Journalism

Disney Not Family Friendly

Posted on December 20, 2016. Filed under: Journalism, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

The source for this article is Newsmax.com, a blog that keeps sending me links that I did not request.  The author of the referenced article (Disney is no longer family friendly) is Robert E. Richey of the Catholic organization America Needs Fatima, which is a sponsor of Newsmax.  The blog’s disclaimer notes that it does not necessarily endorse their advertisers’ messages.

Your words for the day:

  • The Real O’Neals = a television series aired by ABC
  • newsmax.com = a news blog that has little to say but directs readers to other sources

I learned some 20 or more years ago that Disney studios had expanded into more non-child based themes; I always checked the rating to see if I would be interested in viewing a new offering.  Apparently, Bobby E. is either under 20 years old and has just graduated from restricted viewing imposed by Parental Controls or he missed the train out of Never Land.

Said little Bobby in his articleRemember when “Disney” meant “safe” — if Disney made a film, it would be o.k. for your kids or grandkids to watch?  The Real O’Neals ends all that!  Alarming!  And it is up to you and me to protest this brutal attack on our Catholic Faith.

Let’s clarify that overstatement from my perspective:

  • For me, the reader, this is not a brutal attack on OUR Catholic faith.
  • I am not Catholic, and, it is NOT up to me to protest this “alarming” and “brutal attack” on the Catholic Faith.
  • In fact, the religious denomination I was raised in has a very long history of bad-mouthing Catholicism.

But, this little article of mine is not a criticism of Catholicism, rather of the manner in which Mr. Richey has presented his exception to what he considers the prostitution of a movie maker who once specialized in G-rated productions.  Rather, it is my old bug-a-boo — journalism — that has spurred this response.

A summary of Mr. Richey’s plaint about “The Real O’Neals,” a Disney sitcom:

  • Watching pornography on a laptop is made to appear normal for Catholic brothers in the series.
  • The Catholic mother encourages her 16-year-old Catholic son with gender conflicts to get physical with a girl (if non-Catholics don’t understand that admonition, it means the Catholic son with gender conflicts should go out and get laid like a NORMAL 16-year-old Catholic son without gender conflicts).
  • The Catholic daughter tries to prove in her science-class project that there is no god, misses Mass, and shows disrespect for a pastor who is presented as inept.
  • There are lots of sexual innuendo and mockery of Catholicism.
  • (Censored stuff, here)  “I just can’t bear to print up the really bad stuff on the show.”
  • While decent Catholics strive every day to make sense of the crazy world we live in, Disney/ABC is mocking the Faith we hold dear.
  • It is not right, and we need to tell them so!
  • Someone struggling against pornography, same-sex attraction, divorce or doubting their faith could possibly watch this program — which Disney/ABC promotes as “just your typical, all-American, Catholic, divorcing, disgraced, law-breaking, gay family — and their struggle would be more difficult.  They would feel more alone than ever, perhaps fall into despair, and just follow the culture like those around them.

C’mon, man!  No one is going to watch that show seeking spiritual guidance; they are going to watch it for the laughs.

Lighten up, Richey.  That show’s promo (as quoted by you) is just hyperbole to heighten the sarcasm inherent in the production.  But, like many converts to anything, the need to chew on every disagreeable tidbit tossed before them is overpowering.  You, too, feel the need to overact to demonstrate your degree of commitment to your stated tenet…   somewhat like a child banging on pots with a spoon to attract attention.

Open your eyes, Richey.  It is a parody of ALL Christian teachings, not just your favored brand, Catholicism.

Richey claims that Disney implies “nasty” Catholics.  Would little Richey have just sat back and chuckled had the show portrayed “nasty” Episcopalians?  Zealots of a cause are not light-hearted — they just can’t take a joke.

I am also curious, Mr. Richey:

  • Did you write a scathing review of those prime time cartoon shows, The Simpsons and that ilk, as destroying the unity of families by disrespectful children and dysfunctional parents?
  • How about all those murder and dismemberment series that ooze like slime off the flat screen?
  • ??You do NOT have a complete library of interactive gaming videos depicting crime and murder as just normal aspects of human culture, do you?

I guess, since none of that stuff uses the word “Catholic” in them, they are perfectly safe as instructional tools for Catholic children “trying to make sense of this crazy world.”

Little Bobby the Journalist could have expanded both his heart and his message — and, thereby, his audience — by saying, “All Christians should be offended by this, and not just Catholics.”  Righteous Richey only had room in his heart for his beliefs, what with all the rest of humankind being outside his sphere of consideration.  I guess anyone choosing, for whatever reason, to be non-Catholic can just go to hell…   after they help him protest Disney Studios and ABC.

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Naked and Clueless

Posted on January 18, 2016. Filed under: Journalism, Religion, Science | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

What follows are my opinions.  Since they are free (except for the all-inclusive price of admission), let’s call this an exercise in free speech.

None of this stuff is sanctioned by the AMA, ADA, AKC, ROTC, DOD, BSA, GSA, NRA, NSA, WB A, WWE nor any other organization relying on a bowl of alphabet soup to describe its purpose.

Source material for this lamentation is directly attributable to decades of indoctrination by”experts” who describe how things in this existence really work and how far off the mark my life has been.   In spite of that derived sense of personal inadequacy resulting in an intense need for psychological self-flagellation, I finally figured out they use an expert mixture of no more than 1 part actual observation and no less than 4 parts personal bias (more if the subject is convoluted) all of which is tinged by their self-interests and the need to mark intellectual turf.  It’s that self-serving stuff that has finally inflamed my gullibility node.

Here are just a few flakes from the snow-job “experts” have given me:

  • Cosomoligists.  “We can’t explain why our math is so far off, so we will call it Dark Stuff that no one can see, feel, or prove; fabricate more universes that no one can see, feel, or prove; install a power pack to pull our truckload of WAGs and call it Dark Energy which no one can see, feel, or prove; and add more dimensions to our universe that no one can see, feel, or prove.  With luck, we can cash those government and private grants (a.k.a., pay checks) before anyone can see, feel, or prove what we are up to, thereby showing that we are totally larcenous…   ignorant!” Honest, I meant “totally ignorant.”

 

  • Medical Researcher.  “We can’t explain it so we will say it was a gene what done it, and develop new drugs to correct things…   at least until the litigation attorneys get into the act.  With any luck, we can bank those government and private grants (a.k.a., pay checks) before anyone proves us totally ignorant.
  • General Practitioner.  “I don’t know what you got, but, just for giggles, let’s call it a virus.  Take this stuff I am writing on this prescription pad.  If it don’t work in a couple of days, come back in and we’ll try something else.  Of course, there will be another office visit fee, and, if complications result from this random mix of drugs before we run out of guesses, we’ll send you to a specialist.  He will use bigger words than “virus” and add a surcharge for the larger vocabulary use.
  • The Religionist.  “Vote in the next election the way I have told you.  If you contribute enough, I will see about your reservation in Heaven and send you a prayer mat (or something such) personally autographed by God.  And, for Pete’s sake, would you quit squirming while I feel up your thigh?”
  • Journalists/Media.  Those organizations controlled by government parrot whatever party-line they have been fed.  Those controlled by special interests tell you whatever they think you want to hear.  Those operating under the “freedom of the press” provision of free governments do very little objective reporting…   yellow press, paparazzi-ism, on-line “reporting” with salacious lead-ins to trick you into clicking on ads, surreptitious insertion of secret programs into your computer’s operating systems for scamming purposes…  Yeah, I’m pretty sure the world we perceive is the product of power-moguls and the money grubbers.

This culture of expert opinion has taken on the mantle of Accepted Authority and aspires to the status once held by Religionists in the days of Galileo — that of supreme Authority; hey, when THOSE boys told you to go to hell, they were poker-faced serious.

EVERY expert-for-a-fee-or-fame who ever lived started life just like everyone else:  naked, clueless, and in bad need of schmucks (i.e., gulliable marks) to feed its chosen schtick…   uh, career choice…   for their personal survival.

We, the general public (a.k.a., the Great Unwashed) wear virtual t-shirts that read:

“SCHMUCKS ARE US”

This schmuck is kicking up a fuss ‘cawz the damn t-shirt is the wrong size…   and it chaffs.  Obviously, it was not hawked under the banner of Duluth Trading…   who will be totally surprised by this unrequested mention.

 

 

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Cell Phones and Brain Tumors

Posted on July 27, 2014. Filed under: Journalism, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

There is an old  saw about preoccupation and tunnel vision.  I think it goes, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”  For this article, I think I will use that in this manner:

  • You can’t see the microwave forest for the cell-phone tree.

Speaking of trees, once upon a time that was the only source of reliable heat.  Right off it was noted that the side effect — smoke — was bad to breathe.  The coughing, choking, burning eyes and such were the tip-off.  So, it was used outside until the overhead smoke draft was thought up to give indoor smoke a way to the outside.

It has been pretty much the same story with all of our other energy sources:

  • Fossil fuels had pretty much the same problem as wood — black soot and sulfur all over everything; black lung wasn’t a good selling point, either.
  • Nuclear energy seemed to be a clean, abundant alternative — except for the tissue-destroying radiation effect.
  • Electricity is clean enough, but you gotta use fossil or nuclear fuels to generate it.

Communication methods have had a lighter impact on the environment than energy extraction.  Sign language, body language, and talking had little impact on environment.  With the advent of smoke signals, parchment, paper, quills and ink,  trees and birds bore the brunt of any negative ecological impact.

The telegraph and telephone caused a lot of wire to be strung all over the place.  Other than being an eyesore, not much environmental impact.

Then along came Jones…   Marconi…   Guglielmo Marconi and his invisible radio waves — and wireless transmission (except for the power cord to fire up the transmitter) strutted onto the human scene.  Homo smart sapiens followed that with microwave transmission and cell phones.  Result:  the everyday person now has the world at its fingertips, conveniently tucked into a belt, pocket, purse or inside its ear.  Clean, portable, efficient…   except that

Some years ago, this guy got himself a brain tumor.  He must have had a cell phone and kept it glued to the side of his head where the tumor showed up  ’cause he screamed, “THE CELL PHONE CAUSED IT!”  Cause and effect, or coincidence?  We know that microwaves can be harmful (check with that lump of charcoal in you microwave oven that just went in to become a warm biscuit), but I lean toward “coincidence” because:

  • Brain tumors have been around a lot longer than cell phones, and, heretofore, have not required that input.
  • Throughout the general population, over a span of time, there will be numerous incidents of brain tumors.  It is historical.
  • The cell phone has a broad appeal to the general public, some of whom will undoubtedly experience brain tumors in their lifetimes (and kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, Parkinson’s…   you get the picture).  Owning the latest version of the iPhone or Oprah Winfrey’s recent entry in the magazine business will not change that inevitability.
  • Other than one unfortunate victim of tumor-ism, there was nothing to suggest that tumors appeared concurrently with the advent of cell-phone-ism.

But the media picked up on the allegation and gave it press time.  “Researchers” looked into it, manufacturers installed microwave blocks on cell phones, and the government established a “safe maximum microwave output” for cell phones.  The public and the media went back to their routines (involving the constant use of cell-phones?) quietly satisfied.

I saw this video on the Yahoo! home page a couple of weeks ago in which the narrator listed the top 5 cell phones that come closest to the government-established safe limit for microwave radiation.  And I got a good laugh.

Since all of the phones listed were within the established safe limits, the story accomplished only 3 things:

  1. Smirched the reputations of manufacturers and their products that were in compliance with established standards.
  2. Gave a video “journalist” a hot button to entice site visitors who would be exposed to embedded advertising.
  3. Allowed the aforementioned “journalist” to prove once again that The Big Pee* will miss the THE BIG STORY because they are focused on hot-button-sensitive audiences…   to make a buck.

The BIG story our videographer missed:

  • The Universe is naturally full of microwave radiation.  We are immersed in it constantly.
  • Cell phones spend most of their time in pockets, purses, and on belts.  At home and office, they are often on a desk.
  • It is that cool-looking blue-tooth device plugged into the ear emitting microwaves that is right up against that brain.
  • Microwave transmission towers that comprise the cell-grid making the cell phone possible emit much stronger impulses than that puny little cell phone.  Everyone in the cell coverage area spends all of their time in range of two or more of these mega-emitters.
  • Inside your home, which is bathed liberally in microwave tower emissions, you have added wireless broadband, wireless printers, wireless television, and maybe even a wireless security system.  (For the slow-minded among us, wireless transmission means microwave transmission.)  All of that together is a lot more than the government-mandated limit for your little cell phone emissions.

And don’t forget that when you are a member of a large gathering of people, 95% of everyone there has a cell phone.  Are they keeping their tumor-causing emissions to themselves, or are they sharing with you?

The cell phone is just one tree in the microwave forest, but, the Media, perpetual complainers, and obliging bureaucrats just can’t see the forest that surrounds it.

And if litigators can ever get something to latch onto, they will count on the “tunnel vision**” of the jury panels to line their pockets with filthy lucre…   that would be “ill-gotten gains“…   by suing the hapless manufacturers of an insignificant source of microwaves.

____________________________________

* As in “press” with a capital “P”

** Ignorance is another good word

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Coffee? 4 Cups A Day? You gonna die

Posted on September 2, 2013. Filed under: General Interest, Health Studies, Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

…but, even if you DON’T drink coffee, you GONNA DIE anyway.

Your proverb for the day:  It ain’t poison unless it kills you within a week. Anything taking longer than that is just what floats your boat.

DIE, coffee drinker, DIE!  …Ooooooooooooooo!  Sounds like a vengeful spirit out of Hollywood, doesn’t it?  Relax.  It’s just one of your biennial “scientific study” publicity releases.  I guess those are okay, since most of us don’t have the time to take off from work and spend 5 or 10 years without pay asking people what they did before they died.  But, these unpaid researchers patiently tally, categorize, enter data into spreadsheets, divine what it all means, figure out which mathematical tact will “prove” what they set out to prove in the first place…   Yeah!  I didn’t buy it, either.

Your words for the day:

  • existence = (consider it) a sporting event
  • birth = “WAKE UP!  You’re at bat.”
  • life = going for extra bases
  • death = you got tagged (“You’re outta here!”)
  • the dugout = your basic hole in the ground

Source of today’s laugh:  an online article on August 15, 2013, by Jenny Hope, put up at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health on a blog called MailOnline.  (Aside to the author:  Usually, I refer to female journalists giving me a laugh like this as Jenny Stonebottom.  I will spare you, since your name is already “Jenny” and Jenny Hope sounds like a cutie.*)

The headline — the funny part.  “More than four cups of coffee a day puts you at risk of early death, claim experts.”

The big picture, if you have been too busy dealing with life to have noticed:  One gets BORN; one LIVES LIFE as events, circumstance, and personal whims permit; then, one DIES.  You have no control over your birth; you have less control over the progress of your life than you like to think; and — though some might fiddle with the “how” — one DIES.  No refunds.  You can’t avoid death.

You only go around once in life, so grab some gusto while you can(It’s not plagiarism!  It is — loosely — from a beer commercial a few years ago, but, I don’t remember which one.  Al Gore’s information highway can answer that for you…   my smart phone is on the fritz.)

You survived the first year of LIFE.  Consider yourself on base.  From here on, the name of the game is (1) don’t get tagged out, and, (2) try to have some fun.  (Yeah, I know, it’s kind of ironic — avoid getting tagged and sent to the dugout early while you round the bases, but, when you reach home, you get sent to the dugout anyway.  Don’t dwell on that.  Concentrate on enjoying that trip to second base.)

But, enjoyment comes with a price.  You enjoy scattering your toys while you play, but, come evening, there are the nagging voices of parents saying, “Clean up your mess before you go to bed.”  You enjoy hanging out at the mall with your buds after school scarfing down McDonald’s French fries, but, there is this other group that has figured out LIFE ACCORDING TO THEM and are now suing McDonald’s to prevent YOU from buying and enjoying what YOU enjoy.  You move on over-the-hill (you know…   your 30th birthday) and become health conscious, so you take your vitamins, eat balanced meals, exercise more, take them antioxidants, and wash all that down with a cup of hot coffee…   or four.  And, those do-gooder groups line up at your door to straighten out your act:  you have the wrong balanced diet; you are exercising wrong; vitamins just might not be so good for you; antioxidants are not what they are cracked up to be.   That line extends around the block and you can’t make out who they all are, but, they will announce themselves soon enough…

…Uh, that was your cue, Doc.  Tell them of your fabulous finding that 55-year-old young people can expect to die before they are 55 if they drink 4 cups of coffee a day…

Yeah, I know, right?

  • The over-the-hill 30 year-old can’t blow his birthday candles out because his sides are splitting from finding out that 55 year-olds are called “young” for this study.
  • The record number of over 60 year-olds, who have been drinking 4 cups a day since they were 30, were once part of the “early death” squad claimed by our fame-seeking researcher.  Oh!  Now isn’t that thoughtful.  They are all hoisting a coffee toast to all you doomed 54 and below drinkers.

This article engendered 3 pages of 11×17 paper in 8 point type.  And, 15 cups of coffee.  I had to cut out 2.5 pages just to get this.  So, YES!  You can bet I have more to say on this subject.  (Excuse me.  I gotta hit the head.)

______________

* Okay.  Okay!  That was chauvinistic, sexist, and un-called for.  But, it stays.

_______________________________________

Next up:  lots more stuff about the hazards of coffee studies

Article references:  coffee, coffee study, coffee death, premature death, under 55, health risk, genetic coffee addition, antioxidant, Dr. Carl Lavie, Ochsner Medical Center, Dr. Euan Paul, Director of British Coffee Association.

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 6)

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

10th in the series The Manipulators

Today’s proverbYou can’t fight city hall

Your words for the day:

  • scapegoat = one too helpless, often by reason of circumstance, to defend itself
  • witch hunt = the search for a scapegoat
  • not my job, man = the universal escape clause — unstated, but, inherent — in every assignment of responsibility

The Big Pee loves “ongoing coverage” of targeted scapegoats…   sort of a choreographed witch hunt.  Over the centuries, burnings, beheadings, public hangings, and executions by horses-going-off-in-four-directions-while-tethered-to-one’s-various-limbs have really filled the idle time of the masses.  All of that used to be free, but, in the spirit of capitalism, we now have to sit through silly and obnoxious ads from t.v. sponsors, subscribe to an internet service, or buy a newspaper to get our constitutional entitlement to blood and gore.  We are no longer unwitting witnesses to the grand processions of TIME and LIFE (Reality!   …not the magazines); we are now paying customers who are just here for the show.

Public officials are often targeted by The Big P (pronounced “pee”) when it is out to sell papers and such.  For that reason, I am surprised that our featured Jack-Haas missed his shot at Houston’s top executive, Mayor Annise Parker.  Ostensibly, all of the principals involved in those undocumented payouts of $19.2 million of taxpayer money are under her leadership.  And, since elections are only 2 years apart for that office, there has to be some interest by the public or the political opposition in such perception of top-level mismanagement.

Yes, Jack DID mention the mayor, or at least her office.  I paraphrase:  “According to the Mayor’s Press Secretary, that office is doing a separate review to be compared to the one being done by Dangerous Dave; and, the Mayor’s office will be diligent in working to recover any money owed the city, including litigation fees.”  In other words, the Mayor’s office is happy to join in the witch hunt for a cut of the booty.  Like a real Haas, Jack pursued no further, since that announcement from such a high office bolstered his tried-and-true theme, “Government…   victim!   Vendor…   villain!”

So, Mayor…  (Mayor-ess?  Your honor-ess?) Annise Parker, I was just wondering:

  1. Does the city’s accounting department perform a monthly closing of its books like real businesses?  Such as this would catch any variances or deviations at the time of occurrence and get them corrected for future invoicing and payments.  That’s what a real business would do.
  2. Does the city’s accounting department do a quarterly summary of its bookkeeping like real businesses do?  Ditto the benefit.
  3. Does the city’s accounting department do an annual report of all accounting functions detailing variances between documentation and money spent…   as real businesses do? 
  4. Real businesses have an outside auditor come in and verify their figures and on-going accounting practices — ANNUALLY.  Is Dangerous Dave, the self-serving bureaucrat who apparently gets motivated only once every 4 or 5 years, all you’ve got to rely on?
  5. Does the term “reconciling accounts” mean anything to the city’s bookkeepers and accountants?
  6. Does the city provide free coffee and donuts to all of its gold-bricking employees, who are being paid by the taxpayers to loiter?
  7. Are there any plans to have each city office submit requisitions for supplies to a central office where they are consolidated into a single order for maximum discount AND CONTROL?
  8. Are there any plans to have those who receive the materials actually document its receipt and identify it with the appropriate accounting numbers so it can be referenced when balancing the books…   and be available at the end of the year (or every 4 or 5 years) for Dangerous Dave the Auditor to review and criticize?
  9. The State of Texas has 266,874 square miles while the City of Houston has only 627 square miles.  With its thousands of offices statewide, Texas could easily run up 300,000 purchase transaction over a span of 4 years and 10 months (that of the Office Depot contract).  It is inconceivable that a piddling little 627 square mile bailiwick could rack up 1,100 purchases EVERY WEEK for 4-plus YEARS for miscellaneous office expendables (Dave’s figures, not mine) while taxpayer-subsidized supervisors notice absolutely nothing amiss.
  10. City employees have abused the spirit of the US Communities co-op purchasing contract by run-a-way impulse-ordering.  Will you be criticizing or rebuking those city employees who, instead of sharpening that dull pencil, opt instead to pick up the phone and order 1 box of mechanical pencils for ASAP delivery one thousand times a week?

Anyway, the journalistic Jack-Haas of the Houston Chronicle story missed all that stuff I have cited.  Why?  ‘cawz it was easier for him to meet his column quota by copying everything the important-sounding City Auditor told him and presenting all of that to a pre-conditioned, anti big-business, audience.  Taking the time to actually verify the basis of the “official” allegations would have been…   WORK.

And the General Public, that massive brain-dead jury pool so loved by litigators, receives its daily dose of anesthetics to numb that vaunted hallmark of humanity — those pesky reasoning abilities.

Next up:  A break from “The Manipulators”

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 5)

Posted on May 8, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

9th in the series The Manipulators

Today’s proverb Alas, GEORGE DIDN’T DO IT!

Your words for the day:

  • scapegoat = one too helpless to defend itself, often by reason of circumstance
  • witch hunt = the search for a scapegoat
  • not my job, man = the universal escape clause — unstated, but, inherent — in every assignment of responsibility
  • consolidation = getting your shi…   uh, shituff…   your shtuff… getting your shtuff together for maximum personal benefit

US Communities (see previous post) DOES NOT consolidate orders for the signed-up members to the contract.  US Communities DOES NOT verify shipments from the vendor to the buyer at the receiving dock;  US Communities DOES NOT check the invoices against the receiving documents before the buyer pays them.

Per US Communities, they do complete regular 3rd party audits to “guarantee” adherence to that so-called contract, but…

  • IF THAT IS SO, how does one explain that 4-year gap gleefully filled by the City Auditor in seeking (job-enhancing?) retro-active rebates for his employer, the City of Houston?
  • And, IF THEY DID, then US Communities was satisfied that Office Depot was in compliance, which means that Dangerous Dave the City Auditor, is off-base with his assertions.

This is what happens when you expect George to do it:

  • You get that “self-promoted” extra cook hanging out in the kitchen pretending to “adjust” the existing recipes;
  • You get a vendor diligently watching his discount principle; delivery cost for a $64.00 order is the same as that for a $640.00 order.  That vendor will not be receptive to discounts — 300,000 times — for $64.00 orders.
  • You get a department full of watchdogs (a.k.a., bureaucrats) going on a full-time coffee break because they are quite content to LET GEORGE (the pretend cook hanging out in the fully staffed kitchen) DO IT.
  • You get department heads thinking they’ve bought a cure-all for government over-spending (without expending the effort they are being paid to expend) and underlings who think they’ve been given a garlic wreath to prevent ACTUAL WORK from sucking all the fun out of a bureaucrat’s vacation time — you know, that 9-5 daily time frame for which they are being paid TAXPAYER MONEY.

In reality, all that the bureaucrats have procured is a giant container of Dr. Feel Good’s Industrial Strength Cure All — snake oil in a much simpler time.

“Let George Do It”  is a very bad business practice.  But, apparently quite compatible with guv’mint ops, an undertaking that should be run like a business; however, it is handicapped by being staffed with politicians and toady bureaucrats.

I am totally perplexed.  When I was buying expendables for my employer, the greater the quantity I purchased, the cheaper the unit price per item became.  You buy one, you pay $5.00 per item; you buy a dozen, you pay $4.50 each; you buy a gross, you pay $3.00 per item.  I guess that is what they mean by “volume discount.”  Surely, an organization as pervasive as government with staff layered upon staff of taxpayer-paid professionals, with a hundred departments ordering the same items on a recurring basis, would have at least one manager who would understand the term “consolidation” and the financial benefits that result from it.

EVERY VENDOR GIVES VOLUME DISCOUNTS BY THE ORDER.  Every sizeable government entity can, by monitoring their expenses and their department requisitions, get those standard discounts by consolidating all of those individual departmental requisitions into one order per cycle.  No useless “third cook” (such as US Communities — a self-promoted, useless appendix to the body politic) needed in the kitchen.  All that the government entity needs to do is ensure that department heads, whether elected or hired, and their toady bureaucrats do the jobs they are being PAID to do.  Did I mention that they are being paid with TAXPAYER MONEY?

EVERY VENDOR HAS A ROCK BOTTOM PRICE AT WHICH HE CAN SELL.  Every order reflects the vendor’s cost of product, transportation cost, and storage and handling costs.  More product handled per shipment means lower overhead costs for each item shipped; this becomes the basis for price discounts on increasingly larger orders.  The fewer items shipped per order, the higher the price per item.  Office Depot (and any other vendor) would lose its financial ass if it adhered to a “best price” discount for 300,000 $64.00 orders.

The hazard for signers in this “co-op” agreement is complacency.  Office Depot, quite unlike the City of Houston, did not become complacent, and adhered to sound business principles even though the City of Houston tried to bury them under an unbelievable landslide of over 1,000 little bitty orders every week of their contract.

Dangerous Dave alluded to “several” price lists and stated that prices were moved from one list to another to give Office Depot a higher price per item.  Dave was almost certainly referring to the various volume discounts offered with rate schedules based on the amount of each purchase.  Apparently, all those coffee-breaking bureaucrats thought they could pick up the phone between donuts and order one package of napkins for lip-dabbing and get the same price break as if they had ordered 1,000 packages.  It takes a lot more than one package of napkins to pay delivery costs.

Looked at from the full term of the contract, if Office Depot had shipped the same amount of product in only 100,000 shipments, the City of Houston most certainly would have reaped the benefits of volume discounts and would have paid less than the $19.2 million — say, 1.7-6.6  million dollars less.  All the City of Houston had to do was have a central office (e.g., a non coffee-breaking manager) to consolidate all those rampant departmental orders into a SINGLE order once a week (or monthly).  This would automatically have given the city the best price for the product ordered, AND the Office Depot would have reduced its overhead outlay for delivery services.  Win-win, right?

Wouldn’t hurt, either, for the accounting department to verify that all items on the monthly invoice was actually received and that the price listed was the agreed upon price.   I’m just saying

Next up:  Myth (Part 6) Dear Mayor…  Mayoress?…   may I just call you Annise?…

 

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 4)

Posted on May 2, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

8th in the series The Manipulators

Today’s proverbLet George Do It

Your words for the day:

  • crowd = three (as in “two’s a couple, three’s a crowd); or, one too many cooks in the kitchen
  • facilitator = a catalyst in the social not chemical sense; or, one too many cooks in the kitchen
  • not my job, man = the universal escape clause — unstated, but inherent — in every assignment of responsibility

The City Auditor (Dangerous Dave) said:

  • …contract pricing did not accompany the invoices,
  • …(and, yet) he also said that product prices were switched from one list to another list…   even though he said that there were no lists to reference.
  • …”US Communities contract” — intoned as though it were a supernatural incantation that should bring good fiscal luck to the intoner.

According to Dangerous Dave, there were no price lists associated with the invoices, yet, somehow, Dave asserts that prices were floated between these phantom lists to get a higher price for the vendor.  If one’s knowledge base is ignorance, how can one’s conclusion be so assertive?

US Communities.  Who are those guys, anyway?  http://www.uscommunities.org  (Look ’em up yourselves for enlightenment)

What I got out of their online advertising was:

  • …they got nothing to do with government.  Their “dot category” is “org” not “gov.”  They claim to be non-profit, but they take a cut of the gate.
  • …their schtick is to get a lot of organizations (private and government) to sign on as customers (membership) of a single “contract” to be serviced by a single contractor, purportedly to get cheaper everything with minimal bureaucrat effort.
  • …the attraction for the membership is to get product a lower price — with minimal bureaucrat effort.
  • …the attraction for the seller would be a large guaranteed customer base which would more than make up for selling at a lower price (the assumption being that large quantities will, in fact, be ordered.)  Win-win for everybody.

And, if they are NON-profit, what is in it for the “dot.org?”

Why, PROFIT…   of course!  Say, a 1% to 2.5% administrative fee, payable by the seller.  It didn’t say “percent of what,” so I’ll go with a cut of the seller’s take.  With the City of Houston thing, 1% of $19.2 million = $192,000; jump that to $480,000 at the 2.5% rate.  Sweet deal, eh?  Is that tax-free ’cause they are non-profit?

What do they actually do for that fee?  They write-up a form contract that says, in essence…   (in case I’m too subtle here, this is the part where I cynically paraphrase my understanding of all this)

  • “I, the party of the First Part (insert name of vendor here) agree to SELL enormous amounts of post-its, pens, pencils, staples and all kinds of paper and other expendables to buyers signed up on US Communities membership list (insert control number of list), which is attached to this contract, at the cheaper bulk rate prices I offer to all my big-order customers all the time, even without a rinky-dink contract.”
  • “I, the party of the Second Part (insert name of buyer — or a whole list of ’em) agree to BUY from (insert name of vendor again) enormous amounts of post-its, pens, pencils, staples and all kinds of paper and other expendables and pay according to the attached price lists (insert price list control number) which I understand is cheaper than buying from the same vendor in little bitty quantities.  I also understand that NONE OF THE EMPLOYEES in our accounting department, PAID BY THE TAX PAYERS TO KEEP TRACK OF TAX MONEY, WILL HAVE TO DO ANYTHING to monitor either the uncontrolled ordering by hundreds of individuals in scads of departments or to cross-check vendor invoices against our understanding of the contract and get all incorrect invoices clarified BEFORE we pay them.  Further, all that those employees need to do henceforth is show up at the office, enjoy coffee and donuts all day, clock out for the evening, and collect a tax-subsidized paycheck for doing nothing.  Free coffee and donuts would be real nice.”
  • “We, the party of the Third Part, US Communities, will (1) match up our standard prepared price lists (which we got from the stated vendor, JUST LIKE THE GOVERNMENT ENTITY COULD HAVE DONE ON-LINE OR BY USING THE TELEPHONE) to the appropriate contract, (2) insert the names of the Buyer and the Seller, and, voila, our contribution to this “Market Place Meeting of Interests” is done…   although, (3) we will diligently listen for future “ka-chings” and check our monthly up-date from the bank of our choice.  Oh, and (4) we might monitor all that stuff we told you about to get you signed up.

This “co-op” thing sounds to me more like a dating service type of operation.  “We are just a facilitator.  We found your match, but marriage relations are up to you two.  Sign on the dotted line, and we are outta here.  Should anything go wrong — or simply not go right — we ain’t got nuthin’ to do with that!  You are on your own.”  US Communities then exits stage left.

Next up:  Myth (Part 5) George didn’t do it.

 

 

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 3)

Posted on April 10, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

7th in the series The Manipulators

Life’s Prime Directive:  Every living thing shall attempt to manipulate events, circumstances, behaviors, and social structures to favor its own narrow interests in the struggle to exist.  The only judgment that LIFE places on living entities is the failure to keep existing.  (Okay, it has been said before more bluntlyIt’s all about survival of the strongest.)

Your words for the day: 

  • unbelievable = possessing the property of being too incredulous to be believed
  • red herring = a literary device designed to throw the reader off the trail of plot progression; a diversion or decoy
  • math = the science of using mathematics to figure things out; numeric logic

Clarification of my objective:  These articles, from my slant, paint a negative picture of a specific local government and a specific writer and his media venue.  I hold no personal animosity toward those entities.  However, I do have an animosity toward skewed logic and claims that have the objective to actively bend my personal views (and those of the general public) to enhance the standings of others as they hide their own inadequacies or seek to garner awards and salary increases to further their own life-goals.  You know, using the Prime Directive at my expense.

I am aware that there may be other information “out there” that could render my observations on this Media story as way off the mark.  My focus on THIS journalistic venture of Jack-Hass is limited solely to the information that has been provided within the article and the apparent reason it has been presented in such a caustic vein toward private business.  My presentation is to show that Media seeks to MAKE public opinion, not to simply apprise the public of current events, and, that journalistic endeavors are often based on the ignorance of both the public and the paid story-tellers.

O-kay!  I feel so much more morally superior, now.  Let’s get on with my Media bashing.

Jack-Hass is just a writer.  He has been trained to “drop names” and high-sounding titles into his articles to enhance the importance of his words.  My!  Oh, my, has he dropped a bunch into this story to lend it a semblance of credibility:  City Auditor, City Controller, Mayor, and several other non-associated Government Entities.  They are invoked as though they are the benchmarks of irreproachable accuracy, and yet, political malfeasance is another staple of Media hot-button focus.

While not necessarily “malfeasance,” incompetence certainly seems to apply.  If lapses in bureaucratic protocol were occasional, that is certainly understandable.  We are all human, and, we often lose our focus.  That is why business has so many built-in backup steps (per my previous posting, specifically purchase orders and invoicing).  But, I am totally blown away by the magnitude of this bureaucratic gaff, and the joint journalistic-bureaucratic glossing that seeks to paint the vendor as the bad guy.

Can you believe…

  • 300,000 instances of poorly documented transfers of private product and TAXPAYER MONEY — under a single contract?
  • That a City Auditor would wait 4 years before auditing a major supplier ($75,000 or so per week) against the city’s accounting protocols?
  • That such interest in the accounting protocols only took place after the Auditor heard that other Government Entities were fairly successful in getting retroactive rebates from the same supplier?
  • That an auditor could not determine whether the alleged overcharges were on the order $1.7 million or $6.5 million, and simply summarized, without corroborating documents, that “the city is owed a lot of money?
  • That a city accounting department would pay out $19.2 million without EVER checking to see if the invoicing was as it thought it should be?

Can you believe that a (reputed) journalist would ignore such bureaucratic mis-steps and opt, instead, to cow-tow to the biased, self-serving slant of the reluctant City Auditor?  (Well, that would be the path of least work…   resistance…   I mean “the path of least resistance”.  Why do investigative work?  Just take what the important-sounding City Auditor said and print it up.)

  • Accounting did not do its job for over 4 years.
  • The City Auditor did not do his job for over 4 years.
  • The City of Houston has been short on cash for years; an inept auditor could enhance his standing by dredging up some hard cash when it occurred to him to do his job.  Hell, he might even get the Controller’s job; after all, the Controller bears final responsibility for the city’s financial accounting — or, in this case, NON-accounting.
  • An inept City Auditor who finally thinks he’s onto something needs to get the spotlight on someone else so that his own shortcomings are not in the limelight.

How absurd can this get?  Let’s do some math.  252 weeks of a contract with 300,000 financial transactions during that time totaling $19.2 millionthat’s the raw data.  The extended data is that the average of each transaction is $64.00 ($19,200,000 divided by 300,000), with 1,190 of them per week (300,000 divided by 252 weeks).  This was business as usual for untold numbers of city employees charged with accountability of TAXPAYER MONEY.

The REALLY ABSURD part?  A series of $64 transactions (over 1,000 of them each week for 252 weeks) that — according to the City Auditor — resulted in $6.6 million of overcharges…   or, maybe it’s only $1.7 million.  I guess it just depends on how you calculate it.

And, just how does the US Communities thing fit into all of this?  My code name for US Communities will be “George.”

Next up:  Myth (Part 4) Let George do it

 

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges To Government (Part 2)

Posted on April 7, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

6th in the series The Manipulators

Your words for the day:

  • auditor = one who analyzes processes and figures, frequently on a short-term recurring cycle
  • extortion = coercion, pressure, blackmail, squeezing, shakedown
  • cheat = deceive, swindle, bilk, take advantage of

The target of my mockery:  The Houston Chronicle (again), December 9, 2012, Section A, Pages 1 and 14, Article title:  Auditors find 4 years’ worth of overcharges, Writer:  Mike Morris (hereinafter referred to as Jack-Hass).

Every business (or government entity) creates a Purchase Order when it agrees to buy product from a vendor.  That order constitutes a contract with an offer (to sell), an acceptance (of the product and the terms of sale) and transfer of the consideration (the monetary payment).  This contract can be verbal, but big business prefers the accountability of that paper trail; it gonna be in writing.

The City Auditor in our story alludes to a contract that “was part of US Communities, a government purchasing cooperative.  The contract ran from March 2006 to the end of 2010.”  That would be 252 weeks by my calculation.  And that is all that Jack the Writer thinks we should know about this third cook in the accounting kitchen.  What is US Communities?  I’ll get to them in Part 3.

I’ve spent a bunch of years preparing specifications lists for needed products and contacting various vendors for availability and best pricing of our needs.  I have prepared purchase orders, detailing the final agreement of purchase (product description, unit price, total price)).  I have cross-checked the product received against the vendor’s shipping bill and my company’s Purchase Order for compliance with specs, and prepared a receiving ticket to document the delivery.  This receiving ticket was then affixed to the purchase order.  ANY DISCREPANCIES, whether of quality or quantity, WERE ADDRESSED WITH THE VENDOR AND CORRECTED BY THE VENDOR, or I ISSUED A CHANGE ORDER TO THE PURCHASE ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE THE DOCUMENTED VARIANCE.

When the vendor’s invoice came in, I went to the purchase order and the attached documentation and compared it to that invoice.  If it matched all of my documentation, I approved that invoice for payment.

If the invoice differed, it was kicked back to the vendor for clarification and compliance.

That invoice was not paid until it complied with my company’s documentation.  It is basically the same thing that everyone does in the department store:  select a suitably priced product, take it to the check-out, then scream bloody murder if the register ka-chings a higher price than that shelf price tag that attracted your attention.  You ain’t payin’ until the cashier re-rings at your understood price, or until you change your expectation and agree to the now-higher price.  You take care of the variance at the point of sale.

So, WHY does a multi-billion dollar a year operation (e.g., guv’ment) with whole departments on the payroll to oversee such things, pay those invoices as they are received and wait 5 years to see if it is overpaying for its weekly/monthly purchases?  Oh!  I really haven’t told you the particular newspaper story, have I?  Strap on that seat belt; this is going to be quite a ride.

Our writer, Jack-Hass, has a ripping good story — another one of those big business-ripping-off-the-taxpayer scoops.  This was going to be a no-brainer for this Hass, and the chosen headlines accentuated that:  Office Depot could owe city millionsAuditors find 4 years’ worth of overcharges, and, Controller says firm didn’t cooperate with audit.  We gullibles, by and large, just see the hot-button headlines and conclude that “our local paper has uncovered another anti-taxpayer plot.”  Rah!  Rah!  Sis-boom-bah!  Obviously, that’s not what I read.

Our city auditor (City of Houston), hearing that other government entities (Dallas County, Texas; Los Angeles, California; State of Florida) were successful in cheating * Office Depot out of millions in alleged overcharges, checked the sign on his office door and discovered that he, himself, David Schroeder, was in fact being hyped as a bona fide AUDITOR.  “Wow!” he must have thought.  “Why don’t I…   AUDIT…  and make it look like my employer, the City of Houston, has been getting overcharged, too?  I’ll bet everybody will sit up and realize that I am a…  I am a… ”  (he read the cue card on his office door again)   “… an AUDITOR!”

You will have to excuse Dangerous Dave’s uncertainty.  Auditors, as a rule, cruise around their kingdoms at least once a year to rap the knuckles of those departmental bean counters.  This would be Dave’s first venture in the AUDITING of this contract, so he was probably both mystified and elated when he discovered that Office Depot’s contract had been on-going and un-reviewed FOR OVER 4 YEARS.  “What was the auditor doing,”  he must have thought.  (I figure this is the FIRST audit since, had it happened before, this story would be 1, 2, 3, or 4 years AGO.)

Now, one would think, being the auditor for the CITY and all, that his job would be to audit CITY DEPARTMENTS for accountability and adherence to city departmental protocols.  You know, “Show me what you did with all that money the city budgeted to you this year just ending!  Paperwork.  Show me the paperwork!”

Anyway, one would think that.  Yet, the clue to bureaucratic goldbricking was in the headline “Auditors find 4 years’ worth of overcharges.”  Get real.  NO ONE in accounting noticed ANYTHING for 4 years??  NO ONE in the auditors office, during that 4 years, thought to go over and ask someone in accounting, “WHAT’S UP DUDE??”  (Or, Dudette.  I don’t want to be labeled a sexist.)

Let’s give Dangerous Dave his due.  He at least STARTED OUT mucking around in the files of the city’s accounting department.  We use the term “files” somewhat loosely, here, ’cause Dave couldn’t find the documented history of just under 300,000 transactions from Office Depot.  He did find a total for the amount paid out by the accounting department over 4 years and 10 months for those transactions — $19,200,000.  YES, an undocumentated payout of TAXPAYER MONEY by city employees to the tune of $19.2 million.  But, Dangerous Dave, the Cinderella Auditor, rose to the occasion in true bureaucrat mode — and in keeping with his original intent for leaving the comfort of his office in the first place — announced that…

…it was all Office Depot’s fault.

_____________________

*being government entities and all, they did the cheating legally.   Using the extortive weight of GOVERNMENT, they leaned on the private business and said, “Give us a BIG REBATE or we’ll have to play rough with you.”  The Big Pee ignored the extortion by officialdom, and went for vendors ripping off the tax payers.

**A national office supply retailer.

_____________________

Next upMyth, Part 3Can you spell t-o-t-a-l-l-y  a-b-s-u-r-d?

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Myth: Vendor Overcharges to Government (Part 1)

Posted on March 23, 2013. Filed under: Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

5th in the series The Manipulators

Your words for the day:

  • The Great Unwashed = another euphemism for the general public; you know, the masses of political philosophy
  • schtick = that act each of us adopts to get through this brief, but trying, thing called life
  • yellow journalism = lurid, outlandish, and inflammatory “reporting”
  • tabloid tactics = see “yellow journalism”

Who hasn’t heard it?  A high-profile vendor OVERCHARGES some government agency.  A contractor (another word for vendor) submits UNAUTHORIZED CHARGES to the Defense Department.  Big business uses federal BAIL OUT MONEY to give millions IN BONUSES to its top executives.

Who hasn’t agreed with the Media that “this is some bad stuff” costing the taxpayers some serious money?  Such information releases are directed at us, The Great Unwashed, by journalists who adopt the persona of experts-in-all-matters-deemed-beneficial to “public awareness.”  The Press ( with the big P) has only the best interest of the public in mind as it strokes those proven hot buttons of public perception and pockets huge gate receipts as we, the public sheep, ante up for our tickets to their carnival sideshow.

I, like everyone else in this Society of The Great Unwashed, can be as gullible as anyone.  Do you purchase every rag sheet, tabloid, gaudy magazine, and newspaper that your gaze falls upon?  Or, do you simply note and absorb the blaring headline that, in a few words, engraves an impression into your consciousness?  You realize that analysis of the story line may actually say something different from that headline, but few of us have the will to read and analyze every bit of “news” that inundates us daily.  We are content to remember the “knee-jerk” stimulus and to secretly enjoy the “kick” we derived from it.

The good news is that, although gullible, we of the Great Unwashed are not overly stupid (even though, at any given moment, there are enough of us acting stupidly enough to imply an endemic class trait).  That means that all of us, from time to time, get to peek behind the stage curtain and get a glimpse of The Great and Powerful Oz,* and, by golly, realize that ol’ Oz is really just another one of us –The Great Unwashed — wearing the robes of deception…   ah, journalism…   I mean the robes of journalism.

Our “trusted” news sources are nothing more than fellow gullibles who got a paying job just like the rest of us.  Unlike the rest of us, they also got elevated to a higher plane of credibility, adopting the schtick of expert-in-everything (i.e., journalist).  As such, they drag with them the perception-skewing baggage of media-stressed common-knowledge they acquired when rubbing elbows with all of us lesser beings.  They just fatten up their own biases and make a buck out of it.  And, they call it “news.”

As the title of this article implies, my current axe to grind is the media staple of “big business’s gouging of government agencies for taxpayer money.”  I call it a media-perpetuated myth because of several reasons:

  • It takes two to tango
  • You get what you pay for
  • The paper trail
  • Caveat emptor

To perpetuate this myth and stir the media-purchasing public to…   well…   purchase…   media offerings, those realities are ignored by The Big Pee.  Instead, they go for a morality play wherein they decide who will be the villain and who will be the victim, while presenting themselves as the champion of what is right and good.  Basically, it is just yellow journalism and tabloid tactics to turn a buck…   and win some award, maybe.  But, mostly, it is just to make a buck.

Ignorance on the part of both the public and the writers is what gives this story line its perennial appeal.  The expert-in-everything journalist presents his story from the view of someone in the know, and the public (that be us) — freely confessing its ignorance on the matter — sits at the foot of the master, eagerly tossing coins into his tin cup.

_____________________

* The Big P

_____________________

Next up:  The Myth (Part 2)  The Office Depot gets skewered

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