Monday, October 30, 2006

Truth is Truer than Fiction

What is the deal with all the books be dredged up in the ancient histories of some political candidates?

Vice-presidential wife Lynne Cheney’s torrid passages in a book she wrote 25-years ago have resurfaced over the weekend. She says the book is not her best work, and would not allow the publisher to issue the novel a few years back…

Just another example of the mindless mudslinging that, sadly, has characterized political campaigns in recent elections.

I received a piece in the mail over the weekend that was not flattering for Texas gubernatorial candidate Carol Strayhorn. She must be one tough grandma, if Gov. Perry’s campaign has to spend their funds to produce smear pieces to clog mailboxes.

Two complaints about such tactics: they don’t tell me a thing about the candidate that is pushing the piece. Do these political strategists actually believe voters are going to make their choices next Tuesday by winnowing out who’ll they’ll not vote for?

What ever happened to the concept of giving folks too many good choices? (Honestly, I don’t think voters participating in the Texas races are going to be mistaken for kids in a candy store.) It’s no accident that Madison Avenue has discovered a positive selling point results in more sales than a negative piece about a competitor.

Secondly, what about those who’ve been under a rock all this time…see an ad for a competitor…and decide to investigate, and actually chose the one upon whom so much mud was slung? Strayhorn could get sympathy votes because people are tired of her getting beat up that that mean ol’ man in the Governor’s mansion.

We watched “Man of the Year” over the weekend. That’s the movie in which Robin Williams plays a TV comedian who finds himself on the campaign trail for the U.S. Presidency…and really shakes up the race by simply pointing out the truth in all the issues, and that the establishment politicians have been doing nothing more than working only to be re-elected.

Sure, the movie is fiction, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Just remember when you see it, all humor is rooted in truth…and the roots run deep in “Man of the Year.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Reality of Theories

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is. --Chuck Reid

We received a very thoughtful letter from Brian Murphy (who listens to our BizRadio Network affiliate in Galveston, BizRadio1320) which contained a newspaper clipping headlined, “Less of National Income Funnels Down to Workers." This piece whined that the percentage of national income that went to wages and salaries in the first half of this year was the lowest since the Commerce Department started keeping track of these things in 1929.

Brian wondered how this trend might impact businesses, in conjunction with additional information about bankruptcies, delinquent payments, levels of consumer debt, and national housing prices.

The newspaper article, which was written by Diane Stafford at the Kansas City Star, also noted that the share of national income going to corporate profits was at its highest level since the ‘50’s.

What’s my take?

For starters, you have to decide from which perspective you wish to view this news; how do you want to filter it; how important is it to you personally. I think it’s pretty telling that the article was carried in the Houston Chronical on page D-4 of the Business Section; not exactly where you put screaming headline stories.

Secondly, what is the real take-away from this column? Is it a subtle piece of slightly-yellowed journalism in an election year that is designed to drive a wedge between pro-business and pro-labor factions? (Note that I did not make that demo-political division between business and consumer; there’s a reason.)

Thirdly, how does this story really resonate with you? Is it simply a parsing of government data to spin a story, or does it really matter? Most importantly, what are you going to do about it?

We discussed earlier this week the notion of whether we were better off in 2006 than we were in 2000, a question that was triggered by our buddy, Tobin Smith, who quoted some pretty interesting statistics in his ChangeWave e-newsletter earlier this week:

We have millions more employed, the average household income is up more than 11% and personal tax rates are down 8% for the average household. Our GDP is almost 20% higher in 2006 than 2000.

  • Home mortgage rates at 5%-6% and not 7%-8%
  • Payroll taxes eliminated for most households under $50,000 (excluding Social Security -- the biggest tax for a majority of American households)
  • Tax credits for children at $500 for lower-income households
  • Employment rates realistically at 96% for all employable U.S. residents Household cash flow -- the money left after paying mortgages and taxes -- is up more than 10% from the good old days of 2000, even with property taxes up 25% in most areas of the U.S.

I think one key piece of information you must remember when digesting government numbers is that for many of these metrics, the methodology is primarily flawed because the federal bean counters are stuck in the 1950’s. They’re not keeping up with the times.

Tobin takes to task the numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics released showing year-over-year payroll gains are 40% higher than reported, and that the BLS Establishment Survey—which was created in the ‘50’s—actually undercounted three-quarters of a million jobs.

Tobin can tell you better than I:

The key disconnect in the erroneous BLS Establishment Survey of 400,000 employers vs. the direct communication with 60,000 households in the BLS Household Survey is simple. The Establishment Survey does not count jobs created by very small business, small-business startups or self-employed professionals, and it does not count independent contractors or most limited-liability corporations (LLCs).

What’s wrong with that?

At least half of new workers added to the labor and service provider market are self-employed, independent contractors, or LLC service providers. What that means is that anyone not paying into the unemployment insurance system is not being counted in the BLS survey, which is thus rendered totally inaccurate and obsolete as an objective metric of what’s really going on. The Household Survey asks only how many in the home are working; never mind how or for whom.

How much is this intellectual disconnect worth in real dollars? $200-billion in uncounted annual personal income between the 261,000 jobs in the Household Survey and 120,000 in the Establishment Survey.

Might this math discrepancy explain the 12% boost in tax revenues in fiscal 2005, and an 11.8% increase this year? Add this "lost income" with the 20% higher rate of corporate taxes collected during 2000, and you have total federal revenues up $410 BILLION from the record year of 2000! Why is this story not being told--especially by politicians who need some positive grist for the mill (instead of homosexual pedophilia stories. I mean, really.)

The point of all this?

Headlines seeking to diminish the earnings of workers vs corporations is a divisive tool of media outlets with an agenda. Remember, this is an election year. Whether you’re a worker bee or a corporate queen, you’re in a better place, statistically, that you were six years ago.

Bankruptcies, late-pay issues and consumer debt issues are symptoms of personal accountability issues that must be calculated as the risk of doing business by companies that extend credit. There will always be an element of bad luck involved on a personal level.

The key is to better educate, and better insulate against such financial down turns, and in an environment where wages are up, taxes are down, and GDP is amazing…the odds are in favor of more individuals being able to earn their way out of trouble.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When everyone else around you is losing their heads...

Many people are aghast over recently published photos of German soldiers posed with a human skull in Afghanistan; the images apparently date back to 2003, and the skull could possibly be the victim of atrocities committed in the 80’s. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised the offending troops will be punished, but I think we might be on the cusp of something in the global fight against terrorism.
Bear with me.

Radical Islamic Jihadists do not respect life; they do not fear death, and there is little that can be done to dissuade them from their evil. That is why those who have been indoctrinated with their brand of propaganda, some as young as 13-years old, are willing to blast themselves asunder, and anyone else unlucky enough to be around.

So why not fight fire with fire?
Why not tell the world that the only way to treat those who do not respect life, who will not allow peace to prevail, and who insist on total annihilation of all who are not like them, is to fight fire with fire? So far, the forces of good have met the forces of evil like a guy taking a knife to a gun fight.

I say take off the gloves, maybe even lose the uniforms, and use a scorched earth strategy for eliminating the enemy. Fight the enemy the way the enemy has been fighting us.
Forget about the morality of war; that's an oxymoron.
War has never been moral.

So, if that means juggling a few skulls on the hood of a Jeep to get the point across, so be it. If the choice is between our GI’s dying and their’s, let’s kill theirs, and bring our boys home. Alive.

I realize that’s not very PC.
Might not be considered “Christian,” by some.
PC doesn’t count for much in a fire fight…and even The LORD told His people to utterly destroy their enemies upon more than one occasion.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Autumn Reverie

I get nostalgic when I smell familiar scents from years gone by.
This time of year, one of life’s simplest pleasures for me is to put the top down on the car and drive through the neighborhood just as the sun is sinking beneath the horizon, red-rimming the sky, and turning the tree-line black. The aromas of supper frying behind an open kitchen window, or the pungent twang of yard clippings in a smoking heap in the corner of a lot are especially sweet.

My family lived in a fairly wooded neighborhood when I was in high school.
In the Fall, I would practice with the marching band until 5-ish, and then make my way home through the tree-lined streets. When the evening air was crisp, the different odors would shift as I walked block by block, past darkening yards and glowing porch lights.

Sometimes the smells from the past can be triggered by other senses…like a piece of music. I happened to pop a CD of The Moody Blues’Days of Future Passed” into the car …and I was instantly transported back to my Freshman year of high school.

My crowd hung out in The Band Hall. That was our social center. We weren’t necessarily nerdy—we just enjoyed being together and becoming really good on our instruments.
Band Halls have a unique smell…at least the one at Spring Woods High School did in the fall of 1970. Valve oil and cork grease were the predominant scents…and teenaged perfume. There was a bit of a dusty tinge, but things moved too fast for the dust to settle much. The flash of lacquered brass instruments, the gentle clicks of woodwind keys tapping in their pads, and the wooden ring of an errant drum stick spinning to the floor are part of a collage of memories.

You walk into any high school band room today, and you’ll pick up the same impressions…except maybe for the flash of a polished Sousaphone missing—they’re mostly white fiberglass these days. John Phillip would be spinning in his grave.

So I was tooling along in the car with the top down, playing The Moody Blues, and got a major rush of nostalgia from the music, and a strong whiff of someone cooking dinner on a grill in one block, and someone else burning leaves a quarter-mile down the road, and it was sensory nirvana.

That I was having this experience in a new Lexus SC 430 was perhaps incidental. Nothing like lowering the top at the push of a button. You can draw crowd putting the top up or down on the SC 430. Lexus really knows how to turn out a fine automobile, and this one is no exception with a 4.3-litre V-8 that will propel you to 60-mph in under 6-seconds.
Yes, I tested it.

I didn’t have access to a car like this when I was in High School. Probably just as well; I made enough of an impression on the local constabulary in my 4-speed manual ’69 Datsun pickup. Okay, so maybe I was a little nerdy.

But savoring the performance of the new SC 430 is a lot like those sights and smells that are rekindled as the days grow shorter and the evenings cooler.
They stay with you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Skilling Take on History...

The Texans didn’t beat the Mexicans at San Jacinto.
The Mexicans didn’t beat the Texans at The Alamo.
Goliad never happened.
The Holocaust didn’t happen.

The Titanic didn’t strike an iceberg.
The RMS Lusitania wasn’t torpedoed by the Germans just before WW-I.
The Achille Laurel wasn’t hijacked by terrorists, and they didn’t really push Leon Klinghoffer over the side.

Libya didn’t detonate Pam AM 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City wasn’t blasted by a Ryder truck full of fertilizer and diesel.
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were not intentionally struck by hijacked passenger jets.

The Challenger didn’t blow up 70-seconds after lift off.
The Columbia didn’t disintegrate upon re-entry.
The first landing on the moon actually occurred in New Mexico.
The Russians didn’t beat the U.S. into space.

The Great Storm of 1900 wasn’t really a hurricane.
The Great Fire of 1906 was just a California BBQ.
The Tsunami of 2004 was really a movie soundstage gone awry.
Hurricane Katrina didn’t hit New Orleans.

Enron didn’t collapse.
Arthur Andersen didn’t obstruct justice (okay, that’s a technicality.)
And Cliff Baxter didn’t shoot himself inside his Benz before he could testify to Congress.
Ken Lay isn’t dead.
Elvis isn’t either.

Jeff Skilling isn’t really guilty in the collapse and implosion of Enron, which didn’t really cost 85,000 people their jobs, pensions or plans for the future.
Maybe for the next 24-years he can brush up on his history.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Adventures in MySpace

I have a MySpace.com page.

If you search under my name, Brent Clanton, you will find it easily enough. You will most likely be very disappointed, however, because all you will find is my stipple-point headshot (like the one at left), and maybe an e-mail link for contacting me.

I hardly ever go there…except for today.


In my e-mail in box this morning was a message from MySpace that Kristina had sent me a message. I assumed it was the lovely and talented Kristina Ramirez, with whom I have shared a studio (not a studio apartment, a real Radio studio) for the past year. Great, I think. Kristina needed to reach me, and this is how she chose to send a message.

So I log on to MySpace.com—after four tries, because I couldn’t remember my password—and there’s nothing there.
I look around for cameras. This is an Allen Funt stunt for candid camera gone awry, I assume. I don’t know Ashton Kuchar, nor do I remotely suspect he’d ever want to Punk me.

Nada.

After the show this morning, I tell Kristina about my electronic excursion, and we both have a good laugh. Then I see another message in my e-mail box from someone named Cari.
I used to work with someone named Cari years ago.
We’ve not spoken in years.
Curiosity spurs me back to MySpace and I see, Lo! and behold, there is an actual message, requesting acceptance of Cari’s invitation to link to my MySpace page as a “friend.”

Hmm, wonder how ol’ Cari is doing these days?

I click on the link…and this is NOT the Cari I knew.
In fact, it’s not a Cari I even need to know.
I would tell you what the link to her MySpace page showed…but this is a family blog.

Note to the wary: The Internet is a curious place, and hazardous for the inquisitive.
Sometimes the inquisitions come from within…and sometimes they come from without. Know this—if you ask to link to my MySpace site, you’re going to be screened.

Sorry, Cari.
Now go wash your mouse out with soap.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Recipe for Success

For its inaugural day, HotSoup.com asked five prominent Americans what they believe to be the most ignored issue by mainstream Media and National Leaders. I’ve read with interest the various responses to this question , and their responses are dead-on target. Healthcare, poverty, the war, the economy, American youth—all are important concerns of our society.

I don’t think any of these have necessarily been ignored as much as they have been painted for a specific purpose: by the media to gain market share, and by national leadership to gain leverage over opponents.

Ignoring an issue is quite different from only partially addressing it, or taking on a problem with a pre-conceived outcome in mind. I believe that the cure to all of these ills, real and perceived, can be found in the educational process.

We have taught three generations to be dependant upon the government for their needs, instead of how to wean themselves from entitlements. We have taught our children that a quick, microwaved meal is all we need to fuel our bodies, and given short shrift to nutritional values (I believe America is being Happy-Mealed to death.)

We have matriculated functional illiterates who can neither read nor balance a checkbook because we were too worried we’d warp their self esteem. And we are reaping the whirlwind in the middle east (and other troubled spots in the world) because we ignored the lessons of history.

Education.
It’s cleverly labeled (“No Child Left Behind”) but critically under-funded. Why are teachers paid much less than pro athletes, for example; which group of role models more profoundly molds the character of our Youth?

Education.
It’s all about achievement test scores for school districts, but not about the common sense of living life, and what is really needed to prepare our Youth for the real world. As a clue to how misplaced this priority is, notice the increase incidents of school districts who’ve had to dismiss educators for fudging the test scores so their programs would appear more effective.

Education.
Sure, it’s in the media, and it’s a prominent plank in every politician’s platform. It’s hardly been ignored—but it certainly has not been injected with the octane to effectively pull people out of poverty, feed their brain as well as their body, and prepare us to compete effectively, economically with our peers on other continents.

They gave the Nobel Peace Price this year to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, which distributed micro loans in Bangladesh so that otherwise impoverished people could pull themselves up a notch on the economic ladder by learning and doing for themselves.

Teaching others how to help themselves...there’s a huge message there that should not be missed.

HotSoup.com: Mm-Mm-Good?

There’s a new opinion website coming to the web, boasting a multi-faceted team of editors and operators from opposite ends of the political spectrum. www.hotsoup.com is not operational as of this date of writing, but promises to be a virtual melting pot of ideas and solutions to the world’s problems that the people we hired/elected to do the job have failed to solve.

HotSoup’s founding fathers are the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, Matthew Dowd, and Carter Eskew, whom you may remember as Al Gore’s chief strategist in the 2000 race. Also at the keyboard will be the former head political writer for the Associated Press, Ron Fournier, and Joe Lockhart, respected former press secretary to Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush’s marketing wizard, Mark McKinnon is also on the electronic masthead.

What’s to keep the soup kettle from becoming a boiling cauldron?

HotSoup conducted a poll last month from it’s “under construction” home page, asking who we-the-people most turn to for answers or solutions to big problems. Peers were picked by 60% over family, friends, clergy, and co-workers. Only 5% looked to business leaders for guidance.

The website hopes to capitalize on a growing trend of online social networking in generating keys to solving basic issues of why government doesn’t work anymore, ethics in American society (or the apparent lack thereof), and how to address the emergent perception that national leaders and mainstream media are no longer relevant to most Americans.

That’s not too surprising, when the most we can get from our national leadership is finger pointing and blame-naming for societal ills and economic conundrums.

Billionaire investor and political mood-maker George Soros blames President Bush for inflaming the North Korean nuclear issue by branding the country as part of an ``axis of evil.''

Former President Jimmy Carter, who brokered a peace agreement with Kim Jong Il’s Pappy a dozen years ago, says Mr. Bush has pretty much thrown that agreement in the trash.


Hmmm…let’s think about this for a moment:
Who broke the agreement by building and testing a nuke last weekend?
Who has been building and testing ballistic missiles, boasting of their ability to reach the US continent?

President Bush is guilty only of telling it like it is, unlike financier Soros, who pretty much made a poor investment by sinking $27.5-million for the losing team in the last presidential election; and our revered former president was so disrespected by Iranian terrorists that they denied the release of American captives until his administration ended, and Ronald Reagan took office.

Whom do you believe is more credible?

Soros has not demonstrated any canniness in devising a workable plan to difuse the North Korean dilemma, and Carter’s trump card is another round of appeasement roulette.

Granted, unlike British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s ill-fated “peace in our time” accord with Adolph Hitler, which only lasted a few months, Jimmy Carter’s work-out with the North Koreans endured a dozen years. But the bottom line is that with thugs, despots, bullies, and terrorists, you cannot bargain or barter for peace. The only thing such ilk understand is brute force.

We didn't quite learn that lesson in WW-II--there are still apologists for how the United States ended the war in the Pacific--and we still live with the consequences of Chamberlain's heritage of appeasement.

Which means that in the recipe for whatever may be brewed on HotSoup.com, along with the soft, chewey vegetables of peace, and the tender meat of freedom, better stir in a few ham bones for stoutness and resolve.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sniping at The Bladerunner

Wesley Snipes made over $19-million in 1997.
I know—I’ve seen his Tax Return from that year.

It’s all over The Smoking Gun website, now that Snipes has been indicted on 8-counts of tax evasion. Seems Snipes got off on the wrong track with the IRS when he bought into the notion his earnings weren’t really taxable under an obscure tax code (Section 861) invoked by outlaw tax preparer Douglas Rosile, who is also the target of the IRS’ ire.

Snipe’s amended 1997 tax return requested a refund of $7-million in taxes.

I don’t know what kind of jungle fever overtook Wesley Snipes’ sensibilities, but casting his lot with the likes of Rosile is going to derail the actor’s money train—he’s now facing a possible sentence of 40-years in prison.
Talk about Hard Luck.

Can you imagine paying $7-million in taxes?
I’ll bet some of you listening this morning have paid more than that in taxes. Paying $7-million in taxes is a good problem to have, because it means your income in that year was also north of $19-million.

$19-million minus $7-million leaves $12-million to fritter away.
And then there’s always next year.
What was Snipes thinking?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pumping to Please

Remember the hoopla over Citgo and 7/11 stores, which severed their agreement for Citgo to provide gasoline to the convenience stores, conveniently soon after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ meltdown at the UN?

Now Citgo’s American operations want to set the record straight, tell everyone their not all that evil, and don’t agree with the Venezuelan vitriol.

I wonder how many people missed the first round in the story, and now, as Citgo America brings it up again, more will be educated that Citgo is a Venezuelan government owned entity…and boycott their gasoline?

Which brings up a point that we’ve made in the past when the B-word has been raised against gasoline stations: When you refuse to buy from a local merchant who happens to be a franchisee of a large company, you’re not hurting the corporation.
You’re bloodying the nose of your neighbor.

Do you think Sayed, Nkumbo, or any other stereotypically-named ethnic representative has anything to do with the policies of the governments of Venezuela, Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia, much less the price of a gallon of gas he’s pumping?
Absolutely not.

The American public proved this Fall that the best way to bring the price of gasoline down was to cut total consumption, thus reducing demand, creating higher supply, and lowering prices.

Low Price Leader in China

WalMart is the largest employer in the United States. WalMart is the most prolific drygoods seller in the US. WalMart has also affected the way other companies compensate their employee, including influencing the City of Chicago to back away from a hike in the minimum wage.

What kind of impact do you think WalMart might have in China? This will be an interesting socio-economic experiment, as WalMart becomes China’s largest operator of hyper-markets, and positions the smiley faced low cost leader at the top of the list of food and department store operators. Forget world domination by Islamo-facists or democracy.

Soon, the world will run the WalMart way.
Muwhahahahaaaah.

Monday, October 16, 2006

FJ Road Trip


It’s a rainy Monday in Texas.
Those words always remind me of that great Brook Benton song from 1970, “A Rainy Night in Georgia,” with its haunting melody, vivid imagery in the lyrics, and Benton’s rich baritone voice purring like molasses and peanut butter melting on a thick slice of warm toast.

This morning’s rain is the product of a Pacific storm system that has been pushed southeast by a Canadian cold front, and the moist, warm air is mixing over Texas to create torrential rains, spectacular lightning, and stupendous thunder.

It also created some flooding conditions, which afforded me the opportunity to test the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser on my way to work this morning. The area in which I live generally has few problems with high water, although Big Cypress Creek snakes its way past our neighborhood, less than a mile away at its closest.

Most of this morning’s flooding was due to too much rain in too little time. I knew this before I left the house, so I shifted the transmission into 4-wheel-drive, and took on the commute like Jacques Costeau.

No dry road?
No problem.

The FJ Cruiser tackled water up to its axles (an impressive 9.5-inch clearance) without hesitation, although the spray pattern from the wheel wells did temporarily inundate the triple-bladed windshield.

I’ve driven lots of attractive cars, but none have drawn more attention and curiosity than the FJ. The odd body style is an equal-opportunity babe- or beefcake-magnet. At a weekend event, a 20-something couple stopped me in the parking lot to ask to peek inside.

Inside is roomy. There’s space for four adults, five if they’re compact people. Plus an ample cargo bay behind the rear seats. The d├ęcor is tastefully rugged, and ergonomics are fairly well thought out (although the push buttons for various functions is placed in an awkward position below the audio controls, and ahead of the transmission levers.)

A cluster of three instruments (compass, outside temp, and inclinometer) seem like geeky after thoughts, but they work with the overall, muscular theme of the FJ.

I drove the FJ roundtrip from Houston to Dallas and found the ride to be no rougher than other SUV’s in its class. Front visibility was great, but the rectangular side mirrors are odd in their vertical orientation. Rear visibility is hampered by the spare tire dangling from the tail gate. Toyota has thoughtfully added a sonic back-up assist to detect objects in your way while backing. The road noise was suppressed somewhat by a set of fine-treaded Bridgstone Bugler tires.

Toyota’s 4-litre V-6 is adequate for the FJ, and it has no trouble finding the groove when passing in traffic. I’d love to drop a turbo-boost and test the performance. Dallas to Houston took exactly two tanks full of premium fuel (as recommended on the filler door.)
This ain’t a cheap ride.
But it sure is fun.

Friday, October 13, 2006

North Korean Nights

You know what makes the world go ‘round—fear and greed. Fear gripped us twice this week and overtook greed as the primal urge.

Wednesday’s plane crash in Manhattan gave us flashbacks to September 11, 2001…and we also dealt with Kim Il Jong’s 15-seconds of fame Sunday night with North Korea’s alledged nuke test. (When the French doubt a story…well, that’s says something.)

So the fear and trepidation over North Korea’s intentions were mollified somewhat when I saw a startling photograph: The Korean Penninsula as viewed from space…at night.

The lights of South Korea look like a diamond-spangled constellation, starkly contrasted by an almost total void north of the border with North Korea.

North Korea’s got a nuke? Maybe.
North Korea’s got missiles? Perhaps.

Unless Kim Il’s got a flashlight, he’s not going to be able to find the launch button at night in North Korea.

Amazing how the light of freedom and industry outshine the dark side of human society and governments that stifle the people they should serve and protect, instead of the other way around.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stryo Cups and No-Shows

I must admit to being a little cranky this morning…and I hope that it’s not contagious. The reason I mention this, actually, is so that you and I can take this journey together, from cranky to perhaps comfortably numb, if not at least somewhat mollified for having gone through the process together.

What’s the first thing you do when you’re miffed about something? You go tell a friend, right? You tell your wife, your husband, your girl friend or boy friend, your best friend…and sometimes, just the exercise of venting your spleen to someone else releases the toxins of frustration that have built up.

This morning we have no coffee cups.
That’s not a major deal in the overall scheme of things, but you who are creatures of habit can identify with our frustration. I don’t even drink coffee.
But during the course of the morning’s show, I do like to keep a Styrofoam cup of cold, clear water here on the counter next to my real Radio microphone.

Can’t.
No cups.

So I’m a little peeved that at some point in the morning, the ol’ Dry Mouth is going to hit, and there’ll be nothing with which to wet my whistle.

That set the mood in which we had to deal with another little issue this morning…

One of our scheduled guests this morning was to have been former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, who has a new autobiography out called, “The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy,” by Sandy Weill and Judah S. Kraushaar.

This happens more than you might realize—we get a big name guest lined up, and then the appointment caves for one reason or another. I seldom mention it. We just keep on going to the next signpost.

This morning is different because I put in considerable effort to prep for Sandy Weill’s segment…only to be called by the publicist we work with, ten minutes before air time, to learn that Sandy Weill’s publicist got confused between Eastern and Central Time Zones, and double booked her boss.

I’m just a little bit torqued.
Here’s a guy who was the poster child for excessive executive pay, who has now co-written his version of his life in an effort, I suppose, to counter the mountains of bad publicity he generated for himself while at Citigroup. To be fair, Weill's life story would make a pretty interesting screenplay.

We were willing to take the segment because there are questions we’d like to ask…like…

While starting Citigroup with $7-million of one’s own money to buy Commercial Credit is an inspiring story, along the way there were also horror stories of poor customer service, and behind the scenes intrigue in the corporate offices. We’d liked to have asked Sandy Weill where night the balance lie between giving investors what they require, and providing employees what they need and deserve for keeping the business running?

We would like to have talked with Sandy Weill about how the market downturn in 2002 revealed many houses of cards, companies with foundations on shifting sands…or with shifty hands, like EnronWorldcom

We would have liked to hear Sandy’s take on the differences of opinion he had with New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer, and what he might have done differently thru all of that, if he had it to do all over again?

Sandy Weill was painted as the poster boy of what is out of kilter with executive pay in business today: at one point as CEO at Citigroup, he cashed $734 million in options over five years. At one point he had 12 million option shares left (worth another $600 million) – on top of a $28 million salary, bonus and restricted stock…with an economic contribution of zero. To give some perspective, at one point Sandy Weill's compensation package was roughly equivalent to the total worth of Cummins Engine.

You’d think he could afford a publicist who could do the mental math between Eastern and Central Time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Things that Make You Go "ah..."

Some things I just don’t get:

New Orleans city officials are once again trying to find missing citizens…this time to vote in the November elections.

While it’s obvious New Orleans hasn’t been mistaken for any kind of a mecca in the past year, would it not be pretty obvious to Mayor Ray Nagin that his constituency has shrunk since the hurricane season of ’05, and most of the missing aren’t really missing, but choosing to live—and vote—elsewhere?

Program note to Barbara Streisand’s managers: Let the woman sing, and don’t try to make her into a Funny Girl.

Babs’ return to the performance stage Monday night in New York included a skit with a George W. Bush look-a-like, which went over like a lead zeppelin. When the crowd jeered and heckled the songbird, she countered with an F-bomb from the stage.

Classy move…right out of the Dixie Chicks’ songbook.

Ford is looking for a better idea…for door latches and drive shafts.
145,000 2005-and-2006 models are being recalled for faulty side door latches on Freestyle mini vans, Ford Five-Hundreds, and Mercury Montego’s that leak water, and Escape SUV’s with drive shafts that could shatter.

“Stupid story line of the week” award goes to Reuters, which concluded its piece on the recall by adding the insipid line, “Ford, like its rivals GM and DaimlerChrysler, has been under competitive pressure from Japan automakers in recent years.”

Thanks.
Now that I know that, I’ll crawl back under my rock.
Duh.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Propping up Prop. 87

From The Land of Fruits and Nuts comes yet another hare-brained piece of “take-from-the-rich-give-to-the-misguided” legislation: Proposition 87 is intended to reduce California’s petroleum diet by 25% over the next ten years by making it more financially painful for consumers and producers through higher taxes. Those funds would be re-distributed for the development of alternative fuels and technology.

Who do you think the pro-Prop 87 crowd wooed to pitch this misguided piece of garbage: None other than the inventor of the Internet and global warm-monger Al Gore, who is the pitchman in his first TV commercial since his ill-fated run for the Presidency.

Proposition 87 would tax big oil companies, which opponents say would result in passing through the higher costs to consumers, dampening productivity and inflating the cost of living.

Opponents of Prop-87 correctly predict oil companies would pass the costs along to consumers, which could instead hamper economic growth in the state, and actually increase the imports of less expensive foreign fuels. Gore’s crowd promises Prop-87 would cut California’s reliance on foreign oil, and—here’s the pitch---be good for the environment.
Uh huh.
Psst, Al—it all comes from the same planet.
Domestic or foreign, there’s no difference to the environment.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone would come along with a plan to reward development of newer, cleaner technologies instead of punish users of current modes of energy generation?

Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air (pun intended) if these environmentalist ya ya groups and legislators could figure out a more constructive way to encourage the outcomes they desire, instead of trying to impose their social re-engineering schemes with regressive and economically harmful assessments?

And here’s another notion to consider—why not use foreign oil, before we use ours? Why is it such a bad idea to consume the supplies of countries who hate us (but not enough to stop selling us their oil)? If we use theirs first, who has the most oil when theirs runs out?
We do.

The people in power in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela are really just stealing the resources of their people. They are selling their oil, whether they can get $70 or $10 per barrel, and hiding the money for themselves in U.S. and European Treasuries and Swiss bank accounts. They're not going to stop selling us oil, even though they hate us, because they love stealing their countries' resources more than they hate our country.

This is like a big board game—only the stakes are more serious—in which the winner will be the one with the largest supply of petroleum in an age in which availability of the commodity will equate to survival at the most basic level.

Yes, America should develop alternative sources of energy.
Yes, America should wean itself from the need for foreign oil (but not stop sucking on the teat just yet).
Here’s why:

If terrorism is nearly 100% supported by oil revenues, what’s the best way to thwart such activities? When these third-world thugs are out of oil, they’ll have no resources with which to attack us.

When they run out of non-renewable energy sources, and we still have ours, who will best control the flow of renewable paper money (which we can print at will)?

Under the principal of supply and demand, why not buy their relatively cheap oil now, and save ours for when the price is even higher than it is today?

Why use our more expensive oil to burn then, instead of using it as an actual lubricant for the machines of industry? There are plenty of other ways to make heat and generate energy, but only oil can ease the friction of metal against metal. When we’re burning alternative fuels later on, we’ll still have plenty to grease the skids…and the bearings and the axles and the cranks to keep our society productive. So why not use their oil now and keep ours for when it’s more rare and expensive?

Like the king of the hill, I would like to be the last man/country standing when the rest of the world runs out of petroleum. Eventually, oil will be synonymous with the ability to wage war (and enforce the peace).

By the way, movie star actors of make-believe stories, James Caan and Jamie Lee Curtis, were on hand to introduce the Al Gore pro-Prop-87 commercial media event in Beverly Hills. Wonder if anyone was taking notes of the vehicle types these people were driving? I wasn’t there; I don’t know.

But it’s highly improbable that Gore, Caan and Curtis showed up in Prius or Honda hybrid automobiles.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Columbus Day

Today is a National Holiday for some…it’s the government observance of Columbus Day. No wonder school kids can’t remember history; the government keeps changing the dates.

Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492…not America, as some have said, or East Asia as he thought.

Odd, don’t you think, that we celebrate the date an Italian sailor got lost and actually ended up spreading all manner of vile diseases through out the islands he “discovered?"

Sunday, October 08, 2006

These are the Days of Our Lives...

We at the BizRadio Network recognize we have a responsibility to inform and entertain…and sometimes the lot falls to us to inspire and motivate. When you climb onto your horse on Wednesday mornings, you head into the middle of the week on what has been traditionally known as “humpday,” that equinox of the work cycle that sometimes will be the defining moment for a week redeemed or a week gone bad.

“Hump Day” implies that it’s all down hill from here…you can coast into the weekend. “Hump Day” also could be a metaphor for pulling out the stops and giving the day 110% of your effort and energy, as in “humpin’ to please.”

Motivational gurus have historically toyed with titles for the days of the week as ways to bait the hook for higher levels of performance. Hence, the “Monday Blues” have been offset by themes like “Twofer Tuesday’s” and “Casual Fridays.”

Our crack team of researchers at Top Five.com have been exploring these new phenomena in labor psychology, and have developed several new ideas for labeling workdays in order to achieve maximum performance from employees who would otherwise keep their noses to the grindstone in un-inspired oblivion.

So, with our thanks to Chris White and his minions, we present the top replacements for Casual Fridays:

Pants-less Paydays
Throttle Your Boss Thursdays
You Want It When?! Wednesdays
Actually Do Work Workdays
Adequate Compensation Odd-Numbered Year Leap Days
Topless Tuesdays
Don't Give a Flip Mondays, and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and...
Show Your Humps Wednesdays

Our favorite replacement for Casual Fridays...Bed Head Mondays

Road Trip: Lexus Hybrid

In my role as a real Radio host, I am sometimes sought out to try out various products and services for the greater good. I realize this is a sacrifice on my part, but I am willing to shoulder this additional burden, and share with you the experiences and outcomes of my occasional exploration.

So when the folks at Lexus asked if I would mind driving a 2007 450h Hybrid sedan for a week, I demurred…but for only a moment.

There are many adjectives used to describe fine automobiles. When I first pushed the envelope on the new Lexus Hybrid, the only word that approached an accurate description was “magnificent.”
This car is truly a magnificent machine.

If you’ve been under the delusion that hybrid cars are stodgy, somewhat goofy-looking contraptions, short on pep, and long on fuel efficiency, Lexus will change your mind.
It's already beefy with a 3.5-litre V-6 producing 350-hp, but the 450h drivetrain is also coupled with a 197-hp electric motor through a continuously-variable transmission.

That one-two punch delivers an impressive zero-to-60mph velocity in 5.2-seconds. It’s definitely not a wimp on the highway, and it does turn heads when you pull up, with its classic, Lexus lines that are unmistakable anywhere.

Still, how many cars do you know that have a power meter where the tachometer usually is?

We took this car on a real road-trip to attend the wedding of a daughter of one of the principals in our company…who for some unknown reason, chose to build a home and raise a family in the middle of no-where, Texas.

Karnes City, Texas, to be more precise, which is about an hour south of San Antonio.

You really can’t get there from here without a fairly good knowledge of Texas geography and the layout of the state Farm-to-Market road system…or the 5th generation Lexus navigation system, which not only accurately guided us through every nook-and-cranny turn, but also calculated to the minute our exact arrival times.

We thought we were going to be late, too. No one likes to arrive late at a wedding, even if you’re driving a cool, new Lexus.

But as we set out, the estimated arrival time kept shrinking as the GPS system re-calculated our location, speed, and distance to travel. If you’ve ever wondered what a time machine might look like, Lexus has a sneak peek.

Lexus prices the new 450h at just under $60,000.
For a luxury automobile with neck-snapping acceleration and a miserly appetite for fuel, this just might be the last car you’d ever have to buy.

Of course, there's always next year...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gubernatorial Q & A

Hope you watched the Gubernatorial Debate last night, between plays of your favorite high school football game. There were two winners and two losers in the face-off with state-wide journalists.

Chris Bell was the sleeper who showed himself worthy of the challenge ahead; Kinky Friedman’s performance would have been laughable had it not been so pathetically inept; Governor Perry proved himself adroit at answering questions on camera, and Carole Strayhorn revealed a disappointing reliance upon a crutch of memorized slogans when better answers could not be found.

Like the televised Kennedy-Nixon debate of the '60's, Friday night’s show separated the players from the sayers…

In the end, the race next month will be determined by which camp is able to muster its cadre of voters to the polls.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Can't Wait?

The goofy thing about democracy in this country is that the entire world sees our dirty laundry when we air it. The unfortunate pre-occupation with Instant Messenger-gate this week is deflecting focus from more pressing problems like domestic policies, international challenges, and the economy.

We have heard that the latest phone book for congressional aides is going to be marketed as “The Naked Pages.”

There is a grass roots organization, “World Can't Wait,” that has designated today (October 5) as one for national protest against the Bush Administration’s various policies. WWC would like nothing less than driving them out of office, and are asking you to repudiate President Bush's policies by staying home from school or work and not shopping, as well as taking part in protest marches around the country.

Great solution: do nothing.
How creative.
How productive.
World Can’t Wait? T
he group should be called “Haven’t Got a Clue.”
They don’t realize how good we have it.

Take the leadership in Iran, for example, a bulwark of reason and rationale, as well as poster-child country for progressive thinking. Their leader, whose official job title is “Supreme Leader,” Sayyid Ali Khameini, dictates all manner of advice on policies from how to drink water and how to marry to obtain citizenship in foreign countries, to proper behavior during the month of Ramadan.

Here are some pointers…

  • Only jockeys can bet on horses...
  • You need not repent of swallowing food morsels stuck in your teeth while otherwise fasting…
  • And it’s okay to drink water at night during Ramadan, so long as you are standing up.

Khameni also addresses the proper and improper ways of self gratification during their holy month…but this is a family-friendly blog, and given the news from Washington lately, there’s been more than enough coverage—and uncoverage—of that topic.