Thursday, February 3, 2011


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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Advertising 101 with Sketchy McSleazeball

Do not listen to late-night sports radio.

Especially the commercials.

A stern, authoritatively-deep voice warned me last night that a prominent financial expert who predicted the 2008 financial industry crash was also foretelling a much more devastating “major event” in 2011 that would result in drastic changes to our way of life, possibly even threatening the speed of drive-thru service.

I found this ad intriguing, having long believed that we Americans will have to pay the piper someday for our reckless borrowing, needless consumption, and sloppy penmanship.

The voice insisted that I watch a “video” at the website “”

That’s right. End of America. 36. Dot com.


Of course I had to see for myself.

The “video” is simply a “financial expert” named Porter Stansberry reading aloud words that appear on the screen, explaining a bunch of stuff about the dollar.

After 90 minutes with Mr. Stansberry, my eyes were sore, but I began to feel convinced that the dollar was on its way into the toilet, and that I should put all my money into gold, silver, euros, grenades, and “modern art” made from Styrofoam and dried rat feces.

Stansberry kept alluding to a secret commodity, used by the wealthy throughout history to shield themselves from imploding economies, that could save my family from the impending crisis if I owned enough of it.

But he wouldn’t tell me what it was. Gasoline? Real estate? Slaves? Pictures of frolicking puppies? I could only guess.

Finally, he offered to tell me the secret if I bought a $50 “trial” subscription to his newsletter.

The whole thing was just disgusting. It reminded me of those letters I keep getting from car dealerships, the one with the return address of “Department Of Financial Reimbursement and Distribution of Entitlements,” or some such official-government-looking verbiage, containing what looks like a check. It’s actually a “voucher” that “guarantees” that I will win either $20,000 cash or an instant scratch ticket.

Gasp! Which will it be? I can’t take the suspense.

So I didn’t bite on Stanberry’s sleazy sales pitch. But I have to admit that his argument seems plausible. At some point, other countries are going to get sick of those cocky Americans and their gargantuan debt, and will reject the dollar as the standard of global currency. Then our government will no longer be able to pay off debt by printing more money or whoring out the Vice President.

I wanted to get to the woods and start canning beets and knitting sweaters from my armpit hair, as it seems all these skills will be necessary quite soon.

Then I remembered Google.

It turns out Mr. Stansberry and his company, then called “Pirate Investor, LLC” (seriously), had to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution in 2007 after being convicted of scamming potential investors with misleading stock tips marketed through email SPAM.

Stansberry maintained that anyone buying stock tips from a company named “Pirate Investor, LLC” deserved to lose everything they had.

No, just kidding. He claimed his erroneous stock tips were an honest mistake. But after a few minutes at, it’s hard for me to associate the word “honest” with him at all.

If you want any credibility, come up with a web address that does not have random numbers in it, does not have the production value of a hastily-contrived middle school role play, and does not make me feel the intense need for a shower after only 20 seconds of viewing.

And, for God’s sake, don’t air your ad on sports talk radio at 12:30 a.m.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Shoes Your Weapon

For no good reason, my feet have declared war on me.

If you talk to them (I don’t recommend it, but go ahead, if you insist), they will say it’s all my fault, because I’m 30 pounds overweight and inherited this dramatic clomping motion in my gait, like I’m constantly trying to kill spiders.

True as this may be, I don’t actually walk very often. My primary recreational outlets include swimming, yelling at teenagers, and strenuous nose-picking. None of these require my feet, except occasionally the last one (only when I’m typing).

So my feet have no excuse for aching all the time.

I retaliate by wrenching them into every manner of experimental footwear I can get my hands on, trying to find something that will finally make them shut up.

Recently, I began to think I’d have to give up on shoes and try to only walk on heavily padded surfaces for the rest of my life.

This idea might not be completely crazy, according to Liberty University biology professor Daniel Howell. Interviewed on the Today Show last month, Dr. Howell said, “90 percent of our foot problems can be traced back to the shoe.” He himself goes around barefoot nearly all the time, a choice made easier by the fact that he tends to avoid public restrooms, anyway.

What about cold weather? “Your feet will adapt,” he said, as long as the ground is dry. Sounds like he won’t be visiting Maine anytime soon.

Anyway, Dr. Howell failed to convince me to eschew my shoes. For one thing, walking surfaces are often very poky. Furthermore, you don’t see too many podiatrists walking around barefoot.

So I knew there must be a shoe compromise out there someplace. A few days ago, I finally found it.

If you stray down to the Maine Mall in South Portland, you will probably wind up leaving with something weird. This time, I wound up with a pair of those newfangled round-bottomed shoes.

Go ahead and laugh, but you won’t be laughing nearly as hard when these damn things cause me to trip over your front door threshold and test the limits of your liability insurance.

Sure, from a style standpoint, three-inch soles in the shape of a half-moon do not earn many points. They call to mind a plaster cast, with less allowance for creativity -- a fabulous choice for a mythical creature from a Tolkein novel, perhaps, but not for a sophisticated man about town such as myself.

But they promise to improve your posture, tone your muscles, erase your wrinkles, enlarge your genetalia, reduce your tax liability, and cause you to burn more calories when walking.

More importantly, these half-moon soles seem to distribute my weight more to my arches, meaning they have the potential to cure my plantar fascism, or whatever the hell it is.

Anyway, after I picked up these “toner shoes,” a 20-year-old sales clerk had me stand on this machine that detected which parts of my feet felt the most pressure. The giant computer screen attached to this wondrous device showed that most of my weight rests on the heels and balls of my feet. This amazing revelation enabled the clerk to determine which set of $70 “orthopedic” insoles she would recommend.

Did I buy them? Of course I did. This is war, after all. I need every technological edge I can get.

And some really, really thick carpeting wouldn’t hurt, either.

Friday, January 7, 2011

LePage: Can He Possibly Be Any Worse?

The headline in the Bangor Daily News served up endless inspiration: “LePage Slow to Fill Cabinet.”

Easy pickings for a smart-alecky pundit.

“Maybe he ran out of relatives” - Hmm... too obvious.

“That’s not what his wife said!” - Ugh... better not.

I think I’ll go with: “That’s because no sensible human being would want to have to clean up the colossal pile of bat guano the Baldacci administration is leaving behind.”

Yeah, that should do it.

In its Dec. 31 editorial, the BDN struggled to not gush with admiration over the Italian Scallion. It praised him for everything from school consolidation to shrinking state government, pushing weatherization, and having pellet furnaces installed in state buildings.

Grasping at straws much?

“The hard job of fine-tuning and improving those initiatives falls to the next administration.” Yes, no wonder nobody wants to work for Mr. LePage; he has to deal with those pellet furnaces.

In its adolescent crush-like fawning, the BDN found fault only in Baldacci’s failure to advocate more strongly for all his super-dreamy ideas.

Ahem. Yes, well... while the state’s largest newspaper basks in Baldacci afterglow, allow me to point out that virtually everything he attempted either set us back 30 years or fizzled into a giant waste of time.

Consolidation? No need to beat that horse any more. If you have any doubt, go ask your local school board if they’ve saved any money from consolidation. I dare you.

Meanwhile, high schools across the state continue to waste millions of hours in productivity trying to wrench their curricula into the confines of the PSAT and SAT. While The College Board collects a tidy $50 a year for every 10th and 11th grader in Maine, kids who would rather not go to college, or who lack the skills for college, are left to wonder, even more than they already did, if anybody really cares about them.

Baldacci’s “principled stand” on gay marriage didn’t amount to much after he made virtually no effort to help the new law survive a referendum. He bought the law a nice ring, but then left it at the altar.

Then there’s the Department of Human Services, a steady source of debacles for the last ten years. Time and again he has cut funding for outpatient mental health services, which adds strain to exponentially more expensive jails, psychiatric hospitals, and emergency rooms.

Pennywise and pound foolish, yet again. You can take your car in for regular brake maintenance, or you can wait and let the wrecking company, police, ambulance, insurance companies, newspaper photographers, coroners, and impound lot deal with it later. Time and again, our bald-headed Mr. Nice Guy chose the latter.

Dirigo Health, once championed as an innovative compromise, languishes in near-irrelevance due to underfunding. Baldacci was not able to combat corporate interests to prevent soda tax foes and insurance companies from all but scuttling the program.

Mix it all together and you can start to see why the state still faces a budget crisis even after shedding 1000 employees in the last eight years.

So, no high-priced captains of industry will ever take a pay cut to deal with any of that mess. Who could blame them?

While I wait for my call to become the next Secretary of Innuendo, I’ll be watching closely to see what kind of Marden’s Special-type candidates he can find to salvage some respectability in the state government.