“I don’t want to be here. I was made to be here. This is a terrible inconvenience to me… Obviously I just want to get this over with and get on with my life.” – British supermodel Naomi Campbell about how much trouble it is for her to appear as a prosecution witness in the trial of African warlord Charles Taylor. Ms. Campbell testified that she was anonymously given a small bag of diamonds which she then gave to someone else seemingly for no reason whatsoever. Taylor, former leader of Liberia, is charged with trading weapons for blood diamonds with rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. More than 100,000 people died in Sierra Leone’s civil war.
"I would not describe any section of our site as ‘sex related,’ " [Craigslist CEO Jim] Buckmaster wrote in response to a series of e-mailed questions from the Globe. He acknowledged that Craigslist offers an "erotic services" section that should not include more than "legitimate escort services, sensual massage, exotic dancers, etc.," but said that offers to exchange sexual favors for money are "strictly prohibited" and removed from the site.
What’s that Capt. Renault? You are shocked, shocked to find out there is gambling in the casino? I don’t blame you at all. And here are your winnings.
This is exactly the wrong PR approach. Don’t proclaim that there is such a thing as “legitimate escort service.” What you say is, “Have you looked in the Yellow Pages under ‘escort’ or ‘massage’? How is what we are doing different from that?” Look in any alt-weekly and you’ll see more of the same but with explicit pictures.
Buckmaster is caught up in a frenzy of outrage created by media companies that have had their revenues devastated by Craigslist. They would have done this to anyone but I suspect they are enjoying this a bit more than usual. Does anyone actually think that people who advertise their services in other media are any more or less at risk than those who do so via Craigslist? The hypocrisy is all this self-righteousness is astounding. The advertising alone makes it clear society views prostitution about as seriously as it does the speed limit.
The story that has yet to be examined on this topic is whether Craigslist is actually cutting down on pimping by making it easier for women and men of negotiable morals to run their own businesses. Of course that would also beg the issue of whether the prostitutes and the people who pay them wouldn’t all be safer if it were a legal and regulated activity. The other option is to vigorously and effectively enforce the laws against – and we have proved we have no interest in doing that.
Yeah, there’s a lot more than 10 here. What can I say? It was a very good year for very bad things.
GRAND PRIZE FOR SUSTAINED ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORT
The John McCain Presidential Campaign
- “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
- Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
- Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
- Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
- Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
- “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
- “Lipstick on a pig”
- Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).
- June: with gas heading to $4-a-gallon, company announces it is trying to sell the Hummer brand. As of today, sale is still pending.
- August: with gas at $4-a-gallon, company announces it will take the bold move of investing “$500 million to build a new fuel-efficient, small car the automaker says will show it can make money in head-to-head competition with its Japanese rivals as it fights to return to profitability.”
- October: Asks Treasury Dept. for $10 billion to pay for proposed merger with Chrysler
- Early November: car company that already isn’t selling cars argues it can’t file for bankruptcy because “people won’t buy cars from a bankrupt car company.”
- Late November: leads troika of Detroit CEOs to DC to ask for taxpayer money to balance the books. Each flies in on wings of attitude and three separate corporate jets.
- December: runs weasel-word mea culpa in Automotive News: “While we’re still the U.S. sales leader, we acknowledge we have disappointed you. At times we violated your trust by letting our quality fall below industry standards and our designs become lackluster. We have proliferated our brands and dealer network to the point where we lost adequate focus on our core U.S. market. We also biased our product mix toward pick-up trucks and SUVs. And, we made commitments to compensation plans that have proven to be unsustainable in today’s globally competitive industry.“
- Ford features “Space Oddity” — a song about astronaut suicide — in new car campaign.
- Framingham State College uses the word blah 137 times in a 312-word fundraising letter.
- Disney (multiple entries): Bans kids from DisneyWorld restaurant; Changes “It’s A Small World” to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”; and Sells “High School Musical” panties for tween girls with the phrase “Dive In” on them.
- Woolworths (UK) launches Lolita brand of beds for young girl
- JetBlue lives up to Southwest’s parody ad by charging for pillows.
- Russia uses smiling kids in tourism ad for war zone
- Residents of Lesbos sue those other lesbians over brand name
- Motrin gets headache from viral moms video
- Butcher’s ads feature “Meat Products, Fresh Service” on naked woman
- Hershey asks if you’ve found Mr. Goodbar
Special Jury Awards
Co-Branding That Shouldn’t Have Been
- Windows Vista toilet paper
- The Muppets appear on DVD for Law & Order: SVU
- Barbie® Rice Krispies® Treats
- P&G starts hip-hop record label (Bounce® and Beyonce? Jay Z and Oral B®? 50 Cent and Febreze®? Snoop Dogg and Eukanuba®? Ghostface Killah and Ghost®? Lil Wayne & Pampers®?)
The Alpha & Omega of Over-reaching
- God’s chosen racing team loses at the Indy 500
- “Pope’s Cologne Provides Solace to Grieving Widow”
- “Can Batman Teach Spiritual Truth?”
- Email service lets you taunt friends after The Rapture
- McDonalds compares Ray Kroc to Martin Luther King Jr.
- LifeLock ID protection service fails to protect CEO’s identity
- Anti-shark device found to attract sharks
The Penguins Of Irony “Oh NO You Din’t” Awards
- Publisher says bankruptcy puts magazine chain in “a position poised for wonderful growth
- WaMu continues to send credit card offers after going out of business
Previous years’ lists
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (pronounced: U-r-kid-ing-me) and his chief of staff have been arrested for trying to shake down various people and institutions. While the lead in the news is how it is related to naming a successor to our president-elect, what really got me is this:
According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper’s editorial board who had been critical of him fired.
OK, so the risk for an elected official doing this sort of thing is what will happen if the press finds out about it. Don’t really have to worry about that “if” in this case, do you Rod?
As someone who grew up in Chicago and then Rhode Island (Motto: We’re not as corrupt as Louisiana but we’re trying), I am curious to know if there is a corruption index for government in the US?
UPDATE: The interwebs is democratizing satire: For bid on eBay: 1 Ill. Senate seat, slightly worn
ANOTHER UPDATE: TOTALLY BIASED LIST OF MOST CORRUPT STATES: Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the nation. That’s according to an analysis of government data released today by Corporate Crime Reporter. Louisiana (1), Mississippi (2), Kentucky (3), Alabama (4) and Ohio (5) are the top five most corrupt states in the country, according to the analysis. Rounding out the top ten are Illinois (6), Pennsylvania (7), Florida (8), New Jersey (9), and New York (10). Corporate Crime Reporter looked at the 35 most populous states in the nation. (The fifteen states with population of under two million were not included in the analysis.)
No list that doesn’t have Rhode Island in the top 5 is worth its palm grease.
Starting to put together the annual list of marketing mistakes and having a tough time narrowing it down. GM alone could fill a reasonable Top 10. So could the GOP (usually it’s much more bipartisan). May have to include a couple of companies that are usually the tops in marketing: P&G and Disney. Decisions, decisions. You have any suggestions or nominations? Please pass ’em along.
PS: My hat’s off to the Detroit Three again. Usually if you get turned down for a loan you don’t come back asking for more.
The CEOs of GM and Ford have announced they will drive from Detroit to DC for the next round of begging from Congress. Clearly this was supposed to make us forget that the Detroit Three had flown in separate private jets the last time they tried to explain why their companies were running out of money.
Instead all it has done is reminded us of this. Apparently you can’t answer a cheap shot with a cheap stunt. I particularly like the fact that the two CEOs are coming in separate cars. No car pooling for these two.
Better move would have been to simply taken a commercial flight. Or walked. I hope the press will tail both men all the way during their drive. Otherwise we might get a Rosie Ruiz situation. (Ms. Ruiz was named winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon, until it was discovered she had only run .2 of the 26.2 mile course.)
Will Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli also indulge in a little stunt driving? Unknown. What is known is that he “will not travel by corporate jet. A spokeswoman says his travel plans will remain secret for security reasons.” I have no doubt this is utter and total bullshit, but it certainly plays better than what the other two are doing.
With the horses so long out of the barn that they are now baseballs and glue, officials have decided to nail the barn door shut and call it a recession. “The U.S. economy entered a recession in December 2007, a committee of economists at the private National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday.” The official declaration comes a mere EIGHT MONTHS after even most economists were saying this was the case. Of course it is also a mere EIGHT MONTHS after the Anderson Forecast from UCLA predicted we would avoid a recession.
“We don’t see that happening,” said Edward Leamer, director and co-author of the forecast released Tuesday [March 10]. “This is a tough call, but I will be very surprised if this thing actually precipitates into recession.”
Waiter, I’d like some of what he’s smoking…
What has me worried is all the official assurances that it will never turn into a depression.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday news stories are as inevitable as taxes and death but nowhere near as reliable. It goes like this: “Great Black Friday sales numbers mean a big shopping season. Insert somebody’s numbers to support this and then a quote or two from an analyst.” Publish, forget, and hope no one notices that they are ALWAYS — even in good economic times — WRONG. In the past these stories have been an embarrassment at best. This year they are irresponsible. We have gone from whistling past the graveyard to bringing an entire symphony of wishful thinking.
This is the press release version but it isn’t all that different from the putative news stories on the same topic:
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 147 million shoppers last year. Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 this weekend, up 7.2 percent over last year’s $347.55. Total spending reached an estimated $41.0 billion.
Which is almost exactly what CBS News “reported”:
Despite all the talk of an economic slowdown, the holiday shopping season is off to an “energetic” start, according to a retail survey out tonight, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston. The survey says 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites this weekend – up 15 million from last year, and the average shopper spent more than $372, up 7.2 percent from a year ago. (The “analyst” in the CBS story is “a manager for the largest mall company in America.” He says its going to be a great shopping season. What a surprise!)
And CBS is hardly alone. There’s this from MarketWatch:
After a robust start to the holiday season, many stores struggled with disappointing business in December, and a shopping surge in the final days before and after Christmas wasn’t strong enough to make up for lost sales.
The above quote is from last year when the mirage of our economy was still going strong. Fortunately(?) this year we are not having to wait for the final numbers to come in for corrections to the original stories to be run.
- The Bush Administration
- GM’s “leadership” (What’s the difference between the cub scouts and GM? Adult supervision.)
- Sarah Palin and her handlers
- The voters of Minnesota. Jesse Ventura! Al Franken! (someone’s spiked the 10,000 lakes).
- Jaguar Land Rover for applying for a bailout.
- Barney Frank: “These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”
- The Chicago Cubs
- Alan Greenspan
- The phrase “too big to fail.” Econ speak for: About to bite the dust.
- Joe Biden: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘look, here’s what happened.’”
The astoundingly badly run car maker says it won’t declare chapter 11 because “people won’t buy cars from a bankrupt company.” Given that GM’s sales have dropped 45 percent over the last year, how would this be any different from the current situation?
Not surprisingly the “it’s not our fault” argument is echoed by UAW President Ron Gettelfinger: “We’re here not because of what the auto industry has done. We’re here because of what has happened to the economy.”
This would be more believable if GM had been doing well before the credit markets went to hell. Let’s remember that we’re talking about GM here and what it’s track record is like. This is a company that even when it gets a good idea goes out of its way to kill it.
Quoth this great article from the WSJ:
This situation doesn’t stem from the recent meltdown in banking and the markets. GM, Ford and Chrysler have been losing billions since 2005, when the U.S. economy was still healthy. The financial crisis does, however, greatly exacerbate Detroit’s woes. As car sales plunge — both in the U.S. and in Detroit’s once-booming overseas markets — it’s becoming nearly impossible for the companies to cut costs fast enough to keep pace with the evaporation of their revenue.
In all this lies a tale of hubris, missed opportunities, disastrous decisions and flawed leadership of almost biblical proportions. In fact, for the last 30 years Detroit has gone astray, repented, gone astray and repented again in a cycle not unlike the Israelites in the Book of Exodus.
Remember Saturn? GM started an authentically different company that attained a beloved cult-like status and then all but killed it by not letting it put out new models. Don’t even get me started about the electric car and where the company would be today if they’d kept developing that program they killed after putting $1 billion into it. And then there’s the decades of lobbying against improving mileage standards that — had they been in effect — would have also saved their asses.
GM is also arguing that it’s basically under new management and that the guys who made all those stupid decisions have been replaced. Even if this is true, then let’s hold them accountable for the stupidity just since Rick Waggoner became CEO. For the last seven years their strategy has been, “we’re going to bet it all on the short-term profits to be made from SUVs.” Thus they launched Hummer et al. I’m supposed to trust a bunch of guys who couldn’t figure out that the price of gas fluctuates? Who couldn’t figure out that there was a difference between short-term profits and long-term viability?
Let’s make one thing clear — the term “US automakers” is a misnomer. When someone says they want to “bailout the US automakers” they really mean GM. Ford has said repeatedly that they have enough credit to get through and Chrysler is no more or less a US company than Honda or Toyota. The Big Three is in fact the Incompetent One.
Wait, I will bow to the Journal on this one: they’re going with “The Detroit Three” and that works for me.
At yesterday’s hearings by House Financial Services Committee on the potential bailout for the GM and other US-based auto companies, the CEOs were asked which of them had flown by private jet into Washington for the hearing. All three raised their hands.
“There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses.” — Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York.
While it may have been, as one writer described it, a cheap shot — it was no cheaper a shot than Ford CEO Alan Mulally arriving at Capitol Hill in a Ford Fusion hybrid.
Another one from BlownMortgage:
Alan Greenspan attempted to mimic Michael “Heckuva Job, Brownie” Brown during his testimony before congress yesterday. Mr. Greenspan attempted to place blame squarely on anyone except himself. Mr. Brown’s performance in the same role was slightly more credible because he was utterly unqualified for the job he held, a claim Mr. Greenspan cannot make.
Mr. Greenspan claims to have been overtaken by events so rare that no one could have seen them coming. He called it a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami” and that it was impossible for anyone to have been prepared for it. Mr. Brown made the same claims about hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans with every bit as little justification. The record of warnings about both disasters is substantial and undeniable.
And there’s more where that came from…
It is reassuring to know that no matter what happens in the world, The New York Mets are working hard to cheer me up. For the second straight year they have committed one of the most impressive chokes EVER. This year they managed not only to lose the division but also blow the wildcard race — ALL IN ONE WEEKEND!
Please forgive my evil chortle over this but you have to understand that The Mets were on the winning end of two of the biggest heartbreaks of my sporting life: The collapse of the ’69 Cubs and the ’86 Red Sox.
Although I am the son of two Mets fans (former Dodger/Giants fans who refuse to let their allegiance head west when their teams did) this is in no way a knock at either parent. (Although in the winter of ’86 my mother did make a point of wearing her Mets jacket way more than might have been supported by the weather. My father at least had the grace to say, “If the Mets are so good how come God had to give them the Series?”) Nope I just hate the Mets. It would seem to me that the time is perfect for someone to write a sequel to Jimmy Breslin’s wonderful book on the ’62 Mets, Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? That team at least had the charm of being really really bad. (And wouldn’t that be the perfect title for a book about the Fed?)
On an intellectual if not aesthetic level I am sorry to see the end of Shea Stadium. As Breslin put it:
And now it hits you. Now you realize, for the first time, what this is all about. All of it, all of the workers risking their lives, and all of the huge payrolls and all of the political wrangling. There is a reason for it all:
They are building a brand new stadium for Marvin Thronberry.
Thank you to the Mets for giving me cheer on a gray day when the news continues to be supremely unnerving.
As to the playoffs, here is my prediction: Angels vs. Cubs in the series. What happens then is anyone’s guess.
“These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” — Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, September, 2003. Frank is now the chair of House Financial Services Committee.
Frank spoke against a Bush administration plan to create an agency to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposed agency would have had the authority “to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.”