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Abortion: America’s National Holocaust

Dr. Bernard Nathanson once headed America’s largest abortion clinic in New York City. He admitted superintending over the killing of 75,000 unborn babies.

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The Wolf of Wall Street Meets the Wolf of Hollywood: Greed Wearing Two Hats

 
It certainly does not take a Ph.D. to recognize that greed is a major player on Wall Street. Perhaps this is why films on the financial world embellish the behavior; filmgoers might otherwise fall asleep. It is much more difficult to see greed fueling the embellishment highs in the process of filmmaking. Perhaps both Wall Street and Hollywood are glitz on the outside, but supercharging the inside hardly does justice to either venture. In this essay, I discuss Jordan Belfort, an actual financier on Wall Street and the main character in the (fictionalized?) Wolf of Wall Street (2013) so as to flesh out the different ways in which sordid greed manifests in modern society.
In 1991, Robert Shearin could only repress his frustration as brokers at Stratton Oakmont unloaded their own shares in penny stocks while ignoring the sell orders of Shearin and other investments. “By the end it was constant screaming matches with these people,” Shearin recalls. “They would just ignore my sell orders.”[1]

The “suck and dump” scheme ran from 1988 to 1996. Twenty years later, the investment firm’s founder and CEO, Jordan Belfort, was still wheeling and dealing. After 22 months in prison followed by a period probation until 2009 during which half of his income had to go toward the $110 million in restitution, he was brazenly holding the remaining restitution ($98.4 million) owed to his shafted clients as hostage in negotiations with Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Since the end of the probation, Belfort had paid restitution of only $243,000 on income of millions from his two memoirs, the sale of the film rights, and motivational speaking fees.[2] Although legal, the post-probation skimping effectively nullifies his claim of being a changed man. “I was not such a good guy back in the day. But I’m a good guy now. I am. I live my life with such integrity,” he told the New York Daily News in October of 2013.[3] Yet at his speaking engagements, he would repeatedly quip, “Hey, at least no one got killed.”[4] Hearing about this crafty way of evading questions, Diane Nyggard, the attorney who represented Shearin and 24 other investors whom Belfort fleeced, replied, “I guess you could say no one was murdered. But a lot of lives were ruined, and many of the more elderly investors never recovered.”[5] Poverty, especially that which comes in the wake of treachery, is a sort of death in that it encages the body and snuffs out the the spirit, leaving walking corpses who cannot afford even to wander.

At the end of 2013, Belfort was still trying to weasel out of paying the remaining 90 percent of the restitution still owed to over a thousand former clients, including Shearin (who had received only 20 cents on the dollar as restitution). To be sure, Belfort had some leverage in the negotiations, for the 50 percent of income stricture had elapsed at the end of the probationary period so he could legally continue to pay scraps until his death, after which the restitution would abruptly stop. Among other acts, he had spent five years after being arrested in 1998 on securities fraud and money laundering charges wearing a wire, “ratting out friends and colleagues from Stratton Oakmont and testifying against them at trial.”[6]Besides stabbing friends in the back, the founder was essentially making the people whom he had trained and ordered to rip clients off take the hit in his place.

True to form, in the negotiations in 2013 on the remaining $98.6 million, the unchanged man offered to pay all the money from the film and books into the restitution fund if Lynch will substantially reduce the rest of his obligation. With almost all of the $11.4 million having come from sales of Belfort’s properties, the unrepentant swindler was clearly trying to keep the restitution judgment from touching the fortune he had saved from his swindling enterprise.

What lesson can we take from this case concerning the nature of greed? Most principally, it has not only unlimitedness as a salient quality, but also an imperviousness to the restraint that comes out of conscience. Put another way, greed does not recognize should. Instead, the desire for an even better deal, ad infinitum, views the external world as potential props that are themselves perceived only in so far as they can potentially be manipulated for gain. Because the last deal is never good enough, as it does not satisfy the desire, the wealth one possesses, including in property, goes practically unnoticed unless it can be manipulated for still more. That is to say, what was once vividly in focus as the aim of the best deal so far is naturally dismissed by greed as it moves on to getting still more for even less.

Going too far, in never being satisfied with enough, can apply to filmmaking too. In The Wolf of Wall Street, which is based on Belfont’s memoires, the credo of filmmaking that even a story based on a “true story” must push the truth to dramatic exaggeration to hold an audience’s attention reduces Belfont and his second in command to a contorted mass of drugged-down humanity on the floor of Belfont’s kitchen and side room. Having already provided over-the-top eye candy in the scenes of the office celebrations, Martin Scorsese apparently felt obliged to “kick it up a notch” on the emotional intensity meter by having Leonardo DiCaprio flop around on the floor, tangled in a phone cord while shouting and foaming at the mouth.
DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort. The character reduces from this realistic image to a floundering fit of over-drugged and over-dramatic human mess. (Image Source: AP)
It is as though film must push its own adrenalin highs, each one more intense than its predecessor, in order to maintain the attention of a hyperactive audience, itself on popcorn laced with speed. With what costs to the story and, ironically, the integrity of the characters does serial exaggeration in a screenplay come? According to Shearin, the audience skates past the grounded gravitas of the characters as real human beings, whether fictitious or based on real people. “Jordan Belfort is not a fictional character, but when DiCaprio plays him he becomes one for the audience,” he said. “We like our scoundrels as entertainment, but it’s easy to become disengaged from the real harm this guy did.”[7]Watching the fun-loving, theatrical Belfort motivate his brokers onscreen does not begin to reveal the man behind the character, who stabbed his friends in the back in order to save himself from the consequences of what he himself had engineered and gotten others to do for him.


[1] Paul Teetor, “How the “Wolf of Wall Street” Is Still Screwing His Real-Life Victims,” LA Weekly (Blogs), December 16, 2013.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid.

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Third Party? No Thanks We Already Have One

The currently active third party is a branch of the Republican Party. You can say the party establishment is represented by the term, or the conservatives struggling under their “big tent”. . . . → Read More: Third Party? No Thanks We Already Have One . . . → Read More: Third Party? No Thanks We Already Have One

Have Churches Become Agents Of The State?

Then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson devised what has proven to be a brilliant strategy in which to silence and neuter America’s churches. . . . → Read More: Have Churches Become Agents Of The State? . . . → Read More: Have Churches Become Agents Of The State?

Declaration That Started It All

It is good to review the declaration that started our great nation. The courageous men whose names appear at the bottom pledged everything to the cause of liberty. . . . → Read More: Declaration That Started It All . . . → Read More: Declaration That Started It All

The Rapture Problem

There is one more reason why many pastors will not take a stand: their belief in a pre-tribulation rapture. . . . → Read More: The Rapture Problem . . . → Read More: The Rapture Problem

Why Pastors Won’t Take A Stand

You don’t need a successful pastor; you need a truthful pastor. . . . → Read More: Why Pastors Won’t Take A Stand . . . → Read More: Why Pastors Won’t Take A Stand

A Suggested Survival List: 2013

America’s economic outlook is bleak, the current phony surge in the stock market notwithstanding. For all intents and purposes, the US is bankrupt. . . . → Read More: A Suggested Survival List: 2013 . . . → Read More: A Suggested Survival List: 2013

Founders And Pastors On Christian Involvement In The Political Arena

While many would like to see the church held to silence behind closed mahogany doors, this is not what our founders believed. . . . → Read More: Founders And Pastors On Christian Involvement In The Political Arena . . . → Read More: Founders And Pastors On Christian Involvement In The Political Arena

Can One Imagine Will Travis And Davy Crockett Surrendering Their Guns?

It was on March 6, 1836, that the Alamo fell. For more than 13 days, 186 brave and determined patriots withstood Santa Anna’s seasoned army of over 4,000 troops. . . . → Read More: Can One Imagine Will Travis And Davy Crockett Surrendering Their Guns? . . . → Read More: Can One Imagine Will Travis And Davy Crockett Surrendering Their Guns?

“There Is A Conspiracy”

The title of today’s column, “There Is A Conspiracy,” is a direct quote from Ezekiel 22:25. In this passage, God instructed Ezekiel to blow the whistle on the conspiracy of Israel’s prophets to deny people truth, to devour people’s souls, to defraud people’s substance, and to destroy people’s lives. . . . → Read More: “There Is A Conspiracy” . . . → Read More: “There Is A Conspiracy”