Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Herr Doktor Professor, what will you keep it in?

On reading "Fukushima shines light on U.S. problem: 63,000 tons of spent fuel", Mike M. Ahlers, CNN, 2011-03-30, I thought of this anecdote I first saw in Mad Magazine decades ago.

A well-known, respected professor is working in his lab when the village idiot comes in to sweep.  The lad asks him what he is doing, but the professor says he is too busy.  Once again, the sweeper comes in, asks the same question, and is brushed off.  Then one day as the lad is sweeping, the professor yells, "Eureka!  I've invented the universal solvent!"  The lad asks, "Herr Doktor Professor, what will you keep it in?"

The last frame shows a foaming, bubbling earth.

Greedy corporate boards

Eric Jackson, The Street wrote "How Do You Slow Down Executive Pay?", Yahoo! Finance, 2011-03-11.  He thinks that we don't need the gimmicks live shareholder advisories on pay.  He says shareholders should simply throw the votes out.

I added the following comment to the article.

"I agree with Eric Jackson; vote the bums out.

I've felt like a lone voice for years.  I withhold my vote when the CEO gets over a million dollars a year or when the members of the board get over $100,000 a year.  The latter is nice work if you can get it; show up five times a year (not every board meeting!!!).  Many of us would be in the gravy with that pay.

And what is a CEO doing on the boards of other companies?  Isn't he or she being paid a lot of money to run one company?  Maybe the pay for being on other boards should be reimbursed to the company the CEO is running."

And later I added:

"Oh, I almost forgot about these boards gradually stealing the company from the shareholders that bought their shares on the open market.

To "align the interest of the board and the executives with the interests of the shareholders", they grant themselves stock, either directly or through options (the ability to buy shares at way below market value).  The net result is they are granting themselves more and more votes at a discount from what the regular shareholders paid.

In other circumstances, isn't this called skimming and either criminal or unethical?  Now, to put any kind of restraint on this behavior is called anti-business."

I didn't add that when I worked for Sperry Univac in the 70s, somebody published an article about attending a Sperry Board meeting.  The directors were served an elaborate meal that many hardly touched.  Some of the directors slept through parts of the meeting or said very little.

I've heard that in many companies, the board just agrees to what the company executives propose and go home.  Nice work if you can get it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Now I know why some creative types go crazy

Many of us know of the problems of Robert Schuman, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf.  I know now why they could have problems.  Either a creator gets depressed when the ideas run dry or frustrated when the ideas come faster than they can put them on paper or canvas.

You can see from today's postings that I have lots of ideas, whether you agree with them or not.  Beyond that are files for each month with notes for possible amplification, a two-inch pile of 1/4 sheets of scribbled notes, and about two dozen record books of notes, some in a shorthand.

And I keep generating more ideas as I read newspapers, magazines, and books, both paper and online.

The letter writing Magrees

Our son in Tokyo had a letter published in the Japan Times.  He argued for more conservation rather than rolling blackouts.  Blackouts disrupt business, but many of the signs are still lighting up the sky.

Also watch the Duluth News Tribune for a letter by my wife Jan on multiple trash haulers covering the same routes.  The editorial staff called yesterday to confirm that she sent it.

The attacks on public unions

The Star Tribune published a letter from me that they titled "Targeting Public Unions".  It is a batch of letters at

The Star Tribune can't live within its means

Governments are supposed to live within their means, but I guess this doesn't apply to corporations.  If a government raised taxes five percent because of inflation, there would be a great hue and cry about government living within its means.

I haven't seen any complaints yet, but I bet there won't be many letters to the Star Tribune about living within its means instead of raising its copy price 33 percent, from 75 cents to one dollar.

Corporations receive more benefits than people

I attempted to make a comment on Yahoo Finance in response to "Why the U.S. Tax Code Puts American Companies at a Massive Disadvantage", Rebecca Stropoli, Daily Ticker, 2011-03-28.

This happened to me before because I included a link in my comment, but this time I could find nothing that violated Yahoo's rules.

My comment was:

If Congress is going to support U.S. companies not paying U.S. taxes on earnings outside the U.S., why not support U.S. citizens not paying taxes on earnings outside the U.S.?

It is a bit onerous for an individual to fill out two tax forms: one for the country one is working in, and one for the U.S., a country one might not visit for a couple of years.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another anonymous anti-free market business

Today I received a "REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION - TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL ENCLOSED" piece with no more sender information than "CHEVROLET" above this phrase, postage was paid in Fort Lauderdale FL, and inside an 888 number.  Oh, maybe it is "VEHICLE PROTECTION OF AMERICA" which appears twice on the inside.

It warns me that my dealership warranty is expiring soon and offers various coverages in years and miles and a list of what is covered.  However, this company doesn't believe in a free market because it does not provide all the information that I need to make a buy decision - nowhere does it list any prices, even though it knows the make, model, and year of my vehicle and it obviously knows where I live.

In other words, they want me to call and hope that the phone representative can talk me into the coverage.

Sorry, VEHICLE PROTECTION OF AMERICA, I just threw your TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL into the recycle box.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"My people love me!"

And from the following picture, we can see how enthusiastically they love Moammar Gaddafi.


This picture is used under Creative Commons (