Monday, April 10, 2006

Seen in the Times

Several things lept out at me in today's New York Times:
1 Have you noticed how more and more retired generals hate America?
The three-star Marine Corps general who was the military's top operations officer before the invasion of Iraq expressed regret, in an essay published Sunday, that he did not more energetically question those who had ordered the nation to war. He also urged active-duty officers to speak out now if they had doubts about the war.
Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who retired in late 2002, also called for replacing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and "many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach." He is the third retired senior officer in recent weeks to demand that Mr. Rumsfeld step down.

2 Illegal immigrants finally stand up for themselves.
"For years, we never say nothing," said Mr. Martinez, who crossed the Rio Grande illegally 22 years ago and eventually became an American citizen. "We just work hard, follow the rules and pay taxes. And they try to make these laws. It's time people knew how we felt."
They follow the rules except for one about sneaking across international borders.

3 How the 'free market' in executive pay really works:

For Ivan G. Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, 2005 was a very good year. As head of the telecommunications giant, Mr. Seidenberg received $19.4 million in salary, bonus, restricted stock and other compensation, 48 percent more than in the previous year.

Others with a stake in Verizon did not fare so well. Shareholders watched their stock fall 26 percent, bondholders lost value as credit agencies downgraded the company's debt and pensions for 50,000 managers were frozen at year-end. When Verizon closed the books last year, it reported an earnings decline of 5.5 percent.

And yet, according to the committee of Verizon's board that determines his compensation, Mr. Seidenberg earned his pay last year as the company exceeded "challenging" performance benchmarks. Mr. Seidenberg's package was competitive with that of other companies in Verizon's industry, shareholders were told, and was devised with the help of an "outside consultant" who reports to the committee.

The independence of this "outside consultant" is open to question. Although neither Verizon officials nor its directors identify its compensation consultant, people briefed on the relationship say it is Hewitt Associates of Lincolnshire, Ill., a provider of employee benefits management and consulting services with $2.8 billion in revenue last year.

Hewitt does much more for Verizon than advise it on compensation matters. Verizon is one of Hewitt's biggest customers in the far more profitable businesses of running the company's employee benefit plans, providing actuarial services to its pension plans and advising it on human resources management. According to a former executive of the firm who declined to be identified out of concern about affecting his business, Hewitt has received more than half a billion dollars in revenue from Verizon and its predecessor companies since 1997.


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