Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


More on AIG bonuses

A few days ago, Nate Silver had a good post over at FiveThirtyEight on this subject:

Just think about some of the implications of this [the 90% tax on bonuses passed by the House].

A senior engineer at General Motors, who shepherds the production of a new hybrid vehicle that will turn out to be a best-seller, shouldn't get a bonus for that. Really?

Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan, who has managed his company's assets adeptly and kept it mostly off the taxpayer's dole, is no more deserving of a bonus than an AIG crook. Really?

An mid-level investment banker at Morgan Stanley, who works her butt off to persuade her bosses to facilitate a deal for a new wind-power company that turns out to be a big economic and environmental winner, should have her incentive compensation taxed at 90%. Really?

An administrative assistant at PNC, who is volunteering to work 70-hour weeks because of cutbacks in the company's staff, deserves a Christmas Bonus -- unless her husband happens to be a lawyer earning $250,000 per year, in which case it should be taken away. Really?

If it weren't for bad luck...

From Tuesday's Daily Beast Cheat Sheet:

Invincible Japanese Man Found?

Atomic bombs have been dropped twice in history. Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived both of them. Yamaguchi, 93, is the first person to be certified a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. He was in Hiroshima on a business trip on August 6, 1945. After suffering serious burns, he returned the next day to his hometown of Nagasaki, which was bombed three days later. Approximately 210,000 people died in the attacks.


Quote without comment: responding to increased sexual assaults in combat zones

The military recently reported a 25% increase such assaults in the last year. The director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office commented in an interview (quoted in the article on the report cited above):

If you see one of your buddies serve drinks to somebody to get them drunk, maybe what you do is step in and say "Why don't you wait until she's sober?"

[Via today's Daily Beast Cheat Sheet.]

Dear A.I.G., I Quit!

This is not a joke. The New York Times published a letter of resignation from AIG's executive vice president of their financial products unit as an op-ed article today. It's worth a read [via today's Daily Beast Cheat Sheet].

Just for the record, from the first news of them, I've understood but never liked the big deal being made about the bonuses paid to some AIG executives. If we're going to nail the guilty, let's be sure we've got the right folks. I'm quite sure there's not a one-to-one relationship between those responsible for the mess we're in and those receiving AIG bonuses. In fact, I'm pretty sure that those who are most responsible are most of the people who have been in Congress or been President since about 1980 (i.e., I blame deregulation). Furthermore, each U.S. taxpayer has provided AIG on average with $580-1,2901 to bail them out (i.e., exluding the trillions spent for other companies' bailouts), while the total of all these bonuses comes to $1.20 per taxpayer. I've especially disliked the proposed legislation, which can't be much more than a thinly veiled ex post facto bill of attainder (both ex post facto laws�a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of acts committed�and bills of attainder�declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a trial�are forbidden by the U.S. Constitution�Article I, section 9).

1The amount depends on what figure you use: I've heard amounts ranging from $80 billion to $173 billion. This the the next calculation are also based on 2007's estimated 138 million taxpayers.

Help name the anti-Pluto's moon

The anti-Pluto�the large Kuiper Belt object named Orcus�is similar to Pluto in many ways: similar sizes; each with a single known moon; possibly similar origins; and, most strikingly, similar orbits in size, apsides (i.e., perihelion and aphelion) and [rather large] inclination. They are different in one glaring respect: Pluto and Orchus have, and will always have, exactly opposite positions in their respective orbits. As I understand it, this is due to their orbits being regulated by Neptune, with both orbs "circling" (ellipsing?) the sun twice for every three orbits of Neptune (making each a plutino).

Orcus was discovered in 2004 and its moon in 2005. The latter has only just recently come to need naming (presumably the former will also become the sixth official dwarf planet before too long). Mike Brown, of Caltech's Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, has an extremely interesting entry in his Mike Brown's Planets blog that talks about this need to name Orcus's moon and that invites submission of names, with rationales. Be sure to read at least some of the comments, which are full of suggestions (there are 249 as of this writing). I was hoping to have a stab at it myself, but I'm far too ignorant of mythology [via today's Astronomy Picture of the Day].


Proposed political talk show rule

As part of the introduction to his discussion of Republican's use of the term "Democrat Party", Sean Quinn of included a video clip of Ari Fleischer being interviewed by MSNBC's David Shuster. I commented on Mr Quinn's post as follows:

I respectfully suggest that David Shuster, and all other political talk show hosts, institute a rule that guests not be invited back to the show if they do not answer a single question they were asked by the interviewer. I understand that politicians appear on these shows because they believe they have something to gain by doing so. Quite often, what they hope to gain may be at odds with what the interviewer is hoping to gain (which, hopefully, is truthful answers to certain questions). Therefore you can't expect such guests to always answer every question without ever changing the topic. But in this video clip, I believe Ari Fleischer changed the subject of every single question that Shuster asked him. Why allow Fleischer back on this show ever again?
I also propose that such a rule be called the Fleischer Rule, in honor of this abysmal performance.

Republican's pejorative use of "Democrat Party"

Sean Quinn has a nice post over at about this. The very short summary is that it's no different than my elementary school tormentors calling me "Baby Huey".

Here's an excerpt from Mr Quinn's post:

[I]t is striking that a huge number of Republicans continue to go out of their way to use the epithet �Democrat Party� rather than the party�s actual name, the Democratic Party....

The intent seems to be twofold: First, it seems to be an attempt at branding/labeling/controlling the way language sounds in an audience�s ears. Democrat apparently sounds "worse" than Democratic, and it's also an attempt to separate the Democratic Party from small-d democratic, a popular American concept. If such a tactic nets votes, it�s objectively justifiable. Second, it�s designed to get under the skins of Democrats. From a Republican perspective, both seem to be independently important reasons to standardize the epithet....

One of the reasons the "childish" party of Fleischer and Limbaugh is having such a tough time in the wilderness is they've done a too-clever-by-half job figuring out how to systematically weaponize language. There's no referee. It's their right. It's also no great parlor trick, and you can go to any grade-school playground and find the same. The day Republicans work to signal good faith by policing their own house on basic respect in language will probably run parallel with the day we'll see the party reborn as an ideologically grownup force.


Order return rip-off

The CPU fan on my desktop computer began failing intermittently last month. So I ordered a replacement fan from, where I had originally bought the computer in September 2004. The sales guy on the phone had my order on file, so he figured out which fan I needed and shipped it to me. After it arrived, I tried to replace the part only to find that he had sent me the wrong fan.

So I called the toll-free phone number on the packing slip. The first thing I heard was a warning that they were experiencing heavy call volume and suggesting I'd do better by going to their website if I was calling for a number of possible reasons that the voice listed. Since it was Monday morning�when I'd expect call volume to be heaviest�and one of these reasons was obtaining return authorization, I decided to visit the website. Here's what I found (click on the image for a more readable view):

The $14.99 they were offering to refund did not include the $6.99 I'd paid for shipping. Since they were responsible for the error, I certainly felt I should get a full refund, including for the shipping. So on Tuesday afternoon, thinking call volume would be lower then, I called their toll-free number again. I heard the same message warning me about heavy call volume and suggesting I go to their website. This time I stayed on the line. And�surprise, surprise!�got a representative immediately. It took him a while to process my request, presumably because their computers were slow, but there was no problem with the return. Shortly thereafter I received an e-mail with a link to a UPS shipping label. The question of whether or not my shipping would be included in the refund did not come up. So I'm assuming I'll receive a refund for the full $21.98. If not, I'll call and complain.

I printed the label, repacked the fan, and taped the label to the box. It was pre-paid, so return shipping didn't cost me anything.

Clearly it behooves a company to encourage customers to use their website. It's cheaper and should be more reliable than using a person. But I can't help wondering if, in the case of return authorizations at least, it's also an attempt on their part to avoid refunding shipping costs and to shift the cost of return shipping onto the customer. I should know about the shipping cost refund in a few days.

See my follow-up post.


Happy Square Root Day

As should be obvious to anyone with even a little bit of mathematical ability, there are only nine such days (ten if you cheat and count 10 October '00) every century. Frankly I had never of this "holiday" till I heard it mentioned on the news this morning.

Blog home
Blog archives