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March 07, 2005
Still Blogging

I'm a multi-tasker, okay? It's compulsive. (Besides, this is wasted time. And if I'm put on 'hold' for ten minutes by one more person today, I'm going to have a fit.)

I could probably find it online in two seconds, but you already know it. That famous question, "who will guard the guardians?" In this case the answer seems to be, "no one, so keep your mouth shut and mind your own business." (I mean, color me cynical, but why do I find the guy's defense of "there is no evidence" to be unconvincing?)

I don't mean to throw sand in the works, but this bothers me, and not for the reason you'd think.

It's been a while since I had a chance to visit the SunTimes QuickTakes. Nice to see they haven't lost their touch.

QT Trickle-On Economics Update:

Pay for the CEOs at 100 major American corporations rose 46.4 percent last year while pay for American workers rose 3.6 percent.


I believe we've "renditioned" (I know, not a word) people because the government has admitted it. But I have some trouble with some of the reports.

Witnesses tell the same story: masked men in an unmarked jet seize their target, cut off his clothes, put him in a blindfold and jumpsuit, tranquilize him and fly him away.

All of that, apparently done quite publicly? Hard to believe. No...looks like in Sweden, the police brought the victims out to the airport. But...how was that arranged? Even a legal extradition can take months. Exactly how do you convince/suborn the street cops of other nations to fall into line with this stuff? Would cops actually do something that illegal just on an order from a superior or something?

This entire thing reads more like a spy melodrama than anything else.

Later note: I was naive. It happened this way.

Iraq. Oil-for-food. Scandal. Ringing any bells? I went to the foreign press for an update. (Can't remember where I read it this morning, but I do remember reading a story where the Right is now blaming Clinton for the USofA's imminent implication in the O-f-F scandal. Because the oil companies themselves aren't to blame or something, I don't know.)

(Hey! Color me stunned. Since when do my aimless ramblings rate a mention on Liberal Oasis? Maybe because it was Sunday...slow blog day.)

And I should have recommended this before, but I've been thinking about it. Well, okay, partly I was annoyed because it took me two days to get the song out of my head after I first read the entry. But it's well worth reading. And be grateful. At least we're not facing Letters of Marque at the moment. At least...not until someone suggests the idea to the Bush Administration. There are plenty of mercenaries and "private armies" out there who might like to do just that....

(Also? The link to the original post? Allow me to mention, about that original post, that I'm really tired of hearing about how Democrats aren't willing to go after terrorists.

As long as Republicans are the party who created, trained, funded, and encouraged Bin Laden and his boys? They should shut up about who does more to "encourage" terrorists. Not that I'm telling Mr./Dr./Professor/Whatever is appropriate Pipes to "shut up", at least not particularly. But that lie is tired.)

Oops. Well...okay.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:20 PM


Since the article doesn't define "pay" (is it salary? salary plus benefits? salary plus benefits plus bonus plus stock/options?), the mere comparison of two numbers is problematic at best and downright misleading and useless at worst. For example, in 2002, "average" CEO compensation fell 15% (not surprising given the stock market impact post 9/11). Since the vast majority of CEOs have compensation that includes bonuses and stock packages, generally (but not always) tied to stock performance, and the S&P 100 index (again, may not track exactly with the top 100 companies in the article) is up over 50% for the last 18 months. This is not to say there is a disparity between overall "average" CEO compensation, overall market (S&P 500) returns, and "average" worker pay - but that debate is far more complex than the simple quick take.

As long as Republicans are the party who created, trained, funded, and encouraged Bin Laden and his boys?

Have you actually read bin Laden's works - especially his Fatwas (done in 1996 and 1998)- before you make comments that the "Republicans created, trained, and funded Bin laden"?

"It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators; to the extent that the Muslims blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq. The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana, in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory. Massacres in Tajakestan, Burma, Cashmere, Assam, Philippine, Fatani, Ogadin, Somalia, Erithria, Chechnia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina took place, massacres that send shivers in the body and shake the conscience. All of this and the world watch and hear, and not only didn't respond to these atrocities, but also with a clear conspiracy between the USA and its' allies and under the cover of the iniquitous United Nations, the dispossessed people were even prevented from obtaining arms to defend themselves. "

My Muslim Brothers of The World:
"Your brothers in Palestine and in the land of the two Holy Places are calling upon your help and asking you to take part in fighting against the enemy --your enemy and their enemy-- the Americans and the Israelis. they are asking you to do whatever you can, with one own means and ability, to expel the enemy, humiliated and defeated, out of the sanctities of Islam.

Our Lord, the people of the cross had come with their horses (soldiers) and occupied the land of the two Holy places. And the Zionist Jews fiddling as they wish with the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the route of the ascendance of the messenger of Allah"

From Bin Laden interview

The enmity between us and the Jews goes far back in time and is deep rooted. There is no question that war between the two of us is inevitable. For this reason it is not in the interest of Western governments to expose the interests of their people to all kinds of retaliation for almost nothing.

After World War II, the Americans grew more unfair and more oppressive towards people in general and Muslims in particular. ... The Americans started it and retaliation and punishment should be carried out following the principle of reciprocity, especially when women and children are involved. Through history, American has not been known to differentiate between the military and the civilians or between men and women or adults and children. Those who threw atomic bombs and used the weapons of mass destruction against Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the Americans. Can the bombs differentiate between military and women and infants and children? America has no religion that can deter her from exterminating whole peoples. Your position against Muslims in Palestine is despicable and disgraceful. America has no shame. ... We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans. Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind. We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets, and this is what the fatwah says ... . The fatwah is general (comprehensive) and it includes all those who participate in, or help the Jewish occupiers in killing Muslims.

Bin Laden's hatred for the US/Israel goes way back and is not the product of "Republicans". American foreign policy under both parties have supported Israel and kept a presence in the Middle East to protect our national interests. Unless we're willing to leave the area and let Israel become part of the second caliphate, people like OBL will always hate us. (guess we get no credit for preventing the killing of Moslems in Bosnia). Also, Bin Laden comes from wealth. He can and has financed many of AQ's operations.

Posted by: Col Steve at March 8, 2005 12:42 PM

Col Steve -

Nice to hear from you!

Yes, you're right that the pay inequity comparison I was discussing was a simplistic (if not simple-minded) view of the situation, but it also remains true that many CEOs are paid astronomic salaries and "bonuses" with no tie to company profitability or stock value increases.

It also remains true that stock value increases aren't necessarily a direct reflection of anything done by a CEO, so why don't workers get a bonus when stock prices increase?

All of which just goes to confirm your statement that it's not a simple situation. I know it isn't. But I also think it's time the situation was addressed. CEOs should not become multi-billionaires while employees of their company are denied even cost-of-living increases or in lieu of being able to pay stockholders (the "owners" of the corporation) dividends.

I also realize that any solution will be complex, since the current situation is a combination of the luxury of the high-profit 90s and the cult of "superstardom" in the world of interchangeable CEOs.

What I do not believe is that corporations and corporate behavior are somehow "outside" of society, or that society doesn't have the same responsibility to establish and maintain norms for corporate behavior as it does for the behavior of individuals.

And, bin Laden? Yes, I've read some of his stuff, although very little. I do not, in any way, pretend to be an expert on the Middle East.

My (probably simple-minded, again) response is that it surprises me not at all that he's reached into the past to find occasions, excuses, and opportunities to justify himself. That's what tyrants and terrorists do. Check back through history and you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who grabbed for power without doing the same thing. They feel compelled to use history to justify themselves. (Everyone is the hero of his own story. These "tyrants" are always justified in their own minds.)

For the record, using historical events and precedents to "sell" their causes is also what good rulers do.

Second, I'm certainly not going to argue that, across the Middle East, there is no cause for bitterness against "the West" (not to mention parts of "the East") because that would be untrue. They do, in fact, have cause to hate most of us.

But the fact remains that bin Laden himself came to power through the USofA's government (well, the CIA) training "freedom fighters" to take on the Soviets in Afghanistan. We taught him how to run an insurgency. How to fight a guerrilla war, and how to plan and execute sneak attacks. We didn't want to fight that war ourselves, but we weren't willing to let the Soviets form a stronghold in the oil-rich Middle East, either. It wasn't about democracy. It was about the Cold War and it was, as it so often is, about oil.

We got in the habit of reacting to the Soviet Union without thought for the consequences. (Well, no, we frequently act with little rational planning for potential consequences.) We can't let go of it and move ahead with any sensible plans because there is no willingness in Washington to admit our foreign policy mistakes openly and honestly.

(Okay, not that I blame them for that. These dirty, little "foreign policy" games been a matter of such secrecy for so long that the mess is so huge now that each new "generation" of Congress would be understandably afraid of shouldering the blame. I begin to wonder if we shouldn't abandon the whole "international intelligence" thing. Get rid of the CIA. They've certainly been selected to carry out some of the most short-sighted and quite frankly undemocratic, anti-freedom campaigns in modern history. I know the argument that "everyone reads about our failures, no one knows our successes" and I'm underwhelmed. If they complete one successful operation for every one that goes up in flames around them? I'm still unhappy at the realization that what seems to be our most important foreign policy moves are being carried out under cloak of secrecy.

And yet...the more I know of the world and the more I discover that most "civilized" countries fall so short of my ideal of them, the more I might be tempted to wonder if I'm wrong...if maybe we act in secrecy because the world would not let us act publicly? I don't know. Someone write a nice, long post and tell me what to think!)

Posted by: Anne at March 8, 2005 03:52 PM

Well, I would argue against "no" ties, but CEO compensation, especially base salary, is "downward sticky" as economist like to say. There is a lot of discussion in financial literature about the incentive structures for CEO compensation, especially stock options - focus on short-run returns versus long-term profitability for example. I would agree that just like professional athletes and entertainers, there is an increasing trend to pay for potential as opposed to performance. I do believe there is an increasing market response though in the forms of pressure on boards of directors, either through public pressure or large shareholders (pension/mutual fund organizations) to bring more accountability (I'm a disney shareholder and the votes against Michael Eisner keep edging up for example and I've noticed in some other holdings more shareholder initiatives on executive pay that keep gaining more votes).

As for the Middle East, I'm reminded of a quote that when it comes to understanding that region, there are no "experts" - just varying degrees of ignorance.

OBL went to Afghanistan ahead of US involvement and probably would have, given his wealth, emerged a leader regardless of our assistance - although clearly US covert aid to him and the groups fighting the Soviets facilitated that process. However, look at the history before blaming one party or the other:

July 3, 1979 President Carter, at the urging of his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, signs a secret directive for clandestine assistance to enemies of the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan. Cooley, pp. 13, 19-22. [This, of course, was six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Brzezinski admitted this in 1998 to a rather shocked French interviewer: "We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we consciously increased the probability that they would .... Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap. You want me to regret that?" When the interviewer asked if he regretted having supported the Islamic fundamentalists and given arms and advice to future terrorists, Brzezinski replied: "What is more important to the history of the world... the Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" Interview with Vincent Javert in Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, January 15-21, 1998, p. 76, translated from the French by Bill Blum.]

January 4, 1980 President Carter announces some measures to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan— a partial embargo on US grain sales to the Soviet Union, a major cutback on fishing rights in US waters, and no more licensing of American technology. He tells the Senate to shelve consideration of the SALT II arms reduction treaty. He hints that the US may boycott the Olympic games to take place that summer in Moscow. The next day Brzezinski leaves for Cairo and Islamabad to secure agreements:

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat agrees to allow US cargo planes to fly from Egyptian air fields. He will also scour warehouses for old Soviet weapons including Kalashnikoffs.
With the understanding that all weapons are to be funneled though his secret service, the ISI, General Zia al-Haq agrees that Pakistan will establish training camps and train Afghans and other Muslim volunteers.
Saudi Arabia agrees to help financially. [Their contribution ultimately matched that of the US, dollar for dollar.]
The Sultan of Oman contributes the use of air bases and naval harbors.
Secretary of Defense Harold Brown negotiates a deal with China: The US will sell them a ground station for satellite reception which contains some coveted "dual-use" technology. China will allow the US to build two electronic intelligence posts in Xianjiang (to replace the ones lost in Iran.)
Israel will very covertly supply the mujaheddin with Soviet weapons confiscated from the Palestinians. [It is also possible, but not proven, that Israel's special forces trained some Afghani volunteers.] Cooley, pp. 15-16, 59, 65-69, 100, 95, 108-110.

January 20, 1981 Ronald Reagan is inaugurated as the 40th president. (Television gives the American public the split-screen spectacle of the inauguration ceremony plus the arrival of the Embassy captives just released by Iran.) William Casey, the new head of the CIA, enthusiastically adopts the covert operation in Afghanistan started by Brzezinski, Carter, and Carter's DCI, Stansfield Turner. [The Black Budget cost of the first year under Carter had been $100 million. Rep. Charles Wilson (D-TX) of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee called this "peanuts" and, with several other anti-communist hawks, saw to it that Black Budget funds for the covert operation in Afghanistan quickly quadrupled. More weapons and better weapons were procured. Under a super-secret SOVMAT program (probably unknown to Pakistan's Zia) phony corporations bought huge quantities of weapons from Eastern European governments, including latest-model Soviet tanks and radar systems for fighter planes.

Your last paragraph necessitates another post.

Posted by: Col Steve at March 8, 2005 11:40 PM

Col Steve -

When I hear of a CEO who is awarded a multi-million dollar "performance bonus" in a year when the corporation's stock value has plummeted? I have to think, "no ties to value." (I wish I could remember the corporations...I'll have to so some research.) Also, such bonuses are not infrequently tied to things other than stock value/company economic health, so that said CEOs demand to be paid even if the company's value is decreasing.

As for the rest of your comment...I badly want to discuss what you've brought up but it will have to wait for my "leisure" time, instead of my too-short lunch "hour." Maybe this evening....

Later note - No, I don't have anything to add. Yours is a reasonable, factual recitation of most of the major events. What I might offer would be around motivation, world and USofA social climate and stuff and wouldn't add that much to the discussion.

Posted by: Anne at March 10, 2005 01:26 PM