Has #BlackBerry found a white knight or a joker?

BlackBerry, which can’t give away its smartphones, got an unsolicited $4.7 billion takeover bid from its largest shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.

Or did it?

As I noted in my story in The Fiscal Times, there is less than this deal than meets the eye.  From the story:

Under the terms of the agreement, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) will be allowed “to actively solicit, receive, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals,” the company said in a statement. In other words, it can still go shop for a better offer until Nov. 4. If BlackBerry finds a better deal, it would have to pay Fairfax 30 cents a share, or more than $150 million. The termination fee would rise to 50 cents a share, or more than $260 million, if BlackBerry balks once a definitive agreement is signed.
About the only thing that BlackBerry has got going for it is its patents, which an analyst estimates could be worth about $1 billion.  The company would be wise to find a buyer.
Selling or licensing patents has been the go-to move for struggling technology companies for years. Eastman Kodak, whose film documented the 20th century before the company went into a long decline, struck a $525 million deal with a slew of technology companies such as Google and Apple in 2012. The sale was for a fraction of the $2.6 billion the company had hoped to get. Microsoft acquired AOL’s patents for $1 billion in 2012, which helped bolster the media company’s balance sheet. Nortel, which is currently mired in bankruptcy, unloaded its patents for $4.5 billion in 2011 to a consortium of companies led by Apple.

Ever wonder when #StorageWars jumped the shark?

“Storage Wars” is chock full of awesomely fake moments that it’s hard to choose just one.

My favorite, though, has to be Dave Hester’s Elvis newspaper find from 2011. The show said the stack of papers announcing the death of “The King” was worth $90,000. That’s a load of crap.

Newspapers aren’t scarce. Millions of copies of them are sold on a daily basis even in today’s Internet-dominated world. People hold onto papers when something especially newsworthy happens for years if not decades. Finding an Elvis newspaper isn’t hard, A quick check on eBay underscores this point.   None of the auctions, by the way, had any bids.

If you still want one of the actual Elvis newspapers found by Hester, check out Storage Treasures.com, which is giving them away.   The site was founded by “Storage Wars” auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson. Supplies appear to be plentiful.

Interestingly,  the Elvis paper episode happened several years before Hester complained that he was fired for complaining the show was rigged.

Why are #Disney Theme Parks Making Life Tougher for the #Disabled?

I would to wring the neck of those “handicapped” assholes who hired themselves out as tour guides at Disney theme parks and used a special pass to enable their clients to avoid the park’s long lines because they ruined a system that benefited scores of people including me.  Many parents of children with autism will have to scratch Disneyland and Disney World off the lists of things their kids can do.

As I wrote in MSN Money:

When my family and I went to Walt Disney World earlier this summer, I got a Guest Accommodations Card (GAC) because of my Parkinson’s disease…I probably won’t get this help on my next visit to the “Happiest Place on Earth” — whenever that may be —  because people were abusing the system.

According, to MiceAge, a website that tracks Disney, the company is discontinuing the GAC as of Oct. 9 at Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure and replacing it with what the company calls the Disabled Assistance System (DAS). Though the MiceAge story doesn’t mention Disney World, it seems likely that the policy will apply there as well.

Unlike the GAC, which can be used throughout the park, only one ride at a time can be reserved using the DAS. Disney may be solving one problem but creating many others.

There has to be a better way to ensure that jackasses don’t take advantage of the system. Disney, for instance could require people provide a doctor’s note to get a GAC. I was stunned that I wasn’t required to prove that I needed assistance;

Let’s Stop the #NFL’s No #Tax Touchdown Dance

When people think of tax-free organizations, most people think of charities, hospitals or universities.  What many people don’t realize is that the NFL — as in the National Football League – is in this august company even though it generates some $9.5 billion in annual revenue.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., aims to fix this injustice though odds are better that the inept Jacksonville Jaguars will win the Super Bowl.   Liberals and progressives should encourage him to fight the good fight.

As I wrote in MSN Money:

The conservative Republican yesterday introduced The Pro Sports Act, a bill that would prohibit sports organizations with annual revenue of more than $10 million from enjoying the same tax-exempt status that trade associations and public interest groups enjoy.

If passed, his bill would affect a variety of sports groups such as golf’s PGA Tour, the National Hockey League and tennis’ ATP World Tour, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Interestingly, it wouldn’t apply to Major League Baseball, which gave up its tax-exempt status in 2007, or to the National Basketball Association, which is a for-profit business, the publication says.

#Newspapers ain’t dead yet

In my first piece for Investopedia, I note that stock of newspaper publishers have been doing surprisingly well even though the fundamentals for the industry remain horrible.  From the story:

Indeed, the sector that every investing pundit loves to hate has been beaten to a bloody pulp over the last few years is starting to show signs of life, faint though they may be. Some investors, such as Warren Buffett see value here. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be-owner of the Washington Post, seems to as well as does Southeastern Asset Management, a hedge fund that recently disclosed a 12% stake in the new News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), Rupert Murdoch’s print holdings such as the Wall Street Journal.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that good times are near just less godawful ones.   Publishers are diversifying into faster-growing businesses such as television.   Some papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are benefiting from paywalls. The Washington Post didn’t start charging to access its website until this year, a huge blunder.

Attention #BarneyMiller fans: I need your help

Few people know that getting “Barney Miller”, one of the most popular and groundbreaking television programs of the 1970s and 1980s, on the air was nothing short of a miracle.   This is a largely unknown story that I want to tell in a book I am planning to write.l

Executive Producer Danny Arnold, a largely unknown sitcom pioneer, who pushed “Barney Miller” to address many hot-button political issues including gay rights, one of the first shows to do so. He clashed with ABC, which aired the show for 8 seasons and even threatened to pull the show from the network if he didn’t get his way.

Arnold’s story is a complex one. On the one hand, he could be charming and generous, lavishing extravagant gifts such as an Aston Martin on people who worked for him. But many found him to be intimidating. He was known to have unpredictable, volcanic mood swings. Few were spared his wrath, even people who he otherwise liked. Arnold had a low opinion of the human race and often said that smiling was a sign of stupidity.

A perfectionist who demanded so many changes to scripts at the last minute that they were never completed before an episode was filmed, Arnold drove the cast and crew crazy, He also snuck off the watch the races at Santa Anita when otherwise should have been working. To top it off, Arnold had to cope with feuds among the cast and a decade-long legal fight over the show’s ownership with co-creator Theodore J. Flicker which he lost at a cost of millions. He died in 1995.

As an award-winning journalist who has written about the media for more than a decade, I am qualified to tell the “Barney Miller” story. My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the “Barney Miller” story, which has been told so far on a piecemeal basis in anthologies. have interviewed members of the cast and crew along with scholars who will help me put the show in its proper historical context.

I want to hear from “Barney Miller” fans.  What   What have you always want to know about the show?  What are your favorite episodes?  What were the qualities about the show you especially liked?

By the way, Abe Vigoda is alive, at least he was when I spoke with him a few months ago.   The clip I put in this post is from the classic “Hash Brownies” episode, one of the many “Barney Miller” classics.  Enjoy.

Why NBC’s `Million Second Quiz’ is the `Biggest Loser’

If you haven’t been caught up in the excitement over NBC’s “Million Second Quiz”,  you aren’t alone.

As I noted on MSN moneyNow, “total viewership fell to 3 million on Saturday, down from the 6.5 million who watched its debut Monday.”   MSQ, as it calls itself, has got to be one of the most confusing game shows in history.  I have watched it a few times and I don’t get it.

For those wondering if there is such a thing as too much Ryan Seacrest, the answer seems to be a million times yes.

One Parkie’s opinion about Linda Ronstadt

Can the newest celebrity Parkie (that’s how we Parkinson’s sufferers identify ourselves) Linda Ronstadt ever sing again?   According to experts, perhaps.

“Twenty years ago, speech therapy didn’t work for Parkinson’s patients. But now we know that voice treatment does work, but it has to be a specific kind,”Samantha Elandary, founder and CEO of the nonprofit therapy group Parkinson Voice Project in Dallas, told AARP.

Another expert quoted by the group’s website,  Dr. Zoltan Mari, interim director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins University,  pointed out that vocal therapy can be effective though it is not clear if it could help a singer of Ronstadt’s caliber.

Ronstadt owes it to herself and her millions of fans to at least give these therapies a try. The singer, who made many hearts flutter during her heyday in the 1970s, seems to have been in denial about her condition for years.  it’s a shame. One of the reasons why she wrote her memoir “Simple Dreams” is that she’s broke because she can’t earn a living.

The question people with Parkinson’s, or any other chronic medical condition have to ask themselves is whether they will let it define them. Of course, it will to an extent. When people see me they always want to do know how I am feeling.  That’s perfectly natural and I don’t mind telling them that I have my good days and bad days.

But fighting Parinson’s is a battle, a marathon one.  I think myself as a mythic knight  doing battle with a dragon. My battlefield is the kickboxing gym.  Occasionally, it’s the weight room or the roads near my house.  The point is that I try really hard to keep the disease at bay by keeping my body moving.  I probably should exercise even more.

If I could sing like Linda Ronstadt (which I can’t), I would move heaven and earth to try to regain my voice if Parkinson’s took it from me. I hope she can find the strength to fight for what’s important to her.  Even if all she can manage is “Happy Birthday”, it will be worth the effort.