F is for Ford

fordDetroit automakers hate government regulations and will deploy armies of lobbyists to get their way in Washington. And they routinely win. The argument goes like this: auto industry experts at such companies as GM, Chrysler and Ford know way more about the car business than “Washington bureaucrats” … and besides, if said auto industry experts get it wrong, Washington will bail them out anyway, so what’s the problem?

Since the 1973 OPEC shaft-job Washington regulators have consistently called for higher fuel efficiency from the automakers’ fleets only to receive immense pushback from the U.S. industry which wants to sell more high-profit, big-ass vehicles that slurp gas. Although profit is the motive, the industry will insist the regulatory goals are technically infeasible – just like it was infeasible to engineer cost-effective airbags, until foreign competition introduced them. And then miraculously, Detroit managed to comply.

Getting back to fuel economy: as long as gas prices stay low, everything’s copacetic. But when gas prices spike (often before the emergence of a recession), buyers head for the smaller, more efficient vehicles which are for the most part supplied by Detroit’s competition. GM’s mix of vehicles leading up to the Great Recession was heavy on trucks and SUVs. The economy turned south, people fled the big rides, and GM headed for bankruptcy – only to be backstopped by Bush’s TARP bailout to the tune of $30 billion (that includes GMAC).

Now Ford is back complaining about fuel efficiency regulations – specifically the requirement that the industry deliver greater numbers of electric vehicles. Ford CEO Mark Fields squawked about it to Bloomberg News in December 2016. According to the report :

“Ford Motor Co. plans to lobby President-elect Donald Trump to soften U.S. and state fuel-economy rules that hurt profits by forcing automakers to build more electric cars and hybrids than are warranted by customer demand. ‘In 2008, there were 12 electrified vehicles offered in the U.S. market and it represented 2.3 percent of the industry,’ Mark Fields, chief executive officer of Ford, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Southfield, Michigan, office Friday. ‘Fast forward to 2016, there’s 55 models, and year to date it’s 2.8 percent.’”

Clearly Ford wants to go in a direction opposite that of Tesla Motors which has been the top cheerleader for electric vehicles and a leading pioneer of the technology.

Then in early April, the market cap of Tesla Motors surpassed that of Ford suggesting that investors have a sense that electric is a bigger deal than CEO Fields believes. Then on May 22, Ford abruptly fired Fields who had been at the company for 28 years.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford said at the time, “Our world has changed dramatically. Look at the pace of change and the competitors coming into our space, and we need to match or beat that.”

Ya think?

Roger and Out

British actor Roger Moore died the other day at age 89. Best remembered as the man who played the iconic role of James Bond in seven films running from 1973 to 1985, Moore was already established as a suave, swashbuckler in the early 1960s TV hit “The Saint.” Surely his comfort playing the deboniare Simon Templar character paved the way for him to take over Bond from Sean Connery.

The early James Bond movies starring Connery were patently ludicrous – just consider how the comic Austin Powers films are more like remakes than parodies. By the time Moore took on the Bond mantle, the producers had openly embraced the stupidity of the plots and widened the aperture for wry humor – something that the droll Moore executed with aplomb.

One of my favorite scenes comes near the end of the ridiculous “Moonraker” in which Moore as Bond accompanied by main squeeze Holly Goodhead commandeer the bad guy’s space shuttle and blast evil orbiting nerve gas containers to kingdom come. (Sidebar: the inclusion of a hot chick named “Goodhead” shows how lazy the screenwriters became in the middle of the franchise before tightening things up in the Daniel Craig period.) Following the successful annihilation of the nerve gas Bond and Goodhead are caught on video having sex in the weightlessness of space. The MI6 chief demands answers. The best line ever: “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.”

Perhaps the best homage to the Bond series came in the form of clever cartoon parodies published in Mad Magazine. One such parody was of Moore’s first outing as Bond in “Live and Let Die” which takes place in the underworld of New Orleans. Bond seeks out villain Mr. Big in the Fillet of Soul restaurant which caters to the black community. Here is Mad’s take on the encounter which like all good parodies enhances the foolishness by treading closely to the target of ridicule.

sc_106_11_bombmovies_liveandletsuffer

Here’s the original risible scene.


How Bond escapes becoming an ingredient in the jambalaya is beyond me.

Posted in Business, Movies, Obits | Tagged , | Comments Off

Solved: The Mystery of the Dead (W)Ailes

ailesLast week, the unidentified rotting corpse of a 50-foot-long corpulent creature washed up on a beach in Indonesia. Confused locals took photographs with their smartphones that went around the world of the immense blob of slimy, smelly flesh. Noxious decomposition gases bloated the body and seeped out, causing the inquisitive nearby to retch and vomit.

Then just the other day at least part of the mystery was unraveled: 21st Century Fox announced the death of retired/ousted Fox News head Roger Ailes. After a necropsy of the beast revealed the remains of what appeared to be several blond interns in its belly, authorities concluded the body was that of Ailes.

How he floated from his home in Palm Beach all the way to the Indian Ocean after falling and striking his head on May 10 remains unsolved.

Thumbtack’s Subliminal Message

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new surge in home improvement business driven in large part by homeowners’ choosing to fix up the places they live rather than go through the hassle of moving to better digs. Concurrent with this trend comes the growth of companies like Angie’s List and Thumbtack that can match homeowners seeking services with independent handymen ready to bid for odd jobs.

In a recent ad, Thumbtack explains how their free service delivered via an easy-to-use app can help busy homeowners work down their to-do lists by hiring pros for whom no job is too small.

Near the end of the ad, Thumbtack illustrates how the app offers choices of bidders along with prices and ratings.

thumb1

And then how the homeowner can then select the better choice.

thumb2

It’s funny though how Thumbtack shows the user picking the white guy over the black guy, even though the two have the same rating and the black guy is 20 percent cheaper.

Could it be that Thumbtack thinks its user base is racist? More likely the ad agency employs blinkered millenials in their “creative” department who have never set foot outside their suburban neighborhoods or their bucolic campus safe spaces.

More TV Ads Humiliating Men

Speaking of TV ads…

Three years ago, we penned a blog titled “Mad Men Showcase Stupid White Men” – the gist of which was how Madison Avenue ad agencies produce TV spots that attempt humor at the expense of white males. We highlighted several examples of how the white male is portrayed as the buffoon – an approach that would cause unfettered uproar if the subject was a woman or a minority.

Apparently, no one in the industry read our blog, because the assault continues to this day. Here are some recent examples:

Common on TV today is the ad for yet another drug to cure or control a malady that people used to ignore or never knew they had. The usual approach is to show the soon-to-be-healthy sufferer going through the routine motions of life, pursuing happiness thanks to the subject drug. One such ad is for Toujeo, a drug designed to control blood sugar. In this spot, a dumpy middle aged man struggles with his defiant dog, cluelessly pours olive oil on the floor while he reads a recipe, and clumsily stumbles on a treadmill (next to a hot black chick who no doubt considers her fellow exerciser unworthy of human status). And then the ad really gets annoying; dumpy-boy starts jiving uncontrollably to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove.” Unqualified to be on “Dancing with the Stars – Leprosy Colony Edition,” the guy is shown jerking about in the kitchen, the office, while mowing the lawn.

Jesus, if shooting up Toujeo turned me into an uncoordinated disco dancer lacking the self-control not to perform in public, I’d rather take a blood sugar level of 400 any day.

Toujeo

Kayak is one of many so-called fare aggregators that roots around the web looking for the best prices on things like airfares, hotels and consumer goods. Others include Trivago, Expedia and Priceline. To make a point that Kayak is more efficient in winnowing down the options, their ads show people trying to find the best suited product in a fashion that is inferior to the power of the Kayak algorithm. In this weird TV spot, a woman searching for the best fitting jeans surveys several women modeling jeans. Suddenly an overweight bearded dude with hefty man-boobs pops out of a fitting room wearing a pair of mom-jeans that are a couple dozen sizes too small. Along with all the women, he is summarily dismissed by the prospective buyer. Proof that this type of shopping can’t measure up to the wonders of Kayak. But why add the goofy guy into the mix? Because the ad wouldn’t have been as “clever” without the humiliation of a white dude.


Kayak

I can attest from experience that La Quinta is a crappy hotel chain. The front desk is staffed by what appear to be meth addicts, the rooms smell bad and come with outdated furnishings, and the highlight of the free breakfast are the Froot Loops. In a TV ad that comports with the quality of the hotels, La Quinta showcases a total asshole who apparently can dominate a business meeting by arrogantly pointing with his eyeglasses. To make things worse, it seems the others in the meeting fall for the histrionics of this jerk.

Later, Mr. Glass Pointer – who also sports a horrible beard and a paunch – surveys a La Quinta room and judges it worthy. Anyone in business for a few years has probably encountered one or more such douche bags bloviating in meetings, acting like the king of all knowledge.

Why La Quinta would choose such an asshole to be the one to declare their rooms worthy remains a mystery.


La Quinta

Posted in Obits, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

IBM: Dow and Out?

ibmdow
What is the life span of a stock in “dog-of-the-Dow” years?

It’s been a rather bad month for IBM.

Since announcing 1Q 2017 earnings in early April, the stock is down over 20 points to $150 a share – a drop of 12 percent. And for good reason. Included in the rosy remarks by CFO Martin Schroeter (“In the first quarter, we continued to deliver strong performance in our strategic imperatives, with revenue up 13percent at constant currency. Our cloud offerings were up 35 percent this quarter, led by Cloud-as-a-service, which was up over 60 percent”) was the revelation that IBM’s “revenue for the quarter was $18.2 billion, which is down two percent.” And with that, IBM managed to log its 20th straight quarter without growing revenue.

20 quarters ago is just around the time Ginni Rometty took the helm from Sam Palmisano which means IBM’s revenue nosedive corresponds almost exactly to her run so far as CEO. Many people have called for Ginni’s head – but instead of getting the axe from the BOD, she instead received a pay hike of 60 percent to $33 million. Fully 46 percent of shares votes against the ill-conceived raise – a measure of protest practically unheard of in corporate America. (It’s hard to calculate with precision, but a good guess is that Rometty’s salary increase exceeded the combined raises of 20,000 other IBMers.)

Other less-than-comforting IBM news in the recent past includes:

  • “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett’s better-late-than-never sale of a major stake. Perhaps now considered the “Nitwit of Nebraska,” Buffett took an estimated $812 million loss since buying up a huge stake a few years ago.
  • Credit rating cuts by S&P and Moody’s, and stock downgrades from Societe Generale, Zacks Investment Research, and RBC.
  • In a solid expression of support, the IBM Pension Fund managers actually dump IBM stock from their portfolio.
  • A lawsuit by the state of Pennsylvania claiming IBM failed to live up to a multi-million dollar contract to update the state’s unemployment claims system.
  • The shedding of $20 billion in market cap in a mere 30 days.

Despite all this negativity, no one really expects IBM will go casters-up any time soon. It will undoubtedly trudge along selling off assets, laying off employees, engineering tax dodges, and yes, delivering some remarkable technologies that have kept the company in the game for more than 100 years.

The question we have at Major Terata is whether IBM will remain a component of the Dow Jones Industrial average.

The Dow Jones Industrial average is a distillation of the performances of a supposedly representative set of 30 global companies mixed up with pixie dust into a concoction which yields a number that investors every business day duly prostrate before.

Here is a list of the current members of the Dow:

dow-table

IBM and HP are the only companies in the Dow’s subsector of “Computers/Technology.” But given that computers and technology make up less than 10 percent of IBM’s revenue (assuming “technology” means “hardware”) does its representation of the category even make sense? Unless the Dow boys create a new subsector that comports with what IBM wants to be (a stew of cognitive computing, cloud delivery models, blockchain, weather data, etc.), IBM’s inclusion in the Dow would not seem to be particularly compelling. Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace IBM with Facebook, Google or Amazon – companies that are larger and more relevant to today’s economy?

The DJIA is certainly a top go-to metric for the state of the larger stock market, but it’s also a tool to cheer on investors to load up on more equities. And for that reason there is undoubtedly a desire on the part of the Dow’s stewards to ensure laggards don’t stay around long to drag down the average. After all, in 1982 the DJIA included such has-beens as Woolworths, United Carbide, International Paper, US Steel, International Harvester, and the American Can Company.

IBM makes up about 5 percent of the Dow average, and had it been exorcised from the list and replaced with a hotter property, who knows how high the DJIA would be right now. If IBM continues to tread water and continues to hold back the DJIA, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t make it to a 40th anniversary as a Dow component.

But It Could Be Worse

IBM has taken its share of lumps, but compared to these horrible companies Big Blue is a national treasure.

  • Wells Fargo – Scammed its own customers by opening bogus bank accounts in their names, and fucking up their credit ratings. They’re so bad, the top miscreant executives were forced to pay back ill-gotten bonuses – something virtually unheard-of in modern American business.
  • Volkswagen – Unable to meet emissions promises in their “clean” Diesel engines, VW relied on embedded software to cheat the EPA test machines. And when confronted with the evidence, they lied until they could no longer sit inside a Passat without banging their noses on the windshield.
  • Valeant – Acquired rights to old-time specialty medicines and jacked up retail prices a hundred-fold, thus extorting desperately ill people in the pursuit of naked greed. Thankfully, Valeant’s decline yielded one good thing: Bill Ackman had to take a pipe up the ass on his investment in the morally bereft company.
  • Spirit Airlines – Take it from Kate Hanni, former executive director of FlyersRights.org: “They are the absolute worst airline in the country. If it costs a little more, take the other airline.”
  • Snap – Purveyor of a mostly inane smart-phone app with features easily copied by Facebook; goes public then announces $2.1 billion loss. Shareholders running for the hills after the stock falls well below the IPO price.
  • Uber – The list of shenanigans pulled by the ride-hailing company is mindboggling, the most recent being the deployment of tricky apps designed to work around local regulations barring them from operating. The level of deceit on Uber’s part should seal the verdict that they are a loathsome enterprise bent on winning at any cost.
Posted in Business | Tagged | Comments Off

Those Who Can’t Do Preach

IvankacoverIvanka Trump, no doubt with extensive help from one or more ghostwriters, released a new book titled “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success” – and the response has been either stellar or vicious depending on whether the reader is a Trump sycophant or an actual working woman who finds the idea of a coddled Ivanka lecturing about something with which she has no experience repugnant.

Below is a graph of the book’s reviews garnered on Amazon as of May 6, and its bifurcated distribution of 1 and 5 star endpoints with virtually nothing in-between speaks volumes about how Ivanka is perceived. It’s rare to find such widely disparate sentiment for a book.

Ivankabook

Major Terata Publications has often railed against the celebrity vanity book project for they gobble up publishers’ attention and crowd out talented and struggling authors who are writing more interesting and creative material. It’s understandable that a publisher would feel more confident in making revenue quotas with a book associated with a celebrity with a large, loyal, established following – but there’s something sad about an industry relegating its presumed core mission to second-class status.

Like all Trumps, Ivanka’s ulterior motive is brand enhancement – and “Women Who Work” is really nothing more than a vehicle to inspire (coerce?) women to buy her shit in the hopes that doing so will make them more like the wildly successful author. Forget that Ivanka was born into fabulous wealth and handed a business on a silver platter – maybe buying a pair of her foreign made sweat-shop shoes could actually rewrite the rules for success.

The book proffers cracker barrel philosophy and corn-pone bromides such as

  • “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.”
  • “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
  • “All women benefit immeasurably by architecting their lives.”
  • “Honor yourself by exploring the kind of life you deserve.”

If any of these sound familiar, it’s because Ivanka has quoted other women – which means “Women Who Work” is actually a meta-book, a directory for received wisdom.

One of my favorite passages involves Ivanka recalling how tough it was to hump her ass around the country campaigning for daddy – so tough in fact that she rarely found time for “treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care.” I’m surprised she didn’t mention the time her Kia broke down in Iowa and she had to replace the fuel pump … by herself…in the dark…with an emery board.

As for the Amazon reviews, the negatives cluster around the notion that it is insulting and unseemly for a pampered heiress to tell real working women what they’ve been doing wrong. And the positives seem to be written by Trump supporters who want to counteract the low scores. Examples from both sides below:

  • Ivanka shows again how the entire Trump family, even the women, know nothing about the reality of working women. Tone deaf and annoying this book isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
  • Written by a woman who has nannies, drivers, maids, possibly a personal chef.
  • Ivanka should donate the proceeds from the book to those children and families her family is harming by taking healthcare away from. She has no clue what it is like to have no barriers in life and succeed despite your barriers.
  • She has no idea what it means to be a working woman, coming from a privileged upbringing and having all doors open to her without any qualifications (e.g., Anna Wintour’s job offer) or working her way up. And, btw, ALL women work.
  • A book written for working women by a woman who does not work.
  • This reeks of being a useless publicity stunt to enhance the trump brand. Please close your wallet and save the money for an author who has real work experience. It really pushes the boundary of what you define as work. It’s very interesting to consider the channels the author used to achieve success. The women in my family told me that they found it insulting. Consider work from the perspective of someone who didn’t take time to write their own book.
  • Purchased just because Liberal/Democrats are complaining about it. My next trip to the bookstore I’ll purchase several copies for gifts. Keep whining…this book may be the best selling book of all time!
  • Great Book! #MAGA
  • Growing up as the daughter of a billionaire would certainly have its challenges! Ivanka Trump has captured the emotional depths of working women everywhere. She has an uncanny ability to identify with all walks of life. Highly recommended!

I never thought of it that way – maybe being the daughter of a billionaire is really a pre-existing condition.

(Sidebar: wouldn’t it be better for the cover to exhibit a woman actually working – something like this?)

Ivankacover1

LaFerrari Aperta

ferrari-laferrari-aperta-2016-gallery-prew-1-tr

Sure, the LaFerrari Aperta has a top speed of 217 MPH, can go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds and costs just a bit above $3 million – but how many cup holders does it have?

Posted in books | Tagged | Comments Off

The Outrage of Eddie Munster


Paul Ryan recites the hypocritic oath.

Billions of gallons of ink will be spilt over the House of Representative’s vote yesterday to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something terrific” – if you consider “terrific” the taking away of myriad benefits so that the savings can be pasteurized and homogenized into tax cuts for top-earners. We’ll leave it to the many fuming pundits to excoriate the replacement bill, its feckless Republican supporters, and especially Trump who outright lied about rescuing America from failing Obamacare with his phantom plan to 1) deliver better care at 2) lower cost to 3) more people. (Normally when you’re O for 3, you’re out.)

There is much to hate about the Republican’s replacement known as AHCA, but among the most truly galling parts of the whole sordid episode was the rank hypocrisy exhibited by Speaker of the House and Eddie Munster doppelganger Paul Ryan. When the Democrats were busy ramming Obamacare down the throats of Americans in 2009-2010, aggrieved Paul had much to complain about the process. Although the Dems held dozens of Congressional hearings and public forums on the subject, and took more than a year from start to finish, Ryan whined that the bill was progressing too quickly and opaquely.

Ryan, in an interview in July 2009 said this about the Obamacare bill: “I don’t think we should pass bills we haven’t read and don’t know what they cost.” Of course, by the time Obamacare was voted on, people had plenty of time to learn what was in the bill and the Congressional Budget Office had published its cost analysis.

Still, Ryan of 2009 makes a valid, general point. Unlike the usual Congressional fodder consisting mainly of bills to rename post offices or establish National Toe Fungus Awareness Day, bills of the magnitude of Obamacare which affected more than 15 percent of the U.S. economy must be thoroughly debated and scored by the CBO before going to a vote.

Yesterday, the Republicans narrowly passed the week-old AHCA bill without holding a single hearing. Had they done so, they would have gotten an earful from some people who know a bit about health care, including the AMA. And the vote went ahead absent a CBO score which will come later and certainly reveal some true ugliness in terms of numbers of people who will lose coverage. This version of AHCA has to be at least as shitty as the previous bill that went down in flames in March – and that one was said to cause 24 million people to lose coverage by the middle of the next decade.

The big question: Where was Ryan’s outrage about a process that was 100 times worse than what he complained about when the Dems were making legislative sausage? Did he leave it somewhere on the Munsters 50th Anniversary Tour?

eddieryan

Speaking of Classic Old TV

Gotta love this Honeymooners spoof.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

The Berry Doesn’t Fall Far From the Dingle

wattersdickJesse Watters, smirky understudy to former Fox miscreant Bill O’Reilly stepped on his own dick the other day by proffering very ill-timed innuendo about Ivanka Trump’s skill at holding a phallic microphone. Ill-timed because the last thing Fox needs now is another frat-boy scandal. The show known as “The Five” – which is coincidentally what Watters calls his masturbatory hand – went to break after Jesse’s suggestive aside. When they came back Watters explained that his admiration for Ivanka’s talent referred to her jazzy-style voice. Everyone knows that during that fitful break, “The Five” producers and staff were frantically trying to come up with an explanation Jesse could offer on air other than “Ivanka obviously gives good head.”

As of this writing, Watters is on “vacation” from the show he just started appearing on – a suspicious turn of events that is reminiscent of O’Reilly’s sudden hiatus that preceded his ouster. Watters, who performed juvenile segments as part of “The O’Reilly Factor” was seen as a kind of O’Reilly protégé which explains his remark about Ivanka’s talent for fellatio. (Sidebar: it’s questionable as to whether milquetoast mannequin Jared Kushner would be able to convincingly confirm his wife’s oral prowess.)

At the rate Fox is burning through its male “talent” we may soon see an entirely reconfigured prime-time line-up anchored by “The All New Penguin Factor.”

nun

Before joining “The Five,” Jesse Watters had a bit segment called “Watters’ World.” (Nothing like taking inspiration from one of the biggest Hollywood disasters of all time.)

Watter’s shtick was to go out on the sidewalks of New York and ambush clueless passers-by to ask them simple or provocative questions. The goal: to prove that most people (read: Obama/Clinton voters) are too moronic to be taken seriously in modern America. This attempt at partisan humor was a standard of radio asshole Sean Hannity who would send his crew out to lob such inquiries as “who is the vice-president?” or “which came first, World War One or World War Two?” Invariably, Hannity’s people would stumble upon a drunk or a challenged individual who would fail the test to everyone’s delight.

Watters copied Hannity’s gig like a shameless Chinese DVD factory. No doubt his interviews were heavily edited to make sure only the stupidest of respondents made the cut. I can only imagine how many takes were discarded in which an irritated New Yorker replied to Jesse with a dismissive “go fuck yourself.”

I always hated this type of bullshit because the likes of Hannity, O’Reilly and Watters would rather use the material more to demonstrate their arrogant superiority than to make an attempt at intelligent humor. I would love to see a crew barge unannounced into Fox studios and pose some of the following questions to the illustrious talking heads.

Could they answer them? Can you?

1. “What’s the GDP of The United States?”

2. “What state has the highest percent of its population on Medicaid?”

3. “How many aircraft carriers does the U.S. have in active duty? How about Russia and China?”

4. “Who was the first president to submit a budget with a deficit greater than $1 trillion?”

5. “Which came first, the Dred Scott decision or John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry?”

6. “Which country gets the most US economic and military assistance?”

7. “What does the Third Amendment prohibit?”

8. “Who is the President of the Senate? Who is the President pro tempore of the Senate?

9. “Does Ivanka Trump really know how to operate a jackhammer?”

jackhammer-photo-u1

1. $18 trillion
2. New Mexico – 33%
3. 10 -1 -1
4. George W. Bush
5. Dred Scott – 1857
6. Afghanistan
7. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law
8. Mike Pence / Orrin Hatch
9. She’s a great jazz singer

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Trump’s Massive Tax Hike on American Corporations

taxenbelope
Trump’s “tax reform plan” on the back of an envelope.

Trump released a one-page list of “bullet points” that was touted by his administration as a once-in-a-generation tax overhaul, but derided by economists as nothing more than a big tax cut for corporations and rich people. What went unnoticed is that by setting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, Trump would inflict a serious tax hike on a multitude of corporations that currently pay a lot less than that. Many in fact pay less than 0 percent. Is Trump prepared to withstand the backlash from aggrieved companies that see his massive tax hike as a betrayal?

Consider Facebook which paid -$429 million on profits of $1.06 billion in 2012. That’s a tax rate of -40 percent. I highly doubt Mark Zuckerberg is gonna press “like” on Trump’s new 15 percent slam. And what about Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, Occidental Petroleum, Duke Energy, Priceline, Corning, Consolidated Edison and the New York Stock Exchange – all of whom had positive net earnings but paid less than zero corporate taxes in 2012? How will these companies continue to exist if they are required to reach the 15 percent threshold?

Then you have General Electric, Verizon, Boeing and Northeast Utilities that paid no federal income tax for five straight years. Hell, GE booked $27.5 billion in profit over five years and paid -$3.05 billion in tax for a rate of -11 percent. If they have to pay taxes, will GE ever bring good things to life again?

Pundits and politicians who bemoan America’s high corporate tax rate of 35 percent never mention that no company with even a half-smart tax accounting department pays anything close to that figure. The juicy loopholes involving inversions, stock options, depreciation, foreign earnings and on and on give corporations a massive toolbox to avoid taxes. Of course it would be irresponsible for a company beholden to shareholders to pay more than their legal requirement – but the solution should focus on the loopholes, not an arbitrary reduction of the top rate.

A one-time Treasury official, Len Burman, summed up the situation well: “In a rational system, a corporation’s tax department would be there to make sure a company complied with the law, but in our system, there are corporations that view their tax departments as a profit center, and the effects on public policy can be negative.” Knocking out the complicated loopholes and setting a rational rate would allow companies to downsize the tax departments, and bring some needed equity to the system.

But there’s no reason for optimism. Loopholes are like weeds – even if Congress eliminated the most egregious of them, within a year corporate lobbyists would succeed in adding back dozens of new ways to game the system.

Meanwhile, rank and file citizens who have few if any tools in their tax-avoidance toolbox are sitting ducks. Most middle class people will see minimal reductions, and many who live in states with high local income taxes may actually see their federal tax burden increase. At least these losers will have the satisfaction of knowing that when they press “send” in Turbotax that someone in GE’s tax profit center will be pressing “receive.”

This Week’s Biggest Asshole

The award goes to Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies – a group that “studies immigration” and concludes there must be less of it. He’s also the author of “The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal” whose cover captures the true spirit of the American dream. I suppose Lady Liberty put her hand up after Krikorian’s ancestors came through Ellis Island.

krik

Unlike most of his anti-immigrant ilk, Krikorian is not a big fan of Trump’s border wall for the simple reason that it won’t work. Nevertheless, he now advocates for it because of its symbolism. “Following through on wall construction is one of the ways that the political class can win back trust on this topic. It’s a tangible thing. You can take pictures of it and imagine it in your head.”

That’s right. You can take pictures of it! And imagine it! In your own head!

That’s pretty stupid, but what makes Mark Krikorian this week’s biggest asshole is his shameless call to spend billions on a worthless piece of shit. He says, “Even if the border wall did no good at all to control immigration, it would be important to build. Even if it did nothing, even if it was completely ineffective, it’s important politically.”

Perhaps in parallel with building the beautiful wall, we should commence a mission to send men to colonize the sun. Even if that was completely ineffective, it would make for some good pictures.

(Sidebar: No doubt picking next week’s biggest asshole will be a contest among the tax-cutting Republicans who will suddenly forget all about the crippling effects of ballooning deficits they harped about for the past eight years.)

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

“O” Zone Depletion

Bill O’Reilly articulates his feelings about getting the boot from Fox

In his most recent and ill-timed book release titled “Old School,” one-time king of Fox punditry Bill O’Reilly – sounding like a crotchety bastard who demands of neighborhood kids: “get off my lawn!” – bemoans the loss of such wonders as land-lines, and misses the days when a kid could enjoy the freedom of falling off a bike and breaking his skull instead of having to wear a doofy-looking helmet that might save his life. Those who disagree with Mr. O are derided as “snowflakes” – presumably a swipe at people who now attend “New School.” This is just what America needs right now: a clueless screed by an angry white dude who remembers the world through the eyes of Ward Cleaver who was often justifiably “hard on the Beaver.”

olddrool

Another observation O’Reilly makes of the “old schoolers”: “Boys never bothered girls because of the ‘Brother and His Large Friends’ rule.” I interpret that to mean that if it weren’t for those annoying protectors, O’Reilly and his fellow O.S.-ers would have been free to cop feels, slip tongues, reach under plaid uniform skirts, and otherwise take advantage of the fairer sex. Contrast O’Reilly’s righteous defense of girls from “Old School” to his alleged (and now infamous) “loofah” comments to Andrea Mackris who sued him in 2003:

lawsuit

I guess Andrea didn’t have a brother with large friends at the time.

In any event, O’Reilly’s dalliances with women who find him repulsive go back a long way, and have left a trail of million-dollar settlements – ultimately paid for by 21st Century Fox corporation and its shareholders. Despite the continued misbehavior, Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch stood by his ratings beast O’Reilly whose prime-time cable show brought in disproportionate revenues for the company. Until it didn’t. After a scathing front-page story in the New York Times (and a steady drumbeat of follow-up coverage) detailed Mr. No Spin’s sordid behavior, advertisers headed for the hills. The loss of revenue coupled with more derision than even hard-boiled Fox execs could bear drove the Murdoch’s to the same decision they arrived at with portly blob Roger Ailes this past summer.

Despite paying the $13 million bill for O’Reilly’s misbehavior, Fox kept him in the prime-time slot, judging the settlements a simple cost of doing business. But all good things must come to an end, so O’Reilly has taken his $25 million severance and left what had long been known to his critics as the “Oh, Really? Factor.”

Once he takes a well-deserved vacation – perhaps Thailand where he can proposition pre-teen sex workers who are too young to sue – Bill O’Reilly can start work on his next book, a sequel this time.

boldfresh

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Easter Charade

fifth
“On the Avenue….Fifth Avenue…”

Ever since Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and with the help of a bunny rabbit saw his own shadow thus predicting 2,000 more years of Christianity, followers have celebrated the event by hiding and seeking brightly painted eggs. The tradition of rolling Easter eggs across the lawn became a staple at the White House starting in 1878 after Ulysses S. Grant signed a law banning such activity at the Capitol grounds.

The tradition continued this past Sunday at the Trump White House (no, not Mar-a-Lago – the other one.) Here are some of the highlights.

trumpeaster
Trump kicks off the festivities by nominating his new head of the National Science Foundation.

President
Trump starts the race to see which foreign kid will be first to run back across the border.

tiffhunt
A lucky girl finds the one-of-a-kind Tiffany egg.

trumpivanka
Trump thinks he found two hidden ostrich eggs.

spicer
Spicer and Kim Jong-un debate who walked on water better – Jesus or Dear Leader.

melania
Melania hides an egg where no one will find it.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , | Comments Off

Alien Abduction

trumpalienThere’s only one explanation for it: Trump was abducted by aliens and replaced with a hollow orange shell topped by a lemon meringue hairpiece. Sometime after January 20 – perhaps from the rooftop of Trump Tower or the 9th hole at Mar-A-Lago – aliens took over a man who had boasted bluntly about upending the status quo in America, and left the country with a guy who seems to have misremembered everything he promised as a candidate.

On China

Then: “On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator. I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.”

Now: “They’re not currency manipulators.”

On NATO

Then: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.”

Now: “I said it’s obsolete. Now it’s no longer obsolete.”

On Syria

syria1

syria2

On the Export-Import Bank

Then: “I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Now: “Actually, it’s a very good thing. And it actually makes money, it could make a lot of money.”

On the Border Wall

Then: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Now: “We’re going to get reimbursed. But I don’t want to wait that long. But you start, and then you get reimbursed.”

On Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem

Then: “I’ll move the embassy on day one.”

Now: “I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens. The embassy is not an easy decision.”

On Unemployment

Then: “Don’t believe these phony numbers. The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”

Now: (Spicer) “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him for this, ‘they may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

On the Debt

Then: Get rid of the more than $19 trillion debt “over a period of eight years.”

Now: (Mulvaney) “I’m not going to be able to pay off $20 trillion worth of debt in four years.”

On the Military

Then: “We’re going to rebuild out military. Our military is in shambles.”

Now: “It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five. I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.”

On Healthcare

Then: “I know that we’re all gonna make a deal on health care — that’s a very easy one. And I think that’s gonna happen very quickly.”

Now: “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

On Golfing

Then: “I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Now:

trumpgolf

Posted in Politics | Tagged | Comments Off

Hungry Monster Interview

hmbr-page-icon

The following is a reprint of an interview conducted with Herb Schultz, author of RonnieandLennie that first appeared April 8, 2017 on The Hungry Monster.

A Turbulent Time

RonnieandLennie is a story about conjoined twins, set in the hippie days of 1960s, which depicts the challenges of being incredibly close to family at all times. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I’ve had a long-time fascination with the lives of the original Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang Bunker. These two men joined at the chest for their entire lives managed to marry sisters and father 21 children between them. I found that amazing. I tried to imagine how the Bunkers – or any conjoined twins – negotiated life’s private moments in the company of one other. It’s almost impossible to comprehend simple acts like going to the bathroom, meeting a girl, having sex – accompanied at all times by another human being. I assumed any conjoined twins would long to be separated, yet I discovered in my research that sometimes newly freed siblings would suffer from chronic adjustment disorder. Being attached to the same person for decades then suddenly cut loose could be the foundation for an interesting conflict. I built the story of Ronnie and Lennie around their picaresque lives together in a turbulent time contrasted with tragic setbacks that arise following their accidental separation.

Ronnie and Lenny are fascinating characters with much depth. They go through many trials throughout the story. What is one obstacle you felt was important for their characters?

Again, going back to the Bunker’s, Chang was the dominant brother over Eng which was the basis for a good deal of conflict and animosity between them. Unlike normal identical twins who seem to me to be highly compatible with very similar interests, I imagined conjoined twins having great difficulty living in harmony. Ronnie is dominant like Chang, Lennie is more submissive like Eng. So the biggest obstacle for Ronnie and Lennie is their physical attachment to one another. But equally challenging is their innate, fraternal desire to make each other happy. The conflict impels them.

The story is set in 1960’s America. Did you grow up in this time? I felt that you captured the essence of this time well. Why did you pick this era for your story?

Once Ronnie and Lennie are introduced, the bulk of the story takes place as they grow up in the 1960s and early 1970s – which is when I was a kid around the same age as them. Perhaps because this was my first novel I fell back on writing about an era with which I had first-hand experience. As Ronnie and Lennie are rather feral kids raised by their single, middle-aged aunt, I wanted to put them in a time when kids could behave with wild abandon – before the world became paranoid and protective. I wanted them to do crazy things. Experiment with sex, music, drugs without helicopter parents hovering about to ruin the adventure. I also needed to set it in a time when separating conjoined twins was impossible or at least too risky.

I also set the beginning of the story – before the twins are born – in 1950s Las Vegas which is a fascinating time and place. Big hotels and casinos are just starting to boom. The army is blowing up nuclear bombs in the desert. It was great fun researching and writing about those times.

What is the next book that you’re writing and when will it be available?

After RonnieandLennie, I wrote two more novels and a collection of short stories. Another genre that I enjoy is the tale of the con-game and revenge. My second novel, “Architect’s Rendition” is the story of an architect, determined to marry his mistress, enlists three associates in a complex scheme to murder his wife, and each other. The third is “Double Blind Test” in which a professional mediator is conned by identical twin businessmen who sought her help to resolve a dispute. She later meets another woman in a suspiciously similar circumstance, and the two women team up to take down the con artists.

After the publication of the short story collection “Sometimes the Sun Does Shine There,” I started writing screenplays, and have spent the bulk of my energy in that dispiriting endeavor.

Find RonnieandLennie at majorterata.com.

Posted in books | Comments Off

Untied Airlines

munoz

A United Airlines passenger who had paid for a valid ticket and was sitting in his assigned seat – locked and in the upright position, tray table stowed – was forcibly removed by thuggish “airport cops” because the airline needed four seats for some crew members. The story has reverberated around the globe and much opprobrium and vitriol has been justifiably spewed United’s way – including some harsh treatment for the CEO Oscar Munoz.

Among the more asinine things Munoz said in defending the removal was that poor United Airlines crew aboard the flight from Chicago to Louisville “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight.” That’s right: United had no other choice but to manhandle the guy out from his seat, bang his head silly, and drag him down the aisle like a deer shot in the woods.

You can throw a dart in the internet and likely find a story that takes a shit on United’s and Munoz’s head (just click here ); this blog is about the completely stupid practice of purposefully overbooking flights. Although legal in this industry at least, it seems patently unfair – and bad business – to sell seats more than once and then play a game of chicken at the gate (or on board) with your customers when more than 100 percent of them show up for a service for which you already took their money.

The airlines execute this practice because they have observed that some customers don’t show up for the scheduled flight – and the financial wonks at the airlines cravenly see opportunity to make a few more bucks. You never see such behavior at a Broadway show, a baseball game, or at any number of venues where tickets are purchased in advance. If someone buys a ticket to sold-out “Hamilton” and on the way to the theater is involved in a car accident, that person’s seat remains empty when the curtain goes up. You don’t see flunkies milling about outside the Richard Rogers Theater trying to sell that patron’s seat again. The understanding outside the airline industry is that once a seat is sold, revenue is recognized, so there’s no justification for selling it again.

Nonetheless, the airline industry which for years struggled with huge losses came up with the idea of overbooking as a hedge against flying planes with empty seats. Using powerful computers and data mining software, the airlines calculate the likelihood that on any given flight, at any given time and day, some number of passengers will not arrive on time (or at all). I suspect this works out nicely for the airlines most of the time; they scratch out extra revenue from selling a handful of seats twice. And they get to screw the people who failed to show up by charging them an exorbitant fee to rebook them. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if United would bump the co-pilot if they could sell his seat to a higher bidder.

But from my experience it seems quite common that the airlines flub the bet and are forced to deal with the self-inflicted problem of winnowing out some legitimate ticket-holders. The obvious solution: bribery. Almost always the airlines can entice enough travelers who are not in immediate need of cramming their asses into seats the width of a booster chair to forego the flight with vouchers to be used on future air travel. It’s funny to watch the gate agent play this moronic auction game while passengers sit and stew. The agent starts out with a low-ball figure which everyone knows is not the best and final offer (known as a BAFO), but soon enough a number north of $500 is proffered and some people cave in and relinquish their seats.

But not always. When this happens, the airlines can (again, legally) pick out the passengers for involuntary expulsion. How they do this probably borders on illegal or unethical discrimination. People chosen for involuntary expulsion almost always leave without incident, harboring disgust and revulsion for the treatment meted out by the airline. (Remember: it’s the airlines who put themselves into this public-relations chokehold with their overbooking schemes.)

The weird twist in the latest United Airlines imbroglio is that the people chosen for involuntary expulsion were asked to vacate the jet to make room for four United crew members who had to deadhead to Louisville. That’s right – United kicked paying passengers off the flight so that they could fly employees in their place. One of those people, a doctor who argued that he needed to be in Louisville the next day to see patients, refused to deplane – and the ugly mess was caught on video which has been watched more than 100 million times. (Some pundits argued that United blew it because they didn’t offer him a bigger voucher, but that’s a red herring – as if bigger and better bribery is the always the answer.)

Consider the magnitude of CEO Munoz’s asshole-dom when he said United was “left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers.” Chicago to Louisville is less than a five hour drive, and it probably costs a few thousand to charter a flight, yet United decided it was better to embroil themselves in a public relations fiasco of legendary proportions than to make alternate plans to get the crew to Kentucky. Why would United repel their own customers by acting like fascists? If you have to ask that, you haven’t flown in the past decade. (Sidebar: when the four crew members finally took their ill-gotten seats, the derision from the other passengers was devastating.)

As I write this United stock (UAL) is down $2.50 a share which means that since the forced expulsion became widely known the company has shed $750 million in market cap. But hey, they had no choice.

united crash
United crash lands on Wall Street

Posted in Business | Tagged , | Comments Off

Abolish the Senate

capitolThe Republican majority in the Senate, as expected, voted to eliminate the filibuster rule as it applies to Supreme Court nominees. If the trend continues and the filibuster is eliminated altogether, then the Senate should be abolished as nothing more than a less-democratic, more-pompous duplicate of the House of Representatives. What’s the point of having two houses of Congress if each does the same thing in more or less the same way? Why have two chambers each conjuring up their own moronic laws which have to be reconciled by yet another committee of morons? Why spend over a billion dollars ($10M per senator) a year to retain this foppish group of do-nothings? (Sidebar: the Republican “majority” of 52 Senators represents fewer than 45 percent of Americans – another reason to get rid of this unfairly constructed body. See table at bottom.)

Republican Senator John McCain, outraged at the notion of cancelling out the filibuster, said, “Benjamin Franklin is somewhere turning over in his grave. Why have a bicameral system?” Maverick McCain went on to vote to eliminate the filibuster anyway, thus illustrating another reason for shit-canning this country club of craven old fools.

The whole point of having a Senate was to temper rash decisions made by the House. The Founding Fathers thought this could be accomplished if bills from the House passed through a more deliberative part of the Congress where the minority could raise legitimate issues and get an honest hearing. As the Constitution lets the Senate make up its own rules, a thing called the filibuster was created which allowed the minority to force extended debate on consequential items, compelling members to defend their ideas.

Unfortunately, the filibuster became an overused tactic that infiltrated its ugly, undemocratic head into every motion, requiring 60 votes to do anything – even on votes to authorize votes. Real abuse of the filibuster started after Obama took office and the minority Republicans under Mitch the Bitch McConnell used the parliamentary maneuver as a Swiss Army bludgeon against everything the Dems proposed – even against stuff they themselves championed in the past.

pDgxItZ

I’m not a big fan of the filibuster – after all, if you want government to run like a business keep in mind that any block of a company’s shares that totals 50 percent plus one share calls all the shots. Nowhere in the business world does it take a 60 percent majority to make a decision.

But if you’re gonna have a filibuster, do it right. Today, it takes 60 votes to shut off a filibuster (aka. cloture); change that requirement so that it requires 41 votes to keep a filibuster going. Make the minority work for their intransigence. Require the filibusterers to defend the action by going to the floor and delivering a justification. Disallow filibusters of procedural votes.

Clearly, filibuster reform will never happen, and more than likely the filibuster will be eliminated altogether by the Bitch once the Dems start shutting down everything Trump wants to do legislatively.

At that point the Congress should just pass an amendment to eliminate the Senate altogether – right after they amend the rules so that the vote of a single Senator is enough to pass the bill.

Drug Companies: Stop Encouraging Dangerous Behavior

Depending on the TV you watch, and your proximity to retirement age, you may be deluged with ads for pharmaceuticals of every stripe engineered to cure problems you never knew existed. A recurring ad has been running lately for Harvoni, a drug to fight hepatitis C – an infection that is said to affect a lot of baby-boomers, many of whom have no idea they have the disease. In this ad titled “Let Go” actors playing Hep-C sufferers are depicted releasing floating paper lanterns – presumably an allegory of the new freedom from disease Harvoni can bestow upon humanity.

On the other hand, the floating pyrotechnics could be an allegory for massive wildfires. Aren’t any of these Hep-C people concerned about what will happen when 500 fiery paper lanterns land in a dry, thatchy forest in the next county?

And then you have Xarelto, a blood-thinner seemingly designed to help mostly sports figures. Past ads have featured a golfer, basketball player, NASCAR driver, and now a competitive swimmer. In the latest ad titled “Most Challenging Opponent,” driver Brian Vickers and swimmer Katie Hoff kick it off by complaining about scary afflictions like pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis.

As a narrator explains the drug’s virtues along with a ton of side-effects, Vickers and Hoff are depicted taking part in happy-go-lucky endeavors. At one point Mr. NASCAR and his son build a wooden soapbox derby car (naturally). Here’s what it looks like when complete:

vickers

Slick, but if the car hits a curb does it decapitate Vickers’s kid? (At least the soapbox car can pass for a coffin.)

Makeup of the Senate by the numbers

Picture1

Posted in Politics, TV | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Sneaky Pete’s is Back

sneakyFor more than 50 years Pete Ciacchini and his wife owned and managed a bar that was once a 1920s speakeasy in Erie, Pennsylvania. The bar, which had not undergone a facelift since at least the Eisenhower era was formally registered as the Colonial Inn, but was always known to its patrons as Sneaky Pete’s. “Sneaky” because as legend has it the bar, situated at the time on a remote side country road near the venerable Kawkwa Club, was the ideal place to meet up with someone who was not a spouse for a romantic interlude by the roaring fire in the deep brick hearth.

In more recent times, the Ciacchini’s ran the place together by themselves on Friday and Saturday evenings only, serving routine cocktails and the oft-ordered “Sneaky Pete” – a concoction of brandy, crème de menthe (or was it crème de cacao?), and heavy cream blended to silky smoothness to resemble a benign milkshake (albeit one that could twist the head of an unsuspecting patron who downed six or seven of them.) Pete mixed the drinks and his wife Laura delivered them to the drinkers sitting at the tables draped with checkerboard tablecloths beneath the fake Tiffany lamps.

Pete was the archetypal bartender dressed in a white shirt and black tie, apron wrapped around his bulging midriff. He loved to bullshit with the regulars who sustained the business while casting glances of disdain for the occasional transients who made ill-advised attempts to rearrange tables to accommodate parties larger than four, and to request drinks directly from Pete at the bar instead of waiting for Laura to take their orders at the tables.

Although the signature “Sneaky Pete” was always in high demand, Pete refused to premix a large batch of the gooey drink, opting instead to “hand-craft” each one individually. For this reason – and his penchant to bullshit to distraction – patrons at the bar might have to unduly wait for service. I believe Pete tested his customers’ patience in an experiment to separate the worthy from the non. Not that the service was the attraction. Nor the quality of mixology for that matter. Most of the liquor choices were stale brands mostly found in the wells of most geezer bars, and Pete was certainly no expert on the finer points of mixing classics like the Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sazerac or Negroni. Hell, I doubt a bottle of Campari ever crossed the threshold at Sneaky Pete’s. Once he concocted a dirty Martini with pickle juice because he had run out of olive juice – content in the belief that all condiment runoffs were the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me he had made a Bloody Mary with ketchup and a dandelion.

No, the reason Sneaky Pete’s was always an iconic place to drink and socialize was its genuine authenticity, its faithful homage to another era. It was a throwback to a time when jukeboxes played great music, transactions were made in cash only with no receipts, restrooms offered condom vending machines, and drinks featuring fancy-schmancy ingredients were a thing of the future. There were no distracting signs defiling the walls explaining the Heimlich maneuver or listing the maladies of drinking whilst pregnant. The place wasn’t ADA compliant, had no sprinkler system, no beer taps, no intrusive TV and no stinky food bubbling and popping in a nearby fryer. Just pure 1950s “Mad-Men” ambiance. It was not unusual to walk into the bar and find couples dancing to Cole Porter.

A couple years ago, Laura hung up her black and white waitress uniform for good, and shortly after Pete mixed his last Sneaky. The bar closed and the couple retreated to the attached residence. I’m sure Pete retired under duress.

I drove past the joint on Swanville Road last summer and was surprised to see a notice affixed to the door indicating that someone had applied for a liquor license. Could it be someone was going to reopen Sneaky Pete’s? And if so, to what extent would they screw it all up?

Happily, Sneaky Pete’s has reopened under the same name (no, not Colonial Inn) and the new owners have done minimally invasive adjustments, deciding to maintain as much of the old ambiance as reasonably could be expected. The old crank cash register and ornate wooden shelves remain. The layout hasn’t changed, and the big hearth still burns sweet hardwood. I suppose it was necessary to serve food (for cash flow, and maybe to acquire the Pennsylvania liquor license and operate on a full-week schedule), and although they serve what you’d expect along the lines of pub food (this is Erie after all) the new Sneaky Pete’s also offers some ambitious dinners on a menu that changes weekly. Expect to find something along the lines of sautéed chicken breast topped with Southwest flare and goat Cheese served with corn and poblano chutney. I can’t vouch for it yet, but in a town where people eat boiled turnips with a spork, poblano chutney is a bold move.

What I think sets the new Sneaky Pete’s apart from other Erie estabs is its solid assortment of charcuterie. They offer cured meats and cheeses from the major producing regions, and apparently have good supply connections. I had the jamón ibérico which is always a nutty treat – and at Sneaky’s the portion is very generous and the price seemed close to what you might pay if you bought it yourself (assuming you could find it.)

char

Check out the place if you ever get sick of the ambiance at Applebees and their Little Friskies tuna salad appetizer.

Posted in Restaurants | Comments Off

Trump and His Executive Odors

trump-executive-order
NAFTA-hater Trump signed two executive orders this past Friday that are intended to lay the groundwork for new policies and stricter enforcement of trade laws. In a ceremony akin to the recognition of a Nobel laureate, the Orange man scribbled his moniker in a wide-tip sharpie across leather-bound vellum beneath words he probably never read – or cared too much about. Then he held up the orders for all to see like a proud second-grader proving that in addition to being able to tell time and draw a circle using a coffee can, he can also write his own name.

People who heard “Artist of the Deal” Trump on the campaign trail repeatedly froth at the mouth about NAFTA (“the worst thing that ever happened”) and claiming he could cut a better deal starting day one might be confused by his newly subdued approach to the mostly-copacetic agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Rabid Trump candidate has turned into Flimsy Trump president. Instead of ripping up the deal, wiping his ass with the scraps, and going it alone, Trump has reduced himself to signing banal pieces of paper ordering his underlings to study stuff.

As reported in the New York Times, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, “These actions are designed to let the world know that this is another step in the president fulfilling his campaign promise.”

The operative word here is “designed.” Because Trump’s regular autograph sessions in the White House amount to nothing more than bad theater. He just wants to check off campaign promises – whether truly fulfilled or not. The man is a flagrant checker-offer! What really happened in this solemn signing ceremony was Trump ordering his Commerce Department to conduct a 90-day study of abusive trade practices that contribute to the United States’ trade deficit.

Understand this: Trump calls in a bunch of staff, advisers, family members, various sycophants and press photogs to witness him giving a subordinate an assignment. Nothing more. That’s like Jeff Bezos of Amazon calling in all his senior VPs, half the board of directors, and the top reporters from the Seattle Times to watch him direct a warehouse manager to conduct an inventory of Thighmasters.

A dysfunctional Congress won’t let Trump pull off anything substantial, so he’s left with no other escape than to sign inconsequential orders that would normally be handed out in a routine closed-door staff meeting. I was gonna say “SAD!” but “pathetic” seems more apropos.

O’Reilly Wigs Out

Bill O’Reilly made fun of Rep. Maxine Waters’s hair, comparing it to a wig reportedly worn by soul-master James Brown. He later apologized.

Maybe the 78 year old Waters does sport a wig which would put her in the company of Sean Connery, John Travolta, Stevie Van Zandt and Burt Reynolds, but calling her out for a hair faux pas made Mr. Factor seem just a bit douchy. Especially since he once screwed his hair on like this:

bo

Furthermore, given the fateful history of others who have made cracker wise-cracks about blacks, O’Reilly’s snarkiness was also stupid. Consider these famous people who cracked wise and found their livelihoods subsequently crimped.


After dominating radio for decades, Don Imus was forced off the air for making some unflattering remarks. By using the word “hoe” ofay Don sounded like both a racist and a farmer.


Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller blew a nice endorsement contract after dissing Tiger Woods. Never a good move to bring up fried chicken and collard greens unless you’re a guest on Rachel Rae’s cooking show.


The Greek was over the hill already, but why go out like a drunken plantation owner?

Posted in Politics, TV | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Showing Some Thigh

daily-mail-legs-it

Last June, citizens of the United Kingdom shocked the Western world when they voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the European Union. Interestingly, the Scottish voted quite overwhelmingly 62 to 38 against leaving the EU, also known as “Brexit.” Now that the UK has formally initiated the break off with the continent, Scotland is reconsidering making a break from the UK rather than allowing themselves to be dragged away from the EU against their will.

The other day, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon met in Glasgow to discuss the issue of Scottish independence, and the Daily Mail chose to run the above front page story.

That’s right. Never mind Brexit – focus on the gams of the countries’ leaders and weigh in on your favorite. The reporter who penned the piece noted that Sturgeon’s legs were “more flirty, tantalizingly crossed,” adding, “her stiletto is not quite dangling off her foot, but it could be.” (Sidebar: Foot fetishists call the dangling of high-heels “dipping.”)

Unsurprisingly, blowback from some who live in the 21st century was swift and fierce – although it’s unclear to what extent the lads in the pubs took offense. Given the lengthy history of the English tabloids running cheeky, exploitative material, many readers, however, simply shrugged.

In any event, the Daily Mail isn’t the first tab to tantalize readers with a challenge to pick the better of two female politicians. Consider Jared Kushner’s New York Observer:

nyobserver

Fuck you Delta

Airlines clearly enjoy the sadism of irritating their customers as any sad sack coach jockey can attest. Everyone has suffered the effects of ridiculous fees to make simple itinerary changes, claustrophobic seats and shitters, and insufficient overhead space. Airlines retort that these steps are necessary to deliver travel at prices people demand. I get that – even though I believe many tortured flyers would opt to spend a bit more for basic comforts if only some airlines would offer them in coach.

But one thing I can’t comprehend – because it’s incomprehensible – is the pricing models these geniuses dream up. Consider my upcoming trip to Madrid.

I found a non-stop flight in coach from JFK to MAD on the dates I want for $574. I have been a Delta Skymiles account holder for a long time, and I sincerely loathe coach, so I called Delta to inquire about my options to upgrade the coach ticket to first class. (This flight has no class between coach and first.)

After some clicking and clacking, the Delta rep told me the $574 fare was not upgradable. But I could purchase an upgradable coach ticket – for about $4,000. Thinking I heard wrong, I asked her to repeat it. Sure enough, Delta sells a $574 ticket for $4,000 so you can upgrade it with points.

Okay, fuck it. Then sensing my hesitation and disdain, she informed me I could purchase a first class ticket for around $3,000. Now I’m totally confused. The upshot: I can buy a coach ticket for $4,000 and use points to upgrade it to first class, or just buy a first class ticket for $1,000 less. Is this incompetence or some kind of head game to make the $3,000 ticket suddenly feel like a bargain?

I wasn’t yet fully ready to reject the offer, but considering that for 5 times the price I can sit in a wider seat and drink liquor from a big-boy bottle, I demurred. “How many miles do I have in my account?” I inquired. “110,000.” That’s more than I thought, so I pressed on. “How many do I need to get the first class ticket?”

“330,000, sir.”

I guess I can get the first class ticket if I fly to the moon in the next two weeks, or purchase a Lamborghini with my Delta credit card.

Fuck you Delta.

By the way, here’s how the $574 ticket breaks out. What’s wrong with this picture?
delta

Posted in Newspaper, Travel | Tagged , | Comments Off

The AHCA Turns into an ACHE

ryan-AHCA
Paul Ryan explains what Congress’s new toilet paper will be made of.

A man rolls into an emergency room with a large but routine gash on his leg. Expecting to have his wound stitched up, he’s instead told that the doctor wants to amputate the leg. Naturally the man refuses the procedure. The doctor informs him that since he refused the amputation, he’ll just have to live with the wound. The doctor is confident the leg will become gangrenous, and when that happens the man can come back to the ER (if he’s still alive.)

That’s kind of how Trump reacted to defeat on the crappy Republican health bill called AHCA. When he couldn’t check off his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, he said fuck it – let it explode (or maybe implode . . . who knows?)

In the seven years and several days since Obamacare became law, the Republicans in Congress, in a long-running performance of the theater of the absurd, has voted more than 50 times to repeal it outright. As recently as January 3 – on the first day of the 115th Congress – HR 175 was introduced; its essence: “Effective as of the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148), such Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.”

In layman’s terms: repeal. That’s it. Not repeal and replace with something terrific. Just repeal. That’s what the Republicans successfully passed dozens of times with no whining or hand-wringing from any member of their caucus. Of course, as they banked on, the bills always landed DOA on Obama’s desk where they succumbed to a predictable veto. And after each and every one in a string of vetoes, the Republicans waxed philosophical: if only they had a Republican president in charge, they could once and for all slay the Obamacare abomination.

Then they got their moment, and instead of laying the same repeal bill on the desk of another, more like-minded president, they tried to fashion a replacement as well. They had no choice because Trump ran around telling his minions that he would provide better coverage to everyone for less money – in his words, “something terrific.” (Funny how people never hear “terrific” and realize it comes from “terrify”.) Like Reagan before him who promised to increase military spending, cut taxes and balance the budget, Trump painted himself into a corner where the best he could do was two out of three.

The Republicans conjured up a bill that didn’t do any of the things Trump promised, yet the Orange Man enthusiastically endorsed it anyway – because he only cared about checking off the promise. He doesn’t give a shit about health care.

Now that AHCA has gone down, Trump is short-selling Obamacare. Much like short-sellers such as hedge funder Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital who bet against a stock, then run around badmouthing that stock to force down its value, Trump is hoping Obamacare completely shits the bed so he can say “I told you so.” I fully expect him to take actions to facilitate the law’s demise – just like the Ackmans of the world do to companies like Herbalife. Trump wants the Dems to take it in the head for passing Obamacare in the first place, and he’s willing to amputate the leg rather than close the wound.

ack
Investor in Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital after reading his latest statement

Bang the Gong Slowly: RIP Chuck Barris

barris

Chuck Barris, producer of such fine TV fare as The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game died the other day at age 87. After many years producing, Chuck came out of the office in mid-career and went in front of the camera to host the outrageous Gong Show, where contestants performed mostly hideous acts in the hopes of finishing before one of the three celebrity judges gave them the hook by banging a big gong. It was said that because Barris was uncomfortable performing he went insanely over-the-top when introducing acts – often with his eyes closed.

The Gong Show might have been the first on TV to genuinely celebrate awfulness – something that seemed to fit perfectly in the decade of the 1970s.

I watched the stupidity with regularity during my college days, and like many viewers had my favorites.


Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine (featuring Jaye P. Morgan flashing her boobs!)


The Unknown Comic (wish I could find the clip of him doing his impression of the first man on the sun.)


The Popsicle Twins (no sound, but you get the picture.)

Posted in Obits, Politics, TV | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Tears for Sears

searsOn page 48 of the 2016 Annual Report for Sears, a company that was a venerated retailer for more than a century until a thing called “the internets” intruded, we find this remarkable passage:

“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. We believe that the actions discussed above are probable of occurring and mitigating the substantial doubt raised by our historical operating results and satisfying our estimated liquidity needs 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements.”

The “actions discussed above” include an amazing array of doomsday scenarios that the board of Sears deems plausible in the near future. Practically everything short of an impact with a comet is cited as a reason for imminent failure.

  • The lack of willingness of our vendors to do business with us or to provide acceptable payment terms could negatively impact our liquidity and/or reduce the availability of products or services we seek to procure.
  • If we do not maintain the security of our member and customer, associate or company information, we could damage our reputation, incur substantial additional costs and become subject to litigation.
  • We rely on foreign sources for significant amounts of our merchandise, and our business may therefore be negatively affected by the risks associated with international trade.
  • Our failure to attract or retain employees, including key personnel, may disrupt our business and adversely affect our financial results.
  • We may not realize the full anticipated benefits of the recently closed Craftsman Sale transaction.

Ah, yes – the Craftsman sale. Although sites like Amazon probably doomed Sears along with icons like J. C. Penney, Kohl’s, Bloomingdales, and perhaps even Macy’s, many analysts have pointed a finger at Sears’s misguided, short-term strategy of selling off popular brands like Craftsman and Land’s End for a quick (roe)buck.

However, despite these ham-handed moves, it’s more likely that the beginning of the end for Sears was its publication of a men’s underwear spread in the 1975 catalog that revealed the model’s penis tip. All the company’s woes most certainly emanate from that fateful issue. Once that taboo was breached it was all downhill from there.

searscatalogmanon602detail_thumb_436x445
The tell-tale tip.

Sears Roebucks has ran some provocative ads in their hefty, door-stop of a catalog, but exposing a man’s junk was no doubt the inflection point precipitating a long downward slide. As Sears rides off to the sunset, recall some of the more memorable ads from catalogs past.

uKF9n1AZaXEx1GC_1Qc9aEBxas8DhjM6smky9IdxWZM
Oddly shaped device is found to optimize stimulation.

jqwAU4Z
A companion to Slope in a Wonton?

7D1Yi-1443477522-blog-18
Family-friendly overalls famous for their ability to hide shart stains.

sears-catalog-racist-negro-halloween-1912
This may be the “funniest and most laughable outfit” since Sears itself.

IMG_2273
Manly men hiking the manly trails of the manly ports of Key West and Provincetown.

8340ea33a7599d48688cef4b8b272e5e
Uhhhh. Next, please.

There Go the Judge

It seems that Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano – a former judge from New Jersey who likes to wear his hair in the no-brow, Homo-Erectus style – got the boot from Club Murdoch for pulling a story from his asshole about UK wiretapping of candidate Trump. I often believe that hacks like Napolitano are contractually obligated to spew out BS that captivates audiences and fuels tirades by like-minded partisans who have no fear of downstream contradiction because such contradiction is relegated to back-page status long after the damage of the original falsehood has settled in. However this time it was none other than a Fox personality – Shepard Smith – who called out “the Judge.”

nap
Missing links, or do these guys just go to the same barber?

“Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop.”

Wow. Full stop? That’s TV journalese for “no fucking way.” Has Trump veered so far from the asylum that even Fox can no longer enable his persecution complex?

Might Fox soon be reporting the musings of one President Pence?

Posted in Business, Politics | Tagged , | Comments Off

Not to Be Confused With

Although the Trump Administration is already 50 long days into the term, most of his key advisors and cabinet members are still unknown to many Americans. Perhaps it’s because few of them have ever served in public office before, and are therefore unknown entities. More than likely, however, it’s because several bear passing resemblance to others who have similar names and better name recognition. As a public service, Major Terata has compiled a short list of top Trumpists who could be mistaken for another, more established character.

06

05

04

08

03

02

01

07

Posted in Politics | Comments Off

NSA to Wikileaks: 404 Page Not Found

assange wantedBy now it should be clear that Wikileaks and its slithery founder Julian Assange exist explicitly to hurt and embarrass the United States – not that the U.S. doesn’t deserve some reprobation for its decidedly covert, undemocratic actions. But the selectivity with which Wikileaks treats the material it publicizes demonstrates its egregious bias. Maybe Wikileaks started out with grandiose goals to speak truth to power, but it’s now really nothing more than diplomacy’s version of TMZ.

Virtually every high-profile Wikileaks release contains damaging info about no country other than America. And during the 2016 presidential election, are we really to believe that the Democrat’s servers were eminently hackable while the Republicans were impenetrable? That there was no lowly and disgruntled GOP underling willing to disgorge some fugly facts about Huckabee’s eating habits, Santorum’s sexual deviancies, Carly Fiorina’s gender, Jeb Bush’s favorite brand of white bread, or Trump’s taxes and/or the secret to his cantilevered hairdo? Obviously, Assange – who hates Hillary Clinton – decided to dribble out damaging info (most likely with assistance on timing from Trump insiders) to tilt the election against her. (Trump’s sentiment last Fall: “I love Wikileaks.” Indeed.)

The salient question: why won’t the NSA or the CIA (two top U.S. cyber agencies exposed and insulted by Wikileaks) take down the organization’s ability to operate? I can’t believe it’s for a lack of ability – after all, the two agencies should be capable of running roughshod over a ragtag bunch like Wikileaks after slurping up tens of billions of taxpayer dollars every year.

C’mon spooks – get mad. Take down this Ecuadorean Embassy squatter, send him back to Sweden, and force feed him lutefisk until he reveals the other half of the Wikileaks’ treasure trove – including the video of Trump and his golden shower party.

lutefisk

King of Pork meets the Art of the Eel

Right after Trump recited his speech from the Teleprompter to Congress without going postal or breaking off to tweet scorn over some Hollywood b-lister’s crappy ratings, Mississippi Senator Thad “King of Pork” Cochran issued a statement : “I appreciate President Trump for his enthusiasm and energy to lead our nation. He has presented an ambitious agenda to keep our country safe, to improve the economy, and to make the federal government work more efficiently for its citizens.”

Now, in a move that makes as much sense as removing the lock on your back door so you can have two locks on the front door, Trump has proposed major cuts to the Coast Guard and the TSA so he can scrounge up enough scratch to pay for more border patrollers and 2,000 miles worth of masonry.

First in line to call foul? Thad the Cockroach. As the leader of the Senate appropriations committee in 2015, Thad was successful in pushing through a deal to spend $600 million for a new Coast Guard cutter to be built in, yeah, Mississippi. Trump’s new order calls for the cutter’s cancellation. Uh oh.

Maybe Thad can get some leftover “beautiful wall” bricks sent over to build some more museums in, yeah, Mississippi.

cochran

Media Never Learns

On the front page of today’s New York Times under the headline “After Halting Start, Trump Plunges Into Effort to Repeal Health Law:”

“President Trump, after a halting start, is now marshaling the full power of his office to win over holdout conservatives and waffling senators to support the House Republicans’ replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Trump is deploying the salesman tactics he sharpened over several decades in New York real estate. His pitch: He is fully behind the bill to scotch President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, but he is open to negotiations on the details. In so doing, Mr. Trump is plunging personally into his first major legislative fight, getting behind a bill that has been denounced by many health care providers and scorned by his base on the right. If it fails, Mr. Trump will find it difficult not to shoulder some of the blame.”

Mr. Trump will find it difficult not to shoulder some of the blame. Are you kidding???

Will the Times and the rest of regular journalism ever get smart? For decades it’s been Gospel According to Don that Trump never, ever, ever takes the blame for anything. Ever! Events like bankruptcies, court-ordered judgments, billion dollar losses, and picking a guy like Mike Flynn to be National Security Advisor would normally be considered failures, but in Trumpworld, they’re spun into glorious illustrations of his majesty’s brilliance. When a Navy Seal was recently killed in a raid in Yemen, Trump was quick to blame “the generals” instead of “shouldering” some of the responsibility for green-lighting the mission. That’s the way Trump rolls – and always will be.

If the Republican’s new Obamacare replacement shits the bed – as is likely given that it will be shown to raise the deficit thus allowing the Dems to filibuster – don’t expect Trump to shoulder a goddamned thing. He’ll be the first to gin up and tweet out a new phony scandal (time to bring back Anthony Weiner?) that outlets like the New York Times and CNN will follow dutifully into the rabbit hole, leaving Trump shoulder-free to take on the next non-problem facing the country.

Posted in Newspaper, Politics | Tagged , , , | Comments Off