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AN AMERICAN HERO

Yeah, it's been quite awhile since I've posted.  I've wanted to but simply didn't have the time, mostly work-related issues.  Sometimes one has to take on the Big Blue Ball and when you do it takes time and a lot of energy, in this case four weeks of my time.  Worked out good in the end though.  Enough said.

You knew I wasn't going to let this go by with commenting. God bless Greg Smith.  He refused to drink Goldman's kool-aid any longer.  It's a big deal for someone to resign their job based on principle and even bigger to do it from as big a name as GS and as public as he has.  He has written so eloquently about what I have known was a cancer in American business and tried to say in this blog for a very long time.  He says it much better than I ever did.  I dare say he will be blackballed from any major American company from this moment on.  

I want to emphasize that Goldman Sachs is only an example of the malaise that not only affects American business but affects this country as a whole.  Simply put we put personal wealth over everything else.  Love thy neighbor?  Only if he is generating profits for us.  We have lost our values and our sense of purpose.

We didn't get to this point overnight and it will similarly take a long time to get out of this mess. But it has to happen. Businesses and people can make money, even lots of money, without losing their integrity.  They just have to focus on the integrity part first. Doing things the right way with respect for your customers and others isn't always easy and it doesn't necessarily equate to financial success. But it can be done that way because we did exactly that for many years.  It has only been in the last twenty to thirty years that greed has overtaken the respect of customers and our fellow man.

I have to say it again.  God bless Greg Smith.  

He's an American hero. 

By: Lewis Medlock on March 23, 2012 in Business | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

OCCUPY WALL STREET

I have been watching this movement since it began and have waited to post about it.  I did so because I wanted to see if it was in fact driven by the abuses of Wall Street or was actually about a group of people having more wealth than another (and not being happy about it).   

I have decided that it's about the abuses of Wall Street at this point and if I'm right I am in full support of OWS.  That's because in my lifetime I have seen nothing more damaging to the American economy and way of life that what has been occurring on Wall Street in the last twenty years (and reaching its worst point in 2008).

The current economic mess is a direct result of Wall Street pushing mortgages so they could package them and resell them as securities.  Sure they were after profits but what has become even more important to them they were after bonuses.  Now the public is paying the price not to speak of paying to bail them out.  A recent USA Today editorial said:

"the bonus system has gone beyond a means of rewarding talent and is now Wall Street's primary business. Institutions take huge gambles because the short-term returns are a rationale for their rich payouts. But even when the consequences of their risky behavior come back to haunt them, they still pay huge bonuses."

I totally agree.  Of course they are still doing it and even increasing the bonuses.  I understand that Wall Street is certainly not the only thing hurting the economy but I sincerely believe they deserve a major part of the blame.  Here's a word I think describes Wall Street well these days:  thieves.  Yes I truly believe that.  

Are they too big to fail? Of course not.  At least not without major consequences.  But Wall Street has already shown their audacity after their bailouts by continuing what they were already doing.  They aren't afraid of the Federal Government either because no-one has gone to jail.  Maybe it's time they became afraid of something even bigger--like the American public.  That's why I support OWS.

Here is a good read about OWS and Wall Street thieves. 

By: Lewis Medlock on October 26, 2011 in Business, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BOA REPORTS $6.2 BILLION PROFIT

That's a huge number. 

It's almost Exxon like. And it's for one quarter.

The financial rags are making the usual excuses--"one-time pretax gains", etc.  

Clearly $6.5 billion isn't worth as much as it used to be so BOA is instituting a $5 per month charge for any of its customers making purchases with their debit cards.   Times are that tough.  

How tough are they?  So tough that BOA's CEO had to swallow no increase in his $950,000 salary for 2011. Fortunately he received  $9.05 million in performance-based stock awards.  Share the pain, baby...

I'm sure all of you BOA customers understand.  

By: Lewis Medlock on October 18, 2011 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

JUMPSTARTING

For those fellow baby-boomers out there, all of you know that there was a time when this country was truly the center of the economic universe.  We were the world's supplier for the majority of goods in the world and especially those considered high-quality.

That was especially true in manufacturing. Up until the late sixties American car manufacturers dominated the world market.  American television manufacturers dominated into the late seventies or early eighties.  And so on and so on.

Of course the opposite is now the case.  We no longer dominate anything.  Our trade balance has been negative so long now that down looks like up.  The economy that matters most now is the world economy and not just the American economy.  In a word, globalization has occurred.

If I could put my finger on any one thing that began a globalized economy it's when this happened.  Specifically it's when this guy's idea began to be used industrywide and internationally.  As the article states, that was the start of cheaper transporation and jumpstarted a globalized economy. 

It allowed the world's manufacturers to compete much more evenly with American companies.  Then their cheaper labor began to be translated into lower prices everywhere.  Product quality improvement followed, especially by the Japanese and then the economic center of power began to shift.  And we all know the rest of the story.  All of this didn't just happen because of Mr. Tantlinger's idea but it certainly was a big part of it.

Yeah.  I'm back.

By: Lewis Medlock on September 7, 2011 in Business, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NO MAS

I haven't been posting much in the last few weeks for one reason. 

In the last 90 days the department I work in has lost an Athletic Director and five coaches.  The AD retired but four of the coaches that left were involved in certain activities which caused them to leave not of their own choosing.

Yours truly has been on the search committee for the replacements of all those people and I am the chair of one of those committees.  Each search is a nationwide search and because of that we get as many as 150 resumes or more per job.  From that we cull it down to a manageable level based on the criteria we want for each position.  Then we make another cut to the level of people we want to talk to by phone and from that another cut to who we want to bring onto our campus for more interviews.  Once here the applicant spends an entire day meeting with people across campus.

After all the applicants for jobs have visited we decide as a committee who to make an offer to and at what level.  The offer is then extended and hopefully the applicant accepts.  If not we go back to the drawing board and review the last cut for the next offer, etc. until we have who we want.

We have had four instances of offers being turned down.  None of the four mentioned anything about money.  I can only conclude that they weren't serious job seekers since all were already employed.  I think we clearly failed in our judgment of who to offer by not detecting that fact.  That's hard to believe given all the reviews and interviews but it is also painfully obvious. I also think we were used by them to better their own positions. 

The bottom line is that it has become a very time consuming process.  I know that I have had too many interviews when I call people by their wrong name which I have done so twice now.  At this time we have two of the original five left to fill.  Hopefully we can get that done soon so I can get back to my real work.

For the job seekers out there I have some advice on resumes.  First--make your resume brief as possible.  Length does not impress.  In fact it may even hurt you.  Let your mouth fill in the blanks not Word.  Second--make your work experience chronological.  We literally had resumes that we couldn't figure out where people had been and for how long.  Finally--keep in mind that a really good resume only gets your foot in the door.  Your personality and ability to communicate gets you the job.

By: Lewis Medlock on April 25, 2011 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE USUAL SUSPECTS.

The U.S. Senate's report on the financial crisis is out.  There is some pot calling the kettle black in the very nature of this report but nevertheless, it is revealing.

The usual culprits are there:  Goldman Sachs, the credit ratings agencies, government regulators, etc.

Ultimately it's more proof of what we already know.  Wall Street greed nearly destroyed this country economically.  Even worse government regulators were in bed with Wall Street or at best incompetent.  But government including the very legislative body that investigated and authored the report had a big part in it too.  Many in the House and Senate caved in to lobbyists and their constituents to ensure that special interests were met.  The average American's best interests were not considered or shunted aside.

This article says that the report includes 19 recommendations for changes to regulatory and industry practices. These include creating strong conflict-of-interest policies at the nation’s banks and requiring that banks hold higher reserves against risky mortgages. And the report also asks federal regulators to examine its findings for violations of laws.

I'm skeptical that any of the recommendations will happen.  Why?  Because the system is rigged for exactly what happened in 2008.  Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.  

The system is not going to change without fundamental changes occurring--primarily by the Congress but also by the regulators and more importantly Wall Street itself.  They all have to get back to the notion that there is a common good for all Americans required in what they do and not just their own good.  The Wall Street system of bonuses creates incentives for greed and not the common good for all Americans.  Special interests continue to control Congress instead of Congress controlling them.

Our forefathers have to be turning over in their graves.  Shame on all of the above.

By: Lewis Medlock on April 14, 2011 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GREED IS NOT GOOD

Readers of this blog know that despite my background in it, I am not a fan of American business.  And full disclosure:  I collect a pension from American business.  If that makes me hypocritical so be it.

Having said the above it's time for my latest volley toward my former collective employer.  Yes, i'm a little fatigued with slamming Congress.  Doing so has become tiresome because it's just too easy .

On to my critique.  The fact is that US business has lost its social conscience.  Zero.  Nada.  Jobs are routinely outsourced without a thought for the American worker they employ.  That's understandable if businesses are trying to remain competitive and/or survive.  It's not understandable when the CEO and officers of the company are taking home huge and obscene salaries as a result.   What's huge and obscene?  Simple.  I know it when I see it and unfortunately it's become the norm.

The American middle class, historically the bedrock of American economics, is shrinking to the point that it's becoming obsolete.  It is true that most of that is due to global competition.   As a kid I can remember when import cars were a novelty and anything Japanese was considered cheap and shabby.  That's hard to believe now. 

But US business practices are a large part of the problem too.  Public companies are obsessed with profit and they should be.  That's not only how businesses survive but also how they grow.  But far too many of our current business leaders convert their profit into bonuses and salaries. 

Boards of directors aid this process by not doing their job of fiduciary oversight.  And they make it worse because when a company gets so bad they fire the CEO who rides off into the sunset with millions.  There's no excuse for giving bad CEOs millions when they have mismanaged a company.  It makes no sense.  So why do the BODs do it?  Because they're protecting their own outrageous pay. Does this sound crazy?

You bet it does.  But the capitalistic system isn't broken.  It's just been hijacked by greed--the same greed that is affecting everything in this country.  I don't know how or exactly when that happened but I do know the government has aided and abetted it.  All you have to do to realize that is look at what happened in 2008.

I realize that I keep harping on it but America has become a selfish country.  I remember my father talking about WWII and how the whole country came together and was united.  He said it happened without fanfare or someone leading the charge.  It was simply in our character to do so and we did. 

I don't know how we do it but we need to become that way again.  American business can and should provide the leadership for doing that as they did not that long ago.  After all we are a capitalist country.  It's time they did it again.   

By: Lewis Medlock on December 3, 2010 in Business | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ON THE ROAD

I'm on the road again. 

I'll be in Charlotte, NC Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Posting resumes Thursday.

By: Lewis Medlock on August 10, 2010 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MAD MEN

I admit that I laughed some when I read this.  Don Draper gone wild.

As the article says, razors and shaving are big business.  I should know.  I spend a fair amount on keeping my face clean shaven.  But I quit buying new razors with the Mach 3.  Yes, that's right.  In the age of five-blade razors, I'm a three blade man.  I guess that makes me a relic since that razor came out twelve years ago.

I blogged back in 2006 about going to high-end classic shaving.  But that didn't involve new razors. In fact it started with my uncle's 1940s Gillette safety razor, but I soon went back to the Mach 3 and haven't changed since. 

I do, however, love the classic shaving creams, almost all of which are foreign made.  I'm currently alternating between Proraso, an Italian cream and Taylor's of Old Bond Street, an English cream.  Both are superb.  I usually use Proraso in the summer as it's eucalyptus really gives me a nice feeling.  For whatever reason it doesn't seem to be quite as nice in cold weather.  I'm still using the badger brush that my wife bought me four years ago. 

In a way, I think the razor business is a microcosm of American business.  The razor manufacturers are so focused on profits that they don't care that they're not providing an improved product.  Instead they're selling a gimmick. 

The sad thing is that consumers continue to buy the hype  (or not, as this article says).  Of course that includes me because at one point I was perfectly happy with the Sensor Excel, a two blade razor that's sixteen years ago. 

Don Draper is a ruthless SOB.

By: Lewis Medlock on July 19, 2010 in Business | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WHAT'S THAT SMELL?

I hope you were fortunate enough to catch the 60 Minutes story last Sunday night on Michael Lewis's new book The Big Short.  If you didn't here is the story in words.  You can also see the video on the same site.  

It's an excellent read.  Aside from the story about the handful of people, one M.D. in particular, who made a ton of money by recognizing that Wall Street was headed for a fall, it's an insight into Wall Street's rigged con game that nearly blew up our economy in 2008. 

I have posted on this blog that nothing has changed to prevent them from doing it again.  Indeed the signs are they are doing just that.  The same firms that received bailout money are back to paying themselves big bonuses again.  If you've forgotten, that's our money they got to save themselves.  And let's remember that while the generic term "Wall Street" leaves out the human aspect, Wall Street is in fact run by people and not some impersonal entity.

I think what happened in 2008 and apparently is still happening is the prime example of the one thing that's ruining our country.  It is greed, pure and simple--every man for himself.  The Wall Street firms had and continue to have no sense of responsibility--other than to line their own individual pockets.  Their financial incentives encourage that greed.  Michael Lewis believes "the financial industry is living in a world so disconnected from American life that it cannot be sustained. He thinks it may take a while, but he believes Wall Street as we know it, has done itself in."

I agree with him.  But I don't think it's just them.  The government has a big role in this by basically legalizing greed in the years preceding 2008 and now by not acting to prevent the same thing from happening again.  But let me be clear.  The institutional root of the problem is the investment banks on Wall Street.  Government simply aids and abets them.

Once again, I'm not a survivalist.  But I'm saying that our political and financial system is as close to being broken as it has ever been.  I'm concerned enough about my investments that I have been moving some of them from the investment bank I have used for many years.  I simply do not believe the Wall Street firms can be trusted anymore.  What a tragedy for what once was the symbol of American capitalism.

But there's a deeper tragedy.  The Obama administration has been in office over a year now and I have not seen one substantial effort by them to prevent 2008 from happening again.  So Wall Street is paying big bonuses to themselves again while millions of Americans, ten percent of our workforce, are out of work and many out of their homes.  The average person just trying to live his or her life out normally, comfortably and with some degree of control over it really has little chance of doing so when faced with this.

Something is rotten in America.  

By: Lewis Medlock on March 17, 2010 in Business | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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