Monday, March 16, 2009

Talk about missing the point!

It seems to me much of the criticism about executive compensation has been misplaced.

What's supposed to be so horrible about CEO's getting big bonuses?
  • "They just don't get it."
  • "They're idiots."
  • "They don't understand that people are hurting and angry."
  • "They're insensitive to public perceptions."
That might be true. But is that really the problem? Is that what's important -- whether or not CEO's know or care what we think?
  • "They don't deserve it."
  • "It's rewarding failure."
OK, imagine this... Suppose that certain executives at these companies had been working really hard, doing their best, etc., etc. And let's even suppose they're not the people who had made bad decisions, but they are doing their darndest to repair the damage. And suppose we had good evidence that, if it weren't for their work, things would be much worse. Given the circumstances, they might be described as moderately successful in their endeavors. Even if this were the case, how would you feel if millions of taxpayer dollars that was intended to help save their companies was used to give them bonuses instead? Myself, personally, would still not be happy about it. (I find it implausible that the bonuses, in the current environment, actually help the company be more profitable.)

On the other hand, suppose that a private company that has taken no bailout money decides to give a reckless and irresponsible exectutive a multi-million dollar bonus that he doesn't deserve. This might be a bad idea for many reasons. It will probably be bad for the company, and in turn, bad for everyone who depends on that company. But, hey, if they want to shoot themselves in the foot, that's more or less their problem. Investors and other people who depend on this company should be aware and take caution. If such practices are harmful to companies, companies that are determined to engage in them should fail.

In sum:
Bonuses for well-meaning, "deserving" executives for bailed out companies -- Grrr!
Bonuses for reckless, undeserving executives for private (un-bailed-out) companies -- Oh well.

Ergo: The executives' being undeserving is irrelevant to how bad an idea the bonuses are!

So why are the bonuses so horrible? In my opinion, it's because they constitute the transfer of vast sums of wealth from millions of Americans who can't afford it to a privileged few, which serves no other purpose than the interests of the few (who also happen to have been a lot better off in the first place).

Who cares what they do or don't understand, what their motives are, or what they do or do not deserve? I don't.

This has got to be the biggest rip-off perpetrated against the American people in the history of our country. And all people can complain about is that the beneficiaries of this scam are insensitive and undeserving?!

But if we stop talking about the character flaws of CEO's, we'll have to start talking about the people who just handed them billions of dollars that we don't even have. I mean, it's not as if they broke into Fort Knox and stole it.
  • "This is a red herring. It's such a small percentage of the bailout (or TARP or whatever) money. Complaining about it is great political theater, but in the big picture, the bonuses are irrelevant."
OK. Here's how to get away with wasting a billion dollars: First, spend a trillion dollars. Then, when someone asks about how a billion of it was spent, point out that that that is only .1% of the total. (Recall that the same kind of response was made in defense of various parts of the stimulus package. It is so huge that to complain about multi-billion dollar expenditures looks like knit-picking.)

The sums of money here are just beyond my comprehension. But I'm not supposed to worry about amounts that are far more than I could earn in 10 lifetimes, because it's a drop in the bucket of what the U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for. And this is supposed to make me feel better why?

Monday, February 16, 2009

How Stimulating!

I thought that an adjective used to describe something that stimulates was "stimulating."

As in a "stimulating conversation" or "that jump in the lake was so stimulating!"

But with respect to the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commentators wonder and debate about whether various parts of the bill will be "stimulative."

I guess that is the proper way to describe something that stimulates.

Besides, talking about whether the package will be stimulating sounds vaguely perverse.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I can't watch the news

"What do you think he's going to say in his speech?"
"What does this moment mean to who-he-whats-it?"
"What's Michelle going to wear?"

I can't take it anymore!

Luckily, the Australian Open is on ESPN2.
I recommend it highly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Plane Makes Emergency Landing on Hudson River

No fatalities, no serious injuries.


OK, fine, maybe you want to know what went wrong with the plane, and how they managed to save everybody, etc.

But a 24/7 news story? Why?

Forget about those 1000 people who have died in Gaza in the past two weeks.
155 Americans almost died in New York yesterday!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tortured Logic

  1. Water boarding is torture.
  2. The Bush administration authorized water boarding.
  3. Authorizing torture is a punishable offense.
Therefore... ?

What's the rationale for denying the claim that someone from the Bush administration is liable to criminal prosecution?
  • We should look forward, not backward (Obama)
I tried telling that to the judge when I was in traffic court: "That speeding I did -- that's in the past. The important thing is that I will obey the the speed limit in the future." It didn't fly.

  • We shouldn't criminalize policy disagreements (Holder).
But what if it's someone's policy to break the law? It's not their disagreeing with you that's criminal -- it's the crime that they committed.

  • The Bush administration didn't know that what they were doing was illegal.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. I told the judge in traffic court that I didn't know that going 60 mph on that particular stretch of road was illegal, but that didn't work either.

  • The Bush administration acted in accord with legal council that said that what they were doing was legal.
Oh! The lawyers said it was OK! Why didn't you say so? So, if I hire a lawyer to tell me that speeding is legal, I can drive as fast as I want?! Yippee!

It seems to me that the laws that protect people from being tortured should be at least as strong as the laws that protect people from my driving too fast.

And it seems to me, if something is against the law now, and the reasons it is against the law were in play at time t, then that thing was against the law at time t.

So, are there any reasons that make water boarding against the law now that weren't in play in the last several years?

A different administrative "policy"?

What was that I heard, once upon a time, about a separation of legislative and executive branches...? If Obama's policies can deem water boarding to be against the law when it was previously not a punishable offense, then it would seem that they would be justified in not having those policies if that were their prerogative.

Lucky for us, they're nice guys.
Let's hope so, since they seem to basically agree with the Bush administration about the executive being above the law.

It reminds me of when my co-worker opined that our boss was a very judgmental person. When I told her that he didn't seem that way to me, she said "Well, it's not obvious, since most of his judgments are positive."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Charlie Rose

One of my new favorite shows in Charlie Rose on PBS.
It's basically an interview show. Find out more here:
When I first stumbled across it, I thought it was sort of boring, old-fashioned, and a little annoying.
But more often than not, I leave my tv on PBS late at night, and would find Charlie Rose there, conducting a calm, thoughtful, intellectual, in depth and often enlightening interview.
Last night, I caught part I of his interview with David Sanger, talking about his new book, The Inheritance. I'm not one to run out and buy a book after listening to someone on a book tour, but I want to read this book!
On the other hand, I did catch Kate Winslet on there twice, talking about her recent films -- The Reader and Revoloutionary Road. Gosh, she is a little too impressed with herself.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bush family mourns death of 18 year old white house cat.

That was an AP headline.
I like cats.
I would be sad if one of my cats died.
It's interesting to find out about what the Bush family finds worth morning in the waning days of the Bush administration.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Knit till it hurts!

I finally got a little free time so I wanted to get some knitting and crocheting done.
I over did it, and now I have repetitive stress issues on the right side of my upper body, especially my forearm and wrist. I had to give it a rest today, and it really bumbed me out. It made me start thinking, if God really hates me, he will give me arthritis in my hands so I can't spend my retirement years knitting.