January 28, 2005

We Hate You. Keep The Money Coming.

Luke Francl at New Patriotis joining in the local leftyblog and columnist obsession regarding Powerline.

No, it's not "Why do these guys kick so much ass, and how can we do some of that ourselves".

It's "When does Scott Johnson blog?", with a little dose of "How does that First Amendment thing work, anyway?"

TCF is removing advertising from another publication: the City Pages.
Althought I don't bank at TCF, and never have, I'm more and more tempted to put some money there every day.
CP published a followup to their earlier story about the Nick Coleman/Powerline feud called TCFU. In response, TCF pulled advertising from the weekly: "Given the extremely mean and dispiriting articles that your paper is printing about TCF (latest article titled "TCFU"), we are not going to advertise with your paper."

Damn, it's getting to be quite the thing. What do I have to do to get added to the TCF "enemies list"?

The checklist is fairly simple:
  1. Write a publication that TCF cares enough about to advertise in in the first place
  2. Write stuff that defames the bank and its employees.
Seriously - Francl's use of the term "Enemies List" implies (to those of us who pay attention to such things) that he thinks TCF's action is primarily political.

Let's allow that there might be a political undertone to it; we'll come back to that.

The main reason is, the Strib and the City Pages are just plain bad business for TCF. If I were a TCF shareholder, and knew that they were spending advertising dollars at newspapers that were actively trying to attack the bank I partly own, I'd be pissed.

It's in the next part that Francl steps in it:

As we noted here, parts of Coleman's anti-Powerline rant were totally accurate, like that Scott Johnson blogs at work. Johnson refuses to comment, but the evidence at this point is incontestable.

And completely, utterly, absolutely, depressingly irrelevant. Francl notes a local leftyblogger (and apparent OCD sufferer) who compiled a table breaking down all of Scott Johnson's post times over the past three years, noting that abouta fifth were during "work hours", and asks:

Why, then, does Bill Cooper deny this? Mike Mosedale writes, "When contacted by City Pages, Cooper said he had checked into the matter of Johnson's blogging routine and found that the Big Trunk--Johnson's blogging nom de guerre--'didn't do any of this at work.'" Riiight.

Hard to argue with logic like this.

Francl - and Mosedale, whose City Pages article last week was hatchety enough to make Nick Coleman actually look good - seem to have difficulty with one key concept: Scott Johnson - a friend of mine, after this past few years - works a helluvva lot more than forty hours a week. His performance is measured and evaluated by TCF's legal status; as a Vice President and General Counsel, he's responsible for making sure that the bank navigates a complex regulatory and business environment with as few legal problems as possible.

So for the benefit of all you leftybloggers and City Pages "reporters", let's do this little quiz. Keep track of your answers:

Question `: What do you think TCF President Bill Cooper is most likely to consider when evaluating his Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel's performance?
  1. Keystrokes per Hour
  2. Time spent "punched in" at the mechanical clock in the break room
  3. Amount of money lost to lawsuits and other, legally-avoidable costs?
Question 2: What do you think the duties of the Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel at TCF involve?
  1. Quickly and courteously answering the phone and answering customer legal questions
  2. Maintaining a production of at least 20 briefs per hour.
  3. Developing, implementing and leading the legal strategy that allows one of Minnesota's biggest corporations to operate in a complex regulatory and legal environment, and supervising the legal department and its ongoing, highly complex litigation
Question 3: What do you suppose Scott Johnson's work day is like?
  1. In around 9:10AM, out for a smoke break at 9:40, another at 11:00, out to the skyway for lunch and some shopping at 12 sharp, back at 1:15, smoke break at 2:30, another at 4, and out at 4:45
  2. In at 8:30, out at 5, off to the lake at 4PM every Friday.
  3. In early, out late, taking home work, working on weekends - with the odd break for the occasional blog post.
Scoring: Each "1" answer is one point, each "2" is 2 points, etc.

If you got:

  • 8+ Points: The turnip truck is far in the past.
  • 5-7 points: Less blogging. More reading.
  • 3-4 points: You work at "One Potato Two", but if you keep working on your screeds about the labor theory of value and you're positive the City Pages will publish your article on your friends' electronica website.
If you're reading the New Patriot post, you might be asking yourself, "where's the logical conclusion? What are they driving at here?

Well, in this next paragraph comes the payoff:

The over-reaction comes from Bill Cooper and TCF. Businesses can use their advertising might however they choose. But they shouldn't expect to be regarded neutrally when they throw their weight around politically.
OK, I lied. There was no logical conclusion.

What is the piece about? Is Scott Johnson a slacker? Pffft.

Is Bill Cooper "overreacting?" Neither Mosedale's hatchet job nor Francl's post explain why, if so; if I'm running a business and the media outlet I support with my ad dollar actively attacks my business, I'm pulling my dollar so fast that the vaccuum the sudden vacancy creates will cause eardrums to pop. They have no prima facie right to my advertising dollar.

Is TCF's action political? Only if "not wanting to be actively attacked by our advertising outlet" is inherently political.

New Patriot and City Pages management - let's try a little experiment. Take out a blogad on Shot In The Dark. Then, I will tell my readers to stop reading you and to never patronize your advertisers. How will you react?

Try it. Operators are standing by.

Posted by Mitch at January 28, 2005 01:37 AM | TrackBack

I like how you skipped the part where I said it wasn't a big deal that Johnson blogs at work.

He and Bill Cooper should just come clean about it. It's right there on the timestamps of his posts.

Posted by: Luke Francl at January 28, 2005 09:44 AM

I guess the issue is that the Francl post implies Johnson speaks for the bank in Powerline because he posts while at work. ( Which, could just as well mean 'at home' if he does much work at home. ) The attacks on TCF are predicated on the idea that because Powerline is partly generated from the TCF premises, that that means that TCF's advertising decisions are decided in part or at least expressed in part by the opinions posted on Powerline.

Where Powerline is generated is not the issue in question, so much as the nefarious nature of TCFs budgeting plan. This is why pursuing this question stinks. If true, this would presuppose that Powerline's opinions are decided by TCF, a position which has no proof beyond the physicality of where Powerline is generated.

Even if the head of TCF and most of the employees agree with Powerline, there's no political or concrete connection to make between TCFs decision to pull it's ad dollars and Powerline's opinion of Coleman. If this had been the case, we likely would have seen this ad money pulled /last/ year.

I mean, look at it another way. If Al Franken writes his material for his show while waiting for airtime in a CBS or CNN studio ( as a paid regular or regularly invited guest ), does that make advertising decisions made by CBS and CNN an issue decided by how people talk about Air America?

I'm not sure why capitalism like this is so hard to grok. Capitalists define their politics most frequently by the bottom line, not the other way around. This means, and Occam's Razor supports the conclusion, that in all likelihood Powerline presents its politics, and TCF does its business /independent/ of each other.

It seems to me that the basis of socialism is basing business on politics. I wonder if this is the source of the confusion over the relationship between Powerline and TCF and TCF's advertising budget.

Posted by: aodhan at January 28, 2005 10:01 AM


I "skipped" it because, for starters, I link to your piece and thus feel no need to quote it with encyclopedic completeness, and because one of my points is that Johnson's blogging schedule is not just "not a big deal" - it's *no* deal at all. Coleman inserted it into his original post (and the execrable Mosedale piece followed suit) to try toss a class-warfare angle into the story; bank vice prez in a "panelled office" writing right-slanted stories on BANK TIME!, as if he's paid by the hour. It's craven class-mongering. and it sidetracks the real story.

And for anyone - you, Coleman, Mosedale or whomever - to link the pulling of ads to Cooper or Johnson's politics is absurd; Cooper is responsible to his shareholders, and they are all over the place politically (including a number of union pension plans, IIRC); he CAN NOT make such decisions based on politics, and he knows it (better than do his critics, apparently).

Posted by: mitch at January 28, 2005 10:19 AM

To follow Francl's logic: If a carpenter working on your house calls his wife between 9 and 5, the opinion he expresses in the phone call becomes your own. If he calls in a hit, you supported wanting that person out of the way. Furthermore, if you pull adspace from a billboard it's because your carpenter doesn't like billboards.

I must be writing this at work because I am employed it's between 9 and 5.

Posted by: matt at January 28, 2005 10:30 AM

"I like how you skipped the part where I said it wasn't a big deal that Johnson blogs at work."

If it isn't a big deal, why are you hanging on to it for all it's got?

You're a pathetic little man Luke.

Posted by: swiftee at January 28, 2005 11:05 AM

Because I'm a potty talk kind of guy, here's my potty talk take on this:

Luke Francl subscribes to the Star-Tribune; the Star-Tribune one day runs an article suggesting (indirectly) that Luke Francl fellates cocker spaniels, during work hours, no less.

I'm curious what Luke Francl's response would be?

Posted by: Ryan at January 28, 2005 12:02 PM

Brad Delong works for a taxpayer-supported institution, the University of California, and no doubt posts to his often bile-filled blog while on the university campus. So what? He, like Johnson, isn't paid for each hour he spends on the premesis of his employer. Neither the taxpayers of California, nor the shareholders of TCF, are being shafted. Coleman and Francl are either imbeciles (a distinct possibility), or envious (another distinct possibility), or envious imbeciles (the most likely possibility).

Posted by: Will Allen at January 28, 2005 12:34 PM

"I like how you skipped the part where I said it wasn't a big deal that Johnson blogs at work."

But then you linked to the geek who'd done the "perl-fu" to analyze, in great detail, every posting Johnson has ever made. So it's not a big deal, but you're going to analyze the crap out of it anyway?

It's not a big deal, but Johnson/Cooper's critics keep carping on it, despite it being (as Mitch points out) a non-sequitur?

Posted by: Allison at January 28, 2005 04:25 PM

To put it succinctly: Apparently Luke, Coleman, Mosedale or whomever else facinated with The Trunk's posting times does not understand the phrase "salaried employee."

Posted by: Paul Carter at January 29, 2005 08:13 AM
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