If we see AIG on some exec's resume, let's resist the temptation to simply NOT interview them. Let's DO interview them, and then bring in a bouncer to shake the person down for whatever they have on them. Then take that money and go have a spa day.
The payments to A.I.G.’s financial products unit are in addition to $121
million in previously scheduled bonuses for the company’s senior
executives and 6,400 employees across the sprawling corporation. Lawyers said the firm was contractually obligated to pay the bonuses. I say bullshit.
Bernie admits to squandering innocent people's life savings and we all gawk and gasp and say, "Wow, I can't believe that guy did that."
But the truth is we're still letting this kind of thing happen every day. In fact, we're letting all kinds of things happen like this all the time. Bullshit like this IS the status quo. It's institutionalized in insurance companies, it's ingrained in sales people of all stripes, it's what the PR industry is founded on.
We tell a version of the truth that they think people want to hear - or a version that they know they can sell. And we're doing this all the time. We've completely lost sight of the value of truth as a society. This Bernie Madoff thing is going to keep happening. People still bullshit as a matter of course. They still are trying to get their version of the truth out there - no matter what it takes. Some industries (cough, advertising, cough) are invested totally and completely in bullshit. It's sick. We're sick. And Bernie is just a symptom of a much much larger problem.
Tell the fucking truth, people. Just tell the truth. You do remember the truth, yes? The bald, unvarnished truth? Ring a bell?
It's unfortunate that this is all happening in such a time as this. We need each other now, more than ever.
Now these videos are gratifying. Watch Jon Steward pants Jim Cramer for basically lying on his show to the downfall of many. (thanks to D. Toner for this).
2009 is the year of the layoff. Is your company in on the fun? "We've got tooooo many people," the CXO's sing. We need to be more "efficient." We need to consolidate, downsize, streamline, and my favorite, "Do more with less."
For those of us who were already "doing more with less", these words simply mean new ridiculous expectations, disappointment, weekends away, shoddy work, and constant failure. Those people making the decisions about how big your teams should be now don't actually know the nature of the work or even the quantity of it that the teams will be performing.
They're not really qualified to make the cuts.
But they look good for cutting. Ohhh yes, very popular these people are. If only they could be held accountable for their decisions. But alas. What happens is that the company takes a nose dive and everyone suffers. To dissect exactly where the mistakes were made would take more time than anyone actually has so they muddle through, grumbling at and to each other. Some companies will fail. Some will just putter along...and everyone suffers.
That's why this article from BNET caught my eye. It's about the indirect costs of layoffs. And companies should take note of the upshot:
1) You may lose experienced sales and marketing folks who have strong relationships with clients. 2) Layoffs are a pretty clear signal to your remaining talent that they might need an escape hatch. In the process of finding that hatch, they might decide to actually pass through it. 3) Studies show that surviving a downturn is more about maximizing revenues than it is about shrinking expenditures. You should innovate your way out. But innovation takes time and workers with two or three jobs each don't have that time. 4) Clients see layoffs as an unhealthy sign and may take their business elsewhere.
The Chinese have a saying: "If you plant beans, you will get beans. If you plant Watermelons, you will reap watermelons." What this boils down to is that you shouldn't be planting beans and expecting watermelons, America. If you want beans, by all means, cut your workforce and "optimize efficiencies" or whatever.
But if you want watermelons, then maybe dipping into the red and getting downgraded on Wall Street is the better way to survive the downturn. In any case, you should figure out your plan to get out of trouble and make sure you have the people you need to do that. Or you can find yourself another job. It's up to you.
Some very prudent advice for homeowners about to be foreclosed on is coming out of Ohio. Democratic congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is recommending that you get a lawyer and demand that your bank, whichever bank thinks they own the loan, produce the note.
Produce. The. Note.
You see these pieces of paper have been bought sold, bundled, and re-bundled so many times, it's a pretty good bet nobody knows where the note is actually, ahem, located. Hmmm, that is a little bit of a, erm, problem for banks. If they can't locate the note, how can they prove they own it? In fact, they may not even be able to produce the audit trail for the loan.
Home owners can call (888) 995-HOPE for legal assistance. Banks should call 1-800-Where-The-Fuck-Is-My-Paper-Trail? Operators standing by.
Well, we've been through a lot together. You were there during the 70's when I was growing up. You were there for me in the late 80's when all I could afford was your Hormel Chili, Russet Potatoes, toilet paper, and beer. And you were there with me in the 90's when I not only shopped at your store, but also had you as a client in advertising. And though your marketing people were arrogant and rude, I stuck with you all the way until 2008. You had me convinced that nobody did it better.
I even liked pretending along with you that my Safeway Club Card really was saving me $40 on groceries when we both knew it was a fake program. We had some good times.
But something started happening in the mid 2000's. I'm not even sure what it was exactly. The best way to describe it is laziness. Your aisles were poorly stocked, your dry goods were dusty, and your peaches never seemed as juicy as I remember peaches being. Your produce looked manufactured and tasted bland. Your seafood section was stocked with old, sad looking aquadic lifeforms. Your people, with a few exceptions, were rude, unhelpful, and bored-looking. Your baggers were clearly dyslexic.
But that wasn't all. And this next part was the kicker for me. Most of your goods are from out of state. If I wanted to buy flour tortillas, for example, I'd have to give my money to a company in Texas. If I wanted to buy bread, again my money bolstered the Texas economy, not California's. Everything is from New York, Illinois, Minnessota, Ohio, and Kentucky. That's a long way for goods to travel. That's a lot of fuel. That's a lot of CO2. I'm getting short of breath just thinking about it.
I know that's how you've been doing things for many years. You have certain suppliers that service your whole chain. You can't localize very easily. Your big. You're slow. You're set in your ways. And I'm not going to ask you to change. But when I go to Trader Joes, well, it's a whole nother world. And that world is good. There's different things, true. And they don't have everything I need. But it's cheap, good quality, and much of their products are from around here. I can support the local economy and eat well.
You've been good to me all these years. And I will miss you, your gargantuan blocks of Lucerne Monterey Jack cheese and your huge wall of gift cards from every retail chain ever known. I'll even miss your filet mignon. But we're different now, you and me. I've moved on. And I think you should move on too.
Since he ws elected, and even before then, Barack Obama has come to represent a lot of things to a lot of people. He has become a living icon of the restoration of the United States we once admired. An icon representing the rejection of the cynacism, rampant profiteering, and lawlessness that has leaked out of DC and infected the whole world. He is being revered as a savior before he even steps into office. A Jesus-Buddah-MLK.
No doubt some people are hoping he can reverse global warming, feed the hungry, cure the sick, bring about world peace and invent a tomato plant that thrives in winter.
Today, I saw a several childrens books honoring his name and story.
World, you've gone way way too far. Not only is he just a man, he is a politician. He hasn't even begun the freakin' job. He will soon show you what he is made of and I'm afraid he's not the Midas you were expecting. He's no messiah. He's not even an Oprah.
That said, he's no G.W. Bush, which I think is where the original spark of enthusiasm came from. He does appear to be a moral man and I do think we will repsresent a significant, positive change in the way this country operates.
Furthermore, I do not want to diminish the significance of having, at last, a black/mixed race/different looking president. It is a historic time and I'm glad he's in the White House and not John McCain and the Alaskan hussy.
But I do worry about how high the world has built him up. There are very smart political hitmen that work for the conservative wing of our government who have taken character assasination to high art. Barak Obama will be an easy target sitting on that shakey pedastal and there is a long long long way to fall.
World, I urge you to temper your enthusaism with a heaping helping of realism. It'l ll be better for you in the long run and it'll be safer for Barak Obama.
As far as I can tell, the over-paid executives and the bloated union workers that comprise the big three auto makers can't make a desirable and/or ecologically responsible car to save their ass. So now they want all of us to save their ass anyway.
Of course, if we don't, the unemployment rate in the country automatically goes to double digits and whole towns will be wiped out. If we do, we're rewarding failure - the exact opposite of what capitalism is supposed to do. As one web-goer put it, "It seems to be a choice between a flaming bag of dog shit or being forced to listen to Jonah Goldberg read Liberal Fascism on an endless loop."
If we do bail them out, then, it should be a progressive bail out that is tied to benchmarks involving both restructuring and fuel efficiency. All the execs should get $200k or less (yes that means a brain drain from the top - who cares - they clearly suck anyway) with bonuses tied to performance against the benchmarks. As for the union joes, well, they might have to make a little less money for awhile.
Interestingly, the big three complain incessantly about the health care costs (subsidized by the govt. in other car producing countries). Yet they haven't spent a dime on advocating for health care reform. Hmm. That smells odd to me.
Alan Greenspan has helped to shepherd this nation's economic system through some very difficult times. Naturally, any man is prone to make mistakes on occasion. We all just hoped that he was more God than man because any mistake with an economy this large and rickety is bound to be catastrophic.
Today Mr. Greenspan allowed that he may have made a mistake in trusting the free market to correct its own flaws naturally.
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of
organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they
were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity
in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.
Apparently, his old theory needs to be modified for cases where an entire industry is caught in a feeding frenzy. A feeding frenzy in which it's participants become too dizzy with short-term gain and opportunities to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and/or the potential likelihood of eventual disaster.
Value requires an underlying reality. Every time we forget that, we wind up in this same spot.
"The trouble, in a nutshell, is that the financial entrepreneurship of
recent years -- the derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized
debt instruments, and so on -- has undermined all notion of true value"
Put another way, if an entire system is based on a mostly safe assumption (e.g. that home values always go up), what happens when that assumption is eventually proven to be unsafe? Large swathes of value suddenly disappears. Investors saw the risk as too small to factor in until it was too late. They were smart...until the circumstances made them stupid. They were safe...until they discovered that they were reckless.
What I think this means is that capitalism requires that someone be looking at the long term and have the power to correct things that aren't self-correcting (or that would self correct in too painful a way). That's got to be an independent body as far away from money and politics as it can possibly be in America. It needs smart regulation - otherwise we all get screwed.
As Americans we are bathing in bullshit every single day. It's unavoidable. So, if we can't avoid it, we might as well come to understand it. This is a group exercise, so if you'd like to point something out to us, by all means, do.