ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
President Barack Obama seems to think that people like Henry Paulson have expertise for which we must pay whatever astronomical salaries the market supposedly demands. Compensation in the $15 million range is the unavoidable cost of the superior expertise of people like Stan ONeil . . .
Books by Wilson Jeremiah Moses
* * * * *
General Motors and General Petraeus
February 14, 2009
Americans have notoriously short memories, so I have to remind myself that the first $700 billion bail-out, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), was a product of the Bush administration. It was presented to the Senate by former Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, who isnt stupid. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, also not stupid, accompanied him on his trip to the Senate, but the proposal belonged to the Bush administration. Paulson graduated from Dartmouth, where he demonstrated sufficient agility and mental quickness to become an All-Ivy linebacker, and to make Phi Beta Kappa, as well. Paulson was obviously playing dumb, like a fox, in his intentionally inept responses to the questions of Richard Shelby (R-Ala) ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.
Much as I oppose the ideology of Senator Shelby, I must give him credit for saying that Even if the Paulson plan works perfectly, which many doubt, including nearly two hundred economists, it will not stimulate new lending, stop de-leveraging, help distressed home owners, or jump start the economy. The Senators doubts were obviously well-founded, for, so far the plan has not worked. As many suspected, although Sen. Shelby did not say it, Mr. Paulson has shown himself to be no more than high quality stick-up artist. Many bankers have lined their pockets, with the bail-out monies, and so have the executives at General Motors.
Paulson got away with playing dumb, but he knew exactly what he was doing when he got $700 billion from the government for his Wall Street bail out. He knew the heads of insolvent banks had no intention of addressing the economic melt-down. He knew the money would disappear into the pockets of brilliant, but incompetent executives. Paulson himself, formerly employed by Goldman Sachs, one of the banks he arbitrarily selected for salvation, is estimated to have earned over $16,000,000 in the year he became Secretary of the Treasury. His estimated worth is around $700,000,000. Fair enough everybody wants to be rich, but why should I pay him, or people like him, for performing no detectable public service, and lining their friends pockets?
President Barack Obama seems to think that people like Henry Paulson have expertise for which we must pay whatever astronomical salaries the market supposedly demands. Compensation in the $15 million range is the unavoidable cost of the superior expertise of people like Stan ONeil, who ran Merrill Lynch into bankruptcy. But Ben Bernanke, presumably an expert of similar acuteness, draws a salary of only $191,300, and we trust him to clean up the mess. It seems unlikely the quoted figure is Bernankes entire annual income, but if he is willing to serve the Fed for such a reasonable salary, why cant the government find other people of his caliber to work in banking for similar amounts?
General David Howell Petraeus does his job for less than $250,000 per year
General Petraeus, who holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University, isnt stupid, but he too works for a reasonable salary. Even his critics must admit that he is capable, intelligent, ambitious, and loyal. He has shown far more competency at his job than the people who have been managing General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, or Goldman Sachs. Most of them are compensated with salaries and bonuses in the multi-millions.
And General Petraeus does his job for less than $250,000 per year.
I say nationalize all corporations that benefit from any government bail-out, and immediately rescale all executive salaries to correspond to salaries paid in the United States military. If senior business executives dont want to work for $250,000, then let them walk. Every year a considerable number of military officers, above the rank of major, but below the age of fifty go into retirement. Why cannot we dip into this reservoir of talent to replace the parasites that are currently leeching off the taxpayers? This question is somewhat rhetorical, for retired colonels and brigadiers are not the only pool of available talent. There are other persons in this economy, besides younger military retirees, who are capable of running businesses and industries for reasonable salaries. But the candidate pool for a nationalized business or industry would logically include military retirees, many of whom have demonstrated administrative ability along with their records of commitment to public service.
* * * * *
Obama on Nationalizing Banks and the StimulusE.J. DionneWhen even Sen. Lindsey Graham, a solidly conservative Republican from South Carolina, says he would not take off [the table] the idea of nationalizing the banks,” something big is happening. And it turns out that while President Obama isnt inclined to nationalize the banks, at least not yet, he hasnt taken that idea off the table either.
Graham made his comment today on ABCs This Week. Obama spoke about temporary nationalization during an interview Friday with a group of columnists he had invited to travel with him. The journalists on Air Force One were Ron Brownstein, Bob Herbert, Clarence Page, Kathleen Parker and me.
Tomorrows column has more on our interview with Obama. But the presidents comments on the banks play right into an ongoing debate — see the excellent piece in todays Post by Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini — so Im posting Obamas answers in detail because his words will influence the outcome of this debate and how the markets respond. WashingtonPost
* * * * *
Nationalize the Banks! We’re all Swedes NowMatthew Richardson and Nouriel RoubiniThe U.S. banking system is close to being insolvent, and unless we want to become like Japan in the 1990s — or the United States in the 1930s — the only way to save it is to nationalize it.
As free-market economists teaching at a business school in the heart of the world’s financial capital, we feel downright blasphemous proposing an all-out government takeover of the banking system. But the U.S. financial system has reached such a dangerous tipping point that little choice remains. And while Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s recent plan to save it has many of the right elements, it’s basically too late.
The subprime mortgage mess alone does not force our hand; the $1.2 trillion it involves is just the beginning of the problem. Another $7 trillionincluding commercial real estate loans, consumer credit-card debt and high-yield bonds and leveraged loansis at risk of losing much of its value. Then there are trillions more in high-grade corporate bonds and loans and jumbo prime mortgages, whose worth will also drop precipitously as the recession deepens and more firms and households default on their loans and mortgages. WashingtonPost
* * * * *
Five Ways to Restore Financial TrustBill BradleyTrust a market approach first to deal with the bad assets. Given the complexity and opaqueness of derivatives such as collateralized debt obligations, mortgage backed securities, and the $60 trillion of credit default swaps, the best way to set their value is to let independent, knowledgeable investors who are willing to put their own money on the line negotiate the price and buy the toxic assets from the banks.
President Barack Obama’s financial team seems to be heading in this direction with its public-private fund for toxic assets. Taxpayers will pay less if individual Americans are allowed to invest alongside the knowledgeable investors, thereby reducing the amount of public money that is necessary. However, banks will incur losses and, depending on their size, the government should temporarily relax capital ratios, give banks more time to write off losses, or recapitalize the banks with oversized losses.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s decision to send bank examiners and forensic accountants into banks will provide essential information for the public whatever actions follow. True transparency is a necessary condition for getting out of this financial morass. WSJ
* * * * *
A Short History of the National Debt When President Barack Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law yesterday, he was adding to what is already almost guaranteed to be the largest deficit in American history. In January, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit this year would be $1.2 trillion before the stimulus package. That’s more than twice the deficit in fiscal 2008, more than the entire GDP of all but a handful of countries, and more, in nominal dollars, than the entire United States national debt in 1982.
But while the sum is huge, it is not in and of itself threatening to the solvency of the Republic. At 8.3% of GDP, this year’s deficit is by far the largest since World War II. But the total debt is, as of now, still under 75% of GDP. It was almost 130% following World War II. (Japan’s national debt right now is not far from 180% of that nation’s GDP.)
Still, it’s the trend that is worrisome, to put it mildly. There have always been two reasons for adding to the national debt. One is to fight wars. The second is to counteract recessions. WSJ
* * * * *
Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream
Edited by Don Belton
It is rare in America for African-American men to have the opportunity to express who they are, what they think, or how they feel. As the nemesis in the American psyche, they have been silenced by an image that is at once celebrated and maligned. In this first anthology of contemporary African-American men’s writing, black men share their experiences as the revered and reviled of America. Through the voices of some of today’s most prominent African-American writers, including August Wilson, John Edgar Wideman, Derrick Bell, and Walter Mosley, Speak My Name explores the intimate territory behind the myths about black masculinity. These intensely personal essays and stories reveal contemporary black men from the vantage point of their own lives – as men with proper names, distinctive faces, and strong family ties.
Writing about everything from “How it Feels to Be a Problem” to relationships between fathers and sons, these men reveal to us both great courage and in an amazing love for each other and themselves. In a stunning tribute to a centuries-old brotherhood of heroes, black men come together to challenge America finally to see them as individuals, to hear their long-silenced voicesto speak their names.
* * * * *
This diverse anthology, mainly of original essays, serves as an excellent counterpoint to media stereotypes of black men. Topics include black male images, relations with women, family life and heroism. Some favorites: soft-voiced scholar Robin D.G. Kelley recounts how his newly shaved head scared people; novelist Randall Kenan recalls a mysterious, kind and loving mentor; Quinn Eli faces the tendency of black men to accuse black women of not being supportive; filmmaker Isaac Julien and poet Essex Hemphill debate whether black unity can include gay men; novelist Walter Mosley muses about why his PI protagonist, Easy Rawlins, needs the backup of the remorseless killer Mouse to survive in an oppressive world. Belton, a former reporter for Newsweek who teaches at Macalester College, contributes his own touching effort, which treats the gap between himself and the ghetto-trapped nephew he loves.Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
Black masculinity has built and shaped America. It is an old story which our fathers taught us; it is measured by their quiet dignity as well as their fears. What is heroic about Speak My Name is the fact that the contributors are men who decided to become writers. They all made the decision to use words instead of fists. They are writers shaped by the 1960s, like Arthur Flowers, who writes:
And, understand, the 60s were more than street battles or sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the 60s were about commitment. We cared. We tried. It was important (and do-able) for us to make a better world. It was important to save the race. And it still is.
While our society still attempts to come to grips with the lyrics of tappers, Don Belton’s book is a gift which offers insight into how a few Black men think and feel. For sisters who are still waiting to exhale, it serves as testimony that there are good men in the world and we only have to speak their names.
Belton’s purpose for editing the volume was to “experience a richer sense of community and communion among other Black male writers.” This is evident in the interview conducted by Lewis Edwards of Albert Murray. Here, a young writer sits at the feet of an elder with an acknowledgment of inheritance and a respect for tradition. When Murray (author of The Omni-Americans and Train Whistle Guitar) talks about his friendship with Ralph Ellison during their days at Tuskegee, he conveys to Edwards how two Black men enjoyed reading and developing their intellect.
Speak My Name , according to Belton, is structured in “jazz music’s compositional model of theme and variation, giving my contributors a series of extended solos that develop toward visions of masculinity as a struggle for hope.” Belton divides his book into five sections, although these categories are unnecessary. One can enjoy the entire volume the way one appreciates the old Ornette Coleman “Free Jazz” album; just open the door to the studio and let the brothers play. The music will find its own center.
Black Issues in Higher Education, March 7, 1996 by E. Ethelbert MillerFindArticles
* * * * *
By Hazel V. Carby
In a discussion of “The Body and Soul of Modernism” Carby reads Nicolas Murray’s nude photographs of Paul Robeson, as well as black male nudes by other European and American artists, and argues that for these modernists the black male body represented “essentialized masculinity.” However, because the black subject was unable to “gaze back at the viewer,” these photographic texts reproduced “the unequal relation of power and subjection of their historical moment” in the early twentieth century. Carby also discusses Robeson’s roles in Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings, concluding that, in contrast to the character Robeson portrays in Oscar Micheaux‘s film Body and Soul, O’Neill utilized a “strategy of inwardness” to present racialized emotional conflicts for Robeson’s character, rather than outward resistance and rebellion. Carby’s notes that, with his expanding political consciousness and increased commitment to the advancement of the working classes worldwide in the 1930s, Robeson rejected these types of roles. Unfortunately, how these ideological changes were reflected in Robeson’s racial consciousness (was Robeson a “race man”?) are left unexplored.
Carby describes the authentic and inauthentic nature of the relationship between ex-convict and folk singer Huddie (Leadbelly) Ledbetter and folklorist John Lomax and his son Alan. She believes that this unusual partnership demonstrated an attempt to use “the aesthetics of the folk” to create a “fictive ethnicity of blackness” that allowed the incorporation of potentially threatening black males into the national community. For C. L. R. James the cricket field in England’s colonial territories not only was the space where “ideologies of masculinity” were put to the test, but also was “the battleground out of which nationhood . . . [had to] be forged.” Carby argues that in James’s Beyond the Boundary (1963) and the novel Minty Alley (1936), “intellectual practice, racial politics, and cricket were . . . unquestioningly imagined within a discourse of autonomous, patriarchal masculinity.” In Black Jacobins(1938) James posits the existence of a “revolutionary black manhood that, both individually and collectively, gives birth to an independent black nation state.”
African American Review, Fall, 2000 by V.P. Franklin, FindArticles
* * * * *
By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
* * * * *
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
posted 15 February 2009