Poor Bank Executives Aren’t Getting Their Millions

I know it’s not American when the government limits pay for anyone, but that is precisely what they are doing for executives of banks that required bailouts.  After all, they only lost $1.2 trillion worldwide, bringing on the worst world recession since at least 1991. And really, why should the American people control wages of people who had to borrow from us in order to stay afloat?  Why don’t these people deserve their $10 mansions, yachts, and airplanes?  Oh wait.  They get to keep all of that?  And they get to keep their jobs?  Perhaps there are no qualified people to replace them, although one would think that with over 10% unemployment out there, someone would like to try.  Surely the American people would do this for my industry too, so I should be quiet, right?  Oh wait.  Our industry did have a downturn in 2001.  But unlike our industry that brought such hits as pets.com,  none of this was the banks’ fault, right?  Oh wait. didn’t this start with subprime loans that couldn’t be repaid because the banks were handing money to just about anyone?  And weren’t the banks offering housing loans for only 5% down payment where the mortgage didn’t pay back principle?  And these people still get to keep their jobs?  And they’re complaining about a salary limitation?

How about this: pay back the money we lent you and then you can choose your salaries.  Either that or let me buy your mansions and not pay for them.

WSJ: Let’s Differentiate!

As some may recall, I have had a love-hate relationship with the Wall Street Journal.  Over the years they have had some great news, but their editorials have often been nothing short of ridiculous.  I threatened some time ago to part ways with them, taking my money with me.  Three changes make me think I should go ahead and cancel. First, there are videos now on the Journal home page.  Here’s some news for the newspaper: if I wanted to watch the news, I could turn on CNN.

Today, however, the headline reads, “Dow Jones to Launch ‘Professional Edition’ of Wall Street Journal”.  That’s right, for $45 per month, one can get news for professionals.  To quote the article:

The targeted users are businesses and individuals who need more specialized information about energy or corporate bonds, for example, than is available from WSJ.com, but aren’t the large companies targeted for costlier services by Dow Jones Newswires or Bloomberg L.P.

That all sounds great, except isn’t that why I was already paying $149 per year?  While the reporting on the Journal is good, it’s certainly not as good as it used to be.  And indeed the New York Times has been doing a better job for all but financial news.  I wonder where all the money to start up the new service is coming from?  Might some of it be some of my subscription dues?  Why should I believe this is anything other than a clumsy attempt to create differentiation?  Sort of like when airlines added Business Class.

What’s your source for financial news?  Maybe I should move my money.

Ole asks a great question

[not unusual for Ole, by the way.]

Why does security have to be so complicated?

Now knowing Ole as I do, this is of course rhetorical, but it does remind me of two conversations I’ve  had.  One was a long time ago.  A friend of mine was part of a cable start-up team.  Some of you will know who this was.  He showed up at a conference with his big financial backer, and then told me, “Eliot, I’ve created the perfect parental control system.”

My response was simply, “Are you now – are you now or have you ever a child?”  Nearly any child who is motivated enough will get around just about any parental block.  Kids are smart.

The same is largely true with security.  A former boss of mine once put it succinctly, that it’s either sex or money that motivate people, and that bad guys tend to use the former to get the latter.  A great example are the miscreants who give away free porn by typing in CAPTCHA text, so they can get around some site’s security.  I think it’s a little more than just those two motivations, but the point is that computers didn’t create crime.  Crime has existed since Eve gave Adam the apple.  The FaceBook scam occurs every day in the physical world without computers when eldery are taken advantage of in person.  Computers simply provide a new attack vector for the same types of crimes.

Bad guys are as smart as good guys, but their best is probably no better than our best.

Not so fast on Cheney…

This LA Times Editorial discusses the complexities of the situation.  In a nutshell, it’s not clear that the program had advanced to the point to where it triggered a Congressional notification.  Furthermore, if the program was, as is being reported, designed to take out Al Qaida chiefs, the idea that we would not have had such a program is unbelievable, itself.

Dick Cheney Orders CIA to not inform Congress?

The news media is reporting a story that former Vice President Dick Cheny ordered the CIA to not inform Congress about a secret, and presumably controversial, program.  While there are almost no details about what the program is, there are, nevertheless a few interesting items of note.

First and foremost, constitutionally, outside his personal staff, the vice president of the United States has no authority to order anyone to do anything.  That doesn’t stop the president from delegating power to him or anyone else, and if all we are reading about is true, it demonstrates the enormous amount of trust President Bush placed in Mr. Cheney, and the disdain Mr. Cheney had for the democratic process, and for Congress.  Perhaps he would say that he was protecting America’s security by withholding such information, but in the end we have to ask what sort of a government we had that he could do this and get away with it.

Supposedly, the program in question has to do with some form of surveillance.  When the Director of CIA discovered the program, he reportedly terminated it immediately and reported its existence to Congress.  Any such breathtaking speed within the halls of government indicates that someone didn’t want to be stained with illegal activity.  And hence this calls for an immediate investigation of what the program was, who had the authority to authorize it, and if it was illegal, who had the responsibility to stop it.

And if the program was illegal, someone must go to jail, preferably multiple someones, both from the civil and appointed/elected ranks.  This is important so that civil service employees can’t simply say that they were following orders, and so that current and future politicos know that they cannot get away with violating peoples’ civil rights, and that their day to face justice will come.