Friday, March 27, 2015

The Friday Link for 3/27/15

So another one bites the dust.  Jason Jones, the racist, misogynistic, arrogant, dim bulb, jerk correspondent from The Daily Show had his official goodbye on Thursday night.

Jones wasn't anything like his character.  He is a very genuine, decent and funny guy, married to Samantha Bee, another Daily Show correspondent.  His arrogant persona ended up being a real asset to The Daily Show, as it allowed him to infiltrate the far right nut bags and expose them without them realizing it.  He'd ramp up his jerk character to 10, and they welcomed him in like he was a long lost brother.

He also highlighted, shockingly, that no matter how extreme to the right his persona was, there always seemed to be someone who would try to outdo him, like some sort of 'I can out tea party you' gauntlet was thrown down.

Jason Jones was incredible with some of his international pieces.  He did bits from Iran, opening up that country's citizens to the USA for the first time since the 1980's, got threatened with sanctioned murder by a certain former Soviet leader, and immersed himself in the politics of India, a country the US needs to be far more knowledgable about.

For Jones' best bit, I think it's the one he did about a certain Washington football team.  Even he couldn't hold the character any longer at the end, frustrated with the blatant racism of the owner and the NFL.  This piece also got The Daily Show some extra criticism, something they themselves addressed before and during the piece, as the female football fan insisted she was ambushed.  The Daily Show reviewed her complaint and stood by the bit.  Since there was no further legal action, I would presume they were right.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bottom Gear

I'm fascinated by the Jeremy Clarkson story out of the BBC in London.  For those who don't know, Clarkson is the co-host of the BBC hit show, Top Gear, which can be seen in America on BBC America.  It's an entertaining show which I'm a regular viewer of.  They bring you vehicle evaluations, vehicle challenges, and a downright entertaining travelogue about the world of automobiles.  In the last few years, the criticism of new vehicles has been toned down.  Clarkson himself nearly brought Land Rover to it's knees years ago with his spot on breakdown of their problems, but today, you can tell all the hosts are pulling their punches, especially when it's a car they really want to trash.  Also, the challenges and travel elements have become more contrived, but it's still a pretty good watch.

Their new found mellow auto reviews are no where near as begging as the ones the American version of Top Gear had, a misguided show, run off the air quickly.  The American version was pandering to automobile advertisers so bad, they would've said a concrete block was a perfect vehicle for the modern family if a car logo was on it.  It reminded me of the time I was working in Ames, Iowa and we tried to do a movie review segment as part of the show.  After our first negative review, the owner of the movie theater complained and so we were told by the station owner to never give a bad review again.  We ended up canning the bit.

Clarkson is in hot water, and now has been officially fired by the BBC from Top Gear.  Clarkson has always been a fire starter of sorts.  He's a British conservative, kind of like a year 2000 version of John McCain, but he also has a real bad streak which permeates a lot of European countries, a racist fueled nationalism which has gotten him in trouble before.  He has taunted other countries and nationalities, including the United States, and has said some things which are really unacceptable in describing certain demographic groups.  Each time he got into trouble, he became determined to never have to apologize or give in, something which had sowed a loyal following for him, but something which has also fed his ego to the level of prima donna.  That's what got him in trouble this time.

Clarkson, while filming a segment for Top Gear, returned to his hotel to find the dinner he wanted was not available.  He wanted a steak with french fries, but the hotel's restaurant had stopped serving hot food by that time and had sent up a cold plate with a variety of cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables and fruit.  Clarkson, incensed by his lack of a steak, started to verbally abuse a producer, getting nastier and nastier, as he ramped himself up into a fervor.  He started swearing horribly at the producer, threatening his job repeatedly, screaming so loud during his diatribe he could be heard throughout the hotel.  He then violently attacked the poor guy and apparently punched him for 30 seconds, bloodying him up, before someone finally stepped in to pull him off.  The producer, terrified for his job, never once tried to hit back, and just took the beating.  He ended up going to the Emergency Room, while Clarkson continued on his screaming, self centered, foul mouthed, wildly inappropriate temper tantrum, all under the listening ears of everyone in the hotel.

Stories vary on this fact, but is sounds like Clarkson, after he calmed down (no word on if he got his steak) called his supervisor and relayed the incident, I imagine from a very innocent point of view.  Clarkson must have realized this wasn't going to go away and tried to 'apologize' to the producer in person, and through e-mail and text (really?), but apparently couldn't, or his apology wasn't accepted.  The BBC had had enough.  They called in an investigation, and other media in London started looking too, and the real story came to light.  They had no choice, they had to fire him.  If they didn't, Clarkson would think he could do anything, something the BBC is still trying to come to grips with in regards to Jimmy Savile, the BBC DJ and host of Top of the Pops who raped young children for decades under to auspices of his BBC job.

Regardless, there are still Jeremy Clarkson fans who insist this is nothing, that he should be hired back.  There's no way he could ever be hired back.  Tell me the job (banker, radio host, cook, bus driver) where you could do what he did and get away with it.  He should be grateful he isn't being jailed, something which is still a possibility, as local police have asked for a copy of the BBC investigation to determine if charges should be filed.  Some have suggested he wanted out of his Top Gear contract, so this was all done on purpose.  Well, Mission Accomplished!  I don't think this was made up.  I think this is the real Clarkson, a guy who became so in love with his own press, he thought he was more important than the rest of the world.

Jeremy Clarkson will get another job.  Someone will hire him and he'll act like he's getting the last laugh, until his true persona re-emerges and he does something even worse.  Then the advertisers, or rather lack of advertisers, will take care of him.  In the end, he'll be unemployed, his bit will be canned, and he'll be looking for any venue he can use to self promote, still insisting he was right and justified in violently attacking a man for not having HIS steak dinner ready as ordered.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Five Years

As of yesterday, I have been on AM 950 for 5 years.  That's right, March 22, 2010 is a day that will live in infamy!

I was part of the large bloodletting at KSTP AM-1500 in February of 2010 when they (rightly) flipped the format to ESPN in an effort to keep the Twins on air.  When former KSTP Program Director Steve Konrad called me to let me know I was out, I thought I was done in radio.  Janet Robert, the owner of AM 950 at that time, called up and asked if I was available.  Back in my traffic days, KTNF was one of my regular stations in town, and I would usually let my personal, left leaning comments permeate the traffic reports ("Watch out as the dark lord himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, will be visiting the Twin Cities today.  Along with various road closures, the Death Star will be hovering over the metro area, Be advised.")

I started doing the evenings, the 6 PM hour.  I'll never forget it; my first caller kept calling me Mark and the previous host called up during the show to tell me I sucked.  In 2012, I moved to mornings.  I love what I do.  I love the listeners, the sponsors, the back and forth.  I love not having to hide my politics, embracing what I'm proud of, begin a Democrat.  I've had the privilege of working with some great people over the years, and I've had too many great guests to mention.  Let me not forget a big salute to the current owner of the station, Chad Larson, who continues to be very good to me.

To the listeners, thank you very much.  I appreciate it, I really do.  I owe you guys a lot, and I hope to be saying thanks for a long time to come.

All the Single Ladies...and Single Men too...

Every once in awhile, my wife and I ask each other a question:  What did we used to do with all of our time?  As we have three kids, our schedules are tremendously busy, or so I thought.  Then my wife went out of town for 10 days, and I realized how good we had it.  Single parents need to get a tremendous amount of respect and acknowledgement for the hectic schedules they lead.  In today's world, the schedule they have to maintain is often glossed over and minimized, but after my week, let me salute single parents who do it right.

It's been a long time since I've had to watch all three kids by myself for more than a few hours, and the only times I'd done it prior to last week was for an overnight.  I knew this was going to be a challenge, but it was an eye-opener.  As I realized I had four hours of work and household things to do every evening and only 15 minutes to get it done, I did a silent salute for all those who do this day in and day out.  Some observations:

Twice this last week, I actually forgot what day it was.  I was so busy running around, the days had become a blur.  I knew it was bad when I got up on Saturday and frantically tried to get ready for the radio show I was convinced I was late for.

The reason the days run together is because the schedule is relentless.  When you're alone and having to manage kids, it's constant, a thudding beat in the back of your mind.  I needed to start keeping multiple lists:  places the kids needed to be, food I was going to make, household tasks needing to get done, work tasks I needed to do, phone calls I needed to make, and shopping lists I needed to fulfill.  I'm good at keeping a lot of balls in the air at once, but this was a real challenge, with a lot of scrambling and too many drops.

I'm usually critical when I see kids staring at a glowing rectangle, the modern version of a robotic babysitter.  I've often looked down upon those parents (unfairly) for seeming to put a screen in front of their child's face to pacify them and limit any undo interaction.  I know there are crappy parents who indeed do that, but I now realize there are many single parents who need a child to entertain themselves for an hour while the parent makes dinner, cleans up, takes a shower or even grabs a nap.  I've learned my lesson.  Before I get too critical in the future, I'll ask if that kid entertaining themselves is helping a single or stressed parent get basic tasks done.

Same goes for food.  My wife and I cook the majority of the food our kids eat, and that usually doesn't mean pre-processed food.  Three times, I've had to forgo formalities and pick up fast, convenient food for the kids without worrying about the nutritional value.  This wasn't me being lazy.   There just wasn't time to do anything else, and to ensure my kids ate something, I got them food to go.  I do think there are many parents who become too dependent on pre-made food, but if I don't know the circumstances, then I shouldn't judge their choices either.

Non-work adult interaction gets scarce.  I ended up talking to a mom next to me at the Science Museum yesterday and I could even hear the conversation go from friendly to needy.  She left quickly.  This is what makes social media good and bad.  It's good because it allows you to visit friends during the day without it being too disruptive, but it's not a replacement for real face to face human interaction, something mostly absent from my life the last ten days.

Dating, for responsible single parents, has got to be extremely difficult.  Single parents want to go out, have fun and party, but rarely do those two worlds mesh.  It's got to be a logistical nightmare at times, with the perpetual queries of how much do you bring the child into your dating life, and your dating life to your children, giving you fits.

And this has not even gotten to daily hiccups or long term problems which overwhelm.  The last thing a stressed out parent needs is a wrench thrown in the works, and for a single parent, it creates impossible to win choices which you'll never feel good about.

Friday night, for the first time in decades, I had a real bad migraine headache and I was just exhausted.  The stress had gotten to me, and it had only been a week, not 18 years.  I apologize to single parents.  I haven't given you nearly enough credit.  I have a new appreciation for anyone who does this on their own and eventually sends off into the world well adjusted young adults.  Since this is the society we are going to have, we need to make it one which tries to mold itself to the demands and challenges of single parents, just as much as we do for married couples.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Friday Link for 3/20/15

Could there be a better cast movie than Young Frankenstein?  Sweet Lord, everyone in it is perfect.

The one who shines most of all in the sensational cast is Marty Feldman.  He stole every scene he was in.  His gangly I-gor was perfect and could be the greatest comedic movie performance ever.

Here are some outtakes from the movie.  To see the amazing talent of Feldman, watch the second try at the scene with Madeline Kahn.  Just watch his eyes, and you'll be rolling on the floor too.  I think I will throw the movie into the DVD player for the evening.

Protesting and the Mall of America

Let's talk about the Mall of America and the prosecution of the Black Lives Matter protesters who showed up for a rally in December, in an attempt to bring awareness to the treatment of African Americans in Minnesota and the country.  Black Lives Matter was passionate, and (for the most part) were reasonably well behaved.  Was there some mild civil disobedience?  Sure, mild, but (in my opinion) the individuals being prosecuted are being portrayed as far more belligerent and out of control than they really were.

I personally like the Mall of America.  I do.  It's far more successful than I ever dreamed.  The Mall of America got, and still gets, a lot of tax payer money and tax breaks.  I think financially, it's been a clear win for the Twin Cities metro, but the Mall doesn't seem to understand citizens feeling a bit of ownership when it comes to tax payer funded venues, and the public wanting to engage in some level of personal freedom in said venues.  MOA acts like that's crossing a line, insisting "it's their way or the highway."  The Mall's attempt to get Black Lives Matter to protest in a parking lot a block away might have been congenial and straight forward, but it came off as dismissive.

MOA has a problem they need to figure out; what is their definition of protesting?  I look at protesting as an expression to bring awareness to an issue, individual, group, business or cause.  That's what the Black Lives Matter protesters were doing.  Isn't that what many events at the Mall, organized and not, are doing?  Isn't that what the Zach Sobiech events were doing?  In December of 2013 and 2014, they had estimated crowds of 5000 and 7200 (respectively) singing Zach's song Clouds.  It's a very worthwhile and noble cause, but the events, when compared to Black Lives Matter, were much larger and just as disruptive to the stores on the east side of the mall, during the ever important Christmas rush.  I had a friend there shopping during this last December's sing-along, and they left because, as they described to me, "a third of the mall was effectively blocked off and it was really loud."  The Mall of America needs to explain if that event is encouraged to take place, why not Black Lives Matter?

I know, those events were coordinated, going through the approved channels, and they weren't polarizing events.  Fine, then how about the fans of the local and visiting sports teams who tend to go to the Mall after the games, particularly Green Bay Packer, Wisconsin Badger and Iowa Hawkeye fans?  Having obnoxious, loud, and (in two personal cases) clearly drunk fans of those teams hooting and hollering throughout MOA, insulting the city and it's people, is probably not something coordinated through the Mall's front office.  I've never seen security address them, or even to respectfully ask them to keep their voices down.  Why is that okay?

Black Lives Matter was not responsible for the Mall of America's prepared response; the Mall was.  They brought in heavy duty security, looking for evil doers, and, is usually the case, they found them.  Congratulations!  If protesters were getting truly belligerent, then you could have walked them to the door.  They were looking to arrest people, so they could make an example of them, and they did!

It would seem proof of your intent to make an example of Black Lives Matter was in the correspondence with the Bloomington City Attorney's office prior to the event, making sure the full extent of the law was ready to be enforced.  Also prior to the protest, the Mall infiltrated the protest groups through fake social media pages and undercover individuals.  At best, a private business and/or law enforcement were spying on a group of people prior to them doing anything wrong; at worst, you were entrapping the individuals by encouraging the protests to take place while you coordinated the prosecutorial response.  The only way you can prove you didn't do the later is to release all the information you have on ALL of the fake social media pages and infiltration operations the Mall of America was participating in, something I think the Mall of America would likely not want to do.

Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson and Mall of America officials, please call off your hounds.  Many people in the city feel as if the only reason you are going after Black Lives Matter is the first word in their name.  If you let this go now, people are going to forget about it, and you've already sent out the warning.  If you intend on continuing the prosecution, then don't act shocked or embarrassed when the defense, and the people of Minnesota, want to see all of the pre-event skeletons stashed away in the closet.

I, and many others in the Twin Cities, are going to be watching the Mall's response to other protests.  I would expect the Mall of America, and the Bloomington City Attorney's office, to treat the eventual 2nd Amendment knucklehead, who tries to walk Nickelodeon Universe with a loaded AK-47, with the same serious tone, prosecuting that individual with the same intent.

Here's the biggest kick.  If the Mall would have been a lot less militaristic in their response, the protest would have happened and then probably would've dispersed peacefully, with many of them picking up a few holiday gifts on their way out the door.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When Irish Eyes are Crying

America is a great country.  Being from here, we tend to be ambivalent to the great mish mash of cultures we are.  Our society sifts through the rest of the world and selects choice parts to make our lives more vibrant and exciting.  Go to any grocery store to see what I mean.  It wasn’t that long ago that the ethnic food aisle consisted only of cans of La Choy and Manwich sauce.  Today, I’ll spend ten minutes looking at a label trying to figure out what’s inside.

The Americanization of Saint Patrick’s Day is a mixed bag.  The day in Ireland is a combination of giving thanks, national pride and a few drinks.  Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, holds the country’s focus, as well as a shocking amount of the rest of the world.  The translation somehow morphed into a green beer and cheap party favor adorned excuse to drink enough to make John Goodman look like Christina Hendricks. Even corned beef and cabbage has little to do with Irish culture, but has became American Irish, like Lucky Charms.  Let’s face it, horribly disfiguring other countries sacred institutions is something we’re great at, but here are some suggestions that might make your March 17th more fun.

If you’re religious at all, going to the Cathedral in St. Paul and viewing the St. Patrick statue is kind of cool, and the guy does look like Gandalf.  If that’s what you have to do to get the kids there, tell them you’re going to visit the Shire.  For a traditional Irish meal, try seafood or a real Shepard’s Pie.  Even better, hunt down a traditional Irish breakfast.  It’s fantastic, but you really don’t want to know what’s in half of it (let’s just say the Irish are resourceful).  If you’d like something stronger, visit any of the numerous, and very underrated, Irish bars in town.  Instead of the green suds, grab a Guinness.  Yeah it’s pitch black, but that’s what the Irish drink, and there is something about a beer that doesn’t have a carb-free, diet version.  These Irish bars also have great music, more Flogging Molly and less Black Eyed Peas, and try to find one with a live artist playing traditional Irish music and enjoy.

Regardless of fanfare and location, the best thing the Irish do is make friends.  Whenever I visit them, most of the time is spent reliving old memories and creating new ones.  They are the most social people you’ll ever meet.  Americans, regardless of willingness to post their life online, are becoming less social, with a large portion of our population not able to have a ten-minute face-to-face conversation.  If you really want to emulate the Irish, turn off the television, computer and cell phone, force yourself to get together with friends and vow that no one will leave the table for at least two hours.  There might be a moment or two of awkward silence, but soon you’ll open up.  Sharing a few smiles and embracing the human desire for companionship is truly Irish.

I’m not trying to browbeat anyone into a politically correct, marginal holiday.  I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve gone the green beer route more than once, but when I started hanging out with the Irish and really experienced their version of the day, I never looked back.  Use this as a mere suggestion and celebrate as you wish.  If you ever get sick of the American St. Patrick’s day, the Irish will always welcome you.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Friday Link for 3/13/15

There was a stretch of Twin Cities morning radio which was so obscenely good, it drove me and hundreds of other Minnesota kids to Brown Tech (now Brown College) to get a broadcasting degree, just so we could plead for a chance to be part of it.  It was 1986 and morning radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul was nirvana.

A lot of stations pop to mind from back then, and many are considered legendary in Minnesota and US broadcasting history: WCCO, KQRS (with the sensational early years of Tom Barnard and Dan Culhane), WLOL, KS95 and more.  One station lost to time was KJJO, K-JO 104, the last time KQRS had any real competition in the realm of classic rock.  The problem the station had was it was always just a little bit behind KQ, and hence was the station you tuned to when 92 was playing a song you didn't like.

Except for one thing.  They aired a wildly popular bit, at least at Edina High School, my senior year, Chickenman!  Most people my age and older are very well aware of Chickenman, but for you younger pups; Chickenman was a 1960's radio show from the incredible radio mind of Dick Orkin.  Out of Chicago, he revolutionized radio advertisement with his creative and innovative commercials.  His voice is one of the greatest ever heard, and he began the Chickenman serial as a spoof of comic book superheroes.  The series began in 1966 and ran through 1969 and there were revisitings to the series in the 1970's.  It was so good, even in 1986 it was still getting young listeners to religiously tune in.

I remember being in the parking lot at Edina High and waiting with most of the other drivers until K-JO 104 aired it in the morning before heading on into class.  I love it still today.

Here are two episodes from the series, and yes, most of them had to do with Chickenman going about his mundane life, as Chickenman.  Enjoy!

Quick Hits - 3/13/15

  • Mark in Fridley called in to defend himself this morning and it got even more bizarre.  Read the Mark in Fridley entry from yesterday for a primer.  He started to defend his bashing of Hillary Clinton, insisting Hillary was the horrible candidate, worse than anything the GOP could muster.  I asked him two questions:  1) Since Elizabeth Warren is not running, who does he support in the Democratic primary, and 2) are you telling me whomever the Democratic candidate for President is, you think a Republican and their desire for war with Iran is a better option?  He decided to 'start' with the second question and immediately leveed the implied allegation, 'if Hillary Clinton became President, it'll be far worse than war with Iran, as she will get us into war with Russia, Syria, and...(wait for it)...Venezuela!'   Venezuela?!?  VENEZUELA?!?! Okay there is disliking someone, and then there is disliking someone to the point where your wild allegations and conspiracy theories cause me to question whether I should listen to you at all.  We'll just skip past the whole (INSANE) war with Russia idea, and ask the question, why, pray-tell, would we be going to war with Venezuela?  Don't get me wrong, our relations with them are hardly chummy, but war???  We get it Mark. You hate Clinton with the fire of a million suns.  Fine, please move past it before you say anything more outrageous than 'war monger Hillary Clinton.'
  • Let's accept the reality about gun guy; they'll always be for more guns and bullets everywhere, not because it makes us safer, but because they equate a six year old with a loaded assault weapon as a symbol of the Founding Father's patriotism (side note: the founding fathers would be aghast by the gun carnage in American streets. They put "well regulated militia" in the Constitution for a reason).  When that 6 year old unintentionally guns down their friends, pro gun guy will accuse the media of making it all up, or blame Sponge Bob, not the adult who put the loaded assault weapon in the their hands.  Yesterday, in St. Paul, they were debating whether we should allow silencers on guns in Minnesota.  From those hearings, we had the second dumbest argument for a bill this year.  One pro-gun guy's argument was, "we should allow silencers on guns (something criminals would LOVE) because guns are loud and can hurt the ears of the gun owner."  Pathetic.  Buy some earplugs!  
  • By the way, the dumbest argument for a bill this year, and a contender for all time dumbest argument for a bill ever, was the woman who wanted to expand liquor sales to Sunday in Minnesota because her child wanted liquor filled lava cakes for their birthday. Since A) mom apparently didn't plan ahead for her child's birthday, and B) mom apparently has to fulfill juniors booze fix, she was forced to have to drive to Wisconsin for orange liquor to make the lava cakes, hence we need to open up liquor sales in Minnesota on Sunday.  I'm neutral on Sunday liquor sales, but lava cakes is one of the dumbest arguments of all time. 
  • A reminder, we still have not heard what punishment, if any, was dealt down to the coaches of the five dance line teams from Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Lakeville South, Chaska, and Eastview who coordinated a bully attack on the team from Faribault at the State Championship last month, a display oozing with bad sportsmanship and pettiness for which punishment is not a question.  The coaches, parents and athletes from the five teams booed the Faribault high school kids, refused to acknowledge the team won, ran Faribault off to prevent them from getting a State Championship photo taken on the Target Center floor, followed them down to the interior of Target Center, taunting and bullying them all the way, and then bragged about it as some 'great victory' on social media (until they realized their ploy backfired and the cowards scrubbed their online media clean).  These five teams deserve more than public shame.  The coaches deserve to be thrown out of the Minnesota State High School League.
  • Finally, I want to revisit what I said in regards to the University of Minnesota Men's Basketball team likely getting an NIT bid now that they were bounced from the Big 10 Tourney by Ohio State.  I said they likely will get a bid because they are the kind of team the NIT loves; recognizable name, a somewhat iconic facility, a large market to draw locally.  For them to give Minnesota a home game, some very deserving lesser conference team with a 25 and 4 record would have to play a road game here.  That would be a travesty.  Skip the Gophers, hope they get better next year, but don't give them an NIT bid just because you hope it will spur ticket sales and luke warm interest.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mark in Fridley

Let me address a few things from today's Mark in Fridley call.  For anyone who doesn't know, Mark in Fridley is a passionate, far left progressive with some very interesting takes on politics.  He gets bogged down on the details at times and some of his issues are hard for even me to follow.  He used to come on 4-5 times a week, for what he felt was his "designated time," @ 7:40 AM.  I finally pulled the plug on his daily rants because 1) he was rarely on topic, 2) he would go on for five or six minutes, on multiple, unrelated issues, 3) it felt like most of the time he was just taking a shot at Obama or the Clintons, and 4) the number of people who liked his daily visit was far outnumbered by the amount of listeners who wanted it to stop.

This morning, after I was making a point about WalMart and their anti-American worker policies, Mark called in to chime in on something from earlier in the show, but decided to first poke the Clintons by pointing out the Koch Brothers and WalMart are big funders of the Clinton Foundation.  I congratulated him on getting his shot in on the Clintons, a comment which seemed to anger him.  He insisted he was only stating the facts, something I'm not necessarily arguing, but what he did say was a loaded comment.  It was designed to make the Clintons look as bad as possible, and then for him to run away from it.  When I called him on it, he turned it into a Kucinich and Warren promotional endorsement, implying a more progressive candidate would never take dirty money (HA!), and he insisted his not mentioning the GOP gets far more money from Koch and Walmart entities was a harmless omission.

There is an element of the left which HATES the Clintons.  That's fine with me, but do not try to use my show as a platform to smear and begrudge what will likely be the Democratic candidate for the 2016 Presidential race.  I will not take sides on the air, and I won't sit back while one candidate gets slammed because they haven't passed through the extreme far left organic purity test.

Reality:  Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016.  She was caught off guard by Obama in 2008, but has spent her time getting her ducks in a row.  When she does announce, she'll be in full campaign mode, in an intimidating position over the rest of the left leaning pack.  If she becomes the Democratic nominee, and you decide to throw a temper tantrum and stay home on election day in protest, you might be helping to elect a Republican who likely will start a war with Iran.  Your call.

Elizabeth Warren announced she isn't running.  Until she changes her mind, you holding Clinton to a Warren litmus test is unfair.  There are going to be progressive candidates running in 2016, trying to catch fire in a bottle like Obama did, but that's a very unlikely scenario.  The most likely person to give Hillary a run for her money is the current Vice President, Joe Biden.  If you really hate Hillary, you might want to pressure him to run.  He's the only other current Democrat who could win the nomination and potentially win the Presidency.

Also, the Clinton Foundation is not a Hillary Clinton PAC.  That implication was left hanging out there, a purposeful distortion made by omitting the context and purpose of the organization getting the donation.  That's not fair either.

I will not let the left do what the right tried to do when I started on AM 950 five years ago; get on the air, state things that are either outright lies and/or agenda driven, and after getting all of them out say, "but my real reason for calling is...", hoping I let the other things they snuck in go unchallenged.  No!  I will not let you throw out lies and distortions as facts, and because you used the avalanche method of topic discussion, think I'm just going to skip on past something I know is distorted or dishonest.  Be prepared to discuss everything you throw into the arena of my show.

Monday, March 9, 2015

WAY off Target

Gregg Steinhafel is the worst Minnesota CEO I've ever seen.  He's the epitome of what is wrong with today's corporate structure; CEO's and senior executives who feel the corporation only exists because of, and for, themselves.  This modern conservative business leader is greedy, Machiavellian, self serving, and arrogant, feeling as if the world needs to respect them without having to earn the respect.  They want to command people to do things, not because they want to lead, but because they can.  In their mind, the company lives for them, first and foremost.

Before I get to Gregg with two "g's," let me start with two disclaimers and a fact.  Disclaimer one - as much as we complain about the modern corporation and the modern corporate executive, most corporate executives are very decent people, working very hard to make the business they represent successful, while acting as an advocate for their customers, shareholders, employees and suppliers.  For every company which sells a product with toxic amounts of formaldehyde (see an earlier post), there are 20 other companies which will throw out a weasel who suggests they poison their customers for profit.  Disclaimer two - Good executives work their asses off.  They're at the office at 7 AM and leave at 10 PM.  They work a full day on Saturday, and usually six plus hours on many Sundays.  They rarely take family vacations.  Rather, they take working vacations, in which their families get dragged along, and they're lucky for a few hours of true family time.  They do a very difficult job and are required to make decisions which means success or failure for a company.  They deserve a decent paycheck.

But now a Fact - The modern senior corporate executive, in many cases, is grossly overpaid.  In the 1970's the senior staff of a major corporation could expect to make four to five times more than the middle managers they depended on to carry out their decisions.  Back then, if they did a great job, and the company had a record year, they might get a bonus check equal to up to 50% of their salary.  Today, depending on the company, they can make 50, 100, 200, or even 400 times their average worker pay (according to, and their bonuses and exit buy outs are guaranteed, even if their their own negligence has cost the company dearly.  Corporate executives started to put forward the idea in the 1980's that they were more important than the company itself, and they created consulting firms to start touting their own wealth while negotiating contracts.  They kept pushing and pushing the envelope to where today (in some cases) the executive will have a 7 million dollar annual salary, all their major personal expenses covered by the company (house, car, most of their monthly bills, private school tuition for kids), a million dollar expense account which covers everything else they need, and bonuses in cash in stock options worth an addition 10 to 20 million, EACH YEAR!  That's over paid.

But let's get back to G.

I remember when it all changed.  Friends used to talk about how much fun it was to work in Target corporate.  They made everyone jealous, causing many people across the country to polish up their resumes when they heard there was an opening.  Then, one day, in 2008, almost in unison, I heard the same story over and over.  "I hate my job.  They have all these new rules.  It's no longer a relaxed environment.  We now have to wear extremely professional attire.  They make us swear allegiance to the executives!"  I asked if it wasn't over reacting against the new CEO.  They all said no.  Target's fun loving, internal corporate structure was gone, Steinhafel's first victim.

Steinhafel was known for some real doozies within the realm of corporate mismanagement and malfeasance.  There was turning the Target corporation into an extension of his personal political ideology by funneling Target money to Minnesota Forward, an organization which was supporting Tom Emmer in the gubernatorial race against Mark Dayton in 2010.  He forced loyal customers to have to choose between spending money at Target, only to see part of it go to help a political candidate they didn't endorse, or avoiding to the store in it's entirety.  They lost a total of $40,000 in sales from my family alone.

Then there was the destruction of Target's gay rights record.  You couldn't buy the reputation Target at one time had in regards to GLBT rights, but Steinhafel, through supporting anti-gay rights politicians, and then standing by his anti-gay political ideology, destroyed it.  Lady GaGa even refused to do a special Target exclusive CD with them because of the company's new anti-gay rights stance.  The message was clear; the executives beliefs were more important than the company making a ton of money.  That's broken corporate governance.

Gregg's true lack of competent oversight lead to a massive embarrassment, the data breach of their customers credit card numbers, something which hurt even more because 1) it happened during the ever important holiday shopping season, and 2) seems to have been something they might have been able to nip in the bud a lot sooner if not for the company's executives not paying attention.  If only their CIO, CFO, and CEO, or their minions, would have read the urgent bulletins coming from their monitoring service, they might not have had such a clusterf- on their hands.  It was the final straw against Steinhafel.  He was finally shown the door, but the true impact of his legacy was to be revealed, and it was worthy of a Maury Povich sweeps episode.

The unbelievable scope of Steinhafel's failure in regards to his Canadian expansion endeavor is something business schools will teach for years.  This is textbook corporate arrogance.  "Those Canadians will be so happy we are finally here!'  No they won't!  There was mismanagement to the extreme; bad pricing, inconsistent supply chain issues, incompetent execution, and, in the end, a massive failure which will haunt Target for years to come.  They lost two billion in two years, 2 BILLION!!!  How do you do that?  The company's only option was to close it all down and walk away.  Target is in survival mode right now, hoping these drastic cuts (20%!!!) will stop the bleeding, and prevent the death of the company as a whole.

He did all of this in six years...

Steinhafel seems to have been a real jackass of a human being outside of the office too.  He put pressure to stop the Emily Program, an eating disorder program, from getting a conditional use permit at a former private school near his house.  Whenever I do the arrogant wealthy jerk voice on the air (How dare you heathens...) it stems from what I imagine Gregg Steinhafel was like when he found out a treatment facility for individuals in need might be within eyesight of his property.

But the most bizarre and self delusional thing Gregg Steinhafel ever did was to name the largest Target corporate office in Bangalore, India the 'Gregg W. Steinhafel Center.'  Who does that (besides Bond villains)?  It should have been the companies first real big warning sign that this guy might be more concerned about himself than the well being of the company.  The only way that office building deserved that name is if it came crashing down to the earth on its own in 6 years.

Steinhafel gets the last laugh.  He got a 61 million dollar severance package for nearly destroying one of the bellwether companies in the United States.  The employees he looked down upon are the ones who get punished for his horrible decisions, with layoff notifications being printed freely.  In my mind, we should arrest him, or at least run him out of the country.

Corporate America, it's time to wake up.  These Gordon Gekko wannabes are not helping you, they are hurting you.  If the shareholders mentality is, "as long as they make money, I could care less," let me remind you of something.  The business model Steinhafel and his ilk work off of is one geared to using their companies as their personal Bacchanalian palace, and when the reality of their mismanagement starts to show, these same people came up with the concept of vulture capitalism to feast on the carcass of the once profitable company they helped destroy.  Good luck with that.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Friday Link for 3/6/15

I'm on the record as saying we'll look back on the stretch of time from 2010 to 2014 as the Golden Age of Late Night television.  Seven of the 8 (or 9 if you count Meyers) regular show hosts during that stretch were iconic.

On CBS you had David Letterman as the host of the Late Show (quick side note: how many years was Letterman the only consistent laugh on any given night?  During the five year stretch I mentioned above, he was almost forgotten at times), and although he has weathered, he is still good for a few chuckles every show.  A very underrated Craig Ferguson hosted the later show, the Late Late Show, bringing a charismatic Scottish wit to the American shores.

On ABC, Jimmy Kimmel made me ask the question of what was he ever doing slumming it on The Man Show?  He's the best LA host on TV right now, and I love his current war with the anti-vaxxers.

On Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had been drawing a bigger and bigger audience since 2006, and by 2010, they were in prime form, a fearsome duo who presented late night talk shows with a different format, making cable TV at 10 PM a viable option for late night viewing.

On NBC, Jimmy Fallon was in his mid-30's hosting Late Night, and biding his time until he would take over the Tonight Show early in 2014.  Jay Leno was the only dud in late night TV during that stretch(in my opinion), a unfunny, washed up host who was doing more bad than good in the once gold standard chair.  Fallon has reminded us at how good the Tonight Show can be since he took it over.  Seth Meyers who took over Late Night is learning, and will eventually work out the kinks.

Then there is Conan.  Conan O'Brien was promoted from Late Night to take over The Tonight Show, and was unceremoniously dumped in early 2010 when Jay Leno decided after he left that he wanted the Tonight Show back (NBC should have never let him return).  He eventually landed at TBS and has been his hilarious self ever since.  I think he gets too goofy at times, but he is so quick with his spontaneous jokes.  On nights I was able to stay up, I flipped between shows constantly.

Conan also understands the culture of the generations that have come after him.  He embraces new and upcoming talent better than any other host on television, and almost acts as an introductory course in modern culture for the older generation.  One of my favorite things he has done is Clueless Gamer, where he plays video games and then reviews them.  Warning, some of the games he reviews have extreme violent content (Super Bowl edition), but this one I'm linking to tonight is one of my favorites, the WWE 2K14 wrestling video game.  When he creates his own character, I was in tears.

Remember Conan would have been the Tonight Show host today if not for Leno's greediness, but as opposed to become a footnote in history, he has made lemonade out of lemons.  I can't wait to watch his Cuban special.  Enjoy the link!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Passive Aggressive

In regards to the Republicans, I'm starting to feel two things, sorry and scared.

Let's start with sorry.  The GOP has hated, HATED, Barack Obama.  They hated him back in 2008, when his victory let the air out of their W. balloon.  On Inauguration Night in 2009, they planned to derail his entire Presidency, having secret meetings, vowing to make him a one termer.  Legislatively, they knew he was inheriting a whopper of a mess from his predecessor, and they determined to fight him before, during and after everything he tried to do, creating a gridlock rarely seen in our government.

In the arena of public opinion, they went out of their way to build the conspiracy that his entire Presidency was illegitimate, pandering to the racists to fuel their outrageous claims.  It started with his birth certificate, allegations he wasn't born in the US, and became a word salad of everything the right in this country hates; Muslim, Socialist, Nazi-commie (???), gun hater, druggie, anti-white.  It didn't work.

President Obama, seeming to be the only one concerned about the state of the country, rolled up his sleeves and got to work.  He started to turn this country around.  The economy began to recover, jobs returned, the housing market ended it's free fall, and the American brand started to get its luster back. The GOP screamed it had nothing to do with the President, but the American people knew better.  To the right's slack jawed, pea brained disbelief and astonishment, Obama won a second term.

That just made the right more mad.  They became desperate to wipe away anything positive associated with President Obama.  They've tried to undo his legislation out of spite and bitterness, regardless of benefit to the American people, relying on an agenda driven Supreme Court to occasionally rule in their favor.  They fan the flames of the rampant racism within the Republican Party, which was getting more and more outraged Obama was still pushing his own agenda. But what really made the politicians and the intolerant voters furious was something they couldn't deny; President Obama has been successful, a fact which sends them into a whirlwind of outrage.

But then came the election of 2014.  After outspending the Democrats at obscene levels, and rigging the system to make it harder for Democrats to win, the Republicans took the Senate, and vowed to turn back the scoundrel!  They came out with a game plan to stop him once and for all, but it had one fatal flaw; President Obama was still the president, with a tremendous amount of power, and he was not about the lie down and let the Republicans walk all over him and his legacy.  He saw the right had a deep fracture between far right Republicans, and extreme far right, racist, pseudo-Libertarians.  He saw the Republicans seemed to have forgotten how to write legislation, as they had spent the last six years just trying to stop someone else's.  And he knew the Republicans had an impossible amount of seats to hold in the 2016 election, meaning the Democrats would likely recover the Senate, if not ensure another Democrat in the White House for the next four years.  Obama just had a stronger hand, and the GOP, drunk on their November victories, sobered up quickly when they realized how little control they had.

Which brings up to the little passion play we saw played out on Tuesday in the Congress. The GOP purposely went behind the Presidents back, and invited a foreign leader from an close ally who himself HATES Obama, Netanyahu from Israel, to come and try to fan the flames of a trumped up foreign policy issue, Iran and nuclear weapons.  They went out of their way to make this as partisan as possible, while insisting politics had nothing to do with such an obvious political move.  The GOP got excited, thinking this would be a way to weaken the President in the eyes of the American people and the International community.  Their giddiness bubbled over to a point where they fawned over the leader of a foreign country, trying to make the argument "Netanyahu should be our President," and nearly handing over the ability to declare war for America, including dispatching troops, equipment and tax dollars, to the leader of a foreign country, just because they thought it would make the President look bad. didn't.  The American people were not fooled by this clear partisan, anti-American stunt.  They did not grab their pitchforks and torches and head over to Pennsylvania Avenue.  They at best ignored it, at worst, turned Israel into a partisan issue (imagine if Netanyahu loses!).  Determined to still shame the President and make BiBi's speech the greatest one in the history of mankind, right wing social media trolls made post after post on how angels openly weeped Tuesday morning at the word beauty of Netanyahu and how all Democrats who didn't attend should be "arrested" (I got that one TWICE!).  It still has not worked.

The GOP is boiling mad, furious their latest ploy has failed.  Today they snapped, calling the President anti-American for not bowing down to a foreign leader, a "bitchy high school girl" for not doing everything Netanyahu says, and accused liberals of a plot to eventually "kill everyone."

It's the last one that leads me to my second point.  The Republicans scare me.  They're so frustrated Obama is still President, they're so mad he's had a tremendous amount of success, even in the face of overwhelming opposition (imagine if the right had tried to work with him at all), and they're getting more and more desperate to try to stop him.  I'm worried someone on the right, politician or pundit, will call for violence against the President.  They'll come out with a deranged plea, "Obama is going to get away with it!  Won't someone stop him?  Can't anyone make sure he doesn't get away with it!"

Then someone will snap.  There is already a fan fiction element of the Republican party dedicated to encouraging fantasies about causing the President harm.  If, God forbid, someone does attack him, the same people who have fanned this irrational behavior will be the ones saying, "I never wanted anything bad to happen to the President.  I only said he was going to kill your kids, and your grandmother, as he took away your money, and guns, and that someone should do something about it.  Where do you get the idea I ever wanted to see anything bad happen to him?"

Dear Lord, please keep the President and all of his staff safe.  Bless the secret service who guards him and may they get through the next two years unscathed.  Then, the right can insist they never worked against him, and how even though they had their differences, they were proud to serve at a time of the first non-white President.

Sure they were (Sarcasm!).  There aren't enough delete keys and white out in the world to cover up the GOP's shameful legacy in the age of Obama.

Monday, March 2, 2015


If you haven't seen the '60 Minutes' piece on the flooring company Lumber Liquidators, I highly suggest you do so, especially if you are planning on putting flooring in your house.  Here's the link for the story.  Scroll down the page to get to the video player:

The piece alleges, with a lot of science and video evidence to back it up, Lumber Liquidators has been using flooring products, manufactured in China, labeled as meeting the standards for safe use in the USA, but in reality selling Americans highly toxic flooring which can cause numerous serious health risks.  The company recently had unbelievable profit margins, unseen since the free wheeling days prior to the economic collapse of 2008, numbers which Wall Street investors had been skeptical of for their largess.  It was some of the Wall Street investors who started investigating the company and found alarming toxicity levels to the wood flooring, something '60 Minutes' also found in their own independent testing.  Undercover cameras caught Chinese flooring product companies, who supply Lumber Liquidators, admitting the products they were producing for the company were not complicit with the safety codes, something that's strongly implied Lumber Liquidators was aware of.  It was described as "too expensive" to manufacture the products with safe levels of formaldehyde, a chemical used in the glue holding the wood pulp together, but regardless, the finished product were labeled as being safe.


There is a whole lot of ugly here.  Let me break down my biggest problems by starting with...

#1 - The decline of the American manufacturing sector.  The story says some of Lumber Liquidators wood flooring is produced in the USA, but most of it comes from China, and most of that comes with the extremely high toxicity levels.  It's depressing to see how companies like Lumber Liquidators have shifted most of their manufacturing base to China or some other foreign country.  They could manufacture here in America, using trained, hard working Americans, using responsibly managed wood and using safe chemicals in the process, but they don't, not because they can't make a profit, but because they can't make the obscene profits as they can by using near slave labor, questionably attained source materials and toxic chemicals in a foreign country.  Which brings up...

#2 - Greedy Bastards!  Look at Lumber Liquidators and what you see implied in the '60 Minutes' piece is what American corporate leadership has become at many US companies, profits over all.  Why concern yourself with your customers health when there's money to be made, and even if they did get sick, would they ever be able to trace it back to the company?  What's even sadder is the profits now have different levels, where the corporate leadership's profits and bonuses trump all else the company does.  The answers Tom Sullivan, the Lumber Liquidators Founder, put forward when confronted by such egregious findings sound like a classic case of word play to avoid acknowledging the truth; the company likely knew and encouraged the Chinese manufacturers of their product (there are three separate plants) to use the unsafe levels of formaldehyde in the manufacturing process because it was cheaper.  If true, they could make a ton of profit, live like kings with their gold plated jet skis and mistresses covered in caviar, and the only 'negative' was a product which could end up making a lot of people very sick.  Which brings up...

#3 - Poisoning the people.  Regardless of what test is being done, the flooring Lumber Liquidators is selling is dangerous.  The people in the plant in China, the people shipping and delivering the product, the sales people selling it on the floor, and the families who buy it are being subjected to a dangerous level of formaldehyde.  The company had to be aware of this on some level.  The fact Sullivan immediately fell back to the argument "your testing is bad because it came up with a result which makes us look bad" tells me they have practiced the answer to this argument prior to having to make it.  It doesn't matter which test tells me the floor is dangerous to be around, but surely two different groups, doing two different sets of tests, both coming up with the same findings, is not something you can hide behind a 'different strokes' argument.   Which brings up....

#4 - Is there no one testing these imported products to make sure we are safe?  The answer, most of the time, is no, but this system was degraded by design.  Companies like looking like they're safe, but a shocking amount of the time, they're willing to knowingly push safety to the side in the argument for higher profits.  Politicians, mainly Republicans, but some Democrats too, are more than eager to take a campaign donation, and in turn introduce more lax regulations or even hog tying the regulating agencies tasked with keeping Americans safe.  They hide behind 'big government is evil' and 'overregulation is killing business' arguments to make sure that even though we have standards for safety, no one is actually making sure most companies are having to follow them.   Which brings up...

#5 - Who's the good guy?!?  Part of Lumber Liquidators problem is they were too profitable, too quickly.  Wall Street analysts have a tendency of wanting to try to figure out why a company is doing obscenely well.  They do this not only because they might want to jump on the successful company's bandwagon, but also the complete opposite, they might want to gamble against the company, banking their success is all smoke and mirrors.  I hate the Vegas concept Wall Street has adopted.  They gamble a company will succeed at a certain level, and even if the company is profitable, but not quite as profitable as expected, the company is labeled a failure.  It's like asking the casino to pay you back in a game of 21 because you were foolish enough to say "hit me" when you had 20.  SuperValu and Best Buy are local companies who have been unfairly abused by this free wheeling financial scheme.  But the reality in the case of Lumber Liquidators, in lieu of no real government regulatory agency looking out for the American citizens, Wall Street became the last man standing, the final uncleared hurdle exposing this potential fraud.  If not for them, a company could have sold a tainted product for decades, spending money to discredit and fight any citizen who might have become aware something was up, and when the eventual class action lawsuit would've been filed, they would've re-written the laws to make sure they only got a small slap on the wrist for their profit fueled illness and death.  Which brings up...

#6 - Death.  Not only should anyone who bought Lumber Liquidators product have it immediately tested for safety, but the illnesses 2 and 3 year olds will have in 20 years are the real legacy of the blood money, eagerly gobbled up by the greedy bastards who, more than likely, knowingly went along with this plan.  Not only are their customers future health concerns on the line, but considering the ominous statement from Lumber Liquidators about the video footage from the manufacturing plants in the '60 Minutes' piece, my guess is anyone at those plants who was honest about what they were doing are more than likely fired, and possibly in jail or dead.  This story, if Lumber Liquidators proves to have had knowledge of the formaldehyde, validates my theory about most of today's major corporations; if any one of our lives would ensure a company's quarterly earnings would rise one cent, you wouldn't make it out the door.  Money is the greedy's true God.  Blood money indeed.

Here's the worst part of this story:  How many other companies are doing the exact same thing but have not been caught yet?  Here's hoping they get too profitable, too quickly.