Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Last Call For No Time For A Garbage Pie, Con't

Kentucky is home to two major fast-food restaurant giants, Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell among others, and Papa John's Pizza.  Papa John's founder John Schnatter was booted as CEO last year after he got caught making racist remarks in public, the remarks also costing the company millions as they lost NFL sponsorship in the process.  For that, Schnatter was given the heave-ho and finally it looks like Schnatter will be settling with the company to exit the board as well.

The company said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday it would co-operate with Schnatter to find a mutually acceptable independent director, who would not be affiliated with Schnatter or hedge fund investor Starboard Value LP, which owns a nearly 10 percent stake.

Schnatter, who owns about 30 percent of the company’s shares, would resign from the board if the independent director is appointed before the annual stockholder meeting slated in May, Papa John’s said.

The deal comes after the founder stepped down as chairman last summer, following reports he had used a racial slur on a media training conference call.

Schnatter has filed several lawsuits against the company in a bid to regain control. In January, he claimed a victory when a court ordered the board to give him some internal documents, including text messages related to his firing, which Papa John’s had until then refused to share.

As part of the agreement, Papa John’s has agreed to share with Schnatter all of the company’s records, giving him the option to sue if those documents revealed wrongdoing by the company, Schnatter said in a statement.

Schnatter, in return, has agreed to dismiss two lawsuits.

“(I am) thankful that I’ve been able to resolve these important issues, and that we can all focus on the Company’s business without the need for additional litigation,” Schnatter said.

The company also said it would remove an “acting in concert” provision of a “poison pill” adopted by the board to thwart previous takeover attempts by Schnatter, suggesting that the founder could engage with bidders that had expressed interest in speaking with him.

Still, the bad press has taken a toll on the pizza chain, which said last week North America same-restaurant sales fell 7.3 percent in 2018 and that sales would lag into the first half of 2019. 

They will continue to fall, would be my guess.  The damage to the brand has been done. Oh yeah, and the pizza is still garbage, I used to make it out of college.

Nothing Gets Done Because Of Mitch

Columbia law professor Tim Wu explains at the NY Times that in our society, things that vast super-majorities of Americans want will never become law because of lobbyists.

About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leaveattracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.

The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these. Call it the oppression of the supermajority. Ignoring what most of the country wants — as much as demagogy and political divisiveness — is what is making the public so angry.

Some might counter that the thwarting of the popular will is not necessarily worrisome. For Congress to enact a proposal just because it is supported by a large majority, the argument goes, would amount to populism. The public, according to this way of thinking, is generally too ill informed to have its economic policy preferences taken seriously.

It is true that policymaking requires expertise. But I don’t think members of the public are demonstrating ignorance when they claim that drug prices are too high, taxes could be fairer, privacy laws are too weak and monopolies are too coddled.

Others remind us that the United States is a democratic republic, not a direct democracy, and that the Constitution was designed to modulate the extremes of majority rule. Majorities sometimes want things — like bans on books, or crackdowns on minorities — that they should not be given.

This is true. It is also true that a thoughtful process of democratic deliberation and compromise can yield better policy outcomes than merely following the majority’s will. But these considerations hardly describe our current situation. The invocation of constitutional principle has become an increasingly lame and embarrassing excuse. The framers of the Constitution, having experienced a popular revolution, were hardly recommending that the will of the majority be ignored. The Constitution sought to fine-tune majoritarian democracy, not to silence it.

No one single person has done more to silence that then my state's senior senator, Mitch McConnell.  He has personally made sure that legislation -- bipartisan legislation, mind you -- on all of these issues and more, have never passed the Senate and will never pass the Senate as long as he remains GOP leader.

I hope to help defeat him in 2020.

That Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

Attorney General William Barr said he won’t recuse himself from being in charge of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, a major development affecting the fate of the politically charged probe into President Donald Trump.

“Following General Barr’s confirmation, senior career ethics officials advised that General Barr should not recuse himself from the special counsel’s investigation. Consistent with that advice, General Barr has decided not to recuse,” Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

Kupec confirmed that the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who intends to leave the department in the coming weeks, continues to be the primary liaison between the special counsel and Barr.

The question of whether Barr, who was confirmed as attorney general last month, should oversee Mueller has become a political flashpoint.

Under Justice Department regulations, the attorney general has sole authority over Mueller and has the power to decide how much of Mueller’s final report is provided to Congress and made public. With Mueller believed to be close to completing his work, Democrats in Congress are vowing to force the release of his report and the evidence underlying it.

The president repeatedly attacked and ridiculed his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself based on his role in Trump’s campaign. Trump removed Sessions in November and named Matthew Whitaker acting attorney general.

And speaking of Matt Whitaker...

Whitaker, who had criticized Mueller’s investigation before joining the Justice Department, decided not to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation in December, even though a senior department ethics official said a formal review would likely recommend a recusal.

Whitaker never asked for a formal ethics recommendation. He and a small group of advisers decided there was no precedent for him to recuse under these circumstances. Whitaker left the Justice Department on March 2.

Wait, what?

Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker left his position at the Justice Department on Saturday, a department spokeswoman said.

Whitaker had been serving as a senior counselor at the Justice Department since Attorney General William Barr was sworn in last month.

His next career move is unknown, but Whitaker has told friends that he will remain in Washington because there are "many opportunities here," according to sources who have spoken with him in recent days.

Nothing about either of these moves smells right.


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