The Vaginal Market
Recently, I snuck into a convention for the biggest investors in the world. Don't ask me how I did it. I just did it. It happened. The meeting took place at a major corporately-owned building in New York City. Topics discussed included how to increase the value of stock portfolios, corporate mergers, Halliburton, the military-industrial complex, and Disaster Capitalism.
Since I weaseled my way in under the guise of legitimacy, no one made me sign confidentiality agreements, so I'm not technically doing anything wrong by reporting what I learned here. In fact, media was present at this thing, though I'm sure they write for Forbes, so they're not exacting handing the transcripts to Keith Olbermann. Anyway, I'm keeping the details of Who and When vague, but the What is 100% genuine.
Some little things that pissed me off before we get to the Big Stuff:
1. This one 90-year-old fossil sat in front of me and change kept falling out of his pockets through the whole two days - thirteen presenters - seven hours a day of long, frequently boring, rarely funny economic discussions. Just when I began to nod off, I'd hear the clamor of change and then:
Old Asshole: WHAT IS IT?! (shouting)
Lackey: Um, your change. Do you want it?
Old Asshole: WHAT'S THAT?!
Lackey: (now also yelling) YOUR CHANGE, SIR!
Old Asshole: OH! THE HELL WITH IT!
Just like the cartoons of rich men. Sure, he didn't burn any twenty dollar bills in front of the wet faces of sobbing peasant orphans, but it was close.
2. Warren Buffet will never have to get laid again considering how many investors sucked his dick at this convention. Seriously, every presentation began or ended with a Buffet quote, and one asshole had the nerve to compare himself to the great Admiral of Investments because he donates to charity sometimes. I nearly wept from gratitude when one feisty investor named her presentation: You Are Not Warren Buffet And You Never Will Be.
The Big Stuff
Investors are assholes. There are exceptions to every rule, but let's focus on the 90% golden truism here: most of them are total dicks. They make a ton of money exploiting the weakness of people and businesses. That's where the old saying, "Buy low, sell high" comes from. They're vultures that prey on the weaknesses of human beings. When businesses go public and begin to tank in the stock market, investors start drooling. Where normal people see vulnerability, they see dollar signs.
At no point did these people discuss issues of ethics and morality in business investing. An example: one presenter talked about the excellent business model of Chiquita Brands International Inc. (NYSE: CQB), which is the successor of United Fruit Company. Chiquita is famous for their bananas. What he neglected to mention entirely was how United Fruit Company paid Columbian terrorists to guard their precious bananas from bothersome pests like all the mistreated workers, unions, and civilians. The maltreated were pissed and tried to overtake the banana factory a couple (dozen) times during UFC's occupation of their land.
Then, I fell asleep for about ten minutes, and when I woke up, I heard this balding, fat fuck say "America is for Sale." After eyeing his poorly constructed PowerPoint slide, I realized he was talking about creating private loans for college students.
This is part of the larger trend of privatization in America. Charter schools and private loans are two ways in which the Neo-conservatives are encouraging the country to sell-out its public sector to businesses. There was a time when poor people had a fighting chance at making a decent living. They could go to public schools and get federal loans for an education. All of this "dirty commie" stuff may soon be a thing of the past.
This is where I began to feel like Alice in Corporateland. A pair of idiots made a presentation about medical patches, which are apparently "the pills of the future." Basically, it's hard on the liver to break down medicine in pill-form, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum argued that it's gentler on the body to absorb medicine through skill cells. Medicine for ADHD already comes in patch form, as does estrogen therapy for menopausal women.
Call me your grandmother's feminist, but it really grates on my last nerve when men talk about menopause like it's an illness. All right, so you've already done such a good marketing job that now every rambunctious, precocious individualistic kid in the American educational system is medicated out of their gourd, but leave the ovaries alone, man!
Women go nutso for a reason when they hit 50. Their biological clock is winding down. Maybe it's time for a little patience and understanding rather than resorting to slapping patches all over grandma and shoving pills down her throat. Sure, some women really lose it when their hormones go out of whack, and they should receive all the help available to them, including medicine if they need it. However, these vultures talked about a potential 80% of their "market" being "untapped." What do you want to bet that some of that 80% are women who don't need to be heavily medicated?
Investor MVP Moment: Tweedledum then referred to what he calls "The Vaginal Market." I sat straight up when he said this and looked to the two females in the 400+ person audience. To my great shock, they looked calm...even a little intrigued by the branding of their vaginas.
Then I looked to the one black dude in the crowd. Surely, he would recognize discrimination of a minority. NOTHING! Rather, he was taking NOTES! I guess he figured it was smarter to be an investment MAN than just a Black, sympathizing with the Baby-makers.
If this was the last decade, I might have understood their unmitigated enthusiasm for hormonal therapy. After all, back in the go-go nineties, we were misguided creatures. No one knew hormonal therapy was linked to a multitude of cancer cases.
But now people knew about the studies and documented deaths. Tweedledee briefly referred to those pesky cancer instances. He claimed horse pee was the villain, since that's where scientists used to get a special ingredient for the medicine. Now, they used yams, or something.
Pardon my total lack of enthusiasm. This pattern of dollar-focused results fits the larger paradigm of the conference. So WHAT if the hormones sometimes cause cancer in women? The point is: women are buying the patches. Therefore, the Vaginal Market is a success.
During this marathon of smugness, self-grandeur, and apathy, all I could think about was polio. Rather, Jonas Salk, the guy who discovered the polio vaccine. When Edward R. Murrow interviewed Salk, he asked the doctor who owned the patent for the vaccine. Dr. Salk replied, "Who owns my polio vaccine? The people! Could you patent the sun?"
It's difficult to imagine anyone being so selfless these days. It horrified Salk to imagine a world where investors and businesspeople profited off the suffering of the general populace. Now, contrast that altruistic spirit with the Ebenezer Scrooge-like behavior of Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld served as Gilead Research's chairman from 1997 until 2001 when he joined the Bush administration in their international debauchery. He still holds somewhere between $5 million and $25 million in Gilead stock. Gilead happens to hold the patent for the Avian Flu vaccine.
The vaccine is called Tamiflu, and we'll all need it very badly if there's an outbreak of Avian Flu. In fact, a worldwide flu pandemic would be great news for Rumsfeld, who would become an even richer man if we began dying.
The good news is, some people see the evilness in exploiting illness and vulnerability in defenseless people, such as menopausal women, poor jungle farmers, and flu-stricken portions of the world. International health ministers have been riding Gilead for about two years, consistently pointing out that it is preposterously evil to profit from human misery. This is the same reason war-profiteering is frowned upon. When your fellow human beings are in trouble, it's your duty as an ethical human being to help any way you can - not to make a buck in the process.
Tamiflu is one example of a company, Gilead, exploiting illness. Gilead also manufactures two essential anti-HIV drugs. The company claims up and down that it makes the medicine affordable for all people, which is a lie. Poor people can't shell out oodles of money for their shots, even if they're dying from AIDS. Also, charging any MONEY for medicine is horribly EVIL.
The Student Global AIDS Campaign has been fighting Gilead on this for a while now. If you're interested, sign the Go Fuck Yourself, Gilead petition here: http://www.fightglobalaids.org/action/petitions/gilead.php. Though, I think the kids may call it something else.
Dozens of groups are fighting the same fight, though press recognition of the struggle comes and goes. Write your Congress representative about this issue of illness-profiteering, or join a group that regularly updates its members about this kind of Disaster Capitalism.
Also, don't become an investor. They're dicks.