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November 03, 2008

Bonuses at the Banks

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I don't know about you, but whenever I pass an investment banker on the sidewalk, I just looooooooove handing him a big chunk of my paycheck. Because, you know, he's unhappy and he's suffering. And because he has selflessly done so much for me -- and for society generally -- recently.

And thank god for the way the government is holding a gun to my head, making sure I make regular contributions to needy Wall Street execs! Because otherwise y'know, I'd behave like such an inhumane beast.



posted by Michael at November 3, 2008


The kicker?
Last line of the article.
"The total of these obligations at some firms exceed what they owe in pensions to their entire workforces, the Journal said."

n.b.: If you check out the byline, main reporter for this Reuters bit is a journalist out of Bangalore.

Posted by: DarkoV on November 3, 2008 12:22 PM

"Goldman, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch have set aside $20 billion as compensation in the first three quarters, with two-thirds typically earmarked for year-end performance bonuses....Compensation is accrued throughout the year and usually equals 45 percent to 55 percent of revenue."

Wow! That's some pyramid scheme!

Posted by: Matt on November 3, 2008 8:14 PM

That's just incredible in light of the huge losses taken by ordinary retirees and families all across America who held stock in those banks. I know some right here in my home town. It would seem that the decent thing to do would be to protect them first. Oh, I'm sorry. I mentioned the word "decent" in a blog about the current banking system. I'll try not to do that again.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on November 3, 2008 9:25 PM

Maybe that's what you get when a society pulls all of its capacity for shame out of the traditional seven deadlies and invests it in beating up tobacco users and people with non-Newspeak vocabularies.

The original bailout was just testing the waters. Having ascertained that nobody's gonna stop 'em, they just stepped up the looting and rapaciousness.

Oh well. We did get the amusement of watching Barney Frank's Captain Renault impersonation.

Posted by: Moira Breen on November 4, 2008 8:15 AM

Michael, just wait until the Democrats follow through on their plans to confiscate our 401K balances, with the securities therein sold at huge discounts to those same very special (and very Democratic) investment bankers. But hey--we'll get a guaranteed 3% return and after all the tax increases, we'll be getting a good 1.5% return on our hard-earned nest eggs.

We the People need to recapitalize those fellows somehow. God forbid they should have to sell the third home in Hamptons--after all, its such a chi-chi pad for the next Obama fundraiser.

Change THEY can believe in.

Posted by: thaprof on November 5, 2008 3:35 PM

It's funny that many on the right are recognizing the importance of protecting pensions. Couple that with universal health care coverage and you've got a program that sounds democratic!

God help me. MQ and JV have won after all...I've become a liberal.

Damn you two to an eternal blasting hell.

(Actually...Tibetan Buddhism has this great array of Hells, including my favourite, the Black Line Hell, where demons draw black lines on the bodies of the damned, which slices them up like swords. Over and over again. Creepy huh? But the Hell I have in mind for MQ and JV is different. There's the Hot Hell, more or less our own Hell, with an Asian flavour. But get this...there's also the Extremely Hot Hell. I kid you not. That's what it's called. So...MQ, JV, that's where you're heading...the Extremely Hot Hell. Don't pack clothes, gents, you won't be needing them where you're going!)

P.S. And speaking of demons, Moira hasn't helped ease my political confusion. Even though she's been pretending not to be attracted to my enormous puppy dog eyes (woof!), she's sounded populist in a distinctly anti-Wall Street way in her posts of recent days. Couple that with her anti-Iraq war position, and she's got more in common with (some) lefties than first glance might indicate.

My prediction is that right and left are going to sort out and settle in new configurations over the next few years, with some people finding themselves hanging out in some new areas of the poli spectrum. Interesting times!

Posted by: PatrickH on November 6, 2008 2:53 PM


My favorite hell was one invented by Japanese Buddhists for female sinners. It's main features were a boiling lake of menstrual blood, crows that nibbled at your lady parts and metal spikes, well you get the picture...

So, uh, how about them bankers and liberals?

Posted by: Spike Gomes on November 6, 2008 6:41 PM


one of of us....

Posted by: JV on November 6, 2008 8:51 PM

PatrickH: ...she's sounded populist in a distinctly anti-Wall Street way in her posts of recent days.

Feh. Spoken like a kleptocrat tool. I am no populist, sir. (You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate/as reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize/as the dead carcasses of unburied men/That do corrupt my air. And that goes double for your puppy-dog eyes.) How typical of this idiocratic age to blindly, bleatingly join in cries of "populist!" to any disapproval of corruption and bad governance. And though I may well see JV and MQ in hell (even Extremely Hot Hell), this won't have been brought about by any congruence of world views.

Btw, I liked your Burgess riff in 'tother thread, but was too cobwebby (and, let's face it, illiterate), to come up with a decent rejoinder, so I let it be. Would be up to going back there and picking on Fatuous Tom, though. Nah, no time. (Is there a word, equivalent to "malapropism", to describe attempts at analogy made by people who don't get that analogies should fit all over, not just hit at a tangent point? There should be.)

Posted by: Moira Breen on November 7, 2008 10:07 AM

Actually JV, I'm surprised I didn't recognize my own liberalism earlier. I consider myself smarter than almost everybody else, so how could I be anything but a liberal? :-)

Despite my lingering fascist tendencies (I still have these hankerings to RAPE THE EARTH), I'm relieved Obama won. His victory will a) restore the left's faith in the electoral system; b) end forever the claims that America is a racist country at heart; and c) get all the people who've been crapping on the US to finally SHUT THE FUGG UP. Especially our sanctimoni-Euro buds.

Plus, he deserves a chance. Despite the gloom-and-doom, he strikes me as at least as adaptable as Clinton, and remember, after his first two years the Is-Is Man moved centreward faster than Monica hit her knees.

I'm just so glad the Bush years are over. I'm exhausted by all his wound-up-tighter-than-a-drum ness, and I'd like to see someone take a more pragmatic let's-fix-this-here-thingy-first approach than Bush's ideological rabid gut instinct messianic flapdoodle-doo. Is Obama a fix-this-thingy kinda guy? I don't think so. But he is adaptable, he's smart, and he learns quickly. At least as quickly, maybe faster, than Mister Adaptable himself, the Master of the West Wing wet shot.

Give him a shot. [I don't mean "a shot" the way my Impeach-a-Bubba reference would indicate. That's disgusting even to think, so anybody who thought're disgusting! Patricius Ironicus]

I'm not expecting much, but the God Who Talked Like A Politician deserves a chance.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 7, 2008 10:28 AM

The Bard sayeth: Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.

I know you're my friend, Moira. Even when you say bad things about me.

Friendly Beast

P.S. I can understand that you might deny being a populist, Fair Coriolana, but why would my saying you've sounded like one make me a "kleptocrat tool"? Your language seems uncharacteristically scattershot here.

Not that being a kleptocrat tool is anything but bad of course!

Posted by: Puppy Dog Eyes on November 7, 2008 11:34 AM

Padraig P-dog: ...why would my saying you've sounded like one make me a "kleptocrat tool"? Your language seems uncharacteristically scattershot here.

But "tool" is such a fun perjorative. "What a tool!". "You fill in the blank tool!" It's also one of those delightful, useful words that has obscene implications and overtones while not being anything near an obscenity. However, I just now realize that "tool" is a slur that would be overused by a...a...populist. I may have to reconsider this.

Devising hells is fun, isn't it? My brother and I were once sitting around devising hells for one another. In his it was eternally Sunday afternoon, with a la-z-boy, a bottomless cooler of beer next to it, and 5,000 channels of ESPN. But the beer in the cooler was lukewarm Pabst Blue Ribbon, and all 5,000 channels of ESPN showed nothing but women's basketball. So he put my hell right next door to his: he would get wasted on the horrible beer just to escape the pain of women's basketball, and wander over to my hell, where I would be subjected for all eternity to his incessant drunken babbling about sports, himself, his asshole CEO, and the Rush Limbaugh show. Shudder.

But speaking of hell, the other night I was looking through David Ferry's rendering of Gilgamesh, for the part about Enkidu's vision of the underworld, which I liked very much (and is somewhat related to the discussion of wee hours' intimations of mortality that was going on in an earlier thread):

...On a dark plain
I was alone. But there was one, a man,

with a lion head, and the paws of a lion, too,
but the nails were talons, the talons of an eagle.

The face was dark. He took hold of me and seized me.
I fought with him, I hit at him, but he

kept moving about in the dark, too quick for me,
and then with a blow he capsized me like a raft.

I cried out in the dark to Gilgamesh
'Two people, companions,' but the man overpowered me,

and raged like a wild bull over me in glory,
and Gilgamesh was afraid and did not help me.

Then I was changed into something like a bird,
with a bird's arms, as spindly as a bird's,

and feathered like a bird. He seized an arm
and led me to the dwelling of Irkalla,

the House of Darkness, the House of No Return.
No one comes back who ever enters there.

The garments that they wear are made of feathers.
The food they eat is clay, the drink is dirt.

Stillness and dust are on the door and the door bolt.
There is no light of any sort at all.

Millenia pass, but the knowledge of mortality that comes to us at 3am, does not change or pass.

(What has this got to do with the original topic? With a little effort, we can connect the birdskins of the Dead to a vision of bankers, tarred and feathered, no?)

Posted by: Moira Breen on November 7, 2008 3:46 PM

That is a magnificent translation. I've never read one that got me past, well, the epic ancienty our-minds-are-nothing-like-yours ness of tEoG. That sings...though harshly, as befits the issue.

David Ferry. I shall be exploring. Thank you.

P.S. Moira, if I may ask, where in the Epic is the scene where G is looking over the moat (?) where the plague dead are floating by and says something to the effect, "And that will be my fate also?"

I remember reading it in the Epic, but my scans since then haven't located it. Now, I haven't scanned that hard, but it's an important scene, dammit, so where is it? I hate it when my growing senility kicks in on me like this.

I like to think of that terrible sentence as the first ever utterance of a fully conscious human being.

And that will be my fate also.

Like I said, poets are the hardest of the hard. One day I will be man enough to try writing some poetry. But for now, I'm too afraid.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 7, 2008 6:53 PM

P-dog: ...where in the Epic is the scene where G is looking over the moat (?) where the plague dead are floating by and says something to the effect, "And that will be my fate also?"

I remember reading it in the Epic, but my scans since then haven't located it. Now, I haven't scanned that hard, but it's an important scene, dammit, so where is it? I hate it when my growing senility kicks in on me like this.

Tell me about it. I don't remember the moat and plague stuff at all. Probably have to re-read the whole thing to find it.

I do remember "And that will be my fate also?" appearing in other circumstances in the tale, rendered by Ferry as "Must I die too?", "Must I be like that?", "Must Gilgamesh be like that?". Variations of this lament are repeated several times in the story:

now Enkidu has undergone the fate
the high gods have established for mankind.

Seven days and nights I sat beside the body,
weeping for Enkidu beside the body,

and then I saw a worm fall out of his nose.
Must I die too? Must Gilgamesh be like that?

It was then I felt the fear in my belly.
I roam the wilderness because of the fear.

Enkidu, the companion, whom I loved,
is dirt, nothing but clay is Enkidu.

Weeping as if I were a woman I roam
the paths and shores of unknown places saying:

'Must I die too? Must Gilgamesh be like that?'"

Posted by: Moira Breen on November 9, 2008 3:03 PM

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