Monthly Archives: November 2011

OK, This Looks Like a Plan

Combine Frank Pasquale, Understanding Wealth Defense: Direct Action from the 0.1% with Paul Krugman, Taxing Job Creators and Where The Money Is.

Posted in Econ & Money | Leave a comment

How Authors from Different Countries Write Novels About Unhappy People

The English write tales of quiet desperation.

The French write about frantic, desperate love affairs.

The Norwegians write about drinking in the long dark.

The Japanese write about suicide.

The Americans write about shopping.

Please add to the list (and lets hope Patrick Nielsen Hayden still visits here).

Posted in Completely Different, Kultcha | 4 Comments

Syms Is Closing

Where will I buy jackets and suits? Syms was a great barn of a discount house, an east coast chain of cut-price remainders and seconds on clothing. It had normal clothes, a great deal of wacky clothes, and a good if erratic selection of suits and jackets. The women’s clothes, but alas not the suits, had time-sensitive price tags. The longer the stock stayed in the shop, the cheaper it got.

You would think that a deep discounter of clothing, even if some of it was fairly fancy clothing, would thrive in a recession, but apparently not. One might argue that it sure must be one awful recession if it takes down even Syms. One report suggests that Syms’s problem was that it just wasn’t as big as some of its competitors in the designer clothing trade.

Then again, I remember talking to an old hand in one of the shops about a year ago, who was bemoaning how the stores just hadn’t been getting as good a selection of stock as when Sy Syms, the founder, was still alive. At the time I wrote it off as likely prejudice against having a woman (Sy’s daughter, Marcy) at the helm. Now, though, I wonder.

Meanwhile though, I’m running out of discount houses: Sussex and Moe’s closed in New York over a decade ago (I got married in a suit from Sussex). Will I have to…buy at retail? I think I’ve forgotten how.

Posted in Econ & Money, Shopping | 2 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy low-sodium, low-sugar, low-cholesterol, low alcohol, measured Vitamin K Thanksgiving!

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

The Fixer (of Broken Security)

Nice profile of Christopher Soghoian in WIRED, entitled “The Pest Who Shames Companies Into Fixing Security Flaws”.

I’ve run into Chris at a few conferences, and read a good bit of his stuff, and I think he’s every bit as good as this profile makes him sound.

Posted in Cryptography, Law: Privacy | Leave a comment

In Which I Get a Remarkably Small Check

Very, very faithful readers may recall back in December 2007 I posted I Am A Plaintiff in which I recounted my discovery that I was part of a class of persons who had been subjected to improper foreign currency fees when using a US credit card abroad.

As I reported then, the proposed settlement offered me three choices:

  1. $25 cash money.
  2. Estimate how many days I was abroad in 1996-2006, and get a rebate of 1% of what they guess I spent with my credit card based on some formula they do not disclose. Key to that formula is whether I characterize my travel as sometimes/often/mostly “business,” “visiting friends or relatives,” or “vacation or leisure”. (In fact it was some of each.)
  3. Provide detailed receipts of my credit card usage abroad in that period and get 3% back.

I chose option two, having calculated that I was abroad for 394 days during the relevant period.

Today, about three and half years after claims were due, I got my check — for $51.81. This doesn’t seem like much, as I’m sure I would have spent more than $5181 while doing a combination of fairly high-priced business travel, some holiday travel, and just being, over the space of more than a year. And indeed, the note attached to the check I received states that “All refund amounts are reduced because the full amount of all the claims exceeds the amount in the settlement fund.”

Poking around on the settlement website reveals very little about how they calculated this figure. I was not able to find a clear statement of what the settlement value was, what the lawyers’ share of the settlement was, or what was left after they took their share. I was able to learn that 10 million (10 million!) claims were filed. I was not able to learn what formula(e) the parties used to value the claims — something I’d have liked to see. I did, however, learn that the amount claimed exceeded the amount of the settlement, so that payments were reduced according to a complicated formula in the Court-approved Revised Plan of Administration and Distribution. But the site does not reveal which of the various contingency plans in that document were used, nor how much of a discount got applied to claims like mine. (If I understood it right, it does say that the folks who picked option one got their $25, so I didn’t get paid much for all the effort of going through old calendars and diaries and calculating the number of days I was abroad.)

All in all, one has a sense that the purpose of the claims web site is not to inform but to obfuscate, while appearing to meet some minimum formality of seeming disclosure.

Commonly, a complaint about class actions is that the victims don’t even bother to make claims. In this case that is emphatically not the case, since 10 million claims were filed (I’m not clear, though, if it was 10 million people, or if there may have been multiple claims by holders of multiple cards). But at the end of the day, even people like me who had what one would think would be a fairly substantial claim — abroad more than a year — gets peanuts. Without knowing the size of the settlement one can’t say whether it may serve some deterrent function in the future, but I have to wonder if it was large enough to achieve that.

Incidentally, the note attached to the check says there’s a second, separate lawsuit,, Ross v. American Express Co., regarding the mis-use of arbitration clauses. If you were forced into arbitration, don’t get your hopes up too high: that case was settled for $49.5 million, of which only $13.875 million remains after court costs and attorneys’ fees. Perhaps it is apt that lead class counsel have their offices on Locust Street?

Posted in Law: Everything Else | 4 Comments

Nicely Updated

The law, in its majesty, bars the individual and the corporation alike from camping out while assembling for redress of grievances.

The law, in its majesty, allows the individual and the corporation alike to spend money on political ads.

Unqualified offerings

Posted in 99% | 1 Comment