Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Another Day Closer to Rollerball

For those of you unfamiliar with the title of this particular post, it comes from Keith Olbermann, currently the host of "Countdown" on MSNBC and a veteran of CNN (twice), ESPN and Fos Sports Net.

When he was on FSN, he did a Sunday night sports news show called "The Keith Obermann Report," or something like that, in which one of the segments was the latest corporate intrusions into the world of sport.

It was almost like the original 1974 version of the film "Rollerball," in which James Caan starred as a top player named Jonathan E in a violent, futuristic sport called rollerball. In this Norman Jewison-directed vision of the future, corporations had taken over the world and outlawed many things like sex, drugs, war and poverty and imposed a top-down world dictatorship. To give the people a way to release their hostility, they invented this game.

It was a pretty chilling film - unlike the remake - but that film, and "Network," seem to be almost prophetic today.

The reason I mention this is because of something that could affect me indirectly and my brother directly.

My brother works as a suit salesman at the downtown St. Louis Famous-Barr department store, which is owned by May Department Stores, who has world headquarters in downtown - in fact, in the same building Famous has operated in for something like more than 90 years.

Sunday night, May announced it was being acquired for $11 BILLION by Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, who owns two of the most well-known department stores in the nation - Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Everyone at the downtown store is worried their jobs are going to be gone after the sale closes out - especially the rank-and-file. I don't blame them.

This, and the recent $1.5 BILLION purchase of Pulitzer by Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa (Disclaimer: I work for Lee through the newspapers in the town I live in) almost seems to be, well, I don't know - almost criminal perhaps?

So many big-ass corporations are swallowing up anything and everything in thier path - and no one can stop them. In fact, I'd go as far as to say Fearless Leader (aka BushCorp) is ENCOURAGING this. The money being thrown around for many of these mergers is so staggering, it's almost like they're playing with Monopoly money.

Why? It certainly can't be for Joe Working Class.

Everytime there's some sort of major (or even mid-major) merger, there's all sorts of job cuts made. And who winds up taking the brunt of these cuts?

It sure ain't the lap-of-luxury guys at the top, that's for sure.

No wonder my brother's worried. He's been with Famous for more than seven years now, just scraping by, getting something like $250 a week after taxes if he's lucky or has had a good week selling commissioned items.

I've tried to tell him to find a better job, but it seems as though he prefers being screwed over by corporate America, even though he knows it deep down.

Now this takes place, and he may not even have a job to go to in a few months. And if he does lose his job, what kind of severance package will he get?

Not a very good one, I think. Meantime, the bigwigs have all sorts of multi-million dollar perks, stock options and golden parachutes to cushion themselves.

I read somewhere that American executives at big-ass corporations are making thousands of times more than their lowest-paid workers are getting.

Something's wrong with this picture. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to companies making money, but there has to be some sort of moral responsibility that goes with it as well.

Some sites I go to think we may be heading for a new Gilded Age, when corporate bigwigs lived in luxury and forced the working class to live in near-squalor while being blissfully ignorant of the realities surrounding them.

To me, we already got screwed big-time when the Bush Cartel was re-elected(?), not that John Kerry would have made much difference either. I voted for him but rather reluctantly - I would have rather seen a real reformer or someone like a Dennis Kuchinich, say, on the ballot.

I just hope someday, the people finally wake up and see what's really going on instead of beliving the lies being fed to them by corporate media and worrying not about which celebrity is sleeping with who, but about the bullshit "war" in Iraq and Bush's apparent plans to expand it into other countries and how the average guy and girl out there has to struggle just to make ends meet.

I fear it may already be too late though.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations to celebrate economic competition as an effective antidote to monopoly power. Corporate America is all about monopoly power.

Evrybody quotes Adam Smith to defend 'free markets' but nobody reads the book. Monopoly power is all about the concentration of wealth and economic power.

Liberal democracies have always worked to redress the balance - remember Roosevelt's New Deal. When Coporate America runs both the White House and the market the little guy is in deep do-do. Welcome to your brother's world, Social Security 'reform', irrevocable tax cuts, slash and burn cutting of all social welfare expenditures, and growing militarism.

2:20 AM  
Anonymous Colin said...

Hey there big brother: just read your "Another Day Closer to Rollerball" post. Not bad--but there's something you need to know, however.

After gathering advice from many sources, I've decided to try to hang on for as long as possible to see what kind of severance package, then I'm leaving the retail business to go into either journalism or to work for one of the local sporting organizations. I'm starting work on my resume and cover letters, and I'm also going to get help on these from other sources.

I've had enough of the retail business, and I've realized I gotta get away from the poison and pursue something in a field where I honestly feel I belong anyway.

More details as they become avaliable--stay tuned.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Anon, I couldn't have put it better! Thanks bunches for your input!

As I said, I'm not against companies or people making money - far from it - but there has to be some sort of balance to go along with it.

I mean, does the corproate class REALLY need another vacation house in a fenced-in "community" or some ritzy suburb, or that new SUV or another $10 million or whatever to get by while there are millions of people out there literally living paycheck-to-paycheck?

As for little bruddah *LOL* - if that's what you think you should do, then by all means, go ahead. But if you find something a lot better than Famous - don't hesitate, grab it quick!! You deserve a lot better than what you're getting.

For media stuff, you might want to check out Journalism Jobs ( It's a comprehensive list of positions throughout the country (not saying you should consider leaving Da Lou, though).

Any other readers want to share their viewpoints on this topic and/or offer some advice to my brother? If so, please feel free!

1:34 PM  

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