Monday, March 16, 2009

F... Up And Get Rewarded

Messing up and getting handsomely rewarded is the order of the day at AIG, the giant insurer whose Financial Products Division more or less brought on the country's financial mess. Now, of course, they are going to get 100 billion in bonuses and we are going to let it happen. Why? We don't want to get sued. Well, la de da, what is the big deal?

We involved ourselves with AIG based on the best information we had at the time. Little did we know that we were about to fork over these gigantic bonuses to the wienies who were the ones who created the incredible mess mainly with the infamous credit default swaps. In my view, since we didn't know, we can change the rules. Want to sue us, go ahead.

Larry Summers, the president's chief financial advisor caved somewhat, saying we are a country of laws. It was code saying we knew nothing about the risky business AIG were involved in. And, the previous "deciders" let them run amuck. The fact that those receiving these outrageous bonuses had a contract before we took over their messes, means they walk away. I don't think so: I don't accept it and surely don't think that most Americans who care and are trying to understand, will accept it either.

The last time I looked, lawyers weren't running the country. Let the lawyers duke it out, at least it will take years and by that time, the 80% of AIG we own may have righted itself.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


When I was in Vietnam, we had a not so subtle joke: the Marines had the highest casualty rate of any of the Services in Nam and we would always say one thing--they know one tactic, "Put your head down and charge." This wasn't really true but it was somewhat indicative of how they approach everything. Take the latest crisis: suicides on the up tick. In 2008, 41 Marines committed suicide, a rate of 19 per 1000. Last year, the Marines lost more to suicide than were killed in Iraq. Here's what they are going to do, "All Marines will receive a two hour suicide prevention presentation next month." Problem solved, Marine style.

What is happening with the Marines and the Army for that matter. Not a simple matter and truly, there is nothing that I know that is more tragic than some youngster taking his/her own life. Here are just a couple of theories from the "Girlfriends."

Andy thinks that that it has to do with disillusionment. Young Marines get to Iraq and they see the carnage, they view the attitude of the people and they asked themselves, "What gives?" Is it worth it? And, then in a moment of dispair, without thinking, they do something stupid. Larry, a former Marine himself, sees it as the basic quality of present day recruits. Vastly different than when he was drafted and chose the Marines as an alternative. Soldiers come from lower socio economic categories. They don't have the built in constraints of a value system that they once did. Plus, can never discount the fact that many are having repetitive tours which produce their own peculiar types of struggles. Gary doesn't quite see it like this as he would think that those less sophisticated might be just the ones who would not commit suicides. What we do know is that the more sophisticated have a tendency to seek out help more quickly.

My personal belief is that it is wrapped around the idea that suicide seems to be an impulse thing. And, think about it: Marines at war, weapons everywhere, they get the impulse: disillusioned, dear john, in debt, divorce, kids, loneliness, a thousand and one things that an absent Dad has to think about.

There really are no answers to this enormous riddle. Many put it off on drugs, medication, the thousand and one things that make us look for answers. Some or all of them may be true. Marines might have a good idea, a two day course. OK, no Marines are authorized to commit suicide. It is unMarine.