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.

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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.

Politicians Say The Darndest Things

BoehnerNotScientist

I keep promising, I’m never going to run out of these. Politicians hear my plea, and they rush forward to keep me supplied.

See. A mythical, magical being in the sky has handed down the final word, and there is no disputing it. On that bright January day when Ben Carson is sworn in, we can only pray to Jesus that God does not tell him it’s time to start a nuclear war.

That was presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, an otherwise intelligent man, but now running for office. This time around House Speaker John Boehner came to my rescue:

Washington (CNN)House Speaker John Boehner ripped a reporter Thursday for questioning him about Democrats’ efforts to tie Amtrak funding to Tuesday’s deadly train crash.

“Are you really going to ask such a stupid question?” Boehner told the reporter before she could finish her question. “Listen: You know they (Democrats) started this yesterday. It’s all about funding, it’s all about funding. Obviously, it’s not about funding.”

Instead, Boehner insisted that the train’s speed — twice the speed limit at the curve where the train derailed — was the only relevant factor.

I wonder if Speaker Boehner sometimes stops to listen to what he’s saying. The train was running at twice the allowed speed because needed safety gear had not been installed. Since the rail line involved, Amtrak, is a federally subsidized transport system, federal funding is everything about the safety of its operation.

Now the issue has come around to federal funding, so let’s look at a few facts. Amtrak was formed as a government-subsidized corporation, principally from the assets of the failed Penn Central railway system in 1971. The purpose was to provided continued passenger rail service as railroads continually saw this as an unprofitable business. In particular, the Northeast Corridor, stretching from Washington, D.C. to Boston is a high traffic density stretch. The economy of this vital political-financial corridor depends heavily on moving business class passengers. Rail passenger service is economically the ideal solution, considering that enhancing and maintaining the freeway network in this region, at government expense, is not cheap.

Forty-four years have gone by, and passenger rail service is still not directly profitable. Subsidies, whether for light rail or for rapid, intercity, transport is an economically viable alternative to highway construction and maintenance in regions of high-density traffic. Those areas would include the California West Coast and the Northeast Corridor. High speed rain connecting Dallas, San Antonio and Houston is under consideration.

Like subsidized highways, subsidized rail has a similar model. All pay, some use. Those who do not ride the rail lines pay, and they benefit when the service results in a healthier business climate. It’s the same with good public roads.

And now John Boehner’s party is eager (already has) to cut funding for Amtrak. Democrats are howling. And John Boehner is calling a reporter’s questions “stupid.” Politicians really should think before they speak. Then would would I do with my free time?

Thank you, thank you, John Boehner. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Institutional Advertising

NorfolkSouthern-03

I believe this has come around before:

So now I’m watching the news on cable TV, and I see a lot of ads by Norfolk Southern. And these are really glitzy productions. There’s a cute jingle playing over the video (“Helping this here country move ahead as one”), and there are beautifully choreographed sequences of products being moved and trains and powerful locomotives moving in perfect harmony. Steven Spielberg, you need to watch this.

I considered it so odd that Norfolk Southern, a railroad company that doesn’t provide service into the region where I live, would be advertising themselves to me. Again this morning, as they have been for weeks, Norfolk Southern is showing all the stuff they haul. It’s impressive.

Cargo containers filled with manufactured goodies from across the Pacific.

NorfolkSouthern-02

Train loads of coal to fire my power plant. And steel products. New automobiles.

NorfolkSouthern-04

Would that I had that much stuff to ship.

But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the company is trying to build brand loyalty. If it wasn’t shipped by Norfolk Southern, then you don’t want it.

I’m telling you, it’s an impressive ad. There are these two train engineers talking over things in the yard, discussing what they’ve been hauling. They seem like earnest, committed railroad men. I’m sold. From here on out it’s Norfolk Southern for me and my family. Before Barbara Jean and I make the next purchase at the H-E-B store we’re going to ask, “Can you verify these carrots were shipped on Norfolk Southern?

NorfolkSouthern-01

Keep reading.

More Fun With Hash Codes

CreditCard-01

A few months ago I posted an item about applied cryptography. That post got into a short explanation of what the MD5 algorithm does. In short, MD5 takes as input a string of data, essentially a sequences of binary digits, and computes a 32-digit hexadecimal string. In my example I executed the following text as input to MD5:

Furthermore, comparison of sequences for the different organisms show what should be expected from evolution. Although cytochrome c performs much the same function in the different organisms it shows these differences due to random DNA copying errors during reproduction. As long as the resulting protein performs a useful (and required) function in the descendent organism, the descendent will thrive and reproduce, and the error will be retained in the subsequent lineage. The further along the line of descent a particular organism is the more accumulated change there will be. If a lineage branches, as during the formation of a new species, the chain of differences will diverge, as well. The result is that the accumulated differences between two living organisms marks the amount of change since the two lineages diverged.

The computation produced:

54eb1c5086598e9f925bb3ec30c215f0

I then changed one character in the text and ran the computation again and obtained the following result:

ca27c1bb6311517eb3ed51129bec0804

A quick examination illustrates that a single-character change produces dramatic changes in the hash code. A like result would have been produced by a change of a single bit in the text file.

This is just one nice application of MD5 (and the related MD6). What are some other uses? Here is an example.

Suppose you have a watch for sale. Somebody says they want to buy the watch. They promise to pay on the 20th of next month. You are agreeable to this arrangement, because you have a list of people who have proven to be reliable in paying what they promise. You need to determine the purchaser is one of these people.

You ask, “Who are you?” the person identifies himself. You check your list and determine the person is on your list of reliable purchasers, and you complete the transaction, expecting to receive payment on the 20th of next month.

What this most resembles is a credit card transaction. You are a Best Buy store, and the purchaser identifies himself by means of a credit card. The credit card has a 16-digit decimal number on it that uniquely identifies the customer as being a valid participant.

The problem with all of this is that some nefarious person can get a glimpse of somebody’s credit card, make a note of the 16 digits, make up a phony card with the same 16-digit number and then proceed to make fraudulent purchases. Since the 16-digit identification is also encoded on the credit card’s magnetic strip, a crook can “skim” the card through a hand-held reader and perform the same operation without the trouble of copying the identification number down by hand.

The problem with the embossed number and the magnetic strip is that the identification is visible, either by eyeball or by magnetic skimmer. What you need is identification that is not visible. Here is one approach. I will illustrate with a mock scenario.

A person approaches you and offers to purchase your watch. You ask, “Who are you?” The person identifies himself. You check your list and determine the person is on your list. Now you need to make sure this is not an impersonator. That is, make sure this person is not presenting a phony credit card.

You say, “I know you. You are the only person who can answer the question I’m about to ask.” Then you ask the question. If this is the person he claims to be, then he can provide the correct answer.

How can this transaction be accomplished? Here’s one way.

The purchaser has a credit card with the standard identification. This tells the merchant who the purchaser is claiming to be. The credit card also contains some information that cannot be read by any means, except maybe by obtaining physical possession of the card and dissecting it (destructively). This hidden information is used to complete the identification. Something like MD5 can be used to accomplish this.

Embed in the credit card an integrated circuit (chip) that can do some computation. The chip also contains an identification number that is unique to the card. The merchant’s point of sale (POS) terminal is linked to the credit card company database.

  • The POS terminal reads the visible information from the card and transmits it to the credit card company.
  • The credit card company matches the identification with a copy of the card’s hidden information.
  • The credit card company sends a message to the POS terminal. The message contains information unique to this sales transaction.
  • The POS terminal sends the transaction identification code to the credit card.
  • The credit card combines the transaction identification code with its hidden identification code, producing a data string.
  • The credit card computes the MD5 hash code from the data string and sends this back to the POS terminal.
  • The POS terminal sends this hash code back to the credit card company.
  • The credit card company also combines the transaction code with the hidden card information and computes the MD5 hash code.
  • The credit card company compares the has code it has computed with the hash code from the POS terminal and approves the transaction if the values match.

At no time has the hidden identification code been exposed. It is very impractical for anybody to compute the hidden code from the transaction code and the hash code produced by the card. Except under the most concerted and expensive attack the hidden code in the card remains secure. This approach thwarts credit card fraud that involves phony cards produced from the visible identification codes.

Readers interested in data security and related themes may be interested in a book by Bruce Schneier, Applied Cryptography. Twenty years ago I was participating in an Internet discussion group, and I had a question about something. One of the participants was Bruce Schneier, and he recommended I get his book. I bought the paperback of the first edition. The above link is to a revised edition.

Adventures in Car Shopping

Earlier this year I had, what can best be called, an interesting car shopping experience, and I posted a small item of interest.

I’ve had this car since the previous century, and when I retired over a year ago Barbara Jean and I agreed to sell the car and just keep hers. I mean, with nobody working what need had we of more than one car? I negotiated with a buyer, and that went nowhere, and in the end we agreed that we can still use two cars. We might not both always want to go to the same place at the same time.

I’m retired, and new car ownership is not in my game plan. However, a local dealership was advertising pre-owned Toyota Corrolas that seemed to fit my budget.

CertifiedUsed2014Toyo-1

That would have been just fine with me, and Barbara Jean and I were prepared to make the deal for this car. If only the car had actually existed.

That experience put us off car buying for the near future. I was growing to love my old car all the more. Still, Barbara Jean had this notion. Driving a 15-year-old car was maybe not the wisest thing.

So it was Wednesday. It was the long awaited day. We were heading off to Boerne for lunch at Centinela Mexican Restaurant & Bar with FACT, the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas. On the way out (what was I thinking?) I casually mentioned to Barbara Jean, maybe we should check out the Toyota dealership in Boerne.

Lunch at Centinela was just great, as usual, and the conversation was lively and enlightening. Piling back into my old car after lunch, Barbara Jean fired up the Garmin navigator, and searched for the local dealership. It was right back south on the interstate.

What a refreshing difference. We were actually treated like adults. We told the salesman what we wanted. He did not have what I was looking for in a used Corolla. He told us he didn’t have it. What a grown up concept! He did show us what he did have. We decided to wait until they did have what I wanted and made a note to come back in maybe November.

But Barbara Jean saw what she wanted. Barbara Jean had this Camry she had bought used from the Plano dealer six years ago. Miles were piling up on it (66,000 and counting). Toyota of Boerne had some fresher stock. Would Barbara Jean like a new or newer car? Barbara Jean would.

We looked at several, and Barbara Jean decided she liked the demo model with 5100 miles on it at a reduced price. It had alloy wheels and a moon roof. Snazzy. And it was the right color.

One problem. Barbara Jean left home without her check book. And we needed to trade in her old car. We had ridden to Boerne in my old car. Barbara Jean’s old car was back in the garage in San Antonio. The title was in the file cabinet back in San Antonio. We couldn’t close the deal that day. We got ready to leave.

The salesman asked if we would like to leave a check to hold the car. I said I did not want to do that. It was maybe five p.m. I figured there was no way they were going to sell a floor model before they closed the doors that day. We made an appointment to return at ten a.m. Thursday morning with Barbara Jean’s old car, but I advised the salesman that if anybody wanted to buy the floor model before we got back, then he should not hesitate on our account. In total it was a very pleasant car shopping experience.

And we piled back into my old car.

In the mean time I had mentioned to Barbara Jean a conversation with a previous wife. She had purchased her car at San Marcos Toyota. Barbara Jean punched the San Marcos dealership into the navigator, and we headed out over back roads to San Marcos. 6:30 p.m. and we were there.

SanMarcosToyota

Another pleasant shopping experience. A salesman named Chambers took care of us. We were only looking for a Camry for Barbara Jean. The dealership in Boerne had given us turn-key price for the floor model, taking into account the trade-in they were prepared to give for Barbara Jean’s old car.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chambers informed us looking over his list of inventory, he did not have any pre-owned cars with Barbara Jean’s mileage limitations. And he told us so. How refreshing!

But the new inventory was most acceptable. Chambers invited Barbara Jean to drive the car. Barbara Jean and I said we did not need to drive the car. We had driven Barbara Jean’s Camry from Texas to Seattle to Key West and back to Texas, where it was now parked in the garage in San Antonio. We knew what it was like to drive a Camry. You push down on the gas, and you go forward. Chambers insisted, and I knew why. When you drive a car you bond with it. So Barbara Jean drove all three of us around San Marcos Toyota’s expansive lot. I told Chambers we would not really know how the car performed until we got it up to 85 mph on Texas 130.

We told Chambers we needed to trade in Barbara Jean’s old car. We told him it was in top shape with at least 64,000 miles. He gave us a trade in value. It was completely satisfactory. He gave us a turn-key price. Again quite acceptable. We decided to buy the car.

Problem was, Barbara Jean left home earlier that day without her check book. Also without her old car and the car title. No problem, Mr. Chambers, assured us. He would drive the new car to our house in San Antonio that night (it was by now closing time at the dealership), and he would take ownership of the old car and also pick up the check from Barbara Jean.

So it was that Chambers and Barbara Jean arrived at our house shortly after me about 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Barbara Jean sat at the dining table and signed over her old car and gave Mr. Chambers a check for the new car.

All together, it was a very pleasant car shopping experience. People, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Heartland Headed Nowhere

I forgot all about Heartland Institute. Yes I did. The last time I paid them any attention was back in 2012. What I stated then was that Heartland Institute appears to use money rather than actual science to counter inconvenient facts of science.

A big deal with Heartland Institute was global warming. I highlighted the phrase because, as all know by now, it has a special meaning. The term has come to represent the apparent fact that human activities are causing a precipitous warming of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. More specifically, the burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to more effectively trap solar energy. The consequences range from melting of polar ice, which will result in a devastating rise in sea levels—not so devastating maybe to Orlando, Florida, which promises to become a seaside resort—to possible crop damaging climate change. Mitigating action seems to indicate reduced use of fossil fuels, an action opposed to those who own stock in the industry.

Heartland Institute to the rescue. To counter the findings of researchers in the field Heartland engages in various practices to dissuade the voting public from accepting these findings. Desmoglog obtained pilfered internal Heartland documents and heartlessly exposed the contents:

Tue, 2012-02-14 13:13 BRENDAN DEMELLE

Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.-Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on KochFacts.com and the charleskochfoundationfacts.org states that “…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]

Greenpeace’s Koch reports show the last time Heartland received Koch funding was in 1999.

That link is critical not so much for its negative finding of Koch support as for its links to the purloined Heartland documents. Here is a typical excerpt:

January 2012
Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy

Given the increasingly important role the Heartland Institute is playing in leading the fight to prevent the implementation of dangerous policy actions to address the supposed risks of global warming, it is useful to set priorities for our efforts in 2012. This document offers such a set of priorities. I propose that at this point it be kept confidential and only be distributed to a subset of Institute Board and senior staff. More details can be found in our 2012 Proposed Budget document and 2012 Fundraising Strategy memo. In 2012 our efforts will focus in the following
areas:

Increased climate project fundraising

Our climate work is attractive to flinders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 – about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012 – see the 2011 Fourth Quarter Financial Report. We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up
their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.

Development of our “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

It’s difficult to read through this without getting the idea that Heartland has left the field of public relations and image building and has entered the realm of advocacy. The problem with advocates of a flawed cause is they can come to believe their own stuff. Another danger is that when you abandon science and reason you no longer have science and reason working for you. That is apparently what happened with Heartland and is the root to a disastrous campaign they launched in early 2012.

Heartland Institute compares belief in global warming to mass murder

US thinktank launches poster campaign comparing Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to those concerned about global warming
Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

It really is hard to know where to begin with this one. But let’s start with: “What on earth were they thinking?”

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based rightwing thinktank notorious for promoting climate scepticism, has launched quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.

I’ll let its own press release for its upcoming conference explain, as there’s simply no need to finesse it further:

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world’s most notorious criminals say they “still believe in global warming” – and ask viewers if they do, too…The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).
These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.
Why did Heartland choose to feature these people on its billboards? Because what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the “mainstream” media, and liberal politicians say about global warming. The point is that believing in global warming is not “mainstream,” smart, or sophisticated. In fact, it is just the opposite of those things. Still believing in man-made global warming – after all the scientific discoveries and revelations that point against this theory – is more than a little nutty. In fact, some really crazy people use it to justify immoral and frightening behavior.

But then comes the best bit:

Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants.

Don’t bother trying to follow the link to the Heartland press release. It is long since void.

My point: When you abandon reason, reason is not available to you when it can best benefit you.

This has been out since early 2012, but I only caught sight of it this week on somebody’s Facebook feed. When I saw this I blinked twice and responded, “Does Kaczynski still believe in gravity?”

Others have not been so kind. The reaction was swift and deadly. Other billboards were crafted, if not actually erected. Some were humorous:

PalinBilboard

Some were right out of Comedy Central:

HeartlandBillboard-07

Some were classics in irony:

HeartlandBillboard-04

Some were a tad cruel:

HeartlandBillboard-03

Some were excessively cruel:

HeartlandBillboard-02

The fallout from Heartland’s disastrous billboard campaign may have been fatal:

The ultra-conservative Heartland Institute admitted it was in financial crisis on Wednesday, with the flight of corporate donors making it difficult to pay staff or cover the costs of its annual conference aimed at debunking climate science.

In a speech at the close of this year’s climate conference, Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast, acknowledged that a provocative ad campaigncomparing believers in human-made climate change to psychopaths had exacted a heavy cost.

However, Bast also attributed Heartland’s current problems to his weakness in financial management.

“These conferences are expensive, and I’m not a good fundraiser so as a result I don’t raise enough money to cover them. We really scramble to make payroll as a result to cover these expenses,” Bast said.

People who know me know that I am an advocate of the science behind global warming. It makes sense, it’s based on serious research conducted by professional scientists, it’s the consensus of scientists working in the area, it’s solid science, it’s factual. Conversely, the supposed science detracting from the scientific consensus is misbegotten, fatally flawed, erroneous, deceitful, conceived in malice and largely purchased by people with political or economic interests. Heartland Institute is the exemplar of the opposition to the scientific consensus. Where they are not devious they are then clueless. Do not deceive yourself that you can deny the science of global warming without signing onto the likes of Heartland Institute. Opposition to the scientific consensus has nothing going for it besides Heartland thinking and other barren fields of human endeavor.

Fronting The Brand

CRW_5248

I started on this theme a few weeks ago:

When you have a business, when you have a product, you want a public face, a brand. Brand identification gives your product, your service, your business an association in the public mind. You want customers and potential customers to think of a need and to associate your brand with it. Well established, your brand becomes a valuable piece of property.

Chick-fil-A was the featured enterprise then. Now it’s Hobby Lobby. Full disclosure: The person who runs things in this house is sometimes a customer of Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby, Inc. was founded by David Green in 1972. The current president is Steve Green, an evangelical Christian. Green’s other activities include promoting Bible study courses for public schools. Here’s what it’s all about:

The Green curriculum “is like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and editor of a booklet sent out to all schools by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 on teaching religion in public schools. “It’s unique in its ambition and its scope and its use of the latest technologies. I think school districts far from Oklahoma will take note.” So will civil libertarians. In an award acceptance speech last April before the National Bible Association, Green explained that his goals for a high school curriculum were to show that the Bible is true, that it’s good and that its impact, “whether (upon) our government, education, science, art, literature, family … when we apply it to our lives in all aspects of our life, that it has been good.”

That the Bible is good and that its impact is good—those might be negotiable. That it’s true—you have got to be kidding, Mr. Green. Where do I start? How about if I start in the beginning?

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dryland appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

[Links removed]

There is so much that’s wrong with the opening lines of the Bible. A casual reader will get the idea the entire book is a work of fiction. And that much is true. Some examination is in order. Let’s start with the first line: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Really? By all accounts this was about 6000 years ago. However, the Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years. The “heaven,” the Universe, has been around maybe 13 billion years. And “God” created it all 6000 years ago? Is this a new definition for “true?”

“God divided the light from the darkness?” Really? (again) The division between light and darkness as understood here is another name for night and day.  Night and day should be a natural consequence of a round ball (the Earth) illuminated by a bright object (the Sun). No divine intervention would be required. And somebody is giving “God” credit for this. Really?

I don’t think readers really want me to get involved in the separation of dry land and the seas plus a lot of other foolishness laid out in Genesis. Let’s move on to some more interesting stuff.

Does the Bible even make sense? Hardly ever:

1. God is satisfied with his works
Gen 1:31
God is dissatisfied with his works.
Gen 6:6
2. God dwells in chosen temples
2 Chron 7:12,16
God dwells not in temples
Acts 7:48
3. God dwells in light
Tim 6:16
God dwells in darkness
1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2
4. God is seen and heard
Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
Ex 24:9-11
God is invisible and cannot be heard
John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16
5. God is tired and rests
Ex 31:17
God is never tired and never rests
Is 40:28

Here is more from the King James Version:

And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

Really? “The Lord” (God) “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Please don’t laugh at me folks. I didn’t make this stuff up. Somebody else did. Somebody else who obviously was not thinking it through. Earlier in the Bible “The Lord” created Heaven and Earth and everything in it in only six days. But when it comes to chariots  of iron, man that’s just too much. You know what, dear reader. If you can get hold of one of those chariots of iron then don’t let any grass grow under your feet. You’re going to be able to rule the world.

Should I mention the Book of Exodus? May as well.

The story in the Bible is that the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt and escaped Egypt and fled to the Promised land, spending 40 years in the wilderness. 30,000 of them. Then “The Lord” delivered them to the Promised Land, and thus began the rest of the story of the Hebrew people.

The problem with is all evidence indicates the Hebrews were never in Egypt en masse. They occupied those two hilltop regions in the Eastern Mediterranean continuously for more than a thousand years prior to the time the Bible has them migrating in. The fact is there was no scourge of newborns in Egypt, so there was no real “Passover,” and the entire meaning of the holiday is based on myth.

Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. These are the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone tablets as dictated by God. And God plagiarized previous authors, because many of the rules spelled out echo existing tradition and law:

Julius Morgenstern argued that Exodus 34 is distinct from the Jahwist document, identifying it with king Asa’s reforms in 899 BCE. Bright, however, believes that like the Decalogue this text has its origins in the time of the tribal alliance. The book of the covenant, he notes, bears a greater similarity to Mesopotamian law codes (e.g. the Code of Hammurabi which was inscribed on a stone stele). He argues that the function of this “book” is to move from the realm of treaty to the realm of law: “The Book of the Covenant (Ex., chs. 21 to 23; cf. ch. 34), which is no official state law, but a description of normative Israelite judicial procedure in the days of the Judges, is the best example of this process.” According to Bright, then, this body of law too predates the monarchy.

Hilton J. Blik writes that the phrasing in the Decalogue`s instructions suggests that it was conceived in a mainly polytheistic milieu, evident especially in the formulation of “no-other-gods-before-me” commandment.

[Some links removed]

There’s a lot more stuff, and I feel safe to conclude the Bible is mainly myth and hardly ever true. If the Bible is not true, then is it in any way “good?” Depends on how you define “good.” If you want to know what Eastern Mediterranean tribes were thinking two to three thousand years ago, then the Bible will give you some clues. Remember, these are only clues. A lot of the Bible has suffered more recent editing.

If you want to argue the Bible is a reliable source of wisdom for formulating modern law and social mores, then you’re going to have an uphill battle. Some examples:

Judges 21:10-24 NLT So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children.  “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.”  Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.

That was about rape, and it was not the entire story. How about the love of God?

The LORD is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and wrath.  He takes revenge on all who oppose him and furiously destroys his enemies!  The LORD is slow to get angry, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished.  He displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm.  The billowing clouds are the dust beneath his feet.  At his command the oceans and rivers dry up, the lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wilt.  In his presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed.  Who can stand before his fierce anger?  Who can survive his burning fury?  His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence.  The LORD is good.  When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge.  And he knows everyone who trusts in him.  But he sweeps away his enemies in an overwhelming flood.  He pursues his foes into the darkness of night.   (Nahum 1:2-8 NLT)

Sweet. You won’t find many, if any, sanctions against slavery in the Bible:

If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years.  Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.  If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year.  But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him.  If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.  But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children.  I would rather not go free.’  If he does this, his master must present him before God.  Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl.  After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.  (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

We want to base civil law on these teachings? Really? Civil law based on the Bible would be harsh, indeed:

Note also that any one of his possessions which a man vows as doomed to the Lord, whether it is a human being or an animal, or a hereditary field, shall be neither sold nor ransomed; everything that is thus doomed becomes most sacred to the Lord.  All human beings that are doomed lose the right to be redeemed; they must be put to death.

This is the kind of stuff Steven Green wants our children to learn in school? Probably not. Let me tell you what is really going to happen.

There is going to be a Bible course for the public schools, but they are not going to teach the real Bible. There is going to be a lesson plan with the name of the Bible pasted on, but the lesson plan is going to outline social concepts and philosophies conjured up in the mind of Steven Green, and it’s going to be a plan to get people to thinking what he wants them to think, and spirituality is going to make way for political indoctrination whenever convenient. Such is the power of money.

Adventures in Car Shopping

I have this old car:

CarAndHouse

No, not that car. That car belonged to a friend of Tom, who lived next door. I mean this car:

OldCarAndHouse

I’ve had this car since the previous century, and when I retired over a year ago Barbara Jean and I agreed to sell the car and just keep hers. I mean, with nobody working what need had we of more than one car? I negotiated with a buyer, and that went nowhere, and in the end we agreed that we can still use two cars. We might not both always want to go to the same place at the same time.

Things worked along. Barbara Jean was thinking this car is now as old as some rock stars, although without so many miles. We should be thinking of replacing it. It would be the last car I would ever own. That was something else to think about.

We had always discussed that any replacement sould be a compact, and not a high-end model. It would be our town car. Cross continental trips would require using Barbara Jean’s Camry. We were thinking a Toyota Corolla.

So…

So Barbara Jean started perusing the local pre-owned market. She showed me this:

CertifiedUsed2014Toyo-1

This car was listed with six miles on the odometer. (?)

The local dealership had four LE models. Three of them were white. This was the only sliver. She did not want another white car. I agreed. We couldn’t just hop down to the dealer to take a look at the car. We had arrangements for an outing with Nancy and Gary. That’s another story. But before we left to meet up with our friends I did phone the number listed, and I talked to Richard. He said yes, they still had the car. Would I like to come down today (Saturday) and look at it. I explained we had other plans, and we would come on Monday (closed on Sunday). I did ask how a car with six miles was being listed as pre-owned. A car rolls off the production line with six miles. Richard said this sometimes happens when another dealership orders more inventory than they are allowed to. (?) We went off to the Arts and Jazz Festival with Nancy and Gary.

Cavender is a huge dealership in San Antonio, selling multiple brands at locations spread across the city. I watch Time-Warner cable TV a lot, and spots between entertainment are often filled with adds by the company. Famous singer George Strait lives in the area, and he is often featured in ads for the General Motors brand, especially Chevrolet. I often wondered what part of any automobile purchase would go toward what must be a sizable advertising budget. That is going to remain a mystery.

As the other story (above) tells, our adventure at the festival didn’t pan out, and we ended up having a nice lunch at a place called The Cove on Cypress Street. As we wrapped up lunch we realized the dealership was along the route home. We could stop and take a look at the car. Barbara would treat everybody to a yogurt afterwards. We arrived at the dealership:

IMG_4540

I told the lady who greeted me we came to speak with Richard. I had talked to him earlier about a car, and I was hoping he could show me the car today. She said she would get Richard for me. She went off. Somebody came to see us. It was not Richard. He said he would show us the car. We told him Richard said they had the car. He said we should go look for the car. It must be outside. I suspected it would be outside. We all went out side and looked for the car.

We looked in the lot by the sales office. We went to the lot across the street. I’m telling you, I don’t think Cowboy Stadium ever parked this many cars for a game. “How about this car?” the man asked. No, that’s not even a Corolla. This one? No, that’s not silver. Well, where is the car? We all went back to the sales office. It was a warm day.

The man went away. Another man came. He would find the car for us. I said, fine. Please do. He said we should come with him to look for the car. I said no, we would wait here in the air-conditioned show room while he went to look for the car. The second man went off “to look for the car.” We waited in the sales area and discussed the science of selling cars.

Gary had in a previous life done this very thing. He explained what was going on. The first man (not Richard) had first dibs on making the sale. He had failed. He could not find the car. The second man was lower on the totem pole and he had been given the shaft, rather the job of “looking for the car” and conducting some kind of business with us. We waited in the show room:

IMG_4542

It was comfortable there. And pleasant. Maybe that’s why Barbara Jean had told the second man we would wait 30 minutes for him to find the car. I mentioned I would have given him only ten minutes, then we would have been off to get a yogurt. Besides, in 30 minutes it would be closing time at the dealership.

I don’t recall if the second man ever came back, but a third man, wearing a red shirt, came and explained they were having trouble locating the car. Gary later told me, and I firmly believe, a dealership always knows at all times the location of all its inventory. I remarked that if Barbara Jean were running this operation there would be a computer spread sheet and a relational database identifying the location and status of all high-priced inventory such as automobiles costing many thousands of dollars each. We were long past concluding the dealership no longer had the car or else never had the car to begin with. Their aim was to keep us around until some kind of business could be conducted.

I told the man in the red shirt “Richard has my phone number. He will call me on Monday, and we will come down and look at the car. We live just a few miles up the road.” Goodbye, out the front door, to my old car parked a little ways down the lot. We all trooped over and started getting into the old car. The man in the red shirt rushed up to tell us he just heard from the office that the car had been lent to a customer. We thanked him for the information and left a message for Richard to phone me on Monday.

At the Yogurt Zone near the house we all had big cups of frozen yogurt, and Barbara Jean picked up the tab. Everything worked out just fine in my assessment.

Texas Pride

 

Aren’t we proud?

In a March 6, 2003 interview with the El Paso Times, Riddle was quoted as saying:

“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”

That’s Representative Debbie Riddle, state legislator from District 150 in northwest Harris County. Aren’t we proud?

Free education, indeed! Actually, it’s not free. We pay for it. I got a free education—Granbury Elementary and Granbury High School—and since I received my diploma I’ve been working and paying for my education in taxes. I also received a subsidized education at prestigious state universities in Texas, obtaining degrees in engineering, math and physics and putting those skills to work here in this country and in this state and paying taxes.

Cut off publicly funded education? Cut your wrists while you’re at it. This nation would starve without public education. Meanwhile Moscow would be amused.

Texas has a long tradition of caring for people who cannot care for themselves:

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) is a Texas special public school, in the continuum of statewide placements for students who have a visual impairment. It is considered a statewide resource to parents of these children and professionals who serve them. Students, ages 6 through 21, who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities, are eligible for consideration for services at TSBVI. Founded in 1856, the school is currently located at 1100 West 45th Street in Austin, Texas and serves not only the local community, but most of the blind children in other schools across the state. Its teaching curriculum and its website serve most countries around the world as the leading resource in visual impairment education.

This notion seems to have sprung out of our early frontier spirit and sense of values.

Publicly funded health care? We’ve had it since the 19th century, and it did not come from Moscow

Austin State Hospital was the first state facility of its kind built west of the Mississippi. In 1856, the governor of Texas signed a bill providing for the establishment of the Texas State Lunatic Asylum. Construction started in 1857, and the first patients were admitted in 1861. The facility was renamed the Austin State Hospital (ASH) in 1925.

Today, this original building serves as the administration building for a modern, innovative facility providing psychiatric care to a 38-county region in Central Texas. ASH admits over 4000 patients in a fiscal year, with about the same number of discharges, and has an average daily patient census of 292. The focus of recovery is stabilization for people with  acute psychiatric illness and support of their return to the community.

Riddle mentions Moscow and Hell, but I will not dive into the subject of Hell, because I don’t want to involve mythical places in this discussion.

All this makes me wonder: Just how long has Representative Riddle lived in the state of Texas, and just how much does she know about our history and our traditions? There’s more from her Facebook feed:

The rancher, Mr. Bundy, in Nevada who has drawn a line in the sand (without harming one turtle) is a brave patriot. The Feds have no right to come onto state property where he has had grazing rights for decades, take his cattle, act like “jack booted thugs” & attempt to intimidate. If Obama was as concerned about our border security as he is being a bully with Bundy – then we would all be safer & folks would respect our laws & respect us more as a nation. Mr. President, we here in Texas believe in States Rights & we are standing with the Nevada rancher!! As the say in NH “Live free or die!”

ClivenBundy

“Live free or die!” I like those words. Here are some other words from Cliven Bundy:

Washington (CNN) — Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s remarksabout whether “the Negro” fared better under slavery represents the latest in a series of incendiary racial comments from a new crop of folk heroes embraced in some conservative circles.

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy said to reporters, according to The New York Times.

“And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,” he was quoted as saying.

Bundy, 67, a rancher whose much-publicized land dispute with the federal government endeared him to conservatives, defended his comments as idle thoughts.

“Idle thoughts?” If those are his idle thoughts I yearn to know what Cliven Bundy is thinking when he is thinking seriously.

Since Mr. Bundy’s idle thoughts have come to light, a number of conservative politicians and pundits have started to back away. “Stand by your man” is just a collection of words from a song. It’s not the way to win elections or to soak up public respect. Those backing away may not include Debbie Riddle. Her more recent Facebook posts show her upping the ante on Cliven Bundy:

Today I sent an official letter to President Obama letting him know that folks in Texas take property rights & states rights seriously. Any idea the Federal BLM has in taking land along the Red River is not well advised. This administration seems to have no problem walking on citizens & trampling our rights. Next legislative session I will be introducing legislation regarding private property rights giving belts & suspenders to what we have to protect the folks in Texas. What the BLM is doing shows they are out of control. We know how to draw a line in the sand that people respect – Obama just draws red lines people ignore.
Texas, at least District 150, can be proud.

High-Pocket Pickpocket

Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em. From the Bundy Ranch Web site

Roll ’em, roll ’em, roll ’em. From the Bundy Ranch Web site

Woody Guthrie was a favorite of my father’s. They both suffered through the Great Depression, and Guthrie’s music struck a sympathetic chord. Given the chance, I would vote this one to be the national anthem:

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

This land really was made for you and me.

Only some of us have taken to much to heart the “my land” part.

Showdown on the range: Nevada rancher, feds face off over cattle grazing rights

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Sat April 12, 2014

(CNN) — A 20-year dispute between a Nevada rancher and federal rangers over illegal cattle grazing erupted into an Old West-style showdown on the open range this week, even prompting self-proclaimed members of militia groups from across the country to join the rancher in fighting what they say is U.S. “tyranny.”

What began as a legal fight between longtime rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has escalated as Bundy kept his cattle on the federal land, and the government has responded by beginning roundups of the livestock.

A confrontation teetered on violence Wednesday when Bundy family members and dozens of supporters angrily confronted a group of rangers holding Tasers and barking dogs on leashes near Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Federal officials say a police dog was kicked and officers were assaulted.

Bundy’s family has been grazing cattle on the disputed piece of public land since the 1800s. The government allows private entities to use public lands for commercial purposes on a fee basis. The trouble with Bundy began in 1993 when the government changed the rules for grazing in this area, and Bundy quit paying the fees in protest. From all appearances, Bundy is getting a lot of support from locals and from out-of-towners who share a disdain for government regulations:

This week, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told the bureau of residents’ criticism of the roundup.

What Sandoval said he found “most disturbing” was the BLM’s use of a “First Amendment area” that confined protesters to a designated area.

Such an area “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution,” Sandoval said. “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans.” 
In response, federal officials are allowing the protesters to gather on public lands as long as they don’t impede the roundup, said Lueders, the BLM’s director in Nevada.

Bundy is digging in for a long fight.

I did a short Internet search on the Bundy Ranch to get an idea of the financials involved, but there was not much in the top three inches of the search area. Lacking complete details, I fall back on the sums in the public record. Bundy has not paid grazing rights in 20 years, and the unpaid bill now amounts to $1.2 million. This makes for an interesting business model. Like all other ranchers, Bundy sells his cattle on the open market, and in this free-market world he goes head to head against other business operations. Only, Bundy has an edge on the competition. His operating expenses for the past 20 years have been reduced by $1.2 million.

And this money is your money, this money is my money, from California, to the New York island. This money was meant for you and me. But Bundy has kept it for himself. He’s a corporate pickpocket. He’s got hundreds of people supporting his case, and at the same time he’s picking their pockets. What a guy!

And, for the moment, he’s winning:

Feds end roundup, release cattle after tense Nevada showdown

By Ralph Ellis and Michael Martinez, CNN

updated 10:54 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014

(CNN) — A tense, weeklong showdown appeared to end Saturday between the federal government and supporters of a Nevada cattle rancher battling the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing rights on federal land.

The BLM stopped rounding up rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle and returned about 300 head of cattle to the open range to avoid the potential for violence, according to the BLM and CNN affiliate KSNV.

The Old West-style controversy — centering on a family that has been ranching in Nevada since the 1800s — drew armed militia groups from across the country to the cattleman’s side this week, especially after a YouTube video captured a tussle teetering on violence between rangers and protesters.

So, for the moment, Bundy has the money ($1.2 million) and the cattle. And I’m left wondering, where’s my share. After all, this land is your land, this land is my land, and Bundy has left the game with my 0.4 cents. What do I need to do to get it back? I may just have to write of this loss and skip my vacation trip this year.

Fronting The Brand

Chick-fil-ASandwich

I am sure I just now coined this phrase.

When you have a business, when you have a product, you want a public face, a brand. Brand identification gives your product, your service, your business an association in the public mind. You want customers and potential customers to think of a need and to associate your brand with it. Well established, your brand becomes a valuable piece of property.

“Fronting the brand” comes about when you use your brand to front a personal advocacy. You are putting your brand out front, not to represent your product, but to represent your advocacy. It’s double-edged.

On the front side your brand gives your advocacy additional sway, a momentum your advocacy would not have on its own. The other edge is that fronting the brand can cut backwards. Here are some examples:

Chick-fil-A is a privately held corporation founded by S. Truett Cathy in 1946. The current CEO is Dan Cathy. The Cathy family hold sincere Souther Baptist beliefs, and the restaurants are traditionally closed on Sundays and also on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Beyond closing on Sunday, which founder Truett Cathy attributes as much to practicality as to religious inclinations. There has been more, however.

In January 2011, the media reported that the American fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A was co-sponsoring a marriage conference along with the Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI), an organization that had filed an amicus brief against striking down Proposition 8 in California (see Perry v. Brown). PFI had also lobbied against a state effort to ban discrimination in Pennsylvania on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Responding on its official company Facebook page, Chick-fil-A said that support of the PFI retreat had come from a local franchisee, stating “We have determined that one of our independent restaurant operators in Pennsylvania was asked to provide sandwiches to two Art of Marriage video seminars.”

The WinShape Foundation, a charitable endeavor of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy and his family, stated it would not allow same-sex couples to participate in its marriage retreats. Chick-fil-A gave over $8 million to the WinShape Foundation in 2010. Equality Matters, an LGBT watchdog group, published reports of donations by WinShape to various anti-gay organizations, including $2 million in 2009, $1.9 million in 2010 and a total of $5 million since 2003, including grants to the Family Research Council and Georgia Family Council. WinShape has also contributed to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Exodus International, an organization noted for supporting ex-gay conversion therapy.

The Marriage and Family Foundation received $994,199 in 2009 and $1,188,380 in 2010. The Family Research Council, an organization listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Winter 2010, received $1000.

Tax filings for 2012 showed that Chick-fil-A created a new foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, to grant to outside groups. It funded only one previous group, Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Other filings for WinShape Foundation showed no funding for groups opposed to LGBT rights.

There has been considerable stir over these events. Conservatives and conservative groups have cheered the company’s stance, but at the same time advocates for tolerance and sexual equality have lashed out at Chick-fil-A. My reading of Facebook friends over the past two hears has shown conservatives advocating throwing their business to the company, while liberals have been talking boycott. This is something that would be problematic for a publicly-held corporation.

Suppose you are the CEO of a big (or not so big) corporation, and you have a personal agenda, and you see some benefit to throwing the weight of your brand into the fray. Not so fast. At the next stock holders meeting there are going to be a bunch of share holders raising their voices. “Who gave you permission to use our equity to sponsor your pet project?” Besides that, if the bottom line suffers there will shortly be a new CEO to replace the one who forgot that the business of business is business.

But, in the case of the Cathy family, there are no stockholders to face each year. And with the Chick-fil-A business model, there may not be as much push back from franchise owners. The Chick-fil-A business model is fairly unique in the chain restaurant model. The company builds and owns the restaurants. An operator pays in the order of $5000 for a franchise—the right to operate the restaurant.

If you’re a McDonald’s franchise owner you possibly paid $2 million for the franchise, and you own the business. On the other hand, if you hold a McDonald’s franchise your restaurant is grossing on average more than $2 million a year. But if the McDonald’s CEO starts pulling some shenanigans that chew away at that $2 million a year you’re going to be thinking law suit. So a company like McDonald’s has more than just its stockholders to worry about.

As grim as Dan Cathy’s actions in the past few years have appeared to his opponents, it is not all that dark:

In September 2012, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) announced that Chick-fil-A has “ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.” According to the TCRA, Chick-fil-A officials stated in an internal document that they “will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.” In a letter from Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, the company states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

According to Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, Chick-fil-A has a statement of respect for all sexual orientations in an internal document called Chick-fil-A: Who We Are and has promised that its not-for-profit arm, WinShape, would not contribute money to groups that oppose gay marriage.

According to Focus on the Family web site, CitizenLink.com, “Chick-fil-A and its charitable-giving arm, the WinShape Foundation, did not agree to stop making donations to groups that support the biblical definition of marriage in exchange for being allowed to open a franchise in Chicago.” Mike Huckabee stated that he “talked earlier today personally with Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick Fil-A about the new reports that Chick Fil-A had capitulated to demands of the supporters of same sex marriage. This is not true. The company continues to focus on the fair treatment of all of its customers and employees, but to end confusion gave me this statement.” The statement provided by Chick-fil-A was posted on Huckabee’s website.

In March 2014, new tax filings from 2012 showed Chick-fil-A stopped funding all but one organization which had been previously criticized. The company also created a new foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, to fund outside groups. WinShape Foundation’s 2012 tax filings showed funding only for its own programs, a Berry College scholarship fund and Lars WinShape, a home for needy children in Brazil.

[Some links removed]

Once again the other edge of fronting the brand has started to cut:

Of all the right-wing reactions to Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s quiet step back from the marriage equality debate, Scott Lively’s might just take the cake.

In a post on Matt Barber’s BarbWire today, Lively writes that although Cathy has not yet taken the “Mark of the Beast,” his decision to back out of the gay marriage debate “suggests he might be willing to take it if faced with that choice.”

“I am convinced that God is using the homosexual issue as a test of believers all over the world,” Lively continues. “What would it profit Mr. Cathy to gain the whole world (or a few more restaurants on college campuses), if his compromise of Biblical truth today makes him less able to resist the real Mark of the Beast tomorrow?”

“In my mind’s eye I used to see the Mark of the Beast as a black dot on the back of the hand,” he concludes. “Now it looks more like a Chik Fil A [sic] sandwich. I’ll never buy another one, and I hope you won’t either.”

Full disclosure: I am of older than the brand and have yet to eat at Chick-fil-A. This is not out of opposition to the company’s stance on religious and political issues. It’s just that whenever I have had a hankering for a chicken sandwich, such as right after getting out of church, the neighborhood Chick-fil-A always seems to be closed.

War on Christianity

I am so very sorry

I have this feeling. Haven’t I been over this before. Maybe yes:

I previously wrote about the war on Christianity. I made a big joke about it then. There is more, however. Apparently there really is a war on Christianity, and it’s being waged by no less than the United Nations. A conservative friend posted this on Facebook. I have copied and pasted the ensuing exchange with some editing to remove superfluous text and to obscure the identity of some participants:

The post centered on a short Facebook exchange and ended when I posted the whole mess on this blog. In the result I was unfriended and lost the ability to comment further on the thread. I groused about my misfortune and in a fit of poor sportsmanship I posted my final say so:

It’s an old game, but I got the title from a not quite as old TV show. It’s called “ring and run,” and what you do, if you’re a kid, is to ring somebody’s doorbell and skedaddle before they can get to the door. See what fun it is? You make somebody go to all the trouble for nothing, but the best part is, you don’t get caught. You get to leave your message and not have to answer for the consequences.

That’s all come and gone, but the supposed war on Christianity surges forward, at least in the minds of some:

Conservative Tribune

We’ve seen this happen in Syria, where the destabilization that the civil war caused allowed the allies of al-Qaeda come in and begin slaughtering Christians.  In Egypt, the Coptic Christians had no help from the Muslim Brotherhood as they suffered serious persecution after Mubarak’s regime fell.  In Iran, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini has been imprisoned since September 2012 by the Islamic radicals who run the country.

Well glory be. What a stunning news break. Muslim extremists are killing people, especially Christians. Who would have thought it?

Wait! Here’s an even later news break. Al-Qaeda operatives are also killing Jews, Hindus and Muslims. These snarly rascals are giving religious conservatism a bad name. They are killing anybody who looks at them sideways.

And the president is not jumping up and down about the murder of Christians? Conservative Tribune, you need to find some real news to report.

Of course the outcry doesn’t end there, and am I ever glad. Else I would have little to write about. Now we have this:

Arizona SB 1062 is a legislative Act in the U.S. state of Arizona, introduced by Senator Steve Yarbrough. The bill is one of several state bills that would allow anyone in the state to legally refuse business or service to LGBT people based on religious freedom. The bill was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, along party lines, it was also passed by the Republican-controlled state House. Governor Jan Brewer, also Republican has until February 28 to act. The bill will become law if she does not either sign or veto the bill, only once has she allowed a bill to become law without her signature.

It would be a first-of-its-kind amendment to religious freedom laws in the U.S.

Section 41-1493 of the Arizona Revised Statutes regulates who can claim religious freedom or exercise thereof as a defense in a lawsuit. AB 1062 revises that law by expanding the definition of who is a person to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity”, and allows for religious-freedom lawsuits “regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.”

[Extraneous links removed]

Here is the text of the bill.

Many believe the bill was prompted by litigation in neighboring New Mexico. I touched on this in a previous post:

BEFORE THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO
VANESSA WILLOCK
Complainant, v. ELANE PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC,
Respondent.
DECISION AND FINAL ORDER
HRD No. 06-12-20-0685
THIS MATTER came before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for determination of a discrimination claim based on sexual orientation, brought by the Complainant, Vanessa Willock, against the Respondent, Elane Photography, LLC. The designated hearing officer, Lois Dogliani, heard the above-captioned matter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 28,2008. The Complainant appeared, gave witness testimony and was represented at the hearing by her attomey, Julie Sakura. The Respondent appeared through its representative and co-owner, Elaine Huguenin, and was represented at the hearing by its attorney, Jordan Lorence.

Conservative legislators in Arizona don’t want the same kind of thing to happen in their state, and the bill is their defense against businesses having to work with unsavory members of society.

A prime mover was the Alliance Defending Freedom:

Alliance Defending Freedom is a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.

Recognizing the need for a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom, more than 30 prominent Christian leaders launched Alliance Defending Freedom in 1994. Over the past 18 years, this unique legal ministry has brought together thousands of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations that work tirelessly to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world.

There’s additional information on Wikipedia:

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an American conservative Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of “defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” ADF was founded in 1994 by Bill Bright (founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), Larry Burkett (founder,Crown Financial Ministries), James Dobson (founder, Focus on the Family), D. James Kennedy (founder, Coral Ridge Ministries), Marlin Maddoux (president, International Christian Media), and Donald Wildmon (founder, American Family Association), along with the leadership of over thirty other conservative Christian organizations.

ADF supports the inclusion of invocations at public meetings and the use of religious displays (such as crosses and other religious monuments) on public lands and in public buildings.[3] The ADF opposes abortion, and believes that healthcare workers have a right to decline participation in the performance of abortions and other practices an individual health worker finds morally objectionable. ADF opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as adoption by same-sex couples based on their belief that children are best raised by a married mother and father. ADF believes parents should be able to opt their children out of sex education in schools that run counter to a family’s religious beliefs.

ADF states that it has “had various roles of significance” in thirty-eight wins before the United States Supreme Court, including such cases as Rosenberger v. University of Virginia,Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. ADF is representing a litigant in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

On July 9, 2012, the Alliance Defense Fund changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom. The name change was a strategic initiative designed to reflect the organization’s shift in focus from funding allied attorneys to litigating cases.

Alan Sears heads up the ADF:

Alan Sears has served as president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom since its founding in 1993. He leads the strategy, training, funding, and litigation efforts of this alliance-building legal ministry that brings together thousands of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations to protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family in America and around the world.

He is also author, along with Craig Osten of The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today [Kindle Edition]:

Authors Alan Sears and Craig Osten expose the goals of the homosexual movement and its rising legal activism. The homosexual agenda has as its primary aim to “trump” the rights of all other groups, especially those of people of faith. The saddest part of the story is that it is working. In 1988, 74.9 percent of the American public thought that sex between two people of the same gender was always wrong. By 1998, the percentage had fallen to 54.6 percent. Sears and Osten provide well-documented proof that America; is not only becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, through the indoctrination of children, positive exposure on TV, and the support and approval of corporate America, it is becoming less tolerant of those who disagree.

I have purchased a copy of the book and will be doing a review in the future. If you don’t see my review after a few weeks have passed, then send me a hammer by e-mail to remind me.

Some people call me cynical, but I am beginning to suspect that AB 1062 is a lot about protecting religious people from having to deal with homosexuals. Apparently others feel the same way, and you all know how it makes me feel whenever I find myself in the main stream. However, I’ve gone this far, so let me plow ahead.

What got me onto the Arizona case tonight was watching Anderson Cooper on CNN. If you have just come back from several years at the South Pole, then I need to remind you that Cooper is a major news anchor and commentator on CNN. And he is also openly homosexual. How about that for adding juice to his interview with Arizona State Senator Al Melvin:

08:06 PM ET

Arizona Republican State Senator Al Melvin voted for SB-1062 and wants Governor Brewer to sign it. His interview tonight with Anderson ran too long for air. The full unedited conversation which included NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino is available here in two parts.

Andy Towle has posted significant text of the interview:

Anderson Cooper Destroys Arizona GOP State Senator’s Defense of Anti-Gay Law: VIDEO

02/24/2014

On AC360 tonight, Anderson Cooper confronted Arizona State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Al Melvin about SB 1062, the bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays based on religious beliefs. Constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino joined the debate and spent the segment rebutting Melvin’s arguments.

Melvin either didn’t appear to know or didn’t want to admit that his state can already fire someone for being gay because sexual orientation is not included in the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. Melvin also couldn’t give an incredulous Anderson Cooper a single instance in which someone has been discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.

Said Melvin:

“Not now. No. But how ’bout tomorrow?”

Using a hypothetical situation under the proposed law, Anderson went on to ask the Senator if, because Jesus spoke against divorce, he would support a business person who wanted to discriminate against a divorced woman or an unwed mother.

“I think you’re being far-fetched with all due respect sir. As a Christian, as most God-fearing men and women would respect unwed mothers, divorced women, who would discriminate them? I’ve never heard of discriminating against people like that. I never have…”

Melvin’s only response was to return to his wingnut talking points:

“All of the pillars of society are under attack in the United States, including religious freedom…We want to protect traditional marriage. Traditional families…”

Finally, Anderson blasts Melvin when he can’t say if he believes it is discrimination if someone is fired for their sexual orientation.

There’s probably a good reason I’m not a TV anchor. However, I would like the chance to interview somebody like Al Melvin in this case. I watched through the video, and there were questions I kept wanting Cooper to ask:

“How is this bill going to protect religious liberty? Let’s play through a scenario. I’m sure when you were considering whether to vote for this bill you thought about how enforcement would play out. Please do that for me. Run the tape starting at the point where a religiously repugnant person pushes through the front door of an Arizona business, and demands service. Finish up at the point where the deeply offended business owner invokes SB-1064 and tells the deviant to get lost.”

Senator Al Melvin refused to consider any of the cases Cooper proposed in the interview. When it was brought to his attention he shrugged off suggestions that a business might show an unwed mother the door.

In all sincerity, it is unlikely a real business would do exactly that. I mean, there are varying levels of repugnance. Why turn down the sale of a $3500 wedding gown just because the bride is showing six months already? There is, after all, the business bottom line.

And it appears the bottom line is about to win out in Arizona:

As expected, the measure has drawn criticism from Democrats and business groups who said it would sanction discrimination and open the state to the risk of damaging litigation.

On Friday, the LGBT group Wingspan staged a protest march to the governor’s office that drew about 200 people. Some carried signs with messages “God created us all equal” and “Shame on Arizona.”

Tucson-based Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria posted a photo on its Facebook page of a sign with a message for state lawmakers: “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.”

“It’s a ridiculous bill,” pizzeria manager Evan Stevens told CNN on Friday. “Arizona has much bigger problems than allowing businesses to discriminate against people.”

In a statement, Anna Tovar, the state senate Democratic minority leader, said: “With the express consent of Republicans in this Legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation. This bill may also open the door to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council, in a letter to Brewer on Friday, urged the governor to veto Senate Bill 1062, saying the “legislation will likely have profound, negative effects on our business community for years to come.”

“The legislation places businesses currently in Arizona, as well as those looking to locate here, in potentially damaging risk of litigation, and costly, needless legal disputes,” council President Barry Broome wrote, adding that four unidentified companies have vowed to locate elsewhere if the legislation is signed.

He added, “With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage. This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts.”

Some of the Republican lawmakers who originally voted in favor of the bill are now wishing to change their vote. There is religious preference, and there is profit. A little hand-holding with evil may not be all that bad. I am reminded of a Russian proverb that I came across reading Winston Churchill’s book Closing the Ring from The Second World War. It’s a long clip, and the cutting line is at the end. I have highlighted it:

From the moment when the Armistice was signed and when the Italian Fleet loyally and courageously joined the Allies, I felt myself bound to work with the King of Italy and Marshal Badoglio, at least until Rome should be occupied by the Allies and we could construct a really broad-based Italian Government for the prosecution of the war jointly with us. I was sure that King Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio would be able to do more for what had now become the common cause than any Italian Government formed from the exiles or opponents of the Fascist régime. The surrender of the Italian Fleet was solid proof of their authority. On the other hand, there were the usual arguments against having anything to do with those who had worked with or helped Mussolini, and immediately there grew an endless series of intrigues among the six or seven Leftish parties in Rome to get rid of the King and Badoglio and take the power themselves. Considering the critical nature of the battle and the supreme importance of getting Italy to fight with a good heart on our side, I resisted these movements whenever they came to my notice. In this I was supported by Marshal Stalin, who followed the Russian maxim, “You may always walk with the Devil till you get to the end of the bridge.”

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). Closing the Ring (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 3056-3065). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Dirty Jobs

This just in: Wal-Mart is promising to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States:

How Mike Rowe became a lightning rod for Walmart

When it comes to dirty jobs, Mike Rowe is finding that hawking for Walmart (WMT) leads to plenty of mud-slinging.

Rowe, the deep-voiced host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” sparked the controversy when he provided a voice-over for a heart-tugging Walmart ad touting the company’s pledge to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. The spot first aired during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, a prime night for advertisers seeking a large audience.

Sounds great, right? After all, who isn’t for a return of U.S. manufacturing? But the ad campaign took on a life of its own, with some consumers taking Rowe to task for championing what they view as an anti-union company that offers rock-bottom wages.

The ad might not have sparked such a fierce debate if another spokesman had been tapped. But Rowe, thanks to his seven-year run on “Dirty Jobs,” is viewed by many as the voice of the underdog, the overworked and the underpaid. In short, the champion of the types of people working in Walmart jobs. Rowe then threw a bucket of fuel on the fire by writing on his Facebook page in response to one consumer, “Who gives a crap about your feelings toward Walmart?”

This blog is not called Skeptical Analysis for nothing. I decided to do some skeptical analysis. Here is what I found out.

The big complaint against Wal-Mart seems to be they are buying foreign-made goods. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I find that to be absolutely disgraceful. So I decided to investigate further (skeptical analysis). Here’s what I found out.

It’s not Wal-Mart that’s buying products from foreign manufactures. It’s you. Yes, dear reader, you are the guilty party. You are the one who’s buying foreign-made goods. And don’t try to deny it. I have photographic evidence. See the above photo that I took earlier this week. That’s your car parked in the Wal-Mart while you’re inside buying foreign-made goods. Shame on you.

So, readers, here’s the solution. Quit blaming Mike Rowe, and quit blaming Wal-Mart. I have not done a rigorous scientific study on this, but I feel deep down that if you quit buying foreign-made goods Wal-Mart will quit selling them. Like tomorrow.