I was scrounging through old bookmarks recently when I rediscovered World Wide Words, Michael Quinlan's online newsletter of unusual words. His current edition features "malus," a word that ought to be more common in American business given the disastrous mismanagement of many companies: Though malus isn't in any general dictionary that I've consulted, it's also a fairly common term in the world of banking, insurance and contracts. A malus is the opposite of a bonus -- you might call it a forfeit or a clawback ... read more

Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, makes a point I haven't heard anywhere else in his response to the bailout plan: We must end the danger posed by companies that are "too big too fail," that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up. Right now, for example, the Bank of America, the nation's largest depository institution, has ... read more

I had a weird thing happen at my bank this week: I ran out of checks because I didn't reorder them in time, but when I needed temporary checks so I could pay some bills, my request was refused. The bank, which has locations across several Southern states, doesn't give its customers temporary checks. My first impulse is to quit the bank over this hassle. There's a bank on every corner these days, and the services they offer are utterly interchangeable. To get my bills paid, I ended up buying the check-printing ... read more

There's some fun stuff in TechCrunch publisher Michael Arrington's old personal blog, which he published for eight months in 2005 before becoming the Ron Popeil of Web 2.0. A Nov. 12, 2005, entry in which he raises a little capital: Selling my copy of The Search by John Battelle. $10 obo. An Aug. 1, 2005, post declaring that he has deleted his PayPal account and would no longer be selling items on EBay: I broke up with PayPal today, using their handy 12-step account termination procedure. I won't go into the ... read more

I filed a story this morning on Watching the Watchers about blogger Jerome Armstrong settling his stock-tout suit with the SEC: Influential liberal blogger Jerome Armstrong, the founder of MyDD and an originator of the netroots movement, has agreed to pay $29,000 in fines and penalties to settle a 2003 SEC suit accusing him of touting a stock on Internet message boards without disclosing his financial interest in the company. Some of my fellow liberals threw me under the bus for digging into the allegations last ... read more

When things are slow on Workbench, activity on this weblog falls to the five subjects of enduring interest to visitors who make comments: Whether lottery winners should be able to hide their identities Whether Best Buy sucks Whether Target sucks Whether Art Bell sucks Whether Orlando Bloom dates outside his race On the first subject, people who support secrecy for lottery winners will enjoy a story from Canada this morning: A guy was caught planning to kidnap, rob and murder a couple who won $27 million Canadian ... read more

Netscape founder Marc Andreesen, an investor in startups such as Meebo, thinks "Web 2.0" has become a meaningless term that makes dumb investors bankroll dumb companies: As a result of the widespread adoption of language like "Web 2.0 companies" and the "Web 2.0 space" -- and startups referring to themselves as such, most of which will fail -- you get a predictably cynical backlash from people who then dismiss the whole category as trendy marketing hype full of me-too wannabes and in the process throw out the baby ... read more