New Age Labor Relations
With shortages of labor cropping up many companies are turning to a new source of employees right here in the USA: our prison system and its 1.7 million inmates. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, "economic reality and criminal justice intersect in America. " Corporations are finding that parolees and inmates in halfway houses and drug abuse programs make good employees. Why? Because says the Journal, "Street and prison life, it turns out, aren't bad ways to prepare for certain jobs." (Let it be noted for the record, the Journal reported this with a straight face without questioning the nature of jobs requiring such "preparation." ) A key reason for their success? "The parolees do so well in part because they are under tight supervision and risk returning to jail if they fail a drug test." Another vital lesson for managing our nation's workers. (WSJ 5/12)
As part of Microsoft's renewed educational efforts, one ot their finer vice-presidents, Bob Herbold, granted an interview. Confronted with the question of why Microsoft doesn't just confess to having a monopoly on PC operating systems, Mr. Herbold made a telling reply by asking "How do you define that word?" His profundity was met by that of his questioner who replied, "An overwhelming share." But to this, Herbold responded by pointing out how weak this definition of monopoly was, because, in his words, "most people would define it with some negative aspects. Defining that term just as a high market share we don't think is appropriate. Most people, when they hear that word, they connect negative connotations with it." And that is why Microsoft does not have a "monopoly" or anything else, I presume, with negative connotations. (TechWeb 3/20, http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/msftdoj/TWB19980320S0001)
The New Entitlements
Just as the rich have been getting richer, so have the children of the rich. Child support awards in divorce cases have been soaring as courts have gained a finer appreciation of the needs of wealthy children. In a recent divorce case in Pennsylvania, Amy Karp was able to convince the court her 4 children needed $23,266 a month child support from their father, millionaire investor Michael Karp, so they would not feel "second class" with her. Ms. Karp's lawyers cited another Pennsylvania divorce case where it was decided that rich kids not only should have but are entitled to "good restaurants, good hotels, good shows and good camps." Fortunately, the court did not follow the same logic and determine that poor children were entitled to bad restaurants, bad hotels etc. Nor did they seem to feel that poor children (who may receive slightly less than $23,000 a month) would feel "second class" by their lesser awards. (WSJ 5/1)
Thoreau on Wheels
Are you interested in "Backpacking Chevy Van Style" or do you even understand the concept? If not you need to catch the latest ad from Chevrolet's RV department. Since the literary style of the ad's text far exceeds my meager abilities to reproduce it, let me just quote it at length: "Years ago, you used to go backpacking to smell the flowers, watch the sunset and just get away from it all. A sleeping bag and a mess kit were all you needed. Well now that you are used to life's luxuries, it takes more." Just imagine being out in nature without a TV and dishwasher? Or a cell phone? And when you "backpack" Chevy Van style, you can, because of it's powerful Vortec engine or optional 6.5 liter Turbocharged Diesal V8, "count on years of communing with nature in reliable ruggedness." You might try revving the engine for an even fuller "communion with nature."
TV news broadcasters in California had a rude awakening one morning when station KTLA broadcast a debate between candidates for governor and had their usual morning ratings double. Despite $90 million being spent on ads for the primaries, the news departments had been ignoring election coverage to focus their resources on the vital car chases of the day. KTLA news director Jeff Wald admitted, "we had been caught up in other things and hadn't realized that this is a very interesting race...I kind of regret that we hadn't done more to cover [the campaign]." And what had kept the campaign hidden from the eyes of TV newscasters? According to Wald it was "because of the May Sweeps," which determine ratings and advertising rates for the next six months. Wald said the sweeps "discourage political coverage in the month before the primary at all stations." An obvious scheduling mistake by the State of California's Election Board. ( WP 5/23)
Son of Frankenstein
Now that "downsizing" is offically passe, what new verbs and adjectives are cutting edge companies finding to describe the massive firings of employees that accompany mergers? One of the best solutions is provided in a press release by Wang Global announcing their purchase of a firm named Olsy from Olivetti S.p.A. In it, Wang predicts they will spend over $380 million on the "integration and the rightsizing of the new combined company." Notice the ease with which the freshly minted verb "rightsizing" is employed. To fully grasp their concept of "rightsizing," it should be noted they expect to spend $290 million on eliminating redundant facilities and on severance pay. Nowhere in the press release does Wang give an estimate of the number of employees to be let go, another sign of their advance beyond the primitive era of "downsizing." Our prediction: watch for an American company to introduce the term "nicesizing" by next year. (Press Release 4/6)
The Free Press in Action
Automation is making further advances in the magazine industry. Many familiar supermarket magazines are realizing savings by simply eliminating the reporters in their interviews of famous celebrities. Sharon Stone recently conducted her own interview in Harper's Bazaar as did Mel Gibson in Us. While carping critics worry that such practices turn the press into uncritical parts of Hollywood's PR machinery, Ingrid Sischy, editor of Interview, takes a more positive view of "collaborating" with famous personalities. She argues "We are taking people's portraits with these interviews and as you know, a portrait can be skewed in many ways." No reporter, no skewing. But even if a reporter is used, one imperative remains: "And if we feel any sense of discomfort about what we are doing... I suggest we make a phone call." I'm sure politicians would (or do) appreciate the same courtesy. (NYT 5/18)
The Global Village Dept.
The giant merger of Chrysler and Germany's Daimler - Bemz has led to a minor cultural problem that needs ironing out. Chrysler executives make about 8 times what their German counterparts take in. Thus Richard J. Easten the Chrysler CEO makes $16 million while Jurgen Schrempp, the Daimler-Benz CEO, makes a paltry $1.9 million. The obvious solution of raising the German salaries runs into the nagging problem of German attitudes against high executive pay and widening gaps between rich and poor. Explains Jeorg Pluta, director of the German Shareholder Protection Association: "It's the European mentality. The enrichment of an individual on the backs of workers is considered exploitation." Thank goodness we aren't so parochial. (WSJ 5/26)
Defending Our Inner Cities
For years, minority neighborhoods complained of having an unfair share of incinerators and garbage dumps placed in their areas. So the Environmental Protection Agency responded with regulations that forbade unfairly burdening racial minorities with sources of pollution. Fortunately the U. S. Chamber of Commerce was looking out for their real interests. William L. Kovacs, the Chamber's v-p, attacked such rules because "It runs contrary to federal programs designed to bring jobs and cleanup to low-income and minority areas..." Then he adds, "No one is looking at the long term economic benefit." (Of polluting, I believe he intended to say.) But Donald welch, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection, topped him by arguing the EPA's actions were "disconnected from the real world of permit decision making." That's the real world, for those of you who have been wondering. (NYT 5/10)
The Write Stuff
Has your attempt to write a childrens book been rejected by publishers? Well your problem may be that your name isn't Shaq O'Neill. Children's Publishers have been racing to publish books with the names of celibrities on them. This year such noted children's "authors" as John Travolta, Dom DeLuise, Jane Seymour, Jamie Lee Curtis and the Shaq have had books published with their names proudly displayed. Rick Richter, president of Simon & schuster explains why: "The big name makes it an easier buying decision for the parents." Its like the name "Shaq" is your guarantee of quality writing. " He adds that relying on celebrities "is essentially about branding." How appropriate to have a beef metaphor when speaking of contemporary literature. (WSJ 5/4)
Special thanks to Karena Hatfield-Grytting, Jason Kazarian and Doug Hocking for spotting quality Newspeak. We now post this nonsense monthly and don't whine about the change. You can subscribe by writing to email@example.com and telling why you liked Shaq's last book.