Friday, February 27, 2009

Down With OPP...

…which in this case refers to “other people’s photos.” About 10 years ago, a guy in Maine came across a battered old camera in a thrift shop. He noticed that there was an undeveloped roll of film inside and he bought it for a quarter.

When he developed the film he found five or six slides that blew him away and an obsession was born.

He began collecting undeveloped film from across the country – at yard sales, thrift shops and garbage dumps.

His discoveries are pretty extraordinary. No professional shots, no gorgeous scenery, just people. Just great “snapshots” with all the 50’s and 60’s connotations that that word implies.

It’s all posted at . Kill some time there. It’s fun.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I’m starting to understand why newspapers have editors…

During the past couple of months I’ve been getting my freak on about the state of the economy, rising unemployment, executive compensation and the excesses of companies that have received billions in public funding just to stay solvent.

And during the past couple of months I’ve been getting some feedback that suggests that, perhaps, I may have crossed the line.

So I went back to take a look.

And you know what? I did. In particular, I owe John Thain an apology. In my first post about the erstwhile Merrill Lynch CEO, I took issue with Thain angling for an additional $10 million bonus after his company lost $11.7 billion and accepted $10 billion in federal bail-out funds.

I suggested that “we gather the villagers and march to his mansion with torches and pitchforks, rend him limb from limb and burn his riding stables to the fucking ground.”

I don’t have any regrets about that comment because the metaphor seems apt.

However my subsequent post about Thain’s $1.2 million redecoration of his office contained some language that I regret.

I don’t regret the title of the post in which I referred to him as a “dick-weed” or some of the adjectives that I used like “fucker”, “fuck” and “fucking shit-wad”. That stuff might have been sophomoric but it was good sophomoric fun. And besides, he really IS a dick-weed.

What I do regret is letting that stone-throwing devolve into real crazy-talk about baseball bats and blood. That was out of line and it falls below the standards to which I aspire.

So apologies to John Thain, that shit-wad, but more important, apologies to those of you who read this blog. I will try to do better.

I also had a conversation with a good friend of mine whose brother works for Merrill Lynch and that put a kind of human touch on the situation. He’s been very successful because he is smart, has a great work ethic and enjoyed the advantages of a first-class education. It’s not his fault that Merrill Lynch melted down but he’s got the stink on him nonetheless.

Which is too bad but probably unavoidable. I don’t think that we should all bite our tongues about malfeasance just because there are some good guys working at Merrill Lynch.

That said, my friend made a couple of points that I will share in the interest of presenting a sharper picture of the situation.

*Most of what Merrill Lynch was doing was built on a solid foundation. The outsized risks that brought the company down were just one small part of their overall business.

*He tells me that Bank of America (Merrill Lynch’s parent company) intends to pay back the federal bailout money received so far.

*John Thain has pledged to pay the firm back for his $1.2 million office renovation.

*That renovation took place at the beginning of 2008 before the meltdown occurred so was not as outrageous as it would have been if he was fiddling while Rome was burning. At the time, that kind of spending was consistent with the standards of the industry.

So there you go.

Friday, February 20, 2009

For my friend Pat who NEVER reads TMUOTF!

This is a time lapse video of tourists posing at at Abbey Road during a 24 hour period.

And by the way, what the hell is going on at 1:34??

I would be so torn because I would really want a picture of me crossing Abbey Road but I would be totally hung up on looking like just another goober tourist...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inhale aaaaaaand exhale...

Srill here and still breathing. I've got a couple of things about two-thirds done...stick with me because I DO have some stories to tell.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Darwin Day!

February 12, 2009...

...Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Robert Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of “Origin of the Species.

Check out to find out where to celebrate in your neighborhood!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wow. You would think that a non-sports journalist would cover something like this...

Remember T.A.R.P.? You should. It's a program to spend $700 billion of your dollars to buy toxic assets from troubled banks and financial institutions specifically designed to loosen up the frozen credit markets.

NOW do you remember?

What we now know is that T.A.R.P. was so hastily and frantically conceived and executed that much of the money was spent without accountability. Additionally, The New York Times reported that "few [banks] cited lending as a priority. An overwhelming majority saw the bailout program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future."

So much for freeing up the credit markets.

But wait! There's more!

A February 5 report by the Congressional Oversight Panel of the Senate Banking Committee has revealed that we purchased $176 billion worth of those toxic assets for, wait for it, $254 billion.

Nicely done. That's a shortfall of $78 billion for those of you keeping score at home.

Funny how words like "billion" and "trillion" don't sound so big any more.

Even funnier is that I haven't seen or heard this reported anywhere except in the February 10 Tuesday Morning Quarterback column at .

Gregg Easterbrook, author of the column points out a couple of juicy tidbits. First, $78 billion would be enough to fund universal health care for a year.

Further, and this should really burn...

Treasury officials had the temerity to tell Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren,
chairwoman of the bailout oversight panel, the mistake isn't quite as bad as it
sounds because the stocks purchased have returned $271 million in dividends to
taxpayers. So we threw $78 billion out the window but $271 million (three-tenths
of 1percent) blew back! In contemporary Washington, this is viewed as driving a
hard bargain.

Now just who do you think ended up with their filthy hands all over our missing $78 billion? Think it's the same scumbags who led us into this fucked up quagmire in the first place? Hmmm?

More on the $500k salary cap...

This post is completely and unapologetically copied and pasted from Tuesday Morning Quarterback's February 10 column .

Given that TMQ has been railing against big bonuses to CEOs and Wall Street
types, you'd think I would be happy about the executive-pay limits Barack Obama
announced Wednesday. The announcement got fantastic press for Obama -- our new
president is the most gifted media manipulator since Ronald Reagan, and
successful modern presidents have had media-manipulation skills.

But the "limits" are not what they seem. For most firms that receive federal bailout
money, the "limits" are voluntary. Golly gee whillikers, CEOs will voluntarily
limit their own pay, won't they?

Corporate executives don't need a presidential directive to place voluntary limits on their bonuses, they can do that on their own at any point. The "limits" apply only to firms that receive what the Treasury Department calls "exceptional aid," meaning most of the millions and billions being handed out as gifts to banks around the country will continue to come with no strings attached.

So far, three firms have received aid classified as "exceptional" -- AIG, Bank of America and Citigroup. Guess what? AIG, Bank of America and Citigroup have been exempted from the limits. The "limits" announced by Obama would bind any firms that may receive "exceptional" aid in the future, but for now, bind no one.

Huh. That's disappointing in a "more of the same shit" kind of way.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sledding Party

Littlefoil turned three last month and we had a sledding party to celebrate.

Here are some clips shot before my batteries died including Uncle Dave catching some serious air!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh my god it just hit me...

Now I know who should be running Bank of America and Citigroup!

I mean...whoa...

Can you get over how cool those guys were? The Laguardia guy, the Teeterborough guy, the pilot...

Holy shit. Just three professionals doing their jobs.


Bone Chilling

The Day of the Jackal

I’m traveling for work this week…I woke up in Chicago where it is 1 degree today…and I don’t have too much time to post but I do want to give a quick shout-out to Obama who announced yesterday that he was placing a $500,000 cap on executive salaries at firms receiving federal bail-out money going forward.

The resulting hue and cry has been predictable. People struggling during this economic mess generally applaud the move. People riding on the money train like James F. Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm, are upset.

Said Reda, “That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus. And you know these companies that are in trouble are not going to pay much of an annual dividend.”

Well boo-hoo Mr. Reda. So sorry that you can’t feed you family on paupers wages. $500,000 is not a lot of money?

Since fucking when?

The argument is that capping salaries at “just” $500,000 is going to drive away the talent required to save these companies and turn the economy around. That we should want to do everything we can to secure the best and brightest to run these institutions especially since, as taxpayers, we now own big chunks of them.

That may very well be right. But I would argue that insane executive compensation hasn’t assured us the best and brightest corporate leaders so far. If it did, Bank of America wouldn’t need you and me to give them $25 billion just to keep the lights on.

The best and brightest wouldn’t have continued to purchase corporate jets, sponsor executive junkets and paid $18 billion in bonuses during 2008. These aren’t the brightest, they’re the blindest.

And by the way, where are all the jobs that these assholes going to run to during this great talent-drain? The job market sucks and having cratered a major investment house doesn’t exactly make for a glowing entry on the old resume.

What this cap will do is separate the honorable from the jackals. It will create a long-overdue culling of the corporate heard. The great leaders will rise to the occasion, take on the challenge, win in the marketplace and reap the benefits of their success.

The jackals will crawl into their holes in the Hamptons and hide while the real greats clean up their mess.

Good riddance.