Category Archives: Business

America, America, I chug a can of thee…

BudAmerica20160506full

Have you seen this?

American currency has long held claim to being the only thing found in bars that boasts the phrase “E Pluribus Unum.”  This summer, Budweiser wants to change that by rebranding itself as “America” and peppering its packaging with that very phrase, alongside some others like “Liberty and Justice for All” and “Indivisible Since 1776.”

That’s right. The company wants to replace “Budweiser,” the name of the beer, with the word “America,” the name of our country, for the summer. According to AdAge, Anheuser-Busch InBev has filed the above label for approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

In addition to the aforementioned phrases, the word-heavy label would include, in all capital letters, the following: “Land of the Free,” “Home of the Brave” and “From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters this land was made for you and me.”…

Wow. Just wow.

I suppose, in making this decision, they rejected these other possibilities:

  1. Mom.
  2. Apple Pie.
  3. Rock ‘n’ Roll.
  4. John Wayne.
  5. God.

Nothing like subtlety. That is, this is definitely nothing like subtlety…

Charleston Post & Courier buys Free Times

freetimes

I heard the rumor a couple of weeks ago and started poking around, and just now got confirmation from the most reliable of sources:

Brad,

Yes, we just closed on the Free Times in Columbia!  We are putting out a press release as I am sending this.  We are super excited about the acquisition and look forward to growing in the Columbia market!

Thanks,

P.J. Browning

Publisher

The Post and Courier

This is good news, following on the most terrible of news. In the wake of Charlie Nutt’s shocking death, I had worried about what would become of the alternative weekly and my friends who work there.

It’s good to know that an outfit as steady and successful as the P&C will now be publishing the paper.

Samuelson tries to inject some reason into ‘gender pay gap’

From Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post:

Samuelson

Robert Samuelson

The gender pay gap is back in the news — and it may become a major issue in the presidential campaign. It seems an open-and-shut case of job discrimination. Women earn only 79 percent of men’s average hourly wages. Who could favor that? Actually, the comparison is bogus. A more accurate ratio, after adjusting for differences in gender employment patterns, is closer to 92 percent. Even the remaining gap of 8 percentage points may not stem fully from discrimination….

… if women were paid a fifth less for doing the same work as men, there would be pervasive discrimination. That’s how the pay gap is interpreted by many. They demand “equal pay for equal work.” But that’s not what the pay gap shows. It’s simply the ratio of women’s average hourly pay to men’s average hourly pay. The jobs in the comparison are not the same, and when these differences are taken into account, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s rises to almost 92 percent from 79 percent, say Blau and Kahn….

After all the adjustments, the remaining 8-percentage-point unexplained gender gap could reflect discrimination….

But the persisting gap could have other causes….

Go read the whole thing. I’ve given you about as much as I can under Fair Use rules. (I think. Fair Use is open to interpretation.)

In any case, don’t expect the study Samuelson is writing about or anything else to modify the way Democrats speak about this. That 79 percent, and the assumption that it’s all about discrimination, is far too important to their whole “War on Women” meme to allow it to be sullied by considerations of reality.

Both parties like to trump up issues to generate outrage among their respective bases. This is a favorite among the Democrats.

Is there such a thing as ‘Men’s spring wardrobe must-haves’?

must have

I’m serious here. Unless one is naked and freezing — or naked and therefore in danger of a ruinous social faux pas — how could there be such a thing as a “wardrobe must-have?”

I speak particularly from the perspective of a man — since that’s who this come-on assumes must have these things — but the same would seem to apply to women as well.

What wardrobe item, nakedness on a cold day aside, is necessary, to the extent that one’s existence is threatened without it? Under certain circumstances, perhaps, a pressure suit or a Kevlar vest or a crash helmet, but why must one have, for instance, chinos — or a light jacket, a button-down shirt, loafers or athletic shoes (those being the items specified in the email)?

I have no idea.

Corporate America leaps to associate itself with Prince

Cgm9HzXUkAEnV43

Donning my ADCO hat for a moment…

In the brave new world of social media, some pretty big brands — that in the past would have spent months deciding how to present themselves — sometimes make hasty decisions with their identities.

Sometimes their instincts are sound. Sometimes, not so much.

In any case, here’s how some brands positioned themselves upon the news of the passing of the artist formerly, and latterly, known as Prince:

Thank Mashable for calling our attention to these efforts.

The Whig and last summer’s anti-flag rallies

organizers

Jeremy Borden brings to my attention a piece he wrote for a site called The Bitter Southerner. It’s about the role The Whig played in helping get the Confederate flag down.

Basically, the role is this: It was a gathering place — and a fertile one, for those wanting a better South Carolina — for the folks who planned the two anti-flag rallies last summer. That would be Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, pictured above in a photo by Sean Rayford. (And below in a grainy screengrab from video I shot at the first rally.)

That was a natural part to play for a bar located just yards away from the Confederate soldier monument. And this piece was a natural fit for The Bitter Southerner, which apparently has its roots in its creator’s bitterness about Southern bartenders not getting enough respect. No, really.

The piece appealed to me because I appreciate what Mari, Emile and Tom did. And even more because one of the owners and founders of The Whig, Phil Blair, is one of my elder son’s best friends. Remembering his days playing in local punk bands, I marvel at what a pillar-of-the-community successful businessman he’s become. Whenever there’s something going on downtown to advance the community, Phil is there.

It’s a piece with a strong sense of place, and that place is the very heart of our community. You may recall that, just as getting rid of the flag was, for The Whig, about “Neighbors… cleaning up their trashy yard,” Emile saw the banner as bad for his own business, Soda City. As I wrote about Emile in June:

He fantasizes about getting a bunch of Confederate flags, some poles and a few bags of cement, and driving them in a truck to the places of business of some of these lawmakers — their law offices, their insurance agencies and so forth — and planting the flags in front of their businesses and seeing how they like it…

Anyway, you should go read the piece. Excerpts:

In the wake of the murders, Hall and others had gathered mournfully at The Whig that same June week to try to digest the event’s enormity. And to make plans. Hall and two others — Emile DeFelice, Hall’s close friend and fellow South Carolina native, and Mari Borghini, an Argentine immigrant — began to stoke local furor. DeFelice described the trio this way: “Old, rich South Carolina,” he said of Hall. “Old, poor South Carolina,” he said of himself. “And a recent immigrant,” he said of Borghini. “Awesome.”

At The Whig, they planned protests they hoped would pressure the state’s leaders to bring down the flag they viewed as as plague on the statehouse grounds. But their plans had been made with some trepidation.

“Do we go for this now while these people are not even cold dead?” Hall asked. “And we all said yeah. Yeah, I’m grieving I don’t know them; I’ve never been to that church. But that (the Confederate flag) was his (the killer’s) Army, that was his uniform. We’re not waiting and not sitting back.”

As Borghini put it, “Why would they not do something about it?”…

Whig denizens don’t like the word “hipster,” and they’re probably right that the self-righteousness implied doesn’t fit — even if the bar’s detractors detect a whiff of it. The Whig is one of only a few eclectic gathering places in what many complain is Columbia’s often banal college-town existence wrapped in a family and church town’s restrained conservatism.

The bar differs from its stiffer neighbors in more ways than one. The statehouse politics steps away are usually divisive, ugly and superficial. But even many of those bow-tied politicians and operatives sidle up to The Whig’s bar, where the conversation is generally more elevated and congenial….

Phil Blair, the bar’s co-owner who runs it day-to-day, calls it “alcohol philanthropy.” He wants to do more than sling beer and burgers. “I’m from here,” Blair said. “I have that local chip on my shoulder that we’re trying to catch up to other cities around us.”

The Confederate flag on the bar’s front perch was yet another reminder for Blair and others that Columbia hadn’t yet entered the 21st Century.

Those who inhabit The Whig are usually passionate people who rail against the status quo from the sidelines….

rally 2

 

 

 

Um, you don’t want to wait a minute or two and see if Bright’s Bathroom Bill actually has a chance of passing?

I’m reacting to this rather preemptive action on the part of a businessman down in Charleston:

A senate bill that would outlaw transgender men and women from using the bathroom of

Anthony Watson

Anthony Watson

their choice has caused a Charleston-based company to decide to move to the West Coast.

Anthony Watson, CEO of Uphold, described himself as an “openly gay, British CEO.” He said the company will move its U.S. corporate headquarters from Charleston to Los Angeles. Uphold is a financial services company that says it handled $830 million in transactions since its founding in 2014.

“I have watched in shock and dismay as legislation has been abruptly proposed or enacted in several states across the union seeking to invalidate the basic protections and rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) U.S. citizens,” he said on the company’s website….

Talk about being on a hair trigger. You don’t want to wait a minute and see if the bill gets any traction at all, much less passes?

I hate to break it to this guy, but there’s a distinct possibility that there’s a lawmaker in California just as loony as Lee Bright who will propose a similar bill. Then what is he going to do? It’s a significant feature of representative democracy that people who have a different worldview from you get to vote, too — and elect people like them. So there’s no way to guarantee that someone won’t file a bill that you find unfair, unjust or abhorrent.

People file stupid bills all the time, for all sorts of crazy causes. The time to worry, or for that matter pass judgment on the state in question, is when it looks like it’s going to pass, and be signed into law.

I’m not saying that won’t happen here. It’s disturbing that the bill was just introduced a week ago today, and there’s a hearing on it going on at this very second, as I type this.

But I chalk that up to the committee being chaired by one of Bright’s three co-sponsors, Kevin Bryant. It remains to be seen how many, other than those four, would vote for such a bill.

So, you know, before you make a multi-million-dollar decision, you might want to wait a minute. That is to say, Uphold might want to hold up…

FYI, Bobby Harrell is once again out there, in the public eye

Harrell

This is certainly just coincidence, but as the struggle between Alan Wilson and David Pascoe has been in the news, I keep running into Bobby Harrell on Twitter.

There he is, popping up with some frequency, still using the @SpeakerHarrell handle, even though the content is purely business, and “Speaker” is something he will never be again.

It has seemed to me that this started just as the ongoing legislative investigation hit the front pages again, but his re-emergence on social media predates that a bit.

Harrell was absent from Twitter from 10 Sep 2014 to 14 Apr 2015, and after that Tweeted infrequently and with no apparent aim for several months — two Tweets in April, one in May, none again until September. But in December he launched his campaign, Tweeting 32 times, then 43 times in January and 43 again in February, rising to 45 in March.

The content ranges from the blandly seasonal…

… to the kind of content meant to position himself and his company as authoritative on insurance-related matters:

And no, I haven’t seen him weigh in on politics even once.

It’s interesting that he decided to use his own feed, his own identity (complete with “Speaker”), to promote the business — as opposed to having an employee Tweet via a feed branded more directly with the name of the business (which is the approach he takes on the Facebook page). Apparently, he’s decided the value of his name recognition outweighs other considerations.

No, I don’t have any particular editorial point to make here. I just thought these renewed sightings were interesting…

Marco’s ‘media maestro,’ our own Wesley Donehue

Meet Marco’s digital media maestro: Wesley Donehue

You may have thought Wesley Donehue had already had his one and only brush with fame when he had yours truly on his show, Pub Politics, nine times.

You could be forgiven for thinking so.

But these days, he’s going great guns acting as Marco Rubio’s digital maestro, as CNN puts it. This is evidently a wild ride, and Wesley seems to be thoroughly enjoying it — as would I, in his place.

Watch the video above…

Wesley

Rockwell’s ‘Freedom of Speech,’ updated

Rockwell

I Tweeted this during the Q&A of an appearance by John Kasich at the SC Chamber of Commerce today:

Nobody retweeted it, so I guess no one was struck by the similarity the way I was. (It’s not any particular detail about the photos. They just felt alike, to me. I saw it, felt it, got my phone up, zoomed in quickly and shot it, less than a second before she sat down.)

But I go ahead and share it here anyway…

Freedom-of-Speech_4_5_web

 

Lawmakers hope to see more cooperation, building upon the summer

panel

Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Joe Neal; Sens. Joel Lourie, Katrina Shealy and Ronnie Cromer

This morning, ADCO had a table at the latest Columbia Regional Business Report’s Power Breakfast. This one was about looking ahead to the coming legislative session, and featured a panel of lawmakers — Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Joe Neal, and Sens. Joel Lourie, Katrina Shealy and Ronnie Cromer.

(Bryan Caskey joined me at the ADCO table, along with several other representatives of local law firms whom I invited.)

The nice thing about “covering” these events is that if I just wait a few hours, CRBR will put up its own report that gives you the basics and saves me from a lot of typing. An excerpt:

Next year’s legislative session will be a failure if not remembered for collaboration across party lines, state lawmakers said today.

Legislators from both sides of the aisle urged to see similar cooperation next year from the General Assembly as it did in the aftermath of the Emanuel AME tragedy. The give-and-take between Democrats and Republicans will be vital if the state hopes to finally fix crumbling infrastructure, they said during the Columbia Regional Business Report’s quarterly “Power Breakfast” networking event at the Columbia Marriott.

“I think 2016, more than anything else is going to be known as the year that we either came up with an idea to fund our infrastructure and do it in the right manner,” said Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry, “or it’s going to be known as the year we failed the people of South Carolina. Because we couldn’t put some plan together to fund our roads and bridges.”

Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, knows it can be easy to assume collaboration as part of the General Assembly’s supermajority. But he still saw it at work when his colleagues voted to remove the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds in July and expects to see more of it again next year, this time without tragedy serving as a catalyst….

And that pretty much states it. There was an air of cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe — after the miracle they experienced together over the summer (achieving near-unanimity on an issue that had previously been too controversial even to bring up), that goodwill could be channeled productively on other fronts.

Of course, the usual differences were on display — the three Republicans tended to think in terms of coming together over infrastructure; the two Democrats wanted to see some Republicans agreeing with them on Medicaid expansion. But there was also agreement on some key issues — Democrats agreed infrastructure must be dealt with, and both sides acknowledged that the state Supreme Court’s instructions to improve educational opportunity in poor, rural districts must be meaningfully addressed as well.

Beyond that, here are some Tweets that give you the flavor of the session:

The merchandising is strong with this one…

merch

I hereby launch this blog’s official Most Absurd “Star Wars” Tie-In contest.

See if you can top this one — “Star Wars” bottled water. Near as I could tell without ripping the shrinkwrap, there was nothing about Star Wars on the actual bottles. So if you gave it to a kid in a vain attempt to get him to drink water instead of soda, it probably wouldn’t work. You’d get one of those “What are you trying to foist off on me, pops?” looks.

I’m pretty sure the only branding was on the plastic wrap holding the case together. Although if you’re sucker enough to buy one, and rip it open and prove me wrong, I will stand corrected.

The last couple of weekends I’ve been out toy-shopping for grandchildren, and seen just how far the Star Wars mania has gone. And of course I’ve noted the everyday, ordinary version of a toy, and next to it the version with a Star Wars theme and a price about 76 percent higher.

But I’ve not yet seen anything as ridiculous as the bottled water.

How can we have a ‘War on Christmas’ when it’s not even Advent for three more weeks?

Central Park detail

Detail from a family picture taken on Black Friday 2007 in a frigid Central Park.

When I met Howard Duvall at Starbucks the other day, I was delighted to see that they’d started using the red holiday cups. I have a lot of pleasant associations with that annual sign of the season, such as the time three of my kids and I stayed warm with such cups on a Black Friday visit to a bitterly cold New York (see above).

Some people, however, see the cups’ arrival as an opportunity to increase the amount of division in the world:

Starbucks has come under fire from some Christians who say the company isn’t repping hard enough for Jesus on its recent understated holiday cups. The problem? Political correctness, according to one evangelical.

“I think in the age of political correctness we become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” Joshua Feuerstein said in a widely viewed anti-Starbucks rant on Facebook titled “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red.”…

Everyone has his or her peeves. Here’s one of mine…

Why on Earth would I expect to see “Christmas” on a coffee cup on Guy Fawkes Day? That’s more than three weeks before Advent even starts, much less Christmas. You want to complain about Christmas being underplayed, get back to me sometime between Dec. 25 and the Feast of the Epiphany.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

When I get a red cup on Nov. 5, it really is a holiday cup, since it will span the period that includes our first experiences of cold weather, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. It’s about celebrating a season — you know, the holiday season, and yeah, that includes Hanukkah. Maybe New Year’s, too (I’m not clear on when they stop using the cups).

If your excuse for protesting is that you are a Christian, how about checking out a liturgical calendar sometime? Yeah, I know, not every Christian is in a liturgical church, but come on — just how early do you want the Merry Christmases to start?

Y’all are all getting ads like this too, right? I said, RIGHT?

The ad at right, generated by Google Adsense to appear in the right-hand rail of the blog for my viewing pleasure, is weird on a number of levels.testosterone

  • What’s the connection between hot women and low testosterone? Is the theory that guys who have need of the product will look at the picture and think, “I feel nothing, so I must have low T”? I would think that most heterosexual males would be persuaded, by looking at a picture like that, that one thing they do not need is more testosterone. I mean, seriously, did Ulysses think he had low T as he was tied to the mast, his naked ears tortured by the sirens sweetly singing?
  • Who are the ad wizards who wrote that copy? You’re saying this is “What Happens When You Take a Testosterone Supplement?” Well, then, no thanks! I don’t want to look like that! (I mean, it might be gratifying to see Bruce/Caitlin Jenner turn green with envy… but not that gratifying.)
  • Finally… why am I seeing this? I promise you that I have not searched for “What do I do about low testosterone?” or “Large-busted young women who wear T shirts that are way too small.” Hey, maybe that’s the problem! Maybe Google assumes that if you’re NOT searching for such pictures, you must have low T….

But of course, it’s not just me, is it? All of you fellas are getting the same ad, right? I said, right?

I don’t know. I just think it’s weird. And what about all those ads about meeting Asian women? Is that just because I’ve written about going to Thailand?…

The unremarked passing of Tapiture, a.k.a., ‘Pinterest for Dudes’

tapiture2

I say “unremarked” because if you search for “Tapiture” in the Google news feed, all you get is stories about a race horse.

Thus endeth the sad effort to create a Pinterest for men, populated with pictures of steak and guns and hunting dogs and babes in lingerie, instead of decorating ideas and cute shoes.

It was probably meant to fail, but to pass with this little notice? That’s like the social media equivalent of an unmarked grave. Like Mozart in “Amadeus.”

Not that I’ve looked at Tapiture for awhile. I only knew about its demise because I received this release one day this past week:

Tapiture

That’s it. That’s all he wrote.

Sad. But guy sad. Like, Jim Brown getting killed at the end of “The Dirty Dozen” sad.

 

Yo, Starbucks on Gervais! I’d love to run your Twitter account for you

Y’all know of my unrequited love for Starbucks. “Unrequited” because in order for it to be requited, Starbucks would need to advertise here on my blog. I can hardly think of a better fit, given all the free product placement I’ve already provided over the years.

But now I have a different proposition: Please, Starbucks, let me run your local Twitter feed.

I’m referring here in particular to the Starbucks in the Vista, at Gervais and Lincoln. I follow the store on Twitter, and it has not posted a thing since 2012. Sept. 4, 2012, to be precise. And that one was merely a reTweet.xw38lV2J

I realized this because I went to the Twitter feed to find out whether the store was open today — which, ya know, would have been a really handy bit of info to post on Twitter.

Fortunately, the phone number was included on the feed, so I called them, the way people did in the 20th century, and found out that no, they are not open, on account of the water problem.

I have a proposition: Let me take over your Twitter feed, and I will post at LEAST daily, on the average, in return for the following considerations:

  • An ad on my blog, at the discount rate.
  • Two free cups of coffee a day for the duration of the arrangement.
  • One pound of coffee beans a week.

That’s it. I think you’ll find that this would be far more cost-effective for you than using a significant portion of an FTE to get this job done. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a barista who would be as good at Twitter as I am. I am, after all, one of the Twitterati. I mean, I teach people how to Tweet and everything.

Think about it, @SbuxGervais. This is a sweet deal I’m offering here.

Growing South Carolina’s car-manufacturing industry

It occurs to me that I should make myself do more short contact-report-type posts, whenever I run into a newsmaker and pick up a tidbit.

So here’s one….

Yesterday, I ran into Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt (my long-ago managing editor) getting on the elevator heading up to his office. I expressed surprise that he wasn’t on his way to Germany with the governor.

He said he wasn’t needed on this trip. Anyway, he figures he’s done the trek to Germany enough, what with his years with BMW after he left the paper.

Noting that the trip is about building relationships with automobile manufacturing suppliers, he gave me his elevator speech on that topic before he got out on the 16th floor: South Carolina is now home to 250 such suppliers — 80 of them added since he’s been at Commerce.

I stuck out my hand and congratulated him on that. After all, one wants to encourage that kind of success.

SC Chamber calls on House to follow Senate’s example

This came in earlier today from the SC Chamber of Commerce:

SENATE PASSES LEGISLATION TO REMOVE CONFEDERATE FLAG
ALL EYES NOW ON THE SC HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

The General Assembly returned Monday to take up the Confederate flag, and the South Carolina business community wants elected officials to know it appreciates their willingness to add this important issue to this week’s work. A month ago, none of us could have imagined the tragedy that took place in Charleston and the true love and unity South Carolinians have shown in response. On Wednesday, the Senate gave key approval to moving the Confederate flag from the State House grounds to a place of honor in the Confederate Relic Room at the South Carolina State Museum.

“The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the state’s business community applaud the Senate’s swift action to remove the Confederate flag from State House grounds to a place of honor in the Confederate Relic Room at the South Carolina State Museum,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber. “We now turn our eyes to the House and urge representatives to also address the issue in a timely fashion and pass a bill that removes the Confederate flag and its 15-year-old flag pole from the State House grounds.”

The business community feels strongly that the time has come to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. The Chamber has also been asked our opinion on a second compromise involving another flag at the Confederate monument or if we would support moving or removing monuments located on the State House grounds. We support neither. The South Carolina business community requests that the House pass a bill that removes the Confederate flag and its 15-year-old flag pole from the State House grounds.

Johnny on the (hot) spot

My experience with ADCO has given me some appreciation of what people go through for business development purposes, so I had to smile at a pitch I received yesterday.

For a brief time, our Internet service was down at the office. I was told that it was a regional problem, affecting central South Carolina and a swath on up to Charlotte. So, in frustration, I tweeted (via phone):

To which I got this response almost right away:


By the time I read that reply, the outage was over. I was barely inconvenienced long enough to send out my complaint.

But I admired the hustle on the part of the DirectTV guy…