Saturday, December 22, 2012

Movie Review: Queen of Versailles

Want to get a good look at improper allocation of wealth and investment expenditures? Watch Queen of Versailles. Yes, the movie is about a plastic looking trophy wife and her rich, 30 years her senior, Jewish husband right at the top of the real estate wave and then plunging down in wealth and emotional health. It is "Masterprole Theater" of the best quality with great editing, pacing, contrasts and production quality. It's a fun 100 minute romp through the excess that was the mid-2000s and our current financial fuck up. Half Sigma even reviewed it, and he focused on the class issues. He really did a good job reviewing it without ever mentioning how despicable the husband is (wonder why? you'll see below). Some of the professional reviewers do mention this story as a macro picture of what exactly happened in the mid-2000s that we are still paying for today. I agree with them as this documentary perfectly explains the horrible nature of our banking and political system. Only with true reform of the banks and a structural change in our political system will things improve. If you hate the cathedral, you're going to have to decimate the FIRE economy. Turn it back into what it was prior to the mid-80s when the banks started going public and the financialization of the economy started. Those banks then pulled off a coup on America, and the great American bust out has rolled along. Complete worms like Siegel have been funded by the banks draining investment from productive sectors of the economy to their realm. Check this documentary out for a good laugh.

Observations

1. The Filipina nanny gets the "I love yous" from the Siegel brood. She left her family behind in the Phillipines, but at least they live well with the money she sends back. It's not technically slavery, but she's a great allegory for the modern structure of international trade. Great editing and scene juxtaposition between her and Mrs. Siegel throughout the film.

2. Father-Son relationships are so important in life, and this movie delivers. Siegel's investment in Las Vegas was not just his primary revenue focus but also his white whale. Vegas had made his parents paupers, and Siegel wants the hotel there to get revenge for his dad. "You broke my father, but now I'm an owner on the Strip". Siegel's grown son stands by his dad in a sad show of faith and to foster a real relationship with him. Siegel probably never should have had kids and just been a highly driven money making wheeler-dealer who banged young broads.

3. Siegel's wealth was from churn, transaction heavy time share real estate and cheap money. His privately held firm is nothing without easy money from the FED and Wall St. He used high pressure sales tactics to get people to say yes no matter what. Siegel is a good, lower class Jewish guy with drive who made it big in our financial economy lacking any form of conscience. Nothing like reinforcing stereotypes... and no shit Half Sigma didn't bring this up.

4. Siegel's son is the only decent person in the film besides the Filipina nanny. He is three dimensional and desperately wants his dad's love. He also sounded like a great motivational speaker. I could easily see him being a great motivating teacher, coach, pastor, etc. due to his energetic presentation and general vibe.

5. Siegel takes credit for George Bush's 2000 win. Like there wouldn't be a bank or GM bailout when you have billionaires taking credit for presidential victories. They own all of our politicians. If a politician says no, they can slide their money to the other team to get specifically what they want, who cares about the rest of the politician's platform. This is how regulatory capture happens. Take politics out of determining economic winners and losers, and you will get money out of politics. This is a bit of a chicken-egg problem, but really, if we want to defeat the cathedral, we need to go after its funding, its power sources and who is hooked up to it. Destroying Wall St in its current form is a big start. Please note that an old Jewish guy is taking credit for placing a politician into the oval office. Nothing like reinforcing stereotypes... and no shit Half Sigma didn't bring this up.

6. This isn't the American Dream. It's a shame reviewers bring this up. This is the final stage of one man's maniacal bid to be big and rich. He cites the idea of "why have an asset if it isn't making money for you". It's true the rich have always used their money to make money compared to common folk who work to make mopney, but Siegel is different. As a modern American, he doesn't just sell or rent real estate. He takes a loan out against the property and uses that loan on something else. That slight difference separates true wealth from fake, debt wealth. Note that at the end of the movie, he's working banks in NYC, Switzerland and Dubai. Those are three money centers, and Switzerland and Dubai are known for having wealth that has no counterparty risk and is solid, non-debt wealth (Dubai = oil wealth). This is why you should own some gold and silver: no counterparty risk.

7. Siegel's entire scheme could only blow up to gigantic proportions with easy, low interest money. This all ties back to Greenspan's post-2000 easy money credit bubble. It is fitting Vegas is where the crown jewel to his empire is. Vegas became hip and hot in the 2000s after ditching the family vacation spot try of the '90s. Vegas is an American symbol for the hyperwealth of the 2000s. It is a mirage in the desert. Poker was huge then because it gave the proles the chance to hit it big for virtually nothing. That was the appeal of 'no limit' poker to proles. If you got dealt the right cards for one hand, you could double up! Siegel was a scumbag, and played on this national mood. He would sell condos with mortgages that he sold to Wall St to turn into mortgage backed securities. He constantly recycled the money over and over. Everything looks classy but is dirty and slick in his operation. There's a whiff of the con or boiler room to his operation. Greenspan's Jewish, too, I didn't know that. Nothing like reinforcing stereotypes... and no shit Half Sigma didn't bring this up.

8. Siegel and his wife have their brood living in over the top with nannies and cooks taking care of basics. Like many modern rich Americans they are barbarians who have enough money to cloak their horrible behavior. Siegel's entire financial empire is on borrowing money and always getting another rube to transfer their wealth to him. He sinks his claws into a monthly nugget from thousands if not millions of Americans. He hires any person to work his telemarketing wing, which sells on the same high pressure basis over the phone. How many people are going to transition from that to jobs we need? How many projects were passed over for investment because this firm got cash to sucker people? As the CEO of the privately held firm, he sucks wealth from thousands for himself. I am all for capitalism and businesses to do what they do to provide goods and services. This is our RE sector on steroids due to tax advantages, special rules (NAR is not subject to money laundering) and easy credit. This is behavioral manipulation to sell normal Joes on the idea that for X thousand dollars, they can live rich and wealthy for a week. This man is a FIRE economy vampire. Take your losses, write down bad debt, and if you go bankrupt, you need to start over. This guy's empire sounds like feudalism. Stop draining America dry to keep your charade going. Nothing like reinforcing stereotypes... and no shit Half Sigma didn't bring this up.

9. Mrs. Siegel was smart enough for a degree from RIT, which is a good school. She was an engineer, which is unusual for a gal. She sounds like a pretty girl who didn't want to work but wanted material wealth. She nabbed a big fish, congratulations. She sounded drugged at times, and I wonder what the film crew didn't show us. The marriage seemed like a normal small town old rich guy with a second trophy wife tale blown up to billionaire proportions.

10. The easy money FIRE guys who got caught overlevered need to admit that it is over. Guys like Siegel are holding on because they know the days of them controlling elections is over if their 'wealth' is gone.

My folks bought a small timeshare for trade in a beach town in Maine. They paid 3K for it. Due to "trades" (annual week swaps) here and there they got their money back, and one time got the family a week on Disney property for 12 people to stay. This was a huge family vacation in 2009. They were forced through the presentation bit and played it cool since they didn't care to buy a place. My parents ended up selling the week in Maine for a week on that Disney property for 12K more (they paid with one check). They've already rented out the week in Florida a couple of times and have made some money off it as well as trade it for a vacation in europe. After watching this film, I realize how my parents got such a good deal in 2009. Timeshare resort firms were hurting since it was several years after the bubble popped. Glad we got to screw them over. It's not Siegel's company, but I bet it's run by similar people.

ps - I respect jews and count some as friends, but can't jews like Half Sigma admit when members of the tribe act like every awful stereotype that the rest of the world has of them?

4 comments:

grerp said...

Just put this on my instant queue on Netflix. I'd read something before on it, can't remember where now.

grerp said...

Now I remember where it was highlighted before: WSJ, embedded in another review.

What I thought was sad was how the family had no cohesiveness or cooperation. There's no reason some of those older kids couldn't have been helping out (all along), but it seems to never have occurred to either of their parents to train them in everyday skills or not shape them into sullen, entitled brats.

I may not have tons of money, but there are no dead lizards anywhere in my house (or lurking pythons), and our family eats and talks and goofs around together.

And I would never make my Filipina nanny dress like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer for the amusement of guests.

Son of Brock Landers said...

I've watched this 3x now. My cousin mentioned how they were quasi-hoarders, they just had a ton of space. The piles of bikes or mountains of clothing and toys was weird. Interesting argument.

It is odd how the kids dont even seem to gel. Forget dressing the nanny like Rudolph, what about the mom's dress for the party? Whore central.

Anonymous said...

The movie highlights repulsive, trashy, dishonest people as you say. But what are Jewish peons like HS supposed to do about him? We American Jews as a whole don't have the group cohesiveness to police such behavior. Remember that most of us are peons or at best petit bourgeoisie/lower gentry (lawyers, doctors, local businessmen). The big money elite are a world unto themselves and don't give a crap what we think of them. And they know we couldn't touch them even if we wanted nothing else in the world. It's the same with AIPAC and other influential Jewish organizations. Neither I nor may family have ever donated, but it doesn't hurt them because they don't need our money. Likewise, the NYT won't fold because we don't subscribe. They don't care what we think, and they don't bother to ask. Suits them fine.