Monday, May 25, 2009

Fans of diplomacy with rogue nations...

...should take a close look at the excellent progress that the UN and others are making with North Korea and Iran.

In the last twenty four hours, North Korea has conducted an underground nuclear test, and Iran has rejected a proposal to limit its nuclear development and has ruled out any talks with major global powers on the issue.

When the world is forced to face the horrifying decision as to whether it continues to negotiate or whether it takes military actions against lunatics in search of weapons of mass destruction, let's keep in mind just how useful negotiating with an unwilling party is.

It's not a negotiation. It's a waste of time. We act earnestly while they laugh and proceed with their plans to develop nuclear weapons.

For a tongue in cheek reminder of how diplomacy requires two parties that want the same outcome, we offer this funny-but-too-realistic bit from Team America World Police. For thoughts on how laughable the world's response has been so far, we offer this commentary from Andy Borowitz.

What will the world do? Write an angry letter or shout strong adjectives?

Hmmm. Perhaps we should actually do something that says we're serious?

Let's give peace a chance by all means...but remember Teddy Roosevelt's advice to speak softly...and carry a big stick.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


From today's Indy 500 telecast:

"He's calm, cool, and collective."


Magic Johnson's English

We acknowledge that he is a miracle of science -- that his HIV has not progressed, that he has stayed healthy, and that it's a wonder that he can be in the spotlight.

That doesn't mean he has to.

It's not that we don't respect his basketball acumen. It's that we loathe his pronunciation.

We recall with disgust how he had been hired as a color man (no racist comments, please -- it's what they call it in television) to cover one of the Bulls' championship runs back in the day, and how we would race for the mute button whenever he flapped his trap.

The quality of Magic's commentary, to the extent that it was intelligible, was overshadowed by his inability to speak the language what with dropped consonants, mispronunciations, and general abuse of English. The memory of Magic's commentary made gloomy Bill Walton, whose pessimism rivals ours, a welcome addition to the broadcast team. We laud whichever network was covering the NBA that saw fit to muzzle Magic all those years ago.

Now he's back butchering the language on ESPN, and it's making us nuts again.

We can't abide hearing him say "frow" or "thow" one more time.

Would someone please axe him to shut up?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More adspeak -- the old "we have the best people" positioning

From the department of "we can't believe someone actually said this and meant it:"

On a conference call today, the President of a well-known New York agency showed "creative" work for an investment management company. It took the hackneyed "we have the best people" approach to selling its wares.

Never mind that the investment manager in question is in Montpelier, VT, and consequently probably doesn't really have the best people.

Never mind that, in our opinion, there's a pretty damn efficient market for intellectual capital and as a result the two companies that offer the best earning power -- McKinsey and Goldman Sachs -- are the only ones who really do have the best people.

Never mind that whenever a company doesn't have something substantive to say about its business model it usually claims -- desperately, hopefully, but falsely -- to have the best people.

What made his comment so worthy of today's idiot flag was how he defended it:

"Even though the idea of people isn't different, the people themselves are."

Aha! Where do we send our money?!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A real traffic stopper

We recall with sadness when the announcements on the "el" in Chicago told us that the next stop was the "Harold Washington Libary."

Much as we found that amusing and ironic, we also found it wildly incorrect and inappropriate, and we were mighty glad when it was corrected (without admission of wrongdoing, as is traditional in most politics these days).

We were on 90/94 this morning and nearly spit our coffee on to our freshly pressed shirt when we drove under a sign that kidding..."Seat belts saves lives."

Your tax dollars at work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Target, everyday, and every day

Who'd have thought Target would earn a place next to the Wall Street Journal as someone who gets it right?

Oh, we know, they're cheap chic and all (we've been spending a ton of dough there ever since the little ones were in diapers), but that's not what we're celebrating.

"Everyday" and "every day." Tareget used them both correctly, in a single ad, no less (surprising as advertising copywriting is typically the domain of the grammatical imbeciles).

We are ashamed to admit that we read it in today's Chicago Tribune, as we are ashamed to admit that we read today's Chicago Tribune. It's like a newspaper, only different.

"Everyday" is an adjective. It would be used correctly in a sentence like this: "We have everyday low prices," or "The everyday drudgery of finding fault with the world is causing us ennui." It is something that is ongoing or typical.

"Every day" describes something that happens...well...every day, e.g., "We have low prices every day" or "Every day, I find something that annoys me."

So we'll laud Target for their intelligence, both in the merchandising of their stores and their honorable use of the English language.

And we'll keep shopping there. But not every day...

The WSJ, Angels and Demons, and the literati

This from one of our correspondents who suggests the quote below, from the exceptionally well-written Wall Street Journal (n.b. you don't have to agree with its politics to agree that its prose is typically exceptional and often mighty clever) deserves a "reverse idiot flag:"

"Angels and Demons," which draws a sharp historical distinction between the Illuminati (bad) and the Catholic church's Preferiti (good) may leave you feeling like a member of the Stupefiti...

Three cheers from the literati!

P.S. We're still trying to make it through The DaVinci Code with our eyes open...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Apostrophes and Ss

We saw it this quote -- and others like it -- on Facebook enough times today that it prompted us to comment. The offending usage: "I hope all of you mother's (sic) out there have a great day."

Apparently many of you skipped grammar school or have overactive pinkies on your right hands.

Let's go over this one more time. There are two important correct uses for the apostrophe...and one far-too-common abuse, at which we cast today's idiot flag.

First, it is used to indicate a possessive. For example, this is my mother's favorite cake. This is my father's sports car. I am wearing my sister's underwear. Each of these demonstrates the grammatically correct use of the apostrophe to indicate the possessive.

Second, it is used in a contraction to indicate that something is missing. For example, "I can not abide the misuse of punctuation" can be contracted to "I can't abide the misuse of punctuation." The little apostrophe shows that "can not" has been shortened to "can't."

Is this all coming back?

The abuse makes us want to toss our Mother's Day cookies. For some reason that escapes us, some butchers of the mother tongue continue to use an apostrophe and an "s" when the latter will suffice. Thus, the disdain for the quote above: "All you mother's out there."

All you mother's what? It's a plural. No apostrophe necessary for a plural. Just add the damn "s."


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Specter, Graham, RINOs, and the sweet spot that's just right of center

It's old news, but we read a great bit of insight into how our GOP is blowing itself up with its purging of those who disagree.

Lindsey Graham, GOP stalwart for 100 or so years, upon learning of Arlen Specter's defection to the light side (and we mean that in terms of gravity and gravitas, not photons) opined "If we pursue a party that has no place for someone who agrees with me 70 percent of the time...then we are going to keep losing."

Until the GOP stops pandering to its lunatic fringe and realizes that its arch conservative silliness is off-putting to the majority of Americans, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves for the Democrat majority in the House and Senate and their ownership of the White House.

When will pols realize that just right of dead center is where the sweet spot for the country lies?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Interested in interest? Schwab pays 100x what Chase does...

Like your bank?

We didn't, so we changed, and while it's rare that we'll endorse a product, when doing so gives us a chance to sh-tcan someone else's idiocy, we'll gladly do so.

Our JPMorgan Chase savings statement arrived today. It carried this footnote: "You earned a higher interest rate on your Chase Money Market Savings account during this statement period because you had a qualifying Chase Better Banking Checking Account."

We chuckled when we noted that the "higher" interest rate was...wait for it...two basis points. For those of you unfamiliar with a basis point, it's one percent of one percent. Chase is borrowing our money at two hundredths of a percent.

It's so little that Chase trying to sell this to us as a benefit would be perfectly laughable ... if it weren't so insulting. Who's their marketing head? How stupid do they think we all are?

We're close enough to the financial markets to know that money market rates are in the tank, and we won't bother you with the monetary policy shifts that have led to this.

We will, though, note two things. First, that we took most of our business away from Chase recently. While we're no Bill Gates, it was enough that we'd think they'd notice, and nobody in the bank so much as called, emailed or sent a smoke signal to ask if there was a problem.

There was a problem, and it's this. Schwab's bank pays exactly one hundred times what Chase does in interest on both its checking and savings accounts.

Yep. You read right. On checking, Chase pays 0.01%, Schwab pays 1.00%. On savings, Chase pays 0.02%, Schwab pays 2.00%.

Schwab's banking products still have a few bugs in them. You can't transfer funds online. You have to have two debit cards. But for 100x more interest -- especially during spare economic times -- we'll suffer a little.

Oh yeah, Schwab's client service people are based in the US, speak good English, are courteous and professional...and Schwab reimburses all ATM fees.

Got your interest now?