Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is Blagojevich A Synonym for Hubris?

Not even close. See my price list below.

Communicating --
Reading your emails: US$1/ea. No charge for reading your responses to emails I initiate.
Telephone calls: US$1/minute when you initiate the call. US$0.50/minute when you return my calls.*

Structured Social --
Meeting you for breakfast/lunch/coffee: Mileage**; you buy.
Meeting you for drinks: Mileage; you buy.
Meeting you for dinner: Mileage; you buy the food and wine, but I will buy my cocktails.
Attending your social engagement: Mileage; US$20/hr when food*** is served, US$30/hr without food.

Unstructured Social --
Hanging out: Mileage; US$15/hr.****
Entertainment: Mileage; you buy the tickets, food and drinks. No hourly charge.

For social interactions not listed here, please call for a quote.



*Surcharges may apply such as US$0.10/min for listening to you complain about former significant others. Complete rate card available on request.
***When consumed in appropriate amounts, would constitute a meal as defined by a reasonable person.
****Not applicable to attending your social event.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stupid Bailout Tricks: San Jose, California

"San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed says he will request 2 percent — or $14 billion — of the federal government's $700 billion bailout package."
- Associated Press

Does Reed want the money to prop up essential government services -- police, fire, etc. -- that might be cut due to property- and sales-tax shortfalls? Of course not.

"Reed says the city — the nation's 10th largest — needs the money to fund the extension of rapid transit and expand the area's clean technology businesses."

You're the man, Chuck.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let The Auto Companies Fail

No bailout because it would only delay the inevitable.

The impact of that decision would rock the economy. But the industry's collapse could create a better economy in the future.

Every corporation would be forced to look beyond the next quarter and build enterprises that are sustainable in tomorrow's world. They failed to learn this when the "new economy" crashed. But the disappearance of an industry that in many ways symbolizes America globally would end the charade.

Much is written about the "ripple" effect of an automotive industry collapse. But the parts suppliers and the banks are all part of the manufacturers. Many would disappear, but those left would be forced to find new ways survive and prosper.

And the workers? The children of the people who worked in manufacturing would be forced to realize that the lifestyle afforded by unions and acquiescent companies is over and that education and mobility are essential to a decent life in the future. Their parents never understood that and that's why they suffer now.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Don't Ask Me To Write For Free

I don't write for free.

I could offer a long list of reasons, but they are best expressed by Harlan Ellison, one of the most prolific and creative writers of our age.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why Golfers Get No Respect

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today called for a temporary 1.5-cent increase in the state sales tax to help close an $11.2 billion deficit in the state budget.

Best reaction so far:

"It is patently unfair to single out California's golfers, who already pay a fair share of taxes, and expect them to assume a disproportionate share of the revenue needed to close the state's budget deficit.

With courses suffering and golfers staying at home while the economy flounders, this is exactly the wrong time to deal a major blow to an industry that plays such an important role in California's economy."

—Bob Bouchier, executive director of the California Alliance for Golf

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarah Palin's Next Job

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was convicted of lying on his federal financial disclosure forms. A felony, no less.

Sarah Palin, says, "The time has come for him to step aside. Even if elected on Tuesday, Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress."

You betcha Sen. Palin.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dumb Unions - The CTA and Gay Marriage

The California Teachers Association donated $1 million to fight a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar gay marriages.

"For us, it's a civil rights issue," said the association's President David Sanchez. "We don't believe people should be treated differently."

By "us," Sanchez must mean the union's hierarchy because it couldn't possibly have taken that stand on behalf of the CTA's primary constituency -- its members.

Forget the right or wrong of Prop. 8. Sanchez et. al. just made it more difficult for teachers to negotiate with dozens if not hundreds of conservative school boards statewide come contract time. Many of those boards govern districts where teachers are least supported and most underpaid.

Good for the union. Bad for the members. Classic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blind Boy's Pea Soup

This recipe was developed by legendary bluesman Blind Boy Bill Bucy to feed his band during their tours of the Mississippi Delta. Younger brother Jive reported Blind Boy's last words were, "Please, God, don't make me eat that crap in heaven."

The Notes
  • 8 ozs. dried peas (one package) Do not soak prior to cooking. Uh-uh.
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic peeled and whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dash red pepper
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt if you want it
  • Ham bone or other pig meat, such as salt pork or ham ends
The Arrangement
  • Place ingredients in a pot and add 8 cups of water.
  • After contents come to a boil, remove pig meat and set aside.
  • Continue boiling for 20 minutes.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally.
  • Cool. Yes, cool. You don't eat Blind Boy's Pea Soup right away because, like the blues, "it's gotta come from a long time back."
Refrigerate. (Couldn't take a fridge on the road back then, so Blind Boy made his girlfriend hold the pot next to her heart as they drove to the next gig.)

The Performance

The next night, chop up the pig meat, toss it in the soup pot and reheat. Best with a few Dixies and some soda crackers. Blind Boy contemporary Bo Diddley ate it with cornbread. Huh.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Street Economics Q4 - The Winners

The economy smells like tuna salad left too long in the sun. But a number of people and industries will profit from the downturn.

Some of them are visible and will become icons of hatred for all us regular folks. Right now the No. 1 voodoo doll is Robert Fuld, CEO of bankrupt Lehman Brothers, who, along with a couple of cronies, was anointed with a $20 million severance package.

But there are others that not only will survive, but prosper during the big slide while folks like us count our loose change before going to the grocery store. Some of the less-obvious winners:

Brewers -- There is a direct correlation between economic health and beer sales. When times get tough, people stop buying from Mr. Curvoisier and start buying from Messrs. Busch and Miller.

The Military -- As low-end jobs disappear, military recruitment will become easier. Yes, enlistees might get shot at, but free housing, medical care, food and clothing will make the risk more acceptable.

Birth Control Makers -- The U.S. birth rate dropped 15 percent during the Great Depression.

Retail Brokerages
- They charge fees when you buy. They charge fees when you sell. Some of them charge fees when you don't do anything.

The Sex Trade -- As a professional analyst would put it, "Anticipated increases in competition will exert downward pressure on pricing. However, demand will remain at historically high levels. Therefore, we believe marketing and quality of service will be the keys to success for this industry in the near- and mid-term."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin Is Qualified

John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate and that’s the only credential she needs.

No presidential candidate has ever picked his running mate based on their ability to lead the nation.

Did Kennedy select Lyndon Johnson because he felt the nation would be safe in his hands or because he needed votes from the South? Did Johnson tap Hubert Horatio Humphrey because he liked the guy’s name or because he was from the Midwest?

Did Richard Nixon choose Spiro Agnew because of the man’s intellect or was he looking to balance the ticket with an established East Coast pol?

Walter Mondale? Dan Quayle? Despite the fact Al Gore invented the Internet and was portrayed by Ryan O’Neal in a movie, even he wasn't exactly an “A” player before he was tapped.

What if McCain can’t go on and Palin steps in?

Harry Truman possessed no college degree, his only business venture went bankrupt and he had no foreign policy experience. After FDR died, Truman managed to wrap up WW II, integrate the armed forces and stare down the Soviets in the early days of the Cold War.

After JFK was murdered, Lyndon Johnson used his formidable political expertise to pass landmark voting and civil rights laws. But he utterly failed to manage the war in Vietnam and walked away from a re-election fight because of it.

Conclusion: It's a crap shoot.

Voting for a presidential candidate based on a running mate's qualifications to run the nation makes no sense -- unless you're betting the top of the ticket will die in office.

And that's macabre.

Foreign Policy Doesn't Count In Elections

During the presidential primaries Barack Obama was criticized for lacking foreign policy experience. Now vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin is suffering the same attacks.

Historically, though, American voters could care less.

Only two presidents elected since 1824 could claim foreign policy experience before taking office. The first was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who commanded multinational armies in Europe during World War II. The second was George H.W. Bush, who was ambassador to the United Nations, head of the American interest office in China and CIA director.

Other than Bush, only two vice presidents in the nation’s history held foreign policy credentials prior to election. John Adams, the nation’s first vice president, negotiated the peace treaty between the fledgling United States and Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson served as secretary of state before he became the nation’s second vice president.

By nominating McCain and Obama, voters have once again declared foreign policy experience and issues of secondary importance to the other characteristics and ideas they want from a national leader. Let’s get over it and move on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obama And The Baby Boomers

Alec MacGillis blogs at, "Not only is McCain getting walloped in the polls among under-30 voters, he is also trailing or barely breaking even among voters in their 40s, 50s and early 60s -- those who one might expect to be less open than the youngsters to Obama's charms."

That's right and the reasons are easy to figure out.

For one thing, McCain's old enough to be the father of a lot of those voters. If you're a boomer, sit back, close your eyes and think of your dad running the country.

McCain also sneers at Obama's lack of military experience. Most Baby Boomers never served in the armed forces. Voters don't like to be sneered at.

Then there's Iraq. McCain remains gung ho about that stupid and unnecessary war. Boomers in their late '50s and early '60s remember the Vietnam War as stupid and unnecessary as well as all the pain it brought personally and to the nation.

Baby Boomers also are accustomed to change -- cultural, political and social -- because they grew up in a swirling, turbulent era. Many embrace it -- after all they invented the Internet and the Web.

Most important is the fact Boomers have been through enough in their lives to realize that a President Obama isn't going to wreck the country and are willing to give him a chance to shake things up a bit.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Street Economics Q3

As the depression worsened, Congress increased taxes across the board. The unintended result was decreased spending among consumers and businesses alike, and the country sank deeper still into the Great Depression.

-- Wikipedia

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed during private negotiations over the weekend to close the state's $15.2-billion budget gap with a temporary but immediate one-cent hike in the state sales tax.

-- Los Angeles Times, Aug. 5, 2008

"Hair" Then and Now

A New York Times story on a revival of the '60s musical “Hair” and its social context includes an interview with Gail Furman, who admittedly was contemptuous of those who fought in Vietnam. “I was very angry if people didn’t burn their draft cards,” she said.

Today, psychologist Furman counsels veterans retuning of the Middle East wars for whom “she feels sympathy and support.”

Like Furman and millions of others who grew up during the “Hair” era, my opinion of people who serve in the military has evolved. Sadly, it took us two unjust wars and 40 years to reach a conclusion we should have understood intuitively.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

SF Chronicle Thinks Outside The Box - Sort Of

The city and county of San Francisco plans to double the fee charged newspapers for selling their dubious wares in street-side boxes. The idea is to help pay for the installation of kiosks to replace often battered and always unsightly individual vending machines.

The San Francisco Chronicle is aghast at this attack on free speech.

As Chronicle reporter Victoria Colliver wrote yesterday:

"In an era when newspapers are under extraordinary economic pressure, this measure will result in the abandonment of news racks by many publications in many areas, adversely affecting the flow of information to the public and those involved in the distribution network," Jonathan Donnellan, counsel for Hearst Corp., which owns The Chronicle, wrote in a letter to the mayor.

The newspaper's zeal for upholding the public's right to know was somewhat less in evidence on Sept. 24, 2007 when it announced without explanation:

"The price of a seven-day home delivery subscription will increase by 30 cents to $4.75 per week effective Monday, Oct. 1, 2007. Prices will be higher in certain outlying areas." (That's 14 percent.)

The Chronicle's position is clear: Freedom of speech and an informed public are safe as long as the money involved goes into its pocket instead of someone else's.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Creator of Rock and Roll Is Dead

"Mr. Diddley always believed that he and Chuck Berry had started rock ’n’ roll, and the fact that he couldn’t financially reap all that he had sowed made him a deeply suspicious man.

“I tell musicians, ‘Don’t trust nobody but your mama,’ ” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2005. “And even then, look at her real good.”

-- The New York Time

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Taking Risks In Life

Ask most people why they cling to jobs they hate and they cite the desire for a regular paycheck and company-subsidized benefits. There's just too much risk involved in starting their own business or becoming a free agent, they argue.

Ask the same people why they invest in mutual funds rather than individual company stocks and they say they don't want to bet their economic future on the success of just one or two companies.

The contradiction inherent in those two statements explains why so many people limit their potential, both personal and financial.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Why I'm The Perfect Corporate Director

Yahoo's board sheepishly followed CEO Jerry Yang's lead and voted to reject Microsoft's takeover offer. I am sure part of the directors' decision process was based on what they might lose in compensation. Fees, options, that kind of stuff.

While understandable, such personal considerations are all too prominent among so-called independent directors of publicly held companies. And they are wrong. So, I offer myself as the perfect corporate director.

What makes me perfect is my personal philosophy, best expressed by Neil McCauley, a lifetime criminal portrayed by Robert De Niro in the movie Heat.

"A guy once told me: do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Who Should Take The 3 a.m. Call?

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Mrs. Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

Mr. Obama said: "It's not the language we need right now, and I think it's language reflective of George Bush. We have had a foreign policy of bluster and saber rattling and tough talk and in the meantime have made a series strategic decisions that have actually strengthened Iran."

- The New York Times

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

Business Book Creates Chopstick Shortage
Author Daniel Pink, expert, blame engineering subculture

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Plastic forks are rapidly replacing traditional wooden chopsticks at Chinese restaurants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and a career advice book apparently is the reason.

The Chinese Fast Food Coalition, which represents 140,000 restaurants in the nine-county area, says customers are stealing thousands of disposable chopsticks to summon a sexy, Gen-Y genie in the book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.

Forced to work through the night, disgruntled office worker Johnny Bunko drops into a Chinese takeout restaurant and is given six pairs of chopsticks. When he rubs a pair together, the genie appears to teach Bunko and his friends the keys to career success.

“It seems a lot of people think the genie is real and want to meet her,” says Ken Wong, EVP of the association. “She’s kind of hot, but, jeez, stealing chopsticks?”

Pink, a best-selling author (Free Agent Nation, A Whole New Mind), lecturer and business consultant says the phenomenon likely erupted in the Bay area because of the high concentration of engineers.

“A lot of engineers spend 20 hours a day focused on left-brain activities like linear logic,” Pink says. “When confronted with a right-brain challenge, such as relating what they take in to experience, they're completely lost.”

Bill Bucy, a writer and 20-year Silicon Valley resident, agrees with Pink but adds another factor.

“I’ve met hundreds of gearheads incapable of expressing ideas in a language other than code,” he says. “Bunko was created in the Japanese manga (comic book) style, which makes it more widely understandable within their subculture.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Economists Drive AMC Gremlins

"The speech also came the same morning the Labor Department reported. . . . inflation at the wholesale level soared in March at nearly triple the rate that had been expected as the costs of energy and food both climbed rapidly."
-- Associated Press

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One Bad Decision Leads to Another

"A 19-year-old suspect was arrested on Friday in connection with a series of highway shootings near Charlottesville, Va., that left two people with minor injuries, the state police said. . . .

"Police officers said [Slade Allen Woodson] was the owner of an orange 1974 AMC Gremlin that appears to match the one seen in a surveillance tape of the shooting at the credit union on Thursday."
-- The New York Times

Friday, March 14, 2008

Street Economics - 1Q 2008

The brilliance of Street Economics is such that it doesn't have to wait until the end of the month to sum up the the U.S. economy. Learn from the facts:

Internationally, ticket vendors at the Taj Mahal refuse U.S. dollars and Bolivian banks urge customers to save in euros.

Domestically, the price of a drink at La Bodeguita del Medio in Palo Alto, Calif. is up 25 cents and a gallon of gas in the tank of its customers' Bentleys costs $4.11.

Really, is there anything else than can or should be said?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Spitzer Should Have Said

New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer resigned because he got caught fooling around with high-dollar prostitutes. He said something to the effect that the citizens of New York deserved better.

Just once, I'd like to hear an embarrassed public official stand up and talk straight. Maybe something like:

"It is true I visited prostitutes and on more than one occasion.

"I have been asked if I intend to resign. My answer is no and here's why:

"If every elected official who committed adultery was to resign, our state and our nation would descend into chaos. Modify "committed adultery" with the phrase "by visiting a prostitute," and things might improve some, but less than many might think. I refuse to buy into that game of moral hypocrisy.

"Instead, I will allow the constitutional and political processes to play out. If the voters attempt to recall me, I will make my case to them directly and respect their judgment. If the legislature attempts to impeach me, I will wage an aggressive battle armed with the constitution and the law.

"The only legitimately aggrieved people are my wife and daughters. Their feelings and what happens to our family because of my actions are nobody's business."

"I will say nothing more about this situation until events require."

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Fantasy Job Ad

We seek a highly professional (insert job) to help take our company to the next level.

The ideal candidate will have at least 10 years of relevant experience coupled with a track record of increasing responsibility that goes beyond mere job titles. Deep management experience is a must because he or she will be responsible for building and leading a diverse team.

This position requires energy, creativity and first-rate organizational skills.

Note: Regardless of other qualifications, applicants must prove they were born on or before Jan. 1, 1968 to be considered. We do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, country of origin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or disability.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Stealing From Obama

Barack Obama has offered just one thing during his run for the Democratic presidential nomination: the hope for change in the nation's political leadership.

That's pretty much all he offers at this point, but it is no small thing. He is different in many ways and his idealism seems sincere. He does not carry the baggage of years and years going along to get along.

That makes his opponents' sudden adoption of his theme so patently cynical. "Wow," they say, "that change thing of Obama's worked pretty well in Iowa, so maybe I should be for change, too."

There are legitimate reasons to vote for other candidates. But their me-too assumption of Obama's theme simply shores up his claim that he alone offers fresh leadership and new thinking.