Monthly Archives: December 2010

the rich feast on the dead flesh of americans, how long will we stand by?

“It’s going to a cause a lot of panic on Wall Street,” said Richard Stein of Global Sage, an executive search firm. “Everybody is talking about it, but they’re actually concerned about it becoming public. I would not want to be head of compensation at a Wall Street firm right now.”

In some ways, a zero bonus should not come as a surprise to many bankers. As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and banks like Citigroup raised base pay substantially in 2009 and 2010. They were seeking to placate regulators who had argued that bonuses based on performance encouraged excessive risk.

At Goldman, for instance, the base salary for managing directors rose to $500,000 from $300,000, while at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse it jumped to $400,000 from $200,000.

Even though employees will receive roughly the same amount of money, the psychological blow of not getting a bonus is substantial, especially in a Wall Street culture that has long equated success and prestige with bonus size. So there are sure to be plenty of long faces on employees across the financial sector who have come to expect a bonus on top of their base pay. Wall Streeters typically find out what their bonuses will be in January, with the payout coming in February.

From NYTimes

Senator Bernie Sanders (I) from Vermont stood on the floor of the Senate two Fridays ago and spoke for nine hours on the situation in America. He spoke frankly and convincingly, using charts, graphs, and real-life examples. He was joined by other senators who also brought their perspectives. The message was simple: The rich are feasting on us. The economic and social policies ushered in by war criminal Ronald Reagan have boosted the rich to a position of power unprecedented in American society since the end of slavery.  They’ve grown so large that they’ve sprouted wings and flown away to places like Bangladesh, where workers earn .23 cents an hour. When things falter in their search to expand, as capital always must, they return to America to suck more blood from the heartland and then redouble their efforts in smashing up the rest of the world. Capital flies on the wings of the American military and in the hallways of world banking institutions. What wings do the poor fly on?

Despite the situation worsening in America, the poor stay mainly silent. Drug use is rife, the prisons are packed, and more and more young people are graduating with debt with college degrees that mean close to nothing. Senator Sanders pointed out that we have little to inherit from our parents. Indeed, some of them are moving abroad – those who can afford it.

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico — The new Starbucks on the corner of the main plaza is bustling. The local library has an impressive selection of English-language romance titles. The bulletin board at the arts center touts ads for tai chi, West African dance, textile instruction and more.

And hey! Isn’t that Martha Stewart strolling through the plaza? It is indeed. She’s here for the star-studded unveiling of an American-owned hotel.

Despite its gringo trappings, this lovely 17th-century city appears quintessentially Mexican, fromits jardín (or garden, as the plaza is called) to the rosy luminescence of La Parroquia, its iconic neo-gothic church.

But it’s also home to a large community of North Americans, many of whom have come to stretch their retirement nest eggs in a tranquil setting that boasts most of the comforts of home—and then some.

“San Miguel is summer camp for Baby Boomers,” declares Marjorie Pope, 64, who arrived here from Atlanta with her husband, Mike, five years ago.

As the first wave of 79 million Baby Boomers turns 65 in 2011, many will be spending their Social Security checks in far-flung locales, from Boquete, Panama, to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Though numbers are mere conjecture, some estimates say 1 million American retirees already live abroad.

From USAToday

Is it too painful for the baby boomers to watch their children struggle in the world they created for them? Or is it simply too difficult to live in the United States on the amount of money they’ve set aside for retirement? Outsourcing retirement also means tax money such as social security will be spent outside of the United States.

The question is really how long the next generation will stand for such distractions at the expense of their livelihood. Will we continue to be sucked into two-party politics and reality television, or can we stand up and fight against the system that brought us into being? We are the product of a time when things seemed plentiful and peaceful, but as we come to understand at what cost, we must be wary of falling into the same traps as the previous generations.

What is needed is a ground-up effort to rebuild our country on real wealth and capital. As Senator Sanders said, there was a time when a man working a factory job in Detroit could afford to support a family of three and send a child or two to college. This framework has not evaporated. It is not forgotten. The question is, does a generation raised on instant gratification have the guts to roll up our sleeves and do real work for a change? Raised on promises that “You can do anything”, are we prepared to settle for decent before we slide into a lifetime of denial?

what would palestine look like without the palestinian authority in charge?

Leaked cables indicate that the Israeli government does not have much hope for Mahmoud Abbas keeping power for too long. Salam Fayyad has no power base, and without Israeli incursions against Hamas – which is in reality intelligence sharing with the PA, who makes strikes against Hamas – the PA would crumble “within one month”. In addition, Hamas keeps claiming that they would win elections if they were to be held in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas himself says that without peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority will disband.

What would this reality look like? I’m reminded of the wiles of a child who will do just about anything except do their homework. The international community rushes to patch up the Palestinian Authority, prop them up by any means necessary, but even when the Palestinian Legislative Council remains shuttered and elections suspended, even the old man Abu Mazen comes out of the woodwork and says he’s tired of being an Israeli cat’s-paw.

They pretend not to hear him and keep on with their economic reform and their stalled peace process, stalled now for nearly twenty years. They’d prop him up like a dead pope if they had to. All the while the Palestinian people shift uncomfortably in their seats, sure something is selling them out but not quite sure who or what or how.

More and more people have approached me recently, whispering that something is happening, something is in the works. As usual, time will tell. As usual, the actual outcome depends on powers higher than those threatening to dissolve.

a personal aside

I’ve tried my best to keep this blog as impersonal as possible, there are times when you hit a wall so thick you’re willing to try anything to break through. For the last several months, I’ve become more and more unable to write. What I do write comes out sounding forced or inadequate for what I am trying to describe. I’ve lived in the Middle East for nine months now, in one of the more emotionally draining regions, and I’ve surrounded myself on a day-to-day basis with a lot of misery and suffering, resulting in general melancholia. This combined with a natural fear of uncertainty about my abilities (writing in particular) and station in life (broke, without career or family, nearing late 20’s) has left me bereft of any motivation or ability to write well. I can’t even update my family and friends on what is going on.

I have plenty of things to write about. I hope that this personal note will help motivate me to write again. I know not a lot of people read this blog in general, and probably less do now that I’ve stopped updating so frequently. However, writing should be for oneself. Someone once told me that you’re not really a writer if you need an audience. I agree and will make a concerted effort to do better in the coming days. Any support you can give me will be appreciated, of course, and I’ve received notes from some of you asking why I haven’t updated. Truthfully, these have been enormously helpful notes. Bear with me as I try and get my life back together.

Best,
mgt