Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Can’t Bank on Advertising

Daily newspapers are like banks in that only the strongest will survive. The weak will be gone and their names will either be amalgamated with their more powerful procurers or will disappear forever, except within the memories of long-time readers.

In January, several San Francisco Bay Area newspapers including the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times and all of their related papers became merely “editions” of the San Jose Mercury News. The Mercury News circulation then climbed to 516,701 moving it into eighth place among major dailies around the country behind the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, N.Y. Daily News, and the New York Post.

In America, bigger has erroneously been equated to being better, so in late April the new Bay Area News Group (BANG) began running advertisements showing that the Bay Area “is our yard” and the Mercury News “is the Big Dog” in the yard.

What wasn’t said is that the new combined circulation represents a drop of 5.4% from the previous year, so there’s less bang for the buck with BANG than before. Omission of facts can be a major strength in advertising.

Capitalism and Communism
The BANG proclamation is analogous to what happened during the Cold War in a two-car, head-to-head competition. A Russian Troika automobile went against an American Ford in a battery of road tests including acceleration, handling, braking, and gas mileage. The Ford thumped the Troika in every category however TASS, the Russian news agency, published the following headline: “While the glorious Troika finished in second place, the American Ford finished next to last.” Ain’t it the truth?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Not Dying to Meet You

The Friday April 23 Obituary Notices page in the San Jose Mercury News contained the names and descriptions of the lives of the departed whose ages ranged from thirty-five to ninety-three. In the lower right-hand corner, there was a two-column by five-inch-deep advertisement that described another death — that of the Innovative Bank of Oakland, California. It seems they, too, got into trouble with their home loans and on April 16 the California Department of Financial Institutions closed them down and appointed the FDIC as receiver. To protect depositors, the FDIC entered into a Purchase and Assumption Agreement with Center Bank of LA. Seemingly so far, so good for depositors, and that’s how it usually ends up with former customers of one bank becoming customers of the new bank for as long as they like. However, Center Bank adds in their ad ”You must take some action to claim ownership of your deposits by October 16, 2011” or “your deposits will be returned to the FDIC.” LA — the City of Angles.

The Secret to a Long Life
Adam Cintz, the remarkable man who is approaching his 100th birthday (see April 17 post), was recently asked, “What is your secret to living a long life?” Without hesitation he replied, “Don’t die.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Tea Party and the Tee Party

At recent rallies, some Tea Party members were seen draped in American flags that they may be desecrating, clutching copies of the Constitution, and angrily decrying the direction our country is going. According to a CBS News - New York Times poll released on April 15, 54% say they are Republicans, 41% consider themselves to be independents, and 4% are Democrats. A whopping 89% are white and 58% keep a gun in their home. Surprisingly, many think Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president and without that job she would then have to suffer the indignity of scooping up millions for her speeches, book deals, and being a commentator compatriot with Rush and Glen. She might also get a gig imitating Tina Fey at Tupperware parties.

Tee Party members, who are also primarily white and Republican, are more genteel and more demure. They only want to watch Tiger Woods smash a golf ball, sign autographs, and softly and occasionally utter non-printable language. However, his angry voice was captured live on television during the Masters Golf Tournament and the CBS television golf anchor Jim Nantz noted, ”If I said what he said on the air, I would be fired.” Tiger who wanted to show a more tranquil, reformed post-soap opera self as an adherent to the gentleness of Buddhism, merely recaptured his old image. During the tournament a plane flew overhead dragging a banner that read “TIGER: DID YOU MEAN BOOTYISM?”

What the two T-parties also have in common is that they are the epitome of what all media seek to visually attract audiences away from their hand-held electronic competition. Stay tuned; there are the primaries and the PGA Tournament coming up.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No News Is Good News

The combination of nothing but negative news and mediocre programming at best, was enough of an incentive for us to avoid watching any regular programming for 110 days. Our set was only used for watching movies and countless episodes of “Are You Being Served?”

However, every day I waited to hear the sound of the 430 AM plop of the San Jose Mercury News delivered to my doorstop, or within fifteen feet of it. I would anxiously open up the lightweight newspaper (in actual thickness and in content) and hope for invaluable reporting to start my day.

Today’s edition’s content epitomizes the valuable news that’s available to kindle my intellectual light. I discovered that Tom Campbell, the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in California, had an adjusted gross income of $443,426 and generously gave $600 of that to charity.

Readers, who may have an earthquake phobia, found that they are caused by “Many women who do not dress modestly…lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.” This scientific fact comes from a prominent Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedlight. Hoja, as his friends call him, is aligned with corporations and politicians who don’t believe there is any global warming.

To quench my still insatiable thirst for knowledge, I turn to the sports section where Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah once again endeared himself to the fans of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers by repeating his philosophy of life away from Chicago. “You think Cleveland’s cool? I never heard anybody say ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation,’ What’s so good about Cleveland?” Perhaps his friendly demeanor towards others comes from his family lineage as the son of a French tennis player and a former Miss Sweden and the grandson of a Cameroonian professional soccer player. Joakim calls himself ”the African Viking.”

What’s most important about this early morning mental stimulation is that you can “read” through the truly important stories within the entire newspaper in ten minutes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Never Underestimate A Truly Original Adam

It’s 8 PM on a Saturday night and have just returned to Santa Cruz from a thirty-five mile drive over the hill from San Jose. The afternoon started when we watched and listened to a thoroughly exhilarating matinee performance of “Fats” Waller’s music in “Ain’t Misbehavin.’ ” An even more buoyant experience was to come in Room 503 in Good Samaritan Hospital where Adam Cintz was temporarily residing. Four days ago when I last stopped by, I thought that it would be my last visit with him. At ninety-nine years, two months and two weeks of age, on Tuesday he was barely able to open his eyes and was at the mercy of a vicious disease. But you can never underestimate the resiliency of a man who watched his son succumb to the fiery furnaces of Auschwitz while he survived. When I entered his room tonight, he looked up and asked me, “How are you doing?” As always, just being in his presence elevated my spirits, for his positive and caring outlook, his intellect, and humor offers a life lesson for everyone. When he first learned about his disease he said, “I try to laugh. It does no good to cry.” At barely five feet tall, Adam reminds me of my Great-uncle Sam who on his ninety-ninth birthday stood in front of family and friends at a deli in Florida and said, “”I hope that all of you will be healthy enough to celebrate my one-hundredth birthday next year,” which he did in style. Adam, I hope that your entire family and all of your friends will be healthy enough to celebrate your one-hundredth on July 1. Zei Gezundt.

For more insight into the extraordinary life of a truly original Adam, go to Google, type in “Adam Cintz,” and then click the entry “A Holocaust Survivor recalls his life.”

The Bunk on Banking

Once upon a time, there was a small friendly local bank called Coast Commercial whose branch manager would try and squeeze out an extra .25% of interest for you on a CD. Once upon a time there was a larger bank called Countrywide (not the mortgage company) who offered interest rates that were substantially higher than other banks. If you went to any other bank to compare rates and said that Countrywide offered more, they would warn you that Countrywide is in big financial trouble and money put there wasn’t safe. This happened even after you said that you had spoken with someone at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at 1-877-ASK-FDIC who said that Countrywide had ample assets. Both of these financial institutions were devoured by the Bank of America, which made dubious contributions to the recent financial crisis.

Once upon another time there was the medium-sized World Savings, that was swallowed up by Wachovia, whose branch manager would try and find a slightly-higher-than-advertised CD rate, but she and her bank were unceremoniously taken over by Wells Fargo. Wachovia branch employees endured the trauma of a takeover by a bank that had its own branch about five hundred feet away. Now clients are having their own concerns with Wells Fargo that inundates Wachovia customers with e-mails, multi-colored brochures, postal mailings and tome-like publications.

Wells Fargo’s 32-page guide to the transition of consumer accounts and services is a four-color glossy contribution to bedtime reading trying to convince customers to feel comfortable in any of Wells Fargo’s “over 3,300 stores.” To insure that the Wachovia convert understands what they are in for, the sales brochure has a 72-page black and white companion piece entitled “Consumer Disclosure.” Every page is chocked full of mainly useless information printed in unreadable small type. At the new Wells Fargo store, you are greeted by a 24-year-old “banker” with a semi-spiked hairdo who extends a welcome with a firm handshake and offers financial assurance by saying that he possesses an associate’s degree in sociology from a community college. I facetiously told him that I had read both of the aforementioned publications and he was duly impressed. When I asked if he enjoyed reading them as much as I did, he confessed that he hadn’t — yet.

We always shop for the highest rates and found Pacific National Bank some thirty miles away offering the best at the time. Six months ago it was “given” to US Bank by the FDIC because of its problems and this morning our Innovative Bank met a similar fate and it is now operating under Center Bank of Los Angeles. Innovative was a nearby Korean-operated, best-rate bank and we will miss their gift cards, friendly smiles, and wonderfully written free magazines published in Korean.

The financial world is more than a zoo. It is a zoo zoo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Are Political Offices Still for Sale?

The April 16th Yahoo! News headline read “DNC to pour $50 million into fall races.” What pikers! Meg Whitman who is a GOP candidate for the California governorship has already spent $59 million just to win her party’s nomination to run in the general election. Mighty Meg is using her eBay billions to send out 500,000 four-color magazines (aka sales brochures) to California Republicans, has over run the airwaves with commercials, and has recently distributed eight-minute video “news” stories to television stations throughout the state. Some stations in small, isolated markets who have little or no traveling moneys in their budget might forget journalistic standards and use them out of convenience.

Acronym Soup with the GOP and DNC
It is interesting how our twitter-ish world seems to have gone to acronyms and abbreviations since they more readily fit newspaper headlines. Few know that GOP stands for “Grand Old Party” but could stand for “Groveling Old Poopers” as they try to stop any actions by the opposition, many of which are ill planned or unplanned. For the electorate, the two-party system consists of Tweedledumb and Tweedledee and their origins are from an olde nursery rhyme that exemplifies where the two parties are today:

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.
Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

Where’s the crow when this country needs him?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Finding that First Post

You may be able to find the first post to the Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator blog at: and today I know a little more about blogging than I did in June 2005 when I wrote it. A blog requires more than just an occasional hitting of the right keys if the blogger has any hope that someone (or two) will eventually read it.

It's the same with any writing for although a writer may get published and receive payment for her or his work, there's no guarantee that anyone will read it, let alone understand the point(s) the writer is trying to make. There's even a fainter chance that a reader will be motivated to seriously cogitate about the subject, let alone take any action.
Sometimes the reader totally misinterprets what has been written so that all of the writer's research, writing, editing and rewriting is wasted.

During the 1968 Presidential campaign, I worked on Senator Eugene McCarthy’s campaign in Northern New Jersey. President Lyndon Baines Johnson eliminated himself from attempting to be re-elected when he saw that support for "his" Vietnam War was rapidly eroding. Robert Kennedy belatedly jumped into the fray and was violently eliminated in a Los Angeles hotel by Sirhan Sirhan. LBJ threw his support to his vice-president Hubert Horatio Humphrey, a former liberal who was beholden to his boss for any small favor.

LBJ sent HHH to Cleveland’s inner city Hough neighborhood where riots had occurred two years earlier, to speak about federal funding of programs in the area. The media coverage gave the impression that Hubert alone was responsible for helping the people of Hough and showed him in front of a crowd presenting the funding check.

As a McCarthy supporter, I wrote to the letters-to-the-editor section of my local newspaper. In it I castigated Humphrey and the Johnson administration for attempting to buy Ohio votes by sending the vice-president.

After the letter ran, a very conservative reader wrote the newspaper and in his letter he profusely thanked me for exposing the corrupt, radical, far-left, money tossing, welfare-promoting Johnson administration for their actions.

No writing is ever guaranteed to present the message the writer intended, but we still have to keep on trying as long as there is someone out there willing to read it. Is there anyone out there?

A Couple of Odd Couples

Toyota and the Catholic Church
An Odd Couple Not At Odds
These two giants in their respective (not respectful) fields may at first glance seem like disparate entities. However, they both have one tactic in common and that is to evade and obfuscate information concerning their currently woeful situations. Both seek positive images and silently propagate their “Do as I say and not as I do” attitude for survival.

The GOP and the Catholic Church
An Oddly Similar Relationship
Both of these institutions have found a common enemy to blame regarding their sexually-related scandals. After the Republican Party was found to have spent $2,000 at a sex-themed California nightclub, the blame was foisted upon the “liberal media” for reporting the story. In the midst of the seemingly continual pedophilic practices perpetrated by some priests and connecting it to then Cardinal Ratzinger’s actions (or lack of any action), on April 1 the Vatican Web site ( assailed The New York Times for “deficient” coverage “by any reasonable standards of fairness.”

The moral of the story: If you are caught in a messy situation of your own creation, instead of killing the conduct, first deflect the blame and attempt to kill the messenger, i.e., the media.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Tiger, the Herd and the Doggie

In a pre-Masters press conference on April 6, a seemingly goateed Tiger Woods answered an eclectic mix of questions from a herd of 207 reporters crammed into an interview room. Regarding his car crash —“It’s a closed case;” about sponsors leaving — “Do I understand why they dropped me? Of course I made a lot of mistakes in my life;” and Tiger admitted, “What I’ve done over the past years has been terrible to my family. And the fact that I won golf tournaments I think is irrelevant.” That’s why he’s back at the meaningless Masters and has been established as the favorite.

There weren’t any reporters that day to cover the death of 93-year-old Al Ross although the Associated Press wrote his obituary. In 1948, Ross opened his first Doggie Diner in Oakland, California, and eventually ran thirty of them. The diners had displays of huge dauschunds with rotating heads.  Ross also put on the dog, hanging out with Frank Sinatra and collecting boats, airplanes and racehorses. The diners closed in 1986 and in 2000, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared that one 700-pound, seven-foot-tall head was a city landmark. It was given a $20,000 facelift and moved to a median strip near San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. 

California for Sale Buy e-Bay

The gubernatorial race in California might end up being the most expensive and could surpass the $148 million spent eight years ago in the New York race won by Republican George Pataki. New York seems to set the standard in buying your way into office and in the 2009 campaign for mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg was re-elected when he bought the title with $108 million of his own money. Now e-Bay’s former CEO, billionaire Meg Whitman, has reached into her own petty cash drawer and has thus far donated $59 million to win the Republican nomination. That sum is just to win the primary over a mere millionaire who has been penurious by only contributing $19.2 million of his own money to his campaign. Whitman, who says she is willing to spend more than $150 million to become governor, believes that every citizen should vote and claims to have been a stalwart in Republican politics for years. The Sacramento Bee reported that she was not registered to vote before 2002 and there was no evidence she had ever registered as a Republican before 2007.



Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Hoosiers Go for the Glory

On Monday evening the 5th of April at 6 PM EST, David, aka Butler University, will take on Goliath, aka Duke University, for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 2010 Basketball Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Butler is from Indianapolis, plays its regular season home games in nearby Hinkle Field House and is the prohibitive underdog. Many are equating their appearance in the finals with that of Indiana’s Milan High, a small rural school that won the 1954 Indiana State High School Championship. Ironically, Butler beat Michigan State in the semi-finals on April 3, 2010 by two points 52-50 and in the movie, Milan beat South Bend Central also by two points, 42-40. In reality, in 1954 Milan beat Muncie Central by two points, 32-30 in the Hinkle Field House. Hollywood changed the final score, the opposing team’s school name, and the fact that there were 10 players on the team, not six. In reality, 58 of the 73 boys at the school tried out for the team. Aside from these “minor” liberties, it was an accurate, inspirational story. Butler’s team has watched the movie “Hoosiers” too many times to count. Duke is going for its fourth NCAA tile all under Coach Mike Krzyzewski who naturally pronounces his last name as “Sheshevski.” Butler’s coach Brad Stevens pronounces his last name as ”Stevens.”

We watched “Hoosiers” before the semi-finals but on the Sunday night before the 2010 finals, we watched “Glory Road” which may better exemplify the story of basketball’s David versus Goliath. In the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championships, David was Texas Western and Goliath was storied University of Kentucky, and under legendary coach Adolph Rupp, UK had already won four NCAA championships. What made that game special was that Rupp had an all-white team and wouldn’t consider recruiting a player of color. Coach Don Haskins of the Texas Western Miners had recruited many of the seven blacks on his twelve-man team from inner-city high schools. In the championship game he started five blacks and played only the other two blacks during the game. Texas Western beat Kentucky 72-65 and it helped change the complexion of basketball teams and of the game. Texas Western also changed its name in 1967 to University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), but we prefer its original 1914 name when it was founded as The Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. Don’t you?
























Saturday, April 3, 2010

Health Care, Obama, GOP, Tiger Woods, The Pope, Sex Scandals, Sarah Palin, Global Warning, NCCA Basketball, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Peace

A knowledgeable blogger wrote that if you want your blog linked to other blogs and thereby increase your readership, you have to attract others by using key words in your headlines. That’s what we just did. As far as this post goes, to quote the immortal lines of Looney Tunes’ Porky Pig, “That’s All Folks.” That’s all until the next post except for the following note.

The Latest Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator Is Available

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - High on the Holy Days

April 2, 2010

The Tower of Babble

 In Genesis 11, the people decided to build a tower to the heavens to prevent themselves to be “scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth.” But a higher being, aka “The Lord,” wasn’t pleased and sayeth, “Let us go down and there confound their language, that they might not understand one another’s speech.” Perhaps that’s why we are still confused by what others say and why some people become upset when the voice mail prompt says “Press One for English.”

Religion is a Way, Weigh, Whey of Life

Religions are also misunderstood by those who aren’t true believers specially if someone is an atheist, and in America you can be one, thank God.

Today is Good Friday, followed by Easter Sunday and preceded by Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday — important and solemn days in the Christian religion. Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a solemn fast day when Jews ask for forgiveness for their previous year’s sins as they begin to work on accumulating new ones. It’s also a day to honor those who have gone before with a special afternoon memorial service.

The lack of understanding of another’s religion is exemplified by the na├»ve outsider who tells a Catholic on Ash Wednesday, “Do you know you have dirt on your forehead?” Conversely a well-meaning Christian friend on Yom Kippur once said to me “Have a very happy Yom Kippur.”

Remember the Sabbath Days and Keep Them Holy

When I lived in Jerusalem there was the Moslem “Sabbath” on Friday, the Jewish Sabbath occurred on Saturday, and the Christian Sabbath was on Sunday. If you played your religious cards right, you could enjoy a three-day weekend.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

That famous 20th century philosopher Rodney Glen King asked that question and although he wasn’t questioning the multitude of wars waged for the sake of religion throughout history, perhaps my wife’s father found a way to have everyone get along and respect the other person’s way of worshipping. Joseph Santos had six daughters who were born during Franco’s reign in Spain in the 1940s. Although he and his wife were Jewish, he told his daughters to choose the religion that was most comfortable for them. The eldest stayed Jewish, the next became Catholic, the next was Jewish, the next oldest became Catholic, the fifth, my wife Carmen, stayed Jewish, and the youngest became Catholic. Two sisters remained in Spain and four ended up in Montreal, and I have attended a Catholic wedding and a Jewish Bar Mitzvah (is there another kind?). In Montreal, the youngest sister who is Catholic makes sure that the widower of her eldest Jewish sister is watched over, cared for and taken to all family affairs.