Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Proof ABC News is the New Fox

I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments; and, as it is the shortest and most agreeable and summary feeling imaginable, the first moment of an universal republic would convert me into an advocate for single and uncontradicted despotism. The fact is, riches are power, and poverty is slavery all over the earth, and one sort of establishment is no better, nor worse, for a people than another.
Lord Byron (1788–1824), English poet

Is Obama getting a fair shake over this nut job of a preacher? Apparently not.




Tip of the hat to Truthdig. This is Robert Sheer's newspage and it's right on the money.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On The Mark -- The Ghost of Nabokov

Dmitri Nabokov, the son of the late, great author, Vladimir Nabokov, must be hard up for a buck. The New York Times reported yesterday that Dmitri has decided to go against his father's last wishes before he passed away in 1977.

His father asked Dmitri not to publish the incomplete novel, "The Original of Laura," he was working on at the time of his death. It's currently composed on a collection of 50 index cards and stored in a bank vault in Switzerland.

Thirty-one years later Dmitri has decided that it would be very disturbing that no one would ever read the manuscript. But he didn't decide alone. It seems that Vladimir appeared before him and said, "You're stuck in a right old mess. Just go ahead and publish."

I guess the only question I have is: if Vladimir took the time to "appear" before Dmitri, why didn't he have the decency to finish the novel while he was there?

May he rest in peace after he gets done rolling over in his grave.

Blackmail from the President

“We can't allow the world's worst leaders to blackmail, threaten, hold freedom-loving nations hostage with the world's worst weapons.”
George W. Bush, president, talking about his own administration apparently

Okay people, wake up! Do you realize that our president and his administration are blackmailing the U.S. people? He just played his hand this morning in his speech.

Because you didn’t let us drill in ANWR you are now paying the price. If you want prices to go down here is what you can allow us to do: drill the crap out the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which is a National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern corner of Alaska. Hmm, I wonder why they just use the acronym?

What will this do; more short-term solutions? It will allow us to put off the day of reckoning just a bit longer, so we still won’t deal with the problem at hand.

Hello, Hello, anybody awake out there?

June Grooms

For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked.
Bill Cosby, comedian

A cautionary tale for all those coming June grooms:

Monday, April 28, 2008

On The Mark -- Crackdown on Undocumented Workers

Businesses in Los Angeles are quietly raising hell out of fear of being put out of business. Why? Because they're employing hundreds or thousands of undocumented workers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security) has launched an aggressive crackdown on these companies. It's gotten quite a bit of play in the local newspapers and radio, and this week's Los Angeles Business Journal has an excellent article by Howard Fine reporting on the issue.

ICE has sent letters to companies demanding that they produce documentation proving that their employees are legal and, in other cases, they've raided businesses and carted away busloads of undocumented workers (and probably some legal workers who got mixed into the crowd).

Businesses are crying foul because they say they're already suffering due to a downturn in the economy and rising costs, such as energy. Not to mention the effort they'll have to put forth to find documented workers to fill their factories and businesses.

It's probably a safe assumption that ICE has been heavy-handed in its actions, but I have to say that I'm glad it's happening.

Saturday at the Rose Bowl

“What do you call love, hate, charity, revenge, humanity, magnanimity, forgiveness? Different results of the one master impulse: the necessity of securing one's self-approval”
Mark Twain, (1835-1910), writer

Doing my part to improve or help society, I spent my Saturday morning supporting Autism Speaks. Truly a worthy cause and very humbling as you see and hear some of the heartbreaking stories to you and me. However, the truly heartwarming sight is seeing and hearing stories of how the parents of these children and teens continually find small and meaningful victories through the challenges of raising a child on the autistic spectrum.

I am delighted to have done my small part to help raise awareness and dollars to the tune of $1,700 personally and nearly $50,000 from our group.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bloggers: This is Note is for You

I'm disgusted with having to deal with the commercial side of our band at the moment and as a reaction, I'm becoming more uptight and complaining more. And it feels like I'm adapting a rock star attitude.”
Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) singer/song writer

To all the bloggers who take advertising this note's for you!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Outrageous Health Care Costs

Of all the anti-social vested interests the worst is the vested interest in ill health.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), playwright

Below is the letter that I opted not to send because even the insurance only pays a percentage of the total bill. I am not sure what I will be stuck paying, but either way it's sickening. Our health care system is a convoluted mess, so it’s not even worth the stamp. Enjoy and I hope you can’t relate.

April 24, 2008

President & CEO
Chairman of the Board
Roseville, CA 00000

RE: My health

Dear Messrs president and CEO:

There must be some mistake on my statement dated 4/02/08, account NO: 000000000-1. Someone has confused my treatment for a painful stomachache with a cup of Pepto-Bismol for a frontal lobotomy or a brain transplant with the woodenheaded Pinocchio.

Your fees of $2,947.70 are absolutely outrageous bordering on illegal, if we had proper oversight for health care costs.

I was given a cup of Pepto Bismol, and an x-ray. After the pink stomach-relief medicine I was ready to leave, but the doctor seemed surprised and said I should have an X-ray while I was there. If I knew what your prices were I would have suffered rather than be held up or have my insurance company pay for another wing of your hospital.

I had no indication of such costs. I believe you need to post prices and costs in the emergency room and/or in the rooms for patients who are not in a life or death situation to make prudent cost/risk assessments rather than leave patients completely in the dark about such scandalously high costs.

This is not community service or caring, it is corporate greed masquerading as health care.

Sincerely,

The Misanthrope

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On The Mark -- Stephen Hadley: Give the Guy a Break?

Heard on NPR last weekend that President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, head of the NSA, spoke on national television on a recent Sunday about whether Bush should boycott the opening ceremonies at the Olympics in China this summer.

It's been well-reported in the blogosphere that in his response defending Bush's planned attendance that Hadley referred several times to China's problems with Nepal instead of saying Tibet. Not once or twice did he say Nepal instead of Tibet, but six times or more. I also believe this occurred at a couple different Sunday morning news shows, so he didn't even correct himself after he had a chance to go off-camera.

But the real story is that AP, Reuters and the New York Times reported on these interviews and they took the liberty to change Nepal to Tibet in Hadley's quotes. The Times concluded their article by noting that Hadley had misspoken, and that the Bush Administration later confirmed that he meant to say Tibet.

If Hadley had misspoken once, then I might be able to understand why these reporters and their editors would take the liberty to make it accurate, but the fact that he did so repeatedly should be grounds for quoting the precise words he spoke.

In what other stories have these media outlets corrected statements based on what they believe a spokesperson meant, but did not actually state?

Hillary -- A Bad Movie

One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses and oppresses.
Robin Wood, film critic

Hillary is like a cheap horror movie where the monster will not die. Please Obama drive a stake through her presidential hopes already.

From the NYTimes editorial today:

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

Hillary's philosophy is that if she can't win, then the people will get a Republican. She has become the Ralph Nader of the Democratic party.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Idea

“If you think there's a solution, you're part of the problem”
George Carlin, comedian

Tell me where I am wrong.

If we were to attempt to bring manufacturing back into the country by offering companies tremendous tax advantages if they gave employees a living wage, capped CEO salaries at three or four hundred thousand dollars a year, and if the companies were successful and went public stock options would have to be shared equally among all employees, and tax benefits would decline proportionally.

Is it possible and does it make any sense?

Monday, April 21, 2008

On The Mark -- What Is A Blogger?

A research brief from The Center for Media Research:


What's A Blogger?

by Jack Loechner, Friday, Apr 18, 2008 8:15 AM ET

Bloggers are younger and higher percentages are Hispanic & African American than the general population. A higher percentage of Democrats than of Republicans are blogging.

Now that Blogging might better be called a market segment rather than a market niche, it's useful with regard to positioning the marketing message to understand what a Blogger looks like, as distinguished from the rest of the population.

According to the BIGresearch Simultaneous Media Survey, 26% of all adults say they regularly or occasionally blog. Of those:

53.7% are male
44.7% are married
28.4% hold a professional or managerial position
10.4% are students.

Bloggers tend to be younger, averaging 37.6 years old, compared to 44.8 for adults 18+ (the "general population"). Ethnically:

69.7% of Bloggers are White/Caucasian (vs. 76.1%)
12.2% are African American/Black (vs. 11.4%)
3.7% are Asian (vs. 2.0%)
20% of Bloggers are Hispanic, compared to 14.8% of adults 18+

In addition, Bloggers report a lower income ($55,819 vs. $56,811) and are better educated (14.3 years of education vs. 14.2).

Political blogs are becoming increasingly common, especially in this election year, where 24.6% of registered voters say they regularly or occasionally blog. Political affiliation of regular/occasional

Bloggers look like this in 2008:
37.6% of Libertarians regularly/occasionally blog
26.9% of Democrats
25.7% of Independents
22.9% Republicans

Analysis of Bloggers shows that they are using most forms of new media significantly more than the average market.
Regular/Occasional New Media Usage (Top 5)

% of Regular/Occasional Bloggers
% of Adults 18+
Cell Phone
93.0%
87.5%
Instant Messaging
75.3%
49.3%
Download/Access Video/TV Content
72.2%
45.0%
Video Gaming
66.9%
47.5%
Text Messaging
65.5%
45.2%

Source: BIGresearch, January 2008, N=15,727

Although Bloggers are more likely to use new media, the analysis finds that more conventional forms of media trigger their Internet searches. Magazines, at 51.6%, rank highest, followed by:
48.8% reading an article
46.1% broadcast TV
44.5% cable TV
42.5% face-to-face communication
39.7% newspaper

Gary Drenik, President of BIGresearch, concludes ?"Bloggers are a diverse group and not who you would expect..."

For more information, please visit BIGresearch here.
Center for Media Research

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Pleasant Pesach

To my Jewish friends and readers: a nice rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball" Game in yiddish.

Chag Sameach


Hat tip to The Kentucky Democrat

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On The Mark -- Airplane Chatter

The day is fast approaching when a crying baby sitting near you during a flight will be the least of your irritations. The European Commission has issued new rules that will allow cell phone use on airlines flying over Europe.

There's talk of setting up smoke-zone-like areas on the planes where passengers will be restricted to make and receive their calls, but that's all just a bunch of PR to mitigate the backlash from folks who don't want phones allowed on planes. And, apparently, there are a lot of these people. A survey by the International Airline Passengers Assn. found that the overwhelming majority of respondents stated that phone use on planes would be "a source of great irritation."

Pilots also would have the discretion to flip a switch that would limit access only to email, not voice, if the chatter got too loud. Fat chance of that happening -- terrorists storming the cockpit would be the least of their worries if they did that mid-flight.

While I'm one who checks his Blackberry at the last possible chance before long flights, I also enjoy watching travelers turn theirs off. But you watch, airlines will take advantage of this. They'll offer seats reserved in "non-phone sections" at higher prices.

ABC Network is the New Fox News

Information, usually seen as the precondition of debate, is better understood as its by-product.
Christopher Lasch, historian

Tom Shales from the Washington Post has some interesting observations about the debate last night.

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.

Obama was right on the money when he complained about the campaign being bogged down in media-driven inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a candidate might make along the way, whether in a speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the opposition. The tactic has been to "take one statement and beat it to death," he said.

No sooner was that said than Gibson brought up, yet again, the controversial ravings of the pastor at a church attended by Obama. "Charlie, I've discussed this," he said, and indeed he has, ad infinitum. If he tried to avoid repeating himself when clarifying his position, the networks would accuse him of changing his story, or changing his tune, or some other baloney.

I suspect George is attempting to get into the Clinton's good graces, again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On The Mark -- Penis Fear Remedy

You have to hand it to Judd Apatow, who brought us movies such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, Apatow says, "America fears the penis, and that's something I'm going to help them get over...I'm gonna get a penis in every movie I do from now on" (the L.A. Times sourced World Entertainment News Service for this quote).

Apparently, his new movie, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," will be doing its best to help America get over this fear.

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

A lot of people have asked me how short I am. Since my last divorce, I think I’m about $100,000 short.
Mickey Rooney, actor

Taking divorce arguments to a new level:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On The Mark -- Chinese Military on U.S. Soil

You may not realize it, but San Francisco was recently invaded by foreign soldiers -- in fact, the best of the best -- our version of the special forces or navy seals.

When China's Olympic torch was in San Francisco, trying to keep from getting extinguished, the runners and the torch were guarded by some of China's best-trained soldiers. When I read about this during the event, I was amazed that our country would let military-trained soldiers on our soil, especially from a country such as China.

Last week, the leaders of Japan and Australia both stated (paraphrasing): "There will be no military from China on our land when the torch arrives here; we'll provide the security that's needed." (Why they are even allowing the torch to enter the country is another story.)

Good, decent people trying to enter our country legally get treated like cattle. But for the Chinese military it's an open-door policy.

Beautiful Children and LA Outlaws

The world may be full of fourth-rate writers, but it's also full of fourth-rate readers.
Stan Barstow, novelist

One book is by Charles Bock and the other by T. Jefferson Parker. “Beautiful Children” by Bock is very descriptive with a boring story. "LA Outlaws" is regular writing and with a good story.

I have decided that I will take an interesting story over acrobatic writing anytime. Bock’s book seemed like it took me forever to finish it, mainly because I would put it down and have little desire to pick it up again. "LA Outlaws" was an enjoyable mystery that kept me coming back to the story to see what would happen next.

“The Finder” by Colin Harrison is my next book. This is suppose to be a good combination of writing and story.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On The Mark -- Boy oh Boy oh Boy oh Boy

You've read and heard about it but, still, can you believe that a U.S. House Representative (Geoff Davis - R), from a southern state (Kentucky) no less, would say this about Obama: "That boy's finger does not need to be on the button"?

Even with an apology, it's still such an outrageous statement in more ways than one.

Taking second place is the chairman of Associated Press who, when asking Obama a question at a large gathering about Osama Bin Laden, refererred to him as Obama Bin Laden.

The AP chairman, W. Dean Singleton, can get a pass for a mental slip (I hope), but there's no excuse for Rep. Davis.

On The Mark -- Investing In Our Future

Here are some sobering statistics. One doesn't even need to write a narrative.

In California:

$14.7 billion has been designated for construction in the state's prison system

State makes massive budget cuts due to its astronomical deficit and its $57.3 billion debt, plus another $78.2 billion that has been authorized waiting to be borrowed.

Los Angeles Unified School District follows with $460 million budget cut -- on a budget that was already razor thin. Money spent on arts (music, etc.) per year for each school kid: 3 cents (so I've been told by people in the know).

Cost to incarcerate a juvenile offender in California: $100,000-$200,000.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Miscellany

“Writer's block is the greatest side effect of boredom”
Jason Zebehazy, someone who comes up with quotes

In most of southern California it’s a beautiful weekend, but where I live it makes Dorothy’s Kansas look calm. The wind has not stopped since Friday. The flags at the fire station have been snapping constantly and I am waiting for the flying monkeys from Oz to screech by momentarily. I have hid in the house kept the shades drawn to avoid the house from getting too hot.
***
I have found this latest attack from Hillary on Obama’s use of the word "bitter" to be even more ridiculous than the Rev. Wright nonsense. Hillary blatantly lies about sniper fire and Bill comes out and lies about it even further and they have the audacity to jump on the word bitter!
***
Daughter and I went to Hollywood last weekend to see the Rolling Stones movie “Shine a Light.” It was a typical stones movie; there were a couple of humorous moments as Martin Scorsese juxtaposed early Stones’ interviews with the concert footage. My favorite moments were when Jack White sang “Loving Cup” with Mick and Buddy Guy sang “Champagne and Reefer” with Mick.
***
On The Mark has been posting some thought provoking posts, B2 posted, and I can’t think of a thing to write about. I guess this would be writer’s block if I believed in such a thing.

Here is a random 10 selection:
1 “Love Minus Zero” by Bob Dylan
2 “Getting Hungry” by The Faces
3 “Cry Me a River” by Joe Cocker
4 “Almost” by Bowling for Soup
5 “Death Don’t have No Mercy" by the Grateful Dead
6 “Academia” by Sia (I didn’t even know I had this. It’s from the Paste Magazine sampler CD)
7 “Stolen Moments” by Ahmad Jamal Trio
8 “In the Darkest Place” by Burt Bacharach/Elvis Costello
9 “You Don’t Have a Heart” by Shelby Lynn
10 “Sweet to Mend" by Heirloom Projector (another Paste Magazine sampler)

Friday, April 11, 2008

I love the law.

Not the idea of law.

Not lawyers.

Not Jude Law.

It's the finer points of law that I take pleasure in, like this tidbit:

[It is prohibited] to discard, launch, propel, release, squirt or throw any gaseous, liquid, semi-solid substance or object toward or among the participants, vehicles or animals in [a] special event.

When law makes you picture people throwing poop at a parade, you've just got to smile.

However --

I was researching the legal status of Silly String in the area where I live, as my wife cautioned me against having a Silly String fight with the kids -- she feared it had been made illegal out here.

I was pleased to discover it's NOT illegal, but can not be used to disrupt a parade or similar gathering -- hence the law above.

On The Mark -- Recession Indicator?

Recently on a Saturday I went to my local barber, Tony, with my son to get our hair cut. I've been going to this same barber for at least 11 years. It's just a hole in the wall, old-fashioned barbershop with the twirling red and white stripe outside and the whole 1960s works. He charges $23 for a cut.

Usually the place is busy. All three chairs filled and a walk-in or two reading a paper while waiting. This time the place was empty. Empty when I walked in. Empty when I walked out. I usually like to sit there silently while I get my hair cut, but this time I was curious so I asked him how business was going.

"Terrible because of the economy," he said. "And all my colleagues at other shops are experiencing the same thing." I was surprised and told him that I would have thought an economic slowdown wouldn't affect his business because it's like health care or food...you always need it.

He said, "You don't need it if you don't have a job and you don't need it if you can't get an interview."

On The Mark - Blogging for Money

Recently a study was conducted on "The State of Blog Relations" by APCO Worldwide and the Council of Public Relations Firms. PR Week wrote an editorial, "Paying Bloggers Risks the Notion of 'Earned Media,'" based on one aspect of the study. PR execs and bloggers were asked to respond to this statement: It is okay to compensate bloggers for writing about my clients, but it is not up to me to tell them to disclose the payment."

PR execs disagreed (96%) with this statement. But 48% of bloggers agreed, and another 16% were neutral or had no opinion.

If you were approached by a company and offered $5,000 a month to write positively about their product(s), -- and let's say you didn't really care for the product -- would you 1) take the money; and 2) disclose to your readers that you were being paid?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On The Mark -- Crisis Communications 101 and Mark Penn

I’ve worked on crisis communications cases for more than 25 years, including many of the biggest issues, some of which are taught in university public relations classes today.

Today, when I walk into a chief executive’s office whose company is under siege (and sometimes the chief executive as well) I always tell them that your priority audience is your customer and prospective customers. It’s not the media. This usually requires a very long discussion because the media coverage is typically top of mind, but to put it simplistically – it’s not what the media are saying, it’s what your customer is thinking that really matters. If your customer trusts and has confidence in your company and or brand, then you can weather the media storm. This requires good brand equity to begin with, but it also means that communicating with your customer base during a crisis is most important.

Mark Penn reportedly stated to his employees at Burson-Marsteller that the media coverage of his demise would dissipate in a few days and everything will be ok. The media coverage prediction may be true (although they’ll do their best to keep it alive a little longer now that they’ve heard this). But only time will tell what the impact will be on their current and prospective customer base.

I have some clients, for example, who believe their businesses would be impacted negatively if a democrat got into the White House. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy if they saw that I was trying to make it happen. Magnify my business a zillion times to Burson and one can only imagine the potential fallout. It wouldn’t be obvious. Prospective opportunities that may have presented themselves at one time won’t be there anymore. Clients with contracts expiring may find it easier to move on.

If there ever was a situation that called for a leave of absence in order to work on a separate project, this was it. But it’s too late now. One has to wonder what the top brass at Burson were thinking when they allowed Penn to continue to run the company while also being the chief strategist for the Clinton campaign. That Clinton was a slam dunk for the White House, maybe?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Making the Boss Happy

They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.
Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), novelist

To read the entire piece follow the link.

By Robert Scheer
From Truthdig.com

General Betray Us? Of course he has. MoveOn.org can hardly be expected to recycle its slogan from last September, when Gen. David Petraeus testified in support of escalating the U.S. war in Iraq, given the hysterical denunciations that worthy group received at the time. But it was right then—as it would be to repeat the charge now.

So why are we surprised? Why do we expect the generals to lead us on the path to peace when that is the professional task of statesmen and not warriors? It is an abdication of civilian control of the military, the basic principle of American constitutional governance, to assign a central role to an active duty general to make the decision to end the war. It betrays the legacy warnings of our two most famous wartime generals, George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

On the Mark -- Torch the Torch Relay

What is the Olympic torch doing in the U.S. anyway? Today, in San Francisco, with the torch protected by Chinese paramilitary, we could have a near riot on our hands as activists attempt to disrupt the torch relay as protest against China’s human rights record and the violence in Tibet.

I worked on the original event, known in 1984 as the AT&T Olympic Torch Relay. I was on the periphery doing odd jobs, not one of the dedicated team members who gave up six months of their lives to ensure a smooth handover of the torch in each city while generating tons of publicity as they traveled across and around the United States. It was a big idea and a huge success. But it was for America and Americans, at least as I remember it. I recall getting choked up at one of the wrap-up meetings as film highlights of the months long relay were shown to the sounds of Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful.

To be true to the torch relay concept, and not make it a perfunctory, hollow attempt to make China look friendly and worldly, shouldn’t the torch be traveling through the villages and cities of China to generate patriotism and support for their athletes?

On the Mark -- Mark Penn Follow-Up

As I was saying about conflicts.



This from Ad Age (beginning of story):



NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- To see how the tables have turned on famed crisis counselor Burson-Marsteller in the past few days, consider this. Ted Smyth, chief administrative officer and senior VP-corporate and government affairs at Heinz, is used to his company paying the firm big bucks for PR counsel. Now he's got some of his own PR advice for an agency that, after decades of quietly helping corporate giants out of sticky situations, is caught up in a crisis of its chief executive's making.


"He forgot the importance of avoiding conflict of interest or any apparent conflict of interest," Mr. Smyth said in an interview. "It was impossible to balance the responsibility of being the chief strategist for Clinton while representing a number of clients for Burson. At some stage it was going to end up in tears." ..."What Burson should make clear is that they have rules in place to avoid conflicts of interest and that these rules will be strictly articulated and enforced, which they weren't in this case," Mr. Smyth said. "The agency will need to issue a policy or, if they have one, re-issue it, indicating how this would be handled in the future."

Monday, April 07, 2008

On the Mark -- Mark Penn and The Scent of Power and Money

I found the stories today about Mark Penn getting the boot as Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist very interesting. Actually, previously I had found it more interesting that, as CEO of Burson-Marsteller, long a giant in the world of public relations agencies, he was even trying to do both. I spent a little more than 10 wonderful years at Burson-Marsteller. I got to work with the best minds in the business and was able to work on big-time assignments that I still talk about today.

But there was that ever-present wall of conflicts. Burson-Marsteller, like every agency, worked on controversial business when I was there, but I recall there was always a strict “is this a conflict” analysis that took place before we worked for a new client – this covered both whether there was a competing product or if the new business would affect work we were doing with other clients. I remember that we had to turn down many new business opportunities.

We were taught to be very loyal to the brands we represented (for example, you would never find a can of Pepsi in any of the offices since we represented Coca-Cola – especially if Harold was coming into town). Although I never heard it directly from Harold Burson, founder and still chairman, there was an unwritten rule to stay away from politics (you can see it’s been a while since I worked there). There was, however, a written rule to not take on any business that might have a direct or indirect negative impact on current client business.

My guess is that Harold Burson didn't like this arrangement, and probably saw the trouble that would be coming their way, but it looks like the scent of money and power was too strong for those now making the decisions.

Congratulations Bob Dylan

People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around—the music and the ideas.
Bob Dylan, singer, songwriter

Bob Dylan has been awarded a special music citation from the Pulitzer Prize committee for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Why I Don’t Like Grocery Shopping with My Wife

“Never speak loudly to one another unless the house is on fire”
H. W. Thompson

“MY GOODNESS HOW MANY BOTTLES OF WINE ARE YOU GETTING?” she shouted with some surprised, but no anger.

At this point, I am at the top of the aisle assembling the six bottle, 10 percent discount that Ralphs offers, and wife is at the bottom of the aisle near the registers, and everyone has turned to see the wino loading up the shopping cart. I ignore her and go the other direction. She forgets that she is no longer in the Bronx.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Countrywide Again
Adds to Homeowner Misery

The payment of debts is necessary for social order. The non-payment is quite equally necessary for social order. For centuries humanity has oscillated serenely unaware, between these two contradictory necessities.
Simone Weil (1909-43), philosopher

Open Letter to Countrywide Bank:

I find your organization to be despicable and if it didn’t further hurt the country or the economy, I would love to see Countrywide Bank go bankrupt. I believe your former CEO should be fined and jailed for the reminder of his days.

It seems to me that if there was a ground zero on this loan fiasco that is causing so much grief to so many, Countrywide Bank was there. What has inspired this note is your latest missive informing your customers that they no longer have a line of home equity credit. I didn’t even ask or apply for a home equity credit line, but you sent me a credit card with an astronomical amount of available credit. I locked it away in a safety deposit box in case of emergency, good thing I didn’t count on Countrywide Bank.

Thankfully, I did not have to use mine, but there are many now who may need it. Once again, Countrywide Bank is right there to add to the misery of others. The Countrywide Bank rationale is that home values have declined so rather than attempting to find a solution to a problem Countrywide Bank so readily help make, you are kicking your customers when they are down.

I was shocked when I applied for my home loan and was told that copies of my pay stubs were not necessary. I thought maybe it had to do with our down payment, but you were not requiring any documentation before handing out sums of money to many people who could not afford it, but you convinced them they could take out a crazy adjustable loan even when loan rates could do nothing but go up because they were at historic lows. Again, because I knew better, I did not fall prey to your thimblerig tactics, but far too many did.

Congress needs to impose regulations on financial institutions, which of course won’t happen until we get the current disastrous administration the hell out of office, because greed instead of corporate responsibility is always the rule when there are no rules.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Clintons are Rich!

However toplofty and idealistic a man may be, he can always rationalize his right to earn money.
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), author

For those wondering why Hillary Clinton didn’t ditch Bill after the White House scandal, the answer is simple: the former president is more lucrative than an ATM machine.


New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton made more than $100 million in income from 2000 through 2007, according to figures released late Friday by the campaign.

On The Mark -- You Can't Make This Stuff Up

The L.A. City Council seriously considered a proposal to institute a 40-hour moratorium on murder to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The moratorium was directed to the ever growing and fierce gangs in the city. The idea, strongly supported by some council members -- unbelievably -- was to convince the gangs to stop killing each other for a day and a half in honor of Dr. King.

My guess is that most of the gang members would say, "who?" I'd also guess that if there were a map drawn that showed where gang-related murders occurred in the past year, there would be a lot of dots on or alongside Martin Luther King Blvd.

Can you believe elected officials wasted time even discussing this proposal?

Besides, murder has been banned for one hell of a long time.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

On The Mark -- Moral Turpitude

A little known British author, Sebastian Horsley, landed on foreign soil and was denied entry into that country on the grounds of "moral turpitude." He had written a book about rampant drug use and encounters with prostitutes. This according to the New York Times.

Saudi Arabia? Nope. Iran? Nope. Taliban controlled parts of Afghanistan? Nope.

Right here in the United States of America. He was turned back at Newark Liberty International Airport last month.

Michel Houellebecq -- best to stay put in Paris. You might get arrested if you travel here.

J.D. Salinger -- Now I understand.

William T. Vollmann -- you should be very afraid.

This story was a blurb in the New York Times. It should be on the front page of every newspaper in the country. I guess the good news is that we didn't arrest him, try him, and hang him, all in the same day.

Read a Couple of Poems

My words enjoy the feel of the paper
Better than mingling with your consonants
Once they get going, they never waver
And they slip in between your ifs, ands, and buts

Lucinda Williams, singer/song writer “Words” from the CD West

Brian's comment (see his blog at Incertus) "On Rambling" below about having Miller Williams as a professor is the inspiration for this post.

I took a poetry class at UCLA a couple of years ago and it was a real eye opener. You really don't want to be obscure or create a bunch of rhymes. As Williams explains in his book"Making a Poem:"

It [the poem] must have the power to make us respond, to make us more alive. We have to react to it...

The following make his point, clearly. I am not even much of an animal person, but I want a dog after this poem:

Listen
I threw a snowball across the backyard.
My dog ran after it to bring it back.
It broke as it fell, scattering snow over snow.
She stood confused, seeing and smelling nothing.
She searched in widening circles until I called her.

She looked at me and said as clearly in silence
As if she had spoken,
I know it’s here, I’ll find it,
went back to the center and started the circles again.

I called her two more times before she came
slowly, stopping once to look back.

That was this morning. I’m sure that she’s forgotten.
I’ve had some trouble putting it out of my mind.


Compassion
Have compassion for everyone you meet
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
Down there where the spirit meets the bone

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Baseball Fans Get it Right

To be loved is to be fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction.
Minna Antrim, epigrammatist

George W. Bush again shows how out of touch he is by thinking baseball fans would welcome him.

Rambling On

“You wait for a gem in an endless sea of blah.”
Lawrence Grossman, Canadian politician

I am going to continue on about my feelings. Blah and pensive would be accurate to describe my mood. This is just stream of consciousness babble. I am flipping through a book that just arrived “The Ways We Touch” by Miller Williams. I bet you’re saying he’s the father of Lucinda Williams and a University professor of English and foreign languages at the University of Arkansas, and you’d be right.

I am listening to the Barenaked Ladies CD titled “Disc One 1991-2001” and I am reading the liner notes from Steve Earle’s “Washington Square Serenade” CD. I guess somewhere I must be a romantic because I think it’s great that Earle is so crazy about his wife Allison Moorer (sister of Shelby Lynn), whose CD “Mockingbird” sounds pretty good. Once my mood swings toward energetic I look forward to playing the New Barbarians CD “Buried Alive, Live in Maryland.” You know who the New Barbarians are/were Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Stanley Clarke, Ian McLagan, Bobby Keys and Ziggaboo Modeliste.

I am about to head toward the living room to place the sound reducing headphones on, plug into my iPod, and read “LA Outlaw” by T. Jefferson Parker while wife watches “Dancing with the Stars” in the family room. I suspect I will listen to Moorer’s CD once I place her songs into the iPod.

I listen to NPR for the top stories and then turn it off to listen to music. In my car CD player are: in slot one the Grateful Dead; slot two is Ray Davies CDs, “Working Man’s CafĂ©;” slot 3 is a compilation of Ray Davies songs I put together. Slot 4 is the new one from Holly Cole titled “Holly Cole.” Did you know she is related to Tom Waits? A cousin of some sort. Slot 5 is Shelby Lynn's new one. I don't remember what is in the 6th spot and if you find yourself losing sleep over that fact, leave a message and I will get back to you.

My apologies for not really making all the blog stops at many of my favorite sites, but I am either too busy or too tired there is no in between.

If you haven't seen the Tracy Ullman "State of the Union," which takes a satirical look at daily life in the United States on Showtime, I'd recommend skipping it. It's to close to home and I found it depressing that we are so screwed up.

A cryptic public shout out to a friend who is on his way to being recognized as the talent he surely is. Maybe Toner Mishap will get an early preview, eventually.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On The Mark -- Water Everywhere Except Our Faucets

We're supposed to get a decent soaking tomorrow, our first for a while, and maybe our last until next winter. The forecast reminded me of something that irked me greatly during our last rainfall but never got around to writing about.

Six weeks ago or so California, from the northern border to Mexico, got a good soaking and lots of snow in the mountains. So much so that one would think that our drought situation in Southern Cal might have been alleviated somewhat. Not enough to ignore our situation, but enough to not worry about it quite so much.

But no. While the rain was falling heavily for several days in Los Angeles, and the snow was packing the mountains in the Sierra's, we heard "experts" over and over tell us that this precipitation would have little to no impact on our drought because "we" haven't been able to figure out how to properly capture and store this new water. Even the melted snow wasn't a savior as it also ran wastefully into areas that didn't run off to our reservoirs, dams, and water storage systems. Most of the rain in Southern California ran straight into the ocean.

Like our gas prices that soar because our refineries are outdated and too few (while the oil companies make billions in profits every quarter), our energy and water costs continue to climb and the possibility of water rationing in the summer remains a real threat. In fact, one major L.A. city (Long Beach) has already declared a water emergency and the Calleguas Municipal Water District recently launched a "Put A Cork In It" (faucet) water conservation campaign.

Whenever it rains here people are inclined to say, "We need it," implying that the rain is really an inconvenience but we'll put up with it because it's rescuing our problem.

I'm afraid, folks, that it's an inconvenience only. It may be something we need, but it's not doing us any good.

Blah

“So often we dwell on the things that seem impossible rather than on the things that are possible. So often we are depressed by what remains to be done and forget to be thankful for all that has been done.”
Marian Wright Edelman, activist for the rights of children

The artwork* below is a great depiction of my blah-like feelings these past few weeks.




















*I believe the artwork is from an article in the NYTimes regarding migraines a few months ago.