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What's That Worker Worth?

Here's a typically excellent and thought-provoking sports/business piece by Michael Lewis in the Times Magazine. As with Moneyball, Lewis explores new metrics in professional sports. His protagonist is Shane Battier, a brainy but unflashy Houston Rocket who specializes in defending superstars and making them have an off night. He's no All-Star, but by certain measures his career stats are amazing. Basically, he makes his team a lot better and the other team a lot worse, and does it all with hardly anyone noticing.

Excerpt:

'One well-known statistic the Rockets' front office pays attention to is plus-minus, which simply measures what happens to the score when any given player is on the court. In its crude form, plus-minus is hardly perfect: a player who finds himself on the same team with the world's four best basketball players, and who plays only when they do, will have a plus-minus that looks pretty good, even if it says little about his play. Morey says that he and his staff can adjust for these potential distortions -- though he is coy about how they do it -- and render plus-minus a useful measure of a player's effect on a basketball game. A good player might be a plus 3 -- that is, his team averages 3 points more per game than its opponent when he is on the floor. In his best season, the superstar point guard Steve Nash was a plus 14.5. At the time of the Lakers game, Battier was a plus 10, which put him in the company of Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both perennial All-Stars. For his career he's a plus 6. "Plus 6 is enormous," Morey says. "It's the difference between 41 wins and 60 wins." He names a few other players who were a plus 6 last season: Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady.'

In our daily lives, at work, at school, in the neighborhood, we all know lots of people who don't necessarily ring up the big numbers on game day: They might be quiet. Or prefer to work behind the scenes. Or they play their game in subtle ways. But we notice that, somehow, the world is a better place when they're around.

At any business during a recession -- whether it's a news organization or a steel mill - the top bosses have to make tough decisions about personnel. How well do we judge the value of those around us? Do we have a metric for judging the value of people who make other people around them work (or learn, or play) much better?

(I hope everyone's having an excellent day off. It is a holiday, right?? I should probably check....)

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 16, 2009; 11:24 AM ET
 
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Comments

Excellent kit! Makes coming home for a late breakfast worthwhile.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 16, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I had a boss who went from middle management to upper management and his perspective on tolerable personality faults went way up. The bottom line is always: Is the person I can replace him with a trade-up or a trade-down.

That is my new goal metric. To be just productive enough to be too much trouble to replace.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Reposting, sorta: I bet 'Mudge's Freudian slip is blue.

I think all the Boodlers are easily plus pi, if not plus E=mc2.

JA, however, is a plus googol, no?

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 16, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, Wilbrod - I left you a comment re. space collisions, orbits, balloons and junk in the previous Boodle.

No need to cut & paste here, I think.

Now, I'm off to run some errands.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | February 16, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Joel-Thanks for linking to the Michael Lewis piece. I'm feeling a bit faint from holding my breath through the last couple pages but I'll recover. Once again Lewis proves great sports writing is great writing, period.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 16, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

yes, having an excellent day off, weather is beauuutifullll.... happy boodling!

Posted by: MissToronto | February 16, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Many times, the one in the background...

http://www.examiner.com/x-2232-SF-Country-Music-Examiner~y2009m2d6-Glen-Campbell-secret-Monkee

One of the worst kept secrets of the mid-1960s was that The Monkees did not play their musical instruments on their early albums.

Studio musicians played the music. In a recent interview with me, Glen Campbell confirmed he was guitarist on “Last Train to Clarksville” and other early Monkees hits. ...

Glen also confirmed he played guitar on “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys and on five songs on The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” album. ...

He played guitar on “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, “He’s a Rebel” by Darlene Love & The Crystals, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers, “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra, various recordings by Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Rick Nelson, Nat King Cole, Nancy Sinatra, Wayne Newton . . . and where do I stop?


Posted by: laloomis | February 16, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"At any business during a recession -- whether it's a news organization or a steel mill - the top bosses have to make tough decisions about personnel."

This would make me concerned under the best of circumstances, but why do I have this mental image of guys in suits playing "Eeny-meeny-miney-mo"?

And not to kick the 800 pound gorilla in the netherparts, but aren't the "top bosses" the ones who drove their companies into the ground? Ya can't blame the guy in the mail room.

Not to further pick on execs, but I just drove by the local now-shuttered Linens'N'Things and the almost-shuttered Circuit City and have very little sympathy for anyone in the "top boss" racket -- especially if they think they have a clue about running a business. If they're so damn smart with their MBAs and all that academic crapola and toilet paper that says they know what they're doing, why did their businesses tank?

Seriously.

I'd like to know WHY it takes an MBA to run a business into the ground.

Of course, they do it in a spectacular fashion and are insanely compensated for their efforts.

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

http://msl.jpl.nasa.gov/QuickLooks/echoQL.html

It is pretty outside here in Carolina. Several rains have drenched the logs I hauled out of the brush: sweetgum the people who trimmed around the power pole left. I didn't want to mess with burning sweetgum, but it's the best way to dispose of it, and it was already cut to length. So I'm not gonna stack them in the truck and carry around to the woodpile until they dry out enough to not smear my clothes.

Rockets.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 16, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I don't like to let lose secret information, because, you know, well, you don't wanna know, but anyway. Here's the deal. Through a complex set of events the presence of the Achenblog and the continued employment of the author itself is all that is preventing an invasion of ravenous, um, frogs. Yeah. Big nasty ones with sharp froggy teeth. And a taste for innocent children.

Just wanted to let you know so you could pass it on. To, like, bosses and such.

Anyway, that's what I heard.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 16, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

'Toon, I could be wrong, but I thought CC began to lose market share to Best Buy back when the economy first began to noticeably falter, and then a sale of the company that had been lined up fell through as the economy continued to decline, and then during their traditional money-making season, Christmas, consumers stayed away from higher-priced items in general and CC in particular because of fears the company would tank (going to WalMart of all places), and then CC was unable to secure debtor-in-possession $ to avoid the tank (lending market kept getting tighter and tighter). I didn't think it was something CC did wrong other than not see the economy spiraling downward so quickly, which seems to be the mistake made by so many.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 16, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for all the grammerian mistakes in my post. It's just whenever I think of the scary frogs I get all worked up.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 16, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I just finished watching this Nova online
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/astrospies/program.html
about US and Soviet spy satellites; specifially manned spy orbiters. Just fascinating. I also learned of America's real first black astronaut - in training - died in crash while in the supersecret program.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 16, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Jumper. OJ and all those Capricorn astronauts disappeared rather mysteriously.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

LiT... Being blindsided happens to the best of us and this economy hasn't been nice to anyone.

But still. If those who expect to be paid the most while working the least because of their "expertise" and education can't see something like this coming and can't figure out how to salvage the business, then what the heck are they getting paid for? Why have "experts" running businesses when their expertise is useless and apparently founded on crap? Sheesh... let the janitors have a go at it.

I don't mean to rant, but this just irritates the livin' you-know-what out of me. When I was working in IT, I was expected to develop, maintain and fix systems -- usually on a shoestring and with specs so convoluted they couldn't be comprehended. If I failed, I got shown the door. But when the ones "in charge" screw up? They get to show people like me the door.

Okay... deep breath. Try to think happy thoughts.

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Martooni, close your eyes and go to your happy place. Feel the gentle breeze? The sun on your face? Good. Now dream you're in a Hollywood movie....

Posted by: LostInThought | February 16, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Martooni, it goes without saying that getting caught up in an organization's culture and not looking beyond it is the kiss of death. In the long run, success will come to those who are the most flexible and least ideological. And who are the least flexible and most ideological among us? Generally the people in charge.

Posted by: slyness | February 16, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Martooni:
In March, 2007, 3,000 Circuilt City employees were let go "because they made too much money." A 20 year veteran at $18.00 was let go. In eleven weeks after being let go the veteran could reapply for his old job but at a lower rate. He did get some kind of severance pay.

450 employees like him over the course of three years at $12.00 per hour could have retained their jobs instead of the six executives that were retained for $33.5 million collectively over the same three years. (This all courtesy of a story on ABC news that I surfed for and remembered hazily. You know how it gets when you get to the middle years.)

I am so computer and electronics challenged that I was always dissatisfied when I went there to try to purchase something because no one at CC or Comp USA could ever advise me properly as to the pros and cons of a purchase. I never go to such places any longer without bringing an expert friend or my son with me.

Happy Day of the Presidents to all. Of course, it's not an "institution of higher learning" holiday here but I'm not really complaining. My fellow employees that have school age children have taken off a few days or the entire week because lots of the CT towns and cities are on recess this week.

Aroc

Posted by: CoraCollins | February 16, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I once lived in a country where the people in audio stores really knew a lot about audio. Not just faking it. I realized when Circuit City got up and running that they had decided that wasn't necessary.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 16, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

laloomis, thanks for the link to the Glen Campbell piece.

My attention was drawn by the comments at the bottom (they certainly have no Boodle -- only 3 comments on a piece from 10 days ago). One fellow declares authoritatively that Campbell is wrong about having played on a song he remembers playing on (or, I suppose, "alleges" that he played on), one is incomprehensible, and one bravos the first commenter and presents what he claims to be an authoritative list of Monkees songs on which Glen Campbell *did* play. So, I left a fourth comment: my M-I-L has fought and is fighting a number of battles to receive credit (and royalties) for successful songs on which she played (or alleges that she played). Her session logs indicate that she played several sessions that resulted in a hit, whose official release information does not list her. Some of this controversy appears on her wikipedia page, which has been edited by folks who have taken to one side or another in these debates. The truth, or a reasonable approximation of the truth, requires documentary evidence and the testimony of multiple witnesses to the event. A single source of information generally is not sufficiently reliable.

Interestingly, she played on at least one song by Glen Campbell.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

And it's hard to think of an instrument that is a better candidate for "nobody knows it's there, but you sure can tell when it isn't" than the electric bass.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Here's a pretty good insider's look at how frakked up Circuit City was:

http://www.therealaustin.net/?p=873

And the Consumerist post-mortem:

http://consumerist.com/5134586/why-circuit-city-failed.

The Death Pool for the next major chain to go includes Borders and The Gap.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

SciTim,
The inverse of that would be the cowbell.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Well, you know, there's one thing that there's always room for, and that's... more cowbell!

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

If you're so damn smart without an MBA and all that academic crapola and toilet paper why aren't YOU doing better? Just sayin'.

Posted by: -larkin | February 16, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Posting without comment:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/597/story/541477.html

Posted by: slyness | February 16, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Ah, larkin, larkin. As I'm sure you knew when you asked your question, the subtext of Martooni's post is that people with MBAs, etc., have the best chance of being hired for managerial and executive positions, and thus being in a position to run or ruin a company and fire others. This is true. It has nothing to do with intelligence or education - I know many smart and highly educated people who don't happen to have MBAs or managerial degrees, and are thus automatically discounted for head-of-company jobs. And, of course, you don't know what martooni's educational background is, other than that he has no MBA.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. In some fields other qualifications are preferred. However, the deeper you go into mainstream corporate culture, which even at a small level is pretty much business culture, the more clout this type of training and degree provides. Also, of course, people do get hired to run companies who don't have these qualifications. That doesn't change the fact that hiring processes are skewed towards that norm.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 16, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, a pleasure. I've larked a while, I'm aware that martooni's educational background consists of dropping out of college and complaining about people with more formal education than he and often bragging about how much more he knows than they do.

I agree with much of your post except I think his subtext is that he wuz robbed in the big game of life. It gets old.

Posted by: -larkin | February 16, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

And leave us not forget the fabulous success of the nation's until-recently-most-highest-ranking MBA. *He* sure did a fine job of delegating authority effectively and making snap decisions based on his excellent preparation.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

No argument there either, ScienceTim.

Posted by: -larkin | February 16, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

martooni shouldn't paint all mbas with the same brush. just sayin'

Posted by: LALurker | February 16, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

At least he is running a business-- his own.

The few people out there /without/ MBAs currently running large corporations are those who started them themselves. Far more are running medium to small corporations.

Not so many people with MBAs actually have started their own company and taken off successfully-- why take the risk when they could get themselves into a more comfortable, more reliably paying job at a large corporation?

I do know an engineer with a MBA who climbed in Sony, quit, became a CEO under an owner, got tired of it, then quit to start his own business. He has my real respect because I've seen him troubleshoot disasters on his feet. He definitely needs challenges in life.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 16, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, LALurker. That degree covers a wide variety of abilities, moralities, and talents.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 16, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Slyness:

Not much to say there, fer sure... *shrug*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 16, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Not unlike doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

sciTim -- I always appreciate news of your bass-slinging, hot-licks, lower-register chops MiL. CPBoy is also a bassist. They get NO respect! This is the latest quote he deals with:

if you are bass player and have a heartbeat, you can gig.

He is gigging a bit; playing up, in the sports parlance as he fills in for some college bands whose bassist is MiA.

Bass players: Rise up. Be counted.

--
Thus endeth my cheerleading comment. I will contemplate an on-kit comment for later.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 16, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I love Steve Nash's improbable rise to hoops-rulage.

1) Canoockistani
2) Started hoops in Jr. High
3) Went to Cinderella but steady B-ball school that graduates players at stellar rates (SCU)
4) Smallish
5) Slightish


But, his hair cut is very on-kit: fly-away nerd boy hair circa 1974.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 16, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Circuit City management was distracted during the early 1990s while they were diversifying into the used car business. Admittedly CarMax has done well.

In 1978, I got to know a lot of law and MBA students at the University of Georgia. The MBA types seemed serious and focused. The law types were mostly somewhat better than the one who managed to explode a firecracker right next to a city police officer. I think he was given the opportunity to move back to Los Angeles.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 16, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I believe Scott Adams may be the only cartoonist with an MBA. But the others may just be keeping it quiet, using it as a secret weapon.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm gonna support the rant(s) of Toons in regard to the notion that many of these MBA-type CEOs impose the business "culture" (think bacteria and mold culture) which suits them best -- not necessarily the company best. I took a modified mini-MBA course put on by the Smithsonian in partnership with George Mason University School of Management maybe 10-15 years ago. It was an 8-week once-a-week course held downtown in the Agriculture Bldg. In a way, I found it a good introduction to that world, in that I could gather up the vocabulary and most of the concepts and use them to assist my clients better.

However, I also found it completely inapposite to the way I personally look at business and business models. Maybe it's just me, but I think so far out of the "box" that I discount the existence of a box at all. Kinda means I end up talking to myself a lot (but, hey, Mudge, maybe that's our age talkin'). Of all the course elements given in that 8 weeks, I felt drawn to operations and some of the other elements, but not others.

I think in my case, it's just the way I look at things and I understand that innovation and entreprenurial thinking often gets in the way of, and gets lost in, the prevailing business "culture" -- there is much, too much, narcissism and not a bare minimum amount of psychopath-ology which appears to be the job requirements of modern day CEOs and other chief executives. Management is not for the faint at heart. Bullies fare well in this atmosphere, and those who challenge the bullies and the bully culture are out on their veritables very soon. Maybe that's why many women who may have started out in big companies end up starting their own and running them the way they want to run them -- a different culture, so to speak. And many of these small companies are very successful, or at least have been during different economic times.

Toons -- I got your back. I understand what you're saying and I can only say -- carry on!

I'm hoping to get yet another good friend to boodle-up (so to speak). She's gonna take a look at us first. I assured her that the boodle is an inviting place, sure thing.

I lost power for about an hour today, and now my computer is a little out of sorts. Hoping to get on track again (but, then again, perhaps getting a Mac might solve those problems, too) (*sigh*).

Going away, if only to reappear. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | February 16, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

My brother has an MBA from UGA. I try not to hold it against him.

By all standard metrics he is doing much better than me. He's got a huge house, a beautiful wife, four lovely kids, two border collies, and a decent golf game. The company he works for hasn't made the Google News feed for malfeasance or ineptitude. I'm sure he's just an outlier.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Yello, my brother has an MBA from Queens. He got laid off two weeks ago from his job with a start-up business consulting company. He says they will be okay for a year, but I'm seriously concerned. I hope and pray he will be able to find something. He's got eight-year-old twins.

I am SOOO ready for this recession to be over already.

Posted by: slyness | February 16, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Sure, MBAa come in many smells, sizes and styles. What the Tooni was channeling is the anger of many at CEOs, FEOs and the like managing the companies to maximize their own compensation, with the board of director's blessing.
It really got ugly that way in the past 15 years or so. I mean, a house in Mustique sure is nice. Another one in the Hamptons is better, and that is with the downtown apartment still being the main pad. But who really needs all that?

The sad thing is that these guys are still trying, but failing yet, to get that same disproportionate amount of any company's success. It's going to be a while before one is happy to draw a 6-figure salary out of a CEO job. 8-figure salaries were so much better, only if so based on non-existing profits.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 16, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

While many CEOs and CFOs are MBAs, few MBAs are CEOs, IMHO. IANAL, YMMV.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 16, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

firsttimeblogger,
Dilbert is good. So is Alex, at the Telegraph newspaper.

Today, Alex has been told to make one member of his team redundant.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 16, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

the bozos who've run the financial and housing sectors into the ground deserve all manner of reprobation. the people running circuit city and linens-n-things probably do, too. but generalizing that sentiment to all mbas and people in management is a completely unproductive way to view the world.

Posted by: LALurker | February 16, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, Boodle. CquaP, can I be grandfathered under any future on-kit statement you may care to make, thus freeing me to be my usual non-sequiturial self?

I've had a lovely day cleaning, laundering and chatting with friends on both phone and email. No, really, I actually enjoyed the cleaning. #1 called and managed to coach me enough remotely that I got a new album loaded on the Ipod. She is my Mac tech-support go-to person. I still have no idea what we actually did.

Can you believe how quickly a three-day weekend goes by? I think it is because I always plan to do more than I can get done.

Have a good Monday evening, all.


Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

No time to backboodle, but this has been caught in my head. Someone said something about CEOs don't work a lot of hours. Yes they do. They work *all* the time. They miss family events (or put in 10 minutes worth of facetime and then go read or jump on a conference call), they take work with them on their commute, on vacation, in the car, on a plane. They work on holidays. Even when they're home, they're working. The brief case, cell phone(s), blackberry, etc. are never far from hand. Even the play is just work in disguise. Granted, not bad working with a drink in your hand, but social events are rarely social, but business.

Which brings me to compensation. Is part of their compensation package paying them for not knowing their kids? For the failed marriages? For the health problems that goes along with all of this?

Someone's gotta do the job. The pool of who'd want the job isn't all that big.

Off to try to get a little bit more accomplished before this day is done. Have a great evening all.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 16, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

NHL teams have been tracking plus-minus since the 1950s. As a result, players like Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens were able to be regarded as great players even though their points statistics were not great. He was typically given a Shane Battier-type of role of shutting down the opposing teams best player. Since all of the fans knew about plus-minus statistics and their importance, he was a perennial fan favorite because they knew how important he was to the team's success. The Russians viewed him as the best player in the NHL even though his newspaper stats didn't look like that. He was elected to the Hall of Fame and made a top 100 all-time best players list.

Sports like the NFL don't have that type of concept and so players like Steve Tasker of the Buffalo Bills have never gotten that due. He played special teams and is possibly the best one ever. however, the general lack of stats for that role has meant that he has languished with respect to the Hall of Fame although Buffalo Bills fans revere him.

Work places are similar. Some companies look for people to fit into a variety of roles and knows that a number of different team roles are critical.

Other companies just focus on the big obvious statistics. I think we have just seen the consequences of how that played out on Wall Street.

Posted by: raydh | February 16, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Hello, friends. AROC, so glad to hear from you, and hope everything is well with you. Just a quick drive by to check in and wish everyone a good day and evening. I've been quite busy today, and it all started with the morning walk. Just getting a chance to sit down.

I went to the trailer and got my old journals, and I'm going to read them and probably groan a lot.

Martooni, I get what you're saying, and I agree. I think it's wonderful that people go to school and get numerous degrees, but if one isn't doing the job, doesn't count for much. And to get paid some of those outlandish bonuses is beyond reason. Sure we want to get good people, and we want to pay them and keep them. Yet we don't want businesses run in the ground and jobs lost by mismanagement, and hailed as success, when actually it isn't that by a long shot. Perhaps it's too much to ask for. Just maybe our defintion of success has changed and can no longer be judged by the old bar. It could be we've reached the age where failure and loss are the new heights or depths to reach or fall for?

My neighbor has passed. She just moved here a couple of months ago from my old address. I've known her since my children were in grade school. She lived a full life, and she walked a lot.

Mudge, Slyness, Scotty, Yoki, and all, hope your day was restful. *waving*

JA, this is an excellent kit. You're writing so many excellent kits, I'm going to have to find a better word to describe them. Very timely indeed, and something to think about. The g-girl's teacher told me today that three-fourth of the children in her class have both parents out of a job. And she informed me that she sent a list to the central office for supplies, and as of yet, she hasn't received anything. She using her own money to buy supplies for the children. I told her she doesn't make enough money to do that. She said if she didn't they would not have the supplies they need. I'm sure she is not the only one.

Enjoy the rest of your time off.

Posted by: cmyth4u | February 16, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, LiT. I don't even want to advance to the next level of management because I know how much extra work it'll be. Not worth it to me, I want a life.

LAL, good point. If memory serves, didn't we have a discussion similar to this a month or two ago, re: *everyone* in the financial sector being to blame for the recession?

Posted by: -dbG- | February 16, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I believe we did, dbG, and didn't we come to the conclusion that unrestrained greed is not a good thing? Contrary to what might be taught in business schools...

Posted by: slyness | February 16, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I remember Padouk was brilliant, slyness.

I think all of us would agree that unrestrained greed is not a good thing (except in the case of major hardware purchases), but remember many of us thought tarring an entire industry/job designation/group of people due to the greed of a small number was a mistake. Wasn't there something in that kit about assuming the best about people?

I could be wrong, of course (except in the case of major hardware purchases).

Posted by: -dbG- | February 16, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

A couple of quick comments:

I understand the general railing and unhappiness with the compensation for the folks that run large coprorations, particularly in consideration of how much they are paid and the costs of some of their failures.

Having said that, I personally don't begrudge anyone for how much money they're paid. Isn't America still a free market economy? Aren't all of us allowed to work as hard as we want and earn as much money as we can, as long as it's legal? Isn't that part of the American Dream? These folks have built careers, and the going rate for those top jobs seems to have become a competitive process between corporate BODs, in the same way that the athletic free agent markets operated. Salary caps/and salary 'taxes' were imposed for some sports to keep leagues solvent and to keep the talent levels across teams reasonably equivalent (though as always, some are more equal than others).

Also, I can't speak for all CEOs and heads of large corporations, but if any of them resorted to illegal or unethical means to assure that they were compensated in some manner, then they should be investigated, charged and prosecuted, correct?

It's clear that some reform of some industries is in order and that some executives do need to be looked at closely, and certainly, Corporate Boards of Directors will be reconsidering compensation levels (conditional for any corporations receiving money from TARP or the Stimulus, naturally).

But if the market's there for someone to pay me $10m a year for being my great-looking, charming self, I'll take it. After all, I've taken a lifetime building the career of me, and I still own my brand and image and I deserve to be compensated for that, don't I?

Heck, I'd take $10.
After all, it's all about me.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | February 16, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I think that "She lived a full life, and she walked a lot." may be the most eloquent and intriguing thing I have ever seen written about another person.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

It's all about you, bc?

I thought it was all about me. :-)

Posted by: -dbG- | February 16, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I seem to remember that, dbG. About the hardware, I mean. And Padouk being brilliant.

He makes me feel very small, sometimes. As do many others here, the sheer brain-power quotient can be a little overwhelming to one so feeble-minded as me. You, for instance.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I was a part-time, hourly (albeit a nice hourly wage) employee who worked less than 1000 hours a year and could have worked a lot less. I was paid no benefits.

I was in the first wave of layoffs in my former company. The second wave included nearly all of the "worker bees" who actually created the products the company is trying to sell.

All of management still have their jobs and none, to my knowledge, has taken on any worker bee duties. Jobs just aren't getting done. Quality has taken a dive. To me, it looks like a company that won't be in business much longer. I hope for my former co-workers' sakes the company survives.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 16, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

If I ruffled anybody's credentials with my sweeping generalization about MBAs, sorry for that. It was nothing personal. It's just that there are so many incompetent MBAs out there it becomes difficult to remember that there are one or two who actually know something about business.

I don't begrudge anyone their success (assuming they worked for it) and have nothing against advanced degrees or certifications.

What I *do* have a problem with is incompetence. If I hire a plumber to fix my toilet, he better fix my toilet if he wants paid. I would think the same principals would apply to those highly paid people who claim to be business experts. If you're hired to do a job, do the damn job. Show me why that MBA makes you so valuable or get the hell out.

But then I'm just a bitter "could-a-been-a-contenda" non-MBA type, so what do I know?

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

bc, I agree with you that it's supposed to be a free-market. I think much of the resentment is from the sense, the odor, the intimation, that the market is not actually free. The fix is in, or at least, it was. With CEO's serving on BOD's of other corporations, there clearly is a conflict-of-interest when it comes to decision-making on CEO compensation. If I establish that YOU are worth a lot of money, then my own corporation will have to draw the conclusion that I, a competitor CEO, am ALSO worth a lot of money. Since there is practically no way that a system that chooses BOD's from among wealthy CEO's could be effectively self-policing in this climate, it's clear that this is an area that demands government oversight. Since the last administration and the heads of its regulatory agencies all were chosen from the same environment as those egregiously-compensated CEO's, it's not hard to see why the oversight was not vigorous. What *IS* hard to see is how oversight can be made vigorous, since that environment of egregiously-compensated CEO's also is the only source of people who genuinely understand the management of those large and rich industries.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

raydh -- you are very astute and I agree with your post (*all* of it, since I'm a hockey fan (go Red Wings!!!)).

I think that the larger the company, the more difficult it is to manage (the concept of herding cats comes to mind). And then there appears to be the disconnect between making a good product or set of products and services or sets of services AND rewarding the shareholders in the first instance. If rewarding the shareholders in the first instance within the template of immediate gratification, I think we see our reality. The rewarding of the workers and the customers, which comes back to rewarding the shareholders, is, to me, the better way to go. But hey, I'm just scratching my quasi-socialist itch. Do forgive me, please. Or forgive me enuf, so that we can both/all live on the same planet without fear or pain.

And, now, to the kitchen. I wonder what's there. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | February 16, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I keep forgetting to congratulate (and thank) yellojkt for working on his pronouns.

He is definitely a man who tries.

Posted by: -TBG- | February 16, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, well if the good MBAs are so good, why haven't they beat up all the bad MBAs? Or are they CHICKEN?

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 16, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

He can be trying, can't he?

Sorry yello, that was entirely for the sake of the hoary old joke and no fair comment on your fine character.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

CEO carping aside, I really liked this Kit. Joel is right. There are many people without whom organizations simply would not run as well, and many of these people do not receive the credit they deserve. We are fortunate in our office to have a few. These types of people also form the backbone of the volunteer civic groups with which I work - they are the ones who manage to get things done. I aspire to be one of these people, with varying degrees of success.

I understand and even applaud your arguments, bc, but with a couple of caveats. I do take issue with individual compensation when (a) part of the compensation comes from my money, either as an investor or through nationalization and tax dollars, and (b) empirical evidence suggests the individual wasn't doing a good job at all; or (c) when the amount involved is so outrageously disproportionate to the organization's workers, or to anything else, as to be unconscionable. And I believe sports stars and movie stars are paid too much too.

Also, as the lawyers and lawyer wranglers here will tell you, unethical behavior is not necessarily illegal. You may do something which everyone agrees is bad, even very bad, without committing a prosecutable offense. If shame has no effect on you, you're home free.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 16, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, Jumper1, it is the lawyers who will do the beating-up! 'Cause they ain't ascared of nothin' and nobody.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I spent the latter half of my career trying to come up with measures that conveyed the effectiveness of the services provided to the public by the organization that employed me. From that experience, I can tell you that it is difficult to establish success without good, impartial data. Good, impartial data is not something that an organization will voluntarily collect because it might make it look bad.

The nice thing about sports statistics is that they are based on good, impartial data and so measure success/failure. The data on CEO compensation substituted for genuine measures and became the faux measures of success for individuals, but not for the organizations.

Yes, CEO's may work hard, but they have to work hard at the right things for success. I think of James Sinegal, president of Costco, who has measured success as hiring good people and paying them reasonably, compared to himself. There is the model for Wall Street.

Posted by: slyness | February 16, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

As a non-sports fan, let me state a radical notion: the compensation of professional athletes not only is not outlandish, it probably is not enough. The biggest stars, I might agree, probably *are* overcompensated, because these guys are so likely to have a follow-up career adorning a chair in a TV studio or some-such thing. The bottom-rank guys, however, have devoted their lives just as much to getting into their profession. They are likely to have a playing life of, what, maybe 5 years? After which, they will not adorn the chairs of TV studios. In 5 years, they need to make something like their lifetime salary. By that standard, they need to make something like a million a year, because they probably have few salable skills outside of sports.

The problem is not that sports payrolls are so high; the problem is that they are so inequitably distributed. Stars still deserve more, just by the effects of the free market. But there should be some mechanism to raise the salary of journeyman players commensurate with whoever is the current franchise player on that team. This would provide a natural moderating effect on the ability of a team to bid maniacally for a single superstar at the expense of their other players. It would also raise the morale of journeyman players when some young hotshot is signed, if that hotshot raises the salary of all the other players.

Or is there already something like that system in place? Probably I have not kept up with current events in sports business.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 16, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

This 2007 Congressional Research Service document outlines the economics of executive pay ratios.

http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/crs/36/

What is not talked about is the cultural pressure in Europe and Japan -- and the military and most universities -- to keep executive pay at some reasonable ratio of the lowest-wage worker in the institution. I am not sure how to develop these cultural norms about "youse ain't worth that much; a goodly sum, yes. but not a prince-on-steroids sum"

In 1993, Clinton applied a tas instrument to 1Mill of executive pay; what happened? The complex nexus of perks and bonuses, and cars and houses and such allowances. 'Tis elastic, so that when you push on Pt. A, well, we see a deformation of Pt. Q.

But, in 1984 or so, Peter Drucker (management guru) expressed deep concern about outa scale US exec. pay. He thought that the scale of CEO compensation should be no more than 20 times what the rank and file make...He said this was crucial in times of economic hardship and employee lay offs. I found this in my notes from a grad school macroeconomics class: He said THIS:“This is morally and socially unforgivable and we will pay a heavy price for it.”

Wow. He was right. Who needs Nostrodomus....we got a Harvard B-school prof who saw where our greed might lead.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 16, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if there's any coorelation between the state of the economy and Micheal Lewis's popularity.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 16, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, remember a long time ago when the word "heath" came up? Your immediate response referenced "Wuthering Heights." Mine cited Heath bars. 'nuff said.

Jumper, *snort.*

martooni, there are only a few MBA's here, and I don't think any of them have spoken up. There are competent (and more than one or two) and incompetent, ethical and unethical MBAs, lawyers, systems people, plumbers, librarians and drive-through people at MickeyD's. Nobody's happy with the state of our economy or the people who have plundered it, but the pirates span industries, careers and just about every demographic you can name. So do many, many others who go to work every Monday morning and work hard and honestly all week.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 16, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

SciTIm, economists call that pay inequity in sports and the arts, the "winner takes all" problem. Some gots. Others? Not so much.

For every Madonna there is a folkie busker whose parents pray for the day she completes her teacher credential so she can teach music, with health insurance!

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 16, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Very right, slyness (regarding CEOs working hard at the *right* things).

Most of my work experience has been with smaller companies (150 employees or less) and the best companies are the ones where the CEO and his/her team don't think twice about rolling up their sleeves and helping out on the production line or shipping or whatever. It's a no-brainer to most people -- whether you run the company or sweep the floors -- when things need to get done you do them because it benefits the company (and ultimately you).

I think where the big businesses are failing is that they've forgotten that the purpose of a business is to provide a quality product or service at a competitive price -- not push paper around or juggle money. Pushing paper and juggling money are necessary evils (and I suppose that's what the "good" MBAs get paid the big bucks for), but at the end of the day it's all about what orders came in, what shipped, who paid, who didn't, and are your workers coming back tomorrow to do it all again.

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I should add that I'm one of those Monday-morning, competent and ethical systems people who works in a justifiably-beleagured industry.

If you ignore my expanding the truth to the kth degree in order to justify major hardware purchases, that is.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 16, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

No argument here, ScienceTim. That's why I specified that I think "sports stars" are paid too much. I sing at AAA baseball games, where those guys (ideally) are playing to the best of their ability, hoping to get to the Big Show, and paid - not much. This is true, by the way, of lawyers as well. For every lawyer making six figures here (it's a low-salary climate) there are a bunch starting at much, much, much less.

Also, boko, I think Michael Lewis has been pretty popular long before the economy tanked. Back in the day we enjoyed his analyses of money, success, and how things work, too.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 16, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

What goes around comes around again.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/achenblog/2008/09/rich_man_poor_man.html

My nephew is one of those AAA ballplayers, Ivansmom. I remember the year before he was signed, when his parents told everyone the problem wouldn't be if he were offered a $7 mil signing bonus. He'd leave school in a minute. It would be if they only offered him $1 mil. Luckily, he wssn't drafted that year, sparing him the choice. The following year, late in the draft, he took league minimum, no bonus.

He'd probably be making more if he'd taken a job using his bachelor's in finance.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 16, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

I have stayed away from the immediate subject of the kit, and much of this conversation, because I feel a bit like an outsider to this. I know my job is as secure as anyone's can be (which is, not very) even in this hard time. But, but, I want to ask this:

Does anyone else feel this emotion/thought of a sort of *rushing* feeling? A year ago, 18 months ago, everything was as good as it could be, given individual circumstances (some quite dire, I do recognize, but as good as could be). And now the ground shifts underfoot, nobody knows where they will be, security-wise, from moment to moment. And it is disorienting, I find. Like having an inner-ear ailment. Off-balance.

And yet, in keeping with my recent revolution, I feel it is an opportunity for me to focus on the valuable things in my life: not wealth and *having,* not *stuff,* but love and giving, from each to each, community, friendship, important words. To get back to the old way of being collective. And this, I think, is the inspiration the POTUS brings all the world; do the heavy lifting not for oneself but for the neighbour. And all will be well. One way or another. How will it work out? I don't know, it's a mystery!

I reveal myself as a far-left liberal. And do not apologize. This political stance is my substitute for religion.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I think security has always been an illusion, Yoki. It's just that now we are having problems predicting where things will lead within the very next 12 months (rather than five years, ten years, etc).

That is very stressful, and it is also definitely a time to appreciate your social capital-- family, friends, community.

(Sometimes I think that a lot of people get rich so they don't have to invest in actually caring about other people. But that's another rant.)

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 16, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Yoki. I too have a very secure job, at least for the next couple of years; I won't be getting a raise anytime soon but that's okay. However, I do have that ground-shifting, disorienting feeling - as if I'd better pay attention, we'd all better pay attention here.

Coupled with some recent and unexpected deaths in the family, and the terminal illness of a good friend, this really has encouraged me to sort out priorities. I, too, find that the most important things to me involve others (including but not limited to my family) rather than my own situation.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 16, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom. Most of the things I've read by Mr Lewis were about the various evils ooccuring in the business world so I supposed he would do well when things suck.

As for money and success, I know nothing of these things. I will try and be more attentive.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 16, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I like this, Wilbrod, "social capital." Just so.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Nearly done Boodle-hogging, but, A *huge* flight of Canada Geese (at least 40, maybe more) up the river just now, calling loudly and urging each other on.

There will be Spring! One of these days.

Not soon, but, you know, eventually. One day. Maybe late June. Or so.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Yoki... that "inner ear ailment" analogy pretty well nails it for me. I have no idea where things are going or what to expect, but I know that no matter what, we always seem to manage.

So too, the refocusing. I've been helped by many (and done my best to return the favors), but Obama did a good job of reminding me that even what little help I can provide others is worth the effort. So I signed up for a work crew at the local Habitat for Humanity -- first project starts the end of March. I can't wait. :-)

On the off chance you've seen "Back to the Barnyard" (one of Little Bean's favorite shows), there was a line one of the characters said that I can't get out of my head:

"A strong man stands up for himself. A stronger man stands up for his friends."

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

And this is the great thing, isn't it? Knowing that we will manage, one way or another. By holding the circle together and closed.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

This seems about right for the boodle right now:
http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=445

Posted by: DNA_Girl | February 16, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Yes, DNA Girl... I think I'm going to make up one of those "Will Work for Love" signs. Ya never know. Might get a taker.

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Excellent news, martooni! I look forward to hearing about your adventures in house building. Habitat has to be one of the greatest undertakings in this country in the last century.

We ought to know by now that accummulation of wealth cannot be the be-all and end-all of human endeavor, but it takes times like these to remind of that truth. The circle cannot be closed until it includes everyone. If we have any connection to each other, we have social capital to use for good.

Posted by: slyness | February 16, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Padouk was brilliant? Who is this man who dared use my handle?


I think one positive thing that will come out of this economic downturn is a reassessment of what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Now I full realize that economic growth has long been driven by luxuries becoming necessities, but I am realizing that this need not be the only way.

I would love to see economic growth come from projects that benefit us all, instead of new gadgets that only benefit a few. And let luxuries again be luxuries.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 16, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Yup, slyness... you can't take it with you (but it's sure nice to have before you go).

If anyone's looking for something helpful to do, check out http://www/1-800-volunteer.org. It's a pretty slick set-up... you can search by interest/skills and zip code and they have a questionaire where you can let them know what you're good at and they then match you up with local organizations who need you.

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Me too, RD... a fairy door is *not* a luxury if you're six inches tall and freezing your bum off.

And I happen to know a guy who makes them.

Posted by: martooni | February 16, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/15/AR2009021501861.html?hpid=artslot

Dr. Abraham Verghese will be reading from his first work of fiction tonight at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. He'll read for us here from "Cutting the Stone" in San Antonio on Wednesday night. Too bad the reporter Bob Thompson doesn't mention Verghese's years spent at San Antonio's Health Science Center. I heard Verghese read Chekov (the last grafs of Thompson's article) in the small, intimate Presbyterian church downtown in Alamo City a handful of years ago.

Verghese's first book of non-fiction about his treatment of AIDS patients in Tennessee is exceptional.

Posted by: laloomis | February 16, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Verghese bribed him not to.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 16, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Good for you, martooni. It may be my family's construction background, but Habitat for Humanity is among my favorite charities. We try to give time or money or both every year.

I had a great adventure the first time I worked on a house for them. It was framing day. It had been a long time since my set-construction days and I spent - honest - a good 20 minutes remembering how to properly use a hammer. Those Habitat crew chiefs are some patient guys. By the end of the day I was up on the roof rafters, hammering the plywood into place. I had planned to avoid this, but I saw a guy I knew who was younger than I and arguably in worse shape. I figured if he was up there, I'd better get up there too.

Padouk, there were no imposters here. You've just forgotten the brilliance of that discussion - lulled, no doubt, by a day off well spent.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 16, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, it isn't just the Board members of these large publiclly traded corporations who are supposed to be keeping an eye on things, the members of the board report to - the shareholders. The people invested and vested in the corporation (under normal economic conditions, anyway) have rights they can exercise towards the management and direction of the corporation, should they choose to (and few do, frankly).

Now, I'm not advocating gigantic shareholder uprisings and shakeups, but most corporations have provisions for such things...

Yoki, I think I understand what you're talking about when you describe the imbalances over the last 18 months or so. Tectonic plates shifting underfoot; waves, ripples, tremblors, quakes.

The security of the last decade of the 20th century is *gone.* Financially, ecologically, politically, economically - you name it. And the pace of imbalance and out-of-whackitiude has only increased since 2006 or so, I think.

But I believe that there's cause for hope - as many have suggested - because it's clear that we're going to have to do things differently now. And I think from that Universal Unease and Imbalance comes recognition and willingness to do better next time.

Like, *now.*

bc

Posted by: -bc- | February 16, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

What a refreshing surprise, Randi Weingarten, AFT president, writes in favor of national academic standards for k-12 ed.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/15/AR2009021501257.html

I live in hope. Toodles boodle and sweet dreams.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 16, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

bc, exactly. Tremblors, calves, the ice breaks off and starts the earthquake or tsunami. All is uncertain.

Posted by: Yoki | February 16, 2009 11:49 PM | Report abuse

count your blessings that you don't live in california:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/us/17cali.html

Posted by: LALurker | February 17, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Boodle. Fighting off a touch of insomnia. Went to bed at 10:30, slept for 2 hours, and woke up due to some pain in my leg, and now can't get back to sleep. So I've read some of tomorrow's paper already.

John Feinstein has an excellent -- for me nostalgic -- column about theg glories of the Palestra, the old (literally; built 1926) basketball venue at the U. of Penna. in Philly and home for more than 3/4 of a century to Big Five basketball, including my alma mater, Temple U. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/14/AR2009021401356.html?hpid=sec-sports

In the column, Feinstein quotes longtime NY Daily News basketball sportswriter Dick Weiss, who started going to games at the Palestra in 1958. When I was editor of the Temple News in 1969, and going to Big Five games at the Palestra regularly, Dick Weiss was my sports editor on the paper. (The same year now-retired Philly Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick was my ace reporter.) Weiss's predessessor was another famous Philly sports reporter, Ray Didinger. Don't know if dbG will be familiar with any of those names or not.

I concur with Feinstein: the Palestra is/was the best place to watch college basketball in the whole world.

OK, you may all return to your slumber.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | February 17, 2009 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Hope you get back to sleep, Mudge!

Not being a sports fan, all I can add is the concerts I attended at the Palestra were great.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 17, 2009 3:24 AM | Report abuse

You hear a lot about companies (in the US) that are not doing well and won’t make it, but you don’t hear about the many companies that are doing all right despite the economic downturn. For some of those companies that are not going to make it, we are too quick to assign blame without knowing enough details.

There’s no stock exchange here. There are no public companies here. If there are, they are a branch office of one that is in another country. I don’t know how much CEOs/Managing Directors of companies get paid here. I only know what our MD gets paid. One thing for certain, dollar for dollar, employees (from the very top to the bottom) here don’t get paid anywhere near what employees in the US gets paid. Cost and standard of living have a lot to do with it. Our salaries have remained low since the 1997 crash in this region. However, our cost of living has gone up.

Posted by: rainforest1 | February 17, 2009 3:57 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all. Looks like mudge had another late night in the bunker celebrating President's Day. Let's roll him back on the couch, wipe the sharpie off his face, throw away the 'dead soldiers' and pick the blue foundation garments off the floor lamps.

I'll brew some coffee. Someone throw some cold water in his face and we'll have him ship-shape in time for Dawn Patrol formation.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2009 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Al!

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 6:04 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, friends. It feels kind of wierd to read your conversations about "inner ear imbalance" and "tetonic movements" in reference to the economy and daily living changes. I hadn't really thought of the changes in those terms, but I guess those are apt descriptions.

I must admit from my end it feels like the same thing. Hard. Not much of a change at all. Perhaps, harder. I heard an accountant in one of the local towns touting the tax cut part of the stimulus, and I'm thinking, these folks will never get it. That works fine if you have a job, sure you take home more money, but what if one doesn't have a job. Wouldn't a job be necessary in order to take advantage of such a cut or can one pull it out of thin air?

President Obama is going to Arizona to discuss home foreclosures, and John McCain is against the stimulus bill? Was he aware of the situation in his home state? Did he have a plan to address this situation? Why would he appear on national television venting an angry face and words against a package that is more than likely going to help his state by helping those voters keep their homes or at least try to offer a solution to that problem? I don't get that.

And can someone, anyone, send Lindsey Graham back to South Carolina, and fast? Is his discussion on nationalizing(sp) banks rational or is he trying to steal fifteen minutes of fame? Who are these people and where were they when all this was taking place? They sat and watched trillions of dollars being spent, and didn't have a problem with it, now they want to protect the taxpayer's money? Oh, be still my heart!

Mudge, hope the leg is feeling better this morning. Slyness, Yoki, Scotty, Martooni, and everyone, vacation day over, back to work. Have a great day, folks. *waving*

Loomis, how are you and your husband doing? I hope the eye problems are finally on the mend, and life is good for you and family.

I don't think I'm going to brave the cold this morning for the walk, although I just might change my mind. It's in the twenties here, and I'm still battling something. I don't know what to call it anymore. When walking, I'm blowing the nose. There's an older lady that walks too, and she is so spry and walks so much better than me, and goes further. Doesn't wear a hat or coat, just something light. I can feel the wind as she moves by me. I'm thinking it might take me two years to meet that pace, if ever.

Time for the coffee.

Posted by: cmyth4u | February 17, 2009 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all. Weed, I think Al is still asleep in the dorm in the back of the bunker. We'll let you wake him up, if you want to.

Cassandra, I saw that about Lindsay Graham and had to laugh. Yeah, nationalizing all the banks is going to solve the problem. Where did THAT Republican come from?

I'll walk this morning, but I'll wear all the necessary clothing to keep me from freezing, including the earmuffs. I wish I could walk fast enough to keep up with the younger folks, but I can't, so I just plod along at my own rate.

Okay, Mudge, time to get up off the sofa! Move it, big guy!

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

First off, JOEL! you had me going... first thing this morning (4:30), I was reading the Kit and actually tried to post under my BBall name. Many many moons ago, the guy with one of the best yardsticks for Playing time was the Lefty.

Lefty's system was much more than a plus/minus. You certainly could create a true +/- system created by a complex regression-based model. Sampling could present a problem, however.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle, Cassandra, Al. Another cold clear day in the town near the Rockies.

Having gone through the painful process of performance evaluation over the last several weeks, we now start the excruciating compensation conversation. I don't know why it should be so difficult, since there isn't any money and everyone has been warned of that, but some people apparently thought they would be made an exception of. hahahaha.

Have a lovely day, everyone.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Nothing like a Sunday of TV-blab to get the week started right(-wing). The stuff with Graham not being opposed to bank take-overs is reflective of where we REALLY are in the course of events.

Where we are isn't where the national impression has it. Truth is that many of the large banks cannot handle a run. At the same time, we have put "SO MUCH MONEY" into these banks that, if we had just bought stock with those same amounts of money, we would have controlled the institutions.

What Graham is considering is pretty much what we did with the Resolutions Trust takover of Savings and Loans.

I have the vision of Karen Carpenter singing "We've only just Begun" ...

Graham, minus all of his partisan bluster, knows that reality has some sort of nationalization in the future. If the nation has to fix a bank or five, then we should reclaim the value of the effort.

At the same time, I would like to repeat something I have said for over a year now, if we are going to pump money into banks for loans, then pump it into banks that are in a good state and WHO ARE ALREADY and RIGHT NOW making BUSINESS and PERSONAL LOANS.

FIND the banks in our communities.

Let's spend some of our BANK funding money on banks that have proved that they can get money into the system. Remember, thanks to so many advances in technology, banks can function as fairly small units in a very advanced manner.

It is cheaper to push a class of "functioning" banks forward than try to recover this mega-institutions that really can't reach the little Americans out there.

While Graham doesn't mind owning Citibank, I personally don't want to go into business with the Saudi Govt and the the gulf coast princes and the smattering of Bush money and the like.

What we need are banks. We need banks that do small business banking.

Period.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Well that was a quick three days off. Had fun walking the beach yesterday with #2 and her dog. I found a beautiful scallop shell, shades of orange radiating out as a sunrise. The simple things in life, no cost and much beauty.

Posted by: badsneakers | February 17, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Back at work with the second mug o' coffee.

Coffee. Good.

Just for funsies I actually thought some about Joel's profound observation about the disconnect between worker worth and compensation. Where Joel seems to be going here is that intangible contributions are not necessarily given tangible compensation. And this is clearly true. But they are, sometimes, given intangible compensation.

That is, yes, a person whose contributions do not show up on the balance book doesn't necessarily get an extra fiver in the ol' pay bucket. But they do sometimes get the respect and admiration that might not be given the person with the big take-home pay.

I'm not saying this is a fair deal. But respect and admiration should still count for something.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh...

The Comment Monster is particularly annoying today... *muttering-unutterables-while-nonetheless-consuming-coffee Grover waves*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

'Twas a cold walk this morning, my cheeks are bright red. No letting the thermostat stay on the low setting, either!

I suppose the whole truth is that no bank could survive a serious run. Liquidity has its own issues, but I'm certainly for supporting the small and solvent institutions. Just wish there were more of them.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' all...

Don't know if anyone else caught this on the news yesterday, but Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank and a few of the other big banks receiving billions in taxpayer bailout money have decided that if you are one month late on your credit card payments, your interest rate will shoot up to 30% no matter how good your credit is and there is apparently no mechanism in place to bring it back down once you're caught up.

Makes perfect sense. In Bizzaro World.

They're also going to start implementing a $10 monthly fee if you maintain a high balance -- this is in addition to their usurious interest rates.

Again, makes perfect sense.

I have to wonder if us taxpayers funded the ammunition they're using to shoot themselves in the foot. (I know we'll end up with the hospital bill).

Peace out and good luck out there... the crazy is only just begun.

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I saw Congresswoman Maxine Waters grilling the bank CEOs on just that topic Martooni. The Citibank guy looked like the earth was shifting under his feet. I think his answer was sufficiently evasive that he won't face perjury charges.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | February 17, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Just a random thought. Well, more random than normal.

Some time ago I asked an oceanographer friend of mine if the oceans were dying. She said no, the oceans are very robust. What they are doing, she claimed, are changing, and we need to understand those changes.

I think the same could be sad for the world economy. It isn't dying, but changing. Old characteristics are fading, and new ones emerging. The future will belong to those who understand this and can adapt.

Which means, perhaps, is that those workers who were not fully appreciated in the old economy might actually have a better shot in the new. Folks just need to look for new opportunities, and be willing to take them


Look, I told you it was random.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Of course, typos are forever.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Getting back to how little control the stockholders have over executive outrages, I wonder if the internet has any shareholder groups going on. Internet has changed so many things, maybe it can put stockholders in touch with each other, and agitate for sanity.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

frosti... the earth shifting under his feet should be the least of his worries. He better be on the lookout for peasants with torches and pitchforks who want to take him for a one-way walk behind the woodshed.

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I think you are right, RD (and I also think you're brilliant!). We are at the emerging stage of a new world order, and it's gonna be a hell of a ride. We old folks may never catch on to what's really happening.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I think I can sum up why we're in this mess in two short sentences (and this applies not just to the economy, but to food production/processing, the environment, public education, you name it):

Too many eggs. Not enough baskets.

The solution:

We need more basket makers (and people need to pay more attention to their eggs).

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

*Looking around*

Is anybody here?

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I like that analysis, RD.

Posted by: -pj- | February 17, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

This is a test good morning post. Howdy, y'all. I like your random idea, RD.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 17, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Frontline tonight has a program called "Inside the Meltdown" about the current financial mess. It should be good, if not entertaining, television. PBS tonight at 9.

Posted by: -pj- | February 17, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

That is insightful, RD_Padouk. Especially the idea that adapting our thinking and behaviours will be required. It strikes me, though, that as a species we're not very good at that; we tend to look back to the old ways as being 'normal' and hope that normalcy will be restored. And this, as you say, may not be possible.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I think some people are having trouble posting, Slyness. They can see what's there, but they can't add to the discussion. I think they need to feed the hamsters that are turning the various turbines that power the Achenblog.

Posted by: -pj- | February 17, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Testing...

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I can see you, Scotty.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Has Governor Sanford of South Carolina decided yet whether to accept any funds appropriated by the stimulus bill? Actually, I suspect the legislature will ensure that at least some stimulus funding is used.

Today's news stories about the effects of Detroit downsizing are particularly painful. GM has already halved its number of employees since 2000, and shrinkage seems to be accelerating.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | February 17, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Took a tip from PJ, closed out Internet Explorer and opened up Firefox instead. Had to register (grrrrrrrrrrrrrr) yet again, but appear to be able to post.

Been fussing w/ this damn thing for an hour, though, trying to post the following:

Oh, thank goodness for Howard Kurtz's column this morning. I thought it was just me who thought a lot of the coverage and punditry about Obama's handling of the stilulus bill was sociopathically bipolar and schizophrenic. Turns out it wasn't me after all. He's got a whole column on it, aand other people have seen the same thing I saw. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/04/11/LI2005041100587.html?hpid=topnews

There's this section, too:

"Newsweek, with the help of science, examines why some pundits keep blowing it:

"Pointing out how often pundits' predictions are not only wrong but egregiously wrong--a 36,000 Dow! euphoric Iraqis welcoming American soldiers with flowers!--is like shooting fish in a barrel, except in this case the fish refuse to die. No matter how often they miss the mark, pundits just won't shut up, and I'll lay even odds that the pundits (and pollsters) who predicted a big defeat for Tzipi Livni in the Israeli elections last week didn't slink away in shame after her party outpolled all others.

"The fact that being chronically, 180-degrees wrong does not disqualify pundits is in large part the media's fault: cable news, talk radio and the blogosphere need all the punditry they can rustle up, track records be damned. But while we can't shut pundits up, we can identify those more likely to have an accurate crystal ball when it comes to forecasts from the effect of the stimulus bill to the likelihood of civil unrest in China."

The simple fact is, we have too many pundits generating not plenty of valuable discussion, but just adding to the noise level, which is now up around 90 or 100 decibels. It has long ceased to be a useful adjunct to the workings of democracy. It is just income-producing noise. Trouble is, I can't think of any way to curtail it.

Well, actually, I *can,* but I don't think it'll happen. A Figure With National Status has to stand up and say, "Knock it off!" But he won't.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Universal derisive laughter might do the trick, Mudge. And let it begin here.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Good thing I'm not working at home then, Yoki... *teehee* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Yoki.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Hey, 'mudge. Nice to see everybody back where they belong.

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, snuke!

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Mudge... we could fart in their general direction and call them "poon-dits".

I made 7-layer bean dip.

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of bloviators (we were, weren't we?), Karl Rove was on the Today Show this morning speaking guano about the stimulus package and I muted him. Wish I could do that in "real" time. If the Today Show were really serious about discussing the stimulus package, they could and should bring on a couple of economists of opposite points of view and then let them go at it -- but *not* allowing them to talk over each other. That's why I like the Lehrer News Hour so much. But, well, I'm just an intellectual, so what do I know?

RD -- I'm with you, too. There are quite a few, if not many, opportunities out there for someone with brains and courage to stick in the ground, water them, fertilize them (really!) and praise them so that they can and will grow into something useful, even if they are coincidentally pretty and smell nice.

As for me, I gotta go rescue a software license agreement that got kerflooied during yesterday's power outage.

cya'll later.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | February 17, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The sun is shining brightly, and the world is covered in that brightness despite the dark places and the secrets of men's hearts.

It is a beautiful day here, Slyness, but I didn't do the walk. The daughter was here before I could get the clothes on. Just getting back in.

Posted by: cmyth4u | February 17, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for all the nice words. Yep, in change is opportunity. And we are clearly heading for change.

Pundits are selling their opinions. Caveat Emptor.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Nothing like a visit from a kid to mess up a day, eh, Cassandra? Mine always do, not that it's a problem or anything like that!

RD, as always you hit the nail plumb on the head. Caveat emptor indeed. The important thing is to ignore the noise.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"The sun is shining brightly, and the world is covered in that brightness despite the dark places and the secrets of men's hearts."

That is wonderful, Cassandra. I love it when that it literally true, as I'm sure it is there (it is cloudy here). However, I also love it as a metaphor for a way in which to view the world. Often when I'm walking in bright, lovely sunshine I do in fact think about the darkness in the world and the evil in men's hearts. I am cheered by the belief that Good will ultimately triumph over Evil, even if we must discount things in the present which suggest otherwise. I tend to think of natural beauty, which comes in so many guises, as a tangible affirmation of this.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 17, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"Pundits are selling their opinions. Caveat Emptor."

No, that's neither the problem nor the solution, Padouk. The first problem is quantity; there's just now too damned many of them, and they have created an intolerable noise level. To white: WTF is anybody asking Karl Rove his opinion for? What's he bring to the table? Or James Carville? Or Begala, or Hannity, or whoever. Or any other partisan operative? Since when do we need to hear from ANY partisan operatives? It is enough to hear from Principles Only andf a few selecvt experts; thjat's it. All the rest is noise.

Second, punditry has become an industry, and is no longer a sideline. This wouldn't be such a bad thing except that the punditry industry has supplanted the news industry, which has often been noted in this venue, is drowning to death. And here's the thing: most of the time, the "news" ain't all that complicated than we all need a phalanx of pundits to 'splain it all to us poor dumb Lucys. It is a largely unnecessary industry, like flavored d0uches and peppermint c0nd0ms.

Just because something "sells" in the Marketplace doesn't mean it is a Good and Valuable Product. Crap sells, glitz sells, all sorts of bad stuff sells. And the Marketplace perpetuates the myth that it self-regulates, and that the consumer decides for the best. Crap, crap, crap. The Marketplace is a flawed institution, but we haven't figured out what to do about it.

So we have pundits flooding the marketplace along with a thousand other things that have no benefit.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Having not sufficiently refuted George Will's recent and recycled pundacity,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021302514.html
I tracked down a writer,climate modeler, and mathematician (William M. Connolley) who did far more than I to document, beginning in the '90s, the "70s scientists predicted global cooling" myth. He started out here with a (not well organized, yet massively documented) website:
http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/misc-non-science.html

BUT the dogged Mr. Connolley has a more up-to-date blog:
http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Hey, what about women's hearts? Don't you ladies have secrets, too? You must, 'cuz there's just sooooooooooooo much I still don't know that you haven't/won't tell me.

*sigh*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Of course; darkly-held and deep. What do you want to know, 'mudge?

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I'd say, "everything," Yoki, but I mostly needed the info, oh, 30, 40, 45 years ago. Now, I'm pretty much used to stumbling along in the dark. One develops a kind of "inner night vision" over time, methinks. I'm not like a cat; I don't have night vision. But sometimes I can discern there are these big, looming shapes out there in the darkness, and so I wisely run away.

Although I guess I *would* like to know why you go to the bathroom two at a time when there's several or you out in public.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure you do very well in describing us as 'big looming shapes.' That may be the place to start :)

I don't do that if I can help it. My understanding is that it is camo. I think it stems from a modestly Weingartian sort of bathroom shame. If more than 1 goes at the same time, the men at the table can't tell who is going to pee and who isn't.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Ah,Mudge. You know the answer to this.

We talk about you.

Or at least that's what we want you to think.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 17, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

My point is that Pundits are a market. They have a product to sell, no different than automobiles. There is a dizzying number of automobile models out there. Some good. Some bad. The solution isn't to forbid manufacturers from making more cars, and go back to those halcyon days of a half dozen models.

The solution is to use market forces to weed out the lemons. I never said they are good. I said the buyer must be aware of who has something valuable to say and who does not. Nobody is forced to listen to a pundit. And if nobody does, that pundit will be out of a job.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Watching the stock market slide (Will the bottom set around Nov. 20-21 hold?) and listening to (breaking) news that feds raided the offices this morning of a Houstonian involved in another financial scandal--massive fraud:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6266321.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/business/18stanford.html?ref=business

Posted by: laloomis | February 17, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, if you'd said "we laugh at you" you could have caused much more anxiety. Not that I am recommending that, exactly.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Outside of market forces I'm not too sure how else to deal with a surplus of pundits who say things we disagree with. I mean, outside of reeducation camps. And I much prefer free speech.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

My point is that the Marketplace doesn't work, Padouk. Name me one single pundit out of a job because of stupidity, crassness, and rejection by "the Market."

We have no mechanism to forbid car makers from having so many models--but I think having fewer models is *exactly* one of the things we need. There is a very real problem of having too many choices and too many products to choose from.

There is a difference between weeding out lemons/bad products (always a good thing) to weeding out excessive or unnecessary things. The Market benefits in have diverse products, but only up to a certain point. Somewhere beyond that point it become socially counterproductive, but there is no way to reduce it. Do we really need 17 brands of toilet paper? 91 kinds of dog food?

The fact is, marketing people "create" products for which there is no great demand, and then have the ability to sell them. (I spent a five years writing marketing stuff. I am more than a little familiar with the innards. It ain't a good, moral place to be.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Yoki and IM, we feared as much.

Padouk, I agree with you there is no solution other than market forces. But market forces don't work; that's what I'm saying. Which is why I'm totally pessimistic, and why the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

They go to the bathroom and don't pee???
Crazier than I thought. There is an old Canadian nany saying "Never take a pass on free beer or a chance to pee".

This lady has an interesting take on the new economy:
http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/national-news/portfolio/2009/02/11/Personal-Finances-in-the-New-Economy?print=true

Of course the garage door man ("sometimes between 8:30 and noon")came when I was taking 20 minutes to walk the dogs. I had to jog back to the house before he turned away. The old dog couldn't follow my slow jog so I let him come back by himself and went away with the Very Large Puppy. The look on the face of the old dog when he realized I was "abandoning" him broke my heart.

The Rush types make lots of money Mudge. I don't know why but the market for bloviation is pretty big out there.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

SCC Navy not nany.
I let the other ones stand, on principle.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

You are developing echolocation, Mudge. This is not a good sign.

Question for the class: is Joel a pundit?

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I know, Shriek. That;s what drives me crazy about all this stuff about "the Market" and Market Forces (not you, Padouk; I mean the nonsense from the Market itself).

The Market puts out spin that claims the Market "knows what it is doing," that it "operates in the best interests" both of itself, and of the public, and that just about anything it does is OK. Those assumptions are all false, as we have just learned. Greenspan said a month or two ago he made a major mistake when he assumed the banking industry would operate in its own self-interest.

Well, he was right: he was wrong.

But alas, we don't have any way to "fix" the Market, except a few non-acceptable alternatives. But that still doesn't mean the Market is OK, just because we don't know how to fix it. The Market, as an institution is manifestly NOT OK.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

People laugh at me?

WOMEN laugh at me???

*hiding under my desk*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I've met at least one nanny that lived according to that code as well.

People make their living as a pundit don't fall off the earth if the marketplace rejects them; their circle of influence just gets smaller or they move on. Coulter isn't as visible to large audiences (or in mirrors); Bill Maher and Dennis Miller are mostly back to doing comedy.

Posted by: engelmann | February 17, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Shriek! I fear that look.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 17, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Not you, Scottynuke. It was Mudge's question.

Joel is not a pundit. His knowledge is too broad, his interests too diverse, his humility too apparent, and his gift for impartiality too often used. Also, he's too funny.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 17, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

This just in (2 days ago):


CHICAGO TRIBUNE’S JILL ZUCKMAN
TO JOIN OBAMA ADMINISTRATION,
WORKING FOR TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD
By Phil Rosenthal
Jill Zuckman, a Chicago Tribune Washington correspondent and frequent guest on political talk shows such as MSNBC's "Hardball" and Fox Broadcasting's "Fox News Sunday," is leaving to join President Barack Obama's administration in the Department of Transportation.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Peoria Republican and former seven-term member of the U.S. House, has picked Zuckman to serve as assistant to the secretary and director of public affairs.

Jumper, it is my belief Joel escapes the dreaded tag of pundit for two reasons. First and foremost, his regular "day job" is to be a reporter, an honorable profession (well, in my book, anyway). And he does that very well.

Second, insofar as he blogs, his punditry tends overwhelmingly to be on the humorous side of things; he seldom gets too serious (though his dry and wry side is occasionally mistaken for such by the humor-impaired). This ameliorates and perhaps totally absolves him from the dreaded rank of umbrage-obsessed pundit. So no, I don't think Joel is a pundit. It is not his primary job to opine, nor to hurl umbrage, second-guess, pontificate, and generally make a fool of himself. And even if he did, it's pretty clear his favorite topics are things like astronomy, three-bean-five-meat chili, Peninsula-based college football teams, his daughter's (excellent) photography, carbucks, etc. He does not often cross swords with the likes of truly intelligence-impaired political pundit (though he is perhaps friends with some; we all have our dark sides).

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I think you're right, Ivansmom.

In other matters, how long has Google offered that option to "remove search history?" This is useful when looking for atomic tests on the island of Bikini. Or not useful, depending. In any case, they offer this now.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

This just in: the SEC is charging a Texas businessman and three of his companies in an $8 Billion-with-a-B fraud scheme. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/17/AR2009021701541.html?hpid=topnews

Of, course, this guy is just a piker compared to Madoff. He ain't even tryin'.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

martooni,
Don't get me started on the usurious tricks of credit card companies. Just when you think you have all their scams figured out (unexpected jumps in interest rates, random changes to due dates, odd and mysterious fees), they invent new ones.

At the tail end of the Bush Admin a very watered down bill of rights got passed but it gave the companies 18 months to comply which lets them abuse their current practices for another year and think of new ones by then.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

But does he have an MBA?

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I bet he does, Yoki.

They don't let lowly BAs play with billions like that. It takes someone with really good credentials to massively eff things up.

So what *do* they teach in business school these days?

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Hey, you all. Haven't clicked that "sign in" link for a while; it's nice to see it still works and that I am still an accepted member of society and the boodle according to the WaPo and assorted electronic gizmos.

You know, sometimes I can read an entry and *know* the author before I get to the end, not guess,but feel reasonably comfortable with the content and style that the right boodle handle will appear. There are a few, using Cassandra as a example as she always begin with a blessing, that require no comfort/content/style because she is *always the same*.

Well, I stopped in to tell you all something that I have done which is quite remarkable for me, in the hopes that it might encourage some other reader. As of January 1, for the first time in over 40 years, I have quit smoking cigarettes. I used to smoke almost two packs per day, and on my own, cut back to about 18/20 cigarettes per day. I had developed a cough over a year ago, and although my doctor did due diligence in his encouragement for me to stop, I just had to reach that point where I said "ok, the first of the year is my date", and, so that's what I did.

I used a prescription drug named Chantix and it really worked(s). My cough gradually disappeared and I have not had to use the drug for a couple of weeks. I feel wonderful, it's truly like a miracle, I never thought I could do it....and then....I did. :-)

Posted by: VintageLady | February 17, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh my, the Stanford US Open Polo Championship is in jeopardy. I sure enjoy a spot of polo once in a while.
And it is Sir Robert Allen Stanford to you, please have some respect you little people.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Well done, VintageLady!!! *confetti* Keep it up!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

yello... I know. That bill was a slap in the face to everyone who tries to play by the rules and may have the misfortune of, I dunno... losing their legs or having a catastrophic illness or having their home burn down 15 minutes before their payment for home insurance cleared the bank.

My big kvetch is that if individuals -- y'know, like you and me -- are going to be held accountable for being a day late and a dollar short, the MegaCorps need to be held to that same standard. If I have a line of credit and need to buy something, say a tank of gas, and MegaCorp fails to let that transaction happen, can I sue them for lost wages if I'm unable to get to work because their "financial instrument" (aka "card") left me in a lurch for no good reason?

But they can charge late fees, arbitrarily increase interest rates, cut credit lines, and call you fifty times a day at work and at home because you were minutes late making a payment.

It is *so* hard to be a pacifist these days. I try not to let violent thoughts pollute my brain, but lately it's hard to decide whether the people running these institutions should be strangled, hung, or drawn and quartered and *then* strangled and hung.

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Congrats, VL.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations VintageLady - take a big bow!

Posted by: dmd2 | February 17, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, you two.

Will be back to post when the topics become light and fluffy, but for now, Joel is not a pundit, no, he's a reporter and a journalist and an author and a wonderful enabler for the likes of me.

Posted by: VintageLady | February 17, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Vintage Lady:

I hope to join you in the "quit smoking" circle some day. Just isn't the right time for me yet. Did the Chantix give you any anxiety attacks? I have a couple of friends that have used it and have quit successfully, but they did admit that they had some anxiety/depression and also some hostility, or frayed temper type stuff for the first several days.

'Mudge--women depart to the ladies room together for many reasons: to reapply makeup (rude to do that at the table) or to use the facilities, and, yes, to gossip and sometimes to laugh at the gentlemen we left behind. (Usually the gossip and laughing only happens when our companions are not being gentlemen and/or we are a little bit "tight.")

As to pundits of all persuasions, I just tune them out when they start to get to me.

Cassandra: Glad that the sun is shining in your head and heart today.

Love to the entire boodle--such unique, articulate, individuals.

Aroc

Posted by: CoraCollins | February 17, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Three!

Posted by: VintageLady | February 17, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Congrats from here too, Vintage Lady. As a current smoker (and a heavy smoker, at that) I wish you well. I don't expect to quit any time soon (mainly because I have no desire to), but I know what it's like to try -- more power to ya.

Posted by: martooni | February 17, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

You know the worst thing about having a daughter who is allergic to eggs? None of that light and fluffy marshmallow cream in the house. Cause, you know, that stuff is just filled with egg whites. Which is a shame because as a kid I worshiped fluffer-nutter sandwiches.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'd send one right over, RD_P, but you know what FlufferNutters do to the fax...

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Also, fluffer-nutter is real fun to say.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 17, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, done, VintageLady!

martooni, I'm pretty sure those bad dudes are to be hanged. Whether or not they are hung is a matter to which I am completely indifferent.

I think that Joel cannot be a pundit, because he has never once resorted to "proof by authority," or what my 11th-grade math teacher called "proof by volume," to establish a 'fact' to win a point of debate.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 17, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Knighted in Antigua, I might add. Even Stanford's genealogy is fraudulent--many would like to claim a connection to ol' Leland.

Fraud all over the news today. Quite the contrite performance that A-Rod gave during his Miami presser this afternoon. Roland Burris seems now to recall that he was talking to Blago's brother about fund-raising while he was talking to Blago about the open Illinois Senate seat.

Posted by: laloomis | February 17, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

aroc, I used the "b" word in my response to you and I think that's why it's being held up, sorry I didn't save it before I posted, I'll check back to see if it passes muster and try again if it does not.

Posted by: VintageLady | February 17, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I happen to own an AMF Puffer, a small fiberglass sloop (slightly bigger brother to the lateen-rigged Sunfish and Sailfish) that has never been in the water during the 6 years I have owned it. Although, I will admit, water has been in it. Anyway, my plan is to get it properly registered one of these days under the name Puffer-Nutter. The ScienceFamily has never really been behind this plan. An alternate possibility, I suppose, is ScienceSloop. Or ScienceBoat. Or Fugu.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 17, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

There is a natural ingredient in marshmallow cream? You are clearly delusional Padouk, next you'll say there is actual dairy products in chizwiz.

Congrats VL. I quit 6 years ago after 25 years of smoking (I started on securitized tobacco derivatives mind you...). I don't regret every single flue and cold I caught morphing into bronchitis or even full-blown pneumonia in one case. I don't regret the almost $8-10 a pack the cigs cost back then. I don't regret the car smelling like an ashtray.
But it's tough, keeping the nicotine gum handy helped me quite a bit. Good luck to you.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

VL and SD -- good for you.

sciTim -- Sunfish! I remember that nimble little, darling boat well. Camp Oljato is a camp for Boy Scouts located at Huntington Lake, at 7000ft in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I was a lifeguard there for many Saturday to Sunday sessions long ago and far away. Glad to have sailed on one of the best and most gentle inland lake waters. sciTim, you can dream. Call me when you want to put her in a puddle.


Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 17, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Aroc, will try again. I was no more b!tchy than usual, but the side affects you mentioned plus more can happen. Normally I do not have headaches, but I did, off and on for the first few days, mild, but annoying. (also, constipation, hate to talk about this in mixed company)

See, the drug messes with the brain. It blocks the body's craving for nicitine from the brain, so the brain tells me that I don't crave that cigarette. I had trouble believing that, but 'tis true. Still, the oral gratification I would normally satisfy with a cigarette in my mouth and in my hand had to be dealt with, and I did gain five pounds which I am in the process of taking off.

Thanx martooni.

Shriek, I know what you're saying!!!!

Posted by: VintageLady | February 17, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Ai

Yi

Yi...

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/02/17/police_tv_exec_beheads_wife_who_filed_for_divorce/

:-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 17, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, Vintage Lady, we could always go chat in the women's room so that we don't have to discuss such things in mixed company! And we could "b****" to our hearts' content.

Aroc

Posted by: CoraCollins | February 17, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Add JournalistTim to the list. My JM teacher pounded "hanged vs hung" into us. I wish all her lessons had stuck so well.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to everyone that has beat the demon weed. I appreciate you keeping my air that much cleaner. There was an article in WaPo yesterday about how the tobacco lobby is watering down the VA smoking ban in bars and restaurants. They tried (and may have succeeded) to put in loopholes large enough to drive a diesel truck through.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/15/AR2009021501828.html

I belong to the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) WHOSE policy is that there is no safe level of indoor smoking. A few years ago the tobacco industry ran an astro-turf campaign to create a standard that allowed for smoking within casinos provided enough fresh air was provided. I can't wrap my head around clean air and casinos. They seem mutually exclusive.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 17, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

VintageLady, I'm very proud for you. You'll be glad you did it for the rest of your life. My mother quit the hard way: she fell and broke her hip. That event occurred on a Sunday morning, and the doctors worked on her from then till Wednesday night to get her in good enough shape to survive being put under to repair the hip. She died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and let me tell you, that is a drawn out and not fun way to go.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

JM, Jumper? Junior middleweight? Jedi machinist? Journalism mentor? Jujitsu multitasker? Janitorial Masseuse? Jack-of-all-Moonbeams?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Congrats, Vintage Lady! I know how hard it is to quit smoking. My husband keeps trying, but so far has not.

I usually go to the ladies room with someone else because I fear not being able to find it, or getting lost on the way back. Truly. Sad, eh?

Sometimes platitudes are just platitudes. I'm on the lookout for shiny new opportunities, but so far, they're not obvious to me. There was quite a good story in the WaPo the other day about the effect of the economy on blue-collar workers. Basically, they saw it coming and are hanging on for dear life.

What irks me the most is that the people who should be learning the lessons about spending wisely, consuming less, not being greedy, are not the ones who will have to pay by losing their jobs and nest eggs. It's the workers, many of them the ones who don't "ring up the big numbers".

Sorry, it's a bit of a down day for me. I watched Charlie Rose last night - he had a panel of reporters talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan - very depressing. I agree with Mudge - hell in a handbasket. On a lighter note, my crocuses are blooming.

Posted by: seasea | February 17, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Jello Mixer? Junket Mate. Jetsam Manipulator. Journeyman Mentalist. Jingoistic Muckraker. Judge of Menhaden.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

My botany professor/thesis advisor was fond of stating that: "The only blooms in this world are algal and the fungus that resides on blueberries. Flowers don't bloom, they flower."

Posted by: -jack- | February 17, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

JournalisM. Why my brain told me that was anywhere near a universal abbreviation is a mystery. Stupid brain.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

My dear Vintage Lady -- YAYYYYYYYYY!!!! Good for you!

I happen to be exceptionally allergic to cigarette smoke. Even a mere wisp of smoke will make my eyes burn and close up and give me hacking coughs -- and I'm not a smoker. Thank goodness my parents didn't smoke (although my dad did puff a bit occasionally. I even tried when I was a teenager ('cause, you know. . .) and I couldn't inhale. So there you go. I am so grateful that I didn't stick to the experimentation.

Remember, Toons -- may I be so bold as to advise you not to visit your second-hand smoke onto Little Bean?

Snuke -- geezos peezos! Yeah, that'll certainly help the image of Muslims! *shudder*

And, seasea (I wish I could remember your prior handle) -- crocuses??? *SIGH* I'm getting a contact high, I really, really, truly am. Mmmmmmmmmmm. (where are you located again?)

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | February 17, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

The brain is the only organ that can be stupid Jumper.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Au contraire, shriek. I've got an organ that is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay stupider. Trust me on this.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't know better Mudge.

Crocuses? Bloody he11. We have 4-6 in. of melting white carp in the forecast for tomorrow. We'll show that Obama feller what winter really is.
BTW the security around the prez is getting a bit out of hand. At every presidential visit there is a (steep) step up.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 17, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, ladies go in pairs because they need a friend to stop them coming back with toilet paper stuck to their shoes.

Also, they may borrow items privately to freshen up a bit.

Or, they're in cahoots fake an emergency to end the date sooner than expected.

The possibilities expand infinitely if Thelma-and-Louise pairs are included, as well.

Bottom line, you really don't wanna know, just like we don't really wanna know why men always go alone.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

SCC: cahoots TO fake an emergency.

My brain has hit da cahoots and is shooting down the chute to numbland.

I'll be back later-- with or without my brain.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

We go alone, Wilbrod, because we enjoy a little quiet time. It's a zen thing.

FYI, Weingarten'sd chat featured as the clip of the week a hysterical clip of four women in a ladies room, and one of them was the bride at a wedding. The purpose was to show the difficulty of doing one's thing while wearing a wedding dress. Very funny.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | February 17, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

My heart is stupid
It broke for no good reason
just a pretty face

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, is it harder to do than discuss the economy if you are a Japanese Finance Minister?

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I sent that clip to my good friend who is the wedding director, and she replied that it's all true!

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

ftb, I'm in Seattle. One of the joys of living here is that there is nearly always something in flower, because of our mostly mild winters. Which is why we get really cranky when it snows.

Now I must read up on the correct usage of "bloom" and "flower". Are flowers never in bloom? Are blooms not the same as flowers? I'm bloomin' confused.

formerly known as mostlylurking

Posted by: seasea | February 17, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to be so out of touch (weekend away, then crazy work day). Hope I'm not too late to comment on the MBA thing, 'cuz I am one. I went to school with some really amazing, funny, caring people as well as some self-absorbed greedheads. Pretty much in the same proportions as I've found at work, in my neighborhood, etc. Because if you strip away the degree, you've just got *people* with all their inherent flaws.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 17, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Vintage Lady, so glad for you. Just stick with it, and just think, your health is already getting better.

Thanks, Ivansmom and AROC.

The g-girl is here. I went to the school to return her book, and she insisted on following me home, and of course, Mom and Dad can't say no. Have a good evening, folks.

Posted by: cmyth4u | February 17, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Good to see you, Raysmom.

VL and SD, congratulations.

Posted by: -dbG- | February 17, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Many congratulations to you, VintageLady. That is a real accomplishment.

My dad quit smoking cold turkey when I was an infant. My mom and all her family smoked throughout most of my childhood. Almost all of them are now dead, all but one for sure of cancer (we are not sure whether my mom had it). After they started dying most of them quit smoking, but it must have been too late. My mom never could quit cold turkey, but somehow obscurely felt she should be able to, so would not use patches, gum, etc. However, as her Alzheimer's progressed she forgot she smoked - and what with her memory loss withdrawal wasn't bad either. There's always a silver lining.

Cassandra, I know that it can be tiring and busy to have the g-girl around so much, but I also know you enjoy her. I think it is just wonderful that she wants to spend so much time with her grandmother. Of course, I feel like if I lived near you I'd want to spend time with you too.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 17, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, thanks for speaking up.

I was just wondering where the line between "ambitious" and "self-absorbed greedhead" lies, when it comes to self-promoting.

Is it just sheer work ethic, or is there a little more to it?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Jumper: Sorry to have been unresponsive earlier but got caught up in my real job of reporting and writing. But as for whether I'm a pundit: That sounds a little pretentious for what I am. I prefer the more modest term "Conscience Of My Generation."

Actually to my ear "pundit" strikes me as someone who gives a thumbs up or thumbs down on political stuff; I prefer to keep my thumbs hidden and merely look at things askance.

Also, I work for the Post's national desk and I am pretty sure I'm not allowed to be a pundit. I'm on the news side of the news/opinion firewall. I report stories. My blog is sort of the daily diary of my newspaper-person life, with assorted random commentary.

I will concede, however, that the blog appears in the Opinion box on the home page. So there's a bit of a disjuncture there. We're still sorting all this out. I don't think of it as an "opinion" blog, though. I sometimes feel bad that I don't opinionate more, given that I'm cheek by jowl with professional opinionators. Maybe I should just come to work one day and announce that I'm a pundit from now on. And watch everyone take cover.

Posted by: joelache | February 17, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Well I assume they call these blogs "opinion" because the other word starting with bull* is not family-friendly, Joel.

Don't give into the peer pressure-- set an example of actually, like, having the odd fact in there.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

You know, I blame Thoreau for all this punditry-- He was the original political pundit.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to give you my opinion, Joel, but I don't feel comfortable...

Seriously, do pundits have to wear special underwear?

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Don't pundits just start off every discussion by stating their finally position, with a preface like "almost every expert now agrees that ..." and then state thier position.

This is then followed by as many run-on sentences as they are allowed to complete. They never give up and just keep interjecting, please, if you would just let me finish my thought.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I knew you weren't a pundit, Joel. I was just stirring the pot. In fact you probably don't express your opinions often enough. But that's okay, we know how to read between the lines. Keep up the good work. R

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Almost every expert agrees you're right, Russianthistle.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Joel's wine cave qualifies for pundit status. I don't believe pundits mulch.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Mothers of River City!
Heed the warning before it's too late!
Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption!
The moment your son leaves the house,
Does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee?
Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger?
A dime novel hidden in the corn crib?
Is he starting to memorize jokes from Capt.
Billy's Whiz Bang?
Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
Words like 'swell?"
And 'so's your old man?"
Well, if so my friends,
Ya got trouble,
Right here in River city!
With a capital "T"
And that rhymes with "P"
And that stands for Pundit.
We've surely got trouble!
Right here in River City!
Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!
Oh, we've got trouble.
We're in terrible, terrible trouble.
That game with the fifteen minutes o' fame is a devil's tool!
Oh yes we got trouble, trouble, trouble!
With a "T"! Gotta rhyme it with "P"!
And that stands for Pundit!!!

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm laughing, Jumper. Well done.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I was wrong, Joel is a pundit... I googled "Joel Achenbach pundit" and got a reference to this piece by Johnson on Think Progress:

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2008/08/04/achenbach-global-boiling/

Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach is terribly aggrieved by the media’s coverage of the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events, complaining, “Somewhere along the line, global warming became the explanation for everything.” Parroting Rush Limbaugh, he fulminates that if a hurricane hits the United States, “some expert will tell us that this storm might be a harbinger of global warming.” He continues:

Right-thinking people are not supposed to discuss any meteorological or geophysical event — a hurricane, a wildfire, a heat wave, a drought, a flood, a blizzard, a tornado, a lightning strike, an unfamiliar breeze, a strange tingling on the neck — without immediately invoking the climate crisis. It causes earthquakes, plagues and backyard gardening disappointments. Weird fungus on your tomato plants? Classic sign of global warming.

That is, of course, nonsense. Achenbach’s piece is a series of distortions, misrepresentations, and false attacks.

In reality, the media almost never discuss global warming in the context of extreme weather events. The cable news channels fill hours of time with “extreme weather alerts” of tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. But the few times they discuss the influence of global warming is to either falsely attack it, as on Fox News, or to garble the science and equivocate, as on CNN. Print media and network television likewise run minimal coverage discussing weather in the context of climate change — and just as rarely discuss the global warming consequences of energy policy.

Achenbach’s sole evidence for a deluge of people “immediately invoking the climate crisis” is a single Newsweek article. Achenbach falsely claims that the author “flat-out declared that this year’s floods in the Midwest were the result of climate change,” when in fact she states “The proximate cause was the western part of the jet stream dipping toward the Gulf of Mexico, then rising toward Iowa,” and goes on to discuss global warming as “one clue” why the jet stream behaved that way. In contrast, right-wing media publish a deluge of global warming denialism and false arguments on a daily basis, from specious libertarians to polluter-funded right-wingers.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

(cont.)

Achenbach also is completely wrong about the California wildfires:

Last week, we saw reports of more wildfires in California. Sure as night follows day, people will lay some of the blame on climate change. But there’s also the minor matter of people building homes in wildfire-susceptible forests, overgrown with vegetation due to decades of fire suppression. That’s like pitching a tent on the railroad tracks.

As the Wonk Room has previously noted, a 2006 Science report states unequivocally:

Thus, although land-use history is an important factor for wildfire risks in specific forest types (such as some ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests), the broad-scale increase in wildfire frequency across the western United States has been driven primarily by sensitivity of fire regimes to recent changes in climate over a relatively large area.

The saddest part of Achenbach’s tirade against “iffy claims” of global warming is that he seemingly comprehends the scope of the crisis, writing “Somehow we’ve got to embed environmental effects into the cost of energy sources, consumer goods and so on. The market approach by itself has let us down.” He connects the issues of a growing population, industrial agriculture, sprawl, unfettered free markets, and unsustainable civil engineering practices, saying that “humans are a species out of control.”

What he fails to see is that the solution to global warming is inextricably linked to the solutions to all of these problems. Global warming — with its related consequences of increased floods, strong hurricanes, drought, heat waves, extinction, coral bleaching, infestation, disease outbreaks, severe storms, sea level rise, shoreline erosion, glacial retreat, arctic sea ice decline, permafrost thaws, desertification, and shifts in plant and animal ranges — is just one symptom of ignoring the true costs of “cheap” fossil fuels and resource depletion. A sustainable approach to, for example, flood control policy, reduces the carbon footprint, restores habitat, lessens economic risk, and encourages healthier, safer agriculture.

Achenbach concludes:

You should definitely worry about global warming. But you don’t need to worry about global warming when your house is on fire.

My question for Achenbach: Don’t we need to worry about global warming when our entire planet is on fire?

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Joel, I want to hear your answer, too!

By the way, my I drop by and borrow a bit of firewood?

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

My favorite arguments are always between people discussing different points. Joel, I only need enough firewood to get through another month or two....

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh dear. Sometimes Joel's humor is too subtle. (At least, that's more polite than calling the Johnson person an idiot.)

Posted by: seasea | February 17, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Now I know russianthistle is back in robust health! Nobody could be on such a roll and be weakened by illness.

Isn't it remarkable that even other *media* people don't get Joel's amazingly well-written and subtle humour (subtle, but not absent!).

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

No need to be delicate, seasea. The Johnson person is an idiot.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | February 17, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, check your TV guide... World's on FIRE at 11.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

On a completely different tact...

http://mog.com/Nate_Zimmerman/blog_post/120865

Click the red button and listen to an early live performance of 'Long Black Limosine' by the Flying Burrito Bros. (Parsons and Hillman) recorded by the Grateful Dead board recorder as the Brothers opened for the Dead in Aug. of 1968 at the SanFran Avalon Ballroom a couple months before Altamont.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Hi Al...

I know using the Post's paper banner on the website is part of their branding effort, but from a design standpoint, the page really needs that little splash of red the washingtonpost.com logo gave it.

Now... where's the fire?

Posted by: -TBG- | February 17, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I was already jealous of anyone that could be accused of punditry. Now I read that JA fulminates. Fulminates!

I am somewhat shocked that he parrots Rush Limbaugh, however. Maybe in his spare time, after a drink or two.

I can also only aspire to write a tirade. Someday.

Posted by: engelmann | February 17, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

And window treatments, too!

Posted by: russianthistle | February 17, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Me, I wanna go for the full-on philippic.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 17, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm all about a well-argued Apologia.

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Remote SCC: Apologium?

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Don't call me Al, Shirley

Posted by: rickoshea0 | February 17, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Pundit is derived from the sanskrit word Pandit, which describes a wise scholar who can offer sound advice on various matters and also conduct religious ceremonies in correct form. The latter involves chanting and the burning of incense.

I would pay good money to see Joel do that.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | February 17, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

The boodle knows everything. It's better than Wikipedia!

That's cool, DNA Girl. Yeah, I think we'd all like to be there.

Posted by: slyness | February 17, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Which would definitely lead to a fulsome pangyric.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 17, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Does he have to wear jasmine and marigold leis, DNA_girl, or is that just brahmin priests?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, I think that's only if Joel's getting married, not conducting marriages.

My memory and my typing do not agree very well tonight.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | February 17, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

rthistle writes:
"That’s like pitching a tent on the railroad tracks."

From the 2007 Darwin Awards:

http://www.zipadeeday.com/viewarticle.asp?article=174

A Texas teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.

Posted by: laloomis | February 17, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Me, I'm partial to a full-blown jeremiad.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | February 17, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

*laughing* So good with words! Let us all do a broad-sheet pamphlet!

Posted by: Yoki | February 17, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Testing, testing, 1-2-3.

Gadzooks, if this works, I'm going to go right to bed out of sheer relief.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | February 17, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

G'night, all.

Joel, I don't think of you so much as a pundit as a ruminator.

Or maybe "Ruminator" capitalized, like they're going to make movies out of your gig, only instead of dark wraparound shades and a leather jacket, I see bifocals perched low on your nose (so you can look cool looking over them), and a slightly rumpled tweed jacket (I'm undecided about patches on the elbows).

I expect that while "Ruminator" will be good, "Rumintator 2: Judgement Pay" will be my favorite - something about the Internet taking over all of the print newspaper organizations...

bc

Posted by: -bc- | February 18, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

G'night, Al!

RT, thanks for the Gram Parsons link. I have that CD around here somewhere.

Posted by: seasea | February 18, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Evening all
Home after work,easy ride, good songs on the box.
Rock Steady Bad co
Jeremy Pearl Jam
Green grass high tide Outlaws

The farm house near the main road,the guy had a huge bonfire going.Makes me want to have one of my own this weekend.I have plenty of wood wood i want to burn,plus this year's christmas tree,although it still looks like it is living even being out of water for 2 weeks.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 18, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Al!

seasea, you are welcome!

I used to really enjoy some of the Burrito Bros songs that no longer match up. My favorite, maybe because I would be driving back and forth across the country, was 'White Line Fever' ... Now, it just doesn't match up.

Great song, though. I once went through Bakersfield in tribute of Haggard. I heard he had quite a model train collection.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 18, 2009 4:35 AM | Report abuse

argh...i hate insomnia...

did read the lewis article, though, which i enjoyed.

g'morning to rt, and all the boodlers who will be getting up soon.

i watched that clip of bristol palin's interview at the bottom of the article about her, purely out of curiosity. i had no expectations of any kind. by the end of the clip, i seriously wanted to whack a certain governor. let your daughter be her own person. sheeesh.

Posted by: LALurker | February 18, 2009 5:21 AM | Report abuse

lalurker--

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deH1W_uwrwg

maybe this will be interesting to you. someone just posted this on youtube... a live solo version of voodoo chile which was recorded a dozen years ago by a friend.

Occasionally, Robert would do this late at night after the doors were closed and the shades drawn and the club was just relaxed.

... and done.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 18, 2009 5:26 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all.

How strange, I did not have to sign in, 'twas just sitting there, a big white empty screen.

bc, patches are very nice, especially suede.

Ivan's Mom & Slyness, I am so sorry about your mothers. I am of an age to consider how much I *do* not want to be a burden on my family.

LA Lurker, more Palin on the front page this morning, haven't read it, but the title reminded me of that hilarious movie, Cold Comfort Farm.

Posted by: VintageLady | February 18, 2009 5:54 AM | Report abuse

This will be an interesting morning for the stock and bond markets. Credit situations around the globe are worsening. Articles suggesting 7.2 million more unemployed in Asia... Japanese auto workers are being forced to eat their own cars on beds of rice.

The world is now very worried that the STIM is too small to kick start the US economy. I get this odd feeling that, after eight years of the Bush administration, the world is wondering JUST how stupid America is.

Our international onlookers are probably wondering who Republican members of congress can actually "negotiate in" provisions to the STIM bill that they THEN don't even support.

Clearly, the man/family of the hour in DC are th Cantors of Virginia. He has always struck me as a pandering Dim Bulb of a congressman, but he may be, in is lite-weight way, a critical player in extending and deepening the downturn. Did you catch, however, that his wife was part of a prop'd up bank?

The guy is retracting and apologizing on almost a daily basis for the stupid stuff coming out of his office and, all the time, we are supporting his family's welfare with buckets of bucks!!! LUV IT!

I just want to suggest that saving this economy is hard werk and requires folks to understand that we need to spend money on employment now.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 18, 2009 6:20 AM | Report abuse

More rain.
The firewoods sits in it,
not drying.

Posted by: Jumper1 | February 18, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Nothing like starting the day on a positive note, Weed! And it's raining here...

I'm telling you, all this bad economic news is enough to put a person in a serious funk. I wish I knew the answer; I wish we could make it all go away tomorrow. Before it's over, there will be some significant structural changes in the way we do business, and I hope that will be for the good.

It's good to know that *The Market* is just as irrational as the people who comprise it. May we never forget that again, and act accordingly.

Posted by: slyness | February 18, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Whew! Managed to get through a very hectic Tuesday masquerading as a Monday, so let's see what Wednesday has in store...

The Dawn Patrol was uneventful, anyway, and Boodling seems to be back to normal. *crossing fingers*

*starting-the-countdown-to-the-long-awaited-ski-vacation-with-NukeSpawn Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 18, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Morning Al... our new cubes are supposed to be set up in the office on Monday so I'm hoping I can boodle a little from work after that. Still pretty busy during the day, but there'll probably be a chance to pop in now and again.

Hey... it's snowing! Big fat flakes... and they seem to be sticking.

Hope y'all have a great day... time to get ready for work. Or as some may say... time to swim. :-)

Posted by: -TBG- | February 18, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

What worries me, too, is that home ownership, combined with the mobility of our society, may make things worse.

I hate to think of the family stuck in a house they cannot sell, thousands of miles away from supportive relatives, and out of work.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Morning -- coffee and a swim, then off to teach. Two families on my block are now stats: main earner to be pink-slipped within the next six months. Sigh.

Who said this? It is a recession when your neighbor loses a job; It is a depression when you lose your job.

Again -- perhaps still -- another food pantry requests donations of staples. You can put them on your porch to be picked up.

Chilly but nice. Hoping for one more big snow to cap off winter.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | February 18, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, how many days 'til?

TBG, my boss should give me more crap about my boodlin' habits, but he doesn't.

someone swiped (which is fine) all my ham, so this morning's treat of a grilled ham, cheese and tomato sandwich suddenly backed down to two items. Still a special treat for me.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 18, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

CqP, I think that falls into Oft Repeated ...

We are going to see more and more of that problem. Have to say that six months is very generous as "chips fall as they may" around us.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 18, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

*thoroughly enjoying the snowy tableau from my elevated point of view* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 18, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Automakers plan 50,000 job cuts. Market "poised" for modest uptick. A company cutting its losses is good for the shareholders. 50 thousand job cuts is really bad for the economy.

... go figure.

Isn't this what we were trying to prevent with the Auto funding? Right now, our concern probably shouldn't be about the corporate well being, but jobs. We asked the US automakers to tell us how they are going to maintain their existance and they answered, cut jobs.

... wrong answer.

Posted by: russianthistle | February 18, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm beatin' feet on Saturday, Weed... :-))))

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 18, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

CP - I think Reagan made that truly popular. The final line was "the solution is when Carter loses his job."


While I'm waiting for the caffeine to fully kick in, here's one more thought for your consideration.

To me, standard of living is not based on consumerism. A high standard of living doesn't mean always having the latest gadget, a house bigger than is needed, and an automobile with a high IQ. Standard of living, to me, means a reduction of economic fear. In other words, I would gladly trade consumerism for a world with greater stability. For with stability you can plan and adapt. With constant change you have nothing but chaos.

I mean, consider gasoline prices. Wouldn't it be nice if they found a place and stuck with it? Same with the market. It's these wild oscillations that cause me vexation.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

New kit!!

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

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