Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dewey Cheatham & Howe: Cyprus Edition

Do the outrages never end? While Cypriot working stiffs are at least temporary spared from having their bank accounts seized by the Eurozone Austerity Brigade, and nobody really cares whether the murderous Russian oligarchy has to take a haircut, stuck right in the middle are the countless innocent victims in the international tax-evading business community. The world's off-shorers have been swept up in the massive financial tsunami hitting this island Club Med of Sheltered Wealth.

Poor expatriates. They thought they came to Cyprus for the waters. But like Rick in Casablanca, they were misinformed. Wave or no wave, they're in the desert now. And there's no chartered plane waiting to rescue either them or their wads of cash hostages.

Ironically, among the tax-evading conglomerates set to be cheated out of millions is the internet dating site called Ashley Madison which specializes in extramarital hookups. The Avid Life Media transglobal pimping outfit is, for whatever reason, being featured prominently on the New York Times homepage as a poster child for hapless tax-evaders marooned on Cyprus. (Maybe because multinational accounting firms aren't sexy?) From the article:
Only a few weeks ago it set up an office here as a base for its international operations, attracted to Cyprus — as hundreds of other foreign businesses have been — because of its reputation for financial stability, a low corporate tax rate, a friendly banking environment and most of all, a strong rule of law.

Sure, the Avid Life Media executives were aware that a banking crisis was brewing, but they had ventured ahead. They were assured in part by a promise from President Nicos Anastasiades when he was elected in February that he would soon arrange an equitable bailout with the international organizations that have guided the euro zone through four previous bailouts while keeping bank depositors whole.

“We went from paradise to hell in a minute,” said Keith Lalonde, Avid Life Media’s top executive here. He recounted the cellphone call he got from his financial adviser a week ago Saturday while strolling under a bright sun on Limassol’s fine white beach.

“We have a problem,” the adviser told him. The Cypriot government had just declared it would seize nearly 10 percent of the €2 million, or $2.6 million, the company had on deposit in Cyprus — and about 7 percent of Mr. Lalonde’s personal funds — to help secure its bailout.
International adultery has taken a huge hit, thanks to the greed of the international plutocracy. The skimming of depositor accounts has been heretofore unheard of. There hasn't been this much cheater-on-cheater outrage since Bernie Madoff had the chutzpah to scam a slew of fellow millionaires out of their life savings. And now, this. Avid Media's 18 million members worldwide will be left hanging, the company's whole world crumbling. They may even have to pull up stakes from Cyprus, even if there's no letter of transit for their cash. 

While The Times skims over the actual nature of Avid Life's business model, the piece is rife with humor, recounting the escapades of a billionaire pimp scurrying from cash machine to cash machine to withdraw money while he still can, expressing shock that any government would dare cheat him out of millions of Euros. Just like every other greedy, plutocratic job-creator on the planet, Avid Life CEO Noel Biderman is bemoaning the "lack of confidence" that the extraction of wealth has instilled in his sensitive psyche.

Serves him right, though. A former entertainment lawyer, Biderman once boasted to the L.A. Times  of milking the financial meltdown of America for all it was worth. Since Wall Street greed destroyed jobs and homes and families, but left people too broke to get a divorce, he just promoted his cheating website as an alternative:
The money-saving solution? Seek carnal comfort in others. He also made an analogy between his extramarital dating service and handing out condoms to teens.
"Some people say it promotes promiscuity," he said. "But if you don't do it, you get behavior that's way more harmful to society. Infidelity has been around a lot longer than Ashley Madison."
He believes that hearing about the service in a commercial is not going to persuade anyone to have an affair. "It's a decision they've come to already. All I'm saying is, don't do it in the workplace where it could result in someone losing their job, don't go to a singles dating service and lie about your status, don't hire a prostitute. Given that affairs are going to happen no matter what, maybe we should see Ashley Madison as a safe alternative."
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Ashley Madison does not even exist. She's a made-up marketing ploy -- kind of like Betty Crocker, the Sunmaid Raisin Girl, Marie Callender and Mrs. Butterworth.

Oh well. As Ashley says, "Life is short. Have an affair."

We'll always have Cyprus.


Zee said...

' “We went from paradise to hell in a minute,” said Keith Lalonde, Avid Life Media’s top executive here.'

Cry me a river! I'm all busted up over the financial misfortune that has befallen Avid Life Media!

If I believed in a hell, I would certainly hope to see Mssrs. Lalonde and Biderman sent there soon along with their entire complement of employees, but only after they have had the life-altering experience of living in poverty for the remainder of their miserable lives, courtesy of the Government of Cyprus.

Jeez! I guess that it's the Puritan in me, but I find it utterly revolting to imagine anyone promoting and facilitating adultery as some kind of positive social service, recommended as the preferable alternative “to go[ing] to a singles dating service and l[ying] about your status, [...or] hir[ing] a prostitute.”

A fascinating article, Karen. Yet more sad commentary on the human condition, and the sorry depths to which some people will sink in order to become members-of-the-plutocracy-in-good-standing.

And why on earth would the New York Times pick this corporation with which to sympathize?

PS: It took me a while before the play on words buried in the title of this article smacked me squarely between the eyes. Guess I'm kinda slow!

Karen Garcia said...

Credit where due: D C & H (variation is Dewey Burnham and Howe, Dewey, Cheatem and Howe, tho I prefer the more aristrocratic snob appeal spelling)is an old gag dating back at least to the Marx Bros. I first came across it listening to "Car Talk" radio program on NPR where it was listed as a sponsor, along with the Erasmus B. Dragon Working Mothers Support Group.

More here:,_Cheatem_%26_Howe

michaelslevinson said...

Dear Karen,

You are, to my ear, a fine writer and one of the best of the NY Slimes commentors. Because I'm an independent write-in candidate for president, regardless of more than three hundred comments published by The Slimes they monitor every piece of mine, so it's hit and miss.

Here is a copy of "New World hors D'oeuvres." The first page, like in the printed book, is blank. Just scroll down, my dear, one page at a time.

Jay - Ottawa said...

The mainstream media has become a vast repository for lies and the glamorization of crime. Even though we circle the new “news” with awareness and sample popular entertainment gingerly our minds are repeatedly dulled and wounded.

As newspapers, magazines and TV increasingly peddled distortions and triviality, the internet provided an opening for correctives like Sardonicky and its sisters on the blogroll. Where would we be today without them?

Suzan said...

You can't make this "stuff" up!

But you can do some great reporting about it.

And you do.



Denis Neville said...

“What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?” - Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera

In Cyprus, all bank deposits above approximately $130,000 will be frozen and used to help pay off the banking sector’s debts. They are taking the depositors’ money to bail out the banks!

Capitalism = capitalize profits + socialize losses

Atrios reminds us that “It's important to remember that "rich depositors" aren't just Russian billionaires or similar, they're the operating accounts of businesses.” “One might not necessarily weep for all big businesses, but if operating accounts are raided then bills don't get paid, including payroll.”

Cyprus faces economic destitution, mass unemployment and plummeting living standards.

“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out "stop!" When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.” - Bertolt Brecht

Zee said...


Not being particularly mechanically inclined--the difference between engineers and scientists, I think--I seldom listened to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, on Car Talk unless I was stuck in my own car with someone who absolutely insisted on listening to NPR as I drove.

So thank you for helping me to understand the variegated versions of "Dewey, Cheatham & Howe," and similar plays on words such as "'Er Ass Mus' Be Draggin' Working Mothers' Support Group! "

Who has sufficient time on their hands to think these things up? I can hardly figure them OUT, let alone make 'em up!