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Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street – Book Salon Preview

By: dakine01 Sunday September 14, 2014 9:40 am

Private equity firms have long been at the center of public debates on the impact of the financial sector on Main Street companies. Are these firms financial innovators that save failing businesses or financial predators that bankrupt otherwise healthy companies and destroy jobs? The first comprehensive examination of this topic, Private Equity at Work provides a detailed yet accessible guide to this controversial business model. Economist Eileen Appelbaum and Professor Rosemary Batt carefully evaluate the evidence—including original case studies and interviews, legal documents, bankruptcy proceedings, media coverage, and existing academic scholarship—to demonstrate the effects of private equity on American businesses and workers. They document that while private equity firms have had positive effects on the operations and growth of small and mid-sized companies and in turning around failing companies, the interventions of private equity more often than not lead to significant negative consequences for many businesses and workers.

Prior research on private equity has focused almost exclusively on the financial performance of private equity funds and the returns to their investors. Private Equity at Work provides a new roadmap to the largely hidden internal operations of these firms, showing how their business strategies disproportionately benefit the partners in private equity firms at the expense of other stakeholders and taxpayers. In the 1980s, leveraged buyouts by private equity firms saw high returns and were widely considered the solution to corporate wastefulness and mismanagement. And since 2000, nearly 11,500 companies—representing almost 8 million employees—have been purchased by private equity firms. As their role in the economy has increased, they have come under fire from labor unions and community advocates who argue that the proliferation of leveraged buyouts destroys jobs, causes wages to stagnate, saddles otherwise healthy companies with debt, and leads to subsidies from taxpayers.

Appelbaum and Batt show that private equity firms’ financial strategies are designed to extract maximum value from the companies they buy and sell, often to the detriment of those companies and their employees and suppliers. Their risky decisions include buying companies and extracting dividends by loading them with high levels of debt and selling assets. These actions often lead to financial distress and a disproportionate focus on cost-cutting, outsourcing, and wage and benefit losses for workers, especially if they are unionized.

Because the law views private equity firms as investors rather than employers, private equity owners are not held accountable for their actions in ways that public corporations are. And their actions are not transparent because private equity owned companies are not regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Thus, any debts or costs of bankruptcy incurred fall on businesses owned by private equity and their workers, not the private equity firms that govern them. For employees this often means loss of jobs, health and pension benefits, and retirement income. Appelbaum and Batt conclude with a set of policy recommendations intended to curb the negative effects of private equity while preserving its constructive role in the economy. These include policies to improve transparency and accountability, as well as changes that would reduce the excessive use of financial engineering strategies by firms.

A groundbreaking analysis of a hotly contested business model, Private Equity at Work provides an unprecedented analysis of the little-understood inner workings of private equity and of the effects of leveraged buyouts on American companies and workers. This important new work will be a valuable resource for scholars, policymakers, and the informed public alike.

Join us at 5 PM EDT (2 PM PDT) for the discussion of this book. Hosted by David Dayen.

EILEEN APPELBAUM is senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C. and Visiting Professor in the Management Department, University of Leicester, UK. ROSEMARY BATT is the Alice Hanson Cook Professor of Women and Work at the Industrial and Labor Relations School, Cornell University. (Russell Sage Foundation)

Sunday Talking Heads – September 14, 2014

By: dakine01 Saturday September 13, 2014 7:45 pm

Minimalist Talking Heads today.

WASHINGTON JOURNAL. O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa, David Winston and Jim Manley, U.S. Senate, James M. Goldgeier, American University

ABC’S THIS WEEK: ISIS with White House Chef of Staff Denis McDonough on latest Administration strategy for ISIS. Plus, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, discusses Hillary Clinton’s first trip to Iowa since the 2008 campaign, and the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd. Plus, we’re on the road with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on his back-to-school bus tour.

CBS’ FACE THE NATION: Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been busy shuttling around the Middle East, trying to woo Arab allies to make meaningful contributions to the anti-ISIS coalition. Also Rep. Michael McCaul, the Texas Republican who chairs House Committee on Homeland Security. He’s supportive of Obama’s plan and has insight on the threat ISIS poses to the homeland. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Ray Rice, the NFL, and Domestic Violence. She has a new book out called “Off The Sidelines,” about empowering women leaders and she has a lot to say about women’s issues, her own experiences with sexism in the Senate, and much more. For more analysis on the Ray Rice saga, and whether Roger Goodell’s days are numbered, we’ll turn to Bill Rhoden of The New York Times and CBS News Special Correspondent and anchor of The NFL Today, James Brown. Finally, we’ll take a look back into American History with Ken Burns and Geoff Ward, creators of the new documentary series “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” which is airing on PBS. They’ll be joined by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who helped advise them on the series.

CNN’S RELIABLE SOURCES: Christine Brennan & Gary Belsky on if the NFL is getting a free pass from journalist, Rep. Barbara Lee on the anti-war voices in the media, Tim Arango discusses how to find the truth about ISIS.

CNN’S STATE OF THE UNION: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on the President’s plan to destroy ISIS and how they plan to gain support from Middle East countries. What does re-engagement in Iraq mean for the millions of war-weary military families? We talk to retired Major General Paul Eaton and retired Lieutenant General James Dubik. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman John Conyers and the latest on the NFL scandal involving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Roundtable: new CNN Commentator and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, former Romney adviser Lanhee Chen, CNN Crossfire host S.E. Cupp, and CNN Commentator LZ Granderson.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY: We discuss President Obama’s plan to stop ISIS with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, Sen. Lindsay Graham and Sen. Jack Reed. Sunday Panel: , Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, and Karl Rove

KORNACKI’S UP: This week President Obama announced a major escalation of the military campaign to defeat the terrorist group ISIS, which is advancing across Iraq from Syria. Will America’s latest foray into the Middle East be different? Eleanor Clift, Jonathan Alter and Mike Pesca discuss with Steve Kornacki..

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama has a habit of explaining his decisions to the American public, and not always with success. As President Obama informs the American people about his strategy for defeating ISIS, who’s informing him and do those informers agree that ISIS is a real threat to the U.S.? Phyllis Bennis and Hillary Mann Leverett discuss..

MOYERS & COMPANY: Katrina vanden Heuvel and Jamie Raskin join Bill to discuss the uncontested power of the Supreme Court.

NBC’S MEET THE PRESS: The ISIS Threat. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough then former Secretary of State James Baker. Senator Bernie Sanders. Political Panel Roundtable: Nia-Malika Henderson, Helene Cooper, Mike Murphy, Jim VandeHei.

Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics – Book Salon Preview

By: dakine01 Saturday September 13, 2014 10:05 am

A major, surprising new history of New York’s most famous political machine—Tammany Hall—revealing, beyond the vice and corruption, a birthplace of progressive urban politics.

Hosted by Phoenix Woman, join us this afternoon at 5PM EDT, 2PM PDT to talk with Terry Golway about his new book.

For decades, history has considered Tammany Hall, New York’s famous political machine, shorthand for the worst of urban politics: graft, crime, and patronage personified by notoriously corrupt characters. Infamous crooks like William “Boss” Tweed dominate traditional histories of Tammany, distorting our understanding of a critical chapter of American political history. In Machine Made, historian and New York City journalist Terry Golway convincingly dismantles these stereotypes; Tammany’s corruption was real, but so was its heretofore forgotten role in protecting marginalized and maligned immigrants in desperate need of a political voice.

Irish immigrants arriving in New York during the nineteenth century faced an unrelenting onslaught of hyperbolic, nativist propaganda. They were voiceless in a city that proved, time and again, that real power remained in the hands of the mercantile elite, not with a crush of ragged newcomers flooding its streets. Haunted by fresh memories of the horrific Irish potato famine in the old country, Irish immigrants had already learned an indelible lesson about the dire consequences of political helplessness. Tammany Hall emerged as a distinct force to support the city’s Catholic newcomers, courting their votes while acting as a powerful intermediary between them and the Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling class. In a city that had yet to develop the social services we now expect, Tammany often functioned as a rudimentary public welfare system and a champion of crucial social reforms benefiting its constituency, including workers’ compensation, prohibitions against child labor, and public pensions for widows with children. Tammany figures also fought against attempts to limit immigration and to strip the poor of the only power they had—the vote.

While rescuing Tammany from its maligned legacy, Golway hardly ignores Tammany’s ugly underbelly, from its constituents’ participation in the bloody Draft Riots of 1863 to its rampant cronyism. However, even under occasionally notorious leadership, Tammany played a profound and long-ignored role in laying the groundwork for social reform, and nurtured the careers of two of New York’s greatest political figures, Al Smith and Robert Wagner. Despite devastating electoral defeats and countless scandals, Tammany nonetheless created a formidable political coalition, one that eventually made its way into the echelons of FDR’s Democratic Party and progressive New Deal agenda.

Tracing the events of a tumultuous century, Golway shows how mainstream American government began to embrace both Tammany’s constituents and its ideals. Machine Made is a revelatory work of revisionist history, and a rich, multifaceted portrait of roiling New York City politics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Terry Golway
was a journalist for thirty years, writing for the New York Observer, the New York Times, and other venues. He holds a PhD in American history from Rutgers University and is currently the director of the Kean University Center for History, Politics, and Policy in New Jersey. (WW Norton)

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Carl Hiaasen

By: dakine01 Saturday September 13, 2014 4:05 am
The boy with Carl Hiaasen

The boy with Carl Hiaasen

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

As so frequently happens, I’m not sure which of Carl Hiaasen’s books I first read. I do think I had read some of his columns first though before reading his novels. From his Goodreads.com bio:

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, where he still lives with his family. After graduating from the University of Florida, he began writing for the Miami Herald. As a journalist and author, Carl has spend most of his life advocating the protection of the Florida Everglades. He and his family still live southern Florida.

Over a year ago I covered the writer John D. MacDonald. One of the hallmarks of MacDonald was his basic contempt for Florida land developers, sugar industry, and politicians. Where MacDonald, mainly through his character Travis McGee (but other characters as well), covered things in a dark noirish fashion, Hiaasen conveys much the same contempt for the developers, sugar, and politicians as MacDonald but does so using outlandish humor and caricatures. On a Facebook fan page for Travis McGee, I once expressed my opinion that I see Hiassen as the heir to MacDonald. I am a definite minority with this view but I do see parallels between MacDonald’s perspective and that of Hiaasen as well as parallels between Travis McGee and Hiaasen’s recurring character Clinton Tyree (aka “Skink”).

Hiaasen has a mix of books from his regular fiction, young adult fiction, non-fiction from compilations of his columns to some investigative work, and some mysteries in collaboration with a fellow reporter (his first three novels in fact).

His first solo novel was titled Tourist Season first published in 1986. I would guess his best known book is probably Strip Tease primarily because it was the basis for the movie Striptease starring Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds. Having read the book and seen the movie, I am not at all surprised that the movie was as bad as it was since Hiaasen’s humor does not lend itself well to the screen.

Hiaasen’s only other film writing credit is for Hoot which is based on his award winning first young adult novel of the same name. Hiaasen and Jimmy Buffett both had roles in this film.

Hiaasen’s web page does report that as of December 11, 2013, Spike TV has a new series under development with Rob Reiner based on the book Basket Case.

Hiaasen, as part of his reporting career at the Miami Herald, worked as an investigative reporter. One of his non-fiction books continues that aspect of his career. Team Rodent description from the wiki:

Team Rodent is a non-fiction book written by Carl Hiaasen about the Walt Disney Company and its stance towards the outside world. The book’s primary focus is on non-film related Disney enterprises such as Disney World and their effects on the environment and local culture.

Hiaasen uses humor in his fiction to cover dark topics and absurd, often preposterous situations. Humor can sometimes help to change the world.

Pull Up A Chair: Is It Fall Yet?

By: dakine01 Saturday September 13, 2014 3:52 am


Here in Lexington, KY it is sure a nice fall day today. Earlier this week, we had temps in the mid to upper 80s with some high humidity but early Thursday morning a cold front came through with a good deal of rain (three plus inches here although just 15 miles south they got less than a quarter inch of rain.) After the rain, the temps stayed in the low 70s on Thursday with a low Thursday night/Friday morning in the 50s. For most of the coming week we will have lows in the low 50s and the daytime highs might hit 70. Fall is definitely in the air although I know we will still get some more hot weather later this month and into October where it will once again be in the mid to upper 80s.

A quick check of der Google and it appears there has already been some snowfall out in the Rockies and upper Midwest. I think the earliest appreciable snowfall I’ve ever experienced was one year when I lived in Rome, NY and we got a few inches in late October.

College football always reminds me more of fall than the NFL does for some reason. It may just be the overall college pageantry but I have always much preferred the college game and its pseudo amateur status to the professionals of the NFL.

The baseball season is winding down and all the divisions and wild card races are counting down the “magic numbers.” Since my rooting interests are out of the race, I’m just spectating this year.

The picture there to the right kind of reminds me of the area around Derry, NH where Robert Frost once lived. Just south of Derry Village is the farm where Frost once lived. When I first lived in that area, I was easily able to see a bit of what Frost must have seen as he wrote his poetry.

So what about you? What are things like in your neck of the woods? Pull up a chair and let’s talk about things for a while.