Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Invisible Hand Sets CEO Compensation

You hear a lot about excessive CEO compensation, mostly from poor people like college professors and journalists. Here our examination of the dictates of nature, history and the scientific basis of compensation theory should set the record straight. You will see that the term “excessive” simply has no relevance.

First, we are talking about the CEOs of major widely held companies. This excludes CEOs that hold a significant percentage of the stock in their company, as that would be like taking a portion of your compensation from your own pocket, which really spoils it. Likewise we exclude companies with just a few shareholders, because there you have to share, i.e. if you take more out of the company, they want more also, which is obviously no good. We confine our discussion to those situations where no stockholder has any say, or really any interest, in the level of your compensation, as it is irrelevant to their decision to hold or sell. If they think your compensation is outsize, it is still basically a “fly in the soup”, i.e., distasteful, but given the size of the pool you don’t eat that much.

The basic rule of nature is that everyone takes all they can get. This applies to all animals, but with most the limit is how much they can eat or how many females they can keep track of. With humans it is different. We are way more advanced than animals and have developed so many ways to consume that we have abolished all natural limits. We can take until something stops us, some outside limit. Now let there be no misunderstanding, the poor people (and that includes the “working poor, basically everyone but CEOs, politicians, and thieves) are taking all they can get, it is just that they can’t get very much. So there is no moral issue here. We are all in the same tote. You doubt it? Let’s do a little thought experiment, like Einstein made so popular. I place two stacks of cash on the table, one of $100,000 and one of $1 million (I have reduced the amounts way down so you can grasp the concept). Given the choice, which one will you take? OK, next issue.

History is replete with examples of taking and limits. The pharos of ancient Egypt may have looked like they had no limits, being gods and all, but there is only so much you can do with golden cats and statutes. They had to turn to pyramids, only to face a new limit, how many stones you could get moved before you died. Try to exceed that, and you end up with someone else in your sarcophagus, or worse, moving in while still under construction. And we should note here that one of those babies, never mind the Great Pyramid, costs a whole lot more in current dollars than the measly 3 or 4 hundred million most CEOs take. Why do you think none of them have pyramids?

Do-gooders (the poor plus the super rich worried about facing the afterlife with no pyramid, yes, you know who you are, Bill) suggest that CEOs and the boards that dish compensation should be limited by embarrassment or public opinion. This not only ignores the basic law of nature, see above, but assumes that somehow the CEO thinks he is taking more than he is entitled to. Au Contraire! The whole take is governed by scientific measurement and the principle of sharing. This is a different kind of sharing than what we discussed about companies with few shareholders. The sharing is with outside compensation consultants and the directors, and while not major, forms the basis of the modern limit.

This is how it works. The consultants determine the range of CEO total compensation for all companies for the previous year. The midpoint of the range is the 50th percentile. The board then rates the CEO. "Average" means he should be at the 50th percentile, "excellent" at 75th and "superior" at 90th to 100th. The scale has lower values, but no board would retain a CEO they think was below average, so these are rarely used. As you would expect, given the excellence of management in the United States, in general the ratings fall in the excellent to superior slots. It is as if there is an “invisible hand” in the till. No board should be embarrassed for giving amounts which have been vetted by one of the very few top consultants (there are very few, as the dullards have been weeded out, a la Darwin). And of course, there should be no poor people on the board. Having never made any real money, they lack the perspective and experience necessary to rate a CEO.

Never forget that the CEO also labors under a heavy obligation to his class. He must take what the scientific studies award. Suppose you read all that poor people carping and decide to commit an unnatural act and only take only $1 million a year. You have just lowered the midpoint of the range. When the boys at the club and your regular foursome find out you might as well take up bowling with the working poor.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Baghdad Press Club Gets Preferential Treatment

A real question of fairness has arisen concerning the way the Bush administration is treating domestic reporters. After it was disclosed earlier this year that columnist Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 to plug No Child Left Behind legislation, and two other columnists were only paid $49,000 and $21,500, respectively, to push Bush’s $300 million initiative to encourage marriage, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the administration thought children should come before marriage. In the face of this Bush immediately ordered that all U.S. reporters be taken off the government dole.

These disclosures came just a month after the discovery that an outfit called the Lincoln Group had received tens of millions of dollars to plant articles in the Iraqi press, paying Iraqi reporters for favorable treatment. This caused an outcry in Congress, but it turned out that military and White House officials didn’t know anything about it. President Bush was described as “very troubled” about it.

An investigation was ordered, and now that review, under Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, has called caution in making such payments, fearing that the practice might somehow undermine American credibility, and even Iraqi freedom of the press. Payments are continuing, but pentagon officials do say that Secretary Rumsfeld is considering ordering a further review to clarify existing policy. This would presumably include clarification regarding payments to the Baghdad Press Club, set up by the military in 2004 to pay reporters for stories about reconstruction efforts.

General Casey, the senior American commander in Iraq, who appointed Van Buskirk to do the review, has made it clear that he favors the use of the media to influence public opinion, and plans to continue. While Van Buskirk found that hiding the source of the articles was “appropriate”, since Iraqis would not believe anything coming from the American military, he suggested that there should be some new guidelines to determine when and if attribution may occasionally be appropriate.

The Pentagon has an unreleased study commissioned from the RAND Corporation that is also critical of the military’s efforts, saying it has not been enough, and calling for a more sustained, coherent planting of paid articles. This, it says, is the “key” to changing the mindset of ordinary Iraqis. So it looks like the Baghdad Press Club will continue to get the secret payments, on a pay for performance basis, of course, but that the Washington D.C. Press Club will not, at least as far as we know. Is that fair?

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Nigerian Money - Please Handle With Care

Representative William J. Jefferson has been videotaped by the FBI picking up $100,000 in cash in a Nigerian deal. They later raided his home freezer and found 9 bundles of $10,000 each in frozen food containers. The FBI has already muddied the water and precipitated a constitutional crisis over the matter, and we will get to that, but first it is important to see the several points where Jeffy Man went wrong in handling the Nigerian money. Judging from my email, there are a large number of Nigerian deals available where you could end up with a big chunk of change just for helping legitimate ex rulers and princes get their funds out. These situations are not available to everyone of course, as the emails note my national reputation for honesty and business acumen, but if one falls your way, you better know how to handle all that money.

And who knows nowadays what is legal, what with the Patriot Act, Sarbanes Oxley, and so on? So while I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with taking the cash, like the Congressman said in his news conference in New Orleans, a prosecutor may choose “to view the facts in the worst possible light.” So it never hurts to preserve a little deniability. First, stay in your car and let the contact open your trunk and put the luggage in. Mouth something like “oh thanks, I am always forgetting my laptop when going through security”. When you get home, leave the brief case by the door, and attach a note, “oops, wrong case, return tomorrow”. Leave it there for a few days. If the feds have set you up, they get itchy and it won’t be long.

Now even if you fail, like Jeffy Man, to take these precautions, you can still recover if you are not grabby. If the money is going in the freezer, put ALL of the money in. That way you can say that it was already in pizza wrap when you opened the case, and just thought it was another food gift like the turkey they gave you at Christmas, and you put it in the freezer without opening it. If you don’t get all of it in, you will have to fall back on the old “ten thousand of it looked like it had thawed, and the package said not to refreeze, so I threw it out” dodge. Thin, but better than nothing.

Fortunately, even if you miss every step, all is not lost. You can count on the FBI to make a little slip here and there. For example, in applying for the search warrant, they accused him of the “attempted bribery of a Nigerian official”. Come on. In the entire history of modern Nigeria, there has never been an “attempted” bribery. Simply not credible. Then, apparently in a panic to find the other 10 Gs (they probably borrowed it from the evidence room to make the sting), 15 agents went in Saturday night and searched his Congressional office! And took stuff “in violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers, the speech or debate clause of the Constitution, and the practice of the last 219 years” according to a rare joint statement by J. Dennis Hastert (R. Ill) and Nancy Pelosi (D. Ca.). Note: 1887 was when the Constitution was adopted by the convention, so this does not necessarily imply that there was hanky panky by the FBI prior to that.

Justice Department and FBI officials say they are dismayed at the tone of the joint statement, but that they can’t return any stuff because it is now in the custody of the FBI as evidence in a criminal case. They also said they only went in and took the stuff because the Congressman didn’t give it to them voluntarily. This seems like the kind of circular argument we are used to getting from this administration. They might have done better to leave the stuff by the door with a note on it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Patent Business Primer - Openings Available

You may think the purpose of a patent is to protect your exclusive right to do something. Au contraire. The real purpose is to prevent someone else from doing something. A patent is an important exception to the Hobbs Act, which defines "extortion" as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, ... under color of official right". For example, suppose you could threaten to shut down the Blackberry wireless email service. How much do you think Research In Motion would pay you to stay in business? A million? Half a billion? More? Did you guess $612,500,000? OK, now guess how long it would take you to make that much providing the service yourself. Long time, huh? OK, you get one more guess. What would it be worth if you could do the same thing to a bunch of other companies? Today you learn how.

There are actually two similar, but distinct, businesses built around this application of the patent law. While these could be considered "mechanisms" or "business methods" that under current patent office practice could themselves be patented, no one thought of that before I applied for such a patent, just before this posting. So don't get any ideas.

The first method is to discover something about a natural function, such as a gene or cell and how it works, and then patent it to prevent further investigation into the process. The current patent office will even give you a patent on parts of the human body, such as a stretch of chromosome. There does have to be something previously unknown about it. You can't patent a finger or toe, for example the finger known as the "bird". It is already in common use, and besides, it would be impracticable. If you tried to enforce it you can imagine the reaction.

But if you are a drug company, you find out new stuff all the time. If you just patent a particular drug, some other guy might create a different drug that does the same thing, maybe even better or, heaven forbid, cheaper. But if you patent the WAY your drug does something, like preventing a virus from attaching to a cell, you can kill off any further research that border on that, and hopefully prevent any further "cures". If the disease is killing or maiming a lot of people you can imagine what you can charge for your pill.

The problem with this first business method is that you actually have to discover something, which takes time and effort. Therefore it is not what you are looking for. The second method overcomes this problem. Not only that, but it can be done by non-scientists, lawyers for instance. First, you choose some company with a technology or method that is crucial to their business. Then you search the records for some previously issued patent that looks close enough to what they are using. "Close enough" means that you think you might be able to convince a jury of it, or, better yet, convince the company you can convince a jury of it. Then buy the patent and send your infringement letter. Note that you can do it the other way around, buy a patent and look for a company doing something similar, but it is not recommended. Suppose you find one that doesn't have any money?

This is easier than you might think. First, there is no such thing as a totally new idea, as everything builds on what has gone before. As Sir Isaac ("Zack")said “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Second, while patents are suitable for framing, usually not much comes of them. There is a lot of risk, cost, and work creating a new business around a patent, and most inventers are not business types.

It is also easier than you might think to convince a jury your way. Remember, 70% think creationism is a science, and maybe a quarter believe dinosaurs cohabited the earth with man, but reject the idea that man and the chimpanzee may have evolved from a common ancestor. Note: that is the general population. If you work at the jury selection, you should be able to improve those percentages, and you won’t have to spend as much time selecting your stalking patent.

One final note. The patent office issues a ton of patents and feels that there is really no reason to worry about validity if nothing is ever going to come of them. Their idea is that on the few where validity becomes an issue, they can check it out then. This is why so many are later nullified. But in this business, you don't have to worry about the patent office declaring your patent invalid. Patent review is slow, and if you can get your jury to rule it valid, it doesn't mater what the patent office says. The judge will take the opinion of the jury over that of the patent office any day. You saw that in the Blackberry case.

Companies in this exciting field are called Patent Holding Companies. If you are not a lawyer and would like to get into this business, there are contingent fee patent trial lawyers that will assist you in your noble venture. One blog says it this way: Those trying patent lawsuits on behalf of individuals, small companies and holding companies should expect to be attacked on the grounds that they are "pirates," that they "don't make a product," that they are "suing for money" and that their motives are somehow sinister. The fact is these attacks are unfair and, at their core, fundamentally unsound. If it's your privilege to represent a small patent owner in the face of such arguments, don't be apologetic and don't be afraid to attack these arguments head on. Most jurors understand. Enforcing patents is a noble endeavor. Doing so on behalf of those facing formidable opposition is nobler still.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Milberg Weiss Indicted - Class Action Mechanics Explained

The largest class action law firm, Milberg Weiss, has been indicted. So that the action can be enjoyed by lay persons who have not yet been involved, this post will explain the key concepts supporting the country's second most profitable profession. We must analyze the class action, the contingent fee, the race to the court house, and the settlement. As you will see, each interrelated element is the way it has to be.

The class action is when a bunch of similar claims are bundled together in a single lawsuit in order to involve enough money to support sufficient legal fees. If an individual had to pursue a relatively small claim on his own, he couldn't afford a lawyer. Further, even when you bundle a bunch of claims, you still can't expect all those plaintiffs to kick in for the fees, so you have to do it on a contingent fee. That is when the lawyer only gets paid when he is successful. "Successful" usually means agreeing to a big settlement, as few of these deals actually go to court.

Now let's kill two birds with one stone here, and make full disclosure and explain the race to the court house in one swoop. The various companies I have been with have been sued numerous times by Milberg, Weiss, or their birds of a feather who got to the court house first. It was always over acquisitions or buyouts. You announce one at the end of the day and the next morning 3 or 4 lawsuits are filed claiming the transaction isn't fair. How do they do that? Well, they have to have the complaint already in their computers so that they can just fill in the names and print. That may sound funny to you, but you have to do it that way. If you waited until you could find out any of the facts, the New York lawyer down the street will have filed his lawsuit first. This matters because the lawyer that files first gets to be the lead lawyer. The lead lawyer gets almost all the fees, and the slowpokes get chicken feed.

Now we are closing in on the Milberg, Weiss problem. There is another peculiarity in the law. Lawyers can't just sue on their own. If they could it might look like they were just in it for the money, so they have to be representing some little guy who is actually the plaintiff in these affairs. And the little guy has to have a patina of being wronged. These are difficult hurdles when you have to file your suit within hours of hearing about the presumptive unfairness. And there is another, even more serious hurdle. Each wronged little guy ("WLG") doesn't end up with much. It is usually only pennies on the dollar of the qualifying shares (those are the shares you bought that you were wronged about). And worse, the law does not allow any WLG to get more than any other, even if he happens to be the named plaintiff. So how do you get a WLG to stand by to sue by already having his name in the computer? If you can figure out how to do that without kicking back some of the fees to him, you have a great future in the law.

More problems. It is also illegal for a lawyer to pay anything to a plaintiff for bring a lawsuit. Otherwise, we would give new meaning to "Katy, bar the door." Actually, that could result in a shortage of lawyers, which may be what the law was intended to prevent.

To sum up, you can't win the lead lawyer spot without a ready WLG, but the WLG can't get much from the settlement, and you aren't supposed to cut him in on the deal. This doesn't work, so it is that last parameter that has to slide a little. It turns out the named plaintiffs do get a little extra. According to the indictment, a retired California lawyer or members of his family served as plaintiff in nearly 70 suits and got about $2.4 million. Another plaintiff, a Beverly Hills ophthalmologist, served in nearly 70 suits, and got $6.5 million. It is not clear why one professional WLG got so much more than the other professional WLG. Maybe there ought to be a law.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Daisy Chain Leak By Leaking Head Proper

This business of classified information seems to confuse the pundits, but it is really very simple. The government says what is secret and what is not, and they have stamps for that. In fact, you can stamp over a prior stamp, and the latest one rules. We saw in the March 13 post how the 30 secret reviewers in the secret program in the secure facility were removing documents that had been stamped "declassified" from the public shelves, restoring denied access. Now here is the key point. The reviewers could have stamped "reclassified" over the "declassified" stamp but they didn't bother. First, since these documents were determined to have been improperly declassified in the first place, they were still classified, making the stamp unnecessary. Second, they didn't have a stamp for that.

And just like the stamp for "declassified" is merely a temporary convenience, it is not necessary for a proper official to make something not secret any more. Now you can quibble about who is a proper official. Like they say: "Don't try this at home!" But someone has to be proper, and no matter where you draw the line, POTUS is "proper". In this administration anyway. So, clearly President Bush can declassify stuff, and no stamp is necessary. Some things would be hard to stamp anyway.

So, according to court papers, The Scoot testified that POTUS authorized his shotgun The Dick to authorize The Scoot to release to Judy Miller, the NYT reporter, previously secret stuff about all the WMDs Saddam had, and, to suck in the tabloids, the name of that really cute spy. Judith's notes had "Valerie Flame". That is close enough for me. But we digress.

So what is wrong with that? PODUS can not only release stuff, at which point it is no longer secret, but can also say who else can do it. Even if he had a stamp, and of course he could if he wanted to, you wouldn't know what to stamp here. As an aside, Judy was not authorized by the NYT to report on WMDs any more, due apparently to some perceived gullibility problem, but who says the NYT is running the country?

Here is the way Scott McClellan put it: "The president believes the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter. And I think that's why it's important to draw a distinction here. Declassifying information and providing it to the public, when it is in the public interest, is one thing. But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious. And there is a distinction.. And thank goodness we have a White House that gets that distinction."

That works for me. And I agree with the Scottster. If you don't get it, you are guilty of "crass politics". But keep that confidential.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Summer Camp Relocated to Limit Relocations

While there appears to be some criticism of the POTUS plan to deploy 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the Mexican border, a little analysis will show the brilliance of the president's speech. First, like the Bush tax cuts, you shouldn't count the whole thing if the initial commitment doesn't extend very far. While it will be 6,000 the first year, it reduces to 3000 the second year. Second, each soldier will only do 3 weeks, that is, his regular 2 week summer camp obligation, plus a week to allow for coming and going and so forth. Each participant reports to his regular post, and then gets portal to portal credit for time on the bus to the border. It looks like there will be little breaks for the border patrol in between sets, since if you try to get the next set there before removing the last set, somebody is going to go over the limit. If the Mexicans flock to these swim sessions, it will just prove the effectiveness of the plan, as it is easier if you know when they are coming.

Even more important, this is just an expansion of the current program. We have had about 400 NG troops along the border since 1989. Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the NG Bureau, said the new mission would be "substantially similar" to the existing one, but noted that the size of the force would be greater. Maj. Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez, who handles the Guard in Texas, clarified the mission: "We are not in the business of detaining or apprehending or catching anybody", explaining that the Guard provides administrative support and analysis assistance to the Border Patrol. On occasion, he said, the soldiers also assist with surveillance, and "there are times when our analysts go a terrain walk with the Border Patrol."

The individual troopers are reported to view this plan a significant improvement over last year, as the 20,000 analysts in Iraq were not accorded portal to portal time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Fear of Flying? Take Your Duck

“I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply... “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs have to fly.”

If you have an emotional support animal, there is no telling where you can go. The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act says that anyone relying upon a specially trained animal to function has to have full access, with the animal, to all businesses that serve the public. Most people thought that primarily referred to seeing eye and hearing ear dogs, but in 2003 a ruling by the Department of Transportation stated for the first time that animals aiding people with emotional problems like depression or anxiety must be given the same airplane access and privileges as the seeing and hearing ones. Moreover, the D.O.T. ruling, which some say is a little dotty, didn't say anything about special training. American Airlines says that it is still mostly dogs flying, they have also had to board monkeys, miniature horses, cats, and in one instance, an emotional support duck.

The idea is catching on. People naturally assume that if the DOT(y) says I can take my animal on a plane, well, then, I can take him anywhere. So restaurant owners are letting Fido dine, albeit nothing on a duck yet (who knows what the duck might do if he saw a relative on the plate), rather than take a chance on violating the ADA, bringing down problems far more serious than a little scooping.

And the New York courts, not to be outdone by California, are ruling that a tenant in a no-pets building can have a pet if one is needed for emotional support. The lawyers see a new specialty here, suing landlords, and one was quoted in the NYT that she has 99.9 percent success if you have a note from your doctor. If you think about it, that is ducky. You have your pet, but don't have to worry about stepping in anyone elses.

Oh, and just in case the restaurant threatens to get mulish about it, you can order off the internet a "service dog in training" patch for his service vest, and cards that explain your rights under the ADA, as well as the phone number of the Justice Department.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Secret Approval of Secret Program Kept Secret

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has been investigating the conduct of certain Justice Department lawyers who approved the controversial N.S.A. domestic surveillance program. That program involved the illegal secret wiretapping of people in the United States without court warrants. That investigation has now been closed because the O.P.R. investigators were denied security clearances, preventing any progress. A Justice Department spokesman said the program was secret, and anyway, the legality has been reviewed by Justice Department lawyers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


¿No Comprende?

A judge in Oakland has issued a ruling banning the California exit exam which high school seniors have to pass to graduate. He held that the standardized math and English test discriminated against students who don't speak English.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


A Flash and a Fish Panned

After meeting last week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Merkster), POTUS revealed a couple of items from his inner being that led to a bunch of unjustified gnashing by the pundits. A flash and a fish, so to speak. First, he said he got a "glimpse into her soul". You will remember that, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin he said was "able to get a sense of his soul". For heaven's sake, now everyone is parsing "glimpsing" with "sensing" to see whether there has been another revision of the Bush Doctrine. What difference does it make? Glimpsing, sensing, flashing, perusing, sneaking a peek, that's not the point. For hundreds of years philosophers debated whether there was even such a thing as a soul, and here we are worried about what kind of a look it is getting.

Then came the fish. A German newspaper asked him to cite his best moment as president. He thought it over and said "I would say the best moment was when I caught a 7 ½-pound largemouth bass on my lake,". Now, according to the pundits, that isn't a big enough fish. They even called the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to find out how big a "big" fish was in Texas (15 pounds). Now if you had a 7 1/2 pound fish on very light gear, you would darn well know what a big fish was. And Bush is known for working with very light equipment.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Crony Fairy No Magic

Being president is a tough job, and the worst of it can be this appointment business. In 2001 Bush eliminated the longstanding role of the American Bar Association in the evaluation of prospective federal judges, but like an old neutered tom cat they continue to come out. Although not asked, they have rated his latest appointment "not qualified". Vanessa L. Bryant would be the first black woman in New England to be a federal judge. She is a sitting state judge and teaches Sunday school. Vanny was recommended by governor Jodi Rell. It is not clear whether Vanny is a 2nd or 3rd degree crony.

If the ABA is going to continue with the unsolicited opinions, it would do well to take into consideration just how difficult it is to find minority women within the 7 degrees of crony. First, men and women don't crony easily. Jodi herself may actually be a 2nd degree crony, relating through the White House Project. Then there is the race thing, and while there is such a thing as a "token crony", there is usually a two stroke penalty.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Crony Theory Breakthrough in Political Science

The noted economist Paul Krugman has introduced an analysis of one of the most vexing problems in modern political science, shaking it to its very foundations.

Presidential appointments of cronies to important government posts is a well studied and understood phenomenon. It is known that the success of the crony strategy is largely determined by the quality of the cronies. Examples are replete. John F. Kennedy dipped from two pools, Harvard, a well known crony pot, and his WWII navy buddies. The results are legendary. The Harvard cronies were of extremely high quality and made excellent government officials. The WWII buddies controlled the appointments for female companionship (governmental affairs), and if you think the Harvard appointments were top notch, you ought to see this group, where Marilyn Monroe and Judith Campbell Exner were only average quality. Conversely, while the appointments to government posts were good during the Clinton administration, Clinton attempted to handle appointments in the girl-crony category himself, with haphazard results. It has been suggested that his impeachment resulted directly from his lack of military service.

However well explored this first degree cronyism is, scientists have never been able to explain what is known as "the 7 degrees of cronyism". This is when a presidential appointment is not of a crony of the president, but of a crony of a crony (2nd degree), or of a crony of a crony of a crony (3rd degree), and so on to the 7th degree. This has received renewed attention during the Bush administration, although nothing beyond the 5th degree has yet been noted in the field.

Enter Paul Krugman ("Craggy Boy" to the president). He has posited the existence of the Crony Fairy, "who visits key agencies by the dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees." He was led to this discovery, he says, by his study of the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina ("Trinky") by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. [Here again we see the natural bifurcation of the posting and the affairs duties]. The report points to many deficiencies, but contains no hint of what may have caused the qualified people to leave and be replaced by unqualified people. Craggy concludes, reasonably, that these must have been installed by the Crony Fairy.

It is too early to gauge the impact of this new vision, but a government spokesgirl has stressed that the Crony Fairy is only a theory, not a fact. The author agrees that further study is necessary.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Wanna Go Two Out Of Three?

NYT: A study commissioned by the Bush administration concluded that the lower atmosphere was in fact growing warmer and that there was "clear evidence" that it was due to human influence. That eliminated the debate about whether things were actually heating up. However, White House officials made it clear that this was just the first of 21 assessments planned to address what it has called "unresolved questions". The officials said the administration remained focused on studying the remaining 20 questions and using voluntary means to slow the growth of heat trapping emissions.

A spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality welcomed the report, and said it showed that President Bush's decision to focus $2 billion a year on climate monitoring and research was "working".


Know Your Nearest Bus Stop

Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced the new New Orleans evacuation plan, 8 months in the making. No more Superdome stays. You now catch the bus to the Superdome, where other buses will swish you out of town on the freeways. He emphasized that everyone is responsible for looking out for themselves when the order comes, which presumably is knowing where your nearest bus stop is. He is allocating Amtrack trains to extracate the elderly and disabled, but it was not clear whether the feeder bus would stop at the train station first, or after the Superdome.

Everything will be a lot easier this time around, as of the 130,000 or so that didn't have cars, only about 10,000 have returned. That is still quite a crowd at the bus stop, so it will be good to start early. Even better, consider sleeping out at the bus stop. Think of it as the morning after Christmas at Walmart. There will also be some practice runs, as the 7,000 or so in unstable trailers will be ordered out for little warm up storms.

This is in the middle of the Mayor race, but C. Ray pointed out that if his opponent is elected the plan won't work. "If somebody new comes in, they would have to be Einstein to figure this out". I know what he means. Ever try to read those big city bus schedules?

Monday, May 01, 2006


Be Grateful For Baksheesh

I don't understand the negative reaction to the Republican plan to send everyone $100 to pay for gas this weekend. Many parts of the world are said to run on baksheesh, so why can't we? Baksheesh comes from the Persian word بخشش , meaning a gift. One of the 5 tenants of Islam is the giving of alms to the poor. The giver is made more holy by the action. In fact, in Pakistan and the Muslim world the giver of alms often salutes the beggar for having given the opportunity to gain merit. So this should be understood as a Republican salute to the motorist, and in no way connected with the upcoming election.

The NYT reported some outraged motorists as emailing sentiments like "Do you think we are prostitutes? Do you think you can buy us?" And Rush Limbaugh suggested Congress was "treating us like we are a bunch of whores." Boy, does that show how out of touch some people are. It is $100 Rush. At least we know something you haven't been doing in the last 20 years. Our senators know what they are doing, as Dr. Frist's chief of staff pointed out: Constituents "believe government out to step up to the plate rather than loll around in the dugout" ("loll" is an intransitive verb meaning "lie" or "flop"). Baseball metaphors show the team is sincere. David Winston, a pollster who advises the Republican leadership, called the rebate an intuitive way to show the voter the Republicans were on their side. "It is like putting the American family budget ahead of oil company profits."

The Democrats are extremely critical. Senator Debbie Stabenow proposed raising it to $500. Swing for the fences, Debbie! Another weekend is coming up!

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