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Bankruptcy, Tierney And ‘Business As Usual’

022409richuncletierneybags.jpg Bankruptcy in the real world isn’t like Monopoly. In the real world, filing Chapter 11 is a way to protect a company from its creditors while reorganizing. In Monopoly, on the other hand, nobody ever reaches bankruptcy because people quit playing when they realize it’s three hours in and nobody has even built any houses yet. Sometimes it’s nice to imagine a world like Monopoly.

Ahem. By now you know the story: The owners of the Inquirer and Daily News have filed for bankruptcy. Since then, there’s been a ton of hilarious news: We learned Tierney gave himself a 42 percent raise in December, then he and two other executives who got raises — including professional sports car driver Mark Frisbygave them back.

But there’s more! Yesterday the newspapers’ owners had their day in court. Ownership rarely, if ever, remains the same when a company files for bankruptcy, but the papers’ owners want to remain in charge, their lawyers said yesterday. Here’s the juicy details:

But lawyers for the investors who hold $297 million in debt said they were stunned that Brian P. Tierney, chief executive of the papers, had turned away from a $20 million lifeline from current lenders in favor of a loan that would protect his job, according to a court filing and testimony at yesterday’s opening hearing in Philadelphia.

Instead, Tierney and his backers lined up a $25 million loan - known as debtor-in-possession financing - from a different group that included Philadelphia Newspapers chairman Bruce Toll. It includes a provision that would put the loan in default if Tierney left the company.

There’s reason to believe this isn’t just ownership trying to save face. Obviously, Tierney doesn’t want to lose his job. But it is true that any new owners would possibly (probably? likely?) shutter the Daily News and maybe void union contracts; creditors have been pushing the papers’ owners to do this for months now. “They wanted me to stay and offered me a handsome compensation plan and a piece of the company, both verbally and in writing,” Tierney said in a statement.

Andrew Kassner, an agent for Citizens Bank, says the creditors are not looking to simply dismantle the papers and run things with a skeleton crew. He also notes, though, the company is worth less than its debt and criticized the papers for poor management.

“Most companies would have hired a crisis manager,” Kassner said. “To this company, it was business as usual.” To be fair, newspapers have been in crisis since about 1998 or so.

Kassner made it pretty clear that the creditors want Tierney out; he also attempted to sound like there wouldn’t be massive cuts if there were a bankruptcy restructuring. Tierney said afterward that “[o]nce we told them that we weren’t interested in working for them to, in effect, damage the company we love, they had a change of heart.”

So, yes, it was just a big spin session for everyone during yesterday’s hearing. The next one’s on March 9.

The Budding Question

Philly.com’s surprisingly one-sided poll today:

022409marijuana.png

Man. Would those two narcs quit harshing everyone’s buzz?

Pot proposals: Calif. sees tax windfall, N.J. eyes medical use [Inquirer]

Good To The Last Drop…

022409bournebowling.jpg Lincoln University is a little excited about its recent women’s bowling victory over Cheyney. Oh, yes, you’re right: It’s time for another round of amazing Lincoln University sports information director enthusiasm! Hmm, I should probably come up with a better name than that.

But trust me, this is going to be great. Let’s learn how that bowling match ended up:

Featuring more twists and turns than a suspense novel and more thrills than an amusement park roller coaster, the Lincoln University of Pennsylvania’s, 713-710, exciting bowling victory over rival Cheyney University at Devon Lanes Tuesday afternoon was literally good to the last drop, or in this case, the final roll.

Here’s a fun game: Count the metaphors in that sentence! No, wait, don’t, or else you won’t get any more work done today.

I do especially like the constant use of modifying words in this opening paragraph, though; despite being told this particular collegiate women’s bowling match was bigger and better than both a suspense novel and a roller coaster, the win is still later called “exciting.”

I actually think this use of “literally” might be correct, though I’m not sure. Indeed, the game was down to the final roll, but was it also down to the last drop as well?

With Lincoln trailing by 15 pins, Lincoln sophomore Tahirah Stewart’s mission was simple: mark and earn a third ball in the tenth frame of a tight and tense match.

Stewart knocked down eight pins on her first roll. Two pins on the right side (closest to the gutter) remained standing. Stewart removed her black glove. She took a deep breath along with four steps and released the ball from her sweaty right hand.

Sweaty? Eww. Thanks for the tight and tense imagery.

When the ball left Stewart’s hands, it appeared that the match, along, with the ball, was headed down the gutter.

What’s amazing is this is only my second favorite part of this women’s bowling recap. The best part is coming, I promise you.

After yelling at the ball as it started traveling away from its intended targets, the ball suddenly curved sweetly like a boomerang into the two pins for a spare. On the final roll of the match, Stewart got eight pins to lift Lincoln to the pulsating victory.

Woo-hoo! Good job Lincoln! Man, that match sure did seem exciting. I wish there was a movie I could compare it to. Kingpin? Oh, maybe The Big Lebowski?

In a match that was the bowling version of the hit action movie, “The Bourne Supremacy,”

Or that movie works, too. Yeah, that makes sense; I bet this bowling match was totally like that second Jason Bourne movie.

Plagiarized Poetry

022409poe.jpg My favorite Bulletin columnist and yours, Herb Denenberg, wrote a perfectly good column yesterday about drug labeling. I liked it! I agreed with it! I saved it to my del.icio.us!

I really, though, enjoyed the end of the column the most. Ol’ Herb gets poetic!

Don’t expect these or other drug labeling problems to be corrected anytime soon…. And all this leads me to a little poem I wrote, with the first two lines borrowed from Gilbert and Sullivan:

Things are seldom what they seem;

Skim milk masquerades as cream.

If product labels had a nose,

They’d all be Pinocchio’s.

Nothing against Denenberg here, but isn’t it a little presumptuous for someone to claim he “wrote” a poem when he only composed half of it?

Drug Product Labels Sell Instead Of Inform [The Bulletin]

Medical Marijuana Advances In N.J.

022409mmj-protest.jpg Yesterday, the New Jersey Senate voted 22-16 to pass a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana. Yes, after hearing testimony from sick people, 16 people managed to vote against the bill. Not surprising, of course.

First, some background: A lot of people in California buy their weed legally (under state law) in medical dispensaries; a sizable portion of these are people who just want to get high recreationally. But while the FDA would never approve marijuana as a medical drug — it’s smoked, for one reason — marijuana is most certainly the only or best remedy for a small but significant number of people. Generally, these people don’t get high. They use marijuana to ease pain when no conventional method works.

California’s law — passed in a 1996 referendum — is broadly-defined, and so there are storefront shops in certain places and legal tugs of war between the state and the feds and a moral panic from quite a few people. New Jersey’s law would allow patients up to six marijuana plants and an ounce of usable weed; they’d also have access to “alternative treatment centers” where they could get marijuana.

But enough of all that. Let’s get to the meat of the issue here. Over-the-top quotes from activists and politicians!

  • Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen): “It’s the wrong thing for people in New Jersey and the wrong thing for our children.”
  • Joyce Nalepka, president, DrugFree Kids: “There is no therapeutic use of this, and this is a bill based on a lie.”
  • David Evans, executive director, Drug Free School Coalition: “This is dressed up as compassion but this bill is way, way too loose… It will be too easy to get marijuana.”
  • John Tomicki, executive director, League of American Families: “Parents are alarmed they’ve given the green light for marijuana use.”
  • Terrence Farley of the anti-medical marijuana law enforcement group Safe Approved Medicine for New Jersey: “Marijuana is not medicine.”

Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who voted for the bill, made sure to tell the newspaper this factoid: “People don’t formulate their own morphine.” Be sure to also note this story from The Express Times, which actually takes seriously this classification from the government: “[T]he federal government classifies as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and GHB, the date-rape drug.”

Update: I kept searching — because that’s what I do when I’m done a post, I keep gathering information about it! — and learned more about Gerald Cardinale, my new favorite New Jersey senator:

“Moderate use of marijuana causes brain cells to die,” Cardinale said. “That’s why the federal government made marijuana forbidden.”

Hey! Somebody needs to head over to the “Why is marijuana illegal?” page at Drug WarRant and learn some fun historical facts. I can’t wait for the debate in the Assembly.

N.J. Senate approves bill allowing use of medical marijuana [The Star-Ledger]
State Senate passes medical marijuana legislation [Press of Atlantic City]
New Jersey Senate approves medical marijuana bill [The Express-Times]

Photo by Shay Sowden used under a Creative Commons license

Yep, This Is How The 76ers Lost

The last time they played New Jersey, the 76ers missed their last 18 shots and lost, 85-83. Who knew they’d be able top that loss the next time they played New Jersey.

If you can’t watch the highlight above, here’s how the 76ers lost last night. They were up a point after Andre Iguodala hit one of two free throws with 1.8 seconds left; Nets’ guard Devin Harris took the inbounds pass, lost the ball off Iguodala’s chest, got the ball back and sunk a half-court shot with no time left.

Need more proof? Here are the Daily News and Inquirer recaps.

It’s a slim chance that whole play took less than 1.8 seconds. But since the ball did appear to leave his hand just before the buzzer, the clock’s late start is silently forgotten. Well, not by Sixers fans.

The 76ers have stumbled coming out of the All-Star Break; they’ve lost four in a row against mostly average competition. One thing they need to do? 100 free throws, every day, after practice, until this gets better. Okay?

[Thanks to The 700 Level for the video]

Online Dating, Deconstructed

022409asciidwight.jpg There’s a quote in today’s Temple News that I am one hundred percent convinced was said by Dwight Schrute from The Office.

If you would direct your attention to this article about online dating:

Sophomore Nathan Walsh has nothing but contempt for online dating. The mechanical engineering major finds the concept to be “entirely too flawed to function in our society.”

“The system of online dating appears innocent and good-natured. However, it is quite a danger to those involved,” Walsh said. “In my experience, I have known marriages [that] have failed because the relationship began as an online confrontation.”

Now that’s a quote to give the school newspaper! I guess at Temple they accept anonymous, anecdotal evidence in class.

Daters aren’t feeling the virtual love [Temple News]

Vanity, Thy Name Is Prius

Sarah and I spotted this car maybe last month in Fitler Square; I naturally forgot about it until last night. Fortunately, I found the image on my cell phone camera, and so I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the most appropriate vanity license plate imaginable:

022409lessgas.jpg

Like a glove!

If you’re wondering, that bumper sticker in the center reads, “No special rights for heterosexuals.” It’s good, but it’s no Boycott the biased Inquirer, the bumper sticker Herb Denenberg has on his car.

Anyway: Now we can only wonder if there’s a “MORE GAS” equivalent plate on a Hummer.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: Ms. Polaneczky got a letter from an incarcerated woman who says her son got a pistol from an older friend. (There’s more, but that’s the gist of it.) This column is her attempt to help the kid. All well and good.

Here’s what I don’t really get, though. After being “so floor[ed]” by the letter, she writes:

I search the woman’s criminal record and learn that she’s doing time for assault, theft, forgery and other charges. So it seems that, before the “system” failed her son, she herself did, by blowing her chance to continue parenting him.

This might sound weird: Is this really necessary? The extra information about the woman’s background is fine. But because the woman writes that “this situation shows who the system fails,” Polaneczky needs to note that she, for one, thinks the letter writer should have stayed out of jail for her son. Agreed. I don’t think anybody in America suggests that parents should immediately go out and get incarcerated upon the birth of a child.

But it’s just an aside. The column isn’t an admonition of parents who commit crimes instead of committing to their children. (Oh, that previous one was an 8.6!) I read a lot of newspaper columns, and there are a decent amount of writers who insert in these little asides in every column. That sometimes works for humor, but for serious news columns it’s almost always distracting. This isn’t a particularly egregious example, but I think that is the case here.

I’ll grant there’s a chance that, if Polaneczky hadn’t put in this line, Daily News readers would flood the lines with calls about how she let this letter writer off the hook. Actually, that sounds probable. Hmm.

Elmer Smith: Now that the state might legalize video poker machines in bars, we might be on the slippery slope to table games in casinos! Smith isn’t happy about this. Fair enough, I don’t think he’s a big fan of gambling (or at least our current corporate-controlled form of gambling in casinos here in Pennsylvania). But, actually, adding table games to casinos is a great idea.

I guess the idea is that a person can lose a lot of money in a single gamble at a table. But current slot machines offer the ability to string consecutive plays together with virtually no time wasted; a person can lose a lot of money playing the slots. Slot machines make up around 70-75 percent of a casino’s profits. Slot odds are stacked completely in the casino’s favor. The house always wins, but the house always wins at slots.

Yes, part of the reason slot machines make more money for owners is they’re cheaper to run; table games require dealers and pit bosses and more floor space. As such, there are more slot machines. But slots aren’t glamorous or fun, and the people who play them tend to spend their entertainment dollars on casino trips only on slot machines.

Table games attract customers who spend money outside the casino. Their entertainment dollars are going to things other than gambling. They can spur new construction (say, in a new hotel a casino builds in an attempt to woo these customers). From everything I’ve read and know about casinos, I think adding table games to Pennsylvania’s casinos would improve things on the whole. Adding table games to the casinos already in Pennsylvania is certainly a better idea that video poker terminals in a bunch of bars.

Dave Davies: This is getting long. Let’s just do a pullquote:

Most of my bright and informed friends who read the New York Times and listen to public radio could name the top strategists of the presidential campaigns last year, and can rattle off several Cabinet members today.

But they can’t name three members of Philadelphia City Council or their own state senator.

It took me a while to remember that Larry Farnese is my state senator. I can name all the City Council members, though. I think.

Here’s a trick if you need to just name three: Pick former mayors! There’s a good chance a son with the same name is in City Council.

A Nonanswer On Tierney’s Future

A lot to write about the bankruptcy filing of Philadelphia Media Holdings, but I’m trying to think first for once. (About the content. The jokes are already done.)

I needed to write about this, though. Daily News editor Michael Days sent out a Q&A the company sent out to its employees. And check this out:

Will Brian continue to be CEO? Will the management team stay in place?

Brian as well as the rest of the management team remain actively engaged and committed to this company.

You have to give management over at 400 N. Broad credit. Not too many companies have the ability to dodge a question in their own Q&A! Impressive.