Posts Tagged ‘Walmart’

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IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY…in spite of:

November 19, 2013

REVISITING THE NEW NORMAL

In 2009, I penned my first blog featuring the New Economy that emerged after the housing bubble led to the crash of 2008 shortly before Obama was elected President of the United States.  Six months later, I joined those that were advocating –not a return to what it was before the bubble burst- but a RESET.

As I look back over my postings, I see I have not wavered….but indeed, the world around me has.

This morning Paul Krugman’s column reminded us of that New Normal as he wrote about Larry Sommers position recently at the IMF:

The financial crisis that started the Great Recession is now far behind us…yet our economy remains depressed.

…we had a huge housing and debt bubble.  Yet even with this huge bubble boosting spending, the economy was only so so – the job market was ok but not great, and the boom was never powerful enough to produce significant inflationary pressure .

We have an economy whose normal condition is one of inadequate demand-of at least mild depression-and which only gets anywhere close to full employment when it is buoyed by bubbles.

Krugman speculated on the “why” – from slowing population growth to aging population to persistent trade deficits since the 1980sall leading to the economic realities of today.  It is what it is.  It will be what it is for a long time. It’s the new normal of 2008-9; but it’s become reality.

A sobering point of view or a wake up call?

 

GOOD FOR US…and Rhode Island, Vermont, Arkansas and Washington

The MN Council of Health Plans stood up; The Governor listened, and Minnesota continues on with what appears to be a successful implementation of MnSure – our plan for implementing the ACA.

Approximately 140,000 Minnesotans fall short of ACA requirements.    Most of those underinsured are carrying policies of 1 year duration with the highest out-of-pocket cost for those insured.  Many of those are policies that were  issued by the scamming insurance companies. 

So I was glad to see that the legitimate insurance companies that have been chosen for MnSure stood their ground, and Dayton listened. 

One more time, that makes me proud to be a Minnesotan. 

The Republicans started a spin and campaign; the Press saw an opportunity to improve ratings if they focused on it and our whole country became obsessed with whether Obama lied, was a bad manager,  or was out-of-touch. 

Some of us who have done the fact-checking know he is caught in the spin, as we have covered this in past ramblings since the issue exploded.  It feels like we are the minority but I believe the intent of the ACA was to help America elevate health standards to the level and standards set by our world allies…a fact not often discussed or shared with the complaining public.  Does it have problems?  Yes.  Has it been a rocky start-up? Yes.  Does this differ much from Social Security or Medicare? No.

I hear the naysayers and am reminded of the dinner table ranting of my father on payday in the late forties/fifties/early sixties.  The Government was stealing money from him.  Anyone who worked hard all his life (like Hap Kranz did J) would not live to collect Social Security.  They would die by the time they were 65.  And truth was – at the time, 65 was an accepted life expectancy. Nevertheless, Hap retired with no plan of “What next” but darn glad to see that social security check show up month after month after month until he died at the age of 87!

The ACA spin and continuing craziness signals to me that our patriotic friends on the right want to line up with second-tier countries as they fight with all their might to keep an inadequate system.  I am not sure why, but am beginning to explain it away as that alignment helps them preserve their superiority as they are compared to others in that tier.

As for the Press?  No words can describe my distain for the live news media who have clearly demonstrated “ratings” trump all.  Nevertheless, I am encouraged as slowly but surely, I hear more of them pulling back on their stance and attempting to re-position.  This gives me hope that in the end, sanity will prevail.

AND THEN THERE IS WALMART!

One cannot help but notice the Walmart attempts to foil the public recently….ad after ad saturate the airwaves as Walmart tries to “prove” they’re the best- priced around; ads of actor “employees” telling how much they love working at Walmart.  Not too much emphasis on child labor uses around the world to create knockoff products that can be sold for less, nor manipulating of price points to lower popular items while inflating others to compensate, nor of the policy of building where land is cheap and there is no infrastructure – causing increases in taxes – or in other words, government and citizen financial support!

And certainly no explanation for why the NATIONAL LABOR BOARD just found Walmart illegally disciplined and fired over 100 employees in a dozen states.

Although I expect there is some hyperbole on both sides, you gotta ask yourself why this latest TV campaign.  I’m casting my vote for a PR campaign aimed to stop the bleeding, as more and more real facts about their business practices are divulged.

 

And with that, I will save my ranting  about Brett Favre’s mental state for another day.  Suffice it to say – concussions in the games may have made it worse, but twenty years before all that physical abuse on the field, he was killing off brain cells fast with alcohol.  This I witnessed firsthand as his caretakers tried to get him up, dressed and to the event that was honoring him as Player of the Year…all so that he could stand on stage, a drunken mess, and accept the recognition.   So perhaps some of the blame for his mental issues today might just have been self-inflicted. 

 

 

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ON MY MIND….

May 29, 2013

The GOOD thing about the weather we have been having is that it has provided the  excuse for me to catch up on books and reading materials.  I am slowly savoring the articles in the summer issue of “thirty two”; “The New Next Economy” by Jessica Conrad is FILLED with good food for thought and more evidence that it is happening appeared in the STRIB today in a feature about the Pack and Give Back Project at the University that resulted in establishing the ReUse Center….more to come on this later.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  The Supreme Court dealt a setback yesterday to the campaign to “defund” Planned Parenthood….At issue was how far states could go to prevent indirect subsidies for abortion.

Generally, Congress forbids the spending of federal money to pay for elective abortions.  But unsatisfied, conservatives tried to push for more restrictive laws within their states and have now been denied.  Indiana’s attempt to do this was struck down by the Supreme Court  because “defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.”

Not only will that impact Arizona as well, it moves this issue back where it belongs—personal choice.  For me, that also includes a personal responsibility to scrutinize any organization I support financially.  If there is ANY evidence that the organization is attempting to deny or influence Planned Parenthood rights for any reason, they will not have my support.

DISTRUST OF AMERICANS:  Another issue to ponder is the suspension of a four-day UN polio vaccination program in Pakistan, when a female polio worker was killed.  The reason for her death?  The gunmen think the workers are US spies and that the vaccine makes people sterile.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic…and yet, the world’s population continues to accelerate at unsustainable rates. So it should be apparent that sterilty from vaccination is not a concern!

So what is wrong with this picture?  Or perhaps a better question is what caused Pakistanis to think this, and what do we do to overcome it?   

A SAD STORY…of the Crystal Sugar Lockout:  I admit, I have not followed this controversial two-year fight in any detail, but the resolution peeked my interest.  After two years out of work, the striking workers accepted the original offer.  Only problem?  The original 1300 employees were reduced to 400 before they caved in.  There has to be a back story here that I am missing…what happened to the other 900?  Yes, I know, many exercised initiative and found new employment – did they find better pay, or better conditions or simply move on?  Why did it take so long to resolve?  What was the loss to not only the workers, but also the company?  We know workers held out as long as unemployment benefits were being paid – which certainly was a big investment for all parties that share those costs – even Crystal Sugar.  And if one assumes the striking workers with initiative were the ones that found a new source of employment, what did Crystal Sugar gain in the hold out? 

WALMART…one more time.  A new marketing campaign has saturated every TV channel I watch, accompanied by significant print press ads; a new head of marketing has just been announced which signals there will be more to come.  And being the anti-Walmart consumer that I am, I cannot help but question why.  I cannot believe that they just decided one day to change their ways and become cheaper and better citizens; so I am opting for the prejudiced explanation that they have suffered from some of the exposure and have now decided to get better at tapping into the average consumer gullibility as part of a new “damage control” campaign.

Just yesterday, they pleaded guilty to several federal charges (after a long argument blaming employees) to improperly handling and disposing of hazardous materials.  The fine?  $81 Million.  A drop in the bucket-hardly sufficient incentive to mend their ways.

But then, what is their incentive to change?  Their standard operating procedures that result in travesties around the world continue to be “hidden under the rug” as the money and government aid continues to flow into their coffers.  I have given up all hope that governments or consumers will ever gain the upper hand with these folks…a PERCEPTION of a bargain trumps all.

NEW TECHNOLOGY CHANGES:  Today I learned that by 2015, I will be among the minority….one more time.  PCS are diminished; I-Pads rule and tablets will take over market share – with an expected 45% growth from today to 2015.

So decisions to make.  Do I remain the dinosaur or switch?  Maybe I should start with taking advantage of a few more apps on my smartphone.  Unfortunately even that creates a little personal anxiety, so you can imagine how a second article in the STRIB featuring self-driving cars shook me up!  I definitely need to give this all more thought.  Intuitively I am perfectly happy being one of those old boomers I complain about…e-mail and phone conversations are ok with me…and yet, there is that part of me that continues to whisper…stay on the cutting edge; do not become the caricature of Boomers you so dislike and cling to 20th century technology when a whole new world lies ahead.   A dilemma, for sure!

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WHAT A LUXURY…

February 21, 2011

And I am enjoying it in spite of the weather!  A day off today – just for me.

You may have noticed and appreciated that I’ve been pretty quiet this month-hardly thinking about the blog, and certainly not sharing my thoughts with the world.   The Riverfront Visitors Experience and the selection of the design team to guide the redevelopment Above the Falls , tax appointments, more press interviews about CRV 2010, preparing to speak at RETHINK –and attending  the launch of that new concept held in Minneapolis, New York, Copenhagen, and Paris simultaneously, two great ISES gatherings including a field trip to Ellsworth to learn all about the art of ice carving from Chris Swarbeck, our own award-winning expert, have hardly left me time for anything. 

Then throw in the planning for the upcoming Catersource/Event Solutions Conference in Vegas and another intense experience in collaboration as the CRV team re-united to respond to an RFP that could (or not ) represent a significant series of events in 2012. It all added up not much sleep while I also battled this season’s version of the winter flu/cold that wrapped me in misery for sixteen days.

And so I spent the morning leisurely reading the Sunday paper and letting my mind wander with every article:

As I read about King Tut at the Science Museum, I was flooded with images of visiting the Field Museum in Chicago with good friends, Gene and Susie Lehner, and the awe that surrounded us as we experienced the 1970s touring version of that exhibit; I lamented about no time to see Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; and wondered why I still have not experienced Cocina del Barrio when I live in the neighborhood. 

I read the review of “The Paris Wife” and was transported, not to Paris, but to Rochester in the early 60s when Hemingway was in Rochester staying at the home of a classmate of mine.  So while I picked Archibald McLeach for my “American Author” in sophomore English, that classmate picked Hemingway.  What a wonderful experience to have the author featured in your report right there to guide you through the background and message of one of his books.  And what a learning experience to have the teacher tell that classmate that he had missed the point and the real message Hemingway was trying to communicate!  An early life lesson I will always remember.  Read a book and enjoy it on whatever level it resonates with you.  If you find a hidden meaning and second level-great; but if you don’t, don’t worry –your enjoyment at whatever level may be just what the author had in mind!

I was glad (and concerned) to see a favorite restaurant, Kindee Thai made the Strib today; I hope that does not make it more difficult to “drop in” when I am craving Thai food; and the mention of the bouillabaisse at Sea Change set off a whole chain of memories  that spanned a lifetime.  I first was introduced to this wonderful culinary experience on an early visit to Marigot, St. Martin, way back in Winnebago days in the mid 1970s…and it became a favorite pick each time I was in St. Martin, France or Monaco for the next ten years.  From there, in the 80s when traveling to Cupertino for meetings with Apple, I discovered the Italian-influenced San Francisco version, cioppino. It became a favorite dish to order at Cocolozzone’s, and eventually, I learned to make a good version myself   – and still serve it up for special occasions!

I read about the MS benefit and thought of three good friends who have made this disease personal for me; I saw that Wayne Kostroski has written a book about the origin and growth of “Taste of the NFL”. It’s on my list, as I remembered Super Bowl in Minneapolis and under Wayne’s direction, co-chairing with Carolyn Vinup that very first Taste of the NFL event.

And finally, I lamented about the Walmart advance on Target and thought of its impact on the 50th and Hwy 100 neighborhood commercial district.  The locally owned hardware store will be replaced with a Walmart; the hardware store will move to Olson’s Pharmacy and put it out of business.  Two of my favorite stores-uprooted because of Walmart.  I am saddened by that, and know that becomes one more reason to stick to my plan to leave this area and re-locate back downtown in the city near the river where I belong!

And then, paper absorbed over two double-shot espressos, I ran some errands before this snow storm got too awful.   It was quiet, and without much traffic, I tried one more time (to no avail) to see if the T-Mobile experts could get my e-mail functioning, finished the rest of my errands and was on my way back home within an hour.  By then, traffic had slowed down considerably, but I made it back…and then got stuck in the parking lot here at home!   I abandoned the car, knowing that means a lot of shoveling after the plow has come through, but like Scarlett O’Hara, decided to deal with it “tomorrow”-and this gave me one more nudge to move out of here and get back to the city.  I have to accomplish that in 2011 one way or another!