Monthly Archives: December 2008

Monkey-wrenching Land Grabs in Utah

A dailyKos diarist put me on to this new form of civil disobedience.

Reminds me of Saul Alinsky and Kodak or Ralph NAder and GM in the 1960s and the birth of shareholder activism.

He didn’t pour sugar into a bulldozer’s gas tank. He didn’t spike a tree or set a billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidder’s paddle, a University of Utah student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near two southern Utah national parks won’t be opened to drilling anytime soon.

Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy — and he’s not sorry.

“I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience,” he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. “There comes a time to take a stand.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, Protest

Da** you, Krugman!!!!! Scooped me again.

A friend from Dads night  can attest to the fact that on Wednesday I told him I think that Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and so-called “normal” investing in high finance, speculative vehicles is probably very similar in terms of how investors act and gather information.

Paul Krugman’s column in today’s NY Times starts off:

The revelation that Bernard Madoff — brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community — was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend.

Yet surely I’m not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff’s tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?

Sigh.  I guess there are worse people to be scooped by.

Leave a comment

Filed under economics, writing

Through the looking glass: Putting a Value on a C.E.O.

January 28- Update:

Maureen Dowd Agrees with me:

“If you don’t pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise” and they’ll go elsewhere, he said.

Hello? They destroyed the franchise. Let’s call their bluff. Let’s see what a great job market it is for the geniuses of capitalism who lost $15 billion in three months and helped usher in socialism.”

My father in law sent me this article from two weeks ago int the NY Times.

Dealbook – Putting a Value on a C.E.O. – NYTimes.com
“By itself, more share and retention-based compensation is not the magic bullet, because it certainly didn’t stop us from running up very large losses,” Mr. Bischoff said.

This ranks up there with all time statements lacking any humility or self-awareness.  If you look at the explosion in financial sector profitability (much of it inflated) and bonuses and other stock-based payments, and then at the continued pay out of bonuses even as the financial sector sank, then the premise of this statement by the Chairman of Citigroup, which is that more of the same compensation schemes _may_, (may!) not help avoid large losses is weirdly up-is-down through-the-looking-glass logic that can only make sense to the world of Wall Street and high finance.  If you are the CEO, of, say, I don’t know, a car manufacturer, and your firm looses more than half of its value in one year, than you d not get a bonus.  You probably lose your job.

The article goes on to repeat the logic of more of these compensation ideologues several times that if firms do not continue to pay out huge bonuses tied to stock options, than they will lose the top management talent they need to compete.  ha ha, ho ho!  I am drying my eyes.

Let’s list some accomplishments of this great management talent (all are sarcastic, BTW)

Because they have done such a great job so far.

Because they did not create the conditions for this financial mess by advocating deregulation and obfuscation of financial systems under the guise of free market theory.

Because they designed and staunchly defend as in the general interest stock option compensation that creates clear and perverse incentives to smooth earnings, game financial accounting, and other malfeasance (whether deliberate or convenient).

Because they have not hijacked the very governance mechanisms meant to curb the abuses of greed in a free market- corporate boards and regulatory agencies.

Finally, is there a labor economist in the house?

The argument is that if not, as a group, paid super premiums over all other types of organizational leaders, from medicine, higher education, the frickin’ president, manufacturing, and every other sector of American economic activity, then oh no! there will be a mass exodus of CEO and top management.  Really?  And where in the hell where they go work?  Boeing?  Chrysler?  Schering Plough? Best Buy?  Given the vast pool of educated and experienced mangers and even financial managers in the world, you don’t think we could possibly find people willing to work for $2,$4,$6 million in total compensation? Especially if that is twice what they ear now (or more) and not any better than what they could get elsewhere.

The notion somehow massive bonuses and total compensation are the only way to keep people performing as the CEOs and top leaders of banks, brokerages, investment banks, and so on just seems laughable.

Leave a comment

Filed under Banking, economics, management

Town-Gown Project for Planned Development

This piece from the NYT caught my eye.  Lewisburg is similar in some ways, although bigger.  Kelly township is already up and running as sprawl-driven growth.  The whole county, Union, is involved in a planning process, called cultivating community.  There are some draft plans on the website.  How effectively can it redirect te built in infrastructure and private development?

The great quote here is the professor: “a synthesis of academics and civics.”

Maybe Bucknell has faculty or classes who could engage in similar research? Does the county need or want such help?

Vermont Town Turns to College in Bid to Guide Change – NYTimes.com
Starksboro asked students from nearby Middlebury College to spend the semester interviewing its residents to document what they value most about the place. It intends to use their thoughts to influence decisions about its future.

In particular, officials here are counting on the project to help steer a revision of the town plan next year, a process that often leads to zoning-change proposals that incite bitter debate.

“The key is to project beyond immediate controversies over applications for subdivisions and to say, ‘Let’s envision the future that we would love to have,’ ” said Prof. John Elder of Middlebury, “at which point there is considerable agreement.”

The students are in a class called Portrait of a Vermont Town, which Professor Elder, who teaches it, described as a rare synthesis of academics and civics.

3 Comments

Filed under Bucknell, Government, pedagogy