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Friday, March 27, 2009

A Country Run By Spoiled Children

When I got my first jobs in corporate America, I was pretty much in awe of the Men Who Run Things. Their shiny suits and shiny cars, their serious tones, their incredible air of importance and superiority. They had advanced degrees, even. If I got really, really lucky, I might get a nod from one of them, get called on in a meeting by one of them, maybe even fuck one of them, if I was really, really lucky.

Then, I began to see what really went on inside those styled and blown-dry heads, behind those mahogany doors, inside the hallowed halls of industry. And it definitely wasn't good sex. These Harvard-educated heavyweights were making a ton of terrible decisions. Left and right. These guys ranged from the wildly erratic entrepreneurial A-types to the handsome but clueless ass-kisser-of-the-president types, and their decisions reflected their personalities.

As they slashed and burned through days, months and quarterly results, their minions tried desperately to keep up with, or to wipe up after, their huge messes. That old myth about the secretaries being the ones that really could run the company? Spot on.

For a dose of sanity, after practicing eye rolls with the secretaries, I usually made my way to the engineering department. Nerds are so... normal. They're brainy, but not very shiny. If they get laid, they're amazed, and then grateful. They stick by their women and have cute little kids. They drive practical cars. They tell intellectual jokes. On their days off, they go spelunking. They are so happy to show their pictures to you on Monday morning.

I am of the opinion that nerds, and women, should run the world.

So now, as I read the news about AIG and Wall Street crashing, I have to laugh, actually. Nothing at all surprises me. There they go again, those well-healed, over-paid Captains of Industry. Making decisions based on the following (and this is as true today as it was for me 20 years ago):

  • Focus on short term gain.
  • Focus on this quarter, not on this year, or the next five years.
  • Copy the competitors, instead of innovate.
  • Rules that are made to control the commoners don't have to be obeyed by the elite.
  • You can do anything you want, if you have expensive lawyers.
  • Beating the system is an art.
  • Customers are annoying. Can't they just buy and then go away?
  • Employees are expendable. Pay them the least you can get away with, and work them to death.
And I'm not just talking about corporate America. I'm talking about our illustrious elected officials. (Of course, we all know now that corporate America runs the government, but that's another story.) Look at how they're all behaving now! The Republicans are a complete and total fucking mess. They're acting like spoiled children - obstructing, whining, making shit up, stirring up shit, taking their balls (if they have any) and going home. Some of the Democrats are just as bad.

And it's not just the men, either. There are a few women who are acting just like men - like that goofball Michelle Bachman saying Obama is going to abandon the US dollar as America's currency. Jesus Christ! What planet is she from? It only took all the EU countries 20 plus years to switch from their local currency to the Euro. If Obama can accomplish that during his 4-year term, he really is the messiah. As if, Michelle darling, the dollar wasn't fucking destroyed by BushCo long before Obama was elected. Ask me. I know. I live in France.

Don't be fooled by the titles (CEO, Senator, Congressman, etc.). Don't be fooled by the shiny suits. Or even the gray hair. Industry, and our government, is largely being run by hyperego'd run-amoks and slimy little ass-kissers.

If you're looking up to the Captains of Industry, patiently waiting for their polished-shoed solutions to today's critical financial and world crises, don't be so shocked when you find out that this island is actually run by Gilligan.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Iran's Khamenei Response To Obama: A REAL Interpretation

As we all know, US mainstream media sucks. So, it was no surprise to me that the headlines covering Khamenei's response to Obama largely said that Khamenei "rebuffed" Obama. Even the Huffington Post, I'm disappointed to say, had, and still has, the following headline:

Iran's Supreme Leader Dismisses Obama Overtures

So, they suck too.

To get the actual interpretation of Khamenei's response, go to Juan Cole's post, more appropriately entitled:

Khamenei Adopts a Wait and See Attitude to Obama;
"If You Change Your Attitude, We Will Change Ours"


Also, Juan Cole has a new book out, Engaging The Muslim World, which somebody needs to place directly into Obama's hands. If anyone knows how to do that, please do so. Meanwhile, you can buy Juan's book here (and I can make fifty-three cents, maybe):

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Geithner's "AIG Employees Could Sue Us" Excuse Is Bullshit

I just found this interesting article from 2005 in the International Herald Tribune's archive, while searching desperately for another article I read last year about bonus shenanigans right before AIG started to tank. The article clearly stated that AIG was shifting UK executive bonuses to US execs before the bailout and the UK execs were pissed (I'll keep looking).

According to the rules stated in AIG's own annual report, Starr International, "a long-term incentive compensation pool for AIG's top 700 executives and managers," cannot pay out contractual bonuses to AIG executives if AIG's performance is down:

Starr International, according to AIG's 2000 annual report, is not supposed to set aside AIG shares for executives during any two-year period in its compensation plan when AIG does not report growth in its earnings per share.

Read the article to understand the amazingly twisted relationship between AIG and Starr - an offshore company "run by AIG's recently ousted chairman and chief executive, Maurice Greenberg, and by a handful of other senior former AIG executives, all handpicked by him."

And check out this October 24, 2008 article that says AIG will freeze executive bonuses! I guess their lawyers told them it's ok to do that.

A spokesperson for AIG said the company will not be paying ‘improper funds’ to senior managers until American taxpayers are ‘repaid with interest’ the money loaned by the US government to AIG.

Analysts predict that AIG’s response to executive payouts is likely to be a ‘recurring scenario’ given the anger of taxpayers who are footing the bill to bail out Wall Street traders.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Throwing Flowers

UK graffiti artist Banksy (please go through the whole website. He has some amazing art on New York and New Orleans walls too) painted some huge stencils on buildings and the border wall in Bethlehem. There's a really interesting article by Michael Scott Moore about the tour he was given by his taxi driver, to see Banksy's work. The Palestinian viewpoint (or perhaps just the taxi driver's viewpoint) offers a peek into the under-reported side of the Israeli/
Palestinian conflict (my overly-nice word for what's really going on there).

Article here.
Large image slideshow here.

My favorites:


Eliot Spitzer and AIG: I Told You So!

One year ago today, amazingly enough, I told you about the connection between Eliot Spitzer and AIG. It wasn't breaking news or anything. Especially the "or anything." It never really got covered. Except by Greg Palast and the Asia Times. But I can certainly understand why the traditional US media didn't cover this story. They were too enamored by Spitzer's sexual escapades, they were busy getting their panties in a knot over Spitzer's poor wife, they were jerking off basically, and completely (or purposely?) missed the fact that Bernanke-Rove took down Spitzer to save AIG from criminal investigation, and by the way, save the Carlyle Group from going bankrupt at the same time. You MUST read the whole article from March 13, 2008 over at SmirkingChimp, where he explains that Bernanke quietly dumped $200 billion into US banks to prop them up, on the same day that they nailed Spitzer. As for the Carlyle Group...

Who? That's Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.
Niiice.

So, let's get back to present day shenanigans...Did you notice the timing of a news story about one of Spitzer's "dates" revealing how he tried to strangle her? That story appeared Sunday, March 8th. What day did Campbell Brown ask why the Feds are keeping AIG's secrets? Friday, March 6th.

Coinkiedink? Nah.