The Red Phone

Revisiting a Tale from the Past

I was reviewing a movie from 1975, and it featured a place that brought back memories. It came about this way.

Twenty-six years ago I was looking for a job, and I hired on at a company in Richardson, Texas. It was an interesting bit of enterprise. It was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chrysler Corporation, and it did military contracts. They were in a rush to get their software done, and they were scrambling to fill in some slots.

I worked that project to death, and this forced my employer to either fire me or to find something to keep my hands busy while they looked for someplace to put me. They told me, “Why don’t you go over and work on the Secure Digital Switch (SDS) project.” I knew the company had this contract, and it was a different kind of work. It was 100% telecommunications. Some elaboration.

Your government does not content itself to operate on the nation’s commercial phone system. they have their own, especially for talk that involves national secrets. So decades ago they re-invented the T1 line, what commercial phone systems have been using since 1962. Since Alexander Graham Bell developed the Bell System in the 19th century voice had traveled over wire in analog form. Your voice is a train of air pressure waves, and for nearly a century telephone sets always converted these pressure waves into electric waves, the peaks and valleys of the electrical waves mimicking the pressure waves of your voice. T1 and later versions in the series carry sounds as trains of numbers, each number representing the value of the pressure wave. A T1 line carries 24 separate voice links along a single wire.

What the United States Government did was to add another channel to carry signaling information. Yeah, there was no way you could tap a commercial line into an SDS wire and make that work. Anyhow, the SDS incorporated a features to not only encrypt the communication channels, but to control which phones could participate in which conversations. If some Air Force majors were holding a conference call with their secret clearance, and the general barged in with his top secret clearance, the switch would drop all phones not cleared for top secret from the conversation.

And that all worked nicely, and my employer had the contract to manufacture and maintain the switches. They also made the phones. See the image above. They are called “red phones” for no good reason, because they are as you can see.

But there was a problem, and I’m guessing nobody else wanted to work on it. And that’s where this place comes in.

That’s the Allied Forces Southern Europe command center in Naples, Italy, and they had one or more of our switches. Secure phone links ran from here to various other bases, and they had a method for testing the links. They would have somebody at the opposite end of a link, e.g., in Germany, break a link and feed it back to Naples. Then they would send out stuff from Naples, and determine the same stuff came back. It’s called a loop-back test. And when the test was completed they would undo what they had done, and the link was usable again. Only there was a problem.

If, for example, the general was talking on the phone to Germany when somebody ran the test he would lose his connection momentarily. Then it would come back and the general would continue talking with a puzzled look on his face.

And sometimes not. Sometimes the disconnect and reconnect would interrupt a control signalling packet, and the switch on the other end would never get it. And the communication link would lock up. Permanently. Have you ever seen a speechless general?

Anyhow, they said, “Fix it.” And I said, “I think I might need some help, like where is the code for the switch, and not only that, where is the code for the line multiplexers?” They said, “Here are some copies of the source code, and, by the way, the code for the switch runs on a Motorola 6803, and it’s in assembly language, and the code for the multiplexer runs on a Motorola 68000, and it’s written in C. And also, there is this guy named Dave on the third floor who used to support this code, but he’s not available to help you, because we don’t have the budget to pay him. You’re on your own.”

The switch had VME boards, which you could pull out and put on an extender so you could get at the circuits while the switch was running. It was necessary to clamp a logic analyzer onto the pins of the processor and track the execution of the code to see what went wrong when the link locked up.

And that’s what occupied the next six months of my life, and that’s why the Southern Command in Naples will always have a dear place in my heart. So when I was watching the movie The Human Factor, and I saw where the George Kennedy and John Mills characters worked I nearly fell out of my seat.

To wrap up the story, I eventually worked out a fix, and I tested it, and it worked. When the connection was broken and reconnected, the new software detected what had happened and fixed things up. The fix required changes to the switch software and the software on two kinds of multiplexer boards. That done, I realized the phones would need to continue to work while people were switching out the software in the switches and multiplexers, so I had to make changes in the phone software. That’s how I got to see the inside of the phone that sits on the President’s desk. Rather, one just like it. The neat thing about these phones is you don’t need to take one apart to change the software. The software is changed by essentially calling up the phone and sending it some special signals along with the new code.

Years later I was doing a visitor’s tour of the Pentagon, and I saw one of the phones on somebody’s desk. I resisted the temptation to pick up the unit and see the company name on the bottom.

The picture is not all that pretty. Before I finished with the phone software I got a better offer from another company, so I dropped by my boss’s desk and gave him my 30-day notice. He assigned another guy to complete the work, and I worked mightily to bring him up to speed. Not only was he too inexperienced, but he had zero fascination for the work. He was, himself, shopping around for another job. I do not know to this day whether the phone software got fixed.

COVID-19

Interesting Traffic Study

Finally I had my 6-month dental cleaning. That was Tuesday. The dentist told me he needed to replace a filling. When could I come in? I said right now. That turned out to be 0730 today. I went.

My front window security camera sends out six images when it detects movement. Here is the Corolla leaving my house. The image file is Street2020051407170001-1.jpg. That means I left the house at 0717 on 14 May 2020.

Here are the remaining images captured while I was away.

Here I am returning at 0816 according to the image file name. While I was gone for an hour only one car passed my house. This is a Thursday morning, the time when people are going to work.

Yes, COVID-19 definitely has put a damper on going to work traffic.

Loser

MARCH TO THE FINISH, PART 2

The 2020 presidential election is finally underway, and it will be incumbent Donald Trump against former Vice President Joe Biden. May the best man win. You can thank me later, Joe.

So, what’s to compare with the two candidates? I think I will concentrate on Donald Trump. In fact, the Vice President will likely not be mentioned in the future. This series is going to be a rundown on high-flying grifter who conned his way into the national seat of power three years ago. If you want to read something nice or even fair about Donald Trump, you are going to have to seek out Donald Trump, Jr. Or you could just tune Mr. Baby Cheeks, himself.

That done, this will disabuse you of the notion I do my own research. What I do is get up in the morning and point the Roku box at YouTube then latch onto something somebody is reporting on Donald Trump. This time it’s an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which was delivered on HBO 29 February 2016 when the Republican nominee had yet to be determined. The entire program was devoted to Trump and the question what the hell is a person like that doing impersonating a human being. Several Trumpian facets were explored, and I will devote a separate post to each. This relates to Donald Trump’s supposed business prowess, of which nobody has seen much evidence.

We start with the meme above. Apparently MSNBC was roaming around with a camera, asking Trump supporters what they liked about him. The man in the MAGA cap likes that Donald Trump is “an incredible businessman.” It says not so much about Donald Trump as it does about the American citizenry. The guy apparently has brain worms.

If you want to know whether Donald Trump has been an incredibly successful businessman, you might want to start with asking Trump. He will assure he is. Here he is quoted as saying “… if I put my name on something, you know it’s gonna be good …” We will see about that.

Yes, there was Trump Shuttle, an airline Trump put together starting in 1988 but was never successful. It continually lost money and defaulted on its debt after about three years. Creditors took the planes.

Then there was Trump Vodka. Over-priced and never gaining the necessary market share to attract distributors. Hey! You can still get the stuff in Israel. They like it for Passover.

Trump Magazine also failed.

Likewise Trump World magazine.

Trump University operated as a fraudulent enterprise, bilking customers out of millions before being forced to close.

GoTrump.com was supposed to be a money maker for Trump. It started up in 2006 and shut down in 2007.

Not to break the rhythm, Trump Steaks lost its founder some more money.

About this time one should be asking, “Are we tired of winning yet?”

An investigation into Trump’s business dealings since the 1980s revealed his ventures lost a billion dollars during the period. His business losses were such that when he counted them against real earnings he avoided paying income tax for ten years.

Hey! You guy in the red MAGA cap. How would you like some more of that?

There will be more bursting of the Trump bubble in the next post. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on you soul.

People Unclear

This is number 92 of a series

If I had been thinking back when I started this theme I would have named it “People Who Are so Clueless They Give the Appearance of Having Come from a Different Planet.” Anyhow, that’s what I could have done, Too bad the title is overly long. We have what we have. Here goes another.

I’m not saying Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms, but what I am saying is his postings are crafted to give the impression Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms. He does a lot of that. Here is a Twitter posting.

Donald Trump Jr. @DonaldJTrumpJr
Huh… No shit? I wonder how many of those in the media who were running with the communist talking points for the past two weeks will apologize and highlight this?I’m going to guess 0.

China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says

11:27 AM · Apr 1, 2020Twitter for iPhone

Does anybody really know what Donald Trump, Jr. is talking about? Not I, but I will make some assumptions. Here they are:

  • The Chinese government became aware of COVID-19  back in November or December, and they kept quiet about it. Like good capitalist they knew markets would suffer if the word got out.
  • The Chines government is now announcing success in combating COVID-19 in their country. Donald Trump, Jr. does not state it explicitly, but these people are not to be trusted. If anybody asks, I also agree they are not to be trusted.
  • Donald Trump, Jr. emphasizes the PRC is a communist nation, even though they have been giving a good imitation of a capitalist society for over 40 years. Donald Trump, Jr. wants to emphasize the term “communist,” because communists are not to be trusted. We supposed to get the idea that capitalist governments are more trustworthy. I am not saying Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms, I am only saying the ideas he puts forward may lead some unsuspecting reader to think Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms.
  • Donald Trump, Jr. is lambasting the American mainstream press for ignoring the PRC government’s duplicity, which duplicity I and a bunch of others who bother to read learned from the mainstream media.

So, does Donald Trump, Jr. have brain worms? I’m not saying Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms. I am going to let readers figure out for themselves whether Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms. While the question of whether Donald Trump, Jr. has brain worms is up for debate, something that is not up for debate is that he is one of those people unclear.

This is your president speaking.

Number 242 in a series

And now a few words from the President of the United States.

It almost makes you wish we had George W. Bush again. To make this rambling chain of thought searchable, here is what the President of the United States said;

China very much wants to make a deal. They want to make a deal much more than I do.

But we’ll see what happens.

And just remember they’re charging us tariffs.

You know, some of the folks that I really like, but some of the senators they’ll come to me, “Well sir, it’s not really good because it’s not free market. Like, you take India where they’re charging 100%.

And by the way, 100% is nothing compared to what some companies charge. You know, France charges us a lot more for the wine, and yet we charge them very little for French wine.

So the wineries come to me, and they say , “Sir-” The California guys, they come, “Sir, we’re paying a lot of money to put our product into France, and you’re letting-” which are great wines, but we have great wines, too, allowing it to come in for nothing!

I hope I have made that perfectly clear.

Buyer’s Remorse

Number 34 in a series

We’ve seen a bunch of these already. When you buy something and after you get it home and take a closer look you realize you made a big mistake. It’s called “buyer’s remorse.” There is a bunch of that going around in Trump Land these days. The farmer above is saying, “Pig farmers are currently losing about $25 to $30 per pig.”

It is almost going to discourage farmers from raising pigs. It’s almost going to cause them to think back to the day they voted for Donald J. Trump.

I have no real evidence this farmer voted for Trump. I have no real evidence he looked at Donald Trump and saw vast business acumen, so vast he was willing to overlook reports of business failures and criminal dealings. So vast he was willing to believe stories about a woman candidate who was unwilling to make impossible promises of rosy times for all.

I certainly hope this farmer did not vote for Donald Trump, because if he did he is sitting down to dinner nightly with his family and searching for ways to justify his faulty reasoning three years ago.

This is your President speaking.

Number 181 in a series

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

“We’re bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. bigly, we’re reducing taxes, very substantially, and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations,” Trump told reporters Tuesday, seated between the CEOs of General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and across a table from the head of Ford Motor Co.

That was General Motors then. Here is General Motors now:

People, you need to get real. Corporations don’t care about you and your family. What CEO is going before stock holders and tell them they are going to take a hit in their pension fund so people they might not even like if they met them will continue to be paid for making a product nobody is buying? A CEO who does that might soon find himself floating to earth under a golden parachute.

And this woman, who we can surmise voted for Donald Trump, is complaining about the lack of humanity. I am guessing that when she heard Hillary Clinton promise that some hard choices would have to be made, she voted for the guy who never kept a promise in his life.

Welcome to the real world, Trump voters.

The Government You Paid For

Number 46 of a Series

Hillary Clinton promised to eliminate coal mining jobs. Donald Trump promised to make coal great again. Coal mining states voted for Donald Trump. Coal miners now have the government they paid for:

“If this is unraveled some mines may again go back to ignoring conditions that can lead to disasters and deaths,” said Joe Main, Obama’s former head of mine safety.

Main led efforts to strengthen the pattern of violation rules, pointing out that serious violations dropped significantly after the 2013 reforms. The Trump administration is currently negotiating a settlement with the Ohio Coal Association and Murray Energy, which sued to stop the rules.

Worker advocates say they are highly concerned about the Labor Department’s decision.

“‘Significant and substantial’ violations are referred to that way for a reason — people die, people lose limbs,” says Phil Smith of the United Mine Workers of America, which sent a letter to the Labor Department questioning the decision to change its safety designation. “Every mine safety law on the books is written in a miner’s blood.”

“President Trump has already put his disregard for coal worker safety into action by refusing to enforce the rule against a West Virginia mine operator repeatedly cited for endangering mine worker safety,” said Charisma Troiano, press secretary for Democracy Forward, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. “Not only are President Trump’s broken promises on worker protections potentially unlawful, they could have dangerous and deadly results.”

Marco Rajkovich, Trump’s nominee to chair the mine safety review commission, has a long history of defending coal companies that have committed safety violations. He is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

Full disclosure: my father was at one time a member of the United Mine Workers of America.

Son of Snake Oil

I may need to  start a new series

First some history. I have a gym membership, and I spend some time on the treadmill. The treadmills come equipped with cable TV, and you can punch in the channel you want. I was strolling and scanning CNN when they went to a commercial break. The first thing that caught my attention was this.

Some call me skeptical, and some call me cynical, but I’m cool with that. No surprise ,the first thing that popped into my mind was the F-word. No, it’s not the word you’re thinking of, but it’s a word you do not use when describing somebody’s business if you don’t want to get sued.

So I watched the ad, and I figured it would show up on YouTube back home, and here it is. Follow the link to watch.

Listening, I caught the correct pronunciation, and it’s re-VI-tive. You purchase one of these things—easy payment terms are offered—and you crank it up and put your feet on it—don’t know if you’re supposed to stand on it—and it sends electrical impulses into your legs, causing your muscles to contract and not, and the result is supposed to be less pain. Assuming you had pain to begin with.

Here’s a guy using it sitting down. The claim is you only need one session a day.

See the image at the top. This is “clinically proven.” Do we know what that means? They don’t elaborate. They do mention—see image number 2 above—the device is “FDA Cleared.” I wondered about that. They have an ad site on the Web, and there is additional language:

FDA Cleared: Giving you peace of mind

OK, not much. Another site was more informative:

What Does “FDA Cleared” Mean?

According to the organization, FDA cleared means that a device has been submitted to the FDA along with a 510(k) premarket notification, showing that it is “substantially equivalent to a device that is already legally marketed for the same use.”

In other words, “FDA cleared” does not mean that the FDA has approved the device, that they’ve confirmed it works as advertised, or that they’ve even tried it in the first place.

The Food and Drug Administration explains more on their site: From there I snooped further and pulled up this document. I have a copy in case this link ever goes stale, and the critical wording is this:

Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Document Control Center – WO66-G609
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002

􀆏 John J. Smith, MD, JD
Regulatory Counsel
Hogan Lovells US LLP
Columbia Square 555 13th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Re: K143207
Trade/Device Name: Revitive IX (OTC)
Regulation Number: 21 CFR 890.5850
Regulation Name: Powered Muscle Stimulator
Regulatory Class: Class II
Product Code: NGX, NUH
Dated: November 7, 2014
Received: November 7, 2014

Dear Dr. Smith,
We have reviewed your Section 510(k) premarket notification of intent to market the device referenced above and have determined the device is substantially equivalent (for the indications for use stated in the enclosure) to legally marketed predicate devices marketed in interstate commerce prior to May 28, 1976, the enactment date of the Medical Device Amendments, or to devices that have been reclassified in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (Act) that do not require approval of a premarket approval application (PMA). You may, therefore, market the device, subject to the general controls provisions of the Act. The general controls provisions of the Act include requirements for annual registration, listing of devices, good manufacturing practice, labeling, and prohibitions against misbranding and adulteration. Please note: CDRH does not evaluate information related to contract liability warranties. We remind you, however, that device labeling must be truthful and not misleading.
If your device is classified (see above) into either class II (Special Controls) or class III (PMA), it may be subject to additional controls. Existing major regulations affecting your device can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Parts 800 to 898. In addition, FDA may publish further announcements concerning your device in the Federal Register.
Please be advised that FDA’s issuance of a substantial equivalence determination does not mean that FDA has made a determination that your device complies with other requirements of the Act or any Federal statutes and regulations administered by other Federal agencies. You must comply with all the Act’s requirements, including, but not limited to: registration and listing (21 CFR Part 807); labeling (21 CFR Part 801); medical device reporting (reporting of medical device-related adverse events) (21 CFR 803); good manufacturing practice requirements as set forth in the quality systems (QS) regulation (21 CFR Part 820); and if applicable, the electronic product radiation control provisions (Sections 531-542 of the Act); 21 CFR 1000-1050.
If you desire specific advice for your device on our labeling regulation (21 CFR Part 801), please contact the Division of Industry and Consumer Education at its toll-free number (800) 638-2041 or (301) 796-7100 or at its Internet address
http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ResourcesforYou/Industry/default.htm. Also, please note the regulation entitled, “Misbranding by reference to premarket notification” (21 CFR Part 807.97). For questions regarding the reporting of adverse events under the MDR regulation (21 CFR Part 803), please go to

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/ReportaProblem/default.htm

for the CDRH’s Office of Surveillance and Biometrics/Division of Postmarket Surveillance.
You may obtain other general information on your responsibilities under the Act from the Division of Industry and Consumer Education at its toll-free number (800) 638-2041 or (301) 796-7100 or at its Internet address

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ResourcesforYou/Industry/default.htm.

Sincerely yours,

Felipe Aguel -S for
Carlos L. Peña, PhD, MS
Director
Division of Neurological
and Physical Medicine Devices
Office of Device Evaluation
Center for Devices and Radiological Health

I have omitted some uninteresting stuff to leave room for the uninteresting stuff I did not omit. I am sure you are as impressed at the thoroughness of our government agencies as I was upon going through this very professionally-prepared document.

Final analysis: the FDA has not tested this device, and it goes without saying they are not vouching for its effectiveness. Buy it if you wish. Use it if you wish. Complain or don’t complain. Some have (excerpts):

15 Consumer Reviews for Revitive (2.7 on a scale of 1 to 5)

Got scammed by these guys

I tried to place an order yesterday, May 16th, at 3:49 AM and their associate said my order did not go through. I told her to hold while I call Discover and she agreed. I get through to Discover and they said she put two charges on my card for $394. She did not hold one minute to hear this. I called back several times to speak to supervisors and other associates on phone, and now they give me the run around that they do not see my name in their system nor phone number. Two charges pending on my credit card are sure showing up for $394. I have contacted to inform them of their scamming associates. Never will I attempt to do business with this company!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

Swollen leg and ankle.

  • By David Wardley,
  • Auckland, New Zealand,
  • May 12, 2018
  • Verified Reviewer

Swollen right leg and ankle for nearly three years and getting worse. Arthritic right foot too. Leg scan last week showed no clots. Compression socks helped a but slow progress. After only three days of Revitive use while watching the 6 o’clock news, leg calf and ankle is back to normal size, foot is much better too, and pain is gone. Believe it!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend [gave it 5 stars]

Disappointment

I don’t know if you can say it’s a fake or scam, but it’s not any good if you have much pain. It may help tired feet and legs, but it’s worthless when it comes to diabetic pain. I think it’s way overpriced, and I’d never buy one thinking it was going to help, believe me, I have one built in. I know they will never print this because they know it’s the truth, I’ve been typing this just for fun I guess, but I tried. Good luck, I hope it helps you more than it did me.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend [gave it 1 star]

It may not be the snake oil of legend, but it could pass for the son of snake oil.

Fronting The Brand

Continuing A Theme—Number 5

The brand may be critical to the success of a business, and companies go to lengths to protect theirs. A company’s brand distinguishes their product from the crowd, and brand loyalty is critical to repeat business. What happens when you cloud your brand with your personal predilections? Examples abound. Take the case of Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter:

Papa John’s CEO Steps Down Following Controversial Remarks On NFL

December 22, 20171:39 AM ET 

John Schnatter, the founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain, will step down as CEO in the wake of controversial comments he made last month about the NFL’s handling of the anthem protests.

Schnatter will be replaced on Jan. 1 by the company’s chief operating officer, Steve Ritchie. Schnatter will remain chairman of the board.

The 56-year-old founder of the chain came under fire after remarks he made during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. He said Papa John’s — a National Football League sponsor and advertiser — had been “hurt” by the “take a knee” protest led by African-American players to draw attention to police brutality.

To be sure, Schnatter is a staunch conservative, his credentials being sterling:

In 2012, Papa John’s and Schnatter received media attention after he made critical comments about the Affordable Care Act to a class on entrepreneurship.

Schnatter hosted a fundraiser at his home for Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney in May 2012.

Schnatter contributed to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and made supportive comments about his administration in January 2017.

In October 2017, in a conference call with investors, Schnatter blamed the National Football League for poor financial performance, stating “The NFL has hurt us . . . We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” referring to the U.S. national anthem protests. Later that day, Papa John’s announced that the NFL shield or “official sponsor” designation on Papa John’s commercials and advertising would be removed.

On December 21, 2017, CNBC and The Associated Press reported that Papa John’s announced that Schnatter would be replaced as Chief Executive Officer effective January 1, 2018 by Chief Operating Office Steve Richie. Schnatter, who appears in the chain’s commercials and on its pizza boxes, and is the company’s biggest shareholder with approximately 9.5 million shares, will remain chairman of the board.

Ordinarily there would not be anything wrong with being politically conservative and proud of it. However, in most recent times American conservatism has taken an ugly turn, finding favor with racists, xenophobes, Christian extremists, and the anti-gay faction. Papa John’s mistake has been to publicly associate his brand with the political right:

Papa John’s CEO’s comments spark protests

Mark Fisher-Staff Writer

Updated 6:18 p.m Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 Filed in News

America’s deep philosophical and political divisions following a divisive presidential election are prompting dueling protests involving of one of the nation’s largest pizza chains.

The controversy began with comments made by Papa John’s owner John Schnatter that he would raise prices and cut employees’ hours to pay for costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Those comments prompted calls for a boycott, which in turn triggered a call for a Papa John’s Appreciation Day today.

“Papa John’s has been targeted by the left for a boycott, for simply articulating that ObamaCare would hurt profits and force cutbacks in employee hours,” says the “National Papa John’s Appreciation Day” Facebook event page. “Stand up to this nonsensical and illogical action and support Papa John’s this Friday!” More than 17,400 Facebook users had indicated they were “going” to the Papa John’s event as of late Thursday afternoon.

Schnatter apparently learned too late that when you seek to divide your customer base you are drilling toward losing half of it. It’s a lesson impressed on others, including Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby. These latter two are privately owned concerns, and each impresses its fundamentalist Christianity on its brand. A result is I have friends (many) who will never set foot in either. Full disclosure: I never set foot in either from the outset.

Has the NFL been damaged by players who kneel instead of standing? President Trump seems to think so. All right, he may not actually think so, but he does say so:

…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.

Full disclosure: I have never attended an NFL game, nor have I ever watched one from beginning to end on TV.

Summarizing, a major factor with Papa John’s is that it is a publicly held company, and its CEO’s first concern must be to stockholders. Meaning the CEO must not ride on the company brand to forward his private preferences. John Schnatter has only recently become aware of this distinction.

The Government You Paid For

Number 15

Somebody posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was kind of cute, so I stole a copy.

The subject came up yesterday after our house received a campaign email from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who plans to run for re-election next year. See the link above.

Of course you never receive a single campaign email. These are like bosons, whose quantum mechanical properties increase the likelihood of other  bosons. To demonstrate we do live in a boson world, Greg Abbott’s campaign mail continues to populate our inbox. So, here’s the latest:

Barbara,

Our Texas economy is thriving under Governor Abbott’s leadership.

According to Forbes’ list of Best States For Business 2017, Texas’ economic climate ranks #1 due to our strong employment numbers and rapid growth. Companies are continually relocating to our state, creating jobs and spurring economic expansion.

During Governor Abbott’s first term, Texas has added more than 500,000 jobs and experienced its lowest unemployment rate in the past 40 years—and he’s just getting started!

Number 1! And from Forbes no less. That is impressive, but not the complete story:

Forbes Lists

Hey! Number 1 in economic climate, number 2 in best states for business and growth prospects. Number 1, number 2. Who’s keeping score? Forbes is, and there is more:

Profile

The $1.6 trillion Texas economy is the second biggest in the U.S., behind only California. Texas ranks first for current economic climate thanks to strong employment and gross state product growth over the past five years. In addition, there are 100 of the 1,000 largest public and private companies in the U.S. based in Texas, including giants like AT&T, ExxonMobil and Dell. Startup activity is also tops in the nation among larger states per the Kauffman Foundation. One of the only things holding Texas back is the education rate among its labor supply. Only 83% of adults have a high school degree, which is second lowest among the states.

[Emphasis added]

Besides ranking number 1 in economic climate, Texas also ranks number 21 in regulatory environment and number 30 in quality of life. Those measures might need some study. Start with quality of life, for which Texas does poorly. A quick reading indicates Forbes relies on “Mercer , the global human resources consulting firm.” Here is what Forbes has to say on it:

To determine the rankings, Mercer evaluates local living conditions according to 39 factors including political and social environment (such as political stability), economic environment (currency exchange regulations and banking services), sociocultural environment (media availability and censorship), medical and health considerations, schools and education, public services and transportation, housing and consumer goods.

Additionally from Forbes:

Western European cities dominate the list, with Vienna topping it for the seventh year in a row, followed by Zürich, Auckland, Munich and Vancouver, making the last one the top-ranking North American city. Seven Western European cities filled out the top 10. Düsseldorf came in sixth, Frankfurt seventh, Geneva eighth and Copenhagen ninth.

No North American city makes the top ten. Here is how North American cities fare:

In North America, Canadian cities ranked highly, with Toronto coming in at 15, Ottawa 17, Montréal 23, and then the first United States city, San Francisco, ringing in at 28.

All right, now, we are getting close. How about cities in the U.S.A.?”

In the U.S., the City by the Bay was followed by Boston (34), Honolulu  (35), Chicago (43), New York City (44), Los Angeles at (49), and Washington DC (51).

No Texas city makes the cut in the revealed rankings. You will be heartened to know that Baghdad and Damascus round out the bottom of Mercer’s list.

But Texas is number 21 in regulatory environment. I performed a quick search to determine which numbers are best, high numbers or low numbers. Forbes seems to say that compliance with government regulations is a burden on businesses, so does that mean Texas ranks close to the middle in state-imposed regulations?

We do know this. Texas is a major center for the petrochemical industry, and the hazards related to these operations are acknowledged. Anybody who lives near an oil refinery or has driven past one on a good day will know these operations make their presence known. Government regulations dictate what must be done to minimize the risk of catastrophic events, and they also place restrictions on the amount and type of pollutants refineries can emit.

Enough said about that. Governor Abbott’s letter concludes:

Governor Abbott knows that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we must create an environment that encourages more Texas entrepreneurs to start and grow their enterprises.
Texas deserves a champion of economic liberty—that’s Governor Abbott.

We are glad to learn this comes with the added bonus of an undereducated workforce and a less than standard quality of life.

Keep reading. The Governor will have more to say.

Amazon Adventure

This should get the conversation started:

Late 14c., via Old French (13c.) or Latin, from Greek Amazon (mostly in plural Amazones) “one of a race of female warriors in Scythia,” probably from an unknown non-Indo-European word, or possibly from an Iranian compound *ha-maz-an- “(one) fighting together” [Watkins], but in folk etymology long derived from a- “without” + mazos, variant of mastos “breast;” hence the story that the Amazons cut or burned off one breast so they could draw bowstrings more efficiently. Also used generally in early Modern English of female warriors; strong, tall, or masculine women; and the queen in chess.

I don’t know if that’s what Jeff Bezos had in mind when he founded the company, but I have been doing business with the concern for over two decades. Sometimes the adventure is beyond comprehension. Here’s the latest.

I purchased my Canon Rebel digital SLR 13 years ago from Amazon and quickly expanded my lens set by ordering a 28-90 zoom lens, which since then I have been using as my standard lens. When I upgraded the camera body to a Canon 5D, I kept the lens. It earned its keep, making me hundreds of dollars in image sales. And it is a cheap lens. A drawback is the top focal ration: f/5.0. That’s not so good for low light levels. For example, shooting (figuratively) Congressman Beto O’Roarke at VFW Post 76 Sunday night I had to crank the ISO up to 64,000. Makes for grainy images. I decided it was time to spring for a better lens.

Christmas is approaching, and I am sure Barbara Jean mentioned something about what I wanted for Christmas. When I suggested I was going to get the lens, she said OK. This was the same day she was suggesting we get a divorce. And here is where the fun with Amazon started.

I searched Amazon’s inventory, and this had the makings of an ideal choice. $329 plus tax. Shipping is free and also very quick for Amazon Prime members.

Barbara Jean and I were scheduled for lunch with the Free Thinkers on Tuesday, so I waited until Tuesday morning before ordering the lens. I did not want the lens sitting on my front porch while we were off having lunch in Boerne. Amazon promised the order would be delivered by 8 p.m. on Thursday—that’s tomorrow. I suspected it might come sooner, so this morning I checked the order status. Sure enough, the shipment was already in San Antonio and would be delivered by 8 p.m. today.

Some background. I was born in a small town somewhere out west of Fort Worth—even farther west than that. And that was a long time ago, and things were primitive, even for the mid-20th century. Technological progress continued to amaze me decade after decade. And one feature of modern technology I so much appreciate is the ability to track a shipment from beginning to end.

I logged onto Amazon a few minutes ago and noticed my order was out for delivery. Not only was my order out for deliver, but there were two deliveries ahead of mine. If the photo below were large enough you would be able to read the fine print near the top.

That was great news. There was no need for me to take a nap. My order would arrive within a few minutes. I refreshed the page, and the message said the driver had been re-routed, but my order would still arrive by 8 p.m. Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

I was about to check the status again, when the door chime informed me of the good news. I rushed down one flight of stairs and received the Amazon package from the delivery guy. Oh joy!

Of course I hustled back upstairs and unpacked the Christmas package. I pulled the Canon 5D out of its bag and unhitched the 28-90mm zoom. I clicked in the new lens and prepared to see f/1.4 come up on the display. I put a finger on the action wheel and cranked it all the way down. It stopped at 1.8. WTF? Then I gave the lens a closer look. WTF!

My confidence in modern technology was tragically shattered. Despite all the best Amazon has going for it, they managed to ship me the wrong lens.

However, Amazon has recourse for such eventualities. I opened the order page and clicked on the link to return the item, which Amazon will do for free. And I printed out a return label. Then I performed the next logical step. I checked on the specs of the item I had received. Amazon is selling it for $20 more than what they shipped me. So I thought, “Why not?” Some additional digging, and I found the appropriate link and clicked on it. Almost immediately my phone chimed. It was the nice lady at Amazon. I explained the situation. I was willing to accept the lens they shipped and let the matter drop.

Amazon was agreeable, and they kicked in a $30 credit on top. What’s not to like? I may in the future apply the $30 toward the purchase of the f/1.4 lens if the day comes I find I cannot live without it.

Isn’t modern technology just beyond belief?

Schlemiel-in-Chief

Number 11 in a series

politics-trumpdenigrate

Do I have to do one of these every day? Apparently so. I should have known before I got started down this path.

I usually avoid commenting on published opinion pieces. That’s because opinion pieces are just that, somebody’s opinion. And this blog is titled Skeptical Analysis. That’s what I do here. I do analysis of stuff, and analyzing somebody’s opinion is sort of like slicing Jello. OK. Bad metaphor. But you get the idea.

The reason I’m commenting on this opinion piece is where it appeared. Yes, it’s from The Wall Street Journal. You know, The Wall Street Journal, currently under the protective wing of arch conservative Rupert Murdoch. That’s cool. Murdoch’s World is a safe place for a pro-business, anti-liberal news outlet. Which is what makes this piece interesting:

President Trump meets with Shinzo Abe on Friday, and one subject is sure to be trade. The Japanese Prime Minister may be too diplomatic to say it, but someone should tell Mr. Trump the damage that his trade policies are already doing to the rural and farm-state voters who put him in the White House.

Yes, President Trump, recently elected in broad conservative victories last November, is catching flak from possibly the most conservative print outlet in the country. So, what gives?

I’m guessing what happened is Donald Trump, the darling of the far right, is not viewed as a true conservative by America’s conservative base. American conservatives have a number of deeply-etched policies, including:

  • Small government
  • Fewer government restrictions on business
  • A strong military
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Low taxes

Add to that fewer restrictions on gun ownership, anti-abortion, promotion of Judeo-Christian religious teachings, and you have a winning strategy with conservative voters. The problem is, although Donald Trump mouthed all of these in his campaign, he added a bit of crazy not seen in American politics since Joseph McCarthy, over 60 years ago. For Trump, the Republican headwind was fierce. One by one conservative Republican candidates denounced him, save one, and one by one he demolished them. In November the crazies won, and now mainstream Republicans are frightened. Here is a President who, while spouting the party line, is lurching dangerously close to the brink of catastrophe. American business is going to be hurt.

What the WSJ piece says [there is no by-line, this is apparently from the WSJ editorial board] is that Donald Trump’s protectionist policies are bound to do something similar to what the American protectionist policies 90 years ago did. In those days trade dried up, factory output went unsold, workers were fired and could no longer purchase factory goods, factories closed in a cycle that culminated in the worst ever economic distress in this country’s history.

In this case the issue is not factory output, but farm  products. The United States is a major agricultural exporter of food. The WSJ item provides a pair of graphics to illustrate.

First is a short list of farm exports. The table indicates 77.3% of American cotton production is exported, not consumed in this country.  Add to that 71.9 % of the tree nut (especially walnuts and almonds), 52.4% of rice (eat your heart out, PRC), 50.6 of wheat, and more. Farm products are definitely a significant contribution to this country’s balance of trade.

politics-economicswsjfarmersexports

So, whom do we not want to piss off? Who are the people gobbling up our farm products and who could possibly retaliate by doing their shopping elsewhere? The table shows Canada is our biggest customer. Hey, they are just beyond a border almost without bridges, and their short growing season is not amenable to many of the farm products they require. Next comes the PRC. This is the most populous nation on the planet, and they are unable to feed themselves. The PRC is a major exporters of manufactured products to the United States, and their agricultural imports, again, help ameliorate the current trade imbalance we have with them. And Mexico! Mexico, close behind Canada and the PRC, is a major customer, which Donald Trump’s planned policies will likely piss off to the tune of $17.7 billion a year.

politics-economicswsjconsumersofamericanfood

The WSJ concludes, in the face of the Schlemiel-in-Chief’s wildest expectations, free-trade is a boon to American business.

The bigger political picture for the Trump White House is that U.S. agriculture is already struggling amid a strong dollar and declining export volumes. Net farm income dropped 15% to about $68 billion last year, the lowest since 2009, according to the Agriculture Department. Unless Mr. Trump wants to compensate with more taxpayer subsidies, the best way to boost incomes is to let farmers sell in more markets, not fewer.

One reason the U.S. benefits from free-trade deals is that America has among the lowest import barriers on earth (5% average for agriculture), so new agreements tear down levies abroad and open new markets. President Trump should consider that reality before escalating on trade—and betraying the Farm Belt voters who are relying on him to bring growth and opportunity.

Is Trump about to renegotiate NAFTA, even strangle it? Despite what many of his supporters have screamed for, and he has repeatedly promised, President Trump is likely to incur less than gentle opposition from a Congress that has to face angry voters every few  months. Farmers, who rallied for Trump all last year, who joined in on shouts of “Lock Her Up!” may soon be shouting “Shut Him Down!”

The drama is not over. Keep reading.

Hello, I’m the 21st century, and I’m here to take your job.

technology-trace-01

TRACE, a machine that reads bank checks

I spent nearly 50 years of my life as an engineer, and I think I know when it first started. It was in 1971 that I begin to work in earnest to eliminate people’s jobs.

There was a small engineering consulting company in Austin, and we received a contract from a concern called Autotronic Systems, Inc. Ignoring the name, the company was headquartered in Houston, and they had a chain of self-service gas stations about the country. That was an innovation in 1971, pumping your own gas. It eliminated the job of the smiley attendant, who also checked your oil and wiped your windshield. Our job was to design equipment that fit inside the gas pump and recorded the amount of fuel pumped and the amount charged. The data were transmitted to another device we designed that would store daily sales data and at night phone the home office and transmit the information. Wayne van Citters and I did the software for the home office computer. People lost their jobs.

Two years later  I was working for a company in Irving, Texas, and what they did was build machinery that read the sales receipts from gas stations and did all the sales computation. Their machinery would also read bank checks, printed forms, and mail addresses on envelopes. We eliminated the jobs of the people who previously did this data entry.

In  particular, the company worked on a program to eliminate Post Office workers who eyed addresses and typed them in, or just entered the ZIP code if that was available. Twelve such work stations fed huge machines by Pitney-Bowes that then sorted the mail to the appropriate collection bins. The huge machine was appropriately call a Letter Sorter Machine (LSM). Jobs were eliminated.

I worked a few weeks at a test operation at the Post Office on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, across the street from Madison Square Garden. Postal workers did not like us. There was back room talk of workers sabotaging the machines. Eventually the company I worked for lost the contract to IBM, and I was fired. But the next day I went back  to work for them and did more mischief, eliminating jobs for several more years.

My first patent was for a machine that wrapped a band around a stack of dollar bills. It didn’t have to be one-dollar bills, it would put the strap around 100 bills of any denomination. We sold this system to the Federal Reserve Bank, and my invention eliminated the job of the person who used to put the strap on. Who wanted that job, anyway?

The same company was also a leader in the development of the ATM (automated teller machine). These machines are still around, and they have eliminated thousands of jobs in the banking industry. Docutel was the company that developed ATMs, and it was acquired by Olivetti.

Next I worked on weapons systems for the United States military. You could say I eliminated soldiers’ jobs by automating the work of killing people. My first project involved automating the location of submarines by sonar. I did the software.

My life of developing computer software aimed at eliminating the human element from all manner of tasks. My wife worked for an engineering company, and she was the business manager. She hired me to develop computer software to automate the repetitious accounting tasks. This was before the days of Quick Books.

I finally quit the business of killing jobs four years ago. It’s now the 21st century, and those jobs are not coming back. People are looking for things to do.

Donald Trump campaigned on the basis of a multitude of promises. One promise was to bring back jobs that have been lost in the coal industry. Disinterested parties have looked at this and wondered aloud who would want to go back to working in a coal mine. Nevertheless, idle miners are now looking ahead to going back underground and chewing at the coal seams, or else, sawing off the tops of mountains and scooping up the exposed coal.

But it’s not just safety and environmental concerns that are killing the coal jobs. The 21st century is killing coal jobs. Nuclear power, natural gas-fired power plants, and finally solar and wind power are killing coal jobs. These jobs are not coming back.

Progressive politicians bring us good news. Green power, they promise, will bring back the jobs lost at the coal mines. There is an enormous industry being created to produce wind turbines and solar farms. The new industry will create in the order of 100,000 new jobs, far exceeding the 30,000 lost at the mines.

Not so fast. These green power jobs are not permanent. Once the solar and wind farms are constructed and brought on-line, the industry will only need people to maintain these facilities and to expand them as power needs increase. Unlike coal, wind blows when you are not looking, and the sun comes up every morning. There is no need for the man to shovel sunshine onto a solar panel.

It’s much the same with the automobile industry. Teams of workers who used to assemble automobiles in the United States and in other countries have been replaced by robots. The major industries of electronics and computers would be impossible without the complete automation of just about all processes involved. Watch a video of computer disk drives being manufactured, and you will get an appreciation of the minuscule degree of direct human involvement.

It’s coming to be much the same in all major industries. Retail is eliminating the sales clerk who spends 30 minutes with a customer looking at a $30 pair of shoes without buying. Amazon started it with books, but the trend continues upward. The elimination of human-driven retail drives customer costs down, making it better for the economy all around, but at the cost of out-of-work sales staff.

Will there ever come a time when people will no longer need to be directly involved in producing goods and services? It’s hard to say. Many jobs I (and others) predicted would never go away are now gone for good. Economics, like nature, seeks the steady state. Eliminating jobs reduces the cost of products, but it also eliminates the customer who is supposed to pay for the products. Eventually a balance will be obtained, but at what level? In the meantime, workers are shuffling and trying to adjust, or not. The coal miners of West Virginia just defeated a candidate who promised to eliminate their jobs.

Will workers be able to vote their jobs back? Not likely. When it has been tried it has failed. Communism was a political approach to managing the economy, and it resulted in near 100% employment at the cost of dismal standards of living. This reality killed communism and the Soviet Union, but communism still thrives in the PRC, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba. I am not mentioning North Korea, which seems to be a special case.

In conclusion, if you recently, or a long time ago, lost your job because of me, don’t bother trying to find me. First, it would not be worth your effort, and second you would be chasing the wrong perpetrator. It was the 21st century that took your job.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series

A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

I started this thing about presidential candidate Donald Trump four weeks ago with no idea where it was heading. Now I find I will be able to post a new item every day from now until November without repeating myself. Thank you, Mr. Trump. It’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me. Thank you very, very, very much!

Self-obsessed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by scooping up conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! How wrong? Very wrong. I completely failed to take into account Donald Trump’s sterling business reputation:

Even before Donald Trump won the Republican presidential primary on a shoestring budget, the billionaire has been an innovator when it comes to his finances. The real-estate mogul, who has declared bankruptcy four times, has a long history of refusing to pay contractors, lawyers, and employees who work for him if he finds their work unsatisfactory. So it is perhaps unsurprising that several members of Trump’s neglected policy shop in Washington, D.C., quit last month when they found themselves the latest victims of the candidate’s unorthodox budgetary discipline.

Most of the people working at the campaign’s Beltway outpost walked out the door in August when the paychecks they say they were promised never arrived, according to a new report by The Washington Post. “It’s a complete disaster,” one former adviser told the Post. “They use and abuse people. The policy office fell apart in August when the promised checks weren’t delivered.”

But, come on. These people were, themselves, hucksters of the first order. Shouldn’t it be declared justice of the poetic kind to see them stiffed in classic form? It’s not as though the Trump campaign screwed over some school children:

Within hours of their performance at a Donald Trump rally in Pensacola, Fla., last January, the U.S.A. Freedom Kids were a sensation.

You remember the video: Three preteen girls in star-spangled outfits crisply working through simple choreography as they lip-synced an upbeat update to “Over There.”

That infectious performance kicked off a flurry of media appearances. The Freedom Kids told “Inside Edition” that Trump told them that he planned to listen to their CD all night. The group, which had been around for about 2½ years by that point, was a viral sensation largely inextricable from Trump himself.

Yes, the little girls were great. A scintillating performance. And was the Trump campaign ever grateful. Thank you very, very, very much. And not much more. In fact, nothing at all more. The kids, rather their promoter, got nothing that was promised for their appearance. Time and again it was the classic Trump run-around.

Now, though, the relationship is different. Jeff Popick, father of the smallest Freedom Kid and author of “Freedom’s Call” (the song performed at the Trump rally), told The Washington Post by phone on Monday that he planned to file a lawsuit against the campaign for violating its agreement with the group.

“This is not a billion-dollar lawsuit,” Popick said. “I’m doing this because I think they have to do the right thing. And if this means having to go through the court system to enforce them doing the right thing, then that’s what I have to do. I’m not looking to do battle with the Trump campaign, but I have to show my girls that this is the right thing.”

A Trump representative phoned Popick and asked for the kids to perform at an event in Iowa. The kids and their parents caught a flight and then drove the rest of the way to the event, only to be told they weren’t to perform. They could attend the event, but they were directed to not talk to the press. They never received any compensation for their expenses. Mr. Popick picked up the tab. A former Trump fan, his ardor has now cooled.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. Thank you very, very, very much.

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will never fail to entertain us.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series

Politics-TrumpFailed

A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

It’s game on. Self-professed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by drawing in conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! How wrong? Very, very wrong. I completely failed to take into account Donald Trump’s fantastic business acumen:

Donald Trump often boasts on the presidential campaign trail that hardball tactics helped make him a successful businessman, an approach many voters say they admire. Those tactics have also left behind bitter tales among business owners who say he shortchanged them.

A review of court filings from jurisdictions in 33 states, along with interviews with business people, real-estate executives and others, shows a pattern over Mr. Trump’s 40-year career of his sometimes refusing to pay what some business owners said Trump companies owed them.

A chandelier shop, a curtain maker, a lawyer and others have said Mr. Trump’s companies agreed to buy goods and services, then reneged when some or all were delivered.

Larry Walters, whose Las Vegas drapery factory supplied Mr. Trump’s hotel there eight years ago, said the developer, Trump Ruffin, wouldn’t pay for additional work it demanded beyond the original contract. When Mr. Walters then refused to turn over some fabric, sheriff’s deputies burst into his factory after Trump Ruffin sued him. Trucks took the fabric away.

All right! So much for a bunch of sore losers. What does the real record show? Start with the silly meme at the top of this post. To enable search engines to find it I’m providing a transcript:

Trump Airlines……..Failed

Trump Casinos……..Failed

Trump Marriages….Failed

Trump Mortgage……Failed

Trump University….Failed

Trump Vodka……….Failed

China Connection….Failed

Bankruptcies………..Four

So remind me again, what makes him such a winner?

Since this blog is titled Skeptical Analysis, let’s dissect each of these points:

Trump Airlines: failed

Echoes of Trump Shuttle reverberate in the Trump presidential campaign. He bashed his rivals with scant justification, grabbed media attention with flash and dazzle, and relied on gut instinct to pursue strategies that flouted industry norms.

But while Trump broke into the shuttle business with typical bravado and brand mastery, he was brought low by a series of missteps and a softening economy. His lack of expertise in East Coast skies took a toll, and he was forced to give up the airline after less than three years.

Trump Casinos: failed

ATLANTIC CITY — The Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel is now closed, its windows clouded over by sea salt. Only a faint outline of the gold letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P remains visible on the exterior of what was once this city’s premier casino.

Not far away, the long-failing Trump Marina Hotel Casino was sold at a major loss five years ago and is now known as the Golden Nugget.

At the nearly deserted eastern end of the boardwalk, the Trump Taj Mahal, now under new ownership, is all that remains of the casino empire Donald J. Trump assembled here more than a quarter-century ago. Years of neglect show: The carpets are frayed and dust-coated chandeliers dangle above the few customers there to play the penny slot machines.

Trump marriages: failed

Donald Trump married the Czechoslovakia-native Ivana in 1977. A former model, the new Mrs. Trump joined her husband in his real estate development business and eventually held executive positions at the Plaza Hotel and Trump’s Castle Hotel and Casino. The couple became prominent in New York society and had three children: Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric.

In the 1990s, rumors began to swirl that Donald Trump was having an affair with model Marla Maples, a Georgia native. Ivana separated from her husband in 1990 and eventually won a $20 million divorce settlement. She went on to become an author, fashion designer and has married – and divorced – two more times.

Trump married Maples in a lavish New York ceremony in December 1993, two months after daughter Tiffany was born. The marriage was short-lived; the couple separated in 1997 and divorced in 1999 with Maples receiving about $1 million. She has not remarried and was a recent contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-01-21/news/0501220056_1_donald-trump-marla-maples-prenup

Trump married the former Melania Knauss in January 2005, after dating the Slovenia-born model for several years. In 2006, the couple’s son, Barron William Trump was born. Melania Trump later launched a jewelry collection and skin care line.

Trump Mortgage: failed

In the spring of 2006, the tycoon hosted a glitzy event at Trump Tower to introduce Trump Mortgage LLC, a new firm that specialized in selling residential and commercial real estate loans. He devoted a floor of the Trump Organization headquarters at 40 Wall Street to the new business. And his picture appeared atop the company website with the instruction: “Talk to My Mortgage Professionals now!”

“I think it’s a great time to start a mortgage company,”  Trump told a CNBC interviewer in April 2006, adding that “the real estate market is going to be very strong for a long time to come.”

Within 18 months, as the experts’ worst fears began to pan out and home prices began to dip, Trump Mortgage closed, leaving some bills unpaid and a spotty sales record that fell short of Trump’s lofty predictions. Trump distanced himself from the firm’s demise, saying at the time that he had not been involved in the company’s management and that its executives had performed poorly.

Trump University: failed

In blunt testimony revealed on Tuesday, former managers of Trump University, the for-profit school started by Donald J. Trump, portray it as an unscrupulous business that relied on high-pressure sales tactics, employed unqualified instructors, made deceptive claims and exploited vulnerable students willing to pay tens of thousands for Mr. Trump’s insights.

One sales manager for Trump University, Ronald Schnackenberg, recounted how he was reprimanded for not pushing a financially struggling couple hard enough to sign up for a $35,000 real estate class, despite his conclusion that it would endanger their economic future. He watched with disgust, he said, as a fellow Trump University salesman persuaded the couple to purchase the class anyway.

Trump Vodka: failed

“Trump steaks,” said Donald Trump. “Where are the steaks? Do we have steaks? We have Trump steaks.” The billionaire Republican presidential candidate was giving avictory speech in Florida in early March, after the Michigan primary. Behind him were American flags; beside him, a display table piled high with Trump-branded merchandise for sale. “We make the finest wine, as good a wine as you can get,” Trump said of the dozens of bottles of Trump wine. “I supply the water for all my places, and it’s good—but it’s very good,” he said about the shrink-wrapped cases of Trump water. Trump mentioned Trump Vodka, too. But there’s no Trump Vodka on the table for the TV cameras to zoom in on.

One week later, on St. Patrick’s Day, J. Patrick Kenny, the creator of Trump Vodka, is sitting in his New York office, sipping a Diet Coke and explaining what had gone wrong. Not even he has a bottle of the stuff left. “There used to be one here, but it’s gone,” Kenny says. “The company cratered.” Trump Vodka had problems, from distillery to bottling to finance. Even so, it would be just another celebrity’s doomed foray into liquor if it weren’t the project of a potential president. With no political résumé to speak of, the only way to evaluate the capabilities of Trump is by once again poking around in his exploits in commerce. Like his bankrupt casinos, closed college, and other dead-end brand journeys, Trump Vodka was a flamboyant exercise in failure. Trump, naturally, insists it was a triumph, though good luck finding a bottle today. Its slogan was “Success Distilled.”

China connection: failed

“The problem with our country is we don’t manufacture anything anymore,” Donald Trump told Fox News a year ago. “The stuff that’s been sent over from China,” he complained, “falls apart after a year and a half. It’s crap.” That very same Donald Trump has his own line of clothing, and it’s made in … China. (O.K., O.K. — not all of it. Salon, which reported this intriguing, head-scratching fact, notes that some of his apparel is from Mexico and Bangladesh.)

Bankruptcies: four

Hillary Clinton mocked Donald Trump’s business failings in a major speech arguing that the presumptive Republican nominee would be disastrous for the economy.

“He’s written a lot of books about business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11,” Clinton quipped, adding. “He bankrupted his companies not once, not twice, but four times.”

We rated a similarly worded claim from Trump’s former primary rival Carly FiorinaMostly True, because it’s not accurate to say Trump is solely to blame. (For the record, Trump doesn’t deny the charge and instead argues it was a smart business decision.) At the time, we found four bankruptcies, but since then, we’ve found two more for a total of six. So Clinton was right that Trump bankrupted companies four times, and she could have offered a higher count as well.

Let’s go through them one by one.

And, indeed, the Politifact article does describe six bankruptcies of Trump businesses. All this puts the meme at the top of this post out of the touch-and-go company of Internet memes, which means that all this Skeptical Analysis has been just for show, and these past few lines of print I’ve been flogging a dead horse. As I remind readers, that may be true, but I am not the one who slew the animal in the first place.

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will never fail to entertain us.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series

Politics-TrumpBusinessSuccess

A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

It’s game on. Self-professed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by drawing in conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! How wrong? Very, very wrong. I completely forgot to take into account Donald Trump’s tremendous business successes:

Trump has a track record of piling up his businesses with unsustainable debt, and then having them file for bankruptcy. Per CNN Money, “no major US company has filed for Chapter 11 more than Trump’s casino empire in the last 30 years.” Under Trump’s leadership, just a few years ago, his company missed a $53.1 million bond interest payment—kind of a big deal. And lest Trump try to delude anyone into thinking that these bankruptcies were all just clever corporate maneuverings with no effects for him personally, note that to pay off creditors, he has had to offload huge shareholdings, yachts, and airlines.

Can’t be true. How could Donald Trump possibly amass his celebrated fortune if he were such a failure at business? Good question:

The emerging picture is an ugly one. In Atlantic City, Mr. Trump’s casinos failed even when the rest of the town continued to thrive. Along the way, Mr. Trump used company money to pay off personally guaranteed loans, and — after the 1995 creation of the public company Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts — publicly traded funds to bail out privately held casinos. The company has filed for bankruptcy five times.

Ouch! That has got to hurt. It would appear Donald Trump is the victim of rumors spread by a bunch of losers:

But a survey of Mr. Trump’s four decades of wheeling and dealing also reveals an equally operatic record of dissembling and deception, some of it unabashedly confirmed by Mr. Trump himself, who nearly 30 years ago first extolled the business advantages of “truthful hyperbole.” Indeed, based on the mountain of court records churned out over the span of Mr. Trump’s career, it is hard to find a project he touched that did not produce allegations of broken promises, blatant lies or outright fraud.

See? “Broken promises.” “Blatant lies.” “Outright fraud.” Losers, losers. Losers everywhere.

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will continue to keep us entertained.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Je n’ai pas la clé

Now I really don’t have the key.

The correct key for the correct lock.

See the previous post:

OK, now I really do have the key. But it is an interesting story.

In the previous post I poked fun at business that do not really have a handle on day to day operations. The state of business-customer relations also came up. I noted that when my new house was completed in 2010 the builder gave me the keys to the garage door, said keys having been given to him by the company that installed the garage door. Said company being Parrish & Company, Inc., 26995 Highway 281 N, San Antonio, Texas, (830-980-9595). I also mentioned that Parrish and Company had provided a lock for the garage door and had provided keys to yet a different lock. I also mentioned that when I informed Parrish and Company of their error more than two and a half years after the fact they graciously offered to make good on their error. They, at no expense to me, offered to provide me with the correct key. They would hold the key for me at the front desk of their offices at 26995 Highway 281 N, San Antonio, Texas, and would exchange the correct key for the wrong keys when I arrived. It was the kind of customer outreach that traditionally warms the cockles of my heart. I guarantee you that on this occasion their generosity did just that.

And now the key is gone. Not only is the key gone, but the lock is gone, as well. And not only the lock, but the entire garage door. It happened this way.

On a Tuesday night last month came a terrible pounding on the roof. I was upstairs at the time, and I was sure it was the fist of God. Turned out to be only the fist of hail, but that was enough. The roof is history, according to my insurance adjuster. Likewise the garage door. Hail dimples reduced the door’s real estate value to zero, and today they replaced it.

But not the lock. And not the key. The new door came without a key lock—the man said they don’t do that anymore. I’m guessing they don’t do that anymore when the insurance company is paying for a new door and not me.

Hey! Mike phoned a little after nine this morning. Said the crew would be there within 15 minutes. Just time for me to park the cars down the street. They came. They had the door panels loaded on the truck, already the proper color. See the photo. And no lock. And no key. The key I drove twice on 281 to the northern limits of San Antonio is now surplus.

The good part is, these people appear to do this sort of thing for a living. In and out in 30 minutes while I watched. They’re Mission Overhead Door Service, contracted by Blackmon Mooring, contracted by USAA insurance.

And now I’m wondering what I’m going to lose when the contractors come next week to do the roof. Stay tuned.