Thursday, November 29, 2012

Green Chri$tma$

File this one under "speaking truth to power."

Stan Freberg created his comedic mini-opera "
Green Chri$tma$" all the way back in 1958. Logging in at a whopping 6 minutes and 52 seconds it was too long for most radio station's formats.  But that isn't what kept it from being played on AM and FM stations back in the late 50's.

Freberg was an advertising powerhouse in the 1950's sought after by major clients worldwide. He was also a major comedy recording artist for Capitol Records.  Virtually his entire catalog is still available for purchase or download. 

Popular history says that Stan Freberg was inspired to write "Green Chri$tma$ when he happened upon a magazine advertisement showing a family, on Christmas morning, thrilled with receiving four new whitewall tires for Christmas. For the son and grandson of ministers, it was just too much, and he had the first draft written that afternoon.

"Green Chri$tma$" performed by Stan Freberg and the folks from his advertising group. Some of the greatest advertising and musical geniuses of the day worked with Mr Freberg in creating this masterpiece.  Musical arrangement was written by Billy May, who directed the Capitol Records house orchestra. Other vocal performances are by Daws Butler, Marvin Miller, Will Wright and the Jud Conlon Chorale.

While the creation of "Green Chri$tma$" was truly inspired, getting it released and on the air turned out to be a nightmare. At first, Capitol Records refused to release the record. Capitol told Freberg the record was offensive to everybody in advertising, and predicted confidently that Freberg would never work in advertising again. 

Freberg doubled down and  threatened to cancel his entire recording contract with Capitol if they didn't release his masterpiece.  He went so far as to talk to a competitor,  Verve Records, and Verve jumped at the chance to sign Freberg. They offered to release the record without even hearing it. Rather than lose Freberg, Capitol released Green Chri$tma$ quietly, with no promotion or publicity.

In spite of Capitol's efforts to "fly under the radar" Freberg's record was attacked immediately in advertising trade magazines. And advertisers flexed their muscles and forced radio stations to censor the song and keep it off the air. It was played only twice in New York by one disc jockey, and the station's sales department threatened to have him fired if he played it again. The story was repeated station after radio station. In spite of overwhelming listener requests, stations bowed to advertisers and refused to air the song.

And it got worse!  An editorial in the Los Angeles Times condemned it, but the author later admitted he had never listened to it.   The head of CBS refused to even listen to the song because he "already knew what it was all about."

However, the mail Freberg received from the public, including Christian clergy and rabbis, was overwhelmingly positive.
However, Freberg did get both the first and last laugh.  The song became an underground hit is an age when copies had to be made on home tape recorders.  Even more importantly Coca-Cola and Marlboro, both recognizably satirized in the record without being named, asked Freberg for advertising campaigns. On principle he turned down cigarette company Marlboro, but he created a very successful campaign for Coca-Cola.

Today Green Chri$tma$ is considered a work of art by an advertising genius who had the courage to see exactly what his profession was doing and to call them on it.  Freberg was willing to speak truth to power and win.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ding Dong Death Watch

There are genuinely serious issues facing us today.  Hamas is retaliating for Israels massive missile strike with new, long range missiles hitting the suburbs of Tel Aviv.  We may on the verge of outright war in the Middle East which could easily escalate into a world wide conflict.

Europe has fallen back into a real recession.  Strikes are occurring in many countries and Spain and Greece are on the verge of default once again.  The economic implications for the United States are immense.

General David Petreas has been forced to resign as the head of the C.I.A. in a sex scandal that seems to grow daily.

And the events in Benghazi, Libya are just now beginning to emerge.  Susan Rice, our United Nation's Ambassador has been tarnished by her role in making a series of misleading statements (or attempted cover-up) of events surrounding the murder of Ambassador Stevens. Unfortunately this mess gets uglier by the day at a time when we need President Obama and his entire national security team to focus on world events.

But I today I must spend a few comments about the potential death of a great American Institution, Hostess Bakeries and their flagship confections, the Twinkie and Dong Dong dessert snacks.  If striking bakers don't return to work by the close of business today, the CEO of the bankrupt Hostess Brands, the parent of Hostess, has promised to close the business and liquidate all assets.

While the names Twinkie and Ding Dong will no doubt be sold in the liquidation, it's unlikely the snacks will ever be the same.  

The bakers are fighting a rather small reduction in wages ordered by the bankruptcy court.  The strike is illegal and the court has ordered the strikers to return to work.  If they don't, and the company liquidates, 18,000 employees will all lose their jobs.  

And all America will lose their Twinkies and Ding Dongs, perhaps forever.

There is no doubt in my mind that Hostess has been mismanaged.  They had just clawed their way out of bankruptcy two short years ago.  Now they're already back.  That's not the Baker's Union fault, that's management.

On the other hand Hostess cannot compete with the brilliantly run McKee Foods, maker of Little Debbie Snacks, who operate non-unionized plants with significantly lower costs.  Saddled with huge union costs, high medical benefit costs and gigantic pensions (which the Bankruptcy Court is now proposing to reduce), Hostess simply cannot compete profitably in the cost conscious American marketplace.

Let's hope that calmer minds prevail in each of the crisis we face today, even the Twinkie Crisis.  

ADDENDUM November 23, 2012:  Everyone tried to save Hostess, the Teamsters Union, Management and even the Bankruptcy Judge, but the Baker's Union was determined to close the company and place it into liquidation.  I've read dozens of articles and cannot find one word of explanation from the Baker's Union as to why they refused every effort to resolve this crisis. 18,500 people will now all lose their jobs.  No one believes the 6,500 Baker's Union members will ever get their jobs back, even with new owners.

Why did the union work so aggressively against the interests of their members?  Why do we have 6,500 Baker's Union members suffering this Christmas?  I'd welcome input, especially from any member of the Union, especially the Union Leaders.

Red State has an in depth analysis of this failure and the union's mysterious failure to help thier members: Let Them Eat Cake

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Why Romney Lost

There is no point in writing a post telling you why Romney lost because I've already spent an entire year telling you why Romney would lose.  And he lost for the exact reasons I already have posted.

November 18, 2011 - Why Mitt Can't Win

February 19, 2012 - Mitt Romney Can't Win

July 18, 2012 - Dear Mr Romney

September 18, 2012 - NOT BREAKING NEWS: Mitt Romney Can't Win

September 28, 2012 - Why Mitt Romney Must Win and Why Mitt Romney Will Lose

November 1, 2012 - Obama is a Lock for an Eight Year failed Presidency

But there are a couple of new points I can add.

My first point is that President Obama waged a brilliant campaign.  Many now say his 2012 campaign will be studied for years to come. He had everything working against him from high unemployment to exploding national debt to a Watergate caliber scandal (Benghazi) that would have easily sunk any other President.

But he ran a text book campaign including the key act of defining the opponent in May and June before the opponent has a chance to define himself.  Romney was quickly defined as an elitist, out of touch, business CEO, a multi-millionaire who genuinely had no regard at all for the lower classes.

Meanwhile Romney also ran a textbook campaign: but his was the textbook about how to lose!  Romney never responded to a single attack in a timely manner.  After playing four quarters of defense, he then tried to run out the clock.

My second point comes from a genuinely great analysis of voter turnout in Real Clear Politics today: The Case of the Missing White Voters by Sean Trende.  Trende points out that minority turnout equaled Obama's first election in 2008.  It had been expected minority turnout would drop.  What did drop and drop dramatically was white middle class turnout.  Had Mitt Romney simply got the votes John McCain and Sarah Palin got in 2008, he would have won.

Obama's ground game was superb.  He got his vote out. And by successfully turning off the middle class voters with his negative defining of Mitt Romney, potential Romney voters stayed home.  

Romney's ground game was, well, pathetic.  He counted on "enthusiasm" instead of a real get-out-the-vote effort.  The Republican Party is also largely to blame.  There are real lessons to be learned here.

But there is also a lesson about enthusiasm.  Romney never got people excited.  And he failed to use the single most powerful weapon in his (potential) arsenal, Sarah Palin, until it was too late.

Palin should have been the keynote speaker at the convention.  Certainly not the traitor Chris Christie, who gave a lackluster speech that was all about Chris Christie.  And Palin should have been on the road.  

To her credit Sarah Palin was on Romney's side to the very end and, when finally asked, recorded robo-calls for Romney.  It was way too little, way too late.

But that's not Romney's style. In fact, Romney has no style. Therein lies the entire problem.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Obama is a Lock for an Eight Year Failed Presidency

For over a year I've predicted a dozen times in this blog alone that Romney cannot win the election and that President Obama is assured of certain victory. I predicted Romney would repeatedly stumble, miss opportunities and fail. Romney is that tone deaf. 

Today I repeat that assertion. President Obama wlll be re-elected Tuesday and by a comfortable margin. 

Curiously Mitt Romney had a chance. Even more curiously, he decided to forgo almost certain election and pursue a genuinely bizarre last minute campaign strategy, ignoring the huge issue of the Obama Administration's cover-up of Libyan Ambassador Steven's torture and murder in Benghazi and opting instead to double down on a deceptive ad about Jeep moving production to China. 

Instead of exposing the truth of the biggest cover-up of this century, Romney decides to repeat a lie about automobile production. Missteps don't get much bigger than this. 

Someday, someone will write a book about this election (they always do) and will reveal why Romney made the gigantic mistake. 

In the meantime, after his comfortable re-election , President Obama will face a massive Congressional and media investigations that could actually bring down his Presidency. Shades of Nixon and Watergate. 

The nation is the loser next Tuesday. We could have had a competent disciplined President who would have turned around our economy and stabilized world relations. Instead will will get four genuinely horrific years of gridlock, investigations, bitterness, divisiveness and an utterly failed Presidency.