Thursday, December 31, 2009

This, That and the Other Thing

I don’t remember my dreams. Apart from providing a haunting metaphor, it’s also true. I could be in bed scaling the summit of sexual ecstasy with Megan Fox and I wouldn’t recall it. It’s sleep-induced amnesia.

But last night was different. Not surprisingly, I dreamt of work. I was in a meeting room, seated at a conference table. I was new to the company. The air was thick with stress. Every time the faceless leader said something, a different co-worker leaned over and whispered something bitter and contradictory in my ear.

The meeting was grid-locked. The harder management pressed for resolution, the more staunch the employee opposition. Yet when the leader called for a vote, the vote was unanimous. It was disturbing; I felt trapped by the employee’s public agreement and their private dissent.

It's the usual propaganda about speaking freely and the unwritten rules about never, ever doing so. Work in a nutshell. A head-on collision of colliding contradictions.

Then there’s the Christmas Day terrorist fiasco over Detroit. Republicans have seized it as another opportunity to plant the seeds of fear in our always-receptive soil. Democrats can only issue a wobbly, off-target response about it being proof that ‘the system works’.

If you say so.

Lost in the fumbling and the fear-mongering is the fact the kid didn’t board the plane in the United States! But by all means, let’s re-invent the wheel. When we’re done running around shrieking, I mean.

I’m in complete agreement with a recent Time magazine cover story calling this the worst decade ever. It certainly is the worst I’ve experienced. I’ll be the first in line to give this decade (and this year) a good, hard kick in the ass tonight. Good fucking riddance!

And a good fucking New Year to you all. We need it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Had a Dream

A man walks into an office. He approaches the reception desk. The receptionist looks up.

Receptionist: Good morning. Can I help you?

Ben Nelson: Morning. I'm here to see Mr. Kisser. I have an appointment.

Receptionist: Okay. Have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.

Nelson: Thank you.

A few minutes pass. Kisser walks into the reception area.

John Kisser: Good morning. You must be Ben Nelson.

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: John Kisser. Nice to meet you. Follow me.

The two men go to Kisser's office. Kisser closes the door.

Kisser: Okay. So. You’re here to interview for the position of department head with BeigeCare. Is that correct?

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

Nelson: Well, I’ve spent most of my career in public service. After graduating from law school, I got into the insurance biz. Made a ton of money, but it didn’t satisfy me. I just didn’t feel in control. I was too short to be a cop, so I ran for office. (Laughs) Started out as Governor in ’90. Gotta start somewhere y’know. Pay your dues. (Chuckles) I just kept moving up the chain. My most-recent position was as U.S. Senator from the great state of Nebraska.

Kisser: Really. That must have been fascinating.

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why did you leave?

Nelson coughs and shifts in his chair.

Nelson: Well, um, it was a bad fit. The opportunities for advancement were very limited. It was time to move on.

Kisser: I see. So now you’re interested in family planning and reproductive rights?

Nelson: Yes.

Kisser: Why BeigeCare? I mean, after being a senator, I would think this would seem awfully…boring.

Nelson: You pay, right? (Nervous laughter)

Kisser: Of course. What are your qualifications?

Nelson: Well, I headed a staff of fourteen as a senator, and coordinated numerous state-wide campaigns. I spearheaded the effort to water-down and derail health care. I’m a consensus-builder. I get things done.

Kisser: Tell me what kind of consensuses you built.

Nelson: Um, the conserva-Dem effort to stop the government take-over of our health care system.

Kisser: And what about your experience as a campaign coordinator?

Nelson: I ran for office four times. Twice for governor. Twice for the senate. Never lost.

Kisser: I want to find out what your role as a coordinator was. How you pulled things together and got them off the ground.

Nelson: I was the candidate!

Kisser: Yes, but tell me what you did.

Nelson: I gave the speeches. Made the public appearances. Kissed the babies. You ever shake two-thousand hands in a day?

Kisser: Can't say that I have. Why don't you tell me about your staff.

Nelson: Well, my campaign manager hired them. But I made the actual policy decisions. I was the one who actually voted in the senate.

Kisser: On the advice of your staff?

Nelson: Well, yeah. That’s how it works. We all have advisors. Consultants. But I delegated. I took care of the big picture, and had my staff deal with the little stuff. The details.

Kisser: Like policy?

Nelson: Yeah. No! No one tells me what to do!

Kisser looks down at his desk.

Kisser: To be frank, Mr. Nelson, I have some concerns.

Nelson: About what?

Kisser: Your ability to function as a department head within the larger scope of an organization.

Nelson: But I’m a consensus-builder! It says so on my web site!

Kisser: Yes but…

Nelson: Look. Say the U.S. is a company. And every state is a department. Being a U.S. senator is just like being a department head! I was the department head of…Nebraska. Dammit! I built consensuses! I took care of my department! I provided for my constituents!

Kisser: Yes. At the expense of the rest of the country.

Nelson: They could afford it! I needed to take care of the people who got me elected!

Kisser: You mean the people who financed your campaign?

Nelson: Same difference!

Kisser: But Mr. Nelson, this is business—not politics. You can’t just screw the rest of the company so your department benefits. We operate on a finite budget. Money is limited. You could jeopardize the entire company. BeigeCare places a premium on its employees being team players. And I just don’t see that in you. I’m sorry.

Nelson: What do you mean? I was a great team player—for the team of Nebraska! You’re just looking at it wrong!

Kisser: Mr. Nelson, let’s be honest with each other. You didn’t leave the senate because of a lack of “advancement opportunities”. You were censured. You were stripped of your committee chairs and kept out of the loop until the voters of Nebraska demanded you be recalled. You were powerless. (Kisser stands up—agitated.) You couldn’t pass gas, much less legislation. You were a lame duck, or better yet—a limp dick—of a senator who didn’t have a prayer of being re-elected. You’re the Democrats’ answer to Jim DeMint, only they never asked the fucking question! Team player? Don't make me laugh! Only on team Ben! You don’t know fuck about being a team player!

Kisser leans over and gets very near Nelson's face.

Kisser: Mr. Nelson, you disgust me. If anyone ever looks up to you again, I hope it's because you're hanging from a tree.

Nelson slumps in his seat.

Nelson: What am I supposed to do?

Kisser: You have a great talent for extortion, Mr. Nelson. Here’s my advice: why don’t you hit the streets and tell people you’ll stand near them unless they give you money. As I see it, the stench of your company is about the only leverage you have left.

An alarm clock rings. A groggy man reaches for the off button and wipes his eyes. He is no longer sleeping.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ideas from Outside the Box

How ironic is it that I, a confirmed business-hater, would think of an idea that could save General Motors?

It came to me as I was reading the obit for Saab yesterday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the latest in a string of GM-related murders. It follows the deaths of Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn, and unsuccessful attempts on Opel and Hummer.

GM bought a fifty-percent interest in Saab for $600 million in 1989. Eleven years later, it purchased the remaining half for $125 million. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but by my reckoning this begs a question: why was the second half 79.1 percent cheaper than the first? Frequent-buyer miles?

Or does GM have one of those preferred customer keyring tags you get from the supermarket?

I'm betting the only time you get 80 percent off is on really junky Christmas cards after New Year’s Day. So how does GM get 80 percent off on the asking price of a viable car manufacturer with a distinguished history and a passionate following?

Just for the sake of argument, let’s take it on the word of car enthusiasts that GM wrecked the brand. Smoothed-out every irregular personality trait until Ashley Simpson resembled one of Hugh Hefner’s plastic surgery Barbies. Took what had been a quirky, much-loved automobile and spread-sheeted it into perfect Buick blandness.

What if?

And therein lies GM’s salvation. So ironic. And so true. Its own ineptness, its bloated culture of bureaucracy and accountants and design by committee which insures that any trace of personality is ironed out of each and every automobile could save its ass.

GM wants to survive? All it needs to do is buy the competition.

Buy Toyota. Buy Ford. And buy Honda. Within eleven years, all will be wheezing shadows of their former selves. Uninspired sheetmetal resting on outdated platforms. Of course, past performance is never a guarantee of future results, but the odds look pretty good.

My bill is in the mail.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Joe Letter

I sent the following letter to Senator Joe Lieberman this morning. You can write him too, at We forget that senators are people very vulnerable to public opinion. Tounge-in-cheek or serious-as-a-heart attack, it's important that we express how we feel.

Give it a try. Please?

December 18, 2009

Dear Senator Lieberman,

I’m kind of new at this ‘pay-to-play’ stuff, and have some questions:

First of all, how much does it cost? Secondly, do you prefer cash or check? And if the latter, do you have a numbered bank account in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland or the Isle of Man you would like that check deposited in?

Also, where do you enjoy playing golf most? Hawaii? The Caribbean? Scotland? Do you prefer your wife accompany you when you play, or in the gentlemen-only-ladies-forbidden tradition of the sport, do you prefer to quote-unquote ‘go it alone’?

And if that is your preference, do you prefer blondes, brunettes or redheads?

How do you feel about vacation homes? What are your favorite locales? Do you like custom-built or existing?

Finally, do I get a guarantee? And how long do I have to wait?

I mean, do you change positions immediately, or do you like to gradually implement your shift on a particular issue like you did with filibusters?

Okay. That’s about it for now. Please respond ASAP. I think Obama’s serious about this ‘by Christmas’ thing.

Best Regards,

La Piazza Gancio

Some Motown, Reconsidered

Like all pop music labels of the day, Motown was one predicated on the success of its singles. Albums were an afterthought, especially in the early and mid-sixties. Pick-up a Motown album from that era and you’ll find a featured single or two and lots of covers—usually of songs published by Berry Gordy, Jr.

Gordy was a businessman first and foremost, and he knew the real money in the music biz lay in publishing. It was nice to pick-up some cash from Martha & the Vandellas “Heat Wave”, but it was even nicer when the Supremes and Mary Wells recorded it and put it on their albums, too.

Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye eventually ushered Motown into the album age four years after Sgt. Pepper. Gaye’s 1971 classic What’s Going On and Wonder’s 1973 landmark Innervisions aligned Motown with the album-buying preferences of seventies consumers.

But even in the golden age of the hit single, a handful of worthy Motown albums were made. If you’re of a mind to, you will find these well-worth seeking out:

1.) The Temptations – The Temptin’ Temptations (1965) Unlike so many Motown albums of its era, there isn’t a cover—or a weak song—in the bunch. While none of the Temp’s best-remembered chart-toppers are on board, many of their most sublime are. "Since I Lost My Baby" is epic heartbreak. "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)" and "I’ll Be in Trouble" are just the sort of song craft Motown tossed-off so effortlessly in its prime. And "Don’t Look Back"'s understated groove sneaks up on you like a Crown Royal buzz. Which come to think of it, pretty much describes the entire album.

2.) The Four Tops – The Four Tops Second Album (1965) Levi Stubbs might have had the most recognizable voice at Motown. When he leaned into a lyric, it didn’t matter what kind of radio you were listening to it on. Everything he sang was instantly rendered into 70mm CinemaScope. Second Album sustained the career momentum begun with "Baby I Need Your Loving", providing the Tops with top five hits in "I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "It’s the Same Old Song". Songs like "Something about You" and "Helpless" come off the bench and elevate Second Album to minor classic status.

3.) Martha & the Vandellas – Dance Party (1965) Unlike label-mate Diana Ross, lead Vandella Martha Reeves wasn’t afraid to sweat—at least as much as image-conscious Motown would allow. Dance Party features the anthemic "Dancing in the Street" (check out the clarion call of that brass intro) and perhaps their second-greatest hit, the pulsing "Nowhere to Run". That it also contains the unappreciated proto funk of "Mobile Lil the Dancing Witch" is just a bonus. Not for the caffeine averse.

4.) The Temptations – Wish It Would Rain (1968) Anchored by another masterful Temps hit, Wish It Would Rain mirrors The Temptin’ Temptations in its array of ache and ecstasy. While the Supremes were Berry Gordy’s pet project, judging from the A-list material on Wish It Would Rain, the Temps were everyone else’s. There isn’t a ‘skip track’ in the bunch; just the sound of a band at their zenith, moving from strength to strength. Sadly, this was also beginning of the end. David Ruffin left during its recording after being refused his request to rename the band David Ruffin and the Temptations.

5.) Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed & Delivered (1970) Lost in the attention and the grammys awarded his later work was the fact that Stevie Wonder was an uncommonly gifted singer, player and arranger well before he released Talking Book. And here’s the proof. This is stuffed with resonant performances like "Never Had a Dream Come True", "Heaven Help Us All" and "Don’t Wonder Why". And when combined with the bracing strut of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)", it becomes a must-have. In more-fashionable words, this is Stevie on the verge of blowing up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keith Olbermann: Special Comment 12/16/09

I don't always agree with Keith Olbermann. He can be as stubborn and narrow-minded as the conservatives he loathes. But tonight, he offered the best analysis of the abyssal state of our government and of health care reform yet heard.

I hope you have a few minutes.

Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of H-R 35-90, the Senate Health Care Reform bill. To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: "I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war."

Last night on this program Howard Dean said that with the appeasement of Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut by the abandonment of the Medicare Buy-in, he could no longer support H-R 35-90. Dr. Dean's argument is informed, cogent, heart breaking, and unanswerable.

Seeking the least common denominator, Sen. Reid has found it, especially the "least" part. This is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform. I bless the Sherrod Browns and Ron Wydens and Jay Rockefellers and Sheldon Whitehouses and Anthony Weiners and all the others who have fought for real reform and I bleed for the pain inflicted upon them and their hopes. They have done their jobs and served their nation.

But through circumstances beyond their control, they are now seeking to reanimate a corpse killed by the Republicans, and by a political game played in the Senate and in the White House by men and women who have now proved themselves poorly equipped for the fight. The "men" of the current moment, have lost to the "mice" of history.

They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony. This bill, slowly bled to death by the political equivalent of the leeches that were once thought state-of-the-art-medicine, is now little more than a series of microscopically minor tweaks of a system which is the real-life, here-and-now version, of the malarkey of the Town Hallers. The American Insurance Cartel is the Death Panel, and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it. Nor even to satiate it.

It merely decrees that our underprivileged, our sick, our elderly, our middle class, can be fed into it, as human sacrifices to the great maw of corporate voraciousness, at a profit per victim of 10 cents on the dollar instead of the current 20. Even before the support columns of reform were knocked down, one by one, with the kind of passive defense that would embarrass a touch-football player - single-payer, the public option, the Medicare Buy-In - before they vanished, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the part of this bill that would require you to buy insurance unless you could prove you could not afford it, would cost a family of four with a household income of 54-thousand dollars a year, 17 percent of that income. Nine thousand dollars a year. Just for the insurance!

That was with a public option. That was with some kind of check on the insurance companies. That was before — as Howard Dean pointed out — the revelation that the cartel will still be able to charge older people more than others; will — at the least — now be able to charge much more, maybe 50 percent more, for people with pre-existing conditions — pre-existing conditions; you know, like being alive.

You have just agreed to purchase a product. If you do not, you will be breaking the law and subject to a fine. You have no control over how much you will pay for the product. The government will have virtually no control over how much the company will charge for the product. The product is designed like the Monty Python sketch about the insurance company's "Never-Pay" policy ... "which, you know, if you never claim — is very worthwhile. But you had to claim, and, well, there it is."

And who do we have to blame for this? There are enough villains to go around, men and women who, in a just world, would be the next to get sick and have to sell their homes or their memories or their futures — just to keep themselves alive, just to keep their children alive, against the implacable enemy of American society, the insurance cartel. Mr. Grassley of Iowa has lied, and fomented panic and fear. Mr. DeMint of South Carolina has forgotten he represents people, and not just a political party. Mr. Baucus of Montana has operated as a virtual agent for the industry he is charged with regulating. Mr. Nelson of Nebraska has not only derailed reform, he has tried to exploit it to overturn a Supreme Court decision that, in this context, is frankly none of his goddamned business.

They say they have done what they have done for the most important, the most fiscally prudent, the most gloriously phrased, the most inescapable of reasons. But mostly they have done it for the money. Lots and lots of money from the insurance companies and the pharmacological companies and the other health care companies who have slowly taken this country over.

Which brings us to Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, the one man at the center of this farcical perversion of what a government is supposed to be. Out of pique, out of revenge, out of betrayal of his earlier wiser saner self, he has sold untold hundreds of thousands of us into pain and fear and privation and slavery — for money. He has been bought and sold by the insurance lobby. He has become a Senatorial prostitute. And sadly, the President has not provided the leadership his office demands.

He has badly misjudged the country's mood at all ends of the spectrum. There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir. There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out.

Mr. President, the line between "compromise" and "compromised" is an incredibly fine one. Any reform bill enrages the right, and provides it with the war cry around which it will rally its mindless legions in the midterms and in '12. But this Republican knee-jerk inflexibility provides an incredible opportunity to you, Sir, and an incredible license.

On April 6th 2003, I was approached by two drunken young men at a baseball game. One of them started to ask for an autograph. The other stopped him by shouting "Screw him, he's a liberal." This program had been on the air for three weeks. It had to that point consisted entirely of brief introductions to correspondents in Iraq or to military analysts. There had been no criticism, no political analysis, no commentary. I had not covered news full-time for more than four years. I could not fathom on what factual basis, I was being called a "liberal," let alone being sworn at for being such.

Only later did it dawn on me that it didn't matter why, and it didn't matter that they were doing it — it only mattered that if I was going to be mindlessly criticized for anything, the reaction would be identical whether I did nothing that engendered it, or stood for something that engendered it.

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist. You could be further to the right than Reagan - and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, sure invites the comparison. And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliché goes, something to cry about.

But concomitant with that is the reaction from Democrats and Independents. You have riven them, Sir. Any bill will engender criticism but this bill costs you the left — and anybody who now has to pony up 17 percent of his family's income to buy this equivalent of Medical Mobster Protection Money.

Some speaking for you, Sir, have called the public option a fetish. They may be right. But to stay with this uncomfortable language, this bill is less fetish, more bondage. Nothing short of your re-election and the re-election of dozens of Democrats in the house and senate, hinges in large part on this bill. Make it palatable or make it go away or make yourself ready — not merely for a horrifying campaign in 2012 — but for the distinct possibility also of a primary challenge.

Befitting the season, Sir, these are not the shadows of the things that will be, but the shadows of the things that may be. But at this point, Mr. President, only you can make certain of that. There is only one redemption possible. The mandate in this bill under which we are required to buy insurance must be stripped out.

The bill now is little more than a legally mandated delivery of the middle class (and those whose dreams of joining it slip ever further away) into a kind of Chicago stockyards of insurance. Make enough money to take care of yourself and your family and you must buy insurance — on the insurers terms — or face a fine.

This provision must go. It is, above all else, immoral and a betrayal of the people who elected you, Sir. You must now announce that you will veto any bill lacking an option or buy-in, but containing a mandate.

And Sen. Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both. Or single-payer. Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 "ayes." Let them commit political suicide instead of you.

Let Mr. Lieberman kill the bill — then turn to his Republican friends only to find out they hate him more than the Democrats do. Let him stagger off the public stage, to go work for the insurance industry. As if he is not doing that now.

Then, Mr. Reid, take every worthwhile provision of health care reform you legally can, and pass it via reconciliation, when ever and how ever you can — and by the way, a Medicare Buy-In can be legally passed via reconciliation. The Senate bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House.

Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable and there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported. And if still the bill and this heinous mandate become law there is yet further reaction required. I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight, to use the only weapon that will be left to us if this bill becomes law. We must not buy federally mandated insurance if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy.

No single payer? No sale. No public option? No sale. No Medicare buy-in? No sale. I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice. And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health care reform. Pass this at your peril, Senators, and sign it at yours, Mr. President. I will not buy this insurance. Brand me a lawbreaker if you choose. Fine me if you will. Jail me if you must.

But if the Medicare Buy-In goes, but the Mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and so sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated version of their dream, because those elected by us to act for us have forgotten what must be the golden rule of health care reform. It is the same one to which physicians are bound, by oath: First do no harm.

Play with Matches

Have you ever donated money to the Susan G. Komen foundation? You know, that pink non-profit devoted to finding a cure for breast cancer? Did you know they employ Hadassah Lieberman and pay her upwards of 300K per annum to be something called a global ambassador?

I find this very interesting. Because I’m a non-profit organization too, but I don’t have 300K to give anyone.

But that’s not all. You see, Hadassah happens to be the wife of Joe Lieberman. Yeah, that Joe Lieberman. The preening peacock of a U.S. senator who’s decided he’s more important than health care reform and the well-being of the 330 million citizens of the U.S. not named Joe Lieberman.

In ways that aren’t quite clear to me, his one vote is somehow worth more than the vote each of his 99 fellow senators possess.

Maybe Joe is playing some imaginary form of congressional basketball, and he’s standing behind a three-point line that only he can see. That’s why his vote is worth more than anyone else’s! It’s a three-point vote!

OK. Got it.

If it isn’t bad-enough that Democrats are only spineless appeasers, it definitely is that a non-profit organization like the Susan G. Komen foundation has 300K to stuff into Hadassah Lieberman’s purse. She profits very handsomely by people being sick, doesn’t she?

As does hubby Joe. Where would his campaign financing be if not for his rigorous protection of America’s health care profiteers? Ol' Joe doesn't think it pays to make people better—but thanks for asking.

What’s that about this land is our land? This land was made for you and me? Would that be ‘our’ as in participatory democracy? That ‘us’ word? Because I’ve got four eyes, and I don’t see any democracy. All I see is an auction.

If the smell is getting to you, you can start deodorizing at There, you can fire-off a note to the Susan G. Komen foundation, requesting that Hadassah Lieberman um, step down. Or be fired.

Either works.

True, obstructionist Republicants, spineless, fake Democrats and the odd fleck of fecal matter will still populate the U.S. senate. But it’s a start.

Play with matches. You never know, it could start a fire.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pay No Attention! It's Just the Vodka Talking!

When MySpace was much younger than it is now, these surveys used to circulate constantly. One night, I filled this out. My co-author was Alexi Stolichnaya.


Q. What is your salad dressing of choice?
A. 10W30 motor oil.

Q. What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
A. The fish pellet dispenser at the zoo.

Q. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
A. The curb outside 7-Eleven.

Q. On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
A. I never give unsolicited advice.

Q. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
A. Unspoiled.
Q. What do you like to put on your toast?
A. A dash of wit, hopefully.


Q. What is your wallpaper on your computer?
A. I refuse to answer that question under the protection of the Fifth Amendment, which protects all Americans from self-incrimination.

Q. How many televisions are in your house?
A. Wait. Could you repeat the question?


Q. Are you right-handed or left-handed?
A. Yes

Q. Have u ever had anything removed from ur body?
A. You mean forcibly?

Q. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
A. Where?


Q. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
A. I'm going to die?

Q. If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
A. Fred Funk.

Q. What color do you think looks best on you?
A. Ecru

Q. Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
A. Just some campaign promises.

Q. Have you ever saved someone's life?
A. London

Q. Has some one ever saved yours??
A. 16.8


Q. Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
A. Yes, if it were a little one.

Q. Would you never blog again for $50,000?
A. If my readers would stand for it, yes.

Q. Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000?
A. Yes. But considering I was once offered twenty-dollars to put my shirt back on at a beach, the chances are remote.

Q. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
A. And just what do you call hot sauce? I sneer at your hot sauce!

Q. Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
A. Only if I could return it without a receipt for cash.


Q: What is in your left pocket?
A. Billions and billions of molecules.

Q: Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
A. It is?

Q: Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A. I won't have it! I won't!

Q: Do you sit or stand in the shower?
A. My showering position is kind of hard to describe.

Q: Could you live with roommates?
A. I'm going to die?

Q: How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
A. Why? What did I ever do?

Q: Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
A. When, in a misguided attempt to celebrate the arrival of spring, I danced naked on my front lawn after an overdose of anti-depressants.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. Older.


Q: Last Friend you talked to?
A. E.T.

Q: Last person who called u?
A. Fame.

Q: Person you hugged?
A. A census-taker.


Q: Number?
A. Roman, probably.

Q: Season?
A. The off-season--I'm a professional athlete.


Q: Missing someone?
A. Let me do a head count...

Q: Watching?
A. My cat, whom I caught with a partially-completed withdrawal slip to my bank.

Q: Worrying about?
A. Anxiety.


Q: First place you went this morning?
A. Someplace dark, to hide from the sun.

Q: What can you not wait to do?
A. Have sex. With a partner I mean.

Q: What's the last movie you saw?
A. Sober or for free?

Q: Do you smile often?
A. It's more of a leer, owing to some botched plastic surgery.

Fish Story

In my youth I once received a less-than-stellar report card. I got the idea to wait until I had to leave for school the next day to show it to my parents and collect their signatures. I thought it was pretty clever. No lectures, no punishment. Just some momentary disapproval and I was out the door.

This worked exactly once, and from that point forward my parents made it their business to know when report cards were being issued.

After reading how yet-another government contractor has pulled another fast one on yet-another feckless government agency, I'm sorry my parents aren't in government. Or at least don't work for Smith-Root, Inc. or the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Asian carp was initially brought to the U.S. to control parasites on Arkansas fish farms and to eat algae in area sewage treatment plants. After escaping into the wild, they crowded-out native species in the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers, and now stand poised to infiltrate the Great Lakes.

To halt their migration, an electronic barrier (designed and constructed by Smith-Root, Inc.) was installed on the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal, which connects Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River basin.

But Asian carp DNA has now been found beyond the supposedly impenetrable barrier.

Worse, the contractor never told the Army Corps of Engineers that the barrier needed to be turned-off every six-months or so for periodic maintenance until after it was installed.

Remind you of anyone?

As a consequence, mass fish kills are required whenever the barrier is switched-off for its tune-ups. Huge quantities of poison are dumped in the canal, and after the die-off and the maintenance are complete, the poison is allegedly neutralized, the dead fish are collected and the barrier is turned back on.

Maybe it's poor communication. Maybe it's fraud. Maybe the fish barrier isn't the only thing lacking sufficient electrical current. Whatever the case, you can bet Smith-Root won't be held liable for the cost of the poisoning and collection. Or for subsequent poisonings and collections.

We will.

We can't quite seize the carp, but we can certainly carpe taxpayer dollar.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The CEO Personality Assessment

Hello and thank you for your interest in the Legacy Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Icon Industries. We are pleased that you have decided to apply with us. The final step in your employment journey will be to complete this brief personality assessment. Time is a consideration, so don’t linger too long on any one question.

With the finely-honed mind of a CEO, we find that first responses are usually best. Don’t second-guess yourself. That’s what shareholders and the media are for! To expedite the path to the riches you deserve, we have included three acceptable answers in the group of four that follow every question. Remember—you’re too big to fail!

1.) Wall Street is unhappy with your company’s stock performance. The best solution is:

A. Immediately slash payroll, thereby increasing profit. Wall Street must be kept happy at all costs.

B. Immediately cut five-thousand jobs, reducing overhead. Wall Street must be kept happy at all costs.

C. Allocate resources to research and development, paving the way for better products and greater market share.

D. Immediately announce that unfavorable market conditions necessitate massive layoffs. Wall Street must be kept happy at all costs.

2.) Impending government regulation will markedly reduce your firm’s stock value. You:

A. Call a press conference and announce you are confident your company will “weather the storm” as you call your broker and request they dump your shares ASAP.

B. Announce you will “stay the course” and that there is no need to panic while privately selling-off your shares.

C. Encourage continued employee stock purchases with the phrase “we’re all in this together” as you instruct your broker to divest yourself of all company shares immediately.

D. Set-up a committee to explore alternate business models using existing company technology and infrastructure.

3.) When confronted with the information that the average U.S. executive earns more than three-hundred times what the average employee does, you:

A. Complain about the skyrocketing cost of tuition at premium private schools in the U.S.

B. Express concern over the inequity and immediately act to reverse it within your company.

C. Announce your intention to hire lobbyists and lower the minimum wage.

D. Complain about the skyrocketing cost of premium housing in the U.S.

4.) Your blue ribbon panel on profit enhancement has submitted its report. Which of their recommendations do you follow?

A. Explore new markets abroad.

B. Eliminate pensions and medical benefits for retirees.

C. Bribe consumer testing labs to lie about competitor’s products.

D. Have employees lease their computer and office space as a condition of employment.

5.) Which answer best describes your reaction when third-quarter sales show continued decline?

A. Did I expense account Bambi’s rent this month?

B. Go ahead—fire me. It’ll cost you forty-five mil. More if I cash in my stock option.

C. I need to get with sales and find out what the problem is.

D. What are those overpaid, profit-sucking parasites screwing up now?

6.) Performance-based executive pay is:

A. A socialist plot devised by the Obama administration.

B. A fair way to ensure shareholder value.

C. The triumph of mass-based mediocrity over the prickly genius of rugged individualism.

D. Another attempt by liberals to penalize success.

7.) Your rationale for requiring salary histories from applicants is:

A. We need to contain operating costs.

B. We collect salary data for the U.S. Department of Labor, but don’t actually use it in negotiations.

C. The limbo is the official office party game.

D. You’re already overpaid, asshole.

8.) What percentage of CEOs are ethical?

A. 100%

B. 98%

C. 99%

D. The same as in any other demographic of the population.

9.) Sixty-percent of U.S. corporations pay no income taxes. To express your appreciation for America’s largesse, you:

A. Outsource hundreds of thousands of jobs to Asia, India and Mexico, further eroding America’s tax base.

B. Establish offshore corporate headquarters to further evade profit-draining penalties and taxes.

C. Make numerous donations to non-profit organizations—provided they’re tax deductible.

D. Announce you’re moving your corporate headquarters, and play one municipality against another until relocating becomes a profit center in itself.

10.) Machievellli is:

A. A useful philosopher, depending on the application.

B. Your business model.

C. All the justification you need.

D. Your all-time favorite centerfold from ‘Business Weekly’.

11.) Production and distribution costs are rising. The best course of action is:

A. Mount an advertising campaign repositioning your product as a ‘premium’ or ‘gourmet’ one. Raise prices accordingly.

B. Shrink package size while maintaining price point. Customers won't know the difference.

C. Absorb cost increases in the hope they are temporary and/or seasonal.

D. Label product as 'New and Improved', thereby justifying any and all price hikes.

12.) Millions in government subsidies are available for growers of tomatoes. Your company mines coal. You:

A. Hire lobbyists to convince Congress that as a producer of energy, you are in a related field and thus qualify for the subsidies.

B. Admit tomato-growers have had a rough time recently and wish them well.

C. Invent an agriculture-based subsidiary and apply for the subsidies.

D. Hire lobbyists to convince Congress that in addition to coal, your company does, in fact, mine tomatoes and thus qualifies for the subsidies.

13.) Which of the following statements best describes your feelings about government regulation?

A. A lunar crater on the highway to America’s continued dominance as an economic power.

B. A necessary evil, as not all companies act with integrity and concern for their employees and customers.

C. A socialist plot devised by the Obama administration.

D. The reason jobs have been outsourced, and will continue to be until America’s business owners are allowed to operate their businesses as they see fit.

14.) What percentage of employees are essentially untrustworthy?

A. All of them.

B. 100%

C. The whole stinking lot.

D. The same as in any other demographic of the population.

15.) What word or phrase best describes your management style?

A. I take management cues from my political party of choice, making liberal use of threats, coercion, fear, the withholding of praise and the sadistic manipulation of psychological sensitivities revealed in applicant’s personality profiles to achieve stated business goals.

B. Open door.

C. Results-oriented and vision-forward.

D. Egalitarian.

16.) Downturns in business are:

A. Unavoidable.

B. Often the result of poor management and decision-making.

C. Inevitable.

D. Unfortunate, but your compensation isn't performance-based anyway.

17.) In addition to being CEO of an investment bank, you have recently been nominated to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. You:

A. Accept the nomination and enjoy the windfall.

B. Accept the nomination and adopt a laissez faire policy regarding Wall Street investment.

C. Realize this presents a potential conflict of interest and make plans to either decline the nomination or resign your position as CEO.

D. Accept the nomination and make a commitment to rigorously maintain the status quo as long as it favors your bank.

18.) Would you say your integrity is greater or less than that of your fellow CEOs?

A. Greater.

B. Greater.

C. Greater.

D. Less than.

19.) What word or phrase best describes your approach to the job?

A. When will the private jet and satellite office in Bora Bora be ready?

B. I don’t have an ‘off’ switch.

C. Whatever it takes.

D. Driven. Like a truck.

20.) What quality is most-important in an employee?

A. Unblinking obedience.

B. Sight-challenged obedience.

C. Experience.

D. Blind obedience.