Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Duh!


Republican appointee Ben Bernake displays his financial wizardry to Congress:

"'Crucially, whatever size of government is chosen, tax rates must ultimately be set at a level sufficient to achieve an appropriate balance of spending and revenues in the long run,' Bernanke said.

"Bernanke said advocates of lower taxes would have to accept lower spending on entitlement programs. Likewise, proponents of more-expansive government programs must recognize the need for higher taxes brought about by higher spending, he added."

Perhaps this genius ought to explain Economics for Dummies to the dummy who appointed him.

Only a suggestion.

You'll find the entire laughable account here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070228/bs_nm/usa_fed_bernanke_dc

Monday, February 26, 2007

Robots, mechanical “suicide,” common sense, GM, self-reinforcing deafness, Parisian drunks and those nutty No-Pasaran American right wingers in Paris



I don’t know where to start this story. Well, okay, let’s start it in New York, where the Deutsch advertising agency created a particularly engaging TV commercial.

It was a spot for General Motors about a klutzy robot who gets “fired” from the GM assembly line for dropping screws.

Alas, by the time this rant ends, the list of screwy screw-droppers you're going to read about grows to include a pathological passel of headshrinkers, a bunch of cowardly GM executives, some drunk under a busted park bench in Paris, and a flock of foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing blogaholics stretched out from Paris, to England, to North Carolina.

But let's start with the spot. It was a charming and funny one. A pathetic schnook of a robot who can’t hold on to its screws ends up on a downward career spiral, working next as a real estate sign holder and later as a tollgate lifter before it finally jumps off a bridge in despair.

"OH MY GAWD! A SUICIDAL ROBOT!
HE'LL ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO JUMP
OFF BRIDGES, TOO!"

Boom! There was a wildly hysterical response from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Their reasoning? “Media portrayals, such as this ad, further trivialize the underlying illnesses that can lead to suicide and perpetuate this stigma.” (URLS below)

Aw c’mon! You guys are really just trying to perpetuate the stereotype of the "nutty headshrinker," right?

It’s an effin’ pretend ROBOT, for goodness sakes. It’s a FANTASY, guys! It’s a cute way of General Motors saying that it’s trying to make mechanically perfect cars. Nearly everybody either understands that people are not robots, or belongs in the nuthouse with the headshrinkers who man the wheelhouses there.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe robots have HMOs that allow them 12 visits to a headshrinker every year, and they been snagging holes in psychiatric couches with their sharp metallic feet while pouring out their woes of 24 hour days on the assembly line, with virtually no downtime to re-oil their gears. No wonder those poor hunks of tin are jumping off bridges.

ATTENTION ALL PASSING BOATS
BEWARE OF ROBOTS JUMPING OFF BRIDGES!

Now, I can hear the loud harrumphing, “But you unfeeling Cranks don’t understand. Suicide is serious business. Somebody might be inspired by this poor robot to jump off a bridge, too.”

Yeah, right. But then, so might the word suicide. Or mention of it in any context. Why stop at coming down like a ton of bricks on General Motors? Why not ban any mention of the word suicide, or portrayal in words or pictures of the act of suicide by any creature, real or imaginary, living or mechanical? Just send out the cops to confiscate the TV spots and films that mention suicide and burn the books. If need be, burn the robots, too.

Every suicide in America raises the issue of poor mental health care in the United States. Herewith, a cranky recommendation that the Suicide Establishment focus on sick people, not fantasy robots.

Your own press releases state that there are over a million suicide attempts a year in the U.S. This says to me that so far, you’re doing a lousy job. At least have the common sense to stick to your own knitting, instead of trying to censor a TV spot that might give a few depressed people a laugh and momentarily at least lift them from their own depressed moods. Right now, it seems that the Suicide Establishment is terrified of the simple truth: That laughter is at least occasionally the best medicine.

No matter. GM executives, who have about as much spine as a jellyfish, caved in. They got the spot revised to save the poor robot from suicide. And you thought panicky shrinks were powerless over huge corporations?

IF YOU THINK THAT'S NUTTY, CHECK OUT
MY FAVORITE RIGHT WING EXPATRIATES

All of the above brings me to the right wing blog No-Pasaran (There's a link in the section above, right) which recently published this photograph of some drunk lying on the sidewalk at Place Jules Joffrin in the considerably less-than-spiffy 18th Arrondissment of Paris, famous for its flea markets.

The photograph appeared as part of an attack on a French politician, Dominique de Villepin who had the temerity to say, according to No-Pasaran’s own translation, that France is not “a beat nation.” (The actual words were, “un pays fatigu√©.”)

The post with the unconscious drunk sat there, uncommented upon, for several hours last Sunday, until I posted on their feedback section, called “et ca geule,” the comment that there were plenty of homeless people in the United States, too, as well as working families who are homeless and sleeping in cars.

Well whaddya know? That simple and factual statement (type “Homeless Americans sleeping in cars,” into a Google search engine and you’ll get over 1,200,000 hits) disturbed the Sunday peace of the expat lunatic right like an √©clat of thunder in the Clignancourt flea market.

Last time I bothered to count, there were 18 enraged responses, some of them wildly (and therefore amusingly) vituperative, like men in top hats throwing cow pies at each other. More interesting still, they censored my three-or-four sentence post on the grounds that I screen comments on my own blog, and therefore – if you can follow their twisted logic – I am not entitled to post on their public forum. So they blipped out my post and left only the responses to it. (Click on the No-Pasaran link above right and then scroll down to the same picture of the same drunk you see above.)

Truth is, I do screen – but only for spelled out obscenities and libel – and those guys know it. In fact, the only post I’ve ever rejected had to do with a a personal medical malpractice accusation that somebody wanted me to post, months ago. Since he was smart enough to include his e-mail, I sent him back a note explaining my policy. End of story

The real reason the No-Pasaran crowd posts responses to a statement they will permit nobody to read (unless this article prompts them to put it back) is that they’re talking to themselves and they don't like truthful static getting in the way of what they want to hear. Like little kids running around with their fingers in their ears so they can’t hear unpleasant news, they’re out to censor any news, information or opinion that doesn’t square with their own rather curious view of the world.

Meanwhile, their rebutalls are often mutually contradictory. I encourage you to visit the enemy camp and enjoy the chaos – a favor they don’t return.

All this right wing expat blather is a sign of the same self-reinforcing form of deafness that has the White House talking to itself and telling itself it's a sign we're winning every time another disgusted ally in Iraq pulls out, another American gets killed, or another American citizen confronts them with the unpleasant truth.

They of course support freedom of speech. But only for themselves.


URLs YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK OUT:

http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=C1F1E27C-CF1C-2465-1ED165C5B73D18B8

http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/admeter/2007-02-09-gm-edit-ad_x.htm

http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hillary Clinton’s amazingly unwitting acknowledgement of the Clinton-can’t-win prophecy


Listen gang, I hate – absolutely hate – to come down on any Democrat who’s a Presidential candidate.

Let it also be said that even Hillary Clinton would be better in the White House than any Republican I can think of, most especially better than Terrible Tempered Rudy or Fibbing John McCain.

That said, it seems apparent that Hillary just shot herself in the foot – well, maybe also in the arm and the nose and the earlobe and the kneecap – in a flap over Hollywood mogul David Geffen’s fund raising efforts for Barack Obama.

It all started when, in addition to abandoning the Clinton camp to raise funds for Obama, Geffen told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in an interview that Hillary is a polarizing figure who’d have trouble getting elected. He pointed to her stubborn refusal to admit she was wrong about Iraq: “It’s not a very big thing to say, ‘I made a mistake’ on the war, and typical of Hillary Clinton that she can’t.”

And then he added that while “everybody in politics lies,” the Clintons “do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”

Had she been a smarter and less polarizing candidate, Hillary might simply have told her campaign people to ignore the remark and, if asked by the press, say that "Mr. Geffen is entitled to his opinions, with which we disagree." She would have looked like a big, bring-us-together kind of person.

Instead, foul temper conquored all. Clinton campaign headquarters turned on the high voltage revenge machine. They came out with a demand that Obama denounce Geffen’s statement and give him back the money he’d raised for them.

Fat chance, and Hillary knew it. She’d never do any such thing herself. And then, as if to prove Geffen’s point about lying, the Clinton team lied and said Geffen was Obama’s finance chairman. That job is held by a woman named Penny Pritzker.

So let me see here: A private citizen switches his alliance from Hillary to Barack. Hillary’s enraged people immediately revv up for bloodlust, making an impossible and angry demand, followed by a lie.

Obama, of course, is firing back out of self-defense, though not nearly as viciously.

But you don’t even have to read between the lines to see that Hillary is every bit as polarizing and fork-tongued as Geffen said.

Speculative call: If Hillary brings down Obama, she’ll bring herself down as well, leaving the field open to John Edwards. Which wouldn’t be all bad, much as I like Obama.

For more entertaining dirt on Hillary’s explosion check out these:
http://www.slate.com/id/2159182/
http://www.capitolhillblue.com/wp/2007/02/22/2179
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/team-hillary-shoots-back-_b_41763.html

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The tale of the duck and the dumbbell (Can you figure out which is which?)


There is no more “Madison Avenue.” The street exists, but most of the New York ad agencies were driven off that street long ago by high rent and earnings pressure from the adglomerates that own them. This changed the focus of advertising agencies from their product, the advertising, to their bottom line.

That’s part of the reason why it’s rare these days to have an advertising campaign as great as those created in the golden days of advertising, circa 1960s and 1970s. One exception has been AFLAC and its hyperactive duck.

Created by the Kaplan Thaler advertising agency on Eighth Avenue, the AFLAC duck’s series of misadventures were the kind of commercials you’d stay up late to watch over and over again. Little wonder that the AFLAC Duck created 85 percent brand awareness in the last five years, a result that Advertising Age, the leading publication of the advertising business, calls “phenomenal.” http://adage.com/article?article_id=115039

So what happened? Along comes Jeff Herbert. (His picture is above; in case you haven't figured it out he's the one who's not the Duck.) Jeff Herbert’s title is CMO of AFLAC. That’s Chief Marketing Officer to you. But what he really is, is Elmer Fudd out to shoot a Duck instead of a Wabbit.

Y’see, in violation of the late David Ogilvy’s rule that “the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife,” Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Herbert-Fudd has decided that a moron is exactly what you and your wife are.

According to Advertising Age, “’Our industry is a difficult one for the average consumer to understand,’ Mr. Herbert said. ‘We want to move our brand from being known to owned.’ And that means new creative, new products and a rethinking of the media plan.”

In short, CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd plans to kill the Duck. Or at least roast its hiney to an unrecognizable crisp.

Well, if CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd really wants to explain the industry to consumers, which I somehow doubt, there’s no better teacher than the duck. Turn the Duck on and consumers turn on and pay attention. Turn the Duck off and almost guaranteed you’ll have a boring piece of crap advertising.

AFLAC could use the duck in direct mail. Hell, I might read a letter signed by the AFLAC Duck even though I know it’s a sendup. I’d certainly read a brochure in which the Duck walks me through all those new products AFLAC is cooking up to take my money, and explains why I need them and the benefits they'll bring to my life.

Alas! According to what Advertising Age learned, we’re going to have billboards instead, presumably ugly and duck-free billboards. Since billboards rarely contain more than six words, I doubt they'll be able to tell you much about anything.

Consider: AFLAC could create awareness of all those great products CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd is cooking up in his marketing kitchen just by having the Duck explain them on television. But no.

CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd, like another dodo named George Bush, can’t get the first rule of success through his head: "If it ain’t busted, don’t fix it." Ignoring the rule is how we got into Iraq. It's also how CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd is going to shoot down the most successful advertising symbol in decades and help send the company into a tailspin.

Which will probably mean that CMO Jeff Herbert-Fudd will go down in marketing, advertising and AFLAC history as the goose who smashed the golden egg.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lies, Republican lies, and disgusting, filthy smears

Anything you need to know about the conservative right, you can find here:

http://underbelly-buce.blogspot.com/2007/02/truth-may-be-stranger-than-fiction-but.html

Admittedly my friend Buce points out that other bogus quotes have also been created by the left. But unlike the right, the left didn't use their invention to declare distinguished and patriotic Americans traitors.

As I said at the end of my previous post, I'm going away on vacation for a few days. Any more reading about what the right wing is up to and I'm likely to puke. So I'm outta here for a while, fingers in my ears, so I don't have to listen to the crap spewing from Republican lips.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Must I also get in on the gabfest about Anna Nicole Smith? Sigh! When it comes to greedy goons sniffing around nearly half a billion bucks,yes!



Back in the 1960s, an army buddy revealed to me that about half of his meager pay never showed up in his pay envelope. Instead, it went for child support, back in his Rhode Island home town.

“Oh, you’re a father?” I asked, a little bit surprised. He was only about 19.

“No,” he said. He wasn't anybody's father.

“Then how come you’re paying child support?”

What a story! Turns out, a high school friend of his had been hauled off to court for child support after knocking up a classmate.

The friend didn’t want to pay. So he developed a legal strategy that had to do with demonstrating the girl was such a tramp that anybody could have been the father.

The accused father brought in five of his close pals, each of whom testified (falsely) under oath that they had also slept with the unfortunate girl, nine months or so in advance of the childbirth.

This was back in the days before DNA. It was anybody’s word against anybody else’s word. Blood tests could be use to exclude fathership. But nobody had demanded to be excluded.

“Very well,” said the judge, a woman who evidently knew a rat when she smelled one, “Since there’s no way of knowing which of you fathered the child, each of you is ordered pay one sixth of the child's support until the child is 18.”

Which brings us to the unfortunate infant daughter of the late Anna Nicole Smith, who has three men each swearing they are her father.

Don’t we all smell a rat, when the child is the potential heir of nearly $500 million bucks that presumably her closest blood relative would manage? One self-nominating father (the husband of 90 year old Zsa Zsa Gabor) sounds to me like a highly unlikely candidate. The other two – who knows? But the fact that one of them, Howard K. Stern, is thusfar refusing to turn over DNA samples tends to fill the room with the distinctive scent of rodent.

So here’s what I’d suggest that the court do: Hold the child’s money in escrow until she is at least 21, when all of it plus accrued interest can be turned over directly to her. Meanwhile, hit up each of the men who insist they are the father for child support – from private school and college tuition to prom dresses, healthcare and nice, well-maintained living quarters – until she reaches her majority. About 50 grand a year apiece ought to do it.

Meanwhile, let the maternal grandmother raise the child.

Yo, you guys still want to insist you’re the sperm donor?

P.S. After this post went up, I came across news that yet another would-be father has thrown his, uh, sperm into the ring, proof that when you jump into sleeze you can't hit bottom no matter how far down y ou go.

This time it's Anna's bodyguard, evidently claiming that when the lawyer, the ex-boyfriend, and the much younger husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor weren't in bed with Anna, he was. Poor girl! No wonder she was able to lose so much weight. Forget the diet she was on. She had no time to eat.

Judge – hit that man for child support, too!

This is all too disgusting. I'm taking a few days in Florida to get out of the cold and the sleaze. I'll be back with a new post some time around Feb. 21. 'Till then, keep warm. And dry.

Speaking of which, one more thought? Didn't ANY of these guys ever hear of safe sex?

Monday, February 12, 2007

You can’t have it two ways in Iraq and still have a coherent policy. It’s time to pull out. Democrats should tell the President, “Just say go.”


When even heavyweight military men start telling you that “victory is not an option” in Iraq, it’s time to pull out.

“Victory is not an option” is precisely what retired Army lieutenant general William E. Odom said this past weekend in an article in the Washington Post. The head of army intelligence and director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration in effect shook his head in despair and disgust.

I recommend reading the article even if it means navigating away from this page for a while. Just past this into your browser and click: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020901917.html

The hopelessness of the situation ought to be a call to Democrats to demand an immediate pullout. Not a wishy-washy maybe-perhaps-a-bit-later-on Hillary Clinton kind of pullout or a Barak Obama let’s-take-nine-months-to-pull-out kind of pullout.

It’s time for Democrats to just say “go.” Leave. Now. Before we lose thousands more American troops.

Will there be total chaos and considerable loss of life in Iraq if we just jump on our helicopters and leave the country?

Yes. Just as there is today and every day in Iraq.

Will Iraqi lives get lost? You bet. But thousands of Iraqi lives get lost every day. At least a pullout will stem the loss of American lives.

Continuing the war in Iraq contributes to the murder – there’s no other word for it – the murder of U.S. troops whose tours of duty never seem to end, who grow older and more weary fighting for….something or other. Oh yeah, that impossible “victory” against, umm…that amorphous thing called “terrorism.”

Democrats who refuse to demand a pullout, in Congress and on the campaign trail, are just as guilty as George Bush and the Republican party, who now seem to be trying to provoke Iran into a hostile act so that we can expand and get deeper yet into this bloody quagmire.

It’s coming down to the fact that you’re either for immediate withdrawal or you’re helping to murder U.S. troops.

It’s time to pull out. Leave. Quit. No shilly-shallying any more. Just say go.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Announcing the first-ever New York Crank Psychic Ding Award®. And the winner is….


Faithful readers of this blog (all eleven of you) may remember that back in November, The New York Crank predicted the election outcome with help from a spelling-challenged fortuneteller who does business on the gritty commercial block where the The New York Crank offices also are also located. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the URL of her election predictions.)

Alas, Mme. Galzoragist has fallen upon hard times. What happened is, part of her neon sign blew out. This has messed up her brand image badly and she's too broke to hire an image consultant to fix it. People looking for psychic readings have become confused and no longer come to see her. So now she is selling psychic “dings.”

“Dings?”

“They’re like little dents or chips or scratches on the mind of the person who gets them,” Madame Galzoragist explained. “They are transmitted psychically, directly from my mind to the mind of the ding-ee. Give me some money and you can test it out.

“How much do you charge?”

“Whatever the traffic will bear.”

So I gave her some money and thought of a person.

“Ted Haggard,” I said.

“You mean the anti-sin fundamentalist minister who got caught using dope and carrying on with the gay hooker, and who is now in rehab?” Mme. Galzoragist asked.

“Yeah him.”

“Okay.” She put her right index forefinger to her forehead, closed her eyes and began to tremble. After a while she said, “Ding!” And then she said, “Done.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Up to now Haggard was merely a closet gay and speed-head who got caught. I have just dinged him into total insanity,” the Seer of West 36th Street explained.

“Aw come on!” I said. But sure enough, the very next day, Haggard went completely nuts, putting out word that he wasn’t gay, and that anyway he was “cured” of gayness, and was now “completely heterosexual” and that it all had miraculously happened in just a few weeks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Haggard

I mean, Hallelujah! Is that crazy or what? The only thing crazier than that story is any lunatic who believes it.

So Ted, you are now psychically dinged. Congratulations on being the first New York Crank Psychic Ding Award® winner in history.

With this as a precedent, we hope to issue many more psychic dings in the months ahead. Are you listening, presidential candidates and press agents?


For more on the inventor of the ding and her spelling problems just go to this URL and scroll down to the picture of the painted fortune telling sign and the article headlined
$5 Fortune Teller Predicts Election Outcome”L
http://thenewyorkcrank.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_thenewyorkcrank_archive.html

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sleazy, dumb and stupider: The Boston terrorist bomb scare.



So the whole hullabaloo over “bombs” in Boston, placed in spots we associate with terrorist targets, turned out to be “guerilla marketing.”

Guerilla-what? That’s a loosely defined collection of techniques that get people talking about your product on the cheap. Instead of spending mega millions on, say, placing TV commercials on the Superbowl, you pay a fee to have some “guerilla” scare the living hell out of your citizenry so they’ll be aware of you. Kind of like Son of Sam shilling consumer products.

There’s a reason guerilla marketing is growing popular. Desperate advertisers and their agencies have a bad problem that keeps on getting worse: technologically-savvy consumers are increasingly wising up.

If greedy networks pile on too many commercials during breaks, you simply lift your remote and zap them off your screen for a while. Or you TiVo and fast-forward past the commercials. Or you simply turn your mind off. After a while, it gets too expensive to advertise so many times that a message finally gets slips past your mental barrier to you when your guard is down.

Enter guerilla marketing and its sleazy tactics. For example, there’s Sam Travis Ewen. He’s a big deal in “marketing communications” these days, named one of Brandweek Magazine's “Guerrilla Marketers of the Year” – which some people might consider the equivalent of “The Che Guevarra of Public Annoyance.”

Ewen has ”put people on subways to brag about financial advisers and sent models into bars to sit with packs of cigarettes, waiting for someone to ask for a smoke.” http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/02/01/
marketing_gambit_exposes_a_wide_generation_gap/

Okay, that's only borderline sleazy. But recently he went too far. On behalf of Time Warner’s Cartoon Network he made a bunch of devices that looked a little bit like a cartoon character and a little bit of a bomb, and hung them from highway overpasses, subway stations and bridges.

It was a dumb move that led to an almost dumb response.

Given a choice between perceiving the devices as bombs or seeing them as electronic cartoons with a raised middle finger, the authorities in Boston chose to see bombs. It was kind of dense. But on the other hand, these are tense times and we all fear terrorists, so you can’t blame the Boston cops for erring on the side of caution. In fact, with a tangle of coiled wires and batteries attached to the back of each “cartoon,” making everyone think “bomb” might have been what this marketing Che Guevara had in mind.

The result: ''Last week's events caused a major disruption in the greater Boston area on many levels -- crippling public transportation, causing serious traffic problems, negatively affecting local businesses and perhaps most significantly, costing Boston and surrounding communities thousands of dollars,'' according to the local Attorney General, quoted in the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Suspicious-Devices.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

So how did it all turn out? Time Warner Cable sends the city of Boston $2 million to get itself and its presumably-just-stupid execs who approved this little hoax off the hook. Evidently, the two million smackers has also saved the buns of Sam Travis Ewen, the guerilla marketer who thought up the cartoon/bomb stunt, and who had to know or should have known that anything with lights and wires and batteries would probably raise some alarms if it hangs mysteriously in subway stations and under bridges.

Frankly, in this case I applaud the "stupidity" of the cops. Better to err on the side of caution.

The only two people who faced charges were the two hippie go-fers who, presumably on instructions from guerilla marketing sleazoid Ewen, stuck up the devices around town. Yeah, the messengers got busted.

If you ask me, that’s like setting a cattle rustler free and hanging his horse.

Guerilla marketers have moved from acting like obnoxious louts to yelling fire in crowded theaters. They and the corporate honchos who enable them – not their pathetic go-fers – ought to do some time.