Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Lesson in Greed



Last week, a story from my neck of the woods, northern New England, captured the national news and imagination of folks across America.  A regional, family-owned chain of grocery stores, Market Basket, had been in the grip of a family battle for control, resulting in losses of millions of dollars in revenue, employee generated strikes and people weighing in from all sides:  the street, the air waves, print and online. In June, long-time CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was fired by his board of directors led by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas.  Many employees went on strike or joined store boycotts protesting the firing of the man who has led the company for decades.

For six weeks, many of the 25,000 non-union workers created picket lines, refused to enter stores and refused to stock shelves, forgoing paychecks and risking being fired. Their actions left 71 stores throughout Massachusett and southern New Hampshire without product to sell, costing the company millions of dollars. Apparently the Demoulas cousin rivalry had been ongoing for years. Employees sided with "Artie T" whom they say knew the name of every employee in every store, regularly visited the stores and treated them all "like family".  It's been a heartwarming story to watch in this age of corporate indifference.
Workers said the new leadership would destroy the culture of Market Basket, where employees could often earn greater pay and benefits than at other grocery stores. Customers worried that prices would be increased if profit became a greater focus.   wmur.com 8/29/14
Cynic that I am, I can only hope and pray the means by which Artie T used to buy out his cousin for $1.5 BILLION dollars will not result in the very thing the employees feared to begin with, the destruction of their culture.  
But the deal requires Artie T. to raise $550 million in the private equity and commercial markets, mortgage Market Basket real estate, and invest a huge piece of his personal wealth. Market Basket will be a debt-laden enterprise that will have a tough time making payments while also keeping good wages and benefits for associates, fair deals with suppliers, and low prices for customers. Something in the traditional success formula will change.     BU Today 9/02/14
Demoulas borrowed from private equity firm The Blackstone Group.
It all begins with something called private equity, a vast pool of money managed by very tough-minded business-school types. The banker who gave you your mortgage is a teddy bear compared to these guys.   nhpr.org 8/29/14
Yes.  If there's any lagging, they're going to want their pound of flesh.  the easiest way to cut costs is...cut employees, early retirement, eliminate pension, lower or freeze wages, increase hours & work...you know the drill.  Let's just hope it doesn't come to pass for these loyal employees who've already sacrificed much.

To be continued.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Be Still "i Heart"

As a former radio sales person, manager and broadcast devotee for 28 years, Clear Channel Radio is, to me, a dirty word name.  The original "one size fits all" radio station conglomerate led the way in the destruction of original radio programming, unique on air voices, the promotion of new artists while defining radio formats as narrowly as possible and depriving listeners and advertisers of diversity.  Additionally, their hate mongering syndicated radio voices,  Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity have been a consistent source of revenue...until recently.

iHeart Radio or iHateRadio? Fans ‘Rush Out’ After Seeing Limbaugh Ad In Their FB Newsfeed  Liberals Unite   8/22/14


Clear Channel Radio was one of the first conglomerates to gobble up huge market shares of radio stations in major and middle size markets across the U.S, thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  Clear Channel squeezed the life out of live broadcasting by reducing the 24/7 live radio broadcast to a handful of pre-recorded dee-jay voiceovers that simulated a live broadcast.   Program Directors, once the heartbeat of  most radio stations began to go the way of the dinosaur.  They were primarily responsible for the sound, the look, the style and unique individuality of a station through their choices in music, on air personalities and promotional approaches.  Corporate cost-cutting relegated PDs to regional jobs or market jobs (1 guy for multiple stations) and disc jockeys to .  Do you ever wonder why no matter where you travel in the U.S. all  formatted stations sound the same?   Do you miss the great jazz stations, classical stations, news stations?  They weren't profitable enough.  They had to go.

It should be noted since 2006, Clear Channel has been co-owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital Partners & thomas H. Lee Partners.  Remember, "corporations are people, my friend."
The company, which has laid off thousands of employees in recent years, announced that it would move to more centralized programming and lay off 1,500 employees, or approximately 7% of its workforce, on January 20, 2009. The reasoning was bleak economic conditions and debt from its transition to a private company.[37] Later on January 20, the company said that the total count of employees to be terminated would be 1,850, or 9%.
Between January and May 2009 Clear Channel eliminated 2,440 positions.[38] On May 20, 2009, Clear Channel announced an initiative to help its radio station listeners who are seeking employment to market their skills and unique features on the air to attract the attention of employers with available positions.[39]   Wikipedia

Clear Channel has been steadily losing ad revenue and market share in their brick and mortar stations thanks to contracts with the above-mentioned broadcasters, particularly since Rush Limbaugh's  malicious attack on Georgetown student Sandra Fluke in 2012 resulted in a "Boycott Rush" campaign. 

Apparently, people are continuing to boycott, complain and condemn the man for his wretched tactics and Clear Channel Media lost $309.2 million in 4th Q 2013.

With a song in my heart, that makes me feel good.



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Friday, August 22, 2014

2016's "Sarah Palin"


Rick Perry has never looked better than he does in his new mug shot. 

Currently under indictment on "abuse of power" and "coercion of a public servant" charges,  the Perry case is grabbing headlines and column inches around the country.  According to Dallas Morning News columnist, Wayne Slater, the indictment is neither frivolous nor spurious as characterized by Perry, his supporters & Republican talking heads.  Slater thinks it has legs.  

Meanwhile, Perry is out and about making speeches and gaining new followers. He made a big splash at the conservative Heritage Foundation by raising the alarm of ISIS at the back door of the U.S.  
"There's the obvious great concern that, because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure, and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be [crossing]," he said. "There's a very real possibility that they may have already used that [strategy]."   The Hill 8/22/14
The article goes on to state the Pentagon strongly refutes that theory.   
This is the guy who, during a 2011 Presidential debate with Romney, Obama, Ron Paul, et. al couldn't remember the three agencies he was going to dump when he became president
Perry was discussing his jobs plan and his flat tax plan when he said: "And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the... what's the third one there? Let's see..."
 "...I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."    CBS News 11/10/11
Who does this remind me of...hmmmm...could it be ... SATAN?  Sarah Palin!  Wasn't she the good-looking empty headed alarmist spouting Barbie doll who commanded an impressive following to bolster her campaign and a surprising war chest despite her inability to conduct an informed interview with Katie Couric or anyone else for that matter.




Sarah & Rick have much in common.  They are attractive, well-dressed politicians full of sound and fury signifying nothing.  But hey,  at least we don't have to think too long and hard about ISIS beheading journalist James Foley earlier this week or the ongoing anger and police state tactics in Ferguson, MO. 


 This post is inspired by today's The Political Carnival post on the same.   


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Monday, August 4, 2014

Gun Control Advocate Hero & Victim James Brady Dies

James & Sarah Brady 2011  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)






















    James Brady, former White House Press Secretary to Ronald Reagan, has died. Brady was shot in the head by John Hinckley Jr. as he tried to assassinate then president Ronald Reagan.  The assassination attempt took place March 30,1981.  Brady had been on the job just 69 days.    Brady survived, confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. He became an ardent gun control advocate, co-sponsoring, with wife Sarah Brady,  the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  Their push for national legislation eventually became known as the "Brady Bill".  He leaves a legacy of courage, perseverance and strength.   

I came across this anecdote today.

How James Brady Didn't Get Me Fired
AUG 4, 2014 4:37 PM EDT
By  
In 1979, I wrote a critical front-page Wall Street Journal profile of leading Republican presidential contender John Connally. The tough-talking Texan demanded that his press secretary call the Journal's top brass and get me fired. Later that press secretary reported back: "They won't do it; those bastards always stick together." Connally just shook his head.
The press secretary was James Brady, who of course never actually called the Journal's executives. Rather, he mollified the candidate without causing further damage.
Jim, who died today at 73, left a mark on America; he was a man of indomitable courage in the face of awful adversity.
A couple years after the Connally incident, he was riding high as Ronald Reagan's press secretary when he was severely shot in the head during an attempted assassination of the new president. My wife, Judy Woodruff, then NBC's White House correspondent, was standing yards away; it was a gruesome scene. This was only 10 weeks into the Reagan administration and Brady -- who was smart, funny, knew the ways of Washington and was respected by the press -- could have been become a Reagan insider.
It wasn't to be.
Jim never really recovered from his near-fatal brain injury, was wheelchair-bound and faced numerous health setbacks over the next three decades. But he didn't disappear. He and his incredibly persistent and gutsy wife, Sarah, became the most visible champions of a sensible gun policy in America. In 1993, the so-called Brady Law was signed by President Bill Clinton; it requires a background check before purchasing most firearms.
The law was diluted by the courts and politicians, and had too many loopholes. Still, millions of gun purchases have been blocked and probably many lives saved.
The Bradys became an inspiring presence at major events in Washington and in the corridors of Congress, sometimes at the White House. Jim lost a lot, never his spirit or humor.
A few weeks before the shooting in 1981, Jim and Sarah took my wife and me to dinner. Near the end of a delightful evening, I asked him a needling question about the White House. His instant retort: "I should have gotten you fired."
To contact the writer of this article: Al Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net.





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Christina

Christina
by Cole Scott