Whenever A Bell Rings, An Angel Gets A Job.

Now that the Republicans have taken the electoral pasting they so “richly” deserved, I get the impression that a lot of people in this country weren’t buying the line about tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations creating jobs.  So, I feel like talking about job creators.  This is the promise: we let the richest portion of the American business community have their tax cuts and everybody will benefit!  This is “trickle-down” economics.

Except that reality doesn’t work that way.  The aim of the capitalist is to get rich.  The aim of the rich is to stay rich.

What they are proposing is merely a continuance of making wealthy people wealthier and the rest get to suffer and starve on the false promise of prosperity that will never come because the system is rigged against the worker.  The disparity of executive to middle-class wages has continued to widen ever since Reagan was in office.  How many businesses have moved to foreign countries whose only promise was a low-wage workforce?  When was the last time you got a cost of living raise that actually kept up with the cost of living?  Have you ever asked yourself where all that money for the lobbyists and campaign donations came from and if they could have been put to better use elsewhere?

I find that Grover Norquist’s arguments against Warren Buffett to be laughable.  Warren Buffett is a businessman who knows how the business game is played and if he says that the richest of us can afford to pay more in taxes, I would be inclined to believe that he knows what he is talking about.  And what I really want to highlight is when Buffett says, “if I call you and ask about investing in a new business, you don’t ask me what the tax rate is.”  That is what is missing from the Republican argument and why what they are saying is so dishonest.  The wealthy get a portion of their money from capital gains, that is, investments.  That is the difference.  Investors aren’t job creators, they are… investors.

Now, it can be argued that without the investment, there won’t be jobs.  That is true, in part.  But an investment is just money: it isn’t the decision-making to run the business or the work it takes to make a business successful.  An investor doesn’t invest money because it will create jobs, an investor is looking for a return on his investment.  That’s it.  If the investment in the business creates a hundred jobs or only five, it doesn’t matter to the investor.  It doesn’t matter if the jobs created are even in the U.S.!  The only thing that matters is the bottom line.  This is probably why so many people saw through what Romney was trying to sell: it didn’t matter if he saved a business or not, he was determined to make money regardless for his investors.

Look at it another way.  We’ve all seen the commercials for organizations promising that for a certain amount of pennies a day, a child in a third-world country can be fed and educated.  What we are being asked to do is to throw money at a problem.  We aren’t being asked to run the charity or how to feed the children or anything else about accomplishing the work of the charity.  We are merely investors in the charity’s mission. We don’t expect a return on our investment other than the hope that we have made a difference in helping improve someone’s life.  This is the same condition that the so-called “job creators” find themselves in.  They are just throwing money at a business.

Now all of this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t demand responsible spending of tax revenue and cutting where cuts need to be made.  But let’s stop with the nonsense of looking at tax increases for the wealthy as a bane to business in the U.S.  If there is a chance that there will be a payoff, investors will invest.  Job creation is someone else’s responsibility.

The Lure of Radio

     I am writing a story about someone in distress and pleading into a microphone for a rescue.  Their only hope is that someone will hear and act to save them.  And the whole scenario got me thinking about the basic nature of that act – to broadcast one’s voice and hope to generate a response – and the early days of radio.  I’m not talking about the “business” of radio and payola and all that garbage or even Jack Benny and countless radio serials that played during the golden age of radio.  I’m talking about something more primal, more innocent: a radio station in the middle of nowhere, sending out a signal to countless listeners – or no one.  This is such an irresistible and evocative image for me.

     Even though I have what can be described as a “radio voice”, I have only been inside the control room of a radio station once and that was because I had a friend who was a late night DJ.  The pay was notoriously bad and after understanding that there has to be FCC licensing and all that, my urge to actively pursue a career as a radio personality was pretty much quashed.  But there was still something about the idea of being a lone voice in the night, smoking a pack of cigarettes through the shift, all the while saying whatever came to mind and playing whatever I wanted to listen to that I found immensely attractive.  The reality is that radio stations have historically been the dirty little tax write-off secret for many wealthy owners looking for a money loser.  Now it’s about ratings and demographics and I doubt I have the type of personality that could consistently hold a listening audience, because at the heart of what I want to do is whatever I want to do.  And today’s radio is so automated, so format driven that the type of radio existence I longed for is a very rare occurrence.

     But I still remember a 1960’s television spot for Radio Free Europe of a Hungarian-speaking DJ spinning a vinyl LP of The Drifter’s On Broadway and speeding through the intro in Hungarian until he emphatically ended with “Un Brrroodvey” (trill your r’s).  I would have killed to have a job like that!  I used to listen to Art Bell.  I look at Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly album cover and think about Wolfman Jack out in the Mexican desert broadcasting and shake my head, wondering what it would be like to live like that.  I’m sure the reality falls short of the dream, but what a dream.  What a dream, indeed.

Wailin’, Flailin’, and Failin’ for Palin

There is some nonsense that got published recently in The Los Angeles Times that is remarkable only in the fact that it is difficult to discern if the op-ed is genuine or well-crafted satire.  I shall not dignify the article other than to mention it and to say that it resurrects the misbegotten notion of a Sarah Palin run at the Presidency and also a line of thought that I have heard before: she is electable, in part, because she is attractive.

I remember back when the McCain campaign was foundering and Palin first hit the nation’s consciousness, various comments were circulating about how good she looks, even to the point of some remarks that Republican women looked better than Democratic women.  I don’t know what had me more perplexed, that some were even going so far as to lump Ann Coulter in with the “attractive” meme or that people thought that attractiveness made any difference at all.  These are, of course, the same people who would fall over themselves saying what a great leader Margaret Thatcher was.  They are also the same ones who will make comments about Michelle Obama’s ugliness.  The truth is that nobody is in a beauty contest here nor should they be; that is not what defines a great or even good leader.  Even though nearly every Miss America contestant ever asked has wanted to see “world peace”, who wants to actually put any of them in charge of achieving it?  There has to be more to a suitable leader than looks – a lot more.

If I was going to elect someone based on looks and leadership, I would gladly vote for Dennis Kucinich.  Have you seen his wife?  She is the kind of woman who causes one to ask, “how did a guy who looks like that land a woman who looks like that?!”  He must have all the persuasive ability a head of state must possess to negotiate the best deals for his country.  What a First Couple they would be!  Let’s extend the silliness even further: how about George Clooney?  He is consistently on the best-looking lists and is reasonably interested in politics.  He might even get the country to rescind the 22nd Amendment!

But let’s get back to Palin.  She is supposedly qualified because she called a corrupt administration corrupt and played hardball with the oil companies – not as an environmentalist would play hardball, but as someone trying to squeeze as much money out of them as possible – by raising taxes on their profits.  In her own way, while she played politics in Alaska, she wanted to be “mavericky” like John McCain until Karl Rove got hold of him in 2000 in South Carolina and McCain has acted like a whipped pup ever since.  Palin, for her part, has been less of a maverick and more a tool of the neo-cons and spews the party line even if she still can’t quite articulate just what the hell she’s talking about.  But the bottom line is that she is, indeed, the “Half-Term Governor”: she quit on Alaska.

But if others want to jump on their bandwagon of bad ideas, I’ll play along and design a bumper sticker for ’em.  I’m sure they’ll love it because it gets to the heart of what every red-blooded American Republican male is thinking, right?  So here we go, the 2016 Sarah Palin for President campaign:

“A wink’s as good as a nod to a blind bat,” she said, knowingly…

Idle Brains Are Idle

So this is what its comes down to?  The media outlets and people who have something to say about Twinkies want to stir up some horsehockey about the demise of Twinkies while knowing full damn well that Twinkies aren’t going anywhere!  Is this what the erosion of the brain, sated with entirely too much viewing of vapid “reality” television, looks like?  This is just more of the inane chit-chat that permeates our social media and passes as “news” and “discussion”.

Overall, this is an issue that I couldn’t care less about, but the ya-ya about Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, etc., going away is nearly inescapable whether it is people complaining about one less junk food choice on their “let’s eat crap” menu, or anti-unionists wanting to blame unions or anti-corporatists pointing out bankruptcy malfeasance.  But it’s all so stupid!  Even if Hostess liquidates, Twinkies will be bought by someone and still produced, so why all the nonsensical handwringing?  Are people’s lives as empty as the nutritional value of that beef fat and sugar confection that they have to complain about literally nothing?

As a matter of full disclosure, as far as I’m concerned, Twinkies are pure crap.  If they actually did permanently go away, I would shed nary a tear.

Afghanistan: This is What I Have to Say

     Lord Ashdown, of the British House of Lords, says the war in Afghanistan is “lost”. On his reasoning, as an American, I can agree, but in his characterization, I cannot. It can be said that we are wasting our time in Afghanistan. It can be said that American lives are unnecessarily lost as we dither on our withdrawal. But it cannot be said that we “lost” in Afghanistan because no one could ever describe “victory”. Did we dismantle the Taliban? Yes. Did we disrupt and damage the ability of Al Qaeda to operate? Yes. Did we kill Osama Bin Laden? Yes. Can we guarantee that Afghanistan won’t return to the way it was or that the Taliban won’t return with new membership to seize power or that Al Qaeda won’t return from the ashes? No — and we never could.
     The U.S. went into Afghanistan with one thing in mind and that was payback. I’m not saying that we did not, in the short term, defend the U.S. from further terrorist attacks, but we did not go in with a plan beyond getting Al Qaeda and we certainly didn’t have a plan for a realistic withdrawal. We didn’t consider the tribal nature of the country, the ethnic divisions, or what the people of Afghanistan wanted. Democracy is not a concept you just drop on people and expect them to embrace or accept. And to think that the country of Afghanistan will turn out just the way the U.S. wants it to is the height of arrogance and foolishness.
     If our involvement in Afghanistan makes countries take a harder look at the activities of militant groups or makes the lives of women better in these places where they are denigrated or severely abused, then we have done some good. But can we guarantee even these remedies will persist? No. But to say we “lost” is no more true than to say we “won”. We simply have done what we could reasonably do and now it is long overdue for us to leave. The future is in the hands of the people of Afghanistan.

Ruminations of a Right-Wing Recidivist Reactionary – An Ode to Idiots

I wonder what they’re eating in Somalia
I wonder if they pick the sand out of their food
I wonder if they would mind if we crash the party
I wonder if they would think we’re being rude.

I hear the bullets are flying in Somalia
I hear there are a lot of pirates, too
I think it’s time we moved to Somalia
I think it’s time to show them what we can do

‘Cause they reelected a commie in America
And he’s a Muslim and a socialist, too
And he’s gonna drive this country to ruin
All the while still blaming you-know-who

Some call for secession here in America
Some call for a recount for voter fraud
Some call to reclaim our country
In the name of the Christian God

They want to take our religion in America
They want to take all of our guns, too
Well, I’m gonna take my guns to Somalia
And we’re gonna make that country new.

‘Cause the people have spoken here in America
They can’t see the upcoming demise, I fear
So I’m gonna make a new life in Somalia
Before they turn it into Somalia here

©2012 James Montgomery

Eventually, Somebody Has To Say Something!

I’ve written about what I call CorporateSpeak in other blogs.  I may resurrect that discussion when the mood arises, but what I’m annoyed about is a similar concept that has to do with marketing campaigns that use dumb, stilted tag lines.  This may not seem like an earth-shattering dilemma (it’s not), but it keeps popping up and it’s really getting on my nerves!  I’ll explain:

Now, when I was in elementary school, the common example used to describe the use of poor grammar in advertising was the old Winston cigarette tag line, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”  Of course, as a kid, I could imagine a bunch of octogenarian professors in their black robes – they always have to wear the robes – having apoplectic fits over the use of the word like rather than the proper as.  Also, as a kid, I summarily dismissed this as I knew what they meant and who cares about cigarette ads anyway?  And some how, some way, that type of thinking has gotten us to where we are today.  But I digress (which, considering the title for my little rant factory here, I should do, but I really should get back to the subject at hand.)

There has always been an element in advertising and business where incorrect English or spelling is used to attract attention.  When I was growing up, the Winn-Dixie grocery chain was joined at the hip by another name, Kwik-Chek.  The store brand soda pop was named Chek and had a little check mark in with the phonetic spelling.  In my kid-mind, I understood what they were doing and why they were doing it, but it all came off to me as a cheap and tawdry stunt because they spelled the word incorrectly.  This sounds like the genesis of a Grammar Nazi, huh?  Nevertheless, that feeling of disdain I had for that brand and for that store, by extension, is something I haven’t been able to shake to this day and I really don’t care to do so.

So where is this all going?  Without doing any real research into the matter, the first campaign I recall that used the “bad grammar” theme was Apple: Think Different.  I don’t know if it can truly be called a theme because I don’t know that the agency responsible for that actually knows that it’s wrong!  Regardless, the correct phrase is Think Differently. The explanation, for the grammarians and non-believers out there: “different” is an adjective, it has to have a word to modify and the verb think isn’t it.  However, if you change it’s form to “differently” then you have a modifier – an adverb – that works with the verb.  Anyway, I always felt sorry for old Albert Einstein as he looked miserable being on Apple’s signage with this obvious grammatical mistake – and I don’t recall anyone pointing out the error.  I am a lifelong Apple user and to see what I consider to be the greatest computer products available advertised with such stupidity was depressing.  I bought their products, regardless, because the ads weren’t going to influence my decision-making anyway.

Probably because of the success of the Apple campaign, this bad grammar tagline garbage hasn’t stopped.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the subsequent campaigns were designed to deliberately use bad grammar because Apple’s success has been so phenomenal (never mind the actual products or any of that real-world stuff).  So in the midst of the manifestation of the whole insipid “re-” marketing meme – rethink, reboot, reimagine, etc. – we have AT&T stepping up to the plate of desperately dumb ideas and producing Rethink Possible.  I singularly hate this more than the others I will mention because, as far as I’m concerned, AT&T is a dogshit company.  But the phrase is so stilted and clunky and doesn’t really SAY anything!  If you want it to be correct, then it has to say Rethink What’s Possible or something to that effect.  I know that’s what they are trying to say, but it’s just so damn ham-handed; it’s not clever, it’s trying too hard to be clever.

So, not to be outdone, my constant nemesis, the former Sci-Fi Channel, Syfy (which is a whole diatribe in itself) comes up with another example of this “bad grammar” theme by attempting a call-to-action to redefine the meaning of an adjective: Imagine Greater.  Again, it doesn’t say anything, but we’re supposed to waste time doing the mental gymnastics of imagining what “greater” could actually be?  Perhaps, we’re supposed to heighten the level of our imagining, as if that is some kind of quantifiable state.  Stupid and hyperbolic.  How about some shows that aren’t an intellectual embarrassment?  How about change the name back to the Sci-Fi Channel and concentrate on some honest-to-goodness science fiction?  That would be “greater”!

Ahem… back to my topic.

So, as a subscriber to Time-Warner (whether I like it or not), I now am at the mercy of their endless ads and the vapid tagline: Enjoy Better.  I’ll tell you what’s not “better” and that is the grasping attempt to follow in the footsteps of these other national ad campaigns.  This phrase has all the failings of the Syfy and AT&T taglines and is, in some ways, worse because it’s such an obvious rip-off of the concept they used.  And while we’re talking about “better”, I just discovered a new campaign by U.S. Cellular: Hello Better.  People are singing in the ads and it’s just awful.  Again, bad idea that is an obvious copycat.

With the whole “perception is reality” lie they tell themselves, have they convinced themselves there are no original ideas, so they aren’t even going to try?  I’ve worked around sales and marketing all my professional life and I understand that it’s a hard thing to win an account from companies who put perhaps more faith in advertising than is warranted, but that’s no excuse – ever – for the dreck I’m talking about here.  Here’s a concept for all the nimrods in charge of these ad campaigns: Expect Better.  I do and it’s a proper phrase you would really find in English.

It’s bad enough to have to listen to Neanderthals in suits rattle on about “innovation” and “rethinking” and “repurposing”, but for the money agencies get paid, I’d appreciate an effort to, at least, act as if somebody in ad land knows how to use the English language!  These campaigns – and, I cringe to think there will be more – are not smart nor are they clever.  I’m sorry, but somebody had to say it.