What Does Warren Buffett Know About Newspapers (that we don’t)?

May 30, 2012

 photo of Warren Buffett by Mario Tama/Getty Images

photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

They are profitable. What, you say? According to the Washington Post, newspapers did not take the hit other businesses did during the recession. In fact, “[m]any newspapers, especially those outside metropolitan areas where competition for readers and ad dollars is most intense, still generate profits, albeit at lower levels than in the boom years of the 1980s and 1990s. They also have valuable real-estate assets and printing operations.”

Profits may be falling, but there’s still profit, even for big holders of newspapers, like Gannett.

People read the physical paper as well as the online version. Online reading of newspapers is up 6% in the first quarter of this year, and the majority of newspaper readers are aged 18-49.*

(Long form journalism — magazine features — is popular with the “social media” set as well.)  

In other words, Warren Buffett is not an idiot buffoon like Sam Zell, who bought the Tribune Company, then ran it into the ground. Zell saddled the Tribune with his own debt when his real estate holdings tanked. “I’ve said repeatedly that no matter what happens in this transaction, my lifestyle won’t change,” [Zell] wrote to his combination employees/shareholders. “Yours, on the other hand, could change dramatically if we get this right.” (With over 4,200 layoffs since you took over, I guess you got it “right,” Sam? Congratulations.) 

Forbes: Are You Stoned Or Just Stupid?

Forbes asked in a recent blog post if Buffett is stupid or just sentimental. Neither one, guys. Maybe the purchase of his hometown paper was sentimental, but he bought 63 daily and weekly newspapers this month (May 2012). He promises to be “hands off,” and let people who know the newspaper business do their job (also the opposite of Zell’s approach). He says he plans to buy more!

But What About All The Fleeing Advertisers?

Good question. They’ve been leaving print in droves. Personally, I like seeing fewer ads in my favorite magazines and newspapers – less clutter. I look at media for the articles. In fact, I’d love to not see ads on television…

But Wait!!

Dish Network is offering a new black out service! No need to fast forward through those commercials – you won’t even have to see them! Ha, ha, ha, corporations! You can’t get me! Or, you can go back to buying ads in the newspaper… hmmmmmm.

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You Have Moderate B.O.

May 26, 2012

 Brad Pitt in Cannes, May 2012

(photo, REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Brad Pitt’s presence will probably enhance the B.O.

 “B.O.” is Box Office … ticket sales! What did you think I was talking about?

The Hollywood industry rag, Daily Variety, uses this kind of cutesy insider-speak.

Instead of a shoot date for a film in progress, it’s “slated to lens this fall.”

An expensive production is a “pricey tentpole.” A writer is a “scribe” (how Shakespearean). A comedy is a “laffer.”

And a “movie” could be called a “picture,” but if you’re Daily Variety, it’s a “pic.”

Note: if you wish to read for yourself about Brad Pitt enhancing the moderate B.O., click here.


Roger Ailes Is A Communist

May 24, 2012

Image

Just kidding! The Fox News CEO is really good at name calling, though.


Obama’s Support For Gay Marriage Left Most Unmoved

May 23, 2012

For such a “hot-button” issue, Obama’s support for gay marriage did not change how a majority of people feel about him.

Republicans, who didn’t like him in the first place, say they like him less. For Independents and Democrats, their view stayed the same. Here are the numbers from a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press:

“About half of Republicans (53%) say they feel less favorably toward Obama because of his support for gay marriage. By contrast, 60% of independents and 52% of Democrats say their view of Obama has not changed. Among independents, as many say they feel less favorably as more favorably toward Obama as a result of his gay marriage decision (19% each). Far more Democrats say they feel more favorably than less favorably toward Obama (32% vs. 13%).”


Anti-Austerity Is Fair And Reasonable

May 22, 2012

 

French President François Hollande was sworn in on Saturday (May 19th). During his inaugural speech, he said:

“My real enemy doesn’t have a name or a face or a party. He’ll never run as president, so he’ll never be elected, although he does govern. My enemy is the world of finance.”

Amy Goodman, “Democracy Now” host and reporter, spoke about the anti-austerity backlash in Europe with Associate Professor of Economics and Law, William Black (who is also a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator).

The transcript is below. The video is 3:50 minutes. (The very beginning of the video has a clip of President Hollande’s speech, and glimpses of huge anti-austerity protests in Spain and Greece.)

Transcript: 

AMY GOODMAN: Now, William Black, I wanted to end by asking you quickly about the economic crisis in Europe. In Spain, over 100,000 people took part in anti-austerity rallies Sunday. In Greece, anti-bailout parties won the nation’s recent election. And in France, François Hollande was sworn in today as France’s new president, becoming the first French Socialist in power since the ’90s. He recently said his enemy was the world of finance.

FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE: [translated] My real enemy doesn’t have a  name or a face or a party. He’ll never run as president, and so he’ll never be elected, although he does govern. My enemy is the world of finance.

AMY GOODMAN: That is François Hollande, France’s new president. William Black, your final response?

WILLIAM BLACK: Finance is supposed to simply be a middleman to help the real economy. It in fact now completely dominates and is a parasite on the real economy. German austerity has pushed the entire eurozone into recession and the periphery into Great Depression-level unemployment. And the same arguments are being made in the United States and are used as a pretext to try to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is economically illiterate, but politically attractive.

AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Obama versus President Bush?

WILLIAM BLACK: Well, less bad on this subject, but President Obama is also—feels that he must politically say there’s a vital need to balance the budget, which is to say, to have austerity, even though he’s looked at Europe and seen that the worst possible thing you can do in a great recession, or the attempted recovery from a great recession, is to start reducing the spending and such.

And Obama needs to go back to what he originally proposed, which was brilliant. It was a Republican idea: revenue sharing. We all knew that the states and localities, unlike the federal government, cannot run significant deficits, and that there was going to be a financial holocaust that was going to reduce vital services and throw hundreds of thousands of public workers out of work when they were most needed and exacerbate the great recession and dramatically slow the recovery. So, the recovery bill that—the stimulus bill that President Obama proposed had that provision. The Blue Dog Democrats, the conservative Democrats, and the Republicans got together to kill that. And unfortunately, the Obama administration didn’t fight for it.

Here’s what we know. The Wall Street Journal just ran an op-ed saying, don’t allow the federal government to help the states. That tells you that’s what they’re scared of. It would be economically brilliant, it would be politically brilliant, to bring back the revenue sharing provisions, which are, after all, a Republican idea, and make the Republicans make the call that they want a financial holocaust throughout America, and they want us to slip back into a recession.

AMY GOODMAN: William Black, I want to thank you for being with us, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, also a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


The Rolling Stone “Big” Issue

May 21, 2012

Ugh, it’s so embarrassing: an advertisement masquerading as a special issue of Rolling Stone.

Yippee. I get to hear from someone (“Matt Mastrangelo” – not Jann Wenner… hmmm, first clue something is bogus) telling me to “… hang on. It’s going to be loud, fast, out of control…”

But, open the pages and instead you get dull, slightly off-putting, and ready for the recycle bin.

I do miss reading David Fricke, so I read the first pages (about Metallica).

But the rest of the pages, about has-been, record-exec-created, “Garbage” from the ‘90s (“Big Comeback” – yawn); some more BS about the ‘90s; some “next Big thing” crap that I don’t care about; who I should read, and listen to, to be “cool” – as dictated by the sponsors TNT and TBS.

TNT and TBS are the arbiters of cool? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Set your bullshit “phasers” on “massive.”


How Do You Spell Pink Slime? L-A-U-S-D

May 16, 2012

The food crisis in our home began when my daughter entered kindergarten in public school in LA. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest district in the country. They spend $.77 per meal on the lunches (77 cents*).

Our daughter goes to a charter school (we “won” the “lottery”) It’s far. A school bus would pick her up, but comes so early that we decided it was worth it to us as a family to let her sleep an extra 30 minutes and drive her there.

One day, she asked me to stay and have lunch with her.

I had packed her lunch, but had nothing for me since this was a last minute plan. So I bought a school lunch. How bad can it be, right? Look! they offer salad. Granted, it’s sealed in plastic (everything offered is sealed in plastic), but the lettuce is green.

Do I need to say it was disgusting? It’s hard to describe lettuce that doesn’t quite taste like lettuce, and cucumber that almost tastes like cucumber. I looked at the package of salad dressing (raspberry vinaigrette) and the first ingredient was high fructose corn syrup. The second ingredient was water. Then, some thickening agents. Then artificial flavoring.

I was hungry, so I ate it. Within 20 minutes, I had a raging stomach ache.

Periodically, LAUSD sends home a glossy color pamphlet about the “nutritious” lunch program. On the cover is a smiling little girl in pig tails with her school lunch in front of her: a shiny apple, a salad, a sandwich, milk, all neatly lined up on a tray.

The lunches don’t really look like that. Each component is individually packaged in plastic, put on a styrofoam tray, and sealed in plastic again. The lunches are trucked to the school the afternoon before, and unloaded. (I’ve seen it.) During lunch, they are warmed, in an oven, in their plastic wrappings, and given to the children, still in plastic. The amount of trash produced after lunchtime is astounding. Everything – forks, trays, bowls – is disposable.

photo by Gregory Bojorquez

I would argue that the trash can is where this “food” goes, too. And this was before the “Pink Slime” scandal.

According to CalPirg, which helped ban “substandard” meat in California schools recently, “… 6 million pounds of ammonia-treated beef scraps were used in school lunches. The beef and chicken meat sold to schools often has so much bacteria, it wouldn’t meet the standards of McDonald’s, KFC and other fast food chains.”

The chicken “was so low-quality it otherwise would have been made into pet food or compost.” In 2010, 13.6 million pounds of this “chicken” was purchased for the school lunch program.

By the way, pizza and french fries are vegetables. Just in case you were wondering. According to the national standards for school lunches. You might rejoice at such a proclamation. But all kidding aside, this is a sad state of affairs.

*

* according to an in depth report on the LAUSD school lunch program, by Gendy Alimurung, LAUSD spends $2.49 per meal, and is reimbursed by the federal government. “The $2.49 is based on what USDA economists estimate a healthy meal costs. But of that amount, just 77 cents goes to food. Why? First, subtract $1.42 for labor and benefits. Subtract 12 cents for supplies. Subtract 18 cents for operating expenses.”