Week in Puns

by Dash Elhauge, Malcolm Drenttel, Maya Sorabjee & Zeve Sanderson

published April 17, 2015

Asset Management Fee Structure for Municipal Pensions

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see,” Muhammad Ali rhymed in one of the most famous shit talks in sports history. Really, talk doesn’t get much shittier than that. It’s not just that Liston won’t win the bout, it’s that he can’t, cause he’s throwing blows eyes wide shut. Ali: Come at me, bro. Liston: Where you at?

Over the past decade, the Office of New York City’s Comptroller has been Liston to Wall Street’s Ali. The City relinquished control of their $160 billion pension fund to the trusty hands of finance’s elite, preparing to ride the industry’s coattails to populist prosperity. Divided between private asset classes (like hedge funds and real estate) and public assets (stocks and bonds) the firms boasted marvelous returns. Finally, Wall Street helps Main Street, the masses cheered. Retired po-po roll up and down Gotham’s avenues in Benzes, teachers bite into golden apples, sanitation workers...Oh shit!

Pulling the oldest trick in the capitalist book, financial firms buried management fees for investing the City’s funds deep in the fine print, which, obviously, nobody took the time to read. Last week, comptroller Scott Stringer announced that the City lost $2.5 billion after these hidden-in-plain-sight fees were accounted for. Public asset classes had outperformed their benchmarks (read: beat the market), but 95 percent of this value-added was eaten up by fees, leaving only $40 million for public retirees. The private asset classes had significantly underperformed, missing their benchmarks by an astonishing $2.6 billion once fees were deducted. According to The New York Times, “The problem stems from bad decisions and overlooked data. Relevant information about fees lay buried deep in footnotes of financial reports that no previous comptroller’s office had ever bothered to extract or publicize.”

I say we send Wall Street its own incomprehensible, impossibly long document. Data’ll teach ‘em. –ZS

99 Anti-red balloons

There is something profoundly sad about the act of sending a message in a bottle—and often more so because of the sender than the contents of the receptacle itself. Even as children, we watched our helium balloons float away from our fingers into a neighboring universe of nonexistence with only fleeting sadness, even then conditioned to accept the next-to-nothing probability of ever seeing it again, or of it having a life beyond our own.

But South Korean activist Park Sang-hak has spent the first several months of 2015 performing this same desperate sendoff around one thousand times over. Park, the chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea, a human rights organization, has been launching balloons into the nether for years, hoping that they will drift across the DMZ as airborne messages-in-bottles, and that their contents will eventually reach the hands of the isolated North Korean public. For years, it’s been millions of balloons containing transistor radios, flash drives and pamphlets, but lately, Park has been sending across DVDs of The Interview, the uncouth Franco-Rogen slapstick whose mediocrity only made headlines in December because of its spawning of a tense political standoff between North Korea and the US.

Despite police resistance and an assassination attempt, Park has continued his incessant ballooning much to the annoyance of both sides of the border. North Korea is enraged by Park’s determination to besmirch the name of their Supreme Leader, while local residents in his own nation don’t appreciate the unnecessary tension that this poetic stunt is causing at the DMZ. While the balloons are designed to release their contents by the time they drift above Pyongyang, critics are skeptical about the effectiveness of the campaign, arguing that most North Koreans do not own computers, and would not be able to watch the film even if they were to risk doing so.

The idea seems strange, but Park’s efforts are a clear reminder of all the things—such as bad filmmaking—that we tend to take for granted. If it is indeed, as Pyongyang has referred to it, a de facto “declaration of war,” it might be the most serene battle cry in history: hundreds of oblong piece of plastic, bobbing across space.

We can only hope that this won’t inflate North and South Korean tensions to the point of poetic aerial combat. –MS

Murky Waters

The infinite has always perplexed man, and indeed, this week on the high seas the endless and the ceaseless have taken the form of uncontrollable vomit. The Infinity is a 965’ cruise ship currently sailing under the flag of Celebrity Cruises. Previously known for their novel “Pick your Perk” program, the Celebrity Cruises name took a beating this week following the release of reports that the Infinity had been overwhelmed by a norovirus outbreak.

On Monday, the ship’s 2,000 passengers were freed to roam the city of San Diego, but not before hundreds of vacations were ruined by vomiting, diarrhea, fevers, and body aches. Six members of the 964-person crew are also said to have caught the bug. The Infinity was home to similar outbreaks in 2006 as well as in 2013. Since the beginning of the year the CDC has reported five outbreaks of gastrointestinal viruses aboard cruise ships in American waters. No guilty party has been identified; the Infinity recently earned a perfect score on the CDC’s renowned 100-point Vessel Sanitation Program scoring metric. The norovirus may have managed to stow away in bad food, a sloppily washed towel, or any number of other virus-friendly nooks. On, a review of an Infinity cruise by user Photo_Traveler describes the staff’s attempts to prevent a norovirus outbreak in 2014: “When the code red activity started after leaving Mexican waters, the ship became squeaky clean. It’s almost clean enough for surgery in most areas of the ship.” Reports from those aboard for this most recent outbreak have yet to be posted to,, or any of the other major review services.

The good news is that none of the cases were really serious, and everyone made it out alive. Your friends at the Indy just hope that the crew of the Infinity won’t be too pooped to keep on cruising. –MD