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Perils of Sanctimony

Repeating myself: The recovery will be painfully slow as long as no one knows what the federal government will do next. This is the problem with government riding to the rescue every 24 hours, forklifting money into the private sector. Investors want to know the tilt of the playing field [careful, metaphor switch]. The federal government is a giant thumb [yikes, another!] on the scale.

Even attempts by the government to do good, to solve problems, to ease pain, etc., will have unintended and unexpected consequences across the business world. Thus any Administration/Federal Reserve strategy has to envision a day, ideally fairly soon, when the feds say, "We're done fixing things. It's all yours. We're going to sit in the corner now and do our usual thing of ordering up the occasional aircraft carrier and slipping money to corn and soybean farmers and whatnot."

From today's paper:

'"Several industry executives, observing the pressure being exerted on AIG and other big banks, say they are worried about joining in government efforts to rescue the financial system in the newly charged political environment.

"'Am I afraid of the populist outrage? Yes,' said Lynn Tilton, chief executive of Patriarch Capital, a private-equity firm that has weighed making such an investment.

"A senior executive at one of the nation's largest banks said he had heard from several hedge funds that they would not partner with the government for fear that lawmakers would impose retroactive conditions on their participation, such as limits on compensation or disclosure requirements.

"Other firms want to bide their time to see how early participants in the rescue programs are treated before they decide whether to sign up, said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"'Why do you think Hong Kong is a better place to do business than Shanghai? Because of the certainty of the contracts,' said another executive at one of the nation's largest private-equity firms. 'Once the uncertainty factor goes up, the less interested you are in doing business because it becomes a more risky proposition.'"

OK, so these are not our favorite folks these days. Finance wizards got us into this mess; they whine at their peril. It's enraging to think that folks at Fannie Mae, AIG, and Merrill Lynch got fat bonuses even while receiving billions in taxpayer bailouts. There's a laughable passage in that same story: "Morgan Stanley fashioned a joint venture with Citigroup's Smith Barney unit and offered up to $3 billion to about 6,500 high-performing brokers if they stayed with the company. Anyone who leaves the firm within nine years must repay a portion of the money. Morgan Stanley said it will not use bailout funds to make the payments." Um, yeah, but it's all fungible. In fact it's hard to see how any of these companies -- or General Motors, etc. -- can make rational decisions about compensation and future strategy as long as the government is lurking out there as a potential rescuer. This isn't an ideological matter, it's just being practical.

As for punishing the wicked, that can be satisfying (as we've discussed), but the danger is that it's self-defeating. This town needs to guard against the eruption of sanctimony. We lost an entire year of governance, 1998, in the sanctimony riot of the Lewinsky case.

Obama and David Axelrod haven't done themselves any favors by imposing such strict limitations on former lobbyists participating in the government. Some of those folks might be useful right now. The Treasury Department is struggling to fill top political jobs. Smart, decent people are being turned away because the political environment has made perfect the enemy of the good. Sure, we really should live in an ideal world in which no one has even the slightest conceivable conflict of interest. But on THIS planet at this precise moment we need good people to fill these hard jobs.

Thank God I'm here to talk sense. The Last Rational Person. Says it right there on my business card.

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 18, 2009; 8:51 AM ET
 
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Next: Spare Me Your Natterings

Comments

Cat lovers?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zipbWRj_C8c&feature=dir

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

reposting...

Torches:

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/dec08/mob.jpg

Pitchforks:

http://www.trygve.com/pitchfork.jpg

Public dissatisfaction/mob action:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/176/450382623_8ec38093bc.jpg

Posted by: laloomis | March 18, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Soul lovers?

Lizz Wright

My Heart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuzswRpQhCI

and

A Taste of Honey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfs8KfQssQA&feature=related


Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

sorry for causing the echo through the last kit.

Posted by: -jack- | March 18, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Seems Tom Friedman at NYT had the same idea about vacancies at Treasury in his March 10 op-ed, "This Is Not a Test. This Is Not a Test.":

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/opinion/11friedman.html?scp=9&sq=Tom%20Friedman%20Geithner%20Treasury%20jobs&st=cse

Our country has congestive heart failure. Our heart, our banking system that pumps blood to our industrial muscles, is clogged and functioning far below capacity. Nothing else remotely compares in importance to the urgent need to heal our banks.

Yet I read that we’re actually holding up dozens of key appointments at the Treasury Department because we are worried whether someone paid Social Security taxes on a nanny hired 20 years ago at $5 an hour. That’s insane. It’s as if our financial house is burning down but we won’t let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn’t too much chlorine in the water. Hello?

Posted by: laloomis | March 18, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

A lot of this umbrage is based on a misunderstanding of the paradigms. Yes, million dollar bonuses from floundering companies subsidized by the taxpayer are an outrage, but is that the fault of the guy working the phones and moving product no matter how toxic the product turned out?

Just how far down the food chain does the culpability go? At what point is someone justified in invoking the Nuremberg Defense or the Sargent Schultz Denial? Is it conceivable that some of these guys actually earned their salaries by avoiding some far worse disaster? Does it make sense to have summary executions of the folks still operating the bilge pumps on the Titanic because the captain hit the iceberg?

Have I asked enough rhetorical questions? Mixed enough metaphors? Made any sense whatsoever?

Posted by: yellojkt | March 18, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

No need to apologize, jack. The synchronicity was amusing and it seems to be a common sentiment.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 18, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

From Friedman's more current column (and properly attributed):

"If you didn’t like reading about A.I.G. brokers getting millions in bonuses after their company — 80 percent of which is owned by U.S. taxpayers — racked up the biggest quarterly loss in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy, you’re really not going to like the bank bailout plan to be rolled out soon by the Obama team."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/opinion/18friedman.html

He then goes on to detail how we are going to throw another three-quarter trillion into The Black Hole in hopes of getting it to cough up Maximilian Schell.

He also asks the AIG bankers to give back their loot and take one for the team. Ours, not theirs. Good luck with that, Tom.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 18, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Another thing that worries me about governments (not just in the US) intervening is that they seem to be doing it ad hoc, reactively, responding to individual companies' crises, rather than crafting a long-term, coherent strategy and developing tactical plans to execute it.

I grant that nobody can have full insight into what will happen to the global economy even in the short-term, but there is an urgent need for a plan, with budgets tied to outcomes. Otherwise we'll all just keep throwing money around with no real goal in mind. And that will be have serious consequences far beyond the duration of this recession.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Seems the rife conflicted in a Confucian, always handing over led paint

My own mall's Big Ball story got whenever the situation.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 18, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I hope you are okay, Dave.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I wrote something towards then end of the previous Kit that I'm not going to bother reposting.

But, I will pose a philisophical question:

The National and Global economies apparently have sinned mightly - how much energy and resources and will we spend on Capital punishment and/or the hard work of making things better?

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 18, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

There is a phenomenon in psychology sometimes called the Tyranny of the Salient. Basically, it means that humans tend to assume that provocative and highly-visible factors are the most important. This is what drives people to fixate on replacing their light bulbs while ignoring their water-heater settings.

When we engage in economically sanctimonious behavior we tend to focus in on the most salient things, which aren't typically the most important.

We act as if things like earmarks, bonuses, and private jets exert vastly more influence on the economy than they do.

Because, let's face it, these things are all noise. Except, of course, when they aren't. The market is controlled by people. Investors are just as susceptible to the Tyranny of the Salient as everyone else.

It's all psychology, and I think we need to always keep this in mind.

For I fear that the cobbled-together nature of human psychology, which is chock full of obsolete survival mechanisms, will keep mucking things up for the foreseeable future.

At least until the robots take control.

Although many of them have issues as well.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Howdy again. I just posted a brilliant (okay, arguably coherent) observation on the nature of contracts and bonuses at the tail of the last Kit and, as so often happens, the conversation moves on. Alas.

I admire the Administration for its pure stance regarding lobbyists and general ethical probity in high-level employees, and I recognize it as a conscious decision to show the nation and the world that Things Have Changed in Washington. However, I like that comment about the perfect being the enemy of the good. Obama himself has used it in other contexts. I suspect at least some of the people currently withdrawing from the vetting process have no particular skeletons in their closet; they just are tired of it, given the other ways they can spend their time.

The problem is that, based on recent history, people tend to conflate "expertise" or "interest" with "self-interest" and "access", and assume improper dealings. Astonishingly, it is possible for a government official to have former professional ties to a particular organization or interest without exploiting those ties either for personal gain or the improper gain of others. It is also possible to neglect an important civic duty, like paying some taxes (note none of these people, so far, have simply refused to pay income tax) and still be capable of good judgment and good governance.

The recent history of public corruption, and the perception of corruption, is impeding the current Administration's ability to fill the positions needed to govern the country.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

For corporations, when the time comes to slip the surly bonds of earth, there are two classes of creditors: the secured, and the unsecured. The assets are sold off by the receiver at fire sale prices. The secured creditors (ie banks) get theirs, and the unsecured get the remainder which usually, if combined with $1.25 of your own money, will get you a cup of coffee.

Short of legislative involvement, discrimination between members of the same class is known as “fraudulent preference”. The common example for individuals is the sweetheart deal of a favorite item to a friend or relative for something other than market value. Not allowed - will be clawed back. So AIG if it continues to exist really does have no choice but to pay the bonus contracts. It may have been better for taxpayers to have bought the functioning or salvageable parts of AIG, if the outstanding bonuses are going to be that big of political liability.

Mudge, great story yesterday.

Posted by: engelmann | March 18, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Excellent point, Ivansmom. And a nice application of that whole Tyranny of the Salient business. It is murky and hard to evaluate someone's competence, or assess their ethics by viewing an entire lifetime.

But avoiding a tax, or hiring a nanny, this we can understand.

And people like Obama could just laugh this all off (as he once tried to do) if the world wasn't filled with pundits eager to exploit these salient things for political ends, and millions of people eager to follow the lead of these pundits.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Yoki's point is worth repeating as well. Any clear-eyed view of history highlights the dangers of unintentional consequences. Heck, isn't this whole mess largely caused by the unintentional consequences of extremely low interest rates?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Listening to Matthews blathering on MSNBC right now about how ex post facto laws prevent contract nullification after the fact. Which applies only to criminal law, not administrative, at least as far as I know. Lawyers, please?

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Not a lawyer, but I do think ex post facto would, while not directly applicable, would raise some issues on taxing income that has already been distributed. The power to tax is the power to destroy. But maybe that is the goal.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 18, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Other lawyers are probably better on this than I am, since I deal with it exclusively in the criminal law area, but I don't see an application of ex post facto to contract law here. Ex post facto is a fairly narrow doctrine. I suppose one might argue that a tax could under some circumstances violate ex post facto, but again I don't see it here. If the recipients are required to return the money, don't tax them on it. Simple.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I will generally observe that non-lawyers who state with great certainty what the law requires are often mistaken. This also applies to lawyers speaking outside their legal fields of expertise. That's why I try to be careful in making sweeping pronouncements about the law; the more complex the subject and the farther removed from it I am, the more likely I am to be wrong.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

That phenomenon applies in science as well. Once a scientists moves too far from his or her area of expertise there is much danger.

Except for that Abby woman with all the tattoos on NCIS. I want to hire her.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"Heck, isn't this whole mess largely caused by the unintentional consequences of extremely low interest rates?"

You're a funny, funny man, RD.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 18, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

If you all are going to stay so tirelessly on Kit, I'm just going to have to take my YouTube links elsewhere.

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Very good, Ivansmom. When I installed hardwood floors I never claimed to be a roofing expert. Reminds me of my suspicion that most of the scientists trotted out by global warming deniers are very far from climatology as their areas of expertise.

I'm with you regarding Abby, RD. Heck, I WANTED to not like her. That failed.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to you lawyers, you are still missing the point. For argument's sake, I'll grant your premise that the bonuses must legally be paid. Fine. But there is nothing in the law that says the gummint can't first ask that the contracts voluntarily be re-negotiated. Ain't nothing wrong with that, and they can say "No." Second, the gummint can simply ask, "OK, we'll pay you the bonuses... but will you voluntarily forgo them (for the good of the country, patriotism, because we'll come after you like a wolverine if you don't, etc.)?"

Please read Pearlstein's column. He lays out a good case on how the gummint can get some or most of the bonus money back, without violating the sacred-contract business.

From Kurtz's ciolumn today:

"At the Daily Beast, Matt Miller floats an idea that reminds me of when Jack Kennedy called steel executives SOBs:

"President Obama should just ask the executives in question -- including seven who are apparently slated for more than $3 million each -- to voluntarily forgo these bonuses, or to defer them until they are linked to some material improvement in the bottomless AIG pit that has now devoured more taxpayer cash than a year in Iraq.

"Obama's argument would run thus: In war, we ask citizens to make all manner of sacrifices (though, to be sure, only a tiny fraction of the citizenry is asked to bear such burdens nowadays). The financial-sector meltdown is the biggest domestic emergency in decades, the economic equivalent of war. Popular disgust with greedy financiers threatens to make it hard or even impossible for Obama to get the support he'll need for the ugly but necessary work of propping up the system with more taxpayer money . . .

"If the AIGers say no, who looks like a horse's ass: the president who summoned them to a greater good, or the greedy bankers who told their president to hell with that?"

All I'm saying is don't roll over passively without a fight, which all this "Gee, I guess there's nothing we can do" defeatism is.

The problem with the Tyranny of the Salient argument is that it excuses and enables the ignoring of the lesser problems. The analogy is made that it is more important to adjust the water heater than replace the light bulbs. The implication is therefore that replacing the light bulbs just isn't very important, and the take-away is well, then I guess I won't bother replacing them.

But the fact is, I don't know how to adjust the water heater, but I *can* change a light bulb. If you denigrate one task at the expense of the other, you ensure that it probably won't get done, even if it is of lesser importance.

Symbolic acts count.
You don't roll over. You don't stop playing the game even if you're down 30 points and there's only 20 seconds on the clock. You keep trying until every avenue is exhausted.


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 18, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

at one time i worked in a place where i dealt with criminals on a regular basis. it was interesting work. you learn a lot about human nature that way. one of the things i learned was that the most evil of all criminals are those who confidently assert that you can't touch them because your ethics rules prevent you from doing so. they effectively use your own morals and laws against you so that they can continue their criminal activities or escape punishment for same. these are the kinds of people you crush when you have the chance. maybe it's just me, but i have been sniffing a whiff of something suspicious in the protestations of the wall street crooks relative to how their illicit bonuses can't be touched. or maybe i've lost perspective completely.

anyone one want to talk about brackets?

Posted by: butlerguy | March 18, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

OK, a link for LiT: http://julia.nonsociety.com/main.php?next=90

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Gloom from Reich
http://robertreich.blogspot.com/

Eurotrouble report from Krugman
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/spanish-doldrums/#more-1623

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Mudge - you are correct about the importance of low-hinging fruit. And symbolism matters for the reasons I am pointing out - symbols are salient and hence persuasive.

The concern is that people frequently delude themselves into believing that going after these shiny things are *all* that is necessary.

Sure, do what you can, but people should never be willing to sit back smugly and assume that there is nothing more that needs to be done - even if it is difficult.

Again, look at my examples - earmarks, bonuses and private jets. Getting rid of these things is worthwhile - but that isn't enough. Symbols are important, but only if they are not considered an end in themselves.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Afternoon all
Wow the temp jumped from 43 @11:30 to 61 now!!

I started piling up wood next to the fire pit for a spring soltice fire this weekend.Hopefully conditions will be good for burning.

Congrats to Martin Brodeur for the all time wins mark.I know he passed Patrick Roy last night,but who are the top 5? and are any of the current crop of goalies capable of setting a mark in the future? I really like Hockey,but don't know the stats like I do for Football or Baseball.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 18, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

OK I'll talk brackets.

Once when walking home I saw a busted up bookshelf lying on the sidewalk. I took the boards home and screwed it all back together. The next day I got home and the whole danged thing fell apart from the weight of all the danged books I put on it. The next day on the way home I stopped at the hardware store and bought a bunch of brackets. I screwed the whole danged thing back together again and used the brackets to reinforce it all. It is stacked with books two deep and has been for about six years. Those brackets saved those boards.

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Omni, you're the best. I already have a few of those (3d pair in brown, boots and black pumps but of course, and yes, I have the chucks in a sort of lime green and another pair in a watermelon-y kind of shade). I'll cut out meals to afford shoes (my meals, not Dear Child's. Fortunately, she's still into the high-heeled play princess shoes.) I'll try to sport something appropriate at the next BPH.

Time to wake up Thing 2, who is home on Spring Break and apparently thinks we don't own alarm clocks.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 18, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe those comments the Boss reported on in the kit reflect a subtle strategy? If you think things are bad now with your bank/brokerage/insurace outfit, think how bad its going to be for you if you have to resort to a guv-mint bailout. Get your house in order now, or really suffer the consequences. You might all be working for a dollar a year.

Posted by: ebtnut | March 18, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

One of the greats of space physics passed away recently, Mario Acuña. Here is his WaPo obit:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/14/AR2009031401703.html

We have a TV monitor that we use that has been labeled for 10 years as "Mario's Monitor", a cast-off from Mario's research programs.

Mario volunteered with us on an education and public outreach program several years ago, traveling to Nogales, NM, to deliver a cross-border Family Science Night program in Spanish. The obit doesn't mention it, but I understand that Mario was very active in promoting science education in his native Argentina.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 18, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Top 5? Don't know the stats, but for my money (including some historical figures):

Bernie Parent
Ken Dryden
Dominic Hasek
Patrick Roy
Brodeur

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see our President is a sports fan too. Although I like Gonzaga over UNC in the south bracket....sorry slyness.....

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/ncaatourney09/columns/story?columnist=katz_andy&id=3991859

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Not that it matters a hill o' beans in this crazy mixed-up world, but -- what happens at the nominal beginning of the Spring and Autumn is an equinox. Solstices occur at the nominal beginning of Summer and Winter. Solstices occur when the obliquity (axial tilt) of the Earth is toward or away from the Sun, and days and are nights are at their greatest extreme of long or short. Equinoxes occur when the axial tilt of the Earth is sideways to the Earth-Sun line (I could describe it using dot-products, but what would be the point of that?), and day and night are of equal length.

Thank you, this has been your astronomical moment for the day.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

To follow up on RD's 11:49: sheesh, Heisenberg knows which Brazilian butterfly flapped it's wings over the the Higgs Ocean resutling in the Economical Depression that knocked our Humpty Dumpty off the house in the ensuing financial tsunmai.

The Many Worlds of our world are open to a Interpretation in Copenhagen, Wall Street, Washington, London, Geneva, Tokyo, and elsewhere. As much as we love our deterministic perception of events over space and time, I still don't think we know exactly what what we're each going to find in our individual Schrodinger's 401k Cat Safes after said wavecrash (personally, I'm in no hurry to look) and wiped out our financial houses, which we didn't realize were built on speculative foundations (many people have strong words for the financial contractors and insurance people). We're probabalistically going to have to repair and rebuild the whole economic neighborhood, and we'll make it better next time.

Until the next Brazilian butterfly flaps it's wings in just the right way.

Fiat Voluntas Tua.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 18, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Just did a drive-by Boodle check to find we're discussing bracelets. Why didn't anyone call me?

Posted by: -dbG- | March 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Goalie stats and all kinds of other info for GWE, from the Hockey Hall of Fame. If you are interested read Ken Dryden's The Game - excellent book.

http://www.hhof.com/html/r&rW.shtml

Posted by: dmd2 | March 18, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Obscure Holidays of Which You Had Not Heard: Sun-Earth Day will be this Friday.

http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2009/index.php

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 18, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

All time:

Martin Brodeur
Patrick Roy
Ed Belfour
Curtis Joseph
Terry Sawchuk

Active:

Martin Brodeur
Curtis Joseph
Chris Osgood
Olaf Kolzig
Nikolai Khabibulin

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm only going on topic because this is funny: http://www.borowitzreport.com/

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Thanks all and thanks for the link dmd,I am sure i can spend some time there.

I think if it rains tomorrow,I will try and expand my fire pit some, dig a little deeper and add a few big rocks. Hey Tim,thanks for the info on the equinox,I should have known that.

well off to work

Have a Great day everyone!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 18, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I liked butlerguy's remarks about the worst kind of criminals being those who use your own moral sense against you. Interesting world, ain't it, butlerguy?

omni already topped any bracket story I might have. Now if you want to talk brachets I probably have a dog story around somewhere. Speaking of which, my father-in-law acquired another dog. People give them to him. I wish he'd just say no thank you, but he seems to like them. At least this one is a snack, rather than full dog size.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Yes, bracelets. I like a little thin gold chain with tiny beads in citron peel, lime froth, and separated by tiny freshwater pearls. Will win, my bracelet, in the Big East bracelet. See DBG for details on how you get your very own bracelet information.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 18, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Re. my 1:14 PM - And you wonder why I call me the Jackson Pollock of the English Language?

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 18, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Did we ever find out how many a brazilion is?

I always thought it only took one flap of butterflies wing...Oh wait, never mind.

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and your welcome LiT. As soon as I saw that page I of course thought of you.

The Cat video is for everyone. I think it's kind of funny (and sweet). You all go check it out if you haven't yet.

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

In Quantum Mechanics there is a set of operators called the "Bra" operators. There is a set of complementary operators known as the "Ket" operators. When a "Bra" operator encounters a "Ket" operator the reulting inner product is known as a "Bra-Ket"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bra-ket_notation

Thus proving that physicists really do need to get out more.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

And just because I couldn't resist the pun, I made Barack Obama into Darby O'Gall.

http://dowdreport.blogspot.com/2009/03/darby-ogall.html

Posted by: Mo_MoDo | March 18, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

And if you put really big rocks on the Bra-Ket, does that make it an over-the-shoulder boulder holder?

Posted by: yellojkt | March 18, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I followed RD's Wiki link! Hahahahaha.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I just plugged the numbers into the Bra-Ket equations and the answer is Pitt.

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about the guy brackets. The *real* question is, are the Maryland girls gonna repeat or what?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 18, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I wonder -- is butlerguy's first name Alfred?

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 18, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I do hope the MD *Women* repeat, Mudge.

I'm on board with Pitt, too, omni.

I hear tell that Pitt has quite the program for Bra operations, too.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 18, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Watching live Libby hearings. Wow.

Unanswered questions: How do you feel about the employees who took the bonuses and quit? How do you feel about bonuses given to failure in general? (not these.)

Libby almost choked when asked to name the "trustees." Hm. Said he'd "provide a list."

I noted no minority (formerly majority) stock holders were represented and no one marked their absence.

Libby presented his case that they were paid to "stay on until you dismantle this portfolio to our satisfaction."

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I called it on the Boodle first, so if I'm right I'll wear a danged Tiara.

bc, Did you see the link I gave LiT. The shoes she pointed out as owning in the third photo are very Gladiatoresqe.

If you follow the link now I believe they are the seventh photo.

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Libby didn't say "stay on until you dismantle this portfolio to our satisfaction." That ws my summary.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Liddy. I'm so embarrassed.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm actually joking about the Pitt/Tiara thing as I haven't a clue about March Madnes. Well no clue except the alliteration...

March Madness
Sweet Sixteen
Elite Eight
Final Four

But if you wanna know anything at all about Magarita Madness...just limit yourself to three

Posted by: omnigood | March 18, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Hearing on a one hour break. Liddy was asked if, as opposed to worrying about the employees suing for their bonus, if he had considered suing them for dereliction of duty. (My words.)

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

veering severly off topic, on the subject of mountain oysters:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/us/18oyster.html

Brings new meaning to the phrase "Have a ball!"

Posted by: -jack- | March 18, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

On the most important topic of the day ;-), our President has picked UNC for the last team standing:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/images/brackets2009c.jpg

Posted by: slyness | March 18, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

http://www.starrfoundation.org/jjroberts.html

Some just never get known at all.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm not knowledgeable enough to follow the technical stuff, but this blog seems to infer that AIG CDO coverage was worthless and the banks that bought it knew so.

http://www.acredittrader.com/?p=65

So the bailout is in part paying off people that knew AIG couldn't come through.

I also have UNC going all the way, as much as that pains my gut to make that call.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 18, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

B-ball bracket comment of the day:

West Coast Gonzaga and Santa Clara look good to me. I know people running the AD at both schools. SCU is my alma mater, so GO BRONCOS. (I still smile when remembering SCU and Steve Nash dashing the Terps in one of those Cinderella moments.)

---
Now, I am done. I might post about the style changes in B-ball uniforms through the years, from the tightey-shortey shorts to the voluminous wind flappers baggies of today.....later, boys. Later.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 18, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Astronomers at work: http://nsokp.nso.edu/mp/mpcam.html

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 18, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I have been informed of my utter lack of knowledge of the thing called March Madness. No SCU this year.

I accept my lashes. March Madness for me is grading papers and watch bulbs emerge.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 18, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

March Madness is over CqP, it ended last Sunday with Martin's Alberta team winning again.
I don't know what to watch on TV anymore.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 18, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Shriek, "Friday Night Lights" is pretty good. Sometimes they play football in it. Maybe only three or four plays, but it's better than nothing.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 18, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Good one, shrieking_denizen.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

frosti, this is interesting, inna GOOD way...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/18/AR2009031802504.html

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 18, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Once again the Achenblog has led me down the garden path, this time courtesy of RD. There I am, standing gazing raptly at the wikipedia entry for bra-ket notation, fascinated, until I suddenly realize I have absolutely no frame of reference for what I am reading - not, really, even a linguistic one - and thus have no idea what I'm doing. This happens all the time, thanks to y'all and Joel. It is one of the things I find most charming about the place.

March Madness is about college basketball, right?

Kidding. I'm kidding. My boss is a big college hoops fan, so we know not to plan anything requiring his presence on or near the weekends in March.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, see my 2:28. That's why I was laughing.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Couple of links from the now online-only Seattle P-I:
AIG, shame
http://blog.seattlepi.com/davidhorsey/archives/164491.asp

shoes, Nordstrom, China (lead)
http://www.seattlepi.com/business/403970_nordstrom18ww.html

And apparently I have to become seasea1 now...sigh...

Posted by: seasea1 | March 18, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, widespread use of the stop-loss program is the kind of thing that angers and demoralizes the troops real quick. Until quite recently, it was only used sparingly, and for short-lasting extensions of enlistment terms.

Posted by: bobsewell | March 18, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, think of a Bra as a series of numbers like {1, 2, 3, 4 }. Think of a Ket as a second series of numbers like, {6 7 8 9}. A Bra-Ket is the sum of the products, or (1 X 6 + 2 X 7 + 3 X 8 + 4 X 9}, also known as 80.

Okay, now here comes the tricky bit.

Replace both series with high dimensional coordinates representing quantized values relating to the measurement of a complex system.


Look, I said it was tricky.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for clearing that up, RD_P.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

But that's the mechanical explanation. The conceptual explanation is that the Bra represents one configuration of a complex physical system, the Ket is a second configuration, and the Bra-Ket represents the probability that a measurement of a system initially in the first configuration will be found in the second configuration.

It really isn't that hard. Certainly far less complex than the whole ex post whatever thing lawyers talk about.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I looked at the Bra-Ket notation entry. That is some very hard stuff. Then I saw that the alternate name is the Dirac notation. So now I'm stuck between.

That's all I got.

Posted by: engelmann | March 18, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

So it's like a multidimensional Venn Diagram, only using algebraic coordinates instead of color, RD?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 18, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

D'EyeRak, yes?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 18, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Like Iraq only in multiple dimensions? I'm so confused.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, RD. Actually that conceptual explanation did help, on a meta sort of level. Besides, the little symbols are cool.

Yoki, I thought that was why you were laughing.

RD, can you explain now why cardboard boxes are an essential part of a lagomorph diet? Also fabric like sheets, bag handles, towels, carpet?

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I looked Bra-Ket up (finally). It's all quantum to me, too.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 18, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I hope I didn't come across as being obnoxious. I was really just trying to be funny.

The thing is, Quantum really isn't nearly as hard as many people think, although the notations are intimidating. I have no doubt that any of the people here could understand it conceptually. I still contend it isn't nearly as tricky as the law.

Physics is like the hedgehog. It really just knows a few things. But these thing can be, you know, deep and stuff.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Rabbits are just evil that way, Ivansmom. You should see the carpet in the bunny room.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 18, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

After consideration, RD, I decided not to share your "evil" description with Beatrice. Not just yet.

Not while she's out, anyway.

Sometimes she sits on a chair cushion and licks it. Really. Chairs nobody sits on, even. The way of the rabbit is mysterious.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Too busy to back boodle until later this evening.

The end of stop loss is a wonderful thing. Except, I should say it saved a couple friends from jumping ship for more $ with companies that have since gone under. As always, if it weren't for that bit about being shot at...

Later gators.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 18, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

How about the perils of coverup?

Chris Dodd on Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room moments ago. Yesterday, Dodd claimed no knowledge of how the Feb. 11 date--or loophole--got into the Dodd Amendment in the stimulus bill. Today, Dodd admitted that he (after other Democratic senators in the very small group who crafted the legislation denied ownership) put the Feb. 11 loophole date for executive bonuses into the bill, at the behest of "unnamed" Treasury oficials. Lamned diar, as my parents used to say.

Hopefully CNN's Dana Bash or other Capitol Hill reporters will pin down the names of that one or those other (if more than one) "unnamed" Treasury officials.

Posted by: laloomis | March 18, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

And it never can be buggered at all, RD.

The law, on the other hand, can be boondoggled.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 18, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Waaaay off kit but really funny: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/03/17/neil-gaiman-on-colbe.html

Lest our children stop fearing graveyards!!!

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | March 18, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Just emerging from the mines to back-boodle a bit before I start dinner. I'm thinking brown rice with some garbanzos, a small sweet potato, some veggies from the freezer and some fresh kale.

But aside from that, looking at the hockey talk, I just gotta (because I *gotta*) remind you all which team is on the top of the leader board: DETROIT RED WINGS!!!!

Hope we can repeat. Bringing Stanley home again would be soooooo good for that city.

And now, do carry on.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | March 18, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Whew ftb, I was worried that I killed the boodle!

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | March 18, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

ftb-you are inspired. Sweet potato is exactly the food I'm craving, and I have one! Our little store doesn't often have them.

In case you haven't guessed, it's not the cooking I have trouble with, it's the deciding. This is why I eat the same food for 5-6 meals in a row. Just a bear with refrigeration.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 18, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

To firsttimeblogger, my Penguins just may meet you in the finals again. It would make for a great Hossa storyline.

On all this AIG stuff. I just can't bring myself to use the "outrage" word that many are using in the press, on the Hill, and in the Administration. In the scheme of things this is just distracting us all from the real issues. We like distractions, because it keeps us away from having to think about the tough stuff.

Posted by: Radz | March 18, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

MotP-Mr. F just returned from Ft. Lewis, WA where he found an L&L and gorged on plate lunches with 2 scoops rice AND mac salad. People in MN assume we miss Hawaii because of the weather, they are sooo wrong. Except for rhubarb, maple syrup and wild rice, there's nothing here that you can't do better.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 18, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Mostly, just remember your old email if you want to read NYT articles without going through the whole registration process again

Posted by: bh72 | March 18, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

CqP, I matriculated at SCU for a few years back in the early '70s but I was one of those part time MBAers that were supporting the school with our company's benefit program. Some called it HPU then.

Posted by: bh72 | March 18, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Well, frosti, as it turned out, I actually decided to skip the sweet patooti tonight for some reason. But I, too, tend to eat -- if not the same thing -- similar things for several nights in a row. It's partly a gumption thing and partly a "shoulda taken the thing out of the freezer the night before" thing.

But, Radz, you must understand that even if we do meet the Penguins again (although I think it might be Boston), and now that we have Hossa, we're gonna clean yer clock again! Actually, the Red Wings have so much playoff experience and winning experience over the last almost-two-decades, we may be able to clean anybody's clock. What I also like about this year is that we started off a bit more slowly and there were injuries midway, so I suspect we're not as exhausted as in previous years when we were kicked out of the playoffs in early rounds. Anyway, that's what the "voices" are telling me. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | March 18, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

ftb, you always make me smile. And I'm still giggling over the cat names.

I was reflecting just now on the title of this Kit (end of a long train of thought) and it strikes me that one of the perils of sanctimony is hypocrisy.

Discuss.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Howdy again radz!

We're having tortellini with Italian sausage (link) and fruit salad: apples & bananas for Them, grapefruit with olive oil, balsamic vinegar & cardamom for Me. I'm dining with the Boodle because They are on some WOW adventure. Their loss, my gain.

Soon, however, I will endure the Tyranny of Rehearsal. That's not fair, really, I like it. Singing is my great release and joy. However, something about the sheer inevitability of Rehearsal does wear on one occasionally.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Hah! Ivansmom, when #1 was being all musical (high school band, jazz band, community band, community orchestra, community musical theatre -- clarinet mostly, sax family sometimes) she had a pin that she wore every single day that said, "I can't. I have rehearsal."

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

ftb, the Red Wings are scary good. I love watching them play. You should definitely listen to the voices. I've been loving the Pens surge recently, but know they probably don't have the defense to get it done this year. But they sure are exciting to watch. I'm hoping for a first round matchup between the Caps and Pens so I can take in some games in at the Verizon Center.

Posted by: Radz | March 18, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

"One of the perils of sanctimony is hypocrisy." I like it.

A sanctimonious person begins by condemning another's improper or unacceptable action. This condemnation is right and proper, as the wrongdoer has demonstrably violated a social, moral or legal code. However, moral outrage for its own sake is seductive.

Okay, that's the last coherent expression I've got. I have to leave soon and I'm still eating. So, here's what's in my head: turn it into a cogent argument if you can (and then save it for me!).

As an example I take my own state's professed cultural values and norms. People tend to condemn abortion and sex education in schools, usually on religious grounds but sometimes because parents should raise their children as they see fit. Also, a high value is placed on attendance at religious services. People are quick to condemn effective (that is, non-abstinence) sex education, even though the state's own studies show abstinence-only education doesn't work. They also condemn abortion, sometimes even for rape or incest (did I mention our child sexual abuse statistics?).

However, the state has a very high rate of teen pregnancy, much of it among rural white teenagers (small poor state, predominantly white, not much to do). It also has a high rate of childhood poverty. Although a state program virtually guarantees childhood insurance, many low-income single mothers remain uninsured. Many persons who condemn teen pregnancy and sex education do not support programs to insure the poor with children, feed the poor with children, provide child care so the poor can get a job and become less poor, or educate the poor (our excellent early education program is conducted in the teeth of criticism).

There you go. Have at it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh my, Natasha Richardson has died. I suppose that answers the question about how bad her injuries were. Peace be with her family.

Posted by: slyness | March 18, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

That is sad news Slyness, a lot of coverage up here, scary how quickly the situation deteriorated.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 18, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

An important lesson to learn - take head injuries seriously.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090318.wrichardsontremblant0318/BNStory/Front

Posted by: dmd2 | March 18, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

I feel really sad about Richardson, not something I often feel about show-biz types. Her boys are so young.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

An incredible Fresh Air with James Balog (Extreme Ice Survey project--time lapse cameras recording glacier loss all across North America).

The related NOVA/Nat Geo doc will be shown next week (March 24)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102041024

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 18, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Neeson, Richardson talking together about Eugene O'Neil, plus a desk reading moment. Jason Robards, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej4307VGqeU

Their boys are young, downy things still. Sad. And so fragile and fleeting and precious and meadow-like is life.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 18, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't need that link, DNA_Girl. I go to Banff and points north a couple of times a quarter, and I've been watching real glaciers retreat alarmingly, in real time.

Nothing good can come of this.

Posted by: Yoki | March 18, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I am just over a month younger than Natasha and my oldest is the same age as hers (any other similarity ends there), but it does make me feel how devastating it must be for the family, and as a mom of young girls I have watched Parent Trap more than a few times (among her other roles), so unfortunate.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 18, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I've never seen one. Re the interview, Balog is an exceptionally evocative speaker.
Is Whistler on/near a glacier? I might be there for a few days this summer.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 18, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

DNA_Girl click on the virtual tour, for some fantastic views of Whistler/Blacombe, yes there is a glacier.

I haven't seen that particular glacier, but drove on the Glacier Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper, the glaciers are so incredibly beautiful, drove my husband nuts I asked to pull over so many times just to take in the views. The blue of the ice in the glaciers is something to behold.

http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/weather/cams/whistler/index.htm

Posted by: dmd2 | March 18, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks dmd.
http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=1121

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 18, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

A slideshow of Richardson
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/03/19/arts/20090319-RICHARDSON_index.html

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 18, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom-enjoyed your brilliant post on the nature of contracts at the tail end of the last boodle.

Listening to Fresh Air now, thanks for the tip DNA Girl.


Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 18, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks frosti!

Interesting and slightly scary news from Saginaw, courtesy NYT: Habitat for Humanity is now demolishing houses. Apparently in several areas of the country where there is too much abandoned housing, much of which can't be restored, Habitat is partnering with municipalities to tear down the houses, step by step, keeping what fixtures they can to sell. This is a desperately needed service, since many cities can't afford to demolish their substandard abandoned housing themselves (where is it in Ohio that is overwhelmed with abandoned and often condemned housing? Cleveland?). However, it still feels like a stretch for Habitat, since they are so good at building affordable housing (disclaimer: I contribute to Habitat for Humanity whenever possible, it is a truly great charity no matter your religious persuasion). As one administrator said in the story, the ultimate goal is affordable housing and this is one way there, but golly.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 18, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I'll have to take a look at that story Ivansmom. In general we haven't done any better, and often worse, with shrinking cities than we have with the rapidly growing. Reassuring that Habitat is involved.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 18, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, an apartment complex in a floodplain here was finally demolished last week, after years of expenses incurred in rescuing flooded residents and renovating units that were flooded yet again in the next big storm. Habitat went through the buildings and took out all the good stuff before they were torn down.

An architect told me years ago that the expected lifespan of a building is forty years. If you think about it, that's the age when you have to start making major upgrades to a house. At least that's been the case at my home! And it's often cheaper to demolish and rebuild than to renovate.

Half of the proceeds from my mother's foundation are dedicated to Habitat. Alas, this year's funds are half what they were last year.

Posted by: slyness | March 18, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

My credit union newsletter had a story about a Habitat for Humanity outlet store, with appliances, fixtures, etc. I hadn't heard of it before, and it's not too far away.
http://www.seattlehabitatoutlet.org/index.htm

Posted by: seasea1 | March 18, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Good evening all.

Been busy tonight delivering race car parts and planning out a front suspension design, doing house work, making summer vacation plans, talking with a few friends, and filling out my NCAA Men's Brackets online. As I said before, I have Pitt taking it all. Though NC wouldn't surprise me a bit, they're that good.

Omni, I did look at that link, thanks. LiT, bravo at your purchase of those stylish gladiator sandals.

I'm sorry to hear of Natasha Richardson's passing. Tragic. I'm a fan of hers; I always thought she brought her intelligence, grace and charm to any role she was in, even in "The Handmaid's Tale" [Which did *not* co-star Lindsay Lohan.].

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 18, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

What happened to the Wyden-Snowe amendment?

I find Democratic House member from Pennsylvania's 11th Congressional District to be an interesting character, perhaps a bit too honest?

From Kate Phillips, who was liveblogging the AIG hearing on the Hill today for the NYT:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/watching-the-aig-hearing-on-the-hill/?scp=1&sq=Jankorski&st=cse

1:32 p.m. Congressman Kanjorski, chairman of the panel, is setting up the timeline he knows [timeline? wish I had been listening....] from issuing warnings two months ago to Mr. Liddy that the bonuses should not be issued or somehow changed. (This goes against some White House assertions that the latest round was only learned about last week.)

http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/jankorski/index

...quote from Pennsylvania Democrat Congressman Paul Jankorski? Why it would seem that Mr. Jankorski is admitting that the Democrats lied about what was going on in Iraq during the 2006 mid-term elections? Here's his quote: "I'll tell you my impression. We really in this last election, when I say we ... the Democrats ... that if we won the Congressional elections we could stop the war. Now anybody who was a good student of government would know that wasn't true. "But you know ... the temptation to want to win back the Congress ......

It was Anderson Cooper who pointed out the hypocrisy of the AIG hearing today on Capitol Hill. If Treasury leaned on Dodd to insert the language providing the loophole for executive compensation, and members of Congress knew of the loophole and passed the stimulus bill with the loophole provision, why bring Edward Liddy, the new head of AIG, forward to testify about the AIG bonuses (that Congress and Treasury enabled)?

Posted by: laloomis | March 18, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

More from Phillips' liveblogging:

When Did You Know It? | 1:45 p.m. Who knew what when? That question has been asked at the White House, in Congress and of course out in public. Mr. Liddy has just disclosed that yes, the Federal Reserve — which sits on A.I.G.’s board — was informed of the bonus payouts and that Mr. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, had been consulted all along.

LL: So did Bernanke, since he was privvy to the information, talk to Geithner about the AIG bonuses, or was there no communication between the Fed and Treasury?

Phillips, 7 p.m.: The committee plans to hear from Mr. Geithner and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, next week, and you can be sure they’ll be pressed for a better timeline of how these bonuses were approved alongside bailout after bailout. Republicans are jumping all over the who-knew-what-when, even as Democrats are pouncing all over them for not supporting stiffer controls on executive compensation of Wall Street’s titans in the first place.

LL: Which brings me full circle to the Republican Wyden-Snowe amendment...


Posted by: laloomis | March 18, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Todays high was 67. No wonder wyden-snowe.

Posted by: -jack- | March 19, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't know why, but Natasha Richardson's death has really affected me. I mentioned her work in The White Countess which was wonderful, but like dmd, I watched the Parent Trap about 10 times with my daughter. (great soundtrack, btw). I also loved her scenes with her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, in the movie Evening. It was a very mediocre movie, but their scenes were lovely.

I guess it's because she's around my age, with kids around my kids' ages. Another reminder of the fragility of life and as the hubby says frequently, "we've got to enjoy every day".

Posted by: Kim1 | March 19, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Pthbthrthnnthh!
Jack!
Serves me right for drinking tea at this hour.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 19, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Evening all,not much going on this warm evening. Packed house at the hotel so I haven't had a chance to back boodle much.

No fire tonight as it is warm,thank goodness cause i am running out of wood.

filled out the rest of my brackets and I am ready for the madness to begin......

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 19, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

well DNA_Girl I drink a cup of coffee almost everynight on my way home from work.So i am usually up till at least 2......just one of those habits ya'know

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 19, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Shakes, rattle and roll
caffeinated nights take toll;
old habits die last

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 19, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

G'morning, I'm doing a quick drive-by as I leave shortly for Atlanta and museums. Y'all behave while I'm gone, y'hear?

Seasea, Habitat Restores are getting to be rather common. There's one here and one in the county where our mountain place is. Great idea. Mr. T and I have donated. Now toilets in two shades of pink were not in the best of taste, but somebody bought one of them and used it for a joke by painting circles on it and leaving it beside a busy street. I recognized it!

Posted by: slyness | March 19, 2009 6:22 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

From E.J. Dionne's column this morning:

"We are at the beginning of a great popular rebellion against those who showed no self-restraint when it came to lining their own pockets. ...

"The sound you are hearing in response to the AIG payoffs -- excuse me, bonuses -- is the rancorous noise of their arrogance crashing to earth.

"Yet there is much hand-wringing that this populist fury is terribly perilous ...

"Beware populism, we are told. Honor those AIG contracts. Forget about any moral reckoning and just fix the economy.

"This view is wrong on almost every level, especially about populism. Of course not all forms of populism are attractive. But as historian Michael Kazin argued in "The Populist Persuasion," the "language of populism in the United States expressed a kind of idealistic discontent" and "a profound outrage with elites who ignored, corrupted and/or betrayed the core ideal of American democracy."

"Is this not an entirely appropriate reaction to elite decisions dating to the 1980s that ultimately ran our economy into the ground?"

This WaPo story says basically that all the "unwinding" that needs to be done by AIG was completed by December, and at this point the dismantling of the Financial Services divsion that caused all the trouble is nearly complete.

So much for the need to retain key employees.

OK, I smell coffee in the Ready Room and something that smells like -- could it be? be still my heart! -- some of slyness biscuits and country ham.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | March 19, 2009 6:24 AM | Report abuse

I guess the link to that story might help: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/18/AR2009031804239.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | March 19, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

Gail Collins with another gem::
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/opinion/19collins.html?ref=opinion

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 19, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

So, Obama is going to pull off his Paris Hilton tonight with Leno, eh?

I hope Leno has the chutzpah to ask Obama if he read the Recovery Act legislation he signed and, if Obama did, if he was aware of the Dodd loophole amendment. Also, Leno should press Obama about whether he (Obama) was aware of the actions of the unnamed Treasury official who pressured Dodd to insert the Feb. 11 loophole provision into the Recovery Act/stimulus bill.

If Obama didn't read the Recovery Act before signing it, we'll all have the answer, thanks to Leno. Perhaps that will explain Obama's channeled anger? Should Obama be angry at himself at all? Was Obama aware of what he was signing? Was Obama in the loop or out of it?

Posted by: laloomis | March 19, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Hola Boodlers!

Southern Dawn Patrol up and flying.

Loaded with economic parachutes but lacking a flight plan.

The local situation in Chile is: The gummint has a plan to confront the economic crisis. The business community is comfy with it. Foreign investors are investing in this relative safe-haven.

The moral of the story: Somebody has to fly the airplane instead of handing out parachutes.

Haff a good day, Boodlers.

Posted by: Braguine | March 19, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all.

Kim - I know exactly what you mean about relating strongly to the death of a famous person about your own age. Natasha was just two years younger than I am.

I have this little cadre of celebrities clustered closely around my own age that I keep an eye on. This group includes Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Joel Achenbach, Jim Carrey, Kelly Preston, and Jodie Foster.

I find it comforting to know that even as I get older so do these famous people.

But none of them are supposed to ever die.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 19, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

*movin'-too-fast-for-da-Kid Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 19, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

*humming-a-certain-Blood-Sweat-and-Tears-tune-as-I-fly-by-once-again Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 19, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

I must confess some disappointment as to how the Administration has let this AIG/Bonus thing become a media circus.

Um, where's the bread?

bc

Posted by: -bc- | March 19, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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

Morning, friends. Just a quick check in, have a meeting this morning.

It is sad about N. Richardson. I saw the movie, Evening. I wonder if her life may have been saved if she had received medical attention immediately after the accident.

I didn't get a chance to look at the hearing yesterday, but obviously public outrage does have some benefits. These are seemingly intelligent folks, didn't they think the public would be outraged before they handed out those wads(bonuses) of money?

Have a good time, Slyness. Mudge, a ham biscuit would be good right about now, although I'm not suppose to eat that. Scotty, Martooni, Yoki, and all the gang, have a great day. *waving*

I agree with the public's reaction to the bonuses being paid after taxpayers are coughing up so much to help these financial firms, but I think some of this anger is also because people are upset with themselves for failing to remember that greed has a price. When these titans of Wall Street are bringing in profits, no one argues, neither is there an outpouring of anger or rage. People are happy that their portfolio looks so good, and they're making money. No one considers the down side, and even if they do, many believe they can beat the odds. The wizards of finance know this, so they take these incredible risks with folks' money, and they believe this is what people want. I'm not against profit because that what business does, it makes a profit. Excess will always be trouble, whether in business or life. And the greedy never profit simply because they never get enough. If greed succeeded in consuming the whole world, it would seek another world.

Posted by: cmyth4u | March 19, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I, too, join the chorus of sadness for Natasha Richardson's death -- what a tragic loss for her family and, indeed, for us.

Ivansmom -- you are absolutely right about the sanctimony-hypocrisy link. What it really comes down to, especially in regard to sex education and reproductive rights, is control -- control of others because they feel so out of control themselves (like all control freaks).

And now, especially for you, Yoki, I've got two more fabulous names for cats (they all seem to come in pairs somehow):

PARABOLA and HYPERBOLE

(think about it . . . ) The math wizards will get it, anyway (or, maybe not)

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | March 19, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Rachel Maddow interviewed Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon Tuesday. Portions of the transcript:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29753912/

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He‘s a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Wyden, thank you so much for joining us.

SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) FINANCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Back in early February, you and Senator Snowe added an amendment to the stimulus bill that, I think, would have prevented AIG from giving out these millions of dollars worth of bonuses. That amendment was taken out of the bill.

Am I right that your amendment would have stopped what we are experiencing right now?

WYDEN: You are right. And that‘s what‘s so sad about this situation. It simply didn‘t mean to happen. What happened, Rachel, was we got it through the United States Senate and then like, with so many issues, all the lobbyists [LL: Lobbyists for bailed-out companies worked behind the scenes to fight for enormous tax-payer funded executive compensation packages?] came out in droves and somehow magically, the amendment disappeared. It seems to me now we‘ve got an opportunity to get this job done right but it didn‘t have to happen. ...

WYDEN: I‘ve worked very closely with the chairman and Senator Grassley on it. In effect, what they‘re talking about mirrors what we‘ve already done. That‘s why we know it‘s going to work. I‘m sure the Wall Street lobbyists are going to come out again, but what we saw last time, Rachel, is nobody would oppose what Senator Snowe and I were doing in broad daylight.

They know it doesn‘t [pass?] the smell test to defend these bonuses and I think finally, we‘ll get it done. The tragedy is it should have been done a month ago when we had bipartisan legislation that got through the Senate and then somehow mysteriously disappeared.

MADDOW: Do you think that hypocrisy should be called on people who are outraged about the executive—about these executive payments when people have not supported legislative efforts to keep them from happening? Do you think that these people sort of get nailed for their hypocrisy here?

WYDEN: Rachel, don‘t get logical, this is Washington, D.C. It just seems to me we ought to have some accountability. This should have been done.

When something gets through the United States Senate, it doesn‘t happen by osmosis. It got done because Senator Snowe and I spent a lot of time. We got a legal opinion. We knew Wall Street was going to come out and fight this aggressively. Now, I think, we‘ll finally get it done, but unfortunately, it‘s a little late.

Posted by: laloomis | March 19, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

BTW, I saw Jim Cramer on the Today Show this morning. When he was asked about his "bout" with Jon Stewart, Cramer basically said "He didn't touch me!"

That reminds me of a very, very old story about the late, great muckraker Drew Pearson, who essentially eviscerated some politician (which he tried to do on a regular basis). The guy said "You never touched me" whereupon Pearson was said to have replied: "Just wait until you sneeze, and your head will fall off!"

One of my favorite quotes.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | March 19, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

An interesting alternative take on the media circus in the Style section...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/18/AR2009031804104.html

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 19, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Yes, that was an interesting piece in Style, Scotty. Between that story and the one I linked earlier (and now elevated to the no. 2 on the front page), there's at least two different and contradictory stories differing from the conventional story about AIG.

Really cool photo on the front page showing an undersea volcano exploding off the coast of Tonga.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 19, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

good morning boodle!

s'nuke-good link. Hope it is widely read.

As often happens, when heads roll the minions who either did the right thing, or were trying to, get the worst of it.

On my second cup of coffee then I have to dash. Don't know how I always manage to get overextended when I want to leave town right after work on Friday. Headed south to the balmy clime of St. Paul for 4 nights and wouldn't you know, not even half ready to go.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 19, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Scotty, the truth is more nuanced than the black and white search for villains would suggest. A big deal was made that eleven of the people getting huge bonuses have left the company. The Style article makes clear that offers were made for riding out 2008 and another benchmark for making it through 2009. Can we fault these people for living up to their end of the bargain?

The Dionne column makes a big deal that most of the toxic trades were unwound by December. And these would be the people that left at the end of the year and have waited until now to get the money they were promised.

This is all theater and smokescreen for the real financial atrocities that are still being swept away. AIG, through Uncle Sam is making customers whole by making up the difference between the deflated value of the collateral and value of the contracts. The beneficiaries get to keep the assets which may or may not rise in value. Follow the money and the bonuses are just some crumbs left to throw off the scent.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 19, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Wonder what Tonga's volcano monitoring budget is like.

Had a student in Hawaii ask me- "Miss, are people on the mainland as prejudiced against Tongan people as they are here?" Hated to tell him people on the mainland don't even know there are Tongan people. There's a deep point there, I think.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 19, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Reefer madness?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/us/19holder.html

Posted by: -jack- | March 19, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

This is more relevant to a past kit, but well worth reading. It's about the dangers of self-selecting news and information.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/opinion/19kristof.html?_r=1


I like this paragraph especially:

"That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber."


Again, this is why people should buy a good unbiased paper and read all of it.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 19, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

RD-it also supports reading the dead tree editions. Never know what you might read if you stumble upon it on your way to what you mean to read. Just doesn't happen online.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 19, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Exactly - frosty! That's what I meant in my last line.

People need that self-contained world of a dead-tree newspaper.

Even things like fashion, sports, movies, all contribute to are understanding of the world. You don't have to read every word, but you should at least check out the opening paragraph and familiarize yourself with things that other people care about. And this doesn't happen in a link-clicking environment self-selecting online environment.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 19, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 19, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

yello, I think you missed the somewhat buried point in that story:

"The effort also requires a sizable number of "back office" staff, such as systems, computing, accounting, human resources and legal teams.

"Everybody, including my secretary and including the guy down the hall that serves lunch, gets a payment," said Pasciucco, who added that he received no retention payment and has no contract.
---------

The point is, they are/were paying these massive bonuses even to secretaries, IT people, HR people...and apparently even "the guy down the hall who serves lunch" (although I'll allow that one may be a bit of hyperbole, which doesn't bother me).

But what happened to all this crap about "key" employees and highl;y skilled people who understand the complexities, yadda yadda? Since when is some drone in the HR dept. such a person? And with all due respect to IT people, since when do you deserve a bonus for coming in and doing your job and going home at the end of the day? Secretaries? Staff attorneys? These may all be fine, hard-working people...but the notion that they are either irreplaceable on the one hand, or require super retention bonuses on the other, is patently bull----.

Sure, it would be a mess if they "all" left at the same time. But why would that happen? And if support staff people started getting edgy, sure, pay them a bit extra to stick around. What's a good secretary make? So pay her(him) that and throw in 15 percent just for good measure. A good IT person? Pay them X plus 10 or 15 percent. As for HR people and the guy weho serves lunch, c'mon, get a grip. If they go, they go. Call up a temp agency for the HR replacements, fer crissakes, and call Dominos for pizza.

The division CEO admits this: "They are replaceable," Pasciucco acknowledges. "If we were running a long-term business, we could probably replace them over time, not all at the same time."

Keep in mind this key point: these deals to pay the bonuses were made many a long time ago

"The very handsome retention payments they received over the past week were set in motion early last year when the firm's former president, Joe Cassano, was on his way out the door."

The point is, all these poor people in today's story were NOT getting death threats and all this attention back in early 2008. Sure, NOW they are demonized and demoralized -- but that's the *result* of the bonuses, not the cause of the demoralization.

And the other point is everything AIG has been saying for more than a year about this situation has been a lie, a series of rationalizations used to justify what was yet another really poor management in the first place.

There are plenty of other companies in a lot of trouble. You don't see any autoworkers streaming out of Chrysler in droves and going to other car manufacturers, do you?


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 19, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, your thought that ended with 'call up a temp agency for the HR replacements' got my blood boiling, and I've never worked in HR. Those are the people that you need to stay until the very end. Shoot, one of them will probably be locking the door and turning in the key.

I think your umbrage is getting out of control. That was off-the-scale condescending. Say you're sorry, so I can get past this please. Thanks.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 19, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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