Monday, October 27, 2008

Well, Duh

I read this late last week and I could not believe what I was reading. I have since found other versions of the same article in the WSJ and other (usually) reputable sources, so I feel safe in sharing the article I read. Read on, and judge for yourself. [Note: The bold statements below are my doing.]

A.I.G. to Suspend Millions in Executive Payouts
Published: October 22, 2008

The beleaguered insurer American International Group has agreed to suspend payments to executives from a $600 million bonus fund as well as $19 million in payments to its former chief executive, the New York attorney general announced on Wednesday.

The moves are the latest steps in an effort by the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, to prevent bonuses and other compensation to former executives at A.I.G., which in recent weeks has received tens of billions of dollars in loans from the Federal Reserve.

“There should not even be any contemplation of bonuses for executive performance because I find it hard to conceive of a situation that you could justify a performance bonus for management that virtually bankrupted the company,” Mr. Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

Regulators and lawmakers have pointed to A.I.G. as an example of excessive greed in corporate America. Although the Treasury Department is imposing limits on compensation to the most highly paid executives at companies that receive government aid, the limits do not address compensation paid in the past or under pre-existing employment contracts.

In A.I.G.’s case, according to Mr. Cuomo’s office, it is unlikely that the limits in the bailout legislation would apply because the company has received money in the form of loans from the Fed, not from transactions with the Treasury Department.

According to a letter Mr. Cuomo sent to A.I.G.’s current chief executive, Edward M. Liddy, the company has agreed to freeze $19 million in remaining payments to Martin J. Sullivan, the company’s former chief executive who was ousted in June. Mr. Cuomo said he did not know how much Mr. Sullivan might have already been paid under his employment contract.

The company also agreed not to make any payments from a $600 million deferred compensation and bonus fund for executives of A.I.G.’s financial products unit, which undertook many of the complex financial transactions that pushed the company to the brink of collapse. Mr. Cuomo said that Joseph Cassano, who headed that unit, stood to receive $70 million from the fund.

“We have received the letter, and the letter is consistent with our discussions with the attorney general and with actions we have taken,” said Joe Norton, a spokesman for A.I.G.

Mr. Cuomo has already called on A.I.G. to help recover payments made to former executives at the company. During the call with reporters, Mr. Cuomo suggested that his actions offered a template for dealing with executive compensation at companies now receiving taxpayer money through the bailout approved by Congress this month.

“Once a company accepts tax dollars, there are different rules,” Mr. Cuomo said. “These are taxpayers who did not voluntarily make an investment in these companies. In many ways it was a forced investment.”

The suspension of payments appears to be the product of negotiation between Mr. Cuomo’s office and A.I.G., but last week the attorney general raised the prospect of using New York law to recover past payments to executives whether the company cooperated or not.

A.I.G.’s spending drew national attention this month after two former executives testified before Congress about pay practices and outsize spending that continued even after the company received an $85 billion bridge loan from the Federal Reserve.

One particular point of contention was a weeklong retreat that a subsidiary, AIG General, held for sales agents. The $442,000 in expenses included $150,000 for food and $23,000 in spa charges. A.I.G., which received an additional $37.8 billion loan from the Fed, later canceled 160 conferences and other events that would have cost more than $8 million.

[PS: I think I like Mr. Cuomo.]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Too Pooped To Rant, Maybe

I tend to compose blogs in my head while I drive. I think that tendency comes from a habit my college roommate had of speaking in newspaper article titles; for example: "College coed found dead; leaped from the roof after failing mid-term exam." or some such silliness. I spend a lot of time in the car, so I have a lot of time to mentally compose. I also have a lot of material, considering all the stupidity I witness in 15 short miles each way every day.

But tonight, even though I had the whole thing composed, I realize that as I sat down to type I simply do not have the energy to rant any more. I think they wore me out! Being surrounded by stupidity can be very tiring, obviously. Okay, okay, let me give it a try anyway!

They say you should not whine about something unless you also have a solution to suggest to correct the problem. Well, I do!!! Have a suggestion, that is. First, The Problem: Stupid drivers who do not care about the traffic laws which are there NOT to make our lives miserable, but to give some sense of order to the very dangerous task of maneuvering heavy machinery (2000+ pounds of metal on wheels counts as heavy machinery, in my book) with other people doing the same thing. There just HAVE to be rules or there would be anarchy. Apparently we have anarchy even with the rules, but I digress.

So my peeve du jour, and pretty much every jour, is that people do not follow the basic Driving 101 laws, and they think this is okay. And policemen apparently have way too much other stuff to do, so they cannot be bothered with policing the bumper-cars that is my daily commute. I swear, it's a miracle I get to and from work every day without being smashed to smithereens.

My solution? Deputize me! I will stop everyone I can and ticket them for blatantly breaking the law. And I'll do it cleverly disguised as a fellow commuter in a teeny tiny Miata. I'll keep the flashing red light hidden until I need to whip it out and make someone pull over. And I'll do it FOR FREE! I'll do it for the sheer joy of making someone see the error of their ways and put the fear of God into the rest of 'em.

What should you watch for when I have been granted my precious flashing red light? These are the things for which you will be stopped:

1. Changing lanes without using a directional (turn signal, that blinky thing).
2. Tailgating.
3. Changing lanes over and over and over again so you can get one car ahead of where you started.
4. Extra penalty for doing #3 without using a turn signal.
5. Making a one-lane exit into a two-lane exit because you are too good to wait in line like everyone else.
6. Passing on the shoulder because you cannot be bothered to wait until you get to the exit to exit.
7. Crossing a solid white line to merge.
8. Crossing a solid white line to merge without using a directional.
9. Crossing a double solid white line to merge.
10. Turning or exiting right from the left lane.
11. Sliding out of your lane while turning (you know, turning left into the far right lane.)
12. Entering the intersection when you cannot clear the intersection, even if your light is green.
13. Entering the intersection when you cannot clear the intersection when your light is red.
14. Not stopping for a stop sign (you live there, so they must be optional for you.)
15. Not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks.
16. Tossing trash out the window while driving. This includes cigarette butts, people. Maryland is not your ashtray!
17. Crossing the double solid yellow lines in the middle of the street because a trash truck is stopped and in your way, and doing this without regard to the fact that there is oncoming traffic on the other side of said yellow lines.
18. Passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing because, well, just because you could, I guess.
19. Charging to the end of a merge lane so you can get as far up into traffic as you can, causing said moving traffic to stop to let you in, which backs traffic up several miles more than it already was. Forget that someone in a little green Miata left about 5 car lengths (your car lengths) of room for you to merge into moving traffic, but you were going so fast you blew past that opportunity.
20. Honking at someone and gesturing with your arms to see if someone will let you into their driving lane. I guess this is the New Merge, and I hate it.
21. Slowing down to look a the policeman on the shoulder when he has stopped someone.
22. Slowing down to look at the policeman on the shoulder when he has no one stopped.
23. Slowing down to look at an accident.
24. Stopping to look at an accident. Oh, I am sorry, no ticket here. These people should be shot, instead.

I also think the following warrant tickets:
1. Pedestrians who cross against the light and expect you to stop anyway.
2. Pedestrians who cross against the light and slow down their pace when they see they are holding up traffic.
3. Pedestrians who step in front of a moving vehicle (and not in a crosswalk) and expect to get the right of way.
4. People who park in the Fire Lane or the Pick-up Lane at the grocery store because they are too lazy to park in one of the available empty spots in the parking lot.
5. People who are not handicapped and park in the handicapped spots using someone else's handicapped driver hang-tag.

And, as a deputized person, I also plan to make the most grevious offenders re-take the driving portion of their driving test to keep their license.

So how was your day?