Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Good Pitchfork Post

From the smart and beautiful Digby, of course:
People are being asked to make all kinds of concessions these days. They are being asked to cut back hours and pay and forego raises and benefits. They are taking on extra work because the companies aren't replacing employees who leave. Reports of mistreatment in the workplace are way up. They are trapped in jobs they hate, with houses they can't afford, desperately afraid to get sick because if they lose their jobs they lose their health care. And yet highly paid executives are insisting that they are entitled to huge sums of money.

This attitude of entitlement is what's infuriating average citizens and legitimately so. These people are supposed to be masterful leaders and they are instead acting like pampered Chinese princes cloistered from the rest of the world behind the darkened windows of their limousines and the walls of their gated communities. They honestly don'[t understand just how angry people are at this display of arrogance and aristocratic privilege. It's astonishing.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Extortion Attempt

FedEx could cancel contracts for $6.7 billion in American-made planes if Congress makes it easier for unions to organize the delivery giant's workers.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday, the Memphis-based delivery company disclosed that future commitments to buy Boeing 777s are contingent on FedEx Express' continued coverage by the Railway Labor Act.

The disclosure serves as a warning to lawmakers seeking to put FedEx Express workers under the National Labor Relations Act, a move seen as helping the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and rival UPS.

The Seattle Times calls it this way:
FedEx said it may not buy 30 more Boeing 777 freighters if a federal law is changed to make it easier for its employees to join a union.

Following through on those orders and options, with a list price of $7.7 billion, depends on FedEx employees continuing to be under the Railway Labor Act, the company said.

That law, which covers FedEx workers because the company was founded as an airline, requires a national vote if employees want union representation.

Legislation approved by a U.S. House panel March 5 would make it easier for drivers of Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx to vote locally to join unions, by placing the company under the National Labor Relations Act.

FedEx's larger rival, United Parcel Service, backs the proposed change, saying it would even the playing field. About half of UPS' employees belong to the Teamsters union, while FedEx's only unionized group is its pilots.

The Teamsters have been trying to win representation of FedEx drivers for years.

"If the regulatory and congressional environment remains hostile, there is virtual uncertainty over how we'd proceed," FedEx spokesman Maury Lane said Tuesday.

The change would "stymie competition and create an economic roadblock to recovery," he said.

"FedEx is an important Boeing customer and we understand the company's concerns about the proposed legislation," said Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx.

Did you catch that? UPS drivers have been members of the Teamsters for years. They seem to be able to do business just fine.

FedEx, Boeing, and GE are now resorting to extortion to get their way. I guess they figured lobbying and campaign contributions were no longer effective bribes.

UPDATE 3-26-09
Puget Sound Business Journal is also covering this story.
FedEx Corp. is dangling the possibility of canceling a multi-billion dollar order for new airplanes should Congress help its workers unionize.

The Memphis-based carrier noted in its third quarter filing the with SEC that in January it exercised its option to purchase 15 additional Boeing B777F aircraft and got an option to purchase 15 more.

Apparently that contract had some hefty clauses that were alluded to in the earnings report.

“Our obligation to purchase these additional aircraft is conditioned upon there being no event that causes FedEx Express or its employees not to be covered by the Railway Labor Act,” according to the filing.

Get that? They wrote it in the purchase contract! Screw labor!

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O'Reilly Stalks to Prove He's Against Crimes Against Women

The irony might be humorous if what he was doing wasn't so threatening. O’Reilly sent his lap dog, Jesse Watters, out to stalk Amanda Terkel. Stalking is very threatening and scary to women. So why did he do it? He claims to get an apology to the Alexa Foundation but I think he’s a bully and just wants to demonstrate what a big dog he his. Let's remind ourselves that stalking behavor is clinically seen as a symptom of narcissism, borderline, paranoid, and dependent personality -- with antisocial personality also possible, but not as common. It’s aggressive, intimidating, scary, and threatening. There’s no other way to interpret that kind of action – that’s it purpose and desired effect. He is abusing a woman because he wants her to shut up.

Way to prove you deserve to be a speaker at the Alexa foundation, Bill!

Let’s all pray that his example isn’t copied by other men that don’t like something a woman says.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More AIG Handling Rants

First of all the Republithugs are WRONG to blame this mess on Obama and the Democrats. AIG got their bailout from Paulson back in November 10, 2008. Obama was a little busy that day trying to get elected so he had nothing to do with it. This was all Henry (Hank) Paulson and George W Bush.

So why didn't Hank Paulson see this bonus fiasco coming? Well first let's look at Hank Paulson. His Wikipedia bio says:
He joined Goldman Sachs in 1974, working in the firm's Chicago office. He became a partner in 1982. From 1983 until 1988, Paulson led the Investment Banking group for the Midwest Region, and became managing partner of the Chicago office in 1988. From 1990 to November 1994, he was co-head of Investment Banking, then, Chief Operating Officer from December 1994 to June 1998; eventually as its chief executive. His compensation package, according to reports, was US $37 million in 2005, and US $16.4 million projected for 2006. His net worth has been estimated at over US $700 million.
So is this a guy who is in touch with how the rest of us live or get compensated? We know George Bush wasn't -- all of his primary imcome came from his Daddy's friends.

AIG has a long history of what we would consider compensation abuse. Here's an article in the NYT from 2005:
June 28, 2005
A.I.G. Provides Details of Executive Compensation
The American International Group, the global insurance giant, spelled out yesterday the details of an unusual and secretive executive compensation plan that had for years been overseen and controlled by Maurice R. Greenberg, A.I.G.'s former chief executive.

Many details of the payments, which were made through two separate but related companies called Starr International and C. V. Starr, have not been disclosed in previous filings.

They were described in A.I.G.'s proxy statement, which was filed late yesterday in advance of its annual meeting on Aug. 11. It outlines the compensation paid in 2004 and two previous years to A.I.G.'s top executives, including Mr. Greenberg, who was ousted by the company in March.

The company, which is under investigation by federal and state prosecutors, disclosed extensive accounting irregularities this year and said in May that its earnings for the past five years would have to be restated by almost $4 billion.

By far the largest figure in the compensation tallies are the amounts earned by the executives under the long-term incentive plan operated by Starr International, a private company registered in Panama.
For example, Martin J. Sullivan, the chief executive and successor to Mr. Greenberg, received a salary of $775,000 and a bonus of $830,000 last year from A.I.G. His long-term pay under the Starr International plan was an additional $4.2 million.

The proxy also noted that Mr. Sullivan would receive a $4.9 million transition payment in cash for assuming the top job at A.I.G. this year. That payment would be in addition to his salary of $1 million.

Under the Starr International long-term pay plan, Mr. Greenberg received $10.1 million in 2004; that came on top of $1 million in salary and a bonus of $8 million from A.I.G.

...A.I.G.'s 11 top executives were allocated $42.4 million in shares under the Starr International plan last year.

...The filing also disclosed the total amounts that the A.I.G. executives have accumulated under the Starr International incentive plan over the years. At the end of last year, Mr. Greenberg had accrued shares worth $202 million based on current prices, while Mr. Sullivan had accumulated stock worth $10.6 million.
The company's executives have also earned significant amounts, the proxy noted, by investing in C. V. Starr, a private company that sells specialized insurance policies for A.I.G. The liquidation value of Mr. Greenberg's shares in C. V. Starr was $121 million as of last January; the shares also generated $2.8 million in dividends last year.

The value of Mr. Sullivan's shares in C. V. Starr was $10.1 million in January, the proxy said. His C. V. Starr dividends came to almost $400,000 in 2004.
Here we see AIG -- 4 YEARS AGO!! Under Paulson and Bush's watch -- under investigation, having to re-state their statements, and they are paying millions and millions to both the CEO they ousted as well as the the new CEO. They were also using Enron style off shore companies to hide this stuff. How did Paulson think this was going to turn out? Did he think that they were all of a sudden going to get responsible?

As my Momma used to say -- If you lie down with dogs expect some fleas. In this case I'd say we let a couple dogs with fleas of their own put us in a bed with a dog with mange! As Rachel Maddow says -- Scrub, rince and repeat!

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sanctimony of Contracts

Obama's top economic adviser, Larry Summers, was on This Week today.

George Stephanopoulos asked him
We learned, overnight, that the insurance giant, AIG, which has received $170 billion taxpayer dollars will start paying out today $165 million in employee bonuses. . . a lot of people simply don't understand, how can this be, especially when these bonuses are going to be going to the financial products division of the company which brought the company down?

Summers responded
George, look, there are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months, but what's happened at AIG is the most outrageous, what that company did, the way it was not regulated; the way no one was watching, what's proved necessary is outrageous.
We are a country of law. There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Every legal step possible to limit those bonuses is being taken by Secretary Geithner and by the Federal Reserve system.

Where is all this concern for contracts when it comes to labor contracts like the UAW? How come mortgage contracts are off limits when they talk about "cram downs"? What about the State of Washington's contract with it's workers on pay raises?

Why are bonuses to folks who bankrupted their company so privileged for this contract protection? I'm sick of this class warfare.

UPDATE 3-16-09
Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post about this today. Also, don't miss Aaron Zelinsky's solution to the problem at Huffington.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

My Hero -- Jon Stewart

Wikipedia describes "Court Jesters" as
In societies where freedom of speech was not recognized as a right, the court jester - precisely because anything he said was by definition "a jest" and "the uttering of a fool" - could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished for...Jesters could also give bad news to the King that no-one else would dare deliver. The best example of this is in 1340 when the French fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Sluys by the English. Phillippe VI's jester told him the English sailors: "Don't even have the guts to jump into the water like our brave French."

Jesters told truth to power and were also our heroes.

Jon Stewart is our modern day Jester. He started with "Crossfire"

Stewart then moved on to Wolf Blitzer:

There have been more but last night was genius!

He is in the truest sense of the word our best Court Jester!

Monday, March 09, 2009

FDIC Take Overs on 60 Minutes

Good 60 Minutes segment on how we take over financial institutions.