Riff Raff: Observations, drug money, ‘far away eyes,’ and gum and trinkets

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 425 views 

There is this guy dressed as a clown singing The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” to the music of Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Genius. America is great again, already. Even if we can’t keep track of our aircraft carriers or make Mexico pay for The Wall. When’s the medical marijuana become available?

• Entered the liquor store when one of those bad-ass looking Harleys pulled up. Driver walked in. Had on the usual garb. A bandana, black jeans with a black shirt, leather and worn boots. Grizzly beard. Tough looking fella.

He gets a bottle of Kahlua. Yep, Kahlua.

I’m looking like some lame-ass professor in my flip flops, horned rim glass, t-shirt and frat boy cargo shorts, but am carrying out a big bottle of bourbon. Maker’s Mark. Spent the next several minutes wondering how this upside downness could be Obama’s fault. Maybe it’s the fault of that jackass Trump, who might have some of us thinking about a White Russian.

• Sure, some songs are better than others, and folks with a deep aversion to any form of country music may abhor “Girl With Far Away Eyes.” But is there such a thing as a bad Rolling Stones tune?

• Most, if not all, pharmaceutical companies have a policy against their drugs being used for lethal injection. They want us to know their products are for medicine, and not for death. That’s admirable, and am sure well received by the growing number of Americans who believe the death penalty is not the option of a civilized society.

But there is an obvious in-your-face hypocrisy with drug company policies on executions. They object to direct death of convicted murderers via lethal injection, but have for decades encouraged the broad use of opioids, which has resulted in the indirect deaths of thousands of innocents. There is a lot of money to made with pain meds. There is no money to be made with death meds. Low profits create an easy path for taking the high road. And vice versa.

• Speaking of killing innocent people. A 2014 report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences noted: “Since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated. As a percentage of all death sentences, that’s just 1.6 percent. But if the innocence rate is 4.1 percent, more than twice the rate of exoneration, the study suggests what most people assumed but dreaded: An untold number of innocent people have been executed. Further, the majority of those wrongfully sentenced to death are likely to languish in prison and never be freed.”

The report also found that the rate of exoneration for death row inmates is higher than any other category.

“Death sentences represent less than one-tenth of 1% of prison sentences in the United States, but they accounted for about 12% of known exonerations of innocent defendants from 1989 through early 2012, a disproportion of more than 130 to 1.”

What is our acceptable margin of error for use of the death penalty? 1 in 10? 5 in 100? If some innocent people have to die to ensure our version of the ultimate justice, what number would allow you comfort? My vote is something along the lines of zero.

• Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillion was paid – salary, stocks, gum and trinkets, use of the corporate jet to get to the end of his driveway and get the mail, etc. – $22.352 million in the most recent fiscal year. OK, maybe not gum and trinkets and mail gathering, but he did get paid $22.352 million. That’s $61,238 a day.

The next four guys received $38.11 million combined. The five guys earned $60.462 million – or enough for 1.511 million bottles of Maker’s Mark – in the recent fiscal year. The general fund budget for Arkansas’ second largest city is around $42 million. Based on the most recent Census data on household income in Arkansas, the combined pay of the five Wal-Mart associates at the top of the associate ladder earned as much as 1,439 Arkansas households.

You, Kind Reader, are probably thinking this is one of those Bernie Sanders-induced rants. That’s up to your perspective about value and worth and the philosophical intangibles that range between an unfettered marketplace and the social responsibility of a corporation and associated executives. But here’s the thing. Wal-Mart Stores generated roughly $1.331 billion in revenue a day in the recent fiscal year.

Not a typo. $1.331 billion a day.

Would you, as a board member of company XYZ, vote to pay the top five folks a combined $165,000 a day to manage the collection of more than $1.33 billion in daily sales?

My simple Johnson County farm boy logic sees that as a square deal. I’d even throw in the gum and trinkets.

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