Wednesday, December 31, 2008

GMAC: Got Mine?

General Motors has received a late Christmas present from The Treasury Department in the form of $5 billion in cash to GMAC Financial Services. You and I, as owners of our illustrious Government, are now enjoying (?) a senior preferred equity stake in GMAC.
Merry stinking Christmas.

This is like what happened to my daughter one year at Christmas. She'd been a little sassier than usual, and I threatened that Santy Claus was going to bring her a bag of switches.

True to my word, The Fat Man clambered down the chimney that year with a bag of Radio Shack dip switches for her stocking that year. She was not amused. In fact, she didn't even get the joke, but she was only 12, so there you have it.
This year, if you misbehave, the Government's going to give you stock in a failing automobile manufacturer.
Yes, Virginia, Santa is insane.

Don't worry about GM ever going bankrupt now: With all this Federal aid to GMAC, our government is so financially entangled in the GM complex that a Chapter 7 liquidation is not very likely.

Have the money lenders learned their lesson?

GMAC returned the government's goodwill gesture by announcing relaxed lending standards, now that it's on "firmer financial footing."

Instead of restricting loans to buyers with a FICO score of 700 or higher, the lender will now consider you a credible mark with a score of 621 or better. And GM reopened its box of dime-bags with another round of financial crack to lure you into the show room: zero-percent financing offers on selected models in an attempt to lure in these credit-worthy customers.

Well, it's easy come, easy go. The money didn't cost GMAC anything, so they're giving it away to you. Loan prices so low, we've got to read them off the floor, ladies and gentlemen!

Not good enough. I want my car loan modified, don’t you?
The dang rattle trap's just not worth what it was when I drove it off the car lot, and I’d like the lender to adjust the principal amount downward to reflect the corresponding loss of value.
Hey what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…or in this case mortgage bankers and automobile financiers taking government money.

Prediction for 2009: The new slogan on our money replacing “In God We Trust” will be “Where’s Mine?”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Red Light vs Gringo

No Red light Cameras here at the CBS Radio Broadcasting Complex and Deli…City of Houston officials are scratching their heads over statistics showing crashes increased at intersections monitored by Red Light Cameras…and they didn’t just go up a little—they doubled.

A closer look at the numbers indicates that some intersections have only one camera, leaving three other directions of approach un-monitored…and it is from those other un-monitored directions that the increased crashes are taking place.

Seems all too confusing to me.
Here’s a simple idea:
Green light = go.
Yellow light = get ready to stop.
Red light = no go.

It’s the yellow lights that are giving us fits.
Maybe we should call them yellow light cameras.

Friday, December 26, 2008

364-Shopping Days before Christmas!

I am eternal optimist, but I am having limited enthusiasm for the human species as we pound a stake down for the end of 2008, and prepare for 2009.

First comes news this morning that Black women are shrinking; headline on the front page of the local paper says so. Does this mean there are fewer Black women around—are their numbers dwindling?

No, the headline is actually talking about the physical size of Black women, which have been noted to have diminished in height by three-quarters of an inch, because of diet.

This does not bode well for future marketing campaigns for Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemima.

Driving to the station before dawn today, I expected light traffic on the day after Christmas.
It was.
But the percentage of nimrods on the road at that hour was statistically higher.

One fool decided to pass me on the right with inches to spare—no turn signal, just a surprise sideways slide right into my path. After indicating my irritation with a flash of my high-beams, he then lodged himself along side two other drivers running side by side at same speed, slower than me, and considerably slower than he.

What happened to your rush, speed freak? (Remember, this is 5:15am—hardly anyone else on the freeway.)

I did what any other rational person would have done under the circumstance, dodging left into the passing lane, and smoothly accelerating around the rolling road block. The Fool then accelerated behind me, and passing on my left, trying to initiate an episode of Freeway Ballet, and finally staying in the inside lane, beyond my exit.

Just being horsey, stupid, and arrogant at 5:15 in the morning.
What is it he was trying to prove?

Need more evidence 2009 might not be so swuft?

Keith Richards is publishing a book of daily affirmations, entitled, “What Would Keith Richards Do?" This ought to be good: “I’ve never had a problem with drugs…just with policemen,” he writes.

Uh huh.
Can’t wait for those WWKD bracelets.

And the next Reality TV Show: Pick-ups and Hookups, a sort of redneck version of The Batchelorette

You guessed it from the title: a comely woman (in Daisy Duke’s??) chooses from a suite of suitors based upon his prowess in manly-man competitions like Spam carving and mattress riding, and how well his Pick-up Truck is tricked-out.

Final competition for the lady’s charms: An arm-wrestling contest.

And let this be your first reminder: Only 364-shopping days before Christmas. Plenty of bargain hunters are already joining the fray, with several retailers opening this morning at 5:30.

Maybe that’s where the Fool on the freeway was heading this morning.
Probably wanting to get a good parking place…

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yule Tide Musings

Christmas Eve 2008.
Doesn’t feel like it from here this morning.

Most years, I’ve spent the week between Christmas and New Years safely cocooned at The Clanton Hacienda. Most years, we’ve been bundled up like Eskimos in Texas, a laughingly futile attempt at southerners to dress like northerners when the temps drop below 50.

Today as I write this, it’s a muggy, moist 71-degrees.
No snow angels again this year, just slush bunnies.
I haven’t hit too many stores this season.
Sorry retailers, but the recession caught up with our family just like everyone else. There are two gift certificates, an article of clothing, and maybe some perfume on my very short Christmas List.

I’ve found that as the years pass, the best presents are the presence of family and friends. That may sound corny, but we lost some pretty good friends in 2008. Some of them close, some of them not so much bosom-buddies as they were valuable for their dependability. People who made up the tapestry of life by always being there, always participating in activities, always providing a word of encouragement or cheer.

Both of my parents are still living, and are healthy. All of their immediate siblings are still alive and active. This year’s family Holiday gathering boasted three new additions of great-nephews to the clan, as the circle remains unbroken and growing.

It’s been said that the tough times are what makes us appreciate the good times. I never had a problem appreciating when things are flush; I don’t particularly care for the forced-appreciation that the lean times impose, but I am thankful that I am here to notice the difference.

So we wind-down the business of life this week, and what follows will be seven days of fallowness between the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Even in stasis, the days will be valuable if we use them to contemplate and plan, reflect and regroup, and prepare to assault 2009 with all the enthusiasm and optimism we can muster, because Buster, we’re going to need it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Cookie Rules

My daughter was baking last night, and made six loaves of the most heavenly-aromatic Banana Nut Bread that has ever assailed my nostrils.

Even the family mascots, Dazzle and Sophie, wanted some—and they usually only beg for chicken morsels when we’re cooking.

Alas, the Banana Nut Bread loaves did not fare as well as they smelled, because after setting them on the counter to cool, three of them looked like the Great Boling Sinkhole, and most likely will be candidates for Cool Whip Camouflage:

That’s where you fill the collapsed space with Cool Whip, and then add a decorative Cool Whip sculpture on top to make the presentation of the flawed loaves more appealing.

The stuff still tastes phenomenal…but they don’t look too swuft for Holiday presentations.

There are rules for cooking at Christmas that we must all abide by, but there is also an unspoken Code of Christmas Cookies that was originally instituted by Moses in the Wilderness as an incentive to guarantee holiday baking around the world will continue without end, amen.

Here are the rules you must observe when making Christmas Cookies:

1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is a test, and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3. If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calories free, rule #1 is yours also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with former President George H. W. Bush at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

#41 and Mrs. Bush extended their personal hospitality to a group of Houston Police men and women and Houston Fire Dept. EMS personnel, traveling through on bicycles. The trip was a fund-raiser for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, and through our contacts in law enforcement, a side-stop was arranged with Mr. and Mrs. Bush.

They are the real deal.
And it seems the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

The Washington Times published an exclusive story today about a part of the President's and Vice President Dick Cheney's special campaign for veterans and families of fallen soldiers that not many have known about until now.

It is a story that needs to be told, and with the permission of the Washington Times, I share it now with you:

Bush, Cheney Comforted Troops Privately
by Joesph Curl and John Solomon

For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark. Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.

On Monday, the president is set to make a more common public trip - with reporters in tow - to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, home to many of the wounded and a symbol of controversy earlier in his presidency over the quality of care the veterans were receiving. But the size and scope of Mr. Bush's and Mr. Cheney's private endeavors to meet with wounded soliders and families of the fallen far exceed anything that has been witnessed publicly, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials familiar with the effort.

"People say, 'Why would you do that?'" the president said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Times on Friday. "And the answer is: This is my duty. The president is commander in chief, but the president is often comforter in chief, as well. It is my duty to be - to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish."

Mr. Bush, for instance, has sent personal letters to the families of every one of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in the two wars, an enormous personal effort that consumed hours of his time and escaped public notice. The task, along with meeting family members of troops killed in action, has been so wrenching - balancing the anger, grief and pride of families coping with the loss symbolized by a flag-draped coffin - that the president often leaned on his wife, Laura, for emotional support. "I lean on the Almighty and Laura," Mr. Bush said in the interview. "She has been very reassuring, very calming."

Mr. Bush also has met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action and with more than 950 wounded veterans, according to White House spokesman Carlton Carroll. Many of those meetings were outside the presence of the news media at the White House or at private sessions during official travel stops, officials said. The first lady said those private visits, many of which she also attended, took a heavy emotional toll, not just on the president, but on her as well.

"It is just so unbelievably emotional to be with the families, for everybody involved. I mean for us and for them and for everyone," she said in a telephone interview with The Times on Saturday. "I'm very aware of how emotional it is and how draining it is for the president and for me, too. Both of us. But I think we do support each other, not by saying anything so much, but just by the comfort of each other's presence, both when we are with the families and then afterward when we are alone."

Mr. Cheney similarly has hosted numerous events, even sneaked away from the White House or his Naval Observatory home to meet troops at hospitals or elsewhere without a hint to the news media. For instance, Mr. Cheney flew to North Carolina late last month and met with 500 special-operations soldiers for three hours on a Saturday night at a golf resort. The event was so secretive that the local newspaper didn't even learn about it until three days after it happened.

Mr. Cheney and his wife, Lynne, also have hosted more than a half-dozen barbecues at their Naval Observatory home for wounded troops recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed and their spouses and children. The vice president said Mr. Bush "feels a very special obligation to those who he has to send in harm's way on behalf of the nation, and a very special obligation to their families, especially the families of those who don't come home again."

"He, in his travels, spends time with the families of the fallen. If he goes down to Fort Bragg, he'll often times pull together the families of guys who were stationed at Bragg and killed in action, and spend time with the families," Mr. Cheney told The Times in an interview last week.

Mr. Bush did just that when he visited Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2002, rallying 2,000 special-operation soldiers stationed at the base, which would send thousands of men to the two wars, hundreds of whom would never return. "I want their families to know that we pray with them, that we honor them, and they died in a just cause, for defending freedom, and they will not have died in vain," he told the troops, his voice choking with emotion and his eyes welling up with tears.

That same month, in St. Petersburg, Fla., the president broke down in tears as he addressed the parents and family of one of the first soldiers to die in Afghanistan. "I know your heart aches, and we ache for you. But your son and your brother died for a noble and just cause," he said as a tear rolled down his right cheek. He stopped his speech, overcome by emotion as the crowd stood and cheered. His chin still quivering, he smeared away tears, smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

Those were public events, but mirrored the scores of private meetings where emotions also ran deep. "I do get a little emotional because it's - I'm genuine when I say I'll miss being the commander in chief," the president told The Times. "I am in awe of our military. And I hold these folks in great respect. And I also sincerely appreciate the sacrifices that their families make."

Mr. Bush sees his job as providing comfort to those who have sacrificed so much. "The definition of comfort is very interesting. Comfort means hug, comfort means cry, comfort means smile, comfort means listen. Comfort also means, in many cases, assure the parent or the spouse that any decision made about troops in combat will be made with victory in mind, not made about my personal standing in the polls or partisan politics."

Asked where he gets the strength to meet with the families of soldiers whom he - as commnder in chief - sent to their deaths, he turned stern. "You have to believe in the cause. You have to understand that - and believe we'll be successful. If I didn't believe in the cause, it would be unbelievably terrible. I believe strongly in what we're doing. I believe it's necessary for our security. And I believe history will justify the actions. ... "The interesting thing is, most of our troops fully understand this. They know we must defeat the enemy there so we don't have to face them here. And in a place like Iraq, they fully understood that Iraq was a front for al Qaeda. And they saw their mission as one of defending America by defeating al Qaeda," he told The Times.

Meeting with the families of the fallen has allowed the president to step out of the bubble that often surrounds him, to meet real people. "I find out a lot about the individuals when the families come and see me, because one thing they want to do is, they want to share. They want to share pictures or letters or moments. "And I ask them to describe their loved one. What should I know about this person? Or they volunteer - 'You'd like this guy.' And many of them have said - it's amazing, the comforter in chief oftentimes is the comforted person - comforted because of their strength, comforted because of their devotion, comforted because of their love for their family member. And a lot of them said, Mr. President, please know that my child wanted to do this."

Mrs. Bush said she, too, is moved by their private meetings with relatives of the fallen. "Visiting with the families of the fallen is one of the most touching, moving parts of this job that George has. I remember best the most recent, which was on the Intrepid on Veterans Day, when we met with nine different families. I remember them all very well, but one story that stands out in my mind was this sister who had written a biography of her brother that she lost. "So she asked if she could read it to us. ... It represents every single family that wanted us to know about their loved ones, and what they were like, what their sense of humor was like, what they liked to do, and what they were good at."

The first lady said that many of the meetings have been kept private because "these are such personal times when people grieve. And we grieve with them. And these are not times when you would want a camera in the room or other people around. They are very emotional, personal times. "And for all of these families to be in a room with the commander in chief who made the decision to send their loved one in harm's way is, you know, a wrenching time for us and for them. For all of us, the consequences of the choices that a commander in chief makes are clear. It's all about them, and their grief."

Some private meetings with soldiers have been publicized at the request of the soldiers themselves. When Mr. Bush met with Spc. Max Ramsey, who lost his left leg in 2006 while serving in Iraq, and Sgt. Neil Duncan, a double-amputee injured in Afghanistan in 2005, it was Sgt. Duncan who asked for news coverage. "I wasn't sure my buddies would believe me," Sgt. Duncan said, joking with the president. When Mr. Bush had visited him at Walter Reed, the sergeant had vowed to run again, and did so on the White House South Lawn's jogging track in July 2007.

Although it was a Wednesday, Mr. Bush - who had scheduled a brief run - pulled the two soldiers through the trees to the White House pool after their jog. "The group of us just sat there for like two hours maybe and chatted. On a whim, he just took two hours out of his schedule. ... We talked about personal things, how he feels about the war, what's been hard, what it's like being the president, some of the most difficult times for him. It was very, very cool - priceless." Sgt. Duncan said he's glad he got the media to cover what otherwise would have been a private visit. "I thought it would be good for other soldiers to see that. It was a personal accomplishment - I wanted my family and my friends and people that I know and people I've never met to see it."

The vice president, who has been derided in the media as "Darth Vader," also has operated outside of the limelight to support wounded troops and their families even though he could have made political hay if he had made them public. He and his wife have hosted wounded troops and their families at his residence at the Naval Observatory, arranging for big-name country singers, such as Charlie Daniels and Sara Evans, to provide entertainment.

Pressed whether he ever considered allowing rap music at one of his barbecues for the troops, the vice president laughed. "No rap, no. The country and western is sort of a compromise between old folks - you know, the big band sound of the '50s and the rappers that the younger generation understands," he said.

Actually, Mr. Cheney did manage to connect troops at his home with the "American Idol" television phenomenon in February, when he hosted an event for about 50 wounded troops at the Naval Observatory that showcased Melinda Doolittle, the big-voiced singer who was a finalist on the sixth season of the hit show.

On June 30, the vice president - code-named "Angler" by the Secret Service for his love for fly-fishing - staged a fly-fishing event on his lawn with a group of wounded troops being helped out by the charitable organization Project Healing Waters. Rather than the usual rubber waders and camouflage fishing hat, the vice president sported a dark suit, a white shirt, green tie and business shoes but still managed to show off his favorite fly-fishing cast to the troops. Instead of water, he aimed for a bright green patch of grass as the smiling military men and their wives picked up tips and practiced themselves.

• Jon Ward contributed to this report.

Where's the Beef, Banks?

Remember toothpaste commercials in the 50’s and 60’s?
Actually, most all commercials in the golden days of Radio and TV advertising were creative masterpieces, especially the one’s with jingles.

There was an ad for an engine oil additive called
B-4, which is one of the earliest commercials I can recall: “You’ll be for B-4 before you drive six city-blocks.” The verse was spoken, instead of sun, over a snappy, scat percussion rhythm in the background. It was the kind of jazzy, beatnik pat-a-pat, stick-in-your-brain pattern that went along with the phrase, repeated as a cartoon character in a car drove down the street, the car gasping and wheezing and lurching as it belched clouds of noxious smoke.

One can of B-4 in the gas tank later, the car was humming smoothly down the road…the percussion pattern tapping in rhythm with all 32-valves of that hungry V-8 engine.

The best commercial jingles back then seemed to come from the cigarette companies, and the most-memorable for me was the Winston commercial: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

There was the classic McDonald’s theme, “You deserve a break today…” and Brylcream’s “ A little Dab’ll do ya.”

Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” could enjoy a bit of a retooled renaissance as “Where’re the Bucks?” in response to the bank bailout.
The trouble is, the banks aren’t saying.

According to some investigation by the Associated Press, after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money, or they simply refuse to discuss it.
I think it's time to name names.

JP Morgan Chase got $25-billion in emergency bailout money.
They lent some of it.
They didn’t lend some of it.
They’ve not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it.'
Their spokesperson told the AP, "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

In fact, the Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions:
  • How much has been spent?
  • What was it spent on?
  • How much is being held in savings?
  • What's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

Where's the bucks?

SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars, isn't providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking?
Why not--your abacus broke?

Regions Financial Corp received $3.5-billion.
They’re not tracking how they’re spending their bailout-bucks, either.

Citibank and Bank of America are two of the largest recipients of bailout money. Their answers read like a PR-101 homework exercise: carefully-worded generic public relations statements, explaining that “the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.”

Co-Merica Bank is not only not telling what they did with the $2.25-billion it received, the bank isn’t telling why it’s not telling what.

New York Mellon received $3-billion, and said it was declining to disclose what it did with the money, insisted upon anonymity, and finally said in an e-mail to the AP it the bank “would just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."

$700-billion dollars—an amount of money equivalent to the economy of The Netherlands—up in smoke, or just clouded by more of the smoke and mirrors accounting that got the US financial sector into the mess we’re in in the first place?

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a House Financial Services Committee member, made the observation that, a year or two ago, when we talked about spending $100 million for a bridge to nowhere, that was considered a scandal."
What do you call this?

Here’s an experiment you can try today at your favorite local bank branch—but I would recommend you try it at a branch of BankAmerica, Citi, Regions, Co-Merica, or Sun Trust: Walk into the lobby, and ask to see a loan officer. Tell him/her that you need $10,000 just to strengthen your personal balance sheet, and that you’re not sure what you’re going to use the money for, and you’re not going to tell them what for if they ask.

See if you can get six city blocks on that kind of fuel.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Outrage for the Holidays

Can the Gov. Blagojevich circus get any stranger?

Blago refuses to go quietly into the night, after being tape recorded discussing selling his appointment of a successor to fill the empty senate seat of Barak Obama, his attorney met an Illinois impeachment panel and basically said the Gov. hasn’t done anything wrong.

May have talked about it…in terms you cannot use around the family dinner table…and in the state of Illinois, all an impeachment panel has to prove is that the governor is unfit to serve.

What part of the tape recordings do people not believe demonstrate Blago’s fitness to serve as Illinois Governor?

Locally—outrage over the killing of a middle-school student by a drunk driver on Tuesday. Wednesday night saw a vigil for 13-year old Nicole Lalime…Thursday morning was a hearing for 30-year old John Jacob Winne who allegedly ran over the girl after she stepped off of her school bus Tuesday afternoon.

I believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty…but I also believe a person’s record bespeaks plenty—and here’s piece of human trash with a long, documented record of similar infractions, like a conviction for driving while intoxicated with a 15-year old minor…possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute…and now, if it’s proven his blood alcohol content was outside legal limits, prosecutors may charge the slimeball with felony manslaughter.

And from the adding insult to stupidity…a woman convicted last year of intoxication manslaughter is now suing the driver of the truck she ran into for negligence. Elizabeth Shelton had a blood alcohol content reading THREE TIMES the legal limit when she slammed into the rear of a box truck, killing her boyfriend and demolishing her SUV.
And she’s suing the driver of the truck she hit?

Give me a freaking break.
The judge needs to throw this case out because it’s a waste of the taxpayer’s money, double her sentence (she’s on 8-year’s probation) on grounds of public stupidity, and have her placed in a program where she serves the families of victims of drunk drivers.

What is it going to take, ladies and gentlemen, to put this kind of dangerous behavior into perspective, and make the punishment fit the crime? How many 13-year old girls must be mowed down by drunk drivers as they get off their school busses before the courts take these morons off the streets permanently?

John Jacob Winne…out on probation…allegedly lit…and behind the wheel…at three in the afternoon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mid-Week Check-in

It's only Tuesday, and we've already had an interesting week.

First an Iraqi "journalist" decides to throw a twofer on shoes during a Presidential Press conference.

Cost of one pair of badly-worn loafers = $45.
Cost to transport to the Jail Infirmary to have his broken arm set and cracked ribs tapped = $250.
Cost of seeing your lame aim miss the Leader of the Free World on INTERNATIONAL television and internet newsfeeds = Priceless.

Then, this Mensa named Bernie Madoff decides to 'fess up to his family that the funds he's been "managing" for the elite for the past several years has really been nothing more than a giant con, and there's no money.
$50-billion is gone.

Judging by the way Wall Street didn't overly react to this, you'd almost believe they knew it all along. I don't know which descriptive phrase would be more apropos:

"Honor Among Thieves"
"Misery Loves Company"
"It Takes One to Know One"

And to cap it all off, the Federal Reserve has now lowered the cost of money between bankers to between Zero and .5%, vowing they'll do everything they can to stimulate the economy. Hey, guys--how about NOT devaluing our money for starters...

Coming up tomorrow: GM weighs-in with their plan for the future. Regional Communications Meister Craig Epplinger will join me on the show to talk about where the Automotive Industry is heading, what GM intends to do next, and why allowing the automakers to fail would not be in the best interest of the country.

That and the Christmas Fairy will be on hand to drop-ship another HD Radio for us to give away.

Details in the morning, if you dare to listen!
I'll see you on the Radio.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

George Bush: Sole Man

President Bush: Sole Man

President George W. Bush made a surprise, farewell visit to Iraq over the weekend, meeting with the Iraqi Premier a final time before the Bush Presidency concludes.

Apparently, some of the international media thought Mr. Bush was on a scouting trip for his former ball club, the Texas Rangers, because one television journalist hurled his shoes at Mr. Bush during a press event in Baghdad.

Did you see footage of this?
The President ducks the first shoe, and thinks it’s a joke, by the expression on his face. Then the second shoe comes sailing out of the press gallery, and Mr. Bush ducks again, and he’s got this silly grin on his face, as if he’s not believing what’s happening…and thinking, "this moron reporter isn’t any better shot with a shoe than that at this range…?"

I see myriad opportunities from this for the President following the end of his term. If Bill Clinton was able to cash in on his, uh, diplomatic prowess following his presidency, just imagine the marketing possibilities for Mr. Bush with companies like Nike"Just duck it"—or becoming the new spokesperson for Timberland, who’s slogan is “don’t wear it, use it.”

For Bostonian: “Duck again” has a few possibilities, too.

slogan now has new meaning.
I would imagine they would want to use footage of the shoe tossing to their advantage, as “the finest footwear for the active lifestyle,” although I doubt they ever thought it would apply to actively using their footwear as projectiles.

New Balance had a slogan a while back that could be tweaked entertainingly by this event. The tag line, “There are two motivations in sports. Which is yours? For Love or Money?” might be written about the two motivations in covering the news in the Middle East by slanted journalists: "Which is yours? Being on target or off?”

Still, the most appropriate shoe slogan that could have been applied in this incident belongs to Merrill Shoes, a maker of casual and outdoor footwear.
I think Mr. Bush should have walked over to the shoe-flinging flack, picked him up by the scruff of his neck, and simply said, “Let’s get outside.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Stinking Holidays

For Thanksgiving, I spent the entire day on the couch, huddled beneath a blanket, and comforted by the two canines in the house, Dazzle and Sophie. A raucous head cold pre-empted any plans for gastronomic festivities, and I sent the rest of the family over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for the day.

One week later, I was healed.
Sort of.

This past weekend, I was afflicted by a viral infestation of another origin--and another target on my anatomy. The good news is, I suppose, that by suffering through this weekend, perhaps I will be well and whole and able to enjoy Christmas with my family without feeling like a dog (sorry, pups!)

Remember the TV Public Service ads warning against drug use:
"This is your brain...this is your brain on drugs" they intoned.

I think I found a corollary in my anti-nausea, anti-diarrheal induced stupor this weekend:

This is your toilet.

This is your toilet when you're really not feeling too swift.

Always follow label directions!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Days of Future Passed: Behind the Scenes at The Nifty 650

If you find yourself getting a little nostalgic at this time of year, that's okay. It's a time for reflection and remembering the things that really matter in life.

On clear Winter afternoons like we had today, I like to drive past the house I grew up in, and reminisce just a bit. Sometimes I'll meander from that house to the second house I ever lived in, and the one from which I moved away from home for the first time.

Music can send me into one of those reveries, too.
One of my favorite albums is The Moody Blues' "Days of Future Passed," a rock symphony that chronicles a day in the life fill in the blank.

I love the lush production of that album, recorded with the London Festival Orchestra. It begins and ends with the reverberation of a concert gong, with the dawning of a new day, and ends with the classic "Nights in White Satin." The poems at the beginning and end of the album, "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament," were written by drummer Graeme Edge, and remain among my favorite pieces of modern literature.

I was humming pieces of this album today as I went through my morning routine. The sunrise from the 19th floor of our building was spectacular.

I never know what the day is going to bring in the way of surprises. We plan the show somewhat methodically, knowing who the guests will be. But you never know what quirk of chemistry is going to occur, what catalyst will create an explosion of instant creativity.

Our guests this morning included SaltyThomason and David Boswell from Pella Windows. We've taken to calling Salty the Pella Fella, and Michael Landry has threatened in the past to create a line of Pella-monogramed sportswear.

Today he walked into the studio proudly wearing a pair of black Pella boxers.

Talk about your morning glory.
I suppose it's a good thing Salty hadn't brought along a Pella attorney as a guest, or Michael might have been inspired to create monogrammed briefs.

No sooner is one show completed, than the work begins on the next day's line-up.

Tomorrow (Friday) morning, along with our regular cast of players, Mark Jeffrey and Pamela Griffin, our special guests will include U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) with a peek at the Automotive Bailout Bill, and insight into the next edition of Congress that will be sworn in next month.

Also slated to appear tomorrow will be comedienne Anjelah Johnson, who is performing this weekend at The Improv, and our Friday morning featured entertainment guide from Kelly Kelly from Hot Hits 95.7fm.

See you in the morning on the Radio.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Auto Zone on Capital Hill

The new $14-Billion Automotive Bailout Package has something for everyone, so long as you’re an autoworker, large transit system operator, or a Federal Judge. The House tonight passed a bill for $14-billion in emergency loans to GM and Chrysler, with a safety net for Ford, if needed.

It’s not a done deal, however, because the Senate has yet to weigh in with their version, so there is no lock for passage yet. The plan passed tonight would also create the position of “Car Czar,” to be appointed by President Bush before leaving office, whose job it would be to administer the money and enforce compliance with the agreement.

All three car makers must renegotiate with Labor Unions, and submit by Spring a plan for reorganization. One sore spot is the fact that some of the bailout bucks are coming from a fund created to help the auto manufacturers re-tool factories to build greener cars…but pragmatically speaking, what good is such a fund, if the manufacturer is out of business?

The House version also restricts executive compensation, prohibits paying dividends to investors, and stipulates that the government/taxpayers be repaid first before shareholders. The bill also requires the car makers to get rid of their corporate jets…and provides an unrelated provision giving a pay raise to Federal judges.

Ah, yes.
Change you can believe in.

The Blagojevichinization of American Politics

The Big Story yesterday was the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Federal Political Corruption charges for allegedly using the vacated Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama as a bargaining chip for himself. Through it all, the President-elect has kept his cool.

Blagojevich is likely to have his name entered along side other notables in history with both a noun- and verb-form of their surnames:

John Crapper

Monica Lewinsky

Ron Blagojevich

Use each in a sentance today and impress your friends.
By the way, no truth to the rumor that Milton-Bradley is rushing a new board game into production in time for Christmas: Monopoly: The Blagojevich Edition.

Gov. Blagojevich does have his supporters in Illinois…they’re called Blagophiles

Gov. Blagojevich
is accused, among other things, of wanting to use Barak Obama’s senate seat as leverage to get himself a cushy Ambassador’s position some where.

How about Ambassador to Leavenworth…a gated community in Kansas?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Don't Call Us

I have just about had it with the silly reindeer games some businesses like to play when they don’t want to be bothered.
Like making appointments and breaking them.
Like setting up conference calls, and then not showing up on the line.
Or like not returning phone calls.
That one really chaps my hide like nothing else.

Have we created a generation of business men and women who are so spineless and morally bereft that they cannot pick up the phone and return a call?

Same thing with e-mails that go unanswered.
How hard is it to toggle the “reply” button, and answer with either a “yes” or a “no?” I’d even settle for a “maybe,” than just no response at all.

If I engage you in a conversation, and the result of that discussion is a choice you need to make--of either accepting my offer, declining my idea, or delaying until later the proper application of the proposal--how freaking hard is it to say so?

How did we get to the point that we’re no longer able to speak to one another in binary terms of yes or no? Do we think we’re doing some struggling account executive a FAVOR by putting off making a decision?
"Yes," "no," or "not now."
How hard is that?

Are you afraid you’re going to bruise my self esteem by telling me, “No?” And Heaven forbid you say, “yes,” and have to get up from your office chair and DO SOMETHING in response to an offer. Grow some gonads and make like a Nike commercial, and just Do It.

Yes or No.

Choosing to not decide is to decide anyway.
I chalk it up as a “don’t bother with this schmuck” in my playbook.

I personally despise voice mail systems and unattended phone systems. To me, nothing says “your business doesn’t really matter” more than to dial up a company's main number and be greeted by someone apparently reading from hand-scribbled notes:

“You have reached the offices of Apathy, Inc.
We don’t care if you’re calling or not.
We’d rather hide in our cocoon behind this computer screen, and weed out the voice messages we want to return.
You don’t really matter.
Why don’t you just go away…”

It makes me want to scream.
I have been calling on several businesses for the past few weeks, and you would not believe what I’ve been faced with.

"Hold on, he’ll be right with you."
Click: Click: “Please leave your name and number…”

I am quite diligent in leaving my name and number in a pleasing, un-intimidating way. After all, how many times do you get a real Radio person calling you at work?
Do you think people want to call back?

I once worked for a guy who was so incredibly arrogant, this was his voice-mail message: "Thanks for calling, your call is very important, but please do not leave a message; I don't check them."

At least the turkey was honest.

I called a business today, and decided to make a hobby out of it. I dailed the main number, which was answered by the most anemic-sounding voice message ever recorded in the history of Mankind. I punched the first extension the voice gave me.
Straight to voice mail.

I hung up, and dialed back in.
This time, the electronic bimbo began her rambling chant, and at the appropriate time, I dialed the second extension number she spewed.
Straight to voice mail.
Does no one work at this place?

Third time through, I let the mechanical Mensa run through her script until she came to the extension for Accounts Receiveable. Here, I suspected, where the money is actually coming into the door, there should be a body with a pulse and respiration.

Answered on the first ring.

I gently explained how I had been trying to reach the president of the company, who had encouraged me to call. He was expecting to hear from Me. And yet, with each day that passed, my call notes for this prospect began to look like the rap sheet for OJ Simpson instead of a prospect call sheet.

I told her that today I’d been trying to reach any living person, real or imagined, that worked at her company, and had been constantly routed through that special, electronic Hell that is reserved for the Devil and his Angels who artfully dodge all incoming phone calls.

She nervously giggled, “you have?”
Yes, I have, I responded, and asked to be put on the line with the President.
“Hold on,” she promised, “and I’ll get him for you.”

There is no music quite like that melody that reverberates in your head while you’re on hold. It’s mind-numbing, defies musicological rationale, and I believe is mathematically calculated to induce short-term amnesia, so that the caller is lulled into a sense of false security, knowing their call is The Most Important Blinking Light on the phone system at that place and time. "I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now. Please leave your name and number. Your call is important, and I will return it right away…”
Back to square one.

I may call this business again sometime, but not for a while. They indict people in this County for the things I’d like to do and say to these chickens.
Besides, I don’t believe I want them to be included in the company of those who do get it, who understand what I have to offer, and who are interested in bettering their operation.
Frankly, I don’t think they deserve it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Year of the Rat, Indeed

The Chinese have a different animal representing each year of the Chinese Calendar.
2009 will be the year of the Ox…

Not surprisingly, 2008 has been the year of the Rat…and that has proven to be a prescient representative of the events that have taken place this year.

The failure of the banking system…and the subsequent finger pointing makes everyone involved the Rats of 2008… One of the biggest ducks in the puddle (or rats in the nest, to more precisely follow the metaphor) is Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, on whose watch the company lost $11-billion last year.
is actually pushing for his $10-million bonus for the year.

Wisely, the firm's compensation committee is resisting his request and leaning toward denying the executives bonuses for this year.
Ya think?

Consider this timeline: Merrill's shareholders approved the securities firm's acquisition by Bank of America last Friday, which will create the nation's largest financial services company. Once the merger is done, Thain will be in charge of the combined company's global banking, securities and wealth management businesses, but will not be on the Bank of America's Board of Directors.

Hey, John: Here’s your bonus—how about you get to keep your job for another year? And as an added perk to the job, Merrill will send you to economic sensitivity training in a neighborhood near you, where people have been out of work since June…

The rationale Thain is using in justifying a $10-millino bonus: He was instrumental in averting what could have been a larger crisis at the firm by contacting Bank of America about a tie-up. Coincidentally, he performed that miracle on the same day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

While Merrill's compensation committee agrees the takeover was in shareholders' best interest, there is the gnawing fact that other Wall Street firms, such as Goldman Sachs aren't giving out any bonuses to their top executives.

Maybe John Thain needs to get a clue.
I would fain to let Thain go.
Thain is part of the problem of CEO’s who have become so insulated from reality that they can’t make good rational decisions in the best interest of their company.

If Thain stays, you should take your money out of Merrill in protest.
This guy is an embarrassment.
If you work for Merrill Lynch, I am sorry for you.

John Thain needs to get a grip on reality, and pull his head out of his backside, and smell what’s going on in this country right now. Taking a $10-million bonus from a company that lost $11-billion is just wrong.

Hey, John: How about you forgo the stinking $10-million this year, and let the company show only a $10.9-billion loss?

Maybe the shareholders will keep you around a little longer.