Outraged at Sinclair Broadcasting? Examples – they’re doing nothing new.

 

The media world is in full crisis mode because Sinclair Broadcasting is using its television stations to give an opinion about so-called “fake news.” Holy shit!

What’s all the hubbub really about…Bub?

Are you (because I don’t and because I know) to believe that this is the first time “evil corporate despots” have told their on-air and content producing staffs what to say or not say?

Dixie Chicks

There was that time 15-years ago when the Dixie Chicks dared to speak out against then President George W. Bush, who is from Texas, and the impending war with Iraq. Their records were allegedly pulled from country radio airwaves as punishment. Natalie Maines, the Chick that shot off her mouth in England, is from Lubbock, Texas, which made it worse. A Texan did this? I programmed a news/talk station at the time. So I probably wasn’t on the list to get the memo from corporate HQ in San Antonio, which also happens to be in Texas.

Cailyn Jenner

There was a time when news/talk stations were told not to speak about Caitlyn Jenner unless they were sympathetic to her…I mean him… maybe he is a her…anyway Caitlyn’s cause. What other angle could a news/talk host have when talking to a mainly conservative, old and male audience than calling the…she’s not a “she male”…is he a “he girl?” I don’t know. Anyway, this decree caused many hosts not to talk about the topic du jour back then.

And while I’m thinking about it, in porn lingo, don’t believe what they tell you. It’s not a “chicks with dicks.” It’s “dudes with tits.”

See? It could have been a fun talk show topic.

Let’s move on.Moving On

One of my all time favorites commands came about after a radio host called out the entitled, rude and boorish bicyclists that clog roads and back up traffic during afternoon rush hours. To make matters worse they wear ugly ass clothes covered in logos and goofy helmets. A directive came out shortly there after that this topic was off limits and not to be discussed again on the radio stations. Now you’re wondering why, right? Seems like a legit topic that would engage plenty of frustrated people stuck in traffic. Well one of the owners of the company was big into bicycling, was offended, and I’m guessing also wore those humiliating clothes with ass pads.

These are examples of what not to say. Here’s one of what to say.

Talk hosts were asked to get behind and support Rush Limbaugh because of his stupid and misogynistic comments about Sandra Fluke. You remember he called the young woman, and then Georgetown University law student, a “slut” and “prostitute” because of her congressional testimony on birth control and women’s health. He did apologize.  As the internal corporate spin began, there was the suggestion that this was not an inappropriate comment at all and was actually a “First Amendment” issue. I remember thinking someone at corporate should quickly pull out a pocket Constitution and give it a read. The relevant axiom is easy to find. It’s number one on the list.

No, the issue was an old man making a stupid statement and verbally abusing a young woman, which is never appropriate in our society.

Darryl Guilty

I will admit guilt here. I held a conference call with news/talk programmers and attempted to give the company rah, rah and spin. I knew better, but I was catching a paycheck every few weeks. After the call, and after stumbling and stammering on how we need to support our colleague whose mouth got away from him, a friend of mine in the business commented, “Darryl didn’t believe a word he was saying.” Nope. I didn’t. Not a single fucking word.

The power to shape opinions is given to those who own the radio and TV stations, the printing presses, and the popular Internet sites. It’s always been that way. If you’ve got the money, you’ve got the power and can say what you want.

In the early part of the 20th century there was newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst who popularized what was then called “yellow journalism.” Yes, “fake news” has been around for a while. He bought and started newspapers around the country mostly to further his own political goals and ambitions. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power and used the influence of his printing presses to his personal advantage.

Watch the incredible Orson Welles’ film “Citizen Kane.” The main character is supposedly a portrayal of Hearst, who, when the film was released, told his newspapers they will not mention the movie, review the movie or accept advertising for the movie. He also had many theaters ban it and threatened others who then also refused to show the movie. Initially, the Academy Award winning film was a big money loser at the box office.

What Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is nothing new and I have to admit I’m amused at the hypocritical response of competitive media.

How, for example, can MSNBC be critical of Sinclair Broadcasting when they, along with NBC News, shelved the story about Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women? They had the story and had the power to do something, but did nothing. Whatever the business reason, NBC Universal (as in Universal Pictures) felt it was best to not shine the cleansing light of truth on this story.

It’s also easy to say the Sinclair anchors and employees around the country should refuse to take part in this corporate propaganda. With media jobs so few and far between, and becoming less each day, it’s hard to walk from a paycheck. Could you? TV anchors have families to support too.

Who you trust to get the news and help shape your opinions is up to you. Just understand, as history shows, what Sinclair Broadcasting is doing is nothing new. Media has always tried, is trying and will do its best in the future to shape your opinion to mirror the opinions of that media’s ownership.

They want you to carry their water. And you’ve doing a great job.

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Shocking (and insightful) things people say in your career

 

I remember insightful things people tell me. As I get older, I think my brain may be getting full though. At least that’s what I tell me wife when she’s babbling and telling me something I don’t really need to know. So it’s best I start writing these things down.

 

  • A number of years ago Michael Walter – known as “Dolphin” – then program director of 96Rock in Cincinnati said something interesting to me. We were at a 700WLW promotion where The Big One was giving away a new Camaro. As conversations between people in the same profession normally do, he said something about radio.

 


“We already know how the story ends. It’s just that the final chapter hasn’t been written yet.”

– Dolphin


 

Well we’re on the verge of finding out this story’s final chapter. Two of the largest consolidators, iHeart Media and Cumulus, are bankrupt. Will more bankers be taking over radio?  Will broadcasters?  Will there be a flood of stations for sale?  How many jobs will be gained or lost in radio?

 

  • One summer I was vacationing in Lake Placid, NY. New York’s Adirondack’s are a beautiful place. Before heading out to dinner, my wife and I stopped for a beer at a little bar on Mirror Lake. I sat down next to a fellow and he struck up a conversation asking me what I did. It was obvious he knew something about radio. He ended the conversation with something profound.

 


“Well, once you start getting a paycheck it’s almost impossible to do what’s right. Have a great evening.”

– Never got his name


 

He then quickly got up and left. His comments have always stuck with me and should stick with you, whether you work in radio or do something else.

 

  • After voicing frustrations to him, Chuck Fredrick, the then iHeart Media Market Manager revealed to me the managerial truth of a consolidated radio industry.

 


“We’re no longer managers. We’re facilitators.”

– Chuck Fredrick


 

What an incredibly powerful statement by an astute man, who probably was as frustrated as I was.

Looking back, that was the day I should have packed up my stuff and run, not walked, to the front door, but there was that “paycheck” thing.

 

  • Terry Miller, then comptroller for the Clear Channel Cincinnati market, revealed to me he wasn’t the heartless bastard everyone perceived him to be.  After we laid off a few dozen people between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Terry finally spoke up.

 


“What the was the purpose of that?”

– Terry Miller


 

I think he may have dropped the “f word” too.  He obviously knew how much money the Cincinnati stations were throwing off at the time and it was a lot.  But as “facilitators” do, we “facilitated.”

 

  • Immediately after a college sports season one spring, we were paying the final expenses for each team. The deals with Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati were part rights fees and revenue sharing. The rights fees were listed in the budget, but the revenue sharing was missing for one of the teams.  It was a $70,000 mistake that may have happened in the front office as budgets were finalized a few months before. The sales managers for 700WLW, Joe Fredrick and Tom Horan, our director of sports programming Dave Armbruster and I sat in my office with the door closed to figure out how we were going to tell our boss Mike Kenny, a tough and buttoned up with a budget market manager. I vaguely remember someone curled up in the fetal position on the office couch.  Joe put the issue into perspective.

 


“Paco is gonna fucking kill us.”

– Joe Fredrick


 

“Paco” was Mike’s nickname and Joe was right. We were dead. Figuring it was a smarter move to call him than to walk down to his office and face him, we put him on the speakerphone. After telling him, and a silence that seemed to last forever, with an annoyed sigh he gave us his response.

 


“OK.”

– Mike Kenney


 

He hung up.

I learned we were managers that day and allowed to “manage,” cutting other expenses and increasing other revenues to make the budget right at year’s end.

 

  • When I took over 700WLW as program director, the then Clear Channel corporate PD Marc Chase gave me his professional advice.

 


“Dude. Don’t fuck it up.”

– Marc Chase


 

Sage thoughts that, honestly, I’ve used with others.  Hey.  You can’t be any more concise than don’t fuck it up, right?

 

  • And one final insightful thought. The first time I met radio legend Randy Michaels was in New Orleans.  I know this may surprise you, and as shocking as this may be, we were in a bar on Bourbon Street.  I made a comment about loving a radio station.  He jumped up.  Grabbed me, hugged me and shouted at me what every radio person should believe in their soul and never forget.

 


“It’s OK to love a radio station.  Do you hear me?  It’s OK to love a radio station.”

– Randy Michaels


 

I know the radio stations I still love today and would do anything for.  Do you?

 

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Next Generation Talks About Radio’s Future

There’s a line in a John Mellencamp song, about 17 turning to 35 and being surprised about “still livin’.” A lot of Mellencamp’s songs have the theme, “How did we get here?” Because in life when you blink your eyes, before you know it, it’s Social Security time.

One early morning a few months ago I stopped into a Tim Horton’s Donuts in Orchard Park, NY.  Sitting there alone, at a corner table, with a cup of coffee, and reading the Buffalo News, was a white haired gentleman. I thought about interrupting his morning routine, but decided against it. It was Danny Neaverth, one of Buffalo’s most famous radio and media personalities. He’s now in his retirement years. In all my decades in radio I had never met him and honestly I was a little in star struck. When I was growing up he closed my school many winter mornings. How could I not be in awe?

“Come on Danny. Get to the L’s and close Lackawanna schools.”

Back in college, and already working in radio, I looked at some of the old timers around me then and knew they were the past and I was the future. Now I’m asking myself, “How did I get here?” I looked at Mr. Neaverth and knew I would be joining him at a corner table at Tim Horton’s in just a few short years.

“17 has turned 58” for me.

Much of the commentary written and opined about radio today is from someone like me, no longer the idealistic college student looking toward the future, but one who, for better and worse, knows of, remembers, and is somewhat jaded by a past. My past and yours may no longer be important. But, there are those whose opinions carry a lot of relevancy for radio’s future.  College students.

WBEN-logo

A few days ago I came across a podcast from the Entercom news/talk station in Buffalo – WBEN. In their “930 in 716” podcast, WBEN’s program director Tim Wegner interviewed two students – Harper Horton and Dylan Jock – both studying media at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia. He got them to offer their views about radio’s future.

Dylan Jock

Dylan is optimistic about radio.

“People say video killed the radio star. I don’t know if that necessarily true. If anything I feel like now the opposite is true, visual media is getting eaten alive by the Internet. Whereas the radio is not going anywhere.  It’s a terrestrial thing that exists as…waves. So I don’t see radio getting smaller.  If anything it might get larger, but it’s never going away.

 

Harper Horton 1

Harper, who says she knows of AM radio because her father listens to Yankees’ games, sees radio going in different directions.

“For me it’s general broadcast and the other aspect would be podcasting. It’s still a part of radio, just in a different way. All these technological things that were talking about…it all comes down to better ways to get your signal on a broadcast and out there the way it always has been. Whereas you have podcasting…a lot more production heavy and you get to edit things more easily and also you get to explore different fields. My favorite podcasts to listen to are audio dramas, which is not something you see as much in traditional radio as much anymore. It might be a way to bring that back to traditional radio…starting in this place where it can be more easily edited and may be you can do like a live audio drama.”

 

A belief you hear a lot from people working in radio today is consumers don’t care how they get the content they want. If it’s AM, FM or podcast, it doesn’t matter. Harper feels differently.

“I care a lot about where my content is coming from, because it has to be a source that I trust. Every source has its own different style.  It has to be a style that I enjoy listening to.  But, the trust thing is a really big one especially when we’re talking news content.  There’s a lot of sources that are completely untrustworthy or you know you’re not getting the whole story or the best researched story that you could. So you want to find these sources that you know are going to give you the best content that you possibly could find.”

 

Listen to “930 in 716” podcast here.

Harper wants to get into the audio production and Dylan loves producing live audio and looks forward to that after graduation.

Radio has been around for a long time and each new generation is ultimately responsible for its continued innovation and survival. Just as I came after Danny Neaverth, my generation will entrust Harper and Dylan with radio’s future.

As John Mellencamp goes on to sing in the song Cherry Bomb, “If we’ve done any wrong, I hope that we’re forgiven.”

 

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The sad BANKRUPTING of Radio

The two largest radio companies in America, Cumulus and iHeart Media are BANKRUPT. This means they don’t make enough or have the money to pay their bills and cannot or will not honor their financial commitments.

In Mafia slang, they’re “deadbeats.”

Going all the way back to early British law, bankruptcy was meant to help the creditors collect what was left of a debtor’s assets. These early laws were never meant to forgive the debts of a deadbeat. In fact, the Bankruptcy Clause of the U.S. Constitution basically left it to the states to deal with deadbeats. Debtor’s prisons were common in many states in those days.

The federal government became involved and enacted permanent bankruptcy laws in 1898. These were replaced with comprehensive and more lenient bankruptcy laws in 1978, which govern bankruptcies today.

Today’s bankruptcy laws serve three purposes:

  1. to help creditors deal with an insolvent debtor,
  2. to provide a “fresh start” to debtors,
  3. to save and preserve the concern in financial stress rather than forcing liquidation.

You can say current bankruptcy laws provide more support to debtors and may even reward them for taking foolish financial risks.

We have become a forgiving people.

iHM Bankrupt

The anatomy of why iHeart Media is in the shape it’s in is because of unsustainable debt. It owes over $20 billion dollars to its creditors like banks and bondholders. Much of this debt is at very high interest rates – like 14% high. The reason the interest rates are so high is because of risk – the higher the financial risk, the higher the interest rate. iHeart Media is a bad financial risk. So to get someone to loan them money they must promise to pay high interest rates.

For iHeart Media, the former Clear Channel Communications, revenues are flat or shrinking and they can no longer pay the $1.8 billion in interest they have to come up with each year. That’s $150 million a month just in interest payments.

In 2006, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners, both of Boston, made a call to the founder of Clear Channel Communications Lowry Mays in Texas and offered $26.7 billion to buy the company. Say what? Mr. Mays knew his company could no longer grow revenues as fast as it did just a few years before. Between 1995 and 2000 Clear Channel stock grew about 1300%. 2006 was right before the Great Recession hit and there was also increasing competition from new technologies. The timing and deal were so good he (and the shareholders) couldn’t say no.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 11.56.50 AM

He said to those northeasterners, “Boys. Where do I sign?”

Bain and Lee Partners’ bet was that radio industry revenues would continue to grow and through “synergies” (corporate speak for laying people off) they could increase the cash flows or profits of Clear Channel. Increasing profits and a company with less people (expenses) would mean Clear Channel would be worth more when they sold it a few years later.

Private equity (PE) groups were attracted to radio because of its high profit margins, which they believed they could increase (remember “synergy”). It’s an industry where there’s no inventory to buy and nothing tangible to manufacture. Its biggest cost is people and how easy is it to “synergize” and lay them off? Radio was already throwing off margins in the 15-30% range and if they could increase those margins to 40-50%, what could possibly go wrong?

Bain and Lee Partners, like most PE companies, operate pretty much the same way. They come to you with a nice offer to buy the company, tell you nothing is going to change and that they’ll let you run the company and they’ll be hands off. They put together what is called a “leveraged buyout” (LBO) to purchase the company.

Think of a LBO like buying a house. You put money down and take out a mortgage to borrow the rest of the sale price. That mortgage or debt is then attached to you, the purchaser (the way it should be). You’re the debtor and you promise to pay the money back.

In a “leveraged buyout,” the private equity company, the purchaser, puts some money down and borrows the rest of the money to complete the sale. The difference is the debt is attached to the company being acquired, the seller. It’s that company’s responsibility to repay the debt, not the purchasing PE company.

The private equity company assumes little financial risk, but receives huge financial rewards. They may act as the sales agent in the transaction, collecting fees from the sale, similar to a real estate agent’s commission. They may also charge the company an annual “management fee” for their “expert” advice.

A few years later, after extracting all the money or “equity” they can from a company, they sell it, again, acting as the sales agent. And with favorable tax laws they get a tax break from the government on the money they make from the sales.

In the end, the acquired company is left with little remaining equity and a large and possibly unsustainable debt.

Without the meddling of PE companies, Clear Channel or iHeart Media could have been the greatest of media stories and companies of all time – the modern day “Tiffany” as CBS was once called.

An iHeart Media sycophant recently said to me on Facebook, “If I Heart Media didn’t have the interest payments it would be making money.” How stupid is this comment?

Borrowing money and paying for the use of that money with interest is how the economic system works. And the system works well if people aren’t rewarded by lenient bankruptcy laws that support debtors who make foolish investments.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence, debt payments are $1.8 billion annually for iHeart Media. Its operating cash flow is $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion, meaning even without the debt they’d still be underwater.

Prior to Bain and Lee Partners paying $24 billion dollars for a 70% share of the then Clear Channel, the company had $18.8 billion in assets and just $5.2 billion in debt.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 11.53.01 AM

With iHeart Media stock trading at less than fifty cents a share these days, its market cap (total value of the companies outstanding shares) is about $44 million dollars. Most of its equity is gone.

As my go to economics professor, Dr. Woodrow “Woody” Forrest told me, “Wow. They’re bankrupt.”

 

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Abolish the 2nd Amendment? Who will have the guts to propose it?

Which politician in Washington is going to have the guts to do it? Which politician is going to be the first to propose it?

As we wait for another mass shooting (any day now), the rhetoric in Congress, from President Donald J. Trump, the NRA and the so-called “expert” talking heads on the various cable news shows is in full force.

We’ve heard all the proposals before, though.

Expanding background checks. Sure this sounds good. And if you want to buy a gun from a store like Don’s Guns in Indianapolis (“they don’t want to make any money folks, they just love to sell guns”), a deeper background check may at times work. But, with millions of these types of guns already privately owned in America, what stops me from selling my spare AR-15 to a friend on the other side of town without a check? Nothing.

Make twenty-one the legal age to buy an AR-15. “Hey soldier. You’re eighteen now. Here’s a gun to blow the head off an ISIS rebel sitting on some sand dune, but you have to wait three more years to privately own a similar weapon to the one we just gave you.” Stupid idea. By the way, drinking age should be eighteen too. If you can vote in America at eighteen, and kill in the name of America at eighteen, you should be able to drink and own the legal gun of your choice at eighteen.

Dirty Harry Go ahead

Arm and train teachers (or some teachers) as proposed by the president. It’s easy to talk a big game here. “If only a teacher had a weapon, he would have killed the gunman.” That’s a big assumption. When confronted, will a teacher act, shooting to kill a troubled student he or she may know? Hell, an armed 32-year veteran cop in Broward County, Florida appears to have waited outside Stoneman Douglas High School listening to the gunshots that slaughtered 17 innocent people. We expect a biology teacher to turn all Dirty Harry and say, “Cruz. Go ahead. Make my day?” It may happen, but then again it may not.

It is comforting to know, however, when the next school shooting happens, if President Trump can get to the scene in time he may personally enter the building, unarmed, to stop the massacre. “Stand down Secret Service agent. This one’s mine.”

So it comes down to the 2nd Amendment.

 

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 

The Founding Fathers, the radical, free thinking hippies of their day, with long white hair in ponytails, must have thought this gun thing was important, since it comes in at number two on the countdown.

It’s easy to understand why it was important to them. The British considered them traitors to the throne and treasonous bastards. When the colonials were fighting the Revolutionary War, keeping a rifle handy at the front door was the prudent thing to do.

But, it really doesn’t matter why you have the right to own a gun. You do. That’s all you need to know. Ten years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the right to bear arms is an individual right, adding the 2nd Amendment may be regulated, but it would be up to the courts to decide if those regulations infringed on your rights to own the gun.

You have the right to own guns – period.

The 2nd Amendment, as it is written, doesn’t say you have to undergo a background check. It says nothing about you paying for the gun and then having to wait a few days until it’s actually given to you. Nor does it say you must be eighteen or twenty-one to buy and own a gun. And it doesn’t say anything about music teachers being allowed to have a 44 Magnum in their clarinet cases.

I started off by asking two questions: Which politician in Washington is going to have the guts to do it? Which politician is going to be the first to propose it?

Congress Monkeys

What I meant was which politician is going to have the guts to propose a change to or the abolition of the 2nd Amendment?

Sure, it’s political suicide.  But, if any politician really feels so strongly about gun control, this is what they should be fighting for. Otherwise their rhetoric on background checks, bump stocks and arming teachers is just that – rhetoric (and political theater).

Kids being killed in schools? Abuse of lottery revenues to blame too.

As we sit and wait for the next school shooting to take place – one we all know is going to happen – I began to think about the other causes of these massacres. It easy to blame guns, video games, mental illness, drugs and other issues, because it’s easy to equate culpability.

While there is plenty of fault to go around, I believe we all can agree it is our goal – our duty – as parents and taxpayers to keep our children safe while they are at school, which takes money.

A few days before the student body (and teacher), body count increased in South Florida, President Donald Trump’s administration released its budget proposal for 2019. It included a $24 million cut in national school-safety programs. In the past, this money has been for “school-based violence prevention strategies.”

ed_chart_rev_big

Source: State of Ohio

Where I live, in Ohio, the state’s education budget for primary and secondary education is $9 billion (in actual dollars) in 2017.

Before you lay blame on the president, which some non-thinkers immediately did, there are over 13,500 separate school district governments in the U.S. and $24 million amounts to nothing. If you divide that out evenly, it means each district would receive $1777. That’s almost enough money to get pizza for the senior prom.

There’s a bigger issue with school funding. It’s one rarely discussed and it hides in plain view of everyone. State lotteries.

In 2016, $73.7 billion was spent on lottery tickets in America. While it’s true most Americans don’t play, quick public school math says each American spends, on average, $325 a year on lotteries.

Ohio Lottery Payments

Source: Ohio Lottery

In many states the proceeds are to go toward education.

No matter the party, politicians cannot stop spending. Years ago as they were running short on cash they figured an easy way to raise money and tax people more was to get into the gambling business, just like the Mafia or Catholic Church. To get voters to approve lotteries they needed to sell its benefits and what better benefit than using lottery profits to fund schools. Money for education, for our kids and their safety. What could be wrong with that?

Like lemmings, plenty of voters approved state lotteries without reading the legalities in the fine print.

So where does that $73.7 billion in lottery sales really go?

About 66% is used for prize money. It’s used to pay the cash prizes and the annuity policies for the mega winners who choose to be paid over time.

Another 5% is used for operational expenses, like paying salaries for those working for the lottery and for advertising. In Ohio the lottery slogan is, “Take a chance on education. Odds are you’ll have fun.” It makes you feel good about losing a quick $20, if that “Jackson” keeps kids educated and safe, right?

The last 29%, and billions of dollars, goes back to the states. In some states the money is to be used to fund schools. And you’d assume this is true because that’s what’s you’ve been told – “take a chance on education.”

Here’s what they don’t tell you, the so-called fine print.

So let’s say your state budgets $1 billion for education during a year and the lottery brings in $1 billion in profit for that same year. That’s $2 billion for the schools, right? No. “Political mathematics” says this equals $1 billion.

While it’s technically and legally true the $1 billion in lottery profit is used to pay the costs of education, the other $1 billion the state had budgeted for education is now freed up. It’s put back into the general revenue fund to spend for unspecified stuff. A giant “slush fund” checking account if you will. And what’s better than a “slush fund” if you’re a politician that can’t stop spending?

It’s not really clear where a lot of this money actually goes each year. It’s a shell game. I’ll take it one step further. It’s “money laundering.”

At last look, 15 states use some or all of their lottery revenues to fund education, while others don’t. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for example, uses its take from the lottery to help the elderly. Politicians in the Quaker State know where their bread is buttered. You need to take care of these old people, they vote. Kids, their schools and their safety? The hell with them.

In Wisconsin, the lottery revenues are used to lower property taxes. Every lottery preys upon the working class, minorities and lower income people hoping to hit it big. To put this as bluntly as I can, in Wisconsin, the taxes of wealthier property owning people are being lowered with an additional (albeit optional) tax on lower income people. Wealthier people vote. Lower income people don’t.

A professor at St. Mary’s College in Indiana, a fellow named Patrick Pierce has made it his life’s work to study lotteries. His research shows by a lottery’s eighth year, the money spent on education in that state is lower than if lottery tickets were never sold. The money that would have been used to keep our kids safe in schools and educate them is used for other things like tax cuts that voters love.

I’m all for lower taxes and will vote to lower my taxes any chance I get. Just remember, a lower tax in one place means a spending cut happens somewhere else. Many times it’s our kids that suffer and are put at risk.

South Florida Victims

Three of the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school shootings.

In Florida, billions have been raised for education from its state lottery.

As the federal government rolls back spending for schools and states cut education budgets, school shootings are happening with more commonality. This continued abuse of state lottery revenues is unacceptable as children are senselessly gunned down by the most evil in our communities.

We continue to allow state governments to lie to us about how lottery revenues are spent.

If you’re looking for a quick funding fix to pay for extra security and guards at schools, states must begin use lottery revenues properly. In 15 states we are told it’s for our children and their education. Why isn’t this happening?

The shallowness of “thoughts and prayers”

FL Shooting Victims_0218

Let’s add 17 more names to the list of dead students after another school shooting, the 18th this year by some accounts, this time at a high school in South Florida.

As usual, we Americans struggle to understand. We’ll have this struggle until the next news cycle begins in about 48 hours.

So we offer our “thoughts and prayers.”

Social media provides the ability to give our “thoughts and prayers” quickly. It makes us feel like we’re supporting survivors and that makes us feel good inside. Then, after posting those three words on Twitter or Facebook most are on to other pressing issues to complain about on social media like having to wait too long for a latte at Starbucks.

I was trying to remember if anyone ever brought a gun into my high school. I went to a school that had some race riots back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. A number of times fellow students were caught with knives and the occasional switchblade, but in urban America in the 1970’s, most were street smart enough to know a gun was going to get you time in the penitentiary

On the night of the shootings at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, I was watching the opinion shows on the various news channels. One of the shows I watched was Hardball on MSNBC. Chris Matthews had done this show many times before. I wouldn’t be surprised if scripts were reused from previous “school shooting shows.” As expected, the zombies began appearing – the zombies that occupy the Washington swamp – the politicians.

There was zombie Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut. He couldn’t wait to pat his state on the back for having “among the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the county.” The problem with that, in his view, is other states have weak gun control laws and those guns come across the border into his state. He then offered up his “thoughts and prayers,” before adding that’s not enough.

It was back in December of 2012 when 20 children and 6 adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. About a month later in January 2013, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 bill was introduced to Congress. The bill set up new guidelines, using a “one-feature” test to determine if a firearm was an assault weapon or not. In April of that year, the bill was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 40-60.

Here’s something you may not know. After those 20 babies and a half dozen adults were senselessly slaughtered in Connecticut, the bill was introduced by – Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California. It had 24 co-sponsors and Blumenthal was one of those. Could it be Feinstein, in office since 1992, was willing to take the heat from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun lobbyists and Blumenthal was not?

You’d think experiencing first hand the death and pain caused by the second worst school shooting in American history, occurring in his small state, he’d have his name in bold font at the top of that bill.  The bill being defeated or not doesn’t matter.  It’s about the perception of taking action.

Blumenthal has only been in office since 2011. It’s been over 5 years since Sandy Hook and these shooting are now more commonplace. You’re right senator, “thoughts and prayers” are not enough. What have you done; besides apparently hide behind the skirt of Diane Feinstein?

Next on Hardball came Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a zombie congresswoman from South Florida. She said she has children in another high school in Broward County. After offering her “thoughts and prayers” she said using the best hyperbole she could muster up, she was “actually nauseous.”

In June 2016, there was a horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. 49 people were executed there. Add to that the other 17 in Parkland. She’s co-sponsored a few bills dealing with gun violence and 2nd Amendment issues – all introduced, none voted on. It may be time for a little more action and a little less Dramamine, congresswoman.

Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, the biggest zombie of them all, showed up next to give his “thoughts and prayers” to Chris Matthews. Nelson asked the rhetorical question in melancholy tone, “When is this going to stop?” Adding, “I don’t know when enough is going to be enough.”

Nelson has been a Democratic senator from Florida since 1991. What’s the body count on his watch? Senator, you’ve been in office for almost 30 years. If you don’t know when enough will be enough, why are you there?

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The FBI received prior notifications about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, due to his postings on YouTube. He bought an AR-15 for the purpose of killing. In Florida you have to be 21 to buy a handgun, but a rifle is just 18. Cruz is 19.

Is banning the weapon the answer? According to estimates there are as many as 10 million AR-15’s currently owned in the U.S., so no it’s not.  Cruz also had a gas mask and smoke grenades. Those are used in war. Are we going to ban those items too?

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has an enrollment of 3,000 students and had just two – yes two – security guards on duty.  How can two, probably retired, police officers guard all those students, teachers and staff on a “gun free” campus?  They can’t.

It comes down to governments actually enforcing existing laws. It comes down to students speaking up and telling teachers there’s something wrong and that a person may be dangerous.  It comes down to parents preparing their kids not for what can happen, but what will happen.  It comes down to providing the needed funding for not only education needs, but for kid’s safety when at school.

Do I want a wall because I’m worried about an invasion of Mexicans? No. Am I worried about our children’s safety in schools? Yes. If Congress provides the billions in funding for that stupid border wall and again does nothing to protect our children in schools, there’s nothing more you need to know about those serving us in Washington.

It is our responsibility to elect politicians who will take the correct actions in our representative republic and focus on us – the people they serve – not the lobbyists they run in fear from.

“Thoughts and prayers” until the next school shooting.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch was a commercial? Son of a…

There’s nothing like having a creative mind, a little public relations savvy and having enough money to make things happen.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX test launched its Falcon Heavy rocket on a sunny February afternoon in Florida. Watching, you probably thought the same thing I did, “That kicked ass.” Musk had another reaction. Read on.

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The rocket blasted off, and then a few minutes later, two of the three parts of the rocket landed back on earth. The landing was real, but looked like computer animation from some video game. The third and middle portion of the rocket, which was to land on what can best be described as a barge, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket booster was going about 300 miles an hour and missed the boat by about three hundred feet. Said Elon, the SpaceX CEO, “That sounds like some pretty fun footage, so if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well, then we’ll put that out for a blooper reel.”

That’s a minor thing though, because the commercial “money shot” was the two other rockets making vertical landings at Cape Canaveral.

Very cool stuff. The cool stuff NASA used to wow Americans with almost 50 years ago when they put the first men on the moon.

After watching the video (with a few million others on YouTube), it eventually dawned on me I was watching a commercial, because that’s what it was – a commercial for one of Musk’s other companies – Tesla.

Comic Robert Klein used to do a joke in his stand-up routine about how “first man on the moon” Neil Armstrong blew the biggest commercial opportunity in the history of mankind. He could have financially set up his family for generations. All Armstrong had to do was put that first foot in the moon dust and say, “Coca-Cola!”

Public relations savvy Elon Musk, who also founded the electric vehicle company, took the opportunity to launch one of his company’s products into space. A sweet cherry red Tesla Roadster, complete with a mannequin in a space suit behind the wheel. Note the car was an eye-catching cherry red. Not black, blue, green or any other color. It was a cherry red.

The car, now heading into deep space, also has a loop of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” playing. Never mind, that you can’t hear sound in the vacuum of space. It was the extra-added touch that counted.

“It’s just literally a normal car in space. I kind of like the absurdity of that,” said Musk. “It’s kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly, fun things are important. I think the imagery of it is something that’s going to get people excited around the world, and it’s still tripping me out. I’m tripping balls here.”

For those of you not up on culture and its terminology, “tripping balls” translates to a heavy, deep, drug induced hallucinatory trip.

At his the first press conference after landing on the moon, I can’t imagine Neil Armstrong saying, “I’m back on Earth and I’m tripping balls here.” But, you know he was thinking it.

What about other famous phrases that come from NASA and its astronauts.

“Houston. We have a problem. I’m tripping balls here.”

For Tesla, a company that as far as I can recall sells its cars without the need of traditional advertising, launching something as common as a car – albeit a cherry red car – into space is the ultimate commercial. The result? Tesla is really cool.

It got me to thinking about NASA, the mundane, boring government space agency that lost its PR savvy decades ago. Did their engineers ever want to launch something into space to just do it? Household appliances like a Whirlpool washer and dryer? May be a Winnebago? You know so they could experience “tripping balls” too?

That cherry red Tesla launched on top of the Falcon Heavy rocket was supposed to go to Mars. As it turns out that was the second mistake with the launch. It’s now heading somewhere else in space. Where it goes really doesn’t matter.

“It’s just going to be out there in space for may be millions or billions of years,” said Musk. “May be discovered by some future alien race thinking ‘What the heck? What were these guys doing? Did they worship this car? Why do they have a little guy in the car? And that’ll really confuse them.”

Not only is he selling cool cars, Musk is a big picture thinker. He’s also trying to get those big eyed, gray skinned aliens to think, “I’m tripping balls here.”

Data – Talk Radio has LITTLE Political Influence

 

The political advertising spend is not happening for conservative talk radio where I live in Hamilton County, Ohio.  Oh, you don’t know about Hamilton County in conservative southwestern Ohio?  You may know it as Cincinnati.  It’s the conservative Ohio county that voted President Barack Obama into office twice, swinging the entire state to him in 2008 and 2012.  And he was running against sane Republican opponents.  A lot of money was spent here in candidate and SuperPAC money back then.  Big money.

A while back I penned a piece about conservative talk radio’s plan on November 9th.  The audience is already shrinking, old, male and basically dying off.  And yet during budget time, conservative talk radio stations always plan for this huge windfall of political money.  Even 15 or 20 years ago I questioned a format business model focused on hoping for political money every four years.  Makes total sense, right?

I asked a few radio sales managers in this market how the political spend was this election.  The response from one and I quote, “Not happening.”  Of course I knew this already by listening.  I haven’t heard many political commercials, except for a some down ballot candidates.

So conservative talk radio hosts, “What are your plans for November 9th and beyond?”  Have you thought about this?  Why not?  Do you have an exit strategy?  You better.  You’re going to need one and quick.

November 9, 2016, the day after election day, is a very important date and it’s fast approaching.  In 2012, I predicted 2016 would start the end for conservative talk radio, a format that exists mainly on the AM broadcast band, a medium with no future.  I’m guessing somewhere after passing through that fancy mist tunnel in Manhattan they’re already thinking about putting this conservative talk radio dog to sleep.

The steps are already being taken.  Exhibit A – “Rush Limbaugh.”

In 2012, I had no idea Rush Limbaugh would be taking a massive pay cut just to stay on the air.  Weeks ago I heard his salary was cut to $15 million from $50 million a year.  That’s a 70% cut in pay, if true.  It may be more.  If you’re a conservative talk radio host, your next contract negotiations are not going to go well – if there’s any negotiation.  Do you believe you have an upper hand with declining revenues and ratings? Limbaugh, in conservative Cincinnati, was ranked #14, P25-54, in the September ’16 PPM.  Is “everybody” listening as the industry trade ads say?  Hardly.

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Please call Peter.  He’s lonely.

The 2016 election season is almost over with little political spend and that’s not good for the 2017 budgets of conservative talk radio stations.  This time consolidator companies won’t be waiting for things to turn around in 2020.

Then there’s the rhetoric.  America is changing and conservative talk hosts believe they can stop it.  They can’t.  It is no longer the world of aging, white Baby Boomers, which I’m one.  Our destiny is now in the hands of the Gen X’ers and Millennials.  American society reflects their believes and desires. Conservative talk radio should be reflecting and speaking with the younger generations to survive, but have mistakenly chosen to double-down with an aging demographic providing no future for the format, that if done correctly would be viable.  And conservative talk radio hosts, for no other reason than he’s running as a Republican and after vilifying him during the spring primaries, are defending the indefensible comments and behavior of Donald J. Trump.

Conservative talk radio hosts long ago forgot they’re in the entertainment business.  They’d rather push agendas to further “the cause,” what ever that may be.  Ironically though, Donald J. Trump is in the entertainment business and he never forgets it.  The just concluded debates were “must watch” TV, for no other reason than Trump’s unpredictable comments and entertainment value. Warts and all, he’s interesting and entertaining to watch. But, the next day, following each debate, conservative talk radio was (as expected) predictable and boring, offering nothing unique, insightful or entertaining. It certainly wasn’t “must listen.”

One other thing, Mr. Trump has an exit strategy.  After his scorched earth policy campaign harms what’s left of the Republican party (a draining of the Republican swamp needs to happen), conservative talk radio and its hosts will be collateral damage.  At a time when these hosts should have been embracing, entertaining and focusing on the larger audience universe, they chose to parrot Trump and by doing so, exclude women, who make up 51% of the population – large breasts or not, Hispanics, African Americans, Gold Star families, prisoners of war, the handicapped…the list goes on.

When it’s all said and done Trump still has his billions, his personal mega brand and may be a TV network, although he recently denied it while “Live from Trump Tower” began streaming on his Facebook page.  What will conservative talk radio have left?  A shrinking, aging male audience that’s unattractive to advertisers.

Xavier University in Cincinnati does research which tracks, on a monthly basis, the consumer sentiments of people nationally. 1000 people are surveyed each month in their American Dream Composite Index.  Two of the last three months the survey has asked where people get their political news.  The choices were TV, Radio, Print, Social Media.  Radio comes in dead last.

August 2016 – “I get most of my political news from:”

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October 2016 – “I get most of my political news from:”

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The irony is Millennials, in this survey, seem to be using radio more for political news than Boomers, not that the numbers are anything to brag about.

Self important conservative radio talk show hosts are delusional believing they are influential in shaping the thoughts, beliefs and future of America.  Let’s take an accounting (with credit going to my friend Randall Bloomquist for this):

Presidential elections since 1990 – 6

Democrats elected president since 1990  – 4 (or 67% of the time)

(Somewhat) Socialized healthcare – Law

Abortion – Still legal

Same Sex Marriage – Now legal

Marijuana – Being legalized

Has conservative talk radio been influential?  It’s time for a long overdue intervention and draining of this swamp.

Demographics are changing and driving our future and conservative talk radio and its practitioners refuse to acknowledge it.

Demographics are destiny.

Never forget it.

A Native New Yorker Apologizes to America

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The first time I voted I needed to declare a party preference.  Coming of age in the 70’s in the Empire State crime was everywhere.  The Son of Sam was following his neighbor’s dog Harvey’s instructions to kill people on Gotham’s mean, unsympathetic streets.  Meanwhile, factories upstate were closing, as local restaurants were suggesting people bring their unemployment checks in to be cashed and to get some tacos.  I declared for the Conservative Party.  Not Republican.  Conservative.  This was in New York State!

It was clear things needed to change.  The country was a mess politically, economically and socially, especially in New York.  America was quickly changing.  States in the south and out west were growing in population and political influence.

In the years since, I’ve thought about a day when New York would give the country its next President. A New Yorker hasn’t been president in decades, since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a guy who kept the job like the Pope.  If he didn’t drop dead in office, who knows how long he would have kept going.  He was only 63 when he died.

New York State has given America six presidents.

  • Martin Van Buren (or as he was called back in his day “Martin Van Ruin).  “Marty Van B” comes in at president #8 and was the first American born president.  The previous seven were carpetbagging foreigners.  Where was the colonial era Donald Trump demanding to see Thomas Jefferson’s birth certificate?
  • Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president and was president #13.  Whig was a political party and not a hair piece.  He’s buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.  I’m guessing it’s got to be one of the hottest tourist attractions in my hometown, right after the place where chicken wings were invented.  The story goes he was born in a log cabin in New York’s Finger Lakes Regio….Finger La….Finge….Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
  • Chester A. Arthur.  Not to be confused with Chester E. Arthur or Chester K. Arthur.  What’s the deal with the “A?”  His middle name was Alan.  May be he didn’t use his full name because only serial killers are referred to by three names, like John Wayne Gacy.  New York gets credit for him, but he was born in Vermont.  His bones currently reside in Albany.  He comes in at president #21.
  • Grover Cleveland.  I’ll bet you thought he was from Ohio.  Nope.  Not even New York.  And his first name wasn’t Grover.  It was Stephen.  He was just another carpetbagger, this time from New Jersey. He was president twice, coming in at #22 and #24.  He was the governor of New York and the mayor of Buffalo. So how did he pay back the voters of the Empire State for making him Prez? When he croaked they dropped him into a hole in Princeton, New Jersey. Today, he rocks for eternity with Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Southside Johnny.
  • Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th president after William McKinley took a head shot in Buffalo.  “Teddy” had no middle name.  He was a Republican and a member of the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party, which was called that because Roosevelt once said he was fit as a “bull moose” to some newspaper reporters. Can you image the fun we’d have in social media if Bill Clinton declared himself a “bull moose?”  Bully!
  • The last president from New York was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Most people have middle names like Robert, William and Michael.  When you’re born filthy rich you get a middle name like “Delano.” Born in Hyde Park, New York.  Buried in Hyde Park, New York.  He was president for 12 years, leading the country with inspiring speeches and fireside chats during the tough years of the Great Depression and World War II.  A statesman, politician and leader.  But, many would question his judgement of female beauty?  Let’s just call his marriage to Eleanor a marriage of “political convenience.”

1945 was the last time “New York values” governed the nation and back then those “New York values” were respected and meant something.  When Texas Senator Ted Cruz made his political misstep and was critical of “New York values,” who knew the Northeastern-Ivy league educated, Texas senator from Canada was so correct.

Unfortunately, the next president will be from New York.

 

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Donald Trump.  At least he was born in Queens. Have you ever flown to New York City and thought, “Wow. LaGuardia Airport is a dump.”  That’s Queens!  A few of my favorite quotes from the “always a media whore” Mr. Trump:

“My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it.  Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

See he’s caring and has a soft spot for us mental midgets.

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what media writes as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

Inappropriate to some, but you have to agree it does make for better pictures.

 

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Hillary Clinton.  A carpetbagger from Illinois, Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Long Island.  She was elected Senator from New York after living in the state for about 14 minutes.   A few of my favorite quotes from the “always a bureaucrat” Mrs. Clinton:

“God bless the America we are trying to create.”

We already have convenience stores open 24/7, craft breweries and Netflix.  What more can we want?

“We are going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

OK.  But, don’t be messing with my right to get stupid drunk at an NFL game or a NASCAR race.

 

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From a state that’s home to the economic capital of the world, New York City.  A state that’s filled with mountains, lakes, both great and small, and rural beauty as far as the eye can see.  A state with the Statue of Liberty to the east and the thundering waterfalls of Niagara to the west.  A state that has served as a gateway for immigrants whose descendants today make up a third of all Americans.  A state that has given us healthy food choices like coal fired pizza, jello, the potato chip and chicken wings.

I ask, is this clown show the best New York can come up with?

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I apologize.  I’m so sorry America.  I’m so very sorry.