Friday, April 21, 2006

We gave them something to cheer about

"The (Iraq) invasion wasn't in our interests, it was in Iran's interest, Al Qaida's interest. Seeing America invade must have made Iranian leaders ecstatic. Iran's hostility to Saddam was hard to exaggerate.. Iraq is now open to Al Qaida, which it never was before - it's easier for terrorists to kill Americans there than in the US.. Neither our leaders or the mainstream media recognize the perversity of key US policies now begetting outcomes they were designed to prevent… 3 years later the US is bogged down in Iraq, pretending a Constitution has been put in place, while the civil war rages, Iran meddles, and Al Qaida swells its ranks with new recruits.. We have lost our capacity to lead and are in a state of crisis - diplomatic and military."

- Former National Security Agency Director Lt. General William Odom
(director of NSA (which monitors all communications) from 1985-88 under Reagan, and previously was Zbigniew Brzezinski's assistant under Carter. His latest 2004 book is America's Inadvertent Empire)

Monday, April 17, 2006

How much does one man (or woman) really need?

Last week we learned that Lee R. Raymond, chairman of EXXON MOBIL, wrote himself a compensation package of $140 million last year, one in which the corporation he "ran" raked in a record $36 billion in profits. Along with another $258 million in options and other deferred compensation, Raymond will retire with a package worth more than $398 million. Without going into the usual comparisons of what this equates to or what else it could buy, or what countries have similar GDPs, let's just agree that it is a very large lump sum with which to live out one's golden years.

I've twice now received an email that is chock full of pictures of what is claimed to be the lavishly appointed digs of a Middle East sultan, including what is described as a silver plated Bentley in the driveway. The text in the mail message says something like "this is why gas is so expensive at the pump!". Friends, Mr. Raymond could easily afford these home upgrades and more than one silver-clad Bentley. But he must have somehow worked harder and played by the rules or we wouldn't be appalling the Sultan and applauding the CEO.

Raymond is attributed to merging EXXON and MOBIL into the largest and most profitable oil company in the world. Much of the profitability could be attributed to the doubling of world oil prices (which carry proportionate marginal profitability at the consumer level) and cost cutting (which primarily equates to the savings that come from laying off workers in redundant positions in a merger). Shareholders experienced less than 8% annual return during the past five years, which was nothing extraordinary.

For any who think this is an example of why America is great - that anyone has the same opportunity to achieve such wealth, I say you too must be a greedy, self-centered, ignorant drain on what could really make us a great nation. Oops, there I go launching pre-emptive class warfare!