Former Dutch finance minister and pinball enthusiast Gerrit Zalm will take the helm of a combined Fortis and ABN AMRO group in the Netherlands, keeping the planned merger of the banks’ retail operations in play.
There’s a big political storm brewing over this. For the past few years, the cabinet and parliament have been screaming about extremely high salaries for CEO’s of government (owned) institutions (like hospitals and such), and they came up with the norm that none of them should earn more than the prime minister makes. That’s about 171k euro per year. A nationalized bank would certainly qualify for this norm.
Today, the new salary of Zalm became public knowledge. He’s going to earn 750k, and 100k for each billion the bank has as profit.
That’s quite a bit higher than 171k.
Nobody directly involved will admit it, but this is looking more and more like one of the more nasty, yet brilliant, scams of the last couple years. It may have been pulled off by the legendary Nigerian internet scammers, but it’s beginning to look like it may have been the work of a vast leftwing conspiracy with a twisted sense of humor.
It gets complicated, as these things often do, but the core appears to be:
1. A WordPress website claiming to be the creation of the African Press International, and NGO somehow associated with the Rainbow Foundation – OK, already I know this is a lot to process – claimed that they had a tape of Michelle Obama admitting that Barack Obama was not an U.S. citizen, and thus not eligible to be president.
2. Nobody seemed to notice that the API’s headquarters are in Norway.
3. In the weeks leading up to the election, as John McCain’s campaign was trailing smoke and in a steep vertical dive (to use an Air Force-appropriate metaphor),
a ragtag bunch of deranged Obama-hatershis desperate supporters seized on this story as a last-minute chance to save the U.S. from an Obama presidency, which they had come to believe would be some horrible combination of Stalinist Russia, the Taliban and a San Francisco gay bathhouse, circa 1978.
4. The overheated right-wing blog echo chamber started to scream and yell about the tapes, hoping to spark an uproar.
5. The API started getting erratic in its pronouncements about the tapes, on the one hand demanding money, on the other alleging mysterious dark conspiracies that were preventing the release of the tapes, conspiracies involving shadowy pro-Obama forces.
5. Still believing that these tapes existed, the right-wing blogs started collecting money from their readers to buy the tapes.
Microsoft is the world’s fifth worst spam service ISP, according to a new list compiled by Spamhaus.org.
The software giant’s high ranking in the unsolicited email game might, it would be fair to surmise, cause a few blushes among Redmond wonks.
Not so, according to Spamhaus chief information officer Richard Cox, who claims to have repeatedly notified MS about its rise up the inglorious list, to no avail.
President-elect Obama has called for the creation of more “wind farms.” Before jumping on that bandwagon, however, we ought to take a look at West Texas where wind farmers are farming subsidies almost as well as their agricultural cousins and, as a result, they are paying distributors to take their power. Mike Giberson has the story:
In the first half of 2008, [electricity] prices were below zero nearly 20 percent
of the time…During these negative price periods, suppliers are paying ERCOT to take their power….the negative prices appear to be the result of the large installed capacity of wind generation.
Wind generators face very small costs of shutting down and starting back up, but they do face another cost when shutting down: loss of the Production Tax Credit and state Renewable Energy Credit revenue which depend upon generator output. It is economically rational for wind power producers to operate as long as the subsidy exceeds their operating costs plus the negative price they have to pay the market. Even if the market value of the power is zero or negative, the subsidies encourage wind power producers to keep churning the megawatts out….You could, as a correspondent put it to me, build a giant toaster in West Texas and be paid by generators to operate it.
US President George W. Bush believes the Iraq war was a success and is “very pleased” with what is happening there, he said in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on a Japanese television network Sunday.
“I think the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right,” Bush told the Sunday Project programme of the private Asahi network.
Saddam was an enemy of the United States and a lot of people thought he had weapons of mass destruction, Bush said, adding “remarkable” progress had been made in Iraq since the late dictator was toppled in 2003.
“People have been able to take their troops out of Iraq because Iraq is becoming successful. I’m very pleased with what is taking place there now,” he said, adding there still is “a lot of work” to be done.
The Carleton University Students’ Association has voted to drop cystic fibrosis as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, arguing that the illness is not “inclusive” enough.
Cystic fibrosis “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men” said the motion read to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it.
No mention of breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell anemia…
Marine Cpl. James Dixon was wounded twice in Iraq — by a roadside bomb and a land mine. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, a concussion, a dislocated hip and hearing loss. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Army Sgt. Lori Meshell shattered a hip and crushed her back and knees while diving for cover during a mortar attack in Iraq. She has undergone a hip replacement and knee reconstruction and needs at least three more surgeries.
In each case, the Pentagon ruled that their disabilities were not combat-related.
In a little-noticed regulation change in March, the military’s definition of combat-related disabilities was narrowed, costing some injured veterans thousands of dollars in lost benefits — and triggering outrage from veterans’ advocacy groups.
Meanwhile, Wachovia discreetly disclosed that its chairman, Lanty L. Smith, and its 10 most senior executives may reap a windfall of more than $100 million if Wells Fargo completes its takeover of the failing bank by December 31, as planned.
Most of the payments — a bit more than $98 million — would come in the form of severance payments to the executives.
So, severance from a bank: good. Severance from the army: not so good.
‘We always asked the same question,’ says Eisman. ‘Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.’ He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S.& P. couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. ‘They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,’ Eisman says.
Fun list: Top 10 selling cars in Europe in 2007:
10th: BMW 3 Series (295,312, +2%)
9th: Volkswagen Passat (300,566, -9.4%)
8th: Ford Fiesta (300,566, +0.6%)
7th: Fiat Punto (377,989, -5.9%)
6th: Renault Clio (382,041, -11.5%)
5th: Opel/Vauxhall Astra (402,044, -7.9%)
4th: Opel/Vauxhall Corsa (402,173, +41.7%)
3rd: Ford Focus (406,557, -7.5%)
2nd: Volkswagen Golf (435,055, +4.5%)
1st: Peugeot 207 (437,505, +105.5%)
The American brands are in bold. The Japanese brands are not present.
Know what’s even bolder? Can’t buy any of those American-brand cars in America.
I keep hearing people lambasting the big three for not making the cars they want, which are nimbler, better-built, more efficient, better-looking cars … or, exactly the ones they already make here. Last weekends Top Gear had a little gas-mileage test, and they were getting 70-80 mpg, and they weren’t driving hybrids.
It’s utterly baffling that the big 3 don’t just phone up their European divisions and ask them for the plans. Is it the time difference? Don’t the executive jets have enough range?
Rule number one of burglary is ‘don’t get yourself photographed’. Probably coming in somewhere around rule number 437, meanwhile, is ‘don’t make an enemy of someone who owns billboards all around your city’.
Unfortunately for one New Zealand thief, he just broke both those rules.
President George W. Bush’s Labor Department misled Congress in an effort to prove outsourcing jobs to private companies was more efficient than assigning the jobs to government employees, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.
The report (pdf here) found that the Department used fictional projected numbers to improve “savings reports” — even when real numbers were already available.
Why do the majority of people – across cultures and throughout history – believe in gods?
One way to address this question is to look at why it is that children acquire beliefs in gods. If an idea cannot be easily learned by children then it is relatively unlikely to survive into the next generation and will die out. So if we can explain why children are so ready to believe in gods, we will be a big step closer in understanding religious beliefs more generally. It may seem that the answer is simple: indoctrination. Children believe because their parents or other adults teach them, right? Unfortunately, the story is not that simple. Fortunately, it is far more interesting.
It was Taneka Talley’s greatest wish to see her son head off to college. It was why she took extra shifts at work and set her sights on promotions.
But she was stabbed to death in the Fairfield, Calif., Dollar Tree where she worked in March 2006, by a white man who reportedly attacked her simply because she was black.
Now, Talley’s mother is fighting to get her daughter’s workers compensation death benefits, which, according to the family’s lawyer, have been denied because the killer’s targeting her as a black person established a “personal connection” that the company says releases them from having to pay.
AIG Chief Executive Edward Liddy agreed to slash his annual salary to $1 as part of a series of voluntary pay restrictions by top executives tied to a massive $150 billion government bailout.
AIG will also forgo bonuses this year and eliminate pay increases through 2009 for the firm’s top executives.
Liddy will get paid $1 per year for 2008 and 2009, with his compensation consisting entirely of equity payments. While he will not receive bonuses during those years, he will be eligible in 2010 for “extraordinary performance.” He will also be ineligible for severance payments.
“This action by the senior management team demonstrates not only that we understand our obligation to taxpayers and shareholders, but also that we are committed to the future success of this organization,” said Liddy in a statement.
No, not really. It demonstrates that you think these cosmetic changes will hide that you plan to loot the company blind in 2010.
Although they live a continent away from California, LDS Church members Gregory and JaLynn Prince, of Washington, D.C., still have felt the backlash from their church’s involvement in the traditional marriage initiative known as Proposition 8.
Their daughter, Lauren, a Boston University student, has lost friends over the issue, while their son, an LDS missionary in San Bernardino, Calif., has had a disproportionate number of potential converts cancel appointments.
About two weeks ago, during a first-ever class on Mormonism at Wesley Theological Seminary, where the Princes have built bridges for years, students pointedly asked them: “What was your church thinking?”
“We are not taking sides on the issue, but the way this was done has hurt our people and the church’s image,” JaLynn Prince said. “It reminds me of the naive public relations strategy we had regarding the Equal Rights Amendment.”
sorry, but you are taking sides on the issue if you do not call out your church on its bigotry.
Slashdot reports that Apple has sent a “cease and desist” email to bluwiki, a public wiki site, demanding the removal of postings there by those who are trying to figure out how to write software that can sync media to the latest versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Short answer: Apple doesn’t have a DMCA leg to stand on.
If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.
Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:
• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion
TOTAL: $3.92 trillion
data courtesy of Bianco Research
That is $686 billion less than the cost of the credit crisis thus far.
The only single American event in history that even comes close to matching the cost of the credit crisis is World War II: Original Cost: $288 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $3.6 trillion