Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Salary Celery

This really kind of burns my butt:

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration's special master for executive compensation, said he is "very concerned" about the possibility his pay cuts may drive talent away from companies bailed out by U.S. taxpayers.

"Maybe I've struck the right balance," Feinberg said, referring to criticism that he has been too harsh and too easy on executives. "Hopefully some of this will percolate into the private sector, we'll have to see," he said today at a Washington conference held by Bloomberg Ventures, a unit of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.

Feinberg has ordered pay cuts averaging 50 percent for the top 25 executives at Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., American International Group Inc. and four other companies that took U.S. bailout money. He will rule on pay structures covering the next 75 highest-paid employees at those firms by year-end.

OK, look...all I have to say is...WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?!??!
Mr. Feinberg, please rethink your concerns.
These are the idiots who ran Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG and the others INTO THE GROUND!!!! Why should we give a rat's ass about whether they abandon ship now that it's been righted and set back on course?
If anything, anything, we should be shoving them out the door and HOPE they end up at a healthy bank, like Goldman Sachs, so that the playing field will level out and the American people can get their bailout money back faster!
We've already lost $2 billion in the CIT bailout/bankruptcy...which handed Goldman $1 billion of our money!
Maybe I'm wrong, but when a firm doesn't require our money to be bailed out, and still gets a sizable chunk of it, then there's something wrong. But I digress...
What's the concern if traders leave those firms where they DON'T get bonuses in favor of those that do give them?
Answer: None. Supply and demand will more than take care of the problem. A glut of available traders will automatically lower the average salary and bonus for all, and will in fact, help strengthen those companies who are running with bloated payrolls and insane bonus packages.
Problem solved, in other words. And we can get back to the business of running a country, not companies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Thousand Points Of Blight

Much has been made by conservatives about the private sector and solutions to the problems that confront this nation and this world. Indeed, one might sum these positions as "Thousand Points of Light," a phrase coined by Peggy Noonan, renowned drunk and speechwriter for President George Bush the Elder, way back in the late '80s.
Now, this is not a horrible thing to say: it's our community and people ought to take an active interest in helping their fellow man. Every religion and spiritual believe system talks about giving or sharing and indeed, we're taught way back in kindergarten to share.
When it works, that is. When it does not.....mehhhhhh....

It's hard to overstate the crisis facing charitable giving today. So let me just say it as plainly as I can: Much of current philanthropic giving, by foundations and individuals, neither meets the needs of our charitable organizations nor addresses some of our most urgent public needs.

Foundation practices today are too bureaucratic, inflexible and cautious, and too focused on short-term objectives. Too often, the process and procedures of grant making are more tailored to the needs of foundations and their trustees than to the requirements of nonprofits.

At the same time, our depressed economy is exacerbating this crisis—and making it all the more crucial that we address it. A severe reduction in available public and private funds has put many important nonprofit groups, especially at the local level, in grave danger. Cutbacks in their budgets and programs are depriving their clients of essential health and social services.

A number of nonprofit associations and foundations have called on the government to provide more funds and loans to struggling nonprofit organizations. Such aid would no doubt help, but the primary responsibility for maintaining the strength of the nonprofit community should rest with philanthropic institutions and individual donors.

I can sum the cause up in a short phrase: people don't give to what they need to give to, they give to what they want to give to.
Now, again, the free market is invoked here by those on the right: "Well, if cleaning up a river is desirable, then people will clean up the river."
If only charitable giving worked that way, but it doesn't. It does not exist in a vacuum, isolated from the social structure of people's lives. It is intertwined, and in some cultures deeply intertwined, with other social values.
Prestige, for one. If I want to be "seen" in society, I don't give to the river-cleaning charity unless someone higher up the social food chain is in charge and throws a big party. No, I give to the local ballet, or museum so I can be seated in the orchestra or be invited to the gala opening of the Vermeer exhibit.
Personal impact, for another. If I or a family member contracts a disease, I'm probably going to give some of my charitable attention to the foundation fighting that disease.
Indeed, at some levels of society, millions of dollars are given to hospitals to open a (Your Name Here) Prostate Oncology Wing, because (Your Name Here) contracted prostate cancer. Which is hardly charitable giving. In truth, it's making a reservation at the finest table in the restaurant with the chef's (surgeon's) personal attention lavished on you, at the expense of other people who can't afford his services now.
Or to churches. Now, no one is denying the importance of religion in American culture, let's be clear about this. Like it or not, religion is an integral part of our society, and people give the lion's share of their charity to churches.
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That's the facts, Jack. Roughly half of individual contributions go to religions. We hope those religions are actively pursuing programs that assist society, but let's face facts: feeding the poor, a noble effort, is not cleaning up a river and very few churches involve themselves in environmental programs.
Despite God's decree that this is the planet we men have been given dominion over. God might be a bit angry at us for our lack of attention.
But note something in the quote I pulled from the article I've linked to. Let me highlight it here: A number of nonprofit associations and foundations have called on the government to provide more funds and loans to struggling nonprofit organizations.
What goes around, comes around on the merry-go-round. If conservatives are so all-fired about personal responsibility, then why is this phenomenon happening? Why are charities begging Obama for money? What happened to those tax cuts that Bush gave back to the rich over the past decade?
You don't think those folks spent it or put it in their mattresses or some hedge fund, do you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweeping The Clowns Away

Kermit the Frog. Bert & Ernie. Big Bird. Grover. Elmo.

I mention those names, and what image appears in your head? Soft, fuzzy puppets, the Muppets, who teach pre-schoolers and elementary schoolchildren, some of whom cannot afford books and can't get to the (now shut) libraries of the inner cities and rural counties, how to read, and how to do basic math.

Oh. And give them tools and teach them good Judeo-Christian messages of peace and harmony, of getting along in your community. Of how you don't need to fear differences, because underneath it all, we're all just people.

For forty years, these messages have been brought to you courtesy the Children's Television Workshop.

You think, "How can anyone find fault with the basic messages inherent in any church service?"

You'd need to think again. Meet Adam Baldwin:
Our tax dollars by the $tens of millions$ have been redistributed to the CPB/PBS for decades to ‘help’ its social change agents reach into our homes and preach the gospel of multiculturalism.

It is both ironic and hypocritical that the folks producing and airing such socially conscious segments for “Sesame Street” would certainly be among the very first to intolerantly decry the holy leftist “separation of church and state!” political canard.

In fairness to Alec Baldwin and that family, this is not a family member, but is desperate to hang onto the coattails of his in-name-only family.

Baldwin goes onto to point out that the Star Spangled Banner is never sung on Sesame Street, nor is God Bless America. Nevermind that the message it teaches, without referencing any church, is precisely identical to the secular messages he received while wearing his "big boy panties" in Sunday school at Our Lady of Whateverthehell.

Nope. Sesame Street, because it is publicly funded, MUST be part of the Islamofascistcommiepinkohippiefaglesbowymnist movement.

Well, Bert & Ernie DO live together, after all.

I guess Ol' Adam missed this while wearing his (faux) uniform, filming Independence Day:

And indeed, I pointed this out to him in comments and challenged HIS patriotism, since Sesame Street has been to military bases around the world.

But I digress...

Not every patriotic effort has to be borne in with flags waving and guns blazing, or morons in red, white, and blue clothing shouting "USA! USA!" at a sporting event or concert.

Sometimes, a patriotic effort is a matter of teaching a fellow countryman a fact he did not know before. How to count. How to read. How to look at the family down the street wearing yarmulkes and understanding that it's no different than the cross your daddy or older brother wears.

I admit, when Sesame Street started devoting a portion of its show to teaching in Spanish, I got a little uneasy.

Until I thought about it: how do you reach a kid who's parents may not even speak English, yet have thrust him into an English language school system?

And notice, this isn't about illegal immigration. Foreign language students have been in school systems for the past century and more. And we're fortunate here in America that much of the world, much of the wealthier parts at any rate, teach English in their school systems too.

But it's the poor that need our help, it's the poor that need to be given the tools to compete in society, to fully engage in the American dream of getting a job and paying taxes and buying a home and building a life.

It's sad to think that Baldwin, himself just one or two generations away from being a "filthy Irisher" doesn't understand this. A chicago native, a truck driver, and a representaitve of the target audience of Sesame Street, an inner city working class kid, he apparently has forgotten the lessons of the street: pick on someone your own size.

It even appears that in his cups, Baldwin has forgotten the lessons of his own movie debut My Bodyguard. Sometimes, kids in scary situations need a hand from a friend, no matter how tough they think they are.

Even if that friend is a fuzzy little puppet.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Strategic Bully

I'm very angry about the current state of healthcare reform.

Yes, the House passed, barely, a bill that includes a public option, but at the price of for all intents and purposes banning abortions for the weakest women among us.

As Jesus put it, "As you treat the weakest among you, that is how you are treating me."

And now, here's Joe Lieberman (I-Dickheadton) wailing that even this watered-down version of helping people stay healthy is too hard to deal with, will cost too much.

He's not alone in his handwringing.

The gloves have to come off, and here's what I propose: this legislation is so important to America, that President Obama, through his channels, ought to send the following message to Sen. Lieberman:
You're right. We can't afford meaningless gestures and foolish money spent. Therefore, I am authorizing that a new bill be proposed in Congress, the "Lieberman De-Fund Israel's Defense" bill. We can't afford it any longer.

Wanna bet that not only he, but all the other fence-sitting corporatists suddenly come to God?

After all, it was with Obama's help that Lieberman even has a seat at the table. Joe ought to be reminded of that, now. He's abused that courtesy countless numbers of times this past year.

If Obama would merely show the stones that he showed back in 2006, when nearly everyone wanted to see this abortive embarassment to the Democratic party ousted in a blizzard of contempt, we can have healthcare reform.

He's taken a million bucks in insurance contributions. It's about time he screwed them, then called it a night. His presence in the Senate is amongst the most odious in history, and that includes some God-awful Senators, like Joe McCarthy. He can make this one last gesture and indeed go out a hero to Americans.

He'd get the ego boost he's been craving ever since the Democrats took control back in 2006, in other words.

It would also serve as notice that the White House will play hardball on a bill it deems to be the centerpiece of the Obama legacy. It will drive the Lincolns and Nelsons right into the camp and may even drag a couple of weak Republican listening, Olympia?...right into the arms of Obama.

They don't call it the "bully pulpit" for no reason, Mr President.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman gave me a new idea. Just roll Holy Joe the videotape of the people he's genuflecting to.