a lot more money on politics than does Buffet; Buffet can be more visible, and his mere presence carries more clout. Soros has to use cash.

    Since Soros is on a mission to change the world (particularly America), whereas Buffet is on a mission to make money, their different actions make sense. Buffet will profit enormously from the proposed change in law, while having a new class of people including the most powerful fool on the planet fawning over him.

    I wonder if he speaks the truth to Obama and company privately, or merely tells them what they want to hear. There are philosophical problems with either scenario, reflecting poorly upon both Obama and Buffet.

    But there is something deeply disappointing about someone you respect and admire who has quite obviously and blatantly lied. It poisons your esteem for the person, and it also seems to take a little bit out of the world at large.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  10. adolfogiurfa,
    You seem to dislike the idea that any private individual should be empowered by controlling funds in excess of $1 billion.

    What is your reasoning? Could it be that you believe that ruling elites should have a monopoly of power?

  11. Gary says:

    I think it was the late Jude Wanniski who observed that the motivation of the rich seems to be keeping the middle class from joining them and diluting their power. Buffet’s recent behavior certainly confirms the suspicion. He also neglects to say that his corporations already pay a tax rate that’s the highest in the world, IIRC. That should be counted on his side of the ledger when comparing to his secretary who doesn’t own stock and who btw pays some of that tax when she buys a product from the company that generates the tax revenue.

  12. adolfogiurfa says:

    @gallopingcamel: No, it is more simple: Having more it´s boring :-)

  13. Tony Hansen says:

    Adolfo,
    Have you tried it?
    If you have I ‘may’ bow to your greater experience.

  14. Tony Hansen says:

    EM,
    What I heard on my side of the pond was Obama claiming that WB would have given the USA economy a Qaudruple A rating.
    ??????
    With 9% ‘official’ unemployment.
    With 30% of homeowners underwater.
    With public debt being a wee bit (or so) to the high side.
    With the government running a deficit of a certain size.
    With …… well lets not mention wobbly banks or Freddy or Fannie or un-funded fed pensions…. etcetera, etcetera, etcetara ( Yul was good :) )…..

    If WB thinks that is AAAA status…….
    Well, nobody ever marked my school report cards like that.

  15. adolfogiurfa says:

    What if you are being subjected to an economical-social experiment which has been already succesfully applied in other smaller countries, with the purpose of “democratizing” your society, levelling it to international standards, making more possible the establishment of a New World Order, a la “Brave New World”?
    You were used to being “too rich” for common standards, now you will, slowly, become used to being less rich and humble….
    Small businesses will be all owned by unknown corporations. Houses will no longer be privately owned but owned by unknown landlords, etc.,etc..
    As an example, ask yourselves what has happened with ALL chocolate and diary manufacturers all over the world? they have been bought by a known swiss company.

  16. R. Shearer says:

    It would be interesting to know the inside story of Obama/Buffett/Immelt. It seems Jeff is an honorary VP, GE a stimulus recipient and Buffett a GE investor too.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26976416/ns/business-us_business/t/warren-buffett-invests-billion-ge/

  17. Jeff Alberts says:

    “As an example, ask yourselves what has happened with ALL chocolate and diary manufacturers all over the world? they have been bought by a known swiss company.”

    Really? Which company is that?

    Doesn’t seem like Darigold or Tillamook have been bought by anyone. Those are two off the top of my head in my area.

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tony Hansen:

    And you believe what a professional politician says, why again? ;-)

    @R. Shearer:

    It’s a very small club at the top, and we are not invited to even serve at the tables.

    @Jeff Alberts:

    There has been a large concentration of the Chocolate Business. It is in the way of things that businesses try to buy out the competition and gain monopoly power, even if they they never can quite fully get it. It is one of THE largest failings of capitalism. (Though the “cure” of putting ever more power in the hands of the ultimate Monopoly of The State proposed by most “progressives” is far worse – oddly, for the same reasons…) Nestle in particular has been buying a lot of the competition.

    @Adolfo:

    I would fully agree with a $1Billion Max Limit if it were applied to ALL Persons, natural and incorporated. That would include governments, too. Until that day, you are just reducing the competition that a central government monopoly faces… or that corporations face from individuals.

    So take everyone with over $1 B and steal their wealth. First off, who takes it? Oh, the government. (You don’t think they are really going to give it to ‘the common man’ do you?…) Who benefits? The Government and all the large corporations who no longer must fear a “rogue rich guy” deciding to stir their pot. It is better to have more power concentrated in fewer corporate and government hands why? …

    Last I looked, Warren Buffett was worth a bit over $33 Billion. BRK has a market capitalization of $186 Billion. Whoever is at the top of BRK has more power than Warren Buffett as a private citizen. Selling his $33 B (or giving it to the Gates Foundation) does not reduce that power at all. THAT is the problem, not the $33 B. Worse is the power of the president of most any large industrialized country (and their legislatures). So without the $33 B and $186 B scale folks to stand against them, they are restrained how? (You don’t think a bit of paper in a ballot box would do it do you? “I hold in my hand this paper!…”)

    Worst of all are the EU Parliament and the UN. Huge volumes of cash and notional power in the hands of folks accountable to no one. Without the $33 B and $186 B scale folks to compete with them, how long before they become deaf to all comers?

    (I suppose you could make a case that THE worst were distributed movements like “Christianity” and “Islam” and “The Green Movement” where the power is leveraged in a way not subject to any audit nor diminution, and with even larger total “heads in the harness” than any company or country; but IMHO it’s a ‘race condition’ between the UN and those folks as to who has the most unbridled power to screw things up.)

    So until you can find a way to limit the ability of those kinds of organizations and movements, corporations and governments: I can see no reason to rail at a paltry Multi-Billionaire for their “excess power and wealth”.

    Viz history of folks like Napoleon, Hitler, Saddam, Stalin, Caesar, Emperor Hirohito, etc. and then ask if knocking out their competition is a good idea…

    But break the world up into a gaggle of $1 Billion sized countries, all free and independent, and with NO overarching world governance, and no religion of more than that size; hey, then I’m all for a $1Billion cap on companies and individuals… /sarcoff>

  19. Jan v J says:

    Not to worry, EM. Took me some time to spot the con, too! The Bill Gates Foundation thingy was good cover – still, it’s easy when it takes one from richest in the world (2008) to second richest in the USA.
    Now – the flaws are all too obvious.

    Nice to see you quote the Laffer Curve. The truest thing in Economics (and, believe me, there isn’t much truth in ‘the dismal science’).

    ‘Beard’ – ROFL.. Both Buffet and Immelt.

    @Tony Hansen 12:45 (re: adolfogiurfa) Yeah, I’ve tried it (in USD – still am), and he’s right.

  20. Joel Heinrich says:

    “No other company in the world has the position in insurance as BRKA. It is the largest “re-insurer” in the world.”

    Actually it’s only the third behind Munich Re and Swiss Re if you look only at reinsurances.

  21. Jan v J says:

    @Tony Hansen 12:45
    Oh, USD and sterling.

  22. Jeff Alberts says:

    “There has been a large concentration of the Chocolate Business. It is in the way of things that businesses try to buy out the competition and gain monopoly power, even if they they never can quite fully get it. It is one of THE largest failings of capitalism. (Though the “cure” of putting ever more power in the hands of the ultimate Monopoly of The State proposed by most “progressives” is far worse – oddly, for the same reasons…) Nestle in particular has been buying a lot of the competition.”

    Adolfo made an absolute statement which apparently isn’t true. No one else seemed to want to call him out on it.

  23. Jan v J says:

    Don’t mean to thread-bomb, but:

    EM, I’ve given up weeping – everybody, bar my wife (of 46 years), disappoints.

    Eventually.

  24. Sera says:

    It’s hard to admire a man wearing a tie that appears to be lizards having an orgy.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    @Sera:

    The original image is here:

    but is a bit fuzzy. I’d like to say you are wrong on the interpretation, but I can’t find a better one ;-)

    @Jan V J:

    Don’t see it as a ‘tread bomb’ so much as ‘speaking truth’…

    in https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/when-admiration-dies/#comment-22727 you say there isn’t much true in ‘the dismal science’.

    I tend to disagree. Things like price elasticities and how to manipulate foreign exchange rates all “work”. What tends to be bogus is a lot of the “Government Fiscal Policy can be trumped by Monetary Policy” pseudo-Keynesian stuff…

    But yes, Mr. Laffer’s Curve is a needed counterweight to that mindset.

    Congrats on the “USD and Sterling” rank. I do think there is as much difference between “Billionaires and Millionaires” as there is between “Millionaires and the Common Man”.

    I grew up in a poor town in a working family. I once went to collect the rent from a tenant who had not paid in 2 months (Dad had saved for years to buy the rental for his retirement. I inherited it….) She was cooking dinner for her kids. Hubby had been busted and was in jail. His “crime”? He had gone into the street to stop some bad folks from breaking stuff (cars) and was arrested for “fighting in public” as when the police got there he was defending himself. She was making flour into dough and frying it. That was “dinner” for the infants… I politely said “Please pay when you can” and left. Knowing that I would not return to ask for payment. 2 months later I stopped by. They had moved out (in with her parents IIRC). I wish they had not. They were fairly honorable, if poor, folks. After they left, the other more violent folks in the area trashed the place. I sold it for about breakeven and moved on… That family is the common ‘working poor’ and I am not like them. I have choices they do not have. (Though my family came from that economic class post great depression). I can’t help but think that folks who can buy small countries are far different from me, too…

    If I had a $Billion, I know I would do things with it that were ‘different’. But I don’t, so the question of “would I be a better steward AND do good deeds” will remain a speculation at best. But a lot of Billionaires got that way via a skill set and mindset that has a bit more “acquisitive” in it than I have.

    One example? The “rocket stove” would save poor women’s eyesight around the globe in 3rd world countries. You can make one from used tin food cans. I’d likely throw $1 Million at setting up manufacturing of it locally and try to find a second line of products to sell to the local ‘more well off’ so that the rocket stove could be sold at near zero to those who really need it. Perhaps “fuel to the local ‘rich’ and stoves free to the poor” would work. I’d also be very prone to coming up with a ‘multigrain mix’ for flour that would make those fried strips of four a more complete ‘dinner’… Finding a leveraged way to keep the money alive (i.e. not flat out lose on the deal) yet still do more good with it than buying GE Bonds will ever do. Raise the nutrition and you raise the population IQ; that then raises the productivity and the potential profits from it. There must be a way to capture that gain for all to benefit.

    Yet I know that at the Billionaire range, one STAYS a Billionaire by investing wisely and for maximum return at all times. Resolving the conflict between those two (desire and understanding) is an ages old problem… Perhaps by putting 90% in “max return / min loss” and 10% in “break even or better / max social gain” would work. In all cases, cut the losses as much as possible, but with a small part look at the total gain, not just the profit gain. I donno… it’s a thesis…

    @Joel Henrich:

    OK, by line of business it’s third, but in a real insurance crisis, all the corporate assets can be drawn upon.

  26. PhilJourdan says:

    Jan v J

    Nice to see you quote the Laffer Curve. The truest thing in Economics (and, believe me, there isn’t much truth in ‘the dismal science’).

    Jan – the problem is not economics, but how people treat it. In a nutshell, economics is a social science, not a hard science. As such, one should view it from the human perspective, not the immutable laws of the universe perspective. It differs from most social sciences in that it is not dealing with the individual, but with the mass of society, so it has a few ironclad rules that will not be violated. Not because there is some physical limitation (like the speed of light – oops! Perhaps that one is not so ironclad now ;) ), but because while the actions of one man is almost impossible to predict, the actions of a mass of humanity is fairly easy to predict.

    Isaac Asimov coined a term for it – PsychoHistory. (psycho being the study of the actions of humanity, not the insanity of it, although an argument can be made for the latter I suppose).

  27. Pascvaks says:

    The mind is a strange and wonderful thing. Some are born brilliant in this, or that, or any number of things. Many are born average in most, if not all, things (such is my experience). We all envy someone. Even the most beautiful, or the most brilliant, or the most ‘whatever’ among us, envy something in someone else and feel ‘poor’ in our own nature (body and/or soul). The super rich will always be with us; so too the super poor. The super smart and super dumb; the super fast and super slow; the fine nosed and the big and small nosed; etc., etc., will always be here.

    PS: The older we get the more we think we know. The more we think we know the more and less we think we understand. Gradually, our minds begin to fail us and the more we actually forget and the less we really know and understand. Life’s a circle, if we live long enough we’ll generally –mentally– end up very near where we began. (Let’s hope it all actually means something; wouldn’t that be a surprise?)

  28. R. de Haan says:

    After Dropping Under $100,000/Share, Berkshire Announces Stock Buyback Plan
    Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/26/2011 – 09:11
    BAC Berkshire Hathaway Book Value Fail
    Warren came, he saw BRK/A trading at $99,000, he took a bath, and decided that this aggression against BRK/A will not stand, man. As a result, after taking a metaphorical bath on BAC, the Octogenarian has just decided to launch a share repurchase program in the company with the massive short S&P put, because “In the opinion of our Board and management, the underlying businesses of Berkshire are worth considerably more than this amount, though any such estimate is necessarily imprecise.” In other words, Buffett is slowing starting to realize that he has to put up or shut up, and very soon he will also realize that just because the president allegedly has his back (it is not called the “Buffett Plan” for nothing), he won’t have a “perpetual get out of risk card” for life, and America’s taxpayers may soon let the world’s most crony capitalist just fail.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/after-dropping-under-100000share-berkshire-announces-stock-buyback-plan

  29. Ruhroh says:

    Well, WB is in the news again. Check over at verumserum .
    Best
    RR

  30. I have just suggested that Warren Buffett could not have written the op-ed attributed to him in the New York Times six weeks ago. The last few posts have been about him.

    http://level-head.livejournal.com/552499.html

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  31. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @Keith DeHavelle; Read your linked post. Interesting points.

    I have been following Buffett’s career since he started using the cash flow of a little known insurance company that he controlled to acquire wealthy companies on the cheap as a corporate raider doing leveraged buy outs and then stripping the wealth out. I believe that is called ” acquiring wealth unearned”, generally as part of an inside deal.
    A very sharp businessman, but not, a wealth creator. Not someone that I can have a high opinion of. I feel it is unethical to take unfair advantage because of position or wealth. pg

  32. @P.G. Sharrow

    I use the expression “briefcase traders”: two people walk into a conference room, swap the contents of their briefcases, and both come out with enormously more wealth without having created anything.

    It’s not evil, but it is a bit peculiar, and it is peculiar to the world of corporate finance. I’ve done a bit of it, but not enough to get off the zero line of the graph that includes most of these players. It is an uncomfortable activity for people of good faith, as that work tends to incentivize rather different behavior.

    I have mixed feelings about it; it certainly can be done fairly, and when you have a choice and make it freely, the fact of unequal wealth is not unfair. Dishonesty can be practiced by relatively poor con-men, and too often is.

    Warren Buffett is not stupid. The discrepancies between his verbal statements about his plan, cf. what was written about it and posted to the New York Times, must be obvious to him. And no doubt, his statements cause great consternation among the Obama team members.

    What can he be thinking? If he is not comfortable with the Obama plan (he says he is not), then how is it that he allowed it to be put forward over his name? Not just being named for it, but over detailed writings purporting to come from him that he, weeks later, has great issues with?

    His actions appear duplicitous. Either he’s winking and nodding (to someone) to demonstrate that the original writing really wasn’t him, or he’s creating this controversy for some other purpose. He could have avoided this — either taken the Obama writers’ details out of the post and keep it general, or be more vague in his own later comments.

    It is the comparison between the two that make him look bad, and Obama look foolish, to anyone who is paying attention. If only more people were.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  33. @E.M. Smith

    The tie appears to be a footrace pattern — four men running (in original Greek Olympic dress) past some sort of classical building, perhaps.

    That gold shape is uncertain, but the figures are evidently human runners when you zoom in on the image.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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