Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is the New York Times about to collapse into a miasma of inefficiency, bollixups, and obscene pay for screwup executives?

As Janet Robinson departs the New York Times, $15 million richer – for having quartered shareholder value, gotten rid of many valuable people, and frozen the pensions of Times employees abroad who literally risked their lives for the paper – a new problem emerges.

Seems the Times can't even get its subscription operations straight.

A few hours ago, a notice popped up in my e-mail inbox. I quote it in full:

Dear Home Delivery Subscriber,

Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription. Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access and our NYTimes apps.

We do hope you’ll reconsider.

As a valued Times reader we invite you to continue your current subscription at an exclusive rate of 50% off for 16 weeks. This is a limited-time offer and will no longer be valid once your current subscription ends.*

Continue your subscription and you’ll keep your free, unlimited digital access, a benefit availableonly for our home delivery subscribers. You’ll receive unlimited access to on any device, full access to our smartphone and iPad® apps, plus you can now share your unlimited access with a family member.
To continue your subscription call 1-877-698-0025 and mention code [redacted code numbers] (Monday–Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. E.D.T.).
There's just one small problem. I'm not a home delivery subscriber. I'm a digital subscriber. And I certainly didn't want my digital subscription cancelled.

So I called the 877 number in the notice and got a mechanical brushoff. The system is to effin' busy to take my call. It tells me I can call back later. Or write a letter and fax the damn thing someplace or other.

No thanks.

And by the way, New York Times: If you by mistake cancel my digital subscription, don't expect me to renew.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Update: I just came across this article, indicating that what at first was thought to be the work of a spammer or a spoofer is indeed actually caused by a massive goof at the Times itself.

Second Update - "Pay no attention to the e-mail we sent you": At approximately 4:55 p.m. today I received the following e-mail from the Times:

Dear New York Times Reader,

You may have received an e-mail today from The New York Times with the subject line “Important information regarding your subscription."

This e-mail was sent by us in error. Please disregard the message. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.


The New York Times
Final (I hope) update: Dec. 28, 10:45 p.m.
As you'll discover if you click on the comments, twenty-something readers chose to comment on this post, a good many of them saying, or implying, that I'm an idiot for not recognizing that all I received was some malicious spam.
Not so fast, dumdum. According to an article now on the Times website, written by Amy Chozick, "
"The New York Times mistakenly sent an e-mail on Wednesday to more than eight million people who had shared their information with the company, erroneously informing them that they had canceled home delivery of the newspaper.

"The Times Company, which initially mischaracterized the mishap as spam, apologized for sending the e-mail. The people who received the message represented a cross section of readers who had given their e-mail addresses to the newspaper, said Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times Company..."
You can read the whole story here. So take that, you idiot shoot-from-the-hip nincompoops who implied that I hadn't checked this out and didn't know spam from Shinola! Look who's up to their necks in Shinola now.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Beat up, shoot and try to murder America’s heroic war veterans – one tactic used again the Occupy movement. What’s next? Maybe outlawing snow suits.

Sitting here in New York City, it's pretty easy to lose sight of the fact that the Occupy movement is happening all over America, not just on Wall Street. The 99 percent is mad as hell at Republicans and bankers from sea to shining sea.

What initially brought this to my attention was an e-mail from Brian Sonnenstein at Firedog Lake about what's been going on in Erie, PA. He wrote:

"The police are trying to drive occupiers out of the park by seizing their blankets and sleeping bags, so they've asked Occupy Supply for arctic lined coveralls to keep them warm at night..."
So I went web surfing and found the Occupy Erie website, where I learned that the Erie protesters are examining instances of police brutality against occupiers from Erie to California. Said the Erie occupiers:

"Excsssive use of force toward those in the Occupy movement has led to arbitrary arrests, a fractured skull for one veteran and a reputured spleen for another...[and all these actions] have been deployed against peaceful U.S. Citizens."
So great. You go to war for your country. You get shipped halfway around the world on one, two, maybe even three or four tours of duty, dodging bullets, IEDs and car and truck bombs. And when you get back, some cop feels duty bound to beat the crap out of you or try to shoot you to death. Is this the greatest country in the world or what?

Here's one example:

Then there was the vet in Erie who got shot in the face with a teargas cannister, resulting in a fractured skull.

Of course, if all else fails, the town fathers of Erie can get rid of the demonstrators by outlawing their arctic coverall snowsuits that the occupiers are starting wear when they sleep outdoors since the cops confiscated their sleeping bags.

And I suppose the cops will claim that they're not really blocking free speech for arresting people for wearing snow suits, because the Occupy protestors will still be free to stay out in the freezing winter of upstate News York and demonstrate, so long as they're naked.

Friday, December 09, 2011


What is it with my business clients? Well, I'll tell you what it is.

It's the end of the year and if they don't blow their budgets by December 31, some corporate uberfuhrer will say, "Well, obviously we allocated too much money to you in 2011, so we're cutting your budget for 2012."

In other words, it's use it or lose it time. Which means hapless scribblers like me get called out to produce great stuff, in great gobs, under great pressure, until the end of the year.

Where were all these guys in September when I needed them? Shepherding their budgets, of course, so that they wouldn't get caught short in case an unexpected, umm, situation came along that would demand a big expenditure.

For the top guys in American business, it's all about stuffing their pockets with huge wads of cash that would otherwise fall into the hands of their employees, or their stockholders, or in the form of lower prices to their consumers.

But for the poor shlubs in middle management it's about playing Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They spend not too much, not too little, but just right – until the end of the last quarter when they dump their budgets like a drug dealer pursued by a police car, desperately throwing bags of cocaine out the window.

Listen, I'm not complaining about the middle guys. Thanks to them, I've survived for the past 20 years living on the crumbs that fall off corporate America's table.

Same as the middle management guys and all the rest of us, come to think of it.

So I'll see you when I'm back to complaining that I'm not getting any work.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Why should the New York Crank badmouth Newt Gingrich when I can get Ron Paul to do it for me? (Be sure to scroll down and see the video.)

Republicans have an odd habit of worshipping losers, liars, lunatics, and lunkheads.

Among their company is Newt Gingrich, whose star is now on the ascendancy after Herman Caine’s fell, owing to what used to be called “wimmin troubles.” Before that was Michelle Bachmann and Governor Tex Whatzisname, who could stick their own feet in their mouths while standing up ramrod straight with their lips tightly shut.

Now one of the lunatic fringe candidates – no I take that back. He’s not on the fringe. He’s batshit crazy. Anyway, looney tunes Doctor Ron Paul has decided that Newt is a serious threat to his own candidacy, and has taken his case of the vapors to the Internet to denounce Newt.

Of course, in my own cranky opinion, Newt deserves denouncing. It’s just that I wish Doctor Ron wouldn’t blame the fall of western civilization on Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, when they were mere bit players. Fanny and Freddy followed after the big boy players in the mortgage meltdown, from Bear Sterns (remember them?) and Lehman Brothers (and remember them too – and also Countrywide Financial?) to the still-standing Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and other Wall Streeters who are occupied with their bonuses rather than the troubles they’ve caused America.

That said, without further ado, I turn my blog piece for today over to my guest blogger, Ron Paul, who sent me the following screed in an e-mail (he thinks I’m a conservative libertarian for some reason) along with this video denouncing Newt. Take it away, Ron:


Dear [Another name for the New York Crank],

You might have seen recently that Mr. Gingrich traded on his former political office to land a $1.8 million lobbying contract with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Why is this so disturbing?

Because while these out-of-control federal agencies were ruining the housing market and causing millions of homeowners to lose their homes and life savings, Newt Gingrich was earning millions advising them.

At that same exact time, I was publicly declaring they needed to be stopped before they ruined the economy.

I guess Newt Gingrich and I have a different idea of what to do with federal bureaucracies. I fight to rein them in and shut them down before they can do harm. He pads his personal bank account while they wreck our economy.

While I was fighting environmental extremists, the out-of-control EPA, and the Soros-funded green movement, Newt Gingrich was filming commercials with Nancy Pelosi.

While I was fighting government bailouts, Newt was saying he would have voted FOR them.

Don't be fooled by the words candidates use when they are running for office. Look hard at their records. My record is one of true limited government, anti-Washington, D.C. conservatism.

Newt Gingrich has a long record of liberal appeasement, flip-flopping on key issues, and lobbying for insider millions.

Millions. That's right. Remember the individual mandate I mentioned earlier that Newt supported? His healthcare group received nearly $40 MILLION in contributions from the healthcare industry.

I have rarely seen a candidate who represents so much of what is wrong with Washington and what is wrong with our political system.

We can and must demand better.

We must demand REAL conservative values. We must demand a person who puts faith, family, and freedom ahead of all else. And we must demand a candidate who has remained true to principle his entire career.

I believe I am that candidate, and I ask you to take a look at my Plan to Restore America at

You can tell I mean every word in it -- just as I've meant every word I have said in public life. And that's something that everyone will admit, whether they agree with all of my positions or not.

With me, what you see and hear is what you get. Wouldn't that be a nice change?

I am the only true conservative in the top tier of candidates running for the GOP nomination. And I ask for your support.

Together we can stop the counterfeit conservatives AND the liberals in the White House. We can take back and Restore America Now.

For Liberty,

Ron Paul

P.S. Whether it's flip-flopping on TARP, supporting the individual mandate that served as a model for "ObamaCare," joining with Nancy Pelosi in support of the global-warming crowd's radical agenda, or making millions off of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they helped destroy our economy, Newt Gingrich is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

He's what I call a "counterfeit conservative."

Here's an ad my campaign put together explaining his record of supporting liberal policies. Please take a moment to watch it.

And, if possible, contribute to my campaign as generously as you can to help me run this ad and get my message of liberty out with mail, internet advertising, and an all-out media blitz.

Paid for by Ron Paul 2012 Presidential Campaign Committee

Friday, November 25, 2011

“The devil made me do it. Oh, wait a second, actually it was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

The folks who have been sinking America can be lovely companions – good conversationalists, charming dinner company, amusing raconteurs – the kind of affable folks you’d want as pals. Just so long as you steer clear of politics and what they do for a living.

I was an invitee sitting across a dinner table from one of those delightful people this Thanksgiving. He was an investment bank institutional securities salesman. The two of us were doing absolutely fine, on the verge of becoming BFF’s, until he asked me how I make my living.

I went through my litany of stuff-I-do-for-money and then I made the mistake of mentioning a non-income-producing sideline of mine, this blog.

“Blogger?” he asked, sounding just a bit suspicious, as if I had told him I’m an assistant university football coach who also leads a cub scout troop and that I occasionally indulge in a bit of playful shower-room towel snapping with the little boys.

“One of those left-wing bloggers?” he asked. As if right-wing bloggers, political neuters and recipe publishers were somehow absent from the blogosphere, if not the entire Internet.

I told him, as I tell everyone, that I’m a 1950’s middle-of-the-road Democrat who has been standing politically pat for over half a century. Meanwhile, the rest of America forgot its roots and its own needs and has begun a long, mad hike to the right. So that today, for example, some people are willing to bargain away – or let the Obama Administration bargain away – a good part of their own old-age Social Security and Medicare benefits in exchange for a minor upward adjustment in taxes for the wealthiest Americans. And that increase would be a small fraction of the rates the rich paid half a century ago.

Before you could say “financial crisis,” we were knee-deep into a mortgage meltdown fracas. “It’s all the fault of the U.S. Government,” he insisted. “Fannie Mae was selling mortgages to people who weren’t qualified.”

I’ll spare you ninety percent of the impassioned back-and-forth wonkery that followed. Suffice it to say that the guy across the table absolved every financial entity on the planet for the mortgage crisis – Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac excepted. He put the blame squarely on Congress and its insidiously destructive secret agents, Fanny and Freddy, for encouraging as many Americans as possible to be homeowners, in part so they’d have a direct stake in the financial stability of America.

I in turn pointed out that it was the mortgage originators who were encouraging liars loans ­– and putting pressure on borrowers to go for adjustable rate mortgages rather than long term fixed rates – and that this was neither the law nor the intent of Congress. And that it was Lehman, and Goldman-Sachs, and Citi Corp, and Bear Sterns, and Merrill Lynch, and on and on who were peddling bad mortgage securities. Not to mention the role of AIG, the firm that insured the junk without the reserves to pay the insurance claims if they ever came due.

The securities guy, in turn, assured me that Ace Greenberg, the former CEO of AIG, and Sandy Weill, the former CEO of Citicorp had enough “skin in the game” (money invested in their own institutions) that they would have never let this happen had they been in charge.

(Bullpoop! The banks were packaging and trading mortgage crapola, and AIG was insuring it, while Ace and Sandy were still wallowing in the cash from their annual incentive bonuses, set by the boards of directors they helped to appoint. Oh, not to mention Jimmy Cayne, the CEO at Bear Sterns whose “skin in the game” didn’t stop him from allowing his now-defunct company to become a major player in the mortgage derivatives market.)

As for not doing due diligence on mortgage applications, or robo-signing foreclosure orders, or packaging baroque tranches of mortgages into securities that were virtually impossible to evaluate, well, my almost-BFF insisted, that was because there were too many mortgages to process, y’see. And besides, those people who got foreclosed on shouldn’t have had mortgages in the first place.

What it all came down to was, it was everybody’s fault except the financial industry’s for in effect “forcing” the industry peddle that worthless stuff.

Betcha didn’t know that before!

And to think I naively thought the devil made them do it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The U.S. constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. (Except in front of the Bloomberg mansion.)

Less than a week ago, I posted on No More Mr. Niceblog a suggestion that the Occupy Wall Street Movement occupy East 79th Street, in front of multi-billionaire Mayor Bloomberg's personal, private mansion.

Well whaddya know! That’s just what they did earlier today (Sunday, November 20th). Or at least they tried.

But when hundreds of Occupy Wall Street marchers arrived at East 79th Street, they found that the entire block between Fifth and Madison, the block where the Emperor Bloomberg lives, had been blocked off by cops who work for, umm, lemme see now. Oh yes, that's right – they work for Michael Bloomberg.

His majesty The Emperor-Mayor evidently didn’t want to look out of his window and see any damn protestors. So instead of occupying East 79th Street, cops shunted the protesters around the corner to Fifth Avenue between 79th and 80th Streets at the edge of Central Park. His Royal Bloombergness couldn’t see them from there, although Elliott Spitzer, who lives just across that stretch of Fifth Avenue from the park, probably could.

That high-handed treatment of the marchers, plus the civil rights brouhaha that is brewing thanks to the efforts of a State Senator, a civil rights lawyer, and others who are furious at the way occupiers were evicted from Zucotti Park last week, should have made prime time news. But the mayor wasn’t worried. He had a little diversion up his sleeve.

Evidently, the cops for weeks had been investigating and following a “home grown terrorist” who is also "an Al Quada sympathizer." Well, he’s either that or a homicidal lunatic who needs to be locked up, if police and his His Bloombergship’s reports are true. No disputing that. It's the rest of it that has a bit of a problem passing the smell test.

The person in question, a a 27-year-old (Hispanic, not Arab or Persian or Pashtun or Pakistani) named Jose Pimentel, had been reading Al Quada websites and was building bombs, said the Emperor and his police commissioner. To prove the point, the cops showed off a model that they themselves had made of one of the bombs. Heaven only knows why they weren't showing off the actual weapon. But let's give the cops and the emperor a little leeway here.

It's possible Pimentel, if accurately accused, might have killed somebody. But an Al Quada agent he evidently wasn’t, at least not according to any evidence so far disclosed. Which may explain why the FBI and other Federal authorities were having nothing whatsoever to do with this. Their absence from the press conference had me scratching my head.

But what’s even more curious is that Pimentel was under surveillance for months, but only arrested yesterday when Occupy Wall Street’s plans to occupy East 79th Street were announced. And then His Royal Slipperyship and his police commissioner held their press conference at 7:30 p.m. – that's prime prime time folks – just when the local news otherwise would have been focusing on the cops rousting the demonstrators from in front of Il Bloombergche's own house and sending them over to bother the Spitzers instead.

Why do I think that if the cops who raided Zucotti Park get really, really out of hand one of these days ­– say by committing wholesale clubbing of demonstrators and maybe even shooting a few – the Mayor’s going to hold a press conference to announce he plans to compete on America’s Got Talent?

That, or he’ll declare his engagement to Kim Kardashian.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy East 79th Street? Read all about it on No More Mister Nice Blog.

As a favor to somebody I truly admire, I've put my latest post up on No More Mr. Nice Blog.

Click here now, then hurry over and read the piece.

Friday, November 11, 2011

“We are Penn State?” Actually, you are a bunch of unfeeling, heartless, self-centered, violent, and pro-violence imbeciles.

Memo to those Penn State students who are angry at the dismissal of Joe Paterno: you are living evidence that no Penn State student or recent graduate deserves an iota of respect, much less a job upon graduation.

It’s no secret what happened. Over a period of some fifteen years, several little boys were raped by a member of the coaching staff. Another member of the coaching staff reported it up the line in the athletic department, but failed either to call police or to intervene while the rapes were happening to stop them.

And the beloved head football coach, “Joe Pa” Joe Paterno turned out to be Joe Enabler, also failing to put a stop to the matter. He won a lot of games for you? Good for him. But he didn’t report the physically injurious and deeply psychologically damaging anal rape of little boys, thus allowing the rapes to continue?

He belongs in prison with the guy who reportedly did it. Prison is where he he might experience a little of what he previously ignored and learn why stopping child rape is so important.

As for the Penn State students who rioted in the streets, turned over news trucks, started fires – and for their fellow students who think what they did is proper – don’t be surprised to learn that you have dragged your university and its reputation through the mud. I haven't seen or heard about a single mass demonstration on behalf of the raped little boys. Your priorities and your morals – to say nothing of your sympathies – belong in a cesspool.

Nor should you be surprised if any recent or near-future graduate of Penn State turns out to be suspicious or damaged goods to prospective employers. That even when the recession ends, there will be minimal interest in giving many of you – or perhaps any of you – a job.

Thanks to you, Penn State has become Scum State.

Post Script: About six hours after this post went online, I saw a television news report saying some Penn State students are planning a march, in part to express sympathy with the raped boys. Well hallelujah! It's about time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What the guilty verdict in the Dr. Conard Murray case tells us about Medicare

I feel sorry for Dr. Conrad Murray. With crowds of Michael Jackson fans cheering like the crowd at Place de la Concorde whenever a head rolled during the French Revolution, Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, according to the Orlando Sentinal, which was reporting on the TV reporting.

(It’s a sad state of affairs when newspaper staffs have been decimated so badly to cut costs, that in a breaking story of national interest, the reporter covering the story can only tell you what he saw on TV. But that’s for discussion some other time.)

No, I don’t think Dr. Murray deserved to walk. Nor should he keep his medical license if he used it to support the demands of a performer who was, essentially, a prescription drug addict. All the same, I think Murray was a victim of the job (which he chose for himself), rather than any kind of malevolent medic.

One of the facts that emerged from the network coverage was that Michael Jackson paid Dr. Murray $150,000 a month. If you haven’t done the math, that comes to $1.8 million a year. That’s quite a premium given that the median income for cardiologists in the United States is about $219,000-and-change, and even the most successful cardiologists max out somewhere around $450,000 a year. Or at least so says Healthcare Salary Online, which gets its numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By comparison, Dr. Murray was getting paid like an investment bank bond trader on a rocket-powered trip to the financial stratosphere.

Which brings us around to Medicare

Thanks to our skinflint, anti-entitlements Congress, Medicare reimbursements for doctors are pathetically low. The Republicans in Congress have every intention of pushing them lower still, in an effort to destroy Medicare.

Consider the cost of training a doctor: A doctor has to do well at a good four year college, which can leave him or her in debt for $200,000 or more in college loans – and then go on to medical school for four years. Figure medical school at twice the cost of college.

After that, there’s a year of internship, a year or more of residency, specialty training, endless continuing physician education, the cost of setting up an office with all the high tech equipment it takes to practice cardiology these days … well, you get the idea. It takes many doctors years to get to the point where their loans are paid off and they can begin to have a life.

Forcing doctors out of Medicare

The truth is, this nation should be paying doctors the way we pay bankers, and bankers the way we pay shoe salesmen. By putting the financial squeeze on doctors in the name of cost-saving, Congress is forcing more and more doctors out of the Medicare system. These days, the first time senior citizens call a doctor for an appointment, they usually have to ask if the doctor even accepts Medicare. More and more don't. You can thank the Republicans for that.

Between the ever increasing cost of a lengthy medical education, and the steadily eroding reimbursements both from Medicare and private insurance companies, it’s little wonder that some doctors start refusing to take Medicare. Or insurance.

Enter "concierge medicine," the medical care hogs

Instead, some doctors join organizations offering concierge medicine, which are based in well-heeled towns like Greenwich, Connecticut, and charge a flat $5,000 to $10,000 a year (depending on the applicant’s current age and heath.) Concierge medicine offers basic medical services, appointments on short notice, and even house calls in some cases.

A successful doctor practicing concierge medicine will take care of many fewer patients and earn up to 60 percent more than colleagues who take Medicare and other insurance reimbursements.

So instead of earning $219,000 a year, or maxing out around $450,000 a year if you're a top doc, a run-of-the-mill cardiologist can earn $464,000 – considerably more than his or her highly paid counterpart. Which would you do if you were a doctor?

Exactly. And that’s why there are fewer and fewer really superb doctors accepting Medicare. This is putting medical stress on 99 percent of the population while the top one percent calls a concierge doc for a case of the sniffles and demands that the doctor come right over “because I feel too achy to come into the office.”

But even more piggy of medical services than concierge customers, a few of the super-super-rich, Michael Jackson for example, become the sole employer of a doctor. The doctors travel with their patients and the patientss families, administering to their aches, pains, immunizations – and occasionally, as in Dr. Murray’s case, feeding their addictions. And here, too, one can sympathize with the doctors.

When doctors become slaves of their only patient

If you’ve given up a normal practice for a chance to make big bucks for a single patient, that patient owns you. Refuse some nutty or drug-addled demands, say for Profocol, and you could be out on your butt, your income down from nearly two million bucks a year to zero, with little prospect of similar future employment. So the tendency is to give the patient whatever the patient wants, even if it’s dangerous or against the law.

The Murray case should serve as a warning about single-patient medicine not only to other physicians, but also to the rest of us. Society needs to pay doctors enough to reward the cost, hard work and time it took them to become doctors and specialists. If Medicare doesn’t do this, pretty soon there won’t be any Medicare.

But doesn’t Medicare have to cut costs?

No, not the cost of paying doctors (or for that matter, hospitals.) If need be, uncap current Medicare payroll deductions to help pay the freight. And if we have Medicare for all, the cost per-patient will go down, simply because younger Medicare recipients will need less medical and hospital attention than the 65-plus crowd.

That’s why the “public option” that President Obama walked away from was so important, and why his abandoning it was so unforgivable.

As for the Republicans who would destroy our healthcare system and leave in its place healthcare for the rich only, they are beneath contempt.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Who ratted out Herman Cain? The thick plottens.

Aw c’mon. You’ve seen it on TV. You’ve heard about it on radio. You read it in the New York Times. And on 100 zillion blogs. Do you really need more than one link ­– if that – to know what’s with Herman Cain?

He’s charming. He has this crazy plan to “flatten” taxes by making everybody pay a nine percent tax on everything from their income to their babies' infant formula and their blood pressure pills, and he’s pulled ahead of the Mad Doctor, the Dumb Texan who likes to execute people, and Clueless-About -History Michelle, and is now running neck and neck with Mitt (what kind of a name is Mitt? Have you ever met another Mitt?) …anyway, with Mitt Romney.

Then from out of the blue come revelations that way way, back, sometime in the 1980s when Herman was running a restaurant association, he was accused of sexual harassment of not one, not two, but at latest count three women. And, in the course of crafting a response to these revelations, Herman has forgotten that the truth is the only reliable guide to keeping your story straight.

He didn’t remember it, he first declared. Then he sort of remembered it. Then he misremembered it. There was no settlement paid. Well there was something paid, but it wasn’t a settlement, it was an agreement or something. But he didn’t touch her. Well he may have made some gesture relating to showing one of the women the height of his wife. Well…

Yikes! I’m not going to go through all of it. I have a bigger question.

This has all the makings of

a trite detective novel

I keep hearing that some Republicans are saying the Democrats leaked the story, but that makes no sense at all. At least not yet. It is to Barack Obama’s advantage to have all the sharks in the Republican presidential pool going after one another as long as possible, spilling each others’ political blood, wrecking one-another’s images, smearing each other so that the Democrats won’t have to and can take the high road instead, come the presidential elections.

We ought to have a movie with a scene in which a great detective hauls into the library Herman the Hermanator, and Slippery Mitt, and Texas Rick the Executor, and the Newt Man, and Michelle the Misinformed, and Mad Doctor Ron, and Santorum from the Sanitarium, and whoever else the Republicans can haul in from their comic book cast of characters.

“One of you tried to kill the Hermanator,” says the great detective, “and none of you is leaving until we have the guilty party. Now let us begin.

“Mitt Romney, you have the most to gain. You were in the lead, and now the Hermanator is neck-and-neck with you, and if opposition research knocks the Hermanator off his pedestal, you stand the most to gain.

“Rick Perry, you were number one in the straw polls against Mitt until you proved in debate you’re so dumb that if they made you dog catcher, you’d fill the pound with hot dogs. Besides, CNBC on the evening of December 2nd, was rife with rumors that the agents who leaked the news about Herman's harassments was you. So maybe you’re leaking on Herman to get him out of your way so you can be one of the ones in the lead again. You’re ignoring warnings that even if you pull ahead, your Republican opponents are going to start a whispering campaign. You know, if they said it in Texan it would be, “That good ole boy is dumber than a box of rocks.”

“Michelle, don’t you worry. I’ll explain to you later what a rock is. And also what a gay person is, since you obviously wouldn’t know one if you stumbled over him at a wedding.”

Well, you can see where all this goes. Finally it comes around to Herman.

Did Herman rat out himself?

“Herman, you’re a suspect, too. You’re in over your head. Somebody may have sat down with you and showed you that the vast majority of people who will vote in the presidential elections is saying “Nein, Nein, Nein!” to your nine-nine-nine plan. The best way for you to get out of the mess you'd be in if for some reason you became president is to say you’re not playing any more with people who dredge up thirty year old scandals to smear you with, so you’re taking your bat and ball and you’re going home.”

So who did do it?

A little birdie told me it’s those stiletto-smooth guys in the Romney camp. But what do I know?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Have some madeira m'dear

Here, sit next to me on the bed and have a glass of this. I wouldn't think of trying to get you drunk, sweetheart. I'm merely trying to help your heart.

So at last we know what Herman Cain is really, really running for.

He wants to be the next American Idol.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street’s support keeps getting bigger. And bigger. From steelworkers to doctors, they’re mad as hell.

I paid another visit to Zuccotti Park over the weekend. This was five days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cops first thought to invade the park and oust the protestors and then thought better of it.

The police brass changed their minds – or Bloomberg changed their orders, I’m not sure which – because an army of union people began descending on the site, shortly before the planned 7 a.m. rout last Wednesday.

It wasn’t a matter of simply how embarrassed the mayor would be if his brass suddenly gave out the order to pepper spray the union folks and haul ‘em off to the slammer. Nor was it the sense I have that most of the cops are in some sympathy with the mob. You can exclude from that remark the white shirted brass. But the average Joe and Jill in blue seem a bit uncomfortable about what they're doing. But that's only part of it.

Had the unions taken umbrage at seeing their people busted, the Transit Workers might have gone out, bringing the city's subways to a full stop. The Teamsters, who were most certainly there, might have simply moved their trucks into the center lanes of every street in the city and created a traffic snarl of historic proportions. The city workers might have brought municipal government to a standstill. The one percent who have all the money are greedy. But they’re not suicidal. At least, not deliberately.

There were blue collar guys converging on Zuccotti Park who during Viet Nam sided with Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon against the war protestors. In 1968 it wasn’t safe for a war protestor go march past a skyscraper construction site. A hammer or a brick or a bolt might have fallen on your head. Today, these union guys are so fed up with the intransigence of the Republicans and an occasional conservative-in-Democrat’s-clothing that they’re also helping to occupy Wall Street.

This morning, the doctors showed up. NY1, the local TV news outlet in New York, let a medical doctor explain on camera why the demonstrating doctors are so sick of the anti-“Obamacare” stance in Congress. Repeal of Obamacare, if it succeeds, will leave hundreds of thousands of kids (and yes, fetuses whom the Republicans claim so dearly to love) uncovered by ordinary medical care designed to keep them healthy and alive. So much for pro-life Republicans.

Here’s a partial list of the unions that have supported Occupy Wall Street as of Sunday Morning. The full list was printed on the back of the poster you see above. If working guys and women, from hard-hat steel workers and truckers to highly educated nurses, can show up, isn’t it time you showed up, too?

•AAUP-UFT Rutgers


• AFSCME District Council 37

• Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico

• International Brotherhood of Teamsters

• Laborers’ International Union of America

• National Nurses United

• NY Metro Area American Postal Workers Union

• Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY)

• Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)

• Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1199, Local 32BJ

• Transport Workers Union of America

• Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100

• Teamsters Locals 111, 560,701, 814

• United Auto Workers

• United Auto Workers (UAW), Region 9A

• United Tederation of College Teachers – Pratt Institute

• United Federation of Teachers (UFT)

• United Steel Workers (USW)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who says the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have no demands?

You want demands? I'll give you demands. I've posted them on a blog called No More Mister Niceblog, where they're attract more eyeballs than the eyeballs scanning my own blog. But I encourage you to visit No More Mr. Niceblog and examine the post entitled, "A list of demands for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators."

Among the topics covered are reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act, laws preventing commercial banks from operating across state lines (as used to be the case until the 1980s or so) more income tax brackets, with steeper brackets at the top. And even more demandsmore.

More? The demands also deal with Social Security and Medicare, college tuition and college loans, and the need for a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people, but artificial constructs.

Just go here and scroll down until you can read the damn thing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A once-bad ad agency becomes a lot worse

Years ago, in its heydey, an advertising agency named for its founder, Ted Bates, was both famous and infamous.

It was the agency famous for showing hammers banging inside peoples’ heads in TV commercials that promised, “Fast, fast, fast relief” with Anacin. It was famous for selling M&M candy by telling people it “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” These lines, promising a distinctive product benefit, were called “USPs” or unique selling propositions.

But infamously, some of the selling lines, like the one promising fast, fast, fast relief, brought to mind a movie called The Hucksters. In one scene, the film portrayed a client who deliberately spits a gob of saliva on an ad agency conference room table and then declares:

“Gentlemen, I’ve just done a disgusting thing. But you’ll never forget it.”

Ted Bates did that sort of work. Disgusting. But unforgettable. I never worked there, but I knew some copywriters who did. They went through the workweek in a state of overwhelming depression. Their most animated moments were those they spent plotting to jump ship for a better advertising agency where they could proud of their work.

But at least you knew what Ted Bates stood for. And at least you knew what the products it advertised were supposed to do for you. No longer.

These days, Ted Bates is just “bates.” Yes, with a lowercase b. Why this affectation?

Perhaps because bates, now merely another generic cog in the wheels of an advertising conglomerate, has little else to say or show for itself. WPP, the company that now owns bates, is one of a handful of advertising conglomerates that literally control the business. And what advertising agencies are supposed to produce first and foremost these days is not memorable advertising, but big profits for the parent conglomerate.

If bates can’t be famous for what they do any more, perhaps they can be famous for an all lower-case name, and a new logo that has some comic book voice balloons in it. That seems to be what substitutes for thinking these days. Pathetic!

Even more pathetic is that the new bates has evidently forgotten how to communicate in plain English. They’ve gone from ugly-but-straightforwward shouting at TV viewers about headache relief, to locutional blubbering worthy of Jacques Derrida.

Here is one of their “regional chairman” explaining what the advertising agency is all about, as reported in an English trade journal named Brand Republic. Notice that he never mentions advertising:

"Change has always been what we do best, and remains so. In a world where change is so rapid and fundamental, being change experts is even more relevant than ever. However, our insights on change need to lead to an active benefit to clients. It needs a sharper ear to the ground, an understanding of inflection points, and real time action," said Tim Isaac, regional chairman of bates.

And this means what in terms of the look, language, drama and brand images created by advertising?

My guess is, absolutely nothing.

The late Rosser Reeves, the genius behind the USP at Bates and the ugly-but-perfectly-clear ads that emerged from it, must be rolling around in his grave.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wall Street's reply to the national Occupy Wall Street protest movement: "Let 'em eat cake!"

Check out this video. It was taken as an Occupy Wall Street demonstration passed 55 Wall Street, a former bank building now converted to luxury apartments and a chi chi restaurant run by Harry Cipriani

As you'll learn from Cipriani's own website:

On one of the world's most famous streets, Cipriani reinvents the power breakfast and business lunch to provide an experience worthy of its location. On a spring afternoon you will enjoy a cocktail on the balcony overlooking Wall Street once the exchange has closed and there are a few moments of respite on Wall Street business person's busy schedule.

These champagne-swilling folks on Cipriani's balcony don't have a clue. Their behavior is so embarrassing to America's greedy right wing that even some members of the right are making excuses. You'll hear, based on the appearance of one or two people in tuxedos, that this was a wedding. It wasn't, unless tux, or business suit, or tie-less were all acceptable dress options. (Was that the case at any wedding you've attended?) You'll hear that these were ordinary working class people out having a relaxing drink after work. Working class $40,000 a year men and women swilling champagne? At Cipriani prices? Gimme a break!

No, these are the well-to-do heirs and heiresses-apparent to Queen Marie Antoinette. As the story goes, when told that the people of Paris were in the streets demanding bread, Marie Anbtoinette mocked, "They have no bread? Then let them eat cake."

I'm fighting hard to avoid imagining a guillotine set up in the square at Wall and Broad, across from the from of the New York Stock Exchange.

Incidentally, I wandered down to the protest encampment at Zucotti Park yesterday, to take it all in for myself. One of the first things I noticed was, despite all the chatter about the protest being an action by "a bunch of hippie kids," there was plenty of gray hair among the demonstrators.

This may (or may not) have begun as a youth movement. Now however, we are seeing more of those of us who are old enough to remember when incomes were distributed a bit more equitably, there were tax brackets into the 70- and 90-percent range, and yet nearly all of America felt prosperous, well fed, well housed, and confident of the future despite high taxes. And why shouldn't we have felt that way? The taxes supported not only a new interstate highway system and other infrastructure, but also a space exploration project that fed work to thousands of contractors and subcontractors, creating millions of jobs.

The lessons from the gray heads among us is simple: when you feed the greed, you do it by sucking the prosperity out of America. Most billionaires would easily survive a national economic meltdown. They'll simply move to Zurich or a ski chalet in Gstaad, and steal from someone else. It's the rest of us who are screwed.

Meanwhile, across Broadway from Zucotti Park, a couple of 20-something pranksters, wearing suits and ties despite yesterday's balmy Sunday weather, were pretending that they were Wall Street billionaires, waving signs that said, "We are the 1 Percent," while loudly announcing that "we like the status quo," and insisting they had a right to keep all of America's wealth.

It was a pretty funny bit that reminded me of what "Billionaires for Bush," once did to poke fun at the previous administration. While Billionaires for Bush still have a website that proclaims the motto, "Small Government, Big Wars," they seem to have simmered down lately. Which made room for the two jokesters who said the name of their movement is "Occupy Occupy Wall Street."

Waving signs that said, "Bankers of the world Unite!" they insist, with mock seriousness, that their aim is to launch a counter-protest movement so that the rich can keep "pretty much all the money in America."

Everybody seemed to get the gag when I was there. One exception was the Washington Post, which took them seriously, reported that the investment bankers were protesting, and then had to print a retraction. Which tells me that some reporter has the sense of humor and insight of a rock.

Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement is opening a wide fissure in the real status quo. The job of those protesting in the streets is an enormous one – literally to democratically wrest control from the people who have all the power, all the money, and (sadly) who control with bribes described as "campaign contributions" all the Republicans and too many of the Democrats.

And yet I have a gut feeling that in time the Occupy Wall Street movement may succeed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Michael Bloomberg’s grave mistake

The chaos created by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s police department has been covered up the whazoo. You can even read about it on Bloomberg News. To sum up:

• A handful of demonstrators began an “occupy Wall Street” movement.

• Bloomberg sent in the cops. If you’ve seen the videos, you’ve seen that most of the uniformed guys were doing their sheepish best to follow orders without being brutal. The worse most of them (with a few exceptions) could summon up by way of intimidating the protestors were commands to “Get the fuck back.” This was hardly consistent with the Police Department motto here, “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect,” but it wasn’t a grave offense against humanity, either.

• Then some white-shirted command-level people – the ones highest up the food chain, and in frequent contact with their commissioner, who takes orders from the mayor – started to run amok. One, for no reason, walked up to a young female demonstrated, pepper sprayed her in the eyes, then walked away. The internal affairs folks at NYPD are “investigating” the incident. Yeah, sure. Burying it, more likely.

Why hasn't the deputy inspector who did the pepper spraying been suspended pending conclusion of the investigation? Once upon a time, New York cops who were known to perform psycho acts like this were called "rubber guns" because even if they were protected until they could collect their pensions, they were kept on unarmed duty at the precinct house, doing chores like sweeping out the detective squad room.

I haven’t brought up the entire demonstrater-police mess before because I detest Bloomberg enough to follow the advice of Napoleon Bonaparte here: “Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a grave mistake.”

Bloomberg’s mistake has been to unwittingly fertilize and water a small group of justifiably discontented demonstrators enough to turn them into a national movement. Now the demonstrations have grown exponentially in New York and are popping up in big cities all around the United States.

As for Mayor Bloomberg’s character, you only have to pay attention to a remark he made, not only after the pepper spray incident but also after the police entrapped roughly 700 of the demonstrators by luring them into a traffic lane of the Brooklyn Bridge and then arresting them for being there. Incidentally, these arrests mean that instead of a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s going to be one in the city courts.

“The police are doing exactly what they’re supposed to,” Bloomberg said.

I rest my case.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fallout from Onion spoof reporting on a “hostage-taking” Congress proves nobody in Washington has a sense of humor. Least of all Republicans.

If there’s anything Congress hates more than an agreement that could put the United States back on a stable economic footing, it’s a spoof that highlights its Republican-driven incompetence and irrationality.

Case in point:

The satirical newspaper The Onion ran a spoof – both online and in Twitterfeeds – that purported to follow Congress taking twelve children hostage and demanding $12 trillion to let the kids live.

A half brain-dead idiot would have to know it was a spoof, and a damned pointed one at that. It featured a Photoshopped picture of John Boehner holding a pistol to a little girl’s head. That’s it, at top right.

The spoof included a Tweet that said, Three-course lunch from Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse delivered as per Rep. Boehner's demands #CongressHostage

And what was that, if not a pointed reference to the fact that in the United States, wretches starve while the Congressmen, who could turn around the economy if they wanted, instead stuff their faces and make trouble for the nation?

The spoof even included a followup story that involved the pompous pontificating of Senator Mitch McConnell, who has had a major hand in holding up agreements in the Senate. Here’s the Onion explaning McConnell’s alleged position on the ransom:

Obviously, the most important thing here is to reach a deal that works for both sides," read a statement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the disputed $12 trillion agreement that would free the young children currently being held at gunpoint by the country’s legislative branch. "But many important questions still remain: How will the ransom money be allocated? How can we cut needless expenditures such as individual ski masks for every congressman? Should there be a stipulation to take one of the children with us to ensure a clean getaway? Unfortunately, it may be quite some time before we can reach an adequate consensus on these and other issues." At press time, FBI officials said Congress had moved to extend the money drop-off deadline until early December.

The bad congressional behavior that inspired this spoof was so pointedly reflected in this story that the Republicans must have had a Category Five meltdown. Next thing you know, the Capitol Police — this is for real now — began investigating the Onion reports.

C’mon! What’s to investigate? We know where the report originated. At the Onion. We know what their motivation was: to spoof Congressional bad behavior. And we know who did it: The Onion staff members.

I met a few dumb cops in my police beat reporting days, but never this dumb. Why do I suspect that the cops aren’t "investigating" on their own?

Why do I think that somebody on the Republican side of the aisle is putting them up to it — perhaps by threatening sotto voce to cut the Capitol Police budget is they don’t make a big deal out of this to punish the Onion staff?

Instead of investigating The Onion, I have a better idea. Let's investigate Congress.