Are you sure Mr. Gibbon was talking about the Roman Empire?

“The image of a free constitution was maintained with a decent reverence.”

– Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Bust on right is Constantine the Great. (No relation).

Bust on right is Constantine the Great. (No relation).

One more reason ProPublica rocks

From their blog, Officials Say The Darndest Things:

“No consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.A judge, summarizing the defense offered by Coca-Cola’s lawyers as to why the company’s marketing for vitaminwater isn’t deceptive.

How much should someone be paid to bankrupt a company? A shopper’s guide

“It’s in the best interests of taxpayers to have Jamie Dimon running J.P. Morgan. They should want to have the best people out there running these banks, and I’m not sure capping pay is the way to do that.” – Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, on President Barack Obama’s proposal to cap pay for executives.

Hard to know what the CEO of a company that has lost 2/3rds of its share value in 12 months means by “best people.” Certainly Dimon looks good in comparison to Immelt. JPMorgan is down slightly less than half over the same period. Still I think it is in the taxpayers best interest to pay as little as possible for incompetence of this magnitude. George Bush, after all, was paid a mere $200,000 a year.

pay-chart

Compensation numbers can be found here.

During the pet-food-poisoning scandal it was revealed the only difference between many top-shelf brands and their down-market competitors was the labels. I believe the same principle can be applied here.

How about this for a sign: “Will wreck your business for food.”

NJ high court says rats are protected by 1st Amendment

It’s stories like this that make journalism worthwhile.

rat1In a case that pitted an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union local against a central Jersey town, the high court ruled unanimously that the rodent is protected speech under the First Amendment.

This should come as particularly good news to…

  1. Rod Blagojevich
  2. Bernie Madoff
  3. Tom Daschle
  4. The banking industry
  5. The auto industry
  6. <Insert your favorite here>

Great quote: The state Supreme Court found that the law wasn’t neutral, and therefore was unconstitutional. It said an ordinance “that prohibits a union from displaying a rat balloon, while at the same time authorizing a similar display as part of a grand opening, is content-based.”

Besides, aren’t rats the state animal of New Jersey?

RELATED? Bangladesh crowns champion rat killer. “DHAKA (AFP) – A poor farmer from northern Bangladesh was crowned the country’s rat killing champion on Thursday with a final score of 39,650 dead rodents after a year-long hunt.” That’s a lot of bankers.

15 sayings from the great Zen masters of Texas

Guides to life from Ken Weaver’s inexplicably out-of-print book Texas Crude: The How-To on Talkin’ Texan.

  1. “Might as well. Can’t dance and it’s too wet to plow.”
  2. “I’ve enjoyed just about all of this I can stand.”
  3. “Anything not a mystery is guesswork.”
  4. “Ugly as death backing out of an [out]house reading Mad magazine.”
  5. “If I was doing any better I couldn’t stand it and the law wouldn’t allow it.”
  6. “Shoot low, they’re riding shetlands.” 
  7. He can’t find his ass in five tries.”
  8. “You’d complain if they were hanging you with a new rope.”
  9. “It’s getting drunk outside.”
  10. “I feel like I was shot at and missed, [spit] on and hit.”
  11. “Three things you need to know about plumbing: Water runs downhill, payday is Friday and don’t put your fingers in your mouth.”
  12. “Walk fast and look worried.”
  13. “You buy ’em books and you buy ’em books and they keep chewing on the covers.”
  14. “You can wish in one hand and [spit] in the other and see which one fills up first.”
  15. “Tougher than a Mexican family.”

Marketers rush to rip-off Obama brand

How should  BlackBerry to thank the President for the amazing product endorsement without just mailing him a large check. How about endowing a scholarship (or 10) in his name? That’s a start. Whatever they do the following companies should really do the same.

1) Beanie Babies that lie: Doll-maker Ty must think they are a bank. They have decided to lie about the fact that they’re new dolls — named Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia — are actually ripping off the Obama kids.

Obama Daughters Dolls“[We] chose the dolls’ names because “they are beautiful names,” not because of any resemblance to President Obama’s daughters, said spokeswoman Tania Lundeen. “There’s nothing on the dolls that refers to the Obama girls,” Lundeen said. “It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not.”

A moment of sympathy for Ms. Lundeen, who had to deliver that line with a straight face. Some PR folks do not get paid enough.

Ty is offering up this bizarre claim because public figures have legal rights to controlling the use of their images. The company’s only hope to get away with this is that the President is too busy saving our asses to notice. I’m not an attorney (to put it mildly) and I could win this one. Guys make it easier on yourself and just start donating all income (not profits) from these to a non-profit.

2) I’ll (Soft) drink to that: Thankfully neither Jones Soda nor Avery Soda are pretending their two flavors are anything but an attempt to get the President’s name on to their product.

oberry barack-soda

For harder stuff you’ll have to go to Kenya where the President lager has replaced the Senator brew previously available. Oddly, considering this is our first president to admit inhaling pot no rolling papers yet. Obama Bombers, anyone?

barack_obama_beer

Continuing down the beverage aisle there are also a number of Obama coffees. This is my favorite because of the box.

coffee

3) Oooooh that smell: There is now a “fragrance you can believe in.” Best part of the product is the ad copy

a clean, refreshing blend of citrus, green leaves & marine notes/in Honor of Barack Obama/ a limited edition/historically commemorative fragrance that insights Hope for Women and Men

Is it better to insight or incite? I dunno? (BTW, POTUS is short for “President of the …”)

potus1600bottleIf you would rather have some Eau Bama in the car you can replace that paper pine tree with …

airfreshenerforce1(And I have to say I am disappointed to be the first person to use Eau Bama. C’mon people!)

4) In the running: All basketball stars love to have their own sneaker, and sneaker companies love when a basketball star sells their sneakers. So what is more approporiate for our Power-Forward-In-Chief than …

sneaker

Worth noting that this sneaker would be considered a deadly insult to the President in many cultures. But can we get a pair to our favorite shoe-thrower?

If you would rather not have him on the sole of your shoe, try these:

barack-obama-custom-sneakers-2

5) The President helps out around the house: This is my favorite combination of slogan and product — even though I cannot think of the last time I actually used a can opener.

yes-we-can-opener

There’s a lot of opportunities still untapped here. How about Obama baby wipes — “when you need change and got stuck cleaning up a big mess.”

It’s so bad some companies are actually telling the truth.

From my latest at BlownMortage:

Société Générale expects the United States’ economy  to enter a depression and that China’s economy in in danger of  imploding. Albert Edwards, an analyst for the European financial services giant, wrote:

While economic data in developed economies increasingly reflects depression rather than a deep recession, the real surprise in 2009 may lie elsewhere. It is becoming clear that the Chinese economy is imploding and this raises the possibility of regime change. To prevent this, the authorities would likely devalue the yuan. A subsequent trade war could see a re-run of the Great Depression.

If this sounds apocalyptic it is at the very least a needed antidote to the incessant whistling-past-the-graveyard we are hearing from so many other official sources. My current favorite comes from Philly Fed Chairman Charles Plosser:

I expect the housing sector will finally hit bottom in 2009 and the financial markets will gradually return to some semblance of normalcy.

Plosser also says he  doesn’t expect uneployment to hit double digits. While I am not certain Mr. Edwards is right, I would happily bet my next mortgage payment Mr. Plosser is wrong.

One of these is certainly to be a nominee for the worst prediction of the year awards.

Retailer’s top flack “intrigued” that “cheap is chic”

“What’s so intriguing these days, whether you work on Wall Street or in Wal-Mart is that it has absolutely become chic to be cheap. It’s all about price. Factors like quality, selection, store location and customer service are taking a back seat. We believe this will continue for the foreseeable future.” — Tracy Mullin, president National Retail Federation.

Ms. Mullin is now the front-runner to be named Secretary of The Obvious.

A bovine fecal matter artist tells the truth

From my latest post at BlownMortgage:

There is a fascinating mea culpa from David Lereah, former chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, at CNNMoney.

Q. Were you wrong to be so bullish?

A. I worked for an association promoting housing, and it was my job to represent their interests. If you look at my actual forecasts, the numbers were right in line with most forecasts. The difference was that I put a positive spin on it. It was easy to do during boom times, harder when times weren’t good. I never thought the whole national real estate market would burst.

Q. The NAR’s latest forecast calls for a slight increase in home prices next year. Thoughts?

A. My views are quite different now. I’m pretty bearish and have been for the past year and a half. Home prices will continue to drop. I think we’ll see a very modest recovery in sales activity in 2009. But we’ve still got excess inventories, a bad economy and a credit crunch that will push prices down further, another 5% to 10% more. It’ll take a long time to get back to the peak prices we saw in many markets.

Q. Any regrets?

A. I would not have done anything different. But I was a public spokesman writing about housing having a good future. I was wrong. I have to take responsibility for that.

Or, as Capt. Willard put it in Apocalypse Now: “ The shit piled up so fast in Vietnam you needed wings to stay above it.”

It is clear that telling the truth and leaving out the spin would have served the NAR better. They could have established themselves as a trustworthy source of information. Instead they lived up to expectation as just another generator of bovine fecal matter.

In the end trust is the ONLY thing a brand or product has going for it. Lose that and nothing else matters.

Two great quotes of note

Keith Richards: “I snorted my father.”

Quote of the day, week, fortnight, month, year, decade, etc.

“The strangest thing I’ve tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father,” Richards was quoted as saying by British music magazine NME. “He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared,” he said. “… It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.”

Now that’s filial piety.

UPDATE: Keith admits that he was joking when he said this. Doesn’t matter. A) Still a great quote. B) Given Keith’s rep which will linger in the public memory, the story or the truth?

Penguins of Irony have decided: 10 dumbest business quotes of the year

The wonderful Lesley wrote:

My favorite this year was the Kraft brand manager who, upon being queried regarding the fact that the guacamole contains only 2% avocado said, in part, something to the effect of, “I don’t really know what customers expect.”

Penguins Employee of the monthWhich is pretty friggin’ great. Herewith some other winners:

  1. “I believed fundamentally that the balance sheet was strong. I believed that then and I believe that now.” — Ken Lay, court testimony last April.
  2. “The Yukon, Yukon Denali, Escalade, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche — we love them. So do customers, that’s even more important.” — GM CFO Frederick “Fritz” Henderson last May giving a quick guide on exactly how much GM doesn’t get it.
  3. “If we didn’t have this level of profitability, I don’t think we could get the supplies to where they need to get to.” — John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., attempting to spin a literal embarrassment of riches.
  4. “We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference.” — Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, realizing the real cost cost of his company’s hypocrisy.
  5. “Wii is a core gaming device. It’s a more fun, intuitive sort of product to pick up, where the PS3 is a broader entertainment solution.” — Sony Australia & New Zealand general manager Nic Foster inadvertently showing why telling the truth is generally frowned upon in corporate management.
  6. “The public perception … that you go to a 7-Eleven and grab beer, cigarettes and a lottery ticket. That’s not all we’re about.” — 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto hoping to remind consumers that his brand is also about chewing gum and milk, I guess.
  7. “No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children–in many dimensions they’re as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I’ve got my kids brainwashed: You don’t use Google, and you don’t use an iPod.” — Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer responding to the question, Do you have an iPod?
  8. “We acknowledge that the name adopted by us for our restaurant was most inappropriate.” — Satish Sabhlok, one of the owners of the Hitler’s Cross Restaurant in Mumbai, India, proving his gift for understatement.
  9. “The ad has never been released, it is not out for public listening.” – Unnamed employee at the Dennis Mitsubishi car dealership in Columbus, Ohio, which was planning to run an ad proclaiming a jihad on the U.S. auto market and offering “Fatwa Fridays” with free swords for the kids.
  10. “The public analyst has stated that the name Welsh Dragon Sausage is not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food.” — Letter from a UK bureaucrat determined to make sure consumers don’t think they are eating meat from an animal previously believed to be fictitious.

Tomorrow the Penguins post their favorite political quotes. Monday will be their favorite quotes from press releases.