Category Archives: Uncategorized

Face It Together, Keloland!

(Hey Mike Skillrud, Gary Weckwerth and I say How-Doo!)

It has been awhile, but today I dusted off the ol’ media skills and appeared on the new “KELOLAND LIving” television program representing my employer Face It TOGETHER and talking about the many paths we offer to help those in addiction get well again.  In case you’re unsure, I’m the man in black on the left, with co-host Brittany Kaye on the right.

Joe for Face It on KELOLAND Living 3 21 18https://w3.cdn.anvato.net/player/prod/v3/anvload.html?key=eyJtIjoiTElOIiwidiI6IjE5MjAxMjEiLCJhbnZhY2siOiJWTUo5WTRZckVZYlhMQzZZODljMzhJTHBlanp5a2JqdyIsImh0bWw1Ijp0cnVlLCJ0b2tlbiI6ImxhaTR1YjMwbTFqTmhibFU0c3g2bWx5Q0sxVkFQMVlhbldoc0d1RG9GUW9%2BTW40d2ZnIn0%3D

Hadn’t thought about it until right now but this was my first time on KELO-TV, once home to SD broadcast legends Leo Hartig, Jim Burt, Doug Lund, Ken Hirsch, Joe Cooper,  the talented and fetching Bobbi Lower, Jim Wooster with the midday farm markets, and of course, the Captain 11ist of them all,  “Weatherman” Dave Dedrick,  (“After this message from Old Home Bread. we’ll talk about it….”}  Back in the day, local TV didn’t have actual meteorologists bearing the official “Seal”.  They had “Weathermen” like Ken Hirsch and Dave D.  All you really needed to have was a major-league voice, some personality, and better -than-average skills with the giant, black, erasable magic marker.

 

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How To Ruin Radio, Bank $25 Billion, and Still Say “I Heart Radio” With a Straight Face

 

L: Lowry Mays, Chief Bad Guy.  R: Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, Edsel Salesman

You could have easily missed this bit of business news earlier in the week.  iHeartRadio, a group of corporate bankers/investors and owner of around 825 commercial radio stations across the US of A, filed for bankruptcy, siting mountains of debt and growing competition from the Spotify/Pandora streaming services of the world. However, lost in many of the stories written about the failure, is the iHeartBreaking story of the unnecessary destruction of one of the most revolutionary and romantic (for many of us anyway) inventions/industries in the history of the 20th century.

Note:  What follows is a rough, layman’s description of the debacle.  I am not a corporate finance expert, and I don’t write about this issue as a business journalists.  What I did do was live and work in the radio industry during the entire length of this tale, and listen and learn about it from some of the brightest minds in the business. I also worked for a couple of those brightest minds, who remained family owned, operated profitable and stayed community connected. The closest I came to working for the “bad people” was the 8+ years spent undercover in public broadcasting  fighting the Empire known as the South Dakota State Government from the inside out..  In short, if not factually perfect, this is how I saw it go down.

It’s 1996.  The national economy is pretty good.  In local media, Radio is humming along as a nicely profitable industry, and serving loyally in their communities.  At that time the law of the land limited the number of radio stations one company could own in a community, and across the country.  Then the Telecommunications Bill of 1996 was passed, largely sponsored in the U.S. Senate by South Dakota  Senator Larry Pressler (thanks Larry).  The news coverage of the bill focused chiefly on its groundbreaking  rules for the telephone (internet?)/ and cable industries.  However, buried in there were game-changing rule for ownership limits.  There were some rules somewhere, but basically the law said if you have the money, honey, you can buy all the radio stations you want.

Back then, the company we know as iHeartMedia was being put together by a TV/Radio company called Clear Channel Communications.  CC was largely owned by the Lowry Mays family, and a rootin’ tootin’ Texas mogul names Red McCombs, know in these northern parts as the one-time owner of the Minnesota Vikings.  With the new (no?) rules in place, CC went on a ginormous buying spree, eventually owning some 1200+ radio stations.  Other companies tried to keep pace by doing the same thing, which made it a seller’s market.  CC bought the stations they wanted, price be damned, and ended up over paying again and again. Their first years were spent slashing out “expenses” (also know as people) and automating, voicetracking, networking and “blanding”  as much radio content as they could.  Content quality, organic, market-specific programming and community service were, shall we say, a ways down on the ol’ priority list.  To compete, the CC wannabe groups did much the same, making the only competitive race the one to the bottom.

By 2008 much of the damage was done. The “zanies”, (the non-conformist, risk-taking and at times marginally dangerous goofballs (the kind which for generations had made radio content interesting; also known as My People) were off horsin’ around these new-fangled things called Internets. Clear Channel had ironically renamed itself iHeartRadio because the Clear Channel name had become a dirty word, the name and face for ALL the robber barons who instead of “IHearting” Radio had left it out in the rain to rust.  Having largely run out of expenses to cut, and with listening and revenue down as the result of tapioca content,  IHeartRadio did what many nameless, faceless publicly-traded companies had always done:  cash out by finding a sucker with more money than brains.  They didn’t have to look far and hornswaggled a bunch of bankers, who knew nothing about the radio business or how it had been gutted, to overpay THEM to the tune of $26.5 Billion dollars, with the new guys also taking on all the debt. And oh, yeah, this savvy bit of overpaying occured about 20 minutes before the economy followed the bankers into abyss known as the Great Recession.   In 10 years since, things didn’t get any better for the investment bankers, who ran out of things to cut, borrowed more money and tried to keep things going by ripping out and selling the copper plumbing and setting insurance fires.  And, oh yeah, the entire environment of content and methods of distribution experienced a Big Bang, flattening most of what previously existed and reshaped the planet in ways not unlike the Genesis Device in Star Trek II and III. Debt was the onl thing that thrived. Things finally hit bedrock this week when bankruptcy was filed.

The sorriest irony of all is that should the value of the station carcasses go low enough in the bankruptcy liquidation, the Mays/McCombs cabal would consider…get ready…buying them back for a pittance. I predicted this very thing would happen in 15 years after the Telecom Act (2011),  while it actually took 22.

On the bright side, there are those on the station level in communities across the land who have continued to fight the good fight and are still serving their communities DESPITE their absentee landlords’ efforts to burn it all down.  I also don’t at all blame the local owners who got out and sold. Most loved the business as much or more than anyone, and couldn’t bear to see it all laid to waste.  Let’s see how any of us would have reacted had someone put that big cabbage in front of us.    And, as they corporate owners go down, the good operators are also buying back stations and returning to the business of being live and local.  I say more power to them, and good luck.  But for many talented people who were sacrificed by bankers, venture capitalists and stockholders who never set foot in the market, never listening to what they owned and couldn’t identify the career people they disposed of out of a lineup, many lifetimes of dedicated service and incredible creativity just disappeared.  Or ended up on a wildly profitable webcast available world-wide.

 

Lalley: “Pierre SD: Where Freedom Goes To Die”

I love South Dakota, but lately it’s not been easy.  Yes, there are still many good people who somehow live up to the vision/stereotype of a state and people who are fair, honest, hard-working, plain-speaking and community-minded.  However, it’s become painfully and incredulously clear that an alarming number of South Dakotans act as if we’re still a Territory during the gold bonanza days in the late 1800’s, wrapping themselves in populist rhetoric while making profitable back-room deals, and covering up public money lost by thievery or incompetence.  What’s worse is that a majority of SD voters continue to send these paragons of virtue back to Pierre and the innards of Sioux Falls, making this mockery possible.

My Minnesota friends would be astounded by what goes under reported and unpunished by the political power structure in SD.  MN has its policial underbelly, and its share of zealots trying to take life back to the Good Ol’ Days when the Legislature measured diversity by the number of White German Men vs White Norwegian Men, women knew their place and native children were forcibly taken from parents and crammed into “Indian Schools” to beat the savage out of them.  However, even the MN political fringes are militant about it’s Political Sunshine laws demanding open meetings and accountable elected officials.  I moved from MN back to SD 10 years ago, and I’m still shocked what the elected and appointed get away here.  The Wild West Good Ol’ Boys are alive and kickin’ in SD.

Patrick Lalley is a KSOO Radio host, blogger, writer and commentator in Sioux Falls who has followed this devolution most of his adult life, and penned the piece below with just the latest examples of skullduggery at the State Capitol:

http://ksoo.com/secret-government-wins-again-in-closed-pierre-opinion/?trackback=fbshare_mobile

Of Butts and Billy Graham

buttbilly graham

Rev. Billy Graham died Wednesday at the age of 99. The nature of my crazy life has put me an arm’s length away from more “celebs” (actors, musicians, media types, athletes, etc.) than I could ever count, but photos and autographs have never my thing. That’s not to say I haven’t met countless talented, interesting and accomplished people which most people wouldn’t think of as “celebs” but who are infinitely more fascinating to me.  The only celeb photo op I can remember participating in resulted in a single photo of me with the mystical enigma of latenight radio, host Art Bell, on one of his rare trips away from his double-wide headquarters in Parumph, Nevada. That color 4×6 is packed away somewhere in the house, but I couldn’t tell you where.

Today, however, I am reminded of the day I crossed paths with the Rev. Graham. I’ve never told this story publically. In the mid-1990’s I was living in Rochester, MN, the home of the Mayo Clinic. I was having some serious trouble with a narrowing of the spinal canal in my neck, leaving my left arm weak and my mind troubled. Things were serious enough that surgery was a real possibility, so an MRI scan was scheduled.

Mayo is a GIANT place and a logistics machine, and lives and breaths on order and protocol. Upon reaching my assigned Imaging Area I was taken to what looked like a carpeted locker room and directed to disrobe. There was also the added precaution of carefully removing any metal from my person so the magnets in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine didn’t try to, say, pull off my ring AND my finger at the same tim. After garaging my clothes and checking my valuables I put on that timeless favorite: The Hospital Gown. I’m a biggish guy, which means it’s not only hard to put on a gown which ties in the back, but the gown itself is usually about two sizes too small, coming up short of covering my backside. With the slipping on of paper slippers my fashion ensemble was complete, and I was led out to a small but comfortable waiting “cube” complete with rocking chair.

So there I was, quietly rocking and trying to keep my backside warm when who comes shuffling by but the Rev. Billy Graham, accompanied by not one, but two Grade A Mayo Clinic-issued VIP escorts, one on each arm. He wasn’t more than six feet from me, and as he was shuffling by slowly I was afforded an extended view of the Religious Counselor to 8 Presidents’ skinny rear end peaking out of the back of HIS gown. And just like that Graham and Co. walked through a doorway, and the celebrity sighting was done. I had my MRI scan, and I imagine Rev. Graham had his as well. I tried to guess what the Mayo VIP MRI room had than my machine in steerage did not. Perhaps over there was access to a cool beverage, or a warm cup of tea. Maybe some cucumber finger sandwiches.

I learned two very important life lessons that day. I’m never going to be the guy who gets two VIP escorts at Mayo Clinic (or anywhere for that matter) so I should plan ahead and bring my own snacks. Maybe throw in a thermos of coffee. Second, no matter who you think you are…rich or poor, young or old, righteous or damned, celebrity or recluse…at the end of the day we’re all pretty much the same: unable to rock a hospital gown, and with our butts hangin’ out in the breeze..

Sportin’ The Filson XXL

Every January about this time Joan and I poke our noses out of our hole looking for our shadows. If we see our shadows it means it’s time to road trip. If we don’t see our shadows? Screw it, we’re still road tripping to the historic hamlet of Carver, MN to visit our old pals Jerry and Terri Anderson. While scratching about today I was able I add this jaunty XXL Filson Double Mac chapeau with shearling flappers to the permanent collection. Between the hat being big, and the size XXL, I figure there’s a good sheep/sheep-and-a-half sitting on my head.

The New Face of Trump’s Inner Circle

Whether it’s the next appointee for Ambassador to the Netherlands, White House spokesman,  Secretary of Defense or even Chief of Staff, here’s the next “must have” for the Trump White House…Nathan Thurm.

https://view.yahoo.com/show/saturday-night-live/clip/40034016/nathan-thurm

 

Am I Losing My Eggnoggin???

bridgemans_logo

I need your help.  I’ve talked to 20 people in the last two hours, and no one has EVER heard of Eggnog-flavored ice cream.  One of those people was the Dairy Manager at Hy Vee, and from the look on his face he though the very idea was on par with Dead Mouse and Thistle-flavored gelato.  I feel like a mad stranger in an even crazier land.

I KNOW it existed, and I just remembered where.  Bridgeman’s Ice Cream and Restaurant was a fixture at the Apache Mall in Rochester, MN in the 1970’s.  I remember clearly that when the Plainview High School Choir travelled to sing Christmas tunes at the Mall I had a double-scoop sugar cone.  Or two.  I haven’t seen a Bridgeman’s Restaurant in 30 years, but Bulk Bridgman’s flavors are still made.  However, I went to their website and….NO EGGNOG FLAVORED ICE CREAM.  Am I trippin’?  Have I uncovered the first clue in an alien plot to take over the planet?  Help a brother out if you remember the flavor…know who still makes the flavor…or if a flavor fave of yours (holiday or not) also fell victim to the genetically superior occupants of Ceti Alpha 5.

What Comes Around, Goes…Back Home

You can’t make it up:  In December 2014 I built this table.  It was one of my first pieces made of reclaimed materials (in this case an old hog oiler and a lower shelf off of an otherwise destroyed Queen Anne table). I always liked it, and struggled whether to keep it or sell it.  I sold the table to an antique dealer at a garage sale April ’15 for $65 dollars.  Flash ahead three years: Last Saturday I had a couple of extra minutes after work, so I stopped by an antique mall on my way home.  I walked in, and there to my immediate left was…the table!  It was marked down from $175.00 to….$19.99. Apparently the general public didn’t think much of the table, but I still like it a lot and bought it back!  I’m chalking it up to good Karma.

FWD: “The Shocking Math of the Republican Tax Plan: New Yorker

Thanks to friend Lucy Quinlivan​ for sharing this. A lot of hard-working folks took Mr. Trump (“Trust Me…”) at his word that he’d take care of the little guy, “drain the swamp”, “Make American Great Again”, etc.  A lot of hard-working folks also voted and elected Republican House and Senate members to represent them in Washington.

Forgetting for the moment Russia, sexual assault, ethics, threatened nuke launches, etc.:  If you voted for or currently support Mr. Trump, and/or the Republicans in Congress, and consider yourself “low-middle” or “middle class”…please read this carefully, put whatever “automatic retort generator” you have on hold, and tell me WHAT YOU THINK.

The Shocking Math of the Republican Tax Plan

If it gives us nothing else positive, the Republican tax plan—and, in its Senate form, the health-care repeal—at least provides clarity. There is no debate. The middle class will, in the long run, pay more in taxes than under current law, and the rich will pay less. For a brief moment last week, there did seem to be space for discussion, in the form of a disagreement between the centrist and highly regarded Tax Policy Center and the Tax Foundation, a pro-business group that is generally seen as more biased. Even if poorly matched, having two groups with similar, boring names set the stage for the appearance of a two-handed tax debate. One side says it helps the rich, hurts everyone else, and will lead to a bigger deficit; the other side says the opposite. Our media and political system has long viewed economic policy—and, especially, taxation—as the equivalent of “American Idol.” There is a group of judges, loudly disagreeing, and the home audience can pick whichever side they like, based on whatever criteria they have. In past tax-news cycles (2001, 1993, 1990, 1986 . . . ), there were enough serious, respected economists on both sides to make it seem like there was a real, substantive fight over the impact of taxes on jobs and economic growth. (While each individual economist appears to know everything with certainty, as a group, they are surprisingly unsure of the impact of taxes on a nation’s well-being. However, most surveys of economists suggest that virtually none accept the simplistic notion that raising taxes on the rich will cripple an economy.)

Surely, we will have other debates in the future with thoughtful arguments on every side. But not this time. The numbers are in and it’s clear: this tax bill helps the rich and hurts everybody else. Just ask the very people who wrote it. The U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation is run by the chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee—Representative Kevin Brady and Senator Orrin Hatch, respectively. The Joint Committee’s reports of this week make startling reading, or as startling as a series of spreadsheets of tax revenue data can be. The report shows that this bill is much like a teaser rate on a new credit card: there are some goodies in the first couple of years, but those disappear fairly quickly, at least for those below the median income. In 2019, the first full year that this bill would be law, the benefits are concentrated on the bottom of the income stream, with middle-class people, on average, paying just under ten per cent less in taxes than they would if the law weren’t passed. With each passing year the benefits shift upward, toward the rich. By 2021, those making between twenty thousand and thirty thousand dollars a year are paying considerably more in taxes, those between thirty thousand and two hundred thousand see their benefit shrinking, and those making more start to see their taxes falling. By 2027, every income level below seventy-five thousand dollars a year sees a tax increase, while everybody above that level sees a continued decrease, with the greatest cut in taxes accruing to those making more than a million dollars a year.

The report shows that the rich benefit and the poor are hurt in every way that it measures. For example, the effective tax rate—meaning the percentage that people, on average, actually pay after they take all deductions—changes in a precisely regressive form. The poorer you are, the higher your effective rate will rise. By 2027, only those making a hundred thousand a year or more will see an actual cut in their effective tax rate. And, as could be expected by now, the more they make, the greater the cut in their effective rate. By 2025, there is a direct transfer of money from the poor to the rich and corporations. This is not a flaw but the whole point, Harvard’s Martin Feldstein argues. Feldstein is, arguably, the single most widely respected Republican-leaning scholar of tax policy, and one of the few academics who came out in favor of the bill, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. His defense, though, should not give much comfort to the bill’s proponents. He argues that cutting individual tax rates won’t increase economic growth and will add to the deficit—which, he acknowledges, is a bad thing. But he’s so excited about the corporate tax-rate cut that he thinks the bill should pass nonetheless. This is an odd stance, since the corporate rate cuts are about a third the size of the individual cuts.

That is the state of debate on this current bill. Its most respected defender acknowledges that three-quarters of the benefit are a wasted, harmful gift for the rich, but a quarter of the benefit goes to corporations, and we must assume they will spend it wisely.