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Quotes o’ the Day

If people destroy something irreplaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.

— Joseph Wood Krutch

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The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

— Mark Twain

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Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.

— Benjamin Franklin

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There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society protect that society.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Krutch JW

Krutch

King ML

King

This Just In

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — A Los Angeles man was arrested for attempting to smuggle three king cobra snakes into the U.S. in potato chip canisters.

He was charged in connection with a parcel from Hong Kong that was intercepted by Customs and Border Protection agents. The shipment contained three juvenile cobras concealed in separate canisters. The snakes were two to three feet long.

The highly venomous king cobra, Ophiophagus hannah, can grow to 18 feet in length. When confronted, the snakes can raise up to one-third of their bodies off the ground. Typically, when threatened, they flare out their hoods and emit a frightening hiss.

During questioning, the man admitted he had received a total of 20 king cobras in two prior shipments, but all had died in transit.

Cobra

CARDIFF, WALES — Seven Roman Catholic priests were refused service in a local pub after the bartender mistook them for members of a stag party in costume. In the UK, costumes are commonly worn to stag parties.

The priests arrived at Cardiff’s City Arms on a recent Saturday to celebrate the ordination of Father Peter McLaren. They were turned away and told that the City Arms did not serve “large groups in fancy dress.”

When the priests realized the bartender wasn’t joking, they turned to leave. But another staff member realized they were legitimate, invited them to return, and gave them a free round of drinks.

An assistant manager of the pub said it was the policy of the pub to turn away large parties in costume because such revelers frequently become unruly.

Priests

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA –A family’s pet cat is being called a hero for foiling an attempted home invasion.

Police said Binky the cat began growling one night around midnight, waking up the household. His owners checked the property, found nothing unusual, and prepared to go back to bed.

Suddenly, a man pounded on a patio door, claiming to be in jeopardy and pleading to be let in. When the suspicious residents refused, the man tried to force his way into the house through a window.

While the owners called 911, Binky, who is declawed, attacked the man, biting him severely on the arms.

The determined intruder tried to gain entry through another window, but Binky attacked again. The man finally gave up and fled. He was captured by arriving police officers.

Paramedics were called to treat the man’s wounds. He faces charges of residential entry and vandalism.

The residents said they were shocked when Binky leapt into action. Usually, they said, he is friendly and playful and good with children.

Binky

 

Finding My Niche

Before I retired and became a man of leisure, I was an ordinary working dude. A nine-to-fiver. A white-collar wage slave.

Over the years, I came to know a series of corporate cultures that were every bit as Kafkaesque as the world of Dilbert, but without the humor.

Some of those places — actually, most of those places — were dreadful, borderline dysfunctional organizations. Bureaucracy, politics, and incompetence were constant obstacles. In truth, the organizations were not so much managed as mismanaged, and everyone knew it.

And, oh, how I hated it. The pomposity of the corporate caste system, the norm of inefficiency and waste — everything about it was offensive. I was in a state of constant indignation.

Probably, eventually, I was destined to leave corporate life behind. I had no idea what I might do to make a living, but I wasn’t making peace with the life I was leading.

Then, in 1989, when I took a new job in metro Atlanta, I got a lucky break.

The job was in the advertising department at Lithonia Lighting, a national manufacturer of commercial, industrial, and residential light fixtures.

The position, it turned out, provided a niche that gave me unexpected protection from the worst of the corporate crapola. I was able to do my work in a manner I found acceptable. It was a gift from God.

The details are a bit tedious, but I’ll try to keep it simple.

Lithonia Lighting hired me as the company’s first professional copywriter. The Advertising Department staff included graphic designers and marketing types, but no writers.

I soon learned that, in large part, I was hired to fix a chronic and maddening problem: the higher-ups were tired of being sued, sometimes by their own sales reps, over typos and inaccuracies in the printed material describing the products.

For a long time, the bosses had been reluctant to hire a writer. This was a company of and for engineers — real men — not some useless liberal arts major.

But they finally relented, and there I was, a detail-oriented guy with a knack for writing, grammar, proofreading, and similar skills that the engineers, poor things, clearly lacked.

The inaccuracies in the sales literature were having real consequences. When a contract is signed to supply the light fixtures to populate an office building, a factory, a mall, or whatever, the financial commitment is significant.

And lots of variables are involved — wattage, voltage, light source, lumen output, fixture dimensions, and more. If the products delivered are not precisely as quoted, and don’t perform precisely as promised, the manufacturer (or the manufacturer’s rep) is legally liable.

Lithonia Lighting was capable of manufacturing countless product variations. The technical specifications for all those theoretical products were maintained in a vast set of central files. The files amounted to a blueprint of what could and could not be manufactured.

When the sales reps needed descriptions of specific products to facilitate a deal, the company would refer to the official files and furnish the necessary information to the reps. In effect, documents describing any version of any product were available on demand.

When a product was modified or a new product variation was created, the central files were updated. Thus, theoretically, the sales force always had access to the latest and most accurate information.

In the years before I came along, the central files had been maintained and updated by a succession of employees — product engineers, marketing trainees, sales people, and others.

They were, to be sure, sincere and capable folks in their areas of specialty. But ensuring the accuracy of a huge mass of constantly-changing data was not among their skills. Hence, they decided to try someone like me.

Owing to the scale of the task, I was allowed to hire a few young copywriters fresh out of college. Like most writers, they were naturally detail-oriented and undeterred by what others might see as overwhelming and unmanageable.

And it worked. Within a year or two, we brought discipline to the system and restored the data files to a state of accuracy that was, if not perfect, at least acceptable. The lawsuit problems faded away. The bosses were pleased.

As a result of all this, management tended to stay out of my way. They were happy to let me do my thing, more or less undisturbed.

Because I was important to them in this manner, I was exempt from many of the petty annoyances of corporate life.

When a stupid management fad came along — Six Sigma, Core Competency, Management by Objectives — I wasn’t forced to endure the training sessions as were my peers.

And never once was I assigned to the universally-hated duty of helping to conduct the periodic inventories of the main warehouse, which was the size of the Pentagon.

As time passed, the people changed, and the tools we used and the tasks we performed evolved. But the work remained interesting and fun.

The Advertising Department, an enclave of creative types amid a sea of math and science majors, was never dull.

And I stayed plenty busy. In addition to overseeing the product data, we produced product catalogs, prepared advertising and marketing material, wrote news releases and newsletters, and edited a steady mass of correspondence.

Yes, the place was still a typical large corporation. The bureaucracy was appalling. The mismanagement, at times, was spectacular and stultifying.

But I stayed anyway. For 25 years.

All because I got lucky and found my niche.

Managing

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

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— The thin strip of paper protruding from the top of a Hershey’s Kiss is called a niggly wiggly.

— The board game Clue (known in the UK as Cluedo) was invented in 1944 by a British musician, Anthony Pratt, as a diversion for people waiting it out in London air raid shelters.

— In the 1983 “Dirty Harry” movie Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood snarled, “Go ahead, make my day.” The phrase was later voted #6 of the top 100 movie quotes of all time. In truth, the line was first used in the 1982 film Vice Squad by Gary Swanson, who sneered, “Go ahead, scumbag, make my day.”

— In 1972, Andy Warhol released a rather ghoulish print of Richard Nixon with “Vote McGovern” beneath it. Warhol was audited by the IRS every year from 1972 until he died in 1987.

Vote McGovern

— Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, a superstitious fellow, was obsessed with finding a bent nail backstage before every performance. Usually, a stagehand was assigned to scatter a few bent nails between the dressing rooms and the stage to make sure Pavarotti found one.

— Only two animal species wage war on their own kind: humans and ants.

— In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of certain classic French cheeses that contain high levels of bacteria. The ban affects such soft, unpasteurized cheeses as Roquefort, Brie, and others that depend on bacteria to create the desired flavor and consistency.

Critics of the ban point out that cheese lovers have consumed these products for centuries with no ill effects. The FDA has stood firm, however. Today, the only Roquefort you can get legally in the U.S. is made from pasteurized goat’s milk. Most agree that, compared to the real stuff, it sucks.

— In 1996, to celebrate the production of the one hundred billionth Crayola crayon, TV’s Mister Rogers poured a ceremonial batch of limited-edition “blue ribbon” crayons. They were wrapped in foil and quickly became collectibles.

Mr. Rogers

— The Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City, is named after the Bronx River, which flows south through the borough. Originally, the river was called “Bronck’s river” after Jonas Bronck, who settled the area in 1639, but the name evolved to Bronx.

Rafflesia arnoldii, a plant found in the Indonesian rain forests, is called the “corpse flower” because it emits an odor disturbingly similar to that of decaying flesh. It’s also the largest flower on earth, with blooms up to three feet wide.

— When you speak, you spray microscopic saliva droplets into the air. On average, you spew about 2.5 droplets per word or 300 droplets per minute.

— The motor scooter, a type of motorcycle with a flat platform for the rider’s feet, was invented in 1946 by the Italian manufacturer Piaggio. WWII had left Italy’s economy and roads in ruins, so Piaggio created the Vespa, an efficient, low-cost mode of transportation for the masses. Vespa is Italian for wasp.

Vespa

 

Rock is dead

Mocking

Angles

Enrolled

 

We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

— Eric Trump, 2014

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For a host of obvious reasons, most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

Of course they didn’t. Nobody with their wits about them would want such a flawed person, who has dangerous connections to our enemies, to lead the country.

But, astonishingly, enough people voted for him, in just the right places, to give him an Electoral College victory.

Why? The reasons varied.

Some did it because Trump was the Republican nominee, and they are loyal to the Republican team, no matter how far the party descends into fantasy, delusion, and paranoia.

Some did it because of the vague notion that Trump would “shake things up in Washington.” Nothing gets done anyway. Maybe a trainwreck is what we need.

Some did it to give a middle finger to the snooty, holier-than-thou liberals — those annoying left-wingers they perceive, sometimes correctly, to be looking down on working-class conservatives.

Some did it because they hate the lazy, whiny black and brown people who get a free ride from government, at the expense of hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic white people who just can’t get a break.

Some did it because they were taught to loathe Hillary Clinton by people they watch and listen to — you know, like Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck, and all those right-wing televangelists.

I get all that. Intellectually, I understand the motivations, as naive and wrong-headed as they are.

Still, it baffles me that all those Trump voters, knowing about the guy’s character, his history, his ties to foreign adversaries, his conflicts of interest — knowing all that, they were willing to risk the safety, security, and well-being of the country for reasons that are, frankly, trivial and infantile.

And risk it they did. They saddled us with a president who, in the eyes of the rest of the world, is a dangerously unpredictable buffoon.

They saddled us with someone erratic and impulsive enough to pick a fight with a madman like Kim Jong Un. The two of them are playing nuclear chicken, and if you aren’t frightened by that, you need to pay attention.

They saddled us with a man who is beholden to an unknown degree to Vladimir Putin, the evil little despot who single-handedly dragged the world back into a Cold War.

Eventually, I expect, proof will surface that Russian money has bailed out Trump and his businesses multiple times, starting back in the 1990s.

I expect we’ll discover that Trump is indebted to Putin, the oligarchs, and the banks they control, not just for coming to his aid when he needed it financially, but for stacking the deck by meddling in America’s campaign and elections.

There are rumors that Russia has dirt on Trump for unsavory personal behavior. They’re only rumors. They could be false, they could be exaggerated.

But if they’re even partly true, Trump knows the Russians could damage him, or at least embarrass him, by releasing the evidence. If that’s so, he is bought and paid for.

———

In case you missed it, Trump got 63 percent of the votes of white men and 53 percent of the votes of white women.

The white male vote isn’t too surprising, but the white female vote certainly is. 53 percent of white women voted for one of the most infamous misogynists on the national stage. Unbelievable.

For all of his adult life, Trump has disparaged, objectified, and leered at women as a matter of routine. Probably, in his mind, this makes him manly and clever.

In a rational world, his record of shameful behavior towards women automatically would have doomed his chances with woman voters.

When the “Access Hollywood” video came out before the election, in which Trump made his infamous grab-’em-by-the-private-parts remarks, I was convinced his campaign was over. I couldn’t see how any woman could vote for him after that.

By all rights, that incident should have sent Trump back to private life in disgrace. It should have guaranteed that no self-respecting female would dream of voting for him.

But 53 percent of white women voted for him anyway.

It appears that my confidence in the wisdom and maturity of the electorate was sadly misplaced.

AH video

 

Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

— Donald Trump, Jr., 2008

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In the waning months of 1991, the Soviet Union officially disbanded. Collapsed. Imploded. Over the years, a myth has taken shape among conservatives that Ronald Reagan, that clever rascal, tricked the USSR into bankrupting itself.

He did no such thing. The Soviet Union fell apart because half its member states were in open rebellion and others were poised to follow. The empire was too sprawling and unwieldy to control. The handwriting was on the wall.

The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, understood that the end was inevitable. Ultimately, he did the world a favor, declared that the USSR was no more, and went home to his native Russia.

In place of the former Soviet Union were 15 independent countries. By far the largest and most influential was the Russian Federation, which took home most of the nukes.

Print

Gorbachev didn’t last long as President of the new Russia. He was succeeded by Boris Yeltsin, a construction worker who rose through the ranks as a Communist Party loyalist. Yeltsin was mediocre and crude, but he garnered a reputation as a maverick and a straight-talking man of the people.

As President, Yeltsin was determined to transform Russia from socialism to a market economy. Throughout the 1990s, he instituted a series of radical policies designed to shock the economy and force the desired changes. Most of the industries controlled by the government were privatized.

Whereupon, the Russian economy descended into chaos. By the time a measure of stability was restored, most of Russia’s wealth — its property, transportation, media, manufacturing, mining and more — had fallen under the control of a small group of “oligarchs,” an opportunistic bunch who took advantage of the chaos to amass great wealth and power.

———

Vladimir Putin joined the KGB in 1975 and left in 1990 to transition into local politics. He excelled in that environment and worked his way up. In 1997, Yeltsin named Putin to his personal staff.

In 1998, Putin was appointed Director of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the old KGB. Yeltsin also made it clear that he wanted Putin to succeed him.

Yeltsin, who suffered from heart disease and alcoholism and faced corruption charges, resigned as President in 1999. Putin became Acting President, and he promptly signed an order declaring that no corruption charges would be pursued against Yeltsin.

Putin was elected to his first term as Russian President in 2000, and he remains in office today. He has successfully allied himself with the oligarchs, and together, they not only control Russia’s government and economy, but they also conduct business around the world with a range of corporations and countries.

Some of their business is legitimate — normal transactions as part of the world economy. But, because, Putin and the oligarchs are quite literally a gang of crooks, a large part of their financial dealings involves dirty money — their take from bribery, kickbacks, skimming, payoffs, and theft.

Accordingly, they need a regular supply of willing and seemingly honest business partners around the world for money-laundering purposes. Right now, investigations are underway to determine the connections, if any, of Donald Trump and his companies in this regard.

No one knows Putin’s net worth. However, through his ties to the oligarchs and his stakes in numerous Russian companies, he probably is a billionaire many times over. He may well be the wealthiest human ever.

In 2012, Putin was cornered into reporting his income for the first and only time. With a straight face, he claimed an annual income of $113,000. Seriously.

———

Donald Trump was in the public eye for decades before he stumbled into politics. We all were well aware of his standing as a professional showman, clown, and loudmouth.

His shtick, his role on the national stage over the years, was that of an insult comic. He reveled in being outrageous and provocative. The fact that he came across as an egotistical gasbag? No problem. That was part of the routine.

Lots of people thought Trump was entertaining, in an Archie Bunker kind of way. Others, like me, found him shallow and vulgar and tried not to think about him. Let him rant and fire people on TV. Nothing says you have to watch.

Clearly, a person of this caliber is completely unsuited to lead the country. Trump, in fact, is one of the least qualified persons of all time to serve in public office.

But here we are, well into a presidency that was destined to be a trainwreck and is fulfilling its promise every day.

The fact that Trump is an obnoxious jerk does not, of course, disqualify him from serving. Politics is heavily populated with jerks. But other factors should have disqualified him — and, I submit, still do.

Factor number one is his personal and business ties to Putin and the oligarchs. No American President should have ties of any kind to any foreign country, let alone Russia. Russia! My God!

Someday, we’ll find out the extent to which Trump and people close to him are in bed with Putin and his gangster friends. We’ll be able to see how dirty money was laundered, and by whom.

Someday, we’ll also understand the extent of Russia’s dirty-tricks campaign to help Trump win the 2016 election.

When we do, minds will be blown.

A second disqualifying factor is that Trump’s global business interests and foreign entanglements present spectacular conflicts of interest that simply are unsolvable. Already, he and his businesses are profiting greatly because he is in office.

And, sadly, even if heads eventually roll, we’ll probably never know the extent to which Trump, his family, and his cronies have cashed in.

A third factor, which is almost trivial in the overall scheme of things, is the matter of Trump’s incompetence. He isn’t capable of doing the job, isn’t interested in doing the job, and has no intention of learning to do the job.

In other words, being incompetent is his least egregious fault.

In my next post, a few words about the people who voted for Trump.

Maher board

Putin and Trump