Sunday, October 4, 2009

Looks like we’ve got ourselves a reader…

Here are a couple of interesting articles I’ve read in the last few weeks…

DNA evidence has exonerated at least 17 death-row inmates over the years and many people deduce that somewhere along the line we’ve used capital punishment to kill innocent people. But Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2005 Supreme Court opinion that there is not "a single case -- not one -- in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit."

So evidence of the execution of an innocent person has become kind of the Holy Grail of death penalty opponents. David Grann’s article in the New Yorker “Trial by Fire” details a case where it is seems certain that an innocent man was put to death.

And by the way, an interesting article in Salon outlines the reasons why “we don't need posthumous exonerations to tell us something that we already know from available evidence -- that considerable error inheres in the way we administer capital punishment.”

This article by Mark Binelli in Rolling Stone recounts the exploits of a chubby pizza delivery boy turned drug kingpin. I do love pizza…

In other business news, Alexandra Jacobs has an article in the New Yorker about the cultish atmosphere at Zappos , the online shoe store. CEO Tony Hsieh is just thirty five years old. Eight years younger than me. All around me successful, smart, well adjusted people seem to be getting younger younger while my back aches and my knees hurt...

Meanwhile, ever since Sully Sullenberger landed his airplane in the Hudson River last February, I can’t get enough about aviation disasters. Here are two great articles on that topic…

The first is David Rose’s 2001 column from The Guardian about the causes of the deadly crash of an Air France Concorde in 2000.

The second is William Langewiesche’s article from Vanity Fair called “The Devil at 37,000 Feet” .

Finally, as the NFL season has begun again, my favorite football writer – What’s that? Yes, I have a favorite football writer – is back at it again. I’ve mentioned Gregg Easterbrook’s “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” column before here and here .

It’s pretty cool to read a football column that has stuff like this little item stuck in the middle of the analysis:

“Let's Not Forget AIG Has $182 Billion of Your Money: Robert Benmosche, new CEO of AIG -- which continues to hold $182 billion of the taxpayers' money, and seems in no hurry to return any -- will be paid about $7 million per year. That means typical people, who earn a median $50,000 a year, are being taxed so yet another plutocrat can own an estate. Benmosche also is "eligible" for a $3 million annual bonus, meaning even after all the flap about AIG bonuses, average people are still being taxed for AIG bonuses. And he received 200,000 AIG stock options with a strike price of $20. Right now, AIG shares are selling for $40, meaning the options have a current value of about $4 million. Thus Benmosche could take home $14 million for his first year of running AIG. This money comes from pockets of taxpayers struggling to pay their rent. It doesn't surprise me that a plutocrat would be shameless about reaching into the pockets of the working class. It does surprise me that Barack Obama would OK this, and that the mainstream media would give up on AIG outrage. Have we simply accepted at this point that it's OK for Wall Street leadership to steal from taxpayers?”

And then later in the same column

“Meanwhile, previous AIG CEO Edward Liddy repeatedly said he was working "for $1 a year." He asserted this on "60 Minutes" and in sworn congressional testimony, and was broadly praised for his dollar-a-year service. Now it turns out he was lying. AIG quietly said Liddy received $38,368 for a New York apartment, $47,578 for personal airline flights, $31,348 for car services and $180,431 "to cover tax obligations." In what sense are these not income? You work at a job in order to be able to pay for your housing and transportation. You must earn income to pay your taxes; nobody pays them for you. If AIG was paying for Liddy's housing, personal travel and taxes, then he wasn't earning $1 a year. Yet he lied through his teeth about this and got away with it. That's the core lesson of corporate scandals -- the CEOs tell lies, pocket cash and never pay any penalty. What does this encourage? More CEO lying. Liddy also received stock options. AIG has never said how many; suppose it was 200,000, the number just granted Benmosche. When Liddy went to AIG, its share price was hovering around $5; if that's the strike price, 200,000 shares would be worth about $7 million right now. Plus AIG quietly said Liddy may receive a bonus payable in 2010. The man who was widely praised for claiming to work for $1 may end up with a king's ransom in his pockets, all pilfered from the average taxpayers. Why have the media dropped this story?”

You might also recall a post here on TMUOTF where I called bullshit on the $1 salary gambit. If I may be so bold as to quote myself…

“It appears now that the big-3 auto-makers are going to get about $15 billion in loan guarantees and bailout dollars. The three CEO’s have also announced that they will all be taking salaries of $1, a gesture showing their sincerity, integrity and patriotism.

But let me just point out what it means to take a $1 salary. Allow me to re-print John Thain’s compensation package from above:

Salary: $57,692
Bonus: $15,000,000
Restricted Stock Awards: $902,966
All other compensation: $4,449
Option Awards: $1,342,503
Total Compensation: $17,307,610

His salary ($57,692) amounts to just one third of one percent of his total compensation.

So don’t be fooled into thinking that these are stand-up guys who are rolling up their sleeves and brown-bagging lunch until this crisis has ended.

It’s all for show and you’re a sucker and an idiot if you don’t think that these guys aren't getting theirs in the end.”

That post was from last December…and if you thought I was tilting at windmills back then well, how you like me now???

No comments: