Friday, February 26, 2010

"Special students" managing our Special Relationship with the U.K.

Remember how Obama was supposed to enhance our prestige in the world? It seems more like the Obama approach to foreign policy is to undercut our allies and inflate our enemies. How does that help anything?

Anyways, true to historical precedent and in a shameless bid to distract voters from an imploding economy and sky-rocketing inflation via jingoistic nationalism, Argentina's cosmetically modified left-wing Madame-in-Chief, Christina Kirchner, has decided to resurrect the faux sovereignty concerns over the Falkland Islands.This is an example of international relations at its worst.

Nile Gardiner, over at the Daily Telegraph, a leading British daily, is rightfully indignant about how the Obama administration is claiming neutrality and dismissing legitimate British concerns.  Here are some on the record comments from the State Department concerning the matter at hand:

“We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.”

“There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

Beyond being brazen and ignorant, statements like these are deliberately destructive to one of the most valued and influential trans-Atlantic relationships. Credibility is the most important factor in international relationships and diplomacy. Without it, you're kaput. The deliberate and intentional erosion of credibility, especially when nothing seems to be gained, strikes the werewolf as one of the great foreign policy position blunders a nation can make. Beyond being embarrassing (which this is), attitudes like this are scary and harmful because they undermine generations of carefully constructed understandings and protocols, along with the most highly valued, but tough to measure currency of credibility. This shameful behavior is beyond Carter-esque in ignorance, it's Chamberlin-esque (as in Neville). It is a bad sign of things to come.

A View from Paris.

The campaign office the werewolf is currently ensconced in is located on the historic square in downtown Paris. It occupies a giant vacant converted store front, complete with huge glass windows and doors that provide an expansive view of the charming town square. This week has reawakened the werewolf's inner-appreciation for people watching.

A new breed of east Texan was spotted this afternoon. The werewolf was quietly working on some media items when the rumble of large chili red Ford pickup truck caused him to look up from his computer screen. The passenger door opened and out popped a three foot tall black-Hispanic midget complete with a multi-colored serape and a mini-mullet. Talk about sensory overload. The werewolf regrets not having a picture to share with you all, but the trifecta of midget, mullet, and serape was enough to satiate the werewolf's need for a therapeutic afternoon laugh. God bless thumbalina and the value she briefly added to the werewolf's day.

That ladies and gentlemen was the snapshot of the week. Here's to living large in east Texas.

Bad Blogger

The werewolf is guilty of being a bad blogger this week. It's abnormally busy on this end. He's been actively engaged in a tight GOP primary in Texas, trying to sort his personal life out(ongoing project), and still looking for a real job. Those excuses are weak and some of them part of his daily routine, but explain why he has been truant from his blog. Apologies.

He promises to post about the idiot of the week award, give an update on the latest pending interviews, talk about his pair of Texas boots, the fine culinary experiences in Paris,Texas, share some takeaways from the campaign trail, and of course bloviate about something random soon. Thanks for your patience and stay tuned.

Funny Friday: As Good as it Gets - You're a wonderful man!!

The werewolf remains convinced that all "real men" have a little Melvin Udall within them. Udall speaks truths that we all think.

The werewolf imagines that taking his inner monologue public, a la Udall, would be an incredibly liberating experience. However, given the oppressive political correctness and tyrannical sensitivity that govern elements of modern society, expressing true honesty openly would come at an extreme social cost. Something, even a lone wolf, like the werewolf, with his blackened heart, isn't ready to fully absorb onto his balance sheet.

That being said, this role may well reflect the pinnacle of Jack Nicholson's storied acting career. Here is to living vicariously through Melvin Udall. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WSJ: Has the M.B.A. Class of ’09 Fallen Through the Cracks?

Over at the Wall Street Jounral's Laid Off and Looking blog, there is a great article about the rather dreary fate of the MBA class of 2009. Some of the content rings very true and speaks to some of the troubles the werewolf is facing in his search. Here is a worthy excerpt:

"The shift in how employers recruit M.B.A.’s has been especially tough for the class of 2009. No longer are employers looking to bring in talent and develop them. They are now in search of talent that has experience in the exact field in which they are hiring. Recruiters no longer have to hire the optimistic M.B.A.’s with huge talent and youthful vigor. Companies can easily hire workers with years of experience who are willing to take the same salary as only a freshly minted M.B.A. would have several years ago. This leaves thousands of students who hoped to use business school as a tool to switch careers unemployed. Further, those of us who were in very specialized functions and very specialized products pre-M.B.A. are left in the cold."

The werewolf has had one helluva of a time trying to secure stable employment since he graduated in the May of 2009. He has run into some of the aforementioned problems, but given his nontraditional post-MBA aspirations, he has also encountered skepticism, fear, and resentment of his MBA from a raft of perspective employers who are in the political sphere. Also, the equilibrium between supply and demand for people with his credentials and skill sets is way out of whack. There is an excess in supply and restricted demand, giving employers unimaginable leverage. However, beating up on employers misses the point, since they are operating in wildly uncertain times and have budgeted and planned accordingly. Several insiders are so focused on preserving their own hide, that opportunities are scarce. Adding another tightening dynamic to the current macro-situation.

Last spring the werewolf learned a hard lesson in negotiation and expectation management. He had successfully completed three rounds of intense interviews for a nonprofit foundation fellowship. Thought the fit with the organization was strong and he had a background that explicitly matched their desires. The werewolf was denied the fellowship because when compelled to answer what he valued his annual salary at, he put $70K. Mind you the question was roughly phrased where do you value your compensation rate? It then listed numerical values starting at $20K and moving all the way to $100K in increments of 10K. Although prepared to take a much lower nonprofit salary and not expecting to make anywhere near that amount in the role was he attempting to lock down, he thought it was a fair value given what most of his investment banking and management consulting peers were set to make, and was also a sign that the werewolf placed a respectable value on himself. Well, confidence, self-worth, and honesty were the wrong signals to send in that instance. The universal answer is negotiable, moving forward.

He has a few colleagues and acquaintances from other business and law schools such as Duke, Harvard, Columbia, Wake Forest, and the University of Georgia  who have run into similar humps with employment. The contractions in the legal market have mirrored the dearth of opportunity in the finance and consulting fields that have squeezed MBAs tightly. The werewolf will write more about this as time progresses. However, this article rings of some hard truths about the structural realignment of the employment market. 

Dubble Bubble.

We are constantly evolving. In one of exiles unique twists, the werewolf finds himself in Paris, TX working on a hyper-competitive GOP state representative primary. It is a week until the primary, so there is an abundance of energy and things to get done to energize voters. This election will be decided by razor thin margins. Plus, this is the werewolf's first formal foray into the fascinating dynamics that govern Republican primaries is rural Texas. It's been an experience and then some. 

Rural east Texas has been a wonderful change in pace and scenery that has been bountiful for the werewolf's beaten down mental health. Plus, Paris has a disarming charm. However, the candidate he is working on behalf of and the campaign manager are true sons of Texas and habitual dippers. The werewolf tends to chew on pens when moving at fast working pace, but that is habit he has tried to kick, so he has evolved into chewing gum. There is a giant punch bowel loaded with complementary dubble bubble gum pieces in the middle of our office. You all know double bubble right? The famous small, pink, half-thumb sized uber-sugary chewing gum that losses its flavor in about 15 seconds and rots your teeth. Good stuff. However, the werewolf has taken to chewing about 30 pieces a day. Seriously. He loves the sugary flavor rush and having something to occupy his jaw muscles. Some dentist will profit handsomely down the road.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dubai Spy Caper: Part II

According to this article printed in the Times of London, it is beginning to look like Mossad really screwed the pooch in Dubai last January. Here is a telling excerpt:

"Mossad is now deeply embarrassed. Its use of the identities of British, French, German and Irish nationals as cover for agents to carry out the hit has angered western governments. In the ensuing diplomatic fall-out, sources close to Mossad said yesterday that it had suspended similar operations in the Middle East, mainly because of fear that heightened security would put its agents at greater risk. Dagan’s job is also on the line." 

Maybe the werewolf's contrarian and skeptical streak got the better of him earlier. It's too soon to tell. Israel is certainly a loser throughout all of this, given the strained public perceptions and frayed diplomatic relations. No good deed goes unpunished.  

The dumb desire to homogenize.

Downtown Nashville will soon become home to one of Jimmy Buffet's kitsch, but well liked Margaritaville cafes. Given the touristy vibe of lower Broadway this is a good thing. The werewolf has no problem with national restaurants chains. They succeed because they represent a consistency, familiarity, and comfort for segments of dining-out 

Nashville's daily newspaper, The Tennessean, has outdone itself in the department of stupid recommendations. Their website features a list of brain numbing chains that some twat thinks Nashville is missing. While there are a few chains that may merit consideration, the werewolf is flummoxed by the need for people to seek validations through homogenization. One of Nashville's most alluring features was how it had successfully resisted the homogenization that frequently possess other cities. Nashville is home to several decent local burger joints, Mexican restaurants, cafes, BBQ pits,  ice cream parlors, and bakeries, some of which the werewolf imagined had decent expansion and franchising potential themselves.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to diversify a local culinary scene with new editions, and having some of those new editions be chains. However, to think that the addition of the aforementioned chains is somehow validating and a source of credibility, well that is just tragically vanilla-esque and boring. Over-reliance of homogenization runs the risk of dampening the very features that make a city like Nashville such a gem. I guess it begs the question, is homogenization a sign of success and prominence? If so, where is the optimal balance achieved?

From Paris with love.

The werewolf is in Paris, Texas this week helping out on a political campaign. He'll try and post something noteworthy at some point.

Zimbabwe: False optimism, abused paitence, and a bleak future.

Christine Nikol over at The Daily Caller, wrote an interesting article on select attitudes of Zimbabweans toward their current blighted circumstances. It is a thoughtful and well written article, complete with locations familiar to the werewolf. However, the article strikes the werewolf as being incredibly naive at points. The problems facing Zimbabwe mostly stem from the abusive nature of Robert Mugabe's regime and how bad governance has frayed any semblance of a civil society .

There seems to be misbegotten faith put in patience and timing as the eternal cure all. The werewolf's inner economist agrees that we are all dead in the long run, so in essence, patience can be seen as a cure all of sorts. Plus, life is full of transition points where a healthy dose of patience and optimism in a better tomorrow are essential.  Yes, when Mugabe and his dastardly ruling party formally crumble, a true road to recovery can begin for Zimbabwe. However, Mugabe's legacy includes years of a disciplined deconstruction of law and order, ethnic cleansing, economic mayhem, the standardization of torture, and institutionalization of fear. Patience, optimism, and wishful thinking aren't going to fix that mess.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Dubai Spy Caper

The werewolf has been mildly captivated by the all of the media coverage regarding last month's semi-spectacular Hollywoodesque hit of a well known Hamas terrorist (good riddance).  Varying degrees of coverage and opinion can be found, here, here, here, and here.  There is more to this story than meets the eye.
In brief, it is believed that a team of eleven entered the emirate of Dubai on a variety of falsified passports from several European Union countries. They then carefully tracked and whacked the aforementioned terrorist, although no corpse has been presented.  A consensus is forming in certain circles that this was a Mossad hit. However, the werewolf is becoming skeptical because so much has gone south regarding the operation and for all of its purported cleverness, something seems slightly amiss.  
The Mossad are pros, plain and simple. They are also part of a disciplined government  operation that has access to advanced drones, spy satellites, and a vast array of other espionage resources. This doesn’t discount the human capacity to error, still that seems improbable.  Why be covertly intricate, if there is a chance to kill the guy with a missile, well placed bomb, or just gun him down in his home turf why not take it? It is working well for the US in the AFPAK region. From what little can be pieced together about this operation in the press, it seems large, complicated, and while spectacular and theoretically successful, it leaves too many lose ends. Eleven is a large number of personnel to fabricate complicated back stories for and disperse properly.  Also, it creates more variable that can destabilize an equation as we’ve seen.  Plus, risking straining already frayed diplomatic ties with several European Union members seems a tad odd.  This story seems like an ugly attempt to mate the The Dirty Dozen, Munich, Mission Impossible, and Ocean’s 11. Talk about an ugly pavement puppy.
Despite being a veracious consumer of spy and espionage literature, elements of this tale seem to suggest that framing the Mossad was the objective. The werewolf isn’t one for over-emphasizing conspiracy theories. Perhaps the culprit was the Iranians, who want to distract attention from their internal crackdown along with uranium enrichment progress.  Is a disaffected arms dealer whom Hamas has failed to pay on time beyond the realm of possibilities? Perhaps, Hamas no longer had use for this guy and eliminating him and undermining the Israelis was a two for the price of one kinda deal?  Who knows? The werewolf has no idea what really happened, but remains convinced that narrative being pimped is way off the mark.  Thoughts?

Meet the wannabe Luddittes.

Over at the Daily Mail Online, reporter Chris Brooke writes about the modern technophobic family.  The werewolf thinks the Jones's should go the whole nine yards, and eschew anything that requires an electric current. That would impressive. In the meantime, they are like vegetarians who eat fish and allow for turkey at Thanksgiving. Mere poseurs who deserve scorn and derision. 

Funny Friday: Too Big to Fail

Youtube is not cooperating today. Damn them.

From the Peter Lattmann over at the WSJ blog, "Small-Business Special Report: "Too Big to Fail" Underwear."

"The phrase “too big to fail” has entered the American lexicon. If A.G. Newmyer III realizes his dream, the expression also will find its way inside your pants.

Newmyer has launched a Web site––selling one product: men’s underwear with “Too Big To Fail” emblazoned in red letters across the front. “Show off your own Bailout Package in these exclusive embroidered men’s underwear,” trumpets the site, which offers the choice of either boxers or briefs." 

Between "small-business" and "too big to fail" all that is needed is "that's what she said" thrown in for a good measure and juvenile humor can reign for hours. 

Higher education's crashing endowments.

According to Business Insider, here are the ten worst performing higher education endowments.

1. Harvard, down 30% and $10.9 billion.
2. Yale, down 29% and $6.5 billion.
3. Duke, down 28% and $1.7 billion.
4. Brown, down 27% and $730 million.
5. Syracuse, down 33% and $327 million.
6. University of Minnesota, down 27% and $312 million.
7. Cornell, down 26% and $1.4 billion.
8. University of Southern California, down 26% and $918 million.
9. California Institute of Technology, down 26% and $483 million.
10. Grinnell, down 27% and $396 million.

Wow. The total loss for the above endowments is about $23.67 billion. (this is just sample of a population of over 800 endowments) That is some serious cheddar. Some of the most "elite" schools in the country are represented on this list. One would think with portfolios the size of a small country's GDPs that risk management and hedging would be a core strategic component of endowment management. Guess not. What will be interesting is measuring the long term costs of these staggering losses to the reputations, quality, moral, and perceptions of the aforementioned schools and other top losers. Endowments were a huge value add to differentiating these institutions in the marketplace. They underwrote specialized faculty members who added prestige, exotic resources, important research, unique facilities, and scholarships among other things. When these dry up, what happens?

From a consumer perspective, tuitions will definitely increase at all of these schools due to acute operating budget shortfalls. (They'll increase everywhere) Due to systemic failures, there are few, if any, white knight philanthropists able to bridge the budget gaps of this magnitude. Value will get harder to define. Much like the collapse of the storied and allegedly invincible investment banking houses last year, is higher education slowly entering a new era in terms of how universities are perceived and managed? Will the titans fall? Given that the squeeze is near universal, it's hard to gauge who will win and who will lose. The werewolf still hasn't gotten his paws around the implications of these imploding endowments. Considering they took generations to build, most of them will likely never regain what they've lost from a balance sheet perspective. Once the balance sheet goes south, it's open season. It should be interesting to watch how this all plays out.

Here is the methodolgy:
24/7 Wall St. has analyzed the data for all 842 institutions and made comparisons based on 1) absolute dollar gain and loss, 2) percentage gain and loss, 3) greatest percent and absolute dollar gains and losses at the largest endowments (those with over $1 billion under management) with a special focus on those that lost 5% more than the average endowment in the survey or 23.7%, and 4) colleges and universities with endowments of more than $300 million which outperformed the average endowment loss of 18.7% by 5%–that is, those which had percentage losses of 13.7% or less.
Based on this analysis, 24/7 Wall St. picked the 20 worst managed university and college endowments and the 17 best. There were not enough colleges and universities to make a list of the 20 best based on our criteria. 24/7 also picked a “best of class” of endowments of more than $100 million which had absolute percentage gains over the one year period. Only 33 endowments of any size in this group of 842 had positive gains.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meet the blobfish.

Weird and creepy. Really.

Expiration dates: What they really mean.

According to Slate, consumers should "Ignore Expiration Dates" on perishable food items. The werewolf is skeptical. Two events have scared scarred the werewolf. Accidentally taking a swig from a cartoon of rancid milk and consuming some yogurt on its sell by date which turned out to have gone south. The resulting stomach ache was none to pleasant. The emotional barrier to eating foods past their "sell by" dates is permanent for him. Having food with a shelf-life incentivizes using what you've purchased. He'll stick to those rules. However, some readers may find the knowledge in this article empowering. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The price of "Hope and Change."

Remember how all of that buzz about hope and change circulated with typhoon like force back in 2008/2009? For a man who pledged to usher in a new era in American governance, publicly bemoans the corrupting influence of money in politics, and publicly attacks the Supreme Court; President Obama seems very invested in pay-for-play politics of yore. The Daily Caller paints an interesting picture of how money has influenced Obama's appointments here. Although it's not illegal and is a previously accepted practice to appoint loyal fundraisers, it is certainly in the stratosphere of lying and hypocrisy given where the president's rhetoric has been on these issues. Even by modern political standards, this is tacky and disingenuous. The werewolf doesn't object to politicians rewarding their loyal bundlers and fundraisers for doing their job. He objects to them branding themselves dishonestly and thinking they can get away with it unnoticed in this day and age. It's very patronizing and disrespectful. This voters and taxpayers of this country owe to themselves to start insisting that politicians put their money where their mouth is!

From the previously cited Daily Caller article, here is the menu of  key positions sold to political hacks in the Obama administration

The Big Changers’ Club ($500,000+)
Avant, Nicole (Los Angeles, CA)
Position: Ambassador to the Bahamas
Barzun, Matthew (Louisville, KY)
Position: Ambassador to Sweden
Beyer, Don (Alexandria, VA)
Position: Nominated to Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Bleich, Jeff (Piedmont, CA)
Position: Ambassador to Australia
Danzig, Richard (Washington, DC)
Position: Member, Defense Policy Board
Donahoe, Eileen Chamberlain (Washington, DC)
Position: Nominated to Ambassador to UN Human Rights Council
Eacho, William (Bethesda, MD)
Position: Ambassador to Austria
Forester, Christine (San Diego, CA)
Position: Member, Presidential Committee on the Arts and Humanities
Genachowski, Julius (Washington, DC)
Position: FCC Chairman
Gips, Don (Boulder, CO)
Position: Ambassador to South Africa
Gutman, Howard (Washington, DC)
Position: Ambassador to Belgium
Harris, Scott (Washington, DC)
Position: General Counsel, Department of Energy
Katz, Allan (Tallahassee, FL)
Position: Nominated to Ambassador to Portugal
Kennard, William (Washington, DC)
Position: Ambassador to the European Union
Oreck, Bruce (Boulder, CO)
Position: Nominated to Ambassador to Finland
Overton, Spencer (Chevy Chase, MD)
Position: Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy
Perrelli, Tom (Arlington, VA)
Position: Assistant Attorney General
Rivkin, Charlie (Los Angeles, CA)
Position: Ambassador to France and Monaco
Roos, John (Hillsborough, CA)
Position: Ambassador to Japan
Sanchez, Frank (Tampa, FL)
Position: Undersecretary of International Trade
Solomont, Alan (Boston, MA)
Position: Ambassador to Spain
Spinner, Steve (Menlo Park, CA)
Position: Loan Programs Advisor, Department of Energy
Stroum, Cynthia (Seattle, WA)
Position: Ambassador to Luxembourg
West, Tony (Oakland, CA)
Position: Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division

Monday, February 15, 2010

Doug Fieger of The Knack dead at 57. RIP

Doug Fieger, the lead singer, guitarist, and song-writer for The Knack, a 1970's ephemeral rock band with the famous hit "My Sharona," died earlier today. The song, about an older man lusting after a younger woman, is one the catchiest and funnest songs from that era. Here are some of the lyrics:

Come a little closer huh, ah will ya huh.
Close enough to look in my eyes, Sharona.
Keeping it a mystery gets to me
Running down the length of my thighs, Sharona
Never gonna stop, give it up. Such a dirty mind.
Always get it up for the touch of the younger kind

That song has been featured in just about every dance and large social event featuring music that the werewolf has attended since middle school. The positive memories of jumping and hopping around to it are abundant. What a great legacy for Mr. Fieger. RIP, good sir.

Bye Bayh!

Indiana's junior senator, Democrat Evan Bayh, will not be seeking a third term in the senate. On several levels, this is a startling blow to Democrats. Bayh is a liberal who successfully wears moderate drag. He was a shortlist candidate for Obama's VP, seems to have decent national recognition, and is certainly a household name in his home state. Also, given that Obama carried Indiana in 2008 this exemplifies how drastic the political winds have shifted. Not only was Bayh being challenged in a primary by former Sen. Dan Coates, but he was seen as vulnerable by the GOP and a spectrum of GOP veterans were entering the fray to dislodge him. Several themes seem to be emerging in the 2010 cycle. Incumbency is no longer a strong asset, name recognition may be as much of a vice as a virtue, and while a few GOP top dogs are steeping down, it looks like the head winds are decisively anti-Democratic. Is that the legacy of Obama's first year in office? Becoming Democrat kryptonite?

UPDATE: Over at The Corner, some speculate that Bayh may launch a primary bid against Obama. The werewolf thinks not, but stranger things have happened.

CORRECTION: Dan Coates is a Republican who will be running for the soon to be vacated senate seat. There was no Democrat primary challenger to Bayh.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who Killed Apartheid?

Reason has a great interview with South African journalist and former ANC activist turned critic, Howard Barrell. For anyone with a passing interest in South Africa, revolutions, reform, and the politics of liberation it is a must read. There is too much content to dissect in a single post. However, there are a few items that jumped at the werewolf worth mentioning.

The interview focuses on debating the efficacy of the armed component of the ANC struggle versus the more passive protest oriented civil struggles in toppling the white-minority regime in South Africa. It also touches on the insecurities and corruption of the ANC via its communist ties and the implications of that for South Africa's current government. It does a great job of framing the ANC resistance in the context of other revolutionary movements, like those in Vietnam, Cuba, Guinea-Bissau, and China. Really good stuff.

However, as a student of the aforementioned subjects, follower of international relations, and amateur Africanist; the werewolf thinks that fascinating discussions like this obscure what really caused Apartheid to collapse. The root of Apartheid's demise can be found in the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. As long as South Africa's Apartheid regime provided a credible bulwark against communist expansion on the African continent (and it most certainly did), the West unconditionally tolerated it existence. When the specter of global communist evaporated, so did the patience the West had for South Africa's hard-line segregation. Forty years of deliberate attempts by communist insurgents and labor strikes certainly impaired South Africa's economy and degraded its reputation, but never proved a credible vehicle to bringing the regime down. It's not a desire to oversimplify(for the sake of brevity this post is exceedingly general), it's just a an example wanting to glorify a movement and give credit where little credit is due. As the article suggests, the ANC had a credible vehicle to move into power via its popular electoral support with the black masses making it the logical negotiating partner for the then ruling National Party to engage once elections had been mandated. However, one only need examine the extreme violence between the Zulu based Inkatha Freedom Party and the Xhosa centric ANC during South Africa's first universal election. Black/white violence wasn't a major factor as South Africa transitioned into a democratic society. It was black-on-black violence that sadly marked the occasion.

The werewolf feels that there is a tension in wanting to glorify the ANC and give it credit, despite how when examined; the timing, facts, and legacies of how history unfolded provide a contrast that challenge these assumptions. While the werewolf could read articles like this one until he was blue-in-the face. They provide more insight into failed insurgencies and the limits of violence against entrenched powers, more than a tale of legitimate liberation and political transformation. While conducting the post-mortum to best understand the anatomy of the transitional miracle that is South Africa, the best indicators are in the macro-trends that defined that era.

Is Anderson Cooper a closeted Ghostbusters freak?

Anderson Cooper, the effete CNN anchor and dapper Vanderbilt heir, who the werewolf has very little utility for, is the subject of an amusing and bizarre Associated Press story. It looks like Mr. Cooper is closeted about more than just his companionship preferences.

Picturing some hoity -toity over-priced Manhattan interior design maven, who probably pimps garish motifs, dropping down a hole in the floor is reason enough for a laugh. Reading about said designer suing the person who she planned to over-change for ugly design advice in a building that is known to have holes in the floor is John Edwardesque and doubly amusing. Then realizing that people in Manhattan actually replicate lifestyle decisions from one of your favorite childhood movies, is humor that can't be scripted.

For those readers who aren't familiar with the 1980's comedy classic Ghostbusters (shame on you), a key element of the film is four eccentric ghost busting scientists purchasing an old Tribeca firehouse and living and working out of it.

Anderson, it's a cool residence theoretically, just in a Ghostbusters beat-you-to-it kind of way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The werewolf sees The Wolfman

Like any good misanthrope, the werewolf enjoys a decent horror flick. While most of his fellow males had surrendered their masculinity and submitted to the irrational desire of their significant others to watch a exercise in vapidity like Valentine's Day, the werewolf was front and center at The Wolfman. Exile helps him keep his priorities aligned.

The Wolfman is an very mediocre exercise in cinema. It has enjoyable moments, is a tad atmospheric at times, and portrays a graphically disturbing metamorphosis to complement a healthy body count.  However, the tension in the plot is forced, the love story hollow and needless, and Anthony Hopkins just seemed bored with his role.

Hopkins, a legendary and versatile actor, captivated audiences with his rendition of super-psychiatrist turned fiendish cannibal, Hannibal Lector, and has played the Victorian era master of the occult and vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing like it was his second skin. He was either under-utilized by the director or is getting to the point where acting gigs are just a paycheck and vehicle to pass the time. It wasn't a heinous performance per say, just far below the expectations that one usually harbors from an actor of Hopkins caliber. 

Additionally, the werewolf struggles with Benicio del Toro (Benny the Tuna). He just isn't that likable for some reason. It's as if he blends Latin greasiness with an empty identity,  that makes wanting to like or appreciate him an activity for manyana mañana.

However, some credit ought  to be slung on Hugo Weaving, who plays the tenacious Scotland Yard inspector trying to solve the case. Weaving, made famous by his roles as Elrond in The Lord of the Rings and Agent Smith in The Matrix, brings a focus and determination that is lacking elsewhere in the movie. Still Weaving isn't anywhere enough to elevate The Wolfman beyond mediocre and best rented and watched over some pizza and beer. The ending was left open for a sequel. Odds are, if ever conceived, it is direct to DVD.

Glenn Reynolds: What I Saw at the Tea Party Convention

The godfather of the blogosphere, Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit), has penned an interesting piece on what he observed at Tea Party convention in Nashville for the Wall Street Journal. The article has been buzzing all throughout the blogosphere. Here are some highlights:

"There were promises of transparency and of a new kind of collaborative politics where establishment figures listened to ordinary Americans. We were going to see net spending cuts, tax cuts for nearly all Americans, an end to earmarks, legislation posted online for the public to review before it is signed into law, and a line-by-line review of the federal budget to remove wasteful programs.

These weren't the tea-party platforms I heard discussed in Nashville last weekend. They were the campaign promises of Barack Obama in 2008.

Mr. Obama made those promises because the ideas they represented were popular with average Americans. So popular, it turns out, that average Americans are organizing themselves in pursuit of the kind of good government Mr. Obama promised, but has not delivered. And that, in a nutshell, was the feel of the National Tea Party Convention. The political elites have failed, and citizens are stepping in to pick up the slack." 

That's just a taste of the rather insightful and candid article. The werewolf has only written briefly about the Tea Party movement as he is still trying to get his paws around what it really means. The roots can be traced back to the nascent days of the Obama administration during Rick Santelli's famous live rant from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange almost a year ago. The ideas driving the Tea Party have played a huge role in the recent GOP victories in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. However, it seems the criteria for being a Tea Partier have little to do with traditional conservative causes around social issues or foreign policy and there is no official litmus test for membership. The tired template of rabid right-wing populist extremism that certain media outlets are pimping is poor analysis at best or bigoted bias at worse. Skepticism of an ever-expansive government apparatus seems to be the primary driver. Reynolds offers a great road map to a better understanding of the Tea Party phenomena, but the the werewolf is still unsure how to measure to scope and scale of the Tea Party movement as a new dimension on the American political landscape. It'll be a treat to watch and analyze. 

Goldfrapp: Ride A White Horse (live)

Here is a shockingly decent and catchy live rendition of the Goldfrapp song "Ride on a White Horse." Despite being a late adapter and accidental fan of her music, the werewolf finds she strikes a nice balance between the rock, pop, and electronic genres. Several things pop about this stage production. First and foremost, the hippie dude playing the keytar is novel and amusing. Secondly, the set production of the white dancing mares contrasted against Goldfrapp's black attire provides a very nice visual tension between purity and lust. The provocative and sexual choreography of the mares rhythmic moves bring the music alive  in a visually strange and bestial way. Anyhow, here's to enjoying some new music.

Walmart vs. Whole Foods: Who rules the roost on locally grown fresh produce?

Corby Kummer (sounds likes a porn-star moniker, doesn't it?) over at The Atlantic, has penned a fascinating piece titled "The Great Grocery Smackdown." It is a thorough examination of a yuppie-liberal trying to procure fresh locally grown produce via two well established mega-chains, the iconic feel good Whole Foods, and the dreaded corporate titan Walmart. The piece makes for an interesting read because at prima fascia, everyone thinks the answer to this question is a no-brainer, right? Whole Foods dominates, hands down. Well, wrong. Based on the evidence provided by the author, the answer is actually colored by several shades of gray.  Walmart and Whole Foods each have distinct advantages and disadvantages in certain realms of local produce sourcing and quality. By virtue of that simple fact, this turns out as a rather massive victory for the Walmart brand.

The werewolf loves each enterprise for different reasons and holds them both in high esteem. Walmart has revolutionized the retail industry on so many levels that addressing it merits a post unto itself. It has lowered prices for consumers, leveraged its volume to influence CPG manufacturers to make more sustainable packaging and shipment operations that benefit most stakeholders, and become a staple of the American consumption psyche. Sure, it gets accused of cultural and product homogenization, squeezing out mom and pop shops, paying its employees what the market says they are worth, and being evil on account of its massive success. While, some criticism is warranted, most criticism is rooted in typical liberal economic bigotry and ignorance.

Whole Foods has captured the yuppie, bourgeois aspirations and demands for premium foods, exotic spices, diverse offerings that theoretically are all well sourced and organically produced where it counts. The werewolf thinks Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, is one of the finest honchos out there and has done marvelous things with his enterprise. There is an arrogance and entitlement to Whole Foods that it is somehow intrinsically "better" by virture of the aforementioned business value adds. It has earned the pejorative name "Whole Paycheck" in some circles, and whereas Walmart is every-man's store, Whole Foods still maintains a bit of an exclusionary cache to its brand. Plus, one could argue that Whole Foods aggressive acquisition growth strategy is more corporate than Walmarts organic growth approach turning the whole presumptive nature of which company is more in-touch with its base on its head.  Regardless, when times are good, the werewolf is a patron of Whole Foods. 

The moral of the story is that the fierce competition of the American marketplace is forcing American's best and biggest retailers to respond to the needs of consumers in innovative ways. Trends like this are a win-win for just about everybody. The added bonus of rattled rattling the cages of economically ignorant and elitist yuppies is a just a cherry-on-top.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Funny Friday: 30 Rock - Therapy, Jack Style

Although not an avid fan of 30 Rock, this scene still cracks the werewolf up. Here is some of network television at its finest. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Duran Duran: A View To A Kill

There's nothing like a little blast from the past to lift deflated spirits. Despite being a hard-rocker at heart, the werewolf is an unapologetic fan of almost all things 80's. His Achilles heel is the pop music of that era. Duran Duran qualifies as one of his favorite distinctly 80's legacies. It's good to see that Duran Duran has aged relatively well and still performs their music with gusto and heart, while remaining true to their 80's roots.

This song holds an especially important place in the werewolf's black heart. Not only is it a guilty pleasure from the 80's, but it is also one of the better theme songs from a Bond film. The werewolf was raised on Bond films and loosely bases his life on emulating some things Bond. While the namesake Bond film leaves something to be desired and is one of the weaker installments in the venerable film franchise, there is no doubt that this song rates as one the best Bond themes. If you listen closely, you'll notice this song has a mean base line.

This song is definitely on the werewolf's karaoke list when he liberates himself from exile. Beware. He's got some mean moves planned to compensate for his lack of talent.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When Human Rights activists enable Human Rights violators.

Amnesty International is taking some much deserved heat in the British press. Richard Kerbaj of the Times of London, penned this rather damning piece raising some important questions about the double standards and lack of ethical consistency within the organization. It's both welcome and overdue.

Back in his more activist days, the werewolf would frequently spar with self-identified "human rights activists" and liberal champions on his college campus. The theme he noticed from his youthful encounters and from this article(and many others) is the near universal assumption of innocence of those detained by the United States in places like Gitmo, and the universal application of malicious motives to entities like the United States. It's akin to blaming the wealthy white woman who was rapped raped by a poor black urban hoodlum because she doesn't conform to a nation of victim-hood by virtue of being white and wealthy and that being poor and black excused the behavior of the perpetrator. There is a severe lack of perspective and scale. Being a level-headed and staunch believer in human dignity and freedom, their rather overt biases has always baffled the werewolf because, while imperfect, the west, even at its worst, is light-years ahead of Afghanistan and the Taliban on anything relating to human dignity.  The werewolf is glad to see that stories like this are beginning to take a toll on organizations like Amnesty International. He would love to see a non-partisan global Human Rights organization that focuses on epicenters of real political blight like Iran, Zimbabwe, China, Burma, and Equatorial Guinea. Dare to dream.

Sisyphean task: Shoveling the Snow

Exile has relegated the werewolf to life in the suburbs of New York City.  Last week during Snowmageddon I, the area dodged a bullet and was spared any snowfall. While DC was getting shelled with 24 inches of snow, New York City and its environs were kicking back and enjoying some lattes.  However, Snowmageddon II came back with a vengeance this time around with New York in the cross-hairs. So far, about 11 inches have fallen. (Much less than DC mind you, but then again this area isn't nearly as dysfunctional when snow falls) Earlier today, when there was a lull in the snowfall and about 7 inches had accumulated, the werewolf went to work shoveling the rather expansive driveway and walkway. He then retired inside, only to notice that by mid-afternoon, another three or four inches had fallen and this snow was the of the heavy icier variety. It looked as if his earlier efforts had been in vain. Dutifully, the driveway and walkway have been cleared again and rather impressive snow walls have formed. As dusk dawns, the werewolf has read that a few more inches are to be expected. It all feels so Sisyphean. However, the theory goes that by shoveling the snow in dedicated shifts, effort and labor will be reduced because the weight and density of packed snow will not be allowed to accumulate. So far, it's just a theory as the effort expanded will be hard to measure against effort saved.

That being said, few things are as tranquil and beautiful as the muted silence of an environment shrouded with several inches of fresh snowfall. Here's to living in a winter wonderland.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A scorching legacy of 2008: Media Bias!

During the 2008 election, the media displayed a vacuum of interest regarding the sleazy habits and duplicitous lifestyle John Edwards was living. Despite all of the blunt indications that Edwards was a total fraud. Recall the bogus story about McCain affair that the New York Times didn't hesitate to splash across its front page, yet ended up costing the gray lady serious coin via a defamation settlement and was thoroughly debunked. The contrast in treatment is so shocking it induces a state of speechlessness. Byron York has some thoughts on the issue here. He states:

"An explosive scandal had been kept out of the press for months at a time when the man at the center was an important player in national politics. Why? 

Young thought it was because the Edwards camp so tightly controlled information that journalists weren't able to find sources to corroborate the Enquirer's reporting. While that may have been part of it, the fact was, many editors and reporters just didn't want to tell the story. 

Maybe they admired Edwards' cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth. Maybe they saw no good in exposing Edwards' sordid acts. Maybe they looked down on the National Enquirer. Or maybe they were just biased. "In the case of John Edwards," said Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, "even though it was clearly out there -- everybody in America knew about this well before CNN and the New York Times and the Washington Post got into this game -- there was still a great reluctance." 

Of course, in the end the story came out anyway -- but only after the sheer weight of Edwards' corruption made the facts impossible to ignore, even for sympathetic journalists."

Nothing new is being stated here. There are a multitude of problems that these revelations generate. From a business and ethics perspective the old print media really needs to step up their game in this age of the blogosphere and quick information dissemination to the masses. How can an organization maintain credibility when tales of shameless selective reporting and bias become so transparent? Here's a bold proposition, the New York Times and other print media should assign reporters of the opposite political party to cover candidates during elections. Perhaps this would create an incentive to focus on facts first and downplay the need to cover for a candidate because of sympathy for the causes they champion. Not ever going to happen, but using a metric to maintain an adversarial element could be a healthy incentive. This only goes so far though because we saw how reporters willingly grabbed at strings to try and discredit McCain. Is a further erosion of old media and more segmentation the answer or is it unreasonable to expect a media outlet to strive for semi-objective and straight-forward political coverage? Perhaps the fact that this laundry is being aired at all is a victory unto itself.

Recall U.S. Interests In Auto Industry

Sometimes stating the obvious is tough and readily apparent evidence is thin. Over at Forbes, George Pieler and Jens Laurson take the aforementioned circumstances and author a solid article addressing the issue as it relates to the concerns over government ownership of large swaths of the US auto industry. They also speak well to Toyota's raft of problems independent of U.S. government's conflict of interest. Can a regulator who owns the competition truly be objective? Who gets screwed by this lack of objectivity?

"In a way, this is business as usual and reflected in the drop of Toyota's share prices. What is not business as usual is that Toyota's competitors include not just other car companies but also the U.S. government, due to its effective ownership of GM. Whether foul play is involved, it's a bad idea for government to run a car company and regulate all competing car companies at the same time. The conflict of interest is obvious, but the government--certainly not at La Hood's initiative--didn't recuse itself. Did he suggest that "Toyota thinks they know how to fix the problem" to cast doubt on its actual ability? What would otherwise be an innocuous statement arouses suspicions under such circumstances.

The charge of bias can't be proved or dismissed. The accusation of pro-GM mercantilism will always be raised when its competitors are targeted. Genuine protectionism in favor of GM and Chrysler (as well as Ford) would be very bad for American consumers and American autoworkers employed by Toyota. But even the credible appearance of it is bad enough. If the public has to second-guess every one of La Hood's pro-safety actions and pronouncements on the ground he may be tilting the table for GM, it's not only Toyota or U.S.-Japan relations that suffer. The credibility of U.S. policies on automotive safety will be harmed most, which means that for public safety reasons alone the U.S. should discharge its ownership positions in GM and Chrysler as soon as possible and let them swim free." 

There is another conflict of interest that the werewolf believes is getting short shrift. The relationship that unions have with domestic vs. foreign automakers. Although not universal, the vast majority of foreign automakers who have established manufacturing operations in the United States have located their plants in "right to work" states. The automakers include Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz and some of the states domiciling these operations include Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, and Tennessee. 

Despite the recent contraction in credit, lower sales volumes, and poor macro-economic conditions a spectrum of reports suggest that these plants are more efficient, breed happier workers, and have a generally less adversarial relationship with management.  Given that the current administration is beholden to the labor unions that contributed handsomely to their election coffers and that the unions hold profound contempt for the foreign operations of competitors being sourced domestically under non-union negotiated labor contracts, and that since the government owns the companies that employ large segments of union membership that there is an inherent conflict of interest at work? The answer seems painfully obvious to the werewolf, but then again he doesn't want to be accused of chasing mice in his mind. Still the implications of such decisions impact stakeholders from consumers, workers, lenders, suppliers, and tax-payers that it would behoove us all if more attention was paid to the issue.

Christopher Hitchens: Why Women Still Aren't Funny

This five minute clip speaks for itself. The werewolf has a female friend from high school trying to make it on the LA stand-up comic circuit. She's struggling.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Who: I Can`t Explain

The Who were one of the many classic rock cornerstones of the werewolf's youth. "Behind Blue Eyes" has one of the most awesome transitions from heartbroken ballad to face peeling hard rock ever. Their contributions to rock 'n' roll are epic and people with a decent taste in music owe them a debt of gratitude. Like all bands that are talented enough to have a career spanning many decades, The Who's sound evolved from classic British invasion rock (I Can't Explain), to hard hitting head banging (Who are you), to more mellow rhythmic rock (Eminence Front). A storied and impressive career if there ever was one. They are right up there with the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. Let's take a step back to realize that the video featured in this post was from 1965. LBJ had only been president for two years!

While the werewolf was glad to note that some of them are still kicking, their presence at the super bowl confirmed his suspicion that some rock acts are best relegated to retirement. Watching Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend was akin to the USSR thinking it could pass off it's gerontocracy of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko in the early 1980's as legit leadership. I mean this these guy's looked like they just got a day pass from their Florida retirement community. Daltrey's strained voice is a husk of its former self and he permeated an acknowledged guilt of sucking. Poor Townshend looked like he shat his pants at one point. It was a little pathetic to watch these rock gods play one encore too many. That being said, the werewolf raises a paw to salute one of the best rock bands to grace this lifetime. You guys have earned your retirement. Enjoy it!

Barone - Unions Bleed Taxpayers

Michael Barone pens another superb piece on the economic hurdles imposed by unions on taxpayers, consumers, and business. Some very alarming trends are emerging. The article points out that private-sector union ranks are collapsing (a good thing), yet more than a third of public-sector employees are now unionized ( a scary factoid). Unions are no longer stewards of decent wages, improved workplace conditions, and agents of disenfranchised stakeholders. They are the new entitled fat-cats that have been very effective at eroding America's competitive advantage in key industrial and manufacturing sectors. From a sustainability and corporate responsibility perspective their needs to be an honest assessment of the costs they incur on all of us. Here are some well articulated highlights on impact of unions on the auto industry from Barone's article.

"Private-sector unionism is adversarial. Economic studies show that such unions do extract premium wages and benefits from employers. But that puts employers at a competitive disadvantage. Back in the 1950s, the Big Three auto companies dominated the industry and were at the top of the Fortune 500. Last year, General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt and are now owned by the government and the UAW. Ford only barely escaped.

Adversarial unionism tends to produce rigid work rules that retard adaptation and innovation. We have had a three-decade experiment pitting UAW work rules against the flexible management of Japanese- and European-owned non-union auto firms.

The results are in. Yes, clueless management at the Detroit firms for years ignored problems with product quality and made bonehead investment mistakes. But adversarial unionism made it much, much harder for Detroit to produce high-quality vehicles than it was for non-unionized companies." 

With that kind of well documented legacy, do we really want to straddle our already obese and incompetent governmental infrastructure with a new bracket of unsustainable obligations? 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Best movie of the last decade - Thank you for Smoking - Trailer

Witty. Clever. Honest. Refreshing. Thank you for Smoking is the werewolf's favorite film of the last decade. It is also one of the few examples of a cinematic translation usurping the book from which it is based on nearly all fronts. That is a distinction that is hard to come by. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and buy it. It's a keeper.

Friday, February 5, 2010

North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarfs - Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens has authored another brilliant piece, "A Nation of Racist Dwarfs," over at Slate. North Korea is arguably the most perverted and tragic modern manifestation of humanity on the face of this fair planet. Hitchens, in a way only his dry and acerbic wit can capture, pens a solid piece on ethnic nationalism and racism in the Korean peninsula.   Here are some excerpts: 

"Here are the two most shattering facts about North Korea. First, when viewed by satellite photography at night, it is an area of unrelieved darkness. Barely a scintilla of light is visible even in the capital city. (See this famous photograph.) Second, a North Korean is on average six inches shorter than a South Korean. You may care to imagine how much surplus value has been wrung out of such a slave, and for how long, in order to feed and sustain the militarized crime family that completely owns both the country and its people.

But this is what proves Myers right. Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming."

NAVY "Corpse Man" twice. Really?

The werewolf is constantly informed by his liberal minded colleagues that President Obama has a masterful command of the English language. Really? How does a Harvard educated lawyer screw up corpsman twice? For those of you in the dark, corpsman is pronounced "core man." It's standard English. What's next the United States Marine Corpse?

The issue here is standards. Liberals lambasted Bush's Texas twang, occasional stutters, lack of flow, and mispronunciation of foreign leaders names. All fair. It looks like our current president's has a different affliction. A slavish devotion to the teleprompter(he doesn't look at the camera once), plus a detachment from the phonetic tradition of the English language, especially as it relates to the military. Not good for a commander-in-chief guiding a country in two wars. Not to nit pick, but at what point does the media narrative start to reflect how the president conducts himself? Smooth and slick, yet oddly detached, divorced from the pronunciation of common words, aloof, and slavishly devoted to the script on his teleprompter. His flaws are different than those of his predecessor, perhaps not as significant, perhaps more-so, yet a trend has emerged, how come the media is the last to notice?

Retard police? How retarded!

A loyal reader recently informed the werewolf that according to the Special Olympics' online retard police, this blog was safe because it had not used the word retard in print form. (Why does fucktard get a pass?) That just changed, thank goodness. The werewolf wouldn't be able to sleep in good conscience knowing that some sort of self-appointed steward of political correctness approved of him. Since when did the Special Olympics appoint themselves guardians of the word retard? Who the hell do they think they are jumping into the world authorizing what can and can't be used in the vernacular? How retarded!

The werewolf is a big fan of the Special Olympics and hopes that every human life will be given a chance to shine in some capacity. He values the service the Special Olympics provide to segments of the world population. He will continue to support them while they host forums that allow people to shine and excel while displaying acute physical prowess. However, he will not abide them expanding their charter into the realm of linguistic thugs.

According to


[ri-tahrd, for 1–3, 5; ree-tahrd for 4] Show IPA
–verb (used with object)
1. to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.
–verb (used without object)
2. to be delayed.
3. a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance, as in a machine.
4. Slang: Disparaging.
a. a mentally retarded person.
b. a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard.
5. Automotive, Machinery. an adjustment made in the setting of the distributor of an internal-combustion engine so that the spark for ignition in each cylinder is generated later in the cycle.

1480–90; < L retardāre to delay, protract, equiv. to re- re- + tardāre to loiter, be slow, deriv. of tardus slow; see tardy

re⋅tard⋅ing⋅ly, adverb

1. obstruct, check.

1. accelerate.
There are many legit uses for retard in the daily vernacular.

The werewolf's hunt for employment has been retarded by weak macro-economic conditions.

President Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, acted like a retard when he called uncooperative democrats Democrats "retarded."

Liberals prefer aborting babies who may be retarded.

Like all things, language is delicate, important, and should be carefully deployed at times. Using language well is an art form that escapes larger segments of the population as each generation passes. Each word has implications to being used and that should be noted. However, policing and trying to erase some words, especially flexible words like retard is a shame. It's almost as outrageous as the retarded people who think the word NIGGARDLY is racist.

Toyota Totaled?

Despite the tragic implications for a few very dead individuals, watching the national drama unfold around Toyota's deadly brake pedal flaw has been fascinating. The National Post has an interesting op-ed by  Terence Corcoran covering the details of what is happening to Toyota from a skeptic's perspective. He downplays Toyota's culpability, and focuses on the domestic reaction from both a governmental and business perspective. There is no questioning that the Obama administration and certain congressional democrats have behaved like buffoons, that Detroit is giddy with joy, and that Toyota itself has tripped pretty severely on the public relations front. Given the multiple forces at work, this business drama has the makings of great business school case study.

First things first, Toyota screwed the pooch. One of the hallmarks of Toyota's brand image was quality. That association is a core component of what distinguishes Toyota from it's American rivals in the minds of consumers. Every large scale auto-manufacturer will have a recall at some-point or a design flaw, especially if they are volume players. Managing these moments is what determines a company's brand image in the minds of consumers. Remember the famous Tylenol Recall of 1982 that did wonders for Johnson & Johnson. Getting ahead of the issue, preempting any fears from consumers by letting them know that they are a priority, and exceeding crisis management expectations are essential from a brand image preservation perspective. The werewolf is dismayed that Toyota didn't have some massive contingency drawn-up just in case a disaster like this occurred.  It's risk management 101 for a company like Toyota.  Toyota's management clearly seemed a little slow to respond, was skeptical of consumer fears, and allowed the issue to explode into a North American market drama that the werewolf thinks has adversely  impacted their brand for the short and potentially medium term. Given Toyota's discipline as a company, their weak response and poor brand management is the most shocking element of this tale at work.

Granted, Toyota has long been the arch-rival of GM and Ford ever since their arrival on these shores four decades ago started eroding Detroit's dominance in it's home market. Toyota built better cars leveraging more operational efficiencies, their cars lasted longer and developed a perception of quality, and they avoided detrimental union obligations. Most importantly Toyota offered the consumers what they wanted instead of boring automotive bureaucratic abominations pushed by Detroit. Detroit's resentment of Toyota is not unlike the blood-feud between the Hatfield's and McCoy's. In today's day and age, conflicts of interest abound. The US Government has a large ownership stake in both Chrysler and GM, those dastardly unions heavily financed and supported the current occupant of the White House, plus this administration has displayed a tendency to be protectionist and anti-free trade. It doesn't take a genius to see the potential problems at play working against Toyota from a governmental standpoint. However, these problems aren't insurmountable, they just need to be noted and Toyota needs to integrate them into their communications strategy as they launch a recovery.As much as Detroit seems to be enjoying this meltdown at Toyota, they seem to be missing the message the credibility isn't going to be sourced in a nasty web of conflicts of interest and lame rhetoric. Good management and valuing consumers will do that just fine.

Brand image and commitment to that image are what lead to credibility. Credibility fuels consumer purchasing and loyalty. At the moment, credibility seems to be wanting in all sectors of this drama. What do you all think?

Funny Friday: The Legend of Ari Gold

Although getting a little long in the tooth as it approaches its seventh season, HBO's Entourage still qualifies as some of the best television produced in recent memory. Beyond strong writing, the show owes some of its endurance and stature in pop culture to the character of Hollywood super agent, Ari Gold, played masterfully by Jeremy Piven. Here's a glimpse of Ari at his finest.

Social Security: Ticking time bomb

For the first time in 25 years, social security is paying out more than it receives in taxes.

"Don't look now. But even as the bank bailout is winding down, another huge bailout is starting, this time for the Social Security system.

A report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that for the first time in 25 years, Social Security is taking in less in taxes than it is spending on benefits."

Somehow the werewolf doubts this intergalactic Ponzi-scheme will survive to the point when he is ready to retire. People were rightly outraged by the likes of Bernie Madoff who ran a similar operation. Why does the government get a pass?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Barone: How Climate-Change Fanatics Corrupted Science.

Michael Barone has a great piece about the self-inflicted and fanatical wounds that gradually eroded the credibility of the climate change movement from within. The article itself is well-researched and meticulously cited, here are some brief excerpts: 

"Recently, there have been even more shocking revelations. The IPCC has claimed that warming will cause the Himalayan glaciers to disappear by 2035. It turns out that that claim was based solely on a pamphlet published by the World Wildlife Federation, based on no science at all. The head of the IPCC was informed that a 1996 report said those glaciers could melt significantly by 2350, not 2035, but he let the claim stand.

As Christopher Booker writes in the Telegraph of London, "A Canadian analyst has identified more than 20 passages in the IPCC's report which cite similarly non-peer-reviews WWF or Greenpeace reports as their authority." Similarly, the Times of London reports that a claim that warming could endanger "up to 40 percent" of the Amazon rainforest came from an anti-smoking activist and had no scientific basis whatever."

Does anyone else catch the irony in that last line?

Anyhow, the moral of the story is that transparency, accountability, and honesty are crucial to successfully pushing an effective issues campaign in this day and age. Information is readily available and easy to access. As the article suggests, the big question will be,  how did large swaths of society, especially governments and corporations become so enthralled with an idea driven by junk science at best and manipulative deceivers on a blind crusade at worst ? The werewolf thinks for governments it was about control and for corporations it was a short term play to try and find revenue opportunities. Not particularly flattering for either. Still, thank goodness for the vigilance of those who questioned the herd mentality on this issue.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Luv Gov"Mark Sanford dropped 'faithful' from vows from marriage: Preempted honesty in a painful form?

Just when we thought we had collectively forgotten about South Carolina's infamous "luv gov," Andy Barr, from the Politico pens the bizarrely revealing article "Mark Sanford dropped 'faithful' from vows."

The article explicitly states "South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford refused to include a promise to be faithful in his wedding vows, according to his wife, Jenny." Several things snap to werewolf's brain upon reading this weird revelation. Firstly, this is not to blame Jenny Sanford, but it looks like Mark sent a very direct signal to her from an early point that he did not take fidelity seriously. She allowed it to be omitted from the contractual vows that are the foundation of marriage. In a weird twists of fate, was she a victim of her own naivety, and he just an actor operating within the perceived construct of their marriage contract? However, Mark clearly felt guilty about his actions and he tried to hide them, in many ways suggesting he wasn't comfortable enough with that omitted clause to be forthright and honest with his spouse. The werewolf thinks very poorly of Governor on account of his behavior, but can't help but acknowledge that the boundaries of weirdness in this instance make this case of a "cheating politician" somewhat exceptional. 

Cheating politicians are sadly an accepted norm in society and nothing new. 
Giuliani and Gingrich: The same old guys that ditch their wives for their misstresses. Boring and standard.
Clinton: Classic horn dog, who's too cowardly to properly confess when caught, has a taste for fat chicks, and has a wife who puts up with his shit to advance her career politically.
McGreevy: Cheating politicians are gay. Really sucks to be his wife. A national first.
Spitzer: Cheating politicians like sleazy Jersey-shore-esque hookers. Confirmed what everybody knew. 
Edwards: Co-opts wife's fatal cancer to advance phony image of crusading populist douche-bag, all while he is really just another narcissistic tool extraordinaire, who happens to have taken his dalliances to new level of irresponsibility and creepiness. Sadly, the media covered for him and he was exposed by the National Enquirer. He may be the most shameless and disgusting of the bunch.
Sanford: Never promises to be faithful to spouse in first place, spouse accepts that term; lies to everyone about jet-setting to Argentina to see his Latin babe; calls his mistress his soul mate on national television, seems to accept his fate. Weirdly, there is an honesty to this guy's actions. The behavior is disciple, consequences deserved, the pain very real, but the dude did not violate the vow, since it was omitted on the front.   

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why is it only the Anglo-sphere rocks? Muse: Starlight (live)

Here is a great live recording of very innovative rock song from Muse, a British band that has proven to be a reliable staple on the modern rock scene. If the werewolf were to ever direct a science fiction film, this song would be either in the opening or closing credits.

Has anyone noticed that all awesome rock bands are from the Anglo-sphere? Seriously. The werewolf caveated one decent French rock band in this post, but need he remind the world that the French have a troubled history with rock 'n' roll as exemplified here.

The werewolf only ranks as an amateur audiophile and rock 'n' roll aficionado. For the life of him, when he thinks of world class rock acts, the USA, the UK, and Australia jump to mind, while Ireland and Canada get token, but established, representation. Have the Latins done themselves in with Norteno, salsa, and mariachi, while the continental Europeans are acid addled fashion victims hooked on horrid techno? How about the Japanese? Their whole economy rests on stealing western ideas and technologies and improving them. How did they miss the rock boat? It's a random rant, but the werewolf really can't think of any legendary non-Anglo-realm rock bands that are worth their salt beyond a few one-hit wonders. Has he missed something?

Corporate free speech is not un-American!

Opinion | Corporate free speech is not un-American | Seattle Times Newspaper

The op-ed piece in hyperlink above, written by Bill Maurer, highlights some very important points about the importance of the recent Citizens United vs. FEC. Here are some highlights from the piece:

"Corporations are each different. Some will see this decision as an opportunity to support pro-free-market politicians. Some will use it use it to support liberal politicians. And some will ignore politics completely and simply try to provide goods and services the public wants. This is because a corporation, like every association — a marriage, a neighborhood association or a nonprofit organization — is made up of people. It is the people who are now free to speak and to choose the form they believe is the most effective for disseminating their message.
This is America. We do not ban books. We do not make it a crime to speak because the speech may be too influential. With this decision, Americans will get more information, hear more debate, and learn more about their elections. With all due respect to Sen. Schumer, what could be more American than that?"

There is this weird assumption that in this day and age of diversified interests along with multiple information sources with easy platforms of access, that corporations always have nefarious aims and objectives and that the use of corporate money pollutes politics. Hogwash.

Corporations have budget limitations and fiduciary responsibility to their ownership to work at turning a profit. Even the wealthiest corporations can't write blank checks (although very large ones on occasion can be issued) It's a very honorable an open set of objectives to be chasing  bottom-line in the black. Plus, it is explicit by the very nature of the capitalist beast. More so, than can be said about the motives of certain individuals. As high-lighted in the article, the public has long been suspicious of various corporate marketing initiatives that have failed despite having millions of dollars pumped into them. Money might be able to purchase airtime, but it doesn't guarantee results.

The werewolf wonders if corporations should be treated more like an individual on some levels, but will flush that out in a different post. However, he has also thought that if the government and anti-free speech activists really wanted to curb corporate speech in good faith, why don't they push for an elimination of corporate taxes? A reduction in stakeholder status can certainly be linked to a reduction in assumed rights. Food for thought.

Monday, February 1, 2010

British Bureaucratic Idiocy: Quantifying Bravery

Tim Ripley of The Time of London has a scathing piece "Quota rules rob troops of medals" on how out-of-control government bureaucracies become slaves to quantifying the unquantifiable to the detriment of the people they are attempting to serve. In essence, White Hall has decided that a quota must be in place to recognize bravery on the battlefield in the case of British troops deployed in the very active combat theater of Afghanistan. Bravery, or courage under fire, is like laughter or love, it is something that can't be quantified based off of a rigid quota system and capped for allocation. Sure, rigorous standards must be established to meet a threshold to be recognized for bravery, but the werewolf thinks of few things as sinister as valuing courage through a rigid quota system. That sends a very perverse signal throughout the ranks and it is likely very demoralizing.

It also got the werewolf thinking that if governments instinctively want to set quotas for courage and bravery, imagine how treacherous they are when it comes to allocating the scarce resources of a health care system. Another reason for the United States to avoid a nationalized health care system like herpes from a crack-house hooker. Once you get it, it sticks with you forever, and you never treat or value life with the same dignity.