Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

#MeToo

I’ll open by underscoring this is my personal opinion.

I’ve read and watched a number of individuals come forward about being sexually harassed in the past — and I think that’s a great travesty that people would take advantage of another based on their position, social status, wealth, or power — but let’s wake up here… that is how the world has operated (and we’ve all turned blind eyes for years, decades, millenniums), so let’s ratchet down the (false) indignation and work for a newer world order where harassment is a thing of the past.

I see this as an issue were we need not only looks at who did what — but when it was done.

Yes, the standards 10, 20, 30, 40, 50… years ago were very different than it is today.  And the way things were done might be appalling by today’s standards, but none the less that’s how they were done and we all knew it (don’t even try to pretend you thought all those stories of the “casting couch” and “sexitaries” was just locker-room banter… you knew it was true, and simply chose to do nothing about it).

Here on MLK day I’ve decided to share my thoughts — though let’s not pretend like MLK was a saint… he too was a sinner. He too (seemingly) had issues with equal rights for all (you didn’t hear him mention women, you didn’t hear him mention races other than white and black, you didn’t hear him mention gays).  The one thing Dr King did do: he opened up dialog which started to move this country forward from a long period of stagnation.

My feeling is actions which happened many years ago need to be looked at in the light of the prevailing time… those people need to be admonished at minimum, but if they didn’t cross what was the norm at the time that needs to be the end of it.  We just need to make sure that we update our image of the past and those personalities to include that they failed to treat everyone with the respect they deserved, and failed to take a stand to end harassment.

However, when similar things are happening now, or within the past several years — that’s different.  Clearly these events are transgressions that go far beyond the accepted norms.  Not only do we need to admonish these individuals, but we need to take action to insure that they and the industries they are in change.  That change needs to occur sooner, not later.

Should they be fired — yes — if they don’t have the courage and integrity to resign.

But should individuals who committed transgressions many, many years back when times were different be fired — that’s a little more complex; we need to look at the individual now, appraise what changes have been made to their life, and if they are still that same person.  If they are — then they’re out; however, if they’ve made change… we can give them a little time under the microscope before we make our final decision.

I’m all for zero tolerance, but zero tolerance never seems to be that (just check when the local school’s sports hero crosses the zero tolerance line, there always seems to be tolerance for at least a second chance — so something else we need to be honest with ourselves about — rarely do we really have zero tolerance, it’s just a catch phrase).

Personally I abhor harassment of any kind, I abhor those who feel they are better than others and can get away with it, I abhor those who help hide it and punish the victims… but this is a problem where we have to start to resolve today, and not get carried away with witch-hunt after witch-hunt of “dark” figures from out past.

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

FY2007
FY2007

FY2008
FY2008

FY2009
FY2009

Originally posted 2010-10-02 02:00:45.

Economic Stimulus

It amazes me how the United States Government can make simple things so complicated… and that it always seems that laws to benefit the greater good cannot be passed without benefiting special interests.

I say this is a very simple thing to handle.

The House and Senate need to approve an appropriation bill which allocates a given amount of money to an economic stimulus effort.  With that they can define the types of spending (broadly) that are acceptable.  Further, they can designate that government entities (federal, state, local, etc) can submit a request to a panel composed of four Representatives (two Republican, two Democrat), two Senators (one Republican, one Democrat), and the Vice President to review and approve.

Further, they could specify that each and very request must be for a single project; well specified with goals and measurable objectives.  That each and every proposal submitted must be acted on within ninety days, and that all actions and meeting of the committee must be open to the public (and news media, complete with cameras and microphones).

Congress could allocate more funding to the program as needed, or elect to stop funding it at any point in the future (but couldn’t pull back funds once granted).

Additional there should be a requirement on any entity that receives funds that they will abide by the letter of Federal law in allocating work which is wholly or partially paid for by the funds, and that any failure to use the funds as specified will require repayment with interest.

Look here, in a few hundred words I’ve outlined a framework that is totally transparent, highly adaptable, and fully accountable…

The whole problem is that we’ve changed nothing in Washington.  While I believe that Barrack Obama wants to change the way government governs, most of the individuals in Washington only wish to benefit themselves.

We gave Barrack Obama an overwhelming charter to change America for the better, and if each and everyone of us doesn’t stand up now and tell our Representatives and Senators that they are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely.

One thing is for sure, things will change — we will either choose to make the changes, or the changes will be the result of social and economic upheaval.  But if we’re going to have the choice, it has to be soon.

Originally posted 2009-02-08 01:00:01.

Ups and Downs

Just as the trucking industry tells us that delivery volume has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the years; retailers tell us that consumers are beginning to spend less.

And the Commerce Department announced that the recession was deeper than previously estimated.

Who’s doing the estimates?

Anyone with any sense knew the economy was in bad shape, and that it would likely take a number of years before there was any real improvement, and potentially a decade before we truly recovered.

You have to ask yourself are the people in Washington DC and on Wall Street stupid — or do they just think the American public are so stupid they will believe anything?

Personally I feel this is a catastrophic event in World history that requires leadership to acknowledge it’s severity and begin making long term plans for recovery while creating short term safety nets to keep society afloat.

Just one more sign that anyone who’s been in office in this country isn’t part of the solution — they’re part of the problem.

INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-08-05 02:00:45.

Double the losses — triple the bad service

I’m talking about the United States Postal Service — and I’m being kind on “triple the bad service”.

The Postal Service has reported net losses totaling $8.5 billion in the fiscal year ending 30 Sep 2010 — compared to a $3.8 billion loss the previous year.

The Postal Service blames the recession and the continuing growth of e-mail.

I would say the losses are more likely caused by an archaic “business” that if it weren’t for cellular carriers would have the absolute worst customer service known to mankind.

Maybe, just maybe if they increased the rate they charged for distributing all that junk mail that no one wanted; actually levied fines against companies that violated anti-pandering orders; and restructured to provide better service using fewer hands they could balance their budget.

After all, when the Postal Service looses money we don’t pass a bill like TARP to help them — we just write them a check.

Originally posted 2010-11-27 02:00:53.

CEO Pay Cut

I don’t think any of them need to worry about landing in the poor house, but here’s a list of the twenty largest pay cuts this year.  I guess the economy must be down — perhaps we can take up a collection to help them all out.


  1. Lloyd C. Blankfein, -$40.1 million
    Company: Goldman Sachs Group (GS)
    2009 salary: $600,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $262,657 (down $40.1 million from 2008)
    Lloyd C. Blankfein
  2. Vikram S. Pandit, -$38.1 million
    Company: Citigroup (C)
    2009 salary: $125,001 (down $833,332 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $3,750 (down $37.3 million from 2008)
    Vikram S. Pandit
  3. James Dimon, -$34.5 million
    Company: JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
    2009 salary: $1,000,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $265,708 (down $34.5 million from 2008)
    James Dimon
  4. Robert A. Iger, -$29.5 million
    Company: Walt Disney (DIS)
    2009 salary: $2,038,462* (up $38,462 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $19.5 million (down $29.5 million from 2008)
    Robert A. Iger
  5. David M. Cote, -$15.9 million
    Company: Honeywell International (HON)
    2009 salary: $1,800,000 (down $25,962 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $11 million (down $15.9 million from 2008)
    David M. Cote
  6. Richard H. Anderson, -$15.7 million
    Company: Delta Airlines (DAL)
    2009 salary: $600,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $1.2 million (down $15.7 million from 2008)
    Richard H. Anderson
  7. Louis C. Camilleri, -$12.4 million
    Company: Philip Morris International (PM)
    2009 salary: $1,500,000 (down $67,308 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $23 million (down $12.3 million from 2008)
    Louis C. Camilleri
  8. Rupert Murdoch, -$12.1 million
    Company: News Corp. (NWSA)
    2009 salary: $8,100,000* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $9.8 million (down $12.1 million from 2008)
    Rupert Murdoch
  9. Kenneth I. Chenault, -$11.3 million
    Company: American Express (AXP)
    2009 salary: $1,201,923 (down $48,077 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $15.4 million (down $11.2 million from 2008)
    Kenneth I. Chenault
  10. Mark V. Hurd, -$9.8 million
    Company: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
    2009 salary: $1,268,750* (down $181,250 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $22.9 million (down $9.6 million from 2008)
    Mark V. Hurd
  11. Kenneth D. Lewis, -9.0 million
    Company: Bank of America (BAC)
    2009 salary: 0* (down $1.5 million from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $32,171 (down $9.0 million from 2008)
    Kenneth D. Lewis
  12. Stephen A. Roell, -$8.4 million
    Company: Johnson Controls (JCI)
    2009 salary: $1,371,500* (up $46,500 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $5.1 million (down $8.5 million from 2008)
    Stephen A. Roell
  13. James W. Owens, -$7.9 million
    Company: Caterpillar (CAT)
    2009 salary: $1,550,004* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $5.2 million (down $7.9 million from 2008)
    James W. Owens
  14. John B. Hess, -$7.8 million
    Company: Hess (HES)
    2009 salary: $1,500,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $12.1 million (down $7.8 million from 2008)
    John B. Hess
  15. John T. Chambers, -$6.0 million
    Company: Cisco Systems (CSCO)
    2009 salary: $375,000* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $12.4 million (down $6.0 million from 2008)
    John T. Chambers
  16. Miles D. White, -$3.2 million
    Company: Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
    2009 salary: $1,852,319 (up $56,848 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $20.1 million (down $3.2 million from 2008)
    Miles D. White
  17. Daniel R. Hesse, -$3.1 million
    Company: Sprint Nextel (S)
    2009 salary: $1,200,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $11.1 million (down $3.1 million from 2008)
    Daniel R. Hesse
  18. Thomas M. Ryan, -$3.0 million
    Company: CVS Caremark (CVS)
    2009 salary: $1,400,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $14.8 million (down $3.0 million from 2008)
    Thomas M. Ryan
  19. Ivan G. Seidenberg, -$2.9 million
    Company: Verizon Communications (VZ)
    2009 salary: $2,100,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $14.9 million (down $2.9 million from 2008)
    Ivan G. Seidenberg
  20. Frederick W. Smith, -$2.7 million
    Company: FedEx (FDX)
    2009 salary: $1,355,028* (down $75,438 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $6.4 million (down $2.6 million from 2008)
    Frederick W. Smith

Source: Equilar Inc.

Originally posted 2010-08-22 02:00:27.

It’s not our fault we went bankrupt…

I wasn’t sure it it was a new daytime sitcom or a hearing when former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld delivered his 1680 work prepared testimony.

Lehman was a strong company that had corrected it’s problems:

In retrospect, there is no question we made some poorly timed business decisions and investments, but we addressed those mistakes and got ourselves back to a strong equity position … There is nothing about this profile that would indicate a bankrupt company.

The market and the public were wrong to lose confidence in Lehman:

Lehman’s demise was caused by uncontrollable market forces and the incorrect perception and accompanying rumors that Lehman did not have sufficient capital to support its investments.

The government was at fault for not banning naked short selling or allowing Lehman to convert to a bank holding company or let it take deposits:

Each of those requests was denied at the time. Tellingly, though, each measure was later implemented in some form for other investment banks during the days and weeks following Lehman’s bankruptcy filing.

Lehman was the victim:

This loss of confidence, although unjustified and irrational, became a self-fulfilling prophecy and culminated in a classic run on the bank starting on September 10, 2008, that then led Lehman to file for bankruptcy four days later, in the early morning hours of September 15.

For more comedy (without my satire — and please don’t think I’m serious about anything I’ve written in this post) see the links below; and don’t laugh too hard.

Dick Fuld
Repo 105
Lehman bankruptcy attorney
New York Fed general counsel

Originally posted 2010-09-02 02:00:11.

Sold: Amityville Horror House

by Sarah Mcbride

Trying to sell a house in today’s lackluster real-estate market?

Maybe you just need a good story behind the property. That may have helped homeowner Brian Wilson, who just sold his place at 108 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, NY. The house inspired the bestselling book and movie “The Amityville Horror” after the 1974 murders that took place there.

The five bedroom Dutch-colonial style dwelling was listed in May for $1.15 million. It sold for an undisclosed price, the New York Daily News reported.

After the murders of the DeFeo family, the property sold to George and Kathleen Lutz, who said the house was haunted and moved out shortly after buying it. Their experiences provided the basis for a bestselling book and movie.

A bank foreclosed on the house, and it was sold in 1977 to James Cromarty, who lived there ten years and told Newsday in May that “nothing weird ever happened there.” He sold it to another couple that also lived there ten years. It last sold in 1997 for $310,000.

The murderer, family member Robert DeFeo Jr., is still incarcerated.

Amityville Horror House

The house in 1974
Richard Drew/AP

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-20 02:00:19.

Senators Oppose DoD Reduction Plan

Defense Secretary Roberts Gates announced plans for reigning in the better than half trillion dollar budget of the Department of Defense, and immediately Senators from Virgina publicly opposed part of the plan.

Sen. Jim Webb released a statement saying getting rid of the Joint Forces Command “would be a step backward and could be harmful” to the military

Sen. Mark Warner said: “I can see no rational basis for dismantling” the Joint Forces Command.

You see, Gates plan included cutting nearly 3000 jobs in Virginia; so the Senators naturally wanted to protect their turf without any though of the impact to the nation… if everyone thinks like these senators, we’ll make no progress in reducing the huge deficit that defense spending is contributing to (and has been for a very long time).

Once again the solution is — vote out the incumbents — they’re clearly not part of the solution, they’re the problem.

In addition to the cut of the Joint Forces Command (which could save as much as $240 million), the plan also includes:

  • Eliminating some of the 65 military boards and commissions to cut the budget for them by 25 percent in fiscal year 2011;
  • A review of all Defense Department intelligence to eliminate needless duplication;
  • Eliminating the Defense Department’s Business Transformation Agency, which has day-to-day oversight of acquisition programs that would be handled by others in the department;
  • Reducing funding for service support contractors by 10 percent a year for each of the next three years;
  • Freezing the number of jobs in the Officer of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Agencies and Combatant Commands at current levels;
  • Seeking to stop “brass creep,” a term former Sen. John Glenn used for situations when higher-ranking officers were doing jobs that lower ranking officers could handle. To address that problem, Gates is ordering a freeze on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian officials at current levels.

Gates was adamant that the Pentagon must change it’s way of thinking about money, and stated:

The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of savings and restraint. Toward this end, I am directing that any new proposal or initiatives, large or small, be it policy, program or ceremony, come with a cost estimate. That price tag will help us determine whether what we are gaining or hope to gain is really worth the cost.

Whether the plan by Gates is the best way to reduce military spending or not is hard to say; but certainly I don’t think any senator could study and evaluate the plan as quickly as the the ones from Virginia did and make an informed recommendation.


Gates proposes cutting Joint Forces command from defense budget on CNN.com

INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-08-23 02:00:21.

ROWE

No, not Rowe vs Wade (but I’m sure I’ll have a rant on that if the current court hears a case that could reverse that land mark decision)… but Result Only Work Environment; essentially a version of “Flex Time” that is focused on increasing productivity by avoiding “presenteeism” (where someone is physically in the office, but mentally somewhere else).

You can read about an article on NPR about the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County (Minneapolis, MN).

The End Of 9-To-5: When Work Time Is Anytime

Originally posted 2010-03-29 02:00:45.