You’ll Be Happy to Know that Wall Street Bonuses Saw Only a Small Decline

Yes, as you struggle to pay rent, and those student loan payments from a state university (ha! loser!) prevent you from ever qualifying for a mortgage, you’ll find some cause for optimisim that the world is not a terrible place when I tell you that Wall Street bonus packages saw only a small decline this year:

Total payouts to finance industry employees in New York are forecast to drop only 14 percent during this bonus season, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli. By comparison, profits plunged, falling 51 percent.

Interesting that while profits saw a sharp decline, bonuses did not; presumably, it’s all that “top talent” that the firms are always talking about–we wouldn’t want to fire anybody responsible for a 50% decline in profits, now would we? That guy knows what he’s doing!

Sadly, that 14% drop translates into real hardship:

The average bonus was $121,150, down just 13 percent from the previous year as the headcount shrunk. In 2006, the year before the financial crisis, the average investment bank employee took home a bonus of $191,360.

But the comptroller’s estimates, which do not include noncash compensation, may not give the full picture of this year’s bonus season.

But it seems as though there’s good news after all! Noncash compensation such as stock options were not tallied in the report! Increasingly, banks are offering stock as an alternative to cash bonuses. This move could work out well if the company performs admirably in the long-term, which is ostensibly the reason for offering the option at all (the other reason is that Morgan Stanley caps their bonuses at $125,000).

So, America, the next time you seethe with populist rage, just remember that Wall Street is making sacrifices, too. It’s hard to to get away with killing homeless prostitutes when your bonus declines by 14%.

Google+ Sent You a Friend Request–Do You Accept?

Wait, who the hell is Google+? Did I meet him at that party last night? How drunk was I? Dammit, I hate when this happens!

Sadly, if this article in the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, you probably didn’t accept that friend request. Instead, you threw up, drank some orange juice, and went back to bed, leaving Google+ to wonder why you won’t accept its friendship. Especially after that amazing conversation you had.

It turns out Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with the site of rival Facebook Inc., which is preparing for a massive initial public offering. New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up—but then not doing much there.

Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore, which didn’t have data on mobile usage.

To be fair to Google+, it would seem that their service does offer features that might be useful; it’s not all Jesus quotes and shit white people say. However, these features are not enough to lure uses away from the social networks that they already populate (probably because moving sucks). Media analyst Brian Solis claims that Google+ has not adequately demonstrated its value to users, but he also adds that “nobody wants another social network right now.”

Yet Google executives aren’t giving up–they’re looking at their long game:

Google executives downplay the direct comparison to Facebook, which has 845 million monthly active users. They have repeatedly said they are making a long-term bet on the initiative, and the company has yet to build up some of the weapons that made Facebook successful, including encouraging app development.

In an interview, Bradley Horowitz, a Google vice president of product management, said Google+ is designed to be more than a destination site and, as a result, is “extremely hard for any third party to measure.” Rather, he said, Google+ acts as an auxiliary to Google services—such as Gmail and YouTube—by adding a “personal” social-networking layer on top of them.

And when Google+ really takes off, the data mining tools will already be in place; thus, advertising content will be so tailor-made for you that your innermost psyche will reveal itself in glorious banners of divorce attorneys, local gun shows, and discount bakeries. Not even Freud could hope to analyze your subconscious with the accuracy of Google+.

So maybe when you wake up, you should accept that friend request and head on over to Google+. Start a “hangout,” have a video conference; then, prepare to be bombarded by ads for private detectives.

Because Google+ just realized you were adopted and figured you might want some help finding your real parents.

Did You Make $2 Billion This Year? No? Well, You’ll Have to Pay Taxes–Sorry!

If you’re like me, you didn’t clear $2 billion this year. I know, I know, it was a terrible year for all of us. I’m sure that next year will be better. Especially for A.I.G., which won’t be paying any taxes this year, and probably not for the next several years, either!

Apparently, despite A.I.G.’s sizable $1.6 billion in profits (they declared more than $17 billion, but $1.6 reflects reality), they will be taking this year off from income tax preparation because of a fancy loophole our delightful government arranged for them. Sorry, H&R Block! Insert populist-leaning rabble-rousing here:

This rule-twisting could deprive the government of tens of billions of dollars, assuming the firm remains profitable. The tax dodge, and let’s be honest, that’s what it is, also will most likely help goose the bonuses of A.I.G.’s employees, some who helped create many of the problems that led to its role in the financial crisis.

You see, when A.I.G. suffered catastrophic losses and required a taxpayer bailout, they also were able to declare those losses in some sort of ridiculous tax avoidance scheme (something called “net operating losses”); moreover, because of our ridiculously unfair tax code, they are able to spread those losses over several years, thus eliminating the need for a 1040 for the next decade. Also, A.I.G.’s executives will be able to use such NOL’s to pad their bonuses:

The tax break for A.I.G. also perversely benefits employees who are paid based on the company’s performance and usually in stock, which is being lifted by this backdoor handout. The biggest beneficiary is Robert H. Benmosche, A.I.G.’s chief executive since 2009, who has been granted tens of thousands of shares.

Congrats, Bob! I can imagine that replacing all those worn-out bootstraps really adds up.

Not Having a Job is Keeping You From Having a Job

In news that will possibly make your head explode, several states are considering legislation that would prohibit employers from exclusively seeking candidates that already have jobs:

State lawmakers say they see the bias turning up in a nation with an 8.3% unemployment rate: Companies that explicitly advertise that they won’t hire someone who isn’t currently employed.

The proposals from Connecticut to California range in scope from banning advertisements that require current employment to allowing unsuccessful job candidates to sue businesses under the same discrimination laws that apply to bias on the basis of religion, race, gender or national origin.

Yes, in order to get a job you must currently have a job. Apparently, employers regard the long-term unemployed as shiftless layabouts with an atrophied brain:

Employers often worry that job skills erode the longer people go without working and may pass over unemployed workers because they assume other managers didn’t hire them for good reason, said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former U.S. Department of Labor economist.

“The longer you’re unemployed, the more likely you are to be perceived as a risky hire and the less likely you are to get a job,” Mr. Burtless said.

Ah, the beauty of a vicious cycle. Predictably, companies are none too pleased to have Uncle Sam forcing them to hire the unflushable turds of America’s workforce:

“We are challenging this. As a private employer, the government has no right in legislating how you hire and what’s in your business’s best interest,” said Robin Lord, an attorney for Crestek, Inc., a Ewing, N.J., maker of industrial cleaning systems.

I can certainly appreciate a company’s unwillingness to allow their human resources department to become an unemployment center; however, there must be some way to balance the needs of a company with the needs of those people who have been unfairly shuffled out of consideration for present employment. While some of the long-term unemployed might lack specific skills, surely not all of them do; requiring a person to have a job before they can even apply is patently ludicrous.

Unfortunately, since this is America, there’s little doubt as to who’ll win out on this issue. Compromises are dumb, anyway.

Your Waiter is Pretending to Like You

Determining the needs of a table is a skill that requires an attentive eye, a certain boldness of character, and a general desire to earn more than 15% on the check. It’s also a skill that can be taught; at least, that’s what restaurants are betting on when they train their waiters to provide the kind of service you’d expect at a Waffle House (they’re Zagat-rated, right?):

Called “having eyes” for a table, or “feeling” or “reading” the table by restaurant workers, it’s how the best waiters know what type of service you prefer before you tell them. From fine dining to inexpensive chains, restaurants are working to make service more individualized as the standard script (‘I’m so-and-so and I will be your server tonight”) is sounding dated.

Even chain restaurants like Denny’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill are focusing more on personalized service by training staff to note body language, eye contact and offhand remarks, hoping to make service feel less mechanical. Traditionally, eateries taught waiters to follow a script and push add-ons like desserts and drinks.

Waiters are trained to read a variety of table types, the better to respond to the needs of the customers. The following is but a sample of the sorts of tables a waiter might find:

Table 1: A douche at an airport Chili’s with a bluetooth, laptop, and wrinkled suit from Men’s Wearhouse (“You’re Going to Regret the Way You Look”).

Ricky Richardson, COO for Carlson Restaurants Inc. (which operates T.G.I. Friday’s), suggests that when “diners have a laptop open on the table, they might not be interested in appetizers that are best for sharing or learning a lot about the cocktail menu.”

In other words, just throw a blue margarita at the guy and try not to stare at his off-centered lapels.

Table 2: A couple that’s giving off so much hate toward one another that Emperor Palpatine’s balls would shrivel (even more!).

This table is clearly waiting to murder someone; the best strategy for a waiter is to alert the other waitstaff to bring their food promptly and with as little intrusion or flair as possible. And if someone’s crying, GTFO. Also, stand clear of whatever side of the table the knives happen to be on.

Table 3: A party of four, and one of them clearly hates the other three, which is obviously why she keeps drinking.

According to Mark Maynard-Parisi, managing partner of Blue Smoke (a couple of BBQ joints in NYC), it’s necessary with parties of four or more to “read the dynamic between the group.”

Alcohol (who is ordering more or less) is a potential point of contention. [Maynard-Parisi] reads eye contact and body language to see if a group is friendly (looking at each other) or less secure, like an uncomfortable work meeting (glancing around the room, fidgeting). “Am I approaching the table to rescue them or am I interrupting them?”

Why is Sally drinking so much? Probably because Tom and Becky, two of her dining companions, are so Goddamn annoying. Also Jim, her husband, keeps casting sideward glances at Frederique and Jacques, the two hot bartenders. In other words, do Sally a favor and don’t make a big deal over her fifth glass of cava and St. Germain. And definitely don’t tell her what Jacques and Frederique just told you about Jim.

So You’re Going to Interview for a Job

Congratulations! You’ve somehow beaten the odds and landed yourself a job interview. But now the pressing concern becomes succeeding in the interview and getting hired; to do that, you’re going to need to follow some simple advice on how to behave during an interview.

1. Pretend that you’re interested.

Maybe you’re lucky, and you’ve got an interview for a job you care about, and in that case you won’t have to pretend. But that’s not likely in this economy, Mr. Philosophy Major! More likely, you won’t give a shit about this job–so you’ll have to feign interest. Just like you used to when a cute girl from Campus Crusade for Christ was talking about…well, whatever the hell those people talk about.

2. Don’t update your Facebook during the interview.

I know this will be hard for many of you, but entering status updates in the middle of the interview is probably not the best idea. Especially if the employer checks Facebook. Because they will not appreciate your “This dude smellz like cheeze lol” witticism.

3. Don’t wear a Boy Scout uniform and then not explain why you’re wearing it.

Perhaps it’s best to avoid wearing a Boy Scout uniform altogether, even if you can explain it. Other uniforms to avoid: circa 1942 German military uniforms, your McDonald’s polo (even though it’s your only collared shirt–buy a new shirt, dammit!), or anything that screams “my parole officer loaned this to me.”

4. Don’t get arrested during your interview.

Obviously, it looks really bad. Unless you’re an undercover cop and you’re interviewing for a job with Jimmy Fingahz, the Butcher of Boise. Because then it might look pretty good.

5. Bring your own beverage.

As delicious as your interviewer’s coffee might smell, don’t ask for a sip. Bring your own beverage, or, if they offer you coffee, do not assume that they mean from their own cup. That’s just bad form.

6. Don’t bring a book on interviewing techniques.

Unless you wrote the book on interviewing techniques, in which case, yeah–you should bring it in.

7. Don’t vandalize the company’s property when they tell you they’ll get back to you.

You never know–they might have actually meant it. Wait until they hired someone else and then vandalize the property.

8. If you’re interviewing on the phone, don’t place your interviewer on hold.

And if you do, do not offer as an explanation “Sorry, it’s just that someone just answered that swinger party ad I put on craigslist! I know what I’m doing this weekend!”

9. Keep your clothes on.

Save the harassment-bait behavior for after you’re hired–the lawsuit will be stronger if there’s a pattern of harassment!

10. Refrain from cutting someone off in traffic and then shouting to them “Eat my ass, bitch!” before the interview.

Because if you’re unlucky, that person you cut off will be your interviewer. And with that new power dynamic, it certainly won’t be the interviewer who eats some ass.

Obama is the Best Republican President Ever

For a while now I’ve been convinced that Republicans dislike Obama for at least two reasons: the first is because many of them are racist assholes. The second, and I believe more salient, reason is simply because Mr. Obama is a far better Republican president than any of their hopefuls would be. Consider the following:

  • Obama has been fairly friendly to resource development interests: Chopping down trees? Check. Drilling for oil? Check. Water resource development? Check.

And now, best of all, Obama is offering to lower the corporate tax rate. Yes, you heard that correctly, although I don’t know why you’d be surprised; did you skip the bulleted talking points?

The administration plan to revamp a corporate code that is widely derided as inefficient and anticompetitive has been in the works at Treasury for two years, and is a priority of Mr. Geithner. Yet he has been preoccupied with crisis management, and is unlikely to see the project through since he plans to leave office after this year.

The proposed overhaul “will help level the playing field for businesses and allow the government to collect needed revenue while promoting economic growth,” Mr. Geithner told a Congressional committee last week, without details.

Naturally, since it’s Obama, there’s going to be trouble with congressional morons–sorry, Republicans–over the rate. They’ll likely seek a 25% rate, and they’ll definitely want the loopholes and subsidies to stay in place. Because that’s how American corporations pay next to nothing in income tax, despite bitching about how high our tax rates are.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with revamping the tax code to make it equitable and competitive. But since “equitable” and “competitive” are not synonymous with “fattening a rich asshole’s bank account,” it’s not likely that we’ll ever see anything of the sort.

Pork: Now With 50% More MRSA!

Researchers and activists have long been concerned about feeding animals antibiotics, and the meat industry has long defended the practice and claimed that studies do not prove that doing so increases bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

But in a recent study scientists demonstrated how a pathogen could make the leap from humans to pigs, gain resistance, and then leap back:

Price and colleagues in 19 countries did whole-genome analysis on a Staph strain called CC398 and 88 closely related variations. CC398 is a so-called MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, that emerged within the past decade in pigs and has since spread widely in cattle and poultry as well as pigs.

The genetic analysis allowed the study authors to trace the lineage of the livestock bug back to its antibiotic-susceptible human ancestors. Price says it shows beyond doubt that the animal bacterium jumped back into humans with close exposure to livestock.

Perhaps the most disturbing news is the prevalence of MRSA in American pork products: nearly 50% of sampled U.S. pork contained the antibiotic resistant “pig MRSA.”

Naturally, the American Meat Institute–the lobbying group, not the gay bar–maintains their position that “informed scientists and public health professionals acknowledge that the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans is overwhelmingly an issue related to human antibiotic use.”

Wouldn’t you think, AMI, that if overuse of antibiotics in humans is problematic, that overuse of antibiotics in livestock would also be problematic?

Oh, wait, I forgot about the simple fact that cash trumps logic. Now pass me those pork rinds.

Pinterest Will Save Your Business!

You may recall some slightly alarming news from last week regarding Pinterest’s potential to get you sued for using content that you don’t have permission to give away. Well, fret no longer because Pinterest has decided to help out!

Pinterest already encourages users to cite original sources; now, they’re going one step further and providing code for websites that don’t want their content to be “pinned.” When the owner of content adds this code, you’ll get a message telling you to piss off (it’s possible I paraphrased that a bit).

While copyright issues have so far remained at a minimum, the potential for problems existed; now, with some simple code, content owners can prevent you from sharing their images of pies, dresses, tattoos, or whatever the hell else people put on Pinterest.

But let’s just hope that proprietors of websites with funny pictures of cats don’t use this code. Because that might destroy the entire Internet as we know it

“What do you mean I can’t share this photo of kittens!!!” Cue explosion.

The FDA is Clearly Not “So Excited” By Inhalable Caffeine

Yes, it would appear that the product known as “AeroShot,” the brainchild of a Harvard professor who clearly loved cocaine in the 80s and a French chef who probably loves cocaine now, will be reviewed by the FDA despite its status as a dietary supplement:

AeroShot didn’t require FDA review before hitting the U.S. market because it’s sold as a dietary supplement. But New York’s U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he met with FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg and she agreed to review the safety and legality of AeroShot.

“I am worried about how a product like this impacts kids and teens, who are particularly vulnerable to overusing a product that allows one to take hit after hit after hit, in rapid succession,” Schumer said.

Perpetual buzzkill Schumer “pressed the FDA in December to review AeroShot, saying he fears that it will be used as a club drug so that young people can keep going until they drop.” Yes, kids these days definitely use caffeine to enhance their experience at nightclubs, not ecstasy, ketamine, or oxy.

The shot of caffeine powder comes in a lipstick-sized canister which you inhale through the mouth (recommended usage–I’m looking at you, butt-chuggers!); the powder dissolves instantly, features as much caffeine as a large cup of coffee, and is fortified with vitamins.

Personally, rather than get the FDA involved, I feel that every retail location should simply have this video playing continuously by the display:

That should set those damn club kids straight. Look at what caffeine did to Jessie Spano!

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