Saturday, November 24, 2007

George W. Bush and the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Recently, Frank Deford did a piece on NPR's "Morning Edition" in which he likened certain national politicians to sports figures. For instance, Barack Obama is Roger Federer, Mitt Romney is Derek Jeter, and Ron Paul is Manny 'that's just Manny-being-Manny' Ramirez. Most of Deford's selections are a stretch, although linking George W. Bush and MLB commissioner Bud Selig makes some sense. However, it sees to us that George W. is more like a winless team--the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (or the 2007 Miami Dolphins, if you prefer)--because he's embarrassing and painful to watch, and delivers predictably horrible results week in and week out. Can anyone think of a better comparison?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me a third time?

In December of 2004, Failure magazine named “The American Voter” as its “Failure of the Year” for re-electing George W. Bush and leaving Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. In that article Failure predicted that Americans would “get what they deserve,” (i.e., self-destructive policy decisions coupled with woefully inept and corrupt leadership) and implied that the American public would rue the day it made such a misguided decision.

Almost three years later--now that the Bush Administration’s policies are really beginning to dramatically lower almost everyone’s quality of life--Americans have finally come to the conclusion that America needs a change of direction. The disturbing part is we're not convinced that this time next year America will actually vote for change. More and more it seems like a distinct possibility that Americans will vote for “more of the same.” It’s going to be really embarrassing if America is “fooled” a third time.

On a related note, we're also convinced that Americans are suffering from scandal fatigue. Over the past seven years we’ve heard of so many scandals, lies and abominations that the latest and greatest don’t seem to have much impact.

Here at Failure we’ve been compiling a list of many of the mistakes, blunders, lies and errors the American people have been subjected to over the course of the last seven years. It’s a very long list, all in bullet point form, each item an easily digestible sentence or two or three. Some of the items are nothing more than memorable quotes. Below are a few samples, all of which relate to the so-called “War on Terror.”

“We will be greeted as liberators” (no).

“The conflict will last six months” (no).

“The war will be paid for by oil revenues” (no).

“Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive” (no).

“Mission Accomplished” (no).

“Plan For Victory” (no).

“Bring it on!” (okay, the insurgents did indeed ‘bring it’)

Insiders who have seen “the list” usually react with, uh, shock and awe, à la, “This is truly horrifying when you see everything all in one place.” And believe us, it is pretty horrifying.

Maybe next year come election time Failure will publish “the list.” Our populace may need a reminder of what “more of the same” might look like.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lost Luggage

Spend any time at an airport baggage claim and it won’t be long before you spot a solitary suitcase going round and round on an otherwise empty baggage carousel. Ever wondered what happens to that suitcase if the airline is unable to reunite it with its owner? Chances are it ultimately ends up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, a one-of-a-kind retailer that purchases lost and unclaimed bags from the airlines, then re-sells the bags and their contents at a store in Scottsboro, Alabama, The Unclaimed Baggage Center.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Do You Give Good E-mail?

Have you ever considered the possibility that you're not good at e-mailing? If not, perhaps you should. You might not realize that you're in need of help.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Next: Disaster

In the wake of last week’s bridge collapse in downtown Minneapolis, state officials across the U.S. have been rushing to inspect their own bridges—especially those 700-plus spans that are similar in design to that of the I-35W crossing. One bridge in Missouri has already been closed indefinitely, and others are sure to follow.

This bridge collapse and subsequent response brings to mind the saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I don’t want to be too critical, because in the U.S. major engineering-related disasters are rare. Let’s give our engineers and safety monitors credit where credit is due.

But let’s face it, the U.S. is becoming increasingly reactive (as opposed to proactive) when it comes to preventing and mitigating disasters. Pre-Katrina our government was well aware of what might happen to New Orleans in the wake of a major hurricane. And we’ve all been hearing for several years how the infrastructure in the U.S. is crumbling, yet we aren’t doing nearly enough to replace and repair our aging buildings, roads and bridges. I’m certain that the engineering community saw a major bridge collapse coming—that we were “overdue,” so to speak. Yet, it always takes a high-profile disaster before we begin to seriously address such problems—and sometimes even that isn’t enough.

All of this might leave you wondering what the next major U.S. transportation disaster is going to be. As someone who studies failure on an everyday basis I can take a pretty good guess:

Right now, the big fear among aviation safety experts is that two commercial airliners are going to collide on the ground at a major U.S. airport, most likely while one plane is taxiing and the other is taking off or landing. The accident is expected to occur at a busy hub where planes frequently taxi across runways, and/or at an airport that handles a lot of international flights (where communications between pilots and controllers may be hindered somewhat by a language barrier).

“Close calls” are occurring all the time, and an accident such as this is likely to happen sooner rather than later. But badly-needed safety measures aren’t likely to be implemented until after we experience an accident akin to the one that occurred at Tenerife, Canary Islands on March 27, 1977, where PanAm and KLM 747’s collided on the ground, killing 583 people.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Officials warned in 1990: Bridge was "structurally deficient"

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune structural deficiencies in the I-35W bridge were so serious that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) last winter considered bolting steel plates to its supports to prevent cracking in the fatigued bridge metal.

"Fears about bridge safety fueled emotional debate within the agency, according to a construction industry source. But on the I-35W bridge, transportation officials opted against making the repairs. Officials were concerned that drilling thousands of tiny bolt holes would weaken the bridge. Instead, MnDOT launched an inspection that was interrupted this summer by unrelated work on the bridge's concrete driving surface.

The Associated Press (AP) also reported that in 1990 Minnesota officials were warned that the bridge was "structurally deficient," yet they relied on patchwork repairs. The federal government also gave the I-35W bridge a rating of "structurally deficient," citing significant corrosion in its bearings.

As recently as 2005 a federal inspection also rated the bridge structurally deficient, giving it a 50 on a scale of 100 for structural stability.

And during the 1990s, inspections found fatigue cracks and corrosion in the steel around the bridge's joints. Those problems were repaired. Starting in 1993, the state said, the bridge was inspected annually instead of every other year.

The collapsed bridge's last full inspection was completed June 15, 2006. The report shows previous inspectors' notations of fatigue cracks in the spans approaching the river, including one 4 feet long that was reinforced with bolted plates. A 1993 entry noted 3,000 feet of cracks in the surface of the bridge; they were later sealed.

Engineers wondered whether heavy traffic might have contributed to the collapse. Studies of the bridge have raised concern about cracks caused by metal fatigue.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said while the inspection didn't indicate the bridge was at risk of failing, "if an inspection report identifies deficiencies, the state is responsible for taking corrective actions."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty responded Thursday by ordering an immediate inspection of all bridges in the state with similar designs, but said the state was never warned that the bridge needed to be closed or immediately repaired.

So whose responsibility was it? It is clear that the bridge was declared "deficient" in 1990 and every year since. The families of the dead, the missing and the injured would like to know.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

50th Anniversary of the Edsel

Today's New York Times features an article entitled "To Ford, a Disaster. To Edsel Owners, Love," which chronicles how Edsel fans are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the auto industry's most famous failure.

Failure magazine's March 2002 feature - Edsel: An Auto Biography.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Big, odd and useless projects that failed

From the "What Were They Thinking?" department is Mental Floss' stunning top five projects that failed:

My favorite? The misguided attempt to dam Idaho's Snake River.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Phillies Suffer 10,000th Defeat

Tonight, the Philadelphia Phillies organization suffered the 10,000th loss in its 125 year history, losing 10-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Fittingly, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt, as the Cardinals hit six home runs and generally dominated the Phillies.

Coincidentally, the game was scheduled for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, and as a result it was televised nationally. Throughout the contest the ESPN announcers talked about losing; even the trivia question focused on defeat, asking, "Which Phillies player has participated in the most Phillies losses?" The answer: Mike Schmidt (who was involved in 1,140 Phillies defeats). One fan even held up a placard that read, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work. -Thomas Edison."

To find out how Phillies fans plan to "celebrate" the 10,000th defeat read "Loss Leaders."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bush says Democrats are failing

Earlier today, during his weekly radio address, President Bush said, "Democrats are failing in their responsiblity to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely." Well, if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black. Specifically, Bush was referring to the death of the recent immigration bill. Never mind the fact that the primary reason the immigration overhaul failed was due to opposition from members of his own party.

Of course, Bush uses this tactic all the time, pointing the finger at others (or attempting to liken his efforts to especially noble past endeavors) in an effort to divert attention from his administration's own failures. Hopefully, the American people have learned to see through Bush's diversionary tactics, but sometimes I'm not so sure.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Extent of Right-Wing Radio Bias Revealed

Today, the Center for American Progress and the Free Press released a report entitled “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” which conclusively proves that there’s an overwhelming right-wing bias on American news/talk radio. Of course, this should be a surprise to no one. Even though it has been several years since the debut of Air America, most Americans would still be hard-pressed to name a single progressive or liberal radio host, while countless conservative hosts—including Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, G. Gordon Liddy, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved, Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage—enjoy national name recognition.

But the report is still shocking in terms of how one-sided the statistics are. CBS’s 30 stations feature 74% conservative content versus 26% progressive; Clear Channel’s 145 stations are 86% conservative and only 14% progressive; Citadel (23 stations), Cumulus (31 stations) and Salem (28 stations) are all 100% conservative. Not surprisingly, several major American cities—including Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia—hear no progressive or liberal-oriented news/talk radio at all. And even in a supposedly liberal city like New York, the majority of airtime (53% to 47%) is devoted to conservative content. Click here to read the report.

Now what we need is a study illustrating the right-wing bias on television. Fox is still the acknowledged leader in terms of conservative slant, but in recent years ABC has been threatening to overtake Fox in terms of right-wing bias. Meanwhile, CBS and CNN have both become predominantly conservative; only NBC maintains any semblance of balance.

Monday, May 28, 2007

New feature article in Failure magazine entitled Worm War I - about the ongoing trademark-false advertising-unjust enrichment lawsuit between Scotts Miracle-Gro and TerraCycle Inc.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Campaign Theme Songs

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has garnered more than its share of attention. Most recently she has been soliciting assistance “from the people” in choosing her official campaign song. Among the songs up for consideration are “I’m a Believer” (Smash Mouth), “Rock This Country!” (Shania Twain), “Beautiful Day” (U2) and “Suddenly I See” (KT Turnstall) — plus write-in candidates like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (The Police) and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” (Lenny Kravitz). For Hillary, choosing a campaign song is a delicate proposition, because she needs a song that’s strong and upbeat, and at the same time feminine but not too girlie.

Naturally, people who aren’t fond of Hillary have picked up the torch and offered up their own subversive suggestions — “The Bitch is Back” (Elton John), “Bitch” (The Rolling Stones), and “Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” (Motley Crue) — being a few representative samples. Of course, it’s easy to pick on Hillary; not only has the conservative media been working overtime (for the past 15 years) to demonize her, there’s no shortage of popular songs demonizing women in general.

That’s why a more interesting and less obvious question is what songs Democrats would choose to assign to the 2008 Republican presidential candidates — including Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain — if given the chance. This would appear to be a considerably more challenging proposition, for at least two reasons: Ideally, the songs would remind listeners of the corruption, dishonesty and failure of the past six years of Republican leadership, while at the same time reflecting the personalities (or lack thereof) of our white bread Republican candidates.

Nevertheless, we invite you to offer suggestions, either for individual candidates, or the group as a whole. Feel free to submit them as “comments” below.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Carter refers to the George W. Bush administration as the "worst in history"

The following quote sounds like a good candidate for Failure magazine's This Day in Failure feature. Today, former President Jimmy Carter was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as saying, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation and the world, this [George W. Bush] administration has been the worst in history. The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan ... has been the most disturbing to me."

While some would argue that the Carter Administration was itself a failure, it's difficult to argue with Carter's assessment. Even die-hard Republicans can't wait to throw Bush under the bus. No doubt, at the next Republican National Convention the Republicans will try to pretend that George W. Bush never existed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Walter Thomas goes bust in 12 minutes

Walter Thomas (6-5, 375) received more than his share of attention leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft thanks to his size, strength, and natural physical ability. Yet, despite his awesome upside potential Thomas went undrafted, signing as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints. In hindsight, perhaps Thomas should have signed with a northern team, as opposed to one that practices in the humid, Louisiana heat. According to the Saints' official Web site, "the massive lineman lasted less than 15 minutes into the [team's] first practice before leaving the field and not being able to continue in the warm conditions."

"He had a brief career," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "It was a situation where from a conditioning standpoint he had a long way to go. I think it was 12 or 13 minutes into practice and he was struggling."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tort Reform and Lawsuit Abuse

As you may know, Failure recently posted several new stories related to the controversial topics of tort reform and lawsuit abuse: One is a Q&A with Stephanie Mencimer, author of the book "Blocking the Courthouse Door" (Free Press). The other considers whether Satan can be held legally responsible for his actions? As you may know, Satan has on at least one occasion been taken to court. Read "Devil's Advocate" to find out how he fared as a defendant.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tort reform and "frivolous" lawsuits

A few days ago America Online’s subscriber home page featured a news story recounting a long list of supposedly frivolous/loony lawsuits. You know, the kind of suits that tort reform groups present to the media as fact, but which are actually hoaxes or misleadingly oversimplified sound bites that bear little relation to the actual cases.

I write not to point a finger at AOL; many large media outlets allow themselves to be mouthpieces for the propaganda of tort reform advocates. This explains why virtually everyone in the U.S. has heard of the McDonald’s coffee-spill lawsuit, in which an old woman (Stella Liebeck) supposedly received $3 million, all because she made the mistake of spilling hot coffee on herself. What you never heard is that she was paid only a very small fraction of that amount, and that she had a very strong and legitimate case against McDonald’s. The truth is, she probably deserved several million dollars in damages.

With this in mind, Failure magazine will soon be publishing a special issue on the subject of frivolous lawsuits and tort reform. We’ll be featuring an interview with Stephanie Mencimer, author of “Blocking the Courthouse Door” (Free Press), a new book which demonstrates that our so-called litigation crisis is a myth, and explains how insurance companies and big businesses are fighting to win new limits on citizens’ right to sue.

We’ll also be shining a spotlight on some of these “frivolous lawsuits” you’ve heard about--either to expose them as urban myths or explain how the facts have been so grotesquely twisted that they really do sound loony. Believe it or not, even Satan himself has been party to a lawsuit. Stay tuned to find out how the Devil fared in court.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Route 66

In its heyday Route 66 was arguably the most famous highway in history. But by the time it was officially decomissioned in the mid-1980s, towns and cities all along the route were in decline. But are Route 66 communities in the midst of a comeback? Find out in "Route 66: Road Worthy."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Myth Busters & The Hindenburg

In January 2002 Failure magazine reported on the legendary Hindenburg disaster of 1937. On Wednesday January 10 (9pm) the Discovery Channel's "MythBusters" examines the Hindenburg disaster, experimenting with a miniature replica in an attempt to prove how it caught fire and why it burned so fiercely. For more information click here.