Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday, Mimi!!

To one of my favorite Hollywood ladies, happy birthday to Mimi Rogers! :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Al Qaeda 1, Guantanamo 0??

Well, apparently it's not just the town drunk, the drug dealer, or the federal racketeer that seem to find themselves back in their same line of work after being jailed.

Now we hear of a Guantanamo detainee, released last year into a Saudi "rehab" program, who has returned to his love of planning to kill innocent infidels.

Wonder if he graduated that rehab course "Magna go boom" or "Summa go boom"?

And now with the liberals' countdown clock to the closing of Gitmo underway, it does beg the question of how we might be able to help the Saudis (and the Yemeni officials, too) do a little bit better job in that "rehabilitation" process.

Or, BETTER YET, just send them to John Murtha's Congressional District in Pennsylvania! Apparently he can't wait to house the soon-to-be ex-Gitmos.

He could teach them ABSCAM while he's at it, too!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We Should Also Pick Up After Ourselves

Of all people, I thought the Obama-nation, complete with their impeccable concern for "mother earth", would be the last group of people to, well, trash the place.

Click the blog title above!
OH, and P.S.----President Obama needs to lead the nation in a basic course in civics. Lesson one:


Leading By Example: We Should All Serve

From the Washington Post:
Hundreds of thousands of volunteers in the Washington region and throughout the country turned out to do good works for their communities yesterday, an overwhelming response to President-elect Barack Obama's call for a day of public service in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

They crowded into soup kitchens to feed the homeless, flooded school hallways to paint walls and flocked to neighborhood parks to pick up trash in what may have been the largest day of national service ever. It was propelled by the same kind of millions-strong network of e-mail and text messages that marked Obama's presidential campaign.

The impact was particularly strong in Washington, bolstered by the thousands of people who arrived in recent days to take part in the inauguration and who eagerly joined the area's community service activities.

Well, I see the hate instantly went away.......

I thought with the Obama Administration's arrival, we were all told to be "at one" and "in unison".

Unless you hate George Bush. Or his dad. Or someone with a monument whose last name is Bush.

The funny part of the story? Read the description of the suspect in regards to the possible presence of paint.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Inaugurations For Clear Channel People........


Mark Mays: Clear Channel Reduces Workforce By 9%

A 9% Reduction
Today, we had the unpleasant task of bringing our Outdoor and Radio businesses’ staffing in line with these challenging economic conditions.
This has been an historic and yet bittersweet day with the inauguration of President BARACK OBAMA, and the dramatic downsizing at CLEAR CHANNEL that affects 9% of the workforce, across the board, totalling approximately 1,850 postions.

CLEAR CHANNEL CEO MARK MAYS sent the following companywide email out, today:

As I've mentioned previously, we are facing an unprecedented time of distress in the general economy – and the ripple effects have hit some of our largest customers hard.

Today, we had the unpleasant task of bringing our Outdoor and Radio businesses’ staffing in line with these challenging economic conditions. In doing so, we enter 2009 as a solid company and in the most competitive position possible.

We have thought carefully and at some length about the steps we need to take as a company to succeed during this unprecedented downturn. As a result, we have eliminated approximately 1,850 positions across Corporate, Outdoor and Radio. While a significant portion of these positions represent a realignment in our sales departments, the positions span all departments and represent approximately 9% of the total CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS workforce.

One of the things that has kept CLEAR CHANNEL strong throughout our history is a willingness to deal with difficult situations in an immediate way -- to make the tough decisions today in order to secure a strong future. It is this trait that has gone furthest in enabling us to weather many difficult downturns in our 37-year history. It always requires clarity, collaboration and courage.

Please know that these have been difficult decisions -- yet necessary ones. We will miss those who are departing -- even as we renew our shared commitment to success among all of us who will stay.

Everyone in our investor group, on the Board, and in the executive leadership team remains bullish about the long-term growth prospects for CLEAR CHANNEL. We continue to believe that the Outdoor and Radio businesses offer excellent opportunities.

We need to remain highly entrepreneurial and innovative. We also need to remain focused and compassionate. If we continue to manage our business carefully, and invest with discipline in the right strategic opportunities, we will navigate this downturn effectively and emerge even stronger and better positioned when things improve.

Starting now, it is our ability to bring creative thinking to the current business climate - to focus on the benefits we deliver for customers - to show extreme focus and commitment -- that will create results.

CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS has more resources than any of our peers. The tools are here. The support is here. It's time to use them to create lasting competitive advantage for our customers - and for our company.

Please know that we continue to be extraordinarily appreciative of all of the passion and hard work that each of you continues to commit to this phenomenal business. We will get through this together.

We're in this together. We have the best team. And we all have important work to do.

As we head into the New Year, I know we will meet the oncoming challenges with focus, determination and grace.

Please let me or your management team know if you have any questions.

With Regards,

In support of the downsizing, the company supplied the following Power Point presentation.

ALL ACCESS reached out to CLEAR CHANNEL with some specific questions.

The company declined to answer specifics about percentages of cuts from specific divisions, job levels, and how this would affect bonuses, or pay adjustments in the wake of the downsizing.

We did learn that there is a total cost-savings of approximately $350 million, but they declined comment regarding additional downsizings in the future.

ALL ACCESS also learned that there will still be national sales and there will still be direct sales on a local level as well.

Q: Were reductions predicated by certain operating cost goals dictated by recent loan covenants tied to the privatization of the Company?

A: Reductions were made to bring Clear Channel in line with the changed economic and advertising realities and outlook. In this sense, the company is among all in American business today that are taking these types of prudent actions.

Q: There are a lot of rumors that the changes in programming will lead to hub & spoke programming where music decisions are centralized, and no longer taking into account for individual market tastes. Will this be taking place?

A: There is no absolute approach. Clear Channel Radio is focused on delivering the best and biggest audience to our advertisers. We have no room for low performers. That’s true all across the company – whether in Radio or Outdoor.

Q: Do you feel these moves will signal where the radio industry is moving as a whole as an operational trendsetter?

A: We’re focused on our business. Our colleagues in other companies need to make their own decisions.

Q: Where does the company see itself in six months, in a year, and in two years?

A: Continuing to employ the most talented and highest-performing professionals in our industries. Continuing to provide those professionals with the best and broadest array of resources. And continuing to attract and deliver the largest and highest quality audiences.

Q: Will there be additional waves of staff reductions?

A: We will continue to watch the advertising and economic situations closely.


My analysis later on. Suffice it to say this is just the first wave. :(

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Clear Channel, Inaugural Costs, Jack Bauer, and other things.........

Things I'm thinking about......

1) Clear Channel--my lovely former employer prepares their blood-stained guillotine for another round of job cuts, this time apparently around 7% of their workforce, or somewhere near 1,500 jobs. We're hearing ad sales will take a hit (and no offense to my friends in sales, but it's way past time this happened; the programming departments are already at bone at many stations), plus MORE programming, as the company heads further toward its ultimate goal of "national programming". The word I don't like hearing though is that some "back-office operations" will be consolidated, and that's where my best friends are.

The cuts are allegedly scheduled to take place on Tuesday, so as to allow the bad news to receive minimal publicity, what with the media world all focusing on the Inauguration that day. Only that fact has been publicly known for close to a week now. Part of me does honestly believe this whole "bury the axe-swinging on Jan. 20th" stuff is actually done on purpose, so the "Clear Channel haters" would have meat to chew on.

I don't care what is ever said by anyone in Clear Channel corporate, trust me when I say this company does not care for the majority of its employees. The suits who have the power and opportunity to be in jobs where they can improve cashflow for the company, when they DO produce positive cashflow.....they are the ones who are cared for.

Everyone under said person who creates that environment and that success is given ubiquitous emails from Mark Mays once in a while under the guise of "pumping up the troops and thanking them for their continued service despite these harsh economic times....blah, blah, blah.....".

And now, some of those people, many of them great professionals (and others, frankly, dead weight, which is found at all companies), are going to be rewarded for carrying their bosses to their bonuses by being given their walking papers, and the ever-popular "Future Endeavors Box".

Little known fact, my Future Endeavors Box had been sitting half full under my cubicle for three months before I got the axe.

So, thousands of Clear Channel employees have spent the past two weeks watching the fat lady being escorted into the building and they've now heard the orchestra tune up. I'm sure Monday, where Clear Channel offices are open, there will be all the excitement of an upcoming wake, knowing that some people you see Monday, and maybe have seen for years in the office, won't be there 24 hours later.

LOTS of companies have laid off thousands and thousands of people recently (my home city is the corporate home of Circuit City, trust me, we know ALL too well), BUT, few companies "drag out the painful pre-firing show" quite like Clear Channel.

If a company really cared about people, decisions would be made privately, action would be made swiftly, with little fanfare and LOTS of compassion, complete with the best possible severance and aid packages possible for the people who are being thanked for all their unpaid salary hours, nights and weekends in the office, etc, etc, by being kicked to the curb.

A quick study of news reports and radio Web sites over the past two weeks will show you that Clear Channel does none of that. It's like they want people to know when they're going to do all this. Otherwise, why do it this way??


2) The Inauguration-----I simply cannot help but think two things:

----This is an historic event, and should be treated as such
----In light of the State of The Union, historic events need not be expensive

Remember early 2005, when Democrats were SO upset that the second Bush inaugural would go on with the usual celebrations, Inaugural Balls, etc, during a "time of war"? They felt that any celebration should be toned down.

Fast forward to 2009, and with the popular Democrat on deck to take The Oath, the Dems are already in party mode. Even with the Obama Inaugural Committee raising some $41 million to help defray costs, it looks like some $150 million (and probably more once security costs are finally figured out in hindsight) will be spent on an event that, at its heart, consists of about 20 seconds of activity.

We're still at war----and now we're supposedly on the precipice of the 2nd Great Depression, yet there will be ten Inaugural Balls? Where are Anthony Weiner and Jim McDermott now? They are the two Congressmen who wrote a letter four years ago calling on President Bush to tone down his Inauguration, saying such festivities would be undignified.

This time? We hear from former CBS/ABC News reporter, now Obama spokesperson Linda Douglass------

"That is probably not the way the country is going to be looking at is not a celebration of an election. It is a celebration of our common values."

Excuse me? What? Heh?

Let's simply be honest-----this event is historic because we are seeing the Inauguration of the first African-American President in American history. That deserves a VERY dignified and extremely positive celebration!!! But it's like planning a birthday party for your child. You can have a great celebration, but do you have to hire the live band and the inflatable train the kids can crawl through?

Historic and dignified does not equal nor demand expensive.

Five balls instead of ten, maybe? Would having five less Inaugural balls forever shatter the historic nature of this event? Ah, no.

MY POINT----This is case proof number #374410 of how liberals, when pressed to use their own solution to certain problems, proceed to ignore them and let the party keep on going.

Those two aforementioned Congressmen, in their 2005 letter, noted how FDR's final Inauguration in 1945 consisted of the Oath, a short speech, and a lunch for guests consisting of cold chicken salad and plain pound cake. In 1917, President Wilson didn't have a party, as the country continued in World War I.

OH----and the best piece of irony? Raising up to $300,000 for the Inaugural effort? A leading Obama campaign fundraiser......his name?

LOUIS SUSMAN---he just retired THIS MONTH as vice chairman of....CITIGROUP!!!
You might be aware that Citigroup posted a LOSS of $8.29 BILLION yesterday. You might also know that Citigroup has already received $45 BILLION in bailout money, and that may not be the last of it.

Just think---six former Citigroup workers who made $50K annually and now can't pay their mortgages could have kept their jobs if ol' Louis had decided to take that $300K and help bailout six struggling Americans, rather than paying for the catering at TEN Inaugural Balls, or whatever the crap his money is paying for.

Anyone for chicken salad?


3) "24" IS BACK!!!! And not a moment too soon. This review pinpoints the strengths of the first four hours of Season 7, points out how the show is evolving with the times, isn't leaning too heavily on Jack, and how, so far, there isn't a glaring "weak link" either in storyline or in character (REMEMBER PALMER'S ANNOYING SISTER????).

And I love the portrayal that brings to the forefront the current controversy over torture. Agent Renee Walker of the FBI (a new character) interrogates a suspect while he's in the hospital with a breathing tube. He taunts her about how she cannot use "certain methods" of interrogation.

Keith Olbermann's reply to this would be, "Oh, you're right! Need a fresh pillow, Mr. Enemy of All Innocent Americans?"

Walker's response was to crinkle his breathing tube and tell him to use his last breath wisely.

Say you have Osama Bin Laden, or Rommel, or Mussolini in that hospital bed. Who do YOU want trying to break them before thousands of Americans die?

Whenever I hear people decry "interrogation" of prisoners in the War on Terror, all I have to do is remember the sight of one innocent, hard-working American, jumping to their death from a tower of the World Trade Center to remind myself these are not "criminals", they are "war prisoners", and they'd better be glad they don't have much worse treatment given to them.

Go Jack!!!!


Lately I've "watched" Music Choice channels on my cable more than actual cable channels. I'm paying a cable bill to listen to music. That's a pretty big indictment of the complete dearth of decent television programming.

I felt like I had more choices 30 years ago, living in the country with a TV antenna, and the choice of ABC, CBS, NBC, or PBS, with an occasional appearance by an out-of-town independent station thanks to certain atmospheric conditions.


Could Bert Blyleven please just get elected to the Hall of Fame already? A friend of mine, local sports broadcasting legend Terry Sisisky, and I once had a debate on this issue--------back in 1996!!!

Andre Dawson--get him in there, too. Good Lord. Baseball purists take themselves so seriously. It's a game, folks. A game.


And to close, with my Giants now out, I turn to the true underdog and give my support to the Arizona Cardinals to do the seemingly impossible.......make it to the Super Bowl. :)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2009: SHOCKER in radio; another "forced" Witham vehicle buy......

I'm (finally) relaxing at big bro's house Saturday evening during NFL action, catching up on news from home, when I get to and get the early candidate for "shock of the year".

Hoffman Communications has apparently laid off the entire staff of WGGM and WZEZ. I worked for Hoffman for nine years (1988-97), so this surprised me, but the second sentence floored me.

Apparently also exiting is long-time VP/GM Paul Scott. He was my boss there, and had been a fixture there for over 25 years.

The only conjecture I have as to why this has all happened is that Hoffman has a buyer and is getting out of radio. Back in the 80s and 90s, Hoffman owned WDYL here in town as well as WGGM, plus stations in Baton Rouge and near Atlanta and almost acquired one in Norfolk.

As the 90s progressed, the company shrunk, selling off the Georgia, then the Louisiana station, before selling WDYL in 1999. WZEZ was a new sign-on in 2001, a station won via FCC auction. Its signal has never been good enough to attract a large Richmond audience, and thus, firm placement in ad buys unfortunately.

My prayers are with my friends in Chester. This was not the way I wanted to see 2009 begin.

And we haven't even touched the 900-pound gorilla in the radio room known as Clear Channel. All CC GMs are headed to Texas for a "budget meeting" this week, and I am expecting to start reading about tons and tons of "layoffs due to budget cuts" at about anytime, as the new privately owned CC gets ready to swallow tough, and very high, debt payments.

Don't be surprised when, one day, one person will be the program director for every Clear Channel-owned station in America that shares the same format; say, country, for example. Rather than having a person in-house in each city programming the station to fit the taste, culture and styles unique to that city, one human will cookie-cutter the country format from some "format lab" and they'll magically determine what country listeners want to hear in Birmingham, Boise, Bismarck, Boston, and Baton Rouge, and pipe it nationwide.

Scary, isn't it? Radio's BIGGEST advantage is being sacrificed at the altar of high debt payments. LOCALISM. Why pay the money to have locals when one guy or lady can decide what songs to air on your favorite station from the CC corporate offices in San Antonio, and thus, cause 75 program directors across the nation to lose their jobs? That'll save some money!

At the costly expense of radio continuing to lose touch with its listeners.

BEFORE television, the "network" model (CBS, NBC, et al) was the way of radio. You listened to your favorite network shows on your favorite station, and they offered local programming when the network wasn't on (sound familiar??).

In the case of the behemoth companies like Clear Channel, this is where they're going (Ryan Seacrest, come on down!), and it's not just them.

Radio's best hope? That the big companies, in order to survive, have to sell lots of stations and a new generation of owners that understand RADIO will be able to independently own, or build companies that will re-introduce localism to radio.

We'll see what happens, but I'm not looking forward to reading the radio web publications for the next few weeks.


I'll save the vehicle story for another post. Suffice it to say, the Withams never get the chance to sit down, decide when they'd like to buy a "new to them" car (we don't buy new cars anymore), then start shopping, dickering, etc.

We always have a car self-destruct, forcing upon us a car buying experience within 24 hours or so. Such was the case in North Carolina during our New Years getaway.

We left for Carolina in a Ford, and returned in a Hyundai.

Even though I hate the car payment, the preceding sentence does promote the fact that we've upgraded. :)