Friday, May 20


• I've noted here many a time that the economic illiterate, say--to use one example--me, can pretty much learn all he needs to know about the capitalistic "system" by paying attention at his local grocer's, or pharmacy. My favorite example was Marsh Supermarkets.

Marsh was an old family-owned grocer of pre-war vintage which managed to survive into the stripmall supermarket era by expanding and going public. In the 60s the second generation took over, and readers familiar with sweeping works of mundane paperback fiction will probably have already filled in the rest of the story. The young geniuses innovated! Marsh crossed the Indiana state line, opened a chain of convenience stores, and began diversifying at a rate which the Reagan era accelerated dramatically, in that it turned out to be a tragedy for the company and a comedy for the anti-capitalist wise-ass.

Marsh acquired all sorts of attendant businesses--restaurants, florists, caterers--started a cut-rate grocery chain and a "fresh" market, bought a long-standing chain of ice-cream parlors (and ran 'em into the ground), and another family grocery chain (ditto), while employing so many Marsh family members in executive positions that one of 'em was named VP in Charge of Deciding Family Office Squabbles.

Meanwhile the typical clueless consumer of my height and shoe size noticed from the store shelves, if not the company spread sheet, that the business of Marsh seemed to be more like "making deals with the distributors of stuff supermarkets carry" not "stocking things which customers like to buy". National brands would suddenly disappear for months, even years at a time. Once a month or so the bread aisle would look like someone had been playing a giant sliding tile puzzle with the product: Pepperidge Farm, say, would go, overnight, from the top three rows of the first section to squashed on the bottom row of the last. Which, of course, had nothing to do with how those items sold, and everything to do with how they were being sold.

In the Naughts Marsh suddenly started crying Imminent Bankruptcy, went on a very public search for a buyer, and started firing Marsh family sinecures by the dozens. Hoosiers, long known for their inability to separate real life from teevee commercials, wept openly in the streets.

Marsh was purchased by Sun Capital, business turn-around specialists. It almost immediately sued former CEO Don Marsh for supposed financial shenanigans. That process continues; every so often they'll find it necessary to reveal a little more about Marsh to help the negotiations along. A filing yesterday included details of the New York apartment the company kept for Marsh's Russian mistress, repeated travel to meet an old high-school sweetheart, a driver illegally hired after Marsh lost his license in a DUI (the driver was also Don's yacht captain), and $5.27 million in improper travel and entertainment expense deductions on corporate tax returns for 2004 through 2006.

Marsh is countersuing for $1.17 million in severance. His attorneys responded that Sun Capital knew all about this stuff before it bought the company anyway, so there, and in conclusion, tax breaks for the wealthy.

• Lawyer jokes: Steve Simpson and Paul Sherman, "Stephen Colbert's Free Speech Problem," in which attorneys for the plaintiff in v. FEC argue that the paperwork Colbert got tripped up on proves the wisdom of the Citizens United decision:
How's that for a punch line? Rich and successful television personality needs powerful corporate lawyers to convince the FEC to allow him to continue making fun of the Supreme Court. Hilarious.

But let's be fair about it. At least these two understand Colbert's joking.

• Speaking of Journal Opinion, Roy finds Daniel Henninger bemoaning the damage media focus does to the Republican Presidential field. Most all the comments are better than mine, which asked who, if not Republicans, exactly is responsible for the fact that over the past thirty years backwoods superstition, gun porn, and tax opposition have been untouchable over there? Newt just proved--yet again--that you can't say anything in Republican circles which even simulates independent thought, unless it's the sort of independent thought the base lauds in Donald Trump. Journal heartthrob Mitch "5'1" Daniels is still paying for suggesting that social issues be put on the back burner temporarily in the middle of a fucking NatRev fluffing two years ago. Huckabee took it in the shorts because Arkansas raised taxes while he was governor. Th' fuck are the rest of us supposed to do for you, Mr. Henninger? Smear Vaseline on the lenses and find the correct angle to shoot all of you with a George W. Bush halo? Agree not to mention the sorry lot of candidates you've been offering for at least a decade, or the laughable bench waiting for garbage time? Jesus, you're the ones who took the intellectual wing of the party out, shot it, and replaced it with David Brooks. Now the two smartest guys in the room are Newt Gingrich and Mitch "Highpockets" Daniels, and the most popular ones are Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. There's no fucking level of media coverage which can cure that.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

There's no fucking level of media coverage which can cure that.

And it's not for lack of trying! The corporate media has been carrying water for these corrupt liars at least since the Clinton years.

But it's still not enough, which shows liberal bias yet again.

Dr. Harl Delos said...

A minor quibble: I believe that if you check, Marsh didn't wait until the 1960s to cross the state line.

My imperfect memory leads me to believe that they opened their store in Van Wert Ohio about 1957.

Still, there are plenty of examples of what Pearl Buck wrote about in The Good Earth: dirt poor to dirt poor in three generations.

bill said...

"Marsh is countersuing for $1.17 million in severance."

Severance. Now that's some balls.

Fiddlin Bill said...

Re the clown car that is the Republican Presidential Hopefuls of 2012 sedan, seems to me this breath-taking passel of stupid is the direct result of the idea that government should be starved of all but it's military functions--which will of course both protect the oligarchy and be sure to protect its own funding by any means necessary, should it come to that. Why would a party wishing to destroy government need a competent President. A stupid one will be more "successful" in the task at hand. So far it's working.

jackd said...

the intellectual wing of the [Republican] party

They had one of those?

I've got hazy memories of intermittent Republican sanity, but a whole intellectual wing?

Anonymous said...

Fiddlin' Bill, you nailed it!