Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Last Call For Hungry For More

Twinkies are back from beyond the grave, and two years into the comeback of Hostess, we finally are learning what the cost of putting Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs back on shelves really means: the new Hostess Brands, owned by a billionaire venture capitalist, who has automated more than 90% of the company's bakery jobs out of existence.

In 2012, Hostess, the iconic American bakery giant behind Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's and Twinkies, was bankrupt, with plans to slash more than 18,000 jobs and close its doors for good amid a crippling nationwide strike. 
Then, in 2013, a snack-cake savior appeared. The Missouri-based sweets maker was bought for $410 million by a partnership between private-equity giant Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos, a billionaire turnaround artist known as "Mr. Shelf Space" for his revival of brands like Vlasic, Hungry-Man and Chef Boyardee. 
Now, the iconic dessert titan is resurgent, selling its golden, cream-filled Twinkies across the world under the name Hostess Brands and turning down $2 billion offers from a pack of hopeful buyers. On Tuesday morning, the company reached its latest peak when Reuters, citing anonymous sources, suggested Hostess would head to Wall Street with an initial public offering that would value the company at around $2.5 billion.

That's a huge turnaround, from Chapter 11 to IPO.  But the true cost has been thousands of jobs.

The Hostess Brands of today, launched in 2013 under an Apollo-Metropoulos holding company, owns sweets and cakes under the Hostess and Dolly Madison brands, including Cupcakes, Donettes, Snoballs and Zingers. 
But it looks and operates very differently than the chain from whence it came. The newer, thinner bakery giant kept only five of the 14 original dessert plants: Of those five, one was sold and another, an eight-decade-old bakery in suburban Chicago with 400 employees, closed in October. 
The investment helped bring the classic American snack food into the 21st century. One 500-worker Kansas bakery outfitted with a $20 million Auto-Bake system, according to Forbes, now spits out more than a million Twinkies a day, doing 80 percent of the work once done by 9,000 workers across 14 plants.

From 9,000 bakery employees at 14 plants to 500 at one plant in Kansas.  That's just the bakery division.  Thousands of more supporting jobs were lost when the plants closed for good. This may be an extreme example of automation in the 21st century, but more of it is coming, and it's going to put a lot of people out of work very quickly.

In fact, we're seeing it now.  How much of the "labor participation rate" being the lowest in 50 years is due to automation as a factor?

Do those Twinkies still taste good to you now?

The Revenge Of Flagging Support

Having somehow missed the cattle call when the rest of the conservative strawmen arguments were being set up on the issue of the Confederate flag,WaPo’s Marc Thiessen instead goes for sheer construct size instead.

Did you know that this newspaper is named for a slaveholder? It’s right there on our masthead, the name of a man who for 56 years held other human beings in bondage on his Virginia plantation — a man, according to the official Mount Vernon Web site, who “frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings.” This dreaded symbol of oppression is delivered to the doorsteps and inboxes of hundreds of thousands of people each morning. 
Sure, George Washington also emancipated his slaves in his will, won our independence and became the father of our country — but no matter. It is an outrage that this paper continues to bear the name of such a man. 
It is time to rename The Washington Post! 
Think that’s stupid? You’re right. But there’s a lot of stupid going around today. The latest example: The TV Land network has pulled the plug on reruns of one of America’s most beloved shows, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” because the car in the show, the General Lee, bears a Confederate flag. There is nothing racist about “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It is a show about moonshine, short shorts and fast cars. What is accomplished by banning “The Dukes of Hazzard”? Nothing. 
Our country is in a miasma of political correctness. So where does it end? Are we going to rename our nation’s capital (and Washington state for that matter)? Should we close the Jefferson Memorial (named for a man who never freed his slaves)? How about renaming Arlington (which is named after Robert E. Lee’s estate) . . . or Washington and Lee University (names for not one, but two slave owners) . . . or Fort Hood (named for Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood) and Fort Bragg (named for Braxton Bragg, military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis). 
This impulse to wipe away history is Stalinist. Just like Joseph Stalin once erased people from photographs, we’re now erasing people from our collective history.

I mean this is a hell of a lot of straw in one place, and it’s covered in manure to boot. Nobody’s demanding we rename anything currently named for George Washington, and nobody demanded the cancellation of the Dukes of Hazzard reruns on cable, either.

Most of all, nobody’s asking to “wipe away history” of white Southerners, either. What people actually wanted was the state government of South Carolina not to fly the Confederate flag on state grounds, especially since the state only started doing that in the 60’s in order to insult and degrade the civil rights movement.

The only thing being wiped away here is the reality that this flag stands for slavery, racism, and hatred. We wiped that history away out of textbooks and social taboo quite some time ago and covered it up with idiotic platitudes like “heritage not hate”. We wiped out that history of why the South went to war in order to preserve the enslavement of human beings with moronic bleatings of “states’ rights” and “economic sabotage of the South”.

Maybe Thiessen knows. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

Obama Derangement Syndrome Update

Here's the problem with the Republican Party, at residents of Bastrop, Texas are still quite freaked out about Jade Helm '15 exercises.

The office of the Bastrop County Republican Party is in an old lumber mill on Main Street, with peeling brown paint and a sign out front that captures the party’s feelings about the Obama administration: “WISE UP AMERICA!”

Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had written page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”

So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states.

They are not “nuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Ellison said of his suspicious neighbors. “Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing.”

It's Obama's fault anyway.  Never mind military exercises under the previous president were no problem whatsoever.

Here in the soft, green farmlands east of Austin, some say the answer is simple: “The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president,” said Terry Orr, who was Bastrop’s mayor from 2008 to 2014.

Orr said he strongly disagrees with those views, and he supports Jade Helm. But he said a significant number of people in town distrust Obama because they think he is primarily concerned with the welfare of blacks and “illegal aliens.”

“People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy,” Orr said

Bastrop’s current mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, who also supports Jade Helm, agrees. Kesselus said the distrust is due in part to a sense that “things aren’t as good as they used to be,” especially economically. “The middle class is getting squeezed and they’ve got to take it out on somebody, and Obama is a great target.

These ideas didn't just magically appear out of a vacuum.  Republican candidates have been saying this publicly about the Obama administration for seven years now, and surprise, people believe it.

Dock Jackson, 62, an African American who has been on the Bastrop City Council for 24 years, grew up when the town was still segregated, literally by railroad tracks. Today, Bastrop is 34 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black, and a wonderful place to live, he said, a place where the races generally get along.

But the Jade Helm backlash has been a “red flag” that our county “still has a lot of things they need to come to terms with,” Jackson said, including the anger and disrespect being directed at the president.

At a recent family reunion at a Bastrop community center, Mark Peterson, who is black, said he has been “shocked” by what he views as racist undertones in much of the objection to Jade Helm.

What I hate to hear most is, ‘We want to take our country back.’ This is still your country. Where did it go?” said Peterson, 42, a technology manager for a financial firm in Austin. “If it were any other president but Obama, it would not be an issue.”

The politics of racial resentment, that white America is being destroyed by a black President, has been part and parcel of the GOP years now (and several decades in the South).  This is all they have left.


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