Saturday, February 21, 2009


Statistic of the Day: Bad Seed on the decline

No child 8 years old or younger committed homicide in the United States during 2005-2007, according to FBI statistics. —AP reporter in "Boy, 9, pleads guilty to double murder"

This is great news! It looks as if law-enforcement efforts have paid off, and we're finally winning the War on Crime. Now if we can just get to the 9-year-olds....



Trivia Question: Name this country

There seemed to be a complete breakdown of the normal barriers between the regulator and the regulated. The relationship between the government of _________’s political leaders and [Beelzebub] seemed weirdly intimate.

I'm always charmed by the way our journalists and political leaders are capable of characterizing other countries without the slightest risk of self-revelation.

No googling for the answer!

Related post
Trivia question: Name this country (2/01/09)


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Appellate Decision of the Day: NY restaurants must confess

A New York City law requiring McDonald's, KFC and other chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards is not pre-empted by federal law on disclosure of nutritional information, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said Tuesday that requiring, for example, Chili's to tell customers that its smoked turkey sandwich contains 930 calories does not violate the First Amendment.

—Mark Hamblett reporting in "2nd Circuit Upholds NYC Law Requiring Restaurant Chains to Display Calorie Counts"

The plaintiff-appellant in this case was the New York State Restaurant Association.

Any organization whose members can pack 930 calories into a smoked turkey sandwich should know better than to base an appeal on the right to free speech. They should have relied upon the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.



Bad Omen of the Day: Signing statements ahead?

Facing a stricter approach to limiting executive bonuses than it had favored, the Obama administration wants to revise that part of the stimulus package even after it becomes law, White House officials said Sunday.

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," also said the administration would seek to "strike the right balance" on the compensation question by discussing changes in the provisions with House and Senate members. Asked if Obama would enforce the bill and was satisfied with it, Gibbs replied, "We will sign this bill into law on Tuesday."

—Douglass K. Daniel reporting in "White House wants changes in executive pay rules"

We've heard this sort of oblique response to a question before—just before the President presents a signing statement explaining why he doesn't intend to obey the law.

Representative Barney Frank is also familiar with it. Frank said frankly—

"Mr. Gibbs may not like it, but it is going to be enforced," Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said on CBS. "This is not an option. This is not, frankly, the Bush administration, where they're going to issue a signing statement and refuse to enforce it. They will enforce it."

Now I'm wondering if I should have titled this post Famous Last Words of the Day?

With respect to limits on executive compensation, there appears to be a great deal less in the stimulus package than meets the eye—

Under the administration's proposal, compensation restrictions applied only to banks that receive "exceptional assistance" from the government. Top executives could be paid no more than $500,000, with bonuses or other compensation coming as stock that could only be claimed after the federal money had been paid back.

The bill passed by Congress set executive bonus limits on all banks that receive bailout money. The amount of assistance will determine the number of executives affected, though top executives will be prohibited from getting bonuses or incentives except as restricted stock that vests only after bailout funds are repaid. Amounts also can be no greater than one-third of the executive's annual compensation.

The prohibition would not apply to bonuses that are spelled out in an executive's contract signed before Feb. 11, 2009.

That means that very few bankers will be affected by the provisions—unless, horror of horrors, the banks are nationalized and contracts must be renegotiated.

The law's restriction on executive pay is window-dressing. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said so—

Dodd argued that the restrictions were critical to gaining public support for more funding for the ailing financial sector, saying that the perception that executives were getting rich on bailout money would be an impediment.

In the alternate reality in which our rulers live, perception is everything.

Though the Obama administration and the Senate disagreed over some of the finer points as to how to go about "limiting executive pay," either position provided enough wiggle room to assure that most bankers can still pay their green fees. They are basically of one mind in recognizing that there must be adequate incentives to retain bankers with the acumen to produce this great a disaster.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


Family unit

Alfie Patton and Chantelle Steadman with Maisie Roxanne.

Though there are other contenders for the title of "Dad," Alfie says, "When my mum found out, I thought I was going to get in trouble ... I didn't know what it would be like to be a dad. I will be good, though, and care for it."


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