Friday, November 23, 2012

"When Black Friday comes..."

"When Black Friday comes
I'll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor"

Amidst the cacophony of news stories and advertisements for Black Friday I couldn't help but think about this song, "Black Friday," which Steely Dan released in 1975.  While the song has nothing to do with today's version of Black Friday, I'm sure the group had no idea that those two words would become woven into today's popular culture.

What is wrong with us!?  What used to be known as "the day after Thanksgiving" now has a name--and an ominous one at that--and reports of fights and disruptive behavior at retail locations around the country as consumers queued up, in the hours before this "event," hopeful for the best deals offered by all of the big box retailers.

In the hours following a day reserved for the gathering of family and friends comes not the gluttony of turkey and dressing but of consumer behavior gone bad.

Who's at greater fault here--the retailers who inch up their store hours to invade on Thanksgiving fellowship or the consumers who gladly satisfy that decision by lining up in search of the best deal on a 55" television or the season's hot toy?  It's sad, sick, and certainly not what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he signed a proclamation in 1863 making the final Thursday in November a "day of thanksgiving."  Somehow I doubt ol' Abe thought that the final Friday of the month would become something special too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Kansas City!

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This blog entry was posted last Thanksgiving on Musings, Notes & Quotes.  We reprint it here for Thanksgiving 2012.  Happy Thanksgiving to family, friends, and loyal followers of this blog.

I started this blog in February 2009 and for my Thanksgiving posts the past two years I’ve written a serious piece about all of the true reasons I have for being thankful on this, my favorite holiday of the year.

As I drove on the streets of my town, Kansas City, yesterday, I realized that I had special reasons to give thanks again this year—very much focused, though, on this amazing city where I and my family reside. So, with no further adieu, here are the reasons I’m thankful for Kansas City:

- I’m thankful for the people of this expansive geographic metropolitan area—from the tony suburbs to the rural communities and in between. I am thankful for the sincerity of feelings, the kindness which represents our community, and the passion for our state—whether Kansas or Missouri.

- I’m thankful for the prettiest shopping district in the country, the Country Club Plaza, and how no other place else feels so special during the holidays.

- I’m thankful for local icons like George Brett, Tom Watson and Len Dawson. I’m thankful for those who represent Kansas City in the entertainment business—Eric Stonestreet, Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd and others.

- I’m thankful for Grandstand Burgers, Rudy’s Tacqueria, Grinder’s, Stroud’s, LC’s, the original Peanut on Main, and Jess & Jim’s.

- I’m thankful for barbecue of all types, sauces, and venues—for Oklahoma Joes, Gates, Arthur Bryants, LC’s, Danny Edwards, B.B.'s Lawnside Barbecue, Jack’s Stack and Rosedale.

- I’m thankful for prime cuts of good ol’ red meat—for The Capital Grille, Ruth’s Chris, Plaza III and JJ’s.

- I’m thankful that our multi-purpose sports complex is updated and still a terrific place to watch baseball or football. I’m thankful for the Sprint Center and Kansas Speedway. And, I’m thankful for the vision of the local ownership of Sporting KC and for the best soccer venue in the United States.

- I’m thankful for Ward Parkway, the Paseo and all the other boulevards in our fair city. I’m thankful the J.C. Nichols fountain and all of the various waterways and water features in our cowtown, which boasts “more fountains than Rome” and “more boulevards than Paris.”

- I’m thankful for local leaders who give of their time, money and management skills to make Kansas City a case study in philanthropic leadership.

- I’m thankful for the companies that call K.C. “home.” And, I’m thankful for the local leaders who have recruited those companies here and work to keep them here.

- I’m thankful for this thing called “Kansas City Pride”—for a town, which engenders loyalty and a desire to make our community a great place to live and work.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The naivete of the ultra-affluent

The ultra-affluent--those defined as the richest folks in America--took a lot of heat over the past several months as President Barack Obama and his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney, battled it out on the election stage and debated tax plans and economic policy.  Interestingly, the folks who fall into this "rich" category don't seem to know that they are in the  ultra-affluent group, and they were relatively sanguine about the results of the election.

According to Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer (August 2012), the ultra-affluent are 1% of the U.S. population and are defined generally as households with income of $250,000-$325,000 plus per year, depending upon who you're consulting.  Those with household incomes of $250,000 or more--the line frequently used by President Obama and Democrats to mark where tax increases should hit--is how Mendelsohn identifies the "ultra affluent," which actually is the top 2-3% of Americans.  The U.S. government raises the bar to somewhere in the $325,000 neighborhood.

In survey results released in August, 49% of respondents in this "ultra affluent" group said they don't expect their savings or investment plans to change in 2013, regardless of the election winner.  A substantial number--55%--do expect to pay higher taxes if Mr. Obama is re-elected while 27% don't expect the election outcome to make a difference.

What's perhaps of keenest interest is how the most affluent think of themselves as less affluent.  Households that are in the top 20-25% of earners on average think that they are in the 38th percentile.  The ultra-affluent, in the top 2-3%, of earners on average think that they are in the 16th percentile.

The lack of awareness of economic status is a change from 2006-2007 when consumers tended to overestimate their wealth, or felt like they were on the verge of striking it rich.  I guess we can hypothesize that the market crash of 2008-09 caused this fairly radical shift in "affluency awareness."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rant of the week

Amazingly, the sun came up this morning and the world felt the same even after a monumental evening last night where months and months of rancor, punditry, mistruths, and general discord culminated in the re-election of President Barack Obama in the presidential election.

Yet, we once again were treated to terms like "battleground states," and the suggestion by some that Obama's surge in these key states had somehow indicated a voter mandate for the incumbent.

As of this morning, the total vote, out of approximately 115 million votes cast, was 58,720,700 for President Obama and 56,145,950 for Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger.  Now, I'm a Journalism graduate but even I can figure out that's a close race, separated by approximately 2% of the total votes cast nationally.

When can we put aside the antiquated Electoral College and institute a popular vote for our President?  Why are states voting one way or the other, when the populace in that state may be just as divided as the popular vote nationally?

It's time to move on and acknowledge that our country's leader should truly be decided by the people--not by some institution called a "college," which isn't even a source of higher education.  And, it's time that the national media, and elected officials, acknowledge that our country is divided by a slim margin, meaning that neither side has mandate nor significant majority.  It's time, quite simply, for change, compromise and cooperation.

Friday, November 2, 2012


- I'm hearing rumors that power may be restored to the island of Manhattan today.  Here's hoping that the four million still without power get good news shortly.

- It wasn't exactly an estate sale but thank goodness a home in Mount Washington, CA, was searched before a recent scheduled demolition as the result was the discovery of a treasure trove of maps--tens of thousands which are considered priceless.  Real estate agent Matthew Greenberg discovered the maps upon the death of the home's occupant, John Feathers.  Neighbors had no clue that Feathers had this collection, which includes a rare "paved road" map of the U.S. from 1918, and a 1592 map of Europe.  The maps are being donated to the Los Angeles Central Library and will turn that facility into one of the biggest map archives in the country.

- A study by CareerBuilder indicates that 69% of full-time workers regularly search for new jobs.

- Sign of the apocalypse:  Inmates in West Palm Beach, FL are suing for access to dental floss.  The prisoners claim "pain and suffering" for have been denied access to the dental hygiene product given concerns about using the floss as a weapon or rope.  Sheriff Ric Bradshaw had this to say, "I don't care if they file 400 suits, they're not getting it--this isn't the Ritz Carlton."

- Sarah Palin is trying to remake herself into a fitness guru, and has written a book and plans to issue a DVD.  Friends are worried about the former Vice Presidential candidate--she works out so obsessively that she has dropped 93 pounds.

- Who knew?  U.S. cities are facing a smartphone crime wave.  In San Francisco, authorities claim that half of all crimes are phone-related and in New York, it's 40%.

- And, finally, in the "you can't make this 'stuff' up" category, a thief in Syracuse, NY returned to the bank he had just robbed, complaining that he wasn't given the entire $20,000 he had demanded.  The robber was promptly arrested.