Saturday, November 11, 2023

Biden family transactions revisited

"Moral clarity" is a phrase I heard recently and it comes to mind when sorting out these troubling times and who's done what for whom and why.  In the case of the $200,000 (or $240,000) sum(s) transferred between the Biden brothers, there is absolute clarity someplace.  We just don't know where it is yet.

The money transfers under scrutiny, either represent a legitimate extension and repayment of a loan, or they don't.  Much seems to hinge upon a trust account established by a Delaware law firm used to transact business on behalf of ___________ and that's the question....who?  

Rep. Comer and company seek to prove that the trust fund was used to launder money for the benefit of Hunter Biden, his Uncle and partners -- and ultimately to compensate the elder Joe Biden.  

The White House and their acolytes seek to prove that the trust account in question was controlled exclusively by Joe Biden and simply used as a conduit for the funds extended by Joe Biden to his brother, in the form of a personal, interest-free loan.

Neither side has definitively proven its case.  Only one side can be correct and that's the missing clarity.

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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Biden family storm potential

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If President Joe Biden didn't have enough to worry about with epic low approval ratings, a massive border crisis, rampant inflation, unclaimed cocaine deposits in the White House and a deeply polarized Congress, the corruption charges levied against NJ Senator Bob Menendez yesterday reminded me of the President's other smoldering problems...  

#1.   "10 held by H for the big guy?"  According to an article from the Washington Post Fact Checker, an email from one of Hunter's business associates proposes a profit allocation of 20% for each associate except for Hunter's Uncle Jim Biden, who would get 10% -- and a remaining 10% allocable to the "big guy" which would be held by Hunter.   

The email author has asserted that the big guy actually refers to Jim Biden, not Joe Biden.  However, one of the other business associates in receipt of the email, said that's false and that it actually referred to Hunter Biden's father.  Who's telling the truth?

The project was a flop and so there's no financial benefit (at least from this venture) that inured to the benefit of whomever the big guy is, but the whole Jim Biden--Big Guy explanation is odd.  If the email author and business partner was already proposing a 10% allocation for Jim Biden, why would he propose that his nephew hold another 10% for him?  Why escrow this 10% kicker with Hunter instead of just paying Jim Biden 20%?  And is there a history of these business partners calling Jim Biden the big guy?   

#2.  The second problem is an allegation that if proven, could become equally injurious to President Biden's administration.  The allegation is that the Justice Department may have deliberately impeded the investigation of Hunter Biden's tax problems.  That allegation is supported by two highly credible IRS sources.  If this can be proven, President Biden would presumably allege he knew nothing of it and sack Justice officials on the order of President Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox in 1973 to thwart impeachment.  Of course, if it is proven that Joe Biden did know of investigation obstruction; let alone approved of it, he's finished.  

I hasten to add, that's a big "if" and it's too early to credibly draw such a conclusion.  Yet, if problem #2 has legs, America would sadly witness corruption at least as serious as the famous cover up of a third rate burglary.         


Saturday, September 16, 2023

A late summer rant and a rave

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1. Let's start with a new movie called, "Dumb Money".  After watching the trailer for Dumb Money and seeing a couple of ads, the experience raised a question in my it OK to criticize a film one has never seen?  Logic dictates that the answer is no.  Call me illogical.

What turned me off initially was the commercial touting how the film" a riotous middle finger to the capitalist swine on Wall Street."  My, how deliciously Populist.  The film creators have obviously positioned Dumb Money as a paean to the little guy fighting against the evil asset managers, punctuated with an F-bomb per minute, until the digitally-wired counter culture decks the big money guys holding a large short position.  

Yes it happened, but I'm tired of class war art.  In this case, people will make a lot of money by trashing Capitalism and its adherents.  Quite a paradox.

2. Let's end with a positive take on American Express's new method to redeem cardmember reward points.  In the old days, if you wanted to cover a portion of your card charges with points; you had to go through this ritual of scrolling through transactions and applying points individually by transaction, in order to obtain the credit against your balance of charges.  Not anymore!  

One click and the entire value of your points is credited against your next bill.  No more trolling and scrolling through your transactions and applying points by transaction to obtain the credit.  Stupendous.   

Monday, August 21, 2023

Parsing the out of office reply

We all use it, but how should we use it and when?  I'm talking about that automatic email feature known as an "Out of Office" reply.  

Let's ignore the when consideration for now; but it's the "how" behind the usage of the out of office reply that piques my interest today.  I received one recently that reads exactly like this with nothing added before or afterward:  

"I'm ooo."  

That's it.  I'm ooo.  First, imagine receiving a voicemail greeting like that -- spoken exactly the same way followed by a beep to record a message.  As a caller I'd be speechless.  

Now consider, that you need something from the email author of that "ooo".  You might reasonably conclude after receiving this sorry example above that he/she: 

a) doesn't know when he/she will return 

b) doesn't wish to be bothered and 

c) doesn't care enough about the email recipient to mention an alternative in his/her absence.

I understand there's been an increasing desire among many in the workforce to have a clear delineation between work time and personal time each day, but that desire shouldn't trump common courtesy, or common sense.  

Here are two simple guidelines for composing that out of office reply:

1.  Give the reader some idea of when you'll be back on the job and reading your emails, or at least the frequency with which you plan to pay attention to email in the coming days. 

2.  More importantly; give the recipient an alternative.  Mention either another email address of someone who can handle a need for action, or if you want to handle responses yourself; invite the sender to text those urgent matters to your cell phone.

Within an hour of posting my little screed above about out of office replies; I received an excellent example of one that allows me to close this post on a positive note.  Here's an "ooo" done right:

"I am currently out of the office on vacation the week of 8/21 and will be back at it on Monday 8/28.   I will be checking email at least once a day and will try to get back to you timely for anything that is urgent.  Send a text for anything especially urgent.  Thanks"


Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Normandy reviewed

Last month I walked the beaches of Normandy and in so doing fulfilled a longing first realized as a young boy during the 1970s while reading about D-Day and Operation Overlord.  

That longing was stoked in 1998 after viewing the film Saving Private Ryan with it's horrific, albeit accurate, depiction of the slaughter and ultimate triumph of American forces at Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.  

John Maddente photo

The structures occupied by German soldiers firing MG-42 machine guns @ 1200 rounds per minute from the top of a ridge, were not visible to me while walking the beach.  The view of those remaining machine gun nests, my Guide instructed, are part of another tour (disappointing).

My feeling while present on those beaches was one more of awe - for example, seeing the 100 foot cliffs the Rangers scaled at Pointe Du Hoc - than the raw emotion I felt while walking the nearby Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (below).  

If you've ever spoken with veteran who's experienced combat and suggest that he is a hero, he will likely answer that the real heroes never returned.

John Maddente selfie


Saturday, March 11, 2023

And the debate winner is....


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Although I was intrigued today by an article in the WSJ from Mike Edleson and Andy Puzder, I will not share my views about ESG investing.  Is it moral or amoral?  Sensible?  Profitable?  Suffice it to say, one can make a reasonable case for or against ESG investing depending upon measurement criteria, objectives and definitions.  

I will however express my views about another equally polarizing topic: foods and beverages!  I won't equivocate on that topic.  Here's a tasty sample of seven culinary flashpoints that are suitable for socially-acceptable debates.

Pizza & Hot Dogs

Possibly America's favorite food, I must have thin crust pizza with cracker crisp qualities and zesty toppings (toppings is a whole topic for another post).  To my friends in Chicago; please forgive me, but what you call "Deep Dish Pizza" is actually a satisfying tomato casserole with too much dough.  However, Chicago can lay claim to the finest hot dogs (and I agree, no ketchup on a dog allowed).  For store bought beef frankfurters; I'm partial to Hebrew National brand.


Make mine crisp.  This iconic cut of meat from the hog's belly should not be served limp, chewy, or with visible fat globules.

Coke vs. Pepsi

Talk about polarizing debates!  Cola devotees might never patronize both giant beverage makers, but I do.  Diet Pepsi is not only wildly superior to Diet Coke, but I find Diet Coke almost undrinkable.  Regarding Coke Zero vs Pepsi Zero -- I'll give Coke the edge.


Follow your Doctor's or Nutritionist's advice.  Gluten doesn't affect me.


When did this onslaught of Peanut allergies begin?  Why did it begin?  I love these little legumes and Virginia Peanuts are the best I've found.  Please do not serve me the un-salted type and consider serving Peanuts really cold.  That chill factor is something I learned from a dear friend with a serious taste for chocolate covered Peanuts.

Charcoal and Smokers vs. Gas Grilling

For purposes of taste comparison -- there is no comparison.  Charcoal is best.  I sometimes hear the argument about the speed of Gas Grilling, to which I normally respond, "What's your hurry?"  The same principle applies to smokers vs. gas grills -- smoking is well worth the wait.

Orange Juice

There are few things in this life I find as gratifying as a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice.  Unfortunately, every substitute for the fresh variety I have found distasteful.  Take McDonald's, I've long believed that their orange juice is the worst-tasting item on the breakfast whole menu.


Friday, February 24, 2023

Because it's not theirs to change

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This week 
there was controversy stemming from a publisher's decision to edit versions of children's stories written by the late Roald Dahl.  The edits, whether inspired by Netflix (who according to Forbes purchased the rights to Dahl's work) or the publisher Puffin Books, sparked a public outcry and PR nightmare.

The publisher curated an alternative version to the original work from Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, (a story later adapted to make the film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), ostensibly to remove insensitive terms.

There are several reasons why this ill-conceived, if well-intentioned attempt at inclusiveness -- a term becoming increasingly elastic -- failed miserably.  I'm not discussing the evils of censorship today.  Altering original art work to appeal to others is ill advised for another's not theirs to change (and doing so can backfire).  

One can obviously own the legal right to another's intellectual property, or the physical manifestation of it, say an oil painting.  Yet, just because one has the enabling force of law to alter someone else's original art, doesn't make it right, or sensible, to add a few personal brushstrokes to a classic.  Let me illustrate with an example.  

There's an iconic rock n' roll song called, "Fortunate Son", which was a protest song written about the Vietnam War and recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival ("CCR") in the late 1960s.  It's a great song.

Now, imagine that I purchased the rights to that song and decided to publicly release a NEW version with lyrics, more to my personal liking.  My justification might be that I want the song to appeal to Conservative listeners; so we need to update the original lyrics.  

We'll leave untouched, the original arrangement, tempo, time signatures etc. but using the wizardry of modern sound engineering, we'll just tweak the vocals by dubbing in my new lyrics.  

I rewrote those song lyrics below by crossing out some original words and adding new ones in bold font.  I kept the syllable count of each line exactly the same.  If you read the altered lyrics below, it won't take long to understand why changing someone else's popular artform to impart one's own worldview, is a bad idea and likely to mobilize intense opposition.  

My apologies in advance to John Fogerty who wrote the song and to CCR fans everywhere. I offer this wordsmithing below only to make a point.  I "own" my edits and nothing more.  Now cue the song, click MORE and let's rock!