July 23, 2006

Another Reason Why It’s Called “Biz Weak” Around Here

Jeff at Credit/Debt Recovery spots a pretty incredible trend on the part of one Biz Weak writer, Robert Berner (Biz Weak links probably require subscription):

Business Week attacks Target… again

Dated July 17th, Business Week has an article, Where Target May Miss The Mark, that attacks Target’s credit card business.

That “Biz Weak” is attacking Target is no surprise, especially when the article is written by Robert Berner. A very quick search turns up a slew of anti-Target articles by Berner:
Target: The Cool Factor Fizzles
Target Takes a Gamble the Markets Don’t Like
Has Target’s Food Foray Missed the Mark?
Too Many Retailers, Not Enough Shoppers

I started to think Berner was anti-retail in general, but here he is cheerleading for the KMart-Sears merger: Kmart and Sears: An 11 Billion Dollar Goliath

The attacks on Target go back years, and he’s been pretty consistently wrong.

Berner’s current article criticizes Target’s Visa card operation as having being too generous in its credit-granting practices and having excessive finance charges. The latter point, based on discussions I’ve had with workshop participants, seems accurate to me, but Jeff rightly points out that Target’s Visa Card is on two Top 10 lists (here and here; registration or subscription may be required at both sites).

If it makes Jeff feel any better (I doubt it will), it appears that Robert Berner doesn’t just pick on Target; he, and his magazine, have a certain discount retailer based in Bentonville, Arkansas in their sights too (reprinted article from Business Week is about halfway down the page). Berner is a contributor to that linked 2003 “Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?” article (of course, at Biz Weak, the answer is “Yes”).

This would indicate that Biz Weak, instead of “just” picking on Target, dislikes any big-box retailer they consider to be too deep-discount (apparently Sears just made the cut).

Not only is the magazine ruthlessly biased against these two companies, but they’re also strangely selective. The Home Depot, the second largest retailer in the US, is every bit as aggressive, if not more, at beating down suppliers, and seems to have a fetish about importing from China. But until very recently the magazine was saying great things about the company and its chief plunderer executive Bob Nardelli, while everyone on the street knew that the retailer’s customer service has been falling apart and that customers have been streaming to Lowe’s and other rivals.

What’s it all mean? Simply this — Take anything you read about a company at Biz Weak with a grain of salt. Its writers aren’t hesitant to insert their biases into their articles, and their editors are clearly perfectly okay with their doing that.

Weekend Question 3: Why Are You Talking about Progessive Indexing?

Filed under: Soc. Sec. & Retirement — Tom @ 10:14 am

Answer: Because we can’t afford to keep Social Security off the table as an issue, and progressive indexing’s chief advocate has not stopped advocating it.

It’s good to see that Robert Pozen is still talking up progressive indexing (link requires paid subscription), in a speech covered Tuesday by Investment News:

Pozen: Indexing can fix Social Security

The window for social security reform is still open, but it is rapidly closing, according to Robert Pozen, chairman of MFS Investment Management Inc. in Boston, speaking yesterday at the Discover 2006 conference in Denver.

….. “This is not a question of analytics or finances, it’s a question of political will,” he said. “If President Bush is thinking about his legacy, he might want to start thinking about social security.”

With the social security system on track to start running a deficit by 2017 and likely to go bankrupt by 2041, Mr. Pozen proposed a “progressive indexing” formula as the “fairest way to achieve solvency in social security.”

The general idea is to slow the pace of social security benefit growth to the middle- and higher-income wage earners by shifting from a payout based on wages to one based on pricing.

For those people earning less than $25,000 annually at retirement, the social security benefits would still be based on wages, and for those earning $113,000 and above the payouts would be pegged to a price indexing model, which grows slower than wages.

For those individuals falling in the middle the payout formula would include a blend of wage and price indexing.

Mr. Pozen, who calculated the social security system’s deficit to be at $3.8 trillion, said his formula would reduce that figure to $1.2 trillion over the long term.

For the record, I don’t believe that progressive indexing is a better solution than individually controlled private investment accounts. But Pozen at least addresses long-term system solvency in a manageable way without any kind of increase in the FICA tax — something those who applauded yet another year of inaction on Social Security reform as a good thing at January’s State of the Union address can’t say.

Positivity: Hero Who Saved Three Girls Gets Award

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:05 am

Something tells me that the term “plastic policeman” won’t be used much around Essex, England’s Dean Crowley, especially after his dramatic rescue of three girls (HT Good News Blog):

Award for hero who saved three girls
July 12, 2006

A hero who rescued three girls from the Thames Estuary said his actions proved community support officers were more than just “plastic policemen”.

Dean Crowley, 38, has just been awarded a Royal Humane Society testimonial on vellum for his bravery.

He saved three teenage girls from treacherous waters off Southend last summer.

He already holds a Chief Constable’s commendation for saving the girls, who are from Hornchurch.

Mr Crowley, a former plain clothes store detective who has been a police community support officer (PCSO) for three years, said: “I’m very pleased about the award. It shows that we are doing a good job for Essex Police and the community.

“We are known as plastic policemen’ or chocolate fireguards’, but we’re there and we get stuck in.”

Mr Crowley was on patrol along Southend seafront in August last year when he was told three girls were in trouble in 15ft deep water off a jetty off Marine Parade.

One girl was further out and her friends were trying to help her, but found themselves in trouble too.

Mr Crowley said: “It was high tide and quite deep.

“The water was pulling me the other way, but I forced myself out there. It was pure adrenalin.

All I was thinking about was her safety.”

Essex Police nominated Mr Crowley for the Royal Humane Society award, one of the country’s top life-saving honours.

Major General David Pennefather, the society’s secretary, said: “He found the sea rough with white horses and discovered that one girl had got into difficulties and the other two had jumped into the sea to try to save her.

“With no life-saving equipment immediately to hand, PCSO Crowley took off his personal protective vest, belt and radio and dived into the sea. To pull off one rescue in conditions like this would be commendable enough, but he saved three young lives.