Sunday, March 15, 2009

Further Tales of Corporate Irresponsibility

News today that corporate welfare queen American Insurance Group has just paid out tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to its executives.

The self-destructive insurance conglomerate has received more than $170 billion dollars over several rounds of corporate bailouts since September of 2007. Last quarter, it posted an astonishing $61.7 billion loss -- the largest in corporate history.

And yet, the very executives who surely bear some responsibility for that loss and AIG's current financial state are being rewarded with more money than many taxpayers -- who are now footing the bill -- may make in a lifetime.

AIG claims the bonus payments are contractually obligated, which makes me marvel at what must be some pretty remarkable contract terms dictating generous bonuses even in the face of catastrophic losses.

One wonders what kind of gravy these executives would be taking home if the company was actually making money.

AIG Chairman Edward Liddy -- that's his smugly satisfied face on the left -- defended the bonus payments in a snipply worded letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. "We cannot attract and retain the best and brightest talent to lead and staff the AIG businesses, which are now being operated principally on behalf of the American taxpayers - if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury."

To which I say, if this mess is what your "best and brightest" is capable of, I'm willing to fire them all and let the night-time security staff take a crack at this thing.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Don't Ever Push the Red Button

Last week Hillary Clinton went to Geneva, Switzerland to make nice with the Russians after eight years of George W. Bush making double-plus un-nice.

During her meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Secretary Clinton presented him with a "reset button" to symbolize a new beginning with the United States.

Much was made of our translation of "reset." During dinner Clinton said, "We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?"

Mr. Lavrov, apparently not one to overly worry about hurting others' feelings, replied, "You got it wrong. 'Peregruzka' means 'overload'."

(As an aside, they worked hard at this? Isn't the U.S. government supposed to have some people who speak really good Russian on staff? And they still got it wrong?)

To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, neither Lavrov or Clinton made any mention of -- or even gave much thought to -- the button's appearance, which looks to me like the sort of thing you might push when you want to blow something up.

Or overload it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Close Call

Last night while we slept, an asteroid zoomed by within 48,000 thousand miles of earth.

That's just twice the distance of some communications satellites, and about a fifth of the way to the moon.

Its size is estimated to be about the same as the one that blasted Siberia in the Tunguska Event back in 1908.

That's scary enough. But here's something more to keep you away tonight: that asteroid is just one of over 6,000 near earth objects. Of these 769 are asteroids with a diameter of approximately 1 kilometer or larger. Also, 1028 of these NEOs have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs).

Watch the skies.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Salvation for Sale

The complete PTL Club tapes are going up for auction. The estimated value is $8 million.

Whether you consider this horrifying depends on how you feel about Jim and Tammy-Faye Bakker, the spectacular fall of their evangelical empire, and heavy make-up.

The show ran from 1974 to 1987, capturing over 15,000 hours of pathos and greed in the name of the Lord. The Bakkers sing and preach, raise money, build churches, campgrounds and theme parks. Later, everything is consumed in the smoke and flames of a sex scandal, fraud conviction and prison sentence for Jim while Tammy-Faye tries and fails to keep a smile painted on her face. Seen in its entirety, PTL may be the longest-running reality -- or surreality -- show in television history.

You know some network, somewhere, is going to get those tapes. After that, it's just a matter of time before they hit the airwaves -- what a charming, inaccurate phrase -- once again.

Just a word of advice to the winning bidder: Find a good editor, one with a lot of time on his hands and a sharp eye for both the absurd and the tragic.