Civilians Who Run Quarter-Page Ads in the New York Times (Wells Fargo Greed Edition II)

The latest in our long-running series about people with all those dollars and no sense

As you splendid readers undoubtedly do not remember, last month the hardworking staff noted this full-page ad in the New York Times.

 

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The ad from Texas entrepreneur Lacy Harber also ran in the Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, and Charlotte Observer at a total cost of more than $250,000, according to Harber’s attorney.

Close-up for the copy impaired:

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This Dallas Morning News piece has all the gory details, the goriest of which is that Harber  says Wells Fargo lost him $6 million.

Whatever.

Now comes this ad in Tuesday’s Times, with strikingly similar language about Wells Fargo.

 

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Close-up for the copy impaired:

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The hardGoogling staff has found nothing about Mr. Silverman or his background, so we called the 800 number he helpfully provided to see if we might learn some of his particulars.

He has yet to return our call.

What we’re most eager to know is whether Mr. Silverman is acquainted with Mr. Harber.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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The Nude York Times

As the hardblushing staff has noted, the Grey Lady has slowly been opening the kimono in its print pages, starting with this ulp-skirt Louis Vuitton image a couple of years ago.

 

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Then there was this Gagosian Gallery ad a couple of months ago.

 

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Now comes this Christie’s ad in yesterday’s Times.

 

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The eyeverting staff leaves you to draw your own conclusions.

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Donald Trump Is the Uber of American Politics

Let’s begin with the obvious about the 2016 U.S. presidential election: Given that they were the two most-disliked American presidential candidates in polling history, Hillary Clinton was the only opponent Donald Trump could possibly have beaten, and Donald Trump was the only opponent Hillary Clinton could possibly have beaten.

A match made in hell, in other words.489713700-5163

Twenty years ago, when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, New York Times op-ed columnist William Safire called her “a congenital liar,” a characterization he later regretted but which might still be accurate nonetheless.

Donald Trump, however, has gone Clinton one better: He’s a reflexive liar who, as one observer noted, has no principles or standards – just context. Trump says whatever benefits him most in that moment.

Thus, when the American public came to view Trump as more trustworthy than Clinton, the presidential race was truly through the looking glass, as 19th century British author Lewis Carroll (no relation) would put it.

Amid all that reality-bending, how then to explain the stunning results of the 2016 race for the White House?

Perhaps it will help to frame it this way: In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton was the taxicab industry, and Donald Trump was Uber.

And how, exactly, was the self-styled billionaire businessman like the digital ride-hailing service?

Like this:

Donald Trump’s campaign was disruptive

The Accidental Candidate broke every rule in the campaign handbook: He refused to release his tax returns; he refused to appear in person on the Sunday morning TV talk shows (he alone was allowed to phone it in because he was ratings catnip); he threatened to jail his opponent upon becoming president; he demonized and delegitimized the news media.

Best quote about the Trump press coverage came from Salena Zito in The Atlantic: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

Donald Trump’s campaign was decentralized

Like Uber, Trump ran administratively lean: At one point, his campaign staff was 1/10th of Hillary Clinton’s. Instead of hiring, he outsourced his get-out-the-vote effort to the Republican National Committee and to the ground operations of GOP statewide races for U.S. Senate.

Trump was the perfect gig-economy candidate: No credentials, a spotty background, makes his own hours (always got home for bedtime), and constantly whines about not getting a 5 rating from his customers.

Donald Trump’s campaign was destructive

Call the roll:

  • Trump dismantled the establishment wing of the Republican Party
  • Trump neutered the news media
  • Trump knee-capped the Democratic Party

In other words, Donald Trump blew up the whole system.

So, to recap:

Despite – or because of – all of the above, Donald Trump easily won the Electoral College vote and will be the 45th President of the United States.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, won only the popular vote.

Fun fact to know and tell: In 2000, after George W. Bush won the Electoral College vote (thanks to the Supreme Court’s intervention) while Al Gore won the popular vote, Hillary Clinton advocated abolishing the Electoral College system of choosing presidents.

Ironic, no?

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Did Bill Belichick Really Cash a Belicheck for Donald Trump?

It’s 12:47 on Election Day at the Global Worldwide Headquarters and this just came over the transom, via Mike Florio of NBC Sports.

At New Hampshire rally, Trump reads letter supposedly from Belichick

The coach who typically says as little as possible unless asked a specific football question that tickles his fancy supposedly has screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-12-50-03-amchimed in on one of the most heated presidential races in recent history.

At a New Hampshire rally on Monday night, Donald Trump read a letter that he claims was received from Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“Congratulations on a tremendous campaign,” Trump said, as he read the letter, via TheBigLead.com. “You have dealt with an unbelievable slanted and negative media, and have come out beautifully. You’ve proved to be the ultimate competitor and fighter. Your leadership is amazing. I have always had tremendous respect for you, but the toughness and perseverance you have displayed over the past year is remarkable. Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again.”

As with virtually all of Donald Trump’s statements, there was no verification available.

A Patriots spokesman was unable to reach Belichick for confirmation as to the authenticity of the letter. It’s also possible that Belichick didn’t intend the letter to be shared publicly.

Boston Globe 11:38 pm skepticism here.

Boston Herald late-night skepticism here.

Your skepticism wherever you want it.

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Dead Blogging ‘Daniel Chester French’ at Boston Athenaeum

Well the Missus and I trundled downtown to the Boston Athenaeum yesterday to catch Daniel Chester French: The Female Form Revealed and, say, it was swell.

From the website:

Daniel Chester French: The Female Form Revealed

October 07, 2016—February 19, 2017

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For nearly half a century, from the late 1870s to the late 1920s, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was America’s foremost sculptor of public monuments. His outdoor masterpieces can be seen in the cosmopolitan centers of New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, DC, as well as in smaller American towns such as Concord, Massachusetts, Saratoga Springs, New York, and Lincoln, Nebraska. French’s projects adorn civic spaces including New York’s Central Park, Boston’s Public Garden, and Washington’s Dupont Circle; are focal points on college and university campuses at Harvard, Columbia, Bowdoin, and Gallaudet; enhance the facades of grand Beaux-Arts structures such as the United States Custom House in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Boston Public Library; and are focal points in some of this country’s great historic cemeteries such as Woodlawn in New York, Graceland in Chicago, and Forest Hills in Boston.

You’ll find more images and a great schedule of gallery talks here.

Daniel Chester French was truly a monumental artist. The exhibit itself might be modest, as is customary with the Athenaeum, but it’s well worth the trip.

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Six Flags Over New York Times (Sunday/School Edition)

As the hardworking staff has noted, the New York Times is searching hither and yon for new revenue sources, including the Times Journeys travel agency, the Times Store retail outlet, and New York Times Conferences, which brings together the international chinstrokerati “to deepen understanding of vital topics, advance innovative solutions to major challenges and provide new opportunities for businesses.”

Especially new revenue opportunities for the Times.

Representative samples of other money-makers (from Sunday’s edition).

 

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Peak Timeselling, yeah?

But wait – there’s also the Times’s acquisition of The Wirecutter, a product-recommendation website.

We’ll yield to Times Public Editor Liz Spayd on this one.

Reviewing Toaster Ovens, and Selling Them, Too

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The New York Times grabbed a few modest headlines earlier this week when it purchased a popular website called The Wirecutter that recommends a variety of consumer products to its customers. The Times paid an estimated $30 million, a relatively small sum for a media giant that takes in that much revenue every seven days.

And so the news came and went fairly quickly — big company buys small start-up, foothold gained in new market, meager profits expected soon.

That’s how it may look, but much more than that is in store. The acquisition of Wirecutter could not only usher in a new revenue model for The Times, it could also introduce a significant new dimension to The Times’s deeply ingrained relationship with its readers.

As Spayd notes:

This is a significant change from the trifecta that has sustained journalism for centuries: the news organization, the reader and the advertiser. Traditionally, newsrooms focused on journalism and mostly stayed away from recommending consumer goods. Advertisers did the product recommending, by purchasing ads adjacent to the news. The readers, meanwhile, either found the ads useful or accepted them as part of the price for getting quality news.

But the Wirecutter deal leads the Times into uncharted waters: So-called affiliate links that can enrich the newspaper but undermine its credibility as an honest broker of information.

Scylla and Charybdis, anyone?

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Glenn (Not Even) Close in Ad for ‘Sunset Boulevard’ Revival

90Back in 1994, the Missus and I trundled down to New York to catch the final performance of Glenn Close in the Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard.

As we settled into our seats, this announcement came over the PA system: The role of Norma Desmond tonight will be performed by . . . [audible gasps and cries of protest by audience] . . . Glenn Close.

Big joke.

Here’s a taste of Close’s performance 22 years ago.

 

 

Now comes the revival of Sunset Boulevard, heralded by this two-page spread in the yesterday’s New York Times. (Tip o’ the pixel to the Missus)

 

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Okay – either Glenn Close has had a head transplant, or that image has been seriously photoshopped.

Recent photo of Close:

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Here at the Global Worldwide Headquarters, we totally get the concept of putting your best face forward (especially in these, our declining years).

But seriously, that ad isn’t even Close.

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Another $cheme From Six Flags Over New York Times

The hardworking staff recently noted the various financial sidelines the New York Times has launched lately to boost sagging revenues.

There’s the Times Journeys travel agency and the Times Store retail outlet, both of which have profited from full-page ads in the paper.

And then there’s New York Times Conferences, which “bring together national and global leaders to deepen understanding of vital topics, advance innovative solutions to major challenges and provide new opportunities for businesses.”

Accent on new opportunities for businesses – especially for the Times.

Case in point: Election Night Live (tip o’ the pixel to NiemanLab), offering the Times of your life watching this year’s election returns.

 

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It’s been a 4-year marathon.
We invite you to join us at the finish line.

On November 8th, history will be written. You’re invited to join the editors and journalists of The New York Times as the world begins to change.

Spend an exciting evening in the company of our top political minds at The Times Center as they deliver expert analysis and global perspectives on the outcome of this year’s presidential race — while returns are coming in.

Here’s what you get for your $250:

Featuring Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Political Editor Carolyn Ryan, Senior Editor Charles Duhigg and a host of other Times journalists and special guests, this lively forum will feature candid, real-time commentary on election night activity around the country, the impact of this unprecedented campaign on both parties and the world, the legacy of the Obama administration, major issues facing the next president and much more.

Not to get over-fastidious about it, but it’s one thing to sell Times paraphernalia.

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Or to peddle feel-good field trips.

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But it’s quite another thing to lease out your editorial staff, as Washington Post publisher Katherine Weymouth learned in 2009 when she had to “[cancel] plans for a series of policy dinners at her home after learning that marketing fliers offered corporate underwriters access to Post journalists, Obama administration officials and members of Congress in exchange for payments as high as $250,000.”

Times executives aren’t there yet, and maybe never will be.

But that sure feels like the road they’re on.

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Bostonians Have Seen Twice the Political Ads Anyone Else Has

For the past umpteen months, it’s felt like the Boston television airwaves have featured nothing but TV spots variously promoting/pummeling Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and Maggie Hassen and Kelly Ayotte.

Now comes statistical confirmation, via MediaPost’s Marketing: Politics Daily.

 

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So, as of October 17th, Bostonians had been subjected to almost twice as many polispots as anyone in America.

Call us small-minded, but that doesn’t seem right for denizens of a state that a) is a lead-pipe cinch to go for Hillary Clinton, and b) doesn’t get to vote for either Hassen or Ayotte.

But why get technical about it.

(Here’s an idea: Maybe we need to build a tremendous – no, a fabulous – New Hampshire Video Wall and make WMUR pay for it.)

Whatever.

Just make this election cycle go away, yeah?

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‘Pay It Backward’ Is a Time-Honored Government Gambit

The federal clawback is back – this time for the California National Guard.

From Saturday’s Los Angeles Times:

Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war

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Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

That reminded me of a similar situation I encountered in the 1970s when I briefly toiled at the Social Security Administration (civil service tests being the last refuge of the liberal arts major back then).

I got hired to be a Claims Representative (Term), or CRT, in the Redetermination Unit, a swat team that was supposed to clean up – in two years – a big problem the federal government had created: Supplemental Security Income.

SSI was a program that took aged, disabled and blind people off the state welfare rolls and put them on the federal dole.

The big problem was that everyone got paid top dollar in the transition (“top dollar” being one of the great ironies of the time – the monthly payments when I arrived in 1975 were $167.80 for individuals and $251.80 for couples. Just as a point of reference, I took home $425 a month when I started at SSA, and I felt poor myself.)

Anyway, all of the SSI recipients had to be “redetermined” – that is, have their benefits cut. Which they were.

And then came this, as I chronicled in The Redemption Unit.

 

Pay It Backward

When the last claimant’s benefits had been redetermined and the government added up its losses, it immediately decided to recoup them by initiating the Overpayment Recovery Program. Letters went out – on green paper this time – telling claimants they had to come in to the DO [District Office]. And the whole kabuki dance started all over again.

Claimant plunks green letter down on desk. File comes out. Conversation begins.

“Mrs. Patterson, our records show that you were overpaid during the past two years by a total of $2162.”

“I never got no check for $2162.”

Conversation effectively ends.

In essence the Overpayment Recovery Program took people who’d just had their welfare checks cut, and cut them some more. One day my next-desk neighbor, Tricia McDermott, flipped a file across her desk and leaned back in her chair. Tricia was too compassionate for the job but too strait-laced not to do it by the book. She stared toward the windows and said to no one in particular, “What we need here is an overpayment recovery incentive. Do you think they’d ever consider giving us a cut of the take?”

“In this lifetime?”

“No, really – 10% off the top of any money we recover. We could limit it to refunds and exclude adjustments or returned checks.”

“Uh-huh.”

That there were three different ways to achieve a single result was pure SSA. Back then the Social Security system was virtually all exceptions and no rules (it may still be – I’ll find out in a few years). SSI wasn’t quite as bad, but it was still a contraption only Rube Goldberg could love. To make matters worse, the CRTs received a steady stream of what were called “claims transmittals” – memos that were supposed to clarify, but more often complicated, SSI’s crazy-quilt regulations.

Representative sample: “Transmit payment status code of WO4, WO5, or WO9. However, because of systems limitations do not input these PSCs. Use force pay to pay correct amount.” (SSIH, 13515-2)

So nobody read the transmittals. Except me. I figured I needed something on the plus side of the ledger to offset being chronically late and generally out of step. Consequently I read every transmittal, which probably was why I got the computer to do things no one else could.

In the course of my reading I also discovered that two obscure SSI regulations, when combined, essentially allowed a claims rep to waive any overpayment.

So that’s what I did.

A claimant would come in, sit down at my desk and wearily hand over his green letter.

“Yes. Mr. Randolph. Our records show – let’s see here – that during the past two years you were overpaid by $846.”

“I never got no check for $846.”

“That’s right, Mr. Randolph. This is really just a bookkeeping thing. I need you to sign a couple of forms and you’ll be all set.”

I had decided to hand-write the two forms each time; if I had a stack of copies around, they might accuse me of premeditated overpayment waiving. Better to have a sort of eureka element involved. I’d scribble out the forms, turn them toward the claimant, and spend a good five minutes convincing him to sign them. The claimant would walk away looking slightly puzzled. Then someone else would come to my desk with a green letter.

For a while my waive-‘em-all policy stayed under the radar. But I ran into problems when people began asking for me by name. Apparently word had gotten around the claimant community that I was the guy to see with your overpayment letter. So they would come into the DO and – completely disregarding SSI’s sophisticated system of assigning claimants alphabetically – say they wanted to be interviewed by me. Suddenly I was very much on the radar screen.

The Operations Supervisor came by one day and sat on the corner of my desk, an exercise always fraught with peril.

“You’re an asshole, but you know the system better than the bosses do. They hate that. What if everybody did what you’re doing?”

“Then I’d be a fool not to, like Yossarian said in Catch-22.”

“Sometimes it’s not so smart to be so smart. Too bad you won’t be around long enough to appreciate that.”

I started to think he was right, especially when management decided to walk me up the ladder – from OS to ADM to DM to AD. The drill was the same each time: I’d be summoned to the manager’s office, I’d sit down, and he’d say, “You can’t waive overpayments the way you’re doing. This is money that the claimants were not entitled to, and it’s your job to recover it from them.”

Each time my response was the same.

“I’m doing this by the book. It’s all there in the transmittals. You don’t like it, change the system.”

That, of course, was like saying make the Gabor sisters stop getting married.

“There’s nothing wrong with the system – there’s something wrong with you. What are you thinking, writing all these waivers?”

“I’m thinking that these people were overpaid through no fault of their own. They didn’t cheat the government; the government cheated the government. Why should they pay for that?”

“Because that’s what the regulations say.”

“The regulations also say overpayments can be waived under certain conditions, at the discretion of the claims rep. I’m just exercising my discretion.”

“Very poorly, I would say.”

“Yes, a CRT’s pay is nothing if not minimal.”

“Get out of here.”

And I did.

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