jeudi 30 juin 2011

Hedge Fund Managers Illustrate Deregulated Financial Capitalism's Plutocratic Madness

Despite the worst economic crisis in history, some top dogs aren't just raking in the cash, they're getting it delivered directly by Brink's. 

According to AR Magazine's AR: Absolute Return+Alpha survey on hedge fund managers' compensations, top managers made a total of $22.3 billion in 2007, an all time high since the surveys started nine years ago. One year later, it reported that compensations dropped almost 50%, to a still staggering $11.6 billion. 

In 2009, the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers made $25.3 billion dollars. David Tepper of Appaloosa Management made $4 billion on investments in the financial sector. George Soros, best known for betting against the Bank of England in 1992, placed second with $3.3 billion. 

For 2010, AR Magazine says the 25 highest paid will take home a combined $22.07 billion, nearly down 13% from two years ago. 

John Paulson, who earned more than $2 billion last year, places first this year with a record $4.9 billion. That calculates to almost $155 per second. To put that in perspective, his earnings this year represent the combined income of all hedge fund managers just ten years ago. To match the salaries of the top 25, it takes take 441,400 Americans making $50,000 a year. 

Can these 25 individuals' work really be worth close to half a million's? Perhaps, as the French Socialist Party have at least promised in their presidential project, it's time to put a cap on executive pay (not just in the public sector, as they propose, but in the private as well). They propose a 1 to 20 limit. 

In the meantime, the judicial system censors its decision to prosecute or not based on your position in the capitalist pyramid. On July 3rd, fund manager Martin Joel Erzinger allegedly stroke Dr. Steven Milo with his 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan on Highway 6, in Eagle, Colorado. "Mr. Erzinger struck me (Milon was on a bicycle), fled and left me for dead on the highway", wrote Milo in a letter to the District Attorney. Erzinger implicitly pleaded guilty to having fled when he called Mercedes' auto assistance for his vehicle to be towed, but did not report the incident to the authorities. He says he didn't know he had struck the cyclist.

Court documents reveal Milo "suffered spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain and damage to his knee and scapula. Over the pas six weeks he has suffered 'disabling' spinal headaches and faces multiple surgeries for a herniated disc and plastic surgery to fix the scars he suffered in the accident". His lawyer, Harold Haddon, added that: "He will have lifetime pains. His ability to deal with the physical challenges of his profession - liver transplant surgery - has been seriously jeopardized". 

In the end, the District Attorney dropped the felony charges held against Erzinger claiming they would be bad for his business: "Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession", declared DA Mark Hurlbert. Erzinger is responsible for over $1 billion in assets for "ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations". 

Hurlbert went on to explain that charging Erzinger with a felony could affect his job and his ability to pay restitution: "When you're talking about restitution, you don't wan't to take away his ability to pay".

So there you have it folks, if you're part of the circle of men making their fortunes off of the world's suffering (and in fact contributing to perpetuate it), in the midst of the most dire economic times we have ever faced, you can literally cripple innocent bystanders for sport; the justice department will cover up for you. 

mercredi 29 juin 2011

Google predicts U.S. will miss up to $3.2 trillion in GDP growth if green tech isn't encouraged

My last post detailed the costs of the Afghan war, which could reach $4.4 trillion dollars according to Brown University's Watson Institute.

Now, Google has published a study on its official blog in which they conclude that by delaying investment in green technologies by just four years, the US stands to lose up to $3.2 trillion in GDP and as many as 1.4 million new job creations. 

In addition, the study reveals that implementing clean energy policies would reduce household energy costs by close to $1,000 per year, cut back on US oil consumption by 1.1 billion barrels a year and lower the nation's total carbon emissions by 13% come 2030. 

If we look as far as 2050, Google estimates that up to 4 million jobs will have been created and carbon output reduced by 55%. 

The study's findings are very promising (although not surprising) and appear to be in-line with Google's desire to promote renewable energy technologies. The company has hired several lobbying firms and spent more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2011 to influence lawmakers on the subject. Furthermore, Google has also invested $780 million in clean technology firms working to find cheaper (and cleaner) energy sources than coal. 

So, if we do the math, the US will stand to lose $4.4 trillion to the wars in the Middle-East plus $3.2 trillion if they don't prioritize green tech (which they probably won't): that's a grand total of $7.6 trillion in losses just to finance counterproductive wars and an outdated, destructive fossil-fuel economy. All that without mentioning the cost of the Bush taxcuts [plus the regressive tax code as a whole], and the irrational privatized health-care/educational/carceral systems.

Don't forget to count in the banks, who still collects huge bailouts to cover the expenses of paying billions of dollars in bonuses [to increase the rate of foreclosures: the chief executive of the UK Asset Resolution said this week that showing « tough love » to those who can't make their mortgage payments and throwing them out of their homes is « fair » as it stops the person from being « further in debt » ; in sum, an increasing foreclosre rate has become 'fairness' ].

Already in 2009, Neil Barofsky, special inspector-general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said in a statement given to Congress that the US Treasury's bailout program could cost up to $23.7 trillion for the taxpayers, or 1.7 times the country's GDP.

And so the machine rolls on. Be sure to roll over when you hear it coming. 

US cost of war at least $5.4 trillion and counting

According to the research project "Costs of War" led by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, in the ten years since US troops invaded Afghanistan, spending on the conflict totalled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion, although the final bill could reach $4.4 trillion depending on when it comes to an end. 

The study also notes that these numbers will rise by at least another trillion dollars when you take into account the interest payments still left to be made on loans contracted by the administration. 

In terms of casualties, it is estimated that up to 258,000 people have died as a direct result of warfare, including 125,000 civilians [in Iraq]. This number rises when you count those who have perished as a result of unsafe drinking water, lack of quality healthcare and mal/undernourishment. 365,000 more are left wounded and close to 8 million people have been displaced. But these are just estimates, because as Tommy Franks (U.S. commander in Iraq) said after the fall of Saddam in 2003, "We don't do body counts".

In a way we can say that the report calculates the "cost of 9/11": nineteen hijackers plus other Al Qaeda plotters spent half a million dollars to plan and carry out the attacks, causing anywhere between $50 and $100 billion in economic damage. 

For every victim of 9/11, 73 people lost their lives in wars of "retaliation". 

Confronted to such facts, members of the American Congress are raising questions as to what a "victory" scenario would look like: "I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends, something very good has come out of it", declared Republican representative Bob Corker of Tennessee to Reuters, not offering details on what such a scenario would look like.

For some, like ex-presidential hopeful Donald Trump, "victory" is easy to define: "In the old days when you had wars, you win, right? You win. To the victor belonged the spoils. So when we go to Iraq, we spend $1.4 trillion so far and thousands of lives are lost, right? ... And we're going to leave and 15 minutes after we leave, Iran is going to go into Iraq. You stay and protect the oil and you take the oil and you take whatever is necessary for them and you take what's necessary for us and we pay ourselves back $1.5 trillion or more. We take care of Britain, we take care of other countries that helped us and we don't be stupid ... So, in a nutshell, we go in, we take over the second largest oil fields and we stay". 

The Donald also holds little illusions over the war in Libya. As rebels battle for control of oil towns, Trump declared: "I'm only interested in Libya if we keep the oil. If we don't keep the oil, I'm not interested. ... I' m only interested in Libya if we get the oil". An Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Iran, and so on and so forth.

Simple enough. And if you think Obama's plans for the Middle-East differ from Trump's, you are in for more deceptions. On Wednesday (29/06/11), French armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard told Reuters that "France ... sent equipment allowing them [the rebels] to defend themselves, comprising light weapons and munitions". The UK's Foreign Office proposed its own interpretation of UN resolution 1973: "Our position is clear. There is an arms embargo in Libya. At the same time ... we think that the UN resolution allows, in certain limited circumstances, defensive weapons to be provided".

The legal basis for such interference in what resembles a civil war is nonexistent, and Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, unconsciously revealed the ridicule of NATO's position by invoking that these operations could be "morally justified since Gaddafi's change in tactics. He is hiding tanks in streets exactly to make impossible Nato air strikes to destroy tanks".

Forget civilians, the war is about securing control over strategic resources and territories. 

vendredi 3 juin 2011

Les promesses non tenues du Monarque

Le blog a récemment publié une liste (non exhaustive) des promesses de campagne non tenues de Nicolas Sarkozy :

Lecture intéressante. Commentaires ?