Thursday, February 18, 2010 By Leave a Comment
Goldman Sachs and other big banks aren’t just pocketing the trillions we gave them to rescue the economy – they’re re-creating the conditions for another crash
Posted Feb 17, 2010 5:57 AM
On January 21st, Lloyd Blankfein left a peculiar voicemail message on the work phones of his employees at Goldman Sachs. Fast becoming America’s pre-eminent Marvel Comics supervillain, the CEO used the call to deploy his secret weapon: a pair of giant, nuclear-powered testicles. In his message, Blankfein addressed his plan to pay out gigantic year-end bonuses amid widespread controversy over Goldman’s role in precipitating the global financial crisis.
The bank had already set aside a tidy $16.2 billion for salaries and bonuses — meaning that Goldman employees were each set to take home an average of $498,246, a number roughly commensurate with what they received during the bubble years. Still, the troops were worried: There were rumors that Dr. Ballsachs, bowing to political pressure, might be forced to scale the number back. After all, the country was broke, 14.8 million Americans were stranded on the unemployment line, and Barack Obama and the Democrats were trying to recover the populist high ground after their bitch-whipping in Massachusetts by calling for a “bailout tax” on banks. Maybe this wasn’t the right time for Goldman to be throwing its annual Roman bonus orgy.
Not to worry, Blankfein reassured employees. “In a year that proved to have no shortage of story lines,” he said, “I believe very strongly that performance is the ultimate narrative.”
Translation: We made a shitload of money last year because we’re so amazing at our jobs, so fuck all those people who want us to reduce our bonuses. [Read more...]
Thursday, November 19, 2009 By Leave a Comment
Los Angeles, California (CNN) — Despite intense student protests, the California Board of Regents on Thursday approved a 32 percent undergraduate tuition increase over the next two years.
Hundreds of students marched and chanted outside UCLA, where university officials were meeting. School officials argued that a fee increase and deep cuts in school spending were necessary because of the state government’s ongoing budget crisis.
After the vote, students rushed the parking decks and staged a sit-in to block regents officials from leaving. Campus police and California Highway Patrol officers were nearby and on the ready clad in riot gear.
Students and others say the cuts will hurt the working and middle classes who benefit from state-funded education.
“We’re fired up. Can’t take it no more,” students chanted as they marched and waved signs. “Education only for the rich,” one sign read.
Dozens of students lined up early for seats inside the regents meeting, hoping for a chance at the microphone during the public comment time before the vote. Campus police with riot gear lined up between the loud but peaceful protesters and the entrance.
The University of California’s Board of Regents approved the plan a day after the regents’ finance committee approved the 32 percent increase.
Some faculty members and campus workers — worried about furloughs and layoffs to come — joined the protesting students.
“Stop cuts in education and research,” a sign carried by a teacher said.
Fourteen people were arrested Wednesday morning after they disrupted the regents’ meeting with chanting, police said. Other protests — including “tent cities” — were under way on other University of California campuses across the state.
About 26 percent of the $20 billion spent each year by the system comes from the state’s general fund and tuition and fees paid by students, according to a summary on the regent’s Web site.
The first tuition increase, which takes effect in January, will cost undergraduate students an additional $585 a semester. The second increase kicks in next fall, raising tuition another $1,344.
The fee increases would be balanced by a raise in “the level of financial assistance for needy low- and middle-income students,” according to a statement from the Board of Regents.
Thursday, November 12, 2009 By Leave a Comment
Leading the city in unfinished buildings: BROOKLYN….
The city’s count of stalled construction projects in the borough has surged 42% since it began tracking them this summer, according to the Department of Buildings’ latest statistics.
Brooklyn has the most stalled sites of any borough, with a total of 245. This makes up nearly half of the 527 buildings sitting unfinished citywide after the collapse of the housing market sent many developers packing.
“They went forward with all this stuff, and now we’re paying the price,” said community activist and Williamsburg resident Phil DePaolo, who said the metal frames and vacant lots strewn across his neighborhood are a magnet for drug addicts and homeless people.
“An area where you had factories and life, you [now] have emptiness and darkness, and it increases the fear factor in the community,” he said.
Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the hottest areas for development just a few years ago, have seen 80 sites stall, the most of any area in the borough. Brooklyn’s closest runnerup is Borough Park, with 18.
Tenth-grader Kimberly, 15, who lives near a partly finished building on S. Fourth St., said she often sees raucous teens partying there, adding: “I get nervous walking by at night.”
Earlier this year, the DOB sent investigators to monitor stalled sites and issue violations or work with the developer to fix emergency problems.
Last month, the City Council passed a bill giving developers incentives to keep up their properties, allowing them to renew permits at stalled sites for up to four years if they keep up with safety requirements.
“We’re worried about the impact that it’s having on neighborhoods,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has also devised a plan that would allow developers to turn stalled sites into affordable housing. While the city may consider stronger measures to get developers to push ahead, many simply don’t have the funds to do so, Quinn said.
But DePaolo said the city’s current efforts aren’t enough, adding: “It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound.”
Monday, February 9, 2009 By 1 Comment
Jack Noble was pretty sure what he would see when he arrived to check out reports of horses abandoned on a rural road in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in September.
Noble, field operations manager for the state’s Department of Agriculture, found 11 filthy, sickly and starving horses. “They were just let loose, and they were severely malnourished,” he said.
Horse abandonment is on the rise across the USA, livestock and agricultural officials say. As the economy worsens and the cost of feeding and caring for horses rises, more people are abandoning their animals into the wild, where many starve and die.
No national numbers are available, but there are “definitely thousands of them out there,” said Dave Duquette, an Oregon horse trainer and president of the United Horsemen’s Front.
“Folks have to decide whether to feed the kids or feed the horses,” said Dr. Kerry Rood, a veterinarian at Utah State University.
In Wyoming, there have been “huge increases” in the number of domestic horses abandoned, said Jim Schwartz, director of the Wyoming Livestock Board.
“It used to be six or eight per year. This year so far we’ve had at least 41,” said Lee Romsa, Wyoming’s brand commissioner. In Nevada, officials have found 63 abandoned horses in the northern part of the state alone in 2008 — an unprecedented situation, said Ed Foster, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.
The horses Noble found were sold at auction, surprising considering their condition, he said.
The responsibility for dealing with abandoned domestic horses generally falls to a state’s department of agriculture or a local animal control organization, Rood said. Private animal rescue organizations often become involved, he said.
The sale of horses is becoming “less and less” of an option, said Patricia Evans, equine specialist at Utah State. Auctioneers screening horses are turning them away if they don’t think they will bring enough money, she said.
Rood said another part of the abandonment problem is the closure of the USA’s last horse slaughterhouse last year in Illinois. Slaughtering provided owners with a final option, he said.
Bruce Friedrich of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said closure of American horse slaughterhouses was a necessary end to a “horrifically abusive” practice.
Many horse owners believe their animals, if released into the wild, will be adopted by wild herds. But “the wild horse herd will reject them in the most violent manner,” Foster said. “It ends up being a bad ending for that horse.”
DeLong reports for the Reno Gazette-Journal