Friday, June 23, 2017

1811 The Last American Conglomerate

ITT, Gulf + Western, Time-Warner, Lowes theaters/tobacco, Ling-Temco.

These are school conglomerates that either have vanished or exist only as anorexics of their former selves.  There’s only one real publicly traded conglomerate still standing.

Oh, yeah.  You can make the case for Berkshire Hathaway as a conglomerate or Liberty Media or maybe even Con-cast.  But these are more narrowly focused or more investors than managers.

GE is a real honest and true mega corporation with its tungsten filaments in practically everything.

It doesn’t have the star quality it had under retired chairman Neutron Jack Welch, the hottest stock pumper of the late 20th century.  The stock price has fallen from the upper middle 60s to the upper 20s. In a booming stock market.

The ride down began when Welch came up with the astonishing conclusion that “We’re not a conglomerate.  We’re an information company.” (That may not be an exact quote, but it’s close.)

The hydra that is Wall Street looked itself in the heads and said “Yo, Jack! Are you kidding? What about the jet engines and the financial services, the plastics, the medical equipment, the large and small appliances and the lightbulbs?”  And that IS an exact quote.  

Jeff Immelt took the helm.  He has to wear reflective clothing when he walks around headquarters in Fairfield because otherwise, no one would notice him.

Other than he’s moving the front office to Massachusetts and now has said he would step down as chairman after a mere 16 years he could well be the Invisible Man.

Trouble in River City?  Hard to tell.  This creaky old outfit, the last remaining original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, isn’t going to go away because Immelt leaves as CEO in a few weeks and as chairman in December. But neither is it going to return to bringing “good things to life,” as their ads once said.

It’s hard to measure the impact of management in a company as hide bound as this one.  But apparently the Hydra Head crowd likes the change. The stock closed slightly higher on the day of the announcement.

The new guy, John Flannery, now head of the medical equipment division will have the same autonomy as Immelt and Welch.  Absolute Maximum Leader.

But don’t expect him to reclaim some of the spun off divisions.  GE Capital is not coming back.  They’re not going to pry NBC out of the cold dead hand of Comcast.  And they haven’t made a nuclear reactor in a dog’s age.

Light bulb making will not move back to Schenectady.  They won’t resume building radios.

For old time’s sake let’s hope Flannery gets record setting crowds at his inauguration.  Or admits he didn’t if he doesn’t.

-“I was chairman for two days. airplane with my engines hit a building I insured, was covered by a network I owned and I still have to increase earnings by 11%.” - Jeff Immelt on what it’s like to head GE.

-“...Weak managers destroy jobs.” - Jack Welch

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

1810 No Thanks, Mr. President

Vacancy. We’ll leave the light on for you.

D.J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Apartment Residence 1
Washington DC 20500

Mr. President,

Thank you for the kind invitation, but I am unable to serve as your Press Secretary.  I’m sure you will find an able candidate as you move Sean Spicer up the ladder to Communications Director. And I’m honored to have been considered for this important post.

But I’m also puzzled.  What ever led you to ask me in the first place?  I mean I know we’re a couple of septuagenarians from Queens.  I know you like Long Islanders. You know, Hannity and Spicer.  But I can’t for the life of me figure out where you found me.

My resume is not on Careerbuilder and my LinkedIn account is way out of date.  Since Brian Williams went to cable, I can’t say I know a single soul in the White House press corps.

And yes, I’ve spent a lot of years manufacturing fake news, so I know it when I see it.  So what’s the story? Did my kids maybe put you up to it?  Or some boss who hated me but couldn’t fire me because I was his boss’s fishing buddy?

Maybe it’s because my maternal grandparents came here from Russia or maybe Ukraine and you want to keep that connection going? (I do play a mean balalaika and drink a little more than my share of vodka.  But I hate borscht, so one cancels out the other.)

Oh! I know. It’s my lifelong support of the religion of capitalism that caught your eye.  No, wait.  That’s not possible.

There’s just so much wrong here.  I voted for Crooked Hillary. I have friends from Iran. I speak Spanish, sort of. I just don’t understand why you asked.

And that second phone call just before dawn this morning? And the third one a few minutes ago?  That’s not like you. It’s almost stalking!

In my world, Mr. President, no means no.  But let me propose a deal, since deals are what you’re famous for.  

You stop calling me. And in return, I’ll forward you Ron Nessen’s cell number. He’s a registered Republican.  He’s held the job before, albeit for that Rino Jerry Ford and he’s probably bored now that he has no one to crank at and boss around.

If you act fast, I’ll throw in a bonus: Kim Kardashian’s private email.  That’s gotta be worth something.

Good luck in your search.

--If you’re surprised that the Republican won in the Georgia special congressional election, maybe you shouldn’t be.  Republicans in red states are as dear to the masses as cotton, peanuts, tobacco and pecan pie.  And it doesn’t matter what the polls said might happen.

--Stiff upper lift department.  Queen Elizabeth addressed parliament about legislative priorities even though her husband, Prince Philip, 96, landed in the hospital at about the same time.  She spoke seated for more than ten minutes, urging sanity such as is possible in Brexit and continued funding for her country’s universal health care system.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, June 19, 2017

1809 Megan and Alex UPDATE 1

Megan Kelly (l) attempts to bring down Alex Jones.
Fox News composite. Ratings figures below

Somewhere in the great beyond, Uncle Miltie and David Brinkley are laughing. Finally -- finally! -- NBC has made a personnel mistake more bone headed than theirs.

They paid Milton Berle 27 of the 30 year contract to do absolutely nothing.  They couldn’t agree on a contract with the “washed up” Brinkley thus losing him to ABC where he re-invented Sundays.

Now they have to figure out what to do with the Ultimate Kelly Girl.  Oh, wait. Megan Kelly has an actual contract, not one of those temp things they used to like to do at NBC.

And they’ve aimed her at CBS’ 60 Minutes, which is the number one-watched news show in America today and maybe in the history of TV news.  This is going after an armored personnel carrier with a water pistol.

She proved she’s not ready for prime time by playing softball with Vladimir Putin, who immediately took control of his interview and said nothing. Maybe Vlad should offer her political asylum as he did to Jim Comey.

And then, there was last night. The “big” interview with Alex Jones who deserves less air time than your hyperactive Yorkshire Terrier.

With who?  Alex Jones, the guy who has a radio show and a website with such intriguing nonsense as denying the The Newtown school slaughter and “9/11 was an inside job.”

In other words an out of control conspiracy theorist who makes the 45th President of the United States look stable, a feat previously believed impossible.

She was gonna git him. She was gonna show America what a horror he is.  What she did was make the 290,000,000 Americans who never heard of Jones hear of Jones.

NBC had been flogging the interview all week. But by the time it hit air at 7 eastern last evening, it had been turned into a short piece filled with nonsensical narration and a few minutes of Jones bloviating about… well, it was hard to tell just what.

Cooler heads prevailed. The news division took its latest megastar failure and turned it into something close to an actual report.  At the last minute, as the clock was grinding toward air time, they made a very very very long news item out of it instead of the outing of a monster in his own words.

Either version of the program would have been unacceptable.  Bring on the Yorkie to bark for an hour.  More people will learn something valuable from that.

Jones is an early stage malignant melanoma. The way you get rid of those is not to let it grow on your nose or your arm until everyone can see it in all its ugliness, but to cut it out and then get regular checkups.

Kelly fled Fox but not before her late joining of the chorus that rightly got rid of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.  (Late, but not too late to get some ink.) And NBC hired her.

Big publicity about Megan. Big publicity about Putin (would he admit his fingers were on keyboards that were supposed to be reserved for American election workers? Of course not!)  And big publicity about the Jones freak show. (Step right up folks and watch a monster commit professional suicide before your eyes!)

Then there’s the internals.  NBC bumped some heavy hitters to make budget space for Kelly.  And those left un-bumped can be resentful.  When your coworkers resent you they can do terrible damage, which is why they will quietly elevate Kelly down to some prime spot on some shopping or home improvement channel which is where she belongs.

UPDATE: The Kelly hour scored 3.5 million viewers compared with 5.3 million for CBS' 60 minutes.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, June 16, 2017

1808 Hot Enough for You?

Here’s hoping this week was the trailer and the movie will be less exciting.  Hollywood crams all the best stuff in the preview.  Then you see the film and you realize you’ve already seen the only parts worth seeing.

What does this all have to do with heat? Nothing.  At least not the kind you experience when you’re outside in summer.  This is a different kind of heat.

They had a little fire at a high rise in London.  Late reports say the death toll may rise above 100 and some of the victims may never be identified.

As the work week wound down, a UPS driver, Jimmy Lam, shot and killed three coworkers and then himself in San Francisco and no one yet knows why.

And then there’s Steve Scalise.

He’s going to be in the hospital “for some time,” his doctors say. Scalise is the third ranking member of the leadership in the house of representatives, the Republican “whip.” He was shot during baseball practice across the river from Washington in Virginia.

The events, of course, are unrelated. But they all seemed to hit at once.

A nut job with a long gun shot and wounded a bunch of people who he considered hate worthy.  

This time it wasn’t a white right wing kid with a chip on his shoulder who slipped into a church and killed a people because they were black.  This wasn’t a couple of high school misfits who fired on their classmates because they could. This wasn’t ISIS at a dance club

This was a left wing guy who hated republicans for being republicans. Irrational hatred is irrational hatred no matter the politics or age of the shooter or the nature of the target.

As of this writing, congressman Scalise remains in critical condition.  He’s had at least two surgeries, maybe more -- and maybe more to come.

Whips don’t make much news. Their jobs are more behind the scenes.

It’s probably fair to say there’s a good chance you never heard of Scalise until he took a bullet.

Now, we’re hearing calls for unity coming from every corner.  And that’s what we should be hearing and thinking.  

It’s what we hear and often what we do whenever something big and awful happens.  We forget our differences, at least temporarily. And we become a nation.  We embrace those we disdained yesterday.

But it fades quickly.

Just think of how much we could get done as a nation if we didn’t let it fade.
--Democrats won the charity baseball game 11-2 and lead the series 40-39 with one tie. Technically, you can’t tie a baseball game. But you don’t expect members of congress to play extra innings, do you?

-“We’re all Team Scalise.” Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

1807 A Tale of Two Presidents

The whole Trump controversy is about policies only to the point they frame the situation.  It doesn't matter what he says, it doesn't even much matter what he does.  It's what he IS that's troubling.

He could be advocating redistribution of the incomes above one million dollars.  He could be advocating unlimited access of Mexicans and Muslims.  He could raise taxes. Doesn't matter.  The reaction to trump, positive or negative is visceral.

You can unwind that to a point. The angry white men have reason to be angry.  The environmentalists have reason to be angry.  But as the song title says ... it ain't what you say, it's how you say it.

And everything Trump and his lackeys say has this smarminess about it.  He looks, sounds and gestures like a perpetual liar.  He looks, sounds and gestures like someone with something to hide.  Both probably are true.  But even the truth doesn't matter.  In this, perception is reality.

You can find examples every day.  You KNOW he wants to fire the special prosecutor and probably badly enough to throw Sessions under the bus.

People here tend to forgive easily.  More about that later.

But what we don't forgive is being treated like fools even if we ARE fools, at least for the moment.  And what we don't forgive is anyone who damages our highfalutin' international reputation even though there are times we don't deserve anything above  C+ or B- for falutin.

We want our presidents to be people we can respect. We had no one like that in the 2016 election.

"Character" is like porn. It's hard to define, but we know it when we see it.  We also notice when it's missing. And Trump and the people surrounding him don't deserve it, haven’t earned it, evidently can't earn it.  Same goes to the Republican leadership in congress.

Now about "easily forgiven."

There was a video on facebook of Jimmy Carter the other day. He was shaking the hand of every fellow passenger on his flight from Atlanta to Washington.

It looks like a campaign appearance.  But Carter is 92 years old and unlikely to run for anything. Plus, he has the best job in the world: Ex-president of the US.  Plenty of perks, plenty of money and especially since his cancer scare, plenty of affection and respect.  Deserved, I think.

Now why would a guy like that campaign on a plane?  Think of it this way.  An ex-president is on your flight or sitting at a booth at the local eatery.  You do a double take.  Gee, that guy sure looks like (Carter) (Bush) (the other Bush) (Clinton) (Obama.)  

Soon the joint is buzzing.  Some people want to approach him. Some wonder why he's there.  By getting out of his seat and moving in the aisles, Carter deftly took  everyone off the hook.  Hi, I'm Jimmy Carter, and I just wanted to drop by your seat and say hello.

After that, everyone can go back to his in-flight magazine, the movie or the nap and later gets some bragging rights. You know who was on my flight?  Can you beat that! He stopped by and said hello to everyone.  And after that, no one on the flight bothered him. He was free to read HIS in-flight magazine undisturbed.

I didn't like candidate Carter in 1976.   I thought Ford deserved a chance to help heal the country after Watergate. I ignored his glaring shortcomings and voted for him.

By 1980, it was "oh my God," Reagan's going to win. That can't be good for the country. So I voted for Carter.

Since then, I've disagreed strongly on his bashing of Israel. But other than that, I see him as someone to respect, maybe even like.  A completely unimposing guy with a good brain and the right ideas about most everything but the Middle East.

When he was diagnosed with cancer and gave that moving talk about the end of his life, I thought maybe I had the wrong idea about this guy. Not that it mattered. Not that my slow movement toward him means anything.  But I'm sure I'm not alone.

So I left a comment on the video that I didn't care whether he was 210 years old, I'm voting for him for a second term in 2020.

To see the video, with credit to the photographer, scroll down on this page

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Monday, June 12, 2017

1806 That's Not Rain on Your Shoes

Adler-Jung-Freud archive photo

The right wing in this country is drowning in a sea of irrational exuberance and false comparisons.

They should put IE in the DSM.  Wait. That’s gibberish from Jargonia. They should put Irrational Exuberance in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders, the book the shrinks rely on to overbill the cuckoo department of your soon-to-die health insurance.

The phrase itself is the creation of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. It describes what he saw as a bubble in dot coms.  But it can apply elsewhere, too.

When someone points out one of the failings of The Leader of the Free World, someone is sure to come up with “oh, but Obama did this” and “Hillary did that.”

What does that mean?  It means Trump’s okay and compares favorably to the fallen idols, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

C’mon.  How does that mitigate the outrageous Banana Republican nonsense that started with Goldwater and now has been distorted into the Tea Party… a name we don’t hear often nowadays, but still it lurks.

The White House sleight of hand department has been working overtime to divert our attention to the president’s disastrous disrobing at the Comey hearings.  It’s infrastructure week, Kellyann Conway reminds us.  The president has been all over the map pushing for better roads and bridges and golf courses. (Well, he may not have mentioned golf courses.)

Can you name one thing Conway said about that? Of course not.  No one listens to her and no one should. But you remember what Comey said because it means something.

Meantime, the Congressional Sleight of Hand Caucus has retreated into secrecy, planning its next move so that it can look like a deliberative body while still accomplishing the goal of the executive branch which is to deprive you of medical coverage and keep you so busy trying to make ends meet and so tired from trying that you don’t see Paul Ryan palm the 50 cent piece and then pretend to pull it out of Orin Hatch’s ear.

Digression: When you press and hold the Alt key and press the right arrow on your computer keyboard, do you know what happens?  Absolutely nothing.  There’s a message in that.

But the alt right media is busy trying to take everything ridiculous about Trump/Russia and turning it into victory.

Reminds one of the old saw “don’t pee on my shoes and then tell me it’s raining.”

-“ is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor." Associate Justice Potter Stewart concurring with the unanimous Supreme Court decision that Richard and Mildred Loving of Virginia were illegally imprisoned for marrying each other.  Richard was white, Mildred was black.  The decision was made on this day, 6/12/1967, only 50 years ago.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®  Also, my shoes are wet… it must be raining.
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Friday, June 09, 2017

1805 Trumped

Pilgrim State Hospital Historical Society photo.

Do not believe the fake news reports.  There is no firm evidence that during the President’s nine day overseas trip, Ivanka brought in a crew of decorators who padded the Oval Office.

We’ve all had terrible bosses, but would you take a job in this White House?  Only if it were unionized and with a solid history of favorably resolving grievances.

No one wants to work here. No one wants to be embarrassed and/or humiliated in tweets.  No one wants to sign a loyalty oath especially if it works in only one direction.

You have to wonder what things are like when one of the president’s earliest backers, Jeff Sessions, rewarded with a job as Attorney General, offers to quit rather than risk the long history of his office’s independence from any president.

The president has stuck his nose in where it doesn’t belong with comments on the London bombing, NATO, the Middle East, Qatar, the offices of successful federal prosecutors to name only the last few.  

Governor Moonbeam of California has become the defacto head of climate change policy.

Expect more of that.  

Trump also puts staff members in the doghouse. Priebus, Bannon, Spicer, even his son in law Jared the (formerly) untouchable. So far, he’s okay with Ivanka.  But that’s probably because she knows too much and may be the only person in nepotism land who doesn’t fear him.

Now, about that padding:  There’s deep concern that when the president runs out of others to turn against, he will turn against himself.  Maybe that’s an overstatement. Maybe it should be “there’s deep concern that when he runs out of others to turn against he will turn further against himself.”

Has there ever been a more self destructive president?  Has there ever been one less able to think critically?  Or think in a straight line?  Or control his motor mouth and -- in this case -- his motor tweeting fingers? Covfefe.

There are only two ways to get this guy headed for a life on the golf course: locking the padded oval office or sabotage by his own staff.

This space has been critical of every president since Eisenhower. But each of them has had some saving grace, if only minor.

Ike proved we can go eight years without a president. But he was the right choice in a post war America that was getting back on its feet. And he built a great highway system.

By the time Kennedy was murdered, he was held in such low esteem by members of the national legislative body that he couldn’t get “cross at the green and not in between” approved. But he was a breath of fresh air for many of the rest of us.

Johnson was a war monger but he managed to get some of Kennedy’s social programs into law and added some of his own.

Nixon?  Where can we even begin about Nixon?  But he opened China and created the EPA.

Ford: An economic amateur but a healer. WIN: “Whip Inflation Now.”  And he toasted his own breakfast muffins.

Carter: Fear of giant rabbits and lusting in one’s heart. Anti Israel, but in his later years gained the love and trust of even the people who voted for …

Reagan.  He tried to take us back to an era that never was.  Now he’s a saint who probably could not win an election today because he was too liberal.

Bush 41 inflicted Quayle on the rest of us but was so vanilla no one much cared. Or noticed.

Clinton lied under oath, though it was an oath he never should have had to take. The economy boomed.

Bush 43: Cheney, mission accomplished and “good job, Brownie.” But at least he was a fun guy.

Obama?  Who can forgive “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

And now there’s Baby Huey.  A complete nitwit with a well deserved and accurate inferiority complex, someone who does not know what he doesn’t know. One who is turning this once great nation into a laughing stock and flitting around like a firefly in a Glad Wrap covered water glass, blinking at imaginary enemies and ignoring real ones both in and out of his skeleton staff.

-Google Docs spell check recognizes "Covfefe" as a word but Microsoft Word does not.

-Comey put Trump through the shredder by standing up fearlessly for what’s right and making the president look as small as he is in comparison.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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