Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Howard Hughes, Quaker Oats, and the New London Police

Years ago I read a biography of Howard Hughes by a couple of award-winning investigative reporters. It was comprehensive, detailed and well-written. In a nutshell the book relates how young Howard inherited $6 billion worth of assets (primarily the Hughes Tool Co.) in the 1920's and, then, through a fifty-year career of decision-making, was able to turn it into a portfolio worth about $600 million. This equates to a loss of wealth at the prodigious rate of about $300,000 per day for five decades. Some spender, eh?

The reason I make note of this is that over the years I have read the media portraying Howard as 'the visionary businessman' and the 'epitome of American entrepreneurial spirit' and so on, and so on. This is what the newspapers and television tell us. And it is wrong. Howard Hughes was an insecure, not-very-bright, self-centered crybaby with a host of psychological problems that can be traced to an overprotective mother. The only real attribute he had was a huge stash at the get-go.

Now I have believed that some sort of record for losing money was achieved by Howard until recently I learned that Quaker Oats Co. is in the running. About two years ago the management of Quaker decided to expand their business by buying the Snapple brand of teas and fruit drinks for $1.7 billion. The crack Quaker management team then went about changing the successful marketing and distribution formula for Snapple and lost money. They lost so much money that last month they sold Snapple to a New York beverage company for $300 million. That equates to a loss of assets of $1.4 billion, or $700 million each year for two years, or almost $2 million a day. Howard Hughes' losses could be considered gradual when compared to the massive wealth evaporation produced by the boneheads at Quaker. I suspect those boneheads continue to haul in multimillion dollar salaries.

You're probably wondering why I bother to bring this all up. Well, there's a reason. Simple analysis would lend one to believe that Howard Hughes was a bonehead and the people who revere him and his legacy are boneheads. One could also easily surmise that the management team at Quaker Oats is boneheaded. Now I have a belief that this is not a desirable condition. Being boneheaded is not something to strive for. This is my opinion and I assume that most people would agree. Most people, however, does not include the city fathers of New London, Conn.

Wonderlic Personnel Test Inc. of Libertyville, Illinois produces an intelligence test that is administered to nearly 3 million people yearly to screen potential employees. It is quite appropriate and logical that the test be used to assure that new hires have minimal intelligence. It is contrary to all reasoning that the test results be used to screen out people who have too much intelligence.

This is what occurred several years ago in New London where Robert Jordan scored too high on the police officer exam and was rejected as a recruit. This makes absolutely no sense to me. They screen out the boneheads. Okay, fine. Then they screen out the smart people. What? What the hell does that leave, the partially-dumb? What is the goal? A police force of half-wits?

Somehow the following scenario seems appropriate.
"Well, Mr. Jordan, I called you in here to discuss your performance evaluation for the past year." The chief thumbed through some papers. "I have the reports from your patrol area. The armed assault rate is down. Rapes and burglaries have decreased. Your apprehensions normally lead to convictions. And it appears you've taken an active interest in the social well-being of the citizens too. Spend alot of time with the boys club, eh?"


"Uh-huh." He paused momentarily. "And I see in your career advancement profile that you've been taking some courses in criminal justice at the university. How's that going?"

"Just fine, sir. I'm making straight A's and should have an associate degree in a couple years."

The chief glared at him, "Well, let me tell you something, mister. We don't much appreciate smart-aleck types on the New London police force. We have pride. If you wanted to be some kind of Einstein, you shouldn't have applied for a job here. I'm disappointed with you and I'm not recommending you for a merit increase in salary. Now, get out of my sight." Mr. Jordan prompty departs and the chief yells to his secretary, "Send in Officer Fife."

She responds, "I'm sorry, sir. He's not here. There was an accident."

"What kind of accident?"

"Well, sir, he inadvertantly dropped his firearm and it discharged, striking him in the hand. He's at the hospital now." She paused, "Sir, by the way, it's the same hand he shot last year."

"That's okay. I really don't have to see him to make out my recommendations. Tell me, has Fife's promotion papers been approved by the mayor yet?"

"Yessir, they have."


Unfortunately, half-witted decision-makers are all around us and it would be an insurmountable task to catalog them all. In my heart, though, I think there is a real need for a Bonehead Hall of Fame. A permanent place for all those people who make monumental dumbass decisions because they're just dumb people. My nominees for the inaugural induction would be Howard Hughes, Quaker Oats management, and the New London city fathers. I recommend the hall be located in Washington, D.C. Where else?

[Updated 01/25/07]

In a not entirely illogical turn of events, New London is reported to be experiencing a significant crime wave. Imagine that? Could it be that the city needs smarter cops?

Monday, April 28, 2003

April 28, 2003 The blogging universe is a place I want to ask questions, make comments and not forget history.

My first comment concerns the President's tax plan and the expressed opinion of Ohio Senator Voinovich. It appears to me that the President wants to return to the people their own money. George Voinovich wants to keep the people's money for government use. The President says (and I believe him) that more money in the hands of consumers spurs the economy which results in increased tax revenue and, thereby, more than compensates for the loss associated with reduction in rates. Senator Voinovich maintains that tax reduction would increase the deficit and the bill would have to be paid by our progeny. I heard or read somewhere that Senator George Voinovich has never bought anything on credit which could explain his thinking, if true. There seems to be an honest disagreement based on values.

I'm not so sure that our senator realizes the position that Jacques Chirac is in at present. Loyalty is a paramount value. I don't see loyalty to the President from Senator Voinovich.

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