Anybody Seen My Yacht?

The rich are different than you and me. Bill Gates once bragged the IRS needed two computers to process his taxes and argued that the city of Redmond, WA should value his Taj Mahal of a home completely worthless because it’s so big and personally customized no one would ever want to buy the place.

I’m not against a person making a buck – or in CEO’s, athlete’s, and movie star’s cases – a lot of bucks. When they perform well they can make a lot of money for others. That’s not necessarily bad, that’s capitalism. But without a reasonable limit to the largess, everyone loses. Inflated movie star salaries drive ticket prices to $10 a pop. Athlete salaries frequently make sport facilities unprofitable and drive ticket prices so high, you have to mortgage your home for a sunny afternoon of baseball.

But CEOs? They’ve gone over the top.

The Dark Suits

According to a recent Editor & Publisher article, Yahoo – whose profit and stock performance has been in the toilet lately – paid CEO Terry Semel $71.7 million last year. Many people argue giant-sized compensation packages are justified for what the dark-suits do for the company, but Semel’s performance seems more a question of what he does to the company. Unless Semel makes money soon, many people – considerably less able to afford it – will lose their jobs and investors will lose on investments. However, if past corporate decision-making is any indication, Semel’s pay will go up despite the facts. Even if his compensation didn’t change a penny, returning $71.7 million would go a long way toward improving the company’s bottom line.

Financial analysts have predicted a compensation downturn for quite awhile but it just keeps rising. Federal reporting rules now require more robust explanations in corporate financial statements, but because of the unbelievably complex nature of compensation plans it’s almost impossible to tell how much a CEO makes. The analysts, many of whom advocated these plump salaries in the go-go 90s, grossly under-estimated how little boards would do to reign in the costs. That seems a short-sighted view that ignores boards of hand-picked sycophants who also receive lots of butter on their bread.

Funny, that sounds a lot like Congress.

Fair? Feh.

Are these salaries fair? No, but that doesn’t matter. There is lots of unfairness in the world. Are people jealous of them? Yes, but that doesn’t matter either. Are they justified? Eh. Some people believe in the trickle-down theory, which suggests the wads of cash grow a more robust economy. However, trickle-down seems like an inefficient way to do that – and I’m not alone in that belief. But the final analysis begs the question, is it common sense to lavish that much money on one individual? I emphatically believe, no.

Can a person really live any better on $71.7 million than say $10 million? Is the best way to stimulate trickle down through yacht and bizjet sales? Hardly. Would employees and investors fare better and gain greater returns on their investments of sweat equity and money is CEO salaries were trimmed? Yes. It would be nice if more CEOs had common sense and actually plowed as much money as possible back into the companies they run.

It is, after all, what they’re hired – and lavishly paid – to do.

A Tough Job Someone Has to Do

We’ve kicked off another needlessly prolonged Presidential campaign season with a series of gimmicky, pointless debates. With a candidate field of somewhere between a dozen and 16 million, many Americans are wondering – if America has roughly 350 million people why are these lunkheads the best candidates we can field?

Pundits no longer hold forth on who won and who didn’t because it doesn’t matter. All of the candidates come off as over-polished morons with the scruples of weasels. Their answers to empty-headed softball questions are fit for nothing other than the gag reels shown nightly on the Daily Show. It’s clear that hyperactive PR machines have finally honed their dubious craft to the point where candidates now have all the appeal – and apparently the intelligence – of a box of Tide detergent.

But, at least Tide has the virtue of cleaning your clothes.

The lack of marginally credible candidates has ushered in a voting rate lower than a rigged contest in a war-torn Third World dictatorship. In view of the razor-thin margins in 2000 and 2004, voting promotion groups remind people that “every vote counts more than ever”. However, it’s not the quantity of votes that count, it’s the quality of the candidates and the intelligence of the votes that do.

We’ve devolved into Hobson’s Choice elections where Pat Paulson is as good a choice as any of the top “real” contenders – and he’s dead. Make no mistake. Had Al Gore or John Kerry won, their own brands of ineptitude and dubious achievement would have been small only in comparison to the truly world-class, stunning incompetence of the mellonhead who won. Winning is not the same thing as being qualified. In fact, sometimes winning isn’t even the same thing as winning.

On the rare occasions when voters admit to voting, non-voters laugh at them as uneducated rubes who don’t understand the futility of suffrage. And when their measly vote is stacked alongside a mound of corporate cash, they’re not entirely wrong. In our current system, wealth makes right and the meek (and disenfranchised) will inherit the Earth only when the sun begins to rise in the west. It’s no wonder cynicism abounds.

Do qualified candidates exist? In a theoretical sense – not unlike the theory that life exists on other planets – there do. How do we find them, an Earthbound SETI-style search perhaps? Once found, how do we encourage them to run? If they run, how can we be assured they won’t morph into the same indecisive and conniving con-men so popular already?

The political scene is rife with imponderables like these and I certainly don’t know how to fix things. The only thing I can think of is to do what I do now. Pick a poopbag, hold my nose, and cast my vote into the ether to be stolen by someone who can afford private access to voting records and has the technical expertise to change enough votes to put his own crapweasel over the top.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Randomness: Head Meets Wall Edition

Smelliness is Next to Godliness – A new fragrance directly from the Deity that brought you Intelligent Design. Ah, the smell of it!

The Answer to That Would be Yes – New Yorkers have always thought of the Hudson river as a cesspool, but it’s a shimmering vision of loveliness compared to this.

Baby Food Jars From Hell – Everyone keeps a few jars around the house of storing those odds and ends. I think I’m going to rethink that though.

Their Other Blog is a First Aid Blog – Combine a wet cat with and short-sleeved shirt and injuries will ensue.

Cussing in Esperanto – Now this is a useful site you poephols.

Eeeeew! – Dude, isn’t picking them up for your significant other embarrassing enough?

Hiding In Plain Sight – Hey! Isn’t that whatsisname? You know…that guy. Oh man, I SO know that guy’s name…

And Down at the NASCAR Patisserie – Having your cake and driving it too.

Why Couldn’t It Have Been Air Guitar – Clearly, people in Kansas City have too much time on their hands…and bad taste in music too.

Smell the Marketing – These ad guys have been smelling a little something more than the rainbow.

MyHouse – This whole MySpace thing is getting out of hand. (HT to The Churning).

Error 000 – The page at the end of the marketing internet.

Music Soothes the Washing Beast – I want an iWasher for my birthday…as long as it doesn’t play Smoke on the Water.

Somehow, I’m Not Surprised – How the hell did they get that thing up there?

Spy vs. Spy – I’m glad to see that our spy agencies are keeping up with the latest technology after 9/11. (HT to Cap’n Dyke)

Support the Troops – Throw a few of these out on the front lines and those pesky terrorists will get such a bruise. Bring it on baby, bring it on.

Yo, Jake and Elwood – A food fight gets out of hand. These kids today don’t know how to do anything properly.

Does it Come in Seaweed? – Those clever Japanese are always coming up with something new. I reckon they’ll be releasing heroin Sugar Smacks next.

Cut Off From Reality…Him? – George hears voices…now filmed proof.

Uncle Ben Stirs the Pot – Whoa, what a radical dude he is. Move over Malcolm X.

Plugs for Holes – What a selection! Always Aroused Girl (NSFW), are you reviewing these anytime soon? Or, how about this?

OOOOO! That Tickles“I am not attempting this record for the money,” he said. I should hope not.

Asshats on Parade – But if you burned it, they’d be all over your ass.